Tag Archives: The West is the Best

Decadence

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My high school roommate, Andy Hoffman, dropped me an email to ask if I wanted to join him and his skipper John as “rail meat” on his boat for an Friday evening sail to kick off the 4th of July weekend. His boat, Luna, is an Antrim 27, built for speed with high performance rigging, an open transom, and a superlight fiberglass & balsa hull. For a 27 foot, it’s got a surprisingly big cockpit and a 6′ keel fixed with a 1,000 lbs. bulb. She’s as close as you can get to a 27′ windsurfer.

She’s moored over in San Francisco near the Presidio and we set out in 20 – 25 knot winds out under the Golden Gate over to the Marin Headlands. On our way we spotted several pairs of porpoises and and dodged a few container ships on their way out towards Asia. The seas were choppy with five foot swells and shifty wind which I understand is normal for the Bay which is some of the trickiest waters to sail in North America. The boat handles well though and with Andy’s Lynard Skynard blaring, we even dipped the boom a few times as we raced back under the Gate to Sausalito.

We pulled up at a Tiburon sailor’s institution, Sam’s Anchor Cafe, for dinner and enjoyed the setting sun while watching the fog roll over the Sausalito hills like a gigantic, slow-motion tidal wave. Topped up with Bloody Marys and dinner, we set back home and turned on the navigation lights and planed our way back home.

It was really amazing to be out on the Bay on a beautiful Friday evening – the city was lit up all around us but we were all alone out on the Bay with only the searchlight and fog horns of Alcatraz to keep us company. It was like our own private playground. After tying up at 10 pm I was back home taking a warm shower by 10:45 and feeling deliciously relaxed and anticipate a deep slumber with the rocking motion of the waters lulling me to sleep.

Thanks Andy and John for a wonderful evening!

Romance Novel Cover Art Fun

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Spotted on PC Magazine’s Backspace page. Mark Longmire pokes fun at romance novel cover art.

In other news, I took the trolley today to drop in on a talk given by John Battelle at a conference at the Fairmont Hotel up on top of Nob Hill. It’s about a 30 minute walk but I was in a hurry and running late so I hopped on a cable car to take me up the hill. I was fully prepared to pay the $3 fare but my ride was so short (just a few blocks, albeit steep ones) that the driver just waved me off.

I forgot about this aspect of living in this fine city, our quaint mode of public transportation is funded by the tourists. Those of us that actually use the cable cars to shuttle us from point A to B can use it as it was originally designed, a ski lift for those of us in a rush!

Birf-day Weekend

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Tyler called me on Saturday and told me to look in the drawer under my sock drawer where Izumi and the kids had stashed a birthday card for me before I left. He was so excited to tell me about the suprise and it was so sweet to have something from them to kick off the weekend.

Thank you Mie, Dav, Doug, Brian, Emily and everyone else who spent time with me through the weekend. It was fun! Mie was in full moblog mode and documentated everything down to each tiny detail. Dinner in North Beach, the band we saw at El Rio in the Mission, a visit to the Scrap House, the Alameda Antique Fair, and our visit to Lucky Juju’s Pinball Palace. Old friends from Tokyo, Brian and Emily joined us later on Sunday for a drive up to Tilden Park and dinner at Zachary’s Pizza on Solano Avenue. I should have more of these Birthday things, good for the soul they are!

Mr. Smiley the Bus Driver

One thing I love about living in the United States is the sense of humor that finds its way into daily life.

The baggage handler at JFK that shouts out “Welcome to America!” at the top of his lungs as he hauls your bags off the conveyor belt.

The Bart train driver who takes the time to explains the history of the West Oakland shipping cranes and how they were the inspiration for George Lucas when he designed the Imperial Walkers for Star Wars, all in the tone of a pleasantly brain dead Disney tour bus operator.

The New York subway driver who tries to convince commuters from rushing into the same door at the bottom of the stairs by yelling into the intercom, “REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Everyone please jam into the same door at once!”

Today’s wisecracking bus driver is the latest example of this very American humor. The ride back home on the Transbay bus is usually a mundane affair – folks are tired after a day in the work-a-day world and the muffled quiet on the bus is deadening as most just want to sink into their seats and reflect quietly on the day gone by. I have a choice of three buses to take me home so before boarding a bus I usually glance at my watch just to gauge if I should take the local before me or wait for an express. As I ran through the mental calculation the driver hailed me with a greeting and then said, “What are you lookin’ at your watch for, I’m on time. You want to leave earlier? I can do that too.”

As I climbed on board he went on, trying to snap me from my post-work haze, “Hey, you dropped a $20 bill behind you.” when there
was none there. Made you look is written on the faces of all the other riders already seated as I took my seat.

Now alert, I patted the driver on his arm, thanking him for the joke and taking my seat. Each new rider was greeted with a new round of jokes and quips as he poked and prodded each commuter out of their automatic pilot.

“I almost have enough, can I get on?” says a student. “I almost can take you, is that ok?” the driver shoots back.

We’re pulling out of San Francisco and we’re all smiles, heading over the bridge with the sun setting behind us, a bus full of kids on a field trip.

Redwoods, Wine, & Seashore

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We went up to the Russian River this weekend to celebrate Izumi’s birthday. The draw was the annual Barrel Tasting festival but we branched out and did a few other things while we were there. There was an amazing grove of 2,000 year old redwoods right up the road from our hotel where Izumi found a four leaf clover, and we also drove down to the coast where the Russian River meets the Pacific and headed down South to Bodega Bay.

I was a tad optimistic thinking that the kids would appreciate a tour through some of the regions finest vineyards. The finer points of what makes a good Pinot was a bit lost on them. Not all was lost though, Tyler did learn that the tin cap on the top of champagne corks is there to keep out the mice who used to gnaw their way through the cork. We did get to taste some fine Chardonnay Champagne and made it to Davis Bynum to taste some of their organically grown Pinots as well as a Syrah from the barrel.

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The trip was a last minute idea and everywhere I called was only taking reservations for two nights so I jumped on the place that called us back. Let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend it. I was lured by the good-looking photographs on their website (Retreat Resort & Spa in Guerneville) and the owner, who called us back, seemed nice enough. We arrived but instead of being welcomed, we felt as if we were intruding. The rooms definitely were not as nice as the pictures – electrical sockets hanging out of the wall, a soggy, moss-ridden rug out on the back deck, a half-finished closet, and water stains on the ceiling. It basically looked like a half-finished total makeover project. On the surface there was an attempt to reform what used to be a cheap roadside motel into a nicer set of bungalows but while they had made much progress so that on the surface it looked OK, there was still a lot of details that needed work.

The town of Guerneville was kind of interesting too. Despite being nestled within some pretty ancient redwoods, the kind where you’d expect to find fairies and gnomes, the folks that we met there seemed to be late-80’s era yuppie refugees. The hotel was playing a kind of house music I used to hear blasting out of windows when I lived in the Castro and the local coffee shop was playing Huey Lewis & the News.

Lessons learned this weekend? Don’t believe the photos you see on the website. Wine tasting is boring for kids. Sonoma County is beautiful. More photos here.

Have a Great Day!

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You know you’re not in New Jersey anymore when even the roadsigns greet you with excitement. Since we’ve been here Izumi and I have marveled how nice people are out here. The checkers at our local supermarket take time to talk to the kids and compare notes on the best way to cook the things we’ve purchased. Fellow shoppers politely pardon themselves as they glide by us in the aisles, idle chatter comes much more easily than it did back East.

Is it the weather or are people just happy to be here?