San Francisco Trip Recap

I suck at trip reports. The fact that I have yet to complete mine from Dragon*Con in August points to that fact. I’ll make one quick hit at the San Francisco trip and be done with it.

We flew out Sunday the 14th. For the first time in recent memory, none of the 4 flight legs there or back had any issues with delays. Nothing was cancelled or even late. It was entirely drama free. How beautiful. This is the first cross-country trip I’ve taken since I began working sudoku puzzles. I picked up a pocket sized book of 123 puzzles for $2.99 in the Charlotte airport, which is easily the best travel investment I’ve ever made. That kept me busy for at last 3 hours of the 6 hour flight to San Francisco. Strong headwinds, you see. I was just trying to figure out which of 2,3 or 7 could fit in that row.

We arrived at SFO around 8 PM and took the BART into downtown. We checked into the hotel without incident, and then headed over to the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square for a late dinner. Freakishly, at 10 PM on a Sunday night there was a 20 minute wait. Un-frigging-believable. It was not the best CF dinner we’d ever had, but it was open and there and a known quantity at the end of a long day.

Monday we both went over to the Moscone Center. My wife got her registration packet for the AGU fall meeting and registered me as a guest. It’s a good deal for me, since the guest registration doesn’t get me into a lot of stuff so I had no choice but to wander the streets of SF. After getting my badge, I walked over to the Mevio offices in the SOMA area to have lunch with Michael Butler. We went to the Chinese diner he talks about, and got a quick, good and cheap lunch. He forgot his immodium but it all seemed to work out alright.

After he went back to work, I kicked around for a while, walking down 2nd Street. I walked by the CNET/CBS Interactive building and other sights that I had no idea were right there. I ended up doing some fishing through the 3/$1 comic boxes at Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics. I didn’t get anything I collect regularly there, as they deface these comics with a Sharpie. However for things I was curious to try out, getting it for $0.33 is a cheap way to sample new series. I wandered around a bit, including a trip to the Apple store where I played with an iPhone for the first time. (Unimpressed.) After this, I was ready for a nap. Hey, I was on vacation!

For that evening, we went out with our friend John out to dinner. We tried to go to Mela Tandoori Kitchen, underneath Marrakech Morroccan, a restaurant that we’d eaten at before and enjoyed. They seemed to be out of business though, so we ended up settling for Naan n Curry, which was a weird and smokey (tandoori smoke, not cigarrette) dive buffet restaurant. The food was OK and plentiful, and we had ample opportunity to sit and talk which is what we wanted anyway. We walked around Union Square a little and saw the holiday sights. Afterwards it was time to crash.

Tuesday, my wife did conference things all day while I did my traditional trip around the Mission District. I took the BART to Mission and 24th, and walked over to Valencia. From there I started at Dog Eared Books where I got an Armistead Maupin book and some Max Allan Collins mysteries. Next was Borderlands Books where I got the Vandermeers edited Steampunk anthology and a couple of old Pulphouse hardcovers on clearance. I went into a couple of thrift shops and the Mission district T-Mobile store where I tried out a G1 (more impressed than the iPhone – used it to check out my position on my map.) From here, I walked up to Al’s Comics on Market and shopped for a while. Al was really nice to me and we chatted a bit. He’s kind of legendarily grumpy so that was not what I expected, but it was quite fun. Next I walked the couple blocks over to Isotope Comics and shopped some more. I asked for Lynda Barry’s What It Is which the guy said is the kind of book they carry but just sold out at the time. After all this, I calculate a few miles of walking and a few hours of shopping, I got on the light rail and headed back to the hotel. We ended up eating Thai food at the joint right by the Moscone Center and called it a night.

On Wednesday we got up and took the train to the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park. It seemed like a good idea to go on the free day of the month, since we were there and able to attend at that time. 10 minutes in, the strategic misstep was apparent. It was so crowded that if I could have paid $50 admission to make 3/4 of the people go away, I’d gladly have done it. We spent a little time, fought through the aquarium area and went up to the living roof. We looked at the Andy Warhol paintings of endangered species and the global warming exhibits. Interestingly enough, some of the word up there was by a guy that Darlene was going to see speak later that afternoon. When we’d had enough of that, we walked back to the train pickup, shopping at some little shops on the way.

For the afternoon, after a lunch at Noah’s Bagels we split up. She went to hear James Hansen speak about climate change and I went to the Cartoon Art Museum. About half the museum was taken up with an exhibit for Our Neighbor Totoro, about which I could not care less. Despite multiple attempts to convert me, I’ve never seen any Miyazaki that didn’t completely bore me. However, why I was there was the Gene Colan exhibit, which was fantastic. It has sketches and original artwork from throughout his career, with a concentration form that wonderful 70s period when he was doing Howard the Duck and Doctor Strange. Looking at those pages in their full size and in person, they were so beautiful as to make me verklemmt. When I’d had enough, I went to the gift shop where they did have the Lynda Barry book, so I bought it there.

For dinner this evening, we met up with some of Darlene’s friends and ended up going to Alioto’s at Fisherman’s Wharf. The guy putting it together wanted to have seafood, so we went there. However, I found it a little too pricey for the amount of wonderful they brought. I don’t mind dropping $45 a head for dinner, but I’d like it to be significantly better than an Applebees if I do, which I didn’t really find from this place. The cab ride there was an adventure, with crazy woman cabbie and 5 of us jammed in there. The return trip was much more sedate.

On Thursday I pretty much wound it down. I went out to Haight Ashbury to meet up with Butler again for Ethiopian lunch at Massawa. I found this a fantastic meal, and one I had really been looking forward to. It was tasty, a lot of food and really a fun time. We sat around and bitched about new media and got a bellyful of okra and chicken and spongy bread. Afterwards, we shopped at an army surplus store just for fun. I considered farting around a little in the Haight on foot but since I saw the #6 bus coming right as I walked to the stop I just got on, opting to just strike while the iron was hot. At this point, it was a blur. I had pretty much done everything I was planning on doing. We ate a a local pizza joint whose name I forget. It was just down the street from the Orchard Hotel, at the top of the hill. It was a decent meal.

We had to get up at 4 AM California time in order to get on the BART and make our 7:30 AM flight. We got there in plenty of time, checked in without incident and flew home without incident. We got back around 5 PM, stopped at Red Robin for some home town comfort food and went home, where we napped most of the evening and most of the following weekend. It was a fun trip but almost exactly the right length. By the time it was over, I was ready to go and wasn’t really jonesing to have done any more stuff than I already had. It’s good to be home.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.

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