Tuesday, July 05, 2005

San Francisco Treats 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 9

Woke up this morning in the Hotel Rex, a funky Union Square spot "inspired by the San Francisco art and literary salons of the 1920s and 30s" where the elevator is papered with old social registers, the carpeting is exhilarating, and a Jack London quote proclaiming a preference for ashes over dust greets us each day at the end of our hall. Made a very important phone call (more on this once the rest of the details get ironed out), planned the day with Dad over french toast with figs and a hot latte in the hotel lobby restaurant, and hit the town.

Downhill. Then uphill at an unnatural, almost unwalkable angle. Then downhill again to Chinatown for pork buns (yum!) and window shopping. Then uphill on a steep incline to wait for the cable car, on which I subsequently hung like a monkey from the sides, and got so engrossed in conversation with tourists from the likes of Kentucky and Ireland that I almost lost my head to the side of a double-parked van. I'm loving San Francisco, but I'll never underestimate the gentle slopes of our native New England again. How do people do this without killing their calves all day?

Anyhoo. Made it to the tourist traps of Fisherman's Wharf almost two hours early, so after a generally unimpressive shrimp salad at an outdoor fishhouse we hit the much-ballyhooed Musee Mechanique, a wonderful, raucous collection of boardwalk games, animatrons, and pennyplay arcade attractions. Put a quarter (or two) into a slot and marionettes jaw up and down to the tinny sounds of "Sweet Adeline," photos of bathing black-and-white beauties appear for a few seconds, and, in one memorable case, an entire town of pickaninnies and farm animals chew, suckle, hop, dance, play banjo and otherwise wiggle back and forth for a good thirty seconds. Neat stuff, as you can sort-of see on the website; pity there were no postcards available.

Just in time from there to be first on, first off the boat for Alcatraz. If you ever make it to the Rock, see the movie play on four consecutive and simultaneous screens in an odd moment of endless recursion Zen ("75 thousand years ago a glacier formed an island in San Francisco bay..."), take the award-winning audio tour of the tiny prison cellblocks, and don't forget to spend a moment or two in solitary -- but watch out for the seagulls when you wait for the return trip. Some too-loud touring soccer player from Leeds got "tagged" in the back of his tourjacket just a foot or two away from me, thus entertaining his also-raucous friends and (more secretly) the rest of us in line, which just goes to show you how thin the line is between hilarious and "man, now my jacket is ruined and I'm going to smell like rotting fish all day."

Now Dad's relaxing upstairs while I blog in the hotel business center, where ancient and unusable Smith and Corona typewriters and old black-and-white photos of Hammett and London nestle among the flatscreens and laserprinters. Reservations for a late dinner tonight at a Catalonian food restaurant -- Dad's eyes lit up when the concierge mentioned it. Two more nights in the Rex to go; plan for tomorrow includes hippie-kitsch at the Haightwith a sixty percent chance of the Exploratorium.

Plan for the following day is pretty much just get the heck out of here and back to the East Coast, where I'll be arriving past midnight to a sleeping family ensconced in a Boston hotel for the weekend. Can't wait to see my family once again. This morning on the phone Willow seemed much less stressed about my absence, which is, like everything else, both wonderful and really, really hard.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:42 PM |

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