Sunday, September 12, 2021

We Are a Family, Get Up Everybody and Sing


One rainy morning last week, John was giving me a ride to work. Unfortunately for John, I spent most of the ride telling him about my concern for one of my siblings. I'm sure I probably went into too much detail in vent/worry about that person, but I felt like I was helpless to aid someone who didn't want the help, and who wouldn't care for themself. As I was about ready to get out of the car I said, "I'm sorry for going on and on about my family. What a great way to start your day..."

John responded, " That's okay. I have to go to work and return my mom's email asking me why the doctors can't tell her exactly when she's going to die."

"Okay. We can end our day with me listening to you vent about your family tonight."

I'm sure everyone's family isn't weird and concerning and I don't wish that on anyone, especially John, but it is nice to be married to someone who knows first hand what I'm going through.

May all of your families be normal (whatever that means) and not concerning. There has to be families out there like that, doesn't there?

Friday, September 03, 2021

I'd Like to Rest My Heavy Head Tonight On a Bed of California Stars

On Tuesday we spent our last hours in San Francisco. We had our granola, yogurt, fresh berries and tea breakfast on our rooftop deck. Apparently, John was REALLY into it.

We had a couple of hours to kill before we had to be out of our motel, so we wandered the Castro. I hadn't been there since 1988, and I missed it. I also missed Double Rainbow Ice Cream. They used to be all over San Francisco when I lived there, but it seems like there was only one left and it was in the Castro. Of course, it was too early so it was closed. Which got a pout from me. It is NEVER too early for ice cream in my world.

Oh, The Castro, with its rainbow colored sidewalks...

...And its naughty sense of humor. I have never had a manicure, but I was tempted for the first time by this place. Who wouldn't be?

The Castro wouldn't be complete without this rainbow painted Harvey Milk mural. 

We got some coffee for John and Chai tea for me, and got in our car and headed North.

Highway One is so beautiful, but if you have motion sickness like me, you spend a lot of time with your eyes closed in the car. Don't worry. I wasn't driving.

We stopped at Stinson Beach for a bit. It was the first beach I played on since 2008. I really needed the therapy of wave sounds and the salt air, and the sand between my toes.

Stinson Beach was lovely, as usual, and I had the extra added bonus of making fun of my husband for rolling up his jean shorts. He thought it would keep him from getting soaked, but all it took was one big wave, and he may as well have not gone through all of that trouble. At least I got some funny photos out of it. Which is the most important thing.

 There never was a happier old lady than me to be in the ocean.

Although, John looks a little tense, I think it's because his rolled up shorts did NOT protect him from soaking. I didn't ask, but it was cold, and there may have been some shrinkage.

So, here's the part where I actually tell a little story. Very little. Maybe more of an amusing anecdote?

Anyway, we drove up to Point Reyes Station, and had to wait a few hours to get into our Air BnB in Inverness. PRS is an adorable town. Except, earlier in the week, nothing is open...Or very little is open. One of the places that was open was the Old Western Saloon. So, we stopped in and had a beer. I did notice the pictures above the bar, but I just assumed the frumpy looking older couple were the owners of the bar.

While John and I were sitting at the bar, these two couples walked in. One of the women was super outgoing and hilarious. At one point she came up to me and said, "Hey! Didn't I see you at Stinson Beach this morning? Do you live around here?" I told her that we were on vacation and we were from Iowa City, Iowa. She said, "Wait. Really? I know some people from Iowa City. Do you do the RAGRAI?" I said we did do RAGBRAI sometimes. She asked me if I knew some people, and I didn't recognize their names. I told her that Iowa City was a big college town, and people move in and out of it all the time. She tried again, and asked me if I knew a woman named Buffy. Ding ding! I did know that woman. She was on a RAGBRAI team that we had a dance-off with a few years ago. So, the woman Facetimed her friend and we all had a good laugh. What are the odds? Really.

Then she started talking to me about the photos above the bar. It turns out that the pictures were not of frumpy middle aged bar owners, but really of Prince Charles and Camilla. Oops! 

Anyway, according to the woman, The town of Point Reyes Station wasn't do that well, but Charles and Camilla's visit revitalized the town. So, she asked me if I would take a picture of her and her friend from grade school recreating the photo. Of course, I would. Then she started laughing about how us women were all so much more social than our husbands, who were all sitting quietly at the bar and NOT making spectacles of themselves.

She asked me if I wanted her to take a photo of me and John pretending to be Charles and Camilla. I said I thought it would be fun, but my husband hates to have his photo taken. She said I should tell him I needed him to take a photo, and he would want to help, and once we got him in the doorway, he wouldn't be able to say no to her taking a photo. She was right, and it was stupid and goofy fun taking photos, which, as  you know, is one of my favorite things.

Then it was time to head to our AirBnB in the town of Inverness. We said, "See you soon!" to Point Reyes Station, with it's old guys sitting on rocking chairs on the porch of the general store, and dogs coming for pets and scratches, and bicyclists stopping to refuel on their way down the coast.

Our place in Inverness was just lovely. They had chickens and dogs and cats. We were missing our cats the whole time during our trip, so we were happy to hang out with other people's animals.

Out AirBnB hostess designed what looked like a huge porch turned into an apartment in a French country style.

Our bedroom was super cute too.

Since almost everything in both towns were closed on Tuesday, we drove the five minutes back to Point Reyes Station and the only restaurant was open. We took the opportunity to have our first fresh oysters of our trip. MMMMmmmm. Slimy goodness.

 The food was great, we got to dine outside and after a couple of margaritas, we were both ready to fall fast asleep. We knew we had to get up early the next morning for our plans, so we were out like lights. What a great introduction to an area.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

To Be Where Little Cable Cars Climb Halfway to the Stars

On our last full day in San Francisco we had a lot of things happening. First we decided to a "little" run around and then to Twin Peaks. I was confused and thought that we were going to try to run to Twin Peaks, and then I would run the other mile home, while John did the whole five mile loop we found online. John assumed I was doing the whole five mile loop with him. So. we started running (very slowly) and I was surprised that my body actually let me run that day, because for the last year or so, it has been controlling and angry with me and made my legs all heavy and calves crampy, but it must have been going easy on me since it knew I was on vacation. Thank you, body.

I know I always say this, but there is nothing like checking out a place by going for a run in it. Riding your bike through it is also nice, but you go a lot faster and miss things. Going slow (especially, as slow as I run these days) allows a person to see things they would have driven right past without noticing. This little pond thingy was right on our running loop. It was gorgeous and oh, so green.

We also encountered many, many hills. And if you are familiar with San Francisco, you know those sidewalks can just as easily become stair cases.

Stair cases that keep going, and turning and climbing even higher.

John had the map on his phone, and he forgot to turn off his wifi, so his phone's battery went straight to shit pretty quickly by continually searching for imaginary wifi. Which meant that after his phone died, we were pretty lost. That is, until I found the map on my phone, turned of my wifi, and John led us back to our AirBnB.

So, the thing about our trip was this: Normally, I plan our trip WAY in advance because we don't have tons of money, and I want us to get decent places and we usually go in July when everyone else also go on vacation. On this trip, we were going to be staying with our friend's sister. It was very nice of her to offer, but a week before we were supposed to leave, her plans changed, and we suddenly had two days in Mendocino on a weekend, during the busiest season without a place to stay. Needless to say, that was very stressful for me. I searched and searched, and the only place I could find that we could kind of afford without selling a kidney was a Motel Six in Fort Bragg for $250/night. Gah! Then I thought to myself, "Churlita, if her plans change again in a couple of days, you will be totally screwed, so you might want to take care of that." And I did. I found us other places to stay for the nights we were supposed to be at our our friend's sister's houses, and one of those nights was the last night we would be in San Francisco. So, we had to check out of our AirBnb by 11, but we couldn't get into the cool 1960's motel we were going to spend the night in until 3. As most people know, leaving your car full of stuff and bikes in San Francisco is just an open invitation for people to break your windows and rob you, but we didn't have much choice. We left our car parked in a relatively safe spot by our old AirBnb, and then went on a couple of adventures, all the while stressing out about whether we would have to buy all new clothes by the end of the day.

As you might recall from my last post, we had a less than lovely experience on San Francisco public transit the day before, so we decided to just ride bikes where we wanted to go on that Monday. After a flat tire, it turned out to be a pretty damn good idea.

The culture in San Francisco toward bikes is a bout twenty million times better than in Iowa. People there seem to understand that they would rather have people riding bikes, than driving cars, causing worse traffic and taking up the few parking spaces available in the city. I have to say, riding my bike in that busy city felt a hell of lot safer than riding to work every day in our little college town. It was also fun. I have always commuted by bike, so I feel comfortable doing it, and it was nice to have so many other cyclists and scooters on the road with us.

We made it to Lombard Street. I had never been there before, even though I had lived in and visited San Francisco a few times. Of course, John decided to join all the tourists driving down it in their fancy SUV's. Although, his mode of transportation was a little different.

The word in my family is that my grandma used to live right on or by Lombard Street and walked down it on her way to school every day. Up hill both ways?

After Lombard Street, we headed to China Town. We were going to get lunch there, but all of the suggestions our friends gave us of places to eat there were closed on Mondays. Another woman saw us looking confused, so she asked us if we needed anything. Talk about Iowa nice, San Francisco seems to be even nicer. She suggested a place, and we walked to it, but it was closed too. So, we rode our bikes until I saw the street I remembered walking down the last time I was in San Francisco in 2008.

As you can see, Chinatown was pretty quiet on a Monday. But on that street, we found a place called Spicy Shrimp that was not only open, they had outdoor seating where we could lock our bikes up next to us and keep an eye on them. The food was amazing, and extremely affordable.

After lunch we rode all the way back to Twin Peaks to get our car and move into our new motel. John rode ahead once we got closer to Twin Peaks, because I am much slower riding up those Mount Everest type hills than he is. He reached the car, and no windows had been broken, we had all over stuff, and we wouldn't have to buy anything to replace our imagined stolen items. Hooray! He drove back and found me a couple of blocks back and then we headed to our motel.

I saw this place on-line and fell in love with it. I love a swanky 1960's vibe.

And Boy howdy, do I love a rooftop deck. They even raise bees on their roof. Also, we were right in the middle of the Castro.

Our plan for our last evening in San Francisco was to meet my cousin, Mark and his partner for dinner, drinks, and mural gazing in the Mission at 5.

I used to live in the Mission in the 1980's, and it's a bit different than it was back then. There weren't these kinds of mural alleys in the mid-1980's, sadly.

We met them at this delicious taqueria and had some delicious burritos.

Then they took us to a mural alley. They even were concealed carrying a selfie-stick. My cousin and his partner are the sweetest, most wonderfully, fun, and dorky people you will ever meet. It's how you know we're related. I hadn't seen him since we were here in 2008, and then we didn't have a lot of time to hang out with just them, so we felt particularly lucky this time.

We had so much fun taking photos and admiring the amazing art.

Later, John said that was one of his favorite things we did on our vacation, and we did some amazing things. I think a lot of it had to do with the company we kept that evening.

After our muraling (that's a verb, right?), we went in search of margaritas. We were having a hard time finding a good place for those. Both John and Ruben laughed that maybe we should go to the Irish pub to look for them, and damn if they didn't have a sign in front advertising their margaritas. They had a watermelon margarita special, and Ruben loves all things watermelon, so he ordered one of those, and the rest of us ordered regular ones. The woman messed our order up, and gave us three watermelon ones, and one regular. She was so sorry, and said we could have the watermelon ones free and she'd give us the regular ones we ordered. So, we had as many margaritas as we could ever want.

 Mark and his partner had to take the BART to get back to their town, and so we sadly said good bye, and walked back to the Castro. We didn't want to leave all of those incredible murals, but we had to sleep some time, I guess.

We didn't get to do everything we wanted in San Francisco, but I think we got in a lot for the little time we had.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

When People Run in Cirlcles It's a Very, Very, Mad World, Mad World

So, now we're on to our very first full day in California. Yea...For the most part. Being me at this time in my life, I always have some stupid shit going wrong with my body. It's usually migraines, but migraines cause other shit, and it all seems to come from stupid hormone fluctuations. I thought I would be into full-on menopause starting in July, but someone forgot to tell my body that, because it is being a total asshole and giving me three week long migraines, leg cramps, it's causing me to gain weight if I so much as look at ice cream, and seemingly endless PMS, without the M, and I'm STILL getting zits. Come on. Aren't wrinkles enough?

Anyway, all of that was really just to say...Okay. It wasn't leading to anything other than just to bitch, and then to say that I woke up with a migraine on my first full day in California. Yippee!

The plan was that we were going to get up early and try to ride our bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge before the hoards of other people woke up and decided to do the same thing. I took a couple of Advil and hoped it would be enough.

We parked at Chrissy Field, and only got lost once. No, make that twice before we found our way to ride over the bridge. We had read all of the things and decided to make sure we went on a weekend, so the side just for bike riders would be open. It was still windy and cold, and a little scary riding over it, but I really loved it. The only drag (besides the migraine), was that my cyclocross bike that I brought wasn't functioning properly. I could only get about 5 of the gears to work. I was supposed to ride it a few days before we left on our trip to make sure it worked, but I had that three week migraine, and I just couldn't get myself to do it. So, me and my five gears rode over the Golden Gate Bridge. Luckily, they were some of my easier gears, because I am old and fat, and those hills coming into Marin are serious.

When we got to Sausolito, I spotted a cute little coffee shop, and we stopped to get some caffeine and croisaants. I had read that on Sunday mornings, those kinds of places got crowded quickly, so I got in line, and ordered right before it got really busy. We even got an outside table.

It was perfect for watching other cyclists ride by and people walking across the street in cow costumes. What?!

We rode a little ways into Sausolito, but my brain pain was getting worse, so we headed back over the bridge.

The fog was starting to clear a little bit on the way back.


Here's me stopping to walk up that ridiculous hill on the way back to the bridge. Lucky for me there was a well placed mirror to document my failure to ride up dumb hills. Like I said, I'm old and refuse to feel any shame about it.

The views were lovely all the way around on this ride. If you like to bike, I highly recommend it. I was definitely glad we went early and on a weekend, as to avoid having to ride on the other side of the bridge, with the walkers. Friends of mine have done that and they said it's a shit show, with people walking in packs and stopping and not looking to see if anyone is behind them.

This was the hill we had to walk up and down a few times a day.
This was the hill we had to walk up and down a few times a day.

We made it home, so I could take my migraine meds and lie down for a spell, before we did something else. My original plan had been to go to Fisherman's Wharf, and Pier 39 and maybe Ghiradelli Square and eat some crab for lunch.

We toasted lunch with John's beer and my Arnold Palmer.

It was getting late, what with all my lying around and recovering from my migraine, so we decided to have lunch in Noe Valley before we took the Muni to the wharf. 

How am I an idiot? Let me count the ways... I did research the Muni before we came and sent John the link too. I used to take the J Church all the time in the 1980's and it looked like little had changed. Boy, was I wrong. I guess because of Covid, they had changed the routes, and so we took J Church, thinking it went at least close to the Wharf, but it dropped us off somewhere near Du Boce, and then I had no idea where to go.

I really need this bumper sticker.

Some very nice people saw us looking confused and came over to ask us if we needed help. I have to say, San Francisco was so full of helpful and kind people. After living in Boston for 20 years, John was really amazed. 

So, these nice people told us the routes had all changed because of Covid and told us to catch the F Market. I got to stand on the platform and wait for the bus on what seemed like the same color as someone's dried blood splattered all over the sidewalk. Oh, how I don't miss living in a city anymore.

Okay, so we made to Fisherman's Wharf, and it was packed with people, and we were feeling a little overwhelmed from our trying to take public transportation in the time of Covid, and so we watched this break dancing show on the street just to stare at something and be entertained and not have to think.

We also decided to blow off some steam at the arcade. Because we are both 10 years old at heart, we can spend way too much time at any arcade. I was pretty happy to introduce John to this place, and he was very happy to be introduced.

Apparently, any of the old amusements here were really creepy. Did kids back then just have nightmares every single night?

I was so sad that the arm wrestler guy was broken. He is one of my favorite machines there.

They did have the Atari Star Wars game. John was still really good at it. I'd be surprised if he hadn't played that game since the 80's.

I love pinball, and This Star Wars pinball machine is one of my all-time favorites. I was so happy they had it there.

Of course, no old timey arcade would be complete without a little peeping. Spoiler alert: The belly dancer irons in her slip on her day off. Womp, womp.

We decided to leave the crazy touristy world of Fisherman's Wharf, and head over to Ocean Beach. It's only a few blocks away, but it can seem worlds different.

I used to hang out in North Beach a lot when lived in San Francisco. This store is ever book nerd's dream. Lawrence Ferlinghetti just died this year. I'm glad the bookstore is still going.

I wanted to take John to Vesuvio's. I loved this quirky little bar when I was just barely legally able to drink, and it hasn't changed much at all.

Since we were feeling swanky, we ordered cocktails and sat at the bar.

Even though it's been forever since all the Beatnik cool cats used to hang out here, you still get the feeling that you could look over at the person sitting next to you and find Jack Kerouak.

North Beach is the big Italian neighborhood in San Francisco, and Italy had just won the European soccer title that day, so people were all cheering and driving around with Italian flags flying out of their cars. As I've said before, I love that shit.

After our cocktails, we walked over to where we were going to eat. There were signs all over the street with hope and happiness just a few weeks after California opened up from Covid. I would love for that feeling to last, but I guess we'll see...

We ate at Kennedy's Irish pub. It has a bizarre concept where the front of the building is an Irish pub, and the back is an Indian restaurant.

The food was so good, but I ate so much that I was afraid John was going to have to roll me home.

We did have enough energy to play skee ball after we ate, and I won, and John pouted. Exactly as it should be.

Dog pooping was the least of our worries that night.

 Getting home on the Muni was maybe even more of an adventure at night. A man got on the street car and I don't believe he was of sound mind. He started getting riled up and saying that we "were all gonna die in 10 minutes. We were all gonna disappear in ten minutes. Everybody was gonna be gone in 6 minutes. That's right. I'll cut you all. I have a knife. You are all gonna die in 4 minutes. You're all gonna disappear in five minutes..." I believe every Muni driver in San Francisco should be canonized after they die. Our Muni driver stopped the bus/car/train/thingy, calmly walked over to the gentleman, told him he had to calm down, stop all that nonsense, and get off at the next stop. Then he walked back up and started driving again. Damned if the gentleman didn't calm down, and tell us all much more quietly that we were all gonna die in 4 minutes, and then get off the bus and start yelling it. Whew!

The line ended about a mile or so before our Air BnB, so John and I had a nice walk up some hills, but most importantly, our lives weren't threatened once that whole walk home.