I got up at 7:30 and dragged my clothes down to the laundry. If I arranged my laptop just right, I could pick up a few weak wireless signals from neighboring buildings. They were intermittent, but faster than dialup. Occasionally, I had to open the window and balance my laptop on the windowsill to get a consistent signal. Jay came home and we discussed what I should see in San Francisco. It was very strange to not have any idea, since I usually plan vacations obsessively. I paged through my road trip book. The AAA guide had a walking tour, which I’d had good luck with in other cities, so I decided on that. I had spent so much time driving, all I wanted to do was be outside and get some exercise. I finished my laundry, talked to Heather, did some actual work for my old company, and then headed out.
Halfway between Jay’s and Starbucks, I found Royal Gourmet Coffee. I quickly realized that I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of the espresso-based beverage: Caffe Extreme. It was like a gigantic cappuccino, only better: 3 shots of espresso, a tiny bit of milk, and the rest regular coffee. It’s like this drink had been engineered especially for me.
I walked down to catch the cable car on California. I could probably have walked to Chinatown quicker (especially after figuring out that it’s much, much easier to just run down the hills in SF than walk them), but riding the cable car at least once in one’s life is obligatory. There was a little Asian man collecting fares from passengers. I heard him instructing a tourist couple not to stand in the 1′ x 1′ yellow square on the floor. They looked down at it suspiciously and the woman asked, “Why? What is it?” He replied, “That’s my office!”
I dismounted the cablecar and headed to Starbucks. To pee. You see, one thing you get good at detecting when you travel as much as I do is good bathrooms. When you find them, you stick with them. It’s restroom loyalty. In exchange for their good bathroom standards, the business gets your patronage. So: Starbucks almost always has good, clean bathrooms (except in NYC); and even though I’d already had enough caffeine to kill the weak or elderly, I got another coffee. I felt obligated.
I folded my walking map, ripped out of the AAA guide, into a tiny square and set off on my tour. I saw the swanky shopping (I was unimpressed, as I live in the land of malls), then the financial district, and ended up back in Chinatown. I resisted shopping there, since I didn’t want to haul crappy souvenirs around all day. I walked down the main street, then turned and went down a smaller street that was more real Chinatown and less touristy. Jay was correct in that I was the tallest person there by at least half a foot. The slow, meandering tourists annoyed me, but, luckily, I’m not afraid to elbow people in the kidneys whenever necessary. I turned down the half-block-long Jack Kerouac Alley and saw the home of the Beat. Then I found myself in North Beach, the Italian neighborhood. I stopped at a place called Cafe Delucci (Corso Cristoforo Columbo and Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd!) and ate the best salad of my entire life. After that, I stopped at Cafe Trieste, the first espresso shop in the country, to get myself a cappuccino. I’m not sure why I hadn’t stroked out at that point, but I was fine.
Heading off towards Coit Tower, I walked up some really steep hills, then climbed stairs. The caffeine must have been helping. I bought my ticket and took the elevator to the top to get my view of San Francisco.
On the way back down the stairs, I brushed the back of my hand against the rough concrete wall and scraped the hell out of it. My knuckles and wrist started bleeding. I subtly tried not to drip blood in the elevator, and went to the bathroom to wash my hand. It was bleeding a lot and I didn’t have anything to wrap it in, so I sat near the base of the tower for 20 minutes, waiting for it to stop. It looked pretty gory.
Finally, I got up and headed back down Lombard, then turned towards Fisherman’s Wharf. I walked past the cablecar turnaround, which was exciting in its oldschoolness. A family from Italy had just disembarked from a cable car, and I marveled that all five of them were dressed completely in denim. Were they fashion-forward or on the Levi’s payroll?
Fisherman’s Wharf didn’t thrill me. It was chock full of tourists and smelled fishy. I know, but still. I pushed my way through the crowds for a while, stopped into a couple crappy stores, and got the obligatory souvenirs. I walked down the Hyde Street Pier, which had a good view of the city and Alcatraz. I listened to a bitchy fashion photographer being a complete asshole to his models. Then I went over the Ghirardelli Square to see what the big deal was. It seemed kind of lame to me, but maybe that’s because I don’t eat chocolate. I started the long climb up Russian Hill. Yes, I could have just taken the cable car, but I felt like I had to do it, because it was ridiculous. At every corner, groups of people stood gasping and leaning against trees. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, not thinking about it. Near the top, I stopped and took pictures of the other end of Lombard Street, ‘the windiest street in America!’ I didn’t feel much like going down and then back up the stairs, so I just stood and watched cars inching their way along it. My walking tour looped back to Chinatown at that point, so I headed off in the direction of Jay’s apartment instead. I called him to see which way to go, and he told me to walk down Polk, because it had good shops. I was walking and talking on the phone as I passed Good Vibrations. I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, turned around, and went in. Not only was it the famous Good Vibrations, it was the antique vibrator museum. I saw a bunch of menacing-looking devices, and was grateful for modern technology. I bought many souvenirs, including giant vibrator postcards for all the folks back home.
We went to Whole Foods, then to dinner at The Window down the block right by my new favorite coffeeshop in the entire universe, Royal Gourmet Coffee. I was worn out; apart from lunch in North Beach, I had been walking all day long. I went to bed around midnight, and decided to leave the blinds open. Around 12:30, I saw the fog rolling in, slowly creeping down the street. At 1am, the moon came up. It was unbelievable and perfect.
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random notes from my travel journal:
man. if i didn’t drink so much coffee, i wouldn’t have this constant need to pee. i am not smart.
what would my roadtrip be without injuries? i’m all bloody. really awesome.
on the way back here, i got whistled at by the same construction workers who whistled at me this morning. or maybe it’s the second shift? do they trade off whistling?
i have bright red abrasions on my right hand to match the big blue bruise on my left. badge of honor! it’s proof that i did more than ride a tour bus around all day. man, i totally left dna evidence all over that tower, though.
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