Notes from San Francisco (and Beyond)

Monday, June 18, 2007

So I’m back. Arrived back last night, got into the apartment at about 1am. Not terribly tired, but satisfied to be back in New York. I would’ve arrived back a couple of hours earlier, but it turns out that Fox rental does not have a drop-off spot at the San Francisco airport — something I could’ve figured out but I didn’t even think to look. So instead of cruising in with about 45 minutes to go before lift off, I had to drop off the car elsewhere, wait for the shuttle to the airport, and then wait for the CalTran (or whatever) to the actual terminal. So I got to mill about and check my e-mail while having lunch for a couple of hours. Not too bad, I guess. But whatever. More interesting stuff occurred on this trip.

Okay. So why was I in the Bay Area all last week? For Yahoo! interviews, which I probably shouldn’t go too much into detail with except to say that I interviewed with some folks at the Yahoo! mothership and enjoyed learning about the company for a few days. They have some very cool project going on, not the least cool of which is Pipes. What can I say? Well, the Silicon Valley area down there is pleasant in a quiet, suburban sort of way. I stayed with ex-roommate Haley and her boyfriend Jonathan for a couple of nights at the beginning of the week in Mountain View and it all just felt very nice and comfortable. The night life is weak, but if you’re into staying home, it’s lovely. We mostly stayed home. Both nights: ice cream and a couple episodes of The Riches on the projector. (The Riches = The Beverly Hillbillies for the post-Sopranoes generation multiplied by the world’s worst American accent, courtesy of Eddie Izzard.) Mountain View even has that Google Municipal WiFi, so you can get a signal pretty much anywhere (though it’s often weak and you have to click through a “Hi, we’re Google!” splash screen to start surfing). Tuesday afternoon I wandered down into downtown Mountain View to grab lunch and read my book (No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy, if you care — good book: terse and bloody). Downtown MV is simple. Just a stretch of road with some clean little coffeeshops and restaurants mixed in with other businesses — not the usual strips of Jack in the Boxes you find everywhere else in the area. Nothing too crazy, but fine.

On Wednesday Haley celebrated her 24th birthday — woot! — so she made arrangements at a restaurant in San Francisco for a bunch of people from Apple (Haley and Jonathan are both Apple employees). After taking a quick nap (and doing some mindless web-surfing), I drove Jonathan, Hatim, and Nick up. Hatim, it turns out, also lived in Austin and volunteered with AMODA for a while (after I stopped). We’ve actually seen each other perform live sets on at least a couple of occasions and he’s friends with the Notenuf folks, as well. Weird. So. Yeah. So we drove up to this crazy Italian seafood place and met a bunch of people — including ITPers Josh Dickens and interactive underwear specialist JennyLC. Café Sport, the name of the place. Pronounced “Café Sport” or “Café Spore?” Who knows. Regardless, a great place. Right near Columbus Avenue downtown. Lots of pasta. Seafood. Crazy interior design: patterns and colorful this-and-thats on every available surface, including the ceiling. Oh, and a drunk Danny Glover. While we ate he came in, I guess to pick up some food. He took some photos with with staff and a couple people, hung out for a bit talking, then stumbled out and got into his SUV-Jeep thingie and cruised off (I saw this because I followed him out to hit an ATM — and out of a desire to glean through proximal osmosis a richer understanding of dealing with bomb-rigged toilets and Mel Gibson). And then after dinner, some desserts and then drinks at some bar. And then back to Mason’s and Melissa’s place at the edge of the Mission district for sleep.

So. Thursday morning Christin landed in town, so I grabbed her at the airport and we grabbed lunch at some spot on Market a friend of hers had recommended. Then we went down to 826 Valencia (McSweeney’s HQ and “the Bay Areas largest independent pairate supply shop”). The place is fun. Lots of stuff to touch and look at. And books to buy to benefit the org. Christin even got a good mopping (and I’ll leave you to contact her for the details). Then we drove around for a while. A long while, actually. We zig-zagged north up to the Golden Gate Bridge and drove over to Sausalito to look back across the Bay at the city and take some photos. Then south south south: We stopped in Santa Cruz to get some ice cream at a place recommended by Haley and watched the surfers for a while. And drove on down past Monterey to the Big Sur area where we finally stopped and got dinner at the Big Sur Inn — a large log cabin sort of affair tucked amongst the redwoods and, oddly, no sea view. But great. We would’ve just stayed the night, but they were full so we drove back up and (after losing our way a couple of times) finally got a place on the outskirts of Monterey. A place with a fireplace and the, um, shower actually in the living room. With a kind of Tudor-style tapestry as a shower curtain. And angels frescoed into the paint on the ceiling of the tapestry. And this was a Super 8 motel, not Larry’s Discount English-Style Overnighters. Very, very odd. I’m not really used to showering in the living room of any residence. But I’m okay with that.

Our room. Note the shower by the TV.

So driving the coast… Yes, Pacific Coast Highway Route 1 is awesome, especially if you’re lucky enough to be driving in the late afternoons and evenings as we were. It’s rugged. Cliffy forested mountains just fall right off into the water most of the way and the road curves along ridges of flattened rock along the edges. And people do die on these road by losing control and sailing off towards multi-story drops into the rocky sea. But it’s great. If you have a rental car (or just a car), I highly recommend it. There are even a handful of small mostly empty beaches along the way which are quiet and very nice.

We got back to SF Friday evening and gathered the troops together for sushi at Sushi Hana, a place Gunn recommended — he knows the owner. Ilteris, Karl, and Andy had arrived into town on Thursday from their wacky cross-country adventure (which involved, amongst other things, the partial destruction of two rental cars and one poor deer and also involved Ilteris going into shops in the more rural parts of this country asking for either handguns or dynamite which, frankly, sounds like the set-up for gimmicky scene in a pre-Sicko-era Michael Moore doc). So that treo showed up along with Myra(!), whom they had come across totally by coincidence at a pizza place called, appropriately enough, “Escape from New York.” Mason, Melissa, Gunn and his girlfriend Jill, Christin, and I rounded off the roll call. Good sushi. Those salmon rolls with the lemon slices on them (I always forget the name) are the best. I love sushi with fruit in it… (Silhouette in Austin would stick apple slices or strawberries into their rolls if you asked — awesome.) So we ate and then moved to a bar to finish the evening. Christin and I were exhausted, so we split early.

And that pretty much wraps up the adventure.

What else to say? Um. How about this: I hate parking. Driving I’m okay with at this point because of the novelty, frankly (I never drive in NY). But — oh, sweet holy monkeys — I hate that feeling like we had when we came into town for Haley’s birthday, when we had to just creep along from street to street for a half-hour trying to find a place to put the car, holy fuck. I love subwaying and walking from place to place. It’s somehow refreshing. Anything else?

Oh, crap! The Monterey Aquarium. Forgot about that. Okay, I’ve been before, but Christin hadn’t, so we stopped in Friday afternoon. The big deal? The new otter exhibit. Oh, boy, otters. They’re good. When we first found them they were all kind of sleeping and being boring, but when we stopped by again before feeding — silly, silly, silly. Otters twirling in the water. Otters playing with purple balls. Otters pressed up against the glass and mugging for the crowds. Otherwise, I’m not sure we had a favorite spot. The touching pools were cool — you go and poke at defenseless starfish and sea cucumbers and such. The patios along the waterfront were nice, too. The ocean right along there is populated with a mix of sea birds, seals, and dudes in kayaks drifting around. Oh, and it turns out there is an ugliest fish ever (with a deceptively charming name). My favorite fish is, of course, the hammerhead shark. Saw some of those. Yeah.



Seals (and other critters)!



The end.


Posted Wed, August 1, 2007, 7:39pm EST by John Bachir

Finally got around to reading this-- great stories! So are you taking a job at Yahoo?


Posted Fri, August 31, 2007, 7:41pm EST by jared

Josh this is a great story. Some of those photos are amazing. I especially like the woman working in the penguin habitat. I'm having a hard time catching up on all the amazing projects you've been up to. Oh and thanks a lot for getting me hooked on desktop td.


Posted Fri, August 31, 2007, 7:42pm EST by jared

Josh this is a great story. Some of those photos are amazing. I especially like the woman working in the penguin habitat. I'm having a hard time catching up on all the amazing projects you've been up to. Oh and thanks a lot for getting me hooked on desktop td.


Posted Sun, June 15, 2008, 1:13pm EST by John Bachir

Hey Josh. I'm going through a very old "to read" backlog, and am finally reading this. Thanks for sharing your adventures-- I haven't been to the SF area since I was a kid, I need to get out there.