Monday, October 12, 2009

Roadtrip: San Francisco

The City
let me count the ways: San Francisco still manages to charm me each time i visit, filling me with fantasies about moving back and flooding me with memories of the life i led there more than 10 years ago. i’m sure i romanticize that time as some beautiful coming-of-age era when, in fact, a lot of it sucked (i was very broke), but the magical energy of the city is something i feel only when i’m there, each time i visit. it’s a feeling of optimism and youthful idealism. it’s a feeling of possibility.

JD, Me (and Mo)
another reason to visit: my best friend of 20 years, Jon-David, and his boyfriend Cesar just relocated to SF from NYC, which means my frequent trips east will now be redirected north. as usual, we had a fantastic time eating, drinking, talking, laughing and blazing through a city together, with the promise to do it again very soon.

Nick and Child
and another: Mo and i had the opportunity to meet the newest member of our friends’ child army, 8-week-old Rhys, seen here with dad Nick, who smuggled him into a bar for his first taste of bourbon.

Mother and Child
mom and her Rhys-ling: mom is Alison, another SF resident and close friend i’ve known for 20 years, who refused to let me eat her child despite all my begging. instead, i smelled, squeezed and held him without once making him cry. then i threw his toy across the room for a game of fetch in a momentary brain misfire that made me realize how much i missed Juice and Pinko. (they stayed in LA with a neighbor.)

SF Federal Building
san francisco federal building: vacations with Mo the architect mean i can expect to see amazing architecture, this building among them, designed by LA-based firm Morphosis, which also designed the Caltrans building in LA (and another in Eugene, OR, which i’ll get to in a future post).

Federal Building Shutters

Rest Area

Federal Building Sky Deck
DMV hiring? this building makes a compelling case for getting a government job, particularly the sky decks that offer breathtaking views of the bay and a quiet place to get away. i have no doubt that these decks were included in the building’s design to prevent employees from “going postal.”

Dr. Merritt and His Pinky
Dr. Merritt and his pinky: this is Mo’s stepfather, Dr. Merritt, who is a retired doctor and an enthusiastic cook who loves hosting dinner parties. we visited him in Oakland with a gaggle of our friends — who served as dish washers, kitchen runners and table setters — while Dr. Merritt manned the grill.

Cook’s Kitchen
kitchen envy: maybe “enthusiastic” is too weak an adjective to describe his cooking prowess. Dr. Merritt really has every kitchen gadget ever created, in addition to endless appliances, utensils, spices and drool-inducing Le Creuset cookware. like every other guest at dinner that night, i must have spent an hour looking through his kitchen, garage and dining area, all of which were overflowing with good stuff.

Dr. Merritt Starting Paella
meanwhile: Dr. Merritt was outside with the biggest paella pan known to humankind, which he placed over his grill, to cook us the best meal of our lives.

Someone’s Excited
then he jumped in and was never seen again: the paella — there are no words. it was beyond the best i’ve ever had, better even than paellas i’ve had in Spain, and full of chicken, three types of sausage and shellfish that included lobster and crab. my only regret is that i’m not still sitting at his table eating it right now.

Book and Beer
more eating: the next day, we headed to the Hog Island Oyster Company at the Ferry Building for happy hour oyster and beer specials. the place was packed with both locals and tourists. it took ages to get a table, but the oysters, oh the oysters. again, words fail me as the taste buds take over and cloud my brain.

Oyster Closeup
divine slime: there’s no in-between with raw oysters — you either love or hate them. though i don’t understand how anyone can hate the heavenly flavor of a raw oyster sitting on ice and splashed with tabasco and lemon, chased with a sip of beer. it simply doesn’t make sense.

Four Dozen Oysters
now i understand: these (four dozen) oysters came from Waterbar, a restaurant i urge everyone NOT to visit. Hog Island’s oysters were fantastic, but Waterbar’s poisoned Mo and i, rendering us incapacitated for 30 hours. here, “incapacitated” is no exaggeration: we spent an entire day on the living room sofabed, sleeping nonstop in a fever-induced delirium, making frequent runs to the bathroom for vomiting, shivering and sweating, joints aching and body drained. sadly, this happened on the same day we were supposed to leave San Francisco for Russian River with JD and Cesar (who did not get sick), a day that happened to be JD’s birthday. not only was it the worst day of the roadtrip, it was also — and i say this with no exaggeration — one of the worst days of my life. i have never felt that way before. and i have not eaten a raw oyster since.

Golden Gate Bridge
the morning after: i can’t say the sick was completely gone the next morning, but Mo and i woke up mostly clear-headed and very ready to continue our trip north. with a slow start, we repacked our suitcases, said our goodbyes to San Francisco and hopped on the pacific coast highway, stomachs still unstable, toward Tomales Bay, Russian River, Eureka and the Oregon border.

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