Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Travel disrupts the normal, but my normal includes so much travel that it becomes rather ordinary: I put on my travel mindset and, like listening to rather dull, inconsequential music, I go through the motions of packing a bag, eating a last fabulous breakfast (this part's not dull!)...


... tidying spaces and getting them ready for days of solo Ed use (yep, there's a difference!), going over lists of things that must be done, both in California and Wisconsin and finally riding to the airport with Ed, and catching the flights to Minneapolis, then San Francisco.

I leave a greening Wisconsin behind...


...cross this vast continent which, from the air, always feels even more vast...


...and arrive in the somewhat parched but green nonetheless California. It's rare that the incoming flight gives such gorgeous views of the Bay, but this time it does and I'm grateful for it.


I should mention that I am lucky, because an agent at the airport kindly agreed to put me on an earlier flight. I was to have no time in the city tonight, but now, instead, I have a late afternoon to roam the streets, in search of that, which makes San Francisco such a popular place, for locals and visitors from all over the world.

My own history with this city is very long. I have had family living in the Bay Area since I was very young and indeed, my grandma chose this to be her home for her senior years and my mother is following in those footsteps. I never saw this as a city to love or hate -- it's just the place where one American branch of my family chose to settle.

It is, of course, far nicer than many places where a parent might choose to retire, but it is distant from where I live and so a trip here is a major production. More major than, say, going to Chicago.

I'm staying at the Triton -- a very funky hotel just by Chinatown. All my recent San Francisco stays have been in hotels that form the Kimpton group and in this way I feel I am returning to a family of hotels.  Here's my room -- nicely in the corner, so with light. The wallpaper is a print of pages from a novel. I wonder if I would recognize it if I read it. After all, you wouldn't do a wallpaper of something obscure... Or would you?


In the (really funky) lobby, there are hula hoops. Just because.


I did not plan a walk or a destination and now, flush with more time, I consider the possibilities. Walk. Randomly. The park is too far, the obvious recommended destination -- Fishermans Wharf -- nah. So I walk the streets, which here are often steep...


...and I smile at the fact that California always meets your images of what California is like. You know, sunglasses.


And a love of the sun. Which appears to be always present.


Eventually, I cannot stand feeling so hungry anymore (it's been a while since that bowl of oatmeal) and so I look at the menus of the handful of recommended (by the desk clerks) fresh and honest eateries around me. Expensive.

I go to a Chinese place. After all, I'm hugging Chinatown.


I read the menu and retreat. The concept of fresh an honest -- so California, yet so elusive!  I'm getting in that fussy state where I am very hungry, but I don't want to make a mistake. (A mistake = spend too much money on food that's not good... It's surprisingly easy to do.) Finally I go back to a place that seems both simple and immensely popular. E & O Asian Kitchen. So much is it popular, that there's only one spot open and it's at the bar. Perfect! Even though I am a bit of an odd shoe here. I'm too old, too not California, too in love with the porch at the farmette and Pouic Pouic on the other side of the ocean. I'm not like her -- I'm not wearing a beautiful little black dress and if Ed were here, he would not be like him, behind her, with cufflinks clasped just so.


Still, I don't mind playing the outsider that I am. I order two appetizer dishes and a complicated drink that's fizzy and refreshing and one of the dishes is just superb and exactly what I need. (This one: with the shrimp the herbs the fruits the cucumbers the Asian flavors; the second one of chicken satays is fine if a tad boring.)


And then I drag myself back to the hotel. It is my 10 p.m. and their 8 p.m. and I still have a post to write and emails that deserve a response.

Except my funky hotel is having a funky problem: the internet is not working. I give them some time to diagnose the issue, but as the minutes drag on, it becomes clear that they haven't a clue and neither do the engineers and so it is time to tell them that this wont work for me: I have to check out.

It's handy then to be in a hotel group: there are sister hotels in town and one has rooms and yes, it will be the same price. But this new one, the Sir Frances or some Drake person -- it is so not my type of hotel! Larger, older, once glitzy now just tired (as I am). The hotel staff beam, thinking this to be an upgrade, as it's their flagship hotel, but I feel like I should use their functional internet to find another place tomorrow.

For now, I put off thinking about hotels and concentrate on writing. And I remind myself that the sunshine today was brilliant and this is nothing to sneeze at

San Francisco does know how to look at the bright side of the equation. And that's a good thing.