Monday, July 24

San Fran Weekend

I spent the weekend in San Francisco, which is not merely on the opposite side of the Bay from Oakland but is also the opposite side of the world, culturally speaking. I love San Francisco; I will live there for a year at some point in the future.

Saturday I decided to drive into town rather than take BART. It took 20 minutes to get to the traffic jam waiting to get through the toll gates for the Bay Bridge, and then another hour of crawling to get to the gates. At least we were sitting in air conditioning. I did not at the time know what a blessing that was. Once through the toll gates, we breezed along across the bridge at 60 mph. 20 minutes later, we parked close to Union Square and stood in line to get on the cable car.

While waiting, we saw one guy wearing a scarf on his head and admiring his reflection in the shop windows. Another guy was standing on his head on the street corner. Uh huh. This is San Francisco.

It was a touristy kinda day. We rode the cable cars, strolled through the Cannery, had a Beer at Jack's Cannery Bar while listening to a guitarist play through Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon all by himself. We hung out on the beach down by Ghiradelli Square, napped a little bit, then walked back up into town. We had exceedingly hot Hot Wings at a little diner on Lombard, got a brief massage from an aspiring massage therapist whilst waiting for the 28 bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, and then walked across the Bridge at sunset, snapping photos all the way.

We took another bus to some swanky neighborhood on the Pacific side of the peninsula down by Balboa Park I think, We walked a lot more and finally found the the Muni back to Powell station. We finished the evening with dinner in a Jazz place down by Union Square. I had a mostly boring mixed greens salad, a pretty decent boullabaise, and a Neopolitan to finish off the meal. The music was good, but the service was abysmal. Just like Europe!

While trying to find the Bay Bridge again, I made an illegal left turn and got pulled over by a motorcycle cop. He asked for my license and registration. When I told him it was a rental and I was from Arizona, he replied, "I thought this was gonna be easy", and let me go without a ticket.

The trip back to the hotel in Pleasanton took less than 30 minutes. THIRTY MINUTES.

Sunday was completely different - we decided to take BART. The trains are apparently not air conditioned. It was - uhm - unpleasant. (Did I mention this was the hottest weekend of the year? Temperatures inland reached 110, and it was in the 90s in SF.) I couldn't help wondering what it must be like on a weekday afternoon packed with bodies. Bleh again. While trying to find a rail car that was not 10 degrees hotter than the blistering outside air, we got separated, which resulted in 30 minutes of trying to reconnect, which we ultimately did at the West Oakland station.

Together again, we rode BART into the Mission District and began wandering around. I had hoped to find a killer Peruvian-fusion restaurant called Limon where I had eaten before, but really had no clue where it was. As we walked up 16th Ave past a bagle shop, I overheard a couple of guys talking about Limon. I interrupted, asked them to point me to the place, and it turned out we were less than a block away. Eureka!

It was a little before 4 when we arrived, so you could say we beat the dinner rush, which was nice since we got the opportunity to ask our waitress not only about the food but about herself. (Ashley, from upstate New York, in SF for about 18 months.) We ultimately chose the sampler with 4 kinds of cerviche. Then we did the tuna tartar patty and some amazing shrimp-stuffed calamari in saffron sauce - all exquiste and well-balanced. We washed it down with a bottle of some kinda white spanish wine, (instead of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I’d requested), and finished with latte and two decadent deserts - a dark chocalate truffel with vanilla ice cream, and home made short bread cookie sandwiches with 4 kinds of sauces. The cookies were a tad too sweet for my taste, but overall, it was a thoroughly fabulous dinner.

We then wandered 3 doors down to a joint known as Blondies Bar & No Grill. Black walls. Black ceiling. Black floor. Minimal signage. No Grill. 16 ounce martinis. This is a place you come to drink, to lounge, to groove, to lounge and to drink. We drank, lounged and grooved - and thoroughly, completely, utterly enjoyed ourselves. The Tour de France was on the tube above the pool table in the back, a very eclectic, very San Fran sound track was playing at conversation-enabling sound levels, and a lesbian couple was making out in the back corner.

We each had only ONE 16-ounce martini because ONE 16-ounce martini is enough for anybody.

Next, we crossed the street to a little curiosity shop specializing in used clothing, snarky refrigerator magnets, (”Divorce is Expensive - Freedom is Priceless”), and anti-George Bush knick knacks. It occured to me that the humongous market for Anti-George Bush tchotskis has probably helped to keep the economy afloat - an irony which would no doubt really irritate the George Bush-haters if they had a capacity to appreciate irony, which I doubt.) The place was buzzing - at 7:30 on a Sunday evening! We bought nothing, but enjoyed the experience.

Finally, to complete our Sunday of Decadence, we wandered down Valencia back toward 16th to a dive called Casanovas Lounge. (I have a thing for slightly seedy bars with quirky character.) As was Blondies, Casanovas was mostly empty, and mostly dark. Whereas Blondies has an air of world-weary sophistication, Casanovas has more of a 19th-century opium-den vibe going on. Not that I’ve ever been in the 19th century, or in an opium den, but this is the kind of place I picture when I read Sherlock Holmes.

What little light there was in the place was provided by red-tinted lamps scattered around the room. Paintings, not posters, were hung all around the back part of the bar. When our eyes adjusted to the dim light, we realized that the paintings were mostly nudes, and that the sofas in the back were invitingly low and soft and cushiony and easy to get real comfortable in, if you get my drift.

We took seats in the corner across from the bar just in front of the back lounge where we could watch people both in the bar and on the street. (San Francisco is a great people-watching city. If you can’t see it in SF, it can’t be seen on the planet.) Back behind the sofa-strewn lounge area was a smaller room with couches on three walls and heavy drapes framing the doorway. The drapes looked as if they could be drawn to make a private area, but they were open the entire time we were in there. A lesbian couple was making out on the cushions behind the drapes. Of course.

We decided on shots of Don Julio Silver since neither of us was driving. Lick the hand, sprinkle the salt, shoot the tequila, lick the salt off the hand, suck the lime. Weird, but fun. In fact, so fun that we did another shot.

Directly across from our table, a DJ was spinning actual vinyl albums with actually terrific rock & roll. Most of it I had never heard before, but I really liked it. It had a 70s feel without being 70s schlocky. Oh, and it too was played at a volume that did not prohibit conversation. (What marketing guru recommended that music be played so loud that your guests cannot hear themselves talk? And who thought shouting into an ear 3 inches from your mouth makes for a fun evening? Huh?)

At some point, I remembered that I was actually supposed to work on the morrow, so we hopped BART back to Pleasanton. The return trip was a good deal cooler and less eventful than the trip out. Thank God.

It is hot in the Bay Area. HOT. Aitch Oh Tee steaming hot. I’m glad my stale, lifeless cubicle comes equipped with A/C.


Kent Runge said...

Whatever happened to the cold SF winters in July that Mr. Clemens spoke about?

Patrick Poole said...

Much like Brad on your last post, I'm just providing positive reinforcement for you to blog.

Geek Girl Blonde said...

Howdy again! Who is "we"? :)

Brad Whittington said...

Great read. I'm thinking it's time for you to start a second blog devoted to reviews of dives. You already have material for two entries. You could post once a week or every other week or some such. Think about it. You can check out to get an idea of what I'm thinking of.

You should check out Biscuits and Blues on Mason. Looks like the Lara Price Band will be there on Sunday, 8/13. Laura Chavez on guitar is amazing; you absolutely must go. And if you do, tell her I sent you. She may remember me as the dumpy old fart from Hawaii who talked with her parents at a JJs Blues Bar in Santa Clara a few years ago.

The Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel right around the corner on Geary is an interesting experience, but it doesn't qualify as a dive.

Anonymous said...


what a wonderful and enjoyable way you have captured the weekend "we" spent see the joy thru your writing and your eyes is irresistable.....


Atticus said...

Brad - Audrey & I almost went into Biscuit & Blues when we were running around SF last fall, but backed out at the last minute. You aren't the first person to tell me I shoulda gone.

I've been reading your blog as well. If the only thing someone knew about you was your blog, they might mistakenly think you were cool and sophisticated. Kinda like me.