Chapter 3: Communing with Nature…and Sushi
When last we left our hero (me), I was dreaming of the deadly redwood squirrel that no one has ever before glimpsed without ending up dead. Waking in a cold sweat, I showered and left the hotel to take another brief walk through Fisherman’s Wharf on my last day in San Fran. Nothing new to report there, aside from the fact the seals at Pier 39 were engaged in an epic struggle to see who could yawn the most. After breakfast, I checked out and met up with Martha for a day full of sight-seeing and tomfoolery.
Our first stop before leaving metropolitan San Francisco was the Palace of Fine Arts, a park/arboretum/museum situated near the Presidio (or at least I’m guessing it is, what with my “extensive” knowledge of Bay Area geography).
The Palace was constructed by Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition (celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal), but of much, much greater social significance is that it’s featured in the mega-blockbuster The Rock, starring Sean Connery! Historical significance be damned; James Bond was there once! Sadly, just as at Alcatraz, he wasn’t here either. I’ll get you, Connery! Anyway, it’s a great place to take pictures of dogs and swans and architecture. Hm, that phrase should go right on the postcard. Seriously, though, it’s well worth a stop if you’re ever out there. You could spend five minutes there or half a day and still enjoy yourself if you have an appreciation for that sorta thing.
We opted for about twenty minutes of picture-taking and swan-stalking before getting back into Martha’s badass ride to see the quintessential San Francisco tourist attraction: the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s majestic, breathtaking, and a wonder to behold, but one need not say too much more about it. It’s a mesh of steel girders over water. ‘Nuff said. Oh, and it’s painted red. Huge banks of fog rolled in as we crossed the bridge, so by the time we made it to the scenic overlook atop a nearby bluff, much of the span was enveloped in dense masses of cloud. That didn’t detract from the view, however. Fog or no fog, it’s one of the world’s most unique sights, one not to be missed despite the crowds of sightseers you sometimes need to wade through.
We snapped some shots of the bridge and checked out the historic battery atop aforementioned bluff, then headed off in the car towards the Muir Woods National Monument, known for its towering redwood trees. Our original plan had been to hike Mt. Tamalpais for most of the day, but we expended most of our energy drinking the night before, and hiking up the bluff to the Golden Gate overlook. A leisurely walk through a forest suited our physical states a bit better at that time.
“Majestic” was the operative word here. Despite the well-worn paths trafficked by large crowds of tourists, it was easy to approximate the feeling that you were far from civilization, among trees so ancient they predate the country’s birth–it was almost primal. Unfortunately, there’s nothing quite like large groups of obese college football fans from Tennessee, clad in impossibly bright orange regalia, to bring you back to reality (and “civilization”). These fans were all over the Bay Area in anticipation of the Cal/Tennessee game that weekend. And when I say “all over,” I mean it. They were downtown, at Alcatraz, in every restaurant, in Chinatown, the Mission District, the mall, the woods…you get the idea (you can even see two below!).
I know I’m harboring stereotypes here, but I assumed the names of each and every fan I saw were either “Curly,” “Hoss,” or “Bessie.” I should be so lucky as to end up with a fine woman like Bessie one day. But I digress. The woods were sweet and the pictures do the place moderately more justice than words do, so check out the gallery for more.
Our next stop was Sausalito, which conjures images of boats and bikes in my head, for some reason. For good reason, I guess, as the place has an abundance of both. The place was packed due to an annual art festival (timed with the Labor Day weekend) so we took a quick walk around the “downtown” area and had lunch at a restaurant with a retractable roof! Yeehaw! It wasn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds, but the food, served by the one waitress attending to eighteen tables, was good. More time was spent taking pictures of seal statues and water splashing upon concrete in interesting ways before it was time to leave for Oakland.
There was an urgency inherent in getting to Oakland, as the Bay Bridge was slated to be closed that night for weekend-long renovations, so Martha took us the long way across the Richmond Bridge to get to her place, where I was graciously hosted by the aforementioned Martha and her roommate Kelly. And Martha’s dog Mr. Bigg (the extra ‘g’ is for its’ desire to gnaw my face off — just kidding). They’ve got a great place and apparently have some interesting neighbors which I’m glad I didn’t end up meeting, if recent revelations about their hobbies are accurate.
We cleaned up and headed out for a night on the town, first getting dinner at an upscale joint called Yoshi’s. Upon entering and approaching our table, I was immediately captivated by the seating arrangements. The tables were IN THE FLOOR! LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN! I may have been overly tired, but I found that exciting (obviously). I don’t think the staff wanted this radical concept to be stolen by other enterprising establishments, so I had to be quick with the camera lest I be dispatched by their secret ninja strike force. So, forgive the blurriness:
The rest of the night after the sushi is kind of a blur, but we hit the bars in the Berkeley area for some drinks and live music. I do remember a few things vividly: the Hefeweizen beer; our thievery of a much sought-after table right from under the noses of a disgruntled, preppie college student who wouldn’t stop whining to the wait staff about it (I think that made us “The Man” who “oppressed” him); and the large pile of upchuck a Tennessee fan graced the sidewalk outside with (no, it wasn’t me). Upchuck notwithstanding, it was nice to have a relatively quiet night with Martha and Kelly, sitting by a pit of flaming spheres while enjoying some live music and each other’s company. It was almost enough to make me grow dreadlocks, don a poncho, and start smoking copious amounts of weed.