Thursday 1 April 2004

California 2004 - Day 2

In keeping with their natures, the boys were up at dawn, but kindly let me sleep until just after 8am. Breakfasted and off we went into San Fran to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately for us, it was sunny enough to actually be able to see the bridge (evidently it gets so foggy that only the tops of the turrets are visible), but still foggy enough to get the "authentic" experience. We wondered through the little nature area a while, me taking pictures from further away, and watching the surfers among the rocks near the closest in support structures. Not sure how they managed not to freeze or bash themselves to bits on the very pointy and prominant coastal rocks, but it was neat to watch.

Then we decided to walk part-way across (to the first turret) and look out over the bay. I didn't realize that Alcatraz was so close to the shore, and actually inside the bay itself. I always envisioned it in the big ocean not visible from land. The bridge also didn't sway nearly as much as what I was expecting it to, and it was a reasonably windy day; in fact, the bridge shook more from the brisk traffic than from the weather.

After turning around and coming back, we walked through the Gift Shop (or Gifuto Shoppu as the sign read in transliterated Japanese), before heading over to Japan Town for lunch and a bit of window shopping. As much as it pained me, we ended up doing A LOT of driving, instead of walking the city as I would have liked to have done, but it was necessary to see everything we wanted to see, and I got to watch out the windows while Pyrex drove--a feat for which he deserves to be sainted. CALIFORNIA DRIVERS ARE CRAZY!! Not sure what rules they were driving by, but they were just similar enough to lull one into a false sense of security, before nearlly catastrophically trouncing you out of it. Of course it doesn't help that the lanes shift at very odd angles without helpful markings. Fortunately, Branson was equipped with a trusty road map and a decent amount of familiarity, so we got everywhere safely, but Pyrex's nerves must have been shot by the end.

Anyway, lunch was at Juban which specializes in a certain kind of Japanese cooking called "Yakiniku." It's kind of like a do-it-yourself hibachi, only minus the ultra sharp knives and tons of strangers at your table. The grill is actually recessed into the table, and you grill the meat and veggies yourself. I ordered a pre-cooked dish (Bibimbo--beef, spinich in sesame oil, pickled dikon and two kinds of fermented bean sprouts over rice. Actually quite tasty) The boys did the grill-your-own thing, and wound up with some ultra tasty bits.

Afterwords, we headed out into the shopping district wondering through several craft, textiles, & antique stores as well as some exhibitions on temporary display. After two-ish hours, Pyrex and I started to crave sweet things, and being in San Francisco, the only place to sate it is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory. Two ice cream sundays (hot fudge and caramel) between the four of us, we were off again. This time to the Golden Gate Park to see the Japanese Tea Gardens, where theoretically there would be tea. Said tea never qutie materialized, but the gardens were beautiful, if not a bit small for the amazing number of tourists in the area, but that's what we get for going on a late Saturday afternoon. Also turns out that admission was free after 5pm (about the time that we left). So if you're ever in San Fran, and want to see the gardens, go after 5 on a weekday. But they were beautiful none the less.

The next stop was primarily for Pyrex and Branson, and that was the Castro. Filled with some amazing Victorian architecture and lots of neat little shops and cafes, Pyrex spent a good deal of time shopping for friends back home, and enjoying the atmosphere of acceptance and general upbeatness. It was really amazing how hopeful and fun the entire area felt, much more so than any of the other neighborhoods we meandered through, but then again, there wasn't much meandering, so take that for what it is.

As it was getting dark, and our tummies were getting the grumblies, we headed back to San Jose for dinner at a random Vietnamese Noodle shop that I didn't get the name of, and was only adequete, but it filled us up, and got us on our way in less than an hour so that we could pick up snacks and drinks for the bonfire that Garner was getting set up for later that evening.

I really couldn't have asked for a better end to the weekend. We arrived at Ocean Beach and stood on the shore watching the waves in the darkness--inky blackness punctuated by bonfires reflected from the distance and silvery caps on the waves.

Then there was bonfire. =)

Garner had brought palates from the wharehouse where we works, and another couple had just decided to leave for the night, and allowed us to take over their already fading fire pit. So we threw on a palate at a time, drinking beer, and generally talking and catching up with lives that had been too long out of sync. It's always really fabulous to see people loving what they do. Garner had never quite been happy with CS as he studied it at OU, but has since moved on to sound production for a company that does big concerts in the Bay Area, and he LOVES it. I have rarely seen someone so invigorated in life and career they have begun to create for themselves. I only wish that all people can know that at least once in their lives for whatever that may be.

So, tired, smokey, sand saturated and soulfully sated we headed back to Branson's for the last crash of what was an incredible weekend, one that may never be repeated. Three days in a fascinating locale shared with three of my closest and dearest friends. Doesn't get much better than that folks, doesn't get much better than that.