SFO: Balls And Rocks

June 21, 2006

Weekends are good, but apparently vacation weekdays are even better.

Monday’s lunch saw me introduced via Simon and his coworker Frank, to a nice little cafe that served pretty good burgers. We talked the nerd something good, and Simon ate my burger instead of the one he ordered. Good times all around. That night Katie and I enjoyed the beautiful scenery of AT&T Park. No hits into the Bay or anything, the score ended up 2-1 Giants, and all of those runs were scored in the first inning. So … not the most exciting game ever. But still, a thoroughly enjoyable experience in the open air of San Francisco. My only mistake: the garlic french fries. While they’re certainly good, eating too many in a row can lead to pain. Every time I took a sip of Sprite, it was like taking a swig of battery acid. T3h P41N! Still, it was an experience!

Yesterday we headed up to Union Square for some lunch and to snag some buttons for a project Katie is working on. We originally wanted to get some food at the Compass Rose, the restaurant that has been in the Westin St. Francis for quite some time. I should have known as soon as I saw the new management notice that we would be disappointed. The Rose has been closed in favour of some new trendy dinner spot. We took a quick picture of the clock, and then headed outside to consider our options. My lovely and intelligent wife suggested we ask the doorman, a gent who was sure to have opinions. Always trust the doorman. Riley, the gent on duty, directed us three blocks down and one to the left, onto Ellis Street. “John’s, Grill, and tell them I sent you”. We went, we told, we ate. A-mazing. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall place mentioned in The Maltese Falcon, and I can totally see why Spade would want to eat there. Sitting at our little table for two in the dark, we found ourselves surrounded by regulars. A businessman at the next table motioned our waiter over and made a point to say that he wouldn’t be coming in tomorrow. A woman came into the bar area asking for her usual. She sipped quickly at a martini, and then left. The food itself was terrific. I had a piece of sole with just a little butter and some slivered almonds. Katie had some really delicious pasta, with just a little bit of meat inside, a velvety white sauce, and some parmesan cheese.  To top it off, not only did it have the best atmosphere and food of any place we’ve been yet, it was also one of the cheapest meals we’ve had here in town. Stupendous.

In fact, after a stop at the Bri-Tex fabric store, we ended up spending less on lunch than we did on buttons for Katie’s project. She bought about 24 beautiful little golden buttons, all in the shape of knotted rope, for a coat she’s repairing. It will look great, but that was still pretty funny to me.

Buttons purchased, we motored down to Fisherman’s Wharf. We had an appointment to meet, but we still had enough time to walk around, look at the ocean, and get some ice cream. When the appointed time came, we hopped a boat for The Rock. After the quick talk from one of the rangers, we made our way to the cellhouse. (From her spiel: “This is federally protected land, so please do not try to take any rocks, twigs, feathers, rangers, or volunteers off of the island.”) We grabbed the audio tour headsets, and headed inside. I expected it to be, somehow, more depressing. Perhaps it’s just the tone of the recordings and the way that the inmate recollections are phrased, but overall the impression I got was more ‘historical interest’ than ‘traumatizing lockup’. I’m sure it was a horrible place for anyone locked up there, but surrounded by blinding wandering tourists it was hard to appreciate the suffering they went through.

I’ve got something like 600 photos to go through, but I don’t expect you’ll see any of them for a few days yet. Still on dial-up here, and that sounds like pain. We might have dial-up tonight, as once we get underway we’re going to be making tracks north of the city. Wine country is our destination today, with lunch in Healdsburg the only real planned event. Yay for the open road.


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  1. So, what did you get for mentioning the doorman? Special toy prize with meal? They withheld the deadly poison food additive? What? WHAT?!?

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