An odd trip: nothing really that interesting, yet, a strange combination of truly magical moments coupled with not-the-best-memories trip.
Since David semi-retired last June, we have needed a calendar to keep track of where we are supposed to be. Scary stuff. Since his birthday was rolling around again, the retirement birthday, we thought we would get away to the city during the week for a few days. It has been a long, long time since we had a night out of town.
Lodging takes a new twist as we no longer require smoking hotels! That puts a new perspective on things, and after several debates, we end up trying the Serrano again. They assured me a coffee pot could be produced for our use in our room. Breakfast at Toni's as usual, and off we go in David's new talkin' truck. "I'm sorry, for your safety, that feature cannot be used while in motion." Frustration takes on a new meaning, and seems to set the mood for the weekend.
The weather could not be better. Seagull feeding at our hidey spot behind the wharf, the kite shop for spinners for the yard, and check into the Serrano, as gold plated as I remembered it. The room still looks like a circus tent with their striped curtains, the bed is fair, but there is no coffee pot. Finally, one is produced, but sans the cups. These are finally brought, but, no coffee. I am headed down to get my laptop anyway, I stop to talk to the front desk who says, "Madame, I am trying to tell you, we don't have coffee that size." I wanted to say, "I am trying to tell you, sir, had I known this while still at home, we would have booked elsewhere." I held my tongue and chalked up another reason never to return. Waiting for my laptop included witnessing a classic SF traffic accident right in front of the hotel, ten feet in front of me, and two angry female drivers emerging from their smunched cars.
Now, little things may be little things, but when they start mounting up, they become downright aggravating. Like night stands for only one side of the bed, getting to be common place now. What does the person on the other side of the bed do for a place to keep a drink of water or their glasses? The bathroom door would not close, filthy windows on the fourteenth floor, no coffee, and, no coffee.
The charge for parking the 'boat' was exorbitant, and we opted for a taxi to the Stinkin' Rose for dinner. What a treat to be going there again, especially on a Thursday. We sat in the back, the red velvet gypsy booth curtains hve been replaced with wide black and white stripes, creating a circus tent appearance. I ordered a Drambuie, David his custom pina colada. The waiter returns to tell me they don't carry Drambuie, I smile sweetly and said, "Yes, you do." He insists not, hands me his little menu-etch-a-sketch open to the list of drinks and I point to d-r-a-m-b-u-i-e and try to look innocent. Hehehe. The garlic appetizer was absolutely yummy as usual, the pesto was equally scrumptious. David's chicken was good, Anne's salmon was too crispy, but that is better than being undercooked. We walk about after dinner and head to the Beat Museum, a great store with some unusual tidings. We even had stopped in at O'Reilly's at Stockton and Green for a drink, sitting on the sidewalk and people watching. Delightful.
A rotten night's sleep on a weird bed, okay shower, good towels, hotel robe (stiff but nice to have), one cup of coffee only because I stash extra coffee pods from previous hotels, and we head out for breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast places, Mo's on Grant back in North Beach. Parking the truck next door to Mo's was a task made more difficult by a couple popping in the spot ahead of us before we had landed. They stopped to say, "Nice ride but you are ruining your tires against the curb" and again, we bite our tongues. A slow morning, few customers, I order a crab cheese tomato omelet that arrives with a severe skillet tan. Only after David has almost finished his fruit and muffin does the waitress look our way so I can order another. Am I the only person in the world who recognizes the fact that a burnt or browned egg simply tasted awful?
I wander out to the street while David is paying the bill. Across the street from the truck is this building, out-of-date-short, bygone era style compared to its neighbors. Layers of paint and generations of locks stand quietly, patiently waiting for another evening of festivities to begin. The building literally called me over. I was absoutely fascinated with those locks on the two, narrow, full glass pane doors. What lay behind those doors, what stories would they tell, and what kind of crowd would walk through them tonight? David came out of Mo's, the spell was broken and we moved on.
It is Thursday, we loosely plan the next few days, including a stop in San Jose on the way home. That is a story in itself, but in short, our Cupertino seventies band, Old Forest, is getting back together and I am to record my parts of a few songs at Bryan's studio. I am telling David about our escapades, including how Liz, Pai and I would head up to Coffee and Confusion in Liz's green frog car to listen to local musicians. I wondered, where was that, what area, I wonder. Thanks to my new smart touch phone, I no longer have to wait till we get home to look up something on the net. I pop out my phone, enter Coffee and Confusion, and pray. Lordie, after thirty odd years, there it is. 1339 Grant Street. No way. Time stands still. Mo's is at 1322. Across the street and down one building. As Jim would say on Saturday, synchronicity. When you have a minute, google Coffee and Confusion. Lots of great stories from Steven Martin to Janis Joplin.
We did a fun walkabout and shop till you drop in the Haight, and there was a parking spot right there, waiting for us. Positively Haight, Earthsong, Tibetian Gifts, Haight Ashbury Posters, and of course, Genesis Imports. We stopped to eat at Massawa's, thankfully still there. The owner, however, sadly announced, this would probably be their last year in this location, the landlord wanted to raise the rent. We hope and pray he continues somewhere, where ever, and we can still find him and feast on their 'skinny chicken' food. We checked out the infamous Red Victorian Hotel on Haight for our next stay, but we will keep looking around, despite the fantastic decor in each room. Parking is public access, several blocks away in the old Kezar Stadium, only a few rooms have private baths at a rather steep rate, there is an entry curfew, and, there is no coffee in the rooms.
Friday evening we ate what we hoped would be our last meal at Castagnola's on the wharf. I had a craving for lobster, how perfect! Well, the service sucked. We remember another time when we felt the waiter had sat on a too tall a stick, and this was fairly the same mood, possibly the same waiter. Lobster was quite steep, but we expected that. The salads were good but needed more dressing and couldnot get any one's attention in order to obtain any. The tables were not crowded, so it should not have been that difficult to hail someone. The waiter finally did pop over to ask if I understood, clearly, that nothing else comes with the lobster. No useless, raw vegetables, nada. I nodded, a tad stunned, and sure enough, I was served a lobster tail on a plate. Period. Such a shame it was so tough. David's pork chops were so tough he could only manage to consume half of one, and not a word was said when the waiter whisked away his plate. $80 wasted.
Naturally, we headed to the Green Apple, again, finding a parking spot quite easily, but nothing struck our fancy and we walked away empty handed. Rare. Actually, quite incredible. One last stop for a finger piano for Bryan, coffee for me, and we head back to the hotel.
Saturday morning, and guess what is broken? The coffee pot. Auuughhhh....... We pack and leave, comments about the jammed bathroom door and broken coffee pot ae met with a short, insincere, "Sorry" at the front desk. We headed back to Grant Street where I took photos of 1339 Grant Street. Alas, the idiot who worked on my computer right after this lost 22,000 pictures of mine, including those. I guess we will just have to go back. The drive to The Ramp was filled with hope, and expectation of one good meal this weekend, and I should not have counted my chickens. The bloody mary was good, their coffee was unusually harsh, the omelet disappointing, but David's crab louie salad looking delicious.
The stop in San Jose at Bryan's was fabulous. Jim was there, Max and George did not make it. We did two songs, then a different and trippy version of the Girl from Woodstock. Pai recently lost her fiancee, and Bryan had a picture of them singing together that brought tears to our eyes. He wrote and added a quick, cute verse to the song, and has recorded everyone he knows singing it, rather like "I'd like to teach the world to sing." I tucked in a hi hi to Paul and Mikey, the two members of Old Forest who have proceeded the rest of us to the Happy Hunting Grounds.
Dinner Saturday night was at our own beloved Branding Iron. We told the owner, Greg, how glad we were to be home and eating good food!
Old Forest Pictures circa 1972
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