So I spent the weekend traveling into the land of the Giants. As Dickens said, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Hell, I’ve taken trips to Vegas that wound up being less eventful than this weekend. It was my first trip ever to San Francisco, coming three weeks on the heels of my first time in the Bay Area when I was confined to the north in San Rafael. My wife was the kickoff speaker at the GreenFestival, a sustainability and green-movement expo that is held in various cities every year around the United States. So we drove down on Friday, crossing the Bay Bridge from Oakland into San Francisco as the sun dipped toward the horizon.
The first night was pretty uneventful. We ordered in pizza and enjoyed the novelty of cable television for an evening, catching the last two periods of Capitals-Bruins for good measure. Waking up the next morning, I plugged in the coffee brewer we’d brought to brew a few air pots’ worth of samples to take to the Concourse Center. And… the circuit blew.
So instead of having everything ready ahead of time, we loaded everything into our car for the five-block trip over, paid $4 to park for two hours, and set up shop in the speakers’ lounge. Once we were all brewed up, we walked down the stairs to the main hall with coffee in hand. My wife was behind, gingerly stepping down the flight in her heels, when…
Crash! I turned around to see papers flying through the air and, a moment later, my wife rolling down the rest of the flight after them. Several other people were in the narrow staircase, immediately helping retrieve her notes and assisting her to her feet. But the damage was already done, her right foot turning blue and purple from the sprain. Right before she went up, though, things took a slight turn for the positive.
I’ve been writing online for years, working on collaborations with various guys from across the United States and beyond. I’ve spent hours conversing online with these people, zipped off countless text messages and have even been on one end of telephone conversations with them. But rarely do I get the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.
So when I turned around in my seat to find the outstretched hand of fellow Sports Nickel writer Mac Brody, it was a bit startling even if I knew he was planning on heading north from San Jose to introduce himself in person. We settled in for my wife’s speech with cups of coffee, to the right of the lectern in the Fair Trade Pavilion. She played through the pain, and did one hell of an impressive job knocking her speaking engagement out of the park.
But afterward it was just too much to keep walking around to see the other vendors. We went back to our car with the equipment and drove it back outside the motel. Needing to ice and elevate her injury and not wanting to walk around on it, sightseeing was out of the question. So instead we kicked back for a day of college football in the room. Oregon was hosting Washington, and Mac and I rolled down to the store around the corner for some drinks.
Ah, California, where every little bodega and corner store has a wide selection of liquor just waiting for the purchase behind the counter. I procured a bottle of Myers Rum and some Coca-Cola and we sat around, shooting the breeze and cheering on the Ducks. It’s amazing how well you can get to know somebody online; it was almost as though we’d known each other for years, a steady conversation interspersed between the dead moments in the football game. The afternoon passed by in a rum fog, a few more trips to the store interrupting an otherwise unhindered day of football.
Yeah, I traveled nine hours to watch football and drink rum… it sounds like most any weekend in the world of Bigalke. It wasn’t what I might have expected we would be doing in San Francisco, but it was a good enough pastime for a guy as enamored with the traditional as the non-traditional. We got to bullshit about life, religion, kids, sports and society at large, the college kids on the screen melting into the background more and more. But then Mac had to leave as evening rolled around on the last day before we stopped saving the daylight, heading toward the train to take him back to San Jose. My wife and I settled in early, anticipating a drive to the redwoods for a night of camping before heading back to Eugene.
We accidentally left one of our car windows cracked when we returned from the Concourse Center. I woke up early Sunday to start writing a little… and looked through the window to find a guy rifling through our backseat. Apparently it was Jesse Owens on PCP or something, because I chased him all the way down the alley barefoot and in boxers but couldn’t catch him.
He managed to get a backpack that had some of my wife’s work papers and a few of my T-shirts and a scarf, a cigar he found in the center console, two books of scratched-up CDs and the Comcast modem we were going to return since THAT service doesn’t work in our house either. (You’ll be catching my writing coming either when I can get to the library or from my BlackBerry over the next few months.) All told we have to pay $80 for losing the modem, & everything else was mostly just a “we got hosed” sort of thing.
I did scare him off before he could get the car next to us with its window also cracked, though, so I guess it was my good deed for the morning. A few of the papers my wife had were important for work, but not volatile in any way. All in all, we had the big stuff — laptop, iPod, etc. — in the room and didn’t lose anything of real value.
It was some really old dude with a scruffy beard. This guy had to be in his 40s at least, looked 60, yet he had gazelle-like moves. I got outfoxed turning down the alley, and he was juking like Barry Sanders. We’re out just that $80. And he’ll probably get $5 for the cadged modem with the serial numbers and receipts all over it, if he’s lucky. But I made him work for it. I doubt he expected a sketchy guy with crazy eyes and Manson hair running at him at 5 in the morning and interfering with his “day’s work”…
Hopefully he gets good use from the backpacks & is a size L in T-shirts. The real bitch of it for him is that he’ll get nowhere near the $80 we have to pay for the modem. He’ll be lucky to get 1/16th that. Hell of a lot of cardiovascular exercise running away from an even sketchier man at 4:55 am on a Sunday. Hope it was worth it for him… though I got my knuckles all lined up for nothing!
The rain was coming down outside, and my wife was completely awake now. I tried to belt out some writing, but the adrenaline just kept flowing and nothing was coming through the fingertips. So, after futile attempts to work (me) and sleep (my wife) both faltered, we gave up on sitting around and loaded the car back up with what items had been secure in our room overnight. Driving through the showers, we launched ourselves northward, taking off down the steeps of Lombard Street toward the Golden Gate Bridge. (Is there anything better than a toll road where they’ve opened it into a freeway?)
So that was San Francisco in a nutshell. Laziness and liquor, tripping and theft, a new visual for an old acquaintance. It was a surprisingly athletic weekend, from my wife’s teeth-gritting moment to my predawn cardiovascular workout to the digestive durability required for rum binges. It never ceases to amaze me how I’m always struck with excitement even when I’m trying to be the most nondescript bastard on the block. It is never a dull moment in my world, whether getting a belated in-person introduction with a fellow writer or the grungy guy who can run a 4.5-second 40 with my goods tucked in his arms. You never know what’ll hit you no matter how wary you allow yourself to be…
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