I’ve been doing a bit of zooming around the West Coast in the last few months. Back in mid-OctoberÂ (yes this is one of those “about time too” posts – the Xmas 2008 post is coming soon) was a nice trip up north. Thursday night after work I scuttled through the streets to catch the Surfliner to LA. After an uneventful train journey up the coast, watching the last of the sunset over the Pacific, my bird Cassie picked me up from the beautiful art deco Union Station (as used by Ridley Scott for the interior of the LAPD in Blade Runner), and we grabbed some food in Chinatown.
In the morning we (or should I say I?) finalised packing, and thenÂ met some folks for a nice breakfast at Dusty’s, a favourite of ours. We’ve taken to sharing breakfast plates, because with the rosemary potatoes, toast and jam and everything else, we realised we didn’t need two omelettes as well. So this time was the Dusty’s special (with a side of crunchy American bacon) and their delicious strawberry and orange juice, and of course much coffee. Then we hit the road.
It’s not the most scenic of voyages, driving straight up the 5, but it’s a lot quicker than driving up the coast, less hassle than flying, and until the California High Speed Rail gets built, it’s pretty much the only option.
The first night we stayed in leafy well-to-to Orinda, with Cassie’s brother Don and his family. It was gratifying that her nephews were pleased to see me; Bennett especially likes to use me as a trampoline. We ate dinner with Don and Darien at a nice little restaurant with a big gnarly tree impinging on it. We were tired after our trip, so we didn’t indulge too much before hitting the hay in Darien’s immaculate guest room (mucho Resto).
In the morningÂ Don was making pancakes, so I grabbed a couple for the road, and Cassie and I drove to the BART station for a day in San Francisco. The BART trains and tunnels were used in THX 1183 before they went into service, that is, the original version of the movie, before George Lucas did his thing and cocked it all up with CGI. Pillock.
The first thing we did was to go to the California Academy of Sciences, newly refurbished with its famous turf roof. This was my idea, and while I’m all for these museums and galleries, with their agenda of opening up science to families and so on, but they do get a bit samey after a while. I do like looking at these displays, especially aquariums (aquaria?), but with the emphasis on educating the little ones, adults do end up reading how important water is quite a lot. Perhaps there’s a niche for aÂ grown-up’s Natural History Museum, complete with dioramas and hands-on wheel-turning and button-mashing, but with the emphasis on the more adult side of the world of nature. Should be fun.
Sadly the Planetarium was fully booked. This was a real shame – I haven’t been in a planetarium since I was a boy, when my parents took me to London and I went to Madame Tussauds, had the shit scared out of me at the Doctor Who exhibit, and then even more shit scared out of me in the Chamber of Horrors, with its displays of famous serial killers and methods of execution. The recent idiotic (or deliberately misleading) commentÂ from Republican presidential hopeful John McCain about a $3 million “overhead projector” reminded me that I want to go to another one. They’re probably improved since 1980.
We were due to meet Cassie’s pal Chandra at Haight & Ashbury, so we rode a taxiÂ with a funny and very enthusiastic driver, and hopped out right outside the Ben & Jerry’s right on the corner. Lunch was at the All You Knead Cafe, a bohemian joint with great burgers and veggie diner cuisine combined with old faded formicaÂ and psychedelic murals.
We hung out in San Francisco, met up with Cassie’s old high school friend Taylor, and went for drinks atÂ Zeitgeist (where we got free cake by the happy accident of sharing one of the big outdoor tables with a birthday party), followed by a walk through the city to another bar, this one a nice relaxed pub, with stools at the bar, friendly barman (gave Cassie free drinks, eh?) and fun decor, motorbikes hanging from the wall, those Borg-recharger spark things, and classic neon signs.
To round off the evening, Cassie and I had a late dinner atÂ Firefly before walking down the hill to catch a lateÂ BART ride home, which was kept lively by a contingent ofÂ screeching drunken cougars and their hopefully-embarrassed prey.
We slept in the next morning, as well as can be expected with three young boys running around above you (the guest room is downstairs beneath the kitchen). Maybe the pounding was in my head, I’m not sure. The next morning we left Orinda to drive north over the Golden Gate and onward to Santa Rosa, to visit with a friend of Cassie’s.
I’ve found that in the US if you add “West” to a street name, or forget to add it, you find yourself on the complete opposite side of town. So it was that we arrived at the Homeless Mission. A quick phone call corrected the error, and soon we were settled in the comfy living room of Cassie’s old friend Erin, meeting her partner and her cute son Bodie (sp?). He was engrossed in an episode of Thomas the Train, which is the US version of Thomas the Tank Engine. I think they changed the name because mentioning a tank offended the gentle people of this most pacifist of nations, and instead of Ringo Starr, they have Alec Baldwin voicing it. Bodie has this fantastic habit of not saying yes when answering a question in the affirmative. Instead he says, “Oh!” in such a way that you expect him to follow it up with, “… I do declare!”. Pretty damn cute.
For dinner weÂ picked up a good takeout pizza and a takeout jug of good beer from this micro-brew pub, where a band was playing some original stuff to an appreciative and varied crowd. Having scoffed the pizza, we then finished off the beer and stayed up late debating the economic bailoutÂ and watching more Thomas the Train.
We had to head off back south the next day, so we strolled to A’Roma Roasters for some brew and an American-style Breakfast Cake. Santa Rosa, or what I saw of it,Â was beautiful, with autumn trees, wooden houses, and the old rail tracks that were used for the Handcar Regatta.
After that we hit the road again, and much later I was tiredly crawling into a taxi to take me home from the station. Home.
I took a load of photos, but my camera got dropped while it’s lens was extended, and now it seems to be knackered. I’m sure it will be fine to get the card out, but that means I’m in the market for a new camera. January sales…?