Friday, July 26

The Best July Ever

Historically summer is a poor season for me. I make plans, have a check list of projects to finish and then they don’t happen for one unhappy reason or another. Not this year. I was visiting my sister in Snohomish and had a moment in the shower to wish for a good summer. One I would remember fondly. So far so good.

First I went to the Evergreen Air and Space Museum in McMinnville with a friend. She offered the day trip as a christmas present and off we went on a glorious hot day. It is home to the legendary Spruce Goose, which is a big ass plane so, of course, is the building it’s in- Gignormous in fact.

Two weeks later I was on the Coast Starlight train bound for San Francisco and a family reunion with my three other sibs: Susan, Mike and Bruce and an old high school friend we kept in touch with. 

We spent the first day lounging on a houseboat in Sausalito, kayaking in the bay, eating burgers, fresh grilled shrimp and corn. It was rough but we managed. We moved over to B’s house for the remainder of the trip. We came primarily to work on B’s house while it’s being remodeled so the place was a construction zone. It didn’t look much different from the last time I saw it and I was prepared for a mess. 

The last time I was in SF I went to visit my favorite place, the Science Museum in Golden Gate Park and it was ruinous due to my hip acting up all of a sudden. It was fine the rest of the trip and the experience spooked me. This time my hip was fine so all four sibs headed out. There is a giant bubble shaped room for the Rain Forest exhibit where birds and tropical butterflies fly around freely. I  always wanted one to land on me. I was wearing a hat with bright buttons and a gorgeous Sapphire Aphro (?) decided to land on it and chill out with my traveling buddy Moose. My sister, quite the good photographer, took the best picture ever. The aquarium there is also amazing . We wandered all over and never lost each other despite the huge crowds.

That night at B’s house we had a big party with old and new friends and brother Mike whipped up seafood for dinner. Now SF is a major foodie town and normally I go out a lot when I’m there but we had great meals every day at the house because of  great cooking from everyone. 

Susan had to fly back on Sunday so as we assembled on the deck for a group photo we were startled by a flock of SF’s legendary parrots of Telegraph hill ( on the other side of town) flying overhead. It was a good omen.

I brought some hand tools along for the remodeling work but didn’t need to as the brothers did electrical work so there was nothing for me to do there. I felt rather useless until our hostess asked for my help organizing her stuff. 

If there is a destiny for me it putting things in order. I was born organized and excel at it. The daughter’s bedroom floor covered with clothes. Put in order, check. The bookshelf in the entry that was dusty and scattered. Check. The laundry room impassable. It’s clear now. Oh by the way if anyone needs to know where something is for the next couple of weeks just call me and I’ll tell you where it is because I remember these things.

On Monday B took me and Bruce to one of the oddest tours I’ve ever been on. bought the historical Armory building and turned it into one of the biggest porn studios. Their videos are not for prudes or the faint of heart. The castle like fortress has a distinctive personality. Add some porn production and you get a potent mixture of gothic funk, military angst and entrepreneurship. Our guide was a slim woman with a short haircut and the body of a sixteen year boy. Despite her petite appearance her shoes made a loud, purposeful clatter on the marble floors as she lead- no, controlled- the tour group around. Kinky sex is not my bag but I was turned on by the prospect of having a job there building the sets. Along with the lighting , they were as good as any I’ve seen in the theater.

Photo credit  No I did not take this picture, but I did see the set.

Our family had a tradition of taking a picture of our feet propped up with a beer nearby and a view. It started with Susan’s photo while in Cozumel that looked like a Corona commercial. We’re always looking to top it. I got mine on the ferry to and from Sausalito with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Not the best arrangement but it worked. Counting the round trip ticket and beer, this photo cost me $28.

I had to leave. I really had no reason to rush but it was time to get home. I got to the Emeryville station by bus from the Ferry building. The driver was amazing, maneuvering the huge bus through traffic and pulling into a parking space between two other buses at the station. I applauded his performance. 

Considering the trip home I should have stayed another day. First let me say who ever thought putting a station in Emeryville and not boarding passengers at Oakland just down the road is an idiot and should be shot. Since the train leaves late, there is nothing open nearby to get snacks, including the cafe in the station. The sign announcing train arrivals does not actually announce all the train arrivals as a smaller sign next to it indicates. 

For that you have to get the attention of one of the surly staff. It was such a bother to answer your questions. The train, which starts in LA was three hours late. It’s usually Union Pacific’s fault but this time it was Amtrak’s. Seems they hit a pedestrian in Simi Valley (they survived)  and never made up the time. It was another eight minutes late when two luxury cars hired by some celebrity had to be connected in Oakland. We all glared at the cars as we passed by them to the rest of the train. Which was a shame because that is the ultimate way to travel. Normally I can’t sleep in the uncomfortable coach seats but I was so tired I was out immediately. 

By and large the Amtrak crews are nice and I’ve had few problems with them. The conductor, to my surprise, was a tall blonde woman who was friendly and efficient at handling 300 people. Alas the bistro cafe attendent was not. This woman managed to piss off  just about everyone with her indifference toward service and control issues “only three people in the bistro area at once” she ordered. Three and half hours late, I was glad to get off the train.

A minor irritation compared to the memories of an otherwise wonderful reunion and a great time in the City by the Bay. Eating lunch at a favorite old haunt ”The Sauage Factory” on Castro St. Sitting in a hot tub in Richmond over looking the bay with a full moon. Eating the best made soft pretzel at Firebrand Bakery while watching the baker make up a batch of goat cheese filled Brioche. Watching the America's Cup boat the "Oracle" zoom by at 30 knots on the bay. Making breakfast for the gang. Riding the old street car down Market Street.  

I can’t wait to go  back.

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