Just a Couple of Shreveport Girls in San Francisco

It’s somehow been almost two weeks since I traveled to San Francisco. That wouldn’t be so late for publishing a blog post about it, except that I’m actually taking a bit of a bonus trip this weekend to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and my post about that is going up Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as this coming Tuesday…as in, just a few days from now. Time is such a saucy minx. [Editor’s Note: Actually…I was totally wrong about this. Fat Tuesday is next Tuesday, so wait to see the Mardi Gras post up March 4.]

Because the trip to San Francisco was just as jam-packed with experiences as the Nashville trip, this will be another multiple-part post. And this first part will be kind of awkwardly split up from the rest by the Mardi Gras piece, but, that can’t be helped. I’ve made my peace with it and suggest you do the same. OK, part 1, lez go:

Amanda, a good friend of mine, came with me this trip. She and I both grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and went to high school together at this artsy magnet school where the punks were the cool kids and instead of football we had fencing. We left Dallas together on Friday two Shreveport girls ready for a California adventure, and San Francisco did not disappoint.

Nothing incredibly eventful happened on the plane ride over, except that there were some high school boys sitting in front of us who decided to take off their shoes in the middle of the four-hour flight, assaulting everyone’s senses with the truly horrible stench that is particular to the sweaty socks of teenage boys. Having grown up with two brothers, I would have recognized that smell anywhere. There was nowhere to go to escape the foul odor, so I used my shirt as an air filter.

We eventually escaped the plane and made it to the hotel around midnight. Then we crawled into bed for some California dreamin’ :)

The next morning, we awoke to discover that our fancy-dancy hotel did not provide an in-room coffeemaker. I always feel like that’s such a petty way to piss off a guest. I mean, how much money can they really save by not supplying a few coffee grounds, anyway? Enough to justify the inevitable wrath incurred by sleepy travelers who just want a cup of Joe first thing in the morning without having to put on real pants? I’d love to see that cost/benefit analysis spreadsheet.

No I wouldn’t.

We refused to pay for what would probably be crappy coffee in the lobby, so we headed outside into the rain in search for breakfast. (It rained all day the Saturday we were in San Fran, but after the first fifteen minutes or so on foot you learn to just embrace it.)

We were staying in Union Square, and my phone told me this place called Sears Fine Food was nearby and had great reviews, so we went to check it out. One of the commenters on this blog advised us to eat as much seafood as possible while we were in San Francisco. I joked with Amanda that we’d have to find a place that served lobster omelets. Well, what this place had to offer wasn’t far from it.

We walked in from the drizzle and sat down on the diner’s bar stools. The restaurant was one of those really cute, funky places with vintage decorations, antiques and photographs everywhere you looked. There were Cuisinart mixers from the 50s, typewriters, a jukebox and all kinds of memorabilia from days long past. Its menu said the restaurant had been open since 1938. It looked like we’d stumbled into a San Francisco staple, and we were excited about it.

We had no trouble finding menu items that satisfied our goal of eating seafood for every single San Francisco meal we could, starting with breakfast. Amanda and I split an order of their smoked salmon eggs Benedict and their seafood omelet filled with shrimp and crab and topped with sherry cream sauce. The meal was amazing, and the service was authentic, diner-style no-muss, no fuss, here’s your food, wave for more coffee.

I loved our waitress. She was busy—it was the Saturday morning rush, after all, and at one point I was that annoying customer who’d dropped my fork. When I told her about it, she answered back, “not my problem,” completely deadpan, then quickly grabbed a new one and handed it to me with a smile.

After breakfast we walked around Union Square for a bit, but there really wasn’t much going on in the rain—no musicians, no people sitting outside drinking coffee—so before too long we started looking for the streetcar station that would take us to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We caught one a few blocks down from the square. This short, squat, fiercely funny man was conducting it. Amanda and I were lucky to have stumbled onto his car…literally. “Sit down, sit down, you two not gonna fall off if you sit down. I want it to be a good day.” We sat down.

Riding on the car was thrilling, even though it didn’t go crazy fast. We were very exposed, just sitting there on benches with no horizontal rail between us and the tracks. The rain pelted our faces, which was somehow also a part of the fun. And our conductor was the best.

When we pulled up to the next stop, I thought, “no one else is fitting on this streetcar.” There were no outside benches left, and the inside car was completely packed. Our man stopped the car anyway, and said we could fit five more. Five?! The people he let on seemed just as skeptical as I was, but he ushered them on, saying, “Get inside, get inside. Say ‘sorry,’ and push. Smile while you do it, and it always works.”

I couldn’t help thinking that that guy, whether he knew it or not, had just come up with one of the best metaphors I’d ever heard for how to get the things you want in life: smile, and push.

A few short moments later, the streetcar got stuck on the tracks at the bottom of a ridiculously high hill. Our man was unfazed. “We’re gonna get a little push,” the conductor told us confidently after a few minutes on his radio. “Don’t ask too many questions. Make friends. Could be, oh, mebbe 15 minutes.”

What did he mean by “a little push”? I was wildly curious, but we’d been told not to ask questions, and society has conditioned me to do as instructed by an authority, so we waited. Other, perhaps smarter, passengers did not. They got out and walked. Still, Amanda and I stayed put. We both agreed, we had to know what would happen next.

What he meant was that a huge truck was going to come up behind us a literally push the car all the way up this monstrous hill.

I hadn’t really given much thought to the monstrous hill until we started to climb it, and I was suddenly unreasonably afraid. I thought it was strange, discovering a fear of heights while I was basically on the ground, but the hills in Nashville have nothing on the hills in San Francisco, and living in Texas and Louisiana had left me unprepared for such heights. I was sure that if I fell off of this thing I would fall and fall and fall until I hit concrete somewhere so far down it wasn’t even visible any longer (exaggeration brought on by the paralyzing fear) and my body splattered all over the cement in some sort of sick Rorschach-like pattern.

But then I remembered that fear is a liar out to ruin everyone’s fun, so I ignored thoughts of broken bones and death and before I knew it we made it to the top of the hill and were again independently mobile, no longer needing our little push.

There were more hills between us and Fisherman’s Wharf, but I braved them by focusing on some of the stunning views of the city below they offered. (And also by clutching my purse until my knuckles were white.)

Soon enough, we were at Fisherman’s Wharf, safe and sound and being practically shoved off the train by our favorite conductor, “Last stop, last stop, everybody off. Go now, have fun, last stop!”

Here’s a photo of Amanda and me sitting on the trolly, and the empty streetcar after he let everyone off:

San Francisco Streetcar

Stay tuned for the next parts of the San Francisco trip featuring a fern-engulfed man on Fisherman’s Wharf, puppies at play on the beaches of Chrissy Field, impromptu stairs at Palace of Fine Arts and more. Now, I’m off to get ready for Mardi Gras in New Orleans—laissez les bons temps rouler!

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