I've been in San Francisco for only two days now, and I've seen and done more than I did the four days I spent here in '97. Of course, when I came here before, I was here for Convergence III and the folks I was with were of course all about the bands and the clubbing and thus were seldom functional before 4 p.m. I could, of course, have gone off by myself, but since I have the sense of direction of a non-magnetic rock, it's generally a bad idea to send me off by myself in unfamiliar urban territory.
We're staying with D.'s friends Ed and Carol, who are an artist/musician couple who live in El Cerrito, which is just north of Berkeley. They have a very cool little house well-populated with funky art pieces and pets. Their pets have been particularly entertaining: they have two white spitzes (Bolo, their larger dog, is sitting at my feet as I type) and two cats. Only one of the cats, a big tom named Joe, has come out to make friends. The other kitty has been making herself scarce; Ed says she'll probably decide we're not a threat in a couple more days. She looks a lot like my kitty, who is also skittish around strangers (though not this skittish).
Yesterday we went to lunch at a nice little cheap Chinese place near E&C's, then poked around in Berkeley for a bit. The big touristy thing we did in the afternoon was to go to the USS Hornet, a WWII aircraft carrier that did three batte tours in the war and then later served as the recovery base for various Apollo space missions in the 60s. I'm not hugely interested in military history, but getting to poke around that ship was awfully cool. It's huge; the flight deck is three football fields long. And D. tells me that the modern aircraft carriers are about twice as big. When I stepped onto it, my first thought was that I could not conceive of creating such a huge, complex hunk of steel that floats. We only had an hour on the ship, but we got to see the coolest bits, I think. In addition to the flight deck, we got to see all three types of crew quarters, the galley, and the sick bay/medical section. They also had a nice little exhibit on the Apollo missions, complete with one of the modified Airstream trailers that the astronauts were quarantined in.
Today, we first went out to Marin County and drove through the houses in Mill Valley. This is the area where John Walker Lindh is from, and D. and I agree: setting aside the religious and political issues entirely, the kid is crazy to leave such a beautiful, vibrant place for the deserts of Yemen and Afghanistan. Mill Valley is right up there with the Isle of Capri when it comes to physical beauty.
Once we stopped ogling the babbling brooks and multimillion-dollar houses, we drove up into the hills and stopped at this little bed-and-breakfast (whose name escapes me) for lunch. The restaurant seating was on an outdoor deck that had a breathtaking view of the valley and the bay. The weather was fabulous, clear and sunny.
After lunch, we backtracked down the road and went to see the redwoods in Muir Woods National Monument. The woods were Lothlorien-like in their beauty; an hour was nice, but a whole day to walk and explore would have been even better. It was pretty chilly down in the shade of the trees; I was quite glad I had my windbreaker.
Ed and Carol dropped me and D. off in Berkeley so we could meet up with Mary Anne Mohanraj and sundry other Strange Horizons staff members at Au Cocquelet for tea and pastries. Au Cocquelet has a pretty good menu and good seating. I had a piece of blueberry pie that was quite tasty. The meeting was (predictably, since a lot of us had never met before) a little awkward at first but we had more or less warmed up to each other after a couple of hours.
Everyone but David H. went to an Indian restaurant afterward, which was a much chattier and more relaxed outing than Au C had been. Don't know why; I guess it was just an issue of breaking the ice. The food at the restaurant was good, but not better than the decent restaurants in Columbus.
So, all together it's been a good couple of days.