Sometimes You Wanna Go…

Where everybody knows your naa-a-ame (duh duh duh), and they’re always glad you caa-a-ame (duh duh DUH)…

Potentially sad, potentially heart-warming: I’m looking forward to my ten year high school reunion (which isn’t until next year, thank you). Started ferreting through some Facebook profiles of HS buddies, and saw some photos of people I haven’t talked to in (you guessed it) 9.5 years. Would just be nice to catch up with them, see how life is going… and hopefully make a few of them eat a healthy serving of humble pie.

See, I went to high school with a TON of people who carried themselves around like big fish in our relatively small pond, and made fun of all those who didn’t carry themselves at all but just were the fish they were. Then, these big fish people went out into bigger ponds, found out just how big they weren’t, and ended up right back in our small pond (or maybe the next small pond down the highway).

Be honest: you know a few of these people from your own pond, and are a little empathetic to my small yet satisfying possibility to feed them their own sack of crap. It may make me a slightly worse person, but for some of these people, it’s worth it. WORTH IT.

But on the whole, I loved my high school experience, and there were a lot of people that have gone on and done some awesome things & become awesome people (or always were awesome & just didn’t know it). I didn’t get to go to my five-year reunion (my sister’s 21st b-day in Las Vegas kept me away), and ten years is a long time for people to make progress towards being awesome. I’m looking forward to catching up with the awesome ones.

Here’s a small, somewhat confidential list of folks I can’t wait to catch up with due to Awesomeness Past, or for Awesomeness Perceived (meaning I think they’ve probably become awesome by now, based on things I’ve heard / read / seen on Skinemax).

Emily W. – Was Awesome, probably still is, but I can probably appreciate it to an even greater level now. She was my first ‘girlfriend’, at age 8. Still remember getting caught “making out” in a wee closet in her room. By “making out”, I mean talking about pay-per-view WWF wrestling and trying to kiss each other on the cheek in the dark. Man, did that make Rick’s face turn red…

Jarret B. – This guy was one of my Favorite People… then he found Ecstasy and lost his chess scholarship at UMBC. I haven’t seen him since, but I’m hoping he’ll be there.

Sauceman – Still one of my Favorite People, Sauce was everyone’s cool big brother, even though he was someone else’s pain-in-the-ass little brother. While he never shared my past ‘bad luck’ with the ladies and would never, EVER, be described as a nerd or a geek, somehow he makes a kindred-spirit-sized hole in my brain. Plus he’s the only football team QB I’ve ever gotten to know, which makes me think there’s hope for Nerds to learn from Athletes after all. Haven’t seen him at Breakers in a while, but that’s probably because I haven’t been there in the last two years.

Drew O. – If any circle of my HS friends had a token black guy, Drew was it. In fact, I think he was the token black guy for my entire senior class. Drew was cool back then, and I’ve got a feeling the cat has only gotten cooler. People don’t use the word ‘unflappable’ very often, but that’s my word for Drew. Unflappable. Plus, anybody who spends that much time in Pittsburgh PA has to be a genuinely strong human being. Drew is still probably cooler than I am, but that’s okay; gives me yet another aspirational goal.

Bradley T. – Bradley T. was the QB of life. Brad always knew how to a) make things happen; b) have a good time without upsetting Papa Den or Mama Kim; c) get to know people in a way that was friendly but not deep. He & I actually lived down the hall from each other for a year and a half at college, but never spent nearly enough time hangin’ out. (To sum up why, he & his roommates played EA Sports games on the PS2; my roommates & I played Super Smash Brothers on the N64. Never the twain did meet…) Brad’s still one of my favorite people, but I haven’t talked to him since graduating PSU. All I know is he’s married to a lovely girl named Jen, lives somewhere near the home town, and is undoubtedly still someone you can count on for a good time.

Chrisin H. - This girl was almost in two major car accidents while I was at the wheel, but we survived, graduated, saw each other ONCE while she was at Pitt & I was at PSU, but no sightings since. She moved to North Carolina, works at Duke now & is married (may even have borne wee ones). Definitely miss Christin; hope she’ll come up from Dixie.

Hoover – Ahh, Hoover. Hoov. Hoov was the Sauceman of the basketball team (even though Sauceman also played b-ball; Hoov had a good 4″ on Sauce). Hoov was a tall, gangly, scrawny mo’fo with some bad habits that, rumor has it, got worse. Taught me a lot about humility – not that he was humble, but rather, he proved that being a little boastful and/or over-confident was sometimes a REALLY bad idea. We had English & Physics teachers that gave him hard times, but he brought them on himself. Constantly had a little bit of a pompous air about him – probably had mostly to do with bad family situations. His stepdad Clifford (CLIFFORD!) was ~45-50 years older than us and was obsessed only with his cat and with keeping Hoov from upsetting Candy, Hoov’s mom. Real Dad wasn’t in the picture much, but when he was, made Hoov feel less than good about himself, and then tried to make up for it with golf clubs & Volkswagens. I felt for Hoover, and on more than one occasion got to see who he really was – and who he was wasn’t all that bad, so I counted him among my friends. He still made jokes at my expense more often than I would’ve liked, but at least he was funny. (Hoov, if you’re reading & don’t like the details, let me know & I’ll strike it from the record. Then, you owe me at least two beers.)

JEN FRIKKIN’ MARTIN – This girl… well, this girl was one of the original Skanks (I’m picturing the photo we took of her holding a bucket of Coronas & ready to get into Danny’s hot tub), until something went awry & she stopped returning our calls. There were comments made & disagreements had, but apologies & restitutions were also delivered, so I’m not sure why we still don’t get to count on ever seeing her when we’re back home. As far as I know, she’s still not married but living with a guy, and helping to take care of his two daughters. She’s certainly got more on her plate than the rest of us, but I no longer agree that this means we can’t relate to her. So I hope we all get to catch up with her there, if not before. (Jen, sweetie, if you’re reading, CALL US over the holidays… you are missed, dear.)

That’ll about do it for now. If I see even two of the above people at the reunion, it will be completely worth the price of the flight. Hell, if even writing this post reunites me with any one of them before the reunion, that’d be the bee’s knees.

Thus ends this extra-special glimpse into my past.

An Example that Eradicates Excuses!

Let’s start at the bottom: my friend Erika (long-time friend from the ‘boro) is chugging a boot of beer at Suppenkuche (world’s best family-style German restaurant). At the top, her husband chugging the same boot, but like a woman. Look closely: his left pinky is starting to creep up to Full Salute.

These kids, who have their own kid by the way, managed to make their way out to visit SF from Denver. They flew in early Sunday morning, and were back on a plane to Rocky Mountain highs on Wednesday night. Shocking? Not yet. But read on… look at all the awesome stuff they got to do while visiting the Hotel Hansen for three short days:

Sunday: a quick brunch at the Crepe House on Polk Street was followed by a roughly 4-hour walking tour of the highlights of northern SF. We walked from Polk Street up Nob Hill and descended into the nostril-raping fishmonger markets of Chinatown (Erika: “I just wanna see it!” My wife: “Why?”); once we realized that we were bigger than all those people, we were able to do our White People On An Agenda walk, throwing elbows & upsetting apple carts until we were able to breach like whales onto the shores of North Beach (for you non-Bay Area folk, this is our version of Little Italy, with fewer people from New Jersey who claim to be Italian).

We strolled through North Beach at a leisurely pace, were appropriately accosted by the restaurateurs on the sidewalk – seriously, it makes me feel wanted, and therefore I enjoy it and consider it appropriate – as we headed northward to the Place Where Hope Comes In A Bread Bowl, Fisherman’s Wharf. For all its splendor and hub-bub, the Wharf is not all that spectacular. There are restaurants, there’s a fun sourdough bakery that you can see inside of, and then there’s just a bunch of frikkin’ tourists & sailboats. But we checked that box for them, and even went over & saw the sea lions relaxing on their K-dock.
We had also JUST missed a ferry over to Sausalito, which Ryan really wanted to refer to simply as ‘Saucy’, so we nixed that idea. (Erika: “Can we just kill an hour down here until the next one?” Me: “Killing an hour down here is more like torturing your own will to live right out of every fiber of your being, but yes, if you want, we can.” Ryan: “Well don’t sugar-coat it, tell us how you really feel.”)
Onward we strolled, back toward the nowhere-near-setting sun on a leisurely waterfront walk. I continued to parlay my perfunctory prose of prior periods in SF’s history into what seemed to the unweary an unquestionable, unforgettable and unique monologue as we gallavanted along gaily toward the Golden Gate. Boat, boat, another boat, $10MM waterfront home, guy that shouldn’t be running without a shirt on due to man-boobs, little girl flying kite, middle-aged nerd flying 12 kites and making little girl feel insufficient… and left turn into the delightful ‘Marina’ neighborhood. More restaurants, small independent candy store, over-priced clothes & accessories store, hey there’s Mr. Man-Boobs running again, open house, cougar, another cougar, cougar’s Mom, some over-paid venture capital analyst with too-white teeth, Pottery Barn… and south to Union Street.
I took Erika & Ryan to That Takes The Cake for a sample of what I have come to consider the world’s best cupcake. (Seriously.) But this is what I love about having grown up in a small town: we all immediately noticed that we could get one freshly-baked cupcake for $2.75, OR we could get SIX freshly-baked-yesterday cupcakes for $9. For those of you math-challenged folks, that’s nearly a 46% discount for 24 measly hours of sitting around the bakery… or $0.05 an hour of staleness. “We’ll take the ones on sale.” “They’re all on sale.” “Maybe to you, honey.”

A quick phone call home to Denver for the parents to check on their offspring, and we quickly realized we were pooped. We headed home to enjoy our cupcakes – after all, as soon as we took them out of the shop they started depreciating. Upon our return, we rested, shared the splendor of sugary substances with R, and then decided we’d DRIVE over to see the Painted Ladies (a.k.a. the houses from the opening credits of Full House), maybe even do a drive-by of Haight-Ashbury.

Painted Ladies pictures carefully procured on our professional-grade photographic paraphernalia, we sallied forth to Haight-Ashbury, saw the freaks, and then spent about 90 minutes sponsoring a trip to Amoeba for Ryan. (Aside from being a funny nerd-brother, he’s an even bigger music nerd; I couldn’t very well let him leave SF without experiencing the heaven that is the Bay Area’s second-largest used records store. FYI, the nuts in Berkeley also have an Amoeba, which is reportedly bigger.) Proudly, Ryan exited having refrained quite well, purchasing less than $30 worth of merchandise but feeling satisfied. Spinning his new purchase in the Prius on the way home, even their tour guide felt this was a day well-spent. To reward ourselves, we ordered Chinese food for dinner (Tai Chi on Polk Street still can’t be beat) and stayed in to watch ‘Baseketball’ and ‘So I Married An Axe Murderer’. The latter is a San Francisco specialty, but I have to admit it’s starting to lose some of its appeal to me. It may have something to do with The Love Guru.

THIS WAS JUST SUNDAY, people. They said numerous times that they couldn’t believe how much we’d done & how much they’d seen in just six or eight hours.
Monday: Luckily, they were off to drive up through the redwoods (they stopped at Muir Woods) to Wine Country, where they’d booked a night at a Bed & Breakfast that included bike rentals in its rates. This, people, is genius. They got there early on Tuesday morning, started drinking & eating & doing what people do in Sonoma, and they never had to get back behind the wheel of the rental! They wined & dined, realized that Sonoma’s still a small town that closes around 8pm especially on a Monday, and retired to the spa/sauna in their manse-for-a-night.

(The following details of their romantic evening at the B&B have been edited for time & have been re-formatted to fit this screen.)

Tuesday: They rode out to more wineries, saw some more beautiful scenery, and came back into the city to help pre-celebrate my pre-birthday at Suppenkuche and drink beer out of oversized glass footwear.
Wednesday: I didn’t even get to talk to them about what they did on Wednesday before they flew back (I was working all day & they got themselves to the airport easy-peesy). But what more COULD they have done, really? They talked about trying to get in on a brewery tour (Ryan = beer nerd, his third ‘nerd’ in this post alone), and they wanted to maybe see the Presidio or go to the Cable Car Museum… no idea what they ended up doing, but holy crap they’d already done a lot.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I lay at your feet your duty: you must find the defendant, Excuse Not To Visit Guilty #3 “I Don’t Have Enough Vacation Time”, guilty of fraudulently portraying itself as a Valid Reason Not To Visit. I think that’s clear. You can be in and out of San Francisco in three days & do more in that time period than some people do in an entire month in Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, or rehab. That’s clear. The evidence has spoken for itself. I think that’s clear.
Nothing further, Your Honor.