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.

Events Like These

Last night our friend Mary Schaefer brought us along to a benefit dinner for 826 Valencia:

From their website:

Simply put, 826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their writing skills, and to helping teachers get their students excited about the writing. Our work is based on the understanding that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success and that great leaps in learning can be made when skilled tutors work one-on-one with students.

So, last night we had three hours of sushi, wine, and an unexpected “field trip” experience in which all 70 of us collectively composed a short story. The short story was typed up on-screen as we went, as well as illustrated on the fly courtesy of Lisa Brown, author of Baby Mix Me a Drink and wife of Lemony Snicket (Dan Handler). We all left with a bound book, a decent wine buzz, and feeling like we had contributed to an important, nay.. VITAL .. community organization.

I, however, left with a serious jones to be a Volunteer Leader within this organization, joining the ranks of Jory John (website, which is funny but not about him) as a Field Trip leader. Jory & his leaders basically do the highly-improvisational work of leading a classroom full of kids through the highly-improvisational process of highly-improvisational story creation. The work is improv because he can’t possibly plan how things will end up, the process is improv because each class will go about it differently, and the story is improv because, well, they’re making it up. You can tell that he really loves what he does and that it’s highly rewarding for him. I’d love to take some of the burden off his shoulders. 826 has like 1,600 volunteers on its rosters in the Bay Area, but only six.. SIX… of them share the Field Trip leader responsibilities with Jory. I’m hoping to be lucky number seven.

Now, most of you don’t live where 826 Valencia makes a difference… but you probably do live damn close to one of the other 826s.


If you’re at ALL intrigued by the concept of empowering our future through the thoughtful donation of time & resources to help children/students write sentences better than this one, I urge you to investigate this organization. It was founded by Deggers, one of my favorite authors, and has been helping students around the country based solely on support of donors (of both money AND time). It’s an AWESOME endeavor, and I really can’t wait to play a bigger role in it.

Now it’s just the issue of figuring out how to sell the boss (& her boss) on me taking 3 hours every other week to lead a Field Trip. If anyone is an expert at getting a small-to-medium corporation to release you from business needs for volunteering opportunities that aren’t organized by same corporation, please let me know. Jory has offered to write a very nice letter to those who need to approve my departure, but I’m still nervous – any tips/tricks would be helpful. (I would’ve been happy just participating in the company’s Junior Achievement program, but they totally dissed me – I signed up to volunteer and haven’t heard diddly-squat back – so now I’ve got 826 as my avenue to give something back.)

Anyway, back to work. The pressure’s eased a bit, hence the blogging over an actual lunch period, but I still have crap to do.

Quickie #2

Made some layout changes, hopefully valuable additions to ol’ Wyltie. Other than that – well, I actually had a LOT of energy and things to write about this morning before I left for work, but because I wanted to get here early & make sure I have time to get stuff done, I didn’t blog at home. So now I’m just gonna blog until my 9am meeting, which gives me 12 minutes to lay it out.

… …

… … …

Nothin’. I got nothin’. I waited a whole 10 seconds for inspiration to come, or for my schadenfreude to take over, as it has been active lately.

Oo, I know. So one of the new sections I added was links to places I eat (see Sustenance (Solids)). I was inspired to create that little nugget because of Sunday’s brunch experience at Levende Lounge on Mission. I had been telling R about being conflicted when faced with a Sunday for which we had no real plans, had GORGEOUS weather, but also faced the real risk of turning into any other Sunday (that we could replicate ANYWHERE, not one that was unique to the fact that we live in the most beautiful city in the country). So my fascinating wife-to-be pulls out coupons (that’s right, coupons) for restaurants, and starts pulling out ideas that would cause us to leave our Nob Hill/Polk Street comfort zone and try something new.

It frikkin’ worked. I got us a 12:30 ressy for brunch, we got down there early after running some other errands (including donating clothes to charity & returning books to the library – a very non-consuming set of to-dos). It’s a GREAT space that they’re in down there, lots of creative stuff going on, including a live DJ – at noon on Sunday. Ordered a BYO Bloody Mary – as in Build Your Own. They brought me a glass of vodka and ice, and I went up to the BM Bar and loaded it up with my choice of tomato juice base, horseradish, worcestershire, tabasco, olives, onions, lemons, celery, celery salt… probably the best experience I’ve had with tomato juice. Definitely wanted to replicate that at home.

Short on time, so without doing the food any injustice, I’ll just say R built her own eggs benedict, and I ordered a cheese & rasberry stuffed french toast that rivaled the IHOP’s Rooty Tooty Fresh n’ Frooty. It was all GREAT. If you’re in the hood, check it out.

Maybe more later, maybe not. Leaving for Dirty Jersey in ~13 hours.