Saturday, September 26, 2009


I went down to California to visit my folks last week: flew out on last Wednesday and flew back on Tuesday. My hometown is one of those places where everything is always changing and yet nothing ever really changes. Stores and restaurants are always going in and out of business, but even though the news ones are different, they are exactly the same. A few years ago, the trend was bubble tea. Then all the bubble tea shops turned into frozen yogurt shops. Next time, I'm sure the frozen yogurt shops will be cupcakeries. If a start-up folds, there is a new one to take its place. Ugly McMansions are torn down and replacements are constructed. A new wave of students comes and goes but they are carbon copies of their predecessors. Everything -cars, phones, gadgets, clothes- is modern, expensive and cutting edge, which means that while there is constant change in the material, the conceptual remains stagnant. In mathematical terms, were you to take the derivative of my hometown's change equation, you would get a constant. Correct me if I'm wrong on that one, math people.

Anyhow, on the first day I was there, we drove to Santa Rosa to meet up with the parents of one of my dad's former patients. The patient is now in her mid-thirties and has a fused-glass studio. She does some of her own work, but mostly she teaches glass fusing classes. It's kinda like a paint-your-own ceramics studio (in fact, she shares the space with a pain-you-own ceramics studio): she has the supplies, and she helps people make stuff. I wish we would have had time to make something (though then we would have had to ship it, so probably not worth the hassle) but we wanted to make a 3 PM tour of a nearby brewery. That was pretty cool: a free sampler of their beer (the equivalent of a pint, plus more if you count that it was pretty high ABV beer, plus more if you count that my dad and I split my mom's) followed by a brief (10 minutes) tour of the facilities. I was only moderately embarrassed to be doing it with my parents, mainly because when the tour guide passed around hop pellets for us to smell, my dad ate it. He broke the pellet in half, sniffed part of it, put it in his mouth, chewed, and then did the same for the other half. Then he turned to the guy sitting behind us dry-hopping a cask with whole hops, asked him for one, and proceeded to eat that too, leaf by leaf. Since he was still hungry, we stopped in San Francisco on the way home so my dad could get a sundae at Ghirardelli Square. Every time we are in San Francisco, we inevitable end up at Ghirardelli because they have the best sundaes in the world and my dad really, really likes ice cream, especially with hot fudge and whipped cream.

The next morning, I went for a jog and then hiked the Dish trail with my mom. Stanford used to have these big radio telescopes to search for aliens (I believe it was part of the SETI project- another reference to a course I took my freshman year of college: I am on fire). The telescopes are no longer used to look for ET; instead, they are props in a scenic path along the rolling foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, frequented by inhumanely athletic college students, skinny powerwalkers, and yuppie moms desperately trying to get their post-baby body back. So, my mom and I were a little out of place. We came back, chilled for a little bit, and then I hopped on the train up to SF to meet up with Jessica for a night of debauchery (if 2 beers is considered debauchery).

I met up with her on Market Street around 5 after walking from the train station, about 2 miles. We did a little shopping (she needed a new watch and I needed another pair of running shorts). She has been staying at her parents' condo, which is on the 32nd floor of the Four Seasons hotel and has insane views of the Bay and downtown. She took a nap and then we figured out what to do. I had a plan already: Haight Street pub crawl. My beer peeps had told me of a couple of great places to go, both on Haight Street. Even if you have never been to SF, you are no doubt familiar with the Haight (as in, Haight-Ashbury). Back in the 60's, it was full of dirty, strung-out hippies, and today it is still full of dirty, strung-out hippies. But, there are also plenty of trendy boutiques and restaurants, making it an interesting mix of white-collar and tie-dye collar. Anyhow, we got some sushi then walked to the first bar, a cute brewpub called Magnolia, where we ran into this girl we used to go to school with. Weird. We had a beer, then walked to the next bar, a dirty, metal-playing, graffiti-bathroomed beer bar that despite the dive-y atmosphere still attracted the same type of clean-cut person as the cute, non-dive-y bar. Go figure. We had another beer then caught a taxi home.

The following morning, Jessica wanted to go to the Mission District to look at a bike. She has this obsession with Peugeot bicycles after the bike she rode in the Netherlands (despite having flown over the handlebars on said bike and broken her arm). She liked the bike, so she bought it. After realizing that my blood sugar was getting low (not physically dangerous but unpleasant and cranky), we walked around the Mission for a while looking for a suitable place to eat. We got some sandwiches at a way-too-crowded-for-what-it-was cafe and ate them in the park. There's a name for the park (Dolores park?) but I can't remember it. We went back to her condo, where she finished packing, since her summer was over, and we headed back home. I went out to dinner with my parents and called it a night.

I can't really remember what we did Sunday. Went to the Farmer's market... Oh yeah- back to San Francisco! My dad left for a week at his job in New Mexico around noon, and my mom and I saw the King Tut exhibit at the DeYoung museum in Golden Gate Park. That was awesome: tons of Egyptian relics, all in great condition. Then we went to Alive, this amazing raw food restaurant for dinner.

On Monday, I had my first-ever facial: interesting experience. It was very relaxing, except for the extraction part, where they manually cleanse your face of impurities. The woman doing it had to whip out a needle for some of them; in theory, being stabbed in the face with a needle isn't all that fun, but she was very gentle. Basically, she slathered a variety of goo's, creams and rubs all over my face, and told me to wear sunscreen. It was cool, and I know my mom paid a lot of money for it, but I'm not sure if the cost was worth the result. I hung out with my mom the rest of the day, and then we met up with Jessica and her parents for dinner. The next morning, my mom drove me to the airport, and by 3, I was home!

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