Damned Squirrels

I went to the Strybing Arboretum yesterday and a pack of damned squirrels followed me around.

They’re absolutely fearless. They come right up to your pant legs and start pulling on them. The beggars.

You can’t feed them (supposedly, there are signs warning against it) and I didn’t have any food on me at all, not even a stick of chewing gum. I don’t know why they followed me. They should have taken the hint that I hate squirrels.

I guess they’re not well-versed in telepathy.

My Trip to San Francisco, or the Travails of Travel

I’ve just arrived, but it’s been the longest several hours of my life. I’m waiting for my son to call me once he gets out of class, and then go to dinner, because I’m starving!

First of all, after dodging mega-construction projects all over the metro area (when you live in the Tundra, those last few weeks of fall are full of last minute projects before the permafrost sets in), I arrived at the airport with scant minutes to spare. While checking my bag, I was informed that my one piece of luggage would cost an additional $15. Why they couldn’t have mentioned it at the time of reservation, or even yesterday as I checked in online, I don’t know. Luckily, I had the money.

Since I had only seconds to spare, I didn’t get a chance to go to my favorite Japanese restaurant in the airport. This made me quite cranky. I knew that the pickin’s on the plane would be slim and grossly overpriced. I couldn’t see paying $5 for a snack box that I could assemble at home for $1.50. Besides, I wanted sushi, damn it! And miso soup that would warm anyone’s heart. (That’s the other thing – it was cold out today!)

Of course, my seat assignment was the second to last row of a very crowded airplane. I don’t know how anyone gets the first couple of seats next to the door; I never do. I didn’t mind, as I knew where I was going once I got there and didn’t have to make any connections. All went well at first, as I settled in to read Steven King’s “On Writing.” (I had a shamelessly fluffy romance novel should I be quick enough to finish the King book. I was.) I prefer to get a window seat, and like to look at the landscape below me, clouds permitting. I’ve flown back and forth so many times now, I can pick up the major cities and rivers, mountain ranges and high desert. I know when we are over Lake Tahoe, it’s time to pack up my personal belongings and raise my tray table to its full and upright locked position.

Today’s flight was less than blissful. During the flyover of the Rocky Mountains, the turbulence was so strong that I actually held onto the arm rests with both hands and prayed. As it turns out, it was a good thing I didn’t eat, because I have a feeling my lunch would have ended up as chunky finger paint over my seat mates.

During the flight, there was a medical emergency back in my section, the last two rows. The flight attendant went on the intercom asking for any doctors or nurses to turn on their overhead lights. Right away, four different lights went on in our section of the plane. It was comforting to know that if we were going to crash due to turbulence, there were so many doctors in the house.

The plane was just a little late because of the strong headwinds (thus causing the turbulence), and so it took a while to disembark. The flight attendant had taken my bag and put it in a Super Secret Spot since the overhead bins were all full. She had forgotten all about it, until I, as the last person on the plane, asked her for my bag.

On the way to the rental car building, travelers must take the AirTrain. This is quite the handy mode of transportation. However, to take the train, you have to get to the platform, which involves going up two sets of escalators. On my second set of escalator, my suitcase (which was packed full of motherly treats like freshly canned tomatoes and weighed at least as much as a Yugo) got caught in a step. On my other arm was my computer bag, which is also heavy, and my other hand was carrying a bag full of freshly picked super steak tomatoes. (Hey. I might as well have picked them before the real frost.) The combined weight of all these bags in concert with centrifugal force sent me tumbling backward. That’s right, I fell backward on the escalator with my bags dragging me down.

I know some might think this is really embarrassing. (Or funny.) I didn’t care about that; I just didn’t want to die. Lucky for me, I landed on top of a very thin Japanese businessman. However, since I was outweighed by my luggage 2 to 1, I couldn’t right myself and there was nothing I could do but scream. It was fortunate that the Japanese businessman had a friend who was a couple of steps above me. He ran down and extricated me from my predicament.

Of course, I apologized profusely. In English. I am learning Japanese, but didn’t know the right way to say “I’m sorry.”

Finally, I made it to my rental car. Of course, being me, I walked over 300 stalls in the wrong direction before I realized that Stall #7 wasn’t going to be next to Stall #386. As luck would have it, I backtracked and there was my little Chevy Cobalt, only steps from the original door I had departed from.

There were some bright spots in my hectic day. Usually, I make the wrong turn when leaving the airport and end up on the 101 heading right for downtown. I don’t want to go there, as my motel of choice is by the ocean, the exact opposite side of town. I can’t tell you how many times I took the wrong exit in the past, even though I know this place just as it were my own home. This time, miraculously, I took the 380 to 280, which is the right way to go. However, I missed the Super Secret Shortcut from Highway 1, and ended up taking the long way over to the Sunset. For some reason, even though it was rush hour, the long way didn’t seem so long.

After unpacking my quart jars and wrestling the rest of my belongings up two flights of stairs (remember, I said “motel” not “hotel”) I am taking a brief rest before I go outside and look at the ocean. After surveying my body, I see I have escaped with scrapes over my left hand, a badly skinned left knee, and I think what is going to be a very bad bruise on my behind. Oh, well… It’s all worth it.

Oh, yes. It’s glorious here. Hot, bright, sunny, very typically NOT San Francisco. My son says October is the hottest time of the year here, and he is right.

The sky is so clear. You can almost see Asia if you look hard enough.

Sleeping at the End of the Line

My favorite place to stay while visiting San Francisco is a little motel just a few steps from the beach. Yes, it’s a motel, meaning the amenities are spartan, but it’s clean, the owners are nice, the parking is free and there’s the best organic coffee shop next door. My son lives just a half mile away, and I like being in his neighborhood. Since the last time I was here back in August, they have added new carpeting, some new furnishings, microwave, little refrigerator and coffee pot, and woo-eee! wireless internet. These are not the reasons I stay here, though. I would stay here without any of those reasons, including my son. I really love the ocean. AND of course, this place is just a few steps from the beach.

Mr. Demonic likes to stay in places with work out rooms, so he was reluctant and skeptical when I brought him here last April. We were in town to see my son’s recital. This was the second ocean-side motel I had brought him to. The first is about two miles south, near the now infamous zoo where the tiger escaped and killed a kid. That one is really cute, all art deco, but a little more expensive. Mr. Demonic complained, loudly, about the no work out room situation. I gently pointed out the beach just across the way, with five miles of even sand. He could run. He was still skeptical, until he went on his first run, when he returned happy as a clam. I was so happy that I had converted him.

Baby Pandemonic, otherwise known as my daughter, doesn’t like this city at all, so she was going to complain no matter what. She prefers southern California. She also “doesn’t like” her older brother, and thinks we favor him. Her favorite hotels have room service and movie options in the room. This place has neither. In her case, I wasn’t concerned about winning her approval.

I could never understand the inclination of people who want to stay in the thick of the City, or the ones who want to stay on Fisherman’s Wharf. Downtown is manageable, but parking is so expensive. Fisherman’s Wharf is a chaotic tourist trap, and grossly overpriced. Wherever I travel, I don’t want the locals pointing their fingers at me and saying “freakin’ tourist” with disdain. I grew up in an area that had two industries, the military and the tourists, and believe me, I’ve done some of that finger pointing and name calling.

If there is a downside to my current location (which I don’t think there is, I love it here), it’s the fact that right in front of my motel is the end of the line for one of the subway routes to downtown. (There is actually an upside to this, as you can hop on the train to go downtown, thus eliminating the need to find expensive parking.) The trains screech to a halt and there’s a turning circle in the middle of the intersection. The subway doesn’t run from about midnight to five a.m., but during that time, the buses do.

I find it very soothing to sleep with the trains rolling by every ten or fifteen minutes. As they idle, the drivers leave to get coffee, but they keep the trains on, and since they’re electric, they hum. You’d think it would be too loud to sleep, but it’s not.

I have the best sleep at the end of the line. It’s deep, and I don’t dream. When I wake up, I feel like I have truly rested.

In case you couldn’t figure it out, I need to come here every few months for my sanity.

Saying “Hello” to Parts of My Body I’ve Long Ignored and Other Stuff

Yesterday was spent taking a great cross-country trip.

I really like traveling. The biggest reason for traveling is getting away from where I now live. That sounds weird.  I love my house. I love my family. My city’s not so bad. The general area is decaying, and the entire state is poorly run. I despise winter with a vengeance only seen in poorly made kung fu movies. We have a lot of winter. Every year, winter seems to take one more week than the year before. I know that’s a gross exaggeration, but I don’t care. I believe I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), so I asked my doctor for a prescription for a lamp and some anti-depressants. I know someone who lives in Montreal who has the same affliction, and that helps her tremendously. The drugs work wonders. When spring comes, I’ll get off them and sit in the real sun.

There are some downsides to traveling, which I outlined in my previous post. There’s another one I neglected to add, because that one didn’t make itself known until a few hours ago.

Because I flew into San Francisco, one doesn’t leave the airport terminal and hop on a bus to the rental car place. That would be too decadent. In San Francisco, they make you walk. You walk from the gate and go down to the baggage area. Then you drag your bags up two flights of escalators to get to the AirTrain. But, here again, you don’t just exit a door and the train is there. No, you must drag your bags around the garage area to get to the AirTrain. Once on the AirTrain, you wait until the end of the line to get to the rental car building. Then you drag your bags into the building. If you’re smart, like me, you have preferred status with one or more rental car agencies, so you can just go to the car. But do you just exit a door and find your car? No, you must drag your bags to the elevator, go upstairs, depart and drag your bags to the other side of the building to find your name on the board and where your car is. As luck would have it (and yesterday was a day of “if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”), my rental car was in the farthest lane, and at #25, was almost the farthest car in the garage.

(Here’s my spin on this transaction from the perspective of landing in Denver. You deplane, board a train to your bags, grab bags, exit building, a bus comes to get you, bus delivers you to your car, which has the doors and trunk open, and friendly bus driver helps you with bags.)

A couple of hours ago when the subway started running (another story), I awoke in my motel room. My brain was awake, but I couldn’t move. This is because I was being reintroduced to muscles in my body which I didn’t think I had anymore. It was a good hour before I could turn over. I know I’m not in shape, but I didn’t think I was this bad off.

Now that I know I still have these muscles, I think I’ll pay more attention to them. More than once every few months when I go on a trip.