For me, weekends used to be the healing, recovery days of my week. I would make sure to get outside, get some sun, and do everything in my power to forget about the work-related stress I’d created during the week. In this new life, however, a weekend is like any other day for me. I can do the same things I’d normally reserve for a weekend on a Tuesday or a Thursday or any old day in-between. Of course, not many other folks I know have this same luxury and when I want to spend time with my friends and family, I’ve got to make plans for the weekend. So it was with all this in mind that I found it amusing I was traveling up to San Francisco this past Saturday for a ‘weekend’ getaway with my wife to visit close friends and spend some time with my sister. What I didn’t know then was that this weekend would turn out to be the salvation I needed; even in a life free from 9-5 workday stress.
Our first stop of the weekend was with our very best friends; Gilbert and Rose. Gilbert and Rose are the kind of friends that you feel like you could never have enough time with. The hours fly by, filled with life affirming conversation and laughter and before you know it (and far before you want to) it’s time to say goodbye. This visit was no exception and we filled every hour we had together with good times. They took us to the top of Mount Diablo to show us the amazing views and then into the city at night to have an amazing sushi dinner at Sushi Bistro in the Mission. On the way back to the East Bay, where they live, we stopped on Treasure Island to see the Bliss Dance sculpture. An amazing sight to behold, she stands 40 feet tall, in mid-movement, balancing on one foot and seeming so very real, even in her lit-up metal skin. The sculpture was originally created for Burning Man in 2010 and was moved to Treasure Island afterwards. Staring at the sculpture, feebly attempting to photograph it with my phone’s inadequate camera, kicking myself for not having brought my real camera with me, I had a revelation. Burning Man. Burning Man. Gilbert had been telling me I needed to go there for years (ever since the day we met) and every year something came up or something conflicted and I never got there. Not this year. Oh no. I was already planning to be on the road exploring the NorthWest for June, July, and August. What better way to end that journey than at Burning Man!? It was hard to leave the dancing messenger behind, but I made a mental note that I’d return again with my real camera before I left SF.
Back at home, we opened up a bottle of wine and talked until realizing it was 3 AM! The magic (or evil) of Daylight Savings Time had stolen an hour from us and we knew it was time to go to bed. Of course, Gilbert and Rose, being the ridiculously kind people they are, forced us to sleep in their new bed – to show us just how incredibly comfortable it was, they said. We fought and fought, but they won, and we slept insanely comfortably. I think I’m going to have to buy a bed after that experience! In the morning, Rose cooked up an incredible, traditional, Middle Eastern meal of Fava beans with garlic and spices, homemade hummus, pita bread and this ridiculously amazing circular bread covered with a pate of oil and spices called Manaeesh. To say that it was absolutely delicious would be an understatement. We ate nearly all of it while we talked and talked and talked; the conversation seeming to travel all over the place at the same time and never once losing it’s intensity. Once again, the hours had disappeared before our very eyes and it was nearly time to meet up with my sister. We sadly packed up our things, made plans to get together again soon, had our always necessary hugs and said our goodbyes.
From the East Bay we headed up to the Delta area, where the Bay meets the Sacramento river, to pick up my sister, Michelle. We had planned this whole getaway weekend on the Thursday before so I was lucky that my sister had time to hang out with us for a few hours on Sunday and I wanted to make the most of it. We picked her up and headed straight into the city where Raquel and I would check into our hotel for the night and then explore nearby. If you’re ever heading to SF and need a clean, simple hotel where you won’t have to pay 20 or 30 bucks a night to park your car, I highly recommend the La Luna Motel. It’s a little out of the way by tourism standards, but it’s in a great neighborhood, the Marina, where there are tons of great places to eat, drink, or grab a coffee nearby and it’s very easy to get to other parts of the city from here. It’s also really affordable compared to most SF hotels, which you’ll realize right away when you check their prices. Funny part about finding this hotel was that when I saw it listed on Kayak I went to tell Raquel about it. Before I could even finished my sentence Raquel said “Is it in the Marina?” “Yup, it is” “Is it called La Luna?” “Yeah! How did you know!?” Well, it turns out she had stayed there with her brother and sister-in-law when they visited two years ago. She had discovered all those same attributes I had on a completely separate occasion. Ah, how great minds think alike!
After we dropped of our stuff at the hotel, we walked a few blocks into the Marina neighborhood to grab a cup of coffee. The Marina has such a nice, livable feel to it. It’s far less crowded then the touristy areas on the East side of the city and the people are really, really friendly. If I ever chose to live in San Francisco I think I would make this neighborhood my home. Either there, or the Inner Sunset district which is right next to Golden Gate park. Of course, the Marina has it’s own park area, too – the Presidio – which is right next door. After we got our coffee we walked back to the hotel, grabbed the car, and drove up the big hill to the top of Pacific Heights. Raquel, myself, and my sister all love to check out old houses and beautiful architecture and Pacific Heights is full of all the above. We wandered the streets for hours, looking at all the amazing houses and views, talking and taking tons of pictures. I couldn’t believe how fast the time was going and soon we had to drive Michelle back to the other side of the city so she could hop on the BART to get home. It was another sad goodbye, but it felt less sad after having such a nice afternoon together. Being that it was a Sunday night, and because of where the hotel is, it was pretty easy to shoot across town and drop Michelle off at the Convention Center stop of the BART. We were back in the Marina within an hour.
After we dropped off Michelle, Raquel looked at me with this gleam in her eyes and in this very excited voice said “Michael, I want to ask you something” “Umm, OK” (smiling widely at this point) “Would you mind if we went to a crepe place for dinner? As long as you can find something to eat there, of course!” If you don’t already know, I have an allergy to eggs and milk protein so a crepe place is pretty much the bottom of my list for places to go eat. But she was so happy and excited about it, how could I say no? I told her we could definitely check it out and only if I couldn’t find anything at all to eat would we go elsewhere. On the drive back to the Marina Raquel and I realized that this was our first time spending more than a few hours in the city of San Francisco and we were really having an awesome time! It felt so good to spend this kind of quality time together, exploring, photographing, eating wonderful food, and spending really deep, quality time with friends and family. I was feeling positively blissful by the time we got to the Squat and Gobble to check it out.
I know what you’re thinking. Squat and Gobble!? WTH? What kind of name is that!? And believe me I was thinking the exact same thing. Their menu was super strange too. Breakfast (available all day), Salads, Sandwiches, Burgers, Pastas, and even a Wok section of the menu with Asian specialties. I wasn’t sure what on earth to expect out of the food, but there was definitely a few things I could eat on the menu and Raquel had eaten here twice on her last visit, she liked it so much. She ordered the same thing as the last two visits, the Seafood Linguini (which, perhaps not coincidentally, at least a third or more of the other diners already had in front of them) and I ordered the Sausage Trottole. I also ordered something else. After staring longingly at the crepe menu and realizing that one of them wouldn’t hurt me *so bad*, I decided to throw caution to the wind and get the Whole Thing crepe. Along with a scoop of ice cream, too. Cause if you’re going to suffer, you might as well completely enjoy the ride! Let me tell you, I could not have squeezed more enjoyment out of this ride! The pasta I got was fucking awesome! Truly, shockingly awesome for a place where you order at the counter and they bring the food to you at your table. The pasta was spicy and mixed in with delicious chunks of italian sausage, mushrooms, roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes, arugula, fresh basil and chili flakes, too! My god I savored every last bit of that dish. It might have helped marginally that I was starving at the time, but it was crazy, crazy good. And then the crepe came. Oh man. I’m so thankful that Raquel helped me more than she thought she would. It was sooooooooo good. I would’ve eaten the whole thing in a blink otherwise. For whatever price I have paid since (and I’m not going to tell y’all what that price was – not here) it was worth it! I only splurge on these types of things a few times a year at most, and this is one I will not regret. After our delicious dinner we headed back to the hotel to get some rest so we could get up early for our short, half, and final day in SF.
Raquel told me I wouldn’t enjoy the free continental breakfast at the hotel so we walked a few blocks in the morning to the Chestnut Street Coffee Roastery. We had super strong, and damn delicious, coffee along with bagels. Mine with peanut butter and hers with cream cheese. After breakfast we checked out and headed back to the Presidio area we had visited only briefly the day before with Michelle so we could get some good shots of the bridge. We got super lucky to have perfectly clear skies and strangely warm weather and we took full advantage of it that morning. We got amazing photos of the bridge at Fort Point, where we spent a good half hour trying to get some jumping photos (which may come out later – those shots are on her camera) and then drove over to Golden Gate park and walked around near the de Young Museum and the Science Centre where we scored even more great photos. For the final time, and not surprisingly at this point, time just flew by and before we knew it we had to grab some food before we hit the road for LA. Our final meal of Thai food in the Inner Sunset wasn’t good enough to mention in detail here, but it filled us up for the road. We were heading across town by 2pm – a whole half hour earlier than we’d scheduled – so I knew we had enough time for one final stop, on Treasure Island, of course.
So I did finally get the photos of the Bliss Dance sculpture that I wanted, though I will have to go back again to get the night shots, where she’s really alive with all those lights inside her. It was a fitting final stop to the weekend. To see San Francisco from the island in the middle of the bay. To see my beautiful, metal messenger who reminded me to go experience Burning Man already and to be reminded of the wonderful moments of the past weekend. Beautiful, healing moments with amazing friends, my wonderful sister, and the incredible woman I love so very, very much in this world. It’s good to be reminded of our blessings. Especially the blessings of having good people in our lives. It’s something I certainly take for granted sometimes and am especially thankful to have the true freedom to revel in the reminders at this point in my life. So many, many Thank You’s to Mr. and Mrs. Chamaa for being the impetus for this salvation weekend. The best friends in life are the ones who help remind you just how good your life really is.