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Madonna

6 Apr

I recently had the privilege of experiencing what has got to be kitschiest place on Earth — the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. My friend has been obsessed with this mecca for some time. I have no idea how she heard of it, but we saved our shekels and traveled down CA-1 to stay for a night in the acclaimed Inn.

The Hotel has 109 rooms, all hosting a different theme. The most popular is the “Jungle Room.”

We were really hoping for that one, but I think we checked in to late. On the way down, my friend, Lindsay, convinced us all that she “would do the talking” when we arrived at the hotel. She believed she had the knowledge to save us around $20 total. After listening to her 5 minute pitch on why we should let her do this, we were pretty sure she would be able to handle this task. When we got there, she walked with authority to the reservation counter and began her deals with the bell-hop. When all was said and done, we each ended up paying $30 more. That’s the last time we let Lindsay try to bargain. However, we landed in a luxury suite, called “The Traveler’s Suite.”

Gigantic couch, rock wall with fireplace, rock-wall mounted flat screen TV, 2 king beds, and a free bottle of water… yes, please!

Ashley and Emily enjoying wine by the fire in the complimentary pink bath robes.

Ornate lamps in our room.

Seriously though, the most interesting part of the room was the toilet. It was a bidet, with a heated front and rear stream, which were both power adjustable. I had never used one before, but the idea of conserving toilet paper by using a bidet has always sort of appealed to me. The seat was heated too, which really ruled! Overall – I was impressed with the contraption. It wasn’t really as intrusive as I was expecting.

Cutesy patio furniture.

Beautiful (heated) pool!

Pink gate!

The whole trip was totally fun and relaxing. Unexpectedly, San Luis Obispo is a really cute college town and they had a hoppin’ farmer’s market the night we were there, which was really quaint.

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Muir Woods…

19 Mar

…is so close to SF! I never realized this. I took advantage of the beautiful weather today and ventured north to the federally protected sanctuary. It was just gorgeous!

Kilt it dead

16 Feb

Today, I experienced my first “Ranch 99.” Their Web site says they have them all over the country, but as far as I can tell, there are several in California, one in Nevada, one in Washington and one in Texas.

Basically, the Ranch 99 is a Asian supermarket and in this area there is no shortage of Asian grocers. I can’t even count how many I have been to … they are all over the East Bay and San Francisco. Ranch 99 is in Richmond. Generally, when I go into these markets, I browse and pick up what I call squid jerky, although I’m not sure what the actual name of it is. It looks like this:

I had a similar plan today, when I ventured into the acclaimed “Ranch 99.” After browsing through several aisles of small packages and cans of edibles, I found myself in the deli area – or meat section. Except it was all sea food. And most of it was alive.

This is new for me. I have never seen anything live (other than lobsters) available for purchase at a grocery store. They had buckets of live clams, snails, crabs, and a million varieties of live fish. Swimming around in tanks! I tucked myself into a corner, sat on a display freezer and watched. Someone would order something (for instance: a large shark-looking fish that was about 24 inches long) and the deli worker would either grab or net the fish. In all instances, the fish would flop out of the workers hands or net and crash to the floor. The fish would scramble on the wet tile, flapping its fins furiously. The worker would either try to recover it from the scale-covered floor, or would simply kick it over to the sink area. At that point the worker grabbed a huge mallet and with a force equal to swinging a baseball bat, would knock the fish on the head. Sometimes twice. He (all the workers were men) then picked it up, weighed it, and finally, cut it into fillets.

It was mesmerizing. I mean, yes it was sad; but mostly intriguing. I was just looking at this bass, swimming in a tank with his friends, and now he is cut up into 8 pieces and he’s in a bag on his way to the check out. It was interesting to experience the process of how food is brought to our tables. I didn’t see the first part of the story (fish is born, caught, transferred to Ranch 99), but I definitely saw A LOT of the middle part of the process. It was kind of like watching Mr. Rogers, when he would go to factories and document how they make things like crayons and tubas. (watch those here).

The Nearest Corridor

24 Sep

Divisadero, the large street near my apartment, is being completely revamped. I heard a rumor the new set up is supposed to look like Octavia Street, which I have mixed feelings about. As it is, Divisadero is pocked and scabbed and it feels like you are off-roading when you drive down it – so repairs are definitely in need. The Octavia Street model is confusing and flawed, so hopefully they have edited it for a better pedestrian/bicycle/car experience.

 

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Of course, all the money for these repairs is coming from the Federal stimulus, as CA is broke as a joke and all city based street repairs have been stalled.

The work goes on, for about a month, from what I’ve heard. The street I live on has been closed all week. There are major construction vehicles, barriers and men in orange vests everywhere. In fact, for the past few days, I have had major street crossing anxiety. All the sidewalks and crosswalks are closed off, meaning you can only get across the street if you walk in the middle of the road, and even then you could end up knee deep in concrete. It would make sense to me to walk down the next block to cross, but, those intersections are barriered off as well. The other day I ended up just sort of pacing between a parked dump truck and a back hoe, until I was noticed by one of the workers. He was kind enough to escort me to the middle of the intersection, where I promptly leapt over a cement stream and ran through three lanes of pissed off drivers to the safety of a coned off corner.

Normally, I am not like this. In fact, in the past I have discussed authoring a book called “How to Walk in a City,” in which I would disclose tips to city dwellers about how to properly walk around. These tips would include: walk on the right side of the side-walk, similar to when you drive and just because it says “Don’t Walk,” as long as there are no cars coming, you can cross the street. This book would also, perhaps, have an addendum called “How to Ride your Bike in a City.” The only thing I would say in that section is: Don’t be an asshole.

Maybe it’s just the fumes from the construction vehicles, but I really feel this project has thrown me through a loop.

Little Town Review

25 May

Whenever I take the train, I pass through Benicia and Martinez. It occurred to me that these places might be worth visiting, because from the train window they look like old-Western destinations. On Sunday, my friends and I headed over “the hills” to check these locations off of our “places to visit” lists.

Martinez was a tiny little city, nestled behind olive-colored mounds and snuggled up against where the river meets the bay. The town was hosting its weekly farmer’s market while we were there and along the main strip (Main Street), there were several antique shops and second hand stores. The prices in these joints were refreshing. In SF, you can’t get an old, holey tee-shirt for under $10, and in Martinez, I got the raddest pair of vintage sunglasses for all of $1.00! We scored major at Alley Cats, a co-operative thrift store, with a plethora of vintage furnishings, clothes, jewelry, and toys. They have no Web site, but here is their Yelp! Profile. I got this most amazing resin switch plate for $3.oo:

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Benicia (once the capital of California), was more touristy, with an enormous amount of chic-y boutiques. I was really set on finding the “glass beach” that I had heard about. We didn’t see it, and none of the locals could point us in the right direction. It remains a mystery.

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An added bonus: we got to spend the entire afternoon soaking in the sun that was hiding from San Franicsco yesterday.

Locomotive Breath

20 Apr

Today I took the train, a more frequent occurrence than ever before, now that my parents live just a short ride away. The train is way better than sitting in the traffic that builds up between SF and Sacramento. It can be brutal… 90 miles has taken me up to four hours! But, alas, the train saves me from this painstakingly boring, frustrating and road-raging journey. I just sit back, in the AC, watch the scenery and think about how I am on a train. At rare intervals, you can see the line of cars on the freeway, moving at snail-like speeds. All I think in these moments is “suckkkkers!”

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The most amazing thing about training in CA is that there are so many different landscapes in such a short amount of time. 2 hours meant I traveled through farmlands, marshy fields, industrial parks, neighborhoods, over bridges, and along the coast.

It’s okay to be a Yeasayer

28 Nov

This is a little late… last weekend I saw Yeasayer. I love them… their tunes are endlessly catchy; mellow and yet dancey all at the same time. A little bit experimental and a little bit jam-bandy.

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The show was great. It was at Bimbos 365… which was an experience all in itself. An Italian dinner theater: tables, glamorous curtains and a fantastic dance floor. If I ever get married, I want the reception to be there. It’s 6000 bucks to rent the space out for a night; so it’s good thing I don’t believe in the institution of marriage.

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The best part was that the band was really into their music. Even if I didn’t enjoy every piece, clearly they did – which emits a really nice energy.  The crowd was mixed and for the most part – everyone was a hipster twenty-something. Some dude sat next to me on stage right and was so messed up he kept missing his other hand when he tried to clap. It was another reminder that drugzzz are really bad.