New Year’s Day

Fireworks by the Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Fireworks by the Bay Bridge, San Francisco

Oh my aching feet. For me, 2014 is off to a sore start. In the last two days I have walked more than 30 km, much of it on hard, hilly pavement.

On New Year’s Eve, Miles stayed in while Elizabeth, Noah, Dave and I left our hotel room at about 11:30 and walked about 12 blocks up and down steep slopes until we came to the steepest one of all: Broadway, which afforded a near-perfect view of the Bay Bridge.

We sat on the pavement in the middle of the street (it was cold, which was good, because that helped keep me from falling asleep). There were a bunch of people doing the same thing, all gathered to watch the 15-minute fireworks show at midnight. It was a great display (my favorite was the upside-down smiley face – not a frown, but an actual smiley face that (accidentally, I am sure) flared upside down). There were also hearts, something that looked like Saturn (the planet, not the car), and the obligatory explosions of circles and squiggles and broken lines in a variety of colors.

The only drawback to a midnight fireworks display is that, if you’re like me, you don’t get to sleep until well after 1 a.m., and then you wake up early whether you like it or not. Needless to say, we all got off to a sluggish start on New Year’s Day. We finally left the hotel a little before 11. Miles drove us to Golden Gate Park, which is kind of like a city in itself, housing two museums, multiple gardens, and even a bison paddock. (We didn’t see that, but we did see the reindeer in a paddock outside the California Academy of Science.)

We visited the Japanese Garden and the Botanical Garden, both of which are beautiful. The Japanese Garden is much smaller and very neat and manicured.

One of the pagodas in the Japanese Tea Garden

One of the pagodas in the Japanese Tea Garden

weird bridge at gardens

Winner: most interesting tree in Tea Gardens prize

Winner: most interesting tree in Tea Gardens prize

The Botanical Garden is expansive and wilder looking, with different geographical parts of the world (South Africa, Chile, Australia, to name a few) represented in different areas.

Tree reflected in water at Botanical Garden

Tree reflected in water at Botanical Garden

My favorite spots were the Australia garden with its bizarre New Zealand pohutukawa tree (it reminded me of something out of “Where the Wild Things Are”) and the Garden of Fragrance, which smelled more like a vegetarian’s kitchen than like a perfume factory (which is why I liked it).

New Zealand pohutukawa tree

New Zealand pohutukawa tree

In the afternoon, Dave returned to the hotel to work and Noah, Miles, Elizabeth and I went on another jeans-finding expedition. This time we visited Abercrombie & Fitch, where we discovered that it, too, has no jeans for tall, skinny boys. I may have to learn to sew.

After their brief visit to the mall, Miles and Noah went on a photograph-taking expedition and Elizabeth and I descended deeper into shopping hell; we hiked about a mile through some very un-touristy neighborhoods to get to the Nordstrom Rack, which is like Winner’s or TJ Maxx, but more horrifying. Far too many items are crowded into far too little space, so it’s all mashed together or piled on the floor; either way, it’s not easy to find anything. There are signs suggesting that the clothes are organized according to size, but a closer look reveals that the signs are cruel jokes arranged haphazardly by the sadistic sales staff.

Needless to say, the trip there was a bust, except that we got good exercise hoofing it through the sketchy neighborhoods en route, dodging scary looking people. However, I should point out that scary looking people are not limited to the sketchy neighborhoods; the other day, walking through some upscale areas with Bill, Rebecca, and Julia, we saw a guy who appeared to be mentally ill. He was walking in circles, moving his arms mechanically, like a broken robot, and talking to himself. Bill said, “I think he’s wearing Google Glasses!” which turned out to be exactly the case, and which makes me wonder whether it’s the Google Glasses that made him crazy, or whether he was crazy first and that’s why he wore the Google Glasses.

Feel free to weigh in.

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