Home again, home again (but not feeling so jiggity-jig)

There’s nothing like a stomach virus coupled with a flight on United Airlines to make you (almost) forget all the good stuff about a holiday. But I’ll try  not to dwell on those two things, at least not till the end of this post.

Our last full day in SF, Friday, Jan. 3, started with a great and unexpected reunion with Jean Ginn Marvin, my freshman year roommate from Syracuse, and her husband, Bob Marvin (my other, unofficial, freshman year roommate) and their youngest, daughter Colby. They flew to SF on New Year’s Day to see Colby off on a month-long trip to New Zealand. They were staying just a few blocks from us, and we got together in the morning for a wonderful visit.

With Jean Ginn at the Westin St.-Francis

With Jean Ginn at the Westin St.-Francis

After that, Dave, Elizabeth, Noah and I partook of our usual Union Square activity; visiting Macy’s and the Westfield Shopping Centre, after which we headed off, on foot, to the waterfront. We walked through North Beach (our new favorite SF neighborhood) and spent some time resting in a park, where we saw a very interesting sight, which the kids begged me not to photograph. In a stunning role reversal, I did not do what they asked.

homeless person

We didn’t spend a lot of time around Fisherman’s Wharf. The shops there were crowded and seemed to carry mostly tourist schlock ($5 tee-shirts! $10 sweatshirts! – for a second I was seduced by the prices, and then I remembered that I don’t NEED tee-shirts and sweatshirts, nor does anyone I know.). What was most mesmerizing about Fisherman’s Wharf were the hoards of sea lions lounging, barking, and fighting with each other on the adjacent docks.


At 3:30 we boarded a boat bound for Alcatraz, where we spent two and a half hours touring the grounds and the prison, alternately ducking outside to watch the beautiful sunset.

san fran sunset golden gate sunset

My niece had told me that the night-time tour is the best—and while I have no point of comparison, I’d have to say it was definitely worthwhile going at night. Not only do you get an amazing view of the sun setting over the city and the Golden Gate Bridge (weather permitting, that is), there are special programs offered at night that aren’t offered during the day.

Less picturesque view of Alcatraz

Less picturesque view of Alcatraz


Dave contemplates a new strategy for dealing with unruly grad students

Dave contemplates a new strategy for dealing with unruly grad students

Some of those programs, such as the locking of the cell doors, are offered toward the very end of the day, so we missed them; we had an 8 p.m. reservation  at Mason Pacific, a Michelin “Bib Gourmand” restaurant at the corner of (wait for it) Mason and Pacific streets. (“Bib Gourmand” restaurants are Michelin quality but at more reasonable prices.)

Dave had a salad with pears, persimmon, bee pollen (!) and gorgonzola cheese. Noah and I had burgers on pretzel buns with Monterey Jack cheese and smoked tomatoes, and Elizabeth had risotto with Dungeness crab. We also had an appetizer of crispy feta cheese, fried kale, and chestnuts. For dessert, we shared an amazingly delicious chocolate and peanut-butter pot-de-crème.

The dinner was lovely, but if not for the Mason Pacific web site  I would not have been able to name anything except for the burgers and the dessert; the memory is gone from me, same as the food, because later that night I (along with Elizabeth) came down with the same bug that had felled Dave and Miles.

Let me tell you, flying home after you’ve been awake all night, sick to your stomach, is bad enough, but flying home with United Airlines after you’ve been awake all night, sick to your stomach, is a punishment you shouldn’t wish on anyone. (Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic. But that’s why I’m paid the big bucks!) (I’m not paid anything.) (My drama comes to you free!)

Because we used Aeroplan miles to get our tickets, we were on the milk-run route: SFO to Las Vegas, Las Vegas to Calgary, and Calgary to Edmonton. We had 67 minutes to connect in Vegas and 80 to go through Customs and connect in Calgary.
No problem! Except we couldn’t use web check-in because any flight that starts with United Airlines won’t let you do that. And the United agent couldn’t get our boarding passes or check us in on anything other than the first flight, so we had to hike (sick and weak) (Drama!) to the international terminal t get our boarding passes directly from Air Canada. Then, every flight we were on was late, so we had to rush through airports in Las Vegas and Calgary to make our connecting flights (only to discover, at each turn, that the flight was actually delayed, contrary to what was posted on the TV screens in the respective airpots).
But hey, we’re home! And the taxi driver who drove us from the airport to the house was a lively, passionate Palestinian man named Noah who entertained us with stories of his family’s 1500-year history, their olive orchards, their property in Rosh Pina, his love of Yitzhak Rabin, and his hatred for that motherf­____r” Hitler.

So that kind of made the whole day better.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some of my favorite signs from Chinatown in San Francisco:

funny sign

the Jews



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