Yesterday was the short one hour trip on Southwest from San Diego to San Francisco. Nothing much of note for that short bus ride--Southwest was dully on time, though when we landed the fog machine turned off for the week, and on this late summer afternoon the generally delayed SFO was actually working (for once), as was everyone else once we landed around 5:30. We picked up bags at baggage claim, followed the misleading signage from Terminal 1 to BART via AirTrain (directing us from baggage claim 2 in terminal 1, the signs direct you to the basement, to walk under the roadway, through the parking garage in the middle with chainlink fences so you can't just walk across, dodge cars and taxis, take the elevator up 5 floors, walk across the skybridge back to T1, take the red line to BART. Couldn't we just go to the International Terminal and walk across past the International Arrivals exit, but how do we get up there? There's got to be a better way!)
Maybe we should just Uber it, but Uber was surging at $75 for the 11 mile ride to the Hilton ~~Tenderloin~~ Union Square. No chance of making it there on BART to drop off the bags in time to return back to the restaurant, and grumbling we paid the $8.50 BART fare (good job cabbies in forcing th silly BART $4 airport surchage! You won that battle!) so we'll head directly to the fancypants restaurant with our bags. We've been on the ground for 20 minutes and already I'm feeling like San Francisco is ripping me off and poor value for money.
We had booked in a table for four of us at Californios, and hopped off BART at 24th St with that luggage, fortunately light: the one escalator on the northeast corner of the BART station was set to 'descend' and we weren't about to get into the urine soaked elevator so we hauled up our bags up three flights of stairs to the street, not difficult at all but what's the point of putting the escalators on descend? We paid $20 to BART to travel 8 miles--now we have useless little BART cards with $1.50 on them each.
Heading north on Market Street, it was breezy and mild, reminding us of a street in Mexico City, except unlike Mexico City it was filthy with garbage strew about, and we stepped around human feces in the BART plaza (feces--the San Francisco Treat!). The restaurant staff welcomed us warmly with our light little rolly bags, we sat down for several treats of very small bites and booze pairings. I enjoyed the wine/beer tastings more since they were fixed price; we did look at the alchool menu. The restaurant wanted $15 for a 22 ounce bottle of Ballast Point Sculpin. Once again: that feeling that SF just isn't worth it, the City is out to take advantage of you.
Our dining experience at Californios felt disjointed: I could feel the very strong influence of the chef in the food, which was very strong on flavors and precision amounting, nothing subtle there. The service was great as well, the pairings were experimental but you could grasp what Californios was striving for. Yet there was something missing, something that would elevate the restaurant and give it another star and a half in my non-existent Yelp review. The music was a definite detraction; they were playing lots and lots of tracks off of Bob Marley's Greatest Hits, giving the sense of some weed-infested Amsterdam youth hostel; "No Woman No Cry" wasn't just repeated once but twice. For the price we paid ($211 each) we both felt a bit let down by the experience; Californios ended up more amateur than professional. The company was great though: we caught up with Adam and Bill, just conversing the night away without any of us once gawping at our smartphones.
We UberXL'd it, the four of us, the four miles to the Hilton, long long line to checkin, a big grid of big monitors in the under-renovated lobby trumpeting the arrival of DoucheForce, the annual shindig of some local tech company specializing in greasy backend services. Sigh. Might as well check the luggage, then head out to this bespoke 'speakeasy' deeper in the Tenderloin, since it has LIMITED SEATING and you have to make a reservation to get your cocktail, and know the password, shhh.
That was pleasant, the cocktail I had was very tasty (gin and lemon something, it was warm this San Francisco night), but we all were rather tired and just headed back. Crashed at the room, in bed at midnight for our 6am ride to the airport, yawn.
Overnight I woke up at 3pm, hot and feverish and crampy. Ugh, maybe I shouldn't known not to eat that BC oyster, as I dimly recalled when I was in Vancouver in August that BC oysters were banned from sale due to something bad. OK, time to take a Tylenol and try to sleep ugh.
Morning time! Yawn! Time for SFO again! I'm nowo hanging out in the pleasantly adaquate Cathay Pacific lounge, really appreciating the understated elegance of the SFO International Terminal, and realizing that last night I was a bit more bitchy when I started writing this. Maybe I should shut up with my First World White Male problems. But... why? I'm generally pretty happy. Hmph.
Something's setting me off: oh, duh, it's San Francisco. Each time I go there it feels more and more alien, it's different, it's not the city I lived in for a few years in the mid-90s, and it's become a place I don't have much attachment to anymore. It's a feeling more wistfulness than nostalgia; I would very much like to be back in the days when getting the gang together for a motorcycle ride to Point Reyes Lighthouse would mean passing around the phrase "show up in front of the Cove at 9am on Saturday" on the back patio of the Lone Star some Friday night, where I might actually see if I could fit into my Air Force mess dress uniform for the Uniform Ball at the Opera House, where I could park my car without an permit sticker most anywhere in the city. Those days are gone, and that city is gone.
Is San Francisco changing for the better? I'd say no, despite all its money and wealth it hasn't become a better place to live, and that's what's making me sad. San Francisco has lost its soul.
But hey, Stinky San Francico is now behind us. We're now on the 15 hour long flight to Abu Dhabi, in very comfortable surroundings, and the Bollinger is being poured, thank you Etihad. The sun set, the horizon went red for a few hours, then the sun rose over far north Norway as we angle down east of Moscow (making me ask: where exactly are the Urals? Are we flying over them? Are we in Asia yet? Geography in this part of the world is something I'm not familiar yet). Five hours left to our arrival in Abu Dhabi.
Adventure (and our camel) awaits.