Fly Translove Airways....
It rained every single day.
That said, we had a splendid time, as we always do. I was sorry not to do many of things I love in San Francisco, as most of them involve walking and being outdoors, which was pretty much limited, given the circumstances.
However, now and then, the winds blew the clouds away, the sun or moon would come out and illuminate the shiny new greenery, assuring us we'd be back next year, rain or shine.
On Thursday, we checked into the notorious brothel that is Beck's Motor Lodge and noticed a new addition. Gates! Yes, gates on every staircase. For years, men in the Castro have trooped up and down those storied steps to enjoy a bit of window shopping. I'd known of it's reputation for years before I first checked in, and frankly, I must say, I have always been somewhat disappointed. I know people who have had some very seminal experiences here, but it's always seemed rather tame to me. In fact, I think all that cruising around is fun. You know me. I don't mind it a bit. I guess enough patrons did, however, and now the place is as cloistered as a monastery. The boys are left to either import talent in, or mingle amongst themselves. The guys in the next room had set up their laptops in the window and were busily perusing Manhunt everytime we passed by.
I like the small town that San Francisco is. We change into t-shirts and head up to Castro Street for a welcoming cocktail. We walk into 440 Castro (nee Daddy's) and run into our friend Noah, recently relocated from New York. We make the passing acquaintance of young bartender Nick, who will reappear a few more times during our stay. We have several drinks, a slice of pizza at Marcello's and head home.
Watching the Weather Channel the next morning we note that it's going to rain the entire time we're there. I realize I've only brought my leather jacket and I need to get something lighter to run around in. We decide to walk through down 16th Street from Market, all the way through the Mission, down to Bryant Street where there's an Old Navy. I get a jacket, put it on, and as we stand on the corner, a truck pulls up and the guy inside shouts at us. It's our friend Flavio, who saw us standing there and rescues us from the downpour that has just started. We hang out, drive back up to the Castro and chill. Since it's raining, maybe we'll go to the gym. Sure! Good idea.
Pumped, we change and hit the Edge for Friday after-work drinks. It's packed to the rafters and we're surprised and happy to discover that our friend Bruce is now bartending there. We're meeting some other friends here in a bit, but in the meantime, we're enjoying the attentions of the rowdy crowd. I mention to Tim how nice it is to be fresh meat, to which he replies:
"Sweetheart, three months in this town and you'd go from prime beef to Mary Kitchen Hash!"
I do love my man.
We meet lots of guys, I get called Daddy a lot, and there's much drinking and random kissing. We have a blast. Several guys ask if they can feel my chest. Tim reminds me of what a well endowed acquaintance of ours says whenever he's asked a similar question:
"What kind of fiend would I be if I didn't let you touch it after I've been parading it around all night for all to see?"
It's winding down when we decide to head over to 440 again. At the bar, Nick reaches across and grabs my chest. People in this town are so friendly. We grab drinks and head towards the back only to be approached by a gentleman who is apparently Nick's wingman. He shares all kinds of good press with us about Nick, but it's not really necessary. Tim and I know a hot man when we see one.
I'm not sure where and if we had dinner. Actually, I know exactly what we did, but I ain't sayin'. We head back to our sequestered room, and sleep 10 hours.
We wake, refreshed, see the sun momentarily and then not again until Monday. We grab breakfast at Orphan Andy's and head down Market Street. I feel a hike coming on. We walk down to Polk Street and hang a left, traveling through such dizzyingly diverse neighborhoods as the Civic Center, the Tenderloin, Russian Hill, almost down to the Marina. We stop for a Bloody Mary at the Cinch. Hell, we're on vacation! We have doughnuts at Bob's. Hell, we're on vacation! We check the few remaining antique stores and visit a leather shop whose inhabitants seem to be playing the Stooge's "I Wanna Be Your Dog" just for us. In past years we've continued this hike up to Lafayette Park, then on through Japantown, stopping at Alamo Square and walking back to Beck's. Not this time. Our dogs are barking. We head back on Van Ness and avail ourselves of the public transportation.
We nap and dress for dinner. It's Tim's birthday. We're heading across the street to 2223 Market, one of the nicest places I can think of to celebrate such an auspicious occasion. It's a pretty room filled with pretty people. The service is sublime. The food is uniformly excellent. The portions are so big we could have shared everything. In fact, we should have. I was so full after dinner, I really wasn't in much mood to carouse. Or carry on. We have a nightcap at the Glass Casket and hit the hay.
Sunday was grim and grey. We have a quiet morning in the Castro, breakfasting at Harvey's and poking around that really nice shop that sells Stickley furniture on 19th Street, maybe. We parade past the Bitter Bear cafe, better known as Starbucks. Such a friendly crowd. Not. We wander. We nap. We ride the trolley down Market Street to see what the old Mint building looks like and head on over to the Eagle. By now the rain is getting serious, and the crowd is not as stellar as it usually is, nor as dense. We have a few beers before I switch to bourbon. Hell, a guy's gotta keep warm. We meet a few nice fellas and talk to with our handsome pal Doug, who manages the joint. We decide it's time for the Lonestar. It's packed to the overflowing in spite of the weather. The boys are having a cookout on the patio, and we realize we're starving. As the bourbon starts to kick in, the handsome hirsute guy at the grill tells me I definitely look like a burger boy to him. I inform him that I am, in fact, more wiener oriented. This provokes much mirth around the grill. Still, I'm very happy chomping on a hotdog under the tarp, surrounded by our unusually handsome new friends...kind of a surprise at this bar. After some serious imbibing, we need to hit the road. I'm done. Of course, it's teeming when we get outside...we walk a few blocks, trying to hail a cab, to no avail. I'm completely soaked and completely sober. Finally, a sweet lady cabdriver picks us up. In a scene reminiscent of On The Town, she tells Tim she thinks I'm very bite-able. I'm not sure about that. I do know I'm damp and tired. Time to get some shut-eye.
After breakfast on Monday, we decide we want go to an exhibit about the earthquake of '06 at the Historical Society. We trudge downtown in the rain, only to find that on Monday most of the museums are closed. Damn. We hit the gift shop instead and check out the books that have been published recently about the Quake Centennial. We get back on the trolley and head up to Castro, change for the Muni bus which takes us over the hill to the Haight. We wander down the street, admiring the formerly grand houses and the formerly funky shops until we come to Amoeba Records. Housed in a former bowling alley, I'm always in awe of this shrine to recorded music. They have everything! I'm always so overwhelmed, I almost never buy anything. On our way back to Beck's we stop at that little CD shop on the north side of Market Street that specializes in divas and dance music and soul. I always find something obscure like Valerie Simpson's solo albums on CD or the two Syreeta Wright albums produced by Stevie Wonder. When I pay for them, the owner invariably says "good soul choices", and smiles.
We meet up with our friends Eric and Tom and have dinner at Chow. We have drinks at the Pilsner while we wait for our table, and then enjoy a lovely low-key meal. I regret that I won't be able to have a burrito at Azteca, the tacqueria down the block, on this trip. We kiss our friends goodnight and head up to Castro for a farewell drink or two. We stop in to see Nick at 440, who tells us to save more time for him next year. A gentleman tells us it's Underwear Night, and we'll drink free if we strip down to our skivvies. I smile and tell him we're not wearing any. Time to go.
We stop one last time at...oh, okay...Twin Peaks and park ourselves at the bar. Tim orders a round of Manhattans. Then another. And another. They're small. We have four apiece, and sail on home.
Of course, it's still pouring when we get up. We say our good byes, check out, and head for the airport.
As the plane banks over San Francisco, I nudge Tim to look out the window. There it is. Our favorite town, all aglow. The sun has come out.