Friday, September 11, 2009

Where's the host of this party?

On vacation, that's where. I've had a wonderful time over the past week in California, with several more days in store. Unfortunately (fortunately?) the whirlwind of travel activity has eaten into my blogging time, hence my not touching base here over the last week.

But just as Hemingway slummed in Paris cafes and caught bullfights in Spain so he'd have something to write about, so has my western jeremiad provided some grist for this mill. Ever mindful of my literally tens of readers, I've got a few stories half-written in my mind that I will post, fully written yet typically half-baked, in the days to come.

The goal of the trip was to catch up with friends around the Bay Area, which I certainly have done. But in so doing I've also gone native with, inter alia, such site-specific local experiences as:
  • Comparing the goods in the vineyard tasting rooms of Napa and Sonoma (it all just tastes like wine to me, but what's not to like?)

  • Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in a tow truck

  • Banging out a Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle in the town square in Healdsburg, a picturesque village in the heart of wine country, after a delicious lunch on the terrace of the unapologetically bourgeois Oakville Grocery

  • Recalibrating my definition of the word "charming" at the Craftsman Inn, a British-owned bed and breakfast in the deeply likeable hot-springs town of Calistoga (a portmanteau for "California's Saratoga"); try the barbecue place next door

  • Visiting Stanford Law School to attend a criminal law lecture by a brilliant professor whom I worked for during the summer after my first year at Northwestern Law School; he was later recruited by Stanford to head their legal clinic

  • Reuning with my other favorite Stanford professor, a high school friend who moved to Palo Alto for college and never left (he stayed for his PhD and is now on the radiology faculty), over lunch at the sparkling new cafeteria in the Clark Center, named for former Netscape CEO Jim Clark; other campus edifices with familiar names include the William Gates computer science building and the cutely adjacent Hewlett and Packard buildings

  • Playing tennis with a national-caliber amateur player at his beautiful oceanfront tennis club in downtown San Francisco, where they're lucky enough to play outdoors year-round; under his tutelage I hit some authoritative backhands I'd never hit before

  • Sampling the lobster roll at Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, named among the top five sandwiches in America by NBC's Today show; I don't know how they or anyone could plausibly make that claim, but it certainly was not among the five worst; it was excellent

  • Catching a San Francisco Giants day game at scenic AT&T Park, now oddly bereft of the Barry Bonds mania I recall from my last visit six years ago, much as no one at Wrigley Field now seems to remember the once-iconic Sammy Sosa; the Giants lost to the Padres but are still fighting for the National League wild card playoff spot

  • Meting out some frontier justice, Texas Hold'em style, to the local boys at Artichoke Joe's casino, where the $1 chips are green and the action is furious; founded in San Bruno in 1916 as Joe's Pool Parlor and horse racing bookmaker, it's still family-owned to this day; it changed its name to Artichoke Joe's in 1921 after the owner said he'd pay off a big bet "in artichoke leaves"

What am I leaving out? Plenty, but that's a representative sample. More to come.

2 comments:

Amy Guth said...

Wow! You had quite an adventure there.

Ben said...

Yep, it was a wonderful trip. Thanks for checking out the blog, Amy.

You guys are doing a great job getting word out on Chicago Now. I'm seeing stuff everywhere.