December 04, 2004

Nights on the Town, Part 1

Okay, without further ado -- namely some very weird stuff going on with our wireless network at the homestead -- here is the "long awaited" Part 1. Woo-hoo! (Stop rolling your eyes, it's not nice.)

Wednesday was such a fantastic day it still makes me smile to think about it. The daytime part, while fun for me, you would find fairly dull to hear about so I'll skip to the afternoon, when a friend and I set out for dinner and a concert in The Big City.*

I had taken the entire day off from work in order to go up to San Francisco at a more leisurely pace and a far more convenient time than trying to drive north during the oft-nightmarish commute. I did research ahead of time on the parking situation because, in case you don't know it, parking in SF can be the equivalent of the fifth level of Hell and can cost you as much as a fifth of good scotch. And as I didn't really know the area of the city we were headed to very well, being somewhat prepared seemed like a good idea.

Thanks to a new feature on Yahoo! Maps called SmartView, I was able to see in two clicks exactly where the nearest parking garage was in relation to our destination. Knowing that I wasn't going to have to drive around for blocks trying to pick out a decent garage was a huge relief.

Since that was so quick and easy, I spent some time checking out the other offerings from SmartView, among which was "Food and Dining." Click! All the Japanese restaurants within a square mile. Click! All the seafood restaurants. Click! All the steakhouses. There were only two, which is probably why one caught my eye immediately. Two more clicks and I was at a site where I could make a reservation without jumping through a million hoops, and we were set for dinner. Knowing that I wasn't going to have to walk around for blocks trying to decide between a dozen different restaurants, then see how long the wait might be, was a huge relief.

With all this efficiency, we were up there and parked in record time. And far too early! We got there at 4:00 and our dinner reservations weren't 'til 6:00. We walked to the venue, which was less than half a block away from the garage, then walked to the restaurant so we'd know where it was, and still had an hour and fifty-five minutes left to kill. So we hung a right and started walking, then kept walking when we didn't find anyplace to kill that time.

In the first of two occurrences of a stunning lack of foresight for the evening, I had worn the single worst pair of shoes I own for walking around SF. I simply hadn't anticipated that we would be hoofing it for that long -- after all, I'd done all the planning so that the entire evening was to be within a mere three blocks! But when we continued to not find anywhere along our path to hang out for a while, we kept walking.

Now, here's another thing you may not know about SF. It is comprised of many diverse and often interesting neighborhoods, and the demarcation between them can be surprisingly brief. In other words, within a block, the entire character of a street can change, and not always for the better. You can turn a corner and wonder, "How did I end up here?"

Remember how I said this wasn't a part of the city that I was all that familiar with beforehand? Well, I committed the novice blunder of blunders in San Francisco and I walked us right out of Nob Hill and right into the Tenderloin. Nothing bad happened, but I could tell it wasn't an area where we were going to want to hang out as darkness fell. As soon as I figured out where we were, I did a mental head slap and got us the heck out of there. So we kept walking, making a loop back to where we started, slower and slower as my feet started to hurt more and more, but still got to the restaurant a half hour early for our reservations

Luckily, the terrific staff at Ruth's Chris Steak House was ready for us anyway. And, oh my goodness, what an experience it was. I have wanted to eat there for ages, but it had never happened. I could go on and on about every aspect of the meal and the service, but I will just say this: I had the single best steak dinner of my entire life and I have never received better service or had a better overall dining experience. That kind of thing comes at a price, but I think it was worth every penny.

Following a very long, unhurried meal, we made our way back the blissfully short three blocks to where the concert was being held, The Grand at the Regency Center. It's a relatively new, and somewhat unusual, venue for concerts and while it's beautiful, it's also acoustically and seating-challenged. As in, sound bounces around all the marble at a deafening level** and it holds 1000+ people but there is only room for maybe 200 to sit. Thus, the dreaded "General Admission" means that if you were not among the people who were already standing in line when we walked past to go to dinner, your chances of finding a seat were not exactly good. (As in, not a chance.) We made our way upstairs, which provided a decent view of the stage for short me and a wonderful escape route for the smoke of all the weed that was being fired up below us. Contact high, anyone?

But all that didn't really matter. We were there to see John Fogerty and the man rocked. Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up before I was born, but I love their music. And, let's face it, Fogerty was CCR. (His Grammy-winning "Blue Moon Swamp" is the only CD that never comes out of rotation in my car's stereo -- it's great driving music.) For two solid hours, he played with abandon, mixing up the old and the new and making everyone forget that he's almost 60 years old. He kept the talking to a minimum and let his guitar speak for him. It was a great concert and I loved every minute of it.

We tumbled back out onto the street with the satisfied crowd when it was over; chilled and slightly deaf but happy and humming our favorites. There was a long drive back home, but the car was warm, the company was great and the CD player was pumping out those favorites again, keeping us wrapped up in a haze of music and nostalgia for just a little longer.

*Technically, San Francisco is smaller than San Jose, both in population and square miles. But SF grabbed the bigger cultural marbles early on, so they get the moniker of "The City," much to the annoyance of Silicon Valleyites.

**This led to the second occurrence of my stunning lack of foresight for the evening: I neglected to bring ear plugs, which has become my cardinal rule for concert-going since I hit my thirties. My ears were not terribly happy with me by the end of the night, but they're stuck with me so we eventually kissed and made up.