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Steve & John's West Coast Move

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I commuted to Alameda for some training at our office there on Monday and Tuesday. It was nice to be able to have the top down on the convertible one day and ride the motorcycle the second day. There are certainly days in November in Colorado that are warm enough for either, but here it's most days. And the city looks great as you cross the bridge.

Our polling place was literally on the next block. It's that sort of convenience I like about living in the city. I got there at 6:45AM expecting a crowd, but I was the first in line for the 7AM opening. As the first, I had to certify that the ballot counter started at "0" and that the bins were empty. As election returns came in, we checked several Colorado races and initiatives, most of which went the way we were hoping.

Our contractor for the ceiling fan did remember the appointment this time and spent about 2 hours putting it up last night. The 16 foot ceiling proved to be a real challenge, making even a simple task like attaching the wires an exercise in acrobatics. I won't say we will never have a loft again, but the high ceiling is certainly going to be a factor to consider.

The rain today seemed appropriate since I was already depressed about the news that I have been transferred to a different department in my company. I'll be in a more technical position - at least it will be easier to explain when people ask what I do - which is not the direction I want for my career. My travel will change from mostly 2-3 day trips to mostly 5 day or longer trips. My base salary won't change, but I lose the chance to earn commission, so effectively my salary has just been reduced by 30%. Did I mention that everything is more expensive here than in Colorado?
Rochester, NY
I'm on my first business trip since we moved. When I lived in Denver, the trip to the east coast was about 5 hours, but now it's an all day affair, between the extra flying time and the extra hour time zone. I'm sure I will get used to it, but right now it's 11PM and I'm not anywhere near tired.

We decided we need to get out a bit more, so we made a point of going to some of the local bars on Saturday. One was having a private party, and another had what we considered too hefty a cover charge. The Lone Star was crowded and we even ran into someone we met at the gym. I guess I'm getting old - I thought the music was disco volume not have-a-beer-with-friends volume. It was better on the patio but the cloud of smoke (cigarette and otherwise) marred that option. The Eagle was pretty quiet. Actually it was pretty dead, but it had an eclectic music mix that I enjoyed. Once I unpack the motorcycle leather, I might spend more time there.

We took the motorcycle to church on Sunday and then went up Twin Peaks. We talked about the differences in our experiences moving to Denver and to San Francisco. We connected easier in Denver. I feel like I'm trying - we went to the bears meeting a few weeks ago, we've called and e-mailed people we know, and I've made contributions to local charities. I am a little surprised that I haven't even received thank you notes from any of the charities.

Later, we took Tasha to Fort Funston. She enjoyed being able to meet all the other off-leash dogs and we enjoyed the view and (relatively) warm sunny day. We walked down to the beach, but it wasn't warm enough for bathing suits and the beaches here still look grungy to me anyway. Since we live so close to the water, I'd like to find a beach that is actually usable. Maybe growing up with the white sand Gulf beaches has spoiled me; then again, I used to go Rehobeth, DE.
SFO still doesn't seem like my 'home' airport, but that will change, I'm sure. I got off the plane from Rochester (actually from Chicago - gotta get used to multi-hop trips) and had to think about where things are at SFO. John picked me up at the airport, something we typically didn't do in Denver because of the distance involved.

In our continuing effort to get out a bit more, we tried to go to a Latino cabaret night and the community center's Open Mike night, but arrived at both just as they were ending. We ended up with a martini at Martuni's.

Saturday we walked the Barbary Coast trail, a self-guided tour where you follow plaques in the sidewalk. I had done part of it before, but this time we had the guide book as well. Lots of SF trivia and you walk from SOMA to Fisherman's Wharf. We stopped along the way for lunch (dim sum) and a fortune cookie factory (chocolate fortune cookies fresh off the griddle) in Chinatown, a quick trip up Coit tower and a smoothie at the wharf, all of it during a beautiful sunny day. Sunday we took Tasha to Golden Gate Park and the Castro for two of her walks. This is the sort of weekend I was expecting to do here - lots of time outdoors under sunny skies, except of course, for the rat (see below).

One thing I wasn't expecting that keeps bothering me is the grime in the city. No place seems immune from the graffiti or the trash. This weekend we noticed one of the lighting shops near us got tagged. Several dog walkers near the Moscone Center apparently don't pick up after their dogs - I saw no less than 6 piles in one block. But the worst was when we were doing the Barbary Coast trail - in a nice side street of the Financial District, I wasn't watching where I was going and stepped on a recently-dead rat.

We also finished painting the bathrooms this weekend, so the place looks decent, if only for a few weeks. We have a contractor lined up to begin reconfiguring the bedroom closet at the end of the month. We'll have a few weeks of living in a construction zone, but in the end we should have a larger and more functional closet, which we definitely need.

Once again trying to get out, we went to a gay comedy night at the community center last night. I asked the staff about getting some sort of acknowledgement about my donation and was told someone would call me about it.

We finally found something less expensive here than in Denver. We've been working on our Christmas newsletter over the last week and printing it cost about 25% less than last year.

It was a busy weekend. We caught up with some friends from Sacramento on Friday. We bicycled to the Ferry Building on Saturday. I am constantly amazed at the variety of produce grown within a few hour's drive of here; the different climates that exist - subtropical to alpine - in such proximity to each other is just incredible. We were invited to a party on Saturday night and met a few people including some next-block neighbors. Sunday we drove to Marin to catch up with a friend there and her three dogs. Tasha seemed happy to play.

I find it interesting that people who have lived here a while describe the Bay area as "high tech", "eco-friendly" and "convenient" and people who have either moved away or haven't been here long describe it as "backward". I'm definitely in the latter camp. Someone recently asked for examples where I would consider San Francisco behind the times:
1. DMV is not able to print your driver's license while you wait - even in the 1980s, Washington DC (a city not known for efficiency) could do this
2. Our credit union is only able to give one of us online access to our joint account. We have both had access to the joint account for years in Colorado at our credit union
3. Places that are open 24 hours elsewhere, from the post office to Kinko's, have limited (and in some cases no Sunday) hours here
4. I didn't use the prepaid parking meter keys in Denver but I would use them here if they were offered, which of course they are not
5. Self serve checkouts don't exist in the grocery stores here
6. The gas stations here don't have the little key fob things that you just wave at the pump to charge your gas
7. I haven't found a drive through bank or coffee shop anywhere here
8. People talk about water conservation here, but the city doesn't appear to have the gray water system for watering the city parks that Denver has almost completed installing
9. Everyone talks about alternate energy here, but there's no option on my electric bill here to pay for getting a portion of my electricity from renewable sources; I had that option in the middle of the country.

On the plus side, the weather has been clear and mild all week. Despite the tight budget, I may grow to like it here.

We spent the Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas, a trip we booked early in the summer. I found myself looking forward to getting out of town, but today I was really glad to get back 'home' to SF.

I bought tickets for Celine Dion's show at a charity fundraiser last spring in Denver. We tried to see it in May when I had a business trip to Las Vegas, but she cancelled. We saw four shows in all, including one freebie.

Show Reviews:

A New Day

Celine Dion's show has it all - her great voice, a Cirque du Soleil director, a huge LCD screen for the background, and great special effects. Each of the elements is top notch and it's a very entertaining evening. Celine appears to really enjoy interacting with the audience, but she doesn't really command the stage when the whole cast is up there. Actually, the LCD screen often upstages the cast. I'm very glad I saw this show, but if you ask if it's worth the price, I'm not sure.

We Will Rock You

This musical based on the music of Queen is good or really bad depending on the way you look at it. As a Queen tribute show, it is good. The performers have a lot of energy and great voices. As a musical it had a lot of potential. Unfortunately most of that potential was wasted. On the plus side, the show is played with tongue so firmly in cheek as to cause lockjaw; it is peppered with dialog taken straight from pop songs ("Thunder bolt and lightning, very very frightening" one character says after an explosion) and nice twists on pop culture (the Bohemians take on names of rock stars, but don't know the orginal genders, so a hunky guy is called "Brittany Spears"). But, calling the plot 'paper thin' would be giving it too much credit. And the show undermines the wisp of its plot at every turn; for example, the evil Killer Queen who wants to stamp out Rock sings "Fat Bottom Girls make the Rockin' World go 'Round". Worse, the writers have neutered the genre, reducing the motivation for all Rock music to "you have to do it for your girl". The show almost seems afraid to admit that there are any non-heterosexual rock stars - even their reference to Freddy Mercury just says "he was too beautiful for this world". In fact, it's somewhat anti gay, with the only references to lesbians and transexuals being among the bad guys. Even this might be acceptable if the performances were strong, but when the cast stops singing, they can't act above the tragic dialog. Bottom line, 'spare us from this monstrosity'.

Forbidden Vegas

We saw this show about five days after it opened, so they're still working out the kinks, but already it shows lots of promise. It's done by the same team that created "Forbidden Broadway" and contains the same no-holds-barred, no sacred-cows humor. There are a few minor beefs - like the fact that some sequences (e.g. "big V, little e, little g - a - s") are a bit long and it does rely a bit too much on Broadway references for a Vegas audience. Still, there are some bits that are priceless - Elton John and Liberace singing "Don't go taking my part" (fighting over who is the real gay pianist in Vegas), Wayne Newton singing nothing but "Danka Shein" for three decades, Steve Wynn as the "Phantom of Las Vegas", and a squirt gun re-creation of the Bellagio fountains. With most Vegas show tickets going for upwards of $60, this show, at $40 (and we got tix for half price) is probably one of the best bargains in town.


The new free show at the Tropicana (yes, the Tropicana still exists) is like a Cirque du Soleil audition done in twenty minute increments every two hours. We saw an acrobatic act like the swings in Quidam, a hunky guy spinning a 6 foot wire cube like in Journey of Man, and an aerial sik act that is a Cirque staple. It's certainly not a substitute for a full show, but hey it's pretty good for free.

I spent most of the week in Florida. I had a business trip to Fort Lauderdale and spent a day with family in Bradenton on the way home. It was $200 cheaper to stop in Tampa than round trip between SFO and FLL without the stop - go figure.

These 12 hour travel days are going to take a lot of getting used to. From Denver, both coasts are less than 4 hours. Even figuring the time zone difference going east, it was possible to leave in the morning and make it to a late afternoon meeting. Now, going to the east coast is pretty much an all day affair. I left the condo at 5:30AM, took BART to the airport, and got on a 7:50 flight. I had to change planes at Dulles, and didn't get to Fort Lauderdale until 7:30PM local time. I did manage to catch up with a friend and his partner for a drink.

After my meeting on Tuesday, I flew to Tampa. Although it was a United code-share, the airline saw it as a one way ticket, so I got picked for all the extra screening. The irony is that it was such a small plane (approx 20 passengers - each seat is both aisle and window), that it probably carried less fuel than half the trucks on I-75. Next time, I'll consider driving. I had a great time visiting my mother, brother, sister-in-law and niece in Bradenton. Then it was another 12 hour travel day to get back home.

At home, John had been dealing with some construction. The loft had once been an office for a dot-com. As part of their remodel, the bedroom area was left with a six foot hallway leading to a small closet. When you only have 1000 square feet, using 30 for a hallway to a closet seems like a waste. We're moving a door and closing off a wall so we can triple our closet space. Unfortunately, that means that for two weeks, everything that was in the closet is all over the living room. We spent a good portion of this weekend buying and installing the track lights that will go around the newly configured space and planning the interior closet organizers. We have a few deadlines - the carpet goes in on the 14th and we have friends from Palm Springs coming by on the 17th - so we're going to be pretty busy.

Between the trips and the construction, I haven't really paid attention to the grime in the neighborhood. Maybe that's the key - just keep busy enough so I don't notice the bad things about the city.
We had four days solid of rain, and most of it was the kind of rain I hate - light enough that you feel stupid using an umbrella, but heavy enough that you get soaked without one. Last night I discovered the microclimates of SOMA - I had to go to the hardware store for some paint supplies (about 4 blocks) and it was raining heavily by the hardware store and only lightly at home. Strange. For tunately, the sun came out today, so I'm feeling less depressed.

The first phase of the closet re-do is done - the construction is done. We're still painting and will be through the weekend, The carpet gets installed on Tuesday. Then we can get all of our closet stuff out of the living room. That will help the mood a bit also. Try dumping your closet into your living space for a few weeks and see how it affects you. We bought just enough of the closet organizers to hang our clothes; the rest will wait until the annual sale in January.

We called a friend in Denver on Tuesday. When we expressed some of our frustrations, she put part of it in context - less than 90 days ago we were still on vacation in Barcelona. So I guess we're doing pretty good for the amount of time we've actually been here.

A friend of ours works at the Federal court here and he gave us a tour of the building this evening. The mosaic work is unbelieveable. One of the courtrooms is an art deco gem. Another has more artistic architectural elements than most European churches. And the contemporary courtyard enclosure is so well done that it doesn't look out of place at all.

After the tour, we went to the Ferry Building for some oysters and then to the top of the Hyatt for drinks. We've tried to go the top of the Hyatt before and every time it was either closed or reserved for a private party. Gee, if we finally got there, maybe we should try the Cajun place in Sunset that's been closed the two times we've tried to go.
We don't go to many movies (we've only been to one in 2004 prior to this weekend), but it worked out well to catch up with a friend from Denver on Friday by going to see "Bear Cub" together. It's a fun film, and the only one I can think of that features bears. We talked about it a few times throughout the day on Saturday.

Sunday we were supposed to go on a walking tour of the Castro with the Bears of San Francisco, but apparently they cancelled it without updating the website - we waited with a few others for about half an hour before concluding that the tour guide was not going to show up. Some friends invited us for dinner on Sunday and introduced us to some other friends who moved to San Francisco from Atlanta about the same time as us. We shared some of our frustrations with the city; I was glad to see that it wasn't just us who find it a difficult transition. Fortunately we then moved on to other topics and had a lovely evening.

We did a pretty good job of finishing up Christmas shopping this weekend. We also spent part of the weekend paintng; our closet remodel is done and we need to be ready for the carpet installation tomorrow. In the mean time,I'm getting really tired of living in this mess; fortunately we should be back to relative normal tomorrow night.

Another California-ism today: I was watching the Scott Peterson sentencing announcement today and the reporter asked someone why he was spending every day outside the courthouse and he answered "I'm sending karma into the jury room through my prayers and Bible reading". I didn't know that karma could be directed or indeed had distance limitations, nor could I find a reference to "karma" in the Bible, so I guess I'm not a real Californian.

Oh, and we tried again on Saturday to go that Cajun place in Sunset, but again they were closed.
No success comes easy. The carpet was installed on Tuesday which means that the closet project is done. However, Monday night we both became very sick with stomach problems. The carpet installers must have thought we were pretty strange - we spent most of Tuesday laying on the living room floor since the bed was in pieces in the kitchen while the carpet was installed. If anyone had seen us after the carpet was finished, they would have laughed. We were determined to get the bed put together so we wouldn't have to sleep on the floor, but we were both so drained, that we'd carry one piece upstairs then rest for a few minutes before tackling the next piece.

I really hate both of us being sick at the same time because neither of us can really help the other. For all practical purposes, we lost both Tuesday and Wednesday at work (although I did do a web-based presentation and a few conference calls). And to add insult to injury, John dropped his ring on the bathroom floor and the diamond popped out. Supposedly the amount of force needed for this to happen should not occur in normal activities, but it happened.

We felt a little better on Wednesday and slowly began to move stuff back upstairs. We still had to take lots of breaks, but managed to have the place presentable when a friend from Denver and his friend from Davis came by as planned that evening. We managed to go out to dinner and keep it down. I still have some lingering effects (and some nasal issues that I think are related to being exposed to the new carpet off-gassing all day long), but basically we're back to normal.

We even got a small Christmas tree last night. I insisted that we have a tree this year - last year we moved in December and so never had time to put up a tree and I really missed it. Even though we have a 16 foot ceiling, we don't have enough free floor space to handle the girth of a large tree, so we decided to get something to sit on a table. I grew up with Scotch Pine Christmas trees, but we only found 1 and it was so dry I didn't think it would make it home before losing all its needles. Nor were there any White Pines (John's choice and my 2nd) at either place we looked. Everything seems to be Noble Fir here, so that's what we got. And it is small, but the next size up (i.e. one foot taller) was over twice the cost, and more than we used to pay for a full size tree in Denver.

I looked around last night and realized that we've actually accomplished a lot in (not quite) 3 months. We've done most of the major projects we had planned to make the condo livable, we know our way around town fairly well, and we've got some favorite places to go. There's still a lot of settling in to do, but I'm happy with where we are. When people ask how we like living here I answer "so-so", but that's better than were we were one or two months ago.

Tonight we're having some friends over for drinks before dinner. Two snowbirds (Ron and Norm summer in Denver, winter in Palm Springs) and some of their friends and some friends that have been with us through the entire process. Oh yeah, and we found an equivalent for one of our favorite restaurants in Denver (Le Central - "the affordable French restaurant") and it's right around the corner, so that's where we're going tonight.
We had a great time with our friends last night. Dinner took quite a bit longer than expected, but everyone commented that it was a real find.

Now that the closet project is mostly complete (we're waiting for the January sale on Elfa to finish the interior), we're starting to look at the patio. We spent most of the day going to garden supply stores to see what's available in planters and trellises. The plan is to screen the 'view' of another building. Then we're done with house projects, no really, I mean it this time.

We saw 'Beach Blanket Babylon' tonight with the friends who came over last night. Well we sort of saw it with them - we were actually in different sections, having bought the tickets a few days apart. It's just as silly and the costumes are just as outlandish as I remember from when we saw it nearly 10 years ago. Some parts were actually a bit slow, but others - specifically the Bush team (complete with "Condoleeza Rice-A-Roni") - Kerry team repartè to the tune of "Bohemian Rhapsody" were truly inspired. We all rode the cable cars back to Market Street; fortunately no one tried a Doris Day impression. All in all, a great evening.

Oh yeah, and while we were in Sunset this afternoon we tried yet again to go to the Cajun place, but it was again closed.