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Steve & John's West Coast Move
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Because of my fat-fingering, we ended up with 3 tickets to a show last night instead of 2, so we invited our friend Ira (who used to live in Denver) along and had a great time.
Good thing: local theater here sometimes includes big names (Lea deLaria in this case).
Bad thing: my car was keyed while parked outside the theater (which is a really good neighborhood).
Today marks 90 days of living in San Francisco.
There are lots of things I'm missing: my friends in Denver, the Front Range Bears, our view of the mountains, several restaurants - I still haven't found a really good Mexican or Ethiopian place here, the intense sunshine, having my car in the building that I live, the "do what you want, just don't scare the horses" mentality, being an hour from skiing, the 16th street mall, the Cherry Creek bike path, and having a little money left over from each paycheck.
On the other hand, it was shirt sleeve weather today here while Denver was well below freezing. Union Square looks great decked out for the holidays, especially the huge Christmas tree. The view of the bay when you're driving in from Portola Street is spectacular. Shows have longer runs here ("Take me out" is here almost a whole month). And when I do find a good bargain here (e.g. the French restaurant around the corner, the Thai place near Union Square) it's a big deal.
We've certainly had a high drive in the last three months to make the condo an oasis from the harder parts of city life. I recently (because of a disk crash on our household computer) went through my checkbook and totaled what we've spent on getting settled in. Between little stuff like fixing the back door lock, buying storage organizers at IKEA and replacing the ceiling light housings, and big stuff like painting, the new closet, the ceiling fan, and the new carpet, we've spent well over nine thousand dollars. But there are really only two projects left (at about three thousand total), and we will have done all the things we planned when we bought the place, And in only three months.
Socially, I don't think we are as settled as we were in Denver at the three month mark. We have received and given a few party and dinner invites, but Ira concurred with our view that Denver is a much easier place to get to know people than San Francisco.
We'll spend Christmas with our friend Martha in Marin county, and the rest of the weekend we'll be working on those last two big projects. I hope you are having a great Christmas season as well.
We finished all the major projects on the condo. Friday (Christmas Eve) we assembled the trellises and planter boxes and still made it to Mass at St. Benedicts (deaf parish, but interpreted for the hearing). We had been waiting for the annual sale of the Elfa closet organizers, so we spent Sunday installing shelves, drawers, etc. I'm a nut for organization, and it's been driving me nuts to have everything just piled in there. At least for now, the only planned projects left are the ceiling fan in the bedroom and some shelves in the entry closet.
Going over the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny Christmas Day made us glad to be here. We had a great time at Martha's on Christmas, and Tasha got to spend some time with all the dogs (Martha as 3 and Dave brought his out from Colorado). The weather turned into drizzle the next day. Yuck. I guess I should count my blessings, because we were told most of December would be this wet and it wasn't. Still, it's warmer and sunnier in Denver today. We've got reservations to take the elephant seal viewing hike at Aņo Nuevo beach on Thursday. Umbrellas are not allowed on the beach, so I hope it clears up before then.
We're still not fully recovered from our disk crash. We recovered most of the files from other sources and I re-built the budget, etc. spreadsheets. Then we noticed a whining noise coming fom the server again, so we shut it down. Yesterday I removed the old disk and started to install the system again. The irony is that we usually back up everything around the end of the year, but this year we didn't make it to the backup.
We accepted an invite to a New Years party from one of the Team SF wrestlers, then some friends asked us to go to a "private" dance party for 500. Sometimes I feel pretty out of it here - I don't understand how 500 people who have nothing in common other than buying a $45 ticket constitutes a "private" party. The DJ for the party also sent out an invite, apparently to the Bears of SF mailing list; again, this reinforced the non-exclusivity of it for me. I'm told that he is a good DJ, but since I don't get the whole "DJ as performer" thing, I'm thinking we're going to go to the wrestlers party.
Thursday, we went to Aņo Nuevo beach to see the elephant seals. It was truly amazing. We saw a few of the bulls fight and some of the new mothers defending their pups. I was surprised how close (10 meters) we could get to them. There were a few males that looked pretty wary of our group and started to move toward us, but then backed off.
As much as I hate the constant rain - and today was the first day with more than 45 minutes of sun in about two weeks - apparently it actually stops most people here from doing things. Both our tour and the one before were booked solid (40 people in all), but only 7 of us showed up combined. We found the 15 minutes of sunshine on Thursday when we stopped for lunch in Pescadero. No one seems to bother with correct pronunciation of Spanish words here, so although our tour guide recommended "dew-arts" restaurant, when we saw the sign for "Duarte's" we correctly guessed that we had the right place.
After our traditional New Year's Eve sushi, we went to the wrestlers' party. Wow, the house is on a hill just off Church Street, and the sunroom in the back afforded a clear view of the whole city. Sitting in a warm room sipping wine with your partner watching the Embarcadero fireworks through the rain, now that's the way to spend New Years Eve. Thanks Gene. There was even a Muni train (free for New Years Eve) right at 30th & Church just as we walked up.
By Saturday, we'd had enough of the rain, and so we went to Berkeley for some steam and hot tub. It helped.
On Sunday, Cal and Richard came by and we went to SF-MOMA to see some shows that are closing this month. It is nice to live in a place with a good contemporary art museum - Denver's is still getting off the ground. Actually, I've been missing Denver a lot this past week. Between the yucky weather here (it was warmer in Denver than San Francisco most of the week) and the fact that we didn't get to do some of our regular holiday things (Van & Ron's party, the lights at the City & County Building, a crisp drive up Lookout Mountain, etc.) I'm feeling very much out of place here.
In between all that, we're still setting up our household server. We configured it with RAID (that's a mirrored disk to you non-techies) so hopefully we won't lose any data unless we have 2 disks go bad at the same time. We're setting up scripts to make backups to a removeable disk, etc. In truth, we didn't lose that much, but for a while it looked like we had lost all of our pictures from the cruise last summer, so we're playing safe.
We also began looking for a new TV, since we sold our old 32 inch tube model rather than move it (really heavy). Before we moved we had been looking forward to having three great stores out here that we didn't have in Denver - IKEA, Trader Joe's, and Fry's Electronics. We've been to the first two several times, but this week we finally got to Fry's - the nearest one is in Concord, about 25 miles away. What a disappointment. The sales people couldn't answer most of our questions. They didn't have a particular model in stock, couldn't tell us when they would have it, and didn't want to take our number to call us when it came in. Actually, the sales people seemed very disinterested all the way around. Oh well, at least we like IKEA and Trader Joe's.
This week's "only in San Francisco" - I saw an old, battered motorhome parked in Castro sporting a poster explaining how the city discriminates against the "vehicularly housed" and how we should all support the "Vehicular Housing Bill of Rights" so the streets can be filled with people living in cars and motorhomes.
I've been in Florida visiting family most of the week, so I've been able to avoid another week of San Francisco rain. John tells me it's been really depressing.
The trip has been great. I got to see my new grand-nephew and his family. I had a great lunch with my brother-in-law's mother and sister. My sister and brother-in-law drove over to Orlando (they hate the traffic in Orlando) to see me. As usual, I stayed with my brother's family; my niece is growing up fast. My mother is 87, so I try to get down here fairly often.
Tonight, I had dinner at my mother's retirement community. After dinner (which, to my surprise, wasn't bad), there was a show featuring a woman playing Georgia O'Keefe and showing posters of many of her paintings. I like O'Keefe, so I thought it was pretty good; mother wanted "more flower pictures" and was less impressed.
Being away from San Francisco has been good for me. I'm certainly looking forward to going home tomorrow, but less to be in the city than to be home with John. As I have told stories about life in San Francisco, it is obvious that I am as far out of touch with California as I am with Florida.
I have only a weekend home before I have to go to Philadelphia on business next week. I'm not looking forward to the trip, but primarily because I don't feel prepared for the task I'm supposed to do. Still, it should be a good weekend - I'm helping a friend with his first powerlifting meet, possibly catching up with another at brunch, and then having to others over for dinner.
Last week I had a business trip to Philadelphia. I haven't been there in over 15 years, since I lived in DC. My impression is that it is a very clean city - much moreso than I remember, and certainly much moreso than San Francisco. It was very cold, and reminded me how bitter mid-Atlantic winters can be - you wear a jacket, hat, and gloves and still the cold goes right through you. My company's "just in time training plan" worked - I was able to accomplish the tasks I went for with some e-mail assistance every evening from one of my co-workers.
I got home late on Friday night, a few hours ahead of the storm that pounded the east coast. We took Tasha to Stern Grove to let her romp with the other dogs instead of her normal morning walk. We bought some more plants for our patio. We still haven't alleviated the possibility of another windstorm tipping over the center section (it happened last month), but I have some ideas. We drove around - Golden Gate Park on Saturday and the north side of town on Sunday - in my car with the top down and the heater on. Not that it's unusual for us to do this at this time of year - it was warmer in Denver than in San Francisco this weekend - but I really appreciated it after a cold week in Philadelphia.
Tomorrow I'm going to Memphis to do a demonstration of a product; this is the kind of thing I did in my old job, and I like it. I won't have time for sightseeing; after three weeks of being on the road, I don't want to spend any longer than I have to.
Despite all the traveling recently, it felt really good to get out of town last weekend. We drove to LA for a friend's 50th birthday party. He was appropriately surprised. The drive down I-5 is efficient, but about as scenic as I-70 across Kansas. The weather in LA was perfect - mid 70s (F) and clear; even the smog seemed to have cleared for the weekend. We went downtown, but they weren't running any tours of the Disney concert hall because there were shows scheduled all day. I never thought I'd say this, but we left LA feeling like we had a much needed dose of reality after being in SF.
We didn't let anyone know we were coming except for Harry & Randy, with whom we stayed (thanks guys) so that it would be a surprise for Clark. To our friends in southern CA that we didn't see - next time we'll plan a longer trip so we can see you all.
Fortunately, we returned to beautiful weather in SF as well. We went up to Twin Peaks last night to walk Tasha; it was probably the clearest night since we've been here and the view was beyond spectacular. On the way to LA we talked about the move and decided that we probably won't be able to move to another place in SF for at least two more years (assuming we stay in SF, of course). So yesterday we installed some landscape lights on the patio in our continuing effort to create our 'oasis' on the patio. Now we have to wait for everything to grow.
At the office, I'm working on another project that requires skills for which I haven't been trained, so I'm a little nervous. The customer specifically requested me (guess they liked what I did for them last time), so I'm feeling some pressure to live up to the expectation. The week I have to go back to them is the same week as a class I was hoping to take that would have given me some of those skills. The good news is that between the pressure at work and the decent weather, I haven't been thinking about leaving SF much this week.
Happy (Chinese) New Year
Keeping with my tradition, I spent Super Bowl Sunday skiing. We stayed in Reno because I had a timeshare trade I had to use or lose and all the Tahoe resorts were booked. I went to Sugar Bowl; the good news is that the snow was great and the crowds were minor. But it wasn't like Colorado - calling the lodge 'bare bones' is being kind and the signage, both on the road leading to the resort and on the trails, is abysmal. I miss being able to have a ski day - Tahoe is just far enough that you pretty much have to take a weekend to do it. Still, it was great to be among pine trees again; didn't realize how much I missed the Colorado landscape. Unfortunately, John had to deal with driving in snow, which he hates (Hey, I offered to take over and he said no). I think I enjoyed the weekend a bit more than he did.
Reno is looking a little dowdy these days. Several casinos were closed, leaving some large unlit buildings looming over downtown. I could see some signs of a renaissance, but you'd have a be a real gambler to speculate on it. I was feeling a little under the weather on Saturday night, but John found some culture near the hotel - a very good local production of "Amadeus". He says the theater serves beer and wine and you can bring your drink inside. Sounds quite civilized.
My office is having a conference in Alameda this week. It's the first time I've seen several of my colleagues since moving to the coast. They've been asking how I like it and I respond that "I like it, I don't love it". The ones who live or have lived in a big city understand completely. I've been commuting across the bay all week; so glad I don't need to do that every day. The actual commute ranges from 20 minutes (late night) to 45 minutes (at 6PM) so you can see that even against rush hour direction, the traffic getting on the bridge can be pretty bad.
I got back from Philadelphia just in time to have a few friends from LA over for drinks before going out for dinner. My husbear John handled all the cleaning, setup and even hosting another friend who stayed with us for a night while I was away.
All this is because this was International Bear Rendezvous weekend. We've gone to this weekend event approximately 10 of the last 13 years it has existed in it's various forms. Unfortunately, it rained the entire weekend (OK, we had about 5 hours of sun today, but it drizzled all weekend.) Fortunately, most of the events were indoors and we had quite a bit of fun. It was our first chance to see several friends from around the country since we moved. We tried to keep the kvetching about the city to a minimum, but we slipped a bit with some locals we met at the Online Party.
Seeing the event as a local is interesting. There were times I felt like I had an obligation to be at certain things even though I wasn't hot to go and certainly there was the "gotta go home and walk the dog" factor. I liked being able to go home in between events; the downside of that is that I found myself dealing with a jacket and umbrella in the hospitality suite, etc. It was great to see so many people we know and the Denver folks all found time to drop by and see our new digs.
Our across-the-hall neighbors are moving - one is being transfer to San Jose and they require him to live within a certain distance of the store he manages. We'll be watching to see how their sale process goes - are things still as crazy as when we were buying last summer?
We just barely finished with Bear Rendezvous when we had to get ready for a trip to Denver.
The trip to Denver was fantastic. We went to have our taxes done (we like our accountant) and check on the condo so we can write the trip off. We didn't tell too many people we were coming because it was such a short trip. Still, everywhere we went we had a great time catching up with our friends, even running into people in the shopping malls. We dropped in on a Front Range Bears video night, had breakfast with some our old neighbors, and generally reveled in being there. Everyone said how much they missed us - it was somewhat humbling.
As a side bonus, there was a bench press meet last weekend, so I competed (did OK, not my best performance) and got to see several of my gym buddies. Even the straight guys were telling me to move back to Denver. I also got in two perfect days skiing. The forecast called for "cloudy", which in the mountains means that the sun is only out from noon till four. I was right in my groove on the slopes; I even did several mogul runs, although not gracefully. And before I flew back, I took the tour of the state capitol - something I never did in 13 years of living there. When the other tour members had to leave early to catch a train, the guide and I got talking; you meet gay people in the most interesting places...
Arriving in Denver felt like coming home, but the day I left, I wanted to "go home". I guess I'm (probably "we're" but I don't want to speak for John) still in the period where neither place is truly "home". Denver is full of familiar places and people and the winter that I like - sunny and shirt sleeve warm days with crisp nights. On the other hand, there were already several changes - a big new hotel downtown, a favorite restaurant ("Cancun" off Hampden) that's gone, etc, - that make it seem just slightly unfamiliar. And yet I am reminded of the things I want and need to do in San Francisco. It is just full enough of familiar places and people that I know I'm not a tourist. DC lost "home" status much quicker when we moved to Denver than Denver is on this move.
So I'm back in San Francisco's not-as-warm-as-Denver days and clearly-not-as-cold-nights. I appreciate the fact that we have only had the heater on here 4 times all winter, but I am also lamenting the fact that I was able to ride my motorcycle more often last winter in Denver than I have been this winter in San Francisco. I love the sheer volume of gay culture here, but miss the straight connections I had there. I like the push-the-edge fashion sense here, but I miss the political practicality there.
We were offline for two weeks, but thanks to our friend Jeff, the server is back together.
This week we marked both the start of Spring and six months of living in San Francisco.
Spring started as rainy as Winter. A friend of ours from Denver was visiting, and we took him up Twin Peaks, but between the rain, wind, and cold, we didn't stay more than 5 minutes. The actual temperature is not that bad, but the dampness magnifies it immensely. People tell us that this has been a particularly wet winter (and in fact, Seattle has been the only place on the west coast without rain this year); I hope they're right, because right now I would rank San Francisco winter third worst of the four cities I've lived. They say San Francisco gets two winters a year, so I'm wondering if I will ever be able to wear shorts.
We're establishing some 'roots': we've got local doctors, dentists, vets, etc.,we've got some 'favorite places' that we like to go (Stern Grove, Golden Gate Park, etc.), and we've come to expect certain San Francisco oddities (lines outside the clubs at 7AM, etc.). The variety of restaurants still continues to stagger us. We are enjoying the steady stream of visitors. Just last weekend we saw a friend from Denver and two from Albuquerque. People we know have more reasons to visit San Francisco than Denver, so we actually see them more than we used to. Establishing a circle of local friends to do things with has been more of a challenge. We don't keep up with much of what is important here (e.g. the latest tech toys, hot movies, cool clubs, etc.) so we don't "just run into" people and we move in different circles on the weekend.
I am regularly surprised by the duality of attitudes regarding the gay community here. On one hand, in certain areas and venues, two men together are automatically assumed to be gay. At the garden show last weekend, one of the vacation land sales guys immediately launched into "there's a great gay community" when he saw us. But last night in North Beach, the doormen trying to get people into the topless clubs apparently assumed we were straight and seemed particularly surprised when we replied that we "play for the other team"; one made some comment that we were "far from Castro". And I can't remember the last time someone yelled "faggot" at me before we moved here, but it's happened twice since - once in the Financial district and once at the beach parking lot.
Our friends across the hall are moving this weekend. They got well over their asking price, so it looks like the real estate market is still as crazy as it was last summer. Two other units in the building recently sold or are in the process of closing. On one hand, we like the fact that our place is appreciating - I think our decision not to rent our first place in SF was a good one. On the other hand, we hope the prices don't get out of hand for places that we might want to move to. We looked at one of the rental magazines and even the rents are pretty outrageous. Certainly the bubble has to stop sometime - how can people just starting out even hope to afford to live here?