Woke up a little later than I wanted to on Saturday in a blue-striped comforter-covered bed in the foothills of the East Bay hills, the bracelet charm-like Mormon Temple of Oakland, a flat image in the southeast distance out the sliding glass door on the third-story balcony. (That’s in my mind; actually woke up at my place in the ghetto of West Oakland).
The week was a long one, made longer by 9- and 10-hour workdays, arriving each day at 6:30am, leaving at around 4pm, and then Friday wrapped it up by having to try to save Thanksgiving, by negotiating the split-up drama of a divided family – who’s in control, who wants to be together? who sacrifices what for whom? what’s more important blood family or marriage or partners? All with the heaviness of the big C and the extreme effort it took to make Austin happen this year. So, that took up almost all emotional energy left, drained already from the week, as soon as I got off on Friday. Was basically shell-shocked. Was in bed by 8:30pm, but watched the first episode of season 3 of The Walking Dead – O M G! The bomb.
So, woke up at about 7:15am instead of 6:00am on Saturday, which would have made for a relaxed beginning to the best day of the week, a relaxed beginning I always strive for. We crawled out of bed and did an abbreviated yoga session – knees to chest, mountain pose, warrior I, downward dog, forward fold – and were on the road by about 8:00am to one of the chillest, best breakfast spots in the East Bay – Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley.
It’s European style, they make the best hot chocolate in the Bay Area (I bet) from homemade ganache and homemade whipped cream. Had one of those and a pumpkin waffle (the bomb). Read a little of Murakami’s 1Q84 as I waited for food and sipped on that ridiculous chocolate drink, the sun and the East Bay Hills showing themselves to my left out the big windows and all those College Ave. boutiques, and the upscale street, offering its rarefied peace, no eroding as families started to show up at the cafe and the place becoming busy. That’s why early is better.
The plan was for a Mount Tamalpais hike in the foothills surrounding San Anselmo. Drove there, found a not-so-cute cafe in San Anselmo, ordered a dry Blue Bottle cappuccino, and got prepped for the hike. It was about 10:30am.
Had just a Mount Tam map I bought from REI to guide us. Was picking routes way off the beaten path. We chose Redwood Rd. and followed the grey maplines up into the hills on narrow streets past $2 million homes. Passed one stretch that was a little park with path going straight up into the hills. Parked there. It was about 11:00am.
Hiked up. May or may not have gotten busy in the woods on the secluded trail up to one of the fireroads intersecting Mt. Tam’s more single-track trails.
Reached the top of that quarter-mile uphill. What a stunning area. We’re on the northeast side of Mt. Tam’s east peak, the highest point of the mountain. We climbed to the top the previous Saturday; we can see the fire tower perched on the peak we visited then (met an open, cool ranger woman in the doorway of that tower who talked about winter being her favorite time on the mountain – can roam the forests, unmolested by many hikers or tourists and hunt for chantarelle mushrooms) high up above.
We started the hike, in chill mode. Last week we power-walked it, but this time we started out slow, rolling with the early-ish, crystal clear sunlight, filtering coolly, sky blue-filled down onto the mountain path in the cool air. Glorious, quiet, just rolling hills and a few other serious hikers, doing their contemplative Saturday morning hikes. This was my favorite part of the whole 2-hour hike, which dipped down into north side of the mountain and curved back around to just on its northeast base on the banks of Phoenix Lake (more like pond) and back up and around back to our original uphill launch – about 5.5 miles in all.
Partner was demanding food and a shower. Somehow we settled on baby wipes and a natural food store :). When in doubt, go with baby wipes. Ha.
We arrived at the food store, grabbed baby wipes and each grabbed a bathroom. I was done in a couple of minutes. Partner was there for a while. Bathroom line backed up – there were only two bathrooms. But she emerged so fresh and so clean, deep-sky blue silk-cotton top and mustard jean bottom and smiling. Baby wipes are a good thing. Then we ravaged the store, a little. Barbara’s jalapeno cheese chips were part of that, so was a coconut water and a root beer and a beet-base veggie burger on good whole wheat bread (wasn’t as good as it sounds – does it sound good? :)) eaten in the sunlight-filled eating area of the store underneath a Bay Leaf-ish tree’s thin limbs that anchored the flower area of the store.
We gathered up our items, paid for them and then got to the car to head into S.F. 3:00pm.
S.F. is a serious city and there are few city entrances more glorious than the Golden Gate bridge on a gold-clear day. Before entering the final tunnel before the bridge, you get a glimpse of the sexy city and the Bay Bridge and then emerge on the other side in full splendor of the beginning of the GG Bridge, which interestingly fits the road askance, requires a right curving turn to enter. Upon the entrance, the full splendor of the glowing orange, deep blue sky and expansive blue water, comforting and safe, intriguing on the Bay side, dozens of sail boats, ringing mountains and Alcatraz anchoring the scene and the Pacific side on the right providing a deep blue wild feeling, some boats leaving wakes as they speed out into the distance deeper leaving the Golden Gate. Partner asks semi-rhetorically “Isn’t the Pacific side the one that all the jumpers go off of?” An interesting thought. If you decide to go that way, do you go to the side of the wild blue yonder or to the comforting safety of mountains and civilization? Answers might shine a golden gate light on the last moments of life and what you might be thinking. I prefer deep-blue golden wild myself, I think. Sinking through the air, thinking of the crystal-clarity of interstellar space and all the diamonds the ocean may hold.
We arrived at the Legion of Honor fine art museum, gloriously perched on S.F.’s northwest peak, overlooking the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate bridge, windswept cypress trees and their deep, deep green filtering the view all around, including the Golden Gate’s mouth, the Pacific deep blue. The museum needs to do nothing else but bring you there. 3:45pm.
Museum actually is not that interesting and we’re between exhibits, but partner is a member, so no big loss. We see one of the poorer Monet Water Lilies and some Classical “high” art oil paintings and exit shortly back into the dazzling view and all the brides getting their picture taken, including an 18-year-old looking one. Partner suggests Mormon, because they can’t wait. Boys in tuxes are lining up to take their picture with her – so young, babies in the world.
Now it’s on to Hayes Valley for Blue Bottle, reading, walking, dinner, and (we think) birthday drinks with my sister.
Driving down Geary, realize we will pass right by Japan Town, so decide to make a brief detour to pick some of the Frankincense incense at Asakichi my friend introduced to me last weekend. There’s a reason why Jesus was greeted with Frankincense (and Myrrh). Yet to really smell Myrrh – Frankincense is burning now in my room and it does the J. Takes five minutes, double park on the street. Partner parks and waits.
Arrive above Hayes Valley at the huge Catholic Cathedral on the hill at Geary and Gough. Park there and decide to walk the mile or so to Hayes Valley and glorious, glorious Blue Bottle (the best coffee in the Bay Area, handsdown) at its Alley-side spot on Linden St. We get gibraltars, I buy my sister some Blue Bottle chocolate they’re selling for her birthday and we sit on the manicured outdoor area and (I) sip the gibraltar and contemplate life (sort of – really just decompress-ish from the day). It’s 5pm.
Walk to the Hayes Valley park and then go to Nancy Boy, a home-furnishing, gay-run boutique nearby for partner to get some gifts for her best friend’s partner’s birthday. 5:35pm.
Find a coffee shop around the corner and sit down and read 1Q84 for a few minutes, partner gets mint tea, I take a sip and read till just before 6-oclock closing.
Walk up and down boutique-laden street with bomb-a$$ stores with super-expensive looking items. Don’t go in. Pass a cozy-looking sushi spot, Domo, nearby and decide to hit it up for dinner.
Walk back to Hayes Valley square where I read a couple of chapters of 1Q84, in the dying light on the last day before daylight savings time ends.
Go to dinner. Sit in front of sushi bar. Place is cozier than you can imagine. 7pm. Get text that sister drinks cancelled b/c of her food poisoning (secretely relieved – kind-of mellow and just want to cruise the rest of the night in).
Left: Smitten, instant-made ice cream, turned into a glorious affogato with espresso purchased at corner cafe. OMG affogato moment on the corner of the street. Walk to car. Drive home across the Bay Bridge. Pick up things from my house, go to partner’s hill-side apartment. Watch next two episodes of Walking Dead. Episode 2 is the bomb. Sh$% just got real. Then sleep. An almost-perfect day.