Tuesday, June 27, 2006

But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean at the end...

Please excuse the old-school Britney reference. Wait, don't excuse it. ENJOY it.

On Sunday, Gary and I checked out the Titanic exhibit at the Metreon. The Metreon is this huge complex owned by SONY that has a video game store, a huge movie theater, restaurants, and an exhibition space on the 4th floor, which is where this Titanic event was. The exhibit consisted of a lot of stuff salvaged from the Titanic -- clothes, unbroken dishes, pocketwatches, razors, luggage, personal papers, eyeglasses -- and some recreations of the actual rooms of the Titanic. Oh, and they also had a big iceberg that you could touch to see how freaking cold an iceberg actually is, and a big chunk of the hull ("The Big Piece,"), which they recovered from 2 miles below the sea.

When we entered the exhibit, we were each given "boarding passes," with the identity of an actual Titanic passenger and a bit of information about the person. Gary was some rich dude in 1st class, and I was a lady coming to America to find a husband or something (typical), in 2nd class. The guy who handed us our passes said, "You get to find out whether you lived or died at the end!" Whee.

We walked through the exhibit and peered at all of the stuff they had managed to save from the wreckage over 70 years after the ship sank. I don't understand how sets of dishes and cups survived such a violent sinking, but sure enough, the display included beautiful, deep blue cups with a porthole design, with not so much as chipped handles. Really unbelievable.

My favorite part was towards the end, when we found a little part of the hull in a display case, apart from the main "Big Piece" on display. The little piece was in a glass box with a round hole in the top of it. G asked, "Do you think we can touch it?" I said, "Why not!" so we each reached in and touched the Titanic. No alarms went off, thank God. Close one.

At the end, as promised, we got to find out whether we lived or died. I lived, G died. See, 1st class doesn't buy you everything after all.

Boycott the Tonga Room!

What a weekend I have had! Lisa's visit was truly fantastic, and now that she is gone, I am a bit blue, because having her here reminded me of how much fun we all have when we're together. Sigh. We packed a lot of stuff into the weekend, such as:
  • going on a really windy (but relaxed) hike in the headlands
  • eating a lot of sushi
  • chowing down on fro-yo
  • participating in the hostel pub crawl and leading 10 drunk foreign kids on a wild goose chase up and down hills in San Francisco, only to find that our destination, the Tonga Room, was closed. More on this below.
  • dancing our booties off at The Kells in North Beach
  • walking the dish at Stanny
  • revisiting our favorite brunch place from college, Cafe Barone
  • shopping for $5 bling at H&M
  • cruising through Anthropologie and gawking at the prices
  • dragging our hungover butts to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market to buy fresh Japanese eggplant, shitake mushrooms, squash, soft and stiff-neck garlic, nectarines, baguettes, and artisan cheese for our dinner party
  • holding a lovely dinner party for 6 ladies on Saturday night
  • drinking ALL kinds of white wine
Now, about the Tonga Room misadventure. On Thursday night, after a relaxed dinner with Karen of "small plates" (small and expensive -- one ice-cream scoop of tuna tartare cost $12!!!) at Park Chalet, Lisa and I decided to slake our hunger by going on the hostel pub crawl. Since I had never participated in any hostel social events before, I decided it was about time I did so. We met up with the group in Blur, a bar on Polk, where 12 or so hostel-goers were sitting around, holding quiet, semi-awkward conversation in varying degrees of English. Lisa and I busted on the scene and decided that there needed to be a dance floor introduced, and stat.

We went across the street to Vertigo, where L and I immediately approached the DJ and requested Rihanna, Destiny's Child, Shakira -- you know, music you can get bootylicious to. The dance floor was completely empty except for us hostelizers, so we figured the DJ, who was a chubby, pinch-faced man, would be happy to oblige. Oh, how wrong we were. This is how the conversation went down:

L/S: Hi, can you play some Destiny's Child for us?
DJ: Uh, no.
L/S: Okay, how about Christina Milian?
DJ: Who? (*putting on hardcore rap album*)
L/S: Um, Dip it Low?
DJ: I don't think so.

-- Ten minutes pass. Bad, impossible-to-dance-to hardocore rap is played. Awkward European kids sit down and stare into their drinks. Stephanie approaches the DJ booth once again.

S: Sir, I don't mean to be obnoxious here, but look. We're all varying shades of white out here on the dance floor, so if you could play something that is not hardcore rap for a few minutes, that would be fantastic. I know that everyone out here would really enjoy a little Destiny's Child, if you have it.
DJ: *unintelligble mumble*
S: I'll take that as a confirmation that "Say My Name" will be next on the playlist. Thanks!

-- Hardcore rap about bitches and grillz continues. Lisa, Steph and the other hostel kids head for the door. Just as everyone is about to leave, BOOM, the DJ plays Shakira, "Hips Don't Lie." Are you kidding?! What a dick. So we stayed for Shakira, then left, because the DJ saw how happy we all were and couldn't deal with it and soon returned to playing crappy rap.

Somewhere along the way to the next bar, I got it into my head that we should go to the Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel. I had heard good things about this place: it has a tiki theme, it is delightfully tacky, it's in a swanky hotel but yet is cheezy and approchable, and so on. Using my sparkling charm, I convinced the whole group to follow me up a couple of giant hills, through the fog and mist, to the Fairmont. I marched them through the plush lobby, piled them into the elevator, and we rode down to the basement, where the fabled Tonga Room awaited.

As soon as I approached the two suited men at the door of the bar, one of them started waving his hands and shaking his head.

"No, we are closed," he said, before I could say anything.

"But, it's only 11:40... on a Thursday."

"No, we are closed." At this point, the other man in a suit added, "and all of our liquor is locked up."

I don't know what kind of tiki-swilling vagrants we must have looked like, but I knew that a popular bar in a major hotel had not locked up its alcohol at 11:40, a full 2 hours and 20 minutes before city-wide last call, on a frickin' Thursday night. Was it because my hair got messed up on the grueling walk to the Fairmont? Was it because there were a couple of Canadians in the group and the Tonga men could tell there was something fishy about them? Did one of them let an "eh" slip and blow our cover? I guess we'll never know.

I barely restrained myself from saying, "y'alls just RACIST," and instead composed myself, stood tall, and said,

"Well, I will not be returning." I then turned on my heel and led all of the disappointed foreigners out of the foyer. The point of this story is the following: do NOT give your custom to the Tonga Room. And please tell your friends to do the same.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Verano!

Okay, it's definitely summer. For San Francisco, it is positively boiling -- probably over 80 degrees -- and everyone is sweating and bitching in sort of a happy way. I had a lovely morning, since Lisa arrived from San Diego last night and is staying at my grandparents' house with me. We got up at 9:45, went for a nice, sunny run in Golden Gate Park, then came back and took muni downtown. We got off at 5th and Market and walked through the Tenderloin ("the Porkchop," as my cousin Megan calls it) to get to Dottie's, this cute brunch cafe on Jones. The 'Loin really is a sketcherific neighborhood. A couple of crackheads were yelling at Lisa and me and one started following us up the street, but I knew he wouldn't have the nerve to come into a brunch place, so we were fine.

The weird thing about this neighborhood is that once you walk up a few blocks, you hit Nob Hill, which is a beautiful, upscale neighborhood full of Victorian buildings and cute bistros. It reminds me of the way Detroit (aka the sometimes-murder-capital-of-the-world) borders Grosse Pointe (aka the ritziest little oasis of wealth in Michigan), so crackhouses with bullet-shattered windows are across the street from huge, Tudor-style mansions owned by auto executives. The contrast isn't that extreme in San Francisco, of course, but it is strange how extreme poverty can exist so close to opulent wealth. I noticed a lot of that in Sao Paulo, as well. Favelas would be plopped into the middle of relatively nice neighborhoods, which was always disconcerting. The difference is, in Brazil, people have crazy, high-tech security systems and panic rooms and guard towers and armed doormen and stuff.

Well, enough social commentary from me. It is crazy hot here and I am getting delirious. I am in a good mood, though, because of the following:

a) Lisa is in town
b) Brazil beat Japan
c) I have the weekend off work
d) the weather is nice
e) I am listening to Shakira

Ah. Summer!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Vamos Brasileiros!

Alright, I guess soccer IS kinda fun, especially when it's Brazil beating Australia's butt at the World Cup. Today, in a show of support for os brasileiros, I wore my World Cup Havianas AND my Brazil rubber bracelet (soooo fashionable), and at the gym (where I watched the game), I wore my Sao Paulo 10k tee-shirt. I guess this qualifies me as a superfan, huh.

Brazil won 2-0, by the way. Booyah!

My cousins and I also showed support for Brazilian culture last night by eating ourselves silly at Espetus Churrascaria on Market for Emily's birthday. Uh, two words: holy crap. I haven't had a meat hangover like this since I was actually in South America. To add to the fun of the evening, two of the servers offering us chicken innards and parmesan beef were these Brazilian dudes who work with me at the hostel. One of them was very shy and got embarrassed when Emily asked him if he recognized me, but he couldn't run away from our table because he had pork tenderloin, and we weren't about to let THAT get away.

I think I ate more pao de queijo, palm hearts and filet mignon last night than should be allowed, except maybe in a competitive eating setting. Actually, I wonder if there is some sort of competition (with cash prize, preferably) involving pao de queijo consumption. If there is, I want to immediately sign my cousins Amanda, John, Emily, and Michael up for it, because between the five of us last night, I think we ate enough of that stuff to feed an entire favela for a week or so. If anyone has information on pao de quiejo contests, please email me promptly.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fairweather Futebol Fan

Okay, so let's be clear: I don't care about soccer. It boggled my mind when my English coworkers in Sao Paulo would get up at 3 am on a Tuesday to watch Southampton play Liverpool, or when Brazilians would riot in the streets after one Sao Paulo team (Corinthians, for example) would beat a rival Sao Paulo team (like Sao Paulo FC), or when Julia and I would hear gunshots on a Monday night and just assume it was soccer-related. I mean, come on.

In fact, the wild-eyed fervor that goes along with soccer sort of really freaks me out. I read this book in my "Explaining Ethnic Violence" seminar in college called Among the Thugs, by Bill Buford. The book was about soccer hooliganism as a sociological phenomenon. Buford spent eight years with Manchester United supporters as they boozed, rioted, and sexually assaulted their way through many a football championship. The author's thesis about the cause of the supporters' extremely violent and thuggish behavior was that they had exhausted all other forms of stimulation -- drugs, alcohol, sex -- and senseless violence, in the form of soccer rioting, was their drug, their only release. Right.

The grossest part of the book was when Buford talked about this one particularly horrible soccer fan who got mad at a police officer and picked him up from his barstool and sucked his eyeball out of his head. The eyeball sucker then left the bar, went -- still bloodsoaked -- to a 24-hour chicken restaurant with his wife, and was promptly arrested by the eyeless officer's police buddies. I told that story to an English guy and he said, "Nuh uh, there is no way you could suck someone's eyeball out of his head." Uh, as if the actual physical mechanics of eyeball sucking were the real issue there. Yikes.

Anyway, enough about eyeball sucking. The point is, I don't really care at all about soccer. In Brazil, it annoyed and baffled me when at 8 am on a Wednesday, people would be crowding the streets, waving flags and blowing whistles, beers in hand, when I was in my cab, crawling to work. Damn futebol! But, it's World Cup season, and even Americans have to be marginally interested in the whole soccer thing, since we do have a team (even if they do suck), and we need to be sure they don't embarrass us. America, f*** yeah!

I decided that I am rooting for Brazil all the way, NOT because I am a fairweather fan, but because I feel that they deserve to win, and because I have green World Cup havianas that I can wear in support. Yesterday Brazil played Croatia, and I wore my Brazil flag earrings to work. Sure enough, Brazil won (go Kaka!), and I think it was because of me. Also, after living in that country for 9 months and seeing the extreme futebol fandom that exists there, I am pretty sure Brazil could give any other country a run for its money in true soccer madness.

So. VAMOS BRASILEIROS! Oh, and America, don't humiliate us.

Monday, June 12, 2006

FIRE!!!!

It's been a three-alarm morning -- literally.

I got into work at 7 am and did all my normal duties, except I forgot to go down to the kitchen and open the door to let some air in. At about 8:30, as I was checking people out, the lights started flashing and the fire alarm started wailing -- that's right, someone burnt their pancakes and the fire alarm went off because I forgot to open the door. STUPID STEPHANIE!

The next 10 minutes were filled with madcap fun, as I ran around like a crazy chicken, trying to figure out how to silence the alarm, open the door, tell people that we weren't burning alive, and cancel the fire trucks. Too late, because three firetrucks showed up, with a bunch of heavily-equipped (and annoyed) firemen, who had to tromp into the hostel and check the place out for remaining fire hazards. I was mortified, obviamente.

The whole joint still sort of smells like burnt 'cakes, and all the kids who ran outside in their underwear/pjs/sheets when the alarm went off have been giving me dirty looks as they slink back into the hostel after briefly fearing for their lives. My bad, guys.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

hungover and lovin' it

NOT.

Being hungover sucks. I had the most stereotpyical hangover this morning -- splitting headache, wooziness, craving for salty, fatty goodness. I guess I'm either hungover or expecting a baby. Just kidding, Ma.

I certainly earned my hangover last night. I started off the night at 8:30, drinking in a sports bar with Gary while we waited for Karen. After a couple of vodka-diets (my drink!), we headed to Boca, the infamous club where we last saw Kayne West's dj perform. This time it was some other (awesome) dj and there were super long lines, but somehow we slipped in (semi-unnoticed) and had a great time. The place was a loud, sweaty mess, and a few too many drinks were consumed by one and all, but man, what a blast. Another thing about Boca: everywhere I looked there were people in black and white, jailbird-striped shirts -- and I was one of them! I don't know if I just subconsciously knew to slap on my stripey shirt, but I certainly fit in with the crowd. It felt good.

Anyway, I didn't get a ton of sleep, I drank a lot, and woke up feeling like Death warmed over. I had to drag my tired butt to work, too, and my perkiness levels were NOT up to par. I was still a good receptionist, of course, but I think my hospitable schtick delivery was a little subdued. The good news is, my mommy drove me to work, since she is my new roomie for the next few months. Ah, the perks of living with one's parents -- they just keep coming.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The enigma of the 71

The 71 bus, which I tend to take home from work, is so weird, because while it is arguably the Creepiest Bus Route in San Francisco (measured in rough percentage of ubercreepy people that consistently ride it), it is also a place where friendships are made, lives are touched.

Take my ride home today, for example. I was getting major, red-alert heebie-jeebies from a dude who stalked onto the bus on Market Street and 9th. He was wearing not one, but TWO pairs of black jeans, the inner pair hiked up to his waist, the outer pair slung rakishy low and held tight with a studded belt. He also had what appeared to be a dog leash hanging out his back pocket and connected to his belt loop. One can only speculate what that could have been used for. He also had on two black tee shirts, layered, and black fingernail polish. Also, he was about 50 and had a bald head, and he started doing pull-ups on the hand bars in the back of the bus, then proceeded to shake them violently, as if he was testing to see how firmly they were really attached to the bus. We all breathed a nice sigh of relief when he got off at Haight and Fillmore.

Also on the bus was a sad looking lady with hair that dangled 2 feet from the ground. TWO FEET. I know this because I spent a long time staring at the straggly ends in a horrified stupor, trying to decide how close they were to dragging on the bus floor. When she came and sat down, she actually sat on her hair, and had to sort of lift it up and shimmy herself around so as not to catch her OWN HAIR under her OWN BUTT. I am shuddering just to think of it.

But, on the flipside, today a bald guy in a Dodgers cap and windbreaker came on and immediately struck up a conversation about the Beat writers with a small guy with sleeve tattoos, slip-on black Keds, and a newsboy cap. Those two chatted animatedly about Burroughs and Kerouac till the Dodgers guy got off ten minutes later. I also saw two more people saying "hey, good to meet you," to each other before going their separate ways. I thought, Wow, the 71 really brings people together. My heart was warmed.

However, my point about the heebie-jeebie factor on that bus route still stands, and even though it may inspire warm fuzzies, it's disconcerting to ride a bus where you look around and realize that MOST of the people on it -- not just one or two -- are either mentally ill, on drugs, or have stripper wig hair.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sweet Apathy

Yeah, so I didn't vote yesterday. I had been up since 5, and after a long day spent working, gymming, eating, and watching 2 Jeff Daniels movies with Emily, I just couldn't muster the strength I needed to walk the 2 blocks uphill to the polling place to make my voice heard as a citizen of California.

My grandparents and I were discussing the propositions, including the one that would provide more funding for public libraries. My grandmother and I agreed that libraries were probably a good thing to fund, and I even went so far as to say, "Honestly, who votes against libraries?" -- at which point my grandfather gruffly said that libraries "weren't that important," and that he would certainly vote against giving them any more money. Yeah, screw those corrupt, money-grubbing, decadent houses of sin!

It doesn't matter that I didn't vote, because the dude I was going to vote for in the dem primary, Phil Angelides, won anyway. But seriously, it doesn't matter, since in California you have to be a registered Democrat to vote for a gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic primary. And since I am an Independent, or else not registered with a party (I forget which, whoops), I wouldn't have been allowed to cast a ballot, so... whatever.

But, if I HAD been allowed to vote, I think I would have been more informed than half the hairbrains in the polling place, because I spent a good 10, maybe 15 minutes reading the candidates' websites, and I decided that I would vote for Angelides because: a) he has a cool name, and b) he is not a computer programmer OR a real estate broker. Actually, my decision was more complex than that, but only slightly.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Voter appreciation

It's bright and early and I haven't written for a while, so I thought I'd check in with my loyal readers and let everyone know that I am alive and kicking.

Life is good. I have been working a lot lately, and next Saturday I restart my old gig at the Alumni Center at my alma mater. It's a cushy job: I get paid $11/hour to sit behind a big desk and answer innane questions from tourists/addled alumni wandering the campus. Oh, and I make coffee.

Anyway, today is Election Day. There are a bunch of Propositions to vote on and I guess the Democractic primary for governor. I am one of those people who bitches about how lazy and apathetic people are when it comes to voting. When I read that .238473% of California is expected to vote today, I angrily think stuff like, "This is ridiculous! People don't even appreciate our representative democracy because they are lazy pieces of trash, and would rather go to spinning class or eat jalapeno poppers at Ruby Tuesdays or watch "Best Week Ever" on VH1 then drag their apathetic bums to the polling place and participate in our system of government! This is why our country is going to hell in a handbasket! We should just return to monarchy, or oligarchy, and then we'll see how those lazy f***s like it!" and so on. But then, I don't go vote. So I don't say any of that stuff out loud.

I might go vote today, but only out of a crippling sense of guilt (some call this "civic duty") rather than passion about the issues, or even awareness of the issues. What are the issues, anyway? I know there's some proposition about elder abuse. I guess I'm against that. Something else about taxing people who make more than $400,000 a year to fund preschools or something. I'm actually more informed about this than I gave myself credit for.

This morning as I was drinking my 5:30 am cup of tea before going to work, I was perusing the ballot initiatives and candidates and I glanced at the sample ballot for the Independent party. I think technically I am a registered Independent but it sort of dismayed me to see that all the candidates from that party were listed as either computer programmer, real estate broker, or the cryptic "student." Maybe I'll vote with the Natural Law party, or the Peace and Freedom party, instead. Can't argue with Peace and Freedom!

For a depressing look at all of this, check out this article:
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/06/06/MNG5MJ94QG1.DTL&type=politics