Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Short Walking Tour of North Beach

How hard can it be?
One of my many guidebooks, Frommer's San Francisco 2012, has a few walking tours. Walking tours are great, because you get a feel for some of the city's more eclectic neighbourhoods without the risk of eating anywhere on the Health Board's watch list. Also you have the facts in one hand, camera in the other, and you can really nerd out while wandering around. Earlier this week a conversation with my Aunt Eileen highlighted the sad fact that I hadn't darkened the door of a museum or art gallery since my arrival, so on Saturday I took on North Beach hoping to retrace the footsteps of some of San Francisco's famous literary figures. I was assured that the tour would take 3 hours including a stop for lunch. As the route was only about half a mile long this seemed more than achievable. 

Oh, how young and naive I was.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Things That Can Kill You in California

As anyone who follows my Facebook knows my new Californian buddies have been having a gay old time messing with my sleeping patterns by telling me about all the unusual ways there are to die in California. I can get bitten from anything from a spider to a shark. Hell, the earth itself could swallow me whole here. Sitting on the porch enjoying a book and a cup of coffee this afternoon a hawk swept past me so close it ruffled my fringe and landed on a tree about nine feet away, prompting me to dump scalding hot coffee in my lap while running into the house frantically whispering "Hawk! Fucking hawk! Fuck fuck fuck.... Hawk!" I'm not making this up, I have a witness. Well, ok, the coffee was for comedic effect. But I'm telling you, that hawk happened.

Monday, July 1, 2013

San Francisco Pride 2013

Would you like to see a few hundred photos of San Francisco Pride 2013?


How about just one?

This gorgeous couple has been together for twenty nine years. I don't know their names, but they stood beside us at the parade for many hours today, cheered loudly when the policy makers who supported them drove past, and educated us on the roles of the incredible people who helped make this historic day possible. The veil idea was theirs. If you wore one at Pride this weekend, you owe them a dollar.

Earlier today I realised what we were witnessing. I turned to the woman on the left, and we held each other as we both cried and cried and cried.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lost in Translation

I've made that rookie blogger error of letting the adventures pile up and neglecting the posts. I promise to backtrack and rectify that over the next few days (albeit with photographs and vaguely connected poorly punctuated pseudo-sentences) but in the meantime, you'll never bloody guess what happened tonight.

I got locked out of my bedroom.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Spotters Guide to Irish People in Berkeley

The road always rises to meet us, the sun is always at our backs, and no matter where you go you'll always find us. Like Davina McCall and Candy Crush Saga, we're fucking everywhere. Here's how you spot the Irish people in Berkeley:

In contrast to the Berkeley uniforms of grimy tie-dyed tshirt and dungarees for the hippies, safety-pin adorned army surplus for the hobos, and shiny Cal branded gear for the undergrads, the Irish stubbornly cling to their county colours. I mean really. Must we? It's such a stereotype it's positively painful. I did see one girl today in a basketball shirt (very American) in our national green. Where on earth did she pick that up? Skymall? Go home and change love. You're embarrassing yourself.

Skin Tone
Red and blotchy. Your skin will not adapt to the sun. Your burn will not turn to tan. You are quite simply not built that way. Can't figure out why you're sweating so much? It's because you're on fire, dumbass. Put on some damn sunscreen. You're killing yourself, and you look ill.

Honestly, it's not that hot. It was 19 degrees today: jeans and a jacket weather. Put your fucking shirt back on. Or, if you must walk around like that, do the rest of us a favour and spend a month in the gym first. A solid month. A simple rule of thumb is: if you wouldn't walk around Ballyhaunis like that, do not subject the good people of Berkeley to it.

Chemical Makeup
Me: My heel really hurts. I walked around 10 miles yesterday in flip flops. Should I just keep taking ibuprofen or is there something else you'd recommend? I'm quite sure its bruised. I've had that happen before from running.
Pharmacist: Oh my God! Are you Irish?
Me: Um, yes. So, ibuprofen? Or Arnica? Or...
Pharmacist: We've had a lot of Irish people in here lately. They all have... Well, never mind. Confidentiality and all that.
Me: Hangovers. They have hangovers. So, about my heel?
Pharmacist: Ten miles in flipflops eh? *jolly laugh* Sounds like what you need is a time machine!
Me: I'm just going to keep taking the ibuprofen then. Thanks though. You've been real helpful.

There is something inate about the way we as a nation carry ourselves. Maybe it's from all the rain, or maybe we're still upset about the famine, but the Irish generally hunch their shoulders just a hint more than the Americans. Our strides are just a tiny bit more shuffly: perhaps a vestige of learning to walk in wellies. And we tend to peek furtively from under our brows as though the elastic has gone in the back of an invisible cap that keeps slipping down. Its all barely perciptible but combined you can pick out the Irish kid from behind at 50 yards. Americans greet the world head on with a big toothy smile. Except the meth addicts. They have the shoulder hunch and the shuffle and the brow glare. And the famine. Maybe this one should be filed under chemical makeup too. Do meth addicts get hangovers?

Pack Instinct
I was setting up a bank account yesterday and my Personal Banking Representative used numerous variations of the term "pack" in the course of our short conversation to refer to the estimated 15,000 other Irish people in Berkeley. Examples include:

  • You're at the tail end of the pack.
  • Most of them arrived last week.
  • The rest of them were on J1s.
  • It's so convenient that you have a US passport. I had to fill in like 3 pages of extra paperwork for the others.
  • All the beer will be gone.

We do tend to stick together. I've never understood this custom of flying to the other side of the planet to submerge oneself in the specific aspects of another culture that most closely resemble or outright mimic ones own. I knew a girl in college who had spent the previous summer in whatever medium-sized American city was cool then (the Berkeley of yesteryear) and had "scored an Irish person every night". A different one. Every night. She essentially spent €1,500 on a one-way ticket to Coppers. Can someone please explain this to me?

The mbanker also reminded me that Americans tend to swear less casually than the Irish. I dropped an F-bomb when my desired username had already being taken.

Here's an unrelated photo of some graffiti I saw yesterday.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The German Guide to San Francisco

As predicted, I have landed on my feet.

After an only moderately unpredictable flight I landed in my new place in Berkeley and was introduced to the other guests. They asked if I wanted to come to dinner. I did. My only stipulation was that dinner included alcohol. It did.

Lolly is a Canadian girl who likes rock climbing and beer and generally does not require assistance getting up or down from large things. She is funny, friendly, kind, and altogether very Canadian. She was just as overwhelmed by the Berkeley Bowl as I was. Dan is exceedingly German, impressed by German things, likes a good German car, is an engineer (a German engineer) and has a virtually encyclopaedic knowledge of the extensive Bay Area Transit System (not just the BART, but the MUNI, the MANI, and the PEDI to boot) as well as its notable buildings, hiking trails, and why horizontal storage vending machines are superior to the type that store your drink upright. While he is delightful, he is more notably the most extraordinarily helpful person I have ever met. All visiting scholars ought to be assigned one.