I picked Dad up at the airport with my couchsurfer, Andre, from Switzerland. It was pretty early in the afternoon so we took advantage of being in San Francisco and I gave them a tour of Golden Gate Park. We stopped first to walk around the Conservatory of Flowers and the dahlia display. We didn’t bother going in, the building itself, an old Victorian white metal and glass structure, is more interesting than the foliage inside. The dahlias outside were in full bloom, the grounds were crawling with tourists and there was a small group of Latinos playing traditional drums and flute. As usual, the air was cold, overcast at times and windy. We walked around the grounds near the deYoung Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, and Science Center before heading over to my favorite spot in the city, the Sutro Bath Ruins.
We spent a good deal of time at the gift shop and museum exploring the history of the area. I felt like a proper tour guide, giving them little bits of information about the old Bathhouse and discussing the local tree species. Dad in his usual laconic fashion said very little but Andre was very inquisitive and encouraged me to spill every last ounce of information I had in my brain. It was fun to feel so knowledgeable even though I felt like I was faking it most of the time.
Andre wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge and considering we only needed to take a quick detour to do that on the way home, we headed that direction. I hadn’t actually been over to explore the bridge and of course, neither had Dad. We stopped very briefly at the gawking point but the fog was so thick you could only see the base of the bridge. We got caught in traffic upon leaving in such a way that we ended up going across the bridge into Marin. It was actually quite nice to finally do, though in rush hour traffic it added over an hour to our trip home.
We grabbed a few items from the grocery store and spent the evening at home. Andre made a great dinner while I gave Dad a short tour of the warehouse where he’d be for the next two weeks. If he had any negative thoughts, he didn’t make them known.
It was Dad’s 61st birthday and it was the first day of many that we would spend in the Big Trees. It was much warmer and sunnier than the day before thankfully. We drove over to Muir Woods in Marin and had a long day of hiking. The park was so busy we had to leave the car over a mile down the road from the entrance so just getting to the park was a healthy trek. At first, the crowds of people walking along the boardwalks with us were a bit overwhelming. Kids crying, couples ambling blindly trapping the lines of people behind them. We stopped along the way, just like everyone else, and took the goofy pictures together inside the more photogenic giants. Eventually, Dad and I followed a trail that was more secluded and a bit more strenuous, climbing the edge of a large hill into the tops of the trees and out into a meadow. The trail was pleasantly quiet and we were able to finally have some good old-fashion father daughter bonding time.
We probably hiked a good seven miles that day so we decided on a nap when we got back. I had exciting plans to take Dad that evening to a burlesque show in the city for his birthday so we needed the rest. We went to Amnesia in SF around 9pm, drank beer and waited patiently for the show to begin. An hour and a half later it thankfully began, only to finish two acts and take a 30 minute break. Both acts were quite wonderful- the first, a man from London with a professional disturbing Vaudeville persona, the second- a bellydancing troupe from Oakland. We were patient through the long break and watched the next two acts, which were the same individuals. After that though it was after midnight, they were taking another 30 minute break and we just couldn’t do it anymore. For 30 minutes of actual performances, we waited about 3 hours all together. Very disappointing.
Dad and I spent the day walking around San Francisco, namely Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill. It was another pleasantly exhausting day of hiking, especially after taking some misdirection from a woman at the subway and getting completely lost on our way to Chinatown. We were both quite overwhelmed by Chinatown but as it’s the oldest Chinatown in the country, Dad was really interested in seeing it. Unfortunately, he didn’t find it all that different than it’s counterpart in New York City. The markets were incessant though filled with all sorts of strange compelling fruits and vegetables. The crowded streets and the overflowing shops of colorful trinkets became redundant and uninspiring. We had lunch at a very nice local Vietnamese place and traveled up to Telegraph Hill, stopping briefly at City Light Books, though I think Dad was not impressed as he didn’t seem familiar with the Beat Generation. So the history of the place was lost on him. The view from Telegraph Hill was nice and I took a few photos of the incredibly inclined streets for Dad. I would be his camerawoman for the visit.
Later that evening, we went to Jupiter, a restaurant/bar in Berkeley, with my roommate, Megan, to have some food, try some local beers and listen to the experimental jazz group that was playing. I’d never been to Jupiter before but it had a great ambiance. I think Dad enjoyed that quite a bit. It’s rather hard to tell what Dad enjoys. He’s extremely quiet and generally reserved. Even if you ask, he may not give you much of an actual indicator of how he feels. It was nice to see him interacting with people he encountered. He was making an effort to say hello to everyone he met on various trails and he was excited to meet any strangers whether they be couchsurfers or my roommates. He did very well socially. I think he’s more socially adept then he lets on.
Megan convinced us to get ice cream on the way home, so we gorged on that later as we watched “Songcatcher,” on the projector screen in the living room. Good movie, good company, good comfort food. Dad was pretty easily integrated into this little community I live in fairly quickly. He’s pretty easy going so I didn’t foresee any issues there.
Everyday I tried to find something eventful to do but on Sunday, I just couldn’t find much to work with. So we took our time leaving the house and had some great conversations with my housemates. We spent the afternoon at Jack London Square in Oakland at the farmer’s market and Jazz festival, soaking up the sun and people watching. It was quiet a mellow day. We also were mulling over whether we wanted to go to Burning Man. There were tons of cheap tickets showing up and we could have made it work logistically. But we weren’t necessarily mentally prepared and decided against it.
Instead, we decided to adventure up north. We drove through Point Reyes. I took the road north near Tomales Bay instead of south like I usually take visitors. The fog was quite thick towards the tail end of the point but we still got to see a couple shrouded groups of tule elk in the hills. We explored along McClure Beach. Dad is working on a project at home so we spent a long time searching the beach debris of interesting pieces of driftwood, shells, rocks, or plants he could use. We climbed around the rocks and found two amazing tide pools, where we saw a bunch of anemones. I’d never seen them in the wild before so I was quite fascinated.
In the evening, we camped in the southern part of the park. We hiked into camp about 2 miles with all the gear we had. He didn’t have a sleeping bag so he had to cumbersomely carry the comforter from my bed. We literally had to make a pack out of the comforter and bungee the whole thing to his back. It was rather amusing and I imagine a bit uncomfortable but he did it nonetheless. The hike was rough, we’d already done quite a bit of walking, the sun was at it’s peak and there was a bit of incline. Luckily, it was only two miles and we had plenty of beautiful mountains and foliage and quail to keep us occupied. The camp itself was a boring bit of field between a couple hills but only a few yards around the corner was the beach so we were able to sit and watch the sunset over the ocean. We went to bed really early; I watched Dad sleep for a little while. He was wrapped in my brown furry blanket so without my glasses on, he looked like a sleeping bear. I felt truly thankful for this day.
We hiked out of camp and headed over to Bolinas, which was a little farther south outside of the park. Had a quick breakfast and strolled along the beach, searching for more trinkets and taking photos of graffiti. We spent most of the day in the car. We headed north on Route 1 along the coast. It’s not as spectacular as going south on the same road but there were still quite a few beautiful spots. The road was treacherous as I expected, narrow and winding. Dad and I grew tired of it rather quickly but we had committed to that route. We stopped in Fort Bragg for the night.
We finished our drove along Route 1 and wandered through the Avenue of the Giants off of Highway 101. Dad seemed to really enjoy the trees up there. The road is quite narrow as the Redwoods stand right up against it. We stopped at a number of general tourist traps. The One Log House, the Grandfather tree, the Immortal Tree and so forth. The shops were all the same and we were glad to be done with them. We spent some time at the Visitor Center and watched a movie about the conservation and documentation efforts of the Redwoods. We settled for the night in Eureka, had a less than mediocre dinner and a couple restless drinks at The Shanty before succumbing to our rather dingy hotel room along the highway.
Before heading home, we stopped at the Harley Davidson shop and took a quick walk through the farmer’s market in town. It was cold and quite dreary so we decided against finding a nice swimming spot. We drove out of the cold within a couple hours going south but by then I think we were both ready to relax. It took pretty much all day to get back to Oakland.
We had a day of rest, a quiet day at home. Dad helped me with some home improvements on my room and fixing the incessantly running toilet in the back bathroom. Later in the evening, all the housemates that hadn’t gone to Burning Man happened to be home so Dad and I spent some time with them, drinking and watching “The Big Lebowski” on the projector. He was rather amused by Spencer who was working on his alcohol infusions wearing his comfy blue flowing skirt, his usual top hat and vest.
We had a pleasant walk through the flea market in Berkeley on Ashby Ave. There were quite a few interesting things to check out from authentic African masks and decorations to wool rugs and Tibetan imports, bins of socks and grumpy men selling overpriced hot dogs. It was perfectly warm and sunny, a group of men seemed to spontaneously gather to play their drums at the corner of the market. On the way home, I drove up to Tilden Park so Dad could see the view of the Bay from the hills.
We walked around Oakland for a little while. I was planning to take Dad to the Pride Festival but it cost 10 dollars to get in and I felt out of principal that I didn’t want either of us to pay for it. Instead, we spent the day walking around the Museum of California. Admission is free on the first Sunday of the month. It was actually a very inspiring couple of hours. The art section had a lot of varying exhibits from traditional to contemporary Californian artists. I really enjoyed the group f-64 and Dorothea Lange exhibits. They also had an interactive exhibit examining the definition of art which I found compelling. It’s a really difficult question to answer and I liked the way they approached the conversation. They had three items displayed: a traditional Pomo weaved basket, a large clump of grass with its roots hanging down, and an asymmetrical basket of weaved phone cords and wires and other bits of trash. They asked people to vote on which these they considered art by putting a YES or NO ticket into the respective slots. It was interesting to see how that played out. I would gather it’s just as inconclusive as when the experiment began and that perhaps the answer comes from the original intention of each item.
There was a lot to see in this museum. The art collection is extensive but the history collection is even more involved. It’s set up so you walk through the chronological progression of the state from the expulsion of the Natives, the immigrant populations from all over the world, the revolution of the 60s and into the present. After feeling all of the intense emotions that come with all of these times, you get to the end where a large bulletin board separated into years from 1975-2015 is covered with yellow post it notes. People were asked to post what they found most memorable for each year. It was definitely an emotional experience reading the responses. They ranged from personal births and deaths to obvious major political events but the way some of these things were expressed just really is unavoidably hard-hitting. I wish I could better express the complexity of all of these varying memories and the overall sense of humanity I felt by witnessing this board. I left the museum with a lot to think about. Dad, as usual, didn’t have too much to say about it other than he enjoyed it.
We had a relaxing dinner at a local brewery in Berkeley, stopped at Jupiter to listen to some traditional folk music and down the street came across some young guys playing jazz.
Dad and I dragged Megan out to Joaquin Miller Park to enjoy some sunlight and to hike around. We stayed in the grove a little while to watch a group of English country dancers and musicians.
We went back into the city and wandered around the Mission District, checking out random shops like Paxton Gate, which is a bit of an oddity shop, full of dead animal parts, plants, taxidermy hybrids like a flying monkey and a unicorn. We managed to find some real gems of the city. Our time together was winding down and so I feeling a bit depressed about it. It’s been a lot of work to try and find entertaining things to do together but I wasn’t excited about him leaving. He fit in pretty well here and I appreciated his positivity about my alternative living arrangements. I got the sense that he was still a bit afraid of my seemingly aimless direction in life. He kept asking whether I was happy doing what I’m doing and what I was trying to do with life and what I’d like to be doing concerning work. All good questions, that I constantly ask myself too. I always assume that I’ll figure it out and sometimes I’m more restless about it. Otherwise, I was glad to have him here. I’ve felt so separated from my friends and family. It almost felt unreal that he was here in front of me. That kind of psychological separation from people in my past doesn’t feel good but I think it’s a rather natural phenomenon when you move into a different phase in your life. It’s a normal progression but I would have liked a bit more balance.