Tuesday, January 31

Who's the man? Ron's the man!

I have three strapping brothers-in-law on Anne’s side of the family. 

They fish, fix cars, chop wood, hell the word butch is even in their last name.

They’re smart enough to not ask me on the annual middle-of-nowhere camping, hunting and fishing trip the whole male side of the family takes.

So I was quite surprised today to hear that one of them went to see La La Land. 

On his own. 

And loved it.

I concur! 

I saw it a few weeks ago (and managed to convince my wife to go with me), and it made me smile. 

Which I don’t often do.

Anne wasn’t as impressed. Her quote was, “When they started singing I knew it was going to be a long night”.

Monday, January 30

Frevvinsakes

Because we work east coast time we tend to eat dinner earlier than back home.

We’re also in an apartment that has a TV close to the dining table.

So we’ve picked up the bad habit of switching on the Game Show Channel as we prepare and eat dinner.

Between 5 and 6 they play re-runs of the US version of Deal or No Deal.

I think the premise of the show is excellent. It’s knowledge of statistics and probability vs emotion and greed.

But I swear the show is like polonium. Both take years off my life expectancy.

Every show starts with me shouting at the TV.

“This talentless sack of air has no fucking chance.”


They then proceed to get a high offer, consider making a deal, and then their 3 most stupidest of friends - all traffic-cone sized dildos - tell them to keep going.

Argh! Don't get me started on Family Feud that starts at 6pm.

Sunday, January 29

Laugh. Love. Liberate!

Our last day in Vegas. Time to dig into the back of the bag to find any loose change.

Despite (or maybe because of) my daily efforts at humor it takes a lot for Anne to laugh.

But once in awhile something tickles her so much she starts to cry tears of joy.

Today she ordered an iced coffee, went to the counter to add milk, but first she needed to pour out some coffee to create space.

She managed to accidentally tip all but a tablespoon’s worth of coffee into the bin.

But she still added milk. For that I love her.

But lucky in love = unlucky at gambling for Anne. 

Before she met me she hit a dozen Royal Flushes. In the 24 years since we became an item she has had zero.

I hit a Royal today. I’d love to say she delights in my good luck.

Yes. I’d love to say that...


As we waited for our flight back to SF I noticed our terminal had 4 Hudson News. Four? That’s the retail equivalent of having all 4 limbs amputated.

Arriving at SFO I found it curious that a group of policemen were traveling together and were allowed to take their guns with them.

That’s when I realized that peaceful protesters had closed down some of the airport.

We exited through a maze of back corridors. Once back in arrivals one of the protesters was kind enough to say she, “hoped our travel hadn’t been disrupted by their protests”. 

What a nice thing to say.

I say, "Keep protesting this evil racist douchebag!"

Saturday, January 28

I think the next card might be a twelve

This morning a line snaked around the Palms. The queue was full of people grasping a coupon.

Yes, it was 'free shit Saturday'.

Someone in their family is going to be the lucky recipient of a small dicer for fruits and veg this coming birthday or Christmas.

For some reason I was reminded of these way better secret Santa gift options.



For lunch we headed West to meet Anne’s college friend Amy. She’s a teacher and for that she deserves a medal.

After lunch I had my shot at being a star for the day. I rolled 4 out of the 6 possible point numbers at Craps. That earns a payout of 25-1 if you play the Fire Bet. 

25-1 is good, as long as you don’t look at the next sentence.

If I’d hit the 5th it would have paid out at 250-1, and all 6 bags you a 1000-1 payout.

Later in the evening we hit Boulder Station where Anne and I played Blackjack.

The over-riding point of Blackjack is for the table to beat the dealer. As such the whole table should play to the same system of when to hit and when to stay. 

I remember playing for three hours straight once and towards the end of hour three I mistakenly hit instead of staying, and I got daggers from the old ladies at my table.

Tonight we were joined by a young Mexican man who had decided tonight was the night he was going to play Blackjack for the first time.

It may even have been the first time he'd tried counting to 21. I wouldn’t trust this kid to fold an ironing board.

One time he hit on 17 when the dealer was showing a 3.

Conversely he decided to say on 11, when she was showing a 10.

Genius!

Friday, January 27

Leave the money on the dresser baby

Fans of Bruce Springsteen know that working men get paid on a Friday. 

It seemed they were all in the cashier line at Palace Station today as I tried in vain to cash in some chips. 

I’d say winnings but it was really only a few chips I kept to walk away with dignity. I never win at that place. 

The highlight was Tiffany our lunchtime waitress who decided to name Anne ‘beautiful’ for the whole lunch.

Next we kept a promise to Anne’s mom and visited the newest Vegas casino that is primarily built for a Chinese clientele. 

Lucky Dragon’s signs are mostly in Chinese, smoke that Mr President! 

It was like every other casino. Full of Asian ladies playing Pai Gow.

Next stop on our non-Strip tour was the Rio. Famous for my brother-in-law once saying, “They have the prettiest drinks girls”. 

Because of an Apple Maps snafu we parked at the other end of the hotel. Walked a mile to reach the casino. Didn’t like the vibe, and exited back to our car.

The waitresses outfits are still skimpy, but also a little frayed. 

And they didn’t have acrobats flying around the ceiling anymore. 

Tut.

I generally find Blackjack a bit slow and boring. I prefer to lose my money fast! 

But I’m a sucker for a silly bet, and it seems each casino has some crazy blackjack side bet. 

There was one that I still couldn't work out despite sitting at the table for 30 minutes and losing on each deal.

After a long day out we headed up to our suite to find the money we left for the maid had been carefully moved from the pillow to the dresser.

They did this everyday. Are Vegas maids not allowed to take tips?

Thursday, January 26

When did Planters start making lube?

We headed to Las Vegas tonight. 

And as we flew south from SFO I think I saw the new spaceship shaped Apple building all lit up. 

Well it excited me anyway.


I've the usual garden variety moans and groans of travel. How was that Oatmeal cookie worth $4? Why does everyone crowd the gate before their number is called? Dogs on planes. Over-sized pillows on a 58 minute flight. Blah, blah, blah.

After you pick up bags and get on the shuttle to car rental it seem like you ride for 50 minutes.

And at all times your line of sight includes a billboard for a personal injury lawyer. They seem like nice people don't they? 

For the 2nd time during this West Coast trip we were awarded an SUV with Washington plates, and then we headed for our carefully selected lodgings!

I chose The Palms because, it's not on the Strip, and it's not Downtown (which I learned last year is full of crazies).

The Palms has 2 towers, and of course we were awarded a suite in the Ivory Tower.

This is relevant because if we ever turn into one of those couples who 'name' their house, it will be Ivory Tower, based on a family member once saying we lived in an Ivory Tower in wonderfully liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts.

By definition it is; an environment of intellectual pursuit disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life.

I like that!


It was almost 9pm by the time we reached our suite. And almost 9.10 by the time I stopped opening every drawer, closet, and curtain plus checking out all of the lotions and potions.

This included an intimacy kit which included the sexiest of all disclaimers; made in a  facility that also processes peanuts. 

Wednesday, January 25

Cardio Time

Another bright and warm day and another long walk.

Today we took the cardio route and decided to walk uphill to Pacific Heights.

We took the walk out of sequence, starting at Broderick with a thigh burning climb.

At Vallejo you get to an even steeper part that even the Staircase Book says to avoid.

I'd guess it was a 60° incline with no steps. We saw some kids at the top with a big plastic sheet and an unhealthy death wish.

The cynic in me would say how nice Pac. Heights will be when it’s finished. 

There is so much refurb happening on every street, and you have to imagine it’s nouveau riche tech people!

I didn’t take any photos walking uphill. I was too busy gasping for air.

But here are some views from the Lyon staircase.



After a walk along the Presidio Fence you finally reach the Palace of Fine Arts. 

Anne and I visited this place 24 years ago with her room-mate Kathy - who noticed the entrance fee to an exhibit was a suggestion. 

She suggested we pay nothing.


From there it’s a short walk to the Bay, just in time for the start of the sunset.


Tuesday, January 24

A sunny afternoon and a long walk


Today we headed for a part of San Francisco that is close to a bunch of popular tourist sites. 

Yet neither of us have ever visited.

Fort Mason is wedged between the Palace of Fine Arts and the tourist kitsch of Fisherman’s Wharf.

Along the way we saw a middle-aged woman in a tutu skirt and heels walking 3 dogs that would be best described as Small, Medium and Large. 

My intention isn’t to shame her clothing choices. No. She had the most defined calf muscles we have ever seen. Good for her.

<<<  Next we saw this as we entered Fort Mason. 

It’s one of a number of Peace Madonna statues by Beniamino Bufano that are dotted around the city. 

The colorful part at the base is an ornate mosaic.

This part was pretty much the only hilly section of our walk - always a bonus in San Francisco. 

The Marina district is mostly reclaimed land. 

But the hill did give us the joy of seeing a family on rented bicycles. 

The kids had that letdown look on their faces as they tried and failed to maintain uphill momentum.


Next is a C shaped pier jutting out into the Bay. It’s awfully run down but gives you some amazing views of the GG Bridge, the City, Alcatraz and beyond.


There’s also a sign warning boats to watch out for swimmers. No swimmers today.

Finally we headed back around and towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We made it just past the Cable Cars, but there’s only so many themed restaurants you can walk past before you feel defeated by life.

We came back around the Fort on Bay Street where we saw this piece of savvy security. Apologies to the dog doing his business.


America. Home of the stupidest fences.

Along the way we came across some beautiful almost tropical plant-life. Great walk!


Monday, January 23

The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies

In the news today was the announcement of Gorden Kaye’s death. 

So I get to re-hash the story of my all-time career high.

For people who don’t follow 1980s low-grade British comedy, starring camp Nazis, Gorden Kaye played unlikely French wartime lothario René Artois in the BBC “comedy” 'Allo 'Allo.


The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies was one of several recurring jokes each week. 

Oh how we all … tittered back then.

My second job out of college lasted about 6 weeks. 

I worked for an ad agency who only advertised cars. Oh the glamor!

I managed to get myself a severe warning for an ad with the headline,
“A new G, way better than a good F.” 

My creative director should not have signed it off, and from that day on he was dead to me.

So I was surprised when only a week later he also approved my pièce de résistance - a dreadful radio ad I wrote for some crappy French car. 

Gorden adopting his comedy-gold French accent delivered the lines hammier than a pig eating a bacon sandwich wearing a West Ham scarf.

A week later I jumped ship!

Sunday, January 22

Virtual Cyclist


Ratcheting the asininity up to 11, a man from Dundee just became the first person to virtually cycle from Land's End to John o'Groats.

"Hey, I’m riding through the Yorkshire Dales, shall we call into the pub for a pint?"

"Oops, my mistake, that’s a book-case."


Saturday, January 21

What Do We Want? Puns on Signs!


Once I learned men were allowed on the Womens' March I signed up for marching with Anne in Oakland.

What a wonderful feeling to be part of a peaceful protest as people from all over the Bay Area walked for a common cause.

After 10 minutes spent erroneously stood in the coffee line, we spent another 50 mingling with friends, and in my case applying pink cat ears.

At 11 we joined the throng (a word way too close to thong for my liking) and patiently awaited the signal to set off. 

Sadly, although 60,000 people had showed up, nobody had thought to say, “Let’s Go”. 

As the crowd kept shuffling forward squishing us closer and closer together, I tried my best to lose the feeling of agoraphobia by reading signs.






Helping to pass the time pre-march were the wonderfully entertaining, yet incredibly unsynchronized De-Gender-Ettes.


And then about an hour into the crushing shuffle we looked behind and realized there had been a breakaway faction who decided to march a different route.

Emboldened we joined them. Along the way we walked with a guy and his sound system. On loop was just the one song which appeared to be entitled, “Fuck T****” 

We eventually re-joined the main march and after 3 hours my FitBit revealed we’d walked … about 2 miles.


Overall a great morning among like-minded people.

Thursday, January 19

Harmony

In the gym today 2 women were working out together. 

One Caucasian and one Asian.

The Caucasian had a tattoo of Asian characters. 

And the Asian’s tattoo was written in English.

That’s all.

Wednesday, January 18

Multiple Choice

My march towards old age is definitely picking up steam.

For a few years now I’ve subscribed to the idea that if you find something you like, buy multiples of it.

Particularly clothes. 

Thus I only have one brand of socks (Paul Smith), 2 Uniqlo ski jackets, 10 Prana T-Shirts, 4 pairs of Qor shorts, and I pretty much only wear Keen shoes. 

And let’s not even start to discuss slippers.

I fell in love with Bonobos Summer Weight Jeans last year. I stupidly only bought 3 pairs and one of them has already worn out (damn that thin summer fabric).


And they’re not selling them anymore!


Faced with a Jean crisis I went on a huge internet search for thin-weight, slim-fit jeans with a bit of stretch built in for my athletic excursions (read food indulgences).

When you throw shit against a wall, you don’t expect it ALL to stick. 

But in a never before seen miracle, all 7 pairs of jeans I ordered have fit perfectly. And I’ve still got 2 more to arrive.

To help visualize, here's a picture of another British middle-aged man modeling jeans.

Love the jeans Dan, not sure about the cardigan.

Tuesday, January 17

Oh, you spell it with an e

I’ve recently been working on a range of spices. A few of them are sold with a grinder.

Consequently we’ve had to place a huge claim on the packaging that says Grinder.

Not to be confused with Grindr.

"Hey darling, I think you put too much single gay men in this sea urchin risotto".


Monday, January 16

Marketing

Just back from my daily morning stroll down to Starbucks in the Marin Mart.

I don’t really go for the coffee. Instead it’s my first chance to get some fresh air and bright California sunshine each morning.

It’s also a continuation of the love/hate relationship we have with the people who frequent both the yoga studio and the Pressed Juicery place next door selling beverages that even Starbucks would characterize as being “a bit pricey”.



Also on the way to Starbucks we pass a Soul Cycle. Unfortunately they’ve made the news for the wrong reasons this past week.


This was one of a few articles I read where the journalist but viral disease together with sweaty workout environment resulting in death.



And being the sucker I am for anything new I tried Starbuck’s latest remix of coffee and milk. Here’s their blurb.

Inside each coffee cherry are the seeds we’ve all come to know as coffee beans. Cascara is the dried fruit of the cherry itself. It lends delicious, subtle notes of dark brown sugar and luscious maple.

It tasted like a latte.

They really are running Taco Bell close for the number of ways you can re-invent and re-name a handful of ingredients.


Sunday, January 15

Open House. Open Wallet

With the hullabaloo of the lease on our minds we thought it would be fun to visit some open houses today.

Survey said, “Ugh, uhhhhh”.

Our choices were a combination of what we would need, aligned with what’s affordable.

But affordable requires some Californian contextualizing. Half a million gets you less than a 1,000 sq. ft. And that's for 20 minutes outside of San Francisco.

First up was this one.


Admittedly it has an OK view from the balcony. Sadly the balcony is only a 4.2 tremor away from no longer being a balcony. If I was the real estate agent my most used phrase would be “Bijou”.

A note about the photos on the listing. They appear to have been shot on a digital camera from 1997.

Next up was this one.


Naturally, being more expensive I liked it. The apartment was very nice, with chic styling, a bigger balcony but with less of a view.

The photographer for this listing loves close-ups of fixtures and fittings.

The quote this time belongs to Anne. “For 3/4 of a million I’d expect the washer/dryer to be inside the apartment".

And so we went to number 3.


Bonus point for the first cat we’ve seen during this trip.

Inside we met the third nice real estate agent of the day. Honestly I’d find this job demoralizing.

This one was small and cramped, but enough about the agent, how was the apartment?

Again, a beige horror show and the best feature was the condo tennis court further down the road. We both gave it a backhand smash.

Saturday, January 14

Tales of the City

Sky = Blue. Sun = Out. So our destination was San Francisco.

There’s always that magical feeling of going over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Presidio towards Golden Gate Park. Why? Well it used to be Anne’s commute home when she lived in Western Addition. Not that she remembers it of course!

Today we parked on Fulton and were soon lost inside the Park. Our first destination was the Bison Paddock. Who knew that in this small corner of SF, big old bison roam around thinking they’re in a small enclave of Yellowstone?

I realize the photo looks like photoshopped bison clip art, but they're hardly going to let bison mingle with the joggers are they?



Invariably given our age one of us soon needed to pee. We saw a building with a chiseled stone sign that we thought said San Francisco Yacht Club. Guessing it would be a members only affair we happily readjusted our prejudices when  we realized it was San Francisco Model Yacht Club. Incredibly they allow non-model-yacht holders inside to pee.

As ever when we walk a park, we bemoan the lack of Shazam for Trees. We think we saw eucalyptus based on the smell, and lots of these twisty fellas.



It’s hard to ignore how San Francisco has changed. The place seems to be full of rich tech dudes with bitchin' frisbee skills. And older Asian women with oversized sun visors and poor dentistry.

After a 5.2 mile walk (thanks Strava) we earned a late-morning beverage. I’ve already forgot the name. It might have been Rise and Grind or some other cringe-worthy aphorism.

They had huge ginger cookies. And I love ginger cookies. Especially huge ones. Oddly they placed the cookie on a dinner plate that made me look even more gluttonous.

Today’s throwback 80s tune was Love Come Down by Evelyn "Champagne" King. For me, she was the female Colonel Abrams. Who I suspect was not a real Colonel.

And the captain of Captain and Tennille? Not a real captain.

Walking back to our car we saw this impressive park job.



We were back home by lunchtime. Still no lease beyond the start of February. But hey, that's weeks away.