Tuesday, February 28

An Ascent up The Filbert Steps

I recommended this walk to my friend Adrian who is visiting San Francisco in the summer.

I think it's my favorite walk in the City. 


To view it on the map it looks like a couple of blocks from Sansome to Coit Tower.

Of course you have a 30° steep climb on wooden steps through beautifully kept homes and gardens.

As you climb you get wonderful views of the Bay and Bay Bridge.

A bonus at this time of year, the parrots (featured in The Parrots of Telegraph Hill) are home and squawking like crazy.

The cruise ship you see in this photo left shortly afterwards, and as we drove home it was exiting the Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge.


In reality it's only a short, but lung-busting walk, so instead of descending on the Greenwich Steps the next block over, we headed down the other side of the hill into North Beach.

We ended up at a small park in Russian Hill where the fittest teenagers you ever saw were running laps up and around the park. We smiled at them as we walked. 

Monday, February 27

Ain't Nothing Goin' On But The Rent

We've formed a bit of a close knit community with fellow lease-less tenants in our courtyard of homes.

We update each other with basically the same info - that we don't have a lease yet, or our cable was cut off, or the main leasing office said this or that.

Today 4 homes including ours found this hanging from the front door.

We walked over, calmly, to the leasing office, and were met by Paul (the best of the 4 in that office), who said, as he held his hand over the mouthpiece of the phone, that he was, "dealing with it".

So that's sorted then! Maybe we'll stockpile bottled water just in case.


Saturday, February 25

Mission Omissions

Can I get a Hallelujah? Boots, the man from Comcast arrived at 7.40am to give us back our internet and cable. Glory be!

After connecting our 11 devices (well there's only 2 of us here), we decided to celebrate by driving down into the Mission to eat over-priced bakery.

I'd read an interview in this month's Lonely Planet magazine. The owner of Craftsman and Wolves gave his favorite places to visit in San Francisco. And amazingly 80% of them were on one block of Valencia in the Mission.

We had coffee and snacks at CAW. I went for the Valrhona-chocolate chocolate (no idea why there are 2 chocolates in there) croissant with churro sugar. Anne chose banana bread with sprinkles of desiccated coconut.


We sat next to a guy who had their signature 'Rebel Within'. As owner William Werner says, "it's a study in complex simplicity". Yeah, read that again. Complex simplicity.

It looks like a muffin but it's made from sausage, asiago and green onion dough, with a soft-boiled egg nestled inside.

The guy next to us said, "It's alright but not worth $8". Thank you Jay Rayner.

After a short excursion to the small-batch chocolate shop next door (bean-to-bar is their phrase of choice), we headed up Mission and found a proper local bookstore. 

Books purchased we wandered back to the car, via a few more stores, and drove the short distance to Anne's old neighborhood. In the 90s it wasn't as nice, but now this cozy 'hood on Divisadero is full of beautiful people, yoga studios and small-plate restaurants.


We went large plate instead and enjoyed lunch at 4505 BBQ.

With full bellies we drove home, but not before we stopped at everyone's favorite liquor store, BevMo!

I'm more likely to frequent a store with an exclamation point included!

Referring back to the CAW interview, William had said his go-to tipple was Fernet.

It's not the easiest thing to like. I mixed it with Coke, Anne chose Orange. I also hear Ginger Ale works.

But bitter Italian drinks are definitely our thing at the moment.

Going to see if this stuff works in a Spritz by substituting the Aperol.

Those 11 devices? 2 phones, 2 iPads, 3 laptops, 1 desktop, 2 Apple TVs, and an Amazon Fire.


Friday, February 24

Jazz Hands


Friday night is Jazz Night at the Marin Mart! Look how clear Mt Tam is in the background too.

A clear, and NOT cold night - perfect for some outdoor jazz noodling and adult beverages after a stressful second day of no proper internet.

But yes, insert gasps here, it was too cold for the jazzy musicians to play outside.

I should explain Diesel isn't the clothing store. 

It's the local bookstore who by some miracle of shittiness manage to be that rare independent bookstore that you hate more than a multi-national. 

It might be the cardigan-clad owner with his painfully obsequious comments and recommendations. 

It may the locals with their expensive and fashionable canine accessories, or maybe I never find anything I like in there.

But.

What you couldn't miss was the guitar and bass duet of James and John giving some funky fret workout while the locals enjoyed over-priced de-constructed tacos.

This is what was playing as I browsed the self-improvement section.


Just a small correction. It's Damon Albarn, although I'm sure he would approve.


Thursday, February 23

Basic Human Rights

Of course I'm talking about High Speed Internet.

As that famous Muddy Waters track goes, "Woke up this morning, I had no wi-fi".

Calls to Comcast unsurprisingly revealed that our sub-letting agent hadn't payed the bill.

We've been waiting 6 weeks for a new lease so my hopes of getting this resolved quickly are about level with the speed of a white Mississippi cop solving the murder of an African American child in the 1950s. Or 2017 for that matter.

I managed to get through my work day but then this evening we had the ignominy of watching a TV show on a laptop. I'm 46. Only people under 35 do this!

We had binge watched 6 of 8 episodes of Paranoid the previous 2 nights, and almost pushed through to the end Wednesday.

Good show. Watch it!

Wednesday, February 22

Windy

The sun finally came out today after a few days of rain-ageddon.

We celebrated by taking a drive downtown and a walk along Crissy Field overlooking the Bay.


These crazy kite-surfers were out doing their thing. 

One guy nearly crashed into the Sausalito Ferry.

It's a lovely walk all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge.


It's also the place where I tried in vain a few years ago to get my (land) kite to work. 

No success despite parental help!

In other news the Coqui Frogs have returned!

Their amorous croaking fills the night-time air outside our apartment.

There's a part of Hawaii that has the same problem and they found that feeding them caffeine helps them 'go away'.

I don't know if go away is a euphemism for gases them to death or more literally would move them to the next town.

Currently we're still in 'that's cute' mode but I'll let you know if we morph into frog-killing coffee enablers.

Tuesday, February 21

What's bugging me today?

Thanks for asking. Let me tell you.

There's a stop sign at the end of our complex. It's a sign that's easy to miss, so consequently the Marin cops park there and do a great business in handing out chicken-shit moving-violation tickets.


I've no real issue with that, but walking down to get coffee this morning we saw the car in the middle of this photo stop and reverse back to the cop. There's actually another stop sign just behind the cop car, but nobody takes any notice of that because it's just to make you remember there's a hotel next door.

The guy rolled back and it was obvious he knew the cop. A lady cop no less!

We kept walking, ordered coffee, waited patiently for our fu-fu order, and started walking back.

10 minutes later the cop and the guy were still talking. With his car parked in the middle of the road.

Under any other circumstances if anybody just parked their car in the middle of the road, the cops would be all over you like a bad suit.

The car on the right is having drive around them.

To quote Frank Costanza, "It's not just rude, it's stupid!".

Monday, February 20

Pathetic. But with reason!

First day back to work was always going to be a busy one.

I skipped my usual morning coffee run, skipped a lunchtime walk (I've yet to walk at lunchtime usually because it's been raining!), worked late and skipped a visit to the gym.

So as I placed my FitBit on the bedside table tonight I realized I had broken my all-time LOW for the day.

Sunday, February 19

Oh Car Play

You are so beautiful!

I've been holding off getting a new car until the model I want has Car Play.

And yet like some mythical rainbow-colored unicorn I had never actually used Car Play.

Until now.

Damn it's a thing of beauty.



Saturday, February 18

Dame ohne BH?

Our final day. And a goodbye to the Ola'a Plantation Cottage that I felt we never pronounced correctly. We'll never forget your crank opened windows, infuriating wi-fi and spacious living room!



And a visual shout out to our white Hyundai Sonata that circled the island and even climbed to the top of a volcano.

We started with breakfast at the Lava Rock Café which has very quickly become our local haunt. 

Over the course of 3 separate visits it's been fun to people watch and work out the family or relationship dynamics.

We saw a punk of a kid remove his hat to say Grace with his grand-parents. Very sweet.

We saw frazzled tourists checking their watches and working out how little time they had to get back to their cruise ships in Hilo.


And numerous women traveling with their man and his parents. Some tried hard, some didn't. 

Heading west we made a stop at the Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. 


Some beach-combing and another color to tick off the (vaguely racist sounding) colored-beach list.


We drove past more coffee plantations, fresh fruit stands and macadamia nut growers. 

More random lava plains, and finally hit Kona again.

We couldn't resist one more paddle with the turtles.


Airport check-in was a breeze, and we even managed to spot the rarest of all creatures - the inefficient German. 

This family managed to hold me up on 3 separate occasions in the space of 1 hour. And lady ... wear a bra!

Our flight was quicker back to SF (4 hours). One hour of which was spent fielding worried commentary from the flight attendant about how frozen the Spinach Ravioli was. It was tasty when it finally arrived!

San Francisco was dry when we landed. The 'bombogenesis' having yet to arrive.

Our rental car for the next month has Car Play. I'm thrilled!

Friday, February 17

Thanks for showing us your kid's cock*

Today we decided to see if it was possible to view the lava ‘on foot’.

I use ‘on foot’ in dick quotes, because we had no intention of walking an 8 mile round trip in baking heat when we’d seen the marvelous lava up close the night before.

So it was super-cool to discover that a shuttle company would drive you 2 miles of the way and rent you a bike for the final 2 miles.

It was fun. The buggy driver was a good guy and the bike-riding was on a dirt road bisecting newly set jet-black lava for miles. We even passed sheds on stilts that were owned by people who lost their actual homes to the volcano 15 years ago.



I appreciate the safety but I would have been pissed to walk 8 miles for the photo below. Yes the white plume is the very same exploding rock-face we saw last night.


We were definitely spoiled by the previous night.


After a wonderful lunch (mahi-mahi BLT) we took a drive around Pahoa.


Much of the roads are tree covered and are beautiful.

We finished up at the Ahalanui Warm Springs. 


I could write a soap opera set here with all of the different characters on view. 

Hippies, hipsters, locals, swingers, swimming infants, sassy snorkelers, stone moving men, floating old women, God-botherers, hula-skirt woman with crawling baby were all on view.


Oh, and 4 modern parents (see title) appeared to share the responsibilities of one child who will grow up not knowing quite who dad is, but will have zero body issues!


* I placed an asterisk to remind myself of how often I shouted "cock" when I saw a road-side hen/rooster. I'm a child.

Thursday, February 16

Part 2 - What a (po)lava!

After a late lunch at the cornily titled Lava Rock Café (which in design terms we’d call a ‘me 2’ for their borrowed Hard Rock typography) we headed the other direction for a night boat tour of the lava exiting the land into the ocean.

The tour was very strict on weight, age, and medical issues. I half-lied about back issues. I was OK for weight and age!

The guy in charge said yesterday a woman had said she was “A little pregnant”. I realise this could mean she was a few weeks in, or if she came from the center of the country it may just have meant her half-brother had come inside her 2 hours previous.


So the picture above wasn't accurate for us. Our first surprise was we entered the boat via a step-ladder on dry land, then were driven to the jetty. Very cool!

The ride to the lava was exciting. You understood why it wasn’t for people with back issues!

As night crept in we first saw the PuʻʻŌʻō (yes, spell-checker just exploded!) in the distance with it’s lava running downhill in red glowing spots, and then you see the lava at the edge of the cliff. Wow.



The boat skipper went right up to the lava, to the point we all thought, “He’s not going to stop”. I started doing the calculation of how quickly the aluminum roof would melt!




So there you have it. 5 or 6 loops so each side of the boat got a good look. Probably about 30ft away. You could feel the heat on your face.

And then it was the 30 minute ride back. In pitch black and it started to rain. I had my hood down over my face while Anne went for the straight-jacket look with her raincoat.

Finally here's a take using the Slo-Mo function.

Part 1. Part 2 will be better!

In the words of Patti LaBelle, I got a new attitude. After a hearty breakfast we pointed the car in the direction of the most southern part of the island (and therefore the most southern part of the US - take that Florida Keys).

Our destination the Green Sandy Beach at Papakolea.

At the end of the single lane road we were met by parked cars and some carny folk offering a 4-Wheel Drive to the beach.

With it being only 85°F we turned them down and set off on foot.

It wasn’t the hardest hike we’ve done, and it took only an hour walking through dunes made by both volcanoes and 4WD. Along the way we Aloha’d people and sang Val-der-ee, Val-der-ah.

And after many false dawns we arrived at the beach. 


It was OK. The sand isn’t ‘that’ green, in fact Anne stayed ‘up top’ while I ventured down to the beach level to be pissed off by Japanese tourists stealing the sand.


More 4WD return temptations were offered but instead we headed back on foot. Along the way I managed to convince a family to turn back saying it wasn’t worth the hike! To be fair the guy looked like he could walk forever, but his high maintenance wife was in a mohair sweater with fancy shoes and their 5 yr old was already at the point of tears and they’d only walked 10 minutes.

A few minutes later a couple from OK asked the same question. Again I said it wasn’t that great, but Anne’s “You’ll earn your dinner” seemed to spur the guy on to carry on walking.

Our shoes, clothes and skin were covered in sand - the ordinary kind, not this 'green stuff'. 

But a memorable hike!



I'm reminded of the classic Blackadder, when Lord Percy created the purist 'Green'. Alchemy indeed!

Wednesday, February 15

Grumpy Puss

So our cottage went from 80°F to 40°F overnight. Swelter to shiver!

Our Wi-Fi is spottier than a Dalmatian (the dog, not someone from Dalmatia).

Today we headed for the Volcano Park.

Saw the craters, smoke, lava, and even some whales.

It was great but somehow … just what I expected. 

Am I resistant to volcanic beauty having visited Iceland and Yellowstone?


Here’s the Halema‘uma‘u Crater of the Kīlauea Volcano



A secret unfenced crater with a significant drop to challenge my fear of heights.


The smoke of Puʻu ʻŌʻō (more of this tomorrow).


Tonight we headed over to the crater again and saw the jumping lava in the dark - much better!



Oh, and this was the Spam display at Safeway. Hawaiians love their Spam!




Tuesday, February 14

Mr Mojo Rising

We managed to sit separate from the Inn crowd this morning, but were soon joined by this little fella.

 

Today we checked out of our lovely Kona-side cottage and headed for the other side.

We took the Saddle Road over the top and between the 2 big volcanoes - Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa

Mauna Kea has a visitor centre at around 9,000ft. And a slew of telescopes at the peak.

The visitor centre has a bunch of signs saying you need a 4WD to get to the top.

Our guide book said that’s not true. And our car’s a rental so we gave it a go. We probably voided the rental agreement doing so, but as long as nobody catches us it’s all good!

It’s about 8 more miles drive to reach the 14,800ft summit, and 5 of them are unpaved.

As we set off up the last part of the volcano, Roadhouse Blues came on. And as Jim Morrison says, “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel”

I won’t lie, it wasn’t the easiest drive in a Hyundai Sonata, but the view from the top was well worth it.

The breathlessness of the altitude is incredible. I cannot imagine mountaineers in the Himalayas being twice as high.

 

We’re not exactly memento people, but that was worthy of a coffee mug purchase!

Next we headed for Hilo. The guidebook and my dad both said it wasn’t anything special, but we arrived during the world car parking championships. I’ve found spaces quicker in London and San Fran than Hilo.

We took a quick northern detour to the Akaka Falls. Very nice, although I did manage an ‘out loud’ expletive when a couple walked past us as we waited to use the small viewing deck of the Kahuna Falls.

 

And then we headed for Volcano City and our home for the next few days.

The cottage is huge, but it’s irritating me in so many ways. 

Monday, February 13

A Simpler Day

My phone rang at 4am to inform me that the snow-induced parking ban in Cambridge was either starting or ending. I had just dropped back off when I got the follow up text.

I need to turn that shit off.

Breakfast was interrupted by cows. The Inn is a working farm and they came mooing across the scenery.

Spent the morning ambling around Kona. Took this one pretty photo in between watching overly fit seniors snorkel, and judging people who looked like they had come from Florida.


We decided to end 16 years of bad luck and go on our second whale watching tour.

In 2001 we spent 6 hours off the New England coast and saw one minke whale. I believe minke is Japanese for disappointedly small.

This time around we did see whales.

They would have looked like this if I had taken a photo. That’s what stock photography is for. 


The Floridian family opposite us on the top deck comprising of a deadbeat dad, poorly behaved child, dumbass grandma and not all there grandpa managed to knock over a drink 3 separate times. Did they think the holes in the tables were Whac-A-Mole?

It’s not the beverage on the child I was bothered about, it was the plastic cup falling into the ocean while the naturalist talks to the group about conservation and trash killing marine-life.

I got talking to a nice man from Seatlle and each time the kid or grannie knocked over the drink he muttered Jesus effing Christ under his breath.

Otherwise a tip-top time. We also saw dolphins. I took video of that but it turned out poorer than my selfies on Saturday.

Oh, something else that isn't tip-top, but I learned it today. Google cookiecutter shark. It's about the length of your forearm and it bites cookie-sized chunks out of dolphins, whales and seals. What a bastard.

Apparently a man was bit by one swimming from one Hawaiian island to another. He's not as innocent as the sea creatures.

Back at the cottage we found 5 geckoes hanging upside down on the roof of our deck. Love those guys!

Tonight we had dinner at a decidedly local place. Our server was a young man who had visited 65 countries including bicycling from England to Egypt. Nice kid.

We also popped into our local mart and repeated the “There is a foot of snow in Boston" line for the 15th time today.

Tomorrow we're heading for the Volcano National Park.

Mahalo!

Sunday, February 12

Fifty Shades of Pink

End of the day sat in a very Hawaiian robe in a pattern that screams, “not me”.



2 days and my transformation into a walking lobster is going well.

Today we headed back to the bay to snorkel. 

I ended up spending longer being told how to put the apparatus on than actually using it.

The flippers I could have done without but as soon as I stuck my head in the ocean I started hyper-ventilating like an asthmatic up a chimney. 

This is poor form when surrounded by children and seniors flippering around like fish.

Anne went and watched all of the beautiful bright fish of the Pacific Ocean. I put my plastic shoes back on and went wading in the area where the turtles hang out. I didn't have a dime for scale but this one was about 3 feet from head to flipper.

There were 4 turtles hanging out and the one furthest away had a rectangular box sticking out of his shell.

It appears they stuck a GPS to him but after less than a day he managed to snap the antenna off. The unit was supposed to drop off after 6 months but 2 years later it's still attached. I like to think the turtle is kind of giving a bit of an FU to the marine biology community.

This afternoon we headed north. Lava flows stretch all the way down to the ocean. They look other-wordlly. If that's a word?

As we hit the north side of the island you see the mountains of neighbouring Maui.

Dinner and sunset was a perfect way to end the day.