They Have Hercules Pots

San Francisco Trip Day 2 – March 12

9:22 a.m. – As near as I can tell, that harsh scraping sound grating on my ear drums appears to be my eyelids grinding over my corneas. It’s bright out, but not too bright. Sort of how light it is at early dawn. (With the exception of about one hour two days from now, this is as bright as it is going to get outside for the duration of our trip.) It seems early, but there is no denying that there is sunlight coming through the window of our hotel room. Shannon is clearly still asleep, but I can’t help but wonder what time it is. I do my best to focus on the hotel alarm clock next to the bed. 8:22…cool, it isn’t that late.

Except wait!

Is it really 8:22? Didn’t daylight savings time kick in even before we went to bed? I’m pretty sure it did and unless the tooth fairy has an unscrupulous business associate that messes with clocks, that means it is really 9:22…now 9:23 in the morning. Crap! I really should get up or we are going to waste an entire day of our vacation. I’ll just lift the blanket up and…

10:27 a.m. – Wow, that went quick. I really do need to get up now. I’ll hop in the shower and…and what? Put on a fresh set of clothes? Apply some deodorant? Brush my teeth? How hilarious I sound now that I recall we don’t have any luggage/personal care items thanks to my new best friend, the absent pilot from Southwest who teed up and set in motion the entire nightmare from the day! Clearly, my first agenda item is to find the nearest Walgreen’s/CVS and get what basic necessities we can’t live without until our bag shows up, hopefully later today.

However, before that, I need to plug my phone in as I forgot last night and it is getting dangerously low.

10:28 a.m. – #%*@!!! All that self-congratulatory back-slapping I did for myself the night before was a little premature as I realize the charger I had thrown in my carry-on didn’t match the cord I had thrown in my carry-on and is therefore useless to me. Add charger cable to my list of necessities I need to find basically immediately.

10:43 a.m. – Good News: There is a Walgreen’s literally across the intersection from our hotel and I am able to get all of the basic self-care items I need along with a charging cord for my phone. Bad News: They are sold out of Dr. Pepper Zero. What in the crap is the problem with either the Dr. Pepper corporation or else every solitary retailer in this freaking entire nation that we can’t stock the single greatest culinary invention from the previous two decades combined at decent levels so that I won’t have to stare at empty shelf after empty shelf where Dr. Pepper Zero should be, wondering where I’m going to get my next fix? It’s criminal and needs to be addressed. This has nothing to do specifically with my vacation, but I felt it needed to be addressed.

10:52 a.m. – Shannon has jumped in the shower, so I go in search of a CVS that apparently exists somewhere on Fisherman’s Wharf where I believe the possibility of finding a Dr. Pepper Zero exists. Yes, this was my entire motivation and yes, I understand how pathetic it sounds. Don’t care!

11:06 a.m. – I walk three-quarters of a mile, but I find that CVS and blessed day, they have Dr. Pepper Zero! I buy two.

I begin the walk back to the hotel. I haven’t mentioned this, but it is raining. Not a steady rain like we are used to in Arizona, but more like a swirling misty rain like I experienced during my mission in England. It gives you the illusion that it isn’t really raining that bad, but when you get where you are going, you find you are just as wet as you would have been walking through a regular rainstorm. This walk is making me nostalgic for my mission. It is also soaking me through quite effectively.

11:54 a.m. – We have put ourselves together as effectively as possible and it is time to find something to eat. We haven’t really eaten since the shrink-wrapped sandwiches from the night before and we are ready to try something unique here in this city which apparently is teaming with awesome culinary opportunities.

We decide to try a Korean restaurant called Surisan, which is located one block from our hotel. (A block in San Francisco meaning I could throw a rock from our hotel window and hit it…especially since I’d be throwing it downhill. Basically what I’m trying to convey is that city blocks aren’t very big and there isn’t one flat piece of ground in the entire bay area.) They apparently have an amazing blueberry French toast plate that they include as part of their brunch menu. Korean restaurant/French toast??? Whatever, it sounds great.

12:02 p.m. – We arrive and the place is hopping. It is not warm outside and yet all of their outdoor seating is full. At least the part not directly in the rain. However, because there are only two of us, we get in and as we walk to our table, we see a large number of patrons with this noodle dish in front of them. We are intrigued. We look on the menu and discover that this dish is called Pimped Up Ramyun. I kid you not, that is its name. Now, there are a number of things going on with this dish. First off, the pimped-up part has to be associated with the fact that you can buy these exact ramyun noodles at Walmart for about $1.75, but the dish is listed as $21 on the menu. So…not sure what they added to the noodles, but it must have included platinum dust. Additionally, this place has been featured on television for its Millionaire’s Bacon, which you get one slice of with the noodles, so there is that as well. They also put a fried egg on top. Oh, for heaven’s sake, here’s a picture of it:

Obviously we ordered it along with the blueberry French toast and then split them both between us.

12:16 p.m. – Why did we bother with that stupid French toast crap? The noodles are to die for. To be fair, the French toast isn’t bad either, but it is no Pimped Up Ramyun, I’ll tell you what! And the bacon? To call it Millionaire’s Bacon may be a bit of hyperbole…but not much. That was amazing bacon! This meal on it’s own has single-handedly saved the vacation that had started into a toilet spiral the night before.

12:39 p.m. – We get the bill. I’m still loving this meal and it is still the saving grace of our trip thus far, but I made one mistake. I ordered an orange juice. SEVEN BUCKS!!! I won’t be making that mistake again. Dr. Pepper Zero only from here on out. Shannon suggests that water is also good, and free. I patronizingly chuckle at her naivete.

12:47 p.m. – Walking back to our hotel, we decide we have everything we need to head out for whatever it is we want to do, especially since we have no luggage. After a bit of discussion, we decide to head to the Legion of Honor Art Museum. This means it is now time to discover how to navigate the city’s mass transit system. Handily enough, there is a bus stop on our way back towards the hotel (half a rock’s throw distance I guess) and I get on my phone and discover the bus we need can pick us up at that exact spot. Awesome!

12:52 p.m. – The bus arrives and we realize we are on the wrong side of the street to catch said bus. We wave frantically and run across the street and get on. Shannon starts to try to pay and the bus driver is literally like, “Whatever, just get on and don’t worry about it.” But since we are good God-fearing people, we are determined to be honest and so she keeps trying, much to the chagrin of the bus driver. Meanwhile, I have started a conversation with another city transit worker on the bus and he asks where we are going. I tell him and he informs me we are on the wrong bus. We were on the right side of the road to begin with. Fortunately, Shannon has not had any success getting the machine to accept her dollar bill and so we hop off the wrong bus and watch helplessly as the correct bus we needed to catch pulls away from the stop we had been at just three minutes before.

12:55 p.m. – Back at the correct bus stop, we meet a family from Tucson, of all places, who are visiting San Francisco as well. They inform us that if we are going to do the bus thing for three days, we need to download the app and that you can purchase a day pass on the app and then not have to worry about tickets. Awesome! They also inform us that we can pretty much ride for free if we want because not one bus driver gives a rat’s behind whether we pay or not, they only care about getting you on, getting you seated and taking off for the next stop. Schedule is everything to them. Good to know! I get the app and go ahead and buy the day pass for both of us. I half-heartedly try to scan it throughout the day, but it never works and no one seems to care anyway. Cest la Vie!

1:46 p.m. – After a couple of confusing bus transfers that were very harrowing in the moment, but ultimately successful, we arrived at the Legion of Honor. My first impression? I was impressed that they had a golf course right across the parking lot. Just kidding! Well, kind of. I did gawk at the golf course for a moment, but then moved on.

1:50 p.m. – Coming through the front door, I am greeted by Rodin’s The Thinker. The ORIGINAL Thinker! I haven’t even made it to the front desk and I am looking at a piece of art I have actually heard of in my life. Holy crap! I think this might be the first super legitimate art museum I have been to in my life.

2:01 p.m. – The person we purchase our tickets from is originally from Tucson. This comes up because Shannon is wearing an Eastern Arizona hoodie and I am wearing an Arizona State hoodie. As an aside, the number of people we met on this trip either from or with ties to Tucson was statistically astounding. Anyway, he was super friendly and asked if there were any teachers in our group. I thought he said teenagers and replied, “No.” Shannon nudged me and whispered, I’m a teacher, which…she now is. And when it comes to art, she has been for fifteen years having taught art masterpiece classes in the classroom of every single one of our children. But as it relates to this moment, the kind ticket dude gave us the student rate and we got in to this amazing museum for $6 each. As he handed us our tickets, he said, “We Arizonans have to take care of each other.” Dang! I have to admit that Tucson is growing on me. I don’t want to like go there or anything, but man, the people seem pretty cool. At least the ones in San Francisco.

2:05 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – For Shannon? Two and a half hours of heaven. For me? An hour and a half of very enjoyable art observing, a half hour of, “I hope she gets tired of this soon,” and then a half hour of, “Hey, they have Hercules pots downstairs” coupled with, “Please don’t make me go to the Porcelain Room.” The Hercules pots were really cool. And yes, I realize how neophytish I sound calling them Hercules pots.

Here are some examples of the art we saw:

Rodin’s The Thinker


Russian Bride Painting That Is Bigger Than My Living Room

Van Gogh

Greek Pottery from 500 BC

One interesting thing about this one.

It’s a Danish artist’s interpretation of the Calling of Matthew. Yes, that Matthew! We chuckle at how much it doesn’t resemble the clothing or skin color we had seen recently when viewing the same moment in history depicted on an episode of The Chosen. But it is interesting to us that many of these artists painted things as they would have been in their own time period and made no effort to paint a scene in its proper historical context. No judgement, just an interesting observation.

5:22 p.m. – We arrive back at the hotel to find that our bag has made the grueling trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco. It was an incredibly joyous reunion. I went upstairs and immediately took a shower.

6:13 p.m. – For dinner, we decide to try another restaurant within spitting distance from our hotel called Brick and Beam. I assume it takes its name from the fact that the building is entirely made of red brick and inside you can see the beams holding up the roof. It’s only a guess, but I feel pretty confident I’m on to something. The burgers were pretty good, but they were no ramyun noodles that had been marked up 1000%.

7:03 p.m. – It is probably best if we walk off the dinner we just had and so we start down towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We step into some shops looking for a Golden State Warriors shirt for Shannon so that she won’t be out of place at the game the following night. But we are not successful. What’s interesting is that everything is pretty much shutting down and it isn’t even 8 p.m. I hadn’t realized San Francisco is the City that Yells Shut The #$!@ Up I’m Trying to Sleep, beginning at 9 p.m.

7:48 p.m. – Any walk along Fisherman’s Wharf worth its salt will end at Ghiradelli’s Square. Our walk was worth its salt. However, as we arrived Shannon saw that the main Ghiradelli’s store was closed for remodeling. She was not impressed.

7:52 p.m. – Never fear. Another location was open that allowed us to get a wee bit ice cream smothered in hot fudge and caramel. Our trip was saved!

8:41 p.m. – We arrive back at our hotel and settle in for the night. For the first time, I turn on the TV and try to find something to watch. I don’t know how it happened but I ended up stopping on Magnum PI. Not the old one, but the new one. I apologize up front to any fans of this show, but let me just say. THAT SHOW SUCKS! It is terrible. We kept watching only because it resembled a car wreck and everyone knows you can’t look away from a car wreck. It is a travesty what they have done to the memory of Tom Selleck and a truly great 80’s television show. The only thing worse is…

10 p.m. – …a horrific episode of Murder, She Wrote. Not a remake, the original. Good night that show has not aged well. Was everyone really that bad of an actor in the ’80s? Thankfully, we were saved by…

11 p.m. – …Monk! That show has aged fine. Hallelujah! My faith in crime procedurals was taking a beating.

12:00 a.m. – With our faith restored in television, we turn out the lights and call it a day.


It’s Gone South by Southwest

As a journal writer, I suck! I just struggle to provide any detail to the rather mundane details of my life. However, if I believe there is a possibility someone out there might actually read what I’m writing, I feel a pressure to add detail and description that would make my musings somewhat interesting. With that in mind, I’m harkening back to blog posts from yesteryear as I chronicle the recent 25th Anniversary trip Shannon and I took to San Francisco…just two and a half months after our 27th anniversary. (Thanks again, COVID-19!) With that said, bail now or forever hold your peace.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

3:47 p.m. – Since I am old enough to remember the events of 9/11 and the realities of air travel in the months and years that followed, for twenty years I have been diligent in following the TSA’s advice of arriving 2 hours prior to my flight time to ensure that I make it through security. Our flight to San Francisco leaves at 5:35 and I am feeling guilty that we are little late. However, I’m seeing the crowd levels in Sky Harbor and feel fairly confident that we have arrived in plenty of time.

3:56 p.m. – Aaaand, we are through security with approximately an hour and 15 minutes to kill before boarding begins. Twenty freaking years and I still haven’t learned that I don’t need nearly this much time to get through airport security. Oh well, it will give us time to find a good place to eat before we get on the plane.

4:43 p.m. – Having literally hiked the entire square of gates A through D in Terminal 4, Shannon and I realize there is not one airport restaurant we have any interest in. It’s fine! We should be landing in San Francisco on our connecting flight from Burbank around 8 p.m. We can wait and eat there. San Francisco is known for its restaurants and culinary options. Just be patient. That single egg and piece of toast I ate at 9 this morning will be fine. Everything will be fine!

5:05 p.m. – Boarding begins right on time. This is a good sign!!!

5:25 p.m. – Everyone is on the plane and seated and life is good. We even got seats right next to each other, which is never guaranteed on a Southwest flight! We are truly favored by the airline gods!!! My only question is should I be concerned about the wall of dark clouds forming in the distance? I shake off this negative thought. We will be in the air long before they can cause any problems.

5:30 p.m. – The dark clouds turn out to be no problem at all. However, the pilot that is supposed to fly our plane not being in Phoenix yet is a problem. A big problem! Yet the very jovial flight crew doesn’t seem to think it’s that big of a deal. They are yucking it up and having a grand time at the front of the plane. Meanwhile, several of us passengers in the back begin comparing notes and realize that several of us only have between 45 minutes to an hour to make a connecting flight. This concerns us a great deal.

5:52 p.m. – We finally get the attention of a flight attendant and ask about connecting flights. Now, I don’t think I’m out of line here, but I would think that someone in the airline business would have connecting flight issues at the forefront of their mind if a flight is delayed. Am I crazy for thinking that? Apparently, because we seemed to catch this flight attendant completely by surprise with this question. She walks to the front of the plane and suddenly the entire jovial crowd starts looking very concerned.

5:55 p.m. – A crew member gets on the intercom and asks how many of us are connecting to San Francisco. There are nine of us. They tell us we need to get off the plane immediately and reticket for the next flight that will get us to San Francisco. You know what’s funny? A direct flight for San Francisco left a few gates over from where we boarded at 5:50 p.m. Actually, that’s not that funny.

6:14 p.m. – We finally make it to the ticketing agent desk and commence to have a good news/bad news conversation. The good news? The next flight to San Francisco is a direct flight meaning we will not have to deal with any connection issues. And thus concludes the good news portion of our conversation. The bad news? It isn’t scheduled to depart until 10:55 p.m., which would then put us in San Francisco around 12:05 a.m. Oh, and we had to voluntarily separate ourselves from our baggage which is still headed to Burbank with no clear idea whether it will get to San Francisco at all seeing as it has missed the same connecting flight we did. I felt a twinge of sadness for our bag, all alone in an unfamiliar city, not sure where it is spending the night. Then I looked around and realized, at least our bag was closer to San Francisco than we were. At this point, it is very possible that I may have freaked out.

6:31 p.m. – Now that we are ticketed for the 10:55 flight, the first order of business…don’t let those Southwest jackals see you cry. Second order of business, deal with the fact that this is scheduled to be our first vacation in which we didn’t plan on having a car. Which means we need transportation from the airport to our hotel. Transportation that would be readily available at 8:05 in the evening, but at 12:30 in the morning? Not so much.

6:48 p.m. – Special shout out to MGL Limo Worldwide who worked with us and assured us that a driver would be waiting for us at 12:30 in San Francisco. We definitely had to pay for it, but they had us covered. Next up, trying to figure out how to deal with our poor lost baggage.

6:52 p.m. – I finally get a hold of someone in baggage services with Southwest in San Francisco. At first we are told that unfortunately, they close at midnight. But then they acknowledge that they don’t leave until the last plane arrives so we will at least get to file a report in the event that our bag has not arrived in San Francisco by the time we get there. Then, I open up a complaint report with Southwest. In this moment, I feel a little bad for the people on the front lines at Southwest. It has been a ROUGH year for them. On the other hand, I am still pretty hot so I try to be polite while letting them know in no uncertain terms how little joy I am feeling in that exact moment. To my credit, I didn’t yell once.

7:07 p.m. – As an afterthought, I realize we should probably call our hotel to let them know we are coming but will definitely be a little late…or a lot late. I get them on the line and let them know that we should landing a little after midnight and that we should be there by 1 a.m. I ask them to please not give our room away because we are definitely coming. I am informed that if we aren’t there by 1 a.m., their system automatically cancels all reservations for people not physically there and they can not guarantee our room. At this point, I am doing my best to keep it together and not say anything that will freak out Shannon because the act of holding my crap together while trying desperately to not lose it on some faceless Marriott worker on the other end of the line while having my wife freak out next to me is not something I believe I am capable of pulling off. In the end, the manager I am speaking with tells me he is not on the night shift but he will pass along our message. His suggestion is that I call as soon as we land and hope for the best. I agree to do this because…my options are quickly dwindling at this point. AND I HAVEN’T EVEN LEFT ARIZONA YET!!! I’m beginning to wonder if I even should. But then the thought of all that would be involved with cancelling everything and trying to get our lost bag back sinks in and so…onward and hopefully upward, eventually.

7:38 p.m. – With all of our phone calls made and all of our arrangements as in place as we can get them, it is time to acknowledge that the egg and toast from that morning is beginning to wane significantly. So, which of those exquisite restaurants that I was so hoping to try earlier should we go to? Apparently, none of them. They must have all heard me express my lack of enthusiasm to Shannon earlier because on a Saturday night, with an airport still full of people, 80% of the restaurants in the airport close at 7 p.m.

7:47 p.m. – Our first option of what remains open is a grab and go station that sells shrink-wrapped sandwiches. I turn up my nose in disgust and exclaim that there has to be something better. We then begin our second sojourn around the Terminal 4 gates in search of something, anything better.

8:29 p.m. – Shannon and I both settle for a shrink-wrapped sandwich.

8:48 p.m. – Sandwiches inhaled (as far as shrink-wrapped sandwiches go, I’ve definitely had worse) we settle in and realize we have…just 1 and a half hours until we are scheduled to board. Deja vu sucks!!!

10:12 p.m. – We have both walked, used the restroom, and are anticipating the boarding process beginning. But…something doesn’t feel right. The plane is already parked outside, the ticket agent has felt the need to let us know that the pilot for the flight is already there and everything is good to go. However, there is a lot of huddling going on at the actual door by the gate, then at the ticketing desk, then at the gate door, then as 10:25 approaches, everyone disappears. The entire mob of folks all now standing in anticipation of boarding this flight takes on an ominous feel. It doesn’t help that the flight one gate over headed to El Paso is already an hour + delayed. They better figure something out or crap is about to go down.

10:26 p.m. – For the first time in association with this flight we hear the two phrases, “we apologize for the slight delay” and “it will be just 10 to 15 minutes.” The gate agent gets on the intercom and explains that we are waiting on a couple of passengers coming in from Las Vegas who need to make this flight and that we will be boarding in “10 to 15 minutes” and that they apologize for the “slight delay.”

10:50 p.m. – After much standing and huddling by the gate door, the Southwest folks then get on the intercom and explain that their systems are down and that they are having to do everything manually and that we should be boarding within “10 to 15 minutes.” There also may still be two passengers coming from Vegas. They say this, but they don’t sound convinced. Again, they apologize for the “slight delay.”

10:59 p.m. – We actually begin boarding, and it is within the 10 to 15 minute time frame. Well done, you! We all get on the plane (Shannon and I are not sitting together this go round) and…we sit. The flight crew again seems to be content with just hanging out as the pilot comes out to chat with the stewardesses. It’s all very collegial with the only elephant in the room being that…THE PLANE WAS SUPPOSED TO LEAVE AT 10:55.

11:12 p.m. – After having been told that we are still waiting for two passengers from Vegas, we continue to sit until the original gate agent comes on the plane and heads into the cockpit for the next ten minutes. We are finally told that the delay is due to having to do all the paperwork manually without the aid of a computer, and…there were no passengers from Vegas. They conclude with “we should be getting you out of here in the next 10 to 15 minutes and we apologize for the slight delay.” It takes every ounce of restraint not to scream out at him that I hate him. That I hate all of them. That I have been at the airport for almost seven and a half hours and that I believe that no longer counts as a slight delay. Instead, I sit quietly and contemplate whether I truly want to be kicked off the plane or not.

11:55 p.m. – With no explanation as to why it has taken an additional 40 minutes to pull away from the gate, we begin to pull away from the gate. I look at the faces of the flight crew and realize they are just as annoyed as we the passengers are. I feel in that moment, a kinship. I feel that we should all join together and revolt against the man. But one, I don’t know how we do that. And two, any action a mob might take at this point would only serve to keep us out of San Francisco that much longer. I sit quietly and pray it won’t take long for them to serve that trail mix crap.

12:50 a.m. (California time) – We land and my first call is to the hotel. Come to find out, the night shift is totally fine with us arriving whenever as long as they know we are coming. We are good on that front. We hop off the plane and book it to the Southwest baggage office to discover that our bag is in…Las Vegas, of all places. We file a report and are assured they will deliver it to us as soon as possible. It’s 1 in the morning. None of us want to be there and we’re all annoyed. We say thanks, and don’t entirely mean it. They say no problem, and don’t entirely mean it either.

1:08 a.m. – We find our driver and we are on our way. We have been assigned a Mercedes S class car. After our day, it truly feels like a little bit of heaven. Actually, I think it would feel like a little bit of heaven even if our day had been perfect. That was a freaking nice car!

1:46 a.m. – We arrive at our hotel and they couldn’t be kinder. We make it to our room and collapse into bed. Thankfully, Shannon had the foresight to pack an extra pair of underwear each in a carry on and I had chargers for our phones. All we needed now was sleep!

1:54 a.m. – The room directly above us comes to life as the people staying there decide it is the perfect time to pick up every belonging they have in the room and drop it on the floor. Then they decide since it worked so well the first time, they try it again. This continues for about 20 minutes. I would have been livid and called to complain except…I just couldn’t care anymore. At some point, we fell asleep with the knowledge that our 25th to 27th Wedding Anniversary trip could only get better from here. Right?