Having left our hero on the verge of departing from San Francisco, we catch up with him about to leave the cyber cafe where he was composing his last report. When he first found the cafe, he had signed up for 5 hours of access, and subsequently for another 5 hours. On closing his account, he received a refund of 25 cents for the remaining 2 minutes that he had not used.
After returning to my hotel room, I did most of the packing that I needed to do, carefully wrapping a few things, and just stuffing everything else in as quickly as possible.
In the morning, I had breakfast, and completed the postcards that I had not filled in previously. When searching for stamps for the one card without, I managed to get slightly confused and lost again. It's amazing how often I can manage this.
After giving up on the stamps, I returned to the hotel to check out, and found that they sold stamps.
It was a longish wait for the bus to the airport, but I had a decent book to read, and the couch in the reception area was not too bad.
The trip to the airport was enlivened by a chatty driver who was into things like SPARC assembler. At the airport I managed to get confused (again), this time about the difference between a domestic flight, and a domestic flight followed by an international flight, but that was soon sorted out.
The flight to Atlanta departed a bit late, but due to favourable conditions, we actually arrived so early that we had to hang around on a taxi way for them to free up a gate.
While walking from the arrival gate to the departure gate, I happened to notice a certain new publication on display in a bookshop. Succumbing to the inevitable, I purchased the afore-mentioned book. Apparently the shop had already sold 60 copies that day, and a quick head count of the people on my plane found 4 people who had copies of their own.
The flight home was the worst plane trip that I have ever been on. We appeared to be chasing a bad weather system, and for a lot of the time, we had to wear our seat belts.
For a short while, they even had the cabin staff sit down, and strap themselves into their seats. It is very unnerving to be sitting in a plane that is making all sorts of odd clattery noises, whilst being jolted back and forth, with the occasional sudden drop downwards. But, as you can see, we did make it safely into Gatwick.
Given the nature of some of the books I had purchased while in America, I had had a few worries about customs, but as usual, it was simply a case of walking through "nothing to declare".
As this was sunday, the trains were, as usual, appalling, but I managed to get home after the standard long journey.
As I had tidied up before I went on holiday, the flat was nice and tidy, but I soon fixed that by emptying out my luggage all over the floor.
The holiday was fun, but it's nice to be home.
As this was my last day in San Francisco, and I was only going to visit one place, I thought that it would be a nice, simple day, with no chaos. How wrong I was. The chaos demons have been preparing for this day ever since I decided to visit this place, and they pulled off a really good job.
The first sign of the impending chaos was when I tried to book my coach to the airport. Within minutes, I was lost within a maze of automated phone menus all the same, with the system asking me for a 7-digit confirmation number. The piece of paper I had in my hands had a lot of numbers on it, but none of them were the right length. I eventually managed to sort things out, by the simple expedient of hanging up, trying again and actually following the instructions.
Having decided that I could not cope with these complicated phone systems, I wandered over to the cyber cafe to confirm my plane details using the much simpler Internet. After this, I headed off to the Exploratorium. In theory, this was simple. The bus runs from the street outside my hotel all the way to my destination. Except that is, the street outside my hotel is one way. The wrong one-way. Not a difficult problem, just head over to the next street that parallels this one and catch the bus. I get three quarters of the way to the museum, and the bus driver announces that the bus is stopping at a small bus depot, and I will have to get out. Fortunately, the next bus was along in a couple of minutes, and I caught that all rest of the way.
The Exploratorium is a fun place. Officially, it's for children, but yah boo sucks to that. There were all sorts of fun, interactive exhibits like using small steel balls to calculate square roots, making ice with a vacuum, huge magnets and balls floating in mid air.
At approximately 2PM,the chaos demons pulled off their biggest trick, and caused a power cut that took out quite a few blocks, and some of the electric buses. As a result of this, they had to get everyone out of the place, for safety reasons. After waiting around for a short while, I decided that it was unlikely that the power would come back, and so I departed. As a minor compensation, I got a "get into exhibit" free ticket that is valid for the next ten years, so if anyone fancies visiting the place, I can get you in free.
Despite reassurances that the buses ran on separate power supplies, there were no buses running in this region of SF, so I decided to walk back to somewhere where there was power. Eventually, I spotted busses going the other way, so I joined the nearest bus stop and waited for a bus to turn up. Eventually, one did. However, I had to wait for the third bus, as the first two were full, and went past without stopping.
As I was in the area, I decided to have a look at Lomdard Street, the twistiest street in the world. The only problem was getting there, as there were no buses going in quite the right directions, and the walk up to the top of the hill was a killer. In comparison, the street itself was quite easy to walk up and down. Possibly the steps had something to do with this. There was a constant supply of cars wanting to drive down this street. In fact, there was a near constant supply of people wanting to photograph cars driving down this street. The cars going down the seemed were oddly silent, due to them having to constantly brake, rather than using the engine.
Despite the fact that no one ordered a rubber duck, I decided to visit the Good Vibrations erotica store. It was an interesting place to visit, very open and clean, especially when compared to the British stores that are aimed at men. They had little displays scattered around the shop, themed on marriage. They also had a nice supply of electrical devices, including a little museum of older devices that had more euphemistic descriptions attached.
While there I purchased a few books for my delectation, a couple of which could be described as graphic novels (in several senses of the word), while the other was just another "how to" for TV's.
After this, I decided to go shoe shopping a few doors down the street. After trying on what seemed like half the shoes in the shop (OK, 5 pairs and some boots, but it sounds better that way), I reached a depressing conclusion. Boots are not for me. My calves are too fat for boots to fit properly, and the boots also make the fat calves really stand out. However, I did end up buying a couple of a pair of high heel shoes, of the type I think are called mules. There was also a pair of strappy shoes that I liked, but they were far too uncomfortable to wear, as there was some sort of hard line across the arch of my foot.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped to confirm something that may disturb one of the LJ support people – Macy's do have a cheesecake factory in the top floor of their building.
That's it. My adventures in San Francisco are almost over. All I need to do now is post the remaining post cards (which reminds me, Good Vibrations had some interesting post cards – I decided not to get any of them), pack up all my stuff and leave for England. I started this trip with high hopes, and 300 dollars. I am finishing it with a lot of good memories, a few over sunned bits of my body, well over 5000 words written about it and 40 dollars.
I'm certain that there are bits of San Francisco that I missed, and that I would have really enjoyed, but then, if you manage to do everything that a city has to offer in a week, is it a city really worth visiting?
I've just confirmed that I am addicted to the internet. I have almost nothing left to do here, but I don't want to walk away from this machine :)
As is now my habit, I broke my fast at Mel's, where, due to a minor problem with accents, I nearly ended up with bacon, rather than a bagel. I also got slightly confused about the current date. I think it is Thursday the 19th, and I go home on Saturday, but I will have to check this out. I also left my hat behind, but remembered it shortly after leaving.
After breakfast, I had a new quest that I had to undertake, the quest for stamps. Not just any stamps, the stamps that would cause little pieces of coloured and written upon card to leave this country, and reach the countries of England and Canada.
While this may seem a simple quest, it was complicated by a minor misunderstanding on my part that resulted in my purchasing a pack of 5 pre-stamped plain postcards that are unable to depart these shores. After I betrayed my geek heritage and resorted to human help, I managed to obtain the required pieces of sticky back paper, and detached a contingent of the afore mentioned cards to their destinations. Those cards that have not yet received their burden of significant ink have been stamped but retained until they are ready to make their journey.
After departing the scene of the great post card spawning, I commenced upon the path of the boat trip around the bay. While making my way to the esteemed vessel that was to be my watery chariot, I was jumped upon by a bush, or, at least, a gentleman hiding behind a piece of shrubbery made odd noises and shook it in my direction. After verifying that the plasma pump in my chest was still continuing upon it's regular pace, I proceeded to the boat.
Due to the vagaries of the tide in this area, the boat was significantly below the dock from which I was to embark, and as a result, there was a noticeably steep ramp leading down to the boat. This was, in fact, so steep that they were only allowing a few people to descend at a time, and I have to admit that I felt a minor twinge of nervousness whilst descending to the noble boat.
Once safely past all dangers, we were all given radio headphones for the commentary, and I was half expecting to lose mine over the edge of the boat. The boat trip was quite good, the view was nice, the commentary was interesting, there was a hell of a bump as we went under the Golden Gate Bridge, and when we turned around, the boat heeled over so much, I half expected to go over the edge.
Lunch was 3 cookies and a coke eaten at pier 39. The fourth cookie is hiding in my bag, waiting for its doom. While there I noticed one very Californian thing, and one very disturbing thing.
The Californian thing was an oxygen bar, with an aqua-massage machine that used water jets to give you a massage, without you having to take you clothes off.
the disturbing thing )
After lunch, I decided to wander over to the Castro district. I'm sure that there is a lot more there than I spotted, but I am a Simon of little brain, and have problems with this sort of thing. While there, I went into a gay bookshop, and suffered horrible feelings that I was about to be outed as a hetero-sexual. I also purchased a couple of magazines that I subsequently managed to leave on the tram. Not a disaster, but rather annoying.
Tomorrow is, I think, my last day here, and I'm not sure what I am going to do.
On my cards, I have a fountain, Federal Reserve Bank Museum, Well Fargo Museum, fetish footwear shop and the exploratorium . I think the last 2 are probably definite places to visit, and I'll see what else comes up.

Minor comments:
I was wearing a Xena warrior princess T-Shirt, and I got several appreciative comments about it. This T-Shirt appears to attract comments of this sort.
Does anyone know the proper way to tip in America? When do you tip? How much? Who do you give the money to?
Also, can anyone explain the Merkin traffic light system? SF has red lights, green lights, flashing red lights, red crosses, green crosses, white hands, red people, flashing red people. Also, how the hell do you know when to cross when there is no visible indication? So far, I am still alive and unhurt, but I keep getting worried about this.
I managed to find what sounds like a nice, tranny shop this morning, but it is so far out of SF that it's not really worth thinking about trying to visit. Sulk.
Today started with a minor disaster, I had lost my silver pen that I had been using to make notes with for this journal. I searched all through my hotel room, but could not find it.
Breakfast was a three cheese omelette, toasted bagel and diet Coke, at a place called "Mel's Drive In", supposedly the place that they filmed part of American Graffiti in. Quite delicious. I felt very American as I sat there at the counter, having my breakfast.
A quick diversion to the Internet cafe meant that I had my pen back in my hand, and I was ready for the challenges that would face me this day.
The first challenge was to find the Californian Academy of Science, as they did not appear to have any signs up directing innocent foreigners to it's location in Golden Gate Park. After the standard drunkards walk, I managed to find the rear entrance for disabled people, but read this as the exit. Fortunately, a person in a wheelchair turned up at this point, and I simply tagged along behind her to get in.
The first exhibit I saw was all about skulls, and had one long wall of the hall covered in skulls, all staring out at the people in the room. After a brief talk about skulls, involving a live Toucan, I saw part of a video about cleaning skulls. Basically you cut off as much of the gooey stuff as you can, and then drop it into a pile of beetles, and allow them to do the rest of the work.
Exiting the skull zone, I saw a corridor labelled the Gary Larsen Gallery. My first though was "oh my god!" This thought turned out to be accurate, as I walked and laughed my way through just about all the Far Side cartoons that could be vaguely related to the museum.
The museum is mostly about natural history, while I much prefer things like the Science Museum in London, but this was reasonably good. One problem was that they appeared to be running a number of school trips as this time, and I was surrounded by hordes of the little monsters.
Three main thing that stuck in my mind were:
The fish roundabout. This consisted of a huge circular fish tank that had a hollow centre where people could stand and watch all the fish going around and around and around in one direction. Ok, a couple of fish decided to be individuals and go the other way, but it was very impressive. Who trained all those fish?
They had an exhibition about earthquakes, including a miniature theatre that had a couple of simulated earthquakes for you to ride.
The Gems and Minerals gallery had a nice selection of rock crystals, some about half my height.
After I left the museum, I attempted to reach Haight Ashbury for a look around. I eventually managed this. What I should have done was go right a bit, and then down a bit. What I actually did was go up more than a bit, go right for a bit, and then go down for a lot longer than I really needed to.
Haight Ashbury very much reminds me of Camden Market, but aimed at an older demographic, both in age of the people visiting and in reaching further back in time to the hippy period. The only thing of any significance I did in that area was buy a book called Miss Vera's Cross-Dress for success, all about trannys and being the best you can. I've just started it, and so far it feels rather girly pink, if you see what I mean.
I also wandered into a couple of other shops, but they were not anything special.
Finally, I returned to the centre of San Francisco for dinner at Mel's (stuffed pork chop and banana cream pie), and a trip to the local cyber cafe, where I found that I have lost my pen again, and that I have to buy some more computer time so I can compose these little missives.
While I remember it, there is a local shop for ladies that has a very special duck. Would any of the ladies reading like me to try to bring one home for them?
Today's events were mostly booked when I booked my ticket to SF, so things were reasonably organized. After breakfasting, I caught the F-Tram to pier 39, and started looking for the booking office of the tour company. One scary thing I saw while looking was that part of one of the car parks had been dug up, and underneath was rotting timber.
My first attempt involved a tramcar that the name of the company plastered all over it. Of course, this wasn't the right place, and I was told to go to a different building that showed absolutely no trace of the company name at all. Naturally, this was the right place. Once I had my tickets sorted out, I just had to wait for the coach that was to take us on the tour of SF.
While waiting, I managed to knock over the sign that indicated where we were meant to be congregating for this treat. Fortunately, It did not hit any one, and in the words of Bart Simpson "I didn't do, and nobody saw me anyway."
The bus trip was a pretty standard bus tour, except that while on the way up to Twin Peaks, the engine overheated, and we had to stop for about 15 minutes for it to cool down. While we were waiting, a car came down the hill, saw us, stopped, backed up for a short distance, and then drove on again. A few minutes later, it came back up the hill, and stopped behind us. Out of the car stepped two people, who the proceeded to try (reasonably successfully) to sell t-shirts to the passengers!
Once the engine had cooled down, we continued up the hill, and down again. The downhill bit was slightly scary, as the hill was quite steep, and we had already broken down once before.
Next we stopped at the Golden Gate Park, for a 30-minute walk around. As I was feeling cheap, I avoided the Japanese tea garden, and went into the botanical garden instead. We left the park in a different bus from that we had arrived in, as they felt that it needed a small amount of attention. We proceeded to the Golden Gate Bridge, where we had a photo opportunity, followed by a drive over the bridge, a second photo opportunity, and yet another drive over the bridge. As we drove over it, I noticed that there were a lot of people walking and cycling over it, and in fact, there are several bike rental / ferry ride packages especially for people who want to do that. I suspect that I will not be feeling that energetic. On the bridge, there was an interesting sign – "emergency phone and emergency counselling", presumably in an attempt to reduce the number of suicides.
Lunch was a polish sausage in a bun, coke, and several chocolate cookies. I think the Canadians in Toronto do better polish sausages.
After lunch, it was the trip to Alcatraz. While queuing for the boat, they were doing souvenir photos, but I declined to purchase mine. The trip to Alcatraz was a bit bumpy, and it was too sunny to sit outside. Despite the fact that the trip was fully booked, the boat was half empty. I think was partly to ensure that the last few trips back are not overloaded.
How can I describe Alcatraz? I don't think I really can do much more than say I really pity the people who were held there. If I was held there, I suspect that I would be driven half made by the conditions there (ignoring the effect of no internet).
I think I broke the law a bit when I was there. You're not allowed to take food beyond the main dock, but I had two milk chocolate chip cookies in my bag. Fortunately, they were not searching people who went up.
The cells that they kept the prisoners in are smaller than my bathroom. They are just about wide enough to fit a single bed, with a small passage at the side for the prisoner to stand, and they all had a toilet that was visible to anyone walking past.
When waiting for the boat back, I noticed a number of women wearing shoes with significant heels. Given the slope to and from the prison, these must have been almost impossible to walk in.
On the boat back, I actually managed to write postcards to the family, and if anyone else would like one, just let me know – mail me at simon@callan.demon.co.uk if I don't have your address.
After the trip, I wandered about fisherman's wharf again, and spotted some odd things such as Terry's chocolate orange's imported from England, naughty chocolate (pert peppermint nipples), weird cows (china cows dressed up as various figures – vampire, ballerina, etc), and corset rucksacks, handbags and purses (which appeared to have been imported from England).
Dinner was Italian, at the Ciopino restaurant. There are a number of things that a restaurant can do to give a bad first impression, and amongst these are sitting a customer in the worst seat in the restaurant (you know the one, in a dark corner, right by the toilets), and giving them flat coke. The meal itself was not particularly good, as the meatballs and spaghetti was rather dry. Being too British to complain, I simply forgot about dessert and left as soon as possible.
On the way back to the hotel, I heard the taxi equivalent of the duck call – an odd sounding whistle, on which a hotel concierge gives a couple of honks in an attempt to attract the attention of the wily taxi driver.
Tomorrow, I will be attempting to visit the California Academy of Science, and thinking about this.
I woke up early again this morning, and watched TV for a while, until I broke it. I decided to ignore this problem, and get up. The shared shower was slightly confusing. I think that there is some person whose job is to ensure that the showers in hotels all operate in different manners.
After I showered, I sat down to plan what I was going to do for the rest of the week. I doubt I will follow the plan, but it is nice to have one. The first thing I did when I went out was to go to the Internet cafe and spend 2 hours updating my diary, and reading everyone else's. After this, I had a look at the Metreon center – commercialism in its purest form. At lunchtime, I had breakfast there, a Chinese soup broth called "double happiness". This required the deft use of chopsticks and a spoon. Naturally, there was broth everywhere. Despite this, I liked the soup, and it gave me a nice runny nose.
Out the back of the center is the Yerba Buenna garden's and they were having an international music festival. The band playing was a Canadian blues / jazz type band (I think), and I sat down to listen for a while.
After this, I wandered off, lost as a daffodil, eventually taking the trolley car to the visitor center, where I picked up lots of maps. Browsing through the various pamphlets, I decide that the "footwear fetish" and "lingerie for men" shops might be fun to visit at some point. Outside the visitor center, I had an "orange mandarin Italian soda". Basically this was fizzy water, with coloured flavouring.
My first planned visit was to the cable car museum. This is a very geekish place, as it is also the main powerhouse for the cable cars, and you can see the motors working away. The gift shop even sold bits of the old cable that they had replaced. I decided not to get a bit, as I don't really like collecting stuff. Cable cars have a very distinct sound – the whir of the cables in the conduits, the ringing of the car bells, and the double thump of cars driving over the tracks. The mechanics is fascinating, how they take the cables round corners (depending on whether the car is going up hill or down), and how they get the cables to cross (which requires the car to coast for a short time).
I then went for a walk through China Town. This has been very much made over for tourists, and feels like a Chinese equivalent of Tottenham Court Road. I exited though the China Town Gate, which was not actually that impressive, the one in London is much better. One of the things I saw in China town was a quintessentially American thing – a folded cardboard Chinese takeaway container, the sort of thing that the people in American TV shows are always eating from.
Just outside China Town, I stopped at Starbucks for a Tall, Frapacino Tazoberry. The person behind me had something that sounded like it would take longer to order than to drink.
I have a note here about a shop called North Beach Leather. Why? Ah yes, I remember, there were two reasons for noting it down. I was thinking of getting Susan a leather jacket, and it also reminded me of North Bound Leather in Toronto, where I got a nice skirt.
My final trip of the day was to take the F-Tram to Pier 39. Sort of a very commercial Brighton Pier. They had a bunch of sea lions that have taken up permanent residence next door. Their features appear to be being noisy, and smelling of fish. They also had a "Magic Carpet Ride" shop, which took you for a ride on the carpet, and then gave you a video to show off. It was basically green screen overlay, with you doing a bit of very poor acting :).
After a slow ride back to the center of SF, I started looking for food, but gave up for the Internet cafe instead. As soon as this is posted, I will continue the hunt.
The San Francisco adventures of Simon Callan, part II, Sunday.
I woke up at about 5.00AM, but lazed in bed until 7, when I got up. I had breakfast at MacDonald's, and sort of worked out what I was going to do that day (not that I actually followed it).
I walked down Market Street to the Ferry Building, and had a quick look around, but this area was a bit bare. I then went to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, mainly so I could get my City Pass (-> travel card) sorted.
However, while walking to the museum, I stopped at a bookshop that I passed on the way, but amazingly enough I left without actually buying anything.
The museum was interesting in an "I don't understand" sort of way. It was worth seeing, but some of the artists seemed to suffer from bad case of RCI. One effect of all this was that I was not sure if the comment book was really another piece of modern art, but since it had no label, I decided that it was genuine.
I stopped for lunch in China Town - deep-fried marinated beef slices and duck curry.
After this, I had a ride on the cable cars. I managed to get myself confused as to where the car I was on was going, and so, after I got off and realized that I was not where I expected to be, I had to get on the next car that arrived and go back to where I came from, or so it seemed. There are three or four cable car lines, and the one I was one crossed the one that I wanted to be on, so I jumped off at this point, and changed cars. The cable cars are slightly scary, especially when they go down the steepest hills. At one point, the guard had to work the second brake on the car to stop it careering out of control, and on another car, you could smell the brakes burning.
After this I decided to return to my room for a slight rest, but I managed to get a little lost, as I had forgotten whether the hotel was on 4th St or 5th St. After a little wondering, and finding this cyber cafe, I managed to locate my hotel. I had planned to have a shot rest, but I did not wake up to till 10 at night, so I decided to go back to sleep for the rest of the night.
Well, I am now in sunny San Francisco, and I have found an internet cafe, so I can post my diary for everyones' delectation. We will start with the trip out, on the Saturday.
I shutdown all my computers late on the Friday night, so that I would have nothing to do in the morning. The flat sounds very odd without the computers whirring away. Its actually quite quiet now.
I woke up at 5Am, as planned, had breakfast, did the last of the packing, and took the rubbish out, and then sat around until my train was to depart. I managed to catch an unexpected connection at Clapham, so I arrived at Gatwick before I had scheduled, which was nice. Checkin was reasonable fast, with the standard "has anyone given you a package, did you pack every thing yourself" questions. I went through the FastTrack customs check, though I did not see anything to justify that description.
While I was waiting to board the plane, I found myself getting paranoid about my ticket / passport and kept checking that I had not lost them. Also, I heard a call for the flight to Cincinnati that sounded like they were waiting for Diane Duane to turn up before they could depart.
We boarded the plane late, due the incoming flight being delayed, but we got in quite quickly. I ended up in row 55, which I am not sure if it is a good row or a bad row. This is the point at which they go from 5 seats across to 4 across. This meant that I only had to worry about one person wanting to get past me, but the screens in the back of the seats in front were offset a bit.
The in-flight entertainment consisted of the film of Chicago, which I sort of watched twice, and three shots of Melanie Griffiths bum, encased in stocking, and black panties.
During the flight I half fell asleep holding a glass of orange juice. This would not have been a problem, but I woke with a jerk, and dropped it all over my trousers, and the floor.
Security at Atlanta was a trifle paranoid, they x-rayed my shoes and jumper before letting me through to my connecting flight.
While waiting for this, I had my first American food - Ben and Jerry's frozen yoghurt. It was raining quite heavily at ATL, not really what I was expecting, but fortunately,I did pack my umbrella.
The second flight was noticeably different to the first. The onboard snack consisted of a "Blue Bag" special - a blue plastic carrier bag with a turkey salad roll, crisps, biscuits and a bottle of water. The crisps were "spicy cajun crawtator" flavour, and nearly burnt my lips off. If you wanted to listen to the film you had to buy a set of earphones for $5, and the film was one that they had shown on the first flight.
From the way they were handling the standby list, I was expecting the plane to be full, but it was actually only about a quarter full.
If you decide to fly to San Francisco, I would recommend that you do not get a window set. As you approach the airport, it looks like the pilot is aiming to land the plane in the bay, rather than at the airport. very scary.
I finally reached my hotel room at about 9.30PM local time (no idea what this is BST), feeling rather shattered. At about 10:30, I decided to try to go to sleep, but it was too warm to do this easily, and the ice machine across the is a bit noisy.
However, I did manage this eventually.
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