Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Sox and the A's

One of the nice things about San Francisco, particularly if you like baseball, is that it is a large enough city to host two baseball teams, one in the each of the leagues. We went to a Giants game against the Reds earlier in the spring (which Cincinnati won 10-9), and last Saturday we ventured across the bay to go to an A's game in McAfee Coliseum. To get to Oakland one must cross the bay bridge, and then fight the traffic through Oakland to head south to the stadium. We decided to use the metro system instead of fighting the traffic and then the parking lot at the stadium. So we started with a bus that we could catch about 2 blocks from our house. Once off the bus we descended into the metro rail system to take BART (Bay Area Regional Transportation) across the bay.

All in all, we got there quicker and the cost was a good bit less than bridge tolls, parking costs, and gas not to mention the frustration of fighting traffic. Last year we went to the Boston versus Oakland with Brandy and Will (before we had any idea that we might be living here for a while). It was a celebration trip- to celebrate the safe return of Brandy and Will from Iraq. Brandy bought us Boston hats- and we were all decked out for this game. One big difference though- at this game there were as many Boston fans as there were Oakland fans- we definitely not alone!
The BART station is right next to the stadium, and we had great seats on the 3rd base line to watch the game. The last time we were at the stadium it was between these same two teams. That was last summer and the Boston pitcher, Beckett, came within one out of pitching a no-hitter and except for that one hit and an error, it would have been a perfect game, a very rare event. Beckett was pitching again, but he just didn't have the same stuff and lasted only 6 innings.

Both pitchers did well and Boston only got one hit in the game, so it was nearly an opposite game from last years since the A's won this one.
The first baseman for Boston, Kevin Youkilis, is a hometown boy-A Cincinnati hometown boy! Youkilis graduated from Sycamore High school and then played 4 season at the University of Cincinnati where his batting average was .627. So cheering for Boston- is cheering for the home team.

I bet everyone is pretty impressed that I was able to get such a good picture with my little Sony Digital- from way up high in the stands.

I must say that at both games we noticed that A's fans are a little different than what we have experience in other parks. These fans are noisy and rowdy.

This is a picture from last year when we were with Brandy and Will-

We didn't see fans quite so "colorful" as these two- but we certainly did find fans as noisy!
Sitting next to me was a "lady" with a large voice. Every time an A's player did something (regardless of whether it was an infield pop up, a home run or a strike out) she yelled "way to go baby" in a somewhat shrill voice. And in the event of a home run, she did a rather interesting dance (that I won't try to describe) right there at her seat that I believe was an expression of her joy about the event. Then after the last out and a win by the A's she did it again while we just stood there and waited until we could leave our seats. Nonetheless, it was entertaining, although also a bit annoying. But we were the visitors (we had on our Sox hats) so we were in no position to complain about it. We were certainly not the only Sox fans there. This Red Sox Nation thing is real. I do believe that there were about as many Sox fans in the Stadium as A's fans, and they were just a loud, but just didn't have much to cheer about.

We did enjoy the park,

The food concourse is dark- with a heavy concrete feel- crowded- and dark- But boy do they have the food!

While Don waited in the seats for the first pitch I wandered about looking at the food- and beer- and of course the "official" clothes.

I hope Don is appropriately appreciative of his "Big Hot Dog"- monster of a hot dog- a Saag's Atomic Hot. And it took me over 2 innings to wait in line- don't think there is ever a lull in the food lines at his ballpark.

And of course the hot dogs (Max did attempt to make sure I had another mustard/nose event).

I like the peanuts- where else but a ballgame can you drop the shells at your feet-

and the game before catching BART for a ride back across the bay and onto home.

A great way to spend a Saturday night!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sailing on the bay

Dick Haiduck is a friend that I met about 15 years ago in the biotech industry when he was with a company called Desmos in San Diego. Over the last 15 years Dick has moved about the industry and is now working independently as what I call a CEO gofor. That is, he reports to the CEO's of a number of biotech companies and does work specifically for the CEO. He usually has 3 in his stable and provides them with resources that CEO's need to satisfy the requirements of their respective boards. Dick now lives down on the peninsula with is wife Barb and the two of them are some of the nicest people you could ever meet. Dick and Barb are what you call a "Miami Merger"- Miami University (that's the university that was a university before Florida was a state) has an incredible number of kids who meet in college and "merge" their lives- Dick and Barb are one much "merger". Barb hails from Hamilton, Ohio- And they spent some early days of their marriage living in Cincinnati so they are really folks from home. They're the sort of folks you just like to be around doing "whatever"- but sailing was a huge treat.

Dick has a sail boat that he docks in the marina just next to AT&T baseball park here in San Francisco and he asked Max and me to go sailing with him and Barb last Sunday. We of course jumped at the opportunity and scheduled to meet them at the marina at 1:00. We both got there at about 1:00, but as it turned out there are two parking lots at the Marina and we were at one and he and Barb were at the other. We were both about to give up on meeting each other when I decided to do some searching and found them sitting on a curb waiting patiently for us to show up.

Once we finally got organized and I was parked in the right parking lot, we prepared his sail boat for some time on the bay.

Now Max has never really sailed and I had only been out once several years before with Dick while at a conference here is SF. I wasn't really "nervous" about the adventure- we see so many boats at in the bay I rather thought had gotten use to the idea. But I must admit my heart did race a bit when Dick asked me if I knew how to swim- well one thing for sure I hadn't planned on swimming- I don't like swimming even in more hospitable water. He then did reassure me we weren't at risk of tipping over- well not much risk but I could wear a life vest if I wished- I bravely said no. We set off out of the marina and sailed under the Bay Bridge heading for Alcatraz Island and beyond. But it was a pretty windy day and the bay west of the Bay Bridge was pretty rough. That's Alcatraz in the background and a large container ship that was steaming into the harbor.

It was "smooth sailing" until we crossed under the Bay bridge on our way to Angel Island, Alcatraz and views of the Golden Gate Bridge- But the minute we crossed out into this part of the Bay the waters got SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO rough and the waves SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO big.

So we turn and go back towards the Bay Bridge- and then try again. Now this was the moment of the real racing heart- we dipped and the wave came crashing over - splashing cold water all around- just like those movies of the battle between the angry sea and the fisherman's boat- But before I could get really nervous at all it was over and we were headed back to calmer water.
And below is Barb with the rapidly closing container shop passing us by.

Max's first indication that this was not just a sail in the park was when a wave broke over the bow and sent rather cold water spraying on us all. We tried the waters west of the Bay Bridge for a while and then decided to head back to calmer waters not too far from the baseball park.

Once we got into some decent water with steady but not too heavy winds, Dick felt that it was calm enough for both Max and I to take our turns at the wheel and we sailed on the bay for over two hours. But Dick was always close by making sure we didn't all get wet.

I was just more than a bit nervous about about "driving" this boat- But Dick was determined that I have an opportunity to take the "helm". I thought I was doing absolutely perfect until Don and Dick pointed out the the tail of my driving so visible in the wake of the boat was very, very ripply- to say I was weaving a bit was an understatement- And I hadn't noticed at all!

She was doing great and building confidence until the wind changed a little and we were suddenly moving a bit faster and starting to list over as the wind bit into our sales.

We finally headed back to the marina and with the baseball park in the background, we brought the boat back into the dock. But before we arrived in the dock Dick and Don brought in the sails.

Then it was the drive into the marina.

By now the Giants game was over and the water a softer blue. What a fantastic day! I just love doing things for the very first time- at 59 years old!

It was a great day on the bay, although I got some real sun burns on my face (the only part of me exposed since it was pretty cool out on the water and I just didn't recognize that the UV rays were still burning through my cheeks (on my face).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brandy Came to Visit!

What a wonderful weekend! Brandy arrived on Friday here in San Fran- and we did have the best time ever. We had plenty of time to just be together- to do nothing together- and to share this beautiful city with our beautiful daughter.

But now to the details.

We started downtown with a walk- and then met Don for lunch at the Ferry Building. We brought Don home with us- even though it was a bit early on a Friday- don't tell the folks back home that he quit early. It's OK folks, I was actually taking a vacation day on Friday, but had to come in for a meeting that I had set up.

And then we took Brandy in to get her hair cut- have to begin with a bit of pampering I think. You know, I go to Ben at the Exchange Barber Shop in the financial center. The haircuts are a bit more expensive here in San Francisco (about twice what I pay at the Valley Barber Shop in Cincinnati), but Ben does a good job cutting my hair and I leave in about 15 minutes. This process of getting a haircut that Max has become accustomed to is a bit different. I was just sitting and waiting in the front and the receptionist decided that I needed some "herbal tea". At least it wasn't bottled water with cucumber in it like the place Max goes to in Cincinnati. Then they had to wash Brandy's hair. That's the hair washing below with her lying down. Max also says they give good head rubs. If Ben started giving me a head rub, I think I might find another barber. Anyway, her haircut took a bit over an hour. And then the tip she gives the beautician is about the same as the cost of my haircut from Ben. I guess you get what you pay for.

And the results were fantastic!
We spent the rest of Friday just talking- and of course if you're visiting me- there is plenty of time for the eating as well. So we walked down to the Marina for dinner at our now favorite restaurant Pacific Catch.

Saturday we began with breakfast at home- we have breakfast at home more often here- no Half Day or Gabby's for weekend brunch- But we will be back! Max does like to fancy up her breakfast. Bacon, eggs and hash brown is about as good as it gets, but here we do go that extra step.

Max often lightly poaches our eggs and then "finishes" them by sauteing them in butter and breadcrumbs. The "finished eggs" are then placed on top of sauteed spinach and accented with sliced tomatoes. Max says she likes to eat food that has lots of color.

It is pretty, but brown hash browns, brown bacon and white eggs are awfully good too.

And then it was off to Berkley and the Botanical Garden at U.C. Berkley.

The day was absolutely gorgeous- And there were glorious flowers all about- we wandered about for hours- in a paradise of flowers.

And we observed wild life-

And even wilder-

This was our third trip to Berkley and the Botanical Garden- But I do believe that this was the first time we went down every path- and looked at every garden. Brandy is thorough!

Then it was off to lunch at Tacubaya- a Mexican taqueria owned by Dona Tomas- the chefs whose inspiration resulted in our Mexican night at home. The picture below is the upscale version of tacos here in San Francisco. This is no Taco Bell.

I was impressed- for fast food- but equally delighted that Don thought our food at home was better. He does know how to keep us cooking!

Now you'd think that would be enough- But no! It was off to another adventure- Brandy just doesn't tire out that quick- So next it was the Japanese Garden (complete with a tea house) at Golden Gate Park. I hadn't been for better than 15 years- and it was a real treat- It is now on the rotation of places to go back for an afternoon.

Brandy crawled up and over a "bridge"-

And suddenly I was feeling braver- and younger- and decided I'd scamper to the top as well-

Well scamper might not be the exact description of my ascent- But I did make the top!

We started Sunday on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. We were off to the Bonita Lighthouse- perhaps Don's favorite adventure.
But first a stop to look out over our beautiful city away from home- These next two pictures are from the hills just above the Golden Gate Bridge. These locations have historically been military outposts put in place to defend the bay from attack. The first emplacements were 16 bore cannons in the late 1800's. Those were replaced by artillery during WWII, and finally by a Nike missile site during the cold war. Now they are just great places to view the bridge and opening to the bay.

Then we took the curvy ride down the back side of the hills to the lighthouse- by the way- I don't knit on this trip- I'm not usually car sick- but this drive does require a bit of extra vigilance. These narrow roads wind up the hill and then back down the backside again towards the Pacific. But it is sooooo worth the trip. Here Brandy is standing in front of the small suspension bridge that takes you out to the lighthouse. The lighthouse sits on a rock that is a point of land at the entrance to the bay. Over the years, the wind and the waves have eroded the access to the light house so they built this little walking bridge for access. It is a little bouncy, and with the wind blowing as it was at around 40 makes the short walk a little exciting. They only allow two people on the bridge at a time, a rule that makes you wonder just how sturdy this bridge is.We finished the outing at the Cliff House for dinner- watching the kite surfers and wind surfers braving the winds and waves of the Pacific- But I was mostly interested in the food- and we had a dandy of a desert-

Monday was our last day of this most special of Mother's Day weekends. Don had to go off to work- But Brandy and I started (after breakfast- in case you haven't noticed- I don't miss a meal!)- at the Aquarium of the Bay.

I think the most interesting thing- something new- not just sharks with their menacing face- were the "skates in utero"- or rather the the "mermaid's purse"-

There was an exhibit with 6 "mermaid's purse" that had a "window" cut out and covered with plastic so we could actually see the developing skate in this "egg".

The mother skates didn't look too concerned with the attention paid to their developing babies- don't think they were giving it a second thought-

From the aquarium Brandy and I walked downtown to meet Don for lunch after his meeting. We met at the most appropriately named "Fog City Diner"- because this certainly is the foggy city!

But we weren't done yet. Before heading to the airport we walked up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower to one more sweeping view of the city.

But finally it was time to say- THE END!