Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Travels North

In which we visit the old town and some old friends

Cupid's Bow & Bay Bridge

Flew up to old 'Frisco last week for a little R&R mixed with a little business. The occasion that took me north on the company dime was the Web 2.0 Expo at Moscone West, April 15 to 18, but I went up a day early to spend time with friends in Bagdad-by-the-Bay.

Pleased I was to see that the new BART extension to the airport had been completed and took the train into the city. From Civic Center Station I took the Muni Metro to Castro Street Station where, after getting a quick pop in the Twin Peaks bar, caught a taxi to my friends' new flat in the Western Addition, where I was to spend the night. It had rained hard earlier in the day, causing my flight to be delayed. I was glad of it later, however, as the rain had washed all the smog and fog away, leaving the sky a crisp, crystalline blue -- a rare and wonderful thing in San Francisco. It gives the city a magical light.

Dave & AliciaAlicia and Dave are old friends. I lived with them in Oakland a while before moving to Alameda. They moved back to the city earlier this year after getting a sweetheart move-in deal from a friend. (It's the only way people not investment bankers or born rich can afford San Francisco anymore.) Theirs is a lovely, classic S.F. Victorian railroad flat, complete with bay window, all decorated in Alicia's funky-retro style and Dave's own original artwork. And they have three adorable little terriers plus two cats.

We hung out a while and chatted and then I went over to Golden Gate Park to look at the new De Young Museum, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. It looks like an aircraft carrier that's been hit by an Exocet missile. Over time it is supposed to aquire a green patina that will make it blend with its surroundings. Until then they should just call it the Nimitz.

De Young

It's spacious and nicely lit inside, however, and brings off the collections quite nicely. Across the way, the Academy of Sciences & Steinhart Aquarium is undergoing renovation and redesign by second-string hipster architect, Renzo Piano (who is also re-doing the LACMA). The new roof was being installed which is made of living turf. Talk about blending in. The heck with green patinas. Just go for the sod.

We supped that night at S.F's Luna Park and afterward attended a tango concert by Tango No. 9. The music was beautifully accompanied by tango dancers. Damned sexy, that. My friend Catherine plays violin in the band, so you should by one of their CDs. Catherine's husband, Mitchel and her son, the Schmee (almost 3), also looked in.

We were met at the show by Annie Wilson. Annie runs a fashion-related weblog called Poetic & Chic and is a fan of my column, The Sophistocrat, on Dandyism.net. A former marketeer for Louis Vuitton, she's now with Williams Sonoma. Oh, and she's a charming gal with a great sense of humor, one that packs a wallop. She's also a tri-athlete.

After the show we headed into the dark underbelly of the Tenderloin for cocktails at Bourbon & Branch, a speakeasy-style den that requires reservations and a secret password. It's partly the brainchild of Todd Smith, the former maitre'd of Enrico's fame, and a host and night-life entrepreneur of singular merit. I sipped a few vodka, cucumber and mint cocktails based my own Ketel One Special Gimlet, which I had invented while keeping bar at Enrico's back in another life. Hilarity ensued.

Stache's for everyoneNext day, with only a slight hangover, I checked into the Hotel Adagio, near the conference center, and did a little work and later some shopping. That evening I motored over to the East Bay with Alicia and Dave to enjoy barbecue with the Talley family (Mr. Ted, Kristen, Olivia & wee little Kevin) and a few other friends, including Catherine, Mitchel and Ely, mentioned above as the Schmee, and Beth.

pthpthpthpth!That morning Alicia, Dave and I had gone out and bought little gifties for the kiddies, which included a set of false mustaches. Hilarity again ensued when these were brought out, but mostly among the adults.

Tango No. 9
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
What's not to like about the slippery, sensuous music of "the dance of love?" I may be a little bias here, but I think Tango No. 9's the bee's knees. Sue me.

Bourbon & Branch
(Call for location)
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
The best fresh-made cocktails in town in an atmosphere that would make Walt Disney green with envy. And I worked for the bastard (Walt, I mean), so I know.

The New De Young Museum
Rating: ♠ ♠
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive,
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

While the space is nice and the tower view compelling, the old museum set off the collection just as well and without all the pretension. And the damned thing looks like the Nimitz from the outside. Don't get me wrong, I like the Nimitz. But why would you house a collection of largely 19th century art in an aircraft carrier?

Spending Time with Great Old Friends in Baghdad-by-the-Bay
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠


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