Sunday, June 05, 2011

Day Three: Victorians and Comedy

Sunday morning we have breakfast at the hotel, which I normally wouldn't do, but since we've become such creatures of leisure and can't seem to rise before 9:00, we're on a bit of a schedule. The breakfast is perfectly fine except the waiter takes exception to my asking if the toast is actually sourdough or maybe perhaps it is wheat. He says I am wrong and it's just "really toasted." Okay.

We scurry out to Union Square (looking like Disneyland on Christmas) to find the yellow sign held aloft by the delightful Jay of the Victorian Homewalk Tour, which begins with a bus ride into Pacific Heights. The bus smells intensely of urine, which I assume is planned as part of the gritty urban experience.

I love that Jay has our every need anticipated before we do. He explains that our first stop will be a convenience store for water, and then we'll be visiting a refurbished Victorian (now a hotel) which will be our last potty stop. (Maybe he doesn't say "potty," I can't be sure.) At the end of the tour (cleverly designed so we climb NO HILLS) he walks us to Union St. in Cow Hollow and points out his favorite restaurants, explains precisely how to take the bus home and what we'll be seeing from it, and hands us transfers, good for the rest of the day. I love a man with an eye for detail!

And I love the tour. So does David. We learn so much, but it's all casual and light and we get to see where they filmed Mrs. Doubtfire and Party of Five. ("They were orphans? Trust me, they could not afford that house.") The time flies by. On the way, we learn how to distinguish between the three kinds of Victorians you see in San Francisco. My memory is addled, but here's what I recall:

Queen Anne: Very ornate. "Gingerbread house" accents. Turrets. Pointy roofs. Circular windows. Can combine elements of the other two styles as well--anything goes.

Italianate: False fronts (like a big fancy visor at the top of the building.) Three-sided windows. Ionic columns.

Eastlake Stick: Detailed machine-made "cut-outs" in the trim. Furniture-style columns that look like fancy table legs.

Afterward, we take one of Jay's suggestions and have lunch at Perry's Cafe, where they also will not give me sourdough, even though I could swear I see it on other tables. We start joking that there is a conspiracy to conceal the city's sourdough from us. But my chopped salad is freakishly delicious, in the way food in this city often is.

We stroll down Union St., picking up a couple of cupcakes for later, and hop the bus to Union Square. As promised, it wends through North Beach and the "non-touristy" part of China Town on the way, which is fun but doesn't tempt me to get off. I'm wiped out, for some reason, and we have a big night ahead of us.

After a little rest in the room, we change and head down Market for dinner at Farmerbrown. The restaurant is very manly, the decor dark and woody; the menus are soldered lead and difficult to lift. Everyone around us is eating big shanks of pork and huge, buttery biscuits, sipping bourbon from jelly jars. After my own bourbon concoction, I have difficulty managing my fried chicken, even though it's amazingly juicy--I get this syndrome after a few days of restaurant meals where my mouth just feels tired and all I want is a salad or a bowl of spaghetti from my own kitchen.

We hop the BART to the Financial District, which is quiet and somehow very pretty at night, and walk a few blocks to the Punchline Comedy Club, where we have a reservation for the San Francisco Showcase. In keeping with the theme, the place is packed, and the host asks if we want "the comfy seats or the non-comfy seats." David obligingly requests comfy, and we're led to a claustrophobic corner off to the side where we're instructed to wedge our tushies between some other people on a bench. Ummmm..."Can we see the non-comfy seats?" Turns out they have great sightlines and are roomy as all get-out, but there's some issue...the host hesitates...and I say politely, "What will our getting those seats depend on?" David gets very nervous when I ask questions like that, and starts waving frantically and insisting that the other seats are sublime, but suddenly the host decides we can have the good ones and that is that. "Darling," I say to David as we settle in, "it's okay if you don't want to get involved, but don't cover my swagger when I'm in the zone." He'll get used to me someday.

As I'm currently taking a stand-up comedy workshop, I watch with a more than recreational eye as the many, many comics take their three minutes. There are a few that are truly hilarious, and their material--I note--is not so much the point as the way they deliver it, combined with their connection to the audience. There are a scant few instances of flop sweat, but I suffer for those people, as it is so, so obvious that the slightest pause or missed inflection can send the whole set hurtling into the abyss, never to be recovered. I know for a fact that such occasions are in my future if I choose to pursue this line of work.

On the way back to the BART, I insist on going my way, without looking at the map or the GPS. "I can smell the fastest route," I boast. "Hmmm." says David. But he lets me walk us around in circles for a bit and find my way. "See!!" I say. "Totally fast."


Jen said...

I am so pleased to hear that you did not get caught in the rain in this post! But what gives with the sourdough? It sounds like it was a great, great trip!


Samantha said...

Thank you, Miss J! We actually had perfect weather the rest of the time. But we never did see a scrap of authentic sourdough. I know--what gives? :)

Logical Libby said...

I love San Francisco so much! I am so glad you had fun...

Stephanie said...

I've often noticed that well toasted sour dough often takes on unexpected flavor variations and loses any and all traces of the sour.

Sounds like a great trip!