Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Power Tripping

Happy Obama Day, all. As we've all been historical significance-ed nearly to death, I'll let the event pass simply by noting how pleased I was to refer to "Former President George W. Bush" on the air today. It has a nice ring to it.

But it's official: I'm exhausted from relaxing so hard.

My last-minute power vacation to northern California was a raging success, don't get me wrong. I found out the other week I had some vacation time to burn before the end of the month, so I called up my buddy Bryan in San Jose and asked "pretty please" if he was still up for hosting me for a long weekend as we'd been discussing.

He was. In fact, he should probably go into business giving tours, because the man had a plan, we stuck to the plan, and we cram-a-lammed a whole lot more fun into four nights than we had any right to.

I flew out of Madison early Thursday morning, cussing under my breath the whole way until the negative-45-degree windchills and snowy fields fell away under a blanket of clouds. On the way out, I plowed through local writer Emily Mills's first (published) novel, The Fix Up, which was a fantastic, quick read. Mills flaunts a dark sense of humor she seldom gets to exhibit in her regular blog posts, trots out an intriguing, likeable character in Chapel, then spends 136 pages making the reader wonder what Chapel ever did to Mills. Watching as the character responds to the increasingly sordid circumstances that seem to stalk her, never triumphing but certainly never beaten, leaves me wanting a lot more of Chapel than 136 pages.

As such, it's become my mission to get my eyeballs on the short film the novel serves as a backstory to. If I catch up with Mills at a bar sometime, I will have a sharpie in hand so as to get my copy of The Fix Up autographed before, not too long from now, people are standing in lines at bookstores to do the same.

It's a good read, and they're selling it at A Room of One's Own on Johnson Street. I also plan to work the phrase "drinking totally ironic forties" into my regular vocabulary.

I got down in San Jose, met Bryan and then promptly knocked one item from near the top of my lifelong to-do list: I ate at an In-and-Out Burger. It was everything I'd hoped and more.

Then, we trucked it out to a golf course in the hills to the east of the Silicon Valley for what was arguably the worst 17-and-a-half holes of golf I've played since my first round out. It didn't help matters that I hadn't swung a club since July. Nor was it of any assistance that the course was on a mountainside -- thus, on the rare occasion I placed a shot in the fairway, it would unfailingly roll off.

But after notching four above par on my first hole, a relatively straightforward 400-yard par four, I informed Bryan I was only going to be scoring the holes I was happy with.

By the time it got too dark to spot a ball (hence the 17-and-a-half holes of golf), my scorecard read like War and Peace written in the Wing-Dings font. Aside from two bogeys and a hard-fought par, I instructed Bryan to score me two parallel exclamation points, a question mark, an infinity symbol, a null set sign, a radioactive symbol, a hammer and sickle, a frownie face, and a snowman complete with arms and a corncob pipe, among others, on varying holes. Turns out, Bryan is very good at detail work with a golf pencil.

We set out early on Friday for San Francisco and spent the day drinking in the city (Post-post writer's note -- this is not to mean "imbibing" in the city, but rather experiencing it... the imbibing came later). I honestly haven't walked so much since I was a student. We made our way into Chinatown for lunch, then marched up to Union Square, where we satisfied my pathological need to view cities from a tall place by walking into a hotel we were clearly not staying at and abusing their 32-story glass elevator (see previous blog post).

Then, we meandered back to Washington Square, where we watched some people throw frisbees for dogs and chatted with a guy named "Irish Pete" who, as far as we could tell, made his living hanging out in the park and sketching. After declining his generous offer to smoke us up, we popped down to Fisherman's Wharf, where the stench of tons and tons of fish was curiously absent. Disappointed by the lack of wharfishness, we boarded our ferry to Alcatraz Island and took the night tour there, then came back to the waterfront for dinner, which was NOT disappointing.

We crashed with a friend's sister (I spent the night calling Anna the "West Coast Mary Beth") a block off historic Haight Street and sampled the night life. After staying out until bar time, we were up again early on Saturday to drive somewhere we could continue drinking: Sonoma!

Now, I had never really considered myself much of a wine person -- more a beer-whiskey-brandy-rum-and-so-help-me-god-tequila kind of person. But then again, I had never been to the Sonoma Valley before.

We started the afternoon with a tour of the Benzinger Family Winery, which was phenomenal and speech-sluringly educational. Through the tour, we also received a pass for a free tasting at the sister winery, Imagery Wines, a mile up the road. As that was where the bartenders were most generous with the samples, that is where we spent most of our time. I even invested a tidy sum in having a few bottles of whatever-it-was-I-really liked shipped back to Madison. Being unfamiliar with wine terms and a little schnookered at the time of purchase, I don't quite remember what it was I bought, just that I'm going to be really happy when it arrives.

The countryside was gorgeous, and the land, people and rural atmosphere reminded me a lot of Wisconsin. We topped off the afternoon with a stop at the Mayo Family winery and, fully hammered, drove back into Sonoma proper to sober up some, have dinner and then trek back to San Jose to go to the bars, where I spent the night hassling the bartender about the fact that there were only TWO varieties of beer on tap. My Wisconsin sensibilities were deeply offended.

Sunday, verging on exhaustion, we opted to ignore common sense and spent another long day road-tripping to Santa Cruz, where Bryan tried like hell to teach me to surf. It wasn't so much his failure as mine that resulted in a number of salty-tasting faceplants, but I had fun anyway learning that surfing is indeed not as easy as it looks. After lunch at a little Mexican restaurant a block from the beach, we took the long way back and cruised Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast, stopping at a beach along the way to gawk at the ocean.

Bryan's co-worker Preethi joined us for the day, and invited her friend Sharon out to the bars with us that night. Chaos and hilarity ensued, and we'll just say it was a damn miracle I was able to get to the airport in time to catch my 12:10 back to Wisconsin.

All in all, a great trip, but I'm already feeling hard-pressed to readjust to the work grind. It's a busy week, with city council tonight, the first session of the Madison Citizen's Police Academy tomorrow, a basketball game I have to do commentary for on Thursday and some kind of city council election information taping Friday night. I'll certainly be posting updates on the academy and another segment of "Rumble in the Deuce" about the taping, so as Paul Harvey says, "Stand By For NEWS!"


Anonymous said...

San Francisco and the surrounding area is by far one of my favorite places on earth. I used to live out there, before my parents were divorced, and had many visits to my dad in Sonoma after. I'm itching to go back. Bad. I'm glad you had a good time.

Jessica said...

Oh wow. Does that mean Dusty the intern now drinks the same thing as Craig the old goat Features Editor? What's next? A bottle of tums at your desk and a wife a generation younger than you?

Mario said...

Did you eat at the Kam Po Kitchen in Chinatown?

Dustin Christopher said...

Dang, Jessica, now we're talking... except it would probably be advisable for me to wait a few years before pursuing said potential "wife."

Mario -- You know it... Thanks for recommending it to Bryan, who in turn took me there six months later!

Emily said...

First off - A million thanks for the kind words about my book. I'm quite glad you enjoyed it! And you know I'll sign that sucker whenever we actually meet in person, in that starry-Xanadu that is the future.

Secondly - I love the SF area, and I am incredibly jealous that you got to leave cold, windy Wisconsin for awhile. Good on you!

Bryan Kerrigan said...

Dusty, you got a bottle of White Burgundy, a Zinfandel, and a Sangiovese. Glad you enjoyed the trip.

Mario, yes as Dusty said we did go to the Kam Po Kitchen, I've been there a couple times now, thanks again for introducing me to it!

Rob said...

I just read the review of Emily's book, as well. Here's a link to the film series playlist!