Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the road again: San Francisco, day 3

Last night's dinner, a nine-course tasting menu at the well-known and well-respected French restaurant, Masa's, kicked the butt of our Friday night meal. Though not world-class in taste or inventiveness, the food was delicious and beautifully executed. The service was definitely not up to the cooking, but we still had a very nice time and greatly enjoyed the experience.

The weirdest two things of the evening were the toile fabric chairs, a sample of which you can see here, and the couple who looked and sounded as if they had stepped off a bus from Idaho in 1956 and found themselves facing a high-end contemporary French menu. They were as nice as two people could be, but they were also clearly dazed and confused.

As we were waiting for a cab outside Masa's, I turned left and noticed this street sign. Just seeing it tickled me. I hope to see some of the Hammett sights when I'm back in the area in late October.

Today's signing at Borderlands Books was in many ways a bust: no one other than people who already knew me showed up, I thus didn't move many books for the store, and I ended up reading only to friends. I did share a few bits from Children No More, and everyone seemed to enjoy those pieces.

The trip, however, also produced many fine results. I finally got to visit the store, which I absolutely loved. The book displays are warm and inviting, and the selection is strong. The place is bright and friendly and in general the sort of bookstore I adore. I got to spend time with Jude, the manager and an absolutely wonderful woman, as well as some friends. Alan, the owner, arrived late due to World Fantasy Con business, but was able to chat for a while before we had to leave.

On balance, I'm glad I went, but I still felt more than a little like the failed beginning writer that in many ways I am.

On the walk back to the car, we stopped at several interesting shops. The one I most liked was 826 Valencia, the combination tutoring resource and pirate store. At TED, I'd watched Eggers win a TED Prize for the wish of helping others create more of these centers in other locations. When I'd watched the videos and listened to Eggers' pitch, I'd appreciated the notion and thought it a cool one. Walking through the place, however, I really got it.

826 Valencia is a wonderful implementation of a great idea. Had I as a kid wandered into this place, I would never have wanted to leave. As just one example of how nifty it is, off to the right, as you enter the shop, is a small red area with a low red-fabric ceiling, red walls, and three theater seats. You can't see much of it from outside. Inside, you can sit on a seat and stare at the fish in this tank, read the fun plaques on the wall, and lose yourself in the small world of that space. I did, and it made me very happy indeed.

San Francisco is a magical place; I can see why so many people come here, fall in love with it, and never leave. On the way to the car, after 826 Valencia, we passed a house with an amazing mural on its side. It wouldn't all fit in my iPhone's lens, so these two pictures will have to suffice to show you how cool it was.

Humphry Slocombe again figured in the day, as a group of us enjoyed many odd flavors. I tried Ancho Chocolate, Balsamic Caramel, and Cinnamon Brittle, the last of which was the winner of the most accolades from our team of testers.

Expect far shorter posts for the rest of this trip as my attention turns to tech work and the Intel Developer Forum, which I'll be attending the rest of this week. Though great fun and very interesting for techies, such as myself, I don't expect it to hold quite as much general interest as nifty murals, far-out ice cream, and so on.

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