Wednesday, February 28, 2007

San Francisco

The trip started with a harrowing 4:30am ride to the airport in an ice storm. Upon arriving at the airport, we were informed that it had just closed down. That began an 11 hour wait for our flight to get off the ground.

Kate and Zack were troopers and kept themselves occupied around the empty sections of the terminal and doing some activities I brought to occupy them on the 6-hour flight. By the time we took off, my bag of tricks was empty so I just let them spend the flight watching TV--a plus about flying on Jet Blue.

So, we lost a day to the weather in VA, but got into the hotel and to bed to start fresh the next day, which we began on Alcatraz. I was wiped that morning so skipped the view from the ferry to grab a few more minutes of sleep and let the advil work on my pounding head and aching back. It worked! I was able to enjoy the gorgeous weather and the tour. Alcatraz was Zack's favorite part of the trip. The audio tour is great.

That night, we learned the news about Steve and took much of the evening pulling ourselves together while Katie and Zack slept. We took it easy the following day, trying to have a good time but not do too much.

Other places/sites seen on the trip, in no particular order since I can't remember:
Fisherman's Wharf--good chowder, wacky stores and the Bay. Also, a nice walk to Ghiradelli Square where the kids split a banana split and Pete and I had treats too. Yum.

A day taking a walking tour of Chinatown, Pete and I had never spent so much time down there and discovered the Asian Pacific Heritage museum, which used to a a US mint and was the only building the in vicinity to survive the 1906 earthquake/fire. We also went to the Golden Gate fortune cookie factory to see close up how those fortunes get into cookies.

Grace Cathedral, where we walked the labyrinth and got to see the organ player practice. We learned to our great disappointment that you can no longer ride the outdoor elevator to the top of the Fairmont :-( but we did get to chat with their harpist, who played several Disney tunes for Katie and Zack. Katie would now like to learn the harp in addition to the piano.

My birthday was spent in Berkeley in very mild weather. We walked around the campus and with no expectation of being able to get in, went to the carillon. Pete and I have been to this tower at least three time and it has never been open, but this time--yes! It was windy at the top but a great view and a look at the bells and clockworks too. We took a bus ride up the hilly roads to visit the Lawrence Hall of Science--free with our current science museum membership-nice. The afternoon was spent window shopping, which surprisingly, the kids enjoyed. We also ate at Pete's and my favorite place with giant sandwiches and salads.

We spent some time at the Metreon, playing the virtual kicking game in the halls, checking out the gaming store and the PlayStation store, where you can play the games in ten minute sessions.

We took many cable car rides--one to the cable car museum, where you can see the actual cables turning under the street! We also got good use out of our Muni passes, which covered the cable cars, and the buses and trains (except the BART train to Berkeley).

We went to the Golden Gate bridge, but I thought it was way too windy that day to walk across, so we investigated the base of the bridge a bit.

We went to the Cliff House and put our feet in the Pacific Ocean-a first for Zack and Kate and her favorite activity. I found the trash-canless littered (with trash and dog poo-yuck) beach a downer, but we all enjoyed the Sutro baths which are only ruins. They look ancient but are really only from the remnants of a fire in the 60s. OK, kind of ancient but not in the way we originally thought ;-)

We went to the Levi's welcome center which was interesting and they had a fountain outside that you could walk through which we all enjoyed.

The Exploratorium is the best Science museum ever. You can touch everything and we practically did touch everything. It's right next to the Palace of Fine Arts in the Presidio and again, the weather was great and we took our time perusing the Palace and the museum. Again, we were able to use our scince membership for free tickets--wow, that has paid for itself ten times over.

A trip to Golden Gate Park was poorly planned. We stopped at a playground where a local kindergarten was having an outing and the kids got to play with everyone, which they needed. The goal of getting to the Japanese tea garden should have been dropped. Too much walking and we got there too late. We were starving and there wasn't anywhere around to eat. That may have been the day we ended up at a Chinese bakery for lunch, which was quite a find. Fresh, hot out of the oven sponge cake was worth the trip.

The last day was the coldest but still mild and we decided to splurge on the Aquarium of the Bay, where you move through the fish tank and they swim all around you. They took our FONZ membership but it was still pricey. Then we really splurged on Ripley Believe or Not, a wax museum. I am crazy about wax museums, a guilty pleasure, and Zack had wanted to go ever since seeing it on our first day. VERY pricey but a good time and we had skipped splurging for most of the trip.

Dinners were the constant challenge. We skipped the meal on several nights. The only night that really worked out was Friday night. We made plans to meet with our friend Marion and her suggestion worked out great and it was terrific to see her too. But all the other nights ran too late for the kids and were pretty underwhelming. No biggie.

All in all a great trip and all of us want to go back again soon (or, win the lottery and move there!)

Back home again to math, music, Tae Kwon Do, piano, scouts and all the rest and as the snow melts is that a hint of spring in the air already?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Steve, farewell

Before I can write about our trip to San Francisco, I need to say a few words about Steve Finer.

We learned when we got to SF that he had died in a freak accident in September and that word had never reached us. We were looking forward to seeing him during our trip. I had never met his wife or their 2 year-old son and it had been years since he had seen Katie and Zack.

The news was shocking to say the least and so Pete and I dealt with various levels of sadness throughout the trip and it has especially hit me since we've been back. Don't know if I just put it aside for the sake of enjoying the trip or if it got more real since returning to my real life.

Steve was a great guy who took life in great big bites. He wasted no time in going after whatever he wanted. That included a move from Boston to San Francisco, marriage, fatherhood, fixing up old cars, getting involved in the production of a TV show and running his own business. Any conversation about loyalty would always bring Steve to mind. He was one of the most loyal friends with an honest interest in whatever was up for you. He was enjoying his married life and thrilled and awed at being a father. I was never a close friend, Pete was much tighter with him, but I will miss him and miss knowing that this constant source of energy and creativity is now missing.

You can see some about him at:
Art of the Chopper

and here:

and when you have a second, send a little energy or a prayer out to his wife Yuki and son Abi.

And don't waste time waiting for your life. It's happening right now.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Day at the Museum

Spent a good portion of the day in the National Gallery. Pete's folks are visiting and his dad wanted to spend some time there. Good idea since it was freezing out and there's a connector to both buildings so no need to brave the elements.

It's great to see the kids in an art museum now. They really give their attention to the work now and want to know more about the whys and stories behind them. Easy in the older works, harder in the modern section.

I also need to reign in my temptation to make everything a lesson. I noticed that Pete and his dad felt the desire to act as art professors as well. That certainly curbed my pontifications today but I completely understand the desire.

Kate and Zack do a good job of ignoring the stuff that doesn't interest them and tuning in to what they care about. If I let them ask, their questions are pretty interesting. Zack thought a self portrait by Gauguin looked like a Picasso. I would have never made the connection myself. Once I got thinking about it, I'd say maybe more like Dali or Miro, but what the heck? He's making connections and that's great.

It was also nice to see what they remember from previous visits and how much they enjoy recognizing paintings they already know.

I'm so jazzed about our San Francisco trip next week. They'll be so much to see and the kids will help me see the city in a whole new way, I'm sure. Plus getting vacation with just the four of us is sooooooo needed.

OK, my hands are freezing. Time to get off the keyboard.