Friday, October 23, 2009

Libation Hydration Saturday: October 17, 2009

How often do you get to plan an entire day around beer? While the idea is always sound, the execution is an exact science, a science I am proud to say I’ve perfected, and I stress “I’ve.” With plans to have Lina and Sunni join us, we stayed in Fremont at Casa de Lina. We had an appointment with Dr. Leviathan at 11:30, and I most certainly did not want to be late. Justine, Lina and I woke up at 8:30, got ready to go and waited for Sunni til 11:00. No worries however, a quick BART ride to Oakland would get us to our destination only slightly later than anticipated! Dammit, we forgot breakfast. A quick stop at Raley’s for a gourmet breakfast quickly sets us on the right track!

Our destination for this morning (well, it was supposed to be morning, now it was afternoon) was Pacific Coast Brewing Co. in Oakland. It's just a short 3 block walk from the 12th Street station: PCB was celebrating their 21st birthday, and in honor of the occasion they rolled back their beer prices to those of 1988! $2.50 for a pint of delicious micro-brew beer! We could’ve stayed all day; instead we stayed for just under 3 hours, got served by a Kirsten Dunst doppelganger (Cat Rocks!), and got a $37.50 bill for 15 beers. DIG IT!

As I said previously, our entire day was planned around beer, so we gracefully sauntered out of PCB, and made our way toNorth Beach’s La Trappe It would take me entirely too long to explain the allure of La Trappe, suffice it to say they have a “beer bible” and a dark secluded European underground atmosphere. Drew was already there, saving our favorite section and awaiting our arrival. We wouldn’t have scored “our” section without him, I’m quite sure. A sultry strut up to the bar secured more brew for our parched palettes. That 30 minute BART/cab ride from Oakland to San Francisco sure was dehydrating. We enjoyed suds and each others company, awaiting the arrival of the rest of our party. Before we knew it Michelle had arrived fresh from the daily grind, and Frank, Casey, Chris and Shawn were hot on her heels. With 10 of us boisterously occupying “our” section, nobody else dared stay for long, partly due to Justine’s death stare which only heightened their feeling of unwelcome-ness. It wasn’t until Shawn engaged another group in conversation that anyone stuck around, however they had to squish themselves into the small and open front section, allowing us our well earned space. Laughter, story exchanging, discussions of the future, philosophy, overuse of the restrooms (particularly the women’s) is what a beer day is all about!

Beer breeds hunger, and our gourmet breakfast was well on its way out by this time. Michelle, Lina, Sunni, Drew and I decided to head to Burgermiester, while Justine stayed behind for more beer and to enjoy the company of the rest of the group. Halfway through our somewhat expensive and drunkenly delicious meals, the rest of the group joined us, Justine stayed this time, and everyone else left quite happy with only half a day of beer.

 I decided coffee would be appropriate, so we walked up Columbus in search of a café that suited us. Volaré!!!!!????? There’s a café called Volaré!!!!!????? With a hostess that barks out the door at us, it was perfect! What completes perfection? Beginning to sing the Gypsy Kings song of the same name, and have an Italian gentleman outside complete the lyrics for us. The coffee was good, the sangria was bad, the day was over. You gotta be crackin’ me!

A Few Sadatays To Remember: October 3rd and 10th Combined For Your Pleasure!

We spent the last few weekends in San Francisco. Recently I've been spending the majority of my time in the East Bay and have actually come to appreciate it quite a bit. I guess you could say I used to be a bit of a snob who rarely ventured outside the city because everything I could possibly want was there. San Francisco still has my heart but I'm happy I've opened up a bit.

The first weekend George and I just hung out and enjoyed each other's company without any specific plans. We ventured to The Tonga Room and enjoyed their lovely happy hour. It was my first time there and I really loved it. I was happy because it got rid of my preconceived notions that it would be a tourist hell.


This weekend also saw the acquisition of a "Wacko Jacko" mask. Let me try to explain in a way that doesn't make us sound like horribly insensitive people. We were at Walgreens and this hideous mask caught our eyes. It was so absurd and grotesque that we simply had to buy it. The slew of (what we thought to be) hilarious ideas that came streaming out of our mouths made the retail price of $14.99 seem like a steal. Much to our surprise, and that of the cashiers, it was 50% off! "How could you not? It's Halloween!" chimed the nosy cashier. How could we not indeed, wouldn't you do the same? The mask was obviously created after he died, as evident by the name of the of the manufacturer, "Morbid Industries." We've somehow convinced ourselves that Michael, the King of Pop himself, would have found the humor in this. Well maybe not, but we do have to live with ourselves.

The following weekend was spent at Michelle's timeshare on Nob Hill. It was her birthday on Friday and she and Lina we're able to go to the Jason Mraz concert at the Greek Theater, courtesy of George and his remarkable ability to win tickets and contests. Afterwards Richard, Roxanne, George and I met up with them at Triple Rock in Berkeley to greet the birthday girl. We had a beer, some food and then Michelle, Lina, George and I headed to the city to kick off another Sadatay!

After waking up and getting ready for the day, we decided there was no better time than the present to take a few self-timed photographs. Afterall, we are naturals in front of the camera. See for yourself.

Then George got a craving for a Monte Cristo sandwich, which temporarily replaced his original craving for fried seafood. Since it was his birthday, no wait Michelle's, we decided to accomodate him. Michelle just happens to be a most adaptable and agreeable cousin. "Where can we get a good Monte Cristo?" I asked the iPhone. The answer: Mama's in North Beach. Oh yes, Mama's! I had been there before and remembered that they are known for their delicious breakfast and also their long, long lines. We decided we might as well and headed down that way. The line definitely lived up to it's reputation. Standing is hard so I decided to sit down on a nearby bench, Lina joined me and then some man with a blue beard sat with us as well. He said something about needing to "rest his little leg." Lina and I both found that suspect, for both of his legs looked to be the same size, but waited until later to discuss this. I guess we'll never know what he meant. After what felt like half a day of waiting, but am told was really only one hour and five minutes, we finally got inside only to wait in another line to order. Michelle decided on Eggs Benedict and the rest of us had what we came for, The Monte Cristo. Their version is kinda like a french toast sandwich with all the goodies inside. It was delicious but doesn't top the one that we love so much at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland. We all felt that it was worth the wait and were so busy devouring our food that we forgot to take pictures until all we had left were scraps.

It was around three o'clock with one meal under, or maybe over our belts and there would be plenty more eating to come. It would seem that Mama's didn't do the trick because we ended up at Rogue. We're fans of Rogue's beer, especially the Chocolate Stout, so we figured since it was just right there we ought to go. I guess we were more taking advantage of the proximity to where we were because we were only able to stomach one beer each. Our intention was to find a cab so then we could go to happy hour at The Tonga Room again, but were unable to and ended up walking. It was an unexpected challenge but exactly what we needed after our substantial breakfast.

The Tonga Room was pleasant, if uneventful. We left after one drink and headed back to the room.

Fortunately, we were only three blocks away this time. It soon became time to eat again so we made our way to the Pier for some fried goodness. George insisted that we take a cable car since the three of us had never been on one and so that we could complete our outing in the city through a tourist's eyes. Only after reviewing the pictures did we realize that some poor man sitting near us had caught on fire. We would have helped, pero we did not know. Oh well.

So we had our fried basket of yum and then looked for another spot to celebrate the occasion.  We didn't have much luck until we came across Kennedy's, your typical Irish pub/Indian restaurant. Simply stated, Kennedy's is weird. There is old, dingy carpet, a strange setup and they are frequented by our favorite type of young man, "the bro." Take in to consideration that it was Fleet Week as well and you probably get the picture. A cart full of dirty dishes was our neighbor for the duration of our time there, only adding to the pleasant atmosphere. Really though none of this matters because we can enjoy ourselves just about anywhere. Kennedy's also has a menu and considering that it had been almost an entire hour since we had eaten, the majority of us decided to have a second dinner. Second dinner consisting of lamb vindaloo and chicken tikka masala, like all of our other food experiences for the day, was very well enjoyed.

As you can imagine, we were stuffed, tired and ready to get back to the room. Easier said then done. We attempted to get a cab for at least 45 minutes. It was not fun but was a major relief once we finally got one and headed back. We retired early as I had to work the next morning and we were all pretty exhausted. Just as we were winding down, we received a call from Richard and Roxanne who wanted to keep the party going. Sorry guys, we were done for the night. Besides, we all know that Reverends shouldn't be partying anyways.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Supercalifr...ahhh forget it: September 26, 2009

Ah! Another exhilarating early start to a Saturday. We woke up at 6:45 to ensure that we got to breakfast at 7:30, so that we could leave the restaurant no later than 8:15. Oh, how the best laid plans can get ruined by the unexpected and the unforeseen. You gotta love Murphy!

With Lina staying at our place (for a wonderful second Friday in a row), and Anne the “Uber-on-time-machine” meeting us at the always consistent and delicious J.D.’s, timing for breakfast went off without a hitch.  

It’s when we got on the road, and I made a split decision to take 880, that Murphy reared its ugly head. For what turned out to be no apparent reason, traffic hit a damn near standstill around the Oakland Coliseum. A stretch of freeway that typically takes 2 minutes to traverse took just over 20, and put us that much closer to missing our 10am timed entry into the Walt Disney Family Museum. Leave it to Murphy, and his good friend Google Maps to further complicate the time crunch by issuing shoddy directions to the Museum, or perhaps I should blame Cal-Trans? Despite a most harrowing trip, we arrived with 10 minutes to spare and plenty of free parking. Nerves wracked, we walked up to the WDFM entrance for a S.A.S. that was several months in the making.

The doors to the Museum opened promptly at 10am. Justine, Lina, Anne and I were in line with about 30 other people as the first “non-V.I.P.” group allowed entry into the museum. To be more specific, our timed entry was for between 10-10:15am, and while we were awe struck with Walt’s many awards, trophies, and commendations that lined the lobbies West wall, the Gift Shop was calling to us (ok, maybe not us, maybe mostly me and Anne). The Gift Shop ended up being an amazing treasure trove of Disney memorabilia. What was very exciting was that much of the merchandise exclusive to the Colors of Mary Blair exhibit in Japan was available here! I realized we may have spent entirely too long perusing and purchasing when I looked at the clock and it was 10:20! Justine and I quickly hit the register, spent money I didn’t have to spend, and raced to the exhibit entrance. I handed over our tickets, dreading that the usher would notice the time, but she didn’t even care. It would have been nice to know that at 8:15.

So as not to spoil the experience of any future visitors to the Walt Disney Family Museum, I will offer a brief, non-detailed review. I will also offer some time saving advice. If you are of with a little spoiling, and an amazing review with some stellar images, visit here: David Lesjak's WDFM Review This museum is obviously an animation fan’s dream come true, add Disney fandom to that mix and there’s an overwhelming draw. That being said, absolutely anybody that has watched a Disney movie, visited a Disney park, or even heard the man’s name would enjoy this museum immensely. It is a feast for the senses (except for maybe smelling and tasting, although they do have a cafe) as you embark on Walt’s journey from pre-conception, to his death in 1966. All of his many triumphs and even some of his defeats are featured in insightful detail with written, audio, video, and artistic representations. When you visit, give yourself at least 4 hours (we only had two due to a lunch appointment, but more on that soon). Any less and you’re rushing, believe me. If you could devote a good chunk of your day, you’d be better off as there is a whole lot to see and you’ll want to soak it in instead of leaving and desperately wishing you hadn't. Much of what is available to read is also available to listen to, so if a listening station is available, take advantage, as this is a faster option and you’ll get to hear the voices of some very important people in Walt’s life. Don’t miss an iota of the magic this museum has to offer, and brace yourself for the “Christmas Morning” room. There are no pictures allowed, except for an incredible walkway that offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

As I said, we had a 12pm lunch appointment, once again, I probably shouldn’t say “we.” I frequent the blog of Disney Historian and author Didier Ghez and upon learning that he would be visiting San Francisco for the preview opening of WDFM, I sent him an email expressing my sincere desire to meet him while he was here. Didier replied to my email with an invitation to join him for a Disney Historians lunch at the Fog City Diner which he was organizing. His email included a list of the invited and the expected; animators, authors, historians, children of Disney Legends, ambassadors for The Walt Disney Company. To put it mildly, I was floored. A request to add Justine, Lina and Anne to the Guest List was denied because Didier wanted to keep things organized and rightfully so. Fortunately, I have the world’s greatest girlfriend, and equally incredible friends, who insisted I attend. While the awesome threesome enjoyed a lunch of their own (see below), I was privy to the chatter from multiple conversations concerning Disney History, the Museum, Disney Parks, Disney Movies, the state of animation, the homes and lives of animators, and the opinions and ideas of people who’ve been Disney fans longer than I’ve been alive. I introduced myself as nothing more than a guest of Didier’s, an awe-struck and dumbfounded fan. While I was enticed and invited to offer opinions and discuss likes and dislikes, I was just too amazed and too happy to do much more than listen. On Didier’s okay I brought two heavy bags of books with me, which were graciously signed by anyone who was present that had involvement in a particular book. The highlight; A 30 minute one-on-one conversation with Andreas Deja about Disney, animation, and his experiences with Disney Animation Legend Milt Kahl. The most interesting tidbit I heard that I can talk about on a blog? Historian Joe Campana discussing phone conversations he had with the daughter of Disney Legend, Freddie Moore in which she remarked that the little African American centaur-ette in the Pastoral Symphony scene of Fantasia (who has been unceremoniously cut out of the movie since the late 60’s) was based on their private Maid!!!!! Everyone in attendance was friendly, gracious, and open. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience, which included an invitation to join them the next time it occurs and an inscription welcoming me to “the club,” making it all seem like an impossible dream. 

**Instead of boring you with a list of who was there and their accolades, I've identified the people in the pictures.  Feel free to look up their names and see what they've done/who they are.**

Justine’s POV of the lunch: Our lunch was a pleasant experience. Lina loved her clam chowder, Anne seemed to enjoy her salad and my food was so-so. The cheese biscuits that we decided on as an appetizer were good but dense, and had me hurting. The conversation was mostly dominated by how we thought George was handling himself in a room full of Disney legends. Was his jaw hanging open the entire time, was he able to speak, was he going to be okay? We wondered what was going on in that room tucked away in the far corner. Could we casually walk by without catching the attention of everyone in said room? We decided it was too big of a risk and we would just leave it up to our imaginations. Fortunately, George was able to sneak away a few times and let us know that he, was in fact, okay and having a grand time. Sadly, Anne had to leave to pick up her three precious boys so we paid and Lina and I graduated to the bar. We waited there for the lunch to end and ordered some very delicious lemonade drinks. Lina exclaimed that it was the best lemonade she ever had. I'm quite sure the fact that they had vodka in them had nothing to do with that statement. We laughed and we (almost) cried talking about past memories. Alas, all good things must come to an end. George appeared overwhelmed and overjoyed letting us know it was over. We continued on to the rest of our day. The End (of Justine's POV, at least)

Unfortunately, time crunches, scheduling conflicts, and older sibling responsibilities prevented me from visiting with my dear friends Mike and Denyse who were visiting from Las Vegas in order to attend the museum as well. I miss you guys, and I hope to see you soon!!!!

The day was capped off with a visit to Frank’s place of employment, Eddie Papa’s All American Hang Out.  Frank made us a few special drinks, including a Long Island that had me reeling. Justine and Lina had drinks made with macadamia nut liqueur and topped with flower petals. 

After eating some hefty chow, and waiting for the effects to wear off, Justine, Lina and I made a visit to see Ken and partake in the celebration of his 17 th birthday. We watched Cops and I ate Ken's birthday hamburger. A stolen hamburger is especially delicious, making the oldest brother once again victorious, and full.