Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eat Pray Love

I've gotten back into reading again, I can say happily. These last three weeks I've devoured books. I was in a "fiction" mood so that's all I've wanted. I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter and was reintroduced into why I love good fiction. The Sugar Queen, and Garden Spells and it too reminded me of why I love magical realism. Ah, sweet sweet fiction. So I was surprised as to why I decided to pick up Eat, Pray, Love after being in such a fictionous state (yeah, I just made it up, so what!) Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir of a woman who'd traveled to Italy, India and Indonesia after a horrible divorce. It was CERTAINLY not something I wanted to read at all and I just wanted either heavy FICTION or light and fluffy, with meaning. I found that in those previous three books I mentioned. But something made me open up EPL and I am forever thankful.

I'm not good with expressing myself with the written word. I'm an extremely emotional person, so I have a hard time articulating my thoughts and my feelings verbally or written. Not until I picked up EPL did I finally see much of what I was thinking, feeling and believing on a written page. I don't mean to say that I'm exactly like the protagonist, because I'm not, but her experiences, more her feelings, really reflect much of what I was feeling a few months back and have dripped into my present life. I have a reason to believe that this book came into my life for a reason, right place and right time.

And that's just what I choose.

(note, this was written a while back, yikes!)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dear Portland, make room for San Francisco.

This past weekend, I was in San Francisco. I'd wanted to have a mother-daughter trip for some time now and I could not decide on where to go. Mom and I have always wanted to go to Vermont, but as I researched it, it got a bit too overwhelming and I figured, expensive especially for just 4 days. I also thought Washington D.C. but again, the whole far way thing. I've always wanted to have a road trip down the 101 as well, but I thought my mom wouldn't like to sit in a car for 6 hours at a time. So finally, I settled on San Francisco. I know she loves it there and I'd never been. I was a bit bummed out that she *had* been, but I let that go and decided to make the best of it. And the best is what happened.
The only things I had planned on this trip was visiting bakeries, going to Alcatraz and visiting my friend Zenia and her family, everything else was up in the air. There was specifically this one bakery I wanted to visit, but she didn't have a store front, so I met up with the baker personally. More on that later.

So Day One was Thursday and we arrive right on time in San Francisco at 12pm. It didn't start out that fluid. Luckily, I had packed the night before and decided to take a shower in the morning. My plan was to take a shower, have some oatmeal, read a few emails, and wait to be picked up. Well, the universe LAUGHED at that plan and I woke up at 8:10! My brother was supposed to have been at my door at 7:45 and I'd heard nothing from them. I panicked! I called and they said they were in traffic and would be there in 15 minutes. Well you can only imagine my stress. I hopped in the shower, telling my hair to get rid of the shampoo FASTER, FASTER! I grabbed the few last minute things, threw them in bag and ran out, wet hair dripping as I went.
Finally, after a pleasant plane ride, Mom and I arrive on one of the most beautiful days in San Francisco. Even the locals are surprised. It was warm, about 80, with a bit of wind gust too cool us down. The taxi driver takes us to our Bed and Breakfast located at Fillmore and Grove. Fillmore and I will get very well acquainted in the next 4 days. Finally, we are at The Grove Inn which is run by a very talkative German man named Klaus.

He's extremely friendly, helpful. He hands us a map and tells us all the variety of ways how and were we can go. It was wonderful. First stop mom and I decide on right there is Mission Dolores, but first: FOOD!

On our taxi ride to The Grove both mom and I see a hamburger place. We weren't quite sure exactly what and what street it was on, but I figured it was at the bottom of the hill to the right. So we venture out. Of course, I can't help myself and start snapping as soon as possible:

Finally we make our way to the burger place called Flippers Gourmet Burgers. I wasn't sure what to expect because I'm not really big on fancy burgers. When we open up the menu, both mom and I are surprised by the variety of burger options. Finally, I settle on one called, (I think) The Mediterranean which had eggplant, pesto and tomatoes.

Mom got The French which had melted feta and spinach. Not only did they come with your choice of curly fries or steak fries, but also a salad. These suckers were big.

We both thought, "oh, I won't finish this" since we don't really eat that much any more, but they were SO GOOD, we both ended up finishing our burgers and were stuffed. Rightly so.

From there, we were off to the Mission Dolores. We had to figure out what bus to take where. As most of you know, I don't like public transportation, mostly buses. They scare me. I feel like I'll get lost. But here in San Francisco, I had no qualms. Maybe it was because every major mode of public transport was attached to a cable, or a track, that set my mind at east. The Fillmore bus #22 became our new best friend and we took that down to the Mission District.
It's so odd to me how California reminds me so much of Mexico. I've not been many places in this world, but I have been multiple times to Mexico and it goes without saying how similar they are to each other, how OBVIOUSLY they are influenced by one another. I know rationally in my head that DUH, they were both governed by Spain at one point, but to actually see it was another thing, to see the influence in the architecture, in the lay out of the city, was fascinating.
Finally we hit mission and to my surprise, they have a wonderful little cemetery out back.
Here are a few pictures of the whole thing:

Finally, out of my dazed, happy stupor, we make our way toward Tartine, the bakery 3 people told me to go to. Sadly, both mom and I are really stuffed so we decided to walk around a bit to see if our stomachs can empty out. We come across a large hilly park with a bell and Hidalgo in the middle of it. We climb up but mom only wants to go up halfway, totally understandable.

Finally we end up at tartine and have a Bavarian Cream fruit cake thing. It was super yummy!

We finally mosey back down toward Market st. to catch our beloved #22 Fillmore back home. Once we get home, we figure we're still pretty stuffed from the food we've eaten so we decide to take a walk to Alamo Square at dusk.

And thus, concludes day one.

Day two we decide this is our walking day: time to explore. We have our continental breakfast at the inn consisting of a croissant, OJ and coffee, and off we are on our bus #22 up to Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow. This is the day we are to meet Sabrina from Cynically Delicious and take the Alcatraz tour. As mentioned, there were only a few bakeries on my radar for this trip. One was Tartine which we could scratch off the list. The second was Cynically Delicious. Unfortunately, Sabrina does not yet have a store front, but she was nice enough to meet up with my mom and I and give us freshly baked cupcakes. I was curious of her cupcakes because they were of different flavors than I'd ever heard of: Earl Grey, Irish Car Bomb, Pistachio, etc. So mom and I settled on Pumpkin Carrot with Ginger Butter cream and an Irish Car Bomb.

Man, were they good. We carried them around in their little pink box all day so that we could savor them at night when we got home. And not only did we savor them that night, but also the next night and they kept their flavor and their moistness. They were not overly sweet nor overly dry. They were just perfect and Sabrina was so sweet. I felt like a made a new friend. Thanks Sabrina!

After meeting Sabrina, we had lunch at Boudin, and then headed for the ferry to Alcatraz. By that time it was getting cold and windy, but no matter.

Oh right, I must back track a bit. Before meeting Sabrina, mom and I went up to Cow Hollow to the Union Street Square, which is a bit like NW 23rd area and yes, I bought some clothes: a dress and a top. Both 20 bucks. It was nice to be on level land after having walked around in this:

Now, back to after Alcatraz. Mom and I were SO TIRED. We boarded the F from pier 33 all the way to Market. From Market, which is in the Mission area, we ate some Mexican food at a place called Mi Casa, then we boarded our beloved #22 bus and headed home. This was day two that I'd eyed an ice cream place called Three Twins Organic Ice Cream but had not stopped to get some. Oh, but I will . . .

Day Three-Saturday. Today is the day we meet Zenia and her family. Mom and I decided that we'd skip our continental breakfast for a real breakfast. Sabrina had put in our head this bar called Buena Vista cafe over at Fisherman's Warf where they have the best Irish Coffees. I figured they'd also have really good breakfast and since we were meeting Zenia over in that direction, I thought it would all work out. Sabrina also told us about the cable car from there and how it takes you up and through Nob Hill and such, so we wanted to do that too before we met Zenia at 2:30pm. Today, however, was a bit more like Portland weather. OH YEAH! There were thunderstorms that woke me up in the middle of the morning and rattled the windows, and you know how much I like those. While I was doing my business in the bathroom, the lights went out, so it was a sure sign that breakfast must be had in a different part of town. Mom and I weren't really prepared for rain, but luckily it never got past a light drizzle, but it sure was blowing cold wind. So we make our way onto the #22, then the F and stop at Fisherman's Wharf and head toward Buena Vista Cafe. It's like a mad house in there and you seat yourself. Where?! So mom and I waited on the sidelines and this couple was really gracious and finished up their Irish coffees so mom and I could have a seat at the bar. I ordered an Irish coffee which yes, was very good and my first drink that trip, and mom just ordered coffee with her crab eggs benedict. I got french toast, eggs and potatoes. It was quite the scene.
After that, we got in line for the Cable Car. Man, that sure was fun! We went up and a round and held on tight! We decided to get off at Union Street in downtown where I promptly got overwhelmed. I apparently don't like the "big city" feel, cuz I wanted to run back to my #22 bus and get on Fillmore. We had 2 hours to kill so we decided to walk around the area a bit, but unfortunately, that meant hiking up the hills! But it sure was fun. Here are some pics of that:

After that, we were ready to meet Zenia and her family in Chinatown. Oh man, is her son Arai beautiful and so cute! He's a year and a half old and understands Spanish, English and is learning Chinese. But man, was it weird to see one of my best-friends with a child. I mean, weird but at the same time pretty normal. He was just a little extension of her. She said she might move back, that's the plan, they just don't know when, but I sure do look forward to it. Since they'd been driving for a while, they were hungry so we went to get some pretty darn good Chinese food. After that, Phil bought us some white meat filled balls and some pastries in case we get hungry at night. How sweet. Now it was time to say good bye to them, with a child, time is unpredictable and he was getting tired and fussy.

After that, mom and I made our way through the hills to the Cable Car to take us back to Fisherman's Wharf so we could take the F, then the #22 back home. Our day was coming to a close.
I've never wanted to live anywhere else. Most of the time, I'm forced to out of necessity, but by choice, I choose Portland. I love Portland. I've not been to that many places but Portland is always where I've felt at home . . . until San Francisco. After the first day, I was ready to head back home! I'm kind of a baby and I get home sick pretty quick. I miss familiarity and routine. But here, I explored with no familiarity and no routine, just a vague outline, no detail. And for once, I relished in it. I'd read up on a place on the map and figure we should head over there. I loved the public transportation and it never let me down, it welcomed me with open arms and was always reliable, like it was telling me "I understand if you want to stay, but you're always welcome to come back because I'll take care of you." I was staring to learn my way around various modes of transportation and I felt in complete control. Even in Portland I don't feel that sense of control. I don't like that the buses will suddenly decide to pass your bus stop or will turn down a non scheduled street or go through red lights cuz they are the bus. I don't like the special privileges they get. There, its on a system and they have to go that way, turn that way, ride that way. I like it, its controlled.
The other thing that sets San Francisco apart from Portland is this sense of belonging. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel like an other, but I also stood out. I know that doesn't make sense, it really doesn't, but its hard to explain. In Portland, if I'm out with my mom speaking our English/Spanish mix, people give us weird looks, like we don't belong, or we're aliens, like something is wrong with us even though I was born and raised here and my mom has been here now 40 years, more than most young people . . . In San Francisco, people spoke all kinds of languages, people spoke with accents, people spoke English then promptly changed language when it was asked of them or the setting had changed. Everything was fluid and fluent, there was no crazy weird looks, no daggers of non-belonging. Things for once, felt normal. I mean, I totally stood out because I was a tourist, but I belonged because I was an American, but I also belonged because I spoke more than one language and for once I felt completely nondescript. I felt like I belonged but was still unique, I was still me.
So now, I really do feel like I have options, like the sky is the limit. I've never quite felt that way because I feel things quite deeply. It can be a hindrance at times like these. I take things in, deep to the bone and if its uncomfortable or I feel unsettled, I feel it deep deep inside and it overwhelms me to the point of being paralyzed. But finally, I feel like I have the option to go some place else that makes me feel ok about who I am, and where I belong. San Francisco now has a place in my heart and I know its there in case I need a change.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paradise Park-Mt. Hood

*Longest post EVER.

This past Saturday I did something I never thought I'd do: a 12.3 mile hike. Yes, I can hear your gasps. I heard them from everyone I told. Honestly, it didn't seem like that bad of an idea, or that long. But I've done this before. I've run a 10k without really realizing HOW LONG it really was. So I said to myself "12 miles? Well, I'll be walking so it's ok." Yeah, walking UP HILL! But I digress.

I should also mention that even though it was 12.3 miles, it was one of the highlights of my summer (after my Karaoke birthday party and Kelly's engagement). My friend Morgan (who moved here from Kentucky in April) and I decided on her day off, we'd tackle and day hike and finally settled on Paradise Park in Mt. Hood. That or the coast. The coast, we will do for her birthday in October. Her 30th birthday. So coast, please don't rain for my dear friend Morgan.

We decided, since it was a Saturday, we didn't really want to get up to early, so Morgan came to pick me up at 9am and off we went to Mt. Hood. We finally started our trek at 11am. This was our view from the trail head.

As we ascended the trail toward the mountain, we got a little lost. The directions in the book weren't as detailed as we wanted, this being our first time and all, so when we came upon this sign, we were perplexed:

I decided with how the immigration policy was going, I'd better jet.

Just kidding. We decided to keep going straight cuz as you can tell from the sign, the choices were "Canada" or "Mexico" and we decided um, Mt. Hood. So straight we went.
The book directions told us we'd cross under two ski lifts, so this is what we saw when we did that:

We finally felt like we were on the right path. It was truly amazing and the best weather. We couldn't have asked for a better day. One thing I was completely surprised by was the buzzing of the bees. Poor Morgan has a "thing" about bees so I'm sure this was unsettling for her. I just ignored them (having faith they wouldn't find me tasty) and we trekked through, but man, was there buzzing. Once we finally came out of a small thing of woods, there was the beautiful mountain. Morgan decided to "explore".

We were still not 100% sure we were on the right track until we found the sign. Man, were we happy!

After the encouragement from the sign that we were going the right way, we assented toward the ridge. Man, we were FAR UP! It was a bit vertigoish, but I managed. We took a few pictures of our time on the ridge. Morgan needed to look sexy for hers:

After the ridge, we came upon a sign that said we needed a permit. We were a bit perplexed. We opened the box and basically it had a bunch of hand written notes: dates, names, destination. So that we did. Then I decided to sit in the rock chair and contemplate life for oh, 5 seconds.

After the ridge, we went into the forest. This was beautiful but didn't quite capture how I saw it in my mind's eye.

Then we came upon a moss wall

And had to cross a broken bridge

Honestly, out of all of the hike, the forest was my least favorite (but still loved it) because I felt a bit claustrophobic. Finally, I have no idea how many miles it was, but we got to the bottom where we had to cross the glacier run. We were NOT looking forward to that. So, we decided to break and have lunch.

I was there too =)

Finally, we mustered up all our courage and crossed the river. We were successful! We didn't die nor get wet, but what I always forget is that if we cross it once, we have to cross it twice. But I didn't think about that until well, we had to cross it again.
After that forested part, we came out into a beautiful open meadow. Man, this whole HIKE was just beautiful. We saw some plants that we dubbed Lorax cuz they looked like a character from dr. Seuss

And then we came to the turning point:

Do we keep going and do 12.3 miles or do we head back. After our poses we made our decision. I didn't like Morgan touching my sweaty ass back, so here I am, making a face!

And I didn't like my rolls, so I cropped it.

We headed forth. We knew no matter how hard it would be, we'd be proud we did it.

More meadows and a beautiful camp ground. Man, if I were a camper, I'd go here. If I have someone that would like to go camping next summer, I know exactly where to go! Since this was a loop, honestly, I have no idea where the "end" was, but we started to descend down. Unfortunately, there was another little river glacier thing we had to cross. Morgan was successful

But I was not so much. I hate doing the splits:

After this crossing, it was back into the forest and finally onto the ridge. By this time, we were pretty spent and didn't take as many pictures. We just wanted to get to Timberline alive!

Finally it was time to cross the major glacier river thing, the first one. Morgan went first and unfortunately a naughty rock decided to tilt mid walk and she fell about thigh deep into the water. She got a bit scrapped up and a bit wet, but was fine:

We sat there for a bit to rest and muster up all energy. I think it took us about two more hours to get back to Timberline. We were seriously so tired. Our bodies and feet ached. Finally, I saw the ski lifts and said "we're close!" and kind of jogged. Morgan was having none of it.

I think all in all, we did about 7 hours of hiking with a few breaks here and there. Its the longest I've ever been on and thus far, the most beautiful. I'm really glad I did this, and had really great company on the way there. Next up? Cascade at the coast!

*Note* Unfortunately, my recollection of events might be out of order. Also images # 8-12, 15-17, 20 & 21, 26-29 are Morgan Mathews'.