Our 10-hour layover in Seattle was my first encounter with what I guess is the region called the ‘Pacific Northwest’ after an awkward 9th grade class reading of “Snow Falling on Cedars” (as 13-year-olds, we clearly couldn’t handle the handkerchief scenes). In Seattle, the emerald pines are gorgeous. The Space Needle looks like something out of a 1970s Star Trek b-grade planet set. The shrimp cocktails are bigger than my hand (I am so okay with that). Pike Place Market is crowded, but worth a trip for the hand-shrimp alone. Rachel’s Ginger Beer has Moscow Mules on tap. There are strategically-placed pianos in public parks to entertain both the general populace and the homeless. This is a city I can definitely picture myself living in one day.
Airport: Smaller than what we had expected. But with a $3.00 shuttle to city center, I’m not complaining.
Chipotle consumed: Does Peruvian food count? Although the dishes were largely Alaskan cod, which I’m pretty sure is not native to Peru.
Post-China gastrointestinal failures: None
Possibility of sunburn: Minimal
San Francisco is the reason the skin is peeling off my shoulders right now. The worst sunburn I’ve gotten in my entire life was on a 60ºF cloudy day in San Francisco. But that was 2012, and by 2015, I had thought I was better than that. I wasn’t. Neither was D, and he got the worst of it, largely because I told him not to wear sunscreen (big mistake). After about twelve days, his face is finally getting back back to normal following our hike to the Golden Gate Bridge.
This was meant to be the ‘vacation’ part of our vacation. And it largely was, aside from the lack of internet at our Bed & Breakfast, not advertised in the listing (neither was the sassy old lady we stayed with, but we dealt with both pretty well). I hadn’t been to San Francisco in three years and I couldn’t quite tell if it’s changed – the Golden Gate Bridge is still there; as is the Ferry Building; the Exploratorium has been moved to Pier 15, but it’s still the tits.
One of the things I’ve missed the most about America have been lawns. San Francisco is a city of many great lawns. The San Francisco Presidio is one of those great lawns. Off The Grid food trucks, which were once a trio of awkward trunks perched under an underpass outside of the Apple Developers Conference, are now parked on Sunday afternoons at the Presidio. That lawn was probably the cause of our sunburn, but seeing D devour an entire (family-sized) white pizza made the experience worth it.
Airport: In one word: Artisanal.
Chipotle consumed: One, in the Westgate mall food court, which explains the following:
Post-China gastrointestinal failures: Daily
Possibility of sunburn: Get your SPF ready, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Sometimes you just have to say ‘screw it’ to all the landmarks and spend time with the people you love. I did that in Chicago. Despite never having been in the city itself (does a harried stay in an airport hotel count?) and sort of hating on O’Hare for always delivering me to and from China via United (still one of the worst U.S.-based carriers and I stand by it), I have a soft spot for Chicago, largely because it has been a gateway to China (which contradicts my previous point, but being in China is a contradictory experience. D and I took the train from Milwaukee into Chicago after a week in Wisconsin, landing in the Loop about mid-day, way too late to do anything tourist-like, although we did pass the
Sears Willis Tower on the way to Chipotle.
Most importantly, we had the chance to see A, who had flown from New York that morning and his uncles, who plied us with Martinis and took us out to Table-52, which was probably the best meal I had on the trip. It was Art Smith at his finest (which is to say Art Smith pre-weight loss, making his Southern cooking significantly less fun one (me) might argue). When I fall asleep and have vivid dreams in the middle of frigid (mostly because I don’t turn the heat up high enough) Shanghai nights, what I dream about is Southern food. I dream of brown sauce shrimp and buttered grits, yellow succotash, butter-mashed potatoes, and cucumber pickles that would make my mother cry, because she never uses a vinegar brine, but I sort of can’t help but love its acidity.
After dinner, D, A, and I went to The Drifter, a hidden speakeasy where the drinks were written out on tarot cards and which had impromptu burlesque performances. I hadn’t seen A since last November and it was so nice to catch up and to have him finally meet my boyfriend. There are very few close friendships where we have enough vulnerability to show both our good and bad sides to another person and to share both our highs and our lows. It’s always nice to know that despite distance, these kinds of things stay the same.
Chipotle consumed: One, and I almost got into a traffic accident to get there.
Post-China gastrointestinal failures: In a Macy’s bathroom
Possibility of sunburn: You can’t get sunburnt at night.