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Week 4 – Mexico Dispatches

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I always find myself on the same street regardless of how many left and right turnsI take. Here I am again on Lazaro Cardenas. I say hola to the family with the colourful woven bags. I am relieved to see that someone is caring for la ninas and ninos so they don’t have to tough it out on the cement in the heat. How uncomfortable must that be. I’m happy the bags don’t scream destination, even though they really rather do. I just want one that’s bigger but I’m beginning to think anything would be better than my backpack. Kicking myself for forgetting my practically theft proof roomy shoulder bag at home. 
It is a holiday. Something to do with the revolution. I’m try to find new accommodation for the end of December (not staying at the Cactus which was my original plan) My background noise is punctuated with a regular series of what sound like explosions. Every one of them stops me for a moment. I would blame that for ruining my flow, but I’ve just been hanging out with that old friend ‘lack of motivation and discipline’.

Stomach tells me it is time to make my way out. Nice breeze. Temperature cooler? Here I am again, walking past familiar buildings, businesses and landmarks. Hola to the hat guy. I end up buying another, a white one, a totally impractical. Now I own 5 summer hats, all of which I scarcely wear. Still, it’s polite to say hi. The 80 pesos ($4) isn’t a great expense. Really would like a coffee…thinking about Panino’s, beginning to think of a ham and cheese croissant. Really, how N. American can you get? A girl and I exchange Holas and then she gestures me into a place I’ve passed many times before. I’m credulous about whether there is a restaurant in there or not because the most prominently stated business on the signage is ‘Yoga’ being the business conducted inside. I am led through, past some tables, through the shop…keep going. Around a juice bar, oh here is where they must do yoga. It’s a big empty space, but there are two discrete small dividers and I’m seated at the lone table in the “top” of the restaurant. I am the only person in the place. It is airy, with smatterings of filtered sunlight creating dancing patterns around me. I get a satisfying cup of coffee (and it’s free!) and a delicious meal of Chicken Tinga. 

I check into hostel early so I can get the bus to SPCA. My luggage and other stuff stowed away. Sense of relief washes over me. Professional! 1464 pesos for 9 nights. A kitchen, tick; a cozy sofa, a place to relax, tick. No pool. Didn’t use pool at Hotel Cactus anyway, and it’s the reason I’m here, having cut short my stay.  It wasn’t an inviting pool anyway. It had that concrete compound feel, even with the funky slide. Methinks the place has fallen a bit into disrepair and only the bare minimum is being done to maintain it. It is more shower and bed sort of place, for cheap. Only one of my roommates has arrived to the hostel and apparently he and I are the only two there just yet. He’s a young guy, 21, from Mexico City working at a local restaurant. I didn’t ask him why but I am curious. Could he not have gotten this kind of job in Mexico City? The conversation turns a bit extentialist, him thinking that he should be in university and further along in his life and he’s already looking back at the choices he’s made. The coulda, woulda, shoulda, road not taken and all of that. I am a bit envious at how self-aware he is and also feeling a bit like if he tries to hurry up and speed his life forward to where he thinks he needs be, he may find himself regretting himself not savouring important moments.I told him about ‘Waking Life’ which was heavy on the existentialist theory, or at least so it was in my brain. That’s how I remember it but I could be wrong of course. I recommended the movie with this caveat. It also reminded me that I wanted to see this one again myself. My other roomies arrive but they aren’t English speaking, all Mexican. It seems they are working as well. Our small room is packed. Perhaps I should have booked sooner to get a semi-private one. At any rate, it’s all good.

Coffee Au lait & a version Jamon y queso croissant at the Frenchly named cafe right next door, handy. I hoover it up. I’m starving. The last night’s dinner at the Cactus was microwave popcorn. The view is hardly pastoral 8 lanes of morning traffic hurtle to and fro. But I am satisfied with my stiff caffe. Who cares!! I sip my coffee reading storefront signs and attempting translations; trying to work at developing some kind of Spanish muscle. I get one right away ‘barato’. Cheap…I heard this one shouted at me at the beach yesterday and one other occasion. I suppose it was in response to the fact that I would’nt buy what was being offered, a massage. I now only patronize Nikko’s tent and I tell every massage hawker this. There is one who ignores this and massages my shoulders as he talks to me; half flirting and half soliciting. 

I observe the obviously American and Canadian people go about their regular lives consisting of yoga, fancy dinners etc. with one simple difference: Constant sunshine. I can hear the barking instructions of the spinning instructor at the fitness place next door. Everyone calls it the Marilyn Monroe fitness club, there’s a giant colour Marilyn Monroe statue in front of it, dress flaring up in that famous image of her over the sewer grate; only in their depiction it is a red dress. It is a great landmark. I always look for it when I’m on the bus. I know this is where I need to get off.

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Mexico Dispatches – Week One

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Just arrived. Day 1. That walk into the heat is almost like walking into a warm dense body of water. At first it’s wondrous and then you just start sweating. I packed a couple of handkerchiefs just for this purpose. My host Mario contacted me by imessenger mostly to ask about my arrival, but it impressed me.  I found out later he is the manager of the small property for an absent owner. 

Nikko and Linda picked me up and the airport and we detoured slightly to La Condessa, a roadside open air bar. Nikko ordered us all giant mugs–almost a litre–of beer apiece. I chose Negro Modelo, my favourite dark Mexican beer, which I happily tucked away, drinking it down like water. It soothed and cooled in the 35+ degree heat. We ordered two kinds of flavours of wings I’ve never had before, Lemon and Parmesan. I think I’ll have to get back. d., It’ll mean a bus ride! We drove for awhile seemingly lost trying to find my hotel. It seems the addresses don’t follow any convention at all odd and even on the same side and the address numbers are mixed, larger and smaller as you drive up the street. There’s parking out front and the smallish sign is a bit faded and set back. We finally found it, and Mario was there to greet me on the street, probably wanting to get home because it was after the checkin time of 6 but he greeted me warmly and grabbed my suitcase, hoisted it onto his shoulders and carried it in for me. 

The suite is even better than the pictures. He upgraded me to a 2 bedroom from a single twin and it feels almost palatial compared to my lowest expectations of what it might be.  I’ve got a full kitchen, with a stove and everything. Not that I will use it but I might. The bathroom shower delivers a slightly punishing jet of water, which is very welcome after sweating it out during the day. The a/c in the bedroom delivers on its promise and cools to a temperature perfect for sleeping. If I keep the door open and both ceiling fans going, it also cools the living space. Perfect. Later on I heard rain pelting down. I couldn’t resist going out and sitting out in it, a lonely soul by the pool. The warm rain soaked me to the skin in minutes. I couldn’t have been happier to be in a rainstorm.

Day 2 in Bucerias. Doing a little dripping and detective work I discover I am the only person here so far. It’s a strange feeling and it’s pushing the notion of solitude a bit far. The Netflix and wifi is phenomenal so I’m able to amuse myself in solo quiet pursuits. I was wanting to play some Spanish television in the background to help my ear for it, but that I can’t seem to make that happen. 

I revisited the Casa Tranquila for a stiff cup of coffee…or two…My route there was circuitous and I know for sure i was lost for a moment, but I knew it wasn’t uphill and headed down toward water. I found myself on the next street over, Col. Lazarena, familiar with it from the last trip. I hit the beach and followed the shoreline until I saw the familiar sloped entry to the beach that I had walked many times before. 

I got a recommendation for cheap breakfast which is definitely in order. The last proper meal was on the plane yesterday. I also got a lead on a beach, which again, I’m not sure of its location. Something Blanca. Apparently the beach is lovely white and it is not touristy. Sounds like it is on my list of places to visit for sure. It’s a trip on a bus and then a very long walk from what I gather, because there are no buses that travel to it. Samantha, mum to lovely little Belana (who I played a short game of I drop you pickup) told me to just hail down any passing car and they would take me there. Not sure about that. Never was a hitchhiker so that might be a stretch. 

I walked to beach bar El Chivero, had a couple Negro Modelo’s and wrote journal entry on napkins–forgot my travel journal (yes a travel journal!) at hotel and no wifi meant no wordpress. The only vendor of the few selling their wares I succumbed to was Alejandro, who sold me a bracelet like one I’d lost last year. 

Since my room has a kitchenette, I decided I could do with some. supplies so I decided to make my way to the big local grocery store Chedraui. First order of business was to find a bus stop. But first to find it. Then I saw a casual grouping of people waiting at a corner. What tipped me off is that they all checked their phones and were definitely waiting for something.  All I could summon up was just one word “autobus”, and an older man didn’t really confirm it was a bus stop but did say it was “tarde”; apparently an international malady and I asked the cost. 7 pesos (50 cents) to get as far as the bus goes; in this case Puerto Vallarta. The local city buses are really cargo vans with the seats reconfigured. A narrow space was made for me at the back. As I sat there I wondered where this store was and how i was meant to let the driver know where I needed to get off, but when the familiar destination rose up on right I jumped up and made way to front. It seemed to do the trick. Whether this is right or wrong I have no idea, but  This is apparently the way to do it, because there is  no calling out of stops, stops are anywhere you need to go or anywhere people are standing and waiting. I have to say I rather prefer this to the Canadian way of doing things.

Back at the ranch I had trouble getting in the gate, a lot of trouble. Under the heat of the sun, I felt a river of sweat begin to run down my back and brow. I was reminded of that game show where you had to try keys to open doors to win prizes. I only had 2 keys and one entry. This is not an auspicious beginning. While I sat at the little table outside my room, a man appeared at the gate and then a small wizened woman joined him and we had this conversation across the pool. Well, conversation is pushing it. They spoke in rapid fire Spanish and I said “no se” a bunch of times until I finally decided to plug into my translator the question “are you looking for Mario?” Problem was I couldn’t respond to anything she said after that. I couldn’t pick out any familiar Spanish words in the torrent that followed. In the end I defaulted back to “no se” (I don’t understand) a bunch of times and she wandered off.  I think the learning of a tad more Spanish is in order. Da 

Day 3. What did I do on day 3? Oh yes,…Linda and Nikko, his daughter and her “princessa” Carla came to pick me up. He dropped us at El Chivero, we didn’t leave until dark and I’d spent 500 pesos, Enough said. 

Day 4. I did a bit of wandering along the beach, but then I sought cover under a palapas when I found the rays of the sun a bit too hot and punishing. After my wander I attempted to push through but perhaps too much wandering in the sun earlier or too much beer AND sun the day before meant it wasn’t happening. Mario came and replaced my water and I asked him about the place next door. I wasn’ ambitious to go any further. I asked him also why a cab driver would get on the short drive here. He explained that the numbering convention is nothing like what we’re used to. The development of Bucerias has been even more haphazard than most places because in some cases people would simply choose numbers they liked for their homes. In navigating it, it is more crucial that one pay attention to the landmarks. Other streets that are much more well known are still a bit of a crapshoot. I know now that the dead end we encounter is Las Palmas and Avenue Fibba the cross street, but better yet I’d be more served by saying it is in the Golden Zone. “Zona Oro” maybe at Las Palmas by Royal Decameron. Still not really sure about that or if it is some construct of a hotel owners wanting to make their place seem like it’s in a more luxurious area. There are a lot of luxury condos and bungalows hidden behind tall walls in the area and a dearth of restaurants. At first I couldn’t  exactly figure out how to get to the ocean from here except for some circuitous route through Royal Decameron resort. In there, I passed a pool the size of the average jacuzzi on the left with kids playing in it.  The smallish pool to my right was full of people doing water aquatics.  It is a huge resort and this was just one block. Meanwhile at the oceanside Mexican children frolicked in the surf of the ocean, delighting in the ebb and flow, being pulled out pushed in. Older people swam out beyond the breakers and bobbed in the gently swelling deeper water. 

A biggish flying bug found its way into my room through the gap of a narrow door in my bedroom. Not good with insects, give me one of those geckos I hear so much about.  It creeped and crawled around for a bit and then flapped and flew to who knows where. Great the roommate no one wants.

Day 5. Slept in super late, who cares.  I’m going to leave beachcombing at dawn to another day. I am meeting Linda at the Casa for lunch with a friend of hers. It’s 30 degrees…feels like 41. Ouch. Definitely going to be walking on the sunny shade of the street on my way there. As I went about my morning routine I realized I haven’t had to use any night meditation or medication to fall asleep. The whir of the air conditioner and the fan combined sing me the lullaby I need. My room is plenty cool at night and I sleep under a sheet and light Mexican blanket. Lots of pillows!

Day 6….Hmmm…..

November 6…that whole day thing was starting to mess me up. Perhaps it is day 7 today. Let’s call it 30 feels like 45 too hot for the beach right now. I did a little binge watching last night so my solid 8 got me waking up at 10am. My bedroom is at the back so I don’t hear the sounds from the street, or movement around the bungalows to wake me up. There was an older Canadian couple staying in the one just opposite the night before but only for 2 nights, long enough for her to get preliminary dental work done; a common reason for a Mexican holiday. They were gone when I woke up, so no more idle chit chat near the pool. I noticed a younger couple around yesterday but there’ve no amiable “holas” as we pass each other. Ask but no answer if you know what I mean. I’m writing this from a bar near the Royal Decameron resort called Barchelatas. Because I slept in too late I missed a swim in the water before it got too hot. I’m going to wait until the sun wanes a bit before heading to the beach, maybe. Besides along with having some solid wifi, this place is cheaper and I’ve got a fan blowing a relative cool into my face. There’s NFL and CFL football playing simultaneously along with regional Mexican football. You can tell that a lot of foreigners visit here because only one screen of 6 is devoted to the soccer. 

Got busted by Royal Decameron security trying to get to the beach. No special obnoxious obvious orange wrist band. I guess they don’t want the unwashed masses lounging around in their rarefied amenities. I read somewhere that all beaches are under the purview of the Mexican government but big resorts co-opt them for themselves. So it is with big corp. how can one amiga really ruin it for all those sunshine revelers? Really. I would have allowed him to follow me all the way through to the playa, which is what I wanted, certainly not to be put through my paces in a session of water aerobics. I can do that back home. I also didn’t want to walk 2 blocks out of my way just to get to the beach.

It was another do nothing day. I set my alarm to be up earlier to be sure I could walk on the beach in the morning. A little shopping and then to the beach I think! Another one of those creatures was in my room last night. I plugged up the gap in the door there and trapped it…I think under the side table that is closest to the door, the one  on the opposite site of the bed I sleep on.  It doesn’t fly, at least i don’t think it does, so that’s a bit of a comfort to me. I searched the internet looking for an answer and the only thing I found was a few references to flying cockroaches. Creepy crawly bugs is one thing but give them flight…ugh. I discovered it had escaped to the bathroom where I got a better look at it, exploring and lurking in the shower stall. I tried to take a picture of it but there was no way I was getting close enough to get a good one. Two-tone brown, an inch long, 6 legs, long seeking antennae. Of course my camera needed to be charged so I couldn’t document it.

So….. That was enough for me. Full blown case of the heebie-jeebies. I left the lights on, pulled on my sleeping mask over my eyes and pulled the sheet up and concentrated on the white noise of the fan and a/c, with a little guided meditation for good measure, and woke up to morning light and  the sound of my alarm.

san francisco follies

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so i found those notes about san francisco. seem completely irrelevant now, and really they are. after all, that was 3 weeks ago now. seems like a lifetime ago, and in the electronic age 3 weeks can seem like that long ago. but i am going to exercise some discipline and put it down because it was a great experience, because it was fun! so, belated it went like this:

find hotel. meet michelle. michael and jay arrive. screech. hugs. predrinks, badlands shake the booty, flirt, woo-hoo. casualty–little black sweater. nightynite. dogs barkin. shop 4 comfy sandals. s/bux. eat, walkwalk,  alcatraz (spooky) walk walk. fisherman's wharf. crabs 'n' oysters. wished for clam chowder. walk walk. ghirardelli tease. wait for the cableAlcatrazJune09 car. brrrrr….wait wait and wait and wait some more. crammed trapped inside tram. mistake. creepy tweenie experience. need a drink. predrink. party party. dinner at lime in castro. boys go one way we go the other. *giggle*. walk walk walk. dogs barkin. no cabs in san francisco or what! meet san diego girls marianne and michelle. on myspace. hmmm oughta be able to find 'em, right? giant girl party. $20. for what?  bouncers scary girls scary. take a pass. back to hotel. girl talk. lights out. walk walk. chinatown. dim sum. yum yum. bus. walk walk. walk walk walk walk. painted ladies. haight ashbury. golden gate park. drugs or a sweet lesbian sister? huh? smilin' in endless sunshine. more haight ashbury. pink hats pink shirts for castro pink party. david. lives right there. millions of people? feels like it. drink drink walk walk. dance. laugh. long lines wait. missed connections. lobby party. subway closed. bus home. collapse. spins sick bed day. not a hangover. what the hell!? 5 pm shower. miso soup. green tea. wake up like brand new. BART to embarcadero. coulda walked. japanese deli. monday. no famous outside market. walkwalk. russian hill. walkwalk. cow hollow. walkwalk lombard street. filmore. etc……………western addition. decide any place with addition after name best avoided. dinner at tangerine a bit shi-shi. retro night at lookout. deserted. try badlands. OK. mug o mondavi red $4.50. gotta like it. club soda $3. beer $2. hmmmm. back to lookout. still deserted. then mix & triggger. gay pizza. not as good as TO. art offers a ride. can't find car. oh my. thank god. last day. SFMOMA. castro. mission. et al. freshen up. do i have sunburn? trippy. that was it. or something like that.

thank you jay and michael. it was awesome.

michael and jay see me to bus station. i wanna cry. miss them already. maybe it's the prospect of the bus ride home. lol. the lineup is not pretty. prediction: no window seat.

are you going to san francisco?

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 june 24 – blast off

ok now we're danglin'. this is more liked it. we've been dribbling along for what seems like forever. it's the interminable wait that kills me, but it was my own fault. i gave myself plenty of time and then i got my heritage stations mixed up, so i've got over an hour to cool my heels. it's not like i'm flyin' dahling. i'm on the bus, but frugality says i spend a day of my like in lieu of speed. so it goes. now in this station, mcdonald's is the only "restaurant" and the only other offerings are a handful of vendors selling a confabulation of items; from gem stones and tacky souvenirs to sushi. what i want is a nice fat glass of red wine. kick back with a nice cab sauv and some brie or something….and fat chance there is of that coming to pass here.

in the line to the bus i got talking to a czech girl who was dreading the prospect of the border. i do as well, but for other reasons.there've been occasions i've presented myself to the border guards and momentarily forgotten my own name. i know! czech girl gets a fine grilling on every crossing, and today is no different, but today is also her lucky day and she is back on the bus shortly after most of us. it is a couple of english travellers who stall the process amost an hour.  and then there was some nonsense about customs only taking cold hard US cash. No CAD or english credit card would suffice. poor girl came back on the bus looking to trade english pounds one to one for USD.

we are zooming toward seattle through a patch of sunshine. i am not allowing myself to doze off because I want to be able to sleep during the night portion of the journey. we make it to seattle terminal with just enough time to for me to grab my bag, take a pee and join the cue for the sacramento bus. the station is a complete hole, i wouldn't want to linger here even if i had to. bus is packed. lady in front of me is working the incline on her chair. asks me to move my feet back. bloody well excuse me for having long legs. unintentionally i speak my thought aloud "oh yeah, that's perfeck!" as the chair drops into my lap. apparently, she has second thoughts and pulls it back up again.

as we hurtle toward portland i can't sleep and think the road awfully bumpy.  the driver is straying from his lane and we are pushing over the raised lines in the road; those bumps meant to tell drivers they are heading onto the shoulder and possibly into peril. for some idle amusement i strain to make out shapes in the dark and lumpy landscape. tree, tree, water.  gas is 2.53 a gallon. places with strange names. i giggle to myself. just outside portland, i notice a commemorative parkway dedicated to rosa parks.

we pull into the station at portland sometime after 10, through a series of narrow, well groomed streets lined with cobblestones and lit by heritage lights. the train station is crowned by a giant clock lit in a dazzling illumination of deep blue neon.

the depot is quiet when we arrive for the longest break so far. it's clean and kitted out with tvs all tuned to cnn. were it not so late, a little restaurant serves the depot and a person might have been able to get some sort of hot meal. i get the attendant to break down a crisp new 20 in between his dealings with unruly customers so i can scrounge myself a meagre meal out of the vending machines.

the lights dim and the sky colours deeply and soon it is the deep of night. the crazy cowboy codger is in front of me, cussing and banging the window, bringing up phlegm and constantly changing his position. me, i am hanging onto consciousness, trying to keep my sleep schedule as close to normal as possible. i’ve got the window and the seat beside me and have myself tried a few different ways to sleep. around 11 i take my meds and arrange myself in the position i've discovered best for myself to sleep–slightly reclined with feet slid under the seat ahead. i cover myself with my little airline blanket, and wait for sleep to come. it doesn’t come easily, but some deep breathing and the music of my iPod i get there.

june 25

i wake up just as we leave medford around 5 am.  soon we stop at a gas station with a well stocked store and i grab some supplies for the road. i really want a coffee, but i am not drinking anything because i want to avoid being forced to use the bus toilet. interesting things you see on the side of the road. in the dawn light i see that you can get a room at hojo’s for $39.99 a night in medford. looks like fair class establishment. lol.

we've just left a small town called weed. the dour bus driver made a joke about it. you know “weed" winkwink. the station looked to hardly more than a carport in someone's backyard. 8am and 10 hours to go.we’re on the road speeding as fast as our milk run schedule will allow. i stare out the window hoping my intense gazing will help propel us toward san francisco faster than the projected 30 hours. 

dawn turns into early day as we leave oregon and cross into california. we roll into redding. another tiny outpost. it looks to be standard issue. toilets, seats and vending machines under dingy fluorescent lighting. my iPod is dead. i opt for reading for the balance of the trip. i hope the book lasts. the last i see of the crazy, codger cowboy is that he is sitting outside the station. he almost looks lost.

hans and franz take over the seats vacated by the cowboy. oh i know they're not hans and franz, but it makes me smile instead of scowl as they talk loudly in german and begin to engage in childish games to pass the time. it pisses everyone off. they get told so by a few people. they apologize sincerely and carry on as they were. we’ve scarcely left the station.

the earth is a reddish brown that looks like it hasn’t seen the rain for weeks. if the brush is any indication i’m sure it’s true. stuff looks like it could simply burst into flame. isn’t that what california is famous for, other than the fact that it doesn’t rain? hmmmm, i’m trying to determine what the trees are. it’s as if johnny appleseed came along and planted but one and only species of tree. in nice neat rows of an almost orchard-like configuration. if they are fruit trees i can’t tell what sort of fruit they might bear, they possess no tell tale nodules or orbs of any kind to say. there’s not an evergreen in sight. the cloudless blue sky stretches out an invitation and the rolling yellow grass hills rise to meet it.

we happen into red bluff next. not a bluff red or otherwise to be seen for miles. we step off the cool of the bus into heat that makes me think that this is what a bug under a magnifying glass must be forced to experience at the hand of curious and slightly sadistic child.

i’ve lost track of time. i am fixated on my arrival time. we have a new driver and she is a regular joker. perhaps it helps if you share her particular sense of humour. her and a driver along for the ride are now regaling stories about leaving behind passengers that didn’t make it back to the bus on time. mildly amusing. if they’d stop somewhere more interesting than a buttf*** nowhere gas station, perhaps we’d be less inclined to wander. the landscape foliage begins to change and weeping willows and flowering shrubs begin to chop up the monotony a bit as the land flattens out. i suspect that these additions to the view are foreign and added for the benefit of the residents. the precise orchard configurations continue and dominate the scenery.

trundling down a two lane highway we are forced to crawl behind a municipal truck making a leisurely procession of the traffic behind it. got nowhere to go fast, apparently muni workers are the same everywhere.

we arrive in sacramento and we have almost two hours to kill. at first the a/c of the station is welcome. there is not much else to hold us there. people watching only goes so far, and “re
staurant” is the loosest term one could use for the grease heaven serving up burgers, hotdogs and the like. after awhile i begin to feel refrigerated, so i drag self and my bag and i outside into the heat of the day. the bus station is on L street and it is a street that has entirely seen better days. not that i expected the bus station to be in the middle of the fashion district or anything, but sometimes one hopes for more. old sacramento is not far away and my curiosity is piqued, but i have no idea how far away it might be and i am not bloody being left behind in sacramento. i decide i don’t have time and stroll the blocks that bound the bus station. i surrender and return to sit and wait in the cool. the people watching is beginning to take on more interest as a few local characters begin to buzz around the room. selling, buying? people have begun to drop their bags as placeholders and i resist conforming until local number one says that is what is done, and it’s first come first serve so it’s a good idea. he even volunteers to take my bag to the line. it seems he is a chivalrous sort.  it’s about 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

we clamour onto the bus that will take us the last leg all the way to san francisco and i don’t manage to get myself a window seat. i feel lucky to get a seat at all the bus is so packed. across the aisle a brazilian woman scores herself a window seat next to a fellow who needs to be able to stretch his leg into the aisle. he is chatty and dispenses colourful stories and anecdotes about the area all the way into san francisco. 

out of oakland, the bay bridge is bumper to bumper as far as the eye can see. all five or six lanes of it going our direction. which in and of itself boggles my mind. there's some problem in our lane–the hov lane–that is making it hell for everyone else. with some cagey maneouvering on the part of our driver he manages to bail out onto an off ramp that is relatively less congested.

finally we snail through town to the bus station. i can't believe we have finally arrived. over an hour late. but i don't care anymore. i am now in san francisco. SanFranMap09 i grab my bag from the pile of bags and stride out of the station into a blast of wind zooming through the downtown wind tunnel. after a few blocks it dawns on me i don't know which direction i am to go so i seek someone out for help. i see a kid on the corner across the street. (now in hindsight had i read his little leaflet i would have realized he was from oakland and perhaps not familiar with downtown san fran.) i give him a small donation. and he gives me directions. off i go. after a couple of blocks i notice him sprinting after me. he has sent in the wrong direction. i tell him that he is lucky i wasn't walking too fast and he tells me, a little out of breath, that i was walking fast enough. he sends me in the opposite direction and i turn around and cut through the stiff downtown wind, still unclear as to my destination. i walk for a bit and i don't cross the street i am looking for as expected and so i flag down a gent as he is leaving his building. he is incredibly kind and tells me he appreciates being lost in a city and is happy to help. unfortunately, he has no idea where i am going either, but sends me up the street in the general direction of the area he suspects i am meant to go. as always i decide that the best plan of attack is to ask a concierge of a hotel what i need to know. i've thumped my bags and my sweaty self into the palace hotel. it a stunner, and resembles a palace, even so the concierge is helpful, deferential and very kind, giving me a little map to get me right where i need to go. ever the diplomat he tells me as i leave that my hotel is a beautiful hotel.  

i arrive at the hotel, my feet beginning to burn from the pace i have set. i ring the doorbell to the room, and after a pause, michelle answers the door. we begin to chat and soon michael and jay arrive back to the room. the week has begun.

on the road to san francisco

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i was up this morning shy of seven so i could jump in the shower right after shaun and before the water was turned off to the building. gosh, i wonder if this has anything to do with the fire alarms. probably not. building has probably sprung a leak in some other unfortunate's suite.

i fiddled around with my suitcase, packing and unpacking a few items. i've closed it and called it quits. i know i've overpacked, lacking the laissez-faire of some travellers. also, the weather seems to be a bit unstable and difficult to predict, making it a tad erratic. so i stuffed in some long sleeve shirts and a pair of jeans to join the short sleeves, capri pants and other summer time clothing. at the moment, based on vancouver's offering, those predictions seem a bit optimistic. but we'll see. the weather eye reckons it's partly cloudy and the temperature a bit on the chilly side. in 30 hours i'll find out what is really going on. i'm prepared for most anything but snow.

san francisco. here i come. ready or not!

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