Brian Wilson, Pancakes, and A lot of Wine

This is the cover of my Rap CD: "Goob Raps"

It’s a Sunday Night, just resting after my soccer game and having a cup of coffee preparing for work tomorrow. Just looking at my photos from my recent trip by San Francisco and looking back at the great times I had. Going to San Francisco was a spur of the moment thing.

If you had saw one of my previous posts: https://vforvinnie.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/vacation-is-all-i-ever-wanted/

San Francisco wasn’t even on the list of vacation possibilities. I originally was leaning towards Seattle, Montreal and a Midwestern Ballpark trip but none of the weeks worked with the timing I had wanted for such a vacation at any of the places.

What eventually lured me was a presented opportunity and just based on my research in looking for a spot it met all the criteria: Diverse city to get lost in, easy to get around in terms of transportation, baseball/sports (in this case, two teams and two stadiums), things to do for atleast 4 days, offers adventure and excitement, bang for buck and top notch food places.

So here is a very brief rundown of my 6 days in San Francisco:

Day 1: Flying to San Francisco. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was really nervous flying. I get a lot of anxiety flying to the point I always keep check the flight status map to see how long til’ we land. Fortunately, Virgin America offers In-Flight Wi-Fi which gave me enough of a distraction to get through the flight where I was able to watch some Netflix and document my air travel on Facebook on the plane.

Land around 11:00am West Coast time. I get off the plane and I immediately make a bee-line as soon as they park the plane at the gate so I am the first person off, happy to have landed. I call my mom to let her know I landed and update my Facebook to let my friends know.

I get my bag pretty quickly and I get to the BART station. BART is the subway in the Bay Area stretching from South San Francisco to Berkeley, Fremont and Oakland.  I immediately buy the wrong BART Card despite doing massive research preparing me for the train. I get it refunded and buy the right one.

BART trains look pretty old compared to the NYC Subways but they are really, really fast

I check-in to my hotel, Hotel Nikko, a 5-star Hotel in the Union Square area of San Francisco and see my big comfy bed in my suite and I jump on it! As everyone should. I take a quick shower, lay in bed for a few minutes and immediately go on my computer to look for my first foodie place to go and how to get to AT&T Park for my first ballgame.

I decide to go to “Little Star Pizza”, a thin-crust/deep dish pizza place in the Mission District, which is kinda like the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn but with more pawn shops. One of the top 5 Pizza Places  in SF. I immediately decide to go for the deep dish pizza cause I haven’t had deep dish in a while. I get the “Classic” which was italian sausage, green peppers and onions.  IT IS REALLY EFFIN GOOD!

So I make my way to AT&T Park via BART and a light-rail in SF called the Muni. I get there really early which was my intention so I could get photos of the ballpark.

AT&T Park is one of the most beautiful ballparks, if not the most. Picturesque Aesthetics, by the Water, Retro-looking but Modern (which is a tough thing to balance but they miraculously pulled it off). The fans are already there and excited. As a Yankees fan, I am really impressed with their fandom. Nothing but SF hats, shirts and jerseys.

Catch the game from the Arcade seats which are the “Bleachers” of AT&T Park. Giants win a close game after trailing through most of it. The best part, was fans in my area were Heckling Brewers CF Nyjer Morgan, Nyjer the game before flipped off the Giants fans and they let him have it! I have the what is considered the best ballpark food: Garlic Fries” and it’s so fucking good!

Game ends and I head for the Hotel to sleep. I wake up around 2AM with a migraine. I think from all the travel and getting used to the SF air because I have really sensitive sinuses. I forgot to buy a bottled water so I have to settle for $6 Mini Bar Water… Ugh

Day 2: I feel better in the morning and shower. I immediately decide to go to “Dottie’s True Blue Cafe”. Considered on of the top 2 Breakfast/Brunch places in SF. It’s a short walk from my hotel.

I make a quick side-stop to the Starbucks in the hotel and get my usual: Grande Soy Caramel Macchiato aka “Goob Fuel”

I walk down to the place and there is a freaking line around the block to get into the place! I am alittle nervous because I have a 1pm game at AT&T Park and it’s 10:30am. Fortunately I am by myself, and there’s an immediate opening for a seat at the counter.. Woohoo… Though the Aussie couple in front of me didn’t look happy, they looked like a Dingo ate their Baby and then cut them in line for good pancakes.

Dottie’s is a throwback, greasy spoon coffee shop with a small set-up. The thing they are famous for is Pancakes. I order the “Alabama Slammer” which was 3 Pancakes with Fresh Fruit with some coffee and OJ. It is super duper fucking good. I am kinda shy with the waitress cause she looks really hot in a nice classic why with the brunette hair and the old lady glasses kinda like a hotter Lisa Loeb… I tip her extra 😉 and make my way for the ballpark!

Get to AT&T Park early again around 11:30. This time I got behind the plate “Club Seats” to my non-baseball fan friends: “Club Seats” is a term that means great seats close to the field with waitress service, a special food section but cost a whole lotta money!

Game on, and I immediately take advantage of the waitress service ordering a local brew called Hefeweizer and some Nachos! It’s Fedora Cap day at the ballpark and I look styling with my Fedora Cap and my Aviator Ray Ban Sunglasses I must say.

The game is going into the 9th inning, Giants with a short lead, 2-1 and I am freakin excited for one reason: Brian Wilson!

Brian Wilson is one of the reasons why Baseball is fun. He’s a dynamic, eccentric personality with incredible deadpan sense of humor. Think Zach Galifinakis is a Baseball Player body.

He is a Closer, Closers in baseball are the pitchers who come into the last inning to get the final outs in the high pressure situations. They get paid alot for that reason and most of them or either really composed individuals or fucking crazy. Wilson is the latter but in an awesome way.

Seeing him last year in the MLB Playoffs, I was fascinated by him. Going into the playoffs, he grew out his beard really, really long and it looked really black like he dyed it and he was the pied piper of a team with outcasts and similar quirky players that took the underdog Giants to the World Series titles. I was very fascinated by his cross-armed salute and finger pointing to the sky, he does when he finishes games for wins.

I did some research into Brian to find out the meaning of the salute: Brian was an Air Force brat growing up in New England. He lost his dad when he was a Teenager to Cancer. It shook Brian, the lost of his dad to the point he lost his faith. Brian ended up playing at the College Powerhouse, LSU as one of the top starting pitchers but blew out his elbow and required “Tommy John” Surgery  which scared Baseball teams away from him in the draft until the Giants took a risk in him.

While in the minor leagues, Brian befriended a team chaplain and made his peace with God over the loss of his father becoming a born-again Christian and made the Giants team shortly after a few years. The gesture is a symbol of his faith and as tribute to his father. That really struck me more than the quirks. A few years ago, I lost a loved one to cancer also to the point where my faith was (and still is sometimes) shaken so I can somewhat relate to what he might have had to go through that sense of heartache and loss. Finding that out made me not just love and respect the player but also love and respect the person, as much.

So Brian is going to come to the mound and I get out my seat to get a close photo of him taking the mound. The crowd is going crazy for him waving “Fear the Beard” signs as the stadium blasts his entrance music, the fitting “Jump Around” by House of Pain. Photo accomplished, Wilson gets the Brewers out 1-2-3 to win the game

I end the day by walking The Embarcadero Waterfront near the stadium, walking back to the Hotel while taking photos as I walk. I take a quick shower and get to Chinatown to eat at “House of Nanking”, one of the top chinese places in the city. I have some steamed dumplings and their best dish, Sesame Chicken!

Day 3: Wake up and have a light breakfast this time. Hit up the Hotel Jacuzzi and Pool for an early dip. I walk to the SF Museum of Modern Art or known as SFMOMA. I immediately make a bee-line for the “Stein Collection Exhibit” which is a collection of art from Cezanne to Picasso. Really great and fascinating. I almost lose track of time at the museum and forget I have a prepaid ticket for Alcatraz at 1:30pm and it’s Noon. I run for the Cable Car to get me to the ferry and I am starving. I just get there on time but I ask the ticket person if I could switch ferries to a later time to get some lunch. Since I am by myself and the next ferry at 2:45 will likely have people not be there. She arranges it.

I decide to take advantage by going to a place I have been meaning to go for a long, long time…In-N-Out Burger!!! I know a Foodie fascinated by a Fast Food place but you know what… Fast Food can be awesome and I heard a lot of great things about the place that I had to go.

You can tell it’s awesome by the huge line around the block! I get that burger and oh god, it was great! Though I realize it’s 2:30! I have to get to the Alcatraz ferry so by the grace of determination and speed walking despite the Fast Food, I get to the ferry in the nick of time.

Alcatraz was pretty awesome, I even took a picture of me in Solitary Confinement doing the jail pose though the one thing that made it tough was all the tourists (Ironic, aint it!) and that smell of bird poop that engulfs the Island. It reeked of bird poop.

After I got off the ferry back from Alcatraz, I walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and took some photos and went back to my hotel because I was drenched in sweat, camera and iPhone were near dead in battery and needed a change of clothes. I get to the hotel, shower, charge my camera and phone, and google my next place for dinner, “The Crab House”, which has the best dungness crab in the Bay Area.

I head back to Fisherman’s Wharf to go to “The Crab House”. I am excited and I have a mission to take a photo of the Crab and send it to my dad who loves, loves seafood more than me. I order another local brew (yes I was carded!), munched some garlic bread and tore apart some dungness crab legs! I get back to the Hotel early in the night because I am going to Napa Valley, the next day.

Day 4: I overslept (rare to say since most people know I am an early riser) but it’s not too bad. I make a bee-line for the ferry terminal to wait for the shuttle bus for the Napa Valley Wine Tour while eating a Bagel and drinking coffee en route. I actually get there too early.

I sit on a bench next to this gorgeous redhead who appears to be also waiting for the shuttle for the tour judging her having the same order confirmation email I had. She is hard not to notice despite her beauty because she is crying her eyes out on the bench. Initially, given I wasn’t in NYC and not in my comfort zone I was kinda skeptical and worried about possible scams including one where I wake up in a tub with one kidney but judging by the tears, it felt genuine.

So I asked her, “If she was alright?”. She pretty much bared her sadness to a total stranger. She was in SF with her husband for a 2nd Honeymoon. He, the night before had found out he was being “let go” from his engineering job when he was actually expecting a promotion. He was really depressed from the news, almost “catatonic” according to her and he didn’t want to leave the bed. I tried to comfort her by saying it’s just an initial reaction to unexpected news and to not worry. She felt comfortable with me in that short time, he didn’t show up when the bus came but she arranged with the tour people to try to take it the next day. We parted ways, she seemed alright though I was worried about her as I went on the tour bus.

The Wine Tour was alot of fun! We went to four different legitimate Wineries for tastings and tours. I had an entire variety of sparkling wines, chardonnays, red wines, etc.  I eventually got zooted but I had the foresight to google how to pace myself and bought 3 giant water bottles with me along the trip.

We got back from the tour via Ferry from Vallejo back to the city and parted ways with the people on the tour. Initially, my plan was to go Ghirardelli Square after the tour for a Hot Fudge Sundae but I was so tired I wanted to go back to the Hotel to rest.

I got back to the hotel and I was hungry especially considering the fact I had a lot of alcohol I needed to eat something for dinner. I wanted to still go to a great place but take the food back to the Hotel. I found one of the other top Pizza Places in SF, “Zero Zero” was near my hotel and had take-out, so I ordered a Margherita Pizza pie for pick-up and brought it back to the hotel with 20oz Cherry Coke and I chilled in the room for the rest of the night watching Baseball.

Day 5: I wake-up and decided to go to the other top breakfast place in SF, “Mama’s on Washington Square” in the North Beach district which is like a residential Little Italy in SF. I get their and like Dottie’s there is a long, long line stretching around the block. Given the fact I am solo, again I am able to get a seat early! Mama’s is known for their amazing French Toast, so as expected I order the French Toast Sampler which consisted of a slice of Banana Nut French Toast, Blueberry French Toast and this almost “Super French Toast” one…. Oh man it was good!

After my breakfast, I decide to walk to the nearby Lombard Street. Lombard Street has the famous crooked street in which instead of going straight down the inclined hill street, you zig zag down a garden street. I took a lot of photos and debated taking a taxi cab to do down and yelling “Weeeeee” going down. I didn’t.

I then walked it down to pick-up a Mountain Bike I rented for the day with the mission to bike the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. I haven’t been on a Bike for awhile so I was initially nervous but the bike was really good.

As I was heading to the Golden Gate Bridge, I noticed something and had to make a quick detour. It was the Exploratorium, which was these amazing buildings that remained from the 1908 World’s Fair. It’s famous from a pivotal scene in Michael Bay’s best movie “The Rock” where Nicolas Cage and Sean C0nnery agree to join forces to go on the mission. I take some photos and get back on course.

I forgot one thing as I climbed up the hill up to the Golden Gate Bridge. I am petrified of heights! Though I soldiered on though very nervous with my hands always positioned near the brakes just in case. I go on the bridge with a bundle of emotions given the fact the railing is very low and it’s very tight with all the bikers and walking tourists on the bridge.

It drove me crazy when bikers in front of me would stop or walking tourists would impede my way forcing me to head right alongside the railing which made me even more nervous.

I finally go passed the bridge and Lance Armstronged my way down the long zig zaggy roads into beautiful scenic Sausalito which is a rich town on other side of the bay with huge million dollar houses on cliffs and docks.

Took the ferry back into SF, dropped off my bike and made my way to Ghirardelli Square for a Hot Fudge Sundae. As expected, it was really good!

I get back to the hotel to prepare for my final activity in the Bay Area, going into Oakland for an Athletics game.

While I do have nothing but respect for the Athletics and Raiders tradition, Oakland Coliseum to be frank is a shithole. A really crappy outdated stadium where they still have pissing troughs.  I had great fron row seats in RF by the Visitors Bullpem

I enjoyed the game but man that stadium is horrible.

I got back to the Hotel and spend my final night in SF

Day 6: I pack my bags and check out of the hotel. I get to the Airport early and almost avoided a disaster when I noticed the check-in girl at Virgin America tagged the bag I was checking in with the wrong airport. She almost put it on a flight to Las Vegas! Whew I dodged a bullet there. I get on the plane, nervous again especially with the neverending the turbullence the flight had but I made it home in one piece.

Overall, I had a great trip! This was a very important trip for me at a very pivotal moment in my life and I feel rewarded in spades!

Gonna get some sleep now 🙂

-V. for Vinnie

Here are some pics:

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