Farewell for now to the Toronado, where things are getting back to normal.

Special kudos to our new found pal Doc, here contemplating his next beer.

Surely Lucy and Steve, who must wonder if this was an ideal way to spend Valentine's weekend, deserve a nod.

Should anyone find Guyer, somewhere on the road, please send him home.

Meanwhile, I think I'll just have a nice cup of coffee.


Liquid Diet on the road
Day Five: Unleashing the Inner Tourist

YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN. GHIRADELLI SQUARE, THOUGH, IS ANOTHER MATTER. Have I mentioned yet that Mr. Guyer and I flew out here on different flights? That made it easy for us to go out separate ways come Monday (to be fair, though, he had scheduled a visit to Speakeasy Brewery that afternoon and I'd have been there if it happened, but he wimped out).

Speaking of Speakeasy, here's an amusing story which may reflect Guyer's Main Line upbringing more than he'd like. I assume you saw the guy with the spiked hair in a photo on the previous page. Turns out he's an assistant brewer at Speakeasy. While we were talking together, a guy with something close to a shaved head joined us. We learned he was the head brewer at Speakeasy (and a former resident of Lancaster). Somebody else from the brewery soon wandered by with another inventive 'do and Matt finally turned to these guys and asked, "Is there anybody at Speakeasy with normal hair?" They just looked at one another and shrugged.

Anyway, I suspect we both considered the freedom we now enjoyed some sort of a reward for a mitzvah (hey, if I can use Boontling to expand my Irish Catholic horizons, Yiddish has to be fair game too, right?) and split happily on Sunday morning. We'd seen the Weather Channel and called home before checking out. Since I was flying home with a connection in Atlanta, and my son lives there, I was relatively securing in my outlook; since his was a flight schedule directly back to Philadelphia, his future was uncertain. It seemed eminently fair somehow.

I checked my bags at the hotel and walked over to catch the California Avenue cable car up to Nob Hill, where I switched onto the Powell-Hyde car down to the Fisherman's Wharf area and the Buena Vista Cafe, where they claim to have served the first Irish Coffee in America back in 1952. On my first visit to this marvelous city, many long years ago when you and I were young--well, at least I was, God only knows what you were, or even if you were--I made it a point to be at the Buena Vista on my first morning in town. Following that, I went a block or so up the street to Ghiradelli Square and, while my then-wife did the things wives do, bought a copy of a book called One to Ten Perfect Days in San Francisco and sat on the wall around a small fountain and began reading it.

By the time I reached the second page and read what the author said was where I should be and what I should have done by the middle of that second day, my mind boggled (somewhat similar to what happened at the Barley Wine Festival). Every choice I had made (and this was way, way before the internet, understand, so those choices were hard come by), was exactly what the author suggested, right down to sitting in Ghiradelli Square in mid-second day. Obviously, we followed that book to the letter for the rest of our stay and, over the years, I've gotten to the Buena Vista every time out, partially in homage, certainly for the coffee.

This was a Monday so the place was not overrun with tourists (like I had any grounds to bitch) and the Irish Coffee I had, I swear, was better than ever. I accompanied the breakfast which followed with a Buena Vista Pilsner, brewed for them, I believe, by Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma. A bit sweet on first taste, but just perfect with sausage and eggs and sourdough toast when all was said and done.

From there I just walked for hours, through kitschy Fisherman's Wharf and the Cannery building, a bit of Chinatown and the old waterfront, then up hills and down, stopping once at an internet cafe to check the weather, my flight out and whatever email I could access from the web, finishing up where I started, sitting in the sun by the bay and listening to the guy who probably makes a better living than most of us garnering tips while he tells lousy jokes and plays ballads badly down where the cable cars turn around and you always have to wait about 45 minutes in line to catch one back up the hill.

In some ways it was the best day of all, topped off back at the hotel awaiting the shuttle to the airport and swapping stories and drinks with a fellow writer at the bar (and his wife, who eventually left in total boredom). He'd lived in West Chester for several years in a previous life and wondered how things have changed around these parts. I told him the good stuff and spared him the bad.

And then I came home.

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