There are many ways in which I am nothing like an early 19th century prospector/explorer. For one thing, my greatest fear isn't dysentery or rattlers. I'm certainly not interested in forming my own polygamist religion featuring terrible hairstyles and bunkers, nor am I often found searching the soil for gold. I bear no ill will towards Native Americans (or is it first peoples, now?) and while buffalo is DELICIOUS I can usually resist the urge to kill one when I see it. So clearly there is a strong divide between me, Leah Franqui, strugglextrodinare, and, say, Louis and Clark. Nevertheless, I recently found myself unable to resist that great and wild urge present in all members of the United States (at least according to Fredrick Jackson Turner). That's right, my friends, I went West.
More specifically, I went to San Fransisco. Apart from the fact that Padre Struggle had a hankering to see some free lovers-turned-litigators (can you imagine California Law Schools in the 1970s? It's like, guys, guys, guys, look at this legal brief, but really, LOOK at it. It's beautiful.), Strugglemano only lives a brisk 6 hour drive south (you can cross five state lines on the East Coast in the same time it takes you to get from Los Angeles to San Fransisco. I cannot understand California).
On day one the trifecta of struggle found itself awash in the salty breezes of the Pacific, climbing up hills, more hills, some other hills (we took a walk around the city and it was uphill BOTH WAYS. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?), peering at charming Victorian homes and their filthy hippie residents (thank you, Haight Ashbury, but I would not like a hit of that), stuffing ourselves with Dim Sum in Chinatown, dodging gangs in the Mission, and generally having a wonderful time. We walked so much on that first day that my shoe literally fell apart, and when I bought a new pair and asked to dispose of the now-derelict sneakers, I was advised to give them to a homeless person. They were accepted gratefully, I'll have you know, which just goes to show that one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Having all pulled leg muscles exploring the city, we decided to spend day two relaxing in Berkley. First we went to Chez Panisse for lunch, and the only appropriate word I have for Alice Water's flagship enterprise is FOODGASM.
Then we saw the university. Maybe it's just because I went to not-Yale which, despite it's many graduate programs and hugely inflated ego, is really rather small, but Berkeley seemed enormous to me. I mean, I can't understand how students navigate the place without becoming extremely lost! We comforted ourselves with Ethiopian food and South African wine, as one does.
Day three had us wandering the hallowed halls of Stanford, whose golden buildings and palm trees made me think of the University of Salamanca crossed with Hawai 5-O. At this point Strugglemano and I also learned a new life rule, that every major university in the United States has an Alexander Calder. Every. Single. One. Any evidence to the contrary is merely an illusion. I then spent the evening hanging out with high profile lawyers in their late fifties/early sixties. If I ever recover from that experience, I will let you know.
Day four, ah, day four, a day that will live in my dreams, day four, we went to Napa. Glorious Napa, fragrant with the stench of fermenting wine and expensive brunches, filled with rolling hills of grapes and, well, nope, that's it, grapes. Strugglemano, being our resident wine expert, arranged three tasting for us at three different wineries, and may I just say, there is nothing quite like the buzz of wine you will NEVER be able to afford consumed well before 5pm (East Coast AND West Coast time). Dear lord, it was glorious.
And so, several thousand pounds heavier (give or take), Padre Struggle and I boarded the plane back to Struggledelphia, while Strugglemano contemplated the long drive back to Southern California. Take heart, Strugglemano, car beats wagon trail hands down. Nothing like a Westward Ho! interlude to refresh the soul, eh? Or at least get it drunk enough so it forgets about work on Monday.
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