“San Francisco 2” or “Because You Can’t See the Half of San Fran in One Go”

My last post on exploring bits of magnificent San Francisco featured only one day. This post will cover parts of two, and still barely scratch the city’s surface. It’s a big place with lots to offer, and traveling companion Tirzah and I had limited time and cash to throw to the wind. Even so, we made our visit worth remembering.

‘Twas the day before the Night of Writing Dangerously – (y’know, that oft-mentioned NaNoWriMo event that brought me to San Fran in the first place, to be more properly chronicled in a post to come) – and Tirzah and I had time to kill, along with our friends from the hostel, Kat and Jory. (Jory would be joining us at the NoWD, too. United writers, for the win!) We decided to bus over to the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park, but we hadn’t even come within sight of the garden before the fun surprises began.

First there was the huge group of swing dancers. I know, it sounds like I’m kidding you or exaggerating, but seriously, there were dozens of them just outside the park, all jiving together on the walkway.

As my friends and I stood by watching for a few minutes, I couldn’t resist following along with the moves somebody with a microphone was calling out to the participating crowd. It felt almost familiar to me, after a brief swing lesson at Bristol, one weekend. (Our number of multi-talented, fun-loving Rennies included a stage manager who liked to moonlight as a dance instructor. I’m only sorry my feet tended to be too sore after pounding the streets as a Crier all day for me to join the after-hours swing sessions more than just the once.)

My more-or-less competent moves attracted the attention of an older fellow who offered the hand of partnership. So what the hey? I accepted. Because, far more than a few basic dance steps, Bristol’s taught me the number one motto of improvisation: “Yes, And!” Take what you’re given, and roll with it. …Or, in this specific case, swing with it.

Impromptu dance with Anonymous Grandpa? Yes, And!
Impromptu dance with Anonymous Grandpa? Yes, And!

After we left the dance floor, my pals and I came to a pathway spouting mist into the air. Dressed as we were for a noir-themed writing event, Tirzah and I knew there was only one thing to be done: Get photographed standing looking suspiciously cool. (Because fog is like alleyways, like that.) And here’s the amazing part: Mere moments after we decided that we’d taken enough pics and started to walk away, the path’s mist-makers just stopped. Boom. No more fog. Not even when some other people walked down the path, meaning that it wasn’t just a motion-sensitive thing. Nay, my friends – it was San Francisco magic, just for us.

This utter awesomeness was clearly – or, well, foggily – meant to be.
This utter awesomeness was clearly – or, well, foggily – meant to be.
This guy was a natural model.
This guy was a natural model.

Now inside the park proper, we paused for some pics with a stately sphinx before continuing on into the Japanese Tea Garden.

There was much prettiness to be seen, there – serene waterscapes, a singular bridge, a pagoda, and a zen garden, just to put names to a few.

 

 

 

It would probably take more talent than I’ve got to shoot a really terrible picture of this place.
It would probably take more talent than I’ve got to shoot a really terrible picture of this place.
Behold, the Arch Bridge – also known as the Drum Bridge and the Moon Bridge. You literally (and I don’t use the word “literally” lightly) had to wait in line to get photographed on this thing; everyone with a camera wanted their turn to snap a few shots, and even people without cameras just wanted a climb.
Behold, the Arch Bridge – also known as the Drum Bridge and the Moon Bridge. You literally (and I don’t use the word “literally” lightly) had to wait in line to get photographed on this thing; everyone with a camera wanted their turn to snap a few shots, and even people without cameras just wanted a climb.
Noir Detective Tirzah suspects that this koi may know more than it’s letting on.
Noir Detective Tirzah suspects that this koi may know more than it’s letting on.
Model Tirzah wasn’t so much posing as just sitting there, but with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t leave the pic untaken.
Model Tirzah wasn’t so much posing as just sitting there, but with a backdrop like this, I couldn’t leave the pic untaken.
By the time we worked our way around to the gift shop, Sleepy Tirzah wanted little more than a nap. ...and shelter from the paparazzi.
By the time we worked our way around to the gift shop, Sleepy Tirzah wanted little more than a nap. …and shelter from the paparazzi.

We called it a day early, wanting to be reasonably rested for the night ahead. And so that might have been the end of our sightseeing, had not Tirzah’s father phoned the next day (our last in the city) to insist that we visit one more landmark before we left town: The Coit Tower. He’d been there before, and declared that the view was not to be missed. So before making our way toward public transit and home, T and I detoured to the top of Telegraph Hill. …A very high hill. Steep, too. Lots of steps. And we were carrying all our baggage. Spoiler alert: We some how managed to survive. And we got more pictures!

The tower, a statue, and us, posed to impress.
The tower, a statue, and us, posed to impress.
Here’s that view we were told of. Hello again, Golden Gate Bridge!
Here’s that view we were told of. Hello again, Golden Gate Bridge!
See that change in altitude? We climbed that. San Francisco hills = no joke.
See that change in altitude? We climbed that. San Francisco hills = no joke.

That was our tour of San Francisco. In the grand scheme of things, we hardly saw anything at all. But we also saw a lot. And did a lot. And loved a lot. And left a lot for us to see and do and love the next time!

“San Francisco” or “The Home Where Part of My Heart Is”

I’ve been to San Francisco!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that statement was absolutely worth that many exclamation points. I’ve wanted to visit San Fran for years, for the very best of reasons:

1, Uncle Jesse lived there.

2, my character Bruno lives there, and loves his home city more than he does his own soul.

3, this Vanessa Carlton song makes me happy. …Although that’s bound to be in large part simply because the title is “San Francisco”, which appeals with irrational strength to my Bruno side.

Legitimate, right? So when I had a fourth reason to go to San Francisco – namely, NaNoWriMo’s Night of Writing Dangerously write-a-thon taking place there – I determined that it was time to turn the thought of visiting from the realm of “maybe, someday, would be nice” into “it’s happening”.

“Pics, or it didn’t happen,” say you? Well, keep scrolling down, reader: It happened.

First we did China Town – “we” being me, Tirzah, and our new friends made at the hostel, Kat and Jory. This made another of my characters very happy, as he adores all things Chinese. Rather than do much in the way of appreciating the culture, however, Tirzah and I decided to mostly skulk in the numerous alleyways, suspicious creeper style. (As we were both wearing fedoras, it kinda had to happen.)

A shady rendezvous.
A shady rendezvous.
This pigeon had alley-creeping down to an art form.
This pigeon had alley-creeping down to an art form.
Inspired, Tirzah and I took our game up a level by adding in the thug factor.
Inspired, Tirzah and I took our game up a level by adding in the thug factor.

Our continued walk through the city took us past the iconic Transamerica Pyramid and various unexpected delights – the best-of-the-best part being the corner down from the City Lights Bookstore. The pavement was covered with words, with books suspended in flight overhead. (Books that, we later learned, are actually lamps that light up the night with biblio-type magic.) We also passed a road with perhaps the best name ever: Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard. …also known as Green Street, but come on, why would I call it that?

A prominent piece of the city skyline, and me.
A prominent piece of the city skyline, and me.
It’s the little things – like managing to get a shot of your reflection through a grille in the sidewalk – that make days like these extra magical.
It’s the little things – like managing to get a shot of your reflection through a grille in the sidewalk – that make days like these extra magical.
Just walking down the street, and what treasure do we find?
Just walking down the street, and what treasure do we find?

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 420

I feel like this should be the cover of my autobiography or something.
I feel like this should be the cover of my autobiography or something.
And if this word doesn’t just sum up our San Fran day, what does?
And if this word doesn’t just sum up our San Fran day, what does?
A photo of Tirzah taking a photo of me with a cable car, and the photo she took. Awesome x2.
A photo of Tirzah taking a photo of me with a cable car, and the photo she took. Awesome x2.

Next stop, Fisherman’s Wharf, where we lunched among the seagulls (brazen birds waiting for handouts, they), admired the view of/from the harbor (including the one and only Golden Gate Bridge!), and set our sights on the last stop of the day, Ghiradelli Square. Posing in front of a famed fountain and getting free samples of peppermint bark chocolate made a good end to a great tour; and catching the bus back to the hostel made it even better. (“Y’know what’s awesome?” I drawl in my Bruno voice. “Sitting down.”)

“Fisherman’s Wharf, The Musical!” Not really. That would have been cool, though.
“Fisherman’s Wharf, The Musical!” Not really.
That would have been cool, though.
God bless Kat’s camera’s panorama feature. Couldn’t have nabbed this image without it.
God bless Kat’s camera’s panorama feature.
Couldn’t have nabbed this image without it.
As could be said of much of the rest of the day, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge made my Bruno side feel uncharacteristically contented.
As could be said of much of the rest of the day, looking out at the Golden Gate Bridge made my Bruno side feel uncharacteristically contented.
A sign from above: We should get chocolate.
A sign from above: We should get chocolate.
If I look like I belong here, it’s probably due to my being part-mermaid. ...or some sort of water elemental, anyway.
If I look like I belong here, it’s probably due to my being part-mermaid.
…or some sort of water elemental, anyway.

Yeah, this day, this place, seemed pretty much made for Bruno. I’m so glad I got to take him home – to where his heart lies, and where I left a piece of mine.

“Hostel” or “A Homophone for ‘Hostile’, but Way Friendlier”

As a part of my awesome NaNo 2012 adventure*…

*(My apologies to anyone who had performed a happy dance under the misapprehension that you wouldn’t have to hear another word about National Novel Writing Month until sometime next autumn. If you are, for personal reasons, sick to death of even a passing mention of the subject, please know that it was not my intention to contribute to your nausea, and have my assurance that this blog piece is not actually so much about The Month That Shall Not Be Named as it is about other stuff entirely. So do stick it out to the end of the article, if you feel that your constitution can handle it.)

…I traveled to California to, a) visit with my writing buddy bestie Tirzah and, b) participate in NaNo’s infamous Night of Writing Dangerously* in San Franciso*.

*(Both of these will totally get blog pieces all to themselves, in the near future. The “sick to death of NaNo” camp can feel free to skip the NoWD post.)

Now, while Tirzah’s house is significantly closer to San Francisco than is my place in the Midwest, it was still far enough away that we needed to find a place to board us while we were in the city. From what I glimpsed while walking its streets (usually somewhere in the range of “mildly lost” to “tragically lost”), San Fran’s got some ridiculously nice hotels to offer. But “ridiculously nice” = “crazy expensive”, often enough, and Tirzah and I were looking for something a little more within the budget.

Ultimately, then, we went with “a supervised, inexpensive lodging place for travelers, especially young travelers” – i.e., a hostel. The Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel, to be precise.

We arrived on a dark and stormy (well… rainy, anyway) Friday night, after a long day of missing train connections and walking several miles with forty-pound loads and inappropriate walking shoes (note to self from feet: Get some cushy insoles for my awesome boots) and, as I’ve mentioned, being lost. I was tired and sore and grumpy; Tirzah was tired and sore and less grumpy, because she’s the sort of cheerful person that I feel like punching in the face on nights like these. But upon the eventual discovery of the hostel’s door cleverly hidden just a few yards from where I’d been standing in despair, I did not cry – not tears of exhaustion at having to drag myself up three flights of stairs to get to the check-in desk, nor tears of joy at just finally, finally being there.

Checking in was a reasonably quick and friendly affair; we were given an overview of the rules of the realm, the keys we’d need to move about with autonomy, and the magical words every laptop-toting writer loves to hear: Free wi-fi. We spent our last hours of the evening in the common room, happily plugged in and slowly drying out and generally content with our lot. The night hadn’t ended before we’d gotten started on making ourselves at home, making friends, and making memories.

Tirzah with our new insta-buddy, Kat.
Tirzah with our new insta-buddy, Kat.
I told Tirzah to look like she was getting up to something in the kitchen;
she chose “no good”.

Pacific Tradewinds became our home base during our San Francisco stay; the place we looked forward to returning to after long days of sightseeing in the city and evenings dining and writing with fellow NaNo types. Falling out of my top-bunk bed didn’t happen, and enduring some roommate’s mighty snores for two out of my three nights there didn’t kill me (though I may or may not have spent a 4am contemplating suicide; my future husband had better not snore). Bathrooms were small and privacy was limited, but we’d been warned of that going in and were quite willing to pay that instead of additional money.

To my daily delight, every morning featured complimentary breakfast – toast (peanut butter and jelly optional) and cold cereal and hot tea and coffee. And if you were in the right place at the right time, somebody might offer you the remains of their lovely-smelling dinner from the next table over. (Evening number one, Tirzah and I were in that right place and time. Yum, yum, yay for chicken stir fry and potatoes.) There was even a Thanksgiving feast which, sadly, Tirzah and I didn’t get to partake in, having returned to her house the Monday before. On the upside, we didn’t leave too soon to miss out on contributing to the hostel-wide hand-turkey wall.

Voluntary holiday craft time!
Voluntary holiday craft time!
Tirzah is thankful for stars, clouds, ink and paper, the Night of Writing Dangerously, “The Night Circus” (the book that inspired her turkey’s design, by the way), a good night’s sleep, and all things noir.
Tirzah is thankful for stars, clouds, ink and paper, the Night of Writing Dangerously, “The Night Circus” (the book that inspired her turkey’s design, by the way), a good night’s sleep, and all things noir.
I’m thankful for books, characters, and we who write them; sky, water, and all pretty things blue; sisters, best friends *like* sisters, and San Fran; hostels that foster hand-turkey creation.
I’m thankful for books, characters, and we who write them; sky, water, and all pretty things blue; sisters, best friends *like* sisters, and San Fran; hostels that foster hand-turkey creation.
The Pacific Tradewinds hand-turkey wall, in all its glory. ...Or all the glory that we got to see before we left town, anyway.
The Pacific Tradewinds hand-turkey wall, in all its glory. …Or all the glory that we got to see before we left town, anyway.

So, that was pretty much my experience there. Travelers planning on passing through San Francisco, check it out. Pacific Tradewinds is run by a fun bunch of folks, and there’s plenty of cool stuff within walking or busing distance…some of which will get written about and photographically illustrated in a post coming soon to an Ever On Word blog near you. Stay tuned, y’all…

“NaNotes #2” or “Conflict On the Rise for Characters and Their Authors”

For National Novel Writing Month 2012, I’m chronicling my novel-writing journey! Need more NaNo in your life? Follow along. (:

* * *

DAY SEVEN

11:00pm: So tired… so very tired… I was up too late last night, for a couple of reasons – one of them being that I was having trouble with the then-current scene in my book. It’s hard to add words when you don’t feel you know what you’re talking about, and that’s pretty much always how I feel when I’m dealing with an action scene. I’m horrible at choreographing fights and physical stuff like that, because I can’t visualize that kind of thing well. My writing life would be so much easier if nobody did anything other than sit there and talk about their feelings and stuff. But after a quick night’s rest, I attacked my book’s monster vs. monster battle with renewed vigor, and I do not hate the scene nearly as much as I did this time last night. And then more stuff happened, which I’m too exhausted to say anything clever about it. 31,967 words. Bedtime.

DAY NINE

10:30pm: I’m discovering something about me and NaNo. I love that it means major novel output. What I don’t love so much is how it makes me obsess about word-count. I like to measure my progress in terms of just that: Progress. Did I move the plot forward today? Did I finally get to that scene I’ve been looking forward to (or, occasionally, dreading) writing? Did I finish a chapter? Did I sit there and gape as my characters’ conversion took an expectedly dramatic turn that adds a whole new layer to the story? Those things are progress. Saying that I sat there and typed for yea many hours (minus distractions) isn’t progress. Noting that I put down so many hundreds of words is progress, but… it’s just a number. And now I’m bugged that I didn’t just cut out a certain 1K words today that I know the book doesn’t need, all because I didn’t want my word-count to take the knock. It’s not cheating; all’s fair in love, war, and NaNo. It’s just, grr, those words don’t belong there! Get them out, out, out! I’ll erase them once the book’s over. Ah, a finished book… that’s progress! In the meantime, 40, 950 words.

DAY 12

12:27am: As of a few hours ago, I’ve finished “So Super Dead”. I had wondered whether I would be able to manage it, since Day 10 had been a real crawl of a day. Turns out that maybe a paragraph an hour is the best I can do while I’m half-socializing with the woman braiding my hair. Noise/distractions and my writing do not mix well. But even with the first half of the day yielding a pittance of an output, and much of my evening spent either on the road to/from or attending a hilarious pantomime based on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol (gotta love a “Christmas Carol” spoof), I was able to produce something a little beyond the standard NaNo minimum of 1,667 words – about a quarter of what I would have considered ideal. And like I said, by the end of Day 11, I arrived at THE END. It didn’t quite hit 50 thousand words, but it was my anticipation of that back in October which prompted me to go for a second novel in a month. I may put off beginning Project #2 until Thursday the 15th, because later today (after I eventually go to sleep; ‘cause, y’know, it’s after midnight), and quite possibly Tuesday, I shall turn my attention to the matter of packing my bags so I can run away to California on Wednesday. Why? Oh, I imagine there will be one or more future blog posts to explain it all, eventually…

DAY 13

12:30pm: It feels so weird to not be writing, right now… I gave myself these days off for a reason, and they’re still good reasons, and it’s not a matter of worrying that 15 days will prove too few to write my second novel, because that was the budget for Project #2 from the get-go, and I’ve just demonstrated that almost 47K words in 11 days is doable for me. So it’s not worry. It’s just the same case of antsy fingers that I had back at the end of October. I’m chomping at the bit and pawing at the gate and otherwise displaying my transformation from human to impatient horse. Neigh, nicker, snort!!! (Translation: Hurry up, Thursday!)

DAY 15

The fact that Tirzah is on her laptop and I’m fooling around with a camera suggests that she could be getting more writing done than me.

9:16pm, California Time: Writing again at last! This morning was crazy slow, thanks to a whole bunch of factors. I was still tired from my travel day yesterday (my first time flying in a plane all by myself!), was trying and failing to concentrate in an unfamiliar environment (my first time writing in a Starbucks with Tirzah!), and, of course, this was my first day taking a crack at Project #2, “Singer of Skycastle, and Other Tales Within a Tale”. As with Project #1, I started off with a voice that just wouldn’t fly, and scrapping the first tortured efforts to begin anew helped immensely. 2,023 words done today, 49,016 overall. If I don’t blow by 50K tomorrow (or maybe tonight? ^^ Not likely, the way I’ve been dawdl— I mean, socializing), bigger shame on me.

DAY 18

8:20am, Cali Time: Hoping an early start will help to really pack in the words, today. Super fun distractions (bless/curse you, San Francisco!) have made it difficult to get into a rhythm with this book as quickly as I’d like. I’ve more than once contemplated scrapping this idea for now and rushing headlong into something else, but I daren’t do that; I promised the MC that it was his turn in the story queue, and it would really upset him if I went back on my word. So I’m once again approaching the narrative from a slightly different angle, and hoping that will make things go more smoothly. If nothing else, it’s got me feeling eager to write, rather than forced at mental gunpoint, so that can only be for the good, right? Back to the book!