And by heart, I mean 60-degree weather, college sparring partner and the best shrimp dumplings I’ve ever eaten. Because apparently that’s all it takes to win my undying love and affection.
Dave and I jetted off to the West Coast last weekend for an extended MLK Day celebration in the Bay Area, and were greeted with sun, fun and the opportunity to make snarky, smart-alecky comments to our former college newspaper officemate, in person! (Ok, just me on that last one.)
It must be said, before we get into all the details, that January is the best time ever for East Coasters to travel. Everyone else is nursing a massive post-holiday hangover, attempting to recover from all that booze and mini hotdogs and forced family encounters, while simultaneously slowly starting to realize that we’re in for three more months of this whole winter thing, huh?, and you’re like, peace out bitches! I’m off to India!
Um, or NorCal. Because the international adventure was last year.
Not gonna lie – it was a little strange and confusing to board a domestic flight this year, after three straight destinations that involved me getting off the plane on another continent. I almost missed the whole “constantly bracing for a massive catastrophe” part of traveling alone, to a third-world country, in questionable weather, and I definitely missed the Keralan sunset and the Indian Ocean and the three types of bananas at breakfast.
Until we showed up at a multi-storied dim sum mecca – Chinatown’s answer to the Taj Mahal, perhaps – and saw the umpteen types of dumplings. I mean, I love me some tropical fruit, but fried shrimp balls and turnip cakes and unidentifiable yet still oh-so-delicious Chinese vegetables will still win every time. The food was divine, the atmosphere legit, and the company, a combination of both.
Our table was in a prime location, the carts constantly bombarding us with Asian delicacies, and we ended up racking up a bill of nearly $9 per person – which gets you a hell of a lot of food at dim sum. From there on out, I can solemnly testify that I never actually experienced that vaguely familiar sensation – hunger – during our stay in California.
If we’re being honest, the problem had actually started the day before, on our Jet Blue flight. Those snacks are seriously delicious! And they really do let you have as many bags of Terra chips as you want! Then it was off to a Castro seafood joint with the most perfect salmon ever, plus enough appetizers to leave me down for the count when faced with a shot of tequila. (Totally out of character.) Sunday brought a post-dim sum stroll through Chinatown (a giant bag of reject fortune cookies was a must after being led back to view the fortune cookie machine), to North Beach (where we resisted Italian, thank god) to the Marina (where we invested in a sourdough roll, ripping chunks off as we walked), to Ghirardelli Square (where I legit had to unbuckle my belt in order to accommodate a hot fudge sundae.) The horror.
But the belt-loosening maneuver seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, as did the box of See’s candies we had to sample in order to ensure the gifts we were bringing back East were suitable, and the whole roast chicken we had to order at Zuni Cafethat night, because lord knows I will never get around to making that recipe at home. And then, I felt the need need to finish a burrito the size of my arm at lunch on Monday, at a place where they call your number in Spanish (ochenta y dos! ochenta y tres!) It seemed the only way I could prove my love of Mexican food was stronger than my native New England handicap.
I would have stopped there, really, I would have, if the news of my parents’ golden retriever’s death didn’t subsequently echo from the Atlantic to the Pacific, right after lunch, leaving me with no choice but to partake in a cone of Bi-Rite banana ice-cream in his honor. As the dog who once ate several pounds of gravel for dessert, it’s what he would have wanted. No pain, no gain, right?
Actually, there was gain too – several pounds of it, when I finally took stock of the situation in Philly this week. But on Monday, that seemed so far away. There were still San Francisco streets to wander and ride, a game of football to be played by the Golden Gate Bridge, childhood TV landmarks to visit and take dorky photos in front of, and childhood photographs to visit and dorkily poke fun at.
The trip wasn’t epic in the same way that visiting an Indian hospital for stitches or biking past waterfalls was, but it was lovely and important for its normalcy and familiarity and comforts: the catching up with friends on their home turf, the seeing a city together for the first time, the wandering around a sunny suburb that’s not your own on a Tuesday when you don’t have to turn on your laptop. We were sad to leave and are currently contemplating our return. Whether it will be in June to take up permanent residence, I really can’t say (except when I’m talking to Dave’s mom; then I have to say no), but I know this for sure: it was a lovely way to start off 2011.