Thursday, April 03, 2008

San Francisco, Day 4


Breakfast in California is different than, say, breakfast in Nashville, Tennessee. In a Waffle House, you’d get a couple of waffles served with greasy hash browns and a steaming heap of delicious, delicious sausage. In the Sunshine State, everything comes out of the kitchen looking and tasting pristine, like it was cooked on a griddle used for the first time, then garnished with greenery on a porcelain plate.

That sounds like it would be awesome, but to tell the truth it wasn’t really my favorite.

We ate breakfast at Joanna’s favorite diner this morning and found that the food was as healthy and green in California as the automobile emissions are required by law to be. It was good food, actually, and very clean. The only thing is that here food is served with avocado and artichoke hearts and some surprisingly edible part of the palm tree. Nothing just comes plain and greasy; everything’s got to be green. Even the “potatoes,” which were careful not to be confused with hash browns, had little green flecks in them. Parsley? Why is there salad in my potatoes?

The verdict—it was a high-quality, edible breakfast, but I’ll take a Tennessee Waffle House or other Midwestern greasy spoon any of the day week.

Pez Museum

The point was made over and over again that this stop would not be worth our time. Were it just Amy and her family vacationing that may have been the case, but let’s remember that I—the road trip king—was among the guests listed on this trip’s itinerary, and I love this sort of crap.

When a dorky person is so passionate about something incredibly stupid, I can’t help but be drawn to the product of that person’s zeal. In the case of Gary, a very articulate and tall gentlemen who has devoted his life to collecting Pez memorabilia, I couldn’t have asked for a more eccentric and entertaining tour guide.

Okay, so the “museum” was nothing more than a little room filled to the brim with Pez memorabilia, but I still thought it was pretty cool. The guy’s prized possession was a dispenser from the ‘50s that worked a lot like a Mr. Potato Head but was removed from shelves almost immediately because the little eyes, noses, and ears were choking hazards. Now, it’s worth $5,000. (For the record, he paid $3,000).

In any event, I was able to keep Amy at this golden little piece of roadside Americana for about half an hour before she needed to leave, but as I expected, this leg of the trip was more than worth the journey. Boring Schmoring.

Jelly Belly Factory

Any attraction that advertises “Free Candy!” is going to see me walking through its gates, and that’s exactly what got Amy and I to drive an hour outside of San Francisco just to take a tour of the Jelly Belly manufacturing plant in Fairfield, California.

What seemed like a really good idea ended up providing us primarily with a reminder as to why she and I won’t be having children immediately following marriage. With the local school districts out on spring break, we waited in the tour line for over an hour with small children colliding into each other and their mothers like bouncy balls, their little fists clenched so tightly around their bags of jelly beans that their knuckles had turned white.

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Hey, mom. Mom, look. Mom? MOM!”

Unofficially, Fairfield is the Headache Capital of the World. Jelly beans are only their second most productive export.

The tour itself was sub-par—just a sectioned-off walkway through the factory with a series of videos that explains what’s going on. The gift shop afterwards, however, was like an oasis after a long journey through a grueling desert. A sample station allowed us to wrap our taste buds around any flavor bean we could think of, including the most recent flavors, pomegranate and dark chocolate. (For the record, pomegranate = good, dark chocolate = not so good. Leave the chocolate flavors to actual chocolate, you know?)

We ate a few pounds of free candy, then bought a few more pounds for the road. By that time, our heads were ready to explode from the sounds of crying, whining children coming down from their sugar highs, clearly exhausted from the long wait in line and somewhat lengthy tour. So it was time to go.

Meeting Joanna’s Friends

Maybe it was the eight beer sampler I put down at the microbrewery we enjoyed for dinner, but I really liked Joanna’s friends. There’s Stacy, Jo’s doppelganger and best friend out here, who works as an engineer, is very bubbly, and weighs a healthy eighty pounds (I’m estimating). I’ve never seen someone that skinny actually look so vigorous.

Also in the gang was Niko, Stacy’s boyfriend, whose job involves fitting hardware into the iPhone in new and innovate ways so that Apple can fit more crap into the device. Interesting guy.

And finally, there was Rebecca, a Swiss miss visiting her godfather in San Francisco. We asked her questions like, “What’s health care like in Switzerland?” and “Are people a lot fatter here in America?” (Answers – “Not bad,” and “Hell yes.”)

We also discussed stereotypes about our respective American regions, and Niko showed an immediate distaste for the idea that all Californians are surfers, despite the fact that the only two native Californians at the table both love to surf. Their views of Midwesterners are that our cuisine is too boring (which I of course assumed was a rip on our parsley-less hash browns) and that the land is too flat. Can’t really argue with either of those two observations. Our food and are landscape are boring.

The beer and burger at this restaurant were great, and so was the company. It really made for some interesting conversation on our last big dinner in the city.

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