Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thank You, San Francisco, Good Night!

Last weekend, I packed a (very full) bag and left for San Francisco to attend the BlogHer conference. I had a fun time—maybe a little too fun—and met some nice gals (and a few nice guys, even. At BlogHer—who knew?) Mostly I was there in support of Zwaggle, the sharing and trading network for parents. And I met my blogging compatriates from b5media, who were nothing short of a hoot. I camped out, for the most part, in the Zwaggle swag recycling room by day, and the piano bar across the street by night: Lefty O’Doul’s.

Oh, Lefty, how I adore you. I adore any establishment, no matter how sketchy, at which a man at a piano openly asks, “Any requests?”

“FREE BIRD!” I yelled, as we walked in the door. I continued to sing at the top of my lungs, arms draped around whomever was close enough, "requesting" songs that are obviously not a part of the piano bar canon.

“Play 'Sister Christian!' 'Ghost BUSTERS.' 'It's Raining Men. It's Raining Men. It’s Raining Men.' 'ALL MY EXES LIVE IN TEXAS!'”

And then there was my frequent, random demand for more cowbell. At the end of belting out certain songs, I liked to take the mic, throw a kiss to the audience and yell, "Thank you, San Francisco, goodnight!" My only regret is that I didn’t get enough sleep, not that I didn’t make some other conference gaffes. Live and learn.

Mistakes were made, understanding that they were bound to happen. First off, despite fervent warnings from everyone about finding a place at the intersection of comfort and style, I brought the worst possible selection of shoes that were neither comfortable nor stylish. A rookie mistake, which on the mistake spectrum is located far from taking your friend hunting, and then shooting him in the face, and closer to, say, sitting down to an evening of cable TV, only to discover that perhaps H.O.T.S. is not the kind of movie you want to watch with your grandpa. It was a slightly painful and long-remembered, but could-have-been-worse scenario for sure.

Next, I failed to bring my North Face down jacket, mostly because I didn’t realize that walking along the streets of San Francisco in July would feel like an Everest assault, temperature-wise. I brought a wimpy little jean jacket, a faux jacket really, a jacket that gives only the illusion of warmth and doesn’t even have good pockets. I mentioned one night while shivering on a street corner that Mark Twain said that the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco. That was when my conference comrade and colleague Adam looked at me, deadpan, and said, “Really? I’ve never heard that one before.” I only mention it because you would think that someone who was so familiar with the saying would have actually brought a jacket. Just saying.

And I didn’t allot enough time for non-conference shenanigans. My cousin Kevin, who’s lived in the Bay Area his whole life, came to the city to meet me and catch up. We haven’t seen each other for at least ten years, and seeing him connected me in a new way to memories of visiting California every year as a youngin’. Kevin is a kind and funny guy who decided to attend Berkeley as a thirty-something after attending community college. He’s been running his mother’s tax preparation business since her death, and plans on teaching English as a second language to Spanish speakers. He's visited 29 countries, whereas I have visited about that many counties. We had dinner and a walk together, but it wasn’t enough. I can’t believe we don’t talk more often.

I also met up with…wait for it…a couple of MySpace friends, who happened to be in the city to see Eddie Izzard Saturday night. It was my first-ever MySpace moment; perhaps my first Internet-Only Friend moment, and I’m sure that there are people scratching their heads about what the big deal is. This is the part where I repeat: "I’m Amish, remember?" In short, they were totally nice, normal people with excellent taste in comedy, which is perhaps the best endorsement anyone can get from me.

In the "win" column, both my cousin and my MySpace pals commented on the quality and reputation of the Westin St. Francis, and it was all I could do to pretend like I had chosen it for that reason, dahlink. I have to agree that I was thoroughly impressed with the concierge who took my call the night I asked where I could get some Band Aids. He said, "I'll send some right up" with such enthusiasm that I wanted to call back and ask for a pony. Providing speedy free Band Aid delivery is the mark of a good hotel (are you getting this down, Frommer's), but it just so happened that’s where the conference was happening, and I got a really good rate on my closet room.

My plane was delayed in Salt Lake City both ways, but seriously, I don’t remember the last time I got to sit quietly in an airport, reading the latest David Sedaris collection and laughing until I literally embarrassed myself, instead of following around a youngster with too much energy, who insists on licking everything in the airport. It was like going to a spa, only a spa located in a cattle car instead of in a fancy hotel on Pearl Street. And instead of getting little fluffy slippers and a robe to wear, I was wearing the cruelest shoes money could buy.

And without shitting you in the slightest, I can’t wait to do it again.


Adam said...

Thanks for pointing out both my sarcasm and stupidity in the same post... - Adam

Laura said...

Oh, honey, I wish I had been there! It sounds like a total hoot1

I always, always take inappropriate shoes when I travel--for business or pleasure. Because, really, there's no such thing as "comfortable, stylish shoes." I'll go for stylish any time. Plus, I usually end up in big cities and take a cab. Or just suffer.

I didn't know that there could be a worse movie to watch with a parent or grandparent than The Forty Year Old Virgin--unless it is Henry and June.

(And if I'd been there, I would've MADE you buy one of those hideous tourist disposable ponchos to keep the wind out!) xo

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

Oh, I am SO going next year! I love how your take is so different from any other I've read. And thank you for reminding me there's new David Sedaris to be read! Now I know what I'm doing in early labor, whenever that decides to come along. YAY!

leigh said...

I'm jealous of your quiet time in the airport. Hmmmm, maybe I should fly somewhere! A delay would make the trip worthwhile. I LOVE Sedaris. I grew up in Raleigh at about the same time and I love seeing those places in his books. I also have this book on my bookshelf and I'm dying for my children to leave me alone, or at least nap all at the same time, so I can read it.

leigh said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

As always, entertaining. The part about you calling for "Freebird" jogged a memory loose. My Mrs. and I took our boys to Philly for an "educational" vacation a few years ago for Independence day and caught Peter Framton playing a free concert for the city. After the show we were making our way back to the hotel and we came upon a colonial drum and fife group (1770s uniforms and instruments)doing some period pieces such as Yankee Doodle. After completing their piece both of my boys raised demon fingers (pinkie and index fingers up)and yelled for "Free Bird" and with that the fife (flute) player broke into the first few bars of "Free Bird" If we were not already standing we would have done so and gave them a standing ovation.

amy said...

you know what is so, so funny? right as i got to the part where you talk about how cold san francisco can be in july, i thought to myself: Self, you need to leave a comment for Jody about what mark twain said about san francisco. and then i read further.

stupid mark twain! ruining it for everybody.

also, in keeping with my airport comment theme from before, this part made me laugh out loud:

instead of following around a youngster with too much energy, who insists on licking everything in the airport.

mostly because (a) i've actually witnessed that behavior at an airport once (and also, one time? i saw a 300 lb woman in a micro-mini skirt and she was wearing thong underwear that was 2 sizes too small...ask me how i know, just ask me!), and (b) sometimes, in really bad travel situations, that's what *I* feel like doing: running around, licking everything. just to relieve the stress.

i've met online people in real life too, and i've never had a bad experience--they've always been lovely. i can't speak for their experience(s) meeting ME. i'm just saying THEY'VE been lovely. and not at all psycho.

at piano bars, i like to request "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals, so let's do it like they do on Discovery Channel." i don't know the actual name of the song; i just like to see if the pianist knows it. if s/he does, that means they're GOOD (and probably failed Classical Piano 101).