Friday, April 11, 2008
The Cam Fam is in San Fran. – Days 3 thru 5
Monday: Not really sure why we keep taking Jalen to the zoo. Here in San Diego, we're blessed with the best zoo in the country – and we've had annual passes for years – but, the boy has only a passing interest in the animals and would much rather ride the train and carousel that are housed next door in Balboa Park. Undeterred, we took a 20-year bus/train ride from our hotel to the San Francisco Zoo – home of last December's tragic tiger mauling. Would one less Cameron be coming back? Let's find out:
+ We rode what the locals call "The Muni" out to the zoo. It started underground at a relatively swift and steady clip. It then crawled along some of the sketchiest city streets I've seen since the brief surge in theatrically released "gritty urban dramas" during the mid-90s, like The Substitute, Dangerous Minds or anything else that came with a CD soundtrack featuring Adina Howard, 69 Boyz or Coolio.
+ I know how this is going to sound – and, I promise, it's the last time I'm going to make this point – but, Christ it's (California) cold. Yes, the sun is out, but it provides no warmth. An arctic wind has worked its way down from the planet Hoth and I'm secretly hoping that the first animals on display are those temperature-sensitive Taun Tauns from The Empire Strikes Back. I don't have anything to cut open its warm, gooey guts, but maybe Mrs. Bootleg brought her ubiquitous hot comb – the Black woman's lightsaber.
+ Highlight of the day: Jalen running like a punk b*tch from the retired farm animals housed in the Children's Zoo. Most of these critters have only 2 ½ to 3 working legs and would welcome the inevitability of becoming the contents of someone's chewy Jamaican stew.
+Lowlight of the day: Something jaundiced and homeless (the sign said "Polar Bear") was eating its lunch out of a gigantic plastic trash can chained to a tree. Wow…can't see that in San Francisco, every f*cking day.
Tuesday: At 7:00 AM, I was awakened by the unmistakably rhythmic mantra of organized protest and the accompanying stench of unwashed, unemployable masses. We were on the top floor of a nine-floor hotel, but outside, dozens of marchers were working their way up and down the streets below. They were part of the large anti-Olympic torch contingent that's been in the news a lot lately – except in San Diego, as this is the first I've heard the torch is coming to San Francisco.
+ Since we'd already gotten a late start on the day, we opt for breakfast at one of those cheesy '50s-themed diners. Next to Sunday's meeting with the Oakland A's mascot, Stomper, the best part of the entire trip for my son was the plate of pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse's head. It's good to know that all the money spent on room, board, food and frolic could've gone towards a single box of Bisquick.
+ I am not ashamed to admit that this was our guide for most of our stay in The City. Something called the Yerba Buena Gardens was the number one kids' destination on the list. There was a carousel, bowling alleys and a ton of other kid friendly activities. Also, my friends, there was the most batsh*t insane playground I've ever seen. Children were running around at warp speed, pinballing off of each other and then bouncing back up off the ground to do it again. It was like an inner-city school, except the overwhelmingly white and Asian kids here would be described as "over-stimulated", instead of "uncontrollable".
+ Mrs. Bootleg had heard about some pretentious cosmetics brand that was sold at the Westfield San Francisco Centre Mall. So, we spent an ungodly amount of our early evening…there. You haven't lived until you've seen the stereotypical self-importance of Californians herded under one roof – Bluetooths abound, fresh-from-work power skirts, shirts and ties, laptops all aglow next to the superfluous grand piano in the center of it all. We really need another Vietnam to thin out their ranks.
Wednesday: It's our last full day here, so we've just gotta ride the cable car! For years, I've only associated it with those Rice-A-Roni commercials and the 10,000 grams of sodium within said product's "flavor packets". But, still, it's one of those always disappointing things that idiots say you have to do "at least once". I rode one here about 12 years ago and now it's Jalen's turn to be underwhelmed at 8 mph uphill.
+ Turns out the expected Olympic torch protesters have led to the temporary suspension of all cable car routes until further notice. So, we all pile into a taxi, intent on spending the day at the famous Pier 39 tourist trap. Jalen falls asleep immediately upon entry and remains passed out, even as the driver's 80 mph turns, fishtails and donuts snap his head around like a chocolate brown wrecking ball.
+ Pier 39 is absolutely overflowing with protesters, supporters, news cameras and, now, the Camerons. Because, I haven't been following the specifics all that closely, I'm willing to keep an open mind about both sides of the issue. On the one hand, there are the unspeakable human rights violations tied to China's conflicts with Tibet and Tibetan refugees, to say nothing of their continued support of the murderous Sudanese regime. On the other hand, Olympic sponsors were there with free stuff! Coca-Cola handed out these cool noisemakers, similar to the ones that inspired Daniel LaRusso at the end of Karate Kid Part II AND free samples of Coke Zero. Nike was giving away t-shirts and caps. Members of The City's huge Chinese-American population were handing out flags.
Sorry, protesters…your "Free Tibet" stance was compelling, but Coke and Nike's stances were freer.