About once a year Nikki and I have the conversation about why we stay here in Northern California. The state is broke, taxes are high, cost of living is high, gas is high, and on and on and on. Sometimes we convince ourselves we need to get out of here, but then we go to San Francisco for the weekend and everything becomes clear again, and we know exactly why we stay here: It may be the greatest city in the world.
Nikki's birthday was fast approaching last weekend, and like usual my ability to plan for these things was severely lacking. You would think after 15 years of marriage basics like birthdays and anniversaries would get easier, but they never seem to. For me, at least. I would classify my ability to procrastinate as legendary. I'm pretty sure nobody does it better than I do. Right around Tuesday a brilliant idea came to me. My inner voice said, "I'll bet there's a few things to do in that city by the bay" (When the lights go down in the city.......come on, you know that's the first thing that popped into your head) and I began planning a night in San Francisco immediately.
I got the hotel first. The Palace Hotel. Didn't know a thing about it, but it looked old and decadent, so I booked it with a little help from Captain Kirk, my personal priceline negotiator. Hey, it helps to know people. Upon arrival, I realized I had made a good choice. The architecture was old and gorgeous and not modern. The first thing you see is the garden court with it's spectacular glass atrium area and a musical trio welcoming you and you can imagine a scene out of "Titanic" with the rich folks mingling and talking about the important business of the day. Seated at a table nearest to the entrance was a table full of ladies with huge white hats. I got dizzy for a second because I was certain I must have stepped through a loophole in time. I'm positive I saw this scene in "Titanic". It makes sense, the re-built Palace hotel was built in 1909 after the devastating earthquake in 1906, and the Titanic was built in 1908-1909. I don't know what they were discussing or why they were dressed that way, I just know it was spectacular to see in 2011. But that's the thing in San Francisco. At any moment you may just walk into this type of setting on a random day at a random time while walking about. Despite my procrastination, things were looking good. I got lucky on the hotel, and now I just had to keep Nikki in the dark for another couple of hours.
When I began planning on Tuesday, I made some calls to see if there was a possibility anyone could join us for the weekend. Thankfully, Brian and Lisa were able to accomodate my PS (procrastination schedule) and agreed to meet us there in stealth fashion. To kill the time I took Nikki to Union Square where I knew she would be attracted Tiffany's like Snooki to a meathead. The power of the turquoise box is undeniable and infallable. For a procrastinator it's the easiest place in the world to take your wife because success is guaranteed. She browsed and I took mental notes, because I knew she wanted me to make the "choice". It's a complicated game, but the rules are such that the male must make the final decision on the piece of jewelry, although the female makes the choice crystal clear, short of winking her eye at the one she wants.
Nikki had to make a quick stop in Macy's so I waited outside to try my hand at some street photography. That's the other thing about a large city like SF, it's a photographer's paradise. A photographer could make a career out of shooting the Golden Gate Bridge alone, and that's one of 10,000 things I could shoot on a given day in San Francisco. I stood and tried to look inconspicuous while I shot passerby at the hot dog stand. I think I was discovered, however, by the dude on the left. He looks a little angry for some reason. Easy my man, eat your dog and keep moving, it's not that traumatic to be photographed.
While I had a free moment I quickly texted Lisa and they were stuck in traffic. Yee-haw, trying to plan a surprise is a like a pre-planned kick in the man satchel. You know it will be painful, you're committed, but you try to find a way to cope and get through it. Plan B was to take Nikki to the antique shops on Union St. near the planned rendezvous point and wait for word from the lost I-80 crew. Note to other males who may be reading: Antique shops are similar in power to Tiffany's. You can tell a lot of half-truths and the good news is your spouse will pay scant attention to what you say because they are so engrossed in the merchandise. It was very easy for me to relay the fact that (oops!) our reservation is really an hour later than I thought, I must have mis-remembered (thank you Roger Clemens). In a completely unrelated corollary: Roger, you are a first class Delta Bravo (DB, figure it out) for thinking that story was believable. You must have been in an antique store when you concocted that!
Antique stores scare me a bit. Looking at old stuff seems more creepy to me than it does fascinating. I can see the old lady doll hovering over me at night, or the chimp banging his cymbals on my ears repeatedly while I'm tied down on the bed. Unfortunately, we had to pick up the chimp for a friend's circus freak halloween party so he would be with us the rest of the night. I'm typically good after about 5 minutes of the creep house. Blessedly, Lisa texted and said they were in place and we could head over to the restaurant.
According to Nikki, she was surprised by Lisa and Brian, and we had a great time celebrating her birthday at Marengo, eating sliders and yam fries and generous amounts of wine. We stayed there for about two hours, then headed to the comedy show (Dave Attell), then to a blues performance, and then the night became less clear as the hours passed.
When I awoke the next morning, my antique store nightmare had come true. The chimp had indeed been banging his cymbals on my head because I had a screaming headache. I eventually rallied and got out of the room and we headed to Tiffany's so I could "choose" Nikki's gift, and then we headed home.
As we sat around recovering on Sunday, we had the conversation again. We talked about the money we (over) spent, the things we did and the fun we had. I was glad we did it, Nikki deserved it and we got to spend the evening with friends. At the end of the conversation it was clear to us once again: We can't leave here, it's the greatest city in the world.