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Dim Sum

Started: 2019-06-04 22:50:06

Submitted: 2019-06-09 00:34:30

Visibility: World-readable

18 May 2019: In which the intrepid narrator says more nice things about San Francisco

On Saturday morning, the 18th of May, I went for a run along the Embarcadero. I started from the Hyatt Regency, on Market Street at the Embarcadero, and walked past the vendors setting up their stands with kitschy art for the tourists who came to the city, crossed the street in front of the Ferry Building, checked for streetcars running in the median, and headed north along the Embarcadero on the sidewalks I knew well from my time living in San Francisco. I ran past the Exploratorium, past the cruise ship terminals, past the pier where people were queuing for admission to the Bay to Breakers expo to pick up their race packets, past Pier 37 and Fisherman's Wharf and Hyde Street Pier and Aquatic Park, past the open-water swimmers in wetsuits swimming laps in the water. I ran to the end of the Municipal Pier, still crumbling around the edges where fences blocked off the concrete ravaged by waves and salt water. I turned around at the end of the pier (one of my common end-points when I worked in Soma and used my office as a base to anchor my runs) and looked out through the Golden Gate Bridge framing the Pacific Ocean. The morning was overcast but the cloud cover was high; the forecast called for rain before noon.

Durian pastry at dim sum in Chinatown
Durian pastry at dim sum in Chinatown

My first appointment of the day was dim sum in Chinatown with Echo, our au pair when we lived in San Francisco three years ago who now lives in San Francisco and works in tech. I found enough vegetarian food on the menu I could eat (as long as I didn't ask too many questions), all of which was good, though very little of it (the sole exception being the porridge) was food that I associated with breakfast food. The highlight was the durian pastry, which was prepared to look something like a goose with a long graceful neck. It tasted faintly of durian, and I could smell a bit of the infamous stench of the fully-ripe fruit; but overall I thought it could have been much more assertive and I would have still liked it.

It started raining right on schedule at 11:00, and kept raining for most of the day, with only occasional reprieves. (I had, at least, noticed the forecast and come prepared with an appropriate jacket.)

Looking down Market Street in the rain from the sixteenth floor of the Hyatt Regency
Looking down Market Street in the rain from the sixteenth floor of the Hyatt Regency

I returned to my hotel lobby and sat in the massive atrium, fifteen stories tall, with light filtering in from the skylights at the top where the overhanging guest rooms tapered to a narrow strip. This is an impressive business hotel built in a bold Brutalist building, still proudly displaying its raw structural concrete. Brutalism gets a bad reputation for "ugly" buildings but I like the regular repeated forms in concrete, and this hotel was a great example of how Brutalist design elements can be embraced and brought into the context of a modern design aesthetic.

Lobby of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco
Lobby of the Hyatt Regency San Francisco

My next appointment was a late lunch with my former Qualcomm colleague Rahul in the Mission. The rain subsided to a drizzle as I walked a couple of blocks down Mission Street to Gracias Madre, an all-vegan Mexican restaurant that I somehow never managed to visit while living in San Francisco. (Kiesa took the kids and our first au pair there on their first night in San Francisco, while I was still packing up our household in Boulder -- on an outing that exposed our au pair to San Francisco's grimiest neighborhood and sent her fleeing for the suburbs.) The food was good -- the biggest problem I had was trying to figure out what I wanted to eat on the menu. (At most non-vegetarian restaurants I have limited choices based on the number of vegetarian options on the menu, but at vegetarian and vegan restaurants I suddenly have choice anxiety when I have to sort through everything.) I even got a chance to use my middle school Spanish when I looked for the restrooms and realized they were labeled "baños".

After eating we walked through the rain to get ice cream (because obviously ice cream was the right dessert choice for a rainy May afternoon) then dropped by the legendary Borderlands bookstore. I picked up two new hardcover books (A Memory Called Empire, which I've hear good things about, and Ted Chiang's new short story collection Exhalation) and walked the shelves, pulling out books I liked and blurbing them to Rahul, who took notes and promised to look for the books at his local public library. (I also overheard the reason why the store keeps the barcode stickers on a pad of paper at the register when selling books: as a backup inventory system, because apparently their point-of-sale terminal has failed its inventory-management functions in the past.)

I headed back to my hotel and took my laptop to the Regency Club on the eighteenth and highest floor of the building. (I understand this space used to be a rotating restaurant; now it's a stationary lounge available to certain hotel guests, which apparently included me.) I got some tea and found a seat at a small table perched on the edge of the the lounge next to a large window overlooking the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge. I watched the ferries arrive and depart at the new ferry piers under gray skies while I wrote a blog post about my visit to Bristol.

The Bay Bridge under gray skies from the Regency Club
The Bay Bridge under gray skies from the Regency Club

For supper I went to Glen Park to eat at my old favorite neighborhood taqueria, La Corneta Taqueria; then returned to my hotel ready to run the Bay to Breakers the next day.

like a lot of geeks, I can run risky meatspace things
through my head until a faulty value comes out that
suggests there's no need to actually do them.
- Caleb John Clark, "Linux and the Lady", Salon.com 27 September 2000