March 12 – 23
We needed to use a companion fare ticket with US Air prior to June and as the timing played out, going in March would work the best for all parties involved. We flew out Thursday night March 12th; many years of making this trip have proven that for us, flying out in the evening takes advantage of the three hour time difference and still allows you to get a good nights sleep on the other end. Upon arrival at San Francisco International we picked up our checked bags and made our way to the BART station, a short tram ride away.
One nice change in going to Oakland versus Berkeley on BART is that is direct without the need to switch lines. We just take the Pittsburgh/Bay Point line to the 12th Street Oakland City Center station and then walk five or six blocks to Jessica and Kris’ apartment. That Thursday night the walk down 14th Street was lively, the first block or so leading from Broadway full of nightclubs and bars, all with patrons either waiting in line to get in, or outside to smoke and talk.
Homemade Mac and Cheese and red wine was waiting for us at the apartment, just the right amount of food and drink to ease us into the front room of the apartment, having only been away for a month or two, a very short time given how little we get to see Jessica and Kris. They both had to work the next day so Joanna and spent the morning hanging out, then walked back over to Broadway to visit the Smart and Final for dinner ingredients, a Roast Chicken with potatoes and carrots cooked in the pan, one of Jessica’s favorites.
Saturday morning flowed by in a relaxed state and by early afternoon we were out and on our way to Beer Revolution on 3rd Street just off Broadway, known for its 50 rotating taps of great craft beers. Next door, a recent addition to the area is Annex Burger, home to decent burgers and garlic fries. We split an order of two burgers and a chicken sandwich, enjoying a couple of beers apiece on Beer Revolution’s patio, a delightful way to spend part of a sunny East Bay afternoon.
After a bit of downtime back at the apartment we set out for Berkeley on the BART to join Lydia and Walter at Jupiter for dinner before heading over to the Freight and Salvage Coffee House for the John Jorgenson Quintet, Saturday’s headliner of a weekend long Esprit de Django et Stephane Festival. Jupiter was packed and we managed to get one of the last large tables upstairs, sharing two of the spinach/artichoke appetizers and then a selection of pizzas.
Freight and Salvage is a just a couple of blocks away and we spent a bit of time in line waiting to enter this old venue, small and intimate with not bad seats. The concert was my first real exposure to the genre and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we got was an evening of accomplished musicianship, driving rhythm and eclectic guitar playing. It turns out that the quintet’s bass player, Simon Planting, does work around the house for Lydia and Walter and had let them know about the performance. I just checked Jorgenson’s tour schedule for the balance of the year and as suspected from his patter during the show, he’ll spend much of the time in Europe. We may just need to go back to see him, as if we need any more incentive.
Sunday took us out in the afternoon for a bit of horse racing at Golden Gate Fields, which on that day of the week features one dollar parking, general admission entry, soda, beers, and hot dogs. Now these weren’t craft beers or gourmet dogs but there is something to be said about an afternoon drinking Miller Light in the sun watching the ponies circle the track.
We bet on a number of races, coming up as winners only once when we selected a horse with my sister Bev’s name. Really, besides the jockey’s colors, how else are you supposed to pick a winner?
Dinner was a quiet affair at the apartment and with work for the kids the next day and our scheduled drive down to L.A., it was an early evening for all. Monday morning I walked to Broadway and a few blocks down to the Marriott office for Hertz to pick up a rental car. I’ve found it costs substantially less to rent from a local outlet of Hertz as opposed to picking up and dropping off a car at the airport. As is often the case, they didn’t have the car I’d ordered and gave me a Ford Focus, usually not a bad option.
This car was a disaster. I’ve never gotten a car that was as dirty as this one, as if they driven it through mud and parked it under a bird infested tree, only to follow up by putting into a heated paint chamber and baking the muck onto the surface. It was a mess. I drove it over to the apartment; loaded it up and we took off for the southland in what would turn out to be a long miserable drive in a beat up car.
It had a surge to the engine so it was hard to manage acceleration and once you got up to speed, a whining noise emanated from the rear end that was truly annoying and worrisome. The seats must have gotten wet somewhere along the line and as a result it appeared as though they had shrunk a size; I truly couldn’t find a comfortable position to sit in, whether driving or as a passenger.
The gods of travel smiled upon us though and we made it safely down to Los Angeles and arrived at Joanna’s Mom’s house in Mar Vista, our headquarters for the next four days. I called up Hertz to inquire about getting another car and the folks at the reservation line advised to contact the emergency road service number, which I did. The friendly and professional agent on the line took down my information and without hesitation offered to get me another car.
I could have gone down to the airport (L.A. International) but opted to pick one up at a local office, which happened to be Culver City Volvo at the corner of Washington and Sepulveda, much closer than the other option. I drove over, parked, and went to the trailer that housed their office (there was some construction going on) and explained my situation. The helpful clerk advised the only car they had was a Toyota Yaris, a car much smaller than what I wanted. If I waited a bit though someone was sure to return a car, as it was the end of the day.
And so I did and sure enough within thirty minutes or so a 2014 Kia Soul was returned and in a short period of time, returned to the house with a much nicer car than when I started the day. Not long after we drove down to Venice for dinner at a long time favorite and staple of the family’s, C & O Trattoria. They have two locations and we chose the original, one block from the beach. The weather was nice enough to sit outside; the three of us split a calamari appetizer and one of their “gargantuan” sized large bowls of Linguini Pollo Marsala (Grilled Chicken, Mushrooms, Roma Tomatoes and Sweet Basil in a Marsala Wine Cream Sauce) and a bottle of Sangiovese, Monte Antio as it was half price wine night.
It was a fine way to end the day, a familiar drive done, car problems averted, and a nice meal to finish the evening. We reminisced about the time that Jessica, Joanna, and I came here the day of the Northridge Earthquake. Most of the city had shut down but for some reason they were open. Not everything on the menu was available but it didn’t matter at all to us. This was in the day when they had a barrel of wine that you poured your own glass from, marking the number of trips with a crayon on the paper tablecloth. After a while that night they stopped counting and we all shared that unique experience of being alive on day when many others hadn’t made it through. A shared humanity and for us, a shared memory, seemingly innocuous at the time and yet in its simplicity one that really mattered.
Beer Revolution: http://beer-revolution.com/
Annex Burger: http://www.yelp.com/biz/annex-burger-oakland
Freight and Salvage/John Jorgenson: http://www.thefreight.org/john-jorgenson-quintet
John Jorgenson: http://www.johnjorgenson.com/
Golden Gate Fields: http://www.goldengatefields.com/
C & O Trattoria: http://www.cotrattoria.com/