Friday, January 14, 2011

Privileged, or Saturday Morning at 8:48 AM

A week ago today, Pater and I were in a completely different climate (it's 18 Celsius there today, apparently!) wandering through the foodie's paradise that is San Francisco's Saturday Ferry Market. We sampled a few of the wares before wandering along to several contemporary museums on my list (more in a future post), late-lunching at SFMOMA, strolling through Chinatown, then North Beach, stopping for pasta in one of the many Italian restaurants, and finally back to the hotel

where I checked my blogs and e-mail (can scarcely remember my pre-netbook days when I would go internet-free for most of my holiday) to find that Lisa had written this wonderfully thoughtful, articulate, wise, and, shucks, downright flattering post about our meeting the day before. Lisa's genius is that she can take the concrete specific and theorize its more general, even abstract ramifications, and do it in an open, logical, accessible way that invites the reader onward. We follow her abstractions happily because she keeps them grounded so convincingly. She could make shoelace-tying a life lesson, and I would nod, seeing her point, I'm quite sure.

At any rate, once I'd finished blushing over the flattery and marvelling over the stylish, well-reasoned prose, I'll admit I wondered how I'd write my own account of the meeting. I've stalled all week, trying to avoid the comparison by which I'd fall short. But I know you're all envious of my Privileged meeting and it's time for me to share.
First, I'll remind you that most of us associate Lisa, however Sturdy she claims to be, with heirloom diamonds (yes, balanced by khakis, but still. . .), china patterns (and yes, augmented or complemented by Target finds, but still . . . ), and the enduring value of a high-end loafer (even though, yes, she offers the shoe's equivalent at a lower price point).

So when you heard we were meeting for lunch, did you imagine us in the cool, ultra-modern, deep neutral tones and rich textures of the St. Regis, maxing out our cards? (maybe next time Lisa?)

No, when this woman claims Sturdy-ness, she speaks the truth -- she is the Best kind of Sturdy-ness, the kind that introduces visitors to tacos in SF's Mission District at the Taquiero Vallarta on 24th street, helping us choose between a close-to-bewildering plethora of carnitas and condiments.
Pater was in heaven, although not sure if he shouldn't have loaded up on another plate or two of the spicy, savoury goodness. But since Lisa promised tamales down the street at La Spiga de Oro (not sure if I've got that name right), and since her first stop had definitely earned his trust, we were off. -- before we move along though, check out those crumpled napkins, those paper plates littered with the evidence that delicious messiness was indulged in -- Sturdy Gal, right?

A Sturdy Gal is knowledgeable and competent and can show newbies how to choose and enjoy tamales, all their steamy, corny, goodness, and the fun of unwrapping their husks (we had steamed pork dumplings at the Market the next day, and I couldn't help but note the cross-ethnic similarity). And she can direct lucky visitors to the very best ice cream of their lives -- hands down, better than anything I've had in Paris, even when directed by David Lebowitz, sorry -- the balsamic caramel (closely seconded by the Guinness Gingerbread) at Humphrey Slocombe. Meanwhile, she heads off to rescue her car from it's one-hour-only parking spot, and when she joins us for ice cream, she's double-parked right outside, but charmingly rather than arrogantly (she checked with store attendants and kept an eye for anyone she might be inconveniencing -- and for any ticket-happy officer . . .).

Finishing our ice cream, we all piled into the double-parked vehicle for the SF highlights tour Lisa was so generous to offer. Although she apologized in advance for possible bumbling, she navigated traffic and Google directions with ease and aplomb -- Pater was especially impressed by her competence. We peppered her with those questions tourists have that locals can't always answer, and she answered patiently and helpfully -- often, I should say, with as much laughter but much speedier speech that I would have guessed from her blog. We drove past the several blocks of imposing, architecturally and culturally and civically important buildings (City Hall, Opera, etc.,), through the gorgeous homes and impressive landscaping of Pacific Heights, and then past the iconic Painted Ladies of Steiner Street. These Victorian beauties will be one of my first stops for an extended look next visit to SF, but we wouldn't have seen them this visit if not for Lisa's generosity.

Ditto for the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Despite having been told by Lisa and Une Femme that this was a favourite spot (and despite it hosting an exhibition I really would love to have seen), we had reluctantly relegated it to a future visit. But not only did Lisa ensure that we saw the Palace (fabulous building in a beautiful parkland setting with superb views of the Golden Gate bridge), but although parking was impossible, she insisted Pater and I both get out and walk around the grounds a bit -- while she waited in the -- yes, again, illegally parked -- vehicle. Sturdy and Generous.
From there, we were on our way back to the hotel, but for a stop right underneath the bridge at Fort Point -- impossible not to be struck by the sheer effrontery of whomever was involved in imagining, engineering, and constructing this span. And, of course, we had to pose in front of it, first Pater, then as he turned the camera lens for the moment you've all been reading towards, Sturdy Generous Delightful Charming and Just Plain Fun Lisa and I . . .

And, you know, I've reconciled myself to the inevitable comparisons, to my inability to spin the wise universal from a delightful specific afternoon -- my task here, after all, is a different one. My task is to thank my blogging friend, Lisa, for the warm welcome she offered us to her city. I hope some day I'll be able to show her around mine. That would be a Privilege indeed.

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