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March 10, 2003: San Francisco - the nights

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Monday (last week): One of my coworkers desperately wanted to go to Bubba Gump's, so after training was over and we'd all made it back to the hotel, we changed into walking shoes and all headed off down the street to Fisherman's Wharf (the hotel is only a few blocks away).

It was chilly out; chilly enough that I soon realized how completely inappropriate my thin little jacket is for this weather. Next week I'll bring my heavier jacket down with me. This is sure to guarantee that they'll have a mini heat wave in San Francisco soon or at least on Monday and Tuesday, until I leave the county and move on to the next one.

On the way there we heard the seals long before we ever saw them, so half the group (those who've seen the seals already, or who really didn't care either way) went on to get a table and the rest of us walked along the pier until we could see the source of the noise.

They crowded onto a series of small docks in the water below where we stood, piled into untidy clumps of smooth, damp, brown. Occasionally a pair of seals would duke it out over a prime lounging spot, or even an entire dock. The smaller ones usually didn't even try to claim spots of their own, but would just flop onto the dock and then wedge themselves into any available space amid the already snoozing bodies. They reminded me of piles of sleeping kittens, with their whiskery faces and with the way they piled themselves together without a single bit of space between.

I am struck by the amusement factor of a restaurant that came about based solely on a movie (Forrest Gump). Nearly everything on the menu involved shrimp, and there little Gump-isms sprinkled across everything the walls, the menus, even the tables. To flag down a waiter we were told to simply flip the sign on our table from "Run, Forrest, Run" to "Stop, Forrest, Stop". What amuses me even more than the reason behind the restaurant is that it is one of a chain.

Tuesday: After a particularly long and frustrating day of barnacles and mollusks and all the other joy that is inherent in our job, three of us decided to track down The Stinking Rose, a restaurant we had all heard about and been wanting to try for years. This is because The Stinking Rose's claim to fame is that garlic is the featured dish. Even the ice cream had garlic in it.

We started with a huge plate of roasted garlic and herb-dusted rolls. I gleefully inducted my two coworkers into the world of roasted garlic (because somehow, odd as it may sound, neither of them had ever had it before). We followed that with a spinach, garlic, and cheese fondue, and then continued on for more garlicky goodness.

It's a wonderful little restaurant. We had a marvelous waiter who told us what to order ("No, no, honey, you want *that* one. Trust me, *that* one's better.") in a rather amusing, yet brusque manner. Naturally we took his advice on practically the entire meal and had some of the best food any of us had ever eaten. Throughout the meal he would come by to chat with us, asking how things were, offering suggestions for what to get next when asked. And once we were done, he showed us pictures of when he'd been granted the unique privilege to carry the Olympic flame. It was obvious in his eyes just how much this meant to him.

After dinner we pondered dessert (we did ponder it in the restaurant, but "honey, you don't want dessert *here*. There are 12 coffee shops in the area. Tell me what you're in the mood for and I'll tell you which one to go to"), but were too stuffed with garlic to be able to do more than eye the desserts in the glass case wistfully. Heading for the car we passed a tiny little vehicle that looked almost small enough to hug. I circled it, squealing like a little girl over how completely adorable the thing was. It was a real car in every way just extra-tiny. The name on the back was Fiat, but I'm not sure if it was custom-made, or simply something brought over from somewhere else (where teeny tiny huggable cars are more common).

Wednesday: The instant I arrived in San Francisco last week I promised myself that I would see how far away the hotel was from Lark in the Morning, which is this marvelous store full of musical instruments from around the world. I've been to the one in Seattle, and knew that there was one somewhere around where we are staying. A quick check on MapQuest revealed it was practically next door to the hotel. I tried to talk some of my coworkers into making the short walk over to the Cannery where it's located, but couldn't find any enthusiasm at all until one of the managers decided it sounded interesting enough to check out.

We wandered through the store, oohing and aahing over what was offered. I eyed a number of things wistfully, but couldn't figure out where we'd put a full sized marimba in our house (even if it *was* made of rosewood), nor when I'd ever find the time to learn how to play the double pan pipes (since I've barely had time to even touch that tenor recorder my dad gave me to relearn by next week!). I managed to get out of the store without spending a dime (although it was getting awfully hard there for a while when I found the selection of sheet music for recorder duets and quartets), but my coworker gleefully decided that her grandchildren needed their very own child-sized bagpipes. To her credit, she *did* get their mother's permission first a wise move considering that when their mother finally catches on to just what she's agreed to, she can't complain too loudly.

Thursday: My coworker and I wanted Indian food. We'd seen a little shop down the road a block or two, and set out from the hotel to find it, only to discover the For Lease signs in the windows. Luckily the hotel has lists of all the restaurants in the area. Even luckier, we're smack in the middle of touristville since we're only a block or so away from Fisherman's Wharf, the Cannery, and Ghirardelli Square. We tracked down a likely candidate and set off up the hill to Ghirardelli Square.

The restaurant is located on the third floor of the Chocolate Building in the square. By the time we arrived, most of the stores in the square had already shut down, and we could only peer in windows. It was dark outside and the restaurant was completely empty. They seated us right next to a window with a view of the water.

I'd been tired and feeling lifeless and faintly queasy from stress and exhaustion before we left. Amazing what a little curry can do to perk a person right up.

Tonight: After our rave reviews of the food and the service, the rest of the team decided that they really wanted to experience The Stinking Rose. Another trip to garlic heaven? Twist my arm!

More roasted garlic and herb-dusted rolls. Prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes. Ravioli with garlic and caramelized onions in a cream sauce. Garlic meatloaf. Marinated garlic in olive oil, so pungent that eyes watered when the pot was lifted close for a quick smell.

No room for dessert tonight either (although I'm not sure any of us were feeling adventurous enough for garlic ice cream anyway). We walked back to the van and watched the fog slowly rolling in across the tops of the skyscrapers, and then drove in circles until we finally decided to ignore the van's built-in GPS system and find our own way home.

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