San Francisco, July 2018 - - Trip There and Day one, 7/13/18
Sometime in early 2018 my friends Paul and Annie told me they'd be visiting San Francisco in mid-July. They live in Sydney (see the travelogue from my trip to Sydney in January 2016) so I don't get to see them very often. Plus my brother Howard lives in SF, so two birds, one stone, right?
I booked my flight on United because Richard had a single-use VIP lounge pass that expired at the end of July. I got to the airport, went to the super deluxe VIP lounge nearest my gate, and asked them where I was supposed to go. The guy said I should go to a pop-up lounge near gate 125. "Pop-up lounge." Sounded less than inspiring. Well, it wasn't what I would call fancy, but it was a couple steps higher than sitting near the gate with all those other yahoos. Plus they had free coffee and free nosh. I thought I'd start my vacation off right with some Cinnamon Toast Crunch and a cappuccino.
The best thing about my flight is that I had an empty seat next to me, between me and the guy at the window. That guy decided to use the empty seat for all of his crap, but I guess since he was there first that's his right, right? Until I bring it up and start a negotiation, which isn't my style. I decided to take over the space under the seat in front of us, I put my bag there and my feet. So we were both happy.
I've been going through a *Lohengrin* fixation for the last few months. It's an early Wagner opera. I saw it at the Met in 2006 and really loved it. Something inspired me to start listening to recordings on Youtube lately, and I've listened to about four or five. But it occurred to me recently that I don't really know what HAPPENS in the opera. Sure, I know the general story, but not all of the finer points. You might say, "But you saw it onstage, how can you not know what was going on?" Well, the Met production is by Robert Wilson, so it's abstract in the extreme. Beautiful to look at and full of strange drama, but not really a cogent telling of the story.
I decided to use my five-hour flight to remedy the situation. I got a recording from the Public Library, downloaded the recording onto my iPod, and brought the CD booklet with the libretto (the text of the opera). So I could know exactly what was going on, what the hell they were singin' about. This was a genius idea, I really enjoyed it. For those of you who care, the recording I was listening to was with Jess Thomas as Lohengrin, Elisabeth Grümmer as Elsa, Christa Ludwig as Ortrud, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Friederick, Gottlob Frick as the King, with Rudolf Kempe conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. And it was really exciting to know what was going on and what the hell they were singin' about - - the music was familiar and it took on a whole new level of meaning and impact. Which will hopefully stick in my brain (to a degree) with future listenings, without the libretto booklet.
So listening to the opera took three hours. I took a little break between acts to finish *The World Only Spins Forward,* the new oral history of *Angels in America.* Such a touching book, really an opportunity to weep on every page. Might not be what you're looking for in a book, but it works for me. I also checked out the movies that were available on the plane - - of course there were lots of things I hadn't seen and was sort of interested in, but the movie that grabbed me was *The Post.* I loved it when I saw it this winter and was excited to see it again. But I was so into my *Lohengrin* moment, I decided to save it for the flight home.
Howard gave me marvelously precise directions on taking the Air Train and the BART to the spot in town where he was meeting me for lunch. Yes, he offered to meet me at the airport, but hey, I'm a city dweller, I wanted to do it myself. Always such a treat seeing Howard, we always have such a great time. We went straight to lunch, at a cute place called Cafe Bastille, a French bistro on an alley that closes off to traffic during the day to become outdoor seating. How cute is that? I had a niçoise salad with ahi tuna, so damn delicious.
We went back to Howard's apartment, dropped off my bag, and hung out for a while. Our destination that night was dinner and a show with our friend Alisa. I should call her "Howard's friend Alisa," since she is first and foremost Howard's friend, but I love her so much I want to call her OUR friend. So I will. We went to a Thai restaurant and had a fab meal. We all split a papaya salad that was deliciously fresh, I had fried tofu with fried basil, so delicious. Howard had a gorgeous Thai iced tea. Here's a picture of it, and Alisa beholding it.
We went to hear Arjun Verma playing the sitar and Sudhakar Vaidyanathan playing the tabla. I don't think I'd ever heard or seen sitar playing live, and it was impressive. Verma is clearly a virtuoso, his hands were flying and he got some gorgeous sounds out of the instrument. But I was a more than a little droopy - - it was 11 PM New York time, and I'd typically have already been asleep for an hour. I did a fair amount of napping during the concert. Thankfully Howard and Alisa felt like they had heard enough and we left at intermission.
Here's a cute selfie that Alisa took of the three of us (we sat in the choir loft of Old First Church):