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DSC_0093Though we can’t be with everyone we love this year, we love where we’ll be. 

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Return of a Thanksgiving tradition. A beverage of my own device (at least as far as I know). I call it Black O’ Lantern. It’s made just like a Black and Tan, except the Guinness is layered on top of Pumpkin Cider. And it’s fantastic. If you don’t know how to make a Black and Tan, check out here.

Might take some practice to get that perfect layered effect (you can see mine already started to mix) but that’s why beer comes in 6 packs. And, given the medium, you’re not really going to complain about a little extra practice anyway. Are you? 

Taken at Clear Lake Cottages, Arnstein, Ontario. 

I’ve wanted to see the Red Bull Flugtag since the first time I saw it advertised more than 6 years ago.  The commercial—in heavy rotation on late night TV—promised a day of costumed crazies, and genuine thrill seekers, launching absurd homemade (man-powered) aircraft from a 30-foot high pier; presumably to see who could travel farthest before crash (!) landing in the water. I knew instantly that I had to go someday.

For those who haven’t seen the commercials, and who are saying ‘big whoop, nerd’ right this second, what makes this event interesting to folks beyond aeronautical engineers is that entries are judged on creativity and showmanship as much as distance. Which is good. Because ironically—flugtag literally means “flight day”—very few really take flight. Most just sort of limp to the end of the runway and topple off the edge. But that’s only after the team gets thirty seconds to win over the judges with a skit. I guess that’s what keeps the killjoys from ruining this by over thinking it.

Anyway, as soon as I found it was going to be in SF this year, I marked my calendar. I might have even let out a tiny little girlie squeal. My mission these days is to get out and see and do new things, so I put aside my aversion to crowds, and traffic, and people who drink Red Bull, and headed down to McCovey Cove with the family and my camera to finally see this spectacle for myself.  

We had an awesome time. Following are some of my favorite shots from the day.

One of my faves of the day. This was the R. Kelly entry. He believed he could fly. He was wrong.


Gritty. Edgy. Artsy. Great character. Up-and-coming. These are all the things the realtor said about The Mission District in San Francisco when we first moved out here in 2010.  We looked at a few places there, but having come from Manhattan, we were ready for something quieter. Plus, those terms usually describe neighborhoods that are much hipper than I am (eg, just about anywhere in Brooklyn).

So we settled in across town, closer to the parks and the ocean and my office. We always talked about going back over there to really explore, but then, we didn’t.  “It’s crowded” and there’s “not going to be any parking” we’d tell ourselves.

But I promised you folks we were going to live like tourists out here, so earlier this week, I got my work wrapped up right around lunchtime and made a proclamation; “We’re going into the Mission for tacos.” 

Pause for an aside. For those of you who don’t know, The Mission District in San Francisco is known for authentic, quality Mexican food. There’s even a style of burrito named after it (see here).

So I filled my pockets with quarters for the meters, threw the baby carrier in the trunk, and we set out. I had one destination in mind.

Pause for an additional aside. After nearly 14 years of living in big cities (Philly, NY, SF), this is about the best piece of advice I could offer any visitor to a new city: If a local (ie, non-chain) place draws a big line, go there. When it comes to food, city folks tend to tire of mediocre quickly. They weed it out in brutal fashion, leaving it to be picked over by the out-of-towners. Conversely, they will reward good with slavish, almost-to-the-point-of-absurd, loyalty. Hence, the lines.

Ok, back to the story. We were going to La Taqueria (24th and Mission); widely, and consistently, regarded as one of the best among the best in the Mission. We got there relatively early, and as expected, there were already people lining up.

I don’t know why, but places that get this busy really throw me off my game. Like Costanza with the Soup Nazi, I’m rehearsing my order in line, afraid to get yelled at or to look stupid among the regulars. But the lady at the cashier was friendly, and the menu was simple enough, that I think I made some decent choices. Plus, I had Yelp as my guide: “Dos tacos con pollo, uno con carnitas, y uno con chorizo” to split between Denise (and Madison), and myself.

I don’t fancy myself a food blogger, so I’ll just say I really enjoyed them. Original. Fresh. Tasty. But really, this was always more about just having fun. It was something completely different than we had intended for the day. I was glad we made the effort.

In fact, I was so much into the spirit of the tourism thing, that I decided to track down a place that a buddy had bragged about for years. It was time for dessert.

Headed down 24th to York to Dynamo Donuts. A local favorite that had even been featured on the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Bacon Episode” for their “Maple Glazed Bacon Apple” Donut. And even though I’ve grown increasingly skeptical, and critical, of this bacon craze we seem to be going through—bacon having become a trendy, and lazy, culinary substitute for originality—I wanted to try it. When in Rome, after all.  

Afterwards, Denise would say, “tasted like a really great doughnut…that someone sprinkled bacon on.” I can’t say she’s 100% wrong, but I thought it worked. The bacon wasn’t overpowering, and the donut really was as good as that fella from the Food Network promised. Whether or not the bacon is necessary at all, or just clever marketing, I’ll leave to the experts. I know that I didn’t pick it off, and I didn’t leave a crumb on the plate. In fact, the only of us who left a crumb was Madison. We thought we’d let her try her own vegan, Spiced Chocolate donut. But by then, she was over our little excursion, and wanted to get home for a taste of the familiar; a bottle and a nap. Being a tourist can be exhausting. 

Destination: La Taqueria between 24th and 25 on Mission Street.

Y dos cervezas por favor. If you’re going to do it, might as well do it right.

Was so anxious to get started, got halfway through my tacos before I remembered to pause and take a proper picture. Still, doesn’t that look tasty?

Having a blast. Note the line in the background, now well out the door.

Baby Tourist gets her first taste of the Mission. She didn’t complain.

The fallout. On to dessert…

Had to go bacon, despite some of my recent misgivings. Part of this tourist thing is trying new things. Plus, before the hipsters commandeered bacon and flavored everything with it for their own ironic purposes, it was a pretty great thing, no?

Maple Glazed Bacon Apple (front), Vanilla Bean (back left), Spiced Chocolate (back right). Note the tiny little shadow of a hand creeping in up top. Baby Tourist was about to get hers.

What is this? Vegan? Seriously?!? Take it away. And take me home, I’ve had enough.

Adios Mission. You were great.

I could probably be more on top of this blog than I am. So  I thought this shot of a bronzed Yoda in the George Lucas Complex in the Presidio, SF, was worth sharing. 

Less than one year in, I don’t know if I’ll ever be man enough to handle little girl tears. I think I’m in big trouble. 

It’s true. Rhymes must have been pretty limited before then. 

 

 

 

My 8-month old daughter is really all the reminder I need that time passes way too quickly. But at the end of my driveway, I have another one: my R1200GS. Beautiful in her own right, she was my baby before there was a Madison. And truth be told, I’ve been neglecting her. So I thought she deserved some ink here, too. 

But this isn’t a love story about a motorcycle, because that would falsely suggest that I’ve ever been the kind of diehard enthusiast that ‘lives to ride, brother.’ I haven’t. In fact, I’m a terrible rider. I’ve scared myself at least once every time I’ve gone out to ride. It’s usually by doing something absent-mindedly, or by not doing something that better riders do automatically, like when I pull up to stop signs and forget to downshift. What happens next is me trying to pull out quickly into a busy intersection while still in 4th gear. 

Stall. Tip. Catch. Or drop (happened once). Block traffic. Turn bright red underneath my helmet (thankfully full-face).

If you couldn’t guess, riding requires a great deal of concentration, especially when you don’t have many hours of saddle time. And concentration is not something that comes easy to us creative types. So, no, I’m not great. And moving to San Francisco didn’t do loads to increase my comfort. The best analogy I ever heard for driving in San Francisco was from a friend who compared it to sticks floating down a fast-moving river. Spot on. Random, haphazard, and completely given to whim, without a discernible awareness or purpose of their own. Add to that mindless pedestrians, arrogant bicyclists, and really steep hills and you’ve got more than enough drawbacks to dissuade us lesser riders.

But the amazing weather and beautiful scenery kept me trying—cautiously—during early mornings and other times when I knew traffic would be light. I would point my handlebars towards the coast and away from the tangles of downtown. It was impossible not to fall in love all over again. 

Then in October, 2011, Madison was born. Everything else got put on hold as I went about the business of something infinitely more complex, and terrifying, than riding a motorcycle; raising an infant. The cover went on the bike. And the oxidation process began in earnest. Every time I thought about going out for a ride, I talked myself out of it. The mind can go to some pretty scary places when you know you’ve got a lifetime of daddy responsibilities ahead of you. Visions of high-sides crashed in my head. It became an all too convenient, if practical, excuse not to go out for a ride.

But this is not a lecture about orphans and the evils of motorcycles, either. I do plan to ride again. Someday. It’s just that, like the bike in my driveway, I know I’ve gotten a little rusty. And the more I sit idle, the rustier I’m getting. It’s a vicious cycle, really.  Don’t ride, lose confidence. Lose confidence, don’t ride. And the amount of remedial maintenance I know it’s going to take to get me out there on the next ride continues to pile up. Practically speaking, the battery will need to be charged and most of the fluids changed. Personally, it’s going to involve re-teaching the limbs to work in perfect, unconscious synchronization. So I put it off. And, thus, a factor even more powerful than nerves keeps me off the streets…inertia. It’s a lot easier not to ride at this point.

As for why I don’t try to find my motorcycle a better home, rather than watch her in a slow decline, I guess it’s one of those guy things. I just love having her around. She’s rusty, inoperable, and aging, but she’s mine. And I still think that’s pretty cool. So for now, she’ll continue to sit out there among the elements. Patiently fading under that cover. Reminding me that time is indeed flying by, and that we all have to make tough decisions in life about what our priorities are going to be. I do get a little sad sometimes walking by my once pristine GS—the only brand new vehicle I’ve ever owned—but these days Madison comes first. ‘Tikes before bikes,’ I guess you could say.

Updated: I had to come here and rectify one major oversight. That’s the relevance of my own father to this story. He IS a diehard enthusiast, and the reason I decided to start riding in the first place. I don’t know that he was ever a nervous rider, but I do know that he faced a similar dilemma in 1973 when my older sister (and his first daughter) was born. He sold his bikes and decided to put riding on hold. Over the years, us kids always knew my dad USED TO ride motorcycles, including some kind of BMW, but not much more. Then, when my younger sister neared graduation from college, my dad started talking more and more excitedly about riding again, and finally bought another bike…probably the day after the last tuition check he would ever write cleared.  It took him about 30 years, but he got back to it. So I guess I will too, when the time feels right. Anyway, had to update this. How could I talk about priorities without talking about where I learned them?

Unridden, but not unloved.

And back when she was a newborn.