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Leaving San Francisco (I’m on a train, I can’t complain)

OK, so sue me: the title of this post is a bald–faced lie. The train part is true enough, I really am on a train —the Amtrak Coast Starlight if you insist on details— and I did just leave San Francisco, but I have all kinds of crap to complain about. For one, we’re just pulling into Portland at 8:09pm… a stop that was scheduled for 3:40pm. Yep, more than four hours late. At this rate, I’ll be arriving in Seattle at 12:45am… a stop we were supposed to be approaching now.

Well shucks, that’s really all the complaints I had; and late trains are something we’ve just come to expect by now. The only real downside to train travel is the lack of internet access (and the disjointed posting time associated with that), but what do I care?

San Francisco was beautiful. Better than beautiful, it was fantastic, and I’m sad that we only had two nights in which to enjoy it. On arrival on our first night (late, as mentioned) we barely checked in to the Union Square Backpackers’ Hostel before the desk closed at midnight. Dumping our bags and stowing our valuables, we headed out for a stroll to discover what wonders the surrounding three blocks had to offer at that time of morning. As it turns out, quite a few. Union Square with its enormous Christmas tree and festively festive downtown festivities; the impressive–looking department stores, the likes of which I’ve never seen; the flagship “glass staircase” Apple store, with the security guard inside playing with a G5/30" Display setup; the assortment of pubs and clubs that we didn’t venture into given our appalling state of dress (and the fact that we’d only just got off the train); the liberal smattering of art galleries with some very nice stuff on display, if I only had a few mil to spare; the fag–hags and their beaus; the women with significantly smaller asses than Southern California had led us to believe is the norm (must be all the hillclimbing); the steam rising from grates in the street; the trams; the lights; the skyline… it was all quite breathtaking. And, unlike Los Angeles, definitely the kind of town I could live in.

I’m of mixed opinions concerning the hostel we stayed in: on the one hand, it was a tad dingy, with some of the strangest people on staff I’ve ever had the uh… experience of talking to and some of the worst plumbing I’ve ever encountered, anywhere. But on the other hand it was in the most brilliant position of any hostel I can imagine (right off Union Square, duh, though I will admit my imagination is a little rusty), was cheap, had DSL terminals on every floor, and supplied a most scrumptious continental breakfast every morning that I devoured without hesitation. Any muffin that enters these hands is doomed, but a plate full of muffins… that’s a massacre.

San Francisco by day (you’ll notice I’m avoiding that most hideous of contractions: “Frisco”), while not as breathtaking as it is after dark, was still most enjoyable. For one, the stores are open —a serious boon when you’re still on a mission to find a decent pair of gloves for the winter— and the streets are flooded with people. We’ve all become quite acclimatized to the traffic here, taking advantage of the serious power American cities give pedestrians over the flow of traffic and still remaining cautious of the cars approaching from our left (Australia being one of the few countries still driving on the left, along with Great Britain, Japan, South Africa, and New Zealand).

Our search for a nice pair of gloves took us to the Macy’s Men’s Store, at which point I’ll say this: any department store that takes the time and effort to erect a building, separate from its main building, dedicated solely to men’s fashions —five solid floors of it— has my immediate blessing. And Macy’s wasn’t alone: Saks has done the same thing! Still, in the world’s gayest city, this is perhaps to be expected… but you know I like to shop: this city was built for men like me. And gay men. And women, who I am led to believe also like to shop. And any other of the wonderful shopping–loving stereotypes at my disposal. OK, enough of that…

During our first day, aside from buying some Ralph Lauren gloves from Macy’s (resisting another leather pair marked at 50% off) we managed to fit all the touristy crap in (Coit Tower, Pier 39, Alcatraz) and find time to buy a block of Miller, salad vegetables, some steak (the first real meat we’ve had since arriving in this country: don’t you people have butchers?) and make a damned fine meal of it. After some juvenile fun with the hostel payphone (more on that later) we suited up and headed out. Beers, bars, and beyond.

Quizzing the local streetlife produced the suggestion that we go to “Norbitch” (probably better known as “North Beach” to people with adequate control over their articulators) and see what it had to offer: advice we took to heart. After hanging in a self–proclaimed ‘sports bar’ for a few minutes trying to figure out which of the women were waitresses and which were hookers, a voice over the PA announced that the Jello wrestling would commence in fifteen minutes.

Oh. My. God.

Jello wrestling is about as juvenile a sport as dialing 1-800 numbers from a payphone with various combinations of numbers following so as to form dirty words and to discern which of the numbers are phone sex lines, like 1-800-HOT-FUCK, and which are Ford dealerships, like 1-800-DOG-CUNT. It’s all about watching girls fight in a tub of lubricating semisolid and maybe, just maybe, getting nekkid in their quest to win whatever prize money was on offer. There was no nudity, sadly, though were were a lot of wedgies and one particularly butch women who won the title, but by far the highlight of the match was the sexually ambiguous woman standing next to me saying “Wow! She has a great ass. Don’t you think she has a great ass? I wonder if that’s really Jello they’re wrestling in. I’m gonna check when they’re done” … before licking the face of that round’s loser to determine that yeah, it really was Jello.

Did I mention San Francisco was entertaining?

Nota bene

This post is about four days late now, due to a lack of connectivity in Seattle. Right now I'm in Vancouver and loving it, so if keep your panties on I’ll update the rest in good time.