A little more than 24 hours in Palo Alto and San Francisco

Posted on
Aug 31, 2009

Rand and I headed out to Palo Alto last week, as he had another round of meetings with potential investors. Since the main reason for my presence was to make sure my husband didn’t have a stress-induced heart-attack, it didn’t end up being a pleasure trip for either of us, really. To compound things, I endured no less than two Dick Moves! from little white-haired old women over the course of this trip. Oh, and no one in traffic would let me merge.

All in all, I didn’t get an entirely favorable impression of the town. HOWEVER, my good friend Natala is from there, and we met up with some awesome folks, so I’m willing to reserve judgment … a little.

We left Seattle on Monday night, and had dinner at Pallino, which is one of the best places to eat in Sea-Tac Airport.

We ordered the four seasons (Quattro Stagioni) pizza, but rather than four distinct quadrants of toppings, they had all run together. So perhaps our dinner was a subtle commentary on global warming. Either way, it was yummy:

We then had to haul ass to our flight, because there was some sort of security breach and they weren’t letting people through. So we had to take two trams and transfer once, and were among the last to board. On the flight down, I made some astonishing revelations:

Mainly, that Alaska Airlines now occasionally has cheese crackers instead of soy nuts in its snack mix.

If youve noticed this, too, congratulations! You travel too much.

If you've noticed this, too, congratulations! You travel too much.

And that responding to every question in the crossword with “Dale Midkiff” is really amusing, if only to me:

11 Across was moist. 22 Across was responded excessively. I nearly peed my pants with happy.

11 Across was "moist". 22 Across was "responded excessively". I nearly peed my pants with happy.

When we arrived, we took the tram at SFO airport to the rental car offices. I noticed that in San Francisco, they carpet the little shelf at the end of tram, so you can sit on it without your ass sliding right off.

Friction = no ass slippage

Friction = no ass slippage

No such luck in Seattle – it’s brushed stainless steel (though I remember a time when it wasn’t) so your ass slides right off. It’s this dedication to rules that sometimes kills me about my hometown.

Brushed stainless steel = ass slippage.

Brushed stainless steel = ass slippage.

Oh, and we were able to get a rental car without waiting in line or talking to any humans. SCORE. Thanks, Alamo, for making life a little more efficient and a little less personal! I feel so German. We drove to the Sheraton Palo Alto, which is weirdly impossible to get to. After making 17 lefts and handing some dude an egg, we found the entrance.

The hotel was fairly nice.

I had to take this photo twice, because in the other one, my half-naked husband was visible.

I had to take this photo twice, because in the other one, my half-naked husband was visible.

They have a koi pond. Apparently if you try skinny dipping in it, they get all pissy.

They have a koi pond. Apparently if you try skinny dipping in it, they get all pissy.

But do not eat at the Sheraton. Heed my words. Do. Not. Eat. There.

Downtown Palo Alto itself is pretty darn adorable. It looks, in my opinion, exactly like Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Exhibit 1: Palo Alto

Exhibit 1: Palo Alto

Exhibit b: Bedford Falls

Exhibit 2: Bedford Falls

During one of his few breaks from the insanity of meetings he had, Rand and I had lunch at a place called Han’s Korean Restaurant.

FYI – Seattle has amazing Korean food, so while Han’s was very good, I’ve had better. And my friend who’s a Palo Alto native recommended Tamarine.

While Rand was off at his many meetings, I roamed around town. I didn’t really feel up to touring Stanford, since the only guy I knew who went there was kind of a douche. So I stumbled upon the Elizabeth Gamble Garden Center

And was scolded by some crazy lady.

At this point, I have to say, I really was not feeling Palo Alto. It’s hard to navigate,  people were mean to me, and did I mention no one let me merge in traffic? Fortunately, Rand knew exactly what it would take to cheer me up.

Rand: We’re meeting my friend Gautam for drinks.

Me: WHO?

Rand: Gautam.

Me: I am the bat.

Rand: No, no – not Gotham, like the city, but Gautam. It’s a pretty common-

Me: I am the bat.

Rand:  No, you see-

Me: I am the bat.

Rand: (Sighing) Yes, yes. You are the bat.

Me: I am.

Sadly, it turned out that Gautam didn’t know Batman, or even Bruce Wayne (or is that what he wants me to think?). He was however, really nice to talk to, as was his wife. Sadly, I have no pictures of them, because I didn’t bring my camera. Though hardly anyone gets photos of the Batman, anyway, so it’s likely a moot point.

Fortunately, I brought my camera when we met Nirav.

Nirav Tolia, as best as I could gather (I had trouble hearing on account of the choir of angels that sang every time he looked at me) is a colleague of my husband’s, and started some company that has to do with sports or athletes or something or other. Plus, I’m pretty sure “Nirav Tolia” is Hindi for “George Clooney” (but I am a little rusty). I’ve just taken to calling him REDACTED (Sadly, Rand won’t let me include the nickname I came up with for Nirav. Something about it being “absolutely mortifying”. Also, it might have included the word “Yum”).

We drove the 40 minutes up to San Francisco to meet Nirav. According to Rand, there are two highways that go into S.F. from Palo Alto – the 101, which is the poor man’s highway (goes from the poor section of Palo Alto (the east) to the Tenderloin) and the 280, which is the rich man’s highway (and goes from – yeah, you guessed it – Sand Hill Road to the Embarcadero). Apparently, the 280 has better views and fewer cops.

Don’t ask me how, but that’s the highway that we ended up taking. I was completely freaked that our rented Toyota with Colorado plates was going to land us in prison because we were clearly out of our element. This was one of the houses we passed:

Frank Lloyd Wrights homage to Tropicana.

Frank Lloyd Wright's homage to Tropicana.

And then I saw this, which confused me …

Where Americas neighbors go to laugh at us.

Where America's neighbors go to laugh at us.

There were even scenic viewpoints all along the way. We pulled over at one, and I was going to ask someone to take our picture, but everyone was in a Mercedes and in the middle of a business call – plus, I’m allergic to wealth. So Rand took the photo:

Have I mentioned how much I recommend marrying Rand?

Have I mentioned how much I recommend marrying Rand?

See? Don’t say poverty doesn’t make you adorable, kids.

What always amazes me is that you can actually see the fog rolling in as you approach San Francisco. It just sort of hangs and clings to the city. It’s really strange.

It moves faster than the cabs ... OF WHICH THERE ARE FIVE.

"It moves faster than the cabs ... OF WHICH THERE ARE FIVE."

We started out in sunny Palo Alto, and by the time we got to the Ferry Building Marketplace near the Embarcadero, it was overcast. Inside isn’t bad (nothing like the Pike Place Market, but still worth a visit). We walked around a bit …

And Rand found every hedonistic Jewish boy’s dream …

Tasty Pig Parts: Every Jewish boys dream.

That'll do, pig.

And … sigh. This happened:

Whats a guy like you doing with a guy like Selma?

I am apparently drunk. ON CHEESE.

And then we went back to Palo Alto, gas prices be damned! After all, Rand had another meeting, and I really wanted to check out Stanford’s National Accelerator Laboratory.

This completely cancels out being prom queen, I think.

No, really. I did. I’m insane. I know I’ve mentioned that before, but I feel the need to stress this again: I am NUTS. Take my weird fascination with particle physics. I used to draw little cartoons of massive neutrinos on my notebooks. They looked like this:

After looking at this a while, I realized it will be a MIRACLE if I dont die alone.

After looking at this a while, I realized it will be a MIRACLE if I don't die alone.

Rand told me he was pretty sure they had tours of the center, and I just about peed myself. I was completely ready to go all Sam Beckett on that thing, and step into the particle accelerator and VANISH. Oh, boy.

But I was foiled. Again. DAMN YOU, PALO ALTO! DAMN YOOOOOOOOOOU! Apparently, they won’t be doing tours until next year. And when they do, I suspect the tours will be for actual physicists. In the meantime, the look on the guard’s face when I asked him if I could go in was somewhere between confusion and laughing hysterically. Sigh.

Then it was time to go back to the airport, and home.

Apparently SFO has a free speech booth, where you can legally solicit funds.

I’m tired, so make up your own joke. I’ll get you started: something about actually having more rights in the airport than we do in the real world / something about your mom soliciting funds / something about my perenially broke, incredibly big-mouthed brother. It basically writes itself.

And Rand and  I were forced to eat at the airport, which would have been really depressing if either of us had been alone (and I think we each have been, at that exact airport). But somehow, the shared experience of a so-so meal makes it better. Mediocrity, apparently, loves company as well.

Its like a sitcom premise: rival Airport restaurant owners HATE eachother. Hilarity ensues.

It's like a sitcom premise: rival Airport restaurant owners HATE eachother. Hilarity ensues.

Rand had a burger, which he described as pretty decent …

I think hes cute even when hes eating. Thats how effed up love will make you, kids.

I think he's cute even when he's eating. That's how effed up love will make you, kids.

And I had whatever this was.

Go ahead. Guess.

Go ahead. Guess.

Quick tip: There aren’t any good restaurants on the other side of security if you are flying from SF back to Seattle. So eat beforehand. It’s what we did, and still …

Oh, and on the flight back, we once again go to see the fog gripping the coast. Kind of amazing, really:

So, all in all, not the best trip, but not terrible either. I met some amazing people at the expense of crabby locals, airport dinners, and, saddest of all, no super-collider. I’m taking it in stride. Because it’s still worthwhile, it’s still an experience, and that’s what travel is all about.

Plus, that’s what the bat would do.

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