I rise at 8:15. Where are the kids? They said they’d be here now. I go up to their room.
“Why are you getting us up at 7?”
It wasn’t my watch that was wrong but the clock in my room, which is an hour and a half fast. I get another hour’s kip.
The breakfast consists of sausage – both normal and flat – plus boiled eggs. Plus lots of cold stuff and waffles. Do-it-yourself waffles seem very popular in US hotel breakfasts nowadays.
“At least they gave us plates, Andrew.” Not that he has a plate. Just a coffee cup and a pile of bags of sugar. It look like he’s building a defensive emplacement. And a sullen look. He has one of those, too.
We drop by Bev Mo, handily placed at the bottom of the street. “It’s bound to be cheaper than the corner shop.”
It’s a massive booze supermarket. Andrew is dead impressed. We stock up on beer and bourbon, which we dump back at the hotel.
We’re off to the Cable Car Museum. Not sure which is the best way. But the simplest is straight down Sutter and then across on Mason. Big mistake.
Mason is a huge fucking hill. Crazily steep. I have to pause to catch my breath after every block. Looking back down the hill seems even scarier.
“I don’t fancy walking down that. Maybe we can take a taxi back.”
My lungs are burning. Is that the hill or the onset of pneumonia?
We get to the top of Nob Hill, then have to go down a scary slope. I’m totally out of breath when we get to the museum.
The museum itself is pretty cool, as it’s inside the active engine house. Massive wheels spin, moving the cables under the streets. Impressive and very 19th-century looking.
It’s not a huge museum. But it is free. And they have some old cable cars. Plus interesting stuff about the fire and its effect on the cable car network. Right down my street. And free. Did I mention that?
Chinatown isn’t far away. And it’s just turning noon. Not a difficult decision. Time for lunch. At a random restaurant, I ask “What about here?” The kids give it the nod.
It’s Hunan cuisine, which seems consist mostly of topping every dish with 50 dried chillies. Fine by me. Did I mention that it’s Andrew’s birthday? He orders a celebratory Tsingtao. I go for sake. Diet coke for Alexei. I can see he isn’t overjoyed at his limited drink choices. It is unfair. Especially as he’s been of legal drinking age in Holland for almost two years.
I don’t make the best food choice. Mostly because Andrew orders what I’d been planning to get. My substitute dish is marinated mince and beans. It’s nigh on impossible to eat such finely chopped stuff with chopsticks.
Having sussed out the lie of the land, we take a cannier route to our next destination, Hogwash. With strategic use of a tunnel, the gradient is minimal. At least for San Francisco. It’s a real shock for the kids, born and bred in the dead flatlands of Amsterdam.
The Hogwash barman is very friendly. I get a sludge IPA, Fieldwork Front and follow or something. Alexie has a diet coke.
“Which town have you enjoyed most so far, Alexei?”
“Tijuana. I could do stuff there.” Alexei says resentfully. By which he means drink beer.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be able to drink in Vancouver tomorrow.”
“Yeah I can finally do something. Unlike this stupid country.”
Alexei has a real monk on.
“Hurry up and finish your stupid beer. All I can do is stare at the wall.”
Andrew has a Moonlight Reality Check Pilsner and three ciders. I just have the two beers. It’s hard to enjoy them with the look on Alexei’s face. We head back to the hotel. The slope doesn’t seem that steep after the nightmare hill earlier.
“Do you want a beer, Lexie.” I ask when we’re in my room.
“No, it’s a bit early for me.”
“But you’ve been moaning all day about not being able to drink.”
“I just want the option.”
We decide to eat at Upcider, a, er, cider pub. Andrew likes cider as much as his mum. The barman is very helpful and lets me and Andrew try one. Though I go for a Racer 5. I’ve learned not to drink cider on top of beer.
“Have you noticed that they don’t have free refills of soft drinks here like in San Diego?” Alexei remarks.
We order a slider each, plus one order of chips and creole chicken. None of us is that hungry. The food is OK, but not great.
We walk back to the hotel with Alexei. On the way he says: “You were right, dad. It does smell of piss here.”
“I got some shit for writing that on my blog. But I was only telling the truth.”
"The truth isn't always popular, dad."
"Very true, Andrew."
Though Andrew knows what he wants to do later: “I’d like to go to a bar, dad. Like the last one in San Diego.” I have a look on the internet for a bar. There’s one directly opposite Upcider, the Hemlock Tavern. We promise Alexei that we’ll be back by 10 and head off.
It’ a typical American bar, a long counter and low lighting. Though surprisingly few TVs. We take seats at the bar. They don’t have a huge selection of beer. But there is cider. And Anchor Steam, which is what we go for.
“it’s his birthday today.” I tell the barman.
“He need a shot to celebrate. On me. What sort of liquor do you like?”
He pours us both a bourbon. A nice one.
Andrew has a cider next. I’m plodding my way through my Anchor Steam.
Andrew starts to talk to the young woman to my right. Turns out she’s Latvian/Russian, which makes me slightly suspicious. And she asks some very specific questions. Maybe I’m just paranoid.
We do get back by ten. Well, a couple of minutes after.
A while later, we’re a bit peckish and decide to drop by the corner shop. It’s five to eleven, but it’s closed. I ask at the reception where a convenience store might be open. She says Limoncello might be open. She gives it a call. They’re just closing, but will let us in. Which they do unlocking the door. We get salt and vinegar crisps, cheese and salami. That will see us through the evening.
Slumming sleep shuffles in wearing shabby pyjamas and lays down beside me.
Cable Car Museum
1201 Mason St,
Tel: +1 415-474-1887
Tel: +1 415-361-5500
1160 Polk Street, 2nd floor,
Tel: +1 415-966-5730
1131 Polk St,
Tel: +1 415-923-0923
1400 Sutter St,
Tel: +1 415-638-6361
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