I’ll Be Gentle, Virgin America, It’s My First Time…
Michael and I flew out to San Francisco early Thursday evening.
I heard good things about Virgin America for a while now, and their competitive air fares were more than a little tempting, so I was looking forward to flying on their friendly skies. The timing for the trip couldn’t have been better with a major proposal due the day before I left and nothing else on my immediate radar screen, so I was free and clear to get the Hell out of Dodge for a long weekend. Arriving at our gate at Dulles International Airport (IAD), Michael and I discovered that it was strangely not that crowded with other waiting passengers, and once on board, the flight was barely half full with many of us stretching out in whole rows to ourselves. Though I’m not the most frequent flier, I can only think of one or two times where I had some extra space on a flight, but enjoying a whole row in a transportation industry where passengers are little more than cattle to be packed inside is almost unheard of. Virgin America lays out a swanky-looking plane with indigo mood lighting and an “original” safety video (or as Alex puts it, “The move towards comedy as an acceptable discursive mode for flight attendants is deplorable”). The plane has some nifty bells and whistles, too – everything is run through an interactive screen on each chair, offering wifi and movies (none of which are complimentary, as previously thought), music, live TV via satellite, and all of your food and drinks. The screens also provided an instant messaging app to text other passengers (And if you think spelling and grammar takes a turn for the worst in normal instant messaging and texts, imagine trying to type them during mild turbulence), which Michael and I used to discuss if one of us wanted to change seats after takeoff since we had the extra room. At first, I thought this is a pretty cool feature, but in retrospect and given my complete lack of faith in humanity, it isn’t a huge leap to imagine it as creepy or awkward if someone IMs the wrong seat or enjoys sending unwelcome greetings to other passengers (if you could send pictures on it, Anthony Weiner would be banned from Virgin America for life). After a fairly uneventful flight of napping, chatting and watching Ghostbusters (it was aired on one of the cable channels and it was Halloween after all), we arrived at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) feeling like it was the middle of the night instead of the 9:30 PM local time.
Our mutual friend John W. picked us up at the airport and gave us a lift into the city (John W. is a notoriously nice man, and I can’t stress that enough). Since we only snacked on the flight, Michael and I were starving and eventually we stopped at a Mels Drive-In not too far from my hotel. There was a definite Halloween crowd, most notably a table near us populated with the Scarecrow, Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West (all male, of course), and the burgers were pretty damn good. Michael even coerced John W. into ordering a slider despite his “I already ate” protests. Silly human, resistance is futile.
You Can Check In Anytime You Want, But You Can Never Leave
Michael was staying at John W.’s in the suburbs, so they dropped me off at the Hotel Majestic, a century-old boutique hotel that amazingly survived both of the big 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, and consequently, is the longest-standing hotel in the city. According to Steve, the hotel underwent a badly-needed facelift and renovation after seeing better days to keep the turn-of-the-century classic architecture and décor reflected its history and origins. And after the ravages of time, the wear and tear of countless guests, as well as the earthquakes, you’d be hard pressed to find a level floor or square corner in the place. Chances are, if you rolled a marble from any point on the top floor, it would eventually find its way down to the foyer/lobby. Describing my room as “cozy” might be a bit generous given its tight space, but the well-worn, antique charm made up for that. The only exception being a lack of water flow regulation in the plumbing, which interrupted otherwise pleasant showers with apocalyptic jolts of arctic ice water or red-hot magma, quickly followed by free lessons in advanced swearing for anyone within earshot. I don’t think the room needed an armoire as big as a bank safe, especially given the sufficiently tiny dresser, but it matched the antique furniture in the room. Also, I couldn’t help noticing that the window was right next to a fire escape and the window-mounted air conditioner wasn’t doing much. Steve warned me that San Francisco was known for its “cool summers” and “warm winters,” and we arrived there while strangely warm for this time of year.
By the time I was settled and mostly figured out the nuances of squeezing through navigating my room, Steve texted me about meeting for a drink, so he walked over to the hotel (just a few blocks from his and Joël’s apartment) and we discovered that the stairwell by the elevator leads up to the roof, and consequently, the fire escape that descends past my room window, thus ensuring my closing and locking my window whenever I stepped out. Steve’s apartment is nestled in the northern end of the city, surrounded by Japantown to the West, Nob Hill and Pacific Heights to the North, the Tenderloin to the East and South of Market and the Mission District to the South. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as we journeyed into Japantown – it was San Francisco on Halloween and most of the bars were either winding down or already closed. We passed by one or two clubs, filling the still night air with pounding and throbbing house music while partiers smoked outside in costumes of varying levels of completeness and quality. I was fully becoming aware of just how tired I was when I stopped and stared at a parked stripper tour bus in front of one club with its window shades raised, offering an invitation in the form of two nice-girls-working-their-way-through-college consumating marital relations with a pole. A bit frustrated by the bar situation and not really up for a stripper-mobile ride, we hoofed it back to Steve’s building where we went up to the roof to see the grand view from up top and he detailed the general set up for his wedding ceremony there. The idea was to hold the wedding in a non-traditional setting, and at one point they considered flash mobbing the ceremony. By this time of night, exhaustion was finally catching up with me, and since I needed to get up early for the next day’s activities, I shuffled back to my stuffy hotel room and collapsed.