A Three Hour Tour

I woke up Friday morning in time to take my son and his friend to school, and got back in a hurry to wait for my nephew to arrive. We’d made a quick trip the night before to the nearest MetroPCS store to pick up a SIM card so he could have a working phone while he was here, but we’d arrived twelve minutes too late. The plan for the day was to head out there when it was open, get him set up, and then head off to San Francisco to see all the sights. It turns out he’s gotten here before we’d left, but saw the door the closed (and detected no signs of life), so he went ahead and took care of the phone issue himself. When he got back to the apartment, it was almost nine, and I was just finishing up the post for the day, as I didn’t know when I’d get another chance to write, and didn’t want to take off that many days. He waited patiently in the living room for the next twenty minutes, watching whatever channel the kids had left it on before we went to school, while I tried to finish up. And then my Comcast service went out. I’d written a bunch since the last time that I’d saved, so I couldn’t even post my blog from the app on my phone. I told him what the situation was, and he’d said that he’d sort of figured something was up when the television screen went dark. I caught a break when service was restored just a couple of minutes later, allowing me to publish what I’d written and turn the laptop off. I’m glad that I’d been mostly done, as within a couple of minutes of having posted it, everything went out once more. I viewed this as a sign that it was time to go, and packed up my backpack with my camera and tour supplies, and we headed out the door, beginning a journey that would take around six miles (9.66 km) to complete.

We braved the AC Transit once again, surviving a half-full bus ride until we got back to El Cerrito del Norte BART. We checked our tickets, and then entered the station and took the escalator up to wait for the next San Francisco train. Fortunately, it was only a few minutes. We filed into the front car, and found our seats, relieved to be off our feet for this part of the journey. Less than an hour later, we made it to the Powell St. station, my old home away from home. We were both a little hungry, so we dropped in on my old coworkers at Blondie’s Pizza to grab something quick to eat. I would have liked to spend more time catching up with everyone, but they were understaffed, and the lunch crowd was beginning to trickle in. I said my goodbyes, and my nephew and I began in earnest our tour of the city. We walked up to Union Square, where I pointed out the painted hearts and all the photographs and paintings on display. Then we hung out in the shade beneath a palm tree to smoke a cigarette and figure out the game plan for the rest of our tourist-type day.

Wise words indeed, Master Yoda.
Wise words indeed, Master Yoda.

At that point, he realized that his phone was acting up, so we decided to kill a couple of birds, and walked to the Westfield San Francisco Centre. On the way, I got a shot of him with a cable car, just before we scrapped entirely the idea of getting out to Pier 39 that way (the line was far longer than my patience).

Not pictured: The line from Hell.
Not pictured: The line from Hell.

Once inside the mall, we meandered up and down the half-dozen or so stories, glancing in at stores and appreciating the architecture. Well, was doing that. Unai was on the phone with MetroPCS, asking why his telephone suddenly had exactly none of the unlimited data which he had bought that morning. Up and down we walked, soaking in the ambiance and fending off customer service. We got to the street level when the service rep finally figured out what was going on. Just a quick reset, and power off for a little bit, and everything should be back to working order. In the meantime, we hit a couple of stores which he wanted to check out, but came away empty-handed when we discovered that the things which he had wanted weren’t all that popular in San Francisco. Shopping done, we started walking down Market toward Embarcadero. My nephew wanted me to show him all the sights, and I knew just where to go for an introductory experience: Fisherman’s Wharf. We had to make a couple of stops, but we finally arrived at the Embarcadero.

Anyone have the time?
Anyone have the time?

It was getting warmer out, and I didn’t want to spook him with how long a walk still lay in front of us, so I just told him to focus on the numbering of the piers, and that when we hit number 39, we’d be where we were going. Of course, what tourist excursion is complete without some photographs? It also helped us to take a pause and find some shade, so stone some birds we did.

I told him this wasn't the famous bridge, but the one that everybody uses.
I told him this wasn’t the famous bridge, but the one that everybody uses.

We walked a little more, when I caught sight of something which I’d wanted to point out to him. As we walked around the side of an all-too-familiar building, I pointed out where his aunt and I had spent our third anniversary:

It's that boat in the back.
It’s that boat in the back.

We were getting closer, and started to look for somewhere to duck in from the afternoon heat, and get something to drink, and maybe sit awhile. Although we passed a handful of serviceable cantinas, we decided to keep going until we hit Pier 39. It took longer than I’d remembered, but the numbers kept on climbing, and soon our destination was in sight. We navigated through the throng of people with nothing better to do than spend a Friday afternoon inside a tourist trap, and made our way back to a place I remembered having gone to with Flor and all the kids: Players. We sat down at the bar, thrilled to finally be off our feet, and ordered the most delicious beer which we could think of. A few minutes later, two of these arrived:

Delicious AND Nutritious!

We also ordered basket of garlic fries and some hot wings, and just spent an hour talking about nothing, and enjoying our time together. After we had eaten and settled the tab, we stepped back out into the afternoon to find that there was now a breeze. Our legs were tired, but the walk back wasn’t nearly as bad the one we’d had coming out. I briefly considered taking us back up to Union Square, but one look at the time told me that would be an ill-advised adventure. It was coming up on Commuter Hour, and if we weren’t careful, we’d wind up as sardines in the Rush Hour crowd back home. We entered the Embarcadero BART station, and made our way to the back part of the platform. Looking at my cell phone, I decided that now was as good a time as any to show Unai another survival tip.

We boarded the Dublin train, which was packed to the point of moderate discomfort, and then exited at Lake Merritt to catch a Richmond train in which we might actually find a seat. With that, my training of my nephew was complete, and he told me that he now felt confident to make his way on his own the next time he came to visit. Having finally cooled off from the morning tour, of course car we entered was the one without air conditioning. We broke another sweat, but at least we sat in comfort, our legs no longer required for anything more taxing than a rest upon the edge of the seat. We talked again about how he was liking his visit here, and what he thought of San Francisco. All time leading up to his visit, I had worried that I would be stuck with someone who just didn’t get me, but in my newly met nephew I had not only found a decent man, but someone who I could call a friend. The train pulled into the del Norte station, and we gave thanks to the breeze which flowed over us upon our exit from the sauna car.

This time, when the bus pulled up, Unai knew just what to do, and despite being close to Pope/Volkswagen hour for the buses, we managed to score a couple of seats on this ride as well. We got off at the bus stop, and walked the half mile home, where my wife was waiting for us with dinner and an Advil. All in all, we walked around six miles that day, and though I felt some pain that evening, it was nothing compared to the agony of the following morning.

I’ve decided that I will miss my nephew when he goes, and I cannot wait until the next time, when I get to meet his son.

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