Visitor’s Guide to San Francisco Food Trucks

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Yesterday, I ate food from my first food truck. The truck was named Curry Up Now. Four hours later, I discovered it should’ve been called “curry me later.”

I don’t often burp vomit, but when I do, it’s memorable. Such was the case with my lunch experience. I suspect the good Lord was aware of my forgetting to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and thusly smite me. In fairness, the thought occurred to me as I walked back to the office. Maybe God doesn’t follow me on Yelp or Twitter. Maybe God isn’t omniscient. Maybe God didn’t see I’m away from home and am two hours off my feeding times.

The vomit burp lingered for an hour. For that entire hour, I was aware that my suffering was nothing compared to Jesus’. That didn’t diminish my anguish, but I was cognizant of the plight. Thankfully, a sales manager had some gum to override the burning in my larynx.

After work, with a contrite heart and singed esophagus, I walked to mass, kneeled and asked for forgiveness of my sins, firstly the whole meat thing. St. Patrick’s is a pretty church in the SOMA area. Their site says they are popular with tourists and several Asian groups in the Bay Area. The 5:15 service was a full mass that closed with ashes. No speed-up round, corner ashes for me this year. About halfway through mass I realized I had the extreme need to urinate. After the puke burp, I chugged water trying to alleviate the taste of tikka vomit from my mouth. As a result, what goes in, must come out. After communion, I booked it downstairs for the bathroom. Today was a day of sensations. First the delight of a burrito stuffed with Indian flavors, then the Catholic guilt, then the vomitous burp, then the urge to urinate. How could I possibly top the experiences of the day?

Coworkers invited me to happy hour. I walked back toward the office to fraternize and get to know the west coasters. Happy hour turned into hours and a harrowing drive through Russian Hill to Bullitt.

Shots were ordered. Drinks were drank. Wings got inhaled. Then, the tater tots topped with the innards of a burrito came out. There was another plate of “all things fried,” which reminded me of a SuperBowl party at my buddy’s.

As the night wound down, the game of liver Survivor came to a close.

“Drink some coconut water and you’ll be fine,” the waitress advised.

Night One in San Francisco | Uber, Tacos & Fashion

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Flying to San Francisco for work reminded me of the strains of business travel. Looking around the full flight, there were a few people tapping away on their laptops, two guys bookended me in the cramped row. As a moderately tall person, I suspect the seats are shrinking.

Other than first class, is there a way to fly without requiring a chiropractor to untwist your spine?

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As the landing gear came down, I looked out the window and started a conversation with the man in the window seat. He grew up in Evanston and is now in the IT cloud sphere. Thankfully, my background in marketing allowed me to quasi understand and converse about his work. It’s all about knowing the buzzwords. “Agile” is your friend.

Before today, I’d been in an uber car once. Today, I took two: one from my house and one from SFO. San Francisco has a few more options than suburban Chicago. Uber Pool lets you share a ride with someone else heading to the same area. I shared my uber with Katie and we both paid $15 for the ride. Her catch phrase was “right on,” so I’m pretty sure she’s not from Chicago.

Seven hours after leaving for the airport, I was at my hotel. I checked in and promptly switched rooms for one with a shower that was higher than my navel. I rinsed my face with cool water and popped a Tylenol.

I got restaurant recommendations from Jenn at the front desk. Then, I headed into the brisk evening air. SF is strange in that it always feels chilly. Compare that to Chicago which can best be described bone chilling. Thursday’s high is one degree. One.

Armed with Yelp, personal recommendations and a fleece, I started out into Union Square. Chicago has its weirdos, but California is an entire different level. The city smells strongly of marijuana and it’s as though the entire city is attempting to be discovered on some talent show. There was a guy with a full drum kit on the sidewalk. Take that bucket boys. Outside of an art museum there was a man standing with his head down and legs spread wide, not moving. I prefer sleeping laying down, but different strokes. He was still there after I left the restaurant.

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I ended up at Tropisueño. There were several groups waiting for a table. I’ve previously said traveling is better with others. The first few days of this trip will expose the other side: traveling solo.

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Tonight, I was able to grab a spot at their communal table. Within five minutes I had chips and three salsas.

I am the Gollum of salsas.

Then, an entree and drink. While I ate my chile verde, pork braised in salsa verde with rice, beans and warm, pillowy corn tortillas, two men and one lady were sat opposite me.

As I ate, I listened to the trio discuss who the best dressed were in their office. They all agreed Gallway seems to be in “top 10 percentile.”

“But he’s married to someone in fashion,” one of the guys said.

They continued on as I had a love affair with my dinner wondering how poorly I’d fare in their fashion police. I started thinking of excuses.

“I came straight from the airport.”

“My luggage was stollen.”

“I only buy things for less than $20.”

Then, as I spoke with the waiter about how the pork was braised, I realized fashion isn’t my game, tacos are.

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A Year of Adventures and Doing Stuff

Rodin on traveling abroad.

December 31, and the week leading up to it, has always been of interest to me. The culmination of a calendar year causes me, and seemingly every other blogger, to reflect on the past year’s events, what happened, what didn’t, where’d they go, what did they cook/eat, who did they date. The arbitrary nature of time demarcators has led me to question the significance of today versus yesterday or any other day. As a society (and world) we mark today as the end of the year and tomorrow the day to join a gym, just as soon as the room stops spinning and we find our pants.

In stark opposition to the mindfulness movement, I have largely been focused on the parts bookending “now.” Where am I today versus a year ago? Where will I be a year from now? In my 29 years I can safely assert that I am not clairvoyant, nor a historian. I often struggle with remembering where I parked my car or what I just ate. I have a vague notion of where I will be tomorrow and maybe a week from now, but beyond that…

The basis for mindfulness is that you can’t change the past, nor predict the future, so why worry about either? If you have any friends who post those inspirational quotes or read any profiles on a dating site this year, I’m sure you’ve read some variation on that axiom, likely attributed to Buddha.

While I try to become more “now,” I did want to enumerate what happened in 2014, mostly so I have some reference point when I fry my brain from rapidly vacillating between gadgets and apps.

Travel

Oh, the places you’ll go…

Where didn’t I go this year? I have dreamed about going to Europe for many a New Year’s reflection day. This year finally was the year. After dating Leann for about two months, I shared that I wanted to spend my birthday somewhere other than Chicago. She asked where and I said Italy and Paris. She followed up with inquiring if I was going solo or with friends. Leann shared that if no one else would go, she would be interested.

“How committed are you? If you had to give a percentage…”

“75-80,” Leann answered.

A few weeks later I asked “Are you sure?” no less than five times. And after that our first trip was booked. My quest for a passport stamp would be realized. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve looked at those stamps since the adventure. Even more peculiar was that someone was willing to go overseas with me for a prolonged period of time.

Stops along the way: Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Fajardo, Old San Juan.

Each inspiring and beautiful in their own way. Florence was one of the most breathtaking places I have been, possibly due to the steeply sloped hills. Traveling was one of the main themes for my writing this year. While it certainly can be expensive, seeing other cities and cultures opens the mind. Plus, I don’t think many people want to read about my daily commute. Traveling is my escape to newness. Experiencing a city for the first time is magical. There is no feeling like my first time in Paris. Walking around Paris that premiere nuit. Wandering in the damp and chilly early evening. Emerging from the Metro and seeing I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid. Turning to Leann with mouth agape. Then walking some more. Wandering. Then, our feet hit the damp pavement a little faster. There it was. Illuminated in all its glory.

Le Tour Eiffel.

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I have never experienced anything like that day. That’s the magic of travel.

I hope to return to some of these places in the future, but I’m not focusing on the future. MINDFULNESS!

Dating

More than traveling this year, there was a larger theme. Adventures with Leann. By some luck I happened to find someone who is eager to try new things, a patient listener (we all know my stories are seldom succinct) and someone who says yes. She gives unconditionally. She has unknowingly reminded me of the innocence of young love. Those times before becoming jaded or disenchanted with the dating “process.” There is little doubt that I am crazy. Somehow that doesn’t bother her. What started as a conversation about ice cream while sipping margaritas has developed into a year full of happy times getting to know her, her family and her friends. What adventures will we get into in 2015? Follow #lookatusdoingstuff to find out.

Foodstuffs

This was the year I became a professional chef. Thanks to Chicago Food Bloggers and Mealsharing.com, I hosted my first dinner party at a swanky rooftop in Chicago’s South Loop. This was also the year of bacon. Leann and I entered a cooking competition through The Takedowns. To supply us for the showdown, they gave us with bacon. Lots of it. Enough to clog all your arteries. And those of your friends.

Also thanks to Yelp and Chicago Food Bloggers, I got to eat some delectable dishes that inspired my cooking. I had the chance to meet restaurant owners and some other bloggers in the process.

Dancing

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2014 was also the year I became a professional dancer. No, not that kind. Thanks to Nicolle Wood, I got a bit closer to learning that devil dance known as balboa. The first few weeks were rough because I had basic knowledge of the basic step. Through her patience and generosity with her time, I was able to learn hangman, crabs, scoots and the routine in time for our performance outside Harold Washington Library. Hoping to take on lindyhop in 2015.

Working

Another year at the same place, but there were lots of shuffles. The company was acquired by another company and the office moved from the ‘burbs to downtown. That has necessitated several shifts in commuting and lifestyle. The company continues to grow and my team is growing exponentially. I have had the opportunity to recruit and hire some very talented people.

So now, it’s off to another party. Some close friends are gathering for homemade pizza and reflecting on the year that has been full of -ING verbs. Thanks for following this year and I hope to share more great adventures from around the world in 2015!

The Impenetrable Fortress of San Juan

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San Juan appears to have called it a night. We expected non-stop salsa around every Christmas-lit corner, especially tonight. Instead we found a few bars blasting club music and one street that was swarming with minors.

Today included a fascinating tour with a park ranger at Castillo San Cristobal, one of three forts in San Juan. The tour included access to tunnels otherwise closed to the public. Our ranger explained the labor efforts to construct the daunting fort and how it was nearly impossible to approach as an opposing fleet. The fort was challenged once by the Brits. After two weeks they gave up and retreated. That was the only test of the fort. The tunnels were interesting to explore and a phobia check. I highly recommend taking the tour and seeing the forts.

The rest of the day was occupied by walking around and sampling food and coffee. For lunch we had Mallorca sandwiches, which are dusted in powdered sugar. Think of it as the love child between a beignet and a grilled cheese.

We grabbed iced coffee at cafe cuatro and walked by stands selling this and that.

We attempted to visit a book store that housed old manuscripts and texts, but they are in the process of moving locations and were unresponsive to knocks, calls and an email.

Travel tip: guide books are just that. Information can change and businesses can move. Even if you double check online before departing, things can change.

Anticipating a late night on the town, we stopped back at our hotel for tea, a foot dip in the rooftop soaking pool and a salsa nap. We got cleaned up before our hotel/home’s nightly wine reception. The terrace overlooks Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, one of the oldest buildings in San Juan. The current building dates to 1540. Someone was getting married so we watched with our wine as the couple exited the iglesia.

We went to mass where I understood about three words in the mass: Jesus, Maria and hermano. I’ve now seen mass in English, Italian, French and Spanish.

A college friend happened to also be in San Juan, so we met up for dinner to compare itineraries and discuss travel, jobs, literature and how no one ever describes me as “adventurous.” After that we wandered around looking for live music. We were only able to find one club and it didn’t sound like salsa. Instead we settled on a corner bar and got two cocktails. Soon after a man picked up his guitar and started taking requests. He played “Yesterday” for Leann.

You may note that we did not have mofongo today. So ends our streak of 2 days.

Tomorrow we tempt our luck with aquatic transportation to tour the Bacardi facilities. At least this time we know how to kayak if we miss the ferry.

Wish us luck.

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Why You Need to Haggle On Your Trip

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Being on hold for the majority of two hours was not on my itinerary for this trip. Starting the day with fresh coconut water and pineapple, wasn’t officially, but it was a welcomed breakfast.

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Following the theme of this trip, today started with a few knuckleballs. I have started to reluctantly await each day’s plot twist, a la Scrooge and his spirits in A Christmas Carol, whether it’s a restaurant that’s closed or a ferry that filled before we could get our tickets.

Today was transition day from Fajardo to Old San Juan. That meant checking out, returning the rental car and checking in at our new hotel. On our way to the airport we stopped to get fresh fruit from the coco frio man. Not knowing Spanish well enough to barter or attempting to, we got hosed on the cost of the fruit. To save some toll money we took the 3 all the way to the airport instead of getting on 66. That saved at least $7. The first two legs were relatively smooth, minus creating my own roundabout trying to find a gas station before returning the junk bucket.

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Fish Don’t Go to Heaven (and other advice from Fajardo)

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“Sometimes certain things happen…” Denise trailed off before pausing, shrugging her shoulders and raising her hands to the sky. She works in the mornings at the front desk of the hotel where we are staying. “Everything happens for a reason, you know? That’s what I believe.”

My girlfriend and I got up early to purchase tickets for the ferry to Culebra, an island said to have one of the best beaches in the world. We were advised to be there at 6AM for the 9AM ferry. That seemed ridiculous, so we walked there from our hotel and were in line by 7. It was a 10 minute walk from our hotel and we figured we’d save the $5 on parking. While Leann waited in line, I went to the nearby post office to attempt to pickup or MIA sunscreen and contact solution. En route a man waved me toward him. I asked where the post office was and he pointed up the street before asking me if I could give him a dollar for the ferry. I said I didn’t have cash and walked into the post office, which didn’t have an attendant for another hour.

Back in line with Leann, the line inched forward. There were three windows to buy tickets; one for Culebra, Vieques and cargo. Everyone was in line for the best beach in the world. The family of four in front of us purchased their tickets. Then the woman waved at us, shook her head and signaled to another man who announced that the 9:30 ferry to Culebra was sold out. That was our plan for the morning. The ferry to the other island was available, but they weren’t known for being one of the best. We decided to check the post office again and regroup. Continue reading Fish Don’t Go to Heaven (and other advice from Fajardo)

191 to 3: dia dos en fajardo

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“191!” he shouted as we walked in opposite directions.

We started today with directions from our hotel, along with a highlighted map, to el yunque. I put the rainforest into the Google maps app and away we went.

Fun fact about the roads near Fajardo: the main interstate is circular. The 191 circumscribes the rainforest. We discovered this after we took the 3 south through flooded back roads with cows, stray dogs and chickens, all sorts including spotted ones and ones that look like Foghorn Leghorn.

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GPS said we had arrived. We hadn’t. We drove up 191, which wound its way up and up past vibrantly colorful homes and more dogs who were unable to provide us directions. One looked like Baxter from Anchorman; he also spoke Spanish.

We drove up a few kilometers and doubted we were in the right place. We drove down past the dogs and Pantone wheel of homes. Consulting the map on the phone, we couldn’t see any other route taking the 3 to 191 would lead to El Yunque. So, back up and up we drove. At this point the dogs were so irritated by our disrupting their naps, one was stretched out in the street begging us to end his days. Driving. Farther up the 191 we were about to give up when we saw a sign indicating we had arrived in the rainforest! There was no welcome center like our map indicated and three other cars. Not positive signs for a major tourist destination. We walked around and confirmed we weren’t in the verdad spot. On our way out we asked two men walking their dogs if they spoke English and how to get to the visitor center. One man told us the path was closed due to rain, but we had to take the 191 toward Luquillo/Fajardo.

We thanked him profusely and walked back toward our white hatchback speckled with what used to be bugs. “191!” He shouted.

Were it not for our “scenic” driving we wouldn’t have heard the birds, experienced the nearly desolate grounds and seen this.

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