Sunday, July 19, 2009

Goodbye to Baghdad By the Bay

In the interest of catching the blog back up to date, I'm going to cram the whole last month of fun in San Francisco into one post. I'll try to be heavy on the pictures and light on the text. My abject apologies to those of you who check back all the time for not having updated in so long... Here we go:

While Mom & Dad were visiting me in San Francisco, Paul and Jenny were also in town! It made for a very busy week, but also a very fun one! I had someone to hang out with, things to do and sights to see every afternoon and every evening after the show:

Paul & Jenny in Japantown with the Peace Pagoda

Jenny and Paul shared my enthusiasm for tiki - here they are at the Tonga Room

After we made a tasty shortcake with some of the abundant fresh California strawberries, we took a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

The marine fog kept things cool along the waterfront, but Mom, Dad and I enjoyed a walk along the beach. (The Point Bonita Lighthouse is in the upper left of this snap.)

On the way back into town, Mom & Dad surprised me with a trip down Lombard Street. It really is as wonderfully silly as I had hoped! This one block of the street makes eight switchbacks as it descends Russian Hill.

I'm happy to report that Mom & Dad shared (or at least, indulged) my love for the cable cars

The Cable Car Museum is housed in the system's powerhouse and car barn on Mason Street. In addition to exhibits on the history of the cable car system, visitors can check out the mechanics. Giant wheels drive the miles of cables that run under the city's streets at a constant 9 3/4 miles per hour.

As I bid farewell to Paul, Jenny, Mom and Dad, I also packed up my own luggage and headed to the airport. I took a week's vacation during the San Francisco engagement to return home to my Wife, apartment and friends. The week was wonderful: full of baseball, friends, favorite restaurants and sleeping in my own bed next to my beautiful wife.

One of the first orders of business was to get out to the new incarnation of Yankee Stadium. My favorite part about the big new ballpark in the Bronx is that, if you squint, you could be in the old ballpark across the street. As we arrived, Gregg, Googs and I got to bang on Freddy's pan! Some things never change...

I also got to check out the new ballpark in Queens! Jose, Elena, Deuce, Erin, Cody, SME and Gregg joined me at Cititfield where we got a private tour after the game thanks to my awesome friend Chris who gets to call Citifield his office!

My visit to NYC, happily, coincided with Diana G's visit. We all headed out to Queens to catch up!

It's always hard to say goodbye to hearth and home, but it's a lot easier when I'm headed out to somewhere as cool as San Francisco. I had only two weeks left in the City by the Bay and endeavored to make the most of the time that I had left:

I spent a lovely afternoon in Sausalito with James, Lenny & Roy. We rode the ferry over, had lunch on the water looking back at San Francisco, wandered the streets and had some ice cream before we rode back across the bay.

Postcard row: San Francisco is famous for its Victorian homes, and none of those homes are more famous than these 7 "Painted Ladies" that front Alamo Square.

I waited 'til the very last week before I tackled another of the San Francisco "must-sees". My visit to Alcatraz was really interesting. The island's history (from fortification to military prison then civilian lock-up, object of protest and now a national park) was as fascinating as the stories of the famous inmates incarcerated there.

I also visited the beautiful deco landmark atop Telegraph Hill: Coit Tower. Though the tower is only 210 feet tall, it offers a commanding view of the city as Telegraph Hill rises another 275 feet above the surrounding neighborhoods. The interior of the tower is decorated with amazing murals painted in 1933 under the auspices of the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project.

The culinary high-point of my visit to the Bay Area (and there were too many great meals to list here) came not in San Francisco, but across the Bay Bridge in Berkley. Several of us hopped aboard the BART for a pilgrimage to Chez Panisse, the birthplace of California Cuisine and the localvore movement. The meal was wonderful - as was the company. It was my first opportunity to meet Rick Holmes (pictured above with the AMAZING squid pizza). Rick was the tour's original Lancelot who left before I arrived on the road; Rick decamped for Broadway and performed the role for more than 2 years on the Rialto. He has returned to the touring company and will perform with us through the first month of the Los Angeles engagement.

My last outdoorsy excursion in San Francisco was a hike on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. Like so much of the Bay Area, Mount Tam was fascinating for the changeability of its terrain and climates. The mountain rises up right on the shores of the bay. The side that faces the water was dry and windswept, but other parts of the mountain were lush with ferns and redwoods.

The big event of my final two weeks in San Francisco was Gay Pride weekend. The festivities went on all weekend long and took place all over the city. Ground zero for gay life in San Francisco, however, is the Castro - just up the street from my house. Saturday night I wandered up the hill to the Pink Party. Several blocks of Castro and the surrounding streets were blocked off by the "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence" for a giant street party. Even after midnight, when the street party broke up, things were still busy into the wee hours of the morning.

The scene on Castro at the Pink Party

The main event of the weekend came on Sunday with the Pride Parade. The parade wasn't confined to the "gay-borhood", rather, the parade began at the waterfront and worked its way right up Market Street to City Hall. (In fact, Spamalot gave only an evening performance on Sunday as it would have been impossible to get an audience to the Golden Gate for a matinee at the same time as the parade and Wicked took the day off entirely.) The parade lasted more than 3 hours and was an amazing spectacle.

"Dykes on Bikes" lead the procession. Hundreds and hundreds of women on motorcycles thundered up Market Street. They were followed by people of every stripe expressing their pride in themselves and their community. I was most moved by the enormous number of queer families that took part in the parade. At one point, families with gay parents or gay children stretched as far up and down Market Street as I could see. It was incredible.

After nearly two months, it was time to say goodbye to my favorite city on the tour thus far. Before my transit pass expired, I took a ride on all three of the city's cable car lines and hopped the streetcars of the 'F' Line. David and I spent one last evening on the back patio beside the fireplace. I packed up the suitcases that I had carefully hidden away and bade farewell to the Victorian house in the Castro that I liked so much. I stopped for a scoop from Bi-Rite Creamery and then it was time to go on tour again. I kept reminding myself that touring involves moving & that if I get to leave the less than great cities, I must leave the great ones as well - that's the deal.

TVFMHRW San Francisco

Happily, Spamalot closed on a Sunday matinee giving me an extra minute to get to Los Angeles and affording me the opportunity to have a bit of adventure en route. More about that in my next post -