on sourdough and syrup.

“I need you to go to San Francisco,” my boss said.  “With Danny.”

“Umm, what will we be doing?”

“You’re going to a trade show, for The Good Guys.”  The Good Guys were a consumer electronics retail  chain in the northern part of California.  “They bring all their vendors in, and then they shut down the stores and let their employees come in and talk to the vendors.  The employees will ask you technical questions about the product.”

“Why don’t you go?” I asked.

“Because I don’t know anything about the products,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.  

“I don’t have any idea what any of this shit is,” he said.  “I just sell it.  If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, I’m making it up.”

So Danny and I packed for our trip to San Francisco.  Actually, we weren’t staying in San Francisco, we were staying in Burlingame, and going to the vendor fair in San Mateo.  

It was my first real business trip, and only the fourth time I had ever been on an airplane.

Danny was a good guy, and we got along really well.  We were the same age (still are), and it was his first business trip.  It was my second, but the first one (to San Diego) I had a couple of guys with me who knew what they were doing.  This time, I had nobody to follow.  Navigating through Newark Airport was rough – I didn’t know how to get to the terminal, where to park my car, even how to check my bags.

Once we arrived in San Francisco, I had no idea how to get to the hotel.  We rented a car (which we had not reserved), and drove on California’s crazy fuckin’ highways until we got to our destination –  a place called the Dunphy Hotel.  It was a pretty bad hotel, as far as bad hotels are concerned.  My room was nasty enough (there were dead bugs in the bathtub) that I called down to the front desk and asked them to switch me to a different room.  Instead, they sent a maintenance worker upstairs, who cleaned the dead bugs out of the tub.

Danny and I handled our trade show with no problems.  Our evenings were free.

I remembered Frank going on one of his pleasure travel trips, had visited San Francisco.  He had told me all about some wharf he went to, where sea lions had gradually invaded the wharf until they basically lived there, sunning themselves all day.  I had gotten the impression that it was some well-kept local secret, and so I was surprised when I asked the desk clerk about it, and he said “Oh, that’s right by Fisherman’s Wharf,” and then gave me a map to the place.

So we went to Fisherman’s Wharf, wandered around for a while, checked out the sea lions (which were not some well-kept local secret at all, but a pretty heavy tourist destination).  Then we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, where I was served a bottle of Anchor Steam, one of the local brews.

I drank Anchor Steam the rest of the time I was in San Francisco – and long thereafter.

On the second day, we got out early and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge.  On the opposite side, there was a place where you could park your car – so we did.  Sitting in the parking lot, I told Danny about how after he moved out of my house when I was a kid, my father occasionally would take me for a Saturday walk across the George Washington Bridge and back.  It was always weird, feeling the suspension bridge sway under your feet when big trucks rode by.

“Wanna walk over this one?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.  So, we got out of the car and began walking across.

The span of the Golden Gate Bridge is impossibly high, for someone from the East Coast who isn’t accustomed to mountains.  As we walked, we got higher and higher, completely unable to even judge how high up we were.  Locals sped by on bicycles, or jogging, while we walked a good two or three feet away from the railing, occasionally sneaking a peak over the edge.

“This is an earthquake city, you know,” he said.  “I wonder what would happen to us if the ground started shaking right now?”

I’m totally afraid of heights.  I’m not sure when it happened, but I get vertigo when someone looks over the edge of a steep precipice on television.  Once in a while, when the camera angle is just right, I’ll actually jump in my seat.  I remind myself of the story I once heard of the first people to look into a Mutoscope – one of the very first Mutoscope “movies” was of an oncoming train.  People would often look into the lens and see the oncoming train, and actually dive out of the way to avoid being hit.

I sometimes laugh at the thought, until Spider-Man jumps off the top of a tall building, and I jump backwards, right on the couch.

Anyway, we got about halfway over the bridge when I said “Jeez, this is fuckin’ high.

“You know, if we go all the way over,” he said, “we’re gonna have to walk all the way back to get the car.”

I took one last peek over the edge, and said “Okay, fuck this.  Let’s head back.”

We walked back, got into the car, and drove away.

The rest of our San Francisco trip was spent doing the typical, touristy things – buying gifts for our wives, eating sourdough bread, visiting the Haight/Ashbury area, going to Candlestick Park (it was during the week, in the Spring, so no football or baseball games to be seen), and taking tons of pictures.

On the flight back, we had pancakes.

I have a thing about maple syrup.  It’s sort of an irrational thing, actually.

I like pancakes, and maple syrup as well.  But maple syrup is sticky.  Really sticky.  And it doesn’t take a lot of it to fuck up your whole day.

If someone drips a tiny drop of maple syrup down the side of the bottle, and you grab the bottle and get your hand in the drip, you’re fucked.  During the course of your breakfast, you’ll pick up your fork, and get syrup on the handle.  Then it will transfer from the handle of the fork to your fingers.

Then you’ll scratch an itch on your nose, and get some syrup there.  Then, somehow, it will get on your other hand.  With your other hand, you’ll touch your leg – and then you’ll have it there.  Sometimes you’ll get enough that it soaks through your pants, which makes your pants stick to your leg a little bit.

You’ll rub your hair, and it’s in your hair.

Eventually – usually in the small amount of time it takes to eat your pancakes – you’ll have tiny sticky spots all over you.  If you grab your cellphone, you’ll get a sticky spot on the phone.  Then tomorrow, when you go to make a call, you’ll get it on you again.  And on your ear and mouth, too, since it’s on the phone.

One little drop of syrup can literally fuck up your whole week, if you’re not careful.

So I try and avoid maple syrup if I’ve already showered that day.  I don’t want any trouble.

On this particular day, though, I decided to eat the pancakes.

Turbulence sucks.  And when we hit a pocket of it, and Danny’s giant pool of maple syrup spilled off his tray table onto his lap, I knew it was going to be trouble.  He did his best to clean it up, but even though none of it actually spilled onto my seat, it was only a matter of time before I was covered in it anyway.

So I flew across country, gradually getting more and more maple syrup on me as it slyly crawled from Danny’s lap to his seat, from his seat to his tray table, from his tray table to my arm, from my arm to my leg, from my leg to my hand, from my hand to my briefcase, from my briefcase to my other hand, et cetera.

When I arrived at home, I could not wait to get home and take a shower.

For weeks after the trip, I would get a little whiff of maple whenever I opened my briefcase.

~ by Al on April 2, 2009.

One Response to “on sourdough and syrup.”

  1. Can I just say I loved the bit about the syrup? That’s hysterical. I have a bit of an aversion to syrup, too. And if I’m eating pancakes or waffles, I DEFINITELY wait until after I’ve eaten to shower.

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