Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Superstore and Costumes Galore

Happy Halloween!

I don’t know about you, but for me this day stirs up childhood memories of carving pumpkins, playing in leaf piles in the cul-de-sac, dressing in cutesy costumes, and of course trick-or-treating. Every year on Halloween, my sisters and I would come home from our rounds and dump our pumpkin-shaped bins full of candy on the living room floor, where we’d sort our sweets into piles according to category. Chocolate over here, tarts over there. Then we’d make trades.

As a kid I dreamed about October 31st for months in advance, but this year I didn’t. Fall snuck up on me like the killer in a bad horror movie. It’s all summer’s fault, because summer never came. June, July and August were bitter and cold like winter, while September and October reached highs of 78 degrees. The weathermen call it an Indian Summer. Without a normal summer, how can one prepare for fall? I’m still not used to San Francisco’s bizarre seasons.

Actually, today’s the first day it feels like autumn. Colorful leaves aren’t blowing in mini-tornados on the streets, and jack-o-lanterns don’t sit on my front porch (the jack-o-lantern draped in an Oregon scarf lives at my parents' house in Beaverton), but fall has finally arrived. The fog is a thick, lifeless blanket. This morning, on my walk to work, I could hardly make out the street signs ten feet in front of me. Usually I’m darting through crowds of professionals clad in fancy suits, but today I walked alone. It was spooky – very Halloween.

This is the first year I haven’t dressed up. I made a great Sandy last year, while Darren clung by my side as Danny. Maijken and Jason mimicked Barbie and Ken, and Alexa threw on a flattering 1920s flapper outfit that we picked up at the Halloween superstore on Van Ness Ave (the best in the city!).

Today, instead of painting my face and shopping for wigs and gaudy jewelry, I’m at work, helping other people decide what to do tonight. I know all about the city’s best parties and costume contests, because I’ve been researching them for our residents all morning. A group of owners are even throwing a Halloween pot-luck tonight in my lounge, while I’ll be at my desk in a stiff uniform, typing and copying and creating invoices to fax. When they ask about my costume, I’ll tell them I’m going as a concierge.

Yes, I wish I could visit Van Ness’ Halloween superstore, or at least watch the Oregon vs. USC game, but I’m learning to roll with the punches. It’s all part of growing up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You Never Know What You're Gonna Get at Cha3

Go to Cha Cha Cha when you don’t feel like “going out.” It’s in the heart of San Francisco’s liveliest neighborhood, The Haight. This in itself will snap anyone out of a home-body funk. The tapas restaurant is mellow enough that you can roll off your couch and walk through the door dressed in footie pajamas and a t-shirt, and no one asks you to leave – or even stares at you, appalled. You’re also free to gussy yourself up and walk through the door clothed in a sparkly tube dress and bright purple pumps, because somehow you’ll still fit in.

But how can the style of one tiny restaurant be so eclectic? My theory is that the diners are too hammered to notice what anyone around them is wearing. After all, Cha3 serves full pitchers of sangria crammed with apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple, and grapes that absorb a dangerous amount of booze. (The menu says to “share some with an enemy.”) Another promising theory is that the folks who frequent The Haight are easy going and accepting of all get-ups, from sweatpants to prom dresses. Most locals wear tie-dyed t-shirts and bell-bottoms, anyway.

After catching up with my DG sisters at Maijken’s apartment, the six of us pranced across the street to Cha3. The working gals had come straight from the office in their pencil skirts and blouses, while others had walked five miles uphill to get to Maijken’s in an effort to save ten dollars on cab fare. (Can you guess who that was?) As sweaty as Alexa and I were from our journey, the restaurant’s waiters and patrons didn’t seem to notice. I immediately fell in love with Cha Cha Cha. We took a seat at the bar and waited for a table.

Now, if eclectic flair and sangria don’t do it for you, go to Cha3 for the people. Every time I’ve been to the restaurant, I’ve meet someone awe-inspiring, humorous, or just plain weird. The last time Darren and I were there, we talked to a 55-year-old man who was visiting the city from the east coast. He stood with a 50-year-old woman, a middle-school teacher from Brisbane. They’d walked for multiple hours across some bridge and then through a beach (or something) to get to Cha3. That's weird, right? The man asked me if I was in fashion – me! A buyer at a big department store, possibly. Obviously I was flattered, as I don’t consider myself a fashionista whatsoever. If anything I’m style retarded. No, I told him, I’m a writer. He was equally impressed.

Anyway, we ended up chatting for an hour about Glide Memorial Church, the homeless shelter and minister in the core of the Tenderloin. Why? I don’t know. (Darren and I shared an entire pitcher of Sangria throughout the conversation, which could have something to do with it.) The odd couple said Glide was the “center of culture in San Francisco” – the place to be. I’d heard just the opposite. They told me to take my family and friends there when they come to visit. I told them, quite frankly, that I’m terrified to walk past the shelter because it gives me the creeps. One time, a scrawny thug (who was dressed as a woman but still the scariest man alive) jumped in front of me and screamed, “Bitch!” for no reason. I burst into tears and ran away.

My point? Cha Cha Cha is awesome. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reunion Above Sunshine Liquor

Alexa and I look around Maijken’s beautiful living room, which is located directly above Sunshine Wine & Liquor on Haight Street. Its open floor plan and fireplace turn us green with envy. Then we hear six shrieks coming from the bedroom.



The voices are familiar, like the ones we’d heard for four years straight in our sorority house, Delta Gamma, at the University of Oregon. Sure enough, six DGs pop out from behind the bedroom door, their arms outstretched.

“So good to see you ladies!” they all say at different times.

Each girl holds an extremely large glass of cheap red wine, and Alexa and I hug them one by one. There’s Gina, Kelly, Jenna, Vanessa, Nicole, and Heron.

“So are you, like, officially moving to the city?” Vanessa asks with a high-pitched inflection, her eyes wide with excitement. She graduated a year before we did and lives in the city with three other DGs.

“Yeah. We’re just looking for jobs now,” I reply. My indifferent tone sounds awkward against her enthusiasm, and my eyes drop in embarrassment. I don’t want to tell her where I applied that afternoon (at the ant-infested construction company in Hunter’s Point), especially when she probably has some impressive public relations job. So I start blabbing about my internship at the Bay Guardian instead. About how I’m writing these really awesome stories about restaurants and bars in the Bay Area, plus I get to cover International Parking Day and a gay wedding for a department piece. It will run in next week’s paper. I’ll take an environmental angle, but I’ll throw some politics in there too. After all, the bill to ban gay marriage could very well pass this November, and –

What’s that old saying? Fake it ‘til you make it? I’m sooo faking it right now. Talking myself up like I’m about to win a Pulitzer. Uh-huh, I’m a big-shot writer at the newspaper. And I think it’s working! They’re impressed! Here I am, fresh out of college and practically interviewing Mayor Newsom on a weekly basis. (Actually, my friend got to speak with him yesterday, so it wasn't a complete lie.)

Vanessa yawns. So does Jenna. Side chatter fires up next to me. Apparently they’re not as impressed with my fake-it-til-you-make-it act as I thought. This is my cue to wander to the kitchen and grab an oversized wine glass from the counter. Maijken graciously fills it with more vino than Martha Stewart would deem appropriate. (I’ve been known to rifle through the pages of her magazine – and watch her show on NBC Bay Area, weekdays at 11 a.m. – in my spare time.)

Maijken, Alexa and me on Maijken's balcony (a.k.a. fire escape).

I wiggle my way back onto the congested sofa just in time to hear Heron’s advice on apartment hunting.

“You don’t want to be farther south than SoMa,” she says, looking firmly at Alexa, “or father west than The Haight or Pac Heights.”

I know what Alexa’s thinking: Where’s Pac Heights? And SoMa? We’re stressed enough just looking at listings on Craigslist without having to figure out where the apartments are located. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. We can’t afford a two-bedroom for $2,800 a month (which seems to be the going rate in San Francisco), so we’re happy to find something for less. No matter where it is.

Maijken decides she’s heard enough. It’s time to move the party to Cha Cha Cha, the hip tapas restaurant and bar on the corner…

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Looking for Adventure in The Haight

I check my watch. 6:03 p.m. Had we really been walking for 37 minutes? With my knee-length, coral-colored skirt flapping in the late afternoon wind gusts, and my gold sandals burning holes in the sides of my feet with each agonizing step, I work up the courage to ask, “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” It was the third time I’d asked this question in the last 37 minutes, the other two times less bluntly.

“Yes, Meghan,” Alexa says, exhausted. Her course blond tresses fasten together in a tight pony tail, and she sports a pair of dark Levi’s and rubber flip flops. As always, her toenails are perfectly pedicured. But today dust and soot cake the tops her feet. “How many times do I have to tell you? I know where I’m going.” She removes a loose strand of hair from her mouth. The wind picks up.

Well ex-cuse me, but how can anyone “know where she’s going” in a city that she just moved to yesterday? Correction, hadn’t even moved to. After all, we were still homeless, living with friends while searching for the perfect jobs that would yield enough money for rent. We couldn’t secure an apartment without steady incomes, but we couldn’t get jobs without experience (or an apartment) – and of course we couldn’t gain experience without jobs. It’s a cruel world we live in.

We were headed to Maijken’s for a "girl's night," looking for available apartments on the way. Too broke for a cab and much too adventuresome for the dollar-fifty, 20-minute bus ride (which sounded pretty good right about then), we’d decided to go by foot. So we walked. And walked. And walked.

By 6:26 p.m., we found ourselves on the streets of Haight and Ashbury. Unbeknown to me, this spot was historic. I wondered, why are so many tourists snapping photos of themselves under these street signs? (I’d find out soon enough.) Smelly hippies and Street Kids lined the graffiti-stained block, most of them huddled in a circle, passing joints back and forth. The air reeked of marijuana and Escape From New York Pizza. Through the crowd, I spotted Maijken’s boisterous blond hair, which was thrown together wildly in a makeshift up-do, her trademark look. We followed it until we reached her front door.

The inside smelled better than the street. Maijken had it all: bright hardwood floors, bay windows, a modern sofa facing an oversized plasma TV, and a bedroom with a fire escape that would double as a deck during her future parties. Multiple candles burned delicately on the mantle above the gas fireplace, emitting a grown-up aroma.

Holy cow.

She sure looked and sounded like the Maijken I knew from the University of Oregon, but she lived in this suave flat. Coming straight from a house with six college girls – where week-old beer cans lived between the sofa cushions and ants roamed the kitchen cabinets – this place was better than the Taj Mahal. How could I get one?

And now I have to edit one of my sister’s college papers (which she asked me to look at for the first time this morning, because it’s due today, of course), so, until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Reason for Celebration at Tres Agaves

It drives me crazy that my boyfriend is younger than I am. Just by four months, yes, but it’s excruciating waiting an entire 130 days for him to catch up to me. Why? For one, I’m dodging his sarcasm left and right. Cradle Robber and Old Lady are two of Darren’s favorite nicknames for me between April 1st and August 9th, while the rest of the year I’m blissfully free of these labels. Maddening! I want to tell him, we’re not in elementary school (when four months can seem like four centuries). In grown-up time, four months is – four months. Have I mentioned Darren and I are barely in our mid-20s? Can you image what life will be like when I turn, say, 40 or 50?

The 130 day waiting period has never been fun for me – except when I was newly 21. My, how the tables turned that year.

* * *

In April 2007, a large group of my friends huddled around a booth at the campus pizza shop and bar, where I sipped my de-lish cocktail and eyed a 20-year-old Darren. He gulped a diet Coke.

Eat my dust, sucker.

I was officially permitted to drink at a bar. Yay! And no matter how hard Darren tried to bring me down with his Old Maid comments, he couldn’t. I hate to admit it felt pretty good watching the bartender take his fake ID and send him home, while I stayed out chugging Bud Lights with my friends. Because I was legal. And he was not.

* * *

So when Darren has a birthday, I go all out. Because not only is his birth cause for celebration, but the end of my being tormented by his sarcastic commentary is a good reason to knock one back, too.

This year, for his 23rd, I surprised him with dinner at Tres Agaves, our favorite Mexican restaurant in the city. His parents flew into town that morning to spend the day with him and play House Hunters with us. We drove from condo to condo, searching for the perfect "investment."

“Oooo,” Darren uttered in slow motion as we drove to the next loft, his eyes flickering as if he had a more brilliant idea than the light bulb. “Let’s take my parents to Tres Agaves for lunch. They’ll love it!”

“I don’t know,” I said, although he was right. His dad can’t resist Mexican food.

“What?” Darren looked shocked. (I never refuse Tres Agaves. Ever.) “There are happy hour specials during games, and the Giants are playing now. I’ve always wanted to go for happy hour,” he said.

“We’re going for dinner,” I blurted, annoyed.

“Can’t we eat somewhere else for dinner?”



“Because it’s your birthday and –”

“And I get to choose where we go.”

“No, because it’s your birthday and you're not allowed to ask questions. Or else you won’t have a birthday.” Because your surprise will be ruined.

He got the gist.

Later that night, the four of us moseyed into the restaurant. We’d nearly taken our seats at the table before Darren realized a large crowd of twelve had gathered around it – for him. To celebrate his 23rd year. “Surprise!” our friends shouted in discord.

After dinner, Darren told me it had been the best birthday of all time. And I said if he ever wanted another one, he’d better cut the Craddle Robber nickname crap. Forever.

Monday, October 26, 2009

23-Year-Olds Belong at McTeague's

As I sit in the Eugene airport thinking about my weekend and the time I spent with my sisters, parents, old friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandfather, I realize I learned a very valuable lesson: College graduates simply can’t drink as much as current college kids. Yes, some grads are in denial and believe they haven’t changed since their glory days at the campus tavern — but they have. All of them. Grads, consider yourselves warned: Never attempt to go drink-for-drink with a fresh batch of 21-year-olds at your alma mater. If in the future you mindlessly ignore my tip-off, prepare for the worst headache of your life.

“I need Advil,” I moaned in Christyn’s direction when I woke up on Saturday morning. She was still asleep. Her kitten pawed at my face, and I hurt too badly to move.

“Oh-kay,” she replied. Then she popped out of bed with what seemed like enough energy to run a 26-mile marathon — like she’d been training for it all year, eating only healthy meals and drinking eight glasses of water a day — when really she’d downed more beer than I care to reveal the night before. She was as bouncy and peppy as ever. Christyn belongs to the aforementioned batch of freshly turned 21-year-olds, and at that moment I loathed her for it.

“Here ya go,” she tossed a bottle of Advil toward the bed, animated and vigorous. I replied with a grunt. Her chipper grin really pissed me off. Last night we’d visited Taylor’s and then Max’s Tavern, two of the three bars near the University of Oregon campus, but clearly that hadn’t rattled her.

When my throbbing temples weakened, I worked up the energy to get out of bed and brush my teeth. Tangly locks of hairspray-stiff hair clung to my cheeks and neck with perspiration. Ew.

What had happened to me? I was clearly out of practice at the whole college thing. I remember when splitting a pitcher of Bud Light between just two people was a common affair, and last night I stuck my nose up at the idea (but did it anyway). Gone are the days of chugging along to the DGs chanting, “If you can’t f****** drink like a DG can, then you shouldn’t have a drink in your mother f******* hand!” Now one cocktail or a glass of wine is a-okay with me. I mull this over, then quickly decide there’s nothing wrong with being “out of practice.” Hell, I should be glad my beer-intense lifestyle is behind me. If it weren’t, I’d be in trouble. I finished brushing my coffee-stained teeth and flashed a corny smile at my reflection, proud of my epiphany. Although my body still dragged, my mood lifted, and Christyn and I packed our things and drove to the DG house to retrieve our youngest sister, Caitlin (who wasn’t yet 21 and even perkier than Christyn was that morning).

In San Francisco, we have a bar kind of like Max’s Tavern. It’s called McTeague’s. Wooden walls, pool tables, and beer-stained booths line its perimeter, while young(ish) party-ers flock to the middle of the floor to boogie to 1980s music. Since I began frequenting the pub a few months ago, I’d been excited to return to my old stomping grounds. In a way I felt like I was cheating on Max’s. But after this weekend I see that Max’s will always be for fresh 21ers, while I’ll move on as a perfectly happy 23-year-old: a two-beers-is-fine, gotta-work-tomorrow kind of girl. And that’s a-okay with me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Meet George, George Banta

It seems most people use the Internet solely to post pictures of kittens anyway, so this entry is dedicated to my sister's new tabby, George. She and her roommates named him George – not after George Clooney, like my friend Alexa assumed, but after George Banta, Delta Gamma's only male initiate. After all, the cat's living with all DGs. Cute, huh? So when my sister's friends meet George ("he's sweet, but who the heck is George Banta?"), they also learn a little bit about her sorority ("George Banta joined DG in the early 1900s, when the women needed a man to travel the country and spread the word about their organization"). Repeating this clause day after day will get old fast, and I'm guessing that's why they call the cat George, for short.

"He's soooo little!" I squeal as I swoop him up off the sofa. I secretly wonder how I can sneak him into my suitcase and onto the plane back to San Francisco without my sister knowing. "Hurry, take a picture to send to Darren!" I grab my BlackBerry.

Darren hates cats and refuses to share his living space with one. For some reason, the idea of litter boxes and fur balls makes him squirmy. We email this to him:

Subject line: "How can you resist these faces?" Ten minutes later, we send this video:


He continues to receive messages like these until my sisters and I grow frustrated that we haven't heard back – and it's time to go out. The next day, when we arrive at my parents' house, my little cousins are there. Darren gets this picture:

Suddenly a kitten doesn't look so bad, does it?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Drive Home...

Christyn: "Watch out for cops."
Me: "Are you speeding?"
Christyn: "Just by 11 miles per hour."

Caitlin: "Do you guys remember calling me last night?"
Christyn: "Yeah..."
Caitlin: "Twice? At 1:30 am?"
Me: "Uh-huh. Sure."
Caitlin: "You were like, 'CAITLIN! PICK US UP FROM MAX'S AND TAKE US TO TACO BELL!' And I didn't have the car -- because it was parked in the driveway at YOUR house. Right where you left it. I told you I didn't have the car and you hung up, but 10 minutes later you called again asking me to take you to Taco Bell. Remember that?"
Me: "Oh yeah!" [We erupt in laughter.]
Christyn: "So did we ever make it to Taco Bell?"

Christyn: "Oh! There goes that Mercedes!"
Me: "Huh? What Mercedes?"
Christyn: "I was driving behind it forever. You know how when you drive behind the same car for a long time? And you become attached to it? Like, you make friends with it?"
Caitlin: "Yeah!" [More laughter.]

As we drive slowly down our street, I realize that fall is the thing I miss most about Oregon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Up, Up and Away from OAK

I’m going to venture a guess and say that the Oakland airport is NOT one of the 365 best places to visit in the Bay Area, for a few reasons: (a) It’s in Oakland (need I say more?); (b) it’s 8 a.m. and I don’t see one traveler carrying a to-go coffee cup, which means either there’s not a Starbucks in the terminal or everyone here is crazy (because who doesn’t need caffeine this early in the morning?); and (c) my gate smells like an 80-year-old lady’s upholstered chair that has been in a barn for 10 years. Plus when I’m at this airport, I recall the horrifying TV shows that Darren watches about our country’s most dangerous street gangs (formed right here in Oakland, surprise) and I remember the four police officers who were shot dead in this city just a few months ago. Then shivers run down my spine.

But the airfare out of Oakland is a heck of a lot cheaper than the fare out of San Francisco, so I continue to ride BART across the Bay and a take another 20-minute shuttle to an airstrip that gives me the creeps. I must say, though, it’s a Friday morning, and the place is dead, which means no lines for check-in, security, or the women’s restroom. Hallelujah! And no people equals no mess, so the toilettes and sinks (and floors!) in the bathrooms are sparkling clean. I don’t even need a seat cover.

“How ya doin’ today, hon?” the lady at the check-in counter asks in a New York accent when I arrive at the desk. There’s no one else in line. Precisely 10 minutes pass from the time I stepped off the shuttle to the moment I sit down at Gate 3. I’m convinced this is a new world record.

After about 15 minutes of blogging at the gate, an old man shaped like a candy cane dawdles toward me. His back is hunched high above his neck and head. White hair explodes from his ears, which balance a thick pair of black-rimmed glasses.

“Excuse me, but you are a very pretty young lady,” he says, his voice shaky. He must’ve had grandchildren my age, and his presence comforted me. “And it looks like you’re very industrious.” My laptop and BlackBerry had fooled him into thinking I’m busy at work, when really I’m blogging and texting my friends whom I’ll see tonight in Oregon.

“Have a great day,” I say sweetly after a minute of conversation.

I’m taking a four-day weekend to visit my two sisters in their college town, Eugene, and tomorrow the three of us will drive the hour and a half to my parents’ house in Beaverton. In some ways it’s fantastic having a job that allows switching shifts instead of asking for time off. I’ll be out four days and no one will say anything about it. No need to use any of my allotted days off; just go ahead and pull the old switcheroo. It’s like I never left.

Then again, my four-day weekend is unpaid and I’ll have to work 10 days in a row when I get back. But, hey? C’est la vie.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Unwinding at RN74

I sidestepped the sommelier and slipped into the circle that my friends had formed by the bar, ducking out of sight.

“There you are, Megs!” Heron patted me on the shoulder in a halfhearted hug, using her free hand. Her other hand clutched a martini.

“Don’t you want to try the wine?” I asked, surprised. This restaurant, RN74, was known for its extensive wine list, with bottles ranging from $30 to $12,000. “I know it’s not complimentary like I told everybody” – I raised an eyebrow and rolled my eyes snobbishly – “but five dollars is a great deal at a place like this.” RN74 had marked its vino way down for the Bastille Day celebration.

Heron shrugged blankly and stuck her lips back onto her martini glass, sipping her vodka delicately. I wish I looked like that when I drank vodka. As a rule, I don’t order anything that comes in a martini glass, because martini glasses are too hard to hold steadily. Without fail, before my triangle-shaped tumbler is half empty, I dribble all over myself. So I stick to white wine (red turns my mouth purple) and vodka-sodas.

“How was your day?” Maijken asked. She’s always so genuine when inquiring about my workdays. It's refreshing.

“Well, you said the food and drinks were complimentary, so I told every single resident that this thing was free, and now they’re all yelling at me in French.” I rolled my eyes again to dramatize my irritation. Maijken worked in the building’s sales office and had asked me to spread the word about this party. As aggravated guests approached me throughout the evening, I pointed them in her direction.

On top of all this, I could literally see my desk from where I was standing. Every wall in the building is glass, so from the ground-floor atrium all I have to do is look up to see my lounge. My workspace. My computer, even.

Hey, why aren’t those chairs pushed together by the window? And why is the TV set to ESPN instead of CNN? Doesn’t the night crew know the TV should always be set to CNN unless the anchors are covering some sort of real estate crisis? Is my desk lamp still on?

This wasn’t exactly the relaxing after-work escape I’d imagined.

“More wine, please?” I waived my plastic cup in the air, signaling the familiar bartender. He sometimes worked at the bar in my Club Level lounge, serving our owners.

“Of course, mademoiselle,” he teased while handing me an even larger plastic cup and filling it to the brim. I smiled and took a sip, and he topped me off again. The bartender brought over another bottle, and my friends shoved their cups to the center of the circle robotically, waiting for him to fill them up. Before our cups were a quarter empty, he came around again. And again. And again.

“Let’s get some dinner!” I exclaimed an hour later. It’s amazing what a cup of wine will do for your mood. (Does it still count as one cup when it's topped off every ten minutes? My glass was never empty!)

“Yeah! Let’s!” we made our way to the hostess and proceeded to eat a very expensive dinner – on our boss. He must have been as sloshed as we were. The food was elaborate and delightful, and just what we needed after a long day.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jour de la Prise de la Bastille

From: Meghan McCloskey

To: All Residents @ Luxury Condo

Subject: Bastille Day Celebration

1:05 p.m.

Dear Residents,

In celebration of Bastille Day, our restaurant is hosting a party in the Public Atrium on Tuesday, July 14 from 5 to 9 p.m. Enjoy a glass of complimentary wine, beer, hors d'œuvres and festive desserts, and cut loose to live music while celebrating France’s national holiday. We hope you can join the fête!

Au revoir et à demain,


From: Stacey Forsberg

To: Meghan McCloskey @ Luxury Condo

Subject: RE: Bastille Day Celebration

1:10 p.m.

Merci bien, Mademoiselle Meghan. C’est trop gentile et une bonne idée en plus! On s’y voit là bas.

A demain,


From: John Lancaster

To: Meghan McCloskey @ Luxury Condo

Subject: RE: Bastille Day Celebration

1:12 p.m.

Tres bien, Mme. McCloskey. Please ensure they have very large glasses.

A bientôt,


From: Richard Schult

To: Meghan McCloskey @ Luxury Condo

Subject: RE: Bastille Day Celebration

1:20 p.m.

Bonjour Meghan,

Ce sera amusant! Je vous remercie!


Richard Schult

From: Alice Lang

To: Meghan McCloskey @ Luxury Condo

Subject: RE: Bastille Day Celebration

1:32 p.m.

Mme. McCloskey,

Voulez-vous nous rejoindre? J'ai toujours voulu avoir une partie dans cette chambre. Nourriture du restaurant est très savoureux. Je n'ai jamais mangé là avant, mais je suis impatient d'essayer la nourriture.

Bonne journée,


By 2:30 p.m., I wanted to crack my skull open trying to decode these emails. Why’d I insist on adding the French translation for “goodbye and see you tomorrow” in a message to 400 people? I should’ve known most of them owned a second home in France and were fluent. Hello? It’s a cute sign-off, not an invitation to converse in the foreign tongue. Newsflash: I don't speak a lick of it.

The best part? It turned out the “complimentary” wine, beer and hors d'œuvres weren’t complimentary. So when I arrived at the fête, the guests weren’t just talking to me en français – from what I gathered they were scolding me. And I had no idea what they were saying.

Naturally my friends stood near the bar. I dodged several angry faces on my walk toward their circle, simultaneously grabbing a plastic cup full of very expensive wine and guzzling it. From the corner of my eye, I saw the sommelier ogle me in disgust. His face turned red. Then he approached me, surely to chew me out for my inelegant display – in French.

To be continued…

Note: Names, places, and events have been altered. Photo: SF Chronicle

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

High Marks for Top of the Mark

Grandma Neets and Grandpa Howard came to visit last year. Well, they came to visit a ritzy cruise ship that departed from the Bay and took them on a ten-day voyage to Mexico, and I just happened to be in the city. But that’s beside the point.

They live in Ocean City, New Jersey, and I’m used to seeing them either on a beach or at home in Oregon. Never once had we been in another town together. It was strange chatting with my grandmother when she wasn't wearing a multicolored, one-piece swimsuit that exposed her olive skin, crinkled from age and many years in the sun. And I hardly recognized Grandpa Howard out of his usual setting: lounging in a low beach chair that stretched across the sand, napping and snoring in the late afternoon light with a Tom Clancy paperback resting on his bare belly. Instead he held a Scotch on the rocks and flaunted a Tommy Bahama button-up and pungent cologne.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether my grandparents spent more time as Beach Grandma and Grandpa or Cocktail-Hour, Cruise-Ship Grandma and Grandpa. Was this a more typical scene? Had my own flesh and blood been fooling me all of those years, posing as beach bums? Slipping on their suits and theatrically preparing the beach toys during the two weeks that the kids were in town, when otherwise they wouldn’t? I shook the image from my head. I like Beach Grandma and Grandpa, and that’s how they’ll stay.

“Oh, Megafoo!” Neets pulled me in for a bear hug when I reached the hotel in which she and her ten friends were staying. They would all be cruising together. (I can’t wait to be old.) I had taken the bus straight from back-to-back interviews and hadn’t had time to change. I wore a black suit, subtle black kitten heels, and a hideous, purple and black cotton shirt with an awkward pattern that doesn’t scream “hire me” so much as “call the fashion police.” (Don’t ask what I was thinking. I’m still shocked I got both jobs.) “You look so professional!” Grandma Neets said in her sweetest, most Grandma-ish air while looking me up and down.

“Thank you,” I replied shyly, although I was beyond thrilled to see her and had been looking forward to it all day. At some point between the first interview and the bus-ride to the second, though, I had snapped out of my fashion coma and realized how tragic I looked. I didn’t recall getting dressed in the dark, so what the hell happened? I would’ve stopped at Nordstrom for a new top if I’d had time.

I sat between Grandma Neets and Grandpa Howard while their friends drilled me with questions, and they looked on adoringly. Some of their pals I’d met as a kid, and others were strangers, but the most familiar face in the crowd was Jack Ramsay’s. I come from a long line of basketball worshipers, and this guy, “Dr. Jack” (as he’s known to the world), had done it all: played, coached various NBA teams
including the Portland Trail Blazers, which he’d led to a championship in the 1970s and broadcasted for the Indiana Pacers, the Miami Heat, and ESPN. He even made it to the Hall of Fame. Darren idolizes him.

After the group of 80-year-olds fired its last round questions at me, we took a cab three blocks to the restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf. (In addition to the cruises, this is one of the perks of being old
you can take cabs for three blocks and $4 and no one says anything about it.)

Satiated from the crab, lobster, and other delectable fish that I could never afford to buy for myself, the party animal in Grandma Neets (which I call "Neeter Doggie") suggested we have drinks at Top of the Mark after dinner. Her friends obliged. We took another cab to Nob Hill’s renowned cocktail lounge, located on the top floor of the Mark Hopkin’s hotel. Until I started working at the 60-story, 450-foot-tall Millennium Tower, I’d never seen a prettier view of the city. Darren joined us for flashy martinis, elaborate desserts, and grown-up conversation (which included picking Dr. Jack’s brain).

Although the cruise ship is what brought Grandma Neets and Grandpa Howard to town, I’ve been begging them
in my most loving, granddaughter-ish whine to come back for months. As Neets would say: “What an adventure that was, Megafoo! Those are the days we remember forever.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

Everyone's Irish at Kell's

Everyone’s Irish on March 17th, but I’m Irish 365 days a year, baby. And proud of it. On St. Patrick’s Day, I’m always the one to plan a pub crawl, and the one to pinch the drab businessmen (as hard as possible) who roam the Financial District in their boring, earth-toned Brooks Brothers suits. As if it’s a crime to wear green on St. Patty’s Day.

I take my Irish roots very seriously. Case in point, last year I scrummaged through my sorry closet for the better part of an hour before deciding I owned nothing “green enough” to wear for my first Irish holiday in San Francisco. I pronounced some pieces too “lime,” others too “forest,” and some I thought could have been mistook for – gasp – “aqua marine” (and there’s no way anyone was going to pinch me on my holiday). I believe the only acceptable green on March 17th is the good old fashioned straight-from-the-Crayola-box kind. Plain and simple. A grass (or leprechaun!) green, I guess you could call it. Therefore, as an Irish descendant, I give you permission to dig your fingernails into everyone who isn’t sporting plain crayon green on my holiday. And if they give you trouble? Tell ‘em Meghan McCloskey sent you. (My name isn’t just a regular Irish one, you know – it’s quite possibly the most Irish name ever. And so it should scare the pants off of anyone you cross while squeezing your fingers around his or her apathetic flesh.)

Anyway, last St. Patty’s Day, when I was forced to go shopping for the perfect green something, I found nothing. But as it turns out, my aqua marine dress sufficed. Without my usual all-green getup topped with shamrock glasses and a doily headband, I was sure I’d be bruised as a peach by the end of the day. But I guess San Franciscans aren’t as into pinching and harassing the ill-spirited as I’d expected (not that I think I’m ill-spirited).

Feeling uncomfortable in my über-lame aqua marine outfit, I zoomed into work like I normally do on Tuesday mornings: late, distressed, sweating like a pig, and clutching an extra large Starbucks coffee for dear life. I arrived at my desk, slipped out of my running shoes and into my most professional looking peep-toe pumps, and wiggled into an open seat in the conference room. I had just started working full-time for the real estate company that had constructed Millennium Tower, and the luxurious building was set to open in just three months. The sales execs practically peed their pants while sharing the shaky details of Mr. Kelly’s financing and Mrs. Hawthorne’s physical inability to move from her assisted living home in Florida to her top-floor unit at the Tower. While the grown ups babbled on about “Fanny and Freddie” and “preferred lenders” and blah blah blah, I doodled in my spiral notebook, pretending to take notes and dreaming about my St. Patty’s Day evening...

After work, my friend Ydette and I hailed a Yellow cab and rode to Kell’s Irish Pub in North Beach to meet our group. We were unprepared for the blood bath that apparently had gone down inside this bar – and every Irish bar on the block, for that matter. There must have been thousands of people pouring from the pubs and swarming the sidewalks. Holy cow, it wasn’t even five o’clock, and music blared through the streets like it was spring break in Cancun!

After submitting to a five dollar cover charge, Ydette and I pushed our way through the sticky mob of green t-shirts, beads, and (much to my happy surprise) shamrock glasses and headbands. So here’s where all the feisty Irish folks had been hiding all day! Who knew San Francisco harbored such a prevalent Irish culture?

The moral of the story is, just because you don’t see St. Patty’s Day loons frolicking on the streets in shamrock garb doesn’t mean you won’t find them drinking themselves stupid in the pubs. So go and join them for a pint, because everyone's Irish on March 17th!