The California Life

Final update December 21, 2006 from Hayward, CA. Next log.

December 20, 2006

A minor irratation, in the form of a newspaper article reporting that Starbucks in all Chicago-area Jewel Osco scores will be closing, and that they are operated by Starbucks. I was sure I had already confirmed that these stores, like all other grocery store locations, are licensed, but I still had to check it out. I called a store in Aurora and asked that they contact the district manager for confirmation.

By the end of the day, I had not heard back.

December 19, 2006

Met that Chicago Tribune reporter to talk about tea at a teahouse in Oakland named L'Amyx. Had the Earl Grey of course. Even after the interview, I was still unsure of why she wanted to talk to me for an article about tea, nor why she asked me so much about my project. I didn't see any of those details to fit into her article.

December 16, 2006

Because of a tentative meeting with a reporter in San Francisco at 4:15, to talk about tea of all things, I forwent sleeping in and rushed north to Gridley as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, when I reached the greater Sacramento area I ran into ridiculous traffic. While driving through Citrus Heights, electronic signs warned of "HOLIDAY TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT IN EFFECT." I wasn't sure what that meant, but it wasn't a good sign. I had to call the reporter and tell her I wouldn't be able to make our meeting.

When I finally finished up and started the drive towards San Francisco for the Raekwon/Ghostface/Redman show, I neglected to grab any food before getting on the freeway. I pulled off at the next city, Davis, at a place called Redrum Burger (not Murder Burger, like it said on my map). I paid about eight bucks for that burger and fries, so I expected the meal to be much better than a fast food burger. On the contrary, that was one of the worst burgers I had ever tasted. I swear to god, the taste and consistency reminded me of sawdust.

Never made it to the show. By the time I reached the approach to the Bay Bridge, I had developed a pretty bad headache. A bit disappointed in myself, I succumbed to my old age and headed home to sleep.

December 8, 2006


November 22, 2006

My usual Thanksgiving trip.

November 19, 2006

I started the day off with typical Winter clumsiness by dislodging my rearview mirror. I gave up on trying for more sleep and spent 25 minutes figuring out how to sorta-kinda reattach it. It shook a bit, which meant I couldn't look at it took long without getting a headache, but it's probably a good idea to look at the road in front every now and again. My delay put me under time pressure, but I still managed to visit the two new Sac-area stores, reshoot Carmichael, stop at two in Stockton, and finally photograph the new Campbell (because I knew the sun would have set after my Scrabble tournament ended).

November 18, 2006

Whew! Heard from my mom that I got off easy with Enterprise--the damage to the Wrangle turned out to be around $200. Not that I was happy to have been robbed of $200 by some hit-and-running scumbag, but it was better than $500 or $1000.

Finally got up to Cloverdale and a few other stores north of San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, bad planning led to a slightly uncomfortable night. After calling some new store listings, I found that four new ones were open between Sacramento and Stockton, making a trip up there worthwhile. But I had not brought my duffel back and jammies, which meant that after killing time watching the new Bond movie in Napa's sole movie theater, I spent the night at the Vallejo rest area in just my briefs and thermal pants covering my legs, and a polo shirt and long-sleeved shirt covering my top (and three blankets).

November 12, 2006

Forced myself to start driving around 7:30 so I could reshoot as many stores as possible in the morning light.

Fred and Paco. Mmmm... so hungry.

Early Sunday morning was the right time to reshoot the University Town Center store, with hardly any people around blocking my shot. Still, somebody might have seen me, because as I left I heard a crackling on a worker's radio calling for security. Probably had nothing to do with me, but I took my juice (that I had bought to give myself a legal right to be on the premises) and made myself scarce.

It was a detour to reshoot the Pacific Beach store, but my original photo really sucked, plus I figured I could find a decent breakfast on the way. Yep. Along Garnet I spotted the Broken Yolk Cafe, with what appeared to be a line out the door. Always a good sign. Biscuit turned out to be decent, and pretty large. Good stuff.

While I waited for my to-go order I noticed a Diedrich Coffee across the street and decided to give their coffee another try, seeing as how all California locations were going to be closing at some point after Starbucks bought them out.

In La Mesa I got a positively vicious look from a heavyset woman in a blue polo shirt. She stared at me, then pulled out a mobile phone and started calling somebody. She continued to stare at me with those ferocious eyes as I drove away. If looks could kill, I'd be pushing up daisies.

GOD DAMMIT!!! I blew my last 30 minutes of sunlight returning to a store I had already visited because it had been renamed from Cloverdale & Hamner to Cloverdale & Limonite, so I thought it was a new store!

Getting from 3rd & Market in Riverside to the Canyon Springs store was hell! First, I got confused and interchanged from SR-60 to SR-91 west when I needed to just have stayed on 60. I drove at least 5 miles before the names of the exits made me suspicious and I turned around. When I reached the interchange to 60 east, either it was closed, or I was on crack--either way I missed it again. Bad move, because upon taking the next exit and get back on 91 west I ran right into stopped traffic. I moved forward until I was probably just a quarter mile from the exit, but traffic seemed to come to a dead stop. Couldn't tell if it was construction or an accident, but I was mighty pissed. I finally headed west on 60 and took the first exit, then headed east, and finally reached the Canyon Springs store. But then when I got on 60 heading west, once again traffic at a crawl. AARRGH!!! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS AREA???

When I finally reached Colton I needed a break, so I looked up some of the area strip clubs. There were two listed for Colton, so I headed over to one called the 215 Club or something like that. The place looked a big divish, but it didn't matter, because, even though it was 7:45, there was only one dancer. Not worth sticking around.

I headed out to Yucaipa, and that's where I stopped. No point driving all the way out to the Desert Cities to visit two stores when a third was soon to open. So I headed back west, and, once more, traffic was at a crawl!!! Like Harold Crick I called out, "Come on!!!" Totally ridiculous, and a perfect reason for population control if I ever saw one.

Across the parking lot from Day Creek & Foothill is a restaurant with an interesting name, "The Hat", advertising world famous pastrami. But I changed my mind at the last minute, deciding I wouldn't be able to finish a full pastrami sandwich and fries, and went with a dog and fries instead. As I left the store I saw an old photo of a poultry truck with the slogan "LAY OR BUST". Hell, that's how I feel most of the time when I'm with a woman. That should be my slogan!!!

One more try at a club, Tropical Lei in Upland, but once a dancer told me the dance prices, $25, and I saw the look of the place, I quickly decided it wasn't going to be worth it and took off.

I had been more congested than usual and feared that I was getting sick. I did not want my sleep interrupted, so I waited until I was close enough to the rest area that I wouldn't risk falling asleep and then took a Nyquill. I slept deeply, and I had wacky realistic dreams throughout the night. I always suspect the caffeine has something to do with it.

November 11, 2006

I stopped in Bakersfield to reshoot a couple of stores and get breakfast. Heading south on Coffee my bagel radar went off and revealed the presence of Bagels & Blenderz.

I reached Santa Clarita right on time for my interview. The reporter was there with there with a photographer, and after I got a sample coffee we went outside for the photo. That's when a first occurred. A man, bearded, glasses, drove by and shouted out his window something like "Your coffee sucks!" That was the first time I'd been heckled while posing for a photograph.

Need to check on he Dixie Chicks tour.

It was almost 3:00 when I finished the interview and headed south. I had a craving for Cuban food, but a detour to Versailles looked to be too costly--I didn't want to lose that much sunlight. But then I remembered that Streets & Trips always brought up multiple locations. Yes! There was one in the San Fernando Valley, in Encino. It was just a minor detour on the way back from the new Woodland Hills store, but I still lost time on the 101 southbound. I would continue to lose time in L.A. area traffic throughout the weekend, and it was really pissing me off. Too many goddamn people.

As I expected, this other Versailles location was nothing to look act. The food was just as good, but I think the price was higher. $8.15 for moros and tostones. I seem to remember that in Miami I could get the same plate for between $5 and $6, at least a few years ago.

At the new Asuza store the manager/supervisor announced to some customer my mission, and then became very interested and had some guy with a computer pull up my web site. The store wasn't that new, actually--eight months, so it had T-Mobile. It also had as a customer an absolutely gorgeous girl with that black/white mixed light caramel skin tone that I find just dreamy. I got my laptop out out of my car and sat at a counter next to her. I tried to make chit chat, but, despite my haircut (or perhaps because of it) she clearly had no interest in talking to me and soon left.

Earlier in the afternoon I had ignored my gut instinct that told me to call ahead to the 11th & Grand store to make sure it was open. Would have only taken a minute to call, but it would have saved me at least 30. I came to regret the lost time a few hours later when, after dawdling in Azusa and then taking a detour into outer space, I reached Katella & Walker just after 10:00 PM to find it closed! The baristas must have been hot to take off and party, because it is unusual for a store to be empty so soon after the designated closing time.

Headed down I-5 to the rest area and was surprised to see a sign I had not noticed before, "NO OVERNIGHT PARKING". I took my chances and ignored it.

November 10, 2006

Headed to Southern California to catch up on the new stores and also do an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News. Tried to leave Hayward before 3:00 to see if I could beat the traffic, but I had just posted my old laptop on Craig's List and had to meet a guy to sell it to him. I left about 3:10, roughly the same time as my August trip. Traffic was actually lighter, and when it got heavy at the I-238/I-680 interchange I detoured to the new Livermore store and hoped to avoid the bulk of the traffic. Wrong. Still took me too long to get to Modesto, and the sun had set by the time I reached the store, thus negating the whole reason I had left before the rush hour and sacrificed a few hours work.

I was sick of traffic, so instead of getting back on 99 I hung out at a downtown store for a couple of hours. I was surprised to see a security guard in the store. When I asked, I learned he did in fact work for Starbucks, not for the mall. The reason was all the kids hanging out in the area. According to the guard, many of them did not much care if they got into a fight.

I stayed at the Starbucks longer than I had expected for an odd reason. I was unable to upload updated files to my web site because it reported I had exceeded my disk quota of 250 MB. My files consumed nowhere near that, so I called technical support and learned that I had 200 MB in my mail folder. Turns out every piece of mail addressed to was being saved. I tried to delete it myself, and it took over an hour to download, but I ended up botching the process and having to have tech support clear out the folder. The upshot was that I reached the rest area south of Fresno later than I had hoped, and as a result slept later into the morning. Actually, part of the reason for sleeping so late was trouble sleeping in the 5:00 AM hour. No idea why.

Several times when I went to the restroom during the night I saw a creepy-looking guy milling about. Not sure if it was the same guy. One time, while I was in a stall attempting to urinate, he asked me the time. Seemed like a strange thing to say. I said I didn't have it, and he apologized and shuffled off. I wondered if that was some kind of code for initiation a gay tryst.

November 9, 2006

I learned that Heretic had not had good success with theater screenings and was only planning on booking Starbucking in a few cities like NYC, L.A., and San Francisco. That meant that it would fall to myself and Bill to find other theaters willing to screen the film without requiring four-walling. I started the process by googling and e-mailing cinemas, hoping to do a few every day.

November 4, 2006

Hide-a-way Cafe

November 1, 2006

My coworkers finally found out about my Starbucks project. I don't know exactly who found my web site or when, but I learned about it when I met a group at a downtown Hayward brewpub named Buffalo Bill's. It took 3 1/2 months, much more time than my previous two assignments, at which coworkers had discovered the truth in my first week.

October 27, 2006

Hawaii trip.

October 21, 2006

Pelton Cafe in San Leandro. Prety good sourdough toast.

October 14, 2006

Headed up to Sacramento to meet Bill and record and audio commentary for the DVD. Forced myself up early, at 7:25, and was soon in Sacramento because I'd spent the night at the rest area in Vallejo. Two new stores, of five, and a bunch of reshoots. On K Street I was "questioned" by a seemingly homeless man with a nervous look. He asked what I was doing even though it was fairly obvious I was shooting the Starbucks from every conceivable angle. I could have said I didn't need to answer his questions, but I figured the quickest thing would be to tell him I was in a hurry to shoot a bunch of stores, and he left me alone.

I went to meet Bill at his bro's in Cameron Park at 11:30. Whole process took about 3 hours, because we had to go back to Folsom to the Best Buy to get a headphone splitter so both Bill and I could hear the audio.

Afterwards, I backtracked on US-50 all the way to Hazel Road to cut across to I-80 because I did not want to drive SR-49 up to Auburn. I'd done 49 before, and if I never trive that curvy hilly road again it will be too soon.

October 9, 2006

As I drove in to work I felt the pull getting stronger. The pull of all those new Starbucks, the pull of the open road, the pull of New England in the fall. I longed to be finished with my rather uninteresting project at work.

October 8, 2006

Got up just in time. 8:00 AM, and the sun was just starting to color the buildings with light. I was able to reshoot for about 3 1/2 hours before my exhaustation took over and I had to head back.

In the meanwhile, I discovered another bagel shot, the brightly-colored House of Bagels. The bagel tasted pretty good, but I'll have to remember to skip the pastrami next time--it was much too salty.

Meanwhile, I received a big of a shock when, after leaving my copy of A Tale of Two Cities atop a mailbox for about an hour, I returned to find it just where I had left it. I had been sure that somebody who had absconded with my precious Dickens.

October 7, 2006

Mmm... crepes!

Darn it!!! Because of the sore through that had been burdening me all weekend, I had not been inclined to get up early, and so I missed my chance to be the first customer at the new 8th & Townsend store in San Francisco.

That night, I saw Scarface at midnight at the Clay Theater. Scarface is a long one, and I got out nearly at 3:00 AM. Despite my sore throat, Saturday had been sunny, and I had the same hopes for Sunday, so I didn't want to blow a chance for some good photography. I found a spot next to a park, but I had not really managed to fall asleep before I heard voices. Cops, evidently, were questioning a group of youth about why they had been running. I didn't want to draw attention to myself, especially in case the cops went rogue, shot the kids, and decided to eliminate witnesses, so I just sat (layed) tight. I know they say me, because I at least one shine his light in and around my car, but I did not react. I just waited, and quite a while at that, for everybody to leave. Sounded like they took one or more of the kids with them. That was the first time in years of sleeping in my car that I had had to sit through such an exchange.

I've no idea what the kids did, but I can testify that the cops were not being respectful. Lots of loud questioning and throwing there authority around. At one point I heard one say "I'm calling the shots here, XXX", and I think XXX was "bitch". This is why cops, and the need for cops, needs to be eliminated.

October 4, 2006

Radar magazine's article from Friday resulted in a flurry of e-mails, more than I had seen in quite a while. Four were from the media, and what was interesting was that all were foreign. Two from the UK, one from Ireland, and one from the BBC affiluate in Ecuador. The Ecuador interview was a first for me, the first I had done in Spanish.

October 2, 2006

My headache went away during the night, and with all the caffeine in my system, I was able to start driving at 6:45. However, by the time I reached the Farmersville store I was already feeling serious fatigure. A little wobbly even, at the gas station. But I still had about 16 OZ of coffee, peppered with a shot of espresso, to keep me going, and that was without even touching the three canned DoubleShots.

Two more stops, Fresno and Modesto, and then I finally rolled in to work, about 1:00.

October 1, 2006

For the first time in many months, I was woken up by the cops during a trip. Actually, I think I awoke on my own. But when I jumped to the front of the car, I spotted an officer outside my window. He motioned for me to lower it. Rather than playing it my usual way, asking if I was committing any crime and asserting my rights, I instead explained right away I was waiting for light to take some photos in the area, and I proactively offered my ID. This made the occasion go a lot more smoothly, and the officer was polite throughout.

This poses a minor dilemma for me. On the one one, if I just tell my story and offer my ID right away, I elicit less suspicion, I tend to get fewer questions, and am left alone. But if I'm not breaking the law, then the police should be leaving me alone. But there's another problem. I can't easily know if I'm breaking the law because cities have all sorts of ordinances that are not easily found, even if available on line. Calling the police department usually takes 15-30 minutes, if can even get an answer that late at night, and when I'm dead-tired at the end of the day spending 30 minutes on the phone is not desirable. The solution--get rid of the cops.

On the bright side, got up earlier and was able to take advantage of the light. Going to bed late and getting up late like I had been doing, I had been losing out on an hour or two of sunlight.

On the freeway, further evidence that I'm getting old. I was doing 80, and a little red sporty thing passed me like I was standing still. I was slow to react, and by the time I got me speed up there was no way I could catch him. He must have been doing more than 100.

Because I had to be in Laguna Woods for Scrabble at 8:59, I rushed in and out of as many stores as possible. At one, I got one of those baristas who gave me a sample, but did not fill it to the necessary level, and did not want to, "because it might spill". No time, or desire, to explain, so I just bought a DoubleShot.

Oops! Arrived at Rio Rancho & The 71, in Pomona, to discover it not yet open. Then I remembered it was one of the two stores I had called that wouldn't open 'til Monday. Damn. So close, but 20 hours too early. 2nd place in my tournament, and probably boosted my rating over 1800 again. Wahoo! Then it was rush, rush, rush again to seven more stores before I decided to call it a night. My head was hurting pretty bad, and I was anxious to reach the rest area. Finally, over three months after leaving Houston during the summer, I had to break out my third blanket. A few hours later, I had to break out the thermal pants too. Despite its being October, I was still surprised that it was that cold that early in California.

September 30, 2006

7:45, later than I had hoped, but earlier than I'd been getting up since my return from Hong Kong. Many new Starbucks to visit, but I had to detour into Santa Barbara and reshoot a few, since that stretch of 101 is a less common route for me.

I expected to find a bagel shop along State Street, but no such luck. I was about to get back on the freeway and leave town, but then I looked my route to Ojai more closely, SR-150, and it looked to be winding and probably hilly. I decided I would enjoy the drive more if I wasn't hungry, so I went back to State Street for one more pass. I spotted Esau's Cafe. The sign said "coffee shop", but I could see a four-page menu posted on the window, and I guessed that they had to have some food. Parking was a few blocks away, and during the walk back I passed D'Angelos Pastry and Bread. The smell of the fresh bread was enticing, as were the beautiful people (two young ladies in particular) sitting on the patio. But the menu seemed a little fancy for me, and I continued on to Esau's, where they have biscuits on the menu. Down home food. Sure, the clientele was not as attractive, but I was taking the food to go, so what did it matter?

I received my food and remembered to check for a fork. None. I asked the waitress, too old and worn to be wearing that miniskirt, and she reported the restaurant was out. Then, in an act of extreme customer service, a gentleman, presumably Esau himself, offered me a metal fork if I would return it the next time I came in. I suddenly remembered my mother had sent me a fork along with my coat, and I thanked him and said I'd be okay with the spoon.

Spent quite a bit of time reshoot stores while up in Ventura county. That plus traffic slow down my pace of visiting new stores, but that was fine with me, because I just wasn't feeling up to getting overcaffeinated.

Afternoon arrived much more quickly than I expected, and the next thing I knew it was almost 4:00, and I was in Los Angeles, not far from Culver City, where Ford's Filling Station is located. I had read about Ford's, owned by Harrison Ford's son Benjamin, and made a note to go. I didn't arrive 'til 5:00, not expecting crowds but not entirely sure that the place wouldn't already be busy. But as it turned out they weren't opening 'til 5:00 that day anyway (not 4:00 like I saw on a web site), so it worked out.

I had the pub burger. The burger itself was pretty good, though I would have preferred some regular cheese instead of the fancy blue cheese. And fries instead of onion rings. Thought I have to say that even though I'd never cared for onion rings, nor onions, I was able to stomach these beer-batter (I think that's what he said) fried ones for a few bites. The atmosphere was interesting enough, and if I have the chance it would be nice to come back with friends and try a full meal. Oh, and money. The article and reviews reported the place as pricey, and they weren't kidding!

Later, on Crenshaw, I passed my type of food, soul food! Mental note, Crenshaw about a mile south of I-10.

I wasn't able to tell from Crenshaw, but I-10 east was really slow. Grrr... it's Saturday, for crying out loud, I thought! I had a long way to go to the next store, and I wasn't about to sit in that traffic, so I abruptly turned around and headed in a different direction. Didn't really matter, because with all the new Starbucks spread out throughout the Southland, I could not see a single best route to all of them.

Hoooooly shit!!! The Dixie Chicks "Not Ready to Make Nice" on the radio, maybe for the third time since its release. 98.7, goes on my list of good stations!

For the first time in two visits to the Southland (excluding San Diego), and possibly more, I was able to schedule a massage. The first lady I called on Craig's List happened to live close to a Starbucks I needed to visit, and happened to be available right away.

Two stores later, around 10:30, with at least one more to go, I could feel that the burger wasn't going to tide me over during the night. Spotting Mae's Cafe, open all night, I popped in for some French toast. It's always a good time for breakfast.

Good ol' goddamn L.A. freeways. On top of the day's delays, even at 11:00 goddamn PM 22 was a mess, due to closure. The detour put me at Katella & the 57 just in time to catch traffic exiting the Angels' stadium. Wouldn't have been a problem, except that the shopping center is fucked up, and there was no entrance from Katella. I almost ended up on 57 south, which would have caused me to kill somebody. Instead, I had to pull a u-turn right at the entrance of the stadium, with all the stadium traffic exiting. Yay. Somebody needs an ass-kicking around here.

September 29, 2006

Left work in Hayword right around 3:00 with my fingers crossed that traffic down the 101 would not be jammed up. But before I even got to the 101, I had to deal with killer traffic on I-880 through Fremont. Delays were heavy, and after 75 minutes I had driven about 30 miles, and finally, as I approached Morgan Hill, speeds increased, just when I needed to exit to check my e-mail and update my site with a link to the online article just published, as well, as reshoot three stores. Make that two, because I exited too late to reshoot the one I needed most, Cochrane--stupid Streets & Trips.

Made it to Salinas before all the light disappeared, but the earlier delays cost me the chance to get a good photo of a pretty store, King City.

I stopped in Paso Robles for gas and food. I had the urge for spaghetti. Streets & Trips listed Buona Tavolia on Spring, but the place was too fancy and pricy. They suggested Gaetano's, but it was too busy, maybe 45 min for food. The host there suggested Lombardi's, and there I found more reasonably-priced spaghetti and an estimate of 15 minutes.

I made it to the rest area north of the 101, and I was surprised that the night was so chilly. I wouldn't have expected it so early in Southern Cali (though I guess I was a bit north of south).

September 23, 2006

September 10, 2006

Another Sunday's chances for reshoots ruined by an overcast sky. Especially irritating because I had gone to bed before 7:00 PM, in part to catch up from the night before, but also so that I could get up early for photos. In fact, I had skipped the midnight movie in San Francisco, The Warriors (not that I had any particular interest in that film, which I'd never heard of before). After 13-14 hours of sleep I finally got up and, after finishing an episode of Lost with commentary from the just-released DVD, I headed out to Whipple and Industrial. I thought about hanging out hoping for two things--sunlight, and for the cars in the parking lot to leave. But I was hungry, and I wasn't in the mood for Starbucks food. I decided I had an itch to travel down memory lane at Cafe Mason in the city. I had been introduced to that restaurant during my first trip to San Francisco for the 1995 Macromedia User's Conference. I don't know if the food is any good, since I've always had the French toast on one or two subsequent visits, but as I get older I like to revisit places from my youth.

Cafe Mason is at Mason & O'Farrell, but I had to park several blocks away at Leavenworth. During the walk to the restaurant I noticed things that I tend to miss while driving. Many homeless on that stretch of O'Farrell. In fact, I tried to park my car away from where I saw several of them clustered. One lady had seemed to be trying to peer into a car, and down the street somebody else, a man, appeared to be doing the same thing. It did not seem to make sense that they would actually trying to break in in broad daylight with so many police driving all around (pretty heavy presence in SF), but still I stopped and pretended to make a phone call so I could observe. Turned out he was just using the vehicle's side mirror. Further down I noticed public employee picking up garbage, and I thought that it must be a sucky job to have maneuver the broom around sleeping homeless all the time.

I also noticed, on O'Farrell, a plethora of massage parlors that I had not really noticed before. And hot tub/saunas too. Aren't those where HIV first started to spread?

Cafe Mason is, incidentally, next to the hostel run by Hosteling International. Back before I discovered the efficiencies of sleeping my car, I stayed in many hostels around the country, and the one in San Francisco had by far the greatest degree of security. And a 14-day per year limit. With all the homeless around, it is undrrrstandable.

I went over to the Starbucks for some juice, and as I was sitting down at a larger table I saw an attractive woman looking around, so I invited her to share my table. She was from France, visiting San Francisco for the first time. She was friendly, but unfortunately married, her husband a physics graduate student in Madison. Coincidentally, she also blogs about her travels. As I finished breakfast she asked if I knew the best way to the Golden Gate Bridge. I could not give her advice regarding public transportation, but since I had to go visit the new Starbucks at Bay & Taylor anyway, I offered her a ride. Actually, I would have offered her a ride all the way to Los Angeles just to listen to her French accent longer, but let's not tell her that.

After visiting Bay & Taylor I had to go find parking elsewhere (ain't paying $2.50 an hour), and I settled at the Polk Street store. The women were just as attractive as the European students found near Union Square, and I hoped that in the cramped store one would share my table. After about an hour, an attractive blonde came up to me, but rather than asking to share my table and enjoy the exquite pleasure that is my company, the bitch just took the other chair.

August 27, 2006

Another disappointing Sunday morning, overcast with some fog in the distance even. I had scoped out the various Berkeley Starbucks in the afternoon and noticed that they all demanded morning light, and so I had been hopeful of getting excellent shots Sunday morning. I kinda of felt like I slept in my car in Berkeley for nothing, though Berkeley is cool and all.

This place seems a little trendy for me, but I do like the actual vault inside. And it serves scones, which I have not seen in too many places around the Bay Area yet.

Still, I did my best and got two semi-decent shots in Berkeley, and then a few in San Francisco in the 45 minutes I had to spare before rushing south to my Scrabble tournament.

Heh, cute.

August 26, 2006

AARRGHH!!! I shoulda known, that drinking the canned Iced Coffee I had bought in Vallejo at 4:00 PM was a mistake. I assume it was the caffeine that caused me to toss and turn for hours early Saturday morning. What's strange is that I slept soundly from about 10:00 until 2:00 or 3:00 or 4:00 before the sleeplessness began. This, combined with an overcast sky (why on the weekends???) kept me in bed until nearly 10:00. Another oppotunity for reshoots blown, and I only ended up getting two before heading to Scrabble club in Clayton.

Nuts. Can't remember if the pancakes were good or not. What I do remember though, is that a waitress said, sheepishly, "may I ask what you were taking pictures of." I hate that question, as it smacks of suspicion.

August 25, 2006

I called the I-80 & Magazine store around 10:30 to find out if they were still planning to open at 12:30. The barista who answered said they would not know until about 11:30 because the building inspector was still there. I got back to work, which entailed processing a very large, 300 MB, file on my very slow computer. As the process dragged on and on and on I got more and more anxious, and at 10:40 I couldn't take it anymore and got up to leave with the words "Okay letz do it." Yes, I actually said that.

43 miles later I arrived at 11:23 to find one entrance to the parking lot fenced off, so I went around the corner. The 76 gas station was clearly under construction, and the enter shopping center had an unfinished look. Despite this, a couple in a green suburban pulled into the lot and around the drive-thru. A minute later they came back around the building, looked around with confused looks, and finally left. Meanwhile, I stood at the door and waved. I caught the attention of a barista who said they were still waiting for the okay from the building inspector. I explained that I wanted to to be the first customer and asked them to make sure to take me before the drive-thru.

I had a momentary scare when an attractive young lady in a sporty black car pulled up and quickly entered the store. After a few seconds I realized she must either work there or know the partners, and I calmed down. A few minutes later I decided to put away my computer and stand in front of the door with a book instead. After a few minutes a partner came out and told me they would not get the approval until 12:30 and not open until 1:00. I thought about it and decided to risk heading over to visit the new Benicia store and get back before some other customer beat me. I needn't have worried, because when I returned they were still waiting for permission to open. The building had passed inspection, but the gas station was still waiting, and the manager hoped that the inspector would allow the Starbucks to open anyway. While I waited I chatted with the manager, and I met the district manager.

I guess the silver lining in having to wait was that I got an rare inside look at the opening process, but I would rather have gotten to work sooner. I didn't get back until 3:00, and I ended up having to stay at work 'til 8:30 so my timesheet wouldn't be too light for the week.

August 20, 2006

The entire mor6ning was overcast. Had it not been for the Colombian food, and for the young woman on O'Farrell who asked me for a light (I keep matches handy for just that occasion), my trip to San Francisco would have been a waste. Not true. A trip to San Francisco is never a waste. Just the act of driving around the city, day or night, is cool. The wee hours, 3-5 AM, are particularly interesting.

Anyway, I took advantage of the overcast sky to sleep in. Then, with little incentive (sunlight) to take photographs, I instead pulled out the "Best of the Bay" issue of the San Francisco Guardian and looked up breakfast restaurants. A place named Zazie caught my eye, spotlighted for their gingerbread pancakes. I've never been much of a gingerbread fan, but I figured I'd give them a try. I should have stuck to the buttermilk pancakes. Don't get me wrong--I think the pancakes were "good", as in well-made, but the flavor of gingerbread just isn't my thing.

Why does my camera keep getting into timer mode???

August 19, 2006

A cloudy morning kept me sleeping later than I'd hoped, 'til 8:00 AM, but I still got a few reshoots around Livermore and Pleasanton. Then the new San Ramon store and down to Oakland for Scrabble club.

The club plays at a game store called It's Your Move, and next door is a cute little cafe called the Temescal Cafe. Waffles are decent. I had hoped to try the tomato-lentil soup, but they don't have each soup every day, so I tried the 3-bean vegetable chili instead. Don't worry--there was a 3-4 hour gap between the waffles and chili.

Afterwards I headed down to the city for some o' that Colombian food, and I hung out at the Noe Valley Starbucks again. Once again there was an attractive female, intellectual-seeming from her Stanford sweatshirt, and with a computer. She let me share her table, but once again every attempt I made to chat (actually, just one) was brushed off. When she left, it was without even a goodbye. Meanwhile, Arwen continues to insist that I'm not ugly. I keep telling her, what other reason is there for every attractive female to ignore me?

August 15, 2006

Christopher's Nothing Fancy Cafe seemed to be decorated just a bit fancy,

August 14, 2006

At 6:36 I considered trying to sleep another hour, but then I decided it might be easier with some food in my stomach and went over to the vending machine. But the time I walked back to my car, my grogginess had passed, and I decided to start driving. I went back to the vending machine for some more wafers, but the machine took my dollar. I also noticed that, in all the time I had been milling about, in the restroom, at the vending machine, changing my oil, the lady in a purple jacket had not left. Then I noticed she had some sort of mat, like maybe she slept on it, so I offered her a ride north. She declined, and I did not really have a good guess why. The fact that I was in pajamas? My small car? My generally unshaven and unkempt appearance? Heck, maybe she could smell my 2 1/2-day odor.

I followed a sporty black Nissan for a while until I decided he was a bit too slow to pass trucks and other vehicles in the right lane. I tried to pass him, and the fucker with his more powerful engine sped up and blocked me. I tried a few more times, and then I noticed a small tan car and an SUV coming up behind me and decided to let them try. Same thing. He would block any attempt to pass. Later, for some reason, the SUV made a dramatic attempt and managed to get around him. Meanwhile, I dialed 911 and gave the dispatcher as much information as possible. More time passed, and the tan car pulled into the rest area. Next thing I knew, a trooper with no light bar was pulling me over. I was puzzled, because I thought he was going to pull over the Nissan. I applied misdirection, and as soon as the trooper approached my window I pointed up the road and said that black car was the one I had called in. I explained that I had called in a report, and I assumed the officer had heard something because he asked if I was "Windsor". I said "Winter" and explained how the Nissan had been blocking cars from passing. The officer asked a lot of questions and then let me go. But a few miles up the road he pulled me over again and said there was no record of my call. I showed him my phone, which showed I had dialed and emergency number, and I answered all of the myriad questions he had. Again, he let me go, and I was quite relieved, because the date was the 14th, and I had to avoid being ticketed through the 15th to have my last ticket dismissed.

Though I was not ticketed, the delays had an effect. I was forced to grab whatever was available for breakfast when I stopped for gas, and that meant an Egg McMuffin. It was as nasty as I eggspected. The fact that it was on an English muffin made it worse. I did not notice whether a biscuit was even an option. Biscuits to be less available as one moves north.

I slept on a mattress for the first time in six weeks at the house where I was renting a room. I did not actually move into the room, because the previous occupant had until the 15th, but still it was refreshing to be able to sleep on a mattress, and until 8:00 AM, and to use an actual restroom. For whatever reason, I had some real strange dreams, including one in which I was on a bright yellow school bus with other people. We rolled into some town, in New England perhaps, and I spotted a Starbucks. In my dream mind I was trying to work out the logistics of how to best visit the Starbucks and coordinate with the bus and the other people. Weird.

August 13, 2006

Woke up about the same time 6:20, but feeling much more groggy than the previous morning, with a dry mouth, dry eyes, and the faintest hint of a headache. Part of the reason was the coffee from the previous day, but it was probably mostly sweating all night from the heat.

Rushed over to the store, and whaddayaknow, as soon as I started thinking about how to frame the shot a car drives down the parking lot. I start shooting, and instead of pulled into one of the myriad spots not in front of the store, he pulls in front. Some people are clueless like that. I hoped he would just be getting coffee and leaving, but when I went inside to say hi to the manager I saw that he was sitting down reading his paper. Bastard. Where did he think he was--the third place?

I held off on breakfast in Calexico hoping to find something better in San Diego. The baristas at 10th & Market said there was a bagel shop around 5th & G. I did not see it and was going to circle around, but then I spotted what looked like a true hole-in-the-wall, Lee's Cafe, and decided to pop in. Simple but decent, despite the presence of hash browns instead of home fries.

I did not finish up in San Diego county until nearly 2:00, and it was clear that I would not be able to clear out the rest of the Southland by nightfall. I relaxed a bit--no sense in poisoning myself with caffeine if I'd just have to be back in a few weeks. I also took a time out to pick up the Scrabble equipment I'd left at a tournament in Laguna Woods. I was relieved for the break, actually. Even though twenty-nine stores is my record, even ten in a relatively short time span starts to hurt, and I'd already had fourteen in about nine hours.

After all that driving, I was needing a massage, but when I got close to nailing one down I also worked out the distance back to Hayward. For some reason I had 300-350 miles in my head, but it turned out to be over 410 from Long Beach, where the therapist was (just a few blocks from two new Starbucks). I was out in Santa Ana, near I-5, my quickest route back, and I decided to just head back right away and try to get as much sleep as possible.

August 12, 2006

Woke up at 6:14 and went over to photograph the store. For some reason a couple of baristas were outside, one with a tablet, and every time a car would pull into the drive-thru she would go over to the car and say something. Took me longer to take the photo so I wouldn't be noticed.

A late breakfast from Mollie's Kountry Kitchen in Hesperia was pretty good, but the huge plate of eggs, bacon, and home fries included only one biscuit, which was way too small to provide the proper biscuit ratio.

After Hesperia it was finally time to make the slow, careful, drive to Big Bear Lake. The first time I made the drive I hoped it would be last, but no, they had to go and open a second store. I hoped it would be last. On top of the drive to the city, I also had to deal with traffic backed up for a mile or so into town. Please, please, Starbucks, don't build any more stores in this freakin' town!

Another slow drive to get out of Big Bear and down to San Bernardino county, and made slower still by a jerk in a van who refused to use the turnout for miles and miles. Finally he noticed all my honking, lights-flashing, and hand motions and pulled over so several of us could pass. Down in San Bernardino, free of the mountains, I was still not in the clear, as I experienced the usual Southern California traffic backups all over, even on Saturday.

In Riverside I encountered another one of those managers who gave me the icy look of incredulity and only filled the sample cup part way. I asked for it filled almost to the top, and she still came back with it short. I dislike dealing with that look/attitude, so I just bought a short and dumped all but a fraction of an ounce out.

From Riverside I took an awkward route east, Moreno Valley to Hemet then back up to I-10 and out to Palm Desert, by which time night had fallen. Actually, I could have shot the Palm Desert store with some light, but I decided it was more important to stop at the Wal-Mart and buy some oil for the car, plus coolant, plus wiper fluid. From Palm Desert I headed east to Indio and took SR-86 south through what I presume was desert (adjacent to the Salton Sea) to a town called Brawley, and then SR-111 to Calexico. The supervisor there had heard of my and was quite excited I'd finally arrived and posed everybody for a photo. She also mentioned an upcoming store in Brawley, which meant I'd have to drive that stretch of highway away. It wasn't a bad stretch of highway, not like in the mountains, but it still seemed so remote I didn't expect to be back.

I had completely forgotten about the heat, and the temperature did not drop nearly as much or as fast as I hoped. Sleep was difficult and sweaty. Around 3:00 AM I decided the area where I parked seemed quiet and safe enough for me to open my windows just a notch and let some air in. The outside are was by no means cold, but it was cooler than inside the car.

August 11, 2006

I left work early, shortly before 3:00, in the hopes that I could beat the traffic out to SR-99. After a couple of stops I left the 24 Hour Fitness at 3:05, which I guess was much too late, because I was stuck in traffic nearly the entire way, and the 68-miles trip to the Riverbank store took me 2 1/2 hours. Grrr... I was kept sane by the presence of my "bundle of joy", my comic books shipped from Houston, but I was still especially irritated because I had an ambitious goal for the weekend, to visit all the outstanding stores in Southern California, so every minute was precious.

Took so long to reach Riverbank that I needed to get food in Modesto before getting on I-99 to Fresno. When I spotted this place named the Chicken Barn, I had no choice but to stop.

Slightly better than KFC/Popeyes/Church's, but by no means great.

August 10, 2006

Finally went to the Social Security office to have my card replaced. I learned that, unlike the DMV and Department of State, the SSA had no code to indicate a single name, so my card would read "NO NAME WINTER", or "WINTER NO NAME", or maybe "UNKNOWN". But the trip, and an hour of my time, was wasted due to some glitch in the system. I was told I had to return another time. Grrr...

I headed to a movie in San Jose and stopped at Habana Cuba, a real cuban restaurant, unlike that crappy Havana in Walnut Creek.

I heard a report about how low-rent apartments and motels in San Francisco are infested with bedbugs. Another reason to sleep in my car versus a cheap motel.

I learned that the new store in San Ramon would open at 4:30 AM on Friday. I thought about being the first customer, but I decided not to do it, because it would have cut into my sleep time, and time at work, and I was planning on leaving early anyway for my trip to Southern California.

August 2, 2006

Returned to Sonoma for a special screening of Starbucking, as part of a best-of film series. The screening was different in a variety of ways--first, it was at a restaurant, the Carneros Bistro at the Lodge, and it was free, first-come, first-served. I did not count, but I'm guessing the room only seated about 30-40 besides the special guests, of which there were plenty. Besides myself and Bill, I brought Jason Allan Pfaff, the Denny's guy. There was also Bill's brother Alex, Bill's father, and a rep from Heretic Films and his girlfriend.

There were problems with the audio throughout most of the film, but the audience seemed to forgive that and seemed interested in the film. Even with the smaller audience, the Q&A went on for quite a while. Unfortunately, that was going to cut into the amount of sleep I could get in the car, but it was worth the sacrifice for the promotional value. One audience member, a barista, had already seen the film at the Sebastiani and brought friends to this screening--that's a good sign.

Towards the end of the screening a heavyset lady was standing towards the back, perhaps waiting for her check so she could leave. I saw her glance over at me, and I definitely heard her use the word "freak". Guess you can't please everybody.

I did not want to deprive Jason of an opportunity to visit a new Denny's, so on the way back we stopped at one in Vallejo. I was kind of hungry myself because the vegetables I had ordered from the restaurant hadn't been that great, in part because the vegetables that came with the baked beans included onions. I ordered plain French toast, and it was okay, but really heavy and I only ate about half the plate.

On the way to the Denny's, and even more so on the way to Oakland from Denny's, that old getting old thing came on strong, and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I complained to Jason that 10 years earlier, probably even five years earlier, I would never have had trouble driving at 12:30 AM. Could have driven 100 miles like that. But not anymore. Once I dropped Jason off, I had to sleep right away. He was going to put me up in the garage, but it was chilly, and he needed the side door left open for the dog, so I thanked him and instead opted for my car, where it would be easier to stay warm.

Besides the film-related stuff, thee was one more very interesting thing that happened that night, my first ever experience with an earthquake. It was a small one, 4.4, but it just happenened to be centered in Sonoma county, so I definitely felt it.

August 1, 2006

Grrr... stupid 24 Hour Fitness!!! Some retarted agent looked at the membership I bought online on Friday and invalidated it because I entered myself in the system as Winter NO-LASTNAME. So I had to call member services and talk to this uppity bitch named Kelly who ended up hanging up on me. If anybody knows who she is, please let me know so I can pass a message along to her. Unfortunately, the area code for member services is 760-710-0284, which is in southern California. There's probably thousands of Kellys in that area, which is going to make it really hard to find her and tell her a thing or two.

July 30, 2006

Decent breakfast from Herb's Fine Food, except for the butter on the pancakes.

Recognized again, this time by a district manager who saw me reshooting one of the stores and said he uses my site all the time.

Around 9:45 I finished up the outlying San Francisco stores and headed in towards the city, but my passage to two of the stores was blocked by some foot race.

Later, on 3rd heading towards Howard a host of motorcycle cops rolled up and started blocking side streets and looking around. I asked one if [this] was for the foot race, and he said no, that it was for what sounded like "Blair". Up the street I asked another officer, and he seemed like he did not even want to speak to me. I asked again, and he reluctantly said it was a "dignitary". I suspect he purposefully avoided using Blair's name, but that pretty much confirmed it. Later, Harry Shearer on Le Show confirmed that Blair was in California.

By noon I had reshot most of the stores south of Market, and traffic all around Market had increased to the point that I had to abort. Before heading to visit a couple of new stores up the 101, I needed food. I passed Mel's Drive In on Geary, saw a sign for chili, and got a craving.

I waited over 30 minutes in Novato waiting for a maroon pickup to move out of my frame, but it never did and I left. As I headed north on US-101, I noticed heavy traffic heading south, and I realized that I had miscalculated. I should have stopped reshooting in SF earlier and then headed to Larkfield as quickly as possible so that I could get back before the traffic, presumably Bay Area residents returning from weekend trips up the coast, to wine country, etc.

I figured I had a lot of time to kill, that my best plan would be to get some sleep up along the 101 until after midnight and then start driving down towards Hayward. At one of the Rohnert Park stores I wanted to reshoot I listened to WATC while waiting for a vehicle to move. I noticed a laundromat and decided that four weeks of sleeping with the same sheet and pillowcase and blanket was enough, plus my last pair of fresh jeans wasn't so fresh anymore.

July 29, 2006

"Slept in" as best as I could, 'til nearly 8:00, and I headed off towards Antioch. I figured to get breakfast there, but then I passed this place on Pleasant Hill called Country Waffles. I like waffles, and any restaurant with "waffle" in the name catches my eye. Pulled into the parking lot right in time, just as a large group, several carsful, of preppy-snobby looking college kids arrived. Managed to get my waffle quickly and get back on the road to Antioch.

Stopped to reshoot Clayton & Treat. Cop in parking lot getting coffee. He pulled out as I was shooting the store and kept driving. But a few minutes later, as I left, I spotted a police car in my rearview. Wasn't sure where it had come from, but I suspected it was the same officer running my plate, the racist motherfucker.

I almost missed the turn from Treat to Clayton, and some dude got pissed at me because I suddenly realized I needed to be in the turn lane, moved to change lanes, and then stopped quickly when I saw his truck. He hit the brake himself, and I motioned for him to go ahead. He didn't, but instead showed me an empty cup. I gathered he had spilled his drink. I was not sympathetic, because... he was on the phone. Hey, dude, you can't be pissed if you spill your drink when your on the phone!

Hung out in Antioch until the last minute then rushed to Oakland. The club met at a game store next to the Temescal Cafe, so I went over to get some grub. A woman sitting by herself had a bowl of something that looked good--chili maybe? It was lentil/tomato soup, and I was about to order some when I noticed they serve breakfast all day. I can't pass that up, so for the second time I had waffles. Perhaps they were a little better than the ones from Country Waffle, but the difference wasn't that great. While I waited I noticed a woman next to me with a laptop, and I asked her if it had free Wi-Fi. We chatted for a bit, and then she went back to her laptop. Since I planned to return to the Scrabble club every two weeks, unless traveling, I asked her name and hoped to run into her again.

Okay, I figured it out. What restaurants need is to keep two different types of plastic forks on hand. If a customer just buys something soft, like eggs, they give him the flimsy fork. But for something hard to cut, like waffles, the sturdy fork. Now how can I start a movement to get restaurants to adopt my system?

After Scrabble club in Oakland, I finally headed into San Francisco for the first time in the week and a half I'd been in the Bay Area. Too bad there was so much traffic on the Bay Bridge, because it muted the feeling of satisfaction I usually feel when entering SF.

Club ended just in time for me to finally take advantage of the $15 cover window at the Mitchell Bros. O'Farrell Theatre, a gentlemen's club I had first heard about when I worked for Macromedia and took a business trip to San Francisco. I learned back then that the regular cover is $40, and for eleven years I wondered what the heck kind of club could get away with charging a $40 cover. Well, I sure found out. For starters, every single girl I saw in the place was extremely gorgeous. I could not remember the same being true of any other club I'd ever visited. One of the dancers told me those type of looks are a prerequisite.

The club was different from every other I'd visited in other respects. For one, there is an auditorium screening pornographic movies. Most interesting is that the higher-class of private rooms (which start at $240), are stocked with condoms. I must surmise from this that the club has some kind of deal with the authorities to avoid getting raided, because in any other establishment the presence of condoms would be used as evidence against the club in court.

I had read that the girls are expensive, and that's no lie. Two different told me their top price was $1000. Out of the question for me, but I still ended up breaking my record for how much I'd spent in a club. However, one way of looking at it was that I saved $700. I'm glad I got the place out of my system though, because it's definitely one to be avoided--I doubt I'll ever visit again unless Starbucking makes a gazillion dollars.

Saw something new along the streets of SF, little yellow-orange cars sporting the logo GoCar and the subtext "computer-guided tours".

Next stop was Third & Market, and I only barely made it because, once again, I had been given misinformation, that the store closed at 9:00. Well, not on Saturdays, and I walked in just a few minutes after 7:00. I would have been even later had I not been illegally parked--I'm lucky the door was even open. Anyway, staff members immediately began shouting "we're closed', "we're closed!" I asked for the supervisor and immediately gave him my spiel. He quickly poured a sample coffee in a manner that indicated he just wanted me to get out of there.

Next up was the first Colombian meal since my arrival to the Bay Area, from El Majahual on Valencia in the famous Mission District. I took my food over to the Starbucks at 24th & Noe, where one of the baristas, when I asked for a fork (because the restaurant had forgotten to give me plasticware... grrr...) said I looked familiar. I said it was definitely possible. He said "the Internet?", and I confirmed, but said no more. A few seconds later he blurted out "Starbucks Everywhere!", and I said "yep, that's me."

It was enjoyable to be recognized, and it was even more enjoyable to finally have the time and opportunity to actually hang out at a Starbucks in San Francisco instead of just rushing in and out. To the best of my recollection, I had only spent time in an SF Starbucks on one other occasion. But my enjoyment was spoiled a little by the attractive young woman who walked in carrying a small book that appeared old. I asked her about it, and she said it was a copy of "Moby Dick" she had just bought at the bookstore, indicating it was nearby, perhaps a few stores down. I said I had read the book and enjoyed it, and I hoped to engage her in conversation, but she shifted her eyes back down to the book, which indicated to me she had no interest in chatting. I tried again later, when I got up to go get a napkin, asking her how the book was. Again, she responded, politely enough, but showed no interest in me.

That incident was particularly disappointing because I was in San Francisco, where so many of the women I saw appeared to be the intellectual/artsy types that I like, rather than the Barbie types that one would see down in L.A. And here I was, finally in the Bay Area, and the two attempts I had made to make a connection had failed.

The sun set, and I hurried to get out of the Starbucks and go find a place to camp. Parking was pretty hard to find, and it took me a good 10-15 minutes to find a dark space, on Church Street. Even at 10:00 PM it was already chilly, and there was a breeze and what felt like drizzle. It felt pretty good, actually. The weather, plus the noise from the passing cars, and the cable cars, and the occasional pedestrians, created a cacophony of sound that was not unpleasant to fall asleep to.

July 28, 2006

Ended up in Concord for the night. Stopped at the Safeway for some of that yummy Organics brand yogurt that I was loving, and then across the parking lot at the Starbucks I spotted a pair of police officers. I asked about any ordinance prohibiting sleeping in the car, and they said there was, but that it was enforced selectively. I took that as a hint to take my chances, and so I did, on a dark street between an apartment complex and a park.

July 26, 2006

Woo hoo! After years of suffering gaps of 3 or more months without working out when switching contracts, I finally acknowledge that I'm getting closer to death every day and cannot afford to give those months. I checked out 24 Hour Fitness, then Bally's, and finally settled on 24. In the same plaza as the 24 Hour Fitness are several other business, , including a laundrymat. I wondered if I could leave my clothes there while working out without losing them. The question was answered for me when I left the gym to see the parking lot full of police cars. Someone had robbed the cigarette store, I was told. Days earlier, I had been told by a barista that Hayward is kind of ghetto. Guess that proved it.

July 25, 2006

Headed up to Berkeley, one of my favorite parts of the Bay Area, in no small part because of the plethora of coeds. I saw one on a skateboard, the second such female I had seen since my arrival in California, and I decided that a skateboard makes an attractive young woman even more so.

My map indicated a restaurant called Nellie's Soul Food on Shattuck Avenue, but when I reached the address I saw a bar called Dorsey's Locker. But the sign also said soul food, and I had to check it out. The might name had changed a couple of years earlier, but the vegetable plate was pretty good. Gotta hand it to soul food kitchens for throwing some pork into the beans and rice, giving it a meat flavor without having to pay for a full meat dish.

July 24, 2006

More exploration of breakfast possibilities near work, but I still haven't found a bagel shop. Lots of donut shops, 2 of 3 serve bagels but don't make them. All run by Asians.

Woo hoo! Crossing SF Bay for the first time since starting my job. Aaah... love that cool air! And the view--as Dmitry would say, "sweet!"

In San Carlos an attractive barista with a quaint name seemed to be in a state of disbelief. She asked me over and over if I was serious, if I was kidding, about my mission. Then she went into the back to grab a relatively new partner who later asked to be in the photo. The one that included him was not the best framed, not for posting on my site, but I'll include it here as a token of appreciation for his enthusiasm.

July 23, 2006

Agachukogh, 6:30 AM, and cars parked in front of the Starbucks already! When I entered, I saw they belonged to the fire department, so I figured they would not be there long. I said hi to the manager, since I didn't expect to ever be back in Susanville, and then I had to wait for some other cars to move before I could shoot the heck out of the store.

I got into my car and looked to see that I had the best route back to the Bay Area, and I realized I was in trouble. I had this idea in my mind that Los Gatos was around Oakland, and thus I'd only have about 240 miles to drive. But it was actually south of San Jose, and the direct route would be 313 miles, through the hills. I knew that would be slow, so I opted for 340 miles through Reno. I'd barely have enough time to make the tournament, and only if I was able to do 80 MPH once I hit the interstate. Rats!

Oh... getting really addicted to the Odwalla berry juices. Specifically, B Berrier, but even moreso the PomaGrand, not yet available at Starbucks.

July 22, 2006

At 6:30, despite some 9 hours, I felt ungamumgaschlish. The actual sun was not yet wisible in the sky, so I used that as an excuse to get back to sleep. Not sure if I dozed off, but by 7:07 the sun was heating up my blanket, and I had to get up and go reshoot stores around Vallejo on the way to the new one in American Canyon. At Sonoma & Redwood the light was great, and there are no parking spaces in front of the stores, so I should have been good to go. But I just couldn't seem to get the photo framed like I wanted it, straight on. Again I thought, I need one of those special cameras for shooting architecture. While I inspected my first set of photos on my laptop, two Vallejo police cars pulled up, and the officers entered the Starbucks and sat down. By coincidence an NPR segment on new fan-made Star Trek episodes came on, and I listened to it while I waited. The officers might or might not have questioned me, like a pair in Union City a years back. Hard to say. There was also someone who looked like security, on a bicycle, but he looked older and didn't seem to be paying much attention. I waited until he was on the other side of the parking lot, and for good measure I went into the Starbucks and bought some juice. By that time, the cops were leaving, and I just waited for their cars to clear the parking lot.

Everywhere I was noticing too many signs prohibiting parking, loitering, trespassing, soliciting, etc. All over the Bay Area, and I seem to remember the same thing in SoCal. Very annoying. Not so much a factor during my first visit to a store, after I have introduced myself and obtained a sample. But for reshoots, cops might hassle me for not being an actual customer. I wouldn't be arrested or prosecuted, but life is too short to be hassled by cops all the time.

A couple more reshoots in Fairfield, and as I drove around downtown looking for breakfast I could hardly believe it when I saw a sign reading "Crepes-n-more"! Wow, not where I'd have expected to find crepes. I ordered the nutella one, not expecting it to be as good as New York (and certainly not France). The presentation wasn't great--it was just plopped into a plastic to-go box with some whipped cream on the side. Not wrapped inside a... hmmm... I can't remember what that crepe was wrapped in back in Paris, nor at that decent place in Manhattan. Anyway, I coulda done without the whipped cream--it melted quickly and ended up spilling. Yuck!

Grrr... paid $3.14 for gas down in Walnut Creek, when it was only $2.99 in Fairfield. Later I would learn that Walnut Creek is a more expensive community. Wish I'da known that before!

Decided to roll through several new Sacramento-area stores before heading up to Yuba City, Chico, and Susanville. Little did I know that the high would be 109 in Sac-town!!! Ouch! It was noon when I reached Elk Grove, and already killer hot. Absolutely could not keep my black t-shirt on except to enter the stores. As the afternoon dragged on, the heat once again created a thirst that mere water could not quench, so I popped into a place called Sunset Natural Foods (I think), and I tried something new, Calypso brand strawberry lemonade. It was pretty good, but strong. Had to add some water, but that was okay, because the store had a bucket of water bottles in ice sitting outside, free for the taking.

Couldn't find El Pollo Loco out in the Sacramento suburbs, so I called ahead to Round Table Pizza in Rocklin. There, I saw something I'd never seen before, a phone-order drive-thru window. I had to circle around when another car pulled up behind me before my order was ready.

About 1-2 miles south of the Yuba county line on SR-65 the highway took a turn, and suddenly the air was cooler. Not cool, mind you, but even a few degrees cooler was greatly appreciated. But up in Yuba City itself, there was not much in the way of a breeze, and with the car moving more slowly and stopping, my body took on a sweaty sheen.

At the Starbucks I took an iTunes break. It's hard to say, but my decision to hang out there for a while might have been due to the presence of an all-too flirtatious 16-year-old who asked, sarcastically I'm sure, if my Starbucks hobby got me a lot of girls. Anyway, after listening to some tracks from the English version of Shakira's latest, I've come to the conclusion that she just sounds weird in English. I prefer her in Spanish.

Wow-caballo!!! It was so hot, even in the evening (6:00 PM), that my clutch, brake. and accelerator pedals were hot enough to sting my bare feet!

Finally! Nearly 8:00 PM, most of the way through the Lassen National Forest, I got cool air entering the car.

I reached the Susanville store around 9:00, and the light had faded too much for a good photo. But it didn't matter, because there were cars and people in front of the store anyway. I would have had to wait until morning regardless. I asked a barista about a diner I had spotted, and she recommended the Black Bear (I think). But I changed my mind suddenly and went into the Safeway for groceries, in part because I had a craving to try out that PomeGrand juice I had seen earlier, and also for some of that Organics brand yogurt. While there I noticed all sorts of products with the Organics label--everything from breakfast cereal to peanut butter.

Outside I spotted a cop car and caught up with it and asked if there was an ordinance against sleeping in the car. The officer said there is not, but that there is one against vagrancy and asked how long I planned to stay. I said just 'til sunrise, and he said I was fine and recommended the Wal-Mart, which explicitly authorized overnight parking even though it is not a 24-hour one.

July 21, 2006

My third reshoot. I had resolved to make a special effort to get better photos of as many stores as possible while I was in California, and in summer. This would mean getting up early on weekends, yuck, but also keeping a map of all the stores open wherever I drove and scoping out each store I passed for a possible reshoot. I might just get lucky, like with Mission & Sorenson. The store is in a strip mall, and there are parking spaces in front of the entire storefront. But I happened to arrive when the lighting was great and there was just one car in front. I waited a few minutes, the car left, and I had a rare golden window of about 30 seconds to get a good photo.

That was weird. A light on Mowbry, changing from green to red, didn't go directly to yyellow, but rather flashed back and forth between red and yellow, with the red kinda blinking, and the yellow blinking too. Was it an electriclal malfunction, or was it intentional to grab drivers' attention?

WOW!!! Only about 10 miles away from the Bay, on I-680 heading north to Walnut Creek, and the relatively cool air disappeared! Instead I had suffocatingly hot air entering the car. Extremely uncomfortable! What a contrast!!!

Oops! Not paying attention and I accidentally entered the HOV lane during the rush. Could have been an expensive mistake! Wait... wait... the restrictyions ended at 6:00. That's weird. I figured in heavy Bay Area traffic the HOV would be restricted at least until 7:00. Must have to do with the particular traffic flow on that stretch of I-680 (northbound between Dublin and Walnut Creek). What we need is cars with computers equipped with a database of traffic patterns.

As I suspected, Havana in downtown Walnut Creek was not an authentic Cuban restaurant, but rather one of those trendy shi-shi places filled with non-Cubans. Moros and tostones, which might have cost me about $7 at Versailles, a classic Cuban restaurant, ran me $14 bucks at Havana. And they weren't good. Blands beans and rice, and the "tostones" were too ripe! Shoulda gone for the creperie at Bonanza and Main. Hmmm... crepes!

July 20, 2006

Had to go about 15 miles out to Dublin to see A Scanner Darkly. Afterwards instead of heading directly back to park in northwest Fremont, I headed to the southeast side where there was a new Starbucks, to be visited in the morning. In sharp contrast to the portions of Mission Blvd that runs through Hayward and Union City, the Fremont portion, at least down towards I-680, seems more upscale. The upshot is that the houses looked too night to park in front--residents might notice, and they were probably the type to call the cops. I had to drive until a found a street more crowded with cars, and even better, in front of an apartment complex, on a smaller street off Walnut Ave.

July 19, 2006

Oops! Finally put on the newest pair of jeans that I bought, to wear into work. First I stopped at the Starbucks, and a kind gentleman told me that I still had one of the tag stickers on the back. Glad he told me before I arrived at work!

Called the Hayward Police Department information line, during business hours, and was transferred to someone in the traffic division who took my number and called me back later with the code that prohibits sleeping in a car. It's in the Zoning chapter.

Headed down to Scrabble club in San Jose, 33 miles from Hayward, mostly on I-880. Heavy traffic most of the way. I hoped that it would not be like that every Wednesday. After club I had to rush back

July 18, 2006

Well, I finally begin my first experience living in California, the nation's premier state. I have wanted to experience working here nearly 10 years, since I began contracting.

I arriving at work at 3:15 but only stayed for an hour because in-processing was already completed (except for a glitch with my name--my agency had given them incorrect info). My manager was busy and could not give me an intro to the project until the morning, so I was able to take off and start figuring out how to live. Food, getting online, and finding a place to sleep were the top orders of business.

The intersections start to irritate me right away. All up Hesperian Blvd, a median divider with few gaps for turning left into a business driveway. This means wasting a lot of time in traffic waiting to turn around.

While much of Microsoft Street's & Trips restaurant/hotel data might be out of date, the program was still extremely useful in indicating on what streets those businesses were located. I went over to Hesperian and north in the direction of the nearest Starbucks. At the corner of W Winton Ave, I found a local chain, Kasper's Legendary Hot Dogs. Pretty good dog, but no fries. I had to drive up to the next major intersection, W A Street I think, to the Burger King. Again, no exit from the shopping center allowed crossing the median, so I had to wait for a u-turn. Back down to Winton where the Starbucks is, and I was surprised, and pleased, to see a specially-marked gap in the median allowing entrance into the strip mall where the Starbucks is.

Back up on W A Street I had seen a couple of hotels/motels. I had heard reports of temperatures in the 100s, and that type of heat would make it impossible for me to sleep in the car. But it didn't feel like 100+, and the Starbucks baristas/patrons explained that was in the Central Valley, that here in Hayward the breeze from the Bay cooled things down. So maybe I can live on that street where work is.

Lots of females walking into this Starbucks exposing cleavage. A Hayward thing? California?

Seemingly homeless lady sitting on a bench outside a few doors down, interesting given that I'm debating where to sleep myself.

I headed back to Point Eden Way and parked behind a truck, hoping my car would not be noticed. I did manage to sleep a couple of hours, but around 9:30 a Hayward police officer woke me up and asked for ID. He said there was an ordinance prohibiting sleeping the car, but he did not tell me what it was. I went back to the Starbucks and got back on the Hayward web site, where I had already spent time searching for such a code. On the way I called 911 to see if I could get ahold of the police department, but I was connected to California Highway Patrol and put on hold for about 4 minutes before I gave up and called the Hayward Police Department number directly. The person who answered the phone said she thought there was such an ordinance and transferred me to an officer who was supposed to know more. He said there was indeed one, but he could not tell me the code, nor whether it was in the municipal code or the traffic code. Great.

I called the Fremont police department, and a sergeant there was more helpful, and more polite. He did take umbrage to my use of the word "harrassed" (in reference to the Hayward officer), but then he went on to explain that there was an ordinance against sleeping in parks and on private property, but he said there was nothing to prevent me sleeping in a car on a public street. He went on to suggest a nearby motel, the Islander, that had reasonable rates. He, of course, assumed that I was just down on my luck. I explained that, no, it was a lifestyle choice. I doubt he understood.

I went over to the Islander and immediately got a bad vibe. The attendant had an attitude, and there was a loud-laughing big-boned lady in the lobby cracking jokes. The price, $43, was okay, but I just didn't want to leave my car unattended in that area. I kept driving. I considered calling the Union City police too, but Union City is fairly small, and I was soon in the Fremont city limits. I found a quiet street off Fremont Blvd and was undisturbed.

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