Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


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Tonight in SF

This was my dinner tonight. It was supposed to be oysters, and clam chowder, and maybe crab carapace fat. Instead, I had a Mediterranean crepe with greens and rosemary potatoes. Here’s how this happened.

Because I’m in San Francisco this weekend, I figured I’d like to try Swan Oyster Depot for dinner. I’d seen it on one of the Anthony Bourdain shows –  an episode of “The Layover,” to be exact, that focused on San Francisco. I’d been to some of the places featured, including The Tonga Room, but I’d never even heard of Swan Oyster Depot. Bear in mind:  I love oysters. And clam chowder. And crab carapace fat sounded just noxious enough that I’d like to try it just so I could tell people about it and watch them wince. So I got into my car and drove through thudding rain from the Westin I’m staying at 20 minutes into the city.

I found the restaurant with no problem, and even a parking spot only three blocks away. (A near-miracle in this city.) I even managed to claw two dollars in change out of my car to cover the parking meter. I got to Swan Oyster Bar and, as the program promised there would be, there was a line outside. Which was fine — except I needed the restroom. Coffee and water will do that to you. I cut through the line and inside and found that there is no restroom. So I went on my iPhone and found the nearest Starbucks (which has displaced McDonald’s as the nearest bathroom near you no matter where you are), went over there and availed myself of the facilities. When I came back, the line was considerably shorter. I thought, Wow, my lucky day — until the guy in front of me pointed out that the guy in front of him had the last place in line. How did he know that? Because the guy was holding a sign, provided by the restaurant, that said, “Last customer in line.” The guy in front of me said, “Look at it this way:  At least now neither one of us has to wait in line.” I considered arguing it out with the owner, a middle-aged Frenchman who just then pulled up in a van (I recognized him from the show), or maybe making a plea to his vanity — “I came all this way from Burbank because I saw you on this show” — but I suddenly realized I didn’t feel like eating there anyway. Swan Oyster Bar is just that — an oyster bar — with all the clatter of a soup kitchen. I realized instead that where I really wanted to be was that crepe place I had passed on the way here… so I headed over to the crepe place. Hence the dinner above, downed with a Stella Artois, to my great enjoyment.

Other things that happened while on this little escapade:

I passed a Thai massage place. It looked clean and legitimate. My neck was killing me, so I figured I’d get a massage. Their next appointment was 7 p.m. It was 5 p.m. I told them that no, I didn’t want to wait. So then I went to the Around Me app on my iPhone and found another Thai massage place. I headed over there. They told me that they were sorry, they didn’t have anyone available. By now, I was starting to feel like the fellow in the Monty Python sketch who keeps trying to order cheese from a cheese shop that evidently has no cheese. Do these places sell massages or not? By now, I was near the AMC movie theatre on Van Ness. It was only another three blocks, so I went over to see what was playing. I want to see “Lincoln,” but I want to take my family, so that was out. I want to see “Cloud Atlas,” but it wasn’t starting until 7:10; if I felt like waiting for anything for two hours, it would’ve been the massage. Plus the thought of getting out at 10:30 (it’s a long movie) and then walking back to my car in the rain and then getting back on the 101 South back to my hotel at that hour wasn’t proving too attractive. I had my finger poised on the ticketing touch screen to buy a ticket to the 5:30 screening of “Looper” when I realized that I no longer felt like seeing that movie. So I walked back out, having accomplished nothing.

At this point, I was starting to recall the novel “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun, in which the protagonist wanders the city on one failed mission after another while growing more bedraggled and forlorn. This may have been when my umbrella turned inside out in the gale-force wind.

I went back to the Around Me app to see what was nearby and found that now I was near a third massage parlor. I walked the three blocks down to this one and found that this one did not look legitimate. In fact, it looked like a great place to get knifed. Next door was a punk club. I have liked punk clubs in my lifetime, but I don’t want to patronize massage parlors that are next to them. So I trudged back to my car, stopping in at a Walgreens and a Tru Value hardware store along the way in search of a replacement umbrella and finding none. I kept what was left of my battered umbrella open as best I could, until finally I gave up and just decided to get wet.

Once back at the hotel, I decided I’d go sit in the jacuzzi. That would help my neck. So I changed into my swimsuit and walked down and found that the jacuzzi was out of order. The water was warm, but the jets wouldn’t perform. After I called the hotel maintenance man, he made a valiant effort to get them to work, ratcheting away at something beneath a trap door, then going back into the secret machine laboratory to work on various mechanical geegaws back there, and he was still working on it when I gave up on alternating between the pool and the still waters of the jacuzzi and came back up to the room.

Once up here, I did finally get my neck to stop aching. Two vodka-cranberries will do that.

One Response to “Tonight in SF”

  1. Paul Says:

    Don’t let a misadventure like this happen in San Diego at Comic Con!

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