I’ve got the first step toward enlightenment totally covered

Yesterday Willow and I went to San Francisco to visit the (totally cool, supah-renovated) Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

Aquarium and Garden with Willow Nov 09 045.JPG
Buddha says hello

Because I am not an excellent driver, this was sort of a Big Deal.  I went to school in San Francisco, but I lived far away in the Santa Cruz mountains for much of that time, and SF State is really easy to get to from the south bay, so I didn’t get in much city driving.  It wasn’t originally going to be that much of a Big Deal; I mean, I do know how to drive to and from Golden Gate Park (85 to 280 to 19th to the park.  It’s easy!), but I was still nervous, because any city driving takes all my focus and minivans aren’t really at all very mini.  Anyway, we were still on 280 when I saw a sign that said something about a closure?  On 19th Avenue?  So I ignored that, because I didn’t want to give up my plan, but I did ask Willow to take a break from the nonstop string of jokes so I could think.  Not jokes in the usual sense of the word, but jokes like little kids who don’t quite get jokes tell.  Since the jokes all sound random and nonsensical to them and everyone laughs, then the ones they make up are hilarious.  You know how it goes; you tell the kid a joke: Why was six afraid of seven?  Because seven ate nine!  And, because they don’t quite grasp that, you get this back: Why was five afraid?  Because it saw a turkey!

Ha. . . haha.

I think after a two minute dissection, she did finally get the seven ate nine joke, but she’s still young enough to be a) too literal for jokes, and b) a crappy liar.

Anyway, by the third very clear warning, it’s dawning on me that my route to the park is not going to happen, so I pull out my phone and start looking at the map.  I think I’ve got it figured out, and because I see a lot of streets with arrows on them, I have a little faith that the map is showing me (Thank you, map!) all the one way streets.  Which, really, I think it may have been, but what it doesn’t get are the ones that may as well be one way because in San Francisco the precious and rare left turn is only allowed on the summer solstice between 4:46 and 4:47 pm, and not during a leap year and not if the solstice occurs on a Friday or if you are actually driving a car.  Sorry!  You can SEE where you want to go, but if you really wanted to get there, you’d have made sure to approach from the other direction, and what are you anyway, a REPUBLICAN?  Jeez.

And that is how Willow and I found ourselves driving away from where we needed to go, and toward l-o-s-t.  We made a right turn, parked in front of a residential driveway without our hazard lights on, texted SG that 19th is closed and I am LOST, and then consulted the phone map which thought we were someplace not where we really were.  That was ok, because I figured it out, but I didn’t have a lot of faith at the time that I was right. 

By the time I parked in the parking garage (which I am very frightened of because this is a known earthquake area, and parking garages are made of heavy materials and also I am pretty claustrophobic) I was certain that I would not be able to drive us home, so I started figuring out how SG could come get us.  Maybe he could ride his motorcycle up, and we could fold the seats down in my van and put it in back and he could drive us home.  Or something.

Originally I just wanted to go to the Japanese Tea Garden, but Willow sniffed out the Academy of Sciences and so we went there first.  I paid $24.95 (she is only six and gets in for free without me having to lie about her age) so that we could power walk around the place for two hours while she asked every seven minutes to go to the rooftop garden.  We saw the aquarium, and we sprinted through the rain forest exhibit, and we had lunch (side of chips FOUR DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS.  I hate to think what they’d charge if the chips weren’t stale), and then we power walked through the aquarium again and then, I finally figured out that I had the map turned around and that is why what should have been the stairs to go to the rooftop garden were just bathrooms.  We walked up to the garden, and I am not kidding, she walked around the perimeter in fifteen seconds, and then cut in line for the elevator back down.  I told her we needed to wait in the line, at the back of the line, and asked didn’t she want to see the garden since she’d been asking the whole time?  She looked up at me, with pity, and said, I just saw it.

Yeah.  I guess you did, I said, and we went down to cruise the gift shop.

By that time it was 4:05, and the Tea Garden closes at 4:45, so I talked her into going.  She wasn’t really into it on the way there, but once inside?  Total favorite place, ever. 

willow at the tea garden.JPG

She made the loop of all the walkways within moments of arriving, and then I trailed her and took pictures.  At one point, the arches of both my feet cramped so badly I nearly cried.  I couldn’t walk, so I just stood there for a few minutes, and then sort of shuffled over closer to Willow and took some more pictures.  I was still sure that we’d just have to sleep in the car in the garage, because I wasn’t going to be able to face finding our way back home.  The phone map wanted me to head east in some convoluted way and cross Market St. and then take 101.  I was thinking about that while Willow was jumping around.  And I decided that I’d just try taking the way I (sorta) knew home and seeing how it went.

blurry tea garden.JPG

We went to get a cup of tea, but the person in front of us was the last one served and we were told that they were closed.  Willow was sweet about it, so I took her back into the Tea Garden gift shop and let her get the mini Hello Kitty that she’d been clutching earlier.

So we left, finally, the sun setting and Willow clutching her Hello Kitty and me positively grim about having to drive.  I looked at the map one last time, thought about following the directions that would take us east to 101, and then chucked the phone onto the passenger seat.  I went the way I thought was right, and then started home, fingers crossed.  And, miracle of miracles, it was the right way,  I was able to turn LEFT to get where I needed to be, and the road wasn’t closed in the other direction.  We drove past the construction workers tearing up the road and working on the train tracks and I pointed them out to Willow and said, That’s what caused all our trouble today, right there!  Then the light turned yellow, and I sped up, because that is how city drivers drive if they don’t want to get the shit beaten out of them by the other city drivers behind them when the light turns yellow, and just as we were headed out of the intersection there was a flash against the mostly dark sky above us and now it’s
just a matter of checking the mail to see if we were busted by the red light camera.  And construction zones?  Double fine.  I figure it must’ve been nearly instant payback for getting that left hand turn. 

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