Saturday morning I got up early and headed into San Francisco for the first time since I’d arrived in the Bay Area. It was an extremely foggy morning, so I couldn’t see the signs on the Golden Gate Bridge saying that you have to just drive through the plaza and pay the toll online after, so I stopped in the toll plaza and got aggressively honked at while I looked around confused trying to figure out how to pay the toll.
I’d always heard that San Francisco was a wonderful, charming place, but I didn’t find it to be so. The vertical streets and ubiquitous smell of pot didn’t suit me. I went to a couple of coffee shops to work on some writing but found it difficult because coffee shops in California work so hard to keep people from camping out that they make themselves aggressively unwelcoming. I tend to do most of my writing in coffee shops, especially when I’m traveling, and so I’ve had trouble being productive anywhere in California because of this pervasive anti-camping trend.
After wasting most of my morning trying and failing to get any writing done, I went to meet my friend Jean Hegland for a late lunch/early dinner at a fantastic restaurant called VeganBurg. As the name suggests, it’s an all vegan burger restaurant, something I’d expect in a place like Philly instead of in San Francisco. But I was almost as excited to overindulge on food as I was to finally meet Jean in person. Jean and I met when I was soliciting submissions for my Shakespeare magazine online and she offered me a free copy of her novel Still Time to review for the magazine. Still Time is an incredible novel about an aging Shakespeare scholar trying to repair his dysfunctional relationship with his daughter while his Alzheimer’s gets progressively worse. It’s a wonderful book that had me crying on the first page.
Jean and I have been chatting online for almost a year now, and I was originally going to stay with her at her house near Healdsburg when I was planning the trip on a bike and was going to be heading up the west coast instead of down.
Jean and her husband came down to San Francisco to have lunch, and after pigging out on burgers and fries we all piled into our rental car and drove south to Cupertino to catch San Francisco Shakespeare’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the car on the way down we talked shop about writing and books. Myself and Jean’s husband tried to get Jean on board with our love of Moby Dick, which she has started several times but never finished. Moby Dick has been on my mind a lot lately since I recently finished a short story based on it and I am currently listening to the audio book after having read it twice before already.
The folks at SF Shakes were kind enough to set up some lawn chairs for us up front in the park for the show so that we didn’t have to rush over to get good seats.
The park where they were performing was gorgeous and had a great amphitheater type setup for seating. Their set was amazing, a kind of round, semi circle wall on a rotating platform. The outside of the semicircle was decorated with Grecian columns to represent the city of Athens, while the inside was decorated with a forest of toadstools for the fairies to climb on. So the wall could rotate to give us Athens or the forest.
Evidently SF Shakes’ summer shows are marketed toward families and children. The audience was about a quarter kids, and the show played heavily to that demographic. As an educator and someone who’s worked on school tours of Shakespeare in the past, I appreciate any production that aims to get kids to love Shakespeare, even if that means playing the show to the <10 crowd and ignoring me. Shows like that one are the seeds others plant for me to get better students in my high school classes ten years later. Overall the show was fun, but as someone’s who doesn’t love young children, the unsupervised kids running around and occasionally falling into my lap got to be irritating for a while. At one point I had to switch chairs with Jean’s husband so I could get away from a pair of brothers who kept leaning on me and tumbling onto my legs while I was trying to watch the show.
After the show, I drove Jean and her husband back to their car in San Francisco so they could drive back home to Healdsburg and I could head back for my last night at Lesley and Bob’s place in San Rafael.
The next morning I got coffee with Lesley and Bob and then caught my last show in the Bay Area, African American Shakespeare’s Richard III. More on that in the next entry.