Sunday, March 04, 2007

Parades and being a Bay Area Blogger

I have a habit of arriving in American cities on the day of a parade. A couple of years ago I walked out of my hotel in New York and straight into Gay Pride. The sight of the NYPD's swishy-ist followed by the NYC Gay Trekkies Association was something of a highlight of that particular trip. Yesterday, after landing in San Francisco I was told by the concierge of my hotel, a man who takes great delight in shouting my surname as I approach, that the Chinese New Year parade was taking place in the city that afternoon. Inevitably, I had forgotten to pack half the stuff that I needed for this trip so I figured I could walk down to Union Square, buy stuff and watch some Chinese dragons before the jet lag really slammed me and I fell over.

We don't do parades very well in London. The Lord Mayor's Easter Parade is always a bit self conscious and I've always been far to drunk to appreciate the Notting Hill Carnival and in reality it always tends to be a competition to see who has the loudest flout with visuals relegated to a couple of blokes holding cans of Red Stripe going deaf and grinning.

So, after strolling through town and getting lost a few times, which is the best way to learn anything about a new city, finding myself in the area that the concierge had highlighted on my map as somewhere to avoid unless I wanted to buy "good crack", getting out of said area without even being offered any bad crack, I finally found myself surrounded by small children hepped up on cotton candy and throwing exploding caps at each others feet. The street smelt of gunpowder, I don't know if this in unusual for San Francisco, probably par for the course on a particularly frisky night down in good crack alley, but it all added to the slightly surreal jet lag tinged experience. Actually, the streets were full of people waiting patiently for the parade to start munching on Chinese food, whilst kids threw caps and little girls swished around in those groovy silk Chinese trouser/pyjama suit things.

I have to admit watching some parts of the parade and some of the spectators with jet lagged bemusement. A selection of open topped cars went past with what I can only assume where local government officials sitting in the back waving to the crowd. This would be unimaginable in the U.K, where only members of girl bands or reality TV show contestants get to do such things. The marching bands went twirling past and to my completely uneducated ear one of them, a band from Balboa High School appeared to be playing the theme tune from Rocky. This could have been a "band camp" joke or something more significant, I just don't know, but it made me laugh. A morbidly obese man in some sort of US Army cadet uniform barged past me and I had to figure he was in some sort of pie eating battalion. A man with a mullet I had assumed banned by Geneva Convention asked me directions. Once the parade proper started I enjoyed myself greatly, as dragons and pint sized Shaolin temple students flew past whilst I ate some pretty good BBQ pork and corn fritters from a street side vendor. Finally, having been awake for what seemed like a week I staggered back to the hotel and collapsed on the bed.

This is a town with the highest concentration of food bloggers in the world and having joined thier ranks for a couple of weeks I figured I should get some tips. As I type I'm waiting for cookiecrumb to pick me up to meet Sam and various others food blogger types for brunch, that most singular of American meals, in the mean time I'm gonna drink coffee and indulge in my penchant for infomercials.


Anonymous said...

Nick! I always wondered why we had never seen you and the mysterious 'jamfaced' in the same room we know..

Enjoy San Fran!

Jules + Eva

cookiecrumb said...

It's a strange mind-bend to read your post today, knowing you wrote it here in San Francisco, and that I just came home from having the BEST time getting to know you. Cranky is lolling on the couch, repeating his mantra: "That was a lot of fun."
Get some sleep. See you soon.

Catherine said...

God...I missed the Chinese Parade and Brunch! Quelle misere.

I don't know how you feel about it, but it seems like Mexican food would be a good thing for a Brit blogger to try here in SF ( although this is largely prejudiced by a my last trip to England and a mispronunciation of tortilla chips). There's Dona Tomas in Oakland that's supposed to be awesome (I recently won their cookbook). If you want to come to Marin, there's Piccos and also The Lark Creek Inn. I bet we could get cookie and cranky for a Marin dinner. Have fun!