The Bay, a home away from home

I took a sketchy craigslist rideshare from Hollywood to San Francisco, and only realized half way that the couple driving me were on their way to the Iceland vs. Mexico soccer game in San Jose. I nearly blew my plans to join them, but had a special invite to a ´play´ party that I couldn´t miss.

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San Fran´s cable cars

I based myself in San Francisco for the weekend, the city itself, which is rare for my bay visits. I studied at Berkeley, once lived in Oakland, and usually stayed with friends in Walnut Creek or Danville. Now a handful of UBC friends live in San Fran, Alameda and San Leandro, so that’s where I bounced around for a week.

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my adopted family and hounds for the week

It´s getting rare to sleep on couches anymore, because my friends are all grown up, figuring life out with their families and houses with guest bedrooms. Our conversations revolved around pregnancies, children, home remodeling, gardening and the bowel movements of pets. I became a live-in au pair for Maya, whose 34 week belly made her less inclined to do house chores or walk the dog. We did manage to do some pregnant yoga, bake and cook a ton and I squeezed a whole lot of lemons and oranges into delicious, fresh, vitamin C rich juice.

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at the Stefan/Mane/Isabelle household for brunch

My friends Stefan and Mane bought a house in Alameda, where they´re waiting for their second miracle to enter the world. Their first daughter Isabelle is quite possibly the cutest kid I´ve seen – I totally understand the desire to make another one. We spent day on the beach flying the biggest, highest kite I´ve flown, and when everyone was busy working, We ate Ethiopian food in Berkeley for Maya´s mother´s birthday and drank patio beers at MadOak on the first hot, summer night of the year. I took a brewery tour on a pedal bike around Alameda, finally figuring out that I may be allergic to hops, not anything flour or gluten related.

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flying kites at Alameda beach

I reconnected with a couchsurfer I met traveling in Albania in 2016, first for coffee and an overpriced kimchi croissant (only in Frisco), and a night out in the city. A friend Billy was throwing a party to celebrate his self-proclaimed entry into a degenerate lifestyle, after quitting his cush job at Google and buying twenty people food and drinks at a speak easy bar called Bourbon & something. We had the ´Russel Room,´ hidden behind a rotating wall disguised as a bookshelf on one side, and a cigar cupboard on the other, and made way to an art-deco room that looked like a movie set, but was clearly authentically original, complete with its pre-Vegas Chihuly chandelier.

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Easter Sunday hike

My main goals in California were to eat plenty of In n Out, animal style, and shop at all or any Trader Joe´s that I saw. We hiked thru some red woods and poison ivy, discovered that the Oakland Zoo is not pet-friendly, and I assisted in a photo shoot with two Jess´s for maternity wear being modeled by Maya. Ironically enough the photographer Jess was also pregnant, and I started to wonder how much exposure I could have to pregnant women before being bit by the mommy gene. Fortunately for me, I´m now even more positive I never want to be pregnant, since everyone else seems to do it so much better than I ever could.

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City hopping in ‘Merica

I love being Canadian because they basically treat us as Americans when we fly into their horribly unorganized airports. I don’t need to fill out some I-94 form or ESTA waiver and I can stay up to 3 months without any hassle. I still get fingerprinted everytime, and  from time to time, asked for proof of departure, but I can always just say Im driving to Canada after and then I dont need to show any flight booking. And I learned never to have an e-ticket or electronic boarding pass, since you’re not allowed to use your phone in any customs hall, even if its to show your flight out of the US.

Me and Clio at Minnehaha Falls

Me and Clio at Minnehaha Falls

After some 10 weeks straight of horse back riding in the Icelandic highlands, summer finally met me in Minneapolis. Its a direct 6 hour flight from Iceland, over Greenland and northern Canada, that plops you right int he middle of a thousand lakes. There are lakes everywhere, which makes it a very green and bike friendly state, but like Iceland, the summers are short and most things are dead, frozen and/or snow covered for more than half the year. I’d been twice in the winter to visit my best friend Clio, and this was the first time I had seen the city in bloom, and it made a much better impression on my summer-seeking soul. Of course we rode bikes, and swam in lakes, and then we satisfied my culture side with some visits to the strange-looking Wesiman Art museum, the Walker Art Center Sculpture garden, and the fancy schmancy Nordic inspired  restaurant Bachelor Farm.

Sculpture garden selfie infront of the spoon

Sculpture garden selfie infront of the spoon

I had $900 in American Airlines vouchers to try to use up, so I hopped over to Seattle for a short visit. I can count the number of hours I was there on my fingers and toes, but it was still worth the visit to see my photographer friend Mike Reiter settled into his new home and peek into his working life at corporate giant Amazon. Apparently everyone takes their dog and bikes to work, so Seattle is also a hipster-lifestyle friendly place, but Oakland-native Mike Reiter is anything but hipster. But the Chocolate factory and whiskey distillery that he lives between makes up for it, since he gets to wake up every morning to the sweet smell of chocolatey whiskey. He was proud to show me Pike Place market in downtown Seattle, but I’m not sure I fully appreciated the highlights: men throwing fish and a long line up outside the first ever Starbucks.

boating on the Delta

boating on the Delta

My next destination was San Francisco and the east Bay, back to the hills I used to live in 5 years ago. It was crazy to come into this highway congested bay and see two road-kill deer on the side of the road, but just behind the hills are huge forests and parks with lots of open space for wildlife. There’s a severe draught going on, but in the valleys behind the bay theres a series of canals called the Delta where boaters take their little yachts for joy rides. My friend had a little speed boat we took out to soak up some sun, and water, and I finally got that sun-kissed bronze glow on my skin that my body’s been missing in Iceland.