I just got back from my annual Bay Area trip. This trip does things to me; it's like I go up expecting an epiphany. I'm all, I'm going to see the light rriigghhhtt . . . .NOW! My yearly epiphany will be reported in the next post because this particular post is solely about the blast I had.
My BFF Betsy, who I have visited up there every year for the last million years, and her MF (man forever) Jim unexpectedly got married at a court house a few months ago. All of the friends, upon hearing the surprising news, smacked our heads and said DUH, you guys are perfect for each other. Before the news, we were respectful of their union, which had no need for a ceremony/piece of paper/government ok (and whatever else the unwed proclaim) to validate them as a couple. Betsy and Jim could've never married and it would not have changed their course of foreverness. But the news of their marriage sent a jolt of romanticism through their circle of friends. We are all genuinely happy for them; almost giddy even. And if it's Betsy and Jim's style to run down to a courthouse one day and blurt quick I DO's, it certainly was more appropriate for them to throw a huge party to celebrate, which they did this past Saturday.
Ok, before I get to the party, I will say that this trip was not just about bestowing blessings on free-spirited newlyweds because my trip would not have been complete had it not also been Vegan Restaurant Tour 2006.
I made Quaniesha come with me this year. It was an easy pitch because she's from the Bay Area and more importantly, on her birthday a couple weeks ago she became a vegan. It was her gift to herself, and she couldn't wait to check out the vegan eating scene. Since I am an anal-ass Virgo, I made a list -- including times and duration, of course -- of places to go and where to eat. And because Quan is also an anal-ass Virgo, I was not embarrassed to show her the list. She dug the list. We drove five lightening hours from LA to San Francisco. We didn't ponder the dull scenery because we've both made this drive many times so we blahblahblah'ed for what seemed like an hour until we suddenly saw the windmills gracing the Altamont Pass, dotting highway 580 and dutifully collecting energy.
Our first stop was the Rainbow Coop which is the Costco of natural food stores. We ambled around the cooking utensil aisle and the book aisle and the bulk body care aisle and the raw packaged-food aisle for an hour and a half ending up in the vegan bakery section by which time we were starving. We thought, we can get vegetables down in LA so why waste cart space when it's needed for blueberry cobbler and cinnamon scones and other ridiculously delicious items. We snacked on baked goods the whole glorious weekend long.
Later that night we met Betsy and Jim for dinner at Millennium. I've only been talking up this restaurant for, oh, 365 days since the last time I went. Quaniesha was probably thinking THIS HAD BETTER BE THE MEAL OF A LIFETIME for all the build up. But it was unreal. When you can look across a table, across an entire restaurant and see people's eyes closed, shaking their heads, quietly chewing, you know a level of perfection has been achieved. Highlights: Sesame Cornmeal Crusted Oyster Mushrooms, Seared Corn & Hijiki Cake, Egyptian Peppers Stuffed with Minced Tofu and Pecans (I'M NOT MAKING THESE DISHES UP) . . . one dish had a watermelon & jicama relish -- I mean, COME ON! And for dessert: Fig Polenta Upside Down Cake and Terrine Of Avocado & Lemon Ice Cream topped with salty crystallized ginger. It was mind blowing. It was all ridiculous. Quan said, "There is absolutely no need to eat flesh foods again." We spent two and a half hours there after which I asked the waiter, "Is it over so soon?" Then I sobbed on his shoulder.
Of all the things written on my neatly-scripted itinerary, we did only about half. Millennium, check. Cafe Gratitude (which I'll get to later this week), check. We bailed on going to Cha Ya the new vegan sushi spot in the east bay because we ran out of time and stomach room. We also ditched the Vegetarian World Day which was also going on that weekend at Golden Gate Park and decided to explore Berkeley instead. And, of course, Betsy & Jim's party, big-ass check.
Here's what makes a party spectacular: Good music & flowing libations are nice to have -- almost important --, a killer location is icing, but the key is when you get a group of people together that don't have sticks wedged up their asses. Then, voila, good times are suddenly steam rolling forward. At the party there were friends from each decade of Betsy's and my life: There was one woman I have know since I was nine; there were high school friends, people I befriended from Betsy's years at Berkeley, and lord, did we all know how to have a good time. The first dance music that Betsy put on was swing music. She yelled, "If you can't dance to this you're fucked!" Partnerless, we all looked at each other and then broke into versions of the mash potato, goofy kick-and-jive type movements, the floor worm, that thing where you swivel your feet around and shake your fingers; in semi-formal wear, we tried to jump and straddle each other . . .it was side-splitting, yo. At the fabulous party house that B & J rented for the occasion, there was a round, red love bed just off of the living room and we all took turns doing Austin-Powers type poses on the bed. We even got the hors d’oeuvre guys to put down their trays and strike a pose. Then we salsa'ed. Then a couple people got pantsed. Then we posed on the Vespa that was parked like a sculpture off the bar. We took action shots on it like it was in motion and we were hanging on for dear life through the streets of Europe. Then Betsy's mom tried to untie my wrap skirt. Then we samba'ed. Then Dirk asked Quan if he could try on her dress. But she didn't do that. She did get serenaded by one of the bartenders until the boss shoo'ed him off. Then Amy told me how drunk she was and showed me her stomach while proclaiming, "But I have a great ass!" Which is true. Then we all got in the 1950's Air Stream that was set up in the backyard like an extra room. Then we laughed and laughed, doubled over even, until the boss of the house told us we had to leave. Quan and I laughed all the way to back to the hotel room. We laughed while trying to fall asleep under stiff hotel blankets in a sterile wood-grain room lit yellow from the parking-lot light.
We laughed about it all again during the first half of the drive back home. But when we got to a rainy Grapevine as we snacked on the last of our vegan baked treasures, we became quiet and stared at dry, cream-colored hills. She surely was thinking about her own Bay Area epiphanies, and I was thinking about mine.
More pictures now in Flickr.