Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Val in SF this week

I just completed two days of Construction Administration training for work, taught by a retired colonel from the Army Corps of Engineers, now an ASCE instructor at University of Kentucky. It was fascinating material about the risks and litigation involved in building the structures we live, work, and play in (and on) everyday. I'm fascinated with this industry--all of its intricacies and how thousands of pieces come together to define a "project" which then turns into a building. Or a bridge. Or an oil platform. Or a housing development. If architects, contractors, and owners streamlined their communication and worked more ethically, things like the Minneapolis bridge collapse wouldn't happen. It's an amazing industry to me, and learning things as I did this week makes me appreciate my job--marketing construction project collaboration tools for Autodesk, Inc.--even more.

It's strange being back in SF, but so far I don't regret moving to NM! It's fantastic being a tourist in this town: I get to stay at a trendy boutique hotel in the Financial District, jog on the Embarcadero every morning, get fresh coffee at Peet's in the SF Ferry Building, go to amazing dinners at the best new restaurants, and catch up with friends when I can sneak in some time.
Monday I had the honor of sharing lunch with my friend Bruce at Perbacco. We caught up on his new job at The Economist, and I got to hear about his upcoming trip to The Lost World in Venezuela, where several unique species of life abound--and are to be found nowhere else in the world (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a book titled The Lost World in 1912, which inspired Michael Crichton's 1995 novel by the same name, the sequel to Jurassic Park). The Lost World is so remote, you either have to scale mountains to get to the top of the tepuis--or mesas--or hire a helicopter to take you up and camp for several days in the remote wilderness. Looking forward to his stories and photos when he returns.
Monday evening I shared a cozy meal of comfort food at Presidio Social Club with Grace from work. While we waited at the bar for our cab to pick us up, the bartenders filled their downtime by introducing us to a digestif liqueur called Chartreuse. This pungent, bitter, electric green/yellow liqueur is infused with 130 Alpine herbs, plants and flowers, the recipe known only by 3 Carthusian monks in France, and therby passed down to the next 3 monks as a legacy. The ensuing 20 minutes at the bar became a very informative and interesting digestif tasting. We learned about Cynar (an Italian digestif made from artichokes--very bitter!), Angostura bitters, and the elixir of San Francisco bartender initiates: Fernet-Branca (ew--do not attempt tasting on its own!). We finished off with a time-tested reliever of the common tummy ache: Cynar bitters with Ginger Ale and a squeeze of lime. Not half bad!

Tuesday evening, I visited our friends Chris and Ivan at their beautiful new home in the Oakland hills. Their idyllic neighborhood must have been featured in the JC Penney catalog at some point--narrow, tree-lined streets full of crisp, yellow autumn leaves and Arts & Crafts-era houses each showing off their unique colors and accents. I'm so proud of them--their home is beautiful and their careers are burgeoning. Chris's company Doubleclick is en route to be acquired by Google. Can you say gazillionaire?!?! We spent the evening dining at Oakland's fairly new Tamarindo restaurant, which wasn't as much to write home about as we thought it would be but the company and pomegranate margaritas were outstanding, so not too much was lost.

We then returned to their house so I could preview decorations for their upcoming Halloween party. If their life-size, motion-detected Haunted Donna doesn't freak you out, you have nerves of steel my friend!

Wednesday I spent the day working in the San Francisco office. I fit in a lunch at one of my favorite sushi spots, Ozumo, and spent the evening at Jennet and Tom's house in Orinda. They're 6 months pregnant and have an adorable 2-year old, Jarret. Tom showed me the incredible new shed he spent the past 3 months building (more like a small house), and Jennet made us a healthful, home-cooked meal of oven-fried chicken and quinoa with fresh fruit for dessert. It doesn't get much better than that.

This trip was good for the soul for many reasons:

1) I learned a lot about the construction industry and my personal role in it

2) I had the opportunity to spend quality time with friends at lunch and in the evenings

3) I learned that I truly WANT what I HAVE. I sorely missed Jon, the cats, and our lovely home so much while in the Bay Area; an unexpected, but welcome reaction. I'm IMMENSELY happy to be home this weekend!

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