Book tours are like time travel
Posted on August 21, 2010 Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal 29 Comments
I have decided that book tours are a lot like time travel. Let me explain. I left Portland last week and the weather was cool and springlike. I arrived in NYC which was firmly in the grips of hot, sticky summer.
I am now in San Francisco which is autumnal. Oh sure, there are flowers blooming and the sky is blue, but that doesn’t fool me. It’s chilly here. Scalzi says that “It’s August. August is always cold in SF because central california is so hot. Sucks in all the cold air right out the pacific.”
He swears that it’s true and not just him being snarky.
Well, that’s fine and all but it still feels like time travel. Add to the fact that my body no longer has any idea what time zone it’s in plus the fact that the length of daylight also changes based on what latitude I’m in and you can start to see why I have no freakin’ idea what time it is or even the day beyond, “I’m in SF so it must be Saturday.”
Book tour differs from puppetry tours, where one generally drives and thus has a chance to acclimate to the landscape and time changes. This is all about getting in a metal tube and magically being someplace else.
The next leg of the trip is by train to Eugene, OR, so that will at least be in the same time zone although climatically different.
My opinion thus far of SF, besides the fact that it is chilly, is that it’s a good pedestrian town. I don’t mind all the hills and there are loads of interesting shops and cafes to duck into. I spent part of yesterday happily holed up in the Borderlands Cafe, which is attached to the bookstore.
This evening I’ll be reading at the SF in SF series with Cecilia Holland. Then tomorrow I’ll head over to Sausalito to visit my cousin. During the days, I’ll probably wander around in SF and do some exploring. I’ve been here multiple times before but I think this is the first time that I’m totally solo.
So, would you like to make any suggestions for what to do with myself during the day? I figure as long as I’ve made the trip through time and space to get here I should take advantage of it.
What I always say: The Slanted Door at the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street.
Less chance of getting eaten by Morlocks when you’re on a book tour.
Huh. That’s not time travel.
I spent most of 2005 and almost all of 2007 commuting between Hong Kong and Brisbane.
Both of those places are tropical swamps in the summer, and temperate in the winter. As they’re about the same distance from the equator but opposite sides of the equator, I spent a few years going from summer to winter, fall to spring (and the reverse) overnight.
As I went home (point of origin, not residence), I went from physical work outdoors in Brisbane in December to New Years Eve in Ireland two weeks later. +35 degrees C to -12 degrees C. That wakes you up. I don’t think my sense of heat has calibrated properly ever since. I now don’t care if I’m hot, because I’ll be cold soon. I’ll carry huge loads in 50+ C degrees HK heat, because I know I an cool down later.
Scalzi’s right for the normal conditions, but this year the entire state is unnaturally cold. Normally my air conditioner is on constantly in August, but this month I think we’ve only had it on two days.
Last time I had time on my own in SF to kill, I enjoyed wandering through the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park.
If you have any interest in machinery, transportation and/or history, the Cable Car museum is pretty cool.
cartoon art museum: http://cartoonart.org/ (around the corner from sf moma). valencia street.
or: take the ferry to oakland. this weekend is art+soul in downtown. http://www.artandsouloakland.com/
bonus: oakland’s generally warmer than san francisco.
Yup, as Steve @4 said, this is an unusually chilly August in the San Francisco area. Even down here in Mountain View, which doesn’t usually get so much of the “Central Valley pulling all the hot air out of the bay through the Sacramento River valley” effect, it’s been cool. I’ve been quite enjoying it, personally.
Well, if it is like time travel, be careful not to kill anyone, especially if they resemble you.
P.S. Probably best not to sleep with them either.
P.P.S. Two places I’ve heard about in SF but never gotten around to visiting are the Camera Obscura and the Winchester House.
I’ll put in a second vote for The Slanted Door (better if you go with many people.) Visit Green Apple Books. Check out the thrift stores on Haight Street — and visit The Booksmith too. There’s also an amazing French-style bakery near Borderlands– a few blocks away — although I forget its name.
The Winchester Mystery House is in San Jose, very interesting. Golden Gate Park: museums, science centers, a planetarium, aquarium, and don’t miss a walk through the Japanese Tea Garden…
City Books in North Beach. Worth visiting SF just to go there.
Ti Couz in the Mission.
City Lights Books in North Beach (plus, North Beach is fun)
Borderlands, but you knew about that.
I’m not sure City Hall is open on Saturday, but very pretty and worth a look.
Also, yes, it has been PIG-BITING COLD all summer in the city. I drive down to work in a sweater, come home and change to a T-shirt.
If you have any interest in beer and brewing, especially as related to the history of California, you should call Anchor Brewing and see if they have any slots open for their tour during the time you will be in the city. Take transit or a cab (or walk) to and from, though – there’s no parking in SoMa, and the tasting session can (will) leave you in no fit state to drive.
The DeYoung Museum is a hoot. The weird twisty tower thing gives you a great view of the city. Also, you could go to North Beach and have something from Caffee Trieste and if you’re lucky there will be a large number of mandolin players there. Or you could wander around in the Mission District — between South Van Ness and say Dolores east-west and between say 16th and Cesar Chavez or even down to 30th north-south — and just pop into the many many weird little bookstores, fringe galleries, and wonderful ethnic restaurants, bakeries, delis and grocery stores and sometimes frankly bizarre coffeehouses. Sometimes the ethnic things are combinations, and some of the combinations are not ones you’d imagine if you tried.
It can happen on other scales too.
I saw some of the same spring flowers in bloom in Afghanistan I’d seen in Australia seven months before.
Hopefully you made it to the street food festival that was going on today (technically still is till 7pm, but alot was sold out by 4). Was some phenomenal “truck food”.
Seconding the recommendations for the Botanic Gardens and the Cable Car Museum.
Also, the Asian Art Museum is fabulous. And if you’re into that sort of thing, check out the Cartoon Art Museum.
the Pier 23 Cafe! It’s fantastic, and was even on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network!
23 Pier San Francisco, CA 94124
It’s also unseasonably cold today (at least inland). Sunday should be more normal, yet cool in SF.
You’re in San Francisco. The first thing /I’d/ do is head over to that pyramid-shaped building, find Chinatown, and ask around for a good dim sum place.
There will be plenty.
This has nothing to do with SF – but will you be reading in Eugene, and if so when??
The Raygun Gothic Rocketship just landed at Pier 14, to the right of the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, for a year-long stay.
I’d second the DeYoung Museum suggestion. They have a very cool Impressionist exhibit on at the moment.
I’d also second the Anchor Brewing Co. tour, but they book it out months in advance, so the hopes for that are slim to none.
One of the business mags, I forgot if it was CIO or Forbes, did a whole issue on time about 10 years ago. One of the essays really struck me: the author said the NW native americans had a proverb about never traveling faster than your soul can walk. That meant long plane/train trips left you feeling basically souless for a few days until your spirit caught up to you. I always thought that was a great definition for jet lag.
1. San Francisco is always cold. The local joke is that you can tell the tourists by the fact that they’re wearing shorts and a hastily-purchased jacket with “I (heart) San Francisco” (or some variety thereof.)
2. Time travel = spring break in Spokane, Washington. Spring, autumn, winter, summer, usually in that kind of order. I’m not joking, either. Four seasons in one week.
3. Too late, I suppose, but I always liked the California Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium.
4. Train ride– let me guess, the Coast Starlight. Buy eye covers for the overnight part because someone will invariably leave their curtain open just where the rising sun will get in your eyes. And have your camera available for the morning because the scenery is just gorgeous.
I also like the Eugene train station.
5. Hmm. Eugene… Smith Family Bookstore (either location), McMenamin’s pub on High Street (parking behind off the alley)… um… Skinner Butte is a nice walk, or look at the scale solar system on the bike trail if you want a walk on the flat.
(I was really broke* when I lived in Eugene, and now we just go to visit family, so most of the things I know are the cheap/free things.)
*Really, really broke. Yogurt was an indulgence broke.
Sorry you’re not in Eugene on the weekend; Eugene Saturday Market can be pretty amazing (disclaimer: I’m a vendor there). If you were Scalzi, I’d recommend the new Voodoo Donuts shop for maple bacon bars…
Tsunami Books is a lovely little independent bookstore; enjoy your visit there.
#21) The Golden Dragon. Fabulous dim sum, paraded by on little carts just as it should be (the last couple of places I had dim sum in the East Bay, you had to order from a menu — bah!)
You guys rock. I wound up being taking on an icecream crawl and visiting several prime locations. Saw the Raygun Gothic Rocketship though admittedly only from a distance. Wanted to get to Slanted Door and failed.
Eugene was great fun. I read at Tsunami Books and did a tiny puppet show.