November 14, 2011 at 7:07 am
I don’t remember the last time I hopped. I have bad knees, and hopping subjects them to two or three times the force of my body weight, so I am pretty much anti-hopping these days. Despite that, Friday was dedicated to the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour of San Francisco, with several cool stops in between all the hopping.
I was staying with friends in the Mission area of San Francisco, so I kept singing “Past the Mission” by Tori Amos any time I came or went from their place. I took a public bus past the mission (but not behind the prison tower) to a Hop On stop. I chose this particular bus company because I got a half-off voucher via the Travelzoo mailing list. Their buses come by every 20-30 minutes, and if you have a choice between getting on the double-decker bus or the open-air trolley, get on the trolley. You might think the bus would be better since it’s bigger, but it’s rather boring because the driver doesn’t talk. You just get a headset and a lame, pre-recorded narration that’s triggered every once in a while. For the most part, you sit in silence and don’t know what you’re looking at. However, the trolley driver also serves as the tour guide. He constantly tells you about the stuff you see and some of the drivers are quite entertaining. Willy was by far my favorite, and I was bummed I didn’t catch his trolley again after I’d hopped off at Pier 39, my first stop of the day.
Pier 39 is the tourist area of Fisherman’s Warf on the north side of San Francisco. I bought some chocolate and some cool socks, though no chocolate socks. I also bought a long-sleeve shirt because I was the doofus who left her hoodie in her friend’s apartment, which I did not have a key to. The trolley has better narration, but it can get damn windy and cold up there even with long sleeves. When we drove through a tunnel later, the air was hot in addition to windy and I felt like I might suffocate. I survived though, obviously. There is no blogging from the afterlife. They must have the Internet in heaven though, right? Otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven.
Pier 39 is also home to the famous sea lions who go “Arf, arf!” and could make a good living if they would only hassle tourists for tips like the Bush Man. Yes, there is a man who dresses like a bush and jumps out at unsuspecting tourists. Then he asks them for money. He was doing this when I visited San Francisco three years ago, so it must pay well. That job must get monotonous after awhile though. It must take all the fun out of terrifying people.
I hopped back on the bus and then hopped off again a couple stops later at the Presidio gates. This stop happened to be up the path from Lucasfilm. Follow the sidewalk down and you’ll see this:
(Well, you’ll see Yoda, but not me. I don’t live on Dagobah.) A fountain this is! The Lucasfilm lobby is open to the public. If you happen to be in the area, I’d recommend stopping by, but don’t go out of your way unless you’re a truly hardcore Star Wars fan.
The lobby contains many wondrous things like light sabers, life-size replicas of Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and a thermal detonator. (I hope they disarmed that.)
I gotta’ admit, Vader is one tall dude. I would definitely freak out if he boarded my spaceship looking for stolen plans. Big props to Princess Leia for not wetting herself upon seeing him.
Because the lobby is the only place open to the public you’d think this is where the visit ends, right? WRONG! The editor of my second book, Chocolate & Vicodin, recently left her job at Simon & Schuster to work as the senior editor of Star Wars books. Aw yeah, that’s right! I got a private tour of Lucasfilm! I’m sure visiting Simon & Schuster would have been cool too, but they would have to bring their A game to beat a place where the coffee shop is called Javva the Hutt.
The Lucasfilm hallways are filled with lots of cool movie memorabilia, not just from Star Wars but from other projects like Indiana Jones and movies they’ve done special effects for. It took every milligram of restraint I had not to ask my editor to take a picture of me next to every single prop. Instead, I settled for just one in front of R2-D2.
Granted, I wish I looked thinner in that pic, but who cares?! I was hanging out with R2-D2, chatting it up all bleep-dee-bloop style!
George Lucas collects old movie posters, which we walked past when we weren’t walking by the Millennium Falcon or under ET riding a bike suspended from the ceiling. There is so much art and memorabilia displayed in the building that they have a curator for it. That includes…
A bust of George Lucas made out of Legos. (Lego my Lucas!)
And First Lady Michelle Obama getting funky with Chewbacca. (Chew-bama?)
We had lunch in the Lucasfilm cafeteria, which had a fantastic array of culinary options. Two walls of the cafeteria are just windows that look out onto a fantastic view of the Golden Gate bridge. On the way out of the building I got to see the private theatre where they do employee screenings of movies and the latest Clone Wars animated series episodes. Some areas of the building were restricted, like the Lucas Arts section where they make video games.
My editor’s office had a bookshelf full of Star Wars books and graphic novels which she uses as reference materials. She said there is a library in the building that contains basically every thing published about Star Wars. There is also a guy who manages a huge database of everything that has happened in Star Wars ever. So yes, he gets paid to be totally obsessive about the Star Wars universe. I bet he never retires.
After my editor bid me adieu, I hopped back on a trolley and continued my tour around San Francisco. That included a drive through The Presidio and Golden Gate park. I got off in the Haight-Ashbury area to get a coffee and people watch because I’d heard this is where the hippies hang out. The hippies back home hang out in Carrboro, which is a city adjacent to Chapel Hill. However, no one told me that there is a big difference between Carrboro hippies and Haight hippies. The Carrboro hippies shop at a co-op, drink locally roasted coffee, raise chickens in their front yards, and compost. The hippies in Haight are freaky, creepy, degenerates with strange piercings, two of whom I saw pull out baggies of marijuana in front of the MacDonald’s, right across the street from the Whole Foods. And yes, I know marijuana is legal in California, but I don’t think these people were taking it after cataract surgery. Granted, this is the neighborhood Charles Manson used to live in, so I should have been more prepared.
I meant to go all the way down to Haight and Ashbury, but turned around at least two blocks before that because I really wanted to leave this neighborhood. I hopped back on the bus which finally deposited me back where I began, which was only a few blocks away from Twitter headquarters where my friend @DanaDanger works. (Yes, my friends are so much cooler than your friends. No, I don’t know how this happened.) I gotta’ say, that Hop On Hop Off bus had highly convenient stops in regards to my agenda that day.
You’d never know that Twitter headquarters is in this building by looking at it. I didn’t exactly expect it to be tainted bright teal, but I was surprised there wasn’t a sign anywhere. Actually, there was a small sign, but it was for AT&T which is also in the building.
I couldn’t help tweeting from Twitter because that seemed so recursive or meta that it might cause the walls to implode through improper error handling (though it didn’t). I imagine that might happen if you checked into Foursquare at Foursquare HQ.
I arrived a little after five o’clock on a Friday for Tea Time. This is a weekly party they throw after the employee-only All Hands meeting. Tea Time is open to guests and it’s where I saw a man dressed as a lobster.
Now, Dana Danger claims that people were dressed in unconventional outfits because it was the weekend before Halloween. However, she had no way of proving that Twitter employees don’t dress like this on a daily basis, so I am skeptical of that claim.
As you’d expect, Twitter HQ has some awesome amenities. The fridge was full of a variety of drinks from sodas to coconut water (which was rather good). They have their own coffee bar.
Oh, and this.
That is an unlimited supply of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and bins full of chocolate-covered everything. This was when I realized I was glad not to work at Twitter, not because of a fear of lobsters, but because I could never be trusted to exist in the same building as this unless I wanted to exist at three times my current size.
I got a tour of the rest of the sixth floor which is the only one open to visitors. They seem to be very conscious of security because the double doors on other floors had signs saying “Beware of tailgaters.” And no, they weren’t talking about the kind with a six pack of beer in the parking lot before a Colts game. They don’t want any corporate spies or blabby bloggers sneaking in behind someone with a key card.
Twitter looks a lot like any tech office. They have a wide open layout sectioned off by office pods. But you could tell it was Twitter because the walls are painted teal, and offices didn’t have people’s birth names listed on them, just their Twitter names.
They seem to expect you to live there, which is why they have toothbrushes in the bathroom. No floss, though. They obviously don’t care about your gums!
There was also a skeleton riding a green deer in the lobby.
Yeah, I don’t know about that one either.
Visiting Twitter reminded me that ultimately the world is just made up of people and places. Twitter has changed my life in many positive ways, so it was interesting to view it as an office with people instead of an abstract concept or a server farm. It reminded me of how I felt when I went on The Today Show. The set I saw on TV was just a room connected to a hallway that was connected to a lobby that was connected to the rest of the world. It’s just a place. That said, it’s a pretty awesome place!
After that, the Twitterati took me to a sports bar where I got drunker than I have ever been in my life. Literally. I swear I only had two margaritas, but I hadn’t eaten for six hours, so that might have had something to do with it.
Yes, this is the photo that will cause future potential employers not to hire me. (Hello, future potential employers! I’m sorry it didn’t work out between us. Also, you’re so pretty! <burp>) It turns out I am a happy drunk, which my friend said is the best kind of drunk to be. She said there are four types of drunk, but I either don’t remember what they are or she was too drunk to tell me. Anyway. I. Could. Not. Stop. Giggling! I was the giggling drunk girl for 45 minutes straight. I also couldn’t stop swaying back and forth, so my inner ear must have been drunk too.
Somehow we got in a car and a sober person drove us to a private Karaoke bar. One of my other friends was leading me around speaking to me in that I’m-talking-to-a-mentally-impaired-person tone. Once we got to the private room I started eating sushi and eventually stopped giggling enough to belt out a song or too.
Private Karaoke is definitely the way to go. You sing along by reading lyrics off a screen like regular Karaoke, but you’re in a small room instead and no one is on stage. It’s just you and you buds, hanging around. It removes the social anxiety that comes with stage performance. (The alcohol helps two.)
Like I said, it was Halloween weekend, so there were lots of people in costumes running around. I could see them walking past the window in the door. Several times someone would wander into our room accidentally. Then we’d ask them to stay and sing, which they did. Alcohol makes everyone friends! One of the girls was wearing the same pair of socks that I’d bought at the sock store earlier that day, which was rather bizarre considering there were hundreds of socks at that store. We both have really good taste, I guess.
I eventually sobered up and drank lots of water to avoid a hangover. Then we took a cab home and I fell asleep because I was exhausted. Having one of the most awesome days ever does that to a person.
Day 3 wrap-up coming soon, when my head doesn’t hurt too much and I finish work for a bazillion different clients.
Earlier: San Fran-tastic: Day 1 – Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, and lots and lots of walking
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