Today was my last full day in SF. I'm going to miss it when I'm gone.
Tajee and I began the day with a trip to the Ferry Building to visit Rona Tison, the "matriarch of Ito En." We arrived in a taxi. In the square across from the Ferry Building, there were people selling jewelry and t-shirts and that kind of thing. Right out front of the building, there was a farmer's market that was doing a lot of business. (It looked good, but I hear there's another one that is less expensive with just as good quality food across town.) Inside, it was even more packed and busy. (Ah, tourists!) Though it felt crowded to me, I realized after a few moments that it was NOTHING compared to NYC's subways. I am getting spoiled out here! Tajee and I found Rona quickly amidst the bustle. She showed us around a Japanese prepared food market where she was training her goddaughter to run a sample table for Ito En bottled teas. Then she walked us through part of the Ferry Building, introducing us to people as we went. We visited a food specialty shop (where they carried Savannah Bee Company's Tupelo Honey--my favorite for tea!) before settling in to another of Imperial Tea Court's shops. It was less traditional than the original, but quite lovely in its own way. (See SF: Day 4 for my visit to the original location.) Over our gaiwan-served teas, we had a great chat about tea, blogging, tennis, Ito En, SF, NYC, and more. Sadly, Tajee and I had to run--we were late for our brunch reservation!
We arrived fashionably late to meet my friend Justin. My friends Kevin and Austin arrived, well, fashionably later. The food was divine, but once again there was the tea issue . . . (If I move to SF, the first thing on my agenda is convincing the best restaurants in town to carry teas that are worthy of their menus.) We all laughed a lot over the meal. Tajee is from Japan, where there are very few drugs. She asked us which drugs in America are the worst (most addictive and most dangerous), which meant we all got to tell her why and how "crack is whack." I suggested she just stick with tea. I also got to learn more about coffee (aside from being a tea fanatic, I'm also allergic to coffee and know very little about it) from my friends (Kevin, Austin, and Justin are all coffee addicts . . . I don't know why I hang out with these people!).
After brunch, Tajee left for a tennis match. The rest of us headed over to Ritual, which (though it's a coffeehouse) has some good teas (supplied by Red Blossom, also of SF). Kevin and Austin both work for Google. They ran into a coworker (who Austin knew before he joined Google, from UT Austin, where he's in school (yes, really, Austin goes to Austin)) named Joe, who joined us for a while. When everyone went their own ways, it turned out that Joe's way was the same as mine. He ended up joining me on a trip to the Asian Art Museum.
The Asian Art Museum is pretty solid. I prefer NY's Ruben Museum of Art and Asia Society and Museum and I wouldn't have minded visiting SF MoMA and the de Young Museum while I was in town, but I'm glad I went here instead. They had two current exhibits (one of Tezuka and one of Japanese woodblock prints) and the permanent exhibit was pretty impressive. My favorites were the teaware, the Japanese tearoom (an actual tearoom behind glass--rad), and the Hindu sculptures.
Actually, a funny thing happened. About a month ago, I had a dream about Ganesha, a Hindu god who is also worshipped by some Jains and Buddhists. He is commonly considered to be the "remover of obstacles." In my dream, there was a beautiful painting-in-progress that had an elaborately designed geometric layout. Ganesha was sitting in the center of the painting and there were other elements (including lotus blossoms and fire) around him. There was a strong triangular shape with a rectangular base supporting him in the composition. The whole painting was moving and evolving, more like a video installation than a painting. It was incredibly beautiful and I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to face just about anything.
When I was at the Asian Art Museum, I saw that the visitors' guides had Ganesha on the cover. I started thinking about my dream. As soon as I reached the top floor of the museum, I saw a large Ganesha sculpture. (Actually, there were three, but I was immediately drawn to one of them.) There was a slot where you could place donations to Ganesha. (This was the only donation box I saw for an individual piece/deity the whole time I was there.) I reached into my wallet and pulled out a dollar bill, which I gave to Ganesha in thanks for the dream. (A small price to pay!)
Later, when I was waiting for the bus to take me back to Tajee's place, I realized that I had given my last small bill to Ganesha and that I would have to scrounge up enough change for my $1.50 bus ride. (This never happens. I am usually very aware of what kind of bills I am carrying.) I saw the bus approaching and began to scramble to get the appropriate change together. Unsure of whether or not I had enough, I boarded the bus last. As I started to feed the coins I had gathered into the bus' money slot, I realized that someone before me in line had given one extra dollar. After I fed in 50 cents, my fare was paid. As I walked to my seat, I glanced into my palm--there wasn't enough to have paid my fare alone. Ganesha had repaid my dollar and removed my obstacle! Pretty cool, huh?
I arrived at Tajee's place to meet her friend Kristopher (who runs Zooomr) and go get groceries for a party she was throwing for me. (She's so sweet! I heart Tajee!!!) We picked up some fresh fruit, ingredients for Japanese udon soup, sorbet (which we forgot to eat), crackers, and red pepper hummus. (Normally, we make our own hummus, but we didn't have time. Actually, Tajee is obsessed with hummus! I taught her to make it years ago and something clicked. For her, hummus is as essential to life as air and water.)
Over the next few hours, guests (my friends and hers) came and went. We talked about all kinds of interesting things, ate tasty food, and drank pu-erh (from Imperial Tea Court's--I was amazed at how popular this was with everyone, considering that most people consider pu-erh to be an acquired taste) and Eight Treasures Tea (from Teance--a delicious blend of dragon's eye, red dates, goji berries, green tea, rock sugar, gensing, and two other things I'm forgetting at the moment), both made by yours truly. It was a lovely end to my time here in SF.
Well, I have to be at the airport at 6AM, so I had better get to sleep.