The day is hot and bright, even in the morning in Oakland, and that’s how we know we need to get outside.
Because we’re lazy and a product of this tech nation, I wake up to a text from Charlie – who is sleeping in the next room. “Brunch?” she writes. And then, “Knock on my door when you’re up.” (Side note: The grammarian nerd in me appreciates her refraining from using “ur”.) We pull our unruly hair into some kind of shape and I slip into my weekend uniform – jeans and a tourist’s surfing tee-shirt – and feel supremely uncute.
“I don’t have anything cute to wear,” I call out from the bathroom.
“It’s ok. I’m wearing a cat sweatshirt,” Charlie responds. But she’s the kind of girl who makes a cat sweatshirt look cute and anyway, I decide that my need for coffee > my need to look cute. In fact my need for coffee is always > my need to look cute.
So we head around the corner to the Grand Tavern. It’s a converted big, old house and it’s comfy and inviting and there’s that really pleasant, affable guy who works there. Or maybe he’s the owner. And if I was any kind of real reviewer, I’d know his name and his story and I’d give you some really interesting tidbit on why he is literally one of the friendliest people ever and you would like him too. All I know is that he greets me like I’m an old friend every time I’m there, even though I don’t even know the guy.
Charlie and I head to the patio, which is sort of baking in the sun, but I can’t possibly sit inside, even though I feel sweat trickle down my spine a few minutes after sitting down.
In what seems to be a common theme in every restaurant or bar we go to, we can’t seem to figure out if we have a waitress or not, or if we have to order at the bar and what’s this little number on the table? At the Grand in particular, they seem to change their waitstaff procedures with the cycles of the moon, but the place is so friendly and comfortable you don’t really mind.
I have these ideas that one day I’ll order something exotic on the menu, but I always get the 510, this sweet scramble-type thing with bacon and goat cheese, and Charlie gives me her bacon because she’s a vegetarian and it turns into this Super Bacon All-Star thing. I also love the Grand because their iced coffee is from Black Medicine and this stuff is the syrup of gods.
“Maybe it’s too late…but what about the beach?” I ask Charlie as we’re chowing down, expecting that maybe she’ll be too tired or have plans or something else, but instead, like all good partners-in-crime, she says, “Sure!” And we finish our food and hop in the car, making a pit stop first so I can buy a cheap tie-died California-friendly bikini.
And it would be your typical Beautiful California Beach Day, except we finally make it there after a million hours and Karl the Fog has rolled in, but we still park and get out of the car and look forlornly toward the water and then up at the foggy clouds, and then back at the water again.
“Downtown San Rafael is cute,” Charlie says, and I’m not sure I believe her. I mean, I’ve been there and there’s a certain charm about it, but I’m not sure downtown San Rafael would be my first follow-up to a spoiled beach day. Nonetheless, after going the wrong way a half-dozen times, we find ourselves wandering through through the streets of San Rafael, up and down, talking about what we’ve been talking about all day: nothing and everything.
I think I might sign up for ballet classes in the fall.
Isn’t there a thrift store around here? I would really use a new wig.
I sooooo don’t wanna work on Monday. Bleghghghgh!
Have you heard from Kitty lately?
And after walking up and down the same two blocks twice, we come back to this place called the Fenix, that looks like just this slim little bar with a black top and too many red-cushioned bar stools crammed into it. We climb into the bar stools, which are so tight we need to take one all the way out and push it back behind us just to thread our legs in and sit. There’s just one guy at the end of the counter and us, so there are more staff members than customers and they musta just opened because when we order the Bartender Cocktail of the Day, the two bartenders look at each other with raised eyebrows and shrug and mutter things about liquor back and forth to each other. One of them, a slight, pale guy tells us something about sparking wine and something fruity and something else fruity and we’re like, “Two please!” and we feel like queens when they pour them into shiny thin flutes, even though we’re still in the cat sweatshirt and surfing tee.
We’ve only had a sip when a big friendly fella, Chef Gator, who, maybe I’m wrong here, sounds like he’s straight outta Nawlins, comes in from the back bar and says, “Ladies! You ever been here before? Lemme show you around.” And then we go through a door that opens up into this primo dining area with a stage – like a real stage – and there isn’t anyone there except these guys fidgeting with cables on the stage and it feels like we’ve found this hidden cave.
When we leave the Fenix and head back home, we realize all of our traipsing has made us hungry, so we head to The New Easy where we are again faced with our waitstaff dilemma. A waitress hurries around but never stops at our table and we finally realize that even though we have menus, we have to order at the bar. One mac-and-cheese plate and bacon-wrapped dates appetizer later, we sidle over to The Alley and pick over the business cards littering the walls. We sip our beers and complain about everything we have to do before Monday, and it feels like it’s right now, but also a million miles away.
We never made it to the beach.
But what a perfect day.