After 8 years, we still love this city. Although we have plenty of opportunities to plan days of exploring, sometimes, we just chill out.
Serving Meals at Glide Memorial Church
Yesterday was one of those days. We began the afternoon (1100 AM, to be precise) with by walking to the Glide Memorial Church, where one of our alumni groups gave us the opportunity to do something we have wanted to do for quite a while, but never quite got around to—volunteer at the Church’s renowned Free Meal program, one of the largest in the city.
I was assigned to a position on the meal “assembly line”, where I spent two hours taking a tray from a colleague, placed a portion of breaded chicken on a bun, and passed it to the next volunteer, who put barbeque sauce on the chicken, and passed it on for macaroni salad, broccoli and other accompaniments. The food then made its way to the hundreds of hungry and very grateful individuals and families who waited patiently in line for their meals.
Joyce, meanwhile, had another calling for the day. She was assigned to prepping for subsequent meals, parceling out chicken, slicing ham and sorting fruit for the next night’s dinner.
Although we were both surprised by the intensity of the work, we were extremely impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the kitchen’s staff, the concern for their patrons and the gratitude of the recipients. It was a truly worthwhile experience that we are committed to repeating. If you are interested in volunteering, you can learn about the program and schedule a time on Glide’s Web site.
Ho, Ho, Ho
After a couple hours of serving others, we decided to it was time for others to serve us. On the way home, we took a slight detour down Russian Hill to North Beach. We were amused by our first couple sightings of Santa Claus’s walking down in front of us, surprised by sightings of three more groups of Santa’s as we approached Union Street. Then, when we asked one of the Santa’s what was going on, we were intrigued by his response—“walk two blocks down the street, and you will find out.”
When we arrived at Washington Square, we found out. Hundreds and hundreds of fully bedecked Santa’s, some with store-bought suits, others with home-made variations, and a few (since this IS San Francisco) nude, identifiable only by their beards and hats.
After a couple hours of handing out meals to the homeless, our first thought was that we had found one of the hundreds of benefits held in the city. We were, however, very quickly abused of this notion. We had discovered SantaCon, an annual party and pub crawl that is now held in 226 cities in 32 countries. And we weren’t even wearing red.
A Quest for Drinks and Music
So, we took time to consider our options over a couple slices from North Beach Pizza. Although we initially hoped to go to our favorite neighborhood jazz club (the Savoy-Tivoli on Grant Street), we found it so packed that we—with our without our Santa suits—wouldn’t have a chance of getting in the door. So, we decided to walk a coupe blocks to The Saloon, our favorite neighborhood Blues Bar.
As we walked up Grant Street, passing Green and Vallejo, passing long red lines in front of virtually every bar, we began to lose hope. Them, to our amazement, we found that not only could we get into the Saloon, but that we could even get our own seats. Another great Saturday afternoon in North Beach.
The only thing missing was dinner at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. But, while we briefly debated going to either Soto Mare for oysters and cioppino, or Txoko for tapas, we remembered that we had already bought the ingredients for a nice home meal and decided to postpone our North Beach dinner to another day. No problem, the halibut we caught on our Alaska trip was delicious with a mango salsa and baby asparagus, and, lest I forget, a lovely bottle of Domaine Serene Two Barns pinot noir.