Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Serving up a plate full of 1/1.

'Member when?

I remember. I remember lots of things, actually.

Many of my fonder memories of my childhood were spending time with my grandmother. She lived in San Francisco. The City, not the suburbs. We lived in the suburbs. She lived in The City. And while the 1980s was a hell of a time (cocaine's a hell of a drug), and The City wasn't exactly the safest place for a kid and his grandma, we got out and about a lot.

She never drove - she couldn't, being legally blind in one eye - but SF's bus and streetcar system took us everywhere. I loved riding the buses and trains, and they always took us somewhere fascinating. We walked up and down the streets of Russian Hill, made our way down Lombard Street and up to Coit Tower. We'd wander around downtown, sometimes stepping over the drug addicts around Civic Center on the way to the public library, other times dodging cable cars around Union Square to see the Christmas displays at the department store.

I learned more than even I can realize - many times my reflections of days past bring to light another lesson secretly taught by my Yiayia. I was incredibly independent because I learned how to get around on public transit with her. And my love of arts and sciences comes from our trips to museums. I consider myself to be fairly creative (though lacking much talent), thanks to the building blocks, crayons, and other toys available to me.

We weren't rich, certainly, though I know we weren't poor. I never traveled internationally but I learned lots of culture just by going places around town.

Each card below represents another story in my childhood. Not directly; these cards are too new for that! But in an odd six-degrees-of-separation sort of way. Except simpler and less interesting.
 I was there in 1987 when the Golden Gate Bridge celebrated its 50th anniversary. There were so many people, the bridge flattened out; the news reports even expressed concern that the bridge could fail. I was only 8 at the time, just a little kid. And I was surrounded by gigantic adults. Not the happiest memory at the time, but being a part of such a big event was, in retrospect, an amazing experience. I do remember all the people, the crowds, trying to make our way across the bridge. And I also remember the trip to and from the bridge, and even that evening watching the news as they reported that the bridge was still covered in people.
 My mom and I moved away - to Atlanta - in 1992. I was certainly excited at first, though in the days leading up to the move I got more upset at saying goodbye to my best friend of several years. I saw that friend a few more times before I started college, on trips back to San Francisco. But just a couple years ago, when I last returned to the States, I got to see her again with her children. Oddly enough, her oldest daughter - the spitting image of my friend - was the same age my friend was when I moved away.
 Yiayia (the Greek word for grandmother, and that's what I called her) didn't start my interest in collecting baseball cards in 1989, but she definitely kept it going. That summer, she took me to my first baseball game (Giants - we sat way out in the outfield in nearly-empty seats - and I still have that ticket stub somehow) and accompanied me as I explored all of the card shops of San Francisco and beyond. I remember begging her to buy me a Jose Canseco 1986 Donruss Rated Rookie card. We took a couple trips across the bay to check out card shops in Oakland and Berkeley, too.

Usually, though, we went to this little shop in the basement of a house that was somewhere around 17th and Irving, in San Francisco. That's where the Canseco was. And that's where I got several single cards. Of course there were plenty of packs at every supermarket and convenience store we stopped at... okay, we rarely went to convenience stores but I remember going to the grocery store pretty often.
Ahh, USA. The land of science, math, and invention. Or at least, it was back then. We visited all kinds of museums, but most frequently we found ourselves at the Exploratorium. It's an amazing science center where the exhibits are all hands-on. It was probably the first of its kind and a great way to play around and inadvertently learn about physics, chemistry, and those other sciences I don't care so much about. But speaking of the life sciences, we often headed to Golden Gate Park. We'd stroll around, feed the ducks, and walk through the Academy of Science.

Generally, it was your typical stuffy stuffed-animal science museum, with rocks, skeletons, and fish behind glass. But I loved going, and we'd hang out in the courtyard in the afternoon. There was always something going on, though I can't remember what. Perhaps we fed the goldfish or watched some of the living creatures in their cages - they had an aquarium too.

The Academy of Science underwent a major reconstruction awhile back, and now is a trendy hot-spot in addition to being a great science museum. I think it lost some of its appeal to real science buffs in the process, but it's definitely gained popularity (and hopefully educated a few more visitors) since the reopening.

Finally, the plate.
 I don't remember ever eating dinner out with Yiayia as a kid. It just didn't happen. Maybe because we were almost always home before dark (was that just because she was tired, wanted to watch the news, or planned so we could be safe?). Yiayia cooked, and cooked well, though. Sometimes I'd help her, especially if we were baking, other times I doubt I could have been much help. I probably should have been more attentive at the least, as I would have picked up a thing or two more about a good, healthy meal.

That doesn't mean we never checked out San Francisco's dining options. In the 1980s, it really wasn't much. But she and I would stop at Mel's Diner on Geary, usually after she dragged me along to a doctor's appointment nearby. I don't remember what she had, but I'm sure it was a nice burger. I definitely got my fill with a cheeseburger and french fries. I know she and I both had fun drinks with our meals. I think we'd alternate between root beer floats and chocolate milkshakes. Or maybe both. And for dessert, it was ice cream for her, and a banana split for me. I loved banana splits (still do!), and it wasn't until years later that I realized just how much she loved ice cream.

I wasn't a picky eater, but I do remember going to another burger restaurant from time to time, too. West Portal has  a diner of its own, where we would do the burgers, fries, and shakes thing. I think Yiayia knew someone who worked there... or maybe she just ran into an old friend once. Manor Coffee Shop still exists, with spotty service and iffy prices. But I was a kid, and a burger was a burger. Eventually, we started going to a Mexican place nearby (El Toreador).

Ahh, memories. San Francisco still has so many great memories to be made, and food to eat. But I guess the childhood ones are more important, right?

The printing plate was a pickup from Yahoo Japan Auctions, while the other cards were freebies tossed in by the seller. A great little bunch of cards to get in my mailbox!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I enjoyed writing something for a change...

  2. Nice post, I loved your little trip back down memory lane. Got any ATL stories up your sleeve?

    1. I wasn't really thinking about that, but perhaps if the right group of cards came my way... this was purely a muse-inspired post, and not intentional at first.

  3. Awesome post! Love to read posts that tell a story about the blogger's past. I've lived in the Bay Area my entire life, but have only traveled into The City around 100 times. My parents would take me a lot when I was a kid. And I went with friends a lot in high school and college. We'd love to shop for vinyl and clothes on Height back in the early 90's. But since I've started teaching (this is my 20th year), I've probably only been there 10 times, which is a shame because it's such a beautiful city with such a rich history. I just can't deal with how busy and crowded it is. These days, I'm more of a Pacifica kind of guy (although it was pretty crowded there this weekend too).

    P.S. Congratulations on picking up a plate!

    1. Only 100 times...

      It is pretty crowded, especially on weekends. But if you went during a vacation day (not holiday) it wouldn't be horrible as many people are still working.

      This time of year is the surfing tournament, isn't it? I had noticed that Highway 1 was much more crowded on the weekends than I remember, since city folk like heading down the coast more now than, say, 20 years ago... or even 10 years ago.

  4. Could be more, could be less. I probably averaged going 3 to 5 times a year as a kid, then 5 to 10 times a year when I was in college, and now once every other year. I'll drive through and head up to Sausalito, Point Reyes, and Muir Woods once or twice a year.

    You're right. Mid week isn't too bad. But normally when we take a mental health day, we drive down to SLO and Pismo.

    Yeah... Mavericks is usually in January or February. My brother told me they were thinking about having it back in mid January, but cancelled it. It could still happen sometime this month if the waves are there.

    1. I guess if there's no reason to be in the City, you probably don't want to be in the City. If I was living in San Jose, I probably wouldn't go into SF more than once or twice a year. Great restaurants, I love games at the ballpark, but it'd be a weekend trip or day trip to knock my favorites out of the way and move on.

      The same thing was true with me in Atlanta. I lived about 30-45 minutes from downtown depending on traffic and where I lived. In high school and college I made lots of trips that way, and that quickly died off as an adult. (Oddly, I'd drive through downtown to go between my house and my mom's house. But not stopping.)

      I think if I wanted a mental health day, SF wouldn't be the place to be. I always went across the bridge to the parks in Marin, across the other bridge to parks in East Bay, or down the coast to parks between SF and Santa Cruz... or I went to Santa Cruz.

    2. Oh man. I forgot about factoring in Giants games. I can't exactly say how many times I've been to Candlestick and AT&T... but 100 games is very conservative, so my total at least doubles.

      The coast between SF and SC is so beautiful... and much less crowded. Although... Hwy 1 is seeing more and more traffic with each passing year.