Well, it just so happens that San Francisco is in between England and New Zealand, which meant she could spend nearly seven hours in the airport...or TOTALLY HANG OUT WITH ME FOR A COUPLE HOURS.
Unfortunately, she chose to spend her time in the airport marveling over the size of our canned beverages.
Okay, no she didn't.
Refur called me after she got through Customs, and I raced to BART, impatiently waiting for the shuttle. I thought I was late, wasting precious time. I didn't know how long she would be waiting, and I had no way of contacting her. She had no way of contacting me, either, unless she borrowed a stranger's cell phone. We would both just have to hope for a lack of DISASTER.
As I rushed to exit the 16th and Mission station, I saw to my left a girl who seemed to resemble Refur (she had sent me a picture), but I didn't think it could be her because I thought she'd have gotten there already. I rushed up the escalator, expecting to see her waiting for me at the top, and she was not there. I turned around and waited, wondering if this strange girl was actually her.
It was. WE HAD GOTTEN TO THE STATION AT THE EXACT SAME TIME. SHE FROM THE AIRPORT AND I FROM OAKLAND. WHAT ARE THE FUCKING ODDS.
We hugged, and then we were off, for our time was short. Her shirt read, "Do not disturb. Already disturbed." We walked down 16th St, and I threw my arms up and cried, "This is San Francisco!" She'd never been!
We passed a random black woman who said, "Namaste! I like your colors!"
"Thank you," I said, clad in green and yellow. Just a few days ago at the bank, the teller—who was also black, now that I think about it, although that's probably just coincidence—greeted me with "Namaste." Maybe I'm hyperaware because of my recent racist encounters, but did someone say "Namaste" on Grey's Anatomy or something? Is this like the way people always say "Konichiwa" when they meet a Japanese person because it's the only Japanese they know other than "Domo arigato"? I'm sure they're trying to be nice, but it makes me uncomfortable. Especially because they just say it. "Namaste" is supposed to be accompanied by a bow; that's what it means. At least fold your hands or something. Make a real effort. It doesn't just mean "Hey, what's up?" Honestly, I think if they had just folded their hands as a sign of respect, I wouldn't have been thrown because, in all likelihood, I had never heard the word just tossed out like that in all my life.
But back to the story proper, Refur is talking about bridges. I told her I was sorry we didn't have time to go see the Golden Gate Bridge—which SOME PEOPLE don't think exists—but she had seen it perfectly clearly from the plane! No fog or anything.
We walked down Valencia, and I led her into the alley with all the murals. I went further down than I had before; there are some really interesting ones. I noticed that some had been tagged but were painted over. Someone tagged a goat. Most of them were respected and left alone, though. I goaded Refur into taking pictures because I love her picture posts. "You have to take San Francisco back with you," I said.
Down a couple blocks, we hit Taqueria El Sabor. Now ever since I discovered that British people don't know what burritos are, I can't take anything for granted. I had asked Refur if she'd ever had a burrito before, and she had...IN SCOTLAND. Come on, you guys. That doesn't even count. You can't make a burrito out of haggis or whatever.
She decided that the Super Veggie Burrito sounded great, and I went with a chicken burrito. Lunch was on me, for, lo, she had given me much entertainment and laughter for free, often cheering me up when I really needed it, and that was worth a burrito.
We got a table. Refur appeared perplexed by all the foil surrounding her lunch. She carefully unwrapped all of it. Yes, all of it. I was too confused to stop her. She assessed her unwrapped burrito and declared, "I think I'm going to like this."
That is the face of a woman who has only ever eaten a burrito in Scotland.
My burrito was also very good, largely because of the guacamole. Refur loved guacamole, but it was very expensive in England. Not so much in California, where we grow avocadoes. They do not grow avocadoes in England. She thought it'd be funny to try, though.
Refur commented on my lack of hero-worship. I had indeed promised that I would simply be continually freaking out over being in her very presence, but that was not happening! She was just a regular girl like any other. Online, she seems like a hyperkinetic SPN-obsessed pixie, but in reality, she is somewhat more subdued and British. I asked her burning questions like "Do you watch anything BESIDES Supernatural?" and "How long does it TAKE you to do your episode reviews?" Man, I didn't even bring my DVDs for her to sign!
She commented that it was kind of a messy meal, which is when I told her that she wasn't supposed to have unwrapped the whole thing. "You didn't tell me the custom!" she cried. She thought the foil was only for keeping it warm, not also for holding it together. She attempted to improvise after the fact, wrapping the crumpled foil around the rest of her burrito. It was not as effective.
A garish Mexican song played loudly, and I revealed that the real reason I'd brought her here was because of the jukebox. She turned around. "Real Americana," she commented. "Mexicana!" I corrected.
Her veggie burrito was a little too super for her, so she got some extra foil to wrap up the rest to eat on the way to New Zealand.
Our next stop was Paxton Gate, full of curios. I showed her around the store. I think she liked the skunk skeleton dressed as a nun the best. That or the crucified mouse named Oh Holy Christ. The duck with an alligator head freaked her out.
She had a fondness for maps, however, and became entranced by a black globe with an 18th century view of the world. They barely knew the shape of Australia, had no idea what do with the top of North America, and didn't know Antarctica existed. It was one of the few things in the store that wouldn't raise eyes at Customs, so she bought it with her magical debit card.
The store had rocks as well, and as a geologist, she appreciated that.
Next door was the pirate store! I took her in and told her to say hi to the fish. And made sure she saw the rules.
The man at the counter went to the back as soon as we got out of the fish theater. Curses. We were there at a time when students were there, so he was a little occupied. I explained to Refur that the place was a tutoring program for kids to learn to write, and the pirate store was the front. I waited for the guy to come back.
Refur was standing in the right spot, turned away from me. I raised my camera and got it ready. The guy behind the counter gave me a look, and I nodded knowingly.
"Hey," he said to Refur, "have you read that sign about the mops?" She looked. He pulled the rope.
Oh, you just got MOPPED.
Refur was quite surprised. And angry. "You knew!" she yelled. "You knew that would happen!" Well, yeah. She could not believe I had mops dropped on her. She attempted to revenge herself upon me!
And now I have a new Facebook profile picture.
The guy threw the mopheads back into the box as I explained that I'd only discovered that the last time I'd gone there, so I was looking forward to doing it to someone on purpose. I tossed the mop on my head into the box in one try, and he was impressed! "You sure this is the first time you've done this?"
Refur still could not believe that I dropped mops on her.
She looked around the rest of the store, continually being amused by everything. "I could spend hours in here!" It was true; there was a lot of hilarity. I did a dramatic reading of Just Buy a Shovel that, sadly, did not convince her to buy a shovel. It did convince me, however, that I should do more dramatic readings of signs in the pirate store.
“The history of this tank(?). You will be sitting there, watching the fish peacefully and possibly breast feeding your young child and you might be thinking this tank current occupants or it's person only occupant. If you are thinking that, you would be horribly horribly wrong. It would be so wrong, you probably wanna hide yourself shamefully somewhere. Stop in your kitchen while facing the pantry. The truth is this tank has been around since 1887 when it was owned by an ___ longsherman(?) named Frederico Delimanzana(?) and this name Delimanzana(?) is ___ culture and politics. Frederico is a tall man of great spirit and loud voice who loves puppies. He loves them so much, so very much. However, he was allergic so he could not keep one at home. Instead he kept turtles, talking turtles which spoke only with so North Carolina accent. ___ than to say y'all a great deal. Much of the amazing that those amaze they might not found in tank. The visitors will admirably say, the people of North Carolina are really still say ya'll. I think that was more of a Texas thing, to which the turtles master lingual and then other 3 it's like there's a similarity would say, we thought it was strange too but they do, they do. They even heard absurd residents in Charlotte say, ya'll better look out for your old villain stuff because we're not gonna do it for you ya'll. Anyway, at some point Frederico and the talking turtles parted ways of rescheduling conflicts. The turtles opened up a great dealership and Frederico was kept at sort of, and sort of personal servant by the French ambassador of Greenland. Hundred of years passed and that tank was making it ways an extra of the shipping clerk and Louie Rider and all military production have kept the gate, Raina the community theater Alameda. It was then the town scout from 826 wanna see the fable tank, saw it's great potential, saw it's star appeal and right here the vast wanna globe your shameful breast feeding self.”
Auto-Transcribed Voice Post
Earlier, Refur had remarked that she had a horrible habit of getting lost, even with a compass. She always though north was uphill. So she was delighted to see dice with compass directions! It was clear she wanted one, but she didn't want to use her debit card too much since she had to pay a fee.
I asked the guy how much one die was. "One dollar," he said. "$1.09."
"If you have a dollar," I said to Refur, "I have ten cents." That change from the taqueria was coming in handy!
"'If you have a dollar, I have ten cents,'" the man said. "What a guy!" I explained that she was the one who wanted it!
She found a dollar, and I handed him ten cents and said, "Keep the change!"
"What a guy!!" he said.
Refur thought it'd be fun to work in a pirate store. I concurred.
Our next stop was the Paxton Gate children's store, whose existence I was only made aware of when we had visited Paxton Gate earlier. It was not as out there as the original, but it did have some nice touches like plush heads mounted on the wall in place of the mounted moose heads and whatnot. The cute girl who worked there—the girl who worked at the other one was cute too! cute girls like curios?—pointed out the papier-mâché birds on the wall in place of the real stuffed birds. She also pointed out her favorite decorations, the marionettes.
Next stop: Bi-Rite! We walked down 18th St. Refur asked if all the houses were old. I said they were. I think they are? They probably are?
I also bought her ice cream, which is part of my tradition of feeding out-of-towners local desserts. She went with salted caramel and Meyer lemon with candied pistachios. I got a cup of blood orange sorbet.
We were making excellent time; it was a little past 3 and we had already done in an hour all I had intended to do in the Mission. I could show her more of the city, yay! We headed back toward the BART station, eating dessert on the way.
"You guys have all the good food," she complained.
I could not disagree since English food is stereotypically bad, so I replied, "Well, you have...David Tennant."
"Not personally!" she said. "We can't go and order him in a store." But oh, how many wish you could!
To give her a little time to finish off her ice cream, I took us into Good Vibrations, and we admired the assortment of vibrators.
As we walked down 16th, I said that her little compass die would be a great Supernatural episode. Sam would roll the die, and it would creepily tell him to go...northwest! And every roll is leading them...TO THEIR DOOM!
"Well," said Refur, "that's generally where they're always going anyway."
Our amazing timing continued, as we managed to hit the BART platform just as our train was arriving. During the short train ride, I used the route map to show her the Bay Area and where everything was. At the Embarcadero station, we took care of her ticket. I had told her to put a roundtrip's worth of cash on her BART ticket, but this unplanned excursion would require her to put more money on it so she could get back to the airport. $1.15. She had one more dollar...that the machine would not accept, so I traded her for one of my own dollars that worked and then popped in a quarter. That change was really coming in handy.
I should also note that the girl from England found the BART ticket machines incredibly easy to use, unlike SOME PEOPLE.
Aboveground, Refur seemed awed by the tall buildings of downtown. Does London not have tall buildings? I don't know these things. Are there cities in England besides London? There probably are.
As we walked toward the Ferry Building, she noticed a streetcar, and I explained about MUNI and its various vehicles. She was impressed with our public transit system. She asked me how far we'd just come, and I guessed a mile and a half. San Francisco was not a large city. "Why is it so famous, then?" she wondered. I couldn't rightly explain. It's out west? It has hills? And history? I brought in the whole Bay Area as justification, with SF as the hub.
We walked through the Ferry Building and out to the water. The titular Bay! I pointed out the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. "That's really the name, Treasure Island?" Yes, indeed.
I pointed out Coit Tower and the houses on the hills. She liked cities built on hills. We crossed the street, and I showed her how streets just went up at a terrifying angle. We were nearing the end of our time together, so I took us to see that giant bow-and-arrow statue. "Someone must have really hated that palm tree," she said. She was so surprised to see palm trees; she thought SF was too cold for them.
And then we headed back to the BART station, as I had shown her as much of San Francisco as I could in a short amount of time. She felt like she had seen a lot, and I hadn't even shown her that much! She hadn't seen the Golden Gate Bridge or Golden Gate Park or the Haight or SoMa or the Exploratorium or a dozen other places!
Our amazing timing continued, and we reached the platform just as our trains were...no, those were actually the trains neither of us wanted to be on. But our trains came five minutes later, and there was a hug and an awkward wait for the train to actually arrive, and then I was alone and Refur-less! It has not started raining again, but it is raining IN MY HEART.
Okay, no it's not.
The fun is heading...SOUTHWEST.