So like pretty much every story I tell, I have to start with another story.
In late February, I went to a concert with some friends. Before said concert, Chris suggested that we stop at a pizza place for dinner before the concert. This pizza place – Blondie’s Pizza – was delicious and cheap.
So now my real story: When I found out in late March that John Scalzi was going to be speaking in San Francisco on Sunday, May 15, I decided that I would go if I could. After all, he is a world famous Science Fiction novelist and that is kinda one of my goals in life. So on Saturday night, with no other plans on the horizon and my copy of Fuzzy Nation (Scalzi’s latest book) in my messenger bag, I copied the address for Borderlands Books and Blondie’s Pizza into my Moleskine Notebook. I put my Moleskine and my Kindle in my bag and fell asleep.
After church, I went to lunch with the group as always. After lunch, I pulled my Moleskine out, and plugged the first address into my GPS.
After making it through Sonoma County in somewhat ridiculous traffic, I got to San Francisco in reasonable time. I navigated through the city, and found myself at the same parking garage that we parked at for the concert. “This is convenient,” I thought to myself. “But excellent.”
I awkwardly pulled into the Mason-O’Farrell garage – being from an area where parking is generally on the street, parking structures where a lot of cars are packed into a tiny space just doesn’t work. Well.
I memorized the directions the GPS gave me – straight ahead and right after a couple blocks. I changed into my converse. I threw my bag over my shoulder and locked my car up – carefully making sure there was nothing worth breaking into my car for.
And so began my first completely solo adventure in San Francisco. I have had adventures with friends, or meeting friends, or stopping in the city to switch from bus to BART. But I have never had a completely solo adventure in the city.
So I followed the directions of the GPS, and find myself at the pizza place. Confusedly, I look around. Then I make a realization. I pull out my Moleskine. The address on top was Blondie’s Pizza. Which meant that I was not anywhere near the bookstore. I stopped for a moment and evaluated my situation. I just parked in a parking garage. My car was in a good place. My feet were in a good condition. I was near the Westfield Mall. I went into the mall, hoping to either find a free Wi-Fi connection, or a Starbucks with a free WiFi connection. I walked up to a map and found the Starbucks. Pulling out my iPod Touch, I moved to the settings, hoping to find an internet connection. Instead, I got a message that said “Your battery is now less than 20%.” I pressed “Dismiss,” and started panicking. Connecting to WiFi is a battery drain. I found a free network, signed on and went to Google Maps on Safari.
I typed in the address, activated the “from this location” function, and waited for the information.
I was two miles away. “Okay, great,” I thought to myself. I took a screenshot of the directions, and set off in what I thought was the right direction. After two blocks, I stopped at a Starbucks to double check that I was indeed going the right way.
I was not.
After doubling back the two blocks, I was on my way.
While walking across the city, I began to realize how beautiful San Francisco is. The city truly has an amazing character. Yes, parts of it are weird and dirty. Parts of it are covered in graffiti and posters. But the structures, the architecture, the people, everything. It’s absolutely beautiful.
I panic as I turn onto the street the bookstore is on. I have over 8 blocks and ten minutes. There’s no way I’m going to make it that fast. I do my best. I pass vintage clothing shops, various restaurants, apartments and businesses. I finally make it to Borderlands Books around 5:05. Five minutes after the event started. The bookstore is a) smaller than I expected and b) packed out. I stand in the back and listened to Mr. Scalzi read from a forthcoming work and his joke fantasy novel, “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City.” Then I waited in line to get my copy of Fuzzy Nation signed.
Anyone who has ever gotten an autograph knows that when you’re getting the autograph, you have a small tiny window of about less than a minute to ask the signer pretty much anything you want while they’re signing whatever.I had my question all ready to go: “What do you think of the apparent similarities of Fuzzies to Ewoks?” Great question, right? Valid, current, logical.
This is what came out:
Me: Hey, how’s it going?
Scalzi: It’s going well.
Me: That’s it? Just well?
Me (In my head): Shoot, Nathanial, what are you saying? Ask your really cool question!
Scalzi: It’s not like I can be doing much better…
Me: *Quietly feeling like a loser*
Scalzi: *signs book*
Scalzi: (reading what he wrote above his autograph) Life is FANTASTIC!
Me: Thank you so much. *walks away*
Me: (In my head) What was that? Nathanial, you’re so silly. Gosh.
Then I left the bookstore and began the pilgrimage back to my automobile, via Blondie’s Pizza. The returning walk was a bit longer than the walk there. I constantly found myself thinking “Seriously? I walked this far?”
I stopped at Blondie’s Pizza and grabbed a slice of their daily special – BBQ Chicken – which I ate as I walked to my car. I paid the exorbitant parking fee ($30), got in my car and drove back home. The drive back was relatively uneventful.