Or “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve made several new friendships, and spent time with old friends, among my Google colleagues. It seemed like half the engineers formerly-known-as Sysops were in Mountain View, and I had already stayed up til 6AM with Tiarnan more than once before last weekend.
Last weekend, however, truly set the bar for future great nights out, or indeed whole weekends The previous bar was hazy: depending on how you measured, it could have been any of many nights at CTYI, one of a few nights in Munich, or a particularly memorable night during the offsite-residential part of one of my courses while I was studying in Munich, when we stayed up til dawn singing (including some awesome German on-the-spot rapping, a citronella candle full of bugs, and swimming in Chiemsee).
Looking back, the following seem to be common threads in any great night:
- Staying up far later than is reasonable…
- With people who are generally insensibly bright, and experts in their chosen field…
- But who still manage to be socially stimulating…
- Listening to good music, particularly if it’s of a genre I’m not especially familiar with…
- Telling stories, sharing jokes, having a laugh…
- And trying things I wouldn’t normally do, or that I haven’t tried before, or that are generally inadvisable (in the sort of “but why would you want to set a styrofoam cup on fire?” “Just to see what happens?” way)…
Last weekend involved all of these, and more!
It started out on Friday evening, with a reasonably sedate dinner at a delicious Vietnamese place. Present were Dim, my flatmate in the corporate apartment; Gordon, a Sysops manager; Liam, another Irish EngProd exile visiting from Zürich; Tiarnan, whose official function is not yet clear to me, but appears to be some kind of anti-productivity mission; and I, your humble narrator.
After dinner, Dim, Liam, Tiarnan & I had planned to go to Bourbon & Branch, possibly my favourite bar in San Francisco. Our plans were sadly foiled by the fact that Liam’s passport was back in Mountain View, and they were being especially strict about the types of ID they would accept (which they had failed to relay to me in either the phone call or the e-mail I had received that afternoon, confirming our reservation ). Not to be put off by such a piffling defeat, your intrepid party carried on to an almost-equally-fine establishment nearby, which was immeasurably improved by the presence of a pool table down the back, which had lots of free space around it.
(At this point, I must refer back to my foursquare feed to be quite sure of what that establishment was called It was Rye.)
I was disappointed to learn that a strawberry daiquiri was out of the question, but found myself suitably consoled by their Hemingway. We stayed at Rye until well after midnight, at which point we attempted to relocate to Swig. Unfortunately, they were being just as fussy about ID as B&B had been, so we retired to the corporate apartment that Dim & I were sharing.
We happily polished off a bottle of the delicious Judd’s Hill “Magic”. As I went to explain the story behind the wine, Tiarnan idly remarked that the magic was that it erased memories, and pointed out that we’d shared a bottle of the same stuff previously
Liam left us sometime about 02:00, and Dim retired closer to 03:00, leaving Tiarnan and I to sort out a bottle of the eminently drinkable “Hess Collection Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvée“. We did our best, and Tiarnan gladly educated me on the talents of several artists I’d never before heard of, including the truly fabulous Jewel, using the magic pixies behind Grooveshark! I also had my first taste of swing dancing, and was utterly confused by what now seems like a relatively simple triple-step
Shortly before 06:00, we continued on our way, and finding the Muni just about to pull out as we got to Brannan, we hopped onboard! Happily, we were on the right line, as we headed towards Carl & Cole on the N Judah. Our luck wasn’t entirely to last, as we missed our stop and ended up walking back a ways. We stopped in to an early-morning cafe, where they took one look at us and pointed us straight down the street to Kezar Bar & Grill. We missed the kickoff, but caught most of the Ireland-Italy match, interrupted only briefly by a reasonably authentic full Irish.
The England-Wales match saw us sharing our second-breakfast, a plate of French toast deep-fried in sugar. It kept us awake until Liam arrived to rejoin us, and once the match was over, some bright spark suggested we head to Dottie’s. Unfortunately, some time between leaving for dinner the night before, and leaving the pub after the second match, a flaming ball of nuclear energy had appeared in the sky. We were none too pleased with this development, but soon found ourselves queuing up for a third breakfast.
In front of us in the queue were a teacher with her 5mo old baby, and her cousin Stacey. The teacher was in San Francisco for a conference, and Stacey had come to help with the baby. We chatted away, laughed at each other’s jokes, and generally shared good cheer as we waited for yet more food (preferably tiramisu), deep-fried in sugar. At some point, Stacey gave me not only a phone number and an e-mail address, but also directions, in case I should ever find myself lost or bored in Dunsmuir, all charmingly scrawled on a sheet of beautiful flower notepaper
By the time we had eaten breakfast, Tiarnan & I were thoroughly broken, and Liam had to return to Mountain View. For those of you keeping score, I had been up for >30hrs by that time, and Tiarnan was only an hour or two behind. We headed back to the hotel for a brief kip, and woke again conscious, if not refreshed, some time around 18:30. Tiarnan was planning to go out dancing, and just as I was about to head home, foolishly extended an invitation for me to join him
But before we could dance, it was time for
fourth breakfast dinner. Dim rejoined us for a delicious Indian, and Tiarnan & I made plans to be at The Rent Party in time for their drop-in Swing class at 21:30. We got there at 21:00, only to find out that the class had started at 20:30. Tiarnan graciously offered a crash-course, during which I learnt the aforementioned triple-step, and succeeded in tying myself in rather impressive knots every time he tried to swing me out
It wasn’t long before his friends (henceforth, the Sacremento posse) arrived, and our lesson was interrupted. Tiarnan’s friends, it should be pointed out, are overwhelmingly female. This worked out famously for me, coming from the typical Google world, where I can tell that it’s a writing-team meeting if the proportion of women tips above 10%. The Sacremento posse in particular are people who know him from the dancing world. For the record, Tiarnan has been dancing for many years, and is, to put it mildly, accomplished. This became relevant sooner than I had expected.
Tiarnan graciously shared the first dance with me, and I think I acquitted myself reasonably. This may have been because he confined his dancing to the two steps he had taught me so far, but we won’t speculate too far on that. I was about to sit down when one of the Sacremento posse invited me to dance. Knowing full-well that there’s only one polite reply to such an invitation, I acquiesced gladly. This dance went about as badly as the previous one had gone well. It improved somewhat, about halfway through, when the lead stopped for a moment, looked at me, and said, as politely as I’m sure he could, “you don’t know East Coast, do you?”. I explained that no, we hadn’t been introduced, and in fact, I had only started dancing in the prior half hour, which he took with great grace. He proceeded to teach me the basic East Coast step, which I promptly forgot.
My third dance, in which I learned the value of a good lead (or the additional difficultly that a poor lead presents to a new follow :-)). Nonetheless, I had fun, but now I needed a break, and some time to shove my rapidly-melting brain back in to my ears. I found the water coolers, wrote my name on a cup (not much contention for “Noirin”, really!), and tried to process.
The rest of the night went swimmingly. I managed about a dozen dances, with no fewer than eight leads. I mostly survived, and the leads were all very gracious. I may have broken one of them just a smidge, when I proceeded to hijack the dance slightly, and teach him the triple-step, but overall I think all involved had fun. I enjoyed watching some stunning dancers, particularly in the Blues room, and suffered only a minor shock on returning to the Lindy room from the Blues room and discovering that the music was approximately twelve times faster
Tiarnan having warned me that he planned to leave before midnight, I was not entirely surprised when we ended up closing the joint, and the magic of the internets (and the cars of the Sacramento posse) got us to Grubstake. I wasn’t really ready for their delicious chips, but did enjoy the gallon of ice-cream that I was served in the guise of a milkshake.
I managed to remain conscious long enough to get out of the diner and into a taxi. We headed back to the hotel, and rounded three sides of it before we found an open door, and crashed into bed. It was about this time that Tiarnan sent the following tweet, and yes, noirins was well and truly broken, although I would point out in my defence that it wasn’t so much the 30 hours that killed me, as the night of dancing that followed.
Sunday, I’m almost sure…
We were woken at some truly unmerciful hour, it can’t have been much past noon, the next day (for those of you who’ve lost track, the narrative has now made it to Sunday, at least in some universe), by the hotel fire alarm. I was perfectly content to die in the fire, as long as it didn’t involve moving anything below my hips. Tiarnan, on the other hand, insisted that we evacuate, a decision that was happily overruled by the lady on the intercom assuring us that the alarm was under investigation and we would be informed if there were any further developments. It wasn’t long before she returned to tell us that it was a false alarm, but by then we were awake.
For full disclosure, we had woken to the sound of Tiarnan’s alarm shortly before 07:00. Happily, he had been unable to stream the Scotland-France match over the internet fumes that the hotel provided, so we had rapidly returned to the embrace of Morpheus.
Anyway, once the fire alarm had woken us for real, I conducted a thorough study of the ceiling while Tiarnan conversed with no fewer than a dozen people via at least three media. We got up and found the most hip of San Francisco’s many hipster cafes. I had a swig of his mocha, and was surprisingly impressed. Tiarnan had thus introduced me to Swing and coffee in one weekend, a combination I feel confident will reoccur at some point.
At this point, I had planned to go home, get changed, and head to a Superbowl ad-watching party. Not the most dreadful state, but one from which I was rescued by yet another invitation to join Tiarnan’s friends. Given that the ad party was being held in the Internet Archive’s location, I figured I’d find a more fun gender-balance with his mates, and the decision was made. San Francisco being truly, wonderfully San Francisco, it was no problem for me to run out, get clean socks and a t-shirt, even in the twenty minutes I had before we were due to leave. For the record, if you’ve been wearing the same clothes for two days straight, and can only change one thing, make it your socks. OMG, that felt good!
After possibly the wildest taxi ride of my life, including both San Francisco hills and driving down the street on the sidewalk, we found the party, and I settled in between the wonderful N’Awlins Helena and a dancer called Dana. Helena provided illegally delicious BBQ shrimp, with a sauce you could just drink. Dana, not to be outdone, explained the rules of American football as only a woman can, and we proceeded to transmit as much sound energy as possible directly back through the screen to the Saints.
I will readily admit to a certain fondness for New Orleans, and was only too happy to support the Saints. The football was, surprisingly, more entertaining than the ads, although I will give full props to Dove for possibly-unintentional comedy value, and to Google for a very well-received Parisian Love. (The football may also have been made more fun by the fact that Dana had placed a small bet, and we were therefore screaming for specific scores at both half- and full-time, not just for a single winner :-))
Once the game was over, and the victory celebrated, the weekend seemed almost complete. But no! What of the ad-watching party!? We headed back towards the Tenderloin to meet up with Tom, and find out how the party had been. Sadly, Tom’s companion had just been turned away from Swig, because her ID didn’t meet their exacting standards So we retired to the hotel bar for a bevvy (and no, I still hadn’t gotten my strawberry daiquiri!). Tom & Pam left us after one, and since both Tiarnan & I were in possession of the magic harp-stamped documents, we returned to Swig just one more time.
The lack of strawberry daiquiris at Swig rapidly became moot, as we shook our booty to a rousing chorus of “Oh when the Saints” from the live band. It was almost as fun as Hallowe’en in New Orleans, and possibly better since it involved slightly more manageable crowds. I had my first taste of Blues dancing, and any preference for Lindy that I might have expressed on Saturday was rapidly forgotten as I fell in love with yet another new dance.
The end of the night was marred by a drunken Irish idiot, who didn’t understand the basics of “no”, but Tiarnan did an absolutely impeccable job of looking after me, and really, the whole affair should not be mixed up with the absolutely fabulous weekend I enjoyed.
And thus you have the tale of possibly the best weekend I’ve ever had. I made new friends, I got in more girl-talk than I’ve had in the last very-long-time, I fell in love with two new dances (and I’m already signed-up for Lindy classes when I get home!), I got to talk all night long, for several nights in a row, I discovered new music (listen to Jewel & Sarah McLachlan’s “Water is Wide”!), I had, in short, an absolute blast.
Unfortunately, I have now returned to work, where I am trying to write concise, informative documentation, on a shockingly short deadline. I would have made this post more brief, but I just didn’t have time. If you made it this far, my apologies for the length. Remind me the next time we’re in the same city, and I’ll buy you a pint