Sunday, February 11, 2007

Shoes, shopping and Starbucks

Friday, February 9 (Part One)

I succumb to Starbucks. That green shopfront with the white star is as ubiquitous as the Golden Arches here - if not more so. (In fact, I'm pretty sure there are more McDonalds outlets in Melbourne than here.) Escaping from the cold and the wet, I savour my small latte at a table by the window, newspaper before me. This is good. Of course, the small latte is the size of an Australian large, and it's not a patch on the coffee in Yarraville, let alone Carlton ... but it's warm, it's made of freshly ground coffee beans, and it's bought me not only a seat and a temporary newspaper but a trip to the restroom.

In San Francisco, they take their 'for customers ONLY' signs very seriously. At the tacquiera yesterday, I was handed a long wooden bar with a key attached. At Starbucks, I get a code to punch in. I wonder if they change it every day? I mean, otherwise I could write it down and use it whenever I like. They also look at me oddly when I ask to use the toilet, so I'm learning to use that ridiculous euphemism 'restroom' instead. (I'm not going there to rest though - and if I was, I'd be kicked out pretty fast. I get a knock on the door and a glare when I emerge from the Starbucks loo after five minutes or less.)

The big news in the San Francisco Chronicle is as follows:

  • The death of Anna Nicole Smith, professional fucked-up party girl (former professional wife). This has also dominated the news on my hotel cable since I arrived - on approximately half of my seventy channels. The channels that don't run news are running specials and 'celebrity interviews' with people like her estranged mother and her cleaning lady.

  • A San Francisco man who saved a woman from drowning in 2001 has this week suffered sever burns after rescuing a dog from a fire.

  • Progress in the Pebble Beach golf tournament, where a 75 foot pine tree fell on the green, right in front of actor Bill Murray, who made an unspecified joke about it.

  • A Bush spokesman has denounced the ruckus over whether Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will use a government plane to commute to Washington from her San Francisco home, calling it 'unimportant'.

It's all pretty parochial stuff, apart from the main story: celebrity gossip. So far, so Herald Sun/Advertiser. Disappointing for such a major city.

One major reason I am here is to change shoes. Despite the umbrella I acquired yesterday, I am somehow soaked to the knees, and damp to my thigh. My sneakers are uncomfortably soggy. I need boots (and was about to put them in my bag before I left the house - no matter). And I'm more self conscious than I thought I would be about looking like a tourist. Sneakers with everything is a sure sign ...

So, I detour from today's trip to walk around SF's Latin American district, The Mission, to go shopping. After my short walk around Bloomingdales on my way home yesterday, I decide to go cheap and shameless. Or at least, cheaper than Ralph Lauren and Prada.

Well, colour me pleased. I have not one, but two new pairs of shoes – some Birkenstocks that I nearly bought in Melbourne for $180 and picked up here for $40 (US), and a pair of sheepskin lined black suede boots from a line called Bear Paw. And, yes, they are basically ugh boots, but they’re so warm, so comfy … I have happy feet.

However, I did get the worst service of my life in the shoe shop. I asked for shoes in my size and the sales attendant shot me a dirty look, reluctantly followed me, and waved at the boxes.
‘They’re all there,’ he said. ‘And there’s nothing in your size. Look!’ He pointed at a few boxes to make his point, then: ‘Oh. Here are some in your size. Wrong colour, though.’ He looked some more, once again to prove his point. ‘Oh. Here are your shoes.’ He shoved a box at me and started to walk off, so I sat down on the floor to try them on.
‘There’s a chair somewhere over there, probably’ he said over his shoulder. I wasn’t sure where ‘over there’ was and decided not to bother.

At Virgin Megastore, I was very very excited to finally purchase Veronica Mars series 2.

In the US, you need to show photo ID to use your credit card. Not a bad idea, really. But unfortunately, I decided to be clever and locked my passport in the hotel safe this morning. (Luckily, the cashier at the shoe shop hadn’t much cared, in keeping with the attitude of the rest of the staff.) The Virign guy, after first telling me he couldn’t serve me, relented.
‘Where are you from?’
‘Australia. I’m sorry. Do you want to see my Medicare card or something?’
‘Ahhh, it’s fine.’
I thanked him profusely as I left.
‘It’s raining pretty hard. I don’t want you to have to walk back to your hotel in this.’
Thank god, for once, for the rain! I don’t think I would have risked one more trip than necessary to the dodgy hotel – not even for Veronica Mars.

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