July 17, 2005

When Family Comes to Visit

My family (minus one David) came to visit for the weekend. What follows is a description of our adventures...


Spent the evening at the Coliseum to see the Oakland A's play the Texas Rangers. We got our tickets from scalpers stationed between the BART station and the Coliseum entrance, and ended up just sitting wherever we wanted to in the half-filled stadium. We spent $12 on a ballpark dinner for four of nachos grande and two cotton candies (one blue, one pink) - only at a ballpark can you eat that kind of food guilt-free. Well, after the fact, I felt a little more guilty and grossed out by the amount of grease and sugar I consumed, but it was pretty good going down. Barry Zito of the A's hit a no-hitter into the eighth inning, so the game went by fast, and we finished off the evening with ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery... mmm, oatmeal cookie dough.


We started the day at I.H.O.P. to get a solid start on our cultural excursion - kidding. Do you know they serve funnel cakes as a breakfast option now? As if sugary pancakes and pounds of bacon wasn't enough to coat your veins with oil!

After breakfast, we went to see the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, a historical landmark and tourist attraction. In 1884, the wealthy little Sarah L. Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle estate, began building a Victorian mansion. After her husband and child died, Sarah went into a deep depression. At the recommendation of a friend, she went to speak to a psychic, who told her she must start a new life and build a home for herself and the spirits that died at the hand of a Winchester rifle. The psychic told her she must never stop building the house, and if the construction ceased, she would meet a similar fate to that of her husband and daughter. Carpenters, craftsmen, and builders worked on the project 7 days a week for 38 years (until the crazy woman finally died). The house has heating and sewer systems, 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, a dozen or so kitchens, and one simple bathroom.

Sarah was intrigued by the number 13. Every window in the house contains 13 panes of glass, walls have thirteen candles, and rooms have thirteen windows. Every staircase but one in the house has 13 steps, and a chandelier in the main dining room has thirteen candles, though only 12 original brass holdings. There are staircases that run directly into ceilings, a door that opens to an 8 ft. drop, and cubbards ranging a half inch in thickness to many feet back of storage. Every pillar in the house is mounted upside-down, and Sarah's seance room has one entrance and three exits (two are hidden). Sarah's seamstress room has bolts and bolts of fabric. Whenever she saw a pattern of material she liked, she would have one of her many servants buy the entire stock of it. That way, no one in the town could be fashioned in the same cloth as her. Beyond her eccentricities, she seemed like a real witch. She would pay each servant at the end of each day, with no assurance they would be paid or needed the following day. She would fire and hire at will, and if you ever questioned the architecture of the house, you were immediately fired. During the decades she lived in her mystery mansion, she never had one visitor come to eat in any of her lavish parlors. Psychics that have visited the house say they sense spirits still living there. I suppose with all of us tourists coming to check out the house, Sarah finally has some visitors after all.

We met Therese for dinner at Bridges, the restaurant where Robin Williams has the double-booked date from Mrs. Doubtfire. The restaurant got new owners a couple of years ago, so it didn't look exactly as we remembered from the movie. The bathrooms, however, were the same as they were when filmed.


We drove through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was completely covered by fog over the bay. A couple of yards off either end and you couldn't even see the thick red panels of the bridge. We stopped in Sausalito, which was another one of those cute towns I keep coming across in Northern California. They had a lot of nice shops and restaurants off the bay, though we didn't really stay long enough to enjoy any of them.

We set off towards Sacramento to visit some family friends and have dinner. It took us a little over three hours to get there because of the terrible traffic. We had the air conditioner turned on high for most of the ride, and when I opened the door to get out of the car, the heat almost choked me and knocked me back into the car. Note to self: do NOT live in the valley.


We thought we'd try our hand at some beaches, and headed towards Capitola Beach. We got there around 10am, and the weather was still cool and cloudy by noon. There must not be much crime threat in Capitola, as deduced by the shape of the police officers we saw near the coast. Michael and I put our feet in the ocean, grabbed some shells, and then watched some amateurish surfers ride some unimpressive waves.

On our way back towards Livermore, we stopped in San Jose again. My mom went to her safehaven (the mall), and Michael and I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I thought the movie was enjoyable, and once again, Johnny Depp did a wonderful performance of the social-outcast weirdo. There was much more insight into why Wonka turned into the social delinquent, choco-loving, candy man. I liked this Charlie better than the Charlie in the original, but I thought the other four ticket-holding brats weren't as good as the originals. The oompa loompas, or should I say, cloned oompa loompa, had a few good songs and dances, but the original songs are the ones I still have stuck in my head ("Who do you blame when your kid is a brat? Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat; Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame. You know exactly who's to blame... The mother and the father!"). Also, there weren't as many fun new candies as I remember in the first one. Where was the lickable wallpaper? Snozzberries? Who's ever heard of a snozzberry?

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