After Saturday’s long day of travel and epic dinner at Millennium, we spent a lazy Sunday morning lounging around our room at the Hotel California. But considering the epic-ness of the previous night’s meal, we actually woke up pretty dang hungry! So by mid-morning we had packed our bags, grabbed some hotel coffee, and hit the road. We were on a mission! To the Mission District.
Oh, Gracias Madre.
If there are two restaurants you should hit up while visiting San Francisco, they’re Millennium and Gracias Madre. Hands down, period.
Gracias Madre is all local, all organic, and all vegan. They use real, whole foods – no faux meats, in fact I don’t think they even offer tofu. Just hand-crafted, made-from-scratch, totally to-die-for Mexican food.
We started with a couple of aguas frescas: one with watermelon, one with cilantro and jalapeño, both delicious. The atmosphere in Gracias Madre is so great, just totally cozy, but still airy and bright.
So much goodness. While we were waiting for our entrees, we discovered that our table had a drawer in it, and this drawer was filled with fantastic little notes. Some were sordid and some were sweet, some were deeply personal and others, completely banal. It reminded me a bit of Post Secret. There were confessions of love and admissions of adultery, funny little anecdotes and simple shopping lists. Either way, a voyeurs dream.
Entrees! We got three – two to eat there and the Pozole to take for later.
What a meal! Needless to say, there were lots of leftovers.
Afterwards, I wandered up to the counter to admire the tee shirts, and when I turned around, I found myself face to face with . . . Jason Wrobel! AGAIN! (further proof that Millennium and Gracias Madre are THE top two restaurants in SF – and that great minds think alike!). We were shocked and delighted to bump into each other yet again, and we all had a nice chat out on the patio while Jason and Whitney waited for their food. And, we got to meet the adorable vegan wonder-dog, Evie.
It was great to see them again, but we had to get on the road. We had a concert to get to! Tom Waits, that night, in Mountain View California.
So we had a bit of driving ahead of us, and I was pretty eager to get as close as humanely possible to the venue, as soon as humanely possible, lest some unforeseen obstacle arise at the last moment. (Paranoid? Yes. But hello! TOM WAITS!)
We grabbed a couple of juices – carrot ginger beet for him, and this crazy kale concoction for me – and then we were on our way.
We made it to our hotel in good time, freshened up and changed into “concert gear” (the concert was outdoors, on the lawn/picnic style, and it was coooold), packed up our cooler and blanket, and headed over. It was late afternoon and I was going to see Tom Waits. And I was having trouble managing my feelings about that. Sometimes, when really big huge almost-incomprehensible things are about to happen, I get a little . . . . aloof . . . about it. So that’s how I was, that afternoon. A little unsure of how to cope with the potential import of the experience, and thus, a little aloof.
I just assumed – since obviously, Tom Waits is the greatest musician to ever live – that he would go on late. But obviously Neil Young has some unresolved jealousy issues or something, because he put Tom Waits on early, around 7pm (also possible that the time slot was because he was added last minute, but I don’t know – that Neil Young can be pretty shifty). But that was great news to me!
And that aloofness? Well it all melted away, the minute the first chord struck. And I was rapt with tears running down my face, so acutely, exquisitely present in the magnitude of that moment. And that’s as close as I’ll ever get to feeling spiritual, I think.
I wish I had good pics for you, but I don’t. They didn’t let us bring cameras in, and the lawn, even our stellar seats on the lawn, was still very far away from the stage. Luckily they had giant screens and so even though I was farther away than I’d ever been when seeing Tom Waits before, I felt closer because for the first time I could really see his face – which for Tom Waits, is a big part of the show.
Yeah, my iPhone pics just cannot do it justice. You’ll have to trust me when I say that it was a perfect sermon. There was magic in that air, so thick you could practically lick it.
After his set we decided to take off – it was cold and we’d gotten what we’d come for. We hopped into a cab for a quick ride down to a local wine bar that had just opened up. We enjoyed a good Nebbiolo and a not-so-good Rhone Valley blend, and then realized we were like, super hungry! But 9pm on a Sunday in a small town, and our prospects didn’t look so good. Happy Cow wasn’t showing much, but on a whim we just decided to start walking – we were down town after all – to see if we had any luck.
And boy, did we ever!
Bushido Izakaya is an AMAZING Japanese restaurant with a whole little vegan section of their menu, it was so awesome. They were knowledgable and accommodating, and totally sweet. We just couldn’t believe our luck. This meal was superb!
That Hollywood Roll? GAME CHANGER. If you used to be a fan of raw fish sushi, but choose to no longer eat animals, then you *must* try young coconut on your sushi! It has such a similar texture, the experience was uncanny. Can’t wait to try to replicate this at home!
All in all, it’s hard for me to imagine a more amazing night. Slept like a rock – a very happy rock.
The next morning I woke up with an unexpected sense of peace – like some teeny tiny tingle of anxiety, buried so deep it had been unrealized, was now quieted. I think that maybe I always knew I was supposed to see Tom Waits that third time, and I had been waiting for it.
In 2004 I saw Tom Waits play, and I saw that show with the first great love of my life, Matt. And we went to that show with my very good friend. My friend Damian. True story!
In 2008 I caught Tom Waits live again, this time with my husband – Damian. And we happened to go to that show with an old friend. Our old friend Matt. True story!
But In 2013 I finally released myself from both of those men, those two men who had ruled my heart so completely for almost my entire adult life. In 2013 I feel independent in a way I can’t ever remember having felt before. And this? This concert? Well I can’t imagine a more poignant expression of that. And it feels perfect, this third-times-a-charm little cap on my Tom Waits trilogy. It feels like . . . closure.
All my love!
♥ ♥ ♥
Thank you so much to all the people who helped make it possible for us to eat/sleep/stay/explore the way we did on this trip. We couldn’t have done it without your generosity, so THANK YOU! You know who you are.