What a trip: San Diego, CA

Bar menu, part dos — The Tractor Room.

The Torreses were in the final stages of splitting up, I’d had a busy week at work, it was Labor Day weekend and I had paid time off to kill before my work anniversary rolled around Sept. 3 and the PTO clock reset itself. Which is how we and our friend David found ourselves in the car Saturday morning, headed to San Diego.

Big Booty Judy and I have been good friends for the better part of a decade, but we’d never gone on a road trip together, so this was a first. “We should have gotten a classic old convertible,” I mused aloud, thinking about Mr. Vane’s Cadillac, sitting in the garage in Austin.

“Yes, then it would be just like To Wong Foo,” Judy laughed. “David would be Chi-Chi.” (David: “I’m not Mexican! I’m Colombian!”) Judy quickly snapped up Noxeema Jackson, which left me with … “What’s the name of the other one?” we wondered, and finally it took a smartphone search to remember: Ah, Vida Boheme.

David and the Torreses had scored a room at the Andaz during San Diego Pride, so up until the last minute we kept Pricelining the place trying to get the same price, to no avail. Instead, we ended up at the Lafayette Hotel in the North Park neighborhood, a historic place in the midst of renovating itself to appeal to a new generation of guest. The first room we got had a problem with the door — as in, it wouldn’t close or lock — so we ended up in a non-pool-view room, which was perfectly OK with us. We dropped our bags and headed to … the mall, because Chi-Chi wanted to hit the Macy’s supersale.

I never did find my lost sunglasses, so we hit Sunglass Hut in an attempt to replace them — but the only pairs that all three of us agreed on were $200+, so I walked away a sad man. At Macy’s, I found myself at the sunglass counter again, torn between a pair of Ray-Bans and some Maui Jims, which I’d never heard of and whose island-themed branding I could have done without.

“I like those better,” said Judy, pointing at the Maui Jims.

“Yeah, but do you like them a hundred dollars more better?” I asked. “Because that’s how much more they cost than the other pair.” Yes, he replied.

“Do you like them enough to give me a hundred dollars to buy them?” I asked. That would be a negative. However, the sorceress sales associate then demonstrated some magic screen that showed the difference between polarized and unpolarized lenses, so I said what the hell, I’m on vacation, and sprang for the Maui Jims.

Then back to the hotel to get ready for happy hour at Urban Mo’s,* which used to be a Hamburger Mary’s until franchising became an issue, I believe. David had never been to one before, so the server took a commemorative photo of us with our friend Davin (who as luck would have it lived like a block away from our hotel, giving us easy access to a liveried guide).

* Many moons ago, this is where I met Dr. Surf, who was our server that night. A few years after that he moved to Phoenix and later rented the third bedroom at Casa Flor while he attended medical school. He’s now back in San Diego. (Happy repeal of DADT, Dr. Surf!)

At the next bar, our sexy lesbian server asked if hers was the best rack we’d ever seen, and I said, “Not really,” and I thought it was a good idea to text Martini to prove it:

Ten minutes later, the reply came from her boyfriend’s number:

We showed the photo to our server, who admitted she had been outracked and in gracious defeat brought the five of us (Davin’s roommate Riley had joined us) a second round of pitcher drinks involving large amounts of vodka. We then went to Pecs, where we had another round and instead of being intimidated by the  leather daddies wearing their harnesses, we helped them straighten their straps. Up next was Numbers, where some of us danced, while some of us did not. We walked a lot, although I only remembered this when reminded of it the next day. I think I fell asleep around 5.

Here’s what else happened the next day: Owing to the previous night’s bender, absolutely nothing. Thank God we didn’t get the room with the pool view, because the thump-thump from the weekend pool parties would have played hell on our headaches. Chi-Chi and I managed to finally walk down to a nearby 7-Eleven to get Gatorade, Pepto-Bismol and various other hangover/queasiness treatments, and our chauffeur returned us to Mo’s for brunch** and so we could pick up the commemorative photos we had wisely left at the front desk the night before so they wouldn’t get crumpled.

** David pointed out that “You white boys always order the same thing for breakfast: eggs, bacon, and some sort of bread.”

While I’d always heard that a good cure for a hangover is to have another drink, I had to pass on the bottomless mimosas and stuck to Diet Coke. I couldn’t even eat half my food, and eventually vowed that I would try and finish a screwdriver. That was a no-go as well. Back to the hotel to sleep some more. At dinner that night, we debated the wisdom of going out again—both among ourselves and, for me, internally.

Sam’s brain: “Yes! It’s your last night on vacation! Just don’t be as crazy as last night!”
Sam’s stomach: “Don’t think I won’t come up there and hurt you. You’re lucky I haven’t rebelled against this sushi.”

My stomach won; after dinner we crawled into beds and I watched an episode of Masterpiece Mystery that guest-starred Juliet Stevenson. (“At least you had one night of fun,” I reassured myself.)

The next morning David and I wandered down to Eclipse Chocolat, which we had passed the previous day on our trip to 7-Eleven. I grabbed a latté and a double-chocolate brownie for breakfast, and picked up a box of truffles (five lavender sea salt, five bergamot orange peel) for my co-workers (and me) to enjoy back home. The place and proprietors seemed quite incredible; we were intrigued by the Friday Night Three-Ways that offer a sweet dish, a savory dish and a half-glass of wine for only $12. (This Friday’s vanilla bean offerings, for example: crab cake with roasted red pepper and chive/Parmesan panko crust and vanilla bean aioli; strawberry lavender vanilla bean compote with white chocolate cobbler and crème fraiche; and Brachetto d’Acqui sparkling wine.)

Our final meal in San Diego was Sunday brunch at The Tractor Room. (More bar menu at right.) What I ordered: Eggs, bacon and a bread, of course — an English muffin. I finally was feeling fine enough to have a drink with food — but only one, because after the meal I had to drive us the five hours back to reality.

On the way back, both Judy and David slept, which was just fine by me — one thing that I think I’ve inherited from my dad, who was a long-haul OTR trucker, was an affinity for driving, even if I’m the only one awake.

WHAT SAM WORE: 9-20-11
The shirt: Cotton pullover shirt by BDg, from Buffalo Exchange.
The pants: Corduroy jeans from Uniqlo, New York.
The shoes: “Whirlwind” sneakers, from the Puma store in Soho.
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