Monday, December 11, 2006

24 Hours in the Valley

I get to break two hiatuses (hiati?) within the span of a few days - the long gap in blog updates and the longish gap in visitors. In order to kill two birds with one stone, here's the quick story of Dan's Adventures in San Jose.

Dan is one of my good friends from college. We were apartment mates my senior year, but have shadowed each other since we were on the same dorm floor freshman year. Dan was unique in a lot of ways - a rare Mac enthusiast in our crowd, a scarily intelligent person even in our group of hyper-achievers, and one of the most athletically inclined among our crowd. He was accepted into the prestigious Wash U Medical School, and as a soon-to-be-graduate, is now making the rounds of respected hospitals for his residency program.

He is considering Stanford among the dozen or so schools he is looking at, and this past week came out for an interview. He stayed with a friend closer to the university earlier in the week, and apparently had a very successful interview. After some heated negotiations, I agreed to meet with his hosts over Dim Sum on Saturday for the handoff.

I still look at visitors as a great excuse to get out and hit more restaurants, and it was nice to find another place to add to my list. I don't even remember the name of this one, though I think it was something like Pan Tao; it's on the opposite corner as Cupertino Village, an impressive Asian mall that includes the other Dim Sum restaurant I've eaten at. I managed to embarrass myself slightly to the three Chinese people at my table - first by failing to properly eat a fried chicken foot, later when I couldn't even pick up a broccoli spear with my super-slick chopsticks - but it was tasty, so I wasn't complaining.

Dan and I had been looking forward to hiking, but the forecast that day called for lots of rain, so we had to find another plan. We decided to do the trip over the Santa Cruz mountains to visit the ocean. I took the more scenic Highway 9 on the way down, and we got to enjoy equal portions of nature and mountain civilization. One of these days I'll actually stop in Boulder Creek and see what's there.

By now I've pretty much settled on that one beach my mom and dad found as my showcase, so I headed directly over there once we reached Highway 1. I just really like it... it's private and secluded while still feeling impressive. The water level was higher this time than on any other trip I've made, with all the sand in the cove wet and the rocky outcropping surrounded by water. So that was cool; an entirely different look for a very familiar location. It was also a very windy day with choppy waves. I scrambled up the rocks and we spent a good amount of time staring at the encroaching waves and chatting. Once we were almost frozen through, we went up to the headland to check out the ocean from higher up. The crops had been harvested, so the field was more barren than I remembered.

After a quick trip back up on 17, I did the speedy driving tour of downtown San Jose, including my first-ever circumnavigation of the SJSU. I learned that it's much less attractive from the east and south than it is from the north and west. We also got stuck in traffic around Plaza de Cesar Chavez; the holiday extravaganza was in full swing and spilling out onto adjoining areas, so patience was required to get through.

We briefly recuperated in Casa de Cristobal by catching up on the previous night of Battlestar Galactica, which we had both missed. It's always fun to share some camaraderie with a fellow fan. So say we all!

Dan had eaten at a ton of Chinese restaurants by now, and we decided to experiment with some non-Asian cuisine. I took him out to Rico's in downtown Campbell. This was my second trip there, and I was as impressed as before - really fresh-tasting food, pleasant atmosphere, prompt service, all you could ask for. I decided that from now on I'll always order a taco al pastor for all of my visitors. It's so amazingly tasty, it is a revelatory experience. I went seafood this time with a shrimp platter, while Dan found the beef in carne asada. An excellent meal, and enough for me to decide that Rico's will be my go-to restaurant for guests.

That night was Video Game Madness. Dan, while a very intelligent person, has been sadly deprived in his video game exposure. I broke out Rez, and he enjoyed it even more than I expected. From here we continued the music theme with an introduction to Guitar Hero. Dan just blew me away - I had to ask him a few times if he had played before. He played all the way through the first two venues without failing a single song, and managed four stars on most of them. I was quite impressed. Next we went old-school with Ico, where Dan experienced anew the wonderful experience of running around a room for five minutes while trying to figure out how to open a door. The night ended with us both staring bleary-eyed at Civilization IV.

Dan's flight left on Sunday morning, but there was still time for a trip to Southern Kitchen, the one absolutely obligatory item on my guest itinerary. He had Eggs Benedict for the first time in his life and apparently was quite taken by them. I feasted on the weekend special of Kiwi, Strawberry and Banana Waffles, one of the most decadent-looking dishes I have ever seen, complete with a separate pot of whipped cream. I concluded with a super-compressed tour of Los Gatos (just the Silicon Valley Auto Group and my office), and then we were speeding northward to the airport.

Dan isn't even to the halfway point yet for interviews - he does University of Washington today, travels to the East Coast on Wednesday, and has even more later on. Still, he seems to have liked what he saw of Stanford and the Bay Area. Needless to say, I am pleased - while I love playing host, I think it'd be even better if all my friends relocated here. More fun for me, a better life for them - everyone wins! I'll just keep the California Love growing until my dreams come true.