28 September 2006

last paddle hurrah in san fran

last weekend marked the final dragonboat competition of the year. held in san francisco, there were over 100 paddling teams that helped compose the weekend encampment on treasure island. i can't recall whether i've mentioned it before, but dragonboat competitions look not unlike a modern depiction of a medieval military campaign. there are a number of tents, each sporting its own banner and hosting its own distinctly-attired cadre bent on thwarting the other groups' dreams of victory by employing time-honored devices. races involve a closely-contained covey of odiferous folks who employ a lot of muscle and war cries to propel them to the finish line. the space between the finish line and a lot of expensive yachts was rather slender on treasure island, so we had to hold the boat quickly after crossing. i was in the 2nd bench for most of the races, so i had an intimate understanding of how imminently our potential rendezvous with yacht gunnels (and very possibly personal bankruptcy) was. a weekend of such close encounters rendered me unable to phonate as i repeatedly and loudly encouraged teammates to hold the boat. tee hee.

so that was the actual competition. now to san francisco. ahhh! Corey and i enjoyed beds in a chi-chi (sp?) hotel on market street secured by Debbye (thanks, Debbye!). Linda, Corey and i were hotel-mates for the weekend, and hilarity ensued. Corey got me a most humbling and treasured gift - travel scrabble. two of our three nights in san francisco were spent drinking wine and playing scrabble. it was delightful! a guilty squandering of a beautiful city's myriad opportunities, but we just couldn't help ourselves.
what did we do? we visited citylights books, walked around a lot, ate cheap pizza, walked around some more. the last day, i walked in the haight and golden gate park areas and returned to the waterfront to - you guessed it - walk around some more.
next to playing scrabble and paddling, the greatest pasttime was to be found in and around chinatown. it has been so long since i've spoken chinese with such wild abandon! most folks i met could speak mandarin, which is rare in portland (most speak cantonese). i shopped for cds that no one seemed to have. i continued my quest for portable chopsticks to replace mine, and no one had even heard of the idea before. i hunted for a restaurant with a chef from changchun or beijing to no avail. and i was unsuccesful every time, but completely in chinese which gave me the chance to speak mandarin some more with the next person or shop who didn't know or didn't have. it was fabulous!!! i went a few whole hours without speaking english. our last night in san fran, a group of castaways deigned to follow me in the winding route from our hotel to a restaurant that had been recommended by two different music store vendors, and we got to order a bunch off the menu (stir-fried eggplant and hot and spicy tofu . . . yumm). it was great! i have missed china, and san francisco is the nearest thing nearest to portland. what a find.

the only downside to the weekend was that i returned to portland with absolutely no voice (i will never yell that much again lest my voice leave and never return) and screaming muscles on the entire right side of my torso (i paddled all the races port-side, which will also never be repeated).

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