Category Archives: Fun

Treasures of the Sunset

I’m not shy when discussing the joy associated with my living situation. In addition to having a great apartment and great roommate, I embrace my neighborhood and take advantage of its riches frequently. There are many things to love about San Francisco’s Sunset neighborhood. I love brisk after-work urban hikes to the top of Grand View Park and Strawberry Hill (in Golden Gate Park). I love the delicious cheap dinner spots like Lime Tree, King of Noodles and Crepevine, and its classier joints like Pasión and Nopalito. I even love Donut World, open 24 hours a day.

Grand View Park, Sunset, San Francisco

My roommate (Austin) and me at the top of Grand View Park, one of my very favorite vantage points from high above the Inner Sunset. Along your urban hike up to the park, be sure to stop at Moraga and 16th Avenue and discover one of the two nearby sets of mosaic tile staircases. (Photo credit: Nicolas Smith)

The Inner Sunset has a hot dog joint, comic book store, and shoe repair shop that’s been open since 1900. From its streets you can look in various directions and lay your eyes on Sutro Tower, the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Park, an oasis where you can run on trails, run on a track inside a former NFL stadium, run a half marathon, hike, paddle boat, golf, frisbee golf, cycle laps, geocache, play baseball, soccer, kickball, attend a music festival and more. Our glorious park is home to a world-class science museum and art museum, Japanese Tea Garden, carousel and bison paddock.

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There is never a shortage of things to do and see in Golden Gate Park. Starting clockwise from top left: a butterfly inside the Academy of Sciences, ducklings and their parents at Stow Lake, a Burning Man tent set-up dress rehearsal with Brian, and a geocache discovery with Austin.

In celebration of my adoration for my neighborhood I recently contributed to my dear friend Andi’s travel, food and France blog, Misadventures with Andi. As part of her new series on SF neighborhood profiles from locals, I share more of my favorite Sunset neighborhood gems including a worker-owned bakery and a magnificent cheese shop. Check out my Sunset profile here.

Gentleman, start your engines!

According to one of the most well respected online resources, Urban Dictionary (jk, mostly), a guilty pleasure is defined as something you shouldn’t like but do anyway OR as something that you love to do, but cannot admit to.

I’m not completely in the closet over the joy I receive from following the NASCAR circuit or watching a race on TV from time to time, but this personal interest may come to a surprise to many of my California friends. 🙂 I adventured down to Los Angeles many years ago for my first NASCAR race and have been known to drool over some of the drivers. Every time I’ve driven to Sonoma for a wine trip, my intrigue over the nearby course that hosts an annual NASCAR race has grown.

This weekend, my friend Sean and I had the pleasure of indulging in a day of stock car racing at Sonoma Raceway for the 2013 Toyota SaveMart 350. As thankful and gracious guests of Sprint, we enjoyed pre-race festivities and access to pit road, and a premium perch for watching the 220 mile race, among other generous benefits provided by the lead sponsors for NASCAR’s top racing series.

RV village

I didn’t realize how many people bring RVs to Sonoma Raceway to camp out and make a weekend of the racing festivities. Oddly enough, the expansive field of RVs kind of reminded me of Burning Man….

THE PITS

Before the race, we were able to explore pit road and check out all the different racing team’s pit stations, including rows and rows of tools, tires and communication equipment. We even had a chance to stand on the iconic finish line. I stood proud in front of my favorite team’s pit area, #48 Jimmie Johnson!

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Rows and rows of tires filled the pit road area. It’s estimated that race teams cumulatively go through 1,000 tires in a single race.  Sean was impressed by all the rubber.

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Set amidst the rolling hills of the northern California and Sonoma Valley, the Raceway is a surprisingly beautiful landscape.

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The Sonoma Raceway did a great job with the pre-show entertainment including a national anthem performance by a local American Idol finalist and an impressive airshow by the Patriots Jet Team, featuring former Thunderbird and Blue Angel pilots. The view from the Sprint hospitality tent was perfect for watching all the corners of the twisting, turning course.

Congratulations to Martin Truex Jr. who won the race by fending off Jeff Gordon, who surged his way to the front during the last dozen laps, and Juan Pablo Montoya, who ran out of gas during the final loop. Thanks again to Megan and Kimberly for making this awesome weekend possible.

Work it out Wednesday > #69 Color Run edition

Color Run

This weekend Megan, Austin and I participated in the Color Vibe color run in Vallejo, a 5K fun run, where as you can see from the photos above, we got blasted with colored cornstarch as we jogged around the Solano County Fairgrounds. While the race had an official DJ spinning some hot tunes from the likes of LMFAO prior to the beginning of the race, we had our own pre-race dance party warm up inside Megan’s CRV. One of the tunes the infamous DJ Broo selected for our exclusive warm up included a favorite remixed dance track, bringing together one of Megan’s all-time favorite musical muses, Robyn, with one of favorite DJs, Kaskade. Enjoy this oldie but a goodie that has been playing on repeat in my brain all week. Happy Hump Day!

Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend [Kaskade Remix]

More colorful photos from the fun run here.

A perfect long weekend in Ft. Lauderdale

Every couple of years it’s nice use the time off around Thanksgiving for a little traveling. In the past I’ve used the time to explore Australia, lounge in Puerto Vallarta, backpack in Yosemite and Point Reyes, and rock climb in Joshua Tree. This year I spent my turkey day weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had never been and knew very little about the destination, but I did a fair amount of research ahead of time and sketched out a light itinerary to assure a positive experience. It ended up being a beautiful, relaxing long weekend with good drinks and eats, and a lovely stay at a small, unique hotel.

If you’re interested in going to Fort Lauderdale or planning a short trip in the new year, here is a quick guide I’ve put together based of my stay.

To stay…

If you’re gay and open to birthday suit poolside sunbathing, stay at the Villa Venice. This guesthouse recently joined a property family with the popular Worthington and Alcazar resorts, and as a guest in one you have access to all three, each separated by a short palm-lined stroll. The Villa Venice seems like the nicest of the three, definitely the quietest when we were there, with the nicest lounge chairs (important) and a comfy poolside cabana. The rooms are modern and clean, and a basic but high-quality continental breakfast in the morning is the perfect way to start the day.

Villa Venice isn’t within walking distance to Wilton Manors, the gay neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, where the local bars are, but the location is ideal because of the proximity to the beach. I don’t know what other areas of Fort Lauderdale are like (because we were perfectly happy staying in our beautiful area) but the stretch along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. (1A) is a popular area, and not over run with tourism.

VILLA VENICE IN FORT LAUDERDALE

To eat…

We were recommended Casablanca Cafe by at least one person and it came up in our research as a top nearby place to eat. We ended up there twice because of the great outdoor seating and well-done American dishes. We highly recommend the rigatoni. We split oysters and two entrées for lunch on our first visit, which was the perfect way to dine. With spiked Arnold Palmers, on the patio and sun beaming down, it couldn’t be beat.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Steak 954 at the W Hotel, perhaps the nicest place to eat in the area. The jellyfish in the waiting area of the restaurant are mesmerizing and memorable. Our food was good — the oysters, steak, and turkey dinner were all prepared well. There was a cool breeze the evening we were there so we didn’t sit outside, but the patio is spacious and would be inviting on a beautiful warm day or night.

We also enjoyed a dinner at The Plaza Bistro, a unique outdoor dining concept. Essentially they’ve parked a glorified gourmet food truck on an empty plot of land a few blocks from the beach, and thrown in a professional wait staff and proper seating and plating, for a pleasant and satisfying experience.

If you drive into the small retail / tourist trap area near NE 9th Street and Sunrise Lane, I would avoid pretty much all of the food establishments, as they’re all poorly rated. We stopped into SandBar for lunch and sat on their run down roof deck. We sent our poorly cooked burgers back and what they replaced them with (slightly better cooked burgers), weren’t any good either.

EAT IN FORT LAUDERDALE

To drink…

The W Hotel of course has a bar to have a few pre- dinner drinks but our favorite watering hole ended up being the dive Patio Bar attached to the equally dive Tropic Cay guesthouse. Friendly servers, stiff drinks, a juke box, pool table and ocean breeze, all combine for a great low-key cocktailing experience.

To beach…

While the guesthouses and towering luxury hotels have nice pools, don’t miss the opportunity to spend time on the beautiful beaches of Fort Lauderdale. The entire stretch along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. that we strolled and lounged along from Terralinda to Sebestian, is blissful. The gay area is near Sebestian Beach and I found it to be unpretentious and picturesque.

TERRAMAR BEACH IN FORT LAUDERDALE

To do…

Simple instructions here: when in Fort Lauderdale, focus on one thing – relaxing. It’s so easy to do. Beach, sun, warmth. Read a book and soak up some Vitamin D. Recharge and let your mind rest.

To explore…

At some point you may want to do something beside read, eat, sleep and sun. If you’re like me, maybe you will want to do a little exploring. Look no further than the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. It’s a historic home sitting on a beautiful plot of gardens, once owned by some wealthy Floridians, and now featured on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

We explored the grounds, met a few monkeys, and strolled past all the key landmarks before joining a guided tour of the house. We were intrigued by the art, decor, style and history.

BONNET HOUSE FORT LAUDERDALE

I knew nothing about Fort Lauderdale three months ago but I’m now happily enriched by its beauty and getaway characteristics. Maybe it’s a wilder place during spring break or during the summer months, but for Thanksgiving it was the perfect getaway.

I’m not a Survivor, but I’ve hung out with a few

Survivor: Philippines!

I’ve been a fan of the TV show Survivor since the very beginning. I watched Richard Hatch win it all in 2000 and I haven’t missed an episode since. That’s 25 seasons and 375 episodes. (If you watched every season back-to-back, 24 hours straight, it’d take you 17 days!)

My love for the show reached its zenith this weekend when I was treated to the opportunity to go the finale and live reunion in Los Angeles with my friend Lee, who does business with Mark Burnett, the creator and producer of the show.

I had no idea what was in store for me when I arrived at CBS Television City on Sunday, but it was an event I had been looking forward to all season long.

front row, all-access

Little did I know going into the night that I would be treated like VIP. Not only were we in the audience, but we were seated in the very front row, next to the family of final four contestant Malcolm.

Before the 2-hour finale began airing, we mingled with Mark Burnett himself and a few past contestants. I even had an awkward run in with a moody contestant from last season. At first I couldn’t pinpoint what season she had been on and when I asked she snapped at me, reminding me it wasn’t that long ago… Without me even saying another word, she immediately went into defense mode, yapping about how she was edited as the cockroach of her season because she ticked off some producer during filming… Dang honey, chill out! Then I rubbed elbows with long-time dreamy host Jeff Probst, and previous contestants Rob Cesternino, Parvati Shallow and Burton Roberts, yum.

Survivor: Philippines!

It was exciting and surreal to sit in the studio and watch the two-hour finale. Audience members and especially family members cheered and jeered at different points of the show. I probably had a smile on my face the entire time.

After the final tribal council aired and it was time for Jeff to read the votes and announce the winner, the entire cast came out and got set up for the big live reveal. At this point I was rooting for Lisa but thought Michael had the best shot of winning. However, both of them delivered weak answers to jury questions during the final tribal council and I knew Denise had made a much stronger case for the million dollar prize.

LIVE!

Before I knew it, the votes were read, Denise had won 5-1-1 and it was time for the live reunion show. This was my chance to appear on national television for the second time! (The first being when I stood behind a person being interviewed by Al Roker during The Today Show in 2001.)

It was fascinating being part of the live show. There were cameras zipping around everywhere and countdowns-til-the-next-commercial flashing all over.

After the reunion concluded, we jetted for the hallway where Lee knew the cast would exit the set. He knew if we acted fast we’d have a chance to take a picture or two with a contestant or two. We poked around, crossed paths with many of this season’s notable contestants including Jeff, Pete and RC, and Michael, Malcolm and Lisa, and I got to congratulate Denise on her win. We even popped into the media tent (we literally had all-access!) and I got to meet one of my favorite contestants of all-time, the sweet and friendly Jerri Manthey!

back stage, on stage, in the halls, media tent

Finally after about 2 hours of stalking around CBS, we finally had the chance to pull grumpy, hottie, fourth place contestant Malcolm aside for some quick snapshots. 🙂

Malcolm and Derek, no big deal

A lot of my friends poke fun of me over my long standing love for Survivor, but I have no shame. There aren’t many things I’ve done in my life for 12 years straight and I’m proud to say being a Survivor fan is one of them. It’s a fascinating show about how strangers interact and treat each other under extreme conditions, what drives people to win, competitiveness, physicality and basic human interactions. The experience changes people in positive ways and it’s always inspiring to watch that unfold. The show is always set in beautiful locations, from Africa to the Amazon to all over the South Pacific, and it makes me want to explore the world. Every season is different and worth watching for its own reasons. As long as it’s on, I’ll be a loyal viewer.

As dorky as it may sound, being at the finale and reunion was a night I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life. I had a blast and am so grateful for the experience.

Thank you again Lee, I owe you big!

For all my photos from the night, visit my Survivor finale Flickr album.

A perfect sunny Sunday in San Francisco…

Destination: the Fillmore district
Requirements: $50 and an awesome friend

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Brunch lunch at Woodhouse Fish Company on Fillmore. I recommended oysters and fish and chips, lobster roll or fish tacos. Wash it down with a cold, delicious Scrimshaw.

Head south to 1300 Fillmore for live jazz and bottomless pomosas. Sit at the bar and enjoy gospel brunch.

On your way to Alamo Square park stop by a local convenient store to pick up a snack and libations of your choice. Try Third World Market (Fillmore and Turk).

Finally, kick back in Alamo Square park and enjoy the fresh air. Use your phone as a music player, enjoy some tunes, watch the dogs running around, and people watch. Relax, meditate and appreciate the company of who you’re with.

Optional add on: A movie at the wonderful Kabuki Cinema.

Why I ride

Why did I ride in the AIDS Lifeycle last year? To be part of the gay community in SF in an entirely new way, to challenge myself physically and to help spread awareness for HIV and AIDS as an epidemic, still today.

Last year I was part of a short video series by Mojo Interactive to help spread awareness online. My video is about my experience of riding through small towns down the coast of California and feeling like our presence would get families talking about HIV and AIDS, when they otherwise might never have.


That was last year, what about this year? Why am I riding again? Well one reason is that it is one of the most fun weeks you’ll ever experience. It’s a week full of sunshine, good looking men, exercise, so much laughter and connections with people from all walks of life. It’s an amazing community of wonderful, generous people and it’s unlike any other experience to be part of it for seven days.

More importantly this year I’m riding because I want to see an end to HIV and AIDS in my lifetime. I want for us to eliminate this virus and disease from not only the gay community but from the whole world. While it can be much easier to live with HIV/AIDS now, there are still so many stigmas and stresses associated with carrying it. And in less developed parts of the world the disease is still killing over a million people a year.

Thank you to everyone that has donated to support my 545 mile bike ride to LA the last two years. Together we have raised more than $13,000 to end help end HIV/AIDS.

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Me outside Cow Palace on Day 0 (orientation), ready for my second ALC!

Me and Katie at Day 0, standing in front of a giant banner with some familiar faces from ALC10.