Flowers in my Red Hair

The following conversation took place on my iPhone at some point in February 2012.

Harper: So about accommodations, do you mind staying in a hostel?

Rugged Fox: A hostel? Explain.

Harper: It is kind of like a Travelodge but there are no walls between each room.

(dramatic pause)

Rugged Fox: We might as well just sleep under the Golden Gate bridge if that’s the case.

It should come as no surprise that when it comes to nightly skin routines and sleeping arrangements, I have a checklist of needs. I am not like most girls who can just pass out on the floor and throw their hair up in a ponytail the next morning looking like they did it on purpose.

My beauty is regimented. My face relies on at least eight ten to ten hours of sleep a night, and considering how much alcohol I consume on an hourly basis, three different moisturizing creams and one French mineral water spritz. 

I did my research and quoted Harper on a few numbers from a couple of boutique hotels at Union Square as well as the Fairmont in Nob Hill. I estimated that minus taxes, room service and mini-bar charges, we could easily stay four nights in the Gay Metropolis for just under $1,500. I realized it was about $1,200 more than the price she first had in mind; but to my knowledge, these “hostels” did not include leather sofas, remote-controlled fireplaces or 24-hour fitness rooms. Because she is a starving student and I have body image problems, I emailed her to explain we could just save the difference on food.

When I did not hear back from Jacquie for two weeks, I discovered a compromise online: air bnb. For hostel prices, we could stay in a two-bedroom apartment with wine glasses in the cupboard, a walk-in closet to hang all my clothes, and a bathroom without fluorescent lighting. After she gave me the go-ahead, I booked us a room for $60 a night in the sunny Mission District. I was sold as soon as I saw a picture of the room we would be staying in: four hot-pink walls, one make-up counter, and a bed big enough to fit two queens.

When I first checked in late Tuesday night, our host Marc was a perfect gentlemen. Earlier on in the night, he had lent Harper his iPhone so I could get in touch with her when I arrived from the airport with my missing bag. He also helped me up the stairs with my suitcase and poured me a glass of Napa Pinot when I took a seat on the couch. If he wasn’t married with two children, there is a good chance I would’ve texted Harper that night to stay somewhere else.

Apart from being pretty much the best place to stay ever, the location was perfect. Close to Mission and 26th we were a fifteen minute walk from the Castro and two blocks from a subway station that put us downtown in five minutes. The neighbourhood was great and there was no shortage of corner stores to buy red wine. The best part was that we got to experience living in San Francisco without having to pay rent at the end of the month.

Picking up from where my itinerary left off, the sun was shining when Harper and I woke up Wednesday morning. I stumbled out of bed to get us water and smiled when I saw that Marc had brewed us coffee before he left for work in the kitchen. Although I hadn’t slept in days, my liver was on life support, and I was still having nightmares about serving in the restaurant; at that exact moment, it hit me how excited and grateful I was to be on vacation. I started jumping up and down like Laura Linney in Love Actually and then gaining my composure, poured two cups of coffee to take back to the room.

“Good morning daaahling,” Harper said, sitting up and stretching her arms up above her head.

With Coco Chanel eyes and rich chocolate ganache hair, she looked like Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Even more fitting was the fact that she woke up beside a gay man.

 “You were great last night, by the way,” I passed her a coffee mug with a picture of Marc’s daughter’s on it.

 “I know,” she said, as if there were any doubt. “What did you want to do today muffin?”

 “Well, I figured we’d start with a couple of mimosas and float on from there.”

There are three things I hate in this world: pea soup, gay men who tip less than thirty-percent, and agendas, especially while traveling.  I don’t like planning ahead, showing up on time, or being expected to meet a deadline. I am a water sign, which means I go with the flow, look great in earth colours, and act like Brenda Walsh when I get upset. Because Harper is a Taurus … I don’t know we just mesh really well, whatever. Stop asking me questions.

I started unpacking my suitcase and laying out clothing options for the day. Penguin boots, denim jeans and my new Guess navy blue jacket (50% off Winners, of course). Harper took a sip of coffee and opened her MacBook Pro to sort through ten-thousand new emails she received regarding her life as a smart person.

“I was thinking we could maybe take a walk down Valencia,” she said, pausing to take in my outfit. “Ya know, maybe check out Dolores Park and get lunch in the Castro, whatever you want to do.”

“That sounds perfect," I rolled up the legs of my jeans. "Now the only question is what shoes to wear.”

After leaving the apartment at an ambitious 10:00am, we spent the rest of the day on toe and heel. We had huevos rancheros for breakfast, climbed black diamond hills to shop in Noe Valley, and flirted with retail boys on Castro Street. We visited book shops, sex shops and shops that sold books about sex. We walked six blocks in the wrong direction to find a restaurant, and I signed a waiver to get cruised in the washroom at Gold’s Gym. Dehydrated and sore, we hopped a streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf and I took a picture in front of sea lions.

The sun set behind us as we unlocked the gate to the apartment ten hours after we first left it. I ordered a pizza and we fell asleep watching TV shows on Hulu just because we could. The alarm clock went off first thing the next morning, and one hour later we were in a silver bus en route to Napa!