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Cup of Joe

Way back in the day when the Goliard staff offices were located on the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco, we used to trudge up and down said hill quite a bit in search of various and sundry pursuits. We didn't have real jobs at the time, which left us entirely free to focus on the important things in life which we did with some gusto, albeit with no money to spend on the process. Basically, we walked around a lot. The other thing of it was that we had a staff vehicle, for some reason which now escapes us, and the parking situation on the Nob was either of the non existent, very expensive, or two hour variety. What this came to mean was that no matter where we were in the city, whether it be panhandling on Polk, laughing at the thespians down in Union square, or catching a mile swim in that cold ass roped beach water down by Fisherman's Wharf, we had to stop what we were doing every two hours and hoof it back up to the Subaru to wipe the little yellow mark off her tires where the meter maid had tagged it or roll the car forward or back a few feet so she would appear to have been moved. 

Now one might think that this would have gotten old after awhile and we have to admit that there were times when it was slightly inconvenient. But for the most part, we found it quite invigorating. We came to view it as an athletic and logistical challenge to make it the full four months and never pay for parking or be issued a ticket. Since the offices were located at virtually the highest point in the city, we also knew that wherever we were, if we kept taking the steepest up hill course possible, we'd eventually get to the car. Over the duration of our sojourn there, we never received a parking ticket or any ticket at all for that matter until the day we were leaving when we stopped to run in for a road brew at an unfamiliar spot and were written up for not parking with our wheels turned into the curb. It seemed a fitting end to our stay and the ticket remains unpaid and framed to this day in the staff offices.

In any event, as one might imagine, we became quite familiar with the city of San Francisco itself and specifically the various routes up and down the Nob along with the people and establishments of interest that littered all the crowded hillsides leading to the top. One interesting thing we noticed, although not surprising given some of the grades in question, is that the homeless population that San Francisco is somewhat famous for, thins in direct proportion to the elevation. Also trash and offal gets washed and blown downhill. So while the Goliard offices were far from luxurious, we never saw even one of the often gentle and damaged souls that spend the nights out of doors, shuffling by our entryway in search of coin or butt and the streets were relatively clean and the air fresh. And a sighting of the walking pink tourist, a species that tends to clog the sidewalks and befoul the landscape in lower environs, was quite rare up there as well and although groups of them would occasionally hop off the street cars to snap a quick photo and marvel at the steepness of the hills, for the most part they stayed down below. It was quite peaceful actually and easy to understand why many masterpieces of American literature including On the Road by Jack Kerouac, McTeague by Frank Norris, and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett were written within a block of where the first issue of the Goliard was conceived.

Now San Francisco is known for it's restaurants obviously and on a recent trip back to the Bay area we were able to sample some of the city's finer fare. When we lived there however, we had almost no money and therefore found pleasure in the odd coffee, the pint of ale, or a bowl of noodles that might be the one luxury we'd allow ourselves that day, all of which seemed to taste markedly better just because money was so tight. On our revisitation, we found that, like so much of the city, the places we used to go haven't changed at all other than some of the faces of the employees and denizens. So instead of reviewing the newer and fancy smancy places we ate on the recent trip like One Market, Yank Sing or E and O Trading Co, we figured we'd focus on the old stand bys first just in case we never got around to writing about or remembering the others. And Cup of Joe, on the corner of Sutter and Leavenworth, was one of our favorite places then and now.

Early morning is a great time to be out in any city and San Francisco is no exception. With the fog often rolling in, the damp breeze bracing your face, the smells of coffee brewing, various ethnic sauces simmering, and baking bread nearly overpowering the inherent fetidness of the streets, walking around downtown before the bustle of a business day dominates the experience, is one of life's true joys. Cup of Joe opens at six in the a.m. which is the perfect time to complete a long perambulation and order your first cup, throw open the huge bay windows, and crack the Chronicle to find out what in the name of Herb Caen is going on around town. Cup of Joe also has a fine selection of baked goods, grilled panini sandwiches, bagels and fresh squeezed O.J. The women who man the machines are usually highly capable and attractive in that, studying ballet or theatre kind of way, and eclectic tunes emanate gently from hidden speakers overhead. These days, the Cup also has wireless internet access for your laptop and four or five Macs that you can use to log on and pay by the hour. The decor is somewhat bland and open as far as some coffee shops go and the place might strike some of the more hardened caffeine customers as not having enough character or characters to qualify as a true hangout. However, there's more to the story.

Cup of Joe also features 10 beers on tap and while this may sound like extraneous information when considering where to take your tea in the morning, keep in mind the idiosyncrasies of the Goliard schedule during our original sojourn. The staff offices were at the top of Leavenworth street, and Sutter (on which the Cup sits), bisects Leavenworth about half way between the theatre district (where we were chasing some skirts at the time), and the top of the Nob where we were doing our supposed writing. Given that we had to walk up and down every two hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. when the parking restrictions were enforced, we found that we almost always had the urge for either a cup of joe or a pint of brew to sort of break up the hike a bit. Sometimes we would alternate the two on consecutive passes seeking an intake equilibrium of fluids. Many other times we would make it no farther than the Cup itself and be somewhat surprised to find that two hours had passed and we had to turn right around and go up the hill again. We sometimes felt guilty that there were so many other establishments we should probably be experiencing during the course of our stay but daily routine is good for those on a budget and we found that we didn't really have the urge to look much further than Cup of Joe. We didn't go there exclusively of course and often took our coffee or various potables at other watering holes but the Cup was a regular stop for sure, and other than Vesuvio, it was the first place we stopped in to check on when we returned.

It was still the same, we were happy to find, and we settled in as if no time at all had passed and we were still wandering young goliards full of life and hope and wonder. We couldn't help thinking that if we still lived near Cup of Joe, it would have been easy to stay that way.

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