There was a moment this afternoon whilst I was speaking to the British consulate when I realised I'd hit something of a brick wall. The futility of the situation we've been wading through for the past twelve hours suddenly struck home.
Nathan had had an awful night. He'd coughed almost constantly; deep, chesty, rattling coughs which made me feel utterly helpless. At 5am, I'd attempted some kind of whacko spiritual healing thing and focussed all my energy into my finger tips which I'd pressed into Nathan's head, urging whoever might have been listening to stop him from suffering. I thought if nothing else it might soothe him somehow. Bizarrely, it did the trick, the coughing almost instantly stopped and he fell asleep. I don't know how or why it worked. Sometimes the touch of another human being is all we need. In the morning Nathan accused me of practising dark arts, but I hadn't been able to stop him from feeling utterly exhausted as a result of having only managed three hours' sleep.
We got up and took a cab across town to the medical centre where Nathan was pumped full of a shedload of saline and anti-biotics and given cough medicines, headache tablets and anti-nausea drugs. On route to the clinic we had a flurry of phone conversations with our travel agent and our insurers who were refusing to talk directly
to one another. We were trying to find out if the insurers would authorise our traveling back to London with a different airline as Virgin were apparently entirely booked for all their flights from San Francisco. We got precisely nowhere. I tweeted Virgin to ask what to do. They ignored my messages.
The only highlight of this troublesome part of the day was our cab journey, which was presided over by a young San Franciscan with a metal bolt through his nose who told us his life story. His father was a con who'd gone AWOL, his mother had just returned from a mid-life crisis during which she'd run away to the circus! Insane!
Whilst Nathan was attached to his drip, I took myself back to the wave organ. High tide in San Francisco Bay was at noon and a full moon was on its way. These were apparently the two key factors which would assure the wave organ's success. And it definitely sounded more chirpy than it had before. I made some sound recordings of very strange gurgles and pedal notes in a little half-hour window of relative bliss and calm...
The joy was short-lived. Nathan seemed to be iller than ever when I picked him up from the clinic. He had a pounding headache and needed to go straight to bed.
We returned to the Travelodge to find our rooms keys not working, so ambled off to reception to report the problem.
That's when all hell broke loose. The air-head-cum-pot-victim who served us (and had booked us in the day before) said we'd only actually requested accommodation for one day, and that if we wanted more nights, the room rate was rising from $99 to a whopping $350. $350 for a room with no wifi, a broken sink and bath, and faulty electrics. She seemed completely disinterested in the fact that we were there on our honeymoon and that Nathan had pneumonia and needed to be in bed, in fact, if anything, our desperation, seemed to harden her resolve. I'd almost describe her response as callous.
You can rest assured that if we were a heterosexual couple on honeymoon, someone would have waded in at this point and saved the day. I'm not quite sure the entire world finds two gay men on a honeymoon romantic!
We've actually been made to feel a little odd about announcing that it's our honeymoon on many occasions on this trip. Our travel agent actually told us to mention at the airport that we were on honeymoon on the off-chance that they'd offer us an upgrade. We nervously mentioned the fact to the Virgin staff member on the gate and she looked at us like we'd crawled out from under a stone, making us both feel totally ashamed. A little unfair, I feel.
I'm pretty sure there was a racket going with the ghastly Travelodge girl and her unintelligible Indian boss who, when I complained, denied being present when we'd initially booked into the hotel despite being next to the pot-head girl when she did the paperwork. One assumes that when the dim-looking tourists book themselves in for more than a few days, the pot-head girl only books them in for a single night so that she can then scam the tourist into paying three times the value of the room because they don't want the hassle of moving out. It's deeply disturbing. I complained to the head office at Travelodge USA. I was on the phone for hours - all at my expense. They said they couldn't intervene in the matter because the hotel was owned privately. Owned privately, yet proudly displaying the Travelodge logo? Incredibly suspicious...
I envisaged having to wheel Nathan down Market Street in a bath chair like some fucked-up Death In Venice/ Philadelphia mash-up. In the end the freak woman behind the counter offered us one more night at a reasonable rate, and we said we'd check out tomorrow.
And so I called the British consulate and burst into tears and the woman there was useless, promising to call me back but forgetting to do so...
After Nathan had slept for a few hours, he felt strong enough to stroll into the Castro where we walked like the gay Mary and Joseph from hotel to hotel asking if there was any room at the inn. The answer was no. Intel have a convention in the city starting tomorrow and everywhere is booked up. We sat in Starbucks and started calling hotel after hotel. All were booked. Just as we'd decided we were going to have to sleep in a park, we spoke to a little gay B and B who said they could give us two different rooms for the two nights we needed. The bathroom would be shared, but, frankly, I'm sure the stable will be warm and inviting and equally sure that Saint Harvey Milk will pay homage to us armed with sequins, poppers, and some dry shampoo.
We decided that this would be the turning point for our holiday. Nathan's headache was clearing and the antibiotics were kicking in, so we had some food, and sat for a few minutes in a bar watching people outside queuing up to have free HIV tests in the back of a truck. I wondered how it might feel to be given the news that you were HIV positive in such a peculiar environment. Only in San Francisco!
We then went to a piano bar and sat for three hours listening to people singing songs from the shows with varying degrees of success. We're hoping that tomorrow will bring us some good news about flights. I don't hold out much hope. Virgin have just responded to my tweet in such a half-arsed way that I am pretty sure we're going to be stranded here forever.