Lisa Thompson

Coworkers come in all varieties.

There are those you click with, others you tolerate, some who make you shake your head and others who earn your deep level of respect. And then there are those who become like family—and probably, at some point, run the gamut of all I mentioned above.

For me, that’s Ben.

We’ve worked together in some capacity for over 10 years, and through that have developed a close bro/sis relationship that’s extended beyond the walls of Firespring. One time I told him he was like one of my best girlfriends. After the doctor removed the sharp pencil from my eye, I vowed to never say that again.

Ben recently went on a west coast adventure that included three days with me in the Bay Area. We thought you might like to hear the highlights. Or at the very least, catch a glimpse of our brush with viral video greatness. But that comes last.

First you have to read/scroll/suffer through some meandering thoughts on our “baycation.” You might wish for your own Ben and Lisa-type relationship. Or maybe you’ll want to stick a pencil in your eye. Either way, we’re both writers and we will be glad to know we evoked emotion. That’s why they pay us the big bucks. (Well, we’re still waiting for that part.)

On Monterey:

Lisa: Northern California has some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, and Monterey is one of my favorite places to take friends who fly in. I introduced Ben to sand dabs (fried greasy seafood goodness) at a divey bar on a pier, a variety of clam chowders on Old Fisherman’s Wharf and the scenic 17-Mile Drive near Pebble Beach. Pro tip: You have to pay cash to take said drive. Another pro tip: Google sucks at locating ATMs. One more pro tip: It might be me who sucks at following directions.

Ben: Prior to arriving in NorCal, I spent three days in Los Angeles taking in the SoCal sights and visiting old friends that, much like Lisa, I think of as honorary siblings. That included a visit to Playa Del Ray Beach where we watched the waves slowly roll in, ships inch across the horizon and jumbo jets head out over the water after taking off from LAX. Any visit to the ocean is treasured when you live in the Midwest, but LA’s version paled in comparison to Monterey and the dramatic scene of the tide marching in as the waves crashed over its rocky coastline. On a trip full of breathtaking scenery, it was easily the most beautiful thing I witnessed and well worth the $20 toll (and aforementioned misadventure in locating an ATM). You win this round, NorCal, and it wasn’t even close.

On our music tastes:

Lisa: I like to listen to John Mayer, Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran, Sarah Bareilles, Norah Jones or other types of singer-songwriter tunes, especially when I’m fighting traffic. Music that’s slightly calming. Mellow. Happy. Ben does not. He likes to bust out Led Zeppelin tunes from 80 years ago and play the drums on his legs while I’m driving 75 miles an hour on a busy freeway near San Francisco. And that’s fine. It’s. Fine. But it’s a damn good thing I didn’t have a sharp pencil.

Ben: Lisa is a great host and a terrific friend, and I love her dearly. But I have to be honest: Her “music” is the kind of thing you normally hear while on hold, waiting in a doctor’s office or on an elevator ride you hope will end quickly. I like singer-songwriter stuff too, but not the kind that sounds like Kenny G had one too many wine spritzers and decided to get “edgy.” That said, it’s another testament to Lisa’s patience and accommodating approach (and perhaps her passive aggression?) that I’m only hearing this feedback now.

On wine tasting vs. beer tasting:

Lisa: My favorite part of NorCal is wine country, so I took Ben to a few of my favorite vineyards where we sampled Chards, Cabs, Pinots and a few blends. Like a good younger brother, he pretended to enjoy it. Then we ended the day at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa where Ben met a brew called Pliny the Elder and a few of Pliny’s hoppy cohorts in beer-filled shot glasses on a large flight board. I had a soda.

Ben looked like he’d just won the lottery. I took a sip of Pliny and wanted to hurl. But I was super happy that he was happy, especially after enduring a day of vino. I wasn’t happy about the Led Zeppelin rager in my car an hour later, but we already covered that.

Ben: It’s a huge misconception that I don’t like wine. I actually enjoy wine very much, Cabs in particular, but I’ll almost always opt for craft beer or a finely mixed cocktail if presented the choice. That said, the wines we sampled were fantastic, many paired with exquisite cheeses, and the experience of wine country was a highlight in itself.

Because Lisa is also the responsible one and had to keep her BAC down in order to drive, she pushed quite a bit of her surplus wine in my direction. Consequently, by the time I met Pliny, I thought he was actually speaking to me. “Drink me and all my delicious friends, Ben. And then make Lisa listen to more Zeppelin until she likes it.” Whatever you say, Pliny. After all, you’re the Elder.

On the Boston Celtics vs. the Golden State Warriors:

Lisa: The pinnacle of our baycation was the Celtics-Warriors game at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Ben’s a lifelong Celtics fan; I’m a six-year Warriors fan. He’s obsessed with Larry Bird (still?); I have crushes on Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. He sported his vintage Celtics jacket; I donned a bunch of Dubs gear. His team won that night; my team got crushed. Embarrassed, really. Thankfully we were on Warriors ground. In Oakland. Riding sketchy public transportation. That is the last place on earth you want to gloat about your team beating the Warriors. People carry more than sharp pencils on the BART. I planned that well (smirk).  

Ben: This game was the catalyst for the whole trip. Lisa has a Warriors mini-season ticket package and asked me last fall if I’d like to join her for the Celtics game. Umm, what? Is that a rhetorical question? I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I’d seen the Celts play in Portland in recent years, including a buzzer-beater win that resulted in me (and my vintage jacket) getting some TV time in the celebratory frenzy that followed, but this was a different level. I was going to see them play the same team that won a record 73 games last year and came painfully close to repeating as champions before adding Kevin Durant in the offseason. Sign me up!

This isn't Larry Bird's Celtics, but I love their style of play, high IQ and all-around toughness. It’s not a star-laden roster, but they’re solid from top to bottom, play extremely hard and play together as a team. I was genuinely hoping to see KD play and see both teams match up at full strength, but no one is going to cry for the Warriors (except for Dubs fans themselves) just because one of their 13 All-Stars is out for awhile. A win is a win and I’ll gladly take it. Not getting shivved on our way back to the car was certainly an added bonus.

On meeting the Dance Cam Mom:

Lisa: Here’s that brush with greatness I mentioned earlier. A retired schoolteacher known as the Dance Cam Mom, this woman has gone viral on social media because of her dance-with-abandon attitude and funky moves at Warriors games. We washed hands side by side in the women’s restroom. I looked up and said, “I love you, you’re my hero, please wait right here! I have to go grab my friend Ben. I’ll explain in a minute.” I’ll let Ben explain why this was so serendipitous, but suffice it to say, it was the best bathroom moment I’ve ever had.

Ben: We arrived a few hours before the game to soak in the atmosphere, watch the players warm up and savor every minute of the experience. While taking photos and posting them on social media for our friends to envy/enjoy, one of our fellow Firespringers, Sean Heyen, challenged me to get a photo with Dance Cam Mom wearing her famed Warriors sweater. Do that and I would “win at life,” Sean promised. Although the chances of completing the task seemed remote at best, I accepted the challenge with confidence. After all, I was on vacation, about to see my favorite team play one of the league’s finest. Hubris was in the air.

I did wonder how I might possibly pull it off, though. Once she appeared on the Dance Cam, could I somehow work my way towards her seat, hoping it wasn’t in a section on the opposite end of the arena? About that time, I heard the faint sound of Lisa calling for me to join her in the concourse. When I arrived, I found her standing and conversing with Dance Cam Mom. Unbelievable. Not more than 20 minutes had passed and we were already snapping photo evidence of our chance encounter. I got the glory of posting a self-satisfied “Anything else?” in response to Sean on Facebook, but all the credit goes to Lisa and her fortuitously timed bathroom break. As it turns out, Dance Cam Mom’s seats are in the same section as Lisa’s. Small world. 

Key takeaways: Coworkers who become like family are the best. NorCal rules. So do the Warriors. So does wine. So does Ed Sheeran. Kevin Durant > Larry Bird. And Led Zeppelin sucks. “She Said” gets the final word because  “He Said” was unavailable for comments at the end, and I'm sorry but we're writers—we have a deadline to meet. 

I've probably just evoked a few emotions. Good thing I've hidden all sharp ojects.