Monday, April 27, 2015

Bits and Pieces, Pt. 2

More views from the left coast with bits of narration.

Below, at a stop in Big Sur where the chairs are actually in the creek. Talk about chillin.

There were many beachside stops. We saw whales, but only as large dark lumps that barely surfaced for air, and one black fin swimming alone that I think was a shark. When we stopped for picnic lunch, we also saw this memorial. She was 19. How it happened, why here, these are things we do not know but it's sad and sobering all the same. No one should have to bury their child.

On a jolly note, the elephant seals were stinky and hilarious. Two would suddenly rise, bob and weave at each other with loud yelling and aggressive actions and then just stop and fall back asleep. This happened over and over up and down the beach while others seals just slithered over their sleeping pals who seemed not to notice. 

I don't often say "Oh look, a flea market. Let's stop." 
But I did in Santa Cruz.  

But in the end, it was a grey vacay and we felt fine.


And so ends this chapter. Onward, through the fog. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bits and Pieces, pt. 1

In every trip there are so many photos without obvious places in the narrative. Here are some. 

We begin with more from Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz. So glad to have had the opportunity to see this show, which closed today.


It is easy to forget that California had a long history before it became a state.

San Carlos Borromeo de Monterey (below) was founded by Father Junipero Serra on June 3, 1770, on the shores of Monterey Bay, as the cornerstone of his Mission. A year later, Fr. Serra moved the Mission to Carmel. The church remained as a Royal Chapel for the soldiers guarding the new Spanish Presidio of Monterey. The present sandstone church was completed in 1794.

The significance of San Carlos cannot be overstated. It is the oldest continuously functioning church and the first stone building in the State of California. It is California’s first cathedral and stands for the birth of Carmel Mission and Monterey, the first capital of California.


And this is St. Rosaria, the patron saint of Palermo, Italy. No idea of her connection to A Spanish mission in California, but that is a skull she is holding.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Modern Times

Headed on down from Monterey and saw another friend who left Michigan for California in the 70s but this time 'twas someone we'd not seen in 37 years. He was still a couple of degrees (literally) from finding his career and now he's retired! 

Meet Mike, y'all. 

We went to the beach and enjoyed his cooking and talked and talked and then talked some more at lunch the next day that lasted 3 hours. Mike is one example of how a technology has changed who we think of as friends.  We stumble across friends of friends we knew briefly in real life and get to know them again. A work aquaintence from the past can become a true confidant via email. 
We become friends (or at least "friends") with people we barely remember from high school. 
I used to think it odd, the people in our lives who are there in an "e" way. Now I just shrug that that is how modern life goes and I'm glad for it. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rest Easy

There has been for some time a trend in America for old school motels and motor courts to be purchased by folks from India and run as a family business.

This led to some moteliers to post signs saying "American Owned" which was of course code for owned by white people because Americans come in all flavors, but you know that.

When traveling NOT for work, we seek out the NOT chain places and if they have some 20th Century charm, all the better. We are completely comfortable doing this because our experience has been that the new owners toss a bunch of money into their motor motels in all the right places, like good mattresses, nice sheets and double glazed windows. But they don't replace the things that don't need replacing. 

I'm in love with the salmon colored porcelain! 

As far as we are concerned, this is a very positive trend. Comfort, charm, originality and a bit of nostalgia all at prices that vastly beat the chains.

And do I love it when we get a cabin? You know I do. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Say Hey!

I took the train.  Thought I was leaving early, but the Caltran car I stepped into was packed with Giants fans in full regalia on their way to the game.  A dad with his 2 young sons (both with those black anti-glare strips high on their cheeks - cum SF logo) found a seat and revealed an elderly couple, stone-faced with concentration, wrapped in fleece team blankets.  There were 4 middle-aged guys a few rows back arguing over the best seats per dollar at AT&T Park.  Must have been half the riders going to the game on the 9:53 northbound for a 12:45 first pitch!  Including the 2 young dudes at the far end, each in $95 Posey jerseys, about to finish off their PBR Tallboys (based on how far they were tipping 'em back).

Apparently everybody meets beneath the Say Hey Kid...
My favorite inscription, attributed to a SF sportswriter:  "The only person who could have caught that ball, hit it." Not exactly a koan...but certainly worth meditating on for a moment or two.

All of these post-Camden Yards parks are the same structurally, give or take some deliberate idiosyncrasy (Tal's Hill, say).  So it's mostly about setting.  In which case AT&T Park may take the Blue Ribbon.
Other than that, you've got a bunch incidentals.  The pre-game stadium audio included several cuts from Abbey Road.  I first layed eyes on the field listening to Polythene Pam.  Early clouds had parted, but it wasn't Here Comes the Sun, it was Sun King.  Nice.  The Stadium announcer is a woman.  The bullpens are in foul territory down the lines; you can easily see who's warming up.  While the between inning entertainment is silly, with the 2-minute clock now in effect, at least it's brief.  And I don't remember being asked to GET LOUD or otherwise clap rhythmically.  How civilized!  In a California kind of way...

Pass me the sushi.

When the game slowed down, this guy reached for the lastest X-Men comic:

I got up at The Stretch and circled the park on the Promenade Level, part of a surging sun-dazed conga line of fans increasingly indifferent to what I was sure would be an LA victory. 

And I stumbled on this (don't judge):

She was sitting in the first seat inside the foul pole and keeping what looked to be a well-crafted (and very detailed) scorecard.  But dig the pin collection!

Her manicure was perfect, and recent.  Orange nails with wide black tips.

"Pitch to Barry!" indeed.  It's enough to make you want to change your Hall of Fame ballot.

By the time I got to right field it was the middle of the 8th.  To my left, McCovey Cove had few kayaking ballhawks (wind conditions were not favorable for most of the game); up my nose, the heavy smell of expensive pot; in my ear, Steve Perry yammering something about South Detroit...

And behind me on the scoreboard:

The Giants scored a run in the bottom of the 9th and one in the 10th to win 3 - 2 and sweep the Dodgers.  The Kid seemed to suggest Onward and Upward as I headed back to my station.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I think that maybe I'm dreamin

The Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

Yes, there were other sea creatures but the octopuses and their kin were too dark to photograph, I've seen plenty of fish and nothing is as amazing as jellyfish.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Down in Monterey

"Slide into the Home Plate for a home run meal" 

How could we resist? A cute tiny place in the neighborhood with great reviews and baseball memorabilia on the walls.

Interestingly, all the the servers were Thai and had on matching T shirts with writing in Thai. Reminded me of the Cuban restaurant in Houston owned by a Vietnamese family. 

(The cooks at the Home Plate were Hispanic, of course. If you've read any of the Anthony Bourdain books, you know that at restaurants at every price level, the people making your food probably speak Spanish, maybe Portugese.)

But I digress.  Here is a haiku by Mark about this morning at the El Castell Motel. 

      Mist tickles my face
      As I head for bad coffee
      The smell of curry

This morning at our Spanish named motel owned by a family from India, a quartet of German speakers eats starchy motel breakfast while an Orthodox Jewish man dressed for prayer in tallit and tifilin crosses the parking lot to his Prius where he fetches a well worn book while nearby, chattering Chinese tourists with selfie sticks pile into their SUV. 

As Mark noted, if someone was xenophobic, this place would make them crazy. 

It felt like the crossroads of the world, here in a small city on the California coast. 

Mission Possibly

A lovely afternoon where clouds and sun, chill and heat alternated swiftly. 

I had read much in recent years about what high tech money has done to SF; gentrification that is pushing the working class and true middle class out of the city. It is happening to every city in America that's experiencing growth. Affordability is certainly a top three issue in Austin as well. 

I guess with all the kvetching I expected something akin to Manhattan, say, where every corner sports a chain store or restaurant and even the Bowery has sky-high rents and hip eateries.

I'm here to report that the transition to prosperity is not yet complete. 

We decided to join the Earth Day celebration in a neighborhood known as The Mission. Yes, along the main drag there are all the signs of gentrification with artisan ice cream and a shop selling turntables and the kinds of things you see in Dwell magazine,  but move on to back blocks and it's still a Spanish speaking 'hood. As to the people, the booths and the food trucks at the fest? We really could have been in Austin. Almost.

It was Nude Bike Ride day as well. It's an annual event and city officials apparently don't care. I smiled when I heard a woman behind me tell her young child "Yes honey, they ride their bikes with no clothes on," and realize that the child will simply file that away as unexceptional because children are so beautifully accepting. But it's nice to see the bikers are setting a good example for the kids by wearing helmets. 

I can also report that The Tenderloin is still The Tenderloin; in other words what The Bowery used to be. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

So So Lido

The sun came out almost as soon as we crossed the bridge.
We were joined in Sausalito by seemingly a zillion bicyclists. I know this place has a heck of a reputation for beauty, but on a Sarurday morning, it was just another tourist town. 

We went to an interesting place - a model of the watershed that empties into the SF area bays created by the Army Corp of Engineers back in the 1950s. The photo doesn't really show the size of this thing, with  all it's bays and sloughs and even piers and bridges, as the thing takes up several acres. 

It is now obsolete, as computer modeling does a much better job, but it was unique and Mark got a kick out of the giant slide rule with explanation of what it was. Yes, I made him pose.

With time to kill before our lunch date, we also visited a place where a tall ship is being built. The workers were very friendly and let us come up top. 

Our first time in Sausalito was 1979. The train from Dever actually ends in Oakland, and a former coworker of our had recently moved to SF for a job and was living across the bridge. She most generously picked us up in Oakland very late at night and unfolded her sofa for us. We awoke to the most astounding view of San Fransisco.

So here we are, 36 years later, meeting a different friend from the way back. Ira Lawson was my classmate and then a house mate back in undergrad, and is now living in Marin County after having recently outrun the Grim Reaper.

There is something special about old friends. I can't explain it but you know it, too. 

Sausalito. Yet another town with $800 baby strollers and pony tailed women in Lululemon. It's beautiful and so far out of reach. Back across the bridge to something I recognize, like The Mission. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Is The Rock

After numerous trips to SF, finally went to Alcatraz because of the art and we were glad we did.

The day broke deeply foggy, which was perfect, but had cleared to a lovely blue by afternoon. It was as cold as expected but when it comes to boats, we are sort of like dogs in cars- we want our faces in the wind.

The installation made specifically for Alcatraz is by Ai Weiwei, an artist who scares the Chinese government so much they put him in jail and continue to try to keep him suppressed but as he says, 

"The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a window sill."

The symbolism of the kite is pretty obvious and set in the decay of a decrepit prison with the sun streaming in the dirty windows, well, it was lovely.

My favorite kite panel.

In the next room, the faces of people who have been imprisoned because of they worked for freedom. The pixilation is because they are made entirely of Legos.

Dr. MLK and Snowden are here too, but for me the story is that there are so many dissidents I had never heard of, especially in the Arab world and in SE Asia. Some whose faces are here are still in prison, already dead or no one knows. 

Another part of the exhibit uses parts of Tibetan solar cookers to create a structure that looks sort of like a giant robot insect with tea pots attached. It can only be viewed through the broken glass of the walkway where armed guards looked down on the prison workshop. (Not easily photographed)

There was also audio installation in solitary and ceramic flowers in the prison psyc ward. 

Add to that the usual prison tour and we spent 4 hours and could have stayed longer but our parking meter back on shore was ticking away. 

On a lighter note, I had to laugh at the display of prisoner pastimes which included not only Mark's much-loved baseball, but cribbage, a game we have played now for 37 years. 

All in all, very impressive and we are glad to have made it here in time. The exhibit closes by the end of the month and I asked a docent what was going to happen to this, as it really is a very site specific work, and he said he wasn't sure but parts of it may go on elsewhere. 

Perhaps the Lego floor is our new AIDS quilt.