Our Shuffled Weekend by the Bay


iPodShuffle_Snapseed Whenever I use the shuffle feature on my little ipod I get an odd mix of music, language lessons, and homemade meditation tracks.  It would not be unexpected to hear Ravi Shankar, rockn’roll, bluegrass, or Beethoven followed by an italian man repeating  “La ringrazio molto per il caffè”.   This kind of musical cultural compilation became our weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Its was Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler at the Greek Theater Berkeley, then Sofia Talvik and Greg Holden at the Hotel Utah Saloon in the City.  A huge big name production followed by a small gig in a neighborhood bar.  Who wrote this itinerary?   Its Barbara’s birthday and we’ll put the whole weekend on “shuffle”.


The rough cut of our three day plan reads;  Friday, the Dylan concert and a cozy stay at our friends Peggy and Jim’s in Castro Valley.  Hang out Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco then in the afternoon we catch the Muni No.45 bus from our room near Union and Gough Streets to and from the concert in the SOMA district.


Oops too much time to kill so how about on Saturday we first revisit Berkeley to shop and walk along Telegraph Avenue and the UC campus.  Next we’ll drive to our hotel in SF and pack some food for a dinner picnic at Fort Mason, followed by a long walk along the wharf.  On Sunday morning we can drive to Crissy Field, the Palace of Fine Arts, eat lunch in Sausalito, hunt for carnelians, watch the surfers at Rodeo Beach, Fort Cronkhite, visit the Marin Mammal Center, come back, take a nap before we board the No. 45 bus to around AT&T park and walk around it during the Giants playoff game vs the Cardinals. That leaves us just enough time to enjoy pizza at Amichi’s before we go to the Hotel Utah concert.   Could be done, right?  Well we didn’t plan it either, but thats how it happened.


First a review of the concert at the Greek Theater.  Mark Knopfler (Dire Straights) on guitar still ripping out lines of psychotrophic audio.  His voice has aged in a good way like scotch in a wooden barrel.  His band could go celtic with fiddle, flute at times, percussion set, acoustic rhythm guitar, stand-up bass and Uilleann pipes all custom blended for pro rock celtic air folk whatever dude….whoa man…we salute the latest sultans…great stuff…extraordinaire!

Bob Dylan…what can you say?   You know he goes way back but obviously not dwelling in the past. His voice is low and craggy and it didn’t help that his mic’s were amp’d too high distorting his voice and keyboard.  That said…it was still the vintage man and band rocking and blusin’ out familiar charts. It was a very Berkeley crowd with lots of aging hippies and new age grungies passing the herbal awareness.  It was “just like a rolling stone” sweet mellow evening in a good old 60’s nostalgic way.


Over at the Hotel Utah Saloon we squeezed into a table in front of the small stage and enjoyed both swedish singer Sofia Talvic and then scotsman Greg Holden with Ian Axel.  Sofia was delightful as she sang her handspun songs and played guitar.  I think she’s ready to take over the job of superstar if Enya ever retires.

Greg Holden… o’myGod…a real talent. His art is real….and better than the American Idol star that sang his song “Home”.   Greg has the gift of expression and presence to warm an audience but his greatest charms my be in his lyrical compositions.  I wish him and Ian a prosperous future as they knock around the country.

Happy Birthday Barbara!


In A Facebook Void




      I had to create some separation from Facebook back in July this year.  I had noticed a few of my pictures of our 4 year old granddaughter were shared by someone we didn’t know.  After some quick research I found out it was not a friend of either my son or our daughter-in-law.  It was a complete stranger and it gave me the chills…the same creepy feeling in the stomach that you get when you realize you’ve lost your iPad (true story) because you left the car doors unlocked.  I had been violated. A bit of panic set in and the only action that made sense was suspending my account to render all my pictures void.

     The problem could have been prevented if I had set the security level correctly.  Changing your photo from an album to be your profile picture automatically changes it to “public”.  Then I had rearranged my pictures into new albums and forgot to reset the audience to “friends only”.  Well at the time dozens of my pictures could have been compromised.  

      Fast-forward 3 months and I’m feeling like the divorce is official but I’m also thinking I should rejoin and reconnect.   Its time to weigh the pros and cons of Facebook.

     First the cons… A whole lot of whats on Facebook sucks… Not just a little bit… a whole lot of it is junk, irrelevant, crude, vulgar, opinionated, and total crap.  Its an open forum for racism, bigotry, snide comments and angry retorts. Then there’s the hatefilled writings and bad distasteful photography. The funny part is when I scroll down the home page perusing between pictures of Walmartians and postings of someones pet boo boos,  I’ll see some serious thinkers trying to make facebook a venue for critical thinking…..Please.  Spare me.  A serious concern for myself is that it eats up so much time to sift out the good from the bad and the ugly. 

      One more con… Think of the most evil, sordid, devious, perverted people you could ever imagine and then know they’re probably on facebook now looking for trouble.  Its there, waiting to happen.  

     The pros… I genuinely miss some of what was there. I enjoyed the connection to family and close friends.  It can be an effective place for both social activism and  community actions like fund-raising and Amber Alerts.  I liked giving and getting the birthday greetings.  I like looking at other peoples travel pictures and life events…the reconnection with high school classmates…even the everyday pet and grandkid pictures with misspellings and awkward photos… all the comic relief posted by everyone.  I like that its both a mini-blog for the big life events and the everyday minutia.  Only facebook offers the whole package of friends, haters, and tabloid news.  Best of all, I’ve felt a connection to those that have friended me and I value it…and Yes…my facebook friends are my kind of people. 


     Will I go back to facebook for a while to see if it still fits?   No…not yet anyway.   I will have to find another way to stay in touch with friends because in my opinion, the trashy cons outweigh the positive pros.  Every visit to Facebook can be spoiled by someone’s campaigning, complaining, and incessant whining.  Time is too short, too valuable to squander and complicate with negative messaging.  I’ll choose to go another way.  

     My wife Barbara has kept her connection and shares with me the family photos and updates.  My few close friends actually call and we meet occasionally because its still the best way to enjoy each others company.  I still have the emotionless Twitter and a plethora of news sites and blogs to follow if I get the time. LOL.  For now I’m ok with just this public blog that no one reads but provides a placebic outlet to ramble and post pictures.  With all that said….I do now and will continue to miss my cool facebook friends. 

     P.S.  One point I’ve wondered about lately… Does belonging to a social network of friends mean you must or should be sociable and remain engaged with others you have friended?   On facebook, I failed miserably in this area.  I’ll leave comments and forget to read responses then I’ll post a picture and wonder where did everyone go?  However, I do feel I make an effort to  fit in. I give myself a facebook “C” which is way better than failing…. LOL.   I’d like to think I’ll change my habits but….pretty likely Not!


Through the Ring Of Fire



     Today I’m leaving Oregon and heading south on Interstate 5 past Mt Shasta then turning east on highway 89 through to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Tonight I’ll be home in my own bed but first I’m going through the pacific portion of the “Ring Of Fire” hopefully without that “burns, burns, burns” singer Johnny Cash talks about.  Sad I don’t have enough time in one day to include Lava Beds National Monument to this geologic road trip.  I don’t enjoy traveling alone without Barbara but she had to fly back last week to attend her college classes.

     I stopped to take a couple pictures of the mountain by the freeway in Shasta City and later McCloud but stayed on track to be in Lassen by 10am.  The Manzanita Lake entrance finally in view and I need a stop to and stretch.  I watched a short movie in the visitors center that got me enthused about several areas like the Dwarf Forest and Bumpass Hell, Lassen Peak, and the Sulphur Works. I learn that Mt Lassen, Mt Shasta and Medicine Lake Volcano comprise the southern end of the Cascadia subduction zone.  I know, too much info and not enough time so its back to the road.



     I expected to be out of the park by maybe 2pm and home by 6pm.  I miscalculated…


      Driving with the park map in my hand I was able to navigate to several pre-marked stops.  I took a few uninspired pictures just to document the drive but then things changed.  Looking out the window while crossing a stone bridge,  I see a small stream and beyond is one of the most gorgeous mountain meadows ever and my brake lights lit up immediately.   Now dear Moirai had arrived to guide me and the map no longer matters.  I think I’m in the area called Dersch Meadows but time has stopped and I’m hiking up a creek that sings and the further I go the more breathtaking it gets.




    Meadows!  They were everywhere.  Golden autumn graygreen meandering clear streams and acres of wildflowers.  I’m in heaven and its only 10 feet from the car!  Kings Creek lower and upper meadows were perfect paintings in real time.  Time warp set in and before I could reach Lassen Peak summit trail it’s already 3:30pm.  I’m late departing but I’m feeling so so blessed to have owned this day.  Quality time…not too many photos but a lot of soaking in the natural plasma around me.   A good day after all.  I fell in love with this park.

         ” Love is a burning thing

          And it makes a fiery ring

          Bound by wild desire

          I fell into a ring of fire”

           Thanks Johnny Cash…the burning feels so good today




Just One Day on the Oregon Coast?



     Traveling alone (Barbara flew back from Portland),  I had but one day left in Oregon thinking if its sunny, I head to the coast.  If its cloudy, I’m going back to California.  Just lucky I guess because it was warm and the sunshine was of the highest quality.  I left Corvallis about 8am, (very early by my habits) and rolled into Newport by 9:15am on a Thursday. I found some local coffee and headed for the nearest beach.   Wow!  There it is, the ocean…  O My God!  How blessed I felt listening, smelling and feeling the ocean roar.  Now my shoes socks, feet and pants are cold soaked wet but I’m completely psyched about my situation.

     I’m back to the car, grab the camera and a map to make plans for this day.  Its still just one day and my next motel reservation would be near Highway 5 on the Oregon California border.  I had to get a sense of how long I could stay but in no fantasy did I predict how beautiful the coastline would be that day.  One goal was Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area but the remainder would be spontaneous.  


     A very fortunate encounter while parking my car near the beach in Newport.  A friendly woman parked her car next to mine and asks “Where are you traveling from?”.  She went on to to say that she too was from California but now lives in Oregon and works at the Center for Visual Arts in Newport.  She knew plenty about the Oregon coastline.  She told me about South Beach, Ona Beach with ocean kayakers, sea lions, otters at Seal Rock, and both the Devil’s Churn and Thor’s Well near Cape Perpetua.  I found Neptune State beach too and I managed to fit all these wonderful places into that awesome day on the coast.  


     My overall impression was disbelief that the Oregon coastline was still so pristine (compared to California’s coast). I hope it remains this way because there must be a “next time”.   I’m now soundly convinced more travel to Oregon’s coast is in my future.  


Hunting Down the Spruce Goose


    I missed my chance to see the worlds largest seaplane when it sat in southern California years ago.  It’s been very elusive to the public since its test flight back on November 2nd, 1947. Out of the public eye for 33 years and then went again missing while it was disassembled and reconstructed in Oregon.   I’m happy to hear it’s found a permanent home on the West Coast.

    Now its my time to seek out the mighty “Spruce Goose, or Flying Boat, the HK-1”.  The “hunting down” only meant typing the address into the GPS screen.  Took about a minute and I’m heading to McMinnville, Oregon.  

     I don’t think any of my pictures accurately show the scale of this airplane.  Its mind-blowing huge.  The wings, OMG the wings are unbelievable.   The other thing that struck me was the overall incredible craftsmanship and the birch woodwork.   It makes you wonder and think with a bit of pride that this was actually made in America.  With no use of valuable war-time materials or man-power resources.  Could americans still create prototypes like this today?

     There are plenty of WW2 docents to chat with whom I created a minor stir when I commented about the Douglas DC3 under the left wing.  “It looks like the plane in the final scene of Casablanca” I said.  The docents huddled and even made a phone call before they came back to me to say “No…we think that it was a Lockheed in the movie”.  I couldn’t help but thank them over and over for that great piece of fact-finding research.  Great guys (mostly men that day) and all very knowledgeable.

    The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is growing and they have wow… a lot of acerage to make it happen.  Kudos to them for putting together a great place to take the family. I’ve loved the National Space and Air Museums in Washington DC and this place is on that scale.  Go there, bring the family.  

Meeting the Granddogs




      Barbara and I volunteered to house and dog-sit after our son’s wedding while the newly-weds honeymooned for a fortnight and three. I thought seventeen days in Oregon’s Columbia River gorge in early fall would be a relaxing kick-back vacation.  I was wrong…

     The wedding of our son Hector to his bride Melissa was a wonderful “life event” and a thrill to witness.  I’ll have to create another post just to savor that day again.

     Barbara flew to Portland on Wednesday September 12th and I drove the distance and arrived the following day. The Hood River wedding preparations were in full swing and they included meeting our new daughter in-laws’s family for the first time.  We were also introducing ourselves to the two dogs we’d be sitting for the next eighteen days.  Fiona, a small furry Yorkshire terrier and Stella a brindled Boxer pup.


     Fiona was a bit stand-offish and wary but Stella was beaming with energetic joy for the pleasure of meeting a new person.  Fiona would just growl under her breath while Stella would bend her body in half to show us her smile and stubby wagging tail at the same time.  She’d then smother some or any part of my body with wild tongue licking. Boxers are known for their long tongues and o’boy did we get a licken’.

     It wasn’t long before each dog was trying to impress us with their skills.  Fiona loves to be indoors cuddling and once she’s found a warm spot she’ll defend it against all intruders.  Barking and nipping at anyone, especially children who arrive to play and pet.  On ocassion Fiona would fetch a rubber duck or bird that squeaks and show us her fearsome rat terrier attack techniques that included violently shaking it in her teeth until the squeaking stopped.  Then she’d drop the offending toy nearby and encourage us to throw it for round two.  

     Stella’s skills could best be demonstrated outdoors where her impressive running speed and leaping ability made us think she must be a greyhound/deer/jackrabbit mix, and still very much just a child.  We were glad to find out she’s potty trained (well…almost).   She loves exercise and I don’t think I’ll ever tire her out just walking on a leash.  Fortunately, the backyard area opens to an orchard where Stella could run, run, run until she’d exhast herself and return to flop on the floor. This was after lapping enormous amounts of water and ringing door bells (bells hanging from the door handles, front and back) then thankfully back outside again to relieve herself.


     We were fortunate to be near Sorosis Park in the Dalles where we could make early mornings walks a daily routine. The park was rated “3 Paws” in a book we’d read on Oregon’s pet friendly places.  It was all the exercise Fiona needed for the day but it only seemed to stimulate Stella into craving more activity. Fortunatly there’s an abundance of Oregon and Washington states parks within an hours drive.  We really liked the White River Falls and Wahclella Falls areas for scenery but the dogs would rate the areas by giving each and every tree a thorough “smell” test.  We knew how much they liked it by how hard it was to get them back in the car.  We were blessed with great weather as autumn crept along.


     Well it never felt like a vacation until we were both back in California with time to reflect on how much we missed the granddogs.  It was a working retreat and its only with hindsight and photos do I genuinely appreciate the adventure.  I rate it….”A Good Time”….and its going to be fun when we get to revisit the granddogs to see if they remember us… 

San Francisco One Day Get-Away (Romantic? I’m counting it)


     We gave ourselves three days, late summer to get out of the Sacramento valley’s triple digit heat.  Our room overlooked the estuary at Jack London Square, Oakland.  That first evening we walked Park Avenue in Alameda and found “China House” restaurant still open and the food still wonderful.   Alameda, the town where Barbara and I first met, dated and lived together thirty-five years ago. After dinner we cruised the south shore beaches and watched the sun set over Yerba Buena island.   I recorded the temperature change from the valley at sunny 101 degrees to a cloudy low 60’s at the hotel .  Yes, thankfully we remembered sweaters and stashed the tank tops.

    Tuesday morning 9:15 am, August 21st,  we were huddled with scarfs on the lower aft deck of a ferry boat to San Francisco watching the Port of Oakland disappear. A cloudy cool 59 degrees on arrival.  Scones and cappuchino for breakfast at Peets Coffee in the Ferry building and then we walk up past the financial district to Chinatown.  Through Saint Mary’s Square we stopped to watch morning tai chi and then over to Union Square, window shopping all the way. By 11am, we knew it was time for the art galleries at “49 Geary” to open.  There are several floors of paintings, photographs and other mixed media artwork.  Most all of the pieces were for sale but we were “just looking” simply to appreciate the art and observe the lastest trends. 


       Leaving the art galleries and with a glow of inspiration we caught the No. 30 Stockton bus loaded with seniors and workers towards the Ghiradelli shops at the wharf.  Here, Barbara and I searched and located the neighborhood just below Lombard on north Polk street where her great grandmother had lived in the 1930’s and where her mother had spent many of her summers.  We took some photographs to share with her family.  By now we were famished and ready to find a place for lunch.

      Walking we crossed Van Ness avenue, west and over to the boutiques of Union Street.  The shops there are small but unique and the window displays show marvelous eclectic creativity. At a childrens clothing store we found gifts for the granddaughters.  We stopped at  the “Real Food Company” a community grocery store and commissioned the deli to build us sandwiches.  After a good long picnic style break we headed north on Divisadero Street to the Marina green to see some of the “America’s Cup” sailboat racing.  (My primary secret reason for leading Barbara in this direction).  The sailboats were catamarans…the fastest sailboats on water and the teams of sailors from around the world were amazing to watch in action.  There was lots of wind for the sails and quality sunshine for pictures. 


      Another long break by the water and we’re headed back to the City this time on a bus filled with young students and commuters.  Standing room only!  Its nearly 6pm when we stopped to eat at Tad’s steakhouse to give us the energy to continue shopping.  By 7:30 pm we’re back on the ferry to Oakland.  One really nice day.  I counted several sweet romantic moments this day, but I’ll have to check with Barbara to see if she concurs.  (LOL) 

     Each trip to the City is an adventure, unique, exhausting, and enjoyable.  We’ve vowed to return again soon.  Check out some of the photos taken that day.