A close-up from the…
A close-up from the previous picture.
When it’s not for avsya.
A close-up from the previous picture.
And a bit more. I have been here countless times before and still I am already entirely ga-ga. Isn’t that Moro Rock out there?
Fortunatly I had enough napkins to share with Lubi.
Then it’s off to the dog park. This is my second visit and I’ve a collection here of More Amusing Dog Park Pictures. Do click on the link if you’re interested since I’m just putting a couple here.
The guide was lovely and entertaining. She passed out magnifying glasses for everyone to wear around their neck and all along the way pointed out interesting facts. Just what you’d hope for in a guided walk.
Here is the back of David Gordon in the plaid and his son Steven. David is a psychologist and Ben got to know him through their work in hypnosis.
Carl, on the left, looking waaay up is one of Ben’s old Jr High School friends.
You, you’re the one.
I followed this dog around for 10 minutes. She had such long long feathery hair and a goofy, loopy, sidestepping gait, and check out those ears!
And Nancy had treats too. Here she passed out some seeds from a local plant. She also carried spritz bottles with water. So you take those seeds, a little spritz of water, rubrubrub, and you can get some lather up like soap. These girls are all like Ewwww.
From Nancy the guide: “The plant that we washed our hands with is called Ceonothus. It’s sometimes referred to as Mountain Lilac or California Lilac. There are about 7 varieties that grow in our area. They bloom from March through April (give or take). The colors of the bloom range from a really beautiful, dark purple/blue to white.”
Mika and Sydney-Grace Niesen. Their parents, also in attendance, are Chuck and Alice. Chuck is a pediatric neurologyst working on a NIH grant application with Ben for hypnosis work with children.
Schatzi, considering if she needs to Get ‘Em.
I was double happy because it wasn’t half bad! Can’t wait to hear a concert – full-throated organ and a huge, intense choir.
A view from Zellerbach.
Dog park dogs love to hang out on the picnic table.
Click here for More Dog Park Dogs!
Mike Johnson, Dyan Hastel-Johnson, and Noah. Dyan is a phychologyst who also uses hypnosis and, like Ben, is part of the Hypnosis Society.
Check out their color. And their tails. And their ears. This is very cool.
Schatzi and Taro
These tapestries change hue as you view them from different angles and in different light. The windows were covered in very thin slices of marble and the filtered glow was quite effective.
Dad. (fix this-looks ok at home but too dark at work)
Tony Schultz and Susan Merson and Audry the Dog. Ben went to Jr High School with Tony and they also attend temple with B&B.
Yippi-eye-eh… You go girl.
All the colors are muted, the woods are rich and pure, the polished marble and concrete are simple, clean and of seemingly high quality materials and the workmanship is admirable.
We spent time trying to identify the classically necessary components of a cathedral. We could guess on the crossword puzzle parts – the apse and the nave but where were the Stations of the Cross? Down in the basement, as it turns out
The sister, the friend, the thrilled mother, the College Graduate, the cousin, the brother. This large and happy fellowship went on to a festive lunch in Berkeley and I headed across the bay to meet Nancy.
Candles and singing, cake, fruit salad, and beverages, and a jolly good time was had by all.
Mary, Carolyn, and Mika.
I detour for a pit stop and return to this scene.
Denise and Nancy in San Fran for a cozy family lunch along with Josh and Kelly.
Morning with the Big Trees.
I like this too.
Josh and Kelly, the soon to be parents of Nancy’s bunny grandchild. Oh yeah, Grandma Nancy. You go girl.
See those steps leading up the rock? Take those flights, what you see, and add five times more and that is what it takes to get to the top. Why you can’t see more than this is beyond me.
In Josh and Kelly’s apartment. It was all so San Fran-funk I almost said back-in-the-day. I didn’t, but I could have, I didn’t promise Them anything…
Because I can.
We took a slow stroll over to the Disney Concert Hall, under construction but almost done. Between this building, the construction in the street, the refurbishments of the Music Center and who knows what-all else the air was Thick with dust and we just had to split.
On a neighborhood stroll.
It’s like I brought her along as a model.
She was with a three-car party of Spanish speakers from Great-Grandma to babes in arms. As we huffed our way up the stairs (notice I arrived second…) I got to listen to many conversations between them all.
You could guess how it worked – the older ones spoke only in Spanish and were answered in Spanish, the middle aged parents sprinkled some English words in when speaking to the younger ones (like they couldn’t remember a Spanish equivalent), the teens sprinkled some Spanish words in when they were talking to each other and the ones under teenage basically spoke English except to the very oldest.
It was a perfect small novella in cultural acquisition.
One last parting shot.
We then enjoyed a Whole Foods dinner and a lovely visit with Roger and Sandy. Around 10:30pm L&J went to spend the night in a hotel at the Long Beach airport so they could more easily catch their 7am standby flight – which they made, and A Grand Time Was Had By All.
A view from a bar in Chinatown.
Wow. The Great Western Divide.
We rode up in the elevator with two plenty colorful characters, this man, koi shirt guy being one of them and the other one called himself Hoover. They ordered drinks and then koi fish guy proceeded to hassle Hoover, saying how he was not being American enough even after all these years. Then he left. It was all no doubt a drill they had gone through several dozen times before.
Hoover was much older and at the first opportunity came to our table to tell us a long meandering story about pre-WW II (back-in-the-day?) when he was a steward flying a trans-pacific route. There was some most obscure tie in to some previously mentioned word – not a topic mind you, just a word – that kicked off this story. Then he wanted to buy us drinks.
According to koi shirt guy these are Chinatown fund raisers ‘druming up some donations’.
I like the look of the ridge but the glare is a pain.
In the lobby of Nancy’s chic chic boutique oh so trendy Nob Hill hotel.
A stop-off at Fisherman’s Wharf on the way up to Novato.
Desda moved her office into town from the Big City (of Petaluma?). It is just as warm and charming as you’d imagine.
Bob and Desda. Happily ever after.
Scenes from the Zuckerman Estate…
There was a pretty trail leading off from the starting point at Moro Rock and it looked easy so I tried it.
In the Redwood grove.
Us at the gym. Julie is here doing all she can to make me realize how important fitness is to a long and healthy life and how important it is to Focus on a regular workout program and not be so Lackadasical about fitness and to Get With The Program. Ok ok ok…I’ll try…
An odd photo to kick off this trip… There I was in Fresno not taking any pictures because it was HOT (why is it that when I leave Santa Monica heat trails me like a persistent and ill mannered stalker?) and also because I was unprepared. Just driving around Fresno was not proving very scenic.
But then, in a wide open city park, a small group of family and friends are preparing for a wedding that will take place under this beautiful arbor.
Here is one of the cutie boys from the big group. We were playing hide and seek as we trudged up Moro Rock and this is a got’tcha picture from the parking lot.
Bob and Desda’s gardens are so full of fabulousness. I did notice later however that in every Single piece of ground north of SF roses were in mad riotous bloom. Huge, multi-headed blooms mostly and they were Everywhere. Must be something in the air…
brick and bloom.
The trees in this group are ‘not that big’ in comparison to the really big guys but it’s cool that you can get back far enough to take their headless picture.
We know how big these giant sequoias get and here are some facts: they grow naturally only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada (the trees on the coast are redwoods), the General Sherman is between 2300 and 2700 years old and each year adds enough wood to make a 60-foot tree of usual proportions, (more to come…)
These are Tibetan prayer flags hanging over their grand entrance.
I took a lovely stroll out to Crescent Meadow, John Muir’s ‘Gem of the Sierra’. This walk is about point four miles from the parking lot, shouting distance. But the wildflowers are gone, the sun is overhead and there isn’t much to say about standing here. So I back up three steps, back to the path, turn my head and…
Can your pounding brain break through your skull? So I’m backing up, quickening the pace, but can’t resist. I snap the shutter at my waist, hoping the bear is in frame (see him on the path there).
SNAP. The bear raises himself UP and takes two Bounding strides in my direction. WHOooooow. Here’s me: no no no no I’m not no going no no to get mauled by no no no no a bear point four miles from no no no the no parking lot no no that’s just not no going to happen no no no no.
All this thought in one gasping breath.
Then the bear seems to lose interest and lopes off into the meadow and I sit down on a log, listening, so I can go in the Opposite direction.
Real flowers from the garden. Really.
After Desda cut up and attempted to burn her stash of credit cards she used the pieces to form this crown of shame and hung it in the dining room to create a constant reminder that she would never Ever find herself in such debt again.
Confessions were made, penance was done, forgiveness was granted.
On to the wine country.
This little chickie stole our hearts and so Nancy was of course obliged to buy buy buy. This wine chick was just Bursting with perkiness. Goofy ha! ha! silly gigglegiggle perky Perky girl.
We are indeed in wine country.
At this point I am starting to get twitchy about our potential dinner at The French Laundry. Less than a week before, when I decided to take this trip and Nancy invited me to join her here, I thought wow, The French Laundry, despite the legendary three month wait for reservations. So I asked Toni if he could use his endless connections to get us in. Sure he said, if the restaurant is open he could manage it.
And then when I called the restaurant on Friday to confirm (Toni did have the direct number, which of course I cannot reveal) the woman said yes we have you right here, number one on our priority wait list, we’ll call you for Tuesday or Wednesday if there is a cancellation. If there is a cancellation? Wait list?? Cancellation?? What’s With That?!?
On Tuesday, no call from The French Laundry.
By total coincidence I arrived on the day when the park was presenting activities in honor of Captain (later Colonel) Charles Young and his Buffalo Soldiers. This was the Centennial of Colonel Young’s year as the first African-American Park Superintendent. The parks were run by the army until the National Park Service was established in 1916. Prior to 1916 the Army assigned cavalry troops to make improvements, patrol the parks and protect the Big Trees.
According to the program, ‘Young and his troupers accomplished more in that one summer than their predecessors had in a full decade’.
Colonel Young was the third African-American to graduate from West Point and this is another quote from the program ‘It is recorded that he felt that “…the worst he could wish for an enemy would be to make him a black man and send him to West Point”‘.
Who could resist? And why is this guy out here at all anyway? We spotted two of them as we were driving by and had to make a special trip back for the photo-op. Notice that tail feather. You can surely see the hat-appeal.
And they have these giGantic bald legs. Imagine a turkey’s leg from the grocery store then stretch it waaay out and bulk it up so the thigh joint is as big as your head. There, now you have it.
The current Park Superintendent gave the opening words at the Remembering 1903 ceremony. This poor fellow was trying to speak extemporaneously but he couldn’t settle on naming vocabulary and was so uncomfortable he made me squirm. He said African-American and Afro-American, black people and people of black descent and descendants of black people. It was obvious he cared about the parks and this event so I was thinking he might have been better off with notes for his talk since he was not fluent in the topic.
The keynote speaker came on and he made me uncomfortable too. He was on about slavery and lynching and discrimination. We just want this to be over like we want the Israelis and the Palestinians to quit it and we want the Africans to lay off each other and we want everyone to Just Get Along.
The crowd was gathered as in the previous picture but of course they were late in getting started. An older most formal looking gentleman and his even more formal looking wife (straight back, square shoulders, tailored clothes) were sitting at the end of the second row.
The man had a full kit of lovingly tended forty year old Nikon camera equipment. He was shy but I watched him gather himself up tall and respectfully approach this man who was at least two generations his junior. He was the keynote speaker, and the man with the camera introduced himself and asked if he might take a picture. He was obviously so impressed to be meeting the speaker that I asked if he would like me to take a picture of the two of them together. He replied that he would be very glad of that, and first he would set up the shot. So he messed around with his camera and then I took the picture.
As I walked back to where I had been standing his wife laid on me an utterly unforgettable beneficent smile, like a gift, and mouthed ‘thank you’ and I nodded her a smile too because we both knew how beyond glad her husband was with the way this had turned out. Then he wanted to do me the honor in return and so I of course accepted.
So here it is, me and Mr Rodney Reynolds, publisher of American Legacy Magazine. I filtered up the picture for fun.
This is our private entrance to our private cottage at Honor Mansion in Healsburg(sp?). You could Not think of Any hotel amenity that was not available in this place.
Wednesday, no call from The French Laundry, I call and they say this: all but one reservation has confirmed but we’ll let you know if anything changes. So I’m worked up all right. How can you say No Problem and then there IS a problem? I plot my speech to Toni. We make other plans.
Don’t we just Love the Park Rangers.
The koi pond at Honor Mansion.
They set up a ‘living history encampment’ (you’re lookin’ at it – the whole thing…).
The most entertaining part for me was a conversation I had with one of the leaders who was just arriving. He went off on how some of these guys just didn’t get it – their uniforms were wrong for the time, they were wearing watches and carrying cell phones, they hadn’t studied history and they were just flat out doing it Wrong.
He reminded me so much of all those Civil War re-enactment fanatics. But he was touchy when I mentioned this. He said well, some people call them re-enactments but he calls what they do Living History. I didn’t stick around long enough to hear him share with his troups his opinion of watches and cell phones.
The stained glass windows on the other side of which is our perfect bathroom. The pond is bordered by those rocks you see.
I asked these guys if I could take their picture. The guy in the dark shirt is saying ‘Well, okay, but I will not smile I will not smile ok, I’ll smile but I won’t look at you’. The guy in the lighter shirt is saying ‘Hey, I’m cool, sure, take my picture any time you want’.
Jordan winery, one of many Many here in what they call ‘the valley’.
So there we are at the movies because it was HOT, watching Raising Victor Vargas at 6pm and my cell phone rings. I rush out of the theater. ‘We have an opening at 9pm if you can make it.’ Fine.
At Last, can it BE, we are Here at the Temple of the very God of American cookery. Here we are at, Yes it is true, The French Laundry.
The Wuksachi Village Dining Room, the only white-tablecloth restaurant in either park. I didn’t eat there.
Our perfect waiter. If you are Not a serious foodie, this is the end of the trip and you can now be done. If you Are a serious foodie and have some intellectual interest in The Temple, read on.
What follows is the Chef’s Tasting Menu on May 28. Before the first course comes this ‘traditional greeting’ of a four inch cookie folded into a cone. Inside is slightly thickened and sweetened cream and on the top is salmon tartar formed into a ball, like a little ice cream cone. As a first offering it rather set off the tone of the whole meal. You’ll see why.
Also notice how each dish is surrounded by an intensly rich sauce. Concoctions of local ingredients in richly flavored sauces is the signature of The French Laundry. And all the sweet? I have no idea.
‘Oysters and Pearls’. Sabayon of pearl tapioca with Bagaduce oysters and Iranian Osetra caviar.
Among the single most perfect tastes I have ever been blessed enough to enjoy.
Marinated Holland white asparagus, roasted baby beets and Perigord truffle syrup.
Alas, watery and boring.
My goal was to check out campsites on a very busy weekend and I learned many things.
1) before choosing, and many require reservations in advance, you must study up well – the book I had was entirely inadaquate to usefully distinguish one campground from another.
2) the tents-only campgrounds that you can reach by car are more crowded and less pleasant than the multi-use ones that include trailers and rvs.
3) campgrounds in the National Forests are better (quieter, larger sites) than those in the parks, but without facilities.
4) it looks do-able for anyone who wants to be there.
Crispy skin filet of Atlantic black bass, roasted spring onions, medjool dates and black pepper gastrique.
The sweet onions and sweeter dates contributed to sweet being the dominant flavor and sticky being the dominant texture.
Here and from the picture above is a great camping spot in the Forest between Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
Sweet butter braised Maine lobster, globe artichokes, oven roasted Roma tomatoes, Picholine olives, fresh basil and spicy lobster broth.
Rather naturally sweet and all those ingredients did play nicely together.
Over 7,000 feet and the scenery is much rockier, smaller trees and thin forest.
‘Un Paquet de Rillettes de Lapin’, wilted Savoyard spinach and Banyuls vinegar glazed apples.
There was enough of the meat, tasty if a bit dry, to absorb the fact that the apples and sauce were, despite the vinegar, sweet.
This dish was a replacement for the veal so I don’t have the menu description. It’s beef and potatoes with truffles.
Can it be… the truffles tasted canned. I Must be wrong. Not at The Temple!
‘Brescianella Stagionata’, with caponata and basil-infused extra virgin olive oil.
The cheese was good. The caponata was too much and too sweet. How do you make caponata taste sweet?
And now came the desserts. There were four desserts all together. Can you imagine? I was trying to remember what one was to do once insulin shock had set in.
Maui pineapple sorbet with a toasted coconut financier.
That flowery thing is a toasted pineapple which was nice and the cupcake kind of thing was Very nice.
I stopped here for directions to my Saturday night accommodation and then walked the one block back after dropping off my bags. They were selling homemade cookies and powdered lemonade. The young girl also was promoting ‘A Martian Moment’ where she would be doing an astronomy talk there in front of her cabin at 11:30pm that night.
I managed to stay awake! Just that was feat in itself. I started walking but it was so dark I couldn’t get past the garage so I had to drive that one block.
I was the only outsider there at 11:30 and was treated to a lovely tour around the night sky. Mars was a gigantic red (really) marble. I can’t remember seeing as many stars since I was a kid. We were at 7,000 feet with no moon and no clouds. Mars was within two days of being closer to the earth than it would be in another 1,000 years. It was Fab.
‘Delice au Chocolat et Caramel’ with caramel anglaise and chocolate dentelle.
Perversly, I liked this one. The dark chocolate was rich and just bitter enough. The cream inside was velvety and not too cloying.
Following these two desserts the waiter brought us each two more. Oh yes, we were begging for mercy.
Nancy volunteered to designatedly drive so I drank this delicious half bottle Myself. Nancy ordered off the prix fixe five course menu and her dishes were overall much more successful than the tasting menu. I wonder though – whatever you do, don’t miss the breathtaking ‘Oysters and Pearls’?
The two butters were fun. One was local and one was from Vermont. We were eating them with a spoon.
We then waddled our way back into the room and I, still very much in the waddle, left the next morning for home and a quiet dinner of Cheerios and milk.
Upon first arriving at the Greenwood Lodge I thought – I am in Big Trouble. This place was a wreak. It smelled like every day The Guy was frying up curry in rancid cooking oil and it was stuffy and impossibly hot upstairs with cobwebs and dust seemingly covering every surface. And check out that deck. Don’t you have to get a license? I asked myself.
The guest quarters were upstairs – the ‘curtains’ were shreaded bits of fabric, the carpet was old shag from the fifties, the bathroon was the size of a small walk-in closet and shared by all three rooms, I could go on.
But on the bright side, it did cool down, the linens were clean and cozy and since I slept right under a huge, well screened open window, I could look up to the sky, surrounded by trees and it felt like I was there, under a cover of amazing stars and in the morning dawn gave me a soft pale nudge.
That’s what I’ll remember and the rest of it has already faded.
Another nice thing was that when I complained about not having a three pronged electrical outlet in my room The Guy hooked me up with an extension cord so I could work out here on the deck, buzzed by a colony of hummingbirds, surrounded by fragrant trees and a streaming setting sun. Okay!