Crescent Moon and the Tequila Patron

June 19, 2009

It was dark when I boarded the train in Emeryville at 10:00 P.M. last night.  The train was crowded, the steward brusque, and I did not have a window seat.  I did, however; see a large, orange, crescent moon glowing in the east.  That was my last vision until opening my eyes this morning to an entire snow clad range – and Mount Shasta.  The scenery in Utah was very like that of Western Colorado.  The mountains and trees on entering both California and Oregon, much the same as the mountains of Colorado.  The difference lies in the altitude, the attitude, the humidity – and the cities.  Each city has its own personality and inherent flair.

Speaking of inherent flair; I am in the last coach car and tugged along behind us is a vintage private car.  Owned by the founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and currently on excursion with owner and guests aboard; they are bound, I am told (by the employee who came out on the palm decorated platform) for a ranch in Montana.

When we detrained in Seattle, the announcer bid us well and then commented that those passengers in the final car might look out and get a quick peek at Dan Aykroyd who had been traveling with us (at the estimated fee of $10,000 just to tag along).

Wondering which tale was correct, I googled Tequila Patron this morning and here is what I found:  Legend has it that Dan Aykroyd, DeJoria (owner of Paul Mitchell) and chums hatched the idea for House of Blues in this train car.

The car itself is a celebrity and movie star… She was a beauty.  I would happily have paid admission to see inside – forget the humans.

If you are going to San Francisco

June 18, 2009

If you are going to San Francisco, forget about the flowers in your hair as the sixties song advised.  You probably won’t have time to get over to Height Ashbury anyway – especially if you have to tangle with the traffic.  So, my advice is, If you are going to San Francisco, be sure and leave you car at home – you can’t park it anywhere.  Per day parking is expensive and often charged at hotels too.  If you are fortunate enough to find a parking spot, it will probably be on a hill and you will worry all day about a run away car.  Ditch the car and take some other mode of transportation:  ferry, bus, train.  Then use your legs to walk from attraction to attraction or catch one of the more quaint modes of getting there: cable car, streetcar, sight-seeing bus, city bus.  Arriving in San Francisco sans auto will lead to a lot of delicious peace and a lack of anxious excitement.

One other thing, if you go alone: DO get a room as close as possible to the thing you most want to see.  It may be 20 dollars more per night, but it will save the consternation of walking through the none too nice areas in the not so safe feeling times of day.

More Houses, In Route From Here to There and Back Again

“I sold that house, there, last week.”

“They’ve already moved in.”

“Oh, yeah, at closing. That’s the one with the tiger wood floor – imported from Brazil, got a good deal on it, nice light / dark stripe running down the board like this sample.”


“Now, this house here, we can go inside; it has bamboo flooring first time I’ve used bamboo, not sure I like it as well as the tiger wood.”

“I’ve heard it’s the new thing, a bit more green.”

“Supposed to be, but I don’t know.”

“Wow!  This is nice!  I do like the light color of the bamboo.”

“Come on upstairs.  Four bedrooms and a bonus room up there.”

“I love this cubby over the stairs, I’d put my desk here under the window and use it as a writer’s nook.”

“Everyone that has looked at this house likes that nook.  They say immediately, ‘I could put this or that here.’…funny thing, the realtors all said that wouldn’t go over well.  The plan had a two  story open staircase right here and called for a hanging chandelier,  I had the framers change it.”

“You have an architect and a designer?”

“I’m the designer.”

“You take the idea to an architect?”

“I do my own plans.”

Driving through the neighborhood:

“I built that house there, and the one behind it…

Now over here I had to wait to tear down the old rental and then add half a lot which I bought from the lady next door and then subdivide the new lot into two…This cul-de-sac we’re coming up on, I built these 5 houses about 20 years ago, when your dad was up here.  He helped me clear the property…

“The lady in that house?  That rancher? I didn’t build her house, but, she would vote for me for president if I ran.”

“She really likes you, huh.  You get to know her while you were building?”

“She has a nice little lattice work surrounding the patio out there in the backyard, you see?  She has an outdoor shower out there and she likes to go out the do her yoga and exercise and meditate in the outdoor shower.”

“Ah, you didn’t put windows in that side of the house you built next door?”

“I went in with two plans.  One was a split level, and this one is a cut out where the lower level roof extends about 10 feet further out than the upper level and the upper level has windows in the front and back, but none to the side.  No neighbors will ever be able to peep into her backyard.”

Driving through the larger community:

“I built that house… I have a permit out to build on this lot… This lot is planned for 5 houses, had to build a special water vault for that, should have gone for just four houses there… and, I can’t get the excavator to finish his job… remember when the garden used to be here?”

“And the rental?  Yes.  Did you build both of those?”

Affirmative grunt.

“It must be kind of satisfying to drive around town and see everything you have built, besides stuff you worked on while serving on the planning commission.  Do you know how many houses you’ve built?”

“Don’t know.  Probably about sixty, I haven’t counted recently.”

“I think we have seen about 12 or 14 today.”

“To tell you the truth, I think I am kind of reluctant to actually sit down and count.  It was kind of on that “bucket list” as you call it to build a hundred houses here before I quit and I’m afraid to count because I might fall short.”

“So, if you built 99 houses you fall short and are disappointed?  And if you built 101, you have over – reached your goal and have to stop?  I don’t think that is the idea of goal sitting and the bucket list.”

I think, in fact, gentle reader, that I am in the presence of a very modest, understated, specimen of the American work ethic and middle age success.

Worth It For the View

“Whatever would you want to go to San Francisco for?” I was asked by the older generation.  Many my own age were envious.  I could have enjoyed the company of several travelling companions had schedule and budget allowed.  After yesterday’s wanderings in the city, I now know.  I came for the view.  Chinatown was fun.  The food (butter cake, banana roll, rice and beef, stuffed shrimp at the wharf) a treat.  The cable car a must. The cheesy, top-off double decker tourist bus (though over-priced) provided much needed bearings for the city.  But the crowning moment for me was a stroll to the end of Fisherman’s Wharf and a wander out to the end of the pier.  I had already walked to the end of the Embarcadero, smelled the smells, shopped in the little shops, purchased a cable car music box for my mother (so I could tell her that’s what I came to San Francisco for).  I pressed forward.  Passed a sandy beach where two children built sand castles and a couple of die-hard swimmers trained in the cold water.  I rolled my toes in the sand without taking my walking shoes off and continued on my morning’s journey.  Just before the entrance to a wonderful military park, I veered right and followed an aging cement pier a half mile or so into the harbor.  By this time I had squirted a couple of honey straws and an individual peanut butter package into my mount to give me energy and keep me going.  The pier was wide enough for pedestrians and two-way cars to pass, but, motorized vehicles are no longer allowed.  On the way foot traffic was mild and I found myself mingling from a distance with single photographers and their tripods and a couple of serious fisherman.  There were, perhaps, a total of 12 people on the long, curving pier.  No one paid much notice to anyone else.  In the distance, Alcatraz Island rose out of the fog when the clouds parted and the sun came out.  The view was breath taking and breath giving.

I found myself saying, “This moment, this view, was worth the whole trip.”  At that moment, alone at the end of the pier and looking out toward the water, a sea lion surfaced, not more than twenty feet away.  He (or she) was coming straight for me, nosed up out of the water, blew (a friendly kiss, so it seemed) and then dipped and was gone.  What a moment!  What a view!

10 Things revisited

Today I ate Chinese food in San Francisco, something I have been longing to do since about 1995. Over two years ago I wrote a few blogs on the theme of 10 Things I Want to Do Before I Die It seems like an appropriate time to revisit that list and see if my focus has remainded true.

I wanted to return to Colorado before I died.  I returned to Colorado in 1997

I wanted to be a published author.  I have completed a 229 page novel, 40 pages are in progress on another, six pages of still another, 115 page children’s novel independently published; but, the only items I have published for pay are five newspaper articles.

I wanted to be the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman.  I still long for the day I can check all items off on this list

I wanted to mentor younger women and be mentored by older, wiser women. Some, but not enough

I began to say that my “Fantasy Island” would be performing on the stage at Red Rocks. Actually, performing anywhere would be fine

I wanted to find the best public education possible for my kids. K-12 is a wrap

I wanted to spend time around stages, microphones, studios and musicians.  Since all three of my children are musicians, and one owns a studio and lots of microphones, and I teach music and direct performances of children, I guess I can say this goal is thriving

I wanted to invest my life, make a difference in my world, and make a difference in the lives of others. May it continue to be so

I wanted to travel and see places unknown, via plane, and train, and auto, to experience “the good life,” in all its changing forms.  I am in the midst of living this goal.  Today I ate Chinese food in San Francisco. I arrived by train and have experienced the cable car, streetcar, double decker bus and walking tour.  One of my travel goals is to visit all fifty states.

House#1 in route to there and back again

This is a sanctified house – not because the owners are Christian (they would cough and gag and chafe at such a suggestion inadvertently linking them to the conservative religious right); but because they are spiritual, deeply in touch with their dreams and desires and goals.  This house is sanctified because every inch, every nook and cranny, every photo and artifact exudes who they are.  Ultimately, consummately, they are fulfilling the purpose for which they came to be and it is glorious to witness.  And, they love each other…deeply, as largely as they are capable of and they are persons of great depth, thought capacity, artistry, and innovation.  This house is authentic, as are the people in it, and the books that line the shelves and spill into architectural heaps on coffee tables and nightstands.  So, I will spend my time here being authentic, and taking long walks in this wondrous, brick and red geraniums, old money and rich tradition neighborhood.  Oh, and playing the grand piano.

The Rail Chronicles,June 11, 2009

Been there, done that.  The first event of the train trip came less than 15 minutes out of the station – delay for maintenance workers to get out of the way.  Been there, done that.  I am used to train delays for maintenance, passenger train delays for the freight trains (who own the railway) and delays to change crews when crews have been on the rails longer than the union allows (due to aforementioned delays).  A mere three years ago this would have been a new and unique experience for me.  Since that time I have made several rail trips from Denver to GJ, GJ to Denver, GJ to Glenwood Springs.  Even with the delays, I continue to enjoy train rides.  Trains have plenty of legroom, luggage storage, and big windows.  The overwhelming plus for train rides is the freedom from driving.  This freedom; to write, daydream, think, crane my neck, be an armchair traveler and really reach the destination; is huge.

Ruby Canyon- I have not been here or done this before.  In his best tour guide voice the conductor tells us we will be following the Colorado River for the duration of our ride from GJT to SLC today.  The Colorado River ends just 40 miles short of the Pacific Ocean after providing showers and filling swimming pools for the populace of Southern California and trickling into Mexico.  Ruby Canyon is aptly named.  Red rocks flank the Colorado River and make this evening trip well worth the effort.  We pass at least three different groups of river rafters who have made camp for the night on the opposite banks.  Some totally ignore us.  One group waves; but none of the groups have any sense of obnoxious tradition, thus disappointing a group of 40 something, female sight-seers from Chicago and points further East.

House Sitting

Ooooo, breathe deep.  Stop and sigh, take a tour and view the portraits on the walls, the photos on the shelves.  Feel the cozy belonging way one feels while kneading toes into warm sand or thick carpet.  This is a house full of memory.  Far from ghostly or sinister, these are young memories.  Grand children birthed, coming home from the hospital, growing, learning, holding a spoon, taking first steps, climbing on tables and into  bathroom sinks and exploring toilets, playing with kitchen utensils, baking cookies, taking a nap.

There is a good spirit here, good karma, good vibrations, depending on your choice of vernacular.  The good vibes are emanating from my heart, my soul singing as I feel the spirit of generosity and bounty, and sense that my children have done well and have used their resources wisely.  Their strong work ethic and a commitment to the values of family and friendship have resulted in a well appointed , harmonious home.  This is beyond merely efficient, this is quality of life.

Quality of Life:  slate tile floor, measured, cut, placed and finished by my son, cupboards stocked with necessities , each needed item close at hand in its proper place.  Furniture chosen for form and function, uniquely suited to the space, floor plan, family personality and structure.

There are also deeper, darker, and richer memories that flood my mind and spirit as I pause before yellowed photographs.  Not the dark of somber or unrelenting, depressing clouds;  but dark like chocolate or dusky wine. These memories too, I quaff with bliss for they are vintage now, fully aged in life’s experience, in gratitude and tranquility.  The bitterness of failed or difficult relationships dissolves in the ferment, and in its place, like sweet soul cream, is the thankfulness for lessons learned, peace and tranquility, and thanksgiving for what life provides for the current day.