Safe to Open

“Can’t you write about anything GOOD?” asked my friend CLM.

Taken aback, I replied, “But I’m writing about what’s been happening. I try to at least make it amusing.”

“But I’m getting to where I’m afraid to open your blog,” she said.

So with CLM in mind, here’s some good news:

San Francisco
I met CLM on a beautiful San Francisco morning in early November at the Ferry Building. Not being in the mood for the only kind of food available at this locale — gluten-free, organic and/or something that once was alive and fed hormone-free food and then compassionately killed (I always wonder, was the animal perhaps given a relaxing massage before being slaughtered?) – we walked around the Financial District and happened upon the old Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Building. In keeping with my objective of visiting as many museums and seeing as much American urban architecture as possible, we wandered in.

The building was the Reserve’s main headquarters in San Francisco until 1983. Indeed, I worked in the Financial District back in the day and recall it well. I’m lifting the following information from Wikipedia:Federal Reserve Bank Building

Representative of Federal monumental architecture at the beginning of the 20th century.
Ionic colonnade is Beaux-Arts; upper level, new Moderne; inside, Temple style.
Chandeliers restored; Doric columns and grand staircase reconditioned.

Both of us being writers, CLM and I were highly amused at a sentence in a brochure about the building that noted the restored hand-painted travertine walls “compliment” the restored Italian marble floors.  (The correct word is “complement” from the root word “complete.”) We mimicked the walls saying to the floors “I just love what you’ve done with your marble.” Further proof, as if any was needed, that writers know how to have a rollicking good time wherever they go.

Pleasant Hill (East Bay)
I visited my son, seeing his newly remodeled kitchen (cherry wood cabinets, travertine tile floors, granite countertops – in other words, nothing that even comes close to the materials in my RV); xeriscaped front and back yards; and recently purchased sports car, a 2013 FR-S. He bought the car used after “some old guy” (my son’s description) added a number of custom features, such as high-end tires and rims; black-tinted windows; and what as an old person I would call a “souped up” exhaust system. The original owner also added black leather racing seats with a fine red line in the stitching to match the discreet red line detailing he added to the black body of the car, as well as customized license plates that translate to “Like Old Times.” In case you’re wondering what a racing seat is, it has a curved upper part to help hold the driver and passenger in place around curves. The way my son drives, this is an important feature. See video of how my son drives and why he needs racing seats:  http://blog.caranddriver.com/2013-scion-fr-s-bringing-sport-back-commercial-shut-up-and-drive-the-ad-section/

Click here to see video representing how my son drives and why he needs race seats.So why did the “old guy” sell the car? Apparently the good old times didn’t last beyond the road trip he took with his wife. She informed him either the car went or she did. As a woman who is exceedingly cautious about getting between a man and his car or AV system, I personally wouldn’t have issued this ultimatum. Nonetheless, they’re still married. Although my son benefitted from the old guy’s choice, we’ll probably never know whether he made the right one. I mean, this is a really nice sports car.

librarySan Diego
When I first arrived in San Diego in late 2003, I worked as a volunteer at Symphony Hall. One event I greatly enjoyed ushering was the introduction by local architect Rob Wellington Quigley of his 3-D model for the proposed new Central (Downtown) Library. How fitting, then, that around the same time of year 10 years later I visited the newly opened library. During the intervening decade, the library faced many obstacles, including objections invoking the lack of funding for the city’s 35 neighborhood branches. Seems library patrons found it inconvenient to remember when their branches would be open. (Hey, what’s so hard about remembering alternate Thursdays, noon to 1:30 p.m. on even days and 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. on odd days?) I also recall detractors harping on about something called the “digital revolution” that they said rendered a new Central Library obsolete. Whatever, it obviously was built. And I obviously have been influenced by the arguments against the new library, being somewhat of an ardent branch library patron myself. Thus my impression of the new $185 million facility was lukewarm, although the 3-story domed reading room is cool. My parents, however, who also frequent their local branch library, were most enthusiastic. Seeing as they continue to be San Diego taxpayers, while I no longer retain that status, their opinion is more important than mine.

Palm Springs
I took a road trip to Palm Springs with my Mom. At age 88½, my mother has been squished from a striking 5’9 model to a beautifully attired lady bent over nearly 90° with severe scoliosis. She gets around using a walker and, I should add, still receives compliments from well-to-do female strangers on her make-up and clothes. The word everyone uses when describing my mother is: Remarkable. Let me add my own “remarkable” to the already long list of those who use the term for her. She climbed up into the cab of the RV using only a small step-stool and we transported her walker in the back of the Smartcar, later keeping it immediately outside the parked RV. She took walks around the RV Park to get in her 2,000 steps a day and became lost only once. A “nice young woman” (i.e., someone my age) helped her find her way back and hugged her goodbye.

Our trip included a visit to the excellent Palm Spring Art Museum, glassSunnylandwhere we enjoyed a contemporary glass exhibit, were delighted by the sculptures on the second floor, and one of us bought a purse from the gift shop. Another highlight was the Sunnylands Center and Gardens (50,000+ low water-use plants) on the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage. My mom enjoyed learning about the purpose (“a retreat for world peace”) and guests (including Reagan on many a New Year’s Eve; Nixon immediately after his resignation; Frank Sinatra when marrying his fourth wife; and Queen Elizabeth, probably pretty much whenever she wanted). I was impressed by the architecture of the Center and I am anxious to return to secure a much sought-after ticket for a tour of the midcentury modern Annenberg home, designed in the 1960s by A. Quincy Jones, once dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California (U$C, as it’s known to those of us who attended any University of California campus). Footnote that I had forgotten: Walter Annenberg made his money as publisher of TV Guide.

We spent the evenings watching Season 1 of Downton Abbey, which I could tell came as a welcome change for my Mom from Two-and-a-Half Men, which is my Dad’s favorite. Several of the original episodes with Charlie Sheen are viewed nightly, whether or not my Dad’s seen them before.

Oceanside Harbor
Turns out the same Oceanside Harbor I disparaged over the Fourth of July is actually a great place off-season. Although there are still no hookups for water or electricity, nor are slide-outs allowed to slide out, sunset surferI had an oceanfront spot and access to all the amenities (coffee, restaurants, ice cream parlors, etc.) of the harbor. Plus where else can I watch surfers and stand-up paddle-boarders (SUP) go out at dawn? Come the weekend, the outriggers appeared. The volleyball players typically arrive towards the end of day. Quintessential SoCal.

Calabasas and Eastward Ho
Next up is a visit with Cousins #2 and #3 in the Los Angeles area, followed – possibly – by a quick return trip to Palm Springs with Cousin #2 (she’s the one who married into an extremely wealthy family and is being put through unwarranted lawsuits hell by a very stupid yet vengeful brother-in-law).

Then I’m determined to get out of California, where I’ve been traveling in loops for the past seven months. My eventual destination is the East Coast, although at the pace I travel – about 150 to 200 miles max in any given day, followed by a one-week stay when I arrive at my destination – it may take a very l-o-n-g time to get there.

Fortunately, the joy is in the journey.