The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

The featured photo was taken at the San Francisco Botanical Garden and processed through my editing program just prior to the program croaking.
The original intent for this post was a photo essay on The San Francisco Botanical Garden, a 55 acre urban oasis of plants and flowers in Golden Gate Park. Try as you might though you’ll find no photos, save the cover, of the San Francisco Botanical Garden. That’s not to say that I was in any way lazy and put off taking the photos. It was two Saturdays of walking miles and taking well over a hundred exposures. So, yes, there are photos of the garden. They’re just, let’s say, still in fermentation. I will post no photo before it’s time. As a result I’ve changed the title from Friday Fotos – The SF Botanical Garden to Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
While preparing photos for my post on the S.F Botanical Garden that is now the Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden, my Photoshop Elements program went into convulsions before apparently expiring to that big hard drive in the sky. My own attempts to resuscitate the program all failed and so I combed the online forum, a resource which I’ve always found to be a running chronicle of good intentions, trial, disappointment and repetition. After pouring through the usual forum thread of frustration and with my PSE program in its final death throes I went to one final act of desperation and looked for a phone number to contact Adobe support. I was left speechless when I actually found a number. Speechless turned out to be the operative word because as the story unfolded there wouldn’t be much speech to speak of … so to speak.

As a result of that phone call this Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden is now just a venting of the spleen; billingsgate, to use one of my favorite words. And why not? A good venting is often a pleasurable thing. I’ve found that venting can be sort of like going without underwear for a few hours. It’s an airing out that has a refreshing quality about it. And what better place to take off my underwear than at Adobe.

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“It is the life-affirming genius of baseball that the short can pummel the tall, the rotund can make fools of the sleek, and no matter how far down you find yourself in the bottom of the ninth you can always pull out a miracle.”
Bill Vaughn, American author and essayist.

Coming out of the concourse at Candlestick Park I gazed on the greenest thing I’d ever seen. I was 8 years old when I caught that first wondrous glimpse of a sea of the most perfect grass you’ll ever lay your eyes upon. To an 8 year old that field seemed boundless. It’s a rite of passage, that first ever professional baseball game. Looking out at the field is only one of the colors of the sensory rainbow of that first game experience, a stamped forever memoir. The smells that you would forevermore associate with a ballgame; the spice of hot dogs and that secret brown mustard you could never find at the grocery store, the pungent odor of onions bursting from the bins at the condiment counter and the malty aroma of sloshing beer.

Oracle from McCovey cove

Oracle Stadium with a smattering of fans in the seats viewed from McCovey Cove. At game time the cove is filled with all manner of boats

AT&T Panorama

The sea of perfect grass. Oracle Stadium, San Francisco

And the sounds. The pregame buzz of the crowd filing in; batting practice wafting up from the field, the crack of the bat, pop of the glove and the players’ banter. And of course there are the vendors, hawking food, drink and souvenirs in loud voices, all calling out in that singular ballgame peddler’s accent as if they’re all from some mythical land with a baseball language all its own.
“Prograaaams. Getcher prograaams heah. Hey-programs.”
“Hot dogs heah. Get-cher red hots.”
“Ice cold beah, heah. Getcher ice cold beah heah.”

That first step out of the concourse slams the senses like a bat crushing a 95 mile an hour fastball.

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The overabundance of rain this winter and spring has created a deluge of color in the yard. When the flowers are in bloom as they are this spring Cora likes to say that they’re happy. The bougainvilla at the corner of the garage seems to be almost giddy with joy.

Instead of taking in the whole I decided to try some more intimate views.

Bouganvilla 6

Bouganvilla 5

Bouganvilla 9

Bouganvilla 2



My mother named me after the street that we lived on: Waverly Place Jong, my official name for important American documents.” ~ From The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan.

Waverly Place

I guess it was around 30 years ago when I read Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, her wonderful yarn, actually a series of yarns, about the lives of four immigrant Chinese mothers and their four daughters. The story goes that one of the moms, Lindo Jong, named her daughter after the street that they lived on – Waverly Place.

When I first read The Joy Luck Club I was aware that much of it is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown. What I didn’t realize is that there is an actual Waverly Place until I stumbled on to it many years later. That is so cool, I thought. When I walked that short, colorful little alley it was as if I was permitted for a few brief moments to enter the story. I enjoyed the book so much that I reread it years later and then was sorely disappointed by the movie version.

Waverly sign

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You know the Lady’s a lot like Reno
She ain’t got a heart
And she don’t care when your down             ~ From, Reno: Songwriters: Dale Wayne Harrison / Hugh Rush Dillon / Timothy Michael White / Trent Carr

Let’s establish something right from the start – it was one forgettable road trip. The saving grace was that it was just two nights and relatively close to home. After six months of retirement and having taken only one trip I suggested to Cora that it was time to take one of our not necessarily semi-annual, semi-annual trips to Reno. It’s usually once in the fall and once in the spring/summer but what with illnesses, injuries and putting a dog to sleep Reno had been off the agenda for a couple of years.

Before we get too far along in this, let me introduce you to Reno, if you aren’t already acquainted. It’s a dump. Wait, let’s clarify that because I don’t want to insult the good settlers of the self-proclaimed Biggest Little City in the World. The part that used to be a major attraction, the Strip, is a dump.

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The second post in a series about the treasures and trash found in an oak rolltop desk that had worn out its welcome. The first chapter, THE OAK DESK PART I. BORN AND BURIED describes the desk’s birth, brief life and death. 

My oak desk was gone, it’s splintered remains scattered about the landfill on the seedier east side of Richmond near San Pablo Bay. It was now left to the scavengers who root through the debris looking for a reclamation project or, even more ignominiously, a target for pooping gulls.

The desk that I’d hankered for, for years had become a catch all for trash and treasure until finally the time came for us to all be put out of its misery.

After euthanizing it with a drilling hammer all that was left were stacks of letters, documents, mementos and just plain stuff strewn around the bedroom floor. I found photos that dated from the 1930’s to the 2000’s, some faded and close to tatters and others in amazingly good shape for being around 75 years old.

Included in the cache were photos in envelopes and tattered albums that depicted two families, my mother’s in Rome, Italy and my father’s in Salt Lake City, Utah; families that would be forever tied by war. I found photos taken in Italy, as hostilities in Europe were breaking out, a few taken late in the war and a number of photos taken between 1945 and 1947. Continue reading

“Everything happens for a reason.” Corazon – My wife.

“Everything happens for a reason.” That’s been Cora’s mantra for the nearly 40 years that we’ve been married and I imagine goes back to the years that she spent in a convent. I’ve always taken it to be an insufficient bromide that marginalizes everything from my broken ankle that kept me from running for over a year to floods and famine.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she would offer and I would ask her to give me the reason. She often couldn’t and so I would call BS and declare a hollow victory.  Now I’m not so sure. I’m not calling BS on Cora this time. A recent string of events that seemed so random at the time seem to be uncannily tied together. Maybe things do happen for reasons that either manifest themselves or that we are simply left to ponder over in their mystery. 

The singular, jarring event was when I unexpectedly learned of the death six years ago of a young Korean woman who, many years ago and before meeting Cora, I had been deeply in love with (the story is told in a post bearing her name Nana). I was crushed and all the emotions that I felt when our relationship had suddenly ended 41 years ago came surging back.

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