The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

I really want to love hockey. On occasion I LIKE hockey; usually in the fall at the beginning of a long season or at the very end in the spring when the playoffs are in swing. In midwinter of this winter sport I just can’t get interested. My friend Scott absolutely loves the sport to which, by November, my response to his enthusiasm is along the lines of the ever dismissive, “whatever.” He responds with a similar comment when I watch basketball.

On those occasions when I have tickets to a San Jose Sharks game I get on the very verge of love. That’s because hockey is best appreciated when its live. Love hockey or hate it, when you’re at a game you’d have to be numb to deny the agility, grace, reflexes, athletic prowess and yes courage that these big men (and they are big) possess in order to play a game that is so astonishingly fast.

A few years back my son took me to a Sharks game and I brought my camera to try my hand and eye at sports photography.

Looking to pass

A Dallas Stars player looks to pass.

I tried ice skating – once. And only once.

Pass

Passing the puck.

Hockey players maneuver around the ice at speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour.

There was a skating rink in San Francisco and one day my girlfriend Linda talked me into giving it a try. Linda skated freely and easily around the rink.

Action at the goal mouth

Above – Sharks’ goalie focusing on an incoming shot while ignoring the action around him.

During a short burst a player might reach close to 30 miles per hour.

I took short, clumsy baby steps that didn’t really constitute skating.

Action at the goal mouth 2

The goalie moves to gather the puck.

To a hockey player the mechanics of skating are second nature, like walking fast – very fast, so that they can concentrate on all of the skills the game requires like shooting, passing and successfully completing coordinated set plays.

Linda continued to skate around, easily moving around the other skaters. I looked down at my feet. At one point Linda glided by and told me I moved like the Frankenstein monster

At the Dallas goal 2

All eyes on the puck (just in front of #12)

In the sequence below action swirls around the Dallas goal as a shot is launched. The goalie is only interested in the puck and not the 200 pound men battling around him.

When I wasn’t looking down at my feet I stopped and wobbled to make sure I wouldn’t collide with other skaters while trying to keep my balance. I failed horribly at the latter.

Dallas save 1

Shot on goal

Dallas save 2

The puck is headed wide (just above the shoulder of #10)

At the Dallas goal 3

The goalie pounces and gathers the puck

A shot on goal can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour, or to put it in better hockey perspective 146.667 feet per second. So a 40 foot shot would take about 27 hundredths of a second to travel from the shooter’s stick to the goal.

Failing at keeping my feet I fell continuously and always on the same – damn – hip. The same one. By the time the evening was mercifully over I had a huge multicolored bruise on my hip.

Waiting for the puck

The Sharks’ goalie is riveted on an inbound puck

Since the ice rink was only a few blocks away I limped home and had a few glasses of bourbon. I had it neat, without ice, because on that particular night I absolutely hated ice. I’ve never gone ice skating again. I say if God had intended man to skate he would’ve given us blades on our feet.

San Francisco and I. We’ve had this long term relationship and its, well, it’s conflicted. You could describe it as one of those love/hate things. There are those times when I pay a visit, maybe have a lunch or dinner date and flatter her for her beauty and charm. And then there are those other times when I don’t want to have anything to do with San Francisco; call her vile names, overbearing and pompous, phony, getting by on a worn out reputation of beauty and class. I tend to blame the bad times on San Francisco’s bad behavior, or what I consider bad behavior. Usually it’s a traffic jam. 

And then I go on a rant that usually goes something like, “Oh sure, you’ve got the nice bridges that everybody likes but you can’t be bothered to clean up your own poop. Try negotiating that minefield of yours you call Market Street. Oughta change the name to Crapper’s Way. And seriously can’t you take better care of your ride? I mean the cable cars are nice and quaint, even if it is hard to catch a ride especially in the summer when you cater to all your out of town admirers. But those busses; my old beater red truck is in better shape than your busses. And dude, you are seriously far too high maintenance.  What’s a guy gotta do to just to spend an afternoon? Win the lottery?”

“You don’t care what I think do you? If I decide to break it off you always have other admirers who go through hell, high water, a traffic jam on the Bay Bridge and a gauntlet of aggressive panhandlers just to have lunch at a sidewalk cafe and then take a stroll to one of your time honored bakeries for tiramisu and a cappuccino. Oh and you have those pretentious guys who take out a second on the house to have dinner at some celebrity chef’s joint. Okay I have to admit it. The food’s good. Like really good. Really, really good.”

“But you don’t care about my tirades because deep down you know me for what I am; a weak-kneed wimp who’s going to break down and shamelessly come back and then you’ve got your hooks in me again.”

That’s how it goes with me and San Francisco. What was it, a year ago when we got mired in a downtown traffic jam and it took an hour just to get on the bridge to get home? I told Cora in no uncertain terms, “We’re NEVER coming back to this dump.”

She just sat there patiently looking at the queue of cars, frozen as far as you could see and probably thought, “Yeah, right.” Because she knows that I’ll always waiver. She knows that for someone who generally hates cities I love The City.  The. City. That’s what we call it. Just check out the old school uniforms that the Warriors wear from the days when they played in San Francisco. Their logo was The City

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I’m the family morning person. When everyone else is just waking up, I’ve gone out for a run, I’ve showered and I’m sipping my morning coffee “Oh, you’re finally up.” It’s the same when we’re on vacation and it turns out to be a nice little symbiotic arrangement. Cora likes to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast while I’m out running.  I get back just about when Cora is ready for the day’s activities so I just take a quick shower and usually blow off breakfast. Yeah I know, the most important meal….whatever.

I love the morning vacation runs. They’re a chance to get out while the air is cool and clean and before crowds clog the streets and paths and any sights I want to take in. There’s no pressure to crank out quick miles or cover a specific distance. These runs are minimal workout; veer off course when something looks intriguing around the bend or pause to take in something that’s pleasing.

In the late summer of 2014 we were staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C., a historic nineteenth century hotel that’s located a short 1/2 mile from The White House and just under a mile from the National Mall, that long green park that houses America’s treasured monuments and flanked on each side by the stately Smithsonian Museums.

Six in the morning and I was out the door when my phone rang.  Really? It was my co-worker who was house sitting, calling to tell me that there’d been a significant earthquake in nearby Napa. There was no damage to the house and she was just calling to let me know before I heard about it on the news. Okay now I was awake for sure. Continue reading

Cover photo: Yellowstone River cuts through the Paradise Valley north of Gardiner Montana

“My God, this place is at the end of the world,” worried Cora. Cora doesn’t do dirt roads very well. It did seem like a long ride up the mountain from the main highway. It was unpaved and pocked with debris and holes but it wasn’t horrible. In comparison this road was much better than Highway 880 through Oakland which has worse stretches, deeper holes and the extra added excitement of big rigs hurtling past just an arm’s length away as drivers try to negotiate the narrow lanes at 65 miles – an – hour while texting and eating an Egg McMuffin. Oh and we shouldn’t forget the occasional freeway shooter.

We were headed for a cabin in the woods, my idea as part of our Yellowstone trip to both experience the solitude of Montana’s Big Sky Country and, since the place would have a fully equipped kitchen, save some money on meals. I’d shopped the Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) website, pared the choices down to 5 cabins and asked Cora to narrow it down to 3. From there we chose a place advertised as “a secluded cabin by a creek, where you might see wildlife out your front door and be serenaded by howling wolves at night.” There would also be no phone, no TV and very little if any internet service. No internet? That sealed the deal. Where do I sign?

Every time I would take time off from work, my standard out of office Outlook message would include the cautionary alternative fact that I would “not have access to internet or phone service.” I could be headed for the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago and I would always claim the place has “no internet or phone service.” This time I would actually be telling the truth. I double and triple checked with Cora, who has become very connected to being connected. She grudgingly said she was okay with it. Continue reading

This week Friday Fotos is a final photo tribute to Yellowstone.

Mammoth Hot Springs

One of my favorite places in Yellowstone, one that I remembered from childhood trips and looked forward to showing Cora is Mammoth Hot Springs. Located on a limestone hill, Mammoth is a complex of terraces made up of crystalized calcium carbonate deposited by hot water bubbling up from Yellowstone Park’s vast underground plumbing system.

It’s been described as a cave turned inside out. I describe it as a scene from some unknown planet.  It’s a beautiful surreal place where steam rises from terraces colored in white, gray, tan, charcoal and cream.

Mammoth 4 - Copy

Mammoth 6 - Copy

Steam creates a haze over the otherworldly terraces of Mammoth.

Mammoth 3 - Copy

Mammoth 2 - Copy

Mammoth 1

The top of a dead tree peeking above the Mammoth flow is testament to the hot springs’ hostile environment.

Norris Geyser Basin

The Norris Geyser Basin is one of the hottest and most toxic of Yellowstone Park’s many thermal areas.  Norris sits at a temperature that tops 200 degrees F. (93.33 C.) and a highly acidic low pH level of around 2.  To me one of the more fascinating sites at Norris is the stand of dead trees surrounding Cistern Spring.

Dead trees Cistern Spring Norris geyser basin

Dead trees Cistern Spring Norris geyser basin2

Below, a monochrome edit of the photo above could be a scene out of World War I. 

Dead trees Cistern Spring Mono

 

 

Dead stump

The remnants of trees that succumbed to Yellowstone Park’s deadly waters.

Excelsior Geyser at Midway Geyser Basin

What looks like a waterfall is actually a flow of water from the crater of the now dormant Excelsior geyser at the Midway Geyser Basin, a place which Rudyard Kipling once described as “Hell’s Half Acre.” The crater measures out at 276 x 328 feet and dumps 199 degree (F) water into the Firehole River at a rate of 4000 gallons per minute.  During it’s active period in the 19th century Excelsior’s spectacular eruptions would reach a a height of 300 feet. In 1985, Excelsior erupted to a height of 55 feet, an eruption that lasted for two days. It last erupted in 1988.

Excelsior Geyser Firehole River 1 copy

Above and below, views of the boiling waters of Excelsior geyser dumping into the Firehole River. The brilliant colors are thermophiles, microbe communities which thrive in the hostile environment of Yellowstone Park’s thermal areas. Standing on the opposing bank you hear the roar of steam and rushing water. 

Firehole 2

As we left Yellowstone from the east, headed for Cody, Wyoming I felt a profound sadness. I could visit any major city in the world, be enchanted for a bit and then stick it into the far regions of memory. Yellowstone for me is different. It’s a place of childhood memories, of fishing the Yellowstone River, of picnics interrupted by bears and of introducing my wife to a natural wonder; a place that I might never visit again.

 

This post is a bit of a departure from the usual. It’s a rebuttal to an article that was introduced to me some time ago which I found to be historically flawed, overflowing with innuendo and quite frankly does a disservice to a great American President. 

“At the age of 16, I already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am president?” Rodrigo Duterte, November 9th, 2017.

 

It’s been a couple months now, I was mindlessly scanning Facebook and ran across a post that stopped me in my scrolling tracks. Well there it was, right in front of Mark Zuckerberg and God (some might say they’re one and the same) and everyone; a picture of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte side by side with Abraham Lincoln and a link to an article entitled A Vulgar President. “Well, well, what have we here?”

I knew right off which president in the picture carries a reputation for vulgarity but what in the wide, wide world was Lincoln doing there?  The poster had entered a short two words, “Please read.”

“Okay you got me.”

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Cover photo: A tree reflects through debris and points of sunlight in a park puddle.

Here in Northern California we’ve been having some prodigious rainstorms. According to the weather guy on TV (who is quickly becoming one of my least favorite people not living in Washington DC) we’ve been hydrologically pulverized by an atmospheric river and the pineapple express. My dear old dad would’ve stated it in plain English – “It’s raining like a bastard.” Thanks dad.

Yesterday we got a brief respite, the clouds parted, a strange bright orb appeared in the sky and things dried off a bit. It was the perfect opportunity to celebrate a little drying with a little photography.

A friend on Facebook exclaimed with glee “I love the rain!” Tell that to our neighbor who woke up to this yesterday morning.

car mono

The saturated ground surrendered this palm tree to the wind gusts.

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