The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Featured image: San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies as seen from Alamo Square. 

It’s not a difficult thing to find colorful buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area. A drive down Highway 80 from home brings me to Oakland’s Chinatown where the buildings are alive with murals.  Below the mural on a city owned building is emblazoned with a menagerie of pandas, dragons and birds.                 

A drive across the Bay Bridge takes me to San Francisco’s North Beach.  The Italian Tricolor is everywhere in SF’s Little Italy.

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Note: This article quotes from the book Bullwhip Days an oral history of former slaves.  The original work was recorded and then transcribed into book form retaining the spoken dialect of the subjects. I’ve retained the dialect as published in the book. 

“Putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, it’s the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,” ~ William Barr, Attorney General, United States of America.

Was William Barr trying to be edgy? Flippant? Just trolling? Over the three and a half years of the current administration, just about anything, no matter how crude or inappropriate, seems possible. And given Mr. Barr’s proclivity for scurrilous ejaculations we cease to be shocked. He delivers provocations in a casual, offhand, conversational manner that expects the listener to believe that the most bizarre and noxious proposals are simply conventional wisdom. And so during a speech at Hillsdale College, Barr in a blasé, doesn’t everybody know this tone stated, “Putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, it’s the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,”

Mind blowing doesn’t even begin to describe Barr’s abomination.

I’ll say this for Mr. Barr, his boss, and others in the administration, everytime you think that they’ve absolutely plumbed the lowest, deepest, most despicable depths, they manage to drill down just a bit deeper. If Trump and Barr weren’t so loathsome you might even want to praise them as masters in the art of douchebaggery. That said being a master douchebag isn’t something one looks for in a president and attorney general.

Let’s be clear, the disconnection between slavery and being told to shelter in place to mitigate the spread of a virus is so great that it isn’t comparing apples to oranges but more like comparing apples to truck tires or garden hoses. There is simply no reasonable or diplomatic way to try to make the correlation.

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The San Francisco Bay Area is well known for its fog. Sometimes it’s a high overcast that shrouds the tops of San Francisco’s highrises. At other times it’s a low lying blanket that hugs the ground and the surface of the chill bay waters, a scene that makes for picturesque photos from the surrounding hills. That ground hugging cloak usually burns off by noon leaving a crystal clear day.

Lately we’ve been experiencing a new fog. It’s a stubborn fog that never burns off or gives way to clarity but will over time, burn your supply of patience. This fog doesn’t hug the bay or embrace the Golden Gate. Instead it seeps and creeps through the halls of government. Call it, COVID-19 bureaucracy.

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Life goes on here in COVID central (aka The United States of America).  Well, it goes on if you don’t become one of the rising number of statistics; THE statistic, death, that is.  As of this writing we’re closing in on 200,000 and change.  Change. Change is a term used to describe coins as opposed to paper money.  As a rule we scoff at mere change. Change is insignificant and sometimes you don’t feel like it’s worth the trouble.

I use that term here because life is apparently cheap to the current administration and the Congress.  The mendacity started, oh…what…maybe end of January, beginning of February?  We know that on January 28th Trump was told by his National Security Advisor, “This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,”

A few days later on February 7th Trump told Bob Woodward, “This is deadly stuff…more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” Three days later Trump told the American people, “I think the virus is going to be—it’s going to be fine” and “Looks like by April, you know in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.”  Continue reading

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge, hosted by Amy focuses on negative space in  photography.  My understanding is that negative space is the area that, by definition, you aren’t necessarily supposed to focus on. Negative space is the lack of clutter surrounding the main subject that allows us to focus on the main subject.

The photo below was taken at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

This is the I have no idea what this flower is flower. It was too hot that day to bother with reading the description.

In the photo below taken at Marche Jean Talon in Montreal there is very little negative space but what little there is enhances the bulbs of garlic.               

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“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.”  Revelation 15:1

At 7 in the morning the rec path along San Pablo Bay can be a busy place; hikers, dog walkers, runners and an occasional skater. Cyclists wiz by, more often than not catching pedestrians by surprise.

This morning the trail was free of cyclists. In fact it was nearly free of humanity. There was one couple walking unmasked and a woman struggling to control her overly aggressive dog that was looking to have my Lexi for breakfast. Standing at the shore a solitary man fishing, silhouetted against an ashen horizon. He was standing 50 meters or so from the sewage treatment plant, not a place I would pick to fish but then I wouldn’t fish anywhere in San Pablo Bay and would certainly not eat anything from the bay.

It’s another dreary depressing day today. Smoke from the many fires scorching California has cloaked the sky and choked the air. It’s slightly better today. The rising sun still had that surreal dark orange color to it. Yesterday the smoke mixed with fog created a curtain that had visibility down to about a mile at best. This wasn’t the usual Bay Area fog. Those are gray days when you know the sun will burn through by late morning; the morning fog that Tony Bennett crooned about.

The last two days were clenched in air that was thick with a tobacco colored tint. To even call it air is charitable. It was a malevolent thing, a living beast, shrouding trees that you knew were less than a mile distant. According to the weatherman the fog is pushing down some of the ash which is further staining the air. Everything is covered with a thin sheet of ash; my truck, the garden furniture, plants. The pool is splotched with clumps of ash. We don’t put a water bowl outside for the dogs as it quickly develops an ashen film. In fact we don’t really let the dogs out for any long period of time.

As bad as the last two days have been, they were much better than it was on Wednesday. Getting out of bed at 7 in the morning and peeking out the window felt like waking to the apocalypse or finding yourself on Mars. The entire sky was a burnt orange. Our world had taken on the hue of a Martian sky. There was no glow, there was no light, just a dull pulsing orange. Dull and dark enough that streetlights were still on at midday and people were driving with their lights on. A friend of mine told me she looked out the window and was literally terror stricken. It took her a couple of days to muster the courage to go out. She’s pining for her home in New York.

A “Martian” sky over San Francisco


If there’s any positive to be found, it’s that the smell of smoke has lessened to where it no longer chokes. A few days ago stepping outside was like putting your head in a campfire. The smell of smoke literally was clinging to clothes.

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A few months ago when the new normal predictions were all the rage and being tossed around by everyone from my personal friends to pundits, psychologists, CEOs and politicians, I threw the “bullshit flag.”  Human nature is what it is I objected.  As soon as the all clear sounds people will flock back to stadiums, crowd movie theaters, dance at clubs, get hammered at bars and work off the hangover the next morning at the gym.  People will be back at their offices complaining about the drudgery of being cooped up in a cubicle after months of complaining about the drudgery of being cooped up in the house.

Even now college football and the NFL are flirting with the notion of limited attendance at some of their games.  As it stands now it’s just talk but I wouldn’t be surprised to see fans allowed in, even if just on a limited basis.  I have to admit that I’m somewhat surprised to see NASCAR holding firm on empty tracks (and it’s very strange to watch) but I’m expecting crowds at the ovals in the near future.  Some movie theatres are opening to small crowds as if the crowds hadn’t been small during pre-COVID.

All of the above, along with other services and businesses have been subject to local regulations which have ranged from laissez faire to strict.  I still hold that human nature is what it is and always has been and sooner or later things will return back to at least close to the old normal.  Some places never left the old normal and some are quickly and unwisely back to the old normal with people flocking to beaches and parks sans masks and distancing, which makes them, in my opinion, a bunch of flocking idiots.  And then there are the Trump rallies which are attracting just plain fucking idiots.

And so I’m feeling like sooner or later my “bullshit flag,” on the “new normal” will be vindicated.  Except, in one particular area – offices.  And that may turn out to be a big deal.

The City Skyline from the Golden Gate Bridge

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In honor of Labor Day, guest host Rusha Sams challenges us to describe examples of labors of love in pictures.

Labors of love are often those physically demanding, difficult, repetitive jobs done by people who we often depend on for the returns their labor produces. Fishermen have a bond with their boats and with the sea, working from before the sun rises and long into the day. Farmers and ranchers connect with the soil, sun and seasons.

Labors of love are the hours spent learning to paint, sculpt, create music, to write and to craft.

Fruits of labors of love satisfy our needs, inspire us, sadden us, satiate us, bring us joy and moments of reflection.

Labors of love yield rewards that tickle our senses.
Foods from the ground and the sea nourish us and excite our sense of taste.

Colorful peppers at the San Francisco Farmers Market

Fresh catch at Half Moon Bay Fish Market

Manning the grill at the Fort Bragg Salmon Fest

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For the four days of the Republican National Convention, ending on a White House lawn festooned with American flags, the American people were warned that failure to re-elect Donald Trump to a second term will result in nothing short of an American Armageddon. The American people will lose their basic freedoms and have their guns confiscated only to be melted down and molded into statues of Lenin as Joe Biden turns the Constitution on its head while turning mobs of anarchists and undesirables loose on city streets and suburban lanes,

This Republican vision of a Biden led collapse of law and order was to be expected even after Trump promised that the Republicans would deliver a positive message of hope. Trump denounced the Democratic Party’s Convention as the “darkest” and “gloomiest” in history, an opinion seconded by Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel who called the Democrats event a “depressing, doom-and-gloom convention.”

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge for this first week of September is Commercial Buildings and Store Fronts.

One of my favorite places in San Francisco is Chinatown. There are two major streets through Chinatown. Grant Ave. which I try to avoid, is where the souvenir shops peddle threadbare t-shirts, postcards and plastic Buddhas. Stockton Street is where the local residents shop for baked goods, meats, produce, groceries and medicinals. Along with Chinatown’s alleys, Stockton Street is the place to go when you’re in the area.   


Hing Lung Company is a tiny hole in the wall that puts out the best duck & Chinese BBQ pork

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