The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Last weekend Cora and I attended the Golden Gate Kennel Club dog show. It’s an annual pilgrimage for us that began many years ago when our children were still, well, children. The show is held every year in a drafty arena in Daly City, just south of San Francisco called the Cow Palace.

The Cow Palace is a venerable old place that was completed in 1941.  In it’s salad days the Cow Palace was THE Bay Area arena, hosting professional sports, the Ringling Brothers Circus and major concerts.  The old palace has been home to livestock expositions, WWF wrestling and two Republican National Conventions which, depending on your point of view, could all three be considered coequal events. Nowadays the Cow Palace is usually empty save for the the ghosts of its glory days. Gone are the sports teams, the music headliners and even the politicians which goes to prove that every cloud does have a silver lining. One of the holdovers is the GGKC’s annual dog show. 

So Cora and I bundled up against the drafts that blow into and swirl around the big old place and we went to the dogs. Over the past 12 or so years we’ve gone to the dog show to connect with our friend who we got our Gordon Setters, Rainey and Lexi from. We don’t really go to watch the conformation; dogs getting trotted around and then prodded and inspected by a judge. We haven’t the foggiest idea what the judges are looking for. It is fun to watch the obedience competitions and to watch a really cool event called flyball (To see what flyball is all about follow the link to  World of FlyBall dogs 2.)

The Golden Gate show is a benched show which means that the dogs are required to be present for the duration of the show on assigned benches so that spectators can get up close and personal with the dogs, their handlers, owners and breeders. It’s a good place to get information from the various booths as well as all sorts of information on doggy stuff from food to grooming supplies to license plate frames and any number of googaws  trinkets and absolute nonsense that show off your favorite breed.  Most of all it’s a pleasant afternoon given to canine schmoozing. 

For me it was also a chance to photograph that four legged creation that man couldn’t measure up to on his best day. Continue reading

The deluges are done for a while and there’s a strange bright ball in the sky. With the welcome appearance of that odd, warm orb I did a photo tour of the yard.  Amid all the happy flowers who would have thought that I’d find an interesting subject in our big old cactus.

A Field of Thorns

cactus flat

Canon EOS 60D;  1/1250 sec. f/4.5 39mm;  ISO 100

As anyone who’s dabbled in photography knows it takes a lot of shots to come up with something that you’re happy with. I took a whole lotta shots with a macro lens meaning that I was doing all manner of contortions and getting very close to that big cactus when a sobering thought came to mind, “I hope I don’t fall into this thing.”

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I can’t think of any place on Earth that I would rather visit than Yellowstone National Park.  There are thousands of places all over the world that I’ve never been to but given the choice between returning to Yellowstone or visiting any of those thousands of places I think I would always choose Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is a place of childhood memories, a young adult’s regret and a parent’s neglect. When I was a child our family made three visits to Yellowstone.  Among my most unforgettable memories was a riverside picnic area; dad and I fishing and mom setting up a picnic lunch.  Suddenly a bear approached and we all rushed back to the safety of our car while the bear had its way with the lunch that we couldn’t gather in time. When the bear had been satisfied we collected our fishing gear and the rest of our belongings and moved on; a lunch spoiled and a remembrance made.

As a young adult I could have/should have visited Yellowstone to take advantage of my youth, to hike the back trails and seek out hidden waterfalls, magnificent views, and discover the grandeur of that wondrous place unseen from the busy park roads; to camp and hear the night sounds and to look up into the vault of the nighttime sky holding the lights of a million stars.

And the neglect? I had years available to me to bring my children to Yellowstone and I never did.  Parents often wish they had a do over for something that they did or failed to do. Not bringing my children to Yellowstone is one of mine.  I’ve been to Disneyland and I’ve been to Yellowstone and the memories of Yellowstone are fresher and dearer than any trip to “the magic kingdom.” Yellowstone has a magic all its own. I’ve encouraged my children to not make the same mistake as I did and to take their children to see this extraordinary place.

A few years ago I took my wife to Yellowstone and what follows in this and the next post is a remembrance of that trip. Continue reading

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”     ~  Roger Caras


“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”     ~ A.D. Williams

January after the holidays and the dead of winter has settled in. Why do they call it the dead of winter? It seems to be alive and thriving. It’s not even on life support. Dead or not we’ve had a healthy amount of rainfall and there’s been a California chill in the air. It’s important to attach that note about California because what constitutes a chill here in the Bay Area is a balmy reprieve from the bite of a frigid nor’easter. To the hardy residents from the mountains to Maine we Californians are America’s weather wimps. Well someone has to fill that role so it might as well be us.  

All the rain has turned much of the yard into a swamp until Spring, meaning the dogs, my Lexi and my daughter’s Chloe, are under strict restriction from playing in the yard.  Chloe is older and is satisfied with a nice walk.  Lexi is still a pup and needs some serious energy burn. The dog park in nearby Martinez dries out in a few days and Lexi gets some much needed running and jumping in the short windows between dry or tolerably muddy and a downright bog.  Dog park days mean romps with her friends; the regular dogs who greet each other with the ritual butt sniffs (“Oh yeah, I recognize you. You’re cool”), wagging tails and excited twirls. On those days when they don’t get an excursion, cabin fever sets in. After a few straight days of rain the fever is runs high.

boots and lexi chase

At the dog park Lexi gives chase after Boots one of her Gordon Setter friends

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Mendocino is one of a string of quaint little seaside towns that dot California’s North Coast. Located a couple hours’ drive north of San Francisco, Mendocino was first settled by people from America’s northwest and as a result has something of a New England feel to it.

During the 19th century timber was king in Northern California. With the passing of the timber industry artists and craftspeople were drawn to the oceanside village. Today the town itself is a great place to shop, eat gourmet food and stay in a bed and breakfast.   If you’re a wine sipper its the place for you.  From November through April you can watch the gray whale migration.  AND it’s pretty darn dog friendly. Continue reading

The shaggy rocker Rod Stewart told us in song that “every picture tells a story.” There are a myriad of stories to be found in Lafayette Cemetery but the pictures only tell a part of the story, just enough to wet the appetite. So, unlike the last post about Lafayette Cemetery which was mostly photos, we’re going to throw in a little taste of history and a travel tip or two.

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duck soup; noun

  1. something that is easy to do or accomplish: Fixing the car will be duck soup for anyone with the right tool

Duck Soup – A 1933 film starring the Marx Brothers in which Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale. An hour and 8 minutes of nonstop puns.  If you’re familiar with the movie then chances are you’re either an old movie buff or you’re just plain old. Unfortunately I’m the latter.

Duck Soup – A new Friday Fotos starring – ducks of course. And for your added comedic pleasure and a chance to roll your eyes over corny humor, I’ve interspersed some puns from the movie.

Pinole Creek Wetlands

The next town over from average no-town (because we don’t have a downtown) Hercules where I live, is Pinole where there’s a recreation path that follows Pinole Creek to San Pablo Bay and acres of wetlands.  A hike on that path can be just ducky.

Brown duck 2

Rufus T. Firefly: Not that I care, but where is your husband?

Mrs. Teasdale: Why, he’s dead.

Rufus T. Firefly: I bet he’s just using that as an excuse.

Mrs. Teasdale: I was with him to the very end.

Rufus T. Firefly: No wonder he passed away.

Mrs. Teasdale: I held him in my arms and kissed him.

Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, I see, then it was murder.

Single duck

Cabinet Member: We need to take up the tax.

Rufus T. Firefly: I’d like to take up the carpet.

Cabinet Member: I still insist we take up the tax.

Rufus T. Firefly: He’s right – you’ve gotta take up the tacks before you can take up the carpet.

2 swimming

Going for a late morning swim

Rufus T. Firefly:  I could dance with you until the cows come home. On second thought, I’d rather dance with the cows till you come home.


brown duck shore 2 with edits

If you have an itch you scratch …. errr, bite.

Rufus T. Firefly:  Oh, uh, I suppose you would think me a sentimental old fluff, but, uh, would you mind giving me lock of your hair?

Mrs. Teasdale:  A lock of my hair? Wh-why, I had no idea.

Rufus T. Firefly: I’m letting you off easy: I was going to ask for the whole wig.

brown duck peeking

Peek a boo

Rufus T. Firefly: Oh, I’m sick of messages from the front. Don’t we ever get a message from the side? – What is it?

Bob Roland: General Smith reports a gas attack. He wants to know what to do.

Rufus T. Firefly: Tell him to take a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda and a half a glass of water.

sillouette 2

This wasn’t what I intended. I’d hoped to get more light on the ducks but daylight was waning and so I ended up with silhouettes of the ducks against a reflection of the sky and some clouds. In the end I like the effect.


And finally, below, the Duck Soup piece de resistance. When I heard this pun I laughed so hard and so long I thought I was going to wet my pants (which depending on your point of view is either a good or bad reflection on yours truly).

[Firefly and Mrs. Teasdale hear music coming from downstairs]

Mrs. Teasdale: What’s that?

Rufus T. Firefly: Sounds to me like mice.

Mrs. Teasdale: Mice? Mice don’t play music.

Rufus T. Firefly: No? How about the old maestro?

Go forth and have a great weekend but make sure you have your ducks in a row.


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