The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Taking a breath of viral free air to offer something pleasing and to try to relieve some of the angst if only for a few moments.  The San Francisco Bay Area is rich in street art; some of it sanctioned and some not. Below is a small sampling of images of a few of the many murals that grace the Bay Area.

Half Moon Bay

For years the surf contest at Mavericks along the coast about 30 minutes south of San Francisco has captivated people around the world. The small section of coastline sees waves that are typically over 8 m (25 ft) and top out at over 18 m (60 ft). Unfortunately the contest has been cancelled for four straight years due to “logistical problems.”
But surfing is still king in the area.

On the side of the building that houses the Cunha Store (a great little general merchandise emporium) in Half Moon Bay is a mural of surfer Jeff Clark challenging a big wave at Mavericks.  Below: The mural actually covers two walls. Surf Mural 2

Surf Mural detail

Just north of Half Moon Bay is the little town of Princeton and the Pillar Point Marina.  The sides of a utility box depict the local ocean life. 

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I’m up before dawn on a 50° F. morning; chilly for the Bay Area, balmy for those struggling with a side order of snow to go with their pandemic.  Wife, daughter and grandchildren are enjoying the warmth of bed.  Lexi bounces up, all tail wagging, rolling on the floor, butt in the air doggy excitement. It’s her we’re going to have an outing dance.
“Sorry girl, I’ve got to go hunting.”
It’s not hunting in the traditional sense.  This doesn’t require a gun.  Not yet anyway, but as Samuel L. Jackson famously said in Jurassic Park, “Hold onto your butts.”  It’s discomforting to contemplate our little bit of leftover reason giving way to intimidation at gunpoint for a couple cans of Spam.
Look at the clock, 5:30, running behind.  Throw on some clothes, grab some disinfectant and out the door.  A glance back at Lexi, giving me the “what about me,” look.
“I’ll be back, girl. Go back to bed.”

At Foodmaxx in Pinole there’s a small knot of people with their shopping carts waiting for the doors to open.  I’m pleasantly surprised that I haven’t been greeted with a line. The talk this morning is about the morning’s primary quarry – toilet paper.  One poor fellow is down to just a couple rolls and his tone carries more than a little hint of desperation.  Toilet paper jokes circulate around our little group; mentions of orphan socks, leaves and stinging nettles.

The door opens and everyone is deferential.  It’s not like we were in a line but the politeness and lack of rudeness is a nice way to start the day.  The burly guy who opened the door has seen reruns of this show and announces right off,
“We are out of paper products. No paper products.”
“Fuck me.”

Half of the group heads into the store to stalk other game while I abandon my cart and head for the door with the other half.  Off to the next hunting ground. On my way to the car I spray my hands again with homemade disinfectant and mull my choices; Lucky just about a half mile up the road or Safeway about ten minutes down the interstate. Shopping for the basics has become something like spinning a roulette wheel.

What used to be one trip to a single store has become a multi-stop scavenger hunt for Lysol, Clorox Wipes, Purell, and other cleaning supplies; meat, frozen foods and dairy.  The aisles that carry bread, pasta, pasta sauce, canned meats, beans and vegetables have become a wilderness; a good opportunity to wipe down the barren shelves.  Paper towels, face tissue and of course the sine qua non, toilet paper have become the supermarket version of the unicorn.  I don’t even bother with the wipes or the hand sanitizer.

Below it looks like $3.13 for air or as that classic rock song goes, Money for Nothing


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Then we set out the lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshed up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound anywheres – perfectly still – just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. ~ Huck Finn describes life on the river

Huck Finn and his companion, the escaped slave Jim, are runaways. Hiding by day and gliding along the Mississippi by night. Even while on the lam, Huck finds solace in the peaceful flow of the river.

This week Amy challenges us to share our images of rivers. In her post Amy uses Norman Maclean’s semi-autobiographical novel as the backdrop for her images. Good choice. The book is magical and the movie is a superb adaptation. When I was younger and contemplating retirement I dreamt of settling in a cabin near the Blackfoot River from McClean’s story. Seems like a good place to be now.

Follow the link to Amy’s The World is a Book to see her images of Banff, Colorado the Nile and even a statue in Rome.

My river story takes place in Oregon on the Klamath and the Umpqua and on California’s Stanislaus River.

Klamath River

Dawn or dusk, a riverbank is a place of sublime tranquility.

Klamath 1

Dawn on a bend in the Klamath

Klamath 4

Morning fog on a Klamath dawn

In the calm slow stretches the river serenades with a peaceful, trickling murmur.  Klamath 2

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I think there’s some value in putting down our own stories of this unprecedented moment in history, be they narratives, works of fiction, poetry, art, songs or any other record of the experience of 2020.  Years from now, decades from now, historians and students will look for stories, particularly first person, of this singular event.  If we do nothing else, let this be the lesson. 

Current events, specifically those surrounding the giant virus in the room, are harder to keep up with than a poltergeist. Surrounding; probably not the appropriate term – not here, not America. “Surround” assumes we’re getting our arms around it and right now our arms aren’t yet long enough. Change is moment by moment; the numbers, the news good and bad, the progress and the setbacks. The good news is that China’s arms finally grew long enough. As of this morning it is reporting no new local infections.

On the home front. Looking for things to pass the time since the gym and swinging by The City are off the approved list of activities.  You can only sit in front of a crossword for so long.  I find out that there’s free college out there – free bleeping college.  Yesterday afternoon browsing the free online course offerings from the Ivy League Universities.  Like the kid in the candy store.  Like ME in the candy store, in the licorice section, you know that black candy that nobody but me and a few select others relish.  Old people candy is how a friend once termed it.

Better late than never we’re finally answering the bell.  Gee, wasn’t it a little more than two short weeks ago that the President of the United States called it the Democrats “new hoax,” and Limbaugh bloviated something about the “common cold?”  Better late than never is about the best I can credit Trump with even if he’s still not completely getting it.   That he’s finally decided to take it seriously is something of a plus even if he bestows his lackluster, canard filled response with a score of 10 and refuses to take any responsibility (where are Lincoln, FDR and JFK when you need them).  Screw it, there is no time for this; for hashing out that part of the mess now.  For now it’s just spilt milk under the bridge.  Let history settle it – and it will settle it, oh yes it will.  We have more pressing matters right now..

I start a wishlist of classes to take.
Introduction to Key Constitutional Concepts and Supreme Court Cases
University of Pennsylvania
Moral Foundation of Politics
Yale University. Morality and politics – hmmm – must be just a one hour lecture broken up with a 45 minute break.
America’s Written Constitution
Yale University.
The Civil War and Reconstruction.
Columbia University
They might not look interesting to you but to paraphrase; one man’s history class is another man’s chem class.

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It isn’t the end of days but, as the bard Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan) wrote, The Times They Are a-Changin. I’ve published one piece about the coronavirus and have begun another but I can’t seem to keep up with the a-changin’ times. What was relevant two weeks ago is ancient history.  Hell what was up to date an hour ago is just dust.

I’m taking a break from the family jigsaw puzzle and I’m not down to counting sheets of toilet paper – not yet anyway.  I’ve stepped away from watching my retirement money take “the highway to hell” as the bards Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Bon Scott wrote (Do AC-DC count as bards?). The song promises that satan will be “payin my dues” but I’m not counting on old Beelzebub to carry my freight.  I hear tell that he’s something of a loan shark; charges steep interest rates but all of that smacks of religion and I’ve no truck with such legends.

It’s going to be a while I think before any of us can take a trip to San Francisco so instead of binge watching every single season of Friends let’s take a random tour of The City through images both previously published and new.  Let’s start with my absolute favorite San Francisco district – North Beach.

North Beach is San Francisco’s Little Italy and, being of Italian descent, it’s only natural that this little enclave is a favorite. It’s where I go when I want an Italian food fix; good pecorino, creamy mozzarella (not those rubber supermarket balls), authentic sausage and salami, a cappuccino and cannoli, or a Peroni beer at a sidewalk table. But dearest to my heart its a place where I can mingle with the old Italian guys, watch them gesture and listen to them speak the native tongue.

Coit and tricolor

The Italian tri color is omnipresent.  Above it waves under the gaze of Coit Tower

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This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge posed to us by Ann-Christine is ironically appropriate for our current times.  Presenting – CHAOS.  To see Ann-Christine’s take, follow the link.
chaos[ key-os ]
a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.
any confused, disorderly mass:

A walk-off is the chaotic moment in baseball when a baserunner scores after a batter hits the ball safely into play in the bottom of the ninth inning to drive in the winning run. After the batter who hit in the game-winning run has touched first base, they can simply just “walk-off” the field, since the team has now officially won the game.
But they never simply walk off the field. There has to be the last moments of chaotic joy. Walkoff 2

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panic pan-ik
a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals.

The daughter called while I was at the dog park.  Lexi circling a big eucalyptus tree and barking at a squirrel chattering at her, rodent trash talk from 30 feet up.
“I’m going to buy some toilet paper and sanitizer from Amazon.”
“Because people are hoarding them because of coronavirus. I was at Target the other day and the shelves were empty.”
“I knew about the hand sanitizer but not about the toilet paper. I’m at the dog park now”
Lexi’s hopping up and down scratching at the tree, pissed that a rodent would have the chutzpah to invade her dog park.

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(Featured photo – Reflections in a puddle of rainwater.)

This week we have a guest host for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge.  Miriam’s site The Showers of Blessings challenges us to offer some photographic reflections on reflections.

Grand Teton National Park draws photographers from around the world to photograph images of her majestic beauty.
One of the most famous is Oxbow Bend where Mount Moran gazes down on the Snake River, coiled in the foreground. Sunrise brings scores of photographers along the banks of the Snake. On this particular morning I got my wife out of a warm bed in 26 degree F weather to arrive at Oxbow Bend by sunrise.

Fog on the Snake River

Just before the sunrise, a blue sky, the clouds and trees reflect on the Snake. Near the opposite bank a finger of morning fog hovers over the river. 

Mount moran sunrise pan BEST

Sunrise Mount Moran, Grand Teton National Park

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It’s been over a month now since that Sunday morning when the news broke that Kobe Bryant his daughter and seven others had perished in a helicopter crash. These things arrive like a sucker punch; the roundhouse that you never saw coming. You pick yourself up and wonder what the hell just happened. Regardless of how you feel about the man the news still leaves you breathless and exclaiming, “WHAT?” images

Some were just settling down to Sunday breakfast.  I was driving out to go for a run. I had sports talk on the radio and all the talk was about Bryant.  No mention of a helicopter crash and so I thought it was all about Lebron James having passed Bryant on the all time scorers list in a game the night before.  Talk had been that Bryant would be present at that game to honor James. It wasn’t until I was driving home after my run that I found out that all of the Bryant talk was about his death. 

The internet tells us that 150,000 people die every day.  Okay it is the internet and the internet is as often as not, a fraud.  Suffice to say that a lot of people die every day. Death is often a close personal thing; family, friends, acquaintances. Death is often a sad, lonely thing; nobody to mark the passing but the undertaker and the grave digger.  And then there are those times when death becomes a universal thing. 

It’s over a month later and the tributes and the personal stories about Bryant continue and they will for some time to come.  While the shock is mostly over, for some the dust will never settle. For some January 26, 2020 will be with them forever, a lifelong remembering of where they were when they heard the news.  Most of us have similar days hidden away in our subconscious, just beneath the surface until a conversation, a story or an image brings back memories, sighs and the enduring why.    Continue reading

This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge presented by Patti is “Change your perspective,” in other words look at an image or shot from a different point of view.  Take a break from the tried, true and sometimes trite perspective of straight on from your standing eye level.

“Look up and down and round about you.”  ~ John Muir

“I just think that humans were created to look upward” ~ Catherine Hicks
The obvious alternative is a glance straight up.
Look! Up in the sky it’s…well it’s not Superman. But it might be…MIRA
If you happen to be walking just south of Market Street in San Francisco’s downtown and you just happen to look up you’ll meet MIRA. MIRA is a tower that looks like a portent of the next big earthquake, or maybe just the work of an architect on an acid trip. Maybe it’s a little of both but the firm Studio Gang put this design together on purpose.

MIRA Tower 2 As Shot

Looking up at MIRA. Note that straight line going up the center. 

A look straight up through the camera lends a greater impression of looming.


The magnificent church Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal in Montreal looms as if from heaven itself.

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