pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out

11 September 2017

At arm's length

"And then the second plane..."

Over 16 years, I've written that sentence, spoken that sentence, read that sentence over and over again. On this day, of all days, we know how it ends. But the sense of disbelief sticks, even now. Even now, I think it and I see it as a discrete concept, as a moment in time when confusion shifted to reality and the world changed forever.

Years ago, I did write about that morning, moment by moment. I didn't leave the post up because the rawness was too much, even though the memory is still devastating. But that was my morning, 16 years ago.

Sixteen years is not much time when you reach middle age. You can pluck memories that are thirty years old out of the air, so while 16 years may not feel like yesterday, it doesn't feel particularly distant either.

But it's a memory that has become manageable, mostly because of my refusal to remember. I don't dwell on anything; I don't read about it. I keep the date at arm's length.

And there is so much water under that bridge. We have become so much worse in 16 years. I am so disappointed in my country, in its failed leadership, in the terrible polarization that exists, in the lack of common sense and generosity of spirit in my fellow citizens, in this new absolutism in view point.

Truth is, I'm exhausted by all of it. And perhaps it's become easier to keep September 11 at bay because it's become so much harder to keep everything else out.

06 September 2017

Difficult child

Butchart Gardens
Brentwood Bay, British Columbia
6 July 2010

It should be reasonably apparent from this blog that I like gardens. I visit them, I moon over them, I photograph them, I buy things at their gift shops.

I want to have nice gardens of my own.

I own a lot of books, and in that number are plant books. And garden design books. And garden design magazines. They give me ideas.

I have ideas.

My east coast sensibilities and my west coast realities are at war with one another when I think about gardens. I want green and lush, flowery and bowery, secret and beautiful, damp and rich earth.

What I have is drought. Dirt. Heat.

And a very, very, very dead front yard.


I've spent the last several months putting together a site plan, and reading up even more on trees. Shrubs. Flowers. Things that will survive the drought and sun and heat. Things that will grow in the sour dirt.

In the last couple of months, I started interviewing designers and contractors. I hate this part. I really hate this part. So many people who cannot deliver will promise the moon. And the stars. I've already been down that road. It is so aggravating.

One arrived late. Did not even glance at the site plan or the very specific deficits that I needed to address. Started talking about what to do where, completely ignoring that I'd said I didn't want that very thing. Offered to draw me a plan for an outrageous sum of money. I forced a smile and said thanks, we'll talk. Wrote a note a couple of days later saying we appreciated the time, but were looking elsewhere. All very professional.

On it went.

I'd been stalking a website for awhile. I really liked her design ideas. My brief was "drought tolerant cottage garden," and that seemed to be what she did. I liked her stuff so much, I was afraid to talk to her.

But I made an appointment, and met with her whole team.

Guess who won the contract?

She sent me a conceptual plan yesterday, and I was afraid to open it, because I knew I would hate it. I knew I'd be disappointed. I knew it would be somehow not right.

I opened it carefully. I opened it after forcing myself to have an open mind. I looked at the plan, and tried to force the plants and the photos into my head. I let the drawing open up in my brain, so I could see the front of the house as it might be.

(Yeah, honestly, initially my heart sank. And I really had to work at seeing what she'd done, because despite my site plan, despite my plant list, despite my photos, her idea was rather different. So, I had to work at it, had to see her vision. And I did, more or less. And calmed a bit.)

I have ideas.

I might dig my heels in on the roses. I might, but her reasoning for not using them is rational. Still the romantic in me sings want.

I think, well, I can always plant this plant later.

Almost immediately I am subverting the plan because despite what I said, I want things my way.

Close the files and walk away. I paid almost a grand for someone to design this for a reason. The reason was not for me to plant this plant later.

(Oh, I like that ___________. Yeah. No.)

Walk away. Look again tomorrow. Rational brain. By the end of the year, new garden.

Difficult child.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. I really got burned on doing the back garden, and I still get furious--almost 14 years later--even thinking about it. So I'm trying to approach this without terror and with healthy skepticism. But I really like this person. I was worried about the last one from the start.
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01 September 2017

Before the heatwave

Golden Gate Bridge from Alcatraz Island
14 August 2017

It was epically, fabulously, incredibly cold for August when we were in the Bay Area. The day we went to Alcatraz was in the 40s, finally getting up to about 50F, with a cold, biting wind. It was awesome.

I am holding on to that memory today, at 101F, feels like 105, at least the humidity dropped a bit but it's still gross. Hello, September.

And poor San Francisco is probably also holding on to that memory as they broke a record today, 104F in downtown.

Winter cannot come soon enough.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. Actually, I can't be too anxious for winter because the landscaper is supposed to start her chaos in the front garden in the next few weeks. And that means construction, roofing, house painting, and planting. Chaos. I'm too stressed to be excited.
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25 August 2017

More a sigh than a scream

Skyline from Alcatraz
Alcatraz Island
14 August 2017

This week...

Mostly I do okay keeping quiet. But trust me, the rage.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000..
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22 August 2017


San Francisco, California
17 August 2017

When I'm traveling, I can blog remotely via email. I discovered this 6-ish years ago when the daughter and I went to NYC together. The problem is that I can send words or a photo--not both. Sure, I could edit it all later in the hotel, but I'm usually busy, sometimes just lazy, and it means carrying all my damn passwords around. And to be fair, sometimes I'm in the middle of the ocean relying on satellite. Aggravating as can be.

I usually go back and do some editing when I get home (or in the hotel, if I'm not lazy and am carrying all my passwords around), mostly watermarking anything that's attracting attention and adding some addenda, increasing photo size as necessary. Sometimes I tell the story behind the photo. One of my friends recently pointed out that this isn't necessarily useful since most people don't go back and look at what they've already looked at, especially if they're pulling the blog off the feed. Fair point.

In any event, after our March trip, the daughter and I wanted to go back to San Francisco, and the spouse was so intrigued by our stories that he wanted to go too. So we went back, on the train, back to Alcatraz, and to various points that we didn't get to last time or didn't have time to thoroughly explore.

We still didn't see everything we wanted to.

San Francisco is small, but it's all uphill. One day, the activity tracker on my phone triumphantly announced that I'd only walked about 15,000 steps, but that I'd climbed the equivalent of 40 stories. And yeah, that was the day that we hiked up to Coit Tower, and then up to the Fairmont Hotel.

It was a long day. Also? Ouch.

So, the photos.

Crusher was taken from the Coast Starlight as the sun was setting. I liked the play of the machinery against the clouds. Yay for my iPhone6.

Lost souls was taken at Alcatraz. That day was bitterly cold for August--50sF and windy. We got to the island early in the day, and with fewer people, it was easy to feel the desolation. There are a number of bird colonies on the island, and the gull babies were starting to fledge, but the parents were still in protection mode, which made the whole scene like something out of Hitchcock's The Birds.  The daughter kept saying she felt like the birds were the spirits of those once imprisoned there. Hooray again for the iPhone6 and Hipstamatic.

Sirens at noon was actually taken back in March, though I posted it the day we visited Coit Tower this trip. I'm a Cold War kid, and the escalation of bullshit between the (choose your expletive) in the White House and the (choose your expletive) across the Pacific caused me...I don't even know. Something between boundless distress and boundless rage. That sets the stage. So we were descending from Coit Tower, down the Greenwich Steps, and suddenly I heard a helicopter and a siren. A long siren. An air raid siren. I'm a Cold War kid. They tested the air raid sirens every Saturday of my childhood. I stopped on the steps and listened, blackness gathering in my chest. And waited. That endless wait for the voice that says what comes next. And finally, after an eternity: "This is a test." The daughter was well ahead of me and said a woman caught sight of her stricken face, and said something to the effect of "Oh, it happens every Tuesday." The whole event struck a nerve I didn't even know was buried in my soul. iPhone6 and Hipstamatic's Bucktown pack.

In a fairy land is Muir Woods early on an overcast morning. A visit spurred by a scene from Vertigo, but what an incredibly lovely place. It was cool and calm and the fragrance of the trees was marvelous. The lighting was challenging--no sun, white sky--but a random Hipstamatic combination made the most of the ambience.

Dissonance came out of one of those completely unexpected, completely off the wall moments that makes you sit back and say, "What?" It's something about the Palace of Fine Arts. Last time we visited, the daughter and I staggered in the back end after getting lost in the environs of Crissy Marsh, and were confronted with this utterly monolithic edifice. It was jaw dropping. And kind of awesome. This time, we came in the front end, and wandered all around the grounds, happily discovering there was a café on site. So we walked into the doors and found ourselves inside a hangar with these huge scary angels, play equipment and a little sort of shack that was the café. It was just...weird. And kind of awesome. And if you are familiar with Doctor Who's Weeping Angels...don't blink.

Giants is self-explanatory. Watched SF versus the Phillies. I have to say that the park beats Angels stadium 6 ways to Sunday. These were nose bleed seats and the sight lines were fabulous.

Mining town is also self-explanatory. Can you say Comstock Lode? Sure you can. We took the California Zephyr from San Francisco to Reno, and drove up to Virginia City. I have opinions about all of this, but less said...

Watching you watching me is a reference to Coppola's The Conversation, which is simply one of the creepiest movies I've ever seen. These buildings on the Embarcadero figure in the background of several scenes. While I was out on the hotel balcony taking photos, lights were going on and off inside this particular building and I could see the shadow of a person moving across the windows. S/he would pause, then move on, silhouetted by the lights automatically turning on as the person moved. Innocent no doubt, but eerie to watch.

Missing just made me sad. Bright works of art and a small piece of paper tacked between them. The colorful paintings aren't all what they seem, either. The family motif that is repeated in the center work is taken from the immigrant crossing signs on the freeway down around San Diego. Talk about freighted with meaning.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6, in some cases utilizing the Hipstamatic app. Artwork in Missing is not mine and the copyright belongs to respective holders.
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20 August 2017

Watching you watching me

San Francisco, California
15 August 2017

19 August 2017

Mining town

Outside Virginia City, Nevada
19 August 2017