I woke up feeling great. At the age of 54, that doesn’t happen too often, at least not to me. Except walking and drinking, I hadn’t done any exercise for a week. I told Frank I was going for a run to Golden Gate Park, just over Seventeenth Street. I regaled him with a vivid description of my favourite San Franciscan run, over the hill, through the park, past the de Young art museum and the Japanese garden, around the Botanical Garden to the polo field, down the to the mighty Pacific and the beach, within view of the famous Cliff House. “D’ja wanna come with?”
“Sure….” Frank responded, leery. “How far is that?”
“I used to do it in an hour. Or so. Each way.” I chirped.
“Uh-huh. When, exactly, was the last time you ‘used to do it’?”
“Oh, well, let’s see — probably 1995.” Continue reading 26. Over The Hill
San Francisco and I get along better now than when we first met in 1985. Then, I was visiting my boyfriend who had just graduated from Boston University. He found himself jobless and penniless in Boston, so retreated here to live with his mother in an uncomfortable silence.
Then, it was pretty clear that with me living in Boston and him living in SF, after this trip we’d probably never see each other again. We didn’t. He cinched that by playing a cassette tape of “Don’t You Forget About Me” every time we got in his car. Sean was a good man, but I do not react well to needy.
Then, the AIDS epidemic was in its early stages, with San Fran leading the way in diagnoses, community reaction, enlightenment, fear and loathing. At the time, I knew no one HIV positive — indeed “HIV” had not yet entered the lexicon. Continue reading 25. Brave New San Fran
Back at Yosemite’s Curry Village, we found the adjacent cabin had no fewer than ten occupants. Their cabin was identical to ours which had a double bed for two, with the theoretical possibility of a roll-away creating a capacity of three. There were four children in their group who I must presume would be stashed in a closet overnight. Even so, it must have been tight quarters for the rest of them — three men, three women, one couple with apparent grandparent status. A close family.
For the rest of the evening, we sat on our veranda drinking wine, watching them drink various forms of pre-mixed hard liquor concoctions while watching us drink wine. Groups of them would come and go. The wives went to the general store, and upon their return, the husbands headed to the bar. The children, having scavenged a couple cans of pre-mixed hard liquor concoctions, dashed into the woods — which may explain why the husbands headed to the bar. Continue reading 24. Parched
Yosemite National Park attracts about four million visitors a year. Like America itself, they keep closer track of who is entering than who is leaving. I presume Yosemite repels as many visitors as it attracts, as otherwise it would fill up.
August is peak season, drawing a disproportionate number of tourists, with an average August day seeing over twenty thousand enter the park. Many of them are day-trippers, a necessity since when every bed and campsite in the park is in use it accommodates only about fifteen thousand overnight.
During our stay there were about were thirty thousand nature lovers driving through the park each day, most generally following the rules established to preserve their lives and protect the park’s very existence, with a small few running down the wildlife, littering the roadside, and improperly disposing of lit cigarettes. Spread over the park’s twelve hundred square miles, thirty thousand works out to only twenty-five people per square mile. That is about the same population density as the State of Vermont, which does not seem particularly crowded. The reality is, though, that almost all thirty thousand visitors remain in the eight square miles of the central Yosemite Valley floor. This yields a population density of 3,750 per square mile, which is about three times more crowded than New Jersey, the most densely populated US State. Continue reading 23. Yumpin’ Yosemite
Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid renting a car. This is particularly true in California, the birthplace of the freeway traffic jam. It is ironic that one cannot access the natural splendors of the American West without driving a carbon-spouting fossil fuel guzzler through a few hundred miles of former natural splendor on ribbons of asphalt surrounded by fields of shopping malls.
It is no secret that I am not fond of driving. It goes back to a genuine and deep-rooted hatred of cars, which I consider to be the foremost culprit in the demise of civilization. Despite this, my first job in Australia was with a company that serviced automotive manufacturers – mostly Ford. What can I say? I needed a job.
After two years, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and quit. The CFO called me from Detroit to talk me out of it. I gave him all the usual “It’s not you, it’s me” reasons. He chewed up and spit back every excuse. Finally I said “Listen Fred, the truth is, I don’t like cars. I don’t like people who like cars. I’m not even very fond of people who like people who like cars.”
“Oh” said Fred. There was a pregnant pause. “Maybe its best that you quit then.” Continue reading 22. Managing Yosemite
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs from Seattle to LA, but today we were boarding in Portland bound for Sacramento, of all places. I have taken this overnight train before. It is arguably Amtrak’s best train, not only for its spectacular scenery, but for its Pacific Parlour car.
The Pacific Parlour car is the jewel in Amtrak’s daggy crown. It offers sleeper-car passengers a comfortable lounge and decent dining. Onboard, they undersell the parlor car menu offerings as “lighter fare” than that offered in the main dining car, which might dissuade one from making that special (free) reservation to dine in the parlour car. Do not be fooled! Continue reading 21. Amtrak’s Jewel