Monday, December 24, 2012

One of those dreaded Christmas letters

Merry Christmas from our house to your house
I will eventually mail a few Christmas cards. but since it is Christmas Eve and I have not started, here's a report on our year.

It has been quite a year. I won’t try to cover it all in one letter. You’ll have to come visit us to get a fuller version of the story.

We started 2012 in our cabin in Camp Connell where we have been living for the past six years or so. While we were staying in a rental unit below the snow, our Realtor and friend called to say she had an unusual house for us to look at down the mountain in Murphys, Ca. It turned out to be two 80-year-old houses, on one piece of property, both needing work. So, of course, we bought them.

We moved into our new/old home at 340 Bret Harte Drive in late March as soon as we had three feet of water pumped out of the basement, and then started to work. The months since then have been  near-endless chores, repairs, renovations and contractors.

Fortunately, the larger house was in reasonable shape, though stripped clean, and Pat and I started making the changes we wanted or needed. The biggest initial challenge was furnishing a large house after living in a small cabin. The first of many miracles happened when friends, both old and new, discovered they had furniture they no longer needed, or did not have room for. We can never repay the kindnesses we were granted, but we will surely spend years paying it forward.

The smaller house next door was a disaster, but after  seven months of hard work and buckets of money our son Zack and Granddaughter Katie (and Rusty the dog) moved in, and are now our next door neighbors.
And our new/old home is very near daughter Ruth, her husband Brian, and fast-growing grandchildren Delaney and Connor.

Both houses still need some work, but thanks to many kind friends and workers we are in, and happy.

We are near our church, good friends, poker buddies and best bakery in California.

God has blessed us every one. Come see us.

Sanders & Pat

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Progress Report

Murphys, Ca --  This blog is back from the dead -- or at least inactive -- for the past six months.
We've been a little busy.
At last report we had bought two 80-year-old houses in Murphys, in need of work and furnishings.
The living room was ripped up as the floors were being worked on. The bathroom had no working sink.
The plumbing was doubtful.
We had few lights, as everything had been stripped.
The smaller house was uninhabitable, and we had to consider demolishing it.
And we had almost no furniture.

Well, that has changed a lot, thanks to the incredible help, work and contributions from a village full of friends.
The Family Room seen from the kitchen. 
The Dining Room is in the background, table covered with Christmas stuff.

From the counter looking at the former breakfast nook, now a spot for dishes and local wines.

                           The Living Room, with restored hardwood floors, places to sit,
                                     and stocking hung by the chimney with care.

 The downstairs bathroom, now including a re-plumbed working sink, mirror, lights etc.
 An office in work. That's a poster of my friend the late Bob Maynard on the wall.
And across our shared drivway, Zack happily working on his Subaru by his new/old home. New fences are in place for the dog, just lacking gates.

Our master bedroom is essentially done, except for pictures on the wall and the guest bedroom is sparse but useable. The spare bedroom has become Pat's exercise and music room.

Some other things have changed since the last report:
The heat works, and we have air conditioning.
The toilets flush, and they actually connect to the sewer.
The asbestos roof is replaced, and gutters installed.
The stucco is repaired, and the one-story house painted inside and out.
We have lights in ever room, and appliances cabinetry in the kitchen, and washer/dryer in the utility room.
The basements in both houses stay dry, most of the time, thanks to brand new sump pumps.
 We have planted five trees and numerous bushes and ornamental plants, and hundreds of bulbs.

Credit for all the contributions of furnishings and labor will come later. We are considering setting up a plaque in bronze to honor the wonderful sharing we have experienced.

And we still are finding some surprises, like circuit breakers that pop regularly, slow drains, still-leaking basements, and places that flood when it rains hard.

But you get the idea.

We are home for Christmas.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Progress Report in Photos

Murphys, Ca -- A quick look at the progress on fixing up our new/old home.

The once incomplete kitchen cabinetry, including electrical and installation of the  microwave, fan and new drawers, was finished off by our friend and master cabinet maker Skip Sharp.

 We  have a drainage problem so we installed a new French Drain on top of the new water pipes, using the trench Andy Glessman dug.
 The living room had a large section of ugly tile cemented over the old oak floors, so we tore it out and are having it restored, plus a new stone hearth. We expect to get this part of the house back mid-week.

 The last appliance installed was the in-counter oven which had been sitting in the floor serving as an island for a week or so.  The kitchen is actually complete.

Furnishing a four bedroom house has proved to be a challenge, but we are adept at garage and estate sales. So far we have had a nice sofa and carpet donated by the Grassmeyers, purchased three good carpets from the Catholic Church Rummage sale, bought another sofa from the Humane Society and one from the Masonic lodge, and found a good chair and twin beds for a guest room at a moving sale. We've had lots of other items given to us, or purchased inexpensively, through the kindness of friends and neighbors.

One of my pals from the trail crew at the state park, and his wife, have given us a complete bedroom suite.

We have purchased a new bed and a dining table and chairs from the local furniture store, and are negotiating with folks to buy window coverings for 15 large windows. The first estimate was $12,000, so we decided not to do that!

No matter what the status of the fix-up, we stil take a little time for music.

 Pat on her hammered dulcimer in the in-progress living room.
Me and George Haskel rehearsing for a benefit for Harmony Ranch.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Old House, New Home

Murphys, Ca -- We had been almost casually looking for a little house down the hill from our cabin home, a place we could escape to when the winter snows get too deep (as they did last year).

Our Realtor friend Carmela call on a Thursday, we looked at the property that Friday, made an offer that night and closed within 30 days. I think that was a month ago.

The pace has been fast ever since.

But first, a description:
House Number One (I'll explain that later) where we currently live with plans someday for adequate furniture, is a two story home built 80 years ago to house a doctor and his family, and maybe his office. The original house was built in the 1930s as part of a San Joaquin County Tuberculosis Sanatorium, a state-run place in the Golden Hills of California away from the miasma of the Valley winters and the heat of the summers. 
The house has been expanded through the years to about 2,200 square feet, a lot of fixups had been done, but it still has some interesting characteristics and challenges.  Murphys has transformed meanwhile into a tourist destination featuring more than 20 wine tasting rooms, several high end places to eat,  music somewhere every weekend night, and the world's best bakery about five blocks from our home.

We have polished oak floors in every room, white oak in the older part and red oak in the newer section.  The ceilings are coved, cabinets built in,  and  the walls are plaster over lathe.

The roof is nearly new.

The kitchen cabinets are all new, as are the polished concrete counter tops. The windows are new too. and everything had a fresh coat of paint (Real Estate Neutral for color).

The heating system was brand new.

The bathrooms had new fixtures and new sculptured concrete showers.

Best of all, there is a yard full of oaks and cedars and Catawba, lots of flowers, and a hundred foot tall Giant Sequoia right across the street in an undeveloped lot.

We have a three car detached garage, the biggest in our fairly long home-owning lives.

On the challenge side, you could add "but not completely finished" after every plus. For example, all appliances had been stripped out and the cabinets not completed. All light fixtures were gone, including ceiling lights and fans. When we opened the caps in the ceiling over the electrical wires, it spat sparks at us. The heat did not work because the gas pipes leaked like a sieve, and the air conditioning system  was never actually installed. The garage doors are stuck shut.

The plumbing had been hand tightened, so sinks leaked.

The lovely new stone patio was cracked from the concrete settling, and the shade cover was never installed, just footings in place.

The fancy heater insert made for the fireplace was missing.

The plants had not been cared for in two years or so, so we had a riot of greenery when Spring showed up.

And two days after we paid for a home inspection we had the biggest rain storm of the year, and the basement was slowly filling with water. Someone removed the sump pump.

 In other words, this is a handyman's dream and we are having the time of our lives.

With the exception of a few surprises, we knew what we were getting into: a great old house that needs a lot of love and care.

From Day One friends and family have helped with the important stuff.  My son-in-law spent every spare minute for a week chasing down every gas leak and fixing them all in time for us to have a working heat system on cool mornings. He also was on emergency call when the basement flooded, and helped with the pumping out chores. He has every skill needed, and I just regret he needs his day job to support his wife and my hungry grandchildren.

My cabin neighbor Dave showed up and fixed most of the electrical stuff, and various others have consulted, helped, or have signed up for next month's projects.

Our young friend Skip whom we've known since he was in high school in Modesto finished off the kitchen cabinetry, including amazing custom work.

Friends Emily and Judy showed up early with yard tools and high energy to help get the jungle outside under control. Mary came and loaned us lamps so we could have some light.
Kelly and Tracey and George and Andy were available to do a lot of the hard stuff, like making seven or eight trips to the dump with debris and garbage pulled out of the basement and and the yard, cleaning windows and polishing floors, fixing plumbing problems, and cleaning everything from top to bottom. Diana brought us a meal, and Dave and Meg gave us a plant.

Other friends provided endless support.

And we have met a lot of skilled contractors, eager to help.  We are on a first name basis with plumbers, electricians, air conditioning folk and a wood floor expert. 

We welcome almost daily the chance to take a break to give guided tours to neighbors and friends who drop by, curious to see what we are up to.

Pat and I have been busy working and buying and discovering stuff we need, and what we don't, for several weeks now.

I have changed every lock, installed sump pumps, sprayed bleach on mold, and found I am not too old to put on knee pads and crawl through the buggy crawl-space to see what I can discover. (Yes, I wear eye protection and a hepa-filter breathing mask when exploring the unknown.)
The final appliance (a built-in oven) is due to arrive next week, as is the tile man who will rework the bathroom floors.

We bought a new bed and dining table from a local furniture store, and have been haunting Craigslist, thrift stores (a sofa), yard sales (a like-new recliner), non-profit sales (side tables), and estate and garage sales.

I have researched French Drain Construction, wood restoration and stucco work. Pat has spent hours researching ratings on appliances, measuring toilet seats, planning her garden, and trying to figure out how to cover windows that are open to the street immediately in front of the house.  We have a budget (I'll let you know how THAT works out in six months.)

The cashiers at Lowes know us well, and we expect to be on a first-name basis by next week.

We entered a new phase this morning: Pat spent the day in Sonora returning items we purchased that did not fit, or work out. We've learned to keep receipts and packaging.

The kitchen works, The bed is in place. The windows are covered (temporarily), the plumbing works, and we have a place to sit and lights to read by. Oh yes, and the biggest TV in our lives and high speed internet.

Tomorrow, we are taking the day off.

Then Monday, it's back at it.

And the next blog will talk about House Number Two.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bob Bentley, journalist

Camp Connell, Ca -- Bob Bentley was buried yesterday back in his Southern hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina.

He changed my life for the better, and I will not forget what he did for me and many others.
He wrote his own obituary, found at  Bob's obit . It was typical of Bob not to leave any detail to chance.

We met almost 50 years ago when we were both with the Miami Herald. Bob was a copy editor and a youthful manager, and I was reporter assigned to the area around Cape Canaveral.

I left the Herald the next year, and one year later he showed up to take over as editor of the Today Newspaper near Cape Canaveral where I worked. It is now called Florida Today,  and at the time was test bed for what became the nation's largest newspaper. He was 29 years old, unknown outside of his South Carolina hometown and Florida East Coast newspapers.

Astronaut Alan Shepard left a microscopic copy of that newspaper's report on Apollo 11 on the surface of the moon, something Bob was extremely proud of.

Before he was done he helped build up six successful newspapers from Florida to California by applying his great judgment, innovative skills and by working incredibly long hours. He was apolitical, but suffered fools from both parties poorly when they ignored the needs of the common people.

He knew how to hire the best and the brightest young journalists, and keep them excited about each new day.

He lured top young professionals to Florida by promising them sunny beaches, cold beers and good times, plus a chance to work with a group of colorful characters out to make the world a better place.

Novelist Randy Wayne White was hired by Bentley while White was working as a lineman climbing poles for the utility company. At least six other staff members he hired during his Florida days have published novels or successful non-fiction books. Several of us went on, after a few years under Bob's mentoring, to become editors of daily newspapers.

Foreign Correspondent Susan Taylor Martin was his county government reporter whom Bob defended quite successfully against a religious zealot who happened to be a Florida elected official.

Photographer/artist Bob Ferguson was an early hire, and a life-long friend.
Ferguson had this to say in a sad e-mail to friends: "I am going to miss his baritone voice, pencil editing of correspondence and writing, his love of gossip, his devotion to sports and the Game Cocks in particular. His love of South Carolina and grits, scars on the belly to prove it, and his passion for his friends. His love and appreciation of women, and his commitment to his wife Susan and his kids, Robby and Reid. All of us will miss you, Bob Bentley!"

Graduates of his newsrooms still fill key slots at newspapers from the New York Times to Los Angeles, from Columbia, South Carolina, to Bakersfield, Ca.

 One of our colleagues from those days now blogs (pro-guns and anti-Obama) from his Oklahoma mini-farm. He remembers Bob this way: "The sheer joy and camaraderie of newspapering was never quite the same for any of our crew before Bob arrived and after he moved on. "We work hard and we play hard," Bob was fond of saying, and indeed we did. Bob Bentley was a brilliantly imaginative innovator, a personnel genius, a gifted writer, a genuinely unforgettable character and one of my dearest friends."

Under Bob's editorship our pro-gun zealot worked quite happily alongside a young pot-smoking hippie from Kansas who never, as far as we could tell, cut his hair, and a tough liberal New York City veteran newswoman whom he talked into coming South to make a difference. He brought us all together.

 He was often a  bachelor in his younger years, and with basketball-player build, tall good looks,  Southern charm, curly hair and big smile he was always popular with everyone except the politicians his newspapers helped keep honest.

His obituary says this:

"He was editor of six daily newspapers, a news executive on two others.

"Bentley was a national pioneer in the logical, consistent positioning of the news. From obituary writer for The State as a student at USC, Bentley rose to copy editor and then joined the Miami Herald for seven years in management. Innovations made during his first editorship at Florida Today were later used in creation of Gannett’s USA Today."

Bob asked me to open a state capitol bureau for Gannett Newspapers, and never once interfered or tried to do anything except to make our jobs covering politics easier. And fun. His sense of humor showed up once when he was co-hosting a reception of the state's political elite, plus several publishers and his boss the CEO of Gannett. When Bob arrived in an expensive new white suit, he looked up and saw the CEO was wearing the same suit. Without a word, Bob disappeared and was back at the reception within 15 minutes in a different suit. He laughed about it later: "My Momma didn't raise a fool."  

We spent many nights together in the 1970s, after the newspaper was rolling off the presses, singing around the piano after a late-night supper at a local hangout.
We parted as colleagues when Bob went to El Paso to be the editor there, I filled his slot, and then he later moved on through Atlanta, New Jersey and the Washington Post. He came to California for a while, and the returned home to South Carolina where he was editor of the same newspaper he had delivered on his bike as a boy.

He never quite commenting, writing, caring or editing.

He probably has his blue pencil in hand right now, deleting too many commas or searching for my split infinitives.

God rest your soul, my friend. You will not be forgotten.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Looking for a place out of the snow

Murphys, Ca -- Last winter, you may recall, was a doozy. We had 29 (some claim 32) feet of snow fall at our mountain home in Camp Connell during the biggest winter in years.

We survived just fine, but admit we got a bit tired of not being able to go anywhere, losing power, losing internet, hauling wood, losing phone service, shoveling and looking for the dog in the snowbank.

So we thought maybe we should look for a temporary winter escape this year, and perhaps one for the future when we get creaky. We had just sold our former home in Sacramento with the idea of simplifying our lives.
Yeah, right.

We began very slowly looking at property in the foothills a bit below the snowline with the idea that over the next year or so we might find a nice little house near Murphys where we could stay warm during the winters and walk to the best bakery in the world for coffee.

At the start of this winter we agreed to temporarily rent-- for a respite from the expected snow -- a small house from friends. The fact we have had little snow this year does not bother us. We have enjoyed the break.

Then last week our friend/Realtor called on Thursday and said she found a place we might be interested in. Within 24 hours we made an offer. A few days later it was accepted.

We are currently in escrow to buy an interesting piece of property in Murphys within walking distance of that special bakery, a few blocks from our church and a short walk to my poker-playing friends.

Our idea of a small winter escape has morphed into a large 80-year-old house with lots of character and four bedrooms, needing some updating, plus a lot that is .7 acre in size, plus an antique three-car garage, plus a duplex.

The big old house we hope to live in part of the year was built by the state as a home for the administrator of the state hospital that once had numerous buildings that covered our hillside.

The large yard has what I like to call a seasonal creek through it, though some might point out it looks more like a ditch. If so, it's a pretty ditch.

It was a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients originally, called the Bret Harte Sanatorium, and two of our local friends have direct connections to the home from its earlier days. One used to play with the children of the doctor who lived there at the time, and the other was born in in the house because her grandfather lived there. We are still researching the history.

The photos will give you idea of the house we hope to live in when winters get rough.

It looks like good deal to us. Time will tell if we have the money and the energy to update the house and manage the second house. Check back with us in five years. Assuming the deal goes through in the next few days we will post periodic updates.

Meanwhile, we are pretty darned excited. I am day-dreaming about all the great power tools I will get to justify buying. Pat is thinking about a big garden where plants will actually grow, and the neighbors across the fences (a senior complex on one side, and modern zero-lot-line town houses on the other) are wondering what the heck is going on.

When we stop to think about what we are getting into, so do we!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday February 19, 2012

Every ticket includes lunch, a raffle ticket, and an encounter with Thompson

Calaveras Big Trees State Park -- The non-profit Calaveras Big Trees Association will hold a fund-raiser for the park this Sunday featuring a chance to snow shoe into the Sequoia grove to meet Snowshoe Thompson, the legendary pioneer who carried the mails across the mountains on skis to the mining camps of Nevada, plus a hot lunch.

Fresh snowfall this week will provide a rare chance to be in the grove with optimal conditions. The park will be open for regular visitors for snowplay and normal activities.

Thompson, portrayed by Steve Hale of Genoa, Nevada, will meet with the guided groups and talk about his exploits and the history of that era. He will also be present during lunch break at historic Jack Knight Hall for questions about that era. Guided hike tickets include park admission, a lunch of chili and corn bread, one raffle ticket, and snow shoes.
All the money raised by the events will go to support educational and interpretive programs at the park.

The raffle includes multiple prizes, the top one being a pair of new snow shoes donated by SNAC (Sierra Nevada Adventure Company) of Arnold, Murphys and Sonora.
Park visitors who choose not to take the hike with Thompson can buy lunch for only $5. Extra raffle tickets will be available at the event. Visitors can check out the raffle items at Jack Knight Hall.

Two separate hikes will be held

SESSION ONE will begin at 11:00 am. Leaving from the Warming Hut on snowshoes, (weather permitting). You will be treated to a guided hike which will take you to an encounter with Snowshoe Thompson portrayed by Hale. The early hike will be followed by lunch in Jack Knight Hall.

SESSION TWO will begin at 1 pm from Jack Knight Hall beginning with lunch and then will proceed to the guided hike for your opportunity to meet Snowshoe Thompson.

Guided hike/encounter tickets are $20.50 for adults and $10.50 for children under 12. Snowshoes will be provided for you but bring your own if you have them.

Purchase online at Outdoor activities are always subject to weather conditions

Call the office at (209) 795-38490 for more information.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

More war than peace in one lifetime

Murphys, Ca -- For some reason -- probably the lack of serious discussion during recent political debates -- I've been thinking about wars.
Technically, we are only engaged in one minor war at this moment, something of a record for us in the last 60 years or so. Afghanistan is so far away, and the impact so invisible, that it rarely makes the news any more -- only when a local soldier dies, or when a helicopter goes down with a dozen young men and women aboard.

My family history includes a long-time connection to the wars the United States has fought over the centuries. William Lamont fought in the French and Indian wars in the 1700s, and then his sons fought in the Revolutionary war against England, a country they grew to dislike when their ancestors had lived in Scotland and Ireland.

Then another Lamont served in the War of 1812 -- his widow got a $6/month pension. Fortunately for subsequent generations, the LaMont men managed through the next 150 years to serve in the military without ever having to shoot anyone, or be shot at.
That started with my maternal great-grandfather who was too old for the Civil War, and was a prison guard on weekends in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. He apparently never bragged or even talked about it, and it was not until the United Daughters of the Confederacy put a marker on his grave that anyone in the family even knew he served briefly in 1862.

My grandfather was too young for the Civil War, but managed to serve in the National Guard during riots in Birmingham in the early 1900s. He had a spiffy looking uniform but no scars.

My father enlisted to serve in World War One -- the war to end all wars -- in 1917. He did his Army basic training in Jacksonville, Florida, and then was aboard a troop train heading for the ship to take him to the trenches of Europe when the train, quite fortunately, was derailed in an accident that caused the troops aboard to miss the boat and the shooting war. He served till the end of the war as the chief executive of the draft board for the state. His veteran status earned him Veterans Administration Hospital care when he was broke, old and ill, a benefit the family appreciated then and now.

I had my turn as a "small unit combat leader" in the 1960s, and learned skills I am proud to say I never had to use. Most of the males my age served in some branch of the military unless they were physically unfit, or had an extremely rich political parent. It was what was expected of us, and what we did. The fact that my recent family experience was peaceful was just good luck.

I was born just before the United States became part of World War Two, the war to defeat the real Axis of Evil, and my dad was too old so we both missed that one "good war." Since that time the United States has been involved in 16 wars, or maybe 18 depending what you count. I count even minor confrontations that involved our people shooting at other, or others shooting at us.

Here is what has happened in my lifetime, which started with WW 2:
-- The Korean War, 1950-1953, sometimes called a police action;
-- The Lebanon Crisis of 1958 was the first war to be given a name "Operation Blue Bat;"
-- The Dominican intervention of 1965 (Operation Power Pack);
(The Cuban Missile Crisis does not qualify as a war because we only threatened each other, and did not actually send any U.S. troops anywhere beyond a South Florida tomato patch where a friend of mine had to jump out of a crashing plane that had been diverted from attacking Cuba.)
-- The Vietnam War actually lasted from our first advisers going in during 1955, until 1975. I can almost count this as my personal war, because I served in the Infantry as a reserve officer from 1962 until 1970 though no hard was ever done to or by me because I was kept at Fort Benning, Georgia, 90 miles from my hometown, for the entire time I served on active duty. No pictures are included because I weighed 128 pounds and had a crew cut ;
-- The Iran hostage crisis (Operation Eagle Claw) became a mini-war in 1980. Fortunately it was only a small unsuccessful disaster and few were killed;
-- The United States paratroopers, Marines and Rangers invaded (Operation Urgent Fury)and seized the Caribbean nation of Grenada in 1983;
-- Marines landed in Beirut in 1982, quite a few died in 1983, and then Ronald Reagan pulled us out two years later;
-- We launched air strikes against Libya in 1986 (Operation El Dorado Canyon) in response to a discotheque bombing in Berlin;
-- We invaded Panama in 1989 to kick out the dictator Manuel Noriega and ran that place until a new government was formed;
-- The U.S. and coalition forces (a new term in that decade) drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1990, Operation Desert Storm, but we called this the "Persian Gulf War," fighting that spilled over into Iraq and Saudi Arabia;
-- The US went into Somalia as peacekeepers (Operation Restore Hope)in 1992, but the population turned on our troops and killed 18 soldiers, and then we killed somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 on the other side (or collateral damage), and then we got out;
-- Haiti was next (Operation Uphold Democracy) because the military there overthrew the president so we threw them out in 1995;
-- Yugoslavia found U.S. troops (Operation Joint Endeavor)in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and we bombed the country for four months during the Kosovo War in 1999;
-- By 2001 we had troops, some on horseback, in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom)to throw out the Taliban and destroy terrorist training camps;
-- By the next year we sent 2,000 troops to the Philippines (Operation Enduring Freedom-- Philippines)to help the local government fight al-Quaida;
-- We invaded Iraq again in 2003, and just called it the "Iraqi War,"kicked out Sadam Hussein, and occupied that country for the next nine years. We are still looking for those weapons of mass destruction;
-- When the Libyan uprising began in 2011 we shelled the coast from Navy ships and bombed military and political leader targets, and started using drones in combat. The U.S. maintains it was following the mandate to protect civilians.

As of today, the military troops have been pulled out of Iraq, and our interests there are protected by contractors.
Afghanistan, where we once thought we had won a decisive victory, is still pretty shaky but we have promised to leave soon.

So we have been involved in a shooting war in one place or another every three years or so since I was born.

We helped save Europe from Nazi destruction in World War Two, and saved South Korea from dictatorial rule from the north. And we helped rebuild those national, and others.

But the price for all those other wars, it seems to me, has been way to high.

We've built a country whose economy depends upon a giant military, fed by an even bigger military-industrial complex. Even when we are not fighting somewhere our elected officials make sure nothing interferes with the corporations selling weapons to almost any and every nation in the world. The Mid-East is just one example, but one that might some day lead us into another war.
No one says they are for war. People die, the losers are unhappy for generations and they cost a lot of money. But we seem to just fall into one after another, so maybe it is time to rethink this.

I think it is time we took a break, and tried some other approach. Maybe we need a 12-step program to break the bad habit of war.

One lesson I recall reading from such programs seems to apply here:

If you keep doing things the same way, you will get the same results.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The City by the Bay

LaMonts on the dock alongside s/v "Good News"

One of the neighbors "walking" her dog.

Alameda, Ca.-- This small island city on the east side of San Francisco Bay was once known for Salmon fishing fleets that spent their time in Alaskan waters, ship-building to support the maritime military during World War Two, and then as home to a large naval air base.
Today it is mostly redeveloped into apartments and homes, a main street lined with great places to eat, and more marinas than you can count on both hands.The view from our front porch, er, deck.

It has become our second home, aboard our sailboat "Good News," which we keep at the Oakland Yacht Club which is in Alameda, across the Oakland Estuary from Jack London Square. That's a waterway that comes off of San Francisco Bay.The small red dot shows Alameda with the estuary on the east.
When we lived in cities, our cabin in the mountains was our second home. Now that we live in that cabin in the mountains, where most of our neighbors are absentee weekend folk, the boat is our happy place away from home when we need to be in touch with the ocean, the bay, the estuary.Oakland Yacht Club's marina on the Oakland Estuary
The reasons are many.
Pat and I both were raised on or near the water, we met and lived in Florida for years, and there is something therapeutic about being rocked to sleep at night by gentle waves with the sound of seabirds keeping us company.
Plus, it is a great location on and off the water. Eating out is our major recreation, and the places are plenty. The club itself offers a group of friends and part-time neighbors who share our interest in boats.
And it is within a short sail from the heart if San Francisco Bay, one of the most beautiful spots in North America.
Last week we took a mini-vacation. We motored out of the estuary, found the wind as we crossed under the Bay Bridge near the home of the San Francisco Giants, turned the corner past Pier 39 with Alcatraz off to the starboard side, and headed for the Golden Gate Bridge.
The view from the cockpit looking toward Marin.

Because it was mid-week in mid-winter, we almost had the bay to ourselves. The cold wind was blowing in the gate, pushing a layer of fog against the bridge and over toward Sausalito. The fog horns on the bridge were blowing loud, warning traffic to be aware.

We turned on the radar to watch out for big container ships that sometimes pop out of the fog, but saw none. Then we sailed back and forth across the bay, skirting the edge of the fog, and enjoying the moment.
The Palace of Fine Arts while the fog lifted

One other sailboat was near us, ghosting along on the edge of the fogbank.

Finally we began to get cold as the sun started sinking, and we turned and sailed back to our marina, where we turned on the heaters, taking away the chill below decks, and headed off for dinner.
A pretty darned nice day.
The next day we decided to drive through San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands, the worn-down mountains that frame the north side of the entrance to the bay, part of the National Park system. This is the spot for the most spectacular views of the city of San Francisco and the nearby coast, and we had not visited for 20 years or so.
Standing above the cliffs looking down into the bay, we could see the excact spot where we had been sailing the day before. The fog is gone as Pat takes in the view

Then we wandered out to the point of land where we could see the Point Bonita lighthouse, the flashing light the guards the north side of the bay entrance. Off in the distance enormous waves were breaking, both offshore and onto the rocks.
Point Bonita Lighthouse from the Marin Headlands

We ended our day with a bit of bad timing, but it provided a cultural experience. We were stuck in awful rush-hour Friday evening traffic in the heart of the city, where normal people fear to drive.
We made it safely home after a very slow reminder of why we never enjoyed commuting, but lacking a photo proof of the event because of fear of collision with taxicabs.

It matters not. 'Twas a lovely day on the bay.