Happy Anniversary Golden Gate Bridge!

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Waiting in Line for a Shuttle Bus at the Marin County Civic Center

Twenty-five years ago today, my two sisters–Kris and Kathy–and I woke up at the crack of dawn, bundled up, and caught a shuttle bus from the Marin County Civic Center to the outskirts of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. It was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bridge, and for the celebration the Bridge was closed to traffic for two hours between 6 to 10 a.m. so that people could walk right down the middle of the span.

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Looking Out the Window of the Bus as We Approach the Golden Gate Bridge

Over 300,000 people came out to celebrate and re-enact the Bridge’s opening ceremony of 1937. At that time, the 4,200 foot long suspension span of the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest span in the world. That distinction lasted until New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge was opened on November 21, 1964.

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Out of the Bus and Walking Towards the Bridge

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Starting to Cross

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My Beautiful Sisters

Everyone was in a sunny mood–so excited for the opportunity to walk down the middle of the Bridge; it felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I stopped to take a couple of pictures, right in the center of Hwy 101, realizing that I would probably never get the chance to get these two shots ever again.

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Looking Up at the North Tower

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The North Tower

We tried to walk across the entire length of the Bridge, but somewhere around the middle, the crush of people became so great that we were forced to turn around. People from San Francisco were trying to get to the Marin side; people from Marin were trying to get to the San Francisco side. And there we were, stuck in the middle. Kris always reminds me that technically we didn’t really walk across the bridge. Whatever, Kris! It was awesome just the same.

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Heading Back to Marin

Apparently the Bridge’s natural convex shape actually flattened out under the weight of all those people. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Some people who saw it slowly straighten out, like a steel cat stretching, were alarmed, but not the people who know the bridge best. ‘There is no way to put enough people on that bridge to cause any structural failure,’ said Dan Mohn, the bridge’s chief engineer. ‘You’d have to stack them three high, and even that wouldn’t do it.'”

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Kris & Kathy – 25 Years Ago

Still, there will not be a repeat this year of the Great Bridge Walk of 1987. Officials are too worried about the effects on the Bridge. If they did allow us to cross it again, you can sure that Kris, Kathy, and I would be there with bells on. Well, we can always hope they’ll change their minds for 2037!

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My Sisters and I Looking Windswept and Modelish

P.S. Thank you, Michael, for staying home with Christopher!

The Social Graces

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time that we women were given some clear rules to guide us so we can get our lives back under control. Obviously we don’t know what the heck we’re doing. Why else would so many politicians be interested in telling us what we should or shouldn’t do?

With that in mind, I would like to take a few moments to share some selected gems from Ruth Louise Sheldon’s book Social Silhouettes, published in 1907. Because, after all, social etiquette never really does go out of style.

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1. A lady on meeting a gentleman bows first.
2. Well-bred women never ignore acquaintances in public.
3. A cold stare is a very unladylike way of refusing recognition to an acquaintance.
4. In street cars a lady does not stare at a certain man as if she expects him to rise and relinquish his seat to her.
5. It is a woman’s choice to decide whether she shall wear a hat or not in public dining-rooms, but it is customary to wear one.

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6. At restaurants women do not dine alone.
7. Ladies when appearing on the street are inconspicuously dressed.
8. A husband has more right than his neighbors to see his wife neatly dressed.
9. A lady never accepts the shelter of an umbrella from a stranger.
10. Young ladies need not expect expressions of pleasure from men at the first meeting.

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11. Women do not introduce themselves to men. Men do not do so to a woman unless she be their hostess.
12. At a cotillion ladies do not dance with strangers.
13. It is very bad form for a lady to withdraw a promise to dance with a certain gentleman.
14. A lady does not dance more than twice with the same man.
15. No young unmarried woman attends public balls without a chaperon.

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16. A lady while dancing does not drop her partner’s left hand in order to hold up her skirt.
17. No woman returns the calls of masculine friends.
18. In formal society, young ladies with chaperons leave to their chaperons the matter of invitations to masculine friends.
19. A lady wears her hat, gloves, veil, and wrap, not stormcoat, into the room.
20. No wife accepts an invitation and sends regrets for her husband who may not be able to attend.

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21. Avoid slang and coarse expressions.
22. Satirical expression show a bad disposition.
23. A good listener is harder to find than a good conversationalist.
24. One story well told is better than six that are hacked and hashed.
25. Cramming with literary information before going to a social affair is not recommended.

There you have it . . . not all, but certainly some choice words to live by. Live well and prosper, my friends. My work here is done . . . Happy Mother’s Day!

A Taste of Yountville

Taste of Yountville - On the Road
On the Road to Yountville

My husband, Michael, had been bugging me for the last couple of years to go to Taste of Yountville, which is a food and wine tasting event in the town of Yountville in the Napa Valley. We are very fortunate to live about 35 minutes from Yountville, but it was cold and drizzly; I was hesitant.

“We never go anywhere in the rain,” said my adventurous husband. Taking that as a personal challenge, I agreed to go.

Despite the gray dampness, we were surrounded by lush, beautiful greenery. The mustard seed filled in the rows of grapevines with their sunny yellowness. Thick white clouds hung low along the valley mountaintops. I made some desperate attempts at grabbing pictures of the scenery along the road as we whizzed by.

Taste of Yountville - Road Side Views
More Road Side Views

For those of you who may not be familiar with Yountville, it’s a dining mecca. Pete Fish, in a 2008 issue of Sunset magazine said that Yountville “boasts more Michelin stars per capita than any place on earth.” It’s home to the world famous restaurant, The French Laundry (which I will never be able to afford), as well as many other fabulous restaurants such as Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, Bottega, Redd, Hurley’s, and Ad Hoc, among others. We’ve eaten at a few of these on special occasions and have always been overwhelmed by the incredible food. So a wine and food tasting along the main boulevard sounded like a wonderful thing . . . which it was, despite the wet weather.

Taste of Yountville - Rock Mushroom Garden
Rock Mushroom Garden by Rich Botto

We got into town and found a parking spot on Mulberry, right off of Washington — the main street in town. We walked to the Community Center, passing the Mushroom Garden along the way. The Mushroom Garden is part of Yountville’s Art Walk. Michael and I each bought a tasting passport – $25 for a wine glass and ten tickets. There were lots of tables under canopies along the street where we could trade our tickets for half glasses of wine and little bites of food.

Taste of Yountville - Flowers in Front of V Marketplace
Primroses and Iceland Poppies in Front of the V Marketplace

Taste of Yountville - Tulips at the Vintage Inn
Tulips in Front of the Vintage Inn

Taste of Yountville - The Vintage Inn
The Vintage Inn

There were several gardens in full bloom along the street like the ones in front of the V Marketplace and the Vintage Inn. But I have to say, it was a bit tough walking down the street or trying to sidle up to a winery table with all the open umbrellas around. I almost got impaled on a couple of occasions.

Taste of Yountville - Umbrellas in the Rain
Trying to Stay Dry

We had a little map about the size of a big postcard that listed all the kiosks and who was sponsoring them. As you went along, there were five stations where we could get our passports stamped, and then turn the card in for a chance to win prizes donated by restaurants and wineries around the area. This was a great idea because in our desire to win some fabulous prizes, we were drawn out of the busy part of town towards the outskirts, where neither Michael or I had been before.

Taste of Yountville - French Laundry Garden
The French Laundry Garden

Taste of Yountville - French Laundry Garden
The French Laundry Garden

Taste of Yountville - French Laundry Garden
The French Laundry Garden

Taste of Yountville - French Laundry Garden
The French Laundry Garden

Our first stop “outside” of this little town was the French Laundry garden. This is where the world famous restaurant grows the herbs, greens, and other fresh vegetables that they use in their restaurant. Of course I had heard about the French Laundry — outrageous (but worth it) prices, impossible to get reservations, other-worldly cuisine — but despite having visited Yountville many times, I never knew exactly where the building was.

I took a picture of this lovely old building across the street from the garden, and didn’t realize until I asked our waiter during lunch at Hurley’s, that this is the famous French Laundry restaurant.

Taste of Yountville - The French Laundry
The French Laundry Restaurant

According to Alexis’s Blog, the gardens across the street take up two acres and have a crew of five full-time gardeners. There are fifty-three vegetable patches, twenty-five varieties of tomatoes, and a rotating assortment of artichokes, pumpkins, peppers, zucchini, and much, much more! The produce supplies not only French Laundry, but also Bouchon and Ad Hoc. There are also a chicken coop and greenhouse. They were giving tours of the gardens, but we decided to keep heading up the road. Maybe next time . . .

Taste of Yountville - Horse Sculpture
Rex by Jack Chandler

Taste of Yountville - Hopper Creek
Hopper Creek

Just beyond the gardens was this twisted metal art sculpture or a horse, and across the street from that was the churning Hopper Creek. The rain was coming down fairly hard, and despite our best efforts to stay dry, we were both getting pretty wet. Not to mention by hood kept falling down in front of my eyes and the furry hood-edge was dripping with water, which made my attempts at photography a bit challenging.

Taste of Yountville - Old Bicycle in Front of Maisonry
Old Bicycle in Front of Maisonry

Taste of Yountville - Fish Goddess Small
Fish Goddess-Small – Bronze Sculpture by Guiseppe Palumbo

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Another View of the Fish Goddess

We came upon a cute stone building, thinking it could be the French Laundry, but instead it turned out to be a winery/art shop called MA(i)SONRY. We were first attracted to the rusty old bicycle in the front, but then a wonderful bronze sculpture in the garden patio behind the building caught my eye. We stowed our umbrella, tried to shake off the water drops, and ventured inside. Michael began to wander while I went out back to get a closer look at the wonderful Fish Goddess. Inside the two-story building it was full of people talking and tasting wine and obviously having a great time. I felt like we had stepped into a private party.

Taste of Yountville - Red Market
Little Red Market

It was two o’clock, and although we had nibbled on some delectables along our walk, we were still feeling like it was time to dry off, get warm, and eat something a little more substantial. We tried to get a seat at Redd Restaurant (which I had never heard of before but which is apparently another five star eatery) at the North Block Hotel, but the wait was too long, so we decided to head back into the heart of town and try and find a place to eat there.

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Town Park Where Weber, Washington, and Humboldt Intersect

Taste of Yountville - Honorary Firefighters Sculpture
Honorary Firefighters Sculpture by L. C. Shank

The wait was over an hour for the first two places we tried, but then we walked into Hurley’s and were seated right away. What a relief! It felt good to sit down and take off our wet jackets and get warmed up a little. I did just that with a tasty Bloody Mary and a plate of delicious little skewers of meat and hummus. Michael had some buffalo short ribs. This is when we asked the waiter where the French Laundry was, and as soon as he started describing it, we knew it was the old brick building we had seen right across the street from the gardens.

Taste of Yountville - Behind Bottega Restaurant
Wisteria Vine Behind Bottega’s

Our second to last stop was chef Michael Chiarello’s fun cooking/food/ accessories store, NapaStyle. During our tasting, I’d gotten a sample of some Truffle Oil Potato chips, and I was there to buy a bag . . . or two. They are made fresh each day and are insanely addicting. Right across is Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega. We had eaten there a few months before with some friends and had a wonderful meal.

Taste of Yountville - Carl Ciliax
Artist Carl Ciliax

Taste of Yountville - Carl Ciliax
Carl Ciliax at Work

Last stop on the way back to the car was to walk through the Yountville Community Center to look at an exhibit by local artists. Bronze sculptor Carl Ciliax was gracious enough to allow me to take a couple of pictures of him working. His sculptures are amazing!

We were almost done with Taste of Yountville, but Michael and I still had two tickets each left to use. So we both got a delicious cookie and headed back to the car. We didn’t go home, however. Instead we drove up to St. Helena. But that’s a story for another day . . .

Paul Simon at the Greek Theater, Berkeley

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Well, the most exciting thing I’ve done in a long while is I went with my hubby to see Paul Simon at the Greek Theater in Berkeley about a week and a half ago. All I can say is amazing – amazing – amazing!

First off, about two o’clock on the Thursday on the day of the concert, we experienced a little bitty 3.9 earthquake, whose epicenter happened to be at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, spitting distance from the Greek Theater. Coincidentally, (or not) that stadium is currently closed and being renovated and seismically retrofitted. Good thing too; it was built in 1923 and sits directly on top of the Hayward Fault!

No worries, though. There was no damage from the little trembler and the roads were open and the traffic flowed smoothly to Berkeley as we drove to the show.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Greek Theater. This is the fourth concert I’ve attended there, and as my body ages, it tends to get more aggravated with the concrete-amphitheater-cement seating. Used to be my bottom could fit nicely on one of the painted numbers that doubles for a “seat” in this place. But let’s face it, much of this particular audience is middle-aged, and many of us could use a number just for each individual butt cheek. So we’re scrunched on these cement bleachers, shoulder to shoulder and knee to knee. Heaven forbid if your neighbor has body odor issues or wants to eat a giant hoagie slathered in onions from a plastic baggy. Whatever happened to personal body space?? And forget about being able to lean back; the knees, shins, and toes of the person behind you are what make up any kind of back rest. Maybe I would have been more comfortable if I had breathed deeply and taken in a bit of what the people on the lawn above us were smoking. Thankfully, we came prepared and had our green padded folding seats to use because after two hours, my back would have been screaming.

And what’s up with people talking during a concert. There were two ladies behind us who WOULD NOT SHUT UP! It’s one thing to make a quiet comment to the person sitting next you, via a whisper in the ear. But to carry on a full-fledged kitchen table conversation during an entire ballad?? Why did they even bother paying $75 and leaving the house! I finally asked them nicely to please go somewhere else to talk. Thankfully, they did not decide to kick my ass, and the talking subsided.

So that’s the bad part . . . The good?? An intimate setting and incredible acoustics.

The Secret Sisters were the opening act for Paul. I had never heard of them before, but they were wonderful. Two sisters from Alabama — Lydia and Laura Rogers — with the sweetest, sultriest harmonies, one acoustic guitar, and a rural country sound that is timeless. Here’s a video of them singing “The One I Love is Gone.”

After their set, Michael and I went up to the top of the hill to get something to eat. All of a sudden we heard some applause, and I thought that Mr. Simon was making his way to the stage, but no . . . people were just applauding a second earthquake that had jangled the ground.

“Did you feel that?” Michael asked. But no, I hadn’t. Darn it.

We listed to Simon’s first song from above the lawn. You get a beautiful site from up there, as you can see in the picture below. That’s the Campanile Tower to the right and the lights of Berkeley and Oakland in the distance beyond the stage.

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The concert was fantastic. Paul sang songs from his new album So Beautiful, So What and other songs from throughout his 45+ year career. I’ve grown up on his music, so it was great to hear him sing songs from Sounds of Silence (an LP I still own) to Graceland. Highlights for me were when he sang “The Only Living Boy in New York” from Bridge Over Troubled Water, a curtain call of “Sounds of Silence,” with just him and his guitar, and his final song, a poignant “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

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Paul had just celebrated his 70th–YES! I said 70th!!–birthday the week before, so the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him towards the end of the show. Sheesh! I hope I can move around that well when I’m seventy! He didn’t say much during the show, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. And his amazingly talented eight piece back-up band sounded so great together. It was such a joy listening to it all.

As I think back on it, I am reminded that Simon and Garfunkel, along with Joni Mitchell, were my inspirations for learning how to play the the guitar and take up songwriting. I will never forget learning how to play “The Boxer” on my guitar. That was in 1969; I was thirteen years old. I was so proud of myself. I just loved that song so much. So I decided to play it for my mom, but when I got to these lyrics:

“Seeking only workman’s wages, I come looking for a job, but I get no offers . . .
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there . . .

My mom freaked out over the word “whores”!

“But did you hear the rest of the words?” I asked her. “They are so great!”
“That word is not a word you should be saying. Isn’t there another song you can sing?” she replied.
I still remember feeling crushed.

Anyhow, thank you Paul Simon, for your incredible, beautiful gifts of guitar, lyrics, and music that you’ve given us throughout the years. I left the Greek Theater feeling overwhelmed to have spent a short time in the glow of your greatness.

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A Motorcycle Beauty Pageant

Red Bull Race Sign
Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway

Three years ago my husband asked me if I wanted to go to the Red Bull United States Grand Prix motorcycle races at the Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca. First question: Don’t you have any motorcycle nerd friends who would want to go with you? No, he didn’t. I knew that when Michael was a boy in Greece, he had read a lot of motorcycle magazines, seen pictures of the track at Laguna Seca outside of Salinas, and dreamed of being able to go there one day. So I knew I had to humor him, and I reluctantly agreed to go to the races.

Well, it just goes to show you that sometimes you have to be dragged to the party. I had a great time! I loved the race and being around a gillion motorcycle-loving riders. And so we’ve gone to the races for the past three summers. Last weekend we joined over 135,000 spectators to watch two races. It was a bright and sunny day, and the race was close and exciting.

Below is a picture of where we park when we get to the races. Since we ride Michael’s old–I mean “classic”–BMW to the race, we take a special motorcycle-only road to the parking lot. When you arrive, there are rows and rows of beautiful bikes lined up on acres of dirt.

Motorcycle Parking Lot at Laguna Seca
Motorcycle Parking Lot

Motorcycle Parking Lot
Another view of the parking lot

The first year we went, we didn’t really know what to bring with us, but this year we were pretty organized. Although we leave from Monterey, where it’s often overcast and cool, by the time we get to the track, it’s usually sunny and warm, so we have to be prepared. I dress in layers, bring a hat I can squish into a backpack, bring a moving blanket to sit on, and two of those soft folding chairs to give support to our aging backs. This year Michael added one of those shade tents so we wouldn’t burn up in the sun. Next year I plan on bringing a soft cooler for drinks and sandwiches so we don’t have to wait in the snack bar lines. This year we sat on a hill above Turn 2 for the race.

Raceway Turn 2
On the hill above Turn 2

Australian Casey Stoner won the race in a tight battle against Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo. (We were rooting for Lorenzo because he rides a Yamaha, my husband’s favorite kind of bike.)

One of the best things about the weekend is going to Cannery Row in Monterey on Saturday afternoon. Officials close off the road to cars, and hundreds of motorcycle riders who’ve come for the races bring their bikes down to put them on display.

Cannery Row - Monterey
Looking towards the aquarium at Cannery Row

Another View of Cannery Row
Another view of Cannery Row in Monterey

It’s really a beauty pageant for motorcycles. Before long, two rows of motorcycles, handle-bar to handle-bar, line both sides of the street, and people walk up and down admiring them.

Bikes on Display
Bikes on display

Rows of Motorcycles

It’s so much fun to see the different motorcycles and their riders. I’m partial to the “girly” bikes in pinks and purples. There’s usually only a few of them out of the hundreds of red, yellow, and blue “manly” bikes. And yes, I know that I am stereotyping here, but just take a look…

Pretty in Pink
Pretty in shimmering pink

Scary and Pretty
Scary and pretty pastel

Pink and Black
Love the swirly pink pin-striping

Beautiful Blues
Beautiful blues

Glorious Greens
Glorious Greens

Tony the Tiger?
Tony the Tiger bike

Fur Coat
Showing off a new fur coat

How’s that for creativity!