Monthly Archives: July 2014

Days 208, 209 & 210: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Rudy’s Salon & Alviso Adobe Community Park

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Sunday, day 208, I headed to Niles to visit the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. I had only recently heard about it, and while googling it, I learned that they were showing a Buster Keaton film, The General, on Sunday. Sounded good to me! I’ve certainly heard of Buster Keaton before, but I’d never seen one of his movies, and I’ve wanted to for a long time. As if the lure of an old silent film at a new museum wasn’t enough, the music for the film was being provided live by a cellist, Gideon Freudmann. I love cello music. Perfect! I called my girlfriend and arranged to have her meet me there. (Incidently, I’ve never been to Niles before, either. On this Sunday afternoon it was rather like a ghost town, small and quaint, a bit on the dusty side. The only real action was down at the biker bar. When I walked by, two not-so-old men with long scraggly beards actually said, “Howdy, ma’am” to me! I grinned and said, “Howdy!” right back.)

The museum seemed a perfect fit for the town: small, quaint, and dusty. I liked it, though. It had a good feel to it, and was a lot busier than the street outside. They had lots of old – very old! – movies for sale, as well as plenty of memorabilia and books. We bought our $7 movie tickets and headed into the theater, which was full of old rickety pull-down theater chairs. We were advised to head straight to the far wall and help ourselves to a cushion if we wanted to be able to enjoy the movie. Good idea!

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The movie was surprisingly enjoyable. I had definitely been looking forward to seeing it, but I guess I didn’t think I’d actually enjoy it! I expected it to be a lot more slapstick, which has never been my favorite. But it was mostly more sophisticated humor than that, and had some nice pathos as well. The music provided by Gideon was perfect! It was definitely more contemporary than the music the movie must have originally been played to, but it worked beautifully, and enhanced the experience so much. He played an  electric cello, and so had some musical tricks that really made a difference. This was a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

After the movie we headed down to the Nile Cafe for some refreshments, where there’s a slightly different take on the “Nile” concept. The food was pretty good, but I wasn’t impressed with the service. And beware: only cash or checks accepted. In this day and age, who does that?

Day 209. I’ve been thinking about whacking my hair right off for a long time now – months, if not years. Sunday night I finally got fed up with the never-ending debate with myself, and decided to do it. I’d heard about a guy in Fremont who supposedly was absolutely fabulous and hella cheap. I looked up the guy on Yelp, and though the reviews were mixed, the complaints were mostly on color or on his personality. I don’t care about his personality! All the comments about the actual haircuts were very, very good. I knew the way, too; I’d had to go through Fremont to get to Niles. So I called Monday morning, and made an appointment for four o’clock.

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Okay, yeah, the guy is definitely eccentric. His salon is in a big, grungy building with beat-up, fancy furnishings. It doesn’t seem very clean, and his hands were darkly stained. He is very flamboyant, and loves to tell  long, involved, and quite funny stories. I told him I’d had a cut not long ago, and since then my curl seemed to have faded away, and I wanted my hair as curly as possible. He took a quick look, told me it had stopped curling because of the way it was cut, and assured me that I wouldn’t have that problem with his cut. Then he went at my hair like a maniac! He cuts very quickly, and is pretty darn rough. His hands are flying so fast that from time to time he’d hook a finger in the cup of my ear and I’d get a real yank. The word “battered” comes to mind. But he was amusing, and he certainly seemed highly competent. In less than thirty minutes, I’d been lightened by five or six inches. And guess what – he only takes cash or check! I handed him a $20 – which gave him a $7 tip! He didn’t offer me change, but fortunately I didn’t want any .

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At the salon, hair still damp.

After my first washing, with a little product but no 
hairdryer – hair still damp.
I headed home as fast as I could safely go. I don’t know what product he used, but in spite of the heat and the wind, I had all my windows open wide just so I could breathe. I got home and washed my hair thoroughly, but a day and another wash later, I still smell his product! A day with this cut has taught me something. I didn’t lose my curl because of a bad cut. My hair just doesn’t want to curl until it’s longer. Rudy’s cut has my hair wavy until about ear-level, at which point it takes an aggressive swing out to the sides. The pictures don’t really show it, but it brings Bozo the Clown to mind – and you know how I feel about clowns! Once it’s fully dry, it is BIG! A friend encouraged me to get some product and a diffuser and experiment. Sigh. I was hoping this would be less work, not more! However, I did as she suggested. Um… I think I need more practice.
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Okay, that’s a little better. Hmmm, this is gonna take some getting used to.
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A week or so ago I read about a place on Old Foothill road, which runs parallel to Foothill Road for about a minute. I wanted to go, but that was when I was sick for day after day, and I didn’t get there. I decided to go today. Now here’s the thing: I couldn’t remember what was there, so I couldn’t look it up again. And I didn’t think to look and see exactly where on Foothill I was headed. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the route I took landed me right in the middle of the options. And of course I forgot that I’ve got GPS. So I relied on gut instinct and memory. Mistake. I turned left when I should’ve turned right, and was rewarded with a long and lovely drive in the country. Eventually I became convinced of my mistake, and had a long and lovely drive back. And I still didn’t know what my destination was! However, I managed to find it anyway. Ah, yes: Alviso Adobe Community Park. 

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This is a very pleasant little park. It’s got pretty fenced paths, and some very cool buildings that look pretty intriguing, and signs all over the place explaining all sorts of interesting things. And no one, I mean no one, was around. The buildings were all locked (including the bathrooms), which was too bad because they were all set up like back in the day when this place was a working dairy. And the Adobe building is original, the oldest one still standing strong in Amador valley.

Okay, maybe I should read more carefully when I’m planning my One New Things. This park is closed on Monday and Tuesday. But I still had a lovely walk-around, and I enjoyed the quiet much more than I would have enjoyed a guided tour. However, I really would like a look in those buildings. . . .

Have you done something new today?

Days 206 & 207: Old Port Lobster Shack & Simply Greek

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Friday my new buddy from the fair, Howard, and I headed to Redwood City. He’s an observant kinda guy, and one day someone said the word “lobster.” According to Howard, I lit right up. So he decided to take me to one of his favorite places, a little joint in Redwood City called Old Port Lobster Shack. It was just my luck that the day he decided to take me was also the first day of the Redwood City Blues Festival, featuring Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers (with one of Howard’s favorite “two-fisted honkey- tonk players”, Miss Honey). I had been looking forward to this for weeks, and I wasn’t gonna let my little-ol’ tender tummy get in my way. Here’s how it went down. He picked me up a little after two, and we headed to the Lobster Shack for lunch at three. The concert started at six, and he took me back to the shack for dinner at 8! Remember, I’d hardly eaten in five days! But what the heck, I was up for the challenge.

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The Lobster Shack looks like a Maine-style greasy lobster joint, and is located in a little bitty strip mall. I admit, I was thinking, “What the heck! Did he bring me all the way down here for a mess of deep-fry?” That would be bad enough to begin with, but a) I’m gluten free, so there goes most deep-fried foods, and b) I’ve got this tummy thing hanging on. But I was determined to make the best of it. I smiled bravely, bellied up to the counter and asked about gluten free. 

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The nice man assured me that the salads are fabulous and gluten free, the salmon is fabulous and gluten free, all of the meats are fabulous and gluten-free. . . did I see a trend? I decided on the Nor-easter Salad (mixed greens with candied pecans, Gorgonzola cheese, apples and dried blueberries), topped with blackened salmon. Then we sat at an outside table in the broiling heat and waited.

My apologies to Howard for doubting him. Oh. My. Gosh. If you ever make it to Redwood City, go to the Old Port Lobster Shack! It is un-frikken-believable! That may have been the best salmon I have ever eaten in my life. It was a great big chunk, and so deliciously, perfectly cooked that I ate it right off the top of my salad. I didn’t want anything to get between my mouth and that salmon. When that was gone, I still had a bowl full of a big, extremely fresh salad, full of goodies. The blue cheese dressing that I substituted for the blueberry vinaigrette had great big chunks of blue cheese. I am telling you, that food was great. I couldn’t finish it, because a) it was huge and b) as I may have mentioned, my tummy was still iffy. But I most certainly did my absolute best.

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Next up was the concert. We got there an hour early and managed to get a shady spot near the fountain. It’s so hard to describe music, so I’m not going to try, but I will share a video. We had so much fun. I even got Howard to dance. He tells me he hasn’t danced in twenty years, but I never would have guessed. He’s got him some moves! And after I’d dragged him out onto the dance floor, he turned around and dragged me out (although he said he was just going out to get another picture of Miss Honey). I think that’s when you know, “A good time was had by all.”

Days 204 & 205: How to Be a Redhead & Santa Cruz

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Wednesday, day 204, I was still feeling so bad that I thought my One New Thing was going to be mixing ginger beer and Mexican coke (no GMOs) in a desperate attempt to settle my stomach. I did, in fact, mix up that concoction (it didn’t help). However, I ended up with a much more exciting ONT: the first ever shipment of my new release, How to Be a Redhead, was delivered! I had changed the finish on the cover after I got the proof; this was the first time I saw it (held it, hugged it!) with the bright, shiny cover.

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One other thing about this was super exciting. This was my first time ever receiving a shipment of two different books – by me! It keeps sinking in, deeper and deeper, that I have done it, and done it again. Each time I (obsessively? I think not!) check my sales totals and see not one but two titles, both selling (!), this lovely knowledge settles in deeper. You know Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird? One book only. But here it is, mounting evidence that I am not a one-shot wonder. It may sound like I’m bragging – and well it should, because I most certainly am! – but more than that, I am pinching myself. I keep realizing over and over again: I did it. 


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Day 205, my niece Rowan took my to Santa Cruz for the day. She’s always finding new beaches to take me to (for which I am extremely grateful!). But our first stop was a bit shy of the beach. Those beautiful twisty-turny roads didn’t sit well with my delicate tummy, so we made a quick detour to a wonderful natural food market, Staff of Life. What a nice place! It even had a good, wholesome smell to it. A couple of bottles of Jamaican ginger beer, and we were on our way again.

I don’t know the name of the beach we went to. And we had the timing off. Rowan wanted to get us there when the tide was just right for us to safely play in the tide pools. Sadly, the tide would’ve had to have been much higher, and on its way out. Instead, it was rolling on in. So we walked up and down the beach for a while, but it wasn’t terribly inspiring.
So why not drive around, and see if we can find some other interesting places? Of course, that’s what we did. We ended up in nice little neighborhoods way above the ocean, where we couldn’t park legally but we could leave the car for a minute while we jumped out and enjoyed the gorgeous views.
We found a lovely little dead-end where the blackberries were just ripening. . .
. . . oh, and wait! What have we here? Cousins!

Have you done something new today?

Days 201, 202 & 203: Food Poisoning, Beet Kvass & Museum on Main

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The less said about Sunday, day 201, the better. This was a first that I will be happy to forget. I wasn’t diagnosed, so I’m not absolutely positive it was technically food poisoning. However, food poisoning or not, it was the first, and hopefully the last, time I was ever sick quite like that.

Day 202 was a little better, but I still wasn’t doing much, and I certainly wasn’t eating much. However, I needed One New Thing. Into the fridge I went, for a garnet-red juice I’d had tucked away for just such a time: Lavender Beet Kvass. The label promised that it was refreshing, revitalizing – “good for what ails you,” as my dad would say. I didn’t quite believe those promises, but I was hopeful. I have actually read good reports about how fantastic this stuff is for a person.

Okay, maybe my taste buds were affected. I did manage to drink – and keep down – one small glass of the stuff. But no more – please, no more!



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Happily, I arrive at today, day 203. Unhappily, I’m still feeling pretty lousy. Nonetheless, there are New Things to be done. My super-ambitious One New Thing for the day is to take myself downtown and check out Pleasanton’s Museum on Main. It’s a nice little building with two rooms of displays, a hallway currently dedicated to information about the drought, a small gift shop, a room for archives, and a couple little offices. The one thing I really didn’t like was that, the whole time I was there, videos were playing on repeat, providing a noisy guide for my visit, whether I wanted it or not. However, other than that I had no complaints. I mostly had the space to myself, although an employee very courteously let me know that she was available, should I need her. I took my time, actually enjoying the way they had set up the displays so they were a little bit interactive. I was more interested than I thought I’d be (I’m not much of a museum buff, and especially not a history museum buff). I did like their big display about the parks and natural places in the tri-valley area. I got a couple of good maps, as well as a visitor’s brochure. I intend to put them to good use.

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I think this would be a nice museum for children. It’s small, so it wouldn’t tax their patience. It’s interesting. There are things they can touch, and hold, and play with. And did you know that Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm was filmed in Pleasanton? I didn’t either! And as if all that wasn’t enough, I really, truly love this statue that stands out front. That is my kind of joy!



Have you done something new today?

Days 199 & 200: How to Be a Redhead

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On June 1, 2011, I started a project that would change my life. I had recently read the book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, in which she writes about her year-long experiment in increasing her everyday happiness. Each month she did a different project toward that end. One month her project was NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writers’ Month. I have written since I was a little kid, and in fact wrote a complete manuscript in 1994, which I never followed up on. This project seemed perfect for me. I got the book that tells all about NaNoWriMo, No Plot No Problem, by Chris Baty. This guy is hilarious, not to mention inspiring. He brings everything down to the lowest common denominator, since the point is to WRITE! The challenge of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days (that’s an average of 1667 words a day), and your “quality” goal is, “would not make someone vomit.” Heck, I could do that! The official month, with all the online support and small group writing meet-ups and other bennies is November. I finished No Plot No Problem in May, and there was no way I was waiting till November to get started. So, June it was.

My sister Beth took the plunge with me, and all through that June we pounded away on our laptops, both “winning” our own personal challenge. My manuscript was a fun little story called How to Be a Redhead. It was more than just a fun little story, though. A lot of my own long-term struggle with depression was dealt with, and many of the tools I’ve used to control it are the same tools Maggie, the main character, uses.

Come November, the official NaNoWriMo month, and I realized I absolutely had to do it again, right along with the thousands of other people worldwide who accept this insane challenge. The result of the November challenge was Left Turn at Cloud 9. Succeeding at NaNoWriMo in November makes one a recipient of all kinds of fun prizes. The most exciting one to me was that, if I submitted my files, along with files for the cover, to CreateSpace by June 30 of the following year, I’d get five free copies of my book. Wow! So I plugged away, edited the heck out of it, made it good. I could give one book to my mom and dad, one to. . . . La la la, that’s kind of what I was thinking. A friend randomly designed a pretty cool cover for me. And then one day as the deadline approached, I realized that, by doing this, I would be an actual published writer. My book would be available on Amazon! People could buy it! Strangers could buy it! And so, almost by accident, my first book was published.

Well, now I knew it could be done. Redhead was on the docket to be completed. But before I managed that, there it was November again, time for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t want to miss it. So Redhead got put on the back burner once again. That year’s manuscript was Deeper than the Deep Blue Sea, which is a sequel to Left Turn at Cloud 9. It is not yet finished.

My first goal, of course, was to finish Redhead. However, the following spring I went back east for a two week vacation, fell off a ladder and blew out my knee. What with being stuck in Michigan for five months, and surgery and recovery and all that goes along with it, I lost a year. 

So here it is, July 2014. And I’ve finally done it. I have completed How to Be a Redhead. Friday, July 18, day 199 of One New Thing, almost exactly 2 years after the publication of Left Turn at Cloud 9, How to Be a Redhead is done, the files are submitted! One thing I can tell you for sure: publishing a book on purpose is a lot tougher than publishing a book by accident! Somehow, this was just so much more complicated, not to mention costly. This time I paid for formatting, for proofreading, for a cover. I had to stay the course in a whole different way. And I’m really proud of myself. This feels like a much bigger accomplishment, because it was a lot more work, and I had to keep recommitting to it as the years rolled by. And I did it! It is done!

And as a special bonus, my One New Thing for Saturday, day 200, is that I’ve sold the first copy on Kindle – and I don’t even know who bought it! YEEHAW!!!


Have you done something new today?

Days 196, 197 &198: Iron Shoelace, Knives & Hayward Street Party

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Gosh I’m tired. I think I’ve been doing too much, too fast, for too long. Tuesday, with the remnants of Monday’s headache still troubling the back of my head, I finished the last of the laundry from the camping trip. Among the whites were four shoelaces. Three and-a-half came out beautifully white and straight. Half of one of them was wildly twisted and knotted and contorted. Gee whiz. While running errands, I looked to buy new laces, but didn’t find the right kind. So I went home, looked at that squirrely lace and thought, “I bet I could iron that straight.” And guess what: I could. And while I was ironing it, I thought, “Hmmm – never did that before!” Oh, joy! My one new thing for day 196!


Wednesday, day 197, I did something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now. In the same way that I’ve dealt with phobias (namely cow and clown phobias), I am now dealing with certain leanings toward obsessive compulsive behaviors. It shows up most obviously on the knife-magnet in our kitchen. On the left is how I am comfortable with them. Insomuch as I can control things, this is how the knives would always be: in this exact order, as straight as possible, preferably with no touching (although I do see touching going on between the butcher knife and the bread knife. How did that happen?!?). One day I overheard Beth and Joel talking, and Joel said, “When Sarah goes to Mexico, I’m going to mess up the knives.” Well! Obviously I have a problem. So I determined to completely mess them up myself – someday – and leave them that way all day.
I admit it took me weeks to work up to it. Just thinking about it creeped me out. But as with the phobias, I am not willing to be controlled by this. Wednesday seemed as good a day as any. I managed to get it done by about 1pm, and I left them that way (except for the ones I pulled off to use) until Thursday morning. I got wiggety every time I looked at them. And yet, I survived. I like to think I’m a better person now.

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My friend Reg invited me to join him and a bunch of friends for the Hayward Street Party on Thursday, day 198. I’d never been, and it sounded like fun, and it would be over by 8:30, so I figured I could go out and have a good time and still be home for an early bedtime. And it was really fun. Hayward does these parties on the third Thursday of June, July and August. Last night there were 4 bands playing, as well as Native American dancers dancing. The streets were packed, and everybody seemed happy.  I’ve never hung out in Hayward before, so Reg wanted to show me some of his favorite hangouts and introduce me around. 

We hung out for awhile at the Turf Club. What a nice place! Inside is a regular dark bar and a room for playing pool, and out back is a lovely garden area with a stage and a barbecue as well as an outdoor bar and a fish and turtle pond. The music and burgers were both good, though I did end up paying $8 for a drink that – by my request – was mostly ginger beer and almost no vodka. Next time I’ll skip the vodka entirely.
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While we were walking around, I met someone really special. His name is Cybot. He was a blue ribbon winner at the Alameda County Fair, and you know how I love the fair! He was with his buddy, John. Both of them seemed really nice, if a tad unusual. And I have to admit, Cybot was extremely shy; he never said a word.
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Have you done something new today?

Day 195: Honeybee Portraits

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I woke up this morning with a migraine, and it does not want to go away. I had no plan for a New Thing, and I’m behind in my blogs since I was away camping. Usually I write them in order. However, I had time to sit with my bees this morning in a way I haven’t been able to since the fair started on June 18. It was wonderful! And one of the little sisters came and sat on my leg and on my hand for quite awhile, giving me the best photo opportunity I’ve had in ages. So, for today’s One New Thing, I am doing an entire blog of bee portraits, interspersed with a few comments. 

When I see the pictures enlarged so much, and head-on to the bee, I’m very conscious of the extreme “otherness” of these small creatures. We know this face from the direst of science fiction and alien movies. Yet even while I’m a little creeped out, I see the soft, luxurious fur coat, and the delicate stained-glass wings, the ingenious hinging of wing to shoulder, and my affection burns even more brightly.
As long as I move slowly, my movements don’t disturb the bees at all. I remind myself that they spend most of their time inside flowers with delicate stems and wind-tossed petals. And if a bee is resting on me, she doesn’t seem to mind at all if I, again moving very slowly, lay my fingers down right next to her, or in front of her. I do so, hoping she’ll climb onto my hand. 
And eventually, she does. Then I can turn my hand this way and that, getting pictures from many angles.
She is the perfect model, tireless and sweet tempered. One reason it may be a little nerve-wracking to have a bee on your hand is this: they seem to have a pulse in their entire backside – the stinger end. So it can look as though the bee is thinking about stinging. I’ve come to believe that it is just a pulse. To my observation, it is consistent to all the bees. It helps me to remember that a honeybee doesn’t want to sting; it is certain, instant death to her. Stinging is a last resort, a protective measure in a dire moment only.
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Once I come back inside, I have another chance to really appreciate my phone/camera, as I transfer the pictures to computer and begin working with them. I love the detail I get! And I catch my breath with pleasure over every picture, tak-ing joy over and over at the beauty, delicacy and furri-ness of the lady.
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When Beth and I decided to become beekeepers, I loved honeybees in theory, and was willing to put that theory into practice. I believe the honeybees are at a crisis point, and that their crisis is the crisis of mankind as well. If the bees die, we all die. However, now I love them up close and personal, one and one and each one. They are gentle and determined, hard workers and devoted to their queen and to their hive. They are wiling to give their life for their queen and their brood. They are tidy and waste nothing. And they are beautiful, absolutely beautiful. What’s not to love?

Have you done something new today?

Day 194: Free Shakespeare in the Park

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We’d only been home a day, but One New Thing never rests, so neither can I. I’d wanted to see Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew for as long as I can remember, and had never quite managed it. But this summer, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival was performing it for Pleasanton’s Free Shakespeare in the Park. It was showing just a few minutes from our house, so Sunday evening Beth and I packed up our big outdoor chairs and headed to the park. Besides never having seen Shrew before, I’ve also never been to one of these free outdoor performances.

There was a show before the show that dramatically gave the history of the play, as well as historical background of the social setting at the time it was written. I walked over to watch it, but Beth stayed with our chairs. Lucky her – while I was gone, an ice cream vendor came by and she got a treat!

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And then we had the real play. It was a pretty good performance, but it wasn’t great. First off, one of the main character’s microphone wasn’t working well, so we got static and also missed a lot of his lines at the beginning as his mic cut out. Also, the players simply weren’t vibrant in their performances. I imagine it’s tough to do theater out in the middle of a public park, though, with people moving around and playing with their dogs and whatever. Not to mention, it was free. I was certainly glad I went. And who knows; if it’s a show I’m interested in, maybe I’ll go again next summer. As for this summer, the curtain’s come down on this show.

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Have you done something new today?

Day 193: Saddlebag Lake Resort

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On Saturday we woke up early, almost against our will. We planned to be on the road home by 10, even though we’d pared down our ideas about stops along the way. I was badly sunburned, so we would forego the hiking we’d thought to do around Saddlebag Lake in Yosemite. However, we still planned to go to the lake, since we’d been told it was worth the effort just for a look, and also there’s a cafe where we could grab some lunch. We packed up, stopped for coffee and wonderful conversation with our camp neighbors and new friends, Paul, Carolyn and Bob, and headed off (by 10:30! Good job, us!). 

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Saddlebag Lake Resort came up a lot sooner than we’d expected, but our breakfast was hours earlier. We’d hit the resort on a bbq day (tri-tip!), so we decided to stay. We had a great view . . . and the lake was gorgeous, too. As usual, I was taking lots of pictures, and at some point the kids inside (also known as employees) started asking questions, so I told them about the blog, so they asked more questions, and the next thing we knew, I had the whole crew lining up for a photo op. It was our pleasure to visit with them, they were all such nice people. 

The crew at Saddlebag Lake Resort (from left to right): Erica, TJ, Matt, Marge, Richard (bbq-meister and owner), Amy, Shawn, Riana and Nick.
In addition to enjoying the food at the resort, one can also hike, rent a boat, fish, clean your fish . . . .
After lunch, we headed off again. We didn’t have plans for another stop, but a mountain stream caught my attention. It flowed right up close to the road; how could we not go wading? You can see in the pictures a major personality difference between Beth and me. She’s going to sit sedately on the sidelines, while I’m going to hike my pants up to the hip and plunge right in. Oochie-owah! Those stones were slippery and sharp! It was hard – extremely hard! – to settle my feet safely on that steam bed. Next time, maybe I’ll follow Beth’s example . . . naaah.
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Also wonderful was that at this stop I saw the best bunch of wildflowers all gathered in one time and place. They were prolific and beautiful!
And that’s another great camping trip under my belt. I think that’s it for this summer, though I’m always open to invitations! Now I’ve got real writing to get back to – my stories are piling up, in my notebooks, on my computer, and in my head!

Have you done something new today?

Day 192: Panum Crater and Floating in Mono Lake

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July 11, day four of our camping trip to Mono Lake, day 192 of One New Thing. We are once again with our new best friends. (As a special treat, my first set of pictures – just below the break – comes from Carlo. These were actually taken the day before, but I just got them, and they are too great to skip. The pictures will tell you all you need to know about why we got along so well with Michelle and Carlo.) We meet up with them for our trip into the youngest volcano in North America: Panum Crater. This little baby is only 600 years old, and though she’s napping soundly, she could wake up any time. (Panum Crater is right next door to Mono Lake – 15 slow, bumpy minutes away by van – which is one of the oldest lakes in the world.) Our whole trip has been remarkably free of other tourists (barring last night’s event at the Mobil station) and today is no exception. The four of us head off along the dusty trail, happy to be climbing in the breezy morning rather than in the wilting heat of an afternoon.

* * *We interrupt this narrative for a few moments of pure silliness.* * *
* * *And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.* * *

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Panum Crater doesn’t look like much from a distance, just a big jumble of rocks, rocks, and more rocks. And to be honest, at no point does it ever look like much more than that. I expected to be hiking a trail along the perimeter of an obvious crater, maybe with black lava walls and perhaps even a sleeping-dragon’s wisp of steam rising from the obvious, deep-down center. Um, no. I had heard about huge obsidian towers, and I imagined them shining and flashing in the sun like black glass obelisks. Again: no.

But please don’t get the impression that I was disappointed, exactly. I just needed a slight expectation adjustment. After all, it was a beautiful day, we were with wonderful companions, and there truly was lots to see and enjoy.
And the variety of rocks, pebbles, stones and boulders was incredible. Much of the rock is pumice, which is formed by minerals frothing in the volcano’s explosion, leaving the resulting rock full of teeny-tiny air pockets, making it extremely light, though it doesn’t look light. Obsidian, which is like black glass, is the same chemical composition as pumice, but very different in weight, texture, appearance. . . everything.  Plus there are these things called breadcrust bombs. When the volcano exploded, wicked hot stuff shot into the air. It cooled very quickly, forming a crust around the still hot center. As the center cooled, it expanded, cracking the crust, just like what happens to a loaf of bread when it bakes.
And then there are the big pictures.
I want to express my extreme gratitude here for my amazing healing-machine of a body. Just over thirteen months ago I had a new ACL made for me out of my hamstring (the original ACL snapped clean through when I fell off a ladder), and some tidying up done on a badly torn lateral meniscus. Now I can climb rocks like a mountain goat, and, in fact, was often up ahead of my companions, seeing if there was a way through. I consider this nothing short of miraculous!
Love this skeleton of an ancient, giant tree.
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Um, oh, wait, maybe it’s not so giant after all!
These look like ordinary, weigh-a-ton boulders. Truth is, they’re pumice, and are comparably very light.
It’s a crazy place, Panum Crater. Little things look big, things that should be heavy aren’t, distances are warped. . . sort of like my sense of humor. There was a lovely moment as I was walking a ways ahead of Michelle. Beth and Carlo were nowhere in sight. I saw a deep depression in the rock bed up ahead, and was suddenly seized with an uncontrollable urge. I’d be hidden from view in every direction, if I hurried. . . . Quick as thought, I raced into that private place and peed! It’s not like I even needed to! I just suddenly thought, Hey! I never peed on a volcano before! And so I did.
The morning was over, but we weren’t. None of us had gone swimming in Mono Lake, and that was definitely on our to-do lists. We were all hot and tired from our volcano hike, and a dip in the lake sounded nice and refreshing. Well, sort of. As I mentioned before, Mono Lake is 2-1/2 times saltier than the ocean, in addition to being highly alkaline. First off, shoes on or off? I opted for on, and I was glad I did. The process that built the tufa towers continues to this day under the water, and, until we got out a ways to the sandy areas, the lake bottom was sharp and crunchy-crumbly, not at all comfortable. The day was coolish and breezy, so I needed to get myself under the water and stay there or I’d be freezing. I meant to duck-walk until the water got deeper, but it was so salty that my legs kept floating up to the surface! I ended up all crunched up and walking on my hands instead of my feet, while fighting to keep my feet in the water so I wouldn’t fall over backwards. It was hilarious! No pictures, though, since we were all in the lake. Eventually I borrowed Michelle’s cap and put it over my face (I was badly sunburned already), then laid myself out on the surface of the water. I couldn’t have sunk if I’d tried! I just lay there, and the movement of the water gave me a lovely massage as I let all the tension release out of my body. Lovely! However, every time I stood up out of the water, I got very staggery, almost drunk-dizzy. I don’t understand why. But the same thing happened to Michelle. I don’t know about Carlo, but neither Michelle nor Beth really enjoyed being in the lake. I loved the floating, and I didn’t want to get out, but I was getting too cold for comfort.
We’d heard that if you put clothes in the lake, they’d come out completely clean because of the alkalinity. Naturally, I’d brought a bunch of white things with me for experimentation. But after being in the water, my hair was, well, grotesque is the word that comes to mind. It felt absolutely disgusting, dry and stiff and like straw, only really, really dry and filthy straw. So I pretty much nixed the idea of doing laundry in that water. However, I still wanted to experiment, so I pulled out the pair of socks I’d worn on my last camping trip that refused to come clean. After all, it’s not like they could get any worse. And, in fact, they didn’t. But they didn’t get any better either.

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I thought we were done for the day, but not quite. Michelle pointed up the beach, to what I’d thought was a long, low faded fence of some kind. Nope, it was a new kind of tufa – sand tufa. These things look quite different from the lumpy bumpy tufa towers at South Tufa (we were east of South Tufa at Navy Beach), are much smaller, and supposedly can be so soft that they’ll crumble if you touch them (so we were very careful!).

It was a long day. Now, with my hair feeling like I’d been asleep in a desert crypt for centuries, it was time to head back to our campsite for a wash (with maybe a brief detour into town for ice cream). We hugged and hugged and hugged Michelle and Carlo; who knows if and when we may see them again? The next day we were all headed home. But we took with us great memories, and lots of pictures!

Have you done something new today?