March 2004

Road Trip

My friend Dick has recently taken possession of a 2004 Prius, and I am eager to get his impression of how it handles. I’m just delighted with mine, but this is doubtless influenced by having spent a year and a half behind the wheel of a 2002, which was certainly the least stable vehicle I’ve ever owned. This wasn’t a problem in the city, but on the highway I always felt that I was just barely in control, especially on curves at highway speed.

Chris is visiting now, and on Monday I took him up to Calistoga to see Jeff Notias’ Bulldog Cactus Ranch. On the way up I took 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge and then 37 across the Petaluma River flood plain and on over to 29 up to Calistoga. En route, I was able to play tour guide, pointing out terrain features and prattling incessantly about the various wineries as we passed them. The 52.4 MPG I got on the trip up was made possible by the lower speed limits and fairly heavy traffic up Highway 29.

The greenhouse was fascinating, and Chris showed admirable patience while Jeff and I talked the talk and inspected plant after plant. Exercising great restraint, I purchased only five new Haworthias, for example, H. springokulok v. sandpoort EA976, just call me Sandy:

H. springokulok v. sandpoort EA976

And OK, I couldn’t resist, a female Euphorbia obesa, a mate for my male. He’ll be so happy.

Euphorbia obesa

To take a different route on the return, I cut west up the grade out of the valley at St. Helena. This narrow, twisty back road provided my fir st real opportunity to seriously test the handling, as it was one 20 MPH curve after another all the way up and all the way down. I can now report that I just love the handling. It feels like all four paws are gripping the asphalt, and as I grew more accustomed to it, I could take the curves faster and faster.

Actually, the only problem during this phase was an occasional minor squeak, but after listening closely I determined that this was just Chris.

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Modest Proposal

Nobody asked, but here is my modest proposal to solve the problem of all them nasty queers wanting to get married. I offer it out of a pure spirit of public service since I, myself, am far too old and cranky to even consider marrying anyone of any sex.

The problem is that in this country there is a long list of special privileges (people counting them have come up with numbers over a thousand) that are granted only to couples who are married. But marriage is a religious ceremony, so giving the married special privileges is a violation of the doctrine of the separation of church and state. The church is free to grant privileges to the married, but the state should not. Since the members of various religions all over the globe have traditionally loved nothing more than slaughtering persons who worship incorrectly or at least discriminating against them, the state should not do anything to encourage religion.

Unfortunately, over the past few hundred years, the line between church and state has been blurred so that it is now possible in this country to get married without ever darkening the door of a church/temple/ mosque/whatever. This is absurd when you think about it. Can you go down to City Hall and get a baptism or bar mitzvah?

The logical solution is to get City Hall out of the marriage business and require folks who want to get married to do so in the religion of their choice. If your religion holds as doctrine that left-handers cannot marry each other, and you, born a lefty, fall in love with another lefty, then you’re out of luck. You must either marry somebody acceptable to your religion or get yourself a more generous religion.

What City Hall should do instead of marrying people is give them civil unions. It is these civil unions that ought to convey to their members all the civil rights now given to the married. To ease the transition, persons who are currently married should be considered to also have a civil union.

Unfortunately, all the idiots from Gavin Newsom to the Pope to George W. Bush neglected to consult me on this and are now busily igniting a political war. Just what we need….another war, another way to divide ourselves from each other.

Notes: Gavin Newsom is the mayor of San Francisco, and he recently allowed several thousand same-sex marriages before a bunch of Christians enforcing Christ’s love got a court order to stop it.

The Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and he sends millions of wretched third-world poor to their deaths of AIDS to keep their souls from being sullied by the use of condoms. In his spare time, The Holy Father pushes legislation against homosexuals.

George W. Bush is President of the United States, and he is working tirelessly to stuff his religious doctrines down all our throats. Do we really want no abortion, no stem cell research, and the teaching in the schools of creationism on an equal par with evolution? Oh, and no birth control for the people, the poor, who need it most.

And yes, i went a little overboard with wires and reflections when i first got the camera:

market street wires

 

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The Russians

What an afternoon yesterday was! After watching Justine and Roger win the championships in the Pacific Life Open, I went out shopping on the Segway down to 24th Street. I was trying to run the battery completely down because this extends its life if done periodically, but I cut it pretty fine because I ran out of juice about ten yards short of the summit at 21st Street on the way home. So I let it rest for a minute and then made it over the top and down to my door. Wanting to completely exhaust the battery, I rode back up to the crest and practiced turns in the flat space at the top of the hill, mostly just emergency swerves.

As I whirled around, a couple of pedestrians crested the hill from 24th and stood watching me. Somewhat self-conscious, I explained to them that I was trying to run the battery down, and we got to talking since it was immediately obvious that they were tourists and I do love tourists. As we chatted, I tried to figure out where they were from but couldn’t place the accent and neither made grammar errors that gave anything away. Finally, I broke down and asked. Boston, they replied. Oh please. That accent wasn’t “pahk the cah in Haavahd Yahd.”

After a while, it finally seemed appropriate to ask where they were from before they were from Boston, and by that time they had lost enough reserve to tell me that they were originally from Russia. It came out that they hadn’t come here until 1991 when we were talking about Solzhenitsyn’s works and they spoke of reading them in samizdat. Yow! And the difficulty when your copy was the tenth carbon and you could see only about half the letters and yet you had the social obligation to pass the manuscript on in 24 hours. At least the pressure to figure out the words and get it read kept your mind off visits by the NKVD.

Before that we’d talked about tennis, and their take on Safin is the same as mine: if he gets his head together he will slaughter everyone else. Ha! I got points by knowing that Irakli Labadze was, like Joseph Vissarionovich, from Georgia. Actually, that’s how we made the segue from tennis to literature. For some reason I’d quoted them a line (and I think also a chapter title) from The First Circle “Give us back capital punishment, Joseph Vissarionovich!” Igor also loved it that I remembered the last line from One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: “The extra three were for the leap years.” If you don’t remember the novel, you’ll need to know that the penultimate line was something to the effect that there were 3,653 days like this one in Ivan’s ten-year sentence.

My problem with Russian (well, one of my problems with Russian) is that I can read lots of Russian nouns but can pronounce only a certain percentage of them well enough to be understood by, say, a Russian.

At some point in the conversation (well before Solzhenitsyn), I’d invited them for coffee. Like everyone does, they loved the view out back, but what thrilled Nina even more was my collection of Haworthias, which was at its peak then.

Here’s the ones on the dining room coffee table:

Haworthias

She reached into her purse and pulled out this teeny little camera and leaned over until it was a couple or three inches from the leaves and took closeups. I’d never seen a camera that would take such closeups, and it was love at first sight.

Thanks to the combined efforts a couple of weeks later of my friend Jim and the Nikon Rep we blundered onto at Best Buy, I am now the proud owner of a little toy camera that will fit into my pocket, a Nikon Coolpix 3200.

Here’s my first halfway decent pic, the inflorescence on the Pachyveria nelii on the balconette.  The photos before this one are retrofits:

Pachyveria nelii

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