November 2013

Palm Springs or Bust

On the second day of the tour, Rina took the wheel south on CA-1 through Cambria and then east on CA-46 to Lost Hills, where i’d planned one of the high points (for me) of the trip, introducing Rina to a real oil field similar to the ones i’d grown up in sixty years earlier in Texas.  The field at Lost Hills is an old, shallow one dating from 1910, and the wells are very closely spaced.  Rina was slackjawed at the sight, and my only regret was that owing to modern technology there was very little of the traditional oilfield smell to which i’d hoped to treat her.  I understand that that smell stinks to most people, but since i grew up with it, to me it smells like home.

Still, i at least got a photograph of Rina that should make her the envy of her neighbors in Amsterdam, standing beside a gas well with a field of pumping jacks (for oil) in the background.

Rina with a gas well

Then we got onto I-5 south and gave Rina the experience of driving the spectacular grade up the Tehachapis to Gorham, where we stopped for lunch and i took over the wheel to get us through LA and the spectacular fields of windmills east of Banning Pass to Palm Springs, where the GPS led us directly to the Caliente Tropics hotel with its comfortable rooms and large swimming pool.

Brunch the next day at Manhattan in the Desert, a delicatessen that’s almost as good as Max’s in San Francisco.  Palm Springs is a good place to visit during the late fall, winter, and early spring, and Palm Canyon Drive is a delightful stroll full of convivial crowds and interesting places to eat and drink, the high points for me this time being a frozen yogurt stand that was just plain delicious and a superb goat cheesecake.

The other Palm Springs high point is their new palm tree treatment, sort of an upside down flattop:

palm tree treatment

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The Great Desert Tour 1

Rather than bore my readers with a day-by-day travelogue, i’ll just provide highlights of the Great California Desert Tour i took Rina on.

Rina had not seen the stretch of CA-1 between Monterey and San Simeon, so even though it wasn’t desert, it was a must since i think it’s the most beautiful part of the California coast.  She drove us down I-280 and US-101 past Gilroy to Salinas, where we left 101 to give her a taste of a typical little American town and stopped for lunch at a typical little American small town restaurant.

Might as well go ahead and be upfront about it here, there’s a hidden agenda.  This is Rina’s third visit, and during the previous visits my focus has been on showing her the loveliest parts of the Bay Area.  This time i wanted to show her more beauty, but i also wanted to show her some ugliness, some of the real America.  Obese men driving giant pickups with headache racks and NRA bumper stickers.  Dirty roadside cafes with bad coffee.  Little dried up towns with half the buildings either boarded up or tumbling down.  The pity is, i can’t take her back to Kermit, TX to score all those in one place.

But anyhow, the restaurant in Salinas was a bit of a disappointment, first because the waitress was a delightful woman from Iceland, and no, i don’t mean Iceland, Kansas.  In the second place, the food was actually good.  Oh well, maybe next stop.  And no,  we didn’t get into what an Icelander was doing in Salinas as i suspect it was a long story.

At Monterey i took over the driving so Rina could enjoy the view of the coast from the ideal position, the passenger’s seat headed south.  You know, so as to be able to peer over the edge of the cliff at the Pacific crashing into the rocks far below.  This time i finally had the sense to do a little preparatory research and thus knew when i was approaching the Bixby Bridge in time to catch the pullout at the north end.

Bixby Bridge


And this one, further south and also handsome but i neglected to write its name down.


Bridge on CA-1 south of the Bixby Bridge


And finally, as we approached San Simeon we spotted a pack of seals on the beach, and i caught this one making a break for the water.

elephant seal north of San Simeon


And so to bed at the Courtesy Inn in San Simeon, very comfortable and reasonably priced.  Well, bedtime didn’t occur until after a truly dreadful dinner at a place across the highway that i wish i’d written down so i could warn everyone.  I ordered the meatloaf dinner, thinking meatloaf couldn’t be ruined.  I was wrong.





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New Feature

Matte Discovers His New Tablet PC’s Surveillance Feature


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The Seven Hundred Thirty Dollar Lunch

I’ve been meaning to post a travelog about Rina’s visit every day but have been having too much fun to do so; however, we had an adventure of such a high order yesterday that it has to come first.

Rina and i had such a good visit with Sybil at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market on Saturday that i decided to take them to a fine dim sum lunch at Yank Sing on Tuesday.  Afterwards Rina could see Sybil’s fabulous new condo in the Millennium tower.  What could go wrong?

We drove down there well ahead of time with the idea of snapping up one of the abundant parking places between Sybil’s and the Rincon complex Yank Sing and discovered that there sure were a lot of yellow zones that wouldn’t let me park until much later.  And kept looping around and checking the fine print on the yellow zone signs until finally we spotted a non-yellow slot on Main Street.  Whew.

We walked the block over to Yank Sing with plenty of time to spare.  Sybil arrived, we were seated, and the joy of Yank Sing began.  I’m not sure i’ll ever be able to forgive them for taking the barbecued pork in pastry shell (char siu sou) 叉燒酥 off the menu, but they sure do try to compensate for that.  Now they have a dish you can’t get just everywhere, that Shanghai-style soup-filled dumpling (xiao long bao)  小籠包 that squirts soup all over the table unless you put it entirely in your mouth before chomping down.  They were utterly delicious at Yank Sing, better than at the Shanghai restaurants on Ocean Avenue that specialize in them.

And then everything else was at a similarly high level – that decadent shrimp in mayonnaise and walnuts dish that fills your mouth with three kinds of fat all at once, dry-braised green beans that were as good as i’d ever eaten, that wonderful stuffed crab claw with the sweet sauce, good paper-wrapped chicken, a delicious chunk of baked sea bass, etc, etc.

When we were totally gorged and gasping our way through the last bites as the place cleared out and the carts stopped rolling around, i asked a server if they still had left any of the egg tarts (dan tat) 蛋撻.  I got the double pleasure of her shock at hearing an old white guy say the name of this thing in understandable Cantonese and then immediately afterward by her affirmative reply.  There are only two Chinese desserts that westerners like at all, and they love this one, Rina and Sybil and i being no exception.

And then we went wobbling out to Sybil’s for the grand tour of both her condo and the gorgeous amenities offered by the Millennium, both of which impressed the socks off Rina.

Finally we walked back to the car for our return ride home, during which i’d planned to stop at Sightglass so i could show Rina that spectacular interior while buying her far finer coffee than she was accustomed to.

Umm, well, except that as we walked toward the car i noticed that along our side of the street the parking lane was now filled with buses.  And then we got to the end of the buses to our parking spot and saw that the car had been stolen.

I mean, it was right there.  Right under that sign, the one with the big red letters reading “TOW-AWAY ZONE”   Wait a minute, Main is an inbound street.  What’s a tow-away zone doing in the afternoon on an inbound street.  Tow-away zones are always inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon.  An exception, i now know, is Main Street, where a pack of rush hour buses queues up ready to move around the block and gorge on outbound afternoon commuters.

The last time my car was towed was in August, 1973 when my friend Dick was visiting and we sat happily drinking Irish Coffees in the Buena Vista while my Pinto was being towed off of Bay Street.  Once we discovered the car’d been towed and remembered that there was a fat roach sitting  in the open ashtray, we went straight back to the Buena Vista and had a couple more drinks to prepare for the coming ordeal.

Turned out nobody noticed the roach, but it was still a nightmare involving a cab ride across town to the Hall of Justice, where expensive justice was dispensed with agonizing slowness, followed by a longer cab ride way off somewhere to retrieve the car after another long wait.

This time it was less traumatic.  In the first place because i found my foolishness in not seeing that sign somehow hilarious and then because of getting a cab instantly at the height of rush hour.  And thanks to Rina’s suggestion that perhaps the cab driver knew where to go and my working up the nerve to ask him, we got whisked directly to a little new building under the freeway on 7th Street, where we entered, took a number, sat in comfortable seats for five minutes, and were called to a window where a young black woman, astonished to be dealing with a man who found the adventure so funny, joined our hilarity and extracted the $520 fine with maximum gentleness.

It would have been $50 less if i hadn’t been driving such a high-tech electronic marvel that it had to be carefully lifted up and plunked onto a flat bed truck for transport to the concentration camp for vehicular enemies of the state.  But it would have been a lot more if we’d fiddled around long enough for the hideously expensive storage charges to start kicking in.

After i’d paid, i remembered the awful trip to pick up the car forty years ago and asked the young woman where i had to go to get my freshly ransomed car.  She pointed, “Right out there.”  And yes, twenty feet out the side door was the concentration camp gate.  And since the papers clutched in my hand were in order, we were escorted to my freshly chastized car and i drove smoothly out of the lot.

The rest of the good news was that at that point we were only two blocks up the street from Sightglass, and we went in for lattes and a little bag of coffee that Rina couldn’t help mentioning was four times the cost of any coffee she’d ever bought.  I refrained from mentioning that i’d noticed as much when i visited her.

Feeling rather economical, we had leftovers for supper.

No pics germane to the adventure, so here’s one of the butt end of Sanchez Street.

The butt end of Sanchez Street


Oh, and for those who are doing the math, no, i did not spend two hundred dollars on lunch for three people at Yank Sing.  The extra 95 bucks was for the Notice of Delinquent Parking Violation that arrived a couple of weeks later.  The nice lady at the Hall of Justice neglected to charge me for the $95  ticket for parking in the tow-away zone.

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Rina’s Here

In preparation for Rina’s visit i had the Prius watched over by mechanics of loving grace last week at the dealer (a recall) and Luscious Garage (45K maintenance), and then yesterday i had it scrubbed squeaky clean inside and out at the car wash.

[And for the younger generation, the reference above is not to the television documentary but rather to Brautigan’s poem that preceded it by forty years.]

And then in the countdown to her visit last night i experienced the perennial problem faced by buyers of trick-or-treat candy – overestimation of the number of trick-or-treaters, the subsequent oversupply of candy, and the traditional method of dealing with this overabundance.  To paraphrase my friend Bob’s observation, “Who knew a bag of Kit-Kats could be such a satisfying supper?”

But my heart did not stop in the night from skyrocketing blood sugar, so i managed to pick Rina up at the airport and got her home safely, where we hung out for three hours and discovered yet another thing we had in common:  our hearing aids both take the same battery.  Oh, and that somehow neither of us got around to starving himself svelte before the visit.

Then we hit We Be Sushi (Good sushi at fair prices) on ever more vibrant Valencia.  And since we were on Valencia, i introduced her to Dandelion Chocolate, where the assembly line was running at full tilt, fully manned with chocolate elves, Cam himself fine tuning the wrapper system.

And since this post is such a grab bag, i’ll end it with a pic of an impossible-to-photograph house at 518 Noe Street.  Marvelous paint job:  and the words seemed tantalizingly familiar but i admit i had to Google to find the source.  On the facade are the complete lyrics to Pink Floyd’s “Echoes“.

I’ll try again to come up with a pic that does it justice, but for now this’ll have to do:

 Pink Floyd "Echoes"




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