November 2015

How Green I Am

The NSA says that as of yesterday midnight it’s no longer collecting all our phone conversations. My question is whether they are again being “least untruthful”.


I have to act green since i trumpet environmentalism and would thus be an utter hypocrite if i didn’t practice it.

So i’m an ardent recycler and reduce the recycling by buying as much food as possible unpackaged and carrying it home in plastic bags that i’ve brought to reuse.  I try to buy packaged food in containers that i can use again for my jams and pickles.

Even though i cling to the environmental outrage of a personal automobile, at least it’s a Prius since they get the highest MPG of any car other than the electrics, which were not available eleven years ago when i bought the Prius.  And i don’t use the Prius in town but rather get around on the totally electric Segway.

I save water by not showering full blast and by running the dishwasher only when it’s full.  I was delighted when i moved into my new place and saw that the commode had a reduced flush feature.  And of course i practice “Pouilly Pinot”.  I’ve never used the garbage disposal, that appliance of the devil, since i can, for the first time in decades, have a little compost pile for my kitchen scraps.  I didn’t use a garbage disposal in the city because there we had pickup of compostables along with the recyclables and landfillables.

I don’t use much gas (22.2 therms last month) because after living in San Francisco for forty years, my internal thermostat has readjusted to the point that i’m comfortable at cooler temperatures.  There are two wall furnaces in this place, and i don’t expect to ever light the pilot on the one at the back end of the apartment since i like sleeping with a cold nose.  Didn’t turn the front one on until about three weeks ago and use it only at night and first thing in the morning to take the chill off.

What else can i do?  Well, this morning i signed up for the “Evergreen” electricity from Sonoma Clean Power, which means that for a couple of extra dollars a month, 100% of my electricity will come from renewable sources.  Last month i used 142 kWh.

So i’m bright green.  Ummm, well, except for the car.  I figure by the time it dies i’ll be living back in the city and won’t replace it.  And then i’ll start oozing chlorophyll.

Meanwhile, here’s a flock of neighbors having a déjeuner sur l’herbe.  Umm, actually it was a early breakfast.  That’s the bank of the Petaluma under the trees in the background.  Bucolic, c’est moi.

Wild turkeys on my lawn

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What You Wish For

“Caution: Diarrhea may occur with excessive consumption. If this happens, reduce intake or discontinue use.” – Consumer advice on a package of xylitol.


There’s an old New England saying about being careful what you wish for, and i’m sitting here mulling ramifications over having been granted one of my most fervent.  Not, of course, that i regret having wished for it but rather that now that i’ve been granted it, i’m not quite ready to accept it.

See, for several years i’ve been on a waiting list in San Francisco for some low income senior housing that i quite like, and the wait has been a roller coaster as despair soared to hope and plunged back down.  So finally i just said whenever, stopped fretting about it, and moved up here.

And wouldn’t you know, Petaluma has turned out to be an even better fit for me than i’d imagined possible, especially since i can easily drive back to the city to get together with friends and eat at favorite restaurants.

So to celebrate my being here happily for two whole months, i got a call the other day informing me that i’d reached the top of the waiting list for my senior housing.

Oh hell.  I mean, i moved up here with the idea that i’d be moving back to the city when my number came up, but i sure didn’t expect it to be so soon.  It was only last week that i finally got my main bookcase reassembled and stocked, and i just don’t have the strength to move again so soon.

So i took a rain check.  They expect to have another opening in six months or so, and that will give me time to figure out what i want to do.  I love it here, and even though it would be much cheaper to live in the senior housing in San Francisco, my rent here is low enough that i can stay here for the rest of my life.  This makes the finances a non-issue and leaves me weighing other aspects.

Friends.  On this the scale tips strongly to San Francisco since i have only one friend here and he has such a full life that we have not managed to get together in the two months since i arrived.  The great majority of my friends in SF have died or moved, but i still have a handful of friends there who have enough free time that we can get together.  That said, i’m so gregarious that i get plenty of social interaction just chatting up strangers wherever i am.

Markets.  San Francisco, hands down.  There’s only one year-round farmers’ market in Petaluma, and while there are a handful of good vendors, it’s a far cry from those in San Francisco.  And yes, there’s the Marin Farmers’ Market on Sundays, but as much as i enjoy it, it’s a forty mile round trip.  Also, i like Petaluma Market as my go-to grocery store, but Rainbow Grocery it ain’t.  That said, just how much food can i eat?

Weather.  Again, San Francisco.  I mean, i’m finding Petaluma weather entertaining, what with thirty degree variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures and distinct seasons, but good grief, it often freezes here at night in the wintertime and summer days are often in the nineties!  Freezes!  That’s zero Celsius and feels even colder.  Oh please.  I’m quite comfortable in the range between fifty and seventy and would strongly prefer living in SF, where excursions outside that range are uncommon.  That said, i’m adjusting to a more normal weather pattern.

Water.  Yep, San Francisco.  It’s fascinating to live here at an elevation of ten feet on the banks of the Petaluma River estuary, seeing the tide move in and out twice a day, but that’s not the water i’m talking about.  Oh no, i mean drinking water.  Don’t know where the stuff that issues from my tap comes from, but it sure isn’t Hetch Hetchy, the most delicious drinking water on the planet, and i miss it so badly that i’ve thrown a gallon jug into the trunk of my car in hopes that i’ll remember to fill it when i’m visiting.  That said, oh please, Matte.

Obviously i should have snapped at my first opportunity to move back to San Francisco, so other than not having recovered from my previous move, why didn’t i?  Had to think about that, and then it sank in:  I’m tired.

No wonder, being 75 and having a long list of medical conditions beginning and ending with AIDS.  I don’t mean to complain since i’m well aware that i’m very lucky to be alive and to have the Segway to compensate for my difficulty in walking.  Unfortunately, my mind is also failing.

I’m not totally gaga yet, but i had to finally get honest with myself last week and stop going to my Spanish class because i can no longer assimilate new material well enough to make progress.  I tried for weeks but could not seem to pound into my head the declensions for the Spanish past tenses.  Nor can i remember new vocabulary.  Oh, i can get things down well enough into short term memory to be able to repeat them and use them in a few sentences, but i can’t retain them and the next day they’re gone.  The frustration became too great to bear.

On the other hand, I continue to enjoy creating adventures great (like last summer’s Portland Bridge Pedal expedition and photo essay) and small (like gathering the material for this fall’s Bridges of the Petaluma photo essay), reading, continuing the occasional preserving/pickling, writing this website, and just running around town shopping and taking photos.

But still, i keep going largely on willpower.  I joke with my peers that at our age something is always hurting, but the reality is that at some point i will not be able to keep going.

And that understanding, i think, is what’s really behind my passing up that first chance to move back to the city.  Why bother going through the hassle of moving when i can have mini-adventures like today’s, when i celebrated Thanksgiving a day early by bundling up in my warmest clothes against the early morning frost and Segwaying down to the gym at the peak of king tide so i could get photos of the river at its highest, being all fascinated with tides since i’ve never lived on an estuary before.

It wasn’t impressive although i should have done the math and realized that since king tide was only about six inches greater than a normal high tide, how much difference would it make?  Anyhow, here’s what the Balshaw bridge looks like over a king tide.

Balshaw Bridge over a king tide


This afternoon i drove back into the city to the Castro Farmers’ Market, socialized with friends there, and had an early dinner at Sushi Zone.  Spicy Tuna roll and the amaebi.  A fine day.  Oh, i’m in the end game, but my ability to entertain myself remains inexhaustible.

Meanwhile, here’s Petaluma’s least Segway-friendly bridge at a normal high tide.  It would be bad enough without those damn spikes sticking up.

Petaluma's least Segway-friendly bridge

And a thankful Thanksgiving to everyone.

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A New Experience


I live for my first time experiences and had a good one last week.  Better yet, it involved a boat.

Having grown up in oil camps in arid west Texas, i had very little experience with boats in my youth other than a handful of brief excursions on pleasure boats while vacationing with my parents.  So it was quite an adventure for me when i crossed the Atlantic on a troop ship in 1964 although it was a placid voyage owing to the absence of Viet Cong U-boats harrowing the waters.

And even though i’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past forty years, i’ve been on boats on only a handful of occasions.  I’ve taken the ferries to Angel Island, Tiburon, Sausalito, and Alcatraz twice each.  I’ve given my mother and Rina bay cruises.  I’ve been on two memorial services on yachts in the bay.  But i’d never been to a wedding on water.

Enter Jeff and Hemn, who decided to tie the knot in a fascinating fashion and invited me to participate.  Jeff’s quite an organizer, and he came up with an excellent way to make his marriage memorable.

He booked a dinner cruise on the Hornblower for a table of nine and then, between the entrees and the dessert, we went out on the deck for a brief ceremony conducted by his nephew, a US Coast Guard officer.  Well, yes, we all knew that naval officers can conduct funerals, but they can also conduct weddings, and this one went off splendidly.

None of my photos of the ceremony came out well owing to a combination of darkness, the pitching boat, and my failure to elbow my way into a good vantage and shout for everyone to look at the camera, but at least here’s a shot of the two grooms at the table.

Hemn and Jeff


Although i got no good wedding shots, i did manage to shoot some bay icons.  Like Alcatraz, which i stuck in at the end of the previous post.  And the new east end of the Bay Bridge.

Bay Bridge


And although i’d sworn i’d never post a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, it having been photographed to death by 1955, i’d never expected to get a shot of it from a boat at night.

Golden Gate Bridge


And we know how i like detail shots.

Golden Gate Bridge

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The End Is Near

With friends like Dianne Feinstein, who needs enemies?


The NSA was established by President Truman in a 1952 secret memorandum with the mission of conducting SIGINT surveillance of foreign communications.  In the 1960’s it secretly expanded its mission to include monitoring domestic telephone communications of opponents of the Vietnam War but was forced to return to its original mission by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.  Then, through a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the NSA again quietly changed its mission to include bulk collection of all communications, including those of all Americans.

And then, in 2013, came Snowden.

It looked like the scale might have been tipped again after the NSA’s leaders had been proved to be liars, and mass collection of domestic American communication was temporarily put on hold, set to resume shortly after Americans have forgot all about the issue.

The recent events in Paris are the perfect excuse and have already resulted in calls for a ratcheting up of all surveillance.  So once again it looks like we’ll be trading the remaining shreds of our freedom for more security, a global Panopticon.

Even before the Paris attacks, British and American intelligence forces had been clamoring for an end to civilian encryption.  My fear is that an overreaction to the Paris massacres will lead to the outlawing of encryption by civilians or at least the forced insertion of back doors into all encryption programs.

After all, it’s unpatriotic to want to keep anything secret from your government.

Hell, i’ll bet Apple has already installed a back door into its encryption system.  Our communications companies have a long history of collaborating with the NSA, and it was rather amusing to see them (and not just Apple) falling all over themselves denying this in the wake of Snowden’s exposures, only to be proved liars by subsequent exposures.  Now they’re making a big show of defending encryption and offering it to their customers.  When the next whistleblower exposes their secretly installed back doors, they’ll just say it was the work of a rogue engineer.  Like Volkswagen’s little switch in its emission controls software.

Meanwhile, a shot of Alcatraz, taken last week from the deck of the Hornblower.



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Auld Acquaintance

I now worship every Sunday morning at the Marin Farmers’ Market.  Yes, it’s a twenty miles away, but a combination of my nempimania and improved skills has kept my gas mileage over 50 MPG since i moved to Petaluma, so i don’t feel too bad about driving forty miles to attend my current favorite farmers’ market.  Actually, i’m downright smug about that gas mileage, and i got great pleasure over seeing Carol’s jaw drop when i was driving us to lunch last week and she noticed that i was sporting 54 accumulated MPG for the last 350 miles.  See, we Priusers compulsively check each others’ mileage, it sitting there on prominent display.  Grinding up those steep hills in San Francisco drives your mileage down into the upper 30’s, so of course she was impressed.  But that’s not why i’m writing.

No, this post is about old friends at the Marin Farmer’s Market.  I’d mentioned buying there from Nash Dweik, Walter Bulk, Lou Iacopi, and John Lagier, with all of whom i go way back; but this morning there were two new delightful encounters.

I’d been through all three aisles featuring fresh produce but had skipped the aisle that has only ready-to-eat foods.  Our promised second winter rain was a no-show, and the morning was so lovely that i gave the fourth aisle a try.

Glad i did, as i’d barely got into it when i spotted St. Benoit’s stall.  I’d been buying liters of their unhomogenized Jersey milk at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market since their beginning just a few years ago, and it was a pleasure to see them in Marin although it should not have been a surprise since this is where their dairy is located.  Picked up a bottle of the milk, of course.

And then, just beyond them, a familiar face. It was Mona, the beautiful young woman from whom i bought my Afghan products for years at the Castro Farmers’ Market.  She’d missed me in the city, was delighted i’d found her up here, and happily sold me a whole wheat spinach bolani.

Oh, but it got better, a few steps farther i saw another familiar face, Kathleen de Wilbur’s, and sure enough she was in front of her sausage stand.  And then she noticed this old fart standing there in shocked astonishment, recognized me even though we hadn’t seen each other since 2010, and rushed to hug me.  I also had a grilled sausage on a potato bun.  Still delicious.

Some backstory here.  The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market first started operating in the spring of 1993 in front of the Ferry Building on the parking lot where the Embarcadero Freeway had been torn down.  It was an immediate success thanks to the fine produce and the excellent prepared foods sold by vendors like Kathleen, who started peddling Bruce Aidell’s sausages, packaged or grilled to order on a bun, back when he was in the early phase of his success story.  In those days he sometimes put in appearances at the booth, and i got to meet him.

The farmers’ market was such a success that the following year the originators reorganized themselves as CUESA and continued adding vendors.  Then the parking lot was ripped out for the extension of the F-Market streetcar line to Fisherman’s Wharf and the construction of the Muni stop, so the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market moved to a parking lot at Green and the Embarcadero, where there was more space and where it remained until reconstruction of the Ferry Building was complete in 2003 and the farmers’ market could move to its permanent home fore and aft of the building.

As the acclaim of the market grew, so did the market, and within a few years it had expanded to occupy the space along the southeast side of the building.  The northwest side of the building is not suitable for use by the market – being narrow, windy, and in near perpetual shadow – so the market cannot expand further.

And that’s a problem because even though CUESA has continually raised stall rents, everybody wants to sell there, it being a very popular market at which you can make lots of money if you’re selling the right product.  So a while back they instituted a policy of giving vendors one year contracts and requiring them to reapply every year.  This allows CUESA to exercise greater control over the vendors, especially since the criteria for admission are continually evolving.

Which means that as of 2010, the Aidell’s sausage booth got the ax on the grounds that Aidell’s had grown to a large company.  What this ignores is that while Kathleen sells Aidell’s sausage grilled to order, there can’t be an operation much smaller than her stand, just her and one helper.  Still, the sausage is tainted because Aidell was successful in making a very popular product, so Kathleen got the boot.

Look, i so applauded CUESA’s goals that i donated money to them back when i had a lot of disposable income, but at some point it seems to have lost its humanity.  Quite a few people in SF sympathized with Kathleen in 2010, enough that CUESA’s executive director, Dave Stockman, felt obliged to write a justification of its actions that was a masterpiece of corporate doublespeak.  You can click on that link to read it, but here’s his best line, showing exquisite dramatic irony, “We are proud to have been one of the early venues for the company’s products and we’re thankful to Aidells for helping our market become a success.”

Ummm, yes, Kathleen was here for us since that first summer back before CUESA even existed when the original organizers sorely needed new vendors.  Then, after the originators created CUESA the following year, she stayed with us through thin and thick for sixteen more years, and now it’s time to show our gratitude.  Well, except that times have changed, and now she needs us rather than our needing her.  So we’ll just compost her and return her nutrients to Mother Earth.

Meanwhile, a shot looking east at the foot of C Street.  A home for Mr. Stockman?  You decide, but we’ll need to put in some more pilings to keep him from slithering out between them.

off the foot of C Street



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Lovely Little Expedition

If i thought he could forgive me for all my sins, i’d accept him as my personal savior in a millisecond. Of course beforehand i’d run out and commit all those sins i hadn’t thought i could get away with. Oh, but wait. Gotta rethink this. Naw, can’t do it. All my sins being instantly absolved would leave such a vast vacuum that the air rushing back in to fill it would cause a cataclysmic shock wave and wipe out vertebrate life west of the Sierra Nevada.


I had such a lovely little expedition last Wednesday that i gotta make a post of it.

See, i’d known that i needed to make another effort to find a vantage from which i could photograph from the west the NWP (Nowhere in Particular) railroad drawbridge and the still under construction massive US-101 bridge across the Petaluma River just a hundred yards apart on the southern edge of town.

My energy level was up, and the air and all had been scrubbed clean by our first little rain of the season on Sunday, so i pulled on a coat (yep, winter is on its way) and set out down Petaluma Boulevard South at 8:30 on the crisp, sunny morning.

And discovered that at the traffic circle just north of the bridges i could wind and twist my way west up the hill through a brand new upscale subdivision and then ease along a little park placed there for the upscalers (but so far without nasty LOWER CLASSES KEEP OUT signage) until i could get this vantage.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


And at the end of the purple flowered road i was at the brink and could get a closer look at the new highway bridge construction.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


And take advantage of the zoom for some construction detail.  Don’t we just love our sideways winter sun!

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


And OK, maybe a bit hokey on the detail, but this is a fun post.  I applaud the engineers for adding some texture to what would otherwise be boring flat gray concrete.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


Then it got good.  This is a construction zone, so amenities like sidewalks and bike lanes have yet to be installed, and shoulders?  Oh please.  I considered just getting out onto the roadway and exercising my constitutional right to bear batteries but took a second look at the traffic whizzing past at 50 MPH on what is by now the freeway entrance to US-101 South.  Nope.

And then i looked across the road and saw that there was a bit of a shoulder over there and that in any case i’d be closer to the river.  After a minute or so there was a break in the traffic big enough for me to whirr across both lanes to the safety of that shoulder.  Unfortunately, it was completely blocked by a construction truck, but i rolled up to it and dismounted with a grin at the worker, brandishing the camera to make clear my intention of just grabbing a couple of shots.

That’s when the miracle went down.  He took pity on me and flattened himself against the truck, thus making just enough room for me to squeeze past him on the Segway.  Which i did and got my first shot of the NWP drawbridge from the west, with the sun on it to boot.

NWP Drawbridge, Petaluma


Some mechanism detail, which i just love.

NWP Drawbridge, Petaluma


Since i was on the west side, a shot of the US-101 bridge from over there.  You want something scary?  Try riding a Segway on fist-size loose gravel.  Hell, i could barely walk on that stuff, it not having been compacted at all.  The nice guy’s truck is sitting in the shade just beyond the bend in the shoulder.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


And underneath.  I’ve observed before that the undersides of bridges are underphotographed.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


Another detail.   How did i live without my zoom?

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


And a final detail.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


OK, post-finally, a shot of that bridge taken a few minutes later from the D Street Bridge.  Used the zoom, of course, since it’s a couple of miles away.

US-101 Bridge, Petaluma


Yes, lots of folks fish off the banks of the river.  Actually, i’m thinking there’s no reason a Great White couldn’t just mosey up the estuary with the tide and lunch on kayakers.  You have to spit out the tough and tasteless hide, but the insides are delicious.

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