Archive: 2007 1st Quarter

Visiting Sam in Santa Barbara

The penultimate stop on our current trip to California is to visit with Samantha and her family, and to hobnob with the rich and famous. Jean is checking to see if Oprah is in town. You know how it is—so hard to hook up when we're all in the public eye.

Cassie, Sam, Jean and I had an elegant lunch at exclusive Pizza Mizza in La Cumbre Plaza, adjacent to the Hope Ranch.


Santa Barbara is a city that does not suffer riffraff. We were able to dine undisturbed by the little people, protected as we were by strict regulations. Thirteen of them.


Before being allowed to patronize La Cumbre Plaza establishments, visitors are required to memorize the provisions in the Code of Conduct, and provide the administration with copies of their D&Bs. I particularly like Rule #6, a prohibition against "Failing to be fully clothed, or wearing clothing which is likely to provoke a disturbance or embroiling other groups or the general public in open conflict." Translation: No sluts or gangbangers." No embroiling, indeed.

Rule # 11 says you can't bring "... animals onto center property, with the exception of animals in the company of, and trained to assist, physically challenged persons."

That rule is so not right. Looks like you have to demonstrate your "animal" is trained. (You don't want to come right out and say "dog," do you?) How to demonstrate proper training? You have to carry its diploma? Moreover, they're using the hideously PC designation, "physically challenged persons." If I were paraplegic or blind, and trying to describe my condition, the word "challenged" wouldn't be the first one to come to mind.

To complete the idiocy, that little mailbox-like thing on the next column back is a dispenser for plastic gloves, so you can pick up the poop left by your seeing eye dog. That is, if you somehow manage to sense that your dog just pooped. And if you feel around carefully for the dispenser.

I think parts of California, especially places like Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, are becoming just a little fussy, don't you?

Offended by La Cumbre Plaza's hostile dog policy, we retreated to a nearby beach which allows, even encourages, dogs—off leash!


Here, Cassie avidly observes assorted dog behaviors, in this case, butt-sniffing. (Well, we all have to learn this stuff sometime.)

Maybe Santa Barbara is a little fussy. But maybe fussiness pays off. The wonderful dog beach is an example; a facility that makes provisions for a special interest group that, in other places, is simply ignored. The city gives meticulous attention to its gardens as well, the "crown jewel" of which is Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden.


I think it's the best municipal garden I have ever seen. Maybe that's not saying much, but for me at least—wow!


This park is full of serene corners—a bench under deadly nightshades,...


... a pond full of carp and turtles. The turtles are not welcome at La Cumbre Plaza, of course. Unless they're service turtles, that is. Alice Keck Park even contains an audio guided walk for blind people. (Oops. Visually challenged persons.) It guides visitors to plants with distinctive smells or textures, and is fascinating even for the sighted.

All that fussiness can produce drivel like La Cumbre Plaza's Code of Conduct. But it also produces dog beaches and gorgeous gardens. No wonder Oprah lives here. We were disappointed that she wasn't in residence during our visit.

A Stopoff in San Francisco

We're in the middle of a ten-day visit to California to get our grandkid fix. Oh, yeah; to see our children, too. We spent a nice weekend with John D. and his family, and now, we're making a stop in San Francisco to see Sonja and Peder. We got here in time to celebrate the first day of spring.


Union Square

We're staying at the Palomar Hotel at Fourth and Market.


Palomar Hotel Building

For my money, San Francisco just keeps on getting better and better. Restoring the old streetcars, not as a tourist attraction, but for everyday use as part of the municipal railway, is just perfect.

I picked the Palomar because it's a hundred yards from this place.


The Apple Store

We came here to do some serious shopping: computer goodies at Apple, camera stuff at Calumet, clothes at Orvis and yarn at Artfibers. Shoppers heaven!

San Francisco is... well... what it is. Where hotel maids are Chinese, not Mexican. Where sushi chefs are Mexican, not Japanese. Where, on the 31 Balboa bus, a guy looking like Rosey Grier got on and sat across from me, wearing a pair of engineer boots, a Minnie Pearl hat, lipstick, and an elegant camel cashmere dress. I didn't dare take his picture.


John D. Turns Forty

My son John is turning forty. I feel a little disoriented. Hey, I'm still just a kid! How can I be father of a child that old? I don't even feel like I'm forty—I am still way too immature.

Jean and I flew up to California for his birthday celebration. OK. Our real motivation was to visit our grandchildren.

John lives in Nevada City, a quaint gold rush town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We're staying in an over-decorated, over-amenitied B&B, drinking water out of the tap and flushing toilet paper.


Nevada City, CA

Nevada City once was a rough-and-tumble town for the '49ers, a center for placer mining before the state outlawed this particularly destructive activity. Today it is a place for San Franciscans to come for romantic weekends, for UC Berkeley students to use as base camp for outdoor adventures in the Sierras. Recently it's become a retirement haven for retiring Silicon Valley baby boomers.


Broad Street, Nevada City

Nevada City is developing a split personality. Descendants of miners still inhabit disreputable saloons. But these days, the bars share the Broad Street with galleries and New Age shops. Trust fund kids in dreadlocks loiter in front of coffee houses. The town boasts a Thai restaurant and two sushi bars, one good, one excellent, both jammed on weekends.

Returning to the States is always a shock. Looking out of the plane window as we crossed the border at Mexicali, a ruler-straight line dividing dusty brown topography from lush green left no doubt that we were back in the USA. After a hellish hop on Southwest Airlines from LAX to Sacramento (never fly on Friday), we rented a car for the drive to Nevada City. Wide lanes on perfect pavement filled with expensive, sparkly new cars reminded me just how rich we Americans are.

[I'll continue with posts about my trip to the Sierra Gorda. I have more to share about that magical experience. But I'll be writing from California for a week or so.]