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Dubrovnik back to Budapest

View from Cavtat Harbor toward the Hills The owner of Villa Olav & Jo  say their goodbyes Today we left Dubrovnik, fly...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hurrah - Boo Hoo - Hurrah!

Good Grief.

Tonight was the first musical of the Davis Musical Theater Company for which I hold a season's ticket. My musical play buddy Cornetta also has a season's ticket and tonight, spot on schedule, I headed to her home in Sacramento to pick her up. I've dropped her off at home a couple of times after our ushering duties, for example when we saw the Music Circus production of Aida in July.

Our drives are nothing if not NOISY. Post-musicals as we barrel down the freeway, we can't help but sing our very-nearly-musical hearts out. So I've been by Cornetta's place a couple of times. Anyway, tonight I was spot on time, driving along Highway 99 and I suddenly realized I had no clue which freeway exit would lead me to 42nd, 43rd, 44th or whatever-the-hell street she lives on; no clue whatsoever.

Oh... a half dozen exits later, I realized I had NO clue where the ef I was. I got on the cell phone to Cornetta. No answer. I was supposed to by then have been on the street by her house honking my Honda horn, pissing of Cornetta's neighbors. No dice. A few more freeway exits - still, no dice. Finally I parked on some unknown street and called, and called and called - no answer. Had no clue if I was even calling the correct phone number.

I was in full self-pity mode. Why had I not made note of the directions to Cornetta's? I keep a little paper pad in my car that I jot location directions and even the hours kept by my favorite shops and such. Why the ef hadn't I made note of Cornetta's?

Now it was so late that even if I found her house we would not make the play. 'What an idiot I am', thought I was overwhelmed with self-incrimination. 'Now Cornetta will think I'm some sort of flake! And why-the-ef doesn't she call to find out why I'm not honking outside her front door?'

Awash with feelings of failure, I slowing aimed the Honda homeward. I was not going to the play by myself - I didn't deserve to see it after screwing up my promise to pick Cornetta up.

'Ring!' Cell phone - actually it plays Hedwig's Theme.

'Um... Claire?'

Turns out Cornetta was yaking on the phone with a buddy all the while patiently wondering where the ef Claire had got to. With directions I was over to Cornetta's spit-spot and we raced off to Davis. I realized all the driving around had nearly emptied my gas tank so I had to stop for a re-fill. By now we would be lucky to get in the first act and I could not stop appologizing. Cornetta, bless her heart, was totally ok with all this and forgave me over and over as I whinged and whined.

Ok, guess what? We got to the theater just as the play, West Side Story, began. We hadn't missed a beat. It was a true miracle of the sort that normally requires honking great hosts of angels fluttering around, molting feathers and blowing celestial horns.

And how was the play? Excellent! Herein lay the second miracle of the evening. The guy who played Tony sang 'Something's Coming' - it was so-so at best. Cornetta and I both felt like it was going to be a long evening. It was only after Maria lifted an angelic voice trilling to the heavens, to be joined by Tony's lower tones that Tony's voice shifted somehow. It was as if Maria's voice picked up Tony's voice, dusted it, dressed it up and polished it off. Is that clear? It was like their voices/ their souls - to use the overused expression - completed each other.

Honestly, your jaw would have dropped at the difference in Tony's voice!

Add to the above that Tony could dance! There were a few dance scenes to the musical and most of the cast's hoofing was only so-so. The Davis productions are only cast the plays a short while before opening - two months tops. But the guy who played Tony had it down - he danced with skill and from his heart. Cornetta and I were highly impressed, moved even, by the sight of Tony & Maria swaying to a brush of soft notes.

Suffice to say, we enjoyed the play immensely and both of us were choked up by the ending scene where Tony bites the big one and Maria knees over his body. Richard and Natalie could not have done it any better.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

To Yosemite's Heights

Today we decided to start our day up at Glacier Point, so we headed up hill and on the way stopped at an overlook. I’d hardly parked when I heard Gene shouting at me there were chickens in the parking lot, wtf? Indeed! The chickens’ were a pair of beautiful Blue Grouse hens and they certainly did look like chickens and they were as naturally tame and approachable as any farm yard chicken. I didn’t even bother to use a long lens to get pictures of the two ‘girls’. I took at least 50 shots of the grouse hens and I lucked into this wonderful sequence as follows:

Only minutes up the road from the grouse hens we spotted several more grouse roadside, including a Blue Grouse Cock was strutting around with a few hens. No pictures worth showing of the cock, but Joann pointed out a curious bird call like a tin trumpet. Our guest appearance trumpeter was a Red-breasted Nuthatch and I got lovely pictures of the lively little beauty.

These shots we took up at Glacier Point when we finally made it there. Joann and Gene hiked to the overlook and I made do a little closer to the main overlook. The view was spectacular; great looks at Sentinel Point and Half Dome. Gene and Joann hiked out to the point and I whimped out staying at the overlook. The view was the one you see just below - Half Dome.

We headed down to Yosemite Valley and then straight back up to Tuolumne Meadows. Joann enjoyed the wicked thrill of horn honking in the tunnels we drove through on the way up - weeeeee! We briefly stopped at the outrageously blue Lake Tenaya.
Tuolumne meadow was out from under snow, broad and lush. We made several stops along the route to the Visitor Center both for scenery and bird ID and photo ops that included scenery and wildflowers.

The drive made for a lovely final day in Yosemite and we enjoyed the hell out of it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I was twenty-one when I first entered Yosemite Valley, one of several co-eds, out to hike over the Spring break. We were young, fit and ready to hike up the steep Vernal and Nevada Falls trail into the back country where I saw my first black bears and if I recall correctly, I pretty much pissed meself when I saw one of the great bruins eating out of some unfortunate backpacker’s campfire stove. I was so scared I ran away backwards because it would have taken too much time to turn around and then run. I’m not kidding, I ran away backwards; nearly slammed myself silly into a Ponderosa Pine. Each day we hiked I felt stronger and stronger. By the end of the trips I was always feeling more fit than when we arrived. Oy - are those days over!
This week I am back in Yosemite with my childhood buddies Joann and Gene; eschewing the Vasque hiking boots for Berkenstocks and Nikes. We spent the day viewing the great Yosemite Valley via the valley’s touring bus system. My so-called hikes did not take me more than 500 feet from the comfort of my Honda. Yeah, my high country trekking days are just a fleeting memory.
Happily, Yosemite is accommodating to old farts as well as young ones. I am happy to proclaim the Valley remains a land of perfection and beauty of the ‘point your camera and you get a frame-able Kodak moment shot, Yosemite is the place. Honestly – you can’t take bad pictures there. I sincerely believe anyone can be anywhere in Yosemite, turn, point their camera at an upward angle and get what I think would do for a National Geographic Cover Shot. See? Just look up and there's a shot.
Day one we started our tour with Mariposa Grove. We played the soundtrack of the PBS special on the Civil War and shortly afterwards found out it was Abraham Lincoln who put aside the Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley lands for California to protect – long before California was even a state. Later it was John Muir & Teddy Roosevelt that took the lands back and made Yosemite a National Park so we can still admire the beauty of the place. Here are Joann and Gene posing with an eensie, weensie - as Sequoias go - tree.

We drove through the granite tunnels (with Jo happily honking the horn) and took in views of El Capitan from above, and then from below on the Yosemite Valley floor. We watched the late summer waters cascading, wind blown down Bridal Veil Falls. Gene recalled when he was a kid seeing the burning logs tossed off the falls after sundown to thrill the spectators below. That must have been awesome.

We parked and took the Yosemite tour bus for a little trek that took us to the Awanee Hotel and the main visitor’s center where we toured a Miwok Village.

Outside the Visitor Center (see it at the base of the mountain in the picture above?) first a mule deer buck, and then a doe and her spotted fawn wandered so close I had to back up to get a photograph of the fawn.

I’ll be the first to tell you the animals at Yosemite, are not as diverse in species as those at Yellowstone - which I admit, still owns my heart – but the Yosemite critters seem to just romp out of the forest at every turn to pose for my camera.

Late in the day as we headed back to where we were staying at the Apple Creek Inn at Fish Camp, we passed a golf course near the grand old Wawona Hotel. There we spotted a mule deer buck. I barked out instructions for Joann to stay in the car, least the buck run off. Seconds later I was leaning over a wooden fence taking picture after picture of the buck who showed no shyness what-so-ever. I sheepishly told Joann she could ignore my instructions and get out the car. That buck posed like a pro and we spotted a second buck nearby, one with his impressive antlers still in velvet. This photo, astoundingly enough, was taken with my 55mm lens.
The bucks were so bold and so unafraid of people; the only photo hazard was avoiding photographing the golfers in the background. This buck's impressive antlers are still in velvet.

It was a lovely day in Yosemite. Not hot, not cold, just right. How could I have stayed away from Yosemite for so long?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Best Wedding Eh-Vah! Phil & Krista Tied the Knot Yesterday

Yep, went to the best wedding ever yesterday. It was for the son of my childhood friends Joann & Gene. Why do I say it was the best wedding ever? Ok, not just because I'm a big sack of sentimentality, but because... (oh, and I'll have to choose my words carefully here since I've been to many of y'all's weddings...):

1. It was held in a forest – not a church, gymnasium, rec hall, it was in a lovely green mountain forest on a wooden quite pretty & serene boat dock (wish I had pictures of that);

2. The bride & groom said cool stuff to each other about being best friends, which they are, and which to my mind ought to be the first requirement for marriage; friendship, not lust. The groom held the bride's hands and after repeating cool stuff, said ‘I do’ & put the ring on the bride's finger. Then the bride held the groom’s hands and said the exact same things, ring, etc.;

3. The vows were said under a gorgeous, huge, garden arbor that Phil (groom) made and brought up for the occasion. The workmanship was incredible. I didn’t have my camera with me at that point or you’d HAVE to see a photo. It included the engraved crests of both families. Honestly – it was remarkable;

5. The priest had the audience promise to help the couple remember their vows etc. and the Audience said ‘We Do’! That was like soooo very wonderful, t’wasn’t a dry eye on the pier;

6. The bride & groom were so happy they were smiling, laughing, crying through the ceremony. Only ever saw such a happy couple getting hitched one other time; several kids and many happy moons ago when my cousin Dovin & his wife Jackie married (it was so cool, they held lit candles as they said their vows to each other). Both couples were the sort of matches you just know were preordained somewhere in heaven, the universe or both;

7. The ‘you may kiss the bride’ statement kiss was the freakn’ sexiest, Frenchy, ‘wholly crap does Phil know his mama is watching this?’ wedding kiss I’ve ever seen. Two thumbs - God only knows what else was - up;

8. The bride & groom’s Labrador dog, their surrogate daughter, was the ring bearer - she was howling good too;

9. Two words: free bar;

10. Reception, up the short slope from the lake, in a Yellowstone-ish sort of Girl Scout Camp log recreation hall;

11. Three more words: barbeque reception dinner;

12. Just after dinner a sentimental music (think Izzy playing ‘Over the Rainbow on ukulele – pictures of bride, then groom growing up, then pictures of their lives together thus far. It must have sent at least half the hall boo-hooing with the sentiment of it all. You have never seen so much running mascara in one spot unless you viewed the losers of the last Little Miss Tart-lett kiddie pageant;

13. Wedding party getting down and dirty for some dancing in the cabin hall, mostly those under thirty who could still bend in more than one direction without risking injury;

14. Us old(ish) folk building a campfire, having loads o’ fun spitting mouthfuls of brandy into the flames to see the flames billow (how rich was that? Brandy fer spittin’ AND fer drinking!); and

15. Making paper balls out of the paper that topped off the fancy white linen from the tables and we tossed the balls into the fire for points. Mine kept bouncing off the logs; you’d be surprised how much skill it took.

I mean, what more could you want? A formal wedding that wound up into a bitchn’ party campfire scene AND nothing anywhere but happy people. I wonder what the rental shop will think when they get back the groom’s party’s smoke scented tuxedos? Like I said, best wedding Eh-vah!

I figured out Phil's parents and I've been friends about forty years now - count 'em, FORTY! It's stranger still when you realize that Joann and I are not a day over thirty.

I'm sitting here waiting for Jo & Gene to come down from Nevada City where they've been for the wedding & such the last few days. They'll stay with me tonight and tomorrow we're headed down to Fish Camp (yes, fish camp!) from which we'll tour Yosemite for a couple of days. You'll be hearing about that later in the week.

Friday, September 15, 2006



Are you ticked off as much as I am? Cell phones just do not ring long enough any more! They ring only long enough for your ears to pick up 'something is calling you'.

When my cell phone rings the race begins, me tripping over furniture, racing toward the NOISE, and/or stumble through crap on my desk for where-the-ef is the acursed phone. And just at the point I find the thing and open it - the ring stops, at which point I give the cell a flying lesson. Weeee! Across the room it sails until if makes contact with the wall or a startled cat.

Ok, I don't throw the cell, it costs too much to do that, but that is what I want to do with all my heart. Why don't phones ring 30 seconds giving you time to answer? Mine rings only long enough to make me a serious candidate for anger management training.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Quick Whine

Damn, damn, DAMN! How did it happen? I am down to sixty-nine vacation hours! Mind - normally sixty-nine is one of my very favourite numbers but NOT when it represents the sum total of vacation days on the books.

I seldom drop below 100 vacation hours but this year a lot of time was eaten up by trees ripping the electrical wiring out of my house, feckless daytime burgularies and such, including some degree of self-stupidity, such as me taking time off work to do things at home. STUPID!

I am going to use up a couple of holiday 'credits' and two days of vacation next week when I go to Yosemite for a few days with friends Joann & Gene - my oldest buddies from when my parents and I moved to San Diego in the last stone-age. More on that upcoming vacation next week.

Meanwhile I'm getting ready for having company on Wednesday night. Must continue backhoeing the 'stuff' on the dining room table.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My Birthday Week Comes to a Happy End

Ok, Wednesday, the 6th was my birthday, and though I went out of my way to not celebrate it, it was celebrated very, very nicely, thank you very much everyone. I got loads of cards and prezzies in the mail and I as amazed and felt like I did not deserve such attention.

The fun started last Saturday when I went to that dinner & a movie with Mommy Nancy and ended last night with my second birthday dinnerat a Korean Restaurant for barbeque with Jeannie & Ron - poor things, I nearly chatted their ears off. Those two are always friends to me, above and beyond the call of duty. I've always said if there is one thing in my life I've had phenominal luck with it is in my friends - and Jeannie & Ron are the proof of it. If I had that kind of luck with men I'd be married to Bill Gates.

We had a really good time and there were loads of prezzies for me; a cute window mounting bird feeder with a birdie-motion monitor & a lovely, curli-que Harry Potter drinking straw - a far bigger hit with me than I will admit to. I am sipping iced tea through my straw as I type.

There was also a lovely bouquet of orange lilies (which look so marvy by the new sofa that I may have to keep flowers on that spot for the remainder of my natural life, AND this...

Isn't it adorable? The cake measures three inches on each side which means as soon as I am finished with this post, I am going to eat my entire birthday cake all by myself! Sorry, none for you. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Four Degrees of Separation

It is said for each person on earth, there are no more than six degrees of seperation between them and everyone else on earth. I thought that was crap but then I found out I was only 3 degrees from a great star of my childhood. I am a friend of Don Peri (1st degree), who is a friend of Ollie Johnson (2nd degree) who is the artist who animated Bambi (3rd degree). Finding out I am only 3 degrees of seperation from Bambi was a humongus thrill for me and I revel that I am just two pen strokes and a wooded glade from the critter whose movies still make me tear up.

I am only 3 Degrees of Seperation from Bambi
I was thinking of the six degrees of separation thing since yesterday when I found out my friend Don Pendelton (1st degree) has an acquaintance (2nd degree) whose son-in-law (3rd degree) went to school in Australia with Steve Irwin (4th degree). I am only four degrees of seperation form a hero of mine, Steve Irwin - the Crocodile Hunter. Crikey - talk about your tearing up!
Of course as a ravid environmentalist and lover of all-things-creepy-&-crawly, Steve Irwin ranks high in the heart of anyone who loves wildlife. On September forth a freak accident ended Steve's life. I've grieved along with millions of others who have adored the guy as much as I do. Who didn't love to see the Crock Hunter, with that happy Aussie face, holding up some godawful- deadly poisonous or aspiring to be deadly poisonous creature, while he reverently cooed, 'Isn't she beautiful!'
That always cracked me up. Steve was genuine - he would coo at those scaly critters with a love and genuine devotion in his voice that is normally only extracted from men on the night of their honeymoon.

It is marvellous knowing I was only four degrees of seperation from such a great guy. To Steve Irwin there wasn't a gangly lizard, a tooth crock or poisonous lizard out there that wasn't lovely. And through him millions of people around the world began to see in those same scaly critters for the wonderous marvels Steve saw knew they were. In the past day or so some culmudeons who say the Crock Hunter's penchant for leaping onto the backs of crocks or flinging himself at venemous spiders and such was exploitation of wildlife, plain and simple. What a crock of the non-scaly sort! That man never leapt on a critter unless he was either transporting it to a safer local, taking it into custody for educational purposes or, gods forbid, just enjoying the beauty of it. I believe the bloke hadn't an exploitive bone in his body. To my mind Steve's best skill was not that he wrassling wildlife. His best talent was his skill at urging even the most squeemish, reluctant or hard core people to appreciate wildlife. You would watch him dandling that Gabon Viper by its tail as he told you why the critter, though poisonous, was a marvel to behold and had a important place on our planet - and by God, was beautiful. He could turn people onto the sort of wildlife that are not easy to love. I mean, anyone can convince people to love animals with a fluffy Bambi sort of charm, but Steve could make people love & appreciate creatures the other critters out there; the ones with low profiles, smelly breath, bellies that were dragged over hot desert ground and eyes that stared cold, yellow and without the benefit of eyelids or lashes. Thank the Crock Hunter for millions of people who now know the value of snakes, lizards, crocodile and mammals Tasmanian Devils and the like - critters that are far from cute or cuddly.
Turning people onto the less cuddly wildlife, educating, protecting animals and their habitats - that is how Steve filled the scant 44 years we were allowed to have him with us. He sparked appreciation for all wildlife in the hearts of millions and millions of people. We loved him and he was taken from us by a freak accident by a creature he was probably admiring even as it did him in.
Steve Irwin - Crikey! Wasn't he beautiful?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Birthday Treat: Dinner and a Movie

No Whine and Pine today after all. My ankle is right as rain again. Mommy Nancy called and we decided on dinner and a movie. So late afternoon we went to the Tower Theater and saw Little Miss Sunshine. We both enjoyed it, with Nancy alternately laughing and boo-hooing throughout the movie; having just returned from a family road trip she could easily relate. I got no deep meaning out of the film for myself, it just made me laugh, particularly when the little Miss did her show stopping dance at the end of the movie.
After the movie we went right next door to the Tower Cafe Restaurant. I love it there, lovely atmosphere and desserts to die for. As my birthday is coming up, Nancy treated me, which was sweet of her. She had the Irish Guiness beef stew, I had the Jamaica Jerked Chicken with cool citrus dipping sauce, both our dinners washed down with lovely draft beer. It was nice being able to catch up on our summer vacations without having to do the usual wolfing down of lunch and fleeing back to work inside of 30 minutes. Nancy & the family took a family road trip north to Cor d' Lane Washington. Sounded like fun - two parents, 2 young high school boys - all in all there trip was a tad reminisant of Little Miss Sunshine.
The Tower Theater & the marvelous Tower Cafe next door (red striped awning)

When I dropped Nancy home I went in to see their new telly - a humongous lovely flat screen. Eventually Rick came home with Tippy the dog, and after a while Adan came home. Never saw Diego because he's at the age where you practically have to make an appointment to catch him home on a Saturday night. Adan cracks me up because he is at the awkward, stretched out like taffy stage. He is tall and thin but I can still see that cute chuffy boy he used to be. What a good natured kid he is. Time really flies; Diego is a senior this year and Adan will be starting at high school this year - YIKES! They'll be at the same school for one year.
I had thought I would just drop Nancy off and trot home but after a week in Flu-Isolation, it was marvelous getting to hang around to chat and watch tv with the family. I totally needed a 'human fix', specially with such nice humans.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back Among the Living

Hurrah! It is Friday and I returned to work for the second time this week. Apparently my return on Wednesday was a tad premature; I was still running a low fever and my body was totally out of sorts.

I really was quite crippled on Wednesday night and I crutched around the house, sobbing and feeling throughly sorry for myself.

Don't you feel sorry for me because I've buckets of self pity littered around the house just now. I went to the Medical Center Thursday afternoon, by which time I was limping sans crutch so the problem that caused me to make the emergency appointment was no more.

Am supposed to accompany new friends to Napa this weekend for a Wine & Dine tour with outlet shopping & fancy Italian restaurant for lunch, however am considering staying home instead for the Whine & Pine Bore that features old AMC movies, day old pasta for lunch and loads of grumbling on my part. I'll let my ankle decide for me how I will spend Saturday.