Those of us who survive the warm up, set off at a gentle pace and look at the ducks. The weather has been perfect with clear skies and ideal walking temperatures. First time I have been walking for a year or so when sweat stains have not besmirched my T-shirt as soon as I set off. Very pleasant.
The guys are all retired, all gracious, have had full lives and have many excellent stories. The best company.
Some might say that it is a pity that immediately after the walk, we go to a diner for a huge breakfast.
This tends to undo the benefits of the previous hour but the pleasure is intense.
Anyway, thanks guys for letting me join!
The great event of the week is the arrival of my 2022 parking ticket. This allows me to park the truck in front of the house. Difficult to explain how much looking for a parking spot misery and pain this little rectangle of yellow plastic cures.
The title is in the French language and refers to pig behavior. They roll around, wallow, in muck.
In France, I seem to remember that the expression refered to staying up too late, drinking far too much, smoking too much, sleeping on the floor in strange places, clothes unwashed.
Most people’s perversions take place late at night. They slip out at dusk, looking over their shoulder to take part in, to me, inconceivable debauchery.
My perversion takes place early in the morning. At 06:30 I am found, unwashed, hurrying up the Panhandle Park towards that immortal den of depravity, the Kezar Pub. There I join other twisted folk. We grunt recognition of our mutual difficulty and settle in to watch international Rugby matches.
Smiling waitresses swoop around with armfuls of Full Irish Breakfasts and pints of Guinness.
Buoyed by being in the company of other weirdos, we guzzle beer very early in the morning. We chew our way through 3 eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, beans, hash browns, toast. We have no shame. We roll around squealing, oinking and having the best time.
England win – boo. Ireland win – congratulations! Slight regret as it seems right that the All Blacks always win. When they lose, I feel this is a bad omen.
The games are finally over and we sneak out, looking left and right, to check there is nobody we know outside.
I find my way home. I make it down Haight stinking of stale beer. Actually, most people seem to stink of stale beer, or worse.
I get home at 12:30 and decide that a little nap would be a good idea. I wake at 17:30.
Son James makes wonderful planters modeled from the top bit of a female. I do not wish to be accused of titillation nor branded a pornographer. Nor do I wish the blog banned on the grounds of lubricity.
I must watch my step.
Thorax must be one of the least sexualized words, so I will use it during this cameo and hope to avoid censure.
We plant out a couple for my room.
Nearly all the succulent cuttings were filched from the many succulent gardens outside houses in the neighborhood.
My truck thinks too much. I have noticed that she can spend days on end without moving but just philosophizing. This leads to the pale cast of thought syndrome that has settled on her headlamps.
Her headlights are very dim. I take the truck to a shop expecting replacement and expense.
Not so; the guy explains that the headlight lenses are plastic and over the years become oxidized and murky. He produces a buffer and some compound. Three minutes of buffing later the area he is working on is extra transparent.
“$75 for each lamp.”
No way! I say I will think about it and scamper home to do it myself.
Bebo, Ron and I go for lunch at the University Club of San Francisco. Bebo is a member so we less distinguished folks can get in.
Early 20th Century building downtown on Powell. Inside it is brown leather and old wood. I think they took London gentleman’s clubs as models. Great balcony outside the dining room that overlooks downtown San Francisco. We drink margaritas in the warm sun.
It is wonderful. Sit in sun listening to the cable cars clattering by on Powell down below.
Sip perfect margaritas while swapping ‘Old Timer’ stories. Lots of jollity.
We go inside to dine. Stiff white tablecloths, heavy cutlery.
We drink more margaritas and water. We linger at the table.
So, off I go for a northern adventure. It is a race against time as it is already late October and snow will soon cover the uplands. You know how it goes. I will get stuck in some lonesome canyon. The snow covers the truck and I am found next Spring.
Things do not start well. I recharge the camera’s battery. The battery compartment is closed by a flap that hinges on two small plastic spigots. I manage to break these spigots. The battery flops around in the compartment, no contact is made to the camera’s vast electronic brain. The camera is useless.
James is good at fixing things. He straps the flap down with industrial duct tape. This seems to work.
I drive to Colusa and check out the wetlands. Lots of birds, especially White Fronted Geese.
No Snow Geese.
However, it is very hard to photograph. The tape does not hold up the battery flap firmly enough and I have to press it up with my thumb. However it is touch and go. The connection is often lost and the best photos escape. Very frustrating.
Peaceful night in the Colusa campground. Back in the camper!
My phone rings. It is a friend from Okinawa on a Line video chat. She is looking for something in my apartment and we are able to track it down using video. One moment I am in a lonely North Californian camp site, the next I am walking around my place in Okinawa. Great image quality, no sound lag and it is free. I do not understand.
Up early and back to the Colusa Wetlands Nature Reserve.
I then zoom up to the Sacramento Wildlife Reserve. On the drive I spot a skein of Snow Geese flying alongside. Hooray! Maybe the first of the year.,
I potter around the reserve, there is so much to see. I curse all Nikon battery compartment flaps.
I then head for Lassen Volcanic State Park. I had been here before but it was closed. 20 feet of snow. This time I check the website before setting off. The Park is snow free. All has changed when I get there. It has snowed for 2 days and accordingly all roads in the park are closed. Rats.
A touch downhearted, I head North towards Lower Klamath Wildlife Reserve. Bald Eagles! As the afternoon advances, the weather worsens. I find a campsite by a lonesome, lonesome lake in the hills. It is cold, getting dark, there is snow on the ground.
Just after I pop up the camper roof, rain pours down and wind howls through the trees. It is grim. I only have a soggy tuna sandwich.
Basta! I head to Redding to get a warm, motel room. It is a long drive in the dark and driving rain. The Tacoma’s headlights are very weak.
It is dreadful. I go to 7 motels, all full, before I find one with a massively overpriced room. I am helped by a young lady who refers to me as “Old Timer.” The motels are all on different sides of the Freeway, necessitating endless complex navigation in the dark that often goes wrong. Not fun.
I head North the next morning. Crater Lake Oregon is my target. I am driving North in driving rain and it is only going to get worse. I check the weather – heavy rain turning to snow. Oh dear. I give up. I am just too late. I will have to wait for Spring to savour Crater Lake.
I head for the coast where the weather is supposed to be better.
It pours as I make my way through hundreds of miles of Redwood forest. Very scenic, very deserted, very wet, lots of deer.
I spend the night near place called Legget.
There is nothing to see really. The cloud covers the tops of the trees and the sea is hidden by mist.
I head home. I see a nice Anna’s Hummingbird at a gas station.
I am afraid I mistimed my trip. A few days earlier and it would have been sunshine and blue skies but things change rapidly in them, there hills.
There is something very pleasing about settling in. My room has been communal for the last 10 months, housemates using it for study, reflection, playing with the cat etc. I move stuff out and restart the room with my preferred settings. I feel a bit doggy; turning round and round in my basket until it is just right.
The window panes are filthy. Luckily James has a extendable pole thing and he lashes together a perfect high window cleaning device.
Beautifully clean windows allowing me to sit on my couch and watch the world go by in the Panhandle Park.
James has just come back from a week long adventure in the truck. We take her to the local carwash for her annual shampoo and set.
I go to Apple store on Chestnut to get a new iPad. These places are normally packed, not today, there is hardly anyone there.
On the way home, I get off the bus a few stops early so I can walk by the “Painted Ladies.”
James takes me to the sailing jacket shop to buy a sailing jacket. It turned out that my previous jacket did not keep out the rain at all even though it looked like it did. Impossible to get a replacement in Japan because I am grossly fat and generally big. Not the case here. I have a wide choice of suitable coats. Hooray!
” What do you mean 5 months? You will be away for 7 nearly 8 months!”
October 12 2021 to 10 May 2022. She is right. I had always told myself and indeed everyone else that I would be gone for 5 months. Where did I get that number from? 7/8 months seems, well actually is, a much longer time. Oh well.
The trip is fantastically easy. I had been dreading all kinds of Covid related hassle but there was none. Checking in at Naha, the wonderfully polite ground staff says, “Could I see your PCR test please?” That was all for the whole trip. Perfect flights, only slightly jaded by the fact that they stopped serving alcohol in the ANA lounge in Haneda at 8:00 pm. I got there at 8:10 pm.
I slept all the way to San Francisco. The airport is deserted. I leave my seat, walk to immigration, no line, the guy smiles and says”Welcome home sir.”
My bag is the first to appear and 15 minutes after getting off the plane, I am standing outside. No PCR check, nothing about self isolation.
I have done some consultancy work and receive a nice chunk of cash. I determine to spend it on the finest food and wines for a farewell, farewell dinner. I am off to California in a couple of days and will not return for 5 months.
First to Hanada san’s amazing wine shop. She is so sweet. She gives me a Furoshiki and a very tender card.
Arisa and I go down to the Itoman fish market to stock up. Best sashimi and truly unbelievable fish soup. The latter is more like a stew and consists of a lot of fish bones and crab shells.
A main reason for enjoying these dinners so much is that I can use the beautiful silver cutlery that I used as very little boy and indeed my mother used when she was a little girl etc. etc.
We foregather and drink very rare champagne style sake.
Next comes octopus coctel. This is a Mexican dish that cannot be beat.
Onto the Foie Gras, which Arisa san cooks to perfection.
We are all getting very full but are driven to continue.
Completely over the top. I will only eat lightly boiled eggs and drink water for the next week.
What a wonderful evening. Thanks to Tim and Mary for the cake, thanks to Izumi sensei for the great wine, thanks to Ichiro san for the beautiful pears, thanks to Arisa san and Tomomi san for their support and expertise.
But in the end, is there any greater pleasure than sitting around a well furnished table with good friends and laughing?