Veins Like Whipcords

I have been on a ferocious fitness regime.

Bebo has inducted me into an exclusive workout club. All members are older, funny, live around here and are obsessive about muscle definition.

Three times a week we meet up early in the morning for yomping around Stow Lake in The Golden Gate Park.

https://www.google.com/maps/@37.7689238,-122.4745479,15.8z

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.

Grunt
Biscuits and gravy.

This tends to undo the benefits of the previous hour but the pleasure is intense.

You should see our abs!

Anyway, thanks guys for letting me join!

Some birdies.

Yellow rumped Warbler.
House Finch
It iiBrown Pelican, a young one.
Great Blue Heron
Same bird without bridge.

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.

Thank you, Doc! I feel better already.

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Se Rouler dans la Fange

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.

Perverts

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.

Oink, squeal!

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.

So healthy.

The games are finally over and we sneak out, looking left and right, to check there is nobody we know outside.

Den of iniquity

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.

Haight at noon. I am probably the only person who knows that Ireland beat the All Blacks
So there.
Well known

I get home at 12:30 and decide that a little nap would be a good idea. I wake at 17:30.

fange f (plural fanges)

  1. (literaryfilthmire
  2. (literaryfiguratively) filth, basenessdebauchery
  3. (literaryarchaicfenswamp

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Living in the City

So much fun to be had!

I go down to Stanford to have lunch with dearest Rachel.

Such a good time. The thing in the middle of the table is called a Knobkerrie.

I go to Clement St to shop. It is very similar to Shanghai.

Shop with lots of Chinese stuff.

The Chinese supermarkets have an incredible range of stuff. Essentially everything I can get in Okinawa and a whole lot more.

Beni Imo!
Excellent seafood. This is skate. Raie au beurre noir is one of the world’s best fish dishes.
I get around on an electric bike. You just point your phone at the bike and say,”Open Sesame!”

James and I take the truck up to Point Reyes to recreate ourselves.

California I love you! There is so much wildlife.

Tule Elk
Young male Elephant Seals. The big Bulls have not arrived yet.
American Kestrel
Coyote looking for a Roadrunner.
Raptor, don’t know what species.
Ringed billed Gull
White crowned Sparrow
I think this ia a flycatcher but no idea what sort.
Some kind of deer.

What a wonderful place to live. Elephant seals just 45 minutes drive from the city.

We stumble around the coastal forest looking for mushrooms. James is a mushroom expert.

Tree fungus.
The road home
Truck and KLR outside my window. Parking in SF is terrible except for James and I.
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Thorax

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.

Multiple thoraces.

We plant out a couple for my room.

James is a very skilled and experienced gardener.

Nearly all the succulent cuttings were filched from the many succulent gardens outside houses in the neighborhood.

Get one. Postage is prohibitive I am afraid.
Different angle.
Second one.
Chaste thoraces

It is raining in San Francisco.

Truck outside the house.
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Pale Cast of Thought

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.

Spot the difference

“How much?”

“$75 for each lamp.”

Before

No way! I say I will think about it and scamper home to do it myself.

Highly skilled

Such a satisfying job. Now I can go to Mexico.

After
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Clubbing in San Francisco

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.

Ron!
Bebo!
We swap stories and laugh a great deal.

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.

Turkey salad. sandwich. Bebo
Beef sandwich. Me.There is a bowl of gravy out of shot into which you plunge the sandwich to make it all gooey.
Steak salad. Ron.

We drink more margaritas and water. We linger at the table.

Thanks for the invite Bebo!

Pretty empty cable car passes the University Club
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Pitter Patter

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.

Duct tape.

I drive to Colusa and check out the wetlands. Lots of birds, especially White Fronted Geese.

Here is one

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.

Here are some more

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.

Goose yoga
Black Crowned Night Heron having a nap.

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.,

Welcome back

I potter around the reserve, there is so much to see. I curse all Nikon battery compartment flaps.

Dabchick

Great Blue Heron doing yoga
Golden Crowned Sparrow
Bobcat, a long way away
Red Tailed Hawk explains something to me.
White Crowned Sparrow
Another Red Tailed Hawk

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.

Snow in Lassen.

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.

Frozen Bear Lake before I set up camp and before the rain starts.

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.

Not really

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.

Snug with a burrito and a bottle of Chardonnay. Rain pounds on the roof all night.

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.

Hello

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.

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Settling In

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.

Notice obi on left wall. Kiyuna gave me another as I was leaving. He insisted that I take it to California. Something to do with my Mother.

The window panes are filthy. Luckily James has a extendable pole thing and he lashes together a perfect high window cleaning device.

Rinse
Shampoo

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.

Super place.
Sparkling!

I go to Apple store on Chestnut to get a new iPad. These places are normally packed, not today, there is hardly anyone there.

Nearly everyone is an Apple employee!

On the way home, I get off the bus a few stops early so I can walk by the “Painted Ladies.”

San Francisco. Great weather, no smog.

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!

Now I need a boat.
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5 Months

A friend drops me off at the airport

“See you in 5 months.” I say.

” 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.

Where I get my early morning coffee. Still take away only.
Where Mary comes from.
Pepper tree near the house.
Where I live now.
San Francisco internet speed. I get 1000 Mbs in Ginowan.

Yay 7/8 months of adventures ahead!

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OTT

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.

A good friend.
How nice of her.

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.

Before the trouble starts.

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.

This bottle has been in my fridge for many months. The fact I have not drunk it, I take as a proof that I am not alcohol dependent
The best oysters with sashimi. Wine from the Alsace.
I serve up shells and bones to an unexpecting group.
Authentic and full of bones. Remarkably the people seem to enjoy it. I think this is mainly because they can sop up the liquid with the great bread that Arisa san brought.

Next comes octopus coctel. This is a Mexican dish that cannot be beat.

This is octopus and shrimp with tomato, clamato, avocado and stuff. It is amazing
This is what we drink, not very Mexican.
Tomomi san makes a salad that melds very well into the plate.

Onto the Foie Gras, which Arisa san cooks to perfection.

With cornichon and tomato.
Very good with the Foie Gras.

We are all getting very full but are driven to continue.

Lamb chop with guacamole.
Cake, strawberry, pear
We forgot to take a picture in the heat of battle but here is the dessert wine we drank and one of the exquisite Japanese pears that Ichiro san brought.

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?

Farewell, farewell.

Thanks to Tomomi san for most of the photos.

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