Subtle Hustle

1. As reported earlier, Marcia and I returned from Spain (yet again) in the middle of last week. We spent a couple of days getting our body clocks back in order; I always find that harder when making a long trip from east to west, rather than the other way around. Then we have had several days of what passes for awful weather here (i.e. balmy and pleasant winter days in Albany, Chicago or Des Moines), keeping us more housebound than we’d like to be. The day after tomorrow, Marcia and I are hitting the road and the airways again, this time to Hawai’i’s big island for two weeks. During the first week, I will be participating in this writing workshop, and in the second week, we’ll be joined by Katelin and John for some less structured family time in Kona. When I originally retired from my President/CEO job at TREE Fund in late 2019, I had booked or been awarded positions in three writing workshop type events (most notably, Ideas Island), but as with so many other things, those events were quashed in the Anno Virum. I’m participating in the fiction component of this writing workshop, figuring that my non-fiction writing has been far more widely published (more on that below) than my stories-based work. We’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful for some good connections and tips on the marketing and sales side of the equation, since that’s the stuff that I hate to do for my own work, as much as I like and am good at marketing and selling other things. In any case, we’ll be getting some nice weather and good family time, so those are pluses in any equation.

2. Speaking of TREE Fund, in an unexpected turn of events, I’m working for them again in a consulting/advisory role, per this notice. My role is to assist the Board of Trustees with the search processes for two key positions, and to provide interim staff leadership until those positions are filled. It has been interesting to re-step into shoes that I thought I had set aside permanently. I know a lot of my readers here are seasoned nonprofit professionals, so if you are interested in taking a look at the two roles we need filled, either for your own purposes, or for the benefit of colleagues who might be seeking new challenges, I’d be most appreciative. One of the roles (President/CEO, i.e. my old job) is not geographically specific, and can be done from anywhere, as TREE Fund went to a remote, non-brick-and-mortar structure after I left, and after the coronavirus started running the show. The other (Operations and Governance Assistant) is a remote job, but does require at least weekly access to TREE Fund’s legal Naperville, Illinois mail drop, so there are some geographic considerations there. And since I’m working on the organization’s behalf again, I’d be remiss in not sharing the fact that Tour des Trees 2023 rider registration is now open (the peloton and crew will be going from Reno, Nevada to the California coast south of the Bay Area), and that you can support the mission of TREE Fund any time with tax deductible gifts here. I’ve always appreciated your collective support of my charitable causes in the past, and hope you might be moved to continue that trend of philanthropic benevolence as a statement of support for the current staff and volunteers, and those we hope to hire over the next few months.

3. And then speaking of my non-fiction writing, I’ve received the final galley proofs on my forthcoming book, Side by Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves, written in collaboration with my Naval Academy and Supply Corps School classmate and friend, Rear Admiral Jim McNeal. It’s nice to get to this point of the process and see just how the whole thing’s going to look in print, and I’m quite pleased at the layout and editing done by McFarland Books, our publisher. While the release date has been slipping around a bit, Amazon is currently showing it available on March 14. It may be sooner, it may be later, based on the number of times we’ve seen the date shift since submitting the manuscript last year, but given the point where we’re at with final edits and indexing, we know it’s going to be soon. (Note that the Amazon page for the book has some inaccurate holding pattern information blocks, most notably on page length, so I presume that will also be updated in weeks ahead). I’m trying to get the indexing done before we head to Hawai’i, though it’s fairly time-consuming and painstaking work, so that may be over-ambitious. That said, I’m about 70% through the 225 page manuscript, and the index I have created is already over 20 pages long, containing nearly 800 specific entries. (!!) That’s a lot of people, places, and things, and I think it all makes for a rich and well-researched text. (Of course, I would think that, wouldn’t I?)

What’s it all about, beyond the summary blurb on the websites linked above? Here is a scan of the Table of Contents (in two images over two pages, that jog in the formatting is not in the book), showing the specific stories we share at length in the text:

It was fun and interesting to write, and I’m hopeful that others will find it fun and interesting to read. You can pre-order it from the outlet of your choosing if you’d like, and Jim and I would be most grateful for such expressions of interest and support. We’re already pitching our next collaborative book project to publishers (it has to do with extreme rites of passage through history), so if you’ve got any good leads for us, holla!

Home From Spain (Yet Again)

Marcia and I made it back to our VOC digs this afternoon after a wonderful two-week trip to Spain, the foreign country we’ve visited more often than any other, except Canada. (Marcia actually spent a whole semester in Spain while in college, so it takes first place in overall time abroad for her, if not in number of trips). We spent the first part of the trip in Madrid, then went north to areas we’ve not visited before: Bilbao (and its suburb, Getxo) and Zaragoza. Then back to Madrid for a few more days, with a bus-trip over to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. We returned to some places we’ve loved before in Madrid, and also found some new favorites this time around. It’s a big, grand city, with lots to experience. And then we had a great time exploring the cultural treasures in Pais Vasco and Aragon, both ancient parts of the country with very distinctive histories of their own. We once again greeted a new year abroad, having done so before in Paris and Reykjavik. And we ate a ton of delicious food, most of it involving cod or various types of crustaceans or anchovies for me, with Marcia leaning a smidge more toward the terrestrial meat side of the equation.

I’m pretty whipped from travel and from what I think are still after-effects of COVID, and don’t really have the brain-power to write a big essay today, so will just post my photo album for now. If anything piques your curiosity there, ask in the comment section and I will be happy to explicate at more length. I may do so anyway here in a day or two, once my jets are less lagged. Marcia and I are off to Hawai’i for another two-week trip in ten days, so it feels great to be home for a spell of relative rest and relaxation. But, then, as good as it feels to be back in Arizona, we can tell that this was a great vacation, because we are already planning our next trip to Spain, rather than feeling sick of being there after two weeks. We’re thinking next time we’ll do a car journey, either from Bilbao west to Galicia, or from Barcelona around the Mediterranean coast through Valencia and Malaga. Decisions, decisions! We know we are most fortunate to be able to ponder them.

You can click on the image below of me interacting with Richard Serra’s monumental art at the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum to see the complete album. It’s a slightly bigger one than I normally post as a single album, so if you want to see the whole thing, you can click through to the second page at the bottom of the first one . . .

¡Hola, 2023!

Marcia and I greeted the New Year last night in the mobbed periphery of Madrid’s historic Puerto del Sol, which serves as Spain’s own Times Square for purposes of counting down the final seconds of one year, then welcoming the next one with fireworks and festivities. We both completed the Twelve Grapes ritual, eating a dozen green globes between the first and last tolling of Sol’s central clock tower, thereby guaranteeing us good fortune through 2023, per local tradition. It was exciting and interesting to be in the midst of such a felicitous public assembly.

This morning, we rose early and took two trains northward, one high speed to Zaragoza, and one not so high speed on to Bilbao. This is our first time in Pais Vasco, and both the countryside surrounding and the capitol city of this autonomous community are lovely on first day’s blush. We’ll be visiting Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum tomorrow, and we have two good meal options reserved to inundate in this region’s rich culinary traditions.

I’ll do my usual photo album of this entire trip when we get back, but as an interim teaser, here’s a bonus installment of my 10,000 Words series, featuring ten pictures taken during our first five days in Spain, in no particular order. We’re not even halfway through this vacation, which feels really great, for our first trip abroad in three years. We’ve got plenty more to see and learn about and eat. And then eat some more. Yum! (As always, you can click any photo to enlarge it, should you so desire).

2022: Year In Review

Marcia and I will be heading to Spain (our first international trip since COVID) a couple of days after Christmas, so today seems like a good point to sit and settle up the scores for 2022 here at my website, as I normally do at this time each year, plus or minus a few days. Unless I get ambitious, or someone I care about deeply passes away soon, this will likely be the final post of the year, for better and/or for worse.

ON THE BLOG:

In 2020, I surprised myself by publishing 147 posts, the most I’d done since the Poem-A-Day Project in 2004. Retiring from full-time work certainly gave me more time to write, as did COVID-driven cancellations of planned travel, and the need to fill socially isolated time in some satisfying and/or productive fashions. I followed that high-water mark with another 120 posts in 2021. Even with that smaller number of entries, the overall site readership trend remained positive, as I think the coronablogus effect was still in full play throughout that year. But I did seem to hit a wall at the end of 2021, tiring of some of my then-ongoing features, and noting in January of this year that I might be w(h)ithering a bit hereabouts. That did indeed prove to be the case, as this post is number 54 for the year, more than a 50% reduction in my recent annual output. But, thankfully, readership numbers didn’t decline anywhere near that level, so my per-post hits were actually higher than ever, per the chart below. I’ve operated this site and domain since 1995, but prior to 2015, I split my writing between a variety of sites with a variety of hosts, so there’s no easily meaningful visual comparison to make from those times. (Actual numbers are  edited out, as it’s tacky to share them, and the trend line is what matters to me; the light-blue pipes are total unique page visits, the dark-blue pipes are total unique visitors):

As I report each year, here are the baker’s dozen most-read articles among the new posts here over the past twelve months. So if you’re new-ish to my site, or just finding it via this post, then these are the things that readers thought were the best in the vote-by-numbers, and therefore might be the best things to explore further. There’s a bit of everything in the mix, tone-wise, which I suppose is just fine and dandy:

And then here are the baker’s dozen posts written in prior years that received the most reads in 2022, shared to the same recommended pointing reason. It always fascinates me which of the 1,200+ articles on my website interest people (or search engines) the most, all these years on since the first 1995 post on the earliest version of this website. (Note that I exclude things like the “About Me” page or the generic front page from the list, even though they generate a lot of my traffic). “The Worst Rock Band Ever” tops the leader board, as it does most every year. And once again, here’s hoping that people realize that the perennially-popular “Iowa Pick-Up Lines” post is a joke, and also, once again, it continues to befuddle me why my 1999 interview with relatively-obscure guitarist Dave Boquist appears on this “most-read” chart almost every year, receiving far more hits, continually, than my many other interviews with many other far more famous artists. Go figger . . .

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB:

See this earlier post: Best of My Web 2022

TRAVEL:

We will see 2022 off, God willing and the creek don’t rise, in the Puerto del Sol, Madrid, Spain. We leave on Tuesday, but I’ve gone ahead and penned that trip onto my annual travel map, below. While this isn’t as heavy a travel load as we once did, it’s certainly nice to see it being populated with more red lines than were possible during peak COVID years:

RECORDINGS:

See these two earlier posts:

BOOKS:

See this earlier post: Best Books of 2022

FILM AND TELEVISION:

See these three earlier posts:

AND  THEN . . . .

. . . onward into 2023, with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I don’t know whether I’ll continue to churn out the piffle and tripe at recent levels, or do more, or so less, or what direction your collective engagement with this site will take. (One of the nice things about doing this as a labor of love, and not a labor of commerce, is that the thought of less content and/or less traffic in the year ahead does not cause me any agita). But regardless of how all of those things turn out, I will forever be grateful to those of you who care enough to continue supporting my creative endeavors, right here and right now, and I wish all of you and all of yours the very best over the days and months and years to come!

P.S. As a final tease on the final post of the year, here’s one thing that I know 2023 will be bringing, if you’d like to stake your claim to a copy:

Side By Side in Eternity: The Lives Behind Adjacent American Military Graves

Las Vegas Turnaround: Who Are You?

Marcia and I are just back from quick trip to Las Vegas to visit Katelin and John, and to see The Who live in concert. We had purchased tickets to see Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend and band in Las Vegas way back in May 2020, but, of course, like everything else during the Anno Virum, that didn’t quite go off as planned. Fortunately, we got a better late than never chance to see the show, and it was well worth the wait.

Roger and Pete were backed by their long-running and tight touring band (including drummer Zak Starkey, guitarist Simon Townshend, keyboardists Loren Gold and Emily Marshall, bassist Jon Button and backing vocalist Billy Nicholls), supplemented by a 40-piece symphony orchestra culled from the local Las Vegas musical community, and conducted by Keith Levenson. The group opened with “Overture” from Tommy and, oh my, was it a glorious piece when presented with all of that orchestral heft. (And I say that as a guy who thinks rock band + orchestra = crap, almost always). The Who played a sizable chunk of Tommy, and the climactic moments in “We’re Not Going to Take It” were similarly glorious; I almost got misty-eyed when Roger just nailed the titanic and emotional vocal summits. Then we got a collection of various interesting songs from across their catalog, sans orchestra, then a chunk of Quadrophenia with the strings and horns back onstage with the group; “The Rock,” from Quadrophenia, was just as instrumentally glorious as Tommy‘s “Overture,” both songs demonstrating how Townshend’s compositions are appealing and versatile enough to thrive in varied and various settings.

The full ensemble wrapped the evening up with a no-walk-off closer of “Baba O’Riley,” which was capped by a vibrant live lead fiddle performance in the outro from first violin Katie Jacoby, dueling with Townshend on his axe. In one of his mid-set comments, Pete noted how hard it remains for The Who to play Las Vegas, since their great bassist John Entwistle died here, just down the Strip from where we sat, making it a bittersweet tour stop for them. Daltrey and Townshend made muffled ambivalent noises at set’s end about “who know what will happen, maybe we will see you again someday.” Zak Starkey seemed to be in tears around that point, clinging to Pete, which makes me think that he might know otherwise. If this tour was the swansong for the great, great Who group, then we will get to say that we saw their final moments onstage together.

Whether that’s how it plays out or not, it was a special evening, which also featured a nice opening set from the UK’s Wild Things. Handpicked for the tour by Pete Townshend, they played their first ever show in North America with The Who at Madison Square Garden, so the rock gods have clearly smiled brightly upon them. Here are a few snaps from the show, at the Park MGM’s Dolby Live theater, which was a great space for a concert like this one, with nice sound, good sight-lines, and comfortable, adequately-spaced seating. We old rockers appreciate that. You kids get off of our lawn and out of our aisle space! (As always, you can click on any picture here to see the full-sized image):

We had a great hang with Katelin and John, as always, and we really enjoy visiting them at their new house. While it wasn’t quite warm enough for us to loll about their swimming pool, the hot tub certainly felt good in the late afternoon. There’s always great food to be had when we’re in Las Vegas, and this trip’s highlight on that front was Juan’s Flaming Fajitas, out on the west side of the city where Katelin and John live. High quality food, plentiful portions, excellent service, in a convenient and comfortable in-and-out location. Yumbo!!

Katelin and Marcia had to work on Friday morning, so John and I went out for a hike in the mid-range hills between Las Vegas and the Red Rocks State Park. Nice views, and some quirky observational experiences, e.g. we found many interesting fossils, right at surface level:

While John and I were off-trail taking a “short cut” (as most folks who have hiked with me know, my short cuts aren’t necessarily shorter, time-wise, though my straight-line navigational skills can make for some interesting crossings), we also found a weird, deep hole in the ground, emitting warm, damp air. Some sort of a thermal vent? We’re not sure, though John’s been doing some research to see if he can figure it out. Here’s what it looked like, with John added for scale:

The four of us puttered around Vegas’ Arts District one afternoon, and I appreciated the mural art there. For instance, this:

Katelin, Marcia and I also walked around the Desert Shores neighborhood near Katelin and John’s first Las Vegas house; there was a weird and unexpected congregation of cormorants along one of the lake shores. I think they’re plotting something nefarious:

And we got to meet Frank the Cat’s new best friend, Fish. They are very happy together:

Finally (well, actually firstly, chronologically speaking) we got to experience our first high-elevation blizzard of the year on the way from Sedona to Las Vegas, which I could have done without, but otherwise it was a superb trip. We are headed back over to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks for the Thanksgiving holiday. We expect it to be just as wonderful.

Sedona Biennial

Two years ago this weekend, I snapped this photo . . .

That road just behind the highway signs marks the border between Iowa and Missouri, and as soon as this picture was shot, we drove south across it, leaving Iowa for the last time after a total of six years (over two stints) as residents of the Hawkeye State. We were most ready to be elsewhere at that point, so we took the sunbeams lighting the path ahead, under the glowering skies, to be a fine portent for days and miles to come.

Three days later, I took this photo out the front window of our temporary rental house in uptown Sedona, Arizona:

Within 72 hours of capturing that scene, we put an offer on a lovely house, which was accepted, and we moved into our new digs over Thanksgiving Weekend, 2020. It’s been an amazingly packed and exciting time since then, for sure, and we remain most pleased with our choice of domicile, two years in. That’s not always been the case for us after moves in the past, so that makes us appreciate the current situation even more, knowing from experience how it feels when a new location isn’t as pleasing to us.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve done hikes to local high points that provide nice round senses of closure and capture on those two years. In the Sedona photo above, see that highest peak to the left hand side of the image? That’s Wilson Mountain. I was up at its summit recently, and here’s what it looks like gazing back down from there on that first temporary house, and beyond:

And then a few days ago, after several exploratory attempts over the last couple of years, I finally found a pretty good bushwhacking route from our house up to the eastern flanks of our friendly neighborhood volcano, House Mountain. (I’ve been there before, but always from the longer, more distant western flanks). I was rewarded with a lovely panoramic view of the entirety of our current home community, The Village of Oak Creek. Here’s that scene (as always, with any of these pictures, you can click the image to see them at full size); our house is right against and below the face of the front range of rounded red rocks to the left of the visible central massif:

And to close the two-year reminiscence, here’s what our house in VOC looks like right now, properly bedecked with signs offering our support and encouragement to our local Democratic candidates for office. We hope to take them down in a few weeks with similar smiles on our faces as to their efficacy:

Arches and Zion Whirlwind Tour

Marcia and I did a 1,200-mile long road trip over five days this week to visit two of our Nation’s more spectacular national parks: Arches (near Moab, Utah) and Zion (near Springdale, Utah). Katelin and John drove over from Las Vegas to meet us for the last couple of days at Zion, and we were able to celebrate their first wedding anniversary together, just a little bit after the official date. We had near perfect weather, and while crowds in the parks were larger than we like or are accustomed to, we know they were nowhere near as bad as they could be, so that was fine, in the grand scheme of things.

We drove up to Moab on Wednesday, taking the route through the Navajo Nation and past Monument Valley, with a stop at the Edge of Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah. We generally enjoy the various museums in our region dedicated to native arts, history and culture, and this one was a particularly good one, with some excellent interpretative exhibitions, and an accessible, well-conserved ~1,000-year old kiva from an Ancestral Puebloan community partially excavated on the museum grounds.

After we had checked into our hotel in Moab, we  decided to have a nice pre-dinner ramble along the downtown greenway trail that parallels Mill Creek, and a few minutes into the walk were shocked to see the aftermath of a 100-year flood event that had devastated the low-lying regions of the city last month, unbeknownst to us. Large swaths of the trail were still impassable, so we just altered our amble to the retail district instead, then had the first of two really good meals we experienced during our nights in Moab, at Thai Bella. We rose before sunrise on Thursday to drive into the National Park (they have implemented a timed entry program requiring advance registration, so plan ahead before you visit), and got to pass some of the park’s more prominent vistas with beautiful dawn colors behind them. We hiked about 12 miles over the course of the day, seeing (or often passing through) most of the better-known arches. A good day, capped with our second tasty dinner at Sultan Mediterranean Grill.

On Friday, we drove down to Springdale, Utah, following the same route we had taken when we helped Katelin and John move from Des Moines to Las Vegas. It was much more pleasant this time, when it wasn’t 110ºF out, let me assure you. We had a nice dinner that night (are you detecting a theme?) at Dulivia, then got up early Saturday to catch the shuttle buses into the Scenic Canyon Drive at the heart of the National Park. A sizable chunk of the hiking area I’d hope to visit was closed due to rock falls in 2019 and continuing instability in the area, but we did get in about eight miles worth of trekking, which was beautiful, if a bit congested around the sites that get the most social media hype. We closed the last night of the trip with Katelin and John’s anniversary dinner at Switchback Grill, then after a lazy breakfast together, headed home, completing the big loop part of the trip near Tuba City, Arizona.

We felt like a full day in Arches was sufficient to get the experience of the place, but could definitely use another day or two in Zion at some point, especially if some of the closed trails in the Canyon re-open. Barring that happening, we’d probably focus our next trip on the less-congested, more-isolated flanks of the park east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, and west along the Kolob Canyons. While I do certainly applaud the use of shuttles to minimize traffic and enhance conservation in the heart of the park, I can’t say I was fond of the experience of having to queue to catch them, nor of having each shuttle disgorging large loads of people with us when we exited, so that it became a race up the trailheads to get away from the less-experienced, and often obnoxiously loud about it, hikers. But that was, all things considered, a minor annoyance in a glorious piece of country.

And not to sound smug or self-satisfied, but this trip also furthers our appreciation of the place where we’ve chosen to make our home, as we’ve got some equally spectacular scenery and hiking opportunities within walking or quick driving distance. We know our home area well enough at this point to be able to partake in the best hikes and bask in the best vistas, often never seeing anybody else en route, because most online resources send most visitors to the same densely-packed photo op sites, which we generally avoid accordingly. Our visits to Arches and Zion also hammered home my sense that hikes and climbs to high, edgy destinations are much better when you’re not having to be constantly vigilant about selfie-shooters falling off cliff faces or knocking others down in their pursuit of the perfect Instagram shot. I’m very comfortable doing high elevation, exposed hikes with small groups of people I trust, but I find it pretty deeply uncomfortable to be in such places with people running along ridge edges in flip flops or clambering out on cantilevered rocks and ledges to get the perfect shot or just generally being oblivious to the safety of those around them, and the care and preservation of the sites attracting their attention. Harrumph.

No surprise, but I snapped a lot of pictures on the trip, as did John and Marcia, and I’ve put a collection together which you can check out, should you care to, by clicking on the photo below of Delicate Arch, one of Utah’s most iconic visual images. Note that no other human beings were put at risk by my photo-making activities, nor were any natural sites despoiled. Those aren’t hard outcomes to achieve, with some self-awareness and care, and some basic respect for the experiences of others.

 

Completing the Coast (Santa Barbara to San Anselmo)

Marcia and I are back home in Sedona tonight after a two-week vacation that took us from Los Angeles to Marin County, with a variety of stops along the way. With this trip behind us, we’ve now traveled the American Pacific Coast by car from the Mexican border to within a stone’s throw of the Canadian one, over the course of three separate vacations. It’s been a great experience for us, as our lives have generally revolved around the East Coast and the Midwest, so it’s been good to spend so much time in the setting sun quadrant of the country from our home base in Arizona.

I posted the first week’s worth of photos mid-vacation, here. Highlights of the second week included Solvang, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Monterey, Point Reyes, The Albany Bulb, San Francisco (including a Grateful Dead pilgrimage stop outside of their famous 710 Ashbury digs) and a pretty incredible rental home atop a vertiginous hill in San Anselmo with a formidably steep, mostly one-lane approach drive. After a few times doing it in a larger-than-optimal rental car, our white knuckles dissipated enough for us to film it. Want to see? Click here. And while you’re over at Youtube, you might also enjoy our video of some deliciously disgusting elephant seals we saw on the coast just north of San Simeon, who look like over-stuffed sausages and sound like a pile of farts. Here’s them. Glorious!

At each of our four overnight stop sites, we had what we’d consider to be a signature dinner. First up, The Lark in Santa Barbara. Then The Sardine Factory in Monterey and MADCAP in San Anselmo. The last dinner of our vacation was spent at the lovely Acquerello in San Francisco, an elegant experience with some sublime tastes as part of their four-course prix fixe offering. (We did a ten-course tasting dinner at MADCAP, which was also a wealth of wonderfulness and pleasures to the palate).

We really have gotten to enjoy the general vibe found in most of the cities we’ve visited in Coastal California, as the politics typically match our own, the climate is pleasant, and there are ample cultural and dining opportunities that align with our tastes and preferences, so I expect we’ll be going back in the years ahead. Right now, fresh off of our most recent trip, we’d probably pick Santa Barbara and its environs as our favorite California region where we’ve spent more than a single night. I mean, I’ve been happily singing Camper Van Beethoven’s song about not going to nearby Goleta for 35+ years, but I still went there and enjoyed it a lot. Sorry about that, CVB Dudes. All of that being said, we were a bit bemused-to-annoyed when we had lunch in equally nearby Montecito, the emergent hot real estate community for the Hollywood fabulous set, and we had to listen to a creepy conversation at the next table between a “casting director” older than me, and a cute-ish, young-ish actress from Brazil looking to make her mark in American cinema, apparently by spewing the most vapid narratives about her party time life to impress the old man. Ewww.

Also ewww, and the one thing we experienced in several places that we really didn’t like: the California dogs-go-everywhere fetish. We had lunch in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is known for being extravagantly pet friendly (apparently Doris Day is to blame), and I was flat out grossed out to be sitting at table in an otherwise nice restaurant with a nervous little rat dog at my feet, eating a bowl of boiled chicken available on the menu for a cool $18. Of course, dogs are sloppy eaters, so the chicken ended up all over the floor, where it was ground underfoot by the oblivious and entitled humans at the table next to us, while I tried to eat my Pasta Bolognese. Blecch! Perhaps a controversial position on my part, but I will never consider any restaurant that welcomes dogs (excluding legit service animals, obviously) to be a “fine dining” experience. (And before you feel enraged enough to comment about me not understanding dogs and how they add value to your lives and yadda yadda yadda, please know that I do understand those things, as I was raised in a household that always had dogs in it as valued family members. We just didn’t take them to restaurants with us, or deprive them of their dignity by dressing them in expensive doggy costumes).

Oh, and I think another side light to the dogs-go-everywhere thing that was amusing to me on this trip was seeing a variety of horrified and hyperbolic signs all over San Francisco about the perils associated with coyotes being sighted in the city. Ye Gods! Fetch the smelling salts, Scooby! This bemuses me because we see coyotes here all the time, including in our yard, and on our golf course, and when we hike. And I like seeing coyotes all the time. Smart and handsome animals. But I suppose I might feel differently if I was dragging a coyote snack dressed as a giant bumble bee around town on a string. Apparently many urban Californians do. Different strokes, I suppose.

Anyway . . . that bit of snark aside, it was a truly great vacation, and I snapped lots of photos as I always do. You can click on the picture of me and Marcia and San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies” row houses, below, to see the full album. Our next adventure will be in a couple of months, headed up to Zion and Arches National Parks in Utah. You know where the photos will be posted. Stay tuned!

Pretty Lady, Painted Ladies, and Some Lucky Guy.