Hell of a Guy
Freedom of Press is limited to those who own one - H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Fifth and Last Morning…


It is 5:57 on the fifth and final morning of our short California excursion.  Our flight leaves at 10:37 so we have a while to get ready for the five hour flight back to civilization and West Virginia, and our beloved eastern-time zone. This has been great, but we are ready for our own bed and the serenity of being home.

Yesterday we went south of San Francisco and drove down the Pacific Coast Highway (Rt. 1) to Monterey.  We did the 17 Mile scenic route through Carmel and Pebble Beach.  We stopped at the Pebble Beach Lodge and looked out over the 18th green of this storied golf course, and could not help but think of Tiger Woods and all he has done to bring himself down of late, but also the glory years of Palmer, Nicholas and so many others.

A Coldwell Banker office was located among the shops at the lodge.  Just outside its entry door was a display case with photographs of some of the properties for sale in the area.  I had to chuckle at the prices.  Of about twenty photos the least expensive house was a “fixer upper” for $4,650,000.  Many were more the $20,000,000, or about the cost of all the properties currently listed in and around Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, population 711, though in our little town we don’t get a view of the Pacific. 

After having hobnobbed with the elite for a bit, we decided it was time to step down to a more comfortable socio-economic level and find us a micro-brewery and some real people, so we did.  We located “English Ales” in Marina, California just a few miles north of Monterey where we chatted for a hour or so with some really nice people over a couple of beers and some pub food.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, check it out at http://www.englishalesbrewery.com  I th.ink you will enjoy the simplicity of a really good neighborhood bar with real down-to-earth patrons and a very friendly staff.

So here I am, a little tired and very ready to go home to The Farm.  Tomorrow it is back to the old grind – work.  I am looking forward to it.  These vacations can be exhausting and can really drag you down.  It will be nice to get back to work so I can relax.

While we have met some really nice people, and had some great food and beverages, done things we have never done before and have seen things we have never seen before and been places we have never been before, it is time to go home.  Adios, California!

And that is all I have to say about that…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Morning of the Fourth Day and a White Chevy…


Back at The Wharf Hilton on Jones in San Francisco.  Yesterday The Nancy and I came back to “Frisco” (familiarity breeds contempt) after a brief, albeit fruitful, visit to the Hess Winery in Napa Valley where we tasted some wines with strange names and blew about $300 on a case of wine that will take us six months to drink.  We got back here just in time to check into the hotel, throw on some extra clothes, and head out to Monster Stadium to see the 49ers kick the butts of the Arizona Cardinals.

It had been at least twenty-five years since I last saw an NFL game in person, and The Nancy had never been to one.  We bit the bullet and spent $166.00 for two tickets, having little idea where the seats might be located.  After a grueling trip from the hotel to the stadium in bumper to bumper traffic, we finally arrived at the stadium parking lot where we drove and drove and drove.  When we at last located a place to park we fixed some landmarks in our minds and began the hike to the stadium with hopes of finding the “Will Call” booth and our tickets.  With heightened anxiety of ever finding our car again we walked in the direction of the largest structure in the middle of a sea of thousands and thousands of cars and trucks, and we hoped just one white Chevy.

The years had very much dulled my memory of a professional game.  When you watch a game on TV the cameras will pan once in a while to some passionate fans, you know, the ones with painted faces and no shirts in freezing weather, maybe wearing some outlandish head gear or other weird attire.  When attending a game, especially one where “you don’t have a horse in the race,” these passionate fans can be a bit overwhelming and at this one they were everywhere.

$166.00 for two tickets on the Zero Yard Line , $30.00 to park a mile from the entrance, $24.00 for two slices of cold, under cooked pizza and a cup of semi-flat coke, 75,000 mostly obnoxious, screaming, finger flipping fans.  Priceless, my ass! 

We got to see all we really wanted to see, so just after the Halftime show we made our move to escape the mayhem, readily believing our departure would greatly reduce the average IQ of those we left behind.  After wadding through the mob of mostly drunk men waiting in very long lines at each of the Men’s rooms, we found an escalator to take us to the ground level from the nose-bleed level of the stadium.  On the way down we looked out over the acres upon acres of cars parked helter-skelter, we were shocked to see thousands of white cars and just knew all would be Chevys.  As panic began to set in we began looking for our landmarks and took off in that direction.

After a fifteen-minute walk weaving in and out row after row of vehicles of all colors and types and dodging puddle after puddle, we located our white Chevy parked next to another white Chevy just across from another white Chevy, hence the ensuing epiphany: this is indisputable evidence of a Higher Being and the power of prayer.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Morning of the Third Day…


This morning finds me in the beautifully appointed lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Napa, California.  It, as was The Wharf Hilton’s lobby, is very quiet.  Just me, a very large Christmas, a bunch of over stuffed chairs and a clock letting me know it is just 5:33am and I should still be in bed. We drove here from San Francisco yesterday to see the Napa Valley and the Sonoma Valley and perhaps, though I am not an aficionado, visit a winery or two.

As noted yesterday the weather here has not been the best.  Rain is moving through the region in bands of showers; some of them are nothing more than mist, others come in buckets allowing us to make very good use of the umbrellas we brought “just in case.”

We began this sojourn yesterday with a quick dash across the Golden Gate Bridge and a misty walk through the ancient forest at Muir Woods.  There is something very humbling looking up at 250 foot tall, 1000-year old trees.  My mind kept thinking about Robert Redfield’s best seller “The Celestine Prophecy” and the part of the story that takes place in ancient forest among the old growth trees.  If it weren’t for the mist and the chill in the air, I would have stayed longer to take in the ambience of the woods and the feeling of the presence of a power much greater than myself. 

It wasn’t but an hour or so into our trip before we began to see vineyards dotting the hillsides with what seemed to be miles and miles of grape arbors.  The further we drove the more we saw as the countryside began to look as if someone had drawn lines on the earth.  We did stop at one winery and walked inside to see couples seated at little round tables filled with glasses and someone apparently pouring different wines for them to taste and ultimately purchase.  Not exactly my cup of tea, as my wine knowledge goes only as far as red or white, so we just looked around a little, used the restrooms and made our way back to our rented Chevy parked amid the Caddies and Mercedes.  I had another search in mind.

We checked into our hotel upon arrival in Napa, dropped off our crap and located the local brew pub – a couple of IPA’s and a pizza and pork sandwich later, The Nancy and I came back to the room for a nap.  We are not the venerate explorers we thought we are.  We are just beer drinkers in wine country.  To us little is more enjoyable than sitting at a bar with a good beer making new acquaintances and adding to the cast of thousands that makes up our lives.  We talked and laughed with a mom and daughter teacher duo, a vintner beer drinker, a dude with a bald head and a ponytail wearing a 49ers’ jacket that likes blue cheese, but not cheddar, and kidded around with the bartenders.  We had created a Napa family in a little over two hours and had a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

After a comfortable two-hour wine country snooze we awoke refreshed and hungry and in search of a good, light meal.  Downtown Joe’s, the scene of the earlier repast seemed ideal for another round, so that is where we dined as the Eagles whooped up on the Giants and we managed to add on a few cousins to our ever growing California clan. 

This morning, once the sun comes up, and also The Nancy, we will probably head back to San Francisco.  It’s not that I don’t like it here, wine country is okay, but I am a beer guy and this place, other than incredible scenery, doesn’t hold the mystique for me that it does for wine people, and besides The Nancy and I have a date this evening with the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals.

And that is all I have to say about that…

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Morning of the Second Day


I slept in this morning.  It was almost 5:30 before my internal clock finally got me to the point I couldn’t doze any longer.  At 3:30 I was more than awake enough to get up, but that would have made for a very long day and a very early bedtime.  So here I sit in the lobby of The Wharf Hilton with my index fingers beating the hell out of these keys.

The Nancy and I had a wonderful time dodging raindrops as we peregrinated the undulating streets of San Francisco sightseeing with thousands of other weekend tourists and Christmas shoppers.  We rode the fabled cable cars – where The Nancy asked the one of the operators if we could get real Rice-a-Roni somewhere, and he denied anyone in San Francisco ever ate it.  We rode a bus, as in public transportation, to a brew pub called Magnolias in Haight-Ashbury, and met some really cool people and made observations (we don’t judge) of all the weirdoes literally littering the streets in seated and prone positions – a lot of apparent homeless people, some truly needing help, others having fried their brains with alcohol, drugs or just caught up in the past.

This is an amazing, diverse city.  We heard many languages.  We saw people of very light Nordic complexions to very dark African ones, a mixture of the oriental and the occidental, the thin and the not so thin, the tall and the short, the happy and very sad, our cast of thousands.

I saw a lady as we sat at the bar in Magnolia’s who reminded me very much of my mother and could not help but go over and tell her how much I appreciated her being there.  She was beautiful and so mom-like I regret not asking her for a hug. 
We walked around the The Wharf area with the wind occasionally inverting our umbrellas as we darted in and out of stores, and dined at Alioto’s overlooking a marina where seals frolicked in the cold waters amid the boats.  The Nancy got seafood about as fresh as it can be had.  I, on the other hand, had spaghetti with tomato sauce.  No sea critter for this non-meat-eating boy.

We “nightcapped” our day sitting at the bar at Knunckle’s where we met a guy named Larry who entertained us for a couple of hours.  We couldn’t decide if Larry was just slow or suffered from Down syndrome.  Larry is a regular who only comes on Saturday evenings for his limit of two beers.  The bartender kept a keen eye on Larry and was concerned he was making us uncomfortable.  We waved him off a couple of times as Larry got a little loud.  Larry was having fun and we were having a good time enrolling him as a friend.  People like Larry have it made.  For them life is simple as they are only able to be who they truly are.

The Nancy and I walked into the Hilton about 10:30 and giggled our way back to our comfy room where earlier in the evening, just after dark, a housekeeper entered our room as The Nancy and I were napping (truly sleeping).  She was delivering snacks and I believe we gave her a great story for her blog.

It was a wonderful day: new adventures, new friends, wet clothing and at least a dozen really good beers.  Life is good! 

And that is all I have to say about that…

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