Thursday, 18 June 2015

for a special treat, exit via the San Gregorio General Store

12 June 2015: We didn't know that we were going to the San Gregorio General Store. Perhaps few do. We had been north the day before from Berkeley to Sacramento and back. I don't know if I walked through any molecules of ancestors in Old Sacramento, My father's father's stepfather's mother married his stepfather in San Jose in about 1873, Cornish tin-mining people who had gone to California for gold and found themselves widow and widower each with three children. Just one of the boys of the widow taking the Argall name of the widower, then moving later to Australia where he came upon my  paternal great-grandmother, arrived from England, domestic servant whose prize for pregnancy was to be sent to the other end of the world in a boat. How modern.     We had left Berkeley in cool, not as cold and foggy as we could see San Francisco to be. I had on long underwear. In Sacramento the temperature had risen to 99 degrees. Next day, after checking out of our Berkeley airbnb studio we resolved to scoot east, through the fog, to get over the bridge before the Friday afternoon traffic, to be positioned to get comfortably to the airport for evening flight to Sydney...  so east we went

heading for Half Moon Bay, south, down the coast from the city.

where we saw the carpark overflowing at Sam's Chowder House and took that as a good sign.
Service lugubrious but then we were not rushing; food good—California-populist-bulky rather than nouvelle-cuisine-dainty.

We turned left from the coast highway in Half Moon Bay, but still needed to spend some time out in the air not in the airport. In this wood carving establishment a cheerful young lady whose sister is doing a PhD in Australia gave us clear and unambiguous intructions: go back to the coast road, continue south to San Gregorio, go to the General Store.

So we did as recommended and found it. This is Ms Google's street view photo. 
We were pretty well camera-ed out.
If we had found this place quite a lot earlier, we might have stayed quite a lot longer.

This, from their website, seems reasonably comprehensively accurate.

Saloon, lanterns, seeds, no television, U.S. Post Office, cast iron cookware, aspirin, advice, wines fine to rot gut, western and work clothing, groceries, hardware, bullshit, toys, cowtechnician hats, international beers, beeswax, cheesecloth, piano in-tune, books (literature, poetry, gender and environmental politics), homemade sandwiches, diapers, crockery, weather analysis, coal hods, raccoon traps, tequila (18 flavors), posters, cards, tee shirts, buttons, candles, rain gear, organic garlic, apples and butternut squash in season, live music (Irish R&B, bluegrass, original everything else).

We alas could not stay for the music, we did not need the diapers.

But I spent quite a while among the books. I bought a copy of the mysterious B Traven's novel Rebellion of the Hanged (nice student web site), set in Mexico just before the 1910 revolution. It proved to be readable on the plane, an unusual attribute for me, the nearest thing in its terrifying straight reporting style that I had read to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. On which I reflected while reading Traven, on the plane from San Francisco, wondering what might have happened if Upton Sinclair been elected governor of California in 1934.  Screwed by FDR, as I now find nicely recorded by Greg Mitchell. And discussed more thoroughly in The Nation.

Do find a moment to visit the San Gregorio General Store. If you have a heart.

Marcia Donohue's remarkable and inspiring garden in Berkeley

Our airbnb host in Berkeley very kindly offered to see if we could visit the garden of Marcia Donohue, just round the corner. A valuable history here. And with permission, we went and visited the garden in late afternoon light.

There are decades of work here, and work continuing. Note in the photos how natural and created forms are integrated. As are chickens. Inspiration for our own gardens, which are still comparatively young. We are encouraged especially by the intense and subtle use of what is quite a small garden space.

this elegant eucalypt in front of the house fitted the situation so nicely but also took us home

some fun uses of bowling balls throughout the garden
Not much fun if you don't have a bit of fun!

magical little touches

small things achieve a lot
and in time these strings fade and die,
there is a combination in the artwork of the very robust and the ephemeral

the leaf fall, so ephemeral, so much enhances the look of these pavers

and then, walking along the street, this amazing sight, a tea tree, Melaleuca quinquenervia, or rather two of them, which someone had in the past twisted together. An Australian tree gone mad in Florida, see link above.

back from the real world

We had been in Mexico and we had been buying and eating fresh foods.

while avoiding some other Mexican specialities!

and then on the United Airlines flight out of Mexico, U.S. snacks were available... but this recipe was not enticing, no more enticing than the fatty blobs which hold thrall for some Mexicans...

and then in the street in Berkeley, views of major commodities in major vehicles

but also some wonderfoods in the lovely Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley, with all the support in the world for diet issues.

Smoked salmon, poached eggs, green salad (no long chain fatty acids);
polenta with a mushroomy tomato herb sauce (no gluten),
caffe latte at correct temperature.
Thank you.

It was evident as we travelled around that food quality, fresh food rather than fast food consumption, was related to geography and affluence. As is body definition and obesity.

Somehow we did not photograph the huge pillar signs for fast food by highways but Ms Google's camera truck offers this example, one of many, on Highway 80 from San Francisco to Sacramento. There is of course a similar diet-health divide in Australia, but it is posted so much more clearly, the issues of overall body size and obesity are so much more evident in the USA. The USA is further down a shared track...

I am embedding here a relevant video lecture from UC San Francisco's Rhonda Patrick on diet and lifestyle and their impact on ageing and the brain. Again one must note that this comes from San Francisco, so geographically close to the sign above, but socioeconomically so far away... There is also mystique built around fast foods as surely habituating, or infatuating, chemical mixes in them that cause resistance to diet shift to the fresh.

We are not perfect in our approach to diet at home, but we do seek to grow some of our own food and in doing so maintain mental focus on healthy food and exercise.

and just in case we thought we were already
home, there is a painted sign on the road below...


in Old Sacramento

Monday, 15 June 2015

the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers Delta

We had 48 hours in the lovely city of Berkeley, California after flying in from Guanajuato, Mexico, via Houston and before flying home to Australia.

On 11 June 2015 we drove out of town to Sacramento and from Sacramento turned south towards Stockton...
but then had the audacity to turn off the GPS and duck down to the Stone Lake Wildlife Refuge and then to Courtland, a village on the Sacramento River.

From Courtland we followed the river south, into wonderful landscape and complex issues. This is the inverted delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Called 'inverted' because unlike most deltas, its opening to the bay is small and it fans out upstream.

In the middle of the 1700s Spaniards saw this area in flood, from San Francisco Bay, and thought it a vast inland sea. It was in fact marshland teaming with life.

In the middle of the 1800s, gold was found near here and the earth-moving, water-shifting, draining and dyke building skills of the gold miners spread to draining the peat swamps, reclaiming land for agriculture. Rich lands — but sinking below sea level as the peat swamps collapsed. The whole area now under increasing threat with rising sea levels... and subject to competing demands and regulations.

This delta is the source of water for a huge proportion of southern California. Water is currently drawn off downstream. There is controversy about the governor's wish to take off water further upstream.

There are big issues for the future: a tangle of law, regulation and politics, demands for water and agriculture, rules for the protection of the environment and pressures of human needs. This main article and at links down that page, provide a good introduction, or it did for me.

Download a pdf history and analysis of continuing subsidence and management issues, from University of California (Davis) here.
More information here and here.

Others may have comments to add.

I have assembled this little film. It reaches a climax at the vertigo-promoting but little-known Antioch Bridge.

This is a quick and personal film. I have embedded a longer documentary of importance below. Please watch!

As I recorded film clips, these CDs were playing through the sound system of the rental car.

Fishing Music, a collection of acoustic folk, blues and swing, purchased from the Thrift Shop in Falls City, WA (the shop down behind the firearms shop on the main street)

Philip Corner's Satie Slowly purchased at Amoeba Music, Haight St San Francisco.

Now here is the 20 minute movie to give you more serious background, from

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Liz's reflection on it

Still miles of San Francisco to blog and blog, but now in Mexico City with its huge energy, already a backlog here!

Liz published a comic reflecting on our holiday on Monday 25 May at thingswithout

....and gave us the original to take home.

Friday 22 May: Haight-Ashbury, what better place for the Pursuit of a Legend

In Haight-Ashbury, which has a big place in modern history, along with other revolts against various things in various places from Beijing to Berkeley, Prague to Paris, in 1968.

A place of vision, visions, some hallucinations and more.

Some remember, some can't, some pursue; while all the world's young and affluent benefit and have no great sense of battles before.

The right to turn things over is a scary and elusive thing these days.

We risk failing to realise that futures-away-from-stoopid depend on what statisticians call 'outliers', those variants that for them shoud'n be included, they get Winsorised. Variants, outliers, yells in day and night, outrage urgencies: their uprising and existence enable the general throng of people to swing wider, dream bigger, go further, find new happinesses and self-fulfilment... and also out there somewhere mutual goodwill and caringnesses. There is the wide end, the fix-worlders, there is the absorbed-just-here end. You can't have one without the other.

Back to Haight Street..

There still be dudes...

and dudettes

There's a lot of style around. We met a beautiful Nigerian family come from Lagos to celebrate their US resident son's graduation with a degree in urban planning.

We coffeed in a wonderful family run Armenian hole in the wall. Shot a little breeze with our hosts about my love of William Saroyan's stories in times past.

My companions shopped well at Goodwill

where warmth abounds and grown people conduct themselves in ways intolerable in Australia

Liz showed off the shoes she plans to buy when she gets her first royalty advance from a publisher.

I bought shoelaces for my ten year old can't-live-without Rockports, which I plan to get cleaned and polished in Mexico.

and Helen went in pursuit of that elusive LP by Ray Rivamonte, one of which, she alleges, was once seen in an American record shop.

So we went to the biggest of the indie bigs, Amoeba Music... having unknowingly but conveniently parked the Mammoth Maxima right outside the door.

The music being broadcast through the shop in this movie is fascinating... see how nearly everyone slips and slides to it, slowed down, slewed over, into the mood, into the buying groove...