Sunday, January 26, 2014

Giddy Up!

Dang, it's been a while. Truly. Like three-and-a-half wordless months a while. Don't really know how that happened, that big pause in my riveting, somewhat regular-ish online posts (and don't know why no one emailed me to personally lament the lack of said posts), but there you have it. Whatever. Ain't no problem, as now we just gotta unscrew us one big old serious bottle of ketchup. As in catch-up. As in crank that shit back up! That shit, of course, being The Headlands Report. And the New Year, the Year of the Horse. Crank up 2014. And some rain, too. Crank up some damn rain, fer cryn-out-loud, because we need some rain out here in California! "Some" meaning a whole lot, buckets and buckets. And we need it now. "Now" as in yesterday.


Okay then…So where the hell did I leave off. Oh, yeah: National Park closures and dog vomit.  (There! See? I can't believe you've been able to drink your morning coffee without this stuff, haven't contacted me for MORE.)

Gonna let pictures do most of the talking as we cover some serious ground, from that last post in early October 2013 to now, to today, to January 21, 2014, which just happens to be my beloved sister Anne's birthday (Happy Birthday, Anne!). We're twins, you know…Irish twins. Go ahead, look it up.

After we're finished here and you're up to speed (should you wish to remain up to speed), in subsequent posts we'll then explore, in a bit more depth and with more pictures, two most excellent globetrotting adventures from what I've decided to call a December to Remember (which included very little actual work). For now, tho, let's return to autumn in San Francisco.

Sometime early October: the street where I've lived for the past 16 years, Octavia Street between Lombard and Bay, was ripped up for a two month sewer replacement job (that's my building, in the middle, but my unit is in back, facing west). It wasn't such an inconvenience, but it sure was a sight! Huge mounds of dirt and asphalt and concrete and pipes and other assorted materials; a handful of grungy, orange-vested civil engineering guys doing a whole lot of nothing for hours a day; monster bulldozers and dump trucks and the like beep-beep-beeping around.   kept wondering why moms and pops in the hood weren't lining up in droves with their kids, because it was serious pig heaven for any 6 year old child!

I'd have to ask her for the actual date, but lo and behold my longtime friend//hiking buddy Lori Theis moved back to the Bay Area from southern California, where she and her husband Patrick had been living for the past 10 years. (That's her in the middle, with hubby right and another friend Heidi on the left, during a delightful tramp on Mount Tam.) "Longtime" as in we met in early 1988; when I first moved to SF she and her roommate Holly let me crash at their railroad flat on Polk Street, and were two of my first new friends in the Bay Area.

Mid-November: local, organic winter squash (butternut pictured here) starts showing up at SF Real Foods, the store where I do pretty much all of my shopping for foodstuffs and more. If case you don't know why this is important…it's because I'm crazy for winter squash. Love the shit. Fave way to cook it is like the above; simply slice the beast open, remove the guts, slather with EVOO, pop in some shaved garlic, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven. Couple a cracks of coarse pepper when finished and…Voila! Scoop out that culinary crack with a spoon and enjoy it as you stand over the stove (if no one's around) or save it for a more elegant presentation. Like with people, and at a table. If you have to.

Jump to the weekend before Thanksgiving and behold the poster/graphic for PinotFest 2013, which was created by our good family friend Mike Takich, an incredibly talented artist and art teacher in the Cleveland area.

PinotFest, should you not know, is the brainchild of yours truly: a 2-day celebration of west coast pinot noir featuring 60 wineries, several wine tastings, a wine dinner, 600 or so people, and a whole lot of camaraderie. Founded in 1999; this year was one of the best yet, a HUGE success!

And…for the first time ever some family attended the vinous festivities! Pictured here on our Sunday, post PinotFest tour of Sausalito is sister Anne, mom Ginger and niece Eleni, all from the Cleveland area. Not pictured, unfortunately, is my brother Art and his wife Patricia, who dashed in from New York City on Saturday morning, sipped some pinot noir at the big PinotFest bacchanalia, and dashed back to NYC on Sunday morning. It was a whirlwind, and it was great to see them all!

Thanksgiving 2013. I adore these people! Unfortunately I see four of them only once a year (Annette and Jim, Lori and Mark), which is a travesty, and the other two not much more (Shelley and James), which is also a travesty. A travesty because they all live just across the San Francisco Bay, in the East Bay, not in, like, Yolo County up by the Oregon border or Bumfuck Egypt, wherever the hell that is. Amazing how our lives can get in the way of our lives. Dinner this year was chez Annette and Jim, and it was utterly delicious. So tasty. So comfortable. So engaging. Plus, as you can see, we all sported some totally cool Plymouth Rock headgear, compliments of Lori the craftswomen.

December now, and yup…Madrid. With mom (that's her enjoying some churros con chocolate on our first full day), and with my cousin Betsy and her daughter Julie. Can't tell you how much I enjoyed this six-day visit to the Spanish capital, how much it surprised me, but I will in a later post, as it's part of the aforementioned December to Remember.

There they are: Besty and Julie, mom and daughter, at Sobrino de Botin, the supposed oldest still-operating restaurant in the world. It was such a blast to travel with them!

After Madrid. Back in SF for three days before my flight to Ohio. One sommie shift at Waterbar, some laundry and repacking, and a lovely Crissy Field walk to the GGB and back with part of my familia West Coast! That's Patrick and Lori, Heidi (sans her hubby Don), Julie, me and Linda.

Big jump east to Christmas 2013. Arrived in Cleveland on the 23rd, immediately started shopping and prepping for the Xmas Eve "Fish Chowdah" party chez mom and dad, which was and always is a total blast. This pic is from the day after, Xmas morning proper, which we usually spend with sister Thea and the rest of the Zimmerman clan in Cleveland Heights, so dad can get his yearly fix of the traditional candied fruit roll (which he adores, when he can remember that he adores it). New this year? The newlyweds Jake and Allison!

The Christmas eating orgy continues later that day, with dinner at sister Anne and hubby Itri's house in Lorain on the west side of Cleveland, shown here with Mr. and Mrs. Fligner, owners of THE grocery store in Lorain (and extremely generous supporters of the Lorain community). I was so happy that I was able to spend yet another Christmas in Cleveland with family (and get three inches of fresh snow on the 24th, just in time).

Now for the not so usual. On December 27th I abandoned the cold and mom and dad and hopped a plane from chilly Cleveland to balmy Orlando, the first leg of a seven-day south Florida road trip: Orlando to Crystal River to snorkel with manatees (awesome!), south to Naples on the Gulf Coast, east thru Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, down the Florida Keys, to Key West for a New Year's Eve rendezvous with sister Molly and her good friend Mike and cousin Lisa and her hubby Kenny, then back to Orlando, where I enjoyed one final dinner with another Florida cousin, Dee, who I have not seen in 30 years! 1,100 hot and humid miles, lots of boardwalk hikes thru sawgrass and swamp, oodles of birds and reptiles and dolphins and pelicans, some more time with family and friends, and my first trip to Florida since 1985(?)…I loved it!

Molly, Mike and me on New Year's Eve day in Key West. Actually 70 miles west of Key West (a 2.5 hour ferry ride) in Dry Tortugas National Park. Spent a full day getting there and back, exploring the Civil War Fort Jefferson (learning a bit of history), beach combing and snorkeling...Not! It was way too churned up to snorkel (bummer). But it was a fine adventure on the high seas and on the coral atolls that make up the very isolated National Park.

Duval Street, Key West: the most heterosexual homosexual New Year's Eve bash on the planet (more later, in a December to Remember). And the first New Year's Eve in (at least) the last 26 that I have not been working.

January 1, 2014 with Molly, Mike, Kenny and cousin Lisa (they drove down from Daytona Beach), outside our rented doublewide trailer on Cudjoe Key, before the search for a sandy beach anywhere in the Keys. Which, by the way, is an almost futile search, 'cause they are far and few between! As in like two, or three, maybe four, tops, from Key Largo to Key West…It's bizarre.

We did, however, get to see this, an actual crocodile, which is not to be confused with an actual alligator (more on the difference in subsequent posts).

And this. We got to see this as well. (Was just driving by, looking for the endangered and diminutive Key deer, and I couldn't resist.)

And this! I got to see Bruce Strong at Antonia's Restaurant on Duval Street. Bruce Strong, general manager there, and a long lost friend from 1983-ish Cincinnati, Ohio, and The Diner on Sycamore (but no longer…thanks Facebook).

Major segue...Back in Cleveland for five more days following the Florida fest, five really really butt-ass cold days, and before the return trip to San Francisco. Some excellent hiking in the snow-covered MetroParks, some Quiddler and delightful family meals, but, sorry, no snowmen this year.

Betsy, my sister Molly's girl, my niece, turned 21 years old while I was in town! Had her B-day dinner at Taki's Greek Kitchen in Lorain, Ohio, which, I gotta say now that I've been a few times, is a damn good restaurant. I like what they do, and I'm so glad I was around for Betsy's celebration.

So there you have it, cyber-peeps. I'm finished with the ramble, for now; but as I promised, more on the trips to Madrid and Florida soon. Twas a unique couple of months and a totally awesome couple of months, especially because I got to spend so much of it with family. Alas, I'm back in San Francisco now (yeah, right…"alas"; see the pic below), hoping for a stampede of rainy days but enjoying the 70-degree January with walks and hikes galore. Looks like change is in the air, tho, as the fog has moved back in and the upcoming forecast is for cooler temps. It's not the major precipitation we need, but it's a start. Hopefully.

Gung Hay Fat Choy, everyone!
Wishing you all the best for the New Year (of the horse).
Let's throw a saddle on this bad boy...and let's giddy up!

Peter J. Palmer