Saturday, April 20, 2019

Trappings Of Travel

It is hard to believe, but it is less than a week until I will be landing in London, picking up my rental car and heading out on a new adventure to various destinations.

This trip is really special to me.  I have a lot of heritage linking back to the British Isles, including my grandmother who came from Yorkshire, and I will be meeting some of that family while I am there.  I am so grateful for the family and friends who will be playing host to this Yank.

As I get older, I find that the planning and organizing of a trip is half the fun.  Well, I won't say it is half, but it is certainly a fun part of the whole adventure.  There has been a lot of planning, and I have a pretty full agenda.  I won't go into details, because it is my hope that I'll find time in that full agenda to share some thoughts and pictures on this blog, or at the least, some quick notes on Facebook.

But for now, I fancy a spot of tea.

Happy Saturday from Silicon Valley.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Muted Shades of Spring

It is my seventh spring in the Bay Area.  I have to say, I have not tired of life in the Bay Area yet.  Set the cost of living aside, life in here is vibrant.  The beautiful diversity of communities, the unique contrast of a more old(ish) world environment in San Francisco to the funky coastal communities near Santa Cruz to the almost too quickly changing face of Silicon Valley.

Spring 2017, California Coast
Then there is the weather.  For a guy who has lived in many northern climates, the beautiful and consistent weather can become a bit bland.  The lack of drama of the fall gives way to the pastel-grey of winter which is more of a doze than a sleep.

People who come from the north like to say there are no season changes in a place like this, as well as in San Diego, where I lived in the early 1990s.  But it's not true, they just aren't as dramatic.  When I left San Diego in 1992, I was "missing the seasons" and I very much enjoyed my first fall and winter in Idaho.

It is different now.  Maybe it is that I am nearing 60, rather than just being beyond 30.  Indeed I remain happy here, seven years gone.  I've come to appreciate the shades of my favorite season, Spring.  I like the pockets of Autumn that appear when Summer is gone, and I've learned where to find them, here near my Bay Area home.

But, as if to give me a little taste of what was, the Northern California winter was colder than usual, wetter than usual, and the sunroof on my car was planted shut for months.  In the last couple weeks, as the solstice came, the stream of clouds and rain that graced the area for what seemed months without much rest, relented.

Yes, the shades of Spring are still muted here.  The rich smell of the countryside awakening that I recall from Pennsylvania, Idaho, Maryland and Germany will not be equaled by the Bay Area, but there is a richness about this particular March that will remain with me.

Happy Sunday from Silicon Valley in Spring.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Snows Over Silicon Valley

It has been a crazy year, weather wise.  Here, in Silicon Valley, it has manifested itself in fairly prolific rains, which can be a good problem to have, for an area that has gone dry a number of years recently.

In a sense, I've been in a dry spell, creatively.  Not that I'm not pursuing creative endeavors, far from it.  However, my endeavors, of late, have been pretty singular.  My cameras have been cooling off, I haven't written poetry lately, and I haven't worked on any short fiction.

The fact is, I have been focused.  I have been so focused on this one project, that I've deprived myself of some of my other creative loves.  A novel I have worked on for many years continues to need TLC to be truly complete.  Finding where it went wrong, which is really a story longer than the novel itself, has been a journey unto itself.  The things I'm learning go deeper than just this one story.  There are elements of my vision for story telling that are wrapped up in this, and in a sense, there are elements of who I am, here and now.

This weekend, I broke away from that novel, and started a short story, and just in the development of a fresh story, I am starting to see the things I'm learning.  Remember the movie The Karate Kid, where Daniel does menial tasks and doesn't understand how they relate to karate?  Miyagi then show him just how much he has learned.

Maybe it's a bit like that.  Maybe not, but it sounds good.

Whatever the point, after finishing the rough draft of this new story, I went for a coffee with my son Daniel (not a karate kid, as far as I know) and then came back to the house.  On the way, the hills near my house peeked from under rich clouds to show a fresh coat of snow.  We do get snow on those hills, but not usually this much.

I grabbed up my camera, and went to Baylands Park, and shot some photos.  Nothing all that special in the narrative of the photos, but a space in time.  I spoke to a few people in the park about the remarkable weather, and the beauty of the day.  I basked in the sun and cool.  I hung out with some geese.

That novel really does need to be finished.  The puzzles within it need to be solved so I can put it to rest, and feel that I did it justice.  It inches ever closer.

But today reminds me that sometimes we need to take a break from the things we use to take a break from our day-to-day lives.

Did that make sense?  It did to me.  I think.

Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy these pictures of a space in time.

Happy Sunday from Silicon Valley.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Practical Choices

When we moved to Silicon Valley in 2012, I purchased a ten-year-old Subaru Outback Limited for a really nice price.  It was clean, had comparatively low miles, and I liked the way it felt to drive.  It had enough storage to be practical, and a little bit of gumption when I pushed the gas down.

A couple of years ago, the old beast took to leaking oil.  The cost to repair it would be high, and it was not necessary to repair it.  My mechanic said "keep oil in it and it will be fine," so I bought a big box of oil at Costco, and have been on a vigil, keeping that oil "topped off."

It was a comfortable car, it was paid for, but I was starting to think about making a change.  I decided about a year ago that I would replace the old beast at some point soon.  I didn't feel good about taking it on long drives, and that was increasingly becoming a part of my life.

Because the care is spacious, I wanted to have it until I cleared out my old storage unit.  As you may know, less than a month ago, that task was complete, so I "set the clock" for early 2019, after the holiday season, when I would set out to replace it.

The old Subaru had other plans.

Last weekend, I went to the house of some friends, zipping over the mountain on Highway 17 between Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz.  The old beast was running great both down and back, until about a mile from home, it started to stall.  I fought it from the Lawrence Expressway to a nearby parking lot, and called AAA.  I told the driver the symptoms, and he opened the hood pulled the oil dipstick.  "Looks like a blown head gasket."  I'd never seen the outcome of one before, but based on what I knew, and the funky looking liquid where oil once been, indeed this looked to be the case.  I had the old beast towed to a trusted local garage, where the diagnosis was confirmed.

The cost of repair would be more than the car was worth.

Cars are inanimate objects.  Steel and glass and plastic and leather and fabric, pieced together in a factory.  But I bond with my cars.  In a way, they become an extension of me.  I'm a person that loves to drive, and I've spent countless hours on the road.  Long haul, short haul, intermediate haul, I love to drive.

This car was there for me in some tough times, and has seen me through a few big changes.

The cars I've owned since I left Idaho in 1980 have all been practical choices.  The right tool for the right job.  Cost vs function vs need vs what's available.  The Subaru was an extension of that, but big bonus points, it was fun to drive.  It had dual sunroofs, which I loved.  But I also had an idea of what I would like to be driving in mind.

So it was bittersweet, when I cleared out the items that remained in the car.  I put the keys in the ignition, and started the car at the garage's parking lot, and limped the old beast out to the road, so that the guy who would haul it away could do his job, then got in my rented car and returned to work.

to be continued...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Empty Storage Unit, Full Tank

Just after the gate closed behind me and I started down the road for my house on a particular Tuesday, I had a slight regret that I hadn't taken a moment to turn around and take a picture when I hauled the last bit of goods from the storage unit my "overflow stuff" had occupied.  I'd told myself that I'd take a picture of it, in its rat-droppings-glory just to remember what it looked like empty.

But I don't need a picture.  I know what empty is like.

After DeDe, my wife of thirty-three years, passed away, I felt an emptiness.  That is the first sensation when you lose someone in your life, especially a life partner.  'Til death do us part means one of us is likely to go first, and one of us will have to move on.  I knew, shortly after she died, that there was only one way that I could move forward.  I didn't know how it would all work out, I didn't know how long it take.  No one can know those things when it is the first time to deal with it.

For me, I was a very different man after being married over half of my life to a woman who I laughed and cried and and made a family and made art and made love and, in short, shared a life, with.  I don't believe a person should have to change for a love, but I do believe that having a lover become part of your life changes you.  If not, what is the point?

I became a more complete person with DeDe.  She brought out the best in me.  She called out flaws, encouraged goodness I didn't know I have.  I had an inherent darkness in me that she managed to shine a light on, and show a beauty in it.  I was able to accept myself more wholly, and some of that has only truly come to pass since she left this plane.  The things in me that changed with her were not from her, but because of her.  The difference is, things that because of someone are the things that are indelible. 

After she passed, yes, there was emptiness.  It is inevitable.  For me, the task of dealing with that emptiness was realizing just how complete I am now.  I needed to learn who I was when I was first with her, and to have her become a part of my life.  I needed to learn who I am without her, and the storage unit was, strangely enough, the very thing that put this all in perspective.

The clutter I removed was cleansing for my physical life.  And with each box I went through, I processed and I learned, and I realized much more about her, and about myself.

This morning, as I write, it is dark outside, and I hear the jets taking off from Mineta Airport in San Jose.  A big part of who I am now is my love of travel.  The world turns on, and with my tank full and my storage unit empty, I move onward.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


It's as American as apple pie: The storage unit.

I see storage companies everywhere I go in the US.  Don't get me wrong, they have their purpose, but for the most part, these are absolute money pits.  How do I know?

I have one.  #375 is my storage unit.

I left a house in Pennsylvania in 2012, where I had a lot of spare space, and moved into a place with almost none.  Even after we got rid of a lot of stuff for the move, we still had too much stuff.

What we kept went into storage.  Storage units, like most everything in Silicon Valley, aren't cheap.

Though it is a money pit, but there is indeed some stuff in there that I want to keep.  Still, when calculating the amount of money dumped into a storage unit versus the potential value of its contents, it is a ridiculously bad investment.

And yet, these storage compounds are everywhere in Silicon Valley, and they are in small towns too.

Need to store your overflow stuff in the small desert town of Fernley, Nevada, population 20,000?  They've got you covered:

There is an emotional component to the one I have, and I suspect that is in play for others who rent these things as well.  In mine is some of my late wife DeDe's stuff.  There's also stuff from my kids' childhood.

But, in the end, it's just stuff.

So I have been working at clearing out this storage unit for the past couple of months.

It is a demanding process, and it can be emotional.  I found a little journal DeDe kept at a difficult time in her life.  I found an incredible poem she wrote that I'm still processing.  I found some surprising art projects she was developing.

But what I have found worth keeping is a fraction of what I have found worth getting rid of.  I've been giving a lot of what has come out away.  There is a cleansing feeling that comes from this.

There are a handful of things with some monetary value, but I don't have use for, which I will sell.  What will remain are a few things that are important enough to take up real estate in the house.

This is indeed a demanding process, but a worthwhile one.  The acquisition of stuff is probably a part of the human condition, but we in the United States have raised it to an art form, and the signs of that dot major thoroughfares today.

But I'm getting out of the storage unit business.  The center of the picture at left is the light at the end of the tunnel.  This storage locker was full to capacity.  Come November 1, it will empty, should you want to move your excessive stuff in there.

But I advise against it.

Saturday, September 15, 2018


One of the places where I have always wanted to visit is England.  My grandmother on my father's side came from there in the 1920s via Australia and Hawaii.  My family remains connected with some of her family there.  There are so many places that I would like to visit, and further, I'm blessed with a number of friends living there now.

So, when I did some research on the cost of flights there, and the prices were quite reasonable, I decided, "no time like the present."

Okay, so the present might be a few months out, but I do have my tickets.  In late April of 2019, I will be flying to England for two weeks.  I have no set plans except to spend a few days of the time in London, and visit with family in Yorkshire.  Other than that, I'm going to be driving, exploring, and I'm up for visiting any friends there who will put up with me.

So, friends in England, I will be on your soil from April 27 thru May 11 of 2019.  Please reach out to me via email or text or Messenger if you'd like to get together.

Happy Weekend from Silicon Valley