Batteries and bunkers #ThursdayDoors


Another place I like to take first time visitors to the San Francisco area is Battery Spencer although there’s nothing to see here.  Not even doors. No docents or guides, hotdog stands or gift shops … even though these structures were built in 1893 and in use until 1943.  Well, the in use part is a bit debatable.

Battery Spencer is a part of a vast system of fortifications built into the Marin Headlands, however the powerful artillery once installed here was never actually used for defense.

This couple was curious enough to peek inside the structures even though there is nothing to see. On the morning we visited (a Tuesday) there were only a few dozen visitors – primarily tourists from throughout the United States and the world. But, on the weekend this place can get so crowded that you have to park a quarter mile or more down the hill and hike up.  And why you may ask …

Because if it’s not foggy, this is the view you will get. Even if there is fog moving in, the sight can be quite unforgettable (although getting back down the hill in fog can be unforgettable for completely different reasons).

Hop on over to Norm’s ThurdayDoors event where you might see buildings that actually have doors … from all over the world and maybe beyond.  T’is the season.

 

Where I would die

I don’t get out too often and so when some poor relative or friend comes to visit, I pile on trips to all those places I want to see again and again until I die. Number 1 on my list is always … Muir Woods National Park.  I know you’re thinking – what’s the big deal?  Just a bunch of old growth coast redwoods, some towering over 250 feet and 200 to 800 years old.  No amusement rides or zip lines through this primeval forest.  If you survive the drive to the Woods, which is narrow and winding enough to require motion sickness pills,  what’s there to do?

You could fall deeper in love, like this couple.

Or meander up one of the many well-maintained trails.  We passed on this one as it led out of the cool canopy and into the sunshine of a very hot day.

Or contemplate the textures of a stump. What life this one has seen!

Or count the burls on a tree.  Imagine this, each burl is full of un-sprouted bud tissue and serves as a storage compartment for the genetic code of the parent tree. The burls themselves differ in function and are the subject of much research (click here if interested.) 

Or you can practice the art of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing.”  Walk slowly and quietly. Listen to the songs of these ancient beings.  Feel the tension lift off your shoulders and breathe in the camphor of the canopy.  Bathe your senses.

Unfortunately the Woods, which used to be off the beaten path and known only to locals, have become quite popular, so if you want to visit, go early on a weekday morning before the wood nymphs, fairies and trolls have gone into hiding.

Weird tales and wild times under the deodara tree

For a time in the 1800s the small town of Auburn California was a destination and not just the place where folks stopped off for a bite or to fill up the tank before heading east over the Sierra Nevadas.

Panning for gold

And why?  Because gold was discovered in the near-by hills, leading to the infamous Gold Rush. Above is a monument to the old time prospectors (or panhandlers). 

Olde Town

Olde Town

The other day on our way to Reno Nevada we decided to try the Mexican cafe in old section of Auburn. The cafe itself was nothing much to see but across the street was this structure currently undergoing some sort of repair.  Care to guess what it is?

It’s the former home of Auburn Hook and Ladder No. 2. Below are the front doors reflecting the streets of the old town it served.

I was curious as to why fire engines used to be called hook and ladders and here’s an explanation from Google:

A hook ladder, also known as a pompier ladder (from the French pompier meaning firefighter) is a type of ladder that can be attached to a window sill or similar ledge by the use of a hooked extending bill with serrations on the underside. The hooked ladder then hangs suspended vertically down the face of the building.

 

After lunch we noticed a couple of plaques next to the fire station.

I had no idea what the significance of a Cypress deodara was and so had to google once again.

“Native to the western Himalayas in Afghanistan derives from the Sanskrit term devadāru, which means “wood of the gods”, a compound of deva “god” and dāru “wood and tree”.Forests full of Deodar or Devadāru trees were the favorite living place of ancient Indian sages and their families who were devoted to the Hindu god Shiva .

To please Lord Shiva, the sages used to perform very difficult tapasya (meditation) practices in deodar forests. Also the ancient Hindu epics and Shaiviteexts regularly mention Darukavana, meaning a forest of deodars, as a sacred place.”

The second plaque was dedicated to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau who was the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

At first, I thought it odd that a town would dedicate a plaque to a man whose claim to fame was being carried to the Pacific coast in a papoose but future research revealed he was quite well educated (by William Clark) and lived in Europe as a sort of goodwill ambassador before heading for wild times in the rollicking West.

Clark Aston Smith

Clark Aston Smith

This suspicious looking writer of “weird tales” also lived for a period of time in Auburn although the townsfolk rarely caught a glimpse of  him.  He hid in his ailing parent’s house where, in his own words he inspired “to delude the reader into accepting an impossibility, or series of impossibilities, by means of a sort of verbal black magic, in the achievement of which I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.” 

He never met, though was a longtime pen pal of H.R. Lovecraft, author of the Dunwich Horror and other macabre tales. Before we had the internet and email, writer’s  befriended each other via pen and ink. Imagine that.

Here’s one more door for Norm Frampton’s doors from around the world event.  This place used to be the cafe to stop at for breakfast.  I don’t know what it is now.

 

 

Tiny Steel Rooms

Still on break from blogging meanwhile, again Mr. Miller.

tin hats

I open the door.  I must get this right.

Last week I came down with a fever.  In the beginning it was only 102 degrees or so, nothing approaching my record.  Still, I was sweating heavily.  The sheets wet.  The room muggy.  In the distance rain threatened, but so far over my house, nothing.

I went down to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door to cool off.  I stood there naked for a few minutes and then went back up to bed.

I was in someone else’s home, paying $150 a night.  One of the owner’s dogs had died and the remaining little dog was sad in the room.  He lay like a shoe at the foot of my bed.  I could hear him breathing and then I am sure my fever got worse because I began to imagine a movie made like a high fever and what a…

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Queen Anne’s Lace

Loved this poem by Bijou

tin hats

Queen Anne’s lace grows quiet
by the roadside in spring.
With brilliant purity, leaves of chartreuse
and flowers champagne.
With edible bitter roots,
wild carrots you could call out by name.

Queen Anne’s lace grows dark
and brittle as a backdrop by fall.
She stays the night just as quiet as before,
with a heart hard as timber by sunrise
still delicate and breakable and
by some fortune still ignored
by the creatures with limbs that might call
out her name and

snap her by the stem for a memorial.

She will not break beneath the endless rains
the frost of the morning or
the bleak quiet of the cul-de-sac,
the shades of grey you could call out by name,
the warm bodies which brush blithe
against the lines of her form.

Queen Anne’s lace sleeps with
her fingers to the sky
and her body deformed in glory,
patient for…

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Returning to where I was

The young lady in the cubicle next to me looks like a teenager.  She has perfect skin and long luminous but absolutely straight black hair.  Always with a bit of eyeliner perfectly applied, she dresses modestly in jeans and non frilly blouses and she is always very serious.

Nonetheless, every morning the Joes come by to see her.  The Old Joe, for her smiling nod to the wisdom of one’s elders, and Young Joe on the guise of friendship as his puppy dog crush is hopeless.  K is engaged to be married.  K has been engaged to be married since she was a baby but, although their union has the full blessing of both families, they are soul mates.  At age five they both escaped the collapse of Vietnam on an overcrowded boat which drifted at sea until its occupants were rescued and brought to a refugee camp in the Philippines.  There they waited until asylum in the US was granted.

Our cubicles are split into units of four or eight and spread across the floor of former warehouse.  It’s like a rat’s maze with only minimal natural sunlight. The only thing that makes the job bearable are the perks. Weekly barbecues, season tickets to the nearby ball park, commute vouchers for gas or mass transit, a gourmet lunch service, all the soda or coffee you can drink and unheard of salaries, even for a tech firm.

Across the cubicle wall from K is T, coincidentally a Filipino guy with an intense love of computer games and Star Trek.  T signs up for every social event and even organizes a few.  His mother calls every day because he is an only son and we can all hear their half English, half Tagalong conversation. I try not to giggle at the exasperated sigh I hear after he hangs up the phone.

When in the office, N sits across from T in another set of cubicles.  N’s first marriage (now failed) was arranged by her father and a stepmother whom N describes as vain and silly.  Her own mother died in a suspicious oven fire when she was young. N will tell you unapologetically that she is the smartest and prettiest of all her cousins and that when she returns to India they all greet her like a Bollywood star.

Over the cube wall from N is X who shyly overhears work-related chitchat between N and T and never asks them to find a conference room as is the respectful thing to do in such crowded conditions.  X has a circle of similarly quiet friends, two from Mainland China and the third from Taiwan, like X.  One wouldn’t know it by her shy demeanor, but X is a fierce competitor, having won many a marathon.

It is the morning of September 11, 2001.  The Russians have gathered in a conference room nearby.  Their voices carry through the thin walls and sound angry.  The only other sounds come from the radios which people have gathered around.  A technician, newly hired to help with a vital product release, arrives at work with an oversized American flag which he posts on the wall above his cubicle where it can be seen by all.

“Maybe now’s not the time.” We suggest to which we get a rant worthy of a diehard Trump supporter (except Trump is at this time bragging about how his hotel is now the highest in NYC).  As the Russians exit the conference room, the technician glares at them as if they were to blame.  He rants on as if he is in an office full of enemies and anyone not caucasian begins to hunker down in their cubes hoping he doesn’t have a gun. We call HR. 

A few minutes later the HR reps arrive along with technician’s manager, a tall lanky Dutchman, to explain to the technician that he is working for a company owned by the Dutch which has offices all over the world.  Indeed 38% of his fellow workers at this particular site are not Americans and he’s making them uncomfortable. 

He begins yelling that this is America and he has the right to post the American flag and that everyone who doesn’t agree should leave the country, etc. etc.

He is told his services are no longer required and to remove his flag and person from the property. He leaves threatening to sue. Oh, they’ll be sorry.  All these foreigners can’t tell real Americans what to do on American soil!  On and on … until the door is closed behind him and he burns rubber out of the parking lot.

Minutes later everyone is told to go home and take the next few days off.

The end of summer means no more excuses!

For me, September is always the start of the year and May 31st is the end.  Summer is just that dead zone in between.

On the plus side, I did get out of the house more than last summer.  Probably because the temps here in the SF Bay Area were moderate to below average – yeah!  And the state is not on fire as it was last year.  The above shot is of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin County side. 

This pier along the wharf in San Francisco could be a metaphor for my writing efforts this summer.  Abandoned and covered with bird shit.  But it is still standing.

However the summer was not a total waste.  I did read a couple of books which I highly recommend although they are world’s apart in just about every way.  The first, The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price, is described as a “gently reimagined family memoir” set in rural Wales during a time of cultural transformation.

Reading this book I often felt as though I was mutely walking the Welsh countryside, feeling at one with nature but completely alone.  As Price writes:

“I sometimes think that the act of remembering life gives more pleasure than living itself.”

She goes on to say, that like a quilt, the swatches of memory we select are our reality. An assertion validated by a most unusual ending.

In Anna, Colm Herron (see Home from the Sea; Meet Colm Herron) illustrates the dilemma facing young men in Northern Ireland who want to get laid but don’t want Mother or the Catholic Church to know. Because the stain of semen can never be totally removed from his trousers, our hero (Robert Browning) must confess to his priest after his night of kinky sex with the wild and uninhibited Anna. He laments that, but for his BO, it could have been a sin from which there could be no forgiveness.

“… there was another reason for my particular release being fitful and that was my BO.  Which might have been a blessing in disguise because otherwise she would definitely have given me the full treatment and I could have taken a fatal brain haemorrhage [sic] and that would have me damned and no mistake.”

Because the story is set in the late 1960s, when Robert and his friends aren’t “looking for tramps but scared shitless of them all at the same time,” they’re debating how to fight social injustice. Do they follow the path of Marxism or heed the caution of the Church?

[Robert’s friend] mimicking their bishop: “My dear Catholic sheep of Derry, it is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most that the Lord will lead to the happy slaughterhouse in the sky.”

Although Anna is primarily a love story that doesn’t always go smoothly, the book is full of hysterical scenes, such as this bit between Robert and his devout Mammy:

“Did you not hear me?  I said beauty’s only skin deep.”
“I know Mammy.”
“Aye, but do you?”
“For Christ sake Mammy, its not her intestines I’m after.”

The next book on my list will be a different ride altogether, You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas.  I’ve only begun the read but I can already tell Damyanti has taken an interesting twist in the usual murder, detective story and run with it.

First I’ve got to hitch myself up to some sort of routine. Maybe I’ll finally finish “The Demise of Dickey” – my debut romance novel!  Rollover Danielle – prepare to meet your match!

I leave you with this favorite song of September from a performer I saw on stage decades ago and fell in love with.  Yes, believe it or not ,Jerry Orbach had a whole other career before Law and Order!

“Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”