#ThursdayDoors: Bezerkley

Looking out toward the Golden Gate Bridge which was unfortunately shrouded in fog and smoke.

Not only does the Lawrence Hall of Science have one of the most spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay Area but every exhibit is meant to be manhandled by children, casually monitored and guided in their experiments by high school students earning extra credit in biology, mathematics or chemistry.

The hall is actually a part of the University of California Berkeley.  It was named in honor of the “Atom Smasher,” Ernest Lawrence, also the inventor of the cyclotron and the founder of the Lawrence Berkeley Labs.  Over the years I’ve met and worked with many physicists who got their start at the “Lab.”  I couldn’t understand them 99% of the time but they were never boring.

The back door leads to a chance to get wet and dirty as you learn about water management.  Downstairs are classrooms where kids learn about lizards and volcanos and all that cool stuff in a more formal setting.

For bigger kids, Berkeley offers a different sort of entertainment:

 

The Ashkenaz, which has been around since 1973, is run by a non-profit organization whose goal is to showcase music and dance from around the world. The idea is not to listen or watch but to participate and they’re very serious.  If you come, you dance.Berkeley is known for its eccentric population and if you wander around up near the campus you’ll see just about anything.  When I worked there, the most famous eccentric was the Naked Guy, a 6’5” former athlete who insisted on attending class in nothing but shoes.  Clothes, he claimed were oppressive and for a time, no one said a word.  It was, after all, Berkeley.

Then there was the Hate Man, a former journalist and Peace Corps worker who espoused the doctrine of hate and “oppositionality.” To start a conversation with him, you had to say “Fuck you.”

When he died, it made the national news and the denizens of People’s Park, a homeless encampment smack dab in the middle of Berkeley, made a memorial for him, which he would have hated.

Check out other doors from around the world at Norm’s place.  

#ThursdayDoors: Siberia

My friend, who just returned from a trip to Russia, China and Tibet, said these doors and windows reminded her of me.  How sweet!  Thank you Mary Alice!  

She was in Irkutsk which is the capital of Siberia. According to Wikipedia, many journalists, writers and artists were exiled to this city in the 19th century because they irritated the factions currently in charge.

I won’t even attempt to fathom the history of Russia.  Whites, Reds, Bolsheviks, Communists – it’s like trying to sort out the history of British Royalty.  So many rebellions and power struggles.  Ugh.

The dissidents were sent to Siberia because it’s remote and the weather can be brutal but they certainly do have a lot of style.

According to Mary Alice, these are wooden windows. She did a great job on this shot, don’t you think?  Nice reflection.

I googled Irkutsk and was amazed by how many famous people were born in Siberia, Arguably the most famous was Rudolph Nureyev, born here in 1936.

This is an interesting little cabin.  From some reason, it made me think of Lincoln Logs.

 

Check out other doors from around the world at Norm’s Place.

 

 

 

Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor #ThursdayDoors

My husband has two passions: cooking and trains.  Today he’s making his signature dish, wickedly good Garlic Mac and Cheese, and so I was able to sneak into his train room. For those of you who aren’t involved in that particular hobby, modeling is extremely detail oriented work, particularly when you’re talking about the smaller gauges.  Above is an HO gauge model of the Pacific Fruit Express which is approximately five inches long and two inches tall. It was built from a kit, as were all the trains and buildings I’ll be showing today.

Above are some of the more complicated trains that he’s put together recently.  But there are thousands more.  Believe me.

The passenger trains even have passengers however, they don’t look very healthy.  This must be the Train of the Damned.  

Can you spot the conductor at the door?  He looks like he’s either waving or trying to get out.  Perhaps he’s realized the passengers are all zombies.

The one thing model railroaders are absolutely fanatical about is realism, which means weathering. They’ll spot a rusted building on the side of the road and have to stop to take pictures.  Then they obsess for days over how to achieve that particular look.

Realism also means that buildings must have lights. This factory along the tracks contains over thirty little tiny lights that had to be hand-wired.

I’m not sure but I think this is a loading dock of some sort. I’ve been to model railroad conventions and met women every bit as gung-ho as their partner but that’s not me folks.

Actually, I lied.  I’ve only been to one convention and it was in Redding California back when the romance was fresh, if you know what I mean. If you’re not into trains, you have to be really in love to go to a model train convention. The layouts and exhibits are great but sitting through a one hour forum on  “ways to support your train guy,” well, it’s just not for me.

Below is the Cameramadoodle Ding Dong Candy Factory.

Named for our son Cameron.  Model Railroaders aren’t that imaginative and if you live with one, you’re gonna end up on a marquee.  Did I mention the second floor of Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor is a brothel?  I guess my clients enter through the back door. I don’t know how they get up to it.  I guess they must be awfully horny.

And here, just for Norm, the conductor of the ThursdayDoors challenge, is a door.

 

Riding the Zephyr: #ThursdayDoors

Dirty back window of the Zephyr

From time to time I have to travel to Reno Nevada for family business, both pleasurable and otherwise. Reno is a four hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area that used to be a fairly pleasant.  You’d pass orchards, cow pastures and rice patties before hitting the always dramatic Sierra Nevadas.  However, over the years the orchards and cow pastures have been replaced with housing developments and industrial tracts leading to massive traffic headaches. So we opt for the train when possible.

The Zephyr departs from Oakland California and travels due east to Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha and finally ends its run in Chicago three days later. It is considered one of the most beautiful routes in the world. Below is Donner Lake as taken from the back of the train.

I’ve taken the Zephyr as far as Helper, a sooty outpost smack dab in the middle of Utah so named because it’s where “helper” engines are often added to give coal carrying trains the extra oomph they need to get through the Wasatch Mountains.

We generally catch the train in Martinez, the last point of departure in the Bay Area.  Martinez is an antique-shop town overlooking the Carquinez Strait.

From there the train crosses an old iron bridge and heads inland, passing low-lying swamps which provide homes for all sorts of species of birds and ducks.  It’s one of my favorite stretches, particularly in the Spring.

Another favorite stretch is just beyond Roseville as the train begins to climb up into the mountains.  The foothills are home to many ranches and on a Spring day, nothing beats the sight of horses romping through green pastures with their tails in the air.

In the mountains, the train passes through dozens of tunnels, many built to provide refuge during heavy snow storms.

For my husband, who is crazy about trains, we had an especially interesting trip through the mountains.  On Amtrak you’re assigned seating based on your destination.  Sometimes passengers for Reno are seated at the front of the train and sometimes they’re seated at the rear.  This trip we were seated in the very last car.

We’d just reached Colfax, a town in the high foothills, when the engineer ran past us on his way to the back door.  Then he opened the door and grabbed a hose.”Set to release?” he asked over the walkie talkie.  The next moment smoke erupted from the hose with a loud hissing sound that startled all the passengers.

It turns out there was a disabled freight train on the tracks ahead.  We would need to back down the track and switch over to the westbound track to get past the disabled train.  The engineer had been testing the brakes to prevent a runaway train.

Check out other exciting door adventures over at Norm’s Place.

 

#ThursdayDoors: Gardens and Lotus Eaters

Guess where I found this door.

I’ll give you a clue.  When the rains finally give way to glorious sun-filled days, where do you generally tend to stray?  The bank? The dentist? Or perhaps you wander down the street to a place where you can buy seeds to plant and birdbaths for your friends.

A place decorated for Easter and Halloween and all holidays in between, where you can ask why your calla lilies didn’t bloom this year or get fertilizer tips for a picky Bird of Paradise.

I must admit, the first days of spring you’ll likely find me hanging out on the Isle of the Lotus Eaters waiting for Odysseus to arrive and shake me out of my stupor. Perhaps then I’ll have more to share with the doors folks over at Norm’s who’ve made Thursdays an around the world adventure.

A Door You Don’t Want to Open

From my junior high school yearbook.

By high school I’d decided that I wanted no trinkets (such as yearbooks) to remind me of the four miserable years I’d spent in high school. Truth be told, I probably brought on my own misery by telling my classmates that everything they held dear was stupid.  Football – stupid.  Proms – stupid.  Cheerleading – really, really stupid. And what was smart?  Protesting senseless wars, archaic dress codes and, well, just about anything. It’s a miracle my classmates didn’t drown me in PE, which I probably also protested. 

However, before I became such a sanctimonious nincompoop, I was an insecure junior high schooler desperate to fit in.  Not only did I buy yearbooks, but I had everyone I ran into sign the darn things, even the teachers!

Recently I cracked open my junior high school yearbook. I was looking for a name mentioned by a friend that sounded familiar.  I didn’t find the name but I was opening a door that should have remained forever closed.

First to the good memories: Above  is my favorite science teacher.  He was young, red-haired and fool-hardy enough to lead an astronomy club full of thirteen-year- olds up to the shingled rooftop of a four-story building where there was nothing to stop anyone of us from rolling off the edge.  

My German teacher insisted we call him Herr Assmus. I guess he figured that if he was going to be teased for his name by students, he might as well go along with the gag.  However he had his limits. One day, after being forced to teach German in a room also used for Sex Education, he erupted in a fury: “I cannot teach German with a penis staring at me!”  Then he proceeded to rip a diagram of a  penis off the wall while we all cracked up. 

This teacher hated me.  I had absolutely no homemaking skills and practically burnt down her kitchen.

My art teacher reminded me of Tony Randall from the Odd Couple.  Fastidious and neat but always smiling. 

Our custodian was always on the spot when we forgot the combinations to our locker but never scolded us.  I guess that’s why he got a special place in the yearbook.

 Nori had it all:  Looks, athletic ability, and a stable family. He was also an alcoholic. I went out with him once in high school; he picked me up drunk and took me to a party with other football players and their girlfriends.  There he proceeded to get even drunker and wandered off to a bedroom where the school’s “easy” girl serviced the boys while their prim girlfriends sat together and gossiped. One of the other football players became disgusted with the game and took me home. Not long after, Nori drove off a cliff up at Tahoe.

After his death, we found our his other “shameful” secret:  he was Jewish.

Blake took one psychedelic too many and ended up in the state mental institute. When we went to see him, he claimed to be Jesus. Not long after, he also died.

Dee was so cute and bubbly that all the boys had crushes on her, even the ones from out in the sticks where she would have been called “colored” or worse.  She disappeared from school one day without a word.  Months later we found out from our sex education teacher that she’d bled to death in an alley in Oakland, California after an illegal abortion.  I often think about her. Fourteen years old. 

My mother tried to set me up with this guy because his father was a self-made millionaire. He had a Trump-like personality and actually shot someone he’d never met in the back thinking he’d get away with it. Pretty boy didn’t last long in jail. 

Above is the James Dean of our class. His rebellious streak got him slapped around (and worse) by the male teachers (hey – this was a different time).He’s probably in jail but I liked him.

 This gal actually murdered someone and got away with it. But it was okay because he was a Piute Indian and she was the daughter of a prominent socialite. On her picture she wrote “Nancy is a queer.”  As far as I know, she is still alive.

Okay – we didn’t all turn out to be murderers or drug addicts or dead in an alley somewhere. Jon, who was a neighbor of mine, is a lawyer who worked in the Obama administration. The last time I saw Johanna and Lucille was at the premiere of their art show at the De Young Museum. Steve was Mr. Popular all through school because he was kind and thoughtful to everyone.  He’s a basketball coach out in Winnemucca.  

Oh and I found a picture of my ex-husband as a thirteen year old which you don’t get to see  because I want you to have some respect for me!

My advice to you all is stay away from those old yearbooks.  Reopening them is often  like playing the game Jumanji.   

To see legitimate doors, check out Norm Frampton’s ThursdayDoors challenge. 

#ThursdayDoors: PostSecrets

Technically this is not a door; it’s a bridge in the Navy Pier area of Washington DC. 

The shipyards are now dormant and the area is being “gentrified” which means impossibly hip restaurants and bars now line an area formerly full of sailors. The view is amazing.

Although I have no idea what we’re looking at.  I wasn’t the driver, but it was definitely off the beaten track..

The above building, on the other hand, is right in the middle of the action. It’s the National Postal Museum. The museum is worth visiting even if you don’t give a damn about postage stamps.  The building itself is a treasure with marble columns and gorgeous woodwork, vintage mail trucks and postal boxes and many interactive exhibits.  One of my favorite exhibits was PostSecrets, which is described as “an ongoing community mail art project” where people send in anonymous, homemade postcards containing their deepest, darkest secrets.

Most of the postcards are humorous but some are so worrisome that the founder of the project has regular meetings with a suicide prevention organization.

Unfortunately this museum doesn’t get the foot traffic they deserve.  Did I mention that the entrance is free, and that it’s right across from Union Station?  So, no excuses. If you’re ever in downtown DC with a few hours to kill check it out and maybe even confess your deep, dark secrets anonymously via a post card.

Check out other doors perhaps some hiding deep dark secrets at Norm Frampton’s place.