Thursday, July 30, 2009

Last Night in San Francisco

On our last night in San Francisco we stayed at the Le Meridian Hotel in the financial district. This was a beautiful hotel with an amazing view of the city. The famous pyramidal TransAmerica building is reflected in the building across from us. Each room had angled corner windows which allowed for a near panoramic view. These first two pictures were taken upon our arrival in the mid-afternoon. As outstanding as this hotel was, it was not as nice as our first two nights at the Omni. The Omni's view wasn't as nice, but the staff was incredible. The housekeeping staff left milk and cookies for the kids. The concierge, "Lex" got us VIP tickets to the King Tut exhibit. The door men greeted us enthusiastically and would not let us open a single door.

You can see the Bay Bridge from this window.

Our daughters were thrilled with the rooftop gardens. We don't see much of these in York County, PA. I tried to take some pictures at night but they didn't come out very well. I promise I will invest in a good camera!

I got up at dawn. I was quite excited to discover the Bay Bridge surrounded by a delightful pink bay! From this you can get some idea of the night view.

A little more pink bay.
We booked all of our San Francisco and Santa Cruz rooms through Priceline. Our bid was $100.00 (USD). These rooms would normally go for over $200.00. Our rooms were outstanding, clean and comfortable. I would highly recommend using Priceline. Please be aware, however, that they only guarantee one bed. If you are traveling with children or others that could be a problem. In our case, we asked the front desk for a room with two beds and the upgrade was made. No problem. We noticed that there were lots of empty rooms at the Le Meridian. Priceline is providing a service by filling up rooms that would otherwise go empty. In Santa Cruz, we bid on the Chaminade Resort and Spa for three nights. We got a two bed room for the first two nights. They did move us on the third night because it was Fourth of July weekend, a Friday, and they had a wedding booked.
No problem. We sent the girls to stay with my brother for the night and we had a room to ourselves!
BTW I could not wait to get a new post up here. The writing thing was fun but took me way out of my comfort zone. I promise to post paintings soon. I am working on two simultaneously. One is ready to photograph as a WIP. I just need to let it dry a bit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

dive's writing challenge

Okay, I'll try this. I'm always up for a challenge. Good old Dive challenged all of his readers to continue our own version of a story following his writing prompt. The writing prompt was the fifth sentence or something on page 56 of whatever book was closest to him at the time. The first paragraph is just that. The rest is mine. I cannot explain where I came up with this, but here goes:

"And again next day a thinly populated sky, losing its blue to the heat, would melt overhead, and Lo would clamour for a drink, and her cheeks would hollow vigorously over the straw, and the car inside would be a furnace when we got in again, and the road shimmered ahead, with a remote car changing its shape mirage-like in the surface glare, and seeming to hang for a moment, old-fashionedly square and high, in the hot haze."

These August days could wear on even the best of us. Whoever they were? We certainly were not dealt that hand in life. After the mine closed it was like starting all over again. As old Harv used to say, “You has to go where the work is”.

“Leroy, how much further is it to Cleve-LAND? My back is hurtin an I’m damn thirsty. “
It was hot. It was damned hot. Up in the mountains you could feel the air move. In these flatlands nothing moved. I haven’t seen a human or an animal for I don’t know how long. I shade my eyes and look hard, trying to find a service station, an oasis in this strange land of brown and yellow nothingness. Hell, I’d settle to find a patch of green shade where we could pee and stretch our legs. No mountain streams around these parts.

It occurs to me that I might never go home.

No matter how hot it got, Pine Tar Cove always cooled at night. The mine was cool as well. We started early in the morning before the sun got too hot. We was down in the depths during the worst of it. Once you took the trolley into the mine you lost your sense of time. It was black. The smell was of recently struck matches and wet moss. I could hear a constant trickle of water, but that helped cool me. I liked the sounds, the smells, the constants. It was familiar and comfortable somehow. I did my job. I never complained. People need coal for heat. I was providing a service AND I was damn good at it. I could do this for the rest of my life.

Until June 11th that was.

Shaft #27 collapsed. Two men died. Peter Harrell and Marley Scott. Both of them were fathers. They left behind widows with small children.

Shortly after, some official- lookin people with plastic badges came in and said the mine was in “violation”. Some violation of working conditions. These people screwed up their faces andlooked at us like we were shit. Who the fuck were they to judge us? They bein in some suits and shit, doesn’t make them any better.

Leroy, I need a drink!”
Lo is eight months pregnant with our first child. I have to find a stop.

I keep looking for a familiar sign. After about thirty miles of tedious earth tones, I see a green dinosaur. A Sinclair station. I slow the old Impala and guide her into the pumping area.
A young pockmarked man makes his way to the car.. He has greasy black hair and seems to think he ’s all that. Even I, an unemployed coal-miner from Tennessee thinks he is an ugly man. He props his arm on the roof of the car to see us better. He looks at us sideways and says. “Where you folks headed?”
“Cleveland” I say.
“I hear they got jobs up there.”
“Yeah, the Ford Plant in Elyria, just outside of Cleveland is looking for assembly line workers.”
“I hear Ford’s a great company if you can get in. You got people up there? It helps if you know someone. Is your woman okay? She doesn’t look well.”
I turn and look at Lo. She looks pale. She hasn’t been complaining too much but then again I’ve been lost in my thoughts. I turn and realize she’s hurtin.
“Lo, you okay?”
“I’ve got some cramps. I think the baby is comin…”
Shit. I have no experience in this.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Escape to Alcatraz

What would a trip to San Francisco be without a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. We are on our way to Alcatraz Island. There is the famous bridge shrouded by the even more famous San Francisco fog. On this date, we were fortunate that the fog rolled in "after" our return from the island.

Daughter A checking out a cell on Broadway. The inmates named the cell blocks. The audio tour was fantastic. I highly recommend this tour. Al Capone was housed here as well as other infamous criminals.

The grounds are quite beautiful. Community groups keep up the gardens on the island.

My teenage daughters, posing with me for a "touristy" picture before we boarded the ferry. Can you tell my youngest (the redhead) does not particularly enjoy being photographed? Alcatraz Island is behind us. The boat trip is only about 10 minutes each way.

This is a fire department boat we passed on the way out to the island.

Here is a photo of the less than famous Bay bridge. It is still a beautiful bridge. You can see the lower part of the city as viewed from Alcatraz.

A better view of the city from the Island. From here you can appreciate the hills. Fortunately, the National Park Service has protected this island from Developers. High rise condominiums would spoil the mystique of the place.

Part of Alcatraz has been designated as a bird refuge. We found a bunch of baby seagulls. These babies were absolutely adorable. (check out the little spotted fellow) Seagulls get a bad rap. I think calling them winged rats is a little harsh.

There were many other birds nesting and/or roosting on the island. We found a large flock of Snowy Egrets. My daughter would like to use this for one of her paintings. Come to think of it, I might also. Daughter A deserves all the credit for the photography. I think she has the potential to be a wildlife photographer! She prefers computer animation, however.

So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed your little preview of Alcatraz Island. These photos did not upload in the order I wanted them to so they are a little discombobulated. (Is that really a word? The spellchecker didn't seem to notice.) I am going to try to relax for the next month. Summer vacation is almost over.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Am Finished!

I am finally finished! All requirements have been met for my Master's Degree in Education. I have applied for graduation. I can attend a graduation ceremony in September or I can don the cap and gown, take a picture and create my own little party. I haven't decided. I have to pay $160.00 just to graduate. The fee includes the cap and gown. The main campus is in Wilkes-Barre, PA. They have great pizza there. Decisions...decisions.

While I ponder these matters, I will share some more California pics. These were all taken in the amazing and beautiful "Carmel by the Sea". Clint Eastwood was the mayor here. Doris Day's animal rescue is here. Our good friends eloped and were married on this beach.
This is an incredibly beautiful dog friendly beach. The water was beautiful. It was cold, but not too cold.
We paddled around a bit. I believe that is the famous Pebble Beach Golf Club on the left. We climbed some rocks to check out tidal pools and found a little friend!A sea otter, floating on his back and munching on shellfish. We used the zoom feature to capture this one.

Munching along the kelp forest.

Life is good.

I am finished. After a few celebratory beers with my classmates, I am happily resting my arse in the old easy chair. Whew!

The coursework was not too bad. The difficult part was balancing work and family and painting and studies and exhibiting and blogging, etc. Oh and I forgot to mention a social life. What is that anyway?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Neetzy Sightings in the Cali State

I decided it was time for me to "come out" and show my chubby self in the midst of one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. of A. This is my husband's touristy shot from the cable car. I love the way the hilly streets appear to dissolve into the bay.
Sneak peak of my daughters and herchubbyself at the cable car stop. We bought the all day "Muni" pass and wanted to get our money's worth. We are waiting for the cable car to take us to breakfast at the Buena Vista. We read somewhere that they served a special crab Eggs Benedict.

Is it coincidental that the placard on the cable car said "Weird"? Unfortunately the Buena Vista did not open until 9:00 a.m. (These California people must sleep late). We decided to go to the Boudin Bakery for Sourdough and croissants.

We took our sacks of sourdough and walked the Wharf area. My brother told me there were lots of California sea lions on Pier 39. We were not disappointed! Katie, do get down there to see the sea lions! They are quite amusing. Dive you must insist that Katie take you when you come to Cali. They have taken up residence at this particular pier. They are loud and adorable at the same time.

Neetzy with her "little" brother (a full time California resident of 15 years). Please note the Phillies cap. (Yay Phillies!)
By the way, I never did lose that 10 pounds. I wasn't going to post a photo of me until that happened. I was hoping that would happen before I turned fifty. I have one and a half months. It does not look good. I do not eat fast food. I do not each much junk food. I go to the gym as much as possible. I am definitely not motivated to starve myself. I am taking my last graduate class. WTF. Love me as I am or not at all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Road To Big Sur

During our recent visit to California, my brother offered to take us on a scenic drive along the coastal highway (U.S. Route 1). My brother insisted that the scenery was no less spectacular than Yosemite National Park. I had my doubts. For the unfamiliar, the Big Sur is not the name of one particular place. It is apparently the name given to the entire stretch of coastline where mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. This first photo was taken at a state park. Many of the trails were closed due to wildfires last year. This was the main "waterfall trail". Notice the little waterfall to the left.
The narrow road curves around the mountains, over narrow bridges. To our left were the tops of the mountains, to our right, spectacular cliffs, the gorgeous Pacific and a dangerous drop. The "floating" brownish substance visible in the turquoise ocean is the kelp forest.

Here is a look down the slopes to the ocean.

A look back at some of the coastline. I tried to "frame" this a little with the wildflowers.
There was quite a bit of poison oak growing along the roadside. I scratched up my leg trying to get some photos while avoiding the poison. This could have been more spectacular if I was less careful.
Do click on the images for details. (One of these days we are going to buy a high quality DSLR). In the meantime, our point and shoot digital will have to do.
(My youngest daughter offered to climb down the near vertical drop).

This is similar to an earlier photo, but taken in a vertical format.
I was told that this is the road used in every car commercial. I didn't take too many photos of the actual road. I was quite taken by the scenery.
I wished I had my paints. I wish I had the time to stay for a while. I will have to be content with a few photos.
I will probably try to paint from some of these photos. I realize it is not "plein air", but sometimes you have to use what you have. The experience was authentic. My memories will be. I always look at painting from photos as a "point of departure".
We did take over 500 photos. I will post as many decent ones as I can.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blubber is Beautiful

I thought it would be fun to post some family photos from our wonderful California trip!

There we are enjoying some rocks off the Monterey peninsula! I am the beauty with my flippers crossed. Who needs a bikini with a body like this? The weather is gorgeous here. We have not had any precipitation. What is a little Pacific fog between friends?

California food is amazing. I think I've gained about ten pounds. I have been walking, hiking and horseback riding, but I don't think I've burned the calories I've consumed. Oh happy day!
San Francisco is fantastic. It is my favorite city in the US of A. Unfortunately I have a middle age metabolism. Everything I eat stays on my body. I have been eating San Francisco sourdough, croissants, burritos, ribs, etc. We have been incredibly busy. We have enjoyed visiting with family and friends. We have had the best vacation. Thank you California.
My treadmill awaits.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'm on Vacation!

Hi everyone. I'm on vacation so I probably won't be around. I have to pay for the internets.
We arrived in San Francisco Monday afternoon. We had a wonderful time. While there, I got to meet the amazing Katiefornia!

Today we traveled down the coast to Santa Cruz, Carmel and Big Sur. My brother was an amazing tour guide.

I will post photos when I return to Pennsylvania somewhere around July 10th. If I get a hotel with free internet I might visit your blogs, otherwise I am taking a break. Ciao!