Sunday, February 26, 2006

211 Front St.

After scrutinizing various maps and sattelite images, I have come to the conclusion that 211 Front St. was at the corner of Front and Beekman, not Front and Peck Slip. I might be wrong. The picture in the article looks right, but it's hard to say; the windows don't match my memory of the apartment.

Can anyone say for sure which corner our building was at?

Add South Street Seaport to the list of places to visit next time I visit. With my increased interest in maritime lore, I realize there is a lot there that I didn't fully appreciate when I lived there. Also, the wonder of returning to a place after a long time.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the heart of Sonoma

We left Santa Rosa via Route 12, which apparently is one of the major wine roads of Sonoma. Since I kept on seeing signs about the Valley of the Moon, I'm tempted to wonder if this valley is a geographic feature and not just a winery. I just don't know Sonoma County well enough, which was the underlying impetus for this trip. We passed many wineries, including the Blackstone tasting room in Kenwood, which I had heard so much about in Gonzales. We didn't stop though until we got to the city of Sonoma. It exceeded my expectations. I had read about the central square, but I didn't realize how big it was, and how many shops and restaurants there both along the square and down every side street. We bought sandwiches at the Basque Bakery -- which was so crowded I thought I was in New York City -- and ate them in the square, which is essentially a big park. Then we left. There simply wasn't enough time. But having tasted the heart of the Sonoma experience, I look forward to returning for further exploration.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

bypassing the bay

We drove up to Sonoma County via the East Bay, the 880 freeway that goes through Oakland. I liked the idea of stopping in Berkeley for lunch, but neither of us were too familiar with the area. We took the exit for UC Berkeley and found ourselves in a rough looking neighborhood. I turned left at the first big intersection and we soon found ourselves in the city of Albany.

Downtown Albany looked agreeable enough with lots of great old neon signs and a Thai restaurant on every block. We parked and walked down an inviting street that led to a vegetarian-friendly Thai restaurant. We walked in and it smelled heavenly. Our meals were excellent. That was a good thing since I was starving.

After lunch we got back on the freeway, which shortly turned into the Richmond Bridge. I'd never taken this bridge, although I'd had dreams throughout my life of taking insanely long, scary suspension bridges. This one was very long and a little bit scary. It went up, then down, then up again, then down again, and then turned north into Marin County, passing by the San Quentin prison.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Luther Burbank and the Yogi

Upon checking into the Hotel La Rose we learned that a new bike race called the "Tour de California" would be passing through town the following day.

The following day we agreed that rather than getting caught up in the race crowd, we would rather check out the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, barely a mile away. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center with morphing Snoopy sculpture by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani would have to wait for another day.

I had read about the horticulturalist Luther Burbank, his gardens, and his deep bonding with plants, in the book "Autobiography of a Yogi". The folks in the Santa Rosa visitors bureau were quick to blow Burbank's horn, showing me pictures of him hob-nobbing with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. But when I mentioned his association with Paramahansa Yoganada, they were completely clueless.

By the time we set out for the gardens, Santa Rosa was in the grips of police barricades and bumper-to-bumper traffic. We parked amid the quaint bungalows adjacent to the gardens. I thought that perhaps with an "event" going on, the gardens would also be busy; on the contrary, they were almost completely empty. It was therefore a very peaceful place. The gardens were small, and not a whole lot was in bloom; nevertheless the house and setting were idyllic, and the signage and displays were well done. Here was a man whose religion was plants, whose garden provided him with every spiritual need.

Monday, February 20, 2006

chocolate banana martini

For Presidents Day weekend we took a long overdue trek up to Sonoma. We stayed at the Hotel La Rose in Old Town Santa Rosa -- all very nice and even the weather cooperated. I found the place on the Historic Hotels of America website, which is linked to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, of which I am a member. The Old Town also has some cinematic history, having appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 film "Shadow of a Doubt".

In addition to being historic, the Hotel La Rose is solid, medium-sized, and cozy on a slightly chilly February night. We decided to dine in the hotel at Josef's, a Swiss-style restaurant & bar. The complimentary house wine was quite good. The food was only average for us since the only veggie option was some sort of pasta concoction. The most original items were on the dessert menu -- chocolate martinis.

Lisa brought the chocolate martini to my attention, and I wondered how on earth they could pull that one off. I looked a little closer and saw a Heath Bar martini. Unbelievable. Here was a list of the most unusually appealing martinis known to man. When I saw that they served a chocolate banana martini, my jaw dropped. That for me is a holy combination.

I don't normally drink mixed drinks, especially martinis, but I was curious about these. She got the Heath Bar and I got the chocolate banana and astonishingly they tasted exactly like what they purported to. The drinks were clear and colorless with chocolate sprinkles on top. So I drank my dessert which tasted great and sent me into a fuzzy and wobbly fog.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

John Cale again?

What's this? Another John Cale album? That's what I thought when I saw "Black Acetate" in of all places the music store at the Gilroy outlet mall. It took him almost a decade to come out with "Hobo Sapiens", then in only a year or two this thing appears. I was suspicious, but the reviews were all pretty good.

It's hard to assess the album since it's still slowly growing on me, but my initial response is not bad, but not on par with "Hobo". "Acetate" seems more uneven. "Hobo" is uneven, but evenly uneven. On the new record, the track "Woman" sticks out as the best toward the end of the album. "Wasteland", the track after that, is also good. But I've had this CD for a month and I'm still digesting it -- a strange phenomenon, and not necessarily a good one.

When Mr. Gazpachot said he saw Mr. Cale perform at Amoeba in L.A., I bet he (Mr. Cale) was promoting this newer collection of strange songs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

the Life of Pi

Just finished "The Life of Pi" by the Canadian writer Yann Martel, and it was just about everything I could ask for from a popular novel... The book lived up to and maybe even exceeded its really cool cover. But the story leaves me with a million questions. Did this really happen? Did some guy in a cafe in Pondicherry really bring the story to the author, or is that the creation of the author?

If anything even remotely similar to this story actually happened, that is amazing. And if it's just a story, what a great story. Either way this one is worth checking out.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

bromelain & papain

A few years ago I went to a nutritionist, who put samples of my blood under a microscope that was hooked up to a live TV monitor. Then, based on the shape or movement of the cells, and whatever else was swimming around in there, she would recommend all kinds of supplements and remedies -- mostly herbal and plant based.

One of the first was something called "Bromelain & Papain". These are enzymes that occur naturally in pineapples and papayas respectively. Both are good at breaking down proteins; not surprisingly they are also used as meat tenderizers. Apparently, based on the stickiness of the red blood cells, I needed some help breaking down proteins. The cells tended to adhere in large clumps.

As I recall the supplements did actually help and subsequent "bloodcasts" showed the red blood cells floating freely throughout the plasma.

And I must admit that "Bromelain & Papain" has a certain ring to it.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

American Asshole

So I'm walking to the UPS store, thinking that it's good to walk to the store and not always be driving. Immediately upon having this thought a car drives by, a guy leans out of the passenger seat window and gives me the finger, and yells out something ("asshole" or some such thing).

Now I've had this experience before but not in a long time. I actually associate it more with the east coast and the rampant stereotypical rudeness of suburban Long Island and New Jersey. I always thought it had something to do with the reduced status of pedestrians in an automobile-centered society.

I find myself asking, through what mechanism does this kind of thing happen? Is it supposed to be funny for the people in the car? The guy was sort of a beefy white beer-swilling frat boy type, not necessarily a local cowboy but maybe some idiot who got off the freeway to buy Cheese Doodles (it was near the entrance ramp to the 101).

If anyone has figured any of this out, please contact me.