Posts Tagged ‘ Christmas ’

Golden Gate Bridge

In the past two months, Scott and I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge from afar and up close during our weekend staycations.

I took this photo of the bridge’s north tower when Scott and I went flying in December with Scott’s former colleague Jim, who is an amateur pilot.  Instead of exchanging Christmas presents, Scott and I pooled our fun money and asked Jim to take us flying.  Jim is a member of the Alameda Aero Club, so we took off from the Oakland Airport‘s North Field in a Cessna Skyhawk which we had rented from the club.  It was a calm and sunny day.  We had a clear view of San Francisco, and of landmarks such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory above UC Berkeley, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Point Reyes National Seashore.  At one point, Jim let Scott take control of the plane – I held my breath and focused on taking photos of the scenery below!  We landed at the Petaluma Municipal Airport where there were several small planes parked on the airport apron, including a shiny old Royal Canadian Air Force Beechcraft Model 18.  We ate lunch at the Two-Niner Diner.  The diner’s name refers to runway 29, which is nearby.  Despite our ideal flying conditions, I felt a wee bit nauseated so I was happy to settle my stomach with a delicious lunch of salad, chicken-fried steak, and blueberry coffee cake.  After lunch, we flew back to the East Bay.

In January, Scott and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on a Saturday afternoon.  First, we took BART into San Francisco and had fancy dim sum at Hakkasan to carbo-load before our seven-mile (11 km) hike.  I’m not sure how many carbs are in Hakkasan’s famous crispy duck salad; I needed exercise after eating it!  After lunch, we took UBER to the Presidio, a park and former military base that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.   We walked through a beautiful eucalyptus grove called Lovers’ Lane, snacked on macarons and Bavarian cream at the Walt Disney Family Museum, watched the sunlight and shadows of trees dance across the tombstones at the San Francisco National Cemetery, and took some selfies when we arrived at the bridge before sunset.  Heavy traffic made the walk across the bridge noisy and somewhat chaotic, but crossing the bridge on foot enabled us to touch the International Orange paint that protects the bridge from corrosion.  The bridge’s architect Irving Morrow chose the paint color to complement the landscape and enhance the bridge’s visibility in fog.  The Sisyphean task of maintaining the bridge’s paint job is the work of 38 painters.  Once we crossed the bridge, we put on our headlamps and power-walked in the dark to Sausalito so that we wouldn’t miss the ferry back to San Francisco.  At the Ferry Building, we had a wonderful Vietnamese dinner at The Slanted Door before we went home on BART.

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Schlumpfdorf

Yesterday, I had lunch with two German colleagues and the conversation shifted to the topic of fungus as Christopher described his brother’s research to me and Eva.  At one point, Christopher couldn’t find the word he wanted to say in English, so Eva prompted him in German and he responded in kind.  All I heard was “German German German FUNGUS German German”.  This happens to me quite often, and not only at work.  Earlier this week, I accepted an invitation to Skype with my German friends Julia and Eberhard tomorrow morning.  They seem to forget sometimes that I’m not German as I had to run part of their email through Google Translate to understand it.

I took this photo of fungus growing along the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail in Topanga State Park a week before last Christmas.  My Canadian friend Lisa inspired the shot as she had once told me that she wanted to capture a wild mushroom’s point of view in a photo.  To me, this juicy cluster of Armillaria solidipes resembles a Smurf village, or Schlumpfdorf as my German friends would say!

Mike’s Cafe

This week, we enjoyed a brief visit from my Australian friend Penny and her younger brother Ian.  Ian had backpacked his way around the world for several months before he visited Penny and her “registered partner NOT husband” Chris in the Bay AreaLos Angeles was Ian’s final pit stop before he flew back to Australia on Wednesday night.

Penny had chauffeured Ian from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for two days of gambling before they arrived on our doorstep Tuesday evening, bearing gifts of 99 Ranch Chinese roast duck, Sun Tropics mango passionfruit juice, and a Cuisinart immersion blender!  Penny and I used to shop at the 99 Ranch in Mountain View on Thursdays after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Silicon Valley.  Chinese roast duck was and remains a treat, but cartons of Sun Tropics juice were staples in our fridge back then!  We inherited the blender from our German friends Julia and Eberhard, who are moving from Menlo Park to Hamburg next month.  To repay Julia and Eberhard’s kindness, I sent Penny home with a small framed print of Death Valley Desert Gold for them, as they had visited Death Valley over Christmas.  To repay Penny’s kindness, we enjoyed comfort food together at the Nickel Diner in downtown L.A. and Tender Greens in Santa Monica.

Penny’s kindness manifests itself in countless ways.  She pours love into the meals she cooks for her friends and family.  She makes my long commute bearable by Skyping with me once a week as I inch along the freeway.  And despite her occasional tantrums when I’ve taken “too many” photos during a hike or party, she encourages my photography.  She arranged for Ellen and Mike, the proprietors of Mike’s Cafes, to display my work at their Palo Alto restaurant for three months this past summer.  This is a photo of my prints on display at the restaurant.  Scott hung the frames; he did an excellent job.  If you scan the mirrored wall closely, you will see the reflection of Penny chatting with Mike.

Christmas in Beverly Hills

To celebrate the first day of Mama Chow’s Christmas visit, we had lunch in Beverly Hills and did some browsing on Rodeo Drive.  Like all good tourists, we took a photo of ourselves at the fountain in front of Two Rodeo Drive.  Later in the afternoon, Santa Claus sat behind a velvet rope beside the fountain.  Parents tried to pose their frightened children on the jolly old man’s lap.  I can still hear their screams.

I took this snapshot as we walked out of Missoni at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard.  The sun cast interesting shadows along the shop’s woven aluminum facade.

Merry Christmas!  Joyeux Noël!  Feliz Navidad!

Angels Flight

On the final night of Mama Chow’s Christmas visit, we walked to dinner at L.A. Prime atop The Westin Bonaventure where we admired the Los Angeles skyline, had a nice meal, and then fought over the bill as good Asian families do (Mama Chow won).  On our way to the restaurant I took this photo of the Angels Flight railway, which we rode up Bunker Hill from Hill Street to California Plaza.  

This photo was a happy accident.  I had set the shutter speed at 15 seconds as it was dark outside, but then I forgot to turn off the camera’s flash.  The camera captured the train in motion.  The illuminated tower that hovers over the train is Los Angeles City Hall.  City Hall, which was completed in 1928, wasn’t even around when Angels Flight was built.  A plaque mounted onto a boulder next to the train station reads: 

Built in 1901 by Colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer, and friend of President Abraham Lincoln, Angels Flight is said to be the world’s shortest incorporated railway.  The counterbalanced cars, controlled by cables, travel a 33 percent grade for 315 feet [96 meters].  It is estimated that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile [1.6 km] than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years.  This incline railway is a public utility operating under a franchise granted by the City of Los Angeles.

Between 1901 and 1969, the railway ran along tracks which connected Hill Street and Olive Street at Third Street.  The railway was dismantled in 1969 to make way for redevelopment and was finally re-constructed in 1996 to operate at its current location until 2001, when its gear train failed.  The railcar at the top of the hill, Sinai, hurtled down the hill and crashed into the other railcar, Olivet.  One man died and seven people were injured in this accident.  Angels Flight re-opened in March 2010 and a one-way ticket to ride now costs 25 cents.   

In the film “500 Days of Summer” (2009), the main character Tom takes his girlfriend Summer to Angels Knoll Park.  The park is his favorite spot in Los Angeles as he can look out over a number of buildings he likes, although the view is spoiled by parking lots.  Seven dots of white light shine from these parking lots in my photo.  The Angels Flight railway runs through Angels Knoll Park.

Moreton Bay Fig Tree

In my hometown of Winnipeg, the land is flat and the city’s urban forest boasts the largest population of American Elm trees in North America.  From the air, the treetops are so abundantly green in the summertime that the city looks like a tray of freshly-steamed broccoli!  In our current neighbourhood of downtown L.A., shade trees are few and far between so sometimes I miss walking under Winnipeg’s canopy of century-old elms.

Colorado Blue Spruce trees anchor the landscaping of most yards in Winnipeg.  These evergreens are perennial reminders of Christmas in a town that’s covered in snow six months of the year.  During our first Christmas in California, I didn’t know what to make of the palm trees draped in tinsel and cotton batting:  Charlie Brown would not approve of these tarted-up palm trees.  I grew to love the Bay Area’s majestic Canary Island Date Palm trees.  Their thick trunks and full crowns inspire confidence:  these are trees that you can trust.  I feel no such affinity for the tall and skinny Mexican Fan Palm trees which are most common in L.A.  Their spindly trunks and feathery fronds remind me of flighty Hollywood starlets.  Mexican Fan Palms are the “Paris Hilton of Trees”.

Scott shares my fascination with trees; his all-time favourite tree is the Moreton Bay Fig Tree in Santa Barbara.  We visit this Ficus macrophylla every time we pass through town; it is the largest of its kind in the country.  A plaque in front of the tree indicates that it was planted in 1877 and designated a historic landmark in 1970.  Its branch spread was 176 ft (53.6 m), its height was 80 ft (24.4 m), and the circumference of its trunk was 41.5 ft (12.6 m) at 4.5 ft (1.4 m) above the ground in July 1997.  I wonder how much it’s grown since then.

Last Monday night, we stood under the Moreton Bay Fig Tree at dusk.  It’s such a beautiful tree.  The sun had set so I tried to compensate for the darkness by using a tripod and setting a slow shutter speed on my camera, but my photos didn’t turn out.  The photo I’ve posted is of the tree as it appeared last August, when we visited the tree during our move from the Bay Area to L.A.  Someone had chained a bike frame to the fence that surrounds the tree.  The white bike frame lends a sense of scale to the shot.

Joshua Tree Sunset

 

Last year, we spent U.S. Thanksgiving weekend in Joshua Tree National Park with our German friends Manu, Micha, and Arne.  Mindful of the holiday’s significance, we were grateful for our brief time together as Manu and Micha had driven six hours from Stanford to visit us in L.A. and Arne would be returning to Germany before Christmas.

Micha drove us to his favourite spot in Joshua Tree to watch sunsets.  We like to tease Micha about his greatest love:  sunsets, National Parks, or Manu?  (Micha knows the correct answer:  Manu!)  After he parked the car, we followed him through the White Tank Campground to his “secret” lookout among the boulders. 

As I trudged up a hill, I heard people call my name.  I looked up and saw Cristina, Christian, Julia, and Eberhard.  More Germans from Stanford!  Mutual friends had told them that we would be in the Park, but we had no idea of their travel plans.  It was a lovely coincidence that we could enjoy the sunset together.

The sun seemed to sense it was a special occasion.  It set the sky on fire before extinguishing below the horizon.

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