A few more, captured around Audubon Park, the French Quarter, and on the steam paddlewheeler Natchez. I’ll stop now, I promise…
Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt
It was a gesture, really. A symbolic act, coming out of the cedar-lined secret stash closet where all of us baby-boomer potheads grew up.
I’ve smoked marijuana since I was in high school, and now, in my 60s, it’s still my consciousness-altering substance of choice. Now, I’m a white guy from suburban Connecticut, so even if I’d gotten busted back in the ‘70s the consequences wouldn’t have included much prison time. But the fear of discovery by parents, teachers, coaches or the cops forced all of us freaks (the accepted term for pot smokers in my high school years) to be sneaky. And to distrust authority, because we knew the authorities were all lying to us about weed’s effects. (The old “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30” slogan was all about the wacky tabacky, kids.)
So I’ve been very happy that last January California made it legal for adults to purchase cannabis products for recreational use. I can walk into my local pot store and choose from an incredible variety of marijuana strains and delivery systems, with effects calibrated to suit any activity. It’s fucking weed wonderland in the Golden State, folks. (And in Washington, Oregon and Colorado. The West is Green!)
Ever since “420” became the area code for weed, April 20th has become a folk holiday. One of the prominent gathering spots for the celebration is the area of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park known as Hippie Hill. In 2017 the city decided it was easier to join ‘em than to beat ‘em, so the event is now sanctioned and sponsored. This year some 15,000 people showed up.
To steal a slogan from an old advertising campaign, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”
So I had to make the gesture. I had to go to Hippie Hill on 4/20/18 and burn a legally acquired joint. I remembered friends who’d been caught and tossed out of school, or arrested and thrown into the (in)justice system. I blessed all the activists—especially the AIDS activists, whose fight for medical marijuana turned the tide—who worked to change the state law. And I’ll support anyone who works to make it legal everywhere. Like alcohol prohibition before it, marijuana prohibition has always been a tool of oppression and a breeding ground for crime. Let’s end it now.
Phoebe the Forager struts her stuff
The California Condor is, literally, a rare bird. Nearly extinct a few decades ago, the species is just beginning to re-establish wild populations, thanks to captive breeding programs run by several conservation groups. There are fewer than 500 of these huge scavengers in existence today. Small flocks of condors are now flying wild on California’s Central Coast, one located in Big Sur and another based in Pinnacles National Park.
Pinnacles National Park (https://www.nps.gov/pinn/index.htm) is an easy one-tank-of-gas-round-trip drive from pretty much anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, and spring is the perfect time of year for a visit. Renée and I recently found a free Monday (to avoid crowds), packed a lunch, charged up the camera and hit the road. The park’s main (East) entrance is located just off Route 25, south of Tres Pinos and Paicines. It’s a pleasant cruise through San Benito County’s rolling hills, still green in April and sprinkled with California poppies, purple heliotrope and sticky monkeyflowers. (https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=86E20223-E309-E8C9-BC0F05930927E81D)
We stopped at the Visitor Center to pay our entrance fee (just $20, thanks to our Senior discount). There’s a relatively small campground there, with a mix of tents and RVs; if you plan to camp you’d best make reservations beforehand (www.recreation.gov or 877.444.6777).
Park headquarters is just a couple of miles farther on, at Bear Gulch. There’s a Nature Center at this spot, along with picnic tables and the jumping-off points for several trails into the park. Our choice was the Condor Gulch Trail; at 1.7 miles long with an elevation gain of 1,100 feet, it was a perfect moderately strenuous day hike for a couple eligible for the Senior discount. More ambitious (or younger) walkers can connect to the High Peaks Trail for a 5-mile loop, and there are plenty of other choices suitable for every level of trekking. Rock climbers also find opportunities at Pinnacles NP, but that’s a little beyond our abilities.
The geological history of Pinnacles is complicated, involving volcanoes, plate tectonics and erosion, but the result is a natural sculpture garden on a gargantuan scale. Massive rock formations are scattered across the landscape, with shapes that remind me of the abstract work of sculptor Henry Moore. Renée insists she kept seeing Snoopy, so I guess it’s open to interpretation. It’s a photographer’s paradise—and apparently, California Condors (gymnogyps californianus) like it too.
Close to the beginning of Condor Gulch Trail, we noticed some other visitors craning their necks and pointing cameras at a rock wall. Recognizing this as the universal signal for a wildlife sighting, we stopped, craned and pointed our camera, too. We were rewarded with the view of two condors perched on a high ledge.
In a couple of my pictures, I was able to read one of the bird’s wing tags, which later allowed me to identify him as Condor #589.
(You can read his biography at this link: https://www.nps.gov/pinn/learn/nature/profiles.htm.) In 2017, he and his nestmate, Condor #569, (http://mycondor.org/condorprofiles/condor569.html) successfully hatched the second wild-born condor chick since the beginning of the reintroduction program. Though no camera has a view of their nest right now, it’s entirely possible that the two—can I call them lovebirds?—are tending another egg this Spring.
After a few minutes observing condor domestic life, we decided to continue on the trail, switchbacking up the steep hills and gaining elevation. Every turn offers a spectacular view, and we sighted several more soaring condors on the way up. We reached the junction with the High Peaks trail and decided to stop for lunch in the shade of a large rock formation. (Renée reminds me that “we” didn’t decide, she insisted. I think her knees have recovered from the hike by now…) After a food, water and photo break, we started back down toward Condor Gulch.
Condor #569, also known as Phoebe the Forager, had left her rocky perch and boyfriend behind to give us a demonstration of her flying skills, and I was able to catch some photos as she wheeled through the sky overhead, fingering the air currents with her wingtips.
It was quite a show, and we consider ourselves very lucky to have seen a private performance by this rare, talented aerialist.
By the time we again reached their nesting site, Phoebe had also returned. I caught a few more pictures of the happy gymnogyps couple snogging on the ledge before we called it a day and headed back to the car for the ride home. We didn’t see as many wildflowers as Renée had hoped, but that’s probably due to the trail we chose. Both Renée and I are looking forward to seeing more on our next visit, and we suggest you plan one for yourself, soon.
I’ve given lots of attention to my paternal grandfather, Charles E. Ruhe, lately, so it’s time to balance it out with something about the grandfather I actually knew, Howard Anness.
I called my mother’s father Papa, and he lived with my family from the time we moved to Bethany, a suburb of New Haven, until his passing in 1968, when I was 14 years old. He’d been a salesman for the American Screw Company during his working years, and was an enthusiastic vegetable gardener in retirement, keeping the family well supplied with strawberries and sweet corn from his plot in the back yard.
When my brother and sisters were cleaning out the family house, they came across two yellowed old newspaper clippings with an interesting story about Papa that I’d never heard before. The newspaper name and date are missing, but it seems likely they are from the Providence Journal, circa 1910. I’ve transcribed them below.
‘HOUSE BREAKER’ JUST SON-IN-LAW, BRAVE CHIEF TRAINOR FINDS
Cranston Police Head Responds Briskly When ‘Phone Tells Him Supposed Marauder Has Been Seen Climbing Through Window of House.
Many people in the vicinity of the home of Mrs. Arthur Aldrich at 2096 Cranston Street saw Chief Trainor of the Cranston police catch a housebreaker, as he was supposed to be, who entered the place in broad daylight yesterday afternoon shortly before 3 o’clock. Not only were they on hand at the capture, but Chief Trainor led the man gently but firmly out on the piazza and showed him to the multitude after the capture.
This morning members of the family said that the “intruder” surprised by the fearless Chief was not a housebreaker at all, but husband of the daughter of the house.
However, Chief Trainor said the arrival of a younger daughter was most timely, for the finding of the man was under circumstances that would have made explanations difficult, and, if it had not been satisfactorily explained, the man might have had to accompany him to the station.
One of the neighbors saw the man get in to the house through a window and called up the Chief on the telephone to notify him that the peace and quiet of the town that wants awfully to be a city was being disturbed and the good citizens robbed. Chief Trainor at once had his fast pacer Trifler harnessed up and sped to the scene in tome to nab the supposed marauder, who was calmly making himself at home in the kitchen.
The person who reported the case said that the man got off a Providence car at 2:30 o’clock and walked up to the Aldrich home. Mrs. Aldrich and her two daughters occupy the place. The elder of the girls was down-town with her mother shopping and the younger, a mere child, was in school at Meshanticut. The neighbor who peered out from behind the parlor curtains knew there was no one at home and carefully watched the “intruder.”
He walked around the house and tried several windows and then finally came back on the front piazza and after working a time at one of the windows raised it and stepped into the house. That was enough. Pit, pat she rushed to the telephone.
CHIEF ON THE JOB.
“Hello. Yes. This is Chief of Police Trainor. What! There’s a man entered Mrs. Aldrich’s home and no one there? Be right up. Watch the house.”
Thus spoke Chief Trainor into the ‘phone and so the discoverer watched and waited. The man did not leave the house, nor was there any sign of activity about the place.
Chief Trainor had just returned to his home on Dyer avenue, when he received notification of the break. He had left his fast pacer Trifler, a well-known speedway performer, at the Hotel National. He called the stable and had them get the horse into a rig.
He then rushed from the house pell-mell and just in time to catch the 2:55 trolley from town. Once behind Trifler he felt more sure of being able to reach the scene on time. A hurry of hoofs through the village street, and Trainor clinging gamely to the ribbons. On went the flying Trifler, his owner plying the lash. Never on the speedway did he make such a record. Those who saw the noble animal flying along, bearing right and justice to the oppressed, say that he must have made the mile in close to nothing.
Once the steed was stopped in its headlong flight for the Chief to pick up Patrolman McGee, who had rushed out to stop the runaway and arrest the driver for overspeeding. Then on again, like a whirlwind, went Trifler, while Chief Trainor told the tale to his trusty subordinate.
A FINE DAY FOR CRIME.
It was a day that fairly breathed mystery and held crime as its playfellow. A soft rain was sifting down through the leaden skies, while a breeze moaned through the gaunt trees as though in warning of an awful tragedy. The whole world seemed to ooze water, and a wet blanket enveloped the earth. The flying Trifler threw several tons of Cranston mud into the faces of the police force, without, however, dampening the ardor of the Chief or his brave command.
At last they arrived at the house. The Chief sprang out and ordered McGee to go around to the back door and stand guard. Then he went stealthily up on to the porch and tried the door. It was locked. No sound came from within the house.
Many of the neighbors, who had been told of the trouble, were on hand, and they volunteered the information that Mrs. Aldrich and her daughter were down-town.
“The little girl is over at the school house, and she has a key,” whispered a little boy, with a start as something snapped like a revolver under his feet. The Chief ordered him to bring the girl. And then they waited.
Finally little Miss Aldrich came, bringing with her the needed key. Chief Trainor unlocked the door and the crowd watched in awestruck wonder as he went over the threshold beyond which lurked untold dangers and a bold bad man with a gun, or maybe a dagger!
SURRENDERS WITHOUT STRUGGLE.
There was not a sound as Chief Trainor, prepared for the worst, entered the hall. He walked at once to the kitchen, that door being open. And there he saw the man, sitting comfortably back in a chair with his feet on the kitchen range and a pipe dangling idly from his mouth, while about his head was a hazy halo of smoke. His coat was off, too but he wore instead a calm, devil-may-care expression.
“What are you doing here?” demanded Chief Trainor in stentorian tone.
“What do you think I’m doing?” answered the stranger nonchalantly.
“What do you want here?” again queried the Chief, with his most official air.
“My ease, and I’m getting it,” flung back the daring fellow.
Here was calm, here was bravado, here was everything that goes to make the modern Jesse Jimmy—and in Cranston, too!
Chief Trainor was just about to clap down the hand of the law when the little Aldrich girl, braver than the rest, peeked around the door.
“Why, it’s Howard, the fellow that goes with my big sister,” she shyly remarked. Howard blushed and the hand of the law remained suspended. It was later removed. Chief Trainor had a peculiar little smile when he remarked to the intruder that he had just escaped landing in jail. Then he took Howard out on the front porch and formally introduced him to the crowd. Of course Mr. Annis—for he was the intruder—explained that he had come down from Boston, and knowing that one of the front windows was accessible had decided to wait and meanwhile take his ease.
When Patrolman McGee passed the Aldrich house this morning, he says, Annis met him, still smoking the pipe and still wearing the same nonchalant air. The patrolman says Mrs. Aldrich told him also that the “intruder” was no intruder at all, as he and the oldest Aldrich girl had been married a few days ago.
Inquiry at the Cranston Town Clerk’s office this morning showed that no license had been issued to the couple.
CRANSTON’S GREAT ROMANCE INVOLVES DR. ROUSMANIERE
Former Grace Church Rector Unites in Boston Young Man Mistaken for Burglar and Young Lady Whose Little Sister Spoke About a “Beau.”
People out in the vicinity of one part of Cranston street went to bed in comparative peace last night, and this morning arose without any unseemly speed and ate their breakfasts in what approached a calm condition o mind an no apparent dilation of the eyeballs.
Thanks to the police, the veil of what looked like a deep, dark and menacing romance, with its consequent marriage, brought to light. The bridegroom and the bride had been discovered, and a worried, overheated neighborhood enabled to return nearly to its normal state.
It all came about through the frantic appeal of an apprehensive person, who telephoned Chief Trainor that a person had been observed working his way through a window into the house of Mrs. Arthur S. Aldrich at 2096 Cranston street, and that a great opportunity of catching a thorough-going burglar red-handed was ripe for seizing.
But it wasn’t a desperate robber, carrying an arsenal and an electric searchlight, that the valorous chief forthwith surprised in the dwelling, but a very mild-mannered, peaceable, complaisant and urbane young man, who said he was Howard T. Anness, and was unaware he had done anything very dreadful. To the statement of a little girl in the place, that he was her big sister’s beau, he did not deem it necessary to reply.
As a matter of fact, he had only the day before been married to the big sister, Miss Olive S. Aldrich, in Boston, Rev. Edmund S. Rousmaniere, D.D., of St. Paul’s Church, formerly rector of Grace Church here, performing the ceremony. The went to Boston Monday and were wedded, returning on Monday afternoon.
Tuesday he went back to Boston to get some personal belongings, and on arriving at the house in Cranston found that his bride and her mother had gone down street.
He decided to go in through a window and did so, never suspecting that a lynx-eyed neighbor was observing the operation. He disposed of his effects and proceeded to take things easy until the others should come home. He was thus engaged when he heard a commotion outside. He paid no attention, and soon was astonished to have the Chief march into the place and demand an explanation of his presence. He did not know that people roundabout were interested in his identity, and did not even then think it essential that the Chief or they should be enlightened as to the matrimonial event and so said nothing about it. Being a regular member of the household he considered its and his business of no concern to others.
The result was that it went from mouth to mouth that the little girl’s big sister’s best fellow had been interrupted in a soliloquy, in which a pipeful of tobacco played a solacing part, and that the joke was somewhat on him and very much on the head of the police force.
To-day the young man feels as if he has the better end of the laughing game. He expressed regret that he forgot to serve notice on the neighborhood that he and Miss Aldrich contemplated being made husband and wife by a former leading Providence minister, and suggests that it overlook so grave a slip, as he was far from appreciating the intense interest in his affairs and those of his bride that the locality nourished. This, too, he thought, might explain his failure to take out a marriage license in Cranston.
* * *
Pasadena, 1. 26.18
Our plan for the morning was to find a hearty breakfast, head over to the Norton Simon Museum for some Culture with a capital C, then begin the long drive home. We headed out to Conrad’s Family Restaurant, the diner we’d discovered the previous morning. If you ever find yourself in Pasadena looking for good, plain food, I can enthusiastically recommend this unassuming restaurant. Plain old-style cooking and coffee. No barristas and buttery pastries. This was breakfast. Buttermilk pancakes, Mexican omelets, poached eggs. The homefries—deliciously seasoned with a mysterious spice—were so good I decided we would eat all our meals at Conrad’s. We didn’t, of course, but breakfast on both of our visits was exactly what we needed.
Gardens over galleries
Our hunger satisfied, we found we still had some time before the Norton Simon opened so we decided to pop in at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. You snooze, you lose, Norton! We wandered for 2 ½ hours and we could have used another day just to finish the gardens. Not to mention the four Museums on the property which we briefly considered visiting. But it was a beautiful morning and we elected to spend it out in the air.
The Huntington offers 12 distinctive gardens. Having reviewed the map, we set our sights for the Shakespeare Garden where the Bard’s words were matched with corresponding flora, and the Japanese and Chinese Gardens on the other side of the park.
We were momentarily distracted by the Desert Garden which was AWESOME. Gigantic cactus, garish colors, and fantastical succulents created an otherworldly landscape that I really wanted to engage with and it was with reluctance that we dragged ourselves away in search of Shakespeare. Next time though…
The Shakespeare search was fruitless. Our map-reading left something to be desired, so like the Bard’s enchanted lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we wandered aimlessly through twisting and meandering paths that lead nowhere. We finally found a bust of Will, but never the alleged garden. Perhaps we’d been glamoured by Puck.
A Quick Trip to Asia
Back on a clearer pathway, we hightailed it over to the Asian Gardens. This would be a good opportunity to further explore the aesthetics that inspired the Arts and Crafts movement we saw at the Gamble House.
From the moment I enter a Japanese garden, I feel all my anxiety give way to joy and calm. They are perfectly cultivated to enhance the beauty of the space and to carry us along on the flow of ki. As we strolled these gardens, we saw gold, white, and orange koi gliding under bridges; waterfalls spilling over elegantly arranged rocks; softly shaped shrubs reflecting in still pools. Ancient, worn artifacts dot the landscape like the roadside bas relief Buddhas and the matched lion-dogs guarding the entrance. At this time of year the camellia were bloom, though I’d love to be there in early spring to see the wisteria, one of my favorite flowers. Magnificent trees rise upward, straight and bold or spiral horizontally along irregular paths. And then of course, there were the legendary Japanese bonsai trees.
The Japanese have long been fascinated with miniatures, something many American’s have in common. Doll houses filled with miniature furniture and micro-décor are the most obvious example, but as a child I would create miniature landscapes in my mother’s brownie pans using thick mosses for hills and valley and small ferns to look like trees. Japanese gardens elicit this same sense of fantasy and imagination. And the bonsai trees are the quintessential miniature, meticulously curated for years, even decades and centuries. I was especially delighted to find a miniature Coastal Live Oak, whose full-size cousins grow all around me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.
The adjoining Chinese Garden was quite different, though equally restful and harmonious. Walkways were paved with stones in intricate designs, linking structures that provided places to sit and contemplate the beautiful views. The Chinese aesthetic shares the Japanese respect for nature, but to my mind it imposes a more formal structure. In a Japanese garden, I feel like I’m in nature—the human handiwork is subordinate to the forces of nature, and the structures that exist are made of wood and paper. But in the Chinese garden, nature has been mastered—I feel invited to contemplate it from the man-made structures constructed of stone, concrete and glass.
In my Internet preparations for our visit, I encountered a curious use of the term “viewing” in explanations of particular features in the Japanese Garden. The “suseiki” are “viewing stones,” natural rock formations selected for their innate beauty and set somewhere where people can “view” them. There is also “moon-viewing” and “flower viewing”. They seem to point to a notion that “viewing” is itself an aesthetic act, where we, as witnesses, complete the artistic vision. Esoteric, I know, but even if you have never considered the notion, the Japanese and Chinese gardens inspire a euphoric feeling of having helped create something.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens will inspire you with genuine awe. Every time we sat down to rest, we were seduced out of our seats by the visions of beauty still awaiting just beyond. Highly recommended, if you’re in that part of the world. We’ll be back.