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Weekend Shenanigans: Summer disected

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I've been absent from the Shenanigans. Since there's so much, I'm going to break up the posts. Here's PART ONE:



So many shenanigans, so little time.  Like most everyone else here, the play of the 2013 Angels has forced me to go out of doors and actually embrace the summer without much input from my 58”-er.  58” TV, that is.  Hence, the Weekend Shenanigans have been on an unintended hiatus.  BTW, have you ever considered how over-rated Pearl Jam and Dave Grohl are?  Judas f’ing Priest!


The last weeks have been occupied by a lil’ west coast travel, but the real time killer has been my brother who, along with his family, arrived for their annual stateside visit at the beginning of the month.  This year, they invited one of their friends, Alicia, who works with my brother’s wife.  She’s nice, not unattractive and easy-going.  I don’t understand how she hasn’t been married.  Her parents are old school.  Dad hunts and tends to their groves which bring olive oil and wine.  When she went back to Spain I immediately missed her.  I presumed there was room for only one person in my life to be missed.  But the way I miss my wife will always have its own standing.  It can’t be quantified or compared.  It’s a more ominous, harder, blindsiding kind of 'missing' and I have no control over it. 


The original plan was for Alicia to fly into LAX and stay with my family in my mom’s home for a few days before I would drive her to San Francisco.  There, she would stay with a friend whose husband is working for a sailing team racing the America’s Cup (if all goes as planned).  I’m a fan of sailing, having started myself on a sabot when I was about 8 years old and charging cheeseburgers to my parents’ account at the yacht club before my mom laid down the law in the form of a slap on the hand.  Interesting side note:  My mom remembers seeing Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall at the club when she was a youngster.  Bogart would get hammered and Bacall wouldn’t know what to do, sitting by her jewish New York-self among a bunch of West Coast WASPs (and I don’t mean “We Are Satan’s People”...Two points if you get that reference).  My uncle asked her to dance and they did. 


Back to the present day, I drove Alicia up to S.F. with my quiet nephew.  I call him by his initials, “DP.”  DP is an extreme introvert who has just completed his first year of university.  In his country, you list your choices for your major and the university decides which major you get depending on your test scores.  Your placement, if any, is published in the nation’s newspapers.  No pressure.  DP’s first choice was Bio-tech, but he got placed into his second choice:  Agricultural Engineering.  I can see DP going on to invent something worth a billion dollars or maybe going the direction of Ted Kazinski.  Neither would surprise me.


Our drive to S.F. was uneventful so it was good.  You get to know someone, or at least what type of person they are, when you are in the car with them for eight hours.  Alicia was terrific.  No whining, no driving ‘advice,’ no silent but deadlies, etc.  She was curious about all of California’s agriculture and was thrilled when I took a left off of the 5 to cut over to the 101.  You want to know your state better?  Drive it with a foreigner at your side. 


Since Alicia's family has a vineyard – and she’s been taking classes on wines – she was excitably  intrigued with the drive.  Kim Kardashian this was not, allah be praised.  If I ever get re-married, I would be very happy with a European.  After my jaunts to France, Serbia and Spain recently, the women I've met have impressed me by their lack of material need.  No matter their wealth, they will buy or take only what they really need.  They appreciate all that they have and anything you offer.  And the men are not treated as a meal ticket (this is a statement about some women in the coastal areas of Orange County or the wealthier areas of LA...it's not a chauvenistic, blanket statement.  Just an observation of the European Female [title of a song by The Stranglers, who are about 200% better than Pearl Jam]).


I thought of my wife often on the drive.  Our first road trip together was up the 5 fwy. to see the Angels clinch against Oakland in 2004.  I had flashbacks here and there and, though it wasn’t weird to have another female in the passenger seat, it made me miss my wife.  Nothing new there. 


As we approached S.F., Alicia was thrilled.  She got her phone/camera ready as she followed the road signs from Daly City to the only city-county in the state (Huell Howser might've mentioned this at some point).  She was a little bummed when I told her South San Francisco wasn’t San Francisco, but the payoff of finally seeing the tall buildings and Bay Bridge adorning the horizon would be worth it upon arrival.  She lit up like 2001 Josh Hamilton at a tattoo parlour.


We got to Alicia’s friend’s house near North Beach in the early afternoon.  The view was terrific.  To the left was the America’s Cup/Louis Vuitton Challenge pavillion.  To the right, the Bay Bridge.  In front of us, a few America’s Cup challenger boats audibly whizzed by on practice runs with Treasure Island in the background.  Those suckers are so impossibly engineered, it’s hard to call them sailboats since they’re basically flying over the water. 


Alicia’s friend is married to a dude who works for one of the teams (I don’t want to say which one since it’s how he makes a living) invloved with the Cup.  He is essentially an analyst, using computerized information to track how the boat reacts in certain conditions.  There is some espionage and spying of the other teams as they make their practice runs.  It’s common in this trade, apparently.


We met up with my brother who was in town from Napa on some business and headed over to Golden Boy Pizza.  It’s fantastic.  My wife and I made it a ritual, grabbing a slice and eating it over at Washington Square Park which rests in front of Saints Peter and Paul church.  This is where Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe and where he would eventually have his funeral.


After a while, we bid adieu to Alicia and her friend and I took DP with me to Napa to stay with the bro and his wife.  My brother’s in the wine biz, having started his own label of what I am told is exceptional wine.  A veteran of the trade, he’s worked for alot of the big wineries and just got fed up with the change which too the Valley from a love of winemaking to the love of the bottom line as each winery got gobbled up by a conglomerate.  So, my brother used his contacts to start his own label and it seems to be working out pretty well.


We I saw my brother’s wine in barrels in a little warehouse around the corner from his home.  It’s something special to see the goods in this form; to see the care put into an authentic California product.





DP and I made our way back to SoCal after a couple days.  He slept most of the way.  I needed food so I pulled over before the Grapevine and DP woke up.  As a good uncle, I told him he could choose anywhere to get food.  The asshole wanted Panda Express, so I would have two things going against me:  eating inside with the tattoo'd masses instead of on the go; and DP would be having some terrible broccoli tinged gas somewhere around Van Nuys.


When we got back to Newport, DP's family was happy to see him but didn’t make a big deal about his return.  This is a sign of getting older.  You’re supposed to leave home and come back without it being a big deal.  That’s what you do when you’re older.


My brother, the one visiting from overseas, had just returned from catching a pretty good-sized perch from the shore.  We had some quiet time to chat and he told me some remarkable information about the U.S. State Department (after he’d had a couple goblets of wine).  He recently resigned his position due to incompetence by some in the Department and it got old doing three times the work while his requests for help were blown off or ignored.  Spending his weekends at the consulate buried in paperwork was not what he had in mind.  I never asked my brother about Benghazi, Clinton, Obama, etc. while he was on the job as I didn’t want to put him in an awkward position. 


But he was letting it rip on this occasion.  I felt like a psychiatrist...a psychiatrist who just sits there and let's the pateint talk for the full hour.  The Diplomat, told me that Benghazi was inevitable considering the disarray in the Department.  It was his opinion that Hillary got out when she could and did a good enough job considering her hands were often tied by Obama. 


There is a sense by some in the Department that Obama is out of his league or is ignorantly disengaged with matters of foreign affairs.  And that he simply didn’t/doesn’t put in the time necessary for the job.  Despite p.r. attempts, Hillary and Obama still don’t like each other.  That ’60 Minutes’ interview where the two of them sat side-by-side was a transitional gimmick. 


The most amazing thing I learned is that someone who once ran for president, and who presently has a high-ranking position, had one of his bags stolen while travelling through the region my brother served in.  This particular bag contained his passport, a secret report on Iran, and the owner’s dog tags from his time in Vietnam.  My brother, The Diplomat, was informed of the precarious nature of the missing bad and told to keep it all very hush-hush.  A crazy but quiet search commenced throughout the land, but after several days, nothing turned up.


Finally, a homeless man showed up at a police station with the goods.  The passport was there, as was the report on Iran.  Unfortunately, the dog tags were missing.  My brother rushed to meet the homeless man and get whatever info he could.  After getting nowhere in trying to get something out of the State Department to reward the homeless man, my brother gave him some money and sent him on his way.  He informed the politician that he now had the bag in the consulate. 


The two took inventory of the bag's content.  The passport was there as were the secrets regarding Iran.  Sadly, the dog tags were stolen. 


It sounded too fantastic of a story, so I searched for information about the incident on the internets because everything there is the truth.  Couldn’t find anything.  My brother is very honest and even leans a little to the left (politically speaking), so he wasn’t making this up.  The shenanigan either hasn’t made its way out of the State Dept. or hasn’t been reported.  You’d think Fox News would be on this like ‘white on rice’ to quote Tubbs in the pilot episode of a show called Miami Vice.


The day after returning to SoCal, I flew up to Washington with my brother and his two daughters.  Another brother lives in Tacoma, as does my ailing daddy, who got the hell out of Newport years ago.  He was over the traffic, the taxes and so forth.  Old Man’s Disease.  I’m catching a case myself.


Tacoma is a curious city, nearly frozen in time.  Many years ago, it was in competition with Seattle, seizing upon its port and proximity to lumber, among other things.  After spending several years in the toilet, it’s improved bit by bit.  I’m fascinated by Tacoma's downtown area.  There are loads of brick buildings and impressive looking office buildings built up to the ‘20s and ‘30s.  Like Cuba, there hadn’t been enough economic activity to knock down the old buildings and build shiny new ones.  Now, with downtown effectively being re-discovered, those same buildings have been refurbished while also getting a chance at preservation. 


While in Tacoma, we visited my niece at her place of work.  A lost soul, she has a tattoo of the Tacoma Dome on her arm.  You don’t really recover from that life choice. 


Her brother pointed out a bar across the street called “Amocat.”  Tacoma spelled backward.  Indulge me with some  potentially interesting DR family history:  Many, many years ago, my grandfather’s uncle settled in Tacoma and started a business called Amocat.  He made a fortune canning salmon back when canning foods was a new thing.  My nephew told me about it, otherwise I would’ve had no idea.  The Uncle would go on to start another business called West Coast Grocers or something like that.  It was basically a supplier of goods which were shipped to the greater Northwest and Alaska.  The old brick warehouse is still in Tacoma, and was remade into classrooms for the University of Washington.  In its rehab, the West Coast Grocers logo/sign was preserved on the building’s exterior.  Here’s a picture of my great uncle’s house in Tacoma:





I went home the next day.  Home is a mixed blessing for me.  It’s where I have the strongest memories of my wife and it’s also where, not surprisingly, our cat lives. 


About four years ago, I was against getting this cat, but my wife really wanted her.  We picked our cat Elsie (formerly ‘Olive’) from a home in Talega Ranch or whatever it's called.  The family was afraid Olive was going to be trouble for the lady of the house who was expecting a baby.  My wife was so thrilled when we took that cat home.   She stayed in touch via email with Olive – now Elsie’s – former owner.  She probably wonders what happened to my wife.  I haven’t looked into my wife’s email because it’s just too painful.  But I reckon there’s an inquiry about Olive (my wife didn’t want to tell the lady that Olive has a new name).


Whenever I in the door after a trip, Elsie greets me.  She flops onto her side and rolls over, stretching out her front paws towards me.  This is the same cat who wouldn’t sleep on the bed with me and my wife, but since her passing, Elsie has checked on me every night.  She usually sleeps next to me, but when it’s hot like it has been, she jumps up on the bed and cuddles next to me for a few minutes then bails.  Like a little kid visiting an old person, you can see Elsie watching her cat clock, thinking about the big bowl of cat food awaiting her in the kitchen.  "I wonder how soon I can bail," her whiskers tell me.


I was relieved to be home, as always, distracting myself for the first hour by cleaning or making a couple of calls.  I suppose I don’t want to have a quiet home right away.  I’m still getting used to my wife not being around.  I half expect her to greet me. 


Upon returning home from a lad’s weekend in Vega$, my wife would greet me at the front door step after I pulled into the driveway.  She would be so excited to see me.  “Come home, come home,” she’d say when I stepped out of the car.  I’ll always miss that.  Cats and dogs have unconditional love.  That’s why they are always excited to see you.  My wife, who was certainly no dog, had an unconditional love for me.  It was special. 


When I see women now, I often ask myself if they could possibly measure up to my wife.  It’s a bit of an unfair test, but that’s how my mind’s working now.  I wish my wife would come home. 



To be continued...






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