I've written a speech for Dr. Paula Dhanda to deliver at MedShare's 20th anniversary event. We're at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Meet the announcer for The Giants, Renel Brooks-Moon, in the green room before the event starts. Fabulous is really the only appropriate word one can use to describe her.
The speech goes well, if not mildly more serious than the vibe of the room. One of the inherent challenges of speech writing. Another challenge, for me at least, is the detachment of not being the presenter of my work. So it goes.
Drive two and half hours south west to Pacific Grove for dinner with photographer Brian Smith and producer Pamela Barry. They're both here for a Sony event. Can't remember having ever been to PG. It's one of those rarities in that it still feels like a California coastal town versus a manufactured version of a California coastal town.
At dinner the conversation picks up right where it left off the last time we saw each other over a year ago.
It's an auspicious day today. I can't put my finger on why, but everything feels different. Maybe it's due to a full moon this evening. A full, Pink Moon.
From the lofty elevation afforded by a satellite map, this ditch looked like a crazy shortcut to the top of the east peak of Mt. Tamalpais. Had been meaning to seek it out for months when I happened on it tonight while hiking up a switchback. It's thirty minutes 'till sunset, it's cold, and I'm in a t-shirt. What could go wrong?
Following the ditch is tough. It's deep and steep and claustrophobic with foliage. But, in the end, my hunch is correct and I'm spit out on to a familiar fire road. It took a third of the time to descend, via ditch, than it did to climb up. My legs are a little beat up, nothing a bourbon and two Advil won't fix. New discoveries, no matter how trivial, are always a bit of thrill.
The clear sunny sky at Tomales Point is misleading. The wind blowing off the Pacific Ocean and through the trees is chilling me to the bone. I love this trail. It's basically nine and half miles of spectacular ocean view that's shared with free roaming Elk. They're very polite and keep themselves to themselves.
At my suggestion Emily and I break off the trail to sit on a patch of grass and have a chin wag. As we do, I can't help looking around thinking how lucky I am to live so close to this place. I won't realize for three days that I'm sitting in a patch of poison oak that will make my lower legs look like I belong in a leper colony.
Foxes are revered in Gaelic lore. It feels auspicious to see two of them on the trail.
Truth be told, in the waning light of the day, I thought they might be mountain lion cubs. So I was mildly concerned that their mother might be lingering nearby as I approached to take the photo. It wasn't 'till I got back to the car and took a good look at the picture that I realized that I had seen a young pair of bold foxes and not cougars cubs.
Bob Jimenez was a San Francisco news anchor at KRON TV in the late seventies and early eighties. Through my mother's acquaintance with him, I got behind the scenes access to a news broadcast. I was a freshman in high school at the time, and my eyes just about bugged out of my head as I watched and listened to the show come together in real time.
Decades later, I'm here in New York on my way to see my friend Ellen, a producer for Good Morning America. She walks out of the door at the ABC building, and, just as we're about to walk to a restaurant, she asks if I want to see the TV studios. "Yes please," I say.
As soon a we get to the control room for Nightline, I get the same sense of awe and amazement as I had when I was a kid in San Francisco.
On those rare days when the fog manages to linger late in the afternoon, I feel like I'm in another country. Or a Tolkien novel.
The nice thing about the owning a company in its nascent stages, is that it only takes one restaurant booth to accomodate the annual Christmas party. Here's to the end of year two.
I would have not been at all surprised to see this in Fairfax or Venice, California. But this fabulous sign, with no explanation whatsoever, sits on Main street in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
Run into a father and daughter who are also admiring the sign. The daughter said she had spent hours online trying to find the backstory, but came up with nothing. It's probably better that way. Somethings are better left a mystery.
Awake at 3:30 a.m. in London to the piercing sound of the hotel's fire alarm. Lack of the smell of anything burning, or the sound of any chaos outside our door keeps me skeptical for about seven minutes. The alarm continues relentlessly, so we grab passports, wallets, and phones and join fellow guests outside on the street. Most of them look significantly more bedraggled than Emily and I. Makes me wonder if we missed a party earlier.
The fire brigade rolls up, lights a flashing, turns off fire alarm, and bids everyone to go back to their room. I feel sorry for the hotel staff. Dealing with bitchy guests who feel that lifesaving protocols shouldn't apply to them unless there's an actual catastrophe is probably not why they signed up for the graveyard shift. Am thankful that the very small group of vociferous complaining solipsists are not American.
Versailles is shrouded in a thick fog when we arrive from Paris at the crack of dawn. After setting off in the direction indicated by a myriad of signs at the train station, the location of the fabled palace is not altogether obvious. Mostly because the fog occludes any visibility beyond a hundred yards.
A regal looking dog trots past with a confidence that convinces us to follow. After a half a mile Emily and see the gate. Wow.
The palace and the grounds are vast. It's easy to become obsessed with reading every single informational plaque in an attempt to comprehend; how was this someone's house? Yes, I understand it was the residence of kings, queens, princes, and princesses, but the opulence is truly overwhelming. Yet, it's also inspiring and beautiful.
Around eleven Emily and I eat at what will become one of our favorite places in France, Restaurant Angelina. For those that would argue that there are Michelin starred restaurants in Paris that are probably better, and don't cater to tourists, I say dining is part food and part experience. Outside the fog continues to drift aimlessly, inside, the legendary hot chocolate warms our souls. It's a flawless moment.
We embark on what will become a seven mile trek around the Palace's gardens. Each mile passes with good conversation and spectacular sites. The Petit Trianon is particularly wonderful.
A little further, the Grande Trianon. I'm in disbelief that people woke up, had a coffee, and sauntered around these magical halls as if it was any other day. But I have it on good authority that they did. This inspires me to pursue sovereignty as new career.
Although the history of scent extraction goes back to a female chemist in Mesopotamia in 1200 BC, modern perfume owes its origins to Queen Elizabeth of Hungary. She commissioned its creation in 1370 and introduced it to Europe.
Emily is a passionate perfume aficionado. So it was with great anticipation that we go to Le Grand Musée du Parfum in the Eighth. There are four floors of history and olfactory escapades. In an exhibit that looks like a scene from a pallid Alice in Wonderland garden, motion sensors activate spritzers of natural scents when you stick your schnoz in a cone. Another exhibit offers little gold balls that you hold to your nose, and then to your ear, to smell, and then listen about the base ingredients of all perfumes. Spend about four hours sniffing our way through the museum. Afterward we drop in on a café just outside in the courtyard. Over two large glasses of wine we discuss what Emily would name her own perfume line.
Later, Emily suggests that we take a boat ride down the Seine river. "The big boats look too touristy to be fun," I say. Emily says I should shut the f**k up and buy some tickets. Which I dutifully do. The trip is incredible, and I learn to reign in my cynicism.
I got a myriad of responses when I asked friends which arrondissement to stay in Paris. Only one said the fifteenth. It's not fancy and it's not trendy, but it is wholly Parisian. After surviving a few days of "you ain't from around here" looks, we've slipped into a comfortable rapport with the all the food vendors and the people who run café around the corner. It feels good to be a part of community, if only briefly. We're treated as visitors instead of as tourists. The distinction may seem subtle, but it there's a significant difference.
The location of the fifteenth is spectacular. Steps away from our flat is a minor hub of a metro station. The entirety of Paris, and indeed the train to Versailles is easily accessible. As we walk through many of the other arrondissements we compare them to our temporary home. Funny how you can get attached to an area so quickly once you have a relationship with the people who live and work there.
Not one for wanting to meander among throngs of tourists, my patience is biblically tested as inane jokes about "all these steps" echo off the stone walls of the narrow winding staircase of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame. The body odor of the crowd becomes more pungent the higher we ascend the 387 steps. Begin to wonder about the portly gentleman in front of me. His breathing is labored. If his heart ceases he's gonna fall backward and roll over me like that big stone in the Indiana Jones movie.
Thankfully we make to the out-of-doors and a spectacular view of Paris. We seem to have arrived just in time to watch the gargoyle's feed. They're sexy looking, but their table manners are atrocious. "Put it on plate, you'll enjoy it more," I say. No one gets it. I realize I am now one of those annoying people I loathed on the way up.
Bad humor stowed, I'm particularly impressed with Emily who has a profound fear of heights. Think twice about congratulating her, lest I break the spell and she suddenly realizes how high up she is. Instead I take a long look around in anticipation of giving this magical city a good run for the next two weeks.
Growing up in California in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, my concept of a pond has always been a decorative water feature with a bunch of oddly colored fish in it. Apparently, on the east coast, where the beach is called the shore, small dark green lakes are called ponds. And you swim in them.
Am at the Eastbury Pond in Connecticut enjoying a bit of recovery from my trip to Lake Shasta. If you're confused, and think you're reading that last sentence as; a vacation to recover from a previous vacation, you are correct.
The pond is serene, the weather is fabulous, and I'm salaciously gawking and my beautiful girlfriend in a bathing suit. It doesn't seem like it's going to get any better until I hear a piercing rendition of "It's a Small World" over a loudspeaker. It's the Good Humor Ice Cream truck. I always thought that Good Humor was a brand made up in the movies.
I feel a little conspicuous being the only person in line at the truck's window that's over twelve. Emily seems to be rushing around reassuring parents that I'm not a pervert, I've just never had Good Humor before. Have to say, it's one of the best ice cream sandwiches I've ever had.
It is best described as a floating bacchanal that has tempered over time. There's a core group of about twenty of us who gather for the week around fourth of July to live on houseboat at Lake Shasta. Non-core Shastites, newbies, and occasional vistors, can swell the population up to forty-ish. Recent years have required two houseboats to accommodate everyone. The inaugural Shasta trip was thirty-three years ago, this year marks my thirty-first. Dam, I love Shasta.