The City By The Bay Obscured By Clouds
Cindy and I went to San Francisco (technically to San Rafael - just across the Golden Gate Bridge) to see my friend from high school. After high school my friend left Maine and never came back.
While we've stayed in contact over the years and have seen each other sporadically, this was the most time we've spent together in almost 30 years.
I went to California in the early 80's
to see my friend and was very impressed (much to my surprise) with the Golden State. Cindy and I went to San Francisco about 12 years ago (my friend was away at the time) but never got outside the city, so this was a special treat for her.
The Bay area is stunningly beautiful. San Francisco itself is a work of art - framed by the drama of the Pacific and the Marin Headlands. Where many cities are grey and shades of brick when the
sun shines (and just distressing grey when it doesn't) San Francisco is silver and pastel (at least when the fog doesn't obscure it altogether). It also has the advantage of a rare vantage point from which one can view the city in its entirety - Mt.
Tamalpais - a 2,500 foot peak which is right next door to where we stayed in San Rafael.
As everywhere else in the Americas, San Rafael is built on the bones of Los Indios. The mission of
San Rafael (the next to the last of the Spanish Missions of California) was founded in 1817 as an alternative to the existing San Francisco mission - Mission Dolores - which was essentially a hospital. Even then it was perfectly obvious that the weather
was much better on the other side of the Bay and the friars moved all the sick Indians, the Miwoks, to San Rafael.
Marin County, of which San Rafael is the county seat, is named after Chief Marin,
who at various times was cooperative with the Spanish authorities and who also lead armed resistance against the Spanish. Apparently he died in the good graces of his oppressors since he's buried in the mission cemetery. His sub-chief, Quintin
(his baptizmal name - after the early Christian martyr, St. Quintin) became the namesake of San Quentin prison, another Marin County "attraction".
Although there is no record of what the present
day Miwoks think of it, or whether anyone bothered to ask them, George Lucas (who's from San Rafael) named his teddy bear creatures from Star Wars - the Ewoks - after the Miwoks.
Speaking of furry
forrest creatures, we went to Muir National Monument to see the redwoods (not to be confused with the giant sequoias, which are somewhat shorter and thicker and are found in the Sierra Nevada mountains and live a bit longer - 3,000+ years compared to 2,000
or so years for the redwoods). There are few things in nature more impressive. The fact that any old stands of these beauties exist at all today is all due to the foresight of the Kents (land rich but cash poor Californians) and Teddy Roosevelt.
The Kents donated about 600 acres of old growth trees (some extant from time of Christ) in the early 1900's and Roosevelt turned it into a national preserve. The Kents had purchased the land for about $45,000 some years earlier. They named the
place after their friend, the proto-environmentalist, John Muir.
We went to Oakland to see the Yankees and A's. Despite the fact that Oakland's stadium (built originally as the home of the
Oakland Raiders) is universally and rightly recognized as one of the dumpiest venues in all of baseball, it was lots of fun. I love the game and it was 70 and sunny.
Aside from its myriad
of other civic problems, Oakland suffers by comparison with its neighbor across the Bay in the baseball sense as well. San Francisco, of course, has not only the reigning World Series champs but has one of the most beautiful ballparks in existence.
There is nothing to suggest that Gertrude Stein was a baseball fan, she was right and could have been talking about baseball when she famously referred to Oakland - "There is no there there." My friend is not a fan but sat patiently without
complaint through the whole ordeal.
We went to Calistoga (at the north end of the Napa Valley - an hour or so away) and took a mud bath. I love them . My vast spa experience consists
of one previous trip. Cindy - not so much. But she was game.
For thousands of years before Contact the Wapoo Indians had been indulging in the treatment. Then the Spanish came.
The rest of the Union owes a lot to California:
It grows much of our food. Much of our wine. Hell, the marijuana alone is a debt
we couldn't possibly repay. Everyone has some gadget (or three) that sprung up in Silicon Valley. Californians invented what we've come to call "life style". OK, maybe that's not such a great idea. In any case, we should all say, "Thanks."
So, to California - and my friend - "Thanks". Thanks a lot.
Photos and text copyright Gary Growe - 2011