Sunday, March 14, 2010

Oh my God, time does go by fast. It’s been almost 3 years since my last post.

Well I’m finally getting inspired to blog again, primarily because I’m tweeting on Twitter and while I like the format I find the limited space for tweets at times constricting. So I’m going to work on slowly updating Travels of the Fighting Kitten and take advantage of the space to write about the events and places I visit and add my commentary regarding some of the events of the day.



Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bay Area living provides many opportunities to enjoy camping trips not too far away from home. Finding places to go is the easy part, dealing with the weather or other environmental factors can be the real challenge.

To deal with the weather we decided to have flexible travel options based on how the temperature flowed and fluctuated. We started our trip by visiting
Big Basin State Park, the oldest California State park. North of the City of Santa Cruz, Big Basin is known for it's Redwood trees and waterfalls.

Leaving Sunday, driving to Big Basin is pretty easy, only 65 miles from San Francisco the route we took went through the quaint
City of Saratoga and some curvy mountain roads which didn't compliment my driving skills but the scenic Route 9 and Hwy 236 provided an enjoyable entrance to the park.

When we checked out our campsite we found our neighbors had three large tents. We decided to request another site and received a walk-in campsite at the, Huckleberry campground. When making reservation's through
ReserveAmerica I was only able to designate the type of site I wanted. However, at the park you can request a specific location or reject the one you received based on availability.

Our campsite was quite lovely peaceful and surrounded by redwood trees, the site contains a picnic table, locker and fire pit. The bathrooms were a few yards away but clean with showers. Best showers were on the RV side of the campground. They were under used by the RVers. My only complaint was the mosquitoes, we were near a creek, and during the evening protection was required. Insect repellent and our fire pit produced enough smoke to discourage the biting varmints but it did get a little rough.

Big Basin has several miles of hikes at various levels; it was easy to join trails near our campsite. Pleasant walks through redwood trees abound. For a more challenging hike we chose the Pine Mountain Trail to Buzzards Roost, a nice moderate hike that rewards you with views from one of the highest point in the Basin. Hiking on a Monday was great we barely saw 5 people. When we arrived at Buzzards Roost we had lunch and enjoyed the views that we shared only with the wildlife around us.

We left Big Basin on Tuesday and drove to Monterey. We were going to camp in the Ventana Wilderness near Big Sur if the weather on the coast looked good. Unfortunately it was completely foggy, after a few phone calls I found out the temperate in Big Sur was 59 degrees. A bit chilly so we headed east through the
Salinas Valley to Pinnacles National Monument.

While driving through the Salinas Valley we stopped at Mission Juan Bautista. A nice location to stop have lunch or just stretch your legs. There are picnic tables on the grounds. The Mission is also available to the public for touring. I have mixed feeling about the Missions they are apart of California History and I enjoy viewing and touring them. But many native people died in the development of the Mission System across the State. I can't look at the Missions without remembering the great suffering they caused for so many. After our break we continued to through Hollister everyone favorite biker town to Pinnacles.

Pinnacles is the remnants of a volcano, It's a beautiful place with fascinating geological formations, bat caves, plus it's a condor habitat. However, the temperature is hot during the summer. We arrived around 7:00 PM and stayed at the Pinnacles Campground, it was empty and about 75 percent of the campsite were closed to the public. Since the joint was empty we had our choice of the sites and picked one with some tree cover. Most of the available sites did not have trees and were completely exposed to the sun.

Well the campsites were devoid of humans but there were plenty of raccoons. Before we could get dinner started a raccoon was on top of the car testing the doors handles. Another climb a tree right above our site apparently doing reconnaissance. Humans versus the raccoons was our evening activity. They were very persistent and bold, one camp mate tent was unzipped during the night and their cloths were found outside the tent the next morning. The raccoons didn't dare enter my tent it must have looked like a lighthouse with this beacon of light shooting out over the campsite every few minutes. I was constantly using the flashlight whenever I heard a rustle. Didn't sleep too good especially when the coyotes started to howl but somehow I got a few hours in.

Next morning I awoke to the sound of pecking woodpeckers. They greeted me when I exited my tent by flying low and close to my head but at least the raccoons were gone. We drove over to the trail head at the Bear Gulch Visitors Center. We started hiking early in the morning and missed most of the morning heat. The hike Condor Gulch High Peaks Loop also has climbing but the rewards were very beautiful views. At one point we could see the fog on the coast and breeze at the top of the climb was appreciated. We stopped for lunch and again enjoyed the privacy on the trail.

We returned to the visitor center chatted with the ranger and made our way back to the campground. CampPinnacles may not have partially exciting campsites excluding the wildlife but they have a nice pool. We had the pool pretty much to over selves. One side has grass and is shaded with trees; it was cool, comfortable and fun. When we left the pool around 2:00 PM it felt like the low 90s and it was time to leave Pinnacles. We slowly packed our campsite, no raccoons but we enjoy the presents of a few shy wild pigs. They were not on or in the car so everything was good.

We made our way out of the park back through
Hollister where we found a Diary Queen. A place loved in childhood may only provide mild enjoyment and a larger tummy ache for an adult. But is was cold, retro and tasty in an artificial favor sort of way. After our ice cream stop we were back in San Francisco in a couple of hours.

In a few days we enjoyed redwood forest, ancient volcanos, nice hikes with beautiful views and wrestled with raccoons. Our trip was modestly priced the most expensive part was the rental car. I can only encourage folks to get out and explore the natural world that is so close to home.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring in San Francisco is here and we're celebrating the begining of the season with the most drab weather we've had in months. The fog is laying very low and wet in the Richmond District it not rain but a thick wet mist that slowly soaks your cloths and chills your bones.

But we need the rain-mist and the weather didn't detour a walk on Saturday. I started at Inspiration Point, which is a vista point for viewing Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco Bay, just inside the Arguello Blvd. Gate in the Presidio and walked the Ecology trail. Short, 2 miles and family friendly all ages can enjoy the hike. Within minutes you have escaped the city and are strolling by a red wood forest.

Afterward I headed south-west past the Presidio golf course course to Mountain Lake. Nicely landscape and quietly pretty even on the most foggest of days. Mountain Lake feels like a neighborhood park but is part of the Golden Gate National Park Recreational Area. The park has a children playground, lake seating and a fitness trail (which needs some TCL). Finding the park can be a little tricky one entrance is at Park Presidio Blvd. and Lake (North East Corner).

In the spirit on drab weather I escaped into a double feature of two 2006 Oscar contenders, a British filmfest The queen and Notes on a Scandal. I have to admit doing double features is pretty challenging I usually only partake in one or two annually. But when you watch films that catch your fancy then back to back films can be a pleasure.

The first movie was The Queen a film main appeal for me was to see the performance by Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Her performance is excellent, if you have any interest in the British royal family and/or their response to Princess Diana Death in 1997 you may find the film fascinating. Also, if you enjoy films for good performances you'll find plenty in this film. If you needs lots of explosions to enjoy a movie this one may not be for you.

Notes on a Scandal seems to be a movie either people love or hate. I really enjoyed the movie Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett both gave great performances. Judi Dench was really fightening but both women were scary in their own ways. The film is about how bad choices can escalate and destory lives. So beware, those of you who live only for today. A bad decision today may affect you beyond the end of this movie. This is definitely an adult film with adult themes if that's your cup of tea enjoy!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Each year I try for at least one weekend skiing. My annual trek is to Yosemite National Park where I can avert the crowds and ski in a mellow environment. Traditionally, it's an adult trip but times are a changing. This year we had a car full of kids and visiting Yosemite will never be the same.

For those who don't know, the ski season was a bust in California. Unlike the East Coast, where we heard news reports about snowstorms weekly, California’s rainfall is below level and this means poor ski conditions. Last weekend when we arrived in Yosemite it felt and looked like spring. Driving into the North Gate of Yosemite on Hwy 120 nary a flake of snow or clump of ice was found. At Crane Flats there was some snow/ice but the conditioning didn't look too inviting for skiing.

We stayed on the valley floor at Camp Curry (pic on left) in the Stoneman Lodge. The Lodge is a collection of simple rooms located near shuttle / bus stops, the outdoor ice-skating rink, and a few concessionaires. It's a good location for those with little children. The rooms are pleasant, TV free and clean but a little pricey, the best deal is to reserve the loft room. With an upstairs bedroom it gives the kids a place a play in the evening and a hiding place for an adult looking peace when the action is downstairs

Saturday, we took the bus to Badger Pass where Yosemite’s skiing facilities are located. The bus is a service that is provided from the valley floor free or charge; it’s very comfortable and convenience especially when snow chains are required for driving the parks roads.

We played with the kids in weather that deserved shorts rather than ski gear.At Badger Pass you can’t bring your own tube in their designated tubing area and you pay hourly for tubing, they provide the gear. There was plenty of snow for down hillers and tubing but the crowds were sparse as the snow was old. While not hanging out with the kids I relaxed at one of the several picnic tables available for Badger Pass guest at the lodge. Protecting our snacks, listening to a musician and watching the down hillers kicking back was sweet.

After tubing and snow play we ventured back down to the valley floor and walked to Ansel Adams gallery for a children storytelling program and afterward to the lower Yosemite falls which looked majestic Saturday evening with blowing mist and water flowing with primal strength. It was a very pleasant day; my only complaint was the ice skating rink was closed, which was very disappointing. It only seems fair that the rink would stay open as long as Badger Pass is open for skiing especially considering the cost of lodging. Fortunately all the walking and snow play had worn out the kiddies but there was still disappointment.

Sunday, was another beautiful day, we hiked to Mirror Lake a good choice for small children and strollers. At the Lower-Pines Campground trail head we were greeted by a small herd of deer and other wildlife. It’s a three-mile round trip, very flat and the trail parallels the Merced River and provided some scenic spots with mini-waterfalls.

At the lower lake there is a beachhead that's perfect for picnics. The kids had a chance to play a bit in the water at a very scenic spot. We stayed at Yosemite until the evening and headed back the Bay Area. We’re planning next year trip and hoping for snow in the mountains and spring on the valley floor.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Two of my favorite authors, Jimmy Baca and Ntozake Shange writings were used to create the play, A Place to Stand currently showing at Intersection of the Arts. The play is part of Intersections Prison Project, which is a multi-disciplinary exploration of the California Prison System. The play combined their writings to speak of the prison experience from multiple voices. Prison within this play is also not always the physical space but also mental prisons are explored. I found the play exciting to watch and sophisticated: in it's development and presentation.

Afterward we literally ran to Mi Linda Peru a Peruvian restaurant in the Mission District, the restaurant closed at 10:00 and we left the theatre around 9:25. I had visited Mi Lindo Peru over a year ago and enjoyed the meal. This meal was not as successful. Maybe the problem was we arrive late, if so I wish they had sent us on our way. First my guest who spoke to the waiter is Spanish was told to hurry the order because they were closing soon. He also told him but not me in Spanish the restaurant was out of bread and a course offered nothing in replacement. We order Calamari which was dry and salty, tasted like Calamari you would expect at a cheapie happy hour. My friend feeling the waiter was rude didn't order an entree but didn't tell me until after we left; based on a recommendation from the waiter I ordered a seafood dish. The dish's portion looked smaller than the lunch portion I had previously which turn out to be fortunate because the dish gave me blurps the rest of the evening. I have a slight feeling the seafood was not very fresh, all I can say is gross, gross, gross.

We went to The Boom Boom Room , a bar in the Fillmore district which keeps a good mix of live music. At the Boom Boom the conversation was limited as old clams and other surprises from the sea kept reappearing from the deep. Mi Lindo Peru has become Mi Feo Peru.

The only thing I could do after that ugly experience was drink pear ciders and check my stomach for status reports. The ciders didn't help my breath but at least I was feeling better. The music was pretty good, the drinks were reasonably price and we were able to get a table. I wasn't complaining for more reasons than one.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Friday evening I walked the city, San Francisco is known for its’ hills but its really an accessible city on foot. One of the best things about walking the City is that within short distances you can transverse through different neighborhoods with completely different feels. I started at the Embarcedero Bart downtown, walking West on Sutter Street. From downtown to Van Ness, up Sutter Street is a good choice, the street is a pleasant walk with galleries and shops. While not as scenic as California St. it doesn't have the hills and isn't as funky as Geary.

From Sutter to Polk Street, one of the most gentrified Streets in the City. Still with an edge but nothing compared to the old days 1980's. Onward to North Beach, my path wasn't direct but it was good exercise.

Traditionally an Italian neighborhood knowns for it cafes and Beat Poetry scene North Beach is now tourist central. Columbus St. was teeming with restaurateurs, and outdoor heat lamps and tables sharing the sidewalk, just walking a block takes an amount of patience and skill.

My destination for the evening was Jazz at Pearls, a North Beach jazz club.
Jazz at Pearls has many positive, the club is stylish with an intimate feel and wonderful acoustics. The negatives, the drinks are sky high to the point that Pearls isn’t a place I can regularly visit as a local spot to hear music. Also there is a cover every night with and a two drink minimum (no credit cards accepted) Pearls burns a hole in my humble pockets. I wished they had a locals' discount (Mon - Wed) or rush something!! Help!!

At Pearls, Howard Wiley and the Angola Project was performing. Wiley is a local artist who is currently an Artist in Residence Residence at Intersection for the Arts for the Arts. A local multiple discipline alternative arts organization, the oldest, in San Francisco.

The program began with a discussion by Daniel Atkinson providing a foundation for themes that inspired Wiley's compositions. Daniel Atkinson was conducting research in Louisiana at Angola Prison collecting prison songs. What he found during his research was the songs haven't changed substantially from the recording contained in Angola Prison Spirituals, the Arhoolie compilation of recordings. The themes and melodic motion are simular. Angola Prison is known for it's isolation a prison where most prisoners do not leave. Daniel Atkinson exposed Wiley to this music and the catalyst for the Angola Project was lit

Wiley music works to captures various aspects on African-American culture; you can hear spirituals, New Orleans Dixieland rhythms, the suffering of imprisonment and the celebration of life. The set was really hot....it was Mr. Wiley birthday and I felt we were getting a birthday treat. The musicians were tight everyone was playing with energy and passion. The trombone and trumpet players solos really moved the crowd.
I appreciated seeing/hearing women musicians two in the band, violin players. His group was string heavy with two base violin players. One of my personal frustrations is the lack of woman musicians in almost every genre of music. I'm hoping to get another opportunity to hear the Angola Project and other works by Howard Wiley in the future.

Pearls doesn't serve food and I was starving like Marvin after the show. Fortunately we were surrounded by restaurants and grabbed a late meal at the House of Nanking
located on the edge of China Town and North Beach it's a popular hole in the wall.
I'm not a Chinese cuisine connoisseur but I was satisfied. It was a satifisfying Friday evening.


Friday, February 09, 2007

When I started working on my blog my goal was to create an environment that would encourage me to write weekly. Not just cryptic emails sentences but paragraphs, something other than work babble. My 9 to 5 is computer support which usually doesn’t require much writing a day-to-day. But my blog entries stopped in September 2006 and I haven’t written since. Why? Well, part of the problem is related to my job’s 1 ½ hour commute each way. When I get home my time is limited plus I’m tired; at work I’m much too busy to write. I’m lucky if I have time to review my emails. Well it’s 2007 and now I have a new approach. Why not use my commute time to work on my posts. At least the draft could be completed by the time I get home. I don’t drive, using public transit BART provides me with free finger time and a laptop gives me the medium. Let’s see how this new approach goes.

Now if I can make the time to redesign my blog site --- oh well one goal at a time. There’s a lot to write about but I’m not going to attempt a recap all the events I’ve checked out in the last 5 months. However, I would like to mention 365 Day Project which is happening throughout the United States including the Bay Area.

The 365 Days/ 365 Play Project was developed by Pulitzer winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. In 2002 she decided to write one play a day. The series of plays are now being performed in the Bay Area different venues weekly. The programs present one week of plays per event, the plays are free, some theatre groups ask for donations but most don’t. Also, the plays are being presented in different methods. One group presented its’ week of plays as radio works another as short films. Beyond seeing Parks’ work going to the programs provides an avenue for introduction to different artist groups.


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