November 26, 2015

Thanks for the Snow

The Low-Key Hillclimb series concluded with the traditional Thanksgiving-morning climb to the top of Mount Hamilton. Snowfall would close access to the mountain, and rain would cancel the climb.

The Low-Key Hillclimb finish line at Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
For the fourteenth time, the weather cooperated. [So to speak.]

Ice-encrusted pine needles, Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
The morning sun slipped icicles off the exposed pine tree at the summit ... but not all of them. It was that cold.

Bracingly cold (32F), with snow lingering from Tuesday night's storm. The roads were clear. [Mostly.]

Snow-covered shrubbery at Lick Observatory, Mt. Hamilton, San Jose, California
Ninety-one souls were brave enough to tackle the climb—a little more than half the number who turned out last year. The urge to stay nestled all snug in one's bed can get the best of anyone. [Not me.]

November 22, 2015

Sunday Morning, New York

After a proper Sunday breakfast [it's New York!], there was one more visit on this trip's agenda. A place I hadn't visited since December, 2001.

Salvaged support columns from the World Trade Center, New York, New York
Names are stamped into the borders around the waterfalls that pour into the open footprints of the twin towers, a ceaseless cascade of tears. Thousands of names. I needed no hint from the computerized directory. The North Tower. Flight 11. I found Paul's name.

Name of Paul J. Friedman etched at the North Tower Memorial, World Trade Center, New York, New York
I toured the museum, but it was too much. Fourteen years, it seems, is not long enough.

Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, New York, New York
Fluctuat nec mergitur.

November 21, 2015

More New York Minutes

Most of the team headed back to the Bay Area (and to their families) on Saturday, but I opted for more, more, more.

In years gone by, I spent so many Saturdays in the city. Equipped with a list of the plays I hadn't yet seen, I'd head straight for a box office (almost always scoring a ticket for my first choice). Then I'd bide my time at a museum, taking in some exhibit I hadn't yet seen. The possibilities are endless, but this visit was limited.

Booth Theatre marquee for Hand to God, New York, New York
I was heading for the play I'd chosen, when ... I passed the marquee for a different play I'd considered. [It was a sign.] I circled back and bought the ticket. Bob Saget did a convincing turn as Pastor Greg, but Alex Mandell's performance was phenomenal. Phenomenal.

A typical crowd was circling counter-clockwise on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. In the midst of the chaos, a slender guy skated to the music in his ears, twirling and jumping and gliding effortlessly through the Brownian motion of hockey skaters, stiff parents, and fallen kids.

Angels with trumpets, lit at night, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York
‘Tis (almost) the season, and after such a dark-but-comic afternoon, I'd reserved a fine Saturday night seat for a sentimental family favorite, the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. How many of these have I seen? Always with Mom. Always ... There were new tricks—a 3-D video journey from the North Pole, fireworks, streamers shot into the audience, and ... giant, drone-powered snow bubbles that rose from below the stage to float high above the audience (and, return). The Rockettes, kicking high and toppling as toy soldiers. The Living Nativity, complete with camels, sheep, and a donkey.

High-kicking Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, New York, New York
Mom would have loved it.

November 20, 2015

Some New York Minutes

New York. It's been a while.

This trip started in an unfamiliar neighborhood (the flower district), where our team huddled for a few days within walking distance of the office. But, hey, it's Manhattan. Isn't everything within walking distance?

Bicycles in a bike lane alongside taxis, New York, New York
Of course, there are the Citi Bikes. And “protected” bike lanes. People do it, I saw them. [Definitely not this person.] I may be comfortable biking in traffic, but Manhattan traffic is a level above. I did, however, patronize a local bike shop. [I 🚲 NY.]

Plants in bloom in the Flower District,New York, New York
Each morning we'd pass towering tropical plants, imprisoned on the sidewalk with heavy chains, marked for clearance before they become victims of the first frost. Temperatures were moderate during our visit, but their prospects for the coming week looked bleak. At night, the storefronts along our block looked vacant. Each morning, the street was packed with trucks and the shops with fresh blooms.

Arriving late on our first night, we stumbled (hungry) into a classic neighborhood bar minutes before the kitchen would close (at 1 a.m.). They happily served us. [It's New York.] It was bustling with regulars when we returned (earlier) the next night.

Empire State Building at dusk, New York, New York
We dropped down to Little Italy for a team dinner, four courses—family style. Thick slabs of mozzarella served with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. A heaping platter of hot antipasti. Pasta—gnocchi, rigatoni, and more. Chicken, shrimp, and veal pounded paper-thin. And dessert (of course). Our team includes a guy with an unfathomable metabolism; even his ability to consume was stretched to the limit that night. Our waiter was seriously impressed. [We cleaned the plates. All of them. And that's an uncommon feat.] Everyone was grateful to walk all the way back to the hotel.

We passed the Flatiron Building, where an image of the Eiffel Tower was projected in blue, white, and red on one side. Intermittently the words “She is tossed by the waves but does not sink” were superimposed. [The motto of Paris, I would later learn.] Latin: Fluctuat nec mergitur.

The Meatpacking District was another neighborhood new to me. The famed Chelsea Hotel was bigger than I'd imagined, and considerably less seedy. The place of so many legends. We took an afternoon stroll along The High Line, and in one of those true New York moments, so did Angela Lansbury. It's likely that few people recognized her that day; and those of us who did, let her stroll with her companion in peaceful anonymity. [It's New York.]

View of trains at Penn Station from the High Line, New York, New York
We marched uptown, straight through Herald Square and Times Square, to see an irreverent Broadway musical at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre—a first for some in our group. At intermission, the look on their faces? Priceless.

I miss New York. It's been too long.

November 14, 2015

Picture Perfect Pacific Coast

Apart from an evening reception at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I didn't have a plan. I didn't really need one.

I found a place to park and started walking northwest along the coastal trail.

Waves break offshore, rocky tide pools still as glass, Pacific Grove, California
An approaching winter storm, promising rain tomorrow, churned up some big waves.

Sky turns pink as dusk approaches along the rocky coast, Pacific Grove, California
Estimating how long it would take to walk back to the Aquarium, I kept an eye on the time.

But then I kept walking, reaching Point Pinos at sunset.

Sun dipping below the horizon at Point Pinos, Pacific Grove, California
At a brisk pace under the darkening sky, I made it to the Aquarium just as the doors were opening.

Moon jellies, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California
The best plan can be no plan at all.