Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Honshu, Japan Pt. 2

On one sunny day, my friend drove us (through multiple tunnels and over narrow mountain passes) to Takayama & Hida. My friend told me that Takayama is renowned for its morning market. It was lovely, but more intriguing for me was the stretch of well-preserved merchants' residences dating from between the 17th and 19th centuries found off the main drag through town. I didn't get the best shots of the merchant streets, but here are some of 'em anyway.

Entrance to merchants' area; the smaller sign reads: no smoking.

Sake and rice shop. Giant orb over door signifies sake, but I don't know why.

Wood/bamboo siding on one of the merchant buildings

We strolled through the market just before it closed at noon. We certainly aren't the only tourists to visit; many of the shopkeepers used English, both in speaking & on signage, to entice folk to their stalls. I needed no barker to help get me to the espresso stall. The proprietor roasts his own in beans, and takes great care to make a balanced, flavorful espresso. His sort of fun gimmick was serving macchiato in edible cups. I opted for paper, but my friend had the 'cookie' cup. I think she said it tasted of ice-cream cone.

Espresso in an edible cup.

Peaches that would have made Roald Dahl proud.

At the market: cukes and one lone tomato for 50 yen a piece.
Morning market welcome sign.

Red bridge, Takayama

The Hida folk village was about a 30 minute drive from Takayama. We parked well above the village & were rewarded with this view--

Hida Folk Village 

I should have put up a pencil for scale. Massive Hibiscus.

Hida Folk Village manhole cover. 

Koi in a small brook, Hida 
--more to come!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Honshu, Japan Pt. 1

So much happened on my trip to Japan not least of which was No. Korea sending a test missile across Hokkaido & a typhoon blowing up the eastern coast of the country. 

The test missile landed in the ocean without much fuss & the typhoon sent cool temperatures and strong winds our way, but not much else, fortunately. 

I flew into Tokyo & spent a couple of days there before taking the bus to Nagano. Once out of the city, the landscape became hilly & green. I guess I've not watched enough Japanese films because I hadn't realised that Japan was so lush. I think the country 2/3 forest. -pretty impressive when you think how densely populated Japan is.

Speaking of forest, my friend and I took a day trip to Mt. Fuji & on the way we visited Aokigahara aka the Suicide Forest. We pulled over and parked. Aokigahara didn't seem so scary, and besides there were scads of other visitors around to make the place seem very lively, indeed. As you can read, we made it out from our forest walk alive. :)

After visiting the forest, we drove to a nearby lake in order to get a gander at Mt. Fuji. The weather was a bit overcast, but the clouds kept shifting around Mt. Fuji while we stood & admired the view. I was told that the clearest views of Fuji are very early in the morning. Regardless, we were able to take a few decent shots from the side of the road (like everyone else). 

During my stay, we also visited my friend's friend's rice paddy. The paddy has long been in his family--get this--for 20 generations. I don't how one could keep intact family records so long, but that's what he said. -1,200 years of rice harvesting on this one spot. You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was a bit flabbergasted. 

Friend's friend's wee work truck.

Paddy shot w/ neighbor's house in background. And, yes, she regularly receives rice from the harvest!

The rice was to be harvested this week, actually. It would then be dried in the open air for approx. 2 weeks. A machine, I was told, would then remove the rice from its stalks. And then, I think, the rice will be ready to eat. As I understand it, drying the rice by hand results in a much sweeter product. I'd be keen to try some & find out for myself! 

Manhole cover art in Inashi, Nagano

Nagano produces many fruits and vegetables. Walking in the vicinity of my friend's flat, I saw eggplant, perilla (Japanese basil), kiwi, asparagus, grapes, parsley, and tomatoes. Directly behind my friend's place were both rice and buckwheat fields. Nagano, I found out, is famous for its buckwheat.
Soba noodle joints, unlike here in California where ramen is still the noodle du jour, prevail. I was not disappointed with the fare, to be sure! 

The below picture shows a cold soba dish with rice ball, a dish of green onion/daikon/wasabi & picked cucumber (and out of shot was a small green salad & a dish of dipping sauce for the soba, tsuyu). This soba lunch was probably the best meal I had during my stay. 

Hot soba dish with sweet soya product called Yuba aka tofu skin.

A trip to Nikko to visit the temples and shrines of the area led us to eat Yuba, a dish made of the 'skins' of cooked tofu. The above picture shows a soba soup with Yuba as its centerpiece. All of it was delicious. 

On the grounds of the Nikko shrine site.

One of many temples on site. 

We spied a bridge on the walk back to the Nikko train station.

Once I upload more pictures to the computer, I'll post a bit more about the trip! 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

NYC trip

Room with a view.

I recently returned from a week in Manhattan. Aside from the heat and humidity, I really enjoyed my stay. One of the highlights from the week was seeing a gaggle of Vegas-era, chubby Elvises singing on 2nd at 92nd on the 40th anniversary of The King's death.

Through the throng of on-lookers I was able to snap a quick pic of this charming-looking fellow--

Elvis is everywhere.

I also visited the Neue Gallerie, a gallery primarily dedicated to showcasing works by Austrian artists, and saw an interesting exhibit featuring the work of a man called Richard Gerstl. I hadn't heard of Gerstl before my visit and with good reason. The family of the painter had initially kept his works away from the public for a couple of decades after Gerstl's suicide in 1908. After WWII, Gerstl became known in the US, but not as known as, say, Schiele or (especially) Klimt. Gerstl's work is very well known in Austria, from what I gather, but his art had not been exhibited in the USA until now. We visited the gallery on a weekday; the exhibit was not crowded.

During his life, Gerstl had hung out with composers, less so with other painters. Not a successful artist in life, he'd made money by teaching his composer friends to paint. Based on the exhibit, it would seem his affair with a certain composer's wife led to his ostracization from Viennese society culminating in Gerstl's suicide at the age of 25.

At 25, I could barely draw a flower with pencil and paper. By the age of 25, Gerstl had already produced numerous incredible works of art.

Self-portrait, 1907
Landscape study, Traunsee, 1907.
Artist's father, 1906.

We also visited the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. A long-ish trip on the A train to 190th and a half mile walk led us to what is currently a museum featuring religious artifacts from medieval Europe. I think I enjoyed the grounds more than the museum itself, to be honest.

If one hasn't visited the cathedrals of Europe, then this museum is a must-see while in New York.

Garden grounds.

View from Cloister grounds. 

I didn't catch who they were, but I liked their look.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dahlia Garden & other things

The dahlias area back at the garden plot adjacent the Conservatory of Flowers. When I think of dahlias, I tend to think of a big bloom with many, long, thing petals. -sort of the plant version of a sea anemone. This garden reminds me that dahlias come in many shapes and sizes.

Here's a selection of what I saw yesterday--

A highlight of last week was getting to cruise in my buddy's '67 convertible Corvette Stingray. Man, what a beautiful car! And fifty years later, the clock still works. I was impressed with the whole affair.

Anyone digging attention from strangers needs a vintage automobile. So many people waved, smiled, honked & flashed the peace sign (go figure) at my friend while we were out and about sans top. Of course, I wore sunblock for our jaunt.

Cleaning windows last week temporarily transported me back to CH. 1 August is Swiss National Day & these folk down in Belmont were representing! I wonder if they had a huge (unattended) bonfire in their back garden in celebration? ;)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Small world

View from our first gig of the day down the peninsula. 

Yesterday's second client, a charming elderly woman, was located a short drive from San Carlos. We met her in the master bedroom where it would appear she spends a majority of her time contentedly watching TV, taking phone calls, and doing the crossword. I noticed that she moved around her bedroom with only minimal fuss. However, it did not look like she had anything much to do with the rest of her house. The tidy living room was charmingly decorated & looked like it was last sat in about 30 years ago. The dining room, however, was covered in a pile of old boxes---online ordering gone mad?---no where to sit or stand. The kitchen had a bit of life in it, but I suspect that that has more to do with the woman who looked to be the client's granddaughter living in the two rooms that were off-limits to us.

My colleague arrived first on scene & was met at the door by the younger woman who told him which rooms we would not be entering. Those two rooms had their doors closed. That was enough to signal 'do not enter' to me, to be honest. Just in case, a post-it note reading 'no windows' was affixed to each of the doors. Got it. 

Given the sounds emanating from the back of the house, I had assumed that the client and her probable granddaughter were spending time together watching TV. My cleaning buddy and I passed the time as we normally would when no one was within ear shot by talking about his rocky personal life. At some point during our chat, the younger woman popped out of one of the 'no windows' rooms and said, 'Uh, yeah, I don't wanna hear that. I'm on the phone.' I apologized for speaking too loudly & she disappeared back into her lair. I wondered if the other room was being used as some sort of storage unit for all the items that came from the discarded boxes piled up in the dining room. 

In a hushed tone, my colleague continued talking while I alternated between whispering replies and talking in a very low voice. That wasn't going to do either as whatshername came back out & told my buddy (I actually neither saw nor heard her this time) she, again, didn't want to hear it & that she had 'her own problems'. Oopsie. 

When cleaning windows, the order of operations is this: upstairs to downstairs, inside to outside. As this was a ranch-style home, we worked from one end of the house to the other. Just prior to my cleaning the windows of the master bedroom, granddaughter left her room to speak with the client for a few minutes. The one-sided convo went as follows: something about betting at the horse track, something about Las Vegas, something about the Kardashians, something about social media. I heard a few affirmative responses from the client, but not much else. 

As I approached the master bedroom, I heard the younger woman sign off with something like: Well, that's it from me! 

Not wanting to bump into the charmless younger woman in the hallway, I waited until she'd gone back into her room before I made my way back to the client's room. I introduced myself & asked her if I could get started. We chatted while I worked & I found out that she had grown up in San Francisco. 'I'm from San Francisco when it was still a small city'. 

I asked her what high school she'd attended. I hadn't heard of it. 'It's a convalescent hospital now'. 

I then asked where in the city she had grown up. Her parents had purchased a then new house on the block where I now live. I told her my house number and asked her half-jokingly if I lived in her house. It turns out I don't, but I can see her childhood home from my front window. 

Here it is--

She told me that she loved that her house had a separate bathroom & WC. I told her that our place still has that same configuration & that I really like it, too. She also mentioned that she loved the size of the bathtub. Apparently, she used to take baths while talking on the phone. Our house still has the original built-in phone stand along the wall just across from the bathroom, so I could totally see having a soak with the phone dragged in from the hallway.

She reminisced about some of the businesses along the adjacent main road. Most seem to have gone the way of the dodo, but I did recognize the name of one of the bars. It permanently closed just a few years back.

Roofers' hangout back in the 40s & 50s.

She asked if I remembered the old Fox Theatre on Market Street. She drew out the 'a' in a 'long a' sound like my mom does. I don't know the phonetic alphabet, but I'd write what I heard like this: thee-A-ter. I told her I did, but in name only. 'It was a shame when they tore it down'. Having heard what a gem of a cinema the place was, I could only agree. 

Opened in '29. Closed in '63. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Flora in a time of drought.

Lantana, lavender, yarrow...butterfly paradise.

This lovely garden was put in by a water-conscious client of my brother. The client was telling us that the county offers a monetary rebate for those residents who take out their lawns and replace them with drought-resistant plants. I can't recall the dollar amount she received, but I should think it covered the costs of planting this abundance.

It must be noted that of my bro's many clients, this one actually tends her own garden. Nicely done.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Weekend visit with old friends.

It was really sunny outside.

We ladies in the photo all met back in '89 in California. This picture* was taken at a back garden gathering in honor of T. who was recently in town from London. I think the only reason we all do get together, at this point, is because of T., to be honest. Although we don't see each other regularly, we do seem to fall right back into place when we are together. The conversation flowed and lots of laughs were had. What more could one want?

The next day, the same group plus a few more folk met in Golden Gate Park to skate on eight! I may have been the only adult to have a pair of 'old school' wheels. Most of the others wore inline skates. I was too busy skating to even think of taking pictures. I think someone took a video, but I haven't seen it yet.

Post-skate, post-dinner pic.

The whole weekend was action-packed & filled with familiar, friendly faces. I was reminded of how social I once was & how much I miss it, to be frank. It was certainly easier to get together back when we were 'twenty-somethings' then it is now. Pre-proper jobs, pre-families we hardly needed an excuse. House parties back in the 90s were a particular favorite past-time. -don't miss the hangovers tho'.

I have an upcoming opportunity to learn the game of Bridge from a friendly retiree who lives in the vicinity. She's currently 'polling' those of us who are interested to see what days would work best. I'm keen to join in & I hope to both get the hang of the game & meet some nice women to boot!

*That's me with the crooked teeth up front.

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