Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dinner and an earthquake

We had a very nice anniversary dinner this evening at McCormick and Kuleto's Restaurant. Our menus said "Happy 25th Anniversary" on them, we got a lovely cake and the company was exquisite, of course.

When we were walking back to the hotel, a T-shirt booth saleswoman said, "did you feel the earthquake?" And, of course, we didn't. Rats. I feel about earthquakes the way I feel about tornados, which I've also never experienced. Actually, the day my oldest son was born, we did get a 5.3 earthquake in White Plains, NY.

Alas, we apparently were the only people in the region not to feel the earthquake, for when we got back to the room, the TV was full of anchorpeople talking to people who reported it created a "rolling feeling," which I presume is the earthquake version of "it sounded like a train," for tornados.

It was, according to the TV, a 5.6 quake -- not real big -- centered down around San Jose.

Anyway, back at the room we recreated the original wedding toast, which we do every year, although we didn't bring our special crystal glasses out here.

Oh, and I found this picture of a tough Carolie on "the rock," from earlier today.

You don't want to mess with that.

Happy anniversary and all that

Today completed the tourist portion of our trip, on this the 25th anniversary. So we celebrated "the ball and chain" (as Carolie said) by traveling over to Alcatraz for the morning.

It was sightly drizzly and cold, which is appropriate weather for the trip, I think. I was interested in some of the history, Carolie was particularly interested in the takeover on behalf of Native Americans in the early '70s, but I think we both were most interested in some of the flowers and greenery around the island, all of which - I guess - had to be brought from somewhere else. We also spotted a few hummingbirds about.

And, of course, took dorky pictures...

... which are tough to screw up with such a pretty city for a background...

Carolie near the water tower...

And the obligatory shot from inside...

We spent about three hours over there and then walked up to North Beach for lunch at an Italian Restaurant and then back to the hotel to sleep for a few hours before going out -- somewhere around here -- for our anniversary dinner.

This afternoon, I checked the mail from work and see we've hired the online editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press (will the last person in the newspaper business please turn out the lights?) to replace me, so that I can go off and write online stories and play online host and that sort of thing. I haven't yet got it fully figured out in my mind how it's going to work or how it can possibly be successful but I'll come up with something.

I probably shouldn't have checked the mail until vacation was over because it's one more thing to think about.

Still, tough to exhale around Casa Collins.

Monday, October 29, 2007


It was hard getting "in" to the vacation today as there was a family crisis back in Minnesota and we were pretty powerless to do much about it. We were on the way to Muir Woods to see the redwoods when the first text messages started arriving. Within a few minutes, though we were outside of cellphone range.

So here's the big trees.

We found this deer nibbling on something. He didn't seem to mind us much.

It's pretty hard, with a cheesy camera like mine, to get a good picture. There isn't enough light to get a good picture without a flash, and the trees are too big, so a flash just makes a dark picture. I gussied this one up a bit.

Carolie hid in this one, but I found her.

We stopped in Sausalito on the way back and walked around -- a bit in a daze, frankly -- for a half hour...

The weather is foggy and cool. We made our back into San Francisco and headed for Haight-Ashbury. We made contact with #2 son, who had told us earlier in the day that a speeding ticket that wouldn't go away was likely going to result in his losing his paramedic job. Very sad.

By the time we made contact again, he had apparently decided to join the Army Navy , something Carolie says he's been thinking about anyway. I presume this is an article for another day; I've written in the past about my ability to worry. I stay up late and look out a window into the night and think about my kids often. I've done a bad of job of letting go. There's a war on, I've heard, and this one isn't going to be easy. I don't know how people do it. I can't just shrug my shoulders and say "oh, well."

So I sigh instead.

We pressed on walking up a huge hill. Before I got to the top, I had to stop. I wasn't sure if I was having a heart attack or a panic attack just thinking about things. We stopped in a cafe but I couldn't bring myself to eat. You know how people say "I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach"? Now I know what they mean.

Anyway, back on the wharf later in the day, bought some popcorn and made a friend.

Within a few minutes I was like freakin' Tippi Hedren

Tomorrow morning, we're going over to Alcatraz. And then at some point we're going to try to figure out the mass transit system to get to Ocean Beach.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Biking the bridge

There should probably be some sort of law against things being this pretty. I mean, geez, isn't a bit of a crime that, say, North Dakota can be so boring and San Francisco can offer as much as the peripheral vision can absorb? Note, of course, I've never been to North Dakota; I've met North Dakotans, however.

We rented bikes for the day and headed down to the Golden Gate bridge, and rode across. Just gorgeous.

You have to be careful biking. Because of the crowds, bikes use one side of the bridge and pedestrians use the other. But the place is thick with rude riders, wearing their Spandex covered with European trademarks, and riding way too fast. I'm presuming they're not happy with the tourists who are invading their city and their bridge although if I were ever stupid enough to stop and chat, I'd probably find out they are from somewhere else. North Dakota, per chance.

Anyway, this ship was making its way under the bridge as we crossed. Probably another shipment of cheap postcards from Korea. One thing I noticed. Where's the wheelhouse? Seriously, I can't find it anywhere. Click on the image for a bigger picture.

On the other side -- the Marin County side -- we stopped at an overlook, which gave me the chance for another picture. I also called Patrick to get an update on the Patriots game. He told me they were up over Washington 17-0.

Then, back to the other side -- didn't run across any jerks on bikes going in the other direction. Oh, one thing. As we started back across, an RV airplane was circling above the bridge. That was cool. And so was the helicopter that flew under it!

One last picture on the Marin County side.

And one on the San Francisco side...

And one of the city... sort of...

What was really cool is there was a B-25 (at least I think it was a B-25) flying around, along with a couple of other warbirds. The weather was outstanding: 70s and very little wind.

As we rode back, I got a text message from Patrick that the Patriots had taken a 31-0 lead.

What a perfect day!

Dinner with some of Carolie's friends tonight. Heading for the redwoods tomorrow morning. It's fun being a tourist.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

San Francisco: Day Two. The "til Death Do Us Part March"

I love to walk. I love to find out where roads and other things lead. This is not always a shared passion, although Carolie gave it a good go today as we pretty much walked up one side of San Francisco and down the other, and then back again.

Back when I worked in Manhattan, my mom and dad came to visit and I pretty much walked 'em the length of the island. My dad called it a "forced march." Carolie calls today the "til death do us part march."

It was fun.

We started off riding the cable car over Nob Hill to Union Square. Carolie thought it would be fun to sing that Judy Garland song. That's never been done before, I'll bet.

We're not much for shopping, which is bad since Union Square is full of about every big department store ever. We stopped in at Macy's, though, because there's a Post Office there and Carolie had to mail postcards. But not before stopping to to try out for a mannequin.

Union Square is the scene of some big violent protests on the eve of the Civil War. Carolie things that's "union" as in "the north," whereas I think it's "union" as in sweatshops. We never did find out which it is, although we did find this guy singing "When you're smiling (the whole world smiles with you") So Carolie sang it back at the guy, we threw some money in the bucket and took a picture.

I notice when cable cars come by, you end up with a picture of people taking a picture...

Then we stopped at the Cable Car Museum, where all the, ummm, cables meet and where the power comes from. This was a very cool place. To move, the driver adjusts a clamp onto the cable that is always moving at 9 mph.

Using the handy, dandy guide book, we navigated to the "crookedest street in the world," although we had to walk because the cable cars were all full as they came by.

The street wasn't as interesting to me as the flowers and plantings along it. It was lovely. Then we tried to find Chinatown. It a long, long, walk, mostly because I couldn't figure out which bus to take. But we found it...

See that look on Carolie's face? I've seen that look before. I saw it in Manhattan once. So we had lunch.

I didn't take any pictures but it was very fascinating, although I'll admit the best part was in a park where lots of men were playing cards and gambling -- and so were lots of old women -- and some old lady was chasing a drunk guy with her cane. We don't know what it was about because we don't speak the language but all the other old ladies were cackling. Very funny.

So we checked off the "Chinatown" chapter on the guidebook and, it was about 3:30 by then, so we headed for the "romantic San Francisco tour" in the book, which started along the Embarcadero near Pier 17 with lovely views of the bay and Bay Bridge. We couldn't really see anything because the piers are in pretty bad shape and were closed.

So we headed up the stairs near Filbert Street. Very high to the top and houses built into the side of the hill all had lovely gardens. So Carolie stole, yes stole, some to put in her hair (there's that song about going to San Francisco with flowers in her hair). Taking your own picture results in mostly goofy looks, so here. This was halfway up the stairs.

Oh, speaking of lovely views...

A few hundred more steps took us to the top ... and the Coit Tower (shown here earlier as viewed from the crookedest street.

I took a picture of downtown.

And a nice picture of a lovely couple with very little scenery to help in the background...

Then, following the guidebook exactly ("I'm doing San Francisco 'by the book,'" I told Carolie). We ended up down in a park in the North Beach section, which is a heavy Italian neighborhood. This church behind Carolie was where Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe posed for a picture after their wedding. I'm pretty sure, by the way, that Carolie and I have lasted longer than they did.

I looked on the Web, but couldn't find the picture of them. They married at City Hall, by the why.

Then, again by the book, we stopped at a small shop for some truffles, then headed for dinner, stopping to buy a rose for Carolie (the book said to ), and then to a little Italian cafe for pizza and wine.

I took this picture on the way for my son, Patrick, to show how there are special parking places for motorcycles. I think the one in the middle is the same model as his. I'll bet Patrick would have fun with his motorcycle here. He could go up the hills really fast and then go airborne at the intersections like Michael Douglas and Karl Malden did in "Streets of San Francisco."

Tomorrow, we're going to try to walk or bike across the Golden Gate bridge.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I took my heart to San Francisco

A few years ago, I visited San Francisco for the first time, while making a presentation or two at the Integrated Media Association conference (integrated in this case means "online," by the way) and thought it would be a great place for Carolie and I to visit.

Next week is our 25th anniversary and so what better place to celebrate than San Francisco!

We arrived this morning and we found our hotel down on Fisherman's Wharf. All of my highbrow acquaintances advised against the wharf because it's basically a tourist area. But we are, when all is said and done, tourists.

Our hotel looks out over Alcatraz -- in fact I'm sitting on the bed watching a big container ship pass by Alcatraz (probably more cheap junk from China coming in. Carolie just showed me a postcard she took with Alcatraz on it. It was printed in Korea. They took the picture not more than a mile away... and then imported it from Korea!).

We were pretty hungry so we had lunch at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant. We headed up to watch the sea lions when we ran across someone with a stack of brochures for Grey Line Tours. He "comped" us a tour up to the redwood forest...somewhere... on Monday...and $50 in dining. And all we had to do is listen to some pitch for some time-sharing-like place for 90 minutes.

Now, frankly, I've always wondered if I could withstand one of those things and it seemed like a challenge and Carolie is always fun to watch with challenges like this, so we said sure. It was actually pretty interesting, but we just don't take a lot of vacations where that sort of thing makes any sense at all. I believe they were looking for an investment of $29,000.

Now I tend to believe that any "investment" that includes the popping of a balloon and a bunch of people clapping whenever anyone makes it, is probably not a good investment.

So, about 80 minutes later, our salesman pulls his manager over in a last-ditch effort to sell us something and I said, "Anthony did a great job of making his presentation, but let me tell you why no balloons are going to be popping here today...."

So we got our coupons and out the door we went. We stopped by to see the sea lions and came back to the hotel.

And the obligatory picture with Alcatraz in the background...

Tomorrow, we'll probably get up earlier than most of California (I'm guessing we're going to fall asleep before most of California tonight!) and follow the tourists guidebook on a walking tour. At some point we'll rent a bike and try to bike across the Golden Gate bridge to Sauselito and then take the ferry back. Or maybe not, depending on how old we feel.

(PS: I know some folks have posted comments, but they haven't shown up on the public page; not sure why. But keep trying. I think there's a little problem with the blogspot server which should be fixed at some point, I'm sure.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Erasing evidence

My kids left the nest early, far earlier than I thought possible, but they left behind plenty of evidence they were once here. Many years ago, they were allowed to paint their rooms in whatever fashion they chose.

One chose black, the other chose red and blue, as the basis for a "Cleveland Indians" room. The black room was repainted last year into a lovely (in my opinion, since I did the painting) southwest "feel."

When the Cleveland Indians room kid left, I got over the loneliness of the empty nest, by embracing its newfound status as an aircraft parts hangar. That lasted about a year, until more parts went on the plane, and my wife announced it would be her new office.

So this weekend, we boxed up the remains of the room and I began patching holes. Son #2 was not wise to the ways of hanging Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, and Jim Thome pennants with two sided tape. He was a fan of the hammer and nail.

Yesterday I started the process of repainting; first with a fresh white coat of paint on the ceiling.

The task ahead is bittersweet; it's like taking an eraser to 14 years.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Podcast: CurrentCast - 10/4/07

Occasionally, here at work, we've kicked around the idea of making the daily "news" rundown on The Current a podcast. I'm not sure whether it works or not, but I'm testing the idea. So, this is a test. Enjoy... or not. And here's the second one.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I had a dream and all I got was this T-shirt

When I was a very young man, The Mercury and Gemini space programs occupied much of my attention. I would someday go into space, I was told and I believed. It was right there on the Jetsons.

Later in life, I realized I would not achieve my dream.

When I was young, I followed a terrible baseball team -- the Cleveland Indians. But I knew someday, my team would win a World Series; there was so much time. There is significantly less time now and things being what they are in baseball economics, it occurs to me that the Indians will not win a World Series in my lifetime.

Given the choice, I'd gladly have traded a ride in space for an Indians championship. But it is not likely meant to be.

Dreams die hard, and while I still hope one might come true, these days I'm just excited to get a new T-shirt every 12 years or so.