Michele’s stepfather, Jim, was hosting Thanksgiving this year which really meant that Michele and her sister, Claudia, would do the shopping, cooking, table setting, and general preparation. Accordingly, Michele went to Napa Tuesday night to be there all day Wednesday, I followed on Thanksgiving morning. Michele suggested I go through Marin County – the slightly longer way – to save myself the agony of East Bay traffic. Michele’s belief – firmly held belief – is that the area between about the Oakland Coliseum, in the south, and Appian Way, in the north, is a 24/7 traffic nightmare. It is a belief that is hard to argue with on the evidence, so I went through Marin. All the way up 280 and through San Francisco, the the highways and streets were almost empty.
Thanksgiving was a warm California day with only the slightest trace of a breeze – about the fourth warm day in a row without any wind – and, as I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, the walkway was packed. I had thought I might stop at the viewpoint to look at the Bay and San Francisco, but the cars were waiting in line just to get into the parking lot. Just after the view point turnoff, a flashing sign said Muir Woods parking full, take shuttle. I was swamped with love for California, where people walk across the bridge or go to Muir Woods for Thanksgiving. I didn’t think that this would be a Thanksgiving where people went around the table saying what they are Thankful for; it was not that kind of crowd and it was still too close to Phyllis’ s passing away. But if it did come up, I would say that I am Thankful I live in California.
Going down the Waldo Grade, Richardson Bay gleamed in the sunlight. There are maybe three or four vistas – that I see often – that take my breath away everytime I see them. The view down into Richardson Bay, coming down Waldo Grade on The 101 – would you prefer The Redwood Highway? – is one of them. Everytime! Traffic is speeding up, the lanes are narrow, the highway curves and the spectacular view distracts as it flashes by, blinking through buildings and soundwalls. I am so glad I live here.
In San Rafael, I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some turkey parts for Michele’s gravy and get sushi to go for me. There was a mysterious crowd around a tent outside the store and I wondered if this is some sort of charitable give away, But the crowd looked prosperous and Whole Foods is from Texas, where they don’t give much away. Later, driving across The Blackpoint Cutoff, I saw a billboard advertising Turkey Dinner – 99.95 Whole Foods.
Getting closer to Napa, I run into the first signs of the mono-culture that has become the Napa Valley. I found it strangely discomforting.
At Michele’s step-father’s home, Thanksgiving Dinner was great and so was the wine. The turkey, from The Fatted Calf , was a heritage, organic, free range, bird that seemed to resemble an actual animal and was the best turkey I have ever had. It made me realize that most turkey dinners are not that good with dry white meat and leathery skin. Some of the outstanding wine was from the Jacuzzi Winery which is the same Jacuzzi family that gave us the modern airplane propellor (and, I am told, but was not able to verify on Wikipedia, the counter-rotating torpedo propellor).
I got up early Friday morning to drive to San Francisco for the Auto Show which I was going to see with my son in law, Gabe, and above average grandson, August. I got up early because I was going to have to fight the dreaded East Bay traffic, but I was one of the few cars on the road all the way into San Francisco. I even had time to stop and look at one of my favorite bridges, The Carquinez Straits Bridge.
What I like about this graceful bridge is that its towers are concrete rather than steel and that there is no cross bracing, giving it an open, airy look. I have no idea how they did without the cross bracing – this is earthquake country, afterall – but they did and the bridge looks great, even with the old cantilever span next to it. As I got close to San Francisco, I began to see just how bad the air was because of no wind for the last couple of days. I don’t think that I have seen the Bay Area this smoggy in thirty years. It gave going to the Auto Show an ironic twist.
With no traffic, I got to the Auto Show early and was surprised that there was a long line.
The guy infront of me, about my age, told me that there was always a line on opening day. It was a tradition. As we stood there, a couple of his friends joined him with lots of tradition sounding chatter, Bob couldn’t make it. Where is Al? He’ll should be here in a couple of minutes. What I don’t think was traditional was their conversation on Global Warming and the rising oceans. They all agreed that where we were standing would be underwater in fifty years. Standing there on the dry sidewalk, eavesdropping, I could help but think they are right. And here we all are, waiting to look – with lust in most cases – at the very things that are polluting the atmosphere, not the only thing by far, but one of the things. Especially when you add in the whole supply chain: the energy to get the raw materials, the energy used to make the tools to make the tools to make the cars, the energy used to get them here and the energy we use to run them.
That is the problem, the lives we live – the lives we want to live – is trashing the earth. We want to blame Exxon or BP, and it is true that they are pushers, but – as Pogo used to say – We have met the enemy and it is us. The life we live, even the most conscientious of us – and I am not one of them – uses too much energy to not trash the planet. We all know it, and very few of us are living our lives as if it were true. And no countries have National Policies based on those truths.
Two weeks ago, The United Nations announced that The Warsaw Climate Change Conference 2013 concluded successfully! (the exclamation point is theirs). In this case, successfully means Expressing serious concern that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal….Underlining the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways blah, blah, blah, blah…Urging all Parties to the Kyoto Protocol to ratify and implement the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol as a matter of urgency. In other words, agreeing that we really do have a problem and should do something about it, is considered a success.
I don’t want to give the impression that all this soured me on our first three generation visit to the San Francisco Auto Show, however. We had a super time looking at the newest offering of polluters.
As we were going down the escalator into the underground hall and I was trying to get my bearings, Auggie said There is a Corvette! and was off. This is a dealer show, not a manufacturer’s show, so almost all the cars are already in showrooms and on the road but Gabe and I had not seen the new Corvette yet and we followed right along. By the time I got the ISO on my camera high enough to take a good picture in the low light, we had blown past the Corvette, past the Mustangs, where Auggie didn’t want to sit behind the wheel but was willing to sit in the passenger seat, to the Nissan GTR where Auggie didn’t get to sit at all. The GTR is a Japanese interpretation of a Supercar. Japanese in that it is exquisitely built, very reliable, hypercomplex, more transformer solid than graceful, and Supercar in that it will do zero to sixty in about 2.9 seconds with a top speed of about one hundred and ninety miles per hour.
By the time we got to Audi, Auggie ventured behind the wheel,
and by the time we got to Jaguar, Auggie had taken over the driving and Gabe was in the passenger seat. The future is pretty obvious.
We It didn’t take long to run through the entire show and get to the model car department where Auggie had some serious decisions to make.
Shopping done, we broke for an early lunch, then Auggie and Gabe took off and I went back for some serious car watching.