Category Archives: Around home

We went to a World Superbike Race and it was sensationfull


When I first read about the motorcycle races at Laguna Seca and pitched it to Michele, my eyes read FIM Superbike World Championship but my mind read MotoGP World Championship. I really had no idea what the difference was, I now know: Superbikes are like racing Corvettes or Ferrari street cars, MotoGP is like Formula 1, cars built only for racing. In terms of speed, they are much closer than, say, a Ferrari street car and a Ferrari F1 car.

We got to Laguna Seca around noon, in time to wander through the Paddock and get lunch before the race at 2 o’clock. Between twelve and two is also the hottest time of the day and there is not much shade in the Paddock as we looked at various open garages, sweat rolling down our faces, we tried to guess at what we were looking at. There we stood, looking at stunning motorcycles with no real idea of what they were. At first, when it said Factory Team,  I assumed we were looking at genuine Superbikes, but when we wandered over to an area where the Superbikes actually were, they are completely hidden from view. MotoRaces-01767I told Michele, “I have no idea what’s going on and, yet, I am strangely comfortable.” Michele pointed out that I have been coming here for years and it is the place itself that feels comfortable. Thinking about it and doing a little Googling later, I realize that the first race I saw here was November 1957 and I still remember it. Sammy Weiss beat Jack McAfee, both in silver Porsche 550 Spyders; it was one of the best races I have ever seen. But in those days, I knew who the drivers were and I could recognize a Porsche 550 at a thousand paces, here I didn’t even know what engine size each class of motorcycles had, let alone their brand without reading the label, and I didn’t know one driver’s name (at one point, Michele said “I can tell who the best drivers are.”, me “Oh, how?”, “They are the ones with the longest autograph lines.”).

As a disclaimer, I love hot motorcycles, the kind that used to be called, derogatorily by Harley people, at least, Riceburners (even though a lot of the best are Italian). The kind of almost racing bikes that we see on the street, driven by a young kid almost laying down on top of the bike, weaving in and out of traffic. The kind of bikes, like a MV Agusta Brutale 800, that are exquisite pieces of sculpture. If I had the money and space, I would have one in my living room in plex box as a piece of sculpture. MotoRaces MV-02325

In the Paddock, there were almost a hundred exquisite pieces of sculpture, each lovingly handmade, each way more delectable than a Brutale 800 street bike. Some of them were obviously well cared for by wealthy teams and some were just with a guy and his dreams. MotoRaces RC-01743 MotoRaces Suk-01708MotoRaces lg-01789

Over lunch, we talked about watching the race. Since we had no idea what was happening anyway, I suggested that we go for maximum sensation by getting close to the track rather than going for the overview. At two o’clock the first race started…

Happy 4th of July….sort of

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I – all of us really, I think – are constantly barraged with Trump; he is always on the front page of some newspaper and on the cover of at least one mag a week – this week it’s The Economist – he is almost always the lead story on the Daily Show or John Oliver, CNN has become obsessed with him, and my Facebook friends and enemies are  screaming back and forth like they are in the third grade. Trump is changing our world, our country, in a way that I don’t like and I am reminded of that many times every day. This new normal tempers my usual 4th of July enthusiasm, I am both mad at my country and frightened for it. And it’s not just Trump buffoonery, it’s our Forever Wars, our pious outrage when Russia does to our political system what we feel we have the right to do to anybody we damn well please, it’s our slide into a corrupt oligarchy.

But, from here, where we live, from the edge of Silicon Valley, California, USA, it’s a great Fourth! (and the influence in our day to day lives is really in that order). On Saturday, we went to the San Jose Earthquake~Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Professional Football Game at Stanford. The tickets were from my Little Brother, Edwin, who now works for the Earthquakes. It was a full house – predominately, but far from entirely, upscale Hispanic – and it felt so American. Really, when you think about it, what is more American than the immigrant experience, all of us are from immigrant stock. Immigrants are what turned a backwater set of colonies into the most powerful country the world has ever seen and today, here, in Silicon Valley, immigrants or the sons of immigrants, are changing our world, they have given us Intel, eBay, Google, and Apple to name a couple. Watching The Earthquakes/Galaxy struggle on a cool summer night also felt typically Californian, another form of the Northern/Southern California rivalry. The game itself was great, LA scored early but The Quakes played a better game finally tieing the game at the 75 minute, and then winning during the Stoppage time.

I was going to continue this post with some pictures of the Redwood City 150 Year Anniversary and Parade, for some reason unfathomable to me, I cannot upload them.  The Parade had all the usual players, The Mounted Sheriff’s Patrol, firetrucks – lots of firetrucks which came early in the Parade –  and our local SWAT Team marching through the streets like an occupying army, but it also had lots of floats and marchers that would not fit in most parts of America. The largest group at the parade, by far, was Falun Dafa, which touts that it is an advanced self-cultivation practice of the Buddha School and the DAR was represented by the Gaspar de Portola Chapter – which, since Portola was the first governor of Baja California having been appointed by the Spanish crown in 1767, is more irony than I can grasp standing up –  for example.

Anyway, while it is still July, I want to say, again, Happy Fourth of July.

Catherine Santos R.I.P.

Catherine A-00973My friend Catherine Santos died late last week. She was 91 and died peaceably, in bed, with her beloved dog lying next to her and her daughter holding her hand. Catherine was a pioneer and smart – and literate, her email address was Hypatia 5 – and funny, very funny. She was tough and kind and always a joy to be around. Oh, and she was very English (despite marrying a Spaniard).

I first met her on my first day at Shapell Homes – I was 31 and had just been hired as a General Superintendent by the guy who would later be my partner, Sam Berland – and she was the lone salesperson on a condo project in Cupertino. I soon learned that she had been my new boss’s secretary at Kaufmann & Broad and Sam had run interference for her when she decided she wanted to be a salesperson rather than a secretary. Now that seems like a no-brainer, but then – about 1968 –  there were no women sales people in what was know as merchant housing; selling new houses was considered a man’s job.

When Catherine got her license, Sam leaned on K&B’s very reluctant sales department to give her a job. At the time, the best salesperson K&B had in Northern California was selling an upgrade project in Foster City which was particularly difficult because the houses were spread around the town in onesies and twosies rather than the usual tract configuration, it was not a place for a novice (which was, of course, the whole point). The salesman, who didn’t want any help, and the tract superintendent were the only people who knew where each individual house was. To show that woman couldn’t sell production houses, the Sales Manager had put Catherine on the hardest job the company had.

In the first month, Catherine sold almost as many houses as the so-called Golden Boy. In the second month, she outsold him. The next month, Catherine was selling three houses for every two sold by her male counterpart. A year later, most of the salespeople at Kaufman & Broad were women, although none were as good as Catherine. The world had changed.

Now she is gone and the world has changed again, it is a little darker place. Rest in Peace, friend Catherine, you’ve earned it.

The definition of Irony

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Aloe plicatilis, from the Western Cape in South Africa, growing in a pot.
Neglected Aloe millii growing in a pot in the shade.

Several years ago, Richard, Tracy, Michele, and I went to a famous succulent garden in Bolinas (garden is maybe misleading, it was three big greenhouses and about a half-acre of planting beds with various species of succulents, mostly Euphorbias and famous is a relative word here, famous in the succulent community). The owner was a doctor and this garden was his hobby and, he explained, most of the plants were planted in the ground because they grew much faster (and they could be heavily fertilized). He more than explained it actually, he was an evangelist on planting specimens in the ground and dragged us around the garden showing us, “Look, this Aloe maculata grows OK in a pot but when I plant it in the ground, it goes crazy, and, look, look at this Euphorbia millii, it won’t even grow in a pot – well, it grows, but just barely – but put it in the ground and it grows everywhere. You’ve got to start growing plants in the ground, they go crazy.” And on and on.

He was a nice guy and interesting but he was obsessed with getting the plants to grow as fast as possible; obsessed with growth. When we left, the doctor gave us a cutting of a delightful little Aloe ciliaris which I put in a pot where it grew very well. When it got large enough, we took cuttings and planted them in the ground. Now, maybe 15 years later, the Aloe ciliaris in the pot is doing great and the cuttings we put in the ground are barely hanging on.

Oh! and the doctor is an oncologist.

A Spring(ish) Easter

Oaks-00387Last week it was cool and sunny, Easter was warmer and drizzling, and the Oaks around our place are loving it. As they are leafing out, their green is psychedelic. It is the time of rebirth; the wettest rebirth in years.

For the first time in at least five years, the reflecting pool at The Water Temple has actual water. Water Temple-00402

A little more than 100 years ago, when San Francisco had a population of way less than half a million, they realized that the lack of water would be a problem for growth. The solution was expensive but straightforward, build a water pipe from the Sierras, starting at the Yosemite of the Tuolumne – they must have figured that, since they had two Yosemites and only needed one, the slightly less dramatic Yosemite of the Tuolumne would make a perfect reservoir – running across the Great Central Valley, to Crystal Springs Lakes on the San Francisco peninsula. The pipeline took over twenty years to build including the 430-foot high O’Shaughnessy Dam and, in the 1930s, the project and pipeline ended with the construction of the Pulgas Water Temple.

In front of the Water Temple, is a several mile straight section of Cañada Road that starts on a hill overlooking the Temple and goes south to Edgewood Road. From the road at the top of the hill, a driver can see the entire straight section, making it a great place for impromptu drag races. When I was about sixteen, some guys started using the straight section for semi-organized night races. Those races lasted for several weeks until they were busted, but not until after in got serious enough that some people were bringing cars in on trailers. The irony is that they weren’t busted by the police or Highway Patrol, they were busted by a mother of one of the spectators. She had heard about it from her son, went up to the Water Temple to see for herself, and then wrote an article in the local newspaper saying that the community needs a real drag strip to keep the kids off of the streets.

Later, I don’t remember how long, with the crusading mother leading the way, the Half Moon Bay Airport became that drag strip. Still later, driving my early 50s International 3/4 ton stake bed truck, I raced a friend there who was driving a late 40s Plymouth Station Wagon. It was a very slow race.