Category Archives: Bay Area Walks

The Post and the Women’s March

Michele and I saw The Post, the other night and I liked it, a lot. Maybe because it is political, maybe because it is a sort of homage to old-timey newspaper movies, but, mostly, I think because it is so comfortably familiar. I’m not normally a Steven Spielberg fan but he was the perfect director for this movie. The scenes of Merrill Streep walking into a room of all men, all in their dark power suits, seem so familiar  from my growing-up past and Streep’s tentative reaction is perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t grow up in that environment, but I did grow up in an environment that was trying to ape that life. A life in which rich, cultivated, women were close to powerless but had the time and money to look great in their clothes. It was a time when a woman  being powerful was considered crass. Merrill Streep is great as one of these powerless women, Kay Graham – trusted only to manage the family while her husband was given a newspaper to run by her father – is forced to take control.  

This movie tells of a time, that seems longer ago than it was, when it wasn’t as obvious that men were killing the world (to paraphrase Mad Max Fury Road). It takes place in 1971 and Spielberg’s suburban, optimistic, sensibility is perfect for the time, giving us scenes like Graham leaving the supreme court and walking past a group of almost Rockwellian women, seemingly waiting for change. What a difference it was getting off Bart and going up an escalator into an immense crowd of, mostly women, who are no longer waiting; they want control now. Control of their bodies, control of their lives, and, I hope, control of the world.

Almost always, however, control is not freely given, it is seized. In this case, the only way to seize political power is through the ballot box and while slightly more women vote than men, only about 68% of women voted in 2016; I would guess that that number was considerably higher in this crowd. Everybody was in a celebratory mood and the most heartening thing to me was the high turnout of young women.

Thinking about Trump vs. The Republicans while at Russian Ridge

Russian Hill (1 of 1)I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat. Will Rogers

The day before yesterday, I was listening to the radio while driving up to Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve to go for a walk. It was NPR and somebody was talking about Trump.

When I was last at Russian Ridge, everybody knew that Trump was a flash in the pan, now he has won his fourth primary and people are starting to say that his nomination is inevitable. I find that amazing, Trump isn’t even really a Republican. His signature position is Keep out Mexicanas and Muslims and the Republican Establishment is pro-immigration (immigration keeps wages down and brings in interesting restaurants so it is a win-win for people who don’t have to compete for jobs). Donald Trump says “We’re going to tax Wall Street….I don’t care about the Wall Street guys, I’m not taking any of their money,” and the Establishment wants lower taxes not higher taxes (on anything). Trump doesn’t even like the Republican’s war, “We shouldn’t have ever gone into Iraq and we shouldn’t there now. It’s just a mess. We’ve spent hundreds of millions that could have been used on infrastructure and schools.” Bush was the anointed one – pro-immigration, pro-war, and a round of tax cuts for everyone, then – with Bush gone and both Trump and Cruz rising – Rubio became the prefered choice, and Trump is raining on that parade. Still, the Republican Establishment seems powerless to stop him.

I think of the Republicans as being the organized party and, like Will Rogers, I think of the Democrats as unruly if not downright chaotic. That is not the case in this election, this year the Democrats have put on an amazing full court press on Bernie. He gets almost no press except for some establishment flack saying that Bernie’s programs don’t work. It is impressive and scary and infuriating.

Meanwhile, I get to Russian Ridge and start out on the trail. I had to walk carefully because of all the coyote scat – although I never did see an actual coyote – and that took my mind far from Trump.Russian Hill (1 of 1)-2 I watched the deer came out of the woods to graze, and got lost in the twilight. Feeling the day end as much as watching the sun set over a very pacific Pacific.  Russian Ridge (1 of 1)Russian Ridge (1 of 1)-2Russian Ridge (1 of 1)-3Russian Ridge (1 of 1)-4Russian Ridge (1 of 1)-5



A walk by the Bay

Don Edwards-2603A couple of days ago, I went for a walk in a reclaimed section of the San Francisco Bay shore. It is a very strange place, and I mean that in the best possible way. It is almost flat – because it is the very bottom of the alluvial fans coming out of the mountains around the Bay – and many of the remains, of what used to be there, are still there and they don’t fit any classical notion of beauty. Don Edwards-2586

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Historically, we have not valued the coastline of our Bay. Most of it has been ignored except for that used for some sort of nasty work. In this case, the nasty work was harvesting salt and using the marshes along the shore as a place to run heavy-duty electrical transmission lines. Five miles north is the port of Redwood City, built to ship the cut redwood needed for the Victorians of San Francisco. The cut redwood that had been hauled down from the hills of neighboring Woodside and my home town of Portola Valley.

As an aside and a comforting sign that Nature Always Bats Last, some of the children of those redwoods have grown high and dense enough to block out view of the Bay. End aside.

Five miles north of the Port of Redwood City are the housing tracks of Redwood Shores and then Foster City, with their thousands of houses facing away from the Bay in one last act of indifference. Now the salt harvesting area – what we used to call The Salt Flats, when I was a kid – are being returned to Nature, a job that is not as easy as it might, at first, sound. This section used to belong to Cargill Inc., and it was turned to The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project which describes itself as the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast which when complete…will restore 15,100 acres of industrial salt ponds to a rich mosaic of tidal wetlands and other habitats.

I am proud to say that Senator Dianne Feinstein was a chief motivator and backer and now everybody is getting on board (including the State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Resources Legacy Fund, and the East Bay Regional Park District). This area of ex-salt-flats is now called the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Don Edwards was a friend of my father’s and he was instrumental in getting me my first real Job. I had just turned sixteen and, in those days, a teenage boy – as I remember it – was expected to work during the summer. The problem was that most of the available work were pretend jobs that didn’t pay very much. The good paying jobs required joining a Union and that was not very easy for a privileged, white, teenager still in school. My dad knew Don Edwards through the Democratic Party and he – Edwards – was able to pull some strings to get me in the Laborer’s Union and additional strings to get me a job with Charles Harney Construction which was building the section of Bayshore Highway between Marsh Road in Menlo Park to University in Palo Alto (Highway 101 was El Camino then and Bayshore was a bypass).

Like a typical privileged teenager – OK, maybe not typical but typical for me and my type – I was both eager to accept the gains of that privilege and felt slightly guilty, which I probably expressed with disgruntlement, that I hadn’t earned the job and was taking it away from somebody who really needed it, which was why the Union made it difficult in the first place. But the money was great  and the guilt was assuaged by my being given every shit job for the first month. The second month, I moved up to the position of SLOW Sign Holder and would have had a great view of the Bay if I had cared.

Like the rest of California, that came later, and with that public care, the birds are starting to come back. The beauty – and some strangeness – was always there, I suspect, we just didn’t see it.
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My atrial fibrillation is gone!

I went to my ablationist, yesterday and he told me that my ablation procedure is a success and my heart is no longer fibrillating. I realize that I am having a hard time believing – accept may be more accurate – that my heart really has been repaired and I have no idea why (maybe I have become attached to the problem, I hope not). The header that I first wrote said My atrial fibrillation ablation seems to be a success and I had to force myself to make it more positive. Either way, I celebrated by going for a walk at one of my favorite walks, Russian Ridge.

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I have been reading John McPhee’s Annals  of the Former World about his discovery of the new geology. Like me, he went to college before the plate tectonics revolution and bumped into it while reading about something else (in my case, I was reading about evolution). The last section of the book is Assembling California and, over the last 40 years, the understanding of California’s geological history has changed even more than California has.

Geologists now know that over the last 60 million years, or so, California has been assembled from a series of  island arcs (that once were parts of the ocean floor that had been uplifted and exposed above sea level). These island arcs – think Japan against Asia – are being swept  into the North American Plate and attaching themselves to North America. (In the process, the Sierra Nevadas got pushed up by the heat generated from the collision.) So, the land that I like to walk at Russian Ridge is the same layers of materials that make up the Pacific ocean floor. It is also to the east of the San Andreas fault, so I am walking on the Pacific Plate, not the North American Plate.

I like that.

I like the walk, too. It starts by slowly climbing around soft, grassy, hills. Last year’s grasses are dry and bent over in clumps in even patterns and this year’s grasses are green and growing between the clumps.

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When I cross into the forested area, everything changes.

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With the trees covered in moss – that is bright green and growing like crazy – and Spanish Moss which is really a member of the Pineapple family (Bromeliaceae). Then it is back into the sunlight and walking – with a view – back to, the car. An easy two and one half miles.

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The transit of Venus

Michele and I went up Russian Ridge to watch the transit of Venus. I have read about the transit of Venus across the sun several times in the last couple of days, but Michele has been talking about it for a month. Since it was going to be at sunset, I suggested that we go up where we could see the sun sink into the ocean with Venus in transit. It turned out to be colder than we both thought it would be – in the mid 40’s when we got back to the car after standing outside for an hour – but the light was golden and then sun sank right on cue.

As it sank, Michele got the picture she wanted: Venus visible against the setting sun on the lower right hand side right where she knew it would be.

I got what I didn’t expect, the wonder of seeing Venus as a round object – not just a bright star – twenty three and a half million miles from us….crossing in front of the sun.