Chris Crosses California
"There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California." -Edward Abbey
"Nothing is wrong with California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure."
"California: From Latin 'calor', meaning "heat" (as in English 'calorie' or Spanish 'caliente'); and 'fornia', for "sexual intercourse" or "fornication." Hence: Tierra de California, "the land of hot sex." -Ed Moran
Rule #1: Like, dude, you hafta arrive in California by plane.
Rule #2: Hey, you should like, live in a gated compound.
Rule #3: Go see Mom first.
My mom Beth Pforr lives in Sommerset, a gated community in the
boomtown of Brentwood, on the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley.
Developers are busily bulldozing orchards here to throw up housing
developments for retirees and working people willing to drive 3 hours
to jobs in the Bay Area. Mom lives in a comfortable duplex townhouse.
On my first evening, my older brother Gary dropped by for a visit. He
works in a sheltered workshop and seems to be doing well, having held the same
job for more than twenty years.
Next evening we went out to eat and were joined by Nguyet, an honorary member
of the family. She works at Citibank and has garnered numerous customer service
awards (see wall plaques.) p.s., she's my sister-in-law.
The following day I drove up to Sacramento (106 deg F) to see Carlos Espinosa
and his gf Gail. I met Carlos in Havana in 1994 when he was living in Cuba. He's
a retired state landscape architect and still spends part of every year in Cuba
and is absoloootely one of my favorite people of all time. Chile verde for dinner...muy
sabroso! (sorry no photo of Gail, she got up early the next day to attend a court hearing
for a woman who'd been arrested protesting a WTO agricultural ministers meeting.)
Next I drove up to Sky High Ranch on Hiway 4 in the Sierras, to visit my friend
George Hall from Yosemite days. He lives with his beautiful wife Dayoan in a beautiful house
on a beautiful street on a beautiful mountain only a few miles from the beautiful
Sierra Crest. They take the time to smell the flowers, come to think of it that's
how they spend most of their time.
(Brilliantly, they recently retired in their early 50's.)
During my visit, another friend from Yosemite days appeared: Will Miller, who
along with his wife Joan and daughters Katherine and Elizabeth had just spent
the past year sailing the Pacific coast down to Mexico, on their boat Chaika.
After two nights at Sky High I drove up over Ebbett's Pass and headed to Yosemite!
Here's Tuolomne Meadows and Lembert Dome:
This was my first visit to Yosemite in 22 years, and it still amazes: in a world of
accelerating change and destruction, it's a temple of beauty that defies comprehension.
I hiked a loop trip around the Cathedral Range, going up Tuolomne/Rafferty Creek
to Vogelsang, down Fletcher Creek to Merced Lake and then up by Sunrise back to
Suzanne, a fellow traveler enjoying a two-week solo trip; we camped
nearby and traded Sierra stories.
Merced Lake and the back side of Half Dome
It shoulda been blissful but I had a bad headache the entire hike, which even
handfuls of aspirin couldn't squelch. I think it may have been a combo of the
heat/elevation/dehydration/no-caffeine and also (hate to say it) old
Finally I drove into Yosemite Valley, you might have heard of it....when I got
down there and guzzled a 32-oz. Coke, a tall capuccino and a quart of Powerade,
the headache went away (once again, sugar caffeine and Yosemite cure wut ails
First stop: Curry Village to find my cabin from 1974 (winter quarters while
working at the Ahwahnee)
Then over to the Ahwahnee Hotel, where I had worked with the Yosemite veterans
I'm visiting on this trip.
The valley is crazy with crowds like every summer. I found one breathing memory from my past:
Dudley is still playing piano in the Ahwahnee dining room 27 years later. He looks
exactly the same, and says not much about his life has changed since I left in 1976;
he still enjoys hiking and landscape painting. The Yosemite fountain of youth: it's
like stepping into a time machine.
For old-time's sake I scampered up to one of my favorite hiding places, Devil's
Bathtub up behind the Ahwahnee. Savoring the view at dusk, I heard a noise and
turned to see somebody spring into view behind me. Mark is a 21-year old spending
his second summer season in the park, working at Camp Curry. He said he clambers
up to the Bathtub frequently for respite from the crowds. He pulled out a pipe
and his stash and we smoked a bowl…..just like old times and I suddenly
felt HOME AGAIN!! Good to know there are at least a few God-fearing young people
around that care about continuing important traditions from the past.
Sunset view from Devil's Bathtub
Next morning I drove down through the California foothills back
into the heat (105 F today)
In El Nido I found tomatoes, in Salinas a field of lettuce. I stopped by the
Salinas UFW office but they were closed at 4:30pm (is that any way to win a
Next, Carmel Valley. My Yosemite/Ahwahnee/Wawona/mountaineering/ski buddy David Norris is living there
with his beloved Laura Lee and their pup Howie and a cat. Wonderful A-frame home in the chapparral. David just
resigned his regular job (you go guy!) to try his luck as an independent wastewater engineer. Laura Lee
works for an agency managing/teaching about plant communities on the nearby former Fort Ord.
David encouraged me to go into Monterey/Pacific Grove the next day and walk along
Ocean View Drive, which is a sort of Malecon except in California instead of Havana.
Scuba divers, kayakers, seagulls, cormorants and......
Next day it was on to David Gomez' 25th (!!) wedding anniversary in Santa Cruz.
First time I've seen David since 1975 I believe, and he hasn't changed a bit. He's
happily married to wonderful Jane and they have a brilliant son Westin who figured out how to
use my digital camera without any explanation (kids today, whut ya gonna say?)
They really put on the red carpet for the party: catered salmon and salads, open
bar with beautiful roving wine stewardesses, a guitarist and even inflatable trampoline
for the kids. It was really fun, especially David's family who are....LIVELY (hot
The kids were slacking on dishwashing, so we had to hold their feet to the fire for awhile (those wondering why the fireplace was burning during a California summer are referred directly to firstname.lastname@example.org)
There were four of us who'd worked at the Ahwahnee Hotel back in the early 1970's: David, Jerry, Caroline and myself.
Jerry, Riley and Caroline...presently living in Yountville, Napa Valley.
David, Westin and Jane
After a hard night of partying (asleep by 11), I drove up to UC Santa Cruz, where I was nominally enrolled during 1969-71. I believe there were about 2000 students in 1970, today there are 15,000+.
Finally I drove back up to Brentwood for one last night with my mom and her lovebird/baroness of the house, "Miss Pierre."
After seeing Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens out the window, I was back home in Washington.
So there you have it: two weeks in California with no sex, no cosmetic surgery, no echinacea/wheatgrass shakes;
just a visit to mom, a hike in the mountains and seeing Yosemite friends who
have managed to buck the Golden State odds to keep their marriages alive; WOW!
Thanks to all for the wonderful hospitality. -Chris
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