Chris Crosses California

Chris Pforr in California California flag

"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." -Ross MacDonald

"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.

aerial view San Francisco area

Rule #2: Hey, you should like, live in a gated compound.

Gated compound

Rule #3: Go see Mom first.

Beth Pforr

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.

Beth Pforr and Gary Pforr

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.
dinner Nguyet Pforr

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.)
Carlos Espinosa

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.)

George Hall George Hall's house

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.
Will Miller and family

After two nights at Sky High I drove up over Ebbett's Pass and headed to Yosemite!
Here's Tuolomne Meadows and Lembert Dome:
Lembert Dome, Tuolomne Meadows

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 Tuolomne.
Merced Lake Tuolomne Meadows

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
Merced lake

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 age.

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 ya.)
El Capitan Yosemite Falls Half Dome
El Capitan
Yosemite Falls
Half Dome

First stop: Curry Village to find my cabin from 1974 (winter quarters while working at the Ahwahnee)
Curry Village Curry Village

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.
Ahwahnee dining room Ahwahnee dining room Ahwahnee dining room

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
Sunset view from Devil's Bathtub

Next morning I drove down through the California foothills back into the heat (105 F today)
California foothills California foothills

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 class struggle?)
tomatoes lettuce

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 and Laura Lee Norris David and Laura Lee Norris David and Laura Lee Norris

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......
Monterey Ocean View Drive Monterey Ocean View Drive

Sea otters!
Sea otters Sea otters Sea otters

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 Fresno blood.)
Jane and David Gomez Jane and David's family

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
fireplace fireplace

There were four of us who'd worked at the Ahwahnee Hotel back in the early 1970's: David, Jerry, Caroline and myself.
David, Jerry, Caroline and myself

Jerry, Riley and Caroline...presently living in Yountville, Napa Valley.
David, Westin and Jane
Jerry, Riley and Caroline 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+.
UC Santa Cruz UC Santa Cruz

Finally I drove back up to Brentwood for one last night with my mom and her lovebird/baroness of the house, "Miss Pierre."

Miss Pierre Miss Pierre

After seeing Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens out the window, I was back home in Washington.

Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens

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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