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These are some shots taken with my trusty digital. Most are of San Francisco. Some are nice photos of a fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge. A couple were taken in other parts of the Bay Area. Enjoy.

This shot was taken from the green hills of the Marin Headlands. The Marin County Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge is at the upper left. The San Francisco Tower is barely visible above the fog line at the upper right.

This one was taken from the end of Marine Drive at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Thanks to my buddy, who was an army photographer during Vietnam, I managed a decent composition after several tries. The real view was overwhelming.

This beautiful panorama of the City of San Francisco was taken from the Twin Peaks lookout. The business district with its tall buildings glistens across the top while residential areas rise toward Twin Peaks. Market Street, San Francisco’s “main drag,” splits the City from mid-right to the San Francisco Bay in the distance.

A rather hazy shot of the San Francisco Bay Bridge and parts of San Francisco taken from Coit Tower, one of San Francisco’s premier landmarks. We were out and about early, and the haze as we looked into the sun obscured sharp details.

A part of San Francisco as seen from the Bay Bridge, with Coit Tower in the Upper right corner. Notice the artistic composition of the roadway and the bridge barrier. Even concrete looks good in the Bay Area.

This was my last shot of the day, the restored Benicia train station. Benicia is a quaint little town at the North end of the Benecia-Martinez Bridge, one of two that span the Carquinez Strait. I used to cross the bridge regularly on my way from Novato to Pinole. In the 1800’s, Benicia was briefly the capital of the State of California. I’d swear the old town hasn’t changed. If you look closely, you might spot me taking this picture.

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Our Intrepid East Coast Correspondent filed these inages of the recent snow in Maryland.

Two Feet of Fresh Snow

Here’s another shot of fresh Maryland snow.

Looks Like More Than Two Feet

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When the story first broke, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to CNN News. CNN is the news outlet after all that continually flashes “Breaking News” or something similar across the ticker at the bottom of the screen. Every thing is “breaking” or “developing.” My mind numbs itself in self defense.

But then something caught my attention. I heard the words “Richmond High School.” There are other Richmonds in the U.S., including Richmond, Virginia. I went back to my latest issue of Country Weekly magazine.

As I read, I heard the announcer, I think it was Kyra Phillips, mention California. My ears perked up. The gang rape occurred on the grounds of Richmond High School, Richmond, California. Once upon a time, I attended that very high school. My tenure there was brief, but still, things stick in the mind.

Richmond when I lived there was a classic All-American town, or perhaps I should say a classic California town. However, I’ve lived in many towns and the habits of teens weren’t substantially different from the habits of Richmond’s teens.

In Richmond, as in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, cars were a big deal, and every Saturday night, McDonald Avenue, Richmond’s main drag, would be lined with cars full of kids dragging the street from 23rd Street in the east to the train depot at the west end of town.

If the kids weren’t tooling up and down shouting at one another or at a gaggle of girls walking along the street toward the movie, they were parked in or just idling in any available spot near a drive-in with real live and often good-looking girls taking and delivering orders.

If you want to get a good idea of Richmond then, watch the movie American Graffiti. The movie wasn’t filmed in Richmond but in several nearby towns like Petaluma (the primary filming location), Pinole, Concord, Larkspur, Mill Valley, and San Francisco.

Mel’s Diner in the movie was filmed at a diner (since torn down) on South Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. And 4th Street in San Rafael was used for many of the street scenes. Another coincidence: my wife and I lived on 4th Street shortly after we were first married and then later in Petaluma.

Times have changed since American Graffiti was released in 1973. Most of the towns where the movie was filmed have undergone dramatic growth spurts accompanied by an influx of people from other areas of the United States and from foreign countries.

Richmond has also experienced its share of changes. But unlike the positive changes in many other Bay Area communities, the changes in Richmond have been mostly negative.

The reputation of Richmond today is a place to avoid. The town is widely known as the murder capital of the state. In 2007 (last year I have a figure for), there were 37 murders in this town of roughly 100,000 people. And, the part of I-80 passing through Richmond has achieved dubious standing as a war zone based on the number of shootings that happen along that short stretch of the highway.

To compound these negatives, the Richmond-San Pablo area has become rife with gang activity that often erupts in violence. And lesser crimes such as robbery and burglary are beginning to spill over into once small and peaceful enclaves like El Sobrante.

The causes of Richmond’s decline have often been attributed to its ethnic shift. While the town was once overwhelmingly white, today whites make up about 25 percent of the population. The balance consists mainly of Blacks and Hispanics.

However, the attribution of Richmond’s ills to its ethnic balance is a specious argument. So many variables come into play that it’s difficult if not impossible to narrow the root cause or causes to one factor. More likely, the cause lies in both economics and a failure of civic leadership to address Richmond’s burgeoning crime rate and rapidly declining infrastructure. McDonald Avenue, for example, that one-time image of Americana embodied in American Graffiti, became an absolute, decaying roadway to nowhere before the civic leadership seemed to wake up.

Regardless of the reasons for Richmond’s decline, there can be little doubt that many of the students at Richmond High School are products of the current culture of violence, poverty, drugs, decay, and a nation-wide attitude that drives individuals to seek the immediate gratification of their own desires.

Given such an environment, it was probably inevitable that violence would eventually reach the ground of the high school. In fact, at least one of the active participants in the gang rape apparently wasn’t a student and shouldn’t have been at the homecoming dance to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the school’s students are undoubtedly decent individuals doing their best to make it in a cruel environment. Moreover, the high school wasn’t exactly pristine when I attended it. There were fights, usually between individual boys over a girl, and other students would gather and watch, cheering on one or the other of the gangly teens.

But there were no rapes on campus, gang or otherwise. Those were different times. In retrospect, so innocent. Sadly, once upon a time will never come again.

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We parked on Valencia just around the corner from 24th Street. The four of us walked across 24th for a bite of lunch in a corner café, which was almost empty at that time of the afternoon. The waitress was a nice young girl who seated us promptly and then left us to review the menu of exotic goodies ala San Francisco.

I opted for the 24 hour breakfast…two eggs, scrambled, crispy bacon, like, snap, sourdough toast, and coffee. It was good, the best the city had to offer.

My companions ordered…what?…I don’t remember. But they all raved about the food and complimented the waitress who beamed.

Following our meal, my buddy and I stepped outside while the women fought each other over the check. I leaned against the door jamb and watched a female police officer walk across the street toward us and get in an SFPD patrol car. She eyed me up and down and I smiled at her.

Across the street, we spotted a place called Holey Bagel. It turned out to be a bagel shop. We reversed our course and walked back toward Valencia. On the other side of the intersection, we spotted a guy unloading beer and booze from a truck. We decided to check it out. Turns out the guy was stocking the Dubliner in preparation for the evening’s usual festivities.

By now, the girls had settled the bill and left a chintzy tip. We decided to head for the Marin Headlands and after that, finish our day with a drive across the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge.

My buddy unlocked the car doors and like the gentlemen we are, we opened the doors for the women and saw them safely ensconced before we took our own seats.

Just then, I spotted a woman walking toward us. She was tall and had a haughty air about her. But she was beautiful. San Francisco beautiful. Not one of your stringy haired bottle blondes, but a dark-haired beauty with long legs carrying her confidently past us and onto 24th Street. I had visions of the Maltese Falcon strapped to one of those legs.

Before I closed the car door, I did a double take. My head swiveled around in an effort to check out her…um…aspects. She was perfectly proportioned all around. I followed her with my eyes until she disappeared and I thought about jumping out and asking her if she could direct us to the zoo or something.

By now, my buddy had noticed my body facing forward and my head to the rear. He began to chuckle and didn’t let up for the balance of our tour.

A couple of weeks have passed and I still can’t get 24th Street out of my mind. I intend to return as soon as I can and spend more time there.

Those were the best damned scrambled eggs I’ve ever tasted.

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A major recurring theme in the expected gubernatorial primary between Democratic contestants Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown will be the new versus the old. The lines are already forming, as evidenced by the following statement to Politico by Newsom’s political strategist, Garry South.

The contrast [between Newsom and Brown] is obvious. If you want new leadership and you want a fresh face, Jerry Brown is not your guy,” said Garry South, a Newsom strategist. “Will that argument be effective with every voter? Of course not. But will it be enough for us to win? Yes.

Most observers agree that the strategy will be effective in some limited sense. However, Newsom hasn’t been tested beyond the boundaries of San Francisco. Thus, whether the strategy will carry Newsom to statewide victory remains to be seen.

Moreover, Newsom trails Brown in the all-important electoral category of money. Dollars win elections, and no one knows the reality of that better than Garry South. In fact, he has managed to snare one of the Democratic Party’s top fund raisers, former President Bill Clinton, who remains highly popular on the national and world stages. If Clinton performs as expected, he will undoubtedly pump some funds into Newsom’s coffers.

But the South strategy contains within it an inherent contradiction. On the one hand, South holds Newsom up as the bright and shining beacon of a New California. On the other hand, he calls in a shining example of old-time Southern and East Coast politics.

Clinton has been around a long time. He was elected Arkansas Attorney General in 1976 and Governor of Arkansas in 1978, a post he held until 1981. He became President in 1993, holding that office until 2001.

Since then, largely behind the scenes, he has helped advance the career of his wife, Hillary Clinton, assisting her in her campaign to win a Senate seat from the State of New York and more recently an appointment as Obama’s Secretary of State. This is hardly the record of a new generation.

Clinton also brings with him a record of marital infidelity, which will undoubtedly become a matter of discussion during the primary election campaign. The most notable example of his moral lapses is the Monica Lewinsky incident, leading to his impeachment and, as far as I know, the publication and worldwide distribution of the only pornographic report by a Special Prosecutor in the history of this country. Kenneth Starr’s report has undoubtedly been scrutinized by the Brown camp for usable ammunition should the need arise.

Despite his old-establishment power structure ties and his unsavory personal history, Clinton seems highly popular among some segments of California’s voting population, notably Latinos, and his presence as a Newsom supporter will carry a good deal of weight in the Hispanic community.

Clinton is also a classic political carpetbagger. Aside from a few forays into California to raise funds, he knows little if anything of California’s people, customs, habits, politics, or economics. That fact will also produce some ripe areas for exploitation by the Brown camp.

On balance, Clinton’s presence on Newsom’s side may yield some positive results. But the overall effects will probably be less than expected. An alert Newsom strategist would develop a script to explain how Newsom campaigns as a new-age King Arthur while at the same time calling on the help of the most seasoned and old-time politician around today. And a carpetbagger at that.

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I’ll be moving on in a couple of days, leaving Maryland for Little Rock and from there to Oakland CA. I’ll miss MD and all of its tourist attractions, places like many Civil War battlefields, state and national wild horse preserves along the Atlantic, and, of course, Washington, D.C., a quick drive away with all of its past and present political signs and symbols that draw millions of visitors from around the world.

What will I do in Little Rock? Well, I won’t be staying in the city. I’ll land there on a Southwest Airlines flight out of Baltimore and immediately head for Hot Springs for a few days with a cousin. I expect to see a few sights, and I expect to tour a rice growing area on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River Delta where the rice harvest will be underway. Arkansas is one of the nation’s leading rice growing states, ranking right up there with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and California.

I may also visit my cousin’s fifth-grade class. Kids at that age are still, as we used to say, bright eyed and bushy tailed. They are inquisitive creatures with eyes not yet worldly wise and jaded, eager for information and still somewhat respectful of their teachers and other adults. What will I tell those kids if they ask me questions? One thing I will not say is a negative word about anything. Some of them are probably the products of dysfunctional families and the last thing they will need is more negativity. I’ll probably restrict my classroom visit to covering topics about Maryland and Hawaii, accompanied by pictures, which illustrate the beauty of the Aloha State and the wild horses in Maryland. Such beautiful creatures! Every child ought to have an opportunity to see those magnificent animals up close.

My visit to AR will be short, and I’ll be off to Oakland in a few days. Once in the Bay Area, I’ll see my two sisters and a host of nieces and nephews. Will I set foot in San Francisco? I can’t say at this moment. True, I’d like to take a walk through City Hall and scope out the pols. I’d also like to prowl the area around Union Square, hoping to catch sight of a local celebrity or two. But my itinerary depends on my sisters. We will undoubtedly drive around some of the neighborhoods we lived in as kids and reminisce. There is a time for reminiscing and a time for politicians. I’ll think about the latter later.

From Oakland, I’ll return to Hawaii where I will settle some affairs remaining after the loss of my beloved. One of my major decisions will be the question of selling the house and living elsewhere. Should I or should I not? That is the question I’ve been thinking about on my trip. Texas? Maybe. Maryland? Maybe. Arkansas? No. California? Maybe. I know the state inside out and have relatives in both Northern and Southern Cal. Plus, I have a good buddy living in San Francisco who has invited me to share his pad. Tempting, but still, there’s an element of uncertainty in my mind, as if I’m missing something but can’t put my finger on it. I have a hunch I’ll resolve the issue soon. ‘Til then, as the Mills Brothers used to croon in perfect harmony, I’ll just hang around.

Ending with a pathetic imitation of author Alexandra Jones

The earth is old they say,
which no one denies.
They merely murder
one another
over the numbers.

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As a youngster, I thought nothing of moving from one place to another. In fact, I used to describe my itchiness as an overpowering desire “to be where I ain’t.” Any excuse was sufficient as a reason to head for new pastures, or to return to old ones, as the itch struck.

My wanderlust didn’t stop when we married. Not immediately anyway. Let me count the times I uprooted children from playmates and wife from a settled existence and her circle of friends: Oakland CA to San Rafael; San Rafael to Petaluma; Petaluma to Riverside; Riverside to Honolulu; Honolulu to Tracy CA; Tracy to Honolulu.

If my math is correct and my memory intact, that’s six times in about four years, not a large number, but those long-distance moves weren’t the whole story. Once we had settled in a new town, it wasn’t unusual for me to move from house to house on a whim.

But that still isn’t the whole story. I had a traveling job. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend 60 days at a whack in a single foreign country and then fly directly to another country for 30 days before returning home.

My life would have been wonderful for a single guy or gal, but when you’re married with children, complications can arise. Like the day I called home from the Philippines hoping for a nice chat with my wife only to be met by a breathless daughter who said without preamble, “Dad, I quit college.” She later finished, but that short sentence almost gave me a heart attack and forced me to reexamine my lifestyle.

I gave up traveling and moving around, but I failed miserably when it came to dreaming and talking. If I casually mentioned another location, my family would become agitated. They’d mill around, and one of the girls would say something like, “Mom, Dad wants to move!”

The fear in them was there for anyone to see, but I didn’t. I think the turning point came when, after one of my rambling monologue about “new pastures,” a daughter asked plaintively, “What about me,” obviously anxious about the possibility we would leave her behind.

Throughout this period, my wife tolerated my behavior, but she didn’t offer overt criticism. That wasn’t her way. Rather, she continued to work, smiling and pleasant as usual but with an unmistakable coolness until I shut up. She was always very effective when it came to guiding me in the “right” direction.

Over time, the girls left home to establish their own careers and families. My wife and I often talked about finding a nice retirement spot but that’s as far as it went. We were comfortable here and my desire “to be where I ain’t” had faded away.

Then, the unexpected unexpectedly happened. She passed away so suddenly that it absolutely stunned me. At first, I panicked. With the help of two of our daughters and a son in law, we packed up some stuff and headed for the airport, leaving the house under the watchful eye of a police officer friend who lived next door.

In these moments of panic, I had visions of moving permanently but that goal shifted and I decided to spend some time in Tejas, Annapolis, and the Bay Area, with side trips to garden spots like Reno, Lovelock (where my mother lived in another age), and Winnemucca.

But even that plan changed as I found myself wanting with all of my heart to return to the home where all of my memories of her resided. I’ll return, of course, but will I stay or will I once again want “to be where I ain’t?”

I have a hunch that her spirit in the family home is the power that will hold me there until I join her. When that happens, I’ll never again want to be where I ain’t. She planned it that way.

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