Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Dovefest in Santa Monica

Me, Sherry and Robin at the Salvation Army boutique

A rainy day in Christmas-week Santa Monica, with a few gleams of sunshine and a double rainbow. Sherry from the Dove Grey Books online group flew in from snowy Maine last night, so today we got together with her sister Robin for our "Dovefest." The Dove group was originally formed for the celebration and discussion of Persephone Books, those lovely grey-covered new editions of old but rediscovered English women's fiction.  Persephone Books are based in London, but our list probably has as many American members as British (and some from Other Places). We've been friends for several years now, and it's a lovely, bookish, gentle list, with lots of book bloggers as well as civilians.

Persephone Books in London

We had food and Dove chat at Tudor House, which is shaping up to be our annual meeting place.  Sherry and Robin seemed to have been eating since Sherry arrived, so they merely took to themselves tea and hot buttered crumpets, but I admit to a full English high tea (sausage rolls, small turkey-and-cranberry sandwiches, salad, scones, cream, and jam, with a mince pie to take home).  And we talked, as Doves do:
about "traveling and staying at home" (a la Elizabeth Bennet), the atrocious weather on the East Coast and Europe (not that the rain in Santa Monica was anything for Sherry to write home about), families and work, and then such pressing subjects as the Duchess of Devonshire, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Eva Ibbotsen, the much-coveted Lost Gardens of England book, cats, Christmas cards, low carb diets, and our various modes of celebrating Christmas!  All great fun.  Then we stopped at the Salvation Army for a quick browse.

On the way back to Robin's house we saw a double rainbow - here it is, disappearing.

Robin and Sherry in Robin's lovely garden


Me and Sherry, neither of whom had slept particularly well the night before

The garden

On my way back home, the setting sun pinkened the sky, despite the clouds.  So I took a few pictures.  This is my street, Montana Avenue, with the Pacific Ocean at the western end of it.

I walked the block from my house to the ocean park, where the sunset could be glimpsed beneath the wet clouds.

View from the park at the top of the bluffs
Looking down

Wet park

And then home for a comfortable pre-Christmas coze with family and cats, perchance to read and write.

 Peter and friends

 The two "brownies," Martial (Marshy) and Catullus (Tully)


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mammoth Birthday

It was a pretty big birthday (if not exactly mammoth), and I wanted to go away somewhere nice, so we decided to spend the weekend at Tamarack Lake Lodge in Mammoth. The three of us haven't gone on a trip together since the Adoption of the Cats two years ago (December 10, 2008, to be exact), and we've missed our family vacations. We brought along our friend Cathy, expecting to relax by the fireplace, have a nice meal, maybe putter around on cross country skis. Unfortunately when the time came to leave, I had two 500-page work manuscripts, Paul had 300 papers to grade, and Peter wasn't feeling well.  Never mind: it was my birthday, and we went!

 Me and Peter, dinner at Tamarack Lake Lodge

Cathy, me, Paul and Peter

Working in the cabin

  Paul outside the cabin

I'd managed to frantically finish writing up the first manuscript the night before, getting to bed around 4 AM. Up at 11:30, and then spent a couple of hours trying to herd Peter and Paul toward the inevitable moment of cat separation. We picked up Cathy and departed at 2. Beautiful drive through the Mojave Desert, clouds, a little rain, a beautiful rainbow that lasted an hour. Refueled at Mojave but didn't stop for anything else. It was dark by the time we reached Lone Pine (sunset is at 4:30 up here), and we stopped at a coffeehouse in Bishop, the Looney Bean, for a quick fueling of cappuccino. The road continued dry, and we reached Mammoth in record time - 4 hours 45 minutes. It started to snow just as we approached town, and was whitening the road, the temperature falling below freezing, as we pulled in at Tamarack Lake Lodge/ We were thrilled to have arrived just before the big snowfall, when chains would be needed!

Chilly by the lake

 Me and son Paul.

Warming up with French onion soup

Cabin at night

 The lodge looked beautiful and we sat by the fireplace for awhile.  Hardly anyone is at the lodge (it's true it's before Christmas season, but I think the real problem is that Mammoth is a ghost town due to the recession).  Then we went into the restaurant for my birthday dinner. The French chef (from Alsace-Lorraine) made us an exquisite meal. Paul and I had a delicious garlicky shellfish broth, Peter had escargot, Cathy a spinach salad. Then I had a most succulent cote d'boeuf steak, so savory, with roasted garlic in a bit of bearnaise sauce, with lovely side vegs (creamed yam, a little beet, bok choy, polenta, etc.). Peter had pork and scallops, Cathy had lamb, Paul had a special fish dish, baramundi in papillote, which melted in the mouth. And dessert! It was the first time Peter broke his low carb diet since April, and he did it for his favorite dessert - grand marnier ice cream with Belgian dark chocolate sauce. Paul had that too and I had a delicate chocolate mousse with whipped cream (and a candle in it) and cappuccino.

After digesting by the fire with the internet, we had to break a trail back to our private cabin, since a good foot of fresh snow had fallen since we arrived! It made us out of breath and frozen but was fun.

 Paul and Cathy on the bridge

Convict Lake

 Me at Convict Lake

I spent the whole night - well, till 5 AM - writing up the second book, and then slept till noon. Peter stayed in the cabin and Paul and Cathy and I drove into town (the roads had been plowed) for bagels and omelets at the New York Bagel deli. It was a bright sunshiny day and the roads were dry, so we took a little drive past Mono Lake to Lee Vining. No sign of the scientific research involving the sea creatures and the arsenic. Then back to the lodge where Paul and I had some French onion soup at the restaurant, to round out our deli take-out dinner. Spent the evening in our cozy cabin, internetting and finally starting Deborah Devonshire's memoir, Wait for Me, reading it more or less simultaneously with Mackerel at Midnight, about the first Jewish family to live in the Shetland Islands.

The Birchalls at Manzanar

Our cats wouldn't have lasted a day at Manzanar


The Eastern Sierras

Next morning we took a little walk by the icy lake in bright sunshine, then started toward home.  Breakfast at the bagel place, a little detour to show Cathy Convict Lake (where there was a shoot-out of outlaws in  1871), and a stop at Bishop for cheap gas at the Indian casino.  Just before Lone Pine, we took a detour to see Manzanar, the Japanese World War II internment camp.  A beautiful place, in the shadow of the spectacular but cold Eastern Sierras, near Mt. Whitney.  The landscape's so inhumanly bleak, it makes you shiver to think of people being forced to stay there, cold winter and hot summer alike. 

With only two more quick stops, Lone Pine for cappuccino, and Mojave for a rest and a snack, by evening we were back home with our cats, who welcomed us warmly.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Half Mast for Herbert

Our long time (25 years plus) family friend Herbert Enderton passed away on October 20, and today his wife Cathy and I went to the UCLA campus where the flag was to fly at half mast in Herbert's honor.  Herbert was a mathematics professor and editor of The Journal of Symbolic Logic for many years, and his devotion to his work at UCLA made this a particularly fitting tribute for him.  However, going to half-mastings has never featured before as an experience in my life, so I didn't know quite what to expect.

The weather was perfect - it's been chilly, but warmed up to a sunshiny 75 on campus today, so that the flag, although posted amidst a jumble of campus construction, nevertheless appeared to its best advantage.

On the pole itself, they posted this lovely tribute, also to two other faculty members who had passed away at about the same time.

Cathy, standing by the tribute to her husband

Cathy and me

A breeze attempts to open up the UCLA flag.

Then we visited Herbert's office - lots of books and papers to deal with.

His jacket, hung where he left it.

Afterwards, we went out to a cheery lunch with Paul (lentil soup and cappuccino at Amelia's, and some much needed retail therapy at the Salvation Army.
Now I will share some pictures of Herbert, from over the years in our long family friendship.

  Herbert meets our cat Martial (2009)

Cathy and Herbert at their son Eric's wedding

Herbert making the toast

Herbert and grandchild - Eric and Elaine's daughter Evelyn (2009)

At Bearpaw (Sequoia National Park)
 Both families - me, Peter, Cathy, Herbert, Eric, Bert, in the 1980s on Bearpaw porch
Two couples at Bearpaw, 1980s

Peter and Herbert near Tamarack Lake

Paul, me, Herbert and Cathy at Tamarack Lake
 Peter and Herbert on the Lakes Trail at Sequoia in winter

Me and Herbert at Bearpaw, 2007

Herbert at Bearpaw


Paul and Herbert