Blue is the favorite color of both me and my dear Mom. How many of you know your Mom’s favorite color? Anyway, the point I want to make, is that during some of my travels, I have seen the bluest of blues.
It never occurred to me, to make note of the “bluest blues” on my travels. The first moment came while at Monteverde, Costa Rica. I woke one morning, sat on the deck with my coffee, and gazed west to the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly, it hit me. This was the bluest blue I have ever seen! I wish I could find my photos.
Since then, the bluest blues have come and gone, always reminding me of those two days in Monteverde (twice visited). For those of you unfamiliar with Monteverde, it is the central point of their continental divide. It made me feel like I was on top of the world. At only 4662 above sea level, Monteverde is a tropical cloud forest, and home to the world’s first ziplines.
Since then, the bluest blues have come and gone. But a few are worth mentioning.
Close to home, Crater Lake is a beautiful dark blue, particularly on a sunny Oregon day. Even closer to home, Lake Tahoe is equally the most beautiful blue on a clear day.
I can also share with you my “super ultra secret’ place for snorkeling on Maui. It is the small, but spectacular Honolua Bay, just outside of Kapalua. But the blue and the view are the best in Maui, other than from the top of Haleakala.
Further from home, Halong Bay, Vietnam is a beautiful aqua blue on a pristine day. Not only is it warm enough to swim, the area is dotted with thousands of limestone karsts, creating beautiful contrasts to the water.
The pristine and beautiful Andaman Sea, off the coasts of both Malaysia and Thailand were memorable. The islands of Langkawi and Penang are not far from the mainland, but have beautiful beaches and ocean blues. And you may remember, Penang has the best food in the world!
Most blues, other than music or water, might involve a structure, such as the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It was an amazing sight, but the blues were not vibrant.
Where might the bluest sky appear? I think where the air is clean, and the weather is cold and windy. That narrows my choices down to either Siberia or Alaska. I spent two weeks in Siberia, so go to Alaska instead!
How about Old Blue Eyes? And all the songs about the color blue? Neil Diamond’s Song, Sung Blue? Willie’s Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain?
From the SF Chronicle, still my favorite west coast newspaper. Are we really drinking more?
It certainly looked like everyone was drinking a lot more during quarantine, with the emergence of new terms like quarantini, a catch-all word for any cocktail made and consumed in quarantine.
But the quarantine binge narrative may have been exaggerated — or at least, it may not have lasted beyond the early days of the pandemic, according to preliminary year-end data for 2020. That was especially true for wine drinking, whose industry desperately needed a boost after reports that the country’s overall wine consumption had been trending downward.Depending on which source you consult, U.S. wine consumption in 2019 was either flat or very slightly down, the first time in 25 years it had failed to grow. Though the final data aren’t all in yet, McMillan projects that wine consumption by volume will have grown between 0-1% in 2020, ever so slightly above 2019.
During the week of March 15, when stay-at-home orders came down in the Bay Area and many other parts of the country, retail wine sales were up 66% by value year-over-year, according to Nielsen. It didn’t take long for those rates to taper off a little bit, but in the following months, they remained in a positive growth pattern. At some point in the spring, warnings began to surface about the “quarantine 15,” a danger apparently posed not just by all the tiny pancake cereal but also by excessive boozing.
It now appears that the rise in retail wine sales didn’t tell the full story, and maybe even obscured it. The first way to explain that is that those skyrocketing sales in March and April represented panic buying. Fearful that the stores might run out of everything from meat to baking yeast to toilet paper, people stocked up.
The second reason the retail growth figures are misleading, McMillan said, is because they were part of a phenomenon known as channel shifting. People simply moved their drink purchasing from bars, restaurants and tasting rooms to the grocery store. Again, they didn’t drink more; they just shopped differently.
Ultimately, Nielsen numbers show, retail wine sales by volume grew 16% during the pandemic period, but that wasn’t enough to make up for the losses of wine sales in other sales channels. It would have needed to rise by 22%, in fact, “in order to merely level off from the detrimental impact that the pandemic has had on bars and restaurants,” said Greg Doonan, external communications manager for Nielsen.
But as with in-person wine purchases, the bigger companies made the bigger strides in e-commerce. Total wine sales were up 68% by dollar value year over year, by Nielsen’s calculations, and the drivers of that growth were not the mom-and-pop winery’s website. Rather, McMillan said, the major gains were made by “companies like Walmart.” (I don’t do much bar drinking, but I am certain I bought more wine via mail order wine as well as Trader Joe’s)
The real winner of 2020, however, wasn’t big wineries or big wine retailers. It was hard seltzer, which continued its meteoric ascent, exceeding $4 billion in retail sales during the year, according to Nielsen. As of September, hard seltzer’s dollar share of total off-premise alcohol sales in the U.S. grew by 2.3% over the previous year, while wine’s decreased by 2.1%, suggesting that many drinkers may have replaced wine with hard seltzer. (I bought some too)
So, here is my question. Did you buy any hard seltzer this past year, not having purchased any previously? I must answer yes, and will admit it was refreshing on a hot summer evening, in place of my usual wine or sparkling.
Some restaurants and businesses have been quite creative during the pandemic. A Berkeley restaurant I mentioned in a previous email, now touts an award winning wine list to go along with their award winning take out menu. He makes as much from his wine list, as his soon to be James Beard quality food. A business in Seattle has packaged a case of a dozen bottles, red, white, or sparkling. Three different price points are offered, and hidden gems are found in each case. How creative!!!
Of course, I am biased towards Berkeley. After all, I went there as both an undergrad, and for graduate school. Berkeley itself, has changed about 180 degrees since then. In 1964, the area around campus was almost “Ivy League” in appearance, with preppy men’s stores, book stores, Fraser’s (an upscale home and designer store), and the usual assortment of college related businesses.
Today, it is a mess. Many of the locally owned stores are gone. It is a quagmire of retail, some bookstores, and total junk. The college atmosphere I enjoyed is long gone. The only attraction for me, around campus, are the many great restaurants, such as Chez Panisse, Great China, and Gather.
I visited another of my alma maters, University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill just last year. I would say, at first glance, it has retained more of the old college vibe, with many local eateries, bookstores, and college related businesses. And it seems relatively clean and safe. The idea of a central business district serves them well.
One of the best college towns I have visited is Boulder, Colorado, home to the University of Colorado. It is known as an outdoor sports capital, and revels in that title. The entire downtown mall seems to cater to college students. When I visit Denver, I always try to drive over to Boulder, for the great college atmosphere. The bars are low key and fun, but the food is rather “college boy” if you know what I mean.
One of my dream college towns is perhaps the most famous, Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT. When I was younger, I enjoyed all the preppy stores. But today, it is the Harvard Bookstore that brings me back on each visit to Boston. I could spend half a day there, just browsing the books. Most of the food choices are rather simple, except for a country French place, and the usual hodge podge of coffee, sandwich, and quasi-ethnic joints. But the atmosphere is great.
We are blessed with many pretty college “towns” here in the west. I attended the beautiful campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, with its tree lined streets reminiscent of Ivy league schools back eat. But I consider Stockton to be an armpit. Up north, I like the Cal State campus at Chico. And on the ocean, how can UC Santa Barbara be any better for sun worshippers and surfers.
I have visited two of our three military academies. The chapel at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is spectacular (pictured above). But the Naval Academy (Don’t Give Up the Ship!) in Annapolis, Maryland is both classic and beautiful. The city of Annapolis fits perfectly.
I almost got stuck in two inner city universities, when I was applying for grad school. I don’t think Columbia in NYC or Johns Hopkins in downtown Baltimore would quality as my kind of college town (city). I have visited many nice campuses over the years: Tulane, San Diego State, Michigan, Ohio State, Montana, Oregon, Georgetown, and Hawaii.
I am certain each of you has a favorite, or most beautiful. What are my requirements: classic architecture and tree lined streets. And lots of brick! I would love to hear your choices.
Photos above: Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, UC Berkeley, and Trinity University.
No Rose Parade this year. But I have great memories. My only remaining wish, or should I say dream, is for my Cal Golden Bears to actually play in the Rose Bowl game on January 1.
I last went to the famous Rose Parade when I was a kid, 1959, to be exact. How is it that I can remember so well? Because that was the last time my Alma Mater, the University of California, Berkeley, played in the Rose Bowl. In fact, I attended a Shogatsu (New Year’s celebration) within earshot of the old Rose Bowl itself. I could hear the cheers from the front lawn of our hosts in Pasadena. We visited all of the floats the night before.
The Rose Parade itself starts at 8am, and lasts only two hours, and heads down the main street of Pasadena, Colorado Boulevard (about 5.5 miles). You might remember the “Little Old Lady from Pasadena” written and sung by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Colorado Boulevard appears in the lyrics several times, as I recall. And yes, Colorado Boulevard is part of Route 66.
The Rose Bowl game itself will be number 100 (began in 1902), and the Grand Marshall for the 125th annual parade is famous Dodgers’ announcer, Vin Scully (voice of the Dodgers for 64 years). By the way, one of the funniest things you will ever hear is Giant’s Hall of Fame announcer John Miller, imitating Vin in Japanese!!! The theme for the parade is “Dreams Come True.” Honda has been the parade sponsor since 2011, and also has the parade’s first float.
The Rose Parade has followed the same route along Colorado Boulevard for decades. The 2013 parade had 42 floats, 23 marching bands, 21 equestrian units, and a partridge in a pear tree. Most floats now are built by professional float building companies. It is a rule that all float surfaces be covered with natural materials, like flowers, plants, seaweed, seeds, bark, vegetables or nuts. No artificial flowers or plant material are allowed, nor can the materials be artificially colored.
The floats compete for one of 24 awards, given by three judges. The judging takes place the day before the parade itself, when many floats are still in preparation. This year, with the warm weather in the mid to high 70’s, the flowers can wilt quite easily. This forces the float builders to finish much of their float during the last 24 hours or so. After the parade, the floats are kept on display for another day and a half. Horses have played a big part in the parade, with Montie Montana a perennial parade participant until his death in 1988 (60 appearances).
Top marching bands from all over the world are also invited. The Tournament of Roses Honor Band consists of the best student musicians from California. University marching bands from the two participating teams in the Rose Bowl are also invited to the parade. In this case, Michigan State, and the rag tag bunch from a junior university somewhere down the Peninsula.
Among the famous Grand Marshalls: Shirley Temple, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Walt Disney, Mary Pickford, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson (posthumously), Buzz Aldrin, Mickey Mouse, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Herbert Hoover, Robert Gordon Sproul, Arnold Palmer, Lawrence Welk, Billy Graham, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Hank Aaron, Kermit the Frog, Bob Newhart, Chi Chi Rodriquez, Bill Cosby,
and Jane Goodall. Projected attendance at the parade is consistently estimated at 700,000 people.
Little did I know back in 1959 that I would attend another Rose Parade fifty five years later. Even worse, I did not know that my Cal Bears would suffer the longest drought in the Pac 12 for a Rose Bowl appearance. Is it that hard to find athletes who can attend the University, or do we just follow the rules a little more closely than the others? It may be one sporting event on my “Water Pail List” that will never be fulfilled.
Monday evening, we attending the Donate Life gala dinner in Pasadena. This organization has sponsored a float in the parade for 12 years now. It is comprised of people, friends and family of transplant donors, and recipients. The dinner honored the many who gave organs and tissues, as well as those who received them. The stories are quite compelling, often emotional, and always tearful. Many of the donors are children and babies. Many told their stories during the course of the evening.
My friend who invited us, the former Surgeon General, presented half of the floragraphs that will reside on the float itself. Floragraphs are a computerized floral display of the recent donor or recipient’s face. It is a great honor for the families of the donor. He lost both his wife, and one of two daughters to separate auto accidents in the Washington, DC area. Both were organ donors. The stories are strong, and poignant, never easy. I can tell you that each of us needs to review our participation as a future donor. It is easy to join the millions of people who have checked that little box on their driver’s license. I strongly urge you to join us in this most life giving and loving gesture. The life that is lost, continues to live on through others, into future generations.
We also met the Rose Queen and her court of Rose Princesses. These young ladies are so well spoken, and have attended over 140 events so far in their 2 month reign of official duties. In fact, all of the speakers on the program were quite articulate in sharing their organ donation and recipient stories. What a great way to prepare for the parade today.
New Year’s Day in a Japanese family is the most special day of the year, at least in my opinion. I miss these celebrations more than any other holiday. The three-day New Year holiday is a very special time in Japan, a time of solemn prayers and joyous greetings. While New Year’s Day is a holiday in many parts of the world, the occasion has a unique significance to the Japanese, who take the opportunity to begin anew many aspects of their lives. New Years is regarded in Japan as an auspicious occasion. As such, it is filled with traditional activities which, it is hoped, will result in a more successful year. The people particularly observe the age-old Japanese custom of not carrying-over any debts or tasks from the old year to the new. As the end of the year approaches, therefore, businessmen busily wind up their affairs of the old year. They try to pay all their obligations by New Year’s Eve. Even non-businessmen try to clear the slate by the end of the year. I wish I could do the same.
Homemakers all over the nation work extra hard preparing for the holiday. They must prepare many special foods, clean the house even more rigorously than usual, and make decorations for the holiday season. The cleaning is called Susuharai, or soot-sweeping. Both inside and outside the house, the stains, physical and spiritual, of the past year are rubbed out in order to purify the home and make it fresh for the New Year.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, a pine decoration known as Kadomatsu is set up on both sides of the front entrance. Some homes have elaborate Kadomatsu with bamboo added to the pine, as well as plum branches. The Kadomatsu is thought to welcome good luck into the house. Another, equally-important decoration is the Shimenawa, a sacred rope made of straw on which zig-zag strips of paper have been hung. This is placed above the front entrance in order to prevent “evil spirits” from entering the house.
My favorite part is the food. My Aunt in Fresno has graciously invited us to attend Shogatsu at her home. Many special dishes are prepared for the New Year celebration. An important food at New Year is Omochi, steamed rice that has been pounded and formed into cakes. There is actually a machine that has replaced making this by hand and wooden hammer. This is eaten either grilled on a frying pan or in a soup, known as Ozoni. Vegetable dishes are also popular during the New Year holiday, partly because they are easy to prepare and easy to store. Food shops generally remain closed throughout the holiday period, so it is necessary to stock up on all items.
Offerings are made to the household gods on a small table. The offerings usually consist of Omochi, dried persimmons, dried chestnuts, pine seeds, black peas, sardines, herring roe, a cray fish, a sea-bream, some dried cuttlefish, Mochibana, or flowers made of rice and straw, mandarin oranges, and many other items varying from district to district.
Preparations for the holiday are all completed by New Year’s Eve. By then, all businesses and nearly all stores are closed, and a calm settles over both city and countryside. During the three-day holiday period in Japan, known as Shogatsu Sanganichi , everyone except those who run amusement enterprises or are responsible for essential services, such as transportation, have a period of vacation. For many people in Japan, the year-end holiday actually begins around December 29, when all public offices begin their vacations. Others end their work either on the 30th or early on the 31 st. In recent years, therefore, more people have been taking advantage of the long holiday to travel to the countryside for skiing and skating, or for relaxing at hot spring resorts. We generally are not able to do this here in the United Sates.
On New Year’s Eve, most people spend their time with their families. Sons and daughters who have moved to the city return to their parents’ homes in the country if this is at all possible. That way the entire family greets the New Year together. Many families pass the evening watching special television programs. Others visit shrines and temples where they pray by the light of bonfires.
Customary Shogatsu foods include toshikoshi soba, a long buckwheat noodle eaten on New Years Eve that symbolizes long life. It is also customary to eat Osechi-ryori, a collection of traditional foods served together in the small sections of jubako box. Jubako box
Each food served in the jubako box carries its own symbolic meaning. For example, black soybeans symbolize health, while herring roe symbolizes the prospect of many children. Mochi, or sticky rice cakes, are made in the last days of the closing year, and eaten during Shogatsu. Mochi may be topped with persimmon or orange, and are used as a decoration as well as a food.
Added to this are many typical American foods, and foods that children are more likely to enjoy. These would include: shrimp and vegetable tempura, sushi, sashimi, teriyaki chicken, sato imo (a cousin of the taro), barbecued pork (char-siu), rice, renkon (lotus root), and edamame (soy beans). Many special desserts are also made for the holidays, including: chi chi dango, manju, yokan, and various traditional pastries.
Much of our musical and artistic journey begins with stepping outside of our comfort zone. This has occurred several times in my life, many times enjoyable, many times confusing, but always richer for the experience.
Like most teens, I enjoyed rock and roll music. But when confronted with attending a classical pianist’s concert in San Francisco, I balked at first. But my honor society advisor practically demanded that I attend the concert of the world’s most famous pianist, Artur Rubenstein. It was transformational, both for its formal introduction to classical music, and for sitting through the concert wearing a suit!
I cannot say the same for my introduction to opera. I just thought it was a waste of time to listen to music sung in Italian. Though the music and limited choreography were beautiful and soulful, I just could not make a connection. It remains so to this day, perhaps my loss! Would you believe my little hometown produced an opera singer, who went on to fame with the San Francisco Opera? And I ended up meeting her some years later!
But my response to ballet was as funny as it was shocking. Someone gave us tickets to the San Francisco Ballet. We reluctantly went, after having argued over whether to go, dine in the City, and otherwise give up a perfectly nice evening. As soon as the dancers appeared, and twinkled across the stage, we almost broke out in a laugh!!! Such was my level of understanding of the ballet, its artistic interpretation and message.
Modern dance was a slightly better experience, though equally confounding to this country boy. Fortunately for me, my introduction to fine art and museums was more guided, both from friends and high school trips to the museums of San Francisco. I had a college girl friend, who introduced me to the Impressionists. And I ended up taking a “History of Modern Art” class during a summer session. It certainly made my first trip to Europe a more enriching trip.
But the exposure has taken me to great places: Royal Albert Hall (above), the Marinsky Theater, Carnegie Hall, The Concertgebouw (above), Red Rocks, Sistine Chapel, the Rijksmuseum, the Louvre, the van Gogh, Musee’ d’Orsay, the British Museum, Tate Modern, and National Gallery in London, The Winter Palace Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Met and Guggenheim in NYC.
I love the Symphony, whether in San Francisco, London, DC, or St. Petersburg. The opera and ballet, maybe not. And the museums, I am strongly partial to paintings of the Impressionists.
Oh, and don’t forget the tango in Buenos Aires!!!
Certainly, and as my travel buddy, Mr. Mike and I often say to each other on our adventures around the world, “not bad for two country boys from the Valley!”
Singapore is famous for its street food and Unesco has decreed that its hawkers centers have special cultural significance and are now on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. According to Unesco, community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context is present throughout Singapore. Hawkers prepare a variety of food for people who dine and mingle at the centers, which serve as ‘community dining rooms’ where people from diverse backgrounds gather and share the experience of dining over breakfast, lunch and dinner. Activities such as chess-playing, busking and art-jamming also take place.
While Singapore is not one of my favorite places in SE Asia, the hawker stalls are a great experience. It can be a little overwhelming on the first visit. Too many choices, too many people, and too many good smells. We ate way too much, our eyes were bigger than our tummies. And notably, the locals linger, while the tourists eat too fast!
Moving on the KL and Malaysia: If Vienna has its coffee houses and Paris its chic cafes, then Kuala Lumpur has its kopitiams. From kopi, “coffee” in the Malay language, and tiam for “shop” in Hokkien Chinese, kopitiams are local coffee shops found all over Malaysia and in neighboring Singapore. But they are more than just coffee shops—they are social hangouts and an integral part of the local food culture.
Though I was staying in a fairly modern hotel, I ventured out to a kopitiam. Zero atmosphere, but setting up for a busy day. I was one of the first customers, and had some coffee and a small pastry. Slowly, ever so slowly, this place, and the surrounding neighborhood came alive. Though it was still dark, people were heading to work. I guess it was Starbucks in the style of Malaysia. The photo on the right is similar to the place I visited, perhaps a bit nicer.
Kopitiams are where busy executives go for a quick fix of their morning Kopi O, old men gather over games of chess, and groups of teenagers meet up to chat over a cup of thick and sweet kopi. Ariffin points out that Kuala Lumpur’s kopitiams are a symbol of the Muhibbah culture of this country – a word that refers to the spirit of camaraderie, tolerance, and friendship that embraces multiple communities within its fold. Indeed, Muhibbah is at the very core of this ethnically diverse country.
So, when you visit SE Asia, make sure you experience both of these, “only in SE Asia” events. The hawker stalls and the kopitiams. Then, you can tell me your story!
You already know how much I enjoy sparkling wine. The holidays are the perfect time for even more sparkling wine. I will probably have my favorite, the Domaine Carneros brut rose’ for New Year’s Eve. Actually, I had some last night, too!
From SFGate: On New Year’s Eve, sparkling wine is the only wine. Last year, Americans bought $131.6 million worth of sparkling wine during the week of New Year’s, according to Nielsen, significantly more than even the week of Thanksgiving 2019, at $67.2 million. Given the surge in wine sales during this pandemic year, I can only expect that figure to rise.
Would you believe 25% of all sparkling wine is sold between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Why? The story has a tie to my new hometown of Clovis. He became the first king to unite previously independent French groups under one rule. He managed to figure out a way to combine things like Christian edicts and Roman rules in what’s now France in a way that started the country on its current path. You’re probably wondering what this has to do with champagne — we’re getting to that.
The popularity of the drink started with the establishment of the region as something royal. Clovis kept his promise to his wife and was baptized in Reims, deep in the heart of France’s Champagne region. When he was baptized, it was no small affair and for centuries, French kings continued to be crowned there. That, as you can imagine, was never a small affair either. In the days before transportation happened in the relative blink of an eye, that meant a royal court could expect to spend ages at any given location. Reims (and Champagne) became the stuff of regal change and royal celebrations that always included some of the region’s finest local wines. Read More: https://www.mashed.com/32713/real-reason-drink-champagne-new-years/?utm_campaign=clip
The real reason we drink champagne on New Year’sThe wines Dom Perignon was experimenting with had already been a part of royal coronations for centuries, and only a few decades after the Benedictine monk made his improvements, champagne was front and center at another celebration: the Fete de la Federation.That was in 1790, and Champagne-region wines were the only ones used to celebrate the end of the French Revolution.www.mashed.com
Here is another favorite of mine: Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley NV ($25, 12.5%): The nonvintage brut from Roederer Estate, the American outpost of French Champagne house Louis Roederer, is perennially one of the best values in California sparkling wine. It has a little bit more sweetness than some of the other wines in this list — the dosage, or sugar solution that gets added to sparkling wines at the end of the production process, is about 12 grams of sugar per liter — but the wine tastes balanced, putting bright, ripe fruit flavors front and center, accented by toasted nuts.
Whatever you do, the bubbles are the key! Kiss 2020 goodbye! Let’s get the vaccine and move on. Tell me what you plan to drink.
Most of us will be more than happy when 2020 ends, the year of the pandemic, of failed Washington leadership, and resulting raging pandemic, and of no darn travel. So, my quotes tend toward travel, but also include a good dose of general interest, and humor. Let’s try to end the year on some grins and giggles. “The walls are the publishers of the poor.” ― Eduardo Galeano “I travel a lot, I hate having my life disrupted by routine.” – Caskie Stinnett
Even better: “There should be sympathy cards for having to go back to work after vacation.” – Caskie again “I changed my password to incorrect. So whenever I forget my password, the login tells me, the password is incorrect.” – Susan Sontag
“Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas and take your next trip in kilometers.” – Anon
I love this one: “I want someone to look at me the way I look at a travel magazine!” “The secret to happiness, of course, is not getting what you want; it’s wanting what you get.” – Alex Trebek Come, send round the wine, and leave points of belief To simpleton sages and reasoning fools; This moment’s a flower too fair and brief To be wither’d and stain’d by the dust of the schools. Your glass may be purple, and mine may be blue, But, while they are fill’d from the same bright bowl, The fool who would quarrel for difference of hue, Deserves not the comfort they shed o’er the soul.—Thomas Moore (1779-1852), Irish poet, from Irish Melodies, Vol. II“Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures.” – M.F.K. Fisher
As my late 101 year old Uncle often told us, “Just Be nice” -Uncle Nori Masuda
“His lips drink water but his heart drinks wine.”
—E.E. Cummings“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
“Keep the faith. We’re going to get through all of this, and we will be a better society because of it.” – Alex Trebek
“I still get intimidated when I have to order from a sommelier, or when someone in the business asks me about my favorite wines. The question is a sneakily polite way for them to figure out what kind of person I am. Usually I defer by answering truthfully: Most of the time, I order light beer or sake with food. But the older I get, the more I seem to be drinking wine.” – David Chang ”What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” – George Saunders“It’s time for Christmas to come, don’t you think?” – Vincent van Gogh “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” — Louis Armstrong
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” — Mary Ritter Beard
“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” — Henry David Thoreau (he had me in mind)
“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” — Ray Bradbury
“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” — Paul Theroux
Again, please feel free to share some of your favorites. Have a great 2021!!!! I leave you with one of my favorite songs, as sung by Iz: Somewhere over the rainbow Way up high And the dreams that you dream of Once in a lullaby, ohSomewhere over the rainbow Bluebirds fly And the dreams that you dream of Dreams really do come true-ooh-ooh Someday I’ll wish upon a star Wake up where the clouds are far behind me Where trouble melts like lemon drops High above the chimney tops that’s where You’ll find me, ohSomewhere over the rainbow Bluebirds fly And the dream that you dare to Oh why, oh why can’t I? ISomeday I’ll wish upon a star Wake up where the clouds are far behind me Where trouble melts like lemon dropsHigh above the chimney top that’s where you’ll find me Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high And the dream that you dare to Why, oh why can’t I? IOoh-ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh Ooh-ah-ah-eh-ah Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
I have written about these before. The stories are even better now, during the pandemic. Take a look! Downtown L.A. has undergone a cultural renaissance in recent years, and The Last Bookstore (453 S. Spring St.) is one of the local institutions that paved the way. Opened in 2005, a time when too many independent bookshops were closing, it is now California’s largest bookstore with some 250,000 new and used tomes. It also sells records and is justly famous for a massive array of graphic novels. But what makes the place such a pleasure to visit is the whimsy the owners have brought to the enterprise. Set in a marble-clad former bank building, the store is filled with oddball book sculptures, mazelike rows of books, and hidden rooms such as a repurposed bank vault that now holds rare volumes.
Powell’s is the largest independent bookstore in the world—the flagship location (1005 W. Burnside St.) in Portland covers an entire city block. Its massive size and buzzy atmosphere have long made Powell’s one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions; poet and Reed College professor Samiya Bashir has dubbed the store “Portland’s Eiffel Tower.” Selling new and used volumes side-by-side (one of the first businesses to do that), this self-proclaimed City of Books also hosts over 500 author events and gatherings each year, ranging from poetry readings to activist literature circles.
Supporting Powell’s right now: After media outlets reported that Powell’s might close for good during the global health emergency, the store received such a huge surge of online orders that it was able to rehire more than 100 employees. Powell’s continues to sell books via its website. Forget Amazon, use the independents!!
Many others are thriving: City Lights in San Francisco, Elliot Bay in Seattle, Parnassus in Nashville, Faulkner in Nawlins, Tattered Cover in Denver, Sandmeyer’s in Chicago, Trident in Boston, Malaprop’s in Asheville, and Politics and Prose in DC.There is a lesson for small business owners complaining about the covid related shutdowns and stay at home orders. ADAPT!!
I am tired of hearing them complain, without even trying. Restaurants are the sorriest bunch. I hear the excuse, my menu is not conducive to take out or delivery. I say, change your menu!! The biggest complainers are bars and restaurants on TV and in the news. Hello! Bars have never been essential.
My dear friend (and former dentist) in the Bay Area told me a great story. A friend of his with a Chinese restaurant in Berkeley just remodeled his restaurant. He reopened days before the covid lockdowns last March. Fast forward to today. His customers must now order their takeout dinners by 3pm, or completely miss out on dinner!! He is so busy, he had to hire more cooks! In addition, he added an award winning wine list, almost doubling his gross income!!
I see too much arrogance out there. I see huge egos that have been injured by the pandemic. But I see very little creativity. What might the common denominator be? Quality products, at fair prices, with creative marketing.