Monday, May 25, 2009

Sierra Foothills

As a boy I spent a lot of time on California's back, unlike today, where I spend it on California's knees. By back I mean the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My Grandma, and an aunt and uncle lived there, the Aunt and Uncle still do. Sonora and Oakhurst respectively. I have not been up there for nearly a decade. This weekend I traveled to my Aunts with my Dad. She now calls Columbia home, which is neighbor to Sonora. Columbia like all of it surrounding neighbors was a gold town. The kind of place with street names like cowhide and gun club roads, seriously. There is a State Park there, Columbia State Park to be precise. It's more of a preserved gold mining town than a park. You can pan for gold, watch a blacksmith work, or eat some ice cream. It's the 1850's with Passats and cellphones.
On Saturday we went to the local farmers market,a nice size for the small community. Same hippies we have here, but they also had a singing cowboy, we do not have those. Apparently socialism "is not all that bad". These are things you learn at a farmers market in the mountains. After we went to the local swap meet. It was basically a local yard sale. An excited Mexican man in his early fifties showed off his new 1930's SS Swastika arm band. He proudly showed this off to all who would listen, including an very elderly man in full camo gear. Apparently he paid $35.00 for it and hoped to re-sell it for as much as $650.00. Apparently Nazi's have a lot of money. These are things you learn at a swap meet in the mountains. After the delightful sale we ate at The Miners Cafe. The cafe has the following stats.

1. Average business: busy
2. Average cost of meal: $7.50
3. Average weight of patron: 235
4. Average number of weapons on each wall: 8
5. Average number of shirt sleeves: None

The food however was ample and good.

In the afternoon we headed to Murphy's, a small town to the North, with as it turns out, a nice wine community. There were more than a dozen tasting room on the quaint towns main strip. It is a beautiful town. I visited Ironstone wineries. A beautiful but large place. Too many people, but worth it for the grounds. They also have a museum on site, with a gold nugget housed in a vault you walk into valued at $3.5 million dollars. It is big. The wines were decent and I left with a 2005 reserve Cab. On the way our of town we stopped at one more small winery with the small tasting rooms I like. I was impressed by the whole region and it would be worth a second visit.
I always loved the mountains and it was in many ways a weekend for nostalgia. But I had a good time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is an interesting place. A mix of money, poverty, young trend setters, and old time Angelinos. This is largely reflective of the Los Angeles Basin with it’s some 13 million people. Extraordinary wealth, extraordinary poverty, extraordinary diversity. There is more money in LA than then the whole of many countries. Yet it is a city of immigrants. 70% of the population is latino, many driven here by difficult circumstances in their home lands, only to find it not much better here. Yet here there is hope. The American economy and system has always had room for those who had passion and a dream. So they come.

I like Santa Monica. People not from California have the idea that it is a land of beautiful beaches and palm trees, where celebrities are often spotted amongst the lowly commoners. The weather is always perfect, always summer. This is in fact all true, for the most part. The beaches are beautiful, there are tons of palm trees, the weather is almost perfect all year, and yes, celebrities do walk amongst us. Why, just two days ago I saw none other than Rick Schroder at the deli I was eating at. Doesn’t ring a bell? He is that child actor who was on NYPD Blue. He also looks like real life Richie Rich. I guess I also recently missed Angela Lansbury, excitement I wrote! Did I mention the weather is perfect here too? Just today though a guy passed me as I was strolling around during lunch. “Finally summer huh?” “Yeah”, I said with a bit of a laugh. But then I thought to myself, “What on earth is he talking about, it’s always like this here”! Seriously, google the average temperature of Santa Monica (like you did for Rich Schroder, common, you know you did). Heck, google the average temperature for just about any city on the south coast of California. When isn’t it summer?

Mostly I like the diversity here. The graffiti artists mixed with beautiful architecture, the massive buildings and the beautiful beaches. Bums, Lawyers, Celebrities, Doctors, Surfers, they are all present. If there is something you are craving to eat, it’s here. Want a Japanese only market and food court? No problem. Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern? No problem. That’s what Southern California is about, making everyone else’s stuff our stuff too.