Saturday, December 25, 2010

THB Travels to the Beach

After Thanksgiving, THB takes a walk along the beach north of the beach house and sees many dead birds, at least 63 in a stretch of about 3/4 of a mile and does not rush in to get his cell phone to photograph them. Thus ...

themacinator fills in.

sixty three

After the first of the year, we get a startling good sunset, one of the few to turn crimson, scarlet and a full range of pinks and reds. Sunrises are generally much better, THB decides to mix it up and pretend he slept in for a few days.

One very brief book review: The Privileges, a novel by Jonathan Dee, recommended for its sharp portrayal of a charmed couple that lets luck and invincibility and commitment to each other camouflage their lack of awareness by others that they are missing a moral compass and empathy skills

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The ultimate finale: a Thank You

Judge Walker sent THB a personal thank you note...and with that and the $208.60, THB is very happy to have performed his civic duty.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Days 3-4: THB goes to court

Day 3: November 3, 2010, SF Civic Center

Pics: jury duty notice, sunrise and bike parked at Bart, civic center art from a different viewpoint, utility boxes (including a giant one open and being worked on in the back of new Target near the loft and one with graffiti), Hunan, Oakland murals, sofa free

Today, Wednesday, is the parade and celebration in civic center for the Giants, from 11am to 2pm. Bart at 7:30 is crowded, and it turns out most of the people are going to civic center. That seems a bit early, and when we approach the open area, there are already 3-5,000 people around (at 8am!!), trying to get good viewing spots.

The jury is to be ready to start at 8:30; at 9am, there are only 12 of us and the court clerk comes in to say the other two are on their way. One of the missing women shows up at 9:40, she has been stuck in and around civic center looking for available parking (she lives in Oakland, so parking near Bart and coming in that way sure seemed better than driving; parking is paid for, so some people want to stick with cars since it is free to drive). The clerk then comes in and announces that the other no-show is now sick, and the judge has decided to promote alternate #1 (HEY, THAT’S THB!) to be juror number 3, and into the court we go. It even means that now THB sits in the seat reserved for number 3.

First, the judge advises us that a witness that was supposed to testify today is not able to be in court today, so we will be in session on Thursday, a change from the original schedule. This clearly causes most of the jurors some distress, since they had already made plans (like going to work, scheduling appointments, resting up for Friday’s court duty, etc.) and now need to change them.

Chuck calls a few witnesses, mostly to show that he had many reasons for being out of sorts: abused as a child, drug user since 13, in jail since 20, raped while in Santa Rita jail, suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the rape, and then, when he returned over a year later to jail, was put in the same cell where the rape allegedly occurred, causing more emotional distress, and that he might be transgender. The Marathoner uses Chuck’s witnesses (as well as her own when Chuck recalls them) to show that maybe Chuck is making up most of stuff that has come up in the last few years.

Surprisingly, as we near the end of the morning session at noon, the defense rests. This also surprises Judge Walker! The jury retires to the jury room for about a half hour and then the clerk sends us off to lunch. THB has a decent turkey burger and iced tea in the cafeteria (to avoid the giant Giant crowds, swarming a block away), $7.50.

Back in the courtroom around 1:45 where the judge lets us know that we will still be on for Thursday morning at 8:30, this time to get his instructions and closing statements and deliberation. We don’t know what happened to the witness that couldn’t make it today. We’re free to go…we’ll, if being
set free means being released to the streets where somewhere upwards of 200,000 people are just leaving the Giants victory celebration. Bart is jammed, so THB decides to walk down Market Street (closed except for police motorcycle motorcades) to Fifth Street, where he joins the crowds in Bart, hops a train, is home to ride the elliptical at 3pm.

Day 4: November 4, 2010, SF Civic Center

Another gorgeous warm day in the Bay Area. And, fortunately, just another day on Bart! After having my camera confiscated today as I enter the building (and not yesterday), I am up in the jury room at 8am. The jury is fully assembled at 8:30, by 9:15 we’re in the courtroom for instructions from Judge Walker. That takes 15 minutes and then the Marathoner gives her closing statement, 30 minutes, followed by the rambling closing of Chuck, 15 minutes, and then another few words from the judge and we’re back in the jury room for deliberations at 10:40.

THB would like to say there was some heavy duty lifting and analysis, and that would not be the truth. Most of us were ready to vote at 10:42. After selecting juror #1 as foreperson (isn’t that an awful title?), we make our way through the four counts and THB’s contribution is to remind the others that the defendant was not testifying while interrogating witnesses, so anything he said was not admissible and thus not to be considered (it wasn’t easy to make this distinction while listening in court, a lot easier to do once we’re in deliberations, at least for THB).

After 18 minutes, we’ve voted four times and the defendant is guilty on all charges. We send off the message to the judge that we’re done, and at 11:30 we get to file back into court one more time for the reading of the verdict. The judge thanks us for or service and says that for anyone who waits, he will be in to discuss the case, answer questions, and thank us personally for our service. This turns out to be the best part of the whole process!

Judge Walker is a very nice guy, seems compassionate, and very open. We find out the following:
• The judge thanked us and admitted that we should consider ourselves lucky to have been on such a slam dunk of a case, wasting our talents as we were a terrific jury (yeah, right!).
• He had Chuck in his courtroom before, and for this trial thought the idea of a defendant representing himself and using a diminished capacity defense was just daffy. He counseled Chuck to reconsider, and thought Chuck wasn’t so bad, given the (low) expectations.
• Chuck’s advisory assistant was actually an attorney from the public defender’s office who had represented him in the past. Given the representation rules, she was not allowed to speak in court other than to whisper with Chuck.
• The witness that was never called was Chuck’s mom! She was in court today, and it seemed likely that it was her; we couldn’t tell for sure until the judge confirmed it. The judge figured that she was there on the pretense of testifying so that he could see her for a short while on the court’s dime (they paid for her transportation and hotel room the night before). They did get 10 minutes together while the jury was deliberating.
• It turned out that it was the Marathoner’s first case and (per the judge) she had a rocky start and then got her sea legs under her. Most of the jurors had surmised as much. The physical therapist thought her posture was terrible.
• Chuck was going to call himself as a witness (remember, as an attorney none of what he said in court counted as actual testimony, though he talked a lot and hurt himself most of the time with his own admissions). Judge Walker said that Chuck had two options: interview himself in Q&A format (the prosecution’s preference so they could object to questions) or narrative (Chuck’s preference). The judge said that he was going to play it by ear (meaning, THB thinks, that he would bend over backwards to give Chuck a chance to explain himself) if and when the time came. Too bad, it would’ve been a thriller:

- Chuck the lawyer: So, what was your state of mind when you wrote these vile, disgusting, threatening letters and plopped them in the USPO?
- Chuck the defendant: Well, I was highly agitated, depressed, strung out, raped, pillaged, and didn’t understand the consequences of my actions. Did I mention I was abused as a child, some people think I am delusional, and I believe I am capable of writing the most invasive and ugly letters to vulnerable women only because of all these other factors?
- Judge: Marathoner, your witness…
- Prosecution: No further questions, your honor.

• The guy I thought might be a bailiff/judge-security turns out to be one of the two law clerks working for Judge Walker (that explains the suit and tie and following the judge wherever he goes)
• Judge Walker thinks that we do have hardened criminals and they should be in jail, and that many other people in jail would be better off if in a treatment center for mental health. Putting the latter group in jail pretty much guarantees that they will stay criminals rather that get the kind of help they need. Chuck appears to be one of those that needed mental health support. However, he did walk away from New Bridge and, within a few months, abandon his halfway house to head up to his mom and steal a car, gun and money from someone in his mom’s town, only took him 5 days to get that done. The judge did not think Chuck would carry out the threats he made (not sure the recipients would agree with him)

The trial is over, THB heads to the Hunan for lunch, hot and sour chicken and rice, $12 (with half saved for a weekend lunch).

Oh, and THB made $160 + around $20 in transportation costs (time to go back to work as a professional US District juror?). As one of the jurors asked: Are they taking out withholding or do we get to keep it all because it is payment from the US government?

Days 1-2: THB goes to court

Day 1: November 1, 2010, SF Civic Center

Pics: Jury Duty notice, bike, sunrise, Bart, Civic Center art, court buildinig, Mangosteens, SF utility box, Oakland murals

US District Court Jury Duty: Told to show up at 7:45, which means they really don’t start until around 9am. THB arrives by riding his bike to West Oakland Bart and then Barting to Civic Center. Door to door is less than 40 minutes, and it is nice (and cool) in the morning just before sunrise.

57 potential jurors show up and at 10am we head to Judge Vaughn Walker’s courtroom (of Prop 8 fame) where 36 of us get pulled to the head to the courtroom; we squeeze into the 14 juror’s seats (actually, they don’t have to squeeze in) and the front two rows of the courtroom (in front of the bleachers, we do have to squeeze in). Then the entire 36 introduce themselves (THB is #31) one at a time using a mike, and give a brief bio: marital status, kids, what everyone does in the family, hobbies, education, etc. Only later does THB realize that his “hobbies” are really his everyday life since the list is pretty much what being in retirement means to him anyway: baseball, travel, baseball, reading, baseball, bridge, more travel, art, hiking, baseball, hibernating for the winter until baseball starts again.

The judge asks everyone a few more questions, nothing too tough since very few call out an answer other than the obvious “no, this doesn’t apply to me” and then we break for lunch. THB has brought his from home (THB will let no meal go unreported): leftover chicken and homemade cheese bread sandwiches, bottled tap water. Total cost: Zero

Back to the courtroom where now we move on to jury selection. This one is new to THB: The prosecutor and the defense attorney confer with their respective co-counsels and submit a list to the judge; the judge then reviews the list for the next 10 minutes or so, then he sends them back; the attorneys go through them again and then submit their lists again, and the judge again reviews them. Done! The jury has been selected without individual questioning of the jurors by the attorneys! The judge starts calling out names in the numerical order we’ve been sitting in, and as you’re called you get to sit in the corresponding 1 through 12 position in the jury box…12 are called, the 12th being #30, the guy on my right, phew, THB escapes to play another day. Damn, then he calls my name and the guy on my left, #32, and we get to be alternates 1 and 2. How did they pick us out of a crowd? THB didn’t see anything about what was said in the bio introductions that would’ve made him or any of us actually more or less likely to be called (okay, there were a few that were never going to be called, very few).

And now a few words about the demographics of the 57: damn, this ain’t like the courts in the East Bay! The US District Court pulls from all over northern California, and:
• There aren’t many old folks in this group
• There aren’t many Hispanics or Blacks, and maybe 15% Asians
• It looks like the 30 and 40 somethings are the majority of the people that live around here
And, to really make this case interesting, the defendant is representing himself!! That’s why the defense attorney didn’t look too polished. He’s charged with 3 counts of sending threats through the mail and one count of threatening someone related to a court appearance. And, he comes with two or three people that seem to be extras sitting near and not at the attorneys’ table; while never introduced, it appears that they are extra security focused on him.

We get a bit of an overview of the jury room: first off it doesn’t have 14 chairs. It seems crowded. The court clerk gives us an explanation of what to expect and answers the few questions asked. She passes out a prepared list of the days we might be in the courtroom, again not enough to go around. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought this was only her first or second week. Doubt that is true…who knows! The judge, rumor has it, is retiring in about 6 or 7 months, so maybe this is a substitute clerk. We’ll never know. We’re scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and then the following Wednesday. My guess: something to do with the judge’s schedule. Days are 8:30 to 3:30, which seems pretty good for me because I will be commuting just outside heavy commute hours, making finding a seat on Bart a lot easier.

The judge lets us go early, around 2, which is really nice because Game 5 of the World Series is on: THE GIANTS ARE WORLD CHAMPS!!!! THE GIANTS ARE WORLD CHAMPS!!!! THE GIANTS ARE WORLD CHAMPS!!!!

Day 2: November 2, 2010, SF Civic Center

Now we’re in the jury room awaiting the call to the courtroom. The room is tight, 4 of us sit in the back, can’t fit us all around the table. (Side note: the bathrooms are huge, maybe they had to make both of them handicapped; did there have to be two? do men have to have a urinal too?) The jury is basically a representation of the larger panel: (I think) I am the oldest by a few years and the only retiree (true), one is in her 20s (though, since she has an 11 year old daughter, can she be THAT young? she looks 23, maybe 24 tops), there are at least 6 that are around 30-35 or maybe a bit older, a few in their 40s, two around 50, another that might be in her late 50s, and all are either working or looking for work (out of the 57, there might have been 5-10 who had been working and now were not); one Black, one Hispanic; two engaged to be married (including the 24? year old). Only two of us that don’t periodically pull out phones or have them permanently in the right palm, and the other guy probably 50 and is out of work and not actively looking (I guess). Three people that never (and, I mean never) stop talking. A physical therapist that never stops stretching (or talking). No Asians. 8 men, 6 women.

The lead prosecution attorney is another young 30 something, and she looks more like an ultra thin marathoner than a US attorney used to dealing with hardened criminals. At her table, she has a (male) co-counsel (maybe in his late 30s, early 40s), someone from the FBI whose job is to go out in the hallway and get the witnesses, and a paralegal. They all sit facing us and at right angles to the judge. Same for the defense, they look like the second row from where we sit, and there are two of them: the defendant and his co-counsel, which is really just an advisor. She might be from the public defenders group, and might be in her late 20s (younger?).

The Marathoner starts with opening statement, and before she is two minutes into her presentation Judge Walker interrupts sternly to say that she must refer to the defendant as “in supervision”…gosh, I must not have been paying that close attention, what was it she really said about the guy? She looks hardly apologetic while apologizing to the judge while looking straight at the jury. Only later, basically from the defendant referring to himself, can we piece this together.

Side note: actually, I deduce what it is that Marathoner is not supposed to say, and assume so did the rest of the jury. Since we’re not allowed to talk to anyone about the trial while it is on, who knows what the rest are thinking or gleaning. And, we are allowed to take notes and some people appear to be doing a more word-for-word documentation of the procedures than the court reporter. THB, true to his nature of total recall (i.e., “impressionistic”) travel reporting, has not taken down a single word, his book is virginal.

The guy is in jail! Ah, that explains the “escorts” sitting around the court room. One of the jurors noted (like we all should have noticed) that they were packing heat. And, there is another guy sitting just to the right of the jury closer to the judge. He’s up on a little platform, wears a suit and tie, and is taking notes and following along as evidence is presented. Is he also packing? He does go in and out with the judge, so I assume he is the bailiff or judge-security. Why is he seemingly tracking the trial so closely?

The defendant/defense attorney, let’s call him Chuck, makes his opening statement and, though he isn’t all that articulate, gets the point across that he’s going to be using a diminished capacity defense. Hmmmmmm….as if representing himself isn’t enough to demonstrate that, he’s giving it just that special emphasis.

The first witness for the Marathoner is someone that runs a halfway house for addicts near UC Berkeley campus. She’s sixty. Her primary testimony other than placing Chuck in the facility in 2008 is to read the first of two letters he (allegedly) sent her, this one to the halfway house. The trial appears to be over: the letter is beyond a threat, it is enough to make everyone in the courtroom wish they never had heard it (as the director breaks down while she is reading it). THB is glad to be an alternate, does not even want to be around when the discussion starts over what the intent of letter was, or anything having to do with the letter or Chuck. Then she reads the second letter; it is worse than the first, even more threatening since this one is sent to her house and includes her unlisted home phone number. Diminished capacity?

Chuck does not try to call in to question whether he really was the guy that sent the letter, he spends his time trying to get the director to admit that he was jerked around and in a stressful state while at the halfway house before going AWOL and that the director somehow screwed up by calling his probation officer before he reappeared a few days later and that didn’t she realize he was not supposed to be sent back to jail. In the midst of all that, he’s giving up personal information about his background (this continues throughout the case, we learn way more about Chuck from Chuck than from the Marathoner).

The next witness is another woman, this time from the same town where Chuck’s mom lives, in Nevada. She’s 41, though looks older, in more of a matronly get-up, with two teenage kids and a foster child, living with her father in his house. She met Chuck through an on-line dating service ( – TRUE!) and in a matter of days he’s moved in with her, stolen her truck and handgun and $200 and made off for Sacramento; she files a police report. Note to everyone, in case you missed it: on-line dating can be dangerous. Then she reads the letter Chuck sent her (he is not contesting he sent these letters), and is an ugly combo of the first two letters, and also threatens her teenagers and father. She does not break down while reading. In fact, if she had had her handgun returned, and could’ve brought it into court, the trial of Chuck would be over. Included in this letter is his admonishment she’s not to testify at his parole hearing, that must be why the fourth count (threatening a witness) is in place.

As documents are entered into evidence, they can be “published” such that the jurors can see them on the shared computer screens. And, the paralegal has the ability to “blow up” specific parts of the documents when the attorneys are referencing specific sections. Very impressive and positive use of technology!

THB has pho for lunch at Mangosteens, pretty good and a different version than most others, more beef stew-like, $7.50.

The rest of the day is spent with the prosecution bringing in jail, USPO (local) and FBI (from the East coast!) experts showing how the letters and envelopes came from Chuck while he was in the Santa Rita county jail. There are somewhere between 10 and 30 people at various times sitting in the gallery. Most appear to be students, most likely from the nearby Hastings law school.

The judge is bending over backwards to help Chuck with his defense, coaxing him into asking the right way the questions that get at the point he wants to make, leading him into putting into evidence documents he has at hand, and keeping a very upbeat tempo to his running of the courtroom. The jurors are very impressed, and so is THB.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day Infinity: Return to E-ville

Day Infinity: Return to E-ville

My idea of an amusement park story is getting adventurers to go tour environmental disaster areas. After all, if the entire Great Barrier Reef gets killed, which seems like an extremely lively possibility, what are you going to do with all that rotting limestone?
Bruce Sterling

Pics: Faves from prior trips

Week Four Observations

Book review: Zeitoun, Dave Eggers, Audio book. It’s been out for a while, neither of us had read it though THB did attend a City Arts and Lectures where the Zeitouns and Dave were on stage discussing the contents of the book. For those of you out there who don’t know anything about this Kafka meets Katrina story (it takes place in New Orleans), let THB summarize it for you: “Brownie, you’re doing a great job” is probably right up there with “Mission Accomplished” when it comes to the least observant statement ever uttered aloud by a US President. Recommended.

Final Observations
1. We made it, agreeing that audio books do wonders for filling dead time as we drove to and from the red dirt circuit, day after day after day after day, and that great scenery and love of art works wonders with the rest of the time. Clearly, DB has a very forgiving nature if she could still look benevolently upon THB as he came up with hikes in heat, day after day after day after day.
2. Top park/lodging/eating experience: a tie between Zion/Desert Pearl Inn/Whiptail Restaurant and Capitol Reef/Boulder Mountain Lodge/Hell’s Backbone Grill. BOTH HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! You could make an entire trip out of these two stops and be very very satisfied.
3. Nearly 5,000 miles and the 2000 Lexus held up beautifully; gotta love the engineers that thought you needed four cigarette lighters to make it to the store and back.
4. Adjusting our itinerary turned out to be important, and as flexibility is not one of THB’s most obvious attributes, DB gets a ton oh credit for initiating the thought that maybe, just maybe, there was another path to the Rockies (and back).
5. While THB did not expect many children (that’s the point of leaving after Labor Day), it was a shock to see how many foreigners are coming to the US to see the NPs. If it wasn’t for some tours of retirees coming from Arizona, it might have been just the two us trying to learn French and German to talk to other visitors. Of note: France is having major trauma now over the idea of raising pensioned retirement age from 60 to 62, so it may not be an accident that this group was over-represented: they have (govt) money and health and time to travel.
6. Reiterating an earlier observation: you can have a great trip if you follow our itinerary and just go to the non-NP parks. This part of the country is loaded with awesome scenery, drives, hikes, vistas, and quirky little spots in the in-between spaces.
7. We spent two days in LA and the first few hours presented quite a shock: the number of cars on the road, the amount of ambient noise, and the pace of the life here is way more than our systems could handle…and we grew up here and know what it is like!
8. We knew ahead of time that Great Basin NP would be at serious altitude. We didn’t realize that the rest of the trip would also be between 6,000 and 8,000 feet pretty consistently. It wasn’t debilitating, it was usually noticeable. And, of course the Rocky Mountain NP was at some serious altitude, and was debilitating at the peaks!
9. Overall, the food was better than we expected (we had very low expectations), and also not really very good by Bay Area standards. In general, the NP lodges are very mediocre and, in some cases, as their season wore down to closing, limited and lousy. Arranging to bring a car cooler and eating some breakfasts in the room and eating many picnic lunches in the middle of hikes was a good idea and practice. We also noticed that by skipping fries and most desserts and thus eating less, we kept the food depression to a minimum.
10. Favorite Alzheimer moment: We finish up the hike in Mesa Verde and are heading to the car to drive back to the lodge and THB feels in his right front pocket and the keys to the car aren’t there. Hmmmmmm…UH OH!!!! As we keep walking towards the car, we realize the spare key is locked in the car (not such a bad thing). We keep walking and THB realizes the keys are in his back right pocket. How can that be? Must have been fooling with re-arranging items in the car before the hike and somehow slipped the keys in there…okay, that makes sense, how did THB lock the car after all that fooling around? It’s a mystery…and at least the keys weren’t lost.
11. Damn, watching baseball on TV is slow death. At least the Giants are winning games.

The final pop Quiz:
1. How many miles did THB and DB drive on this trip:
a. Exactly 4,789.2
b. None, the trip was faked just like the moon landing and we stayed at home the entire time
c. Just enough to visit every possible, west of Denver, red dirt NP ever designated
2. Why should THB and DB have listened to A Sunburned Country on this trip?
a. Duh, pretty clear that the interior of Australia and the Southwest have a lot in common: vast, hot, red, and Mars Landing training sites
b. Suffering from sunburn and sunstroke, there was chance for getting some sympathy through the radio speakers
c. So much talk of dangerous snakes and bugs would’ve put our minds at ease
d. All of the above
3. If you had to pick a guide for the day, the primary attribute you would be looking for is:
a. Ability to check the gas gauge before setting off
b. Ability to fall asleep at a moment’s notice and hard to wake up
c. Ability to find the way back to the start without getting lost
d. Ability to play the flute and drum
4. Which of the following items are NOT essential for this type of trip:
a. Binoculars (assuming you have essential tremors)
b. Two pairs of jeans
c. GPS (assuming you are incapable of listening to and following the directions)
d. Woolen things (three!) to cover your ears when it gets cold
e. Ability to select hikes that are fully exposed to sun
5. Why was Blondies such a great spot to eat:
a. It’s the only place on the entire trip we ordered a milkshake, and it was GOOD!
b. The locals are proud of their isolation and eccentricities and happy to talk to you about them
c. It was really the only choice in Hanksville, which is about 2 hours from anywhere, and it was noon
d. All of the above
6. Identify the prior trips of the pictures!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 34: Canyon de Chelly, National Monument to Petrified Forest (NP #14) and Kingman AZ

Day 34: Canyon de Chelly, National Monument to Petrified Forest (NP #14) and Kingman AZ

Mr. Rickey, I'll put more people in the park than anybody since Babe Ruth.
Dizzy Dean

Pics: Fitness center (with water cooler, towels and no clock), utility box, shots in Canyon de Chelly and Canyon de Muerto, and the Petrified Forest

Book Review: The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver, Kindle edition. First half of the book is very good; the protagonist is in action with Kahlo, Rivera, and Trotsky in Mexico. Then in the middle, it takes a turn and is filled with faux book reviews, newspaper articles, etc., and slows to a crawl (unless you like to skim, which is very easy to do on a Kindle). In the last portion, the protagonist becomes somewhat of a depressive recluse writer and then gets caught up in the post-WW2 loyalty scares. All the innocence of the first half of the book comes back to haunt the protagonist. And, a “gun” (the lacuna) is presented in Act 1 and sure enough someone gets “shot” in Act 3. This is my first Kingsolver book, doubt I will give her another try.

Chinle is full of dogs on the loose, most without collars. They are everywhere, Officer Briskin: in the streets, in the parking lots, at the pool, lying in the sun, laying in the shade, with collars, without collars, families roaming together, large dogs, some medium size dogs, not too many small dogs (except puppies), dark dogs, light dogs. They are everywhere. They are friendly, almost comatose for the most part, not afraid of cars. Oh, and the cows are also roaming free, just like in India. And, the horses run wild around town, too. Calling Officer Briskin!

Up early to ride the elliptical, very early. Sure enough, in comes a woman of a certain age that appears to be in such good shape that a half-marathon before breakfast is the norm. Night before, manage to see 75% of a baseball game for the first time in over a month, and the hated Yanks manage a comeback by doing everything right for 8 batters in a row. They are an offensive machine, or as a depressed A’s fan might say: they hit the ball hard, a lot, game after game. (You can tell the trip is winding down when there is a whole paragraph of sports/fitness news instead of NP stuff, and that followed an entire paragraph on the local animal control situation, all preceded by a book review.)

Breakfast at Holiday Inn of blue corn pancakes (above average) and cinnamon french toast, coffee, $23.

We had been arranging a full day tour of Canyon de Chelly with a local guide, requiring many e-mails and phone calls. We arrive yesterday and cannot get hold of him to finalize pick-up time, even visiting his office. No calls back, no commitment on time. This morning we arrange a tour through the Holiday Inn, for a 1-3 person ½ day tour, getting a third person by offering a woman in the gift shop a spot with us (she pays 1/3 of the $150). Works good for us and for her. As we are getting ready to leave, at 8:58, our original guide calls (which means he’s not there to pick us up early) and I explain we’ve already committed to a guide that is there ready to go. No problema…

Turns out the new guide is terrific, he grew up in the Canyon, left for school and spent time in Chicago and Idaho, now back for 15 years leading tours. Lots of local knowledge, and very good about encouraging questions. Our vehicle is a four door 4WD, and the entire trip is in the sand of the canyon washes. We can talk while he is driving, a plus. Pics include what was missing in Monument Valley: a snack stand in the canyon at a convenient turnaround spot.

Lunch at Subway, tuna and turkey and swiss, iced tea, $12.

Then we hit the road, and visit the Petrified Forest, just off I40. We do the scenic drive, look at the petrified logs, and continue on to Kingman, AZ, and a Hampton Inn. We arrive at 6pm, having gained an hour by leaving the Navajo Reservation, which stays on Utah time. The Reservation is 27,000 square miles, holding approximated 300,000 Navajo, per our guide.

Our arrival in Kingman was accompanied by bizarre weather: what looks to us like a dust storm is enveloping the town, and as we approach it starts to rain lightly, the temperature drops from 80 to 63, the wind picks up dramatically, then rain hard, then lightning within a mile of the car, rains even harder, streets are flooding, and the sun is out the entire time. Second time for rain on the trip, on the last day of NPs.

Dinner at a steakhouse: porterhouse 1/3 the size of the hunk in Omaha, ribs for DB, soup and salad, WITH alcohol (drink, wine, beer), $65. As we leave the restaurant, the moon and stars are out, it is now 70 degrees, only the puddles in the parking lot belie what was going on 1.5 hours ago.

Friday, October 15, 2010