In Search of the Super Bloom

There’s been a lot in the news about how this spring California would erupt in a “Super Bloom” – something that only happens when we get a lot of rain after what seems like our constant state of drought. This winter we got a lot of rain. Enough to make several pundits declare the drought over. And pictures began showing up of the deserts erupting in color. I wondered if the Super Bloom effect could be seen closer to the Bay Area. I noticed 7×7, a magazine dedicated to all things San Francisco, had recently published the best spots to see flowers within a drive of San Francisco

Danielle and Eric were interested in seeing the Super Bloom as well, so we rented a car and set out for Henry Coe State Park, a couple of hours south of San Francisco. As we got further and further south, we noticed swaths of color along the highway. “Super Bloom!” we would shout as we spotted them.

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Super Bloom along the 101

We marveled at how beautiful the flowers along the highway were, and grew more and more excited about the 3.7 mile hike that would be awash with color. We exited the highway and began the twisty turvy route up to the park entrance. Houses became fewer and farther between and cows a more common site. As Danielle navigated, she proclaimed we were almost there. We slowly rounded the curve and stopped. A line of cars greeted us. We stopped. And waited. There was no movement for a while, so we got out of the car to see what was happening. Basically what was happening was 7×7 had published a best places to see the Super Bloom in the Bay Area article and hundreds had flocked to Henry Coe State Park. The park ranger was letting one car in as one car left. We waited, encouraged to see cars leaving. We were not next, but next next in line to enter the overflow parking lot when it a more senior ranger arrived on the scene. “Sorry, we’re full. No one else can enter the park.”

Oh, man. We looked at each other, not quite believing our luck. We turned around, as the park ranger instructed us, and headed back down the winding road. We stopped at a picnic area beside a lake to have our picnic lunch and discuss Plan B. We were still out of cell range, so we decided once we had service, we would look up another hike in the area and head there. We found ourselves driving up another steep climb, ears popping, cows on either side of us. We pulled into a tiny parking lot in the middle of nowhere and began the loop trail. A landscape of greens of every shade greeted us, a welcome change from the normal golden brown. A chipmunk poked its tiny head out of its burrow. A baby snake slithered across the path. Cows grazed on either side of us. We walked amidst grasses and trees, and only an occasional flower. It was a beautiful hike, despite not offering us the colorful views of flowers we had hoped for.

We left the park, driving back towards the neighborhoods of newly built beige row houses. And there, on the corner, we saw it, our Super Bloom! A carpet of fuchsia, blinding us in the afternoon sun. We pulled over to take pictures, not caring that it was someone’s carefully curated garden and not wildflowers aburst in the fields. We found our Super Bloom!

Hamilton – Absolutely Worth the Hype

Almost a year and a half ago, the group of women that I often go to the theater with were debating whether to buy another year of season’s tickets. The company is always delightful; however, the shows that season had been mediocre and it seemed like it was becoming more and more difficult to find a Friday night when all five of us could attend a show. And then it was announced that Hamilton would be one of the shows included for season tickets holders. We all committed.

I was curious about Hamilton. It received a lot of accolades, and friends who had seen it in NY praised it. I also was a little nervous about seeing it. People had talked it up SO much; could it really be that good? Hip hop is not my favorite form of music. Would it be one of those things that everyone else loved, and I just didn’t get it?

When I told people I had tickets, they immediately asked if I had listened to the soundtrack. I hadn’t, and I didn’t intend to before seeing the show. When I go to musicals, I like to be surprised; I like the music to unfold with the story. I didn’t want to have preconceived notions about the story from listening to the soundtrack prior. Besides, there are few musicals that I like the whole soundtrack; I usually will pick one or two favorites to listen to afterwards.

We arrived and settled into our seats. The lights dimmed, and then the music started. I was blown away. Everything about the production was so on point. The choreography was amazing. The lyrics were so clever (why can’t all of history be taught through musicals)? The music was phenomenal. Not just hip hop but also jazz and ballads and razzmatazz (accompanied by subdued jazz hands at one point). The plot. Yes, it was history, and the way it was told it was so riveting. At intermission we were fawning. So good, so good, so good! Afterwards we talked about what we loved most, shared pictures, and left on a musical high.

And when I got home, I downloaded the soundtrack.

An Artful February: Rent, Roxane Gay, John, and A Thousand Splendid Suns

I still love Rent, even after 20 years. I remember seeing it when it first came out in 1996 and it felt so relevant. Watching the friends struggle to pay rent, to live a life worth living, to cope with friends dying of AIDS. In real life, beginning to have hope that the drug cocktails would start to stem the ever present tide of AIDS related deaths. Daring to hope that the funerals would subside. For this performance, our tickets were in the second row. As we sat down, I thought, “This is close.” And it was amazing. I’m a convert to front of the house tickets for live performances.

Just an interviewer and an author, sitting on two couches. Roxane Gay commented that she’s better on Twitter, when she has a chance to think of responses before sharing them. I disagree. She’s perfect in person. She emphasized the importance of creating joy in our lives, otherwise it’s easy to become a secretary of despair. She looks forward to Benadryl nights, when she knows she’ll get a good night’s sleep. I loved this. One of the things that I relish about being sick is taking medicine that will make me sleepy. It’s such a heavy, drowsy, languid existence.
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John was long (3 hours, two intermissions) but was one of those plays that I thought about a lot afterward. The main guy in the play, Elias, well, I was so annoyed with him. But after the play I questioned Jenny’s character, and if maybe some of Elias’ actions were justified. And it was quirky.

I’ve read all of Khaled Hosseini’s books; they’re the type of stories where you’re so engrossed, you reach the end of a chapter and look up and it takes a moment to realize where you are, here in San Francisco, rather than in Afghanistan. ACT commissioned a play of A Thousand Splendid Suns and it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen there. The play (different from the book) is engaging, the actors dynamic, and the story of the growing friendship between Laila and Mariam is a reminder that even in times of despair, there can be love and joy.

Visiting Senator Feinstein’s Office

I have a special place in my heart for Senator Feinstein. I moved to San Francisco in late summer, 1992. One of my first memories of the city is going to a rally with my new flatmate (whom I had only met a few days before) at San Francisco State University for then candidates Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. *Two* women Senatorial candidates that I could vote for? Having just moved from Jesse Helm’s North Carolina, I was giddy with anticipation for that election day.

I was glad to see Senator Feinstein announce this morning that she would not support Jeff Sessions’ nomination as Attorney General. The release on her website listed the full transcript of her closing argument. I appreciated her arguments and supporting evidence. However, I was perplexed, and somewhat dismayed, by why she supported previous appointees. The statements on her website regarding confirmation for Mike Pompeo (Director of the CIA), James Mattis (Secretary of Defense), and John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Security) didn’t contain many details, they read more or less as “fluff.” I attempted calling her offices and all mailboxes were full, no incoming messages accepted. Her website said that constituents were welcome to visit her offices between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday, which surprised me. I kind of thought I’d need an appointment. Given that her San Francisco office is only a ten minute walk from my house, I decided to visit there this afternoon.

What I didn’t realize was that a protest had been planned outside her office, and access to the building was being closely monitored by a security guard. Figuring it was worth a shot, I walked to the door, said, “I’m here to visit Senator Feinstein’s office, please,” and waited. He pointed towards a group on the sidewalk and said, “The legislator is there.” I thanked him and walked over to a group of men and women holding signs, clasping stacks of letters and postcards, and talking, trying to figure out who “the legislator” was. It quickly became evident. He was the one in the middle of the circle, the one listening, nodding his head, then turning to the next person to hear their thoughts as soon as the prior person was finished speaking, the one who looked weary. After a few minutes, he moved the group to an alcove of the office building, so that we weren’t blocking the sidewalk.

There were probably 15 – 20 people that wanted to speak with him. I appreciated how he listened to each person, answered questions, received suggestions for Senator Feinstein, and offered suggestions for us. I thanked him for posting the detailed explanation of why Senator Feinstein wouldn’t support Sessions’ nomination. I said I’d like to learn more about why the Senator supported the prior presidential nominations, however. He explained that Senator Feinstein considered each nomination carefully, and she believed that each was the the best candidate that the president would put forward and each candidate would do an acceptable job. There were other people that may have been better for the job, but that the president likely would not consider putting forth for nomination. A woman next to me said that Feinstein should have voted against the nominations, that just because a nomination is the best presented, doesn’t mean that the person will be good for the job. He nodded. I asked if there was anything we could do about Bannon’s appointment. He told us that Chief Strategist is not a Senate approved position and at once several people asked about his appointment to the National Security Council, and if anything could be done about that. He said that it’s still to be determined if that appointment will require Senate confirmation but that it’s under investigation. Several people asked, desperation entering their voices, “But what can we do?” He encouraged us to call our friends in red states. Encourage them to hold protests outside of their Senators’ offices. Continue to call. Continue to email. Continue to write letters. Continue to share our thoughts, to make our voices heard. It does make a difference.

“I don’t understand the purpose. What good does it do to march?”

…my Uber driver asked when I confirmed that I had been at the march that day (I think the two huge painted posters gave it away). The question surprised me, as he was an older African-American man. “Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m happy to share my thoughts. I didn’t vote for Trump in Novem…”

He interrupted me, “Oh, neither did I.”

“Yesterday (inauguration day), I was pretty sad. I was disappointed that our country chose to elect a person who has not shown himself to be very presidential. He’s joked about personally sexually assaulting women. As a woman who has been sexually assaulted, I don’t find that funny. I find it frightening that his comments normalize an atrocious behavior. He’s mocked a reporter with a disability. I find that unacceptable behavior for anyone, much less a supposed leader. He’s said he wants to create a registry of Muslims. Targeting people and treating them differently because of their religious beliefs is strikingly similar to what happened in the not so distant past in Hitler’s Germany. And he refers to “the” groups of people: the Muslims, the African Americans, the Latinos, the Hispanics. He’s separating himself from groups that he’s supposed to represent. I can share more if you’d like.”

“But marching didn’t change any of that,” he said.

“Oh, you’re right. It didn’t. However, silence equals consent. And I don’t want anyone to think that I’m okay with what’s going on. Seems like there are a lot of people out there that think the same way I do. I’ve already heard people criticizing the march, saying “Where were they on election day?” We voted. Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. I have no idea how many people marched today, but I’m guessing most of them were at the polls on November 8. Oh, and there’s another reason I marched today. Sometimes you need to do things that feed your soul. Being around hundreds of thousands of other people that are not okay with his behavior is uplifting. It is proof that you’re not alone. That there’s a reason to keep fighting, to keep resisting, to keep acting.”

“I hope he’ll surprise us all and be a good president.”

“I try to keep my mind open to that possibility. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, though, my hopes aren’t high. Until then, though, we’ll march, we’ll organize, we’ll protest, and we’ll do what we can to fight the gross oppression America has harbored for way too long. That’s my idea of making America great.”

He glanced at me in his rear-view mirror and gave me a big smile. “Now I see why you march.”

Hello, .blog!

I’m excited that my website has a new url (look up there ^): lori.blog. There’s a nice symmetry to that: four letters dot four letters.

If you want your own .blog domain: get them while they’re hot. You can go to get.blog (Automattic’s registrar), or any of the 100s of other registrars that are selling the domain.

Highlights of a Day in NY

  • My flight arriving on time
  • Early check-in at the hotel
  • A beautiful sunny day in the 50s (in December!), perfect for walking around the city
  • A delicious NY diner breakfast of French Toast, eggs, bacon and sausage
  • Walking along the waterfront and seeing the Statue of Liberty in the distance
  • Hanging out with the Charging Bull on Wall Street, wreath around its neck
  • Honoring the memories of friends who died in the attacks of 9/11
  • Watching skaters at Rockefeller Center

And then…..

Visiting the New York Stock Exchange! I’m on the Board of Directors of Girls in Tech, and in honor of our 10th anniversary, we had been invited to ring the closing bell of the NYSE. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and the few expectations I did have were blown away. The folks at the NYSE were so incredibly gracious and welcoming. They shared the history of the stock exchange, took us on a tour of the building, and encouraged us to enjoy ourselves during the closing bell ceremony. I was shocked that anyone would need encouragement. We were on the floor (and then overlooking it) of the New York Stock Exchange! I was struck by how quiet it was. My impressions of the NYSE are mostly from movies in the 80s, where people yelled as trades were made. The floor had a calm air to it and people were friendly as we walked by. On the podium, we could see the floor in its entirety. We watched, expectantly, as the large digital clock counted to 3:59:45, the signal to ring the closing bell. We clapped and woo hoo-ed and high-fived as the bell was rung. It was a celebration – the end of yet another successful day.

 

Feeling Blue

I’m in Iceland on a work trip with my team. I fell asleep last night with Hillary Clinton predicted to win the election. Our first female president. Possibly the most qualified candidate that has ever run for the office of the president, objectively looking at years in public service and positions held.

I woke this morning to text messages and notifications, all saying that Donald Trump was the President-elect of the United States. Still sleepy, I struggled to comprehend what I was reading. Really? I read more. Really.

I’ve worked on/donated to political campaigns since I was a young woman. I had a shotgun pulled on me as I canvassed for Harvey Gantt when he ran against Jesse Helms in the NC Senate election (and lost). I had folks hang up on me when I called them from a rented storefront in San Francisco in 1992, encouraging them to vote for Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (they won). I had bruises and paper cuts on my arms from passing out signs (so many signs) at the DNC in 2004, hoping that John Kerry would win the election (he didn’t).

I’ve never cried after the results of an election were announced. Until today. Many times. I am sad. And I am despondent.

I believe in the democratic process. I feel so privileged to live in a country where I can vote. I have not missed voting in any election (federal, state, local) since I turned 18 and was eligible to vote. I research the issues, make notes, and vote. I get butterflies in my stomach when I cast my vote. I’m being heard.

And that’s what makes me so sad. That we have stripped the right to vote from so many people in the United States. That their voices are not heard. That only 55% of people eligible to vote actually voted in this election. That almost half of America’s voices were not heard in this election. That approximately half of those 55% of voters who made it to the polls voted for a candidate that has disparaged various groups of people in our country and promised to take away undeniable rights. African Americans. Transgender individuals. Homosexuals. Women. Muslims. Immigrants. This is where the political is personal. I love individuals in each of those groups. These are the people that are my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues. I am despondent because I am fearful of what the future holds. I am despondent that there is so much hate in our country. I am despondent because that hate is what is being heard.

I have not given up hope. I’ll work on campaigns again. I’ll speak out and donate and call and canvas and lobby. Just not yet. It’s too painful. Right now, I’m grieving. Not just for Clinton’s loss, but for what our country has become.

The Way to Papakōlea

The website said “you need to hike 2.5 miles (one way) from the parking lot to the beach.” That sounded like the perfect afternoon to me. I walked across the parking lot and a Hawai’ian woman in faded capris and an ill-fitting tank top, sweat causing strands of her long dark hair to stick to her face in clumps, said, “Wanna shuttle ride to the beach?” I smiled and said, “No, thanks.” She persisted, “It’s 3 miles. Each way. Over an hour walk.” Music to my ears, I smiled and said, “Thanks, I’ll walk.” I had my day pack, filled with plenty of water, snacks, and a jacket (so not needed in the heat of the afternoon but I’m from San Francisco and old habits die hard).

I walked towards the water, then along the coast. There wasn’t a path per say, just various road-ish ways where vehicles had driven over the years.

Paths to the green sand beach

I wondered if all the roads led to the beach. They sort of kind of looked like it. But they also looked like they could diverge and I had no idea which one led to where I wanted to be. I also wondered why I didn’t see any other walkers. I made my way to the coastline so that I could be closer to the ocean. The sound of the waves and the mist of salt spray calmed my soul. I sat on the lava and ate an apple, letting the sound and spray wash over me.

 

As I continued to walk, a pickup truck or two occasionally passed. Each time, the driver leaned out the window, waved, and said, “You need a ride?” I’d smile and say, “No, I’m good” and he’d say, “You sure?” I’d nod and wave as he drove off, a few people bouncing along in the back of the pickup. Red dust rose and I waited until it settled, somewhat, to continue walking. I came over a crest and saw a bevy of pickups parked atop a cliff. There it was, Papakōlea, the green sand beach, tucked away at the bottom of a cliff. I sat at the top of the cliff, relishing the cool wind blowing from the water. I sat, and thought, and sat, and watched, and sat, and was happy.

Panorama

100 Looks Great on You!

Happy Birthday, National Park Service! I hope I look as good as you do when I reach 100! To celebrate your big day, I spent the afternoon wandering through Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. There were very few visitors there, and I loved walking the ancient pathways and listening to the waves lap against the shore, taking in the peaceful atmosphere. As I stood staring at the sea, I witnessed a sea turtle resting. I watched as it breathed in, raising its head ever so slightly, then watched as it sort of harrumphed, dropping its head onto the sand and spitting a dribbly stream of water. I walked over hardened lava, and felt the heat, from today, from years, from centuries, rise.