Friday, July 30, 2010

Road Trip: Mariposa, Yosemite, Steam Trains and wildlife.

After Comi-Con, Raccoon, who comments here, offered to let us stay there for two nights, in order to get our energy back for the drive home. So the plan was to go from Fresno to Yosemite and to the edges of San Francisco in one day. What? That’s totally possible right? Well, it turns out it is possible if you are some sort of driving masochist.

The road into Yosemite has not been upgraded since the 60’s and they had stripped many miles so once in the ‘National Park’ lands the two lane road turned to gravel for miles. The up to 5,000+ feet (a mile high) and down again and up again and down again was playing a bit of havoc with my lungs but the scenery was nice and people even stopped for deer.

On the way up we stopped at the Yosemite Steam Train, which is a narrow gauge train that was used in this region for logging and transport and still runs today. If you look at the picture of the engine, straight down from the steam whistle, you can see the vent and the puff of steam venting as the engine is building power. They combine dinner and a steam engine ride, with the number 15 engine in the shed along with some of the other vintage train cars. We sadly didn’t have time for a ride (but picked up postcards!).

We entered the park inner system where you can go left to go to Yosemite Valley or right to go up to the Mariposa woodlands. We went right and started climbing even more. We had wanted to go to the Sequoia National Park but couldn’t fit it in, and to find that the Mariposa had groves of Sequoia trees as old as 1,800 years was a win/win. There was a trail that I was told, “I wouldn’t even recommend mothers take strollers on it.” So we wheeled on the road and then went a bit off road when needed. The road climbed another 1,000 feet so both Linda and I got our exercise that day. The Sequoia’s are tall and majestic and people have been visiting this area for such a long time, most of the trees are named. In fact there is a tree which you used to be able to drive through from the 1880’s until 1969 when it fell down in a storm. Pictures of people taking their wagon teams through the tree show that people like big trees and they like to go through them.

We encountered a fallen giant soon along the path and it was covered with carved initials and dates, the oldest I saw was from 1934 but I am sure if you looked hard there was some from over 100 years ago. A picture of Linda down near the root system gives a sense of perspective on this mid sized Sequoia tree. The Sequoia are a type of Redwood but unique. One of the unique aspects of them are the LARGE pine cones they produce (do not stand under the tree when they fall!). I think you are not supposed to take them from the park but we saw people walking with them (the one photographed was put back on the display stand after). I also think they release the seeds during a forest fire, maybe someone can help me on that. Which would make sense as if you have a forest of 1,000 year old trees you don’t need new ones every year, but when some of them have been wiped out.

While we were up there we looked up at noise and saw a woodpecker who had already made several holes into a tree working away, I don’t know if you can spot him in the bark, as this is up 40 feet or so.

We saw a LOT of wildlife in a very short period of time, which was very refreshing after staring at bad driving, very bad driving and lots of cityscape (hey drivers, there are things called ‘indicators’ you can turn on before you change lanes….just a heads up!).

Here is a blur of a tree, and that black blur is a black squirrel, which I have a film of. He just kept running round and round and round the tree, so I will put a film up of that later, as motion is so much easier to see with animals in the wild. So consider this ‘coming attractions’ once I get the films uploaded to youtube.

We also saw a small type of squirrel called Peco’s which live around the Sequoia. We saw two of them which were running around the place like it was a giant track, first round and round the tree up and down then on to the next park, over the log, down the fallen log, then racing each other right in front of us and around back to the tree again. They did this several times (getting a pictures of two racing Pecos is harder that you might think). If you look at the tree on the left at the bottom you will see a black shape (one Peco) and the other is a grey stretched out blur approaching the tree, the second picture shows the grey on the tree as the black is about to scamper around the corner. It was amazing to watch, like some Chaplin film, or a high energy comedy energy.

There were also three male deer grazing in the valley down from us but blocked mostly by trees and not giving great pictures. However while looking at them a squirrel or Peco jumped up on the stump behind me and started to chitter in chastisement. I wonder what I did? So the wildlife was literally running up to me, in various forms.

Here is Linda between two of the younger Sequoia’s in order to give some perspective on the size of these trees. Soon after we met a couple from Chester in England who said, “You see one tree, you’ve seen them all.” Which I though odd since in the UK, any Oak Tree of significant age is on the survey maps and named and recorded in a national registry. I like lots of trees, the giant Douglas Fir of Vancouver Island, the Moss and Trees of the Hoh, the Redwoods, the Sequoias, and would love to see the gaint Mahogany trees of South America. We have seen the Oaks of the UK, the Black Forest and looking forward to more.

On to Yosemite, Linda saved me a hard wheel by driving down to meet me. We drove for another hour before the Yosemite valley started opening before us (This was taken by me while Linda drove). You go through a long tunnel and then the valley is there, broad before you with half dome in the back, Angel Falls on the right and El Capitan on the left (apparently this year you have to reserve to do the 3-5 day rock climb up it – just in case you don’t have enough things to do or train for). I guess the park service got tired of people stopping so they put in a view right at the end of the tunnel and I got a picture of Linda and the Yosemite Valley. When planning Linda was ‘Why do we have to drive all those hours to Yosemite?” and I kept saying, “It is just something you have to see.”

Yosemite IS something you have to see, along with the giant mansion sized boulders on the ground which are just a ‘cracked chip’ fallen off of these giant granite faces. Thanks to Ansel Adams (who has a museum of his work here) and others, this valley is preserved and an ad saying “Pepsi” or “Got Milk?” is NOT spray painted across any of the majestic towers.

It was close to 7:00 by the time we made it down into the Yosemite Valley Drive and we didn’t know when the visitor center closed or if it was already. Linda had gone out and took a picture, but on the way back two squirrels were getting ‘busy’ which we were told later was not sex, but just ‘playing’, er, okay, well, here is a picture of them and you can decide (Yaoi: Squirrel Style?). I hit the horn to get Linda to look up as I found the visitor’s center closed at 7:30. We drove, we got lost, we got lost again, and then we found the visitors center, with Linda going ahead to look in the gift store. This picture was taking by a kind and very nice looking German female (hee hee!).
On the way in we had passed a sign reading “Speed Kills Bears” with a picture of a bear. I guess it was supposed to make us slow down but considering most people are scared of bears, maybe it ended getting people to speed up? Linda wanted a picture but in the visitor’s center we found a magnet of it. We also got a FEW (dozen) postcards in the 12 minutes we had. Plus I talked to a Ranger and showed him the videos, and he identified the Peco’s versus the black squirrels.

The Ranger also let me know that because we had the blue badge I could drive on an ‘official use’ and ‘do not enter’ road which went out to Mirror Pond and from there we caught the sun shining the sunset on Half Dome.
Yes, these few hours were a fast and rushed tour of Yosemite and while we wanted more, it was enough. On the way back we saw a male buck with antlers feeding with the Yosemite Valley behind. The park seemed to have animals and scenery everywhere we looked. Two cyclists rode between me and the buck deer while I was about to take the picture, the husband saying to the wife "Deer, what deer, I can't see anything?" as he passed by 10 feet from the deer and rode past and away, never seeing.

The sun continued to descend and up above, in the clouds, the sunset continued. We headed out of the park stopping to make some sandwiches and prepare for drive to San Francisco. Eiki Eiki and I had not left the van much but we had seen a lot and taken a LOT of pictures (ohhh, about 200).
The road down from Yosemite is a twist rapid elevation drop which is the hardest on me and made me pass out complete for about 90 minutes (not sleeping but literally BAM, unconscious). It was as we neared San Francisco that Linda let me know that she wasn’t EXACTLY sure where she had the directions to Raccoon’s house.

Oh. (It turned out she had left them……at Raccoon’s house on the way down).

So we hit a lot of exits since a lot of them got the ‘that looks familiar’ to Linda. As for me, since it was a week ago, I had no memory at all. Eventually I decided we would systematically take EVERY exit, and we had eliminated each one until we had one left. It was 1:00 am and we were both punch drunk from exhaustion. There were orange cones and there seemed to be a gap so I directed Linda into what I thought was the ‘construction exit’. I directed her instead to a police car waiting in the dark which popped on the lights, and started writing things down and checking Linda’s eyes (that red is exhaustion, not drugs, honest!). The police officer let us go, but he didn’t know how to get to Raccoon’s address. He did know that the Trader Joe’s we knew was nearby to Raccoon was ‘around here’. Great.

We didn’t get a ticket and after one final wrong turn, corrected we finally made it to Raccoon’s where I lay down, irritating his two cats who had claimed the futon as their new plaything.

Yosemite was worth it, though I woke up the next morning in shock with blue fingers and shuddering. It was good to know we could have a day to rest up as well. Because after that we were headed into the unknowns of southern Oregon, then a long driving day from there straight back to Cheryl’s (who had flown back earlier).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Camera FOUND! Pictures of Comic-Con opening night and Pasadena

The Camera has been found!

We went right from driving down to Comic-Con, entered the Exhibitor’s Hall as it opened (the rows are like streets starting at 0, 100, 200, up to 5000+: Section 400-1400 is books and publishers, while 3000-4000 was entertainment and major producers). The Exhibitors hall has a mix as everything from penguin and Little Brown are there having signings with free books to lines to get autographs of everyone from the directors and WW from the show Middleman, to Spike from Buffy and Booth from the series Bones. Plus there are games being exhibited and new series being advertised so a touch of E3 as well where games not available are shown as well as signed books not released for months.

I did not appreciate how empty the aisles the first night were as I browsed manga (the bad where the camera was found when packing to leave). I then wheeled over to various sections advertising things like Salt with Angelina Jolie and other films (with real movie or set props). I also didn’t realize that much of the items on the counters, like special artist drawn and stitched book bags were merely ‘give-aways’ for first night people. The SWAG was what everyone but me was grabbing, which included free DVD’s, books, postcards, bookbags, toys and more. The next morning the Director of Pan’s Labyrinth was there but only those in a lottery got to see him and get a signing. I didn’t win.

I did however wander by Square Enix which was advertising their new game in full wall widescreen, along with some Anime set releases. I was offered to play new PS3 and X360 games but turned them down (I didn’t know there would be a line later) and took a look at where people could ‘lift a car’ using a prop car for the new show ‘The Ordinary Family’ about a family of superhero’s (Big theme, also the new Zombie TV show coming out).

On the way down and back we stopped at Pasadena, my ‘home town’ though since my parents moved 18 times between moving from and then back to Victoria, I am not sure what is home. We bought what little furniture from my teen years is left from the parents. So I guess our table is ‘home’. But Pasadena is important to me, where I grew up for almost 10 years. Here is the ‘famous from film’ Pasadena city hall just down from the library. I had stopped to make sure the library had NOT changed over the years. Because THIS was my library, hardwood checkout desk, tapestries and all.
I found the children’s reading room (which I was encourage to leave after finishing the entire summer reading program in less than a week) the same, they only changed some shelving but kept it all the Walnut of the original from the 1920’s.

Here is one of the reference rooms where I used to drag out large books of the first 20 years of superman or batman to read at home. It is the essence of a reading room to me and influences not only how I think about books but about book spaces. My bookstore had hardwood bookshelves and open spaces, my home has dark wood bookshelves and open spaces. This library defined how I looked at books. It was odd rolling past where the Louis L’Amour westerns should be to find they had MOVED them.

We went by the Wrigley Mansion where Mr. Wrigley of Wrigley’s chewing gum lived and where I had jogged past on my way down to the Rose Bowl for training runs
(there is a VERY steep hill on the street by his house, great for training).

We also stopped by the NEW and upscale downtown to Chado’s Tea Room. It reminded me of a tea merchant I went to in Lisbon, Portugal who kept the tea from around the world, sold there for hundreds of years in wooden boxes. Chado’s has a book of 40 pages of teas plus special blends that are not in the book. The owners wrote ‘The Tea Encyclopedia’ and OWN a tea plantation themselves in India. Chado only uses the top tip and first and second leaf, the top three grades of tea possible. They also sell a very enticing collection of teapots.
We bought some tea, as what better gift than some top quality tea from the source, having smelled the 5 pounds of tin in the bin before buying, then ordering by the ounce. It was fun and addictive, and without the help of the tea seller it would have been hopeless as Earl Grey Blends (including dating back to 1814) have more than a page.
That was part of our stop in Pasadena on the way to Comi-Con and the ‘lost’ pictures including those of my library, a place of refuge from LA heat and of finding out how many books I could carry away – I would have them stacked so they were above my head when I carried them – oh, just 25+ books at a time.

We are off to Yosemite, just wanted, with some internet access to let you know what was going on and share a bit of Comi-Con, my past, a gorgeous library and specialty tea house with you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Road Trip to Comi-Con 2010: San Diego, day 5?

Hi, I did an interview with the publishing director an d Managing Editor of Yen Press as well as an interview of Editor of Vertical I want to publish as well as meeting the woman who started Shojo manga (and yaoi), and got some free books from Simon and Shuster (sic) and tips on how they would never publish my work as it talks about sex, violence, pedophiles, sexual abuse, drug use, and urban gritty life, since while their teen books don't even have kissing due to the need to 'reach a broad audience' (aka: no bans or problems by religious groups). Peguin books would have no problem dealing with those issues.

I mention this because Moto Hagia, published a series for teens on a pedophile, then a story where a boy's mother is taken in by an uncle who sexually rapes the boy for years. In order to escape the boy tampers with the car of his uncle but his mother is riding that day, so he kills her as well and deals with that guilt. His 'brother', the son of the uncle who had no idea of the sexual abuse blames the protagonist. This is real and gritty and printed in the 1970's in Japan.

I got several signings, including the authors of Beautiful Darkness, but also a manga artist from Vertical on a manga about the sexual exploitation of young women from the US in Tokyo's 'Entertainment' industry (promised jobs as waitress and end up as escorts). The story was not published here so the artist moved to Japan where it was serialized in a magazine then put out in manga format (3 volumes) which NOW has been picked up by the states. I talked to him quite a while.

We have not had internet as the gaming at Comi-con has downed almost every server in the downtown area. Which is um, difficult. I am sitting outside a closed Starbucks in my wheelchair typing this now.

No camera and no $175 to get the same model used on ebay - Canon Powershot A640/A630 - the reason I need this is not just the swivel LCD screen but it is the only camera I know how to operate. I have tried to learn new things but I forget them every two days so my computer remembers all passwords. I know how to use this camera, which I load into the compter and label my memories - it is part of 'The Five': my wheelchair, my wedding ring, my camera, my computer, my watch (the other thing I know how to work). Just part of the frustration of brain damage. With unemployment Linda says 2011 or so for replacing it with a used one. BLAH!

I will post pictures and interviews once I can get somewhere that has internet, honest. I am exhausted, 150,000 visitors over the days, and TERRIBLE wheelchair experiences, but lots and lots of people with RA, other illnesses, ventilators and kids in wheelchairs out in force, more every day - this is the place for those who live life at home on the computer to see the whole industry in one place - from films to publishers, to TV actors, Film Actors and Artists. I talked to Nene Thomas today and she was really cool, talked about the two models she uses in this years calendar that are from Victoria.

Gotta go, the street people are looking at me oddly.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Road Trip to Comi-con 2010: Eugene to San Fran Part 3 - a touch of the redwoods

While we were off-road, there was a trail to some of the big trees, and I was feeling like “Darn if I am going to be stuck in this car for 3 days and do nothing!” so I ended up wheeling around (down a BIG, BIG Hill) some very big trees (since about 1/2 of the tree is in the picture, and goes up, and up). It was dusty dry, but also dark from the canopy 300 feet overhead.
I took most of the film and it was really hard to get pictures that showed how huge these original redwoods were. I tried but found that without perspective, often they just looked like regular trees instead of this ‘medium sized’ tree that fell down (medium large trees are 400 years old or more, there were trees 1,500 years old in that area). As you can see, sometimes I had to wheel under the trees, but no problem.

Linda borrowed my camera as light shows up better in the film section as she decided to take some films of me around the trees. Of course, this is when wonderful films appear (honest) and sometimes other things can happen.
Yeah, well,

yeah.

My first thought, and Linda’s was: “How many bends to the legs now?”

What happens basically is this, chair stopped dead as rocks grabbed the chair while

I leaned forward. I shoot out chair.

I touch down at lowest point (which are knees as I am leaning forward to get under tree), body continues forward dragging legs over rocks while using up energy.

Did I bleed? Oh hell.

Honest truth. We had only 3 hours of light left to see the Redwoods and I hoped the cotton would act as a bandage as the blood soaked through. I never looked after one shot until 10 hours later. That is when it was bandaged.

I have left bits of the redwood and floor of the forest in two states and several towns as they keep appearing. I remember begging Linda to find a bathroom so I could get the amount of BARK from a redwood tree out of my ASS (you know, four hours later, once photo ops were gone.)

Then it turned black, and I had missed some bark so in LA, I had to dig and peel most of my skin the size of a fist or two off of my knee, which isn’t all of the hurt on that leg, just some of it.

10 minutes later I laughed like a maniac! I looked like one too, with blood soaking through and running down my leg and I am going up to groups of families laughing and laughing, and asking if they want to see something funny.

I think I might have been high on adrenaline.

Later, not so funny.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Road Trip to Comi-con 2010: Eugene to San Fran Part 2

We went through the Redwoods, and decided to take the scenic routes. Which turns out to be dirt roads but it got us to the really interesting trails. Here we are in the Redwoods where a ‘branch’ blew down. I think I would not want to be here during a storm.

We were here at 5 pm until sunset, though with the trees 300 feet above you it feels a lot more like dusk all the time. However, it can produce some interesting light effects in combination with nature. Light and trees, two of my favorite things.
Linda was astounded at how our van just seemed to suck up the dirt. But made the best of it.
We then took an old WWII radar station road which overlooked the bluffs and rocks of the Redwoods beaches.
We made it into Eureka for the night, which has a significant ‘old town’ from 1890’s. We didn’t know that but decided to detour before doing a marathon driving session down to San Fran. The Arts building styles itself in the older style. The back is a arts based mural.
There are about 4 blocks of 1890’s original historic buildings, made from some Gold boom, which are now used as shops. This is the Oyster Bar.
Rarely some of the original signs are still present, like this boarding house entrance.
Here is what I am guessing was a dry goods store which is now an antiquarian book store, with me in front, sent back in time, honest (I just concentrated on a penny from the turn of the century).
We are off to Japan town and then half way to San Diego today. Just a few pictures before I do a full post tomorrow of the Redwoods.

Road Trip to Comi-con 2010: Eugene to San Fran Part 1

This is just to say we have arrived - travel times were longer than expected, and I ended up with us going north on a dirt road at one point (hint: don't let the person with brain damage be the navigator). We are to hit downtown Japan town tomorrow but will put on realizing that there is NO WAY we can make San Diego in time if we take a day off and try the San Fran-San Diego in one day. So pictures (and cool movies) tomorrow. Honest. Oh, and I bought a very naughty magazine from 1949 which had well, all the sorts of things I am going to comi-con to see. ha. Also wanted to start a business in a bank in Eureka as a retro toy store with die cast toys and lawn darts (the game that makes shelling and blood a family bonding experience!).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Road Trip to Comi-Con 2010: Victoria to Portland: Vintage Cars, Cinemas and a Drive-In Cinema

We left Victoria on the Friday, the very day the Coho was unloading dozens to hundreds of classic auto’s, to join those who were already here, lined up all around downtown. I had wanted to stay and photograph them but just a taster of the classic car weekend of Victoria will have to do.
Like I said, they literally covered each block, from 1920’s Model T, Coops, to 1950’s Caddies. On the way down we passed a group of 13 classic MG’s travelling together.

We stopped at Cheryl’s overnight where besides repacking everything Linda amused herself with giving my hair a braid while I looked at the new Japanese Art Book which had arrived. I do like braids.

The only downside to braids is that they come apart, and the rougher the day, the more they sort of halo your head with strands of hair. Here I am as we are about to leave Portland, having gone to Starbucks to find a bathroom (important when on a road trip), not quite as fresh as a daisy. Well, I am, since I don’t sweat, but I pass out a lot more (I wilt?).

It was foggy and cloudy on the way down but on the off road leading down to the freeway we found..a genuine functioning Drive-In Theatre!!!
Yes, I went to one as a child and there was one where I dated Linda, but it is now closed, so hunting the elusive Drive In is quite difficult. Open Seven Days a week if you want to drive from Seattle??

Entering Portland there are a series of steel girder bridges, with a classic truck up ahead (we saw a lot of classic trucks in Portland – and bicycles, tons and tons of bicycles!).

Our First stop was Powell’s Books of Portland which was a semi-organized book store 10 years ago when we visited Portland on our ‘mooch’ tour of the US and Canada by train (going north to Churchhill to the Arctic passing through a forest fire, and down to Florida in time to be inside a hurricane, plus Portland, New Orleans, Washington DC and so many other places). Powell's had changed. Now it had a parking garage for one. It was ‘accessible’ if Borges in a whimsy designed it. I asked one of the managers if this was Borges’ Library as there were MANY elevators and each went to different floors and each floor had floors like floor 2 in Elevator 2 but Elevator A went to floor 2B but not to 2. Make sense to you? Not to me either, it meant a lot of up and down and reminded me of the Borges short stories called the Library of Babylon where people live entirely in a library, some search for the impossible way out, some determine that god IS the library while others that god is a BOOK in the library and different sects defend different floors. That pretty much sums up Powells on a Saturday. What was more surprising is that 10 years ago, they had been working toward this multi-elevator master plan where people are directed to the ‘red room’ and others to the ‘rose room’ (and of course people get them mixed up), and the ‘purple room’, ‘pearl room’, ‘gold room’ and many more.

Was there any purpose to those names? I asked.

No.

Powell’s turned out to be a very overpriced used bookstore with mostly new books, sort of a Chapters Book Store PLUS. So we left, but not before I got a shot of this fine ink/tattoo of a thorny vine which wrapped around a young female’s leg.
We went next in chase of Gorey’s Details, based on the illustrator Edward Gorey (Museum in NY by the way, met his….lover? Intimate Friend? There who took us around). It was in one location, no it had moved, so we chased it to another. It had moved. But everywhere we went we saw Victorian Houses and old 1930-1950’s cinema’s/theatres. Portland has a LOT of community cinemas. We passed the still working Bagdad, which had added a cafĂ©.
Then there was the Aladdin with the attached bar, The Lamp. The Aladdin didn’t seem to show films any more but did music and other gigs with limited seating, a sort of intimate audience experience.

When we came to the THIRD location where Gorey Details was supposed to be…there was another working small cinema, the Moreland. I have a great love of small cinemas since in Pasadena there used to be a retro cinema (showed movies by theme per month) and a dollar cinema showing old and er, unusual films (known as box office BOMBS!). I remember sneaking into my first horror film, CHUCKY IV…and 15 minutes later sneaking out again.

During this chase we stopped for lunch. Since gas/petrol and lodging are the highest costs we are brown bagging it and have yet to buy meals, so we made a sandwich in a lovely neighborhood of Victorian houses, street after street of them (in Victoria they would have been turned into condo’s, bah!), with an old Elementary school in the middle (named after some dude no one knows, except a mountain is named after them somewhere). It was the kind of ‘community’ I grew up in, a school in the midst of housing, and a place where I can imagine kids still going trick or treating at Halloween. In Victoria, with the condo developments, there just aren’t really any small communities where parents know each other and feel safe enough to let kids go from house to house. Over the last years, the trick or treaters in Victoria have dropped to 25% of the last year, each year. Sad.

Here we are, having found the street Gorey Details was on, or the giant retro store it was in. The owners were away, many things they said they needed to back order we found and left in a bag for them at the front. The overall place manager said they would only be on hold until tomorrow. Sigh. (next time, BLEEP Gorey Details, we are hitting the farmer's market!)

Thus ends Portland, except that after I used the bathroom and we headed out of town, I was up 10 hours already and punked, then passed out a lot, and stopped breathing for over a minute says Linda. That is usually a bad sign. On the way to Eugene when I was passed out in the van (80% of the time), my body was shaking or bouncing which indicates strong heart erratic, so I had a pill when I was conscious.

Now to sleep and tomorrow the Redwoods. I don’t know what hotel we are in but I wish we were staying longer, as when I first came in I immediate saw these and went, “SCORE!” Imported from England, these are going with us. Then the agony of needing soap and do I unwrap the oatmeal soap (so good for facials) or the aloe soap (so good for sun burns) – Luckily Linda had some soap she brought with her. So we get to steal them ALL! I mean, I don’t know where those soaps and shampoos and lotions went?