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happy birthday to us

241 years ago, 240 men, women and children on the Juan Batista de Anza expedition made their uncharted way from New Spain to SF Bay where their first assignment was to establish El Presidio. Every year what remains of those founding families celebrates the occasion at Pershing Square near the Main Post Lawn with horses, music and historical memories. Stop by this Saturday 10:30am to 12noon. Free.



potter ball

Quidditch, the flying broom game in Harry Potter, has been adapted globally as a bona fide sport. Berkeley for example has had a team since 2005. It’s still played with brooms, multiple hooped goals and a rubber ball. Nobody, as far as I know, actually flies. You have a chance to check out the action Saturday June 24 from 12-4 at Blackesto Park in San Jose when the Phoenix Sols match up against the. San Francisco Argonauts. Free.


take your pick

Botanically speaking strawberries are not berries. The explanation is too complex but the berries themselves aren’t. They’re in their high season this summer brilliantly colored, seductively sweet and for us lucky Californians ready for picking. One U-Pick source is down the coast at the Swanton Berry Farms. Their site in Davenport opens everyday from 8-7. It has its own Farm Stand with fresh berry pies, strawberry shortcakes, strawberry lemonade, etc. The one in Pescadero is weekends only. Both are organic. Picking prices are $4.50 a pound up to 10 pounds. And $3.50 a pound for over 10 pounds. Picking can be muddy. Bring rain boots. Why strawberries? Some people believe the skin looked like it was embedded with bits of straw.



night blooming

Looks like everyone has decided to get in on the 50th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love. The latest dazzling addition is the glorious glass Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. From now until October 21 Illuminate, the creators of the Bay Bridge Lights have installed a wildly colorful light show on the building’s Victorian façade. Viewable from sundown to midnight. During the day botany fans might want to check out the interior where the rarely blooming, vilely fragrant Corpse flower is briefly buddding.



The specter of summer travel renews my determination to go nowhere – not to the airports that have become shopping malls, not on the freeways where traffic speeds ahead like caterpillars, not to the wilds where I’m surrounded by RVs. I try not to go anywhere that I can’t walk. My destination of choice is Anthony Bourdain on Sunday nights on CNN.

Where is traffic the most impassible? I encourage readers to submit their top worst bottlenecks on local highways. My nominees are 1) The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge at 5pm where East Bay commuters from the City doing anything to avoid the Bay Bridge so head north to San Quentin where they all come together on a two-lane road and 2) Highway 29 leaving Napa seemingly at any time of day where what should take 12 minutes takes an hour.

Speaking of automotive news, I noticed in Washington D.C. you can not only pay for street parking with your credit card, but an app on your phone can be notified when your meter has expired and allow you to add additional payments. How come we don’t have that convenience here in the land of tech pioneering?

One of the puzzling things about advertising these days are the millions being spent on obscure medications. Have you seen the spots for Hetlioz, the drug for blind people with insomnia? Is the audience for it watching TV? Hetlioz’s ad budget is $29 million. Did you know the average viewer watches 9 Big Pharma ads a day? The list of remedies being promoted is jaw-droppingly arcane including Axion, a testosterone enhancer the you apply like a roll-on deodorant. And who is making up these wacko names –Warfarin, Xylometazoline? Nothing can stop this tsunami of pharmaceuticals even the requirement that they announce side effects like causing “fungal infections, suicidal thoughts and potential fatalities”.

Recently neighbors whose computers were hacked started me panicking then investigating how to protect my devices. It seems to come down to passwords. We are seriously advised to change then every 6 months and instead of using our cat’s name they recommend combinations like “W7qt444Br_?”. Or signing up (and paying for) a Password Managing Service. Seriously? The myth that tech communications make our lives simpler has long ago been debunked.

There are still pleasures to be had watching corrupt governments in action. I submit in evidence this season of “House of Cards”. Whereas excellent long-running shows like “The Americans” are losing steam in the end, Kevin Space and Robin Wright and whoever the writers are on “Cards”, have managed to keep me on the edge of my sofa. I tried to get excited about the much-applauded “Leftovers”, but when a character in it informed the police chief that “wild dogs have morphed into humans and are taking over the government”, I switched channels.

Curious how easy it is to adjust to constant changes. A few years ago if we saw a BART car full of people with their heads down we might have guessed they were depressed or praying. Now, of course, they’re texting. Gay marriage, once unimaginable, hardly gets a second glance. There are billboards for medical marijuana. I tried a cannabis cream for some leg pains and damn, it worked.

For the 6% of folks over 55 who use dating sites I have helpful advice: get a dog. It doesn’t even have to be a cute one. I’ve found that walking my fairly conventional pooch triggers all kinds of sidewalk conversations, many tending towards the flirtatious. (not that I’m in the market, sweetheart.)

Summer reading? You won’t be surprised that I’m recommending my new novel, ”Good Luck with That” available on your Kindle from Amazon.


get back

See history repeat itself this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday to celebrate the 153rd anniversary of the Civil War there will be two mock skirmishes between Union and Confederate forces at Camp Reynolds, built in 1863, on Angel Island. Free except for the ferry fare. Then on Sunday at the Hyde Street pier watch a reenactment of the fierce labor strike of 1901 when longshoremen demanded better pay and working conditions. Free.


beyond walgreens

When your doctor has trouble diagnosing what’s ailing you much less how to get relief from your pains, maybe you should look west to the east. On Saturday June 17 from 10-2 there’s a tour and lecture of botanicals at the Chinese Medicinal Farm in Petaluma. If your interest is piqued there are classes at the California School of Herbal Studies in Forestville. When you become serious enough to consider turning professional check out the accupuncture classes in September at American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Can you do accupuncture on yourself?


senior chic

For some people growing older is liberating. Case in point, the 19 Sonoma women showcased in a photo exhibit at the Marks Gallery in Santa Rosa. They are dressing to please themselves with a healthy eccentricity. The show runs through Saturday. For a look at even more creative fashionistas well into their 90’s check out the website and the documentary for “Advanced Style”. For guys over 60 it’s emancipating just to throw away our ties, wear our oldest jeans and stop shaving.



sundays in the park

Of course you know that every Sunday until October 6 there’s a free band concert at the neo-classical Spreckels Bandstand (built in 1899) in Golden Gate Park. This Sunday to honor Italian- American Day there’s a program of opera highlights. On Saturday and Sunday June 10 and 11 there are 6 times the usual number of brightly uniformed players, as 6 different bands from around the state entertain you from 11 am to 5 pm. All still free of course.


hit the beach

Did you realize people have been surfing off Santa Cruz for 100 years? Curious to know more? I recommend to you take in the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum on West Cliff Drive. Exhibits of long boards, heavy redwood plank boards, photos and videos start with the three Hawaii princes who introduced the sport here. Closed Wednesdays. It might inspire you to grab a board yourself.