Tag Archives: california

Protest, destruction, beautification

I went to a Vietnam War protest during my senior year in high school in Kingsville, Texas. That was 1973. That was the last one I went to because there were several injuries and an out-of-control crowd. I’m all for peaceful protest, but when the peaceful protests last for several years, perhaps even decades, and no one listens, perhaps it’s time for something other than peaceful protests.

Remember this?

Protest peacefully

Eagles fans

I remember studying how the South protested when they lost the privilege to own black people.

White people rioting

Then, of course, there was the Boston Tea Party which happened because the King of England would not listen to the people’s concerns.

Boston Tea Party

The city of La Mesa, California, where Jim and I lived for eight years, had a riot on Saturday, May 30. It started very peacefully, but when the marchers wanted to enter the on-ramp to Interstate 8, the police turned them back towards downtown. That’s when the rioting started.

I had heard about the riots but did not see any pictures, notwithstanding so many posts saying that the press was glorifying the violence.

Yesterday I read about many arts associations traveling to downtown La Mesa to paint positive messages on the plywood and particle board covering both broken and unbroken windows. I immediately ventured to La Mesa to see for myself. The destruction was like nothing I had ever seen, but I’ll take this destruction over that of the Philadelphia Eagles fans any day of the week. And when the powers that be refuse to listen to the concerns of their communities, seen as way too willing to reign in police brutality, well, something’s going to happen. It’s gone on for too long. There also are way too many reports of police brutality continuing during the protests….

One man lost an eye after being shot in the face by a “rubber bullet,” which are not bullets by any stretch of the imagination. They are huge projectiles.

A 75-year-old many was pushed to the ground by two police officers and left there to bleed. A grandmother died after being shot with rubber bullets. Lots of videos of police beating protesters peaceably assembled.

Due to my age and underlying health conditions, I’m in no physical or mental condition to even go out whenever I want during this pandemic. Add in protests, and it’s perilous for me. I did get some ugly stares yesterday from some in downtown La Mesa, and every time I got one of those ugly stares, I gave the artists a monetary donation to help pay for the supplies they were using to make the plywood less ugly.

La Mesa, California, The Jewel of the HillsLa Mesa has always been a peaceful city, even during their acclaimed Oktoberfest, so I was quite shocked at the destruction. However, I also found out that although the death of George Floyd prompted protests nationwide, an incident of police brutality in La Mesa—captured on video by a bystander, of course—is what led to this protest starting at the City Hall/Police Station complex. A black person was caught smoking a cigarette at the San Diego Trolley station in La Mesa. Smoking is not allowed, yet even my Excel spreadsheet doesn’t have enough cells to tell you the number of times I have seen white people smoking at the Trolley stations and on the Trolley. The police had been seeking to press charges against the person who captured the brutality on video, but they announced yesterday that they would not do so. I think that’s a good thing.

I also got a chance yesterday to use the camera on my new Samsung S20 Ultra 5G phone. So here are all the pictures I took yesterday, with no comment other than the picture of Randall Lamp, which was a historic building; the other pictures of burned out buildings are of Chase Bank and Union Bank.

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Sunflower

Where do I cancel?

Out & About

On Saturday, March 14, I drove to Visalia, California, a distance of 327 miles. It was a 10-hour round-trip. My purpose was to speak to the Visalia Succulent Club on Nature’s Geometry in Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray

I got to go over The Grapevine, a 40-mile stretch of Interstate 5 over the Tehachapi Mountains from California’s San Joaquin Valley to Grapevine.

The Grapevine

It’s a monster of a road because there’s a lot of semi traffic doing 5-10 mph in the slow lane, and semi traffic doing 10-30 mph in the second lane. Traffic in the other lanes is cruising by at 55-65 mph, with some doing up to 90 mph in the fast lane. The weather can be atrocious because of the height of the mountains, raining at the top (4,000 feet) but clear on both sides, and even snow at some times of the year. Couple the weather with the wide range of speeds, and there always are various accidents.

The meeting was at 6:00 p.m., and since I got there at 10:15 a.m., I had a lot of time to explore. Visalia and its sister city of Exeter were quite beautiful with all the trees that were blooming.

Strawberry Tree (Arbutus sp.)

Flowering Maple (Albutilon sp.)

Redbud trees

Flowering trees

Exeter, with a population of 10,000, had a very cool little downtown area. There were murals on the exterior of 32 buildings. I didn’t find them all, but the following one, #15 and titled “Tracks of Time,” was my favorite.

Tracks of Time

In Exeter, I found a bookstore with lots of local history books, so I bought one, a hard-cover edition of a book that itself is difficult to find.

Visalia Electric Railroad

The bookstore also had a cat. I’m one of those who have to take time out of my busy schedule to pet a cat, so this little one got 15 minutes of love and attention from me. Look at the expression on his face as I told him that I had to go but would make him a Facebook star.

Exeter bookstore kitty

With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, when I got home at 4:00 Sunday morning, I decided to self-isolate, not because I think I might have caught something in the Central California Valley but rather because at my age (65 years and 8 days) and with my high blood pressure; skin cancer and seborrheic keratoses; BPH; and constant coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing due to a deviated septum from a broken nose sometime in my early childhood (according to the otolaryngologist), I’m in the high-risk category. My constant coughing and sneezing also might cause concern to anyone within hearing distance. I have pills to help control the coughing and sneezing, but I never know how long before they take effect and when they might expire.

I’m keeping a journal of my days at home in self-isolation., trying to keep things in perspective.

Day 1—I have decided to self-isolate. Since I am retired, between watching television (although no sports), gardening (lots of weeds to pull and flora to plant), and taking care of Little Queen Olivia (who doesn’t seem to be real excited about me being home all day), self-isolation shouldn’t be too hard.

Day 2—After a day of drinking margaritas and watching the Hannibal series on Prime TV, I can definitely state that drinking margaritas all day does not make you poop. Thusly, I am out of margaritas, but I have 1,618 rolls of toilet paper.

Day 3—Little Queen Olivia is completely oblivious to the fact that I am home and willing to give belly rubs.
Little Queen Olivia

Day 4—Self-isolation isn’t so bad, but I do find it interesting that there are 8,471 grains of rice in one box and 8,552 grains in the other box.

Day 5—It’s been raining all this week, with 3½ inches these past two days, and it’s raining hard right now. Pulling weeds and planting flora is going very slowly. Ah well, that means I definitely still have things to do during the next nine days of my self isolation.

My self-isolation will end on March 28, and three days later my 90-day free trial of the year 2020 ends. Where do I cancel?

Hope everyone is doing well in these weird times we’re living in.

The historic Southern Pacific Railroad depot in Bakersfield

Halls of History

Never fails! When I’m out and about doing one thing, trains seem to crop up here and there.

When I was in Bakersfield on February 11 speaking to the Bakersfield Cactus & Succulent Society, I had to go downtown and check out the historic Southern Pacific depot.

Looks like this:

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

When construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad line had reached the southern San Joaquin Valley in 1874, Bakersfield was the preferred stop. However, a land dispute between Bakersfield and Southern Pacific resulted in Southern Pacific building its tracks two miles east of the Bakersfield, in Sumner, a town laid out by the railroad, as many towns were back in those days. A small depot also was built.

When the Bakersfield depot opened on June 27, 1889, it was located in Sumner, California. Sometime between 1888 and 1892, Sumner incorporated under the name Kern City. In 1910, Kern City voted to become part of Bakersfield.

The depot originally was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, comprising both a train station and a hotel. One of the station’s most defining features was the long arcade stretching along the north side and connecting the station and the hotel.

In the late 1930s, Southern Pacific wanted to demolish the depot and build a completely new one. Instead, the depot was remodeled, providing a more streamlined appearance by removing many of the ornamental Romanesque features and transforming the depot into a Spanish Colonial Revival style. The steep roofs, part of the original style, were kept. Additional expansions included a section in the Moderne style.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

The depot served Southern Pacific passenger trains that ran on the San Joaquin Valley Route: San Joaquin Daylight, Sacramento Daylight, Owl, and West Coast.

Eventually the hotel closed and was converted to office space; I could not find the date of its closing. Closing the hotel also resulted in half of the portico (on the hotel side) being enclosed.

It currently is used as an office building and crew change center by Union Pacific, and on very rare occasions (about once every ten years), it serves as a stop for Amtrak’s Coast Starlight when Union Pacific’s Coast Line is closed. When that happens, the Coast Starlight goes through the Tehachapi Loop. Getting a video of Amtrak on the Tehachapi Loop is #1 on my Bucket List. Here’s a video of a long BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop in February 2017 showing the front of the train passing under the rear of the train:

BNSF freight on the Tehachapi Loop

The depot itself closed in 1971 with the founding of Amtrak and the termination of individual railroad passenger trains, thus ending Southern Pacific passenger trains through the station. The office portion would continue to be used by Southern Pacific, and later by Union Pacific.

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

Historic Southern Pacific depot in Bakersfield, California

There is a nice Amtrak station not too far away, and there are plans for two new rail systems, both having a stop in East Bakersfield near the historic Southern Pacific depot. Kern County also has been toying with the idea of a regional commuter rail system which would use existing Union Pacific tracks. Not to be left out, Bakersfield also has been mulling a future light rail system. Both systems are not on the drawing board before 2025.

Out & About—California Living Museum in Bakersfield, California

Out & About

When I was in Bakersfield, California, on February 11-12, 2020, high on my list of places to visit was the California Living Museum, or CALM for short. It specializes in California native fauna and flora.

California Living Museum logo

California Living Museum logo

Although the California Living Museum is only 14 acres with 250 animals representing 80 species, I can highly recommend it.

Keep in mind that I have been a member of zoos, arboretums, aquariums, and animal sanctuaries since I was 13 when my wise old grandmother got me a membership to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. After that it was the San Antonio Zoo and the Houston Zoo. Also keep in mind that I have been a member of the San Diego Zoo since May 1993.

When I was searching for things to do in Bakersfield and found the California Living Museum, I immediately compared it to the San Diego Zoo at 99 acres, 3,700 animals, and 650 species, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at 1,800 acres, 3,500+ animals, and 400+ species.

I had convinced myself that I would be disappointed, but I just cannot bear to miss a zoo, arboretum, or sanctuary, so off I went, thinking that since it specialized in California native flora and fauna, maybe I would see something that I had never seen before. At $10, the price was right, too!

I spent four hours at CALM, which breaks down to $2.50 per hour. That’s entertainment that doesn’t break the bank!

Following are some of my best pictures of CALM.

Seeing a saguaro (Carnegia gigantea) in the parking lot gave me great hope
and it only got better.California Living Museum

California Living Museum

California Living Museum

Barrel cactus
Barrel cactus

Northern Mojave Rattlesnake
Northern Mojave Rattlesnake

Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake

Sidewinder
Sidewinder

Sonoran Gopher Snake
Sonoran Gopher Snake

Chuckwalla
Chuckwalla

Desert Iguana
Desert Iguana

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise

Desert Bighorn SheepDesert Bighorn Sheep

CoyoteCoyote

Mountain Lion
Mountain lion

Mountain lion

Nelson’s Antelope Squirrel
Nelson's Antelope Squirrel

Roadrunner
Roadrunner

Turkey
Turkey

Western Scrub Jay
Western Scrub Jay

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

California Living Museum

Did you notice that I got a picture of both a coyote and a roadrunner?

Coyote and roadrunner

Out & About—Slab City, California, public library

Out & About

One of the nice things about libraries here in California is that almost all of them have a “Friends of the Library” association, taking in book donations and selling them to make money for the library. I have bought many books from Friends.

Here is the public library at Slab City, California:

Slab City, California, public library

Here is their Friends of the Libary:

Friends of the Library at Slab City, California

Dolphins killed Jesus

Out & About

One of the “neighborhoods” of Slab City, California, is East Jesus.

Its complementary neighborhood is West Satan.

East Jesus and West Satan don’t get along. No surprise there, but since the leader of our photographic expedition was wearing an East Jesus shirt, we decided to skip West Satan. Consequently, all I have to offer you today is pictures of the East Jesus sculpture garden, obviously Slab City’s “tourist trap.”

For your visual entertainment:

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

A Smith Corona Coronamatic.
This was my first electric typewriter.
I would have kept mine if I had known
that some day it would be a museum piece.
East Jesus sculpture garden

Much safer reading than the old manual way

Snow day in the Cuyamaca Mountains, San Diego County, 11/30/2019Snow Day in the Cuyamaca Mountains,
East San Diego County, 11/30/2019

When I was young, I used to carry around with me a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. That was what I read when I had to wait, usually in some sort of line, like at the grocery store or post office. It was my emergency reading material.

The Golden Ratio by Mario LivioDare I say that I still do that?

My current emergency reading material is
The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, The World’s Most Astonishing Number, written by
Mario Livio (b. 1945) and published in 2002.

(Interestingly, as with my own book, it has an ISBN on the back cover and one on the copyright page. They are supposed to be the same. They are not. Ooopsy. Someone goofed.)

It has to do with my book Nature’s Geometry: Succulents and my 1-hour presentation on the same topic.

I’m 99% certain that I’m on the Speaker’s Circuit for cactus & succulent clubs now, but, as my wise old grandmother said in 1966: Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

(Yes, we had a farm/ranch, and yes, I was counting the number of eggs so I would know how many chickens I would have….)

Two cactus & succulent clubs in the Los Angeles area have me tentatively scheduled for February 9 and February 13.

I did a presentation in June 2019 for the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Society in Escondido, California, a club to which I belong. However, that presentation is now six months old, so I’m updating it using material from my book which was published in October 2019 and with information garnered from my current emergency reading list.

Dare I say that I also read while sitting in stop & go traffic? It’s a skill I learned in 1977-1983 while actually working in an office 8 to 5 (something I rarely have done) and sitting in rush hour traffic in Houston, Texas. I drive with my left hand and hold my reading material at dashboard level with my right hand. The key to doing this successfully, though—with successfully being defined as “without having an accident”—is to only read when the car is at a complete stop. I don’t do it if the car is moving irregardless (one of my favorite non-words) of how slowly that movement might be.

My 2019 Honda Insight has “Brake Hold,” which is the Honda’s way of saying, Here, Russel. We’ve made it easier for you to read while you drive.

2019 Honda Insight

Brake Hold in the 2019 Honda Insight

Brake Hold only takes effect if the car is completely motionless, and it won’t release unless I press on the gas pedal. Much safer reading than the old manual way.

When I went to Julian, California, on November 30, 2019, to play in the snow, I do believe the whole city of San Diego (population 1.3 million) had gotten there before me. There is a high-traffic intersection coming out of the mountains and into downtown Julian. Traffic often backs up for 20 or 30 cars, and it can take 10-15 minutes to go one-tenth of a mile. Traffic on snow day was backed up 1.2 miles, and it took me 1 hour and 34 minutes to go that 1.2 miles. I got a lot of stop & go reading done!

Snow day in the Cuyamaca Mountains, San Diego County, 11/30/2019

No need to wait for the weather to change

Lake Cuyamaca, CaliforniaLake Cuyamaca, California

I have been retired three times in my life: 1983, 1993, and 2017. None of them have stuck.

In 1983 I was living in Houston, Texas, and playing the “Keep up with the Joneses” game. Suddenly, though, everyone started getting engaged, getting married, and having children. None of those were for me. I knew quite well that I was gay and that getting engaged and married to someone of the same gender probably wasn’t going to happen in my lifetime. And children! Ha! I was one of Utah’s greatest juvenile delinquents. I was pretty sure that if I had children, one of them would be the next great serial killer…. You know, karma.

So I moved out of Houston, 90 miles northwest to College Station, a place with which I was familiar since it was the home to Texas A&M University, my alma mater. I wanted something different, but not too different.

I stayed out of the work force from April 1, 1983, to February 29, 1984. On March 1, 1984, I took a job as a life insurance sales rep with Fidelity Union Life Insurance. I enjoyed it, even earning Sales Rep of the Month for three of the six months I was there. I quit because there were no benefits…. no health insurance, no sick days, no vacation days, no pension, not even any life insurance!

I went to work for Texas A&M University in the Department of Chemistry, the College of Science, the University Press, and the TAMU NMR Newsletter. Each entity paid 25% of my salary, and since none of them had to absorb a full salary, I was rolling in money. Had any one of them been required to pay a full salary, I probably would have made about 25% of what I was making. And the benefits! Mama Mia! That was when I understood why people wanted to work for the government.

Sadly, the person who had hired me and put me in those four positions took early retirement and moved to Palo Alo, California, where he was a Distinguished Professor at Stanford University. He gave me the same positions at Stanford, and I worked there from June 1, 1986, to September 30, 1986. I got homesick for Texas.

I had a side business in College Station—Just Your Type—that I had been running since 1973 when I was a freshman at Texas A&M. My wise old grandmother had helped me start it in 1966. I decided to go full-time with it and turned it into a thriving typing, word processing, desktop publishing, and editing business. Over the years, I had several customers who now are quite well-known: Chuck Knoblauch, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett come immediately to mind.

One of my weekly customers was on the 7-year plan, and when he finally graduated, his dad set him up in a competing business on the north side of College Station whereas I was on the south side. Each year he would come by and offer to buy my company. Each year I declined his offer.

Finally, on April 15, 1993, he and I were standing in line together at the Bank of A&M and talking. He asked me if this would be the year I would sell to him. I told him to come by and we’d talk about it. He was impressed with my (anal) record keeping and accepted my selling price.

I took off.

Unfortunately, I didn’t tell anyone that I was taking off. I just left. I actually left with the intent of committing suicide. I was tired of living life as a closeted gay man but didn’t know what else to do. That suicide journey was a failure, and I wound up in San Diego. Again I retired, and succeeded at staying out of the work force for 11 months. I got bored doing nothing each day.

On February 14, 1994, Valentine’s Day, I was at Ocean Beach with friends. We were swimming, sailing, and surfing. Suddenly, one guy asked if we wanted to go skiing. Sure! It starts with an S, too, so no problem. Turns out that he was talking about snow skiing, not water skiing.

Everyone went home, changed into snow clothes, got their skis and such, and we headed to Big Bear, California, about 90 miles northeast of San Diego. That was when I understood why so many people want to live in California, especially California. One can go to the beach in the morning on a warm Valentine’s Day, eat lunch, and then go snow skiing in the afternoon just 90 miles away. What more could one want in life?

I’m a fan of snow as long as I can go play in it and then come home to my non-white winter landscaping. Every time it snows in the mountains, I head to Julian to take snow pictures. Such was the case the last two days in November this year when it snowed heavily in Julian. I went to document the event.

Lake Cuyamaca in the picture at the top of this post is a great rest stop after getting through the first half of the winding mountain roads. Here are some other pictures from November 30:

Crowds were out in force, most from the city, just like me.
Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

I had never seen so many snow people!
Lake Cuyamaca State Park, California

On the western side of the mountains, where the snow had melted, I found a flock of wild turkeys celebrating their success at surviving another Thanksgiving.
Turkeys in Julian, California

In Southern California, there’s no need to wait for the weather to change.

Probably not as comfortable as Amtrak

Railroads & Trains logo

A Southern Pacific Railroad wooden passenger coach car built around 1875 in Sacramento, California.

Southern Pacific Railroad wooden passenger coach car

It was converted to a railroad maintenance car in 1913 and used until 1938 when it was abandoned on tracks near Yuma, Arizona.

After deteriorating for 53 years, Don Trigg of Yuma acquired it in 1991 and donated it to the Yuma Crossing State Historic Park where it resides.

I visited on August 21, 2019.