California Dreamin’

I spent three months of this winter in Oakland, California. I have been back in Paris over a week and, until today, suffering my usual jet lag. Before I moved to Paris, I had lived in Oakland since 1971. I still own a home there. Since I thought I was moving for only one year eight years ago, I thought it was high time to spend some energy on my house and do needed repairs. I also had a very large project in mind–to clean out and organise my garage, my attic, and a storage area under my living room. In the end, I only did the garage but how wonderful it felt to purge, give away, sell STUFF that has been sitting there for years.

A third of the way through the project, starting to make some progress in my garage. One can now walk to the back!!!!

Some readers noticed that my blog wasn’t arriving in their mailboxes and wrote to ask me if they had missed something. I wrote them back and said I was taking a break for the winter. I should have written that here before I left but I don’t think I’d really realised how deeply I would get into my “home projects” and that there wouldn’t be much energy for anything else.

The beach at Asilomar, Pacific Grove, California

When I first arrived in early November, the weather was lovely as only the Bay Area can be. I visited my friends in Pacific Grove and we walked on the beach and enjoyed sun on our faces. I had left Paris just as it was starting to get cold. So it felt heavenly to be able to go outside in just jackets. Then it started to rain, and rain some more, and rain even more. It rained for almost four weeks straight, to the point that people like me were wondering if it was making a dent in the worst drought that California has known in a very long time. A couple of weeks into the rain, the temperature plummeted. I would wake up in the morning to 38 degree weather and, if we were lucky, it went as high as 48 degrees. Every morning, I would check my iPhone: weather in Oakland vs. weather in Paris. Paris was consistently 20 degrees higher. What am I doing in Oakland, I would think to myself, shivering my butt off? (The rainfall did nothing to make the drought better. As anyone who saw the photos of the Big Sur fire knows, there was no ground wetness/saturation. Fire just spread like…..well, like wild fire).

Hiking in Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland, California

Most of my work kept me inside. I hired a wonderful woman who organises professionally and she took over how my garage would turn into a garage again. She said “you might even get a car in here!” She turned an odious job that I had resisted doing for years into something that was achievable, something satisfying, and dare I say it–Fun! By the time I left Oakland to return to Paris, STUFF had gone to the Salvation Army, Creative Arts Depot which resells arts and crafts and office supplies to people who can’t pay high prices, to consignment stores, and too much of it into the trash bins. Two auction houses came to look at the myriad of things I’d bought over the years that I no longer needed. I got excited that someone else might enjoy things that had given me pleasure.

Sara, Rocky, Jeanni hiking in Briones Reserve, California

Fridays were my reward day. I found a book that I’ve owned forever called “East Bay Hikes.” My friends, Jeanni and Rocky, joined me in walking. Each Friday, we found somewhere to hike for three to four hours. I grew up hiking–mostly in Vermont and New England. When I moved to California in the 70s, I hiked the Sierras and the Rockies in Colorado. Then I went back to graduate school and life took over. I don’t remember it happening. What I know is that I was hiking places within 15 miles of my home that I’d never been to. Easy to get to, open every day of the year. It was glorious, it was exhilarating. It was fun. As my weeks wound down, Jeanni and I started a list of places to go on Fridays the next time I go back to Oakland.

Sun setting over San Francisco and the Bay from my bedroom window

By the end of December, the rain stopped, the temperature rose slowly and, according to my not very trusty iPhone, it was colder in Paris than it was in Oakland. The days were beautiful. I could work outside, clean up the garden areas. And the sunsets…. I was told that something happens in January, the longitude or latitude of where the sun is setting (way past what my brain cells can integrate) and the sun puts on a show of dazzling reds, oranges, deep purples for at least thirty minutes. The sight gives complete meaning to the word ‘breathtaking’. Every evening I would take a photo from my bedroom window thinking that it couldn’t get better. Then it would get better.

A couple of nights later. The Golden Gate bridge is on the right connecting Marin County to San Francisco

The month of January was so wonderful that I hardly got anxious at all about getting the PCR test for entry onto a plane, entry back into France. I didn’t worry too much about whether the flights would be cancelled even though thousands of flights were being cancelled because Omicron was taking out the staff of airplanes, hospitals, and numerous other places. I was full of whatever will be, will be because I would have been happy to stay in Oakland another couple of weeks.

My baseball family at Cheesecake Factory in Walnut Creek

I hadn’t really visited with many friends. I still have a baseball family (Go A’s) and we manage to stay in touch. Between Christmas and New Year’s, we met in Walnut Creek for a very long luncheon. I was able to listen to baseball chatter and gossip that was so familiar but hadn’t heard in a long time. My friends still adore the Oakland Athletics but there isn’t much love for the Front Office or the baseball strike. Ticket prices have doubled in less than four years and no one knows whether they will be going to Spring Training games when they get to Arizona at the end of this month.

Point Isabel, Richmond, California. Doggie all dressed up and getting a free ride to the best dog park in the country.

Once “Project Garage” was winding down, I was able to meet and walk with more friends. The Bay Area boasts of one of the best dog parks in the country. Point Isabel. With or without one’s dog, friends can meet up and walk a short stretch throwing balls to our canine babies or walk four or five miles north along the coast. And there too, if one timed their walk correctly, it’s possible to watch the sun set over “my city by the bay (Lights by Journey).

Watching the sun set over San Francisco from Point Isabel.

Now I’m sitting at my dining room table in Paris, remembering California and how quickly the three months flew by. I could do this every year if I wanted: live in both places. And how lucky would one girl get?– to live in two of the most beautiful cities in the world!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

Day 14 of “le confinement”

Two weeks ago today, President Macron urged people to voluntarily self-isolate, do the obvious: don’t ‘bises’, stay 2 meters away from each other, cough into your elbow, etc. Since then, he has had to resort to draconian measures to get us to pay attention. At last count, France has 29,155 cases of Covid-19 and 1,696 deaths. We have been given a new ‘passport’ to carry with us, replacing the one from two weeks ago. This one asks us to put the time and date when we leave our apartment and adds two more reasons to leave. However, the old is still good, until further notice, as long as you write in the date and time and the reason if it is not on the original.

The weather has mostly been lovely although it has turned cold again. I think that will change this coming week. The papers show us eerily beautiful photos of Paris completely empty of people and cars. The police that have been stopping people and checking their ‘passports’ are backing off as a couple of them have died from the virus. Five doctors have died from the virus. Macron has brought in the military to help out the overworked protectors of the people.

I, and I assume most of you, have been getting e-mails from every service and store that has your e-mail address telling you that they have your best interest at heart, where to get more information on-line and how much they care about you. It has caused me to actually think that this is the perfect time to reflect on all our relationships. Are we keeping connected to the most important ones? Are we reaching out to someone over 70 that you care about just to see how they are? What would we change, if anything, in our relationships to these stores and services? Have your priorities changed in any way due to staying in your home? Like the Count in A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles), do you think that “the endeavors that most modern men saw as urgent (such as appointments with bankers and the catching of trains), probably could have waited, while those they deemed frivilous (such as cups of tea and friendly chats)..deserved their immediate attention.” p. 391. These are life-changing times and reflection is a pursuit worth having a cup of tea with.

In other areas of life, yesterday was Opening Day of Baseball in the USA. The fields of green were empty and baseball fans around the world mourned. Rogers Hornsby, when asked how he spends the winter said,“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball, I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Dan Barry wrote a lovely imaginative piece about yesterday’s Opening Day game: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/sports/baseball/baseball-opening-day-coronavirus.html My friend, Georgia, told me that her father once said “There are two seasons in the year. Baseball season and the void.” When I lived in California, I felt that way. Starting from the day after the end of the World Series, I would start counting down the days to Spring Training. Most teams had a Fanfest sometime in January and thousands of fans would pour into stadiums around America. When I moved to Paris, friends asked me ‘how can you leave your beloved Oakland Athletics behind?” I don’t have an answer for that. I subscribe to MLB.com audio and listen to all the games I can. The A’s, being on the West Coast, are the hardest. Only matinee games on the East Coast came on at a time I could actually listen. Now there will be nothing, but I still have my subscription. Just in case……

In another part of the sports section, I read that hospital masks are being sewn out of baseball uniforms. Soon health care professional will be sporting the the stripes of the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies.

I wish you all the best of weekends in our new, organically evolving times. This too shall pass.

A bientôt,

Sara

The Crack of the Bat

Away on this side of the ocean

When the chestnuts are hinting of green

And the first of the café commandos

Are moving outside for a fine

And the sound of spring beats a bolero

As Paree sheds her coat and her hat

The sound that is missed more than any

Is the sound of the crack of a bat.

There’s an animal kind of a feeling

There’s a stirring down at Vincennes Zoo

And the kid down the hall’s getting restless

Taking stairs like a young kangaroo

Now the dandy is walking his poodle

And the concierge sunning her cat

But the heart’s with the Cubs and the Tigers

And the sound of the crack of a bat.

In the park on the corner run schoolboys

With a couple of cartons for props

Kicking goals à la Fontaine or Kopa

While a little guy chickies for cops

“Goal for us,” “No it’s not,” “You’re a liar,”

Then the classical shrieks of a spat

But it’s not like a rhubarb at home plate

Or the sound of the crack of a bat.

Here the stadia thrill to the scrumdowns

And the soccer fans flock to the games

And the chic punt the nags out at Longchamp

Where the women are dames and not dames

But it’s different at Forbes and at Griffith

The homes of the Buc and the Nat

Where the hotdog and peanut share laurels

With the sound of the crack of a bat.

No, a Yank can’t describe to a Frenchman

The rasp of an umpire’s call

The continuing charms of statistics

Changing hist’ry with each strike and ball

Nor the self-conscious jog of the slugger

Rounding third with the tip of his hat

Nor the half-smothered grace of a hook slide

Nor the sound of the crack of a bat.

Now the golfer is buffing his niblick

And the tennis buff’s tightening his strings

And the fisherman’s flexing his flyrod

Like a thousand and one other springs

Oh, the sports on both sides of the ocean

Have a great deal in common, at that

But the thing that’s not here

At this time of the year

Is the sound of the crack of a bat.

Dick Roraback is a former sports editor of the Herald Tribune. His springtime elegy has appeared in this space since the 1960s.

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Thursday afternoon was Opening Day for the Oakland Athletics Baseball team.  Although I have missed the last three seasons, I have always gone back for Opening Nite. Not this year.  Friends posted many photos on Facebook. As I looked at them, I could see the green grass, the blue sky, Jeanni in a sleeveless blouse (it’s still really cold in Paris), the smoke from Opening Day fireworks rising over the Coliseum.  I felt such nostalgia.  I could feel the sun on my shoulders, the happiness of the first day of the season when everyone is in 1st place.  But I couldn’t hear the crack of the bat.  What a sound that is.  Every baseball fan loves it–the ball hitting the sweet spot and the absolute certainty that it will be a home run..  It’s only a sound but it’s more than a sound. It’s six months of the year.  It’s Ken Korach’s voice rising in exhilaration at another A’s homer.  They seem so much better at that than at small ball.

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When I moved to Paris, all my friends in the Bay Area had the same two questions: “What about baseball?” “What are the Oakland A’s going to do without you?”   No one could believe I would miss a season of Baseball.  And that was when I was just coming for one year!  This will be the fourth season I am missing.  

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Subscribing to MLB.tv turned out not to be an option for me.  I could only get the A’s when they played on the East Coast and it was daytime.  So I’ve been subscribing to audio.  Last night as I was doing something else, a dialogue box flashed across my screen; ‘The Angels now lead the Athletics 1-0.’  Wow, the game was on! And I was awake.  I hurriedly found all the right buttons and heard Ken Korach, one of most favourite people in the world, announcing the top of the 1st inning, Game 3: A’s vs Angels; Game 3 of the 2018 season.

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We baseball fans, just like the players, are extremely superstitious when it comes to baseball.  Within the first twenty minutes of listening,  two A’s dropped the ball, blew two chances for a double play, missed an outfield fly ball and all in all played just like minor leaguers. By the bottom of the second inning, the score was 3-0 Angels.  “Nothing has changed” I thought to myself.  “Maybe it’s my fault and I shouldn’t listen to any more games” second thought.

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But, as Marty Lurie says, every game is a new chapter in an unfolding book.  No one knows who is writing it or how it will end.  And that’s why we go to games.  Because we love baseball, anything can happen and to hear the sound of the crack of the bat.

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Thank you to my friend, Darcy, who sent me the poem Crack of The Bat.

A bientôt,

Sara

Action and more

Thank you to all of you who sent me feedback and ideas from my last blog. I’m including a couple of sites on the Internet to look at if you are interested.    One site is:

http://lrsandbox.com   — Living Room Conversations

“Our vision is a world in which people who have fundamental differences of opinion and backgrounds work together with respect, and perhaps joy, to realize the vibrant future we all desire.”

Another reader who empathized with my inability to look at The Donald’s hair sent me a site that changes any photo or picture of Trump into kittens!!!                                                              http://www.businessinsider.com/make-america-kittens-again-google-chrome-extension-replaces-donald-trump-with-kittens-2016-12/#when-you-search-make-america-kittens-again-on-the-chrome-web-store-youll-easily-be-able-to-find-the-extension-all-you-have-to-do-is-hit-the-add-button-and-the-extension-will-be-enabled-on-your-browser-1

“When you search “Make America Kittens Again” on the Chrome Web Store, you’ll easily find the extension. All you have to do is hit the “add” button, and the extension will be enabled on your browser.”

Here is another full of advice for protestors so that we can maintain without losing our minds;                                                  https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/how-to-stayoutraged-without-losing-your-mind-fc0c41aa68f3#.g6j2p7vkx

For my part, in a quiet time yesterday (I am a meditator, though not formal meditation), an inspiration came to me.  I am going to sell all my baseball memorabilia and raise money for threatened agencies that up until now have received federal funding.  I have chosen Planned Parenthood and Immigration services formed protect immigrants.

https://www.facebook.com/Memorabilia-for-Great-Causes-Planned-Parenthood-and-Immigration-Help-242909892821412/?pnref=story

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People who have known me a long time have seen me collect memorabilia for many, many years.  I love baseball.  My home team is the Oakland Athletics.  We haven’t suffered as long as Cubs fans but we suffer!!!  Even more than objects from the A’s, I love the history of baseball.  I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame many times.  I saw Rickey Henderson get inducted and then Frank Thomas get inducted.  Those weekends are very exciting for baseball fans as almost every Hall of Fame that is able to travel makes an appearance.

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So I have Good Stuff!!!  My friend, Janet, wrote me to say, “Sara, I love that you’re doing this. What a great combination of downsizing and political action! Kudos to you!!!  Please look at the Facebook page and if you know any baseball fans who might like some memorabilia and help these causes at the same time, please refer them to the Facebook page.16266297_243084889470579_4236391502622134759_n.jpg16265285_243084329470635_8921306945482307247_n.jpg

Most of my stuff is signed.  I’ve waited in long lines to get the autographs.  I’ve made my way on to the field to get autographs, been to baseball shows and made bids at auctions. I can’t authenticate anything.  I’m asking you to take my word for their authenticity.  And remember that you will be giving to some great causes.

I heard Dan Rather say that life in America feels like The Twilight Zone.  That is exactly how I would describe it.  Pulling all my memorabilia together, showing it to people and remembering when I got a certain item signed brings me back to the life I love.

A bientôt,

Sara