Sacramento Speaker Series – Leon Panetta

Wednesday evening we attended the first Sacramento Speaker Series event of the new season. Leon Panetta is an American politician who has served several presidents as Secretary of Defense, CIA Director, Chief Of Staff, Director of the OMB and was a representive from the state of California.

His presentation was informative, occasionally humorous, topical and passionate. However, I doubt pro-Trump attendees would have thought so. Mr. Panetta was a Republican until 1971 when he switched affiliation to the Democrat party.

He left us with several memorable take-aways:

  • The US Government requires real leadership, rather than a chaos derived administration. Our current administration spends too much energy and talent putting out fires created by random thought tweets and not enough time developing a strategy for dealing with world and American issues and problems.
  • The greatness of the United States was built on the labor and talent of immigrants. Barring their entry will choke progress, innovation and continued growth.
  • The loss of true bi-partisan civility and cooperation between the parties. Our elected officials are more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs.

He succinctly summed up the United States after a meeting with President Bill Clinton when he was left alone in the Oval Office. He stood there, looked around and thought to himself, “Here I am, the son of immigrant farmers, alone in the most powerful room in the world. Only in America.”

But the best line was in response to a question about our current presidents style and behavior: “You are the President of the United States for Christ sakes!”


Reunion – Day 4

Up early as usual, checked the news, as usual, coffee as usual, thank you David for being such a good friend and host this weekend.

We went to see Ginny, excuse me V-i-r-g-i-n-i-a, and her sister Judy (J-u-d-y) who were IMG_6213camping at Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore. Check out “Road Trip!” for more Lake Dunmore experiences. Even owning our own camp, located about a mile south of Branbury on the same side of the lake, we used to go to there when we knew friends, like Ginny, were going to be there. Ginny gave me this photo proving I was there. It has IMG_6211scrawny me, Ginny in the middle and Lianne (z”l) on the right.02D61962-85C5-435A-AF78-F04E949D5CB9

Branbury, as we call it, was a farm at the turn of the century (1900, that is) then became a guest house before becoming a boy’s camp and ultimately a Vermont State Park in 1945. Interestingly our “camp” (i.e. John’s cottage) was built around the same time. David and I were wondering if this development of Lake Dunmore was an effect of soldiers returning from WWII and wanting a refuge from the hectic life in the village (Middlebury.)

I camped at Branbury some time ago. To be honest a long time ago, like 60 or so years ago. Relatives of our next-door neighbors in Middlebury used to camp throughout Vermont and one year chose Branbury. We joined them out of friendship that time, and for other camping trips over the years. My brother and I are still in touch with them, which is a very good thing.

Ginny and her friend Cheryl worked together as teachers for several years. They have been camping two weekends a year (May/June and September/October) for several more years. The lean-to campsite comfortably fits three or four, so the four or five people was a bit of a squeeze, but they are all friends, close friends. David and I brought a dozen IMG_6214donuts from Hannafords, and unfortunately, they were in the campsite, so we had to share. We had a great morning sharing and remembrancing and of course, laughing. The weather was perfect and was just beginning to warm when it was time for David and me to leave for the airport.

I planned to survey waiting passengers to find another subject for a new short story, unfortunately, the only interesting person in the gate area was a young-ish woman, with a cell phone being charged on the counter, and I just used that character on the flight from Sacramento to Burlington.  There is a field hockey team from UC Davis flying back to Sacramento. I flew out with them, but they are on a different flight home. They lost both games they came cross country to play. Too bad. (Go Panthers!)

Maybe I will have more luck in Dulles.

An hour later

Well, no luck in Dulles. The only person of any interest at Gate 8 in Dulles could have been the woman from The Cell Phone but not dressed as well. Maybe they receive the contract from the conglomerate and was returning home.

IMG_6216My flight was on time which surprised me with Florence still hanging around. As I had to walk the length of concourse B at Dulles I had no time for dinner so decided some Salt and Pepper Chips onboard would be adequate. Coupled with a split of Malbec/Cabernet, I would survive. When a flight attendant passed by collecting trash she said the chips were highway robbery. $3.99 for a small bag. She asked if I would like another and of course I said yes. She came back (much to my surprise) with another bag of chips and one of their cheese and cracker snack boxes, asking which I would like. Remember the unattendant from the first flight? She should take lessons.

When I suggested both, she said “don’t treat her like your momma, expecting IMG_6218everything.” She suggested the cheese and crackers to pair with my wine, which she noted was almost gone. I agreed and thanked her profusely. Moments later she returned with another glass of wine letting me know we were almost even. I replied, “Thank you Momma.” I did ask the guy next to me if the flight attendant might consider driving me home now, but no. There were hours left to fly, with Fran and Rosie waiting for my return. At least Fran. Rosie was probably asleep.

Reunion – Day 3


Oh, what a day!
Mid September back in sixty-eight.
What a very special time for us
As we sadly said goodbye.

Sung to the tune of “Oh What a Night” by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons


Coffee, breakfast, chat and writing, a perfect start to Day 3. A quick walk, taking photos for possible future use, then a tour of old MUHS. I visited our high school once, about 40 years ago and got lost. Now we are having a guided tour.

The first thing most people noticed was the map of the school showing three floors. There were no stairs in the Junior and Senior High Schools when we went there. Everything was on one floor. The second thing, which many people knew already, was the Junior High School was moved to a new facility on the south end of Middlebury. The next was that all our outside walkways were now enclosed. What a concept, enclosed walkways in Vermont in the winter. The library was updated with new computers, the shop now used computer aided design and laser cutters. The gym looked the same, but with new floors, lunch and music rooms were all state of the art.

4D8014B5-2840-4595-9DCD-9572D4FCD7B6Now for the old. We walked down one corridor and I recognized Mr. Kelly’s latin and humanities classroom, along with most of our upper grade teachers. We knew where Home Eq was, and Mr. Wesley’s chemistry class, (the reason and influence that caused me to become a chemist,) although we didn’t go down that hallway. One woman remembered where her locker was. The most fun was walking down the Junior High corridor remembering each teacher, their foibles and virtues, the ones we loved and the ones we tormented. It was an immensely good time. We were so glad the Reunion organizers went to all the trouble to arrange this for us.EC1D8777-03FB-463B-AC36-C4DEAB770F6E

Having to kill a couple of hours between the tour and the beginning of the Reunion itself, David and I drove backstreets to Salisbury, stopping at a pretty place on Otter Creek to take a few pictures. We ended up by the Galvin farm in Salisbury and planned to stop at Waterhouse’s and the Paddlers Pub for an adult 9FD848CF-03D7-4DB7-AC10-B81562D65A70beverage before the Reunion. Sadly, they didn’t open until 3PM today. So we drove up to Middlebury and stopped at Drop-in Brewing, one of the many fine breweries the town now hosts. After a nice Baltic Porter, we realized the party started in 7 minutes, so we left and arrive a fashionable 25 minutes late.7049A61F-C164-490A-8A8B-ABF1304F6532

It was amazing to see the changes (and lack of changes) in about 40 (of 112 graduates) over the past fifty years. We all received 50th Golden Diplomas presented by Mr. Lou Majeski, Class of ’68 Faculty Advisor. (Mr. Majeski is one of the influences and reasons I started writing, oh so many years ago.)

0F5E60BE-3D5C-4DF5-91FE-44391A3E6FCBThere were Quatrains (yearbooks) to review and montages of photos from when we were babies and from high school. In every respect the people who planned and executed this weekend did an outstanding job and we thank them all.

Oh what a day!

Reunion – Day 2

This year is my 50th high school reunion. For all the number geeks out there you may like that, for the most part, my classmates were born in ‘50 and graduated in ‘68. We are now having our 50th class reunion and we are 68 years old.

Day 2
Meet and Greet

The committee who prepared for our Reunion did a great job.  We had about 30 people, including classmates, spouses and friends attend, most of whom I had not seen since graduation, 50 years ago. A number of them are Facebook friends which, while a great way to stay in touch, face to face is so much better. Luckily, the organizers provided name tags. While many of us are still recognizable, there were a few…

I was too excited and talked too much to take any pictures to share today. Hopefully, I will be in a more relaxed state of mind tomorrow (probably not) and will do a better job documenting this once in anyone’s lifetime event (maybe.)

What I enjoyed mostly is all the old clique and class barriers were broken last night. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to see everyone else. We may not have been friends a half century ago, but you couldn’t tell that by last night.

Did I mention golf? David and I played this morning. There is a reason why I didn’t 18A72EB2-0FBB-4AAA-980B-167A7E82EA72mention golf. Let’s just say the scorecard stayed on the golf cart, ok? The course was beautiful and some of the trees were just starting to change into fall foliage splendor. Another few weeks and it will be spectacular.

We did manage lunch at Rosie’s just sound of Middlebury on Rt 7. (Speaking of Rosie, Fran says she was staring at the front door, waiting for me to come home.) Did you know I worked there as a bus boy one summer when it was still Palmer’s Dairy Bar? I can only guess when, but it was probably over 50 years ago. I think Floyd was cooking there, way back then. I am not sure, but may see him today and ask him.

Reunion – Day 1

This year is my 50th high school reunion. For all the number geeks out there you may like that, for the most part, my classmates were born in ‘50 and graduated in ‘68. We are now having our 50th class reunion and we are 68 years old.

I set the alarm for 4:30. Although I am always awake by then, I try (usually unsuccessfully) to stay in bed until 5:00. Knowing the alarm would assure I am awake on time, I untrustingly started waking around 1:30 and then every hour or so until I gave up at 4:00. I was supposed to shave and shower last night, but forgot (I am very good at forgetting things like that) so decided to just get up and start my weekend trip. After my usual morning routine I woke Rosie and took her for her usual 5:00 morning walk. I found the information Elaine sent during the summer describing the reunion and remembered I hadn’t sent her, or even found any sort of remembrance to share on the memory board she was creating. I thought it rather I ironic that I forgot a remembrance for a memory board, but Rosie didn’t see the humor. She and I had breakfast together, then she headed back to bed and I left for the airport.


Dawn at the gate

My 7:05 flight started boarding at 6:25 (thus far, all times are AM, mind you,) I was at the front of Group 4, of 4. The gate attendant said the flight was completely full and anyone in Group 5 with carryon bags of ANY size would have to check them. Group 5 was ONLY allowed one personal item. She must have been disappointed. Several Group 3 and 4 passengers volunteered to check their bags (for no additional charge as long as they were carryon size) thereby freeing up overhead space for those of us who distrust baggage check. (Remind me to tell you about a weekend trip to Vermont I took sans mes bagages. A wonderful experience.) I was surprised how efficient the boarding process was. There was no backup line winding down the jetway and best of all there was ample overhead space. (It turns out we Economy Plus passengers have reserved luggage space above our seats!)


Economy Plus Reserved Luggage Sign

TV’s in the backs of the seats! Charge card required to watch!! (anything beyond their pre-packaged info loop, which in all honesty, wasn’t bad.) They had stories on fishing in extremely remote areas of Texas, Good Samaritans rescuing people during Hurricane Harvey and Hemisphere Travel visits Edinburgh. What was annoying was the location of the TV controls in the armrest, just where my bony elbow rests. My elbow constantly changed channels, volume and turned the damned TV on and off during the entire flight. Also annoying was our unattendent flight attendant. (I didn’t have any morning coffee until my second flight, which technically was in the afternoon, hence I had no morning coffee at all.


Don’t read the text. The story isn’t finished.

I ate one of the left over apple hand pies I made for Fran’s Mah Jongg group yesterday. They were not yet stale and a pretty darn good breakfast… or lunch… or snack. I also have some figs from our tree that I dried last week, but its so hard to get things our of my one personal item stored under the seat in front of me, so I will wait for my O’Hare layover.

The layover was short and uneventful (other than a gate change that moved the departure gate from right next to our arrival gate to one at the extreme end of Concourse B. I needed to stretch a little anyway.) The second leg of my trip today left on time, served me coffee, and arrived early. Basically, a near perfect travel day, (minus the unattendant.)


O’Hare Concourse B

David was waiting, found his car, and started driving south-ish. He pulled into the Windjammer Restaurant and I gave him a puzzled look.

He said, “We are meeting Ginny for dinner.”

I didn’t know! I had suggested this but never heard if he was able to coordinate everything, and obviously he was. Anyway, Ginny arrived a few minutes after us and led us upstairs to the Upper Deck Pub. I asked Ginny if this restaurant had been here long, (like 20+ years,) and she replied, “Yes 30 or more.) Having no recollection of this place I guess my concept of “been here long” has now extended to 40+ years.


Me, Ginny and Lianne

During dinner Ginny pulled out an old photo of me, her and our friend and neighbor Lianne. Sadly, Lianne passed some years ago. You know it was an old photo as it was slightly brown (heh, heh, Inside joke,) and one of those faded 3”x3” photos. Of course, we now look exactly as we did then. (I had to be convinced that scrawny kid on the left was indeed me.)

After a good pub meal, a couple of adult beverages and an hour of laughter and fun we said our goodnights and Ginny headed north and David and I, south.

We arrived at his home, walked past numerous kayaks


Miscreantes re-visiting

resting on the front walkway alongside the house and entered. After the customary tour of the house, (I think made so you don’t


Morning, Day 2

trip on anything if you need to dash to the bathroom during the night due to rented adult beverages,) more reminiscing, laughter and periods of comfortable silence you realize you are in the company of a true friend.

Golf tomorrow. Can’t wait.


We Went to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo!

Sunday morning started Neil’s last day with us this weekend. We wanted to continue our Family Weekend Visit by going to the Sacramento Zoo to meet the newest “member” of the family, Coconut, the baby snow leopard. Coconut was named in memory of the original Coconut, the house cat owned by the creator of Coconuts Fish Cafe and was scheduled to be in his beautiful habitat for some exercise and to help him acclimate to 990FDB9D-6A1F-4A7E-9E2D-BB2FA6075025
the outdoors and to the noise of his new environment. Right on cue the handlers came into the enclosure, each carrying a small (1’x2’) plexiglass shield. When we asked what they were for we were told Coconut likes shoes. Moments later the door opened and Coconut peeked out from his den into the wide world around him. Slowly, stealthily, he crept forward. It was amazing how in just walking he looked like a predator stalking prey. He was beautiful. During the 429C5A15-423E-4208-975B-E587AA0247FA20-30 minutes we watched him he climbed the rocks around the edges of the habitat, played with a toy coconut (heh heh) and attacked a stuffed animal. He was such a kitten. It was amazing.

Just down the walkway from Coconut was the gate leading to the home of Cosmopolitan, the baby flamingo hatched just 50 days ago. The staff is introducing Cosmopolitan to the rest of the flamingo flock and helping her learn to walk on uneven ground. Daily they escort her through the streets of the zoo from her home to the big lake where most of the flamingos live. She receives the royal treatment as she walks, untethered, along with her escorts. (There are predators like E96D6F86-72F1-47A3-9360-1B4EF54C14BABC5D1992-5A43-4D7F-A365-1FB42503A71Chawks and owls around the area and a small bird requires protection, although I think she considers them her entourage.)  It’s about 100 yards of twisting street, but she is focused on going to the lake. It will take almost 2 years for her normal pink plumage to fully develop. When we rounded the last curve, the flock started honking or whatever that noise is. They were very excited to see “their” baby. The staff walked her around the pond providing the opportunity for her to develop her sea legs, or rough ground legs and she did beautifully.

Our host asked if we wanted to feed the giraffe (who wouldn’t?) and led us back to the staging area where the giraffes are kept prior to releasing them to the big field. She picked a few sprigs of some tree along the way and gave some to each of us to feed the big male giraffe. He was very gentle and took the leaves from us with his immense tongue.

5235B4C1-0CEE-4EDD-9D15-FD6B93162C0FCAB0A21D-F2F9-4C3E-B0C5-4C810D450CE0Finally, we rode the carousel! Grace rode a zebra, a snow leopard and a lion. Her Tita Kathy and Dede and Bebe (me and Fran) and Uncle Neil took turns with her as she rode.

We left the zoo, grateful for the opportunities we had to meet some of the animals “up close and personal” and look forward to returning to see the progress of both of the babies.

D9EA1E55-9FCB-41EA-96FB-7C9CB62C7E72Right across the street from the zoo is a pony ride area, and how could a 2+ year old resist riding ponies, if given the chance. Grace rode 3 different ponies around the track. Her favorite was Black Beauty. She loves her ponies.

A quick stop at Taylors Market for some sandwiches and salads for lunch and then back home for some R&R before Neil had to head to the airport.

Quite the weekend with Apple Hill, the Capitol Beerfest and Sacramento Zoo! I cannot wait to see what is in store next.

Capitol Beerfest 2018

Always eager to support our local government when we saw The California Craft Beer Summit and Beer Festival was open on the Capitol Mall in Sacramento Saturday from 1-4PM, we decided we should go as a show of solidarity with Gov. Jerry Brown. By the time we actually decided to go, the online ticket sales were over. Luckily, I know someone (Daniel) who knows 7E1568D2-AD9E-47D8-8395-FED5E3ABCD27someone (named Mike R.) who had some extra tickets. That isn’t totally accurate. Mike actually went out of his way to procure 3 VIP tickets for the event and we were, and are, very grateful.

The Beer Festival showcased over 160 vendors, each pouring 2-4 different brews in three or four ounce samples included in the price of the tickets, should you have paid for them. (Did I say thank you Mike?) The Expo Hall was organized around the 4 main ingredients of beer. I am going to editorialize here: there are only, or should only be 4 ingredients in beer. If you want flavors you cannot obtain by adjusting the yeast, grains or hops, make something else, not beer. There is no place for grapefruit or apricots in beer. Sorry. Fran will likely confirm that I am flexible and eager to try new things, but somethings are sacrosanct and beer ingredients is one of them. Luckily the Expo Hall wasn’t open on Saturday so I didn’t make a scene.

Anyway, Neil and I couldn’t sample all the approximate 600 individual beers, no matter how hard we tried. I did manage a dozen or so, but asked the vendor to limit my tasting glass to only an ounce or so. If they poured more, I dumped the extra. I didn’t watch Neil EAEF4FDD-EEAD-4AFB-9E3E-F16B8C8F4779closely, but he wasn’t driving anyway. Also, it was hot. Very hot. I like darker beers but lighter ones are more appropriate on a day like today. In all honesty, I tried 2 or 3 light colored beers, but mostly stayed with my stouts, porters and ambers. Yumm!

As luck would have it the first tasting I did was my favorite of the day, a Marshmallow Chocolate Milk Stout from Garage Brewing. Now you may say, “Dave. You said there should only be 4 ingredients in beer, hops, grains, yeast and water. What gives with Marshmallow Chocolate Milk Stout?” I would respond, “Shut up and mind you own business.” It was good. There were many other very tasty selections as well.

We saw a map of 62 breweries in the Sacramento area. Wow.


Neil and Daniel at Coconuts Fish Cafe

We went for lunch at Coconuts Fish Cafe to review the event with Daniel and thank him again for knowing Mike. If you go, try the blackened mani sandwich on a sesame bun. Wow! Actually, try any of their entrees. You will NOT be disappointed.