The Adventures of Yukon Sully
The Epic Story Of One Man's Quest To Find Fame, Fortune, And Some Decent Chicken Wings In The Biggest Little City In The World!
- Name: Yukon Sully
- Location: Reno, Nevada, United States
Yukon Sully is the heroic alter ego of a mild-mannered attorney who lives in a modest suburb on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada. He fights a never-ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Always remember, he's much smarter than you are.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Not to minimize the loss of lives and livelihoods, but here's another unfortunate effect from this hurricane: Experts are now predicting that we'll be seeing $4.00 a gallon gas before long. Oil is a very finite resource for which the supply lines are tenuous at best (and please, don't give me that ANWAR nonsense because it's not a solution--at best it just puts the problem off for a few years). Can we all once and for all agree that we are way too over-dependent on this fossil fuel? If we can finally agree on that we might be able to start thinking of ways to break this addiction. Then we wouldn't all be hostage to the capriciousness of nature, nor would we have to send our children off to die in millennia-old conflicts on the other side of the world.
It Ain't The Heat But The Humidity
The picture below is from my old stomping grounds in Mobile. This region of the country, a place I once called home, is going to be a long time getting back on it's feet.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The Good, The Bad, and the Just Plain Jerks
This is one that the Gulf Coast isn't going to forget. When I was in college in Mobile in the early 90's there were a lot of people around who still talked in hushed tones about how terrifying Fredrick had been in 1979, and of course no one who was living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 will ever forget Camille, still considered the biggest hurricane ever to hit the United States. In that part of the world, nervousness during hurricane season is just the price that must be paid for an otherwise nice life of warm ocean water, sunshine and a 'Laissez les bon temps rouller' attitude.
The latest news from New Orleans and the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast is not good, but apparently it could have been much, much worse, especially in N.O. which once again dodged a direct hit. The major problem now appears to be the high water level.
The one thing that really disgusts me is the looting that has been taking place in New Orleans and other places. I don't want to overplay this, since as is always the case when disaster strikes there are plenty of stories of heroism and sacrifice to go around. But c'mon you jerks--dozens of people are dead, thousands are homeless, entire lives have been destroyed, and all you see is a chance to score a new plasma screen TV? It doesn't get much lower than that.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Sunday, August 28, 2005
I Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans
In lighter news, I thought I'd mention that we've had a great weekend here in Reno. Summer is winding down, which most people see as sort of a bummer. I, on the other hand, really relish this time of year. Fall in the northern Sierra is a time of clear skies, warm days, cool nights, and very few tourists. Once Labor Day is past you can sometimes get the feeling that you have the mountains all to yourself, even though the weather generally holds up for at least a couple more months. And when the cold weather does finally come, I'll finally be able to get that snowboard fix I've been jonesing for these last few weeks.
Thursday Melissa and I went to the Nevada State Fair. I'm a total freak for stuff like this, and I am not in any way being sarcastic. I love the whole Americana bit--I love the kids that raise rabbits and compete for blue ribbons, I love the giant vegetables, I love the quilts, I love the folk art, I love the whole schmaltzy bit. I mean look at this picture on the left--they actually have contests for growing alfalfa! How great is that? This guy from Lovelock apparently won second place, and I guarantee he's proud of that fact. So Melissa and I did the whole bit. We saw all the animals, smelled all the bad-for-you food, had people try to sell us hot tubs, made fun of the carnies under our breath, everything. We even rode a few of the rides, but that was probably a bad idea. The last ride we went on was something called "The Tsunami", but it wasn't in any way, shape or form what one would call "fun"; basically all it did was crush you into your seats at about 5-G's for a couple of minutes. It made me a little queasy, and Melissa actually felt ill for about three hours. Still, I loved it. What can I say, I'm a total junkie for this stuff.
Friday we drove up to the North Shore of Lake Tahoe to spend the night at a friend's cabin. The term "cabin" conjures up images of a primitive house made of logs that might contain a woodstove and maybe a few animal skins. This might be what "cabin" means in some parts of the world, but in Tahoe "cabin" means a $4 million dollar home with four bedrooms and 3.5 baths and a view that can't be matched anywhere else on earth. We had a fantastic time with Hannah--who's family owns the place--and friends, playing hyper-competitive charades on Friday Night (I was quite proud that no one was able to come up with the book title I submitted, The Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test), waking up to find that it is pretty much impossible to find a Bloody Mary on the anywhere on the North Shore before 11:30 a.m., and spending the afternoon taking Hannah's boat down to gorgeous Emerald Bay and the famous Scandanavian-style mansion Vikingsholm, which comes complete with sod-covered roof. We couldn't have had better weather--in fact, the water was even comfortable for swimming, which is an extreme rarity for usually-frigid Tahoe. We anchored the boat and swam to Fannette Island, Tahoe's only island and home to a castle-like "tea house" on it's rocky summit. It was the perfect end-of-summer day despite the fact that Melissa broke a sandal while climbing the island and I was forced to climb to the tea house with one bare foot after giving her my right Teva.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Just Don't Panic
I mention these articles because I think they both speak to an important point. I have always marveled at how easily people can be convinced that something is an urgent threat to them if it is portrayed menacingly in popular media. I might be stating the obvious here, but the media loves nothing more than a "crisis!" or an "epidemic!" First of all, there's the titillating "can't keep from looking at a car wreck" factor. But more importantly, people who are frightened out of their wits and whipped into hysteria are going to keep watching television. After all, "THIS IS SOMETHING EVERY PARENT NEEDS TO KNOW!" "YOUR LIFE OR THE LIFE OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE MAY BE AT RISK!!!" Just remember, these are the same people who brought us panics over West Nile Virus--which kills about as many people a year in this country as do allergic reactions to eating peanuts--and my personal all-time favorite over-hyped, overemphasized threat to the general public, shark attacks.
And of course government is happy to play right along with every overblown, manufactured "crisis" that comes down the pipe. People that feel threatened are usually more than happy to give up their civil rights, build prisons on top of prisons, support unnecessary and ill-advised wars, and go blindly along with whatever agenda the powers-that-be happen to be pushing at that moment. The more the public believes they are under threat from some "crisis", the fewer uncomfortable questions will be asked.
Am I suggesting that meth use, sex crimes and other terrible things that we hear about in the news are imaginary problems that we shouldn't be concerned about? Of course not, that would be ludicrous. What I am suggesting is that things have to be kept in perspective. Before getting hysterical over whatever the latest threat to civilized society is, its best to know what the real facts are. Once you get past the hype and the frenzy and the breathless coverage, much of the time things are not actually as dire as some would have you believe. Always keep in mind that "they" want you to be afraid, and they also want you to think that they are the only ones who can keep you safe.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
In A World . . .
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Pat Comes Clean
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Good God, it's come to this. This is the face of religion in early 21st Century America. Pat Robertson says that the United States of America should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. This is not me extrapolating or reading things into offhanded, out-of-context statements. This self-professed man of God, a man who's 700 Club is watched by millions of people who think it will teach them something about Jesus, is using his forum to call for the murder of the democratically elected President of a foreign nation. In a just world this lunatic wouldn't even have an audience on cable access, much less basically run his own nationwide cable channel.
Here's some of what he actually said. On National Television. To an audience of millions that sees him as a wise spiritual leader. "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination [Editor's Note: That's Gerald Ford's executive order that made assassination of foreign leaders by U.S. agents illegal], but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop." This is not some masked Taliban fighter on a grainy videotape who's calling for the violent death of his enemies. This is one of the most influential leaders of the religious right. And why does Pat Robertson think the democratically elected President of a foreign nation should be murdered? Why, because among other things this President of a 98% Christian country is going to make that country a "launching pad" for "Muslim extremists."
The very fact that there are now going to be arguments about this disgusts me. There is no nuance to this stupidity--what this supposedly religion man, this very influential man, is calling for is immoral, illegal, and just plain barbaric. What Robertson should do--what would IMHO be the Christian thing to do--would be to go back on television tonight in front of his millions of viewers and say "Gosh, I don't blame you if you're wondering what I was smoking last night. I actually called for the intentional violation of perhaps the most basic of all the Commandments. I urged our government to violate it's own laws and act in the manner of some despotic totalitarian regime. And all I could come up with was some preposterous 'ends justify the means' argument about assassination being CHEAPER THAN WAR. What an ass I made of myself last night. Any person with two brain cells to rub together could see that I was behaving like a raving lunatic. I humbly ask your forgiveness for my stupidity."
This little speech could happen. And, in the immortal words of Wayne Campbell, monkeys might fly out of my butt. Despite his genial 'country preacher' demeanor, Robertson is one of those right-wing media personas for whom admitting that you might be wrong, just like being reflective or thoughtful, is a sign of feminine weakness. Surely Christ the Screaming Avenger would never want him to show any sign of weakness--it only encourages the enemy. Besides, I suspect that most of his audience doesn't really want spiritual guidance, they want someone in a suit on TV to tell them that their own opinions are correct, and that God will smite both the foreign hordes and smarty-pants libruls and show everyone that they were right all along, so HA! No, at worst if things get too hot over this then Robertson will probably go with the non-apology apology, something like "I'm sorry you're so overly sensitive."
This is why I and so many people like me have a problem with organized religion, especially the fundamentalist flavor practiced by so many in this country. People like Robertson call themselves Christian, and sure, they can quote chapter and verse with the obsessiveness of a Star Trek fan learning to speak Klingon, but the actual tenants of their religion are really just minor details. They will find a way to make the religion justify their own beliefs, no matter what the offense to common sense.
I want to think of something clever, or even hopeful, to say about this, but I just can't. Robertson and his ilk are running this country. There will be no price to pay for spewing this filth. Most people don't care, and most of those who do will only love him and their twisted vision of Christ the Screaming Avenger that much more.
Like everyone else, I complain endlessly when I get stopped for speeding (which BTW hasn't happened for years now), but events like these make you realize how little law enforcement officers get appreciated for the incredible risks they take.
Monday, August 22, 2005
This whole terrible episode illustrates just how far downtown Reno has to go. For all the gentrification that's taken place over the last couple of years, for all the significant improvements, the fact is that we still have an awful lot of--for lack of a better term--"bad element" hanging around. Although the above-linked story says that the suspected car-thief is a Reno resident, most of these folks who cause problems for the police downtown are not long-term Reno residents but drifters who come here looking for work or easy money or a good time or who knows what (my guess, and it's only a guess, is that this guy was only a "resident" in the sense that he has no permanent address aside from one of the many flea-bag motels in the downtown area that allow for weekly stays). More than a few of these guys are mentally unstable at best, and some are obviously not above resorting to violence at little provocation. Much as I love Northern Nevada, and fond as I am of my neighborhood, the fact remains that downtown Reno is still the sort of place where I don't want people I care about walking around alone at night. Maybe I'm being naive, but I look forward to the day when this community that I have so much invested in is the sort of place where something like this is unthinkable.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Yukon Sully Pet Peeve #37,492
So you can understand why I was excited to see the movie released on DVD. You'll understand even better when I tell you that I'm a total junkie for DVD extras, particularly commentary tracks. Not the ones that feature bubble-headed actors yammering on in publicist-ese about what a honor and a privileged it was to be in a movie with their co-star so-and-so, and how he/she is a consummate professional and everyone was just great to work with and bah bah bah bah bah...... No, I'm enough of a nerd to love the commentary tracks featuring directors, writers, even sleaze-ball producers. Sure, they're mostly flaming egomaniacs, but at least they usually have something interesting to tell you about the movie. So when I got a hold of the Sin City DVD and turned it over to see what bells and whistles were included, I was hoping for some insight from Rodriguez, maybe a documentary on the movie's amazing look and incredible production value, perhaps some background information on the Frank Miller graphic novels that inspired the film. My only real fear was that there might be a commentary track consisting of two hours of babbling from Brittany Murphy.
So what bonus features did the DVD actually contain? One measly pathetic "behind-the-scenes featurette." Although I haven't yet seen it, on a DVD "behind-the-scenes featurette" usually means six minutes of vacuous interview clips from movie stars of the sort that you can see 24 hours a day on the TV Guide channel. If you're very lucky these interview snippets might be interspersed with a few shots of teamsters wrestling with props on a movie set.
Don't worry, I get that the reason they produce such bare-bones DVDs is the very reason they produce movies in the first place--to make money. Fans will buy or rent the bare-bones version now, but the studio knows full well that fans will also buy or rent the "Deluxe Edition", which will probably come out very conveniently just before Sin City 2 premieres in theaters and will feature all the aforementioned bells and whistles that should have been included the first time around. They'll get us both coming and going. We all understand this, and we will all continue to put up with it because we so love these shiny bits of escapist entertainment. The more I think about it the more pathetic it seems, not just on their end but on ours as well.
Sheesh, now I'm depressed. Maybe I should go read a book.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Why Doesn't Anyone Agonize Over The White Sox?
However, the other day I read a really interesting article on Slate.com that got me wondering about something. Baseball's two great tragedies, the two franchises most lionized in their suffering and frustration are the Cubs and the Red Sox. I'm pretty sure that I heard somewhere that last year went pretty well for the Red Sox, but we all know the history. Though they suffer in different ways (the Cubs with constant futility, the Red Sox with coming so close over and over only to lose in the end), everyone knows that these are baseball's great cursed franchises, teams who's tortured histories are scrutinized and wailed over by legions of fans across America.
This begs the question--why does no one lament the sad fate of the Chicago White Sox, at least no one who's not on the South Side or in northern Indiana? The White Sox are one of baseball's great old franchises, they've gone without a World Series title longer than the BoSox and are only nine years short of the Cubs incredible number. And surely, they've got a better claim to a curse than either of the other two teams. I mean, these guys took money from gamblers to THROW THE WORLD SERIES!!! C'mon, that's gotta anger the baseball gods a lot more than kicking some stupid billy goat out of Wrigley Field.
Yet for some reason, we never hear about any White Sox Nation complaining about any Black Sox Curse. Why is that? Mike DeBonis, the author of the Slate article, postulates that it's a combination of factors, including an un-appealing ballpark, a lack of celebrity fans who flaunt their devotion so publicly, and most of all a lack of a cult of suffering that grew up around the Cubs and Red Sox. I'm sure these are all valid reasons, but I'm still curious. The White Sox look good this year, have the best record in the American League and could be poised to break one of sports' greatest championship droughts, and yet all of this has gotten hardly a peep out of the national media.
Glorious Champions of "Intelligent Falling" Trounce Godless Gravitationists
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Back From St. Louis
We flew out on Friday morning, but when you fly east from the west coast it always pretty much costs you a whole day. Although we left before 8 a.m. we didn't get to St. Louis until almost 4 p.m., thanks to an itinerary that brought us through Dallas and a two-hour time change. I was able to meet Melissa's parents Bob and Sue for the first time, as they had just returned themselves from an anniversary trip to Colorado--one of Bob's passions in life is his Harley, which he towed west so that he and Sue could do some riding in the southern Rockies.
After meeting the family, Melissa was eager to reconnect with high school and college friends, of which she seems to have several thousand. I was told most of their names but haven't a prayer of remembering most of them. They were universally eager to celebrate Melissa's birthday, so after a quick nap--I am getting old, after all--Melissa, Kelly (pictured here on the right), Melissa's many friends and I went down to Laclede's Landing. We spent most of the night at a piano bar called Big Bang. There I endured much mocking of my beloved Cubbies by the piano-playing leaders of St. Louis' amassed legions, who's Cardinals were at that time (as I was reminded repeatedly) 17 and 1/2 games up on the Cubs. My one consolation is that during the four days I was in St. Louis the Cubs and Cards happened to be playing a four-game series, of which my down-and-out Cubbies were able to take three. The Cubs actually lead the season series against the Cards 6-3; it's just a shame we're not any good against the rest of the National League.
Other than that, we had a terrific time. I figured I'd throw in one more picture of Melissa and her friends. A good looking bunch, huh? I just wish I could remember some of their names. I'm terrible, I know, but in my defense I must have met dozens of new people over the course of my four days in Missouri.
Saturday was the day Melissa's sisters were to set up for the surprise party, and so they had their parents believing that the best was to get Melissa out of the house all day was for the two of them to take the two of us to some of Missouri's famous wineries. What's that, you say? Missouri has no famous wineries? Well, okay that's true. But a moderately successful wine industry does exist in Missouri. You generally won't find the more famous European varieties; there's hardly any Merlot or Cabernet or Pinot Noir. But they do specialize in lesser-known local varieties like Chardonel (not to be confused with the much more well-known Chardonnay) and Cynthiana, some of which are surprisingly good.
By the time we got back, all of Melissa's extremely large family had come over for the surprise party, including her twenty cousins who range in age from 22 to 2 years old. Thinking that all the cars outside the house had come for Melissa's faux birthday party, Bob and Sue appeared to have been caught completely off guard and the whole thing went really well.
The next day Melissa and I went to my favorite old hangout in St. Louis (where my sister Maureen was recently surprised to find out I actually lived for about a year), Forest Park. For those who have never been there, I simply cannot express what a wonderful resource Forest Park is for the people of St. Louis. It's a massive urban park, larger than New York's Central Park, which holds the St. Louis Museum of Art, the History Museum, the St. Louis Zoo, The Science Center, and "The Muny", a huge outdoor amphitheater, plus many other cultural sites. The great thing about Forest Park is that absolutely everything in it is completely free. The picture at the right was taken in the St. Louis Zoo's Cypress Swamp exhibit. One fact that has to be noted is that during our visit to the zoo Melissa was actually able to overcome her lifelong fear of penguins (it's a long story) long enough to see the zoo's new penguin exhibit. I'm still hoping to get her in to see "March of the Penguins" sometime, but that might be pushing it.
All in all there was simply too much that took place this weekend for me to effectively cover in this posting, but let me also mention that between trips to The Limited (there were three such trips, the reasons for which are also too complicated to get into right now) we were able to squeeze in a visit to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the St. Louis Arch. The picture at the top doesn't do justice to what a really impressive structure it is. They say it is a very stable design that should stand for thousands of years, although that always seemed to me to be a pretty easy claim to make; if it falls over in a hundred years, it's not like you can sue the guy who claimed it would last so long.
Let me just conclude by saying that we had a great time, Melissa's family is wonderful, and despite the fact that the dastrardly Cardinals call it home, St. Louis is a pretty great place. This final picture of us is a propos of nothing, but I like it and since this is my blog I'm going to include it. If I look tired, it's because the shot was taken somewhere around midnight on the day we got in to town. I'm just looking at that shot again and damn if it doesn't look like I'm getting a double-chin back. Guess I'll have to cut back on the toasted ravioli.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Entering The Circle Of Trust
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Engaged - Who Saw That Coming? ;-)
Say It Ain't So, Ezzy
A few weeks ago, I wrote an entry about this man:
His name is Ezzy Dame, and he lives in my neighborhood. Imagine my surprise upon finding out a few weeks ago that one of my neighbors is an honest-to-God celebrity. Yes, according to an article published July 16, 2005 in the Reno Gazette Journal, Ezzy was one of the original Oompa Loompas from the 1971 stoner classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Why, this was the most exciting news since, well, since ever! I simply had to tell the world right away, and I could think of no better vehicle than my blog. Oh, what a fool I was. How naive my childlike enthusiasm seems as I look back on it now through the eyes of an older, sadder, and perhaps a little bit wiser man.
The realists among you can probably see where this is going. Today the whole house of cards came tumbling down. As we all learn sooner or later (even Karl Rove, God willing), the truth can be denied only so long. Pros that they are, the Gazette Journal faced reality and published a follow-up piece today on their front page: Ezzy was never an Oompa Loompa. It was all a lie. The closest he ever got to Loompa-caliber stardom was starring in the 1981 Chevy Chase-Carrie Fisher opus "Under The Rainbow."
I suppose I'm not the first person to let their need to believe in something blind them to the obvious. Sure, I thought it was a little strange when my research revealed a cast list that mysteriously did not include Ezzy's name. But no real quandary there, I thought at the time. After all, how dependable is most of the information on the internets? Surely the name of one Oompa Loompa would be easy for a website to get wrong, even a normally reliable one like IMDB.com. I must admit, it bothered me a bit that in cast photos, none of the Loompas looked like Ezzy or even approximated a much-younger version of him. Still, I never doubted the story for a second. I don't know, I guess we all need to believe in something.
So what now? How does one pick up the pieces and move on after such a betrayal? I don't have an answer for that just now. I can still barely believe that Ezzy was an 'Oom-poster'; even the words themselves have a nightmarish, couldn't-possibly-be-true quality to them. So I'm doing the only thing that I can: taking it all one day at a time.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Nigeria Here I Come
With reference to your yet to be transferred inheritance funds in the STB/ETB Banks in Lagos, after due consideration of the fact that you had not been able to claim your rightful inheritance which from our datas gotten from the Central Bank of Nigeria is $750,000 on inheritance claim before the end of the last quarter of the year 2004, the Federal Ministry of Finance has decided that all beneficiaries who have not fulfilled all paperwork request for the release of his/her inheritance funds to his/her nominated account, should be transferred to the International Paying Bank of Nigeria. The IPBN has been advised to pay you instalmentally,through NATWEST BANK UK PLC starting with the sum of $250,000.00 (TWO HUNDRED AND FIFY THOUSAND US Dollars)strictly by certified cheque , which will debited from the Government's foriegn account with NatWest bank UK here clearable every 3month after drawn airmarked for payment in this 2005 first quater. The cheque will be sent to the contact address you will provide to us. The check will be sent to you via our official courier, FEDEX, to your designated contact address .
As soon as we receive your response aÃ‚ confirmation that you have received this message and you are willing to receive the cheque, the cheque will be sent to your contact address.
We will require the following information from you to prepare the cheque immediately in your name: Beneficiary Full Name: Contact Address: Telephone Number: Your response will be highly appreciated. Best Regards, Mrs Chizoba Martins Depty. Remittance Director TEL: 234-1-4456789 International Paying Bank[IPBN] [SUBSIDIARY OF THE CBN]
Too funny. I get maybe one of these a month. The only noticeable difference in this one and the probably dozens like it I've received over the years is that this one promises (as near as I can decipher) mere hundreds of thousands of dollars where they usually promise tens of millions. Other than that, it's the same as always: Same official-sounding language, same bad grammar, same bizarre stories of inheritances out-of-the-blue and huge sums of money and something for nothing. It's a scam of course, a variation on the famous "Nigerian" or "419" scam, and at this point it's a very old scam to boot. If I were to respond then suddenly there would be fees that needed to be paid, or officials that needed to be bribed, or some other need for me to send cash, and the money coming to me would always dance just tantalizingly out of reach until I figured the whole thing out for the sham that it is. I'm really surprised that I still get these e-mails. I would think everyone in the world who has internet access would have gotten wise to this by now. But I guess there will always be a few people out there who so badly want to believe that the system can be beaten that they'll swallow any story, no matter how preposterous. I mean honestly, inheritance in a bank in Nigeria? My family is Irish and German for God's sake!
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Now that Melissa has the weekends off, we can finally do the sorts of things I've been dying to do with her for months now. Last night we stayed at a nice little B&B called the Chichester-Mckee Inn, a house that owns the distinction of being the first house in Placerville to have running water. As you can see in the picture it's one of those gigantic old Victorian homes (although come to think of it, pretty much every B&B is in a gigantic old Victorian home), the kind of fantastic place that no one builds anymore. If you look closely, you can see that they've even got a conservatory on the right side of the picture. I just love the idea of being able to say "hey, lets go hang out in the conservatory." That would be so cool, even worth the inevitable "Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe" jokes.
After checking in yesterday we headed south on County Road E16, down to the Fair Play Appellation, which I was interested to find out is the smallest appellation in the United States--yes, I'm just the sort of person who would find that interesting. We visited several small, family-owned vineyards and wineries, exactly the sort of place that I want to own someday. We did the usual wine-tasting stuff, rattling on about our completely unfounded opinions, buying way more wine than we probably should, enjoying the whole decadent atmosphere. When we asked about a good place to eat, we were recommended the Gold Vine Grill in the tiny hamlet of Somerset. Actually, it essentially was the tiny hamlet of Somerset, which is basically a couple of buildings at the crossroads of E16 and Grizzly Flat road. I'd link to the restaurant's website, but it doesn't have one. It doesn't even have a mailing address aside from a P.O. Box. But it was a phenomenal discovery--the food was unbelievable. If you're ever at the intersection of El Dorado County Road E16 and Grizzly Flat, do yourself a favor and try the Chicken Marsala.
Today we got up for a leisurely breakfast and headed up to Apple Hill. Apple Hill is a collection of ranches that got together in the 1960's to form a sort of co-op/tourist attraction. Dozens of farms, ranches and orchards dot the coves and hillsides of El Dorado County north of Highway 50. Though Apples are a specialty, the area is also a great wine-producing region and home to many vineyards, and it produces all manner of fruits, particularly peaches, pears, cherries (although this was not a good cherry year), and there is (as you can see in the picture on the left) an unusually high concentration of Christmas Tree farms. Those Christmas Trees you see in that picture are growing in 90-plus degree heat--the only tough part of the trip was the fact that the heat was even worse than Reno (the elevation is about 2000 feet lower) and the humidity was unusually high. It almost reminded me of my home in Alabama in that respect.
The whole experience really made me think what a heaven on earth California is. The only thing that makes it such a lousy place sometimes is all the people on top of people that you get on the coast, particularly SoCal and the Bay Area. But the Sierra foothills do not have that problem yet. The foothills are a rolling land of thick forests, blessed by warm days and cool nights, not far from the big cities of Sacramento and San Francisco but far enough away to seem like another world, and all of it backed up against the magnificent Sierras themselves. If I sound like some sort of lame Chamber of Commerce rep, well, I guess it's because I'm so completely in love with the whole region, from the pine forests and lakes of the mountains to the idyllic farmland below. When I finally get that vineyard I'm always dreaming of, I really hope it's in a place like this. In this part of the world wine holds a special place in people's hearts. To get some idea, just check out the water spout on the sink in the picture at left, taken in the restroom at Primus Vineyards.
One of the best things about this region is the people. You really find all sorts in a place like this, but they all have one thing in common: They all understand the value of living life well. Sure, it's the country life, but as Robert Lajoie of Chalet Fleur de Lys--where they produce fantastic Sangiovese, by the way--said to us yesterday, "it's a lot more than just shit-kickers out here" (it sounds funnier if you imagine it in Robert's thick Quebecois accent). Almost all of the people that you meet in the small towns of the foothills moved there by choice because they understood that the best things in life are the company of friends and loved ones, beautiful surroundings, a fantastic climate and a slow pace of life to enjoy it all in. Here it's all about simple things; the seasons, food, wine, and friends. Hard work is a part of life here, as it is everywhere, but in the foothills people manage to keep work in the proper perspective: why run yourself into an early grave just to earn a few extra bucks when you already have everything important?
Inevitably we had to return. Tomorrow I have to go back to prosecution and Melissa has to go back to producing television news. This is always the most disappointing part of any trip--having to come back to the "real" world. But one day, it's not going to happen that way. One day I'm going to wander into those foothills (or somewhere similar), find myself a small piece of land of my own, and start to live the life I want. It won't be next week, and it probably won't be next year, but it will happen someday. Until then, well, I guess it's nice knowing that El Dorado is not too far away.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
On And On We Go
I dunno. I just can't talk about this anymore. If people don't see this mess for what it is by now then they're never going to because they simply won't allow themselves. Let's talk about something else.
Last Tuesday I went to see Reel Big Fish in Sparks. Not my usual Tuesday night, and the dive in Sparks that we saw them in is definitely not my usual hangout, but someone I know is sort of in to Ska, so I figured what the heck.
It was a good time, except for trying to find a place to park (see the Hot August Nights information below). I took away two thing from the experience. One, it was kind of neat that I guess I looked just threatening enough that the guy at the door felt like he needed to search me for weapons before letting me in. Two, I am way, way WAY past the point of seeing anything of value in moshing. Also, I'm way too old to be going to concerts on a Tuesday night.
It's also worth mentioning that we're deep into Hot August Nights here in the Biggest Little City, and like pretty much all Reno residents I have VERY mixed feelings about the whole event. For those who don't know (which is probably everyone who's ever going to read this blog) Hot August Nights is a weeklong classic car celebration of sorts. Owners of these lovingly-restored vehicles gather from all sorts of places to "cruise" and take part in various themed events put on by the casinos. The problem is, this means hella traffic all over town (but especially downtown where I live), noise at all hours of the day and night, streets shut down to accommodate the "cruisers", and huge crowds of even more befuddled-looking tourists than usual everywhere you go. But most of all, the thing I can't stand about Hot August Nights is the general rise in the level of thuggery. Don't get me wrong, most of the folks who own the classic cars themselves are decent enough people. Many are old enough to remember the eras that these cars come from (generally the 50's and early 60's), and trouble is usually the last thing on their minds. The problem is that for some reason, Hot August Nights draws in every hooligan and two-bit criminal from Northern California like moths to a flame. Even as I write our jail is full of them, and it will only get worse. And keep in mind, this is Reno; we've already got a pretty decent local population of thugs and small-time hustlers, thank you very much. It's not like we're hiring right now or anything.
The event probably does bring in a lot of money to the community, and for that I'm glad (except for the money spent in all those tacky T-shirt shops and liquor stores on South Virginia). But the whole thing is a massive headache for local residents. The whole noisy, smelly affair reaches a crescendo this weekend. I'm thinking I might make it my business to be out of town.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
In The Rough
It was taken at the 9th green at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana, on the edge of the GYE (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem). I spent maybe the greatest summer of my life working in Yellowstone National Park about 10 years ago, and I still miss it, particularly in the summertime. To me life just seems a little more interesting, perhaps even a little more meaningful when it's lived on the edge of the wilderness, or at least the closest thing we still have to wilderness here in the lower 48.