Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Berkeley via Xanadu

This will be the first of several posts on San Francisco and other parts of Northern California.  Way back on my very first post, I mentioned that San Francisco was my favorite place and I would talk about why in a future post.  I didn't mean for it to be months in the future but, as it turns out, it was.  And today still isn't that day.

Today I want to talk about this past Sunday, the day of the eclipse.  I flew to San Francisco early that morning (more on that in an upcoming SF post).  I have most of the day to kill because due to the time change, it is only noon when I arrive.

I planned ahead and purchased tickets to see the live musical production of Xanadu in Walnut Creek.  I know it makes me a dork to some of you but I like Olivia Newton-John's music.  And while we are on the subject, I like the Bee Gee's too.  Get over it.

I have never seen the movie Xanadu which is shocking in itself to anyone who knows me at all but it's true, I haven't.

The Eclipse is coming...but I have time for this first.  I thought I had time for a sit-down meal beforehand but that wasn't to be the case.

The one thing I hate about the San Francisco area is parking.  It is hard to find and expensive.  Walnut Creek also had an art fair going on, which I did not know about prior to my arrival.  I spent 45 minutes looking for parking.  In order to make it to the play on time, I had to forgo my friend's suggestion of Scott's (restaurant) and have McDonald's instead.

 The theatre is small but nice.  I am on the 4th row just off of center.

Things fall apart after that picture.  McDonald's sits like a rock.  The man seated next to me smells so bad I am forced to breathe through my mouth the whole time.  Actually, it could have been the teenage girl with him because she looks like she hasn't bathed or washed her hair in quite a while.  And to top it off, the play itself was AWFUL.  

I can say with absolute certainty that my son's Middle School production of Aladdin - in which he played Jafar - was better than this.  Xanadu was over the top campy.  The singing was bad.  The smell, well, we already covered that.  At one point they piped smoke out and it covered the first 6 rows so that you couldn't even see the stage.  I spent the entire time wishing I could gracefully leave.

When it is (thankfully) over, I have plans to go to the University of California at Berkeley to the Lawrence Science Center as they have an all day event going on for the eclipse.  Another mistake.  Traffic is so congested I am concerned I won't even see the eclipse.  Not only do they have this event going on but they also have graduation and NCAA softball regional playoffs going on.

I finally find a parking lot to turn around in so I can try to get out of there and find a place to view the eclipse.  Downtown is packed.  No available parking there either.  Driving down a residential street I see a yard bursting with flowers.  As I am working on a photography project where I convert close-up images of flowers to black-and-white, I want to go back.  I circle the block.

Luckily there is one spot on the street I can park in.  There are a couple of people in the street and I sit in the car, nervous they won't be okay with me taking pictures.  The flowers overhang the sidewalk, I won't need to enter the yard.  Finally, I get out and start taking pictures.

The next thing I know I am part of an impromptu neighborhood eclipse watching party.

The people I was nervous about are the two on the left.  Turns out I had nothing to be nervous about.

Here are their shadow-selves showing the eclipse through a hole in a leaf.  

These are neighbors of the people with the fantastic yard and we spend the next hour and a half talking, me talking pictures and all of us observing the eclipse.  One of the ladies comes out with CDs and says she read on the internet that you can watch through it (like using welder's glasses).  She produces CDs and we all try it.  It works.  And I am not blind so I guess it works that way too.

Here they are with their CDs.  To clarify, you look through the actual CD part, not the hole in the middle.

I don't have the proper equipment to photograph the eclipse.

The CD doesn't work for this but it did make an interesting picture.

Right at the peak of the eclipse, the homeowners of the flower house came home.  Introductions are made.  (I am not using the names of any of these new friends since I didn't ask their permission to do so.)

These nice people ask if I want to see the back yard.  DO I? 

Later, David says this was a "Criminal Minds" moment and I am lucky I didn't end up chained up in their basement.  I see his point but it didn't seem likely.  (I am sure that is what many victims say before meeting a gruesome end.)  But these people were kind and sweet and they never asked me inside.    Also, the rest of the eclipse watching party are still in the street.

Ultimately it was worth it.  I was very surprised by how much space there was and that another house was behind theirs.  This is something you don't get to see as a normal tourist and something I would never have seen prior to this blog (since I would have gone straight to the hotel from the airport).  

Before I end with the photos from their yard I want to say Thank You.  The man asked for my blog address so if you are reading this, it was so nice to meet you and to have you be so trusting as to ask me into your space.  You have a wonderful yard.  And your neighbors are pretty nice too.

My favorite image is the last one, it came from the back yard of course.

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