Monthly Archives: September 2015

Liters and Liters

We spent the weekend with our Munich friends Dennis and Paulina who will get married in Sao Paulo in November. On Saturday we went to the Oktoberfest grounds about the time it opened. Fireworks at noon, the moment the mayor taps the keg, somewhere in the crowd. The newspapers said it took him two whacks with whatever ceremonial Gold-spike hammer he uses.

There were horse-drawn carriages, one for each beer company, which had been parading; we saw them exit as we entered. Oktoberfest was much more of a costume event than I expected. Many men wore lederhosen, much of it cutely embroidered, and checked shirts which I had no idea were a Bavarian thing. Women wore dresses called dirndls, definitely cleavage-friendly. Dennis said it wasn’t always that way, that the costumes really started happening much more about ten years ago. Another thing that immediately struck me when we entered is that there were lots of big modern rides: roller coasters, a drop tower, whirly things, etc. I guess they must be more fun when you are really drunk, in the way that a stomach pump is fun. When I went to Oktoberfest in 1978, I think I sat at a table outside and drank. No one told me that the real action happens inside the enormous tents, where there are bands, and much more massive concentrations of humanity. We went into some tents, but an unfortunate consequence of our arrival time was that all the tents were full, and everyone there had just started drinking. So there was no place to sit, and no turnover creating places to sit. We tried two or three tents; at one tent Ray and I were turned away for not wearing Bavarian garb, though I think the guy was suggesting we could try another door. That miffed me a bit, but whatever.

So we bailed, and instead went on a walk through Englischergarten, the large park near Dennis’ house. There was a biergarten there next to the Chinesischer Turm, or Chinese tower. A brass band was playing inside the tower, the first few tunes after we arrived from Broadway musicals. We ate a bit too much food, and drank a couple liters between the three of us, and then continued through the park. There was a place called “the Wave” where a fast-flowing river (haven’t seen any of those in California lately) runs over a concrete block, creating a wave on which surfers with short boards in wetsuits line up to go back and forth across the river, one at a time. If one does so well that they are there for, say, 30 seconds, other surfers will tap five times on their board as a signal that it’s time to dive downstream and let someone else have a chance. It was a lot of fun to watch although they were all in wetsuits.

In the evening we had dinner at Paros, a Greek taverna, giving us a chance to deliver a pair of lederhosen to Ian, a guy who’d grown up in our neighborhood. He had left them at his mother’s house and Callum had driven them to Seattle and given them to us. Before about 1635, this is how every civilian thing in the entire world moved from place to place. Not so long ago. Ian is currently job hunting in Germany.

For the six of us, we ordered the appetizer platter for four, which seemed like Korean side dishes, in terms of it arriving on about twenty small plates. We picked at a couple entrees as well. Then, at 11pm, the lights went down, and the waiter came around and started throwing napkins in the air, pounds and pounds of them. Everyone did a good job of scooping them up and throwing them back in the air, creating the proper festive atmosphere. Then the waiter poured shots of Ouzo for everyone, which increased the festive atmosphere further. Finally some folks started dancing on tables and that was festive enough.

On Sunday, after a leisurely breakfast, and a delightful Brazilian stroganoff for lunch, we returned to Oktoberfest, and this time amassed a larger group of Dennis’ ex-coworkers, making six of us. (I have heard a lot of grumbling this trip about the unpleasantness of working in the hierarchy of a German company. Dennis had just quit his job and started a project with a couple other people.) This time we headed for the Oide Wiesn (traditional fair), an area where they had vintage rides (e.g. bumper cars instead of drop towers) and vintage-themed tents. We went to the Velodrome, where people rode around a central area on various types of bicycles. One performer rode on an old-style bike with an enormous front wheel and a tiny rear one; a group of performers did tricks on bikes; and audience members rode on funny bikes which had pedals directly on the rear axle, or wheels on cams so the bike would go up and down as you rode. There were enough places to sit, and we got started on our day’s drinking. I ordered a liter of beer, but most of the others ordered “Radler”, beer mixed with lemonade, which is historically drunk by cyclists, who historically like bad things. After awhile we walked around the main fair, and headed to a tent where another coworker and his friends were, and sat there and drank for two more liters-worth of time. (We are basically teetotalers.) It was quite a lot of fun, and everyone being a bit drunk increased the number of people who wanted to take selfies with us. Some of them just came up and gave us a hug. It was near midnight by the time we left.

Monday we went to the train station, found our train, and re-learned how the reservation system works. You can buy a ticket, or you can pay a few euros more and get a reserved seat. We had unreserved tickets. It seems chaotic when you get on the train, but we soon realized that each seat was labeled with the range of stops for which it was reserved. We’d already settled in a couple of seats marked as reserved from Wurzburg on, and so there was a bunch of stress involved with wondering if someone would eject us when we got there, and where we’d go after that, because the train was quite full. Before we got there, the train just stopped in the middle of nowhere for about 20 minutes. The explanations given were only in German and contained the word “polizei”. Eventually it started moving again, and we realized we’d miss our six-minute connection in Göttingen Finally we reached Wurzburg, and thankfully no one claimed our seats. Maybe they were on a train with a longer delay, and missed their connection too. We waited 40 minutes in Göttingen for the Berlin train which left an hour later, which was delightully empty. We had a compartment pretty much to ourselves. We bought some transit tickets, and took a couple trams to the loft where we are spending two weeks (minus a side trip to the Bremen area), where we were greeted by a spaghetti dinner with tons of pesto.

Two Too-Long Travel Days, with Two-Hour Delays

Thursday we set the alarm for 5:30 so we could catch the 7am ferry to Elba, an island just off the coast of Italy where Napoleon was exiled, having to get by with only 600 men to keep him secure, and palatial villas to live in. Again, when we arrived, we went and redeemed our confirmation for the next ferry ticket. After being routed by Google into a residents-only area inside the walled part of Portoferraio, and chased out by residents, we parked elsewhere and walked around town, visiting the theater Napoleon converted a church into, and his winter home in town at the top of the hill. We drove to Villa San Martino, his summer home, and looked at that. Then we went on a delightful walk in the woods, up to the ruins of a windmill. We raced across the island to Rio Marina to catch our 4:30 ferry back to the mainland. Unfortunately, it was broken and wasn’t running. I don’t know if the guy who gave us the ticket earlier that morning knew it was broken — he sure didn’t mention it. So we had to drive back to Portoferraio and take the next ferry, which turned out to be a 6pm ferry arriving at 7pm, two hours late. Our hotel was in Ferrara, about 3.5 hours away, and there’d be no place to eat there when we arrived.

I looked at the map and found a town, San Miniato, just off the freeway with several places to eat. The first one we tried to find was on a segment of a road not obviously connected to the segment of it that we were on, and we ended up going somewhere else. If I’d used satellite view, I probably would have figured out what went wrong. But the other place we went, Pepenero, was a delightful restaurant where we decided to have the “Menu Toscano”, trusting the chef to surprise us with delicious things, which he did: a proscuitto and cheese plate, tortelli with rabbit sugo, and beef that he didn’t ask us how we wanted it cooked. All levels of cookedness were represented, from the rare spot in the middle, to the deliciously seared edges. A spot of espresso at the end of the meal enabled me to drive the additional two hours to Ferrara. The segment from Firenze to Bologna was quite grueling, with an endless stream of trucks in the right lane, and frequent segments of construction often with only one lane in each direction. But an amazing thing happened: at exactly midnight, I caught up to the beginning of a long string of trucks, and had the completed three-lane-each-way autostrade to myself all the way to Bologna. No trucks, not even any other cars. We made it to Hotel Daniela at 12:30am, where a guy had stayed up to let us into our room. Most places say that they don’t let you check in after midnight.

Friday we returned the rental car to Venice, and hauled our luggage to the train station. We had hoped to stash it and walk around with Ray’s cousin for 90 minutes or so, but the left-luggage room was “full”, and there was a very long line. So we took turns walking around, waiting for our 1:30 train. At about 1pm Ray noticed the train had been canceled. The lady at tourist information said, go to Trenitalia information (even though the train was Deutsche Bahn). At Trenitalia you take a number and wait. Around 1:25pm, I331 came up and two guys put their heads to gether to come up with the information that we needed to RUN with the luggage back across the bridge to Piazzale Roma, and find a “man wearing a shirt” who would escort us to some alternate transportation. The shirt was white and had only the smallest logo of the Austrian train service, but he could be identified by being at the center of a crowd of miffed Germans and bemused Italians. He and his assistant announced without explanation that we were to board a bus to Innsbruck, and then something else.

It was a somewhat slower ride, with views of the Dolomites on the autostrade north from Verona to Bolzano to the pass, which was not even that long a tunnel. More than the current devolution of 280, the stretch from Trento to Innsbruck is a contender for “world’s most beautiful freeway”. After some time, the conductor of the Magical Mystery Tour told us that we should board a train in Innsbruck. We found some good Japanese train station food, since the time of arrival to Munich was pushed back to near midnight.

This was the day before the start of Oktoberfest. I had visions of being on a local train loaded with soccer yobs singing the Horst Wessel Lied but in fact the clientele was half nervous middle class Germans and half African refugees. You may have read that Germany has recently reinstituted border controls. Nothing happened for a very long time but a trio of Polizei did walk through the car, saying nothing, and when we got to Rosenheim, an announcement came that we were to park there for a while and we should present our passports. So we got out our passports and waited for a long time and eventually even more Polizei — not border police like you see on established borders, but regular police — came on, and asked everyone whose skin was darker than a paper bag to show his passport. Most of them did not have one, and they were taken away for delousing. jk. They were all very polite and explained that they were going to be evaluated as refugees.

Nobody blond was asked to show a passport, nor even a ticket. Who knows how many Russian assassins and Bulgarian traffickers slipped past, unquestioned?

Later information: The government thought that the influx of refugees into Munich during Oktoberfest would stress the capacity of the city and lead to fights. There are other cities in Germany that need refugees, because their populations have so diminished that the sewer systems don’t even function properly for lack of flow. You can read stories on the Internet about cities, especially in the Eastern zone, tearing down apartments and converting them to parks. The refugees are officially being diverted away from Munich for the next three weeks. Still, it gives a bad impression when your border exists only for Negroes. White people in Europe still have all the international privileges of money.

We arrived late and had a misunderstanding with Dennis about whether he was going to meet us, or pick us up, or what. For some reason I thought he had a car. Oktoberfest was being anticipated by groups of young adult males who thought we looked like ZZ Top. More on that, later.

Major Menhirs and the Fortes of Piana

We arrived in Bastia at the northern end of Corsica around noon, and immediately set off to redeem our confirmation as an actual ferry ticket. We had done this before boarding in Livorno, but the agent in Bastia said we had to go to the ticket office, which was closed until 2pm. So we found an actual parking place, and bought some French stamps, cheaper than Italy by half, even accounting for the guy overcharging us by 4 euros. We were not making it easier for him, going through all his commemoratives to solve the linear programming diaphantine equation that is post card philately. This took about 90 minutes, so it was time to get the ferry ticket. We bought bread and had a pique-nique in a minor park, eating a prefab Greek salad and some finocchiona sausage we’d gotten in Massa Marittima. While we were eating, we got the most elaborate “ZZ Top” shout-out to date. Two bums, of the sort you clutch your camera to your side when they approach, paused about ten meters in front of us and played around with their cell phone: after a couple of minutes they did a “She’s Got Legs” walk to our bench, accompanied by the music they had just downloaded for the occasion.

We drove across the island to Ajaccio, where we stayed two nights. Our airbnb host met us at our car and helped us take our luggage to his place nearby. His tiny son pulled the suitcase. After the five-flight walkup in Livorno, we were thrilled to have a one-flight walkup. He also did our laundry, starting it a second time because he thought it still smelled. I will have to read his review of us on airbnb to hear his side of this. We found an excellent Corsican restaurant, Da Mamma, sampled the local sausage, figatellu, and had a fantastic plate of roasted goat and French fries. We call them French fries for a reason.

Corsica is an extremely mountainous island, the most mountainous in the Mediterranean. And so it’s inspiring to see people on bicycles, quite far from town, pedaling up the long inclines. We were mostly on paved roads, though some were quite narrow. One we took had a pair of women on roller skis, pushing themselves along with poles. I’m sure there’s a name for this setup.

Tuesday our mission was to explore prehistoric sites featuring menhirs, or standing stones. First we drove to Filatosa, the most developed park of that type on the island. There were little kiosks that played descriptions in one of four languages; there were lots of lights for nighttime visits. What there weren’t many of were menhirs: one with distinct carvings here, six mostly without there, and another five arranged around a large tree. There was a quarry area. There was much documentation, telling you what shapes and scrivening corresponded to what neolithic cultures, and the best current guesses as to the timing: 4000-1000 BC, about.

Next we went to a place Ray found by extracting the GPS location from a picture he found on Instagram or somewhere. We followed the Garmin down a series of diminishing dirt roads until we came to the smallest road yet, which was blocked with a pile of rocks. On a post on the surrounding fence it said, MENHIRS. We climbed over the rock and continued Garmin-walking an unmarked path through the chapparal which took a few turns but continued generally in the direction of the target lat-long and suddenly through the trees we saw several rows of standing slabs. There may have been 70 or 80 in a very small area. Some of them were standing in groups, a group of 10, a group of 8, a group of 3, etc.; many more had fallen over and were in piles. Still, it was exciting to find so many with so little documentation. They were undecorated, except for three on which you could faintly make out a characteristic “v” that many of the Filitosa menhirs had, which might be interpreted as a sword point. So they weren’t all of the earliest cohort.

Finally we went to the plateau of Cauria, which featured a walk to two small sites with 10 menhirs or so, and a third site with a dolmen, slabs of rock arranged as a shed or mausoleum or house of cards. We returned to Ajaccio, found a parking spot near the airbnb (a task made much easier by the tininess of the car), and went to dinner at a Sardinian restaurant on the port, having a plate of spaghetti with bottarga.

Wednesday we checked out of the airbnb and drove up the coast toward the Calanches of Piana, a World Heritage site in the national park which makes up about a third of Corsica. Just north of the town of Piana, the impression is of Zion National Park in Utah, red rock in pretty formations. A calanche turns out to be an inlet where rock has collapsed, and we stopped frequently to take pictures. The most frequently-photographed rock has a hole in it the shape of a heart.

When we were talking to the owner of the restaurant we ate in the last night in Venice, he told us about a friend on Corsica who runs a restaurant that we were driving past anyway. We found it and stopped, but it turned out it was closed on Wednesdays. So we continued to Bastia, where there was another airbnb (at which we could park in the yard), and a cute restaurant where the fish guy walks around in rubber boots and apron. Everything was quite good. We chose “loup” roasted with fennel seed; the waiter explained that this was seabass. Ray supposed that “loup”, wolf in French, indicated that this might be a fish renamed for marketing purposes: who wants to eat wolf-fish?


We found our guesthouse in Venice, not far from Piazza San Marco, around 11pm. Venice closes early. It’s hard to find any good food that late, and we survived with a mediocre calzone. “Mediocre” in Italy is still palatable.

Tuesday morning, we met Ray’s cousin John at the Biennale ticket office, located two minutes away. We bought tickets for our first showing for later that night, a double feature of “Sangue del mio Sangue” and “Anomalisa”, and John got tickets for all of us to see “Heart of a Dog” the next day.

The vaporetti, the water buses which take you from one island to another, are expensive. 7 euros per trip, or 60 euros for unlimited travel for a week. Since it seems we will probably return within the next five years, we decided to get 50-euro passes which let us use resident fares, 1.40 euros per trip. The line to do this, while not long, was very slow: several people in front of us were getting passes themselves, and each requires taking a picture, and the attendant has to fill in many fields in a form, and a contract has to be printed out. It gave us a chance to talk to the people in line, including Elena, an Italian art-history grad student from Rome.

In the afternoon we took it easy, recovering from our long travel the two days before. We then went to Lido, where the films are shown, and met John at the Golden Lion for Aperol spritzes and had some smoked salmon on potato salad as our dinner. The Golden Lion is a bar immediately across from the main red-carpet area where all the stars arrive for their films, in fancy Renaults driving very short distances. Two years ago they were Maseratis.

“Sangue del mio Sangue” is an Italian film about a man investigating the goings-on at an 18th-century monastery. His brother had committed suicide after an affair with an involuntary nun there, who they were trying to get to confess to having seduced a priest using the services of the devil (as if that were necessary). She was weighted with chains, pushed off a cliff into a river, after having been told that if she floated that would indicate her guilt, while if she remained submerged that would prove her innocence. Shortly after she failed to surface, they brought her up. She was next similarly threatened with fire. Ultimately they built a brick wall around her, where she apparently lived for decades. The film cuts to the present where a man with the same name wants to help a Russian man buy the abandoned monastery property. Everybody turns out to be vampires. There were never any clear lines drawn between the persecuters of the nun and the Russian investors, but you are bound to note the similarities, if any.

“Anomalisa” is the newest film from Charlie Kaufman, director of Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, etc. It is animated, and it soon becomes apparent that all characters are voiced by adult males, except for Lisa, who is an anomaly. (In fact, all but Lisa and the protagonist are voiced by the same person.) It’s a lot of fun, in a fugal way. Few image themes, many variations.

Wednesday we met John at his hotel, bought tickets for Thursday’s movies, and saw a few exhibits around town. The India/Pakistan pavilion had a cute digital mirror which showed us ourselves as we looked 30 seconds ago. It also had a room one of whose walls had five guys in Lahore, Pakistan talking to us. Unfortunately the sound was very bad and it was pretty impossible to tell what they were saying. They spoke good English. One was a dress designer.

The New Zealand pavilion had a display about the NSA, more informative than artistic. Political art has that problem. We saw a Sebastio Salgado / Illy exhibition with large detailed black and white photos of people making coffee sustainably. As we walked around, we ran into Elena, and talked for awhile. A small “shrine for girls” in a small chapel had a pile of saris from girls raped in India, a pile of hijabs from girls abducted by Boko Haram, and a pile of garments made by slave laborers. We took the boat to the Armenia exhibit on San Lazarro, where there is a monastery which has a printing operation, with a museum showing vintage typesetting equipment. Elena was there as well, and she came with us to have a spritz before our upcoming movie.

“Heart of a Dog” is an amazing hypnotic meditation by Laurie Anderson on love, death, and her dog. The trouble with seeing hypnotic movies when being jetlagged after long travel days is that I kind of fell asleep — I look forward to rewatching the movie when it becomes available.

On the ferry back we met a German woman named Tina, who tagged along with us to a pizza place way out in Cannareggio. We waited a long time to be seated, and Tina eventually said she was too hungry and tired to wait and went back to her hostel. We finally were seated, and the food arrived, one dish at a time, each after a long interval. It was quite tedious and late, but everything was good, especially the artichoke and prosciutto pizza.

Thursday we went to the Arsenale to see one of the two main art exhibitions of the Biennale. The theme is “All the World’s Futures”. There were several cute exhibits, but I’ll have to look at the pictures to remember what they were. We were there for about six hours, a grueling day. It also didn’t seem to have a lot to do with the future. The number of artists is depressing, who are still publishing position papers and getting grants as if Fluxus was the Dernier Cri.

We zipped over to Lido on the fifty-year-old water bus, and had sandwiches at the Golden Lion before heading to our double feature. “Remember”, a new film from Atom Egoyan, starred Christopher Plummer as a Holocaust survivor with Alzheimer’s. Like Julianne Moore in Still Alice, he had a letter reminding him of what he had to do, which in this case was instructions from Martin Landau telling him to find the guard who murdered his family at Auschwitz. It was pretty thrilling although the plot does not stand scrutiny. Scrutinize on your own time.

“From Afar”, a Venezuelan film, featured a middle-aged denture technician who picked up cute young guys and offered them money to come home with him and undress. It turned out that his motivation for doing this was nefarious rather than innocent.

Friday we saw several Biennale exhibits in Campo San Stefano, and then went to our afternoon movie. “A Copy of my Mind” was an Indonesian movie about a young woman who gives facials and a young man who uses Google Translate to make bad subtitles for pirated DVDs. She gives a facial to an important woman in a cushy prison, and steals a DVD which turns out to be a recording of a meeting where the woman facilitates bribes for government officials from real estate developers. Dangerous men come looking for her, but they find him instead. The two stars were in the audience, and we got to talk to them briefly.

Afterwards we went to Slip of the Tongue, a separate exhibition showing various cute things but if you are planning to go, be advised that “Piss Christ” is only there as a photo. No idea where the original is. After the evening’s spritz, we went to Gianni’s Pizzeria, a decent restaurant on the shore, and had delicious seafood risotto and grilled branzino, followed by a visit to the adjacent gelato place where we became somewhat of a sensation by eating one ice cream cone simultaneously. It was supposed to be a cup. Ice cream cones take much more concentration. There was a band playing rock and roll near by the whole time. As with the Gondoliers, their musicianship is at a high level and their choice of songs is blecch.

Saturday morning we saw an exhibition of very cute art. The thing which hooked me was a runway covered with little porcelain skulls which they invited you to walk on. There were also some wheelchairs made out of razor blades and paper clips, and some photos whose canvas was long and shredded and drooping in the center. Outside there were automated gamelans making a nice ambience. The man who made the automated gamelans apparently learned to program at a company in New York that makes sound effects for toys.

We then headed to the Giardini to see the other main art exhibition area (though first Ray headed back to the room to find his ticket, which had been misfiled as a souvenir). There we prioritized the national pavilions, dashing through the exhibition hall in the last half hour. The Great Britain pavilion featured Sarah Lucas, with two large balloonlike representations of Maradona, and several asses-and-legs with cigarettes in the hole. The Canada pavilion was fun, with a replica kiosk full of Canadian products, many of which were a bit out of focus. It also had a Rube Goldberg mechanism for sorting coins which didn’t sort them. The Australian pavilion was by far the best, in which Fiona Hall showed nests made out of shredded dollar bills, macabre cuckoo clocks, sculptures from loaves of bread, driftwood presented as animal sculptures, and elaborately fashioned sardine cans.

We picked up John and went to Al Mascarone, a small but very popular seafood restaurant a bit off the beaten path. The food was good: cuttlefish in black sauce, grilled sausage, and a creamy cod dish, all served with polenta. But then the owner wanted to have his picture taken with us, which led to complimentary shots of the best limoncello we’ve ever had, and an herbal amaro, and more pictures of us taken standing behind the bar.

Sunday we checked out early, and dragged our luggage through the empty streets to the Hertz office. We got our tiny Opel “Adam Rocks” stylish car with a wimpy engine, black with a white top and brown leather seats, and headed west. We stopped in Siena; I’d visited there for a day in 1979, but I’d completely forgotten everything about it. It has an amazing plaza shaped like a shell and sloped as an amphitheater. They race horses there in a festival. Fortunately there was no festival and parking was easy, when you found a parking meter that wasn’t broken. The cathedral has distinctive black stripes on its white marble in the style called “ablaq” from Syria to Andalusia. I don’t think Siena was ever Saracen, though. There were long lines even to find out how much tickets cost.

We drove on twisty little roads through the hills to Massa Marittima, where the celebrated mural we’d failed to see in 2005 because it was being restored, could now be seen through a window. The mural was discovered only very recently, and features a tree whose fruit is penises.

From there we drove to Livorno, found our airbnb and a place to park, with some effort — if you make the wrong left turn it could take ten minutes to get back to where you were. We ate some hearty cacciucco (a seafood stew), and went to sleep early. We got up early, and found our four-hour ferry to Corsica which we are on presently, along with our cute little car.

Three Perfect Days

Thursday was a perfect day of relaxing. We spent it at Blue and Louise’s place in Kirkland, joined by Howie and LeAnne who flew in from Boston for the festivities. The house is on the shore of Lake Washington, with its own little dock and boat, and is two blocks away from Juanita Park, which has turtles and herons and hundreds of ducks. Nobody could tell us who Juanita was. She figures in many roads and business names, though. We walked around in the park, and then walked around in downtown Kirkland after having Thai street food at Isarn, a popular local spot. I don’t know how Thai street people afford those prices. Maybe Blue pays for them, too. The promised crowds didn’t really materialize, though — everyone was at Burning Man.

Friday was a perfect day of working. Ray drove to see a friend recovering from a stroke, and most of the others went to the new Chihuly glass museum by the Space Needle. So I was able to use Blue’s nice fast Internet to fix several bugs, and even to update the source code. Louise fixed delicious salmon with a sauce invented by Dean, and a fruit tart.

Saturday was a perfect day of celebrating. We picked up Kent at the train station, our friend David met us there, and we had dim sum nearby. Harbor City Restaurant is OK but they don’t offer their good stuff to foreigners. Next time we go there we will be more aggressive about ordering. We drove to the wedding venue, and strolled around the south end of Lake Union. We passed a group of formally dressed guys in kilts posing for pictures, who turned out later to be the groom party for the wedding we came up to see. We checked out the Historic Boats and the Wooden Boats; one of the historic boats was the 1904 lighthouse boat Swiftsure, with two beacons helping sailors find their way several decades ago. It is currently undergoing restoration: you can buy a bolt or a plank to help and they will put your name on it, at least conceptually.

Then it was time for the wedding, which took place in a church/coffee house. The church was not particularly denominational; there were no crosses or anything. The wedding was very religious, but mostly the “God loves you” variety instead of the “you must love God and hate all these other guys or else”. Katie and Andrew met in Scotland, where Katie was attending seminary school, and was some kind of Christian camp counselor to Andrew. They waited a respectable number of years before having a public relationship. Andrew is probably one of the most bubbly enthusiastic people I’ve ever met — the whole wedding was about fun and games, which I hope their marriage turns out to be, all.

It turns out that all the dances that Baby Boomers did in 4th grade P.E., when it was raining, were Scottish wedding dances, and we all should have paid attention.

Sunday began a brutal and imperfect day of traveling. We dropped off Kent, and whiled away a couple of hours at the Chihuly museum, and visiting our friend and erstwhile neighbor Callum. At 4:30 PM we began a 7-hour flight to Reykjavik, with a 1-hour layover; then a 3-hour flight to Gatwick with a 6-hour layover. The first two segments were on Icelandic, a quite decent airline compared to easyJet, which provided the 2-hour segment to Venice. We got up at 7:30am on Sunday, and it is now 1am on Tuesday.

After hauling our luggage across Venice because we were too proud to spend 7 euros each on a vaporetto and we couldn’t buy the five-year passes in the middle of the night, it was thrilling to say to the lady where we are staying that we will be here for six nights. A week of no airplanes or cars, only boats and lots of walking.

Aside from some napping on the plane, we have been up for 32 hours. So I will conclude this post and get some sleep.

Generic Post or Equivalent

Our plane landed at the Seattle airport at 5:30 on Monday, and we went to get our rental car (Dave got the car, Ray got the luggage, for efficiency). The reservation printout specified “Generic Car or Equivalent”. It’s a Chevrolet Sonic, your basic tiny four-door hatchback too small to hold the big duffel bag, the small suitcase, and the backpack all in the trunk, so we will have to avoid dangerous places. But it has cruise control, a backup camera, several speeds of intermittent windshield wipers, and USB audio, all features you wouldn’t have found on a generic car even two years ago, so it’s pretty nice. We left the airport at 6:30 with trepidation about making our 9pm-be-there-30-mins-early ferry reservation. But with the carpool and express lanes we were able to zoom through downtown Seattle and reach the ferry at 8:04pm, giving us time to have a bit of S. E. Rykoff prefab at the little ferry-dock cafe. The area between our car and the cafe was briefly closed to quarantine an international arrival from Canada, but we got onto the ferry just fine.

When we arrived at Lopez, our hosts Randy and Karen, friends from Menlo Park with a summer home on Lopez, greeted us with a crab they’d caught that day, perfect tomatoes they’d brought from Menlo Park, and fresh French bread from a local bakery. Yum.

Tuesday was spent watching the red-breasted nuthatches and chestnut-backed chickadees and downy woodpeckers at their feeder, and the rabbits out on the field they’d cleared to create a beautiful view of the sound. Later in the day, a humane cage arrived, which Randy set up with carrots. The rabbits didn’t seem interested. Our friend James came down on his boat from Crane Island, about 20 minutes away, and he and Randy spent much of the afternoon talking about shrimping, construction, and island life. Meanwhile, Karen and I assembled a BRIMNES bed from IKEA for their “chalet”, which had ingenious interlocking slats allowing its use as a single or double bed. Randy grilled some delicious lamb chops from Horse Drawn Farms, and took James back to his 20 foot aluminum fishing boat.

Wednesday we drove onto the 10:45 ferry back to Anacortes, and from there onto Whidbey Island. Deception Pass at the north end of the island is quite scenic. We visited Ray’s cousin Gail at her wine shop, then proceeded into Seattle to while away some time with shopping, have dinner with my step-nephew Aaron, his wife, and young children, and crash at my college friend Jeff’s apartment.

Thursday morning we arrived in Kirkland, where we will hang out with other wedding guests for the next three days. As we found ourselves driving our rental car across the Lake Washington bridge, we worried about the unconscionable fees we would be charged; a phone call to Dollar revealed that there will be a $10 administrative fee covering the entire week-long rental, regardless of how many crossings we make — that was a relief, and an improvement over how rental car companies used to treat you even three years ago.