My East Bay bike club was invited to join the SF Bicycle Coalition in this year’s parade. As you can tell from these shots before the march, the SF Bicycle Coalition is a subsidiary of the Society for the Preservation of Anarchy.



People commented that this was the one day in the year when we were *not* encouraged to report any unusual activity to the authorities.

Here is the woman just behind me in the parade:


And here is her bike:


She had three monkey lights in front and three in back, all lavender, their movement synchronized as on a theater marquee. (There were also bubbles blowing out the rear of the bike.) I had planned to run my own monkey light but forgot to bring batteries–lucky thing, as I would have been shown up royally by Ms. Lavender Lights and Bubbles.

Here’s my bike. Pretty festive if you ignore the scars of 40 years.


Half an hour after the parade was to begin, we were signed in and sent on our exhilarating way.


We were placed near the beginning of the parade, in fact just after Dykes on Bikes, but not so close as to catch their exhaust or foul language.

That meant that at the end we could enjoy the rest of the parade, which included Nancy Pelosi and a few cars behind her Gavin Newsom. The rest, I’ll leave to your imagination.

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Celebrating Four Birthdays, April 2012

Daniel, Jesse, Susan, and I have birthdays falling within a 2-month period, and this year we
celebrated all four together, condensing the fun into one afternoon, followed by a concert with violinist Joshua Bell in San Francisco. The concert is one reason almost everyone below is dressed to the nines.

Martha got Daniel a fish aquarium for his birthday, and judging from the heft, it must have come pre-filled with water.

Susan brought a turkey pot pie a dozen strawberry meringues. These were preceded by a rice and veggie salad by Jesse and me and followed with Martha’s Caesar salad, from a recipe dating back at least to her restaurant chef days if not to ancient Rome.

Next to Martha, and working equally intently, is Susan’s friend Linda, who served as my proxy at the evening concert. To their left are my crutches, which begins to explain why a proxy was needed.

I had badly strained my upper right leg a few days before. Martha took me to the doctor’s, and before we got back we found ourselves for a short time in an ambulance, the emergency room, and (in my case) a wheelchair. It wasn’t nearly as bad as that makes it sound, but it was pretty bad. Still, by party time I was feeling just as festive as the rest of them.

No Leben-Wolf party would be complete without bubbly, or without Daniel, who took time out from his calculations to celebrate with us.

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Finishing Off 2011 in Mendocino

Getting there.

Last year we rented a house on the ocean in Mendocino for three days. That turned out to be such a great location, and house, and time had by all that we returned this year, this time for six days.

                                                                                                  We broke up the 3-hour drive to Mendocino with a picnic in a scenic little hollow (even more scenic if one ignores nearby Highway 101 and the logging operation across the road).

From that point we traveled a two-lane country road past 50 miles of lush Anderson Valley vineyards and a  stand of coastal redwoods,

and then:

The first evening.

Someone built a fire, Susan hauled out a turkey pot pie saved from Thanksgiving, and someone stacked presents–a stack so tall you probably can’t even see a Christmas tree behind them.

What better place for chillin’ than a fireplace on Christmas Eve?

Christmas Day.

In the morning the early risers hiked several miles to the Point Cabrillo lighthouse and snapped these shots. The turkeys below right were in a neighbor’s yard. In another yard a great blue heron landed, and Daniel shot a video of it snatching a vole out of the ground. It’s quite a show. Copy this link and paste it into a new browser window : http://www.youtube.com/watch?edit=vd&v=fK62c-KTujQ

The next sighting was from the living room, where people began to see whales going south. Try convincing yourself that the white speck in the middle of the two photos above is a 50-foot-long, 30 ton gray mammal. (Clicking on the photos will enlarge them.) To be fair, sighting them is easier when you can see them move, jump, and spout, and certainly no one can blame you if you think I’m just pulling your leg. This is the Web, after all.

Around mid-day we walked the Mendocino headlands and saw more.



Hardy peasant fare: crab, crab cakes, crusty bread, artichokes, salad, apple crostada.


The following day, a Panadoro (legal in Italy):

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

This haven was founded 50 years ago by a couple of gardeners and later purchased by California’s Coastal Conservancy. Given that it’s the end of December, it was remarkable (a) how good the plants looked and (b) how mild the weather was.

We begin with Jesse and Dan reenacting the statue scene from “Last Year at Marienbad” and Susan inaugurating the newest sagging fashion–sagging sunglasses.

Now that we have seen some culture, let us look at some nature.

It was hard to look at those shrooms without getting hungry, so we followed a trail to the end of the park and had a quick bite.

After the meal, we tried standing (right) and then moved on to plan B.

McKerricker State Beach.

From this place logs were hauled onto ships headed for San Francisco and beyond. The third photo down on the right was taken around 1900 from the spot in the shot on the left.

Bike trip.

Jesse and I biked a few miles up an old logging road, along a scenic little river called Big River–everything’s relative. We came across some ancient sacred stone sculptures that must have belonged to Pomo Indians.

Other diversions: puzzles, cards, and the iPad.

Jesse’s the only one in the group with an iPad. Though I had never used one, very early on I realized the risk of its spoiling our entire week in the wrong hands. So I made sure it stayed in my hands as much as possible.

Below, I’m carefully guarding it from Susan and Martha.

Here just checking the battery:

And finally a little speed-typing:

As the week wore on, I more or less adopted it and gave it pet names–mostly derived from Anglo-Saxon and French (as in “pardon my French”)–and it seemed to respond better the more loudly I uttered them.

The week ended quickly. Everyone agreed that the six days had passed as quickly as our three days there the year before. But, given the choice again, I’m sure we’d all opt for six instead of three.

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Sunday afternoon with Mary, Max, Ivan, and Paul

Cousins Max and Mary dropped on Sunday after two 3-hour workshop sessions with Ivan and Paul. Susan, Martha, and Jesse came by to enjoy the company and to help prepare a feast.

Above, I lay out Parmesan polenta sticks for the broiler while Susan measures brandy.  At left, Susan mixes the batter for corn fritters.  Martha brought chicken legs.   

















Above, Susan takes a break to sample a Thai sesame noodle while Martha (right) gets up the courage to slice the tuna confit. Jesse (not shown because she was holding the camera and the rest of us were too preoccupied with food) stuffed mussels with bread crumbs, while Martha’s tuna slicing makes for a stunning presentation.

But for sheer sensual beauty, Susan’s galette de pommes is what really took the cake, if you will excuse the pun.

Enter Paul (left) and Ivan (right), showing the LED units they had just made at their workshop, followed soon by their parents.






In other words, the feast was ready to begin, aided by drinks and chocolate cake brought by Max & Mary.






After dinner I brought out my bike to show off its Monkey Lights,  a present from Martha. After Susan’s dessert, these were probably the most visually compelling item of the day.







In fairness, the light show did get some competition from the sunset. In the center is the Oakland portion of the Bay Bridge, now under construction.

That being a tough show to follow, the guests dispersed. I’m eager to see what the next visit will bring!

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Eat Real Festival, Jack London Square, September 24, 2011

Food trucks are suddenly everywhere, so why not Oakland? Oakland’s Eat Real Festival, now in its second year, featured about four dozen of them, with dishes from Asia, Africa, South America, and Berkeley.

We were blown away not just by diversity but by quality last year, and this year the big difference is that someone brought a camera.

As you see, we began with the national anthem.

Then Daniel found a barbecued slider and corn.

Below,  an Indian street food truck. I really wanted some of that, but holding the camera made it tough–I’ll keep this in mind for my next diet.

People lined up wherever you look.

Meanwhile, the sliders attract more takers.

Are people’s batteries beginning to run down? Or should I admit I’m not doing very well with the camera and get to work on the food? I pass the camera to Daniel for one last shot.

He catches everyone with eyes open–but not for long. Afterwards we go to my place and in minutes everyone’s asleep.

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Bicycling the port of Oakland with Jesse

As a stopping-off point for cargo ships and big rigs, the Port of Oakland is relatively free of cars, making it a pretty ideal place for bicycling–on weekends at least. Also, it’s huge, it’s flat, and some visionary put a couple of nice little public parks in there. So Jesse and I decided to explore the port on bikes last Saturday.

Also convenient is a bike rental place in Jack London Square, literally right next to the port.

The port is so vast, we biked a mile or two just to get to the entrance.

Given the purpose of our trip, it was funny to see this “walk your bike”  sign on the approach to the port. The upside, I thought to myself, was that bikes must be welcome if there are signs about walking them. And really, the sign was just telling us not to ride our bikes on the street or sidewalk under the freeway underpass to the port. There was no traffic on the street (one lost driver looking for the nearest gas station) and just one jogger on the sidewalk, so we just stayed on our bikes and Jesse took this photo as a record of our little infraction.

Everything else we did was pretty legal. Here’s a sign at the main entry. One wouldn’t guess from this sign that it points to some of the most scenic views in the area. But it does, and now you are in on secret so well kept that I was unaware of it for 40 years, despite biking from one end of Oakland to the other for half of that period. (Please don’t tell anyone else.)

Another half-mile of road leads to a bike path that ends at the parks and the bay. No cars, no bikes, no people except for the occasional jogger or walker, with park benches for the weary visitor. In the distance looms downtown San Francisco.

                                                         The path ends at the Chappell R. Hayes Memorial Observation Tower, named after the West Oakland community leader who waged a successful campaign to relocate the freeway which collapsed in the 1989 earthquake and which had divided West Oakland in two.

Jesse took the shot above from the top of the two-story tower with her cell phone camera. Here’s Jesse standing in front of a more expansive view from a different point.

The park abuts the port’s cranes, much larger than you’d guess if you weren’t standing next to one. And to prove the point, I’m standing next to this one and invite you to play Where’s Willdo with this shot. (It may help to enlarge the picture by double-clicking.)

From there we headed on to more settled parts, passing by a crew boat with many paddlers and a ramp that would have taken me straight into the water if I had decided to end it all there. I can think of worse ways to go.

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Circumnavigating Alameda by bike with Jesse, August 2011

Alameda is a little island in the Bay just off the shores of Oakland. (It is said the the snow cone and the kewpie doll were first introduced there. Currently nothing so exciting as that happens on Alameda.) One beautiful Saturday Jesse and I decided to bike the circumference–maybe 10 miles total. The views of San Francisco and the Peninsula across the bay were striking enough to get us off our bikes several times.

Thanks to the passer-by who was too polite to decline the request to take a shot of both of us.


At the far eastern end of the island is an abandoned Naval Air Station. We went in search of old shipwrecks and old navy dreck, and while there were vast expanses of concrete–including abandoned airstrips–most of the buildings seemed occupied.


The most impressive repurposed building was the Bladium, a very large (2 acres!) indoor athletic-type club for kids with blades and well-off parents. There was also a basketball court, indoor soccer “field,” and (our cousins the Stayner kids, take notice) a vast climbing wall.

We also passed by the Alameda Naval Air Museum, with a highly irresistible anchor in front.

From there the original plan would have taken us along the east side of the island, the side that abuts Oakland.

But instead we went back the way we came–the scenic route–and met Martha for lunch at the Alameda location of Burma Superstar, where the food was transcendent–or was it just the appetites we had built up?

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