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As a Pre-Thanksgiving offer Travels With Chalize will be available on Kindle for free downloads starting Sat. Nov. 21 and ending Tues. Nov. 24. It is available now and will continue to be available for KDP Select downloads. Don’t miss this opportunity.TWC-front cover

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Charlize doesn’t know we’re home. For over a month at six-thirty or so each morning she pressed her cold nose on my cheek and uttered a soft whine to get me up. I let her out and then get on with whatever the day has in store. We wandered for over a month, asking questions without answers but gradually discovering that decisions can be made unilaterally after almost fifty-three years of collaborating with Rosalie. Of course I discuss everything with Charlize but she has yet to voice a comprehensible opinion, except for exuberant enthusiasm for walks and playing ball.

I went through thirty-nine days of accumulated mail, paid the overdue bills I couldn’t identify on-line and restocked the refrigerator. Now what? During my travels I rekindled some old friendships, now I have to work at keeping them viable and active that will require both time and effort.

Frog needs some repair and renovation to improve her ability to travel rough roads. I was disappointed with how she responded to the rough spots we hit along the way. They are just minor things. She needs improved access to the storage space under the bed, clasps on cupboard doors and drawers to prevent them from coming open when I hit a bump in the road, a method of keeping the table from sliding and banging around loose and into the corner of the cupboard and the refrigerator. I should be able to get her in good shape for our next adventure planned for May.

I also have my writing projects. A novel, PSILOCYBE DREAMS, that I just finished editing for, I hope, the last time. Now I have to start submitting it to agents and publishers.

I am starting a new project that I am very excited about: Samuel Ha-Nagid was born near the end of the 10th Century. He was a Rabbi who wrote poetry of love and God and wine and war in both Hebrew and Arabic. Some of his poetry survives today. He became the Caliph of Cordoba’s right hand, his Viser, his Chief-of-Staff, the General of his armies. He was never defeated on the field of battle. They were a team, a Muslim ruler and a Jew in a time of enlightenment, education, literacy and tolerance that lasted over three hundred years. What happened? There’s a story to be told and a trip to Cordoba, Spain for research.

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Charlize and I spent two days in the San Luis Valley trying to visit the places I identified while doing research for my historical novel MAN HUNT. The book is a fictionalized account of the intersecting lives of Tom Tobin, a frontiersman and the Espinosas, a family of New Mexicans. After the Mexican-American war the entire village in which they lived lost their communal property and became destitute. The Espinosas responded by turning to robbery, murder and a bloody vendetta against the Gringos.

Many of the places mentioned in the book were identified and described in historical accounts and records made during the lives of these real people. Several years ago my wife and I visited Taos and passed through some of the places I talked about in the book, but at that time I had no idea I would be writing about those venues in the future.

The reconstructed Fort Garland sits on the original site of that fort and some portions of the original buildings remain, along with historical records of what the fort actually looked like when it was an active army post. It was as I pictured it from my reading and study of existing drawings. The museum at the fort provides insight into the lives of the soldiers who were posted in that wilderness outpost. Charlize and I drove from Fort Garland south to Taos. Along the way I tried to identify the location of Tobin’s Trinchera ranch, but other than the general area where it was I could not identify a specific site. We passed through the town of Cochilla near where Tobin had a farm and kept his family. Nobody I asked knew where that farm had been located.

The museums at the homes of Governor Bent and Kit Carson were as I remembered them from our previous visit. I drove several back roads around Arroyo Hondo and even stopped to ask some local folks if they could direct me to the site of Turley’s mill, a prominent landmark of the book. I couldn’t find it and those I asked couldn’t or wouldn’t help. Maybe they just didn’t want another nosey tourist poking around in their neighborhood.

The next day we continued our hunt to identify some of the sites where the Espinosas did their deadly deeds, without much luck. Time and the new positioning of roads and highways have changed the landscape. Late in the afternoon we gave up that activity and made a side trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. It was interesting and informative. The natural forces of water flow, wind, the location in front of a mountain range with the necessary configuration to direct the prevailing winds and the geological rift effect all combine to create and maintain a reasonably large area of pure sand dunes. The size and shape of these dunes are in a state of constant change. The largest dune is over seven hundred feet above the floor of the valley. Charlize considered the place nothing more than a huge sandbox for her to frolic in.IMG_0099

The following day we drove over La Veta Pass and again I was unable to locate the landmarks described in my research on the nefarious activities of the Espinosas. This was explained on the eastern side of the pass when we saw a sign identifying the old La Veta Pass road. It took a different direction than the paved highway we were on and probably different than the wagon trail in use when Tobin was active in the area.

The changes of landscape, experience and life style of the people who live in the various environments we pass through seem to be a recurring theme of this odyssey. It seems I to focus on the changes during my lifetime piled onto the historical changes I have read about. Perhaps this is not so unfortunate. I find thinking about places and the events that occurred in those places in the past more comfortable. I don’t have to deal with things as they are now. As many have said to me and I have repeated too many times to count; growing old ain’t for sissies.

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Charlize and I are back in San Diego, Carlsbad, CA actually. Frog’s refrigerator was no longer functioning. For reasons unknown when I changed LP gas tanks the refrigerator still ran on the battery or direct electrical hook up, but not on gas. So I took her to a guy who repairs appliances on RVs. We’re fortunate to be in a place with many, many RV parks and experienced people to keep them going. Turns out it was just a loose wire to the igniter, which is what I thought the problem was but, of course I had no idea where the igniter was or how to get to it. Now all systems are functional again.

Yesterday, Sunday morning, my son and I took Bentley and Charlize to the Delmar Dog Beach at Delmar, CA, just south of Carlsbad. Charlize surprised me by going into the water without problems. She and Bentley had a great time with all the other dogs. Everyone was, for the most part, well behaved, particularly the dogs.

 

Charlize and her buddy, Bentley, outside looking in, so forlorn

Charlize and her buddy, Bentley, outside looking in, so forlorn

Bentley and Charlize retrieving in the surf.
Bentley and Charlize retrieving in the surf.

 

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On the way over from San Diego to Phoenix I remembered my first time trip to San Diego. I was ten years old, the summer of 1946. The Second World War was over and my Uncle Sol, my Dad’s younger brother, was being mustered out of the Navy. The trip was made in our 1940 Chevy, before the multi-fabric, multi-color upholstery. The Chevy had new tires, but no air conditioning in fact I don’t remember a heater in that car, at least not one that functioned. To beat the summer heat we started after dark and Dad drove all night, no freeways or interstate highways to travel at seventy-five miles an hour. I don’t think Dad ever put that car over fifty. No radio either, not that there would have been a radio station to connect to anywhere in that desert, well, maybe in Yuma.

My brother and sister and I slept in the back seat, but I can remember waking up and listening in on the soft conversation taking place between Mom and Dad. Talking to keep awake, about mundane, every day subjects and their hopes and dreams, mostly concerning us kids. The road frequently dipped down then up through many gullies and washes, no bridges. I was concerned because there were stories about whole families being washed away in their car by a flash flood that originated in the mountains sending a wall of water gushing through those desert washes.

Old Blue, Charlize and I will make that trip to San Diego again soon, during daylight, on the interstate, at seventy-five, the radio tuned to a station playing Jazz, air conditioning if we need it. It will be different, better? Maybe. What’s the rush?

Here is Charlize in my brother’s back yard, and practicing her sit-stay, unhappily, in front of some cholla cactus, both near Cave Creek, AZ.

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We arrived in Phoenix but left Frog in San Diego. I will to return to San Diego after my sojourn in Phoenix to visit with my brother, his family and some old friends who are still living here as well as some snowbird friends. After averaging between ten and a half and eleven and a half miles per gallon pulling Frog Old Blue averaged sixteen and a half mpg while traveling seventy-five miles an hour on the freeways between San Diego and Phoenix. With gasoline costing four dollars and twenty cents, or more, per gallon in San Diego I calculated that I saved at least fifty-two dollars on the trip here, anticipate an equal amount on my return. I was also able to drive seventy-five mph instead of the fifty-five mph limit pulling Frog.

My brother and his wife are owned by a Chihuahua mix. She is short on stature and gigantic on attitude like many of her ilk. She is also possessive. When we walked in their front door that little dog let Charlize know whose house it was and that trespassers would be tolerated, at best. Her name is Madeline and Charlize avoids her as much as possible. Whenever Madeline has the opportunity she attacks, nipping at Charlize’s hind legs, going for the Achilles tendon. Charlize cowers and runs away but I’m afraid that at some point, probably when none of us are witnesses, she will turn on Madeline and do serious harm, but thus far she has not made a move to defend herself.

My brother Joe and his wife Carol have a two-plus acre lot filled with well-kept desert vegetation. The landscaping is unique, neat and starkly pretty if you grew up here in the desert and liked it. I did and I do. Charlize ran into a cactus while retrieving for my two grandnieces. She now understands to avoid those denizens of the desert, the cacti, not the nieces.

At four in the morning, my first night here, Naomi, almost four years old, got out of her bed and came into the room where her Daddy had been sleeping prior to my and Charlize’ arrival. Daddy, my nephew Andy, was asleep on a blow-up mattress in the same room with the girls. Little Naomi walked over the mattress with her Dad, came into the room where Charlize and I were behind a closed door, got into the bed where I was asleep on my right side. She was at my back so she crawled over me to get to my front and announced she wanted to snuggle. Charlize, ever watchful for intruders, had helped Naomi up onto the bed, nuzzling her behind. I guess I didn’t feel or snuggle the same as Daddy so Naomi started to fidget.

“I’m your Uncle Dave,” I explained. “Do you want your Daddy to snuggle with you?”

Yes,” she answered.

“He is in your room sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Do you want to go join him?”

“Yes,” she said, and did, apparently nonplussed by the situation.

Andy and the girls live in Germany. The girls are both completely bi-lingual. Andy speaks to them in English and they speak to him in English. Their mother, a native German, speaks to them in German and they speak to her in kind. If in a situation where everyone is speaking German Andy also speaks German. Their mother does the same in English when she is in an English-speaking situation, such as visiting here. Andy tells me that when he first spoke German to them, or their mother spoke English they were confused and a little upset that the parent was not communicating with them properly, but they soon adjusted and no matter which language is being used in the conversation they answer in kind. Oh, to be so fascicle with language.

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I would never have anticipated it. Charlize is probably the friendliest, most calm dog around strangers I have ever been responsible for. When we arrived at my son’s home in San Diego she met their Golden Retriever, Bentley, for the first time. I’ve known Bentley since they got him as a puppy. He’s a lovable lug, typical of the breed, a vacuum cleaner when it comes to food, with a happy go-lucky, what-me-worry, outlook on life. He outweighs Charlize by at least twenty pounds, maybe more.

When we first arrived the two of them dashed madly around the house, narrowly avoiding breakage. We turned them loose in the immaculately planned and executed backyard that mimics a Mediterranean villa garden. They rushed about, banging into each other, tearing up the lawn with their toenails and having a grand time.

After a short while Charlize noticed one of Bentley’s toys, grabbed it, ran off to the corner of the yard and lay down with the toy between her front legs. Bentley stood stock still, not understanding, making no effort to retrieve his toy.

After awhile we all went indoors, including the dogs. Now Charlize had access to a cornucopia of toys and took advantage of the opportunity. She gathered several of Bentley’s chew toys and deposited them on a spot, carefully chosen, on the floor. Bentley went over to retrieve one of them and she rushed over, growling, and chased him away. After she deposited all the toys she could find on her spot she again lay down with the toys between her front legs and dared him to try and take any of them. He didn’t respond to the tease, just stood, cocking his head from side-to-side, trying his best to understand.

Then it was time to feed the dogs. To avoid any confrontations Bentley was given his food in his regular place inside while I fed Charlize outside on the patio. As I said Bentley scarfs up his food like a vacuum cleaner. Charlize is lady-like. She eats slowly, actually chews each mouthful and frequently does a little walkabout then returns for another mouthful or two. She rarely eats everything in her dish, leaving a few kibbles. Her mother must have taught her that proper manners dictated leaving a little food on your plate. As usual she left some food in her dish and asked to come inside so I let Bentley out to cleanup the leftovers. He got within two feet of her dish, his intent obvious, and Charlize rushed in, shouldered him aside with a low growl and swiftly dispatched the remaining kibbles. My mild mannered companion harbors a mean streak.

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