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Monday, August 27, 2012

Riding Along in my Automobile (My Baby Beside me at the Wheel) Aug. 27, 2012

We took a road trip a week ago and lived to tell. The youngest in our group was NOT happy about being confined to a car seat for hours on end, and the rest of us heard about in the form of shrieks at a very loud volume. There were the typical road trip moments every family experiences: “Are we there yet?” “No. We left only ten minutes ago.” Or have you experienced this one? “Before we get into the car, does anyone have to use the potty? No? Are you sure? Could you try? No? I see.” Ten minutes later: “I have to pee!”
Our destination was San Francisco. I’d forgotten how—even in August—it can be downright cold there! We’d lived in the Bay Area some time back, and it was fun to reconnect with the friends and neighbors we miss. We visited favorite spots, Hubby mountain biked, we gazed at towering pine trees. Some of my favorite moments came by surprise. I love rounding a bend and discovering something unusual. This wedge-shaped building is one I spotted while driving, and charmed by its atypical shape, I pulled over to take its photo. It’s the Flatiron Building in San Rafael, ca 1883. You know I love buildings that do not sport the usual 90-degree angled corners.
While lost in the Oakland hills, I came upon a gorgeous front garden filled with dahlias, a flower I really like. There were hundreds of dahlias, many colors and varieties (including hybrids), staked and labeled. Clearly they were someone’s passion. This photo does not fully illustrate how many were exploding from a tiny parkway strip in front of a cottage, but it gives you an idea.
San Francisco has many residents who don’t have yards and therefore there are quite a few community gardens there. I’d jotted down the addresses of a few in case we had extra time but I was excited to stumbled upon one nestled into the edge of a park. The variety of plants in a community garden is one reason I like them so much. Each gardener has his/her own taste and the result is a diverse mix of plants. The plant below is one I was not familiar with but was captivated by because of its curling petals. I later found it online and now I know that it is an Asian Tiger Lily:  

Next to the garden was an old-school playground. It reminded me of the parks I played at as a child, before playgrounds had plastic structures. This pocked metal slide took me right back to 1979:  
My final photo has a backstory worth sharing. When we lived in Alameda (an island next to Oakland), we walked a lot because the neighborhood was so pretty and one day I discovered a very narrow house. Excited by my find, I told Hubby about it and drove him by the next time we were out. It fascinated me! It was the narrowest house I’d ever seen and I was curious about it. Years later we visited Alameda again and tried to find it. It was harder to find that you’d expect, given how unusual its dimensions were. But it had been painted and a tree had been planted out front so it looked different than I remembered. We found it and I took a few photos of the house, and was surprised to see something above the front door. The glass window above the entrance read “Spite House.” Spite? Hmmmm. That’s not a happy word. I needed to research this house.
After a little research I discovered that spite houses are structures built in order to spite neighbors. There are various stories about the origin of this house, which was built in the early 1900s. Wikipedia tells the story this way: Charles Froling planned to build a house on land he inherited. But the city of Alameda took some of the land to build a street, leaving Froling with a small strip of space. He decided to build a house anyway, apparently to spite the city as well as his unsympathetic neighbor. The house’s dimensions measure ten feet wide by fifty-four feet long. The current owner of the home posted online that it is sometimes hard to deal with people asking her about the house. Many people like the house but some laugh at it and ask her where the other half is. It  never occurred to me that some people would make fun of such a whimsical house, and I can see how that would hurt her feelings. One’s home is an extension of oneself and you don’t make fun of someone’s home. I find it fascinating when a building has dimensions or angles or materials that are different from what we usually see. (More blog posts on this in the future. There’s a ton of inspiration online!)
Soon it was time to head home. More driving. More shrieking from the backseat. Eventually we stumbled out of our car into our driveway. After hours of confinement my joints were not happy with me but I shook out my knees and hips and they eventually decided they could move again. Ahhhh, good to be home. I checked on my backyard plants and planned to go to the community garden the next day to see how it was doing. We survived the road trip. A few tricky moments but mostly a great trip.
Hubby’s already scheming about the next road trip. Dude, we haven’t even unpacked the car yet. Can we recover from this trip before you start engineering the next one?!

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