Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
This is another simple diary, simple because we want a record of time, even when not much is happening. The story will cover a couple of outside gatherings in our backyards and some photo education and practice for me. (Including the dragonfly shot on the right.) Maybe we will try to squeeze some thing else in before the month ends too, but nothing big is pending.
Our largest (almost) event was a celebration gathering for our Better Blackstone effort. We have been part of a two- or three-year effort to improve the function and aesthetics of Fresno's main north-south street, Blackstone Avenue. Our involvement had been as part of the community outreach and we have enjoyed the opportunity to interact with both area residents and the professional do-gooders who are trying to improve our city. Last month, we succeeded in getting City Council endorsement of the plans, so a celebration was in order.
We volunteered our back yard, not knowing just how many people might show up. Over 200 people have taken part at various times and the Better Blackstone folks invited everyone. Ninety people responded positively, but the leaders said 30 of the 90 were almost certainly "not real". Of the 60-some remaining, they noted that their public gatherings seldom get half of the positive respondents, so we planned for thirty. If nothing else, it was going to be a good opportunity for me to clean up the patio and paths and the bocce court.
In the event, only eight showed up, project staff plus three community folks. Despite the small turnout, it was good to hear from those who were there about the hopes for improvement in central Fresno. Keith, the lead organizer, describe a new effort to get the business property owners organized to consider more imaginative (and profitable) uses of their spaces. We'll see.
Memorial Day weekend started with no pre-planning. That's pretty much our life nowadays, other than a few required personal appointments (doctors, hair dressers, and the like.) My local camera store, Horn Photo, was offering a series of hour-long presentations by specialists of different flavors, so I decided to try a few to fill the time.
My first "course" was one from John, the regional Canon salesman, explaining their latest gear. Now, camera gear can absorb all spare money, and as a "Canon-shooter", a lot of mine can go their way. Fortunately, nothing came up that I absolutely NEEDED, although I did put a few things on my wish list or my when-my-current-gear-breaks list.
I also had the opportunity to chat with the Leica representative and hold some of the German company's offerings. The rep had worked for Leica in Germany and the US for 54 years and it was fun to talk with him about the company and the villages near Marianne's old Giessen school that are the heart of their business. Most of the company's business is in industrial optics, but cameras continue to be developed for the dedicated "Leica-shooters", a special bunch of people who value device quality more than plain old money. I will join them as soon as I win the Lottery and can splurge on a Leica Q2, a $5,000 point-and-shoot.
We ended Friday with dinner at the Sierra Nut House. The wine-and-snacks store serves breakfast and lunch daily, but produces a dinner just once a week. The pre-fixe meal is generally good, if not great, and the in-store atmosphere reminds us of some of our European experiences. Part of a lot we miss from the old country.
On Saturday and Sunday, I returned for more camera education and wish-list making. Jeff, the guy from Tamron lenses, presented an interesting overview of the modern world of camera lens design and manufacture, focusing on his own company's offering of course. He claimed that Tamron designs and/or manufactures 90% of the camera lenses sold today, most of them on things like security cameras and drones. I have three lenses from the company, including my most-expensive, a five-pound, 150-600mm, "bird-lens" that I bought three or four years ago. As happens with these toys, my version has been superseded by a "Generation 2" version that Jeff said I MUST upgrade to. I'm afraid I'd need to do a lot more birding to justify the cost!
Monday, Memorial Day, started early. Sleeping in has become harder and harder, an age-related disorder common among our contemporaries. At least I could get the flag out nice and early and Marianne and I could work out a plan for the day. She wanted to spend time in the art studio, something that is harder to schedule than it should be. For me, my "holiday" consisted of planning a walk instead of a trip to the gym.
Inspired by my Horn Photo lectures, I took my camera along on the walk. The local garden store, Gazebo Gardens, is a nice twenty-minute walk, perfect for a holiday. I shot flowers and things, trying to properly use a flash to "fill in" the harsh shadows. A few more hours and I may begin to understand what I am doing. It's harder than it looks.
Back closer to home, Ampersand Ice Cream and a few other local merchants had organized a street fair. There were a half-dozen kiosks with locally-made crafts and a few food trucks, a Fresno specialty. There was even a "style" truck where an enterprising entrepreneur was trying a dress shop without the expense of brick-and-mortar walls. We appreciate all the color and enthusiasm. Good luck to all.
The big deal for Memorial Day was the Monday pot luck on the Cambridge Commons. Our neighbors maintain a tradition of holiday pot lucks for almost any holiday when there are enough folks still in town. This time we had a dozen-and-a-half, including Marianne's mom, aka Mamo or Magdalena. At ninety-nine, she was the most senior. It all proved a good time for chatting and eating and drinking way too many calories. Back to the gym and diet tomorrow.
I suppose, 17-year-old Roy was really the oldest on the Commons this Memorial Day, at least at the seven-dog-years-per-human-year conversion ratio I've heard. Nice old guy. (Sadly, Roy's ailments got too much and he was put down a couple days after this picture. He will be missed.)
And that's it, as far as I can tell. If May holds anything else worth memorializing, I can always add it in.
John and Marianne
Post-script: OK, there was one more end-of-May event: our first-of-the-year bocce practice session. Four years ago, we opted to install a bocce court in our too-large backyard, mostly so maintenance would be limited. (= no lawn or plants). That has largely worked out, but every Spring I do need to re-apply the oyster-shell surface and try to level out the settling that winter causes. The rains of 2019 delayed much of this, but on May 29 we finally could invite neighbors to our backyard game center.
About a dozen folks showed up and a few even threw the balls up and down the court. None of us are experts, and the maintenance had not produced a truly flat surface, but it was fun. Neighbor Clay beat me in the first match and I'm not sure who won the second, but I think it was Ethan and Eloise. It was a nice opportunity to chit chat.