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Art Hop Birthday Graduation Guests Diary

June 2-15, 2015
Written June 8+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
This is another "miscellaneous" diary, made mostly so we can ourselves be reminded of just how we are spending our time.  We now have almost 17 years of these diaries and, at times, I think they have replaced my brain, at least as far as our own story.  Maybe if I had to weave diary preparation into a full-time working schedule, I would have given up, but for retirement life, it's a good activity.   Besides, as we age the concept of a memory crutch becomes more relevant!

-- Art Hop
d150604_02_hopsign.jpgFresno Art Hop is held the first Thursday of every month (June 4 this month) and we always want to go, but complications often get in the way.  d150604_10_oldfresno.jpgThis time, we made a special effort because there are preparations happening for Marianne to have her own show at one of the open gallery evenings in the future.  (August?)

We first visited the gallery that had said Marianne could show, but discovered that it really is too small for her paintings.  Sergio, the owner, recommended other venues, noting that everyone needs to fill their spaces every month and there is a competition for new displays. 

d150604_04_photos.jpgFirst, we investigated a nearby church hall.  Their June display showed photos taken by local middle school kids depicting their own environments and the challenges there.  The pictures were good and the stories were encouraging, if these kids are able to see their neighborhoods improve as they hope.  We're hoping too.

d150604_06_myrna.jpgd150604_08_painting.jpgFrom the church, we went over to "M Street Galleries", a very professional collection of a couple dozen studios and workshops.  The art presented at M Street is always a range of style and "quality", but there are always some that resonate with me.  Today, it was Myrna Axt's mixture of painting and photos, many from her recent trip to Paris.  She said that several of her photos were taken with her iPhone, proof that it is the artist, not the equipment, that matters.  Nearby, I was also taken with the photo-realism of a young painter who was showing his oils of his own family photos.  This, too, was very good quality.

Marianne and the gallery manager talked for awhile and there seems to be a possibility for space in the August Art Hop, over three years after her first show, in Offenbach, Germany. Now she needs to get back to work!

Garden Flowers
(Just because I like taking the pictures.)

d150606_10_cake.jpg -- Kingston's Birthday
We had a pair of events on Saturday, starting with a 7th birthday celebration for Kingston, nephew Henry's step-son.  We all met at "John's Incredible Pizza Company", a huge pizza joint and amusement park -- great for seven-year-olds.  The pizza was actually pretty good and I assume the games and amusements were too, since we did not see much of Kingston, his mom, and the younger family friends after the food was eaten and the gifts opened.

-- Ellen's Family Graduation
d150606_20_baloons.jpgThis was not the end of our off-diet eating for Saturday.  Ellen, from a few doors down Cambridge Avenue, held a celebration of her family college graduation.  She was just finishing a multi-year program to get her PhD, one son had just received a Master's degree, as had her other son's wife.  A triple play!

With all the tacos we could eat, and fancy margarita machines, it was another great opportunity to chat with neighbors.


Sunday was a day of rest, mostly.  Marianne painted and I puttered with the garden and pictures, and pictures of the garden flowers (see right).

On Monday we prepared for a fairly busy week, at least what passes for "busy" in retirement:  two sets of guests.

-- Guests from afar (9th & 10th)
We like visitors and friends who travel a long way are especially appreciated. So, we were particularly looking forward to our friends and Pommersfelden neighbors Marion and Harald's stop on their visit to the American West.  As a bonus, they were accompanied by Suzanne, Dagmar, and Marcus, their travel friends from back in The Old Country.

d150609_02_dinner.jpgOn Tuesday, they had left Las Vegas, passed through Death Valley, skirted the southern Sierras, and driven up the San Joaquin Valley to Fresno.  Ten hours of travel warranted a good reception, so we treated them to our favorite guest dinner: barbecue steak and conversation.  It was fun to be back talking the mix of German and English that we had used for years!  (They all favored us by not slipping into Frankish, that local dialect that Marianne and I never could fathom.)

d150609_02_icecream.jpgd150609_06_chat.jpgAfter dinner, we walked over to Ampersand for ice cream - and more conversation.  It was all good.

On Wednesday, we took a drive east to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.  This was not exactly what Harald and team had planned, but they were up for being flexible.  I think the team appreciated an excuse to start the day later than normal.  It seems they were still recovering from Las Vegas days (and nights).

We left Fresno at 10 in the morning looking forward to a day in the mountains, where the temperature should be cooler.  Fresno summer had arrived and we expected at least a few degrees of cooling.  Be careful what you wish for.

d150610_02_grantmap.jpgOur first stop was Grant Grove in King's Canyon NP, not far past the park entrance. Grant Grove is a great introduction to the giant sequoias and our German friends were properly amazed.  It was fun to see their enthusiasm in a place we have visited more than once.  It was a reminder to us of how special the National Parks are.

While Marianne stayed at the parking area, sketching trees,  the rest of us walked the Grove loop.  I think we kept a half-dozen cameras and cell phones very busy, snapping trees, paths, squirrels and each other. 
d150610_27_lunch.jpgFrom Grant's Grove, we headed south along The General's Highway, curving through forests of sequoias, cedars, pines, dog wood and other tree types I don't recognize.  However, by now it was getting time for a mid-day break, so we turned off at the Wuksachi Lodge.  (I noticed that the exit sign said 7335 feet elevation - a mile-and-a-half above our start.  No wonder it was significantly cooler.

Rain started as we walked out of the Lodge.  Darn.  We wanted to make it south to Mora Rock, but rain would make it difficult or impossible.  We discussed stopping our trip, but concluded we should just hang in with the plan and only make a decision at Mora Rock itself.

No sooner did we get back in the van than the skies completely opened up. I don't think anyone believed we'd have any more walking today, but shortly before our goal, we drove out of the rain storm!  Harald parked the car and we all put on rain gear, just in case.  d150610_30_morawarning.jpg

The sky was very dark, but still dry.  With the flashes only a few miles away, we passed the lightning warning sign and headed up.  I'll admit I stayed lower than our guests, since heights are not what I usually volunteer for.  I did go high enough to enjoy the views and manage some pictures.

Moments after we got back to the parking lot, took off our rain coats, and piled back in the van, the black skies opened up again.  This time, a mix of rain and hail fell and ice became so heavy that Harald decided to park a bit.  Good decision.  After a short pause, we followed behind a snow plow and headed out.
The temperature had dropped to 39F (4C), but started going up as soon as we got below about 6500feet elevation.  By the time we got home to Fresno, it was 91F (33C).  It's easy to see why locals run off to the mountains when the heat hits.

At home, we shared coffee with our friends and tried to help them with their Yosemite plans for the next day.  We hope their Fresno stop was worthwhile.  We sure enjoyed it.  Now, when can we visit them at home back in Pommersfelden?  Who knows?

Now we need to get ready for our next guests: Gabby, Ava, and Sam.  But that's another story

John and Marianne


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