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March to April - Various

March 23-April 8, 2016
Written March 31+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Writing for us.  What do we want to record?  Hard to say, especially when we really are doing just "normal stuff".  However, from past years, I recognize that "normal" can be what we want to later recall and hence, what we need to note in the first place.  So, here goes normal, as we move from March into April, from Winter into Spring.

Easter is the quintessential celebration of the return of Spring.  Marianne and her mom started Sunday properly with Easter Mass.  Marianne struggles with the roll of formal religion in her life, but making Mamo happy is good in all cases.  I joined them later for breakfast.  I suppose I should struggle more with formal religion, but have not felt compelled to.  I wonder how this will change as we age and approach "the end". 

d160327_02_m_roses.jpgd160327_04_m_book.jpgThe big event of the day was a BBQ at Katinka and Ruben's.  We started with an Easter gift for Mamo at her house.  Marianne had chosen a book of children's letters to Pope Francis and his responses.  Of course the book gift came with a promise to read it too.  Probably the better part of a thoughtful gift.

The BBQ party itself made maximum use of Fresno Spring weather.  This really is the best time of the year, weather wise, as the days are warm, not hot, and everything cools off over night. Henry and his family filled the back yard with kids' noise, another good part of BBQs.  The back yard  borders an active railroad track, so there are competing noises, but it is interesting how the rumble just disappears.  If only they would turn down the horn.

Ruben's deep fried chicken had been great, as usual, and we had eaten too much, as appropriate for a Spring festival.  On Monday, Marianne and I needed to spend extra time at our gyms.  We have been at this routine for nine months now and it is absolutely part of "normal" for us.  The hope is that this will make us both feel better now and avoid problems of aging weight and weakness later on.  So far, so good.

d160328_02_chief.jpgThe other health risk locally has to do with crime, not calories.  We live in a "Bohemian" part of Fresno, meaning an area where rents for houses, galleries, and workshops are reasonable.  But it is also home to darker sorts and less than artistic activities.  On Monday evening, we joined a hundred or so of our neighbors to hear what the local Assemblymen and the Fresno police chief had to say about a recent increase in local crime.  I have to say, I was neither encouraged nor too discouraged.  Crime in our Tower District rose in 2015 and early 2016, but increased policing is bringing it back down.  The crime fighters have tough jobs,  but I wonder if the  bad guys are just too numerous.  We'll see, I suppose.

d160329_02_artist.jpgOur other "regular" activity for the week has been preparations for Marianne's art show.  She has been pointing toward the April 21 Thursday, but learned this week that the work will actually be hung this weekend!  We had to rush a bit for the publicity photos, and of course Marianne wanted to do just one or two more pieces, but I think new pieces, big and small, are in good shape.

d160402_02_babsstand.jpg Speaking of Saturday, April 2nd was the day for the Cambridge Avenue Block Sale.  This has been a rite of Spring in our neighborhood for years, although our closest neighbors seem to have tired of the process a bit, as have we.  We did not offer anything, but Katinka sold her famous salsa from our front yard, so we seemed to be joining in.   By the way, she sold out her cooler full of salsa jars again this year.  Congratulations.

d160402_04_neighborjunk.jpgd160402_06_maries.jpgOtherwise, a few neighbors put out their junk (their words, not mine, but I would not argue) and, reportedly, sold much of it.  If the price is low enough, everything goes.  Our own purchases were limited to a memento or two from an estate sale on our block.  Neighbor Marie had passed away recently, and we wanted something as a reminder of someone whom we had met way too late in our lives.  My purchase was an antique (?) bowl from somewhere in Marie's family travels, maybe Africa, maybe Mexico.  (Picture pending.)

d160402_10_marval.jpgd160402_12_offerings.jpgAnd, speaking of selling, Saturday was also the day to deliver Marianne's art work to Brush and Easel in preparation for her Art Hop show later in the month.  Valerie, friend and gallery owner, took in the offerings with her normal enthusiasm and encouragement and will display them for the whole month of April.

d160402_14_valeries.jpgValerie's own current passion uses a technique called "encaustic", a wax-based process she normally turns into wonderful paintings.  Marianne took a course or two at Brush and Easel in the technique and that experience morphed into her current colorful squares of plaster-formed surfaces. I looked around Valerie's workshop and saw this hen sculpture, showing that Valerie has taken the wax technique way beyond two-dimensional paintings.  I really can not imagine how she gave birth to this chicken!

Our busy Saturday continued with an impromptu Cambridge Commons pot luck in the late afternoon.  Apparently, this was a tradition on the days with the Cambridge Block Sale, but it was almost forgotten this year, before some of the old-timers noticed.  No matter, neighbors can gather quickly and we even brought Marianne's mom, who always enjoys a party, despite her 96 years.  Or, maybe because of it.

On Sunday we had nothing planned and that's what we did, mostly.  Marianne did work on the bug-infested rose garden.  Ugh.  I walked through our neighborhood and was reminded that we are surrounded by a number of great old homes, mixed in with some not-so-great.  Cambridge Avenue may be the friendliest though.

d160405_02_homerose.jpgOn Monday, it was back to the normal work week which, for us retirees, usually means a limited amount of required stops: exercise sessions, doctor sessions, shopping, gardening, and all the other things we really do not need to remember or record.  Maybe one more rose picture, just because we can't seem to pass by our back yard without enjoying the display.

d160405_03_path.jpgTuesday was much more exciting: a trip with Mamo up to Yosemite.  She has lived in Fresno for over 60 years, and has visited the park many, many times, but never stayed over.  We decided to add this experience with a one-night stay at the old Victorian hotel, known for over one hundred years as the Wawona Hotel.  Since the first of March, it has been called the Big Trees Lodge, due to an unfortunate copyright squabble between the former concessionaire and the National Park Service.  Humbug.  I will continue to call it the Wawona.

Our first stop was for lunch.  Our priorities would be meals for this quick tour.  We chose the Tenaya Lodge for convenience mostly. It is just outside the Yosemite Park and has been a go-to place for us before.  The facility is nice and modern and the sunny day had everyone in a good mood, despite the harsh and too-loud background music.  (Why?)  I even consented to having a picture.
From Tenaya, it was a 20-minute drive into the park and around the corner to the Wawona Hotel/Big Trees Lodge.  The hotel was built in 1879 by Henry Washburn and John Bruce and operated by the Washburn family until 1932 when it was transferred to the National Park Service.  The half-dozen white Victorian buildings have greeted valley visitors for almost a century-and-a-half.
We had booked a pair of rooms in "The Annex", the newest of the Wawona buildings at just under 100-years-old.  When built, it was the epitome of modernity with (some) en suite bathrooms, a swimming "tank", and the Sierra's first golf course.  The wide verandas called out for relaxing and socializing, as I imagine they have for a century.  In our grandparently style, we shared cookies with a charming little guest.

Annex in early morning.
For dinner we headed to the main building's dining room.  It is a light and airy room, decorated in the original style, and featuring piano music, as it probably has for decades past.  Much better than the piped in modern noise at Tenaya.
d160405_44_frontal.jpgd160405_46_fountain.jpgWe were up early, but for Mamo it was, unfortunately, due to leg pains - a recent development that has robbed her of sleep.  Marianne consoled her and made plans for a doctor appointment later in the day.
I tried my hand at pre-dawn shots of the hotel and Annex (above).  This may not be the pictures that Ansel Adams made famous in Yosemite, but it was fun.

By breakfast time, Mamo was not going to let leg problems get in the way of another pleasant meal in the dining room.  She had her normal: "pancakes, well done both sides", but Marianne and I experimented with biscuits and gravy.  Definitely not our normal diet, but tasty and we were on vacation after all.

Twenty-four hours after we had left Fresno, we were back into the routines of gyms, shopping, chores, and doctor appointments.  Now, a day after that, it seems like a long-past trip. 

Thursday will have an Art Hop evening, but that will have to wait for another diary.  This one is helter skelter enough already.

After that, we have little or nothing planned.  So far.

John and Marianne


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