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September 1-7, 2016
Written September 6+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

Nothing remarkable again, except normal life for Marianne and me.  No exotic trips.  No trips at all. No grandkid visits.  No visitors at all.  But this may be what we need a record of, since memories will fade and blend very quickly.  Maybe YOU don't need them, but we do.

For the record, Marianne and I have been quite dedicated exercisers for over a year now.  She goes five of six times a week to "Curves", a women-only exercise spa where she asserts that she exercises more than chats.  This apparently is not the norm at Curves, but it is far more effective at developing the strength and conditioning that we now value.

My gym-of-choice is "Fitness Evolution", a growing chain of facilities in a half-dozen states, where there is very little talking and plenty of sweating on cardio and exercise machines.  A month ago, I started getting lessons from Uriah, a young trainer who learned the craft teaching his Army Ranger troupes in much more challenging conditions, I'm sure.  Nice guy, but I do have to remind myself that his goals may be above my 70-year-old abilities.

Speaking of exercise, our old (for California) house continues to provide opportunities for work.  Now that temperatures are below 100F, I have found myself puttering in the yard for hours at a time.  I'm not sure I have a green thumb, but I can hack away overgrown trees and bushes with the best of 'em. 
Inside the house, I am managing to not get involved, such as the recent mini-disaster with the leak between Marianne's tub upstairs and the kitchen ceiling. We called Ben Catron for professional help. He spent a couple of hours bravely cutting into our walls and locating the decades-old leaky gasket that was the root of the problem.  I was happy because: A) I didn't have to be responsible for the work; B) the fix was less involved than it could have been.  Now we have a shiny, new drain, maybe not noteworthy for you, but an improvement for us.

d160831_02_postprogress.jpgIn these quiet times, Marianne gets to spend much more time on her art.  The current project is a "stelle" ("post" to most of us) with birds (from our backyard?).  She also has an acrylic painting or two underway and, I believe, is starting more of her plaster-textured wood panels. Marianne specializes in not specializing, but it's all great!

Speaking of art, we took Marianne's mom to this month's ArtHop, starting at "1821 Gallery and Studio".  The featured artist was Ivana Minafra, a French painter who chose Fresno, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. for her American showings.  All art centers of equal merit, I'm sure.  Despite failing eyesight, Mamo was most impressed with Minafra's work. Maybe her poor vision allowed her to see the theme of the pictures without the distraction of details.  And, of course, any showing that ends with a frozen juice bar has to leave a good impression.
d160901_20_mstreet.jpgd160901_22_discfire.jpgWe also visited the M Street Gallery, where Marianne had shown a year ago.  The venue continues to struggle, with a few full-time artists seemingly making a living, but several empty space as well.  I am impressed by artists who can do more than cover their overhead, but am afraid that's the exception, not the rule.

Speaking of surviving artists, the Fresno Art Hub (gallery and gathering spot) hosted a private reception for Valerie, our friend who has been running the Brush and Easel gallery, Marianne's first introduction to the Fresno art scene.  After decades in Fresno, Valerie is pulling up stakes and moving to Maine, and seems excited even about the prospect of cold and wet weather.  We wished her well and made a silent auction bid on one of her encaustic art pieces as a souvenir.  (We haven't heard if our bid in fact won, however.)  We also promised to visit, once our travel agenda includes New England.
Just outside the Art Hub is a scraggly collection of old cactus and it proved that beauty is just about anywhere.  Lit by harsh sodium street lights, the hardy plants managed to glow.  I can't wait to see the painting Marianne makes of these.

The other activity that has become practical again as evening temperatures drop into the 90s, is neighborhood gatherings.  The normal venue for the 5pm events is on one of the Cambridge Avenue porches, but on the Labor Day weekend, Coach Jeanne invited the crew over to her house for a pot luck barbecue.  The food was good (Marianne's "obstkuechen" was my favorite, but I am prejudiced) and the conversations friendly. It has been a privilege to be welcomed by such a nice bunch of neighbors.

Downtown Fresno is undergoing much-needed change.  After decades of decay and destruction, there is hope that the new high-speed train will provide an infusion of development, once the new construction finishes destroying all the buildings in its path.  On Labor Day evening, we tried our hands at photo captures of the current status, from gravel dunes waiting to support new tracks, to old structures branded with "Xs" but not quite yet knocked down.  The view across the tracks to the baseball stadium and downtown proper is somehow encouraging.
As a sort of footnote, we shot three Fresno landmarks: The Fresno Buddhist Temple; The Crest Theater; The 1884 Water Tower. Now, if we could just connect our few landmarks with pleasant new construction.  We can hope.

John and Marianne


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