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March 26-April 8, 2017
Written April 3+ +
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

OK, we're back home and, after the big trip to Florida and Cuba, settling into normal-in-Fresno life. Coming back, we had a month with nothing planned, but things happen, even here.  Most of these things are not of particular interest, except to us, so this is just a diary-of-normal-life, something we can look at over the years, but perhaps nothing remarkable for you folks "out there".  Fair warning.

After two weeks away, it seemed our first order of business was to check how Marianne's 97-year-old mother was doing.  Short answer: fine.  The fact that "fine" is the answer at her age is remarkable all by itself.

d170326_02_boys.jpgd170326_04_chris.jpgOn our first Saturday back (26th), Marianne's brother Chris and his family surprised us with a visit.  One of Leisa's family (niece? nephew? cousin?  I don't remember) had a local birthday celebration so they made the drive over from Monterey and worked in two family visits.  Very efficient.  It was nice to see them all, even if it was just a short visit.  Thanks.
After that, we had Mamo over for dinner and a private showing of our recent trip.  She asked great questions and it was fun for us to have an excited audience. Even if her vision is not the greatest, her enthusiasm makes up for it and questions don't require keen vision anyway.

I have a sorta-big trip planned for early May: Brian's birthday and Rich's concert on the 8th.  To maximize the Colorado travel, I have also scheduled a photo tour in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).  I have splurged and booked a professional tour from Yellow Wood Guiding.  Jared Gricoskie, the guide/owner, seems a  very professional sort and he provides several instructional videos for "homework".  That has caused me to try another not-so-wild-life excursion to practice at the local zoo.   Here are my results and my evaluation against Jared's guidelines.

Decent composition, except I chopped off the tail of the third flamingo.  Violated the "requirement" to included all animal parts.  Would have been better.

d170331_04_tortoiseeat.jpgA more-extreme version of cutting  off body parts, but at least I captured "action" (munching) and nailed the focus on the tortoise's eye.
d170331_06_bearwalk.jpgIn this case, I also cut off bear parts, but only because at a zoo the animal was only a few feet away.  If this geometry happens in Colorado, I'd have a different problem. d170331_10_lionfull.jpgd170331_12_lionface.jpg
Two lion shots, one full animal and the other not.  I like the face shot.

d170331_14_cheetah.jpgFull frame for the cheetah.  No need to allow space in front, since she was looking over her shoulder.  This is also why shooting in zoos is efficient.  In real life this shot might take weeks!

d170331_16_composed.jpgThe rhino is correctly composed: no parts cut off, room in front for the animal to "move into", and a focussed eye.  Of course these animals move pretty slowly compared to what I might see in RMNP.
At the bird show, the best subject was this silent owl.   Lots of pattern, good eyes, interesting character.  Of course, being in a staged bird show makes it easier than it might be in the wilds of Colorado.

d170331_24_soar.jpgAn almost-good shot.  The audience is properly fuzzy, but unfortunately the bird is not sharp enough. 
Simple, posing, parrot.  Eyes sharp, no parts cut off.  Good enough for my practice.  Now, if I can just get stationary (but interesting?) birds in the Rockies.

d170401_02_salesign.jpgd170401_04_street.jpgMeanwhile, back on Cambridge Avenue, it was time for the annual Block Sale.  This sale has a 33-year history, but is no longer the everyone-must-sell-something block requirement it apparently used to be.  Still, it was fun enough just stopping by those neighbors who were selling.
d170401_06_granparents.jpgNo, the Middleton's grandkids were  not for sale.  Ellen pointed out that last year at this time they had no grandkids, but now they have four.  Seemed happy with the situation.

Geri and Jim stay true to tradition and always sponsor a veritable department store of junk treasures.  I remember this suitcase from  last year.  Let's see if it re-appears in 208.

d170401_14_special.jpgSusan and Jon always seem to have a few things and this year was no different, except that I ended up a customer despite my initial resolve to BUY NOTHING.  They had enticed me with a bargain-basement poker table and four chairs.  I thought it would be perfect as a play table - you know, for the grandkids. I am a bad poker player, so have never felt the need to lose my money that way.

d170401_20_gameroom.jpgd170401_22_winestorage.jpgThis purchase meant I had to spend the rest of the day emptying out and cleaning our little basement so that the table would fit.  Jon had also offered some wine racks, so these also went into our new "Cave".  Cleaning was a much overdue task, and now we have items identified for next year's Block Sale - and a Weinkeller.

d170402_02_bbq.jpgd170402_04_dinner.jpgOn Sunday, we had the first real barbecue of the season.  The cool weather had left for a few days and we were reminded how nice the weather here can be, at least before the inevitable summer heat.  But that's months away!

This was also the first day of hand-watering for 2017.  We have drip and spray irrigation, but the dry Fresno climate just begs for more water so, once or twice a week we indulge our flowers and plants.  In summer, this extra water is life or death for growing things, but for now it was just an enjoyable way to spend and hour or two - back in Fresno life.

What did the week hold?  Not much, if I go by the photo record, and that is what I often do for these diaries since my memory stinks.  I think Marianne and I did make it to the gym every day, but we do NOT do pictures there.  It's also so regular we also don't really have recoverable memories from the hour or so exercising.  Not diary material. 

Other non-diary?  A dinner or two with Mamo, but this week the only remarkable part of that was a bit of food poisoning Thursday evening for a Red Lobster salad.  Probably not diary material either.  I vaguely remember one or two "cocktail hours" on the Sellands' or Towerys' porches, but those too are so regular that they are not diary-remarkable.

Most weeks, Marianne and I have a few meals out, not for the cooking (hers is ALWAYS better), but for a break or the convenience.  I do remember one dinner this week at The Annex Kitchen, one of our new favorites.  Not San Francisco, but maybe San-Francisco-light. 
The other remarkable meal was a long-standing tradition of cocktails and hors de oeuvres on Friday.  I think we started this practice 15 0r 20 years ago in Kiev, when it was sometimes easier to find simple cheese and  salami than real dinner food. Later, in Bavaria, we took it to new caloric heights.  Nowadays, it is only an occasional splurge, but this week we tried it out down in our new game room.  Good end of the week.

d170408_01_headout.jpgOn Saturday (the 8th) I postponed the gym for a morning walk from our  cheerful neighborhood to our local commercial center called "The Tower District".  It is an easy half-mile stroll and the rains had stopped just in time for locals to bring out and polish scores of their pet projects for the annual Tower Classic Car Show. I enjoyed car pictures at the 2014 Tower show, and also recently in Havana, so I couldn't pass up the picture practice session.

d170408_10_rods.jpgd170408_12_shiney.jpgThe show consists of a bunch of car guys (mostly) showing their prides and joys to other car guys, mostly.  Once a year they are encouraged to park along the streets of the Tower District and show off.  There does not seem to be limits on car types nor are they displayed in an organized fashion, other than the Studebakers were all together.  Must be a minority thing.

d170408_14_flamecart.jpgMy impression was that all these guys know each other.  They are their own audience, beside a few voyeurs like me.  My other impression was that they are mostly ... not young.  Lots of gray hair.  A few used the fancy golf carts to inspect the ranks of colorful cars.Local farm communities were well represented, but since it's not a cheap hobby.  I assume these are farm owners, not field workers.

I was personally drawn to eight or nine specific cars, for reasons I can't explain, probably just memories of my youth, just like all the other old duffers. 
A 1962 Morris Minor 1000.  The owner had just taken delivery of this restoration  and it did indeed look brand new.
A baby-blue 1954 Jaguar XK120. My own first car was also British from this era, albeit a more modest MG-TD.

A 1958 Chevy Impala.  A great example of the huge vehicles some of us grew up on. (My favorite family car was Dad's 1961 Impala -a monster I first drove at age 16.)

This 1948 Lincoln Continental Convertible reminded me of the Havana fleet of old American convertibles.

Even older, and in original paint, was this 1937 Packard Super Eight.  It was big, even compared to the 1950s' Fords and Chevys.
A 1950 Studebaker Champion. Marianne said this was the type of car her father first bought as a recent immigrant.

A 1962 Auston Healy 3000, backfit (I think) with a Ford V-8. I can't imagine how the light machine handles all the power.

d170408_80_austin3000.jpgd170408_82_austinengine.jpgFor sale: "$26,000 or best offer"
A 1965 Buick Skylark SS.  Buick was not a brand normally thought of as offering muscle cars, but this convertible qualified.


The best part of the neighborhood we moved into three years ago is that it came with a community.  On Saturday afternoon, the longest standing community members celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and we were invited to help celebrate, along with their kids and friends from the past five or six or seven decades.  This is extra special for newcomers like us.


Vern, Joan, and neighbor Susan
Son Randell sponsored an oyster fest, for those so inclined.

The younger crowd.

Vern.  Joan and friend.

Neighborhood porch regulars Jean and Kent.
Son Steve and neighbors Jerri and Kent.

Marianne and Jerri


And this finishes our week-plus of normal Fresno life.  Not too exciting, but always some happenings with family, friends, and small town attractions.  (The next diary may be more interesting -- or not.  That's just the way our lives are nowadays.)

John and Marianne


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