Archives for the month of: July, 2015

At an age when I met my first Jewish friends and was beginning to learn a little about their religion, I first read Anne Frank – The Diary of a Young Girl. I was Anne’s age, going through the same kind of emotions, and she educated me about a horrific world so far from my own experience but not so far back in time. Anne died in 1945, the year I was born, only about fourteen years ago in history as I was reading.

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Then the movie, starring Millie Perkins as Anne, was released in 1959, bringing the story to life with its black and white seriousness. For girls my age, besides the historical aspects, it was the story of the changes in our relationships with parents and the world and romance as we dreamed it could be. It was the story of a girl our age who was dealing with an adult world with worries and fears we believed, with the innocence of youth, that we would never have to face.

I don’t know if I read the book again through the years, but I suspect I did. This was one of the books that touched something inside me and stuck with me through the years. By the time Melissa Gilbert appeared as Anne in the 1980 TV movie, my oldest daughter was about the age to understand the story. Another generation of girls to share the story, although I was now relating to the mother, all the parents in the story, as well as Anne. Her criticisms of her mother made me wince as I remembered that period in my life when I thought my own mother was hypercritical of everything I did.

In 1982, we were fortunate enough to travel to Amsterdam. I don’t know if my husband related to it as much, but we walked down the street to the building where the story took place and it all felt very familiar to me. Today, I see pictures of lines of people in front of the house and a glass fronted museum in the building next door. When I went, I only remember going into the building, seeing a few plaques and information pieces, although I guess there were some artifacts as I look back through materials I saved. What I do remember is seeing the stairs behind the bookcase and starting up, suddenly gripped by the enormity of the experience. Inside the famous Annex, my main memory is of the wall of Anne’s room with her photos of movie stars and royalty pasted on the walls, exactly as she left them. Today, they are behind plexiglass, but in 1982 we were confronted with the reality. I don’t remember furniture or anything else but those photos, such a link to that young girl. I treasure the visit, the walking up those stairs into the rooms that seemed so familiar. The solemnity of being there, the enormity of my feelings is with me today, thirty-three years later.

Recently, I recorded a documentary on the National Geographic Channel, Anne Frank’s Holocaust. Amazing how her name draws me in, makes me want to learn more. Taking Anne’s life, the filmmakers superimposed photos of Anne and her family and friends onto photos taken today and took the viewer through the events of the war in Holland. Using the Frank family as the center focus, they were able to show what happened, tracking the residents of the Annex to the end of their lives. I was especially taken with the two women who had been childhood friends of Anne’s describing her personality before the war reached them and telling the incredible story of how they were reunited in the camps shortly before Anne died. My heart broke as they told of the emaciated Anne, stripped of her vibrancy, looking for bread to take to her sister. What fortune to be able to see that these two women survived and were able to finish Anne’s story, no matter how sad the ending. The documentary brought new insight to the plight of the Jews and the horror of the camps, where the extermination of the prisoners continued at an accelerated rate even though the Germans knew the end of the war was in sight.

The impact of this documentary was to make me re-read the diary, to see if it had the same impact on me today. I remembered that a newer version had been released, so I downloaded a copy of this one with 30% more content. The editors of the first edition had asked Otto Frank to edit out some of the more personal details involving Anne’s sexual feelings. I think I read that he had also taken out more of the entries which criticized her mother. Interesting that I was now reading Anne’s diary as a woman quickly approaching 70 with a granddaughter the age of Anne. The third generation of my family to reach Anne’s age – I need to make sure she reads the book.

I also looked for the movie and found a new version originally shown on PBS’ Masterpiece and now on Netflix. I think it was based on the newer version of the diary. I thought it was very good. The story never fails to move me.

Once again, I’m impacted by the importance of this young girl’s writing, her story. One of the things I take with me is the extensive education she received and the quality of her writing. Her understanding of languages, the use of words, and the events of history were beyond her age. Those things are impressive. I related to her love of mythology as it recalled my own obsessions with the stories of the ancient gods and goddesses. The depth of her story lies in her studies of herself and the people she lived with in such close quarters. Always an observer and critic, as shown in the entries before they went into hiding, she grew in maturity over the two years of the diary as she wrote of the changes in her own body and emotions. Her criticisms of her parents, especially of her mother, are familiar themes to teen age girls. I can relate through my own youthful years of eye rolling, followed by the impatience of my own daughters with me, and the current status of my granddaughter and her mother, eye rolling evidently being passed down. I can read the diary entries from Anne’s viewpoint and imagine the mother’s side of the same event without taking sides.

Even though the diaries have been authenticated through the years, there are those who wish to censor Anne’s thoughts, deeming them too sexually explicit. I am horrified to learn that this important book has been removed from libraries today under pressure from parents who must have forgotten what it was like to be young or remember and think they can stop the thoughts and emotions of their own developing children. I am grateful I was able to dwell in Anne’s world in my youth. But, Anne was lucky too, as her parents encouraged her to read even when their annex-mates criticized the mature works she chose. I guess there will always be those who wish to impose their own views on us but it doesn’t make it right.

Anne Frank was all of us, all the young teens wishing for acceptance and love, yearning to be independent, yet clinging to our parents in times of stress. She was all of us, struggling through the stages of adolescence with its emotional ups and downs, its frustrations and joys. She was all of us, adoring celebrities and comparing our daily lives with the glamor of theirs, emulating the styles of the day, trying to come to terms with the body, personality and life we have been given.

Anne Frank will always be important for putting a human face on the atrocious war experiences that we would like to forget. The details of life in hiding and life in Holland in general are dramatic in the people’s acceptance of what day to day reality was and bring the difficulty of their lives into experiences we can visualize. Because she is so human and so relatable, she makes it impossible for us to turn our heads and think that such things never happened or will never happen again. Anne Frank is my constant reminder that people are capable of doing terrible things to one another. Anne Frank also is a reminder that even in the worst of times, there is hope.

Less than a month before their capture, Anne wrote,”in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” She inspires us to examine ourselves and be as good as she believed we are.

 

We are so spoiled.

That’s what I thought as I drove to pick up a case of bottled water because my grandsons were coming to help me in the yard on these upper 90 degree days. The water was less than $4 for a case of 40 bottles and I’ll recycle the bottles, but I almost stopped. Acknowledging to myself how lucky we are to have water, clean water, in a world where some peoples have little or no water and our own western states are suffering from a drought, I drifted off in thoughts.IMG_7624

My mind flashed back, way back, to my own youth. What did we do back then in the heat of the summer without bottled water? We’d never heard of hydration. We knew we needed water, but there was no big push for us to drink it. If you were thirsty, you stuck your head under the faucet or drank out of the hose.

I kept thinking about the drinking issue. What did we drink in the summer? I remember Grapette, the best grape soda ever, which is still sold at Walmart even though it’s too full of sugar for me to drink more than a couple of times a year. We had lemonade, which was also full of sugar because we used those little cans of frozen concentrate. And the ever present Kool-Aid, again with the sugar. Ice cubes were made in trays, so you didn’t have very many. I mean, how many trays could you fit in those small refrigerator freezers? Sometimes, we got a Pepsi or Coke.  Sometimes.

I played golf as a kid and carried my own clubs around the course in the heat. There were drinking fountains, but that was it. There were no carts to bring us drinks because there were no carts. Not even Fred Flintstone carts – because this is beginning to sound like the dark ages rather than the 1950s and 60s.

We had those metal cups in kind of metallic colors that are retro cool now. Those were for outside on our new patio. They made the drinks cold, but they sweated too much for inside tables. I had a flash of the little terry cloth covers that someone came up with to solve the sweating problem. There are too many things like that hidden in the files of my mind.

Jack the Milk Man gave us ice chips from his truck and nobody worried if the ice was dirty or not. If it was, we brushed it off before we put it in our mouths. Not that our hands were clean from playing outside.

When I went through South Dakota several years ago, I visited the famed Wall Drug, an American story if there ever was one. When Ted and Dorothy Hustead purchased Wall Drug in 1931, they thought they had found a place to use his pharmacy degree and build their own business. They plugged along until 1936 when Dorothy had the great idea of putting out signs offering free ice water for the weary travelers on the nearby highway. Now it’s a legend with Wall Drug signs across the country. Such was the appeal of a glass of iced water. I keep this magnet on my refrigerator to remind me of how an idea can take off – and the value of a cold drink on a hot day.  IMG_7625And so my mind wanders on a hot summer day, the perfect time to let your memories drift back to those simple times of sitting in the shade with a cold drink…or just picking up the hose. How refreshing are those pictures from the past…

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay area is rich with adventures, so each day of my recent trip was spent exploring something new, including revisiting San Francisco to see the things missed on previous trips. We passed the incredibly ornate City Hall (those city fathers wanted to make a statement) and buildings with the old state seal.  DSC_0393

DSC_0300There were the obvious places, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, which was so crowded with tourists (not that we weren’t) that we skipped stopping there.DSC_0328We did join the crowd at Lombard Street, only because I hadn’t seen it and felt I must.  Driving the crazy curves in the line of cars and standing for the obvious pictures was actually pretty charming, only because it is what is is. DSC_0322We drove through the business district with the imposing iconic TransAmerica building…DSC_0351And this delightful lady reaching between tall buildings…DSC_0387Streetcars are as delightful as ever…DSC_0329And we visited the waterfront, enjoying the sailboats and fishermen…DSC_0339DSC_0342Leaving the city, we passed this delightful mural…DSC_0536before reaching the Golden Gate Bridge, which never fails to delight…DSC_0540On this day, we headed towards Sausalito, changed our minds and I suggested the beach, which looked pretty close on the map. Of course, I forgot that this is the coast and that short road was crooked and narrow and the trip to Stinson Beach took way too long for what we were planning. But we got there and dipped our feet in the ocean and enjoyed the views and people watching…

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DSC_0544…before heading back along the same long, curvy road…IMG_7353On other days, we headed into Berkeley, driving through the campus of UC Berkeley, intrigued with its ties to the incredible Phoebe Hearst and her son, William Randolph Hearst, along with buildings of every architectural style.  A hodgepodge of buildings strung through the hills.DSC_0230

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DSC_0412with the classic Clock Tower at the center…DSC_0242Looking for a late lunch, we found the Gourmet Ghetto district…DSC_0251opting for Oscar’s, a classic burger place, over the fancier trendy restaurants nearby. The selling point was that Oscar’s had been there since 1950 and was destined to close in a few weeks to be replaced by yet another salad restaurant. We wanted to experience the history not the health. IMG_7250That day, we drive north to the towns of Benicia and Martinez, the location of the historic home of one of our national heroes, John Muir. Entering Martinez, we were struck with the irony of the oil refineries in the home of the man who protected our wilderness areas. DSC_0260We found his home on a major thoroughfare, back by an interstate highway. You have to wince, but the site at least has preserved enough to let you envision the way it used to be. Looking at old photos of the rich orchards that covered the hills, you look out at the modern mess of franchises, motels, and fast food that have replaced the fruit and trees. But, if you look the other way, it’s the way it was, somewhat. You get the idea. This is the home where Muir took over his father-in-law’s orchards very successfully and began his writings that so enlightened the world. I had read much about him, but had forgotten how painful it was for him to write since his words are so lovely. DSC_0262

DSC_0264I should have realized when I saw the mess of his office with papers strewn around the floor as he did. It was nice to pay tribute to this genius of a man.DSC_0267On another day, we drove to Palo Alto to see the Stanford campus, probably the most beautiful campus I’ve seen. In contrast to the variety of building styles at Berkeley, from classic to contemporary, Stanford has consistency (like my own Oklahoma State University), which gives it much beauty.  This 8,000+ acre campus is casual and elegant and impressive as we entered through an avenue of magnolias and beautiful homes, followed by streets lined with oaks and shops and restaurants and then through the campus gate and an avenue of palms leading to the heart of the campus. DSC_0592

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DSC_0614The Stanford Memorial Church has a simple name that belies its grandeur. Having toured many cathedrals and historic churches, I have to admit that this lovely sanctuary reached me with its beautiful warm details. The incredible mosaic murals on the outside stand over the central quad of the university. IMG_7373

DSC_0611and the interior somehow comforts the worshipper.IMG_7375Across the campus, there are architectural details and fountains that delight. Students walked through them casually in their shorts and tanks. A group played in the elegant fountains, a perfect example of the atmosphere. I reminded myself that these are the brightest of the bright, playing and not studying at the moment.DSC_0644

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IMG_7402 - Version 2On our final morning in the Oakland area, we visited a beautiful botanic garden, the plants displayed by the region of California in which they grew.

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DSC_0722Around another curvy road (that’s all they have – I’m sure of it), we delighted in an old fashioned carousel with its colorful, fanciful animals and lovely paintings of California history.  Built in 1911, one of the last original merry go rounds in the country, it has been in this location since 1948, hidden away in the California hills.DSC_0735

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DSC_0726And so ends my tour of the areas around Oakland, an area of history, natural beauty, and absolute delights wherever you go on your adventures. Put it on your bucket list again and again because there is always something new to see.

On a Saturday in June, we traveled through the valleys of Sonoma and Napa with little intention of tasting the wines.  I’m sure that’s heresy, especially for someone like me who works with vintners and wines, but it wasn’t that kind of day.  We drove from Oakland, crossing the bridge that takes you by San Quentin prison, where the fog was rolling over the hills.DSC_0414We saw the missions bells along the way, one of my favorite things to spot in California. They mark the trail of Spanish missions in the state.DSC_0418We turned at the Sonoma Raceway to head up towards the Sonoma Valley and our first destination…

DSC_0417Passing the beginnings of the farmlands and vineyards, where a flag flew from a tree in the glory of the day.DSC_0421Our actual destination was Glen Ellen, home of Jack London, and we cruised through the small town which had changed since my friend had last been there and had met London’s daughter in a small bookstore. Neither remains. We headed to the park, touring the museum and then heading down the trail to Wolf House, the incredible 15,000 square foot dream house that London and his wife, Charmian, built. It burned to the ground days before they moved in.  I can only imagine their complete devastation at seeing the charred ruins.DSC_0424The trail was lovely, although it got hot quickly that day.  Thank goodness for the drinking fountains and benches along the way.  It’s not that far in, but can be a trek in the heat. DSC_0429The signs along the way tell you that you’re in a wilderness area. There were also signs to watch for a mountain lion that had been spotted in the area.DSC_0467DSC_0470Wolf House was spectacular, even in ruins.  No wonder it burned to the ground before help could arrive.  It’s deep in the woods, surrounded by trees.  But, you can envision their dream. Here’s the entrance.DSC_0440And a couple of other views.  Looking down into the house, you see the place it would have been, a house to entertain and enjoy. DSC_0444DSC_0448As an English major, I hate to admit that I didn’t know that much about London.  I’d read a little back in high school, but he wasn’t one that I explored.  After seeing the place and hearing his story, I ended up reading “The Call of the Wild” on the plane going home.  I get him now.  And his wife, Charmian.  Quite a story.  I walked up to their cottage, where he wrote and experimented with pigs and crops, becoming quite the farmer on his land. DSC_0474DSC_0479There were vineyards and cactus without stickers (not very technical) he grew to see if they could feed the cattle.DSC_0475DSC_0483Leaving the ranch, we spotted a fruit stand.  I love fruit stands, an homage to my mother who never passed one without stopping. We filled the car with the smells of the last of the cherry crop and apricots and sampled the juicy fruits as we drove.IMG_7316

IMG_7317Up Sonoma we headed, watching for Francis Ford Coppola’s winery, which I had visited several years ago and thought my movie loving friend might enjoy.  After passing it several times (no sign on the highway and my maps weren’t giving us time to exit), we found it in all it’s glory.  I’d been here about 8 years ago and the place looked like it had doubled in size, including adding a resort pool for families, which is unique since it’s not a resort.  It was packed, so I guess people stop for a swim.  It was lovely, just interesting since it’s in the middle of just about nowhere.  DSC_0485Lunch was great, overlooking the vineyards.  IMG_7329They had added more movie props along with the Oscars and other awards.  This is the desk from “The Godfather” – so they say.  There was also a Tucker automobile from the movie, “Tucker.”DSC_0489It was late afternoon when we left and the wineries were closing for the weekend.  We traveled through the Alexander Valley to cross over to the Napa Valley.  Some of the best wineries are in this area, marked with signs going every direction. A gorgeous drive along curvy roads through the hills, lovely on a Saturday afternoon.DSC_0493We headed south through the Napa Valley, passing through Napa as the Wine Auction was taking place, one of the top fundraisers in the country and probably the most profitable charity wine auction. Since I’ve worked with wine auctions over the last ten years, it was fun to even breathe the air of this giant event. DSC_0495Other than wine with late lunch, we didn’t sample the wines, but it was a delightful trip through the valleys that have changed this country’s wine industry. It’s always lovely. We circled back to our base in Oakland, ready to find another adventure the next day.

 

The National Park Service may be my favorite government agency because I know if I see that name attached to a location, it’s not going to disappoint me. I’m going to see something beautiful and interesting, even if it’s not what I thought it would be, which has happened several times. I was looking for new places to go in the Oakland, California area and saw Point Reyes National Seashore on the map. When I enlarged it, I was fascinated. It didn’t look like anywhere else I’d been and it had that National Parks seal of approval, so we planned a visit, a day trip from where we were staying. Of course, I always have to remind myself when on the coast that places on the map that look close together take a lot longer to drive due to narrow, very winding roads, up and down the coastal areas. We drove by this place on a curve and turned back. From the road, I thought the figures were Eskimos, but they were kind of buddhas, much more likely in northern California.  Interesting to guess why they were there…IMG_7231
IMG_7232We stopped in Point Reyes Station for a quick walk up and down the street, peeking into shops and a wonderful market, gallery, gift shop. DSC_0060 IMG_7245Besides the old buildings, including the western bar above, there were interesting signs in odd places…the oyster farm wasn’t saved, by the way, but the signs remain around the area…IMG_7247 IMG_7234 IMG_7233We wound our way to the park, which is not at all what you expect from a seashore.  It looks more like the Scottish Highlands, with cattle ranches all around.  I didn’t take pictures of the veal pens, but know that I’m not sure I can ever eat it again.  Enough said…we passed ranch after ranch with all kinds of cattle to greet us on the way.DSC_0144DSC_0142DSC_0129DSC_0062I have no idea how long we drove through these farmlands, seemed like an hour, but there was finally a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.DSC_0139When we arrived at our stop, there was the shock of getting out of the car to a fierce wind which caused us to layer up to stop the cold.  An information sign informed us that this is the windiest place on the west coast of the United States, not hard to believe that day. We watched the birds in the sky trying to fly against the wind, looking like they were hovering instead of flying. Later, I caught a shot of this guy trying to stay on a post.  DSC_0138We headed down to the famous lighthouse at the end, which was very fortunately closed, giving us an excuse to skip the 300 steps down (and back up). With the wind and the cold, we were having all the fun we could.DSC_0103 DSC_0105The sun came out briefly and then the clouds rolled back, leaving us to spot a ship in the cloudy distance.  A ghost ship on the horizon.DSC_0117The rock formations were fascinating and the wind shaped trees provided some shelter on the walk up and back.DSC_0120DSC_0094I caught the Rattlesnake Grass blowing in the wind.  As it dries out, the plant shakes and rattles like its namesake reptile.  DSC_0099The views of the seashore that stretched below us were the closest we got to the beach.  Our host said she had picnicked there in December in shorts – such is the northern U. S. coast.  You never know, so you take lots of layers, even in June.  Needless to say, we skipped the other beaches, although we caught a glimpse of Drake’s Beach.DSC_0092Our carefully made sandwiches with a dessert of gingersnaps from Trader Joe’s and apple slices were eaten in the warmth of the car, a casual picnic before we started back home. Back through the miles of ranches and fields and cows and flowers.  Back along the curvy roads, past the turnoff to Muir Woods, back through the Cypress forests, back to Oakland.  Another wonderfully interesting national wilderness that surprised us with its ruggedness and beauty.