Wednesday Postcard: San Francisco’s Chinatown

Hello! This week’s postcard features the Dragon Gate in San Francisco’s Chinatown!

Photo: K. Glaser, Jr.
  • The Dragon Gate was completed in 1970
  • China donated 120 ceramic tiles depicting parts of Chinese history
  • Located on Grant Avenue and Bush Street, the arch marks the south entrance to San Francisco’s Chinatown

After our lovely lunch at Wayfare Tavern, my family and I took a stroll around nearby Chinatown.

Portsmouth Square Park with a view of the Transamerica Pyramid
“This marks the site of the first public school in California” (1848)
welcome to Portsmouth Square Park
Rack of San Francisco postcards at souvenir shop in Chinatown
one of many souvenir shops in Chinatown
Red lanterns and statue wearing face mask
spotted on Grant Avenue and Clay Street
a view of the Bay Bridge from the cable car tracks on Grant Avenue and California Street
across the street from this French bistro, you can see…
…the Dragon Gate!

Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to travel freely again, of course!)

And if you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, take care!

Woman taking photograph of statue with her phone
Thanks to my dear husband for this “behind the scenes” snapshot 🙂

Wednesday Postcard: The Exploratorium in San Francisco

©️1983 The Exploratorium

Hello! This week’s postcard features “Words and Colors” from the Illusions and Other Surprises Postcard Exhibit at The Exploratorium, San Francisco’s Museum of Science, Art, and Human Perception.

Instructions:

“Read this card aloud — but rather than reading the words, say the color of ink that was used to write each word. It’s not easy; the written words have a surprisingly strong influence over the actual color. The Exploratorium’s Language exhibits let you explore some of the patterns of meaning you make with words, sounds, and symbols.”

San Francisco (2017)

I enjoy visiting museums and I’m glad to see many of them gradually reopening after being closed since the pandemic began.

From 1969 to 2012, the Exploratorium was located at the Palace of Fine Arts. In April 2013, it opened its doors at its new location: Fisherman’s Wharf at Piers 15 and 17.

The Exploratorium is a popular school field trip destination, too! I went as an elementary school student, and in recent years, my daughters have gone there with their classes. I was even a chaperone for one of their field trips to the interactive museum.

There are hundreds of educational, entertaining, and hands-on exhibits at the Exploratorium. My favorites include:

  • Sip of Conflict (video)

Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to do so, of course!)

And if you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay well!

Wednesday Postcard: Alaska

Photo: M. Hage

Hello! This week’s carte postale arrived in my mailbox yesterday (April 6, 2021). It’s a promotional postcard from TravelAlaska.com (if you live in the United States, maybe you got one, too?)

It’s the third sign in recent weeks that appears to be telling me: visit Alaska!

The first sign was a couple of weeks ago when I was flipping through channels and a program caught my attention. It was a documentary about the subsistence lifestyle of Native Alaskans living near Kotzebue.

Currently, I’m enjoying season 14 of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” which happens to be taking place in Alaska, where seven teams compete to see who can sell the most food. They do this against a natural backdrop of beautiful, snow capped mountains!

In addition to making their signature dishes, the teams complete challenges, like deep-sea fishing for giant salmon, panning for gold, and hunting for chaga mushrooms. (It’s down to two teams: Breakfast for Dinner and Tasty Balls. The champion will be named next week in Fairbanks and will win a cash prize.)

I’ve always wondered how certain destinations become THE top travel spot. A few years ago, it was all about Portugal. Then it seemed everyone was going to Iceland. Suddenly, Thailand was the place to be!

Is there someone in the travel industry who decides this stuff? If so, how do they choose? Do they spin the globe and point to a spot? Throw a dart on a world map?

Because if it were based on the number of visitors alone, then France would take the top spot every year. It’s the most visited country on the planet! According to the World Economic Forum, nearly 90 million people visited France in 2018. (I was one of them!)

But if we keep seeing Alaska on our screens and in our mailboxes, maybe we’ll be tempted to head to “The Last Frontier” when the pandemic is over and it’ll become a top travel spot!

Have you been to Alaska? What are your travel plans post-pandemic? Tell me in the comments below!

Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to do so, of course!)

And if you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay well!

Hate is a Virus. Mind Your Microaggressions

Hate is a virus

To say the worldwide health crisis is taking its toll on our collective mental health is a gross understatement!

But the added stress doesn’t give anyone the right to take out their anger and frustration on others.

Stop Asian Hate

It has taken me a long time to speak out and condemn the recent increase in violence, racially-motivated attacks, and discrimination against Asian Americans because, frankly, it hurts. As an American of Filipino descent, it hits too close to home.

The crimes are not only racist, they are ageist and misogynistic.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, there has been a surge in hate crimes against Asian people, many of whom are elderly, as well.

And, although it hasn’t officially been called a hate crime, the mass shootings at three spas/massage parlors on March 16, 2021 in Atlanta — where six of the eight people killed were Asian women — brought widespread attention to the increase in violent attacks against the Asian community.

It doesn’t help when you hear defense attorneys for suspected attackers claim that their clients have mental illness or did not know the race of their victim(s) or did not intend to kill! All of these statements only serve to minimize and undermine the severity of the crimes. We need to call it what it is: Asian hate.

Like many people, I was shocked to see the disturbing images on TV and social media, but I’m not surprised. There’s a long history of bigotry against Asians in the United States.

In my post where I share the results of my DNA test, I talk about the word “Oriental” that was used to describe people of Asian descent.

from my birth certificate issued in San Francisco (1973)

Although the word basically refers to something “from the East” (relative to Europe), it historically had pejorative, offensive, and derogatory connotations when used to describe people.

The term was replaced with “Asian American” in 2016 (yes, only five years ago!) when a bill was signed to eliminate the term “Oriental” from federal law.

Microaggressions

Many acts of hate and discrimination are often violent and physical, but not always. Most of the time, acts of hate and discrimination aren’t obvious or dramatic. In fact, these daily occurrences rarely make the nightly news.

The term, microaggression was coined in 1970 by Harvard professor, Chester M. Pierce, MD. Subtle and often unintentional, microaggressions communicate negative bias against marginalized groups.

For example, mispronouncing or misspelling someone’s name is a microaggression. It may not seem like a big deal, but doing so sends the message that you don’t respect the person enough to learn the correct pronunciation or spelling.

Growing up, my maiden name was butchered so often that I grew accustomed to knowing they meant me whenever they called out, “Darleeeene,” extending the vowel as a way to stall while figuring out how to say my maiden name. Before they could mangle its pronunciation, I’d let them off the hook by saying my own name to save us both the embarrassment. I’ve also endured getting teased for having a name that “sounds like a disease.”

Simply put, microaggressions are low-key acts of exclusion. They make you feel like you don’t belong.

my kindergarten picture

The first time I felt like I didn’t belong was in elementary school when I was placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) class separate from my friends. It was only after my college-educated and English-speaking parents told the school administrators that English was the primary language spoken at home that I was put back in the non-ESL class. At the time, I was happy just to be back with my friends! I can only guess why the school put me in ESL class.

Sometimes microaggressions make you feel special, but not in a good way. Instead, you feel like “other.”

While I was browsing eyeglass display stands for a new pair of frames, an optometrist suggested I try on a particular pair because it had a wider bridge. He said it was “Asian fit” then blurted out, “Oh, we don’t say that anymore.” (Was that comment supposed to be… an apology?!) The incident made me switch to wearing contact lenses.

How I wish I had been quicker to react and asked a simple question like, “What makes you say that?”

How I wish I could tell you that these things really didn’t happen. But I’d be lying because I experienced them all. I still do sometimes. I’ve also witnessed similar (and worse) things happen to other people.

So, whether you’ve been on the receiving end or you’ve unintentionally committed a microaggression, the good news is that we can heal, we can learn, and we can change!

Hate comes from fear of the unknown. We can overcome ignorance with education. There are hundreds of books and articles on how to be anti-racist.

A couple of resources I turn to again and again are tools compiled by UC Santa Cruz:

Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send

Interrupting Microaggressions

I encourage you to read these resources and share them with everyone you know. Let’s have the difficult conversations!

I’ll be doing the same as I always strive to keep learning.

Together we can stop the hate. ❤️

Wednesday Postcard: U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC

This week’s postcard features the inner dome and canopy over the Rotunda in the United States Capitol in Washington, DC.

Photo by Architect of the Capitol

View from the Capitol Reflecting Pool (March 2008)

Dome Restoration Project (September 2015)

The Dome Restoration Project began in 2013 and was completed in November 2016, at a cost of $59.5 million.

View of the Canadian Embassy & U.S. Capitol from Newseum terrace (May 2017)

When I went to DC in 1998, I went to the White House Visitor Center, waited in line, and picked up a timed tour pass for the White House the following day! After 9/11, however, tours had to be arranged through a member of Congress.

In September 2015, my mom and I took a trip to Washington, DC. I recall writing to my congressperson weeks in advance to request tour passes for both the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour the “People’s House” as it was fully booked for the days my mom and I would be in DC. The good news was that we got a tour reservation for the Capitol!

Capitol Tour reservation confirmation

The bad news was that the weather proved to be too draining; we were exhausted before we even got to the Capitol! While we knew it would be warm, we didn’t think that it would be hot and humid with 90° temperatures!

We decided to skip the 45-minute walking tour. Instead, we went to the visitor center and the gift shop (where I got the postcard above)!

We were thankful for the Capitol’s air-conditioned cafeteria, where we sought refuge from the swelter, as well as a quick lunch.

I read the heat advisory while sitting in the cool cafeteria!

U.S. Capitol attack

On January 6, 2021, supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed and vandalized the U.S. Capitol to protest the 2020 election results. The protest turned into a riot that killed five people, including a police officer.

Inauguration Site

Two weeks later, on January 20, 2021, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was held on the west facing side of the U.S. Capitol.

With the exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth inauguration (which was held at the White House in 1945), the inauguration ceremonies were held on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol until 1977.

For more information, visit National Park Service – United States Capitol.

Over the years, I have accumulated about two hundred postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from my local antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to do so, of course!)

And if you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there – I’d love to hear from you.

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay well!

Wednesday Postcard: NYE 2021 in San Francisco

a mural along Highway 101

After being indoors for most of 2020, I just had to get out and go somewhere beyond the mailbox or the grocery store! I also wanted to do something special to ring in the new year since fireworks were cancelled. So, to feed two birds with one scone, my family and I decided to go to San Francisco!

Normally, we’d take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) or the ferry into The City because finding parking there can be challenging. But this time, we decided to go by car to limit exposure.

Since we hadn’t crossed the Bay Bridge in almost a year, we were surprised to learn that there were no toll collectors. You either use FasTrak (the Bay Area’s electronic-toll taking system) or they snap a pic of your vehicle’s license plate and send you a bill.

How efficient! There was no usual backup on the approach to the Bay Bridge either. Not sure if it was due to it being New Year’s Eve or because of no-stopping at the toll booth! Either way, it was much appreciated. I figure we saved at least 10 minutes of driving.

Here are some of the places we visited (or drove by while I took pictures from the passenger side):

Haight-Ashbury District

In the summer of 1967 (“Summer of Love”), thousands of young people gathered in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. Because they believed in peace, love, psychedelic drugs, nature, communal living, and rock ‘n roll, they were called “hippies” or “flower children” (scornfully or affectionately, depending on whom you asked!) 🌼

For 43 years, the district was also home to the Haight-Ashbury T-Shirts store. Sadly, it suffered financially due to the pandemic and had to close on December 31, 2020.

On the last day, everything was 50% off: vintage-looking (reproduced) shirts with popular ’60s bands on them, minor league baseball shirts, and tie-dye shirts. Some postcards were even complimentary. Right on! ☮️

Which brings me to… This week’s postcard featuring (you guessed it): the Haight-Ashbury District in San Francisco!

Images: A. McKinney/K. Glaser, Jr.

On the left are images from one of the annual Haight-Ashbury Street Fairs. On the right is a sidewalk memorial for Jerry Garcia (1942-1995) of the American rock band, Grateful Dead. In the late ’60s, members of the band lived on 710 Ashbury Street.

“We will get by. We will survive.” – from Touch of Grey by Grateful Dead 🎶

Now that’s the right attitude going into the new year!

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

Quelle heure est-il ? It’s always 4:20 here 🙂

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

Piedmont Boutique

Piedmont Boutique is not only a costume shop, it’s an institution. After nine years in the Castro, they moved to Haight-Ashbury in 1981. You can’t miss it: the fabulous gams that dangle provocatively from the window above the shop is an attraction in itself:

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

Just an idea: if they painted the soles red, they’d look just like Louboutins!

Cliff House

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

In 1864, Mark Twain was quoted as saying, “If one tires of the drudgeries and scenes of the city, and would breathe the fresh air of the sea, let him take the cars and omnibuses, or, better still, a buggy and pleasant steed, and, ere, the sea breeze sets in, glide out to the Cliff House…”

In 1879, two years after his presidential term ended, Ulysses S. Grant visited Cliff House and reportedly used a telephone there for the first time.

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

The structure shown here is not the original Cliff House restaurant from 1863. It was destroyed by fire, rebuilt, destroyed again, and rebuilt again in the same location. This Cliff House was built in 2003.

Unfortunately, the owners of Cliff House and the National Park Service weren’t able to reach a contract agreement before the end of 2020. As a result, the landmark restaurant had to close its doors.

On December 31, 2020, the public was invited to watch the removal of the letters spelling out “Cliff House.” By the time we drove by, though, all we could see was the sign’s frame.

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church is the largest German church in California. It was dedicated in 1895 and cost $56,000 to build.

The name on the cornerstone, St. Markus Kirche, reflects the congregation’s German heritage.

San Francisco – December 31, 2020

We’re still under stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic, so we headed home well ahead of curfew.

Enjoy this 8-second video of the drive back to the East Bay from San Francisco:

My related posts about San Francisco

If you enjoyed this San Francisco postcard, check out my postcards from Alcatraz or City Lights Booksellers & Publishers or The Presidio.

Did you know that dozens of music videos were filmed in San Francisco? I was in one, too (check it out, just don’t blink!)

My “only-in-San Francisco” favorites include the annual Bay to Breakers foot race; the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District; a new rooftop park by Salesforce; a laundromat-café; Grace Cathedral’s solidarity concert after the Notre-Dame fire; and the Blue House that inspired a French song!

Over the years, I have accumulated over two hundred postcards from around the world, which I’ve either purchased from antique shops or received from thoughtful jet-setting family and friends who know I collect them. When I travel, I also like to send myself a carte postale just for fun!

I hope these postcards will make you want to revisit a favorite vacation spot or to embark on a journey to the destination of your dreams (when it’s safe to do so, of course!)

If you’ve been to the destination featured, tell me about your experience there!

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, take care! ✌🏽+❤️

Thanksgiving Thoughts

my green bean casserole

Thank You!

In this season of gratitude, I want to thank you for reading my blog. From California to Canada, France, Germany, India, the Philippines, United Kingdom, Venezuela and everywhere in between, I’m sending you warm wishes for strength, peace, and good health.

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States. While some people are off from school or work for the entire week, many of us have only Thursday and (maybe) Friday off. But I’m not complaining, I’m thankful… and hopeful, too.

After eight months of back and forth lockdown and re-openings, I like to think that recent news of promising vaccines for COVID-19 is slowly restoring hope.

I generally have a positive outlook, but some days are harder than others to be chipper. Who hasn’t felt this way from time to time? I strongly believe that one of the best ways to cope is to maintain holiday traditions while accepting things as they are.

While my family’s in-person Thanksgiving gathering will be smaller this year, I’m looking forward to having the traditional spread: turkey, green bean casserole, salad, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Comfort food indeed.

As a Francophile, you know I’ll want to add a French-inspired touch, so I’m also going to make a couple loaves of pain d’epi! Of course, I use the word “make” loosely here. It’s more of a “preparation” of ready-made ingredients. 😊

If you’d like to make the French baguette that resembles a stalk of wheat, take a look at the step-by-step instructions in my post, Easy-Peasy Pain d’Epi.

Here are other dishes I’m considering for the Thanksgiving menu:

Quiche Vosgienne

My interpretation of Quiche Vosgienne: a Pancetta & Swiss/Gruyère cheese French tart in a gluten-free crust!

Apple-Cranberry Flaugnarde with Crème Fraîche

It’s like a Clafoutis, but instead of traditional cherries, I used apples and cranberries (to give it a touch of autumn, my favorite season)!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday Postcard: National Zoo in Washington, DC

Mei Xiang and Tai Shan (photo: J. Cohen)

This week’s carte postale comes from Washington, DC. I bought this postcard during my visit to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in 2008.

Giant pandas are a vulnerable species. Since 1972, scientists at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have studied their behavior, health, and reproduction.

In 2000, a pair of giant pandas from China, Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) were brought to the National Zoo in Washington as ambassadors of conservation.

In July 2005, their cub, Tai Shan (tie-SHON) was the first surviving giant panda cub to be born at the National Zoo. Since 2010, he has been living at the Wolong Nature Reserve in China.

Tai Shan has a new sibling: Mei Xiang and Tian Tian welcomed their fourth surviving cub in August 2020!

For more information:

Smithsonian’s National Zoo 

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay healthy and safe!

Wednesday Postcard: San Juan Bautista, California

Photo by R. Lowman

Bonjour! This week’s carte postale features Mission San Juan Bautista, located about 92 miles/ 148 km south of San Francisco, California.

  • Founded in June 24, 1797, Mission San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist) is the 15th of 21 California Missions along El Camino Real
  • The mission has three naves, making San Juan Bautista the largest of all the California Missions
  • Alfred Hitchcock filmed crucial scenes of his 1958 movie, Vertigo, at Mission San Juan Bautista and its surrounding areas (The film was based on the 1954 French novel, D’entre les morts by Boileau & Narcejac)

For more information:

Gilroy Dispatch (2007)

Old Mission San Juan Bautista

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay safe!

Wednesday Postcard: Presidio of San Francisco, California

Photo: A. Taggart-Barone

Bonjour! This week’s carte postale features the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands as a backdrop to the Main Post in the heart of the Presidio of San Francisco.

The Presidio is where San Francisco began.

  • The indigenous Ohlone/Costanoan people lived in this area for thousands of years
  • In 1776, Spain established a military fort on this land
  • In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain and controlled the post and established a new pueblo nearby called Yerba Buena (later known as San Francisco)
  • In 1846, the Presidio became a U.S. Army post
  • In 1994, the Presidio became a national park site

For more information:

Main Post at the Presidio

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay safe. A bientôt!

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in reading about my experience volunteering at the Presidio.

Wednesday Postcard: Calistoga, California

Photo: V. Nelson

Bonjour! This week’s carte postale features the Castello di Amorosa, a winery built in the style of a 13th century Tuscan castle. It’s located in the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, California, which is about 77 miles/ 124 km north of San Francisco.

On September 28, 2020, the Castello di Amorosa farmhouse (pictured above to the right of the castle) sustained significant fire damage during the Glass Fire.

The farmhouse contained 120,000 bottles of wine (retail value: approximately $5 million). It will take 2-3 years to rebuild, according to owner and fourth-generation winemaker, Dario Sattui. The castle itself was not harmed. 

I bought this postcard during my family’s visit to the Napa Valley castle winery in 2015.

Terrace – Castello di Amorosa (2015)

Italian-made Ratchet press – Castello di Amorosa (2015)

Replica of a Roman bathtub – Castello di Amorosa (2015)

About Castello di Amorosa (Castle of Love)

  • The castle winery spans 121,000 square feet (three acres) with 107 rooms, four underground levels, and four above-ground levels
  • The construction took 15 years and opened to the public on April 7, 2007
  • It includes a moat, drawbridge, five towers, high defensive ramparts, courtyards and loggias, a chapel, stables, an armory, and even a torture chamber

Until the next Wednesday Postcard, stay safe. A bientôt!

Thank you to all the brave firefighters for battling the California wildfires.

Donut Petit in Alameda, California

I learned about Donut Petit a few years ago when I spotted their float in Alameda’s 4th of July Parade in 2017 (see above). This weekend, I finally got the chance to visit the cute little bakery.

A little word about petit

Recalling the handy acronym BAGS (beauty, age, goodness, size) that I learned in my French classes, I know the word petit (meaning small or little) should go before the noun.

So while I’m tempted to call the charming little donut shop Le Petit Donut, I just tell myself, “Do not (be) petty!” (Donut Petit!)

Just a guess, but perhaps the name is supposed to sound like “bon appétit”…?

The pale blue paint, gold accents, and wicker bistro chairs give the shop an elegant, French-inspired appearance, as well as an inviting atmosphere. However, due to physical distancing protocols, there’s currently no dine-in, only take-out.

Behind the glass, I could tell they had creative flavors, such as lavender, lilikoi (passionfruit), and Mauisadas (Hawaiian sugar donuts filled with pineapple).

They looked appetizing, but I wasn’t in an adventurous mood. Instead, I ordered pastries that looked familiar: a brownie croissant, a chocolate twist, and a pair of French crullers – one glazed and the other with chocolate icing sprinkled with rainbow nonpareils. As a lagniappe, they gave me a blueberry cake donut.

I’d never seen a brownie inside a croissant before. It tasted OK, but it felt a bit strange to bite into a baked good inside another baked good. Sadly, the glazed French cruller was disappointing. I was expecting it to be light and airy, not greasy and dense.

Maybe next time, I’ll get out of my comfort zone and give their matcha or guava donuts a try! 🍩

Do you like donuts? I love maple bars. 🍁 Tell me your favorite flavor in the comments below!

Orange Haze Over the San Francisco Bay Area

What’s new in the Golden State?

In California, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is nearing 750,000.

During this past 3-day Labor Day weekend (September 5-7, 2020), temperatures fluctuated between 97-103 °F (36-39 °C) in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live.

On Sunday morning, we had a relatively small (yet still scary to me) 3.4 magnitude earthquake.

At the same time, wildfires burned throughout the state. Sadly, hundreds of firefighters are still trying to contain them.

Today is Wednesday, September 9, 2020 and look at the sky:

Skies over San Francisco: Sept. 9, 2020 at 9:45 am (PDT)

I took this picture with my phone (no filter) at 9:45 am (PDT) today, which also happens to be the 170th anniversary of California’s statehood.

The orange glow is said to be a result of wildfire smoke that’s trapped in the atmosphere, which explains why there is no smoky smell.

Apocalyptic. Beautiful. Confusing. Dramatic. Eerie.

These are some of the words I’m hearing to describe today’s skies. It’s a bit disorienting, too. Is it dawn or dusk, a sunrise or a sunset? But since it’s not changing, it’s like the sky is on pause.

What does the sky look like where you are?

Flashback Friday: Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017

The 4th of July Parade in Alameda, California (10 miles/16 km east of San Francisco) is one of the largest Independence Day parades in the United States, with over 170 floats and 2,500 participants.

A little over 3 miles/5 km long, the parade route is also the longest route in the United States, drawing over 60,000 spectators from around the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any floats, horses, marching bands, dancers, or vintage cars this year. The 4th of July Parade for 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic.

In honor of the holiday, I’d like to share 4 of my favorites from the 2017 parade:

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017 – I love the beignets at Café Jolie!

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017 – honoring all the brave people serving in the Armed Forces

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017

Alameda’s 4th of July Parade 2017 – a mini BART train!

What do we celebrate on the 4th of July?

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2, 1776, but it wasn’t approved by the Second Continental Congress until July 4, 1776. We celebrate the day that the thirteen colonies gained independence from Great Britain.

The famous passage says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Since there won’t be parades, carnivals, large family reunions, and fireworks this year, it’ll be a good opportunity to reflect and think about those words.

An unalienable (or inalienable) right is something that can’t be given away or denied, like freedom.

But recent events have shown that we’re not quite living up to the Founding Fathers’ ideals.

Ask any person of color, woman, or member of the LGBTQIA community in America!

It just goes to show that even on its 244th birthday, the United States is still a relatively young nation and we’ve still got lots of work to do!

Happy Independence Day! 🇺🇸

Bay to Breakers: San Francisco’s Famous Foot Race is Going Virtual

The 109th Bay to Breakers 12K foot race through the streets of San Francisco will now be a virtual race taking place from Sunday, September 20, 2020 to Friday, October 2, 2020!

Instead of the traditional “live” route through San Francisco — from downtown SF (“Bay”) all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where the waves break and touch the shore (“Breakers”) — participants will get to choose their own route. Each day, there will also be a costume theme.

They call it virtual, but it won’t be filmed. Instead, participants will have the option to run around their neighborhoods or on their treadmills at home. It’s not quite the same, but Bay to Breakers organizers are determined to keep its spirit alive!

So far, I have done Bay to Breakers three times – in 2011, 2014, and 2018. I’m a long-distance walker, not a runner, so I go for the fun of it.

Bay to Breakers 2011

Doing Bay to Breakers is like being in a parade. It’s festive! It’s like a traveling fashion show. It’s a great opportunity to re-use an old Halloween costume. One year, I felt especially creative and made Frozen-inspired costumes. My friend was Queen Elsa and I was Princess Anna!

Bay to Breakers 2014

bacon-wrapped hot dogs

I spy a French bakery – do you see it?

Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

Bay to Breakers is an all-ages affair, but if you want to bring the baby, you’ll need to wear the child in a backpack-type of carrier. A few years ago, they banned alcohol and anything on wheels, like floats.

But part of the fun is trying to see what you can get away with, right? So, you’ll see the course dotted with the occasional baby stroller. Also, some people carry alcoholic beverages in plain-looking water bottles. Security officers are not likely to stop or cite rule breakers if they are discreet.

The event is also educational, let’s just say! You learn about plants (cannabis), anatomy (nudity), and games (adult toys and paraphernalia)…and so much more!

But no one judges and no one cares because it’s all for fun. Sure there’s serious prize money involved, but those winnings go to the top two finishers who usually reach the finish line around the 30-minute mark. Incredible! It takes me 30 minutes just to locate the starting line for the walkers’ corral!

Bay to Breakers 2018

“athletic” is used loosely here

Traditional tortilla toss at the starting line

The Murphy Windmill, one of two windmills in Golden Gate Park

Every registered participant who reaches the finish line gets a finisher’s medal and all the free snacks you can eat courtesy of event sponsors.

By no means did I win any costume contests nor break any speed records (my personal best remains at 2:15:50 at my first Bay to Breakers in 2011.)

Bay to Breakers 2011

But walking through San Francisco —literally from downtown SF all the way to Ocean Beach — provides a feeling of satisfaction like no other. It’s kind of addictive. Maybe that’s why people sign up year after year!

Question is: Will people sign up this year for the virtual race? I’m concerned about everyone’s safety. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, with recent spikes in new cases in many places (California, sadly, being one of them.) We are still required to practice physical distancing.

It’ll be interesting to see how the virtual race will go. According to the Bay to Breakers website, “You can run wherever. The beauty of a virtual race is you can create your own course – we recommend something that’ll shock the neighbors.”

Like what? Participants wearing face masks and not much else, perhaps? I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s Bay to Breakers – that’s the spirit!

Stay healthy and safe, everyone! 😷