Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

surprise party

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Mama O's surprise birthday party was an enormous delight. From all people, she probably least expected me to be there. T truly has a wonderful family. Does he know that? I must keep reminding him of it. D's video was so funny, I cried laughing. In the old days, if you couldnt make the party, you phoned in. Today we skype and we all saw T's on the laptop monitor and were able to chat with her in real time. Gosh, I love this technology! The food at the Maggiano's was very delicious specially the sausage. During the slideshow of old photographs, I looked around the room to catch the family's reaction to memories, but ended up totally absorbed in the images (there was even one with the Hippo in it!). I've always enjoyed seeing old family photos and see how the family changed in the passage of time. Later L shared with us more old family pictures, another peek into the family's past. What a treat! And what a precious treat this trip has been!

See birthday party images

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

lamassu again!

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:51 PM 0 comments Links to this post
S from work asked me if I've had deep dish pizza in Chicago. I said no, I only had the famous Chicago beef. But now that I thought about it, I did have the pan pizza called 'garbage pizza' at Medici's. It was very cold and started to rain so T and I just ran into this restaurant on 57th, only a block from the University of Chicago. The 'garbage pizza' was good, filled with enormous pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and very filling. Medici's was interesting in so far as it provided a student atmosphere, but otherwise, the food wasnt exceptionally good. Interesting paintings on the walls and decor, including a statue of a Medici Pope with his hands cut off, by the entrance, gargoyles in stained-glass windows, graffiti all over the tables, with names and song lyrics. I could imagine the upstairs outdoor patio being very refreshing during the summer. A good student hang out place. I've never paid much attention to the University of Chicago until T sent me photos of the lamassu. I didnt know the Oriental Institute had one. So this morning we took the Metra to the University. The train sped through neighborhoods of 1920's houses with small gardens and fences, resembling Brooklyn, just like in the movies. The campus was beautiful. Old vine covered buildings and tree lined streets made it looked like a very ancient institution that gave you a very east coast feeling. The atmosphere could rival Oxford. As we walked along, T pointed out different historical and new buildings and recounted his days on campus, and I imagined a younger version of T, laden with books, rushing from one hall to the next, pushing his glasses up his nose. When we finally got in to the Oriental Institute museum, I was impatient with the artifacts. I kept looking at the lamassu standing at the end of the gallery. There's only one, and I wondered where its twin ended up. Finally I've asked T if we could just ignore the rest and get to the lamassu first. This guy was enormously tall, the locks in its hair were braided and coiled at the side of its head, its bullsize body was meticulously carved and decorated. Its face was handsome. It's the third lamassu I've seen. This one was from Khorsabad, on the throneroom façade in the palace of the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705 BCE) . The ones I've seen previously in the British Museum and the NY Met all faced forward and were from the palace of Ashurnasirpal at Nimrud, the original ones c 865 BCE. This one in the Oriental Institute was quite handsome. I found out later that its twin was in the Louvre. There were tons of other artifacts to browse but everything else seemed to pale in the lamassu's presence. Gosh, I love this dude! When we waited for the Metra at the train station to return to Palos Hills, the sky was overcast, the air temperature cold, and the worn down rail tracks, shady tree lined streets, ethnic food and people scents, it all reminded me of Croydon in southern London. There was a slight sensation of déjà vu, of a sad nostalgia, even though I've never been here before. Or perhaps I've always been here, in some imaginary lifetime.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicago !

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
All week I've been nervously checking weatherunderground for the forecast, and wondering what kind of clothing I should bring. Anticipating fun, I nearly didnt get any sleep during the nights before the departure. Chicago! A city I knew I would see someday but not high on my list. But when the invitation finally arrived, I knew this would be the year to see T's hometown. The aerial view from the Southwest Boeing 737 showed glimpses of a big sprawled city, very green, underneath suspending snowy white clouds. The landing was rocky and even after touching down, the plane swayed from side to side. A bit of a scary moment. The tradewinds pushed us almost a half hour ahead of schedule and so when I called, T and T had just taken off. So I had a long moment to inhale the initial scents of the city, to feel its pleasant temperature, and to sample the sound and movements of the chicagoans arriving home. The 2-door grey Toyota Echo finally pulled up and T got out and with a bear hug I was officially welcomed to the windy city. Along Lakeshore drive, I set my eyes upon Lake Michigan, my second great lake. Like Superior, it's immense. The day was very fine and very pleasant. The water was blue and calm. Right next to the shore, stood the Buckingham fountain, over 100 years old, designed after the Versailles Bassin de Latone, with 4 sea horses, each representing a state bordering Lake Michigan, while the fountain symbolizes the lake itself. The wind blew sprays drenching us and displaying rainbows. Too bad we couldnt see it after dark where there's a water show with lights and music. The fountain was located in a wide open area in Grant Park, with spectacular unobstructed view of the Chicago famous skyline. The view of the downtown buildings was unimaginably spectacular. The Hippo felt free and happy. Then to the Millennium Park to see the Bean, a 110-ton elliptical sculpture, forged from polished stainless steel, which reflected the city's skyline and the clouds above. Next to the Bean, there's a fountain with videos that show faces of ordinary chicagoans. AFter that we walked down Michigan Ave where historical buildings, like the Wrigley chewing gun, that looked so thin and triangular, stood next to glass and steel structures. Next to the Chicago river, stood the neo-gothic Tribune Tower where the Chicago Tribune and WGN radio (I routinely watch WGN) were located. One of the places that was meaningful to me. The tower was made of limestone with butresses and gargoyles. Stuck on the façade and on the side walls, were rocks from different sites, the Trondheim Cathedral, Clementine Hall, the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, Palace of Westminster, petrified wood from the Redwood National and State Parks, the Great Pyramid, The Alamo, Notre-Dame, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, Independence Hall, Fort Santiago, the Berlin Wall, and a moon rock (T said it's a fake) on loan from NASA, with labels with their location of origin. It was a most amazing and interesting idea, and I suggested to T that he should do the same being a geologist. Then we walked down a flight of stairs, and you realized you were walking on a street that was directly above another street! The Magnificent Mile was truly magnificent, lined with every designer shop you love. I had my first Chicago beef at Al's, a local joint which was busiest and most popular around 2AM! After experiencing the Chicago rush hour, we made it to Palos Hills, a nice green, quiet, tree filled suburb which what looked like a million dollar neigbourhood. T's brother's condo backyard faced the trees and one of the canals, and we sat there in the dusk twilight , drinking red wine, while L's dog Frankie ran around happily wagging his tail, chasing invisible rabbits. A nice way to wind down a long adventurous day in a place that was rapidly becoming one of my favorites.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

day 7 - From Eastern Sierra to home

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:50 PM 0 comments Links to this post
On our way back, we stopped at the Minarets and Devils Postpile by Mammoth Lakes, and had a roadside sandwich lunch in Mammoth. The town was still every bit as picturesque as I've remembered. We made a quick stop at the Yosemite Valley to see El Capitan and Half Dome. It's not as crowded as I've expected. Maybe because I've been there too many times. It just doesnt impressed me as much as before. The Yosemite falls were dry. The Merced was low, but I've never seen the Yosemite falls not 'falling'. In the early evening a clear crescent moon shooting Venus accompanied us all the way home. It was a soothing but melancholic company.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

day 6 - Jupiter !

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
A woke up early with the boys. She sat out on the deck, wrapped in blankets and waited for Jupiter to position itself between the Keeler Needles. Cold and sleepiness were not in vain. A captured a perfect image of Jupiter setting between the Needles and it was posted on spaceweather.com the day after we returned home. Meanwhile the boys drove to Horsehoe Meadow and began their trek. In the morning the Hippo hiked up to the Lone Pine store to purchase a gift for P, the cabin owner. In the afternoon, the girls did their re-boot sessions on the deck. When the boys returned, they told us tales of the magnificent hike and the people they've encountered on the trail, including one guy who could barely see and could not make it up to the summit of Langley. Hippo listened with dreamy eyes.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

day 5 - Tremors, the movie

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The boys were supposed to backpack to Mtn Langley. The girls were supposed to do the same to Cottonwood. And the Hippo who brought 2 books, was supposed to remain behind in the cabin and read and read and read and relax. The boys postponed their trip and the girls decided to scrap the whole thing. So we decided to do an early morning exploration of the Alabama Hills. From the outside, this area looks pretty ugly. Desolate. But when you walk among them, the rock shapes and colors were pretty striking, and resembled the Red Rock Canyon and The Valley of Fire. T kept reminding me Tremors was filmed here. And so were many other movies. We went to search for the Kali Temple in the Gunda Din movie which was filmed here. I didnt know there was an arch rock with one side that didnt even connect to the ground. Through it you can see Whitney and the Sierra crest. In the afternoon we walked up to Barth's #25 cabin, the Star Trek cabin. Once it belonged to George Putnam (engaged to Amelia Earhart). The Star Trek Generations movie used this cabin as Kirk's cabin. That evening T made us his famous Bull's Eye burgers, and the boys BBQ's us the huge out-of-this-world delicious burgers. It was early bed for us because the next morning the boys will do their Langley ascend.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

day 4 - up 2000ft

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Hiked up to Lone Pine Lake at 10,120. I wasnt in shape anymore but found the hike although tiring and trying, not that difficult. At every 20 steps or so up, I turned back to check out the Alabama Hills on the valley. The view was more spectacular the higher we went. Up on the blue lake, it was windy. We scampered around in the rocks and got a bit lost finding each other. The sudden panic of finding yourself all alone in the wild could be quite disheartening. How could I have lost faith? Then dark clouds began to loom on the west and we descended to the cabin. On our way back down the trail, we saw spectacular lenticular clouds on the eastern sky. We raced down the mountain ahead of what looked like stormy clouds. At the Lone Pine store, we ordered burgers as we're practically starving since we didnt have much of a breakfast nor lunch. Back in the cabin later that day, we witnessed a most spectacular cloud formation above Mt Whitney and the Keeler Needles. Because of the storm that blew in from the west, the sun rays refracted on the clouds produced rainbows that sat on the edges of the clouds. It was one of the most spectacular clouds I've ever had the pleasure to see. That evening we all sat in our preferred rocking sofas and simply read our books under our reading lights. It was a sweet silence, never before experienced, of a peaceful uneventful evening. No TV, no radio, no iPod, no internet, no cell phone, no music playing. Just silence, each immerged in the fantastic world of his/her book. Tom read the Far Side.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

day 3 - cabin fever

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The morning was cold and breezy but I had a good night sleep thanks to the oxygen machine. We drove a bit down to Patriarch Grove to see the Bristlecone Pines. My first. Neat but not impressive. Down to town, it was hot. We roamed around in Mountain Light,Galen Rowell's gallery. A & T trying to find a print. Rowel's photographs of Patagonia, the Cuernos and the Torres, FitzRoy and guanacos reminded me of the land I love. We got some Dutch bread at Erick Schat's Bakery, and drove to Lone Pine. There we shopped for dinner material, and headed up Whitney Portal. The Shekelle cabin was rustic, comfortable, and with electricity and hot water, and an old fashion metal hearth. Windows on both sides, getting the morning sun as well as the afternoon heat, with superlative views of Mt Whitney. The Lone Pine campground was huge, and the private cabins were scattered on the hill side so there's enough privacy for each. We sat on the deck with chips and beer, admiring Whitney and the Keeler Needles. A faint traffic noise from the paved road was occasionally heard, otherwise, the silence was only broken by our chatting. That night we had candlelite dinner of cold chicken, salad and roast potatoes. At night it was total pitch dark and absolute silence. So unlike in my condo.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

day 2 - 12,000ft Barcroft station and observatory and ready sick

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The stretch from 120 to 395 going down towards Mono Lake was as spectacular as ever.The granite hills always reminded me of the Columbia Icefield Parkway in Alberta. The sheer granite mountain walls that curved down towards the valley as you drove winding down to them, the weeping walls, the big horn sheep on the road, glaciers racing down on one side and the Rockies on the other, there simply isnt any scenery that is more awestruck. The stretch above Mono Lake is a mini version of the more grandiose cousin in Canada. We had steak and eggs breakfast at Nicely's, just across from Mono Lake. After a brief visit to the visitor's center, we walked down to the lake to admire a tufa or two. Then we continued on 395 for more wonderful views of the eastern sierra, and stopped at Bishop for lunch and a bit of shopping. Nice town with good sporting shops. Then up we went to the White Mountains. The road ended at the Barcroft Station and Observatory at 12,000ft. Al was already there ready to greet us and oriented us to the dormitory and facilities. A cylindrical tin building was our home for that night. Very rustic inside. A big kitchen where Dori, the keeper, was already preparing dinner. Adjacent to the well stocked kitchen, was the mess hall where 1 or 2 researchers were stationed with their laptops. There was 1 bedroom for the astronomers and upstairs 2 more bedrooms for the researchers and students, a shared bathroom, a game/library room filled with books, pool and ping-pong tables. A TV room with some DVDs/video tapes and sofas. All this reminded me of the accommodations at the Gran San Bernard Hospice years ago with the Stanford group. I rather liked it. I thought being older and fuzzier, I would no longer tolerate communal living, but I was surprised to discover that the old adventurous spirit was still there, and I did not really mind not having much privacy. Al showed us his telescopes and we visited the pregnant sheep farm, research subjects for high altitude. We were all set for a night of awesome star gazing. Dinner was tri-tip, lamb, roast potatos, steamed brocolli and a great salad. I was feeling totally good until right after the heavy meal. Nausea and headache overtook me and I resolved to go to bed to sleep them off, fully intended to get up later that night to admire the stars in the pitch black night. But shortness of breath developed soon after I got into bed. I couldnt get up. Later that night, A and T hauled the oxygen machine up and hook me up on it. This machine was not an oxygen tank. It mixed pure oxygen with water vapor. I breathed that stuff all night and the killer headache was dissipated and I was able to breath normally all night long. I was thinking of all the brain cells I've lost up in that altitude and how the oxygen restored some of them. I was already not very bright. I couldnd afford to lose any brain cells! A was worried about me being alone in the game room, so she brought her sleeping bag and slept in the TV room next door to me to keep me company. One could not ask for a more caring soul. Thus I missed star gazing, but it's OK, it wasnt my highlight of the trip anyway. And as you all know, the Hippo is not really much for star observing.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

day 1 - 10,000ft and the beginning of altitude sickness

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
As usual we started out quite late. When we drove through Tioga Pass, fond memories flooded back. Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake and Lembert Dome came into view. 2 years ago we had a fantastic time in this area. I was surrounded by dear friends, lousy jokes and hearty laughs. This time we camped at Saddlebag Lake at 10,000ft. Clear view of the mountains which glowed in the late sun. We ate left over rice and beans, chips and miso soup for dinner, accompanied by a roaring fire. The night was cold and the ponding piercing headache caused by the high elevation prevented me from sleep all night. My 3 season sleeping bag topped by a light blanket, alternatively heated me up and froze me to death. I've never camped in such altitude before and I was quite miserable. However, the morning brought relief with 400mg of gel caps ibuprofen and a clear view of the blue blue lake. We woke up with the smell of smoke. The valley and hills seemed to be shrouded in smoke, but not from the campfires. Later we've learned it was from the 2 fires in Sequoia park.

 

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