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July 2015

Nevada City

Nevada City has never been a big location on my "to-do" list. I never heard of it before a friend of mine moved there to be a faculty member at the  Ananda College. There is the Expanding Light retreat center there, which sounds interesting to me, although I have never been able to go...until now. It is a two-hour drive without traffic--and there is always traffic on Interstate 80. Vicki and I went up there to spend a weekend with friends.

By the time you turn off onto California 49, traffic thins out in a major-league way. At the junction is the town of Auburn which has a delightful old town section in which we found several lovely restaurants, including a wine bar that was beautiful and served good food. We were told to stop in Grass Valley and try the Cornish Pasties there. We didn't on this trip, but may some time in the future.

Nevada City downtown was a hoot! There's a new coffee shop we really liked (can't remember the name), but all the shops and restaurants were cool. We were tempted to go to the amateur theater production, but were too tired. I attended the Episcopal Church downtown (the oldest in California), then had Cajun Sunday Brunch at Ike's Quarter Cafe (disappointed they weren't seating outside under the big tree). We shopped at the Inner Path yoga studio and store at Main and Commercial downtown, but it is just one of several interesting shops in the district. (And you can tell when you are in a small town when the main street is Main Street).

The weather was wonderful, the people were nice, and the air was clean and crisp. I can see why someone would want to live up there. I heard one person espouse a theory that there is energy in the granite that suffuses the area, and that Nevada City is the same elevation as Sedona, Arizona, and that's what makes it so spiritual. That's a story which, as one old editor used to say, is "too good to fact check."

People who have known me for a long time will be astonished to hear that I have become a regular walker/hiker. In fact, as part of a weight loss program, I am clocking 10,000 steps a day minimum, more on a good day. We walked the Tribute Trail along Deer Creek, over a new bridge and around a loop into downtown. It is a nice path, but a lot of hills.

We also drove up Highway 49 and walked the Independence Trail, the first handicapped accessible trail in a California State Park. It is amazing! Flat as a pancake, with packed dirt, yet passing through a beautiful wooded area. One of the best walks I have ever taken in this state. I like my hiking trails like I like my bike trails: railroad right-of-way flat.

We happened to be in Nevada City a few weeks before Expanding Light's annual Tulip Festival. We toured the gardens there and saw a lot of tulips, but were reliably informed that we'd seen nothing compared to the way they'd be two weeks later.

There is a farmer's market that we missed, and a "membership farm" that sells its produce at the market. I bought a farm card  because I am told they have "pick your own" blackberries and raspberries. I am going back up for those sometime this spring or summer. I hate picking berries, but I love eating them. It is worth a two-hour drive to me to get  good ones. The grocery store has good blackberries for about 20 minutes every year.

RIP, Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg has died, at the age of 88. Some will, of course, say, "I thought he was dead already," as he faded from public view in recent decades. I was fortunate to have two personal interactions with the great man, and believe I probably unconsciously stole some lines of his for my radio plays Sam Patch: The Greatest Story Ever Told, So Far, and The New Eugene Oregon Show. My mother told me we listened to Freberg's Sunday night CBS show for the 13 weeks it was on the air in 1957. I was 5, it was the last network radio comedy program.

In 1981, Edwin Diamond hired me to profile Freberg for AdWeek magazine, where he and Clay Felker were toiling at the time. Because of CMP restrictions on freelancing, the article appeared under the byline Gary S. Paul (because Edwin couldn't remember that Gene Paul was my pen name; I guess Gary was Gene's brother). I got to spend a day with the great man, and came away with an autographed manuscript copy of "Take an Indian To Lunch."

Eighteen years later, I was running podcasts at CMP (alas, before the existence of iPods, which made them hard to listen to). I had obtained the services of Ian Shoales (Merle Kessler of Duck's Breath Mystery Theater) at a very reasonable rate. Freberg had just stopped doing syndicated radio commentaries, and no longer had an agent. I still had his home phone from 1981, so I called. He answered himself, and claimed to remember me. I described the job, and offered him $100 a week for 90 second commentaries. His counter proposal was $10,000 a month. "I'm at the stage in life where I don't have to do anything I don't want to," he told me. Apparently, he didn't want to do commentaries for a website with a tiny audience. That was the second and last time I talked to him. He was a gentleman and a wit, and we shan't see his like again.

This and That

My recent contributions to HumorLabs:
And the Number One Way Life Would Be Different If Everyday Was 4/20...
Everyone in Congress would sit around all day doing nothing. Oh wait...

The Number Seven reward for contributing to the Catch a Predator kickstarter:
$100: A show credit for "Lambada services provided by."

The Number Six sign that "You aren't You"
The face in the mirror doesn't terrify you.

The Number Seven Thing Overheard During the Signing of Indiana's Religious Freedom Act...
"That felt good. Let's turn the clocks back literally as well, and restore standard time."

* * *
My former ensemble, the Contra Costa Wind Symphony, has a concert May 17 at the Lesher Theater in Walnut Creek. After 35 years at the helm, Dr. Duane Carroll is hanging up his baton. I played with the band 13 years myself.

Two infographics from friends:
Kent Peterman passes along:
25 maps that explain the English language

From Jerry Pournelle:
The disposable income of people in every country of the world in one fantastic infographic