Dad & Stepmom in town

We have company calling from the flatlands. Today I’m taking ’em up to Yosemite.

My dad, Larry Mangan, and stepmom, Tilly Mangan, stop by the ranch.

Tilly considers the local flora and fauna … that’s Melissa’s finger pointing
to some off in the distance.

Dad curries the favor of a neighborly hooved creature.

Tilly proves she can take a digital picture.

More to come as the week progresses.

Another day at the ballpark

OK, so back when I had a moment of weakness that lasted 10 months and blogged
almost every day, I got the fine idea to do something called "blog me out
to the ballgame," in which a bunch of bloggers all go to the same game
and write about it on their blogs. After I retired the blog that gave me this
swell idea, the whole bloggers-at-the-game notion crept back into the background.
But I still had my two tickets to the A’s-Giants game, and I knew of at least
one guy who said he had bought
his tickets too. So I felt obligated to at least do something, and this is that

I’ll tell you right off, the game was unremarkable. The Giants won because
their pitchers kept A’s base runners away from home plate. None of the late-innings
knuckle-gnawing of the past two games. Mostly it was a scalding-hot way to spend
a Sunday afternoon. But at least there was beer.

One of the coolest things about A’s games is that the BART train stops at he
stadium so you can get in, get out and not have to fight parking lot traffic.
When the A’s aren’t playing the Giants and drawing crowds in the 28,000 range,
you can buy your tickets at the stadium and get good seats.

This is the crosswalk heading over to the ballpark. Network Associates Coliseum
is perhaps the least-charming sporting venue on the planet … built back before
it occurred to people to build charming, cozy ballparks in the middle of a big
city (The Giants new stadium is a prime example). This one has industrial parks
for neighbors.

Another great thing about the A’s is their winning tradition. They’ve never
gotten much respect — Bay Area people have always preferred San Francisco and
the Giants to Oakland and the A’s. It gives ’em an underdog aura that’s really
undeserved: the A’s have always had one of the best organizations for developing
and finding talent and assembling great teams. The last time the A’s and Giants
met in the World Series (in 1989), the A’s mauled ’em. It’s like a bug up the
butt of Giants fans. The Giants had Willy Mays but the A’s have all the World
Series rings.

A bunch of hard-core A’s faithful at field level. We were in the park’s Plaza
Level bleachers, which were cool because they had shade (at least till the sun
got higher in the sky; it didn’t get unbearable till the eighth inning, by which
time the Giants pretty much had the A’s licked.

Yeah, that’s my shoe. We arrived early enough to find seats at the front of
a section, allowing valuable kick-backage.

Beers promoted even more kick-backage. Oddly enough, to my way of thinking,
this here Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was selling for the same price as Bud Light.
I didn’t ask why, I just purchased. Some descendant of Carrie Nation must be
in charge of setting prices, because at $7.50 a glass nobody can get drunk without
risking bankruptcy.

Between innings they have this promotion asking fans to wave their water bottles
in some outrageous fashion, and some prize goes to whoever acts nuttiest. Or
something. Anyway, this little girl and big guy were very much in the spirit
of the competition.

Here’s the dangerous Barry Bonds at the plate. He was first up in the inning,
right after the A’s had fought and scratched and clawed to get a single run
home. Most teams walk Barry because the next hitter isn’t nearly so fearful.
But if he’s at bat first in the inning with nobody on base and you’ve got a
one-run lead with a solid left-hand pitcher who should be able to get him out,
you let him pitch to Barry. He swings with enough force to launch a Volkswagen
to Neptune, but this pitch gets past him. I’m goofing off, looking away from
the action when I hear the "pop" which can mean only one thing: Barry
has smacked another one into the bleachers about 50 yards to our left. One swing
nullifies the A’s efforts thus far. It was going to be that kind of day.

I’m pretty sure the guy in the yellow is hollering "Let’s Go Oak-Land"
at the top of his lungs. When he’d rest, the guy in the Giants shirt next to
him would do the same, only it’d be "Let’s Go Gi-Ants." The odd thing
about these interleague games between local teams is that they fill the stadium
with large numbers of fans rooting for each team. Which means if you’re on your
way to the john because of too much beer to early in the afternoon and you hear
the crowd erupt into mad applause, you never have a clue who the beneficiary
of the uproar might be. I also wondered whether it was such a good idea to have
so many fans of the opposing team in one’s ballpark. If they’re outnumbered
500 to 1 they tend to behave; but if they’ve got lots of friends, and lots of
beer in them, they could get carried away. But everything was calm from our
perspective (maybe they’re on their best behavior because they skipped church to
make it to the ballpark in time for the first pitch).

This guy had the lime-greenest shirt I have ever seen.

OK, so now it’s late in the game and the A’s are down by 3 and there’s not
much point hanging around, except we remember the Giants scoring four runs in
the top of the 9th last night and we figure, what the heck, may as well stay
till the last pitch. No miracles this time, though. Mostly it was hot and sweaty
in the sun, which, I suspect, is why we have so many night games in this league.

A saxophonist entertains the crowd heading back to the BART platform.

Here’s our train. We stood in line five minutes max, then we were on our way.
And somebody else did the driving. Great way to cap a day at the ballpark.

Our last look at the ballpark before the BART train pulls away. In the flower
power era, the hippies lived across the bay and the Hells Angels lived in Oakland.
I’s that kind of town. Gritty, unpretentious. Violent if you’re in the
wrong neighborhoods. The A’s have great fans; I just wish there were more of
them, but then again, if they were popular they wouldn’t be cool. So let’s hope
nobody builds them a quaint little Wrigley clone downtown. It’d ruin the

Meet the local mildlife

The past few mornings I’ve been taking four-mile walks — good for the heart
and not half-bad for the soul (which arrives home sweaty and emboldened to take
on a grueling day of copy editing).

There’s a whole ecosystem of living things along the route. Here are some of
the things I’ve seen of late.

The folks across the road have this immense Great Dane. Almost everybody else
has dogs of some kind but this one burned a permanent image in my brain. It’s
not like you can forget a face like that. The uncanny thing about dogs is their
vocabulary of smells — when I first started walking all the dogs in the neighborhood
would go barking mad on me, howling and raising hell in my general direction.
Within a few days they had my odor on file, figured out I wasn’t interested
in their territory, and felt comfortable in actively ignoring me. Believe me,
when this big dude stops barking at you, it’s welcome news.

There’s a family of deer nearby, too. This guy appears to be the patriarch.
I’m hoping he doesn’t become roadkill because I’d love to see how big those
antlers get (he’s a four-point buck now, but his rack oughta be a lot more
spectacular in, say, October). He was about 40 yards away when I took this shot …
the digicam’s zoom function paid for itself here.

I saw him again a day later in about the same place (I was about 15 yards farther
away), but the sun was out in full force, changing the color of the scene entirely,.

Down the road a stretch I stopped just in time to see this young deer stopping
as well. Normally a deer will freeze for a few minutes, then flee. This one
didn’t have enough sense to know I was one of those bad human types, and walked
up to get a closer look at me as long as I was standing still. Distance here
was about 20 feet.

These are some of the wild turkeys that we see along the roads now and then.
They make that gobbling sound you hear at the turkey ranch at Thanksgiving.
Again, the zoom on my camera gave a decent shot, but to tell the truth, wild
turkeys are so ugly you don’t really want that good of a look at them.

One of two goats at a farm down the road send greetings when when I walk past.

Cattle are the largest and most ubiquitous creatures along the route. I love
the way they have all these "no trespassing" signs on land nobody’d
want to trespass upon.

A stately Hereford cow along with a couple dozen others Tuesday morning —
they were all mooing up a storm for reasons I could not figure out as I was
walking past. See, all the cattle were on one side of the road, and the farmhouses
of their owners (and a large corral) were on the other side. When I came back
this way while heading home, all the cattle were across the road in the corral,
and the ranch hands appeared to be guiding them into a pen for purposes we’d
just as soon not go into. Seems I missed a real live roundup. Damn.

You see the damnedest things in the country sometimes. I’m guessing this old
tub collects water in the rainy season and gives the cows a place to stop for
a drink.

I think this might be part of an old orchard gone to seed. The wackiness of
the trees seems appropriate to California.

Humans are the least mysterious creatures in these parts, particularly when
displaying that "close enough for government work" trait peculiar
to the species.

On life in the country

I’ve been taking walks in the country just about every morning since we moved
here. I’m posting this pic because it seems to best summarize the nearby scenery.

Our place is near the top of a local mountain range, so there aren’t many people
up here. The main road (don’t worry, this isn’t it) comes up from town, runs
past our place, turns into a one-lane stretch of pavement a few miles down,
then goes back down the hill into San Jose. This morning, for instance, I walked
that road for 60 minutes and had three cars pass me.

Words and pictures don’t do proper justice. They can’t convey the sound of
songbirds’ conversations or the feel of a breeze that might’ve gone ten thousand
miles across the Pacific to get here. There’s no smell of fresh horse poop or
damp dogs running in the yard.

The gravel road here goes past a farm where a guy raises goats and sheep. When
I walked by the other morning, they started baying at me … like maybe they
wanted me to come by and catch up on the latest gossip.

In town if you find yourself alone, you almost immediately feel lonely; maybe
it’s because there are so few creatures to keep you company. I can walk down
a road up here and experience complete solitude for maybe 60 seconds at a stretch.
There’s always some critter dashing through the underbrush, or a hawk soaring
way up there, floating on the thermals and waiting for that critter to do something

What I love about the country is that it was here for eons before I came along,
and it’ll still be here for eons after I’m gone. Puts our puny little human
affairs in perspective.

The inside view

OK, here are some pix of the inside of our new place.

Melissa takes a rare break from her duties of whipping this joint into shape.
Just as well that I’ve spared you the "before" pictures. They were
too ugly to behold. Now about the only major job left is to hang pictures on
those naked walls.

Looking across the place from one corner to the other. Cozy, isn’t it?

The master bedroom. Which would mean something if we had, say, Barbara Eden circa 1967 on the premises.

The place from which all folly springs.

The kitchen is rather spacious, which is a good thing because we needed someplace
to put that table and chairs.

The view from the opposite corner. The cottage has six windows; I spent all
day yesterday putting those shades in front of them. They let the sun and the
breeze in fine.

A common everyday sunset


The next hill over has real live (well, dead) ruins; Chris the landlord tells us some guy built a house up there 25 years ago but things never worked out and it ended up being abandoned. A couple decades of wind and rain have sheared the exterior and left nothing but rotting timbers. From my new front porch, the sunset shines right through it. Cool.

A few pix from the new pad

We picked up the keys today; the heavy stuff gets moved tomorrow. I’m proud to say I cleaned greasy crud buildup underneath the stove.


This is the view from the porch; Silicon Valley is off in the distance; beyond that lies the Santa Cruz Mountains; behind that, the Pacific Ocean; and behind that, well, the rest of the world.


This is the view out the window of my new office; you can see the screen if you look real close.


A rustic looking wooden rail sets the corral apart from the rest of the place. Our landlord has about three acres up here.


This little shed provides shelter for our hooved neighbors.


Here’s one of ’em.


Here’s another. Melissa is beside herself with glee at the idea of a goat on the property. Guess she never tried to milk one (which’d do no good on this guy, but it might get ya a feel for those horns)


I loved the way the wind bends this tree backward. It’s really windy — 15 to 20 mph pretty much all the time — here. It’s about 1500 feet up, we’re told.


Here’s a shady spot where I might be found in weeks to come contemplating the sunset, or perhaps wondering why the wildlife won’t shut the hell up for 10 seconds.


Here’s the exterior of the cottage, for those who missed the pic I posted last week.