[ March/April 2010-- ] In late March Elaine and I traveled to the United States. Elaine attended a week of business meetings in Boise, Idaho while I traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area to visit family. Our second week was spent in Huntington Beach, California attending a memorial service for Ron, Elaine's step-father.
Well, full disclosure-- I visited my sister and her family, who live in Benicia, not San Francisco. It was a good visit, as we last got together this past summer. While here I was able to attend to a number of errands, such as visiting a dentist (bad news-- fillings needed to be replaced), and refilling pharmaceutical prescriptions. Dental and medical services are very modern and available in Singapore, however this was a matter of convenience (the prescription-- some specific medications are not (yet) available in Singapore) and comfort zone (a U.S. dentist speaking English, not Singlish). A couple of good meals out at Bay Area restaurants, not to mention at my sister's home, too.
The green flowered fields of Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. This is a wonderful time of year for California. In later months the spring winds will change the fields from their winter green to the summer gold.
While I was there we made a visit to the newly rebuilt California Academy of Sciences building, housing the Steinhart Aquarium and Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It was spectacular, albeit an expensive ticket ($25 for adults) for the experience. I have great memories from my childhood visiting the two centers, but they had both become a little shabby and outdated, with their age. (Something we all experience, unfortunately). It is satisfying to see that San Francisco has recognized the importance of this center, and has made an investment into restoring it to new glory.
The DeYoung museum, viewed from the entry of the California Academy of Science. The DeYoung was rebuilt several years ago, and now the CAS has also been renovated.
The building is unique-- it has a "green" roof (see below), and is proported to be of an environmentally friendly design. The aquarium has new tanks that no longer leak, as the older ones did. There is an excellent Northern California coast tank, complete with wave action that is really stunning. It is amazing to see what colorful fish and ocean life live just offshore. The tropics don't have exclusive claim to beautiful fish.
The green roof at the new California Academy of Science building in Golden Gate Park.
A new exhibit is a four storey tropical forest, complete with living tropical plants and animals. butterflies fly aloft the indoor tree canopy, and there are many live examples of the forest inhabitants (in containment) on display. The theme of the exhibit is the crisis of the world-wide loss of this habitat and its place in our ecosphere.
Lois and Gary in at the tropical forest exhibit
The 1950's era planetarium theater has been replaced by a modern technology, digital projection system, with an impressive presentation. A few things have been postulated and learned about the cosmos since the 1950's, and this has been refreshed in the new show. I do miss the San Francisco skyline that was a part of the old planetarium theater (removed in the renovation), but that too was well out of date-- San Francisco has a considerable number of new buildings.
One welcome new addition is an underground parking garage, apparently built with some controversy. Parking has been an issue in this area of the park for decades, with finally some solution.
One of the bright spots in the sad event of a memorial service is the gathering of friends and family, who would likely never be able to gather under other circumstances. Ron's service was attended by friends and family who traveled from locations all over the U.S. (and world, including us) to show their respect for his lifetime. Ron would have been pleased-- he enjoyed his visits and the connections to family, and had many stories about his times with them.
In attendance were relatives, traveling from Maryland, Idaho, Oregon, New Hampshire, Florida, New Mexico, and Indiana, as well as those living in the greater Los Angeles / Southern California area. It was quite the gathering, and a large house that we rented provided a place to stay for many of the from-far travelers, as well as the post-memorial reception. Elaine's son, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and siblings were on hand for a family gathering that has not occurred for a very long time.
The weather was favorable, and allowed a beach picnic, complete with bon fire. (Not just a good idea-- the weather was favorable but not completely warm in the evening-- it is still winter/spring).
Jim, Elaine, and Aunt Mary in Pasadena
A warming fire at Huntington Beach
Sunset on Huntington Beach...
... followed minutes later by (a blurry picture of) the full moon
Elaine's Aunt Dot (right) and cousin Nancy (left) from New Hampshire
Nathan (center) with Elaine's brothers John (left) and Robert (right)
Elaine with dessert, and Uncle Willard from Florida