Merry National Day

Greetings from California!  Happy national day!

It’s not July Fourth — not yet. As I begin writing, it’s still early June. But I’ve learned not to wait. Progress comes more slowly these days.  And I would like to share some pictures.  As always, clicking on a picture should bring up a larger version.

Well, our hometown basketball team, the Warriors, won the NBA championship.  And as all my Chinese students know, Americans turn everything into parades, so on June 15, they turned that victory into a parade. Somewhere between a million and 1.5 million people showed up to welcome the players.

And with over a million high-spirited basketball fans, crowded and pressing upon each other in a manner not common in America, and some operating at the limits of their self control, there were no problems. None.  With violence haunting the news on a regular basis, it’s good to remember how ordinary folks prefer to share joy.

I have no pictures of that parade, since, due to health reasons, I couldn’t go, but never fear. I do have pictures of a less-well-attended local parade. But first, goodness knows I never did get to share pictures of the San Francisco new year parade in February. Well, here’s one photo of that event, anyway. It’s a rooster “float” constructed by my favorite American airline – Southwest!

Every spring, my own small town hosts a rodeo, which is a competition for cowboys, originally a part of Mexican ranch culture. “Rodeo” is in fact a Spanish word meaning “go around” as in  “round up.” More rodeo information is on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodeo.

These days, Mexicans themselves call it  charrería. Information on that is also  on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charreada  But whatever the name, it’s going to feature cattle and horses aplenty. So on May 13 our small town turned it into a parade:

These sturdy horses, instead of racing to snare stray cattle, slowly led the parade with flags, including the national flag. A full kilometer of the main street had been closed to normal traffic, and the route passed throngs of onlookers.  Well, not exactly throngs, not for the entire route, anyway.

Elsewhere the route boasted thicker throngs, shown here.  Some spectators had arrived early to claim the best locations, but, hey, this wasn’t the Warriors. Space was easy to spread out on.

We had no impressive floats like the San Francisco Parade above. In fact, Val’s Burgers just loaded a few employees into a pickup truck and called it done.

But that’s okay. After all, everybody loves Val’s!  Besides, it’s not just any truck — it’s a classic Chevrolet from about 1970.

There’s something about these parades that brings out the old codgers with their even older classic cars.

So here’s a row of “Model A” Fords, from about 1930, the same kind that my dad drove as a kid, when he turned “ice wheelies” along the frozen winter streets of Portland, Oregon.

Yeah, those old codgers and their overly-preserved lumps of steel nostalgia.

But wait! what’s this? A 1967 Plymouth Belvedere !?!?

Oh my, a 1967 Belvedere was my very first car, though mine was a sedan, and blue. Does that make me a classic, too? Or just an old codger? Stingy for sure. I never would pay extra for white-wall tires like those seen here.  And back then, people worked on their own cars, changing fuel pumps, water pumps, and brake shoes with abandon.  That part I don’t miss, though it somehow seemed fun at the time.

Besides old cars, there were marching bands. This one marched out from our local high school.  A teen-aged me once  marched with that organization, swinging my saxophone. It was not such a big group back then.  But it was a big deal.

Of course, politicians always show up to a parade. This is Nate Miley, my town’s representative on the county board. He also rode a classic car (naturally), at least at first, but soon he popped out to give candy to kids and to shake hands.

This was the first time I had ever actually seen him, except in pictures. I was not surprised that he turned out to be such a friendly guy.

And there were many more horses. Several of them carried what we used to call “beauty queens,” though that label may no longer be current.  Anyway, they were all pretty enough, and they waved enthusiastically

Other horses carried little kids and still others carried more of those old guys who have been fixtures at these parades for thirty-five years.

This horse, a palomino, negotiated  some tricky dance steps ahead of the Wells Fargo Wagon. These wagons belong to the living history of the West. After all, I have some money at Wells Fargo Bank today. But the bank doesn’t impress me like it did decades ago when I opened that account. Most of my money is no longer there. The account is kept for nostalgia. But those wagons are still great.

Besides the horses, bands and old cars, other parade entries were harder to classify. Take this bunch of boy scouts.  What are they riding? Bovine versions of a soapbox derby?

Well, it’s creative.

And these guys must be devotees from the local Sikh temple. Sikhs come from Punjab in northern India. Many live in California. Yuba City, where I once lived for a few years, had (at that time, at least) the largest Sikh temple outside of India. Well, they may once have been Punjabi, but having gotten trapped in a parade, they’re now as American as apple samosas.

And we did have a small number of “floats,” mostly flat-bed trailers pulled by giant pickup trucks. This one was tractor- pulled — not just by any tractor but a “classic,” a Massey-Harris 101 from 1946. I’m not sure what the plastic cow is supposed to represent, but hey, it’s a plastic cow. Who needs an explanation?

Oh, and did I mention that a real rodeo is still associated with this parade?  It takes place one week afterwards, and my friends Ric and Carolyn invited me out to witness it this year.

The setting is a few miles outside of town in the surrounding hills. They sell cowboy hats in case you forgot to bring yours.  They also sell the usual assortment of junk food and sugary drinks. We passed on that.

The started off with a parade of sorts (naturally), led again by flag-carrying horse riders.

A large part of any rodeo consists of cowboys riding on top of badly-behaved livestock. The handlers strap a belt around the animal’s lower torso. That’s where a wolf or lion or bear would most likely grab it, so the animal reflexively kicks for all they’re worth. Can the cowboy stay atop his steed?

One of my favorite pictures shows a cowboy not exactly staying on top of his bull. It was a miracle that he didn’t get trampled, though many such miracles took place that day.  Most of the bull riders hit the ground after one or two seconds. Apparently the bulls are harder to ride than the horses.

Of course, the horses aren’t particularly easy, either. And once the  rider has flown off his mount, how do you catch the horse to remove that belt to calm him down again?

Well, that’s where the other horses come in.

Meanwhile, even kids could successfully ride the mechanical bull if it was adjusted to be gentle.

 

 

Besides riding the cattle, cowboys also caught them by throwing ropes from horseback. We witnessed several variations of this – a single contestant roping a calf and then leaping from his horse to tie it up, a team of two ropers immobilizing a calf from horseback, etc.

Some cowboys even took flying leaps off the back of a horse onto the back of a calf to wrestle it to the ground.  Others caught a “wild cow” and milked it, as in this picture.  Actually, this particular maneuver was a bit controversial because it’s viewed as mean to the cow. But I don’t see how it’s any meaner than the others.

Women and children also had a place in the rodeo. The kids tried to ride sheep, none of them successfully, and the women raced horses around a course of barrels. They were pretty good.

So a good time and a good competition was had by all.

As for me, my life is still circumscribed by health struggles, though that may be changing.

At this point I’ve seen about every kind of doctor or health coach that you could name except for a gynecologist.

And I must thank those who have helped me through these, the absolute worst twelve months of my life.  Those who kept in consistent contact, like my long-time friend Arlene, or got me out of the house to events like the rodeo, were key to my making it through. And every short text message or email, even those a couple dozen words long, helped immeasurably.  Otherwise I would have given up.

I pretty  much have given up on Kaiser, so presently I’m working with a traditional Chinese practitioner, who seems the most effective so far. She has extensive experience with both musicians and athletes, which in my case translates to confidence that my body may be old, but it’s not injured.

Afternoons without neck and shoulder pain are now happening. Everyone all along had assumed that the problem was the neck, but it now appears that it’s the shoulders, and the neck secondarily.

The ear ringing is still a problem. I suspect it’s related to everything else, so perhaps it will attend to itself with the same time and exercise.  And what do I mean by “ear ringing?”

Well, on June 5, I attended a concert in San Francisco, a string orchestra that included my longtime friend Carlbob.  And yes, there really is a Carlbob, and yes, he really is a double-bass virtuoso who lives the larger-than- life that everybody knows about.  Nobody could make all that up.

We rode together to the city. The concert would be in Chinatown, where we actually found street-side parking for free.  It was a gold star day.

The picture shows a small Chinatown park. The figure is Sun Yatsen, more commonly known as 孙中山in China. The butterflies are just painted on the side of a house across the alleyway.  But they’re charming, aren’t they?

Anyway, the concert took place in a small Catholic school. The picture shows the foyer as the orchestra warmed up. Interestingly, the audience’s folding chairs had been constructed for the World’s Fair a hundred years ago.  They built things to last back then. Only now are they thinking that they need refurbishment.

Anyway, I had planned to photograph the concert itself, but as it began, my ear ringing suddenly ramped up even louder than the orchestra, even in loud passages. On the theory that loud sounds made it worse, I moved outside the room, but the ringing never did go down that night.

Anyway, such is life.  Still, I think the worst is over, although I still haven’t figured out what’s in the food or environment that lays me out for three days at a time.

Meanwhile, Carlbob is off to Vienna.

Here in California, the grass is no longer green but golden, and the birds sound off as never before, probably because of the rainy year. They’re trying to build nests where nests have never appeared before, such as on top of porch lights on my street.

And a couple weeks ago, a tiny “Bewick’s Wren,” a species I’d never noticed before, landed on a bush right in front of my eyes. For a long time we stared at each other, wondering who was going to move first. I didn’t have time to fetch a camera, but a week before that, I had gotten this shot of a “House Wren” by Lake Chabot.

Then I had turned to shoot the golden hills of  late spring. The same view today would be even more golden. One can compare it to the green-hill picture that I sent previously:

. . . . .

… …Well, I finished writing in two weeks  — not six weeks like last time! Progress!