Picturesque San Francisco

Aquatic Park, near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf is a favorite of hardy swimmers. They can be seen most any time of day, in any weather. The cove, formed by two curved piers, is usually placid. Strolling along the Aquatic Park Pier, you’ll have panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and The City. (Locals insist it’s capital “T” and capital “C”) Warning signs tell you, though that the pier may not hold up under your weight. You could be a sea lion’s tasty snack.

WTFJHT

A fair – and slightly unbalanced – news aggregator, WTFJHT will put a summary of the day’s (mostly political) news in your electronic mailbox every afternoon. Or you can check in for an update at any time. The JHT part of the name represents “Just Happened Today.” It’s free, but you can help support it with any amount you choose. (I did.)

Flying United

Many years ago, trying to get home from a business conference somewhere, I missed my United Airlines connecting flight in Denver because of inclement weather. (Snow in Denver – who’da guessed?) A nice United person helped me get re-booked. She also pointed to a nearby counter telling me I could go there and receive a voucher for some food because of the delay. I patiently waited in line. When my turn came, the United Airlines representative spoke to me as if I was a schoolboy disrupting class, telling me they had no control over the weather and were not required to give me anything. When I explained the person who re-booked my flight sent me over, she emphatically repeated they weren’t going to feed me and I should not have expected they would. That was my last flight on United Airlines; I have been able to avoid their friendly skies since that experience.

You may have seen United Airlines in the news recently when they dragged a passenger off a plane after he refused to give up his seat for an airline employee. (Read here why travel writer Joe Brancatelli consistently calls United the “Worst Airline Ever.”) Or the demise of a French Bulldog whose owners were ordered by a flight attendant to be put in an overhead bin. (But don’t get me started about animals on airplanes.)

The trade group Airlines for America and the Trump administration are now doing their best to roll back regulations that made air travel a little less unpleasant, such as:

  • Prohibiting airlines keeping passengers on the plane sitting for hours on the tarmac without food, water or access to rest rooms
  • Quoted fares must disclose additional fees and taxes
  • A refund without penalty if a reservation is canceled within 24 hours
  • et cetera

According to United, “Many of the regulations/initiatives adopted or issued at the end of the previous administration are extremely costly, will be unduly burdensome on the airline industry, and should be repealed or permanently terminated.”

Happy flying.

Before There Was a Jurassic Park

Driving through the desert on Interstate 10 between Palm Springs and the Los Angeles megalopolis, you’ll be traveling through dinosaur country.

In 1958, after a career as a sculptor and portrait artist at Knott’s Berry Farm, Claude Bell moved to his 62 acres in Cabazon, a dot on the map adjacent to the new freeway. There he opened his Wheel Inn restaurant. To persuade motorists to exit the interstate, Bell began construction on “Dinny,” 45-foot high sprayed concrete on metal-frame, dinosaur. “The first dinosaur in history, so far as I know, to be used as a building,” he boasted. A second beast, a tyrannosaur named “Rex,” was erected a few years later.

The food and the giant sculptures gained Bell’s roadside dining spot a listing in Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood, an indispensable eating guide for intrepid travelers. The Wheel Inn and its creatures have been featured in music videos and most famously, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

Claude Bell died in 1988, at the age of 91. His family sold the property a few years later to a development partnership. The new owners obtained approvals for “a children’s science and museum exhibit,” including restaurants, a museum, and gift shop, and a 60-room motel. The developers built dozens more prehistoric creatures and promote their “Cabazon Dinosaurs” attraction, but don’t mention that it is a “Young Earth Creationist” museum. “Dinny” now houses a gift shop selling creationist souvenirs.

More recently, Cabazon became the home of “Desert Hills Premium Outlets.” The restaurant closed in 2013.

Peanuts and Crackerjack and Seagulls

8th inning – AT&T Park

The seagull habitués of the China Basin corner of San Francisco Bay, where the Giants play, know how to read the scoreboard. When the game gets into the late innings, a few appear, circling McCovey Cove and the right-field bleachers. If a game goes long, they begin to show their annoyance by trespassing into the airspace over the playing field. Fans have been trained to clap and make noise, scaring them away. But only for a few minutes. Extra-inning games are especially infuriating and the birds show their displeasure at being delayed from scavenging leftover ballpark food by flying closer to the field and in greater numbers. When the game finally ends and the crowd finally disperses, the seagulls invade the stands and devour what they consider to be their entitlement.

10th inning – AT&T Park

Living the High Life (Line)

High Line – then

The New York Central Railroad ran its last train, three cars filled with frozen turkeys, along the lower-Manhattan West Side Line in 1980. The elevated spur line opened in 1933. For eighty-plus years prior to that, the New York Central used tracks along 10th and 11th avenues to transport commodities it the heart of New York City. Heavy rail did not mix well with street traffic. A 1910 study estimated 548 fatalities and 1,574 other injuries along what came to be known as “Death Avenue.”

The Westside Improvement Project, begun in 1929 and spearheaded by the infamous Robert Moses, included an elevated railroad spur to replace the grade-level tracks. The new line ran through the middle of blocks instead of over the streets, enabling the unloading and loading of rail cars inside warehouse and factory buildings. In true Robert Moses fashion, construction necessitated the demolition of 640 existing buildings.

High Line – now

After the railroad had abandoned the line, property owners along the route agitated for its demolition. A citizens group formed to promote its re-purposing. Thus was born the Friends of the High Line. After years of debate and red tape and searching for funding, work began in April 2006 for the new High Line Park.

The pedestrian-only park has become popular with residents and tourists alike. Visitors stroll along its mile and a half length, in some parts alongside rusted tracks left as a reminder of its history. Since the elevated park’s opening, the storied and deteriorating Chelsea neighborhood has seen a revitalization. New residential construction has risen along the High Line’s route. Rents are higher than neighboring apartment buildings and new residents are now complaining about the tourists. The Whitney Museum’s new digs recently opened at the base of the park.

The Friends of the High Line is responsible for the park’s maintenance and has done major fund raising for its support. They also are adamant that the park is for everyone’s enjoyment, as evidenced by prominently-placed signs.

 

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