It is now 4:07 AM on January 14th, 2017. The holidays of Christmas and New Year are distant memories that seem to have happened long, long ago.
The time off was not relaxing due to two little boys. Yes, we had fun and yes we made great memories but with two little ones there is no free time, no relaxation. I’ll enjoy the holiday breaks more when they are older and I have time to do the things I want to do: relax, read, take a nap, watch an adult movie, mountain bike, hike, and many other things. But at the same time I will also miss the kid versions of them so it becomes a complete catch-22.
But the holidays are a distant memory as we took down the decorations on the second of January and quickly resumed the normal routine. I do not like to keep decorations up because they just become a sad reminder that the holidays are over and make it even more depressing.
I’ve just decided that I’ll write down my thoughts on 2016 since it gets farther away with each passing day and I’ll start to forget.
Two thousand and sixteen was a good year. We took a number of trips, met many friends, had and went to a number of parties and everybody is happy and healthy. The kids continue to grow up and life continues its long, slow march of change. Everyday there are little, almost imperceptible changes that take place in our bodies as well as the world around us. The days go by in a blur and before long all these little changes have added up and things look quite different to the way they were a year, two years, a decade ago. Our faces have changed, friends have come and gone, the babies are gone having grown up to become toddlers and little boys and girls, cracks appear in not only the house but also in marriages of people we know.
This year I’ll turn forty and this is a very big psychological event! I just read a very long post from an old friend I’ve known since grade school who reflected on her life and the road she has taken. I think everyone does this to some extent when they hit 40. It is after all the mid-life point as perhaps only the median of my contemporaries will make it to 80. In my view, life is now more than half over if we take into account that life speeds up as we get older. A year to a teenager is a lot longer than a year to a forty year old; the rate of speed increases with each additional year and soon we must look to the end.
I’ve learned to pause and enjoy life and I hope that in 2017 I will continue learning how to make the most out of this existence I’ve been given. Before I go too far waxing philosophic let’s take a look back at 2016.
New Year’s Day started off with the sunrise (video) at Oyster Point, my usual spot for sunrises. I came home and we then went to Fitzgerald’s Marine Reserve which has become a new tradition for us on New Year’s Day.
Our first trip was on the sixteenth to Paso Robles winery. In 2016 Paso Robles became my new favorite area for wine and wine tastings. Napa has become too crowded, too expensive, too exclusive and generally just a pain to deal with. Paso Robles is quiet, laid back, there are over 300 wineries and there are hot springs! The wine is bold, the fruit easy to taste on the Zinfandel is to die for. I discovered Paso after a failed attempt at trying to secure a decently priced hotel room up in Napa. Everything was sold out, too expensive and all the wineries want reservations and up to a $40 tasting fee.
I then searched for hot springs and discovered Paso Robles. Not only where there hot springs but it is also a very respected wine region! This discovery was actually in 2015 but in 2016 I firmly planted my flag there by renouncing my membership at Artesa and switching it to the newly formed Tooth and Nail Winery. The place is a castle, Don Quixote features on many labels, it is laid back and the wine is incredible. I needed no further convincing and joined the membership.
There are also three Spanish missions on the way there which I like to visit. These missions hit me very deeply as they connect me with my past in a way. I studied in Spain and Mexico and these experiences set the foundation for what my life was to become. My studies in Spain remain unparalleled and an experience which has defined a very big part of who I am. I know the history, where the Padres came from, the horrors the Native Americans experienced. And so, when I set foot into these missions my soul fills with wonder, with awe and with a solemn sense of history and what occurred. I wrote a post about my thoughts and experience when visiting these California missions in my other blog that is worth a read.
I experience something profound when I visit these missions, something unique that occurs only to me given my experiences, travels and understanding of history. My son on the other hand doesn’t like certain parts of the missions however as he told me, “Papa, there is a dead guy up there, it is scary!” “Yes son,” I responded. “It is quite scary indeed.”
I’ve written a lot and I haven’t even made it past the first trip in January! I better speed it up or this post will never be finished!
In February we took another trip down to Paso Robles for my cousin Nick and his wife Stephanie were in town. Much wine was consumed and many hot spring baths taken. During this trip we discovered Sculpterra winery and I took this virtual reality image. I remember we went out back and sat in the gazebo and had a nice discussion. Nice discussions are a rarity when you have children that cannot sit still. The wife is patient for a while and watches the kids but soon one must end the nice discussion and help out. Again, I’ll be both glad and sad when the kids are older. Now, I’d like to have more nice, adult discussions without the bother of kids, yet when they are older I’ll miss the little ones.
In March we took a trip to Lake Tahoe with our friends. It was the first time that the boys really got to experience a massive amount of snow. We went sledding, built snowmen, took a few hikes and had a wonderful time.
We also went to Filoli which I’ve always enjoyed. Our membership ended in 2016 and we haven’t renewed. Looking at the beautiful pictures makes me want to visit again but I’m also thinking that the money could be used to explore new places.
In April, the first exciting thing was going to a Guns N’ Roses cover band called Roses N’ Guns at the Longboard Margarita bar. This was in anticipation for the real Guns N’ Roses who would play At&T Park in August after a very long separation. Guns N’ Roses were my favorite band growing up and listening to their music not only brings back great memories but if I close my eyes transports me back in time. The intense feelings from 8th grade and high school come rushing back and for a brief moment I am my old sixteen year old self again.
Next up in April was a visit from my dear friend Nicola Connolley. I know Nicola from my days in Vietnam. She had visited San Francisco once before around 2007 and it was a pleasure to see her. I feel it is very important to keep in touch with old friends and she is one of the few who actively tries to do so. It was great seeing her and I look forward to our next rendezvous whenever and wherever on this planet that may be.
The last thing I have for April was the Japan Town Cherry Blossom Parade. My wife and oldest didn’t want to go so I took my youngest who couldn’t say no! We had a good time by ourselves and I really liked spending a little bonding time with just him. One of my favorite events there was the Enshin Karate presentation which got me thinking about joining a dojo not only for my son but myself as well. That has gone from a thought to reality and I’ll be going to practice today, just as I have for over six months now.
In May a most epic trip occurred. Brandon finally got the timeshare room he had been trying for for over a decade at the Four Seasons, Punta Mita. I took this virtual reality photo of the main room and patio and as you’ll see was simply fantastic. The gate is around the plunge pool due to my youngest but normally isn’t there. This was the most exquisite, fanciest place that I’ve ever stayed in my life. They drive you around on golf carts, there are cabanas on the beach, a lazy river, kids activity building, tequila tastings and the list goes on. Everything that should be in a fancy resort is there and it was fabulous. As always it is the experiences that make up the trip and I really enjoyed the ocean fishing and ceviche on the boat, the golf, the lazy river with kids and drinking great wine in our fabulous accommodations overlooking the Pacific while the kids played in the plunge pool. Luckily I do not have to rehash everything here as I wrote a post about the trip back in May.
In June my buddy Ryan who I’ve known since Ohio State came into town. I studied with Ryan in Lyon, France and it is always great getting together and rehashing those stories. Ryan also came to visit me once when I was living in Japan and again when I lived in Vietnam. Needless to say we have a lot of stories and it is always a pleasure having many beers / wine and rehashing the stories that came out of those trips.
This time one of his friends from France was in town at the same time. Sylvain is a great guy and a lot of fun; I was very happy to make a new friend! We went to Napa for a night. Again, no need to re-write this as I already wrote a post all about it.
Also in June my friend Ana who I’ve also known since Ohio State moved to Florida from San Francisco. She moved here a few years ago but I only saw her on occasion since I really do not (am not able?) to go party in the city all that much. Ana also had a beautiful baby and so that changed things quite a bit. She now resides in Florida and rents out the loft in San Francisco so there is always hope she and her family may one day move back.
In July we did a number of things. The first adventure was a trip down to the San Jose Japanese festival. Not too much to report on that; they had good music, good food and good beer. Next, Daisuke and his wife came for a visit. They did a lot of the tourist stuff on their own and so I only took them to: Moss Beach Distillery, Twin Peaks, The Golden Gate Bridge and Marin. His wife has a sister who is married to someone who works at NASA’s Ames research center which has a large tent like structure set up for visitors/tourists. It was very neat to visit although there really isn’t much there.
At the end of July we took my youngest to “A Day Out With Thomas.” That is down at Roaring Camp Railroads not far from Santa Cruz. When were down south I like to shoot over to Paso Robles and this time we met up with my longtime friend Kazuko and her family; I mention both of these trips in this post. We met at Tooth and Nail winery and also went to Peachy Canyon. After that it was off to the California Mid-State Fair. At the fair we spent most of our time in the kids area so they could ride the rides.
The first item of note was that my friend Dale and his new wife Emma came for a visit. I took them to Alice’s Restaurant, Thomas Fogarty winery, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and the old bar at Duarte’s Tavern. The bar opened in 1894 and has been open continuously except they couldn’t serve alcohol during prohibition. I had always wanted to have a drink in that bar and Dale being here gave me an excuse!
The other event of note is that Dale and Peter joined Brandon and I for the Gun’s N’ Roses “Not In This Lifetime” concert at AT&T Park. Brandon and I had planned this forever and Peter and Dale joined at the last minute. Dale and I started out the evening in San Francisco at Mikkeller Bar, moving on to Local Edition and then connecting with Brandon and Peter at Hakkasan for a bit of food and of course more drinks. Next it was of to 21st Amendment for more beer. Had the evening gone perfectly we should have started and stayed at 21st Amendment since it was packed with GnR fans.
We then walked over to AT&T park and it was just amazing seeing everyone in Guns N’ Roses shirts. The crowd was older but there were a large number of younger people as well. Everyone says that the music of their generation was the best but I feel that the music of my generation was the last of really true, great music that hasn’t been overrun by the music industry who only concentrates on generating profit. It was the last generation of music that really captured an entire nation for their audience. Yes, there is great music now, but you have to really search for it in Sound Cloud or Spotify. The stuff they play on the radio is complete garbage.
Anyway, we arrived at AT&T park and were in for quite a shock! The lines were a mile long to get it. We saw the caravan carrying GnR into the stadium and didn’t make it to our seats until around the end of the first song which was Mr. Brownstone. It was a great concert in that it really transported me back in time to 8th grade and high school. It was great that Guns N’ Roses were *mostly* back together and I could have this experience. But if it weren’t for those things, we were in the nosebleed seats, it wasn’t an intimate setting by any means and it seems as though GnR wanted to get in and out of the place. But again, it was a fantastic experience.
At the end with the rush of the crowd and the fact that we had a lot of beer we ended up losing Dale for a bit. Luckily he was found and the experience now makes a good story.
The next event in August was another trip up to Lake Tahoe. The weather was warm and the kids (and adults alike) enjoyed playing in the lake. My favorite part was the kayaking. It is incredibly beautiful to see Lake Tahoe surroundings from out on the lake itself. I’m always in awe at the beauty of the place and seeing it from a different vantage point inspires even more wonder and awe.
The reason for the trip however was for me to attend my childhood friend Terry’s wedding. He lives in Carson City, Nevada and that is just a short drive from Lake Tahoe. It was due to the generosity of our friends that we could stay with them and enjoy a weekend, and I could also leave them there while I went and attended the wedding. Terry was a close neighbor of mine in Golfview Woods and we hung out a lot, especially in grade school. We went to different high schools, did different activities and thus didn’t see much of each other and then he went to the Marines and I went to Ohio State. We had only met up one time for just a hello really in a bar while I was still in college and then didn’t have any contact for over a decade or so.
It was through the magic of Facebook that we were able to reconnect and I caught up with him and his soon-to-be wife when they came for a visit to San Francisco. I hope to catch up with them again in 2017.
Towards the end of August my sister came for a very brief visit as they were also going to visit her husbands relatives in Nevada and then I believe off to Yosemite. We took them to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and all the little ones really enjoyed the tide pools. We were also able to get some great pictures up in the “Enchanted Forest.”
September was relatively quiet except for a visit from my parents. We’ve done many travels and visited many sites over the years so their visits are usually quiet and peaceful without too many activities these days.
October was the month of festivals. There was the Millbrae Japanese Festival, the Renaissance Festival, the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival and various Halloween parties.
Unfortunately the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival was pretty much a washout due to rare rain. We went anyway so we could get our pumpkin picture and the rain did let up for a bit while we where there. We also got the closest parking that we will ever get thanks to the rain.
One new thing we did this year was go to Arata’s Pumpkin Patch. It is crowded and a little expensive but everyone should experience the haystack labyrinth just one time. We did and it took us about thirty minutes to find our way out!
November was Thanksgiving and the Dicken’s Fair. Kazuko and her family joined us for that and I was very glad they could do so. Everyone should experience an American Thanksgiving at least once! I wrote a post on Thanksgiving.
Also, there is no better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than to spend a day at the Dicken’s Fair. Like most fairs and events, I really cannot enjoy it as much as I’d like due to kids but one day I will and perhaps they will join me. For the Dicken’s Fair I’d really like to sit in and listen to many of the shows and especially learn something at “The Adventurer’s Club.” I’d also like to enter into the adult area “Mad Sal’s” and listen to some of the Sea Dog’s saltier sea shanties. I can do none of these things with children although we do go to the lite opera every time and they’re pretty good and sit still.
December was relatively quiet with no trips and no visitors. We put up our decorations and got ready for Christmas! This years main toys were Pokemon cards, a Minecraft book, and Little Live Pets for the youngest.
For the first time we did attend the Rockaway Christmas Tree lighting which was a great community holiday event and something we’ll try to attend in the coming years. The parking was very difficult though so we’ll have to go early or perhaps ride bikes there. Santa also looked like he had a number of beers across the street at Nick’s, but you know, Santa is under a lot of work-related stress at this time of year so I really don’t blame him.
And then the sun set on 2016. It was a very good year full of fun, friendship, adventures, travels and experiences. I hope for the same in 2017.
**I may edit/add more to this post later.