A Tahoe hike: Pure Bliss.

Our daughter Mimi visited us last weekend at the Tahoe summer cabin. After two solid weeks of damp, cool May Sierra weather prior to her arrival…I was itching to get outside …enjoy some sun and to wander through the forest.

Mimi got online and researched several potential short journeys through nearby woods for the two of us. Understand right off the bat that Mimi is a seasoned outdoors person.

Examples? To my extreme parental displeasure, she and her husband Brandon have hiked to the very top of Yosemite’s legendary, frightening Half Dome…and have precariously stood on the rocky summit of Arizona’s Four Peaks.

Me? I walk 3-4 miles a day on level urban asphalt and describe it as an adventure. So, to call this a mismatched outdoor duo is an understatement. Of course, Mimi’s only requirement for me to be able to pair up with her on a trek this day was “No walking on asphalt!”

Appreciating my tenderfoot abilities and being the loving, considerate daughter as always…Mimi chose an “easy” trail on Tahoe’s west shore beginning at D.L. Bliss State Park. It is a 4.5 mile hike to Emerald Bay. Doing the math, that would be nine miles round trip.

OK!

We pulled into the park check-in point to pay our day pass fee and were greeted by the camp host… a loquacious sixty something woman who must have felt some sympathy for me as she learned what we had planned for the morning. “OK! Have fun! And stop by on your way out for a kiss!”  I actually didn’t hear her say that. Mimi did. And she never lies. So it must be true. And I hadn’t even shaved.

I found a really nice hiking stick and off we ventured onto the as required, “non-asphalt” trail. Gorgeous views of a stunning, very calm early morning Tahoe were off to our left. The well traveled path is about 200 feet above lake level and the views in all directions were incredible, even on this low overcast morning. We enjoyed the large stands of cedar and pine… and were amazed that so many fallen trees along the way have been left to rot…a natural way for the forest to self manage.

Every so often we’d speak loudly or Mimi would whistle or hum some unrecognizable new music hit to let the Tahoe black bears know we were in their neighborhood. Fortunately the only two legged outdoorsy creature we saw along the way was a skinny wild turkey…which fearlessly approached us, likely hoping we had some spare trail mix or an Oreo or two to share.

After almost three miles and an hour and a half or so at 6,000 feet above sea level, this urban hiker had met his match. Seeing my tongue hanging out, Mimi agreed it was probably time to turn around and head back to the trailhead. Of course along the return, she had to climb some craggy, off-trail rocks and dangle from their edges to satisfy her true outdoorsy-ness…as well as wreck havoc with the ticker of her old man.

We had a great time that morning. We got to have some wonderful “daddy-daughter” moments to share…as well as being able to appreciate for the millionth time or so,  the incredible beauty of Lake Tahoe and it’s bountiful glory.

I looked for the friendly camp host as we left, wondering if she really wanted to plant on me that promised kiss… (Mimi would have to look away) but alas she was nowhere in sight…probably peeking out her trailer window and laughing at the sight of a “mature” urban hiker unable to make it to Emerald Bay and back.

Photos from our hike follow…

Mimi and Dad.
Mimi and Dad.
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Tahoe from the D.L. Bliss trail.

Woof. Woof. My Friday Dog.

Woof. Woof. This Friday meal has me barking for more.

Kris and I arrived at our summer retreat a couple of days ago…and of course the world’s best hot dogs…Casper dogs…were on our shopping list.

No better way to watch a couple of ball games on the tube tonight…with stove top grilled foot long dogs…sliced lengthwise down the middle.

Slapped a soft, Dutch crunch roll in the hot pan…with a healthy slice of havarti cheese set on one half to melt.

Grilled a few sweet onions and some ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes…set those delights on the other half of the roll…added lots of mustard…cracked open a bag of crunchy, delicious kettle fried potato chips…and presto!

My Friday dinner on a short leash!

Five Nights in Paris.

When Kris and I planned our European trip several months ago, we decided that a visit to the D-Day museum in Caan, France and a pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches would be a fitting conclusion to our six weeks on the continent. After all, had it not been for the dedication, heroism and sacrifice of the Greatest Generation during the 1940’s, who knows what Europe would be like now in the 2000’s?

Somewhere between Slovenia and Munich, however, we began to think that perhaps we’d rather spend the last few days of our trip in one place…limit our long distance driving…and enjoy some time in one location before heading home. We were due to arrive at Hotel Brittanique in Paris Thursday, October 9…spend a couple of nights there…and fly home Saturday morning. At the last minute we found that Hotel Brittanique had room for us three days early…and we grabbed it. World War II history would have to wait for another time.

I mentioned in an earlier post what a great location the hotel is situated. Our friends Sue and Mark had stayed there before and loved it. We understand why. Charming accommodations. Great neighborhood. Within walking distance across the Seine to the Left Bank. Near the Marais, Notre Dame, Louvre, Rue De Rivoli…easy access to the Metro and many wonderful restaurants and cafes.

We spent 10 days in Paris in 1972. The passage of time created foggy memories. We were ready to explore Paris once again, with a fresh perspective.

In short, Paris is incredible. Despite the social and economic problems facing France…Paris is alive with culture, history, food, traffic, parks, sounds, colors, grandeur. Parisians fill street-side cafes all day long and late into the evening…visiting, reading, eating, sipping. Kris and I believe this is what Parisians do to entertain themselves rather than plop down on sofas at home like we do in the States to watch crappy TV sitcoms or SportsCenter. People watching in Paris is better than anything on the tube in prime time. Guaranteed.

Paris is a huge city. It’s avenues and boulevards are laid out on an expansive level plain which stretches for kilometer after kilometer. On this fabric it’s historic buildings, monuments and parks are on a scale so large one feels incidental to the perspective created. Perhaps that is what architects of aristocracy strived for centuries ago. Create an environment so breathtaking…so grand…that the masses will be humbled, yet grateful to be within it’s bounds.

Our mornings in Paris began with delicious pastry and tea at Paris Baguette…a small neighborhood bakery just around the corner from our hotel. Besides the wonderful treats to eat…the shop also had FAST, free wi-fi…a perfect remedy to the terrible connection we had at the hotel. The staff at PB was cheery and fun…greeting everyone who came through the door with a smiling, upbeat “Bon Jour!” Good pastry will do that.

Then each day we walked. And walked. And walked some more. We window shopped. We found cool places to sit, nibble, sip and watch. We discovered little out-of-the-way neighborhoods to explore. On a warm, perfect Friday we ventured down the Rue De Rivoli past the Louvre…up the Champs Elysees to the Arc d’ Triomphe and back to our hotel via Boulevard St. Germain. Over six hours, we walked EIGHT MILES. So much fun.

One day we took the Metro to the Opera area…and the Galerie Lafayette…an extraordinary experience. The Galerie is the ultimate Paris shopping destination. In our case…not to buy…just to look. The merchandising and presentation is mind-blowing. For the better part of two days we walked through the Marais District…a blend of large department stores, small unique shops, wonderful cafes, green parks and residential apartment neighborhoods. Sights and sounds beyond compare.

And of course there was terrific food. For fun during the day…charcuterie…pommes frites….Croque Monsieur.

At night we’d get serious.

Our neighborhood was like a culinary goldmine. The first night we discovered La Robe Et Le Palais…a cozy wine restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. Decor? Shabby modern. Very cool. The late great Curtis Mayfield was on the house sound system when we arrived…and I knew this was THE place. (Later Otis, Sly, James Brown and a slew of Memphis Stew. Our server was in charge of the music. Plugs his iPod in before his shift and cranks it up.)

We were asked if we had a reservation (of course not)…but a deuce was found. Menus presented. Plates and wines translated and described. A bottle of tasty, warm red for our table. On the fruity side. Kris enjoyed salmon…Beef tartare for me. And no wimpy, accompanying Surgeon General-like warnings on the menu like, “Eating undercooked meat can be harmful to your health”. Screw that. Shut up and eat. It is a given you WILL TRUST your food in the hands of French kitchen experts. Loved the place so much we ate there three nights.

We also had a delicious, fun meal one evening at an Italian restaurant off Rue De Rivoli called Fellini. Simple yet satisfying salads, rich pastas and personable, fun staff. Lots of terrific memories here. Kris learned how to fold the fancy table napkins here so well in between courses…she was almost hired. Oh, darn. No visa.

Our last five days and nights in Paris blew right past us. What a great time. We are so happy we chose to spend the last days of our trip there. The time we spent in Paris encouraged us for a return to Europe at some point in the future.

We hope to be so fortunate.

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True Talent Endures. Legends Result.

knopfler

The 1970’s. Wow, that’s really a long time ago… 40 plus years for those having a tough time doing the math.

The Vietnam War. The Kent State killings. Nixon resigns. The Manson murders. The Apollo moon missions.

And Music.

The 70’s marked the pinnacle of recorded music on vinyl.  It was an incredible era. Without going into boring statistical detail …LP’s by chart topping artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Wings, KISS, Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac accounted for multiple millions of units sold.

Most radio stations played the “hits” in Top 40 formats on AM radio or reached for deeper LP cuts to air within FM Album Oriented Rock structures. Whichever airwave was broadcasting the sounds…they reflected the monstrous sales numbers of mainstream artists generated through flourishing local and national record store retailers.

Fewer stations chose a more free form format approach, mostly on the FM band. They exposed loyal listeners to alternative, yet generally accessible music and artists in less mainstream genres such as progressive rock, blues, folk and jazz. One might be able to tune in and discover obscure but talented artists. They could be as varied as Deodato, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, The Strawbs, Milt Jackson, Barclay James Harvest, Wishbone Ash or Roxy Music. These “underground” stations often made “stars” out of many of these musicians and groups. As their exposure grew and talent was recognized, some became part of the mainstream.

During the 1970’s, I was producing, syndicating and distributing a weekly one hour radio program out of my own studio in Portland, Oregon to about 20 independent radio stations in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

“Import Report” spotlighted LP music generally unavailable in US record stores. It was stuff you didn’t or couldn’t hear on US radio…except on Import Report.

I didn’t make much money doing this, but it was a lot of fun.  I’d select music to showcase during each Import Report which had been recorded and pressed overseas. Countries as globally diverse as England, Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Italy and Japan were the roots.

The musical genres from overseas were all encompassing. However, there were only a few knowledgable and/or curious record retailers who’d import these types of albums into the US. If you were fortunate to live near one of these unique stores with import inventory, likely you’d be able to find something really new, fascinating and entertaining.

I was extremely fortunate during my Import Report years to live near Portland’s Music Millennium record store…owned and operated by one of the great music junkies of the era…Don MacLeod. MacLeod stocked Millennium with a gold mine selection of underground and hard to find imported music on LP.

The mission then of Import Report, was to point my listeners in New York, Portland, Albuquerque, Atlanta…or wherever… in the direction of this new, fascinating and entertaining music; music which I had discovered in the bins and on the shelves at Music Millennium.

We all know by now…that those halcyon music days of the 70’s were short-lived…and that the music industry we knew then, has all but shriveled and withered away the last quarter century.

The chain LP record retailers have been buried beneath the rubble of inferior, over priced plastic CD’s, Napster and online download entities like iTunes…while radio is now a vast wasteland of hate talk, sports talk, Auto-Tune aided music and 35 minutes of broadcast commercials every hour.

So it is now that I look back at that musically overwhelming 1970’s era with some satisfaction knowing that, quite likely, Import Report was the very first music capsule on US airwaves to broadcast the likes of now legendary artists and recordings such as Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True”, Kraftwerk’s “AutoBahn” and Dire Straits first LP, the self-titled “Dire Straits”.

Which brings us…in a very roundabout way… to “Tracker”…the new work by Dire Straits’ guitarist/vocalist Mark Knopfler. It’s been 20 years since the Straits disbanded, but Knopfler has remained active, releasing over the years a brilliant array of astonishingly wonderful music. It’s safe to say that the Mark Knopfler body of work from the Dire Straits years…”Sultans of Swing”, “Money For Nothing”, “Telegraph Road”, “Tunnel of Love”… through his solo career including 8 albums…as well as his country rock roots band, The Notting Hillbillies, represents that of Legend.

“Tracker” reveals a reflective, age appropriate Knopfler recalling stories of life and love. And fond memories of good times.

“Beryl”…a “Sultans of Swing” sound-a-like…reminisces perhaps of all he’s accomplished through the years. The Ry Cooder influences are pronounced through out “Tracker”…but Knopfler’s take on Cooder here literally sparkles.

“Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes” opens with a jaunty, jazzy Celtic fiddle/accordion highlighted instrumental…cruises into vocals about memorable times in London when young…and then closes with a remarkable instrumental homage to Vince Guaraldi’s “Take 5”.

Aussie folk singer Ruth Moody weaves her lovely soprano in and between the controlled tempo of Knopfler’s voice during “Wherever I Go’…the two of them often combining for a tasty duet celebrating love, separation and devotion…a saxophone drifting along through some measures for comfort.

The highlight in my opinion is “Lights of Taormina”… a panoramic aural feast of a time savored with a long lost love at the Sicilian coastal paradise. Where has the time gone?, Knopfler wonders. Edging into melancholy…yet loving and warm…past moments cherished with the help of a seductive tenor guitar.

Eleven other songs complete “Tracker”. They exquisitely represent the work of an accomplished, well-traveled, experienced artist; an artist confident in his approach and delivery…unconcerned with radio airplay or album sales. Mark Knopfler is the embodiment of an enduring talent which emerged from the stacks of record store wax and Billboard charts of that long ago 70’s Era.

Exposing listeners years ago to unknown musical artists is what I hoped to achieve with Import Report. I’m happy to say I didn’t miss the target with Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler.

Today, in this 21st Century, Mark Knopfler represents the very essence of Legend.

For airchex from legendary progressive rock radio stations KZAP in Sacramento and KSAN in San Francisco…follow below!!!

http://airchexx.com/2011/06/10/early-progressive-fm-radio-sampler-kzap-sacramento-ksan-san-francisco-1968/