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Overheard During Graduation Weekend

“It’s been getting some pretty bad reviews.”


Christopher’s description of his new, very short haircut.  Evidently his roommates Evan and Francis didn’t entirely approve.

“Just walk away.”

Richmde better

Richmade in Lodi, California dates from 1938 and appears frozen in time. Our waitress’s name tag said “Renee.” She looked to be in her mid-40s, meaning she wasn’t born when the Left Banke—don’t forget the “e”—had its one hit, “Just Walk Away Renee.”  We couldn’t resist asking her if she’d heard that song, and she gave us an aggrieved eye roll. That, of course, prompted us to break out into the chorus.

“Did we bring my purse?”

Strawberry shake BJJ

We were traveling with David’s mother, Bonnie, in tow. At 87, she’s still an absolute trooper, sitting patiently through the long card ride and lengthy graduation ceremony, and making her way up multiple flights of stairs. Her short-term memory has gotten porous, so we needed to assure her many times that yes, we’d brought her purse.

“I can’t believe it.”

016 (2)

David’s uncle Bud Jardine kept repeating this as he clasped hands with Bonnie, who he hadn’t seen in more than 40 years, and they both choked up.  We stopped to see him and his wife, Elsie, on their ranch in Galt on our way to Davis.

“Toro, toro, toro.”


My sister-in-law Connie thought it would be amusing to try to summon Uncle Bud’s bull, Edy, with this classic phrase.  David shushed her, afraid the beast would begin pawing the ground and charge through the fence.  We didn’t want to mess with Edy.

“Help me with the beer.”


This was the command from the waitress at Plainfield Station, which is on a country road in Woodland, just outside Davis. If you go with a crowd, plan on pitching in with the serving.

“Chris is so tall.”

The family with the graduate

He does grow weary of hearing this.  I’ve advised him to carry a photo of a Munchkinlike couple, and show it while saying offhandedly that he doesn’t know where his height comes from, because his parents are very successful “little people” actors. But he isn’t cynical and flippant like me, so he doesn’t.




Mind the Rules

The purpose of our road trip was to drop Christopher off in Davis for his sophomore year. He declined our offer of help in scaring up used items to furnish the house he’ll share with Francis, Evan, and Ryan, so we hightailed it out of town.

We observed that no one wears bike helmets or uses bike lights at night in Davis.  I guess it’s that college town bubble of supposed invincibility. I refrained from hectoring Christopher about this.

Davis Bike Parts

We had a vague idea of spending Saturday and Sunday in San Francisco before heading home, but swerved at the last minute and drove to Yosemite. Great stop in Chinese Camp on the way.

Chinese Market Sign

We met 81-year-old Frank Yap, a retired physicist tooling around on his own in his Prius.

David with Frank Yap

He told us about coming from Hong Kong at a young age, speaking the dialect called “hakka,” which means “wanderer,” and putting himself through Brandeis and Johns Hopkins.

Frank Yap Ring

Mike, the Kiwi owner of the market in Chinese Camp, recently bought a bucket of dirt for $20 from someone who swore there was gold in it. He found a fleck or two while we were there, but not the egg-sized nugget that David predicted.

Panning for Gold

The little garden area next to the market had multiple rules, suggesting that perhaps things get out of hand there. We weren’t making any trouble that day, nor were Frank Yap or the other travelers we met, a Welshman and two women on their way to their high school reunion.

Mind the Rules

This hut was one of several we saw in Chinese Camp that appeared abandoned.

Chinese Camp HutThere must be some activity in town because the Post Office still operates.

Chinese Camp PO

Here is Yosemite (No) Falls, disconcerting and eerie. The spot where the falls normally rush and roar has gone completely dry.

Yosemite No Falls

We hiked up to Vernal Falls, which has slowed to a trickle. Seeing the dry falls and all the dry river and creek beds along the way made the drought more real than it has been.

Vernal Falls

One of the things we thought we’d do in San Francisco was swan around in some good restaurants. With all of us working so much these last few months, our dinners have been well, sketchy.  Our food on the road to and from Yosemite wasn’t exactly five-star, but it made us laugh a lot. Sour milk in the coffee in one café; dry sourdough bread out of the bag on the trail; lousy red wine in a lodge, which we drank in blackness after a lightning strike blew out a transformer and plunged everything into the dark; purported sausage that may have been old hamburger with lots of spices to disguise the swap; and a few tacos that gleamed with grease. Not exactly the stuff of fine dining, but we enjoyed it nonetheless

Home today to sort through (unpleasant) email, get back to work, close the door to Christopher’s room so we don’t have to look at its emptiness, and appreciate all we have.