My upcoming reading at the San Francisco public library

Click here for an “Upcoming” online blurb for that event. It’s on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the SF Public Library’s Mission Bay branch. (The event, of course, is free.)Here’s the link for directions to the branch (it’s right on the T-Line and near the Caltrain stop): Also — here’s a windswept photo of the John Muir Trail (near Muir Pass) in honor of three readers who have written in, proclaiming their intentions to conquer the JMT next summer. Have a great time out there, but bring bug spray or mosquito netting when you go. (The skeeters will ambush you, especially at log crossings when you have to use your arms to balance yourself and can’t swat them away from your face and legs. Insects are smarter than you think!)

There is another book called “The Cactus Eaters”

I have just gotten a hold of other “The Cactus Eaters” book, published 61 years ago. There are quite a few eerie similarities. For example, both books have two protagonists. In both books, the two of them leave their jobs and set off to a wild area in search of grand adventures. In the case of that first book, the explorers are two frustrated coffee growers (instead of frustrated journalists) who set off to explore the remote Goajira peninsula of northern Colombia and meet the Goajira people (instead of exploring the western states and meeting mile-bagging backpackers). The author is Julian Weston. Apparently, the book is recommended by the “Society for the History of Discoveries.” Out of print and rare, the book includes monochrome photos and maps. I now have a copy, and am about a quarter finished with reading it.

A great marathon in Sacramento (in spite of road-rage incidents)

Well, I finished the marathon. In fact, I ran the entire thing non-stop, and finished a lot more quickly than I expected. The route, along the American River, from Folsom to Sacramento, was quite beautiful. I’ve run two other marathons but have never seen deer charge across the route, or Canada geese flying overhead while honking their heads off. If you’ve never seen this part of California, you really ought to check it out. In fact, this marathon was so enjoyable that at one point, I even thought to myself, “What a great time. I don’t want this to end.” The only bummer was the road-rage incidents that started coming up about ten miles into the course. Often, when there’s a marathon, the organizers arrange to close off the course. For this reason, veteran runners get into the habit of spreading out and using the entire road. In this case,…

Marathon: I’ve reached a compromise

I’ve decided to run this thing after all — but I will definitely walk part of it, or waddle, crawl or stagger if that is what I need to do. From everything I hear, the route is quite scenic and flat along the American River, and part of the course actually goes downhill. (yippee!!) I’m resting up and carb-loading today.

Cactus events updated

On Saturday I will run the Run the River Marathon up in Folsom (and will run non-stop to Sacramento if I can, following the American River all the way.) The other day, my father asked me, “Why on earth are you running a third marathon?” “Because I blogged about it,” I explained. “Oh,” he said, and that was the end of that. If you happen to be running this thing, and if you have a nice, slow pace, then look for me in the line-up. I’ll be wearing a blue hat with a Nike swoosh. This coming Monday, I will be going on the radio in the Atlanta area. I will be speaking with Ann Lombardi of “Travel Talk Escapes” at 3 p.m. eastern standard time. The radio station is 1120 AM. Other upcoming events: Sonoma County, CA Dec. 5private event (Rotarians) San Francisco Public LibraryWednesday, December 10, 2008Event Time:…

Squid-jiggin’ in Seattle

During my whirlwind trip to Seattle, I explored neighborhoods I’d never seen before and met all kinds of interesting people. But I packed so much into three days that I missed out on a few things. One of them is the mysterious lost art of “Squid Jigging.” “Squid jigging” means catching live squid using a baited line while standing out on a pier on Puget Sound (or elsewhere) in the middle of the night. Chances are that you’ve never heard of this unusual sport, but as you will see, it even has its own hair-raising theme song, complete with a line about “poor Uncle Billy” getting spattered with “squid-juice.” I found out about squid jigging while visiting the friendly people at the Hostel Seattle in Ballard — which must be one of the few lodging places in the world where squid-jigging is an optional activity for guests. Hostel owner Lee…

It’s less than a week away! Running my third marathon (don’t let me chicken out.)

I hope to see at least some of you at the Run The River Marathon and Ultramarathon along the American River next weekend. I’m mentioning this in my blog only because I want to be held accountable if I chicken out and don’t do this. The last time I ran one of these road races, I had no clear goal in mind, except to beat Puffy’s time in the New York Marathon. These days, I would be happy just to beat Simon Pegg’s time in Run Fatboy Run. When I hit the wall at the mid-point, I will think of Bob Holtel, who completed the Pacific Crest Trail by running the equivalent of a marathon on it almost every freaking day. That should put this thing in perspective.


I keep trying to wean myself from blogging about weird goings on in and around Golden Gate Park — but I found it hard to resist this one. I was walking through the Haight on Halloween and saw some guy asking people to smoke his thumb. Indeed, when I looked closely, I could see a plume of smoke rising up from beneath his thumb. One person actually stopped and smoked it, and then the guy started smoking his own thumb. Apparently he’d wedged a tiny, still-burning roach in there somewhere. Eventually it burned down and singed the inside of his finger. “Ow,” he said, and then the demonstration was over.

American Journeys: A Quirky Seattle That Won’t Blend In (Vladimir Lenin, Hattie’s Hat, and the Fremont Rocket Ship.)

Read about my latest adventure in the New York Times Escapes section. I had a big time up in Seattle earlier this fall. I especially loved the neighborhoods of Ballard and Fremont. Ballard has a maritime theme, and Fremont looks like a psychedelic fever dream. (although I am not saying that from direct experience.)Click here for a Ballard/Fremont mini slide show. By the way, I mentioned a seven-ton statue of Mr. Vladimir Lenin that was erected some years back right in the middle of Fremont. While in Seattle, I heard that the statue is on sale for approximately $250 K. Try to imagine how this might look in your front lawn. It’s a lot more original than pink flamingos.This is not the first time I’ve seen a controversial piece of public art or signage go up for sale. A few years back, while at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I wrote…