Entries tagged with “Shaili Zappa”.


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Holding my step-granddaughter Cristina in Toby’s Coffee Bar. Last week was the first time we’d met, and we quickly hit it off.

My nuclear family (back row): Kristeli Zappa, Shaili Zappa, and Anika Pinelo with her two daughters, Lucia and Cristina; (front row): my wife Lynn and me. The young ladies all showed up last week for an end-of-summer visit.

Despite five marriages, I’ve never sired any children of my own; however, my fourth wife, a Guatemalan named Ana Carolina Monterroso, arrived with three daughters in tow. Although our marriage ended after a few months, I have remained close with those three stepdaughters. At least one of them visits me almost every year.

Kristeli, 30, Shaili, 26, and Anika, 32, all have dual US-Guatemalan citizenship since their natural father is an American. Shaili works for a finance company in Mexico City. Kristeli lives in New York, where she’s a clinical social worker providing mental-health therapy. Anika lives in Minnesota and before becoming a mother worked for a manufacturer that periodically sent her to South America to sell tanks. Those tanks, by the way, were not military but rather industrial vats.

My step-granddaughters, Cristina (four months) and Lucia (two years) turned out to be delightful young ladies.

I still have many of my childhood storybooks, and while she was here, Anika accepted them as gifts for her daughters. Although she can read only a few words, Lucia (at left) has already developed a fascination with books.

All three stepdaughters have led adventurous lives. Kristeli studied in France and then Taiwan before getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in New York. Shaili studied for several months in Kenya before graduating from the University of Minnesota. Anika, who also graduated from the University of Minnesota, took up skydiving before giving birth to two children.

At the kitchen door after dark.

Also getting together here last week were two other families; a mother raccoon and a mother skunk, both showed up with their kits. The skunks muscled in on the raccoons’ clumps of kibble, but they didn’t spray, and neither creature seemed afraid of the other.

Shaili leaned out a window to photograph them although she naturally worried about getting sprayed. She wasn’t, and the whole end-of-summer visit had a most pleasant air to it.

As a result of a brief marriage to a Guatemalan in 2003, I have three stepdaughters, and because their birth father is a US citizen, they have dual US-Guatemalan citizenship.

I met their mother in 1982 while I was reporting for the old, Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner during a 2.5-year sabbatical from editing The Point Reyes Light. The Examiner had sent me to Central America to cover uprisings in Guatemala and El Salvador, and in Guatemala she was my part-time translator.

As I write, my middle stepdaughter Kristeli Zappa was supposed to be flying back to New York City after visiting for a week; however, United Airlines is now reporting online that the flight is being delayed for maintenance. Kristeli is in her senior year at New York University, and, boy, has she led an interesting life for someone in only her mid-20s.

Growing up she attended schools in: Guatemala; France; and the United States, including time at Tomales and San Marin high schools and a year of grade school in Minnesota. She worked for a spell in Barcelona and spent her first year and a half of college at a university in Taiwan. While there, she rowed on one of the school’s dragon boat teams.

Kristeli (center), Lynn and I last Wednesday enjoyed a late-evening dinner outdoors under heat lamps at Calzone’s Italian bistro in North Beach. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Kristeli and her younger sister Shaili resemble each other so closely that several times during her visit I called her by her sister’s name. So it was probably fitting that we took Kristeli on several of the same outings we took Shaili on when she visited in August: watching Beach Blanket Babylon, dropping by Calzone’s for dinner while in North Beach, listening to jazz at the No Name bar in Sausalito, and having dinner with Anastacio and Sue Gonzalez in Point Reyes Station.

When Shaili was here three months ago, the Gonzalezes went with us to Café Reyes for pizza. This time Anastacio cooked us a yellowfin tuna he had caught in the Sea of Cortez and brought back on ice. It was the best fish I’ve eaten in years.

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station filled the main hall and adjoining former church Thursday afternoon. The event drew so many people they ate all the pumpkin pie. That hadn’t happened in years, if ever, one of the regular volunteers told us. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The turkey dinner is always free although donations are welcome, and it’s always well prepared. There is even a vegetarian plate for non-turkey eaters. For many of us diners, however, the best part of the dinner is the opportunity it provides to catch up with old acquaintances we seldom see. That’s one way we keep our sense of community alive.

A week of rainy days interspersed with sunny ones has been helping the grass turn green in the horse pasture next to Mitchell cabin. The stockpond is far from overflowing, but the water level is rising. [Update: At the end of 4 inches of rain Tuesday night-Wednesday morning, Dec. 2 & 3, the pond was overflowing.]

Even dramatically low Nicasio Reservoir, which belongs to Marin Municipal Water District, appears to be slowly recovering from the drought. The rest of the district’s reservoirs were already in pretty good shape. If all MMWD reservoirs are counted together — Alpine, Bon Tempe, Kent, Lagunitas, Nicasio, Phoenix, and Soulajule —  “current storage is 94.42 percent of average storage for this date,” the district reported on Nov. 23.

When Lynn and I went to the No Name bar in Sausalito to hear jazz, as we often do on Friday nights, we, of course, took along Kristeli. What was unusual about the evening was that drummer Michael Aragon, whose quartet has played at the No Name virtually every Friday night for 31 years, wasn’t on hand.

Instead we heard Sausalito bluesman Eugene Huggins’ band which plays at the No Name regularly but not on Fridays. Besides wailing on a variety of harmonicas, Huggins sang an engaging selection of blues and blues-rock. Although Huggins is well regarded, none of us had heard him before, and we were all impressed.

And then it was time for Kristeli to fly home. Lynn and I drove her to the Larkspur ferry terminal, so friends of hers in San Francisco could pick her up at the Ferry Building, show her around, and ultimately drive her to the airport.

For me her visit had been quite an experience. Kristeli had lived in Mitchell cabin for only a few months during my brief marriage to her mother 11 years ago, and I hadn’t seen her since although we periodically correspond by email. Yet by the end of her visit, Lynn and I were genuinely sad to see her go. I don’t know if Lynn and I, Kristeli and her sisters, together fit the formal definition of an “extended family,” but it sure feels like one.

It all began in a dream one night earlier this month and ended in another dream during the wee hours this morning. Between the dreams were events of enough moment to command Lynn’s and my full attention.

Here’s how it started. My friend Janine Warner, who in the early 1990s reported for The Point Reyes Light, recently returned from a week of coaching journalists in Chile. Among the subjects she taught was how to use small drones to photograph news scenes. When she and her husband, Dave LaFontaine, called from Los Angeles, Lynn and I wanted to hear all about her classes.

However, conversations between old friends tend to wander onto numerous topics, and somewhere along the way, Dave brought up the topic of urban rats. As it happened, in 1983 during my two-year sojourn reporting for the old, Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, one news story I covered was the replacing of the sewer under Hyde Street on Russian Hill. As I told Dave, the old sewer had been so antiquated that it was made of bricks, not pipes, and rats regularly got into it through chinks between bricks in order to eat fat in the sewage. A bit to my frustration, however, I had a momentary mental block and could not come up with the name of the hill, only of the street.

Later that night, I was asleep in bed when Lynn asked me to roll over because I was snoring. I muttered something that Lynn didn’t understand, and she asked me, “What?” After being asked two or three more times while still only half awake, I said, “Russian Hill.”

“What about Russian Hill?” Lynn asked. “That’s where all the drones and small explosives are,” I replied. “Okay,” answered Lynn, “but please roll over. You’re snoring.” I mumbled, “I will have to do that,” but I was still mostly asleep and just sank lower into the pillow. Lynn got out of bed and went into the living room to sleep for awhile on the couch.

When we later got up, Lynn was curious as hell about Russian Hill, the drones, and small explosives. The first two were obvious, I said. Russian Hill was the name I hadn’t been able to remember while on the phone the night before when we were also talking about drones. As for the small explosives, the FBI on June 2 had made a much-publicized arrest of a well-established political consultant, Ryan Kelley Chamberlain, after a bag of components for homemade bombs was found in his Russian Hill apartment.

The associations the mind makes while dreaming can be amazing.

Calzone Restaurant on Columbus Boulevard in San Francisco’s North Beach, an historically Italian neighborhood and birthplace of the city’s Beat Generation.

And now for something completely different, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The youngest of three stepdaughters from my fourth marriage, Shaili Zappa, last week flew out from Minneapolis where she is starting her senior year at the University of Minnesota. Lynn and I see her only every year or two, so when she visits, we like to take her to places that are also out of the ordinary for us.

Shaili (left) with Lynn at one of Calzone’s sidewalk tables where we stopped after picking her up at the airport.

My favorite San Francisco restaurant is Calzone’s, two and a half blocks north of Broadway. Not only does it serve excellent Italian fare, its sidewalk tables are great for people watching, which can be fascinating in North Beach. It’s open till 1 a.m. every day, and thanks to heat lamps, one can sit outside at midnight and not get cold.

Beach Blanket Babylon is the longest-running musical review in theater history with more than 15,000 performances in 40 years.

We headed back to North Beach Wednesday evening to take in Beach Blanket Babylon at Club Fugazi on Green Street. I’d been to the theater twice before, and each tongue-in-cheek performance was vastly different from the other but equally wonderful.

A parody of Miley Cyprus twerking and Robin Thicke singing.

To quote publicity for the current show: “Beach Blanket Babylon follows Snow White as she takes a fast-paced journey around the world in search of her ‘Prince Charming.’

“Along the way she encounters a star-studded, ever-changing lineup of hilarious pop-culture characters including President Barack & Michelle Obama, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Prince William, Kate Middleton and their baby Prince George, Beyoncé and Jay Z, Paula Deen, Katy Perry, Governor Jerry Brown, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, Michael Jackson, Adele, Lady Gaga and the San Francisco Giants.”

We spent an hour and a half laughing and clapping. Shaili, who had never seen a musical review before, was at least as enchanted as Lynn and I were.

For more than 50 years, the No Name Bar in Sausalito has provided another home for the Beat Generation, and on Friday night we took Shaili there. In the rear is a covered garden where customers go to smoke and drink while socializing.

Drummer Michael Aragon has performed blues and modern jazz every Friday night at the No Name for 31 years. The Michael Aragon Quartet consists of Aragon on drums, Rob Roth on sax, Pierre Archain on base, and KC Filson on keyboard. _________________________________________________________________

Much of Michael Aragon’s jazz reminds me of the late John Coltrane’s. It tends to be free-flowing and spirited but never chaotic.

I’ve followed his work for years, and I’m playing his CD Horizon Line while I write this.

From left: Lynn Axelrod, Shaili Zappa, Dave Mitchell, and Michael Argon at the No Name Bar. ______________________________________________________________

Then came the South Napa Earthquake. Shaili flew back to Minneapolis Saturday evening, and Lynn went to bed around midnight to catch up on her sleep after several late nights. I’m more of a night owl, and at 3:20 a.m. I was still sitting at my computer reading an al Jazeera article when the house began to shake.

Oh, we’re just having an earthquake, I thought. When the quake continued and got stronger, however, I began to wonder if the roof would collapse. As soon as the shaking stopped, I hurried downstairs to check on Lynn.

The shaking had awakened her — sort of. Patting the bed next to her she asked, “Where’s mom?” I was confused. “Where’s our mother?” she demanded. “There’s no mom here,” I answered. “You’re still dreaming.”

Frustrated, Lynn got out of bed to look for her mother and make sure the earthquake hadn’t done her any harm.

Still half asleep, she walked across the room and stepped into the hall where she finally woke up.

Lynn’s mother, Miriam Axelrod (at left), died in 1998.

At first I didn’t fully understand what had happened although Lynn began to laugh about her dream.

As it turned out, she had recognized me but in her mind had blended me with her brother whom she hasn’t seen in years.

Once again I say: the associations the mind makes while dreaming can be amazing.

As for the quake itself, the US Geological Survey website, which Lynn immediately checked, listed it as magnitude 6.1. Hardest hit was the Napa area 35 miles away where more than 200 people were injured, three of them critically including a 13-year-old boy hit by bricks from a collapsing chimney. Fifteen buildings in downtown Napa received major damage, and numerous others in Napa and Vallejo had moderate damage.

In addition, four mobilehomes were destroyed by fire and at least two others damaged, presumably because the quake broke gas lines. The quake also brought down powerlines in Contra Costa County, blacking out 69,000 homes and businesses. Some wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties received extensive damage and lost large amounts of wine in barrels, vats and bottles.

Between two memorable dreams there intervened great food, great theater, great jazz, and great damage. It’s been an interesting fortnight.

For years, this was my view of Mitchell cabin as I drove up my driveway.

The cabin was framed by a large Monterey pine on the right and two others on the left.

It was an ideal setting for a cabin, I’d always thought.

My former wife Cathy and I built the cabin in the winter of 1976-77, and we planted the pines soon after moving in.

 

 

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The pines on the west side of the house have long been perches for all manner of birds and have provided refugee for many four-footed creatures, as well.

They’ve also been people-friendly. A year ago they inspired my stepdaughter Shaili (left), who was visiting from Minnesota, to try her hand at climbing.

 

 

 

 

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The only chipmunk I’ve ever seen around Mitchell cabin showed up one summer morning at the base of one of the pines.  _________________________________________________________________

Wild turkeys have become accustomed to using the pines for lookout posts.  ________________________________________________________________

Here a bashful possum peeks around one of the pines. _________________________________________________________________

And here a coyote prowls underneath the same  trees. ________________________________________________________________

Tragically, this stand of pines became doomed. The nearer tree died in the drought, and the further tree had begun to lean precipitously over the cabin. With great reluctance, I called Nick Whitney’s Pacific Slope tree service to cut the pines down and haul away any sad reminders of them. ________________________________________________________________

The pines had become so much a part of my home that I remembered how I felt when I had to take a sick, old dog to the vet to be put down. But there was no avoiding it, and Monday morning, the Pacific Slope crew showed up and got right to work. Here climber Ignacio Franco (left) listens to my lament. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ______________________________________________________________

Despite the sadness of the occasion, Lynn and I were fascinated by the almost-gymnastic feats of Ignacio (seen here) and his brother José as they climbed the trees. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A large limb comes floating down after Ignacio cuts it loose with a chainsaw. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ________________________________________________________________

The limbs, pine needles, and cones were ground up in the orange chipper at right and then hauled away.

Here José Luis Franco, better known as Pepe, (in light-colored shirt) feeds the chipper while David Antonio Lopez (in yellow shirt) drags limbs over.

Ignacio, meanwhile, prepares to cut the top off the dead tree. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

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Pepe cuts a large limb off the top of the leaning pine. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A man can work up a thirst climbing to the top of a tree and then sawing off heavy limbs, so Pepe took a moment for a drink of water.

Hoisting the bottle from ground level was his brother Ignacio, who used a block and tackle already in place for lowering cut limbs. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ignacio (left) uses a pulley to lower part of a limb that Pepe has cut while David drags off another. The limbs were too close to the house to be simply dropped. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ________________________________________________________________

As Pepe descends at the end of the day, these skeletons were all that remained of what had once been a familiar stand of Monterey pines. Tomorrow morning, the Pacific Slope crew will be back, and these too will disappear. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) _______________________________________________________________

Late-breaking news: Pepe, Ignacio, and David returned Tuesday as scheduled and finished their logging.

Here Pepe appears to be dropping a section of trunk on David’s head, but David is tough, and the impact didn’t faze him. Perhaps because he was actually standing a safe distance away. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod) ________________________________________________________________

Mitchell cabin has survived, but to my eye, its west side now looks starkly naked. For the sake of decency, Lynn and I will soon adorn it with something floral, but for the moment we’re just pining for a couple of old friends.