Photo of the month

You only get dressed up like this if you're going to a wedding or a really boring awards ceremony. Fortunately it was the former. We pose for a photo at the June 15 reception in Sonora, Calif., for Glenn's longtime friend Glen Campi and his new bride Susan. Glenn was performing his duties as Glen's best man. Photo by Glenn.

June 2013

To see any of these photos larger, or as a slideshow, view our Flickr gallery.

Inspired by the Delta Science Center greenhouses on Jersey Island, Roni decided we should build one of our own. We've already got the frame built and just need to add some plastic sheeting. Photo by Glenn.

Our backyard greenhouse will be used to incubate rice (what else.) Roni seeds six nursery pots that will house the young plants. Photo by Glenn.

The finished greenhouse occupies a space in our tomato garden. Roni waters the plants shortly after we got the site set up on May 27. Photo by Glenn.

Our three new fruit trees are lined up and ready for planting. From left to right are a Bartlett Pear, cherry and Genoa fig. Photo by Glenn.

If we needed a reason to buy the fig tree, this was it. Look at all those growing figs! Photo by Glenn.

Our fruit tree hunt took us to Lowe's, where we also picked up two cool planters. This one is a giant frog with a spot in back to grow a plant to be named later... Photo by Glenn.

...and here is the frog's companion, Mr. Fish. We considered not buying these both because of the expense, but we got so many curious comments from other shoppers and the store clerks as we pushed the pots around in our cart that we figured they would be gone if we took time to consider the decision. We'll put them to good use. Photo by Glenn.

Enough of our garden. It's time to return to Jersey Island to check the progress on the Delta Science Center's rice farm. Roni cuts a path to the nearby irrigation canal to lower the water level in the rice greenhouses. Photo by Glenn.

Many of our visits in May and June were to repair damage to the greenhouses caused by the wind. On this day Roni is cutting more plastic sheeting to close up the ends of the greenhouses. Photo by Glenn.

The rice seedlings are finally making progress, but they will need to get much taller before they can be transplanted. Photo by Roni.

It's a dirty job maintaining the greenhouses, but somebody;s gotta do it. Photo by Glenn.

We attended the Contra Costa County Fair on Saturday, June 1. It was a typically warm weekend, hot enough to melt the caramel off the apples in decorated apple contest. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn takes pictures of a prize-winning onion in the veggie display. Photo by Roni.

Members of Antioch's roller derby squad, The Undead Bettys, make their way around the Paradise Skate track during introductions before their exhibition bout. Photo by Glenn.

Roller derby players line up for the start of another jam. Photo by Glenn.

One of the best reasons to attend the fair at night is for a glimpse of the carnival lights. The Ferris wheel on the midway looks great in motion. Photo by Glenn.

The Tornado ride is one of the colorful attractions in the kiddie area. Photo by Roni.

Roni poses for a picture amid the carnival game booths on the fair midway. Photo by Glenn.

Our participation in the East Bay Regional Park District's 2013 Trail Challenge took us to the Martinez Regional Shoreline on Sunday, June 9. We used the GoPro to take this shot on the arch bridge over Alhambra Creek. Photo by Glenn.

Together again for the first time in at least a couple of decades, Glenn is flanked by his elementary school friends Sean Kahuila, left, and Glen Campi on a visit to Glen's home in Mountain House on June 2. The gathering was a prelude to Glen's wedding two weeks later. Photo by Glenn.

You don't get Glenn into a tuxedo very often, so we made sure to get plenty of pics when he rocked these threads as best man at Glen's June 15 wedding. Glenn gets dressed in our Sonora motel room. Photo by Roni.

We're a little early for the start of the wedding, so Roni gets comfy in the pews of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn's big moment came late in the wedding ceremony, when he read a 6-minute speech about the meaning of family. Here, members of the wedding party share a laugh during one of the speech's lighter moments. Photo by Roni.

Glenn's speech ran two pages. He worked on it for nearly two weeks, and it was well received by the audience. Photo by Roni.

The day after the wedding we had time to explore the nearby Columbia State Historic Park. We took a stagecoach ride... just because we could.

Wouldn't you know it, our stage got stopped by a bandit as we rolled through the Sierra foothills. Fortunately he wasn't too interested in our personal belongings and let us continue on our way with only minor harassment. Photo by Glenn.

Roni practices the ancient art of candle dipping, learning how to make a multicolored rose by applying several coats of hot wax. Photo by Glenn.

The GoPro gives us a nice wide angle view for a portrait shot outside the old Columbia livery stable. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn gets to try his hand at panning for gold in the park's demonstration troughs. Although he didn't recover any gold, he was entertained for more than an hour and is eager to try again. Photo by Roni.

We stopped for a bite to eat on the way home from Columbia — and a bite is about all Roni got from this teeny tiny box of fries from a well known fast food chain. Photo by Glenn.

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Get us to the church on time

June 25, 2013

What do you do when a good friend you haven’t seen since before the start of President George W. Bush’s second term looks you up and asks you to be in his wedding party? If you’re Glenn and that good friend is your buddy since elementary school, Glen Campi, then the answer is, you say yes.

Glen got remarried in January, when he and his new love Susan decided to tie the knot in a civil ceremony in Las Vegas. The decision was a spontaneous one, if not the years of build-up to the moment when he proposed to her at Christmas time. Their plan was to have a formal wedding ceremony surrounded by family and friends, so staying true to that goal they planned a big event for June 15 in the Gold Rush-era communities of Sonora and Columbia. When Glen started considering the people he wanted for his groomsmen, Glenn was one of the first he asked.

Needless to say, it has been a few years since we’ve attended a wedding. Most of our friends from high school and college have either drifted away, got married early, or decided not to get married for whatever reason. Most of our siblings married off years ago, and most of their kids until recently were too young to get married themselves. The last wedding either of us could recall attending was for some friends we met through the Oakley Almond Festival committee who were married in 1996. So Glenn was a bit out of practice as a wedding guest, let alone with being one of the members of the wedding party. Imagine his surprise when Glen next asked him to be his best man.

Being best man carries more responsibility than merely being one of the groomsmen. For one thing, you have to come up with a toast for the bride and groom during the reception. You’re also the guy who is supposed to keep the groom on track during the day of the wedding, making sure he gets to the church on time and remembers the ring and other good stuff that was probably true 50 years ago. What it meant for this wedding was that Glenn would also have to do a reading during the ceremony. A reading? Sure, but what is the topic? Glen said the theme was family and values and how they fit in with the modern world; the form that discussion would take was totally left to the speaker’s choosing.

So for two weeks Glenn worked on the text of what would become a two-page speech titled “What is a Family.” Despite timing its delivery at close to six minutes, he submitted it to the bride and groom for consideration and was given the green light to read it during the latter stages of the ceremony. The maid of honor was also scheduled to do a reading about friendship that would come earlier in the ceremony. There were many such moments included during the event, which helped push its running time to close to an hour.

We ordered Glenn’s tuxedo from Men’s Wearhouse with plenty of time to spare, and Roni picked out a new outfit from the clothing stores. The wedding was planned for late Saturday afternoon, and if you know anything about California in the middle of June, we were very concerned about the prospect of triple-digit temperatures in the Sierra foothills. Formal wear can be quite uncomfortable in that sort of heat.

The wedding weekend commenced on Friday, June 14, with a rehearsal at the church and dinner in Sonora, but we missed that part because Glenn had to work late Friday. We’d made plans to drive up Saturday morning, and only late in the process did we also decide to rent a hotel room because of the concern that it would be too far to drive back late at night. Roni booked us into the Aladdin Motor Inn in Sonora — the first time in 19 years we’d spent anywhere overnight without Ben. We left the house shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday and made it to Sonora around 12:45, which gave Glenn just enough time to slip into his tux before heading over to the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia for a photo session.

We’d gotten lucky with the weather. The temperature hovered just below 90 degrees, and the church was air conditioned. The photo session, however, wasn’t. The photographers decided to take the groomsmen over to nearby Columbia State Historic Park to pose them for pictures amid the old mining town. It was just a couple of blocks from the church — walking distance for anyone in casual summer clothes, but not in a three-piece suit. The guys all carpooled over and did their photo shoot beneath the withering sun while Roni went exploring amid the shops and historical displays.

We kicked back in the church pews for about an hour afterward until the wedding started, visiting with some of the folks Glenn hadn’t seen since his youth and receiving last-minute instructions on what to expect during the ceremony — for the benefit of Glenn, who hadn’t been present for the rehearsal.

As The Beatles finished up with “And I Love Her” the groom led his five groomsmen to the church stage, Glenn clutching the wedding ring in his palm. The bridesmaids entered one by one, followed by the bride who looked radiant in her flowing white gown. About 70 other guests were on hand to witness the ceremony, which went off mostly without a hitch. Glen and Susan read their own vows — Susan off a paper she had printed ahead of time, and Glen from the tiny screen of his cellphone because he had forgotten to print his. The maid of honor gave her reading about the meaning of friendship, the rings were exchanged, a unity candle lit, and then it was Glenn’s turn to speak. (You can read the full text of Glenn’s speech here.)

At the conclusion of the ceremony the pastor introduced the new Mr. and Mrs. Campi to the audience and sent them on their way to the theme music from “Happy Days.” They had barely left the stage when we all heard a loud thump and our attention was drawn to one of the bridesmaids who had fainted and crashed to the floor, her head narrowly missing striking the church organ as she fell. Glenn joked later that he didn’t realize his speech had been that bad, but the more likely possibility was that it was a nearly hourlong ceremony in a warm church (the room temperature rose significantly with everyone packed into it) and it had been awhile since anyone had eaten. Someone called the paramedics to assist the fallen bridesmaid, they gave her some fluids, and she rejoined the party in time for the post-ceremony photo session.

It was a short drive from the church to the Sonora Elks Lodge where the reception was held. We were excited to see appetizers waiting when we arrived, as we had missed lunch because of our late arrival from home and had eaten little more than some breakfast cereal and power bars. As Glenn was part of the wedding party, we got to sit at the head table and were among the first who got to line up for the five-course Greek buffet dinner.

When it came time for toasting the newlyweds, Glenn was first up with a brief toast he had prepared and practiced for nearly a week in an effort to recite it from memory. But whether it was nerves or the effects of the alcohol with our dinner, it didn’t come out quite as smoothly as he’d hoped. Somehow he got through it without insulting the bride or groom (no, it wasn’t that bad!) and his speaking duties for the evening were thoroughly discharged. After that there was time for us to enjoy the wedding cake and visit with some of the guests on the back patio of the Elks Lodge. We headed for the hotel at nearly 10 p.m., thoroughly spent after a long and enjoyable day.

* * * * *

The next morning, with Glenn’s tux packed back in its bag and the both of us rested, there was time for some sightseeing before we had to head back to Oakley. We’d considered driving up to Yosemite because we were as close to it as we’d been in years, but it was still another two hours there and then another four hours back to home, so we nixed that idea in favor of something closer to us. Glenn was disappointed that Roni had gotten to visit Columbia without him, being the history buff that he is, but there was still much of it she hadn’t had a chance to see, so it was decided that we could make an afternoon of it.

We started our visit with a stage coach ride through the bumpy back country, then strolled through the historic town checking out the attractions. It was Father’s Day, and there was a classic car show set up on Main Street. Probably more horses under the hoods of those vintage vehicles than had ever been tied to the town’s hitching posts simultaneously. Not very authentic for the Gold Rush-era theme, but a worthwhile attraction all the same. We stopped at a candle-making shop where Roni learned how to make a dipped candle. In one easy lesson she was converting a plain white parafin flower into a red rose with orange highlights.

Near the end of the afternoon we stopped at a place where Columbia visitors are allowed to pan for gold. For five bucks you can rent a pan and try your luck in some of the troughs the park stocks with gold-bearing ore. Glenn had always wanted to try gold-panning, so he decided to give it a shot. Not knowing how to go about it, he spent more than an hour boiling down a single pan of gravel until he reached what appeared to be a teeny flake of gold. Later he reconsidered what he’d found, and now isn’t convinced he found anything of value, but at least it was a fun way to kill some time.

We grabbed some ice cream from one of the shops just in time before the park closed for the afternoon, and we headed home satisfied that we’d enjoyed a pretty nice weekend out on the town.

* * * * *

The week after Memorial Day is always fair time in Contra Costa County, and this year’s county fair ran May 30 through June 2. We are always on the fence about whether to go, but something about the bright lights of the midway, exhibit halls filled with locally designed artwork, and the enticing scent of barbecue mixed with cotton candy usually pulls us back.

Last year it was Roni’s photographs she’d entered that provided the incentive for an opening day trip to the fairgrounds, and we raced through in a little more than an hour, which gave us about enough time to see her second-place ribbon and chat with some friends at the local Farm Bureau booth. This year we decided to head over to the fairgrounds on Saturday evening, which is prime time for the fair’s four-day run. That’s when you find your bigger-name bands (such that they are) on stage and usually some other sort of free attraction to get folks riled up.

This year’s fair theme was “Fun on Wheels,” with each day featuring some sort of activity that involved... well, wheels. There was auto racing, demolition derby, remote control cars, and a fair first — roller derby. Antioch has its own roller derby squad called The Undead Bettys, several members of which were putting on a Saturday evening exhibition bout at the Paradise Skate center on the fairgrounds, free for the price of fair admission. Being that neither or us had ever seen live roller derby and that Glenn had wanted to check it out, we decided the opportunity was right.

With Ben deciding to stay home, the two of us trooped on over to the fair around 6 p.m., just in time to hear the Van Halen cover band Hot For Teacher run through most of the rock group’s 1977 catalog. We strolled the aisles where the vendors tried to hawk overpriced clothing and jewelry and made our way to the exhibit halls where we spent the bulk of our visit critiquing the photography and checking out the kids art. We’d picked a nice warm day to visit, and the temperatures had risen enough that some of the food entries were wilting. The caramel covering on some decorated candied apples had melted like candle wax all over the display table. We were melting a bit ourselves as we made our way back to the skate rink around 7:30 to grab our seats for the 8 p.m. roller derby.

We were able to secure a couple of folding chairs at the near-end of the skating floor and set up our GoPro video camera to record some of the action. Glenn also had his Canon S3, and Roni had her Canon point-and-shoot as well as her iPhone, so this bout wasn’t lacking for video coverage. The seats around us quickly filled as other curious fairgoers wandered in to see what the sport was all about.

If you aren’t familiar with roller derby (we weren’t) the premise is fairly simple: Two teams of five skaters each line up on the track in one giant pack. Each team has one person designated as a “jammer” whose job is to skate around, over, under or through the other team’s four “blockers.” After the jammer breaks away from the pack and circles around the track, the team then scores one point for every blocker the jammer passes the next time by during a maximum two-minute jam session. The event we watched was split into a pair of 20-minute segments, with a 15-minute halftime. The winner is the team with the most points at the end of the game. Pretty simple, right?

As with most sports, it takes more than a textbook knowledge of the rules to gain a true understanding of the action. Roller derby is an intense sport with lots of physical contact, and keeping the action straight from a fan’s perspective is itself an endurance test. There are body parts flying everywhere — elbows, legs, hands, hips, arms, feet, and occasionally entire bodies sprawled across the hardwood. Bruises are common and considered a badge of honor by some of the skaters — something known as “rink rash.”

The teams usually select a theme and the individual players take derby names that frequently play off the theme. The Undead Bettys theme themselves around zombies, so we got to see players with names such as Cemetery Mary, Ivy Creepin, Blood Thirsty and Lisafer. Even the referees take punny names, such as Ewen Jected.

By the end of the first half we were quickly realizing that we had no idea what was happening on the track. The white team was leading the black team, and since this was only an exhibition match, the score didn’t mean much. So we elected to not take things too seriously and just sat back and enjoyed taking our pictures. Somehow the black squad recovered for the win during the second half of the bout. All the players skated by for a final salute to the crowd, then a bunch of them huddled together for a group photo as the fans wandered out of the hall, at least some of us a little more curious than when we’d ventured in. At least it was free entertainment.

During the two hours we’d been inside the skate rink the day had transitioned to darkness. There was now an ‘80s cover band — Flock Of 80z — on the concert stage cranking out “Love Shack”, and the midway was a dazzling sea of electric color. We grabbed sausage sandwiches for dinner and then made our way into the throngs at the carnival, experimenting with the GoPro’s wide-angle capabilities as we tried to take some night shots of the rides. We’re probably among the few people who love going to a carnival just to take pictures of other people having fun at the carnival. Glenn’s got it on his bucket list to get Roni up on the Ferris Wheel at least once, but it wasn’t to be this night.

We left just about closing time, which was a rare late night out for us. Roni grabbed a large bag of kettle corn on the way out, and as of this writing we still haven’t finished it all. Who knows, we might still be munching on it come next year’s fair.

* * * * *

One thing we won’t be winning fair ribbons for anytime soon is our gardening prowess. Not that we haven’t been trying lately, but our recent successes in the garden tend to come about as rarely as a calm day without gale force Delta winds. Roni has experienced this first hand as she and her Delta Science Center volunteers attempt to grow rice out on Jersey Island. There have been many setbacks, but worst among them is wind that just won’t quit, even as we approach what should be the sizzling summer months. Seals & Croft didn’t know what they were talking about when they sang, “Summer breeze makes me feel fine.” Even the gentle breezes stir up dust devils, shred plastic greenhouses and burn the leaves off otherwise healthy plants.

The DSC’s experimental rice crop is finally near ready to transplant. Roni is frantically trying to round up volunteers to give up part of their weekend to go play in the mud and transfer the maturing rice plants from what is left of the six greenhouses to a pair of neighboring fields. With luck, that task will have been accomplished by the time you read this.

At one point the rice crop had been so ravaged by the wind that it was decided to reseed the greenhouses. We wrote last month about picking up more seed from UC Davis. Turns out that even after the reseeding took place that Roni had more seed than she knew what to do with, so rather than waste it she decided to plant it in our own backyard. Seeing as we don’t have a flooded bog handy and couldn’t justify the cost of running the water 24/7 like on the island, we needed a better method. Frustrated by the series of disasters she’d encountered with the DSC greenhouses, Roni decided to modify their plans and build our own.

We had to assemble the greenhouse quickly because the rice had only a couple of days to soak before it would be ready to plant. We trekked over to Home Depot on a Saturday afternoon and picked up a bunch of 2-foot half-inch PVC pipes, connectors, zip ties and Velcro strips. We used a couple rolls of sheet plastic left over from the DSC project. On Sunday, Glenn constructed an A-frame from the pipes, and once they were together we rolled the plastic over the frame, secured it with the zip ties, created flaps secured by the Velcro that could be opened for watering purposes, and moved the 4-by-4 square-foot structure to a cleared-out spot in the tomato garden. Roni found a large plastic tub we’d once used to mix concrete and filled it with water, then into this she placed six nursery pots, each sprinkled with the rice seed, which would allow the soil to soak up enough water so the seeds would germinate and take root.

Our home greenhouse is tiny, but so far it has held up well against the wind, and it had a little extra space inside so that when it came time to buy tomato plants we were able to stow them inside, too. Maybe this greenhouse was the key to rediscovering our green thumbs. We were inspired enough to do something even more daring, and wound up next buying a bunch of fruit trees.

We’ve had decent luck growing our orange/grapefruit tree in an oak wine barrel on the patio, so we were interested in trying some other trees. Glenn wanted a Bartlett pear to honor his favorite Courtland festival, and Roni had her eye on a cherry. We had a third barrel available, so we perused the nurseries for another fruit tree. Peaches, apricots and plums all got consideration, but in the end it was a healthy looking Genoa fig tree that we found at Lowe’s that came home with us. We had picked up a couple of half barrels in Napa wine country when we visited there last fall, and they had been sitting idle since then. We liberated them from the giant gopher mounds that had accumulated beneath them and popped the fig into one, placing the barrel next to our Winter Season statue. We figured the fig was a nice complement for her classical Greek appearance.

The pear tree went in the second barrel next to our Highway 160 signpost, appropriate in that the northern Delta along that road is home to most of the state’s pear crop. Planting the cherry would require us to reclaim one of our old barrels that no longer had anything growing in it. We’d failed a few years ago with a lemon tree, and the only thing now growing in the barrel next to our garage was termites. Glenn pulled out the dirt and rolled the barrel into the yard so he could clean it up a bit. We haven’t gotten the tree planted in it yet, so for the meantime we are watering it regularly and picking it up every day or so after the wind repeatedly knocks it over.

* * * * *

During the past month we signed up for the East Bay Regional Park District’s “2013 Trails Challenge.” As the name suggests, the challenge is held annually as a way to entice couch potatoes like ourselves into going for long walks on the district’s trails in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The way the program works is that you sign up with the park district and receive a guide listing the various trails throughout the region where you can earn credit toward a goal of 26 miles walked by the end of December. You also get a pretty cool T-shirt simply for registering, and a commemorative pin once you complete your miles.

We got signed up pretty late, so we have a lot of walks ahead of us this summer. We decided to start with one of the easy ones, a mile-long trail at the Martinez Regional Shoreline. We visited there Sunday, June 9, with our cameras in tow. The “hike” (it’s all flat with the exception of a couple of small arched bridges) took us through a tree-covered park and out along the Carquinez Strait where you can enjoy birds, boats and take in the various wildflowers that grow near the water’s edge. Glenn got to do a little train watching where the trail runs near Union Pacific’s Ozol railyard, and for Roni it was a chance to stretch her legs with some low-impact exercise; she hopes to work up to some of the more strenuous hikes on the park district’s list after she builds up her stamina.

We both could have used some stamina when we went to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch to pick up our T-shirts. The shirts are kept in the gift shop at the Greathouse Visitor Center, which is located inside one of the mine tunnels about a half mile up a steep trail. Why the park district doesn’t keep them near the main entrance or simply mail them to you is still a mystery to us, but we managed to reach the visitor center without going into cardiac arrest and are now well attired for our next Trail Challenge adventure.

Ben is going through some adventures of his own as he searches for his first real-world job. After much searching he managed to score an interview with Kmart earlier this month. It didn’t go quite as well as he’d hoped, but it was a good learning experience and will certainly help him build confidence as he looks for his next interview.

That’s all the time and space we have for this month. Enjoy the start of your summer and we’ll be back with new tales in July.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 20:42 hrs.

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