June 30, 2019: Independence Day isn’t until next week, but we’ve already been treated to more than our share of rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air, such that our local police department kindly requests that citizens rat out their neighbors who are shooting off fireworks despite the city’s ordinance prohibiting such activity. But this is California in the age of hedonism, and pretty much anything goes if you can get away with it and you have a large enough pot stash and black market fireworks dealer to keep you supplied, and so we proudly wave Old Glory and bar the doors to protect the kids and kitties until sanity returns. When is that again?
All right, now that the seasonal rant is out of the way, on to our review of the month that was June in the Gehlke household…
Ever-industrious Roni kicked off the month on day one with the opening of the residential recycled water fill station at Ironhouse Sanitary District, the fifth year the program will be available to residents who are interested in alternatives to using expensive tap water to irrigate their yards. Although we have been out of drought conditions for the past couple of years and attendance has declined, there is still a hardcore group that continues to visit the station to take as much as 300 gallons of recycled water per trip.
It has been a tradition each year to celebrate the fill station’s reopening with a barbecue, and this year was no different. As Roni is in charge of the project, finding a volunteer to run the grill is as easy as asking hubby, and seeing as there was a free meal involved for the cook, she had little problem getting him to agree to terms. Finding someone to sit at the fill station for six to eight hours as an attendant is a different challenge, however, and one that this year has been considerably more difficult.
To obtain the labor for the attendant’s position, Roni works with a temporary agency that hires and supplies the workers. It’s always a crap shoot when you rely on temps, and so far “crap” has been a frequent utterance as faces come and go from one day to the next. Our attendant for June 1 was no exception, scheduled to arrive by 8 a.m. and not showing up until after 11 without so much as an apology. Fortunately Roni could run the station with one hand tied behind her back, and so the lack of a reliable warm body proved more of a nuisance than a serious setback. She had plenty of time to chat with the regulars in between checking them in, setting up the shade canopy and arranging the goodies for the barbecue spread.
Glenn fired up the grill around 10:30 a.m., a bit earlier than he planned but necessary given the various inquiries into the ETA for the food’s arrival from hungry patrons. Roni had purchased supplies from Costco, so we had 42 of their famous Kirkland hotdogs and enough buns and condiments to feed the modest crowd she expected. There was a giant variety box of potato chips and a couple boxes of Mrs. Fields soft cookies that were popular despite being left in direct sunlight that liquefied the chocolate chips.
By the end of the event at 2 p.m., we had been cleared out of most of the cookies and managed to grill all of the hotdogs. What few leftovers there were found their way back to our refrigerator where they made a couple of meals for the three of us. Roni has since gone through four station attendants, although the latest one appears to be working out, so hopefully she won’t have to remain on standby near her phone so often the rest of this summer for the dreaded call that someone isn’t coming in.
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EN HAS PICKED up a lot of time behind the wheel since he became a fully licensed driver 11 months ago, but much of that experience has come commuting three miles round-trip to work several days a week. He hasn’t had many opportunities to take longer drives solo, nor has he much wanted to until it came time to attend the summer SacAnime convention in Sacramento. He had originally hoped to go to the June 7 event with friends who could have handled the driving duties, but when those plans fell through he turned to Dad to be his copilot for the 60-mile trip up the Delta.
Ben had last driven the undulating Highway 160 in February last year, when he was still operating with his learner’s permit. We had gone as far as Locke, which is roughly 35 miles from home, and he did reasonably well for a first attempt on a challenging Delta road. Would he be up to the task of a trip nearly twice that far?
We departed at 9:30 that morning with a fresh oil change and a cup of Starbucks under the dashboard. Ben was in command the entire drive, even when it came time to transition from the narrow levee two-lane to the bustling slab of concrete that is Interstate 5. He got his first taste of big city driving when we exited onto J Street and proceeded downtown to the Sacramento Convention Center, where the SacAnime convention was being held. We made a quick transfer of drivers in the passenger drop-off zone outside the Sheraton Grand Hotel, where a costumed Ben headed off to the show while Dad was on his way to… where?
Fortunately Sacramento is one of Glenn’s favorite cities to explore and he had spent some time mapping out sights he might want to see. First there was a t-shirt shop on Franklin Boulevard called Zen Threads, a screenprinting business that also has an unusual line of graphic tees. He found the shop okay, but alas was unable to find anything on the in-stock racks that fit his size or taste, so he took a business card and moved on. By now it was time for lunch.
Sacramento is a hot spot for food gourmands, particularly in the downtown area and in the tourist spots around Old Town. With so many great dining options available you might be curious as to why Glenn would choose the unassuming New Lai Wah restaurant on the south end of town along Freeport Boulevard. That’s a longer story perhaps for another newsletter, but suffice it to say that Glenn had long wanted to eat there and finally had his chance absent protests from his better half.
He parked the car a few blocks away, at Argonaut Park in the residential area of Freeport Manor, and took a stroll through the park before continuing back out to the restaurant at the corner of Freeport Boulevard and 38th Avenue, across the street from the Sacramento Executive Airport. The restaurant was dead for noon on a Friday — he was one of just three customers. It was a very warm day and he couldn’t decide what to eat. A glass of ice water probably would have been nice. So naturally he ordered a large bowl of steaming hot and sour soup, which was served along with a pot of piping hot tea. No ice water. Ah, strange choices.
The soup was tasty and easily could have made a meal for four people, but Glenn didn’t want to lug a cup of leftovers back to the car so he finished the entire bowl, paid the bill and was on his way to find more adventures.
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FEW BLOCKS UP the street from New Lai Wah is a Japanese bakery called Mahoroba that makes the tastiest sweet buns. We’d bought from there before, but it had been a few years and Glenn decided to stop there on a whim. He picked out a half-dozen treats to share with Ben and Roni before heading back downtown.
Ben said he planned to finish up at the convention around 6 p.m., which left almost four and a half hours to kill. Having visited Old Town and the state capitol building on several occasions, Glenn wanted to check out somewhere he had never been, so he chose the Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park at the corner of 8th and N streets. If you know anything about parking in downtown Sacramento… there usually isn’t any. Especially on a weekday. But before heading off to the nearest parking garage, Glenn tried his luck circling the blocks near the Stanford Mansion and got lucky. Boy, did he get lucky!
Not only was there an open meter at the corner of 5th and N streets, but it still had time left on it. A lot of time, as it turned out — enough to stay there until 6 p.m., more than four hours away. After doing several double takes to be sure it wasn’t some sort of illusion and reassuring himself there wouldn’t be a parking ticket on the windshield when he returned, Glenn took a leisurely stroll three blocks up N Street to the Stanford Mansion and entered the park grounds.
The mansion was built in four phases between 1856 and 1872 and served as the office for California’s first three governors before the state capitol was constructed. Leland Stanford, who made his riches as a merchant around the time of the Gold Rush and as one of the businessmen responsible for building the first transcontinental railroad, was not shy about showing off his wealth, and his penchant for finery was reflected in every detail of the mansion’s construction.
The Victorian era mansion is open to the public by tour only, and it was with luck that Glenn walked into the park’s visitor center just as one of those tour groups was assembling. A guide took the half-dozen visitors into the stately mansion and pointed out highlights that started with a ballroom on the ground floor that was constructed after the house was raised above the flood plain in the mid-19th century. There are pianos that were constructed in Boston and crated by ship around South America to the mansion. Original and replica furnishings include beds and draperies and ornate carpeting, gilded crown molding, and a billiards table where Mrs. Stanford was known to play a competitive game of pool.
Unfortunately there is no photography allowed anywhere inside the mansion due to copyright restrictions on some of the artifacts that are on loan from other owners, but photos of much of this opulence can be found online. The tour takes about 45 minutes and is well worth the price of admission — free. If you like architecture and history, it is an entertaining visit.
There is no restriction on photography outside the mansion, however, and so it was fun being able to walk along the old brick paths through gardens of roses and fruit trees and imagine what the place must have been like when it was surrounded by farmland instead of office towers as it is today. A stroll up the grand staircase to look out from the porch of the front entrance is a moment to be savored, and which completed Glenn’s brief visit to the park.
After the Stanford Mansion, Glenn returned to his parking spot on 5th Street to wait out the anime convention. It turned out that the show outlasted the time left on the parking meter, so after some texting and coordinating the meeting location, Glenn at last drove past the convention center around 6:30 p.m. until he hooked up with Ben. Traffic was a zoo, given the convention and a food truck event at a nearby park, Friday rush hour, and setup for a weekend gay pride festival on Capitol Mall. We had already planned for Dad to handle the driving duties for the trip home, and considering the traffic it was a good idea.
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LENN AND BEN have been getting a lot of father-and-son time this month, as they have taken to walking together every other evening. Glenn recently got back into his neighborhood walks following a doctor visit that revealed he needs to improve his diet and exercise, so we have been working at healthier menus and more physical activity. For Ben, this has meant time to share about his daily work adventures, video gaming exploits, and discuss the nuances of presidential politics.
Yes, Ben, who has never been much interested in things political, has actually spent some time watching the Democratic presidential debates on TV and researching a few of the candidates in an effort to keep informed as the 2020 election cycle takes shape. He has also taken a wee interest in investing now that his store, Grocery Outlet (GO), has begun trading publicly on the stock exchange. Although he didn’t get in on the June 20 initial public offering, he wants to open a brokerage account so he can buy a couple of shares, just to say that he owns a stake in the company. We like that way of thinking.
Speaking of shares, June turned out to be a huge month for our investments, which rose with the tide along with the rest of the markets following an abysmal May. We’ve been at our plan now for about six months, and so far are on pace to meet our dividend return goals for 2019. We’ve made two recent purchases, adding shares of WestRock (WRK) and opening a position in Umpqua Bank (UMPQ), along with closing out a losing position in Tupperware (TUP) in favor of picking up an equal number of shares in beaten-down Macy’s (M). For now, we plan to stockpile our cash until the next market sell-off when stocks come on sale again, as they inevitably will.
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ORK ON THE never-ending kitchen project has progressed this month, with installation of the new pantry door and tile work along the entryway from the living room nearly complete. Since last month’s update we managed to finish installing the modified jamb around the pantry and attached the bifold door in a mostly straight fashion. It opens and seems to operate reasonably well, so we’ll call it a success. Inside the cabinet is a new adjustable shelving system that we created by adding metal rails on either side and modifying the original fixed-in-place shelves so that they would fit. They are held in place using small brackets.
We weren’t happy with the old shelves because they created a lot of wasted space that led to a disorganized mess as we tried to stack boxes and cans atop one another. Now we have shelves at the height we need them in addition to room for a special bottom shelf that will be placed on a track so Roni can roll her mixer easily in and out of the cabinet.
We trimmed off the pantry door and the living room entrance to the kitchen with white molding that really looks sharp. The trim work provides a border for the shiplap and tile that are being installed on the formerly yellow, textured drywall. There are a few odd-sized tiles left to cut, then that part of the project will be mostly finished. Finally we will move on to what is left behind the refrigerator.
But before the refrigerator area is finished, we will at last be installing our flooring. After months and months of looking at samples and contemplating color choices, we finally took the plunge and ordered five boxes of Lifeproof Copperhill vinyl planks that should arrive early next month. Oddly enough we had no samples of this color, so we bought it sight unseen through Home Depot’s internet site. Was this a good idea? Stay tuned.
When he hasn’t been dabbling on the kitchen project or taking walks this month, Glenn has been binge watching “Game of Thrones” on his computer with hopes of finishing the 73-episode series by his birthday. Despite the gore, gratuitous sex and depictions of medieval torture, he’s found the series highly entertaining and a great way to pass the time before bed. Pleasant dreams!