Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lions and tigers and bears...

I can't figure out how to post pictures here without one stacking on top of another. I'm sure there's a way, but I don't have the proper motivation or technical savvy to accomplish it. Instead, I put our San Diego vacation photos up on Facebook. You should be able to browse through them even if you aren't a Facebook member. The snapshots feature an assortment of animals, including me and Serafin! Take a look here:

The photos are laid out chronologically, beginning with our visit to the Wild Animal Park, which ends with a swimming duck. Our San Diego Zoo visit starts with the orangutan photos and concludes with a shot of a tree wallaby. We took the remaining pictures at Balboa Park.

The Wild Animal Park admission includes a tram ride, which, honestly, wasn't very impressive. The animals are so far off in the distance that you don't get a great view unless they happen to be situated nearby. Even with my small pair of binoculars, I couldn't see much of significance on the ride. We caught some closer views while walking around the Park and looking at the individual exhibits. You'll notice that there's a lion lying right at the plexiglass in the first two photos. We got lucky with those. He sauntered up to the glass just as we were standing there. When we were at the elephant exhibit, a special tour group came to feed them, so we also got to see the pachyderms a little closer than expected. That's the thing. You can take advantage of photo caravan rides or insider tours if you pay $70 and up per person. Getting up close and personal doesn't come cheap. Then again, we had some chance encounters of our own without paying anything extra. In addition to the lion and elephants, the meerkats popped out of their burrow while we were peering over the edge of their enclosure.

I hadn't been to the San Diego Zoo since I was about 5 years old. I don't have any memories of it, but I've seen pictures of me standing by a Zoo sign and next to a petting zoo goat. The biggest draw for me this time around was the pandas. You have to wait in a separate line within the Zoo just to see them, but the line inches along steadily. Once you make it into the panda space, there's a zookeeper on a microphone giving background information, telling visitors not to make loud noises or talk above a whisper, and nudging folks to keep the line moving. In terms of somewhat closer views, we saw the following: an orangutan right behind a plexiglass wall, a snow leopard pacing the edge of its cage, a giant anteater walking back and forth in front of its enclosure, and a giraffe leaning down to investigate a group of people.

Balboa Park is so expansive that we didn't get to see everything. There are a number of museums, but we decided to go to only one: the Museum of Man. Other than that, the Japanese Friendship Garden happened to be closed on Mondays, which was the day we were there. Had we researched these things beforehand, we could also have caught a concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, which houses one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs. In lieu of the free concert they offer on Sundays, I took a picture of Serafin on the stage.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Serafin and I flew to San Diego on Christmas Day for a short trip. We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast-type place (a.k.a. guest house) adorned with Victorian furniture. Neither of us is particularly interested in old houses or the Victorian era, but it was cheaper to stay there than in a downtown hotel. Our room contained a couple of antique wardrobes that you open with a skeleton key, and the wooden bed frame creaked whenever you climbed in or out of it. The only thing missing was a clawfoot bathtub. We did, however, have a flat screen TV to keep us connected to the modern world and distracted from thoughts that the house could be haunted. All in all, the place had a lot of character and was a nice change from the typical hotel experience. Take a better look at our room here:

Soon, I'll try to post pictures from our visits to the Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My little bluebird

Here's the newest little member of my collection: a 1938 Hermes Featherweight. Isn't it gorgeous? I still can't get over how small it is, but at the same time I love that it has a metal chassis and a sturdy feel. Its case measures about 11 inches long x 11 inches wide x 2 3/8 inches high, to give you an idea of exactly how tiny it is. The original color was some sort of drab olive green, I think. Well, who cares, because this new coat of paint makes it look pretty darn spiffy. Dean Jones in Louisville, KY, is responsible for cleaning, tuning, and painting this one for me. He's a top-notch typewriter guy, and I'd recommend him to anyone looking to acquire a working, useable machine.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That's the ticket

I use red BART tickets. It's one of the few perks of being visually impaired, and I gladly take it because my commute to work in San Francisco would otherwise cost a regular price of $3.90 each way. Red tickets cut my train fare by a little more than half, so it's definitely a good thing.

One of my coworkers once asked if I ever get stopped by BART workers because I don't look like I have a disability. Ah, that truly is the story of my life—but no, I've never been stopped. That's the funny thing about these tickets. You're supposed to have a specially issued transit ID (which I do carry in my wallet) in order to legitimately use them. Oddly enough, you don't seem to need the ID when buying the tickets. It makes me wonder how many sinister types have caught on to this fact and are unlawfully purchasing and using them.

Anyway, I've never been asked to show my ID in my travels, except for the couple of times when my ticket got demagnetized and I had no choice but to talk to an agent. On one of those occasions, the agent seemed sort of baffled, saying, "You're disabled?" Honestly, I do not need to justify myself to these people; I think they're supposed to ask to see your transit ID and leave it at that. My coworker pointed out that people have a lot of hidden disabilities these days, and it's true. I think various medical and learning diagnoses can qualify you to use the red tickets, although I don't know all of the specifics. Still, my incident with that ticket agent always crosses my mind whenever I enter or exit a BART gate. I feel somehow like I'm going to be accosted even though I'm not doing anything wrong. I've never been "quick on my feet," but I sometimes rewind that moment, revising my response. Instead of telling the agent straight out that I'm legally blind, my mind's version says something like, "You don't look stupid, and yet you are." That would probably get me in trouble in real life.