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Ask most people what they plan to do in retirement and, if they are lucky, they may say they want to travel more. I retired at the end of last month and a short trip up the Pacific Coast from California's Santa Catalina Island to the Pacific Northwest was my first order of non-business. Please continue into the tall grass for a photo-reprise of that brief but rewarding journey.  

Some people are appalled by very idea of a "bucket list". I find that the older I get, the more charming the idea seems. This trip involved destinations that were on my list, and, unexpectedly, one that should have been but wasn't.

The first destination was Santa Catalina Island, always symbolized in my mind's eye by the Avalon Casino, seen here:

Avalon Casino, Santa Catalina Island, CA
The quaint hideaway for the uber-rich and day tripping tourists from LA, alike, sits perched above a charming crescent shaped small craft harbor on this desert island just off the California Coast.
Catalina is fixed firmly in pop culture through movie references and other connections. This is where the iconic Natalie Wood met her untimely and ever mysterious end. This is where Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, first met Noah Cross, played by John Huston, in Roman Polanski's classic film noir Chinatown. In the breakthrough film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this is where Eddie Valiant spent his last holiday with his brother and partner before the brother met his own tragic end when a maniacal toon dropped a safe on him.

As with anywhere they go, the superrich have left giant footprints on this tiny desert island. One of these is the enormous stone tomb built to house the remains of chewing gum magnate, the namesake of a certain cursed baseball field, William Wrigley, whose confection company continues to thrive in Chicago. The tomb is distinguished only by its enormous size. Its graceless and drab appearance suggests that Joseph Stalin could have had a hand in its design. Anyway, the tomb has remained unoccupied since World War II when Mr. Wrigley's widow, in a gesture of breathtaking conceit, moved his remains to Pasadena out of fear the Japanese would think his towering tomb to be a good bombing target.

The Wrigley family also endowed the succulent and endemic plantings on the grounds around the monument. But if you really want to see a fine desert botanical garden, skip this one in favor of Papago Park in Phoenix, AZ.  

If a pleasure trip is a meal, Santa Catalina Island, now duly checked off of my list, was merely a starter. The main course was never-before-visited San Francisco.  

San Francisco viewed from the Bay, Fisherman's Wharf in Foreground, Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower in Left Middle Ground, TransAmerica Tower and Financial District in Background

Shortly after I decided to visit San Francisco for the 1st time in my life, I put up a post on Daily Kos: Help Re: My First Trip to San Francisco. My plans only allowed me a day and a half in the city by the bay, and, as I asked, in my post seeking guidance from fellow Kossacks familiar with the place, I wanted to "spend a day and a half in San Francisco and come away with some genuine sense of the place."

I not only got great advice, but Daily Kos Staffer, Director of Community Building, navajo, jumped in and arranged for a meet-up with some wonderful SFKossacks.

L-R: (front) Lorikeet, dharmasyd, Expat Okie, LeftOfYou, Justice Putnam
(back) jpmassar, citisven, maggiejean, side pocket & navajo

Navajo has already posted some information about the meet-up including some closeups of attendees. But, though she mentioned the fabulous food at the lunch, she didn't show much it. For those into food porn, these photos remedy that omission:

Deem Sum. Yum Yum.

It could have been peanut butter and jelly, though, and the feeling of Community would have been the same. Expat Okie and I were together, but I'd never met any of these other people. Yet it felt like one of those comfortable, peaceful fulfilling and uplifting holiday family dinners when all of the disagreeable relatives have gone off to be with their in-laws and everyone left is smart, funny, engaging, accomplished and congenial.

As for whether I came away from this visit with a genuine sense of having visited a unique and very special place, I would argue that I did. Others may judge for themselves from some of my photos:

The Beatnik Scene
The Haight
Chinatown
Alcatraz
Golden Gate Park
Muir Woods
Golden Gate Bridge
Sausalito
Our next big stop was Seattle, a city I came to know pretty well after we sent my younger daughter there for university.
Beautiful Seattle, WA by Day
Beautiful Seattle, WA by Night

I have been there so often that I didn't think there was anything left in Seattle for my bucket list, but found out how wrong I was when I discovered a treasure that was not on my list but should have been. It is an exhibition of the work of internationally acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly, displayed in an unusual and extraordinarily beautiful indoor-outdoor setting, at the base of Seattle's iconic Space Needle. It is called Chihuly Garden and Glass. As I moved through this exhibition, every time I turned a corner i gasped aloud, stunned by the new beauty before me.

Art Displayed at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, WA


If San Francisco was the entree of this journey as meal, Dale Chihuly's fantastical art in Seattle was definitely the dessert.

But Seattle still had an exquisite after-dinner mint to offer. In an otherwise useless  sliver of land lost between train tracks and a freeway, near Seattle's waterfront, the Seattle Art Museum is developing a small sculpture park, and doing it with a certain sense of whimsy. For example, one piece depicts a nude man and nude boy reaching toward one another:

As my daughter explained it, this art sometimes freaks out some of the tourists, you know, like old people going on Alaska cruises, etc. So the museum sometimes adjusts the fountain to conceal the naughty bits:
Other works we saw were equally whimsical, whether abstractly monstrous:
Or mystical:
Or absurd:
Having visited so many times before, and mostly expecting to enjoy a day with my seldom visited daughter, Seattle yielded an extraordinary bounty for the mind and eye and heart that I didn't see coming. My whole journey proved to be a sumptuous feast of sights, sounds, experiences, friendship, family and community. Oh, and food, too.

Now on to planning my next trip.  

Originally posted to LeftOfYou on Wed May 21, 2014 at 01:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Shutterbugs.

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