A Perfect Manhattan

My cousin Patrick is passionate about Manhattans, although when visiting him and his wife Ruth I might join them in a Manhattan, it was not ,my favorite. It was way too sweet for me, my preference in the cocktail world being – way dry, (martini), way tart (homemade margarita lots of fresh lime juice).

When I met Paul in San Francisco and we decided to stop for a drink at the Pied Piper at the Palace Hotel, we looked at the menu with many classic cocktails. They had a Classic Manhattan and a Perfect Manhattan on the menu. I almost just ordered the same drink I usually have there, a Martini made with Plymouth Gin and Dolin Dry Vermouth very cold, straight up with two olives. But I was curious about the two different Manhattans.

The bartender was happy to explain what the difference is. The classic is indeed sweeter. The classic drink uses all sweet vermouth in a ratio of 2 ounces of rye to 1 ounce of sweet vermouth and a splash of bitters. Often a maraschino cherry is added as a garnish, making the drink sweeter still. The Perfect Manhattan uses 2 ounces rye whiskey to 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth and 1/2 of dry vermouth, often a lemon twist is used as garnish.


As we chatted the bartender knew what my preferences were and suggested that I might want to taste something he had named An Even More Perfect Manhattan. He made one for Paul and me to taste, no commitment. It was really great – 2 ounces of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, 1/4 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth, 1/4 ounce Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth with 2 splashes of bitters. The garnish in this drink was a this strip of orange peel.

WOW, we ordered one for each of us.


Keeping Cool in Hot Times

We are utterly spoiled by great weather in northern California, but every once in a while in summer it gets hot! No air conditioning means that 103 – 104 degrees feels insufferable. What to do?

What I do is go to the movies. This always includes AC in late afternoon so I see whatever is playing close by.  I get out of the theater at sundown with a short walk to a restaurant (more AC) and a cool supper. Two days of HEAT, 2 movies, very different and neither on my “must see” list, each simply started at the appropriate time. Given this section process, the films were better than anticipated.

Friday (104 degrees at 4PM) I saw DUNKIRK at the Northgate Multiplex. Nothing about this movie attracted my attention, except that it started at 3:50 PM. It is a war movie. It shows thousands of folks killed by various means, being blown up, shot, drowning, and being left behind to die of starvation and dehydration.

There is scarce dialog but lots of noise, and almost no time devoted to character development. Hundreds of young men shooting at each other, thousands grouped together in long lines on a broad beach all in winter uniforms waiting for rescue boats. It was difficult to tell one fully clothed, over-loaded individual from another under their clunky helmets. O yes, fighter planes, and U-boats, too.

So what did I find fascinating about the film? It made me realize how terrible the time was and how helpless each individual was as the war enveloped them. My husband Robert Bell was a very young lieutenant in the Army shipping out from the port of Weymouth, England just after the first waves at Normandy. His ship was torpedoed and he was one of very few survivors because it was his turn at watch. He told that that story only twice that I know of, once after we met and we shared stories of our lives. The next time was during a conversation when of his Army buddies caught up with him when  we were living in Tiburon, California. The stories varied, but the focus on terror and death laid under both tales. The movie was filled with human terror and death, with a tiny reprieve at the end of a swarm of private fishing and pleasure boats from England coming to rescue soldiers still waiting.

Saturday (103 degrees at 4:00 PM) I saw RUMBLE at the San Rafael Film Center. This is a documentary film that probably does not have wide distribution, but it is really good. The film is a celebration of the the American Indian culture  jazz and rock. At one time  in the USA it was safer, better, easier to be black rather than Indian, so folks of mixed blood all became black. One of best known musicians who eventually wanted to be understood to be Indian was Jimi Hendricks whose grandmother was Cherokee.

Names like Link Wray were not known to me. But this is a guy who is given the credit for inventing Rock and Roll. The film name RUMBLE is the name of the instrumental written and played by Link in the 1950s that was so strong that stations banned it because it was thought to be able to incite people to riot!  No wonder I don’t know it until I heard it in the film. But the musicians did know the sound and do credit Link Wray, a full-blooded Shawnee with the invention of Rock and Roll. Lots of famous folk show up to say a few words, make a nod to gift of music from native Americans. Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 2.05.06 PM.png

Link Wray (May 2, 1929 – November 5, 2005) died at his home in Copenhagen.




Memory Memory is the faculty of the mind by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved. Memory is vital to experiences and related to limbic systems, it is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action. Wikipedia

 I don’t remember being born and I won’t remember dying, but between these events I have made and will make memories. Ten years ago I moved from the large house our family had lived in for 35 years and there were thousands of photographs that I could not toss without examining. Now 10 years later the photos remain sequestered in cardboard boxes. This blog will consist of some photos and the memories each generates.

Uncle Mickey – Amsterdam Avenue

We lived for a time on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This badly damaged photo was only one of several that were rescued from an album caught in a flood in San Rafael, California in 1982

We three are on the roof of our building, my Uncle Mickey, Mother’s brother, Joe, my brother and me in the front. This would be in the 1930s.

Uncle Mickey came to New Your City to find work, as did thousands of other during the Great Depression. When we moved to 108th Street, he lived with us, but I am not certain whether he lived with us at this time. My guess is that did. He like many before and after, moved in with relatives as they looked for a job and got their footing in the big city. I remember him as kind.

Scan 1.jpg


Memory makes us. If we couldn’t recall the who, what, where, and when of our everyday lives, we wouldn’t be able to function. We mull over ideas in the present with our short-term (or working) memory, while we store past events and learned meanings in our long-term (episodic or semantic) memory. What’s more, memory is malleable–and it tends to decay with age. So stay sharp by learning about the science of recollection.  Psychology Today

I don’t remember being born and I won’t remember dying, but between these events I have made, and will make memories. As part of moving from Magnolia House where we lived for 35 years, boxes of photos were moved several times and now some are are at the Barn, but the majority are at Casa Luz my house at Stinson Beach. I “work” on them, but usually for no more than 2 hours at a time. There are still thousands in boxes unopened.

Lots of the photos are just thrown away. But every once in a while a picture moves me, reminds me of a time I had forgotten, of a person who disappeared as life moves along, of a place and time I only know because I recognize the people.

Build, Pray, Make Wine

The Monastery

There’s a lot happening in this quiet setting.

Eight miles off I-5 north of Sacramento in tiny Vina, California monks at the Monastery of New Clairveau are building their new church with stones once part of a monastery in Ovila, Spain. The monks also make wine and grow walnuts, prunes and grapes. And if you have a reservation you can stay there.

The history of the Abbey of New Clairveau began in 1955 when monks from the Kentucky Trappist monastery of Gethsemani descended on this tiny town. They established their new spiritual community on 560 acres of land once part of Leland Stanford’s Great Vina Ranch.

Why Now?

This is the season for wine making. Aimee Sunseri is the winemaker. She directs the operation in a 2-acre brick warehouse, a remnant of the Leland Stanford Winery. Leland Stanford wanted to have the largest winery in the world. He could grow grapes, but he could never achieve the quality needed for table wine. By 1890 he made 1,700,000 gallons of wine distilled into brandy sold almost exclusively on the East Coast.

Unlike Stanford, winemaker Aimee Sunseri makes prize-winning table wines. She has been part of the operation since 2000 when she helped plant the first grapes at the Abbey. Aimee is a fifth generation winemaker. She was still at University of California at Davis at the first planting, and in 2003 was graduated with honors from the Viticulture and Enology Department. Each year she develops a blended red table wine by presenting a panel of monks with five possible blends. She takes the one they choose to market.

Release Celebrations

Complimentary food and wine are part of celebrations for release of new wines. They start on Friday evenings from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Tours follow on Saturday and Sunday.
Friday October 16 is the Release of 2013 New Clairveau Vineyard Saint James Syrah and Aimee 2014 Primitivo, followed by tours and tasting on October 17 and 18.
Friday November 20 is the release of the 2015 New Clairveau Saint James Nouveau Tempranillo followed by tastings and tours on 21 and 22 November.

Want to Sleep at a Monastery?

The buildings in the retreat area of the Abbey cluster like a small village. There are six single rooms and 2 double rooms for 3-day and 4-day retreats. There is no charge at all for the use of the rooms, though they do accept donations. The suggested donation is $60. per person per night including 3 vegetarian meals per day. Food is delivered to the retreat dining room at mealtimes, and the visitors help with cleanup. Call 530-839-2434 for reservations.

For those interested in other places to stay, the monastery is close to Chico, a lively city with good accommodations and restaurants.

Don’t Miss the Church

An emerging church looks like a 13th century building because it really is a 13th century building. Since 1994 the Monastery has been painstakingly reconstructing the Chapter House from the Spanish Abbey of Santa Maria de Ovila.

The church’s California history started in 1930 when agents of William Randolph Hearst bought the abandoned Abbey Santa Maria de Ovila in Spain and had it deconstructed, labeled and shipped to San Francisco. He dreamt of an even more magnificent “Hearst Castle” to be built on 67,000 acres on the McCloud River in northern California. The Great Depression proved difficult even for Hearst and in the 1940s he traded the stones to the City of San Francisco to settle a lien. The Fine Arts Museums stored the stones in their labeled wooden crates in Golden Gate Park behind what was then the Asian Art Museum.

The stones went through a lot in San Francisco. Two fires destroyed many of the wooden crates, damaging stones and obliterating all the labels. In 1989 the Legion of Honor Museum was badly damaged and the city tasked engineers to use stones to reconstruct it. Ultimately architects and engineers found that costs to use the old stones would far exceed using new materials.

Enter the monks of New Clairveau. In 1994 the City Fine Arts Museum granted their petition to use the stones for a new church with two stipulations – that they be accurately restored and that any building using the stones be open to the public.

Don’t Bother
No need to shop for designer jeans or new boots for this visit. Think simple.

Whether you stop in for a wine tasting, to spend the day or more time with the monks, you’ll be rewarded by a warm welcome and a tangible ambient grace.