Friday, July 31, 2009

The Record – In Two Acts

Act I, Scene 1. Chuck’s Research Room.

Chuck: “Now this is a place I have to see.” That was my reaction after reading an article by David Little, editor of the Enterprise-Record in Chico, CA. It read in part: “The century-old Diamond Hotel was his (Wayne Cook’s) next project. The three-story hull of a building had been closed and abandoned for more than a decade. The windows were boarded and broken. Pigeons lived inside. (Cook and I) walked through the building, brushing aside cobwebs, kicking dead pigeons out of our path, slipping on pigeon poop.”

That article was written in 2001; I wanted to see what the finished restoration looked like.

Act I, Scene 2. The lobby of the Hotel Diamond.
Chuck: “Do you mind if I take some photographs of the lobby?” I asked.

The young woman at the front desk smiled and answered, “I’m sorry, we do not allow photographs in the Hotel.” She offered no further explanation, and I did not press for one.

Before leaving, I surveyed the detail in the ceiling, the beautifully-restored woodwork, the tastefully furnished small lobby, and the old safe near the Registration desk. With deep regret, I left with only a few mental pictures of the grand Hotel.

I took a photo of the exterior as the only record of my visit.

Act II, Scene 1. Breakfast at the Morning Thunder restaurant.

Kate: So there we were (Chuck, his cousin Steve Miller, and I), sitting in a former real estate office converted to a restaurant (Morning Thunder) waiting for our breakfast. Steve and I were drinking French roast coffee, while Chuck was sipping on a fruity, but unpretentious, ice water. Our breakfasts arrived.

For Steve, the choice was the avocado and bacon three egg omelet with cottage potatoes and two biscuits. His omelet was stuffed with large pieces of bacon and thick slices of avocado. There was an interesting textural counterpoint between the soft, creamy, and buttery avocado, the fluffy eggs, and the crisp bacon. The meal was so large that half of the omelet and half of the fries returned home with him.

My breakfast was the Mexican three egg omelet. The folded eggs encased green chilies, tomatoes, scallions, and cheese and were topped by salsa, green onion tops, black olives, salsa, and sour cream. My cottage fries were cooked extra crisp as ordered, and the breakfast was accompanied by two slices of sourdough bread toast.

But it was Chuck’s choice, the poppy seed sourdough French toast, that was the real winner. We have learned that sourdough bread makes almost anything better, and such was the case here. The bread’s denser texture results in a slightly chewy but not tough French toast that holds up well when drenched with syrup. With this, he ordered a side of bacon (medium thick, lightly smoky and salty) and a massive side of potatoes. Half of his potatoes along with half of mine are now sitting in our freezer waiting for a Sunday breakfast at home.

Chuck: I had related my experience at the Hotel to Steve, and as we were finishing our meal, he said, “I just noticed Wayne Cook at a far table, talking to a local politician. I’ve done some work for him; let me find out what the policy is.”

Steve returned with an encouraging up-date, “He couldn’t understand why anyone would say, ‘No photos.’ You’re welcome to take photos.”

Steve commented that Wayne was playing cards, but I still wanted to compliment him on the beautiful restoration work he had done on the Diamond. I arrived at his table just as he was beginning to shuffle the cards. The gentleman preparing to deal did not fit my mental picture of a millionaire who had become an expert in restoring historic buildings in Chico (more in a future blog) and Savannah, Georgia. He presented a “just folks” demeanor. I passed on my praise for his work and my thanks for the photo go-ahead and left just as the last card was dealt.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Gem Restored

In our tours of old restored movie theaters, we have found two types of owners: those who are personally invested in the dream of restoration and are eager to tell the history of the theater and those who represent corporate ownership that is interested in an investment.

When we called Jeff Darling, the General Manager of the Cascade Theater in Redding, CA, and asked, "Could we take photographs of the theater's interior?", his answer, "Aaaaaab-sooo-lute-ly" convinced us that he was certainly in the former group.

Built in 1935, the Cascade's restoration was undertaken through an innovative partnership between Southern Oregon University and its public radio network, Jefferson Public Radio (JPR); the JPR Foundation, a private non-profit group organized to support JPR’s activities; and the Cascade Theatre Restoration Steering Committee.

Approaching the theater late one weekday morning, we saw the marquee announcing "a foodie film series combined with cooking demonstrations by local chefs and presentations of the evening's signature drink by expert mixologists."

The ticket office was not yet open, but this reproduction of the original booth would be the place to purchase tickets for performances of artists ranging from Bruce Hornsby and a revival tribute to Pink Floyd to the Moscow Circus and an innovative HD Cinema Series of The San Francisco Opera in the next six months.

We met Mr. Darling in his office just off the lobby of this art deco theater. He pointed out the Ladies of the Lamp mural that was most representative of the art deco style.

His enthusiasm was catching as he described the restoration work that spanned five years (1999-2004). The work required on the ceiling scrollwork, which had been painted over in one of the theater's earlier uses, was painstaking and slow. During this period, tours through the lobby included climbing scaffolding to get a closer look at the work.

Once the paint was removed, gold, silver, and copper foil could be applied to the surface.

When the theater opened in 1935, there were 1348 wooden seats. Today there are 1001 seats; Kate and Jeff occupy two of the seats during their conversation.

The aisle seats are reproductions of the originals.

The ceiling murals (left and below) were damaged by years of cigarette smoke and were covered by latex paint in 1970. Greek mythology themes were portrayed in this mural. Others showed stages of life.

The pastels were pale, and the images were especially difficult to reproduce in these photos.

Chandeliers were recreated based on original design drawings and replaced the fluorescent fixtures that had been around since 1970.

This beautiful ironwork on the railings of the stairs leading to the balcony could only be found in buildings of decades earlier.

The Cascade Theater restoration team conducted extensive interviews with operators of small town restored theatres. These operators identified some significant obstacles, but those who have been involved in theatre restoration projects unequivocally recommend this approach.

In Redding's case, as in the cases of other towns we have visited, restoring the Cascade Theatre has been identified as a central component of revitalizing Redding’s downtown.

Although we found very few people on the block's sidewalks when we left the theater, this was very unlike, we learned, the crowded sidewalks, restaurants, and bars before and after a performance at the Cascade.

Bravo, Redding.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Science and Art of the Sundial

The sundial incorporates science in that its specific design and alignment will mark the passage of time; it embraces art in that its minimalistic components create a simple beauty.

And so it is with the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay in Redding, CA. This view shows the planters that prevent any kind of four-wheel vehicle from entering the bridge. At the far end of the bridge, a tower appears to rise. However, it is an angled cantilever tower loaded by cables on only one side (photos below).

The Sundial Bridge is 700 feet in length and crosses the Sacramento River without touching the water.

The cables are not centered on the walkway but instead divide the bridge into a major and minor path.

Traffic on the bridge was relatively light at about 8:30 in the morning, so there was plenty of space for the jogging father and cycling son.

The bridge's deck is surfaced with translucent structural glass, which is illuminated from beneath and glows aquamarine at night.

When viewing the bridge from the north end, the sundial emerges. The mast (or gnomon, right) is 207 feet long. When setting up a sundial, you must also align it correctly with the Earth's axis for it to tell accurate time. Since the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay is a bridge that was made to span a narrow portion of the Sacramento River, it could not be aligned at the correct degrees.

Because of this, and because the angle of the style must be exactly equal to the latitude for which the dial is designed, there is only one day a year when the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay accuratley tells time--June 21, Summer Solstice.

The artistic beauty of the Sundial Bridge is most apparent at its north end. Here the curves of the bridge play against the blue sky to create a sense of motion to compliment the movement of the sundial's shadow.

The bridge was designed by Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2004 at a cost of $23,000,000.

We could have stayed longer and found more interesting viewpoints, but the temperature was already well on its way to the low 100s.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meet Big Yo

Pedro Flores, a native of the Philippines, applied and on June 9, 1928, received a certificate for conducting business as the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, CA. He was 29.

On June 23, 1928, he made one dozen yo-yos by hand and began selling them to neighborhood children. By November of 1929, three factories were making 300,000 yo-yos daily and employing 600 workers. The yo-yo was promoted as the Flores Yo-yo, "The Wonder Toy" (see booklet, left).

Although Flores was frequently described as the inventor of the yo-yo, he never personally claimed to have invented the yo-yo, and he always mentioned its past history as a centuries-old Philippine game.

There was no legal patent held for the standard Flores yo-yo. He did apply for and receive a trademark for the Flores Yo-yo (see box, right), and this was registered on July 22, 1930. It was shortly after this that Flores sold his interest in the yo-yo factories which were later acquired by the Donald Duncan Yo-Yo Company.

Competition grew as other companies began to see the toy's potential. In 1932, in an effort to protect his interest, Duncan filed for and was assigned a trademark for the word "yo-yo." Not able to use the term "yo-yo," competitors were forced to use terms like "come-back", "return", "returning top", "whirl-a-gig", and twirler" (see boxes, left) for their versions of the toy.

By 1962, the Duncan Company alone sold a record 45 million yo-yos in a country with only 40 million kids and still could not keep up with the demand. There was also the continual legal expense in trying to hold on to the trademarked word "yo-yo." Competitors fought hard to use it in describing their products. Finally, in 1965, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Duncan's trademark for the word "yo-yo" was no good. The term yo-yo had become so widespread that it was now a permanent part of the language and it no longer only described the toy. It, in fact, WAS the toy.

Tragically, in November of 1965, the Duncan Company could hold on no longer and was forced into bankruptcy. The Flambeau Plastics Company purchased the most valuable asset, the "Duncan" name and the goodwill that came along with it. It is the Flambeau Plastics Company that manufactures and sells the eleven different models of Duncan yo-yos today

This brief history of the yo-yo is included in the displays at the National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, CA. Located in the back of a retail store (Bird In Hand) selling toys and games, the Museum houses hundreds of collectible yo-yos (note the green Enron logo yo-yo in the bottom row right), records of champions of the annual competition, and an array of pins, patches, and tee shirts.

Much of the history and the lore of the yo-yo can be obtained from Bob Malowney, the museum's curator and salesman, teacher, and storyteller to people interested in buying, using, or appreciating the yo-yo.

Some of the older yo-yos that caught my eye are shown in the next photos. I thought the Hy-Lo yo-yo shown here looked like an old movie reel. It is believed to have been made in the late 1920s.

One of the most unusual old yo-yos is the one with the "window," showing a spinning color wheel that spins independently from the yo-yo's spinning.

On the right (in the photo above) is the Duncan Whistling Yo-Yo.

I don't know anything about these two, I just thought the one on the right was colorful and different.

Bob mentioned that the most expensive yo-yo available on the market today is the Magnesium (Mg) one shown here (about $400).

In 1978, Tom Kuhn patented the "No Jive 3-in-1" yo-yo, the first take-apart-by-hand yo-yo and the first having a replaceable axle.

Dr. Kuhn is a dentist in San Francisco who has designed a great number of yo-yos, including Big Yo (right), the world's largest wooden yo-yo, standing 50 inches high and weighing in at 256 pounds. Until recently, it was occasionally taken out of the museum, connected to a crane, and dropped by a rope for a few spins.

Then I read: "By the 1990's, transaxle yo-yos were available with ball-bearing axles, increasing spin times once again. . . . or how's about a 'Yomega PowerBrain Wing' with its piston-like 4-way synchronized clutch system that engages simultaneously."

After reading that information, I bought a paddle with a rubber ball attached to it by an elastic band.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Dining in the Forest

Yesterday, Chuck described our drive with his Aunt Martha and me up and down mountains and around sharp curves to visit his cousin Steve and his wife Betty at their cabin in the woods.

Just as I was despairing of ever seeing civilization again, there it was, its neon sign proudly proclaiming “OPEN” – The Outpost. A funky place if ever there was one.

Lucky for us, Steve and Betty’s plans for the morning included breakfast at this rustic mountain restaurant. There are four different sitting areas. Inside, one can either eat in the barroom or the adjoining “pool hall.” Outside, the choices are the front porch or the large back patio outfitted with picnic benches and barbeque paraphernalia. Since the morning was still cool up in the mountains, we decided to take advantage of the fresh air and eat on the back patio. (Too bad about the flies that found us about half way through breakfast.)

While The Outpost is open six days a week (closed Mondays) for breakfast, lunch, and diner, our menus only listed the breakfast choices. In addition to the standard pancakes, French toast, and eggs/potato/meat combos, the menu included biscuits and gravy, a Southwest inspired omelet, and a “garbage can” omelet. Many of the meals included country fried potatoes and your choice of white, wheat, or sourdough bread or a biscuit.

Chuck and Betty both ordered the Southwest omelet; Steve ordered the Garbage Can omelet; Martha ordered scrambled eggs and sausage; and, for me, it was the biscuits and gravy with a side of potatoes. As you will see from the photos, all of the portions were large – to say the least.

Steve’s Garbage Can included sautéed onions, ham, and sausage and was topped with grated cheddar cheese. Being polite (there is a first for everything), I was reluctant to ask for a sample, but it looked delicious.

Martha’s breakfast came with three large sausage links (which Steve and Betty helped her finish) and a giant baking powder biscuit.

Both Chuck and Betty’s omelets were stuffed with black beans and corn which were seasoned with cumin. Having no hesitation when it comes to eating from Chuck’s plate, I repeatedly sampled the bean and corn stuffing. Delicious. This is an omelet filling that merits repeating at home. With the omelet came a small cup of a dressing that tasted slightly of ranch dressing and slightly of red chili powder and which was delicious with the cumin-seasoned corn and bean mixture.

The sausage gravy that came with my breakfast was delicious. The sausage flavor permeated the white sauce, which was thick without being pasty. And this was a good country-style, sage-tasty and well-seasoned sausage. Yummy. The biscuits were your standard “we’re not in the South” biscuit, but certainly better than those at the Brown Hen Café in Florence, Oregon.

We seem to have moved into home fries/country fries territory. This makes Chuck very happy. Being a hash brown fan, I am less so. But, these were still very good. When I asked that mine be cooked crisp, I was warned by our dining companions that the cook doesn’t always take kindly to special requests. But cooked crisp, at least relative to the other plates, they were. In addition, there were so many potatoes that I finally had to say “no mas.”

What could be better on a sunny Sunday morning than a great breakfast with great company? The Outpost earns a 4.5 Addie rating.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Cabin in the Forest

From an altitude of 239' in Chico, CA to one of 4351' in Butte Meadows in 45 minutes.

Heading north on Route 32 for about 20 miles and then east for another 5 miles (covering what seemed to be a couple hundred curves) brought us to the getaway cabin of cousin Steve Miller and his wife Betty. This was a walkway leading from the road to their cabin.

The rustic cabin sits on about an acre and a quarter lot and is over 100 years old. Some of the facilities are comparable to those of the period; a television set is absent, computers must use dial-up connections, and cell phones are useless.

Cabins fit into one of two groups--the original basic cabins with a character born out of available materials, the quirkiness of their builders, and the selection of a building site because "I like these two trees here, and I want the lot to extend to that grove over there."

The second group of homes are in the category of pre-determined lot sizes, architecturally-drawn plans, and indoor facilities.

We preferred the cabins in the first caategory. They were in keeping with the mountain retreat character of the community of roughly 400 people.

We wondered if the new arrivals would try to organize and "modernize" the character of the village in the Lassen National Forest.

Life seemed relaxed and uncomplicated. Even the formality of a yard sale was reduced to a sign "FREE" and a jar labeled "donations" placed on the blanketed hood of this car.

The mailboxes seemed to reflect the character of the home. We bet we could match the mailbox to the home with no other clues than the artistic work on the mailbox.

The course of this river on the edge of town was changed as a result of the flood of 1997. Originally, it curved to the right where the bed of rocks is in the photo (top of photo on the right).

After a short walk around town, our tour guides (l. to r., Betty, Martha, Steve) invited us back to the cabin for drinks in the shade of their front yard.

The stillness of the idyllic setting was only slightly broken by our conversation and laughter.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Produce Plus

Our travels have brought us to Chico, California, home of my (Chuck's) cousins Steve Miller and his wife Betty and Neal Miller and his wife Lisa and near the home of their mother, Martha Hoover.

After meeting Martha for breakfast, the three of us stopped at the Farmers' Market, a year-round Saturday morning gathering of the Chico citizenry. Vendors are set up by 7:30, and the townsfolk are at their favorite merchants waiting for the set ups to be completed.

Known formally as the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market in Butte County, farmers, artists and merchants gather to sell their locally grown (or made) products at the parking lot at 2nd and Wall streets in downtown Chico.

They back up their cars and, mostly, trucks to form two main walkways for the market. Several booths were selling colorful bouquets of flowers, and several people were carrying bouquets as they made their way through the crowds.

The walk through the isles took a good while because several of the merchants seem to have "regulars" lined up at their tables.

These lemon cucumbers (above) were a vegetable that I had not seen before.

The same could be said for these eggplants. Their shape was new to me.

Judging by the number of exchanges of greetings by first names, we could see that there were relationships between merchants and customers that went beyond mere purchases of goods.

This booth, selling a variety of breads, could match the output from a fine retail bakery.

The walk past the nearly 60 booths of fruits and vegetables was a walk past some of the freshest, most beautiful produce imaginable.

The walk offered an opportunity to photograph produce as an art form, emphasizing colors and shapes.

Seeing two ears of white sweet corn selling for $1.00 made me think of Jersey sweet corn, arguably the finest sweet corn on the market. Ah, Silver Queen from New Jersey . . . .

This is a merchant's view of the woven tote bags for sale at his table. There were other booths with soaps, aromatherapy fragrances, painted rocks, and tee shirts for sale, but today was produce-focused.

I couldn't decide which of the subjects--this clown or the produce--was the more colorful.

I was more caught up with the photo opportunities, Kate was looking at the items as food. Shown here are our first purchases--a bottle of garlic extra virgin olive oil, a sourdough boule, a meat spice with extra garlic, three zucchini date muffins, and some organic garlic cloves.

Betty had told us not to buy any tomatoes, squash, or zucchini, because she had plenty from their garden for us.

We're still here next Saturday, so we think we'll return to stock up before we travel on.