Sunday, March 2, 2014

Three Hours to San Jose: The Mines Road Adventure

Do you know the (long) way to San Jose? If you don't yet, it's worth discovering. The next time you find yourself in the Bay Area with a few lazy hours to spare, consider taking a drive along one of the best-kept local secrets: the scenic Mines Road, which will take you from Livermore in the East Bay to Mount Hamilton in San Jose.

Your 74-mile, two-lane odyssey begins in the heart of Livermore's wine country, right off of Tesla Road, but acres of vineyards and clusters of farm homes will soon give way to lush foothills and wandering streams. Along the way, you'll find a few farms, ranches and the occasional cattle guard. Take advantage of the beautiful vistas. There are many opportunities to pull over and take pictures, so be sure to do so!

Pro tips
  • Check that you have a full tank of gas. There is nowhere to fill up.
  • Be prepared for no cell phone service.
  • Bring a snack. With the exception of The Junction, there's nowhere to get food.
  • Beware of hairpin turns, bicyclists and oncoming traffic around blind corners.
Here are a few pictures of the Mines Road adventure I went on earlier today with my friend, Steven. As you can see in the pictures below, it was a bit rainy and foggy to begin with, which made everything hauntingly beautiful. By the time we reached Mount Hamilton though, we were rewarded with a burst of sunshine. The perfect ending to a wonderful day.

A bend in the road.
Verdant hills behind thickets of trees.
A benign motorcycle gang.
A California sunset... and Steven's arm.
View from Mount Hamilton.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What the World Needs Now is More Burt Bacharach

There was no introduction and no entrance music last night when the legendary songwriter behind standards like, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" walked onstage at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. I doubt anyone would have heard the music anyway. The moment Mr. Burt Bacharach stepped onstage, a theater full of adoring fans leaped to their feet, cheered and two-finger whistled as if the Beatles had just flown in from London. General screams of delight were punctuated with shouts of, "We love you!" and "You're the man, Burt!"

Ladies and gentlemen, Burt Bacharach is still the man.
Dressed in a simple black suit with no tie, the six-time Grammy winner and three-time Oscar winner graciously smiled and waved to us for a few moments before walking over to the grand piano at center stage. At his cue, the entire 50-piece orchestra behind him sprang to life and at once, we were plunged into an irresistible medley crammed with hit after hit-- the only way he could fit enough of his beloved songs into one concert. Every song transition was met with an enthusiastic wave of applause, as two thousand heartbeats happily quickened with recognition. Scores of normally dignified adults simultaneously turned into teenagers who unashamedly gushed aloud, "Gahh!!! I love this song!!!"

My favorite parts were the few songs where the orchestra dropped out and it was just him playing the piano and singing. His raspy voice was a little quiet and subdued, giving the songs-- his songs-- much more poignancy. He took on "Alfie," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head," and the super sexy "The Look of Love" by himself, only having the orchestra and his singers come in towards the end.

Mr. Bacharach has the energy and agility of a man much younger than his 85 years. He would stand up at the piano in mid-song, still playing with his left hand while giving a cue to the horn section or signaling the violins to come in. He would jump from the grand piano to an electric keyboard facing the audience, then back to the piano again. He also got up to introduce each song or to tell us a quick story about his early days collaborating with his longtime lyricist, Hal David.

At the end, he joked that he had to dismiss the full orchestra because he didn't want to keep them overtime, but he said he wanted to stay and play a few more songs for us with just his band-- if we didn't mind. Of course, we didn't. He played a couple of his newer songs and some Christmas stuff too. He closed by asking us to sing along with him to a reprisal of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head." A group of fans afterward rushed the stage and he stayed until he shook hands with every single one of them. A living legend and a true gent.

They said no photos, but I couldn't resist.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I Heart Paper

One of these days I'll be able to walk out of a stationary store without buying something. This was not one of those days.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Did They or Didn't They?-- A 40 Days of Dating Update

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a dating experiment that went viral. Basically, 40 Days of Dating is the story of two friends who tried dating each other exclusively for 40 days in the hopes that the experience will help them overcome the problems they usually have in their romantic relationships. The guy is the archetypal commitment-phobe and the girl is a hopeless romantic jonesing for her next relationship. The underlying expectation, of course, is that the two of them will discover true love with each other. They filled out daily journal entries about their dates and started posting one entry per day in July. The last entry was posted last week.

If you find the idea of this blog intriguing, I encourage you to read about it for yourself first here. Don't continue reading this post because I'm about to talk about what happened. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!

So, did they or didn't they?

Here's your last chance. Open up a new tab and read the blog for yourself, if you haven't already.

Still with me? Ok, that must mean that either you read their blog already or that you don't care that much and just want to know what happened. I can't blame you. I was excited to learn about the answer myself. So. They did not end up together. The girl confessed that she had fallen in love with him, and he said that he loved her too but that he would only end up breaking her heart. Too late, buddy. It's a page out of He's Just Not That Into You. It's sad for the two of them, but I actually respect them more for not forcing a fairy tale ending. It would have been easy to feign a relationship to give the fans (and the Hollywood bigwigs buying the rights to their story) what they wanted. Well, best of luck to both of them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Forty Days of Dating

8/20/13 Update: Jessie and Tim announced that no new posts will be uploaded until Sept. 3-- way to build up the suspense!

What would happen if you started dating your best friend? That was the premise behind Forty Days of Dating, an experiment conducted by two New York friends who found themselves single at the same time.

Tim and Jessie. Cute couple, right?

The Set Up
Jessie and Tim, both designers, have been close friends for four years. Jessie admits that her dating life hasn't turned out the way she had hoped because she rushes into relationships. Tim dates several women at a time, but has trouble making a commitment. They decide to embark on an experiment to date each other for 40 consecutive days.

The Rules
1. See each other every day for 40 days.
2. Go on at least three dates a week.
3. See a couples therapist once a week.
4. Go on one weekend trip together.
5. Fill out daily questionnaire and document everything.
6. Don't see, date, hook up or have sex with anyone else.

The Goal
Get to know each other and themselves better-- and perhaps find love along the way.

The Skinny
The experiment was well thought out in advance. Jessie and Tim conducted their experiment over 40 days this past spring. Since July 10, they have been posting one entry each day on their blog. Cute dates include going to parties, meeting up for morning coffee and holding hands for eight hours straight!

Their story has become a real-life soap opera with thousands of romantics following each dramatic development-- almost as if it were all happening in real time. When the final post is revealed on Aug. 22, Jessie and Tim fans will find out if the couple has decided to continue their relationship post-experiment.

Does this sound like a romantic comedy straight from Hollywood? If you think so, you're not the only one. Jessie and Tim's story has caught the attention of thousands of readers, including studio bigwigs. Word on the street is that talks are underway to make their little experiment into a bona fide motion picture. Between you and me, I'd love to see Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams take top billing in it!

It's not surprising that the project has gone viral. People have a natural curiosity about other people's lives and relationships. I'll admit, their project has me intrigued as well. The idea of two friends trying to see if there could ever be anything more between them is certainly not new. However, to test the parameters of a relationship so systematically and publicly is what interests me.

In a way, it's a forced 'relationship' in the sense that there are clear rules and parameters. I think part of the excitement of a first date is not knowing whether there will be a second, third, fourth and so on. The thrill of it all is that there are no promises or guarantees in the beginning. Yet, Jessie and Tim have committed to 40 dates-- consecutive ones nonetheless. I guess this is necessary to ensure that the experiment is sustained. And perhaps their situation is different because they're already close friends.

The other thing I find fascinating is how public their relationship is. While I understand that the experience is very personal to them and that they largely control what they want to share with the public, I can't help but wonder how the knowledge that people are going to be watching them has affected their potential romance. In several of their blog posts, both of them have expressed the feeling of being under pressure to answer the question that is on everyone's mind: Are they going to end up together after this experiment? Is there pressure not to disappoint the fans?

Seems to me that being in a regular relationship poses a unique set of joys and challenges when the romance is allowed to grow organically. How will this be affected by adding a clear deadline by which you have to define your relationship? It's like setting an egg timer and forcing yourself to make an important decision before it goes off.

At any rate, I applaud Jessie and Tim for going out on a limb and sharing this experiment with the whole world. Whether or not they end up together, I wish them both well.

If you haven't stumbled upon their blog yet, check it out here. I recommend scrolling to the bottom and reading the posts in order. Have fun!

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