Acknowledging a transition

the bar mitzvah and the beast

 

What’s it about?
The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast is about an SF Bay Area family that bikes across the country. Why? Well, the father is Jewish and his turning-13-year-old son is an atheist. The father (Matt, also the author) wants to mark his son’s passage into his teenage years; the son tries to go to Hebrew school and have a Bar Mitzvah, but just can’t. So a cross-country bike ride is their compromise. They spend a summer riding from San Francisco to Washington DC. The whole family goes – Matt, his wife, Yonah (the son), and his little brother. (The Beast is an old tandem bike that they buy for Matt & the little brother to ride across the country.)

Why should you read it?
I am not religious (to my mind, you can’t prove either the existence or non-existence of god and I don’t worry about it that much), so I sympathized with Yonah. But I did like the idea of commemorating your child’s passage into their teenage years. My daughter is eleven and as she moves from her childhood to being a teenager, she is changing. Acknowledging that somehow, formally or informally, seems worthwhile. I’d never really thought about that before reading The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast.

The book was strongest when it was talking about Yonah’s rite of passage. It also wanted to be about overcoming your prejudices and drawing awareness to global warming. The marriage of the three themes wasn’t successful to my mind. But it’s still worthwhile.

Bleargh

I can’t let today be the first weekday in more than a month without a post. I even got all my vacation posts scheduled ahead of time! Alas, I have post-vacation ickiness. There were uncountable mugs of tea today. Tomorrow, I will be prepared for more. For the rest of today though, there will be tea and rest.

teacup

Visiting the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring. The canyon itself is mind-bogglingly big. And attempting to capture that through photos of the thing is impossible. It’s an in-person thing.

Not to mention that trying to illustrate how awesome it is in one of those overview shots is a little bit like taking a photo of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower and expecting it to show how great the city is. It doesn’t work that way.

So here are a handful of photos. Know that none of them truly show how impressive the place is. You really need to go yourself.

 

bright angel trailhead
The kid and me after hiking 1.5 miles down and back up. The Bright Angel Trail is the one the mules go down. We did not see any mules – they leave at 7am. We didn’t get started until about 10am. We also didn’t get anywhere near the Colorado River. It’s much further down.

 

canyon view
See? It’s HUGE! And this photo doesn’t really show you how f’ing impressive it is. Seriously.

 

desert watchtower
This is the Desert Watchtower. It was designed and built in 1932 by Mary Colter, looking to imitate the style of the local Native American tribes. It’s got a steel frame and is way more solid than you might think.

 

el tovar cropped
The sign for El Tovar, the fancy hotel on the South Rim of the canyon. It was undergoing some roof repairs while we were there, hence no photos of the building itself. We didn’t stay there because roof repairs are loud. The food in the restaurant was divine, however.

 

hopi indian figure
The interior of the Desert Watchtower is decorated with art in the style of the local Native American tribes. This one is, I believe, designed to look like Hopi art. The Hopi like stripes, and I can get behind that.

 

ooh ahh point
Ooh Ahh Point was one of our hiking destinations. This one was about a mile down the South Kaibab trail, and the views were lovely. But you can see that we’re barely inside the canyon.

 

sunset
This was the sunset on the first night there. It was almost as gorgeous as the canyon.

 

wagon wheel
This was the outside of Hopi House, a gift shop full of local art. Some of it was impressive.

 

yucca plant
A banana yucca, a former staple of the locals’ diet. Not anymore, obviously.

 

Family day in Monterey

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a lovely place, and I was glad to get some camera practice time there. It’s more interesting to go now that my daughter’s older and interested in the exhibits more. When she was little all she wanted to do was run around from one to the other, like “ok I’ve glimpsed this one, off to the next!” We never got a chance to explore ourselves. It’s one of the nice things about her growing up.

jellyfish
I think this is one of the best photos I’ve ever taken, and I wish I could attribute it to something other than blind luck.

 

kelp forest
This is the kelp forest – the sheer diversity in this exhibit is incredible. They pump water in from the Bay outside. This exhibit recreates the environment in the Bay in a way you can see it. I just wish I could have captured more types of fish.

 

sea turtle
Sea turtle belly! I have a soft spot for giant sea turtles – they’re amazing creatures.

 

Pathways

I’ve never been good at taking photos of trails or paths, so I decided to focus on them last week. The proportions always end up weird. I think these are better than my usual, though. Or maybe I’m just getting better at editing.

Stevens Creek Trail
The towers look tall and graceful here. They can be so ugly, contrasted with the plant life, but here they almost seem to fit.

 

Stevens Creek riverbed
A dry creekbed. There should be water flowing, but we’re in our third year of drought, no end in sight.

 

Side Path - Stevens Creek Trail
There’s a short interpretive area off the side of the main path. It educates people, but also serves as a rest stop.

 

Bridge to Stevens Creek Trail
A bridge into a local neighborhood. I was surprised at how well this one turned out – I thought the shadows would doom it…