Day of Celebration II

Anna’s real birthday dawned somewhat clearer than previous days. One could see down into the valley and across the bay. The Golden Gate Bridge was still playing peek-a-boo, but the Bay bridge hove into view. After a breakfast of the Costco croissants – far better than store versions on the East Coast, we decided to take a walk. We planned to venture down the hill since there wasn’t much of anything up the hill except houses and a couple of dead end streets. If we were gone long enough we’d have lunch “in town.” Just as we were getting ready to leave Ashley and Kathryn’s younger son, Skylar, showed up. He, too, is handsome but somewhat less softspoken than Julian. He wants to be a writer and has already had some stuff published even though he’s still in college.

We chatted for a while and then Anna and I headed off on our walk, which took us past some amazing pieces of real estate with some dramatic plantings – forty-foot tall cactuses mixed with various evergreens, bay laurel, eucalyptus, and rhododendron. Everything is bigger and more dramatic here.

The commercial parts are coffee shops, bookstores, art galleries. Great small places that seem to have escaped the Walmartifucation of the rest of the world. We walked about a mile, keeping in mind that we were going to have a pretty much vertical walk on the way back.

In preparation for scaling K2 (far more dangerous than Everest) we stopped at Peet’s for tea. We knew the place was renowned for its coffee because that’s what Ash and Kathryn drink, but it was time for a restorative cup of afternoon tea. We watched a woman standing in front of the store, who was accosting passersby and handing them literature. She had a little dog with her that Anna said looked thirsty because every time someone holding a cup stopped the dog focused on the cup to the exclusion of everything else. Anyway, we noticed that the woman did not approach the one or two people with darker skins who passed her, nor did she stop us when we left the shop.

I had no sooner finished changing clothe than, it was time to pick up our cousin Phil James. He brought a family tree showing how all of us are related. Even with the paper turned to landscape, the thing stretched to more than 80 inches, too long to fit on the dining room table! For a quick recap: All four of us Anna, Ash, Phil, and me share Willis Samuel James as our common ancestor. Willis’s first wife, Anna Webb, had one child who survived, Charles. Phil is Charles’s great-great-grandson. After Anna Webb died, Willis married Anna Houston, who had nine children. Bertha, her oldest, was grandmother to Anna Bush and me. Harold, Anna Houston’s youngest surviving son, was grandfather to Ashley. There’s a third Anna, too, just to confuse things even more.

Phil is the keeper of all things genealogical, and I’m glad to have his efforts. He and Ashley arranged to meet again because I don’t have any info about Ash’s mother in my files. It sounded like Phil was going to have a tough time because Ash either couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about that side of his family.

Then we proceeded to dinner at Venezia, which gives the feeling that one is dining on in a piazza in ancient Venice. It’s a shame the website doesn’t include pictures because the appearance adds immeasurably to the experience. There is a waterfall off to one side of the dining room. The walls are adorned with replicas buildings that seem to crowd in on top of each other and up to the very edge of the piazza. And across the rear wall of the restaurant hangs an actual clothes line with actual clothes suspended. We gazed on some men’s stuff including underwear; and some women’s stuff, ditto. But much of it didn’t look like it came from the Old City. I think it was Anna who commented that she didn’t know the old Venetians shopped at Victoria’s Secret.

The food was marvelous and of mercifully smaller portions than I associate with Italian restaurants around this area. I suspect it’s because the Venetians were working as business people when the denizens of Sicily and southern Italy were toiling in the fields and needed huge piles of pasta and bread to survive. I had fettucine with an assortment of veggies and a fabulous spicy, garlic-laden sauce. Anna and Phil had the spaghetti and meatballs. Skylar had hand-made ravioli with pesto, while Ash and Kathryn shared a couple of dishes that I couldn’t see, except that I think one of them involved seafood in it and the other something beefish. At the end of the meal, the waiter brought Anna a tiramisu with a candle on it and we sang “Happy Birthday.”

Back at the ranch, we toasted Anna an excellent prosecco.

All in all a happy, successful day. I haven’t been around this much family since my parents hosted Christmas dinner back in the 1970s.


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