A group doesn’t get better than this. The two cabins I sold on the ship are Adam and Judy Symansky, and Pat Gustafson and Mike Desky. Let me introduce you, if you don’t know them already. I went to McGill with Adam and Judy. Judy is an AOPi. She was our chapter president, when I was there. She’s great, and so is Adam. They started going steady in high school, and they’re still married. When we were at McGill I dated Adam’s best friend, Harvey Schneider, and you have read of him in these pages, too. Sadly, he’s gone, but his wonderful wife, Aviva, welcomed Elvon and me, whenever we got anywhere near Jerusalem. Judy was a librarian at McGill’s Management library and Adam was an Oscar-winning producer at the National Film Board of Canada.
Pat Gustafson, Mike Desky and I, all live at Fountaingrove Lodge, fabulous LGBT Senior Living, in California’s wine country. I have known Pat for almost 25 years. She and her husband, Bob, were mainstays of “The Usual Suspects”, a serious partying crowd. Pat and I were particular friends. She and Mike hooked up last year, fleeing the wildfires, and they are one of the greatest couples you’ll ever meet. What I love best about it is that they are both 80 years old, and they met at the gay lodge. It’s a great story. Never give up hope.
Santa Rosa, Friday, February 9, 2018
Adam and Judy were delivered to me late Friday night, by the intrepid Eric Hartman. He’s my driver whenever I need one and he is fantastic, unfailingly courteous, always on time, big and strong, and has a ton of personality. He has done a lot of things in his life, run fitness centers, written books, invented things, flipped real estate, and started new philanthropies. I’ll give you his phone number, if you want a smooth, entertaining ride, in our neck of the wine country.
So, we had a 2014 Dare, by Viader, as a nightcap, and I let them go to bed. I knew we’d never be up in time for our Lodge continental breakfast, and they might be hungrier, so I had been saving eggs for days. We have live chickens at the Lodge, all named after famous Lesbians. It’s not the best laying season, but I managed to collect 5 eggs. So, I scrambled them, with bacon, toast and English muffins, they were quite the treat.
Then we had a meeting with Pat and Mike, just to dot our eyes and cross our tees, before we went off wine-tasting in the Russian River Valley. We took 101 North to Lytton Springs road, and drove down West Dry Creek Road, very scenic, highly recommended, with at least a dozen wineries worth a stop, on it. We didn’t have a lot of time, though, so we did a drive through at Armida, which has stunning views, and made our 3:30 pm appointment at MacRostie, whose wine I love, and which also has views to die for, on three sides, no less. Tastings are very civilized, there. They sit you down and bring you the wine. It’s lovely.
In a merry mood, we drove back to the Lodge for cocktails and dinner with Bob & Carol Nicholas, and Pat Finot. Everyone liked everyone else, and Chef Adam’s dinner, and we drank some very good wines, a MacRostie Pinot among them. That took care of Saturday.
Sunday, February 11, 2018
I had some errands to do in Napa, so I had saved them for Sunday, as Adam and Judy had never visited us there. We left around 11:30 am, turning right out of the Lodge, where there are only a couple of houses, now. The Fountaingrove area was hit hard by the wildfires, and the fire stopped just above us, where CalFire drew a line. It continued down both sides of us, mind you, but it’s very striking, just above us, and for miles, along Fountaingrove Parkway.
We hooked up with Highway 12, and drove through the town of Sonoma, circling its sguare. It’s a Spanish mission town, with a barracks, among the inns, restaurants, tasting rooms, and chi-chi dress shops. One could easily spend an afternoon right there. On to Napa, past the burned out hulk of the Clover Stornetta dairy, Domaine Carneros, and the DiRosa Preserve. These last two make great stops, too. They’ll have to come back.
We hit Vintners’ Collective up for my spring shipment, without even stopping to taste. It’s a shame because they have great wines, but we were on a mission. I dropped a piece of jewelry off at Lori Wear’s to be repaired. Then we went to Silverado. I took them up the row of palm trees and showed them the club house. It shows well, all clean and white. You see it on TV every fall on the golf channel.
Then we circled the golf course, seeing the devastation on Westgate and up Atlas Peak. I turned in at Silverado Oaks to show them our old house. It’s still standing, but it’s a waste land. 20 houses out of 38 in our compound were flattened and most of them were right around us. It’s so sad. I hope this time next year it looks better than ever. They are, of course, going to rebuild.
On up the Silverado Trail, to Frog’s Leap, where France Scott works. Frog’s Leap has been there since the early eighties. The wine is made in the French style, and is absolutely delicious, nice and lean. I had forgotten how much we liked it. France was her usual wonderful self, and Adam and Judy loved her. Of course they would, just like home. Our people. We went out into the Cabernet vineyard and buried a little of Elvon. France can say hello to him, when she goes to work, and it will bring me back there oftener.
Our next stop was Viader, up on Howell Mountain, with a fabulous view of the Napa Valley, and scrumptious wines. Like MacRostie and Frog’s Leap, they let you sit down and bring the wines to you. It was cool and windy, and they weren’t busy, so we lucked out and got a cave tour, too. On the way to the cave, we buried more of Elvon, in their lovely vineyard, overlooking the Napa Valley. He’ll be happy there.
Whenever I am up valley, as we say in Napa, and it’s near dinnertime, I call Joan Westgate, to see if she wants to come out. She usually does, and today, since I had friends from Montreal, she offered a pre-dinner house tour. When Ed died, Joanie sold a 6,000 sq.ft. house, with a mountain vineyard and incredible rose garden, and moved into 1100 sq.ft. in the middle of St, Helena. It is most interesting, and uber-comfortable. So is Joan, one of the loveliest friends a body can have. Everybody loves the Symanskys, too, so you can imagine how well they got along. We went to dinner at Archetype, which was still fun, but I think the food is going downhill. Next time, I’ll pick Market. The wine was good, though, Viader, of course.
Over the hill and home by ten. So we had another bottle of wine. I had been reined in because of the mountain drive. One can, of course, correct that.
Monday, February 12, 2018
We got up early, had a quick Lodge continental breakfast, and headed out for the City. We were picking Kathy Stefano up at the San Francisco Maritime Museum, which is now a Senior Center. Kathy takes classes there, Like Qui Gong, and yoga, and gives classes on acting. She was a great nun in “Late Night Catechism” where we first met her. If you have been reading this blog for years, you’ll remember her fishing out Elvon’s birth certificate, so the Mendelsons could get him a passport in a day, and he could fly over the Pacific, three times in three days. I trust we are only doing it once. It’s hard to lose your passport on a non-stop.
Kathy used to be a tour guide in San Francisco, driving a Mr. Toad’s Tours’ bus, so she knows her stuff. First she took me to my haircut, then she took Adam and Judy to Fisherman’s Wharf, to Swan’s Fish Market, for Dungeness Crab Louie. It’s a local delicacy when it’s in season. But we weren’t eating it there, we had a better thing going. Chris Silver had offered lunch at her apartment with a view of the Bay, on Broadway, opposite The Hamlyn School. It doesn’t get a lot better than that.
After lunch, Kathy drove us all around the neighborhood, pointing out painted ladies of note, for their beauty or famous owners. We had a walk along Haight Street, ending at the corner of Ashbury. It’s still interesting. Then she took us to the Presidio, and Golden Gate Park. Kathy is the shadow in the picture.
We ended up at the St. Francis Yacht Club for sundowners. The sun doesn’t exactly set there, but it has a nice atmosphere for a drink. Mine was Coke. It’s about having to drive.
We crossed the Golden Gate in the Dark, and stopped for a minute for a view from Vista Point, before making our way to Sausalito. There we found Poggios, an old style Italian restaurant, to sample another of San Francisco’s famous cuisines. It was very good, and so was the bottle of Honig sauvignon blanc, that we had with it, another old favorite. Another wine and chocolate nightcap.
Tuesday, February 12, 2018
The plan was to spend the last of my points on a full English breakfast, at the Lodge, but nature got in the way. It was 9:17 am when we got there. The chef starts cleaning the stove at 9:15 am, and that’s that. We were out running errands at lunchtime, and none of us eats it anyway, so I left 44 points on the table. I hate that.
Eric picked us up at three in a Mercedes Sprinter van, which was just what we needed. He gave us the nicest tour of the Presidio and Park, again. It turns out, it’s the best way to get through the City, when you are going to the airport. The sun was shining, and just starting to lower itself in the sky. The lighting was just gorgeous. John Mullen showed Geri Randall and me this route, about a month ago. It really is the way to go.
We checked in to The Best Western El Rancho Inn, and I got an hour to work a bit, before it was time for dinner with Adam and Judy’s Cape Cod friend Cindy, and her husband Rick. They took us to an Italian restaurant, too. It was more unassuming then Poggio’s, and had a more limited menu, but the food was better. I can’t believe I ate the whole lasagna. It had a forgettable name like The West End Café. I think it was in Millbrae…We washed it down with an nice Willamette Valley pinot noir.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
We got the hotel shuttle at the crack of dawn and boarded without a hitch. We are flying Singapore Air, Pat and Mike in business, probably asleep on those nice flatbeds, Adam and Judy in premium economy, which looks like business used to look, and moi in steerage. It’s actually not so bad. The middle seat is empty, so we can spread out a bit. My row mate is very nice, and I have got a ton of work done.
I took a break for turbulence between two and three, when I had to close my computer for fear of tossing my cookies on it. Now it’s 9:30 pm, and we have been on board for 12 hours, of which I have worked at least ten. I think I’ll try to close my eyes.
Next Assignment for me – Maybe a cruise for you?
In the last frantic week, before the Symanskys arrived, I booked a couple of cabins for clients on a Mediterrean Cruise in October. It’s Rome to Rome on the Holland America Koningsdam. Then Distinctive Voyages sent out an email with 2018 cruises that still need a host. There it was. I bid for and got it. Who else is coming with me? Take a look: https://www.hollandamerica.com/details?webItineraryIdForAudit=E8M10B&fromSearchVacation=true&guestsCount=2&voyageCode=K862&selectedMeta=Interior&shipId=KO October 8 sailing.
It’s seriously inexpensive. Treat yourselves to a suite. Comes with a free cocktail party and shore excursion. I’ll have no trouble booking you from wherever I am. Brunch at the Monte Carlo Yacht Club, anyone? I can get us in.
Hi from Down Under! Good to hear from you. We can’t do the Konigsdam because I have a dive trip to Fiji in October and the Konigsdam is just toooo big for me. We ARE doing the Hrand South America next year and would LOVE to have you as a DV host once again. Please think about it. I miss you – Dee
Dee Wescott Sent from my iPhone
Helen Megan said:
You are now the second person who has asked me to do that one. It’s harder to leave my cat for that amount of time in my new environment. Will see how she does with these three weeks. Thanks for wanting me. I want to spend time with you, too.
Went to Little India last night. Bobby’s shop was closed, but I was assured it was just for Chinese New Year, meanwhile, neither the shop phone, nor his cell was answering and the cell was disconnected, I seem to recall. You might have to check it out in person. I missed that boat.
Kung Hei Fat Choy,
In Singapore, at the Marina Bay Sands,
Email, please, emergencies 707-738-3178
So great to hear from you and your Nuova Vida… Ask Adam if he ever knew HUGO MCPHERSON as Head of the National Film Board. He was my Prof at U of T in the early 60’s. I’m doing a TV show on my WINING AND DINING IN THE NAPA VALLEY programme Tuesday the 20th with John Shafer. Should be great. We will prepare with a fulsome dinner at DON GIOVANNI’s Monday evening. My Patricia had to have blood transfusions for anemia this past week and is not looking forward to a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy on the 28th.
Love your Blog…Happy Sailing…
Marge Mapp said:
It’s great to hear from you! Please say hi to Judy and Adam for Chris and me. We got to know them a little bit after André’s funeral, and really hit it off.
We hope you all enjoy your cruise,
Marge and Chris
Lottie Nicholson said:
Love,love all your letters as usual. You are the busiest person I know and the greatest writer.. I always know exactly where you are traveling when you are describing CA. Keep up the good work and enjoy all your travels. I am so glad that you have a group of friends that live in the Lodge with you. All my love and many 🥀 for you. Lottie
Kathy Stefano said:
Monday with you, Judy, Adam and Chris was truly wonderful. So glad the weather cooperated. Thanks for the picture. I look my best as a shadow. So sad I couldn’t spend time with Silly P….rules! Buon Viaggio
Pat Gustafson said:
I’m going back to catch up on old mail…..You do write well!
Monday Leona and I will go early with you. We will probably have you let us off at Trader Jo’s on Trancas.
Pat Gustafson email@example.com
Lottie Nicholson said:
Have a fabulous time. I only wish I could be on one of Helen’s trips.