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Archive for March 13, 2010

Sunday, 14 March, 2010 – Bellflower to San Diego

Once again, my body clock woke me up at 7 a.m. It should have been at 6! but Eunice’s alarm had failed to go off. Never mind. We were still in good time to pick up our Japanese friends from LAX as they were not due to land until 8:45, and it takes an age to clear immigration and collect luggage. Except when the plane has a following wind and lands 45 minutes earlier then scheduled!

We were in place at the arrivals point as they emerged from the tunnel. Eunice had rented a 12 seater bus, enough for 9 Japanese, 1 Dutchman and one US citizen =  11. That is, until you try to fit the luggage for 9 people in as well.  Our Japanese friends were in amazing good spirits considering their 9 hour flight and 9 hour time difference, squatted in on top of cases and laughed as they took in their first views of LA.

So what do you do with guests after a long flight? You take them shopping! At a C&S nursery. (S1740) This was the nursery of the late Bill Baker, who passed on roughly a year ago. His widow, Donna and daughter helped us to make sense of which plants were for sale and which were stock plants to be kept. So now we had eleven people plus luggage and the results of a plant buying frenzy.

So Max, a friend of Eunice, was called into action to bring his pick up truck. Plan B was for Max to take all the luggage and plants bought to San Diego, while we attended a C&S Society meeting where I was due to give the World Premier of What I Saw Last Winter 2009-2010, up to and including our visit to Cuba. The meeting itself and what follows in weeks to come will be added in for UK audiences.

Great idea, but Max’s girlfriend had booked tickets for a suite at his favourite ice hockey team’s game that afternoon, by way of an early birthday present. (Happy birthday Max for next week – hope your team won!) There was no way that Max could drive down to San Diego and be back on time for his birthday present. So we switched to Plan C: Max would just take the plants that had been bought and drive them to the shade tunnel at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe where Eunice is curator of the Cactus Garden.

We arrived at South Coast C&S Society at the South Coast Botanic Garden on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. (S1741). There were some familiar faces in the audience as we walked in. More seats had to be brought in and I was asked if I always brought my own audience, referring to our Japanese guests. ‘Only if I’m not sure if anybody will come to see an unknown speaker!’ I joked.

The 80 minute presentation went well from my point of view: the Society’s projector worked fine, everyone laughed in the right places and seemed interested in the somewhat longer than usual presentation. There were some nice plants in the monthly show that featured Ferocactus and Kalanchoe as this month’s genera and I trust that I did not upset anyone with my choice of winners.

We then had an uneventful trip to San Diego, where the Motel-At-The-End-Of-The-Runway was still as we left it in 2008. Planes still landed at 3-5 minute intervals and the Amtrak Coaster & Trolley Service still fills in the brief moments of silence.

We were all so tired that it would not really matter, we could sleep anywhere. But first we drove to the Harbour Centre, a disused fish market, right next to the USS Midway, a huge and famous aircraft carrier that dwarfed the restaurant complex. Our friends from Japan were right at home, especially as the staff of the Sushi Bar were fluent in their native language. This was my first experience of Japanese food and went down very well, washed down with bottles of sake. It seems that I was too tired to take any pictures, or not yet practiced in using chopsticks to press the shutter on the camera.

Congratulations to Eunice for keeping her cool and driving a much larger bus/van into tight parking spaces than I’d care to try.

Saturday, 13 March, 2010 – More around Bellflower

It amazes me that in recent weeks, I have always woken up around 7 a.m. no matter what time zone I was in. This morning was no exception. After checking emails and a brief chat with Angie it was time to head for Monrovia.

This was not the capital of Liberia in West Africa, but the city situated in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains in Los Angeles County. Last September, a small group of us visited Gordon Rowley at his home, Cactusville, in England. As we left, at the end of an afternoon when cameras rarely stopped clicking for one minute, Gordon said that he hoped to see some of the pictures some time. I was keen to try out an on-line book publishing facility and so we selected our best photos and arranged them on the digital pages of the software made available to us to create a small book that would be printed, bound and mailed to my home address from where I would post them on to Gordon and my fellow visitors in Chile and the US.

Gordon’s library, renowned for its rare books, now has a copy of one of the rarest books on the planet: ‘Tea at Gordon’s’. Eunice asked if there was anyone that I’d like to meet in the US and Myron Kimnach’s name was suggested.

I had had some correspondence with Myron in the late 90’s and allegedly missed him a few times when he visited Holly Gate Cactus Nursery where I was working at the time. It was nice to finally shake him by the hand. We enjoyed a tour of his extensive collection, dominated by Echevaria and related genera. Myron than took us out for lunch to a Mexican restaurant to get us in the mood for our forthcoming Mexico adventure. Just as we started to get into some more interesting discussions, it was time to leave, as we had a dinner appointment at Vern’s.

Vern is a former LA County Sheriff with Dutch ancestry, whom I first met when I did my very first cactus presentation in the US, in February 2008 at the Long Beach Cactus & Succulent Society. He has a nice cactus garden at the front of his house to break up the monotony of the conventional California front gardens. He had recently bought plants from an old collection of Copiapoa, including some large specimens, that needed names. Unfortunately the light was now getting bad of the is just random text to fill out the page to see how things pan out.

Vern took us to Mimi’s for dinner and by that time, jet lag had once again caught up with me. We were due to have an early start again tomorrow.