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Meridien hotel, Dakar

Arrived here to this beautiful view in this luxury hotel after a 24 hour trip via New York and Brussels. I ran into Karen King in Brussels, and we negotiated the curious brittle courtesy of the airline lounges to spend a quite couple of hours in the British Airways lounge. We were picked up at the airport by Marcel, a friend of Momar, who cheerfully informed us that the hotel was having administrative difficulties with official limo service. Momar is acting as translator between the Americans and Africans for tomorrow’s events. I had Pringles and a beer (Flag) from the minibar, then a shower.

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Dinner at Cesar’s

Rick arranged for us to go to the new Cesar’s in Oakland, which has not yet officially opened but is doing a week of practice and publicity with all its friends. We had a wonderful dish of rare strips of steak with a three-bean salad (raw chick peas, cannelinis, and baby green beans, tarragon, olives) and an anchovy butter. Glenn is doing well and looking good, and managed to get a lovely picture of Abby. I left early the next morning for Senegal.

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Drinks in the new house

Yesterday, our last day at the beach, was foggy, so we bundled up in blankets and watched The Day After Tomorrow, a feel-good movie in which 3 billion people die, as Roger Howe describes it. We had Magnani’s chicken for dinner, dressed with salt, tarragon, and cumin and then mesquite-barbecued. Today we packed up and drove over to Rick and Tweety’s. Work is settling in again: the Institute space in Gould-Simpson is not yet ready, I still have to figure out what I’m going to say about educating teachers to an African-American audience, and Wiley is breathing down my neck about the Algebra book. I bought a pair of Leica binoculars to replace the ones we lost, an unsolved mystery.

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Moss on the Matt Davis trail

Amy and I took a walk up in the morning fog. We saw Wilson’s Warbler, Dark-eyed Juncos, a Spotted Towhee. Also we heard the call that I think is the Wrentit, and Amy could a glimpse of its wren-like tail disappearing into the brush.

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Poppy on the Dipsea Trail

Last night as we sat on the porch looking at the sea I saw a possible albatross: a bird alternately flapping and gliding, very long, slender wings, about one-and-a-half times as long as the body, bent back at the wrist, and forming a gentle S-curve when viewed flapping from behind.

Amy and I hiked over from Muir Woods today. In Muir Woods we saw what was possibly a Hermit Thrush. It was making a call we heard a number of times, a soft, sad aaahooee. The one sighting was high up in silhouette: it had rounded wings, separated from the square tail, which extended beyond the wing tips, and in profile it had a sparrow-shaped head but with a sharper triangular beak. The recording I have of the Hermit Thrush has some liquid ornaments than we didn’t hear, but the underlying notes are right.

On Steep Ravine Trail we saw the usual Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Dark-eyed Juncos. One group of chickadees seemed to have a mother feeding a larger child. They were making a slightly different call, a wheezy aaee-aaoh. As we came out onto the Dipsea we saw swallows (which I always forget to mention, but are ever-present in this open heath) and as always the soaring vultures.

The Dipsea was covered with wildflowers: thistles, poppies, a flower with four veined petals that comes in yellow, white, and pink, daisies, and a small yellow flower with four round petals that looks like what I would call a bladderpod in Arizona.

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Steep Ravine Trail

Abby drove Amy and I over to Muir Woods, to walk back along the Ben Johnson trail to Pantoll Station, then down the Steep Ravine Trail to Stinson Beach, where this shot was taken at our lunch spot. Abby came in with us a little way, but was eager to get back to surfing. Her appreciation of nature is different from ours: she likes contact rather than contemplation.

We had an interesting moment on the way up, when we ran into a Christian group in prayer that was blocking the trail. They were just finishing up as we arrived, so we pressed on through, but the etiquette of the trail clashed with the etiquette of the church. When I related this to Abby at dinner she expressed indignantly all the feelings of outrage that I was turning over as I continued up the trail.

Immediately after the Christians, we ran into a crowd of kids at a day camp, with green t-shirts. After that it calmed down, and soon we were walking through the extraordinary quiet of the redwood forest.

Abby had a good afternoon surfing, and tried to call us down when we got back, but we were otherwise occupied.

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What is this plant?

It’s all over the Matt Davis trail.

I think I’ve figured out that the mystery call I’ve been wondering about, 2 or 3 starting notes accelerating into a trill, is a Wrentit. The recording sounds right, and the natural history of the Point Reyes Peninsula in the Stinson Beach house describes this sort of terrain as permeated with the calls of White-crowned Sparrows and Wrentits. The White-crowned Sparrows produce the rising wheezy trill-buzz.

Today I saw what I think was a Pine Siskin: yellow wing edges and rump, white wingbars, a pointy sparrow-like beak, and a beady black eye.

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Glenn and the Waxmans at Stinson

On Saturday I drove Sally to Oakland airport to send her off to Band Camp. I did some shopping and picked Becky up on the way back, hitting tremendous traffic as we came into Stinson. The beach has been packed all weekend, with traffic flowing in all day until about 4:00. I decided not to go up to Aaron’s bachelor party in Bodega Bay on Saturday night, partly because of the traffic, partly because I prefer the company of women, and partly because they had spent all Friday night drinking and all Saturday throwing up on a fishing boat. Rick and Glenn stopped by for dinner on Sunday night. Abby and Becky spent Sunday afternoon bonding with beers on the porch, while the olds slumbered and grumbled on various sofas.

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Pacific spiketail

Saw this dragonfly on the Matt Davis trail, Cordulegaster dorsalis, also known as the Wester Flying Adder and the Yellow-backed Biddie, according to California Dragonflies. Also some lovely ash-blue small butterflies near the top of the trail. The hill-side is covered with Bush Monkeyflowers, Mimulus aurantiacus, tubular yellow five-petaled flowers with bilateral symmetry, bright green oval leaves, and the invasive weed Convolvulus arvensis, a vine with with white, pink-tinged, fused, five-petaled flowers. Saw an Allen’s Hummingbird and some Chestnut-backed Chickadees.

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Abby at Stinson Shakespeare

This year’s production was The Taming of the Shrew goes Bollywood. Tweedy arrived just in time for us to go down with our roast chicken and another delicious salad, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes and mint. She’s on a roll. The play was an enthusiastic amateur production, with a largely Indian cast, pretty good stuff for a picnic by the beach and $15 when you are on holiday. Abby and I were at odds, but I guess that’s par for the course as well. She got a text message this morning from Jamie, her 26-year-old beau from the Oregon Country Fair.

Nell called excitedly at 10:00 a.m. this morning to announce that she had succeeded in getting a French visa. After having consulted two contradictory lists of requirements, she decided to go with the one at the LA Consulate website, not unreasonable since that is where she was picking up the visa. As she handed over all her hard-won pieces of paper, including the triumphal evidence of lodging, the lady said “Where is the bank statement?” Apparently she wanted a statement indicating that we had the resources to fulfill the ridiculous promises we had made, notarized. Nell pointed out that there was no such thing on the website, whereupon the lady gave an irritated shrug, indicating she had heard that story many times before. Then she kept on filling in the form and gave Nell the visa.

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