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8-01-05  -- Sabbatical Update #2 - Hearst Castle

Again this year my son Clay, now 14, and I ventured south to Tassajara to spend ten days. Actually we went north. How that happened was that Clay was with his mom and her boyfriend and his daughters on vacation and I went almost down to San Louis Obispo to pick Clay up, driven by my dharma friend John Sumser of IBN (not to be confused with the Islamic Broadcasting Network or the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology).

We met at the Hearst Castle which I'd always wanted to see and which John hadn't. So he went off and watched elephant seals and pelicans while Clay, his mom Elin, her boyfriend Martin's cool and cute eldest daughter Laura (13), and I took the basic tour.

What a place. I love what rich people do with their money - at least sometimes - especially if they're super rich and they build museums for the future. Larry Ellison's Paul Disco built home is already gifted to Stanford after he's gone as I understand it. Japan is a great example of once private spaces now public.

The Hearst Castle has the added point of interest of being designed by famed California architect Julia Morgan ("My work speaks; I do not.") who designed the Jewish ladies' home, Emanuel, later to become the SF Zen Center on Page Street. I once drove an artist friend to Page St. for a tour and as she got out of the car she remarked, "Oh, a Julia Morgan." When I asked her how she knew she said she could tell by the ornamentation and the ornamentation of the Hearst Castle was all over and made my tongue hang out.

What beautiful pools, the blues and golds and the way the lines through the water looked bent on the indoor one making the bottom seem rounded.

He was good to his friends - the invitation was open-ended - but you couldn't drink too much if you wanted to be welcome back. I remembered J. Paul Getty's pay phone for guests when I heard of Hearst's 80 phones with operator and free calls.

The tour was filled with all sorts of interesting buildings, rooms, antiques, and stories from our guide, but not a whisper of anything negative about William Randolph Hearst, the Father of Yellow Journalism so powerful he could help poke America into a bloody war with Spain and be a prime mover in getting the war on drugs going, frightening the nation enough about marijuana that hemp medicines and other products disappeared from the shelves - other products such as hemp paper which competed with his timber holdings - this was even mentioned on one of the tours (not mine). He may have even gotten away with murder on his yacht. Those are the sort of rumors I was whispering to Clay and Laura in the pauses of our tour. There's plenty on the Internet about it all. But anyone who hired Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London and Stephen Crane to write for his paper can't be all that bad.

And now Clay and I have got two new movies on our list to see - one is shown at the castle and we didn't have time for it but our tickets are good there for a year. The other is Citizen Kane of course. "Not another boring weird old black and white movie, Dad, please." "You'll like this one, I promise."

What a second home, actually one of many. No zendo though, so we didn't dally and drove up the Big Sur Coast reminding me of William Irwin Thomson's quip, "What a lovely way to end a country." Through Carmel Valley to Jamesburg and the 14 mile windy steep dirt road in better condition than ever. We made a brief stop at the great tree. Sumser compared this massive oak to Yosemite's far larger Old Grizzly, a sequoia. Clay gave this tree a name - what was it - can't remember - but I always think of it as "she who must be bowed to."

We drove past the magnificent western and eastern dusky panoramas visible from the ridge though so much is cut off by the overgrowth that I wish to have a wide trimmer blade extending from the car to open up the view again along the whole expanse. Either that or burn baby burn. These woods are way too clogged. Then it was down down down to Tassajara.

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