Photo: Sebastapol, California 4th of July

4th of July, Sebastapol, CAPhoto (c) 2012 Russell Johnson

If you grew up in the mid-century US as I did, a hot summer afternoon meant a Dairy Queen or Foster’s Freeze soft serve ice milk cone dipped in chocolate. The Dairy Queen across from my elementary school in Minneapolis is still there. Now, on a hot day, I fire up my GPS and go miles out of my way to get in my licks. I found this Foster’s Freeze last weekend in Sebastapol, California. The flag is for real, hanging on a 4th of July fireworks stand.

Heavy Reading: Too Fat to Fly [Audio]

Heavy Reading

Books are just too fat.

I usually go to a bookstore before I head off on a long flight, even though, except at airports, they are bit hard to find these days. My nostalgic favorite is a century-old shop in San Francisco with so many volumes on the second floor that I always feared it would collapse and I would perish under several tons of weighty words. When my kids were small we did family outings there where we disappeared into the stacks and our own private universes.

I paid a visit a few weeks ago, wanting to finally take the plunge into Christopher Hitchens’ briar patch of lush verbosity Arguably. But I picked it up off the display table and muttered “uh-oh.”


Moving to Wine Country: Sonoma, California

Lif eIn A Tourist Town: Sonoma, California

After spending most of my life as either a city dweller or a mountain hermit, I have now opted for the in-between, the idyl of small town life in a tourist destination in California’s Wine Country. I have moved to the middle of a city block. There are houses to the right of me, houses to the left: a retired car dealer, a widow, a forty-something executive couple, a retired diplomat, a few clowns and jokers, notably a gang of 20-somethings that parties every weekend night until someone throws up and guests roar off on their motorcycles. There is a local radio station that mixes small town news with “hey dude” commentary about the 70s drug and rock scene. Recently the local newspaper featured a story about an encounter between a vehicle and a very large sow.

Over the past 20 years or so, Sonoma, California has gained the status of “tourist town.”