I’m Returning From The Hills, Part III

Looking across Sindicich Lagoon to Mt. Diablo

Looking across Sindicich Lagoon to Mt. Diablo

I wasn’t going to walk as far as I did. Honest, I wasn’t planning to choose the “peak” trail rather than the valley. Yet, I did both, and it was amazing. Briones Regional Park is one of the most beautiful places in the East Bay, and it’s big too. I have been back many times and I still have trails to explore.

When the sign says valley or peak, you choose valley! The peak nearly killed me.

When the sign says valley or peak, you choose valley! The peak nearly killed me.

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After my trip to Briones, I did a little more park hopping, but mainly I stuck to hiking. It’s amazing how many places to hike there are in my area. I swear that Contra Costa county is really a giant park with squatters on it.

But hiking isn’t the only story here. Comcast lifted their data cap for me during this period and I wanted to see how much data I would actually use if I wasn’t worried about the cap. Also, there were good weeks where it was way too hot to hike and I didn’t have a choice but turn on Netflix instant streaming. It began with the Roger Corman/Traci Lords film called Not Of This Earth (1988). But it would get worse.

Starcrash (1978)

Starcrash (1978)

Much, much worse.

He's My Girl (1987)

He’s My Girl (1987)

I’m Returning From The Hills, Part II

Park hopping is what I called it. I wasn’t visiting parks that you could hike in yet, but I was visiting any place that my GPS classified as a park. The places I visited varied greatly.

Brookwood Park — A small neighborhood park

Paso Nogal Park -- A good size dog park for both large and small dogs

Paso Nogal Park — A good size dog park for both large and small dogs

Heather Farms -- A big park/community center/dog park/etc. It actually dates back to when there was a track here that was used in the Clark Gable film Sporting Blood.

Heather Farms — A big park/community center/dog park/etc. It actually dates back to when there was a track here that was used in the Clark Gable film Sporting Blood.

El Divisadero Park -- The park with an identity crisis. The sign does say it's a neighborhood park, but it's also a field attached to a school.

El Divisadero Park — The park with an identity crisis. The sign does say it’s a neighborhood park, but it’s also a field attached to a school.

It was a blast, and I enjoyed exploring my area in ways I had never done before. While I was going to your normal types of parks, I would occasionally come across places that hinted at something more.

Where the Lafayette-Moraga Trail meets the Moraga Commons (Park)

Where the Lafayette-Moraga Trail meets the Moraga Commons (Park)

Walnut Creek Open Space? I thought I was at Howe Homestead Park.

Walnut Creek Open Space? I thought I was at Howe Homestead Park.

After hitting a lot of parks, I decided to make a run at the state park in my backyard. That evil mountain that looks down on me everyday. I went to Mt. Diablo State Park…on wheels.

One view from the observation deck at Mt. Diablo State Park.

One view from the observation deck at Mt. Diablo State Park.

But that same day, I also saw this.

Protected Watershed? EBMUD, my water company? I thought this was just Rancho Laguna Park.

Protected Watershed? EBMUD, my water company? I thought this was just Rancho Laguna Park.

10 days later my GPS said Briones Regional Park, but not the Lafayette Ridge Staging Area. I was going to the Bear Creek Staging Area. I was totally prepared with my regular shoes, no sunblock, no extra water, and no food. It was just me, my water bottle I always brought with me, and a cellphone. Before I knew it, I was going on my first real hike.

I’m Returning From The Hills, Part I

It’s been nine months since my last blog post, and where have I been? Mostly, I have been in the beautiful hills and the Netflix sewers. Let’s start with the attractive one first. Last June I desperately needed to get out of the house for the day and decided on a whim to go to a place called Dinosaur Hill.

The View From Dinosaur Hill

The view of Mt. Diablo from Dinosaur Hill

It’s a scenic viewpoint in Pleasant Hill, CA from which you can look across the Diablo Valley and see Mt. Diablo. Still not wanting to go home, I decided to go back to the Lafayette Reservoir in Lafayette, CA. I hadn’t been there since I was a child.

The Dam Tower at the Lafayette Reservoir

The Dam Tower at the Lafayette Reservoir

I walked the paved trail that keeps close to the water. There are two trails around the reservoir. One takes you up to an upper rim and one takes you around the shore. I wouldn’t be up to the upper rim for months to come, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I was pretty proud of myself for finishing that trail, but still wasn’t up to going home. It was still so early! I thought of one more place I could go. Next to the elementary school I attended is a staging area for Briones Regional Park. Briones is one of many parks in the East Bay Regional Parks district that covers both Contra Costa and Alameda counties in California. But there is something special about this staging area. It takes you onto a portion of Briones that is almost a park unto itself. It’s called the Lafayette Ridge. I remember being taken up part of it when I attended elementary school, and I remember running up a portion of it when I did cross country at the nearby high school.

Entrance to Lafayette Ridge

Entrance to Lafayette Ridge

It’s a steep climb up to the ridge, and once you’re there, it’s up and down, up and down, till you reach a big up at the end that kicks your butt. It’s arduous, but it’s in my backyard. So it’s mine.

You can see the entire ridge in a video I shot, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I walked a small portion of the initial ascent and went home. I went out soon after and started what I call “park hopping”.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), TSPDT #941, Not Recommended

Best scene in the movie

I have to be honest. I tried to write a regular review for this film, but I disliked the movie so much that I don’t care. On some level, I felt personally offended. Rather than try to write some long justification, I am just going to say I don’t recommend it and move on. I recommend PinocchioStar Trek: The Next Generation, and Battlestar Galactica. They explore the themes in this film far better, with a greater maturity and depth that won’t leave you feeling like you have been lectured to like a child.

Audition (1999), TSPDT #940, Approach With Caution

Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina)

I knew going into this film that it was not my kind of movie. I am not a fan of horror films. They are rarely done right, and often degenerate into torture porn or a gore fest. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to find that director Takashi Miike made the film from the book of Hitchcock. It’s about a man whose wife has died. He is lonely and his son is bugging him to get remarried. A friend suggests that a good way to quickly sift through a large number of women is to do it the way the pros do. That is, an audition. They set up a semi-fake audition for a movie and whittle down the possibilities to 30 women. Of course, the man picks the creepy girl in white. Once this man touches her life outside of the audition; the film begins to break further and further from reality. We descend into her warped world of ballet, a creature in a bag, and torture.

Behind The Tree

Takashi Miike definitely has talent. It’s just not my kind of movie. I think he attempts to class up the film by feeding us BS to try and connect us emotionally with the characters. What was impressive was his command of suspenseful filmmaking techniques. It meant that when it was gruesome, it was a drink of water to someone in a desert rather than being drowned in a pool. An atmosphere had been built and went unbroken as a head was severed or a pin was pushed into an eye. Miike does not just using a series of cheap tricks. Those who enjoy horror will probably appreciate it more than I did. I say, approach with caution.

Forty Guns (1957), TSPDT #939, Worth A Look

Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) and Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan)

If I didn’t know this was a Samuel Fuller film going into it, I don’t believe I would have recognized his hand at work. The film is about two people who live their lives on the frontier. Each has a position of power and holds it through force. Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) has her kingdom that she controls with her small army of armed men and her influence deeply entrenched throughout the region. Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) is a Marshall. Along with his brothers, he tracks down criminals. Both sound cool on the surface, but in fact they are miserable. What’s worse is that their lifestyle is poisoning a younger generation. It’s the struggle over the younger generation that is the source of conflict. When Bonnell arrives in her town to make an arrest, the two are pulled to each other as the worlds they hold in their hands crumble with collateral damage.

Love In The Younger Generation

Poison In The Younger Generation

Everyone does a good job. It’s shot in beautiful black and white with stylish cinematography. On a repeat viewing, I probably would recommend this film. For now, I say it’s worth a look.

The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), TSPDT #938, Worth A Look

Zbigniew Cybulski and His Women

I have been sitting on this film since February. I finally watched it this week. I am fooling myself in thinking I will rewatch it and write a long post. It is stories within stories and flashbacks within flashbacks. Busty, randy women abound. It stars Zbigniew Cybulski in comical mode. Enjoyable, but confusing. My verdict stands and I am moving on!