Towse: views from the hill

February 21, 2006

Far Field Retreat for Writers(May 18-21, 2006) and for you’ns who remember Dinty W. Moore (the writer, not the stew, not the comic strip character)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:16 pm

Got a note from someone asking me to mention the Far Field Retreat for Writers.

Accompanying that note was this release:

Far Field Retreat for Writers is a four-day retreat—May 18-21—for aspiring and established writers to explore writing ideas and techniques, mingle with other writers, and write on the relaxing and beautiful campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. The sixth annual conference in 2006 includes an opening night dinner at Meadow Brook Hall followed by three more days of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Workshops, readings, and panel discussions will be presented by established writers and teachers. This year’s guests include award-winning authors Lee K. Abbott and Heather Sellers in fiction, Dinty Moore in creative nonfiction, and Nancy Eimers in poetry. Poet Mary Ann Samyn is the Director of the Far Field Retreat for Writers.

The cost for all workshops, on campus housing, the included meals (breakfast from Panera Bread, two lunches and two dinners), and readings is only $450. A commuter option (minus housing only) is also available for only $400. The registration deadline is May 1, 2006. E-mail at farfield =at= or click on

Dinty — for those of you who don’t know of him and for those who do, but don’t know what he’s up to these days — is the author of THE ACCIDENTAL BUDDHIST: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, THE EMPEROR’S VIRTUAL CLOTHES, TOOTHPICK MEN: Short Stories, and THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. He edits Brevity, a magazine of creative nonfiction, and teaches writing courses at Penn State, Altoona.

back and gone again …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:43 pm

We spent the last short week (W-M) in St. Louis for AAAS. (More on that, once I get re-packed, if I have time.)

We’re off again tomorrow. Original plan was to return home tonight and head out tomorrow. We changed our plans a few weeks back when we went, “Ouch.” We’d booked with Travelocity or some such so had to bite the extra night’s lodging and the return tickets, but we’ll be sane tomorrow, which we wouldn’t have been if we’d arrived back tonight.

Luckily for our travels, we are not hurting for people who are willing to keep our cat company and pick up the mail while we’re away.

Rather than think up something new to say about Saint Louis, here’s a rev on what I told a friend in e-mail late last night, after we got in. (Sure, I checked my e-mail when I got in. Isn’t that one of the first things people do when they come back from being away?)

We were in St. Louis for AAAS since last Wednesday. Being the California girl that I am, I kept thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if the long-overdue New Madrid quake would hit while AAAS was in town?

But, no. It didn’t.

St. Louis was St. Louis. The local AAAS folks complained that AAAS hadn’t been there for the annual meeting since 1952 and that’s been …

Yeah, I said. I was born in 1952. I know =exactly= how long it’s been.

St. Louis had logistics problems but boy, howdy. for a City girl, I was amazed at the number of multi-level parking garages in their downtown core. San Franciscans envy folks with parking spaces.

St. Louis also has the Arch, which is pretty darn cool.

Um. I can’t think of much else I’d go back for.

They never tore down their great old buildings downtown and are in the process of rehabbing them as lofts — condos and apartments. Good idea. Second good idea is that they put in the parking before they started to rehab the downtown, so the land they used for parking garages was dead cheap.

They have the Convention Center which is nice. They have convention hotels nearby, which is nice. They have a Starbucks and a couple places to buy your morning bagel.

Not much else downtown. There was certainly not enough good restaurant food to feed a convention of 1800 (which was a low turnout for AAAS). Kitchen K on Washington had yummy food (french-fried sweet potatoes!) but only two wait staff to handle the AAAS crowd that showed up on their doorstep Saturday night.

(Yeh, yeh. Downtown =also= has sports stadiums — the Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play and the Edward Jones Dome where the Rams play. The Dome was host to a SuperCross event while we were there, so we had hungry SuperCross attendees competing for dining tables with hungry scientists and science writers.)

The new lofts will be wonderful, but they don’t seem to be selling, perhaps because of things like, f’rex, the penthouse in one of the buildings is priced at $700K. $700K? That might be the worth of the place once the downtown center is revitalized, but right now … no.

I’m back tonight and home tomorrow and heading out first thing Wednesday to South America and points souther for a few weeks.

We stayed at the Wyndham Mayfair, which was just across a skinny little street from the Renaissance, the convention hotel conveniently located across Washington from the Convention Center. Room charges at the Mayfair were substantially less than room charges at the Renaissance.

We had dinner in the Mayfair restaurant Wednesday night. We weren’t much impressed with the food at the Mayfair. In fact, we weren’t much impressed with much of the food we found between the downtown core and Laclede’s Landing. Had lunch at Hannegan’s. Good Reuben sandwich. Nice furnishings. Had dinner at Jake’s Steaks. You know. The food’s fine in St. Louis, just not terrific. Servings are healthy. Service is pretty laid back. Make that overly laid back. We survived by noshing at the evening events. Kitchen K I’d recommend, although the service there was glacial. Nice wait staff, just overburdened.

The plan for the next few weeks is to drink yerba mate with the gauchos, pet some penguins and visit the Iguaçu Falls. Our cold weather gear worked find as the temps dropped to 2 degF last week in St. Louis; we anticipate no cold weather gear problems in the Southlands.

February 13, 2006

Word Cloud chez Towse Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 9:44 pm

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Snitched from Zen and Paula.

How do those folks do that? Just the thing for your writerly Valentine.

February 12, 2006

‘Lost’ manuscript valued at £1m

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 8:32 pm

A BBC article dated 9 Feb 2006 begins,

A “lost” science manuscript from the 1600s found in a cupboard in a house during a routine valuation is expected to fetch more than £1m at auction.

The hand-written document – penned by Dr Robert Hooke – contains the minutes of the Royal Society from 1661 to 1682, experts said.

It was found in a house in Hampshire, where it is thought to have lain hidden in a cupboard for about 50 years.


Bonham’s is auctioning off the document on 28 March in London.

The Royal Society is hoping for a “white knight” to come along, buy the piece and share it.

Bill & Melinda, where are you? Wouldn’t this make a nice companion piece to da Vinci’s Codex Leicester?

Heard fog horns this morning. …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:00 pm

as I was waking up. Closer, louder, ships’ get-outta-the-way blasts warned off the smaller vessels as the ships found their way through the fog.

The fog was thick in places, non-existent in others. I would’ve loved to have been able to have an aerial view.

By 10 a.m., the fog had mostly burnt off, and the Bay Area was in for another sun-shiny day.

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A “before” picture taken when I was out and about around 8 a.m.

February 11, 2006

Isabella Fallon Brittan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:51 am

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Isabella (Belle) Fallon Brittan was the daughter of Thomas Fallon (of some notoriety in San Jose, California, as well as one of that fair city’s first mayors after the Bear Flag revolt) and Carmel, daughter of Martina Castro and either her second husband Michael Lodge or her first, Simon Cota. (I had always been told her father was Lodge, but several sites on the Web claim that Cota is her father.)

Martina’s grandfather, Jose Joaquin Castro, brought his family to California in 1776 with the DeAnza Expedition.

Martina was an astute business woman. The Mexican government granted Martina the Soquel Rancho (1,668 acres) in 1833 and the Soquel Rancho Augmentacion (32,702 acres) in 1844. In 1850 with the California Gold Rush causing all hell to break loose for the Californianos, Martina split the Rancho into nine shares, one for her and one for each of her living children.

After Carmel and Thomas Fallon split up, Carmel moved to San Francisco with her unmarried children.

Belle married Nathaniel Jones Brittan of San Francisco and had three children: Carmelita, and the twins, Belle and Natalie.

Click on the picture above for more photos of Isabella Fallon Brittan, including one with Carmelita.

Carmelita is his nibs’ paternal grandmother. Unfortunately, that land grant is long gone.

February 10, 2006

Long lost cousins appear out of the blue

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 5:17 pm

picture of Towse boys
The Towse Three. c1927? Posted by Hello

Eleven months or so back, while I was clearing out the house that hasn’t sold, I got distracted by family photos as I was packing and scanned some in and posted them on the blog.

My dad especially liked this one of him and his twin and their little brother back when they were the three Towse boys. Eventually there were six Towse boys, but that was years down the road.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a long lost cousin of my father’s, who way back when lived next door to Danny, Donny and Sonny in a side-by-side duplex in Woburn, MA, that belonged to my greatgrandparents.

Got that family tree straight in your head? My grandfather Charlie lived in half the duplex with his family. His younger sister Lill and her family (long lost cousin being the #2 child in the family) lived in the other half of the duplex.

Seems the #1 child in long lost cousin Ray’s family was his sister Dorothy AKA Dot or Dottie, whom I have heard my dad mention. A week or so ago, Dorothy’s daughter Martha found my blog and the pictures of the Towses. I hadn’t realized she’d left a comment at the end of January.

This is my belated “pleased to meet you.”

Lessee. Dad and Dorothy are cousins. That makes Martha my second cousin and Ray and Dorothy my first cousins once removed, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

Cousin Ray, like five of his six Towse cousins, found his way out to the left coast and lives in San Francisco.

Odd world, isn’t it?

February 6, 2006

Berkeley: Westmost City of the Westmost Sea by Joaquin Miller

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:34 pm

Sorting through family memorabilia. Boxes of old, old postcards courtesy of great-great-aunt MBB. Found this postcard (with space for a one cent stamp!) produced by the Chamber of Commerce, Berkeley, California.

Herewith, for all the Berkeleyans and former Berkeleyans who might read this blog (and for those who arrive courtesy of a search engine hit for Joaquin Miller).


“Westward the course of empire takes its way.” – Bishop Berkeley.

Say, what shall be said of the great Bishop’s town –
      Bishop, and prophet, and poet and seer? –
Why pluck up a cedar and set her fame down
      In gold and in flower-fed atmosphere.
          City of cities in stories to be –
          Classical, scholar-built Berkeley.

Aye, write her fair story — as fair as a star.
      As sweet as her sea-winds, as strong as her sea –
City with never a stain or a scar –
      City of deeds and of destiny:
          Sea-born and sun-bred Mecca to be –
          Matchless, magnificent Berkeley.

Update — added picture of Miller from postcard

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Joaquin Miller (1837-1914)

San Francisco’s Poet’s Corner

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 1:23 am

Southeast corner of Filbert and Grant. Why that corner, I don’t know. The official resolution declared the corner’s status as of Sunday, September 22, 2002, and said the designation was to honor the contribution of poets past and present.

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February 5, 2006

Sts Peter and Paul and the pyramid

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:15 pm

We were outside the Clubhouse at the Joe DiMaggio Playground at 5 p.m. yesterday, waiting for the others to arrive. The sun was heading westward and throwing interesting light on the backs of the spires at Saints Peter & Paul. The TransAmerica Pyramid jagged into the sky behind them, the third piece of the triad.

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We were there early to setup the seats and snacks for the first of four Saturday evening noir movie showings at the Clubhouse. For four Saturdays in February, the Friends of Joe DiMaggio Playground are showing noir movies to raise money to complete the refurbishment of the bocce ball courts.

The movie last night was THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL with Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortese, and William Lundigan.

Great story. Backgrounds included the Valentina Cortese character shopping at the New Union Grocery, AKA Speedy’s (AKA Jiffy in TALES OF THE CITY), which is the little corner grocery up where Montgomery meets Union. Some hoots as the Cortese character’s car’s brakes fail and she skids down the hill, down impossible deadend streets that turn into other streets and a sudden sharp end, just before the Montgomery Steps, which are, well, less than a block from Speedy’s, except, wait! She’d driven blocks on blocks on blocks, skidding down streets and around corners, she should’ve at least made it past the corner.

Fun time was had by all. We’ll be told at some point how much was made. We had about seventy people spending $10/ea plus what they paid for snacks and drinks and popcorn.

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