From the Middle Kingdom to Hurricane Irma and Other Random Musings…

Irma. That’s one of the names that is on my list of “names you should never give a child.” It’s so “old school” I don’t recall knowing anyone with that name, ever. Let’s face it; it’s a bad name. It’s also the name of the hurricane that is tearing through the Caribbean, expected to hit the US in a few days. So, I lay right in the path of the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic in recorded history, and as it bears down, once again, I’m left to ponder how my timing in life leaves much to be desired. The last hurricane I was in, was Hurricane Bob that ended up in New England back in 1991. Hurricanes almost never go that far north, but it slammed into Martha’s Vineyard where Nancy and I were on holiday. We rode it out in the B and B that we stayed in. Along with the other guests, we had a hurricane party because there isn’t much to do but eat, drink and wait for the power to fail. I even recall going outside, during the lull that the eye of the storm brings, to check out the damage, which was fairly light.

That storm couldn’t have been more than a Category 1. Irma is a Cat 5 but typically, hurricanes tend to weaken by the time they make landfall in the US so it will be something of a shock it it stays at the level. My mother should be safe. The facility that she lives in is set up to deal with these types of emergencies. Even though landfall, if it happens, is days away, there is an air of fear starting to emerge. Gas stations that have gas have enormous, long lines of cars. Grocery stores have been cleaned out of water and everyone is talking about how they’re going to make their escape. If my flight on Friday gets cancelled, I am definitely screwed. I could be trapped in Florida for days, if that happens. Stuck in Florida. Now there’s a sodden thought! Stuck in Florida, without power orwater and devastation all around, is the stuff of nightmares. 

I have been updating my blog almost daily but I never quite finished a complete posting and the next thing I knew, I’m somewhere else, making what I wrote, a bit dated. So, the best thing to do is simply use this post to cover my last days in San Francisco, my trip to Los Angeles and now, finally my fews days in Florida with a Category 5 Hurricane looming in the background. So, below are the previous postings that I hadn’t completed and are largely unchanged with a few adjustments for continuity:

It’s Monday, September 4. I am at Los Angeles International Airport awaiting a flight back to San Francisco and then I change planes and fly across the country to south Florida to visit my 94 year old mother in West Palm Beach. 

The wedding event I attended was yesterday and it was very enjoyable. The hotel we stayed in, is the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. The famed “Hollywood Walk of Fame” that stretches for 15 blocks is right outside the door. Considering the nightly rate is 1,800 RMB, my expectations were high. But the only thing noteworthy about the hotel is the location. I’ve stayed in much nicer hotels in China for a fraction of the price. The room wasn’t even worth a photo but the pool area, as you’ll see, was certainly a lively affair.

The wedding was very fun. Beyond that, there isn’t much to write about mostly because there’s nothing terribly interesting to my students about my niece’s wedding. Well, she’s a lawyer and he’s a medical doctor. A true “power couple” if you are living in America  So below are a variety of photos from my last days in San Francisco as well as the wedding in Los Angeles and a few from Florida.

(I wrote the below on Saturday, while I was still in Marin.)

Marin County has some interesting facts, interesting, that is, if you’re into stats:

Marin County- 2,144 sq. kilometers (828 square miles) population: 260,600

Xian:  6,100 sq. kilometers (2,400 sq miles) population: 8,700,000

So, we could say Xi’an is about three times the size of Marin. It also has thirty-three times more people than Marin. I bring this up because I realized just today the stark contrast between living in Xi’an (or Beijing) and living in Marin County. Wherever I went, in Marin or San Francisco, I remarked to myself: “Hey, where is everyone?” Take a look at the photos of random places in Marin and SF, during the middle of the day. It’s quite striking to walk through a mall that is largely empty. In the previous posting, I wrote of the one, indoor mall in Marin. Today, I had lunch at one of two outdoor malls in Marin. Again, mostly “crickets.”  Obviously, there’s nothing interesting or surprising for Americans reading this.

However, my Chinese friends would understand how different it is to walk in a largely vacant mall or empty sidewalks because that would not be possible anywhere in Xi’an.  Consider that all of Marin has four malls: One indoor mall and three full-sized, out door malls. I work in an office building next door to the largest mall in Xi’an and across the street, where I work out, is  another mall. Down the block from where my office is, you will find a large, multilevel mall that has two lanes of shops that stretch for over two city blocks, underground. And as any Xi’anease could tell you, they are packed, when open. So, the biggest most noticeable difference I see between China and America is the never ending parade of people, in China. 

Heck, even Chinatown in San Francisco felt empty! At least everyone was a terrible driver, so I got a little taste of being back in Xi’an. 

Here’s an ironic turn of events, Today marks the beginning of a heatwave: At Nancy’s, the high today hit 41C, (106F). San Francisco hit 35 C, (95F). On the plus side, it’s the proverbial “dry heat” so it’s much easier to endure than when it’s the same temperature in Xi’an.  Here comes the ironic part: Meanwhile, back in Xi’an, the high today was 25C, (77F) and that’s warmed up from the cool rainy, last few days. I don’t care about tomorrow’s temperature because we have an 11 am flight out of Oakland Airport for Los Angeles, specifically, Burbank Airport (In “beautiful downtown Burbank!”)

Los Angeles County is one place that can stand up, size wise to Xi’an. But the city of Los Angeles itself is only a bit larger than Marin County. Los Angeles County, on the other hand, is comprised of 88 separate cities and in total, about 4,200 sq km. The population of the entire county with its 88 cities is just under 10 million. Compare that to Xi’an with its size of 2,400 sq miles and a population of just under 9 million.

Final thoughts: 

I don’t know when I will resume writing. Assuming I get out of Florida on Friday, I fly to San Francisco, change planes and then head back to China. Most likely, I will resume updating on either Saturday or Sunday, when I return to Xi’an. 


A five minute drive from Nancy’s and you are out in the middle of nowhere. We did a “power walk” early in the morning

Our last night before we headed to LA. Dinner with friends in the backyard of Nancy’s house

This is one of the few (four) subway stops in downtown SF. It was rush hour. Where is everyone?

The subway system in SF runs mostly above ground and through neighborhoods. This is the one Sophie takes to work and back. The stop is two blocks from her apartment


Sophie took me to visit her office in downtown SF. It’s a high tech “non-profit” that helps provide high speed internet to all public schools in America

Sophie’s desk. It’s bigger than mine.

The kitchen which is stocked with a variety of goodies

The streets of San Francisco. “Hey, where is everyone?”

San Francisco Cable Car. It’s the original public transportation system in SF. It’s very popular with tourists despite the fact it’s 37 RMB for a one-way ride

The famous “Transamerica Pyramid” which was built in the 1970’s and was considered a visual blight at the time. Now, it’s emblematic of SF

The main street that cuts through downtown SF. It was late in the day. Note how few cars there are

The front entrance to Chinatown in downtown San Francisco

Here are a bunch of photos of Hollywood Blvd near the hotel.

There are “Hard Rock Cafe” restaurants all over the world

The sign reads: “Museum of Broken Relationships.” Who knew, right?

Because there are so many people on Hollywood Blvd, it attracts lots of people who have a message to “sell.” Here’s an enduring one that is utterly bat-guano crazy

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (since 1927) is famous not only as THE place to watch a movie on opening night, but famous movie stars have been making hand and feet imprints for decades

Various street scenes around our hotel which is in the background

There are popular stores throughout America called “Everything’s $1.00” (7 RMB) Here’s a store that can’t be as popular, as everything is 70 RMB. Than again, it’s still a better deal than “Everything’s 7000 RMB”

For 15 blocks along Hollywood Blvd, are the names of famous entertainers. It’s called the “Walk of Fame” and although very overrated, at least it’s free

Inside LA LA Land (souvenir store)  is supposedly, one of Elvis Presley’s Cadillac car

The drink menu at the hotel pool. Yes, that’s $18 for one drink. Not sure what you get for $75, but whatever it is, it isn’t worth it

The pool at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Nancy, Sophie and I had lunch at a famous “deli,” Cantor’s. It’s “old school” having been around since 1931 and the decor has changed little over the decades

A “much needed” pastrami sandwich. Now there’s something that’s not easy to find in China

Deli’s always have lots of food to “take out”

It’s lunch hour. Where is everyone?

Me, Nancy and Sophie before the wedding

A typical American wedding includes a “guest book” that those who attend sign, usually writing something pithy

After the wedding ceremony but before dinner, there’s usually a reception with lots of finger foods and plenty of drinking. Then it’s time to sit down to eat and drink

The room where the marriage ceremony took place

The bride and groom before the wedding ceremony

Various table shots after the wedding ceremony

That’s Sophie at the table on the upper left

This my niece, Meredith and her husband, Elan

My niece had a brunch, the Monday after the wedding. She and her new husband just bought this home in the hills of LA.

The “thing” with the black handle is an oven. It’s standard in American kitchens

My niece’s house is in the Hollywood Hills. It’s situated across the street from a very large park and so there will never be any more development in their neighborhood.

This is one of the biggest supermarket chains in Florida. It’s mid-day and yes, it is open for business. This is before the threat of the hurricane. Things got a lot busier once the magnitude of the storm became known