What Is Our Secret?

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What Is Our Secret?

August 8, 2017 is an important milestone in our lives. On that date, my beloved wife Elfa and I are celebrating 50 years of our marriage. I am often asked, “What is your secret?” I could give a very simple answer – “I do not have secrets”. However, you might not believe me and suspect that I am keeping something. Therefore, I will just give you a short tour through our life together and perhaps you will find the answer to your quest of how to live long and happy life together.

Elfa and I were both born in Riga, Latvia, which at that time was part of the former Soviet Union. We met at a party, when we were both nineteen, to which Elfa came with her date and I with mine. When I saw her, the rest of the world melted away. I danced with her all evening, and from that day we were together every day. Some months later, there was another party. We were both in charge of planning. I had to get the food (my father worked in the food industry, which was a huge advantage when there was a scarcity of everything). Elfa offered her skills to prepare the food. At that moment I joked that if I liked her cooking I would marry her. The joke persisted when later on that evening, after a few drinks, I took a friend’s ring and put it on Elfa’s finger. It took us another nine months before we were officially married in the City Hall and I put the real ring on her finger. From the start, Elfa knew that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Fifty years later, I still enjoy her cooking. My job is to clean the kitchen. From the start of our relationship we agreed that we were going to always be together. Now we even go grocery shopping together.

Two years after our marriage, we decided to immigrate to Israel. This was a decision which led to many challenging events in our lives, since it took three years for this dream to realize. During this time, I kept working and going to school at night.

Our daughter Alona was growing up with her grandmother, while Elfa was fighting the government for permission to leave the Soviet Union, and we were told that we would never leave Riga. Her efforts and the support of Americans under the slogan “Let My People Go!” helped. One day we received a phone call that we have to leave in two weeks.

From the beginning of our marriage, we lived together with my wife’s mother Masha. Until her death many years later in our home in San Francisco, we always traveled through life together. Since I was surrounded by women of different ages (our daughter Tamar was born in Israel), I have a deep appreciation for the energy a woman brings to her partner’s life. Some time ago I wrote that “In a good relationship there is no right or wrong. There is only right and you know who she is”. Life in Israel was challenging, invigorating and very rewarding. We learned a lot and became people who were ready to move forward. Our reason to come to America, and ending up in San Francisco was to further our education. I wanted to get an MBA. Elfa dreamed of being a fashion designer. When the five of us immigrated here, we all became students. My dream was that one day we would have our own fashion company. It was quite a jump from my engineering background. To learn the business, I joined Helga Howie – a women’s high fashion company in San Francisco, as Vice President. Elfa was working for another fashion company. But my goal was to earn more money. I soon learned that the easy way to make a million dollars in the fashion business is by investing two million. Therefore, when I met Tom Grundy, my future manager at the Colwell Financial mortgage bank and he told me that I could double what I earned before, I only asked, “Where do I sign?” My family worried about my earning a commission-only salary, since I had to feed them. Thirty-four years later I’m still earning a commission. In 1985, our dream of working together with Elfa came true when we started Pacific Bay Financial Corporation. The following thirty-two years have been a wonderful journey full of excitement, challenges, and opportunities and, yes, love. We’ve survived and prospered thanks to our love for what we do, the people we work with and serve, and our family and love of each other.

OK, I will divulge one of my secrets. “The woman is always right; as long as she allows the man to do things his way only to discover that she was right from the start.” There is another Russian version of this bit of wisdom—“If I was only as smart then, as my wife is now”. In most of successful relationships, the man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck. Where the neck turns, is where the head looks. Next week I will share with you some more of my observations of how to achieve a lasting relationship.

P.S. You do not have to wait for a special occasion to express your feelings and appreciation. Flowers (especially roses) are always appreciated. My four images of roses are not exactly what you can buy in a flower shop.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Celebration – San Francisco Style

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Celebration – San Francisco Style

A few weeks ago we were planning to have dinner at our favorite restaurant, Zuni Café with friends who live in Mountain View. My friend called concerned about the traffic congestion because of some events in Downtown San Francisco that day. I had no idea what he was talking about, but when I opened the San Francisco Chronicle, I learned about the events that would take place over the coming weekend that my friend was referring to. On Friday, June 23rd was the TransMarch, the following day was the Diversity Celebration in front of City Hall and the Dyke March in Dolores Park. All of those events were preludes to Sunday’s 47th annual Gay Pride Parade.

San Francisco’s 6.2 percent of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is the highest in the United States. This year the Pride Parade was a celebration of diversity, and a demand for equality; it had a record breaking 250 contingents marching this year, and the SF Pride Director said that a million people were attending the event. Some avoided it because it became too much of a commercial and corporate event. This year I stayed away. My excuse was that I had a client in the office, and I was tired of my excursion from the day before.

I was planning to go to Dolores Park to photograph the Dyke March, but on the way there, while in the underground Muni train, I decided to follow a group of young people who were dressed up and looking joyful. When I came out at the Civic Center station, I encountered many celebrants. Vendors were selling food and multicolor flags. Some were having picnics on the lawn. Music was blasting and people were dancing.

After taking enough images, I decided to walk to my original destination – Dolores Park, which is regularly full of people on the weekends. This time, because of the Dyke March, it was difficult to walk through. Turned out that besides the “Dykes on Bikes”, whom you could see in the Gay Pride Parade, the SF Dyke March Rally is an annual event which brings together upward of 50,000 members of the LGBTQ community, and the first nationwide event took place in Washington DC in April, 1993. Now it is celebrated in other countries as well. My friend was right – because of all the celebrations, many streets were blocked, but it seemed that it did not stop people from getting together and having a good time, and for me to snap a few images.

P.S. I tried to choose four images to give you a sense and the scope of the huge crowds. If you are interested, you can find more images online.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Where The Other Land Ends

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Where The Other Land Ends

San Francisco has many unique features. One of them is being surrounded by water. Last week I wrote about the part of the Pacific Ocean on the Northern Shore called Land’s End. From the early days Ocean Beach always attracted locals, who came here primarily on the weekends to enjoy the view and to have a good time.

The southern part of the city, which also faces the water, provides a different experience. It was an area where local Ohlone people lived on the tidal wetlands for ten thousand years prior to the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 1700s.

Today the area is known as Bayview – Hunters point. During a photo-exploration visit to the area many years ago, I discovered Heron’s Head Park. After returning here on numerous occasions, introducing family and friends to this distinctive area, I also learned (from Wikipedia) about its rich history. In 1839 Mexico gave a land grant to Jose Carnelio Bernal. Ten years later he sold the land for real estate development. Not much was built there, but his agents, three brothers – John, Philip and Robert Hunter, built their homes and dairy farm on the land and it became known as Hunter’s Point.

After a San Francisco ordinance in 1868 banned the slaughter and processing of animals within the city proper, a group of butchers established it as “butcher reservation”. Ten years later there were 18 slaughterhouses. This was the start of the process of contamination of Bayview. At about the same time, in 1867, shipbuilding became an integral part of the area. During World War II the shipbuilding industry saw a large influx of African-American workers. The migration into Bayview increased substantially after World War II, and due to racial segregation many African-Americans were evicted from homes elsewhere in the city. By 1950, the population of Bayview reached 51,000 residents. Until 1969, the Hunters Point shipyard was the site of the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory. The Bay was further contaminated from 1929 until 2006, as the district was home for coal and oil-fired power plants, which provided electricity to San Francisco.

After the closure of the naval shipyard and de-industrialization of the district in the 1970s and 1980s, there was an increase in unemployment and the local poverty level. In 1966 racial tension sparked a racial riot in Hunters Point, and the area is still known for its crimes and is avoided by the majority of San Franciscans.

But things have started to change. In 2008, PG & E demolished the Hunters Point Power Plant and began a remediation project to restore the land for residential development. The neighborhood became the focus of several redevelopment projects. The former shipyard’s dilapidated buildings became one of the largest communities of artists in the United States, with over 300 artists’ studios which are a must visit during the open studio events in April and in October.

The construction company Lennar Inc. is in the process of developing the Bay View area and is promising to build 12,500 new homes, 4 million-plus square feet of offices, commercial and retail space, and 300 acres of open parks, trails and fields.

The new developments led to the increase of the housing prices, which in turn led to the exodus of those who created the historic African-American district. Perhaps this area with its incredible views of the water, located on the other end of the land, is the place you will enjoy visiting in the near future.

P.S. While the neighborhood which is called Southern San Francisco is undergoing change, visit Heron’s Head Park. Online you will find a lot of information about our cities’ ecological treasures. My four images only show small part of the experience.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Where Land Ends

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Where Land Ends

It is difficult for us to fathom (I like the sound of this Middle English word “fadme” that refers to a unit of length used to measure the depth of water. To understand something thoroughly is “to get to the bottom of it”) that for the most of human history people believed that the Earth was flat, and if one reaches the end, he will fall off in the abyss (another Middle English word “abissus,” which means bottomless, or deep bottom of the sea). Therefore cartographers drew dragons at the end of the known ancient world maps to indicate the danger of getting there.

Nevertheless, San Francisco has its own Land’s End. It is the name of the park, which is a rocky and windswept shoreline at the mouth of Golden Gate, situated between the Sutro Bath and Lincoln Park. A beautiful place to visit and walk along the track with the expansive view of The Golden Gate. The area has rich history and is named “Land’s End” because by the 1860s a horse-drawn stagecoach made a trip every Sunday from crowded downtown San Francisco to the area where San Francisco ended by the ocean. During the 1880s Adolf Sutro, who made a fortune at the Comstock Lode, increased his wealth by large real estate investments in San Francisco. At one time he owned one twelfth of the acreage in San Francisco. This included Mount Sutro, Land’s End, the area where Lincoln Park and the Cliff House are today, and Mount Davidson, which was called “Blue Mountain” at that time (the area where our family lives). At the “Land’s End” he built an entertainment complex called Sutro Bath. He also laid down a railroad in order to reach the area. Adolf Sutro served as the 24th mayor of San Francisco from 1895-1897, and made many contributions to our city. Unfortunately, Sutro Bath was destroyed in a fire, along with his mansion, which was at the top of what is now Sutro Heights Park, and the original Cliff House, a seven story Victorian Chateau, called by some “The Gingerbread Palace”. The railroad tracks disappeared as well, and now it is about a trail that is about two miles long, which starts just above the Cliff House and winds in and out of the woods and along the edge of the bluffs and ends in the residential area of Sea Cliff near China Beach. When you visit the area, also explore the labyrinth, and if you do not mind walking down the steep hill, visit the Mile Rock Beach.

I have visited the trail many times, but never walked down to the beach. This time when I came here with a friend, I discovered another hidden gem of our city.

P.S. After coming down the hill, I decided to explore the beach and noticed a trail going up the hill through the tall wild flowers. I convinced my young friend to join me. It was fun, but if you decide to do the same, be sure to wear hiking shoes. These four images are only teasers; you need to have your own experience.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature

Enchanting Forest

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Enchanting Forest

In folk tales, the forest is a place of magic and danger; it is a place where strange things might occur, and where frightening people might live, it is the home of monsters, witches and fairies. If you are not afraid of all of those creatures, a walk through the forest is a wonderful place to get some exercise.

I found an interesting article online about 12 of The Most Enchanting Forests in The World. Forests are also great for your immune system. Trees release phytoncides that protect them from insects and rotting. This organic compound is beneficial to us as well. As we inhale the phytoncides, our stress hormones decrease. It’s been proven to help with depression, anger and anxiety. I do not need this scientific explanation to enjoy my walks in the woods. We have one in San Francisco, not far from our house, on Mount Davidson. Of course there is an incredible Sequoia Forest in Muir woods in Marin, but the only time we went there was when someone visited us from out of town. Nowadays, there are so many tourists that there is no place to park your car, and to get there you have to take a shuttle. There is a cluster of Eucalyptus trees near Stow Lake where we sometimes go for a walk. But for a real walk in the forest we drive to the Sea Ranch, or to Calaveras County to visit the majestic Big Trees State Park with the giant sequoia trees (and they are really giants). But those trips are a three-hour drive each way and therefore reserved for longer vacations. To my great surprise, we recently discovered a great forest/park, a half-an-hour drive from San Francisco.

On Mother’s Day our daughter Alona, who lives in Tiburon, took us to Larkspur for a walk in Bolivar Park. Magnolia Street, which leads to the forest, is across from Perry’s Restaurant. We drove to the end and prayed for legal parking, since it is a residential area. But it was worth the effort. When I stepped into the woods, I felt like I was in an enchanted forest. We are blessed to live in this area full of wonders.

P.S. If you want to see beautiful images of enchanted forests, just google them. My four abstract images are a reflection of the mystery and enchantment I encountered there.

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Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Signature