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First in 2011: 02/08-12/11, OAKLAND, CA

I didn’t log this trip as it was primarily medical in nature – but a great opportunity to see friends and document two cathedrals in Oakland.



Jack drops me off at John Wayne airport, Orange County for the quick hop up to Oakland on the red and blue of Southwest Airlines. I note the leather seats, two aisles of three and think, “shortly, I will be flying longer flights in smaller planes, this is luxury.” I have three seats to myself.


Bus to Enterprise car rental and pick up gun-metal-flake gray Ford Focus with SirriusXM Satellite Radio, leather heated seats, sunroof and low profile tires for the winding mountainous roads between Napa and Calistoga.

Zip out to the 880.

Decide to recon Christ the Light Cathedral.

Awkwardly navigate Oakland streets and find parking at the cathedral

Once inside the ambient space and it is worth the visit. The first contemporary space I find transcendent. Far superior in my estimate to Our Lady of Angels in L.A. in such that it speaks more of “Hope” and “Truth”.

I catch the demonstration of the Organ – a treat. I find the sweet spot under the pipes and feel the bass surge my core – hearing the music with my body. Magnificent experience.

I start taking some photos.

Soon enough, I am asked if I am a professional photographer and escorted out of the Cathedral to the office by security for protocol briefing and permission from the head of Cathedral Promotion.

On the phone with Mike Brown, I am asked to email my “pitch” – I do, by iPhone, and head out to my day’s objective: Lakeport, CA, 120 miles North. I have a minor surgery scheduled for 5pm and time is running.

Looking for the 880 on ramp, using my iPhone Map ap which I can not see…(eyes are deteriorating) – I do find it, enter the freeway, come to some exchanges, but it is confusing as my last desire today is to end across the bay in San Francisco. Anxiety is driving my decisions and the car.

I exit the freeway to consult the iPhone ap with my reading glasses…I see I was in the right direction and go to reenter the 880, but there is no on ramp here where I had exited.

Figuring I would parallel the freeway to the next on ramp…I end up at Webster but it hooks under neath the freeway and into a underground tunnel.. CRAP! No place to turn around… I am headed to San Francisco!!!As it turns out the tunnel ends in Alameda. Go to a store – get roast beef sandwich, some waters, and a fried chicken breast.

Tunnel back to Oakland, find an 880 on ramp – resist getting lost with eyes darting between road and iPhone map GPS… exit the maze of ’80′s (knot of freeways in North Oakland) and find smoother travels on routes 80 / 37 / 29…

Arrive Lakeport Hospital area at exactly 5pm. Greet Greg with hug and proceed to have skin cancer removed and pre-cancers burned off. Painless, swift – stitched to go we leave for his home and a dramatic evening. One of Greg’s girlfriends is joining us for dinner but a dramatic and painful interlude sees Greg and I dining alone. She is crash and burning emotionally and in her identity, clinging to an illusion of love. Greg and i have both been there and hit bottom in our own circumstances. We know this is her fight alone to battle through.

Greg accommodates me for my visit – great food, lot’s of drink, good hospitality.

Day 2
Greg and I arrive at Wilbur Hot Springs – a day in sulfur saline hot springs.

It is my birthday.

More drink, more conversation, private prayer, relaxation, steak and marinated asparagus dinner. A great day. Thanks Greg.

Drive home, Greg sets up a sleep over for himself with another girlfriend and sets up Friday for another.

Day 3
Breakfast at a local breakfast spot and Greg leaves for work – I for the main street for some quick photos. Today I go to work and head to Oakland to Christ the Light Cathedral. I have protocol and permission in email from Mike Brown. Time to seek the essence. I am pumped to be at it.

Arriving in Oakland was easier than it was leaving Oakland and I spend the afternoon documenting and hunting within Christ the Light. Security all know my name and i am given free reign of the Cathedral. Very cool.

Come 5pm, I meet up with Dale and Kathleen at their home in Alameda. Dale and I have been close friends since 1972. Meet Addy the Therapy Dog who is trained to help de-stress vets and re-acclimate them during their decommission period. Addy is a lover.

We go out to get dinner. Alameda is a cute town, very hip – lot’s off pedestrian activity. I am still in “hunt” mode so stimulus overload around me is distracting. Dale is compassionate.

We eat at the Cutshall house – Kathleen picked us up a birthday cake. It is Carrot Cake with a butter creme frosting that is literally butter. Quite the experience!!!

Day 4
Dale leaves early, I talk with Kathleen for a bit, then leave for Christ the Light to finish up – 500 photos of the Cathedral – I will edit those to 20.

I call up to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension and talk with Father Tom. He invites me to see him to talk about the photography, saying he can open the church after his morning meetings..

I have time to get up there before I go to meet Mario for lunch. Mario a cherished friend since 1986.

I meet Fr. Tom and feel an instant rapport. We talk art, theology, expression and history. Time passes well spent – all my experiences with Orthodox bishops and priests leave me thinking of conversion. At one point Father Tom says in response to me, “we [Greek Orthodox] are more Jewish than the Jews.” An interesting claim indeed to my “Severance of the Christian Tree from the Jewish Roots” dialog.

We enter the Cathedral after a warning from Fr. Tom that the art is not traditional Byzantine…

I am left to shoot while Fr. Tom preps for service. Traditionally – Orthodox Churches are usually open only for services. But the door is now open and a man wanders in to pray. I am talking to Fr. Tom and alert him that someone is present that we ought to lower our voices… Fr.Tom at first feels the sanctuary not ready… but then says, with regard to the man’s presence to pray, that this is what the sanctuary is for.

The man is distressed and praying hard. He is on his knees on his face. He seeks out Father Tom – and they talk – then Fr. Tom prayers for the man – a lengthy recitation of prayers in Orthodox monotone cantor. The man’s sister had died. I sat in respect, quiet, camera aside.

Time had passed rapidly and Mario awaits at Jack London square… I call him and need a little more time to finish up – hurrying to get out I promise Fr. Tom I will email some photos – I throw all my equipment in the rental car trunk and close the trunk hood locking the keys inside the trunk–and the car is locked.

A call to Enterprise: 45 minutes and $60 later I am assisted by roadside assistance–arriving in a roadside assistance mini clown car, I am introduced to one of those guys who can make anything form anything. I look for an exit strategy to politely end the encyclopedic information streaming from him with regard to building and conducting underwater photography with a baggy, a string, a cement cinder block… his vacations in Maui and the first acquisitions he always makes, medieval weapons, opening and eating monkey brains, an atlas of instruction for getting around Oakland, gas station locations, the REAL Jack Londen square…how to make a wedge from non-toxic self lubricating plastic…

Finally get near Jack London Square, parking at the Fat Lady – Mario is a sight for sore eyes (so to speak), like an old dog, our friendship, long and full and favored, we embrace. We rehash history and talk about changes in economy – the rebuilding of his business and his new marriage – but his wife’s father was in the hospital with a heart attack – just two days ago and is there still.

Mario kisses me on the neck la famillia style -the honor of men. Deep roots and mutual respect. We part. Mario has been worried about chest pains.

I promise to return North.

I meet up with Dale and Kathleen – Kathleen has spent the afternoon making us all Chili Verde. We spend the night in great conversation casually eating and sipping wine. Dale and I rehash some fun memories while Kathleen and Addy are soundly sleeping on the inflate-a-bed a few feet away from the living room chairs.

Day 5
Kathleen and Addy say goodbye and leave for training. They will soon be in Germany for two months and Addy is being prepared. So is Kathleen.

Dale and I hit Mona’s for a gourmet breakfast. Then we take a quick drive to the Alameda beach. Dale gives me a shortcut to the rental car return and we bid adieu in warm embrace.

In no time I am at the rental car return with exactly 10 miles of gas left in the tank (I purchased a gas guarantee when I picked up the car with instruction to bring it back empty).

Get through the airport security easily enough for the second time this trip. Southwest flight boards and I  have another three seat row to myself for the return flight.

Jack is waiting at John Wayne and it is good to see him. Back home for a short and packed 10 days… before I leave for a month to Nashville/ NYC/ Chicago/ Memphis.

Photos from Christ the Light: http://www.lefever.com/ChristLight/ contrasted with photos from the Greek Cathedral of the Ascension: http://www.lefever.com/OaklandGreek2/

Tomorrow, I am flying… OC to Chicago down to Nashville – a long day to travel a short flight distance.

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One Comment

  1. Dale
    Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Visit again, soon Jeff! Safe travels & much love!

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