Sedge Thomson's West Coast Live, San Francisco's Radio Show to the World!

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Musings from the show's host.

Robert Lindsey wrote on the north, Frank Prial on the wine country, and I on the redwoods.  I've discovered this isn't on the New York Times archive website, which must have something to do with digital approvals.  I've written to their electronic editors to make sure this piece is included - but received no reply. So to correct the omission, here's the article that ran --with a couple of updates in [ ] s.  I loved researching this article, including a gorgeous February meander up the north coast.  At the time, my grandmother was fighting her last in Grants Pass, at the northern end of redwood country, and had a chance to speak with her one last time from a payphone under the calming canopy of these trees.  She remembered the redwood Christmas tree in their house, lit with candles in the 1920s, as well as the one-eyed fiddler on the redwood porch in Galice, along the Rogue River.


For the first time I sent in an article via modem, instead of U.S. Post.  It was very strange to get a call from the editor within minutes of sending it, instead of a couple of days later.  It seemed more akin to radio at the time.  Part of the fun of writing this piece was to think up images that New Yorkers might recognize.    --ST


From The New York Times, Sunday March, 3, 1985

Cover article, Travel Section, pages 14-16

Photos by Robert Dawson [ ]


               In the Redwood Empire --

A 60-mile-long strip of the Pacific Coast preserves some of the finest stands of the great trees

by Sedgefield Thomson


Redwoods are the blue bloods of the vegetable world. These venerable trees thrive in groves along California's North Coast in a region of thick summer mists. Some redwoods are as much as 360 feet tall, 1,200 years old and 20 feet in diameter. But the facts do not prepare you for an audience with these trees. The thrill of seeing them is a bit like turning onto Sixth Avenue for the first time and gazing down the row of skyscrapers.


One of your first impulses may be to compare your size to a redwood. About half a dozen of your friends would have to join hands with you to reach around some of the old redwoods, And 50 friends would have to stand like acrobats in a daredevil tower to lift you near the tops.

Who knew spelling geekdom is such a delight.  After misspelling in the third round and then the first in the past two years of the SPD book distribution Bee-In fundraiser, I was reverse-Peter-Principled to MC Monday night, 16 May.  Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg sat as the judge at my right-hand.  What a hoot.  SPD offered a drink made of absinthe, root beer, and anise to aid speller's little gray cells.

Evan Karp wrote a snappy portrayal of the evening.

Great spelling history of FUCHSIA.  Plant named for 16th century botanist named Leonhart FUCHS, and applied to colour!

Multi-colored wires, often in a rat-king of a snarl on a bit of pegboard in a musty basement, and not much wider than capillaries, carry much of our DSL, telephone, fax, and broadcast ISDN calls.  Amazingly, it generally works. All this pulsing information squirts hither and yon, into central offices, channeled via computer switches and radio button selections.  Heart palpitations begin when the phone line fails.

Joyce Carol Oates in the April 2, 2011 show described an interview where two people are paddling together to get somewhere.  We might, I said, be heading toward a whirlpool.  A good interview can be like a dance, with flow and movement and direction.  One wants to avoid the other’s toes.
With either metaphor is the implication of coordinated movement - and no one I think wants to go turtle in our conversation craft.

But what if there is a misstep, some off-footing, and odd locution. How do you find the rhythm again?

In the late 80's early 90's the great didjeridoo virtuoso Stephen Kent came by my then radio show West Coast Weekend in a band called Lights in a Fat City with Kenneth Newby, Beth Custer, and John Loose — or maybe by then they were Trance Mission — and rocked and didged into our hearts.

Stephen, out of British rock ’n’ roll tradition,  wore a pair of red Doc Marten’s.  I thought they were the snazziest things I seen on a man’s foot since some elegant Italian pumps at a cocktail party in London.

Soon after, while shopping at Nordstrom in San Francisco for a pair of good shoes to wear standing on stage, I found a pair of black Doc Marten’s.  Gleaming next to the hip black shoes perched a red pair on the shelf.  One size.  My size.  So, of course, I bought both pair.

I showed my nine year-old son Julia's kitchen this summer -- in the Smithsonian, now -- and said, "see that table... I sat there early one evening at her house in Cambridge. She poured a lovely German wine and asked if I wanted something to eat."

"What'd she fix you?"