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Photo by Alexandra Hall

The book evolved from dirigible trips along the California coast by, from left, Rowan, Jamis, Tyler and Dylan MacNiven.

Woodside’s Jamis MacNiven goes sky-high with latest book airship, which, measuring just shy of 247 feet long, is named Eureka, runs on helium, and fter running Buck’s res- needs a 20-person crew. Alexandra and Bryan Hall, taurant for 25 years in Woodside, the future who live near Los Gatos, took has come true for owner Jamis Mr. MacNiven and his famMacNiven. In 2004 he told the ily on multiple trips in their Almanac his next career would dirigible before selling it off to be writing books, and he has someone in Germany. Mr. MacNiven compares self-published a new one called “California from 500 Feet, a Eureka to a “really comfortable RV” or sailStory of the boat except for Coastline.” the time they The 191-page Owner of Buck’s a serious hardback fearestaurant tells more hit updraft over tures 312 color Big Sur and photos and colorful stories even the three many tall tales about the state’s lesser-known pilots onboard felt panicked history, or is it more accurate when the alarms kept going off. Otherwise, Mr. MacNiven to say HIS story? Mr. MacNiven interweaves enjoyed “looking at the world his own personal anecdotes from 500 to 1,000 feet, where throughout the book, starting you can open the big winwith the story that got the book dows and yell at people on the off the ground. Five years ago ground, and land in places that he spotted a Zeppelin dirigible are totally inaccessible.” He cruised from the Mexican floating in the sky and told border to Oregon and loosely himself, “I gotta have it.” He then set out to befriend uses the voyages to delve into the people who owned the vignettes of what has happened By Kate Daly

Special to the Almanac


— or may have happened —below. A few stories overlap with his earlier book, “Breakfast at Buck’s, Tales from the Pancake Guy,” but the rest are new material based on his experiences or years spent reading Wikipedia entries and some firsthand accounts written by authors such as Bayard Taylor, a journalist who covered the Gold Rush. “I can’t think of anything that isn’t fact-based, except for what are already tall tales,” Mr. MacNiven says, pointing out that “history is the recitation of what someone says happened.” He gives the example of the claim that early in the Gold Rush, shirts were shipped from San Francisco to China to be laundered at a cost of $15 a dozen. Mr. MacNiven wonders, even after California state historian Kevin Starr confirmed this, how could it possibly be true that anyone would wait five months for a clean shirt? Born in Japan in 1948, Mr. MacNiven moved to California at a young age. He begins a

chapter on Venice, California, with: “Venice used to be great and it is pretty cool now but when Jim Morrison and I lived there it was a rodent flavored garbage dump featuring truck tires, headless plastic dolls and condoms floating in the canals with exhausted neighborhoods too played out to support drug dealers.” Mr. MacNiven says: “Flying over Malibu changed my life, seeing a 50,000 square-foot Federal period mansion next to an Iron Man-like house, next to a ring of grass huts on a $20-million lot ... there are more movie stars per capita there than anywhere.” He writes about Art Linkletter (a popular TV personality in the 1950s and 1960s) telling him: “A young cartoon animator came to see him one day and thought he could outdo that Knott’s fellow so Walt Disney began planning Disneyland just down the street from Knott’s. Walt had Art out to see the construction site and asked Art if he cared to invest. Art said

he laughed all the way home. Later Art was able to regain control of his funny bone when he saw that Walt had a hit on his hands but then it was too late to invest.” In another chapter Mr. MacNiven writes: “One reason Silicon Valley exists is because the people of Sunnyvale sold the federal government several square miles of land where Moffett Field is today for $1 if they would locate the dirigible program there,” which in turn attracted “f ledging avionics firms such as Fairchild, Raytheon and Ampex.” Buck’s restaurant has a reputation for being the place where many of the Silicon Valley’s deals are made. Mr. MacNiven feels fortunate to meet “the most amazing people here.” Mr. MacNiven estimates he spent six hours a day writing for three years and was surprised how much fun it was. “I wrote this book for my own pleasure,” he says. “I just want my friends to read it.” The book is only available at Buck’s, retailing for $30 or $40 with tax and shipping (it weighs three pounds). Mr. MacNiven ordered a run of 1,000 copies and admits to giving away more than he’s selling. For his next writing project he is contemplating a novel about his great uncle Wilhelm Fricke’s life as a carnie 100 years ago. Mr. MacNiven says: “I have the flea circus, posters, and tickets, I have it all in a suitcase.” Mr. MacNiven displays some of these artifacts at Buck’s, but doesn’t have a lot of facts to go on. Still he feels the ingredients are there for a good story because “the characters are magnificently odd, you have a lot of deformed people emotionally and physically.” Alongside writing, Mr. MacNiven’s restaurant career continues to grow. He has expanded beyond running Buck’s with his wife, Margaret, to serving as co-owner with their sons (Rowan, Dylan and Tyler) of two Woodhouse Fish Co. restaurants and a West of Pecos restaurant — all in San Francisco. A

Wednesday: Transportation committees set joint meeting By Barbara Wood Almanac Staff Writer


o one would deny that what happens on the streets in Menlo Park affects Atherton, as well as the reverse. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, the transportation committees of the two jurisdictions will hold a joint meeting to discuss some shared issues.

On the agenda for the meeting, to be held in the Menlo Park council chambers at 701 Laurel St., is work planned for the Willow Road and U.S. 101 interchange, bike lanes on Middlefield Road and Marsh Road, Atherton’s El Camino Real study, and the pedestrian-activated stoplights on El Camino at Alejandra and Isabella avenues. The committees will talk

18QThe AlmanacQAlmanacNews.comQJanuary 11, 2017

about making sure both towns know in advance about issues that might affect their communities, such as developments on El Camino or major construction. Atherton’s new mayor, Mike Lempres, said he pushed for the joint meeting. “There is no big ‘problem,’ or overriding issue that led to this joint meeting,” he said. Instead, it is intended as

a way for neighboring cities to discuss common concerns, he said. “It is very clear that transportation decisions in Menlo Park affect Atherton and vice-versa,” he said. “Each city can do its job better if it knows what the other is planning. Increased communication will help both communities do a better job on transportation related issues,

such as traffic, bicycle and pedestrian routes.” If the meeting proves useful, he said, he hopes it will become a regular event, and that other Atherton and Menlo Park committees can hold similar meetings. “We hope to reach out to Redwood City to share information with our neighbor to the north also,” Mayor Lempres said. A

The Almanac January 11, 2017  
The Almanac January 11, 2017