Ultimately, A Decent Ride is a book about growing older: What it's like to lose virility and cope with that loss, and what exactly we replace youth with when it departs and leaves a gaping, mocking vacuum in our souls.
In a broad valley devoted largely to the dead, the history museum in Colma — nicknamed the City of Souls — sells T-shirts that read, “It’s Great to Be Alive in Colma!”
It is a town of 1,600 living residents and about 1.5 million dead ones — many of whom, like the 49ers, uprooted and left San Francisco for greener pastures to the south.
In the past it used to be very simple. First came intense training to master French haute cuisine techniques, then a series of apprenticeships in Paris under the world's best chefs, all of whom were themselves classically trained.
Finally, a chef was ready to add a personal touch to the French repertoire and launch a new restaurant under his or her own name.
The world's culinary aristocracy was then recorded in the Michelin Guide, with the best restaurants earning one, two, or exceptionally three stars.
The White House is a place defined by transients — presidents and political appointees who come and go after a term or two.
But Ficklin is a different, more enduring sort: He is the 10th member of his family — all children and grandchildren of a Virginia slave — to have worked in the White House, a long line that stretches back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. Ficklin’s uncle Charles got a job as a White House butler in 1939. His father, John Woodson Ficklin, joined the staff a year later and stayed for 43 years.