Returning Home

After little sleep in the hotel, we skipped coffee in the room and  breakfast at the hotel in favor of returning the car and checking in for the flight.

The drive consisted of about seven minutes, and that included one drive around the block because we misunderstood Siri. Our San Jose airport experience outbound was as easy as it was inbound.

We were both TSA pre-screened (no removal of 311 liquids, shoes, computer, jacket) and had plenty of time for breakfast at San Jose Joe’s. Larry had eggs, an enormous pile of bacon, some toast, and home fries, most of which stayed on the plate. I had a blueberry muffin with strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and watermelon. I somehow forgot to mention that we had been eating fabulous fruit throughout the trip, and I wanted a final celebration.

Can’t believe I forgot to mention that among the fruits were Meyer lemon trees growing all around the pool area at the Country Garden Inns, and that Manager Sunil told us to pick as many as we wanted. I dodged a bunch of honey bees, who seemed only interested in the flowers and  actually ate one off the tree. Besides bearing fruit and flower at the same time, it offers an oddity in flavor:  a cross between a traditional lemon and an orange in sweetness and intense lemon scent and taste. We took some to Lucey, who raved because theirs had gone by.

Breakfast set us up for an uneventful flight to Las Vegas. Then Larry discovered that the leg from L.V. to Hartford was going to be delayed for two hours. He was not happy because he expected to be able to catch the last half of the women’s game. As it turned out we arrived at 10:16 p.m. instead of 8:50 and caught the last two minutes on the TV in the terminal.

It was a mystery to me why the flight that left five minutes before ours departed on time and ours had to have the plane with equipment problems that had to wait for a replacement from Burbank.

Biggest disappointment: the message from Southwest about the flight delay arrived the next day even though I was on my phone in the terminal when it appeared on the (very limited) flight information boards.

Leaving Carmel Valley 

Being written in the Vegas airport. Yesterday morning we met John and Kathryn’s mother at the Wild Goose for breakfast. I had a huge serving of lox on a bagel and ate the other half as we awaited our hotel room in San Jose.

John’s accounts of military experiences are fascinating. They were driving half way back to Klamath Falls where Mrs. Golden lives, on Monday and completing the trip on Tuesday.

We returned to the room and finished packing, then made a straight shot to San Jose, about an hour and a half. Passed through Gilroy. I would have loved to see the garlic museum. We arrived at one and were told the room wouldn’t be ready until 2:30.

We discovered on check-in that the Holiday Inn normally charges $13 a day to park. That major piece of information was not on the web site. Reacting to our dismay, the receptionist waived the fee. The room was small – queen size bed, which occupied ninety percent of the space. It took us a while to figure out the a/c, which made a racket on and off all night, sounding like an airplane was taking off next to my head. There was no full-length mirror, only one tiny cake of soap. We received the wrong password for the Wi-Fi over the phone before I noticed that the information was on the holder for the keys, a piece of information that the receptionist neglected to mention. The curtains didn’t close all the way.

The safe-deposit boxes (real boxes with two keys) are in the office, which means one has to go behind the reception desk, accompanied by an employee. The woman assigned me a box without looking to see what I was storing. She should have realized that my laptop wouldn’t fit in a four inch by six-inch box.

Larry went to run an errand. I made tea with bags that I had brought since the room only offered coffee. In the bathroom, I discovered my first toilet with separate flush functions for “No. 1” – a half black, half white circle, and “No. 2,” an all black circle. Wow!

Then I called Lucey, and we made arrangements to go to her house for dinner.

After we showered and changed we proceeded to Menlo Park (homeland of Facebook) through the homelands of Apple and Google. The highway  going the opposite direction was a parking lot for most of the way, but we managed the “outbound” trip in about thirty minutes. Lucey has a Mini-Cooper, which she says gets dreadful gas mileage and requires high-test gas. I’m still jealous!

She regaled us with her efforts to do Japanese scroll painting on rice paper with gold metallic paint. I thought her practice works looked gorgeous. The scroll is for her teachers at the S.F. Museum of Asian Art, from which she is about to graduate as a docent after three years. She was using a beautifully illustrated The Story of Genji as a model. I didn’t know it had come in in more than the edition I read with small pen-and-ink images, but she said it was rather like Beowulf, with many editions. I tried to send my blog entries on the book, but the computer gods swallowed them.

Dick arrived shortly, and we opened the Heather’s Hill wine, which they loved. Larry had ginger beer, which he loved. We chatted, inside because it was hot, hot, hot. They have a/c operated w/ solar power, which makes total sense.

Dinner was roast chicken with a soul-satisfying Massaman curry and rice, the latter cooked in a traditional cast iron rice pot with a wooden top. Even if I can’t get the Mini, I’ll get the rice cooker! Tried to post a photo but was denied “for security reasons.”

Larry asked if he could watch the end of the UConn game. He and Dick bonded over that while Lucey showed me the gorgeous workspace that is her studio, which had been a garage, and the grounds, which have the most glorious lush plantings. We discussed her book plans and I made a mental note to send her information on the Collier brothers’ My Brother Sam Is Dead, which is set in Redding, Connecticut and depicts the ambivalence and in some cases hostility to the colonists’ position, all relevant to one of her projects.

Larry and I left after UConn won the NCAA title. Uncle Willard called while we were en route back to the hotel. We promised to talk when we returned Connecticut.

I did not sleep well because of the a/c racket and lights from the parking lot.


Carmel Valley Day Four

Being written in the lobby of the Holiday Inn San Jose airport while we wait for a room.

Larry went to Kathy’s Kitchen for breakfast, and I walked down to get the Times. The guy informed me that they didn’t reserve but there were still plenty. This edition has two pages of New York news tucked in at the back of the national/international section. And of course there is no real estate section.

Kathryn and her mother were already at breakfast in the motel dining room, along with John. Ash stumbled in somewhat later and we hung around until Liz and her daughters and their children, plus one husband appeared. We sat outside by the pool, as it got hotter and hotter and hotter.



Ash and Kathryn packed and left right about noon, and Liz took her mother and John to Monterey. Larry holed up in the hotel room with more basketball, first Notre Dame against Maryland (N.D. won.) Then UConn and Stanford. I went to Heller’s, which produces “organic” wine. It was OK but vastly overpriced and the pour was stingy. The Chard was again not oppressively oak-y but still a bit cloying for my taste. The best of the bunch was a Cachagua cab, which I bought for Lucey and Dick. The young women were a bit studied and not all that knowledgeable. The best of the place was the sculpture created by Mrs. Heller, who also designs jewelry. The room had a few odds and ends with more versatile selections outside in the sculpture garden. Here’s a picture of “Femme.” Other photos didn’t turn out so well because of the splashes of intense light through the leaves on the trees.

Stopped at the market for more peanuts for Larry, he having finished one container in a day. Stayed in the room for a bit and then went to Holman Ranch winery where I was served by Kathy, the very nice woman who sent folks to look for my hat. She’s originally from Toms River, New Jersey, and said she goes back every year for her mother’s birthday in February but didn’t this year because of the weather. She moved to California eighteen years ago and would never go back. She gave very generous pours of the Pinot Gris, steely and excellent though not cold; a Chard, a bit less cloying but also not cold; and Heather Hill pinot noir, the excellent wine we had at the wedding, plus she gave me a small pour of another wine that they have not even labeled yet. I rolled back up the hill with a bottle of the Heather for Lucey and Dick.

Larry stopped watching UConn game once the women had pulled ahead by a respectable amount. We then joined Kathryn’s sister Liz and Mom and John for dinner at the Running Iron restaurant at the bottom of the hill, which is part of the pizza place and the roadhouse Stirrup Cup, where the bikers congregated pretty much all weekend, roaring up and down the main street. Décor was rusted bicycles and walls Very basic. L had a steak and I had a grilled artichoke.

Back to the room for preliminary packing.


Carmel Valley Day Three

Being written at 2 p.m. (Pacific time). So yesterday morning we went to breakfast in the little dining room at the motel. Then Kathryn and I repeated our walk, finding ourselves at the office for the Country Garden, which we thought was much farther down the road. I arranged earlier checkout, and our great manager, Sunil, gave us passes for complimentary wine tastings.

I came back and hung around until Larry started watching the men’s basketball game, then took another walk and used one of the passes, at the Twisted Roots tasting room, which is attached to an antiques shop. The antique lady who ran it was wearing a great cloche with a huge purple and red flower attached.

Young wine tasting guy is moving to Chicago because he and his girlfriend are musicians. He grew up in central California but has lived in Montana and so is ready for the cold. He said he’s 7/8 Irish and 1/8 Native, from a tribe in upstate Washington. The gf is from Philadelphia, and we agreed that the local denizens are loud. The wines: a Chard, which was OK but a bit oaky even if it resided briefly in oak casks; a Cab, also OK; a petite Sirah, the most popular, was better than those old vine zins, lower in alcohol and no overpowering slap on the tongue.

I had already said goodbye to Carol and Susan, who were driving back to L.A., and was surprised to run into them at the local market. They had waited to see Julian and Tristen so I ran back up the hill and got to see them before they went back to Berkeley so they could pack for their trip to Puerto Rico on Monday.

When I returned to the room, Larry was jumping around like a little kid on a pogo stick because the Huskies  were ahead and stayed that way. The team was ranked seven, meaning it had to go through teams perceived as six layers better to claim the NCAA crown. As Larry recovered from his hyperventilation, I called Deb, who was screaming. He called Uncle Willard, who was equally thrilled but just a tiny bit less ebullient.

After everyone had gone off to the bonfire on the beach – a bit too cold and too windy for our tastes – we drove to Café Rustico for dinner. A recommendation from Kathryn’s sister Liz, who lives in town, it presents as a very French bistro with an Italian menu and French waitstaff except for the cooks who were all from Latin America. (I found out later they might come from the Philippines.)

Highlight of the evening: this little woman whose face was more of a Botoxed, face-lifted mess than Joan Rivers’ and with a dyed mass of orang-y hair, came in escorted by a small man. The young woman at the hostess station looked at the manager and said, “You go.” Larry and I burst out laughing. She looked a bit embarrassed. We asked if they were regulars. She said yes, and that when they are inside her perfume overwhelms the other diners and that the escort can be a bit of a pain. They ate outside. We were inside at a table by the window looking out on a pretty garden.

Larry had goulash, having said he wasn’t hungry and changing his mind from pork loin. He consumed the entire enormous portion. I had a Caesar salad large enough to give me lunch for today and an eggplant Napoleon with mozz, kalamata olives, pine nuts, heavenly dressing surrounded by greens and radicchio. I walked back to the motel and enjoyed the frogs croaking in the fountain at the Cowgirl Winery for the first few hundred yards. The only downside: There are no lights along the road to the inn and not many on the main drag. Thankfully there is a sidewalk but the uneven sidewalk and flip-flops underfoot made for a bit of adventure.

Carmel Valley Day Two

I wrote this entry halfway through day three. It was supposed to include another of Anna’s photos but Bluehost is not letting me in to my email and I’ve got too many other things to do to wait on tech idiocy.

Arose yesterday about 8 a.m., which would have been 11 a.m., and went to breakfast around 9. Anna had arrived at 8, said only one other person had been in. Ashley and Skylar came in briefly and then collected Julian to get shaved. They remained vague about the exact nature of the male bonding ritual except that it involved straight razors.

Anna and Kathryn and I walked down the “miracle mile” – don’t think it’s a mile but maybe we did walk that far with the detour through the community garden and the Cowgirl winery garden, which included loose chickens, beautiful roses, some grapevines, and small cypress trees. A definite ranch feeling to the whole thing including the cowboy boots on display. A real-world, serious note when the sheriff arrived to quiz the woman behind the counter on the whereabouts of another woman concerning a burglary. No more information available.

We walked back via a small market and various shops but couldn’t find the thrift shop, which would probably have contained a gold mine of excellent stuff since the residents who aren’t farmers are almost as upscale as the Clint’s Carmel.

We trotted back up the hill and hung around until time to get dressed for the wedding. Larry and Anna and I drove up the hill to the Holman Ranch and then made the last short leg of the journey in a golf cart. We arrived at the glorious old hacienda with a small patch of green lawn, fire pits, and a barn that included the sign directing people to the “loo.”

We were greeted with beverage options: somewhat sweet peach champagne, or lemonade or iced tea served in Mason jars. We wandered through the grounds for a bit and then went inside where the walls are covered with pictures of Clark Gable and other luminaries gone by.

Back outside, the cart pulled up with Kathryn’s mother and sister Liz. They were walking toward us when Mrs. Golden stopped right in front of Larry and said, “Pardon me. I have to find a ladies room and adjust these panty hose.” She hitched up her dress as she spoke. I wish I had taken a picture of Larry’s expression, but I was too concerned that he was collapsing of shock. I guess Liz was used to it. She just walked away.

Perfect. Anna's photo.

Perfect. Anna’s photo.

We recovered in time to enjoy the glorious wedding ceremony. We walked up to the seats, and were greeted by a sign reading, “Pick a seat not a side,” which I loved. Julian and Tristen and the officiant stood on a platform framed by mountains. It started with Julian escorting Kathryn in to the Chambers Brothers’ “Time.” They had no attendants, and Tristen’s father escorted the gorgeous bride as she giggled and said “Hi” and told everyone how great they looked. The party favors were foldout fans and small bottles of soap bubbles, both inscribed with their names.

The minister, (?) Skylar said she was from Unitarian Universalist Church, did a wonderful job. She talked about how the joining of their lives would be forever – that they would support each other. She spoke of faith but not of God. They had each written what they loved about each other, which she read. Then they exchanged vows as two hawks wheeled overhead. The ceremony ended with a quote from that “great philosopher Dr. Seuss.”

Then it was time for excellent Pinot Noir, produced by the Holman Ranch, and passed hors d’oeuvres. I skipped the duck muffin, which Anna and Larry said could not be identified as duck, but went for the vegan spring rolls – with carrot, avocado, oshinko, ginger and (spinach? lettuce?). Had several of those and two shrimp (“prawns”) on blue corn with a dollop of sesame (?) sauce. Skipped the cheese and crackers.

Kathryn’s Uncle John, fourteen years younger than her mother and a Vietnam veteran, regaled us with stories of his days in the Peace Corps in India. He said he became a vegetarian because he and his cook went to a market. John asked the vendor where the meat was. The guy took a huge piece of something and flicked against the wall. All these flies took off, and there was the meat beneath it.

Everyone got to pose for a photo with the bride and groom. The photographer snapped thousands of shots. I wonder at the poor person who has to select and Photoshop what will go to Julian and Tristen.

Then it was on to dinner. Salads with a bit of goat cheese, blackberries, almonds, and greens. Freshness just makes such a difference. The main course had been grilled outside. Kathryn said afterward that we were supposed to watch the cooking process, but there was too much other stuff going on. The protein was a choice of salmon or tri-tips. The salmon was accompanied by the best  chimichurri sauce. Sides were potatoes, couscous, and fabulous veggies including also the best grilled red and green peppers and asparagus. The hit was barbecued sweet potatoes. Oh, my. That will most definitely be on the menu this summer.

It had begun to turn chilly so everyone huddled around these outdoor heaters and eventually made their way to the barn where we danced and danced and danced. I think we left at around 11 before the cake.

Woke up at 6 a.m. hungry as hell.


Carmel Valley Day One

 Holman Ranch, Carmel Valley, California. Photo by Anna Bush

Holman Ranch.  Photo by Anna Bush


The computer gods ate my blog so I’m starting over, beginning with the trip we took to California for the wedding of my cousin Julian James to Tristen Woodburn. Credit my cousin Anna with the spectacular photo of the Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley if I can ever upload it.

Larry and I left the house April 3 at 9:30 a.m. for an 11:30 a.m. flight., making perfect time to Bradley where we picked up breakfast at D&D. Flight to Las Vegas was uneventful, and we discovered that the young woman who was sitting in the middle seat in our row was a student at Wesleyan, as was her boyfriend who was sitting in front of us.

The Vegas airport has lots of slot machines but almost no boards for flight information. A rather small operation with twenty-five gates (I was calling them “slots”) in Gate C. I did not get to see the other two, but there is a people mover, meaning that the airport probably covers more real estate than is obvious.

Larry discovered Popeyes and chowed into some fried chicken, red beans and rice, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a biscuit. I had an enormous panini Caprese, of which I ate half in the airport and the other half on the flight to California. We lost track of time and so didn’t get your early bird seating. We were way in the back in middle seats, separated by a couple of rows.

The seriously obese guy on the aisle in my row ate a banana and a chocolate bar before the beverage service started. He hogged both arm rests for the entire flight, which was far more rough than the first leg.

The young woman in the window seat and I chatted for part of the trip. She grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and lives in San Jose where her husband just lost his job with Barnes & Noble, working on the Nook. He received a good severance and has multiple networking opportunities so she’s not concerned. He worked for Nokia before that. We agreed that we both prefer reading ink and paper books to ebooks despite the convenience. She had just bought God by Deepak Chopra, her first experience with him. She did not know he was an entire industry.

In addition to kids, the family has three dogs and two cats. The youngest of the dogs is an English bulldog mix and snores louder than regular bulldogs, which is saying something. She loves San Jose and has only felt one earthquake. The place a few 100-degree days, which are dry and much better than Texas. Also no tornadoes, though she said she only experienced one bad one in “tornado alley” Dallas. She and the dogs and the cats  all huddled in the bathtub.

She had met a friend in Vegas so they could see Elton John, whom she adores – enough to name the dog Elton. Said he (the singer, not the dog) was still good but can’t hit the high notes any more. I was sort of surprised that someone in her early thirties at the most loved such an old-school performer.

Picking up the car at the San Jose airport was a piece of cake as one walks out of baggage claim and crosses the street where the buses and cars load and unload passengers. All the rental offices are right there with the cars above in a parking garage. We were supposed to be at Payless, but they didn’t have the right size car, said we’d have to wait a half hour/forty-five mins. so they sent us to Thrifty. The young woman was all giggly at Larry. We wound up with a Ford Fiesta that he thought was much too small. The rental lady also gave us great directions to avoid the worst of the traffic, though we realized that we’d have to do the same thing we did in Oakland, which is leave the car the night before and stay near the airport.

Cousin Ashley had warned us that we were driving into the heart of Silicon Valley at rush hour and would need hours to get to the hotel. The traffic was bad for the first few miles, but we zipped into the HOV lane. Soon there was almost no traffic. We got turned around a bit in some little town.

Impression: there are vast differences in wealth within a few hundred feet all over this area. Final leg of the trip, as a climbing, twisting ride. Big discussion about whether to use the directions from the rental lady or the phone which was supposed to direct us to the Country Garden Inns. We went by the phone and were glad once we figured out that Carmel and Carmel Valley are not the same.

We reached the hotel office a minute or two before closing. It’s not a hotel. It’s a series of motels, spread out over a few blocks of a cutsied up little stretch of commercial establishments. Ash had to come collect us to find our section. Then we unpacked. I lost the room key.

After a bit of panic on my part, we went to the “meet and greet,” which was supposed to be over at 8. We arrived at 8:15 and stayed till around 9. Tristen looks radiant, so much better than when we saw her in the fall after she’d reset her dislocated shoulder. Julian looked thrilled. Met Kathryn’s mother and sister (also Liz), and a few other people whose connection to the family I’m not sure of. Ash helped me look for the key – no luck.

The room is spartan, to say the least, and the “closet,” a rack with coat hangers, is in the bathroom! But the bed was comfortable, and so was the room once I opened the slider to the patio.

Today: mooch around, go for a walk if it stops raining, which I will not begrudge because the area needs rain so desperately. Hang out with Kathryn. Ash and Julian and Skylar are going for a shave at 10 a.m. Ash said this was some new ritual. Wedding at 4. It WILL clear by then.