At Home in the South Bay
November 12, 2007

Mountain View, CA, Day 66 in our Walton & Sons Masonry Yard.

Six months in our bus.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12. PALO ALTO IS MY FOREVER HOME.

I can’t believe we’ve been parked here in the masonry yard for two months. We had been on the road since we left our house in Los Altos on May 9th and we returned on September 7th. I guess four months of a very, very new life was exciting but also exhausting. We needed time to sit back and rest and absorb all that we had done and experienced.

We are happy and comfortable living in our 400 sq. ft. (+or-) home so were able to simply rest and enjoy our familiar surroundings. Of course I was overjoyed to be back in my home territory. I couldn’t wait to go back to my old patterns — a weekly round of appointments and lunches or dinners with friends.

This letter is really an ode to places I love and people I love. It’s a limited and narrow view of the bay area, a glimpse of some of my favorite places but hardly a comprehensive survey. We all love our hometowns, if not the place where we were born then the place that we discovered, the place we fell in love with, the place where we gladly put down roots. This is my place. I lived on Long Island in Port Washington, NY until I was ten. I was raised in southern California, the southern part of Los Angeles in Redondo Beach. But it wasn’t until I came to Palo Alto in the San Francisco south bay that I fell in love. This, I knew, was my home forever. This is where my boys were raised. This is where I worked. This is where I met and married Dennis. So here’s a brief survey of my life in the bay area during the months of September and October in 2007.

GOING OUT TO BREAKFAST: DINAH’S SHACK SPOILED ME.

I moved to Palo Alto with Stan Parry and our boys in 1972. Only a few blocks away from our apartment, I immediately discovered Dinah’s Shack, or more accurately a simple grill restaurant called Dinah’s Poolside Restaurant. Situated by the pool, they serve breakfast and lunch indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. It’s been my home away from home ever since.

I think this happened because of the beautiful garden environment at Dinah’s. Until Dennis and I moved into a house in 2000, I always lived in apartments— that’s 27 years of apartment life. I love to be outdoors and I like to eat or read while I sit outdoors. So Dinah’s became my outdoor place. The pool and gardens are situated well away from the traffic noise of El Camino. For me, it became a peaceful and beautiful oasis.

Ray Handley, a contractor, created Dinah’s Garden Hotel fifty years ago. Originally known as Dinah’s Motor Hotel it was located directly behind the famous Dinah’s Shack restaurant, an old red building sitting by El Camino Real. Handley and architect, Robert Royston, invented a new hotel look, a garden hotel. Situated on five acres the original hotel had 40 units. Each had terraces or decks and they were interspersed among two lagoons and a large swimming pool. A rich landscape of plants with vibrant colors was established.

Dinah’s Shack, Stickney’s, St. Michael’s Alley, Prime Rib Inn, L’Omlette (Lommies) — all gone now but not forgotten. The original restaurant, Dinah’s Shack, was a classic favorite for generations of Palo Altans. In shades of bordello red, the decor was Victorian ornate. Somehow it was formal yet casual and friendly. I’m glad that I can remember a number of dinner occasions at Dinah’s. (I also remember a wealthy Texan flirting with me at the bar saying he was a pilot and inviting me to fly with him to his ranch. (Darn it, I declined.)

So upon our return, my first stop (and many after that) was lunch or breakfast at Dinah’s. (They’re famous for their omlettes.)

In the late 1990s the old Dinah’s Shack restaurant building was finally condemned and torn down. In it’s place, Ray built a gorgeous restaurant for Trader Vic’s. http://www.dinahshotel.com/about_us.htm

For photos of the original Dinah’s Shack, see this excellent page.http://www.mariposaresearch.net/santaclararesearch/SCBIOS/DINAH’S.html

WALKING ON THE BAYLAND TRAILS.

Well I don’t always sit around Dinah’s eating and reading. I also discovered the Bay lands as soon as we moved here. Out by the airport you could walk by the bay in a few places. However most of the sloughs were smelly and too marshy to be able to walk. The levees and walking paths built around the bay came many years later.

Now in Palo Alto and Mountain View as well as many other bay cities you can walk on interconnected paths around the bottom of the bay.  Today these paths are favorites for bird watchers, hikers, joggers and bikers.  I usually park at the end of San Antonio Ave. in Mountain View and walk out on the levee northeast towards the Palo Alto Baylands Trail. On my left is fresh water Adobe Creek. On my right is the Charleston Slough salt pond. A mile and a half walk brings me to a bridge and gate that regulates the flow of water into the wetlands along the levee. It is a tidal dam at the confluence of Adobe Creek, Mayfield Slough and Matadero Creek.

Along this trail I can see fresh water birds on one side and salt water birds on the other.  It is a marvelous place that gives me a view of the coastal mountains that separates the Santa Clara Valley from the ocean.

In my thirties and forties I spent many, many lone hours walking on the baylands. And many more hours walking with my girlfriends and then with Dennis. So of course, right away we had to go take a walk on the baylands.

For fun you can look at panoramic tours of all these trails on the baylands. http://www.virtualparks.org/parks/baylands-text-list.html

Here’s a nice site that describes what you see along the bayland trails. http://www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/baytrail/vtour/map3/access/Btpalto/Btpalto.htm

I LOVE THE STANFORD SHOPPING MALL..

Some people look to athletic activities or seek thrills for entertainment. I guess I tend to seek places that bring me comfort. I got to Dinah’s for good food and peaceful relaxation in a garden environment. I love to take peaceful nature walks in our coastal hills or on the baylands. And I also love to window shop at one of the most beautiful shopping malls I’ve ever seen: Stanford Shopping Center.

Stanford is an outdoor mall, “an open air center” and along every walkway in the mall you can see gardens. It’s a “shopping center disguised as a park.” Everywhere I see gardeners tending incredible displays of flowers in the extensive planters situated throughout the mall. The gardeners are always ahead of the season putting in annuals at just the right time. I used to walk around the mall just to get ideas for my flowerbeds in Los Altos. The array of blooming plants is amazing and they make the attractive stores seem even more luxurious.

And the stores are also amazing. The department stores of my thirty-something shopping days, I Magnin, J Magnin, Emporium, and Saks Fifth Ave., are now gone. In their place came Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and of course, Macy’s remained. Of course the mall has everything: fashions from the Gap to Tommy Bahama, gifts, books, stationery, jewelry, luggage, children’s, spas, upscale grocery and specialty foods, (Williams-Sonoma Grande Cuisine), electronics, (the Apple store and Sharper Image), and oh my gosh — the home furnishing stores: Crate & Barrel, Polo by Ralph Lauren, Pottery Barn, Williams & Sonoma, to name only a few.

In my thirties I used Stanford to get ideas. Then I went to JoAnn’s Fabrics and my sewing machine to try to duplicate what I’d seen. In recent years I was able to buy more of the clothes and furnishings I liked. But now, I’ve no room for these things. I’m back to window shopping. Fortunately for me, Dennis likes to window shop. We have done together for years and emerged no less nor more broke than when we started out.

CATCHING UP WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

My best shopping buddy is Dale. She and I are on the same wavelength. We like the same things and we have similar ideas on how we want to decorate. Dale stole a couple of hours on various days to do Stanford with me. I wanted to change the décor on the bus just a little bit with an autumn seasonal theme. She helped me make decisions.

Several special occasion eventS have occupied our time and attention. Steve and Jenny Montez threw a BBQ party at their home in Morgan Hill. The occasion was a thank you to several of our masons who volunteers their time to help Steve finish his BBQ counter and patio. Dennis donated some spare stone materials. Steve is our BBQ King and he turned out a huge banquet for us.

And it’s that time of year again…. Mercy, I am surrounded by Libras. In mid-October, we always have a big Libra birthday dinner at the Mountain House Restaurant up on Skyline Blvd. I’m the only Sagittarean in this group. I’m the hostess. It’s awful. No, I’m kidding. Libras are the sweetest people on earth. We ordered desserts and I asked our waitress to bring each dessert with a burning candle. She did — and gave me the FREE birthday dessert with a candle! We had a hilarious time.

Becky is the gal who helped me sort, pack and sell all my things at the Los Altos house when we were getting ready to buy our bus and become “fulltimers.” Becky worked with me all day, every day for the better part of four months. I can never thank her enough — nor repay her properly. When she decided to get rid of some of her stuff at a flea market sale I was right there, ready to help out. Flea markets are not my thing. I don’t go to them. But we both had fun doing this one. I kept myself amused during the day with merchandising — rearranging “Luci” our sewing manican dressform and the sale tables.

There was more socializing for us when our Cotton Club had a reunion at Ron and Becca’s home in Castro Valley. We all used to meet in my backyard once a week to let our Cotons de Tulear play together. Ron and Becca served a wonderful dinner and our dogs were all thrilled to be reunited so they could run around in a pack barking and chasing each other. It was wonderful to see Debbie and Dan and breeder Ron Hiskes.

Finally, we were able to visit with our favorite people, Myrna and Roger. This couple is very popular and their social calendar is always booked up far in advance. They are gourmet cooks so an invitation to dinner at their lovely home is greatly anticipated by us.

On Halloween Eve, James suggested we should meet him for breakfast at Alice’s Restaurant. Okay, why not? It takes us about thirty minutes to drive up the hill. We left in fog but came out above it to sunshine. Alice’s is to James what Dinah’s is to me. It’ s his favorite hangout. They know him when he comes in and bring him that mug of coffee right away. Alice’s Restaurant is on the ridge of the coastal mountains in Woodside at the junction of Woodside Rd (CA-84) and Skyline Blvd (CA-35) — the La Honda crossroads. It’s named after singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie’s talking blues song. And yes, many bike riders stop here.

Now Jim drives a jeep but I remember when he drove a little two-seater Triumph. He lives in the city and I think this is when he got in the habit of taking a pleasure drive down the mountain and over to Pescadero to cruise along Pacific Coast Highway — with a stop at Alice’s Restaurant on the way. Lots of fun!

Best of all, we were able to get my women’s spirituality group together. I love these women. We’ve been meeting since 1983. We used to meet every other Sunday afternoon. Now we’re lucky to get together once every one or two months. Our locations are more scattered now and we usually meet in a central location with Mary and Sophia in Berkeley. Recently, I saw Sophia in Denver and I saw Karen at Clearlake. But I haven’t see Mary or Jimmie for ages. So this was a great treat for all of us. Jimmie is an artist who lives in Orinda. Mary is a therapist. Sophia is a teacher in special ed. Karen is a graphic artist. We are all seekers of enlightenment.

Jimmie has been recovering from back surgery. That’s her little dog, Bubba. Mary spent a month in India at Oneness University to learn how to be a Deeksha giver. She just returned. Sophia just went back to school. Karen just returned from three weeks in Spain and France where she took two workshops in printmaking.

TRAVEL PLANS

I’m perfectly happy here at home. But I guess I feel that if we have this marvelous motor home then we should be traveling and utilizing it. I feel as if I no longer have a home where I can entertain. My boys are unmarried and do not have homes or families to create holiday events. I don’t want to be away from my sons and my sister and nephews. But I feel that I should find romantic new places to see how others celebrate the holidays.

In any case, Marcel and Dale with her son and daughter, Brandon and Colleen, are going to Santa Fe to spend Thanksgiving with her brother’s family. We are invited to join them. So in the spirit of our new life and new adventures we accepted. We plan to leave for Santa Fe tomorrow.

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