The cause for heading west was to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday, of which our presence was to be a surprise. Though still very astute mentally, being close to completely deaf and with very limited vision made the surprise somewhat lengthy as she worked through figuring out who we were. Seeing her great-grandchildren along with my wife and I gave her much joy along with moving those others in attendance. The intriguing thing about the event is that the vast majority attending the party were from Carl's (my grandmother's husband) side of the family. Carl is her third husband, one she married late in life, who had two (if memory serves) kids and from them many children of their own. A wonderful and welcoming family of whom I am grateful to have this connection. It should be noted my mother was also there, having arrived some two weeks prior to us, along with my cousin Jessica. I have not seen here since my wedding. She has a beautiful new daughter, Nikki.
The experience itself was worth every penny spent. When a 15 year old boy and a 10 year old girl manage to enjoy seemingly every moment you know you've done something correctly. Walking the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz (the walking tour is a must), Ghirardelli Square, The Mystery Spot, The Exploratorium, The Santa Cruz Boardwalk...all succeeded in pleasing the masses. As noted, I will have more to write about of which I hope can bring you as close to the experience as possible.
Funny that some things I took from my visit are almost meaningless and inconsequential. Glean from them what you will.
- Do you ever think about the music you hear while pumping gas? While in Santa Cruz I was graced with Robert Plant's Heaven Knows from his album "Now and Zen". A Zen moment indeed.
- When I got back in the car from fueling the classic radio station was broadcasting a show by Alice Cooper. He had just started playing U2's Gloria from "Boy". The Zen moment continued.
- I was told Santa Cruz (SC) was a hippie town. I knew going into the trip that San Francisco (SF) was a big homeless city so there was an expectation of folks begging for cash. It wasn't until we were boarding the BART on our last day that someone actually asked for money.
- An endless gripe I have is giving money to the homeless. I tell my children that institutions are in place that are paid for by tax dollars and other donations to ensure that they get help as opposed to getting direct money which may fuel their addiction(s). Furthermore, begging is not an occupation. That being said, in both SF and SC we saw many talented musicians trying to make a living on the streets. It was a great opportunity to give money to someone who at least was trying to "earn" it. They may still have used it on their addiction(s). I hope not.
- SC must be (and I'm guessing definitely is) a pedestrian friendly city. At no time did I ever see a car not yield for someone on foot or on a bike. Maybe there are strict laws requiring this. My direct experience was my long run for the week. I was on a four lane road and was at the cross walk...not in it. As I waited for traffic to thin, drivers who saw me standing on the sidewalk came to a complete stop so I could cross. Again, I WAS ON THE SIDEWALK. Not sure I'll ever see that in Jacksonville.
- I'm sure I am misquoting the bumper sticker but this is pretty close. "Be courteous. We are all trying to get somewhere." I think Josh McTiernan shared something close to this some time ago.
- The house we rented in SC was directly across from the beach and we were serenaded by crashing waves every evening. The house itself was roughly 1,300 sq ft and consisted of two separate buildings. It couldn't have been that much larger than the first place I lived with my wife down at Jacksonville Beach. Minimalism is a wonderful thing. Even my son commented that, though different, we could live like this.
- One night we spent at the SC Boardwalk which was a miniature amusement park (The Lost Boys was filmed there). Of the 5 hours we were there, and considering the cultural and economic mixture of attendees, there was not one altercation. More Zen moments.
- Widest bike paths I have ever seen in my life.
It has been quite some time since I have actually felt recharged. To a greater degree it has been some time since I obtained so much focus. On the plane ride home I was able to talk about Absurdism and Camus with my son. I have to believe even he was impacted as he began to see the life affirming aspect of this system.
Now to get back on East Coast Time.