Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
We start 2020 pretty certain that it will be a better time than the last couple of months of 2019. Sure, the elephant is still in the room, but round one of chemotherapy has removed some of the mystery. We have more faith in the first prognosis by the cancer team: this can be cured. Marianne's mother is resting in peace and no longer needs our care and worry.
What will we do now? Marianne wants to get back to her artist life, to the degree the elephant allows and we must travel. We will start today (January 2) by visiting artist friends at ArtHop and tomorrow with a long weekend in Monterey.
Longer term, we may even visit you, wherever in the world you are, but we will give warning.
January 2020 ArtHop
Step one in getting back to art is seeing some. For us, in Fresno, this is best done on the first Thursday of the month, ArtHop. I also get to warm up a camera.
We started with a visit to Robert Ogata's studio. The bonus here was that Marianne got to chat with Bob's wife Zandy, a friend from exercise classes. That's another regular activity we need to get back to. While they talked, I snapped some detail pictures and stepped outside to check out the city sunset, with ravens. A successful first stop.
Across the street, we went to another favorite ArtHop haunt, Clay Hands. The ceramics co-op was holding their annual "Play in the Clay" evening, but Marianne was more interested in seeing friends. The first of these was Marina who's ceramic bells combine tone and structure. We have bought a few, but did not find another to add to our collection.
It was a different story with Ren Lee, another artist friend. Given enough display space, we might fill our home with her whimsical pieces.
The brown queen piece is part of an unfinished chess set, perfect for anyone who has budget and space for a board with foot-tall pieces. Ren admitted that the set is still more concept than a complete offering. A buyer might need to wait a few years, but it would be worth it.
This dog-faced piece was a lesson in recovery. Somewhere in the production process, it had fallen and shattered on the floor. Remembering the guidance of a past instructor, Ren picked up the pieces, glued them together and accentuated the repaired cracks with shiny gold. All sorts of life lessons here.
When we had walked into Clay Hands, three Ren Lee pieces immediately got Marianne's attention. Forty minutes later, we walked out, without a purchase. Four minutes after that, we walked back in and closed a deal for two of Ren's ladies. Walking back is always expensive.
With that, we headed home, satisfied with our evening of art, friends, and a purchase. Hopefully, this will help restart the art career of our in-house artist.
After a month and a half with no chance of leaving town, we looked forward to a four-day stay with few plans. Packing up felt like an old, almost-forgotten ritual, but we relearned quickly. After an appointment with the estate lawyer and side trips to Costco for fuel and Westwood BBQ to recover Brian's credit card (he forgot it at our last meal), we headed to the coast. The drive was uneventful, the best that can happen for the two-and-a-half hours.
We were treating ourselves with a stay at Seven Gables Inn, a bit of a splurge with its service and ocean views from every side. (Normally we would stay with relatives, but felt uncomfortable combining houses with pets and Marianne's compromised systems.) We arrived in time for afternoon wine and cheese, but did our best to not overdo. I am supposed to be losing the six or eight pounds I added over the holidays and Marianne's medicines conflict with wine. Seven Gables will be a test.
No sooner had we finished hotel appetizers than we walked for dinner at Jeninni Kitchen and Wine Bar, a recommendation from our hotel manager. We chose seats at the bar since it always seems more festive than sitting at a table in an empty dining room. The bartender was friendly enough and his recommendations were right on: octopus, Brussels sprouts, scallops, and mashed potatoes. Everything was prepared in rich sources, perfect for a splurge.
The Seven Gables breakfast room was a perfect place for my normal travel routine: review photos and write diaries. Coffee started at 6:30 and I was busy reviewing and writing when I looked up a half-hour later and saw that I was missing sunrise. I jumped up and managed a picture or two before the color faded, but trust me, being there in person was better.
After the generous breakfast buffet, Marianne left to pick up Klare (aka "Monterey Mamo") for some necessary shopping and chatting. I used the time for a walk along Ocean View Boulevard to view that ocean and whatever I could discover. I think beaches, especially rocky beaches, are my favorite casual photo hunting grounds.
Here's what I saw:
Folks doing California things: posing, exercising, surfing, fishing, diving.
Flowers - Can you name them?
Birds - hanging out, mostly.
Rocks and surf - California images
Marianne dropped Klare off at home, picked me up at Seven Gables, and we headed to a favorite lunch spot: Parker Lusseau, a small French confectioner. While they have excellent sandwiches and quiches, more normal lunch fare, we opted for a croissant with jam and a berry Danish. It seems this short visit will be long on good sweets. Oh well, the purpose of the trip is to spoil ourselves.
We also like history, so we stopped at the Cooper Molera Adobe, dating from 1832 when Monterey was a settlement of the Mexican Republic. (See map.) A corner of the original adobe has been left with pieces of the original painted walls and this reminded us of our own old-house restoration in Pommersfelden. Elsewhere, the building has been restored and decorated as it might have been in the mid to late 1800s, after Monterey became part of American California.
Our final piece of culture was a quick stop at the Monterey Museum of Art. This is a small art space, but one which changes every time we visit. In fact, half the exhibits were closed for rehanging, so our stop was even quicker than usual. OK by me. The two artists in our pictures are both local. Mahir Agha's colorful photos of the dying stalks of agave plants were amazing. Gyöngy Laky's imaginative arrangement of ordinary pencils and golf tees probably stemmed from growing up in an artistic Hungarian family in Monterey, just like our own home artist.
Marianne's friend of 50+ years, Adrienne, joined us for the Seven Gables afternoon wine and cheese. The girls chatted about the elephant and other catch-up subjects. It is good to have old friends. Oops, not "old", "wise", kind of like Yoda, but better looking. Adrienne had to tend to her own mother, so she couldn't join us for dinner. We owe her one.
For our dinner, we walked up the hill into downtown Pacific Grove, doing our best to work up an appetite. There was still a lighted Christmas tree and a few of the PG Victorian homes with holiday dress. Too hard to get around to taking things down, I suppose.
Anyway, we chose the Red House Cafe for dinner, a place we had only tried for breakfast, but which had always been top notch. This time, Marianne's seafood pasta was great and my salmon pizza was only so so. Still, I love the funky, crowded interior, so it will stay on our list of PG favorites.
I started the day with morning pictures. The plan had been for nice sunrise, but plans don't always work out. Good sunrises and sunsets really need interesting clouds, but Sunday dawned clear, nice to be in but kind of blah for pictures.
Instead, I tried my hand at pictures of moving water. This is a technique that should be done off a steady tripod, but I was too lazy to go back and get mine, so I shot hand-held. Holding steady for a full second was tricky. Good practice.
The main event for Sunday was a big family brunch. Gabby and the kids came down from Monte Sereno and we met up with Chris and his family and Klare and Jack. It has been awhile since everyone had been together, so there were lots of comments about how Spencer, Ava, and Sam had all grown. (Adam has been tall forever.) That's what aunts and uncles are supposed to say.
After the big family brunch broke up, Marianne and I hung around with the little family. The idea was for a nice walk along the beach pathway, but within minutes it seemed more appropriate to just climb a tree or stare out at the birds, waves, and ocean.
When a carriage pedaled past us, the team decided on a new mission. We went to the carriage rental place and signed up, with Sam on the front handlebar seat and the three girls in back. Ava and Gabby were the duty pedal-people while Marianne just had to hold on.
While the little family was pedaling along the coastal pathway, I tried to capture the other sea sports. The sailboats were coming out of Monterey harbor, but a little too distant for dramatic shots.
Surfers, on the other hand, were nearby at Lovers' Point, within reach of my camera. The waves were not large, and the guys seemed to spend a lot of time waiting for the next big swell, but their smiles were genuine, no matter the length of the ride.
After the family was back from their ride and since both Ava and Gabby had earned the right to ice cream, we headed up the hill to downtown Pacific Grove. Along the way, we played with cats, climbed on a whale, and smiled. Most of the town's ice cream shops were closed for the winter season, so we ended up at a funky old place decorated with original Beatles paraphernalia, served by a guy who was an original Beatles fan. An experience.
The family visit ended too soon, just as it always must. Gabby had a 90 minute drive back home and the kids needed to get cleaned up and put to bed since tomorrow was their first day of school in the new year.
We weren't sad the family gatherings were over, just happy they had happened.
Our third travel day started, as usual, early. I watched the sun rise over Monterey Bay from the comfort of the Seven Gables breakfast room, with a view across the Bay, almost to Santa Cruz. This is the reason one pays a premium for staying here. I have noticed that many of the guests are regulars, coming one or two times a year.
The rest of the day was mostly unplanned. A slow breakfast was a good start, but then we remembered that we should confirm arrangements for Magdalena's final resting place in Monterey's San Carlos Cemetery. Everything is in order and, as soon as we can figure out a schedule, we will ceremoniously put Magdalena's ashes in the same row as Marianne's dad Louis and step-father Elemer.
Duties over, Marianne met up with Klare, her remaining "Mamo", and they chatted a bit. They also checked out a retirement community in Pacific Grove, one we will NOT be going to for at least another decade. We have far too much to do.
Socializing done, Marianne and I went to early dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. In keeping with trotter.ws website practice, I won't mention the name of places we will not be recommending. Nothing really bad, just not worth noting.
From there it was movie night, with a viewing of Little Women, a chick flick I suppose, but I loved the cinematography. And, of course, anything with Meryl Streep in it is worth the eight bucks.
Tuesday - Going Home
My fourth early start in the breakfast room. Watching sunrise is again worth the lost sleep. The cruise ship Crystal Symphony glided past in the soft light. Next stops: San Diego, Hawaii, Guam, Manila, DaNang, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore. Interested?
Breakfast was leisurely, in part because the weather forecast for the Central Valley was for thick ground fog until noon. It would be better to hang around in the Monterey sun, stretching out the buffet, and taking pictures of exotic birds.
There was indeed fog in the valley, from a rest stop at the San Louis Reservoir (where we could not even see to water) all the way to Fresno. We have not had as much of this as there used to be, apparently due to dryer weather and less water-intensive farming. Nevertheless, it had been wise to return slowly.
Back home, nothing had changed. That's just the way it is on Cambridge Avenue. If we win the lottery, we might move to Monterey, but until then, we're staying in our nice old house.
Next adventure? Stay tuned.
John and Marianne
We had one more event for the day. It is being presented here because we have determined that this IS our life record, even when not-so-happy things happen. This Tuesday night, it was a haircut.
Marianne's chemo chemicals were projected to almost certainly cause hair loss and our weekend away had started just as that "thinning" process commenced. This was not entirely unexpected and initially masked by cute hats Gabby had bought for her mom. But now, Marianne would take the advice of others, and have her hair cut, before the chemicals did their work.
Eric, Marianne's new favorite hairdresser, had volunteered to do the job, as he has for others. All three of us were sad and emotional, but is was the right and inevitable thing to do. First, he trimmed to shorter lengths, to get an idea of how he might style and create as it grows back. Then he cut down to a soft fuzz.
A new chapter.