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November 8-12, 2017Dear Diary and Friends and Family,
Written November 10+
It had been quite some time since we had visited family in Monterey, so we set aside a long weekend to catch up with Klare, Jack, Chris, Leisa, Spenser, and Adam. However, we got to add a quick stop with Gabby, Mamal, Ava, and Sam when I arranged a business meeting on the 8th.
My "business" involved my Project Baseline participation, the long term health survey organized by Google subsidiary Verily. I had joined a couple of months ago, and I had completed my two days of initiation medical tests. I have been wearing my Study Watch for a couple months now, but feedback from the project has been essentially zero, so when they asked if I wanted to provide some feedback, I jumped at it.
My appointment was in Building GWC2 of the Google campus in Mountain View, a huge array of typical, low-slung Silicon Valley office buildings. It was fascinating to consider that this company was less than twenty years old, and yet is part of the lives of the majority of people on earth.
My session was with Kaylyn, a young (they are ALL young) Google researcher tasked with getting feedback from Project Baseline "subjects". After a brief introduction, we started a pretty defined hour Q&A session - her questions, my answers. Since I was the first Baseline subject to provide feedback, much of the sessions concerned just how communication from the Project to the test subjects should be handled.
My thinking has been that I would like three types of information from my own medical tests: notification of any detected serious concerns; raw test results for routine tests (such as the three-dozen blood samples); and some sort of interpreted results from the more complex testing. This seemed to fit within Kaylyn's organized questionnaire and this gave me encouragement that, someday, I WILL get results!
Another part of the interview addressed Google concepts about linking Google search results with health concerns, in some sort of predictive manner. For example, they have noted a rise in searches for the word "flu", before increased incidence of the flu, and consider it might be possible to provide individual health warning based on an individual's own searches of health-related topics. Kaylyn's questionnaire asked if I would be comfortable with such analysis. I had to admit it was interesting, but a little spooky as well. Mark me "undecided".
Otherwise, I left the interview having learned very little about what the future will hold for me as a Project Baseline participant. Nonetheless, I remain enthusiastic about what the work may provide both for me and for society more broadly. We'll see.
The bonus for having to go to Google Mountain View was that we could also visit Gabby and family. (I suppose that is one of the reasons I volunteered for Project Baseline in the first place.) It is always a bit like going home when we visit; Charley greets us, Sam asks me to play "traffic", and we settle into the little family's routine. We all move on to greeting daddy's return from work to dinner to bed time preps to a sigh of relief when the house gets quiet again. Young families have full days!
We were up early Thursday morning, with more routines. Gigi (aka Marianne) makes palascinta (Hungarian crepes), kids eat slowly (especially Sam), school bags are (eventually) packed, and Gabby loads up the kids for the short drive to school. Today, writing grandfather "Babai" birthday cards had to be squeezed in too. I am sure he will appreciate the hand crafts as much as we do!
From there, for Marianne and me, it was just waiting for the rain to settle down. The drive down to Monterey normally goes via Highway 17, a twisty commuter route prone to problems even in the best of weather. If one has a choice, it is not worth even considering in rain. About 10:00, the rain had slowed so we started, only to re-plan our route when we checked traffic cameras. There were at least three accidents on Highway 17, so we opted for the inland route on Highway 101, a bit longer, but not quite so treacherous.
As it turned out, this route was dry, but not without construction problems, so we had a few miles of crawling along at walking speed. In times like this, i think we have been gone from congestion too long to ever move back.
Our lunchtime goal was Phil's Fish Market at Moss Landing. This really is a great seafood restaurant and the clam chowders, red and white, are specialties. The good news is that it is located right on the beach, but the bad news is that some outdoor tables are under the sea gull flight path. We chose inside dining.
After a quick check-in at Klare and Jack's house, we moved into our favorite B&B, the house on Colton Street that Marianne moved into over six decades ago. Actually, the B&B room is in the Colton Street converted garage, as nice a traveler stop as one could hope for.
We greeted family, starting with Spencer. He was in far better shape than the last time we saw him, when he was taking his first steps after getting a metal bar inserted to splice a shattered leg. Still using crutches, he seems to be mending fine and has kept his sunny disposition through it all. Congratulations.
Zsofie ("Sophie" in Chris' Hungarian) was the second friendly greeter, even before we got around to hugs from folks. That's just the way she is.
Klare and Jack came over for Leisa's Hungarian cooking, preceded by more family hugging (Spencer on left, Adam on right). It's a nice atmosphere, for sure.
Dinner was authentic family food: great salad; ample porkult and galuska; perhaps more than ample red wine. All this was topped off with six different varieties of ice cream. This is not going to be a good trip for weight control.
Friday morning everyone started on their own. I was at my Starbucks "office" by 5:30, looking at yesterday's pictures and trying to make some sort of diary. Leisa drove the boys off to their private school, but both she and Chris would be enjoying the public school holiday for Veterans Day. After coffee, I drove by to pick up Marianne for breakfast at the Red House Cafe, home of Marianne's favorite pancakes "in the whole world", or so she claims. Eating may be one of the reasons we can not come down here too often.
On the way back home, we stopped at Monterey City Hall and the Colton Hall Museum. Over the decades, Marianne had never even been to the museum, so it was time to stop! After pausing to pose with a California Grizzle, we went on our history lesson.
When built in the late 1840s, Colton Hall was the largest building west of the Rockies and served as classroom, courtroom, meeting room, and dance hall in the Spanish state capital. At the same time, the US and Mexico fought the war that shifted ownership of Alta California and the American Southwest to the Americans. The school tables were rearranged for a drafting effort for the new US state of California. Colton Hall now reflects that period, complete with rough scribbles.
The other parts of the historic buildings on the site continue to serve as Monterey City Hall, all except the old jail. The half dozen cells served the city from the 1850s through 1956. The last cell on the left recreates the scene in Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flats" where "Danny" fills his jail time by squishing bedbugs on the wall and tagging the remains with the names of the jail chief and city fathers. Living history!
Once home, Marianne went off on a drop-in visit to the home of one of her childhood friends, while I puttered around the B&B. Initially, my activities were limited to a swing through the back yard, camera in hand. No big showy flowers, but plenty of tiny gems if one looks closely.
After that, I needed more exercise, so Chris leashed up Zsophie and we headed out in the neighborhood. Not far from home, Chris showed me the old quarry that was reportedly used for the rocks that formed the original breakwater in Monterey. Nowadays, the pit is filled with plants and trees, both tiny and huge. (Chris told me the story of when, on a dare, he and a couple of teenage friends spent the night. Strictly against the rules. I assume Spencer and Adam will remind him of such behavior, sooner or later.
Down in another neighborhood park, we stopped for a rest on Chris' and Marianne's dad memorial park bench. It's nice to see family roots.
(Chris also told the story of childhood exploration of the quarter-mile-long drainage culvert running under the park, where he and friends would risk their lives. More material for the boys to claim "... but Dad, look what YOU did at our age...")
Dinner was at Klare and Jack's, another generous meal that will require days at the gym. Oh well, it's vacation after all. (If retirement can have vacations.)
Saturday and we headed down early to Cannery Row. Of course, now there are no canneries, just tourist shops, one after another. It's a part of Monterey that we seldom visit, since it seems that, other than the wonderful Monterey Aquarium, there's not much here beyond t-shirt shops.
But, today was different. We had a 9:00 appointment to join the monthly tour of Pacific Biological Laboratories, better known as Ricketts's lab. Ed Ricketts is famous as an early environmental pioneer and center of a Bohemian group, including John Steinbeck and others. While studying sea life along the California coast, Ricketts made his living selling study squishie samples to schools and such.
On the tour, offered only on 11 second-Saturdays of the year, knowledgeable docents tell the story of Ricketts and best-friend Steinbeck as Ed explored sea life while John wrote about local life, including several characters based on Ed Ricketts himself.
Ricketts's home and office was the second floor of the small building, but his work was done on the first floor lab benches and back yard holding pools, augmented by field exploration from throughout the California coast. These explorations formed the basis for his landmark 1939 book, Between Pacific Tides. In the early 40s, he and John Steinbeck extended studies to Mexico with an exploration of the Sea of Cortez, later documented in Steinbeck's, The Log from the Sea of Cortez.
Ricketts was killed in a train accident in 1948, at age 51, just as his reputation as a marine biologist was at its height. After that, the building was rented and then bought by a dozen residents, in part to honor Ricketts and in part to serve as a watering hole for local arts and sciences leaders. The walls of the tiny building are covered in memorabilia from the post-Ricketts era. The bar, where the idea for the Monterey Jazz Festival was born, still carries the spirit of the 1950s Bohemians.
As a reminder of the era, across the street from the lab, is a small monument to Kalisa Moore's La Ida Cafe. Marianne tells me it was well known as a brothel, but Marianne and her school chum would occasionally visit the cafe, just for life research. Or so she said.
From Cannery Row, we drove up to the Presidio, hoping to just drive in and visit other childhood haunts. Unfortunately, 9-11 has caused the military to again close the base to civilians, no matter how often they visited in the past.
However, a small military museum is available for the public and we took the opportunity to visit. It may not rank among the most elaborate history museums we have even seen, but worth a quick stop.
Marianne's highlight were two posters giving the history of the Defense Language School, where her father and mother were recruited to teach Hungarian. That determined the Hidas family's California future.
Above the military museum, the early 1900s Sloat Monument looks out over Monterey Bay. The monument seems stark and brutish, but that may be because the original bronze statue was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake before it could be moved to the site. Nice view, in any event. On the drive out, Marianne managed to snap a picture of a mottled gray bird (Heron?)
Our next tourist stop was Monterey Harbor and Fishermen's Wharf. The harbor is mostly pleasure boats nowadays, but there are a few working boats scattered around. It is hard to imagine exactly how this harbor looked when Monterey Bay was one of the most productive fisheries in the country. (Ricketts and other contemporary scientists predicted the fisheries collapse, but could not persuade the industry to slow down before it was all gone. A classic example of ignoring science, but that would NEVER happen today, right?
Fishermen's Wharf extends along the left side of the harbor, and is completely devoted to tourism. Nary a real fisherman in sight. The carnival atmosphere is accented by restaurant barkers drawing customers in with chowder samples and seafood displays. It all seems a bit tawdry, clean but tawdry.
Even the tall ship that was visiting the port seemed more a carnival ride than a reminder of bygone days, but young women furling sails seemed authentic enough. Not a job I would like!
Watching all the touted restaurants had done their trick by making us hungry, but we left the wharf in favor of the old part of Monterey. Lunch at Rosine's was crowded, but the food was tasty. That probably accounts for their solid reputation for the past few decades.
From lunch, it was back home to rest, before dinner. Life is tough on vacation.
Marianne and I treated the whole crew for "pizza dinner" at Gianni's Pizza. Some ate light, with salads, but Leisa powered away a big bowl of spaghetti in preparation for Sunday's half-marathon. We would see if it would help on her 13-mile run. (Another job I could not handle!)
Sunday was a sports day, and a return-home day for Marianne and me. Leisa had to be up and out of the house at 6:15 in order to start the half-marathon at her 7:15 start time. Way too challenging for most of us, both the run and the early wake-up.
That was not the only morning event. Chris, Marianne, Adam and I were out of the house by 8:20 because Adam had a tennis match at 8:30, more or less. After we lucked into a parking place near Monterey Athletic Park, Adam and Chris warmed up in the cool morning. By the time we left for the marathon, Chris was well warmed up, and Adam was getting there.
The 2017 Monterey Bay Half Marathon was a big deal, with 5475 official finishers (plus another 87 folks who struggled in past the allotted three-and-a-half hours.) On this Sunday morning, the weather was perfect, a little cold for observers perhaps, but reportedly good for runners.
I had never been to a marathon, so the whole fan experience was new for me. We arrived in the finish area about two hours after the race had started, so all the elite runners had crossed the finish line almost an hour earlier.
Chris, Marianne and I worked our way through the crowds to the finish line to wait for OUR entrant and I spent my time clicking away at runners of all shapes, sizes, and costumes. Most, ran in light shorts and shirts as one would expect, but there were a few who added the challenge of costumes, baby carriages, and even a 90 pound pack. Crossing through the finish arch, they all seemed happy. One runner did collapse completely a foot past the line and he was more dazed than happy, I'm afraid. Congratulations to them all.
Two hours and twenty-five minutes after starting, smiling Leisa ran past and over the finish line. She was as happy as any of the finishers for sure!
That was the good news; the bad news was that she still had a quarter-mile walk left to Adam's tennis match and where the car was parked.
We watched him play for a few balls, and debriefed our runner, before heading back to Colton Street.
Marianne and I packed up, said goodbye to Chris and Spencer and took one more picture of our happy runner and her medallion.
The drive home took three hours, as is standard, whether we are coming from Monte Sereno or from Monterey.
A nice weekend and now we can plan a quiet 10 days, before we come back to Monte Sereno for Thanksgiving.
John and Marianne
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