Flying with the Panther

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Liza, running ahead

Yesterday morning, Cousin Liza and I got to have another adventure before I left Salinas to come home to Portland. We woke up early, had a quick breakfast, and got our adventure clothes on. We packed some bread, cheese and blueberries for snacks and were out of the house by 9:00.

We enjoyed looking at all the flowers that are going to seed, and talked about how flowers help plants make baby plants. Her great grandma Billie would be so proud of her! Liza can recognize lamb’s ears by their fluffy leaves, magnolias by their big white flowers and seed pods, and maples by their hand-shaped leaves and helicopter seeds.

Saying Hello to an old friend

Once we got to Hartnell College, Liza knew exactly where we going and ran ahead of me, getting to the panther long before I did. She decided that we should ride the panther (who can fly) to Disneyland, where we would attend a Disney character party, in costume. We got into costume, had manicures, and put on make up.

Liza was Ariel, I was Moana’s Grandma, and the panther was Raja, Princess Jasmine’s pet tiger. We flew on the panther to the airport, where we got on separate planes (not sure why). We performed at a ‘show’ by the student union, where we snacked, saw a squirrel, and fed the birds.

Giving the panther a manicure

Then we headed across Central Avenue to Central Park. Liza loves to climb and do things that scare her a little bit, knowing that most things are only scary at first. She is always careful to pay attention to where she puts her feet.

I hated to see the morning getting away from us, but soon it was time to head back to her house. On the way, we ran into Irene, a dear lady who worked at Beverly’s Fabrics until it closed last year. We had a hug and a chat and went our ways.

Liza the Brave

After Liza and I played with a picture puzzle that your mommy Katie used to play with, it was time for Liza and her mommy Olga to take me to the bus stop so I could head home. She told me “Spakoini Notchi” and “Paka” which mean ‘good night’ and ‘goodbye’ in Russian. I am glad that since she has gotten back from her trip to Russia to visit her other grandparents, she is speaking a lot more in Russian. That language and culture is a gift from her family and she should treasure it.

200 piece puzzle

After an hour on the bus and two on a plane, I got home to my city and my people. We stopped for dinner at a new place called Perlot, on NW Fremont, which was tasty, delightful, and musical! We had delicious food, good wine, and listened to jazz by local musicians. What a treat!


Grandma Judy

The Last Adventure (for now)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This past Sunday was my last in Salinas for a long time, because I will be flying back up to Portland this coming Saturday. I have already written about how much I miss my people, my new city, and my new home. I have also written about how odd it will be to live THERE and not HERE.

Meeting an Old Friend

But now I will tell you about today. We couldn’t let this last Sunday slide without an adventure, so Cousin Liza and I packed snacks and extra coats (just in case) and headed off. As she ran down the front walk Liza sang, “Hello, World!” My thoughts exactly.

Swimmer’s Tent City

We walked to Hartnell College to visit the Panther, and saw tents set up. There was a swim meet, with kids from as far away as Marin County competing. The tents give the swimmers and their families a quiet place to rest and change between races.

We took a different route today, crossing the Hartnell campus to Central Avenue to visit Central Park. Some of the play equipment is very old, dating from the 1960s, and some has been updated. There used to be an old locomotive that kids could climb on. It was declared unsafe at some point, and the local Railroad History Museum adopted it. They moved it over by the Amtrak Station and First Mayor’s House, and it is now part of the educational center there.

Enjoying the Old Stuff

We walked down Central Avenue and talked about the old houses there and what Salinas was like back in the 1890s… dirt streets, fewer people, more horses. Liza remembered that Mr. Steinbeck had a pony he and his sister kept at the local stable and rode in the hills.

And then, there we were, at the National Steinbeck Center again. Liza loves it. The nice lady checking us in decided that we had been in so many times that we had paid for a membership by now, and let us in for free!


Every time we visit, Liza says hello to the paintings of children in the “Grapes of Wrath” exhibit. The paintings depict migrant farm worker children in their shabby hut, and she feels badly for them. In previous visits, she has invited them to pretend birthday parties in the “pipe house” from Sweet Thursday. Today she decided they should go live in the nice camper, called Rocinante, that Mr. Steinbeck drove around the country while writing “Travels with Charley”. It seemed the perfect solution to a problem that has bothered her for months.

We ate the last of our snacks, said good-bye to Mr. Steinbeck’s museum, and headed for his library! We were both getting tired, but we needed to return books that were due. When the time came to head home, we missed the bus, watching it sail past just across the street. We called Uncle David and he came to fetch us. Naptime!


Grandma Judy

Downtown Book and Sound

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Saturday was another walk to Old Town Salinas for brunch with a friend at First Awakenings. This time I met Terry Soria, who I started working with about 15 years ago. We understood each other and made each other laugh on difficult days. We worked together for a few years, then lost touch. Then, four years ago, I got to teach her grandson! I was so happy to get to talk about the joys and frustrations of teaching with her.

Terry Soria, who understands

While I was downtown, I stopped in at Downtown Book and Sound, run by our old friends Trish Triumpho Sullivan and her husband, Dan Beck. Dan, who  is a musician and artist,  was working on a new tune on his guitar when I arrived. Trish is an artist and community activist and out of the shop at the time.

Downtown Book and Sound

Downtown Book and Sound is part music shop, part bookstore, part art gallery, and part visitor’s center. There is always good art on the walls, good music playing, and someone interesting to talk to. The chartreuse window frames make it easy to spot at 222 South Main.

marilyn art.jpg
Marilyn, by Trish Sullivan

Dan and I talked about life and family, then I scooted out.

Dan beck.jpg
Dan Beck

In the past few years, the city of Salinas has started investing in more Steinbeck-themed art and activities. I found this giant boulder at the corner of Central and Homestead. It says, “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that dogs think humans are nuts.” John Steinbeck.

steinbeck rock.jpg
Steinbeck rock at Central and Homestead

I also visited the beautiful new Tony Teresa Baseball Diamond at Hartnell College! There was an exciting game going on between the Hartnell Panthers and the College of the Siskiyous Eagles. It was tied 1 to 1 when I left. Hooray for baseball season!


Grandma Judy

College Baseball!