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.

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Meeting an Old Friend

But now I will tell you about today. We couldn’t let this last Sunday slide without an adventure, so we 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.

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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.

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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.IMG_5970.jpg

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!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back in Salinas for May

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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It was so much fun visiting you in Portland! Grandpa Nelson enjoyed spending his birthday with you, and we got lots of work done on our new house. But I have 19 more teaching days to do, so I am back in Salinas. Yesterday, Uncle David picked me up at the airport and took me to the Club at Crazy Horse for dinner. Good company, very tasty food, and lovely scenery!

Today started out with Liza enjoying her new comics from Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures.IMG_0340.jpg

After breakfast, it was time for a nice adventure. The weather was warm and sunny, so Liza and I packed some snacks and our overdue library books and headed downtown. We had snacks with the Hartnell Panther, who then followed us downtown. Liza says he can sense where we are, so he doesn’t need a leash.

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We continued to the Steinbeck Center, and  visited the Red Pony, Tom Joad and the Pipe House, as well as fishing for sardines off a small boat. It was a fun imaginary trip.

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We were hungry for a snack, but Blue Aces was closed! Liza was so disappointed, but we decided to try Portobello’s…no ice cream. The Cafe and Deli? Closed. Finally, we stopped in at the Monterey Coast Brewing Company and THEY had ice cream! Hooray! And even a lemon tart for me. No beer, though. I’m on duty.

Refreshed, we headed to the Steinbeck Library, played, and got some new books. It was getting windy and cold, and I was grateful for the jackets Auntie Olga had insisted we take along. We had to run for the bus, but we caught it and were home at 2:00…just in time for a nice long nap.

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Love,

Grandma Judy

Adventures in Transit

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Auntie Olga, ready to roll!

Today was another adventure. Auntie Olga, Cousin Liza and I went to the John Steinbeck library, but this time, we took the bus! We figured with the bus ride replacing the mile walk, we could enjoy more time at our destination. Since both the number 20 and the number 25 bus run between our house and downtown Salinas, even on a Sunday we don’t wait more than a half hour for a bus, and much less if you plan right.

We left the house earlier than usual, and Auntie Olga still had her coffee cup. Liza found some lemon grass and noticed that the leaves look like hearts! Somewhere along the way, Liza found part of a pencil sharpener and started creating tiny bouquets in it…blades of grass, a tiny belladonna daisy, and some small magnolia seed pods.

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Chatting with John
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Liza explaining her bouquet

She was explaining all the bits of loveliness in her creation when we noticed that Rick’s brother Kevin was riding up on his bike! We had hugs all around before the bus came and took us to the Steinbeck library. We turned in books, got new ones, and Liza made us a fabulous pretend lunch from the library’s toy kitchen. We realized that we weren’t just pretend hungry, we were really hungry!

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Liza’s food truck

Auntie Liza suggested lunch downtown, so we walked to Portobello’s new location on Main. They were closing in 15 minutes, so we took our seats at a table outside to enjoy our burgers and quiches. The food was very good, and I introduced Auntie Olga to Messiah Beer. The weather was cool, but we had coats and were very comfortable.

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Driving Auntie Olga

In the Steinbeck Center, Liza had fun showing her mommy all her favorite things…the red pony, the model A car, the children in the migrant field camp, and Doc Ricketts’ boat. And as she looked at the exhibits, Auntie Olga’s mind was racing…how could she use this museum as a teaching resource for her class at Central Coast High School? John Steinbeck’s work encompasses history, literature, and science. The museum itself is a graphic artist’s dream. I got the business card of the director so Auntie Olga could contact her about curriculum.

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“I nearly always write…just as I nearly always breathe.”

When we were done at the museum, we walked just across Salinas Street to the transit center and caught a bus within a few minutes. We walked the few blocks home and nodded off into napland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Adventure to History (Part 1)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Our adventure yesterday covered some familiar ground also some new adventures. Uncle David gave Liza and me a ride downtown so we could have more energy and time to spend there. It was a very chilly, bright day.

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Bright winter sun

Our first stop was the National Steinbeck Center, which Liza had asked to go visit again. She calls it “Mr. Steinbeck’s Newseum”, which I love! We found another one of the big boulders carved with a quote from Mr. Steinbeck. It says, “I think I would like to write the story of this whole valley, of all the little towns and all the farms and the ranches in the wilder hills. I can see how I would like to do it so that it would be the valley of the world.” This what John Steinbeck did, really. He wrote about this place as a metaphor for all places, all people, all struggles, all opportunity.  His writings were always true to the spirit of the people.

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Liza and John
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Climbing a Steinbeck Boulder

 

 

We took some silly pictures of Liza posing with a life sized cut out of John Steinbeck, then pretended to drive a 1915 model A that is inside the exhibit. I got to be the driver, and this was my view:

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There is another section of the museum that has the bed John Steinbeck slept in as a child. There are photographs of his school days and his classmates,  a box of books you can read and comfy chairs to sit on. It was so much fun to read, feeling like we were visiting with such a good writer.

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Reading with John’s school

Liza spent some quality time with her old friend The Red Pony, combing his mane and climbing on and (carefully) off. She visited the poor children in the Grapes of Wrath exhibit, and spent some time watching the captioning on the filmed reading of the novel, picking out words she recognized. She is becoming such a good reader!

She used to magnifying glass to look at the collection of sea animals from Doc Rickett’s Lab, reading the words “Crab” and “Sea Star” but stumbling a bit over “Anemone”. We took a pretend trip to the Sea of Cortez in the little rowboat in the exhibit, looking at the map of Mr. Steinbeck’s and Doc’s trip.

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At Doc’s Lab

Since it was getting close to lunchtime, we stepped onto the patio and had some cheese, apples and crackers. The sun was bright but chilly, so we had our coats on, but it was delightful. After we ate, we took another quick walk through the exhibits to say goodbye to everyone, then Liza was anxious to go to our next destination: The Harvey House, the oldest house in Salinas.

More on that tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

Steinbeck Adventure

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Monday was a holiday from school, so Liza and I went on an adventure. We started in the morning, when it was cold enough we needed our jackets. We stopped by Hartnell Park first, to play for a while. We met an old friend of Liza’s, Victor, who can speak a little Russian.

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Off for our Adventure!

Our next stop was Hartnell College. We watched folks play tennis and found some interesting statues. We had fun with the Panther, who was carved in 1934! He has been here being adorable all these years. We found a girl walking with her mommy, and she and Liza played with the Panther for a while.

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Friend and Panther

 

 

Once we got downtown, we found The National Steinbeck Center. It is a huge museum that tells all about John Steinbeck and the books he wrote. It has a red pony to ride and comb, and a house like one the people lived in in a story called “Sweet Thursday”.

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Working with The Red Pony

We spent an hour at the Center, and got hungry! Farm Fresh deli got us back on track, and we went back into the Center. Liza wanted to celebrate a “Pretend Birthday” in the pipe house, so we did. What a great time!

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Pipe House Birthday

Once we were just worn out, we headed home, stopping by Blue Aces Bakery to get a snack. We chatted with Adrian and her assistant, who happens to be a girl named Katrina that I knew when she was little.

We walked back by Hartnell College, when Liza had a nice rest on the Panther’s back. She didn’t want to leave the Panther behind, so she hooked it up to a pretend leash and it quietly followed us home.

 

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A Girl and Her Panther

Then, nap time!!!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Putting a Leash on the Panther