Goodbye, Old Trees!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Salinas is an old city, as I was reminded of yesterday at Salinas History Day. It is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and some of the houses still standing were built in the 1890s, over 100 years ago. Back then, Central Avenue was a street lined with expensive, fashionable, Victorian style houses; two story wooden houses with pretty gingerbread details and delicate paint jobs.  Central Avenue was also home to hundreds of trees, planted when the neighborhood was new.

In recent and not-so-recent years, these trees have gotten too big for their parkways. Their roots have cracked sidewalks and lifted them up to 45 or 50 degree angles, making walking hazardous, especially for the elderly. On walking field trips, when crossing University at Central, I always directed my students to cross the street and continue “until the big tree, you’ll know it when you see it.” And they did.

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Pile of chips from ancient tree

But not anymore. As I was walking to Roosevelt School yesterday, my path was blocked by a pile of wood chips on the sidewalk, marked with caution tape, and a BIG place where the tree was NOT. This carnage was recent…I could smell the fresh wood. I stopped and stared. How could it be gone? I took some pictures and continued on my way, thinking about how long that tree had stood there, how many field trips it had seen, how many birds had called it home.

As I continued west on Central, there were more…dozens of trees, some four feet in diameter, no longer there, damaged sidewalks removed, sand laid down for pouring new ones. The destruction  was systematic and thorough.

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Four foot diameter stump

I noticed evidence of the damage the trees had caused…streets and driveways uplifted and distorted, pipes damaged, branches that had grown through power lines, still dangling when their trees were gone. I know why the city arborists needed to remove the trees. I understand, really. But I will miss them, anyway.

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Street Repairs

I also noticed a pattern. Magnolia trees were mostly left intact, with just their invasive roots trimmed when the sidewalk was removed. Are the magnolia trees younger? Are they more amenable to having their roots trimmed than other trees?

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There was a spot where the repairs had been completed and the sidewalk was clear and fresh. I am sure the people who walk down Central everyday to get groceries or to walk their children to school will appreciate the easier path.  And I hope they remember the old trees fondly, as I will.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Fresh, safe sidewalk

Reading!

 

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Liza figuring things out

One of my favorite things to do here at Uncle David’s house is read books with Liza. She loves “If you give a Mouse a Cookie” and anything about dinosaurs. Lately she has been reading more to me!

She is learning letters and sounds at her school, and a few months ago she noticed OPEN signs on stores we could go in. Then she saw the same sign on the Steinbeck Library! We checked out books in the Word Bird Series, and she is enjoying recognizing some words and figuring others out.

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She is starting to read everything! The other day she wanted more light in the kitchen so she found the remote control Uncle David made and read  “…k…kitch…kitchen!” She pressed that button and turned the light on. She was so excited! I am sure she will be reading before she goes to school, just like your Mommy did.

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Remote Control for Lights

In Uncle David’s house there are also books in Russian, which are gifts from Auntie Olga’s Mommy, Baba Alla. There are bright and colorful, but I can’t read them! I only know four letters in Russian, the four that spell “Liza”.

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Beautiful Russian Book

I don’t know if I will be able to learn to read Russian, but I am practicing speaking it.

“Liza, kudah tapitchki?” (Liza, where are your slippers?)

“Ya niz naito.” (I don’t know.)

“Na.” (Here)

There is sure a lot of learning going on here in Salinas!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Brunch

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Auntie Bridgett and I took a long walk the other day. We started at The Bagel Bakery on West Alisal, for coffee…because Auntie Bridgett doesn’t go very far without coffee. Then we walked downtown. We visited our friend Adrian at her shop, The Blue Aces Bakery, and got tasty coated sugar-pecans and walked out to the market to get flowers for our brunch hosts.

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Adrian at Blue Aces Bakery

We continued down Main Street and turned off at George and Mimi’s house. They were hosting us and our friend Dan Beck, who runs Salinas Book and Sound. He brought his guitar along and played some  music as we told stories and enjoyed George’s delicious waffles with all the trimmings.

George and Mimi host their brunches in their back yard, which they have recently turned into a patio “par excellence”. There is shade, space for a lovely table (made by George) with a large lazy Susan (made by George), two barbecues, and electrical outlets for the waffle irons! There is art on the walls, flowers all around, and cats!

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Reddy the cat was my personal host for the morning. As soon as I sat down, he showered me with feline attention, which I recognized is a rare and beautiful thing. We hit it off and at the end of the morning, I was allowed to give him two tiny scraps of ham, which sealed our engagement, I think.

Before we left, George, Mimi, Bridgett and I stood in their living room and talked about everything under the sun. These lovely folks have been around a long time and have such great stories to tell….I wish I could write a book!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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George and Mimi, and Samuel Beckett, printed by Crispo

Out and About in Salinas

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

It is so nice having Auntie Bridgett visit! Harold has missed Bridgettbear.

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Visiting Stuffties

Saturday morning, Auntie Bridgett and I walked downtown for coffee and a walkabout. It has been 8 months since she has seen Salinas, and I wanted to show her than changes… new stores, remodeled houses and such.

Our first stop was Rollick’s Coffee, where Grandpa Nelson still had about a hundred coffees on credit. Barista Savannah and Bridgett are old friends, so there was lots of conversation.

Then we walked up towards the Steinbeck Center to see what sorts of shops are in the new Taylor Building.  Portobello, a restaurant that used to be almost on the south edge of town, has recently moved here, and it is beautiful. Their regular selection of sandwiches, quiches, and salads has been augmented with a full bar and a breakfast menu. Susan, the owner, showed us around her new digs. The back patio has a french feel, with tall wrought iron details and olive trees. We promised to come back for lunch.

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Susan at Portobello

We stepped a bit further along and found Gifts on the Go, a chic and quirky gift shop run by Donna. There are so many lovely things our eyes didn’t know where to go first! Baby clothes and toys, fabulous kitchen gadgets, and cards kept us entertained. There are cookbooks, including an entire book dedicated to macaroni and cheese. It turns out, she spent some time in my hometown of Manhattan Beach. Small world, after all…

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Donna at Gifts on the Go

As we continued along Main Street, we kept running in to people we knew….Darryl the mailman and our friend Marek. This is one of the joys of living in a place so long.

It was so warm, we walked down to The Cherry Bean and got a glass of water before returning to Portobello for lunch. We had a tuna sandwich and ortega chili quiche, with salads of roasted vegetables. So delicious! I also had to try a new beer, Messiah Nut Brown Ale made by the Schmaltz Beer Company of New York. It was such an unlikely name, I had to give it a try, and it was good!

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Schmaltz Beer

When we were full, we walked down to Salinas Book and Sound to see Trish Sullivan and Dan Beck. We had a lively conversation about changes in Downtown Salinas.

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Trish Sullivan

We realized we still had a long walk home ahead of us, so we headed off and got back to Uncle David’s house. We read for about five minutes and fell asleep! All that sun and exercise and conversation just wore us out.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Neighbors!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Uncle David

Yesterday evening Uncle David invited the across-the-street neighbors over for a barbecue and s’mores.When I got home from school, I helped thread the strips of steak, along with tomatoes and peppers, onto the skewers for shish kebabs.

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Table Outside
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Dinner waiting for company

Then we moved the big table outside so we could eat out on the patio, and Uncle David pulled the bounce house out of the shed and inflated it. Liza had fun making sure it was ready!

Mark and Lindsey have a 2 year old named Daniel He brought a small dump truck and enjoyed playing with it in Liza’s sandbox. The grownups talked and the kids played so well together! Liza had fun showing Daniel her toys and was very good about sharing.

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New Friends

When the fire was ready, we put the rack of shish kebabs on, and it sure got hot fast! Mark and Uncle David decided there was just too much fire, so they moved the kebabs to the oven to finish. By that time, it had gotten chilly and they moved the table back inside, as well. The wide doors make that very easy. They didn’t even take the candles or dishes off!

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Doing the Dinner

Dinner was good…we are still learning how to cook over the fire, but it was tasty. Then came the best part: S’mores! I’ve decided that I prefer just plain roasted marshmallows, but watching grownups being kids again is sure fun.

When Daniel started getting tired, the evening ended peacefully. It had been successful and fun. I went to sleep with dreams of marshmallows dancing in my head.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Adventure to Valentines

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

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Three Adventurers!

Sunday was another long walk and adventure, but this time your Mommy came with us! We packed salami, cheese, apples and crackers, along with plenty of water, and walked down West Acacia. We showed your mommy where the fairies live by the big rock and the nice benches at Mission Park School.

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Where the fairies live (notice their bells!)

We walked all the way to South Main Street, then turned right and walked to the MYO Frozen Yogurt shop, where we met our dear friends George and Mimi Niesen for treats and conversation. It is always good to talk to these lovely folks; they are busy doing such interesting things!

When we had finished our yogurt, we walked to George and Mimi’s house. In their front yard was the box of succulents Auntie Bridgett gave Mimi when we moved to Portland last year, and they are still growing well! Nice to see they are happy in their new home.

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Happy succulent

Then we went inside and made Valentine’s Day cards! Mimi had doilies, paper, and all sorts of pretty things to cut and paste, and we had lots of fun.

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Delightful George

But the time came, as it always does, where the energy is gone and nap time is calling. We phoned your Daddy who came and fetched us. We thanked our friends, went home, and had naps.

PS. I can’t show the Valentine’s cards…it would ruin the surprise!!

 

 

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Lovely Mimi

 

 

Love,

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.

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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.

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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.

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Marilyn, by Trish Sullivan

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

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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.

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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!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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College Baseball!