Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Palo Alto, Part I

I've never taken pictures from the airplane before, but couldn't resist on this trip to Palo Alto to meet my friend Kati.  I'm always grateful when I get a window seat on Southwest and this time I delighted in the views of Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Shasta, and the San Francisco Bay, especially the Golden Gate Bridge!
 I tried to imagine where our homes were in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and then Santa Rosa, California.  Both cities have grown since the 1970's when we lived there.  I think the new subdivisions have fewer trees and houses that are larger, but closer to the neighbors.

Anyway, Kati and I met each other at baggage claim and then managed to catch a shuttle bus that took us to the Santa Clara Cal Train Station.  Kalle and Christina literally live across the street from the Palo Alto Cal Train Station, so Kati and I hauled our suitcases just a few blocks to their lovely apartment on Alma Street, which is walking distance to many fine restaurants, coffee shops, and Chico's, all on University Avenue.  We arrived early afternoon and had time for a sandwich and shopping before Kalle and Christina got home from work.  We soon discovered that we could walk to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's!

Thursday we were on our own exploring Palo Alto in warm, sunny weather.  We walked to the Stanford Campus and visited the Iris and Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, hosting Walker Evans vintage prints.  He's best know for his work at the Farm Services Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression.  The faces haunted me as I walked through the exhibit wondering how these people even survived with little money, no work, and not much hope.

I also enjoyed the Stanford Family Room inside the Center, viewing pictures and stories of this famous family.  In1876, former California Governor Leland Stanford purchased 650 acres of Rancho San Francisquito for a country home and began the development of his famous Palo Alto Stock Farm. He later bought adjoining properties totaling more than 8,000 acres. The little town that was beginning to emerge near the land took the name Palo Alto (tall tree) after a giant California redwood on the bank of San Francisquito Creek. The tree itself is still there and would later become the university's symbol and centerpiece of its official seal.
The Stanford Family
The Stanford Family
Leland Stanford, who grew up and studied law in New York, moved West after the gold rush and, like many of his wealthy contemporaries, made his fortune in the railroads. He was a leader of the Republican Party, governor of California and later a U.S. senator. He and Jane had one son, who died of typhoid fever in 1884 when the family was traveling in Italy. Leland Jr. was just 15. Within weeks of his death, the Stanfords decided that, because they no longer could do anything for their own child, "the children of California shall be our children." They quickly set about to find a lasting way to memorialize their beloved son.The Stanfords considered several possibilities – a university, a technical school, a museum. While on the East Coast, they visited Harvard, MIT, Cornell and Johns Hopkins to seek advice on starting a new university in California.  Ultimately, they decided to establish two institutions in Leland Junior's name - the University and a museum. From the outset they made some untraditional choices: the university would be coeducational, in a time when most were all-male; non-denominational, when most were associated with a religious organization; and avowedly practical, producing "cultured and useful citizens."
On October 1, 1891, Stanford University opened its doors after six years of planning and building. The prediction of a New York newspaper that Stanford professors would "lecture in marble halls to empty benches" was quickly disproved. The first student body consisted of 555 men and women, and the original faculty of 15 was expanded to 49 for the second year. The university’s first president was David Starr Jordan, a graduate of Cornell, who left his post as president of Indiana University to join the adventure out West.
The Stanfords engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park, to design the physical plan for the university. The collaboration was contentious, but finally resulted in an organization of quadrangles on an east-west axis. Today, as Stanford continues to expand, the university’s architects attempt to respect those original university plans.

Kati and I learned a lot about the history of Palo as the week went by.  Kalle and Christina live across the street from the original Facebook home office on High Street.  They treated us to breakfast at Calafia, an organic restaurant owned by the Chef for Google.  Apparently Steve Jobs ate here frequently and Kalle noticed he always seemed to be engaged in intellectual conversations with his guests.  "They didn't just talk about the weather or the score of the football game."  We even drove by Steve Job's home on Waverly - just blocks from our walk on University Avenue.

Thursday afternoon we made our way to Lytton Gardens, a retirement community, where Kati's friend from Twin Falls, Katherine Scott, now lives.  Apparently Katherine's friends in Twin Falls were worried that she was unhappy after selling her home, downsizing to a studio apartment, and leaving long-time friends, to be near her daughter.  Kati and I agreed this 94 year young woman made an incredible adjustment!  When we first arrived she offered us a drink.  "I have lots of whiskey."  Her apartment might be small but it's filled with joy and a real zest for life.  The Gardens takes up an entire city block in Palo Alto, the web site indicates 580 residents live here.  Her neighbors are Chinese and "very nice, but quiet."  She keeps busy by checking out books from their library, having lunch with her daughter almost every day and preparing her own meals.  She tickled me with her stories and comments about her living situation.  "I don't want to go downstairs and sit there and talk, talk, all day.  I helped with the Halloween party.  I don't mind helping when there's something to do. That was fun!  But being with those women who just talk all day drives me batty."  Katherine's outlived two husbands.  "I don't think I ever want to get married again.  Who wants to wait on someone hand and foot?  If I found someone here I'd probably have to learn Chinese."  She did ask Kati if she planned to get married.  Kati explained that she might not get married even if she found the right man.  Katherine responded,  "I'm not going to get married again, why should you?"  "But I have a special friend right now and I'm a little confused about what I should do,"  Kati told this wise woman.  Her response, "don't worry about it, you have a heart big enough for all."  Ah, to be 94, witty, and so wise....  It's one of my dreams for my wisdom years.

I loved the flowers, especially since Lewiston has no color this time of year. 

On Friday we drove Christina's jeep to IKEA!  Anyone who's been there knows it takes awhile to get through the showroom and then find the treasures on the floor.  We had lunch and each bought a few kitchen gadgets.  I found a tray that must be a treasure because it wouldn't fit in my suitcase and I had to carry it on the plane.

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