Tag Archives: Cupertino

From Salamanca To Cantabria — Seeking Angels In Northern Spain

Plaza Mayor--Salamanca, Spain

Plaza Mayor–Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca has (arguably) the prettiest Plaza Mayor in Spain.  We stopped for a night on our way to Cantabria, the northernmost region of Spain, staying in a high, narrow inn called (ironically) Pension Los Angeles.  Tucked under attic eaves, my sister, her kids, and our family slept like the Seven Dwarfs in tiny twin beds, the golden lights of the plaza visible through a tiny slit of window.  Continue reading

On Living, Loving, and Dying

Uniquely Gabriele

Uniquely Gabriele

“I’m not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.” –Sojourner Truth

Dear Friends,

Here are my remarks from my mom’s Celebration Of Life.   Somewhere in the middle, you will find a link to the video tribute–Gabriele, in her own words, speaking about living, loving, and dying.   Thank you to everyone who spoke so eloquently and all who attended–the support was invaluable–and also to those of you who’ve sent cards, notes, and love from many corners of the earth. Continue reading

Gabriele Rico’s Celebration Of Life

Five Years Old

Five Years Old

We are touched and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support coming in the wake of my mom’s death.  So many of you have asked about attending a celebration of her life,  and we’d be honored to have you join us.  Here are the details: Continue reading

Jade Garden

Workmen

Workmen

My mom’s house sits up on a hill, its sloping front lawn lined by orange trees on one side and birds of paradise on the other.  During the six months she was fighting cancer in Los Angeles her brilliant garden dimmed a bit, she being the manager of details, clipping and trimming in short-shorts and halter top, her strong back tanned by the Northern California sun.  The plants stayed basically healthy (unlike Gabriele) and needed only a green-thumb make-over.

Continue reading

Sunlight And Clouds

Clouds And Sunlight

Clouds And Sunlight

I am driving north up the I-5 to my mom’s house, the soft green of the rain-fueled hills flashing by in a blur.  I don’t worry about pushing the speed limit, sure that if a cop pulls me over he will see the pain in my dark, hollowed eyes and spare me a ticket.  At the bottom of the Grapevine, a route I’ve traveled a hundred times, grey clouds are bullying the sun in an unrelenting march across a flat expanse of nothing.  It is beautiful, this clash of dark and light, but I am too sad to take much notice.  All I can think is that my mom will never pass this way again. Continue reading

Lunch With Steve Jobs

The Genius From Cupertino

Steve Jobs was the only real celebrity my hometown of Cupertino, California ever had.  I don’t count, since my career as a television news anchor flamed out eighteen months ago when I was fired by CBS .  Ronnie Lott, the former San Francisco 49er, lives in the Cupertino foothills, his house just across the canyon from where I grew up, but Lott’s name is synonymous with football, not the Silicon Valley.  In my town, Jobs was kind of like Jesus–not everyone liked him, but we were all in awe.

In the early 1980s, Steve used to eat lunch at “The Good Earth”, the now-defunct Cupertino restaurant where I waitressed when I was sixteen.  I remember this nerdy young guy who always ordered the Good Earth tostada, served in a whole-wheat tortilla and topped with sprouts.  He smiled shyly at me when he asked for more Good Earth tea and drank gallons of the stuff.  Steve always sat alone, devouring books and manuals way beyond my limited teenage understanding along with his food.  It is possible his brilliant, visionary mind was already crafting the I-Phone, even way back then.

I called my mom the moment I heard Steve Jobs had died.  She was sitting in front of her I-Mac, from which she has a view of the Cupertino Valley, The Apple headquarters nestled in the middle like a brilliant white palace.  She was crying.

“There was a rainbow one day,” she sobbed, “that ended right on top of Apple.”  My mom snapped a photograph.  “I wanted to send it to him!” she added.  “I meant to send it to him.  And now,” she stopped suddenly, struggling for control.  “Now, he’s dead.”

My mom said she didn’t know why she was crying for someone she’d never even met, and I felt the same pain and confusion.  Why does the loss of someone to whom I’d only served tostadas and tea a lifetime ago feel so terrible and huge?  Maybe it’s because Steve Jobs put our little town of Cupertino on the map.  Maybe it’s because he made our lives so much easier over the years with Macintoshes and MacBooks.  Maybe it’s because he died at 56, the same age my father died of cancer.

But it goes deeper than that.  All my adult life, Steve Jobs showed me how to be brave.  Whether it was refusing to fade into anonymity and bitterness after his own board of directors fired him in 1985, or refusing to let a devastating disease strip away his creative drive and technical genius, Steve Jobs kept his head up and his heart open.  That we no longer have his example of humanity is what hurts the most.

End Of The Rainbow

Brains, Bidets and El Mundo Bizarro

The Bizarre World

I was nearly thrown out of the Brazilian Embassy in Buenos Aires for high-fiving Steve, the Asian guy standing in line behind me.  The lady behind the plexi-glass window in charge of approving tourist visas for Brazil glared at me over horned rimmed glasses.  She looked like the Argentine Ann Landers, with poufy, lacquered hair topping a dour face, and I wanted to take her picture but figured she would embed a ninja star in my neck.  She called a security guard over who spoke to me in rat-a-tat Spanish but I only understood the word “Quietos!”

Apparently, no one but Steve and I found it crazy that we had gone to the same high school in Cupertino, California (twenty three years apart!) and had randomly met half a world away in a grumpy, windowless place where you stood a better chance of being forcibly ejected than of getting a visa.  “Lighten up!” I wanted to say when my turn at the window finally came, but I didn’t because a.) It probably wouldn’t translated well, and b.) We really needed our Brazilian visas.

Living in a foreign country is kind of like going back to school.  We make many mistakes.  Like letting the kids eat a muffin in the back of a taxi, which prompted the large, angry driver to scold me in a deep, grumbling voice on how tables were for eating.  We fail many tests.  Like going to a medical clinic to get yellow fever vaccines only to find the address we are searching for doesn’t exist.  We laugh about many things.  Like “brains stewed in tomato sauce” or “stir fried bull testicles” on our dinner menus.  But mostly, we have picked up the rhythm of a life that bears almost no resemblance to the one we had in the U.S. just fine.

No Brains Or Balls For Me!

In the mornings, we take Griffin and Ado to summer day camp at “Club De Amigos”, a giant facility in the middle of the city that has everything—pool, playground, soccer field, track, tennis, obstacle course, and indoor gym.  The noisy, zoo-like atmosphere of “El Club” makes me yearn for the schools we left behind—the sweet Neighborhood School in Los Angeles where the kids ran around in their underwear having splash fights on sunny days, and their Maine schools that were calm, loving places of learning and fun.

Each morning, our two little Americanos join two hundred Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) under the age of five in the club’s massive gym.   There, the kids are loosely organized into groups of twenty and herded onto various playgrounds or into the pool by their “Professoras” or camp leaders.   About half cry vigorously or try to make a break for it

No Hablo Español...

to the busy Avenida Del Libertador, which, thankfully, is a locked and guarded gate away.  Griffin, whose new friend Mateo bit him the first day during a fight over kick boards, really likes El Club.  Little Ado just seems resigned to his fate, shuffling along with his pack of three year olds and looking less hopeful each day that someone will speak to him in English.

So far, there are really only three things about Buenos Aires that concern me.  One is the street design in our little neighborhood of Las Cañitas.  What would be four-way stop intersections in the U.S. are no-way-stops here and the Porteños drive with a frightening combination of aggression and speed.  On the narrow one-way streets the car is king—and the pedestrian, if not careful, is road kill.  Walking to the train station or the playground six blocks away takes total concentration and a death grip on the children’s hands.

Train Ride - Cuidado!

The second thing is the pickpockets.  When we take the train or the subway, concerned riders continually warn “Cuidado!”, pointing to the new Nikon camera around my neck (someone would really yank my head off to steal it, they say) or a bag not held closely enough.  When my mother-in-law Donna came to visit for the holidays, she was ripped-off in the streets of San Telmo, one of the oldest and most beautiful barrios.  Wearing her thin, supposedly pick pocket proof purse slung over neck and shoulder, some stealthy thief lifted the flap, unzipped the zipper and slipped her wallet out.  Credit cards, debit card, cash and license all gone in a swift sleight of hand.  “Welcome to Buenos Aires!” I said and she laughed it off.  But later, when a woman warned “they’ll kill you for that Rolex watch”, she took it off and bought a white, plastic thirteen-dollar replacement.

Something Old, Something New

The third thing that bothers me is the lack of peanut butter.  Coto, the low end Super Mercado next to our apartment does not sell it.  Disco, the high end Super Mercado two blocks over does not sell it.   When we ask for it, we are directed to Dulce De Leche, which is sickeningly sweet and fabulous but not peanut butter.  Ethan thinks importing Skippy and Jif to South America may be the answer to our unemployment woes.

But for everything familiar and dear that we can’t find here, something new and different pops up.  Ado’s favorite curiosity is the bidet.  We have two in our apartment and he uses the word as a verb.  “Mommy, can I bidet?” he begs, as excited as if I have unrolled a brand new yellow Slip and Slide down the hallway.  He squirms and giggles as the water tickles his little butt and usually ends up soaking the bathroom floor.   This lark drives his clean freak of a father crazy but he takes such pleasure in it that I can’t kick him off.

Being immersed as we are in local life, our Spanish language skills are coming along.  Ethan and Griff have perhaps the easiest time, with Ado and myself struggling more with the wacky Argentine accent (yo is pronounced “scho”, calle is “cai-zhay”, and “voz” is the informal word for you instead of “tu”–go figure).  When I remind Ado to say “thank you” in Spanish, he still blurts out “tesekkurler” which is the Turkish word for thank you that he learned four months ago.

Urban Travelers

Ethan cringes when I speak Spanish, sometimes with good reason.  One day at lunch we were conversing with three local men when Griffin somehow got his finger stuck in the ice-cream freezer in the corner of the restaurant.  When I walked back to the table holding my crying son, one of the men asked what had happened.  I answered “Pinche el dedo” and Ethan nearly began to cry too because I had accidentally said “fucking the finger”.

No one said this was going to be easy.  The language, the food, and the culture all have learning curves and it takes time to get to know a place and its people.  In the seven weeks we have left in South America, I’m sure life will slowly start to feel less exotic and unusual.  Just in time for us to move on and start all over again.

Did I Say That??

Of Moose, Men and the U.S.S. Maine

Maine is the kind of state where residents don’t get mad, they get even. Outside of Skowhegan, a large, carefully lettered sign stuck in the lawn of a small, carefully maintained home said “Ring our doorbell before you hire John Smith.” The name wasn’t really John Smith, but you get the idea.

Earlier, when we crossed into Maine from Canada, a cute, young border patrol officer asked where I was born. I told him Mountain View, California.

“No way! I’m from Santa Clara!” he said. “My dad worked at Lockheed in Mountain View.”

“No way! So did mine!” On this tiny strip of No Man’s Land, I meet someone whose dad maybe knew my dad. No way. It felt like we were home.

After confiscating Ado’s orange as Canadian contraband, provoking a red-faced fit, the officer waved us onto a two-lane highway guarded on both sides by thick forest. A sign said “Caution, Moose – Next 13 Miles.” Soon, the Moose River cut a wide brown swath to our right. We passed Moosehead Mountain and Little Big Wood Pond. Then, The B & R Moose Mart, the Moose River Fire Department, Schmoose’s Pub with Thursday night Karaoke, The Brown Moose Motel with public shower and Bob’s Custom Cuckoo Clocks. Northwestern Maine is hunting and timber territory.

In Bingham, Maine, we stopped for gas at the Williams General Store, which advertised several options: “Beer, Fishing, Sandwiches, Gas, Soda, Sporting and Tanning” – nicely browned bodies a must for any moose hunt. In addition to the moose heads mounted on the wall, there was also a flyer for “The Crushtacean” – a bright orange Lobster S.U.V., claws shooting out over the huge front tires and tail trailing off the back. The Crushtacean was competing in the Lobster Fly and Mud Run at an upcoming monster truck rally. I would have paid good money to see it.

While the four of us ate a lunch of egg salad sandwiches and Funyuns, Ethan, who uses his exceptional intelligence to assemble a mental encyclopedia of useless trivia, threw me a curve ball.

“Do you know what the U.S.S. Maine is famous for?” he asked.

“Um… yeah. Of course I do,” I said, and then took a guess. “It got blown up?” Actually, I nailed it, but then Rain Man moved in for the kill.

“Where did it get blown up?” he countered.

“Wasn’t it the Iron Clad that exploded off the East Coast in the opening scene of ‘Sahara’?” Perhaps my crush on Matthew McConaughey (star of that silly film) was going to pay off.

“No. It wasn’t,” Ethan answered. He sounded a little disappointed in my answer, but ever since I left the news business I feel much less pressure to seem smart and informed. I’m content if my tired mommy brain can correctly distinguish a pickle from a cucumber. Ethan often brings me the day’s headlines, talking about the trapped miners in Chile or the Texas couple who accidentally left their two year old in the car to die of heat stroke. But I tune out, rebelling from the last eighteen years of having to deliver bad news each day with a straight face and dry eyes. I don’t want to imagine those poor miners’ terror or those poor parents’ grief, so I’ve asked Ethan to stop the daily briefings. But I like the useless trivia.

“In 1873, the USS Maine’s baseball team beat the team from the USS Marblehead in Key West, Florida,” Ethan continued. “A year later, the Maine exploded in Havana Harbor and all the players died except one. That sparked the Spanish American War.” I must have cut History class that day.

Maine’s timber country turned into farmland as we neared the coast and the tiny seaside village of Bayside where Ethan’s family owns a century old, green and white house overlooking the Penobscot Bay. We stopped at an untended vegetable stand in someone’s front yard that displayed sweet cherry tomatoes and just picked cucumbers in disordered, luscious heaps. A note tacked to the shack’s wall said, “For Corn, go to 127 Savage Road (that’s where the cornfield is).” At that address, a cobwebby, old bus listed on flat tires next to a boat nearly hidden by tall weeds and vines. A gruff, grizzled Maine farmer with a thick grey moustache came out of the falling-down house and picked us four ears right off the corn stalks growing in his backyard, then charged us a dollar.

That night, sitting at our kitchen table eating this homegrown healthy feast, we laughed about the bears, scares, bikers, buffalo, beavers, crickets, friends, flat tires and faith that had seen us through a 7,500 mile, six week long road trip. It was impossible to choose which part was best.