Visit to Val & Sandy Watson -- April 7-10, 2000
(Posted April 17, 2000)

Val and Sandy Watson arranged for us to all go to the Cirque du Soleil in San Jose on Sunday evening, April 9. Mary and I began our drive to the Bay Area at noon Friday and arrived at the Watson's home across Stevens Creek Blvd. from de Anza College at 3:30 p.m. Val greeted us with a nice bottle of Chardonnay, which we drank in their patio as Mary and I unwound from the white knuckle Friday afternoon freeway rush. They were baby sitting their grandchildren (Amy's) Tom and Erin. Tom is about three and took great delight in pulling flowers from the Watson's geranium bush and presenting them to us. The picture of Mary below is typical of all of us after about a half hour of this.


Mary shows off geraniums from Tommy.

As we enjoyed the wine, brie cheese, and crackers, we could look over their fence to see the beautiful park (picture below) just across a little one-way street. Two Canada geese and several mallards that live near the duck pond put on a show for us. Two Mallard families had twelve very tiny ducklings between them. The ducklings followed the adults around the lawn, faithfully assuming they were in good care. Sandy later told us this often led to disaster, as we found out the next morning.


Park with duck pond viewed from Watson's patio.

Sure enough, during a similar scene as we ate breakfast the next day, one of the mother ducks started to quack and make a big fuss. This was just after Sandy told us that now and again one of the ducklings falls between the grates of a drain in the lawn and down into the drain pipes below. Val hopped through their dinette window and over to the park to check if this is what was causing the fuss. It was. When Val knelt down to take the cover off the drain the mother duck quacked and flew at him. After several reaches to full arm's length down the drain (the duckling would back down one of the pipes out of Val's reach), Val succeeded in rescuing the duckling. Both duck families then waddled off without so much as a by-your-leave. When Val returned he told us that another duckling hadn't fared as well on a previous outing -- it was dead at the base of the drain pipe.

While Tommy was loading us up with geraniums, Val was busy barbequing halibut for dinner and Sandy was making salad and baked potatoes. These we enjoyed with another bottle of chardonnay.


Mary and Sandy dig into a halibut dinner.

Immediately after dinner we were off to the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto to see North by Northwest with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. Before we arrived in the Bay Area, Sandy was able to snag four tickets to the sold-out event -- Eva Marie Saint was to appear in person. We arrived at the theater a bit late so Val dropped us off at the theater and then went on to park the car. Four seats were available in the second to last row, under the balcony overhang.

After the seats were assured, I returned to the theater entrance and waited for Val, to show him where we were seated. As I waited, three immaculately beautiful old (circa 1915) Pierce Arrow sedans pulled up in front of the theater. Soon I saw Eva Marie step out of the largest and be escorted toward the entrance. The party walked by a few feet from me as I tried to figure out who was who. Eva Marie, whom we estimate must be in her early seventies, looked great, without the gobs of makeup I've seen on other aging movie stars. But I didn't spend too much time looking at her because I soon noticed that hosting the party was none other than Steve Jobs! He had a heavy beard and was wearing denim trousers and a black windbreaker, and seemed to be most concerned with guiding his teenage son (I presume) into the theater. Had he not come in with the guest of honor, I would have probably assumed that he was just another Stanford graduate student. A better description: he looked like Alex Baldwin in his "Adios the dishes" scene in Notting Hill .

The movie was enjoyable. David Packard, patron and founder of the extensively remodeled Stanford Theater as a vehicle for old classic movies, introduced the movie. He told us the print we were about to see is the only print of the movie now in existence that was made by the overlay process, in which three basic colors are printed onto the film one by one, rather than using a chemical emulsion process. Emulsion colors soon fade, but overlaid colors remain true for many decades. Also, the sound track was souped up to drive modern stereo systems. After the movie, Packard and Eva Marie Saint sat together on stage and chatted into a pair of mikes. Eva Marie told some stories and humorous happenings, but we couldn't catch her humorous remarks because the sound was clipped by the balcony overhang.

I squirmed in my seat throughout the movie because my neck and back were so tired from our white knuckle trip from Lake Wildwood. But the seats are the most comfortable I've ever been in -- a thick firm seat pad, and both seat and back covered in red velour. They were better looking and more comfortable than most upholstered living room chairs. I highly recommend a visit to David Packard's Stanford Theater.

The next day, Saturday, we had one of Val's fabulous breakfasts in addition to witnessing his duckling rescue. Then Val drove us to the Filoli Museum, on Can&atildeda road near route 92 to Half Moon Bay. (Pop over to Visit to Filoli for pictures and descriptions of our good time at Filoli. A link is provided at the end of that page to pop you directly back to this spot to continue reading here.) After Filoli we continued on along Canada road to route 92 and Half Moon Bay, where Val showed us the house that Phil and Amy just bought for the typical Silicon Valley fortune.

Then Val took us to the Distillery restaurant in Moss Beach, just north of Half Moon Bay. We had cocktails outside facing the foggy sunset, followed by wonderful meals inside. The prices woke us up to reality compared with those in the Foothills -- $180 for the four of us, not including the drinks while bundled up as shown below:


We were all bundled up like Sandy and Mary here.
But only I had a camera!

After dinner we climbed down a trail and over a sea barrier of large rocks to look for sea creatures in the ocean tide pools. I'm sure the people in the Distillery wondered what those 70-year-old people were doing scrambling to and from the ocean. Mostly we saw thousands upon thousands of mussels clinging to rocks in the tide pools. Then Val wound back route 92 to route 280 and on to their home in Cupertino. Did I mention that they put us up in their luxurious bedroom suite? We definitely crashed into it that night.

After breakfast Sunday we drove to Stanford so the girls could shop (the Easter Bunny's assistants never rest) while Val and I rode bikes around the campus on trail bikes. I was most interested in seeing the new SEQ (Science & Engineering Quad), which was recently completed. The picture below is of the Gates building for Computer Science.


Gates Building for Computer Science.

Across the street from the Gates Building is the Packard Building for Electrical Engineering (picture below). It's impressively modern, but the part on the left, which I assume is meant to tie into the brown sandstone of Stanford, seemed out of place. On the whole I didn't like the SEQ. It fits the pattern of all the engineering areas I've seen on college campuses -- a slum amongst the grandeur of the liberal arts parts of the campus. With all the money (some of it mine) and hoopla that went with its creation over many years, the SEQ is a terrible disappointment to me. The buildings are a hodge podge of architecture, the landscaping is blah, access to the buildings is weird (we had a hell of a time with our bikes), and the canopy-covered walkways are ugly beyond belief. The columns supporting the canopy are brown-painted steel I-beams and the covers are cloth, tied down with ropes as an afterthought because they were blowing away in the wind.


Packard Building for Electrical Engineering

Continuing eastward from the SEQ we came to the controversial statues of same-sex soul mates, pictured below. I'm not disturbed by the homosexual overtones, but I'd go along with removing or upgrading the statues because they appear unfinished, even though they've been in place for several years.


Ugly, controversial statue of same-sex soul mates.

Then we continued our eastward trek across campus and on to the student living quarters. We followed Escondido to Stanford Avenue, at the edge of campus, turned left toward El Camino, and after one block turned right to bring us to our (Mary and my) honeymoon cottage at 2049 Oberlin. It looked almost identical to the way it was when we moved in after our June 1956 honeymoon to Big Sur, Zion, Las Vegas, and so on. The Hollywood juniper added near the entry and the lawn replaced by ivy are the only obvious changes.


Herb and Mary's home while finishing Ph.D. at Stanford.
[Putting Hubby Through (Mary taught in Los Altos) and Dr. of Philosophy]

As we pedaled back west across campus to the Stanford Shopping Center we wove in and around the married student housing area to see where Val and Sandy stayed as they were completing their Ph.D. Then it was a straight shot to the shopping center where we arrived at 2:30 p.m. to met Sandy and Mary for lunch. It was a wonderful lunch but near four o'clock by the time we rushed out to get back to Watson's home to get ready for the main event: the Cirque du Soleil in San Jose.

We drove in our Expedition while Val plugged in his cell phone to madly call around to find out the precise location of the Circus tent. After all the calls, we found the tent by simply scanning the horizon as we approached the San Jose Arena. As we pulled off the freeway into the zoo of traffic for a Sharks game in addition to the Circus, we let Sandy hop out to pick up our tickets from the Will Call window. The 5:30 show time was rapidly approaching as we parked the car. Mary, Val and I walked as fast as we could (with me still limping) to the tent. When we saw Sandy she told us the show started at 5:00, not 5:50, and it was already a minute after five.

But all was well as we settled into our seats. The show was wonderful but a bit loud for Mary and me, and too much dancing and singing to kill time as part of the acts. Best act: an extremely athletic juggler who did everything imaginable with simple balls. Second best: arial acts high above the tent floor.

After the show we walked (I limped, increasingly more pronounced) around downtown San Jose to see the light rail, fountains, and "big city" in general. Sandy had planned a big dinner at A. J. Stump but after our huge lunch just a few hours earlier none of us were hungry. So we just had drinks, appetizers, and desert and coffee. No wine (prices started at $28 and soon rose to $50 average and on up to $500). The bill was $140 for the four of us. I'm glad to be back home where Grass Valley's best restaurants cost $30 for a full meal with wine, desert and coffee.

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