Having a wonderful time visiting my mom and taking road trips around the Monterey Bay Area. The coast and ocean views are spectacular and it seems only yesterday and not five years ago that I was here last.
Thea and I had a really great time in California seeing the family and friends, driving around and visiting interesting places. We went to Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grive and Big Sur. We saw San Francisco, crossed the Golden Gate bridge to Napa and Sonoma Valley, the Redwoods, Bodega Bay and Oakland. I even managed to get in four rounds of fantastic golf, eat real Mexican food, and for the first time in more than thirty-five years go up and down the high-speed glass elevators at the St. Francis Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco.
At first there's so much to look forward to and tons of fun activities to do. You're so excited and happy. Then all of a sudden it's two weeks later, it's time to say goodbye, and you feel really sad. Before you realize it, you're back home again so far away from the ones you love.
In order to experience life to its fullest, you must sometimes make difficult decisions. These choices result in long lasting consequences that you must come to accept and embrace in order to survive.
The advantages are balanced with the disadvantages. You learn more about yourself and acquire unique insights into nature and existence, and where you fit in the overall puzzle called life.
Well I've been back now for a little over three days and here is the proof that indeed I was there:
Now that I am finally back home it is hard to believe that I have been away.
The only proof is a few nice memories and a pretty bad case of jetlag that refuses to go away.
You can read all entries covering my trip to California by clicking here.
After nearly two weeks of acclimated myself to this time zone, my
biorhythm has finally adapted completely to the Californian ways of day and night.
Tomorrow it's back to Holland again, meaning another nine-hour jump,
this time in the clockwise direction.
As the flight proceeds through the night of accelerated darkness, I
will attempt to catch some shuteye in order to make my reentry a little
bit more gradual.
This is the dream I had.
While shaving in front of the mirror, I noticed a slight blemish on my left cheekbone just below the eye. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was a pimple ready to be popped.
After having seen a whole hour of those real tear-jerker stories on the Oprah Winfrey Show, I am starting to really miss my family. I cannot wait to get back.
Only two more days.
There has been yet another drive by shooting, this time in front of the local high school.
Some young boy was crossing the street, and then out of the blue he was attacked by three gang members who shot him down in revenge for something or other.
According to the news, the poor soul was shot multiple times: in the neck, back, lower abdomen and buttocks. Fortunately, he is now out of danger, recovering slowly and will live.
Having spent nearly three hours straight looking through all of the old photo albums with my mother, there are still alot of memories that need some sinking in. It will take me about a day or two to absorb it all again.
Back then, everything seemed like a big deal, when in fact those moments were to be enjoyed to the fullest without remorse.
This should be a good lesson for living in the now, alright?
Everyone here is tremendously disappointed whenever it appears that there is a small chance of rain. The weatherman has announced at the end of the evening news that the clouds are coming, so watch out.
Taking the nine hour time difference into account, my thirty minute run through the Monterey hills at three o'clock was the equivalent of a nice long midnight jog, if I were running at the exact same time in Gouda.
At first glance it appears that everyone here drives so relaxed and slow. At each intersection, people stop and let you go first with a polite smile and a wave of their hand.
It must have been my eleventh birthday when I received the fancy radio that was a combination AM, FM, short- and long-wave gizmo of which I was very proud.
In the evenings, I would scan slowly through the various frequencies, turning the knob on the side ever so carefully. I would zoom in on Russia, China, someplace where they spoke what sounded like Arabic, and the interference was so bad that it sounded like it could have been coming from a spaceship or another planet.
For the latest news, weather and sports about the Monterey Bay area, you can have a look at the KSBW Channel.
People here eat real fast. There is not much time left over to sit down and relax and have a normal conversation.
At home, my family views me as the one who completely lacks manners, eats too quickly, smacks too loudly, and talks with my mouth full.
Ironically, while eating with family and friends, I am nearly always the one with only half his plate finished before the waitress comes and takes the other plates away, dropping the receipt on the table.
The Americans have perfected the fine art of carrying on pseudo-conversation and forking down mountains of Mexican food at the same time.
I love it.
After more than a week bumming around, I decided to reward myself with a good old run through the hills.
Having managed to hold out for nearly thirty minutes without stopping, I arrived back atop the hill to my mother's house sweating like a maniac. A tough way to end, uphill.
The dog Zoö could not keep herself off of me, and licked away most of the sweat dripping off my arms, legs and forehead.
Running up and down those hills is quite a different story, when I have been so used to the Dutch flatlands where the only slight obstacles are occasional bridges over the canal.
Of course, the wind there in Holland is ten times worse, so perhaps both types of runs are in the end an equal match.
Turns out that it wasn't such a great idea bringing my fancy Palm T3 electronic agenda with me.
Something must have short-circuited or a misbehaved application caused me to do a hard reset. All of the data was erased in the process, thereby making that wonderful modern tool completely useless.
(Who needs modern technology during vacation anyway?)
Now I can have a fully fun and relaxing time without having constantly to consult all my important appointments, etc.
This morning in the Monterey Herald newspaper, an article appeared on a back page (B4) that hit me kind of hard. The title:
"Lifelong friends die together in Iraq"
They played together in childhood, wrestled together in high school and joined the Marines together after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (...)
My mother just happens to make the best French toast in the world.
Just because she is my mother, and the fact that I was raised on this fine cuisine, has nothing to do with my judgment on this matter (now does it).
Maybe the fact that she comes from France is a good reason for this, although after having spent most of her life here, she has developed a slightly Americanized, tempered and variegated version of this fine delicatessen.
Whatever, my breakfast this early Californian morning began with this nice treat.
Hopefully I will not get too fat these two weeks (don't want to be a part of more than half of those fellow Americans waddling and jiggling around me).
I had a fun, surprise birthday lunch with my old buddy Dave who I have known since I was six, way back in the Stockton days, nineteen sixty whatever.
Hey, that's forty years ago. For a few moments, I would be the same age as Dave. I was darn determined to be there and experience it with him for the first time since who knows when.
Alright, so what if it is a little cloudy one day. Everyone was so letdown and almost apologetic to me.
"Sorry, not very nice weather today, now is it."
The following news just came in. "Kerry concedes election victory to Bush."
That's too bad...
The Europeans will not be happy with that at all. Whose side are the Americans on nowadays anyway?
There's the president sitting comfortably in his big sofa chair, with a big fat smirk stretched across his face.
As proof of my visit to the Pacific coast, I had to take off my shoes, roll up my pant legs and run in the ocean water barefoot.
The water was cold, but not unbearably so. This was just enough to tickle my toes and make me aware that yes indeed I was where I thought I was.
Scraping all the sand from my feet and from between my toes helped some, but I could still feel the ocean on my feet for the rest of the day.
By the end of the day, they should know for sure who will be the next president of the United States. Will it be Kerry or will it be Bush? It will be a close call.
All there is now on the television is (you guessed it) voting, voting and more voting. Droves of people in Columbus, Ohio lining up to exercise their right to vote and thereby influence American policy one way or the other. The race is very close now, neck-to-neck, and because of the electoral system, the end result is pretty unpredictable.
One might think that sleeping away one's vacation is perhaps a big waste of time. However, last night's eleven hour slumber was a much needed recovery from an acute case of jetlag. The time difference between here and Gouda is nine-hours plus the one hour fall back into winter time.
After a long flight (actually not that bad, a direct flight of eleven hours or so), I made it back to good old California. Rented a car for two weeks and made it down to Monterey in no time.
Not much has changed, and it feels great being back in familiar territory. What a relief it is being able to speak only (American) English again -- and having everyone understand all of what I am saying.