Ruminations From the Western Slope

Ruminations From the Western Slope
Colorado River near Moab, Utah

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Los Altos Lost

Here I sit on a Sunday morning whilst the girls are at church, having just watered the garden and eaten a few ripe tomatoes off the vine.  In two weeks, I'll be sitting on a bus bound for the Badlands, leading a tour of the Northern Rockies but looking toward the west.  

Been thinking about Los Altos a lot lately and the old bay area days.  I've said it before but I am so grateful that my parents decided to move down that way in the mid-50s.  Had I grown up in San Francisco, I'd be an entirely different person now, though who knows if better or worse. Would growing up in an urban environment have made me more competitive?  In the predator/prey relationship of young boys, would I have been the prey?  Or would I have been a hustler?

Just got lucky, I guess.  I look back an amazing 50 years now, and I remember the summer of 1963 hanging out with friends, walking the railroad tracks just outside of town.....the old Vasona line…feeling like a mid-century modern Tom Sawyer. There was the intimacy of the small town, the proximity of open space, the golden humming hillsides. 
I had my first girlfriend too....a sophomore named Marilyn who lived in a big, sprawling house up in the Los Altos Hills.  Her family owned five cars, swimming pool.  She was way out of my league and I think she knew that.  We were a hot item for a few months, but she broke up with me that summer.  I was devastated, of course, as only a lonely teenager can be.  But I had my friends, and a warm summer of apricot wind, and that intangible feeling of the world opening up to me.   
 It was a sad day when the railroad tracks were torn out to make way for the Foothill Expressway, when the last fruit orchard was removed to make way for subdivisions, when Hal’s Record Den moved from Main Street to the new super-mall on the El Camino Real.  It didn’t all happen overnight but the changes came soon enough.

But 1963 was a year unto itself.  As my late friend Jim said about it
“the last great expression, for us, of innocence and childhood."   Most of that changed too in the fall when JFK was assassinated, and our world went south.

Little Los Altos, tucked away from the world for so many years, was my isolated Eden, my salvation from a bigger reality and now, half a century later, a still warm village of memory.