Digitize This, by Marlene Bruce



Visiting Rash in California

January 26, 2001 (Friday)

I arrived in San Jose via Southwest Airlines (my first flight with them, not as odd as I'd heard1, and certainly inexpensive). Rash met me at the curb in his aging Tercel. Riding around with Rash has always been fun; he can be impulsive, but hyper-alert all the same. It's not unlike riding a roller-coaster (and I mean that in the best sense). I miss the black bug!

My expectations of Silicon Valley were met: it's a place where a lot of people work. It seems generally flat, with mountains rising in the distance. The first obvious differences from the DC area were the building materials—not much brick to be seen in this earthquake-prone region—as well as the unusual and sometimes surreal foliage. The light seemed a bit different too, especially once we arrived in San Francisco (day two). Though it was monsoon season, I was fortunate to be treated with blue skies almost the entire time.

We drove to Mountain View via, among other routes, El Camino Real. "Wow," I thought, "sounds so ... California." As we went along I mentioned that New Mexico was my favorite state. When Rash remarked, "Move there! Live your dream," I found myself saying that while I love NM for its beauty, I'm not sure I would like its culture. What a revelation to hear myself say such a thing ... I think the variety and stimulation of big city life has really captured my imagination (if you can call DC a big city, seems more like a "big town" after visiting L.A. and New York, both of which are supposedly small compared to Hong Kong).

We arrived at Rash's apartment (or hovel as he calls it), ditched my bags and relaxed for a bit. Soon our stomachs were grumbling, so we headed out to get some grub, stopping first at Nijiya Market (a Japanese grocery) where I picked up some instant miso with real paste, and a jar of nori (roasted seaweed) for my cooking needs.

We both love sushi, so Rash had planned dinner at Sushi Maru, a "sushi boat" restaurant. Why don't we have these on the East Coast?! They're apparently prevalent in Northern CA. Sushi Maru is set up with a large oval bar in the center, within which the chefs prepare tasty sushi to be placed on little rectangular plates. Around the oval was a moat on which floated numerous little bamboo boats. The plates would be placed in any empty spot (the boats held three in all), and would travel around the moat continuously. We sat at the counter, snatching plates when something appealing floated past (it was ultra-yummy, and quite attractive). The sushi would be consumed and the plates stacked. When we finished, the waitperson counted the plates (they were color-coded for pricing) and gave us the total.

After dinner we meandered back to the car, passing a Thai restaurant on the way. Rash had read somewhere that one way to judge the authenticity of a Thai place was by the size of the King's portrait, and its accompanying shrine. Hmm...

Living Japanese Style
Also during this first outing we stopped at the local Andronico's market to buy snacks for home and the road. The market is rather like a grander Trader Joe's or Fresh Fields with the same specialty flavor, plus the addition of some more mainstream items. Seems these CA-based grocers have the right idea. Though I'd heard it said, I'd not previously appreciated the fact that CA is several years ahead of things.

Traveling opens ones eyes.

Back at the apartment I came across a little book called Salaryman in Japan, published by the Japanese Travel Bureau. Rash has a collection of books in this series, and he sent me home with Living Japanese Style. These are great little volumes, profusely illustrated and containing straightforward explanations of people, customs, words, and other things Japanese. Rash also shared selections of his postcard collection—images of Japanese woodblock prints by the likes of Hiroshige2, Hokusai and others. It was fun combing through a book on Japanese prints and more recent photography to see how the two related.

As I sat there reading, I could hear a train in the distance. Reminded me of my years in Hyattsville. It's a sound I miss.

I gave Rash his first birthday present (I'd brought three) ... a key chain depicting the Belgian character Tin Tin in the space-suit from On a marché sur la Lune (Explorers on the Moon).

[Proceed to Day Two, Part A >]
[Days: One, Two A and B, Three A and B, Four]

1 - My friend Bob once shared with me this account about a guy who was waiting to get on a Southwest flight: "He was wearing flip-flops made of cardboard and duct tape, either a sheet or some kind of bath-robe (but nothing else, afaik) and his hair was done in a top-knot (some kind of half-assed sumo look on a skinny guy). The dude was weird. I was certain that he'd not only be on the same flight as I was, but that he'd most likely sit next to me. Such is my luck on airplanes. I hate Southwest."

2 - Read about Hiroshige and view more of his prints.

Credits: All images on this page are from scanned book covers or postcards.