May 9th, 2010


Training Day

I really ought to steal kevin_standlee's icon for these posts. This morning I took the Coast Starlight #11 from San Jose to San Luis Obispo for my National Train Day trip. It was a fairly boring ride, but I had my iPhone stocked with music, and that helped. Except during a shuffle fail which went like this:
Lea Salonga singing I Think of You in English
Tata Young singing I Think of You in English
Lea Salonga singing I Think of You in Tagalog
Tata Young singing I Think of You in Thai
Tata Young singing I Think of You in Japanese
Also on there was Lea's rendition of Imagine, which woke me up a little. I don't think I ever had listened to the words before. I always turned my brain off during the first few lines, mostly because I know there is no heaven or hell, so there's nothing to imagine. Turns out  agree with the whole song, and it is very sci-fi in a way.

There was nothing at the SJC terminal for NTD, just a poster in the corner. With all the train fans in the area, you would think the station master would have done something. There are only 2 stops between SJC and SLO - Salinas and Pasa Robles. It seemed like we were going very slowly most of the trip, but we were 20 minutes early into SLO. Crew change made them 15 minutes late leaving.

But being early was excellent, because the main reason I chose SLO instead of a repeat trip to Santa Barbara is because of the very talented jazz band that played there last year, and the web site said would be there again this year. And it was. I stayed for their whole set & bought both their CDs. They are called Redskunk Jipzee Swing Band or Redskunk for short. Last year they had a tuba player and maybe a clarinet, this year it was acoustic bass and violin. Molly Reeves is a redhead with electric blue eyes, does vocals and plays one of those slick silver guitars which looks like it has some banjo DNA. She leads the group, but trumpeter Justin Au takes charge as soon as he starts playing. Justin does some improvs which made me LOL, and they all are having fun playing. There was a large audience which stuck around through as much of the set as the train schedule allowed. Their drummer was not there, an older woman (older than the others in the band, who are all high school or college age) was there with a washboard and black aluminum-tipped gloves which made her hands look like King Kong's manicurist did her nails. She had a mini cymbal on the washboard as well. The violinist is the incredibly cute Pamela Sheffler. Guitarist Sam Boorman did things with his fingers which I had not seen since bluesmancd, ands it's a shame he wasn't amped. The bass player was okay too, but also needed an amp. I'll have photos and maybe a video up tomorrow night or Monday.

After the concert I went into the station, picked up some Amtrak swag and watched the kids watch the model trains. Also pulled out the paper with the hotel address, punched it into the iPhone's map and saw that it was a simple 1-mile walk down Santa Rosa street with a right at Monterey. Turned out to be two miles. And I could have taken the downtown trolley for the second mile. I needed the exercise. :-(

Checked into the hotel, which is really a painted and slightly renovated no-tell motel, got settled in, got the password for internet access and checked email, then went out for a walk up the hill past the motel, thinking CalTech was up there somewhere. It did not seem to be. Maybe tomorrow I'll take the bus from downtown, if it's running. Turns out the upper part of Monterey is hotel row, most of the places to eat are downhill. I stopped at a chocolate shop and got chocolate and change, then took the trolley (25 cents) downtown and walked around a lot. It's a big downtown for a college town, lots of places to eat. Downtown SLO smells like its official dish: Pizza. I looked some restaurants up on Where, but all the higher rated ones seemed to be darkened bars which just happened to serve food. I found a Thai place which looked great (even the take-out menu had the items in Thai and English) but it is very small and was packed, with a line out the door.

Back near the hotel, I took a pass at Splash Cafe, which had good reviews, but there was nowhere to sit and it was getting chilly so I went to the hotel room, dumped my knapsack and camera, put on my jacket and instead went to Frank's, and ordered two franks. They were not very high quality, but the service was wonderful. The chocolate shake was very chocolaty.

Back to the hotel, put the iPhone on the charger, and the netbook too. For my first Mother's Day weekend without Mom, I decided it would be good to play a song which reminded me of her, and which she would have liked, For Good from Wicked. I don't think Mom ever heard of the musical, she hadn't paid attention to new shows in years. The line I like most, which is the one which reminds me of Mom is :
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart

and also (slightly abridged):

I do believe I have been
Changed for the better
And because I knew you
I have been changed for good.

So I went onto YouTube and found some versions with the OBC Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, and also one at Pier 39 with the pair who sung it in the San Francisco cast which I saw, Teal Wicks and Kendra Kassebaum. And there was also a Lea Salonga/Jennifer Paz version but by then I was all Gooded out.

Plans for tomorrow:
Breakfast will be a chowder from the Splash Cafe. If there are seats I'll eat it there otherwise bring it to the room, which has a microwave.
Check out by 11
Trolley downtown, bus loop to CalTech and back. Lunch in there somewhere.
Amtrak by 3 pm, train leaves at 3:45 if it's on time.