Sunday, September 21, 2008


From 1976-1980 I lived in the city of Palo Alto, which entitled me to use Foothills Park. Although Page Mill Road was "the steepest road in the county" according to a college friend, the part below Foothills Park was not that bad. Today, for the first time in at least 28 years, I rode my bike up the hill and into the park.

Well, almost. The ranger explained to me that our friends, who do live in Palo alto and had invited us to a picnic, had to physically accompany me through the entrance. In a few minutes, Kyoko-san appeared, and I was in! I rode over to the picnic area and was greeted enthusiastically by her husband Takeshi, Nozomi and her husband Tomokazu, Akiko and her husband Hisanori. (I think.)

After a while, the lovely Carol appeared with our friend Sherri. After hearing that I had come in on bicycle and had been met, etc., the ranger just waved her through.

These are some of the nicest folks you could hope to meet. They prepared a fabulous repast. The lovely Carol is describing it (she's typing even as I am) on her blog. But what I want to write about today is a few happy memories triggered by all this.

First, there was the feeling of riding my bicycle up Page Mill Road. Certain stretches look different than they did three decades ago. That house on the left, I think before you reach Matadero Creek, wasn't there -- or maybe it was the fence that wasn't there. It used to be just a flat spot -- maybe too many teen-agers parked there drinking or necking?

Then, passing that sign that said "Altamont" -- Altamont Hills, Altamont Lane, whatever it was -- which meant I was within a half-mile of the entrance! Then coming upon that sign "City of Palo Alto Forested Lands." Since at this point the road was still in Los Altos Hills, that was a sure sign (sic) that I was on the border of Foothills Park. And that approach to the entrance, where the fence uphill on the right-hand side slopes down to meet the rising road, just at the entrance gate. Not the Pearly Gates to be sure, but the entry to Foothills Park really is an entrance to a forbidden (to most of us) paradise. I mean it is gorgeous.

Enjoying a meal with these gracious and generous people of course brought back memories of our life in Japan, especially when they asked us about where exactly we had lived and traveled. And all that reminded me of when the kids were little.

Another memory: I think we had already returned to California, but the thing I remember was the elder teen, then about ten years old, climbing (or jumping) onto my back and announcing gleefully: 「運んでもらう!」 This is not correct Japanese, because we 「運ぶ」things, not people. But it was obviously a happy memory for me, even if I can't remember exactly where or when it happened.

About the title

懐かしい (pronounced "naht-soo-kah-sheee"--add as many "e"s as you like) is what Japanese people say when they have just experienced something that reminds them of some treasured experience from the past. It is a sort of expression of nostalgia, and does not translate well into English. I mean "Wow, this really makes me feel nostalgic!!" approximates it, but sounds stilted and unnatural, whereas "懐かしい!" is, well, it's what people say.

No, I'm not Japanese, but living in Japan taught us some phrases that just don't translate.

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