Do you know the way to San Jose? A great song from the 60s, but do you know the way? My brother Arch and I do. It is almost the anniversary of our trip and an interesting story.
We flew into San Jose and rented a car to get to the Veteran’s Hospital near Stanford University. The actual town is called Palo Alto. Arch needed some treatment for possible throat cancer and the VA has the very best treatment for such cancers. I am the oldest in our family and having a little brother, even one who has served for 20 years in the Army, is a good reason for a trip. Plus, the fact Arch and I read the same books and watch the same TV and movies makes it easy for us to travel together.
We landed, and my brother reached up for my case in the overhead bin and someone stole the Kindle out of Arch’s open carry-on luggage. Great beginning right? We noticed when we got to the large baggage pick-up. It was an easy drive to get to the hospital following the highway signs. At no cost they put us up in rooms that had been military barracks. They were clean and functional, if a bit sparse of décor. We had come a few days early to get the lay of the land.
The first night we ate fish in a good-looking place that had a lot of ocean photos on the walls. You should be able to get good fish when they have the Pacific Ocean right there. The next day we went in search of a Mexican restaurant for a huevos rancheros breakfast, or at the very least, a breakfast burrito. Well, you might have read somewhere that the Spanish settled California, but the movie people have overstated it. Zorro was nowhere in sight, and when Arch asked for chorizo and eggs with red, the waiter just looked puzzled. I ordered a burrito with green and he acted as if we had lost our minds. First of all, Arch pronounced chorizo properly and asked if he could have a white flour tortilla with his eggs. Not so fast, amigo. There was not red or green and no tortillas.
“Where are you guys from?” was the waiter’s question.
“New Mexico,” was our reply.
“Maybe I can hook you up with a piece of white bread, sourdough, of course.”
“Ok, we’ll take it.”
When the bill got there, I thought I’d have to hock my wedding rings. Arch was a good sport and paid.
We had time and decided to tour that part of California, and the town was lovely. It looked a lot like New Mexico. The area was really dry, and it did not rain while we were there. We knew we were on a street called Camino but surprise, Palo Alto feels street signs are unfriendly. At least that is the reason they gave us when we got lost and ended up at the UPS store. I left Arch in the car and went in to ask for directions. We needed to replace his Kindle. A young miss, very well turned out, explained the sign problem.
I asked if she could tell me how to get to a Walmart. She sniffed and told me she had spotted that we were from out of town, and Palo Alto did not have a Walmart. According to her I was not dressed well enough for Palo Alto. There was a Walmart in the next town. Her manager came up from the back and caught the discussion. She apologized to me and gave me directions.
We also needed a Walmart because, while the accommodations were fine, tidy and proper, they had one flat pillow and a hand towel to use in the shower. I proposed we buy pillows and towels and donate them to the military. We finally found a Walmart, the universal equalizer. Two Japanese gentlemen were sitting out in front of the store. They were speaking both Japanese and Spanish to each other. The lady clerk was quite helpful and spoke mostly Russian. “Dasvedanya, Baby.” The only Russian I know. I felt like I had drifted into the Twilight Zone.
The next day Arch went into the hospital for a pre-check. He was wearing a Los Lunas Tigers’ shirt since he taught at Los Lunas High and had since his retirement from the Army. A patient came up to him and said, “Why are you wearing a tiger? The Detroit baseball team is playing the Giants, and this is California. We need to be rooting for the Giants.” The man was large. Arch said that the shirt was for Los Lunas High and the man replied, “I never heard of no Los Lunas.” I hid in the bathroom.
The hospital was wonderful and the staff excellent. My brother has been free of the crud since they operated on him. Yeah! Oh, did I mention Mad Murdock, a look alike from the A-Team was there. He was at the front door of the hospital each morning, 8 to 5. I believe he was a patient and a very kind man. He asked me to marry him five times. He was polite and quite sincere. When he went down on one knee, it was hard to turn him down. I told him if it didn’t work out with Bill, I would call him. At home Bill did not laugh at this story. Fuddy Duddy!
Arch was recovering and he could have coffee. I went to get him some, however, the McDonald’s was not open on Sunday morning; the staff needed to go for a run first. I know this because the note on the door said so.
Arch got dressed and had me drive us to the airport. They had coffee there. I wanted to go to San Francisco and wear flowers in my hair. Arch said, “No. There are witches there. I saw them on ‘Charmed’ on TV.” That may have been the drugs after surgery. We sat at the airport for eight hours and made it home just fine. We were glad to be home in New Mexico where red and green is not just a stoplight. We do know the way to San Jose! Roaring Mouse, saluting veterans’ hospitals, out.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]