Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Few Days In and Around Palo Alto

Last week Nancy and I had the opportunity to spend a few days on a trip that combined work with vacation. After a case in which I had partnered successfully with the Juelsgaard IP Clinic at Stanford Law School to protect the identity of an anonymous Georgia resident who had posted a YouTube video about a series of abuses perpetrated by a prominent local dentist, I went out to talk in person with the students in the clinic.  While I was around campus, I did a more general talk at the law school about public interest lawyering and online free speech litigation, and presented a CLE course on online free speech litigation to the Bay Area chapter of the Reed alumni association, went into the city to talk about anonymous speech with the subpoena enforcement and safety teams at Twitter.  Beyond that, there was the chance to get together with friends and family, sample some excellent area cuisine, and get out onto the local hiking trails.

Stanford hosted us at the lovely Stanford Terrace Inn;  after dropping our bags, we headed our to look for lunch.  The eating choices within an easy walking distancer were not overwhelming; we settled on a pizza place called Pie-ology (apparently, this is a national chain, but I had never heard of it), which made “custom pizzas” – an unlimited choice of toppings and flavorings can be chosen, with a small choice of sauces, then placed on a thin round of dough which is baked in a very hot oven and ready to eat in about five minutes.  It was an interesting concept, and the toppings were a good assortment, but the dough itself baked so hard that it felt as if I were eating pizza on a matzoh.  The Palo Alto branch does not “yet” have a liquor  license.

We headed back to our motel to get a couple hours’ work in before we had to head off for my evening presentation.  The Inn was a motel with a pair of lushly planted courtyards

there were even plantings in the garage and the rooms; down at the garage level was an odd sitting area, which as roped off every time we passed by, with a player piano running continuously. 

Our room had a fridge and microwave, as well as a desktop computer – good thing, too, because on our first night there, we could not connect to the wi-fi network, and I really needed to grab some materials from work.  In the morning, there was a fine extended continental breakfast.  Even with the discount that I assume was accorded to Stanford, the cost placed this hotel somewhat higher in cost than we would ordinarily spend on accommodations; but it was a very nice place to stay when benefiting from our host’s generosity.

My talk that evening was at the home of Reed alum Steve Carlson, located high on a ridge in San Carlos.  From the street-side entrance, the house looked like an ordinary suburban dwelling; but from the backyard deck, what an amazing view over the ravine below, and toward San Francisco Bay in the distance. 

Steve has terraced his back yard,

filling it with plantings of citrus, herbs and various  oddities such as this Buddha’s hand plant

As I went to start my talk, I was abashed to learn that I had forgotten to bring my lecture notes, but then I was pleased to find that, having taught this CLE so many times before, I could do the talk without notes, just working from the outline in the printed CLE materials.  During my talk, we were treated to a selection of Steve’s homemade cheeses and sausages, as well as wines under his personal label, produced from  a vineyard in which he has an interest,; the event had been advertised as having “refreshments available, so I had assumed that we would be looking for dinner afterward but no, while I did my talk our host was running his outdoor rotisserie and grill, so that we had roasted chicken and grilled vegetables, accompanied by more of his wines, topped off with after-dinner liquor infusions that he had also concocted.  Happily, I was not too far gone to drive back to our hotel.

We rose early the following morning to drive into San Francisco, where I was scheduled to speak with a few or the lawyers, subpoena compliance and “safety” team members about the issues raised by online pseudonymity and the cases that I have been litigating on that issue.  Considering that we were heading into the city at the tail end of rush hour, I was surprised how little traffic there was until we got well inside the city and close to downtown.  Twitter is located on several floors of an old office or warehouse building.

Twitter’s location in downtown San Francisco reflects what I understand to be a larger trend of tech companies moving their facilities downtown – our host at the Wednesday talk mentioned that more and more of his clients are leaving Silicon Valley for the city.  

I confess I was annoyed at having to submit to the routine signing of a form non-disclosure agreement for the privilege of entering an office building where I had been invited to share my experiences and opinions; but I  decided to go through with it, in line with my commitment, and the discussion was worthwhile.  We got a nice short tour of some of the common areas in the company’s facilities before the meeting began.

Then we drove back to Palo Alto for my lunchtime talk at Stanford Law School; we especially liked this common area, far nicer than the “Green Lounge” at my own law school alma mater back in Chicago.

Then Nancy led me on a walking tour of the Stanford campus, where she had lived some forty-five years earlier before we knew each other.  There were bicycles everywhere; we noted this do-it-yourself bike repair shop available to the general public

We passed some of the newer buildings – we would have liked to get into the indoor meditation rooms at Windhover, but only a swipe card would have got us in

Instead, we spent most of our walk in and around the older buildings around the main quad,

as well as at Memorial Church,

where Nancy had a vivid memory of listening to a Bach mass played on the massive organ with fabulous soprano singer

That evening, my old friend Kathy drove down from San Francisco for dinner; we decided to go to Rangoon Ruby in downtown Palo Alto, which had been recommended by some of the law faculty with whom we had coffee after my talk.  Almost everything was delicious, beginning with the tea leaf and ginger salads; the salads were brought to the table on plates, with each of the ingredients separated into its own section; the servers made a show of mixing them together. Nancy didn’t care for the salads, because they were made with shredded romaine lettuce instead of the cabbage that we have always had before, but I thought it was an interesting variation that made the salads a bit lighter.  The salmon with pumpkin was also delicious; the one dish that wasn’t quite as good as the rest of the meal was a soup made of pureed catfish and — that sounded interesting in theory.  But the dessert was a fitting close to a nice meal – black sticky rice topped with sesame seeds and served with strawberries and a choice of ice creams (we chose mango). 

I was the only one of our party who admitted to wanting dessert, but it was a good thing I had asked for three spoons.

After a lazy Friday morning, we headed back to the Stanford campus for the main justification for my trip – a meeting with the current and former students in the IP clinic that had been my local counsel for the Psycho Dentist case.  We had a spirited two-hour discussion of the issues presented by that and similar cases – I had hoped to have time to have the students listen in on a call to opposing counsel for the next case on which I’ll be working with the clinic – an effort by an Australian investor to use questionable trademark claims to suppress a critical blog  – but sadly time ran out before we could get to that.

Then Nancy and I drove off for a driving tour of some of the cycling roads she had enjoyed while living in Palo Alto in the early 1970'a.  The drive took us through Portola Valley and up Old La Honda Road, a drive that culminated in one-lane roads and hairpin turns that took us by some very fancy houses as well as through thick redwood forests. 

As we drove past that redwood above right, these roots were right outside the driver-side window

The steep nature of the drive is well-expressed by the name of this road

We headed back to Palo Alto to spend Friday evening and Saturday with Nancy’s sister Jean and her husband Mike, who moved back to the United States after many years teaching abroad. We picked up some beer And takeout food at Whole Paycheck, but the majority sentiment was to set out for dinner so we walked a few blocks to Sancho’s Taqueria, where we enjoyed a simple and fairly inexpensive meal of tacos, burritos and, in my case, chipotle shrimp.  It was a bit noisy inside so we huddled  at an outside table up against the window of the joint as an overhang shielded us from the light, chilly rain.  We walked back to the house where we enjoyed a Whole Paycheck pie for dessert.

On Saturday morning, we drove off for a series of hikes – first, it was back up Old La Honda Road for a walk in the Thornewood Open Space Preserve — a one-mile climb along a rushing stream

through a forest of redwoods and other trees

There were many wildflowers in bloom along the trail

as well as these recognizable fauna

The trail topped off at slime-covered Schilling Lake

The trail swung a loop around the lake, then back toward the car on the other side of the ravine cut by that stream.  We followed the trail back down through the redwoods, but we should have taken this tree across the path as a signal that we had taken a wrong turn – there was a jumble of trees across the path

We passed stumps and fallen trees that made for nice photos

Then – another place where the path had been washed out by flooding.  We had no choice but to slide down the muddy bank and ford the stream

After our hike, we were pretty hungry, but we decided to drive to Pescadero to get lunch – we heard from one of the other hikers about an amazing bakery where we could get bread that was available fresh-baked all day, a new batch coming out every few hours.  We did not quite get the name, but happily we wandered into the right joint – the Arcangeli Grocery, where we picked up a fresh loaf of artichoke garlic bread, still warm from the oven, which we had for lunch along with a small package of goat cheese and sweet coppa.  There was a nice selection of cheeses and cold cuts, as well as bottled beers, and a very substantial collection of wines for such a small store. The prices were a tad high (many local products, I gather), but the quality was good.  The photo below, with the“half baked” slogan, refers to the fact that you can apparently buy the dough only partly baked, so that you can finish the baking at home and eat the bread fresh out of the oven. They also make up sandwiches, which is what Jean and Mike chose.  The themed shirt on the counter person shown below refers to the fact that although we picked up a “fully baked” loaf, the place also sells loaves half-baked, with the baking to be finished at home. 

The store had a sign urging shoppers to eat their meals at tables outside the store, so when we left we headed over to a large grassy area with several empty tables and surrounded by a fence which, we assumed, was the indicated eating area.  Turns out that we guessed wrong about where Arcangeli's tables were: after we had spread out and begun eating and drinking, a woman came charging out of the store at the other end of the field and informed us in an unpleasant voice that we were on “private property,” that we were consuming beer and wine which was not allowed, although she also said that if we paid her $20 we could stay.  Apparently, this picnic area was attached the “Pescadero Country Store” (which had a lovely mural above its front entrance
-- just a lack of character inside, apparently  We found our way to the right set of picnic tables and finished our meal in peace.

After lunch we headed toward the coast, where we walked in the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

The recent rain had left droplets on many of the plants

and we enjoyed the wildflowers

Finally, we drove along the coast road, pausing at Cowell Ranch Beach for a stroll along the beach.  It was about a half mile from the parking lot to the cliffs overlooking the beach; we spotted a couple of red-winged blackbirds along the way along with wildflowers including the vetch shows below.

 At cliff-side, there was an area closed to the public to the left, supposedly to protect seals from the public, although we could not spot any seals down there; on the right, a set of steps led down to a largely deserted beach

Finally, we headed back to Palo Alto for our final meal of the vacation.  We had reservations at Tamarine, a French-Vietnamese restaurant that had been highly recommended by friends on the Stanford Law faculty.  The place was popular – with an early flight the following morning we would have preferred an earlier reservation, but 8:30 was the earliest we could get, even making reservations the day before!.  But it was very worthwhile – we had a selection of appetizers (including the Bahn Mi Roti and an appetizer platter called Tamarine Taste; the orange fennel salad; the lemongrass sea bass and the five spice braised pork.  Only the latter dish was a bit of a disappointment, as I found the meat a tad dry).  Rice is ordered separately and we all enjoyed the empress rice, a sticky rice served with spices and with a poached egg stirred in at the last minute. We split a pavlova for dessert, and it too did not disappoint!

Early Sunday morning, we drove back to the airport to drop off our car.  I had been a tad concerned when we first picked up our car from Super Cheap Car Rental  – the price was quite a bit lower than the competition but I had not focused on the fact that, as a two-person operation, the place was closed all day Sunday!  But the taxicab company that the proprietor recommended came to pick us up without a hitch, and we were on our way back to DC.  If only I had known that this flight comes into DCA from the north -- we were seated by the window, but on the right side of the plane, so we missed the grand tour of the monuments that one sees through the left-hand plane windows when making this landing route.  We had to settle for this view of Great Falls....

1 comment:

  1. Wow, your trip to Palo Alto seems so adorable. The photos you have shared here are so adorable. We too visited Palo Alto in last year. We had attended destination engagement party at lofty spaces over there. Truly, that trip was just amazing.