Vivian and I just returned from a weekend trip to Vivian’s hometown of Petaluma, California. We headed back to attend her ten-year high school reunion, but while we were in northern California, we got to visit some of her family and old friends she had while growing up.
The weather was gorgeous when we arrived, going from cold and cloudy forty degrees in Nebraska to 80 degrees and sunny in San Francisco. It was lovely weather for a bus trip up across the golden gate bridge. When we arrived in Petaluma, Vivian took me around town to see her old house, her old school, and her old church. Casa Grande High School is an “outdoor school,” which turns out not to be quite as silly as I first imagined.
We did a lot of eating over the weekend, helped in part by the fact that everyone seems to have fruit trees in their backyard. We also got to go out for some genuine California pizza with Vivian’s “granny.” (Her mother’s teenage friend and maid of honor who helped keep tabs on Vivian and her brother Oliver when her parents weren’t around.) This included such ingredients as Italian Dry Salami, Linguisa sausage, and artichoke hearts.
We got to spend the weekend with some of Vivian’s close friends from Bible study, Meg and Bob, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of them except when turning in for the night and after we woke up in the morning. Meg was one of Vivian’s “second moms” from her old church, and Bob is her husband, who specializes in making stained glass Star Wars characters. He gave us a couple amazing R2D2s that I’m going to have to hang someplace special.
On Saturday, we met up with some more of Vivian’s bible study friends for lunch at her favorite old Mexican restaurant, La Azteca. That afternoon, we visited a few more bible study friends at their house and had a jam session. It was fun seeing Vivian getting guitar lessons from her old praise team leader, and her son played drums for them both as they jammed together.
The reunion itself was strangely uneventful. They had a wide selection of distinctly Californian foods: more Italian dry salami, artichoke hearts, and sourdough bread. I also got to try “polenta,” which is some kind of cornmeal cake. Vivian got to catch up with a number of her old friends, but there didn’t seem to be much going on with the hundred-or-so graduates who showed up other than seeing how many of them could squeeze into the bar next door and drink. As such, Vivian and I left early and went to have some pizza at Round Table, the Californian pizza joint that Vivian seems to like best.
On Sunday, we went to church with a bunch of Vivian’s old friends at New Life, a ten-year-old plant of PCC that started right about the same time Vivian left. After that, we headed up north to Rohnert Park to spend the afternoon with some of Vivian’s family: her Uncle Lewie, Aunt Sandra, and a couple cousins who happened to be in town. We had some lunch together, stuffing ourselves with Greek salad and roast chicken. We played some Balderdash after that and got to stuff ourselves further with some of granny’s apple cake and a lovely “wedding” cheesecake. Uncle Lewie got for us.
On the way back to Petaluma, we had to stop by G&G to do a little grocery shopping. I love food, and it’s amazing to see how different the selection is out in California. They had all sorts of fresh seafood at prices you’d never see in Nebraska and avocados for 59 cents each. Every store also seemed to have multiple aisles devoted entirely to wine, which only makes sense when you consider how many vineyards there are right around the corner. We also stopped by Pinky’s Pizza to get a small pizza to freeze for Vivian’s dad. That was his favorite pizza place.
Vivian and I spent our last day exploring the town, checking out the picturesque storefronts downtown that served as the movie backdrop for such films as Mumford and American Graffiti. They also filmed parts of Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders in Petaluma, a film known mostly for being lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I think I found the street where the shop was located, but can’t be sure until I watch the movie again.
We headed back into San Francisco via bus, seeing such sights as the exit to Skywalker Ranch. It’s apparently well-guarded, which would make it difficult to stop by and ask George Lucas what he was smoking when he made the Star Wars prequels. All things considered, it was a wonderful trip, and I’m glad that we got to miss out on the foggy, cold winter California weather Vivian kept warning me about. I only wish we’d had a little more time to spend exploring San Francisco. Maybe next year.