The Place Where Grunge Never Left

As you drive further north, the 101 freeway turns into a main street as it passes through the towns on route, and for whatever reason, economic, social, or otherwise, it gives me a chance to notice how Northern California remains in a sort of place of its own time and place, an odd confluence of the hippies who migrated there in droves after the Summer of Love, with the lumberjacks and hunters who took advantage of the ubiquitous redwood forest and ocean. Garishly psychedelicly painted houses, VW busses, and businesses abut bait-and-tackle stores and massive trucks, and in every little burg, you can get yourself an ugly carved redwood statue, which is the northern California equivalent of the velvet painting, except it can also grow moss if you leave it out in the rain.

The confluence takes on weird forms, a good one being microbreweries, a bad one being the wicker motorcycle we spotted in Eureka. One of the forms that briefly expanded worldwide was grunge. I thought grunge had left this world for good sometime in the mid-90s, but it lives on forever in the great northwest. As we were slowing down as 101 slowed into Willits, I saw a young man walking up a hill wearing a skirt. Outside of Celtic festivals, I hadn’t seen such a thing since the 90s, when some grunge rock stars had worn skirts, and it had kicked off a short-lived trend for male fashion victims. But here, in Willits, the fashion had apparently never died. In confirmation of this, I spotted another man in a skirt, in the same town. Oh, and flannel shirts? Yup, still being worn in Willits.

I thought it might be a small-town quirk: maybe the men in Willits had bought into the 90s fashions hard, and since then had never had enough spare money to buy themselves pants or decent shirts, but I was wrong. Days later, when I was browsing in Powell’s bookstore in Portland, I came upon another man wearing a kilt. Close up, I could see its appeal. It really looked more like Roman uniform wear than a dress, and paired with the right kind of boots, it lets you trek through the boggy fields without having to worry about soggy trouser bottoms. And I guess the flannel’s handy when you’re clear-cutting forests, or steering your fishing boat away from the rocky coast, I guess.

But it’s still a very regional fashion, one that I had relegated to a lost long-ago time, so I was pretty amused to still see it live and well in the Pacific Northwest.


Last evening, just after we’d put the kids to bed, we had an earthquake that rattled the house, had us all running outside, and trembling. Peter was surprised it scared me more than the now-legendary Loma Prieta earthquake, which was technically bigger, and I was surprised when I checked the USGS Quake info site (the only timely newssource on earthquakes) that it was only a 5.6. It had been shaking so bad that Neil almost fell down the stairs on the way out and Kelly was screaming at the “bad giant” who was shaking our house.

Our personal surprises were answered by the fact that distance and location, two things about earthquakes people who don’t live in earthquake zones don’t seem to understand, have everything to do with how a quake affects you. An earthquake is like a pebble thrown into a pond: the vibrations ripple out in concentric circles, weakening in distance. Yesterday’s quake was on the Calaveras fault, only 8 miles from our home. In comparison, Peter and I were, respectively, about 50 and 70 miles away from the epicenter of the 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake. Furthermore, I was on a bus at the time, and I thought the bouncing of the bus was just bad driving, making me probably the only person in the Bay Area who was surprised to find out I’d just experienced the biggest Bay Area earthquake in over 80 years. In contrast, last night I was in my house. Like most California houses of its era, its foundation has springs in it, so it will bounce instead of break in an earthquake. It’s safer, but it’s not psychologically easy to find yourself in a jiggling house when an earthquake strikes.

I also hesitated to post this because people who don’t know earthquakes are disproportionately freaked by them. I was working in San Francisco at the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake (for a property management company, and in an old brick building that was quickly condemned because of structural damage) but it was nowhere near as bad as people imagined. Largely due to modern construction, all the buildings in San Francisco remained standing and everyone in them got out safely. Some, with poor or aged foundations or instable ground (like in the Marina) were condemned later, but that’s as far as that went. One brick building lost some bricks which struck and killed two computer journalists, and a double-decker freeway which I already hated because you could feel it was lumpy and damaged while driving on it collapsed and crushed the people on the bottom layer. And a piece of the Bay Bridge fell out, which meant East Bay commuters had to cram onto BART cars or ferries for a while.

All in all, 63 people died. I think more people than that die in car accidents every day. But my friends were all convinced San Francisco was a heap of rubble, because the only thing they saw on TV were the most dramatic pictures. It was even more ridiculous when the Northridge earthquake hit in 1994, and people were calling me. That was 500 miles away: it would have had to have been a 9 for me to even get jiggled a little.

But I still miss my nonchalance of that time. Last night, I found myself fretting that the earthquake we had wasn’t the big one it turned out to be, but merely the foreshock to an even bigger one (as is sometimes, rarely, the case.) It wasn’t, but we had a 2.8 aftershock at 3 am that woke me up and had me running over to Kelly’s room. Everyone else slept through it.


Both Peter and I are enjoying the new science-fiction TV show, Journeyman, in which a journalist gets unexpectedly transported back in time to change lives in one way or another. Understandably for us, one of the things we really enjoy is that the show is set in San Francisco, and it explicitly shows the locations. We’re almost in a competition of “name that neighborhood/location!” especially since the show doesn’t dumb things down by explicitly mentioning them. For instance, when his wife was having a fundraiser at “the museum,” I took great pride in being able to recognize the museum in question (by its stairs and entrance alone) as the Asian Art Museum.

But it also gets a few things wrong, which makes us laugh. For instance, in the first episode, the hero, Dan, wakes up among homeless people in a park with the Golden Gate Bridge visible in the background. When he asks where he is, he’s told “Golden Gate Park.” Uh, no. The only park from which you would be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge like that is the Presidio. Dan’s office is obviously in the San Francisco Examiner building, but for some reason, they have to call it the San Francisco Register, even though it has exactly the same font. And the San Francisco police, which includes his brother, always seem to be chasing after him, or at least, concerned, about some questionable thing he’s done in the process of time-travelling. Are you kidding? The San Francisco police we know deliberately don’t notice anything, and if they did, they’d never do anything about it: certainly not chase after a suspect, or come around asking questions.

Peter and I are also puzzled about Dan’s relationship with his wife about this time-traveling thing. She’s genuinely vexed by it, and really bugged that he keeps running into his ex-girlfriend. Honey, what part of “ex” do you not understand? On the other hand, time travel, now that’s cool. If Peter or I were time-traveling like Dan, we’d never shut up about it to each other. And we’d quickly find a way to use it for our own satisfaction. I’d call up now-dead friends and remind them I love them. Instead of worrying about finding old currency, like Dan does, we’d just dig around for an expired ATM card or credit card to take with us. And Peter swears, the first thing he’d do, is go to newsstands, and snatch up comic books that are now valuable. Either one of us would find a way to place our investments at the time into Yahoo, Google, or Amazon. Oh, and the concerts we missed, the events we wanted to see, the people we should have met when we had a chance: no more! Heck, we could probably get a pretty good sideline business going taking requests from people who wanted to correct a mistake in the past. When I go back to 1991, want me to give you a call, and tell you you need to ask the girl to marry you, now? Give me $100, and it’s done.

Sure, it might get in the way of our mission, whatever that is, but who cares, not when I could be seeing the Sex Pistols’ last concert at Winterland; seeing the first Macworld show; or telling myself to do or not do anyone of a number of things that would improve my personal history. But then, maybe that’s why someone conscientious like “Dan” would get picked to be a time-traveller, instead of either one of us.

Buying a New Car

It’s been nearly 10 years since Peter and I bought a car. He and I come from two different classes of people. I come from the debt-averse group that scrapes together some money and buys whatever can be had for that: which usually means a used car. Peter comes from the class that buys a new car, even if a loan is required to get one. You have to replace a used car more often than a new one, obviously, so I think either group, if you don’t feel the need to be flashy, comes ahead the same. But obviously, we had to buy a car for Peter, and we decided to combine our philosophies and get a new car we could buy without having to go into debt.

Peter wanted a hatchback, since he still occasionally wants to lug big things without having to rent a van. He also wanted something fuel-efficient, but not as trendy (and thus overpriced) as a hybrid. We have a row of car dealerships very close to our house, so when I brought Peter home from his car accident, he asked me to take him to the Mazda dealership. They had a car which looked exactly like his old car, except it had a funky gear switch, kind of like the one on a manual car. Why would we want to drive as if we had a manual transmission, if we were getting an automatic? It seemed like shoulder pads or a toupee: neither of which is as attractive as what it seeks to replace. At the VW dealership next door, they also had a car exactly like Peter’s old car, though with a new name, no new features, and almost double the price he paid originally.

When I picked him up on Thursday night, we gave it another go. I took Peter to the Honda dealership, where they first ignored him and then told him the model he wanted wasn’t available. As an aside, what is it with Honda? This sort of treatment is why I bought Toyota instead of Honda in the first place. Is it the cheap (well not so cheap), reliable, geekmobile for the geeks who feel no one is good enough for them except the ones who reject them? I don’t understand “overbooked” hair-stylists, snobby restauranteurs, or the like: either you want my money, or you don’t, and if you don’t, there are plenty of qualified competitors who will take it. Obviously, Honda was a waste of our time (and in their opinion, theirs) and we found the opposite at Ford. An eager salesman tried to show us a Ford Focus: but they’d all been moved to East San Jose for a special “tent sale.” Besides, the Ford Focus hit the “station wagon” vibe too much for Peter, and even though it had an awesome price, and I think station wagons are surfer cars, Peter didn’t want what he perceived as a fogey-mobile. Unfortunately for him, the salesman took us on a ride in a Chrysler PT Cruiser. It didn’t have the negatives we’d heard about it; it was a hatchback; and unlike any of the other cars we’d seen, it had a sense of style.

The only PT Cruiser the Ford salesman could sell us was a used model, but we knew there’d be more, and new ones, at the Chrysler dealership across the street. I’d never thought about buying a Chrysler, so I’d never thought I’d find out why that dealership had a horse and buggy on its roof. As I found out, as Peter was reviewing a PT Cruiser with a salesman, this dealership is so old it originally sold horse carriages–and in time, evolved to sell cars. The showroom floor was a little car museum, with samples of cars they’d sold back to 1915.

And in this day of the internet, buying a car is a lot less annoying than it used to be. Peter put in a request for quotes on a basic PT Cruiser through Yahoo Cars. The dealership near us came in quickest and with the lowest price–unfortunately, the only colors they had available were black or silver, which was just ok in Peter’s book. Dealerships in Watsonville and Fremont had PT Cruisers in blue, though they wanted a little bit more. The Labor Day weekend, with its “get your old inventory off the lot at any price” promotion may have worked in our favor, but it also worked against our local dealer. Normally, they’d be able to exchange cars but not on this weekend. An hour later, Peter got word from the dealership in Fremont that they’d be willing to sell their blue PT Cruiser for just $80 more than the price the San Jose dealership was offering. And in fact, every dealership responded fairly quickly and with prices we considered excellent, compared to the Consumer Reports information we’d pulled.

So, this morning, we set out to buy it. Peter pulled $9,000 in actual cash from the bank–we could have pulled more, but I have some hang-up about required reporting to the IRS. There was no haggling, no hassle, though we still had to sit around in the dealership for hours. The good news is, each and every dealership had a play area for children (which has never previously been a consideration), and many of them have free popcorn, balloons, and even bounce houses. This one had popcorn as well as the childrens’ play area. It also had cheap diet Coke for me and Peter, which just made me think we should hang around car dealerships more often. I paid the balance on my credit card, which also gets me some gift certificates to spend on more books on Amazon.

Finally, Peter drove off with Neil in his new PT Cruiser. It’s still not the car I envision taking a cross-country trip in, as we hope to eventually do, but Peter mostly needs it to get to work and back. And having a car you feel good in to do that is worth the price we paid.

Our Memorial Day Parade

One of our favorite neighborhood traditions is the annual Memorial Day parade. It begins just half a block from our house, on the street just behind the nearby elementary school and winds for about a mile past our local playground and to another elementary school. Children from both schools comprise a choir that sings patriotic songs at the festival after the parade, and the ROTC, marching band, and performing arts groups from our local middle schools and high schools participate as well. I’ve blogged about it before, with comprehensive pictures, so I’m just inserting some highlights from this year’s event.

As usual, our children participated in the parade. Kelly outgrew her Wonder Woman outfit, but we still managed to outfit her in red, white and blue, and put an American flag on her tricycle:


Neil marched with the boy scouts. You can find him here as the boy with the glasses just behind the non-uniformed parents:


One of the neat things about the parade is seeing your neighbors and friends participating. One of the moms I used to hang out with before Neil went to school is choir director of the elementary schools’ choir, and walked alongside the float with the children in it. Our childrens’ favorite baby sitter was in a dance troupe that performed along the route, and later at the festival. And a former teacher from Neil’s school always decks herself and her daughter up in red, white and blue glittery strands.

Naturally, we had the San Jose mounted police and the fire department participating:


We had a few new additions to our usual set of marching bands, people in uniform, dancers and clowns. Sharkie, the mascot from our local sports team, the San Jose Sharks, joined us on a Segway:


And the line of classic cars included one with beauty queens:


The festival opened with a speech about the origins, history and significance of Memorial Day by an Air Force Chief Master Sargeant, followed by the ROTC color guard presenting (and later, retiring) the flag and a program of patriotic music. Neil’s cub scout troop won the costume award for “most original.” I think the organizers wanted to give them some ribbon, but most patriotic and cutest were already taken. During the entertainment portion, I was surprised how good the Oak Grove High School jazz band was. Kelly and Neil played on the playground, and with his friends, respectively, until about 2, when we went home to splash in the pool.

The Stanford Powwow

I took Kelly to the native American powwow held annually on the Stanford campus. I always feel awkward going to a powwow, because it is a very native American event, and I have no grounding whatsoever in native American culture. On occassions I encounter natives in my regular setting who are constantly saying “sorry”; I feel exactly the same as those out-of-place natives when I go to their powwow because I know I’m always making cultural mistakes. For instance, I got an inkling that digging in my backpack for a few last sweaty grimy bills and some random change is far more acceptable than handing over a credit card and asking an Indian vendor to charge it, even if they accept credit cards. And when I was looking for a specific vendor, my questions as to his whereabouts (like most questions I ever had) were answered with “I don’t know” until a native woman took pity on me and gently told me “take time and look around” which is, well, the native American answer to a lot of questions. And I have to admit, it did eventually get me to the right place.

My nervousness wasn’t aided by the thundery sound of the singing for the gourd dance. Last time I went to the powwow, I watched the gourd dance and found it mind-numbingly boring. It was like going to a church service for an unfamiliar religion in an even more unfamiliar language. As best as I can remember from the announcer’s introduction, it’s a memorial dance honoring fallen Indian soldiers. It goes on and on, and it’s quite a serious thing: men perform the dance, but women on the sidelines will get up and dance along, and taking pictures is forbidden. It honors all fallen soldiers from the beginning of time to contemporary conflicts, though at the end, the announcer specifically mentioned General Custer. I have the impression he’s kind of a cross between Hitler and Osama bin Laden in native American culture.

Of all the ethnic groups in the U.S., the natives have the most legitimate grievances, but they’re also not from a particularly whiny culture. I only heard about the urban relocation of Californian Indians when I was asking about native poverty at the TANF booth. I had no idea who Leonard Peltier was until I saw a booth for him at the powwow:


Mostly, the natives focus on being proud of their culture and remembering their history, and tend to have rather a tongue-in-cheek viewpoint. The last time I was there “Native Pride” shirts and caps were popular, and they’re still a mainstay, but this was the hot design:


It says “Homeland Security: Defending our land since 1492.”

After the gourd dance, it was time for the fancy dancer competition. I have the impression that while the gourd dance was religious, the fancy dancing is more of an athletic event. It is spectacular, and we actually couldn’t get close enough to actually see it since it’s something everyone wants to see, but many of the dancers were walking around before and after the competition, as well as on the sidelines. Here is a dancer and his cute daughter:


These guys were having too good of a time on the sidelines to make serious faces for me. I think the one guy is trying while his friend is laughing at the attempt:


This was the most amazing fancy dancer outfit, IMHO, was the one below. My formal picture didn’t come out, and this one was from a distance:


It’s amazing from the feathered crown and beaded eye rings to the massive bells on his furred ankles. The outfits are equally amazing in the back, where there are often one or more massive rings of plumage:


The women participate in the fancy dances in a jingle dress competition. The dresses are covered in cone-shaped jingle bells, like this one: jingle-dress.jpg

I actually felt a little sorry for the natives who were in the more everyday native outfits, which are also unique and colorful, but not as awesome as the competition costumes.

I had a bit of a gyppy tummy, but that didn’t stop me from getting myself a piece of frybread. It’s like an evil all-fat poofy flour tortilla and it’s sooooo good. You can eat frybread plain, as I did that day, or put anything you want on it, from beans and cheese to strawberries and cream. As ethnic comfort foods go, frybread is one of the best.

Since I am such a tard on native culture, the most appealing thing to me at the powwow is the various booths, largely selling handmade crafts, including the ubiquitous dream catchers, poncho-like coats, and jewelery. Some of it was quite similar to the sorts of items you might find in a Mexican mercado, like embroidered smocks and dresses:


and woolen caps in a Peruvian style:


I enjoy the prints of John Balloue, a Cherokee artist whose work I can’t download from (but you can still see on) his website. Kelly was fascinated with the small animal sculptures at a booth that featured work from Zuni, Navajo, and Hopi artists. I think if it’s Zuni, it’s a fetish; if it isn’t, it’s folk art. Here are some economic indicator bears.


OK, I’m sure they have some different significance within native American culture, but I in the culture I come from, that’s an indicator graph engraved on that bear. Personally, I admired the woodwinds, like this flute shaped like a bird:


I overheard the artist telling a musician that the instruments play more like a recorder than like a contemporary flute. Who I’d really wanted to see was the artist who made woodwinds shaped even more like animals, who turned out to be the flute-maker’s apprentice. I finally found him, where he showed off his death whistle for me:


Since I’d seen him last, he’d advanced to making amazing four-hole whistles in the shapes of turtles, armadillos, and frogs, as well as more colorful death whistles.

After encountering native American culture, I also don’t understand the fetish environmentalists have for native ways. One of the more ethnic booths specialized in animal pieces, such as bones, shells, horns, tails, and faces, like these fox faces:


I have no idea what I’d do with a fox face, though in a nearby booth, I saw a vendor had turned turtle shells into small purses:


I also saw a quiver made out of a coyote pelt. I think that’s the sort of stuff that would give an animal activist apoplexy, but maybe they just conveniently ignore it.

As for Kelly, she just had an all-around good time. She hit up the Indian health service for candy so often, they had her put down her demographics (first name, age, sex, ethnicity) for their outreach program. And yes, the Indian health service was handing out candy, presumably all the better to get find the people who need their services. A man at the voter registration booth gave her a sparkly necklace as well as some bubblegum. And I couldn’t resist getting her some ankle bells so she could jingle like the dancers.

As we left, I saw this set of bumper stickers, which I thought captured the spirit of the powwow as well as anything could:


I always wonder how the natives feel about the hippie Indian wannabes, because being American Indian obviously involves more than simply wearing turquoise jewelery, eating peyote and passing out in a sweat lodge. I’m not even sure being Indian is all that cool other than to those who romanticize selected aspects of native culture. For instance, I’ve met some Mexican immigrants who are markedly Indian to me, as indicated by their horsemanship or demeanor, but they’d be rather insulted to be called Indian. So, even though I don’t fit in (and probably especially since I don’t), powwows are a great thing: it’s a place where it’s cool to be native, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.

A Weekend at Mount Madonna

We spent the weekend with other members of Neil’s cub scout troop at Mount Madonna. Mount Madonna is a popular local camping locale on the border of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. One reason for its popularity is that its western slope faces the Monterey Bay so it’s always cool, but never cold, and the park is almost all forested, so there is always a shady spot to camp. Here’s a picture I took near our campground in the beautiful misty morning:


One thing I love about the cub scout family camp outs is that they’re such a no-brainer. First of all, it’s drive-a-car-to-your-site camping, which isn’t really camping compared to what the backpackers I see hauling 35 pound packs on Skyline-to-the-Sea do. The cub scouts’ fathers (who were often boy scouts themselves) come fully prepared with plenty of provisions, and the (luxurious to me) propane stoves to complement the camp fire barbecue, which, also, I don’t have to get going. The boys would be happy just running around in the woods with each other, but for the rest of the family, there’s at least one planned activity. For this trip, we went on a short 1-mile hike around the former summer estate of Henry Miller, an 1870s cattle baron.

With his riches, Henry Miller bought much of the land that is now Mount Madonna and built a palatial summer estate there, including sumptuous gardens and the first privately-owned swimming pool in California. But by the 1920s, after Henry Miller’s death, the house and property were abandoned and fell into disrepair, possibly because of irreparable damage from the 1906 earthquake. Eventually, the county bought the property and turned it into a public park. All that’s left of Henry Miller’s glorious summer home is ruins. Luckily, children love to play in ruins. Here they are having a great time climbing up and around concrete steps, which today, connect to nothing:


That evening we cooked dinners in foil on top of charcoal, which included one of my favorite deserts: a banana slit open and filled with butterscotch chips and marshmallows, and then wrapped in foil on put on coals until the banana is cooked and the candy inside melted to a sweet sauce.

I had to take Kelly to the tent, but Neil stayed behind at the camp fire for ghost stories and s’mores. We slept fairly well that night. Others complained about the chill, but I had a 35-lb. toddler-shaped heater in my sleeping bag with me, which kept me nice and warm. In the morning, the cub scouts were tasked with making breakfast for everyone on the propane stoves. As all-you-can-eat (as long as it lasts) eggs, bacon, potatoes, and tomatoes, it was better than a Grand Slam at Denny’s–and more ambitious than I would have gotten together on my own.

As the cub scouts cleaned up, Kelly enjoyed playing in the trees:kelly-in-trees.jpg

All too soon, it was time to leave the woods and go back home.

The Mysterious Disappearance and Death of Christina Marie Williams

In June of 1998 a 13-year-old girl, Christina Williams, disappeared while walking her dog in the Monterey area town of Seaside. The story still haunts me. Of course, we all hoped Christina would be found, preferably alive and well.

Her parents made regular appearances on the local news channels, the father holding the hand of the mother too distraught to speak. Another young girl, Polly Klaas, had been abducted several years before, but a remarkably true sketch by a reknowned forensic artist brought about the quick capture of her killer. The same artist created a sketch of two men who might have been with Christina at the time of her appearance, but no one recognized them then…or now. The story moved onto the crime show America’s Most Wanted, and national news channels. Someone thought they might have seen her in a mall several states away. But, still, the weeks passed, and Christina remained missing.

Several months later, in January 1999, Christina’s remains were found near a walking path in Marina, a town next to Seaside. My friend, who also happens to have almost the same name as Christina, was at the time living in an apartment building nearby. She pointed out the site to me, and it was eerie, in an unpleasant way. It was the knowledge that a murderer had been here, and we had no idea what he looked like, or why he’d committed the crime.

Christina’s story was surpassed by new stories of young girls gone missing, but their disappearances were explained within a year or two, either tragically or (very rarely) happily.

But the years have passed, and we still don’t know what happened to Christina. Her family is still wondering, and still looking:

I hope someday the mystery will be solved.

The Notorious Tale of San Jose’s Grant Family

Last fall, we took a tour of the Grant family home in San Jose’s Joseph D. Grant park, and we heard a riveting story of gold-rush wealth, local nobility, homosexuality, alcoholism, and homicide: the rise and fall of a great family in just three generations. The history of the San Francisco Bay Area is rife with eccentrics and scandals, from Emperor Norton and Sarah Winchester to James Lick and Carol Doda. Even so, I was surprised how little known the Grants are in local lore.

As with almost every tale of wealth in Northern California, the Grants made their money during the Gold Rush. Adam Grant went west with the prospectors, but instead of digging for dust, he sold them the dry goods they needed, and made a killing. His son (or maybe his grandson–I wasn’t clear), Joseph D. Grant, was smart enough to understand that the real California treasure was its real estate. He took the family fortune and bought the large Hubbard ranch on the eastern side of San Jose. From then on, he kept buying the adjoining land until he owned most of the land from what we know today as downtown San Jose to the western side of Mount Hamilton. He didn’t always live in the ranch house on the land: it was more a modest version of Hearst Castle, a retreat where he could entertain guests. He was also a philanthropist who bought land in Humboldt County for the Save-the-Redwoods League, land that is now public, protected land such as Del Norte State Park.

Joseph D. Grant married well, too. The Stanfords (of Stanford University fame) had a son who died, but it’s not well known that they had an adopted daughter as well. She married Joseph Grant, and as a result, he was on the board of trustees for Stanford for over 50 years. Together, they had three children, who blessed with the family wealth, never had to think about working. And that’s where the family history turns into a prime-time television soap opera.

The only son, Douglas, was born deaf. These days that wouldn’t be considered a tragedy, but Joseph Grant considered his son an invalid and arranged both his marriages. The first marriage resulted in Douglas’ only child, a son, Ian, who died in World War II.

The older daughter, Josephine, was gay, but she found an equally gay husband in a rich Englishman who owned a lot of land in San Benito County. They carried on their seperate homosexual affairs disguised by their marriage, and accounts say they were fairly happy with the arrangement. After a few years, they separated, but remained conveniently married.

The younger daughter, Edith, was beautiful but homicidally insane. If it hadn’t been for her family’s wealth, she would have been institutionalized: as it was, she was cloistered in a room on the ranch for most of her life. As she was expected to do, she married rich, and moved to Burlingame, where she had a habit of shooting people she didn’t like. Once, while riding on her property in the 1930s, she shot some vagrants she said had trespassed on her land. The next year, she shot a man she had had an argument with in a bar. In both instances, the same sheriff, undoubtedly impressed by wealth and status, wrote the murders off as self-defense.

The saddest part of the story came when Edith had a daughter, also named Edith. Aware of her sister’s murderousness, Josephine took custody of baby Edith, convinced her husband to return, and raised the child on the ranch. Josephine and her husband, however, loved to entertain lavishly, and were both also heavy drinkers. To pay for their lifestyle, Josephine started selling off all the land her father had amassed. Josephine died before baby Edith came of age, so the young girl returned to life with her natural mother. Within a year, baby Edith was dead, of a gunshot wound.

Eventually, Santa Clara County bought what remained of the Grant estate and turned it into a public park, where you can camp, and go biking, and fishing. And all that’s left of the Grant family is their story.

by Carolyn Bickford

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