Friday, April 15, 2011


It was Old Home Week for me yesterday as I revisited my old stomping grounds from when I lived in Palo Alto. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn't live in the Nut House (pictured above). That was just a local hang-out near my condo.

I lived in a quaint neighborhood near Stanford University with tree-lined streets and small, craftsman style cottages. Palo Alto is Spanish for "tall tree" and there are plenty of tall trees in the city. The city, incorporated in 1894, was named for an especially tall Redwood Tree called "El Palo Alto" which even today is part of the official seals of both Palo Alto and Stanford. My neighborhood was originally called Mayfair. Much of it was bought up in 1876 by railroad tycoon and former California Governor Leland Stanford. He originally intended to create a horse farm, but when his son -- Leland Junior -- passed away at the age of 15, his grief-stricken parents turned the land into a world-class University in his memory. Local legend has it that they originally intended to provide a substantial endowment to Harvard, but were snubbed by Harvard President Charles Eliot. Anyhow, by the time the Stanfords created their University, very little was left of quaint, old Mayfair. What remained was "absorbed" into Palo Alto.

When I lived "up North," I didn't go to Starbucks in the mornings. Instead, I went to a cafe called Printers Ink (pictured above). Unfortunately, there were no "local loons" to blog about, but if it's any consolation, Printers Ink is directly across from the "Nut House" and just one block away from the Momentum Mental Health Clinic.

I was in the Valley yesterday to attend some meetings, and -- by coincidence -- one of those turned out to be in my old stomping grounds, as well. Imagine my surprise when I showed up to a meeting at Hewlett-Packard and realized that I was in my old office in Sunnyvale. In fact, my company opened the facility (pictured above, now used by HP) during the Internet boom in the late '90s and one of my assignments at the time was to announce that we were moving in. Everything looks the same, except they've replaced the Philips logo with HP!

I also had a meeting at Google headquarters. Much has been said and written about the fabulous "Googleplex" where so many innovative products -- including Blogger -- are developed, but no one ever really talks about their spare-no-expense bathrooms. Their toilets -- a peculiar brand called "Toto" which I recognized from Japan -- are heated and come complete with a small, interactive touchpad that allows you to oscillate and squirt water at your "rear" or "front." Also, each stall comes complete with informative "Learning on the Loo" reading material. Yesterday's topic was all about improving your negotiating skills. Hell, I think I could use a tip sheet on how to negotiate their bathroom ...!


Rose said...

I loved this post and all your photos! I think you enjoyed visiting your old stomping grounds. I'm glad you shared it with us.

The picture of the "Nut House" cracked me up.


garnett109 said...

nobody writes on the walls anymore?

Paula said...

This is interesting stuff you write here. We have a Palo Alto junior college on the south side of San Antonio. A friend of mine lived directly across from it and I never thought about what those words meant and that is unusual for me. Any chance of mis-squirting the water in those bathrooms? Say in your face or somewhere? If it could be done I would probably be the one to do it.

emikk said...

I remember there was a Mayfair mall, I think it got torn down awhile ago though.