The Happy Wanderer

This week I took a walk with absolutely no aim in mind. As I walked, I realized that it had been a long time — too long — since I set out on a walk without a specific goal. Because I now write two articles a week — one for this blog, and one for the San Mateo Daily Journal — I need material to write about, and the temptation to look in on building sites or new or closing businesses or restaurants, where I suspect I’ll find something that I can turn into an article, is just too strong. But I began this blog back in 2013 as a way to document what I discovered as I wandered. In those early years I simply wandered at random and hoped I’d find something worthy of a blog post. And somehow, I always did…

Whenever something occurs to me that I think would make a good blog post (or newspaper column) I make a note of it. Over the years I’ve accumulated a pretty long list of topics, some that I’ve written about but many that I have yet to get to. This being a holiday week, I knew that I could always rely upon the “safety net” that is my list of topics. Thus, when I found myself with a few free hours on Monday I gave myself the gift of a walk purely to get some fresh air and to clear my head. Because I wasn’t out specifically to gather information, I didn’t even take my main camera. Of course, I did take my smartphone, just in case. And naturally, I found more than enough to write about.

This week I intentionally avoided downtown Redwood City, since I’ve spent plenty of time there over the last couple of weeks. Instead, I simply stepped out my front door and started wandering through some of Redwood City’s residential neighborhoods. I of course kept an eye out for interesting holiday decorations, and I saw a few. But, later as I walked it occurred to me that I seemed to be seeing fewer decorated yards and houses than in the past. Sure, I saw a couple of houses that were heavily decorated — some people really get into it — and the folks along Dewey Street (a.k.a. “Candy Cane Lane”) of course had more than the average number of decorated houses along their one-block-long street. But even Dewey Street didn’t seem to me to be quite as heavily decorated as in past years. There were a couple of houses there that either had no decorations at all, or were only minimally decorated.

Elsewhere I saw entire blocks where there were almost no decorations. At least the age of the “inflatables” is mostly gone: there was a time just a couple of years ago when giant inflatable decorations seemed to be all the rage, and could be seen in the yards or on the rooftops of quite a few Redwood City homes. Remember the giant inflatable “snow globes”? With their blowing “snow” and other animations? I didn’t see any of those this year (there probably were a few somewhere, but I didn’t see them). I did run across a small number of homes with more tasteful inflatables, such as these:

(I like how these folks managed to combine their holiday spirit with their football fandom.) If anything, the trend in decorations seems to be leaning slightly towards the more tasteful. I don’t recall seeing these woven/wicker/whatever reindeer before, but I really like them:

These are very tasteful and I particularly like the fact that they aren’t disposable. Of course, you have to have room to store them throughout the year, and they aren’t nearly as compact as a deflated inflatable. But “Bravo!” to the handful of houses I saw that had reindeer, nativity figures, snowmen, or other seasonal decorations made in this manner.

So I did see some nice decorations, but the number of houses with no decorations at all sure seemed a lot higher than in years past. What is that all about?

As I walked I watched for holiday decorations, but that wasn’t all I saw, of course. Allow me to share just a few of the interesting things I ran across as I happily wandered throughout Redwood City.

Over at Red Morton Park I saw something that I had never noticed before. It may have been there for some time; I can’t recall when I last walked along the path behind the Red Morton Community Center. But it certainly drew my eye:

As you can probably see, this is a vending machine for sports equipment, one that allows you to borrow (but not buy) equipment for use at the park. Using your smartphone you scan the QR code printed on the face of the machine. It causes your browser to open to a website specific for this machine that knows what is in each compartment and allows you to select the ball or frisbee or whatever that you want to borrow. If you return the item within five minutes there is no charge. Otherwise, you pay the rate indicated on the website. A soccer ball or football currently runs $3 per hour, while a frisbee or a kickball will only set you back $2 per hour.

This is a really great idea. I’ll be interested to see if it sticks around: if the company (“Equipped”; they’re based in Palo Alto) can make this work.

Although I certainly didn’t set out on my walk with any specific goals in mind, as I wandered I of course altered my route to check up on projects I knew were nearby. For instance, I looked in on the 17-unit for-sale townhouse project over at the corner of Harrison Avenue and Cleveland Street. The contractors there are busy building the forms needed for the concrete foundations:

I also looked in on 211 Vera Ave., where a developer has gotten approval to build ten townhouses. Although the demolition of the small houses that once stood on the parcel was completed many months ago, the lot continues to sit empty. One block down, however, at 112 Vera Ave. the handful of small houses arranged around a common driveway that had deteriorated and become a nuisance are no longer. I had thought that the property owner was just going to fix them up, and at one point the dozen or so little houses had been stripped to their studs. But after a few weeks of them sitting there in skeletal form, suddenly they’ve been torn down to their foundations. Presumably the owner had hoped to preserve their framing, but upon inspection realized that it was not in good enough shape to preserve. Whether or not the foundations are worth saving, we’ll have to see. Foundations are all that is left at the moment, and as yet there is no sign that the work has shifted from a demolition phase to a construction phase.

Next up, at one point I was wandering down Jefferson Avenue and passed the Happy Science church. I’ve been by this building many times, but this time I noticed something new: a Little Free Library box out front.

Curious, I looked to see what kind of books were inside. As I suspected, most of the books were promoting the teachings of the Happy Science church. In fact, most were written by Ryuho Okawa, the founder of the Happy Science religion (although some have called it a cult). How this place ended up in Redwood City, I’ll probably never know. But be aware that this particular Little Library, unlike the others I constantly run across in Redwood City, really seems to just be an attempt to further the spread of a religion that was created just over 30 years ago, in 1986.

You’ve probably heard the news, but my walk took me all the way down to Woodside Road, and I was happy to confirm that Woodside Deli is indeed back in business, with new owners:

I truly regret that the previous owner wasn’t able to make things work, but am glad to see that this long-time Redwood City business has a new lease on life.

I took the above picture from over by Woodside Plaza, where I then went to check on the storefront that is to become the new home of Ralph’s Vacuum & Sewing Center (you’ll currently find Ralph’s on Main Street in downtown Redwood City). I was distressed to see that the work to refit the storefront had been halted by the city; apparently, the folks doing the construction had jumped the gun, and started demolition before obtaining their permit. Hopefully this is all getting straightened out, and the space can be made ready in time for Ralph’s to make their move.

That was about it for my walk this week. As you can see from the above pictures, the weather was lovely, if a bit cool. When I see reports of the weather that Southern California has been experiencing this week, I’m ever so grateful that we live in “Climate Best by Government Test.” That slogan may not be entirely accurate, but truly our weather is one of the nice things about living here in Redwood City, California. It is a place where I can happily wander almost any day of the year and not only find interesting things to write about, but be comfortable while doing so.


As I was writing this week’s post I received an email from the folks behind the Magical Bridge Playground, which is being installed at Red Morton Park. It seems that the recent rains (yes, I just got through saying how nice our weather is, but of course we have gotten our share of rain this year) have caused some construction delays, to the point where the playground opening has had to be pushed back until April. Although people have been very generous in giving to this most worthy cause, the Magical Bridge project still could use a bit more help. Thus, if you have a few spare dollars you can throw their way, please do so, and help make this most special (dare I say “magical”?) playground, which is designed to be all-inclusive, a reality.

6 thoughts on “The Happy Wanderer

  1. In our San Jose neighborhood, I can agree that there appears to be less holiday home decorations. Those home ‘library boxes’ are more common also and that is a great thing to see and a nice way to ‘pass on’ your books.

  2. There’s another Equipped rental box in Mezes Park. That one is painted black. I’ve made use of the one at red Morton and it’s very practical. I can grab a soccer ball or a pair of tennis rackets and balls on a whim, and play with my son. It’s convenient not having to carry any equipment from home and not having to plan ahead what sport we might want to partake in.

      • That wouldn’t surprise me. I looked in on that space while I was there last week and as I recall it was entirely bare. I don’t think I’ve seen any activity in that narrow storefront space since the sign went up many months ago. Perhaps the build-our will be simple and thus quick, though.

  3. Woodside Plaza is having a terrible time with permits. Especially the old dry cleaners. Club Pilates is hopefully going to open in a few weeks but the delays have been since the beginning of 2019. I hope Ralph’s doesn’t take as long.

    I think there was a lot of hazardous waste to clean up.

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