About Greg Wilson

A software engineer/Mobile app development evangelist/Technical writer who enjoys books, Disneyland, and the slow pace and backyard vistas you only get when traveling by train.

Not the Same Old Year

Earlier in the week I was thinking about how I’d say something about the turning of the new year seeming rather inconsequential. After all, waking up on January 1 was no different from waking up the morning before — except that perhaps I was a bit less rested, having had to endure a significant number of fireworks that someone was setting off throughout a good part of the night. But given the events of last Wednesday, I have to admit that this year is starting to look rather different after all…

I am not a regular watcher of TV news, although I will turn it on when events of major import are happening (or are about to happen). I did so this week, when I spent some time on Wednesday morning following the results of the Georgia runoff election. After that, I then decided to watch as the joint session of Congress counted the electoral votes. This is one step in the process that I’d never been aware of before, so I was curious to see how it actually worked. Quite quickly things bogged down, when the first objection was raised (for the state of Arizona) and the two halves of Congress retired to their respective chambers for a two hour debate on the merits of that particular objection. After watching the first speakers rise to make their case, I was getting ready to switch off the TV, thinking that I’d turn it back on in two hours to watch the counting of the next couple of states’ electoral college votes. But when the news started reporting on the activity outside the building, I kept the TV on and watched in horror as events quickly unfolded. I ended up staying pretty much glued to the TV for the rest of that day, in order to see how things played out.

Once control of the Capitol was regained, and the congressional leadership announced that they would resume their work with the aim to finish that very night, I vowed to stick with them, watching through to the end. And that is what my wife and I did: we watched the counts themselves (which were rather dull, frankly) and the second round of clearly fruitless objections (another two hours of my life gone for little benefit), after which, at long last, we saw the certification by the Vice President of the results of last November’s election.

Thursday turned out to be much more settled, thank goodness, allowing me to get some work done. But the fallout from Wednesday’s events continue, as they will for days or even weeks, I suspect. May we live in interesting times, indeed…

Watching the activity from Washington, D.C. did make me thankful, for perhaps the first time in my life, that our country is split into time zones, and that we here in California are three hours behind the east coast. Just about everything that happened that day occurred during a fairly convenient time for us, allowing us to watch the goings-on without having to stay up well into the next morning. I shut off the screen after Pence’s certification of the vote at 12:45 a.m., thankful that I didn’t have to stay up until nearly 4 a.m. to see it, as an east coaster would. Just another reason to live in California, I guess!

With the calendar changing from the year 2020 to the year 2021, life under COVID-19 has yet to improve (although the vaccine had, ever so slowly, begun to be distributed to a select few by late December). It seems clear that things will improve, eventually. Because I don’t fall into any of the special categories and because I’m under 65 years old, I’m pretty much at the back of the line, it seems. That’s actually OK with me; I’d rather the high-risk folks get first crack at it. I’m capable of (mostly) staying home and protecting myself, and as long as I know that there will truly be an end to this, I’m happy to sit tight and ride things out. As long as I can continue walking through Redwood City (and beyond), I can continue to publish a blog post every week, hopefully keeping you all updated on the latest around our community.

I can, and plan to, continue walking and writing. But our necessary response to COVID-19 is nevertheless having some effect on what I do. In particular, my ability to research has been affected, given that I cannot go the library and I cannot go in to city and county buildings. I really miss being able to make use of the Local History Room in the downtown branch of our library, given its wealth of historical materials about Redwood City. Similarly, I miss being able to visit the Archives Reading Room in the San Mateo County History Museum (in the old courthouse, in Courthouse Square). Although some of their archived material has been put online, the vast majority of their collection still has to be seen in person. As long as our area is in the Purple tier, the museum and the archives are completely closed. Even when they reopen, for a time it appears that they will only allow visits by reservation, in order to keep the number of people in the research room down.

Fortunately, over the years I’ve put together a (very) small library of historical reference books on the area that I can refer to. As well, the internet is often helpful when researching buildings and people. Thus, when I discovered that the construction fabric and scaffolding were being taken down from one of Redwood City’s historical buildings, as I did last Tuesday, I can still provide you with at least some information about the building and its history:

This building, which sits at 1204 Middlefield Road (on the corner of Middlefield Rd. and Maple St.), was built in 1913 as the Forester’s of America Lodge Hall. According to the Redwood City Historic Tours booklet, the building had meeting rooms, hat check rooms (!), and kitchens. It also has a stage and a large maple dance floor. Quoting the booklet, “The building was designed to serve as the social and recreational center for the town and it served as the town’s primary community center for 50 years.” Indeed, it seems that various schools used the hall for their events, with Sequoia High School holding proms in the building back in the 1910s and 1920s. During World War I, soldiers from Camp Fremont (which was located in Menlo Park) apparently came to the hall for “home-style dinners” and dances. The hall was a popular place for all sorts of events until the late 1950s, when community use of the hall began to decline.

Although the building’s historic exterior has been preserved, some years ago the building was converted for office use. Most recently it was (and possibly still is) the corporate headquarters for YuMe, a data analysis platform for television advertising, founded in 2004. (That company was acquired by another in 2018, and may or may not still exist.) The recent remodel of the building’s exterior, which seems to have wrapped up this week, may signal that the building is destined for another use. I’ll certainly keep watching to see if I can figure out what the new year has in store for this fascinating building.

Not terribly far away, Lathrop Street between El Camino Real (near Chestnut Street) and Beech Street is currently being torn up, making a mess of the traffic in that area. Most of us don’t drive along Lathrop Street very much, but be aware that Chestnut between El Camino Real and Lathrop Street is blocked off, as is Cedar Street, for this construction. Accordingly, if you have to drive in the area, be prepared to make some not-well-marked detours.

As you can probably see, crews are cutting a trench right down the middle of the street. They appear to be replacing (or adding) sewer pipes; there were a pile of them in the little triangular parklet where Lathrop Street angles off from El Camino Real:

I don’t know if this project is in preparation for the South Main Mixed-Use project, or whether it is simply some well-needed maintenance. In any case, it appears that the work may be going on over several weeks, so be warned.

In addition to walking, one thing I can continue to do, thankfully, is continue to patronize some of our local restaurants and merchants. Although I cannot dine in (or even immediately outside of) any of our restaurants while we continue to be in the Purple tier, and although there are capacity limits on our local shops, I’ve continued to purchase from various merchants and get take-out from some of our restaurants. Last week I mentioned JuiceBox, Zu Tarazi’s latest venture in wine retailing. My wife and I have already made our second purchase from them, and are planning to join their three-bottles-per-month wine club. This week, though, we finally managed to try Zareen’s, and I’m delighted to be able to say that the place lives up to the hype. I don’t claim to be an expert on their type of food, which is heavily influenced by the cuisine of India and Pakistan (with American and even Mexican influences as well, it appears; their menu is really interesting), but I know what I like, and I like Zareen’s. We tried a variety of dishes, and loved everything we had. I only regret that we couldn’t have tried more, but there were only two of us. Fortunately, we’ll be ordering from them again soon, giving us the opportunity to try other dishes.

I should note that some of Zareen’s sauces are very much on the spicy side, but fortunately those were packaged separately and we could thus control the amount of heat that we were enjoying. Getting quantities right, when ordering online without having first been able to see how large the portions were, can be a bit touch-and-go. Fortunately, we found that one ala carte entree (Chicken Tikka Masala) plus two “small plates” (Chicken Memoni Samosa and Aloo tiki) plus an order of Naan and an order of Basmati rice was just perfect for us (we actually ordered two sides of rice, but only ate one; the other is waiting in our fridge to accompany another meal). Next time I’ll be trying the Palak Methi Paneer…

Finally, before I end, a completely unrelated subject. This week I actually made use of the myRWC app on my iPhone, and it occurred to me that I should remind everyone to consider adding it to your smartphones. You can get it from Apple’s iOS app store and, for Android phones, from the Google Play app store; there is also web site that lets you request city services from nearly any device with a web browser. The app brings together a wealth of information about, and services provided by, the city: you can use it to search for building permits, pay your utility bill (or a parking ticket!), sign up for classes, and see the city’s Events Calendar. Perhaps the most valuable feature, though, lets you request services. You can use it to report abandoned shopping carts or vehicles, report graffiti or illegal dumping, make noise complaints, report potholes, water leaks, problems with signs or signals…you name it. Just the other day I use the app to report a streetlight that I noticed was on during the day (and night). Filing the report on what the city calls a “dayburner” was a simple matter that took mere moments, and today I received an email letting me know that the city had investigated and repaired the problem — which turned out to be a faulty photocell (that’s the light sensor). The more we all report issues like these, the better off the city will be. Given how easy it is using the MyRWC app, why not?