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Way Back Machine

January 3, 2015

The day started with palm-tree-against-bright-blue-sky gorgeousness, as they do hereabouts (the parking lot at the Palos Verdes Inn, once the famed Plush Horse and Plush Pony) …

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…a quick breakfast with a few Petersons …

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…and then a drive along a once-very-familiar patch of I-5 as we made our way to La Jolla. These are the reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant just south of San Clemente (and oh my, driving through Camp Pendleton sure brought back a flood of memories)…

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Which brought us to La Jolla and UC San Diego and a rambling, self-guided tour around a campus I barely recognized. Seriously, it took about an hour of wandering before I found a landmark, any landmark, that was familiar. That landmark turned out to be Tenaya Hall, my first year dorm:

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There was ONE open window in the entire building, and it turns out it was the window of my seventh-floor dorm room (yes!) … as if to say, “Welcome back, Kari! Remember me? Remember gazing out this window to the sixth floor across the way to that guy David’s room hoping he might see you? And remember sitting in this room and listening to Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness First Finale (over and over and over), and Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky, and America, and Dan Fogelberg, and Steely Dan, and John Denver? And remember your first roommate ever, Katie Sullivan, who was a self-proclaimed marxist, lesbian from whom you learned more in that first year than all your classes combined?”

Walking around, I remembered, barely, the buildings in which classes took place, and more the halls in which I saw concerts, dorm windows from which I viewed the ocean, and cliffs on which I wrote very, very bad poetry. I remembered late night runs around campus and trips into La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Del Mar and Ocean Beach for mountains of junk food. I clearly did not really know how to live on my own.

Anyway.. walking around with Jim and Peter, it was a bit embarrassing not knowing where anything was–in my defense, there’s been a shit load of new construction in the last 40 years–but some of it came back, like, “Oh yeah, that indoor pool, and those tennis courts, and the field where I played rugby, and the dining hall and Five & Dime!” It was great to see the on-campus apartment I lived in during my sophomore year:

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I think we were on that second floor… it was such a sweet deal. Five women in a 4-BR apartment with full kitchen in the middle of campus, just steps from classroom buildings.

I have to say, I’m pleased to have chosen the John Muir college at UCSD… I mean, John Muir. Pleased that I lived in Tenaya dorm, that Tioga dorm was next door, that I was a small part of, then, what would become so important to me later in life.. Yosemite and all its wonderful places. I hike in the areas around Tenaya and Tioga every year. They are a huge part of my life now, as then…

I particularly loved two classes I took at UCSD and thought a lot about them while walking around campus: 1) “The Nature of Reality,” an extension course taught by Jonas Salk’s son Peter, that really got my young juices flowing. We had to write a detailed account of what our perception of reality was at the beginning of the class and another at the end, after having read numerous books, listened to numerous lectures, and heard numerous spiritual guest speakers.  I would love to read those essays today.  2)  “The Wilderness,” which was a class limited to 100 students, divided into ten sections, each addressing a different type of California wilderness. John Muir college, right? We learned about the history, geology, flora, fauna, survival within that particular wilderness area. I got the Anza-Borego desert, not my first choice, but which was fascinating. The class included a backpacking trip to one’s wilderness area of study with everyone in your section.. which was fun, and a solo trip (though you could take someone if you wanted) for the “final.” I remember both so well.

And I definitely remembered these eucalyptus forests which were so iconic and beautiful:

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I remembered the fancy, architecturally-inverted library, which seemed then to be in the middle of the forest, but is now more exposed.

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The landscaping around the library and the views from it are really stunning. And it’s been renamed (in 1995), the Geisel Library, in honor of Theodor Geisel–yes, Dr. Seuss–who supports literacy and who’s given them lots of money.

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This building was not here when I went to school… it’s an engineering building; note the house precariously perched on top, and reflection thereof–extremely clever, those engineers:

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After a couple hours of the somewhat confused nostalgia tour, we left and hunted down our rental house, which turned out to be wonderfully situated with a nice view of the crashing waves, just up the hill from the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

Here’s the house–four bedrooms, three baths, large kitchen, dining and living rooms. Very comfortable, nicely furnished and feature rich.

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When we got there, the others had arrived, but were out shopping for supplies, so Peter and I headed down to the beach. On our way down the hill we passed an old 60s-style apartment house with an appropriately-vintaged cadillac parked in front… I thought it was neat:

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Weird, but in all my UCSD days, I don’t recall ever going to this beach… It was lovely!

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Jim took this shot of the pier a few days later.. I insert it here because it’s a nice pic. The sand was mesmerizing.

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This is my version, taken this evening…

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Returned home, met up with Jim senior and Elisa, who’d driven over from Tucson; sister Teri and husband Chad who’d driven down from Idaho; and brother Marty, who’d flown in from New York City. Marty, Teri, Jim and Chad cooked up a great dinner (don’t ask me about the rice… this will become a great family story, but not just yet). Everyone was a bit fried, but it was a wonderful dinner and reunion. Everyone was looking forward to a great week and celebration.

2 Responses to “Way Back Machine”


  1. Loved your writing about UCSD years and locations. Love the filter on numerous of your photos. The library looks pretty barren though and I’d never stand in the house part of that amazing engineering building due to a strange phobia. But what about the rice?

    • Kari Says:

      Thanks, Elliot. Forever after, all HDR photos are in your honor. Re: the rice… that’s a story for another day. 🙂


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