Finally in a House, with a Friend

Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2010

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Where I stayed
Geoff Gales' place

Flag of United States  , California
Monday, May 17, 2010

A Major Highlight of The Trip After a few weeks on the road, we have been living in the van, the tent, or hotels, and making lovely - but only very fleeting - connections with strangers-turned-quick-friends from around the world. Last night though, we arrived in Monterey: A real house, with real beds and an actual kitchen and a living room that people live in. But better than all that: A real Montreal friend! We are crashing for a few California nights at our friend Geoff's place, who is kindly putting us up (clean sheets and all!) during our stay in Monterey. Geoff took us for a fabulous walking and scooter tour of Montery today, I've posted a few pics and will get back woth more details soon. Also, thanks to Geoff's internet, I was able to get many recent photos up - the picture uploading process is pretty slow, so when we only have quick internet stops it is hard to get the pics up. I am behind in text - the scenery outside the window has been too beautiful too look at a laptop screen - but there are some visuals to go with the map pins and I will try to get up some better explanations soon. We'll be in Monterey for another day and a half, then it's off to San Francisco! After our all-season, 7-hour drive from Mammoth, we landed into Monterey (or neighbouring Marina, to be exact) at about 11:30pm where we tracked down Geoff at the local Laundromat. A true gentleman (and good Loyola boy, right Gales?) he was just finishing up washing and drying fresh sheets for us.

The Real Monterey Update!

We were so happy to finally sit on a couch with a beer and a good friend to catch up! Geoff was delighted too – it had been a long time since he could make witty Montreal inside jokes and get a chuckle. Geoff and I have been friends since we were in our late teens. While he went to Loyola, the brother school to the girls' high school I went to, we really met and became friends through sailing. We have shared a lot of great days on the water, funny memories at regattas, and probably some car rides and tents over the years.

Geoff is a pretty nomadic guy – a map with pins of all the places he’s explored and lived in would be pretty impressive I’d bet. About a year and a half ago, after being fairly settled in Montreal working the 9-to-5 desk grind, he called me up out of the blue. With urgency in his voice, he really wanted to meet to talk, soon. I think it was actually the next day that he dropped in for a cup of tea. He really wanted to know how to get into teaching.

We chatted a lot that night. He was burnt out of working for the man and didn’t feel engaged in what he was doing. He has always liked teaching – like a lot of my friends he taught sailing for years – and he now wanted to make a career in education. I offered as many tips as I could think of about getting started in substitute teaching, various education programs across the country, and some of the pros and cons of the profession.

About two weeks later, my phone rang again, and once more Geoff really needed to talk. Could we go for a beer that night? A couple of hours later, over a pint at the local watering hole Else’s, he told me that he had quit his job soon after our first conversation and had just completed his very first day of substitute teaching. The kids are crazy, Jenny! How do you deal with it?! We had another great conversation over the course of the next couple of hours, and in the following months Geoff landed a substitute contract teaching History and English at one of the public high schools in the suburbs.

We touched base now and then to exchange ideas, celebrate small victories or occasionally vent a little. In the spring, he asked if I could write him a letter of recommendation: He was applying to an Education program in California, a one-year degree that, combined with his undergrad, would accredit him a teaching license. Having known Geoff a long time, and seen him teach at junior sailing school as well as volunteer with the adapted sailing program, I have seen his talent and enthusiasm and was delighted to write the letter.

Flash forward to mid-July. Around noon one day, Geoff walks into the AQVA office and announces, "Well, Jenny, that must have been a pretty solid letter you wrote, a good school in California is willing to let me into their program to become a teacher". Grinning, he continued, “I’ve got some time on my hands and owe you a favour – I’m volunteering with AQVA all week, starting now. I’m ready to go – who’s coming sailing today?” Minutes later, he was headed out of harbor accompanying one of our sailors in a Martin 16.

Later on that day, I also promised him that I would come visit him in California – a place I’ve always wanted to go – and so ten months later, here I was hanging out on Geoff Gales’ couch in Marina, CA. We marveled for a while at the facts that Geoff was now weeks away from his degree, and I had held my promise.

In the morning, Matt and I had a very lazy start to the day, recovering from the skiing and drive. We did a few groceries and were sipping coffee (Geoff had kindly labeled the whole kitchen with hot-pink Post-Its so we could find everything we needed for breakfast) when Geoff came home from teaching. Fortunately, his teaching stage is winding down and he had several short work days while we were there, so he was usually done by noon.

Geoff took us to Monterey where we walked on the warm sands of the beach (surreal after yesterday’s blizzard) and then headed to Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf is a charming little section of dock by the sea, filled with little touristy shops and seafood restaurants. The various restaurants compete for your dollar by offering free samples of clam chowder as you stroll by. Geoff was a seasoned pro and knew exactly how quickly to slurp each sample so he’d be empty-handed and ready for the next offer. One place had a particularly tasty chowder – really thick, with a pleasant smoky flavor – so we decided we would head back there for dinner after our walk.

Geoff also took us to Cannery Row, of John Steinbeck fame, where the canneries used to literally suck the one-time plentiful silver sardines right out of the sea. Now, the old canneries have been converted into stylish restaurants and quaint shops. Next, we walked along the harbourfront and gazed at the basking seals. Sleek and brown, they were almost indiscernible from the wave-washed rocks they lazed on. Their baying - a strange cross between a turkey gobble, a sheep’s bleat and a dog’s bark - filled the air and they were so accustomed to the people traffic on the boardwalks that they barely flinched even as you walked by just a foot or two away.

We eventually made our way back to the restaurant for a full serving of their smoky chowder, fish and chips and some cold Coronas. A great day with a great friend!
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