Monday, July 6, 2009


I am in civilization!!!!  This is day 1 of my adventures in Palo Alto.  While here, I plan to take full advantage of the research opportunities available at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center).  I am also keeping in mind that this is the only place in the continental US where single straight men outnumber single straight women.  (When Joanna worked in my lab, she decided it was part of her job to get me in a lasting relationship so she worked up all sorts of statistics and models to achieve this, but it always ended with getting me to Palo Alto.  As I'm here now, she should be proud.)

I showed up today with a box of lab supplies intended to last a full month if necessary, though the experiments should only take 2 weeks at most.  Those supplies include single use aliquots of very nasty bacterial strains that Tom sent me from the Naval Medical Center, San Diego.  The Pseudomonas strain is green and smells like grapes.  This is a classical description of Pseudomonas, but somehow it's worse actually culturing it than reading about it in a textbook. 

After setting up at PARC, I found the home of Richard Bruce, which is where I am staying.  He is away until the 9th, and we have only ever met for a couple of hours so there is a part of me that thinks it should be odd staying in his home, but it isn't.  It smells like Barry Hall's house (I don't know what smell that is except that it's familiar and comfortable) and is furnished with carved antique chairs and dressers that are cute but not so absolutely perfect that one is afraid to touch them. The walls are decorated with blue willow and delft ceramics and family photos.  It is clear from the toys around that Richard and his wife have grandchildren.  Several thoughtful things have been done in anticipation of my showing up.  I have been directed to towels and bedding and the cupboards that contain things that could be useful to me have been left ajar with directions to use whatever I need.  Despite being alone in the Bruce home, I feel warmly welcomed.

After finding my lodging I went to the Stanford Shopping center because everyone in Merced is in awe of the place.  In the online ads, they say that you can find anything you need or want there.  I wish there was a prize for those who find exceptions because I found two.  I wanted to get titanium earrings and some Patchouli perfume from the Demeter fragrance line.  I went to every jeweler, every department store, and every cosmetics store and no one had either.  It wasn't a wasted trip however, because I got a great haircut while there.  I think it's as good as Pat's and cost slightly less and it is only a 2 hour drive to get there instead of the 12 it takes to get to Pat.  I may switch stylists permanently.  

At the Stanford Shopping Center, I was amazed by the visible display of wealth of many of the people there.  I have never seen anything like it before.  I have been around people with old money who were good and sensible, and I have been around those who were a little snobby too.  I have been around nouveau riche who were good and sensible, and some who weren't but enjoyed what they could do with money so much it was impossible to be anything but happy for them.  This however was the first time that I have been around people who seem to not only believe, but actually know that their money and grooming or experience or something has elevated them to be members of an entirely different species along the lines of  Homo supersapiens or something. This very clear distinction was not just a product of the way they walked, talked, dressed and carried themselves,  or even the fact that their dogs were more perfectly groomed than most supermodels. It was the way that everyone who wasn't an H. supersapiens was simply invisible to those who were.  I happened to get in the way of an H. supersapien while I was waiting at La Baguette for my Greek sandwich to get toasted.  I happened to be in front of the place where her coffee eventually appeared. Then when I moved out of her way so she could get her coffee, I was in the way of the honey that she wanted to liberally pour into her coffee.  I moved out of her way again.  It was strange to be in the situation where I was simultaneously invisible, but also in the way of a person.  She communicated to me that I was in her way with no bodily sign that she acknowledged my presence and with the fewest words possible.  (I honestly don't remember what she said.  Perhaps "excuse me" the first time and then with a sigh or some other sound the second time.)  There were a lot of people like that today.  It was weird.  When surrounded by snobs, I sometimes secretly want to do annoying things to upset them, but with the supersapiens it wasn't even a bit tempting.  Where's the fun in being annoying if you are invisible?

I am excited for tomorrow.  I am going to start generating data!!!! It will be a good day I hope.

1 comment:

Carroll said...

Your going to be great Miriam! You adjust well. Have fun and productivity in your new digs. It'll be fun to go to church and related activities. Continue with your reports, please!