Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, June 8, 2015

Family, Friends, and Calamari

            I didn't want to start using my blog as a diary, where I "share" our personal life with our kids, grandkids, and friends and blather about what I had for breakfast, how Gayle was fixated on the Triple Crown Saturday and our latest vacation adventure.  Well, I'll skip breakfast and just touch on the horse race and our latest "vacation."

            As everyone knows, American Pharoah (misspelling is intentional) won the Triple Crown Saturday.  He's the first horse to pull that off since Affirmed did it 37 years ago.  It's assumed that this great horse has the ability to earn hundreds of millions in stud fees. But there's concern that an injury could jeopardize such a glorious future. You may remember what happened to Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro at the Preakness in 2006.

            Thoroughbreds love to run. Gayle and I owned a couple once. If the choice were left to Pharoah, would he trade running around an oval for a pasture full of mares?  I know that's not how the stud thing works, but it's still a heck-of-a-retirement program.  The latest news indicates that Pharoah will run a few more races before he retires.

            The day prior we drove the six hour trip back home after attending grandson Seth's graduation and spending a week with our families and friends.  We knew we were almost home when a chubby little bear cub shuffled across the road just ahead of us.

            On one of the days Gayle and I had lunch with my brother Tom and his wonderful wife Sharon at Aldo's on the wharf in Santa Cruz.  We spent much of the time bragging about our grandkids, but I won't subject you to a re-run of that.  Needless to say, our grandkids are all perfect.

            As mountain dwellers, years removed from the bay area, we are always amazed at the frenetic bee hive of activity in civilization; the race tracks that are called freeways, the crowds and traffic jams that are considered normal.  The scene reminds me of San Marco Square in Venice, Italy, where pigeons blanket the pavement and flock to the corn tossed by tourists.  Kids sprinkle corn on their bodies and within seconds they are clothed in hungry pigeons. This frenzied activity of human beings is similar to those pigeons frantically fighting for kernels of corn in San Marco Square.  The corn in Silicon Valley is money. 

            I spent most of one day in Carmel and Monterey with my old buddy of almost 70 years, John Chaffin on his birthday.  We hit a favorite restaurant on the wharf for lunch.  I ordered an appetizer of deep-fried calamari and the main course of calamari steak.  How's that for a diary entry?

            I had a lot of catching up to do on my consumption of calamari.  I had calamari for dinner once in a Los Gatos restaurant.  I had calamari for lunch on the wharf in Santa Cruz.  I had the calamari appetizer plus a calamari steak in Monterey.  I think I had another dose of calamari somewhere else, but I can't remember where at the moment.  For some reason I became fixated on calamari last week.

            I have yet to taste any calamari that can match what I used to get at the Race Street fish market in San Jose 50 years ago.  Maybe that's why I keep searching and tasting.

            The combination of calamari and the Monterey bay brings back memories of the good old days when we fished using squid as bait in those ocean waters.  Now squid has become calamari and is known as a "poor man's abalone."  When I was a kid, my dad dove for abalone and we had stacks of abalone for dinner.  We had so much, we piled it like pancakes and actually tossed abalone to the dog.  Today it's rare.

            All my experiences with calamari or squid are not positive.  I may have told this story before, but I remember well one day of fishing with some buddies when the sea was rough and the fog obscured the horizon - a lethal combination when fighting sea sickness.  Beginning to turn green and fighting to hold my breakfast, I grasped the rail searching for a glimpse of the horizon.

            Just when it looked like I might win the battle, my late prankster buddy, Glen Dennee tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned to see a squid, dripping slime, hanging out of Glen's teeth just inches from my face. That was all it took.  I sent a stream of everything I had eaten since the third grade in a straight-line trajectory at least a half-mile out to sea.   

            Despite that experience, I still like to eat those strange creatures.  Is this rambling what they call a stream of consciousness?  I sure got off the subject.  I don't think I had a subject. Once I start typing, I never know where it's going.  This stream of consciousness, like most streams, is obviously going down hill.  I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.


  1. Glad to hear about others glued to the TV to watch American Pharoah... What a race. Just back from the Horse Expo, we returned to witness that amazing win. And by the way, Ralph, where did you see the bear?

    1. We were between Graeagle and Greenhorn Ranch when he crossed the road in front of us. Re: the horse race - Gayle is really into horses and spent most of the day watching the preliminary stuff including the race. We owned a former racehorse. She was a great animal. We had another thoroughbred mix. This one was tougher to handle and wasn't hot on trail riding, so I had to try to stay on her.

  2. Ralph, Race Street continues to offer great food at somewhat reasonable prices. About 2 years ago they closed the retail side, where you could buy fish or chicken. Lobster, as well. They continue serving food in the same building on Race Street.

    They had another outlet on Union Avenue, but it closed several years ago.

    Nothing better than Aldo's!

    1. Ed - the thing I like about Aldos is that you eat outside next to the harbor, where I used to go in and out of on the old fishing boat owned by Steve Carmichael and Glen Dennee. It was an almost weekly ritual. I caught a shark on my last trip on that boat. I also tossed my cookies overboard on that boat, as I mentioned in the post.

  3. Thanks for the memories Ralph. I too used to go out from Santa Cruz harbor with my kids to Salmon fish in the surf, but on the ocean side . Caught many a reasonable sized salmon that way. They eventually stopped that and you had to go out of moss landing or Monterey Harbor. Still great memories. Your passion is calamari mine is abalone!

    1. Actually, calamari for me is just a substitute for abalone, since abalone is so hard to get...and expensive.
      Read my response to Ed above. I've caught many salmon but the sea lions nail your fish leaving only the head when you finally pull it in. If there's a seal in the area your chance of landing a salmon is next to impossible. Lots of memories.

    2. Ralph, Hank loves calamari that he orders it when he can get it. How are you and Gayle? We're up at Twain Harte for the summer. Love you kids.

    3. Norma and Hank -
      We miss seeing you guys. And I always like to hear you call us "kids." I'll give you a call.