Sat09202014

News

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates

Meet the Mountain View City Council candidates


Nine candidates have filed to run for three open seats on the Mountain View City Council in the Nov. 4 election – none of them incumbents. The Town Crier asked them to introduce themselves to readers in the following Q&A format. We knew the...

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Schools

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects

LASD committee looks to rank campus improvement projects


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s newly expanded Facilities Advisory Committee met for the first time last week. The 28-member committee’s first task is to prioritize campus improvement projects.

The Los Altos Scho...

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Community

Sports

New-look Lancers find their footing

New-look Lancers find their footing


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Jenna Adams, left, and Carly Deale attempt to bump the ball Friday night. The juniors combined for 28 kills.

This year’s St. Francis High girls volleyball team faintly resembles last season’s squad ...

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Special Sections

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay

MV Whisman teachers cite low pay


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
An estimated 75 supporters of higher teacher pay turned out for the Sept. 4 Mountain View Whisman School District board meeting.

Teachers, trustees and administrators are recovering from a dramatic Mountain View Whism...

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Business

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho

Skin rejuvenation studio joins Rancho


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Esthetician Marjan Kashi showcases one of the treatment rooms at her new studio, Pure Serenity Skincare at Rancho Shopping Center. Kashi provides services including microdermabrasion and various light and heat energy the...

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Books

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation


During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventur...

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People

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

JERALD (JERRY) NELSON CHRISTIANSEN

Resident of San Jose and Los Altos, California

July 21, 1931 to August 4, 2014

Born in Arimo, Idaho, to Jerald Emmett and Rebecca Henderson Nelson Christiansen. Raised in Davis and Riverside, California, with summers in Downey, Idaho, and in Loga...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

Pear puts on a pair of plays

Pear puts on a pair of plays


J. Smith/Special to the Town Crier
Dan Kapler (as Teddy) and Betsy Kruse Craig (Trish) star in Pear Avenue Theatre’s “House.”

The Pear Avenue Theatre production of two interlocking comedies by Alan Ayckbourn – “House&...

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Spiritual Life

Back to Church Sunday offers opportunity to recommit

The children in Los Altos are back to school, and I can still hear parents cheering. Summer is officially over, even if the calendar doesn’t quite think so.

Parents have attended Back to School nights to meet their children’s teachers. B...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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"The Longest Road" examines unity among Americans


When author Philip Caputo visited a rural schoolhouse in Kaktovik, Alaska, he noted that children in the remote Arctic Circle recited the same Pledge of Allegiance as students all over the United States. What other forces, he pondered, unite and divide Americans?

Caputo subsequently embarked on a road trip across the U.S. from Key West, Fla., to Deadhorse, Alaska, to ask ordinary citizens how they would answer the question.

His three-and-a-half-month excursion in a small Airstream trailer and truck – dubbed “Ethel” and “Fred,” respectively – covered 16,000 miles and resulted in his latest book, “The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean” (Henry Holt, 2013).

  Caputo is an award-winning journalist and author of more than a dozen books and numerous magazine articles and opinion pieces in national newspapers. As a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, he and his team won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of election fraud in Chicago. He is perhaps best known for his memoir, “A Rumor of War” (Henry Holt, 1977), which chronicles his experiences as a soldier during the Vietnam War.

  In “The Longest Road,” Caputo searches for answers to what holds Americans together. Caputo is no Studs Terkel, the author who spent his career interviewing ordinary citizens and writing books about their experiences during the Depression and World War II. But, to his credit, Caputo has crafted both a travelogue and an account of his conversations with the many people he encounters on his journey.

The result is interesting – most of the time.

Caputo’s descriptions of the places he and his wife, Leslie, visit are fun and even occasionally poetic. His wry sense of humor brightens the book’s plethora of anecdotes. “The Longest Road” even boasts a table of humorous road signs, including the billboard outside Tok, Alaska, that reads: “Ignore This Sign.”

“The Longest Road” contains a fair amount of history, highlighting the places and customs Caputo discovers, as well as descriptions of small, simple things he has learned over his lifetime, such as the process of loading and firing a flintlock rifle.

  The best parts of the book, however, document Caputo’s conversations with the people he meets on his cross-country trip. Susan Wiren, owner and proprietor of three businesses in tiny Chicken, Alaska, discusses the pride she takes in her work (she bakes pies for her restaurant) and emphasizes the dignity of all types of jobs. Carol Springer is a farmer who notes that “it’s not a great evolutionary thing to be so distant from where your food comes from.” And Ansel Woodenknife, a Lakota Indian, opened a restaurant in the Badlands of South Dakota that became famous for its fry bread and made an appearance on the Food Channel.

  Ultimately, though, the answers to the question at the heart of “The Longest Road” – What unites and divides Americans? – fail to inspire. Many of the respondents’ answers are underwhelming or obvious: “hope,” “neighbors jumping in and helping” or “the lack of manners and civility.” Even Caputo’s conclusion didn’t strike me as particularly startling – his answer is “conflict.”

Rather than the question Caputo sets out to investigate, readers will likely prefer the stories about people’s lives and dreams, and how they ended up living in the small towns of America.

  Most book clubs would find “The Longest Road” an enjoyable, discussion-provoking selection, particularly those that focus on nonfiction.

Leslie Ashmore is a longtime Mountain View resident who belongs to two book clubs.

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