Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don says it all

I thought I would let Don have his say here today. Don loves to write trip reports. His memory for detail is phenomenal. There is a reason I take pictures and he writes reports. Between the two of us, we get it all. So, without further ado, The Calabash/Santa Rosa trip report.
According to the Random House College Dictionary, which I have from my military days and has “Property of the U.S. Government” printed on the front of it, the definition of calabash is “any of various gourds, esp. the fruit of the bottle gourd.” Hence the name of an annual display of gourd art in Santa Rosa, which is described on the event program as “a celebration of gourds, art and the garden. For you non-Californians, Santa Rosa is above San Francisco in the hills protected by the coastline mountains.

Once again we visited one of Annie’s blog friends as the friend is an artist and had an entry in the gourd art competition. The event was only on Sunday afternoon, but we decided to go up on Saturday to visit and spend the night.

Leaving at around nine in the morning, Annie began to phone Lea to give her progress reports on our travel as we were to lunch at her home. Travel was good that time of the day through the valley, over the hills, through the flatlands (Did you think I was going to say, “dales”?,) into the east Bay Area, up to the northeast Bay Area, over the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and onto the main artery connecting points of the Bay Area from the south to north of San Francisco. It got touchy at that point, with slow down and speed up traffic due to drivers in the left lane not keeping up with the traffic and vehicles which had a problem maintaining speed over the hills and around curves because of the vehicle itself or the drivers’ lack of ability. Anyway we did arrive in time for lunch.

Upon finding the street address, we looked up at a hundred year old house on a corner lot. Once inside of the white picket fence, Anne immediately began to inspect the labyrinth laid out in the front yard. Lea is a labyrinth designer. I inspected the very old fascinating tree on the other side of the yard. It is twisted and has holes in it. Lea came out to a variety of questions. The tree is home to squirrels. The pet dog also came out. She is a small Belgium breed called a Schipperke that work on the canal barges, with a short and thick coat of hair that sheds water and a face that reminded me of a small wolf.

Following Lea and Nicky into the house, we discovered a work-of-art home. There were not only works of art, but also items from various parts of the world she and her husband have traveled to. This and that wall was painted a bright color, but blended in so as not to be confronting. I hurried into the bathroom, to discover upper walls and ceiling of blue sky and lower walls of stucco over brick design with framed prints to match the theme. One wall had a timeline chart of Shakespeare’s accomplishments posted on it. The rest of the house held antiques, including a very old school house desk complete with the inkwell. It was adult size.

While Lea and Annie were preparing BLTs, (picture compliments of Lea) the husband of the home arrived. Milt is a quiet, thoughtful, analytical person. This serves him well as he is a neuro-psychologist. For example, if a person has received brain damage, Milt will test and scan and interview and pull information from the person’s medical records. Once the research is completed, he gives his report accessing the functional results of the damage and recommendations for treatment. He was busy sending off a report that morning.
During the preparations, Annie discovered that the tomatoes were bright red and smelled good. She tried one. It was delicious by her standards and she does not eat tomatoes. She gives them to me. These were garden fresh organic.
While the ladies worked, Milt and I sat and discussed some points of the War Between the States as he also enjoys history and has many publications concerning Lincoln. He posts the historical charts in the bathroom for study.
Lunch was served at the breakfast nook, under a light fixture as old as the house (and it was really pretty. I wish I had gotten a picture of it) . It was very ornate and beautiful, while the BLTs were good and filling. Lunch discussion concerned local history, including the town rebuilding after the 1996 earthquake. The rebuilding destroyed some old architecture, including the court house. So now the downtown has utilitarian buildings instead of admirable buildings. Lunch was completed by servings of various deserts. Lea enjoyed the way my face came alive at the presentation of one which is like a sugared unleavened bread.

After lunch, Lea and Milt left for an event and we were invited to stay and enjoy the back yard labyrinth. This one was completed with brick laid out in a circular, Oriental design. One may walk the path and mediate on the seven energy points of the body. Annie walked. I took photos. I also observed that the yard included touches of art by way of sculptures and various types of benches. We left through the gate and headed for the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Remember Peanuts, Charlie Brown, Snoopy?

While Schulz started out in life as a Minnesotan, he ended up a Californian. The museum is a biography of both his development and that of the Peanuts cartoon. After serving in WWII in Europe, he taught art for a while. Some of his follow teachers were Charlie Brown and Linus. Articles from his studio office have been set up for display. There are also displays of cartoons with narrative explaining how he happen to come up with the idea for that particular one, i.e. Snoopy’s airplane adventures began after Schulz’s son showed him an airplane model he had made.

Snoopy himself was inspired by the pet black and white dog that Schulz had as a boy. Many of the story lines came from his family and friends and their daily lives. The “little red haired girl” came from a young lady he had dated in his early days. He passed over just before a nation wide tribute was to be paid to him by the country’s cartoon artists. The plan was to have all cartoonists submit a cartoon tribute to him and they all were to be published on the same Sunday. The tribute was still accomplished. They are on display also. Some artists, whose work did not show up in the funny paper, i.e. Disney artists, paid tribute by producing one-of-a-kind pieces of tribute art.

The man brought part of his native state to California. He established a skating rink, at which the annual seniors’ hockey championships are held. He of course was always one of the skating seniors. The rink is open on a daily bases and one may take a refreshment brake in the “Warm Puppy CafĂ©”. It is named after one of his cartoons concerning love being a warm puppy, which occurred after he obtained his very own puppy to love. For the grand opening, he invited famous skaters to participate, which they did and the autographs are in sections of concrete in the front grounds of the rink.

Of course there is a gift shop, which also has displays in a loft area: displays such as stuffed Snoopy dolls in various costumes. Peanuts lunch boxes and books may also be viewed. One section is devoted to skating and hockey equipment and clothing. We found a snow globe for our “little red haired girl”, Krista.

Outside of the three buildings; museum and rink and gift shop, are gardens. One of the gardens is in the shape of Snoopy’s head and in a labyrinth design. Guess who the designer is.
For more information go on-line to

I had planned to visit the remains of the Jack London house and museum, out in a range reserve named after the author. However time did not allow for the out-of-town drive and visit as we needed to check into the hotel and freshen up for super at Lea and Milt’s.

We had investigated the possibility of having a bed-and-breakfast room, but they were all booked up as were the Best Western and other hotels. We reserved a room at the Days Inn. Many hotels in town are older buildings, including the Days Inn. The lobby and dining areas have been refurbished and the rooms are neat and clean with standard amenities. Arriving at five, we were there two hours after the start of check-in time and the clerk had to check to make sure the room was available. The other issue was a party taking place in a banquet room, behind the office. Our room was to be one in a separate building, but facing the office area. This meant that the music, from the party, would be bouncing off of the building that our room would be in. Between one clerk checking availability and the other clerk asking me if I had plans to be out until around ten or ten thirty and not explaining about the music, I looked him in the eye and asked, “Are you telling me that you do not have a room ready for me yet?!” He immediately stated that they did indeed have a room and then explained the music situation. Since we would be going out till late, I gave the okay.

Refreshed and rested and after receiving an example of the bass music coming to visit, we left the room and went on our way to supper. Lea had placed a tray of cheese and checkers and had wine ready. I received dark ale. Lea had previously questioned Annie on our likes and dislikes. We gathered around the coffee table and waited for the lamb leg to finish in Milt’s rotisserie.
Soon we were gathered around the dining room table and passing dishes of lamb, mint jelly, little potatoes and salad. At the start of the meal, Milt explained what a neuro-psychologist does. We also found out that they have a son. He is currently in Europe working on an atom colliding project.
A phone call from Quanah began playing music on Annie’s cell phone. He was phoning to give us an update on his brother-in-law, George. Two life events had recently occurred for George; he had just returned from his honeymoon and he discovered that his dormant melanoma, from two years previous, had come back in a ravaging attack. Quanah informed us that George has nine to twelve months left here. Quanah and Erin have made the decision to resign their positions in Fort Wayne and move to Oregon at the end of the year. They will have support from her family and their networks for finding housing and new positions. Preparations have already begun.
Basically everyone agrees that the move is impractical, but it is what they need to do. They were planning on maybe eventually moving to Oregon anyway. They were also planning on purchasing a house in Fort Wayne. Anyway they are just making the move a lot earlier then expected.
The topic of conversation, after the phone call, was that of explanation and feelings. Lea and Annie had a bond before we arrived there. Those two were like old friends. Lea stated that the bond was now stronger due to our family situation entering at their dining table.
We moved on to how Quanah happen to be named such. This lead into a review of my family history and story telling. The story telling included how Lea and Milt found each other. He is from Pennsylvania and she from right there. By that time, we were up to dessert. Berry cobbler! Lea had found out from Annie that I enjoy cobbler. It had the perfect flavor and crunch. The sad part is that I had two helpings of tasty lamb and reached the full mark before I desired to. Cobbler was followed by coffee made in Milt’s espresso machine. Lattes all around.
Coffee was followed by Lea taking Annie through a mental labyrinth of art work and the house, while Milt and I continued to discuss my history and genealogy research. He has not begun his yet. However this was interrupted by Annie wanting to show me something she wants me to make for her. She and Lea took me to the tall spice rack in the hall between the kitchen and the mud room back porch entrance. There is also a fruit cellar. Anyway…Annie wants me to put together such a structure for her nick knacks and place it in the front hallway. So just how big can I make it and get rid of some of those storage boxes. Floor to ceiling and from the front door to the study door. I see a vision. (Annie is thrilled! but we will need to discuss details as the project approaches)
I was beginning to fade. Milt was showing signs of fading. And I think that as much fun as the ladies were having, they were fading too.
The music was no more and the bed comfortable. Enough said.
Morning saw the usual routine of Annie rising first bright eyed and bushy tailed, while I slowly rolled out of bed later. We were scheduled to meet Lea and Milt at a restaurant downtown, but that was late morning. We watched Dirty Jobs just for laughs as I reviewed the Map Quest printout for going out to Forestville that afternoon.

The restaurant, “Worth Our Weight”, was easy to find. Here's a little blurb I found about the place.
Best Unheralded Chef In the early to mid '90s, Evelyn Cheatham operated Tweet's restaurant in Mendocino, and folks still talk about her carrot soup, rosemary scones, potato tarts, and other dishes. Food writer Michele Anna Jordan says Cheatham "has a style that is both robust and delicate, and she could clearly join the ranks of celebrity chefs if she was so inclined." Instead, Cheatham decided to work with troubled youth. She's now chef at Sonoma County Juvenile Hall and is slowly building WOW (Worth Our Weight), a cooking school for young people. For the past 12 years, she has cooked and delivered meals on Christmas day for homeless groups, battered women's groups, children's shelters, and families down on their luck. The meal is not funded by any organization. It's just a labor of love by Cheatham and her friends.--M.W.

Lea came out and greeted us. The food is set up buffet style with a variety of dishes. Some are simple and mainstream, i.e. ham, while others are not, i.e. hominy in a green sauce or a fresh vegetable cake. There is also a variety of desserts and drinks. The restaurant is open only for Sunday brunch and provides a catering service the rest of the week. The owner, Evelyn, not only is a working chef, but also a chef trainer. She gives back to the community by providing a training opportunity for “troubled youth”. The cost for the all-you-can-eat self-serve meal is a flat $15.00 cash per person. The patrons are helping to support the training program. Money well spent. Evelyn herself came around to greet her customers, in her white chef’s uniform. Most of the customers are also friends.

Between bites, Annie stated that she had noticed the Luther Burbank house and gardens as we drove to the restaurant. Lea suggested that we go through the gardens, before leaving town for Forestville. To me, the name was one of those that seem familiar, but not quite enough to know who the person actually was.

Luther Burbank was a late nineteenth and early twentieth century world-famous horticulturist. He worked with both flowers and vegetables developing hybrids. Some believe that he had a special understanding of plant life and nature. Only part of the original acreage, of his property, is left. After he began to develop our Lord’s gardens, much of the property was transferred to a Missouri based research nursery company. What is now left was maintained by his widow, who was forty years younger, until she reached the status of senior citizen. At that point, she donated the property to the Santa Rosa Historical Society. She reserved the right to live in the house, which she did until her passing. The property then transferred to the city of Santa Rosa itself and is maintained today as an educational experience. If one enters into a search engine, one will find the web page for the City of Santa Rosa Parks and Recreation with the Luther Burbank Park site window.

The current property takes up half of the block, which appears twice as long then it is wide, on a main street running from the south part of town to the north, after changing street names. It is surrounded by private residences.

The building on the opposite corner looks like a hotel out of a wild, west movie. (Annie is sad that she did not get a picture of this building) It is long, brown building, with wipe-around porches both downstairs and upstairs. An outside stairs connect to two stories. Outside doors provide entry into the rooms or apartments.

One may enter the grounds through the main entrance or one of the side entrances of the white picket fence, which the city asks for volunteers to maintain. The plant life ranges from very tall trees to small flowers. They are various shapes and sizes and colors. Some are arranged in garden areas and some are in long planter boxes close to the greenhouse. I have no idea what is what, except for the roses, only that I enjoyed the beauty of nature. That includes the largest cactus I have ever seen. It was one mother plant with shoots taking up an area of approximately twenty feet by sixty and maybe twelve feet high. Once I had walked over to the other side, I discovered enough open space at ground level to afford a person stepping area while bending over to sit in the shade of the plant. There is also some very tall picky pear cactus as well.

While Annie was photo shooting, I noticed a squirrel scamper across the pathway and into the plant area we were by. The area had small trees, bushes and flowers. The squirrel found a spot behind a tree to have an early afternoon snack. Annie immortalized the squirrel from three different angles. There were also bees and small butterflies with bee like color. Both flew from flower to flower sometimes separately and sometimes together. Some of the areas had arbors constructed in them. Annie began photo compositions utilizing the arbors, including of me.
By that time, we were at the carriage house, which serves as a gift shop. This carriage house was small and simple compared to some. But then the house itself is also small compared to some estates. I am thinking that both met the requirements of the couple and the main interest was not the house, but the gardens and green house.

There was entertaining at times, such as during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in this month ninety-two years ago. Two of the guests were Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

After purchasing a booklet on the place, I ended up having a seat. Annie discovered a hat in a bag. The brim of the hat contains a bendable wire just like a vehicle windshield shade that has the wire edge and performs a tri-fold to become a small round shape. She asked if she should buy one and I replied that she did not have a decent shade hat. Next came the selection of fit and colors. That done we returned to the main entrance of the white picket fence.

I drove north and west on the city streets and northwest on county roads. I entered the city limits of Forestville while still out on the county road and drove a ways before finding the town itself. The Calabash was easy enough to find, but by then the parking was not. So we hiked in. At the ticket table, I presented the ones we had received in the mail and was given voting slips in return. This enabled us to vote for Lea’s gourd art entry. We also registered for the silent auction on the gourd art just in case.

Standing in a vacant space, we reviewed the surrounding activities; elbow to elbow people, wine slipping, conversations, tall women in face paint, a tent further back, a building to the side. Finding our way over to the gardens and reading the posted information informed me that the garden was part of the Food for Thought organization.

When Annie asked me about attending an event that her artist blog friend had and entry in, I said that was doable. Upon going to the Calabash web site, I discovered that the event is a fund raiser for the Food for Thought organization. It distributes food throughout the country to those with AIDS. The garden was the first learning step in what Food for Thought is and runs along the length of the organization’s grounds.

Annie found Lea and Milt in the shade of a tent structure made from wood and plant materials. Asking a person to take a photo of us, they took two with Annie’s camera and also with Lea’s.
Milt opted to stay put, in the shade, and the three of us began walking around. Lea was always being approached by a friend or acquaintance. She has spent her life there. We investigated the various plant life as a three piece band played. I noticed that there was a flute, drum and string instrument. The drum and string instruments were made from gourds. Once the plants had been investigated, we headed for the tent.

Inside was the gourd art and we commenced to look for Lea’s art. She was in conversation with someone. After a search, Annie spotted it and we voted with the item’s number. After placing the ballots into the jar, we took a closer look at the art. There were very simple pieces to very elaborate. There were various combinations of both surface and layered craving, painting, attachments, cutting and reassembling, cultural themes, representations of real and surreal and meaningful. It was thought provoking.
It seemed as though the number of people had increased inside of the tent and we required air. Outside Annie found the wine and sparkling water. We both took the water.
Next was the investigation of the building. We found that it is the food supply store and distribution center. They had arranged a produce case of bright colored vegetables; reds, yellows, oranges, greens. Photo Op.

By that time, the event was about to come to a close and we were ready to depart. On our way to find Lea and Milt, Annie came across the two tall women in face paint. I realized that they were both men. Annie later told me that they are members of a San Francisco based organization called something “Sisters”. Okay…. (Annie comment – Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence)

Lea and Milt were found and farewells were given.

The drive home was about the same as going, except for the slow drivers leaving ten to twenty vehicle spaces between each other in the northeast part of the Bay Area.

For me the real event of the trip was meeting Lea and Milt and enjoying their company, interests and food. And for that I will always return.

Please remember George in your prayers


DHLOL said...

I think that may be the longest narative on your blog. Copied and pasted the insert you did on Evelyn into my report. Who is M.W.?I also saw the poem. Very well done. :)

Gawpo said...

Croly HAP!, Don. That was a longie.

God bless Chuck Schulz for shaping in me the idea and the experience of joy and laughter when I was a little boy.

God bless you, Don, for the fine memory and recounting of the adventure.

I want to build my own labyrinth now.

trailbee said...

The last time I was in Santa Rosa was in 1997. I don't have to go back for another 10 years, thanks to Don's phenomenal memory and gorgeous travelogue. Thank you both. Biene

Gypsy Purple said...

Missed you dear Annie....glad to be back and can`t wait to catch up with all the posts and lovely stuff


Pinkie Denise said...

sounds like you had a wonderful time with sweet Lea. She just has a way of
letting you in and making you feel like you've known here a million years! I love her and her warm heart.
Enjoyed reading your blog and felt like I was right there with you. Great pictures, good friends........
Pinkie Denise

qualcosa di bello said...

your don is a generous travelblogger...a very nice narrative that made me feel as though i was on the journey with you.

george & his family are in my daily prayers

keith hillman said...

What an interesting travelblog.So descriptive.
I love to write about my travels to. It's too easy to just keep on writing and writing!

Susie said...

Hi Annie,
Don would make a wonderful travel writer! He has a gift for details.
We travel through Santa Rosa quite often on our way north to our sons.
Praying for a miracle for George..

Bimbimbie said...

Really enjoyed Don's trip report, those Belgian dogs are quite amazing, did you know their name means Little Captain *!*

Also loved Lea's Gourd

turquoise cro said...

That doggie reminded me of a little Black Bear! so cute! hehe Sounds like such FUN Annie! Those gourd creations Lea make are wonderful!!! I will keep George in my prayers! George is one of my favorite names! I had a Grandpa George! Don did a GREAT job in his story telling except why Quanah is named Quanah! hehe Another post please Don!!

turquoise cro said...

I don't know whether my comments went through or not so I'm just saying again George is in my prayers! My Jerry had melanoma back in 1984! We had taken my baby Mario to get a 8 month check-up and I had the doctor look at Jerry's back where his mole looked not right to me! Thank Goodness Mario had an appointment that day because the rest is history! Jerry had surgery that same month and they got it all! Thank God! George and his wife and family are in my prayers, Annie! Just in case my other comments didn't go through, I think Lea's gourd creations are wonderful!!! and their doggie looks like a little Black Bear to me, so cute!! Don did a fantastic job of story telling except the part why YOU named Quanah, Quanah! hehe ps. delete one of my comment postings if both went through! Thanks!

DHLOL said...

To Turquoise Cro:

Thank you for your compliment on my writing. I am very glad that you enjoyed it. Quanah was named so to honor my Stepfather, whom I grew up with from the time I was eight. He was half Cherokee, with his mother being full.
The word "quanah" is in both the Cherokee and the Comanche/Kiowa language groups; meaning "friend" and "sweet" or "fragrant" respectively. How is your American Southwestern history? Our Quanah was named after Quanah Parker, who is a famous Comanche Chief in both war and peace. He was half Indian and half White, a warrior, a respected leader, a businessman, and a negotiator. He is a son of Texas who first fought them and then benefited the Texas town named after him. He was above all else Comanche and lived in both cultures, while teaching his people to keep their culture and learn that of the White culture which would benefit them. A good roll model for a man. I also whated to give my son an Indian name as a reminder that they have not disappeared. They are still in their land. That is the short story. Annie would not let me write the long one here. :)

paris parfait said...

Yes, thinking of George and remembering him in prayers. Sounds as though you had a fantastic trip - so much packed into a short time!

turquoise cro said...

Thank YOU!!! Don!! That answered my question perfectly! Quanah is a Beautiful name for sure! I will google Quanah Parker later tonight!

tongue in cheek said...

Don! I feel I was with you every step of the way. I like your eye for detail, how you are aware of Annie even during your own observations.
Thanks for sharing, especially about Lea, as she is on her way to visit me.
My prayers are with George.

AscenderRisesAbove said...

oh yes; the traffic in this corner of the world is insane. we went to berkley sunday over the bay bridge which is under construction. shudder. at least coming back it seems shorter as it is on the top tier.

Stephanie said...

Wow!! What a post, I feel like I was there with you. Don, I could use some help with travel writing on my Spain posts!!! Quite an amazing time you both had.

My thoughts and prayers are with George...