That’s all for now, folks – again!

Dear Readers… To cut to the quick – whilst I have thoroughly enjoy conducting these interviews over the past four years, it is a commitment and task that I feel I can no longer do. It has become increasingly difficult to get people to commit to doing the interviews and this, together with my own ‘burn-out,’ has led to my decision. Therefore I shall not be presenting anymore unless my circumstances change or special cases arise.
It has been a very interesting project indeed and one warmly received by subject and reader alike. Every single person I have interviewed has either shaken my hand or given me a hug at the interview’s conclusion, yet the majority, when initially approached by me, would ask, ‘Why would anyone want to read about me?’ or ‘My life has not been that exciting’, or something to that effect. This, I pointed out to them, is not at all true. Everyone has a story and this has been emphasized every week to me in person and undoubtedly to the very supportive readership of the column. Besides that, these interviews are not only providing people with a way to learn a little more about their neighbors and/or friends, but they also give the reader an insight to the Valley, its character, its uniqueness, and perhaps most valuable of all, its history.
Many, many people have told me how much they enjoy reading the interviews and getting to know someone a little more than they normally would by simply chatting briefly at the Post Office or in the local store. Bruce Anderson, the A.V.A. newspaper editor, perhaps put it best when he wrote, “Steve is introducing the Valley to itself.” This has been achieved by interviewing 94 men, 63 women, one couple, and a dog!
I wish to thank the many people far and wide who have sent comments regarding either their pleasure at reading about people they had lost touch with or other positive remarks about the interviews. I should like to express my gratitude to those in the local community both for their supportive remarks to me personally and for their many messages of encouragement upon reading these small windows into the Valley’s community from week to week. Most of all, I wish to thank the 159 interviewees to-date who have shared their stories with me and whose interesting and informative tales have provided so many of the A.V.A.’s readers with a wide variety of the ‘lives and times’ of Valley folks.
Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for the support of the A.V.A.’s Bruce Anderson and Mark Scaramella throughout this project.
Sincerely, Steve Sparks.

Published in: on December 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fred R. Buonanno – November 16th, 2012

I met Fred at his Philo Ridge Vineyards tasting room in downtown Boonville. With manager Jill Derwinski holding the fort we sat down and, with a bottle of delicious pinot gris at hand, began our conversation.
Fred was born in Trenton, New Jersey on July 26th, 1956 to parents Fred Sr. and Molly McKnight. Both of his paternal grandparents were born in Naples, Italy but they did not meet until each had emigrated to the States around 1910 and settled in Rhode Island. Once married they moved to Trenton where among a number of different jobs, grandfather Buonanno was primarily a fishmonger. “My grandfather maintained his strong Italian accent and I vividly remember loving the old popcorn machine they had and him calling me his ‘papacorn boy.’ My father was one of six and he had been born in 1923 at the same hospital as I was, across the street from Trenton High School.”
On his mother’s side, Fred’s grandparents were from Ireland. His grandfather was from Belfast and his grandmother from Arranmore Island, off the west coast of County Donegal in the north. “On the island they say there are 527 people and 2 Protestants! My grandfather died from the after effects of a mustard gas attack in the First World War and my grandmother died not long afterwards – from a broken heart it was said. They had moved to Scotland and my mother was born in 1925 in Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and raised by her mother’s mother.”
Immediately after high school, Fred’s father joined the air force in 1941 but a plane he was in was shot down. He was fine but wanted to move to the submarine service after that. However, they turned him down because of his color blindness and he ended up in the army infantry. He became a platoon sergeant and when on leave in Edinburgh in late 1944 he met Fred’s mother at a dance. They kept in touch and were married in Scotland on Memorial Day 1945. “My father returned to the war’s final months before going back to the States where he was discharged. My mother went over and was met by his entire Italian family at Ellis Island on a very hot day when she had on her wool suit and $100 in her pocket.”
They lived in New Jersey for a time before moving to Connecticut where Fred’s two sisters were born – Terry in 1948 (who tragically died aged 33 from breast cancer) and Geraldine in 1949. Fred’s father had been a manual laborer but was now getting involved in plastics manufacturing and followed this new career when the family moved back to New Jersey in 1950 and then buying a house, across the Delaware River from Trenton, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where they lived when Fred came along in 1956. “Morrisville was a middle class town that had a huge mill belonging to U.S. Steel as its primary employer. There were perhaps 10,000 people in town and it was a typical idyllic town of the 50’s – I had a great childhood. I went to Holy Trinity Catholic school from 1st thru’ 8th grade and my father progressed in the plastics industry where he was a designer of the components for various projects – I was the ‘crash test dummy’ for the slip ‘n’ slide! My childhood, and beyond, was all about sports – baseball, football, and basketball. I was very social and remain in touch with a number of friends from my kindergarten days and visit the area a couple of times each year.”
Everything changed dramatically for Fred and his family on December 4th, 1965… “My father had been offered a great job in Boston and my parents and I flew up there for my father to work out some final details and to look at houses. On the flight home from Boston to Newark I was in a window seat on an Eastern Airlines plane with perhaps 60 passengers when I suddenly saw another plane, a TWA 707, that was coming right at us. There was a mid-air collision. The other plane managed to get to JFK airport in New York and our pilot, the only reason I am alive today, managed to get us down in a field without any rudder control at dusk between two silos. When we crash landed the plane broke up and burst into flames. My father released my seat belt, passed me a St Joseph’s payer card, and told me to get out the back of the plane. My mother’s seatbelt was jammed and it took a few moments for my father to get it undone. The plane was becoming engulfed in flames. I went to the side of the plane where the wing had broken off and people were escaping. I helped my mother roll my father out through the flames, he could not move, and we got away from the burning aircraft.”
For a day or so Fred was separated from his parents in a different hospital. “I had some minor burns but my parents had both broken their backs and had third-degree burns on over 50%of their bodies, remaining in hospital for six weeks. I still have the prayer card.”
Fred’s father, aged 42 at the time of the crash, was not able to work again. “After receiving virtually no formal education he had worked his way to the pinnacle of his industry and it was all taken away. He sat around for a couple of years or so, dealing with lawyers and feeling bad about not being able to work and support his family. He died on July 25th 1967, the day before Fred Jr’s 11th birthday, at 44, following a massive heart attack in a magistrate’s office. He was sitting next to Fred Jr. at the time. My mother was fine and is still as tough as nails to this day at 87 years old – she’s gonna outlive me! She had two years at a business college and got a job as a secretary and then as an administrator for the State of New Jersey before becoming the assistant to the Superintendent of the Trenton School Board, finally retiring in 1992.”
At Morrisville High School, Fred captained both the football and baseball teams and played basketball “and dated cheerleaders in-between! I was a linebacker and offensive guard on the football team and first baseman at baseball, and, despite my height, the center on the basketball team. Let’s just say we didn’t win many basketball games but we didn’t lose many fights. Football is ‘king’ in Pennsylvania and on Friday nights half the town would turn out for the football games. If you played on the team everyone in town would know you and it was a huge part of the social fabric of the community.”
Fred did well academically, maintaining a B+ as he focused on going to college to play football or baseball, or both, but not necessarily on any particular career outside sports. He was heavily recruited for football by such schools as Ohio State, Virginia, and Maryland and for baseball he was drafted in a lower round to go to the minor leagues. He decided to go to James Madison in Harrisonburg, Virginia where he would be able to do both football and baseball and after graduating in 1975 he headed there. However, in his first football season he blew out his knee and was still rehabilitating when the baseball season came round. His sports career at a high level was over.
Following his sophomore year he left James Madison and went to Millersville State University in Pennsylvania. He played a little varsity baseball but during his senior year he left, not sure what he wanted to do with his life. He returned home and went to work with his sister Terry, who was heavily involved with the Democratic Party and was working on the 1978 campaign to get Brendan Byrne re-elected as Governor of New Jersey. Their candidate won and Fred found himself with a job in the governor’s office working with Bob Torricelli, assistant to the governor. “Torricelli went on to work on the staff of Vice President Walter Mondale and was with him for six months working on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide between the White House and Capitol Hill– a very interesting and educational time.”
Following that experience, Fred returned to New Jersey and found work with the Environmental Protection Agency as a field investigator. “I saw things that would turn your hair white.” He stayed there in Trenton for two years, living in Morrisville across the river, before his long-time interest in vintage cars led to a new job. Fred and a friend opened an antique car showroom in the tourist town of New Hope, PA, also on the Delaware River, close to where Washington crossed and about thirty minutes from his hometown. “We had a great location on the main street in town and would take vehicles on consignment. My specialty was 1953-67 Corvettes and the older Rolls Royce’s and the business did well for a couple of years. Then in 1981 my sister became ill and passed a year later. I found myself at a crossroads and decided to sell my portion of the business to my partner. I started to sell ads for a newspaper in a nearby town for about a year and at some point took a vacation to visit my other sister in Mill Valley, California, just north of San Francisco. I had never really thought much about California but I kind of liked it and decided to move out here. My Mom was okay with that – she has never remarried and would be alone but was going to be okay, and so I drove out in the spring of 1983 and saw a bit of the country over a two-month trip. I then spent the first six months here lying on Stinson Beach in Marin with a sheepdog called Rachel, skydiving, and eating at San Francisco restaurants – it was all a very different culture to anything I had known back east.”
Fred thought he should get a job and he saw an ad in the S.F. Chronicle for an ad salesperson. “I applied and got the job. I lived in Mill Valley and caught the ferry and cable car to work in the City. I started on the classifieds for real estate and cars and then moved to political ads, which I really enjoyed. At work I met Bill Vierra who basically became my surrogate father, and his wife Alice. He had been in advertising for over thirty years and he and I became very close friends. He meant the world to me; he died five years ago and I am still in contact with Alice, in fact I spent Thanksgiving with her last week.”
Fred was at the Chronicle for five years from 1983-88 and during that time he attended night classes at the University of San Francisco, “somehow convincing the newspaper to pay for my course in Information Systems Management – not related to my job at all, and I finally got my degree in 1986”
On April 4th, 1987, Fred was at a club on Market Street where “I spotted a tall beautiful blonde. Her name was Heather and I asked her to dance – she claims that I was about twelve feet away when I did but that can’t be right! I then asked her out to dinner and, although she was kind of shy, she agreed and asked when. I said ‘Tomorrow – Sunday’ and she gave me her phone number. I called her the next day and she was unsure, saying how did she know I wasn’t an axe murderer. I told her she would be fine, as I never took my axe on the first date! We went to Little City on Washington Square in North Beach and it all went very well. We married on April 4th, 1988, exactly a year after our first meeting. She was and still is a software engineer, now a Vice president of the company she works for.”
During his first years in Mill Valley and San Francisco Fred became addicted to golf and also played racquetball and went running. “In 1984 I had moved into the city to an apartment on Twin Peaks and would run up to Sutro Tower at the top. My athletic interests have always been a part of my life – restaurants too! I often explored Napa and Sonoma counties as well as the City and when I first met Heather I was a beer and Scotch guy, only getting into wine much later. We had a great circle of friends who we’d see often. We moved to an apartment just above the Castro District for a year before buying a condo on Potrero Hill in 1989, a month before the earthquake.”
Fred had left the newspaper in 1988 and worked for a number of different computer companies over the next year or so as he “immersed myself in that tech world. By 1989, I was with Motorola and had an ‘office’ of sorts on the Peninsular south of the City but any sort of promotion would mean going to the head office in Boston. ‘No, thank you,’ I thought initially. However they made me such a good offer, and as part of that I insisted that I would be able to come home every weekend, a deal I had committed to with Heather, who was doing well at her job in San Francisco. I therefore started on my many years of the long commute.”
Fred would come home to the City every weekend but could be traveling anywhere in the world as part of his job during the week. “Fortunately Motorola was very into golf as part of their hospitality for clients. I flew around 250,000 miles that year before taking a position in the Bay Area that involved less air travel. It was all very ironic – I had almost lost my life in a plane and now I was making my living in one.”
In 1995 Fred left Motorola and went to Fujitsu setting up global distribution channels, working more in Asia and the south Pacific – Australia, Korea, Singapore, Japan, still maintaining that commitment to be back at home with Heather for the weekend. I was helped by the fact that I crossed the international dateline when I left Tokyo on Saturday, therefore arriving in San Francisco on Friday.”
Some years before, around 1987, Fred had visited the coastal town of Mendocino a couple of times, passing through Anderson Valley, and occasionally doing a little wine-tasting, on the way. On one of those visits he and Heather were here for the County Fair. “I fell in love with that event – I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. It reminded me of fairs back east in some ways and, being a city/suburb boy, I was intrigued by the agriculture and livestock. We joined a couple of wine clubs – Handley and Navarro. My friend Bill Vierra had always advised me to buy property, quoting the Mark Twain line that property is good because they are not making anymore, and we began to look for property but thought that the Valley, although very pretty was too remote so we had been concentrating in Sonoma County and the foothills of the Sierras. Heather was working in Mountain View and when I flew in I was also south of the City so a trip up this way was over 130 miles – too far.”
They ended up looking from 1994 to 1999 and entered escrow on two properties in Sonoma that both fell through. They continued to visit the coast and pass through the Valley when “suddenly the light bulb went off – we decided we’d like to live here and started to look for property here in 1999. I was still with Fujitsu and getting more and more frequent flyer miles – all fine except it just means you are going to be on another plane! Sometimes my mother would come with me to Europe and we would stop off in London and go up to Scotland to see her relatives and I’d play some golf.”
“By this time I was learning to enjoy wine – Heather had made it in her garage in the City and certainly has the gift. As a result we began thinking about getting a small vineyard property, sell the grapes, and enjoy the wine. I knew nothing at all about winemaking – some might say I still don’t! I had never driven a tractor and now my business card has me referred to as ‘Tractor Butt / Owner.’ I spotted a property for sale in the Chronicle that was ‘off-grid’ – I didn’t know what that meant. We went up for a look and met the owner – he had long hair and a ponytail with a beard and was wearing slippers! It was Urs Schaub, who also owned the Pick and Pay / Boonville Lodge building in Boonville. He showed us the property and an hour or so later we had bought it!”
Fred and Heather took possession on August 1st, 1999 and soon got to know Hans and Norman Kobler at Lazy Creek Vineyards, who were to be a great help, as was Urs. I said to Norman ‘you show me how to grow grapes and when you want to sell $1/2 billion of communication equipment to China you come to me’ – as I said I knew nothing at first.”
Fred left Motorola and moved to Nortel and was still traveling as much, although now he and Heather would come to the Valley every weekend. “I really and truly enjoyed everything about this new venture but still had my city ways and was quickly learning the ways of the country. I would ask why something hadn’t been done and would be told simply ‘Because it hasn’t.’ Norman Kobler did so much for us – we wouldn’t be where we are today without him as a co-worker and friend.
By 2001 the corporate bubble was bursting and with Nortel offering early retirement plans, Fred took the opportunity to move on. “Later that year we lost our minds and opened a winery! We had planted a further few acres of vines for ten in total and our first vintage was 167 cases, 57 of which were from our cabernet vines planted in 1967. Hans Kobler helped us a lot in those early days, and Milla Handley and the Klindt’s at Claudia Springs were fabulous at sharing information with us.”
In 2003, Heather took retirement. They rented out their condo in the City and for a year she and Fred were up here full-time before she returned to work in the Bay Area. In that time she worked at Taylor Roberts in the Valley. “That gave her time to decompress from the corporate world and I took a job with Brutacao Cellars – I can sell and do marketing and was there from 2003 to 2010, working for a great family and with many great folks.”
By 2010, with ‘by-appointment only’ bringing in maybe 30-40 visitors a year to the winery, situated way back over five miles up Nash Mill Road, Fred realized that he needed to focus on the future of Philo Ridge Vineyards and he left Brutocao. He also opened his own brokerage for grapes and juices, mainly to wineries outside California. Sales at the winery greatly improved and then it was decided that they needed a tasting room in town and with Jill Derwinski as manager they opened in February 2011. “Jill has done a fabulous job for us, greatly helping the business to grow. It has been a lot of fun and I try to spend time here from Friday to Monday when we are open. Schmoozing is in my nature and I really enjoy it.”
“We initially stayed sort of low-key overall, following the backlash against out-of-towners buying property here, but I am here virtually all of the time now and am involved in the community and attend many events. I have quietly got to know people and make donations and support numerous charities. I don’t have time to do much hands-on but try to help in ways that I can. Our social life is generally around winery events and with Heather back in the City during the week our time together is short and has to count. Owning a winery is not all sitting on the verandah sipping wine and watching the grapes grow. It is hard work but I enjoy it and there is no doubt it is a good life and I love the general atmosphere of the Valley.”
Besides work at his winery and brokerage, Fred has been the past President of the A.V. Winegrowers Association and Chair of the Mendocino Wine and Grape Commission. “I have always got involved in things that interest me. When I decide to do something, I immerse myself in it. I love to cook although Heather thinks I am always at Lauren’s or Libby’s. We have two rescue Golden Retrievers and two feral cats who have become three-meals-a-day inside cats.”
I asked Fred for a snapshot image of his father – “Very dapper and fit – he worked out with Jack LeLanne, the fitness guru”… And his mother? – “Resilient, with a huge heart”… The Valley? – “I love the sense of community; the willingness to help out and be open. I also enjoy the solitude I can get here sometimes.”
I asked Fred for his thoughts or comments about these frequently discussed Valley issues or topics of conversation…The Wineries? – “Of course I am biased but I believe they have been good for the Valley. Other industries were fading, the wineries have come in and kept things going in many ways. They are the valley’s major employer although I must say that I think we have hit critical mass at this point”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I like it. Heather reads it every week. I like to read some of it – the Valley People section and the interviews and anything about the Valley’s history. It seems to have changed its tone for the better”… KZYX&Z public radio? – “I love it. We are members and where else can I get much of the information they put out? I love the Celtic music on Sunday mornings, the solar living and ecology shows, and any local stuff.”
To end the interview, as I do each week, I posed a few obvious and some not-so-obvious questions to Fred and asked him to reply as spontaneously as possible…
1. What excites you; makes you smile; gets your juices flowing? – “Heather’s smile; playing with the dogs; getting a good order!”
2. What annoys you; brings you down? – “Intolerant people.”
3. What sound or noise do you love? – “A cat purring two inches from my nose.”
4. What sound or noise do you hate? – “Politicians talking”
5. What would be your ‘last supper’? – ‘A cheeseburger and fries with a cold mug of Heineken at Rossi’s Tavern in Trenton, New Jersey. I have one very year.”
6. If you could meet one person dead or alive, one on one for a conversation over dinner, who would that person be? – “Abe Lincoln.”
7. If you were sitting at home and a fire broke out in the building, what three things would you make sure you took with you? – “The Prayer Card my Dad gave me when the plane went down; family photos; that’s it…”
8. Does anything scare you? – “Vampires scared me a lot when I was younger and I always slept with the sheets covering my neck. These days it would be not being the person I can be, underperforming… And still vampires!”
9. Where would you like to visit if you could go anywhere in the world? – “I have traveled all over the world but in recent times I have developed a desire to see more of this country and Mount Rushmore in particular.”
10. Do you have a favorite book and song, or one that has influenced you? – “I like biographies – Gore Vidal’s ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Benjamin Franklin’ by Walter Isaacson come to mind. I also like Clive Cussler’s adventure novels featuring Dirk Pitt… As for music I like jazz and classical but have no favorites.”
11. What was your favorite hobby as a teenager? And now? – Sports – I excelled back then at all sports. Now, it would be wine-making, but I guess that is more of a passion and is our business, and I am determined to get back to playing some golf.”
12. Do you have a favorite word or phrase that you use? – “Crap”
13. What profession other than your own would you like to have attempted if you were given the chance to do anything? – “First baseman for the Yankees.”
14. What profession or job would you not like to do? – “President.”
15. How old were you when you went on your first date? Where did you go? – “I was fourteen and we went to the boardwalk at Seaside Heights in New Jersey.”
16. Is there something you would do differently if you could do it over again? – “I believe that things happen for a reason. I have made good and bad decisions and accept them.”
17. Tell me about a moment or period of time you will never forget. – “Meeting Heather for the first time.”
18. What is something that you are really proud of and why? – “That I have a great wife, a good job, and wonderful family and friends.”
19. What is your favorite thing about yourself, your best quality? – “That I am open and honest.”
20. Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well when that happens it would be great to hear him or her say, ‘Welcome – your family and friends are all waiting to see you’ – yes, that would be wonderful.”

Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

David Jackness – October 26th, 2012

I met with David on Anderson Valley Way where he lives with life-partner Regine Schwenter. We enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea and sat down to chat.
David was born in 1941 in New York City to parents William Jackness and Rosalind Schiff who were both first generation Americans. His paternal grandfather was from a small rural town in southwest Russia and he met David’s grandmother in a shtetl, a small Jewish town, in Romania. Both had been previously married and they eloped to the States in 1903, arriving at Ellis Island where his grandfather’s papers could not be read clearly and Jochnis became Jackness. They probably only spoke Yiddish and settled in Brooklyn where the grandfather practiced his trade as a glazier. They came with three of their children and had five more in this country, including David’s father.
Maternal Grandfather Henry Schiff was from Austro-Hungary and his parents spoke high German. David’s grandmother was from Lithuania before moving to Poland and then on to the U.S. when her family decided her tuberculosis was not going to lead to her finding a husband in their town. She met her husband in the States, living in Queens, N.Y., and they had two children – David’s mother and her brother. “My father saw my mother ice skating one day and fell immediately in love. It was not necessarily reciprocated as my mother had high ideals of marrying high. They were married in 1937 but she was seven years younger than he and not super-enthusiastic about it. They were of non-religious Jewish descent and had both gone through the Depression and had to find work to support their families so chances of college had passed, their aspirations curtailed. They were together for 21 years – probably 21 more than they should have been.”
David’s father had a series of non-descript jobs from door-to-door salesman to accountant, while his mother did some bookkeeping. Her uncle owned one of the big cab companies in New York which meant he had an ‘understanding’ with Al Capone’s mafia. He taught my mother how to juggle the books and sometimes she had to meet strangers in a luncheonette with a bag of money. Later on, when Capone was on trial, her uncle had to leave town as he didn’t want to have to be a witness.”
David came along in 1941 and his sister two-and-a-half years later. They now lived in row house in Queens, in a predominantly Irish/Italian neighborhood. “I was regularly beaten up for being Jewish – these people were pissed off at the Jews for killing Jesus – it had nothing to do with me! When I was about four I was basically adopted by a local German couple who showed me a whole new world, They were very kind and generous and I remember thinking I wish they were my parents. The Jewish culture was certainly a part of my upbringing but I was not forced into the religion or its practices. On high holy days we would sometimes go to Temple but Christmas was my favorite holiday. I did have a bar mitzvah but that was it and apart from the occasional wedding or funeral I never set foot in a synagogue again. We were not a close family and had few gatherings even though the Schiffs were close by. My maternal grandmother died in 1947 and my paternal grandfather had died in 1925 way before I was born – not a very nice man apparently.”
By the age of two I was showing musical ability and by four was considered a child prodigy on the piano. My mother thought she had a little Mozart on her hands. The Julliard School tested me but despite doing well they did not accept children under seven. My mother would not let it go at that and she managed to get me a scholarship to attend the Mannes Music School, one of the other two Conservatories in New York City. I was four and twice a week I went there with her on a bus, a train, and then a walk in Manhattan. I enjoyed it at first as they groomed me to be a concert pianist or composer. She really pushed me while my father was more laissez-faire. He supported all of my endeavors but was emotionally cold and when my sister got polio, that had a huge impact on her life and us around her, he had no ‘use’ for her. My involvement in music meant that I had a far from normal childhood, often inside practicing while other kids played sports etc outside. I was always afraid of making mistakes with my music and that affected other areas of my young life. It also resulted in me being very timid and always having sweaty hands.”
As far as his regular schooling went, David did well, but socially he was always a year behind the other children. “I was neurotic and shy. I enjoyed the sciences and excelled at French. My father was very honest and honorable and was doing well as a sales representative and we moved to suburban Queens when I was twelve by which time I was losing interest in the piano so my mother made me take up the flute and I studied with one of the top flutists in the country. I was the President of the school band and the Vice-President of the Orchestra – this was a big deal. I also had a little jazz band although I was never very good as at the back on my mind were my classical influences and the metronome rhythm that does not go well with jazz of course. My interests had moved to electronics and I became very involved in amateur radio.”
In 1958, when David was 17, his parents went through an ugly divorce. His sister went with her mother and soon after, when David graduated, he went to engineering school. “It was always on the agenda that I would go to college although my flute teacher was devastated when I stopped my lessons with him. I was not really suited to math and physics at the engineering school as it turned out and I wound up at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., a small liberal arts school affiliated with the Lutheran Church. I did see some anti-Semitism there and I remember a bunch of the students getting drunk – the drinking age was 18 then, and defacing the Jewish cemetery in Staten Island. I never felt at home there, but I really wanted to leave home and had thought I was ready for college and the lifestyle it offered, but I wasn’t as it turned out.”
David still played the flute in the college orchestra and also organized a local recorder group that played Elizabethan music, for which he wrote some of the arrangements. His degree was now in psychology but he also studied minors in music and math and graduated in 1962. “I had also fallen in with a ‘rough’ crowd, discovered drugs for the first time, and had done a lot of growing up but I stayed in school and that had helped me avoid the draft to that point, although the war in Vietnam was heating up. By this time I had discovered the work of Wilhelm Reich, Freud’s prize pupil, which has been a major part of my life ever since. His work grabbed me like no other form of psychology but many think him of as a ‘nut’ and his work is not widely accepted even today. I did a short spell of graduate study at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan but dropped out of the program in early 1963 believing that there was not much work in the psychology field unless you had a Ph D. Then on April Fool’s Day that year – I should have realized that something was not right – I took a job as a social caseworker for the N.Y.C. Department of Welfare working in the worst areas of the city from Brooklyn to the Spanish Harlem.”
David was passionate about his work despite the dangers and depressing work conditions but he earned decent money with good benefits and by 1965 he became the youngest supervisor in the department’s history. “I felt I was doing a real service in the community and became involved with the radical union that represented about 5,000 caseworkers throughout the whole city. I discovered various degrees of corruption with some caseworkers and management accepting money from landlords to place people in their terrible buildings. It really offended me and I turned in an inspector at one point. As a supervisor, my work with the union was frowned on by management and they began to move me around the department and after four years I realized that I would always have problems there and so I quit.”
It was the late sixties and David had moved from the West Village and was living on the Lower East Side. “It was more to my taste and budget. There was a lot of stuff happening there at the time and I was spending most of my money on drugs and listening to the jazz greats who played in the city. I was really enjoying the city lifestyle and while I did not have any long-term relationships during that time I definitely had a good time. I dabbled in all aspects of the counter culture – politics, music, drugs, and had developed a new passion by this time – photography. I worked for some photographers both as a shop and darkroom assistant and on some of their shoots. By 1967, I believed that I could run my own place and, with a partner, I opened a small photo business on Avenue A and 5th Street, selling equipment, doing darkroom work, and processing film for professionals and the many tourists who visited the area.”
The business went well for a time but his partner fell in love and left town so David was left alone to run the operation. “I had to do seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, in the shop and then do the books after we closed. By that time I had met Ellen and we lived above the shop, getting married later and I adopted her son, Daniel. Then came some the street riots and the tourists stayed away.” David ended up selling the business at a loss to a group that helped under-privileged kids. “I was only ever a mediocre photographer – doing weddings and bar mitzvahs, and there were 50, 000 out of work good photographers in New York so that alternative was not going to work.”
“New York was getting worse and worse and I left to pursue a dream of going to Taos, New Mexico. We left town in 1968 but the car broke down in Sante Fe, and with my mother, her second husband, and my sister in nearby Tucson, we went there and stayed with them for a month before renting an apartment. At first I thought it was beautiful there, so exotic – little did I know.”
David found work as an apprentice carpenter, a passion of his since his younger years, in the copper mines in the mountains outside Tucson. “I worked with some roughneck guys and we’d start at 5am – I’d never had ‘5am’ on my watch before in my life! It was freezing at that time but later in the day boiling hot – sometimes 124 degrees! A miserable shift, and most of the people were as prickly as the cactus around them. I quit and found a non-union job in a cabinet shop. I learned a great deal but by the late summer of 1969 I was done with Tucson. It’s not hell but you can certainly see hell from there!”
David thought about returning to New York “with my tail between my legs, but my wife and I thought how could we forgive ourselves if we did not get to San Francisco, considering we were over half-way there and we knew people in S.F. so we ‘escaped’ from Tucson.”
San Francisco was “a breath of fresh air” to David and he found a job in the Mission district, in a cabinet shop doing cabinets, remodeling and furniture-making. “A whole new world opened up for me. I worked in the shop and also did restoration in Victorian homes. It was like a dream; a really wonderful experience for a few years.” By 1972, as a result of a friendship with another couple that had come out of David’s involvement with the development of an alternative school, the two couples and their children were invited by a wealthy rancher to move to the town of Covelo in Mendocino County to ‘help save the town.’ The rancher owned 27,000 acres there and was hoping to encourage the healthy growth of the town – senior housing, medical center, support services, nature trails, etc. One of the things he felt was necessary was a restaurant and he asked David and the group to move up there and build it.
“I was always a country kid who didn’t know it. Ellen and I now had a second child together; son Damon, born in 1971, and we sublet our house in the City and moved the family up to Mendocino County, camping on the land for the first three months. The group included me, the other husband Mike, who was the architect of the whole venture, one or two others, and local laborers, each of us getting the same pay – $5 an hour. I was barely up to the task and it took one-and-a-half years but it was done and proved to be a wonderful project; a life-changing experience. After it was done, I realized that I had really taken to country living and stayed, taking on various building projects and establishing Covelo’s first building trades apprentice program, primarily with Native Americans in mind.”
Following his divorce from Ellen in 1975, David returned to San Francisco and opened his own cabinet/remodeling business. “I don’t remember exactly why. It probably sounded like a good idea at the time. Covelo is very remote and pretty dangerous at times with all of the guns and knife-fights – a place where nine Indian tribes had been forced to live side-by-side.”
The two children stayed with their mother and moved to Comptche, so David would drive up and take them back to the City for a day before returning them back home. Meanwhile, David had met his future wife and his business was going quite well. He also taught a home repair course for elderly Asians in the city and the first graduating class from that course began ‘The Chinaman Handyman Service.’ In addition, he had a short-lived home repair program on KQED public television.
“In 1978, I was popped for remodeling without a general contractor’s license so I decided to leave town and moved to Willits in Mendocino where we bought a home and where there was a construction boom, and I would be much closer to my kids. I also took care of my license situation – I got five of them, in general contracting, painting and decorating, plumbing, flooring, and ceramic tile. I was never great at any of them but I was a good businessman and organizer – it’s in my blood! I also taught an evening class at Mendocino College on how to build your own home, wrote a do-it-yourself column for the Willits News, and worked as a loan processor for the Farmer’s Home Administration helping lower income people to become homeowners. I have never done anything I am not passionate about but have just done it for too long sometimes.”
By 1981 David had re-married, to Barbara, and another son, Leland, had arrived. “We moved to Ukiah where I got a ‘real’ job working for the local housing authority, setting up and running housing rehabilitation programs for lower income homeowners. There were some tough years in community housing and I was involved with getting funds through grants from the State Department of Housing and Community Development to help these people whose homes needed repairs that they could not afford. I wrote the contracts and specifications, processed the loans, and put the jobs out to bid with contractors all over the county, spreading the jobs among different contractors. It was the longest straight job I ever had and although there was lots of paperwork I still managed to often get out in the field too. Throughout much of the 90’s I served as a Board of Directors member and President of the Board of The Ford Street Project. Based in Ukiah, the Ford St. Project deals with drug and alcohol problems, counseling, chronic mental illness, and homeless issues among others. It operates an emergency shelter as well as offering long-term transitional housing for those people reestablishing themselves in the community during or after going through rehab programs.”
In 1996, David and Barbara were divorced and two years later the job ended when funding ran out. “I had no job, a family house in Ukiah, and my kids had all moved on to college and beyond – they all went to U.C. Santa Cruz. In 1998, when Leland, my youngest, left for college, I rented out the house and moved to the coast. I lived in East Caspar and then in Cleone, just north of Fort Bragg and found work as the construction coordinator for a manufactured home dealer. Once a week I found myself driving through Anderson Valley. I would often stop for a savory turnover at Glad’s and often went into the Boont Berry store in Boonville. One day I spotted a woman there. She returned my smile and the whole world seemed to stand still. A few months later I saw her again and the earth moved. A couple of years went by before I saw her again, working behind the counter at Boont Berry, She was very busy and I left, but went back a few weeks later and we talked. For me it had been instantaneous. I asked her out on a date and we met in Mendocino Village, had coffee, talked, and we really hit it off. That was 2002 and we have been going strong ever since.”
David had found the love of his life. He sold his sailboat and moved to Boonville. He retired from full-time work in 2003, at the age of 62, although he continued to do some consulting for the Contractors’ State License Board. He and Regine moved into the newly built house on Anderson Valley Way where they continue to live. Following years of back problems he finally had an operation that was a great success. “That was as a result of many years in construction and me being young, stupid, and believing I was immortal. Since that surgery in 2011 I have been much better.”
Since moving to the Valley, David has served for two terms on the board of KZYX & Z local public radio as well as doing voluntary work there too. His interest in amateur (ham) radio continues to take up lots of his leisure time and he and Regine love to travel, visiting Costa Rica and much of Europe in recent years. “I also still like to play with wood and do various small projects around here. As for music, I’m slowly moving back into that – there is a lot of baggage. I do take out my flute once a week, polish it, and put it back. That’s a start. I am definitely going to start electric bass lessons soon too – I have committed to that.”
Other activities that David enjoys are dancing with Regine – “she make me look good”, watching good films, and doing T’ai chi. Two of his sons live in Santa Cruz, one a musician and writer, the other holds a position in a large vitamin company, while the youngest, Leland, is in Santa Monica where “he is a singer/songwriter, who makes a living repairing guitars for the rich and famous. I told him not to quit this day job.”
I asked David for a verbal image/memory of his father. “He was not physically abusive but I was afraid of him with his short fuse. I feel closer to him since he died and in retrospect I appreciate much of what he did”… And his mother? “She pictured herself as the ‘power behind the throne.’ She could be very warm and loving but just as often was the opposite. Many of my parents’ shortcomings I have come to understand, were as a result of their upbringing and then living through the Depression.”
What do you like about life in the Valley? “Regine… The sense of community. I have never felt as at home and with as much community support as I do here. It is a very special place.” And any negatives? “Not really, although I would like to get out to more diverse cultural events but it is a long trip to San Francisco. I miss the coast sometimes, too.”
I asked David for his thoughts or comments about these frequently discussed Valley issues or topics of conversation…The Wineries? – “They do a good job in providing jobs but some are questionable on providing housing for workers and they are not good on what they are taking out of the Valley’s earth with most of their product leaving the Valley. The water they take is not just in the summer either – many use it for frost protection”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “Well, I‘ll buy this issue! The paper is definitely well written – I do admire that. There seems to be some confusion between editorials and news reporting”… KZYX & Z radio? – “The best and most important center of communication that we have in the county.”
To end the interview, as I do each week, I posed a few obvious and some not-so-obvious questions to David and asked him to reply as spontaneously as possible…
1. What excites you; makes you smile; gets your juices flowing? – “Regine.”
2. What annoys you; brings you down? – “Laziness and messiness.”
3. What sound or noise do you love? – “Music.”
4. What sound or noise do you hate? – “Continually barking dogs.”
5. What would be your ‘last supper’? – “Thanksgiving Dinner.”
6. If you could meet one person dead or alive, one on one for a conversation over dinner, who would that person be? – “Wilhelm Reich – one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry.”
7. If you were sitting at home and a fire broke out in the building, what three things would you make sure you took with you? – “Family photographs; a selection of my rare books; my flute.”
8. Does anything scare you? –“It frightens me to be incapacitated, paralyzed, unable to fend for myself.”
9. Where would you like to visit if you could go anywhere in the world? – “Asia.”
10. Do you have a favorite film or one that has influenced you? – “When I was about twelve, I saw ‘The Bicycle Thief’ at a movie theater in Queens. It was the first time I saw a really fine film and have been a film addict ever since.”
11. What was your favorite hobby as a teenager? And now? – “It has always been amateur radio.”
12. Do you have a favorite word or phrase that you use? – “Oh, shit!”
13. What profession other than your own would you like to have attempted if you were given the chance to do anything? – “A healer – healing by conscious intent.”
14. What profession or job would you not like to do? – “A lawyer.”
15. How old were you when you went on your first date? Where did you go? – “I took a girl called Bonnie to the movies when I was sixteen. It was ‘Pillow Talk’ I think – where both Doris Day and Rock Hudson were pretending to be straight.”
16. Is there something you would do differently if you could do it over again? – “In 2002 I had the opportunity to become a healer but decided not to. There is a definite thread of healing/teaching in my life.”
17. Tell me about a moment or period of time you will never forget. – “My trip to Cuba in 1996.”
18. What is something that you are really proud of and why? – “I like how I’ve lived my life. My sons have turned out very well and that please me greatly, but I cannot take any credit for that.”
19. What is your favorite thing about yourself, your best quality? – “That I am an attentive and able listener.”
20. Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well, if I believed in that kind of God, I’d like to hear him or her say, ‘What took you so long?’.”

The next interview will appear on the final (5th) Thursday of the month – November 29th.
The guest interviewee from the Valley on that occasion will be
Fred Buonanno – Owner, Philo Ridge Winery

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 5:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coming soon…

Dear Readers,
There is no interview this week. This month, with five Thursdays, the interviews will be published on the 3rd and 5th Thursday of the month and therefore the next interview will appear on November 15th when my guest will be David Jackness…
Thanks for your continued positive comments and support,
Kind regards, Steve Sparks.

Published in: on November 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jerry Karp – October 13th, 2012

I met with Jerry at the home he and wife Stephanie bought a few years ago on Ornbaun Road on the outskirts of Boonville.
Jerry was born on July 4th, 1955 in Newark, New Jersey the second of two children born to parents Joseph Karp and Elinor Rosenberg, the first being older sister Martha, born four years earlier. “At that time we lived in the Weequahic neighborhood, a predominantly Jewish district and on the same street as author Philip Roth, although he is fifteen years older – yes, the neighborhood of ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’. My father’s family had come to the States from Russia, in fact my paternal grandfather had on his documents that he was a ‘subject of the Tsar of Russia’ when he arrived in 1902, and my father was born in 1918 in Newark. My mother’s family came sometime in the 1890’s also from Russia, I believe, and they settled in Bayonne, New Jersey, about ten miles away. My father was raised in Newark and was very open-minded, accepting the Black migration from the south, believing that ‘we are all the same’ as the district change dramatically in the early sixties when the Jewish deli, bakery, etc all began to just disappear.
Jerry’s parents met at a Jewish mixer or community event. “My mother was born in 1923 and they were married in the late 1940’s when she was in her late twenties, relatively late in life for those days. My father had very bad arthritis and was not involved in the war while my mother worked for an agency that helped Jewish immigrants settle in this country.”
The family lived in this neighborhood for the first ten years or so of Jerry’s life. “I had a very happy childhood and when I was young, living there, I did not even realize that Jews were a minority. The school was 80% Jewish at first, but by the time I left there were about four or five white kids remaining and there were some good lessons for me to learn about accepting others. I played outside a lot – it was the days when you knew all the neighbors and, as a twelve year old, I would travel by the city bus unaccompanied. I had chores to do and would get a little allowance for doing so. If I wanted something I was always told ‘save your allowance.’ On just two occasions I asked for something and it was given – a chess set and a sled. A big influence at an early age occurred in 1964, when I was about 9. My sister was 13 and was caught in the teeth of Beatle mania when it hit this country. I remember the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, sitting on my father’s lap and him shaking his head and saying ‘Awful.’ I loved it and it was the start of my lifelong interest in music.”
Jerry’s father worked for Lockheed Electronics as a traveling salesman. He was often gone from Monday to Friday, selling components for oil trucks, returning home at the weekends. “He would go all over the country and after his passing we found in his documents a letter from the State department granting him permission to carry certain material and documents – was he a ‘spook’? I don’t know and I’ll guess I never will. After a few years of that he started working in customer relations for Automatic Data Processing (ADP), a company that did payrolls for companies by computer. This was in New York City and meant long hours but he was to remain there until his retirement, even being allowed an office to use beyond that. Clearly people liked him there and when he died the company CEO visited us to pay his respects.
Meanwhile, Jerry’s mother raised the children until Jerry was eight when, in 1963, she returned to work as a ‘secretary’, which really meant office manager, for an architect and several draftsmen.
The ‘tipping point’ had arrived by 1966 and it was time to leave Newark. “All of my friends and the friends of my parents had left by then. The school system was imploding and my parents knew it was time to move out. A year later, in the summer of 1967, the Newark riots took place. We moved to Maplewood, a town not far away that was a mixture of Jews, Italians, and Irish. That was in November 1966 and the very next day I met and befriended Ed Sacher, who later changed his name to Dallas Sacher. We are still best friends to this day. In fact, I really have two best friends. Just the year after I became friends with Dallas, I also met Dan Hirshberg. Dan and Dallas and I became sort of a three musketeers and we have stayed that way. Dallas lives down in Redwood City, south of San Francisco, and Dan is still back in New Jersey, but every year we get together for a guys weekend in a different city to see some baseball and have some fun. We’re trying to go to every major league ballpark. We started in 2000 and haven’t missed a year since. It’s great to have a couple of friends who know just about everything there is to know about your life and what you’ve been through.”
Jerry did three years at Junior High and in the fall of 1969 went to a three-year high school, Columbia High. “Maplewood was a working class, suburban neighborhood but the school district was combined with the more affluent South Orange and so there were some rich kids at the school too. I was a skinny kid, not comfortable around girls and not that good at sports, but I loved baseball. Then between 8th and 9th grade I had a growth spurt and began to play some basketball. I was a big Yankees fan and would get the bus into New York’s Port Authority, and catch two trains, passing through Harlem to Yankee stadium – I was maybe 12 and you could do that then. I also watched baseball with my father a lot and would love to play but as I said I was not very good. I collected stamps, like my father, I have his collection still, and I was an avid reader, always have been, and would often visit the public library and stay for hours.”
Jerry had a part-time job at the Shop Rite Supermarket after school and at weekends and had a fun core of friends he hung out with. However, for the first time in his life, at about 15 or 16 years old, he experienced something that could be construed as anti-Semitism. “Some of the Irish and Italian kids liked me until they found out I was Jewish. It was a very small number but it shocked me all the same.”
Jerry was expected to do well at school by his parents and he did. “It was the stereotypical Jewish family – ‘life begins after graduation from medical school.’ In my last year or so at high school the counter culture period had come and virtually gone but I smoked pot and did have long hair, a bone of contention with my father who was conservative in those ways. Grades did not interest me and I was not good at nor able to focus on math and science but loved English literature and history and did very well in them.”
Jerry graduated in 1973 and was accepted at Boston University. “I was very happy to be leaving New Jersey and the suburbs. It was good to get out and not be isolated in that suburban, middle class environment. The world had been changing since 1968 and I had wanted to get out since then. That was all on the downslide by 1973 and it was frustrating to have missed out, but I was very aware of the politics and changes of the times, and was still acting like it was the sixties but knew in my heart that it was over. I moved to Boston and found there was a great music scene there. I was into country rock – The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull, and then in late 1973 I heard Bruce Springsteen – that blew my mind and I went to see him and the E-Street Band at Seton Hall University during spring break in 1974. I lived just two blocks from Fenway Park so I was also able to get my baseball fix.”
Jerry was a journalism major at the B.U. School of Communications and worked on the alternative student newspaper starting out covering the wrestling team. However, following a situation in which he quoted a couple of the players and was admonished for his use of some profanities in his ‘on the record’ report, he felt that if this kind of thing was going to occur often, it would not be a good vocation for him. As a result he changed his studies to Public Communications in the Media and Advertising and took a number of literature courses on the way. “I got good grades and took learning seriously.”
Boston University was an urban campus but Jerry had led a relatively sheltered lifestyle and as his college days came to an end he felt that “there was a whole lot of life I really knew nothing about. I had read Jack Kerouac’s writings and was enthralled by his stories. I wanted to go and see the country and go ‘On the Road’ myself. I was not ready for the structure of a real job and despite my parents begging me to go to graduate school I had other plans after my graduation in 1977.”
In his junior year, Jerry became involved with the college radio station and after a time of grunt work and filing he was offered the chance to do a jazz show. “I had three jazz albums – by John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, and Miles Davis and knew very little but I figured I could read the liner notes and get by so I did one show a week during my final two years.”
After spending the summer of 1977 in New Jersey, Jerry and a friend took a drive-away car that had to be taken to St Louis and ‘on the road’ they went. After St Louis they got another car to Davenport, Iowa, then drove a Karmann Ghia all the way to Anaheim, California, a trip that took them through Amarillo, Texas and an incident with local police that saw the “New Jersey Jew boy nearly thrown in jail.” They made there was to San Diego and stayed with Jerry’s uncle for a short time before getting an apartment near to the beach. Jerry found work as a busboy/dishwasher “at a diner in a department store in a mall. We were there for about five months and had a fun time but decided to head for Las Vegas where my sister lived – she still does. My friend lost all his money there so I lent him some and we moved on the New Orleans where I really wanted to be for Mardi Gras of February 1978.”
After a few days, Jerry’s friend decided to leave but Jerry stayed and found a job as a busboy at the Hyatt Hotel and a room in the Garden District. He was there for about five months and had a great time with his co-workers and saved some money. He and another friend left in the summer and went to Key West for a time, staying in a tent camp for two months and living off his savings, before moving on and hitchhiking back to New Jersey, where he visited family before continuing on to Boston. “That whole year was full of memories that I will always treasure, particularly my time in New Orleans where the camaraderie among the crowd I worked with was great. I was one of the few straight guys in the group and took a lot of ribbing but it was a great experience.” He had worked in a warehouse for a clothing store in Boston before and found work there again but soon found himself thinking about hitting the road again.
“I heard that Seattle was a cool place so I got a drive-away car and headed west once again. I crossed the country in this big ‘boat’ of a car with a tent in the trunk and ended up in San Jose. My friend Dallas was in law school in nearby Santa Clara so I visited him but he was busy with his studies so I didn’t stay long before hitching to Seattle. That was the fall of 1978 – I remember it well, watching the Yankees beat the Red Sox in the play-off game and eventually going on to beat the Dodgers in the World Series.”
“I found a job as a busboy once again, at the Hyatt, and found a place to stay on the outskirts of town in a warehouse district on a street ironically called West Magical Way. I was the only person with a job at the rooming house but soon became friends with the other tenants. That Thanksgiving was a memorable one with those guys. I got a turkey from work and a case of beer that I’d won for the high score on the pinball machine at the local longshoreman’s bar. They were a tough bunch but we had mutual respect and trust and I never locked my door.”
Jerry returned to New Orleans for Mardi Gras of 1979 and initially resumed his busboy duties at the Hyatt before talking his way into a waiting position at a Creole Restaurant on the edge of the French Quarter, where he was living in an apartment. He then found a job in a fancy restaurant at the Hotel Monteleone. “New Orleans was a great place to be for a young man with no ties and good income. The bars are open 24 hours a day; everyone mixes together – black and white, straight and gay. The lifestyle was great fun.”
After a time, Jerry grew tired of waiting tables and wanted “a more intellectual challenge. I volunteered for the local NPR radio affiliate that played classical in the day and jazz at night. After six months I had my own show playing blues from midnight to 5am and then I got a show with a friend in the 9pm to 1am slot, playing jazz and gradually becoming quite well known on the jazz scene in town. It was cool and thrilling to me and although I didn’t make much money I loved it.”
On the show Jerry also interviewed jazz folks who talked and played the music of their choice, including B.B. King, Kenny Burrell, Betty Carter, Les McCann, etc. “It was amazing and it really worked well with the local music scene. We had complete freedom and I got to do 39 one-hour segments on jazz history with Ellis Marsalis – a wonderful experience and certainly one of the highlights of a time full of many great times and memories.”
By late1985, early 1986, Jerry was getting tired with the city. “New Orleans is relentless. Plus there was so much poverty, unemployment, not to mention the racism and violent crime. Life was sort of cheap there. I was held up in my bedroom one night, a gun at my head as I lay on my bed. By that time my radio work was pushing me towards a management position, which I did not want, and I was thinking of leaving the station. I had been writing short stories and decided to make a change – I would go to graduate school to do fiction writing. In the fall of 1986 I started that at San Francisco State.”
Jerry lived in the Mission district and got a part-time job at a stationary store in Stonestown Mall, near to the campus, while he studied creative writing and English Literature. Soon he became involved with teaching English composition at the university and stopped the writing. “Maybe I chickened out on the writing – anyway, I never went back to it. I taught Composition Writing 101 and soon found out it was not for me but I stuck it out. I took some E.S.L. (English as a Second Language) classes, and kind of fell into a sort of inertia for a few years. I moved to the outer Sunset and then to Cole Valley, at Stanyon and Parnassus – I lived there for 20 years!”
For eight months in 1993, Jerry lived back in New Jersey, living with his mother during the final months of his father’s life until his death from pneumonia, following heart problems, on December 1st, 1993. “It was a very hard time and I didn’t work at all for almost a year. I returned to S.F. and there was no job for me at the university. They didn’t want me, the feeling was mutual; so I did a few temporary jobs to keep the body and soul together.”
Being a big proponent of volunteering while you look for work, Jerry volunteered at the Center for the Arts before, in 1994, he took a temporary job when he took over for a friend’s sister who wanted three-months leave of absence from her position as publication coordinator for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. “I needed a job – this was writing, editing and a paycheck. On her return, she didn’t want the job so I took it on permanently. It was very demanding work, working on the writing and editing all of the banks publications, mass mailings, etc, that went to their locations in seven states. It was a huge responsibility but paid well and had benefits. I was there for five years, one too many. It was never really my environment. They grew tired of me and my act, and I grew tired of them. I will say that it was an environment where many people worked very hard and, while it was not an experience I would have foreseen for myself, it was very positive in terms of my growth and learning”
Throughout these years Jerry’s social life was centered at Finnegan’s Wake pub/bar (previously Maud’s bar for women from 1966 to1989). He played on the bar’s baseball team, became a good pool player, and hung out with a very tight-knit group of bar regulars. He was in and out of a few different relationships with women in these years, the longest of which was for three years. “I also spent a lot of time on my own but loved those days – they were a very important part of my life.”
In 1999, Jerry left the bank. It was the time of the dotcom boom. “People were making big money from being freelance writers whom I thought I could write rings around. I figured I’d be a technical writer. I set up a website and my first job was for the industry magazine for prosthetics – much more interesting than I thought it would be. I networked and soon was making a living off various small jobs. A friend of mine was involved with a free monthly jazz newsletter and asked me to do some articles for it, without pay. I was not at all involved with the S.F. jazz scene but this was like giving heroin to an addict – I was back in the jazz world. Little by little I realized that I could combine my two major interests – writing and jazz, so I re-invented myself and began to built up a portfolio.”
At the time the S.F. Chronicle was notorious for its lack of jazz coverage. Jerry sent in an article to the editor of the Sunday Datebook section who loved it and ran it in the newspaper. “It was my ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ I was known as the guy who got a jazz article in the Chronicle and was given a monthly spot on the paper. Musicians now knew me and I felt what I had achieved was very much appreciated by those in the jazz scene. I was soon contributing to various publications, local and national, and did many interviews, biographies, press releases, and even liner notes for the album released by the S.F. Jazz Collective, an all-star band representing the S.F. Jazz Festival. In a couple of years I had worked my way into the very welcoming jazz community of San Francisco. It was all very satisfying.”
On September 29th, 2002, Jerry was at a party when he heard a woman talking about ‘Turtle Back petting zoo in New Jersey.’ I stopped to talk to her and discovered she was from Caldwell, three towns away from my hometown. Her name was Stephanie Gold, a Jewish woman, five or so years younger than me. I asked her out and we had dinner at Tommaso’s Italian Restaurant and then to the Washington Square Bar and Grill for drinks. It turned out she was a Yankee fan too! A few months later we went on vacation together and had a very successful time together. We continued to date and she and her books moved in with me the following August and all went well. I had never lived with a woman before. It really worked. I was resigned to being a bachelor so this was an unbelievable turnaround in my life – something really, really good had happened. That much was so clear to me. It was a shot of luck right out of the blue. I thought this was a wonderful meeting of minds – and she’s cute too!”
From 2002 to 2006, Jerry continued to do his jazz writing, always with Stephanie’s full support and encouragement for his endeavors. During those years, Jerry and Stephanie came to Anderson Valley for her birthday and stayed at the Anderson Valley Creek Inn owned by Grace and Jim Minton. “I had been here by myself some years earlier and had walked around the town on my way to Mendocino. I thought it looked cool and had it in mind when thinking about a bed and breakfast weekend for Steph’s birthday. That weekend was the Super Bowl and we watched the game in The Buckhorn, buying some squares in their football pool. It was lots of fun and we started to come up here a couple of times a year.”
They were married in May 2005 and started to think about possibly buying a house in the Valley. They contacted Sheri Hansen at Rancheria Realty. “I had thought I was never going to buy a home but my perspective had changed and the second place we looked at was this house on Ornbaun Road which we fell in love with and bought it in 2006. We came up at weekends and had no real plans to make our future life here but over time we found ourselves coming for three days at a time, then four, and even more, always going out in the community when we were here. By this time we were both freelance writers, Stephanie having left her teaching position at the Chinese American School, and so we were flexible. However, being in two places felt like not being in either. We decided to go for it, have the adventure, and made the move to the Valley on October 1st, 2008. We were not unhappy in S.F. but felt it would be a backward step if we stayed there so we made the decision to go full-time here – with the accompanying lifestyle, the garden and the dog – Yosarian.”
Jerry continued with his writing and Stephanie taught at the adult school before becoming the counselor at the high school. “I had an office in the Missouri house in Boonville but over time realized that I was no longer motivated by the freelance writing. I thought about a bookstore but then Loretta Houck opened her Laughing Dog Books in town – I was their first customer. One day I noticed that the ‘Village Book Exchange and Gift Store’ in Ukiah was for sale. We gave it a lot of thought; obviously I was looking for a change, and decided to do it. I took over on February 1st, 2011, modifying the name to just ‘Village Books’ to satisfy the current customers while also trying to bring in new people and it has gone very well.”
Shortly after moving here full-time, Jerry started to volunteer at the radio station and now has his own show, ‘Jazz Odyssey’ on alternate Monday afternoons. “It is good to still have a finger-hold in that world… We have been here four years now and love it. With its very interesting and diverse community, Boonville is not just any rural town. We attend most of the community events and fundraisers and feel we have been accepted to some degree at this point, while we are well aware that we are still newcomers. We go to the various restaurants and bars and I feel very comfortable playing pool in the Saloon, or Lodge as it was called, and eating at Lauren’s. Many people here have practical knowledge on how to do and fix things that I just don’t have – I have learned a lot from many people here. There are lots of beautiful places in the world but I am not aware of any that have such a community as this.”
“Sure there are days when I wish I could just go out and hear live music down the street. I am very used to city life and you can certainly feel a little stir crazy or get ‘island fever’ here, but luckily my wife is my best friend so at times like that I always have good company. We recently celebrated ten years together and living here in Boonville is part of our adventure together. I am now 57 years old, and since 50 I have had many new experiences and adventures. I have never felt I was stuck in a rut. There is something to be said for this sort of circumstances, the lifestyle I have followed. It is not better or worse than other alternatives, just different and it has certainly worked out for me.”

I asked Jerry for his brief thoughts or comments about these frequently discussed Valley issues or topics of conversation…The Wineries? – “I wish they would contribute more to what is going on here. Some do, but many do not do as much as they might”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I wish they didn’t have it in for the radio station and sometimes print things that I know not to be true. I know it is their ‘brand’ to be like that but when it comes to certain remarks about the radio station it ceases to be good journalism”… KZYX & Z, local public radio? – “Obviously I am part of it. I can see that things could be improved upon but I believe that the Valley is a better place for it, as is the county as a whole.”
To end the interview, as I do each week, I posed a few obvious and some not-so-obvious questions to Jerry and asked him to reply as spontaneously as possible…
1. What excites you; makes you smile; gets your juices flowing? – “My wife and music.”
2. What annoys you; brings you down? – “Malice – it’s one thing I cannot forgive in people. There is no bigger waste of time than holding a grudge.”
3. What sound or noise do you love? – “The birds singing – even the ravens.”
4. What sound or noise do you hate? – “Cars without mufflers.”
5. What would be your ‘last supper’? – “A New York pizza with a pint of Anchor Steam beer.”
6. If you could meet one person, dead or alive, one on one for a conversation over dinner, who would that person be? – “My father… Or perhaps Bruce Springsteen.”
7. If you were sitting at home and a fire broke out in the building, what three things would you make sure you took with you? – “My Yankee Stadium chair that my father bought for me when they renovated the place in the seventies; our traditional Jewish marriage certificate, a ketubah; and my books – along with my music, they provide a record of my life.”
8. Does anything scare you? – “Heights and claustrophobia – a ride in a small plane would not be good!”
9. Where would you like to visit if you could go anywhere in the world? – “Italy, or perhaps Oslo, Norway. I have been to Europe a lot but never those places.”
10. Do you have a favorite film/song/book or one that has influenced you? – “The film would be ‘Down by Law’ –not the best but my favorite; the book is ‘Lord Jim’ by Joseph Conrad’; and a song? Wow, that’s tough – ok, let’s go with ‘Can’t buy me Love’ by the Beatles.”
11. What was your favorite hobby as a teenager? And now? – “Back then it was probably reading; now it’s my radio show.”
12. Do you have a favorite word or phrase that you use? – “Pint of Guinness.”
13. What profession other than your own would you like to have attempted if you were given the chance to do anything? – “Shortstop for the Yankees.”
14. What profession or job would you not like to do? – “Coal miner.”
15. How old were you when you went on your first date? Where did you go? – “At 14, I took a girl named Barbara to the park.”
16. Is there something you would do differently if you could do it over again? – “I wish I’d found out more about my grandparents… I also wish I had been a little braver about pursuing the fiction writing after graduate school.”
17. Tell me about a moment or period of time you will never forget. – “Watching my father die… On a brighter note, being on the radio as a jazz dj in New Orleans at such a young age – my mid-to-late twenties.”
18. What is something that you are really proud of and why? – “I’m proud of how we have been accepted by the Valley community. Also that I’ve done so many different things by living my life and seeing what happens; doing something for as long as it feels right and then moving on. The advantage of this is that you get to do many different things but the downside is that you spend a lot of time as a beginner.”
19. What is your favorite thing about yourself, your best quality? – “My friendliness – my default is to like people, to be positive.”
20. Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Here’s your glove, you’re playing shortstop!”

The next interview will appear on November 15th, the 3rd Thursday of November (which has five Thursdays this year).
The guest interviewee from the Valley on that occasion will be
David Jackness

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Coming next week…

The series is published on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month and the next interview will appear on Thursday October 25th when my guest will be Jerry Karp, KZYX & Z dj and bookstore owner.
Thanks for your continued positive comments and support,
Kind regards, Steve Sparks.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Joe Dresch – September 10th, 2012

I met with the former Philo Post Master, Joe Dresch, at his Russian River Estates home in the hills a few miles southeast of Ukiah. Although officially retired, Joe has managed to get himself hired by friends to work at their winery in Hopland a few days a week and getting together was not as easy as we thought it would be. Now we had managed that, the cookies came out and the wine flowed…

Joe was born in 1959 in Graceville, Minnesota, at the nearest hospital to the rural town of Beardsley, where parents Vern Dresch and Shirley Schneider lived. He was the fourth of six children, with siblings Karen, John, Jim, then Joe, Jerry, and Kathy, all born within eight years. “My parents were going to keep going until they had a second girl – a sister for Karen. They were determined and would have kept going to ten or more if needs be – it was a big deal to them.”
They grew up in Beardsley in west central Minnesota, just seven miles from the border with South Dakota. “On the day I was born there was a terrible blizzard and then on the way to the hospital the car stalled. We were stuck on the side of the road and a driver of a semi-trailer truck stopped and picked us and got us to the hospital. Because of the weather there had been a few accidents on the roads and they told my mother not to start pushing as they had to deal with the accident cases first. I guess I was put on hold for quite a time – that may explain quite a lot!”
The Dresch family had originally settled in Iowa several generations earlier before moving to Minnesota. Joe’s father was the only child of Werner and Betty Dresch. The Schneiders were from Germany and had come over to the States in the early 1900’s, also moving to the German/Norwegian settlements of Minnesota. “My mother had one brother – Stuart. My parents met and dated while at the local high school. My mother was a farm girl while my father helped out at the local general store. After getting married they soon started the family and we lived and grew up in ‘Tornado Alley’ – during certain times of the year we were frequently sent down into the cellar to be safe from the tornadoes. The town’s population in those days was less than 400 and my first class at school had twelve boys and twelve girls. That went to twelve and eleven when one of the kids was hit by an 18-wheeler!”
“I was with those same kids all the way through school, from the sandbox to high school graduation. We lived in an area with many, many lakes, some of them very big, including Big Stone Lake, a freshwater lake 26 miles long, where we’d swim, water-ski, and fish for Walleye, the Minnesota State Fish. They were delicious to eat and you can find them on the menu at every restaurant in the state; the same with jello and bread pudding.”
The area around Beardsley was populated by farming people, with lots of livestock – mainly dairy cattle, with corn, beans, and sunflowers. “My mother was a Lutheran but converted to Catholicism when she married my father. We went to Mass every Sunday and together with my three bothers I was an altar boy – something I did for nine years until I left high school. Before church I would deliver the Sunday newspapers. I enjoyed that, and one year, as a result of selling a large number of newspaper subscriptions, I won a trip to Disneyworld in Florida.”
Joe’s father managed, and later bought, the local general store, while his mother raised the children before she worked at the store too. “I helped there – starting at the age of seven. I did more and more in the store as I got older, from stocking shelves to working in the butcher’s department. I also had a job rock-picking. This involved walking around the fields continually emptying a bucket full of rocks into the scoop of a tractor. These were rocks you’d pick up from the ground that would otherwise damage the farm equipment used for ploughing the field. It was very hard work.”
Joe was a very social child, always outdoors, and he participated in many sports at school. From 7th-grade on, he played on the school teams in football, where he played tight-end on offence and right guard on the defensive line, basketball, and track, but his passion was music and he was very involved, as the alto saxophone player, in the school marching band and the concert band. “We’d play at various parades, and Homecoming of course, plus many home football games, although it was crazy sometimes when I was supposed to be playing football and in the band on the same night.”
Academically Joe graduated as an honor student with a particularly strong showing in science. “I was a very well-behaved teenager; very respectful of adults and the teachers. That was certainly somewhat because as local business owners, my parents had instilled in all of us kids that we had a reputation to maintain. They were well known in the community and I was never involved in smoking, drinking, or drugs – yes, I was almost too righteous!
As the middle-ish child, Joe had grown up interacting with both his older and younger siblings and played a part in both of those worlds. “Over time, I was drawn into a role of parent to the younger kids; I was certainly a role model to them. I was always very close to my mother and she would take me to various community events where I would play piano and sing and dance. This together with all of my activities at school meant that I really did over-extend myself. With the competitiveness within our family I never seemed to stop. I moved from alto sax to baritone sax and entered music competitions continually in my last three years at high school and was very successful, winning many awards. Add to all this my sports, my serving of mass on Sundays, and my work in the butcher’s department at the store, and for a couple of years there it was non-stop.”
This all came to a head on the awards night in Joe’s senior year. “I received several awards that night: for being the President of the Senior Class, for my role as editor of the year book, as Vice President of the Student Council, an All-State football plaque, and a basketball plaque for representing the district. The one thing I really cared about was the John Phillip Souza Award for music – a big trophy – I won that too! I remember people laughing when I struggled to carry all my trophies and I was very embarrassed. I also realized at that time just how much time I spent on these endeavors and how stressed I was as a result of all the competition. This was kind of expected of me by my parents. I remember that at football games you could hear three voices shouting and screaming above everyone else – the coach, the school superintendent, and my mother!”
During his senior year, Joe tried out for the Air Force Band. “For a couple of years I had known that I wanted to join the U.S. Air Force. My two older brothers had joined and I had read lots about the opportunities and programs available. Many of my teachers were a little upset that I was not going to college but it was a done deal for me. I graduated in June of 1977 and two weeks later I was in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) in San Antonio, Texas. Meanwhile, by that time I realized I was not going to be a professional musician so I had decided to not join the Air Force Band and I went into the intelligence field.”
From Texas, Joe moved to the Mountain Home A.F.B. in Idaho for direct duty and on-the-job training. He received his secret security clearance and joined the 390 Tactical Fighter Squadron as support for those that flew the F111 fighter jets – low level bombers. In his first year Joe was stationed for a time in Taegu, Korea in an exercise called ‘Team Spirit ‘78’ and also in Osan, Japan. “My job involved the surveillance of maps and photographs as the Air force played war games and ‘practiced war’ on maneuvers. I loved my job, it was nine-to-five and I got to travel. After a couple of years I put in for a transfer and was re-assigned to the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean where I joined the 1605th Supply Squadron. I was a sergeant by this time and I organized the administration of the fuel at the base which was on the flight lines for planes flying all over the world and therefore a major refueling stop for the army, navy, and air force.”
Joe had received a commendation medal for his work in Idaho and then received a second such award for his time in the Azores for meritorious service. However, while at the Idaho base, he had his eardrum blown out when standing too close to an F111 taking off. “Ear protectors were not provided… A year or so later, when I was based in the Azores, I had to go for my annual ear check-up but there was no doctor there so I was flown to Germany for an appointment and was put up at a hotel in Wiesbaden for two weeks. That was January 1981 because I remember it being a month or so after John Lennon was shot. I went to my appointment at the Air Force hospital nearby and there were yellow ribbons everywhere, with cameras and hundreds of press people outside the building. I had no idea what was going on. I walked outside the main doors and was confronted by the press asking me about the hostages – the 52 who had been held in Iran for a year or so had been released that day and were in this same hospital for medical check-ups and de-briefing! The reporters asked me how they were and, even though I had no idea, I said they looked great and were doing very well – I guess that was my fifteen minutes of fame.”
Joe wished to extend his military service but only on the condition that he got to choose the next base he would be assigned to. “This was not acceptable, so I was honorably discharged in June 1981 after four years of service. I was 22 years old and life started anew.”
Joe moved to Minneapolis to stay with his younger brother Jerry and, wishing to remain in federal employment, decided to take a test with the Department of Agriculture at the Federal Building. “I was accepted and became the manuscript/editorial supervisor for the department’s Forestry Experiment Station. I was there for a few months but hated it, so one day I just opened the phone book and turned to the federal pages. I thought that the Comptroller of Currency and Administrator of the National Bank for the U.S. Department of the Treasury sounded an interesting place to work. I called and found out that they had an opening. On the following Monday I went for an interview and started a week or so later as a bank auditor. This was also in Minneapolis and was a job I enjoyed for a short time but then my oldest brother, John, called and told me to ‘get my lazy ass down to the post office and take a test.’ I did so, scored very well indeed, and two weeks later, in March 1982, I started as an intern with the U.S. Postal Service. I had actually gone in a few days earlier in my three-piece suit thinking I was there for a follow-up interview. It turned out I had already been accepted and I was being called in for a physical – not something you would normally go to in a three-piece suit!”
“On that first day of orientation I was already working out my retirement date. The instructor caught me doing this and made me stand up in front of the class and announced, ‘Gentlemen, this fellow will go a long way in the Postal Office.’ He was right – I was there for thirty years!”
After six moths in Minneapolis, Joe was transferred to Honolulu where his speed on the computer led to a promise of promotion to full-time employment within a year. “They broke that promise and so I asked for a transfer. I wanted somewhere where I thought there would be warm weather. After a time there was a job opening for the postal service in Santa Rosa, a place I knew was in California but had no idea where exactly. I was hired sight unseen and accepted their offer with no idea about the place I was going. A month later, in November 1984, I moved to California and started work. Within a few days they made me a full-time employee.”
Joe remained at the Santa Rosa facility for a year or more before being transferred to Petaluma, a little further south towards San Francisco. “That was what I referred to as ‘Stalag 13.’ I was the express mail manager for a time and then later promoted to maintenance control. I did not like it there and in 1989 I transferred again – this time to Occidental, west of Petaluma near to Sebastopol. I was the counter clerk there for about five years.”
During that time, on July 11th, 1993 to be precise, Joe met a man by the name of Joel who lived in Yorkville and they started seeing each other. “I have never heard of Anderson Valley and didn’t know anyone there. Our relationship developed and we were talking of selling my house in Cazadero and getting a place together somewhere in between our jobs – Joel was the manager of Valley Oaks Winery in Hopland, south of Ukiah. However, before that plan developed any further, as I was by this time the acting Postmaster in Occidental, I applied for the vacant Postmaster job in Comptche, a few miles north of Anderson Valley’s west end. They offered me the position and, in February 1994, I moved into Joel’s place on Elkhorn Road in Yorkville and began to commute to my new job – the Postmaster in Comptche.”
During the nineties, as a result of the perks Joel and the winery received through his relationship with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper’s advertising department, Joe and Joel traveled often, including trips to France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Canada. “We also had some great parties at our place in Yorkville – the Lizard Point Ranch as it was called. I loved my job in Comptche with its small and close-knit community and I really felt part of the scene there. We would also attend many of the Valley events in those years, including the County Fair, the Woolgrowers Fair, and the Yorkville Fire Department’s Ice Cream Social for which Joel and I did the bbq for many years, also serving up our baked beans and organizing the raffle.”
By the late nineties, Joe was looking for a change and became aware that a new post office building was planned for Philo in the Valley. “I applied for a lateral transfer when the vacancy at that location came up and towards the end of 1999, I became the ‘officer-in-charge’ although it was not until a year later, in October 2000 that I was officially sworn in as Postmaster… And then in July 2012 I retired – nothing had happened!… No, I had a great time in Philo – working with Sheila Hibbs, Ann Carr, and Amy Bloyd as our custodian, was wonderful. It was a delight to have them alongside me dealing with the public. It never really seemed like a job. I so enjoyed the community, so many wonderful people there, and I felt a real part of it. I miss it tremendously at this point. I was nurtured to deal with people and that has served me well – treating people the way I’d like to be treated. We were always busy, it never stopped, and we always had something to do. The journey to Philo was a much shorter commute than my Comptche commute, but then we moved here to Ukiah in 2005 after selling the ranch in Yorkville and it was a long drive once again but I soon got used to it. More importantly, we were able to let go of all the work it required to maintain that ranch.”
One of the highlights of his time with the Post Office was when Joe won a competition between postmasters nationwide, base on sales and revenues relative to size, and was flown, along with Joel, to Nashville, Tennessee. “We were wined and dined and I got to have a one-on-one chat with the U.S. Postmaster General. I was scared to death. What would I say? Fortunately, the regional manager, who covers San Francisco to Eureka, was with us, and for her, meeting the Postmaster General was like meeting ‘God’. It helped break the ice for me. I even got to suggest that the Post Office should consider shipping wine as thousands of dollars worth of business are being turned away in our area and others like it. Joel and I were given the V.I.P. treatment and I figured I’d worked for the guy for thirty years I might as well meet him.”

I asked Joe what he most enjoyed about his life in Anderson Valley. “The people in general, and the sense of community. The smallness, the friendliness.” And next, Joe’s thoughts or comments about these frequently discussed Valley issues or topics of conversation…The Wineries? – “Well water usage is a question of course but most of my friends are in the industry, including my partner Joel. The wineries are a very important part of Mendocino County at this point and generate lots of money from tourism”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “As postmaster in Philo, I was mentioned a few times over the years – and they were always very nice and positive towards me. I don’t subscribe but always enjoy it when I read it – and I do like the interviews!”… KZYX & Z local public radio? – “It was always on in the post office and I regard it as very important to have such a station in a community”… Changes in the Valley? – “There were many more tourists and walk-in customers in recent years. When I was first Postmaster in Philo there were 400 P.O. Boxes. Now there are 596 with a waiting list. In post office speak, in ten years we went from Level 13 to Level 18 in terms of growth; now we are the same as the town of Mendocino.”
To end the interview, I posed a few questions to my guest. Some of these are from a questionnaire featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton” and some I have added. Hopefully you will find Joe’s answers interesting and illuminating…
1. What excites you; makes you smile; gets your juices flowing? – “Talking with Joel.”
2. What annoys you; brings you down? – “Getting too many phone calls; winter rains so I can’t play tennis. There is very little actually – I’m generally a very happy, positive person.”
3. What sound or noise do you love? – “Wind chimes; squirrels chirping.”
4. What sound or noise do you hate? – “Loud gun shots; Stellar jays screaming; my friend Margaret singing! I actually can sing a little and do so for friend’s birthdays.”
5. What would be your ‘last supper’? – “Sushi, sushi, and sushi!”
6. If you could meet one person dead or alive, one on one for a conversation over dinner, who would that person be? – “Monica Seles – the great tennis player. Watching her gave me my love for tennis.”
7. If you were sitting at home and a fire broke out in the building, what three things would you make sure you took with you? – “Our three animals – two cats and Cozmo the dog. We did have to move out once because of nearby fires – I got the animals out first.”
8. Does anything scare you? – “Sharks. I like the ocean but I’ve had a couple of near encounters.”
9. Where would you like to visit if you could go anywhere in the world? – “The Holy Land – Jerusalem.”
10. Do you have a favorite film/song/book or one that has influenced you? – “A book would be ‘Where the red fern grows’ by Wilson Rawls, about a boy who buys and trains two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs; a film might be ‘Julia and Julia’ about Julia Childs and starring Meryl Streep; and a song would be anything by jazz singer Sarah Vaughan.”
11. What was your favorite hobby as a teenager? And now? – “Music, basketball, fishing, and now tennis.”
12. Do you have a favorite word or phrase that you use? – It might be ‘Are we there yet?’ – a phrase I often use before I’ve even left the house.”
13. What profession other than your own would you like to have attempted if you were given the chance to do anything? – “Director of a cruise ship – combining travel and people.”
14. What profession or job would you not like to do? – “A mortician.”
15. How old were you when you went on your first date? Where did you go? – “I was sixteen and took Teresa to the bowling alley – it was during my ‘confusing years’!”
16. Is there something you would do differently if you could do it over again? – “I wouldn’t work for the post office – I’m joking! Perhaps I would pursue a career in music but I stopped when I was eighteen.”
17. Tell me about a moment or period of time you will never forget. – “There are many. Kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland comes to mind. I have had the gift of the gab ever since.”
18. What is something that you are really proud of and why? – “My eighteen years as a Postmaster and my nineteen years with Joel.”
19. What is your favorite thing about yourself, your best quality? – “That I am friendly and treat people decently, and I am kind-hearted.”
20. Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “How about ‘What took you so long?’ – it would mean I’d had a long life.”


Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coming next week – definitely!

The series appears on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month and the next interview will appear on Thursday October 11th when my guest will be former Philo Postmaster, Joe Dresch. The interview following that will be with Jerry Karp, and that will appear on Thursday, Oct 25th.
Thanks for your continued positive comments and support,
Kind regards, Steve Sparks.

Published in: on October 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Efren Mendoza… June 20th, 1958 – August 31st, 2012

A memorial celebrating the life of Efren was held at the Senior Center / Veterans’ Hall in Boonville last Saturday afternoon. About eighty people showed up for this very moving and poignant occasion, with approximately half of those in attendance coming from the non-Hispanic community. Perhaps Efren is the only person in the Valley for whom such an evenly mixed community gathering would have been held, with many of those in attendance summing up, in their eulogies, the very significant and wide-ranging contributions Efren made to the whole community.
He achieved numerous things in his time here and no doubt has been an inspiration to a large number of people who come to this country in search of a better life. Through his work with Sueno Latino, the Knights of Columbus, St Elizabeth’s Church, the Health Center, the Adult School, and no doubt other Valley groups and organizations, he had a positive effect on the lives of countless Valley folks. Many of us can learn from his dedication and hard work for others.
I enjoyed just being around him and his positive outlook on life. He always made my visits to the Barn Sale so enjoyable with his big smile and warm greeting, not to mention the excellent burger he would serve up! Wherever he is, I send him my very best wishes and a hope that he is surrounded by some of his beautiful roses and continuing to listen to the Beatles as he enjoys some delicious Birria de Chivo.
Steve Sparks

My interview with Efren was in July 2010 and is featured in the ‘List of Interviews’ under ‘E’.
The interview with former Philo Postmaster, Joe Dresch, will now appear on Thursday, Oct 11th

Published in: on September 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coming next week…

Dear readers,
There is no interview this week. You are invited to read an interview with Efren Mendoza (from July 2010) who recently passed away – see above.

The series appears on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month and the next interview will appear on Thursday October 11th when my guest will be former Philo Postmaster, Joe Dresch. The interview following that is with Jerry Karp, that will appear on Thursday, Oct 25th.
Thanks for your continued positive comments and support,
Kind regards, Steve Sparks.

Published in: on September 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment