Ojai Quarterly — Fall 2020

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STATE OF THE ARTS The Arts Economy Finds a Way Forward ENCHANTED GARDEN

The Outsider Art of Tyyne Miettinen

SPEC HOUSE A Living Edward Libbey’s Dreams USES OF IRREVERENCE Franz Lidz’s Writer’s Life AFFORDING HOME Some Housing Problems & Solutions BRAVE & YOUNG

Ojai Pro Surfer Battles For Survivors


Larry 805.640.5734

Erik 805.830.3254

Impeccable Rancho Matilija Estate | 3+ Acre of Park Setting | $2,950,000


Downtown Ojai | 2000SF Village Mixed Use Adjacent to Farmer’s Markets | $950,000

Commercial Lot in Ojai $375,000

East End Ojai Craftsman | $1,800,000 1615McNellRoad.com

Ojai Avenue Lot For Sale $325,000

Modern Ranch in Downtown Ojai $7,900,000


East End | Spectacular Views “Rodney Walker” Pedigree | $2,950,000

Heart of Ojai | Impeccable Substantial Upgrades | $1,149,000

Downtown Ojai Church For Sale Approximately 4000 SF | $1,295,000


Los Arboles Condo | massive Upgrades adjacent to Libbey Park

727 W. Ojai Ave. - Ojai - CA 93023 - Larry - 805.640.5734 - Erik - 805.830.3254 wilde-wilde.com - lwilde@west.net - erikw@west.net Larry Wilde DRE:#15216270 - Erik Wile DRT:#01461074

2+ acre Oak Studded lot with water in Rancho Matilija | $549,000

Donna Sallen

Fabulous and charmingly inviting, this two-story Victorian estate is nestled in the magical East End of Ojai. Surrounded by organic orchards and meticulous landscaping, this home is filled with Southern Charm. The wrap-around porch looks out to the gardens, as the country kitchen and breakfast nook looks out to the pool and tennis court. Perfectly situated nearby are the spacious guesthouse, separate cottages, and a writer’s studio creating plenty of living space for friends and family. This relaxing and inviting estate is truly elegant.

There’s no place like home ... Let me find yours.

This cute charmer is just waiting for you. There is a nice, tiled entry which leads you into the spacious, light-filled living room, with a fireplace. There are four bedrooms and two recently remodeled bathrooms.

Beautiful, flat useable lot, just under an acre located in the City of Ojai. great views from this lot. Zoned commercial — come build your dream! Desirable location, close to Soule Park Golf Course, so you have plenty of visibility for your business.

El Viaje was inspired by architectural design of an Italian Luxury Villa where Old World Charm and the modern conveniences of every day life come together perfectly. As you enter through the gates to a private, secluded yard you will love the mix of mature trees, the rose gardens, and the cozy seating areas.

Donna Sallen


w w w. D o n n a S a l l e n . c o m D o n n a 4 re m a x @ a o l .c o m


Real Estate Team


SOLD above asking price in the East End

SOLD above asking price. Kazumi Adachi designed

Oh-so-chic in the Foothills $1.599m

ILiveInOjai.com Team@PeraltaTeam.com @PeraltaTeamOjai

Tonya | Serena



Rachelle | Ashley DRE#01862743



Own a piece of historic Ojai with this authentic California Adobe $3.2m

SOLD! Custom Architectural Gem

SOLD! East End Craftsman


Real Estate Team


SOLD! Craftsman Bungalow

SOLD! No Detail Overlooked

Live & work in this property with an abundance of style $1.496m

ILiveInOjai.com Team@PeraltaTeam.com @PeraltaTeamOjai

Tonya | Serena



Rachelle | Ashley DRE#01862743



Escape to the beach! Beautifully done with the best sunsets on Faria Beach $2.895m

Room for all of your friends & family, dolphins & sunsets included! Call for Price.

G a b r i e l a Ce s e ñ a T H E N E X T L E V E L O F R E A L E S TAT E S E R V I C E S Re a l t o r ® | L u x u r y S p e c i a l i s t Unwavering commitment to my clients’ satisfaction. D R I V E N B Y PA S S I O N F O R T H E W O R K I D O !

805.236.3814 | gabrielacesena@bhhscal.com LIC# 01983530

Gabrielacesena.bhhscalifornia.com © 2020 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties is a member of the franchise system of BHH Affiliates LLC.

Lovingly handcrafted in Ojai, CA Jes MaHarry Store - 316 East Ojai Avenue, Ojai CA 93023

jesmaharry.com ~ 877.728.5537 ~ info@jesmaharry.com ~ jesmaharryjewelry Please visit our website and be sure to check for our Ojai store reopening hours by calling or emailing us prior to your visit.

Š2020 Ojai Valley Inn

An authentic California moment has never been more desirable than at Ojai Valley Inn. Come experience the crisp autumn air, wide open spaces, and the harmony of being together. This is the place where precious memories are made, connections are renewed and where life itself is restored. Reserve your NEW moment today. 855.420.9209 OjaiValleyInn.com


OQ / FALL 2020

Downtown living at its best! 110 Canada Street - Offered at $689,000

2 bedroom/1 bathroom, 792 sq. ft. property with finished studio or garage space, zoned commercial/residential

Bring your vision to life! 12251 Linda Flora Drive - Offered at $525,000

2.03 acre land parcel with tremendous mountain views

P: 805.272.5221 E: ContactUs@TeamDeckert.com BestBuysInOjai.com VenturaAndSantaBarbaraHomes.com

DRE# 01761150, 00780642, 01859199

OQ / FALL 2020




uses of irreverence The Many Lives of Franz Lidz By Kit Stolz


COVER STORY State of the Arts Economy in Ojai Story by Bret Bradigan


enchanted garden Outsider Artist Loomed Large in Meiners Oaks By Mark Lewis

FEATURES FOXHOLE FOLLIES All in the Family For Carrizo Plain Charmers By Chuck Graham





Pro Surfer’s Young & Brave Foundation By Mara Pyzel

Heather Stobo & Lisa Casoni of Porch Gallery Photo by Guy Webster

Impeccable Spanish Colonial Revival Estate Designed by renowned architect George Washington Smith, the house was consigned in 1921 by Edward Drummond Libbey as Spec House A’’ for his new subdivision called the Arbolada and today benefits from Mills Act status with measurable property tax savings. The spectacular estate is complete with 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, detached artist’s studio, saltwater pool, solar, 3 car garage and exquisite grounds. The home showcases the original vintage tile floors, accent tiles, fountain and roof tiles imported from Spain. Two original fireplaces and soaring open-beamed ceilings complement the dream kitchen with an AGA Cooker taking center stage. The second story master suite is complete with viewing deck & sumptuous spa-quality bath. Guest bedrooms enjoy a private wing on the main level. Exquisite Handelman light fixtures are featured throughout the home. Outside, pathways lead to the spacious detached art studio, fruit orchard, raised garden beds and the handsome stone wall-enclosed saltwater pool with RTK tile trim. This legacy estate-property shaded by mature towering oaks and red bark eucalyptus is a pleasure to experience and only a stone’s throw from the charms of Ojai’s downtown village. $3,995,000

ojai real estate group | michaels+associates | DRE 00878649 www.ojaihomes4sale.com | char@ojaikw.com | 805.620.2438 OQ / FALL 2020


Romantic, Vintage Victorian In-town vintage house on nearly half an acre. This offers a beautiful 4 bedroom, 4 bath main house, plus 2+2 Cottage and separate Studio apartment with fireplace. Once a B & B; this VMUzoned property with plenty of off-street parking feels like a sanctuary and is just waiting for your creative vision! $2,295,000

Build Your Own Dream Home Tucked away on an Upper Ojai peaceful lane sits a beautiful flat usable 2.4 acres dotted with oaks and impressive views to the Topa’s. Serve yourself a slice of the Country Life! $530,000

char michaels

OQ / FALL 2020



YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT YOUR HOME SELLING PLANS ON HOLD unless you want to. People are actively buying homes from a distance. We are open for business and here to help you!



NextHome 307 A East Matilija Street

Jeri Becker 805.340.2846


Lynn Goodman 805.573.5927


Heather Erickson


OQ / FALL 2020


Riley Becker



Ojai Notes


Sisterhood, FDR & Tastes of Ojai By Bret Bradigan

p.26 Editor’s Note


Artists & Galleries

p.28 Contributors

p.31 p.58

Food & Drink The Great Sandwich Quest By Ilona Saari

Ojai Notes

p.52 Artists & Galleries

p.58 p.71

Food & Drink

Vegan ‘Crack’ Salad


By Randy Graham

Beyond the Arcade Map

Chef Randy


Ask Dr. Beth

p.108 Ask Dr. Beth

Top 10 Superfoods & You By Beth Prinz, M.D.

p.111 Healers of Ojai

p.117 p.120

Top Ojai Hikes

The Corona Diaries, Part Deux


By Sami Zahringer

Calendar of Events

Nocturnal Submissions


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OJAI QUARTERLY Living the Ojai Life

FALL 2020 Editor & Publisher Bret Bradigan

Director of Publications Ross Falvo Contributing Editors Mark Lewis Jerry Camarillo Dunn Jr. Jesse Phelps Creative Director Uta Ritke Columnists Chuck Graham Dr. Beth Prinz Ilona Saari Kit Stolz Sami Zahringer

Intern Elizabeth Spiller

Circulation Target Media Partners

CONTACT US: Editorial & Advertising, 805.798.0177 editor@ojaiquarterly.com sales@ojaiquarterly.com The contents of the Ojai Quarterly may not be used, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written consent of the publisher. SUBSCRIPTIONS: To subscribe to the OQ, visit ojaiquarterly.com or write to 1129 Maricopa Highway, B186 Ojai, CA 93023. Subscriptions are $24.95 per year.

#OJAI IG: @rhdixon at the Ojai Valley Inn


You can also e-mail us at editor@ojaiquarterly.com. Please recycle this magazine when you are finished. Š 2020 Bradigan Group LLC. All rights reserved.

OQ / FALL 2020

Riki Strandfeldt

www.11209CreekRd-Ojai.com SOLD!

CA DRE Lic. # 01262026



Your call is always welcomed.


Search all Ojai Valley & Ventura County MLS Listings (no sign-in required)

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Back porch vistas

1 .1 2 Ac r e H o r s e P rop e rt y

Residence + 1/2 acre vacant lot



Cabin, Guest House & more on 39 acres

Enjoy Life in Ojai

3 bedroom / 3 bath


Vivienne Moody CA DRE Lic. # 00989700



Call to see any listing!

OjaiViv.com vmoody10@sbcglobal.net

www.402Shady.com 4 bedroom / 2 bath


THE FUTURE, ONCE AGAIN “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” — Maya Angelou You’d be hard-pressed to find two more different people than Edward Drummond Libbey and Jiddhu Krishnamurti — an Ohio glass magnate and an Indian mystic — one a seeker, the other a founder. Yet no two people had more influence on Ojai. In the early 1920s, one was just leaving the scene after creating a vision of Ojai in the “City Beautiful” movement, and the other arriving to great fanfare as the Theosophist’s World Teacher. It was a big shift for Ojai, with the mystics and seekers meeting (mostly) peacefully with the wealth and privilege of the prior generation. It was this unusual hybrid of influences that gave Ojai our distinctive and enduring character — where philosophy and philanthropy merge. Ojai is undergoing a similar shift; while the tourism economy continues to suffer from the pandemic-related closures and restrictions, the real estate market has rarely been hotter. Homes are selling the same day with multiple offers. So we now have quite a few new residents, people who, by and large, want to escape the confines of the big cities for the rural charms of natural beauty and a tight-knit community. Krishnamurti moved here in 1922 at the same time Edward Libbey was completing his master vision for Ojai. Jerry Dunn’s expert exposition of Libbey’s “Spec House A” is a case in point, as it is being carefully stewarded for the next generation of people who are re-inventing the Ojai lifestyle. Mark Lewis’ fascinating account of the eccentric artist Tyyne Miettinen paints a vivid portrait of that earlier wave of Ojai newcomers who were lured here by Annie Besant and her protegé Krishnamurti, people who immensely enriched Ojai. With these new Ojaians onboard, it’s a good time to look at a daunting issue, the lack of affordable housing. While Michelaina Johnson’s expertly researched and written account offers no easy answers, it does open a fuller discussion about what kind of Ojai do we want — and are we getting further from that inclusion and diversity. That’s what makes Mara Pyzel’s account of pro surfer/philanthropist Nathaniel Curran so important; doing good and giving back is the Ojai spirit. That’s the cultural landscape. The actual landscape is just as important, as Ojai’s backyard can lay claim to one of the last great remaining intact ecosystems in the Carrizo Plain. Chuck Graham takes us into the daily routines of a den of kit foxes. We’ve also got our cover story on the importance of the arts economy of Ojai, featuring Porch Gallery co-owners Lisa Casoni and Heather Stobo, who model the spirit of getting involved with the community and helping to shape its future. The author and journalist Franz Lidz is another example, as Kit Stolz’ profile shows a man whose curiosity and irreverence has led to a brilliant career. It reminds me of the Alexander Waugh quote, “Beware of seriousness; it’s a form of stupidity.” And then there’s Ilona Saari, who writes with as much zest and deliciousness as the food she describes. Sami Zahringer turns her antic, lyrical pen to the confines of her quarantined brain, and I guarantee you will be amused and astounded. How does she do it? If you are new to Ojai, or even are the fourth or fifth generation, and want to get a sense of our artistic and unusual culture, I highly recommend you give this issue a close read.


OQ / FALL 2020

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...for a better smile! 805-649-1137 110 E Portal Street Oak View, CA 93022 Fax: 805-649-1919




SERGIO ARAGONÉS began drawing for Mad Magazine in 1963 and he has drawn tens of thousands of cartoons since. He is regarded as among the world’s most distinctive and prolific cartoonists.

JERRY DUNN received the 2011 Gold Award for best travel column from the Society of American Travel Writers. His latest book is “My Favorite Place on Earth.”


happily introduces herself as an Ojai native and a freelance reporter. She is a doctoral student in the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz.

ILONA SAARI is a writer who’s worked in TV/film, rock’n’roll and political press, and as an op-ed columnist, mystery novelist and consultant for HGTV. She blogs for food: mydinnerswithrichard. blogspot.com.


is a freelance writer with a background in surf journalism. She enjoys exploring beaches around the world. Ojai holds a special place in her heart, having spent idyllic childhood years here.


has appeared in Outdoor Photographer, Canoe & Kayak, Trail Runner, Men’s Journal, The Surfer’s Journal and Backpacker.

DR. BETH PRINZ has lived and worked as a doctor in New York, London and locally. If she were president, she’d make fruits and vegetables free for everyone, and end chronic disease. Until then, she hopes to persuade with words. askdrbeth@ ojaiquarterly.com

KIT STOLZ is an award-winning journalist who has written for newspapers, magazines, literary journals, and online sites. He lives in Upper Ojai and blogs at achangeinthewind.com.


Ojai pixie tangerine peelin’ native and an editorial and destination wedding photographer. Check out her work at fancyfreephotography.com


is a writer and editor based in Ojai. He can be contacted at mark lewis1898@gmail.com.


is an independent artist, designer and curator. She is a member of Ojai Studio Artists and runs utaculemann.design and inbetweenwhite.art


an Ojai writer and award-winning breeder of domestic American long-haired children. She has more forced -meat recipes than you.


Listing Price $1,195,000 160 Acres in Upper Ojai. Looking to get off the grid? This is it! Views from St Thomas Aquinas to the ocean. Has two water wells - one shared, one private, electricity and phone available. There are two access roads: from Hwy 150 via Topa Vista Rd and from Sulphur Mountain Rd through electric gate by oil company. Several potential building sites.


Dennis Guernsey

DRE 00499291 805.798.1998 dguernsey@livsothebysrealty.com livsothebysrealtyca.com © 2020 LIV Sotheby’s International Realty. All rights reserved. All data, including all measurements and calculations are obtained from various sources and has not and will not be verified by Broker. All information shall be independently reviewed and verified for accuracy. LIV Sotheby’s International Realty is independently owned and operated and supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act.

OQ / FALL 2020


OQ | OJAI NOTES Thornton Wilder, author of “Our Town,” was a student at The Thacher School, his first experience with small-town life. Though set in Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, the time frame and even the people in “Our Town” were reminiscent of Wilder’s experience in Ojai.

TASTE OF OJAI GOES VIRTUAL The Rotary Club of Ojai has for 20 years brought together dozens of Ojai restaurants and wineries with food enthusiasts for the “Taste of Ojai” fund-raising event. This year’s Taste of Ojai will take place on Sunday, October 25 online, with cooking demonstrations, music and a live auction of exclusive prizes. The site Greater Giving will host the online auction. This fundraiser helps promote local restaurants, wineries and food producers. Tickets $80. Proceeds benefit the Rotary Club of Ojai Education Foundation for scholarships and community grants. For more information

contact: ojairotary.org or TasteofOjai.org


SURVIVING SISTER TAKES A LOVING LOOK AT ‘THE SITUATION’ Lila Glasoe Francese’s book, “The Situation: A Radical Journey Thru Sisterhood,” achieves a lot of purposes; to honor the memory of her sister, Carolyn Glasoe Bailey, to record her journey through grief and understanding, and to raise money for the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation, which carries on Carolyn’s work of identifying, mentoring and introducing artists to the wider world. Growing up in Minneapolis, the Glasoe sisters, two years apart in age, stayed close throughout their lives. Carolyn, the older sister, connected people, including Lila with her husband, Dines, and dozens of artists with patrons and museums. She founded her first gallery at age 19 in Minneapolis, and owned galleries in New York City. She had made Ojai her homebase for 25 years before succumbing after a long struggle with glioblastoma, a






ONE: Franklin Delano Roosevelt had won his second term by Christmas day in 1936 and was in a mood to celebrate. To help him do so, he had received a special gift, described in an article on the Ojai Valley Museum website, ojaihistory.com, written by David Mason, as a “Christmas cake that weighed 200 pounds; a fruitcake decorated with star-spangled pillars with red, white and blue bars. “In each section was set a green Christmas wreath with a pink bell and bow. The edge of the top was encircled by 200 beautifully made red poinsettias. The top was covered with a

fast-spreading brain cancer, leaving behind a husband and young son. The book, unsparing in detail and emotional weight, is leavened by alternating chapters of their childhood and young adulthood, their sister trips to glamorous locations for fine dining and wining and the laughs shared along the way. Francese said that she’s been told by readers that it helped them deal with their own losses and tragedies. Lila also talks about the foundation which she and her brother-in-law created to award prizes and residency programs for up-and-coming artists. A portion of proceeds from the book will be donated to the foundation. The foundation is located on 248 South Montgomery Street and online at carolynglasoebaileyfoundation.org. The book, “The Situation,” is available online at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, as well as at thesituationbook.com.


green sugar lawn and sugar shrubs, trees and the sugary path that led to the center where the White House glistened, topped by ‘Old Glory.’” TWO: That legendary cake was created by Bill Baker, formerly Wilhelm Koch, a German immigrant and award-winning pastry chef who bought an existing bakery, called Ojai Bakery, in 1923 and changed its name to Bill Baker’s Ojai Bakery. He set about making it an institution in Ojai and around the country. It is now the site of Azu Restaurant on 457 East Ojai Avenue. OQ / FALL 2020


NOW OPEN! The NEW Continuing Care Center at Ojai Valley Community Hospital Thanks to the generosity of countless individuals and businesses across the Ojai Valley, the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation and Guild were able to raise $6.7 million locally to help fund construction of the $21 million Continuing Care Center. For more information on the Ojai ovchfoundation.org. Valley Community Hospital Foundation, please visit ovchfoundation.org

The Continuing Care Center is a patient/resident oriented facility for both short-term and long-term placement, providing daily skilled nursing and rehabilitation services. Promoting healthy living in the tranquil setting of the beautiful Ojai Valley. • 75 bed, state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility • Seamless access to hospital care if needed • Private and semi-private rooms • Private bathrooms with showers in each room • Hair salon, chapel and library on site • Outdoor gardens and courtyards

The New

Continuing Care Center

1306 Maricopa Hwy., Ojai 805/948-2000 cmhshealth.org/ccc

15% Discount Restrictions apply. Not to be used with other offers or discounts.

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OQ / FALL 2020





OAK GROVE SCHOOL The Art of Living and Learning

living & learning Oak Grove’s expansive, 150-acre campus is reflective of its academic approach: A college preparatory DAY and BOARDING High School with an intimate, home-style boarding program. A rich academic curriculum, emphasizing depth over breadth, spanning PRESCHOOL through HIGH SCHOOL. Engaging OUTDOOR EDUCATION courses that include camping, backpacking, international and domestic travel. This approach prepares students to function with excellence, care, and responsibility in the world.

an Ojai tradition since 1964

Open Every Day 9:30 - Sunset


302 W. Matilija Street | 805-646-3755 OQ / FALL 2020


44 38


the uses of irreverence

state of the arts

With Author Franz Lidz By Kit Stolz

How Ojai’s Arts Economy is Adapting to the ‘New Normal’

52 artists & galleries The People, Places That Make Ojai An Arts Destination

OQ / FALL 2020




Franz Lidz first ran away from home at the age of seven. He had a reason: his beloved mother had just gone into the hospital for cancer treatments. Franz missed her terribly and wasn’t sure that his father, a wise-cracking engineer and inventor, really cared all that much about him. He was a desperate little boy, striking out on his own. He had no idea where he was going but he was utterly determined to get there. Sixty or so years later, Franz Lidz has grown up to become a reporter and writer, able to get a good story out of nearly anyone, from the town drunk to Muhammed Ali to the Coen brothers to his four crazy uncles. Besides publishing a memoir, a New York character study, and a golf book, Lidz has long reported for or contributed to an unusual variety of major media publications, from the New York Times to Sports Illustrated to Smithsonian (and many others). It’s a rare skill, to be a generalist in top-flight reporting, and Lidz

has an unusual ability to write involvingly on a wide range of subjects, including surprising science (of sourdough, blobfish, or a myriad of other research topics) to unusual sports (such as chess) to interviews with stars. He’s chased the popular artist Leroy Neiman from city to city, finally tracking him down at a coffee shop at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where they encountered the infamous boxing promoter Don King, who on the spot improvised an ode to Neiman so eloquent — even including a Shakespeare quote — that Lidz put the whole paragraph in the story. Last year Lidz traveled to Italy for the Smithsonian to explore the invention and evolution of pizza, living in its original home in Naples for a time with his wife Maggie, to delve into a city of thousands of pizzerias and the underground of superstar chefs. He’s profiled sumo wrestlers, covered pigeon races, Jeopardy winners, and countless others, and he can confront as well as amuse. One profile for Sports Illustrated revealed Donald Sterling, the late Clippers owner, as tightfisted and abusive, even to his children. In 2008, Lidz won a “Scoop of the Year” award for a revealing portrait of Yankees owner Steinbrenner, who had sadly



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fallen into the shadowland of dementia, a secret that had been kept from the public.

Young Franz looked up hopefully. Perhaps his father was worried about him and wanted him to stay?

Sitting in his flowery backyard in the East End, listening to him think out loud about the range of people and topics he’s written about, one begins to think that his ability to interview has more to do with an innate curiosity than any personal ambition. He is the perhaps the most anonymous quasi-famous person you will ever meet. From whence came this curiosity about people?

“I’ll get my movie camera,” his father said, and went to fetch his Super-8.

Back in suburban Long Island, in 1959, he announced his plan to his father. “I’m running away,” seven-year-old Franz said. “I mean it.”

Years later the two of them watched the footage from that day. Little Franz, a stereotypical hobo sack on a stick over his little shoulder, wearing a too-large fedora borrowed from one of his uncles, walks out the door and down the walk, receding into the distance. As he diminishes in size, the grown-up Franz sees the scene through the eyes of his father, watching his kid walk away.

Lidz tells this true story in his unique memoir of his youth, “Unstrung Heroes,” a tale of family love and childish heartbreak written in tribute to his “impossible” uncles from New York City.

“I feel this mournfulness for us both,” Franz Lidz writes of this moment. In a brisk style, seemingly driven by his own boyish enthusiasm, Lidz shows how his wild,irrepressible, and not-a-little-crazy uncles helped him survive a childhood scarred by hard and lonely times.

“Wait!” his father said.

“My uncles were smelly, screwy, astonishingly scrawny old guys

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OQ | OF F T HE S HEL F who had abandoned everyday life,” wrote Lidz. “They lived outside the mainstream, but they were happy to be outsiders. They never had to make the same compromises true adults did: they remained innocent and faithful to their own loopy dreams.” Lidz’s father was financially successful, unlike his four brothers, but they refused to take his “cold, scientific detachment” seriously, teasing him as only brothers can. This dynamic became a family joke that his son treasured. “As a boy, I happily enlisted in their conspiracy against sanity,” he writes. “Now, as I write about these flickering men, I realize they kept me reasonably sane.” The 1991 book — written early in Lidz’ career as a journalist — balances heartbreak and hilarity with balletic skill. So favorably-reviewed and well-liked was the book that in 1995, Franz’s childhood became the basis for a movie adaptation, directed by Diane Keaton, starring John Turturro as his father, Andie McDowell as his mother, Michael Richards as his paranoid Uncle Danny, and Maury Chaykin as his packrat Uncle Arthur. “Unstrung Heroes” drew a 74 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and helped the Lidz family buy a farm outside Philadelphia, which the grown-up Franz and his outgoing partner Maggie Lidz stocked with two ebullient daughters and a large menagerie of animals. Lidz didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to complain about the experience of seeing his book adapted into a movie that many people liked and still like, but he makes clear that he much prefers his version. After all, it was his childhood. He let fly with the one-liners. During production, he saw the screenplay. When asked what he thought, he said that it was “very neatly typed.” Later, New York magazine profiled Lidz, and inquired as to his opinion of the movie. “My initial fear was that Disney would turn my uncles into Grumpy and Dopey,” he said. “I never imagined that my life could be turned into Old Yeller.” As someone who witnessed his mother’s long descent into mortality, knowing from first-hand experience that cancer sufferers in pain can be more “sullen and bad-tempered” than saintly, he had little patience with Hollywood schmaltz. Spend a little time with Lidz and one realizes that his welcoming presence and amused outlook cloak a sharp wit that can emerge, with a little prodding, like a switchblade from a back pocket. Lidz thinks he knows what happened to bring out his edge. After 40

his mother’s death, while he was away on a summer school trip across the country after the eighth grade, he came home to an unhappy surprise. His father took him and his kid sister Sandy to meet “someone you’ll really like.” This turned out to be his Shirley, his future stepmother. Lidz looked at her. “Everything about Shirley — her blouse, her makeup, her boxy orthopedic shoes — was the exact same shade of iron gray,” he wrote. “Everything except her skirt, which was gunmetal. Her face was taut and uninviting. Her smile was as fixed and severe as her hair.” Despite her steely nature, his father — a fast-talker, an admirer of Spinoza, and relentless punster — abruptly married Shirley and moved his two stunned children and their confused dog in with her and her three obedient children, putting the whole family under her thumb. Franz never liked Shirley and could not find a way to deal with her presence until — inspired by his crazy Uncle Harry, who insisted despite a total lack of evidence that he was an undefeated amateur boxer of great renown — Franz stopped respecting her parental authority. On a whim at school Lidz changed his first name from Stephen to Franz (in tribute to the composer whose last name he almost shared — Lizst). Shirley hated it. Franz didn’t care a bit. With his new name came almost miraculously a new “uncle-ized” character who, he found, could fearlessly take on his stepmother. He became “open, expansive, scornful ... the unflappable Franz Lidz.” In conversation now Lidz sees this unhappy twist of fate as an inflection point, and the moment in which the skepticism that has become fundamental to his nature and his journalism took root. “I had complete trust in my father at that time,” he says now. “I felt a sense of betrayal that in a way carried over into the rest of my life. I think I was totally innocent, and it never occurred to me that my father would in a way kind of trick me into meeting this woman and then immediately announce that they were getting married.” Franz briefly contemplated running away again. “I had been a really good student until my mother’s death. I made the Honor Roll and made her very proud, but after her sudden death I lost all interest in studying and just sort of drifted through college,” he says, looking back. “I wasn’t bitter, but I had no self-esteem and no drive, I just sort of drifted along like a balloon. I never OQ / FALL 2020

OQ | OF F T HE S HEL F took well to people saying I had to get a job — I never even considered that stuff.” He transferred from one college to a laxer one, “majoring in sarcasm and minoring in theater,” as he says in his memoir. He thought in a casual way of becoming an actor, but he enjoyed his own antics too much to take the pursuit very seriously. Girls saw him as a romantic lead: he preferred the role of comic relief. He auditioned for the part of the tragic hero Othello dressed as a housepainter, in overalls and a paint-splattered cap. The director looked puzzled. “I wanted to play Othello not as a noble Moor, but as Benjamin Moore,” explained Lidz. He didn’t get the part. Shortly after graduating, he wrote the owner of the Yankees, George Steinbrenner, offering his services as a crack public relations man, promising to bring “a flamboyant wit, flashing charm, and a killer instinct” to the job. Steinbrenner wrote back, appreciating the line, but said he didn’t have a position. Lidz took a job driving a small town bus. Others might have been disappointed, but Lidz saw it as a perfect opportunity to learn his lines for auditions, which he practiced out loud as he drove. One afternoon — as he recounted not long ago in “O” magazine — while he was reciting lines for a production of an absurdist Ionescu classic, a dark-haired girl, a high school senior, swung on to the bus with what he describes as an easy grace. Twenty-five cents was the fare: she was a quarter short. “I prefer a bird in the bush to a sparrow in a barrow,” Lidz said. “The car goes very fast, but the cook beats batter better.” “What are you talking about?” asked the girl he came to know as Maggie. Lidz recited some more theatrical craziness. “Is that your idea of a pickup line?” said Maggie. “It’s Ionescu,” said Lidz.

Maggie went on to become a photo researcher for Rolling Stone and a museum historian: Franz — inspired by a journalistic mentor who preached the importance of being entertaining and, if possible, funny — dropped out of journalism school, took a job with a small paper in Maine and launched a provocative column he called “Sketches and Exasperations.” His first column focused on the town drunk. Forty-three years later, he can still remember its lede. “It’s 10 in the morning in the Wolves Social Club and Mickey McAleney is telling his third glass of whiskey the story of how the cops had finally nabbed him for murder. “I was minding my own business on a park bench when, suddenly, I was surrounded by two state troopers and two sheriffs. It was hot as hell. ‘We want you,’ they says. ‘ You’re a killer.’ I tell them they’re crazy and they says, ‘No, sir, we’ve got 40 witnesses. You’ve been killing time all morning.’” Lidz’ talent for irreverent reporting has taken him on assignment all around the world. He has come with Maggie to Ojai in large part to be closer to his grown children. He likes the town, is proud to have planted with two lemon trees out front of the house, a longtime wish of Maggie’s, and he intends to keep at reporting, no matter how many morning deadlines that means. For him, irreverence is not simply “color” but a practical necessity. “To be funny is in a way just to keep my own interest,” he says. “I have trouble reading straight science writing or just about anything straight through, without a sense of humor -- I think it’s hugely important.” Since the pandemic hit, his daughter Daisy and son-in-law Thor have been sheltering in place with Franz and Maggie, and Franz has been taking long walks with one-and-a-half-year-old grandson Claudius, aka Cloudy, in the mornings.

“It’s corny,” said Maggie. “Corny?” said Lidz. But he let her ride for free. Maggie was seventeen: Franz was twenty-four. Despite his lack of prospects and her father’s grave doubts, they married the day after she graduated high school. She proposed, Franz says. She doesn’t remember that now.

“We were young. You don’t really think of anything,” Maggie said with a laugh. “We were very much in love but I was probably an idiot. I don’t think we did anything better than anyone else — we just managed to stay together despite being broke and having everyone against us.”

“Every morning Cloudy and I take a two-hour stroll through Ojai,” Lidz says. “I mostly listen as he talks about his hopes, his dreams, his career aspirations. At this point in his life, he’d like to drive a garbage truck, which he calls an “umph” after the sound it makes while ingesting our trash.”

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75 years of 42

Blending academic fundamentals with the richness of the visual arts, drama, and music. Preserving the magic of childhood in Ojai’s beautiful East End. Pre-K - 3rd Grade • Toddler Program • Summer Camp 805.646.8184 783 McNell Rd. Ojai, CA 93023 monicaros.org

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BY FRIDAY, JUNE 19TH By Friday, June 19th, Californians had been under a stay-athome order for two months to the day, so the opportunity to get out and mingle with masked friends at Porch Gallery to look at the otherworldly art of Shana Mabari brought a sense of relief. Maybe Ojai would eventually get back to something approaching normal. Because it has three doors on the first floor, and with the help of an intern to prevent people from clustering up inside, Porch Gallery was able to safely control the flow of the crowd. As Heather Stobo, gallery co-owner said, “We’re anti-bunching.” People waiting in line didn’t seem to mind. It was an opportunity to swap quarantine stories with people they hadn’t seen in months. However, the usual routines of Ojai, which revolve to a large degree around art and creativity, will be years in the recovery. The Ojai Studio Artists Tour, which takes place the third weekend in October, and the Ojai Film Festival, which would have run the first 10 days in November, have both been cancelled for 2020. OSA President Pam Grau said it was a gut-wrenching decision, as their 81 members really look forward to opening their studios. For many, it’s their biggest weekend for sales. “We are hoping to return October of next year, but at this moment no one knows and it is really hard to imagine,” she said. “We are still going to have our annual exhibition at the Ojai Valley Museum later this summer, into the fall.” Jamie Fleming, chief executive of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce, said “The lack of traditional festivals this year will


definitely make a difference to hotels, restaurants and stores due to the influx of people they bring. On that note, hotels can’t do much more business than they already are on weekends, but the extra weekday traffic will be missed.” Grau says that some local artists “are uninspired, feeling disconnected and some are actually feeling rather good about all the uninterrupted time.” Finances are perilous for some. “Those who are worried about how they will get through the month are struggling more.” One Ojai artist whose profile has risen during the pandemic is Natalie Krim, who moved here a year ago, and whose 43,000 followers on Instagram have been making that journey with her. She was featured in the April issue of Vogue, which called her quarantine diary an “ethereal study in self-care.” She has drawn a lot of attention for her often large-scale drawings of women in playful, provocative poses. A new series of line drawings includes victims of police brutality, including Tamir Rice and Breonna Taylor. “One lesson I have learned in this is how important our connection with people is … it was a conscious decision to have this alone time and to be isolated. (But) I’ve found out how important it was to reach out to friends and family and feel that closeness,” she said. “Before it was my choice. When it’s forced on you it feels different.” She also has experienced the artist’s irony of working in isolation, yet using art to reflect our deep connections to each other. “As artists, we serve as a mirror to society, to reflect culture. It’s not

just about ourselves,” she said. Grau said that OSA members have been hard-hit, with little relief in site. “The majority have seen their livelihoods dry up with the disappearance of art tours, galleries, art fairs and such,” she said. “It is hard for most to see how to reinvent themselves. There is an effort to add art classes to the OSA website, since many of the artists are already teachers.” It hasn’t been any easier for the galleries. Human Arts owners Stan and Hallie Katz had planned to retire after 45 years before the pandemic, as has Nomad Gallery’s Leslie Clark after her 30-year run. Brittany Davis Gallery has no plans to reopen, after the gallery’s relatively short time in the Arcade. OVA Arts has partially reopened with limited hours Thursday through Sunday. The avant-garde gallery Basic Premise, further east on Ojai Avenue, has said that they will also reopen, though by appointment only. Poppies Art & Gallery is open behind the Arcade, and Firestick Gallery, further east on Ojai Avenue, is also keeping the lights on. Canvas and Paper has closed temporarily, but plans to reopen as soon as possible. The Ojai Arts Center, which hosts an important gallery space, is also temporarily closed. Fleming said it could be worse. Much worse. Visitors have lately been drawn to Ojai because of its proximity — 20 million people live within a two hour’s drive. “As long as there is not another lockdown of people in the southern California area being sequestered in their homes again, Ojai might weather this pandemic as long as we keep getting the visitors (who don’t want to fly somewhere),” he said. “So far, we only have three empty stores downtown. I hope it doesn’t get worse.” “Running a gallery in the best of times is challenging,” Grau said. “I do think we need good galleries here in Ojai, especially as a tourist destination. We have food, drinks and shops, but what else is there to do as you walk down the Arcade?” Ojai Studio Artists has had success with their Second Saturday mini-tours, where a half dozen artists open their studios to interact with the public and patrons. The idea is that visitors “leave feeling like they had a very special experience in a magical location. I think those types of experiences are needed to maintain our reputation.” Porch Gallery has two shows scheduled for the rest of the year; the first with Dennis Mukai, whose distinct 46

illustrations and bold graphics are instantly recognizable. That show, “Resurrection,” opens September 3 and closes October 25, with a reception that first Saturday, Sept. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m. The final show is a multi-artist ceramics show. Stobo said because of their building’s design — one of the first houses built in Ojai — and their tight operation, they are in a better situation than many gallerists in town. “It’s hard to carry rent when no one is coming in. Everyone is re-evaluating, trying to be smart about it. There’s a lot of fear about what’s going to happen in the future.” Krim said that artists typically support and encourage each other. “It’s a great community, luck enough to have support family understanding art world. People close in my life, be they creative or business owners, live by this idea that if one of us does well we all do well.” She’s seen fellow artists making different approaches to promoting their work during the pandemic: “People are showing work in other ways — maybe collaborating with people who maybe do have bigger social media presence,” she said. “There’s all types of ways people can get their work seen. It’s about finding the right demographic to see it and how to go about that. Because my experience is I can have it translate on social media. But Krim misses the physical presence of other artists. She said that art dinner parties “are a great way to for exposure and to connect.” And her brother, an artist in downtown Los Angeles, “is always thinking of ways to bring people together — having barbecues and dinners where people can talk about what we’re doing — much like the collective (Ojai Studio Artists) in Ojai. It’s about finding these groups of support and how we can support each other.” The weirdness of the situation really hit home for Casoni and Stobo during the Shana Mabari exhibit, which was mounted just days before the stay-at-home order. Mabari’s art often literally reflects on our changing relationship to light and space, drawing on influences including James Turrell and Robert Irwin. “We installed it to an empty gallery. Heather OQ / FALL 2020


has such a rich history of being an arts mecca, keeping our artists able to sustain themselves during this moment of change is really, really important to all of us right now.”

and I sat with this exhibition,” Casoni said. “There were these drawings mounted on aluminum, and throughout the gallery were these sculptures. We had envisioned it reflecting a crowded space that was occupied. It ended up reflecting an empty space. It was very poignant.” Everyone interviewed understands that Ojai’s economy has taken a shock to the system. Meanwhile, new residents are coming into Ojai in a steady wave, as city life has lost its luster during a quarantine. Homes are being sold almost immediately because of high demand and low inventory. The basic premise of Ojai hasn’t changed though. It’s an economy based on tourism, of which the arts are a big part. As Casoni said, “We’re lucky that tourism is our industry, because we’re incentivized to keep this area beautiful.” Grau said that the arts community is regrouping to face the present challenge. “We are all looking for ways to connect — with patrons, with friends. It is challenging and it is odd how much has changed, how much we have adapted in the last five months,” she said. “Ojai

New initiatives for the OSA members include “creating virtual studio tours,” she said, as well as filming artists at work to promote Ojai’s arts scene. “OSA has also applied for a grant to help underwrite the expense of expanding our virtual presence. We are hoping to add art classes, studio tours, art talks and forums to our website, plus an online gallery where folks can purchase work.” Dennis Mukai created all-new work for his coming Porch Gallery exhibit, some of which was inspired by the pandemic; most by the Thomas Fire. “The Thomas Fire and the aftermath were difficult to process. It was disheartening to witness the charred hills and skeletal remains of trees,” he said. “But to see the quick return of vibrant green vegetation juxtaposed against the blackened soil was magical — it was a symbol of hope.” While the devastation wrought by the pandemic is largely unseen, it is deeply felt. Mukai and others hope that the resiliency so evident after the Thomas Fire will return after the pandemic recedes into memory and folklore. Grau said, “Our fingers are crossed.”

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130 West Ojai Avenue (805) 640-1390 www.OjaiValleyMuseum.org

Taylor 20” x 16”

Explore Ojai Valley’s History, Art and Culture

DUANE EELLS Mar. 12-July 5: BOUNDLESS • DUANE EELLS AND JAMES PETRUCCI Fox Fine Jewelry, Ventura • Receception: 3/14, 6-8 PM Gallery:

OVA Arts, 238 Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA

Collect Online at eells.com Studio visits by appointment. • duane@eells.com


Institute of Theosophy An international center dedicated to understanding, harmony, and peace among all peoples, comparative studies in religion, philosophy and science, altruism and the ideals of a spiritual life.

Library and Research Center Quest Bookshop School of Theosophy

2 Krotona Hill, Ojai 805 646-2653 www.krotonainstitute.org 48

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Two Distinct Hotels the

Rooms, suites & Cottages in-Room sPa seRviCes fiRePlaCes & wood stoves Clawfoot oR whiRlPool tuBs


One Unique Vision the


R ooms, suites & Bungalows Continential BReakfast lush g aRdens, Pool & sPa PiCtuResque CouRtyaRds

The Essence of Ojai

Escape the Ordinary

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Boutique Hotels & Vacation Homes

Providing the Highest Quality Custom Residential & Commercial Architectural Design and Construction Services.

Whitman Architectural Design “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Winston Churchill









805.646.8485 www.whitman-architect.com

• PLANES FAMILY OWNED & OPERATED SINCE 1979 221 E. Matilija Street in Downtown Ojai (805) 646-2585 Open Monday - Saturday, 10 - 5:30 Sundays from 10 - 3

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Buddhas to Birthday Cards



and a Huge Selection of Crystals

est. 2000 ...


Bumperstickers to Beeswax

ys tical empori

INTUITIVE READERS DAILY Tarot Readers Spiritual Counselors Astrologers Chair Massage & Energy Healing


304 N. Montgomery Street, Ojai, CA

2 blocks north of Ojai Avenue & A World Apart!

805.640.1656 • OjaiHouse.com •


Frameworks of Ojai custom picture framing

archival quality friendly service

Hours: Monday ~ Friday 10 - 5 Saturday 11 - 3, or by appointment. (805) 640-3601 236 w. ojai ave, #203, ojai, ca 93023 info@frameworksofojai.com 50

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Derby & Derby W E A LT H M A N A G E M E N T

Visit our website to download our FREE Quarterly Economic & Financial Markets in Review.

DerbyAndDerby.com Derby & Derby has been committed to helping individuals, families, and businesses grow, preserve, and distribute wealth since 1979.

THOUGHTFUL - INDEPENDENT - FIDUCIARIES 603 West Ojai Avenue #C, Ojai, CA 93023 | www.derbyandderby.com | (805) 646-3729 Investment advice offered through Derby & Derby, a registered investment advisor.

CAFE EMPORIUM Ojai’s Cafe Emporium is a turnkey, wellestablished breakfast and lunch restaurant, located in the heart of downtown Ojai. Prime location steps away from all of Ojai’s events and attractions. Ojai Cafe’ Emporium has for over 34 years addressed the need in the community for a warm and friendly dining experience for family, friends and business. A family tradition for every generation serving high quality, fresh and healthy food. And if you crave something sweet, there is an adjoining bakery producing fresh baked goods every morning. Take advantage of this prime piece of commercial real estate with a fully operational up-and-running business. $2,099,000

TOM WEBER Broker CalDre # 00805061

805-320-2004 TomWeber@OjaiTom.com

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OQ | VIS UAL ARTI STS Perhaps it was potter and “the Mama of Dada” Beatrice Wood’s influence, going back nearly 90 years. Maybe it even goes back further, to the Chumash people’s ingenious and astounding artistry with basketry. It’s clear that Ojai has long been a haven for artists. The natural beauty


Mysterious equations of abstraction, nature, architecture, and illumination rolled into the stillness and clarity of singular, psychological moments. “Thought Form #1: Clearing.” Oil on canvas, 48” x 36.” Contact: amend@pobox.com or visit RichardAmend.net. 323-806-7995


is an artist who expresses herself in two strikingly different mediums: soft pastel and rich encaustic. 805-649-3050 PatrishKueblerFineArt.com


Original Landscape, Figure & Portrait Paintings in Oil. Ojai Design Center Gallery. 111 W Topa Topa Street. marc@whitman-architect. com. Open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Intuitive, visionary artist, inspired by her dreams and meditations. It is “all about the Light.” Her work may be seen at Frameworks of Ojai, 236 West Ojai Ave, where she has her studio. 805-6403601 JoyceHuntingtonArt.com


framed so well by the long arc and lush light of an east-west valley lends itself to artistic pursuits, as does the leisurely pace of life, the sturdy social fabric of a vibrant community and the abundant affection and respect for artists and their acts of creation.



Photojournalist and editorial photographer, specializing in portraits, western landscapes and travel. 805-646-6263 798-1026 cell OjaiStudioArtists.org

clear glass with kilnfired enamels, mapping unpredictable rhythms of thought. Custom commissions for art & architecture welcome. SusanAmend@pobox. com She is also on Facebook.



Eells searches for beauty in his work. His paintings are about energy, empathy and connections. Bold strokes with classical drawing principles drive his work. Studio visits by appointment. Collect online at eells.com 805-633-0055

Painter and Printmaker of People, Places and Things. Media: oil on canvas and printers’ ink on paper. lewisojai@mac.com. 805-646-8877 KarenKLewis.com



Inspired by medieval chain mail — stainless jewelry, scarves, purses, belts and wearable metal clothing. UnzickerDesign.com 805-646-4877

Original watercolor+ink paintings --Plants and flowers, birds and insects. Plus scenes of cottages and gates inspired by Ojai and beyond. SkyheartArt.com.



Working in acrylic and mixed media, Mary Neville builds her large scale canvases into rich layers where there’s much more than meets the eye. For more information about the the studio go to: www. MaryNevilleArt.com 805-798-4269

Rich oils and lush pastel paintings from Nationally awarded local artist. 805-895-9642

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Firestick Pottery provides classes, studio/kiln space and a gallery abundant with fine ceramics. 1804 East Ojai Avenue. Open from 10 am to 6 pm every day but Tuesday. FirestickPottery.com 805-272-8760


Featuring local artists, including William Prosser and Ted Campos. American-made gifts and cards, crystals, new and vintage goods. 304 North Montgomery OjaiHouse.com 805-640-1656


Contemporary Art in a Historic House. 310 East Matilija Avenue PorchGalleryOjai.com 805-620-7589 IG: PorchGalleryOjai


Working with reclaimed, organic, local materials such as bones, clay and drawing on fabric and newsprint. “Datura / Kanye” (2019) bettynguyen.carbonmade.com


Plein air landscapes, figures and portraits in oil by nationally-acclaimed artist Dan Schultz. 106 North Signal Street | 805-317-9634 DanSchultzFineArt.com



40+ LOCAL artists with a unique selection of contemporary fine arts, jewelry and crafts. 238 East Ojai Ave 805-646-5682 Daily 10 am – 6 pm OjaiValleyArtists.com

POPPIES ART & GIFTS You haven’t seen Ojai until you visit us! Local art of all types, unusual gifts, Ojai goods! Open daily 10-6. Closed Tues. 323 Matilija Street

Exquisitely handcrafted bags. 305-G East Ojai Avenue New Location! StudioSauvageau.com 805-798-2221

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f o o d f u n l i b a t i o n s •

Taste of

o f o d f u n o i t a b i l •

T a s o et


Club of Ojai


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58 joy of the sandwich On the Trail for Delicious Slices of the Ojai Experience

64 CHEF RANDY Grilled Avocado, Peach & JalapeĂąo Salad for Summer Tastebud Revival






Love is gr eater than everythi ng.

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We’llOjai,get you there! Meiners Oaks and Mira Monte From and to: For Just $1.50!

ADA and Medicare Card Holders .75¢, Seniors 65 and up .75¢, Children under 45” tall FREE

The Ojai Trolley Service

Photo: Michael Ojai Trolley Route Legend

Transfer Locations/ Punto de transbordar Transfer to and from Gold Coast Transit at this location


Trolley A Services

Whispering Oaks & East End

The Ojai Trolley Service, established in 1989, is owned and operated by the City of Ojai. The Trolley provides daily fixed-route transportation to approximately 9,000 riders per month throughout Ojai, Meiners Oaks, and Mira Monte. The Trolley is a well-known feature in the Ojai Valley, and in addition to the daily fixed-route services, participates in many local community events, fund raising activities, community service, and educational functions.


Trolley B Services

408 South Signal Street, Ojai, CA 93024 • Phone: (805) 272-3383 • E-mail: trolley@ojaitrolley.com • www.ojaitrolley.com trolley Stops/ Paradas

Ojai Valley Inn

(805)272-3883 trolley@ojaitrolley.com WWW.OJAITROLLEY.COM

El servicio de Ojai Trolley opera diariamente, excluyendo los siguientes días feriados: Día de Año Nuevo, Día de Conmemoración de los Caídos, Día de Independencia, Día del Trabajador, Día de Acción de Gracias, y Navidad.

www.Ojaitrolley.com Effective 1/1/18

& the County of Ventura


Timed Trolley Stops/ Paradas Mayores

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Ojai Cafe Emporium Ojai’s favorite gathering and eating place for over 30 years.

Voted Best Bakery, Breakfast & Lunch Place ‘10 ‘11 ‘12 ‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ‘16

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108 S. Montgomery Street / off Ojai Ave www.ojaicafeemporium.com BREAKFAST Served All Day Every Day LUNCH Served Daily11am-3pm BAKERY & COFFEE BAR Open Daily 6:30am-3pm



Full disclosure: I love sandwiches. If I could have one kind or another for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’d be happy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy high-end dining, (I am a food writer, after all), but there’s something about eating your entire meal with your hands like a child in a highchair. As legend has it, this bread-wrapped food PHOTO BY TOM HERMANS


delight was invented by John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792). A notorious, licentious gambler, he was peeved that he had to leave his gaming table to eat supper, so his necessity became the mother of all convenience food, and Ojai is filled with some of the most tasty, mouthwatering, “eat with your hands” examples. PHOTO BY MARSHAL QUAST

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SEA FRESH Owned by brother-sister duo Gus Garcia and Mayra Sutton, Sea Fresh offers up some truly delicious right-off-the-boat fish sandwiches, including the Seared Ahi Tuna, served rare, with microgreens, avocado and a wasabi cream sauce on a brioche roll. Or give the Grilled Salmon with garlic aioli, topped with greens, tossed in a champagne vinaigrette a try. See? Fresh.

CAFÉ EMPORIUM When owner Trisha Proud developed her new menu, there was no question she’d keep the Salad-wich, a vegetarian concoction of lettuce, tomato, avocado, mushrooms, shredded carrots, mustard, mayo, and provolone cheese, drizzled with house dressing on whole wheat bread (you can choose other bread options). Former owner Barbara McCarthy’s house dressing invention: veggies, rice wine and olive oil. Proportions a secret!

BONNIE LU’S Owner Jenny Newell names her sandwiches after family and friends. I don’t know who Pete is, but his namesake offering, Pete’s Pastrami Melt, is a sandwich filled with grilled pastrami topped with grilled onions and runny melted Swiss cheese on marbled rye. A true Dagwood of a sandwich that can easily be shared … if you must.


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DEER LODGE Sofia Miles’ Deer Lodge buttermilk-brined fried chicken sandwich is served on a toasted hoagie with pickled jalapeño coleslaw and spicy aioli. Try the truffle-fried Brussels sprouts to “go with.” It is “deerly” beloved.

SOULE PARK Keith Brown’s Soule Park has the best views in town and Megan Thompson, the Food and Beverage director, recommended the Jalapeño Tuna Melt. Now, so do I. Or, if you’re golfing at the Park, try a sandwich from Soule’s “At The Turn” menu developed especially for 9th holers.

LOVE SOCIAL CAFE Felicia & Sean Love Mason’s LO>E Social Café is a welcoming indoor/outdoor spot with a delicious BLT on sourdough toast with Deep Applewood Smoked Bacon and garlic aioli. Add avocado and make it a BLT&A… and the tuna salad on sourdough toast with capers, plus garlic aioli is a light, fresh take on a tuna sandwich. True lo>e!

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THE NEST Tireman: not your Canter’s or Carnegie Deli brisket sandwich, but a delicious twist on that old standard using smoked brisket on a French baguette with chimichurri, cheese, and mayo. Another palate pleasing offering is The Nest’s popular fried chicken sandwich on brioche bun with bacon jam, onion, and smoked serrano mayo. The Nest was created and opened by Ojai native Kiona Wachter in the fall of 2017. “Tireman” is named for her Uncle Fred, who owns Fred’s Tireman in Oak View. Order two and rotate!

CA MARCO The homemade tomato sauce and meatball panini served on ciabatta bread at Blanca Miguel’s Italian restaurant brought back memories of wonderfully messy meatball subs of my youth in New York City. Her chef ’s twist: a schmear of basil pesto. Also on the menu, a shrimp panini, again on ciabatta bread with local tomatoes, arugula and feta cheese. A marco of distinction.

OJAI PUB Soon to be added to the Pub’s menu is the Ojai Melt, with seasonal grilled peppers and onions, avocado, grilled chicken breast, chipotle aioli and melted provolone cheese on ciabatta bread. Or try the crispy fried chicken or hempseed fried tofu sandwich on a toasted bun with pickles, coleslaw and vegan ranch dressing. Pub grub!


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OJAI COFFEE ROASTING When owner Stacey Jones realized she had more pita bread than needed to serve with her salads, she invented a pita sandwich to go with her other menu sandwich choices and named it “Messy Pita.” This special sandwich of homemade tzatziki, grilled turkey, tomato and onion with her lemon dressing, topped with feta cheese, is a multi-napkin delight.

PAPA LENNON’S And don’t forget: Papa Lennon’s oven-roasted rosemary chicken breast panini with melted fresh mozzarella slices, tomato, red onion & green leaf lettuce with pesto & garlic aioli on focaccia bread.

ROTIE, for “rotisserie,” features chicken, romaine, tomato, sumac onions, garlic aioli, rolled in grilled flatbread. Or go for the chicken salad with dried fig, dill, curry, sumac, mayo, butter lettuce, grilled sourdough. Sweethearts of the Rotie-o. SAGE’s Pork Belly sandwich with local goat cheese, heirloom tomato and Sage’s own green goddess dressing on toasted sourdough.

Or take the lovely, scenic drive through Upper Ojai to the SUMMIT DRIVE-IN burger and sandwich “shack” for one of its crispy chicken sandwiches. You won’t be disappointed. For you vegetarians and vegans, HIP VEGAN and FOOD HARMONICS will delight your meatless appetites. So many Ojai selections!!! You’ll easily find something to sandwich into your busy day.

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I saw a recipe for Vegan Crack Pasta Salad recently. I mean, why not vegan pasta salad or just pasta salad? The addition of the word “crack” intrigued me. So, I decided to look for the history of “crack” pasta. Most websites mentioned that “crack” referred to a pasta dish that includes cheese and bacon. Many of the recipes also included chicken. No wonder, I thought, it’s not a vegetarian or a vegan thing. So I put it to you: What is crack pasta? Why the name crack? I’m looking for a good definition. In the meantime, try my vegan (no bacon, cheese, or chicken) creamy, imitation bacon version of “crack” pasta salad. The recipe doubles with no problem, so it is perfect for sharing with friends and family as a side dish at pot luck gatherings. This also makes a colorful and tasty lunch when served with thick slices of fresh yellow and red tomatoes.



2 cups shell pasta (Conchiglie)

Boil pasta according to package directions (about eight minutes) or until just tender. Drain, rinse well in cold water and set aside.

1 ripe medium avocado ¼ cup cilantro (chopped) 1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice 3 tablespoons Vegenaise 1 teaspoon garlic (chopped) Salt and pepper to taste ¼ cup red onion (chopped fine) ¼ cup fresh peas 1 tablespoon vegan bacon bits (optional)

Parboil peas for one minute. Drain, rinse in cold water and set aside. Slice avocado in half. Remove the pit and peel the avocado. Put in a blender with cilantro, lime juice, Vegenaise, and garlic. Blend it until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl. Add red onion, cooked pasta, peas, and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve cold.

Additional cilantro for garnish


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Celebrating 32 Years Breakfast



Open Daily 8 am to 10 pm (Call for summer hours) Home of the $2.50 Mimosas and $4 Bloody Marys and Margaritas. All Day, Everyday.

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Restaurant, Sushi Bar and Fresh Fish Market


• 533 E. Ojai Avenue, Ojai

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Gojai Organic proudly supports the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy & Nordhoff seniors through our annual Gojai College Scholarships program. Gojai Organic gives 1% of our profits to OVLC and is a Topa Topa Business Sponsor.


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82 the enchanted garden

94 spec house ‘a’ Edward Libbey’s Enduring Dream of Ojai Life By Jerry Camarillo Dunn Jr.

Tyyne Miettinen’s Many Passion Projects By Mark Lewis



72 finding home

Street Map & Landmark Businesses

Opening a Discussion About Affordable Housing By Michelaina Johnson OQ / FALL 2020


AUSTEN PIERPONT ESTATE T hi s historic al 1 933 Au s ten Pie rp o nt E st ate i s i n c r edibly priv a te and h a s s tunning v i e w s of the Ojai Va lle y and th e To pa To p a s . In the M onter e y S ty le, it to ta ls 7 b e d r o om s, 6 bath ro oms and liv ing spa c e o f 6 , 000 sq f t . Th e 2.15 a cr e ga te d com p ound inc ludes a main h o u s e , 2 g u e s t houses, a po o l, a s pa , a te nnis c ourt , a b a cc i c ourt and a tennis ca ba na . Th e re are m ultiple loc atio ns fo r e nte rta ining o u t s i de, under t h e a ncie nt o aks o r w it h v i e ws of the olive a nd fru it o rch ard s. T h e p ro p e rty is zoned fo r h o rse s and is a s ton e ' s t hrow aw ay fro m th e ďŹ ve star O jai Va l ley Inn and Spa . Co mple te ly re s to re d a n d modernized b y aw a rd w inning Fren c h d e s i g n er Chant a l Du s s o u ch au d, th is go r g eous est ate h as all o f th e mo d e rn lux u r i es while reta ining its h is to r ica l c h a r m. 52OakDriveOjai.com

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A conversation about affordable housing in Ojai STORY BY MICHELAINA JOHNSON


lack of affordable housing in Ojai affects everyone. The impacts are especially felt by people who help create and protect Ojai’s quality of life: teachers, police and service-industry workers who daily commute from Oxnard or Ventura. “It can be hard to find affordable housing in Ojai because of the price, especially for a single mom like me. After I divorced, I searched for a place but was rejected because I have a kid. They accept animals but don’t allow kids,” said Dilsye Torres, who is in her mid-20s and works full-time in customer service. She shares a room in a house and has taken a second job, necessities made more difficult because her daughter is not in school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I live with a family now because, being a single mom, it’s easier to be closer to work, school, and home. If my car breaks down, I don’t always have the extra money to repair it. And I can’t work more than I already do because I need to spend time with my daughter. It’d be more expensive to get a nanny than to get a second job.” Her experience is not uncommon for low- and middle-income earners in the Ojai Valley, many of whom struggle to afford their housing month to month, let alone save for the future. In fact, the City of Ojai’s 2014-2021 Housing Element, a component of the General Plan that analyzes the housing needs of the 7,470 people who reside in Ojai’s approximately four square miles, lists single mothers as one of the vulnerable groups that “have traditionally experienced a more difficult time finding decent, affordable housing.” The Housing Element reports about 11 percent of owner-occupied households and 18 percent of rentals within the city limits are headed by women. “While female-headed house

holds represent a relatively small portion of all households, they often have special challenges of balancing work and childcare responsibilities. All of the City’s efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing respond to the needs of female-headed households,” the report reads. Other vulnerable groups include people with disabilities, farmworkers, the elderly and homeless people. The number of renter and owner-occupied households within the city limits that accommodate elderly (65+ years), five or more people and are headed by females — those vulnerable groups — totaled around 53 percent of all Ojai households in 2013. Meanwhile, the City is also home to at least 956 people who are either homeless, under 65 years of age with a disability or are farmworkers, according to the Housing Element and U.S. Census. The totals here are minimum estimates because, due to the City of Ojai’s small size, data on certain vulnerable groups are not tallied in the American Community Survey or available in other sources. In fact, the numbers for these vulnerable groups are higher when you take into account people living in the approximately 30 square miles of the Ojai Valley. The dream of owning a home is financially out of reach for all but a few local workers. The average individual in the City of Ojai made $43,529 and the median household netted $70,403 in 2018, according to Census data. “People with that average combined income per census data in Ventura County would not be able to afford the average-priced home in Ojai,” said local realtor Erik Wilde. He added that, on the low end, a three-bedroom home in the Valley now sells for about $600,000, with no options under that except for mobile homes and a few condominiums.

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Rents are high for locals, said Riddell. He estimated a fair rental price for a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home in the Ojai Valley is $2,350 and around $2,000 for a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment. For a working family or individual, this amount going out monthly makes saving for a down payment, paying rent and decreasing their debt monumental feats. “When the income levels of the low-income people do not keep pace with a minimum wage, nothing is affordable,” said Ojai Mayor Johnny Johnston, who has worked in development since 1985. “We are not going to solve the problem without a living wage and without rent stabilization.” In 2018, 8.5 percent of city residents lived in poverty, according to the U.S. Census. That figure is likely to rise. As of December 2013, 45 percent of all Ojai occupants rented while 55 percent owned their homes. Overpayment can lead to deteriorating houses, require families to double up in dwellings, overcrowding and related problems. One part of the problem is the Ojai Valley lacks the high-paying jobs that nearby Thousand Oaks, Ventura and Oxnard offer. Businesses have left the area because it lacks the infrastructure, workforce and supply storage to manage their operations. For these reasons, City Councilman Ryan Blatz said numerous Ojai residents have to commute out-of-town for work, which then contributes to air pollution, traffic and money circulating outside the local economy. The Air Quality Index numbers show Ojai is higher in particulate matter than the state of California and the nation. More affordable housing throughout the Ojai Valley would benefit families, especially the many living at or below the poverty line, and reduce carbon emissions and traffic. But how do we get it done? BUILDING MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING The city has to demonstrate in the Housing Element that it has enough land available for developers to generate 371 units, the number of homes estimated for Ojai to keep pace with population growth between 2014-2021. This number was determined through a process called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), which takes input from regional leaders that make up the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). Mayor Johnston said the RHNA number is in the process of being reevaluated and reduced significantly because SCAG recognizes that Ojai lacks the transportation infrastructure, open land and jobs to support such an upsurge in people. According to Blatz, even though the City has complied with all 74

state rules regarding housing, those units aren’t in the process of being built. Certainly not all 371 of them. The state of California in the past few years has taken steps to ameliorate the housing crisis. Though local political leaders recognize the need for change, many experts are concerned that, if the recently passed legislation is strictly enforced, they could have dire consequences for the County of Ventura and City of Ojai. Proposed Senate Bill 102, for instance, would punish cities and counties for not meeting their housing goals with fines that could range from $10,000 to $600,000 per month. In addition, Senate Bill 35 streamlined the process for approving affordable housing OQ / FALL 2020


projects, but some Ojai officials worry the enforcement of this bill could limit the city’s ability to govern itself.

rental openings.

AF TER THE BLAZE The Thomas Fire, which burned dozens of homes in the unincorporated parts of the Valley, including Upper Ojai, exacerbated the already-stressed housing situation. Riddell saw rental prices and demand increase after the fire, and displaced residents of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are still calling him for

As the founder of the Greater Goods’ Disaster Relief Fund, Vaughn Montgomery heard dozens of stories from Thomas Fire victims, from which he concluded that numerous people were unable to rebuild because they lacked fire insurance or capital, their landlord didn’t want to rebuild or the dwelling was technically illegal. Data collected by realtors in the Ojai Valley showed that the average price of a single-family home sold between Upper Ojai

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and Oak View was $1,020,717 in 2019. Wilde points out that because there are so few homes sold annually in the Ojai region (252 single family homes in 2019), the “average” sale price is skewed because of the small sample size. When the top four highest sales are taken away, the average price of single family homes sold dropped to $911,475. However, the average value does not necessarily reflect the sale price of a home, which can be exorbitantly more, said Wilde. On March 20th, the day after Governor Gavin Newsom announced the shelter-in-place order, Jonathan Riddell, a local realtor who specialized in rentals, received 30 calls from people, especially Angeleños, looking for short-term rentals in Ojai. His phone rang off the hook with inquiries until early May, and more requests have trickled in since then. “Since the majority of people have been able to work from home, and there are basically no summer programs, people are looking to be in Ojai with a yard and a good internet connection,” explained Riddell. These factors have made the rental market more competitive. Wilde has noticed the same trend in the Valley’s housing market, where professionals are taking advantage of the all-time lows in mortgage interest rates to buy homes in town. This buy-up has caused a major inventory shortage. Instead of the typical 150 to 200 properties listed for sale, there were only 51 active properties listed in early July 2020, while the rest (38) were under contract. Nearly all of these homes cost more than $1 million. Interest rates remain low, but even someone with spotless credit and a 20 percent down payment would still need $2,500 a month to cover the mortgage payment, property tax and insurance on a $500,000 home, provided they could find one. Using the traditional guideline to keep housing costs at less than 30 percent of one’s income, that person would need to earn $120,000 a year. Few jobs and businesses, including the mom-and-pop shops that characterize Ojai, are able to pay or generate that kind of money. “Those (who) have the means and the job security are buying in lifestyle areas right now,” said Wilde. “(Other) people have been using their savings and reserves to get by. There is going to be a breaking point and, for the masses across the country, we are still in the midst of a lot of people scraping by. The longer the covid pandemic stays in place, there is likely going to be some foreclosures ahead that will change the market.” OJAI’S HOUSING MARKET IN CONTEXT The metropolitan area of Ventura ranks among the top ten least-affordable major metropolitan areas in the nation, where 76

fewer than one in four households could afford a median-priced home in late 2019, according to the Public Policy Institute of California’s 2020 report California’s Future: Housing. The City of Ojai’s price-to-income ratio rivals Los Angeles, one of the costliest cities in California and the United States, according to Harvard’s State of the Union Housing report. The situation isn’t brighter for the rest of California: “Among homeowners with mortgages, median monthly housing costs are 50 percent higher in California than in the nation as a whole. California renters pay 44 percent above the nationwide median — while California’s median household income is only 22 percent higher than the nationwide median. This means that the share of Californians with excessive housing costs is quite high: 38 percent of mortgaged homeowners and 55 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their total household income on housing, compared with 28 percent and 50 percent nationwide,” declared the PPIC report. Christopher Danch, Executive Director of the Ojai Valley Fire Safe Council, is quick to mention that Ojai Valley residents should anticipate more wildfires. Due to extended droughts, more extreme weather events and higher temperatures resulting from climate change, the risk of wildfires has become the new norm, he said.

WHY CAN’T WE BUILD OUR WAY OU T OF THIS PROBLEM? City leaders stated that, typically when an affordable housing project has been proposed within city limits, city council meetings are inundated with protesters. Those protesters assert the traffic, construction noise and new tenants will encroach on the neighborhoods and, by implication, Ojai’s quality of life. These are some of the reasons that few developers have brought affordable housing proposals forth to the City of Ojai’s Planning Commission, at least in the past decade, said Planning Commissioner Kathleen Nolan. The City has made progress on one affordable housing proposal. Already reviewed by the City’s Planning Commission and supported by the City Council, the current design, drafted by local architect Nicholas Oatway under a contract with the city, calls for two 2-bedroom units, two 1-bedroom units, a studio, a shared community room and spaces for four cars (though the property could accommodate two more units). Even though the city is offering the land free of charge and financial assistance to any developer willing to take up this project, OQ / FALL 2020


Mayor Johnston said few have expressed interest thus far due to high construction costs, which currently stand at about half a million dollars per unit. With a potential total price of between $2.5-$3 million for the complex, it would be hard to keep rents low while paying off the loans required to finance the project. Oatway and local affordable housing advocate Bill Miley view Oatway’s project as a prototype of Ojai’s future design: more infill and public transportation, fewer cars, and pedestrian-friendly, community-centered living. Yet, even with these five new dwellings, the City could barely make a dent in its affordable housing chasm. But, as Blatz said, if we want our community to have a shot at addressing some of its major issues like a lack of well-paying jobs, affordable housing and declining enrollment in the Ojai Unified School District, we need to reflect on how our values facilitate or inhibit Ojai’s future growth and economic well-being. The Ojai Valley needs innovative financial investment, a diversified economy that extends beyond leisure and education, and structural reforms that incentivize the development of novel housing.

Blatz said the City has plenty of land zoned within the city limits that is waiting for developers. But affordable housing projects’ low return on investment has put off developers, many of whom already work on low profit margins. Local commercial and housing developer Ted Moore and Johnston also explained that the Ojai Valley’s shortage of water translates to water agencies offering fewer will-serve letters to developers. “The need for affordable housing is as strong as it ever was,” said Moore. “Ojai is not a big market, and it badly needs housing. It is just a very, very cumbersome process.” Moore was referring to the elaborate public-private partnerships and funding patchwork required to build affordable housing in a small town. Unexpected shifts in the housing market due to the pandemic, the legal battle over the Ventura River watershed and groundwater capacity, and climate change’s impact on the water supply further complicate the affordable housing landscape.

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A TINY SOLU TION TO A BIG PROBLEM The affordable housing problem has been around, and recognized, for a long time. Frank Lloyd Wright designed prefabricated homes before World War I while Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier said, “The materials of city planning are: sky, space, trees, steel and cement; in that order and that hierarchy.” Nolan said, “The City of Ojai and other communities in the state need an avenue to bring in new housing and recognize that, with climate change, we may need alternate methods and materials and outof-the-box zoning.” In fact, states such as Oregon are already taking steps to change their zoning codes to permit novel types of multi-unit developments. For large empty lots in Ojai or on the Valley’s outskirts, mostly self-sustaining communities composed of modular homes may be the answer. Bill Miley presented an attractive possibility to Ojai’s City Council and Planning Commission: small modular units (including park homes) that range from 399 to up to 600 square feet, priced between $40,000 to $60,000, including city fees and setting up on foundations, and could be approved as Accessory Dwelling Units in residential zones. University of Southern California-trained residential designer and former Ojai resident Vina Lustado also has demonstrated Ojai living with a small footprint at her tiny home residence in the East End. At 20-feet long, 8-feet wide, and almost 78

12-feet tall, 220 square-feet total, her tiny house contains a greywater system, compost toilet, and runs on solar (see Fall 2014 OQ story). She pointed out that, in addition to being mobile, tiny homes are inexpensive with prices typically ranging from $65,000 to $85,000. Lustado’s dream, echoed by several activists and low- and middle-income earners, consists of erecting a community of 10 to 20 tiny homes, along with other eco-friendly structures, on the outskirts of Ojai where the residents would benefit from a bike and car share, communal laundry and cooking facilities, a library and shared office space, to name a few amenities. This intentional community could also be self-sufficient by collecting rainwater, growing food, installing solar panels, harvesting regional materials such as timber and rock, and employing local artisans. “One of my biggest concepts for the community is the sharing of our resources, so it’s not just about the physical aspects of

the place like structures, but the behavioral changes with the community interacting and connecting,” said Lustado. “People expect that there should be an eco-village in Ojai and have been asking for that. We could use this as an opportunity to show that we are leaders in innovation.” The ideas highlighted in this article are a few of the many circulating within community conversations. While the Ojai Valley has a small population, local residents are confident Ojai has capacity for change and can be a role model for other California cities, especially when it comes to complying with affordable housing legislation and addressing the climate crisis. ADDENDUM: This piece is part of the Ojai Island Foundation’s Community Climate Resiliency Program, which brings information to communities so that together they can make informed decisions about how to foster climate resiliency in their regions. See more online at OjaiIslandFoundation.com.


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in the winter or spring of 1927, a Finnish immigrant named Tyyne Miettinen came to Ojai to help Annie Besant and Jiddu Krishnamurti create a Theosophist utopia. When that project fizzled, Tyyne — pronounced “Toony” – began creating her own utopia in her back yard in Meiners Oaks. Like Simon Rodia, who built the famous Watts Towers, Tyyne was a self-taught “outsider artist” who created a private world all her own behind the high fence surrounding her compound. She assembled that compound from many small lots that she and her son, Pekka Merikallio, acquired over the years. For decades, Tyyne roamed nearby streets with her wheelbarrow, going through her neighbors’ trash for ‘found objects’ that she could turn into art. Neighborhood kids whispered to one another that she was a witch, and avoided her property, which they dubbed “the Haunted House.” After she died in 1989, a noted folk-art expert toured her compound and hailed it as “The Enchanted Garden.” Other folks saw it as merely an overstuffed junkyard. Now it’s 82

gone. But one day, thanks to a trust Pekka set up, his mother’s Meiners Oaks compound will go to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, which maintains open-space preserves that are enchanted gardens in their own right. So it seems that Tyyne’s project eventually will bear fruit, if not necessarily in the way she intended. What exactly did she intend? She left behind no manifesto, and it’s not clear whatever happened to all the assemblages, sculptures and other artworks that she did leave behind, amidst the piles of junk that comprised her studio. But clearly she left a deep and abiding impression on Ojai. Three decades after her death, people still talk about her, and parse her eccentricities, and wonder what she was all about. “She was a very unique person,” her friend Pat Baggerly says. “There was nobody like Tyyne.” Tyyne Katariina Miettinen was born in Finland on April 24, 1895, at a time when her native land was still part of the Russian Empire. Two things are known about her early life: She trained OQ / FALL 2020


Meiners Oaks once boasted its own version of the Watts Towers — a wonderfully weird folk-art creation that was the life’s work of outsider artist Tyyne Miettinen. An eccentric visionary who usually went barefoot and often slept in a tree, she was possibly the most unusual person who ever set foot in Ojai. And that’s saying something.

to be a practitioner of medical gymnastics, which involved massage and physical therapy; and she married a fellow Finn named Pekka Merikallio, who was about 10 years her senior. By 1920 the couple had emigrated to the United States and were living in Seattle with their infant son, Pekka Kullervo Merikallio, named after his father.

rest of her life, she would subsist mostly on fruit, nuts, herbs, and uncooked grains and vegetables.

By the mid-1920s, Tyyne had split from her husband and was living with young Pekka in Hollywood, where a number of Finnish immigrants had settled. Tyyne found plenty of work as a masseuse for the movie-star set.

“Working as a masseuse to the stars, she had a good life, but wanted to augment it with spiritual depth,” the folk-art expert Dan Prince wrote in an account of Tyyne’s life and art. “She became a Theosophist, and an early assemblage artist.”

Then as now, Los Angeles was a hotbed of alternative lifestyles, especially those of the health-nut variety. Tyyne was a regular at the Eutropheon, America’s first raw-food restaurant, where proprietors John and Vera Richter served up soups, salads, pies and other fare, all without benefit of a cook-stove.

Assemblage, the art of creating three-dimensional collages with found objects, was still in its infancy in America. Theosophy, however, was well advanced – especially in Hollywood, where the Krotona Institute of Theosophy occupied a sprawling campus in Beachwood Canyon. Then, in 1924, Krotona abandoned the big city for the boondocks, moving to a new hilltop home in an isolated valley in the Ventura County backcountry. Soon, Tyyne and her son would follow, joining the great Theosophist migration to Ojai.

The Richters also preached the health benefits of going barefoot, nude sunbathing, and many other practices that most people considered highly eccentric. Tyyne embraced them all. For the

Nor were the Richters her only gurus. There was also Jiddu Krishnamurti, the designated “World Teacher” of the Theosophical Society.

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“ ”

ANNIE BESANT, the Theosophical Society president, was visiting Ojai from India in January 1927 when she put out a call for Theosophists from around the world to settle here.

We desire to form on this land a Centre which shall gradually grow into a miniature model of the New Civilization,” she wrote. “The bodies of the members should be developed into beauty by healthful exercises … by purity and simplicity of daily life, by living the open-air natural life rendered possible by the climate, by the influence of the exquisite beauty of Nature surrounding them … The emotions that find expression in art and in the enjoyment of beauty, in music, painting, sculpture, should be diligently cultivated.

Healthful exercises? The open-air natural life? Artistic expression? Besant’s idea of utopia sounded tailor-made for Tyyne Miettinen. Lots were available for sale in the brand-new community of Meiners Oaks, a former ranch that had recently been subdivided. Its location near Krotona made it highly appealing to Tyyne and her fellow Finns in Hollywood, many of whom shared her interest in Theosophy. Soon there was a significant Finnish colony in Meiners Oaks that included the architect John Roine and the sculptor John Palo-Kangas and his family. 84

“I used to hear my parents talk about Annie Besant,” Palo-Kangas’s daughter Shirley Weeks wrote in a memoir. “My parents and their Finnish friends were interested in Theosophy and visited the Krotona library. I’m pretty sure that’s why they bought property in Meiners Oaks.” Tyyne knew she could make a living as a masseuse at Ojai’s hot springs resorts, all of which were going strong in the ‘20s. So she abandoned her movie-star clientele, took 6-year-old Pekka in tow, and moved to a small lot on South Poli Street, in the first block south of El Roblar Drive. “She moved to this 30-by-150-foot lot in 1927,” Dan Prince wrote. “It was a meadow completely isolated from neighbors, and she bought eight other adjoining parcels over the years. This, the Enchanted Garden, had both the barriers and shadows of her Finnish past and the wide open acceptance of her present, with its emphasis on luxuriant foliage and outdoor access.” Tyyne built a sauna to share with her Finnish friends, including the Palo-Kangas family. “We called her ‘Queen of the Oaks,’ ” Shirley Weeks wrote. “She had dark brown hair that she wore in a thick braid that went down to her waist in back. Sometimes she wore her braids coiled on her head or in a knot at the nape of her neck. She kept it in place with heavy tortoise-shell combs and pins.” OQ / FALL 2020

In those days, Tyyne welcomed many visitors to her property. “She loved having people around,” Weeks wrote. Tyyne’s passions included astrology and folk dancing. She had a high, thin voice and spoke with a heavy Finnish accent, so people sometimes had trouble understanding her. According to Weeks, she turned her imperfect command of English to her advantage by making it an endearing quirk: “Whenever people laughed at one of the phrases she used, she kept her fractured English in her speech to use again another time.” Meiners Oaks was a great place to be a Theosophist. In addition to Krotona, there was the Oak Grove where Krishnamurti gave his talks, and the Star Camps where Theosophists from around the world gathered annually in the late 1920s to sit at the feet of their World Teacher. There was also the Liberal Catholic Church chapel on North Encinal Street, only a block from Tyyne’s home. The L.C.C. was closely associated with Theosophy. This redwood chapel, designed by John Roine and built in 1929, was the first church in Meiners Oaks, and Tyyne apparently was a charter member of the congregation. (Roine also designed the Acacia Lodge, a.k.a. the Baird Mansion, a Meiners Oaks landmark on South Lomita Avenue.) Then, Krishnamurti stunned his devotees by rejecting the World Teacher role. Shortly after that, the stock market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression. These twin calamities rang down the curtain on Besant’s dream of Ojai as the setting for a new


civilization. Yet for people like Tyyne who already had committed themselves to Besant’s project, Ojai in its current form was paradise enough. She continued to earn a living as a masseuse, and set about turning her Meiners Oaks property into an epic art project. Tyyne’s property (some of which actually belonged to Pekka) eventually totaled about an acre, stretching from South Poli to South Alvarado streets. The Poli side included a pre-existing house, a very modest structure reportedly dating to 1924, which would make it one of the oldest houses in Meiners Oaks. The Alvarado side featured a stone-and-wood house that Pekka built himself while he was a teenager. But Tyyne had grander structures in mind. With her son’s help, she began digging up dirt and clay on her property, turned it into adobe bricks, and using them to erect her own Towel of Babel, several stories high.

“ ”

She was building an elaborate adobe house on her property,” Weeks wrote. “She kept adding rooms and changing it. I had the feeling that she thought she would die if she ever finished it.”

“It was always falling down,” recalls Pekka’s former longtime girlfriend Suzanne Retzinger. “It was never really a livable place. Perhaps not, but the process of building it facilitated Tyyne’s assemblage art.

“As these structures rose, pits were dug to accommodate bottles, bedsprings, ceramic tile and other subterranean foundations,” Dan Prince wrote. “On top of these were planted palms and ‘jun-


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gle plants,’ whose offshoots were found-objects assemblages. The landscape is a dense tangle of paths and ‘the mounds,’ some of which have a beehive shape and can be entered as a kiva. There are also impenetrable tangles and piles of furniture, car parts and scrap metal signs. The topography merges plants and sculptures in the ‘houses,’ with their out-of-doors counterparts in a flowing ramshackle effect where in and out flow together.” The Depression posed challenges to Tyyne and her Finnish friends, but also offered opportunities. John Palo-Kangas was paid by the federal Works Progress Administration to create several public monuments in California, including a concrete statue of Father Junipero Serra that was installed in front of Ventura’s City Hall. (After 50 years, this statue had deteriorated to the point where it was replaced by a bronze replica in the late ‘80s. That replica recently was removed following protests about Serra’s treatment of the Chumash Indians.) The architect John Roine also continued to win commissions, one of which led to the creation of Ojai’s famous “Taj Mahal” house in the Siete Robles neighborhood.

But Tyyne, unlike Roine and Palo-Kangas, was not trying to earn a living via her art. She created her creations for her own purposes, which remain mostly obscure.


As for Pekka, he had an unusual childhood. “He once told me, ‘When I was in school here, it was hard being the son of such an eccentric mother,’ ” his former neighbor John Wilson says. Nevertheless, Pekka embraced many aspects of Tyyne’s eccentric approach to life, especially her views on diet and health. Helping her to make adobe bricks and build things with them seems to have turned him on to engineering. He also worked with another neighbor, Boyd Sloan, who was a stonemason, picking up skills that he would put to good use in future years building walls and other stone-related projects. Pekka also displayed a precocious interest in nautical matters. “He used to row around in a little boat in Besant Meadow when he was young,” Pat Baggerly says. “There used to be a little lake there.” He attended Nordhoff High School and went on to study engineering in Ventura. After Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, he tried to become a U.S. Navy pilot. “The Navy turned him down because he did not have 20-20 vision,” Weeks wrote. But Pekka ended up going to sea anyway, as a 1944 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. “He was in charge of one of the ships that sailed from San Fran-

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cisco and took food and supplies to the armed services in the Pacific,” Weeks wrote.

“She’d go out and collect her trash every day,” Suzanne says, “and turn it into art.”

After the war ended, Pekka earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from U.C. Berkeley. Later, he earned a master’s in public administration at Pepperdine, and at some point he worked at Point Mugu Naval Air Station as a naval engineer. For many years he served as a captain or mate on merchant vessels plying the waters between Alaska and Japan.

THE SINGER Nat King Cole had a huge hit in 1948 with “Nature Boy,” an autobiographical song written by one “Eden Ahbez,” the adopted name (he spelled it “eden ahbez”) of a musician who had much in common with Tyyne Miettinen. He too had frequented the Eutropheon restaurant and been influenced by the Richters. During the song’s long run at the top of the charts, much press coverage was lavished on Ahbez and his fellow Nature Boys, a group of bearded proto-hippies who wore their hair unfashionably long, adopted vegetarian diets, and went barefoot and shirtless whenever possible. One of them, Robert “Gypsy Boots” Bootzin, would be a frequent Ojai visitor in later years. None of them had anything on Tyyne, who had been a Nature Girl much longer than they had been Nature Boys. But they became celebrity pitchmen for the natural, healthy lifestyle, while she practiced the same lifestyle in obscurity.

Suzanne Retzinger recalls bonding with him while attending a Krishnamurti talk together in the Oak Grove, and going dancing at the Oaks Hotel — typical dating options in Ojai in the 1970s. “He was very good-looking, and just a nice guy,” Suzanne says. “And a really good dancer!” Pekka was also an artist who created large-scale oil paintings; a tennis enthusiast who was a regular on the Libbey Park courts; a pioneer who homesteaded on Yukon Island in Alaska; and, like his mother, a hoarder of materials that piled up in the yard, waiting for Pekka to get around to using them for a one project or another. “He was a wonderful person, but he couldn’t get rid of anything,” Suzanne says. “He had great ideas, but they didn’t get built, and they just sat there.” Meanwhile, while Pekka shuttled back and forth between Ojai and Alaska, Tyyne remained in Meiners Oaks, cultivating her garden.

Well, not in complete obscurity. Within the confines of Meiners Oaks, she was actually famous, although not in a good way. By the early 1950s, thanks to Southern California’s postwar housing boom, the unincorporated village of Meiners Oaks suddenly boasted more residents than its older neighbor, the incorporated city of Ojai. These new residents were not necessarily Theosophists or artists or devotees of Krishnamurti, and their tolerance for eccentricity was perhaps not what it might have been. A weird-looking old lady who went around barefoot, sweeping up gravel from the streets and taking it home in her wheelbarrow — well, she was not exactly their cup of tea. Many of them saw Tyyne as a weirdo, and their children viewed her as a witch.

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From the ‘50s through the ‘80s, successive generations of Meiners Oaks kids nurtured the legend of “Old Lady Toony.” Naturally, the legend grew with telling. Many of the tales were true, e.g., that she ate weeds and slept in a tree house. Other stories were more fanciful: “We used to hear that she ate cats and had a deep hole in her yard that she trapped second-graders in,” one woman wrote on a Facebook thread devoted to Tyyne. Other people chimed in: “I was afraid she was going to eat me!” “The place was like an eerie fortress!” “I never walked by their houses after dark!”

“We were afraid to ride our bikes by there for years!” Some of Tyyne’s grownup neighbors, such as Lainie Hendrix, took a more sanguine view. “Tuni wasn’t a witch,” Hendrix wrote on a Facebook thread. “She was a unique soul. She was a very creative recycler who created art from other people’s discards. … I was afraid of her at first. I didn’t want my babies near her. … Over time, my perception changed. I came to see her as a vibrant part of our little neighborhood. My kids grew to love ‘Miss Tuni,’ and they always ran to the fence to greet her. She brought them little gifts … toys gleaned from other houses, oranges from trees on our street, things like that. I had the pleasure of personally being guided by Tuni through the ‘garden’ she created on her property. It was magical! She created little paths that were lined with recycled things … teapots, irons, baby gates (one of my own was included), broken dishes, plastic flowers, etc. … and it was all artfully arranged. She put a great deal of thought into her creations. If one allowed oneself to see the artistry and the magic, the ‘junk’ receded into the background. On yet another Facebook thread about Tyyne (there are many), the artist Bernadette DiPietro recalled meeting her in 1971: “We walked around Meiners Oaks together and she taught me about the native plants. The following year I published a small book titled ‘Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Ojai Valley.’ She was the inspiration of my book and we became friends, visiting her garden many times. One particular section of her garden that had all broken blue pottery was dedicated to ‘old women with blue hair. ’ She was a treasure.” Some kids did befriend Tyyne, and now as adults they cherish 88

their childhood memories of a kindly and fascinating woman. But many others shied away from this odd-looking old lady with her leathery face, wild hair and strange ways. If Tyyne, per the legend, was a witch, Pekka was an ogre. Older boys in the neighborhood would dare one another to run through Tyyne’s compound at night, and part of the thrill was the danger of encountering the formidable Pekka, who was very powerfully built. When he was not off at sea, he would stand watches at his mother’s compound to protect her privacy. “My friends and I used to sneak on her property all the time,” one man recalled on Facebook. “Pekka busted us once. Just told us to leave. I think all the stories were blown out of proportion. But they had some weird stuff in that yard.”

Indeed they did. When Pat and Russ Baggerly moved to Tyyne’s block of South Poli in 1976, they befriended her, and found out what was behind the fence. “Tyyne was like a Marcel Duchamp,” Pat says. “She would make sculptures out of the tops of toilets.”

Another neighbor, John Wilson, recalls a long string of Styrofoam cups “that went winding 20 yards or more” among the trees on her property. Then there was the “gigantic sandstone boulder” that Tyyne decided to cut down to size. “The first time I ever met Tyyne, she was out there trying to cut that thing in half with a hacksaw,” Wilson says. “Not just ‘trying’ – she was already halfway through it!” This incident happened in the early 1980s, as Tyyne was approaching her 90th birthday, and getting too old to be sawing up boulders. Even healthy-living Nature Girls eventually must succumb to the ravages of time. Tyyne began to lose her memory. She could no longer navigate the intricate labyrinth she had created in her garden with her art assemblages and her piles of junk. One day, while Pekka was away in Alaska, Wilson heard Tyyne calling her son’s name. Following the sound of her voice, he found her in far corner of the compound, unsure how to find her way back to her house. “She was just lost on her own property,” he says. Tyyne Miettinen died in her home on May 1, 1989, at the age of 94. Her funeral was held at the Liberal Catholic Church, which by then had moved from Meiners Oaks to a property on Ojai Avenue east of Gridley Road. John Roine’s old redwood chapel had been moved there too, although it now served as a social hall since the erection of a new church on the property. Presumably OQ / FALL 2020

it was in the social hall, so familiar to Tyyne, that her old friends gathered after the service to tell stories about her. On display during the service was her magnum opus, an enormously long, vibrantly colorful tapestry she had spent years

stitching together. Some say it expressed her philosophical view of existence as an endlessly recurring cycle of life and death – an appropriate comment from Tyyne on the occasion of her own funeral. Some who were there that day were neighbors, like the Baggerlys and John Wilson. Others were people who had known Tyyne of old, and could recall the heady days when Annie Besant issued her call to Theosophists to come to Ojai to build their New Civilization. Tyyne had answered that call, and arguably she had

kept the faith for 62 years. One might conclude that she had done her best, in her idiosyncratic way, to cultivate her own, very personal version of Besant’s vision within the confines of her walled garden.


Among those listening to the stories that day was Gordon Kennedy, a friend of Tyyne’s and Pekka’s who was researching a book called “Children of the Sun,” about the Nature Boys and their German antecedents. Kennedy was a connoisseur of flamboyantly eccentric health nuts — yet even to him, Tyyne stood out. Years later, in a blog post, he recalled the moment:

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“At the memorial I observed Toony’s friends, most of whom were in their 70s, as they formed a circle for conversation and to share memories. I stepped back and just listened. In a valley where people pride themselves on their individuality, Toony defied all descriptions of anyone’s imagination. Ojai had never seen anything like Toony.” CARMEN ABELLEIRA and Jeff Harris first encountered Pekka Merikallio in the aftermath of his mother’s death. “We met Pekka while we were living way out in the back of Matilija Canyon,” Carmen says. “He was out there doing some stonework for the people who owned the property.” Pekka was living in the Meiners Oaks compound, and having a hard time dealing with the loss of his mother. Perhaps he was lonely. (He had never married or had children of his own.) He invited Jeff and Carmen and Carmen’s young son, Canyon, to move in with him. At the time, Carmen was a schoolteacher rather than the wellknown Ojai artist she is today. But she was fascinated by Tyyne’s exotic garden, with its meandering paths and its seemingly random assortment of assemblages and installations. “I was blown away,” Carmen says. “This was like my dream world.” Inspired, Carmen started experimenting with assemblages, using some old wooden doors Tyyne had collected. Something clicked, and within just a few years Carmen would give up teaching to become a full-time artist, with an emphasis on painting, mixed media and (of course) assemblage. “Tyyne was my first art inspiration,” she says. “It all started there.”

By the spring of 1991, Pekka apparently sensed that his epic watermelon-and-garlic fasts (or was it watermelon and basil? accounts differ) might not cure what ailed him. He created a living trust by which he would leave his and Tyyne’s property to the Besant Meadow Preservation Group, which was trying to preserve as open space the place where Theosophist pilgrims once had pitched their tents when they came to Ojai to hear Krishnamurti speak. In addition to Tyyne’s Meiners Oaks compound, the trust estate also included a house on West Aliso Street in Ojai, which once had belonged to Tyyne’s older sister, Iya Nash. But the Besant Meadow organization was not to get full control of either property right away. The terms of the trust allowed Jeff to remain on the Meiners Oaks property during his lifetime, and Suzanne Retzinger was granted the same privilege at the Aliso Street house. Pekka signed the document on March 23 and died on April 23, at the age of 70. “A fledgling land conservancy has received its first donation of property to be preserved as open space in Meiners Oaks,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Merikallio’s will allows a family living on the lots to remain there but prohibits the parcels from being sold, said Pat Baggerly, an estate trustee.” Carmen and her son soon moved on, but Jeff remained. Three decades later, he’s still there. Suzanne also moved on — to Santa Barbara — after which the Besant Meadow group donated the Aliso Street house to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy in Pekka’s memory. The OVLC sold it in 2000 and used the proceeds to greatly expand the acreage of the recently established Ojai Meadows Preserve. Meanwhile, Tyyne finally had been discovered by the art world, in the person of Daniel C. Prince. Dan was a prominent folk-art expert and collector, and he somehow had heard about Tyyne’s tapestry and wanted to include it in a major exhibit he was organizing in Santa Monica in 1993.

“ ” Jeff Harris took on the task of helping Pekka separate the junk from the art, and get rid of the junk.

“Jeff had the job of cleaning up the place, and that was a gargantuan project,” Pat Baggerly says.

Meanwhile, Pekka was dealing with a serious health issue: His heart was failing. His doctors told him he needed an operation. He declined to have one. He was his mother’s son in that regard, preferring the Nature Boy approach of diet and exercise. “His heart valve was damaged, but he couldn’t stand the thought of hearing a ceramic replacement valve clicking, or having a pig valve in his body,” John Wilson says. 90

“I don’t know how he found out about this piece,” Carmen says. “He came out to the property to pick it up.” That visit made quite an impression on Prince. His papers, archived at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, include photographs of Tyyne’s work along with a text document titled “Tyyne Miettinen/Enchanted Garden.” Tyyne, he wrote, “was trying to provoke thoughts of the most OQ / FALL 2020

philosophical variety and encourage meditation. The whole Garden is a comment on the cycle of life and death, with her creating and recycling balanced by dissolution to the point of being biodegradable.”

The trust document does not state that intention. But Pat says Pekka was under the gun due to his failing heart, and had to get it done quickly.

Prince wrote that Jeff Harris, along with “a group interested in Krishnamurti,” was working “to restore many of the altar-like shrines and aspects of the Garden. These were documented over the years by Tyyne’s son Pekka … Pekka, in a unique bond with Jeff, tried to impart the principles he and his mother were using and wanted to clear up the community’s misconceptions. Apparently, they hoped that the life and death cycle would include a reincarnation.” Prince was an advocate for preserving large-scale folk art installations, and he considered Tyyne’s garden to be well worth saving. The entire property amounted to one enormous art installation. “Jeff is attempting to clean up, [and] in some cases, selectively clear out, and restore to legitimacy one of the least understood and fading Folk Art Environments,” Prince wrote. Prince’s document is not dated, but it probably was written at the time of that 1993 art exhibit in Santa Monica. What has happened since then with Jeff ’s project? We tried to ask him, but he politely but firmly declined to be interviewed for this article. “It used to be that I loved nothing more than to talk about this subject,” he said during a brief telephone conversation. “It was my life’s work for a very long time. But it’s not anymore. I’m afraid that’s a chapter in my life that is closed.” And what of Tyyne’s life’s work? Her tapestry, her sculptures, her assemblages and installations? A passerby today who peeks through the fence sees nothing that resembles an enchanted garden. The big lot seems mostly empty, apart from the two houses and some trees. (The adobe tower is long gone. Constructed without rebar, it was too dangerously unstable to leave standing.)

“He intended to revise it when he had time,” she says. But revise it how? Pat thinks Pekka would have liked to see it preserved as “a gathering space” where people could have discussions. But, per Dan Prince, Pekka at the time of his death was working with Jeff Harris to preserve and enhance the property as a showcase for his mother’s vision. Would it be possible to revive that project somehow? The Ojai Valley Museum might be interested in mounting an exhibit, and acquiring some of Tyyne’s works. Are any of them preserved in storage somewhere, and available to bring her Enchanted Garden back to life? It appears that only Jeff knows the answer to that question, and he’s not talking. Conceivably, it could be another 20 or 30 years or more before the Land Conservancy finally takes possession of the property. By then, there will be few if any people left alive who remember Tyyne Miettinen. Which seems a shame, since everyone who ever encountered her in the flesh found her utterly unforgettable. Gordon Kennedy once told an interviewer about a conversation he’d had with his friend Bill Quinn, an Ojai resident who was also a friend of Tyyne’s. Quinn was involved in the founding of the Esalen Institute, and he knew Krishnamurti, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts and Allen Ginsberg. He can safely be said to have encountered a great many highly unusual people in the course of his life. But none like Tyyne. “She once handed Bill some wild weeds for a snack, which startled him,” Kennedy said. “I asked him if he had met many people like Tyyne before in his travels or associations with the Beats and folks at Esalen, and he said he’d never met anyone even remotely like her.”

Per Pekka’s living trust, Jeff is entitled to stay there during his lifetime. Then the Land Conservancy takes possession. (The OVLC has inherited the Besant Meadow group’s interest in the property.) Because it’s only an acre and is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, Pat Baggerly is afraid that it will end up being sold off and subdivided, rather than preserved intact as Pekka intended. “He wanted to leave his property to somebody who would keep it as it was,” she says.

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ne day a friend of Tiese Quinn returned to Bakersfield from a visit to Ojai carrying a real estate magazine. “She handed it to me, but it dropped on the floor and fell open to a picture of the living room in a beautiful Spanish Revival 94

house. I took one look and said, “I’m going!” Her husband, Bob, agreed. They drove to Ojai solely to buy that house. “I had an instant emotional reaction,” she recalls. “The house was warm and inviting, and I just thought, ‘This is home.’” OQ / FALL 2020


For Bob the lure was “the feeling of craftsmanship you don’t often see these days. And we’ve always been drawn to the early California style.” The house fit the bill perfectly, with its red tile roofs and white walls — massive, but arranged with almost

geometric harmony. As Bob sums it up: “Elegant simplicity.” Which also sums up the work of the house’s designer, George Washington Smith. The renowned Santa Barbara architect started his career as a painter, roaming Europe to see its art

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and notable buildings. In the Spanish countryside he fell in love with the rustic medieval farmhouses of Andalusia. Their plain stucco facades and asymmetrical designs would later inspire his architecture work, and he became California’s master designer of Spanish Colonial Revival homes: simple but sophisticated, and always romantic. To his elemental houses, which were often white blocks assembled in L shapes, Smith added his own artistic touches. The Quinns’ house boasts many: a wrought iron balcony, a fountain sheathed in colorful Tunisian tiles, a row of French doors opening to a shady portico and gardens, a living room with a lofty beamed ceiling, glazed tile floors. The Quinns filled the house with western art. Having pre96

viously spent 17 years living off the grid in the Sierra Nevada, guiding horse-packing trips, “we kind of got into the cowboy way of life,” says Tiese. They started collecting cowboy art, then Native American. As a member of Ojai’s Historic Preservation Commission, Tiese also collects tales of the house’s past. “What’s now my weaving studio was once a 1940s prefab metal service station in downtown Ojai,” she reveals. “In the early 1950s it got moved here, and they changed the outside to make it look like the house.” Previous owners also added a new wing for their eight children and a swimming pool enclosed by rock walls and shaded by oaks. Another owner renovated the interior of the upstairs to create a spacious master suite, in keeping with modern tastes. OQ / FALL 2020


WHEN GEORGE WASHINGTON SMITH designed his very first house, a home for his family in Montecito, he mimicked the style and layout of the farmhouses he’d seen in Spain. The house was an instant hit, praised and publicized nationwide. The painter decided to put his brushes aside. “I soon found that people were not really as eager to buy my paintings, which I was laboring over, as they were to have a whitewashed house like mine.” His houses were gracious and easy to live in, ideally suited to the climate and land of Southern California. One important client was Edward Libbey, the East Coast glass industrialist whose vision and bank book changed a ramshackle burg called Nordhoff into the prettier, more coherent Ojai. Waving his

golden wand, he transformed the downtown in Spanish Colonial Revival style, building the Arcade, the pergola across the street, and the post office’s ornate domed bell tower. He also donated land for what is now Libbey Park and built the golf club that became the Ojai Valley Inn. Another visionary project was the Arbolada (which means “wooded”), a residential neighborhood set among Ojai’s native oaks and conceived as a natural parkland. Libbey had built his own redwood lodge on Foothill Road, and when he learned that a lumber company planned to buy 360 acres across the way and cut down the trees to fuel the railroads, he bought the tract himself. Libbey laid out five miles of meandering lanes, rustically

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bordered with rocks, and platted residential lots, each at least one acre, selling them at his cost. “The Arbolada was not to be a money-making venture,” observed the late local historian David Mason, “but rather it was to create another spot of beauty in the Ojai Valley that Libbey loved.” Libbey hoped buyers would choose to build in the Spanish Colonial Revival style that suited the landscape so well. To showcase its appeal, he commissioned three “spec” houses from George Washington Smith, all completed in the spring of 1922.

The grand model that would eventually become the Quinns’ was referred to as “House A” – perhaps the most modest understatement in house-naming history. No doubt due to Libbey’s death in 1925, the Depression, and World War II, the Arbolada lots didn’t sell quickly, and few people built houses. (In fact, the last lot didn’t sell until 1958.) The first owner of House A is unknown, but by 1947 it was occupied by a partner in a Ventura automobile dealership. It’s said that a notorious renter in the early 1950s was Mafioso

Jack Dragna, the boss of the Los Angeles crime family. His notso-savory guests included Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno. Ojai’s police chief lived two hundred yards away, with a clear view of the house, and when he was warned that the neighborhood was “mobbed up,” he and his wife started watching. (She even tailed Dragna around town.) The chief and another police officer attempted to bug the house, but they got caught in the act and had to claim they were “realtors.” When Dragna found out who they really were, he and

his friends blew town. Successive owners included the heirs to a New York candy-making fortune, a Hollywood florist-to-the-stars, and the son of spy novelist John LeCarré. In 2009 the Quinns bought the house from Debbie and Steve Curry. A noted landscape painter, Steve gave them a canvas depicting their new home. One day the painting will go to the house’s next owner. “Someone will come,” says Tiese, “walk in the front door, and feel they’re home – just as we did.”




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Rowsie Vain Photo by Nathan Wickstrum


Upon entering 4424 Thacher you are tucked away in your own private sanctuary amidst 6-acres of organic olive and citrus trees. The main residence was built in 1895 and now shares the land with a 3bd/2ba guest house, 2bd/2ba guest casita, studio guest quarters, detached yoga/art studio, detached library, amazing views of the Ojai Valley, two private gated entrances, bocce ball court, space for horses and much more. Come visit the most exclusive property in Ojai Offered for $14,000,000

Lester Cook

DRE 01991090 818.642.7412 lcook@livsothebysrealty.com Lester@LesterCookRealEstate.com © 2020 LIV Sotheby’s International Realty. All rights reserved. All data, including all measurements and calculations are obtained from various sources and has not and will not be verified by Broker. All information shall be independently reviewed and verified for accuracy. LIV Sotheby’s International Realty is independently owned and operated and supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act.

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1. Azu Restaurant & Ojai Valley Brewery 457 E Ojai Avenue 805-640-7987 2. Bart’s Books 302 W. Matilija Street - corner of Cañada Street. 805-646-3755

3. Besant Hill School 8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Road 805-646-4343

The TheRanch RanchHouse House 15 15 15 15

4. Ojai Music Festival 201 S Signal 805-646-2094


5. Boccali’s Restaurant 3277 Ojai-Santa Paula Road 805-646-6116 6. Emerald Iguana Inn Located at North end of Blanche Street 805-646-5276


7. Genesis of Ojai 305 E Matilija Street 746-2058 18 18 18 18

8. OVA Arts 238 E Ojai Avenue 805-646-5682

14 14 14 14 8888 18 18

9. ROTI 469 E Ojai Avenue 310-770-3282 4444

10. Ojai Art Center 113 S Montgomery Street 805-646-0117


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11. Nutmeg’s Ojai House 304 N Montgomery Street 805-640-1656

12. Ojai Café Emporium 108 S Montgomery Street 805-646-2723

Olive Ojai


13. Ojai Valley Electronics & Hobby 307-A E Matilija Street 805-646-7585 14. Ojai Valley Museum 130 W Ojai Avenue 805-640-1390

15. Ranch House 102 Besant Road 805-640-2360 11

16. Sea Fresh 533 E Ojai Avenue 805-646-7747 19

17. Studio Sauvageau 332-B E Ojai Avenue (Inner Arcade) 805-646-0117

13 8 7



STAY ON HWY 150 for about 2.2 miles 1






18. Treasures of OJAI 110 N Signal Street 805-646-2852

19. Porch Gallery 310 E Matilija Street 213-321-3919

20. Ojai Olive Oil 1811 Ladera Ridge Road (off Hermitage) 805-646-5964

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State permit C10-0000474-Lic

Visit us online at SLCC.info and on Instagram

Meet Your


New Pharmacist,

Fred Farkhani

Get your pharmacist recommendation on flu shots!

WALK-IN IMMUNIZATIONS Most Vaccinations Available

Specializing in Long-Term Care

960 E. Ojai Avenue Call: 805.646.0106 or visit us at ojai.medicineshoppe.com 104

Save Money on Top Brands

Use Our Mobile App

Take Advantage of Our Home Delivery Service!

Store Hours: M - F 10 - 6 pm | Sat. 10 - 1 pm OQ / FALL 2020


112 112



Curran’s Events

ask dr. beth

foxhole follies

Surfers Up For The Young & Brave Foundation By Mara Pyzel

Doctors Are Not The Faucis On Your Shoulder By Beth Prinz, M.D.

At Home On The Plain With a Kit Fox Family By Chuck Graham




Ojai’s Hiking Map


nocturnal submissions

Our Top Trails Art by Colleen McDougal

Ojai’s Busy, But Still Mostly Online, Schedule of Events

Coronavirus Diaries — After the Breakdown By Sami Zahringer

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Branding, Graphic Design, Web Design, Advertising, Print, Packaging, Concept Development.


Back to Top

I use my creative brain to create brands, products and experiences that help my clients solve problems and seize opportunities. That’s basically it more or less.

Photo by Andraz Lazic


LET US HELP YOU GET IT OUT. Full Service Publishing House

Award-winning writers & editors

We can help you with everything from first draft to first sale (writing coaches • editors • designers • publishing)

editor@ojaiquarterly.com 106 OQ Books - House Ad 2.indd 2


ojaihub.com OQ / FALL 2020 5/20/20 5:14 PM

The once-calmed mind is vast. - Alan Watts

Let us help you undo the clutter.

Ojai Self StOrage www.ojaiselfstorage.com

Authorized Dealer U-Haul 805-646-5334 404 Bryant Circle Ojai Self Storage 805-646-8742

Shanae Kahler Owner

Full Service Workout Facility Large Variety of Free Weights & Machines Cardio Equipment Outdoor Fitness Jungle Gym Zoom Classes and Personal Training Online Custom Weight Loss Fitness Programs Pilates Studio Great Atmosphere Helpful and Knowledgeable Staff

Spa Services


Contact us today! 805 646 2233 406 Bryant Circle Ste Q, Ojai, Ca OPEN DAILY


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@bryantstreetgym 107

OQ | A S K DR . B ET H


DR. BETH PRINZ Contact: doctorbeth@ojaiquartely.com The Food Doctor M.D. – Dr. Beth Prinz is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and passionate about preventing disease through healthy living and a whole-food, plant-based dietary approach to health.

I have a secret to share. If you’re looking for health care, don’t go to your doctor. No disrespect to my esteemed colleagues. We are all doing our best in a system of perverse incentives. But be warned, health care really is “sick care.” We do “sick care” reasonably well. You got diabetes? Here’s a pill. You got high blood pressure? Take this. Acid indigestion? No worries, this pill will shut off your acid production — forever, just take it — forever. Depressed, can’t sleep, anxious, can’t concentrate? Try this, take this, or this. Even what we call preventative medicine, isn’t as preventative as you might think. Cancer screening, for example, doesn’t prevent cancer from starting. Cancer screening tries to find cancer early, ideally before symptoms appear, and with some success at saving lives. But has your doctor told you that cancer risk is 80 percent diet and lifestyle and 20 percent genetic? That eating a certain way reduces your risk of getting cancer? Avoiding cancer altogether: isn’t this the ultimate preventative medicine? Where did we go astray? I believe patients became less empowered in the past 20 years. The reasons can be insidious. Ever wonder about the phrase Health Care Provider? I did. After my training I worked abroad in the U.K. for 12 years. When I returned to practice in the U.S., I kept hearing this phrase PCP, Primary Care Provider. I noticed health organizations referred to me less as a doctor and more as a “provider.” “We’re having our provider meeting on Thursday” etc. 108

I eventually realized this language serves the interests of third-party payers which prefer patients forget the word “doctor” and not notice they are receiving care from lower-paid Nurse Practitioners or Physician’s Assistants. This is cost-effective. Clinicians’ roles are easily interchangeable if everyone works under the same umbrella: PCP — Primary Care Provider, also known as Health Care Provider. My beef isn’t doctors and other licensed professionals having interchangeable roles. My concern is the choice of the word “provider.” It’s misleading. It encourages passivity. This rebranding, if you will, renders the patient the passive recipient of this commodity called “health.” This mindset makes patients less accountable for their health and creates unrealistic expectations. It sends the message that you don’t need to take responsibility for your health, the healthcare system will take care of it, starting with your “provider” ready to supply health direct to you, the consumer! There’s a big difference between receiving health care and taking care of yourself. There’s a lot of talk about access to care. Having access is critical, but the truth is, a physician cannot undo the bad habits of a lifetime in a 15-minute office visit. Most problems we see in primary care are preventable or improvable through correct diet and lifestyle choices. Should one feel OQ / FALL 2020


entitled to optimal health while smoking, drinking, eating junk, not getting exercise, sunshine, sleep, or managing their stress? We, as doctors can point you in the right direction, but we don’t follow you around all day and night controlling your choices. (We’re not The Fauci On My Shoulder, vis a vis a Ros Chast cartoon in the New Yorker. So, my message to all you “health care receivers” out there is this: true healthcare does not come from a clinic or a hospital. Health

1. Sleep: Adequate and restorative

is a daily practice, a lifetime of thoughtfully considered and sensible habits. You can’t choose your genes, but you can choose your habits. There are no easy fixes or shortcuts that can undo bad habits. Bad habits will catch up with you eventually, (usually starting around age 40), but good habits are more valuable than any health insurance you could ever buy. If you are blessed to live in Ojai, consider these best practices for optimal living: grew in the earth, and is not highly processed, go for it.

6. Spirit: Believe in the wonder and beauty of nature or some

2. Stress: Work/life balance, avoiding toxic people and relationships, use therapy when needed

3. Social: We need connection and belonging with other humans

other higher power. Cultivate a sense of awe and appreciation for the beauty of life.

7. Sweat: Get out and move your body every day.

to thrive

8. Scale: Maintain a healthy body weight

4. Service: Find a purpose, do something for others

9. Superior Diet: Diversity of plants is the optimal goal. If it grew in the earth, and is not highly processed, go for it.

5. Sunshine: Daily exposure to direct sunlight within safe limits, and the opposite at night, turn off the ubiquitous blue lights from our electronic gadgets.

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Bordered by a long row of holm oaks & rose hedges, Villa Serena is a modern design residence located in the beau�ful hillside of historic Assisi, Umbria, Italy. For more details go toOjaiRe.com

Rosario Falvo 805-207-5094 ROSARIOFALVO@KW.COM

OjaiRe.com DRE # 01504988

OQ | HEA L I NG A RTS ASHLEY BERRY Offering whole-being healing through Holistic Health Coaching, Reiki, Breathwork, AromaTouch, and Intuitive Card Readings. Available for private sessions, group gatherings, workshops, & events helloashleyberry@gmail.com HelloAshleyBerry.com 310-775-1765

ALAN CHANG, L.Ac 2nd generation Acupuncturist who brings 15 years of Meditation, Tai Chi and Kyudo Zen Archery experience to his healing practice of Functional Medicine and TCM. AmaraOjai.com | 805-486-3494

JUDY GABRIEL Energy Landscaping Using intuitive vision and energy dowsing, Judy brings the health of your body, land, business, or home into balance to support your highest potential. Judy@EnergyLandscaping.com EnergyLandscaping.com 805-798-4111

NUTMEG’S OJAI HOUSE Functional Art for Heart & Home - American Made Fair Trade - Psychic Tarot and Astrology Readers, Energy and Crystal Healings daily by appt. Walk-ins welcomed: Open daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 304 N. Montgomery Street OjaiHouse.com | 805-640-1656


please call or

JACALYN BOOTH Certified Colon Hydrotherapist Ojai Digestive Health With more than 30 years of experience in healing modalities, Jacalyn brings a deep level of caring to the art of colon hydrotherapy. Professional, nurturing, experienced. OjaiDigestiveHealth.com 805-901-3000

LESLIE BOUCHÉ, C.HT. Cert. Hypnotherapist Find your calm center. Release negative thinking, emotional reactivity, anxiety, fear and unhelpful behaviors. Improve sleep and comfort. Safe, loving, rapid change. It’s time to feel better! leslie.bouche@roadrunner.com LeslieBouche.com | 805-796-1616

LAURIE EDGCOMB Lic. Acupuncturist since 1986, voted best in Ojai! Natural medicine including Microcurrent, nutritional and herbal consultation, Facial Rejuvenation. LaurieEdgcomb.com 805-798-4148

LAUREL FELICE, LMT Offers Swedish, deep tissue, reflexology, reiki, cranialsacral and pre and post natal massage with a reverent and joyous balance of hands and heart. laurelfelice54@gmail.com 805-886-3674

DR. JOHN R. GALASKA Dr. John R. Galaska, PsyD, BCN, Cht, university professor of Psychology, Neurofeedback, biofeedback, hypnosis for past troubling experiences and enhancing subjective life experience. BeCalmOfOjai.com facebook.com/BeCalmofOjai 805-705-5175

NATHAN KAEHLER, MA, LAC Nathan Kaehler (Best of Ojai 2014). Licensed Acupuncturist, MA Psychology. Gentle acupuncture, 14 years experience Personalized herb preparations Large onsite herb dispensary OjaiHerbs.com | 805-640-8700

SOMATIC SANCTUARY Welcome to Somatic Sanctuary — a somatic-based healing and movement arts center. Explore healing treatments, group movement sessions, workshops and community events. 410 W. Ojai Avenue 805-633-9230 SomaticSanctuary.com

ALARRA SARESS Gong Meditation and Acutonics Sound Alchemist. Master Bodyworker. Founder of Harmonic Earth — sacred space for healing arts and performance. Call or text. 107 W. Aliso Street HarmonicEarth.org | 720-5303415

JULIE TUMAMAITSTENSLIE Chumash Elder Consultant • Storyteller • Spiritual Advisor • Workshops Weddings & Ceremonies JTumamait@sbcglobal.net 805-646-6214

NAN TOLBERT NURTURING CENTER Pre-birth to 3; pre/post-natal wellbeing; infant/toddler development; parent education/support. BirthResource.org info@birthresource.org 805-646-7559


ross@ojaiquarterly.com or


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Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where your heart is or where you want to help. In my case, I had someone in my

life who was diagnosed with cancer. It instantly changed my life right there, says Nathaniel Curran.


Never one to sit idly by, the then-25-year-old Curran launched into action. Sleepless nights and countless hours were spent pursuing all avenues of support — emotionally and financially. It was, for Curran, the best way to care for the patient whose energy was better spent waging war on the cancer rapidly spreading throughout her bone marrow. Compounding the shock of the diagnosis was the astounding lack of a robust support community. Overwhelmed and feeling alone set off a dizzying tailspin of round-the-clock chaos ranging from

insurance claims to getting a simple dinner on the table. The lack of resources left Curran in such shock, he set out to remedy the situation. It was the start of what would grow to become the Young and Brave Foundation, a Ventura County-based nonprofit ensuring families and patients are given the gift of prioritizing their limited energy on a worry-free path to healing. The mission of the Young and Brave Foundation is simple — provide families in the Ojai area and beyond with easily navigable resources for emotional, financial, and in-kind support so they can focus on wellness.

In 2009, Curran co-founded the nonprofit and it has been a boon to families of young cancer diagnoses ever since. Curran didn’t get his start in the nonprofit world; far from it. Rather, he hails from a family of familiar faces in the line up of surfers frequenting Rincon and C-Street. Growing up surfing the legendary waters of the CaliforniacCoast led Curran to a pro career. At just 15 years old, he was picked up by elite surf brand O’Neill and was soon trading the comfort of home


for foreign waves in exotic destinations thousands of miles away from his Southern California roots. Surf mags were rampant with pictures of Curran getting barreled on the turquoise waves of Fiji and Tahiti, Indonesia and Brazil. “Me and my brothers, we’ve been super blessed to be able to travel the world professionally and get paid to do that. We’ve lived this fantasy lifestyle,” he says of his globetrotting past. Still, he acknowledges the shortcomings he saw in the surf world. “In our industry and growing up [as a pro surfer], it’s all about gimme, gimme, gimme, take, take, take,” he notes. Through Young and Brave, Curran was able to launch a platform showcasing a more compassionate way of life than what he had been living up until that point. Curran, whose homebase is now a cozy, ranch cottage on the outskirts of Ojai, saw an opportunity to rewrite this narrative for surfing’s up-and-comers, serving as a role model to the younger rippers of the greater Ojai and Ventura areas. “Just showing the kids how good it feels to actually give back and support people and not actually get anything from it, I think is one of the coolest things for me to see,” Curran said. “To see kids see the change of like, ‘Wow! I’m actually helping and supporting these people.’” Given their perception of the surf world as often unaware of larger charitable needs, Curran said it’s 114


important for young people to be “seeing (us), in the surf industry and our local areas, creating an avenue for the young kids to kind of get behind something (that’s) giving and not receiving.” The Young and Brave Foundation offers opportunities for volunteers of all ages to support cancer patients and their families in their battle against the disease. Recognizing their daily fight, the Young and Brave pointedly calls their program’s participants “warriors.” The nonprofit supports these warriors through a no-strings-attached financial assistance program. “There’s a lot of families that go through this that need help, like financial aid and moral support. And there’s so many things that come along with it. We just want to be that foundation that helps these families get through cancer and really just share, you know, shed a lot of love on these families going through it because it flips your world upside down real quick.” Thanks to the Young and Brave’s platform, more than a million dollars has reached 50 families and counting. The foundation also makes knowledge and resources easily accessible through their Love Beats Cancer program, a digital haven where current cancer patients connect with others who have successfully beaten the disease. Through the site, they celebrate successes, exchange invaluable information and insight, and expand their support squad. Exuding positivity and doling OQ / FALL 2020



out hope, the Young and Brave hosts fundraisers geared toward smiles, laughs, and an all-around good time. As easily as the smiles spread, so too does the spirit of generosity. At 2018’s annual Newport Beach surf contest, The Young and Brave Surf Charity Event co-hosted by California surfer Tyler Gunter, one winner got in the spirit by donating her contest earnings back to the cause. Other fundraisers have included a real estate donation drive, a 5k run, a golf tournament held each September (2018’s event raised $10k), and proceeds from the hometown music festival, Topa Topa Mountain Music held every October under the oaks at Ojai’s Libbey Bowl.

As Curran notes about his homebase, “We just wanted to really focus on our hometown and surrounding areas. So that’s our goal, to bring it back to our roots.” And they have felt the reciprocity. “It’s just great to give back to the families that live here locally in our Ventura County area.” Setting up close to home was a no-brainer. “I mean, obviously this is where we grew up,” says Curra, who brought in his brother Joshua Curran in the CFO role. Together, the brothers balance full-time careers while managing to keep the foundation running smoothly.

The organization’s most known locally for their Thanksgiving efforts — the legendary Turkey Dinner — hosted through a partnership with Ventura Community Memorial Hospital. Curran, alongside surfers, families, and community volunteers, serves up a traditional holiday dinner to patients, their families, and all the doctors and nurses. The meal is an expression of gratitude, filling bellies while nourishing souls.

“My brother” — who lives just a drive away from Curran’s Ojai digs — has two kids. It’s been rad watching them grow up and now I’m starting my own family with [my wife] Allison,” an elementary school teacher. “It’s pretty cool. I’ve always wanted to have kids and I’m excited we’ve got one on the way!” says Curran, “We have our own little spot in between Ventura and Ojai. We love it.”

For families whose daily life revolves around transfusions, chemo, appointments, and worry, the opportunity to sit down together and have a homemade Thanksgiving meal has an overwhelmingly uplifting impact. The annual event has grown exponentially and remains the reason the Young and Brave volunteers return each and every year.

As for the original warrior whose tragic diagnosis blossomed into the inspiration behind the Young and Brave Foundation with her frightening leukemia diagnosis?

More good news: “She’s doing great now! She’s married and has three beautiful girls.”

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SHELF ROAD 3.5mi EASY | Elev. Gain: 200 ft | Overlooks downtown Ojai.


520 ft (Wills-Rice). Trailheads at end of Meyer Road, South Rice Road and Baldwin Road. Great for birding.

5 HORN CANYON 5.5mi STRENUOUS | Elev. Gain: 1,600 ft.

Trailhead near Thacher School’s gymkhana field. Goes to shady stand of 80-foot tall pines.

8 ROSE VALLEY 1mi EASY | Elev. Gain: 100 ft

Trailhead at Rose Valley Campground. Leads to a spectacular 300-foot, two-tiered fall.



PRATT TRAIL 8.8mi STRENUOUS | Elev. Gain: 3,300

GRIDLEY TRAIL 6-12mi MODERATE | 3 mi to Gridley Springs



COZY DELL 2.2mi MODERATE | Elev. Gain: 740 ft |

MATILIJA CANYON 12mi MODERATE | Elev. Gain: 1,200 ft |

ft | Trailhead off North Signal Street. Goes to Nordhoff Peak. Clear day? See forever.

(Elev. Gain: 1,200 ft) 6 mi to Nordhoff Peak. Trailhead at north end of Gridley Road.

Trailhead 8 miles north of Ojai on Maricopa Highway. Short, intense hike that also connects to trail network.

Middle Fork. Trailhead at end of Matilija Road. First 1.5 miles of trail well-maintained, the rest a scramble.



SISAR CANYON 22mi STRENUOUS | Elev. Gain: 4,800 ft to

SULPHUR MTN. 22mi MODERATE | Elev. Gain: 2,300 ft |

Topa Topa Bluffs. Trailhead at end of Sisar Road. Trailhead on eastern side of Sulphur Mountain Road. Only for experienced, f it hikers. Views are unsurpassed. OQ / FALL 2020









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The ears were a dead giveaway. As the morning sun warmed the upper Cuyama River watershed, it was the large, backlit ears of a San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) that caught my eye from the edge of the gravel bar in the dry arroyo. Red blood vessels braiding like a red river lit up each of the fox’s ears, allowing the smallest canid on mainland North America to stay cool during the heat of the day. The slender adult, a male, was lounging on the mound of its den, watching intently as I continued down the opposite side of the river. Looking healthy and very alert, its ears are an important physical trait contributing to its survival in an arid habitat, something that continues to shrink as its home ranges succumb to advanced agricultural and urban growth.

ABOU T THOSE EARS They might be considered the smallest canid on the North American mainland, with adults topping out at about five pounds, but it’s their ears that give them a distinct advantage in terms of survival. In fact, their hearing is legendary in the fox world. Certainly, they come in handy locating prey, which lives in and around their dens. Depending on their geographical location, that may include insects, white-footed mice, antelope ground squirrels, giant kangaroo rats, desert cottontails and ground-nesting birds. “They have the longest ears of the foxes in North America, compared to the red fox and the gray fox,” said Amrita Duggel Agee, fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura. “Their hearing is so sensitive that they can hear a kangaroo rat moving underground in its burrow. Big ears help them hear, but serve another purpose, too. They are loaded with blood vessels that radiate body heat, aiding in regulating body temperature and helping the fox stay cool.” They also rely on their hearing to detect the distress calls of California and antelope ground squirrels: two species that are also prey items. They react ultra-quick when one or the other chirps, the kit fox parent jumping to its feet and the pups diving into their den to avoid predation perhaps by coyotes or a golden eagle.

DEN LIFE The mound of the den was void of any vegetation, well-trodden, and it possessed at least six entry points. I concealed myself amongst the green ephedra and milkvetch. I was sitting quietly, motionless and low to the ground, 80 feet west of the den. For hours I hoped to capture some interaction between the pups and the pups and their parents. Kit fox litters typically range from four to seven pups. By mid-afternoon, the more courageous pups peeked their heads out of the den.

A pair of them that eventually sunned atop the den mound. Twenty minutes later, they were back under and more waiting was required. Several more, brief sightings were reaped, but then the dad came out and so did all six pups. Dad was standing watch and the pups were at ease. For 90 minutes before sundown, rambunctious siblings greeted their parent and ran roughshod over each other. A family of kit foxes is only as strong as its multitude of elaborate dens. Each year a successful kit fox family will have many dens for the various stages of their lives. Dens are primarily used for housing and protection, but there are dens specific to natal and pupping. “Kit foxes will often use multiple dens throughout the year, including during the pupping season,” said Abigail Gwinn, wildlife biologist for California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This can help them to avoid 120

OQ / FALL 2020

flea infestations and gives them multiple possible escape routes when fleeing predators.” Kit foxes take over old dens left by ground squirrels, badgers and coyotes. They elaborate on those, constructing multiple corridors and entry points for their brood.

SHIF TING GEARS For six weeks I observed and photographed that specific den. One day in the early afternoon, all the pups were out with their dad, and then he left them for a different den just 75 feet to the west. All the pups looked on, but they were not ready to follow; that “pupping den” was their comfort zone.

A couple of hours late, the dad emerged, quietly walking uphill

to the east on some of the smallest footpads of canids in North America. There was a sudden disturbance and then the dad emerged with a live antelope ground squirrel. He ran straight to the “pupping den” where one pup grabbed the squirrel and dove below followed by its five siblings. It was barely a minute when all the pups were above ground again, each with a portion of the squirrel. The dad once again left for the alternate den site. “Kit foxes may expand on alternate dens,” continued Gwinn. “Sometimes they may just want a little peace and quiet away from the pups during the day, which is their usual rest period.” Another week passed and the pups were growing up, becoming more mobile. I returned to the same den, but something had changed. I watched a California ground squirrel scamper across the top of the “pupping den.” Two hours and nothing emerged.

OQ / FALL 2020


So, I walked around, up and over a hill. Below was a saddle where I heard the familiar, low, guttural call of an adult kit fox alerting its pups to remain underground. The parent and I saw each other before it slinked beneath. It was late May and still cool in the mornings. I had located the alternate site, sitting in silence in the bushes an hour before sunup. The first rays of sun rested directly on the den and sure enough the two, more mature pups warmed themselves on the saddle. In the late afternoon, three of the pups were out and their dad went hunting. He vanished beyond a ridge, but it wasn’t long before he came sprinting back with another antelope ground squirrel. All three pups lunged for it but only one came away with the entire squirrel, disappearing into the den. The two other pups seemed confused, not knowing where their fresh kill had gone.


Like so many other wildlife species throughout North America, habitat has been greatly fragmented. The same holds true for the San Joaquin kit fox. They once inhabited the entire San Joaquin Valley south to the upper Cuyama River and Northern Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. “The Carrizo Plain National Monument represents some of the largest minimally disturbed habitat for San Joaquin kit foxes and is an important refuge,” said Gwinn. “However, it is important not to rely on a single location to preserve species, especially given the potential for disease to sweep through populations. Maintaining habitat and corridors throughout their historic range is important for kit fox preservation.”


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Every Sunday

Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Contact: 805-698-5555

Location: Matilija Street city

parking lot behind the Arcade.

Open air market featuring locally grown produce, as well as plants, musicians and handmade items.

Monday, Wednesday & Friday “Somatic Stretch for Self Healing”

Instructor: Meredith Sands Keator Time: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. SOMATIC SANCTUARY | MON-FRI @ somaticsanctuary.com SEPTEMBER 3 TO OCTOBER 25 “Resurrection:" New Works by Dennis Mukai Times: Monday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Tuesday – Wednesday, Closed; Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Location: Porch Gallery, 310 East Matilija Street Contact: porchgalleryojai.com 805-620-7589 Opening Reception on September 5 from 5 to 7 p.m. Dennis Mukai is an internationally renowned artist, known for his distinctive illustrations of beautiful women. This show, however, was created from the ashes of the Thomas Fire, as Mukai noticed the first shoots of green from the charred landscape. OCTOBER 25 “Taste of Ojai”

Ojai’s premier culinary event is adjusting with the times, organizing virtually with the participation of dozens of local restaurants and wineries to raise money for the Rotary Club of Ojai Education Foundation’s scholarships and community grants. This fundraiser also supports local restaurants, many of which have supported this event for more than 20 years. The event will feature cooking demonstrations, auctions, music and more. Tickets $80. Contact: ojairotary.org or TasteofOjai.org

“RESURRECTION” DENNIS MUKAI | THUSUN @ Porch Gallery | VARIES NOVEMBER 5 TO 15 Virtual Ojai Film Festival Due to the pandemic, the Ojai Film Festival will take place online this year. They are creating a virtual festival from the 302 films and 50 screenplays that were received this year. Stayed tuned. Contact: OjaiFilmFestival.com Phone: 805-640-1947, info@ojaifilmfestival.com

Location: Anywhere you can find a sturdy internet connection.

Contact: somaticsanctuary.com

email support@somaticsanctuary Phone: 805-633-9230

Mondays & Thursday “Introduction to Somatic Stretch”

Instructor: Sultana Parvanka Time: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Contact: somaticsanctuary.com

email support@somaticsanctuary

NOVEMBER 14-15 Ojai Holiday Home Tour & Marketplace — Virtual Edition The Ojai Festival Women’s Committee is bringing the treasured Holiday Home Tour & Marketplace to the virtual world with a special video tour of curated Ojai homes. Entering its 24th year, the virtual tour & marketplace is a major fundraiser for the Ojai Music Festival and its BRAVO education program. Contact: OjaiFestival.org, or call 805-646-2053.

Phone: 805-633-9230

WEEKLY Agora Foundation’s Saturday Seminars Time: 12 noon to 2 p.m. Location: agorafoundation.org Learn, discuss and challenge the wisdom of Beckett, Aristophanes, Montaigne, Proust or Seneca with experienced tutors. Cost of a subscription is $25 per month, with scholarships available. Contact: agorafoundation.org Phone: 805-231-5974

Phone: 805-633-9230

Wednesday “Offerings with Sarah Grace” —

Somatic Satsang, free community gathering and tools for resiliency

Instructor: Sarah Grace Time: 7 p.m.

Contact: somaticsanctuary.com

email support@somaticsanctuary

Thursday “Awareness Through Movement” Instructor: Mary Jo Healy Time: 4 to 5 p.m.

Contact: somaticsanctuary.com

email support@somaticsanctuary Phone: 805-633-9230




Feeling good! The mental collapse of days 16-39 seems light years away now and, by and large, I’m pretty optimistic unless I have any thoughts. Having some success fending them off by buying antique eggcups from eBay. Some success. Yesterday I had a thinking accident and had to buy seven.

Now I’m newly re-sane, though, I have to say being home all the time is a lot less cultivating orchids/improving my conversational French, and a lot more stopping things falling out of cupboards than I’d anticipated. Eggcups, mostly. BUT! Have started new diet to try to hack back at the corona curves gained during the first sourdough-frenzied months of lockdown, and progress is encouraging!:

apple. Crawled back to bed to stare unblinking at ceiling in dark until morning. Today I’m adopting the attitude that sunken, hollowed-out eyes are chiaroscura. I am not underslept. I am Art. Acrylic art though. Nothing you’d want to spring for oils on. Convinced horrid keto diet is making me dream this horrid way.

Bottom: Last week it looked like an inexpertly-packed parachute. But, in just 7 days, have achieved a bit more of a dimpled hourglass effect. Albeit a dimpled hourglass where all the sand has run to the bottom.

Dinner: Chicken in a Quandary with Defiance Spaghetti

Dinner: Cod in Smug Sauce with Pleased Peas. Day Something or Other: In the days before it was all The Same Time, I used to remember dreams about half the time. Now, in lockdown, every dream snags my brain like barbed wire. 4 a.m.: woke from a dream where I was pulling a strong hair out of an unsightly mole on my neck and accidentally pulled out my entire nervous system in one long, wriggling string. Staggered to the bathroom in noodle-legged dismay and stared at self in mirror like stupefied lady wildebeest surprised by a sudden 13-16 lions. Face was like a shocked scone and hair looked like I’d brushed it with a toffee 126

Bottom: A 3rd Grader’s knapsack. Including lunchbox

The Following Thursday. Plateau in diet. Read about this though and am prepared! Switching back to lovely carbs and will rely on exercise alone to hone magnificent new body. Donkey-kicked gamely for 40 minutes in front of plate of toast then fell on my reward like slavering mongoose. Dinner: Chickpeas and Virtue Signalling. Bottom: Resembles uncooked pastry on which athletic mouse has pogo-sticked. Must get more sun. Next Day: Tried to get more sun. Forgot am Hebridean. Went to beach and OQ / FALL 2020

crisis is going to be good for people like them who know how to play it smart. Had one of these pencil-thin mustaches that look like an eyebrow’s popped down for a drink, and I’ve seen more convincing toupees growing on a damp cloth. Took visceral and immediate dislike to him. None of them wore masks and every now and again Father would sneeze freely and richly and then examine the contents of his hankie as if he’d brought forth rubies and pearls. I shuffled away a few more feet. Mother’s employment not discovered. Querulous voice and a face like a horse in a huff, so I naturally assumed she was the owner of a chain of nail-salons staffed by poorly-paid, illegal immigrants whom she also makes collect her hemorrhoid cream, in their negligible spare time. It was even more obvious when I heard her read aloud passages from “The Fountainhead” to her custardy son from her phone.

sunbathed. Nodded at mounted policewoman patrolling beach to ensure social distancing. Pointed at mask to demonstrate am well-behaved, responsible citizen who definitely won’t lick anybody’s face. Police officer rode on, inscrutable behind glinting sunglasses. Arranged blanket nicely, glanced at family nearby, and eavesdropped for a bit. Little boy with hair and skin unsettlingly both the same pale banana color was building sandcastle with a sliderule. Appearance somewhere between Little Lord Fauntleroy and a peeved custard. Father in investment banking talking about how the economic

Eventually their conversation faded into soft snores. Looked at sea for a bit, ions pinging off me. Fell asleep. Woke with a start and skin the temperature of a thousand suns. I look a bit like… well, its hard to put into words accurately… but, as I sat up, I caught the eye of the police horse, which reared in screaming whinny of terror and bolted down the beach, flinging the policewoman, now not as inscrutable, onto the three-story sandcastle of over-achieving, small custard-child. Some other things happened that I’m not clear about but, now, after short spell of severe dehydration occasioning an ambulance and a ruinous ER bill, am home, on heavy yet floaty analgesics, and the dog is looking at me with strange, unsettling light in her eye. Worried she thinks I’m bacon. Afraid to go to sleep in the same room as her tonight; even I can tell I smell delicious. Feeling so light and swirly though and forgot to worry about bottom! Every cloud etc. Oh well, night-night world! Hahaha! Dinner: 2 Oxycodone, 1000 cc saline and a side order of schadenfreude. The Following Day Woke in fiendish pain, but with added horrible visions of yesterday’s events singeing at the edges of consciousness, slowly creep-

OQ / FALL 2020



ing into hot, hideous focus at the center of my mind’s appalled eyeball. Dear God. What did I do? The door-bell rang. Baffled Loinfruit #1 admitted yesterday’s policewoman with today’s interpreter and a concerned-looking man from social services who wanted to make it very clear he was here to help, not judge. It took two pots of tea and an average three shortbreads each to tell the story, although technically, I had 12. It seems that when the policewoman hit the sandcastle, I, in my sun-stroked delirium, burst into hysterical laughter at the sight, which only got more deranged when the small angry custard came to shout that he’d worked for two hours on it, before punching me in my sunburnt tummy. I staggered backwards and told him “Ouch” and that three-story castles were vulgar anyway. That made him cry and then his parents got involved and, according to the police report, “Ms. Zahringer proceeded to tell Mr. Redacted her theories about his toupee and attempted to tug said toupee off.” WHEREUPON, Mrs. Redacted emitted a low but furious squeak and charged at me like a heat-seeking missile in espadrilles. We wrestled wordlessly for a time, drawing a small crowd, and flailed slappily into the sea and back out again, me glowing like a small nuclear planet. An exciting three minutes later, she tried to bite my leg, but a sudden back-up policewoman hauled the harpy off me and dragged her away looking — I observed not unhappily — like Brian May crawling out of a drain. Regrettably, I appear also to have yelled that. But the small crowd cheered — hooray! I’d won over the masses with easily identifiable pop-cultural reference! Apparently, I was then briefly arrested for seven minutes after excitedly confessing to having a flour-bag sized packet of wholewheat heroin in my car. Was freed after they looked that up on their phones. The arresting policewoman, however, had experienced Hebrideans On The Beach before and knew something of our kind. Before taking me — now gibbering about David Niven — to the ER, she explained to the outraged family that the effect of excessive sun on the under-exposed, under-potatoed Hebridean on a keto diet is apparently very much like that of a powerful truth serum on a captured spy. Although we are some of the most understudied peoples on Earth, the literature is firm on this, she said, and any court in the land would declare me enormously 128

truthful but temporarily insane and therefore not responsible for attacking either a toupee or a Brian May impersonator. Mrs. Redacted, now aware that the crowd was against her, and seeing both the small fist mark on my tummy and the teethmarks on my leg, abruptly assumed a curdling cordiality, expressing “genuine sympathy” for my being a Hebridean “through no fault of her own,” although the day a person like her is genuinely sympathetic about anything is the day a shark genuinely prefers an omelette. So, in turn, I promised not to press charges against the small, violent boy or the human-trafficking (probably) mother. The visitors gone, I was left standing in my own sitting-room in a confusing state of triumph and shame, which I’m sure Sam Shepard has written about somewhere, with three to four nascent melanomas, and a pamphlet on Baldness Discrimination. Bottom: Looks like it was set on fire and then put out with a fork. Dinner: Four more shortbreads and two bottles of Self-Pity (red) Weeks Later. Wherein Begins The Sublime. (Nuclear face much better. Now just sort of red of a mid-morning abattoir. Shame levels unbetter.) Went to a high hill to view the Comet Neowise on its once every 680-year flyby. The next humans to see it will be very different, if they’re around at all. It was breathtaking. The unfathomable ratios: the tiny, unthinking virus, the vast, unthinkable universe. The crust; the mantle; the molten core of the planet revolving beneath our feet. The firmament above our heads blazing ancient light at us from the beginning of Time. The supreme indifference of all these things to human affairs. The solace in that. The imaginative expansion, the abandonment of the self to something bigger we will never fathom. The knowing we are part of that beautiful, incomprehensible mathematics — the calculus of the universe and the algebra of the soul. Stood very still for many minutes as the Milky Way rotated coldly, sublimely above and, oh my God. Oh my God. (Dinner: Wonder Sausages lovingly slathered with Spectacle Beans. Bottom: Too dark to see.) OQ / FALL 2020

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