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What is your taste Now That You’re Here.... You too, are probably feeling lulled by the relaxed pace, soft air infused by orange blossoms and lavender fields and the undeniable natural setting of the Ojai Valley. Simultaneously rustic and sophisticated; Ojai boasts a rather sublime climate where coastal breezes flow in to cool after the warmth of our long summer days. With it’s uber-accessible location less than 90 miles from LA, the Ojai Valley is not so much a secret these days, but continues to morph into a hot-spot for dining, biking & hiking, wine-making and luxurious accommodations while retaining its historic charm.

You’ll Probably Want to Stay.... Ojai’s housing market has also shapeshifted over the recent Covid influenced months. While many cities claim “limited inventory”.... with an average of only 30 - 40 homes for sale at any given time in the entire Ojai Valley, it is indeed a “sellers market” with homes priced between $649,000 $7,000,000. If you’re hoping for a little elbow room; a home on 1 - 3 acres will cost you between $1,200,000 - $3,000,000. But even at this price point you can anticipate stiff competition.

11020 Rodeo Drive

Prepare To Be Successful.... Now, as never before, nothing takes the place of experience when choosing a Realtor to represent you in the purchase of your future Ojai home. Char and Belinda; both full time Brokers have decades of experience selling distinctive OjaI properties and extensive knowledge of the local market. With a long list of loyal clients they have represented, they bring the negotiation skills to assist new clients in making strategic decisions in this dynamically competitive environment. Working as a team, the two of them bring much more to the table for their clients than a single agent representation. And to both of them, “it’s personal”. When they take on a new client... their success is defined by finding the right property for every Buyer. Whether it’s a getaway vacation home or a primary residence you’re dreaming of , it may take some patience and time in this market to find that right property... but you can count on steady communication throughout. With skilled listening, sound advice and Char and Belinda as your guide...you too could soon be a happy Ojai resident. Your only lingering question might just be:

‘Why Didn’t I Make the Move Years Ago....?”.

in Ojai architecture? 66 Taormina Lane

3000 E Ojai Avenue

701 Foothill Road

michaels+associates char@ojaikw.com DRE 00878649 www.ojaihomes4sale.com Char Michaels 805.620.2438 char@ojaikw.com

Belinda Wynn 805.368.1820 belindawinn2@gmail.com




REALTOR | Luxury Specialist Berkshire Hathaway Unwavering commitment to my clients’ satisfaction Driven by passion for the work I do

805.236.3814 / gabrielacesena@bhhscal.com

SOLD 853 Oak Grove

Rancho Matilija Epitomizing the California Way of Life - Welcome Home! Cozy | Blissful | Enchanting | Peaceful | Secluded | 2 acres of heaven


1112 Del Nido Court Exquisite Timeless Sophisticated Ojai Downtown Living! Move right into this blissful Ojai home and LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER! $1,200,000

614 Country Drive Multi-Million Dollar Views Turnkey with joyful, sun-drenched living spaces, happy & lively. A true retreat in one of the most desirable communities in SoCal! $899,000

Happy Spring


2020 Remodel on 17 acres with gated entry, lighted tennis court, avocado orchards, outdoor kitchen & living areas, 3,000-sq.ft. shop, two fireplaces, multi-room master suite. www.2871Maricopahwy.com | 2871 Maricopa Hwy. $5,900,000 Nora Davis 805.207.6177


Little Creek Ranch - Four bedrooms, two offices, gated entry, arena, covered corrals, on-grid solar, workshop, oversized garage on one acre. www.9972CreekRoad.com | 9972 Creek Rd. $1,529,000 Nora Davis 805.207.6177

OJAI Seven Palms - Four-bedroom, three-bath home on 1+ acre with dual-sink vanity, jetted soaking tub, large deck, and mountain views.

www.1744CountryDrive.com | 1744 Country Drv. $1,375,000 Nora Davis 805.207.6177

Kellye Lynn

805.798.0322 kellye@ojaivalleyestates.com DRE 01962469

Integrity, knowledge and experience you can trust

MARICOPA Corral Canyon . 277+ Acre Ranch with 5 Houses, Horse Facilities, Hay Fields and Stunning Views in Cuyama Valley.

www.29443hwy33.com | 29443 Hwy 33. Price upon request Nora Davis 805.207.6177

OJAI 7.27 acres with two master suites, office, four fireplaces + patio fireplace, pool, outdoor kitchen, avocado orchard, RV parking, amazing views.

www.1911MeinersRoad.com | 1911 Meiners Rd. $3,485,000 Nora Davis 805.207.6177

OJAI IN ESCROW 5+ acres in Upper Ojai with five bedrooms, flex rooms, two fireplaces, pool, tennis court, caretaker’s quarters, horse facilities, solar, RV garage, views and more.

www.12605HighwindsRoad.com | 12605 Highwinds Rd. $3,375,000 Nora Davis 805.207.6177


Integrity, knowledge and experience you can trust

Nora Davis 805.207.6177 nora@ojaivalleyestates.com www.ojaivalleyestates.com 727 Ojai Avenue, Ojai CA 93023 DRE 01046067











SPRING 2021 Volume 39 No.2 EDITOR’S NOTE

- 14


Cover story: Ride or Dye - 18 Homestyle Ojai- 28 BIG ISSUES

Wild in the Wilderness - 36 Heroes with Cables, Search and Rescue - 62 ART & CULTURE

Mr. Willis Goes to Washington - 44 Impressed by Life, the Art of Linda Taylor - 54 Artists & Gallery Directory - 58

36 18 28

Rock-less Roll, a COVID Concerto - 72 Calendar - 77 FOOD AND DRINK

Eating with the Season - 86 Dining & Tasting - 80 HEALTH AND FITNESS

Rose Valley Hikes - 92 Living Sane, Aubrey Balkind - 96 Ojai Goat Yoga -104 Mindfulness & Healing Directory - 111




Unearthing Ojai - 112 Look Back in Ojai: Memorable Trees - 122 44 Years in a Shoebox - 128 Architect Paul Revere Williams - 134 REAL ESTATE

- 131







EDITOR’S NOTE It’s spring and we are all breathing easier behind the mask (or over the chindiaper) freedom within reach. Prayerful that this is not the virus playing Lucy with the football again. For over a year we’ve been strung along worse than an LA lunch date, yet most believe, if only timidly, we are looking at the other side. Some are predicting the Roaring ‘20s are on the way, and for idyllic Ojai, just a hopscotch away from major city centers, we are destined to become the soulful heart of the good times to come. Together we have faced a global challenge for over a year, yet the variety of our life circumstances and reactions to the pandemic are as varied as the rocks on the Topatopas. A society of people that had been gradually isolating themselves got a huge shove into its caves during this last year. Ojai was the hardest-hit city in Ventura County economically because of our dependence on tourism. We sheltered in place and withdrew from the Ojai Valley economy. Our shops were shut while our Amazon carts grew. Businesses closed and City Hall went broke. Casual relationships withered. Apprehension and frustration, combined with a loss of our usual face-to-face accountability, gave way to a rise in toxicity on local social media, as personal echo chambers closed in. The national culture crisis intersecting with the pandemic was micro-modeled when local “Plandemic” filmmaker fell out with Ojai’s progressive gurus into the embrace of QAnon and other conspiracists (see p. 72). With freedom palpable, I wonder, what will be the half-life of our pandemic pain and civil war footing? It is valuable to acknowledge our loss and nurse our wounds, but imperative we move past a grim victim mindset. For Ojai to truly flourish, its residents must emerge from their shells. Both our economy and our identity are threatened by bunker mentality, the antithesis of Ojai’s spirit of connection to its community. Ojai is opening this spring, like a flower out of winter. Citizens are emerging — sans makeup — and re-evaluating their past passion for button-up pants. Come, join in the herd immunity — do your part — then rejoin and reune. Throttle down your Facebook and Amazon use, and power up a subscription to the Ojai Valley News, because without it, you really don’t know what is going on in this town. Shop, play, and get to know your local Ojai merchants. Meet the people who grow, cook and serve your food. Take the time and talk to people; follow the urge to get involved with local endeavors. Under Ojai’s dark night skies, there is a pent-up demand for life; we are bursting at the seams to commune, to travel, to hear a live show, to revive celebrations. We are vowing never to take life for granted again. I look forward to finally seeing familiar — and smiling — faces in the very near future. But first, dip your toe into the Ojai experience; we’ve got everything you’ve been jonesing for — music, art, the wilds, the intrigue, and of course, by popular demand ... goat yoga — inside this Spring issue.

Laura Rearwin Ward


EDITOR / PUBLISHER Laura Rearwin Ward

ASSISTANT EDITOR Georgia Schreiner


Karen Lindell • Perry Van Houten Alicia Doyle • Craig Walker • Bill Locey Chuck Graham • Mimi Walker • Kit Stolz Valerie Freeman • Drew Mashburn Robin Goldstein • Terry Tallent • John Foster



Jodie Miller • Billy MacNeil • Tori Behar

ADVERTISING Linda Snider, director Diana McKee



team@ojaivalleynews.com advertising@ojaivalleynews.com Phone: 805.646.1476 101 Vallerio Avenue Ojai, CA 93023 ©2021 Downhome Publishing, LLC

Cover photo by Marc Alt

Well wishes,




BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN LAW, BUSINESS, AND THE EARTH SCIENCES BENJAMIN T. BENUMOF, PH.D., ESQ. • Water Rights / Water Adjudication • Groundwater Resource Stewardship • Assessment / Development • Land Use • Real Estate / Property Law • Hydrogeology • Geologic Hazards • Coastal • Water Supply Wells • Construction • Architectural / Engineering For a Complimentary Consultation, please call:


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or something that’s eco-friendly and actually made from things that grow, natural plant dye that’s true green in color is difficult to create. Spinach, grass, nettle and a few other plant sources work, but the resulting hues can be more yellow-green, olive or gray. Tie-dye designer Laura La Rue, however, likes bright colors: Crayola classic vs. camouflage drab. So for her Ojai company Ride or Dye, which offers clothing made from plant-based dyes, she’s developed her own color “recipes.” “Surprisingly, green is pretty hard to achieve in plant dye world,” she said. “I love combining pepper tree and indigo to achieve a beautiful turquoise/green color.” La Rue, 28, a self-taught tie-dyer, combines a bright outlook with business savvy. She lives in an off-thegrid trailer on an avocado orchard in Ojai, where she makes her line of clothes by hand. Not long ago, however, she was in a very different fashion world, working as a model in Los Angeles, a career she started at age 12. She still does some modeling locally, and brings to Ride or Dye lessons she learned in the fast-paced fashion industry.


La Rue, who has a day job as an innkeeper at Ojai’s Lavender Inn, grew up in Thousand Oaks. When her mom bought a ranch in Santa Paula 11 or 12 years ago, La Rue moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling, doing high-fashion editorial, runway and commercial work. She’s also a musician and songwriter. But after eight years, she went back to her “roots,” at first living in a cabin on her mother’s property. “I never thought this was where I’d be at 28: living in a trailer with a cowboy, four dogs [and] some mules, and spending my days getting my hands stained with beautiful plant dyes,” La Rue said. “I feel very complete and appreciative.” Modeling, she said, ended up paving the way for her career as a designer. “It’s all tied into what I’m doing now, like arranging photo shoots and building a website, so it’s nice to have a background in that world.” Ride or Dye isn’t La Rue’s first retail business. A few years ago, she sold

Laura La Rue likes bright colors: Crayola classic rather than camouflage drab. “butt pillows” — pillows with custom pictures of customers’ or celebrities’ bottoms printed on them. “That’s where I learned all of the mistakes and ways to run a business,” she said. “It didn’t work out because I wasn’t as passionate about it as I am with Ride or Dye, so I lost steam.” La Rue got interested in tie-dye about two years ago through a friend who had dyed some old bed sheets using turmeric, which creates a warm, golden yellow tint. “They looked so colorful, and I’m a big fan of bright colors and color therapy,” La Rue said. As a hobby, they began making other items using natural plant dyes, then started selling their creations around Ojai, mainly at concerts, the farmers’ market and other small events. Her friend left the business a year ago, and La Rue now works with one employee to make the clothes outdoors next to the trailer she shares with her boyfriend, Boone, her “dream hippie cowboy.”



photo by Marc Alt



water-soluble compound (often a salt) that helps the dye adhere to the piece of clothing so it doesn’t fade. For adult clothing, La Rue uses aluminum acetate (a salt) as a mordant, and for children’s clothing, homemade soy milk. To create tiepatterns, La Rue uses rubber bands or a natural substance that has become somewhat of a specialty for her: ice.


She described the process of ice-dyeing: “You lay out fabric, scrunch it up a little bit, add ice to the top of the fabric, sprinkle plant dyes all over, then let the ice melt. You get these amazing designs and colors.”

Boone — who really is a cowboy, working on ranches and taking people on rides into the Ojai backcountry — in part inspired the name of her company. When La Rue and her friend were trying to come up with a name for their business, they played around with phrases using the word “dye.”

La Rue likes the colors and nontoxic aspects of plant dyes vs. synthetic ones, but her desire to work with natural materials also encompasses something less tangible. “I just love the process: harvesting, doing everything from scratch,” she said. “It makes me feel way more proud of our designs.”

“I’ve always been interested in western culture, and grew up camping and horseback riding,” La Rue said. “Plus, I was dating a cowboy, so it’s a theme in my life.”

La Rue said all the clothing is made from natural fibers: cotton, linen, silk, hemp or wool. She also recycles vintage items.

She described her vision for Ride or Dye as “western mixed with the colorful ’70s.” She’s honed her tie-dye techniques by reading books, taking classes, watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts. Eventually, she’d like to teach the craft herself, but wants to “be as knowledgeable as possible” first.

La Rue makes nearly all the plant dyes herself. After harvesting the plant materials, she boils the trimmings (which can be flowers, leaves, stems, berries and other plant parts) to make dyes. Creating clothing from plant dyes is more labor-intensive than using synthetic coloring because the fabric must first be soaked in a mordant, a

La Rue said she has “lots and lots of plants” to choose from that grow right on her property, such as toyon, an evergreen bush whose leaves and stems create orange; pepper trees, whose leaves and bark create yellow; and avocados, whose pits and skins, surprisingly, create pink. Other favorite plants include walnut hulls (for brown dye), oak tree (mustardy yellow), madder root (dark pink) and marigolds (dark yellow). When she needs a color from a plant that doesn’t grow in her immediate surroundings, such as indigo, she purchases botanical extracts. The coronavirus, she said, has given her extra time to focus on tie-dye, so her business is “taking off.” Most of the Ride-or-Dye clothing line is for women or children, and includes sweatshirts and pants, shorts, tank tops, skirts, comfy lingerie, socks, yoga pants and masks. All items are selling well, she said, but “sweat sets are flying off the shelves because



people are staying at home, trying to stay comfortable, cozy and cute.” Underwear and socks are also big sellers.

La Rue said it’s always been in fashion in the U.S. even after the counterculture movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s faded.

She’d eventually like to offer menswear (she gets a lot of requests for tie-dyed boxers); ‘60s and ‘70s pieces such as bell bottoms, jumpsuits and dresses; and home goods including bedding, rugs and curtains.

“I don’t think it’s made a comeback; it never really left,” she said. “Everything is so one-of-a-kind.”

She’s also working on a spring-summer collaboration with The Simple Folk, a brand that sells organic baby clothing.

Ride or Dye: La Rue sells her tie-dye clothing at Canyon Supply in downtown Ojai, 307 E. Ojai Ave., or online through her website, www.rideordyeojai.com She’s on Instagram at @rideordyeojai.

Eventually, La Rue said, she wants to develop a “huge Ride-or-Dye empire,” but keep everything as “hands-on” as possible. She’s particularly passionate about supporting other women entrepreneurs and workers. “My dream is to have a group of women working in the field, growing the plants and harvesting, another group choosing colors and designs, and more women who will focus on social media and marketing,” she said. La Rue hasn’t left music behind. One of her 2021 goals is to “write and record some new rock ’n’ roll and folk songs and then make a very colorful music video featuring all Ride-or-Dye designs.” Although tie-dye is known for being prominent in the U.S. in the 1960s and ‘70s, the fabric art in some form has been popular worldwide for about 2,000 years, according to Shabd Simon-Alexander, author of “Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It.”

photo by Jess Purple








(805) 646-9782 320 East Ojai Avenue • Ojai, CA 93023 On the web at: www.priscillainojai.com On Facebook at: facebook/priscillainojai On Instagram at: @priscillainojai

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Open : Thursday through Monday 11-5:30





on winter nights, weaving on their looms.”


etsy Fields, founder of Lineage Botanica on Grand Ave., said her endeavor is special because it’s a Certified B Corporation, which “is basically a certificate that asserts we are a social enterprise – the work we do goes through a vetted system of checks and balances, we have to be pro-environment, and everything we do we are held accountable for – it deals with social justice in every form.” She noted the B-Corp clause, which states: “The purpose of the company shall include creating a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole, from the business and operations of the company.” As part of her mission, she maintains a plastic-free company that has “a very small footprint.” For instance, “if we’re going to make a blanket, it’s going to be organic.” Apothecary items “will be organic, in glass, and shipped in paper tubes instead of a plastic container.” Packaging for textiles is cloth, “and we put everything in a cloth bag that can be reused.” When she’s in Eastern Europe searching for treasures, she looks into the story behind each: “I imagine how it was created.” With products made from hemp, for instance, “the hemp was grown in a field and processed collectively by a village. I imagine families in villages, sitting outside …

She was in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria when she decided that her shop would include Halishte, made from the wool of Karakachan sheep, which can be used as a blanket, rug or coat. “The sheep are shorn once a year and their wool is used to make the Halishte,” explained Fields, adding that shepherds then tie the long talons of Karakachan wool to a woven base cloth, made on looms. “The more rugs made, the better the chances of a revival for the Karakachan sheep. They are small, unassuming, docile creatures that provide a livelihood to a disappearing way of life.” The weavers of her shawls and scarves – which are handwoven and hand-spun Kala cotton – were discovered through Indian organizations that support artisan weavers in marginalized communities. Kitchen and garden aprons – hand-embroidered and handwoven from organic hemp and cotton – are repurposed from Eastern European textiles. Bedding pillows – which are 100% recycled Hungarian goose down pillows – feature an outer shell and custom

Photos right, left, below and across: Lineage Botanica

stuff bag made entirely of eco-friendly organic cotton. Lineage Botanica also uses traditional indigo dyes, “because we want this piece of artisan heritage to stay alive.” Workshops in Hungarian Kékfestő – the traditional Hungarian textile art of blue-dyeing using a wax-resist process similar to batik – are rare now, Fields noted, with only five remaining out of at one point more than 1,200. These “lineage workshops” are passed on from generation to generation, and “we are fortunate to work with two.” One is in Tolna run by a couple, and the other is run by János Sárdi in Nagynyárád, a village in Baranya county, Hungary. All textiles for printing are foraged, collected and gathered for indigo, using antique hemp and linen rolls of cloth that were hand-woven

either pre- or in-between World War I and World War II. Fields describes these as “nubby, soft, rough and uniquely mysterious and masterfully woven fabrics made from regional plants,” with all production and processing done in the fields, out in the yard, or inside by candle and lamp light during long winter nights. While the industrialized world has brought easier solutions to the craft, “we think that old school traditions are best kept by using them,” Fields said. “Nothing compares to the rich hues and alchemy of real indigo.” As a designer, “I want everything to have purpose, I want it to be usable, and I want it to have meaning,” she added. “Lucky for me, I’m in the right place at the right time.”



Southeast Asian furniture, antique pieces from Europe, French bistro sets and Eastern European heritage textiles can be found right here in Ojai, where four locally-owned businesses offer unique items for your home created both abroad and locally.




Above, right and below: deKor & Co



or Isabelle Dahlin – an interior designer and founder of deKor Ojai on S. Montgomery St. – passion is “the home.” “I’ve always felt that if you’re happy in your home, you take that feeling with you when you go out in the world,” said Dahlin, a resident of Ojai since 2013. “For that reason, everything in deKor has been curated with happiness at the forefront. Our signature reclaimed-wood swings probably embody that the most – they are made to be hung indoors, because what brings more joy than a swing?” In terms of furniture, reclaimed-wood farmhouse tables are popular “because they are perfect for that indoor/outdoor Ojai lifestyle,” and the midcentury inspired alder deKor chairs because “they work well in smaller spaces, yet are super comfortable.” As far as accessories are concerned, Zenhead vases by local artist Rene Norman of Wren Ceramics are a favorite “because they are so delightfully whimsical,” as are the custom deKor Ojai Pixie candles, “which remind you of your time in Ojai long after you’ve left.” Before she established her residency in Ojai, she had been coming to this area since she moved to the West Coast from Sweden more than two decades ago.

world Scandinavian elegance with airy, laid-back California style.

“I instantly fell in love with the valley and its energy,” Dahlin remembered. Also, as an amateur potter and sculptor, “I am a big fan of Beatrice Wood, which also attracted me to the area.” What sets deKor apart is the unique blend of old

“I’m a firm believer in eclecticism – mixing the old and the new,” said Dahlin, noting that vintage rugs, pillows made from textiles sourced from around the globe, wallpaper and art are big focuses at deKor. “I know that monochromatic interiors are ‘in’ but I’m not very interested in trends. In the shops, as with my design work, my goal is to create really beautiful, warm spaces that you never want to leave.

efore Victoria Johansen opened FiG in August of 2013, she was walking through downtown Ojai and wandered into an open doorway at 327 E. Ojai Ave. Once she saw the patio and small building, she thought, “this is a very cool space; needs work but could be a cool spot to hang out.” She wasn’t thinking of opening a store at the time, and when she leased the space that afternoon, she didn’t really know what she was going to do with it. That all changed when family and friends stopped by to see it. “That’s when the idea of opening a store in the space began,” recalled Johansen, who has lived in Ojai for 21 years. “FiG’s walkway had a brief history as a newsstand, and prior to that, it was the owner’s wife’s gallery, and her daughter had a plant shop outside years ago. Ojaians that have been here much longer than me speak of the waterfall that would run along the front walkway.” This narrow walkway – complemented by a giant fig vine – “draws people in and sets FiG apart,” Johansen said. “It is a little difficult to find and only the curious seem to find us … it’s a little off the beaten path; it’s an actual house you enter, with the windows flung open.” Inside, “we have always tried


to have items that are either handmade, local if possible, fair trade, or the supplier has a philanthropic platform in their business plan,” explained Johansen, adding that many of the companies she works with give percentages

to nonprofits. “We enjoy explaining to customers where the product comes from and why we carry it – it’s usually a story about the maker, its origin or the company itself.”

Ojai Weekend Candles; Wren Dream Catchers made in Ojai; and Ojai Tea Towels that feature a hand-drawn map of the area, created by Ojai resident Sunday Rylander.

For instance, popular offerings at FiG are Quote Plaques made by a stay-at-homedad in Kentucky; handmade pottery created by makers from areas including Ojai and Colorado; olive wood items; vintage Peruvian textiles;

FiG is also a partner store with Fermob, the leading French manufacturer of metal indoor/outdoor furniture, who developed its Bistro Collection from the original “Simplex” patent registered by Édouard Leclerc in 1889. “These are the bistro sets seen in Paris, New York City and San Francisco,” said Johansen, further noting that the Fermob Bistro sets, in their array of 24 colors, are popular for the Ojai outdoor lifestyle. These are “beautifully designed and comfortable,” she said, like the 1960s and Luxembourg collections at Bungalow by FiG, a shop which Johansen opened in 2019 off the main shopping area, just behind Ojai Chevron station. This 1920s bungalow has a wrap-around porch covered in wisteria vines, with orange trees out front. “I wanted a more enclosed, interesting space that complemented FiG … a space where we could have clothing, accessories, vintage textiles, table tops, a broader children’s offering and more collections of Fermob furniture,” Johansen said. Left: The entrance walkway to Fig Curated Living Below: The porch at Bungalow by Fig


When she first opened FiG eight years ago, her goal “was to bring community together,” and “to be a shop open to everyone.” “We love when people, just walking their dog, wander in to say hi; we love the wide age range of visitors … the stories they share and just getting familiar with our community,” Johansen added. “My goal is to continue to have these experiences with visitors. Our goal is to make our community and visitors want to come shop Ojai, by being a part of all the shops that are now here complimenting each other.”



Images: Down Home Furnishings


own Home Furnishings started as a retail furniture store offering custom upholstered furniture and imported antiques. “My goal was to offer high quality pieces that would be worth keeping and recovering over time,” reflected owner Anne Carper, a resident of Ojai for 52 years whose shop is located in the center of the Ojai Arcade. “Over 21 years, it has expanded to include window coverings, lighting, rugs, art, all manner of wood and metal furniture, and interior design services,” said Carper, who traveled extensively in Indonesia and Thailand, bringing back containers of one-of-a-kind antiques in the early years of her business. In other favored items, custom upholstered sofas and chairs continue to be a mainstay, because Carper works with a builder in Los Angeles who makes “super high quality” pieces to specification. Today, she continues to seek out unique pieces, now from other small importers. “As an importer of Southeast

Asian furniture and art between 2000 and 2014, I met a number of other small importers along the way who traveled countries I did not explore,” explained Carper, who has maintained these relationships over the years, and continues to purchase from the obscure warehouses and websites of very small importers. “Also early on, I opened trade accounts with importers who have protected Down Home with exclusive access to their lines in our area.” Originally, Carper’s goal in opening Down Home Furnishings was to offer high quality upholstered furniture and unique imports, “and through that offering, to simply pay my rent and feed my kids.” That goal is met, she emphasized. “Now, when I work with a client, my goal is to help them express themselves in their home or work environment so that every time they walk into their space, they are in love with it.”






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An Ojai tradition for over 50 years 302 W. Matilija Street (805)646-3755 9:30 - Sunset daily


‘13 ‘14 ‘15 ’16 ‘17 ’18 ’19





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e Best On d of a Kinss Busine


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Story and photos by CHUCK GRAHAM




As shadows crept upward toward a sandstone slab, I found a lingering sunny spot to soak in and ward off the impending backcountry chill deep out in the Los Padres National Forest.


As I stretched out on the gritty stage, a cloud passed overhead, or so I thought, momentarily blocking out my sliver of warmth. A minute later it happened again, but instead of a puffy cumulonimbus shrouding the sun, it was the endangered California Condor soaring above in the late afternoon thermals. There was no denying its nearly 10-foot-wide wingspan, the largest of the land birds of North America. With this remnant of the Pleistocene era staring down on me, I sat up. Was it foraging? Condors are curious by nature and they need meat. They also need a thriving ecosystem, the Los Padres National Forest offering one of the last bastions for this New World scavenger, but it’s not enough habitat for this avian species and a throng of other flora and fauna in one of the most biodiverse realms in California and in the entire U.S. Now that there’s been a political shift at the highest levels in Washington DC, there is no better time than the present to protect wild lands here at home in Central and Southern California. Left: The Sespe Wilderness Below: A San Joaquin Kit Fox



Right: The California Condor Below: A herd of Tule Elk

The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (CCHPA) has already passed through the House of Representatives three times, most recently on February 26, 2021. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) originally spearheaded the bill over 20 months ago. Now it is left in the hands of the Senate to make a decision. Nothing is etched in stone until the Senate passes the bill and it is written into law. However, with Democrats holding a slight edge in the Senate, 2021 could bring added protections to 245,000 acres of some of the most unique biomes anywhere. The Los Padres, California’s second largest forest, possesses 468 species of wildlife, including the condor, but also desert bighorn sheep, the arroyo toad and red-legged frog, southern steelhead trout, and the western pond turtle. Habitat is necessary for these species to survive, and the CCHPA will protect against road construction, logging, mining and oil drilling in these wild places.



That includes protecting more than one-third of the Pine Mountain Ridge from logging activities, which is still under threat because the Trump Administration had already struck a deal before the transition at the White House. Whether or not Biden can nix that agreement remains to be seen. If and when the CCHPA is written into law, would that logging agreement still receive the green light to move forward? Also, within the Los Padres National Forest are two Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Sespe and the Sisquoc, freeflowing runnels. “Wild and Scenic River” designations are the nation’s strongest water protections for rivers and streams. However, there are many tributaries that feed those rivers that do not have protections such as Manzana and Fish Creeks. “The CCHPA would ensure that about 159 miles of rivers and creeks in the Los Padres National Forest remain free-flowing,” said Rebecca August, Director of Advocacy for Los Padres ForestWatch, “some of which are the last non-channelized and undammed rivers in Southern California.”

Left: Carrizo Plain Below: Sespe Creek



Recreation experiences would be enhanced with communities such as Fillmore and Santa Maria seeing new entry points to world class hiking, mountain biking and camping. The bill would also designate the Condor National Recreation Trail, a 400-mile through-hike stretching from northern Los Angeles County to the Big Sur Coast. Beyond the Los Padres National Forest lies the sweeping Carrizo Plain National Monument. It too would receive additional, much needed protections, its native grasslands being the largest and least disturbed habitat in the Golden State. The Carrizo Plain National Monument recently turned 20, and the grasslands possess more endangered species than anywhere else in California. Some of those include the giant kangaroo rat, San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, antelope ground squirrel and California jewelflower. Soda Lake, in the northern region of the monument, lies within the Pacific Flyway and is the largest remaining natural alkali wetland in Central and Southern California. During wet winters it fills up and attracts multitudes of migratory birds like American avocets, western sandpipers, long-billed curlews and lesser yellowlegs. Threats like oil drilling and mining surround the Carrizo Plain now, but new projects would run into roadblocks once the CCHPA was in place. “All of these activities—logging, oil drilling, and even mining—are allowed adjacent to designated wilderness areas,” said August, “but those protections should be considered in projects in close enough proximity to cause impacts.” Like ancient ruins and great artworks, these wild lands are irreplaceable demonstrations of cosmic creative genius and Earth’s long history of beauty. And one wouldn’t dream of tearing down the Egyptian pyramids for building material or “The Starry Night” for spare canvas.

Above: Matilija Poppies bloom in the Sespe and Owls clover in Carrizo Plain. Right: The San Rafael Wilderness Below: The Blunt Nosed Leopard Lizard





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Mikki Willis’ Ojai filmmaker ic,” l film, “Plandem 26-minute vira of osshairs put him in the cr wars last May. re ltu America’s cu ety Jan. 6 as He gained notori the U.S. Capitol video of him at rrection was during the insu ia. N and social med replayed on CN

At a rally stage near the Capitol that day, he said: “I’m a little out of breath because I was just part of this situation that just happened where, as Charlene mentioned, our proud patriots just pushed through a line of riot police — peacefully, as peacefully as that could happen — and are now at the stairs of the doors of the Capitol, and it was a beautiful thing to see….” Eight months before, Willis had interviewed former Ventura resident and research scientist Judy Mikovits about her book, “Plague of Corruption,” in which she launched attacks on vaccines and defended her controversial claims. “Plandemic” is drawn primarily from that interview in Ojai. In “Plandemic,” Willis mostly ignored Mikovits’ vaccine concerns and instead

Mr.Willis GOES TO WASHINGTON From Shangri-La to Capitol insurrection: Ojai filmmaker Mikki Willis sets fire to the bridge between Ojai’s left and spiritual-wellness community, becoming a lightning rod in a national culture crisis.



focused on allegations not found in the book, such as her claim that wearing masks against COVID-19 “activates” the virus. This directorial choice brought “Plandemic” and Willis immediate and enormous fame — and scrutiny. Because “Plandemic” now has been banned from social media and excluded from streaming platforms, Willis said he has had to move his new work to other media outlets and has turned his focus to new controversies far from Ojai and even California. Willis said he now works with his filmmaking team as a “forensic filmmaker” on public footage for the defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old charged with two counts of homicide in a Black Lives Matter protest that took place Aug. 25 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In a videotaped appearance at a Red Pill Expo in Jekyll, Georgia, in October 2020, Willis said that he also worked on footage of the Covington Catholic School student Nicholas Sandmann, accused of taunting a Native American veteran in a confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18, 2019. From other footage of the scene, Willis’s team made a longer video that

told Sandmann’s side of the story and helped turn the tide of public opinion in Sandmann’s favor. “We made the video that won the lawsuit against CNN and the Washington Post, and I was no longer the darling of the Left,” Willis said in his talk at the Red Pill Expo. In interviews, Willis said that he rejects partisanship and extremism on both sides of the political spectrum, but complained of “the incredible volume of people (in Ojai) who became hateful and unwilling to have a dialogue after ‘Plandemic’. For himself, Willis continues to speak reverently of “sacred” Ojai, but last year moved with his family to Corpus Christi, Texas.

MIKOVITS AND ‘PL ANDEMIC’ In “Plandemic,” Mikovits claimed that “wearing the mask literally activates your own virus.” Last May, she alleged in a YouTube interview with entrepreneur Patrick Bet-David of Valuetainment — still available on Facebook

When Mik ovits met Willis: Based on her contr o v ersial boo ‘Plague o k f Corrupti on,’ ‘Plan racked u demic’ p an estim ated 7 m views an illion d caused a storm of controve rsy aroun d the nati on.

— that public health authority, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “basically let this disease spread around the world so he could get glory, fame, and money.” She called for health authorities to lift lockdowns, and in August, published a best-selling book against masking. Despite — or perhaps because of — its falsehoods, duplicity and lack of verification, the alarming “Plandemic” film shot to overnight fame. “Plandemic” was released to the internet on May 4, 2020, and went viral, recording nearly 1.8 million views within three days, according to the Digital Trends online publication. This far outranked other popular web videos released to the web that week, and went on to rack up an estimated 7 million views, according to Facebook’s Crowd Tangle research tool. Facebook soon took down “Plandemic.” “Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick can lead to imminent harm, so we’re removing the video,”


and CNN. Some commentators called on the FBI to arrest Willis. After news of Willis’ attendance at the Capitol riots spread on social media around the country, the Kiss the Ground nonprofit organization (a Los Angeles-based 501c3), severed connections with him in a statement released to Instagram: “This past weekend, Kiss the Ground was made aware that a member of its extensive advisory council was present at the insurrection at the Nation’s Capitol,” the Jan. 12 statement read. “Upon learning this, we immediately terminated Mikki Willis’ position at the advisory council. Without equivocation, Kiss the Ground stands firmly on the side of American democracy and condemns the hatred and violence that ensued.” Facebook said in a statement to news outlets on May 7, three days after “Plandemic” achieved millions of views. After “Plandemic” was removed from Facebook, where it was most often shared, other social-media sites followed suit, including YouTube and Vimeo. It is not readily found on the internet today.

Despite the furor on Twitter, Willis has not been arrested or charged. In the aftermath, on Facebook and in interviews, Willis insists that he went “as a journalist” to the Capitol, but never went inside the building. He condemns the violence that took place, and argues in a seven-minute unreleased film that the mob assault took place largely

“Plandemic” made Willis nationally famous, but with prominence has come intense scrutiny and a great deal of criticism from former allies in Ojai. Willis continues to defend the film, and maintains an active personal presence on some social media, but in interviews and appearances in recent weeks, he expressed anger toward the so-called mainstream media and mixed feelings about fame.

on the front side of the Capitol, where the Inauguration was held, and not on the back side of the Capitol, which is where Willis joined another large crowd that was marching on the building. In his speech at the “MAGA Health Freedom Event of the Century,” outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, Willis spoke warmly of protesters pushing “through a line of riot police,” describing it as “the human organism rising up” and “a beautiful thing to see.” He added that he “had done a 180” from his past as “part of the far left.” For some of his critics, such as holistic foods entrepreneur John Roulac, a former Ojai resident and founder of the health food company Nutiva, who worked on a 2008 film about hemp with Willis, “Plandemic” is a part of the problem that the spirituality and wellness movement now has with rightwing conspiracism. “Millions of Americans and many people I know were ‘red-pilled’ by this conspiracy theory that moved very strongly into the wellness/alternative/ New Age world,” he said. “Last spring, I saw this happening and started asking: What is going on? If you talk to these people, you will hear that very powerful people are controlling the financial destiny of the world and we need to push back. Okay, that’s not crazy — until they say the answer is Donald Trump.” To be “red-pilled” is a reference to a pivotal moment in the hugely popular 1999 movie “The Matrix.” The idea is that an individual is presented with a choice in life: He can take a blue pill and stay in a pleasantly false fantasyland, or take a red pill, and go down the rabbit hole to see the dark truth of a conspiratorial, and often right-wing, perspective.

WILLIS IN THE CAPITOL RIOT On Jan. 6, Willis spoke at a “MAGA Health Freedom Event” on the east side of the U.S. Capitol, and joined — with a small film crew in tow — the crowds of Trump partisans from around the country who gathered at the Capitol. In the aftermath, a five-second cellphone video image of Willis at the Capitol, surrounded by a crowd of protesters chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” was widely circulated on social media


January 6: Willis speaks at the Capitol. “Our proud patriots just pushed through a line of riot police.... it was a beautiful thing to see”

Roulac wrote an essay on the social media site, Medium, in September critical of Willis and the QAnon movement called “Is the Wellness Movement Being Tainted by QAnon and the New Age Right?” In the essay, Roulac challenged Willis on the subject of “Plandemic” and its anti-masking message.



ROULAC: “It’s like he shouted fire in thousands of crowded theaters across the world.”

ROLLE: “If the spirituality of the Ojai community is that fragile then perhaps there’s a bigger question that needs to be expressed.”

WEBER: “Part of the reason for discrediting the pandemic is because the pandemic incites fear. If I can’t get rid of the pandemic, let me try to attack the fear.”

HEROLD: “I think ‘Plandemic’ is disinformation, That’s not the same as misinformation, which implies a mistake, and a willingness to own that mistake.”

FARBER: “I have so many spiritual friends who were drawn to Mikki’s personality and his false authenticity.”

“He recently released ‘Plandemic 1’ (tens of millions of views), which claims that masks can actually harm you,” Roulac wrote. “It’s like he shouted fire in thousands of crowded theaters across the world. Convincing people to see masks as ineffective and dangerous could contribute to the illness and death of tens of thousands.” Willis admitted that he does wear a mask on occasion. “I wear a mask primarily for the protection of other people,” he said, but added that researchers have pointed out issues with mask-wearing and proper fit and cleansing. “I don’t think I’ve seen a single person in this yearlong experience not fumbling with their mask in a way that makes it useless and in some cases potentially dangerous,” he said. For Roulac, the question is bigger than masks or Willis. “To me, this is really an example of a society in disarray. People are unsure of their own financial future, they’re concerned about the climate crisis, and it’s as if, in response, they’re grasping at bizarre conspiracies,” he said. “Look at Christiane Northrup, a well-known M.D. who has gone full QAnon. This is rampant in the Ojai Valley. And I’m like — really? And so I wrote this article telling people that this is not a good thing and to watch out. A lot of people got upset with me for saying it, but a lot of friends in Ojai wrote to thank me for speaking up.”

OJAI NEW AGE COMMUNIT Y DIVIDED Willis and his Elevate filmmaking collective have a long history in Ojai. Willis rented a large hilltop mansion in Ojai called Glen Muse from retired software engineer Darakshan Farber in the fall of 2010. Impressed by Willis’ “magnetic” personality and his creative spirit, Farber lived for nearly two years at the estate with Willis and up to 15 people at a time from the Elevate collective, he said. “I was intrigued by his vision and his spiritual approach,” Farber said. “He was a very spiritual guy, no doubt about it. But from what I saw, it was very difficult for them to focus on the


business side with all the people and the transition; they were trying to live in this grand place for the sake of the collective.” Farber said that, over time, he became disillusioned with Willis and asked him to leave. He later sold the estate and traveled overseas. He watched “Plandemic” in Thailand last year and was once again reminded of his time with Willis and the collective. He called the film “hogwash.” “I have so many spiritual friends who were drawn to Mikki’s personality and his false authenticity,” he said, looking back. “It makes me very sad.” For Nora Herold, a well-known channeler based in Meiners Oaks, who, like Farber, knew Willis personally, the conspiracism of “Plandemic” threatens the health of the spiritual community of Ojai. “I think ‘Plandemic’ is disinformation,” she said. “That’s not the same as misinformation, which implies a mistake, and a willingness to own that mistake. Disinformation involves an underlying agenda to promote theories or ideas that run counter to the traditional narrative. These ideas are there for an underlying reason, and that’s often because there’s a financial gain involved.” Many in Ojai charge that Willis has been motivated in his choices primarily by money, but Herold and a few others said they see the potential for an even darker agenda. Herold said that she saw QAnon references crop up in Ojai in 2017. “QAnon and COVID denial and anti-mask statements and extreme beliefs about sovereign identity create a split in the spirituality/wellness community,” she said. “The split in our community is reflected in a split in the larger world. I think it’s an ancient wound — a form of unhealed trauma.” Jack Adam Weber, an author and climate activist in Ojai, said he also sees a connection between the conspiratorial rhetoric of “Plandemic” and the conspiratorial rhetoric of the mysterious and cultic group known as QAnon.

“For New Agers, conspiratorial thinking is spiritual bypassing,” he wrote in an essay, invoking the idea that among the spiritually minded, in particular, the pandemic evokes pain, and it’s easier to deny COVID-19 than to deal with that deeply rooted pain. “Part of the reason for discrediting the pandemic is because the pandemic incites fear,” he said. “If I can’t get rid of the pandemic, let me try to attack the fear.” In fact, the follow-up to “Plandemic,” called “Plandemic: Indoctrination,” which was released last fall and is still available online, ends with a fierce rejection of the emotion of fear.

June 2011. A Ventura County magazine calls Willis a “Progressive Thinker” and a “local on the leading edge.” Although Farber said he now distrusts Willis and hasn’t seen him in years, he doesn’t know how intentional Willis is in his choices. “I wonder if Mikki almost unconsciously shifted from a purely spiritual world to this world where he gets more of an audience, more adulation, and more money, but I don’t know,” he said.

W ILLIS DEFEN DED Willis still has defenders in Ojai. Among them is Reno Rolle, a longtime resident, who said he has known Willis since 2003 as a filmmaker, neighbor and family man, and continues to support him and his work. He scoffed


at the idea that “Plandemic” could damage Ojai’s spirituality/wellness community. “If the spirituality of the Ojai community is that fragile, then perhaps there’s a bigger question that needs to be expressed,” he said, adding that he knows Willis did not produce “Plandemic” to make money. “On the heels of his ‘Plandemic’ project, I was approached by people who specialize in monetizing data because they thought I might be able to get to Mikki,” he said. “They suggested emphatically that if they had access to Mikki’s database, they would market to that database, and they guaranteed seven figures over the course of one week. I know it sounds incredible, but I’ve been in direct-response community marketing and these people are very credible and legitimate. Mikki flatly refused, because he was concerned people would think he had made ‘Plandemic’ for the money.” Willis said he has not taken any opportunity to profit off the success of “Plandemic.” Looking back on his tumultuous year since making the viral film, Willis now says that his appearance at the Capitol riot was a mistake, perhaps his biggest mistake. However, he denies any involvement with QAnon. He blames the media for conflating his appearance at a rally on health and vaccination issues with support for former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign, and rejects the idea that he made “Plandemic” to become rich and famous. “Consider this — for 30 years I’ve been doing good business in and around Hollywood,” he said. “I had collected a community of supportive investors and established solid connections with all the major distribution platforms, including Netflix and Amazon. Every one of these has gone away. I will never again have a film on a major distribution platform. You don’t make these choices for financial or political gain — I think fame is a curse, particularly in an age where one tweet can leave your entire career ruined.”













Nestled in downtown ojai, i wandered through ojai studio artist linda taylor’s backyard garden and caught glimpses of dark silhouettes darting under distant bushes with the sound of occasional quacks cackling from afar. her outdoor patio was set with working tables and a mannequin dress form collaged with printed-paper. Linda greeted me fully aproned and ready to create as we entered her bright and airy printmaking studio. She worked on a print in progress while we chatted. Placed on top of a large table was a hardboard-wood line carving (called “a plate” in printmaking lingo) of “Sartousse.” He was an interesting gentleman who used to play in drum circles on Sunday afternoons in Libbey Park. Artist Marta Nelson invited him to model at the Ojai Art Center for a figure drawing session and he came with his drums and played for the artists while he was modeling. Linda was making a collagraph print of him using two plates. Swirling and pressing a mix of brown and purple ink with a squeegee, she pressed the ink into the cut grooves of the varnished board. “I like taking a print and changing it to make each work a unique monoprint. One collagraph is made of collage pieces printed in layers for textures and tones,’’ explained Linda. Chin collé is another printmaking method she loves to explore where different papers are attached with glue during the printing process. After rubbing the ink into the surface, she used a tarlatan cloth to wipe off

the excess ink to reveal the lines of the portrait. Then she carried the board across her studio to a large etching press and placed a sheet of Japanese paper, a pad and blanket on top of the panel. Going to the large handle, like the helm of a ship, with great enthusiasm and strength, she turned the handle as we watched the blanketed art in-the-making pass under a large steel roller that presses the paper into the inked plate to transfer the design onto the paper. This was the first plate pull, and she will press

“The arts exercise parts of the brain that traditional academics do not. Creative thinking is a necessary skill in the 21st Century.” another plate with texture and color as she builds up her layers for a finished piece. Walking around her studio as she worked and talked, I noticed a wall of a variety of handmade masks, a globe, bundle of feathers, bird nests, stacks of all different types of drawings of figures, animals, knots and flora. Throughout her studio were several areas of works in progress, which she explains, “ allows her mental space for contemplation, rather than working on one image at a time.” And although it may sound chaotic, there was a very organized sense of clarity and purpose throughout her studio. I was quite amazed by her carving section with an array of different tools as she demonstrated the intricate technique of carving the groove from a line drawing onto a wooden board for a woodcut print.

by Life


Above: Taylor removes a print from a hand carved “plate.”

Alongside the same table was a tall stack of drawings on tracing paper. Having the translucent papers on top of each other helps her see how she will do her layering in the printing process. The top drawing was of a man and woman looking at each other from upside down with the title “Never and Always,” inspired by a book purchased during a trip to Palau, in Micronesia, where Linda demonstrated and taught printmaking at the Palau Arts Festival. I noticed a recurring theme in her works with feathers and nests and I was curious about her fascination with our feathered friends. Her father was in the Navy and they moved often, about every two years. In her early childhood, as she stood waiting for the school bus in Tennessee, she watched birds on the Mississippi Flyway fly overhead and she always wondered where they were going. To say the least, she is enamored with the life of birds, how they build their beautiful nests with only beaks and feet, and has been a bird watcher since seventh grade. With her family on the constant move around the globe, including to

story and photos by VALERIE FREEMAN

Ojai artist LindaTaylor intertwines drawing with printmaking.



the Azores during her freshman and sophomore year of high school. It was difficult for Linda to have hometown friends, so she spent much of her solo time reading, drawing and teaching herself to paint with her dime-store watercolor set. Travel opened up her life to all kinds of opportunities to go and see and be a part of the world. At age 15, during a trip to Italy, Linda visited her first museum, the Uffizi, where she saw “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera” by Botticelli, At that very moment, she knew she wanted to be an artist. Determined to pursue a career in art, she graduated from San Diego State University in 1962 with a degree in general art with an emphasis on drawing and printmaking. Can you believe the cost of her education was only $27 per semester?! Linda taught art at secondary school for several years, then went on to receive her Master of Fine Arts at UCSB and began teaching stone lithography at Ventura College. From the frequent visits to Ojai, in 1978 she decided to settle down in the Ojai valley. In 1980 Linda joined Ojai Studio Artists and helped revive the organization with Vivika Heino, Gayel Childress and Marta Nelson. In 1985 she began teaching art at Nordhoff High School. Linda expressed the importance of instruction in the visual and performing arts. “The arts exercise parts of the brain that traditional academics do not. Creative thinking is a necessary skill in the 21st Century. The arts allow students to problem solve with hands-on experience. A student that may be challenged in other subjects is often able to acquire status through art” she stated. Linda retired from teaching at Nordhoff in 2004, and was elected to the Ojai Unified School District School Board. She created a printmaking studio in the NHS art room and regularly volunteers working with art students, bringing in all her own supplies for the students to use during class. The students make professional quality original prints and linoleumprint greeting cards for their school fundraiser.

Above: Artwork of Lynda Taylor.

In 1986 Linda purchased her current studio in Ojai and began hosting guest-artist printmaking workshops in 2005. She began inviting renowned printmakers from around the world to come to Ojai to teach five-day workshops two to three times a year.

Visiting guest artists have included Michael McCabe, Navajo artist from Santa Fe, NM; Ron Pokrasso, from Santa Fe, NM; Lennox Dunbar, from Aberdeen, Scotland; and Irena Keckes, from Croatia. The artists share their techniques such as viscosity


printmaking, moku hanga printmaking (a Japanese woodblock printing process), collagraph printmaking and creating unique monotypes. Linda also occasionally hosts workshops in the above techniques. An active member of Rotary Ojai West since 2005, Linda finds exciting opportunities with the organization and has traveled to India several times for polio immunization and a Group Study Exchange month. Some of her fondest memories are captured in her many sketchbooks, and I had the pleasure to see her leaf through her India sketchbook. Each page is a different street scene, from oxen to portraits to the Taj Mahal — simple line drawings which can translate into carved wooden panels. On December 6, 2015 a gas wallheater set her studio attic ablaze and

Linda. They shared the same studio and enjoyed each other’s camaraderie for the years it took for Linda’s studio to be rebuilt. At 5:30, Karen’s husband Craig would bring wine to celebrate another day of creative activity. It took three years for the rebuild of Linda’s studio to be completed and her endearing husband, Ray Magee, supervised and helped with the reconstruction of the studio, built by Reggie Wood. Between her own studio fire and the Thomas fire two years later in 2017, the heroic energy of the brave firefighters is very close to her heart. “HERO,” a tribute to firefighters, is an in-progress series of large, paper, alphabetic letters of sign language hand positions. Paper cut-outs of the sign language for “HERO” are placed across the top of a print with portrait drawings of firemen. In her installation for the “Insight: 2020” OSA exhibit at the Ojai Valley Museum, Linda created “Homage to Botticelli.” Inspired by “Primavera” from her childhood realization to become an artist, she made over 30 plate images drawn from the flowers in her garden. Four months in the making, with these images Linda created a magnificent, full size, delicate paper dress suspended from the ceiling. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the museum was closed for most of the duration of the exhibit, though it was available online for viewing.

Above: Fuga. Ita volo qui aut experit atibus aut qui officilit voluptin nest, cum fuga. Left: Et aut qui voluptinum et quasped molesti dit exceate voluptiati nullut disit andignimin.

destroyed 40 years of art, including graduate artwork in storage. Karen Lewis, a close artist friend, visited her that very next morning and cried when she saw Linda’s studio. It was a mess, even her printing press was covered with melted plastic from the skylights. But Karen was a real lifesaver, coming to Linda’s rescue and offering to share her studio and printing press with


Linda has always been interested in continuing education, and so during the Covid-19 lockdowns she enrolled in a woodcut Zoom class through Zea Mays Printmaking studio. She is also working on a series of selfportrait prints. The most recent is a woman standing with her entire head made of knotted strings and silhouettes of scissors trying to cut the strands. Linda explained, “the brain is all tied up in a ball of knots and the scissors is the way to get out.” She actually has a wad of knotted twine and ropes that she created to use as a drawing model. As we walked to leave her studio, Linda was very excited to show me her

greatest prize of all time. She glowed as she held to her heart a colorful glass trophy from the City of Ojai — the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts, awarded in 2015. As we strolled out into her orchard through her latched gate to keep her feathered friends from getting into her garden, a white dog with black spots joined us, who Linda called “The Spotted Dog.” She called her chickens, and from afar, brown hens came dashing happily, eager to eat the fresh kale she pulled from her garden bin. Standing in the garden, she sketched the chickens, amazed by their feet, as ducks came and gargled from her pool pond. Then she sketched the flowers from her loquat tree, the same loquat flowers used in her “Homage to Botticelli” dress, as she told me about her 60 orchard trees and the apple butter and preserves she makes every year. Linda is constantly doing, making everything seem effortless — with the exception of carving the panels and turning the printmaking wheel. Her studio is a delight and filled with so much inspiration and works of art in all phases of completion. If you would like to see Linda’s contemporary works on paper or arrange a studio tour, please visit www.ojai-spotted-dog-studio.com or email her at ltaylorart@aol.com. Linda is also on the Ojai Studio Artists Tour and you can see her works at www.ojaistudioartists.org.



artists&galleries DAN SCHULTZ FINE ART GALLERY & STUDIO Plein air landscapes, figures and portraits in oil, with a special focus on California landscape paintings. 106 N. Signal St., Ojai 805-317-9634 www.DanSchultzFineArt.com

KAREN K. LEWIS Painter & printmaker; etchings, monoprints, figure drawings, plein-air landscapes, still lifes and large-scale oil paintings. 805-646-8877 www.karenklewisart.com

ROBERT LLOYD THE ART OF VENTURA COUNTY Paintings and drawings of California and beyond. Viewings available by appointment. 805-798-3172 www.artofventuracounty.com

STEPHEN ADELMAN freedom of perception and expression through an active and calming process 805-272-8760

MARTHA MORAN THE OJAI ROCKSTACKER Sculptures, fountains, custom shower installations and more. Studio visits by appointment. 805-279-7605 www.OjaiRockstacker.com

LATITUDES Fine Art Gallery Transform your space with fine art photography. 401 E. Main St., Ventura, CA 93001 805-642-5257 www.lattitudesfineart.com

PORCH GALLERY Open: 11-5, Sunday: 9-1:30 Closed: Tuesday and Wednesday lisa@porchgalleryojai.com 805-620-7589 Instagram: porchgalleryojai

PAMELA GRAU 949-903-9743 pamelagraustudio@gmail.com www.pamelgrau.com

FIRESTICK POTTERY Creative workspace or clay artists & students. Open 10-6 daily. Closed Tuesday. 1804 E. Ojai Ave. 805-272-8760 www.firestickpottery.com

OVA ARTS Your Go-To Place For Gifts. Thursday - Monday. Hours: 11-5 238 E. Ojai Ave. 805-646-5682 www.ojaivalleyartists.com






F I R E S T I C K P OT T E RY Creative Workspace Open to Public

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The Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team and Air Squad 6 take a break from training at Thomas Aquinas College, at the entrance to Santa Paula Canyon.




Heroes Cables WITH

When a 6-year-old boy got stuck above a dry waterfall in Rose Valley in 2006, he was rescued by Upper Ojai Search and Rescue.


n 2011, the team rescued four members of the Sierra Club who became stranded in Los Padres National Forest during a savage snowstorm. When the 2017 Thomas Fire ignited, the all-volunteer team assisted with evacuations, even when their own homes were destroyed. Ojai SAR members are ready to drop what they’re doing to assist in a search. “Availability is critical, because we’re on call 24-7,” said team captain Bill Slaughter. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Upper Ojai team handles SAR operations over a huge area from the Sespe to the coast, and north to the Cuyama Valley. The team consists of 29 members, ages 29 to 72. All members live within the Ojai-Ventura-Santa Paula triangle. Three are women. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time,” said Mary Looby, Ojai SAR’s secretarytreasurer, who also goes on rescues and handles technology for the team. Founded in the mid-1950s by four Upper Ojai men — Carl Hofmeister, Ed “Red” Titus, Otto Reynolds and Larry Dent — Ojai SAR was based at Hofmeister’s ranch and often rode to rescues on horseback.



Under state law, every sheriff in California must provide SAR capabilities in their own county. First to form in 1951 was the Fillmore SAR team, which responded to what may have been the first rescue call in Ventura County, for a pair of hunters who froze to death at Hole-in-the-Wall, in Hopper Canyon, during a rare, early fall snowstorm, Slaughter said. There’s a third mountain team in Ventura County that handles the East Valley, along with a dive team, a canine team, a mounted posse and a medical team, which consists of paramedics and emergency-room nurses who volunteer their time to fly with the Ventura County Air Unit. When Slaughter joined the team, Carl Hofmeister, one of four Upper Ojai men who founded the Upper Ojai Search and Rescue team in the mid-1950s.

the helicopters were rudimentary. Sometimes they can’t fly due to the weather or they can’t find the victim, and the ground game is on. Such was the case on Potrero John Trail in March of 2011. A powerful storm slamming Ventura County caught four experienced Sierra Club hikers on an overnight backpacking trip by surprise and they were reported overdue. Ojai SAR began a search that night, but was turned back by the dangerous creek crossings. Due to safety concerns, the decision was made to resume the search in the morning. As the team was leaving, Slaughter spotted four headlamps on the steep ridge high above the trail. They belonged to the four hikers who, in near-blizzard conditions, were forced off the trail and up the ridge in an attempt to find their way back to Highway 33.

Ojai SAR rigged a harness system to pull the hikers across the treacherous water and steep terrain to safety. “Without us, those four people would have died that night,” Slaughter said. “They would not have made it to the morning. They were already hypothermic when we got to them.” Slaughter said he believes Ojai SAR has a distinct advantage over other mountain teams in that a majority of the members have backpacking, climbing or mountaineering experience. “They’re bringing that to the table already. Mary is a perfect example. She got on our team and already had extensive backcountry experience,” he said. “After 10 years of doing project work, I decided it was time to back off a little bit and, while I still physically could, do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do,” said Looby, a Patagonia employee who has been on the team for seven years. She went back to school and got her emergency medical technician certification. “At 49, with a bunch of 20-something-year-old firefighter wannabes who all looked at me like, what’s this old lady doing in our class?” Slaughter became interested in SAR at age 16 after one of his best friends in high school fell from a waterfall at Jackson Camp in Santa Paula Canyon and was killed. Ojai SAR responded to the tragedy, and right away Slaughter knew this was something he wanted to do. He joined the team in 1986, just prior to his 30th birthday, and a few years later became a training officer. He ascended the ranks from sergeant to lieutenant to captain. Ojai SAR holds regular meetings the third Tuesday of each month, which is typically followed by some sort of training on Saturday. “Training runs the gamut from technical highangle to navigation skills to search administration,” Slaughter said. The team holds an annual requalification process in May, where members have to demonstrate

(Clockwise from above) Three Ventura County search and rescue teams get assignments during the Montecito mudslides in 2018, Ojai SAR’s Mary Looby and David Musgrove in the command post during a rescue mission, and a 2004 mock rescue in Santa Paula Canyon.

proficiency in basic skills. It includes a hike and a SAR standard pack test — 35 pounds, 3 miles in 50 minutes. Slaughter said while he makes a real effort to ask everybody’s opinion on what the team is going to do during a rescue, he has no problem saying what the plan is going to be. Everyone on the team understands that, and it’s one of the things that’s helped keep the team together. “I’m as close to the people on the team as I am to any of my other friends. We spend an enormous amount of time together,” he said. “It’s definitely become a family to me,” said Looby. New members are carefully vetted to make sure they’re a good fit. “You have to be confident that when they join, they’re going to keep their shoulder to the wheel; they’re going to work hard and, from my perspective, they’ve got to do what they’re told. I tell them we don’t want Wyatt Earp here; no Lone Rangers. You do what you’re told and we work as a group,” Slaughter said. “We’re not a big ego, I’m-tougher-thanyou kind of team,” Looby said. “We’re filled with people of quiet competence. There’s no competition. It really is an incredibly amazing group of people.”

Not so long ago, when a rescue call went out, team members would receive a call on a landline. Later, pagers were used. Until the early ’90s, the team had only three handheld radios. Today, using an app, it takes only about 30 seconds to put a call out to every member of the team, simultaneously. The proliferation of cell phones dramatically reduced the number of SAR calls, Slaughter said, since oftentimes lost hikers can call for help before they’re reported missing. “We’d rather have you call before it gets worse,” he said. “That makes it harder for everybody.” When Slaughter started, the team would be activated four or five times a month. Lately, that’s down to about one call per month. It’s a challenge, when the team isn’t called out on a regular basis, to keep gear organized and ready and members on their toes. “I’d rather get called and canceled, called and canceled, than not called at all,” Slaughter said.

(Clockwise from above) The Ojai SAR team boards the Sheriff ’s helicopter at Tar Creek during a mission in 2014, high angle training on the Sespe Wall, and training at the Punch Bowl in Santa Paula Canyon.

On Dec. 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire broke out and Ojai SAR was called to begin evacuations in Upper Ojai and Santa Paula. Along with other SAR teams in the county, Slaughter’s volunteers were dispatched continuously, in shifts, for many days. Despite personal loss, the team continued working the fire. “The guys that lost their homes kept going, all night and into the next day,” Slaughter said. When massive mudslides devastated Montecito in January 2018, Ojai SAR was called upon again to help with search efforts. Sometimes, the team helps with evidence and Alzheimer-related searches and body recoveries. “When I signed up for SAR, I thought I was going to go out into the woods and find people and save their lives,” said


Looby. “I hadn’t thought about the body recoveries, and that’s definitely a hard job. But it’s a job that has to be done. Those people need to get home to their families.” One of Ojai SAR’s toughest bodyrecovery assignments was in January of 1969, in a tragedy that has become part of Los Padres lore. Six boys, their leader and three people who tried to

rescue them all perished in a raging Sespe Creek. The team searched for a couple of weeks to recover the bodies. Nowadays, Ojai SAR provides trained grief counselors and psychologists to help team members deal with tragedies. The team also responds to mutualaid calls, recently assisting in Butte County, in Northern California, to search for fire victims. In May 2019, Ojai SAR assisted in a murder investigation on Rice Road in Meiners Oaks. “Our people were activated on a Saturday afternoon and rappelled down a poison oak-covered slope, only to find the remains of a dead pig,” Slaughter said. When a person is lost or overdue, but not injured, SAR responds. When the person in trouble is injured, it’s a medical call and paramedics are sent. Sometimes, it’s a dual dispatch, with SAR sent for people who are not hurt to bring them back. The majority of Ojai SAR’s calls are for overdue hikers in Santa Paula Canyon. It happens about five times each year, and Slaughter estimates that during his career he has been on 150 calls in the canyon popular for its waterfalls, rock slides and swimming holes. “The common problem up there is people are shocked that once a day it gets dark,” he said. On a couple of calls, Slaughter was able to contact the lost parties by cell phone and asked them if they were hiking upstream or downstream. “They’d respond quizzically, so I’d say, ‘Well, tell you what, put some leaves in the stream to see what direction you’re going,’ ” he said with a smile. Over the years, Ojai SAR has enjoyed strong support from the Sheriff’s Office. “When they thank us for all the volunteer hours, they’re sincere, because it’s thousands and thousands of hours,” Slaughter said. Between meetings, training and call-outs, the team logs an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 volunteer hours each year. Equipment such as vehicles and radios are provided by the Sheriff’s


Office, along with GPS units, helmets, backpacks and first-aid kits. To purchase personal items such as uniforms, Ojai SAR holds an annual fundraiser, always the first Sunday in October, at Boccali’s Pizza & Pasta in Ojai’s East End. “The same 350 people show up for every one, they’re all in a good mood, they all have a great time, and we walk away with $20,000 out of it,” said Slaughter, adding the team recently used donated funds to purchase a pickup truck, motorcycles and quads. The team has never had a proper headquarters, but that’ll change this year when Ventura County Fire Station 20’s new building is complete and Ojai SAR moves into the old digs. Slaughter has three rules of SAR that he lives by. “No. 1 rule is to get all my people back safe and make sure they’re OK. No. 2 is to get the victim, and No. 3 is to get home as soon as possible. I will reverse one and two, to some extent, depending on the vulnerability of the victim,” he said. The rescue of the Oxnard boy who got himself stuck above Rose Valley Falls in 2006 was one of the times Slaughter reversed the order of his first two rules of SAR. “Most of the Rose Valley calls don’t have happy endings,” he said. Hearing his cries for help, the boy’s uncle went to help and also got stuck. The helicopter was fogged in and night had fallen. “We had this massive light and we could see where the kid was,” Slaughter said. While team members rescued the uncle, another crew of four climbed up the ridge, got above the boy, and one of them rappelled down to his location. “The kid leaped into his arms. He was just terrified,” Slaughter said. “If they had flown it that day, they would have killed him, because the (rotor) wash off the helicopter would have knocked him off.” The rescuers received an award for valor from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. “The boy had it coming,” Slaughter said. “We would risk life and limb for him.”







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If a drunken musician falls in the woods and there’s no faded fan to scream for an encore, were they playing your favorite song, or at least, “Free Bird”?


ard telling, but with the advent of the virus, there have been more questions than answers, and since last spring — and hopefully for not much longer — the soundtrack of our lives when it comes to live music has been the sounds of silence. Then again, if you’re wearing a ZZ Top t-shirt, your watch stopped in 1971,

your radio is stuck on classic rock, and all the musicians of the last half century and your ears are complete strangers, then you probably didn’t notice any changes as rock ‘n’ roll has passed you by. That’s too bad because great new music is out there — just like it always is. It’s all about finding it. But for now, we might consider our-

selves on pause. Imagine an overlong drum solo or even the dreaded bass solo — the cue to leave the show to return some of that rental beer — except that it’s lasted more than a year. So we’re not rocking because they’re not playing. Not cool. Not really. Actually at present, no one has to go very far to find new music,




much to the detriment of live-music venues. Since live music has been basically dead, or at best, sporadic, many musicians now play on-line, so it’s kinda like watching MTV (back when they still had music) except that now you have to pay. It’s like going to the drive-in except you don’t have to drive. A better example is Coachella. OK, so you pay a zillion dollars and drive a million miles to Indio to see Paul McCartney, but there’s so many people there and you’re so far away, you end up watching Sir Paul on a big screen. Then again, by rocking at home,

you probably won’t waste your few remaining good years waiting in line to return that rental beer; also, there are no bartenders that can’t see or hear you and no bouncers that hate your face — then again, you probably won’t meet your next future ex-boyfriend/ girlfriend while sitting in front of your computer. Then again, you will avoid those 2 a.m. buzz-kill conversations with the cops. Yet, there’s clearly something magical about live music — that opportunity to experience the transcendental power of the words and the beat — especially


if the band does not suck. OK, to review: Live music may not be dead, but at least, for now, it’s missing in action. Will it come back as before or is the future soundtrack of our lives watching music on some device, and not drinking to excess in a bar? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, Ojai Valley musicians, like musicians everywhere, are still at it despite the pandemic. It all boils down to a few easy questions: How have you survived? When was your last gig? When is your next gig? Just as Charlie don’t surf, Char-Man don’t rock — neither the hot sauce nor the scary legend lurking in the dark near Camp Comfort on Creek Road — but then there’s Char-Man the band, at it for almost 20 years and they definitely do rock. Even still, sort of … according to frontman Maher Zaidi it’s the same, only different. SURVIVAL: “There’s still a Char-Man. It’s thriving at this time. We did put out our third album last year, “The Power of the Night,” and people seem to really like it. We recorded it right before the pandemic and released it in July, and we also went into the studio at the beginning of the new year and recorded a single. We still practice — working on our chops and also working on a new album. We can’t play shows but once a week we get together to work on new music.



LAST TIME: “The last show we did was at the end of 2019, so we’re waiting for all that to open up again. We also did do a Ventura Theatre live stream on Halloween — it wasn’t really before an audience but it’s up on YouTube. NEXT TIME: I guess the only way you can support the band is to buy our records and when we can, we’ll play for you, but we’re still here, working on new material and we’ve never sounded better. Keepin’ the faith and keepin’ it alive, you know?”





veryone in a mask besides the Lone Ranger, pretty much, looks the same. How many times have you struck up a conversation with someone wearing a mask that you thought was somebody else? That scenario will be very unlikely at Cindy Kalmenson’s next gig. Kalmenson is an Ojai-based singer/songwriter, a former Banana Slug from UC Santa Cruz, she not only survived but thrived for over a decade in Songwriter Central, Nashville. She’s working on her fourth album with local legend, Bernie Larsen. We know her as fronting her band, the Lucky Ducks. SURVIVAL: ‘I don’t need an audience in order to play, so I can keep playing — it’s just that nobody’s listening, so there’s that. I have been working on my music a lot but I haven’t really tried to reach out to the venues, and they haven’t reached out to me.’ LAST TIME: ‘I actually played at the opening of my friend’s store — it’s called Mud Lotus, and it’s behind Bonnie Lu’s in Ojai. So far, I haven’t really made the effort to go beyond my garage because I’m actually enjoying learning the bass and playing some old country standards, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.’ NEXT TIME: ‘Maybe I could open up my garage in the spring. I could move the cars and use the driveway. Hopefully in the spring I’ll be out there one Sunday a month with a little p.a. and make people laugh and dance and cry.’


jai’s favorite band, the Rose Valley Thorns, had a recurring gig at the Vine on Thursday nights, supplying energetic bluegrass with a 93023 twist as a soundtrack for the chilled sippers. Frontman Josh Bergman had this to say about all that. SURVIVAL: “We had all sorts of tours planned and festivals booked and all

Cindy Kalmenson that got cancelled until 2021; so yeah, it’s been really tough because all of us have had to put what we really love on hold. We started making a lot of videos and we started a YouTube channel. There’s a decent amount of Rose Valley Thorns music up, so we really stepped up our game mediawise.” NEXT TIME: ‘Also, another really good project that’s encouraged me to start is Patreon — that’s been my main means financially of coping with this whole thing and getting something out of it — Patreon is a subscription-based platform tool — people pay monthly whatever they want. You know, there’s nothing we love more

than sharing our music with people — we’ve just added another avenue. There’s no live music, pretty much, anywhere. It’s mostly been a bummer, for sure.’

Rose Valley Thorns




eresa Russell is the hardest working musician in the 805. She’s played everywhere often, including all those places that aren’t even there anymore. Although she lives on the beach in Oxnard, she could make a compelling case for being a local in any and every city in the 805. Since she’s not playing a zillion gigs a month, she now has time for other stuff. SURVIVAL: ‘I get out and hike and ride my bike, hang out with my family a little bit and I still practice — there’s a lot of great songs just waiting to be played. I still love to play even if it’s just for myself.’

LAST TIME: ‘My last real gig was at the Deer Lodge, and that was the 15th of March. It was on a Sunday and everyone was looking at their phones, getting messages from the governor that everything was going to shut down in a couple of hours.’ NEXT TIME: ‘I’ve played a few gigs since then — I just make them up —driveways, dock parties, some private little events; you know, small stuff — I’ve always liked playing afternoons outdoors — so just making it up as I go along.’

Teresa Russell thing up. We switched to broadcasting instead of attended shows. The new place has an enclosed studio which is right next to the dancefloor, so now I can do the broadcast and use my best recording set-up which means higher quality audio — and the rent is less than half than what we were paying before. This whole thing is just an opportunity to change it up and make things different. We did a lot of broadcasts — I don’t know if you caught any of them — I was doing four camera, multi-track audio.’


he Ojai Underground was one of the coolest local venues, providing music fans a steady diet of underappreciated and/or under the radar artists, many of the singer/songwriter persuasion. Guitar legend Bernie Larsen was/is to blame for all that and has found a way to keep on keeping on SURVIVAL: ‘Things are good — we have a new location on Pearl Street in Ojai but there’s still about a thousand little projects before we get this

Bernie Larsen

NEXT TIME: ‘I’m going to start streaming again around Valentine’s Day. We did it before on a YouTube channel as an unlisted event and we would just ask for suggested donations — 5, 10 or 15 dollars — and that’s how we did it, so we’re going to do the same thing. If someone doesn’t have money and can’t afford it — and the same with our shows — just come on over, but if people can donate, that’s cool. I send them a link about 20 minutes before the show — and it’ll be on-line for at least a month, so they can go back and catch it if they missed the first time. So far, it’s worked out.’




pbeat has been making people dance funny for about 35 years with their ska-from-the-beach tunes, sufficiently motivational to turn an impeachment hearing into a dance party. SURVIVAL: ‘We still live but there’s not a lot going on except talking about hopefully what will go on.’ LAST TIME: ‘I guess our last gig was for the 2020 Avocado Festival. It was a virtual event and they streamed it on Vimeo, but it’s hard to tell how many people actually watched it. We love that festival. I don’t wanna say it’s kept us together all these years but it’s definitely one of the highlights — feeling all the love. It’s just a great event for us.’ NEXT TIME: ‘We were trying to get together out here in the Valley with Eric (Vallen), the guitar player, myself and Nathan (Dowdall) on keyboards once every week or two with the focus on writing new music. It’s such a long process for the Upbeat — some of these songs stay in production for five or 10 years. So we were feeling pretty good about these small group rehearsals when COVID hit.’

Upbeat SURVIVAL: ‘I started playing some music last night, I stumbled onto some Demi Marley and some Upbeat stuff. I started tapping my foot — it was like I came out of a deep sleep and realized that there’s music inside me that I need to play. So I got into a real music mode last night and it kind of made me feel melancholy.’ LAST TIME: ‘Raging Arb played at the Bombay in Ventura on a Friday whenever that was because the next day they shut down the bars.’


nother thirty something band, Raging Arb & the Redheads, has been the Party People’s choice for decades, sort of like the soundtrack for beer or the Rolling Stones drunk on the beach. Frontman, John (JD) Drury lives on the Ojai part of Creek Road and is to blame for Ventura’s best annual party, the Surf Rodeo.

Raging Arb & the Redheads

NEXT TIME: ‘We’re all starting to text each other. We’re getting the itch, so hopefully it’s coming around and we’ll at least practice. As to the Surf Rodeo, we’re just kinda waiting for the city and the state to loosen up — things change almost daily, you know, but Hopefully — God willing — we have a Rodeo this year. We had a lot of bands committed in 2020 and a lot of them are willing to carry over to this year. We’re all long overdue to get together, play some music and have some fun. ‘We haven’t really thought about streaming a gig, but maybe playing on the back of a flatbed truck around town — sort of a mobile gig. There’s nothing like a live gig, you know? For the Redheads, the crowd is what it’s all about.’ And finally, don’t be the drunken fool shouting for ‘Free Bird;’ you’ll feel weird in the morning, plus the band probably won’t play it, anyway.



Right: Roger de La Fresnaye (French, 1885-1925) at canvas and paper through May 16

Calendar APRIL / JULY 2021

For current events listings visit www.ojaivalleynews.com/events

April Porch Gallery Ojai 310 E. Matilija St., Ojai 805-620-7589 www.porchgalleryojai.com current exhibit - GEORGE STOLL: camouflage, Tupperware, prime numbers and catenary curves canvas and paper Current exhibit showing thru May 16 Open Thurs. - Sun. Noon - 5:00 p.m. 311 N. Montgomery St., Ojai 805-798-9301 www.canvasandpaper.org Free admission showing works by: Roger de La Fresnaye, Ben Nicholson and Giorgio Morandi. Rose River Memorial Project with Artist Marcos Lutyens April 11 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. via Zoom This free workshop is presented by artists Marcos Lutyens and Marisa Caichiolo as part of 6 Feet

of Connection, an International Earth Day Event. Workshop access and more Info at: www.flourishojai.com/ earthdayworkshops About the Rose River Memorial: www.buildingbridgesartexchange. org/rose-river-memorial Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation #TravelWithArtists: Cave Painting April 16, 5:00-7:00 p.m., Online Explore an exciting global selection of Ancient Cave Paintings and Indigenous Rock Art with artists Deborah Kerner & Richard Waxberg. To register go to: www.cgbfoundation.org or call (805) 633-9188 Ojai Community Farmers’ Market Sundays 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. 300 E. Matilija St., Ojai (805) 698-5555 ojaifarmersmarket@cox.net Providing locally farmed produce, flowers, & gourmet food directly to the community for over 18 years.



Krishnamurti Foundation of America Gathering May 1 and 2 (805) 646-2726 www.kfa.org A free 2-day public program: Register to listen to speakers and panels, participate in dialogues and learn more about all the Foundation’s activities.

Ojai Community Farmers’ Market Grand Opening Thursday, June 3 a.m. - 7 p.m. Ojai Unified School District Chaparral Campus (805) 698-5555 ojaifarmersmarket@cox.net Providing access to healthy food, cultivating community and promoting education.

44th Annual “Art in the Park” May 29th and 30th, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Libbey Park (805) 646-0117 www.ojaiartcenter.org Some of the finest artists in the Ojai Valley and from around California will showcase their work at the Ojai Art Center’s annual “Art in the Park.” Admission is free.

July The Commodores Sat, July 10 – Sun, July 11 Doors open 5:00pm. Headliner 7:00pm. Libbey Bowl, 210 S Signal St. Ojai, CA For Tickets call: 888-645-5006 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Sat, July 17 Doors open 5:00pm. Headliner 7:00pm. Libbey Bowl 210 S Signal St. Ojai, CA For Tickets call: 888-645-5006







Dining and Westridge Market

802 E. Ojai Ave. Open Daily 8am - 8pm 805-646-2762

Marché Gourmet Delicatessen

Westridge Midtown Market

Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten-Free Options. Breakfast & Lunch 9-3 daily. Dinner Fri & Sat 5-8pm 133 E. Ojai Ave. 805-646-1133 www.marchegourmetdeli.com

Bonnie Lu’s Cafe

Ojai Rotie

131 W. Ojai Ave. Open Daily 7am - 9pm 805-646-4082 www.westridgemarket.com

328 E. Ojai Ave. Serving breakfast and lunch Open 7am-2:30pm Mon-Sun. Closed Weds. 805-646-0207

Free-range rotisserie chicken, organic sourdough and the finest wines, beers & cider from the region. 469 E. Ojai Ave. (805) 798-9227 www.ojairotie.com

Casa De Lago

Papa Lennon’s Pizzeria

Ojai Valley’s Original Mexican Restaurant. Margarita Mondays. Family owned since 1985. 2 for 1 House Margarita 715 E. Ojai Ave. 805-640-1577

Original Italian cuisine, Best of Ojai winner, local wines & beers on tap. 515 W. El Roblar Dr. www.papalennons.com 805-640-7388

Farmer and the Cook

Market, Cafe, Bakery, Smoothies, Pizzas, Fresh Organic Farm Produce. Open 8:00am to 8:30pm 339 W El Roblar, Ojai To go orders 805-640-9608 Office 805-646-0960 farmerandcook1@gmail.com www.farmerandcook.com

Hakane Sushi

The best Omakase Sushi in town. Izakaya menu, unique appetizers, Bento Gozen dinner. Top sushi chef with over 30 years experience. Open 7 days a week. See our website for details. 967 E Ojai Ave. | 805-640-3070 info@hakanesushi.co | www.hakanesushi.com

Eating and tasting in Ojai is often experienced outdoors, as our little town boasts over 20 restaurants and tasting rooms with outdoor seating options.



Tasting Heavenly Honey

Ventura Spirits

Majestic Oak Vineyard

Boccali Vineyard & Winery

Ojai Olive Oil Co.

Old Creek Ranch Winery

Tasting room. All natural pure honey. 206 E. Ojai Ave. 805-207-4847 www.heavenlyhoneycompany.com

Tasting room 321 E. Ojai Ave. (Downstairs) 805-794-0272 www.majesticoakvineyard.com

100% organic-local-sustainable Tasting Room Open Monday-Sunday 10am-4pm 1811 Ladera Road, Ojai 805-646-5964 www.ojaioliveoil.com

Our tasting room is open every Friday from 1-5pm Sat and Sun 12-5pm 3891 N. Ventura Ave. SteB2A, Ventura 805-232-4313 www.venturaspirits.com

Tastings at Boccali’s Ojai, Sat & Sun 11am-4pm. 3277 East Ojai Avenue 805-669-8688 www.boccalivineyards.com

Live Music. Food Trucks. Join our Wine Club 10024 Old Creek Ranch Road, Ventura, CA 93001 www.oldcreekranch.com 805-641-4132

Topa Mountain Winery

Most establishments with outdoor dining are pet friendly. So get outside, and gormandize en plein air with your pooch. You are sure to make, or see, an acquaintance while you fortify yourself.

Tasting room 821 W. Ojai Ave. 805-640-1190 www.topamountainwinery.com

OVG Dining & Tasting Guide

Reach a wider audience with the Ojai Valley Guide, Dining and Tasting listings. The OVG is distributed throughout Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties. Contact us for details. team@ojaivalleynews.com 805-646-1476




Wine Tasting



Following COVID Safety Protocols — Pet Friendly — Kids Under 2 Yrs & Over 16 Yrs Welcome

10024 Old Creek Rd, Ventura | (805) 649-4132 | www.oldcreekranch.com






Westridge Market 802 E. Ojai Ave • Open Daily 8am - 8pm • Phone 805-646-2762

Westridge Midtown Market 131 W. Ojai Ave • Open Daily 7am - 9pm • Phone 805-646-4082





Eating with the season



Spring Chicken Salad serves 4 1 cup snap peas, stemmed 1 cup fresh peas, out of pod 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken ½ cup lavender pesto 1 cup pea shoots, tendrils and/or microgreens Zest of 1 lemon ¼ cup toasted almonds

Robin Goldstein, chef and author of A Taste of Ojai cookbooks, shares some savory inspirations for spring.

Blanch peas and asparagus for two to three minutes in salted boiling water. Drain vegetables, then place them in a bowl of iced water. This will shock the veggies and keep them bright green, as pictured. Toss the shredded roasted chicken with some lavender pesto, then toss gently with the blanched vegetables, the pea shoots and/ or microgreens, and lemon zest. Compose the salad on white plates to accentuate the bright spring vegetables. Sprinkle with toasted almonds on top.


Lavender Pesto

... and springtime means giving winter staples the boot, dedicating dinnertime to those tender young things now appearing in our local stores and farmers markets. We are coming out of low temperatures and the shorter days of winter, which lured us into the kitchen with deeply satisfying slow-cooked dishes with complex flavors. But spring is here! With quintessential veggies like peas, shoots and tendrils; young asparagus and fragrant herbs that grow among us here in the valley.

½ cup raw, unsalted almonds ¼ cup olive oil ¼ cup cold water 4 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely 2 cups raw kale and/or raw spinach ½ cup fresh basil ½ cup lavender leaves 1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds ⅛ teaspoon ground fennel seeds 2 teaspoons lemon zest 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1-2 teaspoons salt

Living in Ojai, we are very much aware of how fortunate we are. We love this season, finding comfort in the fresh and precious delicate green goods. Celebrating both the new season and California state changes to our day-today lives, we are all anxious and beyond excited to squeeze around the table again with friends and family — be it in house or on screen. NEED SOME INSPIRATION? In these two spring-inspired recipes, you will see a handful of fresh spring vegetables found at our local outdoor market on Sunday mornings. Lavender’s subtle aroma and flavor are instantly recognizable, which makes it the perfect unexpected culinary herb in this pesto, calling for both flower buds and the leaves of the plant, which can be used fresh or dried. Be sure to use unsprayed lavender and wash well. The aromatic plant is a member of the mint family which, when used in recipes, is close to rosemary, sage and thyme. This fragrant pesto uses lavender and nuts, along with basil, fennel and fresh lemon as the foundation for this salad. Whether you’re a “spring chicken” in the kitchen or a seasoned professional, I believe everyone can benefit from a new salad recipe packed with vibrant colors and flavors. The best part is that it’s meant to be shared! Serve as a full meal or alongside other dishes.

In the bowl of a food processor pulse the almonds to coarsely grind. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor, blend to a pesto-like consistency. Add additional oil and/or water, if needed, to reach a spreadable consistency. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use for up to one week. Makes approximately 2 cups. Substitute with what you have on hand, switching out the almonds with pistachios or cashews. Adding nuts to recipes can be extremely beneficial to your health. If you have any of this pesto leftover, it is delightful on other salads, pasta, avocado toast, flatbread pizza or as a sandwich spread.

Get more in-depth vegetable-forward recipes using local ingredients in A Taste of Ojai II, Flavors of the Valley Cookbook


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HOWARD CREEK TRAIL About a quarter-mile up Rose Valley Road there’s a gated dirt road on the right that connects with Howard Creek Trail, which runs 3 miles to a ridge top with fantastic ocean views. The trail ascends through two canyons, and aside from a few short, steep sections, the hiking is relatively easy. The canyon was named for Jeff Howard, who homesteaded Rose Valley in the 1800s.

Rose Valley Hikes ROSE VALLEY FALLS TRAIL Three miles up Rose Valley Road, take the road on your right to Rose Valley Campground, but park outside the campground near the upper lake. From the south side of the camp, take an easy half-mile walk to the base of the 300-foot, two-tiered Rose Valley Falls. Other options include a tough 2.5-mile climb to Nordhoff Ridge on Chief Peak Road, or hike the Rose-Lion Connector Trail 1.6 miles to Lion Creek and Lion Canyon Trail.

LION CANYON TRAIL One of the most scenic canyons in the Los Padres, Lion Canyon offers hikers several different routes and destinations. About 2 miles up, the trail splits in three directions. The left and right forks lead to simple trail camps and waterfalls, while the middle fork climbs for 3 miles to Nordhoff Ridge. The trailhead is located at Middle Lion Campground, at the end of a steep 1-mile paved road 2 miles north of the turnoff to Rose Valley Falls.

Story and photos by PERRY VAN HOUTEN

PIEDRA BLANCA TRAIL Adventure truly begins at the end of Rose Valley Road, at Piedra Blanca Trailhead. Once a sprawling car camp, the trailhead is now the gateway to the Piedra Blanca rock formation and many square miles of wilderness. Once across Sespe Creek, the trail splits two ways:, Go east along the Sespe River Trail, a long way to the hot springs (not a day hike), or head west 1.5 miles to the huge sandstone outcroppings and a great picnic spot. For longer hikes, continue west on the Middle Sespe Trail, or hike past the rocks on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca Trail to Piedra Blanca Camp and Twin Forks Camp.

In Rose Valley, life’s slower pace offers visitors a break from the rat race and, for many, a sense of renewal. Who couldn’t use some of that? So let’s go for a hike in this fascinating corner of Los Padres National Forest. Our adventure begins about 15 miles north of Ojai, at the junction of Maricopa Highway and Rose Valley Road, and continues north through the scenic little valley named for the wild roses that grow there.



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“To try to understand yourself, you have to look at your dark side, which has a lot of meaning.” — aubrey balkind

aubrey balkind knows how to use an artfully designed threeletter word and a question mark to jolt people out of complacency. Before Balkind moved to Ojai in 2014, he was an influential advertising executive and designer from New York City. Founder of the advertising firm Frankfurt Balkind, he helped design Time Warner’s annual report for 1989, the year Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications. The 60-page report which won design awards and merited a New York Times article, broke all the graphics rules. Its cover featured a bright ’80s glowing green background, printed with six colorful abstract rectangular images of a globe, lips, an eye, an ear, a bald head and a hand. In the middle of the page was the phrase “WHY?” in black capital letters. The design inside was daring as well, resulting in a magazinelike publication that shareholders probably actually read vs. the usual staid corporate missive. Thirty years later, Balkind has created an equally bold design, again featuring short all-caps words and a question mark, to make a point. But this time his goal is to help people live saner, healthier lives through selfhealing, reconnecting to nature, and



recalibrating our relationships to the earth, technology and one another.

Balkind knows he doesn’t have all the answers.

In 2016 Balkind opened the Sane Living Center in downtown Ojai on Matilija Street, a community meeting space that offers holistic lifestyle activities, retreats, film screenings, performances, lectures, private events and more.


Outside the center is a stainless-steel sculpture, co-designed by Balkind and artist Ray Cirino, in the shape of a giant question mark lying on its side. Titled “EVO 3,” the sculpture, about 9 feet high and 20 feet long, artfully depicts the world’s three evolutionary eras, which Balkind refers to as nature, or BIO; sapiens, or EGO; and artificial intelligence, or ALGO (short for “algorithm”). Or put another way by Balkind, the three epochs are “the emergence of life (plants, animals, rivers, mountains, etc.), the rise of humans, and the creation of artificial intelligence.” Although these eras emerged in linear fashion, he said, they now co-exist, and how they interact “could result in positive existential treats, leading to growth, or in negative existential threats, possibly leading to the destruction of life on our planet.” The sculpture is shaped like a question mark to stimulate dialogue, because

To be sane, healthy and in tune with nature, Balkind said, people need to focus on four areas: food, movement, detoxing and de-stressing. “If you get those four things right, you will heal quickly,” Balkind said. Balkind’s quest for wellness goes back to his childhood, at an age when most people are not thinking about diet and health. At age 4, he said, growing up in South Africa, he almost died from typhoid disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, typhoid is not common in the U.S., but is a serious health concern in developing countries, especially for children. The life-threatening disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food or through close contact. Balkind overcame the disease over the next few years, he said, not through medication, but by eating a wholesome diet and learning to calm and strengthen his body. He’s kept up the same healthy habits ever since. “When you can really feel what’s going on in your body, and you’re feeling good, you see how other stuff is hurting you, and you start to change,” he said.



After moving to the U.S. to earn an M.B.A. at Columbia University, he had a long and successful advertising design career, creating campaigns for companies like Adobe, Sony, CNN, ESPN, HBO, MTV and Goldman Sachs. His first visit to Ojai was for a 10-day outdoor retreat. “It was amazing, and I decided I wanted to spend more time here,” he said. The climate reminded him of South Africa, and the natural light and artistic community reminded him of Long Island and The Hamptons. He sold his design business in 2003 and moved to California, first to Venice, then to Ojai, where he founded Sane Living, which refers not only to the Ojai meeting space, but also to a movement, and the name of his company and an Ojai farm. Instead of the adjective “healthy”, he uses “sane,” which has etymological roots in the Latin word “sanus”, meaning “healthy” and “sound,” and from which is derived the verb “sano”, “to heal.” Pharmaceutical and health care companies drive a lot of the insanity in the U.S., he believes: “If you go to a doctor, the main thing you’re going to get is pills. Good doctors say their clients

don’t do anything real to help themselves. They expect a doctor to make them healthy, instead of making themselves healthy.” And the insanity goes beyond medicine, he said, to include global warming and extreme weather events; political extremism and corruption; sensationalist media; and technology-driven lives that “are becoming soulless, robotic and meaningless.” ‘NATURE’S MEDICINE’ Food is a major concern for Balkind, a proponent of organic, live, raw, fermented, whole foods, grown nearby and in soils untainted by chemicals. He denounces refined sugar in particular. “Most of the food in this country is addictive, and one of the biggest addictions is sugar,” he said, along with other refined ingredients our bodies aren’t meant to handle. “It took 200,000 years to make our digestive system work a certain way, and it never had these kinds of ingredients,” he said. Balkind is influenced by and openly credits the work of several modern thinkers and scientists — respected by many and considered outliers by others — for his beliefs. His concerns about food and agriculture

come in part from Zach Bush, M.D., a physician and internationally known teacher on the microbiome and how it relates to food, health and disease. Many illnesses, Balkind believes, can be healed or prevented through a proper diet rather than medicine. Doctors just patch illness with drugs, he said, but “the body has the ability to self-heal.” People need to use both nature (their body and immune system) and their mind to self-heal and detox, he said. “Your mind can overcome the addiction. Medicine just creates side effects.” He has several practical ideas for improving the way Ojai — and the world — can improve people’s eating habits. The Sane Living Center, for example, also houses the Hip Vgn restaurant,



about.” And as A.I. rapidly learns how to solve more complex problems, it will displace the labor market. Artificial intelligence develops so quickly, he said, that we don’t even know where we will be in 50 years. Nature started to evolve about 3.5 billion years ago; Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago; and A.I. only about 60 years ago. Sane Living Center at 316 E. Matilija Street in Ojai

which Balkind co-owns. He said the food served at the vegetarian restaurant “is truly nature’s medicine.” His Sane Living Farm has a 20-acre fruit and vegetable orchard that grows food for the restaurant. HEALTH CARE OR SICK CARE? Balkind wants the Sane Living Center to be a source of knowledge for people about self-healing. But he also wants to upend how the U.S. handles health care, which he said is more like “sick care.” He believes that if workplaces who offer insurance would self-insure and educate their employees on how to live sanely, workers would become healthier and thus more creative and productive. Sane Living, he said, is starting to contact companies in Ojai and Los Angeles about taking this approach. Employers would teach employees how to eat properly to heal themselves, and the employees would in turn take that knowledge home. He knows changing health care might be an uphill climb. “It will put the medical and pharmacy industry out of business, so they fight it like crazy,” he said. THE DARK AND LIGHT OF A.I. Balkind’s first two eras of evolution depicted in the “EVO 3” sculpture, nature and sapiens, are fairly straightforward. Add artificial intelligence, however, and everything gets a lot more complicated. For his ideas about artificial intelligence, he’s especially influenced

by the ideas of Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli historian, philosopher, and best-selling author of “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”; and Sam Harris, a philosopher, neuroscientist and host of the “Making Sense” podcast.

“Things will change so fast, we’re going to have to learn how to change our thinking and how we’re learning,” Balkind said. He believes young people will learn faster than older ones, and thus wants to work with Ojai schools to create programs about saner living. The kids, he said, can then teach their parents.

Nature came first, with a self-healing system of plants, animals, oceans, rivers and mountains, Balkind explained. When sapiens came along, with large brains, at first everyone got along and no human was better or different than any plant or animal.

He’s also not totally against artificial intelligence. Wearable technology such as smart watches and biosensors, for example, can help people achieve their health goals. The key, he said, is to understand and work with artificial intelligence.

But humans (sapiens) evolved and began to become dominant, creating fire and agriculture and domesticating animals for work and food. Humans then added engines, fossil fuels and technology to control the environment.

Balkind hopes people interested in the “EVO 3” sculpture will come to observe it not just during the day but also at night, when illumination of the sculpture gives it a different look, creating both shadows and illumination.

“Our conquest of habitats was so successful that sapiens’ activity became the dominant influence on climate and the environment,” he said. But because of the side effects of fossil fuels and human consumption in general, Balkind and many others believe, we’re destroying our planet. The third era, artificial intelligence, arrived with the advent of the internet and algorithm technology that has led to social polarization, along with “conspiracy theories and encouraging people to be in self-referencing bubbles, confusing truth with lies,” Balkind said. Artificial intelligence, he continued, “knows more about us than we know Right: Aubrey Belkind

“To try to understand yourself, you have to look at your dark side, which has a lot of meaning,” he said. “Sometimes you can learn more from the darkness than the light.” For more information about Sane Living, visit www.saneliving.com




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Yoga hayden bean was farming in mendocino – specializing in rich cannabis, regenerative agriculture and animal husbandry – when he discovered a deeply spiritual connection with goats. “Have you ever looked into a goat’s eyes? They see right through you,” said Bean, 28, who was raised in Ojai and has been working in farming for more than a decade. “The goats are the real shamans,” he continued. “When you get down on the ground with them, it triggers this kind of prenatal, mother-child, nurturing relationship.” Because Bean was already immersed in a Hatha yoga practice, he began brainstorming ways to integrate goats and yoga. “One day I woke up and said, ‘I want to do goat yoga,’,” recalled Bean. “This is something I want to share with people. I feel like I’m here to introduce people to the magic of goats.” Goat yoga, simply put, is the practice of doing yoga with goats present. As humans do their yoga poses, the goats mingle in various ways, including quietly nuzzling on people and occasionally gently standing upon a person’s back. While no official scientific studies or research have been specifically conducted on the benefits of humans doing yoga with goats, proponents claim the therapeutic benefits include automatic relaxation, a lifted spirit, diminished sadness or grief, and an improved overall sense of well-being. Additionally, “there’s something hum-


Coming soon to a barn near you; now our Ojai lifestyle is complete.

bling about it,” Bean said. “If the goat comes over and takes a poop on your brand new yoga pants, you’ll have to take it in stride. That’s part of the joy and laughter and the dance with the goats and the lessons they can teach you about being humble and not taking yourself too seriously.” Bean, who is currently collaborating with a farm in Meiners Oaks that has baby goats and mild-mannered female goats. He describes his vision for goat yoga as a “balancing of beings” because “the goats are so good at reading people.” This is important, Bean emphasized, because “yoga isn’t always this glamorous thing that’s advertised.” Rather, “the deep parts of yoga are involving shadow work and connection with yourself and source, and sometimes that can be really dark and scary, and sometimes people go to these really intense places within themselves. And these goats are this really nice ally or partner, they help keep things light. They help laughter and joy come out of the experience.” Bean noted that he was first introduced to the magic of nature and the plant kingdom during his time as a gardener at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum, where he worked for five years before graduating. He currently runs his own landscaping and gardening business, in which he integrates his experience from farming, yoga and horticulture to design, install and maintain regenerative and medicinal landscapes in Ojai and the greater Ventura County area. In the lives of his clients, Bean saw the need for cultivating a holistic mother-child nature connection.

“Traditional yoga didn’t go far enough in developing this relationship,” said Bean, adding that his desire to launch goat yoga grew out of this need, which he can complement with his unique skill set. “Through farming I discovered animal husbandry and the relationship between human and animal, and how that develops a sense of being able to trust yourself and set boundaries. Things that have real practical applications you can learn from animals.” While goat yoga might seem “arbitrary” and “almost gimmicky,” Bean maintains “there really is something kind of deeper to it that isn’t just a photo op, it’s a connection.”



him and whispered a mantra in his ear. “I felt like I was being filled up with warm water; I felt like every molecule in my body started vibrating,” Bean recalled. “It was a totally euphoric experience. It blew the lid off my skepticism about the possibilities with yoga – the possibilities with spirituality and the human connection.” This incident was a turning point in Bean’s life where he discovered the potential that yoga could have as far as healing people, “and opening people back up … to all the good things that people have been missing – now especially.” Through goat yoga, these animals “offer the opportunity to look our primal joy and laughter directly in the eyes,” Bean said. Additionally, “they challenge the students and accentuate an ancient healing modality that is sometimes drained of its true potential by the The craze of goat yoga “is this relatively recent human-animal relationship that we’re trying to cultivate,” Bean said. “And I feel like we’re pioneering a new wave of connection with not just nature, but connection with yourself.” The path that led Bean to discover “the magic” of goats came about serendipitously when he was about 20 years old and thinking about dropping out of college. “I was really in a dark place, dealing with severe depression, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” he remembered. “So I took some time off school and it was a really amazing experience because I was trying all these different things … and going to different yoga studios to find something that works.” In 2010, he was invited to Los Angeles for an event that honored Mata Amritanandamayi, an Indian-born spiritual leader known as the Hugging Saint. “I was skeptical initially – at that time I was very cynical,” admitted Bean, whose cynicism dissipated as soon as the guru was in his presence, embraced

sterile and materialistic translation to the West and English.” Goat yoga is the best of both worlds, he said, allowing for people to experience a more well-rounded connection to nature and to themselves. “This is the ultimate goal of yoga; to connect, to strengthen the prenatal ties to our true self that we may have forgotten in our rush to grow up.” For more information, contact Hayden Bean at hbean603@gmail.com.


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Unearthing “From the first human handprint on a cave wall, we’re part of something continuous. So, we…don’t really die.” — Basil Brown from ‘The Dig’ In the new Netflix film, The Dig, amateur archeologist Basil Brown excavates an Anglo-Saxon burial ship on the property of Edith Pretty in Suffolk, England. The discovery—the Sutton Hoo Treasure— was a momentous one. It would transform our understanding of the so-called “Dark Ages,” when waves of Anglo-Saxon invaders conquered England after the fall of the Roman Empire. “The Dark Ages are no longer dark!” exclaims one of Brown’s assistants, referring to the wealth of art, culture, and treasure discovered in the ship’s burial chamber. As I watched The Dig, I was fascinated by the character of Basil Brown. In the film, as in real life, Brown is respected as an excavator but discounted as an archeologist and scholar. Brown recognizes his limitations, but he more than makes up for them with his passion for learning, attention to detail, and investigative instincts. He tells Edith’s young son Robert that the most important part of an archeologist’s body is his nose. “If there’s something there, he’ll know it by the smell.” While watching the film, I was reminded of my visit to the British Museum’s Sutton Hoo exhibit in 1959. Then a tenyear-old boy from Ojai, I was amazed at what treasures could be found in a back yard or a plowed field. But what would an archeological dig possibly uncover in Ojai? What buried secrets would be revealed? Right: Bob Browne. Ojai’s own amateur archeologist, Browne, made history in 1961 when he unearthed two ancient stone effigies in his backyard dig. At the time, they were the oldest works of art ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere.

The 1939 discovery of Sutton Hoo by archeologist Basil Brown, recently celebrated in the Netflix movie “The Dig,” was mirrored in 1957 when Ojai archeologist Robert Browne uncovered a hoard of stone-age treasures in Mira Monte.



Little did I know that at that very moment an Ojai man—an amateur archeologist not unlike Basil Brown — was coaxing an archeological treasure from his own backyard in the Ojai Valley. It was a treasure not of gold, but stone-age tools and other artifacts left by a people who predated the Anglo-Saxons by over 5,000 years. That man was Robert Owen “Bob” Browne—“Brownie” to his many friends. In 1959, Browne was quietly overseeing a team of professional archeologists, students, and volunteers who had descended on his property. Between 1957 and 1964, Browne and his crew would uncover over 4,000 stone artifacts, including two effigies that have transformed what we know about these early inhabitants of Southern California. When he died in 1993, Bob Browne’s life and many accomplishments were widely celebrated throughout Ventura County. Today, with the release of The Dig and the renewed interest it has generated in archeology, it’s a good time to retell the story of this modest man who did so much to uncover and preserve the history of the Ojai Valley. Robert O. Browne was born June 21, 1902, in Denver, Colorado. In a tribute to Bob following his death in 1993, one of Bob’s Ojai proteges, David Mason, wrote: “As a young man growing up in Denver, Bob wasn’t much interested in the games other neighborhood boys were playing, nor did the Teddy Bear fad that was sweeping the nation particularly catch his attention. What did excite him, however, was the Denver Museum,

which was just down the street from his home. He would spend many hours in the museum after school and on weekends. He was always eager for the knowledge of history and was particularly interested in the artifacts that were on display.” Bob received his formal education at Denver’s Regis College where he majored in chemistry. While still in college, he was introduced to his future wife, Malinda “Linda” Hennings, who fortunately shared his lifelong interest in history and became his closest partner during his many archeological digs. As one friend put it, “Bob had the wisdom and good fortune in choosing a wife who did not repeatedly say, “Get rid of these 4,000 rocks!” Bob’s first job was working as a chemical engineer in the oil fields of Wyoming. It was a hardscrabble frontier life, recalled Linda. In 1927 the Browne’s moved to California where Bob accepted an offer to work at Standard Oil’s natural gas operations near Long Beach. Bob worked in the Los Angeles area for most of his career, but in the early 1950s he transferred to Ventura County. In 1956, he and Linda decided to move to the beautiful Ojai Valley. A FORTUITOUS DISCOVERY One of the first homes Bob and Linda looked at was in the Mira Monte area. Linda made her way into the house while Bob remained outside to “look around.” He noticed some rocks lying by the front gate and knew immediately that they were not ordinary rocks but ancient indigenous artifacts. Like Basil Brown eighteen years earlier, Bob instinctively realized that he was standing on an important archeological site. Bob rushed into the house and, without looking at any of the rooms inside, announced to the realtor that they would buy it. Linda was taken by surprise, but she knew Bob never made impulsive decisions unless there was a good reason. Once escrow closed, Bob began searching for the source of the artifacts he had seen by the gate. “When we started to tear up our yard the neighbors thought we were crazy,” Bob said. “But after we explained what we


were doing and showed them some of the results, they got caught up in the excitement of the project. It was a good thing, for it turned out that artifacts from the ancient settlement were also dug from our neighbors’ properties.” Soon Bob began engaging professional archeologists, students, and local volunteers to help him excavate and document the over 4,000 artifacts that would be found. Between 1957 and 1964 the dig went on quietly so as not to alert looky-loos who might disturb the carefully excavated site. One archeologist working on the project was Roberta Greenwood, then a UCLA graduate student. Greenwood helped Bob analyze and document the dig, which she named The Browne Site in his honor. In the preface to her 1969 paper, The Browne Site: Early Milling Stone Horizon in Southern California, she wrote: “This research is an example of the fruitful results which can be obtained through cooperation between the professional archeologist and the socalled and oft-maligned amateur. With no financial assistance from any sources, four years of field work and a year of analysis were made possible by the perseverance of Mr. and Mrs. Robert O. Browne, the dedication of a large volunteer crew, and the invaluable advice from many specialists.” Unlike Basil Brown in The Dig, Browne was credited with the discovery from the beginning. Greenwood’s analysis showed The Browne Site was a stone-age village inhabited by a people called The Milling Stone Horizon between 3,500 and 7,000 years ago. These resourceful people occupied the site for nearly 1,000 years, living on acorns, seeds, nuts, berries, grasshoppers, and small rodents.



shouts of joy. Bob ran across the field hollering something about the find of all finds. He nearly tore the back door off its hinges racing into the house.”

Their tools were primarily grinding stones — manos and metates — with only a few rudimentary blades and projectile points. There was evidence of a central ramada but no huts, suggesting the people slept under the many oak trees that once covered the hills. The village overlooked a now extinct lake fed by a river that originated in the Sespe. A HISTORIC FIND One day in 1961, Bob was digging at the site when he made a momentous discovery that captured the attention of archeologists and historians everywhere. It was a stone, frog-like effigy carved from diorite—at that time the earliest work of art ever discovered in the Western Hemisphere. Linda Browne described the day Bob found “George, the Google-Eyed Gastohooper”—her pet name for the stone carving. “People ten miles away in Ventura probably heard my husband’s

Bob called Roberta Greenwood who lived in Pacific Palisades and told her, “Drop whatever you’re doing and get here as quickly as you can. We’ve really stumbled onto something!” Greenwood wasted no time driving to Ojai because she knew Bob didn’t excite easily. The chiseled, dense and heavy diorite stone figure with protruding eyes, wide mouth, and recessed chin looked vaguely like a fish, but Greenwood thought it was most likely a now-extinct amphibian related to the frog. Soon, another similar effigy was found that looked like a tadpole. They were clearly sophisticated works of art, perhaps held by a shaman during religious ceremonies. The two effigies made news across the country and, through Greenwood’s scholarly papers, became part of the scientific record. NOT AN ISOLATED PROJECT Archeologists around the world took notice of Bob’s discovery…and his exceptional skills as an excavator and archeological field director. In 1966 he was invited by Louis and Mary

Below. Roberta “Bobby” Greenwood. Greenwood was a professional archeologist who helped Browne document his many archeological digs, including The Browne Site in Ojai, the San Buenaventura Mission (Albinger Site) and the Santa Gertrudis Chapel.


Leakey to join them in Africa’s Olduvai Gorge. Newly retired, Bob spent a month with the Leakeys, helping them to uncover some of the earliest human remains. Bob did not rest on his laurels or leave Ojai to pursue greater fame. He returned to the valley where he continued to uncover other sites around Ventura County. He led teams that studied the Ventura Chumash village of Shishoalop and the Upper Ojai Chumash village of Awha’y (A-HA-EE), after which the Ojai Valley is named. In late 1966 the foreman of a bean field just south of Foster Park told Bob about an area of the field where a lot of unusual rocks were found. The State was planning an extension of the Ojai Freeway that would soon cover the area, so Bob convinced CalTrans to postpone construction long enough for him to study the site. It turned out to be the remnants of the Santa Gertrudis Asistencia, a sub-mission for the San Buenaventura Mission. The chapel was built on the El Camino Real, which ran from Ventura to Casitas Springs and over what is now Casitas Pass to Carpinteria. In 1968, Bob finished his dig and the site was buried by the new freeway. A memorial plaque is now mounted on stones taken from the Santa Gertrudis ruins; located along Ventura Avenue just south of Foster Park. In the early 1970s, Bob saw a bulldozer digging around the San Buenaventura Mission. He ordered the operator to stop and notified Moorpark College archeology professor Robert Lopez and Bob’s longtime associate, Roberta Greenwood. With Bob as field director, they initiated a dig that uncovered many important artifacts representing several periods of Ventura history. One volunteer on the Mission dig was John Foster, a young archeologist. When asked about the dig, Foster said, “I thought of Brownie after seeing "The Dig" and that was pretty much who he was.” The artifacts from the Ventura Mission dig are now housed in the Albinger Archaeological Museum in Ventura, which Bob helped to found.

Other archeological projects supervised by Bob include the Foothills Hotel in Ojai, the San Buenaventura Mission Aqueduct off Cañada Larga Road, Ferndale Ranch, Diablo Canyon, and the Ortega Adobe. Edith Pretty donated the Sutton Hoo artifacts to both the British Museum in London and the Ipswich Museum in Suffolk. Although Bob donated his two artistic effigies to the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, he wanted a place in Ojai to display his extensive collection. In the early 1960s, Ojai had no museum, so Bob decided to create one. He turned his full attention, along with his knowledge, investigative skills, artistic talents; and organizational abilities, toward establishing an Ojai museum. PRESERVING AND DISPLAYING OJAI’S HISTORY. In 1966 Bob and Linda teamed up with Effie Skelton, a local realtor, to found the Ojai Valley Museum and Historical Society. David Mason noted: “Despite the time required for his position with Standard Oil and the time he spent in and out of archeological digs—from Ferndale to the Ventura Beach and all points in between—Bob found the time to become one of the founders and the first president of the Ojai Valley Museum.” As always, Linda was his


most dedicated and supportive partner. Bob handled the big ideas and creative aspects of the museum while Linda took on key research and managerial duties. Because of the enormous respect for him in the community, Bob attracted the support of many community leaders and wealthy donors. He convinced the descendants of early Ojai families to dig through their attics to add to the many artifacts he contributed from his own collection. Bob did everything: he curated the museum’s collection, built display cases, painted backdrops, nurtured the museum’s growth through four locations, and taught a generation of schoolchildren about Ojai’s history. When he died in 1993 at the age of 91, Bob was still the museum’s primary curator. David Mason concluded his tribute to Bob Browne with these words: “On August 24, 1993, the community of Ojai lost this beloved man. He was kindly and generous in his attitude toward all benevolent objects, stood for the best things in life, and supported those institutions which tend to elevate the standard of human existence. He was one of those solid men of brain and substance so essential to the material growth and prosperity of a community, a man whom to know was to respect and admire, and his death was looked upon as a distinct loss to the whole community.” You told me that your work’s not for the past or even the present. It’s for the future, so that the next generations can know where they came from … the line that joins them to their forebearers. — May Brown, Basil Brown’s wife, in "The Dig".

Above: Effie Skelton. An Ojai realtor, Skelton became alarmed that Ojai’s past was being lost. In 1966 she teamed up with Browne to found the Ojai Valley Museum.



Working WITH“Brownie” I worked with Bob Browne on one project, which was eventually to become the Albinger Archaeological Museum on Main Street in Ventura; Bob was the field director on the project and Roberta "Bobby" Greenwood (of Greenwood and Associates) was what we call the Principal Investigator and she principally worked in the site laboratory which was the muffler shop, now museum for the site. Bob’s job, as far as I know was to make sure we were moving fast enough to obtain enough information to get a handle on the different cultural components at the site, which was exceedingly complex. It was 1974 when I worked there for several months as an “excavator.” The rest of the crew were mostly college students specializing in anthropology with a subdiscipline in archaeology. Most of the excavators had several excavations under their belts from field schools run by various colleges across the state. “We were pretty full of ourselves,” is the way one person put it. I should add that most of the crew knew each other in some capacity having been in the same field school classes or having met at meetings (state conferences), so we were essentially a unit. When we first met “Brownie” which is what we called him, we viewed him with some skepticism due to his age (old guy) and particularly when we found he didn’t have a formal education in archaeology. However, Roberta we did know, she was highly respected, and we were mostly afraid of her and so we kept our doubts about Brownie to ourselves, but they lay there in the back of our minds. Brownie would have to prove himself to us or so we thought. Most college field directors that I had worked with prior to this experience were one of two types. One type was totally disinterested in what they were

doing and let the students run the excavation. They would show up at a site, talk about what was known about the site and have us set up units of excavation to “sample” the site. They would often have one or more previous students run the dig as “crew chiefs.” The other type of field director was usually an advanced student (MA or Ph.D. candidate). These latter types ran the full gamut of skill, confidence, and socialization. Many of them lacked self-confidence and tended to be very authoritarian and confrontational. They yelled a lot. With these field director templates in mind we waited for Brownie on the first day. Right and Below: Bob Browne working on the Santa Gertrudis Chapel dig in 1967; one of the two stone effigies Browne uncovered at his home in Mira Monte; Bob in an Ojai Valley Museum storage room in 1990.



Roberta introduced the crews (laboratory and field) and then gave some background to us. She introduced us to Brownie as our field director and he proceeded to detail teams of two to different parts of the site. Each team would then receive detailed information on how provenience was to be established, how we logged artifact bags, depth of levels, and various other details. A friend of mine and myself were positioned in a Mission Period building that housed the Native Americans. Stone foundations marked the walls and rooms of the structure. Brownie showed us where he wanted us to dig, discussed the paperwork we were to do, how to label the bags, how the soil was

to be moved from our work area to an area where the soil was to be wet screened. He then asked us if we had any questions. Instead of a dry question/ answer period, what followed was an actual discussion. We were kind of shocked that Brownie listened to us and considered what we had to say. If we made a suggestion, he would consider it, sometimes modify it, but more often than not, told us to go ahead with our idea. We felt valued. After that he would visit each excavation unit, speak to the excavators, and then leave us alone. This was great stuff. Roberta would also occasionally visit the site and order some changes in either methods or techniques. On one occasion she asked my dig partner and me to map one room filled with thousands of cow bones. This was daunting since the room was something like 8 x 8 feet and there were literally thousands of bones to map. This meant each bone had to be measured, then placed in the paper grid by measuring distance from the north and west edges. They were all the same depth so thankfully that measurement didn’t come into play. We got a large piece of graph paper and a board to place it on and got to work and wondering what we had done to be relegated to archaeology hell. Brownie came out at the end of the day and wandered over to our unit and watched us intently for several minutes and then asked us what we were doing? “Mapping bones,” we said. “Why?” he asked My partner and I looked at each other and said, “We don’t know.” He frowned and stomped off to the laboratory building. I was to later learn that he had protested vigorously that we were wasting time mapping bones that had very little information potential. He lost the argument but everyday he


would visit us, watch us for a while, and then shake his head, and go to the next unit. It would have been funny but for the fact that it took us soooooo long to map those bones. If you would allow me, we were “bone tired” of them. As the excavation progressed Brownie built our shaker screen, wash racks, and was quite adept at building useful tools and methods to make our work easier. We grew to appreciate his skill, his methodical and meticulous approach to archaeology. He had an easy smile, a dry sense of humor, and a warmth that made everyday of hard digging easier. If you did something wrong, he would stare at you, raise one eyebrow, and then purse his lips like he just bit something way too sour. We quickly learned that it was best to avoid the “one arched eye-brow look.” We grew to appreciate this “amateur” and were quite fond of him by the end of that season. In conversations with him we found that he wasn’t seeking any validation of his skills or knowledge from us or anyone else because he was sure of his own abilities and observations. This was not common among archaeologists. He also differed markedly from other archaeologists in one significant way and that he wasn’t concerned so much “with finding answers to questions but finding new questions to be asked.” Thus, he inspired a new generation of archaeologists. As an aside, when I became part owner of Greenwood and Associates some 40 years later, I found the “bone map” in a paper tube, unused, and forgotten. Brownie had been right. John Foster is Vice-President of Greenwood and Associates, an archeological consulting firm. John has been a practicing archeologist for over 32 years and has consulted on numerous archeological digs. In 1974 John worked under Bob Browne on the dig next to the San Buenaventura Mission that would become the Albinger Museum.



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TARZAN had nothin’ on me and my buddies!

LOOK BACK IN OJAI with Drew Mashburn Contributed on behalf of the Ojai Valley Museum


n about 1966, Mark Madsen — Viking descent, not raised by apes, but kinda ape-ish — and I decided we’d build a tree fort. Mark’s parents had moved to Modesto, so Mark moved in with me to finish out the school year at Matilija Junior High School. We knew of a huge Coastal Live Oak that was on a hillside in the old English Walnut groves that bordered the upper end of Mirror Lake and overlooked the railroad (now, the “Ojai Valley Trail”) in Mira Monte. The grand old oak’s limbs reached the ground clear around it’s large drip line. It was perfect for slipping under to hide because nobody could see you. This made it a great place to construct our private tree fort. We let a few of our buds know about the fort and had them give us a hand in erecting it. Not just because we liked the guys, but because we needed to rob the wood of their dads. We’d already stolen all of my dad’s extra wood and most of his nails. I’ll bet that tree was about 60 feet high. I don’t recall how we did it, but

we hung a thick, manila bull rope from about 30 feet up or better. We’d swing from one thick limb to about 3/4’s of the way across the tree’s canopy, then latch onto a smaller rope and swing a few feet further and set onto another large limb. We found an inch-thick steel cable, then attached it way up high in the oak. We stretched it out beyond the trees’ outermost limbs, then secured it way high up in a Southern California black walnut tree. We even put a pulley on the cable, but we could only hang onto the pulley and ride it about half-way from one tree to the other because the cable sagged in the middle. That cable was just too dang heavy for us to get taut enough. Sometimes, we’d sling a leg over the cable and shimmy under it from one tree to the other. Our tree fort’s floor was about 15 feet above ground level. High enough to keep the enemies at bay. We had a bunch of dirt clod, rock and sling-shot fights with Scotty Alderson, Russell Glenn and a few other dudes that were jealous of our nesting spot. Eddie Kneeland took a sling-shotted marble in the back. His mom never let him visit again. It’s good nobody got killed or lost an eye, but I’d never give up those fun times. Unfortunately, the beautiful old oak and tree fort were razed so the Mirror Lake tract homes could be built. Fortunately, tree protection laws have been

established to prevent further needless destruction of our heritage trees. Before Mark’s parents hightailed it to Modesto, they lived in a cool old Craftsman home on N. Signal Street in Ojai. Their front yard was enclosed by many tall bushes. I have no idea what type of bushes, but a couple of them yielded tons of small, firm berries. These berries made great ammo for our small, lightweight sling-shots that cost us about a dime each at the TG&Y Store. We’d load all of our pockets with as many berries as we could stuff in them, then we’d hoof it down to the northwest corner of Ojai Avenue and N. Signal Street. (This was pre-

Circa 1965 - 1966. Drew Mashburn, Mark Madsen and Blake Mashburn (Drew’s brother) in Drew’s bedroom when Mark was living with Drew so he could finish out the school year of 1965 to 1966. This home was on S. Rice Road in Mira Monte. Drew’s father donned the home to be the “Poor Man’s Ponderosa”.


1970. Rick Askam, Lonnie Davidson and Drew Mashburn enjoying the shade of an English Walnut Tree in the front yard of Drew’s parents S. Rice Road, Mira Monte home (AKA: Poor Man’s Ponderosa).

automated traffic signal days.) On the corner was a tall tree. It was just inside the tall stucco wall of The Oaks Hotel’s property. We’d climb up onto the top of the wall and perch there until the coast was clear, then clamber up into the tree where the thick foliage concealed us. Out came our slingshots and berries. We never shot at any people or animals, but man did we splatter bunches of vehicles as they proceeded through the intersection! To this day, I believe Mark was the instigator. I attended kindergarten in 1956-’57 in Mrs. Sutherland’s class at Ojai Elementary School. Mom and Dad used to let me walk to school and home which

was on E. Aliso Street and backed up to Sarzotti Park. Why do I mention this? Well, I don’t recall climbing any trees before my kindergarten days. The kindergarten building was behind Ojai Elementary School (AKA: Nordhoff Grammar School) which faces Ojai Avenue. In front of the school are several really old pepper trees that line the sidewalk that parallels Ojai Avenue. I don’t think there’s a single one of them that I failed to scale their gnarly old trunks. They are some of my favorite trees in the entire Ojai Valley. But, there are many other trees that I have found or find to be special and/or memorable to me in our lovely valley like: The huge old Coastal Live Oak in my front yard that I recently found a barely decipherable ‘49 (year?) carved into it’s bent trunk; the monstrous old oak in my childhood buddy’s (Danny Nickerson’s) Park Road home that had a rope swing on which we’d swing for hours on end; the leaning pepper tree that was in front of the Hitching Post hamburger joint (now, Seafresh Restaurant) and next to the old hitching post where I saw horses tied in the shade; the white bark birch trees my Dad planted on his well-manicured


dichondra lawn on E. Aliso Street; the old English Walnut trees at my parents S. Rice Road home that Dad named the “Poor Man’s Ponderosa.” “Sparrow Hawk Tree” near “Crack-In-The-Rock” between old man Mercer’s citrus orchard and Shelf Road. Martin Ford introduced me to this area where we hunted with our wooden “Wham-O” slingshots; Ojai’s “Bicentennial Tree” on Soule Park Golf Course that used to be a stagecoach stop and where I’d cool down the three summers (‘67, ‘68 and ‘69) I worked on the maintenance crew during high school; the huge Modesto Ash at my old S. Padre Juan home that I built horseshoe pits under and played many a great game with my friends and family; the enormous Modesto Ash I had to have removed at my present home because it was lifting the home’s foundation. That sucker cost me $2K to remove, but worse yet, because it was so big, I had to pull a $100 building permit and provide an arborist’s report; the list could go on and on. We had and have so many wonderful trees in the Ojai Valley. Please .... respect and honor them. Some of them will leave you with some very special memories!

Above: Pepper tree located on the N/E corner of Ojai Ave. & N. Montgomery St. on the grounds of Ojai Elementary School (AKA: Nordhoff Grammar School). Drew Mashburn scaled this tree several times when he was a kindergartner.  Left:  Coastal Live Oak with bent trunk in Drew Mashburn’s front yard in Meiners Oaks. 



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44years by TERRY TALLENT



in a shoe box D

o you remember where you were last year on this date? Do you remember what you did that day? Did you go to work? Did you travel somewhere? Were you sick? Did you go out that night, or did you stay home and watch TV? Well, like most people, you probably remember where you were, but don’t have a clue about the rest of it. Unless that day was a holiday or your birthday or some other momentous occasion there is just no way to distinguish that date from all the other days. I don’t mean to brag, but I can tell you exactly where I was and what I did a year ago today. Or five years ago for that matter. Or 10 years, or even 40 years ago. Pick a day. Any day. I’ll tell you where I was, what I had for breakfast, where I went, who I was with, and what I did all day long. I’ll tell you what the weather was like if it was dramatic, and what I did that evening and what time I went to bed. No, I do not have an eidetic or photographic memory. I have a shoe box. I have a shoe box with 44 diaries inside. Whoa. You may wonder how in the world I got 44 diaries to fit inside one shoe box. You might surmise I either have extremely large feet, or that my diaries are very small. The second guess would be the better one. Most of my 44 diaries measure a mere four inches high, two and a half inches wide, and three-eighths of an inch thick. By carefully placing them cover to cover, in two long parallel rows along the bottom, and by then stacking the remaining diaries flat above them, it is indeed possible to get all 44 diaries inside one shoe box with room to spare.

If you were to randomly open one of these small one-year diaries you would find that the two pages displayed would show one week. You would find small printing from a fine-point mechanical pencil filling the five lined spaces allotted for each day. These small notations would be short phrases separated from each other by a slash. Activities would be cited, along with the times, places and names of people. What I ate or drank is noted. To save space there would be numerous abbreviations. You would find odd symbols like an asterisk or a square or a circle or an X. Each symbol, of course, would have its own meaning. In this way I am able to record almost everything I did on any particular day in less than two square inches of space. You might be asking yourself why anyone would want to do such a thing. I mean like, “Who the hell cares what you did all day?” Right? I’ve given a lot of thought to this question lately as I sit here contemplating the shoe box containing a detailed record of my life for almost half a century. It wasn’t an easy task to accomplish, you know. What value does it have after all? And, yes, who really cares? Well, I’ve come up with some answers for you and me. But first, let’s talk a little more about the diary. I usually write in my diary at the end of the day when I’m lying in my bed before going to sleep. I find it’s easier to remember what I did then, rather than waiting till morning. In the morning I will have undoubtedly forgotten a few things. I am also more likely to be thinking ahead and in a hurry to be up and about and embarked on the new day.

It usually takes me from five to seven minutes to record what I did on any given day. I estimate I spend about 40 minutes a week writing in my diary. That translates into about two hours and 40 minutes a month, or roughly 32 hours a year. Think about that. That’s the equivalent of working at it for four eight-hour days. Multiply four eight-hour days times 44 years, and what do you get? 176 eight-hour days. We’re talking the equivalent of working eight-hour days every day for almost six months. That’s a half of a year of my life! “Why the hell bother?” you continue to wonder, somewhat ingenuously. Don’t worry, we’ll come to that. I was 30 years old when I began keeping a diary. I don’t remember exactly why. Most likely it was because I thought I had had a fairly interesting life up until that point and regretted not having a record of it. At the daunting age of 30 I bemoaned the fact that my youth was a thing of the past. I remember thinking of myself as over the hill, as an old man. Ha. And I regretted not having some record of those tumultuous years of my often misspent youth. In rare sentimental moments I wanted to relive some of them. But of course I knew I couldn’t. I could never go back and recapture those days for I could only remember a fraction of them. I had forgotten much more than I could ever possibly remember. Sound familiar? I decided the only thing I could do now was to go forward. I perhaps suspected I might still have an interesting life in the years to come. Maybe I wanted to start a diary at 30 so that as a truly old man I would be able to look back and



get a clearer picture of what I was up to in those years. It would be amusing perhaps, and hopefully not too sad. I began writing my diary in January of 1976. From that humble beginning I have faithfully recounted the daily events of my life up until now in the year 2021. I had moved frequently over those years, worked at different professions, lived in various parts of the country and overseas, and did a good deal of traveling. I guess you could say I lived a life of studied carelessness. But no matter where I was living at the end of each year I always bought a new diary for the upcoming year. I bought them at stationery stores or online, trying to purchase the same size and brand, but one with a different colored cover from the previous year. Those of you who are mathematically inclined may have already cranked the numbers and detected an apparent error. If it is true I began keeping my diaries in 1976, and that it is now 2021, the number of diaries I claim to have is incorrect. There should be 45 diaries, not 44. “Why is that?” you might ask. Well, I’m red-faced to report that one diary is indeed missing -- the diary for 1998, one of my most varied and unusual diaries. That was the year my wife and I were living in Berlin, Germany. She was there on a one year contract with an international hotel company. We had numerous adventures while living in Berlin. We met interesting people, made dear friends, and did a fair amount of traveling around Europe in 1998. It was on one of these trips that I lost my diary. On an evening in late November of that year we had just arrived at the main train station in Florence, Italy. We had come after spending three days on the coast, at Cinque Terre. We were inside the terminal standing before the large, brightly lit schedule, looking for the next train to Rome. My diary was in my flight bag sitting atop the suitcase on wheels which stood next to and a little behind me.

While gazing up at the train schedule, I was professionally relieved of the flight bag by a young, talented and nimble-fingered thief. I sensed it almost immediately and turned towards the agile crook as he headed for the door. I started to chase after him, but was then surprised when an apparent accomplice (an older man) “accidentally” crossed in front of me. We collided. Somehow we became entangled and by the time I extricated myself and reached the door, the young bandito had disappeared into the darkness. The heist had been admirably consummated, a veritable work of art worthy of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Gone was my flight bag which I’m sure they hoped contained great riches. Alas, it only contained two bottles of wine, my dirty laundry, my toiletries, and my diary. Luckily, no money, no passport, no tickets. But my little book with eleven months of entries for 1998 had been sucked into the shady Florentine underworld, never to be seen again. Back in January 1976, when I first began keeping a diary, I had just returned from a two year stint in America’s own version of the French Foreign Legion — the Peace Corps. I was stationed out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the remote islands of Western Samoa. While living in that fabled South Sea paradise I kept a journal of sorts, noting from time to time my observations on the Samoans and their culture, describing my own small adventures, recounting my romances, and outlining my work as a teacher of island youths. I also gave vent to my loneliness and bemoaned the relentless boredom. I discovered that it is not as easy living on a tropical island as I had once imagined. After six months I had done just about everything it is possible to do on an island out in the middle of nowhere. For every rare highlight there were days and weeks of boring sameness and tedium. But that’s another story. The point being: keeping a journal is different from keeping a diary.

A journal is like a novel whereas a diary is more like a short story. A journal gives you plenty of room to wander and describe and ruminate at your leisure. In my mind, a diary is far more utilitarian. A diary is a place for a more concise recording of daily events without all the flowers and thistles of interpretation. It is something like a ship’s log. So back to the question of what is the value in keeping a diary? Well, I have learned a few things by keeping one over the decades. For one thing, I discovered that when I read an entry from long ago I find the merest outline of a day can spark all sorts of memories. It puts me there in that time and place, and causes me to see and remember much more about that day than is actually written. And by looking back and forward from that entry I can really get a sense of where my head was back then. When I browse my old diaries I sometimes feel that I know more about what was really going on in my life than I did when I was actually living it. In some cases I can clearly see the disasters and the successes coming before they occurred. Keeping a diary for an extended period of time helps me remember and learn from the past. It keeps me honest. Its contents are deeply personal. Which begs the question — When I cease to exist, of what possible use could my diaries be to anyone else? Answer: Sometime in the distant future they may well be of interest to people of an academic persuasion, including cultural anthropologists. After all, the diaries cover a long time-period; they have variety; and they contain a host of detail. If my diaries survive me, and were digitized, they could be studied as raw data. Patterns would emerge, conclusions could be drawn, stories could be told. They would stand as a record of one person’s life before the backdrop of a particularly dynamic period in human history.




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©2021 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 principals of the Fair Housing Act.

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He crossed the racial divides of his era, and designed some of LA’s most iconic buildings. The first African American to become a member of the AIA, he also created some of Ojai’s most beloved homes.




021 marks one century since Paul Revere Williams earned his California architecture license, kicking off an illustrious and fruitful career in this state. Williams — one of the first AfricanAmerican architects ever to practice in this country — has been having a posthumous renaissance of sorts in this brand new “Mad Decade.” Within the last year, both a PBS documentary (“Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story”) and a photography book (“Regarding Paul R. Williams: A Photographer’s View” by Janna Ireland) have come out, depicting his ingenuity in designing homes for many a star in the Golden Age of Cinema. The touch of that architectural original also has its corners within our neck of the woods, too. Paul R. Williams designed four places in Ojai. There’s the Ford Hacienda, commissioned by a cousin of the car magnate Henry Ford, which was completed in 1929. Also completed that year was the Augur Ranch on Tower Road, commissioned by oilman Irving V. Augur, though the main property was demolished in 1960. Years later, in 1941, Williams helped design what is now the Ojai Retreat and Cultural Center for Louis Zalk, one of the founding fathers of the Besant Hill School of Happy Valley.

Paul Revere Williams

But the very first abode Williams created here in the Ojai Valley was the James S. Riley residence, a 5-bed, 5-bath Spanish Colonial Revival home; it was finished in 1927.


The commissioner of the investment firm Drake, Riley and Thomas, and his family moved into the house at the price of $20,000 in 1928. This home is back on the market now, having been lived in by several intrigued owners in the last (nearly) 100 years. Mary Pat and Robert “Rif” Revisky, originally from the Thousand Oaks area, found themselves captivated by the home on a spontaneous trip to Ojai one day in 1971. Says Mary Pat, “It wasn’t even on the market. We met the occupants later, Jim and Kay Bernier. We negotiated back and forth and we bought it in August of that year.” Aged 27 at the time, she says “… we were young and we just had to have it. We both loved Mediterranean and Spanish architecture; that’s mainly what pulled us towards the house. There were several in the Ojai area, but we liked Foothill Road. We saw a lot of wildlife in the back of the house.” Around the corner lived Denny Miller, best known for his titular role in 1959’s “Tarzan, the Ape Man.” “It was a good place for young people to grow up,” she adds. When asked what her favorite Williams-designed feature of the house was, Ms. Revisky answered “the living room. The big beams were so beautiful. And of course, we loved the patio that ran the length of both the living and dining rooms. We loved all five fireplaces. The screens on the windows fascinated me too, as did these two huge deodar [cedar] trees in the backyard.” The Reviskys stayed until

1979. It sold for $325,000 to Dr. Larry Grace and his wife; they then sold it to Luke Campbell, then he to Allen Potts and his family. Rick Ridgeway and his wife, Jennifer, with family in tow, ended up buying the house from the Potts clan. Today, as he prepares to sell the house to a new prospect, Rick describes the depth of veneration he has for the home’s history. “I’ve been in that house for nearly 30 years. I continue to be surprised — even astounded, sometimes — by little details in its design that I continue to discover, that do illustrate what an exceptional and talented architect Paul R. Williams was.” Even recently, Ridgeway has noted the special way an arch-shaped doorway going from the master bedroom to the master bathroom was shaped: “The thick wall between the bedroom and the bathroom has a slight concavity to it, so that as you go from bedroom to bathroom, you’re sort of invited from one room to another. The architecture very gently guides you from one place in the house to another in a very subtle way.” By the swimming pool (an addition by the Ridgeways), Ridgeway states “… you have a vantage of the house, looking back from the east side of the house. I noticed how Williams had to offset the windows of the upper bedroom to make a place for a staircase going up to the second floor.” Because the upper bedroom window was slightly out of alignment from the lower windows to make room


for the staircase, Williams subsequently rearranged all the downstairs window alignments to match, making everything symmetrically asymmetrical. “And I just thought … whoa! He knew what a viewer’s emotions would be in terms of balance looking at that house on its east prospect from a little bit of a distance. It was off-balance, yet it’s all still inbalance. And that’s a master’s hand, who can understand and visualize how the house would appear from different vantages, and to accommodate that into its design so that all the elements were in harmony.”


Back in the day, while Williams was designing much sought after properties, there were, in many areas, deed restrictions in place banning sale to and lodging for certain racial and ethnic groups. While these were struck down by the Shelley v. Kraemer Supreme Court ruling of 1948, Williams still had to work through the thick barriers of racial tension in the first half of the 20th century, even as someone in his rightfully earned position. It is well-documented that Williams drew his plans upside down for white clients while standing a distance away, in case they were to get uncomfortable sitting

Top left: Archictect to the stars. Amongst his most famous clients was Frank Sinatra. Middle: The Theme building at LAX, one of LA’s most iconic landmarks. The Ford Hacienda, Ojai. The Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion designed for William B. Ford, a cousin of Henry Ford. Left: Paul Revere Williams with his wife Della. Above: The 28th Street YMCA, in LA. Left: The Beverly HIlls Hotel. The famous sign was copied from Paul Revere Williams’ own handwriting.



close to him or with his movements. Rick Ridgeway recounts another story, told to him by Williams’ granddaughter Karen Hudson, who paid a visit to the Ridgeways in the ‘90s while completing research on a book about him. As the story goes, one white client — meeting Williams for the first time in an in-person meeting to review the preliminary plans that Williams had drawn up — began giving off vibes that they were not comfortable in his presence. Wordlessly, it was obvious they were uncomfortable with the color of his skin. In the middle of the meeting, Williams stopped and packed up his things. “Everybody froze, because they were afraid of what he was up to,” recalls Ridgeway of Hudson’s narrative. While the exact quote cannot be traced, Williams in essence stated to the clients that he realized they could not afford him, and out the door he serenely glided. Realtor Patty Waltcher, who is representing the house, attributes the enduring legacy of Williams in the world of architecture to his strength of character and to his adaptability. Says Waltcher: “People tried to convince him not to do it because they didn’t think he’d be successful. But, he had such a passion to do it and move forward with it anyway with so many people telling him ‘this is not a good thing for you. You’ll never be successful as a black man.’ He basically penetrated through all those obstacles and became an amazing, prolific architect. He was always changing with the era in terms of architecture and design. In the 1920s, it was still Mission Revival style. In the 1930s and 1940s, he tipped into Mid-Century [Modern]. He kept evolving with the times, like a musician such as David Bowie would; Bowie kept changing his music depending on the generation. Williams was just brilliant at adapting to the new generations and environments, and became incredibly well-respected.” Circling back to the house itself, Waltcher says “It’s extraordinary. Everything in the house has been maintained in an authentic way. Nothing has been really bastardized

into being a ‘modern house’; it still feels alive and vital. The systems of infrastructure have been updated, but the house just has this ageless quality to it: high ceilings, which many people love nowadays, cozy corners. Each of the five fireplaces has unique tile work around it, all original. Everything is like a piece of art.”

was the daughter of the couple who commissioned Paul R. Williams to design the house. She gave us a photo; in it, you can see on the entrance steps of the veranda that there’s a young girl — maybe 5 or 6 years old. She told my wife how fondly she remembered Mr. Williams. What stayed with her was what a kind gentleman he was.

Allen Potts and his wife Ruth restored the house in the 1980s by taking in a few walls and upgrading the plumbing and wiring. “The bones of the house are still in great shape. It was a restoration in the truest sense of the word,” says Ridgeway.

Her parents lost the house after the stock market crash of 1929. She was heartbroken, as she loved the house so much. She told my wife what a grand adventure it was going to the house as a little girl.”

When the Potts family had an open house in the early 1990s, Kay Bernier, by then a widow, and the Reviskys attended, which came to show the strength of the bonds that the former owners had to the house. This sentiment came full-circle when the Ridgeways had just finished settling in. Recalls Ridgeway: “A month after we moved into the house, this elderly woman in a town car with a chauffeur pulled into the driveway. My wife answered. The woman’s name was Barbara de Groot … her maiden name was Riley, and she

That unforgettable exchange has left its mark on Ridgeway and the home itself, as has Williams’ sui generis style and work ethic. Says Ridgeway: “There’s always little discoveries that have always built my respect for him. It’s more than just a respect; it’s a deep appreciation of his skills, his discipline, and — most importantly of all — the inspiration that he created for other African American professionals to build their own success on their terms. That’s the part of my respect for him that I feel is imbued in that house. I hope and pray future owners of this house I’ve been so privileged to live



in will honor that. I’m a kind of person who views home ownership in almost a Buddhist way, where you’re not really the ‘owner,’ you’re just the custodian for a little while. As a custodian of something that has such historical importance in our society, it’s a responsibility that I hope is always held by whoever has that house.” 906 Foothill Road is listed for sale by Patty Waltcher. For more information, visit www.pattywaltcher.com







165 Feliz Dr, Oak View $1,300,000 Amazing 1 acre mountain VIEW property! Located in a quiet peaceful, off-thebeaten-track neighborhood. This 4 + 4 special home has rare artistic touches.

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Joan Roberts 805-223-1811 CalBRE# 00953244

roberts4homes@gmail.com 727 W. Ojai Avenue Ojai, California, 93023

© 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 principals of the Fair Housing Act.






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3860 Grand Ave, Ojai

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 five bed and four bath home is filled with Southern Charm. The wrap around porch looks out onto the gardens; the countru 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.

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520 Buckboard Lane, Ojai

Sitting on over 3 acres in the prestigious Persimmon Hill area of downtown Ojai. This 5 bed, 3.5 bath sprawling ranch style home showcases open beamed vaulted ceilings, a stunning great room with a massive brick fireplace, formal dining room, and a large master suite. The magical meandering pathways lead you to an Artist’s studio. Plenty of charming areas to gather and enjoy the famous Pink Moment or enjoy a swim under the stars in this completely private estate. Private well and solar panels. Country living within walking distance to Libbey Park, shops, restaurants, and the Ojai Bike/Hike Trail. Horses welcome.




Profile for Ojai Valley News

Ojai Magazine Spring 2021  

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