Posts Tagged 'Community'

Save your old shoes

Headed down the hill today to visit John Long at Ojai Valley Imports.  Time for an oil change.  John was a bit scruffier looking than usual but, in his happy way, greeted me with “Hi Fred, how you been?”  For whatever reason, I still think an oil change costs $39.  And I’m always surprised to discover that’s only the half of it.  Must be an age thing.

Sort of like my view of buying shoes.  I remember when Florsheim meant something.  Spend $35 on a pair of Florsheims forty years ago and they were an investment that kept on giving until your wife ripped them off your feet and threw them in the garbage.  I always get wide-eyed at the cost of any kind of shoe, regardless of price.  Must be my upbringing.

I waited under that old fir tree on the corner of Summer and Ojai Avenue, trying to twist old, dead needles into a useful survival tool.  Mercifully, Don arrived and we drove to the Ojai Cafe Emporium for our usual coffee and half a sweet roll.  Like Florsheims, I think their cinnamon rolls have suffered a bit over time.  But their muffins are the best, especially pumpkin.  I could probably eat a whole one but I feel psychologically fitter if I only get a half ration of white flour and sugar.  Besides, I usually bring two home for Sweetie and help her with the eating part.

The place was nearly deserted at 8:15, an unusual event.  I asked the lovely lady behind the counter where everyone was.  No clue.  I joked “maybe they’re all staking claim to prime spots on the avenue for the July 4th parade.”  And then I remembered that the parade is on July 3 because the 4th is a Sunday.

I admit to a certain amount of bristling about the parade being moved to Saturday.  And I remember the brooha that ensued when the parade sponsors made the same decision a few years ago in order to let folks attend church.  Back then I almost wrote a letter to the Ojai Valley News to remind the sponsors that Saturday was a holy day for us desert wanderers.  But then I haven’t been to a temple Saturday service in a long time.  So why should I bitch.  Even so, a July Third parade seems all wrong.

Don and I began with an organ recital (how’s your health), a less than argumentative discussion of who’s really at fault for the state of the economy, Joe Barton’s whole-hearted but bonehead apology to BP, and a review of our latest literary explorations.  I was proud to announce that I was actually reading a piece of non-fiction.  Nothing to Fear by Adam Cohen (who probably would also be ticked at the thought of a July 3rd parade) recounts FDR’s first hundred days in office in 1933.  In the depths of the depression, here comes a guy who had an easy act to follow, Herbert Hoover.  Some would argue that Obama had the same advantage.

As I read the book, I found myself comparing then and now.  Killer unemployment, a banking system on life support, stocks in the toilet, a media that thrives on bad news, and conflicting views on the role of government in an economic holocaust.  FDR and the Democrats win the election in a landslide.  A lock on both houses of congress and the key to the Oval Office.  On Day One, FDR plops himself behind the desk and hasn’t a clue as to what specific steps should be taken.  All he knows is that the banks need oxygen and people need jobs.  And the rest is history.

The only difference between then and now is the sense of urgency.  Not enough people selling apples.  No army of the unemployed on the steps of Congress.  Too few market manipulators leaping from the fifth floor.  And an election cycle that has no beginning and no end.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and things will get worse.  Meanwhile, save your old shoes.

Save Libbey Bowl…why?

The first year that Sweetie and I moved to Ojai we attended the Music Festival.  We had no idea what to expect, including the Libbey Bowl wooden benches imported from Spain after Torquemada had finished with them.

We sat close to the front, not wanting to miss a dulcet tone, a memorable phrase, a catchy tune.  Warmly placed between what turned out to be veteran Festival goers, we patiently waited for the program to begin.  A middle-aged man emerged to polite applause, plunked himself before the impressive Steinway and began to play.  It’s been years since we experienced his performance and perhaps my memory is a bit clouded, but I swear he was playing with his elbows.

Sweetie and I looked at each other, screwed up our faces and wondered if this was a joke.  When the artist concluded his performance, those around us rose as one and amid thunderous calls of bravo, bravo proceeded to acknowledge what, in their opinion, had been an extraordinary performance.  We agreed, but not in the same sense they did.

Since that time we have attended other Music Festivals.  Being quick learners, we have moved to the lawn.  A place where you can snooze and, if necessary, make a relatively secret exit.  Try as I can, I find it nearly impossible to appreciate the avant-garde music that is the staple of the Festival.  Sure, there are moments when I’m able to minimize my search for good-looking women, ignore the high-backed chairs that screen my view of the distant performance, and enjoy the clandestine imbibing of the fruit of the vine.  At those infrequent times, the music can almost be, well, OK.

So why do we park three blocks away, shlep heavy lawn chairs, and race for a decent piece of grass year after year?  I have yet to figure it out.  The closest I can get is that it’s an Ojai thing.

Last year we heard that the old bowl was falling apart and that a mere $3,000,000 was needed to save it.  My first reaction was akin to let ’em eat cake.  Here we were mired in the midst of an awful recession, folks were losing their jobs and contributions to feed the hungry had fallen to bargain basement levels.  Why in the world would anyone think that saving the old bowl merited a prime position among other deserving community activities?  I argued with Don about the merits of the venture.  I vowed to keep my checkbook in my pocket.  I felt mildly self-righteous.

 And then a funny thing happened.  I looked around and saw signs.  Not just one sign in the Ojai Ice Cream store window surrounded by a gaggle of other signs.  No, everywhere I looked I saw Save the Bowl signs, plaques, and banners.  The only thing missing was sky writing.  Bottles and cans appeared at the check-out counters of the local merchants…with dollars and dimes floating in them.  Wherever I went, the talk was about the bowl.  The Ojai social calendar was filled with events that could save the old lady from destruction.  Events that could raise thousands or, bless them, events that could, on a good day, raise maybe a hundred.

People were engaged.  They were on a quest.  Smiles appeared where only glum faces had once been.  Sweetie and I made an obligatory appearance at a neighborhood meeting to discuss the bowl, its importance and the need for bucks.  Guests included folks from all economic levels.  Esther Wachtell made a compelling argument.  Jeff Haydon was at his usual likeable, knowledgeable, down-to-earth best.  Esther laid out the numbers.  The annual revenue generated for the local economy, especially from those who come from far away.  The other events that once used the bowl.  Events that have gone away but could be lured back.

I was converted from a nay-sayer to a yay-sayer.  Sure, the economy is on life support.  Unemployment is tenacious.  Lots of worthy causes compete for our dollars.  At the same time, there are some special  things that bring us together as a community.  That lift our spirits.  That make us smile.  That make us say it’s an Ojai thing.


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