Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 4: To Sonora and that sky...

What an amazing sky day! There were unseasonal raindrops the day before, which made for a sky full of sailing ships of puffy whites on a sea of cerulean blue with a little burnt umber - oops, that's artist techie talk. I apologize. I'll just say it was mighty purty on my drive to the base of the Sierras yesterday.

I went to Sonora for lunch. A small restaurant called Talulah's spoke to me, whispering "pulled-pork on a roll" and I was captive. It was best-ever in the category, if you're ever in Sonora hankering for roasted pig. I enjoyed conversing with the waiter/graphic designer Mark Lewis who moved to Sonora ten years ago, having lived his formative years in San Francisco. He was a self-described Total Bitch in his twenties, making very bad choices, when he had an epiphany in a vivid dream visitation from his beloved departed grandmother. Grams told him he'd better stop his stupidity and be the better person that she knew he was supposed to be, or else he'd be seeing her sooner rather than later. I got the feeling that EVERYTHING is vivid to Mark, but this ubervivid dream turned the bitch around and he was still here, and he is a better person. He was certainly an attentive waiter.

NOTE TO SELF: Sometimes what you have to say may make a difference to your grandkids, but you may have to be dead before it matters much.

Sonora, like my beloved Ojai, has tourism as a mainstay industry. Although we don't call them 'tourists' or have a 'season' in Ojai, maybe for fear that our local gun-pro hunters might think they can buy a tag and shoot them. Instead, they are 'Visitors'. And having Visitors in Ojai is a good thing, because there is basically no other industry. Every decision made by local government gives a large, drooling nod toward Visitors, for bed tax is what keeps City Hall in the black.

Ojai of Old used to support agriculture in the form of citrus groves, education for education's sake as private schools and public schools were comfortably self-(and State)funded and local(county-wide) industry. Plenty of my schoolmates' fathers were employed as Shell Oil engineers and offshore workers, mining engineers and geologists for for gypsum interests up Hwy. 33 - and, of course, all of the support industry that formed to maintain their families' health and upkeep.

Not anymore. We have Visitors. Sounds ominous to me. They come for Art and Lavender and Food and Ambiance. They want to touch our magic, like going to the happiest place on earth.

So, last evening when my new acquaintance Dave asked me, over sushi and by way of making polite conversation, "If you had a magic wand, what would you change about Ojai?"

That's a tough question. Libbey Bowl is fixed now, so that answer is out... the decision to fix the bowl was one of those drooling nods I spoke of earlier. Shirley, it will bring more visitors to Ojai, but don't call me surely.

My answer was "Industry". If I could wave a retro magic wand and focus the eyes of the various governing councils over my fair valley's last twenty-five or so years, I would have expanded with great care the benevolence that small local industry requires to bloom and thrive. What of 'sustainability' if there is nothing to sustain? It is true that some entrepreneurs chose Ojai for its (what? Spirit? Climate? Attitude?) location as a place to raise a family. They had to bring their own small industry with them. My father was one of them. He often said, as long as UPS delivers, he could take his trade with him and live anywhere. That was 45 years ago. Now tighter and tighter controls by our governing bodies at every level squeeze the little guy until there is no spirit, attitude or money left over for a family to survive.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't rant. It's not nice.

After my road trip/quest, I will return to my beloved valley. I will counsel my grandkids. I will make art, hopefully much of it based on this trip. I will offer it for sale to Visitors and to the world by way of the www. I will look up at our blue sky with the occasional puffy white gondolas and be thankful that UPS delivers. I will accost random Visitors and thank them for coming and will engage them in conversation until they assume I want pocket change from them for my habits - in a way, by offering my art for sale, I guess that part is kinda true. I will rant, politely but determinedly, through my cartoony opinions every Friday in the Ojai Valley News.

And I will put by drinking water and heirloom seeds, and continue to nurture my backyard garden, and dream of local, sustainable industry when the Visitors depart.


  1. Colleen - Great travel blog entries. I went back and read them all. Keep 'em coming!

  2. oh, those puffy white clouds look familiar. Oh yeh, the ones that show up on the computer when you open WINDOWS! So they do exist in real life?
    Sounds like your having a blast and being very introspective. Love it-- Your eldest neice (doesnt sound OLD!) M.

  3. Colleen-I am loving getting to know who you have become! Thanks for blogging. Dori