A California Wedding To Remember

I think I just had “the time of my life”. And, yes, I’m pretty sure about this.

(all the pictures enlarge with a simple click)

While I am no expert in matters of weddings, I also have little idea of how much of anything could be more flat entertaining or generally optimistic than sending a pledged couple out on their way. This happened last weekend and I am still wearing a glow like a Brillo Pad on a hot fire. And, no, Steve, it isn’t the chocolate.

My best friend in life – known here as ‘just another Steve’ – who is somewhat Internet shy – has 3 of my most favorite children, barely behind my own in personal regard. Of course, they went and grew up, for which I may never forgive them. I mean, is it just me, or does Life seem to advance at its own pace, seemingly arriving somewhere, demanding our attention with medical problems and a secret aging process that defies how the heck I feel?

I mean, who dealt this mess? How on Earth did we get from here……..

To here……………….so dam fast?

Anybody got an answer?

Big sigh…………… Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, to Steve and Jody’s kids. Well, I made each of their weddings, nearly as if I were family, which, I guess in some ways, I am. The lady’s wedding – Flora’s – I just attended  and I can use no other term than “lady” for this adored child because she is now all of that – was equal parts satisfying and shocking in the Evolving Time component. My visit to Santa Cruz for this affair was a virtual life highlight in so many different ways. Flora, after all, provided the middle name for my own daughter – so there is a debt of pure soul which my daughter and I were both able to experience again. I’m saying it was Big Huge Fun.

Everything about this delightful experience was equal parts “formally informal” and satisfying. From the flower girls’ excitement…….and if you enlarge any pictures, make these the ones!

To their strict and rapt attention to their tasks, they were small stars in a wonderful atmosphere.

Appropriately and tastefully warned off taking pictures during the ceremony, we were asked to enjoy this service for what it was: enchanting. And we very much did. As we found our way uphill to the ceremony site, one of the Abbott Brothers accompanied us on his plaintive, solo violin, playing soft ballads with a soulful spirit which was exchanged fully by the happy crowd.

The seating was by Divine Hands, with some machine help:

And the “service” was all human hands, making it even nicer still.

Flora sang to her Father’s guitar accompaniment, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – one of my all time favorite tunes and an amazing accomplishment considering the “stakes”, lol.

Darragh, an author-to-be with a nice fat advance for his project from the best Publishers in the world, read a moving poem aloud and his Dad produced the classic “Seasons” bit from Ecclesiastics……..”For every thing, there is a season……and a time to every purpose under Heaven”

Human, respectful, touching – we were rapt. It was just about perfect.

And we filtered to dinner, replete with a sense of love and inclusion in this very Californian setting at Pie Ranch, just up the Coast.

Pretty fun stuff………..let me praise and link for a moment what the Wedding Planner, Emily, achieved along with the more than able help of the Bares, Steve and Jody. Emily was a great good childhood friend of the family’s and she now has a very busy little industry going in the Bay Area – EnjoyEventsCo.com  -along these very lines. She and her operation were magnificent.

The Abbott Brothers supplied the fabulous barefoot Bluegrass music which accompanied the affair as people filtered down to the expertly-arranged tables as dinner commenced and the various touching speeches were made. Here’s a link to them on youtube, check ’em out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0ZBzi3blAU

We milled around, drinking deep of one another’s company for a while, many of us reunited after nearly 20 years, for the first time, all curious about one another and enjoying a rekindled love – a very tight group of Viet Nam vets, wives and children, tiny kids, old friends, new ones spanning generations and interests like a virtual Encyclopedia of The Human Experience. Chris Moran was so delighted to reunite with us that she broke down and cried. It might have been my very best part of all.

The Barn Dance/Reception was next. After experiencing the coastal fog, man, we were ready to get indoors and jive. It began slowly………with some super Schmaltzy Lovin’.

The Father Of The Bride, a well-known boogie artist himself, further delighted us by getting down to the Funk………

And then it was “ON”!

Dam……..this band was plain badass, lol. They were specialists in “funk”, offering an impossible-to-decline dancing opportunity. Let’s face it – when you take a moment and look around and suddenly realize that a full 90% of those present are on the dance floor, “shaking that booty”, you have a massive “success”. I was personally delighted to work a bit on ‘The Swim’, a task I had neglected but which gained immeasurably this night. The International Crowd was delighted. In fact, as a testament to Pure Fun, here they lift our spirits – and the Bride – to yet new heights!

And then the face-painting commenced.

Some quite tasteful…..

And a few – well – not so much.

Fortunately, I declined.

After all, it’s not as if I had not paid the severest face-painting dues to many in this very same crowd, just 20 short years before this night (see how many you can recognize here, lol):

Yes, it is I, the infamous trauma-inducing Adolf Hitler of Easter Rabbits.

Be afraid…………….be very afraid. (Most kids were!) 😉

On my way out of town, in the San Jose airport, while grabbing a bite, I feel a tug on my sleeve and this: “Hey, Sned!!” It was Darragh, the groom, with Flora, also on their way to distant climes (Quito, Ecuador, in fact). It added a wonderful irony and an opportunity to spend just a few more minutes with this exciting couple of very creative souls, racing my pulse with another photo opportunity. Which I took advantage of liberally.

I feel undeservedly rich in friends and now, here I am, deeper than ever.

What a superb experience.

Santa Cruz – A Wedding and Friends

In August of 1985, 15 years to the very day that I had once entered and begun life in Vancouver, Canada, I took off for the South, landing in Santa Cruz, California. With a brother in Oakland and my best friend in Santa Cruz, I was officially off on the “next phase” of my life, this time surrounded by familiar friends and family. I was bruised and slightly battered, spiritually, and it turned out that Santa Cruz was the most perfect landing spot imaginable.

(to enlarge any picture, just left click on the picture)

Situated in a lush garden spot, on the North Shore of the Monterey Bay, famous for its Boardwalk/Amusement Park, Santa Cruz would seem too touristy for someone to relax and drink deeply of friends and new experiences, but that was, indeed, what happened.

It turned out, the tourist mecca business traipsed along on its own momentum, allowing the standard streams of big city gawkers and fun-seekers to operate in this narrow funnel of tourism, far away from the everyday concerns of the locals, much the same as Reno, Nevada and its own relationships with their casinos and the exact same situation.

But Santa Cruz offered far more than this. Indeed, its greatest gifts – weather notwithstanding – are elsewhere. Santa Cruz is a landscaping Paradise. It has a florist’s heart. City scenes take advantage as well as the most humble residences of a moisture-riddled foggy climate which waters from the air as well as keeps cool the otherwise incredibly radiant sunshine which streams in for most every day of any year. I found it quintessentially Californian for that – to say nothing of its surfing fame and otherwise famously liberal politics.

pssssssst……It has some of the biggest trees in the world – these are the Redwoods of Henry Cowell State Park, just a couple miles north of town.

Below is a look at the largest Sequoia in Santa Cruz – tended to by my excellent baseball junky friend, Lee Bookout.

A most definite Coast Town…………… I also believe no portrait of Santa Cruz would be complete without a shot of these stately and somewhat weird Palm Trees, punctuated everywhere throughout town whose continued existence still amazes me, after the earthquakes, the severe Winter Wind storms and the drought-like conditions of a regular year in the life here.

But the townspeople also display an understated landscape design – all over –  rife with appropriately gorgeous plantings everywhere.

In many ways, Santa Cruzans display a very mature take on design and floriculture. It is rare to find anything gaudy, inappropriately mixed in color or otherwise unprofessional. These people know beauty and they tend to let it stand on its own.

How ’bout these here Naked Ladies?  😉

Bougainvillea? Yum.

Even the stupid Morning Glory – a pestilence in Vancouver and treated as a weed – does some hard and beautiful work in Santa Cruz:

Princess Flower – Tibuchina. What can you say? My favorite plant ever.

Outside of Woody’s house, we sat on his second floor balcony, reconstructing baseball and life, watching hummingbird’s feed…….the amazingly and sometimes even sickeningly odoriferous Eucalyptus trees abut the little deck, making it as soulful and as gorgeous as one can even imagine.

 I got pretty lucky, altogether. There were beautiful women everywhere. Heck, they even smiled for me!

Here’s a recent bride!!

It’s the one on the left. 😉

Writer’s Block – Steve Gets It

I remember reading about this phenomenon. Naturally, since I have always been such a physical creature, concepts such as writer’s block and many other psychological dilemma’s were remote and fairly inappropriate to my situations, historically. They occupied zones where I had to intuit the ramifications from a very un-felt perspective. I mean, I had my own fair share of defects, 😉 just not this one.

Then I largely shut down the landscaping end of my life and began devoting more time to writing. The move to Louisville also halted my participation in softball – another sea change for me. Some of this was enforced by economics and some enforced by a newly-embraced sense of opportunity. I re-commenced this blog, began other blogs for other people, wrote entries for others on a piece basis, per word, and even set up commercial blogs, advertising wares which could be purchased online. I began writing at a feverish pitch, in fact. I did have issues with time-consumption and delayed gratifications of much of it, but I was ambitious enough at the time to enforce my will upon myself and “do the work”. I could spend 10 hours in front of this computer, easily, typing the entire time.

As a new writer, there was quite a bit of excitement surrounding the deal. “Look, Ma!! I’m a writer now!!” rang through my neural pathways as I undertook programming to make me sit still for longer periods of time. I found out how important the chair is I that sit in. I also found out how vital it can be to plain “get away” and do something before an entire contra-healthy day passes and my muscles begin to atrophy. I learned quite a bit.

But I was sanguine enough about my abilities. I did indeed find myself getting better at the more important aspects of the writing thing. Hell, a browse through my blog here illustrates all that perfectly. I think I have advanced as a writer and I believe it shows in this very blog.

And now I’ve begun to write a book – I went that nutzo over it all – and therein lies the rub. As I undertook the process, I paid attention to the advice of those who preceded me – writers, agents and friends with similar interests. As I continued, I began believing in them and increasingly finding myself comparing myself to their own works. I read some books with an eye towards integrating their best qualities into my own style. I eventually became fairly intimidated. The sheer numbers of writers these days is off the charts.

But what is worse are how incredibly good so many of them are at something I only recently discovered. This theme is the big Bandit of Spirit in this drama. I have found myself in a true identity crisis, wondering what on Earth allows me to assume I have anything to say outside of what I know so well – being a “dirt farmer” – as my Portland buddy used to put it.

Don’t cry for me yet. The mere fact that I am writing all this now is proof that I am finding my way through the purely psychological “crisis”. But all this has acted to limit my enthusiasm to what I was enthusiastic over not mere months ago. I have ignored friends and become somewhat of a hermit, although I have made a bazillion trips down to Owensboro to interview the subject of my book . So, even when I was slumping, I was still producing data at least.

I have also heard from first hand sources how common all this can be. The advent of any project can be intimidating. I know this from landscaping – we take small islands at a time and render them finished on our way to the Whole Dang Continent. Many has been the time I have looked at a landscaping project worth $100,000 or more and wondered how on Earth I would ever complete it successfully.

More On The Huntington Garden

Having negotiated the Desert Garden with rare relish – what an amazingly creative set-up – my daughter and I then proceeded to the next exhibits…..specifically the totally contrasting Lily Ponds. Here is a “jungle lush” view of our approach…..

(please enlarge images by clicking)

Once again, the entire Gardens are simply World Class edifices. I just feel and felt then so lucky to be able to take part in all this incredible landscaping. This is pretty much the best in the galaxy.


Later, we pass by the Australian Garden section, rife with Eucalyptus and these guys….. This is where Hummingbirds go to retire.

Flowers are the primary attractions here…..with some Eucalyptus trees, of course. I am so jaded now towards Eucalyptus, I didn’t even bother taking pictures. That was actually a mistake because the bark and trunks congregated there were richly-colored.

Guess where this leads…….


This spot is on the march between the Aussie Garden and the splendid Japanese Garden, of course. It was yet another present for the senses and featured some absolutely amazing Bonzai plants which made me wonder at the ratings these plants would receive in comparison with absolutely any others. I mean, I just suspected these were also some of the best Bonzai examples in the world. Incredible stuff!

Here’s today’s Daily Double worth a billion – I was really beginning to believe these guys knew what they were doing.

The Japanese Garden was closed for a year or so as they remade a water feature and added some features. Indeed, it had just been opened for a couple weeks before our visit. This is a real sweet Japanese Garden.

I rate the Water Feature a total success……with a perfectly bubbling sound and the absolutely correct flow rate.

As always in Japanese Gardens, we get to witness the changing patterns in the sand or stones lavished daily for our pleasure. More minimalist, gorgeous lines soothe our souls as we connect with the purpose of this combination of Man and Nature.

We then cut through a grove of Camelias which were almost spent by this date. But what was even cooler were the hardy orchids which so adore life under the canopy between the Japanese garden and The Chinese Garden.

Here are the beginnings of the canopy, complete with some Camelias:

And here are the orchids along the paths……


Cool stuff………….and now our Favorite

The Chinese Garden……..note the ham welcoming committee. These guys even supply gorgeous models!

I now consider myself somewhat of an expert on Chinese gardens, having worked on the actual construction of the Portland, Oregon Chinese garden personally. I rate this version as near-equal. This is simply a phenomenal place, no if’s and’s or but’s. It’s simply just as good as it gets.

Walk with us…..

As always, the gorgeous foot-massaging pebbled walkways are the eye candy that ties it all together.

Hide the women and children!  😉

The consistent fascination Chinese Gardens illustrate for windows and the Feng Shui aspects of peeks into another dimension never fails to please.

What a wonderful place. Alena and I both offered that the Chinese Garden was out favorite spot on the entire Huntington’s grounds. This is a stunningly beautiful garden.


Oh yeah – and a great beautiful Mahonia, too.

And, finally, a beautiful bridge.

Next, I’ll finish Huntington up.