My memory of green mountains, far reaching landscapes with sea and sand hugging the corridor of the curvy terrain was prevalent, yet I found it tough to retrieve anything tangible beyond the firm impression of green. As it turned out, the strong green recall was not an apparition.
As David and I drove between the airport and to his and Judy's home in Salem (their house reminded me of being enshrouded in an art gallery you never want to leave), we were ensconsed within flourishing verdant hues and hills proudly guiding us along on our route. Although we'd never met in person, David and I wasted no time digging into conversation; among other things, we chatted about extraterrestials and those fortunate souls that are attuned to receiving creative gifts in the form of words and writings bestowed upon them during slumber. It was a great opening to my journey and set the stage for things to come.
Pulling up to the Barker residence, we were greeted by Judy and their sweet golden retriever Franny (lovingly named after Franny in Salinger's classic novel, Franny and Zooey) eagerly waiting to welcome her dad and new roommate. Judy and I met 12 years ago and hadn't seen one another in 8 years since she visited our home in Ontario -- although we stay in touch weekly, we had a lot of catching up to do.
With a delicous homemade serving of spaghetti and meatballs accompanied by some of Oregon's finest Pinot Grigio, we three sat around Judy's kitchen table and talked and laughed easily until it was time for bed; we had a busy day planned ahead. For Judy and me, it was surreal to finally be standing side by side in her diningroom in the house where she and David had raised their four daughters. I felt immediately comfortable as if I'd been there a hundred times. A library of books line the walls from floor to ceiling in their beautiful and eclectic home where there is no shortage of discussion of writers, musicians and artists - these two children of the '60s are abundant in their knowledge of all of the important facets of life that truly motivate a person to want to get up in the morning and greet the day. I know I did.
On Saturday morning we drove to pick up two of their girls, Taryn and Tessa, and the five of us spent the morning exploring the farmer's market in Eugene. There is something about autumn that draws people closer together with the anticipation of cooler days ahead. I felt like part of the family (and learned to pronounce "Oregon" properly!) as we wandered through the market stalls stopping at booths and talking with various vendors. It was beautiful with the fall colours and collections of pumpkins at every corner.
From there we drove to the collosal and impressive King's Estate winery in Eugene to sample the goods and have lunch. The vineyards were bountiful, and in particular, we enjoyed tasting the Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir generously poured by one of the friendly servers. Lunch was delicous with five of us around the table, fascinated, as Taryn shared the art of travel to exotic locales on a ridiculously reasonable budget. "It's all in the cards," she beamed, and impressively, Taryn has it down to a fine science, not to mention, she has great taste in wine and is an instantly likeable person.
After leaving King's Estate, we decided to treat our palates to Sweet Cheeks Winery just down the road in Crowe, for a uniquely different experience but just as satisfactory as King's Estate.
Back in 1976, with Jan barely 17 and me just a shade over 18, not only did we not have any money to speak of, we were three and four years shy of the legal drinking age in most of the western parts of the United States., so an adventure such as wine tasting in Oregon or California was completely out of the question. This was manna from heaven.
The next morning, we were off to Portland (the motherload of art communities) to have brunch with Hayley, David and Judy's eldest daughter who has inherited her supreme artistic ability from her father. Hayley is currently working on a series of paintings interpreting visions of Mary (Madonna of Medjugorje) that several children had witnessed in Bosnia during the early 1980s. Recently, Hayley met with the children (now grown) to discuss their experiences so that she could effectively depict their visions on canvas. Although we only had a couple of hours to spend, being in Hayley's presence felt like a gift; she is like an ethereal flower, with light and love emanating from her being. It was a real thrill to learn of her inspiring work and I would love to be able to attend her art opening once her work is complete. This is a huge achievement.
After brunch, Judy and David took me to The Japanese Tea Garden in Portland situated on five acres in the west hills of the city. We walked all through the park, pausing every so often to meditate on the omnipresent beauty and serenity that engulfed us from every vantage point. The fall colours were at their peak: a bouquet of reds, oranges, golds and green. It was a gorgeous afternoon spent with treasured friends.
|By David Barker|
I touched down in L.A. just before 1:30 in the afternoon and caught a cab to my favourite place to stay in the city, Elaine's, tucked into in the loveliest section of Hollywood between Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset on Sierra Bonita Avenue. This was my third time staying at Elaine's and I was able to rent the "Pink" room, the balcony overlooking the back garden with avocado and lemon trees. I picked up some wine, guacamole, and crackers from Ralph's and dug in.
It was great to kick back for a couple of hours to resume reading the new biography on Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn. Admittedly, it was a little ironic to be engrossed within this particular book during my time in L.A. My stay in Los Angeles with Jan back in 1976 involved visiting the site where Spahn Ranch had been located near Simi Valley. Here I was, thirty-seven years later, still fascinated by the psychology behind Manson's evil deed and the concept of group psychosis.
I have visited L.A. many times over the years since Jan and I travelled there those decades ago. In addition to having family living in the area, I've made many friends throughout the process of having written two books and every time I stay, I get together with a few folks. It was great to spend time with special friends again during the designated time I had in the city. In particular: Margarita lunch with Joel, a quiet dinner with Kay, and also with Chris who joined our group at Musso and Frank for drinks. One of the highlights during those three days was appearing with six of the ladies I'd featured in my most recent book, Golden Goddesses, at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood on Wednesday evening October 16 for a celebration of the book's one year anniversary. I won't elaborate about that here as this blog is dedicated to Tapes, but a splendid time was had by all.
On Thursday morning, I headed south of L.A. in a rental car to a room I'd rented in Carlsbad for one night at Pelican Cove. The B&B was situated on the coast and I looked forward to being near the sea again. One of my primary reasons for heading to the San Diego area was to visit my good friend Julia (JSV), and also to navigate the Hemet desert region of the state where "Meadowlark," the site of Friendly Hills Fellowship had once stood. Meadowlark was a holistic centre/health spa/youth hostel owned and operated by the father of homeopathic medicine, Dr. Evarts Loomis, during the time that Jan and I had stayed there in May 1976. I was curious to know the status of the twenty acre ranch. Was the place and the surrounding buildings still standing? I would soon find out.
Julia laughed when I told her about our full moon party (she has a full moon story of her own from back in the day that is the polar opposite of mine and far more entertaining) and my need to reconnect with this mystical place that had left a lasting impression thirty-seven years ago. Her words were something to the effect of: "Jill, why in hell would you want to go to the hottest fucking place on the entire planet?"I laughed knowing full well she really didn't mind... too much. Realizing how important it was to me, she agreed to accompany me (and share the driving) the following morning out to one of the steamiest desert locales in all of southern California to try to pinpoint Meadowlark ranch. Gotta love her.
Julia was dead right about how oppressively hot it would be that afternoon -- to the tune of a very intense 94 degrees. We cruised down the main drag in Hemet with our air blasting full tilt and noticed at once that the downtown core was far more developed than I expected. As we drove along Florida Avenue we kept a look out for one of the main offshoots of the road which supposedly would eventually lead us to our destination. It seemed that we searched for a good half hour and finally reached the old part of town when I decided to pull over at a barbershop. We both needed a pee break anyway and this would give us an opportunity to stretch our legs and ask one of the locals if they could steer us in the right direction. Floyd, the barber (he could have easily passed as Mayberry's Floyd), was cutting hair while a man around our age, sat reading a book waiting his turn. Julia had ducked into the restroom so I approached the fellow, explained that I was 3000 miles from home and that thirty-seven years before, a friend and I had stayed at Meadowlark hostel that was actually a holistic center which administered to people from all over the world.
The man looked up and his light blue eyes appeared to probe my thoughts as he smiled and said, "Sure, the old Meadowlark ranch is just around the corner from here. But you won't recognize it anymore."
To my surprise he told me that he'd been at the ranch himself in 1974 when he was 14 years old. It was where his older sister had gotten married and her reception was also held on the premises. By this time, Julia had joined us, a little stunned to overhear that in less than a minute I'd found someone who knew exactly where we needed to go.
After exchanging email addresses outside, the man disclosed that he would never forget the reception because one of the women at the party had stripped naked much to his delight.Then we got back into the car but not before he invited us to a big old party that night up in the mountains. It was tempting, but we were both feeling hungry, not to mention dehydrated at this stage so we declined. We still needed to reach Meadowlark.
As we drove off toward the ranch, Julia didn't waste time mentioning that it must have been destiny to stop the vehicle at that precise place when I could have pulled over anywhere. It seemed that some of Meadowlark's magic was rubbing off on my friend, who by that time was starting to become a believer in my quest.
We turned around and made a sharp right turn. About two blocks up the road on the left hand side was what remained of the center just inside of a gated front entry that was open. We drove onto the premises and parked the car so we could get out and investigate. One of the buildings I remembered which is pictured on the home page of this blog where Jan and I are standing, was no longer there. That was disappointing, but another one of the buildings pictured in a photo of our friend, Bruce F., that Jan had taken the day we left Meadowlark, was still there. I was excited to see it again, and although it had changed with many of the shrubs and trees removed, the stone wall was still intact. Julia shot some snaps including one of me posing on what was left of the original covered wood benches.
I felt melancholy to finally return to this residence and surrounding structures for reasons of which I'm not quite certain. When young, the select memories we tend to foster seem to have some bearing upon our future so I simply put it down to that. Sometimes, we don't need to understand the reasons for seeking.