The Brookdale Inn on the Road to Resurrection

The storied landmark is poised for history in the remaking

By Julie Horner

Peering through a jagged window, the bare bulbs of workmen’s shop lights illuminate what seem like bones and sinew – open studs and joists – which frame little now but bareness and dust. The fireplace where the lounge used to be stands alone without walls. While stairs and banisters remain as anchors, the remainder is mere hull with views into the next room or up to the rafters. Fresh lumber is stacked next to salvaged architectural elements. Outside, gable decorations sport gaps like broken teeth. Bottle shards, antique tools, and rusted children’s toys, once clever décor along the building’s foundation, are tortured remnants in crumbling concrete collage. The eye is drawn to a missing panel of stained glass; it was never replaced after the night one of the more colorful patrons started a fight over not having mustard for the bar pretzels. She was summarily escorted out but delivered a parting blow by throwing a rock through the fine old window.

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The ghosts of those who have breathed life into this place have fled to the Brook Room where filtered light still flirts among the faded underpinnings. The Brookdale remains breathtakingly beautiful behind her dirt-streaked glass and cobwebs. Like a dark bride in ripped lace she bides, her house empty, awaiting new love and purpose.

New owner, Pravin Patel, says, “It had been declining for a long time. There is about 60 years of deferred maintenance.” And everything is taking longer than anticipated. “Please don’t lose your patience. It’s not as easy as it seems.” The permitting and county processes, deciding what can be salvaged and what must be replaced. And everything must be rebuilt for safety. “We’ll get it open,” Patel promises.

He can hardly wait to open the first phase, which will include the renovated 46-room hotel separate from the Lodge, a full service local market “where families can come and do shopping,” and a coffee shop to rival the old Pancake House and Grill. “Pablo was leasing it years ago until it was shut down. The community tells me Pablo had the best pancakes.” Fresh paint and new windows are finishing touches and the building could be open as soon as the end of this summer.

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Next on the list is the hotel lobby and a new sports bar. After that, the Brook Room and Fireside Lounge. “Things are coming along…the good days outweigh the bad days.”

Also on the list, the return of the cherished mural. “The original James Dean was up there for years and years, but one of the messes Sanjiv Kakkar, the former owner, made was painting over James Dean…out of his wild imagination. It was low quality, a joke. The community was in an uproar over it.” Patel made it clear in a town hall meeting: “We are going to replace the mural in high quality.”

The canvas has been prepared. Patel joined forces with Maryanne Porter of Brookdale Lodge Mysteries Explored and owner of Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters/Haunted Tours to find the perfect muralist. An ad was placed on Craigslist. “The mural is a huge deal not only to the community but also to the history of the Brookdale Lodge,” Porter says. “I mean, this is not something that we are taking lightly – this will be a fixated iconic portrait which represents the Lodge and San Lorenzo Valley for generations to come. Mr. Patel is not only creating new history but he is also trying to preserve the old.”

The process to find a muralist has been a lengthy one for its applicants. The individuals sought for serious consideration were requested to submit a sketch of James Dean to determine their artistic ability and to see how the artist’s vision meshed with the community’s vision. “Each artist has a different style, so it was important to find someone who shared a similar vision.” The right artist should also have a relationship to the Lodge. “We wanted a muralist who had some memory or connection, not just someone who looked at it as a job.” And they wanted someone local. “It was important to Mr. Patel to find a local artist. Keeping our history in our community. I can’t wait for the project to be completed and the Lodge’s new history to begin!”

“I love the community input,” Patel says. “This mural thing is exactly what I mean. Let’s get a local artist in here. A homegrown Santa Cruz artist to put his name on it…it becomes a legacy.”

The top three finalists have been chosen. “The next step we will be meeting up with the county and then moving forward to determine who will be selected as the next muralist for the Brookdale Lodge,” Porter says.

“You’ve got to remember, this is history in the remaking. The Lodge has been robbed and raped over the years…vandals and the former owners took all this stuff. I want to be known 100 years from now as the gentleman who gave it CPR…I revitalized it! I’m trying to do something good here.”

 

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner, exclusively for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in print in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin June/July 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.netwww.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin

When Least Expected

By Julie Horner
Today I was hugely humbled by the generosity of the folks at Valley Churches United Missions. What started out as an opportunity to conduct an interview for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin turned into an unexpected “we can help you.”

As some know, I lost my high tech job back in February and have had trouble finding a replacement. I applied for unemployment insurance for the first time in my life. Months have passed and I’m now at the end of my ability to maintain the mortgage and will be taking in a renter (or two) to try to keep head above water while I continue to look for work.

I’m the one who donates to things I feel passionate about. I’m not the one who asks for help. Now the fork is on the other plate. Thank you VCUM for coming to the rescue with bags of food and grocery store gift cards, and for letting me know that I can apply for food stamps and emergency mortgage assistance. Thank you for reassuring me that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has a story to tell and I’m not the first detached techie they’ve seen come through the doors.

Valley Churches United Missions is here to help keep mountain residents from becoming homeless. If you have a chance, please consider donating money or groceries and pet food to San Lorenzo Valley’s wonderful Valley Churches. If you live in SLV and need a hand to see you through, please know that you are welcome. www.vcum.org/

 

Copyright 2017 – Julie Horner. Exclusive to the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin and Valley Churches United Missions.

Boulder Creek’s Barry Tanner – The Gift of Go-To

By Julie Horner

It’s all happened here, at the corner of Forest Street and Pine just behind the Odd Fellows Hall in downtown Boulder Creek, in the building that formerly housed the town’s post office and is now often referred to simply as “Barry Tanner’s studio.” Whether for fundraisers, remembrances, band practice, or recording, the studio is as no-nonsense on the outside as its owner. Inside is where the magic happens and the place has become a community hub through the generosity of a man who has energy to burn and an innate talent to make things happen. “I grew up in Davis. My mom was campaign manager for the first socialist mayor in the United States. I was born to organize people.”

Once on the coast, he jumped deep into the Santa Cruz music and theater scene. He lived off-grid in Last Chance for a while and then bought a place in Boulder Creek in 2003 when, he says, “places were boarded up…it was dead.” He had choices…and a little inheritance…so he spent some time traveling, most notably to New Orleans and France, where he spent years playing music in a 7-piece jazz/blues band. “I never saved any money doing it but got paid well and treated well.” He bought a tiny apartment overlooking the Mediterranean and was inspired by vibrant festivals, painters, jugglers, and dancers. He brought that joie de vivre back to Boulder Creek: “I either had to move or create some kind of scene here.”

In 2004 he was instrumental in organizing live dinner music on Friday and Saturday nights at Blue Sun (now Los Amigos), “and from there to Joe’s,” he says. Then he landed the old post office. It was a “serendipitous horsehead in the bed” moment: He could either “keep running around Europe eating French food” or make an offer.

“This building has led to Joe’s Bar and Boulder Creek Music Works. From the minute I took possession of the building people started showing up…Tim Welch (Funkranomicon) was waiting outside with his drums in his pickup truck.” Barry’s studio filled a need, and word-of-mouth the news got out. “There’s so many phenomenal musicians up here; the studio provides a pivot point, a hub, to rehearse and record, all those kinds of things.”

“It’s what I love doing…I’d be doing it anywhere…that’s my curse.” But he’s doing it here.

He and Todd Reed started regular music at Joe’s in 2008. “There’s a long list of musicians who played benefits there, but we were the first to start regular music on Thursdays for the Camp Krem kids. All money from the tip jar went to Doctors Without Borders – this was right after Haiti.” Every Thursday is the pro-jam now, where top talent comes together to form ad hoc bands for a night. Dozens of local bands got their start playing together at Joe’s, he says. Barry himself plays bass in Badenov (“as in Boris and Natasha”), an example of what he calls “putting a band together at short notice.”

“I book and do sound for over 200 bands a year at Joe’s, plug-and-play.” And this doesn’t count local festivals. He gets calls from three or four bands a week from around the world, he says. And he’s just completed a series of seven First Friday concerts at the Odd Fellows Hall; he often finds himself running back and forth across the street between Joe’s and the I.O.O.F.

Countless bands have recorded albums and shot video in Barry’s studio, and he just got his 16-channel system up and running. “Everyone and their brother has a home setup. I have the perfect room for recording a large group.” Funkranomicon, Take One, Live Concert Series with Carolyn Sills, Vito and Friends, Research and Development, all have recorded at Barry’s. Agents for some of them, like High on Fire and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “sneak their people here to get them out of the cities to help them get focused.” The recording space is more like being in a living room than being in a high-pressure studio. “I measure my success by how busy the studio is, how much is getting done.”

Barry’s studio also boasts fully operational live-broadcast radio capability. The equipment was initially set up for KBCZ 90.1 Boulder Creek Community Radio before the station moved to the Visitor Center. “I started with the radio before there was even a station. It was just a dream.” Barry lay the groundwork to broadcast from his place, produced the morning show from there, and trained volunteers. “I love teaching. I was having a ball teaching people how to be on the radio.”

“Go-to people pop up, they’re going to make it happen. There are people in this community who have that gift.” But, he says, everybody should step in and lend a hand. “You gotta get your shovel out to keep the go-to people from burning out.”

Three years ago, Barry was told he would only be alive for another year. Now he doesn’t waste his time. “I’m going to go to festivals…I’ve got to get my tickets to Kate Wolfe…I’ve got an air mattress that fits perfectly in the back of my van, my folding chairs…”

Contact Barry: BCMusicWorks@gmail.com

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin May 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

Felton Public Library – A Design from the Heart

Architect Teall Messer invests his heart in a project long on the drawing board

By Julie Horner

Willows, oaks, and a few cottonwoods jostle and whisper along the banks of Bull Creek as it flows – controlled now by a culvert to mitigate flooding – under city streets to the San Lorenzo River in downtown Felton. On its way, the creek slices through a narrow slip of native land next to the Felton Post Office – soon to be home for the new Felton Public Library and Outdoor Discovery Park.

Soquel-based architect, Teall Messer, is the artist behind the building design, which reflects community vision while holding to exacting legal and environmental parameters. His work is highly sought after in Santa Cruz County – he has six to eight active design projects going at a time – but he says his heart is invested in the library. Long a member of Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library, he has been called upon over the years to design other library projects, including converting an old restaurant in Live Oak into an interim library, and upgrading the historic Garfield Library in Santa Cruz. The Felton Library project is a longtime dream. “This has been on my drafting board for 10 years.”

“Pat and Mike Verutti wanted to donate the Felton parcel adjacent to the post office 16 years ago, but the library system didn’t want to take ownership of the land until they had the money to build,” Messer said. Measure S, which passed last June, gave them the funding. “Bruce McPherson made sure the funding was on top of the list.” And Felton Library Friends have been advocating all along. “They helped support the project and pushed to get the initial plans drawn. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t have happened.”

In 16 years, the trees have gotten bigger, which forced the building plan into riparian habitat. Messer also had to plan around the 100-year floodplain that just misses the building site. A town plan drawn up in the 1980s helped guide the exterior design. “I had to try to come up with a building that will fit into Felton. It had to have a rural feeling, almost a barn-like,” he said. “At 9600 square feet, it’s not giant but I think it will be big enough…we took all the space we could.”

Working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project required obtaining permits from each agency. “We’re still in the process of submitting them.” The projected deadline to get site and landscape plans into the county is February-May, 2018. “It will take a year to build it,” so he anticipates opening in spring, 2019.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Felton Treatment Facility is adjacent to the library property. “SLVWD has very generously allowed access from Kirby Street, which will enable us to do the proposed Nature Explorer children’s outdoor area.” Felton Library Friends are working on obtaining a grant to help develop this outdoor space. Part of the easement agreement includes restoring native plants to the area. “When you take away riparian habitat, you must replace it at a two-to-one ratio,” Messer said.

Along with the interior spaces still in the planning stages and open to community input, there will be a glass covered walkway in the front and a courtyard in back which might include beverage service, a coffee cart, for instance. A trail will go through the property, directly accessible from Gushee Street. “Santa Cruz Parks will be involved with maintaining some of these public outdoor areas.” Asked whether the building will use solar, he says possibly, if there is funding. With the structure’s long southern face, he estimates up to 33 kilowatts of power could be generated from solar panels. Even without solar, “It will be very energy efficient with clerestory windows that will allow a good amount of ambient light, so they probably won’t be using electricity for lights all that much.”

An effort long dreamed about, Teall Messer’s community driven design beautifully transcends the potential drawbacks of a difficult site to create a thriving hub for all ages to enjoy.

Architect Teall Messer: http://teallmesserarchitect.com/

Felton Library Friends: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin May 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

Fantastic Figures Await at the New Felton Library

Art Installation Heralds the Coming of the Library

By Felton Library Friends

The Felton Library Festival, which will be held on Saturday, May 20 from 12:00 to 4:00 pm, will feature an art installation of “Fantastic Figures” on the new library site just down Gushee street next to the Post Office. The free event includes art activities for all, food, information on the library project, a drawing for prizes, and live music by Patti Maxine and Friends, Ben Lonesome and the Highway Niners, Dave McClellan and Friends, and Young People’s Theater singers.

The small town of Felton, gateway to the San Lorenzo Valley, has been waiting for a new library for many years. The current library has long outgrown its tiny location in the historic Belardi building. Groundbreaking for the new larger library begins in 2018.

“It has been a long wait,” says Marilyn Robertson, longtime member of Felton Library Friends. “Now we are very excited and feeling rather celebratory.”

The garden art figures, conceived by a group of local artists, Robertson, and Felton Library Friend, Nancy Gerdt, will consist of a dozen larger-than-life sculptures “planted” in the field, each symbolizing the broad spectrum of patrons waiting to use the new library and the tremendous breadth of opportunities a library brings to the public.

Each figure, graciously donated by the artist, will be completely different, and materials will vary according to the artist’s vision. The idea of the waiting figures was the inspiration of Ben Lomond artist, Eileen Murray, who has constructed two such figures in her garden.

“I adapted the idea from the African nkisi, fascinating protective figures covered with hardware and nails, placed in front of properties in the Congo,” Murray explained. “They are very primitive and beautiful. The African figures were originally meant to scare people away, but ours are meant to entice. They are garden art.”  The African Queen, by Eileen Murray, pictured here, will be one of the figures up for auction starting on May 20, with proceeds benefitting the new library and Felton Library Friends.

Additional artists include Karen Asherah, Eleanor Carolan, Alexis Spakoski, Karen Close, Jennifer Hennig, Janet Silverglate, Sophie Webb, Bill Jurgens, Nina Moore, and Lise Bixler. For more information, visit: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

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Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin April 2017 edition. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE

Ben Lomond’s Mountain Community Theater delivers with world-class production now through May 28, 2017.

The Bottenberg & Horner Report

Mountain Community Theater presents the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, directed by Peter Gelblum. The production opened at Ben Lomond’s historic Park Hall on Friday, May 5, and continues on weekends through Sunday, May 28. The cast includes: W. Scott Whisler, Daria E. Troxell, Robin Aronson, Correll Barca-Hall, Ashley Sue Perry, and Sasha Voigt.

Bottenberg – “The cast was brilliant, brought the right level of believability to big emotional roles with a wonderful understanding of the comedy of the book. The ensemble played so well with and against each other. Strongly and professionally directed. Pace and timing was great, balance of the humor and the sadness so well done. A wonderful play – balancing long standing family issues and unhappiness with a satisfying resolution. So much fun to be immersed in a good play with good players. Mountain Community Theater is a gem.”

Horner – “A realistic portrayal of the everyday that lifts the characters out of daily drudgery to tap into the submerged reservoir of dead-end re-visited, re-considered, and ultimately rejected. Family, conceit, insecurity, introspect…and hope, misplaced then re-kindled and re-purposed. Through the characters, we gain courage for living to individual potential without fearing judgement. Perception is not necessarily fact and we learn, with sparkling wit and biting humor, that we are all yearning for our own version of the glittering bauble and that you-must-have-the-wrong-number phone call for a first date on Saturday night. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is pure voodoo…it’s just a pinprick but it makes its point. As always, an enthusiastically packed house at Park Hall, chuckles and laughter to the rafters. And how old is Spike, exactly?”

Tickets and info: http://spike.brownpapertickets.com/ | https://mctshows.org/

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Horse Balm and Hard Work

Boulder Creek Neighbors social network founded by an old-school cowboy with community at heart.

By Julie Horner

Kevin Foster and his rodeo buddy, Billy Ray Coffey, stood tall and lean in front of Jenna Sue’s, chiseled, well-tanned faces shaded by crisp cowboy hats. Both men seemed naturally compelled to greet passersby – with a gentleman’s nod, touch to the brim, and a genuine “howdy ma’am” – eliciting bemused smiles and reciprocated pleasantry. The man with the bucket of fresh-cut flowers was making his morning rounds. In an entirely spontaneous gesture, Kevin bought a cellophaned bouquet of red roses and asked the man to open the bundle and present a single rose to every lady in Oh Suzannah! Hair Designers…and if there were any left, to take them to the lady patrons next door.

“Two years ago, I wouldn’t remember the exact date, I started Boulder Creek Neighbors because I was in some other groups and people were mean and complained to each other. Where I’m from, you’re kind and polite, you don’t swear. My mom would whip my behind if I’d said some foul language or was rude.” He wanted to bring that ethic to his adopted hometown and figured there was another way to bring people together. “People all need to come together out of their little nooks in these mountains regardless their preferences – you’ve got the elderly…the bar people…the church people.” So, Kevin started the Boulder Creek Neighbors group on Facebook to provide a place for “local, nice, positive neighborly Boulder Creek residents and SLV neighbors to socialize and help one another like neighbors should always do, and to stay connected and know what’s going on in our community.”

The first step was to make some guidelines. He wanted it to be friendly, “make sure folks didn’t have rude pictures up, “fippin’ off the camera. Some groups are about drama; we want to use this group to inspire neighbors to put out positive ideas. People are using social media to complain about the world. I want people who see the world as a blessing…it’s raining, whatever, you can turn a bad day into a good one with positive thinking…it’ll grow on you.”

Kevin started the page, and a team of community members act as administrators to help manage posts. “I still check it daily…I got to monitor the moderators. I brought them together…they ask questions about how to handle difficult posts. “I’m willing to be the bad guy in the group to keep it sweet. I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for 2800 members.”

Boulder Creek Neighbors was one of a handful of social network pages that became a crucial lifeline during recent storms. Members were the first to know when trees and mudslides had closed mountain roads and what the immediate, and often everchanging, workarounds were to get from one place to another.

“Not a lot of people do a good deed anymore without expecting something out of it. BC Neighbors, you do it, and down the road, by putting out the good, down the road someone’s always out there to help you. Small town communities like this, when it comes time, the community shows up…whether it’s plumbing…if there’s branches down and someone needs advice or someone to come help…a little old lady all by herself…whatever the cause. I’ll be paid in pies and cakes all day long…it’s taking care of your neighbors.”

“The helpful stuff, he says, “has really blown up on the page.” He points to all the pets that have been saved. “If I had five dollars for every animal that got found and returned. ‘What neighborhood? Yeah, I just saw your dog running down the street.’”

With Boulder Creek Neighbors, Kevin aims to inspire in the cowboy way. “My bull fightin’ students…I teach bull fightin’ and so forth…I’ve got six thousand followers who look to me as inspirational. In the arena, there’s no time to quit. You ain’t out until you’re knocked out. You’re in there fighting bulls and you stay in there, digging in. There’s always two bull fighters, there’s always one who picks the other up…they have your back.”

“You can strip us all down naked and it’s the actions that identify you. And you can really tell the mindset of someone’s heart by what they post on Facebook. There are a lot of good-hearted folks in our mountains…”

Join Boulder Creek Neighbors: www.facebook.com/groups/bouldercreekneighbors/

Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. This article originally published in the April 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin print edition. Also online: www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net