A Simple Aesthetic

Local Artist, Nicky Gaston, Reimages the Aesthetic at Steel Bonnet Brewing Company

By Julie Horner

The community packed the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost on its final Friday to wish the business bon voyage as it prepares to move operations north of town. Local brewers, Donald and Susan Cramb, owners of Scotts Valley’s Steel Bonnet Brewing Company, were in attendance along with local artist, Nicky Gaston, their new beer label designer. Long a tasting room loyal, Nicky recently began work designing hand-illustrated labels for each of Steel Bonnet’s handcrafted brews. With a major artistic appetite, the labels are part of his freelancing efforts late into the night after his 9-to-5 in Santa Cruz.

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A full-time graphic designer currently working for NHS distribution, the parent company of Santa Cruz Skateboards – and a voracious skateboarder himself – he’ll stop by Steel Bonnet on his way back to Boulder Creek and “get a beer…maybe two!” With an impressive graphic art portfolio in hand, Nicky remembers his initial meeting with Don: “After about five minutes, Don said, ‘when can you start?’”

He began work about six months ago producing the labels in batches of four. “Don trusted my creative judgement.” It was Nicky’s design for Hop the Heck IPA – his favorite of the brews at Steel Bonnet –  that inspired the aesthetic for the other labels in the series. “There are roughly five colors per graphic,” he says, and each graphic is reflective of the theme of the beer itself, rich in finite detail and saturated hues that you would find in nature. Hop blossoms are naturally green and yellow, for instance, and he’s matched the color of the real thing as closely as possible on the label. Likewise, the color of a Hawaiian sunset for the Pau Hana brew, or the tones of the forest for Bear Creek Brown, the nano brewery’s tribute to Bear Creek Road in Boulder Creek; stomping grounds for the Crambs.

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Already known for his graphic artwork for Alice’s Restaurant and for the Parks Project, among others, and enthusiastic about continuing to build his freelance opportunities, the labels he’s created for Steel Bonnet will also translate to tap handles, T-shirts, and other merchandise. For Nicky it’s all about mutual respect and keeping it local. “Their beer is good, I support what they’re doing and how they make their beer. Not only do I want to work with them, I love what they do.”

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Nicky just finished the last of the 14 labels, which was in honor of Donald and Susan’s new grandbaby, Connor. “The beer is entitled ‘Conski Cream Ale’ and the graphic consists of an illustrated image of Connor after a full messy meal.” Ironically, the graphic was completed on the day of Steel Bonnet’s recent 2nd year anniversary, “which was a wonderful way to finish up all 14 images,” Nicky says. “Steel Bonnet does an excellent job at both perfecting their crafted beers and staying innovative with new limited releases of seasonal offerings.”

“Stop by Steel Bonnet’s wonderful Scotts Valley location and grab a pint of some of the best beer around!” And while you’re there, check out the new beer labels created by San Lorenzo Valley’s Nicky Gaston.

Nicky Gaston: www.instagram.com/nickygaston | http://ngcreativeco.com

Steel Bonnet: www.facebook.com/SteelBonnetBrewing
20 Victor Square B, Scotts Valley

Copyright 2017, Julie Horner for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin November 2017 print edition. https://santacruzmountainslocal.comwww.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletinwww.facebook.com/leap2threepublications

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Boulder Creek Brewery Switches Hitches

Locals Set Adrift Without “The Fishbowl” and Times Together at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost

By Julie Horner

On March 29th, 2015 the well-loved Boulder Creek Brewery was gutted by fire. The building remains, an empty shell, at 13040 Highway 9, the epicenter of Boulder Creek. A “For Sale” sign tacked to the façade has signaled the end of an era for months now. They’re not going to rebuild.

Moving to Boulder Creek from Ben Lomond some years ago, refuge and solace was found after tedious upheaval, boxes and belongings, with a late-night plate and a velvety pint. Relative newbies to town at the time, Moe was quick to put us at ease: “No sleep ‘til Brookdale!” he pretend-screamed into an imaginary mic, putting a local twist to the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep till Brooklyn” and setting the scene for life in our new digs. Hell yes, we could stagger home on foot, and all would be right with the world! What a find, Boulder Creek and its Brewery!

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Home of original on-site brews such as Dragon’s Breath IPA and Redwood Amber Ale, the Brewery was a hub for wonderful food and good times for local characters and travelers through. After the fire, which is believed to have been sparked by an electrical wiring failure, the heartbeat of a small mountain town was silenced for a few breathless, unbelieving months. The day after the fire, neighbors wandered down in a daze to stand outside the building squinting up at the morning light pouring through where the roof used to be. The brand-new awnings and “Boulder Creek Brewery” sign remained intact as if nothing had happened.

For regulars, the ghostly absence of colorful family friendly community gathered together over a solid meal and a tasty pint was deafening. Rarely has an off-the-hook burger, locally brewed beers on tap, and a catch-up on current gossip (and the wedge-cut fries) been more sorely missed.

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Time heals and the spirit of a mountain town always prevails. A stroke of good fortune after bad allowed the business to move sideways and kitty-corner one block to the just-vacated Boulder Creek Music storefront under the I.O.O.F Hall at 152 Forest Street. For the better part of two years, the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost kept the vibe alive with locals and visitors alike, stirring up small bites in a clever ‘kitchen-in-a-pinch’ and pouring exceptional guest taps. The lifeblood of a small town again found its course, and on most evenings “The Fishbowl,” as the seating area at the front of the establishment became known, would be bubbling with smiling faces, tall tales, and uproarious laughter.

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And seasons have turned again. The note taped to a late September window reads: “Nancy’s next chapter coming soon. I will be moving down the road a ways to open Boulder Creek Roadside Café. This will be in the old Burger 9 location. I look forward to having a real kitchen again. Hope to see everyone there. Thank you all for your support.”

Boulder Creek Roadside Café is expected to open its doors in December just a short jaunt north of downtown at 15520 Highway 9, across from Garrahan Park and near the Mountain Store. A hungry, thirsty mountain town anticipates slipping comfortably back into the familiar sharing the day’s travels over exceptional brews and sinking teeth into the best burgers in the county! Stay tuned: www.facebook.com/bouldercreekbrewery

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Copyright 2017 Julie Horner.
Leap2Three Publications | www.facebook.com/leap2threepublications

Photos by SLV Steve and Julie Horner. Text originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin by Julie Horner: www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net www.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin

Santa Cruz Mountain Locals Ready for Ren!

By Julie Horner

The Northern California Renaissance Faire celebrates its 50th year and 14th season at Casa de Fruta in Hollister. SLV locals eagerly anticipate the run of Faire, many returning year-after-year to perform and make merry in groups such as Dance Macabre, The Naughty Minstrels, and Barley Bane. Wondrous potters, Dan and Laurie Hennig, and Jennifer and Iver Hennig have been selling their fine wares at Faire for decades. And there are those who simply come for the revelry and grandeur of ancient times with bodices cinched tight and drinking vessels filled to brimming with ice cold ale!

The Beckers at Ren Faire

Quinn, Laurie, and Mark Becker, Boulder Creek

The Family That Role-plays Together…Now Has Weapons!

“The Nor Cal Ren Faire has become a family affair for Quinn, Laurie, and Mark! They can blame that on the Hennig families for roping them into portraying a family in the movie, Play Faire, a coming of age story filmed at the Renaissance Faire. Since then, they’ve donned costumes and played faire every year.” – Laurie Becker

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Lori Suzanne Holetz, Boulder Creek

Pirates Invade NorCal Ren!

 “Having participated in Renaissance Faire for over 25 years, it always remains brilliant with abundant spectacle. Stepping into this mystical world of magic offers a feast for the senses, in a timeless land of fair play and frolicking fun, away from the everyday world. Year after year it is hard to resist, a place where dreams really do come true, Faire always makes for a most splendid day of discovery and treasure to be sure….arrrrrrrgh, matie!” – Lori Suzanne Holetz

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Judi Davis, Boulder Creek

Mermaids, Merriment and Music

“An annual late-summer treat, my sister, niece, and I have made the journey together to the NorCal Renaissance Faire as a family to flirt and frolic among the ribboned and ribald. Handsome knights and be-bodiced maidens abound and the ‘real world’ melts away…” – Julie Horner

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Julie Horner of Boulder Creek with Jane and Meg Mulcaster of San Jose

Join your neighbors and bring the family to the NorCal Ren Faire, weekends September 16th through October 15th, 2017 ~ 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (free Celtic rock concert Saturday night)

Casa De Fruta
Pacheco Pass, HWY 152
10031 Pacheco Pass Hwy
Hollister, CA

Tickets: www.norcalrenfaire.com

Read more about Dan and Laurie Hennig’s fyne pottery: https://santacruzmountainslocal.com/2015/07/14/time-out-of-sequence-hennig-studios-and-camp-climax-pottery/

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Copyright 2017: Julie Horner. Written for and published in: Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, Santa Cruz Mountains Local, Leap2Three Publications

Divining the Creative Ripple

Local music artist explores the many moods of nature, synthesized

By Julie Horner

Waves of vividly evolving earth impressions dance inside closed eyelids. At times, fluidly womb-like, the tonally suggestive near-silence of floating in space or being submerged in amniotic suppleness gives way to the rumble of thunder, a taste of nourishing rain, ebulliently flowing streams, and the pulse of the ocean’s tide. In the mind’s eye and in the heart, there is a very real feeling of resting one’s head upon the bosom of the earth. All is released, unclenched, and the spirit is at ease.

Sapphire Oceans is a single one-hour track representing a complete hydrological cycle with music and sounds of nature. Composed by Felton musician and Mountain Spirit co-owner, Josh Kunkel, this original composition washes away the relentless press of the day’s needs.

“The music begins with a storm-burst, then focuses in on a single drop of rain. The raindrops pool together, forming a stream, which flows down to the ocean shore. After playing in the waves, the music plunges below the surface, descending deeper and deeper, past the reach of the sun’s rays, until a place of profound mystery and silence is reached. Rising to the surface again, the journey ends as we hear the sound of waves crashing and birds chirping on the shore. The sounds of rain and thunder make themselves present in the background, reminding us that the cycle will renew itself again and again.”

The sounds began in nature. “We have recorded stream, ocean, and water sounds at dozens of different locations from Malibu to Mendocino,” Kunkel says.

After he produced the field recordings, he wrote several instrumental sections, performed over multiple sessions, to develop layers of expression and to add color to the track. “Techniques drawn from Impressionist and classical music have been used to render the natural sounds of water on acoustic instruments. Tempo devices such as ritardando, accelerando, and tempo rubato convey the rising and falling movements of the waves, and instrumental portamento effects like harp glissandos and timpani roll pedal glissandos evoke the shimmer of sunlight on the water and the rumbling crash of the ocean breaking up on the shoreline.”

The album is produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Kunkel at West Park Avenue Studios. The recording intertwines the sounds of nature with adept use of advanced technical know-how. Kunkel describes the process: “Never-before-heard new timbres have been created by fusing the sound of acoustic orchestra instruments with cutting-edge, avant-garde, forward-looking sound synthesis, resulting in clean, clear, sparkling tessellated electronic textures utilizing the Elka Synthex, EMS VCS3 and Synthi AKS, Oberheim OB-X, and Roland Juno 60.”

An extra set of ears on a project can be revealing. “At a certain point in the project, David Streit, who has worked with everyone from Johnny Cash and Dave Brubeck to GZA and Cliff Richard, had come on board to help me engineer and mix. That is an invaluable contribution that I’ll always appreciate,” says Kunkel.

Like a natural mountain spring, Kunkel’s project trickled and transformed over time. “Sapphire Oceans had just spontaneously grown; it had just taken on a life of its own. Like it had needed to be born, to well up and burst through into existence, and I had just been the channel for it. It is like the quote from the Hindu holy book, the Chandogya Upanishad, about a drop of water flowing into the river, and then into the infinite vastness of the sea, losing its sense of separateness in the process. That is literally how the project has grown, from one tiny little droplet of an idea, to this sprawling, long, complex track with many moods and emotions.”

“There are things that happened during the recording of this album that are so spooky, I’ll never tell. But you can hear them happen on the record. Things that are just from beyond this plane of existence, unknowable things that are from outside of our realm of understanding. But after many months, the project finally coalesced, and all the different tributaries ultimately came together to form a work greater than the sum of all its parts.”

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Music Artist Josh Kunkel – Sapphire Oceans

When not divining the creative ripple, Josh enjoys the bounty of living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “I get pleasure from cooking international cuisine, going on long hikes in nature, and relaxing with family and friends. I am also a movie connoisseur and news junkie. I enjoy art, fashion, photography, and collecting historical armaments.”

A compelling voyage among elements and imaginings, Sapphire Oceans is available at Mountain Spirit 6299 Highway 9, Felton or everywhere online including: itunes.apple.com/Sapphire Oceans | www.youtube.com/SapphireOceans

Copyright Julie Horner 2017. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin July/August edition. http://www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net | www.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin

 

Got Vinyl? Swing into Swag

Curator of Boulder Creek’s eclectic collective specializes in vintage vinyl and refurbished stereo consoles

By Julie Horner

If only the vintage West German Grundig stereo console could speak, imagine the secrets it might tell of swanky summer evenings laced with cognac, the mood dreamy with the warm, smooth, easy-listening sounds of Perry Como on vinyl in analog high fidelity. Jeff Brough was head and torso into a neighboring console putting finishing touches on the innards. “Once upon a time it was a Grundig. It has different components now. It was missing stuff so I had to repopulate it.”

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According to Brough, owner of Swag in downtown Boulder Creek, “Most people are un-populating old consoles to turn into bars. I’m the only one restoring them. It’s a niche market, I guess.” Amazingly, you can even plug your smartphone into what appears to be all-original components and play your downloads through the console’s built-in speakers. “Almost all of them I add the ability to use your smartphone.” Brough picks a vinyl album from his collection and powers on the unit for a test spin. The big soulful sounds of Tyrone Davis fill the shop. “I love this old soul music…when I listen to the radio, this is what I tune in.”

Brough looks at it from the assembler’s point of view. “I’ve got four for sale and another one, two, three in queue.” He specializes in mid-century modern, from the mid-50s through the mid-70s. “Any later and they got ugly.” He can doll up just about any console to look just right. For instance, he might put peg legs on some of them to give them ‘that look’ if they didn’t have it when they rolled in. “This one, it’s got a real nice turntable in it.” The cabinet he picked up in Sacramento, the turntable and other components came from another unit. It’s what Jeff called a “triple threat.” It sounds good, looks good, and the turntable is good. “I do name them. I have a personal relationship with each one of them. Tamara’s that I just sold, I called Morse-l.” The brand, of course, being Morse. “I fall in love with them, have a hard time letting them go.” He always wonders, “Is this one better than the one I have in the living room?”

“I’ve driven as far as Santa Rosa to get things that suit my fancy.” He’s got eyes and ears out there now looking for items to add to the collection. The consoles are what got him started.

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“When I retired from Silicon Valley, I spent about a year chilling and figuring out where my stuff would go…I had to downsize. Originally it was a hobby, I don’t know exactly how it evolved, but I’d start finding things on craigslist.” Stephanie, owner of Foundre that used to occupy the space, gave him advice about obtaining old consoles. He would work on them in the basement with his wife and bandmates helping.

A customer walks in. “I have a first pressing of Meet the Beatles,” he says. “I have about 500 vinyl records.” Everyone knows that vinyl has come full circle and is all the rage now. For those who have held on to their collections over the years, it’s as cool as it’s always been to have full size art and sleeve notes. As the customer turns to leave he jokes. “I’m one of the few men who is married and still has his vinyl!” Brough is quick to point out, “There’s more here if you want to add to your collection!” Indeed, the sign out front that drew the customer in says, “We’ve got vinyl!”

“My selection of vinyl is comparative to any record store in Santa Cruz, maybe better. I’ve got some cool old records.”

Jeff has owned the building about seven years, with residences upstairs and now his business downstairs. “Even as a youngster, I’ve always been a creative collector with an entrepreneurial spirit so it only made sense to open my own space! My daughter and mother contribute time and energy…it’s all friends and family at this point.” And he’s looking for a partner to collaborate with, someone who might put their artwork on consignment and tag-team to help keep the doors open on weekends.

Swag. Affordable retail in Boulder Creek featuring restored mid-century modern stereos, vinyl, vintage and locally crafted apparel, jewelry, art, consignment, and event space.

13026 Highway 9
Boulder Creek, California
(831) 295-9191
http://www.facebook.com/JEFFSWAGSTORE

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin June 2017 issue.

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.