Monday, July 26, 2010

My Bike is Blue.

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Standing on the edge of the country club grounds, I took a quick look around. No one was in sight. Slinking towards a grouping of bushes near a small patch of woods, looking down, I found my prize. Well, prizes. Lots of them. Seven slightly used golf balls, lost by their original owner. Bending down quickly, I picked them up in one fell swoop. Yeah! Ran back to my bike, tossed those orbs into the front basket, and sped off with the Paul Mauriat instrument “Love is Blue” buzzing in my head.

I was temporarily living 800 miles away from home at the time. (the “why” is perhaps another story to be told at a later date), in a part of the country where my accent made me different, so much so that some of the other kids were inclined to call me “Yankee”. A part of the country where a mere “yes” in response to a question was unacceptable. “Yes ma’am” soon became the mandatory phrase I learned to say when answering to and respecting an adult.

And those golf balls? They served as tools in Entrepreneurship 101 for me as I attempted to sell them to locals frequenting a nearby park. That initial enterprise netted me about $2.40 until one day two teenage boys grabbed big handfuls of my inventory from my bicycle basket and ran off with them.

That bicycle provided brisk transportation for exploring a whole new area, in a whole new state; quite different to anything I was used to. Given to me by my newly minted Step-Uncle, my set of wheels was nothing to rave about; it was a basic bicycle in good working order, suitably adjusted for my height and faded navy in color. The area around my home was mostly flat, with lots of quiet suburban streets plus a few roads that ventured out towards more desolate areas. My explorations were constricted by just one rule; I wasn’t allowed to cross the busy road that was a short two minutes away via pedaling. It sure was tempting, with the ocean just three blocks beyond it. Drat.

No matter. Still plenty of terrain to explore on the safer side of the street. I especially enjoyed one area that had homes spread father out, fields all around, and few trees. "Love is Blue" played loudest in my mind as I stood up on my bike for that extra leverage of thrust required to conquer a gentle hill towards where the more wide-open landscape started.

Wasn’t aware of it at the time, but, amazingly enough, there are lyrics to that song. It’s a sad tale of lost love sprinkled with various hues. Each color symbolizes various feelings associated with the end of the relationship. So in order not to shatter my memories, I’m going to apply those colors to those spring days from so long ago.

Blue, blue, my bike was blue (navy, remember?). Gray for the color of the skies in the cool mornings before the sun popped out. Red was the color of my favorite corduroy jacket. Green for the grass at the golf course where I accumulated inventory for resale. Green also brings to mind the smell of the pine trees that overpowered any other scents in the air. Black for how I sometimes felt in a strange new place, missing my friends while being made gentle fun of by new pals. But hey, who needs the lyrics anyway? Doesn’t really matter to me, when the memories remain clear.

Listen to "Love is Blue" here

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flower Power: Back to the Garden By Jayne Lamp

The term groovy itself takes me back to my youth but the one phrase that really sticks in my mind is Flower Power. Back then there were flowers everywhere, in our hair, on our clothes, on walls and on the side of VW vans.

Flower Power is the beauty of the real thing. As a young child, I remember coming home through the woods after school and finding my Father out in our yard, working in the flower beds. I would spend hours with Pop, learning all the names and discovering the difference between a new sprout and a weed. I marveled at the colors from spring until fall, when winter would come and the flowers would sleep until the warmer weather came again.

I now carry on that tradition of flower beds. When we first moved into our current home, there was just one lone Japanese Thorn Apple bush in the yard. That spring we bought our first rhododendron, which our oldest child accidentally split when the ramp he was jumping with his bike slipped. Also that year we started out first veggie garden. I will never forget my husband and I out there with the four children, him working the rototiller and the older ones wanting to till too. Well let's just say they tried. We planted, watched, waited, and then enjoyed the fruits of "our" labor.

Now sadly my babies are all grown, some with children of their own so I have turned my full attention toward my gardens. Yes gardens. With just a garden claw, along with my other standard gardening tools, I, in my own humble opinion, have created a garden oasis.

The fun begins with a trip to the local nursery to pick out the flowers. When I first started our garden, I never gave a thought that some plants die and never return. Ah, the annuals! Then my husband suggested perennials, and I asked him, “What are those”? Well, I found out quick! They come back every year! Eureka, I thought, and since then have not looked back.

That was three years ago and today I have several gardens scattered on the property. On one side of the garage, running down along the driveway is my English Garden. This one has spiderworts, daisies, and my much loved Buddleia (the “fancy” term for butterfly bush) and an assortment of other plants. Near the veggie garden is the Lily Garden. On the hill is the Desert Oasis; full of red hot pokers and various grasses as well as watermelon, cucumbers and zucchini. And the last bed is our hibiscus garden; so far I have found thirteen different one's for our area.

And while I do my gardening I make a supreme effort to always conserve and think green. I catch rainwater with a system improvised with watering tubes from my husband's shop. My youngest son's crib serves as the new bed for my strawberries. But the best part of my gardening is sharing what I learned over the years with my youngest grandson. To see the joy and delight on that boy's face when he picks a tomato he helped grow! For me, to say the least, Flower Power lives on, only now it evolves into on a whole other meaning for me.

Thanks Groovy Reflections for conjuring up some memories!

Written by Jayne Lamp, Guest Groovy Reflections Blogger

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Night I Met Jimi Hendrix, by S.K. Waller

My friend Debi lived just a mile from the UCSB (University of California at Santa Barbara) student village, Isla Vista. Despite the block-after-block layout of mid-century apartment buildings, the hippies hanging out at People's Park, the political activism and the strip of coffeehouses, mod boutiques and head shops had earned "I.V." the unofficial title of "Haight-Ashbury South". It was a place that was cool enough that Edie Sedgwick spent the end of her young life there. Today it is best known for the riots of 1970 during which the Bank of America was burned to the ground, but before that happened, Isla Vista was a great place to hang out, promenade in your hippie finery, enjoy live folk music in one of the several coffeehouses, and crash a party.

Debi was a model with the La Belle Agency and through her I sometimes modeled petite fashions for affluent mothers who lunched in El Paseo in Santa Barbara. We also modeled together for students at the Brooks Institute of Photography, but while I was gamine-like and fit in with the Mod look of Swinging London, she was the quintessential California Girl: blond, tan and sexy. And she knew how to use it.

On this particular weekend we'd gotten tickets to the Jimi Hendrix concert in UCSB's Robertson Gym. Debi was on a strict schedule of phenobarbital; she must have had epilepsy, but she never spoke of it. I remember that her mother came into the bedroom every night and woke her up to give her a pill, which I thought was kind of weird. That week she'd foolishly saved a couple of them up for the concert, and as soon as we were dropped off at the gym, we hit a water fountain. I'd never taken anything like that before and it knocked me into a hypnotic stupor that made everything around me move in slow-mo. At that point in my life I'd only smoked pot--this was entirely different, and I liked it.

In those days no one sat in chairs at concerts. Everyone just sat on the floor, stood near the stage, or danced. Being a musician, I was the standing sort, and we found a great spot to the right of the stage, directly in front of one of the speaker stacks. We were close enough to bassist Noel Redding that we could see the scuffs on his boots.

The concert was fantastic, and despite the drug, I have a vivid memory of Jimi's performance. Just as The Experience launched into their encore, a guy came up to us and told us to come with him. Being on real drugs for the first time, I immediately became paranoid, afraid that "they'd" figured out we were high (yeah, right... two teens in a gym full of Hendrix fans...), and were going to give us to the police. Funny, now that I'm older. We looked at each other, scared, and followed him. Mostly, I was pissed because I was missing Jimi's performance of "Foxey Lady".

The guy led us into a large back room in which a long table was set up as a buffet. I didn't understand what was going on, but in a few moments the doors opened again and my friends, Ernie & the Emperors walked in. They were the most popular band in the tri-counties area and were well-respected by the Lovin' Spoonful, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Deep Purple, and most of the really great bands of that time. I first met them at the Dolphin Club in Solvang, a facility that held teen dances with live bands on Saturday nights. Because I was a musician and my brother was a drummer in another band (and sometimes sat in with them), the Orosco brothers and I became friends. We'd also met up backstage at a Lovin' Spoonful concert at Earl Warren Showgrounds, so seeing them enter the room wasn't at all surprising. We spoke a little bit and I noticed that drummer Mitch Mitchell had drawn Debi away and was chatting her up. What was happening began to dawn on me: Mitchell had seen her in the audience and told one of the roadies to bring us backstage.

There was a stir at the door and in walked Jimi. He was a small man--probably no taller than 5' 4" and slight of build. Actually, all three of them were short, but Jimi possessed enormous presence.

He looked around the room, said a word or two to a couple of people, then walked right over to the buffet table where I was standing. Had he been interested in meeting me? I wonder. He was quiet--almost shy--and began talking to me. He asked me if I was a "Santa Barbara bunny", which in my mental state struck me as kind of an odd question, and I replied that I couldn't even swim, much less surf. I remember that he laughed, his face breaking into that beautiful smile of his.

I told him I was a singer/songwriter and he was immediately interested, asking me questions about my style, my influences and my goals. After a while he asked me if my girlfriend and I would like to go and party with him and the band, and like the naive 16 year-old that I was, I explained that Debi's dad was picking us up at ten. Sussing out that I wasn't a groupie, Jimi very sweetly and respectfully steered the conversation back to music.

Later, Jimi and Ernie had a friendly talk in the dressing room that led from the room I was in. Ernie clearly recalls Jimi's down-to-earth and magically humble qualities as the Rock legend leaned against his dressing room mirror conversing with him.

I don't remember leaving, but I've always regretted being high that night. I wish I'd had my wits about me--I'd remember a whole lot more about what Jimi and I talked about. We must have stood talking for ten minutes or more.

When I learned of his death, I was sad for a long time. Despite his wild reputation, Jimi Hendrix was a gentleman in the purest sense of the word who will always own a warm corner of my heart.

Written by S.K. Waller, Guest Groovy Reflections Blogger

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer in the 60's Series: "The Rupp"

Jersey Shore, the reality series, has nothing in common with those happy days I spent as a child during the summers there. For several years in a row, we stayed in the rental house right on Route 35, about a half hour south of Asbury Park. The house would be packed with the immediate family plus relatives coming and going. My Dad would only be there on the weekends; after all, he had to bring home the bread to feed us. His work was seasonal and he needed to work while it was warm outside and the ground wasn’t frozen.

The house we rented for several years resembled a sprawling bungalow. It was actually a former restaurant. The main room, to the best of my memory, had seven couches in it, arranged haphazardly. All of us kids grabbed a light blanket and claimed our territory at night. The choices spots were closest to one of the fans; you remember the ones where you could easily stick a digit through to the spinning blades and be damaged for life? Luckily, we all still have ten fingers.

I have no recollection of a TV in that house. Who needed it, when the beach was a block away? And who needed cakes and cookies when there was a Tastee Freeze just across the street? For additional entertainment, the house did have two screened-in porches, one facing the main drag and the other on one side of the house by a side street. Now you’re thinking, why even mention those porches?

First of all, those porches were protection from mosquitoes. They were also great places to simply rock in a squeaky chair and watch the world go by. But would you believe that those passers-by found us entertaining too?

One summer, my Dad bought a mini bike. A Rupp. Fire engine red. This was a fairly new fun vehicle, or should I say “toy” on the market at the time. Dad would proudly display it on the front porch and marvel at the people stopping, looking at it, and drooling. Some would ask questions about it. And he was happy to tell them all about that mini-bike. Though my young mind wasn’t familiar with the term “early-adopter” yet, my Dad clearly was one. And oh, how he wanted the world to know it!

For the record, that mini bike still exists. One of my brothers has it. It did receive a fresh new paint job in a deep bronze tone about 20 years ago, but has been sitting in a shed now for years. Wonder if it runs? The funny part is I don’t recall that Rupp ever leaving the screened-in porch for the whole summer. Did my Dad or older brother sneak it out at night? Hopefully it wasn’t as immobile then as it is today.

Note: Photo is not the actual Rupp we owned, but ours was similar. The pic is from

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer in the 60’s Series: Asbury Park (Not 4th of July).

The last day of summer vacation at the Jersey Shore was always a real treat……hello, Asbury Park!

I’m talking about the days before that city’s boardwalk area crumbled to pieces. Before the rides were all sold off. Before the beautiful turn of the century buildings at each end of the boardwalk were left to rot; rain and snow pouring in from hole-riddled roofs, shattered panels of glass, extensive Victorian exterior detail half missing. 

The building on the south end was The Casino, filled with indoor rides, a carousel, amusements and even an exhibit hall. I don’t know for certain, but it sure looks to me like Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love video was shot there.

After spending most of the summer at Lavallette in a rented house a block from the beach, my family would spend a full day at Asbury Park's boardwalk, enjoying rides, greasy fries, and funnel cakes. Me, 6 years old, wearing a size 6X red dress with white polka dots from Sears, giggling in a spinning teacup and feeling queasy from numerous rotations on the Tilt-O-Whirl.

A highlight was a visit to Palace Amusements, across the street from The Casino, just steps away from the boardwalk. The bold illustrations on its minty green exterior had all the right elements to beckon you inside. Tillie’s larger than life smiling face beamed a toothy grin, similar to the one I’d have after spending some time on the rides there.

A trip on the Ferris wheel was mandatory. On each gondola, gleaming white letters proudly displayed names of New Jersey cities, reminding us of the great state we were in. And, how many Ferris wheels do you know of that were boarded inside a building and popped into the sky through an opening in the roof? I’ll never forget the bird’s eye view that unfolded below of the boardwalk, ocean, Madame Marie’s booth, and my favorite teacup ride.

The fun house featured a slanted room with rows of metal railings that kept me from slamming into the wall while fighting gravity on the downside. Ancient wooden floors creaking under pressure, dusty dark corners, skinny hallways, strobe lights and fast blasts of air contributed to simple delight for a fun house experience that probably doesn’t exist nowadays.

The Palace was where I was introduced to gambling. My mom and I decided to play a wheel. Now, how hard can it be to win a prize? I immediately had my eye fixed on a stuffed saint bernard on the far wall that was summing me up with a rather dopey expression. Oh, victory was going to be mine! I could feel it.

Mom helped me up on a stool so I’d have a better view of the action. The hurdy gurdy sounds from the carousel blending with screams of joy riders added to my winning aura. Being so young and wise, my mom of course consulted with me on which number we would play. She followed my advice and placed a coin down.

The wheel started spinning. And spinning. Fast. Oh, when will it stop? This is taking forever, I thought, as I wiggled on my perch. Finally, the ticking of the pins on the wheel were farther apart. And then, even farther apart; eventually slowing to a trickle. Tick….tick…....tick…….…

C’mon already! While my mom gazed intensely at the wheel with a calm look on her face, the anticipation of the outcome was causing me to nearly burst inside. Finally, it stopped. My eyes went wide. Hopping off the stool, then jumping up and down with the velocity of a pogo stick, I proclaimed “We won we won WE WON!” and pointed at my already chosen prize. The attendant unhooked the object of my desire from the wall and handed that brown and white bundle of fake fur and stuffing to me. I hugged him. No, not the attendant, my prize, which I had already determined was a he. I looked at my mom and shrieked “His name is Zero”!

Here's a short video from 1984 of Palace Amusements. It really didn't change that much inside over the years. Gone now, but the memories remain.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Flower

Long walks are a hobby of mine; for me, it’s time spent in thought and relaxation while burning a few calories. Fortunately, there is a beautiful trail nearby. Something is always blooming there, enhancing the peacefulness of any stroll. The only downside is that the path is alongside a fairly busy street; however the noise of cars speeding by can be deafened by cranking up the iPod.

About 40 minutes into my walk, two women approached me from the opposite direction. One was strolling in front of the other one, who was in a wheelchair. The seated woman was in her mid 80’s or older, judging by her sunken, fragile appearance. Her head was slightly tilted to one side and she was warmly dressed despite it being in the mid 70’s. I had passed the pair earlier near the south end of the trail; at that time, the gal on foot was pushing the wheelchair. At our second meeting, the seated woman was controlling her motorized chair on her own.

As she and I moved closer towards each other, the seated woman's right arm came up straight in front of her. In her hand was a long, delicate orange-red flower. Tubular. A bell-like beauty that hummingbirds enjoy drinking from. I felt drawn to her and with the song “Let’s Live for Today” buzzing in my ear, questionably approached her and said “For me?”

She quietly said yes. I immediately let out an “oh my goodness” that resounded above and beyond the sha la la’s of the music, and accepted her gift. It was a short, unexpected, sweet, moment. Oh, but what a moment! She couldn't see my eyes watering up since I had sunglasses on. Perhaps I should have taken my sunglasses off. Then this wonderful stranger would have received the full impact of her kindness rippling through me and touching my heart.

Total duration? Less than ten seconds.

Talk about setting your mood high for the day! As I walked on, I thought about how simple it is to reach out and just be nice. I pondered about how seldom that happens. I made a silent vow to myself to encourage people to smile even more. And that goes to friends and strangers alike. Yes indeed, I can make those hellos a bit hardier instead of mumbling sometimes. My grin can be broader, my step a little springier. And next time you see me, don’t be surprised if I hand to you a flower.