Here is the equivalent of the SI Swimsuit edition of the La Honda Voice: Download TheLaHondaVoice1Apr2012
by craig eddy
When covering the local music scene there are times I get to interview someone who has had a hand in making the scene what it is for several decades. This months featured artist is Reid Dennis. Reid has been playing music in the area for close to thirty years. He has been a behind the scenes kind of music advocate with the La Honda Fair as well as The Pescadero Fair. I guess when your wife is a festival director you somehow end up helping out. Born in San Francisco, Reid moved to La Honda in 1970 when he found a great deal on a house. He grew up liking the banjo and the folk music scene. One of his first influences was Pete Seeger. He also listened to the jazz of Turk Murphy. His favorite bands of the era were the Kingston Trio, The Coasters and The Weavers. Reid became a rock fan after seeing Buffalo Springfield at a concert at UCSB. That pretty much retired the banjo. He got himself a Gretch electic guitar and an amp. When local icons The Rythm Method broke up he hooked up with Mark Binion and started the Mark Reid Band which still plays together today. Reid still says that Mark is his favorite musician to play with. When asked to tell of his favorite gig he talks about gigging at Alice's Restuarant when in came a huge group of people with one Richard Alpert aka Baba Ram Daas. He switched to playing very sweet quiet music and gives credit to Mark for not knowing what Reid was doing but going with it anyway. What's new for The Mark Reid Band? MRB has been spending time at Slipperworld studio getting the groundwork laid for their first professional recording project. Maybe late this year or sometime next we'll get the new CD. Hats off to Reid for the many years of helping with the local festivals.
by Joe Cottonwood
James Adams, cabinetmaker, has been accumulating trees for a while. Not entire trees, exactly, but the rough-sawn lumber milled by woodcutters around La Honda. From Con Law, there was a walnut tree. From Orril Fluharty, a pine. From Neil Young’s Broken Arrow Ranch, a cypress. Here and there, a bay laurel, a black acacia. Trees that were sick or in the way or felled by a landslide. Some of the wood, such as the black acacia, was of questionable value. The lumber was salvage, and local, and would need to dry out for a few years. “It was pure speculation,” James said. “I had no idea.”
One day James, needing a new guide for his table saw, grabbed a rough scrap of black acacia. First he sanded it. What he saw made him sand it more, then apply a coat of finish. “It just popped,” he said. “It looked like koa, only better.” (Koa is a highly valued hardwood from Hawaii and is a member of the acacia genus.)
What began as speculation became fine furniture, such as a cabinet James made for Russ Haines, a La Honda resident. In this detail, the top is claro walnut while the support is black acacia:
"I'm a big fan of James' work," Russ says.
In a recent project, James built the kitchen cabinets for Maggie Foard, the well-known goat farmer and cookbook author. Maggie already knew she wanted to use salvage. Architect Lori Hsu drew the layout. James chose details of how to integrate.
Some of the wood, such as the panels of these cabinets, came from an ancient fence on the Driscoll Ranch:
Befitting their origin at a working cattle ranch, the fence boards included a few bullet holes (apparently not employed in the cabinet panels).
Under the big kitchen sink, James placed posts on which he carved bun feet and fleur-de-lis:
Working on a smaller scale, James makes sets of coasters from hard and softwoods obtained locally. From left to right, on top are walnut and bay laurel (with a few insect holes to assure authenticity); on the bottom are black acacia and pine.
For another project, James is gathering driftwood at San Gregorio Beach. Speaking of his finds, he can joke or wax poetic: “Many pieces have spalting, a network of black lace-like patterns randomly suffusing the grain, acquired as the fallen wood lay on the forest floor before having been washed to the sea. There’s one piece of redwood with stunning reds and blacks like shaded fire and smoke, and harder than Chinese algebra. I never knew redwood could be that hard.”
Like many craftsmen, James’ language belies the popular image of the uneducated woodworker. His father taught English at Palo Alto High and College of San Mateo. From a childhood in Menlo Park, James came to the Haight Ashbury. He says, “I bummed around, did my hippy thing.” One day, he pursued a job listing for a cabinetmaker’s helper, which turned out not as expected: The cabinetmaker wanted somebody to paint his house. Needing the money, James took the housepainting job and eventually eased his way into various cabinet shops. From “bang bang” shops turning out a cabinet every fifteen minutes to classical mortise and tenon work, from the Hard Rock Cafe to roulette wheels for the East Palo Alto mafia, from the Atomic Energy Commission to NASA (he built a cabinet to display a moon rock), “I had kind of a history working for somebody six to twelve months, catching up on the technology, then moving on.”
Along the way, James moved to the relative peace and quiet of La Honda, where he has lived for three and a half decades. For many of those years, he was the town’s long-running multi-league soccer coach. With age, he says, “I’ve hung up my cleats.”
James is an astronomy freak who owns a collection of telescopes, including a home-assembled refractor. On occasional nights he has set up the eight foot long telescope in the school parking lot and shared it with anybody in town who wanted to drop by. A lifetime enjoyment of science fiction has encouraged his viewing of planets and deep space nebulae. He is also something of a raconteur, telling tales of riding a Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle or participating in psychedelic "research."
James lost his house in the recent financial meltdown. Feeling snookered by his mortgage company, James became a picketer outside Chase Bank, much to the institution’s displeasure. Partly disabled by arthritis, he is engaged in salvage of the most local sort: his own life. Currently he lives in a trailer and engages in part-time cabinetry.
In spite of financial hardship, James says, “I love the fun of woodworking. Things fun don’t pay as well.”
These days, he seeks creative challenges. Inspired by legendary craftsman George Nakashima (and Nakashima’s book The Soul of a Tree), James seeks a natural style that gives an idea of what the original tree was like.
Right now, among James’ projects are a commission to build a trestle table without hardware but with a leaf. He’s also designing a steampunk guitar.
Creative challenges, local salvage. As James wrote: “Discoveries. In found pieces of trees, beauty in flotsam littering a beach, in the jetsam of discarded pieces of wood. If only there was some way to apply this principle to our day-to-day experiences…” Which of course, there is.
(The photos of the Foard kitchen are used by permission of Lori Hsu, architect, who retains all rights.)
By Joe Cottonwood
On a Saturday afternoon in 1979, I was working outdoors with a pick and shovel, making steps out of railroad ties on the hillside below my house. A jolly man staggered slowly up the driveway. With long whitish hair and beard, he looked like Santa Claus. Holding out one arm, he said, "Can I lend you a hand?"
I stared down at that arm. He had no hand.
"Oops, sorry," the man said. "I meant the other hand. This one was eaten by a tiger."
That was my introduction to Paddy O'Sullivan (Padraig or Padreic or Padreac — I've seen it spelled each of those ways). On that particular day, he actually helped me move one railroad tie before he realized that I wasn't a soft touch for cadging a drink.
Paddy was by nature a performer. He claimed that his career began at the age of four as a character in the "Our Gang" movies, tipping his hat on film with the same gesture as he tipped at age sixty-four. Whether or not he truly began as a Little Rascal, he became a bigger one.
He could show you a newspaper article from 1957 with the headline MAN HATCHES OSTRICH EGG. That man was Paddy.
His mother had a theatrical career, or so he said. He had a pair of pistols called the Naked Ladies.
In San Francisco Paddy had been living with the poet Bob Kaufman in North Beach, just across the street from City Lights Bookstore. Kaufman was an improvisational jazz poet who would riff and recite on sidewalks, even sticking his head into people's cars.
Bob and Paddy both were in a downward spiral. A young woman who had befriended Paddy finally got him out of there, drove him to La Honda, and set him loose here the way people abandon dogs and cats hoping somebody will adopt them. Those dogs and cats often wind up on my doorstep, so it's fitting that Paddy appeared there as well. Don't blame the young lady, by the way. She gave Paddy "a couple years' worth of re-invigoration," as she put it. "He had really crawled into a shell when I met him. He gave me a couple of years of entertainment, and that's what he was, basically, all his life, an entertainer."
For a while in La Honda, Paddy was a squatter in Ken Kesey's old cabin, which was vacant, floorless, and basically unlivable at the time. Then he rented a garage and promptly got kicked out. He ended up occupying a trailer on Sequoia Drive in the back yard of a man who was preparing for an invasion by space aliens.
Paddy wore a cape. He published a thin chapbook of poetry: Weep Not My Children. Though he'd lived for years at the world center of beatnik culture, he insisted he was not a Beat. Similar to Bob Kaufman, Paddy would recite anywhere at any time. He once barged into a birthday party at the Cuesta clubhouse, stood on the table with the cake, and recited wretched poems until he was finally shoved out.
Paddy spent most of his days and nights at the bar in Apple Jack's where a photo of him, full color, framed, hung on the wall. Claude and Kayla, the owners, kept a benevolent eye on him.
The last time I interacted with Paddy was in 1991. A hot July night, sleeping with the windows open, around midnight I heard cursing from the street below my house. At 5 a.m. I heard more cursing — and a voice crying "Would somebody please help me?" Outside, at the base of those railroad tie stairs, I found Paddy lying tangled in blackberry vines: confused, lost, unable to stand. He'd been there since midnight. "Why did you fill my home with brambles?" he said.
"You're not in your trailer," I said. "You're in my blackberry patch."
I couldn't raise him to his feet by myself, but a patrol car pulled up. The sheriff's deputy said, "Is it Paddy again?"
The deputy stood over Paddy and said, "You're getting too old for this."
Paddy said, "I only had a couple of beers. I think I had a heart attack. Flutters. There's a respirator in my trailer. Just take me home."
"Paddy," the deputy said, "last week you got lost in your own woodpile. I'm calling an ambulance."
In retrospect, I'm amazed that Paddy helped me move that one railroad tie back in 1979. I must be a pretty good contractor to have gotten that much work out of him. He'd been hoping for a beer, but I had none to give.
Paddy could only be happy at the center of a three ring circus where he could read his poetry while wearing his cape and hat. La Honda is a one ring circus, but it was the best he could find.
Paddy, I'm a little late, but this beer's for you.