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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Los Gatos High School Honors Ted Simonson's Half Decade of Service

Most people reflect on their high school years as just another step towards adulthood and seldom do they hold the school itself with much reverence. So how do you explain the bond and spirit of comradery that endures amongst anyone connected to Los Gatos High School? It's like location, location, location. You had to be there.

Although this spirit is seemingly endless it was never so apparent as last Saturday when one of the school's biggest treasures was honored in a lifetime achievement awards ceremony. Ted Simonson is the essence of Los Gatos High School. His career there spanned 47 years as teacher, coach, counselor, dean of boys, bus driver and several administrative roles including principal for twenty years. So why not just stick around to make it an even 50 years? His time at LGHS was without a single sick day off so he joked that years 48, 49 and 50 were forced time off for uncollected sick pay.

Even if you are not part of this LGHS inner circle, you've undoubtedly seen their famous front lawn. Looking more like a small private college in New England this sprawling grass makes for one inspiring entrance. It also is the setting for every graduation ceremony and special events like the one in 1997 when 10,000 gathered to celebrate the school's 100th anniversary. The front lawn was the only obvious choice to place to honor Ted Simonson.

Yes, you read the long list of Ted's roles at LGHS correctly. In the 1950's he even drove the school bus. So to complete the celebration of his service they also parked this vintage 1952 Crown Super Coach School Bus in front of the school. It served LGHS from 1952 to 1973 but is still in service today.

I graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1968. Our class is especially close and we hold impromptu gatherings almost quarterly. Ted posed with a few of us Cats of '68 for this shot. (L to R) Alison (Egan) Ryan, Barbara Lynn, Ted, myself and Mike Cannon.

Obviously, Los Gatos High School is steeped in tradition. The main building was dedicated in 1925 and yet is still the active center of the campus. Not only does it house classrooms, theater and administrative offices but the main hall also features a memory wall. Embracing their past is just as important to this community's strength as it is to continue winning blue ribbon awards today. So I was certain that inviting a 1943 alumni to the party would be a great idea. Here I am pictured with Jackie Heimann who came armed with her yearbooks and vintage Wildcat jacket she earned from being a three time badminton champion. We are all hoping that someday her jacket will hang on the memory wall along side all of the other great memorabilia.

Most of the credit for organizing this event goes to Sandy (Spafford) Paulson Moore from the Class of 1963. Sandy is the quintessential Los Gatos High School alumnus who works tirelessly to support the school legacy. She also spearheaded that huge anniversary party for the school. I made certain she met Jackie and posed for a shot with the famous jacket of '43.

This celebration was all about Ted Simonson and it was all about Los Gatos High School at the same time. When Ted spoke he gave most of the credit for his success there to his staff. The sign that welcomes you to the Main Hall says it all with their very poignant motto:


Today the town of Los Gatos has a very upscale image and is among the priciest ZIP codes in America. However, the high school earned its reputation and respect long before the town ever became trendy. I am proud to call myself an alumnus and grateful for the experience this community continues to celebrate. Education at any level just doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

MUST MUSIC: Marc Cohn's "Listening Booth: 1970"

Seldom does an album come around that catches my ears in its entirety. Fortunately, my friend, Steve Slaght, heard this one being tracked during the breaks at a recent Jackson Browne concert in Berkeley. Steve described it as mellow but great arrangements of classic tracks you don't often hear covered.

The sticker on the CD package quotes Jackson Browne, "I'm thunderstruck by what a great album this is." Not about to question both Steve and Jackson I bought a copy of "Listening Booth: 1970" by Marc Cohn.

Marc Cohn is best known for his 1991 signature song, "Walking In Memphis". This new album is his first effort in doing all cover songs and specifically from 1970 which he explains was the most influential year for him in music. In his liner notes he paints a vivid picture of a record store called John Wade in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. It was the glass enclosed listening booths with headphones where he took in the work of so many great artists. As he describes this time period "at least musically it still felt like the 60's and wasn't really the 70's yet." The golden age of the single was still very much alive and yet great singer songwriter albums also flourished.

Here is the line-up for Marc's homage to 1970:

1. Wild World (Cat Stevens)
2. Look At Me (John Lennon)
3. Maybe I'm Amazed (Paul McCartney)
4. Make It With You (Bread)
5. The Letter (The Box Tops)
6. The Only Living Boy In New York (Simon & Garfunkel)
7. After Midnight (Eric Clapton)
8. The Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson & Miracles)
9. No Matter What (Badfinger)
10. New Speedway Boogie (Grateful Dead)
11. Into The Mystic (Van Morrison)
12. Long As I Can See The Light (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

This new release is available from all of the normal sources including iTunes. However, you might just want to pick up the actual compact disc as it includes great liner notes and "vinyl feel" graphics to really complete the 1970 experience.

Thank you Marc Cohn for a fresh spin on some true classics. It's a great return to another time musically when singer songwriters reigned and the music really mattered. From my own personal listening booth 2010 with headphones on...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Carl Cooks: Surprising Flavors Combine In Watermelon Salad With Olives And Feta Cheese

Here's a refreshing side dish as summer winds down but the warm weather is still upon us.

I love personal size watermelons because there is so much less waste. These beauties are just the perfect size to make this salad that easily serves 6 to 8.

A Personal size seedless watermelon
1 small red onion
Flat Leaf Parsley (about 1/2 bunch)
Fresh Lemon Juice (2 tablespoons)
Any kind of tasty olives pitted (about 1/2 cup sliced)
Extra virgin olive oil (2/3 cup)
Feta Cheese (1/2 cup crumbled)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Harissa or any other hot sauce (about 2 teaspoons to taste)

Thinly slice the red onion
Slice olives
Rough chop the parsley leaves
Make dressing by whisking lemon juice, oil, Harissa, S&P in small bowl
Deconstruct the watermelon as shown below:

Layer watermelon slices on platter
Top with onions, olives, parsley, feta and drizzle the dressing.
Serve at room temperature.

The final presentation is very colorful and a blend of unexpected flavors. It is best served with a spatula to insure the luscious slabs of melon separate and include all of the toppings.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome To Locke For The 39th Anniversary of My 21st Birthday!

Boating has always been a very important part of my life. Our family spent many wonderful years cruising the Sacramento Delta area. The meandering channels and sloughs made for a perfect place to really get away from it all. During one of our journeys we had the good fortune of being photographed for the cover of the June 1967 issue of Sea Magazine. Here my sisters, Holly and Gayle are poised on the bow seating of our boat we called "Cheers".

Our favorite place to frequent was Al The Wop's in the tiny town of Locke. Locke was a built in 1915 for the Chinese immigrants who were building the railroads. In 1934 Al Adami opened the first non-Chinese business in town and this bar/restaurant has endured as a landmark and total boater's hangout.

When my long anticipated 21st birthday finally came around on July 25, 1971 the party simply had to be at Al's Place as it is also called. This next shot is of the birthday boy and several of his college friends mostly from Santa Clara University as we did a little boating in the afternoon for a warm-up to the dinner celebration in Locke.

So when it came to picking a place for my big 60th celebration it was a no-brainer. I decided to return to the scene of the crime. I called it the 39th anniversary of my 21st birthday party. We could not squeeze boating in this time but the party was none-the-less spectacular. This town is steeped in tradition so I decided to wear my original Al The Wop's shirt which is long out-of-print. It was pretty obvious to everyone in Locke that this was not my first rodeo.

Before I knew it a few of the off duty employees were buying us drinks and making sure we felt at home. Pictured here are Keith, Renee and Apple who were enjoying a relatively quiet Sunday night until our whirlwind arrival. Renee wasted no time in grabbing my special birthday glasses.

As we expected Al The Wop's has not changed. The same down-to-earth friendliness prevails and I felt just as at home as I did in 1971. It is a complete original. The spirit is what brought us here in the first place and it continued to make more memories for us some forty years later. It's not rocket science...Eat, Drink and be Merry although we did some dancing and also had a very cool slide show of my past. Funky is the norm as here as you might be able to tell from their version of a birthday cake complete with a photo of Al's distinctive store front on Main Street, Locke. Honored guests get this personalized roll delivered to their table as the entire place sings "Happy Birthday."

Fortunately, for our sweet tooth cravings my sisters made a much more edible birthday cake in my favorite flavor banana and topped it with cornucopia of toppers. The cake toppers were a trip down memory lane and included my wildly vast array of passions. They even found a tiny 1964 1/2 red convertible Mustang which was my very first car.

The corner of the bar made for a perfect photo opportunity for the group shot. Folklore has it that the place was once a front for a brothel, thus even the bright red front doors make sense. :-)

My celebration was strictly immediate family and spouses. But a huge surprise awaited me in one of the tiny alleys in Locke. Upon our arrival out jumped my dear friends, Mark & Rebecca Ferrell. They traveled all the way from Bishop in the Eastern Sierras just to celebrate with me. They are well known for this kind of kindness. They continue to bless my life as we now celebrate ten years of friendship.

Locke, California is neither a tourist trap nor a ghost town. Only about 75 people live there and just 10 of them are Chinese. Like Al The Wop's the whole town is genuine and unique. It's authentic charm really defies description. If I've peaked your curiosity at all, just go see it for yourself. You won't likely be disappointed.

My biggest thanks possible goes out to everyone who made the 39th of my 21st so very special. And, of course, my enduring gratitude to my parents who not only introduced us to boating, but gave us many years of fun on the waters of The Delta and Lake Tahoe.