The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Camp Meeker Beat - Tom Austin - November 2015


Camp Meeker Beat - November 2015

by Tom Austin

This is one of those months for me. No breaking news, no Indian legends, no fuzzy puppy human interest stories. Quite a number of little things, though, so I will take the opportunity to pay tribute to one of my columnist heroes, the late great Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle. That man could spin a mishmash of small items into a tempting civic goulash. I should be half as talented and consider myself lucky. Maybe next month I will do an homage to Jim Murray, or Art Buchwald, or Scott Ostler, or Dave Barry.  Any number of big shoes to fill in the columnist game. And so, I give you the Camp Meeker three-dot lounge.


Rain is the topic on the front of peoples’ minds. Just the word “rain” uttered at the bar of Barley and Hops last night elicited a spirited discussion among relative strangers. As we drive around the west county, we look at the powdered brown hills with a worried air.  Even the seven-drop rainfalls we get are occasion for mini rain parties. Hopefully by the time you read this we will have gotten some more. The weatherologists are saying the chances are good for rain this winter, what with an epic El Nino building up in the Pacific Ocean. The last time we had an El Nino this big was the winter of 1982-83 and 1997-98. Maybe you don’t remember the first one, but I bet you remember the more recent one.    Both of those winters featured floods, mudslides, and epic waves.


Until the rain comes, we all look a little nervously at the tinder-dry hillsides around us and above us. Besides the lack of water, the ravages of Sudden Oak Death on our forest has contributed a hellish fuel load of dead trees. The Camp Meeker Park and Rec Board is once again considering a “Chipper Program” to get a wood chipper and make it available to homeowners who wish to make their property safe and defensible.


The Camp Meeker Park and Rec Board is working hard in other ways to keep Camp Meeker safe and sane.  Action is underway to provide a crosswalk across Bohemian Highway to allow children to get across to the school bus stop (and for grownups to do the same on their way to the Post Office). Anything we can do to make that blind corner safer is much welcomed – I’m sure you’ve all had that nerve-racking experience of a car rounding the corner at the exact moment you made that left turn onto Market St.  In other efforts, they are getting quotes on getting fencing around the water tanks at the top of Tower Road and Mizpah (otherwise known as the Baumert tank). It seems there was an event where a distraught person scaled the Tower Road tank, possibly intent on self-harm, and had to be removed.   


I’m a breakfast guy.  I don’t want anything fancy. I consider the day someone invented “home-fried potatoes” to be a dark day.  Oh, it’s not the potatoes – some people can do wondrous things with rosemary and coriander and what have you.  It’s just that the humble hash brown got pushed to the side. Hash browns are an American art form, people! Fortunately, in Monte Rio we once again have practitioners of the art. As Lucy’s Lounge, they have got that straight ahead breakfast figured out. Hash browns with that golden brown goodness, steak and eggs, biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict, all delivered with generous portions, fast service, and the Sunday paper for your perusal. Now, for a number of years that spot at the corner of River Road and Bohemian Highway was the graveyard of lost diners – the most common dish served was “under new management.” No longer:  their roomy parking lot is filled on Sunday mornings with people who are in on the secret. Now you can be too. Two thumbs way up.


Speaking of moving around the west county, here’s a heads up for your picture framing needs:  Camp Meekerite Leslie Zumwalt is moving her Frame of Mind business from Forestville to a new location at the corner of Gravenstein Highway (Highway 116 for you city folk) and Occidental Road. Leslie knows how to frame a picture – she’s a talented artist and she brings that talent to bear in the craft of framing pictures. There’s a lot of art in that household, as her husband Chris Hataway has got his own style. One of his paintings (expertly framed by Leslie) is hanging in my living room. You might have seen his take on Frank Zappa as the Wizard of Oz way back in the day when the Bohemian Café was serving food in Occidental (where Barley and Hops now stands).