The Governator was in town a couple of weeks ago at a private reception at the park-like estate of Alison and Geoff Rusack, where I joined Genevieve Reitman, Sheryl and Rob Lowe, Carolina and Parker Montgomery (still aglow from his debut with Opera Santa Barbara), Sally Jordan, and Bob and Chris Emmons. Arnold was a cheerful earful compared to the usual sound bites of doom and gloom politics. He extolled the turnaround in employment and growth for “Caleefornia.”

“He’s an optimist,” David Lack, one of the hosts for the event, pointed out. "The Governor is showing people that he is moving this state forward. People in California can see that and they want it – they don’t want to go back or even sideways. Schwarzenegger is a progressive businessman and we are reaping the benefit of his leadership. He has been able to keep business in business, which is a huge, huge turnaround for this state." (As head of Lack Construction, David Lack says his Worker’s Comp costs have gone down 40% since the governor tackled the problem.)

Angling in Ireland

Twenty-five happy campers took off from Santa Barbara to spend one week in our “sister city” (village?) in Ireland – Dingle, County Kerry, on the west coast. This was part of the annual visitation we take each May (for members of the Santa Barbara Dingle Sister City) to visit and explore and play in the Dingle Peninsula. The weather was fantastic when we got there (and promptly ended just when we left!). On our second day there, some went horseback riding through the woods and along the beach, and four others (including yours truly) actually got over to and on the Blasket Islands.

Meanwhile, a hardy gang of five including Bill Brace (recovering, er, retired attorney from Hollister and Brace), Len Schalla, Dan ("Oh Danny Boy") O’Connor, banker Larry Works, and fearless female Marianne Freeman went out deep-sea fishing. They caught several sizeable fish – of the pollack and cod varieties. Larry prepped the fish, and the host of our Mainstay Guesthouse in Dingle Town cooked it all up and our entire crowd made a festive meal of it.

Symphony Send-Off

The last concert send-off for out-going Santa Barbara Symphony conductor Gisèle Ben-Dor included a party at Café Buenos Aires. The farewell party was attended by a full house, including Linda Hedgepeth, Marilyn Sullivan, Marlyn Bernstein, and Michael Milholland, Gillian Launie, Julia Briscoe, Joe and Carol Dobbs, Diane and John Calvert, Sandy and John Allen and Tim Putz.

By the way, the hottest jazz anywhere around occurs Saturday night at that restaurant….with Renee and Rueben Martinez along with Pablo from Caracas on bass and an awesome keyboardist whose name I have “momentarily fergitted.” Their gig ends at 10 pm, but you’re in for a special treat if you stick around past that, as the group just plays and jams for another hour just for fun. This is when it really starts to cook. These guys are unreal – well matched in technique, improvisational skills and styling – and make very tight musical magic.

The WOW Factor

My WOW factor for the month goes to the Howard School art show. I saw this two years ago and was really impressed. Art instructor Brooke Rye does not hang up the very best art work – she put up all of the artwork – and that’s what makes it so amazing. The level of artistic output is astonishing, and the class curriculum looks so interesting.

Two years ago, her lesson plan went through the major art styles – realism, impressionism, etc. Examples of all the greats were shown (Monet, Picasso, etc.) and then the kids, armed with the knowledge of their approach, drew or painted some object in that style.

This time, the focus was the study of art styles and techniques around the world. Greek art from the Temple of Artemis gave us painting on vases. We got the art of paper cutting from Japan and Poland, mandelas from India, the art of heraldry and coat-of-arms, African masks, American portraits, Fiber panels from the Cuna Indians. What an exposure to analyzing art!

The artwork that the Howard School kids did in class was then displayed at Island View Nursery’s retail store, an inspired location with its exotic interiors and furniture and knick-knacks from around the world. I thought it was not only community-minded, but rather brave to have all those kids invade the store. However, one clerk told me, “We did this last year and did not know what to expect. But honestly, these kids are so well-mannered and respectful, we had no problems whatsoever, so we jumped at the chance to do it again.” Anyway fabulous kids, fabulous show.

(Now if only I could get art instructor Rye to teach these same courses for Adult Ed.)