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Brushing up on one’s French, boogying with the Plan Be band

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Sylvia Crawford/Glen Ellen Columnist

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French language practice

French tutor, Glen Ellenite, Yannick Ponte, recently wrote to me about a few new services she is currently offering. Along with tutoring students of all ages in proper French, Yannick has added French conversation and wine language for professionals, as well as amateurs. The classes are custom-made for each of her students and involve a fun and easy learning method.

I have one young friend, a Dunbar student, who has been studying with Yannick for several years. She is hoping to attend the French School in Santa Rosa after her graduation from Dunbar. I’m certainly impressed with her conversational abilities in French, a language I studied for a couple of years back in high school. I never became proficient, but I can recite a few lines of poetry. Sadly, that doesn’t help much when you’re trying to communicate with a cranky Parisian cabbie. That’s happened to me a few times, and I think it’s now time for a refresher course with Yannick. She’s kind and gracious, plus simply and elegantly beautiful.

Yannick and her husband, well-known local painter, Don Ponte, can often be found at the local Glen Ellen Farmers Market, which operates all spring and summer at the Grist Mill parking lot just south of town. Don shares prints of his beautiful artwork. Particularly popular are his paintings of our most famous Glen Ellen author, Jack London.

Yannick can be reached at her email, yannick@glenellennest.com or by phone at 938-0321.

Remembering Joe Miami

Thank you, once again, to all of my good readers who knew Joe Miami back in the day. I had a good response to my request for stories about Joe. I believe that all of those folks have now connected with Jim Shere, and news will be forthcoming from these historical connections.

We enjoyed our conversations with Judge Pat Herron, who is also a grape farmer. Later, Bob Carver, another good neighbor, called to connect with Jim and share tales of Joe’s earlier days.

Sweetie and I ran into Bob and his sweetie, Blythe, just a few days earlier, as we both departed the Sebastiani Theatre after watching Roger Rhoten’s film offering, a documentary about the making of “Night of the Living Dead.” Leaving the theatre we stood on the street discussing New York City in the upper 90s in the late ’60s – by that of course I mean the region north of 90th Street in the years following 1960. Such times are easily discussed in the safe street-lit evening of current day downtown Sonoma.

Bob and Blythe spent an exciting couple of years in uptown NYC while Bob did postgraduate work at Columbia following a sojourn at Berkeley. We are not sure how those years in the Big Apple blessed his current vocation of grape growing in the Valley of the Moon, though we are sure they did.

Valentine’s Day plus one

Once again, I arrive with early news urging you to mark your calendars for Saturday, Feb. 15, a Saturday evening. This event is temporarily being labeled as a Valentine’s Dance Party. Perfect planning: if you and your sweetie indulge in chocolates and a sumptuous aphrodisiac dinner on the 14th, at one of Glen Ellen’s world class restaurants perhaps, you’ll be ready to dance it off on the 15th. And there is no better band to bring on that “I gotta dance” groove, than Plan Be.

Yep, ladies and gentlemen of Glen Ellen and beyond, our beloved Plan Be band will be performing at the Sonoma Woman’s Club at 574 First St. E., for the dance party of the year on Feb. 15. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the band striking up at 7:30 and continuing until the last dancer drops.

Plan Be is the amazing back up band for Sonoma’s own rock and roll choir, Vox Populi, led by maestro Mark Dennis. Last month, talented and happy voxers sang to help raise funds to air condition the Woman’s Club. Believe me, that’s a priority as summer approaches. Want to watch film festival offerings in a comfortable, darkened hall? AC is urgently needed. Either that, or we’ll once again christen the floor with sweat. So, the Valentine’s Dance Party, besides just fun, will be a fundraiser.

Story of the Woman’s Club

Sweet Shelley Richey sent me the following information about Sonoma Valley’s Woman’s Club to share with you:

For over 112 years, the Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club mission has been the same as it was in 1901 when the club was established: to work toward community improvement and perform social services.

Eleven pioneering women established the Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club on Sept. 21, 1901, with the goal of beautifying downtown Sonoma. These women began by cleaning up the Plaza, building the pond and planting trees to make it the beautiful park we all enjoy today. They also established the first library in Sonoma, restored Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma and were the original sponsors of the Sonoma Valley Hospital Auxiliary.

Current women at work

Through various fundraising efforts, the club raises money to help the youth of our Valley through scholarships and books for school libraries. The club also donates to various local charities in addition to maintaining its historic clubhouse and yard.

In 1913, with a loan from the Native Sons of the Golden West, members were able to build the Craftsman style clubhouse on First Street East. The club’s board of trustees is responsible for raising the funds necessary to maintain this wonderful old building. The largest source of income toward building maintenance and enhancement is rental income.

The Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club is a vital institution in Sonoma providing a venue for such notable events as the Sonoma International Film Festival, various Sonoma Valley Historical Society events, local celebrations and concerts, memorial events, and as the meeting place for their esteemed members.

Because the building is not air-conditioned, the club loses income during the warm summer months. The club is currently hosting a benefit dance in order to add that much-needed air conditioning to the building.

Plan Be lineup

You can betcha we’ll be there. Though my sweetie doesn’t yet know it, he will be taking me out for a fine dinner on the 14th, then joining me to boogie it off the next evening. The perfect Valentine’s weekend. If crowned with a little blue box containing something gold, all will be well. We’ll see.

As for the band, who can resist Plan Be? They rock, they roll and they follow riffs of melody out the window, around the block and back in the front door. When Mario Ramirez lets loose on his wailing guitar, the audience quickly moves past rapture. It’s all a fantasy of song and dance.

Quarryhill wedding news

Last year, or so, when Bill McNamara married his sweetie, Joanne, at the beautiful Quarryhill Ranch where Bill is the executive director, it was Plan Be who guided the bride and groom to the altar and kept them dancing well into the night. We love Plan Be, as do newlyweds Bill and Joanne.

Mark Willson, who is the leader and plays mandolin, performs vocals and appears a mellow ’60s fellow. But get him jiving, and there’s no stop ahead. Mark, often wearing his simple pork pie hat, can party till the cats come home.

Dave McKee on congas and vocals is mysteriously fanciful in playing those drums with fingers keeping a time I can’t quite fathom. But it’s good.

Richard Neiss, who earns his daily living keeping others folk’s pianos in tune, can rock the joint. Cliff Zyskowski on keyboard and vocals and Robert Ramirex on bongos and percussion are tops.

Plan Be history

The Plan Be gentlemen are often asked how they got the band’s name. The story goes, more or less, like this. (If you inquire from any one of the band members, you may get a different reflection on this.)

Mark, Dave, Ed and Richard have been playing together in Sonoma for more than 25 years. They have all played with other bands and have used other band names. Everyone in the group knew Cliff and all wanted to play music with him. So, when he showed up at practice a few years ago he was welcomed with open arms. The same thing happened with Mario and Robert. One night they showed up and the sounds they all made together just seemed to fit. (Things just go right sometimes.)

In the process of living life and trying to execute Plan A, they have found that Plan B might Be the best plan of all!

Plan Be, the band, is not a concept but a state of being: friends and lovers of good music getting together almost every Monday night to make “True Americana Music Magic.”

In case you wondered, “Americana” is everything that our melting pot of a country might have to offer. Rock, jazz, folk, Latin, country, blues, classic rock and classic. Add a little reggae, maybe Hawaiian drums, and salsa mix and you might be right on track.

The folks of Plan Be look forward to sharing an evening with you.

Quiet enough to hear yourself think

One of the delights of this talented band is their volume. Never too loud, never ear piercing, it’s always just right. Join my sweetie and me on Feb. 15 to dance the night away.

But don’t wait too long to buy your tickets. Just like with the Vox Populi concert of last month, the tickets will sell out quickly. I suggest that you scurry on over to Heidi’s candy shop, Tiddle Winks, on East Napa Street and pick up your tickets today.

You’ll have a fabulous night and you’ll further help provide air conditioning for the Sonoma Woman’s Club.

• • •

Share your stories with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before the publication date.