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Big trucks and small roads; Dunbar melodrama on schedule

Water, water everywhere

A little bit of excitement flowered in Glen Ellen when a major geyser erupted on the corner of Henno and Warm Springs roads last week.

Apparently the cause was a major truck trying to maneuver the minor roads, something we see frequently here in Glen Ellen these days. Attempting to back up in a tight space, the truck encountered a fire hydrant, causing it to burst.

Though we didn’t witness it, we saw photos of a large transport truck carrying multiple cars. We wonder why that was on Henno Road? Can’t see any car dealers in this vicinity. I hope he was taking cars away, and not dropping them off. We have enough.

Braille method bumps in the night

For the first three decades we lived here at Creekbottom, the only big truck we saw in the neighborhood was the weekly garbage truck, and back then, there was just one.

Then in the past decade, truck traffic began to bloom, and faster traffic too. Now big trucks are more than occasional visitors up and down our tiny lanes. Many barely navigate the historic bridge on O’Donnell Lane. In fact, one didn’t entirely keep to the straight and narrow on a recent bridge crossing. The amazing scars are easy to see on the bridge’s guard wall.

But those certainly aren’t the first scars that venerable old bridge has suffered. For many years, an eccentric and beloved neighbor found his way home from the lodge at 2 a.m. by using those guard walls as a guide. That fellow has long since gone to his heavenly reward (and he will remain unnamed). But, back in the day, when we’d be awakened by a bump on the bridge, we knew he was soon to be safe at home. The good news is, he always moved slowly.

Fast cars are threatening, fast trucks are worse. And huge trucks on that little bridge are just too big. And probably in violation of the weight limits, too.

Playing in traffic

As for Arnold Drive, the traffic through Glen Ellen is constant. Sweetie and I joke that old folks like us have to plan our crossings carefully these days. Even then, we sometimes encounter cars racing through town so fast they seem to appear out of nowhere, as we attempt to cross from the little market to Carmel Avenue on our way to the Regional Park.

While I’ll never be good at out-pacing racing cars, I have developed a pretty formidable stance to make them stop long enough so I can waddle across the street. These lame legs have their own speed limit.

My technique, in case you care to know: I stop when cars approach too fast, keep two feet planted firmly, slightly wider than my hips, my arms outspread (like I might do to intimidate a mountain lion), Then with a wave or two to get the car to see me, I proceed. Wakes up most of them. So far, so good.

But I’m glad I didn’t have to tangle with that transport truck backing up blindly across Henno and Warm Springs roads.

Hydrant gone, dogs bewildered

That gushing hydrant at Henno sent a small river flowing past the Glen Ellen Community Church. As Michael Witkowski, our neighbor (and a fine photographer, to boot) noted, there was a silver lining. Our ancient, twisted fig tree in the side yard on O’Donnell Lane got a good watering, as the flood waters swooped down Henno, toward Sonoma Creek, passing through our property.

We’re also hoping that the wildflower seeds we cast just after the last rain were established enough to absorb that blast of water without being swept away. We might yet see some wildflowers and be assured those hundreds of gallons per minute were not entirely wasted.

Even though it was Dunbar School’s spring vacation, we didn’t notice any children taking advantage of the spraying fount for a little recreation. Nor did we see Jim Hill using it for a spontaneous baptism.

Yet, more evidence of a silver lining was Mike Witkowski’s collection of brilliant photos from the incident. His reflection of the lovely O’Donnell Lane Community Church is a prize-winner. If it’s not in the print version of the paper, check out my column online to see Michael’s artistry.

Taming the geyser

While the gushing geyser, tall as the adjacent telephone pole, was impressive, it was also short-lived thanks to the quick work of our Glen Ellen Volunteer Fire Department. Those folks know how precious water is in this time of drought and they were instantly on the scene to help stop the flow. Thanks, once again, to them for their quick response and cleanup.

Cast of 56 at Dunbar

Meanwhile, folks up at Dunbar school, students and adults both, are working hard in preparation for this year’s annual melodrama, a fifth-grade tradition. Auditions have been held, casting is complete and rehearsals are well underway.

Kate Kennedy told me that this year there are 56 students involved. I suppose if anybody can wrangle that crew, it is Kate. But Kate couldn’t do it alone. She has a host of parent helpers close at hand, along with teachers and aides who have spent weeks helping the kids to learn their lines.

When Kate arrived on campus, it was expected that all of the kids would be “off book,” which is what actors say when they know their parts. Of course, that dream is a bit high-minded. I’ve watched even Kate’s adult actors not quite be “off book” until opening night. But it’s clear the kids are trying hard and they take these performances seriously enough to create the silliness that makes us all laugh with delight.

The week before school vacation, I ended up on the playground playing a spontaneous, invented game with a small ball and badminton rackets with my friend Luna Michelis and her pal Lily Barbagelata. Turns out that Lily’s mother, Cathy Barbagelata, is one of the parent volunteers helping Kate. That hot afternoon, she was holed up, alone in an overheated shed out by Haver Stage.

Horace Hearst’s suit rediscovered

Cathy was sorting piles of costumes from previous years, seeking just the right outfit for each character in time for their photo shoots. The years of costumes that have accumulated are impressive; it looks as though even a cast of 56 can be suitably costumed.

In amongst the racks was the pinstriped suit worn by the first Horace Hearst in his part as narrator in the same play that is being performed this year, “The Deadwood Desperado, or a Mother’s Grief,” written by Squire Fridell, with lots of encouragement from Suzy Fridell.

I was the creator of that costume, having purchased the smallest men’s grey pinstriped suit I could find at the Church Mouse. I tore it apart, remade it to look like a western gentleman’s getup and then it was worn by Gabriel Crawford, now Gabriel Holbrow. He took the surname of his beautiful bride, Hilary, when they were married some years back. Makes his feminist Ma and Pa (yours truly and Sweetie) quite proud.

Another flood ensues

That simple suit brought back a flood of great memories for me. Though the suit is moth-eaten and well-worn, the fact that it’s still there some 20-plus years on, makes this nostalgic mama happy.

I’m not the only one who indulges in playful reveries about the Dunbar Melodrama Project. Each year when the fifth-grade students perform the show on Memorial Day weekend, the audience is filled with past performers, alumni of Dunbar School. Everybody loves to reminisce about their theatrical debuts and their role on stage as Blackn’ Redburn, Sheriff Crabtree, Poker Alice, La Paloma, or maybe having participated in the beloved SOUND SQUAD.

This year, one of the narrators is being played, not by any one of my offspring, but by my friend Luna Michelis. I can’t wait to watch her in this important role. She’s already a seasoned pro. Last Thanksgiving weekend, Luna performed as the narrator in her Papa’s amazing and magical French Circus at Cornerstone Gardens. We asked Michel Michelis if he would be bringing his Le Cirque De Boheme back to the gardens again next Thanksgiving. It appears he will be, with new acts.

Meanwhile, Luna and her classmates are working hard on their parts in the Dunbar melodrama, perfecting them to entertain their audience.

This will be Kate’s 12th year as the director of the fifth-grade play. We applaud her as she begins her second dozen performances. Kate is not only a Sonoma Treasure, but a Glen Ellen treasure as well.

My Sweetie and I will surely be there at the Dunbar melodrama in May to cheer on her charges as they meet the difficult challenges presented by being on stage … it is truly a milestone and highlight of their Dunbar years, a rite of passage that helps all Dunbar fifth graders to be comfortable in the limelight.

Thinking outside the box office

If you’d like to help even further than simply just buying a ticket, the school would appreciate your donation to the Melodrama Program. Moth-eaten costumes always need replacement, sound equipment is ever in need of updates, and even the boards on the old stage needed to be replaced this year. Alberto Reis accomplished that necessary task.

Checks made out to Dunbar School Fifth Grade Play can be mailed to Dunbar School, 11700 Dunbar Road, Glen Ellen, CA 95442.


Want to see your own name in the news? 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; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before your desired publication date.