BJ Blanchard: Notes from Glen Ellen, Oct. 9

An unexpected historian, Jeff Falconer of Glen Ellen, has found himself a minor celebrity. To his surprise, the Jack London Society, a collection of serious London scholars and academics devoted to the life and work of Jack London, has invited him to give a talk at their Jack London Symposium in Las Vegas on Oct. 11 to 14. Falconer, a Valley local who graduated from Dunbar School and Sonoma Valley High School, and a life-long musician, has a special story to tell.

The title of Falconer’s talk is “Party at Jack’s!: Evolution of a Docent.” He tells the story of how as a teenager in 1968, he was friends with Anne Shepard who lived with her family in the cottage on Beauty Ranch. When Falconer’s fledgling rock band, Maurice Bleu, needed a place to practice, Anne got permission from her mom Marianne Shepard, and the teen band practiced at Anne’s cottage, shaking the rafters in what is now the London Cottage dining room.

Marianne was going to be away for a few days, and Anne got approval to have a “few friends” over for band practice while mother was away. A party was instigated. Word spread quickly. A “few friends” morphed into an all-out bash. A hundred kids rolled up the hill that night on Harleys, hanging out of pickups, playing guitars, and a riotous good time was had by all.

The next day, surveying the carnage, Anne’s grandparents and other family “elders” put an end to the partying, and peace was restored. The Maurice Bleu never practiced in the Jack London cottage again.

It is decades later now, and Falconer is a docent at Jack London Historical State Park. He leads tours through the park and lingers at the Wolf House, describing it as a “destination for frolic” for him and his teenaged friends in the 1960s. He leads “Mindful Hikes,” or walking meditations, sharing his understanding of how the silence of nature leads to calming of our souls.

In addition to tours of the park, Jeff Falconer reads out loud from the works of Jack London. “Tales from the Drooling Ward,” “The Water Baby,” “The Master of Mystery” and other stories draw a crowd, and remind us of how reading out loud can transport one to the South Seas, to Alaska, to Glen Ellen, via the Londons.

The Jack London Society, the “heavy hitter” London researchers who enjoy minute details of London’s life, write scholarly papers about memorabilia such as his medical kit (on view at the House of Happy walls), and examination of the sailing log from the Snark. This year’s symposium in Las Vegas will headline with Paul Thoroux talking about Jack London, the West, and the environment. Falconer is in good company, and the Jack London Society can add “Sixties Band Rocks Out at the London Cottage” to their list of investigations.

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