Thursday, October 6, 2011

Big Dig at Terrace Avenue in Bolinas Will Restore Key Access Route

By Shari Faye Dell (published in the West Marin Citizen October 6, 2011)
     West Marin Report on KWMR

At a Bolinas Community Public Utility District (BCPUD) meeting in June, the county unveiled plans to reinforce and rebuild the bluff on upper Terrace Avenue, a road that has been closed since January 2010.
Now entering the third week of excavation, on average, 160 truckloads of material are moved daily to a temporary storage site on the soccer field at Mesa Park.
Standing on the rim of the massive pit, spectators speculate, “See those trees over there? They are about 120 feet high, if you stood one of those on the bottom, I bet we would be level with the crown,” says one bystander.
However, appearances can be misleading, according to Marin Department of Public Works Principal Civil Engineer Ernest Klock, the construction crew has nearly reached the target of 135 feet above sea level, or 60 feet below the surface. The goal of this bench excavation, to reach bedrock, will allow access to dig a keyway into the bedrock. This keyway, five to ten feet deep, is the foundational base for layering compacted soil, or soil lifts, between Geogrid fabric, a plastic mesh with very high tensile strength. The layering process continues until ground level is reached, allowing the whole of the repair to act as a unit founded on bedrock. “Advantages to using this kind of repair is that it is very earth friendly,” Klock explained during the June meeting. “We will be using all the existing on-site-materials, no concrete hauling and no mining in southern California for lime to make a concrete retaining wall. The finished surface can be replanted so that it looks exactly like it looked before the slide happened.”
The June estimate of 50,000 cubic yards of material was readjusted just before construction began. Now approaching the adjusted figure of 20,000 cubic yards, the enormous mounds at Mesa Park appear to be at capacity. If the rains let up, excavation goals could be reached with several more days of digging.
Sand, not soil, comprises all but the topsoil removed from the dig. It is because of the sand that the cave in occurred. Standing before a diagram, Klock explains, “The underlying bedrock, this upper sandy mass, is basically sliding on the bedrock. What happens is: rain falls and permeates through that sand, just like on the beach–there is no water build up on the beach, water goes through the sand, hits the bedrock and moves horizontally. So, when all this sandy mass is saturated it tends to slide on the harder material.” 
Funding a landslide
Severe erosion at the site drew county attention as early as 2006. Unable to obtain federal funding at that time, Marin County Department of Public Works eventually closed the road to vehicular traffic after storms caused severe slumping in 2010. Additional closures were enforced in April of this year. A cyclone fence was installed around the section that became a deeper, broader pit and signage instructed bicyclists and pedestrians to use an alternate route.
Many locals had grown fond of the auto free zone through the sacred Eucalyptus grove, an annual migration layover to Monarch Butterflies, and the iconic Surfer’s Overlook with the sweeping view of Bolinas’ southern exposed beach, Mount Tamalpais, San Francisco and beyond. While alternative transportation is popular in Bolinas, alternative routes are not: A cliff-side trail allowed locals to sidestep the barricade.
“Funding was always an issue, so until the board allocated funding to fix it, our hands were tied. Being an engineer here, working for the county, I would love to fix everything but money drives all the repairs,” Klock explains. “Basically, after a storm occurs, the engineering division of public works goes out and assesses the damage. Typically, in larger disasters–state of federally recognized disasters–the county receives state or federal aid, but, in this case, we had not. We approached the board, asking for help and they allocated money to fix these high priority slides.”
In conjunction with the County, BCPUD hired a geotechnical engineering firm to explore options to save Surfer’s Overlook from erosion and the immanent failure if left unattended. “Having the known failure at [upper] Terrace and the at risk failure of Surfer’s Overlook threatened accessibility to 41 homes between those two slides,” says Klock. The fact that upper Terrace is an easier, cheaper fix, requiring fewer studies and permits led the county to move forward with repairs.
Bolinians gets a new road and a new field
Where to store one acre of soil ten feet high? That was the question in June but local entities–BCPUD, Bolinas Fire Protection District, and Mesa Park–were able to map out a plan. An agreement was signed, in exchange for resurfacing and reseeding the soccer field at Mesa Park, otherwise known as the Firehouse Park, use of the field was granted through December.
Mixed feelings
Bolinas Fire Chief Anita Brown describes safety concerns that can soon be dismissed.
“I am very happy that the counthy has undertaken this project being that the majority of our residents live on the mesa and being that mesa road which is now the only road on and off the Mesa, has been close twice this year. That means no one can get downtown and because the firehouse is on the Mesa, we can’t get fire engines downtown. We can’t get an ambulance up to residents on the Mesa, so the fact that the county is doing this is a great project. We need both access roads.
Gavi Emunah, a seventh grader at Bolinas-Stinson School says, “Terrace is a safe place to ride bikes and skateboards and it is nice to walk down a road with a view and without cars.”
“I feel that could have built a short road through the sewer ponds or the quail preserve with eminent domain, routing traffic from Overlook to Marin Way,” says Albert Hollander, a Bolinas resident since 1973. “Then Terrace could be a walking street. The main reason they are doing the repair is so people on Marin Way can have access if Surfer’s Overlook fails. I, however, have a home at the foot of terrace. I have enjoyed the street being closed. It has reduced traffic and fumes that I experience from the constant flow of traffic. Other people also express their joy at walking unencumbered by automobiles. The road is dangerous–narrow and there is no soft shoulder.” 
On the edge
Early last week the house on the southeast corner of Overlook and Terrace avenue still had a picket fence and yard. The house is now perched five feet from the precipice after loosing twenty feet of yard to fall in around the dig.
“The contractor is responsible for that damage. We had no intention of going onto private property with the repair, that was the result of the sands being loose in that area and the contractors operation caused that,” says DPW’s Ernest Klock. “So, Maggiora & Ghilotti is on the hook for that. They are in contact with the property owner and working with them.”

In briefest form, this story can be he heard at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A surreal journey into perceptions…

Jeff Manson, Lia Sabbattini and Ariana Hooper.

By Shari Faye Dell (appearing in the West Marin Citizen September 29, 2011)

Revel in the writings of Aldous Huxley, his title inspires us to “Open the Doors of Perception.”
Writer and director Jerrund “Jerry” Bogeste presents “Inner Woman.”
“It’s a play about how perceptions change as we gain experience, wisdom and knowledge. And how perceptions can be locked into what I call the poisonous pedagogy,” says Jerry.
Stuck in routine and going through all the motions, leading lady Nuxa Diamo, played by Arian Hooper, is trying to find a mate. Employing new methods, she looks for her special someone through local dating services and online. She gets lucky when she meets a psychic tarot reader and later draws upon an unconscious response from the reading.
Soon after, a psychoanalyst lends intellectual affirmations. Will she overcome cultural and societal conditioning?
Only human
From the moment life begins, our neurological freeway begins stock piling tidbits of information–stored in the unconscious, a library full of associations. Unconsciously, future experiences reference the associations. “For example, you smell tobacco smoke. Unconsciously, it reminds you of your father which you equate with love,” says Jerry. A pleasant feeling washes over you. “But, at the same time, intellectually and psychologically you know that tobacco is not good for you. Still, the emotional response–comfort and love–is there.”
The evolution of self involves a process of discovering these associations and choosing what to do with them. You might choose to isolate the associations that affect you negatively. “Finding out who you really are is freedom. Understanding that personal freedom is not just doing what you want,” says Jerry. “Often we do things that don’t affect an edifying experience because we do things that are not good for ourselves.
“Knowing who you are is getting closer to the freedom; so at least, you know who you are not.”
“Inner Woman” first conceived as a writing exercise last spring, evolved from a single character, Nuxa Diamo, the pisces personality that incorporates many idyllic female qualities, to a fully scripted three act play with eleven characters and original music by three songwriters. With the central theme set in his mind, Jerry set to the task of casting last May. In June he began work on the script, tailoring and crafting each role to individual members of the cast.
Creativity begins when we are discontent. Creative discontent is where we begin to find freedom, the first recognition of who we are. Things are not going to be like we want them to be, we have to adapt. That is what survival is about if you look at Darwin, survival is about the fittest, not the strongest. The one who is able to adapt to the circumstances. Out in the big world everything is flash, we are looking at screens, and we are picking up all of this tacit information. How do we feel inside? Are you with your best friend, your mentor? Are you able to be alone and not feel bored: do you enjoy your own company? If you are able to enjoy who you are you can share that.
It is an inner feeling, not dependent on gender or how you look, or dress or what you think. It is the feeling that you need to come into contact with, that is the “Inner Woman in all of us. It is just a question of when she comes out.”
“Essence begins with knowing who we are,” says Jerry. “Well being is our only possession and sharing it is as high as we can get on this planet.”

“Inner Woman” opens Friday, September 30. Also showing Saturday, October 1 and Friday & Saturday October 7 & 8. Doors open at 7:30pm. Play commences at 8 p.m. The theater piece deals adult relationships and subject material. There is some role reversals and some gender bending. The play is not recommended for audience members under the age of18 years.

Arianna Hooper, Howard Dillon, Lisa Lisa, Mimi Calpestri, Nate Siedman, Jerrund Bojeste, Lena Grozman, Mumba, Jeff Manson, Lia Sabbattini, and Victoria Hazlett. Music by Jeff Manson, Lena Grozman and Roger Crissinger.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Monsoon: Seeded in Pennsylvania, planted in Marin and ripened nationwide

By Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen July 21, 2011)

Garnering national success, Marin based jamband New Monsoon toured extensively for the better part of 10 years. Slowing down only when children came into their lives, the group has been hanging close to home for the last two and half years. “It has been one big season of growth,” says founding member Bo Carper. “Jeff and I are new to fatherhood. Ultimately, family life and the initiation of fatherhood lends a richness–a renewed sense of purpose and relevance to life. I think it is reflected and will continue to be reflected in our new music.”
While avoiding life on the road, the band has been busy writing new material and maintaining a rehearsal routine. “It has been a really important phase,” says Carper. “Our sound has been altered by having more time at home to focus on more creative aspects of our music. It is difficult to write and work when traveling.
“We have been focused on developing our harmonies, something we don’t get to do on tour.”
New Monsoon is poised to launch back into the scene with several upcoming Bay Area shows including Summer Music Fest at San Geronimo Valley Community Center this Saturday and an August 5th appearance at the Great American Music Hall.

New Monsoon seeds were first sewn at Penn State University. As students, fingerstyle guitarist Bo Carper and keyboardist Phil Ferlino were members of All Shapes Ensemble, “It was very much the precursor to New Monsoon–in the musical approach and instrumentation,” says Carper. Ferlino was the first common denominator between Carper and guitarist Jeff Miller. Ferlino played in a cover band, Mosaic, with Miller. “Phil was friends with Bo and played in a group called All Shapes and we’d all get together and jam. I was most impressed with how many original tunes they’d written,” says New Monsoon Co-fouder Miller.

Go West
After college, “I had decided to move to California but didn’t really have a plan,” says Carper. He called up a cousin living in California. She suggested he come stay with her in Bolinas till he figured out what he wanted to do. “I thought I would end up in Southern California,” Carper explains, “pursuing a career in film production, the focus of my education at Penn State.”
“I arrived at her place May 10th 1994, in the middle of the night,” Carper says, clearly invoking a memory that still awes. “I woke up the next morning surrounded by her flower garden bursting with every imaginable blossom and I could see the ocean just down the hill from her place above Duxbury Reef. I said, ‘Wow, I hope I can stay here,’ and it all just fell into place.”
Carper met a music teacher who, at the time, worked for (now defunct) Full Circle, a non-profit residential all-boys school focused on special education needs. “I volunteered to teach some guitar. One thing led to another; suddenly I was working there,” says Caper. “I was there for nine years.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Miller moved to Boston to study music on the scene. “I wanted to learn Jazz. We’d go to Ryles, Willow Jazz club, Regattabar. I was pretty obsessed,” says Miller. “I had a group called Lifeline Trio which ended up making a CD and performing in those same Jazz clubs.
“I got my fill of Boston and wanted a change, so I called Bo.” Miller moved out to San Francisco in May 1997.
Guitarists Miller and Carper joined forces, drawing the name from emotional and climatic (El Nino) trends, New Monsoon solidified. That same year, they played their first night at Smiley’s Schooner Saloon in Bolinas.
Several years into Bay Area gigging, “The band made it to what I call second base in 2001 when we were invited to play the High Sierra Music Festival,” says Carper.
“Phil Ferlino, after years of trying to recruit him, moved out to California just before the festival,” says Carper.
The first iteration of New Monsoon had grown into a seven-piece World Music Jamband featuring a gamut of instrumentation: acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, lap steel, mandolin, organ, keyboards, bass, didgeridoo, timbales, tablas, and congas.
“Fast forward, we played a bunch of gigs and toured a lot.”

A second decade
“We have had some ups and downs–some amazing times experiencing degrees of great success, as well as, some challenging times just trying to keep it together,” says Carper. “Any band that has been together this long goes through changes. Membership changes are hard. Filling new rolls and adjusting to the absence and opening up to new members.
Adjusting to changing attitudes of fans as the band evolves: All challenging.”
Core members–Carper, Miller and Ferlino–adopted six-sting bass player Marshall Harrell in 2008. “He is a great player. Tremendous. Talk about important eras for the band–our ups and downs–one of the biggest ups, one of the best things that has happened to us, I think,” says Caper, “in terms of finding renewed stamina and creativity? When Marshall joined the band. He really carries a lot of weight. He is a contributor in every way.”
New Monsoon’s most recent drummer, Brooklyn based Sean Hutchinson, has been playing with the band for about three years. Flying Hutchinson in for shows has proven difficult. So the group started looking for a local drummer.
Through several different channels the group connected with drummer Michael Pinkham (Albino, Samba do Coracao, Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble). “Turns out he [Pinkham] lives in Bolinas and plays in a band with Steve Trivelpiece (This Old Earthquake),” explains Carper. Coincidentally, the first drummer Carper and Miller drafted in 1987 was, at the time, playing in a project with Trivelpiece. “Michael has done a handful of gigs with us, has other band obligations but, we are hoping to do more gigs with him. He is a great drummer. Hand drums–many styles–and a strong afro-cuban sensibility. Even on the two-step he finds a way to make it really funky, adding color to our sound.”
“We have had a lot of interesting connections in Marin; and support.
“One of the things that has very cool for us, John Cutler helped us engineer and mix our fifth record, New Monsoon V.” says Carper, noting that Cutler mixed live albums for the Grateful Dead. “Michael Shreve, drummer for Santana, produced one of our records. That was really cool.”
New Monsoon has shared the stage with heavyweight guests Mike Stern (Miles Davis), the late, great Martin Fierro (Zero, Legion of Mary), Steve Kimock, and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), to name a few. They've toured with String Cheese Incident, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Umphrey's McGee (Big Summer Classic Tour), supported Moe, The Wailers, etc and are a featured headliner in venues such as the Fillmore (SF), Gothic Theater (Denver), and Warehouse Live (Houston). They are also a perennial favorite of the festival circuit including marquee festivals like Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, Langerado, High Sierra, Telluride Bluegrass, Austin City Limits and many others.

“I wouldn’t say that I am surprised the band is still together, I am very grateful,” says Carper, “that we have been able to keep the core together and grateful for all of the people who helped get it rolling and keep it rolling over the years.
“We have navigated the ever-evolving landscape for more than ten years, we think we can do twenty more years.
We feel we have reached a point, a life long commitment–We hope to keep it rolling until we are too old to get out of bed.”

New Monsoon and Cast of Clowns–Greg Anton (Zero), Melvin Seals (Jerry Garcia Band), Bobby Vega (Santana), and Craig Wright (Elijah)– appear Saturday, July 23 at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center. Gates open at 3:30pm. Music scheduled for 4:30pm. Discounts are available for groups of 6 by advance purchase only. Tickets available at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bolinas bike and ped path nearing completion

Ibarra Demmerle (pictured), joined volunteer students Gavi & Melea Emunah, , Jacob Klein, Debora Tevalan, Lianne Kelley and Orie Johnson-Young on the hottest and longest day of the year–the Summer Solstice–to beautify the Bolinas bike path. Also on board for the day were community members Walter Hoffman, Rachael Gertrude Johnson, Dale Johnson and StuArt Chapman; as well as Bolinas Stinson School art teachers Harriet Kossman and Kathy Bustamante. While keeping the volunteers in paint, supplies and water, Bolinas Community Path Improvement Project Volunteer Project Coordinator Bobbi Kimball, described the task of the day, “We really want to demarcate the path so it is safe for kids; the median does that to some degree, but having colorful stencils on the path really helps,” says Kimball.

by Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen, June 23, 2011)

Bolinas Community Path Improvement Project Volunteer Coordinator Bobbi Kimball has collected more than four thousand dollars for the path improvement project: a grant from the Stinson/Bolinas Community Fund and nearly 60 individual donations ranging from ten to five-hundred dollars. While the proffered funds covered more than half the cost of the plants, pavers and erosion control materials, additional resources, support and assistance come from the Bolinas Community Public Utility District, Marin County Department of Public Wolks (DPW), Resource Recovery, the Bolinas Stinson School Foundation, the Bolinas Stinson School art department, Warren Weber and the labor of many community members.

The narrow strip separating the path from the main road into town was filled with road base following path construction last year. Kimball saw the need for improvement and spearheaded a plan, “The project was undertaken to benefit our community by better demarcating the bike path, creating a visually appealing plant buffer in the median strip, demonstrating the beauty and use of native plants and most importantly, improving the safety for bikers and pedestrians, especially our children.”

In February DPW removed the gravel and road base mix from the median. County staff then replaced the material with a blend of compost from the town’s own yard-debris-composting program, Resource Recovery, and county provided soil. Over the course of three weeks, plantable pavers, 1400 native plants and erosion control materials were installed, all by the labor of volunteers.
Rachel Johnson and son Orie
Johnson-Young, participate in
a bike path mural painting project
adding color and style to county
issued bike path stencils.

Fourteen-hundred colored plant marker flags were initially placed to show volunteers which native shrub, grass or flower to plant, but the markers have served a double purpose, drawing attention to the un-established natives and detering traffic from the area. In an effor to keep it clean and dynamic while plants establish strong roots, knee high signs were constructed and fitted with single lines of a poem. The poem unfurls as the passerby moves further down the path. The flags are scheduled for removal in July.

Bolinas-Stinson School sixth-grade-graduate 
Ibarra Demmerle and Harriet Kossman.

Melea Emunah, Bolinas-Stinson School sixth grade graduate 2011.

Bolinas Stinson School art teachers Harriet Kossman (left) and Kathy Bustamante 
(right) assist sixth grade graduate Gavi Emunah with details as he adds flair to an 
official Marin County Department of Public Works bike path designation stencil.
In collaboration with the Path Improvement Project, the award winning art program 
at Bolinas Stinson School challenged the sixth grade class to improve upon the stenciled images. 

“This weekend we watered with a Water Buffalo on loan for the summer from project-supporter Rich Peterson,” says Kimball, describing a 300-gallon water tank on wheels that can be hauled behind a small truck. “We filled it twice and volunteers hand watered each individual plant; BCPUD is donating the water.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ranches & Rolling Hills

Artists help save farm and ranch land
Annual art sale in Nicasio to benefit Marin Agricultural Land Trust
by Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen May 19, 2011)
One of the Bay Area's truly unique art events, Ranches & Rolling Hills, an art show and sale to benefit Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), returns for its 14th annual appearance on Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22, 2011, at Druid's Hall in Nicasio, California. The show features more than 250 original paintings and prints of the natural and working landscapes of West Marin, including many of the family farms and ranches that have been permanently protected by MALT. The public is invited free of charge.
Forty-five artists from Marin County and from Santa Barbara's Oak Group are participating in the Ranches & Rolling Hills art show this year, including two Marin artists whose work will be featured for the first time: woodcut artist Tom Killion and painter Carol Peek. Other participating artists include Marin painters Thomas Wood, Susan Hall and Timothy Horn, along with Oak Group artists Arturo Tello, Richard Schloss and Chris Chapman.
Showcasing the work of participating artists, in 2008,
MALT Associate Director Elisabeth Ptak authored
Ranches and Rolling Hills: Art of West Marin–A land in Trust.
The book can be purchased at Bay Area bookstores or at
“While ranching and farming . . . represent a modification
of the landscape,” writes Ptak, “we value Marin County’s
remaining agricultural lands for local food production,
open space, and wildlife habitat.

There is no other art show in the Bay Area quite like Ranches & Rolling Hills. You start with a gorgeous drive through the hills of Marin, arriving at the exhibit in Nicasio. There you'll see dozens of new, original paintings and prints that capture the beauty of hills like the ones you've just seen. And if you buy an original art piece to take home, you'll help to protect those hills by supporting MALT. After the exhibit, take a short 15-minute drive to spend some time in Point Reyes, passing MALT-protected farms and ranches along the way.
Proceeds from art sales benefit MALT's farmland preservation program, which has permanently protected nearly half of the agricultural land in Marin over the past 30 years. Many of the prized dairy products, meats and organic crops enjoyed by local food enthusiasts at Bay Area farmers' markets and restaurants are produced on family farms and ranches protected by MALT, including milk and ice cream from Straus Family Creamery; cheeses from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and Cowgirl Creamery; grass-fed meats from Fallon Hills Ranch and Stemple Creek Ranch; vegetables from County Line Harvest; and wines from Stubbs Vineyard.
Like other Ranches & Rolling Hills artists, Marin woodcut master Tom Killion feels good knowing his work is supporting MALT. "As a child growing up in Marin, I watched the dairy farms and ranchland disappear to suburban development all across the south and east of the county — and it left a big hole in my heart," Tom explains. "So when MALT was founded, I was overjoyed. But the work is not yet finished, and the pressures on family farms are greater than ever. That's why I'm so happy to help out by participating in the Ranches & Rolling Hills Art Show this year. Viva the open green hills covered with cattle and wildflowers! Viva MALT!"
Ranches & Rolling Hills was celebrated in a 2008 book of the same name that showcases the art and provides a historical record of protected farmland in Marin. The book can be purchased at
The Ranches & Rolling Hills Landscape Art Show & Sale is open to the public at no charge from 12 P.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturday, May 21, and from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. on Sunday, May 22.
For those who want the first opportunity to purchase art, the Ranches & Rolling Hills Exclusive Preview Sale & Champagne Brunch takes place on Saturday, May 21, from 10 A.M. to 12 P.M. Advance reservations are required, and admission is $125 per person.
For more information and preview tickets, visit or call 415-663-1158.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Father and son cook it up

“I couldn’t do anything else but music. That is all I ever wanted to do all my life,” says Lester Chambers. At the age of 14, “When I first came to California from Missippippi, you had to fill out a list of classes you would like to take,” Chambers explains one of the options was music. “I wrote music, music, music, music, music, music. They told me I couldn’t have all those classes in music. ‘Well it doesn’t say that, it just says name the classes you would like to take.’ So I wrote all six periods in music and wound up singing opera."

By Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen May 19, 2011)

Lester and Dylan Chambers launched a pilot cooking show on YouTube last month, Lester Chambers Soul Foods Rhythm & Blues. Weaving a pinch of southern tradition with a cup of Marinability, Terry Haggerty joins the session bearing locally picked morrells, retrieved from a photo shoot for an article he had written.
Filmed in San Rafael, the inviting kitchen is situated in a home outfitted with a recording studio and a back yard garden.
Arriving guests, including Taj Mahal, are guided in to the studio for a listen to some new material on Lester’s upcoming CD.
Back in the kitchen, “Black pepper, garlic salt and a little more garlic, the three things that go into a meal of Southern Fried Chicken,” says Dylan Chambers. “Anymore seasoning is unnecessary,” he says.
“I go a little heavy with the garlic,” says Lester, “because it is good for ya and it tastes good. It’s good to ya and it’s good for ya.”
Emphasizing the importance of prep work, Dylan instructs viewers to sort the black eyed peas, removing all but the healthy, uniform beans. “Prep work,” he says, “is the key to Southern cooking.”

“Not out of the water, but I am able to ski on top of the water.”
A little over a year ago, Lester Chambers found relief at the end of hard times.
In June of last year, while just beginning to find his way back, Lester Chambers, former front man to the Chambers Brothers, made his first stage appearance in many moons at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station. Appearing with his son Dylan’s music project, the Midnight Transit Band, Lester performed a show at the Dance Palace that lasted nearly three-hours.
“It was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal,” says Chambers, of his experience that night.
Struggling with health issues, Chambers was anxious and cautious about returning to the stage, “I was able to do the whole show,” Chambers describes his pleasure in testing his strength and come-back-ability in a safe place like Point Reyes, “I had to test it somewhere. I love it out there.”

The downturn
Several years back, following a job lead, Chambers and his son Dylan left behind the bustling cities in the Greater Los Angeles Area and moved to the foothills of the Sierras.
The quiet, quaint and historic town of Copperopolis offered less than promised when the job opportunity did not pan out. “With absolutely nothing to do,” Chambers describes time standing still while depleting all financial reserves.
A year and a half passed before father and son found themselves unable to stave off the encroaching threat of homelessness.
A friend in Novato offered them space in his working studio, a place to crash at nights, but the pair had to clear out each morning, allowing for business as usual. Father and son spent one or two nights a week at the Motel 6. “It was just tough, you know,” says Chambers.
Homeless and approaching the age of 70, Chambers desperately needed access to health care. In addition to his overall health diminishing, pressing dental issues, visual impairment, a neck injury, and a tumor over his eye had all gone untreated.

Sweet Relief
Dreams really can come true. For Lester Chambers, Sweet Relief was on the way.
An organization founded in 1994, the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a non-profit charity, provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems.
Over the course of eighteen years, many prominent musicians, professionals and music fans have contributed to the cause with private donations, tribute LPs and other fundraising festivals, concerts or events.
“Lester’s story is certainly very typical of what many American artists will be facing in the next ten to twenty years,” says Rob Max, the Fund’s Executive Director. “We call it the post Beatles effect. Lester was playing music a decade before the Beatles became famous. A lot of musicians came on to the scene after the Beatles, baby-boomers or a little bit older. Music became the strongest driver in our culture. More people, as a result, chose music as a career,” says Max. “It [is an industry that] is not too kind when you reach your 50s, 60s and 70s.”
The music business became and industry in the 50s and experienced exponential growth through the 60s. At the time, there was little, if anything, in place to protect the rights of musicians. While performers and writers in film and television enjoyed some legal protection, the music industry was a child running wild. “A lot of deals were made and a lot of futures were mortgaged away,” says Max.

“Thanks to all the great people that came forward and blessed us with many things. Once I spoke up and let everyone know the condition I was in, Sweet Relief was the answer to the whole problem. They really care and provide long-term support,” says Chambers. “You would be surprised at how many people came forward saying I can’t believe it, but they helped.”
“You have to assume all the old guys are doing well because they were so successful musically,” Chambers explains, “but I had bad problems with my health, I had cancer, but I don’t anymore. I was sinking away and one day I got this Sweet Relief that turned things around. I am getting stronger every day.” Chambers was introduced to a doctor, “It is so hard to find and honest, truly concerned doctor. Dr. Gary Birnbaum told me, ‘If you pay attention I will get you out of this mess with your health.’ Now all my test results are coming back within the normal range.” Delighted, he adds, “He [Dr. Birnbaum] couldn’t believe it. I had been so obedient in following the routine.”
I am looking to live a longtime. I sure do just want to keep singing forever and ever. I have been blessed so tremendously.”

That was then; this is now
“Yoko Ono was very generous, so was (producer) Shep Gordon, and quite a few musicians donating to my cause.”
“But, I wasn’t crying the blues yet,” says Chambers. “A lot of new friends and new songs came out of the period of hardship.
“I am currently recording a new CD.
This year Lester has formed a new group, The Lester Chamber Blues Review, a six-piece band featuring local talent like keyboard player Kenny Ray. Chambers introduces several new originals to the repertoire of old favorites.
“My son works with the blues review, he does real good with me. It is quite a treat to be on stage with your kid.”
“This guy has been my best friend since he was four years old,” says Chambers.
“My brother Willie and I were playing a concert at Lincoln Center in New York. Dylan said ‘Dad I am going to sing with you today.’ I said, ‘you are?’ He said, ‘yeah.’ His mother made us all matching tye-dyed shirts; she was really good at that. We go to the concert, and he is sitting out in the audience. He comes back stage and asks, ‘When am I coming up dad?’ I told him after four or five songs.”
Well, don’t you know he counted the songs. At the end of the fourth song, he just comes strutting right up onto the stage and reaches for the microphone. I gave it to him. I says, ‘ What are you going to sing?’ ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay,’ he says.”
And he sang sitting on the dock of the bay. He’s had nothing else on his mind except music and his art, of course, since that day.”
He has stuck with me through thick and thin, he doesn’t want to go no where and I don’t want him to. He is my buddy. Best roommate I ever had. We have a great time together.”

An aging population
“The bottom line is so many people need financial assistance for basic needs– medical, rent, utilities and food,” says Sweet Relief Musician Fund Executive Director, Rob Max.
This scenario is happening to people from other areas of the work force, it is happening to laborers, construction workers and people who worked in other fields. It is a relative concern for any particular group.
Max explained that by getting more people involved, the fund has gone beyond just asking for donations from the music industry, famous artists and corporations. “We want to get a lot of people to commit a little bit.”
“We are really honored to have Lester as our unofficial spokesperson,” says Max. “For all the difficulty he went through, he kept a positive attitude, he was never a ‘why me’ kind of guy. He’d say, ‘You know what, tough times come and they go and we’ll do the best we can’. As soon as we got his medications balanced, we got him some eye surgery and got him into a steady home, he is a healthier happier individual and he will be able to work as a musician for years to come.

The Lester Chamber Blues Review performs Saturday, May 15, at the Dance Palace. Advance tickets suggested: <>. To learn more about the band’s upcoming performances at Monterey Bay Blues Festival and the Hayward Blues Festival, visit <>.
On March 27, 2011, Lester Chambers was inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame.
To contribute to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund visit

SF Dell's photos taken during the performance.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Three women paint

By Shari Faye Dell

Mary Siedman
“I painted outside for many years. The wind would start blowing and the canvas flying off the easel and I would be holding onto the cliff or a branch, I would reach for whatever color I could grab. It didn’t matter what color; I just needed paint.”
“I started out with a random approach,” says Mary Siedman, “even though I had studied art in school.”
“You are out there for three or four hours with your water and your Hershey bar and it’s pretty intense in Bolinas.” Siedman explains the day came when she just ‘got it’.
“I try to portray that intensity in my paintings.”
She says her pieces are not decorative, “I try to evoke all of the intense layers of our environment, including the difficult layers, not just a perfect picture view.”
After twenty-five years of photography and painting plein air, Siedman cleared out the little cabin that served as a darkroom, creating sanctuary to bring her painting home.
Her lines still reflect a closer look at a landscape that never stands still.
“I love painting bramble and berries. The first thing people do when they come to Bolinas is try to hack all that away. They don’t understand that this is like the lifeblood of our Mesa, the stickers and the brush with all the quail running through. I dare them to love this,” says Siedman. “It takes a lot of guts to look at weeds and see it as life– something thriving and moving.

Felicity Crush
“I didn’t particularly want to come to America. I thought it was all shopping malls and SUV’s,” says Stinson Beach artist Felicity Crush, originally from England. “There is plenty of that, but when I got here I couldn’t believe how amazing the natural world is. How stunningly beautiful it is. Nothing prepared me for that.”
“I am consistently astounded by the majesty of it. The Sierras and Utah and the great mountain ranges. I feel particularly lucky to be able to live where we are now [inWest Marin], to be able to experience this, as well as, live in it. Sitting out there and painting this kind of environment connects me with all the ages of humans that have had the urge to express themselves, and express their world and their experience of it.”
Last year, Crush joined her daughter, a student in Don Jolley’s middle school classroom at Bolinas Stinson School on many field trips. “Visiting Utah and the Sierras reawakened a passion in me,” says Crush. “He [Jolley] taught about the landscape, the land, the geology, the paleontology. He had the kids sit down and draw. I joined in on these drawing sessions with the kids and then would just work on my own.”
“Sketching outdoors–something I use to do a long time ago–I started doing a lot more of that. The work I am showing is a result of those field trips.
 “After working in all the other installation mediums, particularly barbed wire,” says Crush, “returning to simple techniques, pen and pencil on water color paper has been a real delight.”
Previously a sailor for Greenpeace, Crush recalls, “I would do a lot of sketching when I was on board. When I returned home I would turn those sketches into photo etchings so that I could keep the freshness of the line, retain the vitality of the sketch. This is a similar process.”

Molly Brown
Sourcing from photograph as well as museum collections, Bolinas artist Molly Brown has made many trips to the California Academy of Sciences to sketch and photograph pinned and trayed specimens in the museum’s extensive collection.
A member of the National Butterfly Association and the Science Illustration Guild, Brown’s current work focuses on endangered California butterfly species. “I wanted to illustrate them and educate people. They are beautiful and rare species.”
“Many varieties of California’s butterflies have become endangered as host plants and habitat are diminished by development. Like these,” Brown explains, directing attention to illustrations of the male and female El Segundo Blue. “A butterfly in the larval stage can’t survive without its host plant, a native Coastal Buckwheat. If those host plants are wiped out by a condo-development, this species just wont make it; they won’t be around.”
Browns interest in entomology, ichyology and botany grew from her childhood interest in plants, animals and the great outdoors.
In addition to her work on paper, Brown’s current exhibit includes a second body of work, a series of oil paintings presenting the female form.
Evidence: it is spring in the garden of “Earthly Delights,” Brown renders images of naked ladies and butterflies.

A reception for the three-woman show, “Earthly Delights,” is scheduled for Saturday, May 14 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Bolinas Gallery. Guests will be treated to a performance by Flamenco guitarist Carl Nagin.