I grew up within earshot of train tracks and especially remember hearing the trains whistles at night. As kids, we used to walk on the tracks and watch the trains go by. My first trip away from home - alone - was on a train. And like probably every boy of my generation, I had a Lionel train with 3 cars and a caboose and about 7 feet of track. I spent hours pouring over the lush Lionel catalogues and imagine the tiny plastic loading docks, warehouses, water towers, bridges that make my train set the coolest ever.
To paraphrase John Lennon, "All we are saying is give Pete a chance." The intersection of Western and Petaluma Boulevard won't be the same without the Honkytonk stylings of John Maher, aka Petaluma Pete, and his bright red upright piano. People, take to the streets. Erect barricades, Storm the halls of power. Let you voice be heard. Oh, that's right. I forgot. This is Petaluma. Such clamors of outrage are saved for protesting proposed asphalt plants situated next to a river dredging spoils site (acres of fish poop) at the outskirts of town.
Salmonella is another good reason to buy local food. At least if you get sick you can go throw up on their doorstep. Seriously, I believe that the closer one is to the source of the food, the healthier the food is likely to be. Or at least, the least adulterated, mishandled or misrepresented. I only wish that farmer's markets were more frequent, and that local farmers were better compensated for their investment in sweat and cash. You can thank our nanny-state progressives for the restrictive laws and regulations that have made local small (e.g., non-agribusiness) farming increasingly a rich man's hobby.
I've known Chris Oakes for 15 years. To me, he embodies patience, humility, gentleness and a genuine compassion for people - all necessary qualities in a teacher, a tennis pro and a first rate human being. Chris hangs out his racquet at the Petaluma Valley Athletic club. I'm proud to call him my friend.
"And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there." Fireworks scare the cats, can start fires, and in the wrong hands can cost the user some fingers. They may all become illegal some day. Which is fine as long has people see them only as a frivolity. But banning them would be to ignore their historical significance. After all, we set them off - at least in part - to commemorate the words penned by Francis Scott Key as he watched the Battle of Fort McHenry from a prison ship, and to recapture the joy he felt as the flash from each explosion momentarily illuminated our tattered but undefeated flag. As a young man I served that flag and the country it stands for as so many young men and women did before me and so many have done since. The fireworks are for us, too.
It's that time of year when bright-eyed kids say goodbye to their old school and look ahead, often with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, at their future. Countless valedictory speeches will speculate on the myriad of challenges and opportunities that the graduating seniors will encounter. However, one thing will be true for them as was for you and me...the future probably won't work out exactly as they plan. With any luck, and with God's blessing, it will be better.
We love our parades. The Butter & Egg Days Parade, in particular, is a great way to pass along Petaluma's rural heritage to those (like me) who arrived long after River Town ceased being an agricultural hub. For those multi-generational families who's ancestors arrived to work the land, it's a way to remember the town where they grew up and where they raised children who went on to become doctors, lawyers and Internet gurus. Parades, after all, are a fixture of American small town life and Petaluma relishes being an American small town.
Here's to Petaluma Pete, aka John Maher, who tickles, cajoles, and nurses the ivories on his red upright all-terrain piano for the entertainment of passersby. Check out his blog on this page.