One spring weekend in 1983, I drove up the California coast to the turnoff for the Santa Ynez Mountains. After a gorgeous drive through the mountains, I arrived in the Santa Ynez Valley and the small town of Solvang.
Solvang was founded by three Danish immigrants in 1911, with plans to create a community for other Danish immigrants. By the 1980s, it was visited by large throngs of tourists so I would go there off-season.
On this May weekend, as I was exploring the town probably intent on buying Danish cheese and Swedish herring, I came upon an art gallery.
I stepped inside and was greeted by an older man who introduced himself as John St. John, a painter and the gallery owner.
I walked around and enjoyed the paintings and sculptures that were on display.
As I was about to leave, Mr. St. John offered me a cup of coffee and a chair. I accepted and thus began a lovely afternoon that I have never forgotten.
We must have talked about a wide variety of subjects and I know we really enjoyed each other's company. I don't remember any details of our conversation, only that I spent the entire afternoon with him.
Before I left, I knew I had to buy something to remember this afternoon by. I chose a small painting of a gray and lavender mountain shrouded in a dark mist. I remember it cost $80.00, about all I could afford at the time.
I have it to this day, here in my bedroom, not too far from my purple cottage painting.
As I was leaving, Mr. St. John took out a book, called Visions of Reality in oil paintings, a book about his life and his art. He wrote something in it and told me he wanted me to have it. To remember the day by.
There was something attractive about this older man, except I felt he was perhaps not entirely well. Checking now, he was actually in his early 70's, but back then I had of course a different perspective on being 70 than I do now. And, as I found out, he died in 1986, so three years later.
How strange, I thought when I got back to my motel room, opened the book and saw this photo of him as a much younger man.
President Reagan's ranch was located in the Santa Ynez mountains.
And Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is situated in the Santa Ynez Valley.
This may not be of interest anymore. At the time is was, since Reagan was president and Michael was very much alive and frequently stayed at his Neverland Ranch.