Category Archives: People

Posts about people of the Conejo Valley

Conejo Valley Trail Work Day – Sat. Oct. 15th

If you hike the trails around the Conejo Valley as much as we do, you might want to consider taking part in the 26th annual trail work day sponsored by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. This is a great chance to get involved locally in the stewardship of our open space, meet really nice and caring people, and get a good workout. This year work will focus on the Conejo Canyon area. For more information, visit http://www.cosf.org or Download an Event Flyer

Last year was a blast, check out our video.

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Chillin’ with Volunteers and the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee

Having recently become an officially appointed alternate public representative for the Conejo Open Space Trails Advisory Committee, I was excited to attend the Committee’s annual volunteer work day on Saturday morning October 17th. I arrived early to meet committee members and help get volunteers checked in. I was very impressed with the organization and the speed and efficiency getting vast numbers of volunteers checked in. There must have been about 200 hundred people in total. Once checked in, volunteers boarded city buses to take us out to a new trail route between Lizard Rock (Wildwood Park) and the Hill Canyon Treatment Plant. Another large group was deployed on a weed management project nearby.

The crowd was separated into teams of ten or so and deployed to marked areas on the trail. The trail route had already been “brushed” (shrubs cleared) and the volunteers were creating the new tread. A contingent of trail construction experts affiliated with the Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA) were on hand, along with rangers and COSTAC members to make sure the trails were being properly constructed. Volunteers were of all ages and a number of families came as a group to help out, and there was a great sense of camaraderie among all participants. This is what we at Chillin in the Conejo call “Conejo Spirit!”.

Since a spinal injury has left me fairly useless with a swinging tool, so I decided to man my little Go-pro and capture some video of the event; mainly time lapse videos of the trail construction. Here’s a clip of the highlights.

More Photos


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Chillin’ with the Channel Islands Tracking Team


Brian spent a saturday morning at the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s Rio Vista Preserve with the Channel Islands Tracking Team. The team is a group of citizen scientists that have trained in the art of tracking and wildlife sign identification. They use their skills to help public and non-profit land managers understand wildlife usage along Ventura County’s coast.

The Team organizes training, practices, and certification exams for wildlife tracking and sign ID. The Team is looking to grow their numbers, so if you enjoy the outdoors and want to learn the art of tracking, contact the Team at their Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Channel-Islands-Tracking-Team

Or via email: ci.trackingteam@gmail.com

Wildlife tracking is more than just looking at tracks on the ground. Trackers will look more closely at tracks and other signs, such as digging and scratching, to try to determine behaviors and activities of wildlife. A lot can also be learned by assessing the form and contents of animal scat. From scat you can assess the diet of the animal and its digestion efficiency, and this often can tell you what species left it. Beginning trackers will get pretty good at the common species pretty quickly, such as the bobcats, coyote, and foxes. Skilled trackers will be able ID most animals, as well as bugs, reptiles, and amphibians.

Learning to be a good tracker takes time and dedication. From my experience with the team, I can tell you that these are honestly some of the nicest people you can meet, and they all have an un-matched love for the outdoors. If you like the outdoors and want to meet nice people while helping land managers learn about wildlife, you should contact the Channel Islands Tracking team.

CITT Facebook: Channel Islands Tracking Team on Facebook.

CITT Email: ci.trackingteam@gmail.com

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The Portrait

IMG_1655 IMG_1654I like Brian’s enthusiasm.  It’s infectious.  No…..really……being around a positive soul is good soup.  Brian’s experiences as a Deadhead is who he is.  Deadhead is an angle of him.  If you look at him through a different angle you still get the same results.  What makes Brian interesting is how many angles you can view him from.  Each angle is a piece of a whole.  Sometimes in our frantic lives we look at pieces but not wholes.  For so many of us we never get the chance to see the whole of life.

I’d like to present another angle of Brian.  An angle that takes place before Jerry’s death but after we were undergratuates.  Brian, A.J. and me are low hanging fruit.  It’s upwards of 26 years I’ve known them.  They have been a part of my conscience for over a quarter of a century.  I met them through Alex who was the drummer of their band.  A.J. and me also know each other from a creative writing course.  I showed up at Brian and A.J.’s house to see Alex drum and there was A.J on guitar and Brian on bass.

A.J. had bought a raffle for a charity and won a free portrait. On a sunny Spring Sunday in San Luis Obispo, Brian in tie-die, A.J. in a t-shirt, Whitney (a.k.a the Demon Weed) in the back and me on the left, found ourselves in a motel room having a group portrait taken.  All the details allude me.  How we got there, what we were thinking and feeling.  Brian and A.J. had hair.  Whitney looks mischievous, and I look twelve with Jew hair.  Less then a decade later A.J. produces the portrait at my wedding, and the four of us take another group portrait with me holding the original.  And although there are the noticeable physical differences, we are still the same four with the same shared experiences with the same reasons to smile.

After the picture was taken we walked across the street and sat in a restaurant bar having margaritas and salsa and chips before noon.  We probably laughed about the portrait and we probably drank and we probably did whatever it was we did.

Periodically we reminisce about the original portrait, trying to fill in gaps where most of the details are forgotten.  Brian, in his always effervecent way keeps the memory positive and full of laughter; A.J. tells the story like a journalist, loud and boisterous, and I tend to be an idealist, looking for meaning in the span of time passed between both photos and the time passed now.

The original portrait is on my bookshelf.  The wedding portrait beside it.  And beside that perhaps a third photo documenting the span of at least thirty years.

Keep chillin………….

 

 

 

OK, I’m a Deadhead…

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My name is Brian Stark, and I’m a Deadhead.

Maybe I’m dating myself, or maybe I’m making a confession, but I’m a Deadhead. Although the Grateful Dead as a full band have been gone for a decade, the years I spent immersed in their music and traveling circus will be with me forever. I was a relative latecomer to the party, but from about 1985 through 1995 I was pretty-much plugged into the Dead full-time.

My first attempt to see them live was in 1986 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. I had tickets ready and had managed to get the day off work, which was a chore. I worked for Adventure 16 in West LA, and since all the employees were going to the shows, you had work within a schedule that would keep the store open somehow. As a newer employee, I only got to go to one show. The day of the show finally came, and that was the day Jerry Garcia went into a diabetic coma and the show was cancelled. I didn’t stop trying though, and I eventually attended about 100 shows in the ensuing years, and collected hundreds of live shows on cassettes (remember cassettes?).

Unless you were there, it’s likely that you wouldn’t understand what the deal was all about. I’ve met hundreds of other Heads over the years and there were as many reasons to get into the scene as there were Deadheads. For me, the band’s lyrics and musical style hooked me quickly. Somehow it seemed that they were always singing just to me. Jerry’s guitar style also has a unique and hypnotizing effect. There was also a subcultural appeal and a feeling that you were part of something bigger than just an audience. I’ll be the first to admit that not every show had the same magic, but it was worth the trip just to see if you could be there when the proverbial sh*t went down. I am still a regular listener. Just yesterday at the office I listened to 3 full shows on the “Archive”. I can still listen to a snippet of a live show and tell you what year it was played, and maybe even the month.

Every Deadhead has their favorite era of the Dead, and has a favorite year. I’m one of those that gravitate to 1977. Specifically, April of 1977. That was the pinnacle of their sound to me. My favorite show is from the Auditorium Theater in Atlanta on April 21, 1977. Other favorite years are 1973, 1970, and 1989 (mainly because I was there). If you want to hear the Grateful Dead for the first time, or get reacquainted, head over to the Archive Site.

My days with the Dead gave me more than entertainment though. Here are some of the things I gathered along the way.

1. When my car leaves me stranded in the middle of nowhere, I never panic. Being stranded is just part of the journey. Once my friends A.J., Tim, and I had a breakdown at a rest stop on the I-5. We were in my dad’s old brown pickup. The place was full of heads on the way to shows at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds…none of which had any mechanical knowledge. We did finally get the motor running after parting with foodstuffs we used to feed hungry heads that tried to help. I remember AJ handing them a box of cereal out the window as we drove off. At another show I dropped the transmission on my old ’65 mustang a few blocks from the Oakland Coliseum. I was with my sister, it was her first show. We had to walk a mile or two through the roughest neighborhood to get to the show and just left the car behind. Today, I can handle any road emergency.

2.  I’m pretty good at not judging other people, and I feel thankful for what I have. I was part of the group I called the college deadheads. We traveled when we could get away and we weren’t living on the road for very long at a time.  Others lived on the road though, and they didn’t have the security we did. But, we all mixed at the shows. I met lots of people with different stories, but we were all brought together by a love of this band. When we were at a show, we were brothers and sisters. We shared and traded what we had even when we weren’t getting the best of the deal. Sometimes life is just about sharing and helping those that we can without the judgement. If you had a “miracle ticket” to share, you could be a saint for a day.

3. Somewhere along the way, I learned about the value of discretion. Not everyone sees deadheads as harmless, and that would include law enforcement personnel. So, sometimes you need to be discreet. I can remember going to shows with my brother and we would bring preppy oxford shirts to the show and leave them in the car. Before leaving the show, we would ditch the tie dye and change shirts so we could plausibly deny being at the show.

4. The human digestive system is amazing. I can’t tell you how many veggie burritos I ate after shows, and I lived to tell about them. One can imagine that these burritos were probably not prepared under the most hygienic conditions. The parking lot scene was always fairly dirty, and I never saw a health inspector at a show.

Are you a Deadhead?
What’s your favorite show or memory?
What’s your favorite year?

Life and Beauty in Small Packages

I was recently gifted a bonsai. Later, after meeting Travis who owns the California Bonsai Studio (https://www.californiabonsai.com), I learned that my bonsai is a maple.

Most of us have owned a bonsai.  Some of us have pulled off to the side of the road to buy a bonsai from a bonsai pimp operating out of a van….a lot like buying a TV from the Gap.  Needless to say, all of the bonsai’s I’ve had never made it. I usually placed it in a niche that I felt needed sprucing up.  I never thought about what the Bonsai wants and needs.

This time I contacted Travis at his bonsai studio.  Besides learning that Bonsai and Banzai are not the same, I learned how to take care of my bonsai…..not to mention a deeper appreciation for it.

Travis is remarkably interesting.  I like to think of him as the James Dean of bonsaing.  As Brian aptly writes in our video, he’s an Artist.

 

Conejo Country…Music that is..

profile picLast year, a study by Country Music Television showed that more than half of all Americans self-identify as country music fans. That is more than any other genre of music, so it’s safe to say that, at least for now, country music is the most popular music in the country. The Conejo Valley, as it would seem, is right in the middle of this action with a number of country bands calling the Conejo Valley home. We even have our own country music festival, the Oak Heart Music Festival. There are 242 days before the next festival though, so in the meantime, you’ll have to seek out some of the local country acts.

Website Reverbnation.com has a local country chart for country music just for Thousand Oaks. The charts are pretty dynamic, so the bands move around. A regular on the top 10 is Thousand Oak’s Sean Callero, currently #1. We can tell you, this kid is the real deal. At 19, he is putting out some very mature music. Check him out at http://www.seancalleromusic.com. In the number 2 spot this week is the Three Rivers Band, a local country cover band that plays current country hits, some classic country, and some southern rock. They just played a free show at the Lakes in Thousand Oaks last weekend following the parade. They claim TO as their hometown even if a few members hail from Simi. Find the Three Rivers Band at www.the3RB.net. In the 3-spot is a newer arrival on the country top ten in TO, South of Ziggy. They hail from Westlake Village. Their sound has a bit of variety ranging from country to blues, to pop (country meets the Beatles?). They play original tunes and are fine musicians. Find them at http://www.reverbnation.com/southofziggy.

All three of these band are from the Conejo Valley and deserve some Conejo County love! Next time you need a country band, give one of these fine bands a call.

Just to prove we aren’t too snobby about our local bands, Chillin will give an honorary Conejo status to Justin Honsinger from Simi Valley. This kid plays very authentic classic country and you owe it to yourself to give him a listen.

Here is a taste of Conejo Country courtesy of the Three Rivers Band – Recorded live in T.O. after the big parade. Their next local show is October 24th at St. Paschal’s Fall Fest in T.O.

Here’s Sean Callero at the Canyon Club

Here’s South of Ziggy