A sweeping saga that will unfold throughout the 20th Century, following Pacomino Oakley, born into a family of noted stonemasons and artisans. With the help of notable art collector, an heir to three fortunes, Paco composed a portfolio of work, and after submission, was accepted at the Academy in Florence. He made the decision to leave all he had ever loved behind in the United States to fulfill his dream to become an artist. Paco creates a studio and finds love, but the great war begins and we follow his harrowing return home to Montecito.
A Juicy Culinary Adventure … The story begins.
Paco delivered the best fresh food and culinary delicacies...
At 6:00am each morning Paco always stocked a fine highly polished black truck displaying the famous Diehls trademark in gold script on the side. The world's best fresh food and culinary delicacies were fulfilled, following the orders of a wild, eccentric and often hilarious assortment of Chefs and cooks in the kitchens of multi-million dollar estates, sitting like castles on the verdant soft summits of Santa Barbara and Montecito, California in the 1920's.
A breed of super wealthy Americans, called “The Hill Barons”, were Paco’s patrons, the ones, Diehls, the foremost gourmet market in the region, handled with kid gloves. Earnestly searching the globe for their requests, Paco supplied the fabulous kitchens where all was converted to luxurious dining, extravagant parties and exquisite events.
Read Chapter One here
Chapter One: The Earth Moves
He had just walked in from stocking the truck with the morning deliveries and heard the sound of a freight train coming fast toward him. The young man fell to the floor and held tight to the marble column that supported the front doors. From there Paco had a stark view of the great catastrophe as it rolled and revolved through the market. He watched the floor ripple. Small hex tiles, the white turned cream, with black rosettes were actually bobbing up and down. Pots of finest imported mustards exploded, decorating the aisle ahead with sunbursts of ocher and brilliant yellow.
Paralyzed, the disaster suspended for seconds, he saw the event in slow motion. Glossy honey jars vaulted off the shelves crashing into deep ruby jams and blood red jellies finishing on the floor with the mustards. Bins of beans spilled out together, the kidneys, pintos and navies dancing along the tiles with large beige limas. Gripping transfixed, scented waves of cinnamon, cloves, chili, oregano, a multitude of herbs and spices collided smashing to the ground releasing their essence upon him. He noticed the vinegars that lay cracked open and still with limp stems of lavender or fennel, some with onions and garlic, all now pale and exposed, their liquid spreading and rolling around.
The famous pine wood produce stand that presented the Santa Barbara farm’s blue ribbon selection of fruits and vegetables had given way and fallen onto Patrice, the manager’s wife. He could see her long grey hair and one arm down to fingers grasping under shelves with piles of grapefruit and oranges on the ground. More violent swaying then a panicky feeling of being cut loose, just savagely disconnected from the firmament took him over. Helpless he lay frozen with his mind snatched away for seconds. Then reconnection to life, the freight train sounds disappearing in the distance with an unearthly quietude settling with the dust overall.
A slow commotion began to rise up from all corners. Moans and whimpers, names called out from the anxious and several including Paco headed to help Patrice who by now was immerging from the citrus with a bleeding terrified face. He lifted the boxes and her man, Quincy, held her upper body while a bystander supported her legs. Now all the whaling sirens began and someone was waving for help on the sidewalk.
There is nothing to compare with a crisis like this. Paco saw that his polished black truck with the “Diehls” trademark in gold script on the side was now half on and off the curb, it’s back doors still open and softly swinging. All the carefully packed baskets and crates, labeled with estate or family names in Calligraphy, were strewn onto the road. They created an insane pathway, spilling out all the finest gourmet items the world had to offer. There was a case of Mumms, all the bottles broken and omitting their unique perfume, along side the battered tins of Danish sardines and some gold labeled Iranian caviar still safe in it’s iced container. All kinds of perfect fruits and vegetables lay scattered smashed and dirty. Paco’s prized cargo now lay almost demolished.
He emerged from the doorway, standing tense, stunned at the destruction of segments ofSanta Barbara’s proud main street. Paco thought about the time. It was 6:46 in the morning and this devastating event would forever mark the year 1925 as the time of the great earthquake. He noticed how bizarre it was to have one building leveled and the one next door standing safe. He dodged a pair of horses that had gone wild, breaking free from their wagon, dragging the reins and seat board. Looking down the way he saw a crippled trolley car had rolled into the front windows of Ott’s, a glorified hardware store that sold everything from hammers to Baccarat.
Those were the big observations but there were hundreds of small hazards everywhere. He touched his breast feeling his heartbeat still raging. He felt his forehead with a hot hand and quietly sucked in the staggering magnitude of loss. “Snap out of it kid!”, someone yelled, and he spun around to race back inside. There he saw Quincy kneeling over Patrice. She was colorless and staring upward while he petted her hair and called her name over and over. A tall man moved in to work on her as a circle of concerned formed around this couple that everyone knew. Originally sun seekers from New York, they unpacked and soon appeared entertaining daily on their vegetable stand stage with flashy stylish bickering. “Where’d ya get them apples old lady?” Quincy would say. “From your Mama” Patrice would reply, “and they’re full a worms”. All this was accented in snazzy Brooklyneze that captivated the Californians.
Paco’s feeling of helplessness was unlike anything he had known before. The boy had an inauspicious birth secreted away in the beginning since his rolling stone of a father evaporated upon knowledge of his coming. He was the only thing that made his Mother’s beautiful mahogany colored eyes sparkle with joy. She sang to him in Italian, fed him tenderly from her large perfect breasts and made him darling baby dresses of vintage lace with satin bows. She taught him to dance and to paint on a big white china platter in strawberry jam with his tiny fingers. Given all this loving attention his eyes sparkled too, just like hers, with an adorable little crinkle at the outside corners that gave the impression he was always smiling. His soft brown curls matched his eyes and sprang out in ringlets that his Mother made by wrapping strands around her fingers.
He was born into a family of noted stonemasons and artisans who had been imported for their remarkable skills. They came to build the walls of the millionaire estates that formed the verdant soft summits of Santa Barbara and Montecito. This breed of super wealthy Americans were called “The Hill Barons”. Made wildly rich by industry and commodities they came from Colorado and Idaho and many large eastern cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh. Kings of silver and gold, copper and oil moved in next to coal and tobacco Czars, even a notorious bootlegger or two found happiness in the cradle of this California paradise. These were Paco’s patrons, the ones, Diehls, his legendary grocery store handled with kid gloves, searching the world for their requests and delivering them to their fabulous kitchens to be converted to luxurious dining, extravagant parties and exquisite events.
The boy grew to a man, still painting now with fine sable brushes, having the same crinkly laughing eyes but the curls were carefully oiled to lay stark and flat with a part down the center according to the current fashion. While he worked he wore a handsome uniform of dark blue lightweight serge with small brass buttons and epaulets. His trousers were slim tan jodhpurs and he was finished with a pair of dutifully polished sable knee high boots. He put on a fresh white shirt each day and an Eaton tie peeked out of his collar. His cap was also navy blue with a black patent leather bill.
Paco had a broad muscled back made extra strong by heredity from his stone carrying ancestors. He whipped the heavy parcels and containers with big hands easily from the truck to the fragrant kitchens where the Chefs and cooks played peacock to their underlings. The haughty ones carefully inspected his goods, meticulously scrutinizing and auditing all while he stood waiting for new orders and dismissal by a wave of approval. Every now and then, one of these Masters would strike up a phony conversation with Paco so as to accompany him to the truck where they helped themselves to an ample snoop through the orders placed by their counterparts in the neighboring mansions.
One notorious competition raged for years between Il Brolino’s famous French Chef De Vielmond, or Velly and The Bothin’s Chef Wilfredo Henriques of Piranhust, called Fredo. The schoolboy pranks and vicious antics of these two provided delicious dirt for days among all of the layers of Santa Barbara and Montecito society. This gossipy networking hit a crescendo when, shocking to all, the two of them were found sleeping together in the Piranhurst pool house. The he and he liaison was not the center of the surprise but the knowledge they outwardly hated each other so much and yet were secret lovers gave rise to endless analysis. Long conversations ensued about how puzzling it was that Velly, so French, and Fredo, so Austrian could ever become intimate. From then on they were watched closely to see if there was any evidence of affection.
On their days off they had an uncanny way of showing up at Diehls to peruse the inventory at the very same time. Shopping at leisure like that they both looked very chic in fine stylish European gentlemen’s attire. In their starched double breasted whites covered with long aprons tied at the waist they were scarcely different save the blousy style of Velly’s Toc compared to Fredo’s very classical Dodin Bouffant that had 101 ripples to represent the 101 ways a chef could prepare eggs. Each man was impressive in his own way. The short slight Frenchman with dark almost black Spanish coloring and enormous forearms was totally opposite from the extra tall Nordic looking Fredo who was said to have had a Croatian mother that was six feet tall.
While they shopped they would always draw a small crowd that slinked around the market trying to be invisible in order to hear their hilarious yet poisonous interchange. It always started harmless enough. Looking through the spice shelves pretentiously holding up a bottle of Moroccan powdered star anise, Fredo might say with an ultra aristocratic Austrian accent, “This can be so delicious if you dust a bit of it over fowl”. It might appear to a greenhorn to be simply a musing out loud but the experienced knew that some unheard whistle was blown and the games were about to begin.
Shortly Velly would pop up out of nowhere grabbing the same item and glaring in the Austrian’s general direction, his Parisian accent so heavy it was sometimes hard to follow, “So amazing one could think this is a good idea, it looks 100 years old. I don’t like these at all. I would never put them on fowl only down the toilet”, and they would be off to the races.
Then Velly, approaching Fredo and sniffing with a menacing gesture, might remark loudly, “I think we have a halitosis situation here. It smells like 10,000 rotten eggs left out in the sun and then served by your Mother”
“uh oh” Fredo would eyeball Velly’s large nose closely, “There is a renegade nose hair here, can anyone get it? It’s coming out like a pipe cleaner and it’s making everyone nauseous.” Panning the onlookers now coming forward, he would demand, “Put on your glasses and take a look at this mammoth beezer and you’ll see” Sensing he may have gone too far he would retreat but continue, “Ce bon? Are you still serving horsemeat and fooling your distinguished patrons? They will send you to prison next week”
Now the little Frenchman would puff up big, “Fous le camps et morte” which loosely translated was something like fornicate everyone and die. “No, no”, he would continue, “not like your Austrian style of serving a roast beef made from a beaver.”
Wandering on with an elegant air, pretending not to hear, Fredo conveniently handled the citrus and would pronounce, “These should be wrapped individually in tissue. I want the pink ones here and the orange ones look nice.”
Now exasperated, Velly would snap loudly, “You are fondling the grapes? Your hands are dirty? No one will eat them now, you should be fired today and I will take over your job. You are so ugly with that bright orange make up on your stupid face. Your mother is a giant and a fat slut. I'm surprised you can read and write words after all the absinthe she drank while she was pregnant with you. You're a degenerate, a piece of horseshit with 200 maggots eating on your face. Vous êtes une pomme de terre avec le visage d'un cochon d'inde” in English, “You are a potato with the face of a guinea pig” adding, “you are laying your dirty, disgusting fingers on the ground with flies all over you. Tu es betes comme tes pieds”, in French he would mean, you are as smart as the bottom of your feet, and winding down to, “you are a sickening beast, a cockroach with the face of a reptile, I spit on you and your relatives all the way back to Genghis Khan. You are an ape, a gorilla with the manners of a wombat. I fart on your revolting suit jacket with horrible cheap buttons.”
Only to hear Fredo reply, “Schlappschwanz”, meaning, literally, weak tail but it clearly insinuated that the Frenchman was unable to be aroused. Serious now, both with red faces, they would circle each other with a ferocious demeanor, the huge tall handsome one looming over the swarthy sweating small guy dangerously simulating a crouching black panther. At this critical stand off there would invariably be some surprise movement that would mystically dissolve the situation. A phone would ring, a new customer would ask for help, the market cat, Felix, would rub against Velly’s leg, something would give way. Everyone would disburse, the air would clear, the chefs would just leave and the sweet smell of oranges and rosemary would prevail. All this was just a bit of entertainment to boldly spice another beautiful day in paradise.
But paradise lay crushed on this day. The ambulance arrived for Patrice and Quincy followed the stretcher head down as Paco grabbed onto his shoulder, giving him a little push on, as a sign of support. Two firemen came in through the back in full uniform investigating all the damages and since the gas and electricity was out everywhere it was a relief to think that the fire danger might be over. Paco knew them well. Val and Paget played on the same baseball team.
The high walls of the market, except for the Butcher’s department in the far left corner, were lined with shelves from floor to ceiling. On the right stood the marble soda fountain with a graceful vintage glass display case and brass fittings for pies and cakes. A mirrored back bar was set into a carved walnut frame that included shelves and in front a row of burgundy leather covered stools trimmed with chrome. Adjacent to these was a line of six tables for two with crisp white cloths that were installed when it was decided to serve breakfast and lunch. Normally, on the counter, there would be perfect pyramids of stacked shiny silver Sundae dishes and taller clear glass versions for Diehls heavenly Sodas that tasted like no others could due to one little secret technique.
The Captain of this bar was the one and only Salvador Rodriguez, a party man with big teeth in a huge smile, making every effort to emulate the esteemed bartenders operating legally in the days before Prohibition. He dazzled the customers with his showmanship and endless supply of creative concoctions. He was hyper since a child so this trait carried him through the day just dancing along the counter tirelessly lining the glasses with whipped cream, scooping on goodness, splashing on flavors, spritzing with seltzer, topping with more goodness, sprinkling with nuts, flipping cherries on top. He loved to bet the newbies that he could tie a knot from their stem with his tongue and of course he could.
His specialties were printed in big letters on a large menu and posted on the back bar for the customer to marvel at the long list of exciting names. It was Sal’s great pleasure to describe in irresistible language the ingredients in each creation. “What is the difference between a Black Cow and a Brown Cow?” One little girl would ask and Sal would say in a loud rat tat tat sort of chant, “ A Back Cow is two scoops of rich creamy vanilla with America’s all time favorite Hires Root Beer. A Brown Cow is two scoops of thick dark chocolate with zippy fizzy Coca Cola and the whipping cream is optional.”
“What is in that Boston Cooler?” A large man, his bottom draped over the little bar stool, would ask.
Sal fired right back, “It’s for the sophisticate Sir. It is sparkling pale golden Vernors Dry Ginger Ale with a scoop of extra rich creamy vanilla ice cream and the whipped cream is optional”.
“I’m not sure if I want a Tango or a Turkey Trot. What do you recommend?” A prim lady in a floral day dress with a tiny hat on top of marcel waves motioned with bright white gloves.
Salvador would pontificate with flourishes; “ A Tango is made in an 8-ounce phosphate glass with a dipperful of dark rich chocolate ice cream. Over this I pour 1/2 ounce thick butterscotch dressing and a soda spoonful of finely ground nuts. On this I put a dipperful of extra creamy vanilla ice cream, 1/2 ounce velvety marshmallow dressing, and a dash of ground nuts. Over this a very little heavy chocolate dressing, and I top with a cherry or slice of fresh peach, and one cloverleaf wafer.” He stopped for a deep breath. “Or for a Turkey Trot Sundae, I grind together four kinds of nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and filberts then pour the ground nuts over thick dark rich chocolate and marshmallow whip and mix to make a pudding. I Place in a sundae cup a dipperful of extra creamy vanilla ice cream, then add the pudding and to finish I put two red cherries dancing together on top."
Sal passionately loved the moment when the customer was confused. It was then he could suggest his favorite always starting with a boring classic like “The CMP Sundae” (Chocolate, Marshmallow, and Peanuts) and holding out hope they might go for his piece de resistance, “The Skyscraper Banana Split. It is my masterpiece little lady”, he would say, “In our classy silver boats I put one giant scoop of extra creamy vanilla, one giant scoop of rich dark chocolate and one scoop of fresh strawberry in a line. I cut up a nice ripe banana lengthwise and put on either side. Next I ladle chocolate fudge syrup on vanilla, marshmallow sauce on the chocolate and deluxe strawberry syrup on the strawberry. I swirl fancy whipped cream towers on each one. Sprinkle with candied peanuts and put a cherry on each sky scraper”. Sal finished red faced and excited. His innovations were limitless. For the eccentrics he made “The Chop Suey Sundae” that was vanilla ice cream with a brown sugar sauce of raisins and dates sprinkled with flaked toasted coconut and finished with chow mein noodles.
Sal burst into the market shortly after the quake looking scared, rubbing his palms together and shaking his head in amazement while looking at his wonderful fountain still standing. The pies and cakes had made a mess of the glass case and everything was in disarray but surprise to all just the perfect pyramid of tall soda glasses lay shattered.
Filling out the store center were rows of standing shelves with a fine walnut paneled cashier station up front crowned by a gleaming nickel-plated National Cash Register. Seated there, on a normal day, like a Countess, with ample girth daintily spread out over a commanding position, was Esperanza, the cashier, who could intimidate the devil with a tiny lift of one immaculately shaped eyebrow. Her skin was the color of lightly browned biscuits and on warm days it was glossy. She had a grand silky bosom often deliberately accentuated by the cut of a ruffled peasant blouse. Her eyes were enormous and carefully painted with impeccable black lines and heavy mascara. The other features, the nose, cheeks and mouth were large too. She often wore fresh flowers on the side of her shiny black-coiled braids that formed a kind of intricate tiara. Even though a local girl, Espe said she was originally from Spain.
On this day of disaster, right about noon, after Paco and Sal along with two of his young brothers had just about cleaned the entire place up, the market’s owners, Tahj & Paula came in astonished that so much was still in tact. They must have passed the mass of barrels filled with fragments of all the most famous epicurean delights in the world. Smashed to smithereens they could find jars of Sir Kinsington’s Ketchup, Tracklemints Strong Mustard, Yuzu Kosho, San Marzano tomatos, McCure’s pickles, Major Grey’s Mango Chutney, American Spoon Pumkin Butter, Red Bell Pepper and Ancho Chili Jam, Pentelton and Stockyard Barbeque Sauces, Vaalle Garden’s Corn Relish, Rosebud Mint Jelly, a large selection of Indian Curry Sauce, all the best caviar, Imperial Husso Amber Caviar, Iranian Caviar, Russian Caviar, Burren Smokehouse Irish Salmon, San Pedro Albacore, Ortiz Anchovies in olive oil, Danish and French Sardines, Duck Torchon with Port Wine, Foie Gras de Moulard, Grissini Bread Sticks, Pain Au Levain, Gache Vendeenne, Sourdough Batards, and a pitiful mass of Vic’s Bagels, to name just a tiny sample.
The little crew came together by the empty produce stand at the entrance and hugged one another, some wiping away tears. Everyone was giddy now with relief and gratitude to be spared. Salvador suggested that they put up a sign for everyone to see that they had survived and would be ready for business. Several days later Diehls façade was decorated with a big banner right under “SERVING NOW BREAKFAST AND LUNCH” that said, “DIEHLS CAME THROUGH IN FINE SHAPE ~ COME IN”.
Paco slowly walked back to his long desk in the rear of the market. It was simple with a big bulletin board on the wall pinned solid with papers and a hanger with shelves below to accommodate his uniform, shirts and boots that stood next to a small wooden shoe shine box. At the end of his desk he kept a long natural pine box filled with finest watercolors from England and a collection of brushes that he intently cared for by washing carefully in Ivory soap and then making the tips perfectly pointed by forming them in his mouth. He used a white china plate as a palette with the colors of the spectrum built up in hard pools over time. In his spare moments, and sometimes long after everyone had left, Paco painted the handsome fruit and vegetables making little still portraits of what ever suited him. Often he would just paint one orange over and over to get just the right shading and stroke of the brush. He pined a few of his best pieces up on the board and tossed the rest out thinking he was not yet good enough to present his portfolio for entrance to The Art Academy in Italy where members of his family had studied. Further on there were more large shelves on each side of the room that opened out at the end on the alley where the pristine market truck parked. There he would prepare the complex deliveries that he started precisely at 6 o’clock in the morning. Just outside the back entrance in a little tin roofed shed with a big padlock, Paco kept his most treasured possession, a red Model 101 Scout Indian Motorcycle. He had a special nail for his leather pilot’s cap and the goggles with extra green lenses that flipped up to use the clear ones. On cold mornings he wore his dark brown leather aviator’s jacket with a lambs wool collar.
It was late afternoon by the time Paco vaulted onto The Indian and headed for home. He had a heavy heart now, all day burdened with worry about how he would find his Mother and The Quien Sabe. He knew the owners were away in South America on a cactus buying tour.
The phone lines were down and no word had come to them about how the Montecito hills had endured the quake. On the way he saw the damages and in some cases he needed to work his way around fallen trees and rubble. He wound around the foothills then turned left soon passing the spectacular El Brolino estate with it’s spires of neatly trimmed topiaries peeking up over lacy wrought iron gates and high hedges. Following Buena Vista almost to the top, at the little wooden sign hand tooled with “Quien Sabe”, he turned into a broad long driveway were he could see a mass of men far ahead struggling with equipment under a geyser of muddy water that gave them an overall sandy brown image almost like sculpture but moving.
Madonna came running to him with Ranger a mammoth collie. They both fell upon him at once. By the look, it was not clear which loved him the most, his beautiful Mother or his equally beautiful dog. Madonna spoke with a musical Italian accent, usually soft and lyrical but now almost shrieking, “You are safe, my wonderful boy, I can’t imagine what you suffered? What happened down town? Are you hurt? We are all right except many things are on the floor, we do not have gas or electricity and the pipe from the reservoir is broken.” They turned to see the struggle ongoing and the shower of mud constant. They walked on to a series of redwood tables and benches set up under the olive trees. There he greeted Oneda’s Mrs., their children and Rosalita with five others, maybe relatives, that Paco barely knew.
They had set up a kind of outdoor kitchen with meat grilling and containers sitting filled with ice and food. A line of sodas and their Italian family’s home bottled wines, never minding the prohibition, were all set out. Like the rare giddiness and affection shown earlier in the market, the relief that all were safe and preparing dinner made for a strange party atmosphere. Paco’s Mother was the Ranch Cook and home manager. She lived in two large rooms off of the kitchen where Paco stayed with her most of the time. Oneda, who maintained with his wife and two children in a tiny cottage near The Quien Sabe entrance, was the eminent Japanese Head Gardener, a kind of wizard to many who came into his orbit.
As the murky geyser subsided to nothing, the men disappeared into the water above to wash and later change to dry clothes, an array of dishes began to appear out on the central table creating a buffet looking like a crazy quit. Madonna served what she had in the icebox; meat loaf from veal and pork with garlic, basil and whole peeled hard-boiled eggs inside, also her sublime manicotti stuffed with nutmeg laced ricotta cheese and rich wine spiked marinara sauce. She always had boiled ham and her signature potato salad, dressed with an oregano-scented vinaigrette including tiny bits of pickled carrots, cauliflower, peppers and celery, on hand for Paco. She was putting out the antipasti with some dill pickles and stuffed olives as Mrs.Oneda, who did not speak English, was gracefully presenting her own Asian specialties. Netsuki simmered halibut came straight from the Hibachi she always used, so preparing dinner this night was not much different from any other. There was a flat woven basket with artfully displayed rows of mackerel sashimi set upon lemon leaves and a large celadon bowl filled with hand collected greens from the mountain in back was dressed with a red miso mirin dressing scattered with roasted sesame seeds. There were neat lumps of steamed rice sculpted from a small sake cup. She made what is called kushiyaki that was grilled meat and fish on skewers with a salty ginger dipping sauce. At the last she presented peaches delicately carved up and placed in concentric circles on a small crackle glass plate along with a bowl of Mitarashi Dango or sweet dumplings that were little balls of firm custard like rice served on skewers in a dark sweet sticky sauce. All this was stretched out alongside a huge platter of Rosalita’s extra extra hot, meaty, cheesy enchiladas with accompanying spicy beans and rice. Finally Paco could see someone brought a pile of delicious nut bread & cream cheese sandwiches and a big sack of jelly doughnuts.
The mood began to soar as Rosalita’s relatives chased around a large pond with a Grecian Maiden pouring water in the center. Madonna sipped wine and blushed with laughter, as Paco and Ranger danced together like sweethearts. The gaiety halted fast as the earth began to undulate and the trees waved wildly. The remnants of their dinner party bounced on the tables some falling to the ground. Everyone felt the aftershock’s effects, disengaged from reality, then exhaled when the motion subsided. Sober now, without a word, they just gathered everything up and disbursed, surrendering to an unknowable force that was so much larger than anything they knew.
Inside Madonna and Paco began to check for new damages to the huge sprawling Ranch house. Taking flashlights they moved warily about the rooms that were recently renovated with the work of the region’s premiere architect, George Washington Smith. He was a genius with style and the redwood paneled great room with it’s brilliant cathedral ceiling was an example. Earlier the staff had moved the breakables to the floor foreseeing the possibility of more shaking to come, so the vision was bizarre. Chinese vases, sculptures and bronzes littered the floor that was covered with several very large Persian rugs, all intricately designed with a terracotta, cream, pale turquoise, indigo and black color palette. A rare collection of jade sat in cartons cushioned with tea towels near the enormous wrought iron fire screen that had molded water lilies decorating the front. Only the tools had fallen over and the deep golden Spanish shawl, usually atop the baby grand piano, was laying in a silky pile with it’s remarkable stitched roses in many shades of pink obscured, the long fringe spread out like capellini. The shadows, the beams of flashlights and the severe disorder created a ghostly impression that made everything seem sinister even haunted. They moved through room after room setting a few things straight but ended the search deciding that all was secure. Madonna busied herself with dishes and then some knitting, attempting to appear unconcerned, then retired to her room early. Paco lay on his daybed that was in a little screened porch area off the main room with Ranger sleeping along side. He was exhausted but still to stimulated to be drowsy. He took out his sketchpad and made several drawings of a woman’s profile and then her breast with the curve of her arm. He did a small detail of the curve magnified, loving the sensual line of the connection. Hours passed and just before ten he arose, went in to brush his teeth then, oiling his curls flat, he smiled at himself and those little crinkles made him irresistible. He put on his soft camel hair sweater, picked up a bottle of wine from the cupboard and walked out, Ranger following with interest.
The night was clear and the moon was nearly full. The scented layers of a California woodland were heavy with citrus, rosemary, bay, olive, roses, gum tree, avocados, oak, mesquite and even mint all slipping by like a slow turning kaleidoscope, now featuring the strength of one, then transforming softly into another. He walked past the olive trees to the grand avenue of oaks that formed the pathway to the Quien Sabe’s famous cactus gardens leisurely swinging the wine bottle. Ranger followed often preoccupied with unknown issues that caused him to lag behind then canter to catch up. At the base of the footpath there was a sizable brick terrace with a fire pit and benches across from a large table with multiple trays always filled with small plants set in rows and carefully labeled. Off to the left stood a gateway with two enormous Old Man cactus sentinels, looming up kelly green with long black spines and crowned by an odd halo of white silky hair.
The man opened the wine taking a sip right from the bottle then he and the dog sat patiently by a tiny glowing fire. Soon a purring engine was heard from the driveway a distance below. In the shadows the form of a woman came breathlessly toward him. The dog raced to greet her as she moved closer and softly slipped her hands up under Paco’s sweater to feel his skin and the wonderful muscles of his broad shoulders. Reaching down he lifted her slightly and kissed her mouth with rapture and that was the third time that the earth moved on that day.