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A Holiday Note

November 17, 2012

It was mid-day yesterday (Friday), that I was trying to get across down town Los Gatos. My car wasn’t moving on Santa Cruz Avenue, nor was the car next to me, going the other direction. I was wringing the steering wheel, telling myself I should have gone down Tait or Massol so I wouldn’t have to sit in this traffic. I glanced at the clock, reminding myself that I was trying to get over to the Coffee Roasting Company not soon after 6:30 when Teri Hope was having her annual Christmas party, always a pretty good gig. Then it hit me. It’s the holidays. Traffic is always very ugly during the holidays. “Get used to it,” I told myself. I relaxed in this minor traffic jam, leaned back and turned up the radio playing my good old rock and roll.

I blew my runny nose and coughed once, further reminding myself of the holidays. I got this flu, or cold, or whatever it is, when I encountered way too many little kids the night they closed my detours, Tait and Massol Avenues, for the trick or theaters, or, as it is formally called, Halloween. I have been half delirious with this stuffy head ever since then. Yep, I’d forgotten how bad traffic became around Christmas time. Things are right on schedule.

As I stood at a perfect standstill, with my motor revving, I flashed on how proud I was of Los Gatos on Halloween night. As the sun was setting on Halloween, I was standing in the middle of Tait Avenue, just out from the front door of the Museum and I looked down the street with its long, gentle grade sloping down to Saratoga Avenue. This is the only time you could ever see this (and the adjoining roads) filled with people, people on foot, on foot and lots of them in costumes. Here were blocks and blocks of people, some locals, many out-of-towners, on the loose and all bumping into each other and virtually all had a smile on their faces and good will on their sleeves. It really was a whole, big bunch of people, as it usually is, with only one common goal on their agendas, “please the kids” and have fun doing it. Except for the uniformed cops at the peripheral road blocks on a few corners, the only town authority that I saw in this huge crowd, were two cops, in shorts, on mountain bikes. What a show of force, let me tell you.

How many other towns could boast such a confidence in their need for “crowd control” I had to wonder?

We are a pretty special place.

Last night, Teri’s Christmas party at Coffee Roasting came off without a hitch, except the chestnuts were missing but no one seemed to notice. Luckily, it didn’t rain and it was fairly balmy, so the usually tightly packed crowd spilled outside onto the sidewalk and the numerous benches supplied by a long line of town donors. It was a very comfy and calm setting. The food was good and the music was great and the wine, ample, but, no chestnuts.

Los Gatos takes the holidays very seriously. I think, over the years, I’ve been to ten thousand of its famous Christmas parades. They go back as far as I can remember. This year the Christmas parade will happen the night after the big tree lighting ceremony , an event all on its own.

Tree Lighting on December 2, (Friday) in the Town Plaza before 6:00 p.m.

Christmas Parade on December 3, (Saturday) all of Santa Cruz Avenue and half of Main Street.

The Los Gatos Patch has a really thorough listing of many of the local holiday events. Check it out by clicking on the following web address:

http://losgatos.patch.com/articles/los-gatos-2011-holiday-event-guide

I just remembered that there is one Christmas parade that I did mention in my book, Small Mountain Ramble.

Following is the excerpt:

I don’t remember the whole story of how he found it, but Jim Farwell had dug up a mid-1930s Seagraves fire truck. He had it restored and in the early days, it was a big part of Mountain Charley’s identity. Some friends had rebuilt the engine. Someone else gave it a great new paint job. Jim’s cousin, Jim Bacigalupi, redid all the wood work on the big vehicle. Just a little while after I had met Farwell, he was bragging about the truck and after dinner he took me over to Bacigalupi’s place on Tait Avenue. The truck was going to be near the head of the Los Gatos Christmas parade the next morning and Bach (we used to call him Bach, short for Bacigalupi) was just finishing up the last details.

In those days, Bach had a thick shock of black hair whose bangs almost always seemed to fall into his eyes. He was a quiet, soft spoken guy but he was real intense, he was very, very into his work. We had come over to his modest little place with the big fire truck nearly overshadowing his small Almond Grove house. He was all in a fret, things weren’t going as planned. It had been raining on and off for the last few days and the varnish on the wood wasn’t drying as fast as he had planned. There was too much humidity in the air.

Farwell gave me a tour of the big truck, showing off the new oak crew box that Bach had redone in some straight grained white oak. It had some nice teak stringers laid in broad intervals to off set the oak. The box’s varnish had hard dried and glistened like glass.

It was impressive. The running boards were of a similar oak and teak construction that followed the theme of the crew box. But Bach was all in a twitter, the driver’s bench was a long, wide arrangement of oak slats on a heavy iron frame and he still had to attach the last few slats to finish it off. Farwell told him it was OK, they could just throw down a prune box and use it for a driver’s seat. Bach just said “. . . no . . .” quietly in an unbroken round of wrenching and tightening.

Jim Bacigalupi had built the bar at Mountain Charley’s for his Masters Thesis at San Francisco State. He would go on to build the bar and interior of Number One Broadway and then he would develop into a world class fine furniture maker in the modern day. He was a perfectionist and prune boxes just didn’t cut it.

Farwell announced that he had to get back to his place and distribute costumes to the waitresses who would be riding the fire truck during the parade. Bach rose from his work and cocked his head at Farwell, “Man, I’m not sure this is going to be ready.” Farwell told him not to worry in his usually always positive manner. Bach’s gaze fell to the ground, unconvinced.

Hey, I’ve got nothing going on. I can give you a hand.” I offered.

Are you sure?” Bach asked. “No problem.”

Farwell went off to attend to his girls and Bach and I finished attaching the slats to the seat frame. As the evening grew into night, Bach and I covered the slats in varathane (the then modern version of varnish) by the glow of drop lights and hurriedly uncovered table lamps, anything we could find to give us some light in the dark and cold side yard. We worked late.

The next morning Farwell proudly piloted his big, new, old fire truck float through the annual Los Gatos Christmas Parade, with the pretty girls smiling and waving at the crowd and giggling to each other in their 1890s costumes provided by their boss. A great time was had by all but, all the way through the parade, Jim Farwell stood tall behind the truck’s big steering wheel. The varathane had yet to dry glass hard, and it wouldn’t until the end of the next few drizzly days.

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