Grace and Hope in Time of Calamity

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

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Grace and Hope in Time of Calamity

I write and file this column midweek, when the fierce and pitiless winds are at a lull, and so the drama will have resumed by the time you read this. All the same, these sentiments will surely have been reinforced when the devilish Santa Anas roared anew.

I write these words after returning from a middle-of-the-night evacuation and, blessedly, finding my home still standing.

I write this bleary-eyed – and with tears in my eyes.1venturastrong

I write this with a heart that feels like it has been stomped upon by a marching band wearing army boots, yet I write this also with a heart filled with love and pride and hope because of the way my longtime hometown has responded to the home-and-heirlooms-purloining Thomas Fire.

Ventura, perhaps as never before, has shown itself to be We-tura.

So, too, has this same spirit emerged in Sant-Us Paula and Our-jai, and all our local communities, as the Thomas Fire scorched a path like General Sherman marching from Atlanta to the sea during the Civil War.

Indeed, when I write “I” here it truly echoes of “we” because the Thomas Fire touched us all in similar ways.

As mentioned, I (we) had to evacuate when flames crested a hill from the north and encroached Foothill Road with our home mere yards across the two-lane blacktop on the south. At 3 a.m. I (we) knocked on front doors and honked car horns to make sure our neighbors were awake and we all got the hell out of Hell’s way.

I (we) had countless friends, co-workers and family members who likewise needed to evacuate and worried about them one and all, as well as about those we do not know at all.

I (we) felt an earthquake rattle my soul learning about dear and longtime friends who lost their homes in Clearpoint and, as the fire surged on, in Ondulando.

I (we) learned of more friends, further down the fire’s path, who similarly were suddenly made homeless.

I (we) worried about relatives – me, about my father’s home at the ocean’s-view-crest of Ondulando and, below in the same tract, my eldest brother’s home and the home of one of my nieces. These fears extended a mile away to my other older brother’s home that lay directly in the evacuated path of this vicious monster.

I (we) hoped against hope all my family members’ homes – along with everyone’s homes – would survive.

Finally, I (we) learned of these fates, one by one: My niece’s home escaped unharmed, as did my older brother’s home. Meanwhile, the fire made a Pickett’s Charge-like charge and overtook the backyard fence of my eldest brother’s home before being defeated.

As for the fate of my 91-year-old father’s home, a home he has lived in for 44 years, his home that holds so much of my late mom? Answer: a solemn shake of the head, “no.” It is gone. Memories from half of a long lifetime disappearing in flame and smoke in a cruel instant.

Thinking of my father and my (our) friends, co-workers, neighbors and everyone who lost their homes, I (we) feel “Home” Survivor Guilt.

Why did my (our) home survive and theirs did not?

1friemanThere but for the grace of god, and the direction of the fickle winds, goes my (our) home instead of theirs.

Grace certainly was on abundant display. Our family members and friends naturally offered one another helping hands and shelter, food and drinking water, hugs and compassion – and so did strangers offer these same things to strangers.

In other words, in Latin, E pluribus unum – “out of many, one.”

Firefighters, as always, were heroes. In truth, however, most everyone rose to the occasion, standing tall and together like our famous “Two Trees. ” It seems a fitting simile, for while our iconic landmark was charred by the Thomas Fire, what it symbolizes – standing side by side as We-Trees – remains unconquerable.

I (we) have never been more heartbroken for my hometown, and yet conversely my heart has never been filled fuller for We-tura.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden & Me Kickstarter Front PhotoCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

Local Radio Host Walks His Talk

1StrawberriesCoverWooden-&-Me-cover-mock-upFor a Personalized Autographed copy of STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME” or “WOODEN & ME” mail a check for $25 to:

Woody Woodburn

400 Roosevelt Court

Ventura, CA 93003

* * *

Local Radio Host Walks, Walks, Walks

His Talk for Relay For Life

In the movie “Caddy Shack,” Carl Spackler, the groundskeeper played by Bill Murray, is caddying for Bishop Fred Pickering when the wind and rain turns torrential.

“What do you think, fella?” the Bishop asks.

“I’d keep playing,” replies Spackler. “I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite awhile.”

This, in a nutshell, describes Tom Spence’s experience at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Ventura at Buena High School last weekend.

Tom Spence is a superhero for local charities.

Tom Spence is a superhero for local charities.

As the winds forced most participants to seek shelter, and eventually pack up and leave early, Spence’s reaction was: I don’t think the heavy stuff’s here yet so I’ll just keep on walking.

Spence, a Ventura County radio personality for more than three decades and currently host of The KVTA Morning Show, has participated in numerous Relays For Life. This year he stepped up his game.

“I decided I’d walk the entire time,” says Spence, who made his goal public: Walk 53 miles – two marathons – during the 24 hours from the Relay’s opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday to its closing celebration Sunday morning.

After arriving more than an hour late straight from work, Spence walked a solid 12 miles in the first four hours before taking a 30-minute break.

The next four hours, however, saw his pace slow down as the winds picked up.

“I thought I was sunk at Mile 22,” Spence confides. “The cold wind was breaking me down. It was awful. I felt like I had the flu. I knew I had no chance for 53 miles.”

His hopes gone with the wind, Spence sought refuge in a friend’s RV.

“I was a new person after the half-hour break,” Spence recalls. “I was rejuvenated.”

It was more than the rest that did him good – it was good company rallying to his side. Friends, neighbors and even about 40 of his loyal listeners braved the elements to keep him company.

“I was stunned by the response, by such kindness,” Spence says. “They really lifted my spirits.”

Misery loves company. As the winds grew even stronger, so did Spence.

“Suddenly, I had a spring in my step,” he says.

A middle-of-the-night cup of Cuban coffee from a friend gave Spence’s stride another needed jolt.

As dawn arrived, so did the rain. What started out as a village of 60 tents for the various Relay teams was now a ghost town. Drenched but undaunted, Spence did the math and smiled into the teeth of the storm: “I realized I might do it after all.”

Do it he did, finishing GPS-certified Mile 53 with 15 minutes to spare.

By walking his talk, Spence raised more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society; honored his wife, Colleen, who is a cancer survivor; and also beat down his body into agony.

“Monday morning at work,” Spence, 58, says, “I parked my car and – this is the truth – I crawled into the station on my hands and knees. I was bloody sore. I’ve done a lot of stuff – mud runs, two marathons – and nothing compares to this. I was in pain from toes to hips.”

Mark Twain said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” One might expect Spence felt this year’s Relay For Life was a long walk spoiled, but you would be wrong.

“I think this was my most memorable Relay For Life because it had to be endured,” Spence says.

It was also memorable for a different reason, a better reason, about 100 reasons.

“The real highlight was the people,” Spence says, warmly. “I can’t name everybody’s name who helped me and walked with me. People who you count on are wonderful – but also people you didn’t imagine, which is really awesome.”

The outpouring was well deserved because Tom Spence is a community treasure who has never met a charity event he would not assist.

“My motivation for helping is to make up for what I didn’t do up to when I was 21,” he explains. “I was a little slow before I started getting involved.”

Now he is unstoppable.

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece” and my essay collection “Strawberries in Wintertime: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” …

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Lyrical Time at County Fair

STRAW_CoverWoody’s highly anticipated new book “STRAWBERRIES IN WINTERTIME: Essays on Life, Love, and Laughter” is NOW available! Order your signed copy HERE! 

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Have a Lyrical Time at County Fair

When you think of a county fair, a menu of things pop to mind including cotton candy and deep-fried-chocolate-covered-bacon-wrapped concoctions as well as carousel rides and Carney games and a bird’s-eye view atop a Ferris wheel.

Too, surely, you think of music.

And so, with the 141st annual Ventura County Fair’s 12 days of magic in full swing through Aug. 14, I looked up lyrics about county fairs. I was surprised not only by how many songs touch on the subject, but how many are actually titled “County Fair.”1ferriswheel

To help get you in the mood, here is a small sampling. Strum a guitar and sing along . . .

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From “County Fair” by Bruce Springsteen:

“Every year when summer comes around

“They stretch a banner ’cross the main street in town

“You can feel somethin’ happenin’ in the air

“Getting’ ready for the county fair

 

“County fair, county fair

“Everybody in town will be there

“So come on, hey, we’re goin’ down there

“Hey little girl with the long blond hair

“Come win your daddy one of them stuffed bears

“Baby down at the county fair”

 

Additional lyrics include:

“Well baby you know I just love the sound

“Of the pipe organ on the merry-go-round

“Now at the north end of the field, well they set up a stand

“And they got a little Rock ’N’ Roll band

“The people dancin’, yeah, out in the open air

“Just rockin’ down at the county fair”

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From “Walk Me Down the Middle” by The Band Perry:

“Walk me down the middle of the county fair

“Walk me down the middle like you don’t care

“Walk me by the Ferris wheel and make sure she sees

“Let the whole world know you belong to me”

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From “County Fair” by Chris Ledoux:

“I got a date with a girl, a perdy ranchers daughter,

“Green as her golden hair.

“Gonna pick her up at 8 after some soap and water.

“And we’re headin’ to the county fair.

“So I’m gonna take on the Ferris wheel.

“Way up in the sky, with the stars in her eyes,

“I’m gonna tell her just how I feel.

“Well, there’s a full moon in the western sky,

“And there’s magic in the air.

“Ain’t nothin’ I know of, can make you fall in love,

“Like a night at the county fair.”

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From “County Fair” by John Mellencamp:

“Well the County Fair left quite a mess

“In the county yard

“Kids with eyes as big as dollars

“Rode all the rides”

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From “County Fair” by Lonestar:

“Twenty bucks buys ten coupons

“Two ears of corn and one ride on

“The tilt-a-whirl with your favorite girl

“Keep on walkin’ down the midway

“Three-eyed goats and games to play

“ ‘Step right up,’ Carney says, ‘Try your luck’

“You can tell the sweet smell of summer in the air

“Whole town shuts down, everybody’s gonna be there

“Down at the county fair”

 

And:

“Judging pigs and judging pies

“Fighting for the first place prize

“There’s nothing bigger

“In small towns everywhere

“Than the county fair”

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From “I Like it, I Love It” by The 2 Live Crew:

“Spent forty-eight dollars last night at the county fair

“I threw out my shoulder but I won her that teddy bear

“She’s got me saying sugar-pie, honey, darlin’, and dear

“I ain’t seen the Braves play a game all year”

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Another teddy bear prize in “Odds and Ends” by Freda Payne:

“Odds and ends of love that used to be

“You’re gone, but the memories linger on

“An old teddy bear that’s lost its hair

“You won at the county fair”

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From “Still Think About You” by William Clark Green:

“We were something special

“Pretty big deal

“Met you at the county fair

“Kissed you on the Ferris wheel”

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You’ve still got eight days left to ride the rides, play some games, try to win a stuffed bear, listen to a rock ‘n’ roll band, and maybe sneak a kiss on the Ferris wheel at our “County Fair with Ocean Air.”

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Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Ventura County Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com.

Wooden&Me_cover_PRCheck out my new memoir WOODEN & ME: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”

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