GINA AND GEORGE Among the lay teachers with whom I became friends, a social studies teacher named Gina became closest. She and her husband, George, lived not far from where I lived in Meiners Oaks, in a little cottage near the highway from Ventura. It was decorated with tons of macrame holding hanging plants and other standard 1960s-70s hippie decor. They occasionally would invite me over for dinner and conversation. Gina was plump, short, round...and congenial. George was thin, tall, angular...and aloof. He parted his dark hair in the middle and pulled it back into a ponytail. George was odd. He said he was a writer but I never saw anything he wrote. I don't know what he did, if anything, to make a living. He was a great conversationalist. He liked being the devil's advocate; his conversations were off-the-wall and full of the unexpected. We three could go on well into the night discussing just about anything that came to mind. TRIBUTE TO 'SHANGR
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THE RANCH HOUSE RESTAURANT I was still scraping for cash and my friend Alan Hooker hired me as a wine steward at his magical and unique restaurant, The Ranch House. This was particularly handy since it was only a couple of blocks from where I lived. I simply walked over to work in the afternoons and evenings. Other than fretting and sweating about properly decanting and pouring $250 (in 1972!) split bottles of 1959 Chateau Lafite Rothschild to the demanding rich and celebrities, it was an ideal job. THE RANCH HOUSE 'CLAN' The Ranch House was like family...with Alan and Helen Hooker the patriarch and matriarch of the clan. They were transplanted Midwesterners...Alan had been a jazz musician, then a baker, and Helen had been a school teacher. Both were drawn to Ojai to be near Krishnamurti. The Ranch House started as a kind of spiritual boarding house for attendees gathering to hear Krishnamurti's talks. Alan and Helen prepared and served them wholesome meals.