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Sunday, May 15, 2011

OXNARD: THE AG VILLAGE THAT BECAME A THRIVING CITY

I first came to Port Hueneme, California in 1958, where my brother, a noted marine structural engineer, helped me secure a summer job at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory, on my way to Stanford University.  This was the headquarters of the Naval Construction Battalion (CBs, or Sea Bees)  Next door was Oxnard, with a population of around 35,000 then, with a lot of migrant workers, lemon orchards and lima bean farms.  A little more than half a century later, there are 200,000 residents, and not only is Oxnard still considered to be the lemon and lima bean, and also now strawberry, capital of California, but has matured into a bedroom community with some light industry.  This has also become a retreat for celebrities.

Why would anyone want to move here?  Well, it is a close 60 miles north of Los Angeles, and the average high is between 70-74 degrees F from June to October (because of the  passing cold ocean currents).  Portions of California are equally blessed, as for example, San Francisco, where poets and the tourist industry romantically indicate that the fog comes on little cat feet.  In Oxnard, the fog just adds to the chill and makes driving that much more difficult. However, it has never snowed here, yet almost always remains too cold for me.  The demographics have significantly changed, as the population is now 66% Hispanic and 40% White, 7% Asian, plus others, but this is because of mixed marriages.


It's a convoluted story, but Oxnard is called Oxnard because of the Oxnard brothers (Henry, James, Benjamin and Robert), beet sugar barons.  Noted locals are Cesar Chavez, who grew up here, and James Cameron of Avatar fame.






Annette and my brother, Stan, have lived in this area for more than half a century, and their home is a special wonderment for me.  Possibly because it is always mildly cool, they've had oranges available every morning in this present residence of about 40 years.  Add also grapefruit, pomelo, tangerine, and lemon, continuously.  Plus pomegranate, apple, fig, kumquat, guava, persimmon (two kinds), avocado and I'm sure more.   From Hawaii, ti, monstera, plumeria, various orchids, five different varieties of hibiscus, ginger,  and at least a dozen other types of flowers, including ilima.  Here is just a sampling:

These are my two brothers, Stan, next to me, and Dan to your left in the backyard:

Ann in the front yard:

We had a terrific lunch today at Tierra Sur in the Herzog Wine Cellars, where we shared a Herzog Chenin Blanc.  I had an ahi tacos with a lot of vegetables:


We later went to Capistrano's Seafood for dinner.  Ann, Stan Warren and Anita, Ivan and Diane, Sharon and Dan, and my halibut with a bottle of Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon:


The red wine was singularly distinctive, for it tasted closer to a Port rather than a Cab.  Just another great day in Oxnard.

We spent the next day, first, watching Anita, Warren (nephew) and their group, Pier 101, perform on the main stage for an American Cancer Society fundraiser:

Dinner was at Mastro's Steakhouse in Thousand Oaks.  You must appreciate that this is a highest end restaurant in a posh neighborhood.  So five of our group of nine show up 15 minutes early, dressed like, well, homeless people.  I was in slippers and jogging pants.  After a short while they chose to sit us away from the entrance so as not to negatively impact their image.  Most men were in sport coats.  In an hour, the place was packed.

Here, Dan with our waiter/sommelier Shaun...

...who was fabulous, as he showed no disdain and went along well with our ordering quirks.  For example, the steaks were so expensive that each couple, basically, shared one.  As everything was ala  carte, we did order soup or salad and a whole bunch of sides. Here, Diane (niece) and her husband Ivan, Warren and his wife Anita, Stan and his wife Ann, Sharon and her husband Dan:

My bone-in-filet (house special) with glasses of Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon and Ravenswood Zinfandel:

After dinner we retired to the home performing studio of Ann/Stan/Diane/Ivan...


...with a spotlight, where it was karaoke night.  How's this for intimidation?  All of them are professionals.  You saw Warren and Anita above.  Diane does a tribute to Patsy Cline, and travels the country...


and today performs at a jazz festival.  Ann and Stan have spent the past few decades with their various ukulele (and other instruments) groups entertaining throughout Southern California.

Finally, I provide a nautical scoop.  Ivan is designing a sphere that he hopes to sail around the world in 80 days.  Here is the first structural mock-up:

Sharon, Dan and I stopped by Herzog Cellars today on our way back to Las Vegas.  This is a Jewish winery that has this unusual Cabernet Sauvignon.  Tomorrow, I fly back to Honolulu

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