Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ojai: Going Home Again (Sort Of)

I was lucky enough to live in Ojai from 1977-81. Those were the days...young and fancy free, hiking in the foothills, eating (and growing) healthy food, hanging out with people interested in Krishnamurti and going to his yearly talks at the Oak Grove. During those four years, I lived in some very picturesque places. One of them was a stone house at the end of Blanche Street downtown, where I rented a room. That stone house is now part of the Emerald Iguana Inn. I've always wanted to stay there and revisit that part of my past...so, on my way to Santa Barbara recently, I stopped off for the night and did just that. Except for the new front steps and the skylights, the 100-year-old facade of the original stone house, above, is basically the same as I remember it.
I stayed in the "Toad" room, which was built onto the right rear of the stone house...a very short distance from the room I rented so long ago. Everything at the inn is well appointed and comfortable. There are lots of new bungalows around the pool area (behind the wrought iron fence in this picture), and breakfast is served every day by the pool.
It's easy to walk downtown from the inn--I used to work in the Ojai Bookstore and walked to work every day. I also walked to Shelf Road Trail every morning, above. One thing that's new is the warning sign. Things in Ojai were definitely kinder and gentler 35 years ago.
The very first place I lived in Ojai was a cabin behind this stone house in the East End. That flat area just beyond the stone wall was my vegetable garden--a tenth of an acre! And Gridley Trail was at my doorstep. Dare I say it--life in Ojai was good in the days before gentrification. There's no end of designer boutiques and wine bars on Ojai Avenue now, but back then the town had more soul.