Herd of Giraffes Sighted on Main Street

It wasn’t exactly a “Black Friday” but it was a bustling Saturday after Thanksgiving on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. The African gallery called Sujaro– where a herd of giraffes (each one unique, carved out of a whole piece of mahogany– in Kenya)– caught my eye. Manager Ethan Rider told me that customers usually buy only one of these gorgeous wooden creatures–but I could see a dozen of them gracing a big room.


(Photo: Sujaro Manager Ethan Rider poses with the giraffes.)

Sujaro: 424 Main St., Half Moon Bay. Across the street from the famous San Benito House.

Mikie Benedict’s Montara: Never Cold at “Johann Sebastian” Scranton’s Cold Comfort Farm…

Story by Mikie Benedict


(Photo: Richard Scranton, courtesy Mikie Benedict)

Richard Scranton, known to some of his music-making acquaintances as Johann Sebastian Scranton, lived in a little green house in Montara with a sign over the door: “Cold Comfort Farm�?.

Richard’s ultimate desire was to hand-copy and arrange all 371 of Johann Sebastian Bach’s harmonized chorales so that they could be played on the keyboard. Before Richard died at the age of 75 in 2004, he managed to complete this enormous effort. He called his handwritten manuscript the Ill-Tempered Clavier, a takeoff on Bach’s encyclopedic work, The Well-Tempered Clavier.


(Image: Richard’s Chorale, courtesy Mikie Benedict)

In the front room of Richard’s house on George Street was an instrument which resembled an 18th-century harpsichord, but which on closer inspection proved to be two modern keyboard synthesizers set into a
harpsichord case so cleverly covered with wood-grain paper that it truly fooled the eye.

Richard made digital recordings of his self-taught keyboard playing on this wonderful machine, sometimes painstakingly inputting the chorales note by note and editing out his mistakes.

The floor of “Cold Comfort Farm” was carpeted wall- to- wall with shag scraps cut and glued in a checkerboard pattern, and the walls were densely hung with Richard’s own skillfully-painted facsimiles of European and Asian masterpieces. He made his own curtains and upholstered his own furniture. It was not cold in Richard’s house: Through an innovation best left unexamined, he kept the temperature at about 78 degrees year round.

Cold Comfort Farm�?, an expression from Shakespeare, was the title of a comic novel by Stella Gibbons published in 1932. The book, set in the fictitious village of Howling, Sussex, was made into a film by the BBC in 1995.

Richard Scranton’s past was mysterious. He had a mother somewhere, but had no contact with her. He had a cat, but she died. At some point he had been a barber and trusted no one else to cut his hair, which finally he shaved off. He had traveled to Europe. He had a library-class record collection and knew everything worth knowing about all kinds of music. He had been a custodian at a local school for a while.

Although he was gentlemanly and courteous to his neighbors, he preferred to be alone most of the time. He cooked for himself in an electric skillet. He
sometimes rode a motorcycle or a bicycle, but did not drive a car.

In late summer of 2004, his neighbors and a handful of acquaintances held a musical memorial service for Richard at Cold Comfort Farm. The building is now used as a studio by the owners, who live next door.


Meet Ron Schmidt, Grandson of Dante “The Artichoke King” Dianda

Photos: at left, Dante Dianda, El Granada’s “Artichoke King” with unidentified woman and Alessio Mearini. Mearini was born in Arezzo, Italy and immigrated to the U.S. in 1914. He ws a partner and cook at Dianda’s ranch. Alessio Mearini stands next to Dianda in photo at right.

Ron Schmidt (RS): My Mother was Dante Dianda’s third child. I am curious about the photo of Dante with the other two people. It is not his son-in-law nor his son.
Where does the picture come from?

HMBM: Hi Ron,

I believe I got that photo from a Mr. Vellutini–I may have the spelling of his name wrong–I interviewed him in El Granada years ago. He is now gone. He said he had worked for Mr. Patroni at the Patroni House in Princeton during Prohibition.

Who do you think the people might be? I want to get it right. Please tell me something about yourself.

RS: I do not know who the two people are in the photo.

I know everyone who was around the farm and the men who worked there.

I know a great deal about Dante; he was influential in my philosophy of life and I have great respect for memories he has left me.

We have found just this year his relatives in Italy. We will be traveling to Italy next April.

If you have specific questions I would be happy to answer them.

Continue reading “Meet Ron Schmidt, Grandson of Dante “The Artichoke King” Dianda”

As If We Don’t Have ENUFF To Worry About….John Vonderlin Alerts Us To Sleeping Oil Monsters Off Our Coastline…


(Oil spill…photo courtesy Leon Kunke.)

Hi June,

If you’re a fan of shlock Japanese horror movies of the kaiju (monster) subset of the tokusatsu (special effects) genre, involving undersea monsters, you remember their typical opening with murky underwater shots, accompanied by the building of melodramatic, danger-portending music, ultimately showing something large and mysterious as it begins to stir.

Unfortunately, there are just such dangerous monsters lurking off our coast, veritable organic time bombs, waiting for their chance to spread death and destruction.

Only instead of the panic-stricken people of Tokyo, the victims of these impending scourges will mainly be the vulnerable animals that inhabit or use our coastal waters. If these “dirty bombsâ€? go off once again, tens of thousands of birds and other animals could be killed, industries could be crippled, and our world famous coastal natural beauty will be scarred for years to come.

I’m referring to sunken ships like the S.S. Jacob Luckenbach, that with its load of over 400,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil, was sent to the ocean’s bottom, in water 185 feet deep, 17 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge. Its trip to Davey Jones’ Locker, occurred on July 14th, 1953, when it collided with one of its sister ships, the Hawaiian Pilot, thanks to the egregious mistakes made by both pilots. The 468- foot, 8700- ton Luckenbach sank in 30 minutes with no loss of human life.

The Luckenback was a C3 Cargo Ship commissioned in 1943 as the Sea Robin, strangely just four months after the Hawaiian Pilot, was launched, as the U.S.S. Burleigh, from the same Pascagoula shipyard. While the U.S.S.Burleigh, had a distinguished record hauling needed supplies and men around the Pacific during the war, the Luckenbach, had to wait nearly sixty years before its name became well known. That happened in February 2002, when scientific analysis of an oil slick’s signature was connected to samples taken from dead oil-fouled birds gathered from the previous ten years.

Until that connection was made, nearly every winter from 1991 on, with some as far back as 1972, there had been a series of “orphan spills” or “Mystery Oil Spills of the San Mateo Coast,” that had repeatedly plagued our area from Marin to Monterey, killing upwards of 50,000 birds.

Continue reading “As If We Don’t Have ENUFF To Worry About….John Vonderlin Alerts Us To Sleeping Oil Monsters Off Our Coastline…”