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Why Anderson Valley?

Why do you live in Anderson Valley? How did you even find Anderson Valley? Unless you were born here or brought here by your parents you have a story about how you ended up here. Did you just “follow the yellow brick road?” (Hwy. 128) until you got here? How did you find yourself on Hwy. 128 in the first place? Some of you came for the grapes- to grow them, to tend to them, to make wine out of them or to drink them. Some of you came for the marijuana to plant, cultivate, harvest or smoke. Some came for the beauty of the land, rivers, trees and skies. Some came in the time honored way following relatives or friends who had come before. Some came for jobs. Some came because they were close to retirement and AV seemed like a peaceful place to start the last chapter.

The stories of our beginnings are illuminating to write and sometimes fascinating to read. If you agree start jotting down what you remember about your own beginnings here and submit it to this paper at and I can almost guarantee it will be printed. It is more fun than you might think to see your name in print and Bruce Anderson will give you extra copies at no extra charge to send to your people who may not have heard that particular story of yours before. Plus with one bold stroke you will be able to add newspaper writer to your resume.

My story began about 20 years ago when I was doing home health care for a living in Santa Rosa. One of my clients was a vibrant young woman named Julie Chasen. Some of you may know her as she has a history in Anderson Valley. She was a resident of Shenoa and a teacher of English as a second language to some of the workers at Roederer, also a wonderful piano player. When we met she wasn’t living in the valley but she had plans to return. The house in Boonville that Denver Tuttle lives in was vacant and she had an agreement with the SF landlord to move in. The Lyme’s made it hard for her to do really physical work so she asked me to go and clean it up for her. I had never been to the Anderson Valley but she gave me directions and off I went with my cleaning supplies in hand.

This is the important part of the story. As soon as I turned off from Cloverdale and got onto Hwy. 128 I had an uncanny feeling, “What is this place?” It sounds corny but right away it felt different, kind of magical. This feeling has never left me. As soon as I turn onto 128 after venturing forth into the big wide world I breathe a sigh of relief and feel welcomed home.

The clean up took longer than I thought so I decided to spend the night in the house and finish up in the morning. The place was so quiet, the air was so clean, and it felt so peaceful. I left around noon the next day feeling that the place had really cast a spell over me. Time passed and Julie wasn’t ready to move. I proposed that we split the rent (at that time $350 so $175 each) and I started using the place as a retreat on my own almost every weekend. I bought a beat up bike from (I think) Carl and Mariann Kinion and rode all over town. I went to Lauren’s when it was still the “Sound Bite” and run by Jennifer Schmitt with good music every weekend. I ate fresh donuts then as I do today at the Redwood Drive-In. I bought groceries at the AV Market when Ruben Sr. was still on duty. I went to the wild Iris Festival and was blown away that this little valley could produce such a very cool thing. I went to the fair and felt like I was reliving my 1950’s childhood.  I went horseback riding with my neighbor Ray Hoagland a Viet Nam vet who painted portraits of horses when he wasn’t riding his real horses that he boarded at Bud and  Vicky Johnson’s. I loved it.

Eventually Julie decided not to move back and I took over the whole $350 rent continuing my weekend get-aways. This would be the only time in my life I would be a woman with a second home. It was heady stuff but I was becoming a recluse. Not really a part of the AV community and not socializing in Santa Rosa because I was in AV every weekend. I decided to give up the cabin. I missed it.

Fast forward several years and I am working at the East Bay Express a small local paper distributed through Berkeley and Oakland. The paper is a joy to work for. The staff is eccentric and eclectic. I am selling newspaper ads to mostly immigrant businesses- people who come from all over the world. Hida Tools- Japan, The Pomegranate- Iran, Ajanta- India. Their stories make each day different and interesting. One day the publisher tells us that he needs an exit strategy and that the paper is being sold to the LA Weekly a much more corporate chain of papers- kind of like the Starbucks of alternative weekly newspapers. I see the handwriting on the wall and quit almost immediately.

Remembering how much I loved being in the Anderson Valley I decide to find housing there and “make it work” for employment. During this period I actually met with Bruce and Mark of the AVA to explore employment possibilities (they probably do not even remember this) but our time to get together wasn’t yet ripe. I got a job working for the Bohemian newspaper out of offices in the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa. Posting notices at AV post offices I snagged the attention of Joann Aronson postmistress of Yorkville who shared my info. with Dee and John Pickus who had a mill shack rental available. Corresponding by e-mail we finally met and cinched the deal. The place was basic but on a big lot with plenty of room for a garden and for my cats Rusty and Mariah to roam. There were neighbors close by (but not too close). Thus began my long and continuing residency on Big Oaks Drive in Yorkville. A larger Pickus house next door came available and I upgraded with my then boyfriend, now husband Bob Sites. We are happy here and so do our four cats Beatrice, Romeo, Pinto and Rudy.

As a transplant I worked for wineries including Christine Woods, Greenwood Ridge, and Maple Creek for about 10 years. I worked for Taylor Roberts in its heyday as an interior design firm for model homes. I worked at Wellspring Retreat Center and a final 5 years for the AV Unified School District as Community Liaison (including writing a weekly column called” School News” for this paper. My last employment before retirement went full circle as I returned to home health care spending rewarding time with Freda Fox, Helen Mosk and Ron O’Brien.

My initial intuition that there was something special about this place proved sound. There definitely is. I found a husband here (even though it is said to be harder than finding a needle in a haystack after the age of 50). I wake up every morning to birds singing, flowers blooming and a magnificent view of oaks on one side and Douglas fir on the other. I am a member of the Lions Club, The Unity Club, I.C.W. , and the High Rollers of Yorkville. It’s a good life I found here.

What’s your story? Jot it down and send it to and the rest will be history plus you will officially be a newspaper writer

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