Magic in Nature, Bidwell Park, Chico California

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Magic in Nature – Bidwell Park

Last weekend I literally strolled through Bidwell Park. The reason I “strolled” through the park is because I didn’t want to miss one tree, one flower, one butterfly or any part of the creek that meanders through the park.

The beauty was breathtaking. Each turn revealed a new path with 200 foot Oak trees, Birch, Western Sycamore, Northern California Black Walnut, and the mighty Redwood. Then to frame these majestic trees are the flowers; California sandwort, Bird’s eye gillia, bladder parsnip, California buttercup, wild cucumber, and Ceanothus ( a shrub that blooms in clusters of white or blue flowers) very fragrant. There are hundreds of varieties of trees, flowers, insects, and animals that shall be revealed when you journey to this magical place.

Along the trails by the creek you will find convenient places to rest with park benches and tables (with some spaces even having a grill to barbecue). The canopies of foliage are so thick in some places it is difficult to see the sky. I have really never been in a park so encompassed with wild life (except a zoo) that if you blink you will miss some part of the experience that is inches from you.

As a college student we spent many a day driving through the park, hiking in the park, or passed out in the park. I remember the first time I ever spent time in Chico, going to the park, and attempting to tube down the creek eventually leading to a picnic lunch…so peaceful and tranquil.

Fast forward to today and the same energy that is beauty, solitude, and the wonder of nature captivates your senses. The only difference I see is that today the majority of young people are engaged with their phones while the older students that never left Chico (the smart ones that found a way to stay) walk leisurely through Bidwell Park taking in the nuances created by light, sound, and imagery.

In July of 1905 Annie Bidwell donated approximately 2,500 acres of land to the City of Chico. Since that time, the City has purchased additional land, such as Cedar Grove in 1922, and 1,200 acres of land south of Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park circa 1995. Bidwell Park ranks 26th as far as the size of municipal parks in our country.

As many of us know the original Robin Hood (The Adventures of Robin Hood) with Errol Flynn was filmed in 1938 in Bidwell Park. The park simulated Sherwood Forest, and the movie (a box office hit) also stared Olivia DeHavilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains. When King Richard the Lionheart is captured, his scheming brother Prince John (Claude Rains) plots to reach the throne, to the outrage of Sir Robin Locksley (Errol Flynn, the bandit of Sherwood Forest). Rounding up his band of merry men and eventually winning the support of the lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Haviland), Robin accuses Prince John of treachery. When the escaped Richard returns covertly to England he joins forces with the King to prevent Prince John from taking the crown.

Today as in yesteryear the park adds a level of peacefulness created by the visionaries that established the park and the town of Chico. With the beloved University so many hold dear to their hearts it is not uncommon to witness the camaraderie between generations because of the bond between Bidwell Park, the town of Chico, and the University… so rare.

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Sigma Nu Fraternity

When I was a little, ok a lot younger, I joined a fraternity at Chico State University. I had vowed not to join an organization like this after my experience with the Sportsman Club at San Rafael High School. That experience which included a myriad of humiliating, exhilarating, and sometimes painful forays into the realm of “I can’t believe I just did that?”, made me want to run upon the very mention of pledging. I did however get to wear the Sportsman jacket (bright burgundy with white wide lines accented with gold) which only a handful could claim in a high school of 2,000 students.

I was well into my second year when my roommate (Tom Gauldin) became friends with the neighbors upstairs in the apartment complex. Those two gentleman were Mark Finocchio and Brian Machado members of the Sigma Nu fraternity. We would play music for them periodically when they would entertain female guests over for dinner. Tom played the guitar and I play the violin. This was a wonderful time, carefree, just going to school and playing music.

Well, as fate would have it Brian and Mark asked us if we’d like to play at a talent show at the frat house. We said yes not knowing that this seemingly innocent acceptance would lead to a life changing moment in time. I believe we won the talent show or perhaps we could have tied with the monkey and organ grinder… things are a bit fuzzy regarding that circumstance. However what isn’t fuzzy is what happened next.

Tom and I were asked if we would like to pledge the fraternity. Tom gave a hard no and I said I’d have to think about it. The only reason I had to think about it was because the guys in that frat at that time were some of the best people I’d ever met. Well, after a window I was given to accept I capitulated and accepted the bid to join. I was the last one in my pledge class of 25 strong to accept hence my IK (Pledge number) was 91. We had such a great group of pledges that ingested even more energy into the fraternity at a time it was already thriving. The frat had only been started less than two years before and had the energy and drive to build a base that has lasted to this day and will continue well beyond my lifetime.

I won’t go into the stealing of an actives car when we were dropped in the middle of no where or the many keg parties along the way. I will suffice it to say that our chapter (Sigma Nu Iota Kappa 194) was built on a foundation of strength that has endured many challenges.

The beauty of this group of men is that today I can go back (having pledged some 40 years ago) and still feel the commitment, honor and integrity that made it so appealing to me when I was younger. Without judgment I am received as a respected member of a legendary time. The events of the past are brought up to enhance the current members belief in a group that created the perfect storm of influence that now has grown to a thousand members.

I am writing this blog because this weekend I am going to my fraternity reunion. I so look forward to spending time with the brothers I love in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Chico California.

I feel so blessed to have made a choice that has been one of the most rewarding of my life. I can’t thank Brian and Mark enough for being the catalysts to share their fraternal experience that has enhanced my life through these four decades.

As we reach our twilight years (which have come so rapidly) we now are witnessing some of our closest brothers passing away. This weekend will also be a tribute to those that have gone on to the “Chapter Eternal”. Several founding fathers and others way too young with so much life left are no longer here. The sadness I feel when I think of these men sits on my shoulder like a sleepy silent storm.

They now live in our minds, hearts, and our souls… though not in life.

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Music, Art, and Poetry… PAZAZ™ Style!

Through-out the 50’s and 60’s (20th century), US history can find emblematic reflection of social consciousness traced to music, art, and poetry. Of course every decade has its statements that unfold the envelope of human societal evolution. But to see the beginning of this in my lifetime as I reflect on the current unrest that has divided our country I see the pendulum swing.

The music of the fifties was about love, dancing, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, within a framework of simplicity that captured the spirit of the times. The art movement was abstract expressionism while any disillusioned voice became vocal through the medium of beat poets. The 1950’s history can be summed up as a time of conformity and compliance. There was underneath it all a rising tide of rebellion that would rear its head in the sixties. However, for the most part, it was poodle skirts, cruising, interesting jargon expressed in jazz scat singing and beat poetry which made its way into mainstream television with the popular show, Dobie Gillis.

All of this relative peace and tranquility would soon lead to music beyond our shores with the onslaught of the “British Invasion”, and then our own full on music, art, and poetry rebellion.

The music of the sixties produced the most profound explosion of rock groups that has extended into our current lifetime. The Beatles, Stones, Doors, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and a host of others produced music that was both creative and symbolic. Experimental drug use, the Vietnam war, riots across campuses through-out America, assassinations, landing on the moon, and the all important racial consciousness brought passion to music rarely experienced before or since.

In visual art, movements such as Pop Art (Andy Warhol) and Psychedelic Art (illegible hand-drawn type with intense optical color) became the most significant and shape-shifting concepts of these tumultuous times.

Poetry written by William Carlos Williams, Phyllis McGinely, John Berryman were conventional in composition and content but new ground was being broken wide open through cultural and political avenues highlighted by Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, and Gil Scott-Heron (The Revolution will not be Televised).

This poetic political landscape featured the rise of the Black Panthers, Flower Power, and Vietnam protests. This was the opening of the flood gate to pose important questions about race, gender, class, sexuality, and identity at large. Poetry is a tool which interacts with the world looking critically on the basis of language and aesthetics, but is also a countercultural product that has the ability to occupy both cult and mainstream status.

Today’s protests that have divided our country seem more a function of divide and conquer through a myriad of carefully calculated events. If you trust our government (Kennedy assassination, 9-11, etc.), and you trust Big Pharma, then absolutely go out and dance up and down for your vaccination shot (not knowing what’s in it our what the side effects are). But if you really want the truth go to “Part 1 “Birth of Big Pharma”. Just remember one thing in all the protests, vaccinations, and division politics… follow the money! Times they be a changing.