California is an amazing state. And the SF Bay Area is, in my humble opinion, the best of it. The whole region holds a huge part of my heart. The land itself has a lot to offer, but it is really the people who are there that keeps me coming back: friends from the last 25 years who have become family to me. I always feel slightly cheated when I have managed to eek out a few days in Oakland, or San Francisco, or Berkeley, or San Mateo, or San Jose; cheated because it is never enough. I am grateful for the last week. It was, in many ways, the beginning of my Sabbatical (which technically starts today). The Province Assembly was great, but I also got to spend a few hours with various friends.
I love that I can still be surprised by all that the Bay Area has to offer. On Friday, I drove up the very familiar San Mateo Coast from Half Moon Bay to the City, taking in the salt air and rugged beauty of a little hidden gems that many people don't know about (Princeton, Montara, Pacifica). The real surprises came on Saturday when my dear friend, Carrie, took me to the Sacramento Delta Region and showed me some of California's forgotten history. I know a little about the region because of Dominican history which settled our Province in places like Benicia and Antioch. But there are a lot of little communities that were at one time, very important to life and commerce on the huge rivers that feed the SF Bay. We went to the little community of Rio Vista, northeast of Antioch. Still a thriving little bedroom community, Rio Vista boasts an amazing bar called Foster's Bighorn. Its original proprietor, Foster, was a big game hunter who decorated the walls of his bar with the trohy heads of exotic species. While seemingly at odds with Bay Area sensativites, this exotic little watering hole is definitely worth the visit and represents a bygone era. I also stopped in to see the little Catholic Church in Rio Vista. St. Joseph's betrays the Portuguese roots of the local populace in its stained glass, whihch features both St. Isabella and St. Anthony of Lisbao. The real glory of this Church's decor is the huge window which features both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (made more sweet by the fact that we were there on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart).
The visit to the Church afforded another pleasant surprise. When we arrived, we found the door locked. A gentleman who was seated on the front lawn reading offered to open the doors for us. Iguessed him to be the Pastor, but he told us he is a retired priest. I introduced myself and it turns out we had known each other before but have not seen each other since before I entered the Order (24 years). It was Fr. Dick Bane, who was an associate Pastor at St. Bart's in San Mateo during the time I worked there in the late 80's. We have both aged enough that we did not immediately recognize each other. What a serendipitous encounter!
After Rio Vista, we took a couple of ferries and a number of levy-top roads to the forgotten communities of Walnut Grove and Locke. Walnut Grove was, at one time, a thriving immigrant community with Japanese adn chinese laborers. The japanese community was still large until the Pearl Harbor attacks. There were also large chinese communities in Walnut Grove and neighboring Locke. The Asian immigrants worked in surrounding agriculture and in river commerce and transportation. Today there are many artisan shops in the little town and more than a few people still working in the Delta's agriculture. We had dinner at a little Delta eaterie at Wimpy's Marina, a drink at Locke's famous watering hole, 'Al the Wops,' and dinner at Guistie's Italian Restaurant just outside Walnut Creek. The hour-long drive back to Berkeley provided a great opportunity for more catching up with Carrie and Ifelt really blessed to have two days with her at the beginning of this year of Grace.
Fr. Bartholomew Hutcherson, OP, "The Pilgrim Preacher" is an Itinerant Preacher and member of the Western Dominican Province Preaching Team. He is available for retreats, conferences, and Parish Missions. He offers pilgrimages periodically and shares images and reflections on this website as "virtual pilgrimages."