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03.17.10

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Phaedra

Everyday

Writers Picks


Best Scented, Foamy Switch

Real men know how to change a flat tire. Real men can defend themselves, sometimes with martial arts. Real men can even be nancy boys, and turn a derogatory term on its head. In a 1930s-era building on a busy Sebastopol street, real men have done all three. Originally a tire store and automotive shop, this unassuming white garage was converted to a karate studio in the '70s, and last September was artfully transformed into Nancy Boy, a body, bath and home products store.

The company's name, an old British slur, was meant to challenge public perception of the gay stereotype. "A previous partner came up with the name," explains Jack Richards (above left), who co-owns the business with Eric Roos (right). "He wanted to radicalize and tweak the expression, and make it a playful kind of thing instead of it being a derogatory term." Not long after the business launched, Queer Eye premiered on TV, bolstering the company's basic premise. "Who better to help with your grooming than gay people?" Richards laughs.

Started as an online business in 2001, Nancy Boy originally offered about a half-dozen personal-care products made in Berkeley. In addition to the website, the business now offers dozens of products in San Francisco's Hayes Valley and at the new West County location. Richards and Roos feel they have the best of both worlds. "It's a great place for us to get a lot of exposure and get people talking," Richards says. "The more people come into the store to try our products or the more they learn about us from friends or relatives, the better for us."

The business boasts a shaving cream that has spawned blogs and devotees, as well as shampoos, lotions and potions, many in their signature lavender with rosemary and peppermint scent. Most contain olive oil, essential oils and other high-quality, natural ingredients, all of which, the packaging boasts, are "Tested on Boyfriends—not Animals." Although Richards had a previous career as vice-president at the Federal Reserve, his background in architecture and design led him to act as general manager of the remodel. Roos and Richards envision the glass and metal rollup garage doors open during warm weather, so they can spill out of the store and host community parties and events in the front patio and parking lot.

"We are both very surprised how fast we've met people we like, and we're pretty picky!" Richards says. "Ninety-five percent of the people who have come in here are so warm and welcoming. So the fact that we would move here and create this crazy thing, where people don't even know what it is, and then have people embrace it is just a great feeling." 7773 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol. 707.823.5431.—S.D.


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Best Place in America to Transition

The revolution may not be televised, but it will be screened at local venues for a modest donation, thanks to Transition Sebastopol. The grassroots group is at the forefront of an environmental movement that has been rapidly gaining popularity in the States. They show environmental- and food-themed movies, network with local transportation and environmental groups, and work to increase small-scale local food production, all with the aim of creating a more livable future. Transition Sebastopol's cofounder Scott McKeown calls it a bottom-up grassroots movement. It's trying to change almost every aspect of the community, from the economy to the way we care for elderly people, with the momentum coming from local communities, not government.

In 2008, Sebastopol was the ninth such transition town in the United States (Cotati was the fourth), but less than two years later there are more than 60 across the country. McKeown said that the group actually represents much of the West County, including Occidental and Forestville. Recently, the umbrella organization that promotes transition towns around the country, Transitions US, opened its headquarters in Sebastopol, making the West County officially the best place in America to transition.

McKeown says that with enough planning, people can transition into a future that may be climate changed, resource-depleted and oil scarce, but livable. The idea is that communities can relearn such skills as gardening and food preservation to become independent of large food chains that could fail or a monetary system that could falter under higher fuel prices.

The group sometimes gets flack for being too idealistic—too Ecotopia, not enough Mad Max. But McKeown thinks the criticism is misguided. "The point is that we can transition into a future that's better and more community-based," he says. "It's all about building local resilience."

Transition Sebastopol shows movies at the French Garden in Sebastopol on the last Wednesday of every month. www.transitionsebastopol.org.—K.M.


Best Way to Make Good Use of Re-Use

I'd had this dresser since college, back when anything that wasn't plastic was considered a "nice" piece. All it needed was a few coats of paint in a color vibrant enough to hide the nicks and scratches from a decade of moving. Paint may cover a multitude of sins, but its toxicity and cost often kept me rooting through my sticker collection, another throw-back to college-era decor. And then I discovered the ReStore, where I found a high-quality nontoxic quart of paint for just $2. The ReStore is an inspiring example of a sustainable community-based business. People donate their gently used homebuilding, remodeling and landscaping materials, instead of paying dumping fees and deepening the landfill. These donations, the ReStore likes to say, "helps those in need twice," because 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer-based organization that has provided homes to those in need since 1976. The ReStore's inventory includes doors, windows, cabinets, appliances, plumbing, flooring and all manner of supplies for 50 to 75 percent below retail price. Do-it-yourself home improvement was never so affordable. The next time you need a doorknob, a new toilet bowl or some grout, why not make good use of re-use? 24 10th St., Santa Rosa. 707.568.3228.—J.D.


Best Place to Get Your Rooster Some Lovin'

Want to buy an emu? A long-haired rabbit? A couple tons of horse manure? The remarkably entertaining and surprise-packed chalkboard in front of Sebastopol's Frizelle-Enos Co. store is where sellers and buyers of all kinds of domestic and barnyard animals can scribble their desires for various expendable creatures. A free community service provided by Frizelle-Enos for over 15 years, the enormous board is like a low-tech personal ad for critters. Asked to name the strangest thing recently posted on the board, one employee mentioned a hand-written ad requesting healthy hens so someone's rooster "could have sex." Most commonly, the board offers homes for dogs, cats, parrots and horses, or desperate pleas for the return of lost pets. Not everyone who drops in to study the board is looking for an animal, however. With a simple installation as occasionally weird as this one, most people just stop by to be entertained. 265 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 707.823.6404.—D.T.


Best Place to Accidentally Spend on Yourself

Fleurtique is crammed between a pizza shack and the Swiss Hotel on the Sonoma Plaza, but it might as well be in Paris. Owner Sara Coble has an eye for trend pieces that fuse Euro chic sophistication with bohemian California casual, purveying the sort of gift items I always have trouble actually parting with. This sliver of a boutique houses an impressive selection of clothing and accessories, despite its size. There's a diverse range of pajama choices, from matching flannel to silky slips to cotton boy shorts, and the sparkling chandelier earrings, delicate charm necklaces, jersey dresses and funky rain boots mean that the only thing easier than finding a gift for a friend is finding a gift for oneself. Coble also stocks work by local artists, including her own range of playful T-shirts and tank tops that say things like "Eiffel Cute" and "Olive You." 14 W. Spain St., Sonoma. 707.933.1430.—R.M.


Best Place to Get Care after Your COBRA Freakin' Expires

The Santa Rosa Free Clinic began as an attempt to provide no-cost, accessible healthcare for the homeless population gathered at the Catholic Charities Family Support Center. Struggling to increase hours of operation from one day to two days with a staff composed almost entirely of volunteer nurses, doctors, mental-health professionals and eligibility workers, Santa Rosa Free Clinic's clientele now includes housed, underinsured and even employed patients. With funding from the California Mental Health Services Act and Southwest Community Health Center, the drop-in clinic serves as the only primary care and psychiatric support for a growing number of North Bay residents, regardless of the residency and income requirements that so many clinics enforce. The clinic, though usually filled to capacity most days, maintains an atmosphere of professionalism and compassion and is now accepting Medi-Cal and other government-funded healthcare programs. Open Mondays and Wednesdays at 9am. And if you don't need it, make a donation! 465 A St., Santa Rosa. 707.546.6479.—D.B.


Best Clean, Well-Lighted Place for (Used) Books

Off the beaten path sits the oldest bookstore in Sonoma County. Family-owned since 1972, Paperbacks Unlimited is a far cry from the slick and impersonal corporate template favored by big-box bookstores. This store feels like your grandmother's cozy den, with soft carpeting, handmade artwork, well-organized wood shelves all built by owner Howard Brown and Booker, the resident kitty (Brown fondly says the cat "owns the place"). With an inventory of over 80,000 books—the largest selection of used books in the county—in categories ranging from medical thrillers to paranormal romance to an ever-growing audio book selection, Paperbacks Unlimited is likely to have what you are looking for. Want to be sure? Go to their website for a breakdown of the most popular authors by category. Books sell for about half the original publisher's price, and in the spirit of reducing and reusing, you can trade your paperbacks for store credit, which can be applied to 70 percent of your purchase. Keep an eye out for the list of all Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction and, even better, the shrine to Danielle Steel. 4625 Hwy. 12, Santa Rosa. 707.539.8102.—J.D.


Best Place to Rekindle Faith in Humanity

Even the most well-planned vacation brings its own last-minute panic. We had been looking for firewood like crazy and simply couldn't track it down anywhere—drug stores, grocery stores, hardware stores. Where in the godforsaken can we get some firewood? Finally, while in the agonizing process of surrendering to a half-baked supermarket Duraflame solution, a woman eating at the tables in front of Pearson & Co. overheard our dilemma. "You need firewood?" she asked. "I've got some firewood up at my house that you could have." A total stranger, she drew us a map to her house up on the hill, explained how to get through the wooden gate and into the backyard, and told us to take as much wood as we wanted! Our vacation was saved, thanks to the kindness of humanity! Amazing! 2759 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.541.3868.—G.M.


Best Place to Find that Heezywhatsit You Need for the Doohickey That's Really Old Underneath the Whatchamcalit in Your House

Break a bronze hinge on your redwood cupboards? Need to match a doorknob from 1946? Saddled with a "charming early-century" fixer-upper that you bought at the height of the housing boom for the bargain price of $575,000 plus a lifetime of repairs? Ray's Trading Co. on Gravenstein Highway most likely has what you need. And even if you don't own an old house, tricking out your bicycle with cast-iron stars or finding an old rusted tiger statuette to use as a hood ornament on your 1985 Tercel is now within your grasp, thanks to Ray's many bins of random weirdness. On a drive through West County, it's always worth a stop, if only to gawk at the way houses once had iceboxes, double-hung windows, clawfoot tubs, milk jugs and radiators. Rarely can the average trinket lover leave without a little brown bag of $4 old-timey knickknacks. 3570 Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol. 707.829.9726.—G.M.


Best Argument for the Slow and Narrow

Aw shucks, is it too late already? Remember when critics of "three lanes all the way" warned that the expansion of Highway 101 would merely invite future slow-downs? They were right, and the future sure arrived fast. That's because the new lane is designated an HOV, or carpool, lane. At exactly the time of day when extra capacity is needed most, it's used least. This is what drivers endured months of delays and torn up roadways for, and residents, sleepless nights of construction noise? A carpool lane? A carpool lane in the context of North Bay driving habits is, for better or worse . . . what's the word? Bullshit. Dangerous bullshit. Picture this: two lanes slowed or at a stop, while a few cars zip by in the left HOV lane and right merge lanes at speeds out of balance and nonconducive to merging but ripe for accidents. The only drivers in the carpool lane are (1) scofflaws; (2) scofflaws with tinted windows; and (3) people driving their kids. All 1970s-style gas rationing, virtuous-citizen environmentalism aside, the end of the story is that everybody paid for it, and at key hours of the day, it doesn't adequately do the one simple job it's meant to do: move traffic. The train is looking better all the time, but where is it? Until then, find me fuming in the right lane.—J.K.


Best Place to Exalt in the spending power of one thin dime

Pity the poor infant. Look sadly down upon the mewling babe and give a weary shake. Let its parents shower lavish allowances down on its sweet scented head and still, he or she will never know the pure skinflint pleasure of laying down a dime and receiving the magical spectre of a single piece of candy in return. Try tenderness for the tiny toddler, chubby and unsteady by foot, for that child won't be able to buy a birthday card for Mommy, forced to download the art instead. Have mercy for the spotted teen without skateboard magazines and nowhere to taste the temptation of slipping an issue of NYLON quietly under a jacket. Save a tear for the sad, lonely ones who browse pornography in public, the erudite ones who actually enjoy reading Harper's, the Q&A addicts of Playboy, the bitches who berate Bust. Find the humility and woe that lurks in all human hearts when Sawyer's News, a card shop, news stand, candy store and tobacconist housing Centro, one of the North Bay's finest coffee stands, closes in May. Pity, in fact, every single one of us, young and old alike. 733 Fourth St. Santa Rosa. 707.542.1311.—G.G.


Best Place to Shine Light on the Shadow Self

Therapy used to be one of those things, like a car's leather interior, reserved only for the wealthy. But thanks to places like the Lomi Psychotherapy Clinic, which has provided low-cost counseling in Santa Rosa for over 20 years, everyone can partake in the ancient ritual of baring one's psyche to another. Providing over 7,000 hours of therapy last year, Lomi is committed to serving a wide swath of people with a sliding-scale fee system based on household income. In direct contrast to the cold clinical cliché of the remote analyst, Lomi's extensive array of healing modalities are more likely to involve soft lighting and soothing fountains, meditation and support groups. Their approach is one of somatic therapy, a holistic integration of mind, body and spirit which invites us big-brained analytical creatures to reconnect with the innate wisdom of the body. In addition to psychotherapy services, the Lomi School provides internships for therapists to work on their doctoral clinical training. Lomi is a den of serenity and compassion, a reminder that even in tough economic times everyone deserves the opportunity to heed the advice of Socrates, "Know thyself." 534 B St., Santa Rosa. 707.579.0465.—J.D.


Best Proof that Hall & Oates Are Harbingers of Doom

Around the holidays, I wandered down to a local record store, looking for that perfect gift, only to get a slap of reality. The place was going out of business. After 30-plus years, Cotati's Backdoor Disc and Tape, a past winner in the Bohemian's "Best Independent Record Store" category, was sadly closing its doors. Founded by Rick and Charlene Warne in 1979, Backdoor sold to a national chain in 2005, and the store changed, bringing used movies, clothing and a broad swath of cultural kitsch into its inventory. And then it failed. Obviously, I took advantage of the incredible deals liquidation has to offer. A month later, the store was nearly empty, the jazz, R&B and rock sections barren except for a full stack of Hall & Oates CDs. I passed them up in favor of a Muddy Waters disc I found hidden in the bottom of a poster box. I don't know how they got rid of all of that Hall & Oates, but I was really sorry to see the store go.—S.D.


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Best Way to Get to Know the Neighbors

Kelley Rajala, director of Sonoma County GoLocal, has been dreaming up the concept of the Share Exchange for the past seven years. Rajala envisions a center for sustainability, neighborhood-scale economic developments and a place to celebrate Sonoma County's DIY inclinations. Slated to be a physical space in downtown Santa Rosa, with a projected opening date of Sept. 1, 2010, the Share Exchange will be a place where locally owned businesses and projects can work together sharing resources, time and space. With a growing network of people like designer Robin Stefani, Rajala's dream is that much closer to becoming reality.

"The state of the economy is part of the reason why we feel now is the time to make this happen. These ideas have been floating around in the sustainability community for a while," Stefani says. "There have been different micro-versions. Now there is enough momentum to create our own community's version."

Based on the idea of creating "livability centers" in different spaces across communities, the current iteration of the Share Exchange came about when Rajala, a member of the Tool Lending Library Board, discovered that the founder needed to move the library out of his apartment and into a storefront. She drew up plans for a building that could house many local businesses and projects that are focused on repairing, reuse and recycling, along with skill-building, time-banking and the incubation of micro-scale enterprise.

"It is about collaboration and partnering with existing groups and businesses. There is so much going on here," Rajala says. "So many groups that are interested in local food, and local energy and greenhouse-gas reduction that instead of us doing all that, we provide a place for them to come and get the word out to the public."

Rajala and Stefani are ready to embark on some serious community mapping, in order to pinpoint exactly what the community might need, as they apply for funding and increased support for the project.

"Now is a time to look at things outside of the box and figure out what we are going to do about the current situation," Stefani says. "The past economic model—consumerism and working 9 to 5—failed us as a system and did not provide us with an opportunity to do meaningful work. There are so many resources here: trade sharing, business incubation, classes. The new economic model is about empowering people to do meaningful work." Contact them via Facebook at Share Exchange.—L.C.


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Best Help in the rodeo of the soul

Walking down Center Street, just off Healdsburg's tony town square, a sign etched into an inconspicuous door front caught my eye. "Cosmic Cowgirls, Ink," it read. "Transforming Lives into Legends." Another sign reads: "Being legendary is not about being famous or respected." So what exactly do the Cowgirls believe a legend is?

Taking the bull by the horns, I call and reach Mary MacDonald, director of Cosmic Cowgirls, a publishing and production house for women and girls. "We are all legends," MacDonald says, "and we honor all lives and voices." Founded in 2006 by the Rev. Shiloh Sophia McCloud (above), a visionary writer, artist and teacher, Cosmic Cowgirls seeks to empower women of all ages through creative workshops, offered onsite and online. While exploring and sharing specific deep and thorny topics like the loss of a child, a cancer diagnosis or addiction and recovery, participants are guided toward personal transformation using art and writing as tools.

The premise is that one woman's suffering can be transformed into a healing process, or medicine, for another. The thoughts, writings and illustrations generated in Cowgirl classes are compiled, published and sold as healing journals for women. Currently there are seven journals in use by therapists working in women's prisons, rehabilitation centers, women's circles and with private clients. The Cosmic Cowgirls' philosophy states that "life is much like a rodeo of the soul," with circumstances ranging between a slow walk and hanging on to a bucking bronco. But the collective aims to make the best of whatever life has to offer, transforming what could be a pile of manure into a legendary garden.

"The conversations sparked between cowgirls are irreverent and reverent at the same time," MacDonald says. "We celebrate creativity and love while having fun and creating together for the benefit of women and girls." Cosmic Cowgirls has a nationwide membership, and is open to women and girls. A Cosmic Cowboys group for boys is currently in the development phase. In addition to creative workshops, the group hosts productions and events, and recently brought author Alice Walker to the Raven Theater. Maybe it's time to pull on some boots, hop in the saddle and start living a legendary life. 401 Center St., Ste. D, Healdsburg. 707.431.7827.—S.D.


Best Way to Make Good Use of Re-Use

I'd had this dresser since college, back when anything that wasn't plastic was considered a "nice" piece. All it needed was a few coats of paint in a color vibrant enough to hide the nicks and scratches from a decade of moving. Paint may cover a multitude of sins, but its toxicity and cost often kept me rooting through my sticker collection, another throw-back to college-era decor. And then I discovered the ReStore, where I found a high-quality nontoxic quart of paint for just $2. The ReStore is an inspiring example of a sustainable community-based business. People donate their gently used homebuilding, remodeling and landscaping materials, instead of paying dumping fees and deepening the landfill. These donations, the ReStore likes to say, "helps those in need twice," because 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer-based organization that has provided homes to those in need since 1976. The ReStore's inventory includes doors, windows, cabinets, appliances, plumbing, flooring and all manner of supplies for 50 to 75 percent below retail price. Do-it-yourself home improvement was never so affordable. The next time you need a doorknob, a new toilet bowl or some grout, why not make good use of re-use? 24 10th St., Santa Rosa. 707.568.3228.—J.D.


Best Clean, Well-Lighted Place for (Used) Books

Off the beaten path sits the oldest bookstore in Sonoma County. Family-owned since 1972, Paperbacks Unlimited is a far cry from the slick and impersonal corporate template favored by big-box bookstores. This store feels like your grandmother's cozy den, with soft carpeting, handmade artwork, well-organized wood shelves all built by owner Howard Brown and Booker, the resident kitty (Brown fondly says the cat "owns the place"). With an inventory of over 80,000 books—the largest selection of used books in the county—in categories ranging from medical thrillers to paranormal romance to an ever-growing audio book selection, Paperbacks Unlimited is likely to have what you are looking for. Want to be sure? Go to their website for a breakdown of the most popular authors by category. Books sell for about half the original publisher's price, and in the spirit of reducing and reusing, you can trade your paperbacks for store credit, which can be applied to 70 percent of your purchase. Keep an eye out for the list of all Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction and, even better, the shrine to Danielle Steel. 4625 Hwy. 12, Santa Rosa. 707.539.8102.—J.D.


Best Place to Rekindle Faith in Humanity

Even the most well-planned vacation brings its own last-minute panic. We had been looking for firewood like crazy and simply couldn't track it down anywhere—drug stores, grocery stores, hardware stores. Where in the godforsaken can we get some firewood? Finally, while in the agonizing process of surrendering to a half-baked supermarket Duraflame solution, a woman eating at the tables in front of Pearson & Co. overheard our dilemma. "You need firewood?" she asked. "I've got some firewood up at my house that you could have." A total stranger, she drew us a map to her house up on the hill, explained how to get through the wooden gate and into the backyard, and told us to take as much wood as we wanted! Our vacation was saved, thanks to the kindness of humanity! Amazing! 2759 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.541.3868.—G.M.


Best Argument for the Slow and Narrow

Aw shucks, is it too late already? Remember when critics of "three lanes all the way" warned that the expansion of Highway 101 would merely invite future slow-downs? They were right, and the future sure arrived fast. That's because the new lane is designated an HOV, or carpool, lane. At exactly the time of day when extra capacity is needed most, it's used least. This is what drivers endured months of delays and torn up roadways for, and residents, sleepless nights of construction noise? A carpool lane? A carpool lane in the context of North Bay driving habits is, for better or worse . . . what's the word? Bullshit. Dangerous bullshit. Picture this: two lanes slowed or at a stop, while a few cars zip by in the left HOV lane and right merge lanes at speeds out of balance and nonconducive to merging but ripe for accidents. The only drivers in the carpool lane are (1) scofflaws; (2) scofflaws with tinted windows; and (3) people driving their kids. All 1970s-style gas rationing, virtuous-citizen environmentalism aside, the end of the story is that everybody paid for it, and at key hours of the day, it doesn't adequately do the one simple job it's meant to do: move traffic. The train is looking better all the time, but where is it? Until then, find me fuming in the right lane.—J.K.


Best Place to Exalt in the spending power of one thin dime

Pity the poor infant. Look sadly down upon the mewling babe and give a weary shake. Let its parents shower lavish allowances down on its sweet scented head and still, he or she will never know the pure skinflint pleasure of laying down a dime and receiving the magical spectre of a single piece of candy in return. Try tenderness for the tiny toddler, chubby and unsteady by foot, for that child won't be able to buy a birthday card for Mommy, forced to download the art instead. Have mercy for the spotted teen without skateboard magazines and nowhere to taste the temptation of slipping an issue of NYLON quietly under a jacket. Save a tear for the sad, lonely ones who browse pornography in public, the erudite ones who actually enjoy reading Harper's, the Q&A addicts of Playboy, the bitches who berate Bust. Find the humility and woe that lurks in all human hearts when Sawyer's News, a card shop, news stand, candy store and tobacconist housing Centro, one of the North Bay's finest coffee stands, closes in May. Pity, in fact, every single one of us, young and old alike. 733 Fourth St. Santa Rosa. 707.542.1311.—G.G.


Best Place to Shine Light on the Shadow Self

Therapy used to be one of those things, like a car's leather interior, reserved only for the wealthy. But thanks to places like the Lomi Psychotherapy Clinic, which has provided low-cost counseling in Santa Rosa for over 20 years, everyone can partake in the ancient ritual of baring one's psyche to another. Providing over 7,000 hours of therapy last year, Lomi is committed to serving a wide swath of people with a sliding-scale fee system based on household income. In direct contrast to the cold clinical cliché of the remote analyst, Lomi's extensive array of healing modalities are more likely to involve soft lighting and soothing fountains, meditation and support groups. Their approach is one of somatic therapy, a holistic integration of mind, body and spirit which invites us big-brained analytical creatures to reconnect with the innate wisdom of the body. In addition to psychotherapy services, the Lomi School provides internships for therapists to work on their doctoral clinical training. Lomi is a den of serenity and compassion, a reminder that even in tough economic times everyone deserves the opportunity to heed the advice of Socrates, "Know thyself." 534 B St., Santa Rosa. 707.579.0465.—J.D.


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