Category Archive for: ‘Woody Weingarten’

Two-legged park critters creating all sorts of things

Sterling Johnson blows bubbles on White House lawn.

Salvi Durango and guitar. Photo: Tim Bonnici.

Tylor Norwood (left) and Dylan Hurley check monitor on Robson-Harrington shoot.

Students concentrate at Michael Feldman’s art camp in Creek Park.


An escapee from San Quentin, an obsessive-compulsive San Anselmo writer and a tipsy five-legged giraffe strut into a bar.

There’s no joke there, no punchline.

I just wanted your attention.

I was afraid if I told you this column’s about creative two-legged critters encountered in Ross Valley parks, you might stop reading.

Please don’t.

Those folks are almost as compelling as the above trio.

Let’s try it this way: A filmmaker, a singing cowboy and a guy who plays second fiddle to his own bubbles operate fruitfully in local parks.


Because the parks, and their tranquility, spur creativity.

Tylor Norwood’s a San Anselmo resident I met in Robson-Harrington. He was directing two actors under a white canopy.

One actress exclaiming “my vagina” hooked me even before I spied the surrounding equipment.

Only later did I learn he was polishing a comedic scene for his new full-length feature. Tylor also swims in deeply creative TV waters: The BBC and HBO are commercial clients for his SkyDojo production company.

The 2007 San Francisco State film school grad subsequently informed me about the technological revolution, life on the road (“always hectic, so it’s a comfort to come back here”), and a crew in West Marin attacked by yellow jackets (causing eight adults to run “screaming into this little farmhouse to hide”).

No one fled during the re-shoot.

Sterling Johnson, 67, has been toying with bubbles since discovering them during a high-school science project. Nowadays he can be found with them in Fairfax’s Bolinas Park, near his home.

“It’s a great way to connect with people,” he said.

He’s good enough to make a living with his inventiveness, at least part-time. He’s even been asked to perform twice in Tokyo and once at the White House.

Heady stuff.

But more touching for him was the day “an autistic girl blew bubbles at a Formica-topped table I was working at and just lit up.”

Salvi Durango is a longhaired, white-bearded ex-Sleepy Hollow resident recently encountered in Bolinas Park while writing “Old Singing Cowboys Never Die.”

It’s well constructed, easy on the ears.

Salvi told me he’s been penning songs 33 years, and “playing in small bars and taverns all along the West Coast.”

He’s been name-dropping that long, too — with good reason: He’s been befriended by Willie Nelson (who backs him on a patriotic YouTube ditty, “Bankin’ on the Red, White and Blue”), Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Merle Haggard and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.

He remembers chatting on a San Francisco street with John Lennon, who autographed his birth certificate, the only paper Salvi had on him.

He never sought fame but “never gave up on my dream — just singing for people, like I did for you in the park.”

Michael Feldman, who traded in ad-agency billing pads for a diminutive San Anselmo gallery, uses park benches and tables in Creek Park to facilitate his art camp students spreading their materials and smiles.

He encourages them to “explore different mediums and feel good about themselves through art, rather than copying the masters or doing what teachers demand.”

His prime hope? “That some of these kids will use art in their lives forever.”

Daniel Ezell also utilizes Creek Park’s facilities for classes — for Golden Gate Tutoring Center, which the San Anselmo resident founded with his wife, Celeste. They accentuate geometry, comic art and inventions.

“I get the greatest pleasure from instilling a curiosity in my students,” he told me.

Several weeks ago, for instance, students made an old-style diddly guitar from scratch. Result?  ”A lot of noisy music, a lot of fun.”

Michael Grossman lives in San Rafael but also has started to create music in Creek Park.

A professional classical violinist, he began writing pop songs on guitar “as a catharsis, a result of my wife dying.” He’s completed five so far, and declares he will “share my work in any way that’s share-able.”

He sees “the public park as a sanctuary right down the middle of town.”

I concur.

And the range of park creativity has inspired me to ponder where I put one word after another.

I normally create at a cluttered desk at home. Maybe I’ll venture out, park myself in a park and craft a column in the sunlight.

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