My wife travels with me and my golf partner, Shawn Barker…not because she loves golf. She simply loves the surroundings and the time spent wandering places like Flagstaff and Monterey and Santa Rosa. After a yoga session in Santa Rosa this past week, she sat alone in a coffee shop and a man across the aisle sat with his dog. Karen wore sunglasses but no makeup, and was still sweaty from hot yoga. The man looked over at Karen and said, “That’s the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.” The man finished his coffee, got up and slowly walked past Karen’s table and he said to the dog, “Yep, most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.”
Which made me feel good because I’ve always wanted to be married to the most beautiful women in the world.
This is why I want to be a travel writer when I grow up, not because of sumptuous food or remarkable scenery,
but simply because when we travel, we meet people and discover stories and those stories spin around my brain like moths around a lamp at midnight. I write like a child doodling because the flurrying moths inside my head can only escape through the point of a pencil onto paper.
This makes sense to me as I affectionately call my eldest daughter noodles and she calls me doodles. Maybe she calls me that simply because it rhymes with noodles, but now I know the deeper reason. I doodle.
My favorite doodler hails from Santa Rosa, California, where we vacationed. His name is Charles Schulz, and he doodled Charlie Brown and Linus and Snoopy and an entire neighborhood of children who heard all grown up words as simply a muted trombone played by a jazz musician…wahwahwahwahwahwah…which is remarkably artistic. Karen and I are not artists, but we are doodlers, and we have a go-to doodle, a solitary subject each time we feel the need to draw.
Mine is Charlie Brown.
Karen’s is a flop-eared puppy.
Four days in Santa Rosa gave us the opportunity to see the majestic redwoods
and countless rows of grapes traversing the Sonoma County hills, and to hear stories about the man who inspired my artless doodle, Charles Schulz. Since I have always loved the Peanuts comic strip as well as the animated cartoon, it was a joy to meet a tennis partner of Mr. Schulz on our trip to Sonoma County.
Dean James has a welcoming face that looks like a sun-faded catchers mitt and kind learned eyes that twinkle like stars when he tells stories about Sparky, as his close friends refer to Mr. Schulz. Dean swims every morning at 5 A.M. and is an avid tennis player who often played with Sparky.
Dean was also a well-known professional golfer who used to work at the Oakmont Golf Club. He started his professional career in Utah at the Alpine Country Club in 1959, then went to such locales as the Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club.
While playing golf at Mayacama, on the final hole, while I prepared to hit a hybrid to the green from 215 yards, a doe and fawn ambled onto the green and the fawn brusquely lunged underneath her mother to suckle while I waited for the green to clear. The mother shook off the fawn as if to say, “You’ve had your fill,” and I hit a high draw onto the lower plateau of the green. Dean told us that Mr. Schulz owned these 1,600 acres of rolling hills north of Santa Rosa. He sold it and Jack Nicklaus then designed and built the Mayacama golf course.
There is a signature par five hole with a lovely high vista and a series of hair pin trails. Dean said, “A Stanford Heisman quarterback drove off that cart trail and into a steep thorny ravine but I can’t think of his name.” I could only remember one Heisman quarterback from Stanford, so I said, “Jim Plunkett?” Dean’s eyes lit up and he said, “Yes, Jim Plunkett!”
Dean told us that in 1967, trying to qualify for the Bing Crosby golf championship at Pebble Beach, he three-putted the final hole to miss qualifying by one shot. But he got to play Pebble Beach after all, when Charles Schulz subsequently asked his tennis buddy to play with him in the pro-am at the Crosby. He did for several years then was replaced on Schulz team by the golf legend Johnny Miller. Dean graduated from BYU and knew Mr. Miller, who also graduated from BYU and was also a friend of Mr. Schulz. Charles Schulz died 18 years ago and Dean told us about a conversation with Johnny Miller regarding the eulogy. Dean said to Johnny, “You are a tv golf announcer, you should do the eulogy.” Mr. Miller told Dean, “No, you do it.” And so Dean spoke at the eulogy along with Billie Jean King at Mr. Schulz memorial.
One day Dean was playing doubles with Sparky and Dean missed a couple shots into the net. Dean slammed his racquet into the right net support shattering it into a useless heap of leather, string, and fiberglass. Schulz reminded Dean of that outburst from time to time…until one day Dean opened the paper and saw this Peanuts strip:
Dean James still has a copy of this comic strip autographed by Charles Schulz.
That’s a pretty cool doodle!