MY IDEAL OJAI | By Andy Gilman

Four Fresh Takes on the Perennial Question — What to Do?

My ideal day in our beautiful valley? It’s too big of a question! There are so many wonderful experiences to have here and they could never all fit into a mere day. I’m going to have to Groundhog Day this assignment, but still won’t be able to include it all…

Andy Gilman atop Topa Topa Bluff, 6,600 feet in elevation.

Andy Gilman atop Topa Topa Bluff, 6,600 feet in elevation.

Take One — On this weekend morning, my sweetheart Kate K. and I make Centri Coffee, which I first encountered at the Farmers’ Market, but is also proudly served by John and Brenna at Coffee Connection. I always wondered why their coffee is so good… Anyway, then we leave our house on Golden West and walk up Gridley, make a left onto Shelf Road (where we always meet someone we know, and their dog), then a left down Signal Street, and then a final left at the light and through the Downtown Arcade. And how do we reward ourselves for making this square morning trek? We time it perfectly for Azu Restaurant to open for brunch just as we arrive! I get the Croquette Eggs Benedict and Kate gets the Huevos Rancheros, and halfway through we exchange plates. Did I mention the bottomless mimosas?

After all of that accomplishment we walk home for a mid-day rest. I might continue on my latest reading which I picked up at Bart’s Books (currently, “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James… I’m really enjoying it), or finding the perfect place in our yard for the gorgeous planter I purchased at Fig Curated Living downtown.

As fortune would have it (since this is my ideal day) tonight happens to be the annual Ojai Valley Land Conservancy outdoor gathering, along with food trucks, music, and the whole valley coming out. Being in sincere community with each other and with nature is why I love it here.

Finally, hearing crickets and owls as we fall asleep makes the ending perfect.

Take Two — A sunny spring weekday! I start the morning with a meeting at Ojai Coffee Roasting Company or Java and Joe’s. Usually the meeting is about our next Agora Foundation great books seminar or Ojai Chautauqua panel. Afterward I pop over to Porch Gallery to get inspired and to hug Heather Stobo and Lisa Casoni. Following that I have my weekly design meeting with Cathryn and Kate B. at Ojai Needlepoint. They give lessons , oo but I usually have to run.

It’s getting close to lunchtime. I stop by Ojai Business Center to get my posters for the upcoming event I’m promoting, and then get the Diablo burrito from Jim and Rob’s (on the secret spicy menu). I then make my way to Oak Grove School, where I teach Graphic Design in 7th period and Philosophy in 8th, both to high school students. One of the best ways to be kidney-punched into the present moment is to have sincere conversations with thoughtful teenagers about the deepest questions of life. What a blessing! Finally, I’m back in the office and finishing work.

Evening approaches and we meet friends at Majestic Oak Vineyard. Have you had the Sangiovese or the Triple LD? So, so good. Then we walk to Ojai Beverage Company for dinner. Kind of like home away from home. Finally, finally, finally (it’s my ideal day, remember), WE SEE A GREAT MOVIE AT THE OJAI PLAYHOUSE!!!!!!!

Take Three — Glory of glories! My three adult kids are in town (Nici, Sinead, and Noah) and we start on Sisar Road at 7 a.m.. We saunter to Whiteledge camp and then to the Ridge Road, make a right, and then climb up the Topa Topa Bluffs by mid-morning. At the top we have apples, cheese, and sourdough bread which we bought at Westridge. We make it back down to the car in the afternoon and head home. After we get presentable we go for a glass of wine at The Ojai Vineyard (the syrah is my favorite) and then… can I even write this without a sigh of longing… we sit outside at Boccali’s in the East End as the stars emerge, and enjoy the exquisite lasagna with the baked cheese that crusts on the rim of the bowl.

Take Four — The entire valley comes together and solves its problems in an inclusive, compassionate, and cooperative way, and there is no need for anybody to be nasty on Facebook ever again 🙂
Thank you, beautiful Ojai.