Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hilarious Horror

Dear Friends,

Saturday night: Halloween party at the Oakland Morehouse. The theme: Hilarious Horror. I was expecting it to be fun. It was fun all right. In fact, it was awesome.

The guests weren't waiting for us to entertain them. They arrived ready to party. Lots of them were wearing great, fun, creative costumes. And everyone was there to get with each other. Everywhere I looked, people were intent on engaging and having fun and laughing with whomever they were talking to. There was food and drink aplenty.

The band was so good that everyone in the room was dancing, whether they were with a partner or just standing watching the musicians. T
he band members had come in costume, too, to be part of the spirit of the evening. When they took a break between sets, it turned out they were really nice guys too, and we all had mucho fun chatting them up.

In the back yard, Shawn had set up a movie screen and was showing two hours
of horror clips he had spent weeks compiling from 22 different movies. Some folks would just watch, while others would guess the title of each movie as it went by. Shawn would be standing off to the side, ready to confirm or correct.

The event culminated with a costume contest. We passed out ballots and everyone cast one vote each for funniest and scariest costume. Annetta won Funniest (Nagging Housewife), and Ian the bass player won Scariest (Jack Skellington). I was particularly tickled that one of the musicians won.

'Nuff said. Photos below.

Thanks for reading.


One's self is only fulfilled in the state of being intensely interested.

Vic Baranco


Annetta (Nagging Housewife)

Ian the Bass Player.JPG
Ian (Jack Skellington)

Jill, Jeff.jpg
Jill (Batwoman) & Jeff (Jimi Hendrix/Jimmy Page)

Sierra as Witch.jpg
Sierra (Witch/Warlock)

Lynne Full Length.JPG

Lynne (Robert Palmer Girl)

Lynne and Nicole, Robert Palmer girls.JPG
Lynne & Nicole (Robert Palmer Girls)

Evelyn (Gypsy Pirate)

Brianna (Black Swan)

Mary, Gerry.JPG
Mary (Charlie Chaplin), Gerry (The Butler)

Jess, Liv.jpg
Jess (The Devil), Liv (The Mad Hatter)

Liz (Cleopatra)

Raven, Michale.jpg
Michael (Edgar Allan Poe)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I Love My Wife/I Love My Life

Hello Friends,

The question has come up recently about how Lynne and I met. Some of you may have heard the tale before, and I wrote about it a couple of years ago in the “How I Found Morehouse” thread of the More Life Forum, which is what I've used as the basis for what follows. I thought it might be fun to revisit it.

y discovery of Morehouse is so intertwined with the genesis of my relationship with Lynne that I generally like to tell the two tales simultaneously. I met Lynne Spaulding one night in July of 1981. We had each come to a bar on West 74th Street in Manhattan to hear a singer we each knew. I was attracted to Lynne immediately, and we flirted most of the evening. She made a lasting impression on me.

As it turned out, we didn’t see each other again for six years. Then, in July of 1987, I was living with my eventual first wife, Kate, when our good friend Lydia invited us to something called a Mark Group. She said Mark Groups were put on by Morehouse, which she referred to as the granddaddy of all the other relationship information I’d ever heard. Kate and I considered ourselves students of relationship, and it seemed like a fun way to learn more.

When we arrived at Lydia’s apartment building, it said “Burdick/Spaulding” under her buzzer. Once upstairs, I asked Lydia if Lynne Spaulding was her roommate, and she said yes. I told her I hadn’t seen Lynne in six years, and would I be seeing her this evening? Lydia said no, that Lynne had insisted that the Mark Groups be scheduled when she wouldn’t be home, as she had no interest in them.

It didn’t take long into the Mark Group before I knew I was hooked. The seminal moment came when I was on my very first hot seat and one of the Group Leaders asked me if there was anything in my life that was a higher priority than women. I thought for a while and realized the answer was no. I further realized that this had been true since I was a little kid, but I had never before considered it a valid life devotion.

Lydia hosted this Group for many months and eventually Lynne started coming to them, in spite of her determination to stay away. She and I became friends. We both had jobs in midtown Manhattan at the time, and we started having lunch together fairly regularly. Kate and I took Morehouse courses, and Lynne started taking courses as well. Kate and I got married and moved into the Morehouse. Lynne and I continued to have lunch together. After a couple of years, Lynne moved into the Morehouse, too. The three of us spent a lot of time together, and became quite close. The following year, Kate and I broke up and she moved to California. Lynne and I become a couple pretty quickly after that.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out it hadn’t been completely coincidental that Lynne and I had gotten together at that bar in 1981. Lydia had been talking to Lynne about a friend of hers -- this guy she knew named Gerry -- and Lynne had decided she wanted to meet me. So I was already playing into her hands when I first approached her and struck up a conversation!

I have Lydia to thank, both for introducing me to Morehouse, and for setting me up with the love of my life. Thanks, Lydia!

Best Regards,

There is no end to how good life can be if you find it good in the first place.

-- Victor Baranco

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Feelin' Groovy

Hello Friends,

Of the many ingenious concepts described to us by Vic Baranco, one of his most down-to-earth and practical was the concept of purchasing a dilapidated fixer-upper of a house and having people move into it right away. This resulted in a variety of positive outcomes: The residents learned valuable construction skills, they had fun bonding with each other while participating in construction groovies and, most importantly, they got to experience an increased level of responsibility for the house itself because they had invested themselves in its improvement. People felt more as if they owned the house.

Something seems to be happening with the current crop of residents in the Oakland Morehouse. There has been a sudden increase in the enthusiasm for upgrading our already beautiful home. For example, there is the basement hallway. We recently stripped it to its studs, installed new Sheetrock and molding and trim, painted the walls and ceiling, and put down gorgeous new wall-to-wall carpet. It doesn't feel like a basement anymore. People are tripping over each other to do laundry just so they have an excuse to go downstairs.

Then there is the new, beautiful, huge refrigerator. When our old fridge died, we went looking on craigslist until we found a used one we could afford.
We had this monolith delivered to our back yard. Then, it took six enthusiastic volunteers to get it up the back porch steps and into the kitchen. Hanging the refrigerator doors was another challenge, and so was super-cleaning the interior. But it was soooo worth it! You can imagine how important it is to have sufficient refrigerator space when a large group of people live with each other, and the new fridge is even bigger than the one we got rid of. Once again, we all feel responsible for it, because all of us helped with the project in one way or another.

And remember that balcony reconstruction I told you about way back in May? Believe it or not, I'm still working on it. But I've had a ton of help, and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The heavily waterproofed decking is in place, the outdoor carpet has been installed, and the Victorian balustrade has been completely taken apart, refurbished, reassembled, repainted, and reinstalled. All that's left are some finishing touches and the balcony, too, will be a triumph the whole house can be proud of.

Sometimes, the way someone can contribute to the action is by preparing refreshments for the folks doing the physical labor. Or they can find out what music the workers like and arrange for it to be played while they're working. Or they can encourage someone to take a break and get a shoulder rub. Sometimes, when you're hammering away, it's a huge blessing to have people aboard who's sole role is to stop by, admire the work and say how appreciative they are that the project is getting done.

All in all, it's been an exhilarating way for us housemates to make use of the energy of the spring heat cycle, and it's been a great excuse for us all to get closer to each other. Of course, it doesn't hurt that we also have an increasingly nice place to live. Next stop: Renovating the entire kitchen!

Of course, I'll keep you posted. Thanks for reading.


The fun is in the commitment; it doesn't matter whether you win or lose.
Vic Baranco

Basement hallway "Before"

Gerry, Shawn and David removing old Sheetrock

David and Sierra at the stripped entrance to the laundry room

Basement hallway "After"

New entrance to the laundry room

The stoves had to be moved to make room for the new fridge

Good thing they measured the opening to the pantry first!

Nicole and Virginia provide inspiration

Looks like we made it (Phew!)

The happy ending

The balcony's newly-laid plywood deck

New outdoor carpet (We sure can cut a rug!)

Sierra and Gerry reconstructing one of the two balustrades

Starting the first coat of primer


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lynne's Sense of Snow

Dear Readers,

Far into my adult life, I maintained contempt for my fellow grown-ups who spoke despairingly about snow. “They've lost touch with their inner child,” I said to myself with a superior air. “Snow is fun, exotic, an opportunity for play.” About five years ago, I succumbed to the dark side. I don't recall if it was a particularly harsh winter. All I know is that I was suddenly sick of snow. I found myself saying that if I never saw snow again, I'd feel fine. Well, we are in the midst of our first Oakland winter, and I feel fine. There's never even a minuscule threat of snow here.

Lynne, on the other hand, being still quite connected with her inner child, misses the snow. No, she doesn't want to go back to living in the winters of the Northeast, but she does fantasize about the occasional romantic flurry. She even went on the internet and found out that there was a snow machine down in Jack London Square that put on a show every evening. However, when we went there at the appointed hour, the machine was broken and there was no simulated winter to be experienced. Lynne was heartbroken.

And so it was
that, on January 4th, as we fastened our seat belts on the plane that was to take us back East for a visit, all of Lynne's fingers and toes were crossed. We were going to be spending five day in northern Connecticut visiting her family, and five days in NYC visiting mine. “Please let there be snow. Please let there be snow. Please let there be snow.” Her mother had said most of the snow that had been on the ground near their house had melted. This, of course, did not deter The Manifester from her prayers. “Maybe my mother is just teasing me and there really will be snow in Connecticut.”

Our arrival at the old homestead revealed that Lynne's mother had indeed been sincere. There were clumps of snow here and there, but mostly there was grass. The next day, however, the TV news was rife with predictions of a storm that night. Sure enough, when we awoke on the morning of the 6th, four inches of the fluffy variety had fallen. I dutifully, albeit enthusiastically, shoveled her parents' walk and driveway. Next night, four more inches and another morning of shoveling. You can imagine how thrilled Lynne was as she looked out the window each day.

That Sunday, we bade our farewells and boarded the Amtrak train at Windsor Locks. The trip down to New York took us through snow-covered forests in central Connecticut. We arrived at my mother's apartment in Greenwich Village and, wouldn't you know it? A truly heavy-duty snowstorm was predicted for Tuesday night. As if on cue, it started falling around 8pm. At midnight, Lynne said she wanted to go for a walk. I had to cover my entire face except for my eyes with my scarf, as the heavy, wet snow was being driven by a slight wind. (Fortunately, there would be no driveway for me to shovel this time.) Washington Square Park was closed, but we pushed through the gate, deflowered the fresh coating of snow with our footprints and took photos of the flakes in the lamplight.

Even without these weather events, Lynne would have had a great time on this trip. It had been her first visit back East since we moved out here last March. We got to spend fun, quality time with our parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. But the “icing on the gravy,” as Lynne would say, had been the snow. She was very happy to have had her vision realized, maybe even exceeded. I was happy, too, both because she was happy, and because we live in California now.

Thanks for reading.

Best Regards,

The most effective cosmetic is interest.

-- Cindy Baranco

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Even More Holiday Presence

[Originally e-mailed to list on January 4.]

Happy 2011!

So now, about the Gala:

always said the the best time to enjoy an experience is before, during and after it. It was easy to predict how awesome this party was going to be because of the buzz of excitement around the house while we were all preparing for it. There was the decorating, which included selecting, erecting and trimming the tree, and putting up yards and yards of evergreen garland, some of which had to done by balancing precariously on top of a ladder and attaching it gingerly to the all-plaster molding. There were also the strings of lights on the stair railing and the front porch, and lush bouquets of white flowers everywhere.

Then there was the food, highlighted, if I do say so myself, by my wife's cooking, although many other housemates contributed as well. Lynne baked exceptional chocolate chip cookies from a recipe tweaked over several weeks (We housemates got to be guinea pigs for the previous “experimental” versions.). She also spent days preparing a glorious turkey that became the centerpiece of the refreshments table. It was accompanied by baked brie, smoked salmon, chocolate truffles, plus much, much more. George, housemother and mixologist extraordinaire, prepared three (three!) different types of eggnog and a special champagne cocktail.

Oceana (housemother and
fashionista extraordinaire) went around the house a week early to guarantee that everyone's wardrobe plans were up to her standards. The theme for the event was to be gowns and tuxedos, and no one disappointed.

None of the guests disappointed, either. When the big night arrived, a steady stream of beautifully-attired men and women flowed through our front door. Their were dresses of green, gold, red and white; there were traditional tuxedos and tuxedos with a “twist.” And everyone came to party. There was live music, enthusiastic dancing, and equally enthusiastic drinking and eating. People saw friends they hadn't seen in a long time, and others made brand new friends here that night. Truth is, I could have asked many more women to dance than I did, and I solemnly promise to do so at the next party, but I had a wonderful time with the four of five beautiful ladies who favored me with saying yes when I offered. Thanks to all of them.

Needless to say, the Gala was a huge success. Over the subsequent few days, we got some touching thank-you notes. Sierra's parents, Tom and Joy, who have lived in the community for decades, said it was the best-decorated party ever at
80. We heard rumors about people reminiscing about having had so much fun that their friends were wishing they'd been there. I know I'm glad I was.

Well, friends, Lynne and I leave for our East Coast vacation tomorrow morning, so I won't be posting for a while. I hope you've enjoyed hearing about some of our holiday festivities, and I hope you all have a great beginning to your new year.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,

Anticipation is the aperitif of experience. Reminiscence is the liqueur of experience.

-- Vic Baranco

Gala garlands and lights.jpg Gala tree and fireplace.jpg

Gala panorama.jpg

Gala Linda, Rocco, Karen.jpg Tao and date.jpg

Gala O and Gerry dancing.jpg

Gala Millie, O and Carol Sue.jpg