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Here's where to get excellent bread pudding in Lodi

Plus: Thoughts on friends, foliage and a blessing of the pets

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Posted: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 11:19 am, Thu Jul 22, 2010.

October started with a bang! First, the weather has begun to behave and the trees are beginning to crisp up and shed.

The berries on the Chinese pistache and the hawthorn are getting really red, and the Virginia creeper has changed its green costume for harlequin. Flowers and some of the smaller plants have decided it's time to put on their brown nightclothes and get ready for winter sleep.

Not everything this first October weekend was so subdued. First, there was a shared birthday party put on by friends Bill and Darlene at the American Legion building, with a tasty dinner and a really good DJ who delighted all us old ones with '40s dance tunes. The main hall and the smaller meeting room really look nice now that they have been remodeled and repainted. This has been possible because of the great generosity of Leroy Cross, who deserves many, many thanks from all who use those rooms.

Then came the Blessing of the Animals at St. John's Episcopal Church, and a concert there that afternoon. Having the blessing at the regular 10:30 service time worked out really well, as more people came and brought animals. Dogs prevailed, as usual, and there were also a horse, some cats, a turtle, a tarantula, and two silky Chinese hens, which had soft and fluffy feathers and cute round topknots. My friend, Rabbi Raphael Pazo, tells me that the blessing of animals comes from the Hebrews, told about in the book of Ezekiel. I skimmed through that book and found it full of God's punishment for manifold wickednesses, but no animal blessings per se. Guess I missed something.

The concert that afternoon was outstanding, as all choral performances are in that church. Clerestory is a group of eight men who sing a cappella, and their voices were exceptional. The repertoire ran from medieval chants to modern English folksongs — "Our Favorite Things" — something for everybody. They hope to come back here again; I hope they do. They were friendly and fun to talk to, and were glad to have a quick tour of the redwood chapel. The next concert will be Feb. 27, folk and "bluesy" music with guitars and vocalists.

I met up with a former student, Bob Pinnell, the other day when I went looking for new indoor-outdoor carpet. I had him as a sophomore at Lodi High back in 1971 or so; his was the last class to graduate before Lodi High's main campus became Tokay High. He has a great carpet store — I never in my life knew there were so many colors and types of floor coverings — so of course I came away with a great piece of carpet.

Speaking of times past, three recent obituaries recalled other times, other places. Marcia Doty was social editor of the Stockton Record when I was working there in the '60s and for some time afterward. We don't use the term "social editor" any more, let alone "women's news," and weddings get one-fifth of the space they used to get. For a stringer paid by the column inch, a wedding was good money; the challenge was to keep the writing fresh. Know how many phrases can replace "she wore"?

Then there was Emma Witmer, who was secretary of George Washington School at the time my four children went there and for some years afterward. It was 52 years ago this month that I took the tribe in to GW, met principal Ralph Wetmore and Emma, and left the four in some very good hands.

The third obit that took me back was that of Robert Dutton. Bob was an English instructor at Delta College when I was public relations officer there, and it was to him I turned for a semester of American Literature when I needed the credits to get into the master's degree in English I was working on at UOP. Bob was a very good friend of Bob Huffman, the journalism instructor, himself a good friend and mentor to me. Bob Huffman died during my last year at Delta.

Speaking of classes leads inevitably to books, and the bookstore that Friends of the Library maintains in the library building is a good place to find some interesting reads. Prices are very reasonable, and one can assist doubly by bringing back books that have been read and leaving them for resale. Still on the subject, LouAnn De Grande has added a lending library to the restaurant. I found some good reads there. Books are signed out and signed back in; no fees.

Mentioning De Grande's reminds me of their terrific bread pudding, with whiskey sauce! Very tasty. Other good bread puddings I have known came from two establishments no longer with us — 220 in the Salisbury shopping center, and LaVerne's on School Street. If it's tapioca you're after, that at the Soup Ladle on Fairmont Avenue is superb. They are known for their crunch bread and good soups, too. My American Legion friend Addie tells me that Wine Country, the former Croce's on South Cherokee, has really good food at reasonable prices. Lodi is getting to have a variety of fine eating spots.

All this talk of food reminds me that in my praises of Lakewood Mall area stores.

I failed to mention Lakewood Meats and Sausage. How I could forget them I'll never know, as I buy all my meat there. Jim Roster has been there 38 years, succeeding his father, and his cohort Bruce Albers has been there just about the same length of time. They are known for their sausage, which shows up at a lot of local pancake breakfasts.

Here's something different in the food department — two somethings, really. The youths at St. John's Episcopal Church have been making dog biscuits for sale. Proceeds go to the animal shelter, a really good thing to do. The idea came from Beverly Clinehens, newly arrived rector's wife, and she is starting another project as well. Beginning on Oct. 15, a cooking class for kids ages 10 to 12 will be held in the church kitchen from 4 to 6 p.m. The first session lasts for six Thursdays; fee is $6 per class to cover food costs. The class is not limited to St. John's kids, but is open to anyone interested. For more details, e-mail rectorswife@yahoo.com.

It is comforting to know that there are so many good people out there doing thoughtful and helpful things and looking after one another. There is a moral and substantive gyroscope inside which helps most people lead productive and thoughtful lives, despite the corruption, violence and licentiousness we see and read about daily. The ordinary citizens who have been gathering — and will continue to gather — at "tea parties" prove this. Already, there are a few people in Washington who are beginning to question motives and actions of the many there, who are indeed questionable.

And here's a fall poem by Jane Merchant to close with:

Match Leaves With Gladness

In the season of tallest sky and brightest leaf,

Make use of superlative, transcendent weather

For being happiest. Use all the brief

Emphatic hours for being altogether

Joyous, and wholly clear in thought and heart.

Match leaves with gladness, and the sky with zest,

And when the gayest, highest hours depart,

You still will be your wisest, richest best.

This column tells a good bit about its writer; enough said. Gwin Paden is grateful to all those who enjoy reading her column.

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