I know our blog should be about all the great things that are happening right now, but sometimes we need to stop and acknowledge that there is a hard part of our lives as well. We had a lot of grief in our lives these past few weeks at The Inn On First. Jim’s friend of 38 years, Teresa Bulone East Dominic; Jim’s spiritual mentor, co-author, and dear friend, Juanita Meller; and today Jamie Cherry’s oldest sister, Mary Beth, who had been actively dying from cancer this past year. These are all people who have helped form and shape who we are in our lives today, and we give thanks to them and the growth they inspired within us.
It’s not that our grief paralyzes us. As a friend of mine said recently: “It is hard until it isn’t.” And some days it isn’t hard at all, and those are the days we celebrate these magnificent lives that have impacted us over the years. Our grief turns to gratitude as we remember them. Our service to our guests continues to deepen, and our love for our guests and each other continues to grow because of those who have loved us well, especially these individuals who have been important anchors in our lives. Thanks to all the wonderful guests who have been so supportive of us during this time of surrender. Our call is clear: celebrate the NOW for tomorrow we may not be here.
Jim here: I was walking the dogs at Fuller Park, a ten minute walk from The Inn On First, an historic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn. A group of young men (in their 30’s) approached dressed with Raiders shirts and wearing Raiders badges to identify them as part of the support staff.
“Cute dogs,” the one man said. Blond hair, cute, and very hunky. “Well, thanks,” I said. “We wanted to know if you would be willing to help us with a video we are making for the Raiders training camp; if you can tell us what you know about the Raiders.” I laughed. “Really, I’m a baseball fan. I follow the Yankees, the Giants, and occasionally the Angels and the A’s.” “That’s okay,” he replied. “Would you mind if we film you?” “Not at all,” I told him.
I asked the boys to wait patiently. First question: “If you are driving 120 mph, how far will you go?” “Well, how long am I driving in the car?” “One hour,” he said. “Okay, then 120 miles.” Next question: “If you are in the car for one hour and you are driving 80 mph, how far will you go?” “80 miles,” I replied. “Very good.”
Next question: “You walk into a bar and see a really beautiful woman. What is your pick-up line?” I smiled. I moved in closer to hunky blond man and said: “Or maybe I see a really good looking man I want to meet.” His eyes met mine. His face went red. His buddies chuckled behind the scenes. “Uh, okay.” “You are rather handsome,” I said. “Really cute.” “Thank you,” he said in response.
The interview ended. I continued walking, laughing the whole time as my interviewer got ribbed by his companions as they walked away.
As a foodie-destination spot in the Napa Valley, The Inn On First takes great pride in obtaining fresh and organic ingredients wherever we can. So, when our friend and contractor, Rick Leonard, invited us over to a friend’s house (Tony) to pick tomatoes, we jumped at the chance.
Fragrant as you picked them off the vine, some of them opening upon touch, begging to be eaten right away. We did! Sugar sweet, like candy. Cherry tomatoes, early girls, mortgage busters, and more. With more on the way she (Tony) made it clear we were welcome to return again.
So in the next few weeks expect to see them on the menu: from creamy, roasted tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons, to focaccia stuffed with summer tomatoes and mozzarella.
The foundation work is continuing during the midweek for the rest of the month and the beginning of March.
Currently they are framing (photo 1) one side of the house with rebar. Behind the rebar on the wall is a sheet of waterproofing (that gray white wall) on either side of the concrete. I had never seen this before and asked for more information. As I know so little about construction I find the details exciting – and if you don’t enjoy those kinds of details, stop reading now!
The second photo shows the backside of that gray wall, a plastic coating with these little holes. This coating collects excess water and moisture which drains down into pipes buried underneath the ground all around the foundation. Should the plastic on the outside wear out or tear for any reason, that front side with the gray sheet, when wet, absorbs the water and then “expands” so that no more water can get through to the concrete pillars. How cool is that?!
Onto the pipes all around the base of the foundation! These pipes (photo 3) also have holes in them to collect water. They will be covered by a material (similar to weed control sheets used in gardens) that will permit water to flow through but hold everything else back. That water will drain toward a sump pump and automatically be removed. In essence it will mean our basement will stay nice and dry during winter rains. What you don’t know is that it used to seep through all the stone and mortar and create a little stream under the house to the original sump pump. We used to create a little bridge over that stream to reach the far side of the basement and we won’t have to do that anymore. Exciting news indeed. So stay tuned for next week: I can’t wait to see the pouring of the concrete.
Here in Napa Valley The Inn On First, a Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, Jamie Cherry works hard to prepare for the Christmas season. Weeks before Thanksgiving he sets out all the boxes in the attic, organizing what goes out first and what can wait. On the Friday following Thanksgiving (yes, he still holds to the “no decorating before turkey day”) he begins the process. This movie is a little clip into what he does and how he helps guests and friends enter into the magic of the holiday season.
First and foremost we are doing very well. We want to say “thank you” to all our guests, family, and friends who reached out to us with emails, phone calls, and texts of concern, love, and support. It means very much to us and and reminds us of how much love there is in the world around us.
We, Jamie and Jim, were in Santa Cruz at the time of the earthquake for a niece’s wedding. A friend called at 4 am Sunday and said we needed to come home right immediately. All guests were accounted for and uninjured. We learned Calvin hid underneath a night stand. Maxwell jumped up on the bed, barking (naturally). Hugo stood up and watched the whole thing happen. No injuries, just scared little dogs needing some love and attention.
Our interim innkeeper, Cindy B., out-did herself keeping things calm and cool in the aftermath of our 6.0 earthquake. We lost a lot of “things” and any damage to the historic mansion is cosmetic (cracked plaster, paint chipped off). We called the staff and told them to take care of their families, and if they had time to join us later for clean-up. Cindy B. rallied the troops around us and we began the process.
We closed the inn for two days to clean up the mess. Lots of broken glass, lost dishes (a 100-year old hand painted china set- ugh!), two armoires that fell over and broke apart , and the picture window in the living room overlooking First Street.
However, as you can see in this next picture we had cleaned up by Sunday evening, and most things were back in order. We only lost six bottles of wine in the basement/cellar and although everything fell over or off its perch in the attic, very little was lost. All Christmas decorations managed to survive!
We were told to repair the cracked stucco on the chimney and the living room window won’t be repaired for awhile what with all the other businesses and homes in town in the same post-quake boat.
When you visit you are apt to see the plaster cracks in the living room and foyer even though we are structurally sound. Again, the damage is cosmetic. We are currently ordering new items for the rooms that need it, so please forgive the mismatch of lamps, etc., until we are able to restock our inventory. Apart from some of the visual clues around the house, you would be hard pressed to imagine we experienced an earthquake at all.
What about the aftershocks or tremors? We felt two this morning but thought it was the dogs jumping onto the bed. That was the extent of movement we experienced- very short, very small. As seasoned Californians we know these come and go and we find them more amusing as there is no damage to the house or belongings. Our guests from Georgia slept through the first one and she thought the second one was her husband shaking the bed to wake her up. They are with us for another night. Others, though, for their own reasons canceled and while we were sad to see them go we understand their comfort level is different in regard to this event and they didn’t want to visit Napa, or even California at this time.
As with all things Californian recovery comes quickly and the community moves toward full recovery. The Oxbow Market, our local Napa gathering spot with shops, stores, and restaurants, is already booming with activity. I walked around today purchasing produce, spices, and meat as I wanted to support local vendors in their loss of inventory over the weekend. It was nice to see so many other people doing the same. They reopened Main Street today and they are currently looking to reopen First Street this weekend. There are parts of outer Napa (away from downtown where we are located) where water is still an issue with broken water mains. The majority of downtown restaurants are open, some with “limited menus” until inventory is restocked, and wine tasting rooms are still open for business. The wineries are open after their own clean up, and the local grocery stores are looking to be reopened by Friday (the clean up there is pretty significant).
How can you help? Come visit. Taste wine. Go out to lunch and dinner. Support the local community. Let Napa know that we can and should carry on with the great gift of hospitality that is offered to all.
Passport Magazine was here recently to do a write-up on Napa Valley and staying at The Inn On First, a luxury Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, was one of their stops. The author writes:
“Across the Mayacamas Mountains, which separates Napa from Sonoma, Jim Gunther and his husband Jamie (who have been together 19 years) opened The Inn on First Bed & Breakfast in Downtown Napa. Their inn is one of the most popular options for both straight and gay visitors. Jamie says, “Napa is very gay-friendly, despite the reputations of a farm community. Napa always votes Democratic, it voted down Prop. 8 and there are a lot of gay people here in hospitality. Gay locals and visitors go where everyone else goes as there’s no gay bar, so it’s more about tagging along to what’s trendy and comfortable.”
Dwayne, a business associate and friend in Napa, dropped by The Inn On First, a lovely Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, and told us that a friend of his was a property manager and that the renters of one property skipped out of town without paying rent and they left a baby grand piano in the garage. All he wanted was the cost of one month’s rent and it had to be gone in 3 days.
Jamie ran over and saw, fell in love, and called a piano mover who could come the next day, and then a piano tuner who could come the day after that. 3 days later we had a lovely piano in the house and Jamie began to pull out some of his old sheet music from the attic. He hasn’t had a piano around since he was a young adult, but his fingers are itching to get back into it. He played periodically throughout the years, but nothing serious.
So, how lucky am I that he wants to practice and I love the sound of live music in the house. Looking forward to sharing this gift with friends, family, and guests who love to play as much as I like to listen!