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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

SLO Town, Slab Town and parts unknown

It's been over 36 years but we used to live in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California. We still have good friends there and periodically meet up here, there  or somewhere in between. In late May I had a good couple of weeks in the area staying with a friend and putzing around the county and points south.

Our friends own Sauer Adobe one of SLO's historic sites sitting just across the street from the Mission and just around the corner from the city's historic Chinatown district. Chinatown now consists of 3 buildings - Ah Louis Store, Mee Hung Low Restaurant and the brick candy store (now a real estate office.) The historic roots - Chinese, Native American & Spanish,-of these few square blocks tell the story of San Luis Obispo.

Montage of SLO Historic Chinese District - not to scale

Chinese arrived in the area in the 1800's providing manual labor for two converging railroads. At one time there was a sizeable Chinese population, but time and racism drove most of them out. The main identifier is the old Ah Louis store, founded in 1874  by Ah Louis of Hong Kong, as a grocery and general merchandise store, employment office, bank, post office and pharmacy for the Chinese population. Currently it serves as a retail outlet for an events producer.

Another favorite spot in town is the DelMonte Cafe sitting directly across the street from the Railway Station. The building opened as a barbershop in 1919 then served as the neighborhood grocery before a local family turned it into a thriving restaurant.


Another day we drove up to Cambria, originally a Chumash Indian site that sits between San Simeon/Hearst Castle and Morro Bay. Later it was known as Slabtown because its first buildings were made from rough slabs of wood. Now named Cambria, probably after a Welsh town,  its a lovely village attracting visitors from all over the world.

There's been a lot of development for better or worse since we've lived in SLO. This little shopping center hosts the usual Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, a few little cafes but it was a perfect spot out of the cool spring wind to sit on a sunny bench and sketch. 

The other fun thing I did while in my old hometown was meet with some local sketchers. There isn't an official USk chapter there yet, but stay tuned.  I think we may have stirred the pot for the makings of one. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Big Apple BBQ Revisited

Two years ago I was in NYC area for a couple of months. During that time I got to help out at the Big Apple BBQ - a fun, family friendly summertime event held in Madison Park which adjoins the Flatiron district with it's iconic tower. 

Event producers invited BBQ superstars from all over the country to participate. I met so many BBQ greats. Among them the famous Mike Mills of 17th St BBQ in Murphysboro, and author of Peace, Love and BBQ and co-author of Praise the Lard!, Wayne Mueller from Louie Mueller BBQ, Taylor, Texas, Gary Roark of Ubon's in Mississippi, Sam Jones of Skylight Inn BBQ, Ayden, North Carolina and of course the reason for our visit, our son-in-law, Billly Durney of Hometown BBQ in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 

The bbq smokers roll in to town a few days before and on the Friday before the festival, the smokers start churning. The fires continue all through the night with workers poking the flames, checking the temps and tending the meats.  

On Saturday morning, with the streets blocked of since the day before, the hungry throngs start arriving. Standing in line  for your food is part of BBQ culture. I've heard stories of people meeting someone from another part of the country while standing in line for BBQ and creating lifelong friendships.  

Unfortunately the festival producers have ended the event so my sketches are a record of a very fun event and an a personal memory of good times.