A Common Table

By James Buckley   |   August 2, 2018
Joining Nina Terzian are (from left) captain Jeff Villarreal, paramedic Shawn Whilt, paramedic Alex Broumand (who says it's pronounced "Paramagic"), firefighter Stephen Cochran, engineer Rod Walkup, paramedic Kurt Hickman, and firefighter Keith Powell

Let’s call it “extraordinary,” as it certainly was out of the ordinary. I am referring to, of course, the recent Our Common Table event that occurred on the grounds of Montecito Union School on July 26.

Organizers eventually ran out of tables to place end-to-end as an estimated 250 people showed up with food and drink to join their neighbors to enjoy an early dinner on the MUS terraces, all sponsored by the Lois & Walter Capps Project

“We were worried we wouldn’t have enough food, and then the firefighters brought in thirty pounds of pulled pork that they’ve been cooking for eight hours,” recounts Alison Hardey, of Jeannine’s on Coast Village Road, one of the many people behind this effort.

“You can talk about building the infrastructure of buildings and bridges, but it’s the infrastructure of the spirit that was built here,” echoes former Santa Barbara City councilman and mayor Hal Conklin.

Alison was worried there wouldn’t be more than 40 people who’d show up, so she expressed elation at the large number of those who arrived by the hundreds. In trying to explain or at least understand why and how so many people responded, she speculates that “gratitude is just around the corner” after all Montecito has been through and that when that corner is turned, “we can forgive the mountain and we can forgive all those things we could have done, should have done, and we can move ahead.”

Nina Terzian says she’s never seen so much good food in her life at a potluck event. “Everyone is enjoying their dishes; they’re eating with gusto; it feels good going down and I think we’re all happy,” she says.

Todd Capps, son of Walter and Lois Capps, is executive director of the Lois & Walter Capps Project, a non-profit foundation that launched and sponsored the effort. The mission, says Capps, is “connecting our community through essential and authentic dialog.” He reveals that MUS chair Gwyn Lurie is on the project’s board, along with chairman Conklin. “We see this,” Capps says, “as helping… in the face of chronic opposition… to get people to get to know their neighbors again. Creating spaces where people can sit down and talk.”

Hannah-Beth Jackson’s district director James Joyce (“No relation,” he says, laughing), seen here with Gwyn Lurie, inspiration for the Our Common Table event being held at MUS
Steven Bachman and his wife, retired MUS science teacher Marilyn Bachman, just returned from a river trip down the Duoro River; they rode their bicycles alongside the riverboat that took them from Spain to Portugal and pointed out that Portugal uses 4-inch-square cobblestones as “traffic calming” or “speed control” devices in virtually all the small towns. The roads are not only paved with these, but are purposely built as uneven surfaces, slowing traffic even more, suggesting Santa Barbara or even the parking area alongside Coast Village Road could benefit from considering cobblestones too. Marilyn proudly reports that her amateur winemaker husband and his winemaking partner, Bob Cummings, won a “Best In Show” first-place gold medal in the Santa Barbara County Fair for their 2015 “Tres Carreras” Merlot (so named because between Bob and Steven, there are “three Porsche Carreras in the family”)
Former Santa Barbara mayor Hal Conklin and Jeannine’s owner Alison Hardey give a well-earned “two thumbs up” to the hugely successful Our Common Table event held on the grounds of MUS on July 26
Gabrielle Farrell (she and her husband, Jeff Farrell, pretty much lost everything in the January debris slide; their son Marco’s video taken as their house was inundated with mud has been seen on many different news and social media channels) served not only hundreds of fish tacos made from the 50-pound halibut Marco pulled in, but then made and served nearly a hundred dessert crêpes

Capps was genuinely surprised at the large turnout in Montecito. He thanked specifically Montecito Bank & Trust (which donated the Kona Ice, among many other things), Jeannine’s, Montecito Fire Department, Marco Farrell (who brought a 50-pound halibut that he’d caught and who, along with his mother, Gabrielle, cooked up fish tacos with it and gave them all away), Montecito Union School (which provided most of the tables; when those ran out, people sat on the grass), and Montecito Journal (which donated a full-page ad and got the word out) and credited Ms Lurie as the inspiration for launching the idea first in Montecito. 

The idea began to form during dinner discussions about eight months ago. “A group in Florida had done something similar by creating one long table, and we thought that would be an appropriate thing,” Todd says.

The group is planning an Our Common Table event on State Street for September 6 (to coincide with First Thursday) and is now working on permits to close down a block somewhere between Victoria and Figueroa streets and for the table to go down the center divider.

When asked how he would handle it if their Santa Barbara event were overrun by street people, he says he hadn’t really thought about it, but that there would probably be “some kind of nice way to deal with that.” 


You might also be interested in...