I spent the night in a legal and level parking space next to his office. The next morning, Joe “scrambled” up a great breakfast (office and home were one in the same). He then came up with a great idea: “Let’s call ol’ Howard and tell him you finally found me.” Well, we were lucky enough to catch him at home. Wow, was Howie surprised to hear from us. That was one of the highlights of the trip. 1 said farewell to a new-found friend, but not before congratulating him on his stick-to-itiveness. He was scratchin’ and scramblin’ and designing by his boot heels, and still making a living. He gave me a silent message: “Love your work, and your work will reward you.”
I proceeded up the coast above rocky cliffs, hundreds of feet above the crashing sea below. It was one white-knuckle drive, as spectacular as the road near Big Sur. At Fort Bragg, I intuitively intoned to myself: “This is as far north as I’m going.” I took CA 20 east to Willits, then proceeded south through the Napa Valley (with a stop at the Beringer Winery), and finally across the Bay Bridge back to San Fran, where I spent one last night at my beloved Marina.
I continued my supervision at the Hilltop House for several more weeks, culminated by a traditional “Christmas Tree” topping on the finished roof by Franz himself. It was a grand occasion, with corks popping and steaks frying. Among all the people at the celebration, I sought out Lee Jonas, and gave him a big hug and a thanks for a job well done. In return, he graciously thanked me for all the gratuitous labor I had offered. We reminisced about the bonhomie of the coffee breaks and lunch time gatherings (see illustration). There’s nothing more congenial than a bunch of seasoned construction guys swapping stories, especially when it comes to so-and-so’s faux pas or such-and-such screw-up (those were the real laughers). I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.
The sheetrockers and roofers had just finished up their respective jobs, so I figured it was about time to pull up stakes and head on home. With all the interior spaces now completely finished out (dry-walled), I could finally realize what the spaces looked like, especially the pyramidal ceilings in the living area and kitchen. I never cease to be amazed how a few crude conceptual design sketches on a paper napkin in a Taco Bell restaurant (three years before) could actually materialize into a three-dimensional structure. That’s the beauty of architecture.
Since this is an abbreviated account, I will condense my report of the return trip into one sentence: it was a very pleasurable and relaxed journey through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, ending up in the sweltering heat of Texas. It was August 20th when I rolled into Dallas, 77 days since I had left for Ted’s graduation in San Diego. It’s ironic that I’ve taken only three pages to write about my longest odyssey (in terms of days, not miles). I broke my record of the longest leave of absence by one day, set two years earlier, working in Santa Cruz on, what else, but the Helbig domicile. Anyway, the Summer of ’91 had to be the most memorable in terms of experiences with family and friends. That’s what made it special, without a doubt. Well, as Porky Pig would say, “That’s all folks”.
William C. Early © 1991