Categorized | Northern California

A Trip to SOFA

graffiti at the Prince Memorial Greenway

A plea for love under the freeway at the Prince Memorial Greenway, Santa Rosa

My friend Paul has been quite the man about town lately. Women mob him at dance halls. They approach him in parking lots and movie theaters. They walk up to him and invite him to events and activities. Strangers in grocery stores want to introduce Paul to their single sisters, nieces, cousins, aunts, mothers and best friends. This phenomenon is happening regularly and with increasing frequency whether or not I am there. The latest humiliation was at a Mardi Gras dance we went to in February. I was full of enthusiasm during the first dance, then started losing steam at the second dance and by the time the third dance rolled around my post-chemo brain kicked in and I couldn’t dance anymore or do much of anything. Not to worry about Paul. Within moments of my slumping over a chair, a woman strolled up to him, tapped him on the shoulder and the next thing I know, he’s back on the dance floor.

South A Street

SOFA is a brief block of eclectic storefronts and galleries

Recently I brought up the topic of Paul’s burgeoning sex appeal.

“You know Paul, I always told you that you were a good-looking guy.”
“I know that you have said so, but I never really believed it.”
” I think that your visits to the gym are really paying off.”
“I agree, it’s been pretty crazy. Women everywhere! Who knew?”
“You’re also dressing better – and it seems to be very effective in attracting the opposite sex.”
“Yeah, it’s really surprising. Quite good for my ego, actually.”

It seemed like a good moment to release a trial balloon of my own.

“Remember that guy at the Mardi Gras ball – the one that was dressed like a pirate”
Paul stopped preening himself for a minute.
“Yeah? what about him?”
“I think he was hitting on me at the dance.”
Paul threw his mind back to the week before.
“Nah, I was watching him earlier in the evening, I think he was just really high.’

I see.

SOFA DoorwayDuring cancer and recovery, I was on disability and had a habit of regularly messing up my paperwork (or to quote my late Grandmother’s eastern European accent – “pepper-verk”). When I returned to Sonoma County after chemo was over, I spent a fair amount of time pleading my case at the State Disability office in Santa Rosa. On my trips back home I started noticing this little run of shops and galleries just south of the Santa Rosa Plaza Shopping Mall. The colorful eclectic storefronts and the surrounding neighborhood of vintage homes were a surprise in that particular location, tucked between the mall, the freeway and busy Santa Rosa Avenue. Further investigation revealed that this pocket location is known as the SOFA (South of A Street) Arts District.

I decided that I wanted to check this out and invited Paul to explore with me. He agreed to tear himself away from his exponentially expanding harem and one sunny winter Saturday we headed out.

SOFA Cookhouse

The Cook House is an old school diner located right in the heart of SOFA

SOFA is little. I mean really little. We are talking about a tiny pocket of storefronts in the one block area starting at Juilliard Park and then slightly creeping up and around Sebastopol Avenue. So don’t go there expecting to spend hours wandering the area. That said, we did end up spending most of the day there. As a matter of fact, we spent so much time in the neighborhood that Paul began to get concerned about having parked his car in a 2 hour street parking space. (Being a true gentleman, he never said a word about it and let me yammer on and on in while we were sitting in a cafe while the time was running out on his parking space.) We returned to the car after about three hours in SOFA  (no ticket, thank goodness), left briefly for lunch in downtown Santa Rosa and then came back again for more. Go figure.

Juilliard Park

Lush, problematic Juilliard Park is immediately adjacent to SOFA

A big part of SOFA’s charm is the surrounding area. Vintage homes (slightly ramshackle – just the way I like them), Juilliard Park and the Prince Memorial Greenway make this area a nice place to wander. SOFA’s lliliputian retail area is home to several galleries, a thrift store, a diner, a cafe and the fabulous Jeremiah’s Photo Corner. Why fabulous? Because they sell Polaroid cameras and the clerk let us paw through piles of Polaroid photos that she had stashed behind the counter. I love Polaroids. No matter what or whom you photograph, the picture always looks like it was taken in 1965.

Studios on A garden

The garden behind Studios on A. Christie Marks used one of the garden chairs as the prop in her collage, Art and Sole

In addition to the several storefront galleries, one of the most interesting art spots is at The Studios on A, located at 312 S. A Street. This complex houses seven art studios and the Gallery of Sea and Heaven – which is a project of Becoming Independent, an organization that provides support systems to adults with developmental disabilities. Behind the Gallery of Sea and Heaven are a series of art studios along a hallway of what was probably an office

Art and Sole by Christie Marks

building at one time. Some of studios were open and the artists were working on their projects. At the end of the hallway is a pleasant garden. We met the artist Christie Marks while we were there. She was busy on a table outside working on one of her collage projects. We ended up in her studio looking at her collages, including one named Art and Sole, which was set in the garden where we had been standing. You can see my photograph and Christie’s collage. A bona fide example of art imitating life.

As an extra added bonus, the Santa Rosa branch of the Berkeley Psychic Institute is located near SOFA and to my delight they were having an open house! That very same day!  I love psychics! Paul, on the other hand, does not love psychics. So he waited across the street and I wandered through the building. Inside, people were strewn across massage tables and leaning back in chairs while other people waved hands over them. I have since visited the Psychic Institute website and am highly tempted to pursue the Beginning Psychic Skills class. Don’t tell Paul.

Berkeley Psychic Institute

It was open house day at the Santa Rosa Branch of the Berkeley Psychic Institute.

We had wanted to stop for lunch in SOFA but the only restaurant was a diner named The Cook House.  It looked good for what it was, but since Paul and I are both vegans and The Cook House is heavy on the ham and cheese omelets, we left SOFA for about an hour and went to a downtown Santa Rosa for a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant. We did have something to drink in SOFA at the Atlas Coffee Company, the only other restaurant in the area. Named after the Atlas Alley, where it is located, Atlas Coffee is very hip. Unfortunately, I am not hip. However, I do recognize hip when I see it. And I recognized hip when I saw it at Atlas. I used to be sad that I wasn’t hip. Nowadays I don’t give a rat’s [email protected]@. That said, Atlas Coffee Company is a pleasant place to have a drink and if you don’t want to sit inside, there are tables outside in the sunny courtyard.

Julliard Park Community Garden

Preparing for spring in the Julliard Park Community Garden

Immediately adjacent to SOFA is Juilliard Park. Once home to Santa Rosa’s Juilliard family and the site of their former orchard and Victorian home, the property was given to the City of Santa Rosa in 1931 and reworked into a park. Juilliard Park encompasses several city blocks and is lush and appealing, with ponds, willows, lawns and benches. Unfortunately, because it borders Santa Rosa Avenue, it also attracts nutty guys and worse. The park has never struck me as a place that I would want to stroll through, especially by myself – an outcome that was probably never visualized by the Juilliard family.  However, on this beautiful sunny afternoon, the nutty guys were in retreat. Instead, parents and children wandered the pathways, several couples were playing bocce ball in the newly constructed courts, a woman and man were busy cleaning up the community garden, and best of all, an impromptu band was playing under the trees. Here are just the few seconds I was able to record.

Prince Memorial Greenway Tile Work

Tile work along the retaining wall at the Prince Memorial Greenway

When we returned from our lunch in downtown Santa Rosa, we decided to walk along the Prince Memorial Greenway which starts at Prince Park on Santa Rosa Avenue, parallels Julliard Park and SOFA and then continues west alongside the Santa Rosa Creek, tapering off at Railroad Square. We parked near SOFA again and started walking.The path is pleasant, flat and paved. Although the renovated Greenway only goes as far as Railroad Square, the path along the creek continues. We walked about 45 minutes and then turned around. One could continue all the way to Sebastopol and then Forestville, about 20 miles west. Paul and I decided to ride the pathway on our bikes when the weather is better.

California Packing Company

Scaffolding holds up an old brick building in a field alongside the creek

The creek was very pretty and interesting, tile work, murals under the freeway, and the water itself made this a pleasant walk.

Of the whole day, this was probably my favorite part, because there were no distractions and I could talk nonstop. That’s the truth. I’m not going to lie about it.

I’m also not going to lie about the fact that I wouldn’t walk down the Prince Memorial Greenway or the creek pathway by myself. Lots of gang graffiti, and as the sun got lower gang girls came out and started waiting for their gang guys to show up, nutty guys and nuttier ladies appeared from the underbrush, shady characters flew by on bicycles. Paul is six feet tall, burly, and carries a big walking stick. So he was totally protected from bands of marauding females wanting to get better acquainted. I, as usual, was completely safe because I am invisible to everyone except drug addled pirates.

Of which there were none on the Greenway.


2 Responses to “A Trip to SOFA”


  1. […] was time to hang out again with my friend Paul, the ladykiller. He had enjoyed a busy weekend so far, dancing the night away on Friday and attending a potluck […]

  2. […] my paperwork and taxes in order I would take my camera and go on a little field trip to SofA, the Santa Rosa South of A Arts District that I had visited with my friend Paul a few years ago. Another friend wanted to go too, which was good. I don’t trust my driving skills when I […]

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