Steve Wilson

It was almost exactly one o’clock in the afternoon on the first day of April when the window blinds in the studio began to move and that was the first indication that the Valley winds have once again arrived for their annual blow. It will be September before they subside. One can very nearly set one’s calendar by these williwaws that blow down the Valley from Monterey Bay to San Ardo.

Writing of the Valley winds when as a younger man I stated that they were just a fact of life and something all locals were accustomed to, but now as a much older man I find that the wind is no longer a welcome natural phenomena. I do not like the hassle they create when riding a bike, when they blow your hat off resulting in a mad chase until you either catch the now-illusive headwear or watch it head for San Lucas never to be seen again.

And to be honest about it, I am at an age where the constant afternoon blasts from the north bother me, make me nervous or tense, some feeling less that pleasant at any rate. But this year I will wax poetic and praise the winds for what they have blown our way this April. First let me tell you about what Pyotr has to offer.

Pyotr is a first name and no doubt means little to most of you, but his last name was Tchaikovsky, which should reveal him better to those who know the great composers of the world. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote miles of great music, but his three compositions written as ballets are his most famous: “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

We here in the Valley know the Nutcracker well as we are the area suppling dancers to the Monterey County Dance Theatre troupe, which has performed the annual Christmas offering for over six decades running. Now, the ladies and gentlemen of dance will bring to the Robert Stanton Stage the beautiful story of Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty.

Not the saccharine Sleeping Beauty of Disney, but an ancient story of love, vengeance and mystic interventions replete with noblemen, devious imps, fairies and a host of well-known figures of legend and lore. It will prove to be an exciting and unique experience in theatre.

Set for a three-day run this weekend with a 7 p.m. curtain on Friday followed by Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees. For this special presentation, there is the added attraction of a Renaissance Faire with archers and jugglers and fire-eaters (well, maybe not fire-eaters) and on Saturday a take-home Swiss Sausage meal. Information online at Monterey County Dance Foundation.

And now for the once windblown, wonderful words of Walter. And who, you ask, is Walter? Well, he is an old friend of mine and others of us from Greenfield days gone by. Walter Ted Togni was one of four children of Arnold and Dolly Togni, who some years ago farmed acres just south of Greenfield on the west side of the 101. Like many descendants of the Ticino Swiss, Walter had more family than just his own; there were aunts and uncles and cousins aplenty in Walter’s life; and like many his age he was raised bilingual by virtue of older generations who spoke the Swiss dialect of the Italian language at home.

Walter was a year younger than I, but way back in the ’60s the school playgrounds (now mostly under cement and asphalt) were communal places where members of grades above and below your own all came together so we knew people two, three and sometimes four years older and younger than us. In short, we had a lot of schooltime associates of whom some grew into friends; Walter was, and is, my friend and I am his.

After high school Walter and I spent many fine times together, from the Bay to the Pinnacles to the Indians to the Pancho Rico. He once owned a VW bus, which in the early ’70s was the epitome of freewheeling transport, and Walter and I and often a host of other characters, some of whom are still with us and some who are gone, ranged over Monterey County to the accompaniment of the best music of the time, the Moody Blues being one of Walter’s favorite bands.

As happens to friends in the tumult of life, Walter and I eventually took different paths and now it has been decades since I have seen him, and while mutual friends still here in the Valley always kept me up on where Walter was and how he was doing, I still missed being with him, hearing his voice and listening to his outlooks on life. That ended about seven months ago when I got his address from his cousin and wrote him a letter. He responded, and since that time there have been letters and phone calls exchanged.

Walter is a resident of Tenero, Canton Ticino, Switzerland, and this morning I saw Walter, or at least his image, in his world. This came about when he called me to tell me his film was in circulation and that now he is a bit of a celebrity in his little village near Bellinzona. I knew about the film, but this morning spoke with the director and he conveys it deals with the language spoken by the Swiss of Ticino; of which there are still a few here in Monterey County.

For those who knew him and those who wish to meet him, go online and search RSI Storie Walter l’Americano and there he is. English subtitles will be added in a month, so unless you speak Italian or Swiss-Italian, I’d wait for a while to check it out. If you are Swiss or a local history buff, this is a film you do not want to miss.

Take care. Peace.

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King City and Greenfield columnist Steve Wilson may be reached at [email protected].


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