Blast from the past


By Dennis Rockstroh

NOW THAT I am almost recovered from last week’s heatstroke — and I hope you are, too — it is apropos to tell you about a cool place I found to hide when the sun starts to buckle the roads.
Please note on this second day of summer that fellow columnist Jan Null reports that heat is the No. 1 weather killer ahead of flooding, lightning, tornadoes, cold and hurricanes.

So, this is a matter of life and death.

Last week, when the thermometer started to creep above the 100-degree mark, I happened to be on a field trip looking into the planned earthquake retrofitting of this cool building complex — the old Mission San Jose.

Earlier I had noted how cool it was inside so I returned with a thermometer.

My findings in early afternoon:

The temperature on the porch of the convento, or former padres’ quarters — now the museum — was 100 degrees.

Just inside the adobe walls, which are three to five feet thick, my thermometer — after about 15 minutes — dipped into the 70-degree range.

Inside there is no air conditioning, not even a fan.

I wandered around the relics of the past waiting for the thermometer to get used to its various locations.

In the old padres’ room, the temperature was 78 degrees.

Same for the other 12 rooms in the museum where visitors can learn about the pre-mission Ohlone, Indian life at the mission, the Rancho era and the history of the mission’s restoration.

Then I moved across the square to the restored adobe church, which I was told is an even cooler place.

I sat for about half an hour right in front of Robert Livermore’s tomb in the back of the church: 77 degrees.

Then I moved closer to the altar, keeping my thermometer cupped in my hands hoping that God didn’t mind my profane use of his place.

This is not easy because as I slowly approached the reredos, I could see the painting of Christ and the statues of St. Joseph and Mary — all staring at me.

I took a quick look at the thermometer: 76 degrees.

”Wow!” I exclaimed to myself. ”What a cool place.”

Then I glanced at the cute faces of the six angels just above the altar.

I moved closer so I could see their secret told to me by the Vietnamese artist who had helped restore the art in the mission church.

My eyes started at the left and moved to the right across the pink facesand brown and blond hair.

Then I smiled to myself and wanted to turn and tell the woman kneeling in the first pew, ”See the angel on the far right? He has black hair and a golden face?”

But she was deep in prayer.

I didn’t say anything even though I hoped she knew.

She looked to be of Asian descent.

I stood there in front of the altar staring at the Asian angel.

I thought of the day back in 1984 at the Carmel Mission workshop when artist Nguyen Van Huu showed me his secret.

”That’s me,” he said, pointing to the golden cherub.

Huu and curator Richard Menn explained that in the tradition of Michelangelo, Raphael, Renoir and Picasso, Huu had literally put himself into his work.

”It’s something I can leave for my children and grandchildren,” he said.

Huu told me that right about now, ”at the turn of the century,” he planned to visit the church with his kids and grandkids in tow, march them right up to the front of the church, point out the angel and tell them, ”That’s me.”

Now that is cool.


About drockstroh

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