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The Bohemian's Best of the North Bay 2005

Writers' Picks

click to enlarge kids-0512-teacher.jpg

Photograph by Michael Amsler

Best Deification of a School Teacher
Strange T-shirts have started popping up around Santa Rosa High School lately, featuring a teacher's portrait in triplicate and a cryptic, bumper-sticker-like slogan: "Mr. Cody, not Jesus." The words, written in a soft schoolgirl cursive, dance across the chest, while three smiling, mustached Mr. Codys preside with authority from above. The bizarre juxtaposition is most effective, and the shirts have attained a campus-wide popularity of "Vote for Pedro" proportions. But what the hell do they mean? "The thing is, it can be easily misconstrued," explains the shirts' designer, former SRHS student Audrey Hope. "But, you know," she adds, "I like that." Naturally, "Mr. Cody, not Jesus" sounds like an exhortation to deny one's love of Jesus Christ and subsequently transfer all worship to Mr. Cody, who teaches economics at Santa Rosa High School. From all accounts, Mr. Cody seems like an amazing guy. His students speak mythically of the "Mr. Cody style," of his tendency to ramble on about "funny, weird things." In fact, he sounds a lot like Jesus was in his day, and though I have never met Mr. Cody, the notion of worshipping him because a T-shirt tells me to seems sensible enough. The truth is that the phrase sprung from the flourish of Mr. Cody's unique classroom discipline. During their senior year, Hope and her friends latched on to a particular quirk about Mr. Cody, who swiftly reprimanded students whenever they took the Lord's name in vain. "No, no," comes the now-famous correction, "my name is Mr. Cody, not Jesus." Hope's first run of T-shirts sold out so quickly that she had to take advance orders for another batch. All told, she sold over 50 of them before graduating and moving to Boston for college. She's glad to hear that most of those 50 shirts are still seen at school and around town, but Hope remembers one customer who bought a shirt from her and then never wore it: Mr. Cody. "I'd like to ask him what he ever did with his shirt," she wonders from her new East Coast home. "Maybe his wife wears it to bed or something."--G.M.

click to enlarge kids-0512-evolve.jpg

Photograph by Rory McNamara

Best Place to Evolve
Step into Darwin's Workshop and you are stepping into the world of the 19th-century naturalist. The skeleton of a huge bird hangs from the ceiling. Skulls, chemistry equipment, microscopes, shells, seeds and a myriad of other objects to contemplate crowd the display cases and line the walls. It was in such an environment that Charles Darwin first organized his theory of evolution, and it is in this environment that Magi Discoe tutors students in science. After 15 years teaching biological and physical science at the high school honors course level (including three years as science department chair at Berkeley High), Discoe has chosen to leave the urban school environment, with its budget and curriculum constraints, to return to the one-on-one relationship with both students and nature available only to a rural naturalist. With her laboratory--like Darwin's--an integral part of her home, and with the natural world literally at her Green Valley front door, she can help individual students or small groups learn at their own pace in an entirely lab-based environment. "I've always considered myself a professional asker of questions," says Discoe. "Now I have the chance to help students learn in the most basic sense of the word--not just to memorize facts, but to develop the skills of analysis and critical thinking that will let them discover the concepts behind those facts." Darwin's Workshop offers science tutoring, workshops and enrichment programs for individuals and small groups, from middle school through junior college level. Contact Magi Discoe at 707.823.2758 or visit her website (currently under construction) at

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Best Place to Watch a Moviewith a Crying Baby
There comes a point in every new parent's life when it's time to screw convention and take your little bundle of joy somewhere totally inappropriate--like Masa's. Hey, you haven't been out of the house in, what, eight months? And despite every prayer you've made to the gods above to please let baby sleep for the next two hours, inevitably your little angel decides to fill his drawers, scream nonstop, throw up and generally act satanic to your (and everyone else's) horror. So much for that. There is an answer that does not involve Valium for anyone. Each Thursday at 11am, the Raven Theater features a first-run film for the Baby Brigade. Sure, there's lots of screaming, crying and hysterics, but that's just part of the fun. Bond with other exhausted mommies and daddies, catch at least a few minutes of that movie everyone else is talking about and stop worrying about your little screamer--who will, of course, probably sleep through the whole thing. Raven Theater Baby Brigade, every Thursday at 11am. 415 Center St., Healdsburg. 707.433.5448.--H.I.

Best Place To Prepare for the Draft
Consider the true appeal of Q-Zar in Rohnert Park. Forget the neon-lit, Tron-esque, laser-tag attractions. (Hell, that's just good, clean, American fun.) What many parents don't realize is that the majority of the arcade games lined up in a neat orderly row at Q-Zar give youngsters a visceral taste of virtual military mayhem. Check out the names: Special Air Assault Force, Gunblade, Ranger Mission and, of course, Beach Head 2002, in which a virtual gun turret operates much like a real one with each shot, miss and hit displayed on a large oversized screen. Then, to train the Bambi killers of the future, there are the plainly named Deer Hunting and Sport Shooting. What's next, Battle for Tikrit? Afghan Cave Patrol? If so, we want royalties. Q-Zar, 6591 Commerce Blvd., Rohnert Park. 707.588.8100.--D.T.

Best Decompression
Raising very young children is like being around a drunk: they drool, babble, crap their pants, fall down, get emotional and teary, and will remember nothing later. A stay-at-home parent has a tough, sleep-deprived, unpaid job, and occasionally needs a good mental-health day like the rest of us. Francis Ford's Niebaum-Coppola Winery in the Napa Valley has beautiful grounds, wine-dipped cigars, Apocalypse Now T-shirts and, of course, wine. Take a tasting (evidently called a "flight" in winespeak) and live in the moment, savoring your time away from the little ones. Breathe the open air and laze on the veranda. Consider the simplicity of the low hills and the blue sky and nothing but grapes for miles around. The drive there and back is scenic, and you can take a bottle or two home for those days that push you to the limit. Niebaum-Coppola Winery, 1991 St. Helena Hwy., Rutherford. Bring money 'cause it ain't free and it ain't cheap. 707.968.1100.--M.P.

Best Place to Get Inside Snoopy's Head
Labyrinths and mazes are two different things. In a maze, such as the traffic-slowing corn maze at the bottom of the Cotati Grade, the object of the thing is to challenge all who enter, to get them lost and to force them to figure out how to get out again. In short, it's a game. A labyrinth is a different animal. Using complex geometric patterns, a labyrinth does not offer several pathways from which to choose, but a single, intricately designed path to the center of labyrinth and then back out again. With no guessing and calculating needed, the walking of a labyrinth becomes an intentional endeavor that many find useful as a kind of physicalized boost to acts of mediation and prayer. Though the earliest known labyrinths, including a very famous one in Crete, predate Christianity by a thousand years, the use of labyrinths as a spiritual tool became popular in the Middle Ages, and since have been employed by nearly every major faith in the world. Of course, your kids won't care a hoot about any of that, but you might try to pass on some of the significance of labyrinth history as you work your collective way into and out of the one-of-a-kind Snoopy labyrinth just outside the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Designed by renowned labyrinth maker Lea Goode-Harris and installed in 2002, the Snoopy-shaped labyrinth leads visitors down a merry, twisted way into the head of the famous fantasy-inclined dog. It may not be what those old dead guys in Crete would have dreamed of, but by the looks on the faces of people who come from across the country to visit the home of the late "Peanuts" cartoonist, no one's going to get away with saying that walking this labyrinth isn't a deeply spiritual experience. Snoopy labyrinth, at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa. 707.579.4452. --D.T.

Best Place to Tell Your Teenage Daughter ‘No!'(and Really Mean It This Time)
It's no secret that children are maturing faster these days. Whether the cause is MTV, the rise of Internet pornography or the hormone-happy factory-farm industry, the end result is the same: The bar has been lowered for today's teenagers. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the changing nature of rites of passage. Consider, for example, the tattoo parlor. In the not-so-distant past, when this writer was coming of age, the first visit to the tattoo parlor was often celebrated at the completion of military boot camp, upon which graduates were rewarded with free transport to the nearest red light district, where hookers and needlework abound. I myself made such a journey once, waiting in line for hours with a friend whose apparent lifelong ambition was to have Tweetie Bird, Yosemite Sam and the Tasmanian Devil tattooed on his thighs and stomach. Mine was to have a Rolling Stones tongue permanently inked onto my biceps. He was ahead of me in line, and right before he dropped his pants, he turned to me and said, "Just think, that tongue will be there when they put you in the pine box." To this day, I remain unmarked. I say unto you, Mr. and Mrs. Parents of Young Teenaged Girls, it is not too late to put a stop to the madness! Don't worry about making a scene. She'll thank you for it later, or at worst go into a depressive funk from which she'll never recover. If you can't win, you can't lose by at least using Bert's Santa Rosa Tattoo Studio and Body Piercing, 106 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. 707.526.0471.--R.V.S.

Best Place to Pump Your Kids Up
Children's birthday parties are a magical thing. Loads of sugar and hours of screaming replete with clowns, tantrums, crying and the inevitable accident. Which is why most parents shed a tear of joy when their babies reach the age when they're old enough to be dropped off and this all becomes someone else's problem--at least for a few hours. Sign the medical release and cheer when your child is invited to a birthday party at Pump It Up. She'll be treated to plenty of cake and ice cream, a magical room filled with candy-colored inflatable jumpers and enough games and activities guaranteed to wear her out. Oh, joy! Pump it Up, 3360 Coffey Lane, Ste. A, Santa Rosa. 707.545.1726.--H.I.

Best trigger-finger tryout
Even seven-year-olds have a need for speed. In this case, we're talking about the kind that goes flying off the table, catches air and then rams into other seven-year-olds. Slot cars are a hot ticket for the peanut-butter-and-jelly set, who seem to prefer to run them full speed around the indoor tracks, forcing parents to reset them again and again and again. Whee! Good, clean fun for the whole family, slot cars are small racing machines that stop and go according to how fast your trigger finger is. Zipping around the track, they make a lovely whizzing sound until they crunch headlong into each other. Double whee! Just remember to take a few Advil along. You'll need them. Slot Car Raceway, 305 Southwest Blvd., Rohnert Park. 707.795.4196.--H.I.

Best Place to Eat Cement
Sadly, there are only so many years your child will be seen with you in public without suffering from fear and shame. So when that alien creature that is your preteen hits the magical "I hate you" stage, get yourself some serious cred with the Clearasil crowd and take him BMX-ing at Petaluma's Ramp Rats Skatepark. An indoor free-for-all for bikers and skateboarders, you can beam with pride as your little skatepunk goes careening into the wall over and over again. Pretend not to notice the tears of pain and humiliation in his eyes as he eats concrete. Just be sure to give him a big embarrassing hug afterwards. He deserves it! 1004 Lakeville St., Petaluma. 707.766.RAMP.--H.I.

Best Place to Watch Your Kids Get Pecked by Geese
The Birds was so menacing because Hitchcock took a common, everyday bird and showed how, when massed together and screaming for human blood, things could get ugly quickly. Marin County's Civic Center has a huge pond that is home to several varieties of waterfowl, most of whom, thankfully, are peace-loving creatures. The center is a great place to bring the kids for some outdoor fun; there's a playground for the young ones, the pond (watch where you step!), an impressive farmers market on Thursdays and Sundays, and the Civic Center itself, with its simultaneously retro and futuristic design by Frank Lloyd Wright. Pony rides--monotony for the pony but great fun for the children--take place on the grass. It's Marin County, so smell the money in the air and notice the housewives hauling shopping bags full of crap from Sharper Image, but don't let that get you down. The Civic Center is a nice place to give the kids, and yourself, some free reign. Civic Center Drive, San Rafael. The farmers market runs Thursday and Sunday, 8am to 1pm.--M.P.

Best upscale Cheerios bar
Family dining comes at a terribly high price. For the sake of the children, parents must endure rubber chicken, ranch dip and greasy fries again and again. Oh, the inhumanity of it all! Newly opened, Flavor comes to the rescue of parental taste buds everywhere. This kid-friendly restaurant is upscale enough to warrant a clean shirt and something other than tennis shoes for mom and dad, and features some of the best crab cakes we've ever tasted. Nippers get their own menu, and in the large, echoing room, a few fart noises and giggles from the little rascals will barely be noticed. Flavor, 96 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa. 707.573.9600.--H.I.

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From the March 23-29, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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