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NEIGHBORS : Strumming Banjo Cures His Blues : Doctor finds relief in music. His hobby lands him in first place at an amateur contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.


Dr. Mark Rast has had a ringing in his ears for the past 19 years. His is an infectious condition known as plectrum mbanza --banjo playing.

Rast finally got some relief at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival where he took home top prize, a $1,700 Gibson banjo. Rast said he was surprised by his finish at one of the nation's top amateur contests.

"I played four songs. Two in the preliminary and two in the finals. Two of the four I played were original."

Rast hasn't played in a band since college because his work, first as a resident at Ventura County Hospital and later as a general practitioner at Las Islas Clinic in Oxnard, has consumed most of his time.

More recently, fatherhood--Rast has two children, one age 3 and the other 5 months--has reduced his practice to half an hour, four times a week in the garage.

Previous first-place winners of the contest have gone on to professional gigs, but Rast is not so musically enthusiastic.

"The rule in bluegrass is don't give up your day job."


Jim Lyons (a.k.a. Capt. Barbecue) is warming up for the Fourth of July.

He's been traveling to various spots in Ventura County, giving tips on what he calls Southern California Q, "for people who are appetite rich and time poor."

Most important: He says use the tri-tip portion of the sirloin for quick, tasty results.

"It takes 12 to 22 minutes versus two hours or more for a brisket. In 22 minutes you can cook the beans and garlic bread, too. All of it on the grill. You can cook anything on the grill."

Lyons, who teaches a class in barbecue at the Learning Tree University, said marinating beforehand is critical. His soon-to-be-published book on barbecue covers marinating and more.

Among the recipes is chocolate chip cookies a la carbon .


Happy (Ouch!) Father's Day.

Kimberly Ferguson, 10, of Ventura, served up a whale of a present for dad's day by pitching three no-hitters over the Father's Day weekend.

In one game of the Ventura County All-Stars Softball Tournament in Camarillo, Kimberly accounted for 14 of the 15 outs. Coach Mike Evans said that in a fourth game, she came on in relief and held the opposition hitless for three innings to collect the save. Evans said Kimberly's control is awesome and he can't even guess how fast the 75-pound hurler throws.

Her dad, Thomas Ferguson, said Kimberly, the youngest of his four girls, throws so hard that you need a glove to catch her balls.

"Unless the balls are clean, white and highly visible, they can be difficult to catch. I've been injured numerous times by her pitches. When they come in there they whack you pretty good," he said. "But I guess all that, all the broken windows and house damage over the years was worth it."


The Ventura County Sheriff's Department added an honorary deputy to its ranks when Jeff Watlington, 42, was deputized in connection with his third participation in the annual Special Olympics Torch Run. Watlington, who has Down's syndrome, is the brother of sheriff's Sgt. Bruce Watlington. The two were part of a relay team that carried the torch for last weekend's Special Olympics.

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