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NEIGHBORS : This Avocado Makes a Lot of Guacamole : The huge Schiller variety, picked off the Fillmore tree of Clark Johnson, weighs in at 5 pounds. It's on display at the county fair.


Holy guacamole! Did you see that avocado?

Clark Johnson of Fillmore displayed an avocado at the Ventura County Fair that, if it were a boxer, would be George Foreman.

The mammoth Schiller avocado tips the scales at five pounds. At about 50 calories per ounce, that's 4,000 calories worth of avo.

"I wear a helmet when I'm driving under the tree. I got hit once by a slightly smaller fruit and it about knocked me off the tractor," Johnson said.

Johnson's AP&J Ranches boasts a dozen different, more modestly sized varieties of avocados, some of which were also on display at the agriculture building.

So how do you pick the four avocados you enter in the fair from among the hundreds that grow on any given tree?

"I just grabbed the first I could reach. They're all the same, one as good as the other."

Johnson comes from some distinguished rootstock himself. He's a fifth-generation Ventura County resident and his grandfather, Sydney Peyton, was one of the first to grow avocados in the United States, he said.

Peyton was widely acknowledged to be the "best budder in the valley." It was said of him that if it could be grafted, he could grow it.


Ventura playwright and teacher George Keenen leaves for a one-year stint in England to work on another creative project, this one involving early childhood education.

He will go to Emerson College to study the Waldorf method, an education plan developed by Austrian Rudolph Steiner.

"In the Waldorf method, the first seven years of a child's education have an emphasis on the creative, music, arts and languages. And that's mostly what I will be doing in England. The college has some academic learning, but mostly it's doing the sort of things the kids do."

Keenen has been in Ventura for five years. He taught journalism at Ventura College. He was also active in the artist-in-the-classroom program in Ventura public schools.

Keenen is taking his young son, Dylan, but he is leaving behind another of his creations: "The Piano Lesson," a play for children, which opens this fall in Ventura and Santa Paula. Theaters to be announced.


A part of writer Jack London's morning routine was on display last week at the Phantom Bookshop in Ventura.

The bookshop owns several London artifacts including his razor, coffeepot and clean white shirt. Or rather, just a white shirt.

"I don't know if it was clean when we bought it at auction," said co-owner John Anthony Miller. "I'd describe it simply as a fluffy, poet-type, white shirt with London's monogram on it. Looking at the shirt, it's really surprising how small and frail he was."

The razor is a bone handle straight razor and the coffeepot is, well, just a coffeepot.

The Phantom, which specializes in antiquarian and rare books, has the requisite first editions of London's books, some photo albums and early wax recording cylinders that, as far as anyone knows, are the only recordings of London's voice.

"They're really scratchy and full of static, but we're trying to have all the noise removed so we can really get an idea of what he sounded like," Miller said.

The Phantom also has an unstrung bow (arrows not included) that London brought back from the Solomon Islands. The artifacts illustrated a lecture given on London, his life and work. The talk was part of the recently minted Great Literary Artist Series, an occasional feature at the Phantom Bookshop.

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