Expect Miracles Series
Peter, Herb & The Hallowed Halls of 145 Canon Drive, Santa Barbara
By Lynn U Stewart
This is a tribute to Herb Gravitz, our dear friend and housemate in Santa Barbara. He has left us and has gone to the other side and we are left with a host of memories that will be emblazed in our consciousness forever. The following is the story about how a total stranger became a housemate and special friend.
In 1989, we two sisters, refurbished an LA home, sold it and moved to Santa Barbara CA. After 18 years of SB living, raising Jennifer (Cherie’s daughter) and getting her launched into her east coast life, we leased our home to vacation renters. For six years, people loved coming to our home. It served wedding parties, graduation weeks of happy UCSB students and family reunions. It was a happy home filled with celebrations and magical memoires. Each guest memorialized their trip to Santa Barbara with some precious leave-behind thank you gift to express their gratitude. Flowers, bottles of wine and baby accessories were welcome gifts to us for our hospitality and willingness to share our home. It was a happy time for all…happy owners and happy vacationers.
When the Santa Barbara fire happened, Cathy and Marc lost their home. With nothing tangible left in the world, they called us to find out if our home was for rent. For the next three years, they too lived happily in our home, until one day, we discovered our beautiful 5,000 square foot Santa Barbara home had a case of termites, wood rot and worst of all MOLD. We were devastated. How could this have happened? How could we not know? What had happened to our wonderful home? Cathy and Marc had to immediately relocate and Cherie and Michael had to move home to take care of business. Five areas of the house were quarantined and needed to be demolished. The house was hacked, and chopped, battered and bruised as every trace of mold and wood rot was carved away. Seeing the sky above and the earth below in important areas was heart breaking. The downstairs powder room, the kitchen and the family room were carved away and the process was literally earth shattering for all of us.
The house was going through a major overhaul. Forty-three windows were replaced; fourteen doors and three terraces were rebuilt. It was a construction site with plotting, painting and workmen everywhere, around the clock, as they breathed new life into our ailing home. The house had gone through intensive care and was finally declared safe again for living.
The question of why this had happened was answered with the realization that the house needed “family member attention.” The house needed to be first in someone’s life. The series of calamities rendered it first in our lives and all resources and attention were assigned to it. Eight months later the house was back in order with everything updated: a new look of white trim, slate green siding and a Feng Shui red door; the house was stripped, gutted, restored, reroofed and ready to be formally inhabited again.
But now we had to be really selective to find the lucky one(s) to live in our precious newly redone home.
During the redo of the 145 house, Cherie and Michael were enrolled in computer classes at the Apple Store. While sitting at the “Genius Bar” in our State Street Store, they met Dr Peter Levy. As they talked and discussed their Apple histories, also their personal stories were easily shared. M & C recounted the story of the house and their desire to find a “house mate.” They felt the house needed companionship… with its owners, but we were all globally curious leaving little time to come home. It became clear that the house needed a constant companion with a connection with our family, so that we could come back from parts of “the world” on a more frequent basis. When they shared this “want,” all of their friends made fun of their idea. How do you find a housemate? There are renters, family or friends, but it is impossible “to combine these relationships” Everyone laughed except Peter. His respect for M & C was grounded and rooted in the possibility thinking and confirmed their belief that it actually could happen. He heard their dream.
And then the search began…Peter had a psychologist friend Herb who was looking for a new home. Having lived at the beach all of his Santa Barbara life, he had very special needs for his next home. When Peter shared with Herb about his new friends and explained about the house and its magical stories, Herb was intrigued. When he heard the address, Herb was flabbergasted. The 145 Canon Drive house was a dream house for him. As a runner, he had passed the house every day on his circuit. He had asked immediately for an appointment with Michael and Cherie and when they met it was like a home coming for all of them. The sparks of friendship and family were ignited and there was an uncanny connection. Herb spent three weeks making up his mind. He would come and sit in each room and wait for “messages” from the house. He claimed the house spoke to him. His three sons tried to talk him out of it as it was a walk on the wild side. For a single scholarly man with a formidable collection of books and an aquarium, a 5,000 square feet house seemed like a large undertaking. One man living in a five bedroom house seemed slightly over the top and the boys took Herb on three different caravan tours to help dissuade him from his risky choice.
Herb moved in May 2012 and has been living there happily after till July 2015. We the owning family came and visited twice a year and had our own family reunions with Herb and of course Peter, who took over the position of care taking the house, connecting at all times the new family member Herb.
The two men were the best of friends as were all of us. Delighted with our special house mate and friend, the house was once again providing a safe space for all of us to enjoy our lives of travel, teaching and time together in Santa Barbara.
Two weeks ago Herb passed away. It brought up all these memories that I shared with you. In remembrance I can say that Herb brought to me, as my Dutch friends say, ‘miles of smiles, sparkles and twinkles ‘ and I will always remember and love him for that. For me he is a real trooper, a survivor, a scholar, a friend, a housemate and so much more. He is family. I will always honor him as such. Herb has a special connection with the house and with each family member. It is as if he has always been there, and in truth I know now, he is part of the 145 Canon Drive magic way back then and continues to be. Who knows where he – in his cherubic space and sparkles – will show up next? I have sufficiently fastened my seat belt and I’m on “twinkle alert” for he is surely working his magic from this side and the other world.