On a brisk January day, I met Jonathan “Pac” Cantin, known to most as JonnyPac, at In-n-Out in Placerville, CA. The last I had heard, the designer of Hangtown, Coloma, and Fistful of Meeples had some sort of nefarious plan for me; we were to drive around gold country for a while, and end up at his favorite restaurant. So I climbed into his car, and we left civilization as I knew it. Note: If you never see this, I was murdered and my body is in a creek in the Sierra foothills. Tell my wife I love her.
DTD: All right, we are going. Where are we heading first?
JPC: We are heading to Coloma.
JPC: From Coal Springs road. There’s 2 main roads to get there and this side of town goes down Coal Spring, and then the other one is the historic highway 49, and we will probably see a little bit of that on the way back.
DTD: I’ve been up and down some of 49. For a while, Renee and I every year would go on an anniversary trip and we would pick somewhere kind of random and go for a week or so. We hit this side of Sacramento a couple of times, and Grass Valley was one of our favorites. Had a really good time.
JPC: I like it there.
DTD: Stayed at the old Holbrooke [Hotel]. It was the classic 1800s hotel. I think it is closed now.
The Holbrooke has been housing customers since 1852, and it is currently closed for renovation. Hopefully it comes back nicer than ever.
JPC: Yeah, I like Nevada City and Grass Valley and even Auburn are cool little towns. Make little road trips up there sometimes. 49 south over here goes down to Jackson.
DTD: Yup. And one of our trips we hung out in Plymouth and Jackson. Stayed at a little bed and breakfast, I think actually in Jackson. There was a really nice, snooty little restaurant in Plymouth called Taste.
Just some orientation for non-Northern Californians—Placerville is east of Sacramento, at the base of the Sierra range of mountains. If you head into the mountains, you can get to Truckee, Tahoe, and eventually Reno on the other side. If you go north on route 49 from Placerville, you go through Coloma, then Auburn, and eventually hit the twin cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City. If you instead follow the base of the Sierras south on route 49, you will arrive at Plymouth, Sutter Creek, and Jackson, hot points in California’s Amador Valley wine region.
JPC: Yeah, that place is a little expensive.
DTD: It’s been a really long time. I’m digging back like 20 years. But man, we had a good time. Drinking wine from Amador [County], wandering around the board walk downtown over there. That was very fun.
JPC: I like it down there. There’s a lot of good thrift stores down there and they don’t get picked over by hipsters too much, so…if you are a hipster, it’s good to go down there and pick them over. [laughs]
DTD: No, no, there’s no hipsters here, no no no. That wouldn’t happen. [laughs]
Jonny is a hipster. Just look at the pictures.
JPC: In fact, I got this vintage jacket in Jackson.
DTD: It’s weird, every little town around here has their food festival. And a lot of times it has nothing to do with the actual food. So, if you go to the almond festival in Calusa, there’s rides and bikers and slides and almost nothing to do with almonds. And you go to the mandarin festival, which is around here somewhere, it’s gifts and crafts, and almost no oranges.
The Mandarin Festival is in Auburn, CA. Thanks, research dept.
JPC: Well of course our one is Apple Hill. But they actually do celebrate apples pretty much there.
DTD: But that’s not a festival, so much as a weird amusement park. It goes all summer long. I’ve certainly parked in a field in the middle of nowhere and bought an apple from somebody that I’m not quite sure was associated with the festival. That’s the experience, isn’t it?
JPC: Yes. I made one of the modules in Sierra West after Apple Hill, because I was thinking, “Ah, harvest season!” And there’s a few things in there.
DTD: That’s the intro one, isn’t it?
JPC: Yeah, yeah. It’s named after that.
DTD: Yeah, I wondered if Apple Hill was on your mind.
JPC: I guess the problem with it, is people are looking at historical… was it concurrent that people came over in covered wagons and suddenly there’s apple hill there? No, that whole farmers association was created later. And a lot of the most popular apples that they grow there weren’t of the time. There’s even someone on BGG pointed out, “Technically Granny Smith apples were hybridized in Australia at this point, and they weren’t brought to the Americas until…” And I was like, “You know what—it’s my favorite kind of apple, though, so I put it in there.” So, deal with it.
Apple Hill is a tourist-centric community of apple growers in the foothills around Placerville, CA. Technically, Apple Hill started in 1964, when a group of devastated pear growers [there was a pear blight in the early 60’s that destroyed the crop] got together to work on apples.
And yes, Granny Smith apples were created in Australia in 1868.
DTD: Poetic license. I can do what I want.
JPC: Oh yeah. There’s a few other Easter eggs in Sierra West that don’t exactly make sense. Of course, the Deliverance reference gets out with the boats and banjos. And it’s a hazard to find a guy with a banjo.
Da da dum, dum, dum, dum, dum.. dum… duuum.
You know what I’m talking about.
DTD: That one was great. That sold me on the game.
JPC: There’s another one which is a riff on a riff, which is the… each scenario has its own little special animal that comes with it, and one of them was the badger. I actually asked for a honey badger, but they put the English badger in there which doesn’t quite work. But the whole point of it was there’s the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and the famous line, “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” Then in the 80s Weird Al did that UHF movie and there’s weird little scene where this guy is running a pet shop and has this little show that talks about all these animals. And kind of Mr. Rodgers, a delivery guy shows up to deliver new animals. And he’s going down the list, and then they’ve got these cages of badgers and the guy gets crazy on him. “Badgers?!? We don’t need no stinking badgers!” So that scenario, with the badges in it, and we decided to put badgers in it. And that’s how that little Easter egg got in it.
DTD: That’s awesome. One of the interviews I did was with Scott Caputo, and I would name each segment of these interviews. So, one segment of the Scott Caputo interview is called Sorcerer City! Sorcerer City! Sorcerer City! After UHF. Actually, just got my copy of that today.
JPC: Oh, you did? The Kickstarter one with all the fancy…?
DTD: No, I missed the Kickstarter one and I feel bad. It flew under my radar, then I talked to Scott about it and I got really excited about it. It’s the kind of game that I like. The kind of game Renee likes. I got it on retail. But it came with a nifty pin with a beholder on it for some reason. But it looks very fun.
JPC: I got to playtest that one at some point, but I don’t know if I’ve ever played a finished version of it. So, my experience of it may not be what the game is right now. I think it was either just got signed or just before it got signed, that I played it.
DTD: I remember him saying that it got a lot of changes along the road. But I like it for its simplicity. And also, I’m really starting to like real-time games that have short little real-time segments. Not a huge fan of “This game lasts exactly 10 minutes – go.” But if you get to talk about it and plan for it for a while, and then it says, “OK, now you get 1 minute to do some stuff – panic.” And then it ends and you discuss, figure out, replan and regroup. I like that a lot. More and more of those are coming. And I’ve been happy with them.
JPC: Yeah, that kind of reminds me, you’re probably thinking of Flatline is kind of like that. That Kane Klenko game where you have moments where you need to chuck dice like crazy and do that FUSE kind of thing. But you can stop for a moment.
DTD: Yeah, FUSE was just nuts.
JPC: Yeah, that’s the 10 minute one. That and Escape [Curse of the Temple].
DTD: Even his new Pandemic riff is fun, but it’s just constant insanity. And you buy yourself more time as you get better. Yeah, I really liked Flatline. There was a not really well known Kickstarter game that was Project Elite. That was a “killing aliens as they come down tracks game”, that had 2 minutes of absolute insanity, and then regroup and work with the other people because it’s co-op. And then 2 minutes of absolute insanity again.
JPC: OK. I don’t know that one.
Pending a global viral pandemic. Oops, spoiler alert.
JPC: OK, so it’ll make a splash then.
DTD: Yeah, it’ll make a big hit. You been following up on the Kickstarter day of doom that happened yesterday?
JPC: Supposedly. That’s what everybody was saying. That’s because of the…?
DTD: Three huge Kickstarters all at the same time.
On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, wallets all across the world cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced…
JPC: That was the Tower game reprint.
DTD: Dark Tower. And Foundations of Rome, which is the big huge Dice Tower Essentials, Arcane Wonders, Emerson Matsuuchi game. And…oh, my brain is drawing a complete blank. I’ve been talking about these three huge Kickstarters for a long…Oath! The new one from Leder Games, makers of Vast and Root.
JPC: Oh, the RPG-ish type of game! That makes sense. Because I saw people talking about how they are blowing a lot of money yesterday.
DTD: Yesterday was nuts. And there were some other little ones that I may or may not have backed as well. I’m turning into a horrible Kickstarter person.
JPC: I think 2019 was the most Kickstarters I have backed personally.
DTD: Games just get better and better, so it’s hard not to. Man, it is so pretty out here.
JPC: Yeah, this is a nice little area. So, there was definitely a lot of little gold camps out here in this area. I think the town of Gold Hill was around this area. And that’s nonexistent now too. So, there’s kind of that era, where some towns came and went really quick, and there’s nothing left to show. And then a few of them turned into residential districts or nothing at all. We are in between them right now.
DTD: I didn’t grow up in California; I grew up on the east coast.
JPC: Oh, OK.
DTD: And that’s one of things I love about California is that there’s all these big empty spaces between towns and between cities, and along the big highways you kind of know all of the towns and the cities but when you get off of the beaten path, there’s these towns you’ve never heard of. And still, I’ve been here a while now, and I still find these little towns that are just amazing that I know nothing about. But I mean, you’re obviously, you’re in love with this gold country and everything going on around here. All your games have it in there. Did you grow up in this area?
JPC: Yea, yea. I grew up in the area. I wasn’t as invested in the history, as fascinated, until I started getting into theming the games and stuff that way, and that led me down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out more of this stuff, going to some of the sites, checking it out. So that definitely led in. When I was working on Hangtown, I actually went up and down the street looking for buildings to be in the game that would have actually made sense in the time period of that, and be like, “Well, this building was standing, but it was this,” or “This one wasn’t, and this one got burned down.” And I tried to pick out the buildings that you could, if you wanted to do a walking tour and see the site of the buildings for whatever reason. There were a few of them that were prominent at the time that are now like a parking lot. [laughs] Which I didn’t feature in the game anyway, because if you look back again at history folks and stuff, you see a lot of pictures of that particular building in the background. And then there’s a few little odds and ends that made it in the mix that were tertiary areas, like in Coloma. Like the first card you get in the Hangtown game was the Sutter’s Mill. That kind of spurs that off, and that’s also your starting card in Coloma. So, there’s that similarity between the two games. And now we are in Coloma!
JPC: So, this is where Highway 49 and Cold Springs Road intersect. Here’s the Sutter’s Mill spot, we can swing in there real quick, and take a quick peek.
We got out of Jonny’s car to walk around and check out the Mill. The actual Mill barely stands now, but a faithful reconstruction sits higher, by the road.
JPC: [Mount] Murphy over here to the right. The grass turns bright gold in the summer. It’s so beautiful.
DTD: I don’t think I’ve ever been here. I know I’ve been up and down 49, but this is just neat. So you’ve done the whole panning thing?
JPC: Yeah, I have a friend that’s a gold miner. He pans, has these dry suits, and goes to these undiscovered riverbeds. And every once in a while, if he’s going to an accessible spot will drag me along and show me where to look.
DTD: Oh, that’s so cool.
JPC: Got a good feel for it, can point to the river and say, “You are better off there than there.” Yeah, he looks over all these topo maps, and he finds these spots, and looks at Google Earth and finds these inaccessible spots, where if you drive here and hike straight through the forest and straight down the hill to this…where there once was a camp or something. And he’ll come back with a decent living of gold.
DTD: That’s so cool that people can still do that.
JPC: I mean, overall, it’s picked over. You gotta be smart like this guy and do it every single day and know that most days you will walk away with nothing, but the days that you find something, it will make up the difference. It’s pretty intense, he wears a… it’s not a wet suit, it’s a dry suit he will wear. And then he ties rocks and bricks to himself and sinks himself to the bottom of the river. And he goes down there with a turkey baster and spoon and digs out the cracks and gets that and puts it in the dish and pans it out until he finds stuff.
JPC: It’s something. Lives off of M&Ms and sardines as far as I gather. [laughs]
DTD: [laughs] well, you know. Work like that takes a very special kind of fuel.
JPC: He definitely has gold fever. Good musician, too.
You’re welcome, Buonocore.
DTD: I could have guessed that, I think.
JPC: We play music together mostly, and he does his gold mining and disappears for a week or two at a time.
DTD: Well that’s pretty awesome. It still has that undisturbed feeling out here. I mean we are walking around a park with remade reconstructions, but it’s a lot different from what you get in a lot of little parks and landmarks.
JPC: Sure. And it’s that time of year because the white-water rafting in the summer makes this place a different vibe altogether. You get a lot of raft guides from Australia and New Zealand all over the place to work at the rafting companies and then it’s just like…
DTD: I always thought this area stayed pretty sleepy.
JPC: No, not in summer. I actually don’t come down here in summer; I don’t like the vibe. Yeah, some of these buildings are still walls of them are original.
DTD: I saw one that we went by had a sign by it that had the history of it.
Jonny and I climbed back into the car, continuing our quest for food.
JPC: Yeah, then there’s kind of half of an old broken jail over there. Walk right out of it now. [laughs] And I think the Marshall monument is up on the hill here. There’s a little trail you can go up there and there’s a nice little statue.
DTD: Oh, cool. So, when this was hopping, what was the big town everybody would go in and out of to sell their wares, touch with reality, things like that? Was it Sacramento at that point? That’s going to be a long, long hike for someone in the 1800s.
JPC: Yeah, so this was hopping, and Placerville was hopping at about the same time.
DTD: So, it was Placerville.
JPC: There’s that, and then the county seat changed from Coloma to Placerville pretty much towards the end of the gold rush.
DTD: I didn’t know Coloma was the county seat.
JPC: Yeah, briefly.
In 1850 El Dorado County was established in gold crazy California, with Coloma serving as its county seat. In 1857, when the gold was drying up, the county seat was moved to the metropolis of Placerville, where it still resides today.
DTD: That is Nevada County?
JPC: It’s El Dorado.
DTD: El Dorado County. It’s got that feeling that I like up in Santa Rosa too – kind of quiet, a little isolated, woodsy.
JPC: I liked it up there. The place was cool.
DTD: So, you weren’t designing games when you were really young—you did that relatively recently, didn’t you?
JPC: I started designing, I mean taking an actual stab at it, I would say it was 2012. So, when I did that, the first game I designed got picked up, so I didn’t go through that process of going through a zillion prototypes and getting rejected a lot; I lucked into something real quick. But then that turned out to be a bad situation.
DTD: Yeah, was that a Protospiel kind of thing, lots of people getting together, someone picked it up? Or this was just a shot in the dark.
JPC: I fell in with a guy who’s actually with the interns that connected me with the company, and then it was those interns that actually did a bad job working on the game. So, it was just a strange thing how that worked out. I went to GenCon or the release of the game; I hadn’t seen it, and that’s where it came out. And that’s also where I discovered it was not in good condition.
DTD: Dramatically changed.
JPC: Yeah, I remember kind of feeling a state of crisis. Going, “OK, there’s so many people here. Only a small percent of them are game designers that make the games. Of that small percent, wow—I’m one of them. An even smaller percent have their game that’s royally botched.” So, I was like, “How did this come to be? I’m the guy with this really…”
DTD: GenCon is a hell of a place to run into that too. If you are going to have an existential crisis, GenCon is not the place to do it. I just wanted to crawl in a corner and die the first time I walked into GenCon.
JPC: That’s exactly how I felt.
DTD: 50,000 people in orc suits staring at me.
JPC: Exactly. It was my first major convention. First game release. I hadn’t seen the game, hadn’t seen a proof, because they didn’t get any proofs. And got there and saw it in that shape; I mean I just went out in the halls and just kind of crumbled. And I knew I had to be there for a few more days and sift through it. And I didn’t go back to GenCon until just this year. Board & Dice asked me to go, and I was hesitant, but I was like, “Alright, well it’s got to be better than last time, because Sierra West isn’t…” Well, it’s not messed up, right? And so, like alright, I’ll be with the company and these guys are cool. I’m going to make this good. And so I decided to go, and I went through other strange things, but this GenCon was interesting because on the way there this giant truck had spilled on the road to Sacramento, and there was sharp metal and junk all over the highway. We barely made the plane and got on it. So I’m on the plane and we fly into Denver and there’s this massive storm and it’s just delayed the flight, and they had to kick us back to another one, and it was going to be like 3 in the morning when we finally made it to Indy. So we go into a restaurant just to wait it out and Alex Kevern was reading the menu as we walked into the same restaurant. And of course I’m a big fan of him, and so…I wouldn’t have recognized him, but the folks I was with are like “That’s Alex Kevern!” So, I’m like, “Dude!” So, I got to have dinner with him.
DTD: That’s awesome!
JPC: And talk about his stuff. He was on his way to pitch some things and get some insights about his games.
DTD: GenCon has got this weird magnetic vibe to it where you just randomly run into the strangest people, and the probabilities are that you shouldn’t. You really should not, in a city the size of Indianapolis, and a convention the size of GenCon, you just shouldn’t. But every time I’ve gone, I’ve crashed into the strangest, most random, perfect group of people. I still don’t like GenCon.
JPC: It’s not my favorite. So, we go up there, so it turns out they left my luggage in the rain in Denver. And so I got to Indianapolis at 4 in the morning, some crazy hour after getting an Uber and stuff. I found the Board & Dice hotel that they were staying at, and checked in. And I laid out all my clothes across the ironing board and everything else just trying to get something dry. And about the only thing that was dry was the clothes I was wearing and the Crocs I had, because my shoes got soaked. So, I ended up wearing Crocs for about 4 days. So, we go to the booth the next day, and I’m tired, I haven’t slept at all, because by the time I got there, and dried everything off, I had to shuttle over to the booth and get set up. And Sierra West was released that morning, and it sold out by the next morning. So that was really cool and the response was positive, and I was giving demos, and I was like, “Hey, this is awesome!” And had some neat moments where I got to meet Stefan Feld; that was exciting, I’m a big fan of him.
DTD: Very cool.
JPC: And he was there, he was over at the Queen booth. He was doing signing and I already owned all of his games that I could get my hands on. So, I wanted him to sign something, so I was like, “I should just buy some game of his.”
JPC: The only one they had at Queen that I didn’t own already was It Happens, which is kind of a dice party game he did a while back. So, he’s going around signing things. He comes up, and I was like “Can you put a ‘SH’ in front of this for me, and then sign it…?” [laughs]
JPC: And he’s like jovial kind of laughing. So, sure enough I have Stefan Feld’s “corrected” cover where it says ‘S–t Happens’.
For the “improved” version, approved by the designer himself, click on over here. Warning – language.
DTD: That’s awesome. You didn’t pull an Eric Lang and just have him sign any random game from another designer?
Eric M. Lang, designer of Blood Rage, Arcadia Quest and numerous other masterpieces, is sort of famous for signing absolutely anything you put in front of him. That, and doing “bunny ears” behind your back. I had to peek behind myself just now…
JPC: So that was good. And then, so I go back to the hotel. I’m tired. I Finally think I’m going to sleep that night, and kind of drifting out, and I smell smoke. I smell chimney smoke a lot where I live, and although I didn’t think twice about it, and then somebody comes banging on the door and yelling, “The hotel’s on fire!”
DTD: Oh No!
JPC: Am I’m like, “What?!?” So, I look down the hall and people are freaking out, and so groggy I just get up, I walk out to the front. I step outside and I look up and the whole face of the thing is burning. Right through my window. And I go, “Huh.” So, I go back in, and wake up the guy I’m rooming with, and said, “Umm…the f’ing hotel is on fire. Pack your stuff, we have to go.” So, we throw all of our stuff as best we could into bags and go throw it out into the parking lot. And then the police show up and the fire department and they soak the place. All the sprinklers go on and eventually they let us go back in and get the rest of my stuff. So, I’m now sloshing through a burnt hotel in the same Crocs.
DTD: And I’m assuming your clothes didn’t dry.
JPC: My clothes did not dry. So, I just sat out in the parking lot until the sun came up and went back to GenCon without another night’s sleep.
DTD: That’s insane. A lot of signs there that GenCon was not your path that day.
JPC: So, at this point I’m just loopy and crazy. So, I think I slept a total of 8 hours the whole time I was at GenCon. And between all these things, because I couldn’t find a place to stay after that.
DTD: That’s unbelievable.
JPC: And just nodding off here and there. And carrying everything I had around with me. If anyone saw me there, I looked like a train wreck, holding a bunch of stuff, wearing worn socks.
DTD: Looking homeless in Crocs, squishing through.
JPC: I look like Steve Martin at the end of The Jerk. “I got my thermos, and my board games. I don’t need anything else.”
DTD: “This stool.”
JPC: “This signed game by Stefan Feld. These Crocs. That’s all I need.”
DTD: [laughs] That is nuts.
JPC: Yea, it was something. And then to top it off, my flight going back was at 5 in the morning or something, and again I didn’t have a place to stay, so I was like, “Where do I stay, and how do I get to the airport at 5 in the morning?” So, I ended up finding a 24-hour waffle shop and just sat there eating steak and eggs, just drinking coffee until my ride came by.
DTD: There’s worse things to do.
JPC: Yeah, I like Waffle House, so that was fine. The girls frying up the food were saying, “So what do you do?” I’m like, “Oh I’m a game designer.” And they were like, “Oh you make things like…” And I’m expecting them to say Monopoly. Well, no…they said, “Yeah, we play games, like…what’s that…Cards Against Humanity.”
DTD: Oh, that’s the new Monopoly. That’s what everybody brings up now.
JPC: Yeah, that’s a party game…
DTD: I’ve been hearing that one a lot. Yup, that’s what I do.
JPC: “It’s like that except a little bit different.”
DTD: The first time I went to GenCon I decided I was going to drive, and me and a buddy, we drove from Woodland to GenCon.
JPC: Oh my gosh.
DTD: And it was interesting. We crammed that car full. Because, Barry, a buddy of mine, he does laser work and woodwork and stuff, and he was going to sell some stuff at GenCon. So, he packed my car full of wood, and we had a little bit of luggage. It was like a jigsaw puzzle. But I remember in the Midwest when we were driving, we were in Nebraska, we could see this storm coming. And the storm was really far away, but it was absolutely flat and absolutely clear. So, you could see the storm hours and hours and hours before it hit us. And it was big, and it was scary. And last minute we pulled off the road. It was Chelsea, Nebraska. And we got the last room then the storm hit, and it was a biblical storm. It was one of those Midwest storms you just never see in California.
JPC: Was that a rainstorm or hailstorm or what?
DTD: Oh, it had everything. There was lightning and hail and rain and thunder. It was really impressive. I miss those; I remember them from east coast. And California just never came close. But that was my first GenCon and it was overstimulation every second of every day.
DTD: Funny enough, I liked Essen a lot.
JPC: Yea, me too.
DTD: And it’s as many people. It just had a different vibe. I think you put a stall that gives you pastries or beer every third store, and things definitely mellow out.
JPC: I felt the same way. There’s more people, the density of people and games and everything was greater, but the frenetic loud thing of GenCon just wasn’t happening.
DTD: That was a great convention. I definitely want to do Essen again. I’m probably going to go again this year.
JPC: Yeah, me too. It’s my favorite so far, as far as the big ones.
DTD: You know the Dice Tower conventions are pretty sweet. You gotta go to those.
JPC: Yeah, well now I know somebody in the Dice Tower.
DTD: Actually, it’s really funny, I got a text yesterday from one of the Dice Tower guys who I know, but never texted me before, and I never really talked at length to before. He said, “You need to call me, we need to figure out Reno.” And I texted back, “Ah, what? I don’t know what’s going on.” And it turns out, I had no idea whether I was going to GAMA or not, but apparently everybody else in the Dice Tower knew that I was going to GAMA. So now I am going to GAMA.
JPC: GAMA is great, I really like it because it’s…you get all the industry there. There are open gaming nights where people play games with the retailers, but it doesn’t have that whole vibe. It’s not a selling convention, it’s not a players’ convention. It’s industry people, and it’s kind of curated to [them]…
DTD: Oh, I love it. I’ve done it a couple times. I live for the info and the news, and the behind the scenes, and how the sausage is made. I love it. I thrive at GAMA. It’s fun just to talk to random people. And every story is wonderful.
JPC: It’s one of my favorites.
DTD: I’m looking forward to that one too. And the Peppermill Reno – it’s too close [to me], and it’s pretty nice. So, it’s easy. So, what did you do before you were in game design?
JPC: Well, music mostly. I was kind of…
DTD: I think I knew the answer. I was just leading on. [laughs]
JPC: I kind of got into music late, it’s not like I was taking lessons as a kid or anything. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I started tinkering with guitar. Then I ran in with an old L.A. union musician I moved into. He had retired in the area, and he had worked with Gene Autry and Charlie Chaplin, all these film soundtracks and things back in the day, and he was teaching a course on music theory out of his living room, and I kind of hooked up with him, really hit it off, and liked his stories, and his approach. He was mostly a piano and organ player, and I was guitar, but he played a little guitar too, so I had a good time hovering over him and asking all these questions. “How do you make a dominant 9th chord with a sharp 11?”, and he’d have a pretty good answer for that. And “When do you use it? How does that work?” So, my theory chops kind of get ahead of my actual playing chops, which is a good and bad thing I guess. I was able to teach music to people that were more beginners than I was at the time. I would work in little music stores and teach kids or adults lessons or basic stuff – “Here’s how you play these chords and strum, and by the way here’s how these chords are constructed and why they relate to each other, and how the sausage is made for some of these chord progressions. Your I-IV-V and all that.” If people wanted to get more sophisticated: “Well, how does this weird Beatles chord fit into this song, and why does it sound so cool?” Well, there’s answers to those, too, and they are pretty fascinating.
DTD: Your brain wants it to be this.
JPC: Yeah, so all that stuff. And so, it really revolved around teaching lessons, and then of course if you do that at a music store, and then they need some help at the counter, you end up selling strings and stuff to people. And ended [up] in retail that way. So, it’s kind of a long history of teaching music, private music lessons, and working in retail. Can’t really say I enjoy it. You can walk into any Guitar Center and just hear that sound, and it makes your skin crawl. And if you end up in a Groundhog Day type situation, where everyday you go back and hear the same riffs and the same questions, and all that.
DTD: They’re all the same.
JPC: It’s not good for your brain. Or your soul. [laughs] So I was glad to eventually transition out of that. One thing I was doing concurrently with that for quite a while was running an art gallery in Placerville. So, I’d get into music and then I’d run this modern art gallery above some of the old town, in what was a…used to be movie theater. So, we had the old projection room was an art studio.
DTD: So, Renaissance man?
JPC: Yeah, yeah. I’d teach some lessons up there, and run open mics, poetry nights, all that kind of stuff. I was able to juggle that. It kind of simmered down around…when the bubble burst around 2008, 2009. It was harder and harder to maintain that kind of thing. So, we are in Georgetown now.
JPC: Yeah, it’s another gold rush town. [pointing] They call this The Divide. One of the special things in Georgetown is you can park in the middle of the street, which we will do. Just because you can.
Sure enough, Jonny stopped the car. I have to say, it feels very, very wrong to just stop in the middle of the street. There was no traffic, it was a quiet afternoon. But I really did not want to get out of the car. Because we were in the street. When I did get out, I checked very carefully to make sure a parking spot was painted on the ground. It was. It did not help.
JPC: That is the Georgetown Hotel, tourist spot over there. Where I guess they had a stuffed wolverine in there for many, many years. Eventually they had it taken away, and everybody was much upset.
Of course they did. And of course they were.
JPC: And this little shack over here…rent is really cheap because it’s known as the murder house. So, something bad happened in there once.[laughing]
JPC: And we have the Oddfellows Hall behind us.
DTD: Oh, I saw their symbol.
JPC: Gotta have that. I got the Oddfellows in Hangtown and Coloma.
DTD: Oh sure. I did some stuff with them back in Vacaville when I owned the hospital back there. Oh, this is such a cool town, and I never heard of it.
JPC: Yeah, it’s known for redneck culture up here. There’s a large population of E Clampus Vitus, which is not a venereal disease, it is kind of a group of yahoos.
I was still in the middle of the street, which deserved some picture taking. And the gentleman in the car ahead of us got upset. I’m still not sure if he was parked or driving; I mean, we were in the middle of the street. He just didn’t want to be in my pictures. I assured him I was a dumb tourist.
DTD: [pointing] Oh, this is our restaurant?
JPC: Nice spot.
DTD: Oh, that’s awesome.
Now that we have finally arrived at our restaurant, stay tuned for part 2, in which we…enter. We may or may not be too early, and just sit around drinking tea until the food is available. And talking – about creating Hangtown and Coloma, loving Alan Moon, respecting Mancala, and jazz. Crazy, lovely, horrific jazz.