It sounds like the start of a corny joke. But this is no joke. Seriously. That happened.
Let me start from the beginning.
It was October of 2016 and I was working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and brought the book along with me on a trip to Northern California for a getaway with a girlfriend. One of the exercises was to make a list of ten people I admire and would like to meet. Of course the Obamas were on it. Along with Oprah, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, James Taylor, George Clooney, JK Rowling and Jane Goodall. A documentary had recently come out about Jane’s life and her focused intention and compassion awed me.
So I wrote my list. The plane landed. I had a wonderful weekend with my friend, Jenny, and then we headed back to the Oakland Airport with time to spare, so we stopped at the Berkeley Rose Gardens with the stunning views of San Francisco and the bay.
As we wandered the labyrinth of flowers, stopping to smell the roses as they say, we were admiring the nameplates. Some had names that corresponded with their color like Blaze and Yellow Rose of Texas. Others seemed like they needed a backstory like Hot Rokoko, Herz Ass and Hamburger Phoenix. And then there were the roses named for a person like the Queen Elizabeth, Mortimer Sackler, Vidal Sassoon or the Princess Diana.
“One day I want to have a rose named after me!’ I declared to Jenny as we took a whiff of the Ingrid Bergman.
“I wonder who decides who is worthy of a rose,” she pondered out loud.
A few days after I returned home, I was at lunch with another friend at a café around the corner from my house. We live in the Rancho area of Burbank across from the Los Angeles Equestrian Center at the base of Griffith Park. It is common to see horses and sometimes horses pulling carriages down the streets of our neighborhood.
So I am sitting at the table, talking with my friend Jamie when she says “That lady behind the counter looks just like Jane Goodall.” I discreetly swivel in my seat and for sure it IS Jane Goodall! The doors of the restaurant are wide open to let in the gentle fall breeze and just then a horse walks in. Jane is standing behind the bar and she holds out a handful of carrots to the horse, who proceeds to eat them right out of her hand. The rider stands by the horse’s side stunned.
I feel like I am in the middle of one of those strange dreams where convoluted things come together and you try to retell it and it just doesn’t makes sense, but for real, Jane Goodall, the British primatologist who spent much of her life studying chimpanzees in Tanzania was feeding a horse at the counter in a café two blocks from my little house in Burbank merely days after I’d declared I wanted to meet her.
So now, of course, I had to actually meet her. I asked the owner of the restaurant, Basecamp, if he knew why Jane Goodall was here. “We’re good friends,” he said. Turns out he used to own a sustainable chocolate company that worked with ethically sourced cocoa suppliers and partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute on “Good For All” chocolates.
By then, Jane had moved out to the patio area where people sat sipping coffee and eating pastries with their dogs at their feet, but when Jane walked outside it was like St. Francis of Assisi had appeared. All the dogs pulled their people over to her and she squatted down to pet them. When she popped up – and really, she was pretty spry for 82 - I walked over and introduced myself. “What brings you to Burbank?” I asked. “Well, I just came from the Huntington Gardens,” she said, “They named a rose after me.”
Ah, so all you have to do to get a rose in your honor is save a species.
But all I had to do to meet Jane Goodall was declare the goal. So now, where are you Barack Obama? Want to have lunch at Basecamp?