Tuesday, January 11, 2011


If there was a Santa Cruz Hall of Fame, Bill Raney would deserve a seat of honor. Most of us know him as founder, original owner emeritus, and all-around Grand Poohbah of the beloved Nickelodeon Theatre. Less well known is the fact that, just before moving to Santa Cruz, Bill was embroiled in an adventure as brimming with drama, action, comedy, and pathos as any epic movie.

In 1967, just after he and his first wife, JoAnne, sold their first movie theater in North Beach, they packed up their 10-month-old son, Xerxes ("Zerky"), and a Dachsund named Tarzan, flew to Munich to pick up a new VW bus, and embarked on an intended European vacation that evolved into an extraordinary 13-month journey around the world. On the road, Bill wrote letters about the days' events for his toddler son, hoping to capture the flavor of the journey that Zerky was probably too young to remember on his own. These letters, rediscovered and re-edited some 42 years later, make up the backbone of Bill's recent memoir, "Letters to Zerky: A Fathers Legacy to a Lost Son, and a Road Trip Around the World."

It's an amazing story. I had the opportunity to read several early drafts, and I was always sucked in by the immensity of the journey, and the twists and turns along the way—from Western to Eastern Europe, Turkey to Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (at a distant time, as Bill writes, "when people in the Islamic world admired America"), from India to China, and finally back to San Francisco—oh, the intrepitude!—by freighter.

If you have any interest at all in travel, travel diaries, or world affairs, come relive Bill's incredible journey tonight at Bookshop Santa Cruz, during their Locally & Independently Published Authors Night. Joining Bill will be nutritionist Rebecca Rovay-Hazleton, reading from her book, "Choosing Health," local surf veteran Thomas Hickenbottom, reading from his surf novel, "Local Tribes," and Julie Anne Morley, reading from her novel, "Cole Creek." Come out and support BSC in their tireless efforts to support local wordsmiths!

In other news—stay tuned for my next post, where Ill get all nostalgic over another beloved Santa Cruz arts institution, Hearts for the Arts, and tell you all about how it's being reinvented by the folks at Artisans Gallery.


  1. Gee whizz, Lisa. What a complement! You better watch out or I'll have you editing my next book, "In Search of a Lost Penny". Wish me luck tonight.
    --Beatnik Bill from Telegrraph Hill
    PS: Hey, what the hey is a "profile"?

  2. This adventure sounds amazing! Wish I was in Santa Cruz to hear more about it!