Categories: THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: Conversations with Ingrid Croce

A monthly series penned by artist and restauranteur Ingrid Croce. Featuring interviews with a roster of notable artists & musicians whose lives and work have inspired her path. Eavesdrop on Ingrid & Company as they share stories about craft challenges, being “on the road,” artistic snafus, and the great conversations that have shaped their lives.

Letter from Ingrid: On Being An Open Book


Dear Friends,

            I was in Balboa Park yesterday – on my morning walk with my husband Jimmy Rock – when I passed a young woman who had set up an inviting table with a fish bowl full of slips of paper.

            She wanted to have a conversation. She told me that every week she drove down from Encinitas, simply to talk to strangers.

            “Pick a question.”

            I picked one that read ”If you were to teach somebody something, what would you teach them?” I said yoga. Then Jimmy pulled a question. “What was an experience you had where you didn’t go with your gut?” He replied, “That time I ordered a lamb burger in Kathmandu!”

            I was taken by Linda’s motives. It’s been 45 years since I came to San Diego, and even though the Balboa Park may seem full of tourists, I’m still enamored with the people I meet.

To engage with others and swap experiences: that’s been the driving force behind my life and art. The desire to have conversations about “inspirations” (Rauschenberg and Frank Stella) drove me to RISD. The desire to talk music and songwriting (Woody Guthrie and Odetta) drove me to Jim Croce. I wrote songs and sang them for Capitol Records to communicate, and I reveled in the moments of pure connection when someone taught me something surprisingly new.

For 32 years in the San Diego restaurant business, I measured my life in conversations. At one point, Jimmy and I calculated that we spoke with at least two hundred people every day! When we closed the doors on Croce’s, we weren’t just shutting down a restaurant. We were shutting down a way of life.

I couldn’t have anticipated the quiet would be so deafening.


Here’s a confession: for the past year, it’s been difficult for me to speak. The words simply don’t come. Much as when I had a tumor removed from my vocal cords when I was a singer on the road, the words and music have stopped, and there is only silence.

I wake up and I am speechless. This unnamed thing is an exercise in frustration. I’m not really laughing at it. But I’d like to.

I remember when I used to be fluid in conversation… so quick with the response! When I chased my intuition into dialogue and delighted in spontaneous connection. Like a tennis player, dialed into her match. I miss that back and forth.

I indulge where I am able. Though I feel like a rock in a river, conversation flowing around me, there are still places where I am fluid. Art has helped to fill in the gaps.

But I’m not ready to quit talking.


So, I thought I’d ask my loved ones what they thought of my writing a column. A place for words, for expression – to take risks on the page and invite people into my world. I spent an afternoon reaching out, curious as to what they’d say.

My husband, Jimmy, as he put on his hat for a walk in the rain: “Write about your inspirations, how Gaugin and Chagall have inspired your art and photography”.

Arlo Guthrie, texting from Massachusetts: “Share news and lots of pictures!”

And my twenty-one-year-old grandson, Eli, eating an eggroll in my kitchen: “You should make a newsletter about how you’re going to make more newsletters.”

As more responses rolled in – from my twin sister Phyllis Blythe, Margery Winter, Connie Nelson, Kristen Stark, and more dear artists and friends – it hit me:

I didn’t want to start a column to share more about myself. I don’t miss holding court.

I miss participating in the great conversations of life!

As much as I’ve loved my proximity to the spotlight, I never wanted to tell only “my” story and be the center of attention. Like the best folk music, I wanted to sing the stories of other people’s lives.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by funny, charming, accomplished, ambitious, inventive artists & creatives whose lives and work have shaped my path.

So, I’m launching this “Conversations” series to invite you to meet them. …..

When I think about this prospect, it leaves me speechless in the best way.

More soon.



Vanguard Culture

Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.