Mendocino County Today: November 5, 2013
by AVA News Service, November 4, 2013
Audet & Jordan
WHERE'S GOLDILOCKS? Ms. Jacqueline Audet was last seen in June of this year when she and her road dog (traveling companion), Donald Jordan were arrested for drunk in public. Jordan is twice Ms. Audet's age and not a guy most parents would like to see their daughter bring home. “Mom, Dad. I'd like you to meet my fiancé and road dog, Don.” Mom keels over in dead faint, Dad runs for his gun. Anyway, Mendocino County's most intriguing couple told people they, and their giant white beast dog, were headed outtahere, and it seems they went. But where? We began following Ms. Audet's frequent encounters with law enforcement, most of them with the Fort Bragg Police Department who, it must be said, often saved the girl from herself. She was very young, 19, when we first saw her in the booking log; 23 now, and seemed terribly vulnerable to adopt the street as her life path. We soon learned that Goldie had also been noted by many shocked Mendo people who also worried about her. She of course resented the attention, especially the references to her as Goldilocks, and asked us all to butt out in a letter from the County Jail. Maybe, by some miracle, Goldie has pulled herself together. No news could be good news, but it's unlikely in her case. But if you've seen Ms. Audet, who seemed so thoroughly Mendo, we'd like to know.
THE SHEEP DOG TRIALS this weekend at the UC Extension grounds in Hopland are expected to draw as many as 140 dogs, testimony, Kevin Owens tells us, to the growing popularity of the sport. Owens' dogs will of course be competing in contests “a little bit different than the ones we're used to here in Boonville,” he says, with the sheep some 500 yards distant when the dogs dash out to round them up and bring them back to their handlers. Contests begin Friday and run through Monday.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: “Let The Fire Burn,” a documentary film about the famous, and infamously grotesque, MOVE event in 1985 Philadelphia. A small group of mostly black cultists led by a charismatic “Christian” preacher calling himself John Africa were given a row house by a wacky white liberal in a black workingclass neighborhood smack dab in the center of the city of brotherly love. The group's guiding principles were pegged to natural living and a hostility for modern technology.
A rural setting — Mendocino County would have worked nicely for them — but there they were in the middle of big city urban where they were soon blaring round-the-clock loudspeaker denunciations of their black neighbors and the “white mofo-ing power structure.” MOVE got close to nature by tearing up sidewalks and walking around nude. The neighbors of course wanted them out. Philly, at the time, was led by a set of cartoon-quality villains who included a policeman become mayor named Rizzo, soon succeeded by a vacillating black mayor named Goode, and a variety of incompetents in the power slots at the police and fire commissions. With this cast of characters in place it was only a matter of time before people got killed. MOVE wouldn't move off outraging everyone they came in contact with except distant libs so the police eventually devised a two-pound bomb composed of chemicals impervious to water which they dropped by helicopter on MOVE's house, which was home to numerous children and adults. The bomb ignited the whole neighborhood with the loss of more than 80 homes, five MOVE children dead, six adult MOVEs dead. A white cop saved one child from the inferno. One of his colleagues soon wrote “Nigger Lover” on his locker at the station house, giving us all a pretty clear of the prevailing civic vibe. The film is entirely taken from news footage, and the whole of it a reminder, if one is needed, that we are citizens of a helluva crazy country.
HILLARY CLINTON is the Democrats’ choice to succeed Obama as President. What kind of President will she be? Mrs. Clinton is speaking to the National Association of Realtors at the Moscone Center in SF this Saturday, some 22,000 of them. No press of any kind is allowed, but the realtors will undoubtedly cell phone photograph Hill's clichés and upload them and her on YouTube. That night, Big Lib is throwing Hillary a fundraiser at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom, a “Millennial Network” event to benefit the Clinton Foundation. Ticket prices range from $150 to $5,000, and this event is also closed to the media.
THE WINTER WAS OVER, for it was now April, and had any tillage been intended it would have been commenced --- even in Ireland. It was the beginning of April, but the weather was still stormy and cold, and the east wind, which as a rule, strikes Ireland with but a light hand, was blowing sharply. On a sudden a squall of rain came on --- one of those spring squalls which are so piercingly cold, but which are sure to pass by rapidly, if the wayfarer will have patience to wait for them. Herbert, remembering his former discomfiture, resolved that he would have such patience, and dismounting from his horse at a cabin on the roadside, entered it himself, and led his horse in after him. In England no one would think of taking his steed into a poor man's cottage, and would have hardly put his beast into a cottager's shed without leave asked and granted; but people are more intimate with each other and take greater liberties in Ireland. It is no uncommon thing on a wet hunting-day to see a cabin packed with horses, and the children moving about among them almost as unconcernedly as though the animals were pigs. But then the Irish horse are so well mannered and good-natured.
— Anthony Trollope, 1847; from "Castle Richmond"
ON OCTOBER 26, 2013 around 11pm Mendocino County Deputies responded to an agency assistance call from Law Enforcement Officers of the US Forest Service (USFS). LEO's reported they had attempted to stop two vehicles leaving the Mendocino National Forest, the occupants of which were suspected to be involved in the cultivation of marijuana on forest lands. As the LEO's initiated two separate traffic stops, one driver and one passenger from each vehicle, jumped out of the vehicles as they were still moving. Both vehicles crashed with the suspects fleeing from officers into the woods. The four suspects were described as being Hispanic males. Officers searched the area but the suspects were not located. In one of the crashed vehicles LEO's located in excess of 40 pounds of processed marijuana.
ON OCTOBER 31, 2013 around 9:55am a family member of Artemio Garcia Chavez, a 24 year old male, from Eureka CA contacted the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office to report he'd been in one of the involved vehicles related to this incident and had fled from LEO's. His family has not heard from him since 10/26/2013. One of the other involved suspects later told family members that Artemio called him approximately 3 hours after they fled to say he was "up on the hill and had sprained his ankle" but it was unknown exactly where he was when he called. According to the family member the three other suspects were accounted for but were not interested in coming forward to assist law enforcement with information related to this missing person's case. Mendocino County Deputies, family members, other residents of this area, USFS Fire crews, USFS LEO's and Mendocino County Search and Rescue Volunteers responded to the area where Artemio fled from the vehicle and conducted a search of the surrounding area but Artemio was not located. His whereabouts are unknown at this time. Artemio is 24 years old, is 5'07" tall, weighing 190 pounds, with black short shaven hair, and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a gray hooded sweatshirt. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is requesting anyone who has information related to this missing person's case contact the Mendocino County Tip Line at (707)234-2100.
ON NOVEMBER 2, 2013 at about 6:19pm, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies received a radio call for service of a reported assault with a vehicle in the 17900 block of North Highway 1 in Fort Bragg. It was also reported that the female victim had sustained injury and emergency medical personnel were responding. Deputies arrived on scene at approximately 1821 hours and located the victim seated in a vehicle parked at 17875 North Highway 1. Upon contact with the victim, Deputies observed that she had a laceration type injury to her right knee that was approximately 4 inches in length. The victim told Deputies that she had tripped and fell, and the fall caused the injury to her knee.
Deputies spoke to the suspect Moises Villalpando, 27, of Fort Bragg, who was also present on scene. The suspect told deputies that he was attempting to leave the location when the victim, who did not want him to leave, grabbed ahold of the vehicle. The suspect said he attempted to drive away, while the victim continued to hold onto the vehicle, and the victim fell and sustained the injury to her knee. Deputies learned the victim and suspect were also invovled in a cohabitating/dating relationship. Deputies contacted the reporting person who told deputies the victim and suspect were engaged in a verbal argument. The reporting person said the suspect made an attempt to leave the location while the victim was attempting to enter the vehicle and the victim was ran over at that time. Based on evidence at the scene and the statement obtained from the witness, Deputies arrested the suspect for assault with a deadly weapon and domestic battery. Incident to that arrest and during a search of the suspect’s person, Deputies located 0.5 grams of a white powdery type substance that later field-tested presumptive positive for cocaine. The suspect was also found to be on active Post Release Community Supervision and was ultimately transported to the Mendocino County Jail and booked on the listed charges with no bail.
DEAR ANDERSON VALLEY FOLKS
This is to inform you of an event taking place this coming weekend in Boonville - the Veterans Day Service of Remembrance. I am not a military man but both of my grandfathers fought in the trenches of World War One and my interest in history and the ordeals and suffering faced by soldiers in battle stems from many hours spent in the company of my grandfathers as a child, teenager, and young man. Remembrance Day services (as they are called in the U.K.) are very significant events back there and so for the past five years I have organized a similar such gathering here in Anderson Valley. On Sunday, November 10th at 10.30am, in cooperation with the local branch of the American Legion, we shall be presenting what is hopefully considered to be an important event here in the Valley - one that commemorates those who have died or were killed while serving their country, and to thank our Veterans and those who are currently serving in the military. This event will take place at the Remembrance Wall at the Evergreen Cemetery on Anderson Valley Way, lasting for perhaps forty-five minutes. It will not be excessively political or militaristic, nor is it of an overtly religious nature, although I hope it addresses these areas in a respectful way. Most importantly by far, those in attendance will be given the opportunity to show their support and appreciation for loved ones who have passed, to those who are still with us who have given so much in the past, and to those who continue to do so. Hopefully we can get a good turnout which would be greatly appreciated by many. — Kind regards, Steve Sparks.
PS. In the event of rain, the service will be moved to the Veterans Hall/Senior Center in Boonville — notices will be posted at the cemetery if this is the case.
FERMENTATION FEST — Fermentation is a skill used around the world for preserving food. It is basically the transformation of food by various bacteria, fungi and enzymes they produce into a healthful form that renders the food more digestible and full of healthful benefits. On Sunday November 17, the Anderson Valley Foodshed Group is hosting a Fermentation Party. This is a perfect time of year to think about fermentation because it is a good way to preserve many vegetables that are in abundance at this time. If you are already making sauerkraut, kimchee, or any of the various other fermented vegetables, please come with your expertise to share. If you have never fermented, then be prepared to learn a skill that will greatly benefit you and your family. We will begin the Fermentation Fest at about 3:00. If you would like to go home from the event with a jar of fermenting kraut, please bring a wide-mouth pint jar with lid and some vegetables from your garden or organic vegetables from the store. Any vegetable can be shredded or chopped up and fermented. It’s a good way to use up the last of the produce from your summer garden. (Tomatoes don't do well.) Bring what you have. We'll be doing lots of shredding, chopping and slicing. Bring your own knife if you'd like. Herbs and spices for flavoring are nice, too. We will also be Celebrating Abundance, so, if you have too much of anything in your garden or orchard, please bring it to share. You might go home with someone else's abundance. The produce that isn’t snatched up will go to the AV Food Bank. (If there is any food item you would like to bring specifically for the Food Bank, please do so. The following Tuesday is their Thanksgiving food distribution.) The Apple Press will be there if you have apples you would like to press into juice. When we are finished preparing the ferment (about six), we will all share another delicious Anderson Valley Local Food Potluck. Fermenters are asked to bring krauts for tasting. Also, don't forget to BYO (bring your own dishes) and a serving utensil for your potluck dish. You will also have the opportunity to learn about how you can connect with AV Foodshed Group projects. We have lots of dreams for our local foodshed. We hope you will want to be more involved with making Our Local Food Dreams Come True. We will also be having a drawing for a $100 gift certificate to Aquarelle Café and Wine Bar, which was donated by Petit Teton Farm. See you at the AV Solar Grange in Philo on Sunday November 17. 3:00ish for Fermentation 6:00ish for the Local Food Potluck
SALLY JEWELL, US Secretary of the Interior and fracking advocate, is supposed to visit Point Arena this Friday for a photo op celebrating the Stornetta Public Lands acquisition now managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Arrival time and venue to be announced.
ANDERSON VALLEY TRAIL PLANNING
Dear Anderson Valley Community Members and Organizations:
What is your vision for a bicycle and pedestrian trail through Anderson Valley?
Please help spread the word about the upcoming Valley Trail Planning Events November 12 & 14. (See the announcement below). *Share widely with your social networks, friends, neighbors, and with your community organizations.* By encouraging people to attend, you can help make sure the Valley Trail Plan is a community-based plan and that local voices are heard. If your organization would like to offer information about the trail or other community initiatives at the November 14 workshop, please contact me to make arrangements. I am the contact for workshop organizing. Looking Forward! Alison Alison Pernell Project Manager Local Government Commission http://www.lgc.org email@example.com
Help the Valley Trail project take the next step! Your input is needed at a series of community planning events November 12 and 14, to design a bicycle and pedestrian trail along the Highway 128 corridor. The corridor extends from the Sonoma/Mendocino County line near Cloverdale to the Highway 128/1 junction in Mendocino County, a distance of approximately 51 miles. Community input will help identify a range of improvements along the corridor. Help identify community preferences for trail design and alignment through the communities of Yorkville, Boonville, Philo and Navarro, as well as points in between. Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate and exchange ideas. All events will be offered in Spanish and English. Participate in a *Walking Assessment *of downtown Boonville on Tuesday, November 12 (3:30 – 5:00pm). Meet in front of the Boonville General Store, 14077 A Highway 128. During the walking assessment, participants will evaluate pedestrian and bicycle safety in downtown Boonville and discuss options for trail design. (Please wear comfortable shoes.) A free *Bus Tour* will be conducted Thursday, November 14 (10:45 am – 2:00 pm) to visit potential trail routes along the Highway 128 corridor. Meet at 10:45 am at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, 17700 Highway 253, Boonville, to load the bus. Snacks will be provided; bring a bag lunch. This will be an opportunity to discuss trail alignment and to evaluate opportunities and constraints along the corridor. A *Community Workshop* will be conducted Thursday, November 14 (5:00 – 8:00 pm) at the Anderson Valley Fair Grounds Dining Hall, Boonville. Free food will be provided by Boont Berry Farm beginning at 5:00 pm. Following a presentation on trails, participants will have a chance to become “community designers” as they create and share their own designs for the trail. Last year, the Valley Trail Coalition worked with the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) to successfully submit a grant application to Caltrans to fund a feasibility study and design for the trail. The community planning events, and the resulting study and designs are funded through Caltrans’ Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant funds, and a local match from MCOG. The community planning events are organized by the non-profit Local Government Commission, in coordination with Alta Planning and Design. For more information, visit www.valleytrail.org or www.mendocinocog.org/reports_projects-SR128Trail.htm.
TWO STICKS & A BOWL
by Chili Bill Eichinger
Is there an American household where the name Chun King isn’t recognized? It’s been so long since I personally looked for this erstwhile staple that the answer could very well be “yes”. As a child in the 50’s it was customary to have this culinary delight at least once a week. And since it was a simple matter of opening two cans, heating up the gelatinous glop in a pan and the noodles in the oven, any kid could feed him or herself in a case of dire necessity. The biggest hurdle was getting the soy sauce out of the cabinet; the dinette sets in those days had chairs that were a little unstable.
That concoction of mystery meat, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, celery and cornstarch was my introduction to “Chinese food”. As a teen in Kansas City, I graduated to the next level by frequenting the only Chinese restaurant in town, the fabulous House of Toy. Here you got all the standard dishes designed for white folks: Almond Chicken, Moo Goo Gai Pam, Sweet and Sour Pork, Shrimp Fried Rice, etc., etc. This was truly an exotic experience for all of us “corn bred, corn fed” types. Not to mention the fact that this was the only place you saw a Chinese face, unless you were going to UMKC and happened to run into a foreign exchange student from the Biology Dept. When I returned to K.C. in 1977, after a seven-year hiatus, I was amazed to find a slew of Chinese restaurants in the phone book, as well as an Oriental grocery store! I went to a place that advertised itself as being a Hunan-Szechuan style eatery, ready to expose it for the sham that I thought it would surely be. Was I in for a big surprise—the food was not only the real deal, but the chef came out and demonstrated how to make hand-pulled noodles, which elicited a flood of oohs and ahhs. “Well, KC,” I said to myself, “you’ve certainly come of age.”
In my early days in SF I came to appreciate one of the most redeeming values of Chinese food--- it’s CHEAP!! Those of us who weren’t bicycle messengers needed something besides burritos to live on, and fried rice was the answer. Before its demise a few years back, the Yee Jun restaurant was the oldest existing Chinese joint in SF; in its heyday it was a true hippy haven. A giant bowl of fried rice was 75 cents, and often the one meal of the day for some folks. In addition, this place had the funk; marble top tables, cool wood booths that looked like they could, at any moment, revolve into the wall and be replaced by an empty duplicate, the previous occupants waking up far out at sea. The waiters were all at least ninety years old and said little, other than “you ready order?” The one exception was this geezer who called everyone “John”. I would always say my name wasn’t John, to which he would always say “OK, John, what you want?” Later on, in a book on the history of the Chinese in California, I discovered that Caucasians used the pejorative term “John” to denote Chinese men.This guy was just getting his kicks! The owners also seemed to get a kick out of their clientele, and paid homage by decorating the beautiful wrought iron cashier’s cage with little signs that said “RIGHT ON” and “FAR OUT” and, of course “GROOVY”.
The terms “Cantonese”, “Mandarin”, “Peking Style” etc., had no meaning for me then. It was only after I’d gotten settled in and made some friends at a local bar that I got exposed to variations on the theme. There was a fellow named Ed who not only loved Chinese food but spoke Mandarin as well. He took a bunch of us folks to a little place called Ya Su Yuan that served spicy, Northern style dishes. It was an epiphany! From that night on I went there every weekend and tried as many new dishes as possible. I even got one of the waiters to give me an old, somewhat tattered menu that I had translated into Chinese so that I could order the dishes properly no matter what restaurant I was visiting.
The bubble burst one evening when I noticed that the food at Ya Su Yuan wasn’t up to snuff. I commented to the waiter, who told me that the chef had quit to open his own restaurant, but he didn’t know where. I nearly had a breakdown on the spot, but managed to recover back at the bar, where Ed and I commiserated over several pints of beer. For the next couple of weeks I wandered around Chinatown in a fog, looking in windows for a sign, a familiar face, any clue that would help me find a replacement. And then one day on Jackson Street, in the midst of twenty other eateries, I looked at the menu in the window of a place called Hui Bing Low. It looked amazingly like the menu at Ya Su Yuan; there was the little pig icon next to “Pork Dishes” and ditto the cow next to “Beef Dishes”. The selections were the same!! I ran inside and anxiously asked the waiter where the chef was from; he said Taiwan. I said, no, what restaurant? Oh, he used to work one block over on Pacific Street. Yahoo!! It was my main man! I sat down and ordered two of my favorite dishes; they tasted better than ever. The waiter introduced himself as Paul and told me that the chef was in fact his father. I tried to explain how relieved I was to find him, but I think it went over his head. No matter—it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Things got even better when Steve Chin became a waiter there. Steve was Mongolian by heritage, raised in Japan and educated in Manhattan Kansas! He was a real live wire, a hustler and a go-getter. Anything that wasn’t on the menu that I wanted to try, no problem, Steve put it on the table. I started to have banquets there, gathering ten or so people together and saying hey, it’s ten bucks a head plus beer and the tip, and we eat whatever comes out the gate. People were a little less picky and a little more adventuresome in those days, so this plan was easy to carry out. On one occasion, before the regular dishes started to appear, Steve brought out a small plate containing strips of some unidentifiable substance. He wouldn’t say what it was until everyone had had a piece; it was a little chewy and tasted like soy sauce and sesame. He finally told us it was pig’s ear. There were a couple of groans, but nothing left on the plate. It was the custom of the cooks to keep a whole pig’s head in a bucket of soy sauce and spices. Whenever they needed a quick snack they could just run over to the fridge and slice off a chunk of head to chew on while flailing away at the wok. Yummy nums! Today, I can find pig’s ear on the menu at a number of restaurants in the city and I usually have some for old times sake.
I became a bit of a food snob (still am, in a way), showing disdain for the blandness of Cantonese food, an error that has been corrected in recent years. I couldn’t get it hot enough, no matter what adjective I used. I never got around to drawing a flaming ass on a napkin to get the point across, but I doubt that would’ve helped anyway. I got my comeuppance one night at the original Hunan restaurant on Kearny St. I sat at the counter and ordered a chicken dish from the waiter; I said to make it extra hot. The cooks were all women that night, one of them a big gal, working right in front of me. I saw her reading my order and I swear to God she mumbled something like ‘extra hot—sheeit!’ When the dish came I could see that I was in trouble—it was covered in dried red chile flakes. I had at it and in a few minutes the sweat was rolling down the back of my head like a waterfall. I kept thinking about the old moose turd pie joke—“It’s good though, real good”. At one point, the woman turned around and saw it was me eating her little joke; the look of contempt on her face made me feel special. At the register, she gave me another parting shot. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “That was pretty good, but it could have been a little spicier!” I bolted and ran to Vesuvio’s, where I ordered two of the coldest beers in the house.
There were two exceptions to the spicy rule. Late at night, after the bars closed, there were no Peking style restaurants open, so we had to settle for Cantonese. At the place of choice, Sai Yon, we had the added attraction of “cold tea”, which was beer served in a teapot. Our waiters, Wing and Albert, knew which side their won ton was buttered on and kept the suds flowing. They also told us which vegetables were the freshest, what fish was special that day, etc. This was in that era when you could barely get a Chinese waiter to give you the time of day. And they liked to have their bit of fun now and then, such as the time Albert sternly advised us that there was no cold tea. We were like a bunch of little boys who’d just been told that there would be no chocolate milk after nap time. We glumly ordered and Albert put some teacups on the table and ceremoniously poured for us. He then went off to huddle with Wing in a nearby corner. Everyone had a sip of their tea and gasped—it was Scotch! The conspirators were sheepishly laughing into their hands, trying not to look at us.
My other exception involved roast pork. A number of Cantonese cafes offered “American food”, which meant you got some kind of meat, a green vegetable and rice; a full plate of food for a decent price. Wooey Louie Gooey (not Donald Duck’s Chinese nephews), had the best roast pork I’ve ever eaten in my life, bar none. And they made brown gravy that I would eat poured over cheap white bread, if that’s all there was. The pork was chopped off a big roast as needed, piled on a plate with boiled cabbage and a huge mound of steamed rice. I would always politely ask for extra gravy on the rice, and I got it, because they could tell I was sincere in my love for gravy.
One thing I’ve developed over the years is a basic litmus test for new restaurants, if I’m dining alone. If it’s a Mandarin, Hunan, Szechuan or Peking style cuisine, I always order a dish called Ma Po Do Fu, which is known in English as Spicy Bean Curd or any number of variations on that name. It is perhaps one of the most famous of all Szechuan dishes and I’ve had it fixed in countless ways; I also have what is supposed to be an authentic recipe. For me, I prefer ground pork over beef, but it has to be fresh; I’ve had some so-called ground pork that made me wonder if I was going to live through the night. Another variable is the type of bean curd used; I like the soft Japanese style, which I think has the best flavor, but is also more fragile and less resilient to stir-frying. There can never be too much garlic or hot pepper, and a bit of black bean paste and ginger is OK as well. Scallions are in the original recipe, but you don’t see them all the time. Some chefs like to add peas and even a little mushroom and I really like that. The main thing is getting the ratio of meat to curd just right, the right consistency to the sauce and throwing in that little dash of sesame oil at the end. If I deem that the chef has done a good job on this one dish, I’ll probably come and try some of his other dishes.
If I’m in a Cantonese place, I get a variation of the above called Beef and Bean Curd. This is your high protein meal; I usually have it over rice on the Lunch Special. This isn’t a complicated dish, but it can be seriously ruined. Some cooks have a heavy hand with the cornstarch, resulting in a sauce that clings to your fork and can be strung out like chewing gum. Very unappetizing. The beef can have a gray color and a really soft texture, like it’s been sitting in a marinade that has too much baking soda. And the bean curd can be past its prime, showing a mottled appearance and a having a chewy texture.
Again, the crucial things are meat-to-curd ratio, sauce flavor and consistency, and freshness. In some of your better places, they throw in some black mushrooms, which puts this dish over the top.
There have been, and still are, some downsides to eating Chinese food. The negative attitude of waiters in the old days could be daunting. Asking about anything written in Chinese, whether it be on the menu or on the wall, would bring a response like “you don’t want try” or “you don’t like”. The only way to get to try these items was to go with a Chinese person. Another stupefying incident involved my asking for beef and asparagus. The menu had “Beef and Broccoli” and “Pork and Asparagus” listed, so I thought, hey, shouldn’t be any problem here. When I ordered, the waiter simply said, “Sorry, not on the menu”. I pointed out the other two dishes, and then he got a little huffy. “Not on menu!” I simply got up and left. Today there are more women waiting tables, and they are definitely friendlier and more helpful. I can ask about a dish that goes by my table and even get the Chinese name for it. At a now defunct place that was a favorite, I asked about a dish that I thought was chicken, since I could make out the character for “chicken” in last place. The waitress giggled and said it wasn’t chicken, it was frog! She explained that the preceding character, combined with the last one, equaled “frog”. Sure enough, when I looked it up in my little book of food characters, it meant “field” or “rice paddy”. So a frog is a “rice paddy chicken”!
Another irksome, but necessary, innovation in Chinese (and other Asian) restaurants was the demise of re-usable wooden chopsticks. This came about after the Health Dept. decided to outlaw the use of anything made of wood, citing a bacteria problem, which is an unfortunate reality. Some restaurants went to the washable plastic sticks, which are the right length but difficult to use on certain dishes with a slippery surface. Other establish-ments chose the throwaway wooden style, which have better gripping quality but are too short for my taste.
A sidebar to this chopstick subject: it drives me mad to watch someone, who’s obviously inept at their usage, sit there and make a mess when they could be eating along with the rest of us. There’s no shame in using a fork! And if you insist on sticks, don’t blame me when all the food’s gone and you’re still hungry. If you observe Chinese people eating, you’ll notice everyone has a little bowl in which the rice is placed. You use your chopsticks to retrieve food from the sundry plates of food on the table. You keep the bit of food over or in the small bowl as you bring it back to the area over your plate, so it doesn’t drip all over the place. You can use the chopsticks as a shovel to get food from the bowl into your cakehole. It’s all simple and logical; try it some time.
Probably the most bizarre dining experience I can remember occurred at a restaurant called Soon Lee, out near the end of Church Street in Noe Valley. This place was designed for white people who were just too lazy to go anywhere else. I was alone and decided to try some Szechuan chicken dish that sounded good in theory. It turned out to be one of those dishes where they compensate for the lack of meat by adding a pound of onions and bell pepper. Well at least I was getting my vegetables. I was picking around the plate when I stumbled onto something that wasn’t quite identifiable. I held it up in the air in my chopsticks, turning it every which way. I finally discerned a little head and part of a tail, but no feet. It was a salamander, about four inches long! I immediately got the waiter’s attention and asked if this was going to cost me extra. He looked like he was going to have to change his shorts. “You get something else, you no pay, you no pay!!” I declined the different dish but took him up on the “no pay” offer. I went back to this place after it changed owners; hard to believe, but it was worse. The food was like something that would come out of a bag marked “Open Here—Pour in Trough—Add Water”.
A couple of years ago I was sitting in the Rat and Raven bar with some of my home fries on Friday afternoon. At some point following the ingestion of several glasses of high quality bourbon, I declared that I was going to eat at every Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. This was met with a few ‘uh huhs’and one or two ‘sures’. As of this writing, your faithful servant has been to over one hundred purveyors of Lean, Mean, Eastern Cuisine, aided and abetted by Mr. Charles Hardy, who will eat just about anything that isn’t marked “Not For Human Consumption”. I may have to amend the declaration to “every address that serves Chinese food”, since they tend to come and go. How much longer it will take is anybody’s guess, since there are some places you just have to go back to once in awhile. I can’t wait to get to the point where I narrow it down to the Top Five, or the Top Ten, or Best Shanghainese, etc.; where I can say “please don’t cook the food in a gallon of peanut oil—I’m a heart patient” and they’ll take me seriously. At some point, when time and money make it feasible, I’m going to learn to speak, read and write Chinese. Everyone insists that I learn to speak Mandarin, the most widely spoken language in the world—except in San Francisco, where most Chinese speak Cantonese, and one dialect in particular. By learning the language, there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind what I mean when I say “no salt, no MSG”.
‘GO EAST OLD FRIEND; GO EAST…”
by William J. Hughes
The battle of Gettysburg. Only 150 years ago, humans still in chains, Lee took his army of Northern Virginia into the north, the Union, Pennsylvannia.
I have to go. Maybe it’s Trayvon Martin and all that can still go wrong. Or surely it’s the Vietnam dollar settlement I just got from the VA. Gotta go. Can go.
So, while I’m back east, the Baltimore Basilica, Annapolis and the Naval Academy for their exhibit on our naval war of 1812. If you are an historian of any kind it is a must. On to Charlottesville, VA for some family, then way up into West Virginia for a killed comrade in Vietnam and some family around DC. Virginia and my Long Island home to address some old friends and assess what Hurricane Sandy did to my little East Rockaway.
Out of Sacto and into Dulles is easily managed. As the jet descends into our national capital all sorts of mixed feelings about our nation’s capital, but I’m here to honor the brave Union soldiers who stood up at Gettysburg to save not just our democracy but democracy itself. Look up Lincoln’s first inaugural address. You’ll understand. I’ve swung up and down with the Lincoln man. All in with Abe, then why didn’t he prevent the war somehow, then all in again with his defense of democracy, the only one of its kind, for the rest of mankind, the democracy “of the people, by the people and for the people…” All the people…
Rental car the size of a BIC, all of us people still in love with our gasoline, trying to reduce the use with my BIC.
100°, heavy humidity. Welcome to the east in July.
Ever taste the traffic around DC? LA’s older brother, half-witted brother. It’s a grind going around to get north to north to Frederick, Maryland, the route a lot of the Rebs took to Gettysburg and Antietam earlier on in the slaughter.
Barbara Fritchie? “Who touches a hair on your gray head/dies like a dog/march on he said…” from Whittier’s poem of the Rebs passing through Yankee-ish Frederick, Civil War Maryland like a Civil War Balkans, bonding the two worlds of north and south, slave and free. Ms Fritchie and her like hanging out the Stars & Stripes as the Stars & Bars marched through town. Thus the poem. And here is where Lee forgot his special order. Tipping off the Yanks to his advance on Sharpsburg, ending in the one-day grand prize total of 23,000 casualties between the two armies.
Old Frederick is just that, brick and board, row house like, scrunched together narrow, church steeples, on the route of too many armies.
I’m in Motel 6, too many people over too long a time, shabby exterior, clean enough interior, thirty miles from Gettysburg.
Route 15 north in the morning. Trayvon Martin after the battle of Gettysburg. What we won, what we lost, but Route 15 is too gorgeous, too gentle to linger on the bad, gentle Appalachians in the distance, big farms big barns, big Greek column silos, back east bucolic; Lee’s got 75,000 heading north into Pennsylvania. Meade has 90,000 looking for Lee.
Jeb Stuart of the Reb cavalry is off on his own, the Union forces in between him and who he’s supposed to be spotting for, Lee and his army. The armies are going to find themselves by chance but not before I have a big buckle busting breakfast in Gettysburg.
Gettysburg has been overrun over the years by T-shirts, ghost tours and wax presidents. My version of a trooper’s biscuit and water breakfast would feed two platoons of troopers full to the belly. Time to thank the blue-bellies and regale the Rebs, again.
Stifling heat, like July 1863, not many folks around at 10am. Must be the heat.
Cool and calm in the very ample Visitors Center. I’ll do the movie and the cyclorama. Cyclorama? I’ll tell you after the film.
The film is Morgan Freeman, of course, narrating and Sam Waterston as Lincoln. It’s the events leading up to and including the three days of Gettysburg. Lee’s on a roll at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. If he can get a victory in the north, well, African-American ancestors spend a lot more time in chains.
Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln was fine and here Sam Waterston really gets that high-pitched voice of Lincoln. It all makes you weep. Even after all this here there’s still two years of it to go.
So, the cyclorama, a separate theatre, a 360° wall painting of Pickett’s charge, narrated and lit up as the events unfold. It’s all rather stunning, a French artist, Paul Dominique Philippoteaux, and his enormous painting, produced in France from notes and sketches of the battle veterans who were there. How could they have done all this to each other? To me the painting depiction seems too disjointed, units all over the place, fragmented when my image of it is a solid line of Yanks that the Rebs crash up against and flame out.
Today is my birthday, July 19th, hot and muggy. Onto the battlefield auto tour which is free. See, our National Parks are our pride.
It’s going to be tough just getting out of the air-conditioned car. Poor baby. I’m here for all the young baby teenage Americans who died beside me in Vietnam. I’m here guys, to pay my respects.
Tour buses and some visitors actually on bicycles in this heat. Beats on foot with musket and cannon.
Some green, somewhat burnt-over fields of Pennsylvania. McPherson’s Ridge first up.
Buford’s mounted Yanks are out nosing around the Rebs, who’ve been hidden behind the Blue Ridge, some of them have units advancing towards Gettysburg (looking for shoes as the story goes).
Buford’s way outnumbered but he’s got to dismount and deliver. Hold this line until Reynolds and his infantry can come up and join him.
Buford’s men have Spencer repeating rifles so they can pour in more fire than the massed musket Rebs, the Yanks standing and retreating until Reynolds and the Iron Brigade can join in the fight, the two armies blind to each other, stumbling in, Lee pissed off because he chose to choose the fighting ground, green fields and split rail fences, Rebs comin’ on, Yanks falling back, the two great armies, whether they wanted to or not, now committed, Day 1 a slaughterhouse of accident and courage, Reynolds killed, the Yanks pushed back through Gettysburg, the sunset the only respite.
Visitors in and out of their cars, kids on cannons, church steeples in the near distance, an eternal light peace memorial of a permanent strength in a perfect place for it.
Day 2 of the horror begins with the big armies moving, jockeying, fighting for position, lines being drawn, the Yanks taking up the higher ground on Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and the Round Tops.
Longstreet tells Lee, begs Lee, not to do this. But Bob Lee knows best having kicked much Yankee ass in Virginia.
But the Yanks give as good as they get on the flanks. Major General Sickle of the Yanks does his own thing and moves his regiment forward from the Yank lines to what he considers a better position. Nope. The Rebs come from the wheat field, the peach orchard, and hack Sickle’s regiment to hell before they stumble back to their lines, while on Little Round Top Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine, linguistic professor at Bowdoin College in Maine, stout Unionist, his unit out of ammo, Texans and Alabamans ready to crack his unit, flank the Yanks and possibly armistice the war, when Chamberlain orders his men to stand up, fix bayonets and charge.
The Rebs run, the Union preserved, other bodies stacked in the rocks of the Devil’s Den and at the base of Culp’s Hill on the right flank.
Day 3, July 3, and Lee still ain’t convinced. Longstreet still is. Don’t do it, General. But Bob knows best: I’ll use Pickett’s fresh troops to crack em open in the middle with Jeb Stuart from the rear eatin’ up their retreat.
Pickett’s charge. Into the valley of death. No one comes out whole and in the rear, George fuckin’ Armstrong Custer and his Michigan cavalry, Custer out front, where else, blow Jeb Stuart apart, Custer another hero of Gettysburg.
It’s a quiet cruise through the whole business, statues, cannons, fences and form fields, the Round Tops all gnarly and bouldery, solemnity, statue of Lee, strange, degrading.
It’s an honor for me on this 150. You men who gave everything. “Four score and seven years ago…” perhaps the finest speech in history completes the day.
Done, the day still young enough to continue on to Baltimore, all of it around here so close, Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, green hills and farms and barns giving way to I-95s and 295s and bridges and harbor tunnels and tolls, civilization after the silence of a battlefield, Baltimore made of bricks and church steeples, narrow streets, Ft. McHenry and the harbor, rainbow painted iron bridges, busy, busy, busy, thunder showers back east booming, hot and humid, searching unknowingly for the Baltimore Basilica from a PBS presentation. Latrobe, the architect of the nation’s capital, his signature basilica, Catholic, subdued, with a Wright light like his Unitarian in Oak Park, the basilica much in the same way of a Wright New England meeting Hall.
Grinding around streets never meant for cars, i.e., Boston, looking for the basilica, a cab driver helping out in accented English, finally a cop parked at the curb in one of our still all black neighborhoods. He gets me pointed and around two corners and there it is, our nation’s first basilica in Maryland, Land of Mary.
How to describe the basilica? Front porch like a White House, building itself like a Greek temple, two steeples like Russian Orthodox and a dome like Istanbul. Got it? Hope so.
Quiet as a church, empty, soothing, not unadorned but not crushingly so, soothing colors, a Jeffersonian dome, easy on your own home.
I feel blessed, blessed. My prior schoolboy Catholic life. If I’d had this? No, nature itself intervened, but in here I hear nothing but meditations. Maryland, Land of Mary. Church pews like a New England meeting house, like the “one or two if”…in Boston, the altar almost afloat in the cream colors, two sermon mounts like hollowed out chess bishops.
$3.00 to light a candle. I put in $1.00. Forgive me first off for this. “Better to light a candle and still hate all the darkness…”
There’s a blood red cardinal’s hat, round as a picadors, with long heavy tassels like a Spanish Pontiff’s hanging from the ceiling. Something dashing about it.
The crypt, below the altar, a brick catacomb with a religious icons and vestments exhibit. Cool, art wise and the weather outside.
Leveled off, able and willing to claw my way out of the city and further south out of Baltimore and Edgar Allan Poe’s place, which I missed, with enough old city black poverty on the way out to make up for it and on to Annapolis and the W1812 at the Naval Academy.
Something, something south to Annapolis. “A global force for good…?” Certainly in 1812, captured British battle flags from captured British ships of battle.
Green country highway, finally, after fighting with I-95 south.
I’ve been a lot to West Point as a boy, stunning setting above the Hudson River, march of the amazing soldier toys. Did a lot of time aboard ships in my Marine Corps Navy. Can be groovier than ground forces.
Into Annapolis, across the Severn River. Annapolis like Ben Franklin’s Hamptons, cobblestoned and compact, the continental navy does Sag Harbor on Long Island.
Slowly circling around the state’s capital, then and now. Wow, quietly around the quiet streets, getting the lay of the landlubber motel hunter.
Sun setting, hot, got to get in off the street, Super 8 on the edge of the woods up the road. Don’t want cash! What?! But will.
Burgers, sorry. No local cuisine. If you know me you know I’ve dined at the French Laundry but on the road under a motel roof, greasy, part 12 at least.
I can hardly sleep, knowing those captured British flags are out there. Our continental navy and our 1812 fleet. The British are the Roman Empire and we are from Connecticut and we kick their ass at sea, twice, John Paul Jones, our Bonhomme Richard against their Serapis off the coast of Madagascar! Our USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” in 1812 against their Java off the coast of Brazil! And we made them lower their colors.
Breakfast coffee in a tea shop like café along the Annapolis cobblestones. Free breakfast, if you can call a plastic wrapped donut, thin OJ and brown water coffee at the Super 8.
The 1812 exhibit is inside Gate #3 of the Naval Academy of 1785.
10 o’clock quiet on a Saturday morning, young naval MP on guard at the turn of the century gate. He’s all in a strange bluish camouflage. He does my driver’s license ID joking that I don’t have a beard in my photo. 9/11 stuff. He’s originally from Africa. His accent makes me ask. How many Americans in an African navy? What a country.
I’m in. Where is everybody, meaning the midshipman brigade? The campus is solemn, Athenian. A global force for good? For who? Who’s navy can contest us? Who on land will ever see us?
A gift shop? Sure enough, for the Naval Museum inside the Roman block of a building. Like ships, at sea, at war? Yes, yes, minus.
Those ships under sail? Would you? Could you? The British have 400 ships in New York harbor to kick off 1777, ready to rub us out. “Don’t give up the ship…” “I’ve not yet begun to fight…” and we did, putting to sea against Kings and Queens and monarchs. Here in this museum, the charts, the re-enactments, the broadsides, the giving way, the giving quarter, bravery, creating a country.
Ship models behind glass. You could sail these. I go through it all as far as TR’s “Great White Fleet,” odd cruel, Jules Verne like.
Now for the main hall, Mahan Hall, all Romanesque and square-jawed.
In the grand entrance hall, on the walls, behind glass, captured battle flags of our Spanish and British wars. I’m in awe, Union Jacks and Castilian colors. No matter how you may feel about how we created our U.S. selves, again, would you have gone down to the sea in wooden ships to take on the Brits? For me, I doubt it, but here it is, four score and six original frigates ago these Colonials did.
W1812. Who knows? Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans after peace was declared perhaps but, convincing the British empire once again that we are a nation now, one to be reckoned with, on lakes, on bays, on seas, the HMS Macedonia’s replicated masthead in our museum. Two captured cannons of the HMS Cyane, paintings and simulations, us being North Vietnam and the Brits being the U.S. You may have the guns but we got the guts, and my brother runs the tours at Monticello, VA and Thomas Jefferson, so let’s throw in the American Navy and the Barbary pirates of Tripoli for good measure. “A global force for good…” perhaps, and good for us.
Here’s a young female naval ensign officer. I ask her if she goes by midshipwoman. “No, we’re all midshipmen.”
Women in combat. Don’t get me started. How about nobody in combat?!
Down to the sea in ships. Compared to our drones and our aircraft carriers of today this was hook on, hold fast and blow up at extremely close quarters. Know why Marines are called “leathernecks?” High leather collars to prevent saber cuts. Much prefer a drone attack to Marines in the rigging firing muskets.
Silence on campus. Up above the long lawns, gathered around the famous Tecumseh statue, some of the brigade of young officer candidates in formation. I salute their forbears for bearing up under the guns of that “evil empire”!
The morning brings a respite from war. Any drive in Virginia is beautiful, if you forget that former Senator George Allen an the current VAAG Cuccinelli would slap us all in chains, again.
Charlottesville is familiar, where my family resides, 30 miles outside Nellysford, up against the Blue Ridge. 30 miles to just about everything but no way my brother and sister-in-law were going to retire in death camp Florida when you can have golf and swim and et al right here in Wintergreen, surrounded now by upscale brew pubs and Shenandoah National Park with some resort of resorts, Greenbrier, WVA, thrown in.
Parked for a few days of brew beer, golf, hearty home dinners, thunder and lightning thunderstorms up in the Blue Ridge on the Skyline in Shenandoah Park, shopping at an historic log cabin from the Appalachia that some folks lived in up to 1935! How do you judge the age of a log cabin? By the width of the logs. First come, first cut down the big trees and on down.
No Monticello itself on this trip but my brother drips with it, “the” man of all seasons of America, but Jefferson didn’t, or did he, invent large screen HDTV, front and center and my brother’s modern board cabin.
One of our conversations turned to Ogdensburg, New York, where Fredric Remington had his studio. I’ve been, drunk on his work.
My brother tells me of a Headless Horseman statue he saw in Middleburg, VA. One of a kind? Remington like. Hmmm.
But I have an appointment in Beech Bottom, WVA. I’ve had it since a December day in 1967 Vietnam. Joe Craft, 18 years old, blown up by a land mine booby-trap right in front of me. His grave, Beech Bottom, WVA, finally.
You think Virginia is beautiful? Try the West version. No, we don’t want to be in the Confederacy, so West VA. Look up some counties in Louisiana that said no to the Rebs. We ain’t got no slaves, why fight when our land sustains?
Way up in the green mountains of WVA, eventually above Charleston along beside the big brown of the Ohio River, heading for broken down Wheeling, Bethlehem, steel-less, coal company — less, and yet, up ahead, storm cloud steam from a nuke plant, then another, then another gargantuan, then Beech Bottom hardly noticed.
Turn around to it on Route 2, Beech Bottom about a mile long, that’s all.
It’s late in the warm sunny day. The brick village hall right off the two lanes is closed for the day. There’s a monument stone in front. Joe Craft’s name is on it. So, tomorrow. So, tonight in bricktown Wheeling in a $69 something beside the brown Ohio.
In the morning there’s a real ham&egger across the street. Wheeling is reeling according to the friendly owner who inherited from his father who… He runs down Wheeling’s ills. It ain’t Detroit, yet, but…
There’s an iron bridge across the Ohio that a steam train would feel most comfortable on, my little rental in its place.
Beech Bottom, nuclear plant right across the river, open for business, not exactly brand new. My business here is respect.
There’s gentleman in the village hall who knew Joe. He says the town of not very many never recovered. How could it? This gentleman directs me up to the hilltop cemetery, a bit up and out of the little town.
It’s a country cemetery minus the weathered headstones, two gentlemen tending the grounds. I inquire of Joe’s grave but they can’t be sure. OK, sure.
I didn’t bring flowers. I brought marijuana. Shoulda been there Joe. I sprinkle some in the air.
That done, home to Charlottesville by way of Morgantown. Poor Joe. Poor everyone involved with LBJ and Nixon.
Quiet night in the woods with the family. They’re off in the morning to Myrtle Beach, miniature golf capital of the South, for more family. I’m off in the morning to my adopted family in Oakton, VA, suburb of DC.
Route 11 north along the Shenandoah valley where Civil War armies marched up and down, breathtaking valley of abundance, up to Winchester for a day and night, brand new Motel 6, and a drive along Route 50 to Middleburg, VA like a Ralph Lauren polo wardrobe come to life, and Middleburg itself like a horse-jumping inland empire of the Hamptons.
A Visitors Center like a colonial’s snuff box. Yes, we have the Sporting Museum, meaning horses.
Up on a green hill, looking almost brand new Tom Jeff brick.
Entrance fee so no, only here for the Ichabod statue which is down in the cottage-like whitewashed library.
Nobody around, looking around. Ah-ha, there it is, on a table in a side-bar reading room, the library immaculate, not a single homeless person. Sorry to say, it’s a relief.
Ichabod’s on the run, skinny dude, holding on to a skinny Rocket for dear life, the dark and always terrifying headless horseman right on his tail, the Prussian ghost or Brom Bones in disguise, you decide, pumpkin head raised, the two of them pounding along in place. Not a Remington, how could it be, but near enough, near enough.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is part of me, part of all of us with a Rip Van on the side. For another day to come.
Today with Oakton’s Long Island friends. Tried for the Quantico Marine base and some Semper Fi history but got stuck in traffic and around here it can choke you to death.
Oakton, VA is slumber suburbia, quiet and leafy, well to do if you are doing well enough, somewhat well below that 1%.
Comfortable with a big steak dinner to celebrate some us and some us birthdays. Not like an old shoe or a slipper, more like a comfortable shirt, minus the tie, the vest, the jacket and shorts for slacks. Yakkity-yak — do talk back.
Saturday lolling with a most pleasant surprise: Wolf Trap Farm Park, National Park For The Performing Arts. Don’t that sound nice. A musical tribute to Ansel Adams and more. There’s going to be some recited Lincoln. My friends had to think of me because of Gettysburg.
Looling in the community pool, humid thunder clouds a gray cover.
Dinner, in a local mini-mall Greek cafeteria like, is moussaka, the Greek lasagna, with ethnic pride.
Pride, American pride made into music, Wolf Trap nestled in a Virginia hollow, classy and comfortable, Aaron Copeland, Dave Brubeck and son, Ansel Adams, John Williams, George Gershwin, Marvin Hamlisch, Lincoln. It’s all so appropriate as to where I’ve been it had to be. My hosts, as I’ve said had to agree.
Those announcement brass sounds that only mean Aaron Copeland and his tribute to the Common Man. Man alive, bursting with American pride. Then some Gershwin’s American In Paris, sweet, noisy, busy, our American from Brooklyn. Then John Williams from Lincoln with speeches by Virginia Senator Mark Warren. “Four score and…” I was just there. American pride in the air.
Clouds over Yosemite Valley. Ansel Adams projected on a big screen. Dave Brubeck and his son wrote an ode to that American Adams. Dig it, realize, recognize it. We done good here in the states. The National Symphony from D.C. is doing real good supplying the music for all of it.
Some woman other than Barbra Streisand comes out to sing “The Way We Were.” Bravo!
It all ends with an audience sing along of one of our “fruit plains or purple mountains…” A little dorky after all the masters, the orchestra maestro unknown to me. He ain’t Lenny, meaning Bernstein, so who could he be?
George Mason. Know him? His historic home. My hosts, Jan and Mike wonder if I’d be interested. A resounding huzzah from me and we are off to a big Greek diner for a big breakfast before a heavy day of touring, learning, knowing.
A diner back east, the servers are nuns and the short order chef the priest, our young tennis pro looking blonde server from Ukraine. The boys at Gettysburg did good. She’s here as a living proof.
More living proof, then, with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Gunston Hall, home of George Mason. You may have heard of his university in Virginia but how about him? One of our revolutionary big shots left off the rolls, left off the signing of the Constitution.
He wouldn’t sign. Why? Let’s take a tour of the house and find out.
His estate is a Masterpiece Theatre set piece, long lawns and avenues between trees, a split and polish Visitors Center and good shady walk up to his Hall, small by Mount Vernon and Monticello standards but a very landed gentleman in a Ben Franklin block of a house.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit…” Tom Jeff lifted those lines from George Mason’s Virginian Declaration of Rights. George Mason and George Washington petitioned George III to lay off. Courage.
Squire Mason looked like a typical portrait of that time, sort of chubby, ruddy, wigged up, sort of dull looking, but he was anything but, one of those gentlemen who wrote and wrote, had a dozen kids thousand of acres of tobacco, a founding father who was dismissed by the big shots because no Bill of Rights in original Constitution, nothing concerning slaves, of which he was guilty of, too much centralized power and at least 14 more complaints and in Washington’s case, Mason didn’t serve in combat. So, John Hancock he wasn’t and yet he was.
His home sits above the Potomac where cargo ships could dock. You can see a piece of the big river from his back door. Mount Vernon is down the block.
Mason’s home was colonial comfort, fine china, fine silver, fine dining, slaves to do the bidding.
We’re basically alone, adding to the living history of it. He practically owned Tidewater Virginia and Maryland with some Delaware thrown it. Now the estate is about 500 acres of park interpretation. What a discovery, my host Jan a school librarian preparing a pamphlet on George Mason.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit…” George Mason would be proud of our morning’s Ukrainian.
Dinner with another Long Island friend, female type, no fences to mend, long divorced, long living with same guy, my long longing for her but still stuck to each other, Jerry and Elaine without the priors, some more Greek in Arlington, VA, a tribute to the common denominator of friends through it all.
Through it all I’ve separated myself from a lot of friends. Politics, mine, and unfortunately, theirs: handguns, racial remarks, homophobia, flags in cars, supporting the draft, voting for Palin — stuff like that.
I’m headed to Long Island to open up one of those fences I built. I’m guilty of wanting the world a certain way, my way. I guess I’ve made some sow ears from former silk purses, so home to check out Hurricane Sandy’s damage and undo some of my damage. My god-daughter got caught up in my misgivings. Fortunately for me these folks are not even forgiving, they were, are, open arms always.
To get to Long Island from around D.C. stay off I-95 at all cost. Head north again on Route 15 through Gettysburg to Harrisonburg, swooping along through bounty’s farmland, always green, always 65-70mph, gas at $3.79, 287 to 78, turn right out of Pennsylvania for New Jersey. Jet travel and car travel, anywhere is possible.
Jersey is Garden State until the outer-skirts of Staten Island. The roads get ornery, crowded, squeezed, tolls that take your toll.
It’s all worth it as the tall towers of the Verrazano Bridge appear up ahead. We all love the Golden Gate but this, like an Olympic female broad jumper in full extension across the Henry Hudson narrows.
And behold, Oz, off to your left, Manhattan Island, Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, et al., the chessboard of Manhattan, and the new World Trade Center tower not half as intrusive as the Twin Towers.
The broad jumper lands you on Long Island and the Belt Parkway, bumping and undulating, the rescued and restored Parachute Jump on Coney Island an Eiffel Tower of the beachfront.
Salt marshes, sea birds, Kennedy Airport, Sunrise Hiway, home, Valley Stream, Lynbrook, Rockville Centre, open house.
And my friends open up Long Island, the beaches, some of the finest, the diners, the delicatessens, potato salad and macaroni salad, chapels of it.
Night one in a local Italian restaurant howling over Larry David. Long Island, sarcasm is language and an Italian meal with Italians by Italians. Manga like a motherfucker.
Oh, how young we were, softball until it came out of our ears, the Fillmore East, sports until we nosebleed from it all. Good to be home.
Home here, Rockville Centre, middle upper-scale Christian/Catholic, beautiful leafy neighborhoods, suffered terribly from 9/11: stockbrokers, firemen, cops in towers. I knew them all if not by name. There are tribes here and I was of those bands, having been a Nassau County cop here and for a brief time a stockbroker, our stories of each other here spilling out, spilling over the rim of laughter, Joe and me and Lori.
Joe and me head for Long Beach, East Rockaway, the roads so familiar I almost weep. How many years away. Too many to count.
Summer life here was Huck and Tom and beautiful Beckys, drinking by fourteen (18 was legal then), wild, not so many apartment houses to service Manhattan yet.
East Rockaway, just after Sandy
Hurricane Sandy covered these roads in boats from the nearby marinas and now the marinas have been refilled, Peter’s Clam Bar on its channel as it always was, on over the bridge over Reynolds Channel with our history of heading out to the open sea for blue fishing, drinking and puking.
Long Beach, a city, with a city smell, urban, saltwater scent and some decay, days of jumping the boardwalk without paying, Ferris wheel, miniature golf, good use of youth.
Malibu Beach Club, family lockers and rows of black boiler-pot-BBQ grills like alien landings on the beach sand behind the low sand dunes.
Lifeguard stands that have always stood, big ships out at sea waiting to come on into Hudson’s harbor, warm sun, warm sand, beach chairs, Joe and my life shared, waist deep in the surf, Tuesday. We’ll take it.
Taking our time, home for me to East Rockaway, my high school back in play after bad Sandy, still small, still brick, still quaint, be still my Huckleberry heart.
My streets, my creeks, my canals were bounced around but all seems calm, all the boats moored to their docks, Swift Creek gleaming, in between its deep green reeds, Hewlett Beach still very informal on formal Hewlett Bay.
T-shirts, shorts, sandals, service. A diner on Long Island, chicken salad on rye with gigantic coke, senior citizen Jewish. Ahhh, so frickin’ authentic.
Authentic Italians, Joe and Lori in Italy, Lori compiling a family history dating from 1593. Show me, show me, any history, any history.
Now get this” one of their tours of Italy was Frank Sinatraed: four times somewhere in Italy with a Frank in a Pompeii finale. Frank could have stopped the lava and ash with just a wink of his blue eyes — or with his mob connections of course.
Family. My god-daughter’s four-year old daughter has a, wait for it, lacrosse clinic.
Pretty little Nicole carries a pink lacrosse stick. Now you know you’re on Long Island, where lacrosse is not exactly king but surely a member of the royal court.
Young parents today: soccer camp, surfing camp, basketball camp, Nike gear head to toe, one little girl here on the manicured fields of Hampstead Lake State Park all in Ralph Lauren, high school lacrosse stars too cool for school in charge, sweet as can be, older age kids all in lacrosse protection like little Star Was soldiers.
My god-daughter Melissa, named for the beautiful Allman Brothers song, is a beauty I haven’t seen in many, many years. My sins are well known but I’m welcomed home. And we ain’t done yet, another grand kid, Joseph, in little kid co-ed hoops camp, a mishmash of shouts and encouragement from adults. Me too.
We dine on pasta and meatballs at home. Italian food wins all food wars. For my junior college graduation Lori’s gift to me was home made lasagna. I’m as comfortable as a clam in clam sauce.
Another day at the beach, Long Beach again to see how the rebuilding of the boardwalk is going, gray and rain expected, wind blowing, jetties as old as Hadrian’s Wall, brand new boards in place, bicyclists and pedestrians, high rise apartments, all the amusement park attractions all swept away, but all our memories remain, hot dogs, shooting galleries, summer sunsets and Labor Day like a feast day.
Feast, backyard BBQ with the whole family, for me, beautiful Joanna and Melissa and their beautiful children and son Jackie and his beautiful son Jake. I am privileged to be among them. I’m from California. I am an exotic to them, still with a local accent.
My next locale is Manhattan, for the MET, for Brady photos of the Civil War and Winslow Homer the same.
People love giving directions, especially when Google can do it literally door to door.
“The many roads I’ve covered/the many trails I’ve burned…” so familiar, so rewarding to be on them as the stock-chart skyline of Manhattan rises up beyond the ornate Queensborough Bridge, now know as the Ed Koch, former Manhattan mayor, bridge. No one calls it that of course, always the Queensborough or the 59th Street to all of us still. Even our Triborough is now RFK. Nope, never, going over the Queensborough like a couple of Queen crowns fused together, honking and squeezing on, over the East River, Kramer swimming along (see Seinfeld) Roosevelt Island, the UN slab, 60th St. to Madison to 81st to 5th to parking under the MET, cabs like swarming bees, trucks, limos parked where they sort of please, gone under and inside our Louvre.
Mobbed, European mobbed; lots of us too but languages, languages. George Mason would be proud.
The MET was always too much so I head through the Roman columns and the Greek heads to the rather odd entrance to the Civil War, through some antique Asian stuff, to a canvas camp tent recreation like Brady in the field.
Somber, not a lot of laughs or smiling faces, black and white silver like, death with destruction; Lincoln, Lee, soldiers posing in studios for almost yearbook settings, impossible to realize what is to come. First photos from the front. Gulp. Some so famous, the dead horses of Fredericksburg, the bloated corpses of Gettysburg, the burnt out shell of Richmond, the Confederate dead on Mary’s Heights, the ramparts of Atlanta, Fort Sumter, a family photo album of us at each other’s throat.
The bombastic canvas of American places of Frederic Church ease the pain. The soothing yet serious Winslow Homers ease you into and out of the pain, a pride in each of his paintings regardless the situation.
Google maps get you out of any situation you’re not so familiar with. North to Tarrytown and Sleepy Hallow, the Headless Horseman, Rip Van Winkle. Our literature begins, with an emphasis on our Washington Irving begat Mark Twain.
Rain hard. Good, Sleepy Hollowish, memories of Disney’s cartoon of it, with Bing Crosby voiceover. It scared me then and still does.
Grinding past the George Washington bridge traffic. As I always tell folks, like everyone who knows NY only as Manhattan, once you cross the GW you in Washington Irving country. And, again, where was Woodstock?
Slowly the city slips away, not too far away the Hudson River shows its real self, wide and handsome with signs for the Tappan Zee Bridge, meaning Dutch, meaning you’re in the ghosts of it.
It’s pretty swanky up here, small river townie and tonie, busier than I thought, always with the idea that those Dutch bowlers with their kegs of ale are still nearby. Henry Hudson’s crew.
But a bit more subdued as you enter Sleepy Hollow, an actual real place and mythical, a “duende” in Spanish place, across the Headless Horseman bridge, above the weathered headstone cemetery where Washington Irving is, born 1783, never dead, named for you who.
Boo! The Headless Prussian is here where Irving heard the Dutch tales from his Mr. Knickerbocker.
There’s an historic estate, there’s an historic stone Dutch church. There’s a gift shop attached to the historic estate besides its millpond, everything soaking wet with atmosphere.
Copies of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Rip Van Winkle awake.
Two lane green on past Sleep Hollow Golf club behind its pompous entrance, open, empty, luxury, clubhouse on a hill like a chunk of Versailles, so exclusive maybe the members aren’t even allowed. A very neat eat-off-it course, rainy day empty; the horseman would have a field day.
Now for Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s home. $12 to see Washington Irving’s rather lush estate. So I watch the film in a barn like theatre. This dude was rich, with talent and coin, selling Jack London volumes of his books, his American books, with a dose of his diplomatic time in Spain, a well traveled gentleman who lives on in all us Americans.
I’ll be forever in my brother’s debt for bringing up Ichabod and the one who rides headless through all time.
Time to start heading home to California so slowly back to Long Island for one last night of home with a cruise over the Throgs Neck Bridge, another beauty setting with New England to the left, far off Manhattan to the right and a stop in a deli in Cedarhurst of the Five Towns, like the Seven Cities of predominantly Jewish gold. I can say that: as Lenny Bruce said, “if you’re from the five boroughs and you’re not Jewish, you are… but if you’re Jewish and from Ithaca, you’re not…” I include Long Island in that.
One last night in Oakton, VA for an Italian restaurant and a lump of lasagna. How fitting.
The flight home is drudgery of course, but not the soldiers of Gettysburg.
ANYBODY OUT THERE? I Am Available for Divine Anarchy in Washington D.C. after November 12th Please appreciate the fact that my new California social services medical plan is paying for my dental work over the next week, and therefore I will remain in Garberville, CA through November 12th. After that, I am available for going on the road, and particularly for divine anarchy in Washington D.C. As you by now must have understood, I cannot begin to relate to the lack of cooperation/solidarity on the United States political left wing, and cannot begin to comprehend why I am not receiving anything at all from anybody in Washington D.C. for me to be there participating. Given the critical situation of global climate destabilization and other ecological problems, and the general failure of materialism, it is unbelievable to me that I am not being heard, in regard to my insistence that we bring in the spiritual aspect immediately; in addition to the marches, demonstrations, protests, and direct action. I am ready to leave California and return to Washington D.C. to live there on a permanent basis! I am requesting cooperation/solidarity from others to do this. I am sitting here at a computer in Garberville, CA paying by the hour to send out messages such as this. Is anybody still home in postmodern America? Craig Louis Stehr Nota bene: I ask you to view the website of Andy Caffrey, who is running for congress in California's second congressional district, at www.caffreyforcongress.org — Craig Louis Stehr, firstname.lastname@example.org
SONG OF THE DRONE WARRIORS
We are the ones
We have the magic thumbs
We have all the fun
With our skillful thumbs
We are the ones
With the surgical thumbs
We zap the raghead bums
With our unmanned guns
Raghead grannies and raghead sons
Raghead goalies and raghead mums
We are the thumbs
That trigger missiles from the sun
From Arizona thumbs
To Affi-Paki imams
We are the secret thumbs
Denied by everyone who’s anyone
We are killing Islam
With our Godly thumbs!
Our most imperial thumbs
Turn you villages to crumbs!
— Bill Hatch, 2013