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Off The Record (Jan 28, 2014)

by AVA News Service, January 28, 2014

A STORY in a recent New York Times tells us that lots of rural-based county jails, mostly in the South, are selling e-cigarettes to inmates to moderate their behavior. “When these guys get in here they’re wound up anyway, and then you tell them they’ve not getting cigarettes, and it’s on,” says Jason Armstrong who runs the inmate commissary at the Greene County, Tennessee, Detention Center.

E-CIGS contain nicotine but not the harmful tars found in regular smokes. They’re sold to prisoners for $8 to $38 (!) each. Some jails earn profits of more than 400 percent for each e-cig, the money going to the county’s general fund or into the jail budget. Where the e-cigs have been tried, the authorities say most of their jail populations come into custody as smokers, and without access to cigarettes they’re much more prone to violence and other forms of obstreperous behavior. Maybe Mendo should consider a pilot project at its County Jail.

CORRECTION! In a recent item about the new County courthouse proposed for Ukiah we somehow inflated the project cost to $300 million from roughly $200 million, the true projected cost for eight new courtrooms. The rest of our math, however, was correctly pegged to the $200 million figure. It is as follows:

NEW COURTHOUSE FACTS:

Sonoma County has a new courthouse in the unstoppable pipeline that is estimated to cost $174 million. And Lake County has one in the works estimated at $55 million. The numbers are low estimates of the likely costs by completion, of

course. But the proportions are interesting. In rough terms:

SoCo’s population is about 500,000

Mendo’s population is about 90,000

Lake County’s population is about 64,000.

So…

Sonoma County’s courthouse costs about $350 per person. Lake County’s costs $860 per person. And Mendo’s costs about $1350 per person. There are probably some economies of scale in the SoCo number. But both of our neighboring counties are getting much less new courthouse per capita than Mendo is. More evidence that we’ve got too many judges for our relatively sparse population. And now we’ll have too much courthouse for that population to go with our too many judges.

BEING A MENDO-CENTRIC publication, we assume our readers are as interested as we are in the drought’s multiple local effects. So far, those effects are most worrisome inland along the 101 corridor from Willits and its Brooktrails suburb to Redwood Valley. These communities are down to their last drop. Ukiah has so far settled for voluntary water cutbacks, as have water districts from Hopland to Point Arena to Gualala. If it doesn’t rain until November, we’ll all be living in a disaster area of little to no water for household use, and no water to fight the inevitable fires with.

CALIFORNIA’S DROUGHT will be one of the extreme weather events that the American Meteorological Society will examine later this year to determine whether the cause is natural variability or human-caused climate change, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center said last week. Agency Director Thomas Karl said federal officials have not yet linked the drought directly to climate change.

HEALDSBURG AND CLOVERDALE are the first two municipalities in Sonoma County to impose mandatory water conservation measures. Both communities lie well north of the Sonoma County Water Agency’s ability to supply them, and nearby Lake Sonoma, presently quite flush, does not supply domestic water to anyone until it reaches SoCo’s collection center on the Russian River at Wohler Bridge near Guerneville.

CLOVERDALE residents must reduce water consumption by 25%. Its wells draw entirely from the Russian River which, as we see, is down to a trickle, and that trickle depends on releases from Lake Mendocino, which is nearly dry.

MOST OF SONOMA COUNTY is supplied by Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma via Dry Creek, which flows south from Lake Sonoma to Sonoma County’s distribution center at Guerneville. Lake Sonoma is presently 67% full, and it’s a much bigger lake than Lake Mendocino. But Sonoma County uses the water it owns stored at Lake Mendocino before it taps its own supply at Lake Sonoma, much of which derives from the vast Mendocino County watershed that runs west of Cloverdale into the hills of Yorkville. Sonoma County also sells inexpensive Lake Mendocino water to Marin County water agencies as far south as Sausalito.

THE STUBBORN RIDGE of high pressure lurking offshore and blocking California’s winter rains, is four miles high and 2,000 miles long, a mass of high air pressure some meteorologists have likened to an aerial mountain range similar in mass to the Sierras. The duration of the upper-level ridge of high pressure anchored off California’s Northcoast since December 2012 – is unprecedented in modern weather records and puzzling researchers.

MENDO’S SUPERVISORS have discussed raising Coyote Dam to store more water in Lake Mendocino. But, as Supervisor Pinches has consistently pointed out, more water stored at Lake Mendocino means more water for Sonoma County to sell to its many downstream customers because however much water is stored at Lake Mendocino, Sonoma County owns most of it. (If you came in late, SoCo owns Lake Mendocino because they put up most of the money to build it back in the middle 1950s.) Raising the dam wouldn’t benefit inland Mendocino County except, perhaps, as flood control if it ever rains big again.

A COMPTCHE READER REPORTS: “No one buying water that I am aware of, but we are not using much yet either. We had a wild land fire early in the week. The fire department responded about 5:30am. In the process of hauling water to the fire, water tenders spilled water on the road that then froze into black ice. Hard to believe.”

ANOTHER READER COMMENTS: “This would be a good time to be a well respected dowser/water witch (and yes, our area has them). If you can identify a water source for homeowners under conditions like this you know your stuff…”

A REPORT by the excellent Mike A’Dair for the equally excellent Willits Weekly of early January, contained the following: “[Willits City Manager Adrienne] Moore said that using water from Wente Lake, located about five miles east of Willits and which is also known as the Boy Scout Lake, is an option but she added, ‘It is not going to be quickly available to us.’ Moore said that City of Willits staff has estimated that it would cost $1.8 million to bring water down to Willits from Wente Lake. Third District Supervisor John Pinches pushed hard on the Wente Lake project between 2005 and 2010. His plan was to raise the dam at the lake, which would roughly triple the amount of water held in the reservoir. Pinches said raising the dam there would cost about $800,000 and he added that the water could be available to either Willits or the town of Redwood Valley. Pinches complained about the attitude of local government officials in our area. ‘The Boy Scouts were on board with doing it,’ Pinches said, ‘because a large reservoir there would mean more recreation facilities. But when I took it to both Redwood Valley and to Willits, they told me they didn’t need the water. What usually happens around here is, everyone gets excited about the lack of water and everyone says that something has to be done, and then it rains, and everyone forgets about it.’ Pinches said that the Wente Lake project is neither being actively pursued at the present time, nor has it been decisively rejected. He said that project designs for raising the dam do exist but added that no formal agreement has been reached with the Boy Scouts of America. When asked if there has been any interest in blowing the dust off of that old feasibility study, Pinches said, ‘Couple of people have asked about it, but not the interest you would think’.”

GOVERNOR BROWN’S state of the state message this week made it clear that if the drought continues, riparian rights could be mooted until the drought is over. People with rights to the state’s creeks, rivers and lakes could be ordered to halt their draws on these depleted sources. The State Water Resources Board is evaluating California’s water supplies with an eye to ordering water rights holders to cease their draws, with the newer draws being halted first on down through senior riparian access. Since most vineyard appropriators are relatively new, they would have their taps shut first. If they refused they would be liable to fines of $500 a day.

QUOTING from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “Sonoma County Winegrowers, an industry group, is convening a meeting with growers and water managers Feb. 4 to talk about the drought emergency, said president Karissa Kruse. She said there has been an increase in growers buying crop insurance and that the 2014 crop could produce less wine than in average years. The lack of rain combined with unseasonably balmy weather could cause an early bud break, she said. That could expose the vine at a delicate stage to greater risk of frost, which is harder to protect against when water is restricted.”

WE ASKED MALCOLM MACDONALD about the ancient rumor of a large water supply in the Caspar area of the Mendocino Coast. Malcolm responded, “Caspar Cattle Company is, more or less, the land north of Caspar Creek on the east side of Highway One. It includes what is known popularly as the ‘Duck Pond,’ visible from the highway. At one time, probably, into my lifetime, there were two very large water tanks just east and south of the Duck Pond. These supplied the then well populated town of Caspar as well as the mill. I’m not sure of the source of the water, possibly an underground spring or like early north Albion there may have been flumes bringing the water from the creek. The early (1850s-1870s) Macpherson mill at Noyo flats got its water, via a flume system, from the south side of the Noyo River — most likely from Waterfall Gulch, near where the current reservoirs for the City of Fort Bragg reside. Oscar Smith is the current owner of the Caspar Land Company (or certainly a huge chunk of it) — he’s your Comptche Road resident — a descendant (nephew or grandnephew) of Jim Lilley who was a long time (decades) superintendent for the Caspar Mill Co. in the bygone days of Caspar.” How much water is potentially available for that parched stretch of the Coast isn’t known.

“I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED A SWIMMING POOL, and never had one. When it became generally known a year or so ago that California was suffering severe drought, many people in water-rich parts of the country seemed obscurely gratified, and made frequent reference to Californians having to brick up their swimming pools. In fact a swimming pool requires, once it has been filled and the filter has begun its process of cleaning and recirculating the water, virtually no water, but the symbolic content of swimming pools has always been interesting: a pool is misapprehended as a trapping of affluence, real or pretended, and of a kind of hedonistic attention to the body. Actually a pool is, for many of us in the West, a symbol not of affluence but of order, of control over the uncontrollable. A pool is water, made available and useful, and is, as such, infinitely soothing to the western eye.” (— Joan Didion, The White Album, 1979)

KMUD’S KELLY LINCOLN turned in a useful report on the big water meeting in Willits last week relevant to all of northern Mendo. (Scroll down to Evening News for January 21, 2014.) http://www.kmud.org/programs-mainmenu-11/kmud-audio-archive

“SO MUCH WATER is moved around California by so many different agencies that maybe only the movers themselves know on any given day whose water is where. But to get a general picture it is necessary only to remember that Los Angeles moves some of it, San Francisco moves some of it, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project moves some of it and the California State Water Project moves most of the rest of it, moves a vast amount of it, moves more water farther than has ever been moved anywhere. They collect this water up in the granite keeps of the Sierra Nevada and they store roughly a trillion gallons of it behind the Oroville Dam and every morning, down at the Project’s headquarters in Sacramento, they decide how much of their water they want to move the next day.” (— Joan Didion, The White Album)

AS HOUSEHOLD WATER REGS begin to be applied, one has to wonder at the math: If 75% of the state’s water is devoted to agriculture, cutting household water consumption whatever percentage — say 25% to begin with — doesn’t do much of anything to help overall conservation. Of course it helps in small towns like Willits where ag is pretty much confined to the illegal ag of marijuana production and household water consumption is most of the water consumed narrowly speaking about a closed water delivery system. But wherever else individual consumption is limited, ag will get most of what’s saved. So lots of earnest people trying to conserve water are naturally going to start asking, “Why am I suffering with all this when the ag industry — the grape industry in Mendocino County — isn’t doing a thing?”

“IT IS EASY to forget that the only natural force over which we have any control out here is water, and that only recently. In my memory California summers were characterized by the coughing in the pipes that meant the well was dry, and California winters by all-night watches on rivers about to crest, by sandbagging, by dynamite on the levees and flooding on the first floor. Even now the place is not all that hospitable to extensive settlement.” (Joan Didion, The White Album)

THE FIRST REAL RAIN in nearly two months could hit later this week, ending an otherwise bone-dry January, forecaster Mike Pechner of Golden West Meteorology said Sunday. Pechner said the Northcoast could get as much as two inches of rain beginning Thursday.

THE LOCAL ANGLE: Mike Pechner once lived on Greenwood Ridge with his son, Tobias, an outstanding football player.

JANUARY is on track to be the driest January ever recorded in Northern California and 2013 was the driest calendar year on record. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought in January and water agencies across the state are calling on users to cut their water use. “We have a long way to go,” Pechner said. “Even if we hit normal for the rest of the year we would still be below 50% of normal. It will be enough rain to get the green grass going — it won’t be that summer brown anymore — but not more than that.”

THE CHALLENGE to KZYX’s FCC license spearheaded by KZYX Board member/programmer John Sakowicz has been picked up as an AP wire story and appears in a recent San Jose Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_24967831/mendocino-radio-station-dispute-could-go-fcc

SAKO WENT OFF on an odd tangent in the Press Democrat last week about the FCC case pending re Mendocino County Public Radio. The combative liberal talk show host said one of his objections to station management was the recent hiring of a KZYX newsperson who lists the Voice of America and, possibly, the CIA, on her resume, a double whammy among the more excitable libs. But seeing as how both agencies draw smart, all be them true believer types, mostly from elite schools, one young woman at the station’s ramshackle Philo headquarters with those credentials would instantly triple the station’s IQ. So far, from all accounts, the new news lady is doing a good job. Of course I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor thing already goes home every night and screams into her pillow. Any person coming in from the outside to any kind of Mendocino County public employment has got to feel like he or she has just been hurled through the Looking Glass. Their eyes adjust to the new reality unlike any they’ve known and suddenly they realize they’re in a very strange place. “Alice! Get me outtahere!”

“A TRUE REVOLUTION of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’… The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” (MLK, 1967)

I HAVE VIVID MEMORIES of the assassination of Martin Luther King. My daughter had just been born at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. Her delivery doctor was barefoot and wore a flower behind his ear. I remember feeling that I should probably check his credentials. I was driving a cab, writing bad poetry and working to overthrow the government for all the reasons King himself perfectly articulated — the insane war on Vietnam at the expense of home front spending. My brother had just gotten out of the federal penitentiary at Lompoc for refusing to register for the draft. He was the first guy in the state to refuse to register. Just as he was leaving prison, my cousin, sentenced out of Arizona, was just entering Lompoc. He was the first guy in Arizona to get prison time for refusing to register. That’s us! A family of firsts! I was watching the news when the announcements that King had been shot began. Later that night, Yellow Cab Dispatch warned us to stay out of Hunter’s Point and the Fillmore District because men were shooting at cab toplights. I tried to find confirmation that this was true but never did. No driver I knew had had it happen to him. It was a bad time generally in San Francisco with lots of street crime and hard drugs mowing down acres of flower children, hastening the “back-to-the-land” movement that formed the Mendocino County we see around us today, especially silly people in elected office. I had a wife and two children and no money. But cab driving, in the San Francisco of 1968, could pay the bills out of the cash it generated and I managed the slum apartment building we lived in at 925 Sacramento at the mouth of the Stockton Tunnel, perhaps the noisiest residential neighborhood in the world with horns honking and idiot shrieks emanating from the tunnel’s echo chamber round-the-clock. We got a free apartment in return for my management, which consisted of doing absolutely nothing because rents were mailed directly to Coldwell Banker. The Nude Girl On A Swing was our immediate neighbor. She sailed out of the ceiling naked every night at a North Beach nightclub over a sea of upturned faces. Her act was a big draw. She was a junkie whose junkie boyfriend threatened to kill me one night when I stopped him from beating her up. The day after the King murder we, the “activists” of that place and time, gathered in a large room south of Market to organize a protest march. I took a stack of march leaflets up to Market Street where I was soon accosted by a man who screamed N-Lover at me and was so generally incensed I thought I was going to have to fight him. I’d known lots of racists, of course, but never any as unhinged as this guy, and I didn’t travel in those circles anyway. I was there for a couple of hours, but he was the only negative response I got, but it was so intensely negative I’ve never forgotten it. You see all these memoirs by varsity hippies about how groovy SF was in the 60s you could get the impression that it really was a super cool place to live. It was and it wasn’t. What it was was the precursor of the collapse to come, a time when the restraints came all the way off.

THE LETTER to The Willits News from Susan Ross of Brooktrails featured in the letters section is an accurate picture of both contemporary Willits and Ukiah, but the two towns — Jon Carroll in this morning’s Chronicle describes Ukiah as “tired” — are the way they are because both were abandoned years ago by their money people. Right up until the middle 1950s, both towns’ bourgeoisie cared about what their towns looked like, how they functioned. Then that civic spirit or whatever you want to call it was lost, and both places simply became places where you went every day to make some money, and both towns became a squalid six miles of unplanned, ragtag commerce, the kinds of places one dreaded to visit and hurried away from as soon as the necessary visit was concluded. Neither town is poor. There’s lots of money in both places. What’s missing is any interest by that money in reintroducing civic coherence. And we’re into a third generation of people who never knew a time when the places they live were anything but ugly. The young ‘uns think Willits and Ukiah are what things are supposed to look like.

ON THE SUBJECT of Willits visuals, unlike Cloverdale, which really was improved by its bypass, Willits won’t be much improved because the Willits Bypass will not have a Highway 20 on- and off-ramp, meaning large numbers of vehicles will still have to go more than halfway through town to get to and from Fort Bragg.

WILLITS also has the architectural gift that keeps on giving, a gift of our state court apparatus, the monstrous and now abandoned so-called justice center. It sits in the middle of Willits like a giant, malignant toad. That thing turned out not to be even structurally sound, not to mention its eternally baleful effect on central Willits. But who stood in its way? Our Superior Court is poised to impose another such monstrosity on Ukiah. Whatever a powerful entity wants to do to Willits or Ukiah, it just goes ahead and does it.

Willits Justice Center

Willits Justice Center

CALTRANS says the Willits Bypass project used 4 million gallons of water last year for dust control and compaction, much of which came from a few local wells supplemented by treated wastewater from the City of Willits. This coming season, water usage for the project could be higher, as the season will be longer and cement requires much larger amounts of water. This information should be subject to public review. It’s “our water, our survival.” Some questioned the wisdom of using City “wastewater” — if sprayed on fields it recharges the underground aquifer, whereas used on the freeway, it mostly evaporates. And over-use of well water may impact other valley wells (including the City’s). Another issue with drawdown of wells is subsidence. In the San Joaquin Valley, some places have collapsed by 30 feet or more. A related concern was the impact of the 55,000 wick-drains installed in the wetlands on recharge of the valley’s underground aquifer as well their effect on nearby wells. A question was also raised about whether toxics may be leaching from fill dirt into the aquifer and streams. A final issue regarding the bypass project was whether the extensive use of Main St. for heavy trucks carrying fill through town may have caused damage to underground water mains. Mr. Melluish said mains are about 4 feet deep and are designed to withstand that kind of heavy traffic. The City has recently upgraded most of the old mains and has plans to replace the section north of Commercial to Casteel in the coming year. With an aging water system, however, underground leaks are a challenge – both in the City and Brooktrails. (Save Our Little Lake Valley)

SHERIFF ALLMAN told the Supervisors last week he’ll make pot-growing water thieves a priority this year. Sure, good. Get ‘em, Sheriff. But what about the County’s non-pot growing water thieves? Walk any stream in the County and you’ll find everyone from people stealing water for pot gardens and grapes to individual backcountry households stealing water for their annual baths. And given that there might not be any water to steal by next fall if the drought continues, the Sheriff might be too busy breaking up neighborhood fights over water to get around to water diverters. It’s easy to demonize a generally unpopular, and often largely mythical group like pot growers as the primary water villains, but they are far from the only people stealing water in Mendocino County.

JACK LONDON TO HIS 13-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, FEBRUARY 1914: “All my life has been marked by what, in lack of any other term, I must call ‘disgust.’ When I grow or disinterested in anything, I experience a disgust which settles for me that thing forever. I turn the page down there and then. When a colt on the ranch, early in its training, shows that it is a kicker or a bucker or a bolter or a balker, I try patiently and for a long time to remove, by my training, such deleterious traits; and then at the end of a long time if I find that these vicious traits continue, suddenly there comes to me a disgust, and I say Let the colt go. Kill it, sell it, give it away. So far as I am concerned I am finished with the colt. Years ago I warned your mother that if I were denied the opportunity of forming you, sooner or later I would develop a disgust, and that I would turn down the page. If you should be dying, and should ask for me at your bedside, I should surely come; on the other hand, if I were dying, I should not care to have you at my bedside. A ruined colt is a ruined colt, and I do not like ruined colts.”

JACK LONDON’S 13-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, JOAN, WROTE YEARS LATER: “Even today, rereading his letter of February 24th, 1914, I am appalled by the relentless, calculating cruelty with which he wrote to me, his daughter, just turned thirteen. I rejected his rejection simply because I could not possibly accept it. Little by little, with the initiative on my side for each cautious easing of the tension, but with its immediate acceptance by Daddy, an affectionate correspondence was resumed. And yet, Daddy was different. Except on rare occasions, his old exuberance was gone. Fewer letters were exchanged than before, but they were loving letters, and when we were together, he expressed his love for us and his interest in what interested us in ways I shall never forget.”

THE ABOVE comes from a new London biography by Earle Labor published by Farrer, Straus and Giroux, and a highly recommended AVA read.

WILL PARRISH’S ATTORNEY, OMAR FIGUEROA of Sebastopol, made the following remarks last Thursday on the Ukiah Courthouse steps after the onerous charges against AVA reporter Will Parrish were reduced in a settlement between District Attorney David Eyster, the Court, and defendant Parrish. Parrish had been charged with multiple misdemeanor counts associated with his Willits Bypass protest he carried out strapped for two weeks to a piece of construction equipment.

Figueroa: “I wish I had the time and the courage to get out there and stop these illegal operations but I don’t. Those of you who do have that courage to stand up should continue because there are other attorneys like me out there who will stand with you to avoid prosecution and punishment for doing the right thing. Initially Will was charged with three infractions. As is his right he demanded a jury trial so that the people of Mendocino County could determine whether or not he was guilty. In response to that, 16 misdemeanors were filed against him. When all is said and done under the terms of this settlement he will have two infractions. He is not on probation. No jail time is part of his deal. Restitution has been reserved and there will be a restitution hearing on April 26 at 9:30, unless it’s settled earlier. We want you to show up and show your support for Will Parrish at that time. Based on the information provided to us we anticipate that Judge Behnke will order restitution that is a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Caltrans and its corporate contractors were requesting. Keep in mind that the judges and prosecutors are elected officials. They are public servants. They work for us. So let them know how you feel about this. I do want to commend the office of the District Attorney for allowing this resolution which, although not a complete dismissal, is a couple of infractions and a few dollars in restitution and no jail time. Will and I are happy about this. The outcome of this case will not squelch future protests. I encourage you to do the right thing and stand up against the destruction of Mother Earth and to remember that many others will stand up with you. Do not be afraid. There is strength in numbers. Thank you all for coming together.

Parrish (center) prepares to speak to supporters after plea deal reached

Parrish (center) prepares to speak to supporters after plea deal reached

WILL PARRISH took the microphone after an introduction by Naomi Wagner: “Thanks for coming out here. I have two misdemeanors that will essentially become infractions after two years. No jail time. It’s not really probation, just ordinary terms I am supposed to abide by for the misdemeanors to become infractions. I was arrested at one point for being within what the CHP claimed was 100 yards of the Willits bypass route when I was trying to cover the Bypass as a journalist in September. As part of this deal, I can congregate with anyone else in the public who is near the bypass route. So part of the settlement is not limiting my rights as a journalist to cover the bypass. The terms of the restitution are no longer the worst-case scenario. I personally think Caltrans should be required to pay restitution to us. They are the people who actually violated the laws which are supposed to protect ecosystems and Little Lake Valley. But those will be let go. The best we can do is pick our battles. I am now able to free up my energy to work on things that are bigger priorities for me than going all the way through this drawn-out and draining legal process. I have been involved in opposing the Willits bypass for over a year. In that time I have personally experienced the way that Caltrans has the roll right over anyone who might dare to stand in their way. That’s similar to the process that has been playing out in different forms for over 30 years now. Caltrans lies and they manipulate and they will do anything they need to do in order to steamroll forward with this project. I understand the same dynamic happens with many other projects that Caltrans pursues — large, bloated, international corporations all over the world use this pattern. A global struggle is happening for the preservation of our global ecosystems and the Willits bypass is wreaking the greatest harm on ecosystems of any project in Mendocino County in years. There are huge amounts of CO2 just in the transportation of the fill dirt and the production of gravel and all the other industrial processes to build this unnecessary freeway. The destruction of wetlands — they are keystones to ecosystems. They are the most important element of groundwater recharge. They are essential in the health of wildlife. They are essential to the health of our watershed. And this is the largest wetlands destruction that has been permitted to go ahead in California in the last half century. To experience the nuts and bolts of this corrupt process involving some real criminal activity on the part of Caltrans has been gut-wrenching and it has been appalling — not to mention an educational process for us.

Parrish speaks to supporters in front of courthouse Thursday afternoon

Parrish speaks to supporters in front of courthouse Thursday afternoon

ATTORNEY FIGUEROA then explained to AVA reporter Bruce McEwen some of the details of the settlement: “Will Parrish did not plead guilty; he entered pleas of no contest under Penal Code 555 which is trespassing upon posted lands. The significant part is that the remaining counts were all dismissed so the three counts of resisting arrest and the other 11 counts under Penal Code 555 were all dismissed. The charges that they were threatening to file against him will not be filed either. Their initial offer after they jacked up all the charges involved a long history of negotiations. He is not on probation. He has not been sentenced. He is not under any court probation. This is two years of deferred entry of judgment so he is not formally on probation. He has not been convicted. After two years if he complies with the conditions which we worked on that are acceptable to us then he will be convicted of two infractions instead of two misdemeanors. So he basically got a delay in sentence. He plead to two misdemeanors and after two years they will be reduced to infractions. Initially they wanted him to sign off on an estimated $1 million restitution — that’s what Mr. Eyster said at first. Then they gave us paperwork that added up to about half a million dollars. Based on the information they provided to us we think that the restitution that will be ordered by the court will be a small fraction of the amount requested by Caltrans and its corporate contractors. There will be a restitution hearing on April 25 if we cannot come to an agreement before that. There is no stay away order. He cannot physically obstruct or delay the Willits bypass. But Will has no interest in doing that because the pen is mightier than the sword. He will be engaging in investigative journalism to expose fraud and corruption. The original stay away order was a dealbreaker for us. We would not agree to any such order. We negotiated that there would be no stay-away condition in the deferred entry of judgment. We needed for him to be able to cover the Bypass and do his job. He had been chilled from doing his job with the stay-away order that previously existed in the pendency of the case. They had a 100 yard stay-away order. That did chill his journalistic freedom and that’s now been lifted.”

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK: “I hate to break this to you, but the younger generations are careening towards sociopathy and narcissism as a norm. In a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health did a study (which they quickly buried) that the number of teenagers in the US with Narcissistic Personality disorder (NPD) is almost one in ten. For their parents, the rate is about one in fifteen, and for the generation before that, it is about one in twenty. NPD is not something that changes greatly once someone reaches adulthood. I work with a lot of people who are in their twenties and thirties. While they probably aren’t going to instigate any ‘quasi-Nazi’ movements, they definitely are completely unequipped to do anything about it, either. I’m not putting the blame on them completely, they were raised to be the least resourceful generation the world has ever known. Most of them are good little authoritarian followers, like they were taught, and they have no idea how to be anything else. The tattoos, I think, are an outlet for both their need for attention, and their inability to express themselves otherwise.”

A WILLITS READER WRITES: “You are so wrong about Willits, as always! The level of civic and volunteer activity here is extraordinarily high. Drive down Commercial Street to see all the new facilities put in since I’ve been here – the skatepark, the new ball fields (which host not only kids’ games, but charity adult softball events and such), the Frontier Days arena, not new, but revamped bigtime last year, including Willy the cowboy getting a new suit of clothes, and working on replacing bleachers this year, Frontier Days is an all volunteer effort, the new college campus, Wowser, the new ‘maker’ studio coop (founded by volunteers and available to local young people to learn skills and make stuff) in the old Little Lake Industries building (which sat empty until this project, and has been redone (well major work, volunteers did a huge amount of work) by landlord Peter Koch who supports the project), beautiful City Park, beautiful Rec Grove, and that’s not to mention the Skunk Train Depot (yes, the fence is not aesthetic) but the trains are beautiful. And the relatively new Roots of Motive Power facility, with the train loop in front of it, which organization is about as cool and unique as it gets, again all volunteer. Free Santa Train rides every Christmas, and let’s talk about the Christmas Tree effort every year, which gives needy households new toys and clothes, not just one scraggly used teddy bear, via the great idea of putting up Christmas trees in local stores, adorned with tags listing toys and clothes that kids are wishing for, all delivered on Christmas eve by volunteer Santas, some on fire trucks from our local volunteer fire department. Such efforts supported by the big Toy Run and party, all volunteer effort. Then there’s free Brown Bag lunches in the City Park every Saturday: such effort shared by many different groups informal and not, and also includes Christmas day lunch with presents for kids – I guess that’s the kind of thing that Ms. Ross said in her letter ‘invites’ the homeless people.

AND HEY, JON CARROLL, we are so happy to have a version of Oco Time in Willits now, just opened, ‘It’s Time Sushi Express’ – Japanese noodle bar (so delicious it’s addicting) and sushi and rice bowls to go. The couple who own Oco Time are up here personally tending to the businesses for a while. It’s in the tiny spot across the alley from the Noyo Theatre (not bad to have a movie theatre in our small town, new local owners struggle but are committed to keeping it open and yes they run mainstream films but also others, too). And the museum, revitalized under Alison Glassey, but there’s no doubt that the word ‘revitalized’ is correct, with the revamped gift shop, a new crew of volunteers, many more events there, and of course the Kinetic Carnival – which is big for Willits, not only because of the bringing people in to spend money aspect, but also because it brings the Roots oldtimers together to do the project with the groovy people in an interesting way. Roots now has some young, new volunteers, too. And the new Elementary Charter school, the facility mostly put up with parent volunteers, there’s a new crop of young people raising kids here, a baby boom reflected in the unexpected increase in school enrollment this past fall. They are increasingly involved in civic matters and volunteerism I could really go on and on – the beautiful little theater, the Willits Center for the Arts, the Senior Center (considered by outsiders one of the most lively and vital centers anywhere), the very active old-fashioned service clubs, including the Soroptomists. Volunteers run youth soccer, little league, and more youth sports. Then there’s the work local contractors did as volunteers all summer to redo the sports facilities at the high school, including resodding the football field and many other improvements. And the Chamber of Commerce, which actively works to support ‘buy local’ with very popular festivals downtown a couple times a year (all volunteer effort, too). The highway? Well, the north end looks good to me, attractive retail and restaurants, and yes, things like planters and benches, and Christmas decorations, and flags being put out by the Boy Scouts on 11 different holidays, and a local designer helping downtown businesses with window decorations – his work has paid off as many businesses he’s not involved in did beautiful Christmas windows this year – do help the aesthetics of town. Yes, the ‘miracle mile’ is the miracle mile, no doubt it’s not aesthetic.”

BONES ROADHOUSE VALENTINES DAY DINNER & DANCE PARTY. Fiesta Para Feliz Dia De Los Enamorados Friday, February 14, 2014. Delicious Food & Drink All Day Dance Party & Music Starting At 7pm Celebrate Valentines Day in fine style at the South Coast’s favorite restaurant, bar & place to hang out, enjoy life and friends and dance. Dance to a spicy mix of Blues, Jazz, Funk, New Orleans, Reggae, Cumbia, Salsa, Rock and music from the 40s to today, and more, expertly mixed by DJ Sister Yasmin. (Donation: $3). All ages before 10pm; 21 and over after 10pm. Enjoy Bone’s regular Dinner Menu until 9:30pm. Valentines Day Special — Angus Select Rib-Eye Dinner, plus drink specials, complimentary Roses and FUN! Reservations accepted for parties of 4 or more at 884-1188. Bones Roadhouse, 39080 South Highway One, Gualala, CA Information: 707-884-1188; 884-4703.

COSTCO wants to build one of their mammoth emporiums in Ukiah. Official Ukiah is doing everything it can to accommodate them, including spending public money on site prep for a corporation that makes more money in a month than flows through Ukiah in five years. Lots of local residents are opposed to the project. Their reasons vary.

A MEETING of the Ukiah Planning Commission last Wednesday night, in the words of ace Ukiah Daily Journal reporter, Justine Frederickson, “considered one of the very last steps in the long process of project approval, which was the Site Development Permit for the 148,000-square foot warehouse and 16-pump gas station.”

THE GIANT new Costco would join the skein of big box stores strung along the west side of Highway 101. Of course Costco’s point men are enthusiastic: “It makes perfect sense to us to be part of the (Redwood Business Park) and we believe it will be a successful venture for us,” said Michael Okuma, director of real estate development for Costco, explaining that store’s plan has been reviewed and tweaked often since its design began in 2011.

UKIAH’S PLANNERS offered a few last gasp tweaks about shade trees and maintenance of the trees.

SERIOUS OBJECTIONS from random citizens were ignored. The store comes with a 12-pump gas station in a small town that already seems to have a gas station or two at most of its major intersections, and a Costco will undoubtedly mean the end of one or more of the town’s major markets.

THE COSTCO MEETING droned on until after midnight when the Planners voted, 4-1, to approve the corporate octopus that is sure to devour lots of Ukiah’s remaining smaller businesses. Linda Sanders, the last person in Ukiah who seems to care what the place looks like, was the lone No vote on the Ukiah Planning Commission.

IT’S SAFE to assume Costco can expect a thumbs-up from the Ukiah City Council, and the monster store will be a fact of Mendocino County life by March of 2015.

THE CALIFORNIA FISH AND GAME COMMISSION HONORED TIM STOEN last Thursday in Monterey as one of the top five prosecutors in the state. Stoen works out of Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Fish and Game Commission President Michael Sutton honored Stoen and four other prosecutors from around the state. He said Stoen “takes wildlife cases very seriously, including illegal hunting, sport and commercial fishing violations.” Stoen “doesn’t plead out cases just because it’s easier, and he is not afraid to take cases to a jury or court trial when necessary.” Sutton said Stoen is “equally adept at prosecuting environmental destruction and pollution crimes. In addition, Sutton said while marine reserves are relatively new along the North Coast, Stoen has been “supportive of the state’s outreach and education efforts as well as its enforcement stance.”

THURSDAY’S NEW YORK TIMES carried a long piece about the musical career of the late Gene Clark, the famous song writer and singer from the Byrds. The local angle? Clark lived on Middle Ridge, Albion, during the 1970s and even formed a band called the Mendocino Rhythm Section.

KZYX goes all uptight at a single f-bomb dropped live on air. “Eek! The FCC is coming!” Check out Earl Weaver, the famous baseball manager, live at five one day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWQbN0jFo_k

WILLITS HORSE-WHISPERER Angie Herman writes: “There is a confirmed case of strangles in Mendocino County. Prior to this horse showing any signs of illness it may have exposed horses that competed in last week’s Willits High School Rodeo. If your horse could have been exposed please watch for fever, swollen throatlatch or other areas around head, nasal discharge, and depression. The infected horse has been isolated and every effort is being made to stop the spread of this disease. Strangles is common in many areas. It can be a serious, even fatal disease. Horses who travel and compete frequently should probably be vaccinated against it. It is a bacterial disease and it can be spread by “fomites” which are things like halters, hands, boots, buckets etc. The vet and owner are managing this case and other possibly exposed horses as per UC Davis’s current recommendations. Please contact your equine veterinarian if you have questions. Also, please have any horses showing possible signs of this disease examined by a vet immediately.” (A reader notes that she’s pretty sure the horse event referred to here did not take place in Willits but in Ferndale, Humboldt County.)

AT THE MENDO SUPES meeting of 21 January, Supervisor Dan Gjerde: “I want to bring up something that’s been going on on the Mendocino Coast for some time. For several years now the College of the Redwoods which the Mendocino Coast is a part of, has been scaling back the classes they have offered and maybe you have already heard this, but as of Wednesday night the three remaining full-time faculty members at the campus on the coast were told that their jobs were up next semester, and they are being shifted to Eureka and Crescent City. So there will only be part-time faculty at the College of the Redwoods. There will be no administrator on the campus. There will be no counseling services. That is presumably the reason for eliminating all full-time faculty because apparently under state law if you don’t have full-time faculty you don’t have to provide the students with counseling or with other certain things like the library which they have shut down for over a year now. So there is a group of us on the coast — I have attended two meetings already — who are saying that enough is enough. The decision back in 1970s or thereabouts to join the College of the Redwoods was probably a mistake. It’s three hours for faculty to attend me a meeting in Eureka. It would only be an hour and a half for faculty to attend a meeting if they were part of Mendocino College. I’m just putting this out there. If you have good connections with Mendocino College, then there are people on the coast who would like to set up a meeting with Mendocino College to talk about how they could go about joining. Logistically, it could be as simple as the College of the Redwoods Board of Directors could vote to say, Fine, you can leave the district and the Mendocino College Board could say, Fine, we want you here in the District. It is not actually required by state law to have a vote unless one of the two districts objects. So there are people on the coast who would like to set up a meeting with the trustees or a group of the trustees to meet with the Mendocino College board. If any of you have suggestions about making an approach I would appreciate that and I will pass it along to the people on the coast.

SUPERVISOR HAMBURG on a Sheriff’s substation for the village of Mendocino: “Last Friday Sheriff Allman called a group of people together from the Planning Department, from State Parks, and from the Mendocino Area Parks Association to talk about the establishment of a new sheriff’s substation in the town of Mendocino. That is moving forward. It will be in a very dilapidated carriage house behind the Kelly House and that building is going to be restored. It’s a very simple building and the restoration can be pretty simple. The Sheriff intends to do a lot of the work with inmate labor and donated materials. We are going to go before the Mendocino Historical Review Board and make sure that we do it in a way that is okay with them. But we are not going to tear it down. We are going to basically refurbish this building and make it into a usable space. It will be very important to show the flag over there with a sign over there that says ‘Sheriff’s Substation.’ It will be right there on the headlands. And we have a lot of issues coming up there. The business community in the town of Mendocino of course is very supportive of this. They want to see it. Obviously, this is not going to be something that is staffed all day long but it will be there as a resource to the Sheriff’s Department, a resource to the community. I’m very excited about that. I’m glad to have the cooperation of State Parks because of course it is on State Parks property.”

RULE 16 refers to the Supervisor’s meeting procedures, specifically ad hoc presentations from The Great Unwashed during public comment. A recent controversy arose when Supervisor Hamburg cut off remarks by John Sakowicz critical of Ukiah’s financial officer, Gordon Elton. Hamburg said Sako’s assessment of Elton’s job performance had nothing to do with Supe’s business, and Sako had to sit down and be quiet.

PUBLIC COMMENT, historically considered, has irritated certain supervisors, usually the conservative supervisors who, as the late John Cimolino put it, “Do we really have to listen to these goddam nuts?” Well, yes, the board decided. Give whomever a few minutes to raise whatever issue. What’s the harm? But just in case the comment gets real wild we can cite our rule that limits the talk to relevance to County affairs.

LEAVE IT TO THE LIBS. Supervisor Hamburg is widely regarded as a liberal, thereby a free speech guy. It’s odd that he, of all people, would interfere with the content of public expression, although we can understand the reluctance of a board chair to listen to a denunciation of a guy the board is awarding one of its pro forma Attaboy recognitions. Candid assessments of public servants in this County have never been welcome, especially by other County bureaucrats, and Sako gets points from us for pointing out that whatever his other virtues, Elton’s work seemed to make Ukiah’s precarious financial status even more precarious.

THE UPSHOT? Thanks to Supervisor Pinches persistence in insisting that the free speech issue be resolved, Rule 16, drafted by Supervisor McCowen and passed 4-1, Hamburg dissenting, is now more encumbered: “Public comment within or reasonably related to subject matter that comes under the jurisdiction of the board shall be permitted at the discretion of the chair, with consultation with the County Counsel.” Hamburg was right to vote against it, although it describes what he’d done in the Elton case.

RULE 16 used to say that public expression was “limited to the subject matter jurisdiction of the board….” Which was broader but seldom enforced, especially when The One True Green walked among us; he’d begin every meeting with rambling monologues on everything from global warming to American imperialism. The new language, however, would have ensured that Sako was shut down because Hamburg as Board Chair could have shut him down unilaterally, seconded by whatever stooge lawyer from the County Counsel’s Office was present to second the motion.

WRITING UNDER HER COLUMNIST PEN NAME, “Miss May B. Sough,” Ukiah Daily Journal Editor (and former KZYX programmer) K.C. Meadows wrote on Sunday:“Dear Miss M: I got an email from a programmer at KZYX telling me to write to the FCC and object to the reissuing of the KZYX license. What’s going on? — MA in Philo” “Dear MA: When it comes to KZYX I can never be absolutely sure of what is going on, but here’s what I can make out from emails I’ve seen. “KZYX apparently had a major change in the membership of its board of directors. Under its bylaws, if there is a more than 50% change in board membership, the KZYX management must get approval from the FCC for a reissuance of its license. Therefore, last autumn, the KZYX management submitted a request to transfer its license from ‘Old Board’ to ‘New Board.’ I have nothing to say on whether this is actually necessary and have no inner knowledge of the board, its members or its elections. “What is apparent is that KZYX programmer John Sakowicz has apparently interpreted the FCC license paperwork as an attempted coup of some kind by KZYX management and is urging everyone to object to the FCC license change. “As far as I can tell, there are two very opposite groups at KZYX right now who each seem to think the other is determined to wrest control of the public radio station and ruin it for all time. “I have long thought that KZYX is way too insular in its management and outlook and desperately needs new and varied voices to make it a truly public radio station. I would love to see KZYX with a Ukiah studio — which I am told is in the works. Alas, a Ukiah studio was in the works back in the early 1990s when a substantial Ukiah contingent almost pulled it off but the Philo traditionalists were so afraid of a Ukiah takeover that they managed to quash the idea for another couple of decades. “What is going on now is another apparent shakeup with some confused characters on both sides. But, that’s been KZYX from the start so maybe we should all just sit back, enjoy the theater and wait for the dust to settle.” (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

JUST SAYIN’, but when Pro-Life demonstrators turn out by the tens of thousands on Market Street as they did Sunday but only a couple of hundred Pro-Choicers show up to argue, maybe Bay Area public opinion on the issue isn’t as liberal as San Francisco media assumes. Pro-Lifers, as they are every year, were bussed in from as far away as Fresno.

SF SUPERVISOR David Campos introduced a resolution last week opposing the dozens of “Abortion Hurts Women” banners that organizers hung from street lamps on Market Street.

CAMPOS’S RESOLUTION says “the prominent display of false anti-abortion statements on public property on Market Street misrepresents the City’s support for reproductive health.” That assertion, of course, could occupy the world’s moral philosophers for the next hundred years, but it’s another tiny example of how liberals shut down any speech that contradicts their particular catechism.

FOR SEVERAL DECADES, anti-abortion groups have focused on placing relatively small restrictions on abortion, especially in conservative states with Republican-dominated legislatures. But lawmakers in those states are under increasing pressure from activists to take stronger action to limit abortion.

BUT CALIFORNIA, which has a Democratic governor and Legislature, expanded abortion access last year with a measure that allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform a type of early abortion.

ABORTION STATISTICS for Mendocino County are a closely guarded secret, as is the process by which local women, including high school-age girls, get abortions in the county.

AbductionHatTHE ANTI-ABDUCTION HAT. Forget the tin foil hat and try one of these.  The thought screen helmet has effectively stopped several types of aliens from abducting or controlling humans with only one failure since 1998. http://www.stopabductions.com/

“A UKIAH MAN,” begins the Ukiah Police Department’s press release, “suspected of stealing more than $1,000 worth of electronics from a local department store was arrested Wednesday.” The suspect was soon identified as Aubrey H. Thomas, 45, who not only admitted to the most recent thefts, but said he had been stealing similar items from other stores for the past two years, items he could quickly convert to cash. Thomas is a graduate of Anderson Valley High School where he was a star basketball player. He also played basketball at Mendo College, and has lived independently in Ukiah for many years. He was a resident of Boonville group homes throughout his childhood and was always a special ed student. In the current social work lingo he’d be classified as “developmentally delayed,” or something like that. A simple, gentle soul, it is not surprising that Aubrey immediately told the police what he’d been doing. I’m surprised that he wasn’t apprehended on his very first foray into petty larceny. If the authorities just sat Aubrey down and told him it was bad and wrong to steal stuff from Kohl’s, Aubrey would never fall afoul of the law again.

Cardin

Cardin

YOU DON’T HEAR much about Senior tweekers, but Jack Cardin, 64, seems to find Bingo at the Ukiah Senior Center a little too tame so he turned, at an age usually considered too old for go-fast powder, to a chemically enhanced encounter with little green men and the multitudes of insects the green invaders always in their company. Sounds like the old boy had been up for about a week, long enough for full-blown paranoia to set in. Cardin was arrested early Saturday morning after calling 911 several times and hanging up. When officers showed up to find out what the prob was in the 200 block of Thomas Street around 1am, they found Cardin sitting in the backseat of his car in his carport holding a knife. Cardin told the police that certain someones were trying to get him, so he had hidden in his car. Quoting the police report, “Cardin said he could see people running in the street and could feel bugs crawling on him. He asked the officers to check his home for suspects, which they did, finding no one inside. However, they did reportedly find a baggie of methamphetamine and a pipe used for smoking the drug.” Cardin was arrested on suspicion of possession of meth, being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

SKAGGS GETS 13 YEARS IN PRISON

by Tiffany Revelle

A Redwood Valley man who drove a speeding Thunderbird while his passenger shot at a sheriff deputy’s car was sentenced to 13 years in prison Friday in Mendocino County Superior Court.

Christopher Skaggs, 31, last month took a plea bargain that dropped attempted murder and vicarious arming charges in exchange for his guilty plea to first-degree burglary for breaking into a Potter Valley home earlier the same day and stealing guns — including the one passenger Walter K. Miller used in the shooting — and other items on the night of Feb. 25.

Skaggs

Skaggs

The plea came two weeks and a day after Miller was convicted of attempted murder, assault with a firearm, the same burglary and other charges.

According to witness accounts during Miller’s trial, Skaggs sped away from a traffic stop south of Ukiah on the night of the chase just as Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Darren Brewster approached the driver’s window.

Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster, who prosecuted Miller and handled Skaggs’ case separately, gave Skaggs the benefit of the doubt after a jury heard Skaggs’ then girlfriend, Tracy Cox, who was in the T-bird’s back seat, testify that Skaggs drove away from the traffic stop because Miller had a gun in his hand and meant to shoot the deputy.

Skaggs also admitted committing the Potter Valley burglary while out on bail in another felony matter, a Nov. 14, 2012 incident where he led authorities on a high-speed chase that left a pursuing California Highway Patrol officer injured. The deal involved Skaggs pleading guilty in that case to charges of recklessly evading a peace officer causing injury and reckless evasion by driving in the oncoming lane.

The 13-year sentence included nine years and eight months for the November 2012 chase, and three years and four months for the February chase and shooting, with 666 days of credit for time served.

Eyster said previously that because the Potter Valley burglary is Skaggs’ first strike under California’s Three Strikes Law, he would serve half of the sentence and be eligible for release after six and a half years under the state’s realignment initiative, designed to relieve overcrowding in state prisons.

Judge John Behnke said Skaggs wasn’t eligible for probation, and noted that he had, as part of the plea arrangement, waived his right to appeal the sentence. Behnke scheduled a Feb. 28 hearing to decide on a restitution amount for the victim.

(Courtesy, Ukiah Daily Journal)

AFTER A COUPLE OF PEOPLE posted the silly suggestion that everyone chant “rain, rain, rain” ad infinitum on the Coast Listserve as a drought response, Eleanor Cooney of Mendocino took it a step further, hitting Coastlib where they live: “Big Rain Gods demand painful sacrifice. Leave your 18th-century Japanese rice-paper print outside overnight. Also your first-edition Mark Twain, your grandmother’s lace wedding dress, your set of antique Tarot cards. … If you don’t have a first-edition Mark Twain, your 200-year-old Swiss music box will do.” But if they’re really serious, they’ll also leave their dried bud out. Surely, the Big Rain Gods won’t be able to resist that!

FROM GAIETY TO GAIETY we progressed, and they next asked if I had ever been inside a shebeen, or illicit drinking den, one of the most depraved spectacles, it seems, that civilization has to offer. As a matter of fact I had not seen one of them, but of course I had heard of them. That is, if they were the same things that we have at home and that we generally read of in the Sunday papers in connexion with marriages into the peerage or other intelligentsia. Anyway, it all sounded most awfully exciting. Here at last might be the adventure I was seeking. It begins unromantically enough. You go down quite an ordinary poor road, wide and well lighted and with a policeman all unsuspicious at the corner. Then you ask in one little shop, the sort of place where they sell firewood and the kind of vegetables that are not particular about their company, and after your cicerone has whispered mysteriously they shake their heads. Apparently their daughter has already married into the intelligentsia or else they have made their fortunes. But they nod and point to another place, the same sort of firewood and Woodbines shop, and with a little shudder in you go, prepared for any devilment. You buy your Woodbines or what not, and talk long and low to the lady in charge. And on her reluctant consent you go up to the door at the back of the shop and knock in a particular way. There is a glimpse of a face at the peep-hole and then the thing swings back, and Life lies before you. At first glance it rather resembles a quite ordinary kitchen with half a dozen quite ordinary but obviously uneasy gentlemen sitting round on hard chairs in dead silence. And then the hidden Iniquity begins to dawn upon you. For a comfortably middle-aged lady is making the round of the circle with a jug and glasses. And as you get your glass the full Sin of the business bursts upon you. A shilling, for that little lot of inferior stout, and then I will swear there was water in mine! In Dublin we may not get into the Sunday papers with the swell divorce cases and the bishops explaining why they do not believe in God, but we can make our few hundred per cent just as well as our luckier sisters in the West End. Round and round in silence goes the lady, and you get something of the impression of a handing round of hymn-books at a deacons’ meeting for a new chapel organ, so eminently decorous is the whole business. Even the family cat cleaning its whiskers before the neatly polished grate seemed to share the general air of unctuous rectitude. Until in the end, as it happened, it was this very beast that unwittingly threw the Apple of Discord bang into the middle of the Mirror of Contentment. For as, its toilet complete, it paced mincingly across the kitchen floor, heavy-footed Hebe engrossed with her sordid shillings, trod upon its indignant tail. And as I jumped up to stroke it, I collided on my mission of mercy with the gentlemanly door-keeper as the same humane thought simultaneously struck him, too. There was a bump, and something fell from his open pocket. With a charming smile of apology he stooped to retrieve his knuckle-duster, an implement doubtless necessary in the profession but, like a dentist’s drill, not lightly to be shown to the laity. I left just after that, and I only trust that with my departure the place grew merrier. For never have I drunk inferior stout in an atmosphere more funereal.

— John Gibbons, 1931; from “Tramping Through Ireland”

INSTANT COMA. From Saturday’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat, this headline: “Fudge Gets Huffman Endorsement.” Or, “Humpty Loves Dumpty.”

One Response to Off The Record (Jan 28, 2014)

  1. Michael Menkin Reply

    January 29, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    For more information about the thought screen helmet, alien abductions and the epidemic if autism, see my other site, aliensandchildren.org

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