Mendocino County Today: Monday, Apr 25, 2016
by AVA News Service, April 25, 2016
SHOOTING IN THE ANDERSON VALLEY. Details are still sketchy, but a shooting at 18595 Philo-Greenwood Road (near the entrance to Hendy Woods), occurred Saturday night about 8pm. The wounded man is identified as Lorenzo Rodriguez-Gomez.
The confused series of events began earlier in the evening with a report of a drunk driver rolling his vehicle into a ditch at the foot of Nash Mill Road, Philo. That driver may have been Rodriguez-Gomez, a man in his mid-30s, but a second drunk may have driven Rodriguez-Gomez from the scene of the Nash Mill accident.
However he got there, Rodriguez-Gomez soon appeared at the Kuny home near Hendy Woods. It was there that Rodriguez-Gomez, who has a history of domestic violence, brandished a knife, threatening the young women among a group of young people at the Kuny home.
Bobby Kuny, 18, certainly an unlikely shooter given his kindly disposition and unaggressive history, produced a .22 handgun and fired point blank at Rodriguez-Gomez, hitting the assailant several times but, it appears, not totally immobilizing him.
The wounded man was then driven by Rodriguez-Gomez's as yet unnamed companion to the home of relatives just west of the Madrones, an upscale wine and restaurant complex near Indian Creek, Philo. Residents of that home then drove Rodriguez-Gomez to central Boonville in search of help.
Rodriguez-Gomez was "non-responsive" at central Boonville's Pic 'N Pay Market when deputies arrived. A medical helicopter was not available to fly to Boonville and Rodriguez was transported to the Ukiah hospital by the Anderson Valley Ambulance, and from there to Santa Rosa where he remains in critical but stable condition.
Bobby Kuny had handed the unloaded .22 handgun to a deputy when deputies arrived at the scene of the Greenwood Road shooting. The popular young man was detained and questioned, but not arrested as deputies determined he'd fired in self-defense.
The Kuny family's roots go deep in Mendocino County where they settled several generations ago in Comptche and Boonville. Danny Kuny, a logger, is well-known as the football coach at Anderson Valley High School.
THE MEASURE U FORUM
by Malcolm Macdonald
In Fort Bragg, California, where the name of its earliest entrepreneur, Alexander Macpherson, is misspelled on street signs, things often get screwed up. The April 22nd League of Women Voters (LWV) forum on Measure U provides an ongoing case in point. Measure U would add the following sentence to Fort Bragg's Municipal Code, “A social service organization is not a permitted use under any circumstances unless such organization was established and existing at a location within within the CBD [Central Business District] zoning district prior to January 1, 2015.”
According to one of the moderators, proponents of Measure U had contacted the LWV just a day or two before the forum, stating they would not appear. However, come forum night the Measure U proponents had lined up Jim Britt (brother of attorney Ron Britt) to speak on their behalf. He was joined at the proponents table by Jeanne Stubenrauch, co-owner of Mendo Litho, which is located directly across Franklin Street from the new Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center (former site of the Old Coast Hotel). That Hospitality Center, which provides mental health services and is scheduled to eventually have five rooms (ten beds) of housing upstairs for those transitioning out of homelessness, is essentially the target of Measure U.
Jim Britt spent much time apologizing for his lack of preparation. Ms. Stubenrauch sat nearly silent until offering a brief statement during closing remarks at the hour and a half forum. That left the ball primarily in the hands of the three folks who spoke against Measure U, Scott Menzies (proprietor of Perfect Circle Tai Chi), Fort Bragg resident Nancy Severy, and Mara Thomas (President of the Board of Art Explorers, a non-profit).
Early on Ms. Thomas pointed to the case of Pathway Psychosocial Support Center v. Leonardtown, Maryland. Even a cursory look at that case from the late 1990s — early 2000s displays eerie similarities to what is going on in Fort Bragg. Ms. Thomas claimed that the ruling in the Pathway case cost Leonardtown well over a half million dollars in damages, let alone the legal costs of mounting a several years long defense. The Leonardtown case involved the Pathways organization attempting to move into a vacant downtown building in which Pathways would provide counseling services to clients with mental health issues; much the same as the Hospitality Center at the Old Coast Hotel site. When Pathways was denied their move, lawsuits going up to the federal district court level ensued. The one major difference in the Pathways case: Leonardtown's city government caved in to public pressure after petitions from townspeople demanded Pathways be denied zoning permits. Fort Bragg's City Council has come out publicly against Measure U, at least in part because of the threat of lawsuits like Pathways.
On the surface, watching the April 22nd forum, it was clear that the opponents of Measure U won the debate hands down. It's equally clear that if the measure should happen to pass when all ballots are cast, lawsuits would inevitably follow, lawsuits based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 14th Amendment rights of equal protection under the law, and other legal sticking points, but there are some bigger things going on in Fort Bragg and the defeat of Measure U will not make those issues go away.
Measure U is at its core a reactionary item. There is reactionary frustration in Fort Bragg because a sizable portion of its population is still reeling from the closure of the Georgia-Pacific mill more than a dozen years ago and the loss of almost all of its fishing industry in roughly the same time frame. Those hardworking, middle class jobs are gone. Some if not many of the good folks who had those jobs (or their friends or relatives who held those kinds of jobs) see the City of Fort Bragg as too reliant on outside state and/or federal grant money, they perceive the city manager and members of the city council as giving up on them, not helping to provide jobs for the working middle class and only spending money on prettying up the streets as well as grants for non-profits and social services.
Much of that thinking is shortsighted, but it is a real palpable frustration among a significant part of Fort Bragg's populace. Throw in what looks like a sweetheart deal for Dr. Carine in selling the long empty Old Coast Hotel for well over a million bucks as part of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) deal that set up the Hospitality Center in the premises of said Old Coast Hotel and you've got trouble brewing.
From that same point of view, light the match with what appeared to be only four days public notice before the City Council voted to approve the Old Coast Hotel deal and you've got Trouble with a capital T burning dang close to out of control.
There are all sorts of realities that disprove any number of conspiracy theories regarding the Old Coast Hotel deal and the proponents of the Hospitality Center/opponents of Measure U are perhaps equally frustrated with those who can't see matters their way. Anybody watching the April 22nd forum can tell you about the number of times the Measure U opponents' faces turned red, voices rose practically to a shout, or heard rebuttal arguments rambling into frustrating rants. Most of those rebuttals, if merely transcribed without sight or sound, were probably right on point, accurate. However, the demeanor in which they were offered displayed nothing more than frustration.
The frustration is not going to end with an up or down vote on Measure U. There is no absolute right or wrong side in Fort Bragg right now, just a lot of folks on all sides wearing blinders to avoid anything beyond their own particular point of view.
* * *
A FEW LONG-DISTANCE OBSERVATIONS all the way from Boonville: I think the furtive, hurry-up manner that official Fort Bragg went about the Old Coast Hotel buy was plenty aggravating by itself without speculating about FB's blue collar frustration. Before Fort Bragg knew what had happened, Dr. Carine, an apparently vengeful native son unable to privately sell his hotel for double what he sold it for to Hospitality House, had pocketed nearly a million public dollars for his historic building in the middle of town. (He also got a nice tax break.) The City, already home to Hospitality House mother ship, a way station for transients on the edge of its town center, simultaneously entered into an agreement with the opaque management of HH to expand its operations into the Old Coast Hotel when other, less provocative Fort Bragg locations for expansion were available. All of this has occurred in the context of a piously false rhetoric that claims Hospitality House serves the "homeless." If one burns down one's own house, is one to be pitied and assisted as "homeless"? Very few of Mendocino County's homeless population have lost their homes out of a combination of bad luck and increasingly tight market conditions; the people out there "homeless" are mostly drunks, drug addicts, petty criminals, with a sprinkling of the mentally ill whose mental illness is made worse by street drugs and alcohol. Simply making this distinction earns the person making it a mass auto-denunciation from the self-interested (the people who run and work in these failed helping programs) as "cruel, heartless" and so on. If Measure U passes, who gets sued? The City, i.e., the people who caused this totally unnecessary controversy in the first place. Fort Bragg's arrogant leadership, which ignored public sentiment when they made their secret deal with HH and Carine, has demonstrated it'll spend even more public money on their San Francisco lawyer ($170,000 a year) to maintain HH's tai chi rehab program at Old Coast. As for blue collar frustration, Fort Bragg's working people have every reason to be angry when they see a top heavy city government pulling down all these fancy salaries — city manager Ruffing makes about $200,000 all by herself "managing" a city of about 8,000 — but shafting the town's old timers and working people like some kind of yuppie occupying army. I hope people will support Sheriff Allman's plan for a County-owned and operated psychiatric center, probably in Willits. I further hope it will expand to include the peripatetic drunks and dopers who presently make up the bulk of the "homeless." The Allman Center would negate any Fort Bragg need for a rehab center in the middle of town.
As of 2014, presenting Fort Bragg government (GP never paid like this):
- City Manager Ruffing: $146k
- Community Development Director Jones: $105k
- Treasurer Cimolino: $98k
- Assistant Manager Feth-Michel: $96k
- Housing & Economic Development Coordinator Owen: $58k
LAKE COUNTY NOTES: First our Chief Administrative Officer announced his intended departure late last year (after the emergency management debacle), they hired the former head of DSS as CAO, and she last week kicked the can over to the overwhelmed non-governmental organizations with no substantive support for working with FEMA and other disaster management agencies.
Long as them trees keep coming down the mountain, we’ll worry about the roads, water systems, and displaced persons another time, or maybe next month when Konocti Harbor sends the next wave of refugees to the trailer parks, or wherever.
God or whatever bless the churches, who are pulling the sorry load on dealing with actual losers (not pejoratively meant, they truly lost everything, and have almost nothing now — so the county says “we’re done”?) in the maelstrom, perhaps hundreds who obediently signed up for some sort of “relief” while nothing was being done to solve their problems.
And, is the government “responsible”? Fuck that, how about letting down the guard and looking for help, the way at least your Sheriff is attempting to do for those misbenighted nitwits and social services cannon fodder that stain society with their dementia (and isn’t that the right word, DSM notwithstanding?).
On another note, I am happy to say I never heard a single sound produced by the late lamented music/musical phenomenon named “Prince” (nor — unless in passing through some grocery store aisle — Michael Jackson, et al), and nearly swoon in the outpouring of sorrow, although not as much as seeing the paparazzi chasing the “Princess” through the channel at breakneck speeds, which of course did. That.
Ah, AVA, every day I awaken to imbibe thy charms, thy elixers, thy very being — verily, it fires up my psyche and keeps me good and cranky!
NOTE: Me too. Prince. I'd heard the name, just as I've heard “Madonna” in the non-reverent context of today's "music." But I had to YouTube Purple Rain to get some kinda handle on the hullabaloo over Prince's departure. I liked it, thought it was affecting, but wayyyyyy short of, say, the great Bocelli's "Time To Say Goodbye," an Italian pop song rendered by a truly great singer. Truth to tell, I tuned out at Sinatra circa 1965. I couldn't tell you the diff between the Grateful Dead and a bunch of hippies beating on garbage cans and yowling at a solstice moon.
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 24, 2016
Belden, Cosman, Dugan
JAMES BELDEN III, Ukiah. Controlled substance, smoking/injecting device, probation revocation.
MEGHAN COSMAN, Ukiah. Controlled substance, smoking/injecting device, suspended license, probation revocation.
MICHAEL DUGAN, Purcell, Oregon/Ukiah. DUI/drugs&alcohol, criminal threats, resisting, interference.
Hanover, Harnett, Holt
PATRICK HANOVER, Covelo. Domestic battery, false imprisonment.
JESSE HARNETT, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
WILLIAM HOLT, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
Kidd, Norgaard, Ornelas
JARED KIDD, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
PATRICK NORGAARD, Bayside/Ukiah. More than an ounce of pot.
TASHA ORNELAS, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
Pinney, Schmid, Shealor
MICHAEL PINNEY, Marysville/Fort Bragg. Court order violation.
NICHOLAS SCHMID, Ukiah. Domestic assault.
AUSTIN SHEALOR, Ukiah. Domestic assault.
Varnell, Worden, Zuniga-Juarez
RICKEY VARNELL, Ukiah. DUI.
CHARLES WORDEN, Fort Bragg. Parole violation.
MARTIN ZUNIGA-JUAREZ, Ukiah. Misdemeanor hit&run.
HEADLINE SUNDAY MORNING: “Multi-billionaire GOP kingmaker Charles Koch says ‘it’s possible’ Hillary might be a better president than anyone in the Republican field.”
Of course she is, Chuck, but don't tell the libs. They think Hil is "progressive." Hillary won't bother you boys in the least. Neither did Bill. They're with you all the way.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Until Bernie begins to lay the rhetorical whip across the back of the banksters, as FDR did, he will never close the deal and overcome the naked evil of Hillary Rodan Clintonista. The voters rejected such limp revolutionaries, like Ron Paul, and even preferred the disciplined evil of Billary Clinton over the feeble Bob Dole in 1996.
The lies, malfeasance, and dead bodies that litter Hillary Rodan’s road to power is out in the open. All it takes is for Bernie to hold up the blood-stained burial sheets of her victims, hang them out for all to see, and shout to the streets, “Behold the innocent blood shed by Hillary’s ghouls! Hear the wailing of those whose lost jobs and property by the locusts who serve her! Rage against the tyranny that she has in store for you! I have pulled back the curtain for you. It is not forbidden to look upon the breath of pestilence; see Hillary as she is!”
FDR reveled in the fact that the banksters and grifters of his time HATED HIM and he boasted of it in a speech when he said:
“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”
At the Fort Bragg Rite-Aid (photo by Susie de Castro)
ROBERT REICH ON NY PRIMARY RESULTS
Many of you have been disappointed and angered by the results of Tuesday’s New York primary, and I don't blame you. But there’s reason to be hopeful, and much to be thankful for. Consider the race, the mobilization, the issues, and the movement:
Despite what you hear from the media, the race is not yet over. Bernie’s national polls are rising as fast as his opponent’s are falling, enthusiasm for him remains high, he continues to raise more money from small donors than she’s raising from large ones, and young people (as well as not-so-young) are more energized for him and by him than ever.
The political mobilization Bernie has created is critically important — not just for the presidential race but for elections to Congress, and at the state and local level. And its importance and influence will extend way beyond 2016.
The issues Bernie is focusing the nation’s attention on are critical to our future: reclaiming our democracy from the moneyed interests and making our economy serve the many rather than the few at the top. And the only way to achieve this is to reverse the increasing concentrations of income, wealth, and power. This agenda is the prerequisite to everything else. More Americans than ever now understand this.
The movement Bernie has fueled is just beginning. It may take years to finally and fully succeed, but it cannot be stopped. The direction our democracy and economy have been moving is not sustainable. The countervailing power Bernie is building is essential to our future and our children’s future.
What do you think?
Robert Reich (post on Facebook, Apr 22)
WHY ICELAND BANNED BEER
MR. AND MRS. JOHN SAKOWICZ are justly proud:
Yesterday, our son, Ryan Morris, graduated from California-Maritime Academy, CSU, and he was commissioned as a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed deck officer. Ryan passed his seven licensing exams with nearly perfect scores.
Vice Admiral Charles Ray, USCG, presided at the swearing-in ceremony. Admiral Ray is Commander, Pacific Area, Commander, Pacific Force West, USCG.
The keynote speaker was Rear Admiral Thomas K. "Truck" Shannon, USN. Admiral Shannon is Commander of the U.S. Military Sealift Command, USN. Ryan was assigned to the U.S. Military Sealift Command, and will report for duty in July.
Military Sealift Command is the leading provider of ocean transportation for the Navy and the rest of the Department of Defense – operating approximately 110 ships daily around the globe. It is the preeminent provider of cutting-edge, commercial maritime solutions that support national security objectives for the U.S. and NATO.
Ryan is also an All-American rugby player. He was offered a contract to play professional rugby, but he turned it down due to his new work commitments at the Military Sealift Command.
Ryan's brother, Austin, will be a senior at Cal-Maritime in 2016-2017. Austin is a midshipman in the US Navy's Strategic Sealift Officer Program (SSOP). He was also named to USA Rugby's All-American Collegiate Team (honorable mention).
Ryan Morris with Ms. Morris
Earlier in their academic careers, Ryan received Congressional nominations from Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Mike Thompson. Austin received a Congressional nomination from Representative Jared Huffman. In 2013, Austin also received an American Red Cross "Real Heroes" Award for saving the life of a crew mate at sea.
(Submitted by John Sakowicz and Shannon Morris)
CHEMO, A DIALOGUE
Eric Sunswheat wrote: “These studies took a 5-year look at cancer survival rates in cancer patients who received chemotherapy. The overall contribution of chemotherapy to 5-year survival was found to be just 2.1% for cancer patients in the US and 2.3% for patients in Australia. While the 5-year cancer survival rate for Australian cancer patients is at this time more than 60%, these studies have shown that the use of chemotherapy makes a negligible contribution.”
* * *
Okay, Eric, I read the articles you included, and not only do they turn out to be — no surprise there — propaganda for their writers' and your point of view, and for products and services their writers are emotionally if not financially invested in, but also they don't even say what you say they say.
For example: "American and Australian studies have shown that cancer survival rates after receiving chemotherapy can be as startlingly low as 2.1%."
As low as. Let's try this rhetorical technique out in some other areas to show the trick of it: "Babies fed mother's milk are at risk of choking, colic, brain aneurism and anal fissures. Five year survival rates can be as low as 0%." And, "Children prescribed exercise and kale juice for being fat are at risk of salmonella, e. coli and other poisoning, as well as being at risk of tripping and tearing their femoral artery open on a sprinkler, or getting their neck caught in a bicycle chain. Five year survival rates of exercise can be as low as 0%." And so on.
Then there's this, from the same article: "Side effects of chemotherapy and negative impact upon health include vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, bladder issues, bleeding, anemia, bruising, hair loss, edema, infections, lymphedema, neutropenia, nerve issues, mouth and throat issues, fertility problems and ongoing physical pain. Those who undergo chemotherapy also report ongoing fatigue, memory issues, difficultly in concentrating, insomnia and sexual issues."
Sounds grim. I know people who've gone through chemotherapy, and it can be as bad as all that, but then the treatment is over and they get many years more to play with their kids and grandkids, without any of those terrible symptoms and also without cancer, whose side effects are very often all the above misery and death. Sooner or later we're all going to die, sure, but dying by 2031 is generally considered preferable to dying before Xmas 2016, when your unpleasant course of chemo and its side effects, if you were to start now, would be over and in the past.
One article recommends lemon grass, and vitamin C, and something called verbena, and no doubt some very small number of people have survived cancer, even the worst forms of it, after simply applying a poultice of spiderwebs to the appropriate chakra on three successive full moons, or getting an "above the body energy massage," but their survival stories are not a reasonable recommendation for others. Of course they think what they did saved them, and they have a powerfully persuasive but wrong reason to think it, and their glowing testimonials unfortunately encourage others to follow their example.
Much of real medicine comes from natural sources. But it only becomes real medicine when it's proven to work. You might have heard the saying, "You know why they call it alternative medicine? Because if it works it's called medicine." My friend Mitch was cured years ago of cancer, by surgery and chemotherapy, and medical weed played a part in his being able to tolerate the treatment; weed is coming to be recognized as part of good medical practice because it's being shown to help. People who die of easily scientific-medicine-cured cancer because they reject science and rather trust God or acupuncture or foot reflexology or homeopathy or hypnotherapy or a wheatgrass smoothie, or weed alone, because those things seem more natural to them and taste better, make a terrible mistake they have every right, but no good reason, to make.
And new real treatments for cancer are coming on the scene all the time, some of them involving genetically modifying the patients' own immune cells to work better, some involving nanoparticles to deliver cancer killing drugs directly to the cancer and so be more effective and yet cause less discomfort. Science advances. Superstition doesn't.
The Ukiah Animal Shelter—
I just read Kathy Shearn's most recent letter to the editor and feel compelled to rebut most of what she says.
I have no trouble believing that the Ukiah Animal Shelter is today a much better place then it was 12 years ago. But! There is much that could and needs to be improved at the shelter today and into the future.
Cats live in tiny cages the size of the average microwave oven with a litter box and their food/water bowls, leaving no room to move or stretch, and they frequently live like that for weeks and months. How is that not inhumane and abusive?
Dogs are kept in kennels with chain-link fenced doors and raw cement floors and a cot. Most of the dogs with no blankets and toys to provide a modicum of comfort and to break up the boredom of being locked up 23 hours a day. Because the dog kennels are open on top and partially on the sides, all the dogs are exposed to their neighbors all around. Many of the dogs bark, jump and whine excessively and there is no getting away from it.
We volunteers sadly witness how some dogs deteriorate over time because they cannot handle the high stress level they are exposed to 24 hours a day. Although kennel cleanliness has improved somewhat in the last two months, dogs sit, stand and sleep on wet floors and cots a lot of the time.
I saw a video of an animal shelter in Missouri where young school children come and read to the dogs, sitting in front of the each kennel. No self respecting parent in Mendocino county would consider letting their child sit on the floor in our shelter! Socialization, walks, exercise and play time are almost entirely up to the shelter volunteers.
The staff is very busy just keeping things moving and have no time to give attention to individual pets. Not all dogs get out every day, if there are not enough volunteers available to walk them. Supervised play groups are intermittent and there is no regular scheduled time for them. Some dogs are kept in quarantine under lock and key. This means they don't get out of their cage at all, some dogs are in quarantine for two and more weeks, even a whole month and more!
What our shelter needs is comprehensive management plan. A realistic budget with clear priorities on how the money is allocated, including deadlines to accomplish goals and clear and transparent accounting. Clearly defined job descriptions for each employee position, with regular performance reviews and the opportunity for continued education in up-to-date shelter practices.
The shelter does little outreach to the citizens of Mendocino County, or to other animal rescues and pet related community based businesses. Volunteers after the initial orientation are more or less on their own, figuring things out as we go along. There is currently no effective efforts made to reach out to the community to cultivate more loving foster homes and to attract more dedicated volunteers to the shelter. A joint staff and volunteer meeting much desired by many of the volunteers has not happened. There was one volunteer-only meeting recently that unfortunately was poorly advertised and therefore not very well attended.
Communication between HHSA, shelter management and volunteers is non-existent. A core group of dedicated volunteers have been at every Board of Supervisor meeting, speaking out again and again for the animals. Volunteers have advocated for our homeless pets in front of the Standing Committee that is looking into the shelter management issues and have brought detailed dates and incidents to Supervisors McCowen and Woodhouse's attention. Yet, little has changed in the shelter's day to day operations.
Volunteers have been barred from the shelter for speaking out in public about conditions at the Ukiah animal shelter.
I could go on, but want to conclude by reaching out to all citizens of Mendocino County and implore you: To spay and neuter your pets! Do not buy or accept puppies from backyard breeders. License your dogs! It is the right and responsible thing to do! Make sure your dog wears a collar with contact information. Don't shop! Adopt a Mendo shelter pet! Become a shelter volunteer! We need more volunteers! Become a foster parent! You can foster a dog or cat for a day, an overnight, a week, a month or longer. You can foster to adopt, trying out the pet on a trial basis. Visit the Ukiah Animal Shelter on Plant Road and see for yourself! Our homeless pets need you!
THE ETYMOLOGY OF 420
by Fred Gardner
O’Shaughnessy’s got invited to an “Eve-of-420” event at a club in San Rafael called Terrapin Crossroads, launched by Phil Lesh of Grateful Dead fame. There was valet parking, a rare treat for my 1986 Volvo. I told the attendant, “It’s not a jalopy, it’s a classic.”
As I approached the entrance a tall, longhaired man who said his name was Tree offered up a thin square of chocolate. I ascertained that it was laced with way more cannabis oil than I wanted to ingest then and there. The dark confection started melting on my fingertip so I headed in to the bar to get a plastic cup, figuring I’d bring it home for future investigation.
A friendly-looking man was giving me a puzzled look as I dropped the melting sliver of chocolate into the cup. “It’s an edible,” I explained. “I never got into edibles,” he said. I asked if he’d had an early bad experience with a brownie and he said yes. “I’m a Waldo,” he added, introducing himself as Larry. “The Waldos are real. We’ve decided to tell our story —how we started using ‘420’ as code for smoking marijuana.” Tell me more, said I.
Although the five friends all remained cannabis aficionados, they have kept their distance from the burgeoning industry —until very recently.
In the fall of 1971 Larry Schwartz, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, and Mark Gravich, marijuana smoking students at San Rafael High School, had a designated meeting place: a wall near the statue of Louis Pasteur in front of the Science Department. As teenage boys are wont to do, the five friends shared a certain comic sensibility. They were all big fans of Johnny Carson (the Stephen Colbert of his day). Their usual meeting time was twenty minutes after four, and that became their secret word for getting together and getting high. “Like we might say ‘Four twenty at three thirty today,” Larry explained.
Other students dubbed them the Waldos in reference to their hang-out of choice.
The first of many exploits through which the friends bonded was a search for a small patch of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes lighthouse. They had been given a map with the location of the patch. Asked who gave it to them, Larry consulted Jeffrey Noel about how much the Waldos were now planning to reveal. “We’re not holding back anything,” said Noel. We went outside where it was quieter.
As Noel tells it, “The term we used was originally ‘420 Louie.’ It was our code term for ‘this is when we’re gonna meet at the statue.’ The synonym so we could communicate without saying ‘Let’s go get high together.’
“I had to be somewhat secretive because my father was a state narcotics agent for 32 years. I couldn’t be as open as the others in verbally expressing myself. This was back in the days of landlines and everyone listening to one another. ‘Four twenty’ was our way to get under the radar.
The friends would jive amicably with students passing by —the jocks, the academics, the stoners, the hot-rod afficionados— and they would go off and smoke joints together. Steve Capper was a senior and had a big 1966 four-door Chevy sedan. The others were juniors and sophomores. Noel says, “We would sit on the wall and make comments as everyone went by. We were self-deprecating as well as comical. We had a wry but vibrant humor that we thrived on. We still do. That was part of getting high, too —verbal play and banter. We all loved comedy. We all loved travel and seeing new places and exploration —all of that kept re-enforcing itself.”
Larry Schwartz credits the school administration with maximizing the Waldos’ 420 time: “The teachers thought they came up with this brilliant thing called ‘modular scheduling.’ It gave us big breaks in time between classes. We would have 30 minutes to drive around smoking joints.”
After high school the five Waldos stayed in touch with one another. They and their families socialize to this day. All still live in Marin except Noel, who moved to Calistoga and worked for a company that made candles (and for 11 years grew cannabis behind trellised grapevines). He now lives in Santa Rosa.
Steve Capper runs a successful lending company in San Francisco. Dave Reddix works with him and is an independent filmmaker. Mark Gravich is a professional photographer specializing in real estate (pictures for listings and sales). Larry Schwartz is a project manager for a company in San Rafael, married for 23 years, two kids in college. “We’ve all done all right,” he observes.
I asked if the Waldos had heard the urban legend that 420 was police code for a pot bust in Connecticut. Noel said, “Yes, but not in Connecticut.” I also laid out my own private theory: some stoned hipster, probably in the 1950s, thought the hands of a clock at 4:20 looked like a face smoking a joint.
Noel said, “We’ve heard all the theories of how 420 started —which is part of the reason we’ve decided to explain how it really happened. Another was the number of compounds in the cannabis plant.”
Some of the first 420 get-togethers involved driving to Pt. Reyes in search of the pot patch. According to Steve Capper, “My friend Bill McNulty (and his brother Pat McNulty) had a brother in law named Gary Newman, who was in the U.S. Coast Guard and stationed at the Pt.Reyes Peninsula. They would go out to visit with him often. Gary planted his plants in the spring while an Active, and then got out of the active military and went into the Coast Guard Reserve. During his time in the Reserve he took a job as a ranch hand just a mile or so down the road from the lighthouse. By fall when the crop was ready to harvest, he became fearful that he would be busted and decided not to harvest. One day when Bill and Patrick were up there visiting with him, Gary drew the map of the growing location and personally handed it over to them with a permission for them, and anybody they truly trusted, to harvest. Bill McNulty brought the map to the Waldos —trusted friends— and 420 was born.”
Was the map like the one in Treasure Island with “X marks the spot?” Sort of, according to Noel, “There was a power box marked, a generator, a rock, and the patch was supposed to be behind the box where the generator was. We still have a copy of it. We recently interviewed Gary and got that information. It took years to find him. Steven hired a PI who searched records and came up with his location. (Newman is down on his luck in the South Bay.)
“So we all would meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 and jump in Steven’s Chevy Impala and go out to Point Reyes. Of course on the drive we would smoke and get high, which really wrecked our ability to find the patch. We would walk around the fields — acres and acres of cow pastures and woods—and eventually we’d give up. We did this I don’t know how many times.” Clapper thinks there were five or six search attempts over the course of a month.
The Waldos were not desperately in need. “It was the early ’70s and Marin County was rife with avenues to access,” notes Noel. “And Marin was rich, so it drew people who had it and wanted to gain the best profits. I had come from San Francisco. Marin seemed kind of soft at first, not the same diversity, but then I made good friends. My older brother and his friends were going to the Fillmore, the Avalon Ballroom, Winterland —all those places. We knew people who were bringing it into the country, driving to Mexico, going to Hawaii. Guys in the military bringing it in from Southeast Asia.
“My dad was in the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement in San Francisco. He had a different car every few months. One time he came home —I was shooting hoops in our driveway with two of my friends and he said, ‘Hey guys, come over here and look at this.’ He threw open the trunk and he threw an aluminum-foil-rapped kilo brick to one of my friends —2.2 pounds of pot. He showed a Thompson submachine gun to another guy. Me, I’m looking in the trunk and there’s all sorts of other confiscated drugs. Back in the day agents used to bring that stuff home. It was awesome. A block of hash as big as my head… I must admit I was a bit of a thief.”
Noel’s father died a few years ago. His disapproval of his children’s marijuana use had been tempered, Noel recalls, by a document published by the state of California in the mid-1970s. “It was heavy on the technical side but it demystified the bullshit put out by the federal government.” His father gave it to him to read, saying, ‘I’m not going to stop you from doing this, but I want you to be aware of the facts.’ And that’s when we kind of met at a common point.”
As I was interviewing the Waldos, Big Mike Barnes, who operates the 420 Limo service, took some photos and joined the conversation. He explained how he used to chauffeur Elvy Musikka, a glaucoma patient who had won the right to receive cannabis from the federal government, grown at the University of Mississippi under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This was all news to the Waldos, who had for all these years kept their distance from the movement that has now become an industry (except as footsoldiers, i.e., users). The Waldos are bemused by their status as icons and justly proud of their unique accomplishment: adding a word/number/symbol to the international vocabulary. What a legacy!
“”It’s not something we tried to do,” says Noel. “We were just a bunch of goofs It’s mind-boggling that something this personal —what we thought was code used by a tight group of people— just expanded and expanded. Friends outside our inner circle picked up on ‘420’ and started using it. We have a letter from a friend who went to Israel in 1972. He wrote, ‘Oh, wow, having a wonderful time. There are some hot chicks here at the kibbutz but no 420.” One of our friends in ’74 went into the military and was stationed in Germany. He wrote us ‘No green 420 here, it’s all Lebanese kief.’ Dave Reddix’s brother was good friends with Grateful Dead. He used the terminology and it spread through them. There were a number of circuitous connections.:
The Waldos have created an informative website, well worth checking out today —4/20— or any of the other 364.
PS: 11:45 pm. Stephen Colbert just did a very funny 420 bit, the point of which was: everybody knows what it means. He is finally hitting his stride.
PPS: 4/23. My piece got posted on facebook and somebody weighed in, authoritatively, with a correction: long before the Waldos, this fb pundit declared, 420 was used as a synonym for marijuana by narcs in Las Vegas because 420 was the police code number for homicide. Asked when Vegas adopted its present code and whether he could provide references to narcs using 420 to mean marijuana, the fb pundit responded with a lengthy rightwing rant that drifted further and further from the subject at hand.