Mendocino County Today: Monday, Feb. 13, 2017
by AVA News Service, February 13, 2017
EVACUATIONS EXPANDED OVER POSSIBLE FAILURE OF OROVILLE DAM SPILLWAY
Evacuations orders were expanded Sunday evening for areas of Butte and Yuba counties downstream from the Oroville Dam after one of the dam’s emergency spillway was on the verge of collapse because of severe erosion, according to authorities.
The Butte County Sheriff’s Department issued the evacuation order at about 4:20 p.m. after the hazardous situation developed. Authorities are concerned the erosion could lead to the failure of the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway.
Failure of the auxiliary spillway structure will result in an uncontrolled release of flood waters from Lake Oroville.
According to the Butte County officials, in addition to downtown Oroville and Thermalito, other evacuated areas include the towns of Gridley, Biggs and Loma Rica as well as areas along the Feather River south of Butte County.
Additionally, there were evacuations ordered in Yuba County including the areas around Hallwood, Marysville, Olivehurst/Linda and Plumas Lake.
“I couldn’t risk the lives of thousands of people, so we took this significant step.” said Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea during an early evening press conference.
Honea said that the crews with the California Department of WaterResources were doing everything they could to avert the crisis.
I would rather be safe than sorry. I would rather have people moving out of the area, hopefully to safety, than to sit and hope for a solution,” said Honea.
Experts told Honea that the erosion was not advancing as rapidly as had been initially thought, giving hope that the emergency spillway might not actually fail.
Residents of Oroville were advised to evacuate in a northward direction such as towards Chico, National Weather Service officials said. Other cities were advised to follow the orders of their local law enforcement.
As of Sunday night, there was a 3-mile backup on the highway leaving Oroville as residents rushed to higher ground.
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services activated all State sponsored California Swift Water Rescue Teams as part of the evolving Dam Emergency.
Department of Water Resources spokesman Kevin Dossey told the Sacramento Bee the emergency spillway was rated to handle 250,000 cubic feet per second, but it began to show weakness Sunday at a small fraction of that.
Flows through the spillway peaked at 12,600 cubic feet per second at 1 a.m. Sunday and were down to 8,000 cubic feet per second by midday.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Marysville and Yuba City on the Feather River.
An evacuation center has been set up at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico. Shelter for large animals is being provided at Camelot Equestrian Park on 1985 Clark Road in Oroville.
MAJOR INJURY ACCIDENT ON THE COAST SUNDAY AFTERNOON
At 3:15 pm Sunday a 2016 Ford Mustang driven by Akiva Demarinis, 28, of Great Falls, Virginia, was driving west on Highway 128 near the Navarro Bridge when he allowed his vehicle to run off the south side of the road “at a high rate of speed.” The Mustang rotated and collided with a tree just south of the roadway. Demarinis sustained major injuries and was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by Reach helicopter. No alcohol or drugs were involved and Demarinis was wearing his seatbelt. The incident is under investigation. (CHP Press Release)
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Hey! I was reading MSP this morning when I saw this:"
Someone in Fort Bragg has Mojo. Found, very small male dog in northern Fort Bragg, the evening of Saturday 2/11. Looks like a Chihuahua. The Tag has name "mojo" and a 964- phone number. Called the number numerous times but no live answer. Reverse lookup of the phone number shows the number belongs to a Martin Eligio, who we do not know.
"My given name is Mojo, but I'm not missing and I'm not Mexican. Just coincidence, I guess.”
TRASH. The Supervisors just granted the County's primary trash outfit, Solid Waste of Willits, a deal that knocks about $300,000 off owner Jerry Ward's annual operating budget. The buyback recyclables kiosks in Boonville, Westport and Gualala are closed, as is the Westport trash transfer station.
LOOKED AT as a business deal, it's always surprised me that any free enterprising buccaneer would even try to make a go of assuming responsibility for trash hauling from Covelo to Gualala, a huge area that requires a fortune in fuel costs alone to cover.
HARD TO SAY, but Ward may be going broke. Also hard to say, but it looks like he's trying to make his business look more lucrative than it is. He as much as told the Supervisors he'd go glub, glub, glub if they didn't let him out of Westport, and a third out of Boonville and Gualala.
WE'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT Ward did a good job. He's certainly developed an impressive trash infrastructure, with a fleet of trucks, employees who seem mostly happy with the conditions of their employment, his big sorting center in Willits. Solid Waste of Willits is a turnkey business, it appears.
THE RUB for us customers, though, and Mendo generally, has been ever greater dump fees and, for Mendo County as unspoiled vistas, ever greater numbers of people dumping by the side of the road because they simply can't or won't pay dump fees. (Lots of Anderson Valley people save up their trash for monthly runs to the other trash concessionaire's transfer station off South State Street, Ukiah, where dump fees run about half what they do in Boonville.)
LONG-TERM, who knows? Rival garbage companies are said to be salivating at the prospect of succeeding Ward, and here's hoping he gets out with more than the shirt on his back. He's done a pretty good job in Mendocino County, I'd say, and done it in difficult circumstances, too.
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, I offered this San Rafael street skell ten bucks if he'd tell me his story in broad outline. He'd just spare-changed me. "Just the basic facts like where you were born, how you got to where you are," I said. He told me to go fuck myself. I told him he'd have to get in line, a very old joke. But he laughed, and said that was the first funny thing he'd heard all week. I gave him a dollar. He was still laughing as I walked on. I wonder if my charity qualifies as one of those random acts of kindness you read about on bumperstickers. Or was I just being a heartless prick?
WHEN PEOPLE CARED
To the Editor:
When I was a child, it was during the depression and nobody in the neighborhood could afford to go to the doctor. It cost $3 a visit but a day’s pay was $4. So when somebody was sick, the ladies would all decide who would take which shift and everybody had care. There was a lot of serious illness before magic pills were discovered. I got married, moved from San Francisco to San Mateo. I heard that a neighbor was sick and had a baby. So sick she could hardly care for the baby. What I heard was “Otty, you are the only one without children. You are elected to care for the sick neighbor.” I rang her doorbell. She answered in her bathrobe. Oh, she was one sick cookie.
I said, “I’m your new neighbor and I heard you were sick. I am here to do whatever I can for you.”
I’ll never forget the look on that lady’s face. Was I crazy? But she was so sick she couldn’t refuse my offer. Silently she held the door open for me. She showed me what to do for the baby and went back to bed. I returned the next day but the third day she greeted me and put two silver dollars in my hand and said they had found someone.
I still have those two silver dollars. I was crushed. My first assignment and I had blown it. I cried like a baby. But the neighbor never forgot my kindness. Years later, she told how sick she was and how I appeared at her door and said, “I’m your new neighbor. I am here to care for you.”
Otty Lippi, Ukiah
LIKE, WHEREVER they were pulled from the water, two persons were rescued somewhere around Fort Bragg:
Two people were pulled from the water Sunday off Glass Beach near Fort Bragg on the Mendocino Coast, fire officials said.
Several witnesses started calling 911 about 2:10 p.m. from beach at MacKerricher State Park north of Fort Bragg, according to Cal Fire. The two were initially described as unconscious, but emergency officials later reported they were conscious and breathing, Cal Fire official said.
One person was airlifted by the Cal Star 4 air ambulance crew to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. The Fort Bragg Fire Department’s ambulance drove a second person to Mendocino Coast Hospital. The Sonoma County sheriff’s helicopter Henry 1 was initially dispatched to the Mendocino Coast to assist, but was canceled while en route.
No more details were immediately available Sunday afternoon.
AND NOW A WORD FROM MENDOCINO COUNTY’S EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP
by Mendocino County Schools Superintendent Warren Galletti
A Perspective on Education: It’s not time to panic, yet
Whenever a new president is elected in this country, it signals a change, even when the new president is a member of the same political party. With the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president, it appears many dramatic changes are in store.
I was talking with the Mendocino County Office of Education Associate Superintendent Paul Joens-Poulton and Assistant Superintendent Becky Jeffries about our local educational programs and funding, and we realized that many people do not know how lucky we are to be in California.
No matter what political ideology you subscribe to, if you’re like most of us, you’re not a big fan of radical, abrupt change, especially with something as important as education. President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has a lot of people concerned because she is advocating for major shifts, including the use of vouchers and what some people are calling the privatization of education. States that depend heavily on federal education dollars are in the unfortunate position of having to implement federal education mandates to keep their schools open. In California, however, we have a little more autonomy.
California’s education budget breaks down like this: 60 percent comes from state funds, 25 percent comes from local taxes, 9 percent comes from federal funds and 6 percent comes from other sources like the lottery and miscellaneous local funds (source: https://ed100.org).
I thought Assoc. Superintendent Joens-Poulton put it well when he said, “I have concerns that vouchers and policies that invite a profit motive into education will cause equity and access issues. Students living in rural or low-income communities will not have access to broader educational options. Your zip code should not be the determining factor for receiving a high-quality education.”
In recent years, Governor Jerry Brown completely changed how California school budgets are determined; he implemented the Local Control Funding Formula. With this formula, the state established eight priority areas that California school districts must address through local goals and action plans. So while there are state education standards and codes that all California schools are required to comply with; to receive state funds, California school districts must define the priorities and goals that are most urgent for their own communities (with input from student families and community members).
What I’m saying is this: California isn’t interested in a top-down structure—our Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson believes local districts are in the best position to know what they need. So I really don’t see California implementing structural changes recommended by a federal Department of Education that is completely disconnected from local decision-making.
Because California is such a big state, counties are grouped into 11 educational regions. We’re part of Region 1, on the northwest corner of the state. We’re grouped with four other counties, including Humboldt, Del Norte, Sonoma and Lake. As each county hears from local school districts about what matters most, we work together to solve problems and we take the messages from our school districts to the state to advocate for funding and resources to address them.
Assist. Superintendent Jeffries reminded me that employees of MCOE and Ukiah Unified School District are attending legislative training this month to learn how to navigate the legislative process and effectively share our messages so rural counties can have a stronger voice.
Regardless of whether you are a Republican or Democrat, chances are you want excellent educations for your children. We may differ on what that means and how it looks as far as the details, but if we focus on finding common ground and put our kids ahead of our ideologies, local decision-making should continue to allow us to make the right decisions for Mendocino County students.
Warren Galletti is the county superintendent of schools.
CAROL BRODSKY'S piece on the essential County history archive at the Held-Poage Library in Ukiah will, we hope, inspire more people to contribute time and money to Held-Poage, the largest but not the only collection in the County.
THERE'S A TON of interesting old criminal and civil records a'mouldering in the Courthouse basement, and an invisible County museum in Willits, and even the happy papoose collection at Grace Hudson. Then there are the several small, community museums in Mendocino, Boonville and Fort Bragg. It all ought to be coordinated somehow, and we really need a professional County curator like we used to have, but in place of the pro at the County Museum we have a loyal County gofer, Allison Glassey, presiding over a handful of volunteers and virtually nothing collected. Most Mendolanders, I daresay, are unaware that any local history is collected anywhere.
THE AVA, ahem, has amassed its own collection of stuff because, cough-cough, of hostility from the existing local entities. UC Davis, the U of Michigan, the Sonoma County Library, the San Francisco Library, and several other institutions I can't recall off the top of my fraught head, collect the paper. Years ago, Davis talked me into giving them some correspondence with famous people and other lefty-wefty artifacts that I wish now I'd kept for my own museum to the rear of my Boonville place, tentatively called the "Non-Fiction Mendocino County History Collection," by appointment only and don't even expect to be approved for admission.
CATCH OF THE DAY, February 12, 2017
Alvarez, Bannon, Bolton
KELISHA ALVAREZ, Ukiah. 1st degree robbery via ATM, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
RYAN BANNON, Ukiah. DUI.
JOHN BOLTON IV, Willits. Trespassing, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
Donate, Ellison, Foto
MICHAEL DONAHE, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
JHANNA ELLISON, Willits. Outstanding misdemeanor warrant.
KELSEY FOTO, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
Gulch, Hayden, Jones, Nielson
JEREMY GULICK, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.
DAVID HAYDEN II, Covelo. Controlled substance, failure to appear, probation revocation.
JOHNNIE JONES, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, resisting, court order violation.
ABE NIELSON, Laytonville. DUI.
Reboca, Swearing, Vargas-Alvarez
SHEENA REBOCA, Covelo. Failure to appear.
FELIX SWEARINGER, Covelo. Drunk in public, county parole violation.
SOCRATES VARGAS-ALVAREZ, Boonville. DUI, probation revocation.
POT INDUSTRY HOLDS BREATH AS BUSINESS TAX GOES TO COUNTY VOTERS
The tax, amounting to $6.3 million a year initially, is needed to govern an emerging trade, supporters say. Opponents say it’s a cash-greedy overreach that will drive operators back into the black market.
BERNIE SANDERS REJECTS DRAFT EFFORT TO START NEW POLITICAL PARTY
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Years ago I noticed, as Indonesia (my home since 1988) began a sudden acceleration toward ‘development’, spiked by massive (and often indiscriminate) foreign investment, that the nouveau riche – a rentier class often of military, crony or nepostic origin – began to spawn offspring who looked startlingly different from the less fortunate (though from an identical genetic or social background).
A case in point is that of Dr. Ibnu Sutowo, a crony of the dictator President Suharto, who should have earned a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for having nearly bankrupted Pertamina, the state oil company, when crude prices hit a peak in the mid-1970s. Unbelievable levels of corruption robbed the state, and blatantly so: five oil tankers were ordered from Japan and paid for; four showed up in Indonesia. Nobody dared complain as the hand in the velvet glove was steel.
The good doctor, a military leader in the Indonesian revolution, looked very much like the wizened old kampung dweller selling roasted goat sate on the street (as did other old-timers miraculously become billionaires). Their children were taller, sturdier, infinitely confident and at ease with international customs. They drove Ferraris and had perfect table manners. They were mostly educated abroad (LSE, Stanford, but mostly expensive podunk ‘baby-sitter’ colleges in Australia and the west). They spoke near-native English, and some had been tutored in German and French as well.
(Apologies for the elaborate introduction.) My point is that anyone who saw these young demigods strolling through a mall in Jakarta would never mistake them for the kampung kids who would scurry along through the same passage, always bunched up, with eyes lowered. Their grandparents had all started off desperately poor, in the era of the 1945 revolution. But in the 1990s these privileged youths acted and even looked so different (heavy subcutaneous fatty later, from a diet rich in dairy and meat) that they formed a ‘caste’ rather than a ‘class’. The nickname for the Suharto children was the ‘Lucky Sperm Club’.
Why do I mention this? A comment made me suspect that a similar caste system has come into force in North America – which ridicules the Europeans because of the lingering influence of their aristocracy. Ghetto kids in the USA have become de facto untermenschen, physiological, linguistic, cultural and social defectives.
And there is nothing which Big Guv, in its lumbering, accident-prone, well-intentioned efforts, can do to remedy the situation.
(Smart parents meanwhile squirrel their own offspring away in private schools, further accentuating caste divisions.)
Ame Rica becomes a true third-world plutocracy, albeit a huge and hypocritical one.
WHEN ADLAI STEVENSON was told that all thinking people were with him in his race for president, he famously responded: “That’s not enough. I need a majority.”
— Timothy Egan
DUTCH GET CREATIVE TO SOLVE A PRISON PROBLEM: TOO MANY EMPTY CELLS
THE POPE IN ALASKA
The Pope went on vacation for a few days to visit the rugged mountains of Alaska. He was driving along near a campground when he heard a frantic commotion just at the edge of the woods. He found a helpless Democrat wearing shorts, sandals, a “Vote for Hillary” hat and a “Save the Trees” shirt. The man was screaming and struggling frantically, thrashing all about trying to free himself from the grasp of a 10-foot grizzly bear.
As the Pope watched in horror, a group of Republican loggers wearing Go Trump shirts came racing up. One quickly fired a .44 magnum slug right into the bear's chest. The two other men pulled the semiconscious Democrat from the bear's grasp.
Then using baseball bats, the three loggers finished off the bear. Two of the men dragged the dead grizzly onto the bed of their pickup truck while the other tenderly placed the injured Democrat in the back seat.
As they began to leave, the Pope summoned all of them over to him. "I give you my blessing for your brave actions!" he proudly proclaimed.
"I have heard there was bitter hatred between Republican loggers and Democratic environmental activists, but now I've seen with my own eyes that this is not true.
As the Pope drove off, one logger asked his buddies, "Who was that guy?
"Dude, that was the Pope," another replied. "He's in direct contact with Heaven and has access to all wisdom.
"Well," the logger said, "he may have access to all wisdom, but he don't know squat about bear hunting. By the way, is the bait still alive or do we need to go back to California and get another one?”
DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE APPROVED A WEEK AFTER CO-OWNER’S PIPELINE SPILLED 600,000 GALLONS OF OIL IN TEXAS
ABORTION, AN EXCHANGE
ELLEN ROSSER WRITES (on MCN): Eleanor Cooney: You write interesting fiction. However, in the late fifties, when I was a graduate teaching fellow, a fellow graduate student and his girlfriend came to me to ask to borrow $200 so that she could have an abortion. When I couldn't convince them to keep the baby, I lent them the money. She found a doctor, had the abortion and was physically fine. But after he dumped her shortly thereafter, I'm not sure what her psychological condition was. I wish I'd been more convincing. Peace and blessings, Ellen
ELEANOR REPLIES: I'm glad you brought this to our attention, Ellen! And making abortion illegal again is the obvious remedy. Because descending into the abortion underground, possibly blindfolded, and finding yourself (if you're lucky!) in the hands of a seedy old drunk perv doc (and not a mortician or a prostitute!), whose practice has deteriorated to the point where he has nothing left to lose, who doesn't bother with a glove during the "examination" so that you feel the scrape of his filthy fingernails, who is free to molest you and breathe contemptuous obscenities on you while you're on the table, alone with him, in his run-down, ill-equipped, unsanitary office, and who will dump your corpse with impunity should you croak, is so much less traumatic than having the procedure in some clean, modern, legal, accountable, above-board clinical setting.
Hell, while we're at it, give me a good old-fashioned street dentist with a strong back and a pair of pliers over some fancy-schmancy "oral surgeon" with his Novocaine, sterilized up-to-date equipment and extensive training. While it's absolutely true that I write fiction professionally, my account of illegal abortion in the latter 1960s is not, alas, fiction. If only it were.
Not the first time I've encountered revisionism from the make-it-illegal-again crowd; they like to say that illegal abortion "wasn't so bad," that it didn't really happen the way we say it did, that the tales we tell are urban legend, mere "pro-abortion" propaganda. It's how they protect themselves from the knowledge of what they would be resurrecting when they say they want to recriminalize abortion.
I've invited Ellen to call me. I'll meet with her if she likes, and she can look me in the eye and tell me that my experience in the abortion underground (age 17) never happened.
What do you say, Ellen?
ON-LINE COMMENT (2) Schools are the canary not the mine. They reflect the chaos of so many students’ lives: dysfunctional families, high rates of mobility (moving to new housing/schools, sometimes multiple times, during the school year), poor nutrition, children sleeping on a couch while adults live because of overcrowding, violence. If a child lives in chaos that will be reflected in a lack of academic accomplishment. I totally agree on the importance of learning the language to use it as a tool for success. Following speaking should be an absolute laser focus on reading. If those language skills are not built the student will be handicapped. Inner city public schools do not have lots of money, tax rates have fallen, and charters are taking some budget. You ask rhetorically could she [DeVos] not do worse…I say yes it could get very much worse under her ideology.
IS IT SAD or merely hypocrital that a white liberal pretends libs now revere a famous black communist they despised and jailed when he was alive?
Fail! Chelsea Clinton leads the way in mocking the Department of Education and Betsy DeVos for an embarrassing spelling mistake in a tweet praising 'W.E.B. DeBois'
JOIN JOHN SAKOWICZ & SID COOPERRIDER WITH GUEST RICK STERLING ON KMEC RADIO ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, AT 1 PM, PACIFIC TIME.
Rick Sterling is an independent investigative journalist and just wrote the piece " The War Against Alternative Information " for ConsortiumNews.com -- which states: "The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the 'Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act' that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any 'propaganda' that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality.
"The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center 'to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.' The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to 'coordinate with allied nations.' ...
"The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian 'propaganda' on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth -- or Global Engagement Center -- to protect the American people from 'foreign propaganda and disinformation.'
"As part of the effort to detect and defeat these unwanted narratives, the law authorizes the Center to: 'Facilitate the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among Federal departments and agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.' (This section is an apparent reference to proposals that Google, Facebook and other technology companies find ways to block or brand certain Internet sites as purveyors of 'Russian propaganda' or 'fake news.')
"Justifying this new bureaucracy, the bill’s sponsors argued that the existing agencies for 'strategic communications' and 'public diplomacy' were not enough, that the information threat required 'a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power.'
"The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world’s biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation..."
MY LIFE: THE PRINCE OF ALIENATION
Chapter Seven, Halcyon Days
by Thomas Cahill
Today is the worst day of my life. I've been down with the flu for a week, so far down everything looks like up to me as in the title of Richard Farina's 1966 novel, "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me." Poor Richard, he died in a motorcycle accident two days after his book was published and not long after marrying Joan Baez's beautiful sister, Mimi.
After a half century, I wonder if he's still pissed-off at his luck. I hope he's found something fun to do up there. Well, Mimi is with him now. She died of cancer in Mill Valley in 2001 not long after I did some publicity writing for her organization "Bread and Roses" that put on live performances for people isolated from society such as senior shut-ins and prisoners. It was in partial repayment for her agreeing to be on the board of directors of my organization, "Stop Prisoner Rape." After Mimi died, her sister, Joan took her place on our board and may still be on the board of what's now called "Just Detention International."
To make matters worse, my muse is off inspiring some other wannabe writer and sitting in her place is the grim reaper constantly reminding me my time is running out. I don't need any fucking reminders. I'll be 80 in a week, on Valentine's Day. The overwhelming majority of my friends and family are already on the other side. My cousin Mikey Jr., a retired fireman in New Jersey, died a week ago. He was just a few years older than me. Arthur, my brother-in-law, also a few years older than me, died a year ago tomorrow. And February 1 was the seventeenth anniversary of the death of my Hippy Queen. She was 64 then so that would have made her 81 on her B-day, February 12 had she survived the car crash in Morocco.
I have no fear of death, "None of us get out of this life alive," quipped comic Rodney Dangerfield. And I agree with Woody Allen who said in one of his movies, "I just don't want to be around when it happens."
On a happier note, I think the actual passage from one life to another might be like an orgasm. But perhaps if you are fearful of death, it may not be so good. Fundamentalists of most religions are fear-filled. That's because early in life they bought into what the religious control freaks told them. Then for the rest of their lives, their early belief system of fire and brimstone just perked away until it became like very strong coffee with which they would then try to get others to imbibe to also keep them awake at night thus sharing horror-filled nightmares. This is called evangelicanism from the Greek word "euangelos" or "bringing good news."
In his book "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America," Chris Hedges describes the "Left Behind" series of apocalyptic Christian novels by Timothy LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. It's in twelve volumes so far and has sold sixty million copies and it seems at least four big-budget movies have been made from this series about the "Rapture" and the "Apocalypse."
"This stygian nightmare is a visceral and disturbing expression of how believers feel about themselves and the world" . . . and . . . "it feeds their fantasies of revenge and empowerment" because they feel "persecuted" by us nonbelievers, writes Hedges.
But my friend, Raven, sees an advantage for her in the Rapture. On her vintage. battered VW, she has a bumpersticker, "Come the Rapture, can I have your car?"
I'd like science to scoop up my remains, use what it can, and put the rest of me out with the trash. Hey, I'm not being disrespectful to or ungrateful for my temple. But I agree with Fr. Teilhard de Chardin who insisted "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience." I would add one word--"we are spiritual beings having a 'temporary' human experience."
I'll probably wind up being cremated so I won't have a grave or headstone, but I do have an epitaph, a take-off of Jonathan Swift's--"Here lies a conspiracy nut where savage indignation can no longer lacerate his breast."
I've already designed my own afterlife. Hey, who says I can't? If fundamentalist theocrats and dominionists can, so can I. Sitting on a cloud with a harp or having to deal with the demands and complaints of twenty-four virgins for . . . ETERNITY . . . does not appeal to me one bit. Thank you, very much.
I have it on good authority from a psychic that in the afterlife everyone, including our parents, is thirty years old. It would be nice having an erection again. It's been down so long . . .
I want to time-travel. I want a front row seat in Notre Dame Cathedral to watch Napoleon take the crown out of the hands of the Pope, turn to us in the audience and crown himself emperor. I want to especially see the chagrin on the Pope's face. He couldn't have been happy with the affront after waiting so long in line to be searched at the airport in Rome, then waiting in line for a taxi at the airport in Paris. So they didn't fly back in those days. Can you Imagine travel back then being worse than today with Homeland Security?
Then I want to be in England in the Summer of 1940. I wanna fly a Spitfire! Well, who's going to stop me? It's MY afterlife. Up there or out there I wont need a license or any kind of permission from anyone to do anything. Neither will I need knowledge or training to do things. My wish will be all that's necessary.
I want to strap-in, close the Malcolm Hood, and press the button for the Coffman starter to hear the Merlin cough, then whine. I've been waiting for this since I was a kid propagandized by the Brits since age two to come over and be a Yank in the RAF. I will never forgive the bloody British for having a jolly good air battle and excluding me.
"Sorry kid, you're too young. Your eyesight is too poor. Try eating a ton of carrots and come back and see us when you're eighteen," they'd say Then there was the big glitch to ruin my young life. "Two and two does not make seventeen, kid. "Navigation is all about algebra and geometry, sonny. Master these subjects and we might fit you in for a test." Then for the next dozen or so winters, I tried doing myself in on Dead Man's Hill in Branch Brook Park in Belleville, New Jersey. But I only succeeded in getting an occasional bruise when my sled hit the big bump at the bottom and like all the other kids, I'd go bouncing in the air laughing with a face full of snow.
I already have a photo of myself in full flying kit sitting in the cockpit of a Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vb on a field in San Antonio taken during a visit there in the late Seventies by a mechanic helping restore the vintage warbird. Yes, Sedonia and I had an extensive wardrobe of vintage clothing including uniforms for our vintage costume portrait salon first in San Francisco, then in the village of Mendocino and even briefly in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island off Washington, the state not the Swamp.
* * *
Oh, I haven't told you about our salad days in San Francisco which coincided with our early Hippy experience with psychedelics and the flea market in Alameda. Sorry for jumping around. It's not easy for my memory to stay in chronological order, especially without my muse's assistance.
San Francisco has to be the most civilized city in the USA. It really cares about it's people. It's not just a playground for the upper crust. But early in my self-exile from Texas, I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge public photo lab in a park, both of which were run by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department. I had my first experience with a camera at about age eight photographing my buddies covered with snow after a fierce snowball fight. Later after college at the University of Texas Austin, I did some news photography including having taken a very lucky shot of who I still consider the worst president in US history. The Johnson's both liked the photo so much they borrowed the negative from my magazine and used it as one of their "unofficial White House portraits." The negative is now in the LBJ library in Austin, I was told not long ago.
Hey, I am not bragging. I believe Paul Vathis, Pulitzer Prize winning photographer got it right when he said, "The photographer does not create the photo. The photo creates the photographer." Anyway my portrait of the Lyndon B. Johnsons never hurt my brief career in photography.
Little did I know that my discovery that day of the practically free photo lab would lead to a fun business for a decade that I hadn't even dreamed of and ownership of a beautifully-restored Victorian home I DID dream of. Hey, who visiting San Francisco can resist the "painted ladies"?
One morning after discovering the photo lab, I easily talked Sedonia into dressing up in one of our Victorian outfits. No woman a hundred or so years earlier could have looked better in a high-necked silk blouse, richly-embroidered black jacket and a black velvet hat with a wide, round brim. I kept complementing her so much, she couldn't stop smiling.
"You can't smile for the photo," I warned her. "A century ago the camera lens would have to stay open too long," I explained. "A face might be blurred into distortion that's why studio photographers even had different kinds of braces to keep a subject still," I told her.
Absolute proof that Sedonia clearly understood her role in this team project is my first and best oval-shaped costume portrait in sepia that sits propped up in front of me right now, a priceless memento of my lost love.
In what we thought was a simple marketing scheme to sell our vintage clothing as well as old picture frames, we displayed the appropriately-framed photo on one of the tables in our "Deadbeat Boutique" at the Alameda Flea Market. Friends couldn't get over the similarity between Sedonia and what they thought was her grandmother. When we told them it WAS Sedonia and how we had made the photo, they invariably wanted their photos taken and offered trade goods. But the best was yet to come.
One Sunday morning in 1970 at the flea market, a woman identifying herself as a "crafts coordinator" noticed the similarity between Sedonia and the photo. She received the by-then shortened explanation, and invited us to apply with our photography and costumes for participation in the first annual Dickens Christmas Faire to be held in a warehouse near Fishermans' Wharf in San Francisco starting that November. It was to be a new addition to the older successful Renaissance Fairs held in Spring in Southern California and Fall in Northern California.
With no competition, we were a shoo-in. Before Thanksgiving that year, we built our stall inside the warehouse, both excited beyond belief. Not being carpenters, our stall looked primitive compared to the others practically all of which were Hippy-made works of art. But Sedonia and I were both good at camouflage and hid the defects with eye-catching decor. We easily passed the inspection by both the Pattersons, the man and wife team who created the Christmas extravaganza that got rave reviews far and wide that in turn brought in the crowds. Even I had a short blurb published in "American Way," the magazine of American Airlines that paid me far more than any full-length feature with photos I ever submitted to any publication before or since.
Center of attention in our stall was a huge wooden portrait camera on an equally large, heavy, wooden tripod. Inside the large brass-housed glass lens, etched directly on the glass was "Paris 1860." To a long-time photography freak, how could life ever be better. The camera for which we paid a paltry $400 could have been used by Louis Daguerre himself. And the reason it was so cheap was because it was so big it couldn't fit in the trunk of a car. But "Prince Albert" easily swallowed it whole. The camera was just a prop though. What I used for the portraits was a 35 mm Japanese-made Topcon, single-lens reflex.
After inspection, Sedonia and I were so pleased with our work that we went into the changing room in back and made passionate love; titillated, in part, because we were afraid of being discovered since people were all around us talking or hammering away. One group was even practicing Christmas carols, and before Thanksgiving even. What sacrilege!
Sedonia outdid herself and afterward leaving the changing room, I felt like Woody Allen exiting the Orgasmatron in his 1973 science fiction comedy "Sleeper." Sedonia had to sit me down and revive me with some of the goodies she brought for lunch.
Opening day, as Sedonia and I hauled-in some of our best costumes and props and my photo gear, a long line waited for us. Just our display board with other "old time" photos we had done of friends and family and even ourselves had generated the interest. I totally lost it. Placing the things I was carrying behind the curtain of our changing room, I rushed back to "Prince Albert," opened the crucifix, took out a tab of "mellow yellow" and "dropped" it with some water. In fifteen or so minutes when Sedonia came out to get me, I was already peaking on the LSD but NOT feeling mellow.
It was stage fright, pure and simple, and Sedonia, brilliant that she was, recognized the symptoms right away.
"But Tom, it's not like you have any lines to recite," she said. "There are customers waiting for their portraits," The word "customers" did register since I knew it meant fewer long, cold days at the flea market that winter. And in the inimitable way that Sedonia could talk me into almost anything, she gently coaxed me into what I was sure was a den of lions waiting to devour me.
"You can do this. You've ALREADY done it. It's no big deal," she said as she got me into my mad artiste outfit with fancy silk cravat as Daguerre might have worn. And when she had me fully dressed, it was like putting on the sea captain's coat months earlier at the flea market.
I WAS Louis Daguerre, famous French photographer known world-wide for his Daguerrotypes.
We made a killing that first day. Neither of us had ever seen so much money even after we gave the Patterson's their fair share. My Goddess, a few more weekends like this and we could retire to Grand Fenwick if we could ever find it. And I was still visually peaking on the LSD and speaking in a phony French accent which made Sedonia giggle because she never heard it before.
"Oui Madame, leeft your had a leetle to the droit, ah right, s'il vous plait," I'd say getting a broad grin from Sedonia because both of us knew the game was about playing time travel back to Victorian London where Madame and Monsieur Daguerre had set up shop to fleece the bloody Limeys with their new gig from Par-eee.
Uh, oh, the Brass Band is playing Jacques Offenbach's "Can Can."
I rush out of the stall to see if the girls are doing it correctly. They are and after ogling them in their "blanche neige" pantaloons for a few minutes, I rush back to our portrait salon where Sedonia has a look on her face of amusement mixed with disgust not at my adolescent salaciousness but at the interruption in milking our cash cow.
For the next decade of Dickens fairs, Sedonia would often accompany me to watch the Brass Band and the young filles perform because she was as much a Francophile as I was.
I lost another of my nine lives at the Dickens Faire when a lovely, young, royal handmaiden announced to us that Queen Victoria would like her portrait made. The woman who played the part of the Queen was as good if not better than any other actor of the rest of the troupe playing their roles in Dickens' London. Sedonia immediately noticed how intimidated I was and came over and squeezed my arm as if to remind me it was all play. But her assurance did no good. I was petrified. And I wasn't even stoned. No phony French accent now. Screw this up, M. Daguerre, and your head will be on a pike, I thought to myself. And sure enough, I did screw up the portrait to the extent I had to use a special paper to increase contrast. The pose was flawless, totally regal as one might expect of a successful queen. And if Vicki ever noticed the poor contrast in the print, she was gracious enough to say nothing.
I made an 11 by 16 print and Sedonia framed it in a large oval frame with bulging glass. Then she carefully printed in gold ink, "Photographers to the Queen," as if our business needed any more customers.
For almost three months, we would work seven days a week--two days at the Faire and five days in the darkroom or preparing prints to be mailed. All the while Captain Nemo would be imitating my paper-cutter while little Annie Laurie would be screeching at some outrage of her two older, villainous brothers.
Not counting our birthdays--Annie Laurie on the 10th, Sedonia on the 12th and me on the 14th--February became my favorite time of the year. Caught up printing and mailing, we could kick-back in our work shop with Sedonia sewing on her grandmothers treadle machine and me building ship models, one of which I named for Sedonia's earlier persona, the "Mary S. Howse." It was a whaling ship of the mid 19th Century and Sedona couldn't make up her mind if she was complimented or insulted. It was a big model that required a big case for which Sedonia found the perfect table at the flea market where we could now go as customers and not peddlers for a while at least.
By the time I had built this ship model, we were living in a beautifully half-restored Victorian on Pine Street near Fillmore. With a small inheritance from Sedonia's dad and my GI Bill for housing, we bought the Queen Anne Victorian for $60,000 in about 1972. We restored the upper flat and finished painting the half of the exterior that needed it and about 1974 we sold it for $80,000 and thought we had done great. Because of the Silicon Valley boom, real estate prices exploded after that and within a short time we learned the house at 2275 Pine was worth over a million dollars. By now it might be worth two or even three million since prices are still skyrocketing in San Francisco making prisoners out of tenants like Cousin Mike who still lives there with rent control.
The house could not have made a more beautiful or impressive old San Francisco portrait salon. With a hall filled with our best-framed photos, a bookcase for our vintage photographica collection, a credenza that Sedonia beautifully restored sitting on top of which was a model I built of an 18th Century Dutch sailing ship named "Mapat" with green hull and red gun'els and other "Victorian clutter," and a marble fireplace over which we hung a magnificent portrait in pastels of Sedonia done by Cousin Mike which made a perfect backdrop for a self portrait of Sedonia and I. I'm seated in the photo because it was not only tradition but because men tend to be taller than women and this way the faces are closer together. I'm wearing Louis Daguerre's cravat and holding his top hat. Sedonia is wearing a lovely fur hat with a bird attached. We look beautiful together even if I do say so myself. A handsome, royal, Hippy couple in the prime of their halcyon days in San Francisco, the undisputed international capital of Hippydome.
I especially liked the color combination of the "Mapat," and would enjoy just looking at it while peaking on LSD. The ship seemed to come to life then and I would fantasize about it's vintage look but high-tech ability to be able to submerge out of a storm and make headway slowly on diesel engines fed air through a long snorkel hose much like German u-boats late in WW II. At the surface end of the snorkel would be surveillance gear to scan the horizon and sky. Sails could be raised and lowered manually or by computer-controlled servo motors and everything modern would be hidden behind beautifully-finished wood. It would be a sea-going commune with school, trade goods, work shops, and everything necessary to sail the world safely and healthily and fiscally independent. And it would be a lesson or experiment in democracy in which everyone, even children would get a chance at being captain, overridden, if necessary. by a licensed master mariner. Once through a magazine article I even tried to recruit a crew to build and sail such a vessel but got few responses. It was just a Hippy delusion but one that pleasured me for years. Once while homeless in San Francisco, I sold my favorite ship model for a lousy $300 and now all I have left of the "Mapat" is a photo that can still trigger memories though.
I can't for the life of me remember why we left San Francisco. Everything was going so well for us. Sedonia was a brilliant businesswoman and we were on our way to becoming part of San Francisco lore. Jeff Simon who had a daily TV show in the City, did a segment about us in which we dressed him in different outfits, his favorite being a gangster holding a very realistic metal and wood .45 caliber Thompson submachine gun with the round drum called in the 1920s a "Chicago piano" possibly because of the sound it made when on autofire.
When Jeff went on vacation once, KRON-TV played our segment every day for at least a week. We never found out how it would have helped our business because we were in the process of moving to the village of Mendocino where the business folded three years later in part because of a drought in which tourists far and wide were warned to stay away from the area.
Well, "merde," that's life.