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Valley People (May 20, 2020)

TURNS OUT the young guy who'd been hired to replace the irreplaceable Jan The Mail Lady on her grueling daily mail delivery rounds from Cloverdale to Point Arena and back, wanted more money to do the job. The money offered was not enough, so back the young family man went to his previous employment. Further, it turns out that these outback mail routes like ours are owned by a company based in Virginia, and further-further turns out that the Virginia company tried to get Jan back. Of course they did, you betcha. But Jan is staying retired after nearly three decades of a daily grind few people could manage. Back in the day, the Mendo mail routes were bid out locally. Old timers will remember Jan's predecessor, Vivian Ellis of Cloverdale, when everything, including the mail, was a lot simpler.

EVEN the weather seems confused. Rained off and on most of the week, but contrary to the Chuckle Buds on tv, not enough altogether to beat back fire season more than a few days, but plenty enough to grow the fuel load after lots of people have completed, they thought, their 100-foot clearances.

HALF-OFF on Unity Club Plants: The Unity Club will be selling off the remaining plants this Friday at the Boonville Farmers’ Market. In order to completing reduce our stock of plants propagated here in the Valley by our garden group, we will be selling everything at half price. Our annual college scholarship fund relies on the sale of these plants, which would normally have been sold at the (cancelled) Spring Wildflower Show. We still have a few milkweed plants, lambs ears, irises, queens tears, rosemaries, watsonias, daylillies, scillas, verbenas, salvias, narcissus, geraniums, mints, several varieties of succulents and more. 

The Boonville Farmers’ Market is held in the parking lot of Disco Ranch (the old Aquarelle) Fridays, 4-6 pm. 

LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES VOLUNTEER Aaron ‘Cob’ Martin is coordinating a grant for fire resiliency in Anderson Valley. The grant money must be matched by hours worked brush clearing, limbing, weed whacking, etc. Each hour worked counts as $29/hr per person towards the grant match. Have you been creating defensible space on your property or place of business? Contact Cob. He has forms that you can fill out, and explains: Any work you do for fire safety around your home’s defensible space and ingress/egress driveways can be counted as a contribution towards this project. If you are out there chopping brush, mowing and weed whacking, keep track of your hours, keep invoices of any hired work and it can be submitted as a contribution ‘match’ toward this ongoing project. If you kept a time journal of any brush burning you did before the end of burn season, that may be tracked as well.

Feel welcome to contact me with questions.

Cob, Aaron Martin

Mendocino Fire Safe Council

707-684-9217 call/text


The slight rise in the river is insignificant, yet it might have inspired the 20 or so steelhead hanging out for the last month to move out. Yesterday they appeared to have gone but I have not had the time to walk much of the river to see where they might have gone to. I don’t know. The riffles upstream are still so shallow and extended I don’t know how they could have gone up, yet even with the mouth open I can’t imaging they would head back to the ocean without spawning. One person suggested they might be finding a place to summer over.  

A lot of the bright green algae that formed early has shriveled and floated away leaving a skuzzy patina on the river rock and gravel that billows up with each footstep. New and unusual plants are popping up along the banks and some of the old standby vegetation is already showing signs of drying up. I don’t know. I wish I did.  

There are still a few good swimming holes but some are yucky with scum.  

THE REDWOOD DRIVE-IN in central Boonville, next door to the hamlet's esteemed newspaper, not only offers excellent food and the world's best donuts, it keeps its bathroom open to the public which, as you might imagine, must be constantly maintains to keep it civilized. Among the many lesser plagues unleashed by The Plague, is the plague of snitches, one of whom… Well, Nicole Johnston, the young woman who tirelessly keeps the Drive-In's restroom clean, puts it this way: "So someone reported the Redwood drive in today about people not wearing mask and my bathroom not being clean. Not cool. People are MAD at me because I WON'T let them in here without one and I clean the bathroom every hour. So DON'T be surprised when the only bathroom in Boonville is closed. Thank you."

I OFTEN POP in and out of the Drive-In, and every time I have over the last month, everyone has been masked and everyone has kept six feet away. Of course I have my own bathroom facilities whose use I confine to one person — me. The thought of opening it up to the great unwashed is absolutely terrifying. Travelers don't know how lucky they are that the Drive-In — alone among local businesses — keeps its bathroom open, and doubly lucky to have the conscientious Ms. Johnston keeping it clean every day.

A SWEET-VOICED WOMAN ON KZYX last Thursday morning signed off with this startling statement:  "It takes a community like ours to have a radio station like this." I wouldn't have dared put it that bluntly.

THE COUNTY'S long-distance health officer, Doc Doohan, speaking from her home in San Diego, said she was "working day and night" to keep us safe. I'd need 24-hour video confirmation of the doctor's tireless commitment, but looking back over the vastness of my experience, I've never heard anybody but a dedicated slacker make that martyr-ish claim.

AN ELDERLY masked couple skittered away from me when I, unmasked and on foot for my daily aerobic binge, rounded an early morning corner and there we were, three seniors in the plague year hoping to stay fit enough to stumble on a few more years. I see this couple all the time; they're two-a-days, morning and then again late afternoon. They were the only two people I saw over the hour I was out that morning. I share their general distancing concern, but in that circumstance? The odds for mutual contamination were lottery-long. I wondered what it was like in their house the rest of the day, as they washed their hands on the hour, startled each other when they entered a room to find a strange masked person asleep in the big tv chair. They had to have recognized me as both a fellow Octo and from seeing me all the time. Enter one more affront in the big book of tiny insults.

LATER IN THE MORNING, at the Good Earth Market in Fairfax, covid precautions bordered on prison-visit careful. Hand sanitizer at the entrance door, which was opened manually by a masked kid for each customer. The door opener politely told an unmasked old hippie he couldn't come in. "What kinda paranoid bullshit is this?" the old guy demanded. "The kinda bullshit that keeps us safe," the kid replied, which I thought was pretty right on of the kid as he pried open the entry door for me and the old hippie walked off. Inside everyone was masked, lots of stuff was wrapped, the entire granola section was yellow crime-taped. You had to tell one of the two granola clerks what kind you wanted and how much. The store’s exit was only through another door that had been left open. I guess to some people all this seems excessive but Marin has a very low rate of infection. So does Mendo, but Mendo is sparsely populated and fairly remote from the Bay Area counties where rates of infection are relatively high. Simple distancing and masking works.

COVID-19 is much different than the Spanish flu of 1918 in that the '18 pandemic primarily carried off young, healthy people, many of them soldiers between the ages of 20 to 44. The current pandemic kills mostly the elderly and the unfit. (The fat boys brandishing guns and Confederate flags at Open Up rallies are.... well, unwise, to put it gently.) But 1918 proved that crowding spread the epidemic, distancing and masking beat it. Which makes 1918 San Francisco all the sadder. The City masked and closed down then, at the end of summer, when it appeared the killer flu had lifted, The City unmasked and opened up, and several thousand more people were carried off. Dr. Fauci and the rest of reliable scientific opinion says Covid-19 is all but certain to hit US again hard this winter. 

AS IT IS, and as of Saturday morning, there have been 1,476,226 confirmed cases in the US with almost 90,000 deaths. Extrapolating the math means the killer is out there and on the move. It's clear that we should stay masked and distant for many more months. (And another grim stat of roughly 800,000 expected to be homeless over the summer, according to Dr. Brendan O'Flaherty, a professor of economics at Columbia University.) Millions of people are broke and beginning to go hungry, as Congress postures and debates as if it's all just one more Situation for Wolf Blitzer to puzzle out in CNN's Situation Room.

AV FOOD BANK NOTE: Each family got a bag on the pew, a bag on the floor, a bag of mixed produce on the floor, and 1 doz eggs. All kinds of nutritious and varied food filled each of the bags. Kudos to  everyone who donates both their time and financially.  AV is a great community of people with tender and large hearts. What a gift it is to be part if this magical place. (Benna Kolinsky)

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