Rain Tomorrow | Old News | Siren Testing | Headlands | Food Banking | Dick's Place | Hotel Hogan | Early Mendo | Distant Learning | Vintage Mill | Pathogenic Viruses | Usal Wharf | ruth weiss | Logging Ops | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | Vaccine Anticipation | Room Service | Crabby Crabber | Redneck Wheelchair | Deplorable Tent | Defense Ministers | Named Storms | Rise Again | Winning Message | Photo Opping | DeLillo's World | MAGA Shattered | War Anthology | Veterans Past
A WINTER WEATHER PATTERN is shaping up for Friday highlighted by cooler temperatures, a rain producing front and high elevation snow. Another round of inclement weather is expected toward the middle of next week. (NWS)
NO NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Wednesday, total remains 1242. No new deaths; total remains 22. (However it’s possible that yesterday’s report was simply not updated…as evidenced by the time stamp on this graphic.)
PUBLIC SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT - REDWOOD VALLEY WARNING SYSTEM SIREN TESTING
Thursday, November 12 & Friday, November 13, 2020
The Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire District will be installing a new siren in Redwood Valley and testing different siren patterns and installation locations over the next two days.
The siren installation and testing will begin at approximately 0900 A.M. on Thursday 11/12/2020 and last until approximately 2 or 3 P.M. The testing will occur again on Friday 11/13/2020 during the same hours from approximately 9 A.M. until 2 or 3 P.M.
Only call 9-1-1 if you have an emergency. Please do not call 9-1-1 if you hear the sirens as Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire District personnel will be testing different siren patterns and numerous locations throughout Redwood Valley during these two days.
The purpose of installing this new siren will be for emergency notifications and alerts in the future.
Please share this information with anyone who lives in or frequents Redwood Valley so they are aware of this siren testing.
For additional information, please visit the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire District Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/redwoodvalleyfire/
AV FOOD BANK THANKS OUR COMMUNITY
With all that is challenging in our world and in our country the AV Food Bank is grateful to our beloved Anderson Valley community for its tremendous generosity and for all the helping hands that have allowed the expansion of the AVFB from one day a month to two days a month. During this time of COVID we are aware of the need for good nourishment to keep us thriving and healthy. Without your help and the many ways that you offer it we wouldn't have been able to pack up and distribute bags full of fresh local (when available) nutritious food. So we have a lot of people and organizations to thank. Thank you to the Fort Bragg Food Bank who generously supplies us with food. Thank you to the Redwood Empire Food Bank who also generously supplies us with food. Thank you to our local farmers who have been so wonderful sharing their beautiful produce. Thank you to our financial donors, community agencies and individual donors, who keep us afloat and operating. Thank you to the Mendocino Community Foundation for all of the grants that they have given us. Thank you to the Methodist Church for allowing the food bank to use its facility. Thank you to our team of packers who muscle up and help get the heavy boxes of food from the truck into the Methodist Church and into the bags that are given out to the families who receive them. Thank you to the distribution team who also muscle up to carry the heavy packed bags from the church to the cars awaiting them. And thank you to the people who come because they know that they need good wholesome food to keep their families healthy. And last but not least thank you to the ladies that every year collect and give out Christmas presents to all of the children up to age 12 who come to the yearly December food bank, which will be on December 21st this year.
32 HELPING AGENCIES IN THIS COUNTY, BUT…
BUT. We received the following on Monday night, the coldest night yet this season. We forwarded Mr. Hogan's letter to Supervisor Williams who wrote immediately back that he was "on it." And he was. In a very short time, just as the old guy was about to become a Laytonville popsicle, he was warm and comfortable in a motel room. Supervisor Williams got it done.
I guess that things are bad to worse at the Mendocino county social services and adult service and EDD and the sheriff's office and the Willits PD.
The past week or 10 days I've been officially homeless and I m 64 yrs old, serious medical conditions, and I'm sleeping outside on the ground with no way to get warm .
My retirement and disability checks got returned to social security because I complained about a re-occuring charge from Google play. I didn't know that it was Youtube music and the bank manager in Willits decided to cancel my ATM card even though I begged her not to because I have direct deposit and she didn't like me begging her so she closed my account and by the time I got another direct deposit lined up through online banking it was passed the cut off date so my check went to Mendocino County Savings Bank and they sent it back to the treasurer so it leaves me outside freezing with no money .
Today I called Michelle at the Social Services and she referred me to another county run organization that referred me to Mendocino county adult service who then directed my call back to the lady’s (Michelle’s) answering machine and I explained to her that I'm in a dangerous situation and that I could freeze to death or get pnemonia or have congestive heart failure again and she just said that no funds are available.
Although if I were a tweeker with children they would be able to give me a motel voucher.
What the fuck is going on?
I worked for 30 yrs, paid social security and income tax. Served in the military.
But I can't get a motel voucher for a week to keep from freezing to death.
You know I can walk into a bank with my face covering on and I look like every Trump supporter.
And on election day I get an email from the concealed weapons carry association to register to win a sig-saur semi auto pistol .
What timing for a gun give away. .
Go figure. .
Pissed off and Mad About it
AND FROM AL HIMSELF, this note Wednesday:
About five of the people from the county called me, kissed ass, and now I'm in a hotel room. Thanks for the power of Journalism
OPEN 'EM UP
To the Editor:
Distance Learning is a Social Justice Catastrophe
This upcoming Thursday, Nov. 12, the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD) Board of Trustees will be discussing a return to the classrooms for our children. To our great teachers, staff members and administrators, I remove my hat in both awe and gratitude; the obstacles you have overcome are staggering. However, it is time now to re-pivot, re-focus and re-open. In addition to the blessing of Mendocino County Health Officer Dr. Coren, we have ample sustained evidence of other schools in Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties, safely and successfully re-opening.
As a working parent of two UUSD students (Kindergarten and third grade), I need to clearly articulate the social justice crisis & emergency that is taking place for our community’s students and their families due to distance learning. The first issue is of course internet connectivity. We are an economically challenged rural community, and many residences do not and cannot logistically have internet connections. How many of our students are not logging on?
The next issue the physical and emotional safety of our children - our schools are often the only safe place many of our students have in their lives and that sanctuary no longer exists. What are the immediate and long-term emotional effects of distance learning and isolation on our students? Without the mandated reporter role our schools serve, we don’t know what is going on behind the closed doors of our most vulnerable students.
The next issue is nutrition - many of our students depend on the schools to supply their primary daily meals. While some students & families are picking up sack lunches, not all can or do. The next issue is social interaction - schools are where students learn how to interact and integrate with their peers. How is my Kindergartener being socialized through an eight inch computer screen?
And the last issue is the educational one - no matter how great our teachers, distance learning is a substandard method of delivery for elementary school students. How are our English-learners fairing? What about our developmentally disabled? Without exception UUSD students are falling behind and the most vulnerable of our students are falling behind the furthest.
I urge our great teachers, staff and administrators to stand up for social justice. Our neighboring schools have safely reopened with outbreaks - it can be done safely. We have an ethical and moral responsibility to bring our students back into the classroom, immediately.
MacAdam M. Lojowsky
HISTORY OF POLIO, COVID, AND THE COMMON COLD
In the earlier part of the 1900s Polio virus epidemics caused widespread apprehension, and thousands fled the city to nearby mountain resorts and rural areas; movie theaters were closed, meetings were canceled, public gatherings were almost nonexistent, and children were warned not to drink from water fountains, and told to avoid amusement parks, swimming pools, and beaches. From 1910 onward, a polio epidemic appeared each summer, the most serious occurring in the 1940s. A successful vaccine was finally developed in the mid 1950s, and ultimately the disease has been wiped out world wide. Years later, Post Polio Syndrome was identified in older people who had survived polio when they were younger, and various symptoms began showing up indicating permanent damage had been done to the nervous system by the original infection--increased muscle weakness, pain, etc. Any of this sound familiar?
Obviously polio virus epidemic and Corona virus are two different things--but they do have a common base--they are both pathogenic viruses. Polio got it's start similarly to the start of Covid--probably moved around the world slower because people didn't move around as much, and it's been around for thousands of years. Measles virus tells a similar history. It almost extincted the native Hawaiians when it first arrived in those islands via missionaries several centuries ago. The common cold belongs to the corona virus family--it's been around thousands of years, long enough for the human immune system to develop inherited immunity to it so now it's not considered as pathogenic as Covid.
I posted this as an educational material. No particular point other than this isn't the first time the world has faced an invasion by a virus. If we can individually educate ourselves about it, hopefully we can make helpful decisions as individuals about this one.
(Little River Museum)
THE ruth weiss FOUNDATION
Be sure to join us this weekend for the online screenings of "ruth weiss, the beat goddess," and on Friday night at 7pm, online, for a celebration of the newly formed ruth weiss Foundation.
Tickets for the film are available for purchase for $10, the film is available Fri.-Sun., Nov. 13-15. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Mendocino Film Festival. Any additional donation will 100% go to the ruth weiss foundation, a 501c3p non-profit organization dedicated to preserving her work through museum exhibits and educational programs, and literary performance events. The foundation's annual grant/scholarship will support aspiring and underserved poets and artists.
Get tickets: www.ruthweissfilm.com
More about the non-profit: www.ruthweissfoundation.org
In addition to the film screening, there will be several free virtual events to participate in each evening. In partnership with the Mendocino Film Festival, we will be launching the non-profit with a three-day virtual film screening of ruth weiss, the beat goddess documentary. Each night, we will have a different free event online. (Nov. 13-15th)
On November 13th, we will make available her rare books to raise funds for the annual grant/scholarship to help artists in need and support our efforts with the museum exhibits and education curricula. We will have a live auction of signed rare books and serigraph poetry prints. And speak more about the foundation.
On November 14th, we will have a virtual Q&A discussion about making the movie and her environmental activism in Mendocino.
On November 15th, we will have a Celebration of Life virtual event that will feature poets, jazz musicians, and keynote speakers.
WHOA! Golden Gate Bridge fare might soon cost ten bucks, perhaps more as the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is considering layoffs, furloughs and a bridge toll increase to make up for lost revenue due to a precipitous drop in travel and commuting amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Bridge District, which includes the Bay ferries, says it's lost on average about $2 million a week in bridge tolls and transit fares since early March. Bus ridership is down 75% and ferry ridership down 96%, while bridge traffic is at 70% of normal.
THE DISTRICT'S board of directors used to include Mendo Supervisor Jim Eddie of Potter Valley, since replaced by Jim Mastin of Ukiah in early 2019. Mastin and Co. will vote Friday on one of three options to make up the budget shortfall. The first option is to eliminate 205 bus drivers and ferry operator positions, offering four months of paid medical for employees and their families, along with four weeks of severance pay or a $600-per-week stipend for 10 weeks. The second is to temporarily increase the cost of tolls by $2 to prevent the layoffs, and the final solution is to increase the toll by only $1.25 and furlough employees one day a week. It currently costs $7.70 for a car with FasTrak to cross the bridge and $8.40 without it. A $2 increase would put the cost in the $10 range.
(MARK SCARAMELLA adds: And if you know why Mendocino County gets its own official Board member on the Golden Gate Bridge District Board, please post it as a comment and get your own personal attaboy from the The Major.)
CONTROLLED BURNS. Used to be that "training burns" were a kind of local joke, the joke being a controlled burn is a controlled burn until it isn't when several got out of control, a couple way outta control. These run away fires were the work of the old CDF, as I recall. The Anderson Valley Fire Department is far more prudent, and just today successfully torched and extinguished, for training purposes, ten acres of a Gowan orchard bordering Hendy Woods in Philo.
THE PLAGUE has hit a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations. 62,000 Americanos are currently being treated. Deaths from the virus remain low compared to their April peak.
BIDEN'S HEALTH CHIEF, Dr. Michael Osterholm, said late Wednesday that a national lockdown may be the best way to keep hospitalizations and deaths down across the country until a vaccine can be distributed. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, claims that the country's economy will not suffer as a result, if enough money is borrowed to pay wages during the shutdowns. Coronavirus hospitalizations and infections have hit single-day highs in the U.S., although deaths are still about half what they were in the peak in April. Osterholm is among the members of Biden's task force the transition team announced on Monday.
THE TRUMP interlude seems to have unnerved lots of us, but closer to home it's home invasion season that does the unnerving. Small groups of pot robbers roam the back roads this time of year looking for pharmas to plunder, apparently unaware that over the years the rural pharms have formed neighborhood protection associations and, individually, have armed up. Used to be that Bay Area thugs assumed the “hippies” were easy marks. No more.
THE PREVALENT RURAL attitude is expressed in this on-line comment: "If you think you can ever depend on the police to protect you… think again! Citizens give up their liberties when they depend on other people to protect them. Protect yourselves, learn martial arts and self defense. Carry an object that can always be used in your self defense like a folding corona pruning saw… it doesn't look like a weapon, but if you need to defend yourself it works 100%. A cop is always 10 minutes away, and in Southern Humboldt or Northern Mendo usually at least a half hour or more away; stop depending on police protection. Get a concealed carry permit and go target practice shooting. You never know when a psychopath could be lurking around your neck of the woods."
THE NEW YORKER has fired one of its best writers, Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin was suspended in mid-October after he exposed himself on a staff Zoom call, either unaware he was being observed or has become a mid-life perv. The firing seems unwarranted given Toobin's years with the mag and given he probably didn't know he was live at five. In a weasel-lipped announcement, Stan Duncan, chief people officer for parent company Condé Nast, announced that Toobin "as a result [of the investigation], he is no longer affiliated with our company."
Toobin simply said, "I was fired today by @NewYorker after 27 years as a Staff Writer. I will always love the magazine, will miss my colleagues, and will look forward to reading their work."
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 11, 2020
JOHNNY AZBILL, Santa Rosa/Covelo. Controlled sbustance while armed with loaded firearm, assault weapon, short barreled rifle, ammo possession by prohibited person, felon-addict with firearm, paraphernalia.
KYLE BRACKETT, Willits. Disobeying court order, paraphernalia, conspiracy.
MICHAEL FREEMAN, Covelo. Protective order violation.
JENNYFER HALLMARK-DUMAN, Clearlake Oaks/Ukiah. Concealed loaded handgun-not registered owner.
JARED HAWKINS, Bakersfield/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
GLENN JENKINS, Willits. Community Supervision violation.
LANCE JONES, Maxwell/Ukiah. Stolen vehicle, taking vehicle without owner’s consent, pot sales, false ID.
MICHAEL LOVELL, Willits. Domestic battery, damaging communications device.
ROBERT MCCANN, Willits. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, vehicle theft, taking vehicle without owner’s consent, conspiracy.
BRANDY SCHLEPER, Ukiah. Disobeying court order, failure to appear.
STEPHEN SUTAK, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
ROBERTO VARGAS JR., Hopland. Protective order violation, probation revocation.
WILLIAM WAHLQUIST, Fort Bragg. Felon with stun gun, leaded cane or similar, battery on emergency personnel, resisting.
MARK WOLK, Ukiah. Controlled substance, disorderly conduct-loitering, probation revocation.
CALIFORNIA WANTS STATEWIDE PANEL TO REVIEW ANY COVID VACCINE
by Ana B. Ibarra
In late October, a new survey from STAT and The Harris Poll showed 58 percent of people in the U.S. said they would get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine became available — that’s down from the 69 percent who said the same thing in mid-August, possibly indicating a growing mistrust among the general public. Only 43 percent of Blacks said they’d get the vaccine as soon as it was ready compared to 59 percent of white respondents, according to the poll.
In the summer, California was tapped by federal health officials to help plan for a large-scale rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine as early as Nov. 1. Some public health experts pushed back on the idea that a vaccine could be ready for safe distribution by then.
The drug company Pfizer is expected to have one of the first coronavirus vaccines. If its vaccine proves effective, safe and can be consistently manufactured, the company would apply for emergency use authorization in the third week of November, CEO Albert Bourla said in an open letter last week.
But even if ready in this calendar year, Newsom said, supply is expected to be limited and, just like previously with coronavirus diagnostic testing, people who are considered high risk would be first in line.
In one projection, Newsom said that about 45 million doses could be ready for national distribution by the end of this year. California would only get a percentage of these, and each person will likely need two doses. Health workers and first responders would be prioritized, followed by people with high risk of becoming severely ill if infected, according to the state’s vaccination plan.
To the rest of Californians: Don’t anticipate getting a vaccine at your local pharmacy anytime this year, Newsom said.
Newsom also acknowledged that the state will need to work through some logistical hurdles. Some of the prospective vaccines will need to be stored in cold or “ultra cold” spaces, and their administration would require additional supplies of needles, alcohol pads, bandages and more face masks as doses become available.
CalMatters COVID-19 coverage, translation and distribution is supported by generous grants from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation.
“This vaccine plan will move at the speed of trust. You have to have confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine, confidence that we’re not rushing to judgment in terms of its distribution and its accessibility,” Newsom said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Newsom said the review group process will stand even if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election.
Coronavirus vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in coming months will not be distributed in California until a statewide panel of health experts can ensure they meet safety requirements, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.
While there is no vaccine available yet, California and other states have been gearing up for its eventual distribution. On Friday, California sent a draft of its vaccination plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the draft, state officials said a scientific safety review workgroup, made up of immunization and public health experts from agencies and universities across the state, will help “ensure public confidence in vaccine safety, efficacy, and implementation efforts.”
Other states also have created committees to review any coming vaccine in response to concerns that the Trump administration might rush the regulatory approval process.
“Of course, we don’t take anyone’s word for it,” Newsom said, in a nod to the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WON’T SAVE THE WHALES
Dungeness crab fishing is delayed again for commercial crabbers, and yet recreational crab season started Saturday with the deployment of 35,000-50,000 sport pots in District 10 — Gualala River to Pigeon Point — according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates. The most recent survey in District 10 for whales counted 48 whales encompassing 3,476 square miles. What utter hypocrisy by state and federal agencies to allow sport pots and not commercial pots. We are barely allowed to work, so please just give us the maps to the food banks and other social services. Then we can be soaking up more tax dollars to survive. Let us work.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Maybe – just sayin’ – it would be better for Trump to get outta Dodge and for he and Trumpists to take a time out and think things through.
The main problem with Trump’s accession is that he had little base of support outside of American underclasses and the middle class. This means not enough people supporting him in the Deep State, in academe, in the media, and especially not in the Republican Party he’d overthrown to get the nomination.
And he had nowhere near enough support in the business community and Wall Street both of which fund Democrats and traditional Republicans, who in turn extract money from taxpayers to hire protection for those same business and financial interests, whether this protection is in the form laws or of cops and spies and soldiers, or whether it’s regulatory bodies that put their fingers on the scale to ensure that business comes out on top.
This protection can take many forms, but the point is that it’s a symbiosis of elite interests that use one another to maintain an economic and political system for their own advantage.
Trump had a brief agenda which can be summarized as America First, but whose broad strokes can be discerned as avoidance of debilitating wars, tightening national borders, re-establishing or re-shoring American manufacturing and the mass, bread-winner employment that went with it, all of which directly improve the lot of America’s underclasses ie the Deplorables.
Given the benefit to Deplorables, these action items were seen as a direct threat to entrenched elite interests. And it was obvious pretty quick that Trump had not nearly enough back-up that could have fended off fraudulent attempts to overturn his valid 2016 election win.
So, the problem that faces people that support Trump’s aims is to establish a political movement that encompasses not just grass-roots foot-soldiers but that also has adherents in Deep State officialdom, people that could lend their influence the next time a Trumpist comes to power, if there is a next time.
It’s a big, multi-year task ahead, one that needs people in universities, the judiciary, the military, in the foreign affairs “blob”, in intel and police agencies, in short, a broadly based community of patriots who will oppose globalists, internationalists, neo-liberals, in short, all those that sell out America and Americans for the narrow advantage of a few.
Where to start, where to start …
29 STORMS AND COUNTING: The Story Behind the Atlantic's Super-Active Hurricane Season
On Monday night, the 29th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season formed in the northeast Atlantic. As of right now, the subtropical storm doesn’t threaten any communities or coastlines, but Theta has demolished the 2005 record — 28 named storms — for the greatest number of named storms in an Atlantic season. Tropical cyclones get names when their maximum sustained winds reach a minimum of 39 miles per hour. The World Meteorological Organization says there’s a 70 percent chance a 30th named storm will form in the next five days.
MEMO TO DEMOCRATS: 2020 Elections Show Progressive Vision, Not Centrist Restraint, Is Winning Message for the Future
"Scapegoating progressives and Black activists for their demands and messaging is not the lesson to be learned here. It was their organizing efforts, energy, and calls for change needed in their communities that drove up voter turnout."
THE SILENCE: We All Live in Don DeLillo’s World. He’s Confused by It Too.
by David Marchese (October 2020)
A permeating paranoia. Profound absurdity. Conspiracy and terrorism. Technological alienation. Violence bubbling, ready to boil. This has long been the stuff of Don DeLillo’s masterly fiction. It’s now the air we breathe. For nearly 50 years and across 17 novels, among them classics like “White Noise,” “Libra” and “Underworld,” DeLillo, who is 83, has summoned the darker currents of the American experience with maximum precision and uncanny imagination. His enduring sensitivity to the zeitgeist is such that words like “prophetic” and “oracular” figure frequently in discussion of his work. They will very likely figure again in regards to his new novel, “The Silence,” in which a mysterious event on Super Bowl Sunday 2022 causes screens everywhere to go blank. “The way our culture moves along changes the way all of us think,” DeLillo said. “I don’t think it’s a question of better or worse. It’s simply inevitable.”
Let me ask about something that’s not in “The Silence,” at least not anymore. In the first galley copy I read, there’s a scene in which a character is reciting disastrous events and mentions Covid-19. Then I was told there were changes to the book and was sent a second galley. Covid-19 was gone. Why did you take it out?
I didn’t put Covid-19 in there. Somebody else had. Somebody else could have decided that it made it more contemporary. But I said, “There’s no reason for that.”
I’m shocked that an editor or whoever had the chutzpah to jam anything, let alone a Covid-19 mention, into one of your books.
It wasn’t going to stay, that’s for sure.
Still, “The Silence” feels attuned to current anxieties. What planted the seed?
What got me going was the idea of a blank screen. It led everything. Then there was the notion of the Super Bowl, which has been in the back of my mind for some years. Watching the football game joins us together in one aspect and then looking at a blank screen suddenly is a kind of cataclysmic footnote. There was also a flight I was on between Paris and New York, and for somewhat mysterious reasons, I made notes. There was a screen under the overhead bin. So I watched the screen and there was information there like outside air temperature, time in New York, arrival time, speed, etc. I wasn’t accustomed to this.
I hate when I’m on a plane and realize I’m compelled to keep staring at that screen. What intrigued you about it?
What was intriguing is that I was also compelled to look. I’d never experienced this before.
That makes me think of the characters Max and Jim in “The Silence,” who are always looking at screens as a substitute for generating their own thoughts, which a lot of us do these days.In what ways does having the constant cognitive crutch of a screen to look at affect our minds?
Technology has changed the way we think, talk. Everything was different before this somewhat abrupt technological advance. Our thinking is less meditative and somewhat more instantaneous. I don’t use a cellphone, because I want to keep thinking in a traditional manner. It helps me concentrate on words on a page. This has always been an important element in the way I work: simply the appearance of words on a page, letters in the word, words in the sentence. If I can go on for a minute, I think it started with “The Names,” which I wrote in the early 1980s: I recall clearly seeing the visual connection between letters, between letters in a word, words in a sentence. When I started working on “The Names” I decided to limit each page to a paragraph, one paragraph per page, which helped me in a visual sense to concentrate more deeply, and I’ve been doing it more or less consistently ever since. For example, there’s a phrase I remember at the end of “Underworld”: Raw sprawl. The word “raw” is contained in the word “sprawl.” That sort of thing became more apparent to me after “The Names.” I have to add this: I still use an old Olympia typewriter. It has large type and allows me to see more clearly the letters on a page.
What you’re talking about is a sensitivity to the aesthetics of words and language. Has digital life changed things in that regard? Is it all degradation?
I don’t think of it as degradation. It’s simply what happens. It’s a form of progress. This is the path of technology. I don’t necessarily long to go back to precomputer days. I accept what we have and in many ways I’m astonished by it.
What do you find astonishing?
The enormous thrust forward, if it is forward. Whatever technology is capable of doing becomes what it must do. It’s uncontrollable.
Like, if we can surveil someone through their phone, we will surveil someone through their phone?
Absolutely. If a certain thing can be developed, it will be developed. Many things are being developed to the general advantage of people and civilization and then there are the things that individuals will do because they find a way to do it. This is what causes all sorts of disruptions in technology and people’s lives. Because an individual can find a way to do something technologically, he or she, depending on the kind of person, will do it.
You don’t use smartphones and computers, right?
Very little. I’m more comfortable with an old telephone. I’m speaking to you on an old landline, and this is what I like to do. It makes me feel normal.
Do you often feel abnormal?
[Laughs.] I don’t. Maybe subnormal.
Do you read any websites?
No, I don’t. My wife has a computer, but no, I don’t have any interest in that.
Your fiction, inasmuch as it’s about any one particular thing, is about what makes us uncomfortable. So I’m curious: What gives you comfort?
Writing gives me comfort. Trying to understand can be somewhat self-enlightening, maybe in a self-deceptive way, but that’s helpful. My personal question is, Will I keep writing fiction? The answer is that I’m just going to see what happens. It’s possible that I’ll try to think about arranging a volume of my nonfiction work. I don’t know.
Maybe this is a stupid question — and maybe the answer to it is the novels themselves — but after 50 years of thinking and writing, do you feel as if you have a firm understanding of this American society that in so many ways flummoxes the rest of us?
I think I’ve remained open to whatever happens around us and as confused as other people become by what happens around us. I don’t think that the work I’ve done gives me any great, deep perception about what’s going on. I mean, I couldn’t discuss with you on a certain level of intelligence the current presidential campaigns.
Nor presumably would you want to.
You’re right. Will I be looking at the presidential debate? I may be watching baseball.
Have you been watching the games played in empty stadiums?
I’ve watched some. The empty seats are astonishing. I much prefer the empty seats to other stadiums where they have fake faces in the stands. I think that’s a desecration of baseball. The empty seats, they’re satisfying in a curious way. The simple, traditional game of baseball is almost elevated to an element of art by the lack of people in the stands. It’s all very stylized. I notice things I haven’t usually noticed. People keep hitting foul balls. More than ever, it seems. Foul balls. Foul balls. Three-and-two count, foul ball — almost inevitably on a three-and-two count. The oddness of it all. Hitting a home run to empty stands. Yeah, it becomes a form of art in a way.
If you have written your last novel, which as you suggested remains an open question, how do you feel about what you’ve accomplished?
I never expected my first novel to be published, and it was published by the first publisher to look at it. Ever since then I’ve felt lucky.
I understand your gratitude at being able to make a living as a writer, but from a self-critical perspective have you done what you set out to do?
I could have done better perhaps in the 1970s and, to a lesser extent, since then. But at the time I thought I was doing as well as I could. In retrospect, certain novels probably could have been better. Can I possibly say that I should have resisted the urge to get going on such novels?
Should I really say?
Only if you want to. “Amazons”aside, of course. [Laughs.] Maybe I could have done better with “The Body Artist”; “Point Omega.” There are enthusiastic responses to these books, particularly “Point Omega,” but when I was working, I don’t think I totally reached the level of enthusiasm that I usually do. But I kept on going.
Is “The Silence” intended at all as a kind of career summary? I ask because it calls to mind a bunch of your other books. Like “Players” it begins in an airplane. The Super Bowl is a football connection to “End Zone.” There’s a cataclysmic event as in “White Noise.” There’s even a quick back-and-forth in which two characters try to remember details about the scientist Celsius, which is close to a back-and-forth in your short story “Midnight in Dostoevsky,” where people are trying to remember something about Celsius. Is that all a coincidence?
I don’t think in terms of connection between books. Except perhaps that the assassination of President Kennedy mysteriously turns up in a roundabout way at the end of my first novel, “Americana.” The character drives his car along the motorcade route that President Kennedy took. Then years later I decided it might be interesting to write a novel based on the assassination of President Kennedy. This was a major decision, and it required me to do an enormous amount of research. Curiously enough I ended up in the Bronx, where I was born and grew up, because I learned that Lee Oswald had spent a year in the Bronx with his mother, living within walking distance of where I lived. I went to visit his old neighborhood. Maybe that is what got me started on “Libra.” I decided to name the novel after his birth sign. I was hoping it was Scorpio, because I liked that word. But his birth sign turned out to be Libra, the scales. I settled for that.
You know who else shows up in two of your books? Murray Jay Siskind. Both times described as having an “Amish” beard.
Murray Jay! Remind me, what book is he in?
And where else?
Oh god. How do you remember that? I don’t remember that.
I think I just got a scoop. I don’t know if you’ve ever publicly acknowledged that you wrote “Amazons.”
I probably did, somewhere or other. [Laughs.] Maybe to an interviewer from Thailand.
Let me get back to themes from your work: paranoia, conspiracy, information overload. None of these things have become any less potent, which is part of what accounts for the prophetic qualities people see in your books. What do you take from seeing your themes continue to play out in the world with such force?
Well, I thought of the entire set of decades after the Kennedy assassination as the age of paranoia. For people of my age or perhaps a little younger, this is what overtook the entire culture. People were paranoid about everything, and suddenly there were all the books, the studies of the assassination. I have an entire library shelf, including the 26 volumes of the Warren Report, half of which I read fairly thoroughly when I was working on “Libra.” It consumed the culture. That’s not an exaggeration. After 11/22/63 everybody began to think in terms of paranoia. Then it was gone.
You think the culture has not become more paranoid?
We could say that there was a conspiratorial element in the current situation in the pandemic but I’m not sure how seriously the commentators and students of this era take it. Otherwise, I think that sense of conspiracy is less prevalent now than it used to be.
Let me take a shot in the dark: Have you ever read the cultural critic Raymond Williams?
I don’t think so.
He had this idea of how every era has what he called a structure of feeling, which is basically the way that people experience the times in which they live. And in the past you’ve written about how J.F.K.’s assassinationand 9/11fundamentally altered our understanding of the world. Will the pandemic change our structure of feeling?
Absolutely. The question is how will it change? When we are finally able to live, so to speak, normally again, which is probably a long way off, how will we think back upon the pandemic? Are we going to continue to be affected by it? I think we have to be in some way. We may feel enormous relief, but for many people, it’s going to be difficult to return to what we might term as ordinary. I don’t know how that’s going to feel. I hope that it’s mainly a sense of rediscovered freedoms. You want to go to a movie. You want to go to a museum and eat in a restaurant. Those ordinary things are going to seem extraordinary.
You’ve been in Manhattan during the pandemic. What are your impressions of the city?
If I take a walk, a street that has four people on it will seem almost crowded. We’re supposed to be wearing masks, not everyone does, and one has to veer away from certain people. One has to be consciously aware of who’s coming toward us. Who’s behind us. As much as an individual might look forward to going out for a while, these self-imposed restrictions begin to assert themselves and whatever pleasure one anticipated may not be experienced fully.
That sounds exactly like something from your novels.
Honestly, I’m not aware of that. I’m just babbling.
Characters babble in your novels, too! See, it’s all connected!
It is all connected.
I’ve obviously been reading too much Don DeLillo. Speaking of which, can I ask you a left-field “Ratner’s Star” question? I always wondered how much Thomas Pynchon influenced that book. To me it feels stylistically closer to his work than the rest of your own.
My goodness. I don’t know if I can answer that question. I was enthusiastic about the Pynchon of that period. Did it have a direct influence? It probably did have some sort of influence, but I don’t know quite how to answer that.
I have another style question: There’s an argument to be made that a book like “Zero K” embodies what might be thought of as late style. Do you see any validity in thinking about it in that way?
When I think of “Zero K,” to the extent that I can remember it, I think visually. One of the characters, Jeff, walking along long corridors and then the secret desert compound and the underground chamber, cryonic suspension, people hoping to resume life at some point. There are famous athletes who did that.
Ted Williams’s head was frozen.
It was Ted Williams. Can people return to life? That’s the question. Again, I was thinking visually: rows of people in these pods in cryonic suspension. When I was working on “Zero K,” I was thinking that I’d actually seen such a thing, which of course I hadn’t. The other thing I remember is the odd part titles, “Part 1: In the Time of Chelyabinsk.” “Part 2: In the Time of Konstantinovka.” I did have a reason for doing that but who the hell knows what it was.
I suspect that could be your answer to a lot of my questions.
And it’d be the honest answer, believe me.
(New York Times)
THE WAR INSIDE THE WAR IN VIETNAM
by Doug Anderson
On the cover of Marc Levy’s The Best of Medic in the Green Time is a photo of a Colonel in clean, starched fatigues with a bit of a paunch. He’s been choppered in for a little pep talk. Behind him are a group of soldiers from Charlie Company 1/5, First Cavalry. They are exhausted, filthy from the tops of their heads to their boot soles and not a one of them is smiling. This unit saw some of the nastiest fighting of the Vietnam War against crack PAVN troops both in Vietnam and across the border in Cambodia. This photo receives its own full chapter by former soldier Roger Byer who writes, “Look at our faces. To a man we are miserable, dirty, battle worn, and fed up with it all.” After the pep talk the Colonel was flown back to the rear where he would sleep on clean sheets. In most cases the only officers who saw actual fighting in Vietnam were lieutenants and captains. Once promoted to major, they entered the fog of career politics.
Marc Levy has assembled letters, essays, poems and anecdotes from members of his own unit and others, including ones from our more recent wars. Some of the contributors are working writers; others are impassioned witnesses who, after many years, could not help but speak. Not least is the fine writing by Levy himself, a medic who served with Delta 1/7 First Cavalry Division, and like many of us is still unpacking a war that remains woefully present after nearly half a century. After accumulating nearly three hundred multi-paged blog entries for Medic, Levy and his friend Blake Campbell compressed the blog into a compelling and necessary book of 559 pages. The scope of the book is Dantean; the reader is led through the many layers of Hell by Levy’s Virgil, and is met by witnesses whose searing testimonies are unforgettable. What they reveal is a war inside the war, a war that only combatants at the sharp edge of the fighting knew. But this is not just any war; it the first the US lost, and one so mindless in its intent and execution that it split the country in half and many of its veterans internally.
We see in Medic both the viciousness of the fighting and the minutia of everyday life in the field: how to heat coffee with a tiny ball of C-4 plastic explosive, standing watch and staring into the darkness, the screams of maimed and dying enemy outside the wire, the perimeter being probed, overrun and the enemy suddenly close enough to see his chin hairs. We see men improvising in a disaster where the tactics continually fail. We see men killed their first day in the field and a well-liked platoon sergeant killed by his own “automatic ambush” of trip-wired claymores. We see the clouds of mosquitoes and a jungle heat that could rise to one hundred twenty degrees during the day. We see good young men having the decency beaten out of them daily, being pushed to limits beyond anything they were prepared for, and put in morally impossible situations that would haunt them the rest of their lives.
About another war, Paul Fussell wrote: “Every war is ironic because every war is worse than expected.” This was true of the war he was writing about and it is true of the Vietnam War.
Nowhere is this irony more evident that in the humor of the combatants: “We didn’t want the feel-good gags trotted out in Humor in Uniform, a monthly Reader’s Digest column. We refused to pin a smiley face on war and its aftermath. Instead we sought tasteless, obscene, unforgivable, lawless jokes whose wit and irony strip combat of its mythic bones, look death full in the face, and somehow make it comical.” These jokes fit Tim O’Brien’s now classic poetics of war literature: “….you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” Brandeis anthropologist Janet Mcintosh, who wrote the excellent introduction to Medic, has been researching the language of veterans, and contributed this joke: A reporter asked a Marine, “Where do you stand on terrorists?” He replied, “Well, the windpipe usually does the trick.”
Many Vietnam veterans would not talk about the war until decades later. People speculate that it was too painful, or that vets were treated so badly when they came home they were shamed into silence. While both of these things are partially true they omit the most important reason: it is impossible to tell people who were not in the Vietnam War what happened because they’re incapable of understanding it. It’s not that vets are being mysterious; civilians just can’t get it because they were not there. And when civilians are shocked at what they finally hear they often feel let down or insulted.
The pretext for the war was the “domino theory” left over from the Eisenhower years and drove Joseph McCarthy’s HUAC hearings. This abstract enemy, plus a few cups of racism, kept people at home from actually comprehending what was going on in the war–who the Vietnamese were and why they were fighting apart from the feared communist hegemony. Many veterans began to wonder who the enemy actually were. Hate them they might, but they respected their toughness and commitment. Something like the master and slave dialectic was at work. Additionally, they could not help but notice that most of the rural population supported the communists. The villagers may not have understood the finer points of dialectical materialism, but they hated the Saigon government. The war was thus structurally ripe for atrocities.
In Medic we see how the daily murder and crushing fear slowly degraded a soldier’s morality in a war that made no sense. Somehow the religious values they’d been raised with did not apply anymore. We see men who’d forgotten the purpose of the war and fallen back into a survival mentality in which “patriotism” was a faint echo. Former military policeman Richard Boes, who was assigned to handle enemy prisoners, writes, “Most of us didn’t want to be there. We counted off the days, but the longer I was in Vietnam, the more I became the thing I hated most. This war was about getting out alive, and nothing else mattered.” This demoralization would increase as the war lengthened. And its failed tactics led to a proliferation of atrocities.
Levy has looked at atrocities head-on. The public was appropriately horrified by them but clueless as to how they actually happened. Atrocities were both intentional and accidental. Understanding them involves slipping into the skin of a combat infantry grunt. Levy describes an NVA female he tried to help, after an ambush. “I tell the lieutenant both her legs are broken. From the mines or machine guns, it’s hard to tell. I tell him there’s nothing to make splints except rotted bamboo. She groans, more water. More.” This would be an atrocity of the accidental variety. But then he goes on to describes a unit called “Tiger Force” of the 101st Airborne, which committed hundreds of atrocities with the full approval of their commanding officers. The My Lai massacre, the most infamous of the Vietnam War atrocities, was accomplished intentionally at the orders of company commander Captain Medina and platoon commander Lieutenant Calley. But how do you separate these atrocities from the larger atrocity of the war itself with its wholesale killing of civilians by bombing, short rounds, and mistaken identity? Of the four million Vietnamese killed in the war half of them were civilians. The unspeakable, indigestible horror of the war would lead Levy back to Vietnam, and to friendships with his former enemies.
Psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, who has worked with many veterans, describes moral injury as “a betrayal of what’s right, by a person who holds legitimate authority, in a high stakes situation.” Veteran John Ketwig writes: “I abandoned my morality….It [the war] was about corporate profits and garish stripes sewn onto a sleeve, about genocide and the screwed-up notion you can make a total stranger’s existence better by killing or maiming him.” Most American combatants quickly learned that the rural population favored the communists. Some of them even began to speculate that the US was fighting to support a Saigon aristocracy who cared nothing for the overtaxed rice farmers that made up eighty percent of the country. This made some grunts just hate and mistrust the Vietnamese more; still others began a deep questioning of why they were there. A surprising number of them would step over the line and join the demonstrators when they got home.
And some of them would become scholars of the war. They would dig back into history to find out just what this country was that was only a war to many Americans. Many of us had never heard of Vietnam until the war began. We didn’t know the French had been defeated there in 1954, we didn’t know the Americans were allied with Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese during World War II. Levy writes about the Organization of Strategic Services, the OSS, that was the ancestor of the CIA. During the Japanese occupation of Indochina, agents of the OSS befriended Ho Chi Minh and gave him weapons and medicine in return for which Ho helped them find downed American pilots before the Japanese could get to them. They traveled in the mountains with Ho so they could radio back weather reports to pilots flying against the Japanese. These agents, including Charles Fenn, Henry Prunier, and Peter Dewey, respected Ho and the Viet Minh. Some of them thought Ho was the man to lead the country after the war, but colonialism would prevail along with anti-communism. At the end of the war, during a surrender conducted by a prize idiot, the British General Douglas Gracey, when the Viet Minh fought for a foothold in postwar Vietnam, Peter Dewey was mistaken for a Frenchman and killed in an ambush. It is not surprising that the OSS would emerge years later as a historical punctum for veterans who hated the war and wanted to know how we got into it, and how we could have stayed out.
Whatever their view of the politics of the war veterans came home knowing they’d been lied to. It didn’t help that they were rejected by both their peers in the anti-war movement and the politicians behind the war who now wanted to blame them for its loss. There must have been something wrong with them. Drugs? Poor character? Not the “greatest generation” certainly. Some vets were eaten up inside by the killing they’d done in a war that turned out to be a lie. Add moral injury to PTSD and you’ve got serious damage. As veteran Marine Andrew Fassett writes, “The individual who signed in on the [enlistment] contract is never the same one who signs out.” And what happens inside a vet when he’s informed that President Richard Nixon conspired with South Vietnamese officials to undermine Johnson’s peace talks to make himself look good in the forthcoming election, during which delay a few thousand more Americans and Vietnamese died?
The image of Vietnam veterans was rehabilitated during the Reagan years because it was politically expedient to do so. Vets were now forgotten heroes who never got their parade. Reagan needed their votes and claimed the Vietnam War had been fought for a “noble cause.” He wanted to rid the country’s self-image of the “Vietnam Syndrome.” The rediscovery of Vietnam vets by the culture finally created new rituals, the most famous of which became, “thank you for your service,” which appeared during the second Iraq War. It may have been popularized by the 2017 film, Thank You for Your Service, written and directed by Jason Hall based on a nonfiction book of the same name by David Finkle. In any case, a lot of veterans don’t love to hear it. Levy writes about the motivations of people who use this phrase. Some are sincere but don’t really have the language to express anything real, some are virtue signaling, and some are going through the motions to protect themselves from the pain of actual empathy and recognition of what war actually is. In Medic, Marine veteran Gregory Ross, finally exasperated, wanted to say, “You know I killed that one particular Vietnamese just for you.” In 1991, George Bush senior, after invading Iraq, proclaimed that the “Vietnam Syndrome” was finally over. On March 29, 2010, Vietnam Veterans Day was declared and veterans were presumed to have completed their historical rehabilitation. Vietnam veterans considered this to be another joke.
If some Vietnam vets became active in the anti-war movement, some took it further by getting to know their former enemies. I met Marc Levy in the nineties at the Joiner Institute for the Study of War and its Social Consequences at UMASS Boston where I was a veteran writer and teaching affiliate. The Joiner Institute was founded by a black Vietnam veteran William Joiner as a means to reach out to Vietnam Veterans. Writer Kevin Bowen, the Center’s director, poet Bruce Weigl and others, began making trips back to Vietnam to get to know their literary counterparts in Vietnam, poets and writers who’d fought against us in the war. During this time Levy formed an enduring friendship with the novelist, Bao Ninh. In 1994 and 1995 Levy backpacked through Southeast Asia, a trip that included an emotionally wrenching return to Vietnam. He began reading Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War. Levy writes, “…when reading my paperback copy, I would fall into a trance, feel as if I were floating above my bed.” And later “…at the sight of Ninh’s dust jacket photo I saw those we hunted, and who hunted us.”
Bao Ninh served with the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade. There were five hundred of them when they went to the war in 1969. Ninh was one of ten survivors. Far from a nationalist epic, Sorrow has been rightly compared to All Quiet on the Western Front. After a long correspondence Levy finally met Ninh in Boston, where he had been invited to the Joiner Institute. Upon seeing him, Marc called out his name. Ninh responded, “Who has called me? and then, upon recognition “Moc Leby, Moc Leby” (Ninh’s pronunciation of Levy’s name). Levy writes, “Ninh and I put our arms around each other. I barely managed to hold back my tears.”
In the nearly half century since the war’s end many veterans have reached out to former enemies. The war was the beginning of our real education in a way. And there was terrible unfinished business inside us. It is no accident that many of us became writers. Seeking the language to understand the war was a long process. This is so well expressed in Levy’s writing and in the huge, heteroglot expanse of Medic.
There is no talk of “healing” in Medic. The US lost over 58,000 and probably 3 million wounded. And there were thousands of suicides among Vietnam Vets. I can’t help but think they killed themselves because, unlike the voices in Medic, they couldn’t find the language to speak of the unspeakable. Worse still, the Vietnamese lost four million, with hundreds of thousands still missing and a country poisoned with defoliants, including forty million acres of prime rice land. Their children still suffer birth defects from Agent Orange and veterans in the US die of its cancers with regularity. How do you “heal” something like this war? The voices in Medic don’t wallow in self-pity or ask for forgiveness. They just tell it like it is. People don’t heal from such an experience. They carry it the rest of their lives. Something the recruiters don’t tell you.
David Connolly, one of the poets included in Medic, and one of the founding members of the Joiner Institute, tells it like it is:
Ratshit and the Weasel and I
are behind this dike, see,
and Victor Charlie,
he’s giving us what for.
And Ratshit, he lifts his head,
just a little, but just enough
for the round
to go in one brown eye,
and I swear to Christ,’
out the other…
Here, the poet’s southie vernacular is intimate, like you’re sitting next to him in a bar and he’s telling you a story, a personal story, one you won’t forget. This kind of intimacy pervades Medic. The witnesses take you aside, want you to hear their stories, and they are unforgettable. Medic is the most comprehensive anthology of veteran writing yet published. It is many times better than the oral histories of the war published years ago in which interviews were merely transcribed. First of all, it is a book of writers, professional and other, who’ve found their voice. Levy has stepped back and let his witnesses speak without editorial intrusion. There is a certain grace and large-heartedness to his non-meddling.
Further, Levy extends his hand to veterans of subsequent wars which are, like Vietnam, “wars of choice.” We did not have to invade Afghanistan and Iraq after the attacks on the twin towers, and some veterans of those wars have begun to smell a rat. Instead of Agent Orange, Levy has detailed how these vets suffered the effects of inhaled toxins from burn piles, petroleum fumes, depleted uranium used in armor piercing bullets, and bad malaria drugs. And they suffered the moral injury of such a war where the enemy is embedded in the civilian population. The Afghanistan War has continued longer than the Vietnam War and has further, possibly permanently, destabilized the Middle East.
What strikes me as most ironic is that Levy had to self-publish this book. Since he lives on Water Street in Salem, Massachusetts he picked the street name as his publisher; but the book deserves a major publisher and wide readership. Levy said his queries did not spark interest so he did it himself. I’m glad he did. Mainstream publishers, who are now entirely marketer driven, have missed an opportunity here, and I hope one of them has the good sense to reconsider and embrace this remarkable book. It is to me the most comprehensive book about combat experience in Vietnam yet written.
In the introduction to Medic, Levy writes about the years following the war:
In ten years, sorrow will overtake me. In twenty, by startling luck, I will meet the enemy; when we embrace, I will weep the deepest tears of my life. But when first home, day after day, I will care only for third platoon, and each night, every night, lying down in the killing heat, I will curse you, love you Vietnam. Vietnam.
That is the koan for understanding Vietnam Veterans. The Best of Medic in the Green Time is the heart’s commentary.
(Doug Anderson served as a corpsman with a marine rifle company in Vietnam. His most recent book of poems is “Horse Medicine.”)
VETERANS DAY 2020