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Mendocino County Today: March 31, 2012


CHRIS DIAZ of Mendocino and Amarillo, a medicinal marijuana advocate/patient, has been sentenced to three years in Texas State Prison. Diaz, 21, was arrested in Brown County, Texas, in June of 2010. There followed a series of headline events that culminated in Diaz’s extradition to Texas from Mendocino County. Thursday, Diaz pleaded guilty to possession and one count of “bail jumping.” There was widespread concern that Diaz would get the Texas maximum for the combination of drugs and the bail violation, which is life in prison. Considering all the woofing over the case, the kid got off light.

SUPERVISOR JOHN PINCHES was in Orinda Thursday morning when the California Transportation Commission approved $135.5 million for the Willits Bypass, and I defy anyone to add up the figures here, as millions from this pot of money and millions from that pot of money are diverted to build less than six miles of very narrow freeway by driving pillars into very slippery terrain. (And no on or off ramps at Highway 20.) Work won’t begin for another year but site prep is likely to commence soon, funny money or no. This thing was first discussed in 1955.

WILLITS MAYOR Bruce Burton recently told the Press Democrat, “I think it’s going to give the city back its downtown.”

MAYBE BRUCE, but to get even a semblance of the old Willits back you’d have to bulldoze the five miles of architectural blight prior to what was once Willits’ graceful little town center with its park and band shell, and the stately homes of the local burghers arrayed around it. Willits is presently concealed at the north end of several miles of unplanned sprawl, and we note here that the Willits website features a generic meadow, suggesting that Willits presently has no settled areas it cares to reveal to the rest of the world. UKIAH’S BYPASS has been in place for years but the town has only grown steadily more squalid. Cloverdale to the south, partially blighted by the sprawl afflicting Willits and Ukiah, has managed to create an attractive central area, but if Mendocino County didn’t possess abundant natural beauty it wouldn’t have much of any of the man made variety.

ANOTHER GOOD WRITER is gone. Harry Crews, a tough guy Southerner who wound up a college professor, an evolution that seemed to bland down his own prose, said about writing when he was still drinking, “If you're gonna write, for God in heaven's sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you've been told.”

THE MARKET for what we might call literary and journalo transparency in the Crews sense, has always been pretty small, but never smaller than it is now, as a glance around NorCal reveals. The San Francisco Bay Area alone seems to be home to at least a hundred thousand writers, editors, investigative reporters and so on, but you can go for months without reading a single arresting line from the whole mob.

OF COURSE I bought a mega-mil ticket. You didn’t? Odds shmods. A buck for a chance at half a billion? I’ll take it. I love how everyone says pretty much the same thing about what they’d do if they won. “I’m gonna quit my job and take an ocean cruise.” Or variations thereof. Me, I’d have a few people knocked off, shut down Ukiah, exile Thompson and Chesbro to a non-English-speaking country, privatize the MTA, convert the Eel River Canyon rails to trails, and buy the Press Democrat so I could personally sack every person in the building with severance pay only to those who promise never to write again.

THERE ARE 12 candidates for the reconfigured 2nd Congressional seat that now runs north from Sausalito to the Oregon line. That eclectic dozen includes two sacrificial Republicans, a pot doctor, an Earth First!er, three crazy people, and a multi-millionaire inspired by an Indian guru. The favorites are three: an incumbent assemblyman named Huffman, the millionaire with the guru who hopes to buy herself the seat and, of course, Norman Solomon, the people’s choice if the people knew what was good for them and the people who really need representation bothered to vote. We’ve been represented in Congress by Mike Thompson. On paper. But Thompson merely represents the wine industry, corporate Clintonism and unlimited money down the military rat-hole. Most of us are not represented by anyone at the higher levels of government, although Wes Chesbro seems to cause a palpitation or two in the life support wing of the Mendocino County Democratic Central Committee. Phil Donahue and Sean Penn are beating the drums for Solomon, while that Grateful Dead character, Mickey Hart, is for Huffman. If celebs are the standard, give me Donahue and Penn. I spent a painfully woo-woo afternoon at Carlotta back in the day where Jerry Brown and Hart were featured. Brown, a rolling political disaster for fifty years now, pretended to be an environmentalist that day. Then Hart had everyone stand and grasp the hand of the person on either side while he beat on a drum to put us “in touch with the pulse of the universe.” From where I remained seated, I couldn’t feel a thing.

THE INLAND WINE mafia helps itself to the finite water of the upper Russian River and whines like whipped dogs if there’s so much as the hint of a complaint from the regulatory agencies, nevermind the thousands of non-grape citizens who enjoy what’s left of the river. We’re pleased to note that the Department of Fish and Game is reminding this tinpan gentry that “notification for a Lake and Streambed Aleration Agreement (LSAA) pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 1602 is required before substantially diverting water from a stream.” Which is seconded by State Water Control: “ …to avoid stranding of salmonids during frost events.” In other words, you can’t suck up all the water in the river to frost protect your g.d. grapes.

AN ALL DAY Ukulele Festival benefiting Caspar Community Center is planned for Saturday, April 14, when Mendocino Stories and Music Series joins The Caspar Community to celebrate the ukulele as a friendly and playful instrument. This is an “All Ages, All levels of expertise and interest” event. The day’s activities start at 10AM and will finish by 10PM. The Caspar Community will be offering tasty, nourishing meals for lunch and dinner, as well as beer, wine and soft drinks. Uke workshops will begin at 10AM, with instructors for beginners and intermediate players. After a break for lunch, jam sessions will start out in small break-out groups and then a jam for all led by The Ukeholics. The film “The Jumping Flea” by local filmmaker Paul Krauss will be shown before the dinner break. Evening performances will include The Ukeholics, Paul Krauss and Victoria Bard, O’ahu native Keo Skudlarick, and local favorites Hui Arago accompanied by Lei Palaoa hula on several songs. Ongoing throughout the afternoon a crafts fair will be held featuring local ‘ukulele luthiers Paul Krauss and Dave Sigman, ‘Uke Art by Pete Gealey and ‘Ukulele Fever t-shirts designed by James Maxwell. All food and bar sales directly benefit Caspar Community Center. Ticket prices are $30 All event pass, $20 Instruction and jamming, $15 Film and Performances. Tickets will be on sale at The Attic of Mendocino on Ukiah St, and at Harvest Market and Tangents in Fort Bragg. Orders can be taken by phone at 707 937-1732 or online at Credit Card or PayPal orders online and by phone only.

FOR AN adrenaline rush and a thrill it’s

easy to find a roach or a pill. It’s

right there for the taking.

Truly heartbreaking:

what’s become of the downtown of Willits.

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