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Off the Record (April 21, 2021)

JACKSON DEMONSTRATION STATE FOREST was purchased by the state in 1947 to “demonstrate” sound logging practices. CalFire has assumed responsibility for forest management, offices on North Main, Fort Bragg. The state says Jackson has always logged sustainably. This job will be done by the venerable Anderson Logging company out of Fort Bragg. The announcement that CalFire will log the 500 acres has predictably alarmed many residents of the upper Mendocino Coast over into Willits, the northeastern edge of Jackson State.

500 ACRES is a big demonstration of whatever CalFire claims to want to demonstrate, but it's really an anonymous decision somewhere deep in the CalFire bureaucracy to cash in on the presently sky high timber and lumber prices.

JACKSON STATE is probably more valuable to this area's economy as a hiking, biking and walk around in the woods de-urbanizing forest than it is in removing the few lucrative redwoods left over from the onslaughts of the 1940s.

GIVEN the ecological givens of global eco-collapse, no longer in dispute any sane place, and for all to see just offshore of the Mendocino Coast where the kelp beds have disappeared and the abalone with them, one would think that a publicly-owned forest like Jackson would be left alone.

WILL THE DEMONSTRATIONS stop the logging from beginning at Jackson State? The ongoing demo prob in Mendo and elsewhere on the Northcoast is numbers. The eco-warriors willing to confront the machinery unto arrest are few, the leadership, uh, not of the type large numbers of people will follow. And It will take a lot more people in the woods to stop this one.

THE FORT BRAGG City Council and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors m and maybe even the Big Three — McGuire, Wood and Huffman —should be petitioned to stop this project as unwise for the local economy, but the people driving the present demo bus see themselves more as franchise holders than people who will include as many other strategies as are feasible. Prediction. Woods kabuki: At some point, the cops will make a bunch of arrests, no charges will be filed, Jackson logging will commence and it will all be as if nothing happened. For reference, see 1990.

IT WASN'T that long ago that Supervisor Pinches wanted to at least begin talks to re-negotiate Mendo's one-way water deal with Sonoma County, a contract signed in 1954 that gave more than 80% of Lake Mendo’s water to Sonoma County in perpetuity. SoCo, of course, has made untold millions selling water to their own water districts and as far south as Sausalito. Pinches couldn't even get a second from his cringing colleagues to talk about Mendo's great giveaway of its water. (Ironically, most of the water stored at Lake Sonoma, barely tapped by SoCo, derives from the rains that fall on the forests of southern Mendocino County, meaning Mendo is double-screwed out of its water, although much of Lake Mendo is filled from the diverted Eel and, one could argue, rightly belongs to Humboldt and Lake counties.)

PINCHES also suggested siphoning off and storing some of the Eel's winter flow, and tapping the Boy Scout Lake above Willits and piping it down into town to relieve the always parched Gateway to the Redwoods, suggestions that terrified North County enviros who themselves have never had a single environmentally creative thought.

PICKED UP a seat belt ticket in San Rafael the other Sunday morning. I was on my way north to Boonville where, so far as I'm aware, a seat belt ticket is unknown except for one I got way back a mere thirty feet from the end of my driveway during a time law enforcement seemed more than ordinarily unhappy with me. During that period I also got a ticket for parking in the wrong direction in front of Anderson Valley Market. I'm fairly certain I'm the only person in the Anderson Valley ever to rack up those particular violations of the law while inside the Anderson Valley's hot and cold embrace.

IT WAS 7AM when the young cop from the Central Marin Police Authority pulled me over in front of a Mexican restaurant off The Miracle Mile whose median, by the way, has been beautifully landscaped as a gift to the community by George Lucas who lives in the hills above. If only all our plutocrats were as generously civic-minded.

A MEXICAN emerged from the closed restaurant and stood delightedly beaming at me in full Mexican schadenfreude while the officer went about his business with the old gringo. I rummaged around in my glove department for documents as the cop asked, “What's that on your dashboard?” That, young man, is a government cassette player furnished to the halt and the lame absolutely free by our munificent government. I listen to books while I commute. “You have a cracked windshield and your driver's license is expired.” I explained that I, too, am nearly expired, and my strategy therefore, is to calibrate the final collapse of my ancient vehicle with my exit. In the meantime I have no plans to replace my windshield. I was tempted to add “or renew my license” but the kid seemed to be enjoying our interface, and I decided it would be unwise to push him.

I SAID that when I got my first driver's license at the old Marin DMV in this same neighborhood, the county's population was still under 40,000 people. Drivers made their intentions known by arm and hand signals, not the giant electronic semaphores of today's preposterously over-large vehicles. “This is all very interesting, Mr. Anderson, but seat belts save lives, and if you'll sign here…” The Mexican, laughing, pointed at me and, giving me a thumbs up, went back inside his place of business.  


I read this book when it first came out. Little did I know that it would end up being a tres, tres expensive collector's item. PDF edition now available, though, thanks to this guy:

ED NOTE: The only true history we have of the early years of Mendocino County.

I’VE NEVER BEEN ABLE to read detective fiction, even the good stuff by Hammett, Chandler, Ellroy etc. It doesn’t hold my interest. Their biographies are more interesting than their art, it seems to me. I have the usual complaints about tough guy fiction — the characters are one-dimensional, women are cartoon figures, and it’s hard to stay interested in either stick figures or plots whose resolution one is uninterested in because the characters aren't drawn well enough to be interesting. Besides which the so-called tough guys presented are so crudely drawn that it’s obvious the writers don’t know the difference between tough and vicious. But the other day I received an anonymous gift of a book called The Steam Pig by James McClure, a South African writer. I made the schedule-destroying mistake of reading the first page and didn’t look up for the next six hours. It’s much better than a detective story in that it also provides a hundred little glimpses of the reality of South Africa circa 1960, the kind of detail through which one finally gets the full picture of what the apartheid society really meant in human terms. Over the years, I’ve relied on J.M. Coetzee, Doris Lessing and an essay writer named R.W. Johnson for my information on South Africa, but this mystery writer McClure manages to convey more about the country in this unlikely genre than all of them put together. Many thanks to the Ukiah person, whoever you are, for alerting me to this wonderful writer. 

RALLY FOR THE REDWOODS. It’s clear that our Community understands the importance of protecting the old trees in Our State Forest. Wonderful turn out for the spontaneous rally to support the Forest and the tree sitters, held last Friday at Town Hall. At one point there were 51 people making their position known,” Keep those old Trees in the ground. Big Rally for JDSF! Noon Sunday April 25 at Town Hall at Main St and Laurel, Ft Bragg. Guest Speakers, Music, Bring signs and your friends. Only We Can Save Our Public Forest! (Anna Marie Stenberg)

ED NOTE: The ominous phrase “guest speakers,” attached to any local demonstration, is a kryptonite beware warning. Names of speakers are withheld because....well, not to be tooooooo unkind, but there are "activists" who dream of captive audiences.

ONE CAN NEVER be quite sure around here where reality ends and self-parody begins, but I think the following from a quarter century ago takes the Emerald Cup: “From an ancient fragment found in a hollow redwood tree near the holy village of Willits. And lo, we heard the men and their sons and their fathers were gathering for the third time, each from his own tribe of Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt, and their wise men, the holy rabbis, the tzaddikim, were coming, from Eugene in the North to Palo Alto in the south. They have been coming, so it is said, for three years from the holy cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Rosa, and so we went to see for ourselves. They again held convocation in the heart of Mendocino County, only this time it was to be in the Redwoods and the Hot Springs and the Rolling Hills near Comptche. They were observed to have spent 3 days and 2 nights celebrating shabbos, kabballah and Torah. They were singing, schmoozing, telling stories and even drumming around a campfire! There was also observed some splashing in the water, (sometime after we head the word ‘mikveh’), schvitzing near a Lakota sweat lodge, boating on a river, swimming, and hiking on the 140 acres. We saw davening, learning, healing together. If you don’t have a father or son, bring somebody else’s. Indoor accommodations for 30. Nearly limitless camping accommodations. Register early for best selection. Friday, August 22nd, 2pm until Sunday the 24th, 6pm at the Shambhala Retreat Center, Orr Springs Road between Ukiah and the Coast, 2 hours or so from the Golden Gate Bridge. $150 suggested donation.”

RECOMMENDED READING: “News of a Kidnapping,” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez gets lumped in with “magical realists” much his inferior — writers like Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, Isabel Allende, and twenty-five years worth of graduate students who publish one effete book then move on into seminar land where they destroy the occasional talented person who wanders onto a campus. Nothing obscure or precious about “News,” which is not only a gripping narrative of people taken as hostages in Colombia’s drug wars, it’s a terrific guide to the sociology of Colombia itself.

FROM NOTES & QUERIES by Joseph Harker of the Manchester Guardian: “What is the difference between erotica and pornography?” Terry Victor responds, “The height of the book shelf.” Jane Carnall responds, “It’s one of these irregular nouns: ‘they’ read pornography, ‘you’ read erotica, ‘I’ read stimulating adult narratives.” And Vincent Finney responds, “I would suggest that ‘erotica’ is used by bookstores to disguise the fact that they are selling what most people perceive to be ‘pornography.’ The distinction lies in the psyche of the purchaser (or retailer): if you feel guilty about what you buy (or sell) then you call it ‘erotica.’ A colleague once claimed a book full of pictures of naked bodies is art, so long as it is only available in hardcover.”

FROM THE LONG AGO TIME when Mendocino County still had an active Republican Party that still tried to influence local events. The mighty ava saw it this way: “You probably missed the $100 per person dinner July 21st  (1997) “honoring Attorney General Dan Lungren.” Lungren wants to succeed Pete Wilson in the state’s top spot when Wilson moves on to serial corporate directorships, the reward for his brand of public service these days. The unspeakable toasting the unthinkable at “Jack London’s favorite resort” — Vichy Hot Springs in Ukiah — included Mike and Maribelle Anderson; Gilbert and Marjorie Ashoff; John and Marge Baird; Aldis and Nancy Baltins; Tecy Banta; Charles and Martha Barra; Al and Pat Beltrami; Ed and Donna Berry; Louis and Carre Brown; Marilyn Butcher; Jack and Barbara Daniels; Dennis and Pat Denny; Alan and Ruth Dunn; Ken and Betty Foster; Georgia Pacific (she wore a low-cut 2x4 and her conversation was wooden); Margie Handley; Fred Keplinger, (Ukiah Police Chief); Al and Maria Kubanis; DA Susan Massini and husband Jerry; John and Sandy Mayfield; Judge Tim O’Brien and wife Frances; Carrol Ornbaun; Charles and Julia Preisig; Max and Joan Schlienger; Sherell and Glenys Simmons; Mary Snyder; Jeff and Kathy Spharler; Sheriff Jim and Bonnie Tuso; Mark and Kory Welch; Duane Wells.”

DA MASSINI, whose social circle is drawn from the grisly crew just listed, blandly declared on KZYX’s Karen Ottoboni Show that “the DA isn’t political. It’s not a partisan office.”

1997 was the year Richard The One True Green Johnson, publisher of the Mendocino Country Environmentalist, pointed out to the City of Ukiah and to “the Christian community” that allowing Alex Thomas Plaza to be used for mass prayer violates the separation of church and state clause of the American rule book. Since Johnson’s letter complaining about the church services on public property appeared in the Ukiah Daily Journal, the “Christians” — with their typical charity — have demanded that Johnson not be allowed by the Journal to express his opinion on the matter while also arguing “For one country under God, the separation of Church and State does not exist and is a worn out cliche.”

WELL! First off, the Thomas park was partly funded by the City of Ukiah when the [Catholic] family money gave out and quickly got into cost over-runs. Because it’s now fully supported by tax money, Thomas Plaza, legally speaking, is a public facility and thus is supposed to spare the rest of us from the sight and sound of the practice of ritual superstition by the local Taliban. The “under god” clause, by the way, was slipped into the pledge of allegiance in 1955 (not the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, as one victim of Ukiah’s public schools recently incorrectly explained it in the UDJ), the same year the illegal phrase made it on to our currency. 

THE TRUE HISTORY is that the Founding Fathers, almost all of them aristocrats tending to agnosticism and atheism (fuzzy deists at best) educated in Greek and Roman traditions of humane secularism, saw that all kinds of Christian cranks were making their way into our new land and, to avoid the religious slaughters of the Old World, wisely wrote into law that Americans could worship whatever and however they liked on their own premises. Emphasis here on the word OWN. The rest of us weren’t to be bothered. Mutual tolerance was the idea. I here direct my Christian brothers and sisters to the Parable of the Closet where they will discover that God Himself recommended keeping it indoors. (Mathew 6:5-8) 

THE FANATICS weren’t satisfied, of course, and, having their own personal hotlines to the Big Guy, have ever since demanded that their unsupported views be made into law. And Ukiah being a veritable hotbed of ostentatious piety it isn’t surprising that the town’s so-called Christians have about as much understanding of American history as they do of the message of the Prince of Peace.

TOOK A CALL from an English guy the other day who was trying to sell me some opera tickets. “As a great supporter of the San Francisco Opera, Mr. Anderson, I thought you might be interested…” I felt like Lord Rothmere, seeing as how I’ve seen exactly two live operas in all my days. Anyway, the salesman mentioned that he’d just been in Boonville where he “tasted the best beer I’ve had in America,” which is quite a tribute to our hometown brewery considering that it comes unsolicited from a citizen of a country where beer is taken very, very seriously.

JAYNE THOMAS WRITES: “Thanks for alerting me to Paul Theroux’s new book on Mexico. I spent a lot of time in Mexico when I was younger, including a summer in Mexico City. when I attended UNAM and had a charming apartment that was part of an old family hacienda. On different trips I traveled around a lot, mostly on buses but sometimes getting rides, and never, ever had any trouble or felt I was in danger, although reconsidering, I do think I was naive and on two or three specific occasions just plain lucky! But it was different in the 60s & 70s. This was before Drugs. I’ll get it from our library.

I read Theroux’s Deep South last year and thought it a good examination until I read a review pointing out all the cliches I just excused in my desire to further understand that horrible part of our country. Have you read it? I think I prefer Chuck Thompson’s Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession. Certainly funnier.

Maybe you’ve read Eileen Jones’ column on the Hemingway doc? Did you watch it?

We were intrigued but I never could read him and now dislike him even more, but I guess I understand him better.” 

ED REPLY: I like everything about Theroux, including his novels and, yes, Deep South is a fine book, much better than the one on the same subject by his former friend, V.S. Naipul. I just finished his travels through Oceana (including battered Hawaii), a book which is positively revelatory against the tons of dreck about “island paradises.” (Local note: As Theroux's flying into the deep Pacific, he mentions a seatmate called “Hap,” which has got to be the wonderful Hap Tallman, formerly of the Anderson Valley, last I heard a resident of Hawaii from where he also sailed throughout the South Seas.) On Hemingway, the novels read to me now like period pieces, but his short stories are among the best ever in the language. They oughta be taught, but lit, from what I can gather, at least as taught in high school and the colleges I'm familiar with, is now pretty much didactic stuff in line with the contemporary liberal catechism. I thought the Hem documentary was interesting but, as Ms. Jones points out, left out the basic fact that Hemingway was a man of the (independent) left all his days. As a kid, I associated with some old CP guys, esp Alvah Bessie, who'd curse Hemingway up and down for his role in Spain, which seems all these years later, totally honorable. Also the doc could have made it clearer that the guy was mentally ill and in great physical pain from his war injuries for a long time before he shot himself. 

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