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TEMPERATURES WILL BE ON THE INCREASE through the middle of next week as high pressure builds over the Northeast Pacific. An approaching disturbance will help to bring temperatures back to near normal for the latter portion of the work week. No rain is expected through at least early Thursday. (NWS)
These photos of the Navarro River were taken two days ago, around noon, a few hours after a very low tide. Pictured (left to right) are the mouth, estuary, and Highway 1 bridge. We have never seen this much river bed exposed. The bottom image is a detail enlargement of the first photo, revealing what appears to be series of old timber pilings (photos taken by Elaine Kalantarian, May 20, 2022).
NCS PLAYOFF ROUNDUP: UKIAH BASEBALL STUNS TOP-SEEDED MARIN CATHOLIC
by Richard J. Marcus
Ninth-seeded Ukiah pulled off a stunning road upset on Saturday in a North Coast Section Division 2 baseball quarterfinal with a 1-0 win over powerhouse No. 1 Marin Catholic. “This was a huge upset. It proves how good Ukiah is,” Wildcats (18-9) coach Aaron Ford said. “We are playing really good baseball right now. It shows that pitching and defense wins games.” Ukiah will play in a semifinal Wednesday at 5 p.m. at No. 4 Casa Grande.
Against Marin Catholic (21-4), Ukiah hurler Austin Ford was on the hill for the entire game and surrendered no runs, only three hits and struck out four. “Austin’s game plan was pretty good — he was mixing his pitches up. He kept Marin Catholic (Kentfield) off-balance. He was very efficient,” the coach said. “They hit a lot of fly balls and ground balls and we took care of business on defense.” The coach credited Ukiah catcher Kanyon Loflin for calling a great came behind the plate and third baseman Kessler Koch for making four outstanding plays at third base.
The Wildcats got all the offense they needed in the first inning when Ethan Holbrook drove home Trenton Ford from third with a two-out, RBI single for the 1-0 lead. “That hit made it 1-0; that’s all we needed to win. We are playing good, clean baseball right now,” coach Ford said. “Our guys made stellar plays on defense — just phenomenal stuff.” Marin Catholic had four singles in the second inning but came away with no runs thanks to getting a runner picked off at first and a runner thrown out at third. Wildcats starter Alex Saavedra (6⅓ innings, one run, two hits, five strikeouts) suffered the tough-luck loss.
(The Press Democrat)
SKATE PARK GETS SCHOOL BOARD SUPPORT. Last Tuesday, AV school board members heard a presentation by Service Learning Team students Kellie Crisman, Aster Arbanovella, Ananda Mayne and Onawa Keller regarding their proposal for a skatepark in Boonville. There was a surprisingly large crowd there in support of the skatepark (about 15-20 community members and 10 students), and a few people spoke in favor during public comment.
CSD Recreation Committee member Donna Pierson-Pugh introduced the student group, explaining that the project fits within the CSD’s broader mission to create a vibrant recreation space for the community. Several community members also spoke in favor of a skatepark during public comment, each highlighting the critical necessity for safe public spaces for AV youth to recreate. School board members expressed enthusiastic support for the project, and they asked Superintendent Louise Simson to move ahead in exploring details for potential transfer of the park area to the CSD to make the project possible. Stay tuned!
DOG TRAINING CLASSES IN FORT BRAGG
Is your "pandemic puppy" practically perfect? Great around the house, but can't be calm on-leash, in public? Does going for a walk include pulling, yanking, or barking? Does he lose his cool every time someone comes to the door? Is she over-reactive to other people, moving cars, or dogs behind fences? Don't despair! All these issues can be helped! Dog Training Classes with Lea Smith, the Dog Nanny, new class starts June 4. Class is suitable for dogs aged 6 months and over, and humans aged 12 years and over. The goal of this class is to help you and your dog to be calm on-leash, in public. Class will meet for 4 Saturdays, from 11 am till noon, at an outdoor location in central Fort Bragg. The dates are June 4, 11, 25, and July 2. Fee for all four classes is $120. Participants must pre-register and pay in full on the first day of class. To register, reply to this E-mail (off list, please), or text to 707-813-0216. Classes continue through the summer, starting July 9, Aug 6, and Sept 3.
Lea Smith, C.T.D.I.
MENDOCINO WOMEN’S POLITICAL CAUCUS ENDORSEMENTS
A READER WRITES: I think I’ve seen somewhere on your website recently that you have some practical ideas on how to make a dent in Mendo’s housing shortage. Would you mind listing them again? I’m working with some people who want to approach the Supervisors for some progress on this.
Mark Scaramella Replies: Sure:
1. Do an inventory of vacant buildings with info on whether they are habitable or not, by zip code with an eye toward imposing a vacancy tax on vacant buildings that stay vacant for over three months (with waivers available for good reason). Use local organizations like advisory councils and fire districts to help.
2. Implement a version of Sonoma County’s prohibition on corporate owned vacation home rentals.
3. Require the Planning Department to report monthly on all pending residential permit applications with status and time since first application.
4. Develop a list of existing county property that could be turned into trailer parks if water/sewer is available.
5. Use available drought grant funds to target water for possible housing projects in unincorporated areas.
UKIAH SHELTER PET OF THE WEEK
Nelson is a friendly dog, and he really enjoys meeting new people. This handsome boy knows sit, down, and catch, and he appears to be house-trained. Of course, he loves going out for walks, exploring around the shelter, and he walks nicely on leash. Nelson would love an outdoor area to hang out and play in his new home. We would like Nelson to meet any potential doggie roommates in his new home. Nelson is neutered, and ready to prance out the shelter doors, right into your heart.
If you can’t adopt, think about fostering. Our website has information about our FOSTER PROGRAM. And don’t forget our on-going SPRING DOG AND CAT ADOPTION EVENTS at the Ukiah and Ft. Bragg Shelters. While you’re on our website, check out all of our guests, services, programs, events, and updates. Visit us on Facebook at: facebook.com/mendoanimalshelter/
For information about adoptions, please call 707-467-6453.
AIRBNB HOSTS IN MENDOCINO, LAKE COUNTIES EARNED $27.5 MILLION IN 2021
by Charles Swanson
Vacationers looking to get far away during the COVID-19 pandemic meant good business for Airbnb hosts in California’s rural counties, including Mendocino and Lake, according to the San Francisco-based short-term rental company. Company numbers released Wednesday showed hosts in Mendocino County earned $22 million in 2021, while hosts in neighboring Lake County took in $5.5 million. Topping the moneymaking list of rural counties was Mono County, in east central California, with $52 million. Last on the list of 21 counties was Modoc County, in the state’s far northeast corner, with $300,000. Further up the North Coast, in Humboldt County, hosts earned $17.5 million last year.
Humboldt County resident Marisa Fleming has been an Airbnb host since 2016. After closing for several months in 2020 due to the pandemic, she said her 5-acre rental property, consisting of two houses that can each fit six people, was booked more than 90% of 2021. “I think people were ready to get out of the house,” Fleming said, adding that her home was booked frequently before the pandemic. “We’re right on the Avenue of the Giants, so it’s a pretty popular tourist spot.” Fleming said her experiences with Airbnb guests are overall pretty positive. “People are generally considerate of our home,” she said.
Cumulatively in the Golden State, rural Airbnb hosts earned more than $200 million in 2021. That’s approximately $20,000 for each rural host, Airbnb reported. In 2021, bookings in rural areas across the U.S. surged 110% over 2019, earning Airbnb hosts more than $3.5 billion in 2021.
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
AV VILLAGE EVENTS CALENDAR
Elk Rummage Sale
Sun 05 / 22 / 2022 at 10:00 AM
Where: Greenwood Community Center (Elk)
Blue Zones Project Mendocino County: Kick Off celebration with our Coastal Communities
Sun 05 / 22 / 2022 at 11:00 AM
Where: Fort Bragg
Redwood Caregiver Resource Center: support groups for family caregivers
Mon 05 / 23 / 2022 at 10:00 AM
Where: Zoom or phone
AV Village: Tech Support Event
Mon 05 / 23 / 2022 at 10:45 AM
Where: Anderson Valley Senior Center , 14470 Highway 128, Boonville, CA 95415
AMBULANCE MEMBERSHIPS for 2022-2023 are now available! Hard copies are going out to Anderson Valley addresses today, and on-line applications are available on our website. AVFD+AirMedCare or AVFD only - choose your household's coverage level. Memberships are one of the main sources of funding for our ambulance service. Your membership ensures the availability of this vital resource in AV. With an AVFD Ambulance Membership, any portion of bills for emergency transport not covered by other insurance is waived.
BILL MAHER has nicely summed up the gender bender fad, declaring that granting children's request for puberty blockers and genital surgery makes them part of a culture war they shouldn't be a part of.
“Never forget childen are impressionable and very, very stupid,” Maher said. “A boy who thinks he's a girl maybe is just gay — or whatever [the television character] ‘Frasier’ was. “And maybe, if life makes you sad, there are other solutions than hand me the dick saw,” he added. Maher wrapped it up by saying that while gender is fluid, that “kids are fluid about everything” and want to be different things when they grow up from one day to the next. “I wanted to be a pirate. Thank God no one scheduled me for eye removal and peg leg surgery,” he said.
PUZZLED that so many younger people clutch their pens in odd grips not taught in traditional penmanship classes, I asked the young woman writing out my receipt at CostCo, “I’m wondering about the way you grip your pen.” Like so many people, she grasped her pen with her whole fist as if she feared that if she didn’t enfold it in her whole hand it would fly away. “I don’t know how I started writing like this,” she said, “but I’m used to it.” She went on to say she remembered a male classmate gripping his pen like the handle of a baseball bat, that he wrote like he was sculpting without a hammer. Versions of these uncomfortable grips seem prevalent. I remember being taught penmanship with the writing instrument held gently between forefinger and index finger, Que pasa? I asked my go-to edu-informant, Boonville’s superintendent of schools, Louise Simson, “Is penmanship still taught at the elementary level?”
THE SUPER ANSWERED, “Yes, penmanship in grades TK-2nd is taught with a traditional tripod grip and emphasis on correct letter formation and spacing. Specialized curriculum such as Handwriting Wthout Tears is very helpful. Unfortunately, cursive (which has benefits relating to calming and thoughtfulness) is not as rigorously taught as in decades past. In my prior district, we taught it with fidelity in third grade and the students viewed the experience as a “treat”! There are some very unusual grips that I have seen adults use, particularly if they were raised in other areas of the country, as an alternative to the tripod grip with the pencil resting in the middle of the hand. Many variations are out there, and there have been studies done on effectiveness. Most importantly, we want to students to produce legible handwriting with stamina to craft their assignments.”
IN FRIDAY'S EDITION of the Press Democrat, this passage appeared in a story about a misdemeanor child pornography charge filed against the son of Mendo Sheriff's Department Lt. Comer. Citing her source as the estranged former Mendo deputy Trent James, the PD scribe wrote, “He [James] said he got his information from a Willits police officer who heard it from an investigator in the district attorney’s office…”
COULD A SOURCE be any more vague? The PD “story” was about a possible “cover-up,” that the Sheriff's Department is trying to stymie the investigation into the Comer case to protect one of their own.
NOT TRUE. The Mendo cops turned the entire matter over to a specialized Sacramento cyber-unit more than two years ago. That it's taken so long has caused the cover-up suspicion. Sacto has just released their findings that a computer owned by Lt. Comer's son contained the vile images. The son has now been charged with a misdemeanor in the matter. The next move is DA Eyster's.
GREGORY SIMS WRITES. Darryl Wright lives in Oakland with his wife Robin. I met him when I was teaching at College of San Mateo, a friend of a student friend. We've stayed in touch over the years, many family gatherings, etc. Not a local except for visiting. His was one of those heroic war stories and miracle survival which now seem to be in the news since Russia's invasion of the Ukraine. He deserves recognition and thanks for his service, friendship and love.
MURDER/SUICIDE IN UKIAH
On Friday, May 20, 2022 at approximately 9:26 P.M., the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a 9-1-1 call regarding a possible murder/suicide involving a firearm at a residence in the 4900 block of Burke Hill Road in Ukiah.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies along with officers from the California Highway Patrol responded to the residence while requesting emergency medical responders to stage nearby to be ready to provide emergency medical care if needed.
Upon arrival, Deputies contacted the reporting person who was the son of the victim (Suzanne Stark, 56, of Ukiah) and the suspect (Shawn Stark, 57, of Ukiah). The son was present at the residence at the time of the incident but did not directly eyewitness the shooting.
Deputies entered the residence and located two deceased persons within the residence. The scene was determined to be secure and both individuals were obviously deceased.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Detectives were summoned to the scene and assumed the investigation.
Initial scene investigations showed evidence of a murder/suicide wherein Shawn Stark killed Suzanne Stark with use of a shotgun before committing suicide with the same firearm.
Sheriff's Detectives learned the couple was engaged in a domestic related argument prior to the shooting.
Mendocino County Sheriff's Office automated records (dating back to 2011) showed no known or documented incidents of domestic violence between the married couple.
The investigation is ongoing and forensic autopsies are scheduled for 05-25-2021, which is believed to include BA/Toxicology analysis.
Any persons with information about this incident are encouraged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office by calling 707-463-4086 (Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center) or 707-234-2100 (Sheriff's Office Tip-Line).
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 21, 2022
IRVING ACEVES-LIZARRAGA, Willits. Public nuisance, disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
DIEGO ALVARADO, Lucerne/Ukiah. DUI.
DAVID BORUP, Willits. Failure to appear.
CHANDLER BOWERS-PIERCE, Willits. Domestic battery.
ANNALISE MCCLANAHAN, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
BRIAN TORRES, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
UKRAINE, SATURDAY, 21ST MAY
President Biden signed the package of military and humanitarian aid during a visit to Seoul. The support for Ukraine came as Moscow made moves toward reopening Mariupol’s port and shaping a more positive narrative within Russia about how the war is going.
As President Biden signed a new $40 billion package of military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Saturday, Russia pressed ahead with its military campaign in Ukraine and its propaganda offensive at home.
Russia claimed on Friday to have complete control of the port city of Mariupol, in what would be its most significant symbolic gain since the war started. Moscow said that its defense minister had informed President Vladimir V. Putin of the “complete liberation” of the Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainian fighters made their last stand in the city before surrendering in recent days.
The Ukrainian authorities said Russia was demining the port at Mariupol in an attempt to get it functioning again. At the same time, Russia said it had destroyed a large consignment of weapons and military equipment northwest of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and hit a Ukrainian special operations training base outside the Black Sea city of Odesa. Those claims could not be verified.
For Moscow, control of Mariupol provides a chance to shift the narrative of a conflict that even pro-Kremlin commentators acknowledge has not been going Russia’s way. On Saturday morning, the Russian state news media posted an unverified video report claiming that Ukrainian fighters “turned tail and gave themselves up.”
But any Russian gains have come at a steep price, and not just in terms of heavy military losses and sanctions that have crippled its economy. Its aggression has increased solidarity within the European Union and NATO, the diplomatic and military alliances that Moscow views as a threat. Finland and Sweden applied to NATO this week, and on Saturday Russia cut off its gas exports to Finland, a neighbor to the west, in a move widely seen as retaliation.
In other developments:
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that Russia had thwarted an initial attempt to end the war through dialogue, but that “the end will definitely be in diplomacy.”
President Biden, the actor Morgan Freeman and The New York Times columnist Bret Stephens are among the 963 Americans on a list of people whom Russia’s Foreign Ministry says will be barred for life from entering Russia.
With Russia’s campaign in Ukraine increasingly focused on the south and east, it is making “incremental progress” in the Donbas region, according to the Pentagon spokesman.
The State Department said that a U.S. consular officer had visited Brittney Griner, the W.N.B.A. star being detained in Russia, and found her “as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances.”
The leaders of Sweden and Finland held separate phone conversations on Saturday with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has said he opposes the applications of the two Nordic countries to join NATO.
LIFE & DEATH
It was a typical August day in New San Francisco. As the radio had promised that morning, “mild breezes.” I mean, toupees were flying off, hats were skittering down the streets, and the seersuckered tourists were standing in purple knots singing “I wish I was in Peoria.” The radio had also predicted “slight overcast near the ocean,” and that's where we are, all right. Near the ocean. The overcast was so slight you could almost see across the street, but that's not such a bargain, either.
Inhaling and exhaling regularly, I walked over to Sixth Street which has replaced Third as the Street of Broken Dreams. You can smell failure in every block. That and disinfectant. I stepped into a bar populated by krones and faceless men wearing widebrimmed gray fedoras. I ordered a beer, served in a glass that promised several diseases for which no cure was immediately available. A charming blonde hooker with dark roots and a shy smile asked, “You busy this afternoon?” “Some,” I replied in the classic manner of Willie McCovey, the baseball star (a newspaperman who had phoned Willie early one morning asked, “Did I wake you up?” And Willy replied, “Some.”).
“Care for a drink?” I asked her, and she shouted at the bartender, “Straight shot with a water back,” and then to me demurely, “Thank you, sir.” A lady, no doubt of that. “Well, happy days,” I said, lifting my glass. “They used to be,” she said lugubrioiusly, looking like she might cry. Boy, the dialogue was terrible. Bowing gravely, I walked outside wondering if any of the many shots I've taken cover hepatitis. Oh well. It's an “in” bug.
Sixth Street, Phantasmagoria West. Odor of poverty and despair, anonymous rooming houses for anonymous people, hockshops filled with guitars owned by kids who didn't make it, a Volunteers of America mission with empty chairs, hopeless streetwalkers who know you'll say, “no,” panhandlers who pocket your quarters without a word, pinballs and stale doughnuts, little grocery stores with a few tired oranges in the window, a barber college with a sign: “Keep Americans beautiful! Get a haircut today.” There was nobody beautiful inside or out. I stepped into a lunch counter to test my theory that the crummist places served the best chili. Liberally doused with catchup, it wasn't half bad, but the cracked bowl worried me. Maybe you can't even get a shot for hepatitis.
Burping delicately -- “You were expecting chimes?” I said aloud, wondering if anybody remembered Monty Woolley -- I got into my car and headed for the other side of the trackless. Grant Avenue in North Beach was deserted, and here it was the shank of the evening. I stood at the site of the long gone Coexistence Bagel Shop as the shades of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Corso rustled along in the dark and empty street. The beatniks who once made this the liveliest stretch in town were as gone and forgotten as the Peloponnesians. A hippie on a bad trip came screaming out of the Coffee Gallery and ran up the middle of the street almost running head on into a cab. A good American got out and threatened to belt him one. The hippie ran on, still screaming, weaving back and forth like a rabbit trapped by headlights.
Considerably depressed, I headed for home. At Green & Polk, a young, terribly pale man lay sprawled on the slanty sidewalk, blood streaming into the gutter. Stabbed and robbed. His broken glasses lay nearby. A police car pulled up, its red lights swimming madly under glass, radio chattering. Then an ambulance whose attendants picked him up. One went back and fetched his glasses. I found out later he had died but there wasn't a line in the papers. Do you realize you can live on Sixth Street or die on Green Street and nobody gives a damn?
— Herb Caen, 1976
WOMEN ON THE BRINK
Azadeh Moaveni reports from the Polish border
The Russian assault on Ukraine has produced the largest and swiftest mass movement of women since the Second World War. More than four million women have been displaced within Ukraine and around the same number have fled the country. Many of those who left, congregating in towns and cities in Poland, or taking buses and trains to other European capitals, went reluctantly. Their male relatives – men between eighteen and sixty have to remain in Ukraine – pushed them to go, saying they would be happier to fight if their families were safely out of the country. Whether it is safer out of the country, however, is far from clear. Ukrainian women have been among the most trafficked in the world since the fall of the Soviet Union. And since the war began, instances of predation have surged at border crossings and railway stations, and on social media platforms where women seek shelter and work.
The Ukrainian women arriving in Poland find a country experiencing a different kind of conflict. The Polish government recently tightened what was already a near total ban on abortion, and both emergency and basic contraception are tricky to access. Many women arrive in need of medical care for problems ranging from those caused by sexual violence (STDs, pregnancy, trauma) to infections, injuries and already existing illnesses. Proper medical care also enables evidence to be gathered about the prevalence of rape and sexual assault more generally in Ukraine. When arriving in Poland many refugees are met at train stations and border crossings by religious groups and belligerent anti-choice activists, who see their plight as constituting a new front in Poland’s long-running battle over faith and reproductive freedom. Across Poland, local councils, mayors and central government, with different political agendas, are vying for control of the humanitarian response. There are huge disparities in the treatment of refugees. This is part of the reason that, as of Easter weekend, for the first time the number of Ukrainians crossing back into the country outnumbered those leaving.
Just before Easter I travelled to Poland’s border with Ukraine. At the main station in Kraków, a volunteer pushed a pet assistance trolley filled with dog and cat treats; she was looking for a woman who needed bird seed for her parrot. A boy with Down’s syndrome wandered around the concourse on his own. The area designated for refugees was covered with fliers warning that ‘armed conflicts are usually accompanied by human trafficking. Be ready!’ Mothers and tired-looking teenagers queued for free train tickets back to Ukraine or on to Warsaw. Among them was a man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap emblazoned with the American flag. He carried a green army bag and said he was travelling to a city, the name of which he couldn’t pronounce (he spelled out ‘Dnipro’), to evacuate civilians and then, lowering his voice, to do ‘some other things I probably shouldn’t say out loud’. He told me he was a ‘private defense contractor’, by which he meant he was joining the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. But most of the carriages on the night train from Warsaw to Przemyśl were full of Ukrainian families heading back to the border.
Before the war, the only pedestrian border crossing into Poland was at Medyka, thirteen kilometers east of Przemyśl. Within days, all eight crossings between the two countries had been converted to allow both car and foot traffic. Hundreds of thousands of people converged on these crossings in the first week; during the busiest period, 140,000 people crossed into Poland every day. To reduce the long waits in freezing temperatures, border guards stopped registering those crossing. For the UN, which organizes its services by tracking refugee flows, this has made it harder to target and deliver relief. There are millions of ghosts in Poland now, an official told me. When I arrived in Medyka, around two hundred Ukrainians an hour were crossing. Many were going in the opposite direction, heading to Lviv or Kyiv for Easter, or to assess whether their home cities were safe enough for them to move back. The women who were still arriving came from battlefield areas, such as Mariupol, Bucha or Kharkiv, or from Kramatorsk, which is under fire from missiles and rockets. The early wave of refugees had crossed in cars and with carefully packed suitcases. Some had even been trained by their employers in the logistics of conflict evacuation. The new arrivals, by contrast, were leaving unwillingly after surviving weeks of Russian shelling and living in basements. They carried their belongings in supermarket bags.
A bus left Medyka every hour to take refugees to ‘the Tesco’, as it’s known, in Przemyśl: an old supermarket warehouse converted into a refugee processing center. Security was tight. Polish soldiers monitored the entrances, and you had to scan the QR code on your wristband to go in or to leave. There was at least one woman soldier on duty at all times and any car leaving the site was inspected by police. Sleeping quarters were marked by flags for those who knew their destination countries, so when the time came they could leave together. The undecided slept in a large open room. An Israeli relief charity ran a disco where volunteers danced with Ukrainian kids under strobe lights. A clown in a top hat and red nose roamed around doing magic tricks. A canvas sheet was spread along the length of a wall, and children crouched over it painting a mural. Someone played Schubert piano sonatas.
The Tesco is the best large-capacity refugee hub in Poland; its approach is refugee-focused, apolitical and humanitarian. It’s led by locals with support from volunteers and international charities. When I arrived, the first person I met was a Russian-speaking Israeli social worker who was setting up a makeshift beauty salon. She told me that trauma causes the mind to switch off from the body and that getting women to care for themselves can aid recovery. She also said that Ukrainian women cared a good deal about their appearance: grooming ‘makes them feel human again’. A colleague called her away to speak to a 23-year-old woman who had arrived from Bucha after spending more than a month in a basement with her grandmother and child. The family had been at the Tesco for days, and the mother refused to leave because her child was sick.
‘All the children here are sick,’ the social worker told me. ‘They’re all vomiting because of the journey they took, but this mother is fixating on that.’ She left me to look after the beauty parlor. I painted nails, plaited hair and penciled in eyebrows for the rest of the evening. Most of my clients were little girls. The adult women didn’t want to play salon, but they gradually began to chat while their daughters received manicures. ‘I won’t wear make-up until the war is over,’ one of them told me. ‘But maybe I’ll dye my hair.’ Alissa, aged seven, asked me for a different color on each nail. Her mother, Nella, said their hometown, Shostka, had been partially destroyed by Russian artillery. The soldiers hadn’t occupied the city for an extended period, but they had blockaded it and sometimes marched through the streets.
(London Review of Books)
FAIR PROCESS FOR EVERYONE
Every immigrant and asylum-seeker deserves to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. That simply isn’t possible if our government continues to use Title 42 to block them from safety.
This cruel Trump-era immigrant scapegoating policy must end. Seeking asylum at our nation’s borders is a right guaranteed by law. We have the ability to process asylum-seekers without violating their human rights, and our government has a plan to do so in an orderly way. Moreover, simple public health measures like testing, vaccination, treatment and quarantine can address the impact of COVID-19.
Continuing the misuse of Title 42 would force asylum-seekers who are fleeing violence, persecution and war to return to the dangerous conditions that forced them to flee, without even having their asylum claims considered. Imagine if Poland turned back the trains of Ukrainian refugees because they might bring COVID-19 across the border. America must do better.
America’s families want lawmakers to create a fair process for considering asylum claims that treats all with dignity. It’s time to end the misuse of Title 42 once and for all.
JUSTICES LYING IN WAIT
Dobbs sprang from them fully formed,
Once they got the chance.
— Jim Luther
CALIFORNIA IS ABOUT TO BEGIN THE NATION’S LARGEST DAM REMOVAL PROJECT.
by Kurtis Alexander
The Iron Gate Dam in Siskiyou County is one of four dams planned for removal as part of an effort to restore the Klamath River’s natural flow.
The Copco dams along the Klamath River are among four that are planned for removal.
After decades of negotiation, the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history is expected to begin in California’s far north next year.
The first of four aging dams on the Klamath River, the 250-mile waterway that originates in southern Oregon’s towering Cascades and empties along the rugged Northern California coast, is on track to come down in fall 2023. Two others nearby and one across the state line will follow.
The nearly half-billion dollars needed for the joint state, tribal and corporate undertaking has been secured. The demolition plans are drafted. The contractor is in place. Final approval could come by December.
Now, among the last acts of preparation, scientists are trying to make sure the fish and wildlife that are intended to benefit from the emergence of a newly wild river will thrive. While the decision to remove the hydroelectric dams was financial, it was urged —and enabled — by those hoping to see a revival of plants and animals in the Klamath Basin.
The native flora and fauna in the region are bound to prosper as algae-infested reservoirs at the dams are emptied, the flow of the river quickens and cools, and river passage swings wide open.
“At its heart, this is really a fish-restoration project,” said Mike Belchik, senior fisheries biologist for the Yurok Tribe, which has long lamented the decline of salmon on its ancestral territory in the basin. “That’s why we’re doing this.”
In one of the latest and most significant tests of how fish may fare, a team of scientists recently released thousands of juvenile salmon into the rivers and creeks upstream of the dams, areas where fish migrating up the Klamath haven’t been able to go since the dams blocked access more than a century ago.
The researchers are tracking these “experimental” salmon with the goal of learning whether more than 300 miles of waterways in the upper Klamath Basin are still navigable and fit for fish. As it stands now, fish swim upriver but are stopped at the dams, an impasse considered detrimental to their numbers.
“The landscape is a lot different now than it was,” said Mark Hereford, fish biologist at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who is leading the study on fish passage in the Klamath Falls area of Oregon. “There are uncertainties we have about how the fish will do as they migrate through the system.”
The concerns run the gamut. Urban development has crowded out wetlands. Recently established invasive fish could prey on natives. Communities may be drawing too much water from rivers and creeks.
At stake is nothing less than the future of the cherished chinook salmon run. The fish once numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the Klamath River, making its migration the third largest salmon run on the West Coast. Only populations in the Columbia and Sacramento rivers were bigger.
Today, the celebrated fall run of chinook is a fraction of what it was, less than 10% by some estimates, contributing to the sharp contraction of commercial salmon fishing on the California coast. On at least one occasion, the Yurok Tribe even stopped serving local salmon at its annual Klamath Salmon Festival.
The test fish being released by Hereford and his team will not just help preview the fate of chinook and whether the new terrain can help the salmon rebound. It will also provide a glimpse of what’s in store for other struggling fish that have historically migrated from the ocean to the upper Klamath Basin. These include coho salmon, steelhead trout and Pacific lamprey.
“There’s a lot of habitat up here. There’s enough habitat to support a lot of fish,” Hereford said. “The results of this project are going to be exciting.”
From the window of a Cessna 210 on a recent afternoon, the stunted flow of the once steadily-moving Klamath was visible below. On the California portion of river, one dam after another brought water to a virtual standstill.
The smallest of the three California dams and the first scheduled for removal, 33-foot-tall Copco No. 2, diverts water to a powerhouse to generate electricity. The other two, 173-foot Iron Gate Dam and 126-foot Copco No. 1, produce power as well as hold back large reservoirs that pool water amid sprawling hills just south of the state line.
A fourth dam slated for elimination, J.C. Boyle, is in Oregon, about 12 miles north of the border. Two other dams above J.C. Boyle, considered less harmful to wildlife, will remain.
THE WORRYING RISES IN KEY CLIMATE CHANGE INDICATORS
Greenhouse gases — Greenhouse gases reached a new global high in 2020, when the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) hit 413.2 parts per million (ppm) globally, or 149 per cent of the pre-industrial level. Data from specific locations indicate that they continued to increase in 2021 and early 2022, with monthly average CO2 at Mona Loa in Hawaii reaching 416.45 ppm in April 2020, 419.05 ppm in April 2021, and 420.23 ppm in April 2022.
Temperatures — The global annual mean temperature in 2021 was around 1.11 ±0.13 °C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average, less warm than some recent years owing to cooling La Niña conditions at the start and end of the year. The most recent seven years, 2015 to 2021, are the seven warmest years on record.
Ocean heat — This reached a record high in 2021. The upper 2,000m depth of the ocean continued to warm last year and it is expected it will keep doing so in the future — a change which is irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales. All data sets showed a particularly strong increase in ocean warming rates over the past two decades. The warmth is penetrating to ever deeper levels, experts said, while much of the ocean experienced at least one 'strong' marine heatwave at some point in 2021.
Ocean acidification — The ocean absorbs around 23 per cent of the annual emissions of anthropogenic CO2 to the atmosphere. This reacts with seawater and leads to ocean acidification, which threatens organisms and ecosystem services, and hence food security, tourism and coastal protection. As the pH of the ocean decreases, its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere also declines.
Global mean sea level — This also reached a new record high in 2021, after increasing at an average 4.5 mm per year over the period 2013 -2021. This is more than double the rate of between 1993 and 2002 and is mainly due to the accelerated loss of ice mass from the ice sheets. Experts said it has major implications for hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers and increases vulnerability to tropical cyclones.
FISH BY THE RULES, SAYS FISH AND WILDLIFE
California’s recreational ocean salmon season is underway, and so is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) ocean salmon monitoring program. Anglers are encouraged to assist CDFW employees or agents who ask about their trip or request to examine the catch, as the information collected is essential to the science needed to support continued ocean salmon fishing opportunities in future years.
Every year, CDFW staff and affiliated contract employees monitor marine docks and launch ramps to observe and sample salmon brought ashore by private recreational boats and charter vessels. The samplers are tasked with observing salmon catch, gathering effort information about the fishing trip and collecting biological samples of tagged salmon.
Each year, approximately 40 million fall-run Chinook salmon are produced at California hatcheries. A minimum of 25 percent of those juvenile salmon are implanted with a Coded Wire Tag (CWT) in their snout prior to release into California’s rivers, bays and estuaries. CWTs are small (less than or equal to 1 millimeter in length) metal tags with a laser-engraved code that corresponds to a specific release group of hatchery salmon. Each code provides biologists with information about that fish, such as the hatchery of origin, brood year, run type, release date, release location and the number of tagged and untagged salmon in that release group.
Each salmon containing a CWT is also externally marked with a clipped adipose fin (the small, fleshy fin between the dorsal and caudal fin) to allow for easy visual identification in the field.
When a sampler identifies an adipose fin-clipped salmon on the docks, they will measure the length of the fish and remove the head for recovery of the CWT. The heads are then transported back to the CDFW lab where the CWT will be removed and decoded under a microscope.
Survey participants who have their salmon head collected have the option to receive the CWT information obtained from their fish after it is processed at the lab. On rare occasions, salmon raised in Alaska or British Columbia hatcheries make a long journey to waters off California and are taken in our ocean salmon fishery. On request, the CDFW Ocean Salmon Project will provide anglers with the biological information for their tagged salmon, including the age, hatchery of origin and release information.
Angler participation in the ocean salmon sampling program is critical to fishery managers and biologists tasked with ensuring the future use and conservation of this iconic species. The data are used to make stock abundance forecasts, which inform the development of annual fishing regulations that allow for harvest of more abundant stocks and meet conservation objectives designed to protect stocks of concern. Anglers should also note that they are required by law to relinquish the head of any adipose fin-clipped salmon upon request by a CDFW representative, per California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.73.
Anglers are advised to check for updated information when planning a salmon fishing trip. Season dates, bag/possession limit information and gear restrictions are posted on CDFW’s ocean salmon webpage and are also available by calling the CDFW ocean salmon regulations hotline at (707) 576-3429. Public notification of any in-season change to conform state regulations to federal regulations is made through the National Marine Fisheries Service ocean salmon hotline at (800) 662-9825.
Pursuant to California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 1.95, ocean salmon sport fishing regulations in state waters automatically conform to federal regulations. Federal regulations for ocean salmon fisheries were published in 87 Federal Register 29690 on May 16, 2022 and were effective as of May 16, 2022.
JEFF BLANKFORT: ANOTHER MUST WATCH! A nearly two hour interview with Oliver Stone by the Ukrainian-Russian Lex Fridman that starts with questions about Stone's support for nuclear energy about which he is making a film (which I found disturbing) with the last part, beginning about the 50 minute mark, dealing with the war in Ukraine from the perspective of someone who has actually experienced war. (H/t Michael Gillespie)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: Went to buy a paper the other day. ~$3! I had to laugh. The paper was almost a week old. They should have just given it to me. What did they think they were selling, a book? No wonder the newspapers are going out of business.
US NATIONAL PRESS CLUB STILL REFUSES TO DEFEND ASSANGE
As part of its mission, the U.S. National Press Club defends the rights of persecuted journalists around the world. Despite being lobbied before, the Press Club has so far refused to add its name to a growing list of prestigious press freedom organizations publicly opposing imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States.
Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, PEN International, the British National Union of Journalists, Amnesty International, the European Council’s human rights commissioner, the ACLU, Nobel laureates as well as editorials in The New York Times, The Guardian and other leading newspapers have all spoken out clearly against the imprisonment and possible extradition of Assange.
CATHOLIC OFFICIAL CUTS OFF PELOSI
S.F. archbishop tells House speaker she can’t receive Communion
by Felicia Sonmez & Mike Debonis
The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, the Catholic archbishop in San Francisco, said Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will be denied the sacrament of Holy Communion because of her vocal support for abortion rights.
The edict from Cordileone, one of the country’s most conservative Catholic leaders, represents an extraordinary rebuke of Pelosi’s Catholic faith, which the 82-year-old speaker frequently invokes when discussing her family, her policies and her politics. Democrats and abortion rights advocates have responded with alarm in recent weeks following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the right to abortion established in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Cordileone last year called for Communion to be withheld from public figures who support abortion rights but did not mention Pelosi by name at the time.
“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiates her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone said Friday in a letter to members of his archdiocese.
“I have accordingly sent her a Notification to this effect, which I have now made public,” he added.
In a separate letter to Pelosi, Cordileone ordered the House speaker “not to present yourself for Holy Communion” and warned that if she does, she will not be given the sacrament.
A Pelosi spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Holy Communion is the central sacrament of Catholicism and the centerpiece of the Catholic Mass — a ritual memorial of Christ’s death on the cross in which bread and wine are said to be transformed into his flesh and blood.
Catholic archbishops have vast power within their diocese, and a reversal of Cordileone’s decision would require the intervention of the Vatican, which is unlikely. The order to deny Communion to Pelosi appears to apply only to Catholic churches within the San Francisco archdiocese, including the speaker’s home church.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month, 55% of Catholics in the United States want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe. Catholic teaching opposes abortion, however, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last year debated the meaning of Communion and whether it is appropriate to withhold the sacrament from Catholic politicians such as Pelosi or President Joe Biden who support abortion rights.
After a firestorm of debate, the bishops clarified that there will be “no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.” They later released a document on Communion but declined to single out politicians who back abortion rights.
Pelosi often refers to her own prayers and her religious responsibility to seek the greater good. Asked in 2018 why she entered politics, she invoked her childhood in a churchgoing political family in Baltimore.
“We were always taught in our family that we had a responsibility to other people, that our sense of community said that if we could be helpful to them, that was our responsibil-ity,” she said. “It was also part of our Catholic faith that we had responsibilities to each other.”
Pelosi is occasionally challenged on her abortion views at news conferences and in other forums. Her frequent response is to recount her own experience as a mother of five children, all born within a span of six years.
In 2015, a reporter asked Pelosi if an “unborn baby with a human heart and a human liver” was a human being.
“I am a devout, practicing Catholic,” Pelosi replied. “A mother of five children.”
“I think I know more about this subject than you, with all due respect,” she added. “I do not intend to respond to your question which has no basis in what public policy we do here.”
After Cordileone last year condemned a bill codifying the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law as an “atrocity” and “nothing short of child sacrifice,” Pelosi acknowledged a “disagreement” with the prelate.
“I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities,” she said, before again talking about her own family.
“For us, it was a complete and total blessing, which we enjoy every day of our lives,” Pelosi added. “But it’s none of our business how other people choose the size and timing of their families.”
In his letter to members of his archdiocese on Friday, Cordileone said he finds “no pleasure whatsoever in fulfilling my pastoral duty here” by denying Pelosi Communion. The speaker “has been uppermost in my prayer intentions ever since I became the Archbishop of San Francisco,” he added.
“Speaker Pelosi remains our sister in Christ,” Cordileone said. “Her advocacy for the care of the poor and vulnerable elicits my admiration. I assure you that my action here is purely pastoral, not political.”
Cordileone also sent a letter Friday to the priests of his archdiocese in which he outlined a series of actions since September, when the House took up the legislation codifying Roe, known as the Women’s Health Protection Act.
Cordileone sent Pelosi a letter at that time, asking for a meeting and warning the speaker that she was inviting a public rebuke. Around that time, he said, he also launched a prayer campaign, “Rose and Rosary for Nancy,” directed specifically at Pelosi.
Twice more in subsequent months, Cordileone said, he requested meetings with Pelosi, which were denied by the speaker’s staff. And in April, he said, he sent Pelosi a second, more sternly worded letter specifically threatening her ability to receive Holy Communion.
Again, he said, “I received no response.”
Cordileone said he again contacted Pelosi’s office on May 4 — in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court opinion leak — “urgently” seeking to speak to her. He did so, he said, after Pelosi invoked her religion in defending the right to abortion.
“The very idea that they would be telling women the size, timing or whatever of their family, the personal nature of this is so appalling, and I say that as a devout Catholic,” Pelosi told the Seattle Times editorial board that day. “They say to me, ‘Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope.’ Yes I do. Are you stupid?’”
PRO-LIFERS DON’T STEP UP
I am pro-life. I am, however, 90% in favor of the right of men and women to control their own body except in the case of abortion where a woman's right becomes 99+%.
The above is probably not quite true as are all statements that allow no deviation, but when I read Jean Grant's letter in the AVA including: "Pro-abortion extremists don't seem to want it known, but the pro-life community will pay for the diapers or adopt the newborn, or anything in between," my hackles rise and my bull-s___ detector rises higher.
I have worked in Juvenile Hall and toured CYA facilities. I have worked in Juvenile Home (where there is no charge of delinquency, but missing parents, unwilling or unacceptable relatives and little chance of adoption). I served on the Mendocino Juvenile Justice Commission (mandated by State law). In those roles I have NEVER seen the “pro-life” community, or any member thereof, step up to care for children who are warehoused, i.e., funding units, until they are 18 years of age (or older if they are in CYA detention) and then dumped onto the street with no home, no real life skills, little education, no experience or instruction in how to take care of themselves and, in most cases, no one to whom to turn. They become funding units for homeless programs.
I am a bit surprised that our esteemed editor printed the letter without comment since he has a great deal of information and experience in this arena.
HILLARY CLINTON DID IT
Her 2016 campaign manager says she approved a plan to plant a false Russia claim with a reporter
The Russia-Trump collusion narrative of 2016 and beyond was a dirty trick for the ages, and now we know it came from the top—candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. That was the testimony Friday by 2016 Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook in federal court, and while this news is hardly a surprise, it’s still bracing to find her fingerprints on the political weapon.
Mr. Mook testified as a witness in special counsel John Durham’s trial of Michael Sussmann, the lawyer accused of lying to the FBI. In September 2016, Mr. Sussmann took claims of a secret Trump connection to Russia’s Alfa Bank to the FBI and said he wasn’t acting on behalf of any client. Prosecutors say he was working for the Clinton campaign.
Prosecutors presented evidence this week that Mr. Sussmann worked with cyberresearchers and oppositionresearch firm Fusion GPS to produce the claims on behalf of the Clinton campaign, and to feed them to the FBI. An FBI agent testified that a bureau analysis quickly rejected the claims as implausible. (Mr. Sussmann has pleaded not guilty.)
Prosecutors asked Mr. Mook about his role in funneling the Alfa Bank claims to the press. Mr. Mook admitted the campaign lacked expertise to vet the data, yet the decision was made by Mr. Mook, policy adviser Jake Sullivan (now President Biden’s national security adviser), communications director Jennifer Palmieri and campaign chairman John Podesta to give the Alfa Bank claims to a reporter. Mr. Mook said Mrs. Clinton was asked about the plan and approved it. A story on the Trump-Alfa Bank allegations then appeared in Slate, a left-leaning online publication.
On Oct. 31, 2016, Mr. Sullivan issued a statement mentioning the Slate story, writing, “This could be the most direct link yet between Donald Trump and Moscow.” Mrs. Clinton tweeted Mr. Sullivan’s statement with the comment: “Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank.” “Apparently” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.
In short, the Clinton campaign created the Trump-Alfa allegation, fed it to a credulous press that failed to confirm the allegations but ran with them anyway, then promoted the story as if it was legitimate news. The campaign also delivered the claims to the FBI, giving journalists another excuse to portray the accusations as serious and perhaps true.
Most of the press will ignore this news, but the Russia-Trump narrative that Mrs. Clinton sanctioned did enormous harm to the country. It disgraced the FBI, humiliated the press, and sent the country on a three-year investigation to nowhere. Vladimir Putin never came close to doing as much disinformation damage.
— Wall Street Journal Editorial (via George Hollister)
TWO WOMEN MEET IN HEAVEN…
Woman #1: Hi Wanda!
Woman #2: Hi Sylvia! How’d you die?
Woman #1: I froze to death.
Woman #2: How horrible!
Woman #1: It wasn’t so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold I began to get warm and sleepy. Finally, I just drifted out and died a peaceful death. What about you?
Woman #2: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating so I came home early to catch him in the act. But instead I found him alone in the den watching sports on TV.
Woman #1: So what happened?
Woman #2: I was so sure there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking. I ran up into the attic and searched there and then all the way through every room down to the basement. Then I went back up looking through every closet and under every bed. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere. Finally, I became so exhausted that I just keeled over with that heart attack and died.
Woman #1: Too bad you didn’t look in the freezer — we’d both still be alive.
HOT CHINESE ARMY GIRLS
"Yeah, well, we must think about bums on seats, Shakesey. Let's face it, it's the ghost that's selling the show. Joe Public loves the ghost, they love the swordfights, they love the crazy chick in the see-through dress who does the flower gags and then drowns herself, but no-one likes Hamlet!"
Here's the recording of last night's (2022-05-20) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA): https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0489
Thanks go to Hank Sims for all kinds of tech help over the years, as well as for his fine news site: https://LostCoastOutpost.com
And thanks to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which provided well over an hour of the above 8-hour show's most locally relevant material, as usual, without asking for anything in return. Just $25 a year for full access to all articles and features, and you can too.
While you're rolling in the right direction, go to KNYO.org, click on the big red heart and give what you can. And email me your writing and I'll read it on the very next Memo of the Air.
Lawrence Bullock showed up with his snazzy Martin guitar and played a 45-minute-or-so set for you. Kay Rudin, also, and she brought her dog, Wally, and spoke of this and that. And I know yez are sick of all the abortion and baby formula and alien invasion news, you know, the sky is black with ships and all, and what'll we do, so I tried to valve that down a little this time. Some substantial material. A bit more in the way of goofy real-life Handmaid's Tale religious leaders violating children with broom handles and blaming it on Democrats and separation of church and state. Police chiefs passed out drunk in their truck in an intersection with their pants down and their gun out. Border patrol Qnuts. Something we can all sink our teeth into. And lots of poetry. A weed piracy adventure from Paul Modic's friend Charlie Wilson. Etc.
Besides All That, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
Hot Chinese army girls. Just what it says on the tin. (via Everlasting Blort)
"We got a situation. I need you to enhance these flappers, pronto." "On it, sir."
A real recruitment video for a job in our weird timeline. Your taxes at work.
And a French Middle Eastern operatic looping beatboxer.
— Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
THIS OLD MAN: Life in the Nineties
by Roger Angell (February 9, 2014)
Check me out. The top two knuckles of my left hand look as if I’d been worked over by the K.G.B. No, it’s more as if I’d been a catcher for the Hall of Fame pitcher Candy Cummings, the inventor of the curveball, who retired from the game in 1877. To put this another way, if I pointed that hand at you like a pistol and fired at your nose, the bullet would nail you in the left knee. Arthritis.
Now, still facing you, if I cover my left, or better, eye with one hand, what I see is a blurry encircling version of the ceiling and floor and walls or windows to our right and left but no sign of your face or head: nothing in the middle. But cheer up: if I reverse things and cover my right eye, there you are, back again. If I take my hand away and look at you with both eyes, the empty hole disappears and you’re in 3-D, and actually looking pretty terrific today. Macular degeneration.
I’m ninety-three, and I’m feeling great. Well, pretty great, unless I’ve forgotten to take a couple of Tylenols in the past four or five hours, in which case I’ve begun to feel some jagged little pains shooting down my left forearm and into the base of the thumb. Shingles, in 1996, with resultant nerve damage.
Like many men and women my age, I get around with a couple of arterial stents that keep my heart chunking. I also sport a minute plastic seashell that clamps shut a congenital hole in my heart, discovered in my early eighties. The surgeon at Mass General who fixed up this PFO (a patent foramen ovale—I love to say it) was a Mexican-born character actor in beads and clogs, and a fervent admirer of Derek Jeter. Counting this procedure and the stents, plus a passing balloon angioplasty and two or three false alarms, I’ve become sort of a table potato, unalarmed by the X-ray cameras swooping eerily about just above my naked body in a darkened and icy operating room; there’s also a little TV screen up there that presents my heart as a pendant ragbag attached to tacky ribbons of veins and arteries. But never mind. Nowadays, I pop a pink beta-blocker and a white statin at breakfast, along with several lesser pills, and head off to my human-wreckage gym, and it’s been a couple of years since the last showing.
My left knee is thicker but shakier than my right. I messed it up playing football, eons ago, but can’t remember what went wrong there more recently. I had a date to have the joint replaced by a famous knee man (he’s listed in the Metropolitan Opera program as a major supporter) but changed course at the last moment, opting elsewhere for injections of synthetic frog hair or rooster combs or something, which magically took away the pain. I walk around with a cane now when outdoors—“Stop brandishing!” I hear my wife, Carol, admonishing—which gives me a nice little edge when hailing cabs.
The lower-middle sector of my spine twists and jogs like a Connecticut county road, thanks to a herniated disk seven or eight years ago. This has cost me two or three inches of height, transforming me from Gary Cooper to Geppetto. After days spent groaning on the floor, I received a blessed epidural, ending the ordeal. “You can sit up now,” the doctor said, whisking off his shower cap. “Listen, do you know who Dominic Chianese is?”
“Isn’t that Uncle Junior?” I said, confused. “You know—from ‘The Sopranos’?”
“Yes,” he said. “He and I play in a mandolin quartet every Wednesday night at the Hotel Edison. Do you think you could help us get a listing in the front of The New Yorker?”
I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds. The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.
On the other hand, I’ve not yet forgotten Keats or Dick Cheney or what’s waiting for me at the dry cleaner’s today. As of right now, I’m not Christopher Hitchens or Tony Judt or Nora Ephron; I’m not dead and not yet mindless in a reliable upstate facility. Decline and disaster impend, but my thoughts don’t linger there. It shouldn’t surprise me if at this time next week I’m surrounded by family, gathered on short notice—they’re sad and shocked but also a little pissed off to be here—to help decide, after what’s happened, what’s to be done with me now. It must be this hovering knowledge, that two-ton safe swaying on a frayed rope just over my head, that makes everyone so glad to see me again. “How great you’re looking! Wow, tell me your secret!” they kindly cry when they happen upon me crossing the street or exiting a dinghy or departing an X-ray room, while the little balloon over their heads reads, “Holy shit—he’s still vertical!”
Let’s move on. A smooth fox terrier of ours named Harry was full of surprises. Wildly sociable, like others of his breed, he grew a fraction more reserved in maturity, and learned to cultivate a separate wagging acquaintance with each fresh visitor or old pal he came upon in the living room. If friends had come for dinner, he’d arise from an evening nap and leisurely tour the table in imitation of a three-star headwaiter: Everything O.K. here? Is there anything we could bring you? How was the crème brûlée? Terriers aren’t water dogs, but Harry enjoyed kayaking in Maine, sitting like a figurehead between my knees for an hour or more and scoping out the passing cormorant or yachtsman. Back in the city, he established his personality and dashing good looks on the neighborhood to the extent that a local artist executed a striking head-on portrait in pointillist oils, based on a snapshot of him she’d sneaked in Central Park. Harry took his leave (another surprise) on a June afternoon three years ago, a few days after his eighth birthday. Alone in our fifth-floor apartment, as was usual during working hours, he became unhinged by a noisy thunderstorm and went out a front window left a quarter open on a muggy day. I knew him well and could summon up his feelings during the brief moments of that leap: the welcome coolness of rain on his muzzle and shoulders, the excitement of air and space around his outstretched body.
Here in my tenth decade, I can testify that the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news. Living long means enough already. When Harry died, Carol and I couldn’t stop weeping; we sat in the bathroom with his retrieved body on a mat between us, the light-brown patches on his back and the near-black of his ears still darkened by the rain, and passed a Kleenex box back and forth between us. Not all the tears were for him. Two months earlier, a beautiful daughter of mine, my oldest child, had ended her life, and the oceanic force and mystery of that event had not left full space for tears. Now we could cry without reserve, weep together for Harry and Callie and ourselves. Harry cut us loose.
A few notes about age is my aim here, but a little more about loss is inevitable. “Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.
Our dead are almost beyond counting and we want to herd them along, pen them up somewhere in order to keep them straight. I like to think of mine as fellow-voyagers crowded aboard the Île de France (the idea is swiped from “Outward Bound”). Here’s my father, still handsome in his tuxedo, lighting a Lucky Strike. There’s Ted Smith, about to name-drop his Gloucester home town again. Here comes Slim Aarons. Here’s Esther Mae Counts, from fourth grade: hi, Esther Mae. There’s Gardner—with Cecille Shawn, for some reason. Here’s Ted Yates. Anna Hamburger. Colba F. Gucker, better known as Chief. Bob Ascheim. Victor Pritchett—and Dorothy. Henry Allen. Bart Giamatti. My elder old-maid cousin Jean Webster and her unexpected, late-arriving Brit husband, Capel Hanbury. Kitty Stableford. Dan Quisenberry. Nancy Field. Freddy Alexandre. I look around for others and at times can almost produce someone at will. Callie returns, via a phone call. “Dad?” It’s her, all right, her voice affectionately rising at the end—“Da-ad?”—but sounding a bit impatient this time. She’s in a hurry. And now Harold Eads. Toni Robin. Dick Salmon, his face bright red with laughter. Edith Oliver. Sue Dawson. Herb Mitgang. Coop. Tudie. Elwood Carter.
These names are best kept in mind rather than boxed and put away somewhere. Old letters are engrossing but feel historic in numbers, photo albums delightful but with a glum after-kick like a chocolate caramel. Home movies are killers: Zeke, a long-gone Lab, alive again, rushing from right to left with a tennis ball in his mouth; my sister Nancy, stunning at seventeen, smoking a lipstick-stained cigarette aboard Astrid, with the breeze stirring her tied-up brown hair; my mother laughing and ducking out of the picture again, waving her hands in front of her face in embarrassment—she’s about thirty-five. Me sitting cross-legged under a Ping-Pong table, at eleven. Take us away.
My list of names is banal but astounding, and it’s barely a fraction, the ones that slip into view in the first minute or two. Anyone over sixty knows this; my list is only longer. I don’t go there often, but, once I start, the battalion of the dead is on duty, alertly waiting. Why do they sustain me so, cheer me up, remind me of life? I don’t understand this. Why am I not endlessly grieving?
What I’ve come to count on is the white-coated attendant of memory, silently here again to deliver dabs from the laboratory dish of me. In the days before Carol died, twenty months ago, she lay semiconscious in bed at home, alternating periods of faint or imperceptible breathing with deep, shuddering catch-up breaths. Then, in a delicate gesture, she would run the pointed tip of her tongue lightly around the upper curve of her teeth. She repeated this pattern again and again. I’ve forgotten, perhaps mercifully, much of what happened in that last week and the weeks after, but this recurs.
Carol is around still, but less reliably. For almost a year, I would wake up from another late-afternoon mini-nap in the same living-room chair, and, in the instants before clarity, would sense her sitting in her own chair, just opposite. Not a ghost but a presence, alive as before and in the same instant gone again. This happened often, and I almost came to count on it, knowing that it wouldn’t last. Then it stopped.
People my age and younger friends as well seem able to recall entire tapestries of childhood, and swatches from their children’s early lives as well: conversations, exact meals, birthday parties, illnesses, picnics, vacation B. and B.s, trips to the ballet, the time when . . . I can’t do this and it eats at me, but then, without announcement or connection, something turns up. I am walking on Ludlow Lane, in Snedens, with my two young daughters, years ago on a summer morning. I’m in my late thirties; they’re about nine and six, and I’m complaining about the steep little stretch of road between us and our house, just up the hill. Maybe I’m getting old, I offer. Then I say that one day I’ll be really old and they’ll have to hold me up. I imitate an old man mumbling nonsense and start to walk with wobbly legs. Callie and Alice scream with laughter and hold me up, one on each side. When I stop, they ask for more, and we do this over and over.
I’m leaving out a lot, I see. My work— I’m still working, or sort of. Reading. The collapsing, grossly insistent world. Stuff I get excited about or depressed about all the time. Dailiness—but how can I explain this one? Perhaps with a blog recently posted on Facebook by a woman I know who lives in Australia. “Good Lord, we’ve run out of nutmeg!” it began. “How in the world did that ever happen?” Dozens of days are like that with me lately.
Intimates and my family—mine not very near me now but always on call, always with me. My children Alice and John Henry and my daughter-in-law Alice—yes, another one—and my granddaughters Laura and Lily and Clara, who together and separately were as steely and resplendent as a company of Marines on the day we buried Carol. And on other days and in other ways as well. Laura, for example, who will appear almost overnight, on demand, to drive me and my dog and my stuff five hundred miles Down East, then does it again, backward, later in the summer. Hours of talk and sleep (mine, not hers) and renewal—the abandoned mills at Lawrence, Mass., Cat Mousam Road, the Narramissic River still there—plus a couple of nights together, with the summer candles again.
Friends in great numbers now, taking me to dinner or cooking in for me. (One afternoon, I found a freshly roasted chicken sitting outside my front door; two hours later, another one appeared in the same spot.) Friends inviting me to the opera, or to Fairway on Sunday morning, or to dine with their kids at the East Side Deli, or to a wedding at the Rockbound Chapel, or bringing in ice cream to share at my place while we catch another Yankees game. They saved my life. In the first summer after Carol had gone, a man I’d known slightly and pleasantly for decades listened while I talked about my changed routines and my doctors and dog walkers and the magazine. I paused for a moment, and he said, “Plus you have us.”
Another message—also brief, also breathtaking—came on an earlier afternoon at my longtime therapist’s, at a time when I felt I’d lost almost everything. “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” I said at last.
A silence, then: “Neither do I. But you will.”
I am a world-class complainer but find palpable joy arriving with my evening Dewar’s, from Robinson Cano between pitches, from the first pages once again of “Appointment in Samarra” or the last lines of the Elizabeth Bishop poem called “Poem.” From the briefest strains of Handel or Roy Orbison, or Dennis Brain playing the early bars of his stunning Mozart horn concertos. (This Angel recording may have been one of the first things Carol and I acquired just after our marriage, and I hear it playing on a sunny Saturday morning in our Ninety-fourth Street walkup.) Also the recalled faces and then the names of Jean Dixon or Roscoe Karns or Porter Hall or Brad Dourif in another Netflix rerun. Chloë Sevigny in “Trees Lounge.” Gail Collins on a good day. Family ice-skating up near Harlem in the nineteen-eighties, with the Park employees, high on youth or weed, looping past us backward to show their smiles.
Recent and not so recent surveys (including the six-decades-long Grant Study of the lives of some nineteen-forties Harvard graduates) confirm that a majority of us people over seventy-five keep surprising ourselves with happiness. Put me on that list. Our children are adults now and mostly gone off, and let’s hope full of their own lives. We’ve outgrown our ambitions. If our wives or husbands are still with us, we sense a trickle of contentment flowing from the reliable springs of routine, affection in long silences, calm within the light boredom of well-worn friends, retold stories, and mossy opinions. Also the distant whoosh of a surfaced porpoise outside our night windows.
We elders—what kind of a handle is this, anyway, halfway between a tree and an eel?—we elders have learned a thing or two, including invisibility. Here I am in a conversation with some trusty friends—old friends but actually not all that old: they’re in their sixties—and we’re finishing the wine and in serious converse about global warming in Nyack or Virginia Woolf the cross-dresser. There’s a pause, and I chime in with a couple of sentences. The others look at me politely, then resume the talk exactly at the point where they’ve just left it. What? Hello? Didn’t I just say something? Have I left the room? Have I experienced what neurologists call a TIA—a transient ischemic attack? I didn’t expect to take over the chat but did await a word or two of response. Not tonight, though. (Women I know say that this began to happen to them when they passed fifty.) When I mention the phenomenon to anyone around my age, I get back nods and smiles. Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to anymore. You’ve had your turn, Pops; now it’s ours.
I’ve been asking myself why I don’t think about my approaching visitor, death. He was often on my mind thirty or forty years ago, I believe, though more of a stranger. Death terrified me then, because I had so many engagements. The enforced opposite—no dinner dates or coming attractions, no urgent business, no fun, no calls, no errands, no returned words or touches—left a blank that I could not light or furnish: a condition I recognized from childhood bad dreams and sudden awakenings. Well, not yet, not soon, or probably not, I would console myself, and that welcome but then tediously repeated postponement felt in time less like a threat than like a family obligation—tea with Aunt Molly in Montclair, someday soon but not now. Death, meanwhile, was constantly onstage or changing costume for his next engagement—as Bergman’s thick-faced chess player; as the medieval night-rider in a hoodie; as Woody Allen’s awkward visitor half-falling into the room as he enters through the window; as W. C. Fields’s man in the bright nightgown—and in my mind had gone from spectre to a waiting second-level celebrity on the Letterman show. Or almost. Some people I knew seemed to have lost all fear when dying and awaited the end with a certain impatience. “I’m tired of lying here,” said one. “Why is this taking so long?” asked another. Death will get it on with me eventually, and stay much too long, and though I’m in no hurry about the meeting, I feel I know him almost too well by now.
A weariness about death exists in me and in us all in another way, as well, though we scarcely notice it. We have become tireless voyeurs of death: he is on the morning news and the evening news and on the breaking, middle-of–the-day news as well—not the celebrity death, I mean, but the everyone-else death. A roadside-accident figure, covered with a sheet. A dead family, removed from a ramshackle faraway building pocked and torn by bullets. The transportation dead. The dead in floods and hurricanes and tsunamis, in numbers called “tolls.” The military dead, presented in silence on your home screen, looking youthful and well combed. The enemy war dead or rediscovered war dead, in higher figures. Appalling and dulling totals not just from this year’s war but from the ones before that, and the ones way back that some of us still around may have also attended. All the dead from wars and natural events and school shootings and street crimes and domestic crimes that each of us has once again escaped and felt terrible about and plans to go and leave wreaths or paper flowers at the site of. There’s never anything new about death, to be sure, except its improved publicity. At second hand, we have become death’s expert witnesses; we know more about death than morticians, feel as much at home with it as those poor bygone schlunks trying to survive a continent-ravaging, low-digit-century epidemic. Death sucks but, enh—click the channel.
I get along. Now and then it comes to me that I appear to have more energy and hope than some of my coevals, but I take no credit for this. I don’t belong to a book club or a bridge club; I’m not taking up Mandarin or practicing the viola. In a sporadic effort to keep my brain from moldering, I’ve begun to memorize shorter poems—by Auden, Donne, Ogden Nash, and more—which I recite to myself some nights while walking my dog, Harry’s successor fox terrier, Andy. I’ve also become a blogger, and enjoy the ease and freedom of the form: it’s a bit like making a paper airplane and then watching it take wing below your window. But shouldn’t I have something more scholarly or complex than this put away by now—late paragraphs of accomplishments, good works, some weightier op cits? I’m afraid not. The thoughts of age are short, short thoughts. I don’t read Scripture and cling to no life precepts, except perhaps to Walter Cronkite’s rules for old men, which he did not deliver over the air: Never trust a fart. Never pass up a drink. Never ignore an erection.
I count on jokes, even jokes about death.
TEACHER: Good morning, class. This is the first day of school and we’re going to introduce ourselves. I’ll call on you, one by one, and you can tell us your name and maybe what your dad or your mom does for a living. You, please, over at this end.
SMALL BOY: My name is Irving and my dad is a mechanic.
TEACHER: A mechanic! Thank you, Irving. Next?
SMALL GIRL: My name is Emma and my mom is a lawyer.
TEACHER: How nice for you, Emma! Next?
SECOND SMALL BOY: My name is Luke and my dad is dead.
TEACHER: Oh, Luke, how sad for you. We’re all very sorry about that, aren’t we, class? Luke, do you think you could tell us what Dad did before he died?
LUKE (seizes his throat): He went “N’gungghhh! ”
Not bad—I’m told that fourth graders really go for this one. Let’s try another.
A man and his wife tried and tried to have a baby, but without success. Years went by and they went on trying, but no luck. They liked each other, so the work was always a pleasure, but they grew a bit sad along the way. Finally, she got pregnant, was very careful, and gave birth to a beautiful eight-pound-two-ounce baby boy. The couple were beside themselves with happiness. At the hospital that night, she told her husband to stop by the local newspaper and arrange for a birth announcement, to tell all their friends the good news. First thing next morning, she asked if he’d done the errand.
“Yes, I did,” he said, “but I had no idea those little notices in the paper were so expensive.”
“Expensive?” she said. “How much was it?”
“It was eight hundred and thirty-seven dollars. I have the receipt.”
“Eight hundred and thirty-seven dollars!” she cried. “But that’s impossible. You must have made some mistake. Tell me exactly what happened.”
“There was a young lady behind a counter at the paper, who gave me the form to fill out,” he said. “I put in your name and my name and little Teddy’s name and weight, and when we’d be home again and, you know, ready to see friends. I handed it back to her and she counted up the words and said, ‘How many insertions?’ I said twice a week for fourteen years, and she gave me the bill. O.K.?”
I heard this tale more than fifty years ago, when my first wife, Evelyn, and I were invited to tea by a rather elegant older couple who were new to our little Rockland County community. They were in their seventies, at least, and very welcoming, and it was just the four of us. We barely knew them and I was surprised when he turned and asked her to tell us the joke about the couple trying to have a baby. “Oh, no,” she said, “they wouldn’t want to hear that.”
“Oh, come on, dear—they’ll love it,” he said, smiling at her. I groaned inwardly and was preparing a forced smile while she started off shyly, but then, of course, the four of us fell over laughing together.
That night, Evelyn said, “Did you see Keith’s face while Edie was telling that story? Did you see hers? Do you think it’s possible that they’re still—you know, still doing it?”
“Yes, I did—yes, I do,” I said. “I was thinking exactly the same thing. They’re amazing.”
This was news back then, but probably shouldn’t be by now. I remember a passage I came upon years later, in an Op-Ed piece in the Times, written by a man who’d just lost his wife. “We slept naked in the same bed for forty years,” it went. There was also my splendid colleague Bob Bingham, dying in his late fifties, who was asked by a friend what he’d missed or would do differently if given the chance. He thought for an instant, and said, “More venery.”
More venery. More love; more closeness; more sex and romance. Bring it back, no matter what, no matter how old we are. This fervent cry of ours has been certified by Simone de Beauvoir and Alice Munro and Laurence Olivier and any number of remarried or recoupled ancient classmates of ours. Laurence Olivier? I’m thinking of what he says somewhere in an interview: “Inside, we’re all seventeen, with red lips.”
This is a dodgy subject, coming as it does here from a recent widower, and I will risk a further breach of code and add that this was something that Carol and I now and then idly discussed. We didn’t quite see the point of memorial fidelity. In our view, the departed spouse—we always thought it would be me—wouldn’t be around anymore but knew or had known that he or she was loved forever. Please go ahead, then, sweetheart—don’t miss a moment. Carol said this last: “If you haven’t found someone else by a year after I’m gone I’ll come back and haunt you.”
Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love. We oldies yearn daily and hourly for conversation and a renewed domesticity, for company at the movies or while visiting a museum, for someone close by in the car when coming home at night. This is why we throng Match.com and OkCupid in such numbers—but not just for this, surely. Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson’s words: “Rowing in Eden— / Ah—the sea”) isn’t reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor—you’ve had your turn—is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.
Nothing is easy at this age, and first meetings for old lovers can be a high-risk venture. Reticence and awkwardness slip into the room. Also happiness. A wealthy old widower I knew married a nurse he met while in the hospital, but had trouble remembering her name afterward. He called her “kid.” An eighty-plus, twice-widowed lady I’d once known found still another love, a frail but vibrant Midwest professor, now close to ninety, and the pair got in two or three happy years together before he died as well. When she called his children and arranged to pick up her things at his house, she found every possession of hers lined up outside the front door.
But to hell with them and with all that, O.K.? Here’s to you, old dears. You got this right, every one of you. Hook, line, and sinker; never mind the why or wherefore; somewhere in the night; love me forever, or at least until next week. For us and for anyone this unsettles, anyone who’s younger and still squirms at the vision of an old couple embracing, I’d offer John Updike’s “Sex or death: you take your pick”—a line that appears (in a slightly different form) in a late story of his, “Playing with Dynamite.”
This is a great question, an excellent insurance-plan choice, I mean. I think it’s in the Affordable Care Act somewhere. Take it from us, who know about the emptiness of loss, and are still cruising along here feeling lucky and not yet entirely alone.
(The New Yorker)