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Mendocino County Today: Monday, July 25, 2022

Cool Coast | Oak Smoke | Faulty Fortune | Welcome Chief | Ugly Building | Back to School | Lemon Tree | B Shame | Immigrant Family | Well Ordinance | Flower House | Ed Notes | Trapped Bears | Jail Coop | Police Reports | Log Pond | Peckham Menace | Gloriana Class | Logging Slash | Nylunds | Merchant Marine | Yesterday's Catch | Interstates | Langella Cancelled | EV Repair | Drunk Sitter | Picker Pelosi | Fireplace Miracle | Utter Failure | Fighting Progressives | Holy Speedboat | Lied To | Sinking Ship | Becoming Fedayeen | Withering World | Quiet Room | Microchip Bill | Happy Shack | Ukraine | Bump Bros | Planet Manchin | Youth Communes | Old Friend | Run Josh

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MOSTLY CLEAR AND HOT conditions will persist across the interior through the week ahead. Persistent marine layer clouds and fog will keep coastal areas seasonably cooler with only some limited afternoon sunshine. There is a slight chance for thunderstorms across portions of the interior later Tuesday into Wednesday. (NWS)

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Oak Fire smoke at 7pm yesterday

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FAULTY FORTUNE COOKIE 

Went to Annie's Bistro in Ukiah to enjoy a lunch of prawns & eggplant w/special sauce plus brown rice. Every bite was delicious, then paid, tipped, and was given a fortune cookie. Put the fortune cookie in a pants pocket, and then ambled on to the Co-op for a cup of coffee. Got a mocha java, and took a seat in the Co-op cafe. Remembering the fortune cookie, I took it from the pants pocket, cracked it open and read my fortune. “What does the future hodl?” 

Craig Louis Stehr

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DIGGING A DOWNTOWN GRAVEYARD

by Tommy Wayne Kramer

We’ve seen renditions of the courthouse the State of California is threatening to inflict upon Ukiah, and the project is wrong and wrong. 

Mendocino County’s proposed courthouse is the wrong building in the wrong location. Otherwise, pretty peachy.

The structure that no one wants will harm Ukiah, a city that has suffered sufficient harm through its past 75 years and can scarcely endure more. Ukiah is now a long stretch of has-been motels interspersed with vape shops, CBD outlets, some tattoo parlors and a curious number of massage joints. And, for visual relief, a few vacant lots.

Something big, new and ugly will not help.

Ukiah’s prettiest, most impressive and significant downtown buildings have been abandoned in recent years. But our city officials, who drive past the Palace Hotel and old Post Office daily, apparently see no problems. 

A new and repugnant modern piece of architectural blight is poised to squat and metastasize on East Perkins while the semi-pretty courthouse joins the Palace, Post Office and that sad galvanized tin building, the last of its kind, in a downtown graveyard. Our alleged leaders ignore it all.

They don’t talk about what’s happened to Ukiah in the past 40 years, as if it’s not been on their watch, as if Sundays in the Park is a fair tradeoff for a broken downtown, as if the dramatic loss of city retail is made up for by Fun Banners Across State Street and Holly Jolly Trolleys at Christmastime.

City and county leaders never address the systematic hollowing out of Ukiah to make economic room for Walmart and Costco, so it’s unlikely they’ll discuss recent courthouse projects they demanded in Fort Bragg and Willits. 

Can our brilliant state and county planners assure us this next new courthouse is more necessary than the last two? 

Fort Bragg got a prefab marvel around 1995 that looked like it was delivered on a flatbed truck. Today the courtroom does nothing much beyond dog license disputes, probate formalities and other minor matters its semi-competent judge, the Most Honorable Clayton Brennan, is capable of handling.

In Willits the new two story courthouse is often depicted in architectural publications but for all the wrong reasons. Courtroom’s closed, now mostly used for storing cleaning supplies. Go ahead, lease it to Dollar General.

Now the same politicians want us to dig deep into our Visa Cards to fund another redundant, ugly court facility guaranteed to drain life and money out of Ukiah’s already wobbly downtown in order to … what, exactly?

Provide opulent splendor for judges? I’ve visited all the judges’ chambers and can tell you their offices are well beyond excellent in size and furnishings. If parking facilities are inadequate we can provide daily limousine service. 

California’s record of destroying its old buildings and replacing them with better-looking new buildings stands at Zero. Nothing that’s been torn down in the history of the state has ever seen improvement. Those demanding a new courthouse should show us a single example of a government building erected in the past 100 years as solid and beautiful as what it replaced.

This courthouse will not be an exception.

Artist renderings suggest a Russian military prison circa 1955, or a dog food factory. (NOTE: The author once worked in a dog food factory.) 

If an actual living architect drew up these plans he or she should be questioned, at length, about the project’s complete and utter lack of beauty and sense of tradition. Courthouses in America have always (until about 1950) had classic design and historic echoes of majestic strength, built on principles from our long-standing heritage from Europe.

This cheap-looking plywood sheetrock beast will cost more than $140 million and will improve the adjudication of justice not one bit. 

City and county officials should stand together, refuse to accept this proposal, and explain in plain language that it is the wrong building in the wrong location. We understand it’s the same thoughtless architectural design used in dozens of other cities, and we further understand that those cities and residents don’t seem to mind, or even notice, the squalor and degradation forced upon them. 

Ukiahans should mind, notice, and say No. 

Let’s not accept ugly schlock simply because the Sacramento-Los Angeles state power axis dictates How Things Must Be. Sometimes matters are best left alone, and this is one of those times.

Who wants a monstrous series of ugly, anonymous boxes to be the dominant structure in the county’s capital? Who wants an imitation Mendocino College campus on West Perkins, a bland collection of insurance offices? 

Who wants a bleeding wound in the center of Ukiah upon transplanting its heart to a distant precinct near the hospital? Who wants our old courthouse turned into a dismal Community Arts Center? 

Everyone you know thinks this is a ridiculous project. Ask your spouse, your neighbor, your teenager or a stranger standing in line at Safeway, and all agree it’s an expensive waste of money. 

We’re right. The politicians are wrong. 

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BACK TO SCHOOL

Dear Anderson Valley Unified Community,

I hope the summer finds you well! We are looking forward to welcoming your students back to school for the first day of 2022/23 for a full day on August 15!

The staff has been busy over the break working hard to welcome your students back to a clean and refreshed school environment at all sites.

Major work at the high school includes hallway painting refresh, new gym heaters (no more blankets needed for home games!), and the commencement of the HVAC replacement. More information about the changes in cell phone policy for middle school will be forthcoming.

The elementary site is eager to welcome students back as well! You will LOVE the new library that is in store for your kids!

We are forming the Bond Oversight Committee and are soliciting members. We particularly need members that volunteer for our parent groups. This is a quarterly meeting. If you are interested, please contact me at lsimson@avpanthers.org.

We are working with the financial advisor and expect the first round of bonds to be sold by mid-September! We are on our way.

The State has discontinued our free pooled testing program. This is a shame, but we are committed to providing tools to ensure our students are Covid-free. At home tests will be available free of charge prior to school start and everyone is encouraged to please test at home before returning to school. More info to come.

For our high school students enrolled in the Mendocino College Auto Shop Class THE FIRST DAY IS WEDNESDAY AUGUST 17. Mr. Johnson will be driving the bus over the hill for the students to attend. Attendance is mandatory at all sessions. You will be excused from sporting games/practices if there are any conflicts. The district will pay all text book and transportation costs. WE ARE PROUD OF OUR STUDENTS FOR AVAILING THEMSELVES OF THIS OPPORTUNITY.

Please note the district office has relocated to the high school. Please reach out with any questions!

Take care,

Louise Simson, Superintendent

Anderson Valley Unified School District

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Olie's Lemon Tree

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"LAZARUS" (of Willits) writes:

“Measure B Projects – The Psychiatric Health Facility at Whitmore Lane site is in design with the initial demolition project due to be out to bid in early 2023, with new construction bidding by the end of that year. ”

What’s the hurry Measure B?

Six months or more for the demo bids? Then a year and a half, at least until the bidding process for the PHF gets started? That’s as insane as some of the patients who could occupy the place.

Get off the F**king stick, Measure B. It’s construction work, not spaceship building.

At this pace, inflation and other issues will eventually eliminate any possibility of there ever being a PHF.

But maybe that’s the plan. The government worms will grub around and get it all for themselves while the sick get screwed…again.

Shame on you Measure B.


Mark Scaramella Responds:

Laz is right about the shameful timing of this project. In fact, it could easily take longer as discoveries are made during demolition and the usual onerous requirements are imposed. Cost increases could also delay things. But 1. The PHF, even if it’s built some day, won’t do anything for the people Measure B was sold as helping since the same “severely mentally ill” (i.e., reimbursables) will be housed there as the ones now being shipped elsewhere. That’s good for the few families involved, but not much else. 2. The Measure B committee has no say in this, even if they wanted to. The PHF process has been taken over by Dr. Jenine Miller and her staff (a takeover engineered by former CEO Angelo). With the tacit approval of the Supervisors who accept it all without question or criticism. Recall that the simple Crisis Van staffing was approved and funded by the Measure B committee in 2019, a vote which included a review of status “in six months” which never occurred because, according to their short-lived Project Manager, was not needed because nothing had been done and therefore nothing to review. That simple staffing of three people took three years to ramp up and only then because Sheriff Kendall personally intervened on his own. The Crisis Residential Treatment facility which they said was so important that they needed to overspend to get it built turns out to have “helped” only a few people as selected by the Schraeders. The PHF will be the same if it’s ever built. Measure B has been badly betrayed and nobody in Official Mendocino gives a damn.

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A German Immigrant Family, Little River

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PEOPLE’S THOUGHTS ON WATER/WELL ORDINANCE

by Jim Shields

The past two weeks I’ve written columns about both proposed state legislation and a draft County ordinance dealing with regulating groundwater wells. As I’ve disclosed previously, I serve on the committee that wrote the County well ordinance.

It should be noted that our proposed regulations apply only to those private property owners who either currently sell water to others, or plan to do so.

Here are some of the comments that folks have made about the proposals.

“This is an easier concept where there is a groundwater basin. Much of Mendocino County’s wells are into hard rock, where there is no basin. It appears the intent of state law was to focus on basins, not upland wells getting water from undefined rock fracturing. The county does not seem to know the difference, or care to know.”

— George Hollister, President, Mendocino County Farm Bureau

“Very timely article by Jim Shields. Right now the Board of Supervisors and some other interested parties are working on groundwater protection for Mendocino County. I/we have been pushing this for over a year from our Round Valley County Water District. If we don’t get this passed in our county before the state takes the lead we will be at the mercy of legislators in Sacramento. And we will have to deal with their bureaucracy every time we want to make a local adjustment to our ground water policy. If you don’t think this is important just look at the lawsuit the Coast Keepers Alliance brought against Sonoma County this time last year! It is all about over drafting groundwater in the Russian River area in Sonoma county and the next obvious step is a lawsuit in Mendo county if we don’t get our act together and pass groundwater protection and controls based on science and not sidestep the equal requirements for hydrologic study for all commercial wells preexisting and/or new. If we only require hydrologic study for new wells we will fall victim to what happened in Siskiyou County and lose the same kind of law case they did in 2018 that has set the precedent for the case in Sonoma County. I don’t think that the county isn’t aware that there are many different types of geologic areas and substrata, I think they are trying to figure how to address commercial water pumping and sales. The hydrologic test for any commercial well would be the same no matter where in the county it was located. You (Hollister) are right that the state through SGMA is focused on ground water basins and that is why I am concerned with the trend toward tying groundwater extraction to SGMA through litigation like National Audubon v. Superior Court 1983 and Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board 2018. Both these cases have tied groundwater to surface waters setting new precedent in California water law. What that means is water law is changing in California. The county is starting to work to protect our groundwater, a resource that is as basic as our air to all our lives. No one should be allowed to overdraft our water, whether it is extracted from an aquifer of fractured rock or one of gravel in the valley floor! In either case any commercial water extraction permit in Mendocino county should be required to complete a hydrological study to the standard we set!”

— Robbie Wyre, Covelo

“Jim Shields wrote, ‘The lone dissenting vote, Ted Williams, said he wanted a cost analysis performed, and was skeptical that the cash-strapped county had the money to fund ongoing operation of the ordinance. He cited concerns about hiring a hydrologist and other staff needed to administer and enforce the regulatory framework. He estimated it would cost in excess of $300,000 to fund the ordinance.’ Wasn’t Teddy Bow Tie the front man for County Counsel’s unearned and undeserved raise, quick to champion Angelo’s exorbitant and unnecessary spending habits, the loudest applauder of Angelo’s apparently nonexistent ‘20 million dollar budget surplus’, etc., etc.? And now he balks at a measure that would regulate commercial use of our water supply (primarily by the pot industry) because of its potential cost? Leave it to Jim Shields to expose this petulant charlatan.”

— Stephen Rosenthal

“So the Supervisors form a committee comprised of people with different expertise in water issues telling them to propose rules to prevent abuse and harm to their neighbor’s wells and groundwater in general, and then tell the committee, ‘Thanks but no thanks we can’t do it because we don’t have the money.’? That’s outrageous. So what’s the option? Same old, same old. Leave everything like it is? Global warming caused historic droughts, marijuana growers depleting precious water supplies, and the supervisors response is, Sorry, no money, leave everything like it is. No wonder few people trust the government.”

— Deidre Cowan

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There’s a couple of things that are apparent.

As can be seen by these comments, people are paying pretty close attention to both state and local efforts to get a bit firmer grasp on the mostly unregulated area of groundwater well extraction. Historically and legally, the use of groundwater has been mostly unchecked and left to the discretion of the individual property owner. Due to many of the points raised by the foregoing commentators, long-standing practices respective to groundwater use, are now coming under increasing scrutiny, and rightly so.

Specifically, in regards to the draft ordinance brought forward by the Supervisors’ Ad Hoc Drought Committee that I and others worked on since last fall, I believe the funding will be found to initially implement it, most likely — as pointed by Supe Dan Gjerde — from the existing $100 billion surplus in the state’s budget.

I’ll keep you apprised of developments with this issue.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, observer@pacific.net, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM or http://www.kpfn.org.)

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Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco

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ED NOTES

THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER used to be July and August. Now that they're year-round, government at all levels endlessly discusses half-measures of water conservation, my favorite being the locally heralded 500,000 gallon storage arrangement for the “village” of Mendocino, a place to stop for an ice cream cone on your way to Fort Bragg, still a coherent seaside town with miles of ocean trail, an interesting harbor, reasonably-priced restaurants, and four places to buy the Boonville weekly.

SUPERVISOR Williams and State Senator McGuire exchanged mutual congratulations for arranging that $5 million “Emergency Water Storage Project” that will kick in five years from now. Way to emergency, boys.

A SHERIFF'S PRESS RELEASE described a raid on a Laytonville trailer compound apparently presided over by Brett Richard Tucker, a man “known to law enforcement.” Deputies confiscated 104 tabs of LSD, 30.8 gross field weight of heroin, 7.1 GFW of methamphetamine, 5.9 GFW of psilocybin mushrooms and no less than 20 fentanyl pills Tucker had cannily concealed in a fake Doctor Pepper can. Also discovered were many pounds of marijuana and 21 guns, including several ghost guns and a silencer. Bail was set as $25,000.

$25,000? For various hard drugs and a small arsenal of illegal weapons? Just sayin', but there's something to be said for the IRA's approach to undesirables operating in neighborhoods they controlled: the first visit is a warning; second visit a bullet to one or both kneecaps; third visit immediate family makes funeral arrangements. Low bail, as in this case, is a green light to bad people that they can continue to deal death without serious consequences. And because Mendocino County has more than its share of bad people dealing death potions, death potions are readily available in every community in the county.

RITA LAVENDUSKEY, Fort Bragg, was arrested recently for “secretly recording someone without their consent with intent to arouse.”

UH, “AROUSE”? Boss, we're gonna need some clarification here. From what we can gather, the charge is related to varieties of voyeurism expedited technologically by the ever larger international pervert community — those lonely legions addicted to pornography and its many offshoots. What Rita was up to specifically is not known. 

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Bears Trapped on Jack Peters Creek, Donoho Ranch

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INMATES AT MENDOCINO COUNTY JAIL BUILD A CHICKEN COOP

by Kylie Lawrence

Fourteen chickens now call the Mendocino County Jail home after inmates spent nearly a week building a coop for them last month on the Ukiah property.

Matt DuBoise, founder of North Carolina-based Carolina Coops, donated $7,000 in supplies and his labor, and worked for five days side by side with inmates to build an 8-by-24-foot coop in the prison yard.

Two groups of five inmates, separated by gender, worked with DuBoise as he taught them how to build the coop, including how to level the ground and cut and create the frame. Nearly all of the work was done by the inmates, he said.

Inmate-builders are part of the garden crew, a group who have earned the privilege, through good behavior, to work with a full-time gardener to beautify the grounds, Mendocino County Sheriff Matthew Kendall said.

"I want people to learn what is possible inside these jails, where you have all this land and inmates that barely get outside — why not give them the opportunity to learn to grow?" DuBoise said.

Organized by Santa Rosa-based Unconditional Freedom, a nonprofit providing resources and opportunities to marginalized members of society, the project gives inmates the chance to work with others, learn how to take direction and cultivate a sense of ownership and responsibility, DuBoise said.

It is part of Unconditional Freedom's Turning Prisons into Monasteries program, which aims to restore jails as a place of contribution and growth.

The chicken coop is just a portion of the programs Unconditional Freedom is helping create at the prison. Before the coop-building project, the nonprofit and jail worked together to implement a gardening program and beekeeping project at the prison.

Now they are working on getting inmates certifications in a variety of fields including agriculture, culinary arts and animal husbandry, according to Marissa Ward, Unconditional Freedom's program manager.

Kendall said the coop project is exactly the type of project individuals should be working on in custody, because it provides them with skills to integrate back into the working world, as well as giving them a sense of purpose and hope.

Not only does it provide the inmates a purpose, but it also reduces food costs.

Inmates working in the garden at the prison are growing enough food to cut meal costs by $10,000 annually, Kendall said.

The chicken eggs will be collected daily and used to feed the inmates.

"To come outside and to breathe the fresh air, to see stuff grow, to have the opportunity to do a hen house, to do hands on construction — I never had that in my whole life..." inmate Josh said in a video documenting the construction of the coop posted on Vimeo.

Since the video was posted in June, a handful of jails have reached out to DuBoise to continue the project. He hopes to continue donating and building coops at jails across the country.

(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

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FAKE DR. PEPPER CAN. THEY'LL NEVER LOOK THERE.

On Saturday, July 16, 2022 at about 4:30 PM Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies served a search warrant in the 1000 block of Steele Lane in Laytonville.

At the location Deputies contacted/detained Brett Tucker, 46, of Laytonville and searched numerous trailers he controlled.

Brett Tucker

In the trailers, the Deputies located 104 tabs of LSD, 30.8 gross field weight (GFW) of heroin, 7.1 GFW of methamphetamine, 5.9 GFW of psilocybin mushrooms and no less than 20 fentanyl pills.

The fentanyl pills were hidden inside a fake Dr. Pepper can. Next to the fake Dr. Pepper can was also a digital scale. There were numerous other digital scales and packaging materials located during the search.

In one of the trailers, Deputies located 15 large containers containing marijuana in various stages of processing, with an estimated weight of over 200 pounds. Two other containers had approximately 20 pounds of bud marijuana packaged in 1 pound increments. Deputies further located growing marijuana plants on the property.

Deputies further located 21 firearms hidden behind a false wall in a trailer. The firearms included 2 AR-10 rifles and a Polymer 80 9mm handgun all which did not have serial numbers. These firearms are commonly known as “ghost guns”.

Deputies further located a homemade firearm suppressor (silencer).

There was also a short barrel shotgun and a stolen pistol, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Deputies located numerous ballistic vests, a collapsible baton, metal knuckles, and miscellaneous firearm items.

Items seized during Search Warrant

Brett Tucker was found to be a prohibited person and is not legally allowed to possess firearms, or ammunition.

Brett Tucker was arrested for Possession of firearm by prohibited person, Possession of ammunition by prohibited person, Possession of a silencer, Possession of metal knuckles, Possession of controlled substance for sale, Possession of controlled substance for sale, Unlawful cultivation of marijuana, Unlawful possession of marijuana for sale, and Possession of a billy club, and booked into the Mendocino County Jail to be held in lieu of $25,000 bail.

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PECKHAM'S CRUTCH

On Thursday, July 21, 2022 at about 2:25 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a call about an neighbor dispute occurring in the 76000 block of Lovell Street in Covelo.

The caller advised William Peckham, 37, of Covelo, was yelling at them and had thrown a toy at the person but had since left the location.

William Peckham

It was later learned Peckham had allegedly thrown a cast iron skillet at the caller along with numerous other items, one of which struck the caller. Peckham had also used a metal crutch to break the window out of the caller's residence.

On Thursday, July 21, 2022 at about 4:00 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office received a call from a business in the 76000 block of Highway 162 in Covelo.

The employee advised William Peckham had entered the store and taken items without paying for them. When the manager confronted Peckham, he (Peckham) stated he was going to shoot the employees who were working.

The manager fearing for his safety and the safety of the employees allowed Peckham to leave the business with the items. Peckham returned shortly afterwards, walking into the store and grabbed a soda and again left the business without paying.

Sheriff's Deputies arrived along with Round Valley Tribal Police officers and contacted Peckham who was sitting across the street from the business. Peckham was found to be in possession of the stolen items. Peckham was arrested for robbery.

Deputies went to the 76000 block of Lovell Street and contacted the first caller who reported the neighbor dispute earlier in the day. Deputies collected evidence regarding the vandalism and assault.

Peckham was further arrested for assault with a deadly weapon in connection with that incident.

Peckham was booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $125,000 bail.

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Log Pond, Caspar Mill, 1916

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MR. PECKHAM, AN ON-LINE COMMENT: Could win a prize for “most R.O.s taken out against”. This man is a methed-out psycho bully with a very revealing record, who has been menacing the citizenry of the town for almost a year and is getting worse. Started a fire in the street and tried to attack a firefighter just two days before this happened – and was he hauled in? Nope. Mendo County not even catch-and-release anymore, at least here in Covelo, NorCal’s open-air asylum. Nothing seems to put a stop to him, including videos shown to the cops where he’s pulling guns on people, firing them in the air over their heads. The cops do nothing but talk, until someone is really hurt or killed. Is that what it’s gonna take? Or the town burned down? People here are sick to death of this. And of him. 5150 him, then send him to an institution, jail or madhouse it doesn’t matter. Just please, please get him put away, for everyone’s safety. He’s a mad dog.

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LOGGING SLASH: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

Seventy-five years ago, when bulldozers began to be used to log the redwoods, a common practice began of blading logging slash from a landing as far as a dozer could push, usually that meant into a clump of redwoods. Large piles of cull logs, bark, branches, broken log ends, and dirt were shoved into these logging slash piles, usually being left to rot. The new California Forest Practice Rules of 1975 outlawed this practice. At about the same time as the enactment of the new rules, I was just starting out in forestry, and began to notice that those redwood clumps associated with those large slash piles seemed to be the best growing, and healthiest redwoods in an area. I also learned in a college forest soils class that organic matter, in the form of humus and leaf litter, in a forest increased soil moisture capacity, and was where forest nutrients were mostly found. This introduced me to the “good” of logging slash. Logging slash in the redwoods rots, and becomes forest humus which is a benefit for forest productivity. In my forest, I call these slash piles rot piles. When logging, I place them in association to redwood clumps, and not into them. The bigger these piles are, the better these piles are at doing their job. Redwood roots love them. All kinds of critters love these rot piles as well including arthropods, reptiles, amphibians, mollusks, and mammals.

Of course there are negatives regarding slash piles as well. They burn, as does forest humus, just like all fine fuels in a forest. This is part of the “bad” of logging slash. So there is an on going conflict between those who want to increase forest humus, and those who want to reduce forest fire risk. We even had a President who advocated for “raking the forest”, which is likely a good idea in the defensible space around your home, but no where else in the forest. What I have noticed is after going through a winter, large slash piles retain moisture and can be difficult to burn the following year. These piles will burn, but not as intensely as one might imagine. Another “bad” of logging slash, mostly seen outside of the redwood region of California, is the build up of various wood boring insects that leave slash piles, and attack and kill nearby living trees. In this case, large slash piles can be a big problem.

Most significantly, logging slash piles can be “ugly”, particularly when they are positioned to catch one’s eye. Ugly slash piles conjure up negative connotations, too, simply because they are ugly. “They are a fire hazard”, “They are dangerous”, “They are environmentally damaging”, etc. The current controversy on Jackson Demonstration State Forest is largely based on many people’s negative perceptions of eye catching, ugly slash piles. “Those slash piles need to be removed before the whole forest, and neighboring area is all burned up”.

Logging slash piles, which become rot piles, in the redwoods need to be seen as mostly a benefit, if utilized properly. They are not as much of a fire hazard as we might imagine, either. And they if they are not eye catching , they don’t need to be ugly. Rot piles serve the same purpose in a healthy forest as rotting logs, or “heavy woody debris” does.

There is also a lesson from that long outlawed logging practice of bulldozing logging slash into redwood clumps, sometimes the unintended consequences of uncaring human enterprise are good. And the reverse can be true as well. Caring people who act to eliminate slash, and slash piles in the forest can be eliminating an important part of a healthy forest.

— George Hollister

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John and Fina Nylund, Fort Bragg

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MERCHANT MARINE MEMORIES

by Richey Wasserman

Reading Ralph Bostrom’s interesting letter about sailing with the merchant marine service to Curacao, I was reminded of my own experiences with the Seamen's International Union on board a freighter bound for Saigon in 1968.

We left Richmond running light to Long Beach, where we were loaded with a full cargo of beer and cigarettes. A few days out I found I had the crabs and, without a proper remedy on board used a mixture of DDT, used for pest control on ships at the time, and flour — 1:4.

It worked just fine.

Half way across the Pacific, some of the veteran sailors broke into the hold and stole numerous cases of beer. A huge party ensued until the officer on watch ruined the party when one drunken sailor attacked him with a knife. I guess the officer was pissed he hadn’t been invited.

On arriving at the Bay where the Saigon River runs into the South China Sea, we were required to anchor to wait for a convoy to run up the river 20 miles to Saigon. Four very boring days later we followed a bunch of small warships and freighters up the river as an occasional ping of small arms fire kept us below decks. The jungle on both sides of the river was completely decimated as far as you could see, probably from Agent Orange.

Saigon in those days was quite beautiful, with a very French flavor to the architecture. Numerous canals branched out from the river, and our ship lay alongside for unloading. It took 3-4 days, and in the meantime the crew was allowed to roam the bars, nightclubs, and Opium dens in the “Chinese” sector of the city, which was off limits to the military personnel, and said to be controlled by Viet Cong. Of course, it was the “Chinese” sector where myself and my buddies wanted to hang out. As we passed through “Checkpoint Charlie” we were warned by the Marine on duty that we were on our own and that they could not protect us if we entered. We did so anyway.

Later, while strolling along one of the aforementioned canals, I came across a small double-ended sailboat of about 30 feet, anchored fore and aft in the canal. Sitting on deck was an attractive woman in a bikini, seemingly unaware of the wrestling match taking place on the after deck between a German Shepherd and a small bear. Such were the incongruities of wartime Saigon. 

Many years later I owned an identical boat, a Tahiti Ketch, one of the most traveled sailboats in the world.

The tallest building in Saigon at the time was three stories, with a bar and restaurant on the roof. A popular place for foreigners, one could “watch the war” while having a beer or cocktail, as Vietnam in that sector was completely flat and one could see bomb flashes and aircraft operate many miles away. A sobering sight if ever there was one. I didn’t go back.

Our return was via Okinawa and Yokohama. Passing across the South China Sea took us through one of the largest and most dangerous typhoons on record at that time. We were forced to “turn tail” and run before the storm for a couple of days until able to proceed to Okinawa. It was said that some 300 ships and boats were lost or abandoned as a result of that event.

In Okinawa and Yokohama we loaded huge earth moving equipment tires to be taken back to the U.S. for re-capping. Most were said to come from the war effort in Vietnam, and provided needed ballast for our return trip.

While entering Yokohama shipping traffic was intense, with dozens of large and small vessels all around, making navigation exhausting. As there was no dock space we again had to anchor, and were loaded by small lighters, coming and going day and night. 

Luckily, we managed to find time ashore for a couple of days. A shipmate and I rode by train to Mount Fuji, intending to climb to the top, but ran out of time and had to return to the ship, or be left behind. On reflection, not a bad outcome. In the North Pacific we encountered the after effects of a large storm, creating monstrous seas more than a quarter-mile between sets. Our voyage ended back in Richmond. After we were paid off I hitchhiked to Mill Valley where I began, and then ended my merchant marine service. Suffice to say, strange events are experienced while sailing the seas.

(Richey Wasserman is a Point Arena City Councilman)

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, July 24, 2022

Berry, Cuevas, Fallis, Hoffman

KENNETH BERRY, Cloverdale/Ukiah. Vandalism, domestic battery.

ALEJANDRO CUEVAS-FARIAS, Clearlake/Ukiah. Providing pot to person under 18, conspiracy, resisting.

AMBROSE FALLIS, Ukiah. Attempted assault, disorderly conduct-under influence of drugs.

JAMES HOFFMAN SR., Centerville, Ohio/Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, parole violation.

Hunter, Martin, Simili, Wood

TRAVIS HUNTER, Willits. Resisting.

RICHARD MARTIN-TUSO, Redwood Valley. DUI, misdemeanor hit&run, suspended license.

LILY SIMILI, Fort Bragg. Concealed dirk-dagger, paraphernalia, failure to appear.

KYLEE WOOD, Willits. Paraphernalia, resisting, probation revocation.

* * *

* * *

OSCAR-NOMINATED ACTOR FIRED from Lead Role in Netflix Show for Allegedly Touching Woman’s Leg

by Andrew Anglin 

Women are more powerful than ever before. But they are also for some reason more terrified than ever before of the sexual prowess of octogenarians.

Frank Langella is not a household name, but he’s a well-established actor who has been in major films since the 1970s. He was nominated for best actor at the 2008 Academy Award for playing Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

The Fall of the House of Usher is not a joke, created and directed by Mike Flanagan, who is probably one of Netflix’s biggest earners. “Netflix Earner” is a complicated concept, but Flanagan just pumps out high-quality, highly rated, popular series at a rapid rate, and he seems to be all in on Netflix at this point. His feature length films have been hit or miss, and Doctor Sleep was a serious miss. I don’t think he’s spoken about his contracts, but the Netflix series Midnight Mass was his last project (and one of the best things ever), and now he’s doing this Edgar Allen Poe adaptation series with another series in preproduction.

So, while it’s weird to abuse an actor, it is actually just insane to tell a director who is one of your top earners he has to reshoot an entire series because of a rumor someone got their leg touched.

New York Post:

Frank Langella claims he has been “canceled” after he was fired from the Netflix series The Fall of the House of Usher last month. The actor penned an op-ed for Deadline Thursday (May 5) in response to his dismissal from the show, which let him go after Langella was accused of inappropriate behavior on set.

While working on the horror series, Langella was accused of making a sexual joke and touching his female co-star’s leg, then asking, “Did you like that?,” per TMZ. Sources confirmed to Deadline, which first reported the news of Langella’s firing, that such incidents did occur.

To be clear: that is the entirety of the rumor: joke, leg touch, comment.

In his Deadline essay, Langella slammed the accusations against him as “absurd” and claimed he was fired from The Fall of the House of Usher shortly after TMZ broke the story of his sexual harassment investigation.

“That afternoon, I was fired. I was not given a hearing with Netflix,” he wrote. “My request to meet one-on-one with the actress was denied. The directors and the producer stopped answering my emails and phone calls. Within 30 minutes of my firing, a letter went out to cast and crew and a full press release was sent immediately. My representatives and I were given no opportunity to comment or collaborate on the narrative.”

The actor added, “I cannot speak to the intentions of my accuser or Netflix, but the impact on me has been incalculable. I lost a thrilling part, the chance at future earnings and perhaps face a stretch of unemployment. Netflix terminated me after three months of work with only three weeks left to shoot, and I have as yet to be fully remunerated for my services. Most importantly, my reputation has been tarnished.”

He ended his statement by slamming “cancel culture,” which Langella described as “the antithesis of democracy.” He continued, “It inhibits conversation and debate. It limits our ability to listen, mediate, and exchange opposing views. Most tragically, it annihilates moral judgment.”

Langella closed out the op-ed by writing, “This is not fair. This is not just. This is not American.”

Like everything that is happening, it is insane.

Even if he’d been accused of rape, this should be treated differently and there should be an investigation. Of course, if it was rape, there would be a criminal investigation. Touching someone’s leg and making a joke are not crimes.

If he did exactly what he is accused of, what would that even mean? Aren’t women empowered now? Can’t she just laugh and say, “Sorry gramps, not interested”? What is this power that men have to strike fear into the hearts of women by flirting with them, and how is it possible that women are equal to men if men have this astonishing power over them?

Here’s the thing: women are not getting more powerful, they are just getting more unhinged and aggressive. An adult woman 50 or 500 or 5,000 years ago could respond to an older man “making a pass” at her with a laugh instead of some kind of freakout. It’s certainly not a big deal or something someone should be fired over, and if they’re both single, it’s not even morally wrong. This is just basic human behavior. And it really isn’t even “making a pass,” frankly. Old men – particularly old Italian men – have always flirted with younger girls with no intention to actually have sex with them.

Langella is 84 years old. He’s not trying to have sex with some young skank. If this even happened at all – and I guess it probably did – he’s just an old man having a laugh. You’re going to ruin his life over it? Force the director and the entire crew to reshoot all of the lead actor’s scenes when filming is almost finished?

What’s more: the guy they replaced him with, Bruce Greenwood (who, ironically, is most famous for a role portraying JFK), is not going to be better than Langella, he is going to be worse, and the entire thing is going to be worse due to rushed reshoots.

Edgar Allen Poe deserves better.

* * *

* * *

ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY

“I came home late in the evening and found my sister, who was drinking alcohol & was drunk & her heavily drunk boyfriend who was throwing up in my bathroom,” he wrote. Asking where his kids were, his sister, in her drunken state, did not know. Thankfully, he found them outside digging in the yard, but as for his sister, he decided to kick her and her boyfriend out of the house and fire her on the spot. 

His sister criticized him, saying he was overacting because she had only a little to drink.

His parents got involved too, and said he was overreacting and being inconsiderate and tried to reassure him that nothing wrong happened, but he retorted, saying that wasn’t the point.

This is a subreddit post. Do people have to ask the internet if they were right for firing the sister/babysitter? Are grandparents sane if they think it’s okay for their daughter to drink and babysit their grandchildren? To quote Barry McGuire “And you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction?”

* * *

PAUL PELOSI has been killing it in the stock market in recent years, according to disclosure forms, for reasons that could well go beyond some innate ability to sense swings in the markets. His latest home run: Snapping up between $1 million and $5 million in shares of computer chip darling Nvidia (via exercising call options) on June 17, according to disclosure documents.

His timing, once again, was impeccable: He executed the trades as Congress moves closer to passing tens of billions of dollars in corporate-welfare subsidies for US semiconductor production. That’s good news for Nvidia and shareholders like Paul Pelosi. Since his bet, shares have risen nearly 10%. By my math, he could have pocketed a quick $500,000.

Maybe Paul Pelosi knows a thing or two about stock trading. Or maybe he’s just a savant, like Hillary Clinton, who years ago credited her reading of The Wall Street Journal with being able to make big bucks trading esoteric cattle futures.

One problem with giving Paul Pelosi the benefit of the doubt is that enough of his winners involve companies that appear to have been benefiting from legislation that his wife, as the powerful lefty house speaker, has a hand in.

Ummm…

— Paul Gasparino

* * *

BILL KIMBERLIN: This is George Lucas standing in front of the Main House at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County.

When it was being built during my first year there we asked George what was that building going up across the way, and he said, "That is going to be my office." Then some years later at a small Christmas party just inside the main entrance you see in the photo, George was standing with some employees in the foyer there and said, "There should be a fireplace here on this wall." Mind you this was on the first floor of a three story fully completed building. How would that be possible I thought?

Turns out if you are very determined you can do almost anything. Today it looks beautiful and you would never guess that it wasn't always there. You can find this and more stories in my book.

* * *

MISPLACED BLAME

Editor: 

The July 18 headline in The Press Democrat — “Utter failure by police in Texas” — should have read “Utter failure of Americans to protect our children.” Yes, the police could have done more, but the real cause of these repeated school shootings is easy access to semi-automatic weapons. Republicans plus one Democrat should be ashamed for allowing these guns to be sold in our country. The shooting in Uvalde haunts me, the innocent children cowering in the classroom and their last moments filled with terror. Shame on all of us for not doing better to protect them.

Janet Horrall

Cloverdale

* * *

ROBERT SHOE: 

It's disingenuous to suggest that the Democrats have “failed to fight for” anything because they are not an opposition party (never have been) that serves or fights for the people, rather they're nothing more than a buffer serving up empty promises like “hope and change.” 

REAL change comes from the people en masse out in the streets demanding it, forcing it. Everything we've ever won is a result of popular movements, and never via the ballot box. 

Not only are the Dems completely happy with Joe Manchin, they continue to fund far-right Republican candidates (while simultaneously sabotaging progressive Dem candidates) with their stupid “pied piper” strategy (how'd that work out in 2016?) because it rakes in the contributions. The Dems spend more energy fighting against progressives and the left than they do for anything the majority of Americans care about. Think it through.

* * *

* * *

WE’VE BEEN LIED TO OUR WHOLE LIVES ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS

by Caitlin Johnstone

Stories about protagonists who've been misguided their whole lives about something very important have been emerging in our culture for generations, and they continue to delight audiences in the box office to this day.

The pauper was really a prince. Luke was Darth Vader's son. Keanu Reeves had been living in a computer simulation. Bruce Willis was really a ghost. Jim Carrey's whole world was the set of a TV show, and everyone in his life had been lying to him since his infancy.

This theme repeats so often because it strongly resonates with people. And it strongly resonates with people because it's exactly what is happening.

From our earliest moments we are trained to fit in with a society that was designed from the ground up by the powerful in the service of the powerful. As soon as we are old enough to get curious about the world and how it works our heads are filled with lies about such matters, by our education systems, by the media we consume, by our parents who were indoctrinated in the same way, and by the very culture we find ourselves immersed in from day one.

These stories about a character who's been deceived about life resonate so strongly with us because on some level we all suspect it might be true of our own lives as well. They whisper to something hidden and sacred within us that has always sensed that there's something not quite right with the way we are perceiving things.

We've spent our whole lives marinating in lies which serve the powerful. We're deceived into believing that we live in a democracy whose government acts in accordance with the will of the voting public. We're deceived into believing our political systems are driven by two warring ideological factions whose divisions are naturally occurring phenomena in our society instead of the product of deliberate social engineering. We're deceived into believing our government is basically good, and that it stands in opposition to foreign governments who are pure evil. We're deceived into believing the way things are is the only way they could possibly be.

We're deceived into believing false things about the ways we gather information and form our understanding of the world. We're deceived into believing the news media tell us the truth about what's going on. We're deceived into believing that everything we hear from our side of the political partisan divide is true and trustworthy. We're deceived into believing the partisan filters which have been placed over our perception of national and world events by indoctrination are entirely reliable instruments for interpreting information and drawing conclusions.

We're deceived into believing false things about ourselves. We're deceived into believing that we are successful if we can become dominant capitalists and wealthy ladder climbers, and that we are failures if we don't turn the gears of industry and climb over others to get ahead. We're deceived into believing that we are good if we uphold the made-up, power-serving rules of law, of culture and of religion, and that we are bad if we transgress them. We are deceived into believing that we need to keep accomplishing, achieving and obtaining, that we need to keep earning money and approval, so that we might one day feel adequate at some imaginary point in a future which never arrives.

If we really commit to uprooting the untruth that's been planted in us, we can even discover that we've been deceiving ourselves about the way we experience reality. That the perception of oneself as a finite character who is separate from the world is based on false assumptions about the way experience is happening, unhelpful mental habits born of incorrect premises, and overlooked aspects of our own consciousness. That we've been making ourselves miserable with false beliefs about who and what we are.

This civilization is the set of the Truman Show, and we are all Truman.

But because we are all Truman, we can only walk off the set if we walk off together. There is no option to leave as an individual, because even if you know it's all lies, you're still stuck in a world full of humans whose behavior is driven by lies.

Awakening to reality as an individual can for this reason sometimes be more uncomfortable than remaining asleep in the dream, because you're like Truman after he realizes it's all a sham, but before he escapes. At times you're just stuck there, freaking out at the actor who's playing your mother while she tries in vain to cut to a commercial break. It can be distressing for you, and it can be distressing for the people around you who aren't yet on the same page.

The only way we're getting off the set of the Truman Show is if we can all succeed in waking each other up from the lies which built it. Until then we'll be stuck in a world of poverty, war, exploitation, degradation, ecocide, and suffering. It's not until enough of us have unplugged our minds from the matrix of lies that we'll be able to use our strength of numbers to force real change.

Only then will we be able to escape.

Only then will we be able to walk off the set.

Only then will we be able to turn to the audience and say, "In case I don't see ya: good afternoon, good evening, and good night!"

And then turn around, and walk out the door, and begin our adventure into reality.

(caitlinjohnstone.com)

* * *

* * *

JEFF BLANKFORT: Another experience in Amman in 1970 is worth retelling and may help to explain my feelings about Israel and Israelis. I was invited to stay overnight at Schneller Camp, which housed refugees from 1967, by a young guard at the PLO HQ who shared a small metal hut there with a few other young refugees. There was no room for furniture, just for the stack of their thin mattresses which they stretched out on the floor at night before going to sleep.

Before turning in, they would get into pajamas and have a smoke, squatting outside in the night. When my host took off his shirt to put on his pajama top I noticed that his upper body, back and chest, was covered with small scars. When I asked what they were he explained that when he was 17, the Israelis had arrested him, and believing that he was fedayeen, a resistance, fighter, they wanted him to inform on his comrades.

Since he was not fedayeen, he had nothing to tell them which they finally came to believe, but not before they had repeatedly pressed burning cigarettes against his chest and back and broken both of his arms by pressing them backwards at his elbows. He then became a fedayeen.

That was 44 years ago, but I knew then that there was little difference between Nazi Germany and Zionist Israel, a feeling that would only be re-enforced by later experiences in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza.

There is, however, one significant difference. There was a civilized Germany both before and after WW2. Naziism was an aberration. Israel and Zionism are inseparable. There can be no Israel without Zionism, thus, to be an anti-Zionist, one MUST be anti-Israel. That's a point that needs to made over and over.

* * *

“DIMINISHED SPACE with increase of occupants! Incontinent spawning of more and more bellies to feed with continually less, shrinkage of rivers and seas, polluted, sea ferns, amoebic life dying, the huge submarine disaster of oxygen-maker the plankton perishing in fouled oceans. And hands of infants suckling will turn to claws at the dry breasts of their mothers, no cross on the door to spare death by famine. And still the great churches called faiths approve no limit of increase, twist the cross to a cabalistic emblem like the swastika, east, west, in all lands. Nothing is sanctioned but the sanctity of the mercifully unborn to enter the world of reason where to live is to clutch and claw for a while and to die with hands empty as hearts. Oh, withering world, I cannot push thee far enough away from me!” 

— Tennessee Williams, 1975 

* * *

* * *

BERNIE SANDERS on the Biden administration’s CHIPS bill to give billions to the computer industry:

There is no debate that the microchip and semiconductor shortage is a dire threat to our nation. It is costing American workers good paying jobs and raising prices for families. It is making it harder for businesses to manufacture cars, cellphones and life-saving medical equipment. It is also putting our national security at risk.

The microchip industry helped cause this crisis by, over the last 20 years, shutting down 780 plants here and eliminating 150,000 good-paying jobs. 

The question before us now is whether these extremely profitable companies will work with the U.S. government on a solution to rebuild the U.S. microchip industry which is fair to the taxpayers of this country, or whether they will continue to demand a $53 billion bribe to stay here. That is the main issue involved in the debate over the Chip legislation which may be on the floor of the Senate as early as next week.

What I cannot understand is why so many in Congress are so eager to pay this bribe. When the government adopts an industrial policy that socializes all the risk and privatizes all the profits, that is crony capitalism. The five biggest semi-conductor companies that will likely receive the lion’s share of this taxpayer handout, Intel, Texas Instruments, Micron Technology, Global Foundries and Samsung, made $70 billion in profits last year. Does it sound like these companies really need corporate welfare?

I’m opposed to this legislation in any form until these conditions are met: companies must agree to issue warrants or equity stakes to the federal government; they must commit to not buying back their own stock, outsourcing American jobs overseas or repealing existing collective bargaining agreements; and they must remain neutral in any union organizing efforts. The demands I’m making are not radical. They are the same conditions that were included in the CARES Act, which passed the Senate 96-0.

Let us rebuild the U.S. microchip industry, but let’s do it in a way that benefits all of our society, not just a handful of wealthy, profitable and powerful corporations.

* * *

Mark Scaramella comments: Not that long ago, Defense Department officials would have taken an entirely different approach to building capacity for national security and strategic capacity than issuing empty conditions on these huge giveways. They would have bought an abandoned factory suitable for chip production and leased it to a chip manufacturing company in exchange for discounts on chips later sold to the Federal Government. Bernie is right to oppose the giveway, but if he was serious he would propose a version of this, a standard practice during WWII.

* * *

Children of a farmer who works submarginal farmland. Pennington County, South Dakota, May 1936.

* * *

UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 24TH JULY

The Kremlin’s top diplomat on Sunday sought to blame global food shortages and an escalating hunger crisis on the United States and its European allies, looking to deflect responsibility for the consequences of the Russian-launched war in Ukraine and trying to rally support for Moscow during a tour across Africa.

In Egypt, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Western sanctions on Russia have upended international food markets, and he cast Russia as an ally of the continent. Yet anger has mounted over Moscow’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, which has prevented millions of tons of grain from being exported. Even after a breakthrough grain deal was signed, Russia struck a key Ukrainian port city, raising questions about its commitment to the agreement.

Here’s the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war.

Russian officials claimed responsibility for Saturday’s missile attack on the port city of Odessa less than 24 hours after signing a key deal to release Ukrainian grain. Russia said only military targets were hit in Odessa, including a Ukrainian warship.

Despite the attack, Ukraine plans to push ahead with its preparations to resume grain exports, officials said. The missile strikes did not damage grain silos at the port, according to a military assessment, and staffers continued to lay the technical groundwork for the shipments. “We will not back down from our goal of unlocking sea ports,” Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, said in a statement.

The Russian strike on Odessa shows that resuming grain exports via the Black Sea will not be easy, an economic adviser to Ukraine’s president said Sunday. Oleh Ustenko, who estimated that 60 million tons of grain could be transported within eight to nine months if ports were immediately unblocked, said “yesterday’s strike shows that it definitely won’t work that way,” according to Reuters.

Two Americans were killed in Donbas, a State Department spokesperson told The Washington Post, without providing details. A Ukrainian commander, Ruslan Miroshnichenko, on Sunday identified the men as Luke Lucyszyn and Bryan Young and said they were killed alongside Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois of Canada and Edvard Selander Patrignani of Sweden near the town of Siversk in the Donetsk region on July 18.

Human Rights Watch found that Russian forces have tortured, unlawfully detained and forcibly disappeared civilians in the occupied areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. In a report published Friday, the organization documented instances of torture — including beatings and electroshocks — as well as arbitrary detention and unlawful confinement of civilians. Russian forces have turned the country’s south into an “abyss of fear and wild lawlessness,” said Yulia Gorbunova, senior Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch.

(WashPo)

* * *

* * *

MANCHIN VS. THE PLANET

Editor: 

Joe Manchin’s behavior is the last straw after the Supreme Court also decided that the U.S. government can’t act on climate change. The U.S. isn’t going to be a world leader in staving off the end of the human race. For those who aren’t paying attention, Antarctica and Greenland are melting, which will lead to the flooding of coastal cities. California has fires. The East Coast has hurricanes, and excessive heat is everywhere.

It’s sad because I’m retired, and my life is glorious. A happy marriage, good food, great weather, interesting things to do with my time. Sadly, my kids will never enjoy retirement if they wait until they’re 65. For that reason, I have encouraged them to max out their 401(k) plans and personal investments so they can afford to retire at 50. If they can’t swing it by 50, I’ll chip in to make it happen. There is no reason for me to die with money left over.

Enjoy life while you still can. As I like to tell the kids, if you ever want to see Venice, Italy, then you need to do it before it’s permanently underwater.

We humans will have caused our own extinction.

Hans Beerbaum

Santa Rosa

* * *

* * *

THE MEMOIRISTS’ REUNION

by William Grimes

I hurried through the busy airport terminal, the travelers Hall of Oral Gratification, past moving pictures of blurry bars harboring max-sized TV monitors, brand name chain restaurants, candy and book stores. The mechanized whirl of scores of spinning reels in countless slots served as a reminder I was in McCarran International Airport. 

I was in a hurry. I did not want to keep him waiting and the plane had arrived twenty minutes late.

My best friend during our four years together in high school, Marty Place, was meeting me outside the terminal. It had been fifty years since I had seen him. Five decades without a phone call until last week when I tracked him down, or he was tracked down for me by the head of IT at our old school. 

Outside the terminal there was a large man standing beside an old, boat-size Cadillac, probably late sixties, maybe eight miles a gallon. I didn’t recognize him and wouldn’t have unless I heard the call. “Grimes, Bill. Hey, over here.” I immediately recognized his pitched voice, affixed with a hint of femininity and an indestructible Appalachian twang. 

There was no hug at car side. No from-the-heart emotional exchanges. Instead we both looked at each other with curiosity, like two bears long separated by an unlucky turn of nature. Our hands unconsciously connected with each other and did the shake. No thinking is needed for this universal custom. 

“Wonderful to see you, Marty.” 

“Damn, it’s been a long time, Bill.” 

And “Where did the years go?” 

Inside the car, “How was your flight?” 

“Great except a little late, nothing new there.” Small talk is like the first five minutes of pre-game drills. Warmup is needed for any consequential human activity.

This meeting was consequential because I wasn’t the same guy I was back in the Linsly field house and I assumed he wasn’t either.

“How do you like living here ?” (me to him)

“It pays the bills.” That left a lot to learn but I knew we’d get there. The game had not started.

“You live in New York, you said? That must be nice.” 

“It has its advantages.”

I appreciated he didn’t say I looked great, a harmless but obvious lie people employ when seeing someone they hadn’t seen for a long time. This was really a long time. I would never had recognized him and I assume wouldn’t me. 

I felt it had been too long to open up and express my feelings because I didn’t know what my feelings about him really were. We were close as brothers for four years but fifty had now passed. What feelings other than a kettle of nostalgic memories could one have for another in such circumstances? There were feelings in that kettle but we needed time to tenderize them. 

On my phone call he initially seemed confused – which I would have been had his call came to me – and less than enthusiastic about my suggestion we meet. I didn’t oversell it and now here we were standing together curbside in Los Vegas. In school he had been generally diffident and apathetic, a shy boy, a reflection perhaps of his growing up in a fatherless home with a mother out looking for love, and a beautiful older sister known, among our teen peers, as “the town pump.” I wondered, of course, whether his persona had changed. 

As spacious and wide as the interior of this four-wheel behemoth, Marty took up two-thirds of the front seat capacity. He must have weighed three hundred pounds. Teammates in basketball—the real driver of our intimate friendship along with loneliness and social ineptitude—we were then of similar size, an inch and ten pounds or so differential, a fact I confirmed the other day by digging out the high school yearbook and examining the grainy black and white photo of us, co-captains in our old fashion firm-fitting basketball shorts.

I had the advantage of examining his corpulent face now that he was behind the wheel. He still possessed many physical characteristics of his youth. His gray eyes had acquired a sunless hue, dimmed perhaps by life’s vicissitudes. His flaxen hair was thinner and graying around the temples. There was not a wrinkle on his face. But with all that weight, his girth rivaling that of a summa wrestler, I was surprised that his basketball-sized face was free of wrinkles. Was the legend legitimate that obese people were spared the vanity despondency of etched facial creases?

I wondered whether he was shocked by my appearance. I had shrunk an inch or so though maintaining near school playing weight and had acquired ineradicably deep forehead fissures. My head, haplessly exposed now with only a few remaining strands of hair was a discernible difference from those days where it was chestnut full and I wore it only a half inch below what Linsly mandated was West Point standard. 

In my physical examination of Marty, who was unable at this moment to do the same, he had another advantage. Unlike me he had the benefit of being eyeglasses free. Time eventually ravages everyone; no one gets home free so maybe it was a wash, or a jump ball as we would have called it years ago. Two guys creeping up on decade seven, still around and kicking. No matter how you look at it.

As we pulled out of the airport Marty looked over at me and said, “You know, Bill, I thought I would never see you again. Not in this life anyway.” 

I refrained from making a smart-ass reply, like in what life then. There was a momentary silence as we broke free from vehicular congestion. Wisps of bleached steam coiled skyward from the six lane highway ahead like contrails defying gravity.

Marty didn’t say where we were going and I was content not to ask.

 * * *

The Cadillac forged along Route 93 laying waste to the veil of the sizzling steam. On both sides of this relentless ribbon of cement were the manifestations of Man’s winning battle, here in the desert, over Nature: shopping centers with hazily visible signs branding fast food quickies. Retail chain restaurants, chain auto shops, chain pharmacies, chain pet stores. Chain America, the manifestation of scale economics. These adjacent to unfathomable housing developments each with exactly the same one-story, red tile roof, one car garage houses built a blink ago on quarter acre lots, reflecting a city population growth unmatched in the nation. In the distance loomed a mountain range translucently shrouded by the heat.

“Any family, Marty?”

“None. Married three times, no children, alone now. I’ll tell you about that when we get settled. I bet you’d like a drink.”

I remembered a long ago, a late summer evening, the temperature nearing ninety and the humidity, intensified by rainless days and evaporation from the slow-flowing waters of the nearby Ohio River, felt record-high. 

After a couple of hours of shooting hoops under the lights at the nearby playground we walked the two blocks to Wakim’s Pool Room, bought a six pack of beer and walked it up the three floors to Marty’s apartment, a fortuitous location convenience we utilized more than once. No one was home and we decided to sleep on the building’s roof. 

It was twilight, that magic spell between daylight and darkness. There was a hazy glimmer from the remnants of the sun which now had fallen beneath the hovering hill line. I can recall the rank smell of the tar roof and, in some few sections, the squishy feel of its sun-beaten softening substance. We found a firmer spot.

We brought sheets and pillows, made seats, and began drinking Fort Pitt beer from Pittsburgh. I can see the railroad tracks below, the fireflies beginning to light up the vacant patch of undergrowth on the other side of the rails, and the hovering hills, gunmetal tinted, a football field away. 

We knew it was nearly time for the train to pass below. Trains were a part of life in Wheeling then. They were different from cars. They were big and mighty. One train moved many people and raw material and finished products to destinations we could only imagine. Sometimes the engineer at the helm, if he saw us kids, would blow us an extra toot.

We waited with only our beer and anticipation for the distant sound of the freight train rumble. It would be filled with bituminous coal heading to the big cities of the north and east that passed through our town daily. Every time I heard that song “The Train Called the City of New Orleans” I would think of that train passing beneath Marty’s apartment, its headlights’ glare preceding it from around the bend, the rattle of steel on steel and the whistle toots as it disappeared into the night.

* * *

“Sure would, Marty. Sounds good. I am happy we’ve re-connected. It seems like yesterday.”

I paused to let that settle in, that thought. It didn’t seem like yesterday though. It seemed like something I’d never experienced, a time out of mind, a dream before dreams.

“Almost,” he said with that little laugh I now remembered. Seldom did words of explanations follow his exclamations. We were both word-constrained then. And didn’t know it. 

“What do you do in New York, Bill? I mean job-wise and that.”

I told him I was a media executive, not a big deal. My sense was Marty had not enjoyed the material benefits of life I had and I wanted to conceal my six figure income. He nodded unknowingly and that was fine with me. I wanted to hear his story.

“I spent thirty-four years in the Navy and thirty afterwards hauling US Mail. I was a postman, door to door delivering mail, across the river from DC. I liked the job until I found something more exciting, the thing – well, along with my wife leaving me – that brought me here to Vegas.” He paused as if to think how to describe the thing and the wife leaving part.

Instead he said, “I have in mind, not far from here, good drinks and something to eat if you’d like. We can talk about the serious stuff then. A lot to catch up on, Bill.” 

He paused and I was ready to echo that sentiment when he said, “I remember they called you Bomber in eighth grade becasue you’d shoot those long two-hand set shots, long then was from the foul line and you’d hit them until someone guarded you.” 

He laughed and so did I, not having thought of those Woodsdale School days in a long time.

The emerging sound of a passing ambulance interrupted our mirth, its screaming siren and blinking lights took their time dissolving into space.

I remembered he had never seen his father who left home a month or two before he was born. Marty talked about that with me more than once during the days when neither of us had another friend. “Bill and Marty, team twins,” the guys would say when we appeared together at school or in the gym.

A long moment of silence followed. It produced in my mind the memory of a comment our English teacher at Linsly, Captain Gordon Crawford, once made when discussing Kerouac’s “On The Road.” He said friends, referring to the two protagonists in the novel, could be together alone for hours without ever having to speak to each other. True friends, he said, could do that because they know each other’s moods and feelings without always having the need for words. Was it possible two men who had not seen each other in fifty years could rekindle that kind of friendship? For a day plus I planned to be here? I didn’t know whether I wanted the answers to those questions.

My hope was this reunion would prompt other recollections of our youth and insight into why our relationship failed to survive when I went off to college and he to the Navy. Even more ambitious, maybe it might shed light upon who I was and had become. This is what I thought as I prepared to come here to see Marty Place in 2009, nearly a half century since we dressed daily in military uniforms and played in basketball uniforms together for three seasons.

“Marty, I remember your mother who I assumed at our hearty age now has passed away. But how about your sister?” I recalled seeing Bonnie, who was about three years older than I, only once. It was at his apartment above the pool room. I knocked on the door and she opened it. The sight of her stole my breath. Teased blonde hair, tight short shorts jeans, sleeveless blouse, hands on hips, and perfectly shaped legs. She looked me over and said, “Who are you?” A real life Tuesday Weld. 

And that’s when I heard the ring tone. He pulled from his pants pocket the cell phone. “MT here.” Pause. “That one let me see. VT minus 6. Over under 51.”

Pause. “OK, a dime on VT.” 

He made an apologetic face and gave a slight shrug of his shoulders signaling sorry but this was important. 

Another pause. “They’re plus five, away at the U.” Pause. “I can’t do a buck, Joe. You’re in five now. A quarter max.” 

He pulled phone from his face, pointing it to the glove compartment and mimed, “Open, please.” The only items there were a 5x7 notepad and a pencil.

“Hold on a moment, Joe. I’m behind the wheel and need to jot this down.” He placed the phone in his lap and made the notations in a couple of seconds while keeping one hand more or less on the steering wheel.

“Joe, that’s a dime straight on VA Tech minus 6 and a quarter on FSU with five. Right?” Pause. “One more thing. Assuming you come out a winner on both I keep half or one-seventy five. Your credit’s stretched, buddy.”

I got it. Marty was now a bookie, a professional gambler.

Phone back in pocket he looked at me and said, “It’s what I do. Got into this business back in Maryland where I had a partner. One day he said ‘One of us has to be in Los Vegas. We’re too far removed from the action to survive. You’re on the loose. You go.’ He was right about both things. Our business was losing customers – we had maybe twenty or so regulars, all in the DC area. And I was on the loose. My marriage of fifteen years was over. I got the goodbye look on a card with a picture of Santa Claus she left on our artificial Christmas tree. Hung it there, like an ornament. Never seen her since.”

All this he offered with a twinkle in his eyes and that twinkle triggered another memory. He had been short of words at times but never short of opinion and feelings. His facial expressions – the sparkle or the colorless of his eyes, the shape of his mouth and the inclination of his head would be the bearer of his feelings: agreement or not, happy or not. I had read the twinkle in the eye can be a sign of intelligence or self-amusement. Maybe.

* * *

I followed Marty through the glass doors into a windowless room, the size of three basketball courts. The illumination was rainy afternoon grey, the air conditioning was working overtime. There were maybe fifty tables, half of which were occupied by men in forgetful attire speaking in low tones. A dozen waitresses of varying age and size in snappy black jackets bearing in embroider gold the establishment’s name, “Babylon Heaven Suites,” ambled by us wearing the look of indifference. The clock-less room told me it was early afternoon, not hurry-up time yet in Vegas.

Marty seemed to know the table he wanted, one set for two, along the wall opposite the bar. He motioned me to take the chair with a view of the room as I was wondering how the chair would accommodate his body I looked away as he squirmed in. Seated, my eyes acclimated to the dim of the room, I took in with astonishment the magnitude of the bar capable of seating fifty or more patrons and its fifteen or so TV monitors positioned perfectly above the cushioned stools. There were a couple of dozen customers – all men – doing in approximate unison what looked like neck pushups, their heads one moment angled upwards at the blinking screens and in the next, chin to chest, focusing upon their notebooks on the counter, writing in earnest. 

As Marty was waving for a waitress I gazed at the screens which were displaying a host of action: uniformed men playing games, graffiti adorned cars in continual circle, husky horses in full stride, and sprinting Greyhounds chasing fake rabbits. All this on-screen sight and motion: twenty-first century television abundance in silent movie mode, with nary a sound to be heard.

“You know Vegas, Bill?” He asked as we settled in, the usual exercise of coaxing the chair to a position most comfortable, crossing legs.

“Not really. I’ve been here a few times for industry conventions but never had the gambling…habit.” I was about to say vice but caught myself, adding quickly with a smile, “I didn’t mind looking at the hookers though.” I said this to loosen the mood. Neither of us had been popular with girls, maybe we talked about them but attending an all-boys military school, spending so much time playing basketball year around and not having access to an automobile made any meaningful contact with them near impossible.

He nodded. “You won’t find any hookers in this lounge. This is a Sports Book. Pretty serious stuff. Everyone you see here, except for the waitresses, are professional gamblers and bookies. At Sports Books we get the betting odds the moment there is any wagering changes in all the pro and major college football and basketball games and just about every other sporting event. Here you can even bet on the total number of points scored by both teams. There are about twenty of these places here in town and this is my favorite because I’m a little guy. Taking twenty grand a week is about my average. Small fry. And I’m usually here in my office, never have a drink while working. But today, well today is something special.” He looked around the spacious room with a slight smile that indicated satisfied familiarity or maybe the comforting feeling of professional affiliation.

A waitress, showing some pep, arrived at out table. “Marty, you’re early today. Good to see you and your friend,” her smile now falling on me.

“Yes, Susie, and this is my high school pal, Bill. He lives in New York and we’re having our reunion. First time we’ve seen each other in half a century.”

“Fifty years? Wow. I’d drink to that,” said our Susie. “Welcome. Drinks? A lunch menu?”

“I’m not working today.’ Marty brought out the cell phone and turned it off. “So I’d like a glass of Old Crow and a small pot of coffee. Bill?”

Not a bad idea. A little alcoholic beverage to loosen the mind, unlock some memories. 

“A Bloody Mary for me, Susie. Double the vodka, please.” That would loosen the tongue a bit.

She wiggled away. Some life in her step now. Special reunions could take time and mucho drinks. Susie was thinking big tip day. 

“Bill, I’ve thought of you often but after I got out of the Navy someone back home told me you were in New York and I called information and tried to get your name or phone number but I couldn’t find you.”

I was moved by that. “Marty, I have thought about you too over the years but I plead guilty not to make more an effort to find you. Sorry about that. I got wrapped up in New York, business, a lot of ways to lose myself and I really didn’t have any desire to go back to Wheeling. No one lives there anymore but I did somehow hear you were in the Navy. Maybe you told me before I went off to college, that summer of 1959. I don’t recall. Do you?”

I was hoping he would say no. I didn’t want to be the one who did not remember the last time we saw each other, the goodbye if we had one and we must have had one. 

He leaned across the table with that mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “I can’t remember that either but not everyone’s gone. Guys who had old men who left them a business stayed around. I know that because I went back to my mother’s funeral in 1975, I think the year was. Tony Fig was still there running the family restaurant. And Trenton too.” He sent me a collaborative smile. “Trenton’s fucked up his old man’s business. No surprise there, huh?”

I nodded. Trenton was a strange one, a teammate who we thought was queer or a bi-sexual.

“Well, Marty, I didn’t go back for twenty some years and then only once until two weeks ago which is how I found out you were here.” I added a bit defensively. “I went with our school’s headmaster to Figaretti’s for dinner but Tony wasn’t there. Bob Trenton, I didn’t think to ask. You have any desire to see the school, the town, anyone there again?”

“Nope and never going back. My memories with the exception of the times you and I shared are all negative. You remember I never knew my father. Mom worked her fingers to the bone and died of lung cancer. She never got a husband she spent so much time looking for and Bonnie left home after high school and met some guy from Australia who was studying at Carnegie Mellon to be a doctor. She married him and they moved to Sydney. She and I were never that close, you may remember, and I never saw her again.”

Susie skated up with our drinks. We did a solemn “Cheers” and clicked glasses

“I assume you know Linsly’s no longer a military and all-male school. The Viet War soured a lot of people on the military and enrollment was shrinking. Anyway let me tell how I found you.” The Bloody tasted good and the alcohol made itself known in the first gulp. Marty made a bourbon coffee cocktail and took a careful sip, nodding me to continue. 

“I went back two weeks ago because I was going to my college reunion down in Buckhannon and decided to stop In Wheeling, take a look at Linsly. The school had a small IT office in a new building, actually an old house near the campus that someone donated to the school, not far from the field house where we played. There was a volunteer there, an alumnus about five years ahead of us. Named Ron Miller, played quarterback. Ring a bell?” Marty’s huge head swayed left to right.

“So I introduced myself and we began a chat. He mentioned he had digitized files on all grads going back to 1940. I asked him if there was any information on Martin Timlin class of 1959. He typed on the computer and after a few seconds said, ‘No known whereabouts.’ 

“I told him we were teammates and best pals in school and had gone different ways and now I wanted to try to find you again. Told him I had done a White Pages online search and found nothing.” My sense, by those not twinkling eyes of Marty, that this national people search was news to him. 

“Ron said, focusing on the screen, ‘Did you search by William Martin Place? That’s his full name according to our records.’”

“No. I didn’t know your first name was William. Never knew heard you called that. So Ron searched the online White Pages and in a minute maybe he looked up with the satisfied grin like that you must have had when you sank the winning basket against Central, the only game I remember much about.” Ron announced, William Martin Place, 6210 Sage Brush Road, Las Vegas and a phone number. I was so excited I used his phone and called you right there, that moment. But no answer and no message recorder When I got home I decided to give it another try and bingo there you were.”

Marty was smiling now. “Ah, that’s the Bill Grimes perseverance I remember. Never quitting even when we were getting blown out and you were missing those impossible jumpers.” He laughed his first natural laugh, again from the heart. I joined in. It was beginning to feel good.

“Thanks, Marty. That’s a really nice memory.” 

He lifted the glass of Old Crow and downed whatever ever was left.

“Ron wasn’t finished, Marty. He got up and walked over to a metal cabinet and rummaged through a number of manila file folders. He returned with this.” I reached into my blazer pocket and produced a piece of folded paper. I handed it to Marty. 

 “Take a look and tell me this doesn’t bring back a memory or two.”

What I gave him was a photocopy of his “Scholarship Application and Contract” form filled out and signed by his mother, Mrs. Ann Place, dated July 21,1955. Listed were his phone number, Woodsdale 2623, his elementary school, its principal’s name and Marty’s height (5’9”), weight (135.) I watched as he absorbed this, bringing back misty memories or so it looked, as those eyes seemed a bit moist. 

“Marty, read the fine print at the bottom of the page.” 

“Yea, OK.” He read aloud. “As a precaution against the admission of undesirable boys, it is distinctly understood that the parent or guardian in this application certifies that his son or ward is amenable to discipline and free of vicious or immoral habits.” It went on another qualifying sentence or two but Marty looked up at me and said, “Oh, damn. I never saw this. How fucking crazy. ‘Vicious or immoral habits.’ We didn’t know shit. Imagine getting someone to sign statement like this today. The politically correct police would have them jailed, executed.”

We looked at each other, maybe for the first real time now, maybe like we were young again. Something real shared. Marty signaled the lingering Susie, a two-finger salute.

“Five nine and one thirty five but our senior year I was six even and one seventy.” 

He showed a look of pensiveness and said, “I bet you wondered how I gained all this weight.”

I held eye contact and shrugged my shoulders.

He laughed and said, “I have an idea but it needs some context.” 

We talked for two hours about our days at Linsly, playground hoop stars, our coach and teammates and a few opposing players. He remembered a winning basket I made in a key game – one I had forgotten. I remembered our working in the school kitchen at lunchtime washing and drying the tin plates and trays with Mrs. Goldie Becker, the cook and our boss, exhorting us to work faster. 

Marty told me of our first day of school, how he came to my grandmother’s apartment and I helped him tie his necktie. 

“It was the first time I ever wore a tie and to think every school day of those four years the same black tie and our uniforms. I never got used to wearing that uniform. My mother was so proud I had been accepted at Linsly I could never have quit. 

And didn’t want to after finding you. I knew we’d win games but who could have guessed how close we would become ” He seemed to reflect upon this revelation, eyes distant, untold memories only hinted.

“Any food, Bill?” I shook my head. 

He focused in again. “Remember the time you were going to run away? You told me your plan, a big secret. I forget what happened but I know you didn’t run away.”

Another memory lost in my pursuit of a new life. “Not a clue of that one but I was always a chicken and I wouldn’t have gotten a mile out of town before turning back.”

I was feeling the vodka now. Words came easily. 

“Marty, remember the carnival that came to town every summer?” He nodded. “It had the dwarf and lady with the cobra around her neck. And the time those two hot chicks in the short shorts, Donna something and Patti Smith, I think, were slinking around the grounds and they bought tickets to the Ferris wheel. Remember that?” 

“Damn straight I do. We got in the seat behind them and when the wheel went down we had a clear view inside their blouses. They wore bras, damnit. Real cock teasers the two of them.”

“Yep, you got that story right. We were lookers. Sure weren’t daters.”

Susie appeared with a third round of drinks. Marty winked at her and said to either or both of us, “One more for the road.” 

“Yea, the road. Remember the Talking Heads, The Road to Nowhere?”

“Yea, bill, we were on that road. No idea where it would led. Still don’t.” he laughed heartily.

“So, Marty, you mentioned you were married more than once. Tell me. What happened?”

He sighed deeply; his weight I feared would bring down the chair any minute. 

“Not my forte, marriage. Anyway I came out here to do the business. No woman and I got really lonely. I was about fifty and didn’t want to live the rest of my life alone. Met a few women but nothing seemed to work. There was a guy, a Russian guy, who lived in the same apartment building as me. Still does. He was a slick operator, said he was KGB. Told me a story of meeting Oswald in Moscow. Anyway, one day I was spilling the beans about my inability to find a woman and he suggested I go to Minsk in Russia where young women who are interested in finding a foreign husband so they can get out of there. It’s all legal as long as the male visitor pays the Soviet government a couple thousand US dollars. The parents get half the money – a small fortune there.” 

He paused to take a long sip. The coffee no longer accompanied his bourbon.

“So I got the application and approval and flew to this city Minsk. The program went like this. We – and there were a few other Americans and a couple of German men – checked into this hotel and the next evening we all dressed in suits and met in the ball room. We each had a sponsor, someone who sat with us at the dinner table and who spoke both Russian and English. There would be at each table the two of us and four women, all between eighteen and maybe twenty-two. We would talk about whatever. I can’t remember. There was a band and after dinner each of us visiting guys would dance with each Russian girl. I should say each girl had been schooled a bit in English, enough so there would be some communication when dancing with them, like ‘How are you?’ And they’d say ‘I a good girl, hard worker, like sex very much.’ Something like that. Pretty wild, huh? This went on for three straight nights and then we were given our choice of what girl we wanted to marry.”

“Jesus, Marty, I never heard anything like it. And then what?”

“Well, I picked one. A real beauty, great legs, soft skin, a large mouth that I knew I would be in for some dental bills to fix her teeth but so what, I said to myself. I lived a frugal life, had a nice pension, saved every cent and never gambled, despite that being my livelihood.”

Susie, the server, was back at our table. What every happened to the usage of the word waitress or waiter? Why this server business? That’s a computer word now. Political correctness, I thought.

We both said thanks but no thanks and Marty continued. “The marriage was arranged the next day. Papers to sign, certificates, all the legal stuff to commit me and to get her American visa. Two months later she was here, in Vegas. The airfare, of course, I had to pay. I had a nice small apartment with a queen-sized bed and we fit so cozy in it, together like two straws in a Coke. Remember that old DooWop song, Bill. We once knew most to the word. You knew them all. Ha, ha.”

I nodded, never having even thought those lyrics in fifty some years. Funny how lyrics of old songs hang around in your mind.

“Well, I’d never been happier, unbelievable sex and she cooked, and did the dishes. She seemed ecstatic, loved the supermarkets, the clothing stores and was fascinated with the casinos. I’d let her play a little Black Jack and her eyes would light up like those lights in a pinball machine we used to play at McCready’s near Edgington Lane court, the one with a overhead street light. Remember, Bill, how we’d save up a buck of nickels and play the machines at McCready’s?”

“You’re on a real nostalgic run, Marty, digging up old memories, blasts from the past.”

He smiled.We were both enjoying our reunion. Better than I had expected.

Marty needed to finish the story and I was all ears.

“She was loving, compliant, and during our first few months here in Vegas, all was bliss, heaven. The dentist who fixed her teeth said she looked just like Ava Gardner in the movies. Meanwhile she was improving her English and I helped get her a waitress job at one of the casinos. Six months later I came back from Maryland, visiting my partner on business, and there she was, packing her suitcase. She said she had found another man. ‘A better provider. I liked you, Marty, but you don’t think big. You’re a little leaguer.’ That’s what she said. Imagine a girl from poverty, from the Third World, with a grade school education, saying I’m a little leaguer. “

He’d seemed to run out of gas. There was nothing more to say. I thought about my visit to Moscow last year and the “private men’s club” which wasn’t private. The women, thirty of them seated in couches, each more beautiful, more sexual than the next. Tall, lithe, erotic, beautiful. How all these beauties who were not engaged in negotiation with a male customer eyed me up, an American with a pocketful of rubles.

We were back in Marty’s tank. He drove carefully which I hadn’t noticed before and I remembered that he was more careful, more cautious than I, often deferring to me on the court. Maybe the Russian wife was right. Maybe he didn’t think big. 

I looked out the window at the intermittent, 21st century housing developments, distant specks of tiled roofs huddled between perfect perpendicular streets amidst the barren fields of sand. We were heading away from the lights, beyond the billboards to Marty’s residence. I wondered if he ever read books, had any friends out here. Maybe the Russian guy he mentioned. I was thinking of what to say, we’d been mostly reticent since leaving his “office.”

“Marty, I am so sorry the marriage didn’t work.” I didn’t know what to say, thinking the subject of marriage was complete. Story told.

“Well, and this is it. A year or so passed and I was again feeling a strong need to have a female. I didn’t know it when we were kids, didn’t know I had a real strong sexual drive, and it never went away. It kept growing and without a woman in bed with me every night I started to compensate by over-eating. Truth be told, that’s what happened to my weight.” 

I thought alcohol consumption probably contributed to his obesity. 

“Then, Bill, I decided to go back to Minsk. Try it again and same thing. Found another hottie, married her. Turned out she was even better in the sack. I got fit, sex once, twice even three times a day. After a while she wanted to get a job too. And I helped again. This time a counter clerk job at a car rental company at the airport. No more casino where she might get enticed by some rich guy. A year later I came home one day and she was in the living room watching some soap on TV and crying like a baby. ‘Marty, I’m pregnant and I hate to tell you this but that week you went back east to Maryland or wherever I got it on with a guy who I work with. I believe but not sure it’s his baby. Anyway, I’ve let you down and can’t live with that anymore. I’m going to live with him. He got a promotion from the company and we’re moving somewhere up in Oregon, by the Pacific Ocean. I’ll always love you and thank you in my prayers for giving me a life.’

“What could I say? She was gone and that was five years ago. Now I’m fatter than ever and I rent sex. I will never marry again.” 

We pulled off the highway and into one of these new communities, connected one and two story residences with five figure address numbers. Marty pulled up at 34672 South Valley Boulevard. I thought about that, its descriptiveness. Sure, it was south of something but north of Vegas, that I knew from the sun’s position on the late afternoon. Valley: not one like I ever knew, usually a river, with hills on both sides. And Boulevard. Maybe but I see Sunset or the Champs when I hear the word. 

Marty parked at the curb between 34670 and 34668 since a pickup trick occupied the space in front of his unit. I calculated from this observation that each unit, or residence, was no wider than the length of Marty’s long Cadillac, maybe twenty feet?

As he turned off the ignition he said, “There’s something I didn’t mention. There’s no bed here, just a table and two chairs, plus the refrigerator and stove which still work. I’m sleeping in a comfortable sleeping bag and I got one for you tonight. I’ll explain when we’re inside.”

We entered the living room which housed the two chairs, wooden fold-out types like the movie directors are often pictured sitting in. The table reminded me of a playing card table, like the one my grandfather set up when we played canasta. There was a small lamp set upon it.

“Welcome,” Marty said, “Not like your New York place I’m sure but I still have electricity and I have to be out of here by next week so the bank says. But they’re seldom right on timing.” 

He seemed untroubled with this situation, or at least stoically resigned to it.

“I’ve got a couple of beers in the fridge. Have a seat and I’ll tell you the story of this place.”

He returned with two bottles of Pacifico, the Mexican beer popular on the West Coast. No glasses.

“Three years ago I found this place, smaller than the apartment I lived in downtown when I was married. I liked it out here in the desert. Growing community, lots of people in transition, like me, and thought I’d make some new friends. Maybe a new customer or two, guys who liked personalized service when wagering. Or, and I knew this was a long shot, maybe a divorcee who was looking for a new man. And so when I saw this place, brand new, and decided to act quickly, the whole area growing like weeds, these units coming on the market and selling like hotcakes, no more than two weeks on the market. 

“I went to Washington Mutual, the bank, and said to a greeter at the door I’d like to apply for a mortgage, hoping I could do the paper work and get approval in a week. I had with me my savings account verification and a copy of my Federal income tax filing from the previous year. The fellow, must have not been a day out of high school, gave me a big smile and said, “You, sir, are at WaMu, the right place to be.” I followed him past a number of desks where WaMu bankers were in concentrated discussions with people, loan seekers I assumed, mostly much younger than me and mostly Hispanics. He found a banker unengaged at his desk and introduced us while pulling out the chair for me to sit. The man at the desk looked a little oily, over-pleased to see me. I figured maybe he was on commission, so anxious he was to hear my need.”

Marty excused himself, needing to visit the men’s room, he said. I was impressed. He had smoked out the banker’s motivation immediately. Marty may not be a “big thinker” but he sure was no babe in the woods. I tried to picture him, suit and necktie, dancing with a peasant girl in a hotel ballroom that looked like the old Statler in our hometown in some remote city called Minsk, ten thousand miles away. I remembered the photo in the Linsly Military Institute yearbook, both of us in uniform with jacket and tie, Marty looking so willingly innocent and thought he must have looked the same to those Eager Russian damsels.

He returned to the living room which was the only room I had seen I guess because there was nothing really more to see except the bedroom and the sleeping bag where I’d spend the night.

“Sorry the chairs are not more comfortable but we’ll be leaving in an hour or so, have dinner downtown.” I was expecting his chair to give in any moment.

“Anyway, I told the banker the name of this development, the unit size, which was he would in a minute say that was unnecessary sine all units there were the same size, nine hundred square feet, two bedrooms and a bath. I gave him the asking price, $379,000. He said he knew this community and the price sounded fair. He asked my net worth and I answered honestly, less than $10,000 in cash. I had rented before and had no equity from ownership. He asked my income and I showed him my tax form which showed $22, 395.00. Of course he couldn’t know I had made a few more thou that I didn’t report.

“He winked at me, a sly fox glance that I took as him suggesting we were two of kind, just another couple of guys fooling the IRS.

“So he asked me the source of my income and I told him it was my pension from the United States Postal service. He says, ‘Nothing here in Vegas, not a little consulting income. Anything that would help me approving a really good mortgage for you, Mr. Timlin? Like maybe a good woman with a salary?’

“No sir, that’s all I got but you know I’m getting bored so I might look for some service job, something part time, maybe.

“He liked that and said, ‘Now we’re talking. I’ll put down another twenty grand for this year’s estimated income, based on, say you’re doing some entrance door security work, you know, a bouncer. These casinos and clubs are always looking for big guys like you.’ He smiled with self-satisfaction of his creative contribution to making me a good loan applicant.

“‘You’re not against marrying, are you, sir? You know, if the perfect missus comes along?’

“I smiled. Knew I had him on the hook. These guys, Bill, work on commission. Right?’

Marty ploughed ahead, not waiting to hear any financial comment I might have.

“He asked if I would be OK with him excusing himself. Only for a minute or two. He’d like to speak with a colleague in my behalf. Sure enough in five minutes he was back with the smile of the week.

“‘Mr. Place, I have very good news. Your economic profile for a loan meets out standards, assuming you can get a little more income from some part-time work. Here’s what we’ll do. With your written promise of best efforts to generate another ten grand of income, we’ll finance the entire purchase price. Given the fact we have also financed the developers of your new neighborhood to-be, we believe with our support we can help you get that unit for $370,00, maybe a few bucks less, and we’ll lend you the entire purchase price.’

“Well, Bill, I was mighty surprised. Nothing down though he insisted on a five thousand dollar fee for doing the deal and I had to agree right then and there.

“He said a twenty year adjustable loan would fit my profile just fine. The first year 1% interest, increasing 1,5% each year for five and then it was who knows. ‘Could be back down to three, maybe even two percent a year. Meanwhile your new home will be appreciating annually at, say ten percent. We’re being conservative here, Mr.Place. It’s WaMu policy and practice to never overestimate favorable financial developments for our customers.’ I felt he had told this exact same story a hundred times already.

“So now I’m calculating, doing the numbers on the back page of my IRS submission of last year, sitting across the desk from him. A secretary, I think she was, came in with a couple of soft drinks. I couldn’t recall the banker’s name except he had said, ‘Call me Eddie’ which is how I addressed my thank you to him. 

“A few minutes later I had it figured. Thirty-seven hundred dollars in interest payments year one plus another one percent of principal and I had my dream house. Seventy-four hundred in year one. A no brainer I thought. Not much more in year two, and in five, who knows but the light looked green to me. I didn’t like the five grand transaction fee but as they say, beggars can’t be choosers.

“We made the deal right there and then.”

I felt like I was watching the PBS NewsHour, listening to some poor guy describing how he lost his home and all his savings in the Big Crash.

“So, Bill, here’s the end of this long story. Year four, about eighteen months ago my interest rate was 5.5 which I knew it would but what I had overlooked that day was in year four year there would be another point added, something called a ‘pro-ratted, incremental annual payment to be executed by the bank on lender’s mortgage if the London Interbank Offering Rate (LIBOR) was one hundred basis points above the Fed rate charged to US commercial banks of the approximate size of WaMU in the year of this loan.’

Marty didn’t say this in this detail but he showed me his loan documents and that’s what it read.

“So, Bill, what happened was by then the value of this place had dropped by a hundred grand. I had no equity and decided to go into bankruptcy, let the bank take it over. And that’s partly because I was working on a new scheme with the Russian guy I mentioned earlier, my neighbor on the next street. Meanwhile it’s been nearly year and the bank has not evicted me. I’ve been living here, paying nothing while the bank is sorting out all these defaults. And WaMu itself went bankrupt.”

He chuckled at this observation, though it was not technically true, Chase, I think bought its assets for pennies on the dollar. 

“Imagine a bank going bankrupt. You probably know all this. But whatever they finally caught up with me. A guy came last week and made it clear I had to be out by next week. It’s over, no big deal and I had a free year of no rent, no loss of equity and so I think good riddance to bad deal for the bank. I’m going to live for a while at the Russian’s place while we decide how to implement our plan which I’ll tell you about at dinner, And tomorrow I’d like you to meet him. OK?

* * *

We had dinner at a steak place called Your Best Beef in a shopping center between where he would soon not live and the glitzy core of Vegas. There were slot machines in the waiting area but otherwise we could have been anywhere in America, the home of steaks and burgers, the capital of fast food retail chain restaurants.

Marty knew the lady behind the lectern who led us to our table in the darkened room, its temperature maybe sixty-five Farenheight, a good thirty degrees cooler than the outdoor twilight we had just left.

He asked a number of questions about my life and I was happy to comply, being careful not to extol experiences that had been expensive-foreign travel, sea cruises, that sort of thing—because I didn’t want him to feel envious, to feel he had somehow missed a lot of what some would call the good life. It also occurred to me any such descriptions of some very fortunate experiences I had had like making money might cause him to recall his first wife’s claim he wasn’t a “big picture guy,” a little leaguer adverse to risk, maybe lacking a little self-confidence. 

We then revisited our high school days, reminiscent of a world that seemed even more distant to me than that of my grandfather when he spun wistful tales of traveling his childhood. Yes, America had changed more rapidly in the last half century than ever before. The world had too, I thought. What was odd, something I’d never before experienced was how many of his memories of us together-my scoring the winning basket in a game against our major opponent for example, I had no recollection of. The same was true with him when I described a moment in a big game against Wheeling High when he scored the winning hoop. 

After a lull in conversation he said with sheepish look, “Remember our talking about beating off?” 

I laughed, knowing it was possible but, no I didn’t.

“We were maybe freshman, real stupid talk but I remember telling you I found a new way to make it better. Hold a piece of raw bacon in your hand.” He paused, those gray eyes in mischievous twinkle.

“You got all quiet. I can still see your blank expression like it was yesterday and I thought you might never speak to me again. And then you just started laughing. Never commented, just laughed. Strange times.”

“Well, Marty, maybe I was just a prude. Masterbation in those days was a ticket to hell if you were a Catholic as you were.”

* * *

As I chewed through my overcooked filet mignon he laid out his plan with the Russian guy. 

“I have saved up some money, near thirty grand now. My pal, Anton’s his name, has connections in Costa Rica and has found a nice hunk of land on the water, on the Caribbean side. His idea is we can get some local funding—his contacts can grease the way—and we’ll build a fifteen room hotel resort. Get a gambling license maybe, but if not we’ll have a profitable business. I’ll run the day-to-day operation and Anton will handle the money, raising it and managing the expenses. What do you think?”

“Geez, Marty, I don’t know anything about the resort business but I would think you’d need to determine with local counsel things like the legal title of ownership of the land, local regulations on building, the supply of labor, ease of tourists getting to and from your resort. Things like this. Seems a lot but, hey, I’m just saying be sure you are comfortable with these kinds of issues before you commit your money.”

“Well, Bill, assuming I, me and Anton, agree on all this stuff would you consider being a partner, or an investor in this business?”

I thought about this for a second or two.

 “Marty, did this guy Anton ask you to seek an investment from me?”

A frown crossed my friend’s face.“Yea, he did. Said your general business knowledge would be a big plus and we could always use a little extra capital.”

“Hmm, you really trust this guy?”

“He’s been a good friend for a decade or so. Helped me with the Russian girls, did a little football betting with me. A really good guy, Bill, or I’d never brought this up.”

The next morning we drove over to Anton’s place. He walked me through the deal. I had heard these kind of pitches, long on the upside, “a slam dunk,” short on details, vague on terms. I quickly got tired of his blustering answers and told him I’d speak later with Marty about it. This was not what Anton wanted to hear. Like a used car salesman or WaMu banker he wanted a deal done now—or at least some kind of firm commitment post more diligence. 

He served us drinks and lunch. I had Russian vodka and grapefruit juice. I asked him about his background, business experience. Lots of generalities. I told him I was an amateur student of the JFK assassination and asked him if he thought the KGB had participated in the planning, even trained Oswald for the job during his two years of living where else, but in Minsk. Marty thought this amusing, an American coincidence. Anton, I couldn’t tell what he thought. Except that there were things he didn't know about that, even though he said he had done some work for the security agency. That was it. On the ride to the airport I told Marty I didn’t feel qualified to make a judgment on the merits of the business and might consider an investment based on some many unanswered, or unaddressed issues.

 “Marty, if and when there is more information I would be happy to revisit and if you’d want, show the opportunity to a couple of friends on the Street.” He seemed fine with that. I was thinking what would happen to him if the deal didn’t materialize, and if it did. But we were nearing the airport and I thought guys like Marty seemed somehow to survive life’s vicissitudes. A lazy, dismissive thought but that was it for now.

As we pulled in to the vehicle drop off area he stopped at the curb and turned off the motor. He said how good it was to see me again. I seconded it.

“Bill, there’s one thing I really need to ask you. Didn’t know I’d have the nerve to do it but I have to. We’ll probably never see each other again and I’m so happy I was able to see you one more time before I go on.” He spoke this without looking at me, a blank expression as cars passed and travelers walked by. 

“Yea, sure, Marty, what is it?” I could not disagree with the thought we would not see each other ever again. How many more years did we aging memoirists have?

He seemed to take a deep breath. I wasn’t sure he would complete the thought, get the question out. I had no idea what was to come. 

“You remember what Captain Crawford used to say about the food at Elby’s Big Boy restaurant?”

The food at Elby’s restaurant? It was the town’s first drive-in restaurant, a precursor of McDonalds, and located a block from our school. I hesitated, trying to think. Captain Crawford had been my favorite teacher, encouraging me to read and to write. But I was drawing blank on anything he may have said about Elby’s.

“Help me, Marty.”

There was a momentary lull and I realized I had only a few more minutes before entering the terminal to catch my flight.

“He used to say in class, near the bell, at the end, ‘You young men should never eat there. There’s grease and fat in the burgers and the fries and the grease builds up, clogs your arteries, and worse, causes constipation. If you do eat that stuff you better stop by my Captain Crawford’s place after school for an enema.’” 

Stunning, but I was beginning to vaguely remember .

“Yes, I do now. Imagine any teacher saying that today…”

“No, Bill, let me finish. See Trenton and I went once, actually more than once to his house, a tiny bungalow near the river, and he gave us enemas. And I have been thinking about this for years, don’t know how I feel about it, never told a soul and have always wanted to know if you ever did it, ever went there and had one.” 

I replied without thinking. This was more information than I could process.

“No, Marty. I never did and didn’t think anyone ever did. I thought it was a joke, if I thought about it at all. What else did he do?” 

Was there more coming before I had to leave Vegas and everything here behind in Vegas?

“Nothing else. I just had to know. It was one of the few things I did back then without you. And I needed to know if you did it without me.”

An airport security car pulled up along side of the Cadillac. I watched Marty rolled down the window but not before waving me goodbye.

* * *

13 Comments

  1. k h July 25, 2022

    Is the piece above from Andrew Anglin, the American Neo-Nazi/white supremacist who founded an infamous website named after a nazi propaganda publication?

    • Bruce Anderson July 25, 2022

      I don’t think so. What makes you think so?

      • k h July 25, 2022

        That website and that author are the fourth result when you type those two names into google

        • Bruce Anderson July 25, 2022

          You’re right. Won’t happen again.

          • k h July 25, 2022

            They’re sneaky. They jump in constantly on issues that they know conservatives are responsive towards – cancel culture, gender issues, etc. People don’t realize who they are and forward their stuff on. Nazis rarely pronounce their beliefs at first, they want people to get the impression they are reasonable.

  2. Michael Koepf July 25, 2022

    ‘There can be no Israel without Zionism, thus, to be an anti-Zionist, one MUST be anti-Israel. That’s a point that needs to made over and over.” Jeff, I-love-Goebbels, Blankfort.

    There can be no antisemitism in Mendocino County without Jeff Blankfort, and according to Blankfort one must remember that every Jew in Israel is worst than the Waffen SS. That’s the point that needs to be made over and over in the only publication that publishes his vile and hateful propaganda. When it comes to Israel in the AVA , there are always two sides of the story: Blankfort’s and Anderson’s. One can read it nowhere else.

    • Bruce Anderson July 25, 2022

      Thanks for the plug.

    • Stephen Rosenthal July 25, 2022

      Thank you Michael, you beat me to the punch, or in this case, the keyboard. Although I won’t go as far as including the AVA, despite their apparent love affair with publishing Blankfort’s hateful compositions. I don’t have the time, will or energy to offer a Paul Harvey style rebuttal to Blankfort, so let me just say there’s almost always “the rest of the story” that needs to be told.

  3. Harvey Reading July 25, 2022

    1) DIGGING A DOWNTOWN GRAVEYARD

    Ukiah is already ugly. Has been for decades. Too many old, decrepit buildings. The place always reminded me of the strip-mall metropolises of the LA basin and the east bay.

    2) “Please reach out with any questions!”

    How does one “reach out” with a question?

    3) LOGGING SLASH: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

    Just more apologetics for environmental destruction. End logging, period. Forestry is NOT a science, nor is range “management”.

  4. Nathan Duffy July 25, 2022

    RE: Undesirables
    You mean to say the IRA had more moral authority than the good ole US of A???
    YES.

  5. Harvey Reading July 25, 2022

    WE’VE BEEN LIED TO OUR WHOLE LIVES ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS

    Should be considered a statement of the obvious for anyone with even a Biden brain.

    By the way, could anyone (or two or three etc). provide a reliable link that shows Johnstone to be an astrologer…?

  6. Bruce McEwen July 25, 2022

    Caitlin could be deceiving herself as far as all that goes. I mean, isn’t it probable that a good many of the people she sees as myopic could be going along with all these obvious falsehoods, thinking secretly, how they too could either win the lottery or maybe w/ enough ass kissing (you know, the type, your basic James Marmon kind of guy) come out of the coming crises and be able to boast: “hey, man, don’t ruin me, I was w/ you guys all along.”

    I know this is the case with my Trumpster brothers who have always been bootlickers to the conservative jerks who let them each have a dead end job, always at the employers convenience and to his advantage, hoping for a chance to move up…?

    My brother Dan worked 18 years on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse and when he went to ask for a raise, the boss got wise: “who put you up to this, Danny?”

    “My brother Bruce,” Dan answered.

    “Sounds just like him. And if your folks had known he was a-gonna be a goddamned radical they would of just knocked him in the head right out of the chute and give the milk to the pigs. Now, you get back out on the floor and I don’t want to hear no more of this crazy talk about a raise. If you need more money you can stay late drive the blood out to the mink farm.”

  7. Rye N Flint July 30, 2022

    RE: EV Repair

    My Tesla was in an accident 2 months ago. The woman driving the other car down the suicide lane to skip past “traffic”, hit my front bumper and our driver side front tires hit into each other, rendering our cars un-drivable. It took 1 week for Tesla insurance to get me a rental car, 3 days to get the car towed out of a private parking lot, and they told me it would be a month to repair it at a 3rd party shop in Santa Rosa. Rental car was for a gas powered hundai, and it was for 30 days. So, it’s been 2 months, and the parts are still on wait…. Supply chain issues blah blah blah… I have no respect left for Elon Musk and his ill gotten riches. And when I get my car back, if ever, it will be worth a lot less than 2 months ago. Anyone want to buy a cheap used Tesla? in 6 months?

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