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A FRONTAL SYSTEM will approach the region tonight, bringing much colder temperatures, snow showers for the higher elevations, rain for the lower elevations, and gusty westerly winds at times through Wednesday. Drier conditions will likely unfold toward the latter portion of the week, however colder temperatures with frost in the valleys are probable each morning. (NWS)
FIVE AV FFA MEMBERS traveled to the 2022 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Over 69,000 FFA members, advisors and guests attended. We traveled to North Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. We participated in convention sessions, workshops, and visited various local agriculture business and cultural attractions.
We made so many new friends! It was an amazing week! Thank you to everyone who supported this trip!
ANDERSON VALLEY VILLAGE: List of Events
FIERY FATALITY OFF HIGHWAY 101
GET OUT THE VOTE WEEKEND IS COMING UP - Join Us
Coast Dems Endorsed Candidates For MCHCD Board
Meet The Candidates: Lee Finney, Jade Tippett, Susan Savage
Saturday, Nov 5, 10 AM - 2 PM, SW Corner of Rite Aide Parking Lot - Green Subaru Outback
Please RSVP to email@example.com to Help Our Final Push
Meet at 10 AM for Doughnuts and Directions, Pick up Your Address List, Area Map, Printed Handouts
Learn More at http://www.future-vision-mchcd22.org
Preserving Access To Quality Health Care On The Coast?
When I moved to Fort Bragg not quite three years ago, one of my concerns was access to medical care. I'm getting up there in years, and the thought that I might have to be airlifted or otherwise transported to Ukiah or Santa Rosa for immediate care was frankly scary. Having a hospital here in Fort Bragg that has most of the services I might need was one of the reasons I decided to buy and move here.
I've watched the last couple of MCHCD Board meetings, and have heard many horror stories about how dysfunctional and ineffective the current Board is, and have become very concerned about the seriousness of the situation. There is apparently an all too real possibility that we could lose our hospital entirely over the next few years, or see it so reduced as to be of negligible value.
There are four people running for three seats on that board. As citizens, in order to responsibly make informed choices on that ballot, we need to hear from the candidates directly about why they are running, what they see as the major challenges, and how they intend to address them.
- John Redding
- Jade Tippett
- Susan Savage
- Lee Finney
What say you?
* * *
This will be a long post and I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to read and consider it.
The current Board on which I sit worked well in the first two years, achieving among other things, affiliation with AH which was approved by the voters 93-7. The last two years have been squandered because the lack of leadership and follow through by Board members. We had a Board secretary, for example, who never took minutes which is illegal. The perspective is that I could not work with other Board members but in fact worked well with Grinberg and de Vall. I do not work well with people who do not follow through on their commitments and responsibilities to the public.
The District has the financial wherewithal to build a new hospital but there are two threats -- lack of fiscal discipline and dissolution. There has been a proposal by other candidates to spend the money accumulating for a new hospital on housing. Which would leave us short of the money needed.
The other is Dissolution, that is, ending the District as a legal entity and turning it over to the County BOS, who are not known for fiscal management. Ted Williams and Bernie Norvell both appeared at our meetings to voice support for looking into Dissolution, an option that should never even be considered. Will a new Board fully endorsed by the Democratic Party and Williams be independent enough to resist that pressure? Your call.
I have been criticized on the District 5 Facebook page as a failure as Treasurer. That is based upon misleading characterizations. Norman de Vall at the last Board meeting said the next Board will regret it if John Redding is not on it.
Those who read comments about me on this Facebook page would come to conclusion that I was a failure as a Treasurer but here is my record. As Treasurer (when we were operating the hospital) I created a balanced budget after the District had lost $5.0 million in the last four years. As Treasure, I negotiated the Lease Payment with AH so that the District would have enough money to pay off all its long term debt and have $20 million in saving for a new hospital. I prepared several budgets and financial reports which can be found here: https://mchealth.specialdistrict.org/financial-news-and...
Finally, I have prepared a plan to finance a new hospital which can be viewed here: https://www.newsbyjr.com/post/options-for-the-hospital
Lastly I brought on the Devenney Group to help us formulate our options. No one else on this Board has shown any interest in the seismic issue with the exception of Norma de Vall.
A recent post on this page was a copy of an email from K. McKee and Co. that was widely circulated as evidence of my failure. This was only a disagreement between McKee and me. The type of disagreement we all have that end in words. Not at all indicative of my contributions to the District in the last four years.
I hope you will have an open mind after reading this.
JOHN MCCOWEN IS ALIVE AND WELL!
JONATHAN’S DEADLY ROLLING ILLICIT DRUGSTORE
On October 22, 2022, at approximately 9:30 am, a Fort Bragg police officer observed a driver in the area of Oak St and Harold St using a cell phone while driving. The subject was stopped, and the officer noticed about a pound of marijuana in plain view. A subsequent search found oxycodone pills and about $300 in various cash denominations.
The driver, Jonathan Martinez, 21, of Fort Bragg, was determined to be on current release from jail on his own recognizance while awaiting trial for a previous narcotics sales case. Martinez was arrested, and the officer requested a search warrant of his home for additional evidence of narcotics sales. After a judge approved the search warrant for Martinez’s residence in Fort Bragg city limits, Fort Bragg police officers served the warrant with the assistance of several deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
The search yielded over 220 “M30” fake oxycodone pills believed to be fentanyl-based, almost 13 grams of powder believed to be Fentanyl, Xanax, digital scales, and over $12,000 in cash in several denominations. The money and narcotics were located in the same area.
Chief Neil Cervenka said, “Fentanyl is killing our community members and destroying families. This officer did outstanding police work and went the extra mile to make Fort Bragg a safer place.”
Martinez was booked into Mendocino County jail for sales/transportation of a controlled substance, sales/transportation of cannabis, violation of court order, and operating a cell phone while driving.
(Fort Bragg Police Presser)
WEED AFTERTHOUGHTS AND TAXING THE RICH
by Jim Shields
Last week’s column where I shared with you Sheriff Matt Kendall’s thoughts on the County’s and the State’s failed, unworkable pot programs, generated numerous reader comments.
Kendall’s basic premise is captured in the this excerpt from his discourse on the 5-year history of marijuana regulation in the state and county
“In 2020 I, along with other Northern California Sheriffs, met in Trinity County with members of the state’s marijuana policy team. During this meeting we asked several questions including, what are the plans for enforcement against drug trafficking organizations as well as how would they deal with the marijuana being diverted to the black market and shipped out of state. We also brought up the struggles of finding personnel and asked who would be handling the enforcement of the massive wave of illegal marijuana which we all knew was coming … We asked if they had a target number of product production which would supply the needs of legal marijuana within the state. We pointed out the fact that producing beyond market saturation would cause diversions to the black market … If the black market isn’t dealt with all legal markets will fail … Homicides, robberies, and environmental destruction have become the new normal for rural communities … Little to no enforcement on the illegal market has created the perfect storm for our communities … We need the state policy makers to step up and provide more personnel for enforcement, also we need them to change the flawed policies which have brought these problems to our communities … Without changes in policies these issues will continue. Reach out to our state leaders and legislators, let them know we have a problem and together we can come together to find a solution.”
Here’s a couple of reader responses to my column.
“Dear Sheriff Kendall: The Emerald Triangle weed nightmare started long before you became sheriff. All of the blame can’t be placed on Sacramento. They’re just trying to get their cut like everyone else, right? Millions of more dollars funding eradication efforts can only be viewed as price supports for those who don’t get raided. Erratic enforcement in Mendocino County for the past 25 years has been a big part of the problem. I watched my neighborhood get overrun by carpet-baggers and dimwitted weed players in 2016. The only reason they aren’t still plaguing my neighborhood is because of the wholesale price of bud. That’s the only real force that will change our communities. So, I say, let’s keep promoting what all the hippies have been screaming for decades: “it’s just a plant man.” $100 per pound seems like a good price point for a safe community. Find the bad actors, fine the crap out of them, but don’t cut down their sacred medicine cuz they need to buy some fancy rims….Let all the plants grow and this chaotic weed s-show will turn to a moldy memory.” — Kirk Vodopals, Navarro
“The issue the legal mom-n-pops have is not being able to sell directly from the grow to the customer. If the state and county would get the **** outta their way with needing the other BS permits and allow them to market their product to the customer they’d kick the **** outta corporate cannabis. The corporations knew this and the best way to stomp out your competition is to control the supply chain, which they do. Just one tincy-wincy issue, lol, the above-mentioned logic has been the dominant weed supply chain force for the past 50+ years. It’s what happens when the government declares war against its very own people. It’s our plant, it will always be our plant! The traditional market dominates the cannabis industry and it is not gonna change for the next 20 years easily. Rosin will never be a high revenue generating product. Most users get to a point they stop using because the euphoric effect diminishes with frequent usage. As far as your worldly view of the market it has existed for many decades and the Emerald Triangle growers are the best in the world and the world knows this. Nobody does it better, nobody!” — Anonymous
My only comment on the Sheriff’s cogent piece is: We’ve passed the point of no return with pot regulation. It’s a failed experiment. Pot farming is defaulting — and it will take some time — back into from whence it came, albeit with scaled down balance sheets, because the only market that apparently counts is shaded black.
Newsom splits with demos over Prop 30 tax hike
Prop 30 is a November ballot measure that would hike taxes on millionaires to subsidize electric vehicles and fund wildfire response and prevention. It would raise annual personal income taxes on those making more than $2 million a year by 1.75 percent.
Prop 30 is expected to generate between $3 and $4.5 billion a year and will have the tax sunset by either 2043 or when California achieves a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 80 percent below 1990 levels.
The initiative is backed by the California Democratic Party but staunchly opposed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom who is urging voters to reject it.
Newsom says the measure could destabilize the state’s budget which relies — some argue disproportionately — on taxes from the wealthy. With a recession already lurking just around the corner, September’s tax revenues came in $2.8 billion under estimates, putting the state’s coffers about $7 billion below recent economic forecassts, according a Dept. of Finance report.
Polls from early October show that while Proposition 30 continues to enjoy a double-digit advantage in terms of support percentage amongst voters, but that support has dwindled from earlier polls, with total support coming under the 50 percent mark for the first time.
I expect Prop 30 will be decided, one way or the other, by a razor-thin margin.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
GALLERY BOOKSHOP November Events
Thursday, November 10th, 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Gallery Bookshop
Poet's Showcase Featuring:
- Steven Rood | Naming the Wind
- Larry Felson | Dawn Out of Order
- Joe Smith | Sappho's Island
Thursday, November 17th, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Gallery Bookshop
Open Book Book Club talks about: Comeuppance Served Cold by Marion Deeds
More information at 707.937.2665 or gallerybookshop.com
It will be difficult to change the mindset of millions of young to middle-aged people who play violent video games. They have an unrealistic belief that a player can be “killed” and then hit a reset button to continue playing. How does that transfer to real life? Then there is Hollywood and all its violence-framed films, whether fantasy comic book characters or modern gangster/military settings. Those movies glorify guns and killing, and young people seem to love that. Consider that military recruiting centers allow young people to play violent war computer games. Wonder why? You know why. If society would stop glorifying guns and killing, there might be less of it.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, October 30, 2022
GABRIEL AGUILAR, Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen property, suspended license for DUI.
ASHLEY BRITTON, Covelo. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, willful cruelty to child.
AARON CROSBY, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
ELOISA GONZALES-ROJAS, Ukiah. DUI.
DONNETTE JONES, Willits. DUI with blood alcohol over 0.15%, suspended license.
RYAN KOTTERMAN, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MELISSA LANCE, Fort Bragg. Petty theft, trespassing, failure to appear.
DALE NELSON, Ukiah. No license, suspended license, probation revocation.
JESSICA NORTON, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
CLIFFORD RUSSELL, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Pot cultivation, maintenance of place for selling, giving or using drugs.
TREVOR SHUSS, Redwood Valley. DUI w/blood-alcohol over 0.15%, third DUI in ten years.
TONI WHIPPLE, Covelo. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
49ERS GAME GRADES: McCaffrey overwhelms, second-half defense stymies Rams
Offense: Good. Christian McCaffrey was otherworldly in throwing for, rushing for and catching TDs, but the play of Jimmy Garoppolo should not be overlooked. Garoppolo posted the eight-best QB rating of his career (132.5) while completing 21 of 25 passes for 235 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. McCaffrey accounted for 183 yards of offense as S.F. outgained L.A. 368-223 despite running four fewer plays.
Defense: Excellent. The Rams led 14-10 at halftime, but punted their first four possessions of the second half (and took a knee to end the game on the fifth) while being dominated: Los Angeles gained 58 yards after the intermission. The 49ers had only two sacks, but did hit Rams QB Matthew Stafford five times. Fred Warner was as versatile on defense as McCaffrey was on offense: a game-high 12 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, two QB hits and a pass breakup.
Special teams. Fair. A good afternoon for Ray-Ray McCloud, who averaged 33 yards on his two kick returns and 11.3 on three punt returns. All three of Mitch Wishnowsky’s punts were downed inside the Rams’ 20-yard-line. Robbie Gould made the game’s only field goal try (29 yards) and also handled kickoffs; four of his six were touchbacks, the other two were returned for 29 and 21 yards.
Coaching: Good. Calling for McCaffrey to throw a pass was brilliant — as evidenced by no Ram defender being within 5 yards of receiver Brandon Aiyuk when the ball was thrown. Expect more of the same as Shanahan devises even more ways to get McCaffrey involved. The third-quarter blitz call that led to Warner’s 9-yard sack of Stafford stunted the Rams’ possession three plays after the 49ers had taken their first lead.
Overall: Good. In Week 1, talk of a 4-4 record heading into the bye might have fueled yowls of doom and gloom for the 49ers. But after slapping the Rams around in the second half and the offense likely to get Deebo Samuel back after the break, San Francisco appears well positioned to make a midseason run not unlike the one begun after last season’s Week 10 pummeling of L.A.
— Michael Lerseth (SF Chronicle)
BABY HUEY AT THE GRAND GUIGNOL.
Here's the recording of last night's (2022-10-28) Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio show on 107.7fm KNYO-LP Fort Bragg (CA): https://tinyurl.com/KNYO-MOTA-0512
Thanks to Hank Sims for all kinds of tech help, as well as for his fine news site: https://LostCoastOutpost.com
And thanks to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which always provides about an hour of each of my Friday night shows' most locally relevant material without asking for anything in return, going back decades. And tiny bravely struggling KNYO itself (KNYO.org). It'd be so sweet if you'd find the big red donation heart there and help the station out with twenty or more. Or buy some naturally healthy KNYO hot sauce. ("It's toasted!")
Last night's Halloween show has poetry, educational material, song and story, all in the miasma of shivery uncomfortable awkwardness that you've come to expect. I want to mention specifically Paul Modic's memoir, Muncie Memories, Mike Sears' snarky want ad for the woman of his dreams, Ezekiel Krahlin's tale of the dance of crackhead scammer and dog-sitting scammee, and my own true Halloween-time story from 1999, of picking up a miserable schizophrenic and/or drug-fizzing hitchhiker and her half-a-carload of belongings including a live yowling kitten in a bag, and spiraling down into a nightmare of exhausting compassion for such an erratic mechanism; second-to-worst night, and longest night, of my fortunate, lucky life, and, as they used to say in Pathe Films: /You/ are /there/.
BESIDES, at https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com you'll find a fresh batch of dozens of links to not necessarily radio-useful but nonetheless worthwhile items I set aside for you while gathering the show together. Such as:
NASA's galaxy of astronomical horrors!
Night of the living dread.
This is a real aeroplane in the real world, that makes me think of Studio Ghibli films. It's so wonderful and sails so slowly and majestically. That's flying. Next to that, the helicopter filming it is an ear-splitting, bone-shaking, air-clawing abomination whose mere downdraft threatens the motorized kite.
"And with a thundering roar, and eleven million in public money, the 130-ton Brabazon Behemoth takes the air!"
P.S. Email me your work on any subject and I'll read it on the radio next Friday night. If it's full of swears I have to wait till after 10pm to read it, that's all.
— Marco McClean, email@example.com, https://MemoOfTheAir.wordpress.com
THAT WAS COOL: iPHONE UPGRADE
by Justine Frederiksen
Something amazing happened when I went to get a new phone last year: I didn’t buy one, because instead of pressuring me to spend a bunch of money, the salesperson helped me keep my old phone running a bit longer.
Because I didn’t want a new phone. I still loved my old one, an iPhone 5 that works just fine, thank you very much. Fine, that is, until the “Home” key gave out, making the phone so frustrating to use that even I had to admit it was time to replace it.
Why so reluctant? Because I am no longer that girl who fell in love with the first Macintosh computer my father brought home in the 1980s. Back then I was a teenager, so I hopped on the newfangled Mouse like it was a magic carpet.
But four decades later, learning new technology no longer feels like soaring to new heights — it’s more like making a wrong turn out of your quiet neighborhood and onto a busy freeway, suddenly becoming a panicked tourist, lost and in the way.
Like in Chicago when I tried to buy a train pass at the station near my hotel. After many agonizing minutes of hogging a ticket machine to no avail, an employee finally appeared to explain I couldn’t buy what I needed there and pointed me to a drugstore across the huge, busy intersection.
Frantically memorizing all the street signs and praying I could get back to the train station once I got my ticket, I stepped off the curb. And when I bought the pass, found the station again and boarded the right train, I swelled with the pride of accomplishment as I looked out at the tall buildings of Chicago’s famous Loop, finally seeing in person what I had admired in movies and on television.
Moments like those are why we travel: We dive into the agony of the unknown because we know the ecstasy of resurfacing, now stronger and smarter than we were before.
But I’ve reached an age where I’m starting to fear I may never be any stronger or smarter than I am right now. And instead of swelling with pride when I regain control, I’m usually sweating from the knowledge that I barely escaped with most of my dignity intact, and that next time I will have even less to spare.
This is learning new technology now: The agony of travel you didn’t choose, with no ecstasy reward afterward.
Because instead of teenage me riding the Macintosh magic carpet, I am now my mother, stuck in traffic and needing her teenager’s help at every turn. And even worse? I am that middle-aged woman without even an impatient daughter to help her navigate.
That’s why it was so cool when I first tried to get a new phone, I was helped by a young woman who was far more patient than my mother’s daughter ever was.
“Most people choose that plan,” she said, steering me away from the most expensive plan I was pointing at. Once the paperwork was done, she brought out my new phone and picked up my old phone to complete the transfer.
“Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore,” I said when she tried the Home key. “That’s why I’m here.”
But she had a magic wand. With a few swipes she put a “virtual home key” on the screen and quickly accessed anything she wanted. I was astounded. Is that really all I needed?
She handed me her tablet with my new contract, but I couldn’t sign. I just kept staring at my old phone, which now really did work just fine.
I took a deep breath. “Is it too late to back out? I… I didn’t want to give up my old phone.”
“Of course not,” she said, barely hesitating before accepting my wishes and deleting my contract.
“How much longer do you think this phone will last?” I said.
“Probably a long time,” she said. “It’s the Home key that usually gives out on those.”
“I guess I just needed a young person in my life,” I said, my cheeks flushed from both embarrassment and relief as I left without a new phone I didn’t want to buy, and without being chained to a three-year contract I didn’t want to sign.
Soon I learned just how kind that young lady was when I finally did get a new phone a few months later. To avoid signing a service contract, I did not return to the store where she worked and instead went to a large retailer I trusted where I could buy my phone outright.
Everything about the second salesperson there was the opposite of the first: She had pointed me to a cheaper plan, he pushed me again and again to the most expensive one. And whenever I asked questions, he bristled before giving me incomplete or false information.
When I asked if the phone would connect with my old laptop, he said it would, but it didn’t. He told me I needed to buy another power brick because the new phone didn’t come with one and I couldn’t charge it with my old cords. Not true: After buying a new power brick, I found that all my old cords worked just fine on my new phone. Perhaps the worst lie he told was that he had spelled my name correctly. Knowing that so many people struggle to spell my Danish surname, I insisted he make sure he got it right on my email before my contract was completed. He reluctantly checked, then assured me he spelled it correctly.
But before even leaving the store, I got an alert on my new phone telling me that the email on my account had been changed. Thinking my account had already been hacked, I called customer service as soon as I got home and sat on hold for 30 minutes only to learn that the change was because the salesman had indeed spelled my name incorrectly. And instead of admitting it, he lied and quickly changed it, prompting my frantic call to customer service.
Correction: I didn’t need just any young person in my life, I needed a kind young person in my life!
And happy update: Now that I’ve regained most of my dignity, I am pleased to report that this old gal can still learn new tricks: Like how when taking a photo, if you keep your finger on the screen it will begin taking video automatically.
This feature is great if you’re taking a photo of a bird which suddenly starts flying, but I especially love it because I not only discovered it myself, but was able to teach it to a younger friend, a professional photographer who is usually showing me how to use my phone.
That was really cool.
CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE, born in Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1944, is from Choctaw Indian descent, and is still going strong today touring the world as one of the mightiest harmonica wizard bandleaders of all time. He is also a wonderful guitarist and sings fantastic solo blues, which I love the best. His new Mississippi Son album is tearing up the charts as we speak. Love Charlie Musselwhite!
THE LUXURY FOUR SEASONS apartment building The Tower Residences in downtown San Francisco has sold just 13 of its 146 units in the two years since it opened. The apartment building features a $49 million penthouse — the city's dearest — and a host of amenities, and also sits right in the middle of the Tenderloin and SoMa neighborhoods, which have become hubs for open drug use in the city. San Francisco's infamous Tenderloin Linkage Center — set up to help wean abusers off drugs, before descending into an open-air drug market, sits just four blocks away. One prominent buyer poised to pick up an apartment was NBA player Stephen Curry, who with his wife Ayesha reportedly signed for an $8 million 2,800-square-foot 30th-floor condo in 2020. But as of October, not one of the 13 sales at the Tower Residences lists the Currys' name or LLCs associated with them, suggesting the basketball star abandoned his plans to move into the building. Crimes in San Francisco are up 7.4% from the same period last year, assaults are up 11.1% and robberies are up 5.2%, with much of that activity taking place in the blocks surrounding the building. Drug treatment centers in Tenderloin and SoMa have been blamed for drawing scores of drug users to the neighborhoods, converting them into open-air drug markets with encampments lining the sidewalks.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
So in 1973 we took a field trip from high school. We walked to a local downtown theater of which there were 2 in town. Both long closed. We saw Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston. It predicts the dystopian world of 2022, 50 years in the future. Well here we are. I copied this from a synopsis. Sound familiar?
“By 2022 the cumulative effects of overpopulation, pollution and an apparent climate catastrophe have caused severe worldwide shortages of food, water and housing. The homes of the elite are fortified, with security systems and bodyguards for their tenants. The poor live in squalor, haul water from communal spigots, and eat highly processed food: Soylent Red, Soylent Yellow, and the latest product, far more flavorful and nutritious, Soylent Green.”
A NEWSPAPER is a collection of half-injustices
Which, bawled by boys from mile to mile,
Spreads its curious opinion
To a million merciful and sneering men,
While families cuddle the joys of the fireside
When spurred by tale of dire lone agony.
A newspaper is a court
Where every one is kindly and unfairly tried
By a squalor of honest men.
A newspaper is a market
Where wisdom sells its freedom
And melons are crowned by the crowd.
A newspaper is a game
Where his error scores the player victory
While another's skill wins death.
A newspaper is a symbol;
It is fetless life's chronicle,
A collection of loud tales
Concentrating eternal stupidities,
That in remote ages lived unhaltered,
Roaming through a fenceless world.
— Stephen Crane (1899)
THE WAR ON DOGSHIT
David Severn’s noble War on Dogshit deserves praise and effusive commentary. If only people would pick up their dog’s shit we would have a bright and happy world! I praise his selfless sacrifice and the struggles he endured to remove the offending offense. How is it that only a few see the necessity of action? I grieve!
Years ago a friend and I lounged on benches along the inner ring of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of New York City, smoking Swisher Sweets and enjoying the parade of every conceivable type of human passing by. It was a time of contemplation and inaction. A very well dressed lady stopped in front of us and allowed her Great Dane to extrude a veritable Cheops of Crap onto the center of the sidewalk. A true New Yorker born and bred, she allowed the hunched beast to squeeze out a final boulder, then strode off around the circle. Tell me that I’m lying, doubt my word my friends, but this thing was an immensity of unbelievable scope, the Ur-Turd of Turds, a volumetric marvel of such stunning dimensions that even God would have paused to regard as a True Work of His Creative Blessing. Its pyramidal majesty reached far towards heaven in a manner we knew was fated by hubris in its pretension to divinity. We smoked our cigars, stretched out our legs so as to focus the parade more narrowly, and waited. Some bums stumbled by, but they were grizzled veterans of dogshit and steered hard to starboard at first sight of this giant land mine.
Several stoned hippies almost collided with the great pile but danced away nimbly. We waited patiently. Patience is a Great Virtue, my father always intoned. With this wise advice in mind, we stretched our feet out as far as we could, and we waited.
From around the circle, a lovely socialite, enjoying the spring air, appeared. We mentally approved of her course, and waited, smoking our cigars, as she drew nearer to the steaming berg of reeking waste, and as she drew nearer, in her big round sunglasses, yellow miniskirt and translucent silk blouse, and best of all, a pair of strapped on open toed high heeled sandals over her painted red toenails, we saw her eyes lifted heavenwards as she marveled at the lovely sunny day, and with a final forceful stride, with the impetuosity of the young and beautiful, she plowed directly into the foaming offal much like a ship burying its bow in a tremendous sea, her foot smashing dual waves of putrid ichor over her ankles! And as her blissful mood, so rudely interrupted, changed completely, she staggered about kicking huge globs of dog shit onto the sidewalk, screaming and cursing like the most deranged madwoman up from the Bowery! She was trapped in a stinking snare and had no recourse but to stomp away, her light and happy mood overwhelmed by a dark cloud of anger much like that of the fabled Joe Btfsplk himself!
O, my friends, how we howled with laughter! How callously and politically incorrectly we took pleasure from her misfortune! How disgustingly evil we were not to warn her of disaster, as if she were the Titanic and we deliberately allowed her sudden nightmare to occur for a cheap laugh!
Yes, it’s all true, every word of it, my confession of a shocking crime of civic viciousness! So, with apologies to the always-sincere Mr. Severn, watch where you are going. My only regret is that there was no YouTube in 1966.
Yours, Jay Williamson
NYC TO PAY $26 MILLION TO MEN WRONGLY ACCUSED OF KILLING MALCOLM X
by Jake Offenhartz
New York City will pay $26 million to two men who were wrongfully convicted of killing Malcolm X — a significant civil settlement that reflects the scope of “misconduct” by both NYPD and FBI officials who handled the case, according to an attorney for the two men.
The settlement comes one year after the exoneration of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, who spent two decades behind bars for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, before they were released on parole in the 1980s.
"There's no amount of money that could ever correct what was robbed from Muhammad and Khalil," Deborah Francois, an attorney for Aziz and Islam, told Gothamist Sunday. "That being said, we're pleased the city saw an opportunity to act swiftly."
Their convictions were overturned last November following a nearly two-year investigation spearheaded by then-Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The probe found that prosecutors, the FBI and the NYPD withheld evidence that could have exonerated the two men in the killing.
Nicholas Paolucci, a city law department spokesman, said the settlement "brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and bore the stigma of being falsely accused."
He said the $26 million payout will be split evenly between the 84-year-old Aziz and the estate of Islam, who died in 2009. The men were released from prison in 1985 and 1987, respectively.
For years, scholars have accused the government of botching the investigation into the assassination, which came as Malcolm X was giving a speech in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.
According to Francois, the role of the FBI and the NYPD in bringing charges against the two men was the "key focus" in the civil litigation.
"Their wrongful convictions were the direct result of government misconduct by both the NYPD and the FBI," she said. "That was an open secret, but what the exoneration showed was definitive proof through NYPD reports and FBI documents [that] both had a treasure trove of exculpatory information."
The NYPD referred questions to the city law department.
At a press conference following the exoneration of the two men last year, Vance cited reports "revealing that, on orders from Director J. Edgar Hoover himself, the FBI ordered multiple witnesses not to tell police or prosecutors that they were, in fact, FBI informants."
The recently-released deathbed confession of an NYPD officer, who said he was tasked with ensuring that Malcolm X's security guards were arrested days prior to the activist's assassination, fueled further speculation about the the killing and who was responsible.
While Vance's review did not implicate either the NYPD or the FBI, it did find an array of failures leading up to the conviction of Aziz and Islam. There was no physical evidence linking either man to the ballroom, and witnesses said both were home at the time of the shooting.
A third defendant, Talmade Hayer, was apprehended inside the ballroom and later confessed to the killing. He maintained that his two co-conspirators were innocent and, in 1977, submitted an affidavit naming four other men who he said also took part in the killing.
At the time, the New York Supreme Court Justice ruled the new evidence was not enough to reopen the case.
SAO PAULO — Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has done it again: Twenty years after first winning the Brazilian presidency, the leftist defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro Sunday in an extremely tight election that marks an about-face for the country after four years of far-right politics.
With more than 99% of the votes tallied in the runoff vote, da Silva had 50.9% and Bolsonaro 49.1%, and the election authority said da Silva’s victory was a mathematical certainty. Bolsonaro, a great admirer of Donald Trump, has said he will not leave office.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL IS FAILING BLACK AMERICANS
by Dave Zirin
The World Series that starts Friday night between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies will be less diverse than the 1951 series between the New York Yankees and the New York Giants. As The Associated Press has noted, neither the Astros’ roster nor the Phillies’ roster is expected to include any U.S.-born Black players, the first time there's been such an absence in 72 years. In fact, after Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947, 1950 was the only World Series without any U.S.-born Black players — until today.
Both the top-dog Astros and the surging Phillies can boast of their Afro Latino talent. Think of Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez or Phillies shortstop Edmundo Sosa. And yes, one of the great figures in the series will be Astros manager Dusty Baker, who grew up idolizing Robinson, played with Henry Aaron and was an All-Star during perhaps the greatest generation of Black American talent the game has ever seen. (After 55 years in “the show,” Baker imparts this history to players and reporters alike.) But that the tradition of what was once called “Black Baseball” now rests with a 73-year-old man tells its own story.
There is no modern-day baseball without the baseball that Black Americans forged. Black athletes transformed the game from a pastoral pastime into something that hummed. The Negro Leagues incubated talent that produced showstoppers like pitcher Satchel Paige and slugger Josh Gibson. This tradition defined baseball throughout the second half of the 20th century through legends including Robinson, Aaron, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Dwight Gooden, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. These are the icons who inspired (and at times polarized) fans and made the game what it is.
Or what it was.
This season Black Americans made up only 7.2% of players on opening day rosters, the lowest percentage since the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport started charting the numbers in 1991.
This is a calamity for the sport. The state of the national pastime makes a sad statement about the nation itself. We are a divided country, mired in racial segregation and an ever-widening gap between the rich and the rest. Baseball now reflects this reality. Decades ago, children in urban communities played stickball and learned the sport with whatever equipment they could find or create. They had the freedom to develop their skills without adults charting their every move.
Then youth leagues and high schools became the place where the talent of Black Americans was able to flourish. Think of famed early 1980s Crenshaw and Fremont High School teams out of South Central Los Angeles led by future major league stars Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis. But now just playing in a youth league can be cost prohibitive for many families. And it’s not just the cost that’s the problem. Time-consuming travel teams are just about the only path to a college scholarship or the major leagues.
Meanwhile baseball, which is now more a reflection of corporate globalization than anything resembling a national pastime, has invested millions in baseball academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and invested in scouts who comb places such as Cuba, Japan and South Korea looking for talent. The Dominican Republic, an impoverished country of 11 million people, was the birthplace of at least 10% of Major League Baseball players at the start of the 2022 season. It has, in recent decades, been far less expensive and far more profitable for MLB to enroll Dominican teens in baseball academies than to try to make the kinds of investments in our own cities to find and develop talent.
Sports has a stronger appeal when we see ourselves on the field. In my family, any Jewish athlete who made it to Major League Baseball was immediately imagined to be the next Sandy Koufax or Hank Greenberg. Similarly, one of the reasons that baseball historically appealed to Black Americans was the presence of star players of galactic talent who looked like them. From Moses Fleetwood Walker in the 19th century and over the next hundred years, Black American stardom meant that kids grew up wanting to be a Reggie Jackson or a Dave Winfield.
But now that Black Americans are mostly gone from the sport, there’s a decreasing desire for Black American kids to step into the batter’s box. Or as Dusty Baker said this week, "What hurts is that I don't know how much hope that it gives some of the young African-American kids. Because when I was their age, I had a bunch of guys, Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson, Tommy Davis — my hero — Maury Wills, all these guys. We need to do something before we lose them."
Jesse Hagopian, who coaches a multiracial Little League team in Seattle and is co-editor of the book “Black Lives Matter at School,” told me he saw the report about Black Americans being absent from this World Series. “I was reflecting on why this was the other day when I took my kids to a baseball field near our house,” he said. “It was overgrown with weeds — a field that is located directly across the street from a glittering police precinct in a city where the mayor has just proposed adding $20 million to the police budget.”
He added: “It’s clear to me that the lack of Black kids joining baseball teams isn’t because Black people don’t like baseball — it’s directly linked to a lack of investment in facilities and equipment that Black kids need to play the game. If Black communities saw beautiful new baseball diamonds in their neighborhoods along with equipment that I'm sure Major League Baseball could donate, it would be a whole new ballgame."
Major League Baseball, to its credit, is finally throwing serious money at the problem. The league already has the RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities). Last year, MLB committed to investing $150 million over the next decade in an organization called the Players Alliance, which seeks to not only turn the tide on these trends on the field, but also provide training for front office jobs. Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox is the only Black general manager in Major League Baseball. The Players Alliance wants to see that change.
There is also what could be a remarkable generation of talent on the horizon. At this summer’s MLB draft, for the first time, four of the first five players selected were Black Americans. This is great for the sport, because the national pastime needs to be for everyone. If it isn’t, then it has failed in its mission to bring us together and instead would become another tool aimed at keeping us apart.
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 30TH OCTOBER
THE TOP E.U. diplomat accused Russia of threatening a key export route for food as the U.N. and Turkey pushed to revive a deal they helped broker.
The U.N. and Turkey work to restore the suspended grain deal.
Russia says it has recovered wreckage of the sea drones used to attack its Black Sea Fleet.
The U.S. says Russia is ‘weaponizing’ food by halting grain shipments.
A tribute to Stalin’s victims carries on in Moscow, on a smaller scale, after being banned.
As Europe faces an energy crisis, some of its leaders are turning to Africa for help.
At night I dream that you and I
are two plants that grew together,
— Pablo Neruda
SHE WAS A LEADING LESBIAN ACTIVIST BEFORE DISAPPEARING INTO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. A Filmmaker Wants To Know Why
by Ryan Kost
There was a rhythm to life on The Land, a sweet cadence in the place up Sherwood Road, just outside Willits in unincorporated Mendocino County.
The days began at first light — a meal, perhaps, followed by the gathering of firewood. Early on, in the ’70s, days were spent building: constructing homes from scraps, developing a spring for running water, planting a garden and building a fence to keep the deer out. At dusk, before the only light around came from flashlights, ingredients were gathered and a fire started. There was singing, too, and lots of laughter on this Northern California land, claimed and staked for women.
“Heaven” is how one woman described it.
As the years passed, the community grew and then shrank until Sally Miller Gearhart was the only one left, the lone holdout living on The Land year-round. Gearhart was a woman of many accomplishments. She wrote some of the first speculative lesbian fiction. She helped establish one of the nation’s first women’s studies programs at San Francisco State University. And she stood alongside Harvey Milk as he fought to defeat the anti-gay Briggs Initiative in 1978.
But the country setting had always called to Gearthart, so this was the place where Deborah Craig, a documentary filmmaker, found her in 2014. Now, with many of Gearhart’s achievements lost in the haze of history, Craig is working toward completion of a film to introduce Gearhart to a new generation.
“When I first met Sally, I was like, ‘What went wrong?’ She’s here, she’s alone, she’s in the woods. This is a sad story. It’s not going to end well,” Craig says. “And we spent months and months, if not years, trying to figure out what happened.”
Craig never sought out Gearhart, not specifically. As so often happens, one thing led to another.
Her name came up in the course of a different project, about lesbians and aging, that Craig was working on while pursuing a master’s degree in public health.
“I was just told, ‘Oh, I know a woman you might want to interview — she still lives on a women’s land community in the woods in Northern California, and she’s in her 80s and she still cuts her own firewood with a chainsaw.’”
That visual was everything.
“I wanted a picture of that,” Craig says. “I wanted videotape of that.”
She got that tape and more, when she met Gearhart at her home, tucked away in the hills outside Willits. Craig got her, late into her 80s, dressed in all denim, save for a white T-shirt and white Nike tennis shoes, driving around in a beat-up Jeep, seats all foam and springs, careening up and down dirt paths, shouting at the camera: “You OK back there?”
She got Gearhart blowing smoke rings. She got Gearhart rolling under a barbed-wire fence, dusting off her hands on her pants and turning to the camera as she pulled down the metal braids for Craig, like an invitation to follow. “Would you like for me to hold the camera for you?”
And she put all this in the early drafts of her short film, along with moments from the lives of other women, making their own ways into advanced age.
“Everybody who saw the footage was like ‘Who is this? She’s so amazing. You’ve got to make a film about her. … You shouldn’t do a film about aging, you should just do a film about Sally.”
By the time Craig had finished her short, she’d grown to agree.
Almost everybody starts by describing Gearhart’s voice, though the descriptions often seem to contradict one another. “Deep.” “Beautiful.” “Booming.”
“I loved listening to her talk,” says Cleve Jones, a longtime gay rights activist, and a contemporary of both Gearhart and Milk. “And sometimes I thought what she was saying was just crazy. But I never got tired of listening to that voice.”
Gearhart was tall — 5 feet 9 — with big hair and a broad (and warm) smile. She didn’t shave her armpits, but she almost always wore lipstick. One friend (and Land partner), Bonnie Gordon, described her as having a butch exterior and femme interior.
She was a lesbian separatist who spent a lot of time with men. A conservationist who said prayers for fallen trees and, later in life, sought commonality with the same loggers she’d once flipped off as they drove trucks through Willits. She fought conservatives’ attempts to ban queer people from public life by matching them, verse for verse, with her knowledge of the Bible.
The night that Milk died, she set police cars on fires in protest — or she spoke to the crowd telling everybody to remain calm. It depends on who you ask.
All these contradictions make her an interesting topic for a documentary. They also make her a difficult one. History gets clarified in the retelling, and Craig has chosen to make a first draft, to gather all the disparate threads and weave them together.
Craig and her crew have interviewed more than four dozen people, logging hundreds of hours of footage. Talk to that many people and a person, a narrative, becomes complicated, almost unruly. “The whole thing about Sally is the more we found out about her, the more interesting and complicated we found out she was.”
The trouble with making a documentary about Gearhart is there wasn’t just one of her; she was the sort of person who packs multiple lives into a single lifetime.
She was born 1931 in Pearisburg, Va., a small town on the Appalachian Trail, and raised by her grandmother, following her parent’s divorce.
Later, at Sweet Briar College, a nearby private women’s institution, she charmed her classmates with that voice — by singing and acting, being big and taking up space, according to Pat Winks, a friend who lived down the hallway at the time.
“Sally drew herself to people. She was someone who wanted to know you, wanted to know what you were like,” Winks told Craig during a day of filming in her San Francisco home. “You like somebody who wants to know you. That was Sally.”
Winks knew Gearhart was a lesbian in college, most everybody did, but, she says, “we didn’t talk about it, really.” That might have been the way Gearhart kept living, quietly and in the closet — and for many years she did as she pursued a master’s, then her doctorate, and settled down for a life in academia, teaching speech and theater in Texas in the ’60s. “For ten years, she taught passionately, judged beauty contests, and publicly denied the reality of her personal life and convictions,” writes Christine Cole in a short biography on Gearhart’s personal website.
By 1970, though, Gearhart had made up her mind to move to San Francisco, intent on becoming a different, open version of herself, no matter the costs.
This is when the Gearthart that most people know was born. “I heard from one of her close friends fairly early on, Sally would not have become Sally if she didn’t come to San Francisco,” Craig says. “She could have stayed in the South. She had a tenure track job. She could have stayed in the closet.”
From 1973 to 1992, Gearhart taught at San Francisco State University, earning tenure as an out lesbian, a considerable feat given the politics of the time. This is where she met Jane Gurko, too, her life partner and devoted friend — even after their romantic relationship ended. Together, they helped “initiate a ground-breaking curriculum experiment” that would become one of the first women’s studies programs in the nation.
“She was a wonderful teacher and just so engaging and so welcoming and so affirming of everyone,” says Bonnie Gordon, a student of Gearhart’s and later a resident on The Land. “I told (a) friend who had taken a class with her … ‘You know, I really have a crush on Sally.’ And she said ‘You and every other woman in San Francisco.’”
During this time, Gearhart became a fixture of lesbian activist spaces. She spoke out against discriminatory politicians. In 1977, she was among the 26 gay men and women featured in the seminal documentary “Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” This is how many people, including historian Estelle Freedman, first encountered Gearhart.
“She was stunning, such a powerful, charismatic speaker, and so thoughtful,” Freedman says. “By claiming her lesbianism — this was not something visible in film, television, literature in classrooms, you simply didn’t see it.”
It was during this time that Gearhart began to write, too — essays and books about women’s rights and lesbian activism, asserting, in one piece’s title, that “The Future — If There Is One — is Female.” In her political writing, she sometimes put forth explosive proposals — reducing the percentage of men (over time) to just 10% of the population, for example.
“It was evocative hyperbole,” says Susan Leo, one of the women called to The Land. “Sally wanted people to think seriously about the violence and the culture of violence perpetuated by the patriarchy.”
In her science fiction, Gearhart used words to carve speculative futures where these ideals were allowed to live. She created worlds where, as author Jewelle Gomez put, “women were not victimized.” Gearhart was not the first to do this, she wrote alongside other, better known authors, most notably Octavia Butler. But Gomez remembers the impact of Gearhart’s serialized stories about “The Wanderground,” a land where women, psychically connected, formed a utopian existence, away and free from men. The stories were collected and released under that same name in 1979; it remained in print for more than 20 years.
“It really did create a stir because it was just one of the first books, I would say, that imagined a world in which a community of women was self-sufficient, protected itself,” Gomez says. “She set the pace for a lot of other writers who came after her with just that one book.”
Around the same time as she wrote about these “hill women,” Gearhart, her partner and two close friends began to cultivate a community in the hills of Mendocino County. “Feminist utopian ideals. Freedom. Land ownership. Country life.” All of that drew Gearhart away from big city life, which she “always felt to be a necessity not a preference,” Leo says. “After a long search, she found Willits and it felt like home.”
The morning interviews stretched into the early evening as Bonnie Gordon and Penny Sablove shared stories about Gearhart, one of their closest friends. They were among the many land partners who made a home (theirs was called Corazón) outside Willits, so they knew her with a keen sort of intimacy.
Gordon spoke about how Gearhart collected “people on the fringe.” This was a woman, Gordon said, who fed raccoons and held a deer as it died.
Sablove called Gearhart “a guiding light.” People got it wrong when they called her a “separatist.” It wasn’t that she disliked men. “She just wondered what would women, would girls, be like without all the crap they must deal with.”
Craig nodded along as they spoke. She never rushed to fill pauses; she let Gordon and Sablove do that instead.
Through her questions, Craig tried to pull the details of people’s Sallys from decades in the past.
When the day was nearly up, Craig had “one last question” for Penny — the same question she always liked to end on.
“Is there anything you’d like to thank Sally for?”
Penny thought for a moment.
“I want to thank Sally for her generosity.”
There’s a scene in “Milk,” the 2008 Academy Award-winning biopic about the life of San Francisco activist and politician Harvey Milk, where Milk faces off against John Briggs, a California state senator, who, in the late ’70s, had proposed banning gay people from teaching in public schools.
The two men meet in an Orange County school gymnasium, a moderator between them. The crowd is hostile, but Harvey delivers a zinger: “You, yourself, have said there’s more molestation in the heterosexual group, so why not get rid of the heterosexual teacher?”
Only something is missing from the scene: Gearhart. In truth, she and Harvey sat side by side during multiple debates against Briggs.
The activist Jones says he’d introduced the two for exactly this reason — together, he figured, they’d soften and complement one another. “She and Harvey were just this great team because Harvey was sort of New York, Jewish …. There’s a bit of edge to him, you know, a little bit sarcastic,” Jones says. “And she had this southern inflection and this background in theology.”
By some accounts, it was Gearhart who was the standout against Briggs, though most of the film from those debates has been lost, at least for now. Jenni Olson, the archival researcher for the documentary about Gearhart, calls it “the holy grail.” But one can get a small taste, from a brief clip Craig uses in the trailer for her film.
“Overwhelmingly, I might add, it’s the heterosexual man who are the child molesters,” Gearhart says in the clip.
“I believe that’s a myth,” Briggs responds.
“Oh, senator, the FBI, the National Council on Family Relations, the Santa Clara County Childhood Sexual Abuse Treatment Center and on and on and on,” Gearhart said, citing a list of studies about the topic.
Her absence in “Milk” was a harsh indictment, for those who loved and knew her, of how Gearhart’s contributions to the movement — and the contributions of so many women — could be so easily ignored.
Leo remembers watching “Milk” with Gearhart. “She just rolled her eyes and was like ‘Well, that’s typical.’”
There is a version of “Milk” that included Gearhart and her deep and honeyed voice. Dustin Lance Black’s earliest versions of the screenplay included her, right alongside Harvey, true to the mom-and-pop front they presented on stage those decades ago.
But a biopic is not a documentary, and Black faced pressure to trim the script. Big characters who show up late in the third act, like Gearhart, he said during a phone call from London, “are often the ones who never make it to screen.”
He made a point, some years later, to write her into a mini series about the movement he wrote for ABC, but the point, really, is this: “Sally is deserving of a film of her own.”
“Film has the power to help people see,” say Olson, the archivist, “to help people latch on” to history.
“Our history, queer history, has been buried. And it’s been buried because until very recently — and hopefully never again — our lives have been illegal,” Black says. “There is a vast mosaic … of queer foremothers and forefathers. And these stories must be told. But first they have to be excavated.”
There are no signs to help direct a person to the place up Sherwood Road. A hand-drawn map on pink paper is about as good as it gets.
On The Land, the leaves falling from the Black Oak trees sound like rain when they hit a roof — and like snow when they meet the bottom of a boot. Dirt paths cut through tall, and tick-filled, grass, connecting one home to another, most with their own names — Bay Tree, Corazón (“heart” in Spanish), Terpsichore (the Greek muse of poetry and dance) and Sunspot.
Near Gearhart’s old home, there’s a tall madrone with knots in its smooth bark that look a lot like a woman’s breasts. Whether she ever noticed, we might never know. But Vivian Power, a friend of Gearhart’s, laughed as she pointed them out — the knots; the breasts — on a cool morning last winter just before she poured some of Gearhart’s ashes into a gnarled nook at the base of the very same tree. “I really have a feeling she built … here because of its size.”
Power met Gearhart when she showed up to a Spanish class that Power was teaching. Gearhart wore high heels, unusual for Willits. “This giant figure,” Power says. She had to force herself to look away, to make eye contact with the other students. They became close friends, and Power was with Gearhart in the days leading up to her passing.
After Power had emptied the small jar of Gearhart’s ashes, she paused, taking in the moment.
“She loved me. I mean, she really did,” Power said. “She loved everybody. This came up at her memorial how everybody that got there just thought, ‘Oh, I am her best friend.’
“She made everybody feel that way.”
In the first half of 1995 — two decades into living on The Land, on and off — Gearhart wrote and revised an essay titled “Notes From a Recovering Activist.” She wrote about her past and her time taking to the streets.
“I marched and rallied and picketed, raged and wept and threatened, crusaded and persuaded and brigaded,” she wrote. “But I’m giving it up.”
Don’t mistake her, she writes, “I feel more passionately than ever about issues of justice and peace and environmental health. But I’m going about my life in a different way, a way in fact that I’ve scorned for twenty-five years.”
She’d stopped trying to change people, she writes. “I’m assuming that cleaning up my own act is the best contribution I can make to any cause.”
She imagined the reader rolling her eyes. But, while she might have, five years earlier, cursed at a logger carrying dead trees down a highway; or, two years prior, prayed he might see the error of his way; now she was making no effort to judge or to change him, but simply trusting that the “acknowledgment of our kinship can make a positive difference in the texture of all of our lives.”
She understood the holes in this line of thinking, but after all her years and all of her lives, it’s where she wound up.
Maybe living on The Land, in a small world of her creation, taught her something about the wider world. Lauretta Molitor, who is running sound for the documentary, has given this some thought.
“None of us are static and set in stone,” she said some months ago during an interview. “As strongly as she might have held certain views … we all evolve.”
Ideally — “in the best of circumstances” — Gearhart would have dropped dead on a dance floor and all the witnesses would “rejoice with me.” At least that’s how she imagined her death in a rather detailed document dated 2001.
Her end, though, wasn’t quite as she imagined.
On April 15, 2021, Gearhart’s friends gathered on the land for her 90th birthday. That was a Thursday. Three days later, she moved to an assisted living home nearby, where she spent the last of her days.
Gearhart had strict instructions for what to do in the event of her death. She was fine, even glad, to give her “body parts” to save the lives of baboons or other “nonhuman primates,” but she’d permit a donation to another human only on the condition that using animal body parts in humans was, by the time of her death, unlawful.
“Otherwise, keep all my parts and products with the body they know and love, letting them all share a common demise,” she wrote in the same document in which she had detailed her death on a dance floor.
Her body, she suggested, could possibly be mulched and made into dog food or dropped on the Alaskan tundra as a meal for the polar bears.
If none of that was possible, cremation would suffice. As for the funeral: “If there’s a need for some sort of ‘closure occasion,’ please just be sure it’s a celebration and that there’s lots of dancing and singing.”
So that’s how it went on the day of Gearhart’s “celebration of life,” nearly one year ago, in a park in downtown Willits.
There were speeches and songs and poetry, all dedicated to Gearhart, a woman who helped shape more than one movement and usually ate standing up — handfuls of Goldfish or Ritz Crackers, washed down with Pepsi, followed by canned frosting for dessert.
Craig spoke, too. The truth is, over the course of making the documentary, Craig became a part of Gearhart’s life and Gearhart became a part of hers.
“I don’t think it’s possible to step all the way back ever,” Craig says. “I mean, you couldn’t know Sally or even make a good film about her without getting some kind of emotional attachment — a connection not just to her, but to the people surrounding her.”
As it stands now, Craig hopes to hit a late 2023 film festival run. She just won a $25,000 grant from the Berkeley Film Foundation to help with the completion of the project.
Not even Craig knows what that film will look like by then.
The challenge before her, now, is to resurrect this woman for a wider audience, and to reconcile all her many lives: Sally, the student; Sally, the professor; Sally, the author; Sally, the activist; Sally, the lesbian separatist; Sally, the woman living on The Land until the end.