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Mendocino County Today: Monday, March 6, 2023

Cold Showers | Snow Rescues | CSD Meeting | Chick Shuttle | School News | Fertile Eggs | South Ukiah | Unity Anniversary | Bill Update | Graffito | Grange Events | Bunyan Days | Ed Notes | Local Sharpener | Cannabummer | Snowbound | Donkey Butter | Killer Bob | Yesterday's Catch | School Tragedy | Mt Konocti | Punker Query | Deregulation | Dem Commies | Book of Marmon | Slavomir Rawicz | Mums | Spirit Lyft | 1970 | Climate Cycler | Squalor | Maga Badges | Working Undercover | Old GPS | Lucky Ducks | Lead Belly | Chron Chaplain | Traveling Sharpener | Peddling Darkness | Taxing Billionaires | Smoking Hash | Acid Trip | Ingrates | Big Bear | Ukraine | Toxic Air

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CONTINUED COLD AND SHOWERY CONDITIONS are expected across Northwest California through Wednesday. A period of heavier showers will result in one more round of heavy snow for elevations over 1500 feet Tuesday into Tuesday night. A pattern shift to warmer conditions and higher snow levels is likely late in the week. (NWS)

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THIS MORNING, SEARCH CREWS IN NORTHERN MENDOCINO COUNTY to Look for Multiple Residents Stuck in the Snow

Two Laytonville women are unaccounted for on Spy Rock Road, a rural route in Mendocino’s North County currently socked in under 4′-6′ of snow. Authorities are in contact with the women. They also are going to help other parties seeking rescue after being stuck in Mendocino County’s higher elevations for 10+ days…

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Special Meeting of The Board Of Directors

Anderson Valley Community Services District

Tuesday, March 7th, 2023, at 7pm

Boonville Fire Station, 14281 Hwy 128

Teleconference 669-900-6833, Zoom Meeting ID: 462 981 9537, Password: 7400

Public comments or document requests can be submitted electronically to

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JENNIFER BIRD at AV Farm Supply had to make a four-hour round-trip to Petaluma to retrieve these chicks stuck in the post office.

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Tuesday, March 7, 5:00 p.m., High School Library

  • Introductions
  • Purpose—Discuss broad themes not individual kids or incidents
  • Breakout groups for specific suggestions related to drug focus and anti-bullying focus
  • List a set of actions and next steps
  • Set next meeting time and date


School will be open on REGULAR SCHEDULE TODAY. This afternoon is a TWO-BUS ROUTE DAY.

Be safe and warm!

Take care,

Louise Simson, Superintendent, Anderson Valley Unified School District

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AV HIGH’S AG DEPARTMENT is looking for hatching eggs. 2-4 dozen fertile eggs. Willing to pay or trade for Ag Department’s fresh non-fertile eggs. Incubating to begin on March 9. Contact Beth Swehla,

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The section of the Ukiah Valley south of Whitmore St is an outdoor recreational desert island. This new development needs to connect to the rest of Ukiah somehow other than S State St by putting in a bike/walk trail thru it to Oak Knoll. (To get your bearings, the new development will be on the ukiah side of the 5th District near Plant Rd and the health club in South Ukiah in those big empty fields/former vineyards on the west side of South State St). Currently, between Whitmore on the north to the Booneville Rd on the South, there are zero neighborhood streets connecting us to the rest of Ukiah, except South State. 

There are a lot of families that live down here. There’s all the folks in the former motels on S State, the entire neighborhood off Booneville Rd, and the neighborhood by the Junior Academy. And now 100+ houses being added thru this development. Basically, there’s a lot of people in a recreational desert down here whose only biking/walking option is a stretch of S State St notorious for speeding cars headed to the south bound 101 on ramp. The County Area Plan identifies recreational connectivity. There is a Blue Zones effort as well emphasizing this. I love the idea of the Redwood Trail and hope it eventually makes its way down here but it cannot be the only option because it would still require a lot of traversing a very busy Street to get to it. 

From Supervisor Mo Mulheren… (No word from Ted Williams our actual Supervisor…..“Bella Vista (formerly known as Gardens Gate) will be heard by the Planning Commission on March 9th. For those that ask about housing (other than low income) this is the opportunity to weigh in on increased housing stock in the Ukiah Valley.

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THE UNITY CLUB Celebrates Women's History Month and their 100th Anniversary at the Rose Room at the Anderson Valley Historical Museum.

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NANCY MACLEOD: Bill [Allen] is in Alameda Hospital now. I am staying w/an old friend in Berkeley, where my car was stolen two days ago. Bill is still up and down. Yesterday he very clearly said ‘Delirium’ amongst his unintelligible ramblings. (He always talked like this in his sleep, anyway.) Usually such an optimistic person, I am feeling just now that… Well, let's just say, I'm pretty fried. This car theft thing has nearly done me in! I'll get thru' it; no other choice! When there is something more ‘interesting’ to report about Bill's progress, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, thanks for your concern!

Take care,


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Northwestern Pacific trestle on Route 101 (Redwood Hwy) at Reynolds Hwy in Willits (Jeff Goll)

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Variety Show, remember the Variety Show? The ANNUAL Variety Show. It's been 2 years, whats with that, how did we survive? This March weekend is the traditional date for the show, but we've moved the date. You still have about 2 months to perfect that double flip off the grand piano. This is it: MAY 12th and 13th at the Anderson Valley Grange. Mark your calendars and spread the word. For those of you who came in late, the AV Grange Variety Show began 32 years ago for the "grand" opening of the rebuilt Grange, the original building from 1939 having burnt to the ground 5 years before that first show. We all had so much fun we decided to do it again, and again, and again and we're still having fun. NOW we are looking for acts. We bill it as 4 minutes in front of 400 people. You, yes you can be in it, there are no tryouts... it's a Variety show after all not a talent show. WC Fields once said , "never work with children or animals", well, we say BRING em ON! It's been so long folks, time to bust out! Get in touch with Abeja 707 621-3822 or Cap Rainbow 707 472-9189

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It might be wet next Sunday March 12. It might be wild from 8:30-11:00. But you can count on Pancakes with all the fixings, eggs, bacon, coffee, tea and juice at the AV Grange. It's the monthly 2nd Sunday AV GRANGE PANCAKE BREAKFAST, and remember to set your clocks an hour ahead on Saturday night or you might be an hour late for breakfast!

(Captain Rainbow)

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PAUL BUNYAN DAYS IS BACK on track for Labor Day Weekend 2023. 

With new officers and a new board, everyone is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. It takes a lot work, volunteers, and community support, to pull off one of the largest events on the Mendocino Coast, Paul Bunyan Days. As it gets a little closer to the date, more information will be available on how you can participate, or even help, with this fun packed event.

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BILL RAY WRITES: Word is that Luke Breit died. It looks like your long ago article about his life and times will be a dubious epitaph.

Mary Norbert Korte is gone, died November 14, 2022. Her memory will be honored here in Willits March 12, 2-6, at the Grange.

March 12 would have been Jack Kerouac's 101st birthday. Hitchhiking on Highway 101 in the early Fifties, he wrote that if his first book succeeded he would buy a ranch in Ukiah where writers and artists could visit to work.

I am in on the program with Dan Roberts and Linda Noel. The NYC editors of her posthumous book will attend and speak.

Although you probably have not traveled to Willits since the Chase printing shop days, it would be good to see you — possibly to comment on poetry in Mendocino County during the last half-century. End of an era.

Hoping all is well with you and family,

Bill Ray


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Mary Korte

ED NOTE: I'm afraid Breit wrote his own obituary, as we all do with the lives we've led. I'm saddened that he died without an obituary or any other formal announcement of his death. Lots of people knew him, but it must have been at his request there was no announcement of his passing. I was very fond of Mary, and still laugh when I remember her poem Throwing Fire Crackers Out the Window While the Ex-Husband Drives By. And I've always admired the work of you and Linda Noel. Mary, I wouldn't want to wreck the event by arguing with probably half the people present about many of Mendocino County's larger events where I've invariably found myself in the minority.

THE SECOND PART OF THIS SENTENCE from the Press Democrat is probably true: “Police continued to investigate a fatal stabbing at a Santa Rosa high school as students and victims’ families said Thursday that the school had allowed an ongoing conflict between the students to fester until it erupted into violence.”

STUDENT perceptions that discipline is unnervingly loose seems to be true, especially considering that two older boys felt free to bust into an in-session class to beat up a younger boy. And it isn't surprising that the younger boy had armed himself with a knife in anticipation of attack. And the younger boy stabbed both his assailants, stabbing one of them to death.

MONTGOMERY HIGH SCHOOL has an enrollment of more than 1600 students, such an unmanageable number that until recently the school paid for an on-campus police officer to help keep the peace. One might expect that Sonoma County's raft of highly paid administrators — neatly removed from sight and sound of young people in their own cozy little compound — would begin to re-think their educational mission, that maybe it isn't a good idea in the context of an imploding society to place 1600 young people raised in varying conditions of social psychosis in one place.

BUT WHAT'S NEW about school bullying? There is always a small minority of cruel little bastards in any school population whatever the social-economic status of their parents, and school-related tragedies are as old as schools themselves.

ON A FATAL AFTERNOON in 1877, when all of Boonville's small population of young people attended a little red school now celebrated as Anderson Valley's museum, two older boys — A.E. Irish and John Clow — got into an argument, what about is lost in time. 

WHAT IS KNOWN is that Clow punched Irish, Irish produced a knife and was slashing at Clow when Clow's brother, Jim, ran up to join his brother in fending off Irish. Eyewitnesses said that Irish, still brandishing his knife, now confronted the two Clows, with Jim Clow apparently being the more menacing. Irish, who was moving backwards, lashed out at Jim Clow, cutting him deeply above the hip. The bleeding couldn't be stanched, and Jim Clow died where he'd fallen beneath the old pine that still shades the schoolhouse door. 

WOMEN'S CLOTHING EXCHANGE — Saturday March 11th 5pm Mosswood Cafe' ...time to spring clean our closets, and share the love of... clothes

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LOCALS WHO FREQUENTED the Boonville Farmers Market in the past will remember Scott Miller, the popular Ukiah-based sharpener of tools and utensils who used to be a regular at the Market. Mr. Miller is still at it, although the Boonville Market isn’t. If you need anything sharpened he can be reached at 707/272-7274 or at He’s also on facebook. He’s mobile and available to attend to your dull stuff on your site. A sharp knife is safer, a sharp tool is a real time-saver. PS. Miller is also a pretty good gardener.

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To the Editor,

Some truly sad facts about Mendocino County cannabis:

Mendocino County’s most appalling bureaucratic statistic is that 832 applicants have been in the process of getting a cannabis cultivation license. Only 12 licenses have been approved by county bureaucrats since California legalization in 2017.

Those 12 licenses out of the total of 844 in Mendocino County is an approval rate of only 1.42%. Think about that — 1.42%.

State-wide, among California’s 57 other counties, I think the approval rate is something like 49%.

With regard to those 832 pending applications, we’re talking about a total of, max, a couple of hundred acres in cannabis. Why? Because each applicant is limited to only ten thousand square feet.

Compare the acreage in cannabis to all the acreage in vineyards in Mendocino County. Cannabis is almost statistically insignificant when compared to grapes.

This year, about half of those 832 pending applications will be “deprioritized” by the county — in other words, lost forever. A total waste! Time, money, and effort gone forever!

Cannabis prices have collapsed — collapsed below the breakeven point for a farm to survive. Yet, these 832 applicants are still trying to play by Mendo’s insane rules.

Every year, each of these 832 applicants is required to complete a Commercial Cannabis Licensee Bond form for a surety bond of at least. At $5,000 per premises, that’s $4.16 million total that’s raked in every year from cannabis permit applicants. That’s plenty of incentive for the county to continue to be incompetent.

The entire fiasco in Mendocino County began with state-wide “legalization” in 2017 and was soon exacerbated by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors who refused to simply adopt neighboring Humboldt County’s workable local ordinance.

Mendocino County is home to more self-styled cannabis “experts” per capita than any place in America, yet our county’s Board of Supervisors piled on all manner of unreasonable stipulations — stipulations for unreasonable (and expensive) environmental and neighborhood protections, water use, and odor abatement. Mendo’s ordinance far exceeds basic CEQA and Water Code protections.

Our county’s cannabis czar is Kristan Nevedal. Not that long ago, Supervisor Ted Williams lauded Ms. Nevedal. He said Ms. Nevedal was hired because she was a Board Member at the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA).

What is the CCIA?

CCIA is the trade group for “Big Money” and “Corporate Cannabis” in California.

CCIA is chaired by Pamela Epstein of Eden Enterprises, a vertically integrated company. Small family farmers are losing market share to vertically integrated companies — vertically integrated companies have every competitive advantage in the world.

CCIA’s vice chair is Eddie Franco of Nabis, a leading cannabis wholesaling platform. Small family farmers are beholden to wholesalers who set prices, even rig prices.

So why don’t our local cannabis farmers organize their own co-op?

Small family farmers have tried to form co-ops to save on processing costs, develop distribution, compete with large growers, and have control over their own supply chain, but the state’s cannabis co-op law was written with a bias against them.

Mendocino County does not regulate cannabis as an agriculture. The county regulates cannabis under its business codes.

Years ago, when a former county agriculture commissioner attempted to report cannabis as a county agricultural commodity, along with wine grapes, log production, pears, apples, walnuts, he was fired.

Mendocino County official crop report doesn’t even include cannabis. See crop report: 637958968097230000 (

Flow Kana failed despite a capitalization of over $175 million and endorsements from Snoop Dog, Willie Nelson, and others.

Flow Kana was owned and operated by scallywags and carpetbaggers. Michael Steinmetz from Venezuela and Jason Adler from Wall Street.

Flow Kana was all smoke and mirrors. They ripped off farmers and their own workers (ask around).

I could go on. But I won’t.

John Sakowicz


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‘SEND HELP IF YOU CAN’: Rural Residents Trapped By Snow For Nearly Two Weeks Struggling To Survive

County crews plow roads made accessible by dozer operator (photo by Shanon Taliaferro)

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DAVID SVEHLA WRITES: Re: Tommy Wayne Kramer’s ‘Death By Bureaucracy’

Thank you for the succinct piece. In addition to the hateful Mendo Lib Government, there’s the grower/seller malfeasance: Shortly into the ‘Pandemic,’ my Mendo Growers of some years sold a whole bunch of fire-tainted weed, overbred as well. The last smash stash I got from them was ‘Donkey Butter:’ So superb I wrote a song about it! Namaste from San Francisco.

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by Tommy Wayne Kramer

Two recent comments, published in opposition to the planned new courthouse, suggest security measures are overrated as there’s no history of breaches or escape attempts within anyone’s memory.


I have a memory, and it stretches all the way back to 1986, when a career criminal named Robert Wayne Danielson was on trial for murdering a couple of elderly campers on the south coast.

Robert Danielson

Danielson, originally from Marin County, had recently been released from prison after serving 10 years for murder in Oregon. That case was a marijuana deal in which one guy brought pot in a box, the other brought a pistol in a pocket. Bob wound up with both the weed and the cash; the other guy wound up with two bullet holes in his chest.

Now, supposedly having paid his dues to society, Bob Danielson was once again unleashed. He persuaded a teenage girl in Springfield to accompany him on his adventures and I’ll bet she got her money’s worth. They hitchhiked to a campsite in southern Oregon and encountered an old fella with a pickup truck.

Bob shot the gentleman, seated at a picnic table, twice in the head, took the keys and drove to Mendocino County where they camped on the beach. In the morning the girl knocked on the door of a nearby RV and asked to borrow some sugar. The friendly lady said yes, then Bob muscled in. He tied his captives up then drove south on Highway One and east into the hills. 

Everyone got out. The married couple were seated on the ground and Bob, using a pillow as a silencer, shot the husband in the head. The pillow cover jammed the pistol and it must have been a hellish few minutes as he worked the slide free of the fabric. The elderly wife, having experienced from a distance of about nine inches the ice cold murder of her husband, well understood Bob’s intentions. Being Bob Danielson he calmly, and probably cheerfully, finished the job despite her shrieking and wailing.

(SPOILER ALERT: Bob dies in the end.) 

But first he and the teeny bopper drove south to Guerneville where they parted company with the dead couple’s Dachshund, then to Vegas with the dead folks’ traveler’s checks. Bob later told me he killed another guy in Nevada by injecting him with battery acid (“until his eyeballs smoked”). (“Oh bull-bleep,” a forensic doctor laughed.)

Some months later Robert Wayne Danielson was arrested, alone, at a motel in Plano, Texas, and hauled back to Mendocino County to face charges. One of his attorneys, Norm Vroman, asked me to quit my job as Editor of the Mendocino Grapevine to work as an investigator on the Danielson matter. 

Well, giddyup! said me to myself.

It went to trial on the second floor of the courthouse, the Honorable James Luther presiding; Bob being held at the jail out on Low Gap Road. One weekend about halfway through the trial Norm and I were visiting Danielson in a jail interview room. As we stood to leave Bob asked a favor.

He had a birthday card for his mom, he said, and asked if Norm would take it, stamp it and send it off. It was already late, said Bob, and the jail was always slow sending mail out. Please?

Norm took the pre-addressed envelope, stuck it in his files, mailed it and forgot about it. The envelope did indeed contain a birthday card, but it also had instructions for Bob’s mother. 

Bob Danielson was at core a cold, cunning coward of a criminal with no qualms using his mother in an escape attempt. I never read his secret birthday card message, but I do know what happened.

Every morning Bob, accompanied by two bailiffs, was brought from the jail and into the courthouse through the swinging double doors facing School Street. One of those mornings Mary Danielson was in a chair on the north side wall. Don’t forget the chrome pistol with the white grips, Bob had no doubt reminded her.

And so one fine summer day Frank and Larry, amiable and friendly bailiffs both, had taken the handcuffed Danielson by the elbows and pushed through the doors. Mary stood, pressed the pistol into Bob’s manacled hands, then hurried out to her blue Ford station wagon and drove south.

Danielson later said he just couldn’t possibly bring harm to Frank and Larry, as nice a pair of gents he could ever have wanted to meet. My guess was the gun jammed or he couldn’t twist his cuffed wrists into firing position. 

Frank and Larry subdued and disarmed him, Mother Mary was arrested passed out drunk on the front seat of her car on West Third Street in Cloverdale, the trial resumed and Robert Wayne Danielson was convicted of a pair of First Degree murders.

He went to Death Row at San Quentin, and six or eight years later tied some socks together, fastened one end around a cell bar, the other around his neck and leaned forward until he turned blue, or maybe purple, and was found some time later, alas.

It was my first case as a criminal defense investigator and I knew from the start I’d made the right choice abandoning the ailing world of journalism for a fresh and lively career as a private investigator.

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, March 5, 2023

Graham, Harrison, Hoaglen

STEPHANI GRAHAM, Clearlake/Ukiah. Burglary during declared emergency, conspiracy.

SEBASTIAN HARRISON, Little River. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, domestic battery.

SHAWNTEL HOAGLEN, Laytonville. Battery, parole violation.

Kummer, Nosek, Perry, Rogers

KATE KUMMER, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

ROBERT NOSEK, Glen Cove, New York/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

FRANK PERRY, Lawrenceville, Georgia/Ukiah. Failure to appear.

KEVIN ROGERS, Eureka/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent.

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As a retired school principal, let me share that one of my worst nightmares tragically occurred at Montgomery High on Wednesday (Santa Rosa Press Democrat, ‘16-year-old slain in classroom stabbing,’ Thursday). And while many will opine that the school should have had better security, the school should have had better discipline, the school should employ more counselors, we must understand that preventive measures must be shared by all of us.

When parents ensure their children leave for school from a loving home; when parents are in touch with their kids’ successes and concerns — academic and otherwise; when neighbors know one another and who’s child belongs to whom; when communities join hands to model communication, cooperation, connection and consequence; then, in concert with the efforts of educators, we can better expect each of our kids to return home each day.

But the schools cannot do it on their own.

Sorrowfully, from here in Cloverdale, I’m pulling for the folks at Montgomery and the surrounding community.

Dave Delgado


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Mt. Konocti from Olympic Dr in Clearlake (photo by James Marmon)

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LARRY LIVERMORE ASKS: These are some questions for touring musicians, but not just any touring musicians. 

I’m specifically interested in the experiences of punk rock musicians who’ve been at it a while - say 10 or 20 years, or even longer, if that’s the case - and who might be loosely called “semi-professional,” i.e., you’ve never had a big hit or been super-famous, but you’re well-known enough that you can tour regularly and make enough money to pay your way and maybe come home with a little bit of a profit. 

What I’m wondering is: have you seen your crowds getting bigger, smaller, or staying about the same? Are the clubs/venues you’re playing bigger, smaller, or about the same? Are your audiences mostly people your own age (in other words, getting older), or are new, younger fans also showing up? Lastly, do you see yourself being able to do this indefinitely, or do you anticipate some sort of expiration date?

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* * *


To The Editor,

The California Communist Manifesto.

1. There shall be no private property except for elite party members.

2. Firearms will not be allowed except for approved police organizations. 

3. Taxation will always expand through new, newer and higher taxes.

4. The growth of the party through government roles, taxes, fees, fines etc. shall not be infringed.

5. The old economy will be replaced by government jobs financed by inflation, taxes, fees and fines, paid for by the old economy.

6. The finances of elite party members will not be questioned

7. New courthouse and prisons will be the symbols of unity and shall be given priority.

8 There shall be no negative press regarding the government of the party.

9. All workers will belong to a party-approved union.

10. All water is the property of the state.

11. All administration at public school will be party members; employees who do not adhere to party ethics will be expunged.

Please copy this Democratic Manifesto and place it in a public place. Ignorance is no excuse to break the law.

‘Comrade’ Tom Madden


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* * *


Quiet, long after dark

The dogs have fallen asleep

So I’ll rest, reading a favorite story

The Homeric saga of Slavomir Rawicz

Escaping the tundra graves of Stalin’s Gulag

He led six others from the Arctic Circle camp

To the tropical highlands of North India

Later the home of another wanderer from the familiar fist of death

Lhamo Thundup, the Dalai Lama, and his Tibetan elite


The chapter scene was a heated log cabin, the Commandant’s

Who did not comprehend his new Telefunken radio set

So had called among the prisoners for a repairman

Who became Slavomir, admitting later he knew nothing

But remembered the set his parents used in Poland.

As he worked on the radio tracing the coils

They conversed in Russian, his mother’s native speech

The Commandant’s Russian speaking wife was there, the first woman

He had seen in years

It was she who gave him courage to escape Siberia

Fleeing South four thousand miles on foot


When my wife read his tale the first months of our meeting

She discerned my soul and the prisoner’s were Karmic kin

She visualized me leading the trek to freedom

And decided at some point to stay with me until the end

I knew the author of the story; moved by his anguish

I wrote, care of Constable the English publisher

In those days it was honor to write and to respond

The symbolic warmth of one hand extended to the other

Traversing the time and distances between

And he replied in a British styled tissue envelope

I did not have the nerve to open at the Post Office

But delivered home to give Judith

She read it aloud and showed his sketches

Of the Yeti whom the escapees had seen

While crossing the Himalayan fastnesses


Rawicz thanked me for the international money order

I had sent to support the Polish orphanages he helped

With funds from the book, The Long Walk

That had not been out of print since 1956

He confided the reason for their tenacious deed

“We had to get away,” was all he said

We corresponded several times in the course of years

He wrote he was too old to make me a walking stick

He had wrought as talismen of his awful trial

But then, about that time, Alexander and Emma

Ken’s son and daughter, eight and five

Threw together and bought me one in the town of Mendocino

Which I carried, when Alex returned as a grown man

To visit June 6 and 7, 2019, to Montgomery Woods

The redwood tree preserve, a cathedral of Nature

Thirty miles South of Willits in a verdant gorge

Between two Westward mountain ridges

Alex insisted to sleep in the sauna I built

In part to welcome him to his father’s first home

And his grandparents’ last abode

On that side of the lineage

He bedded on the anteroom’s raised platform

Of bare redwood boards with tiny windows North and South

Opposite the sauna door, with the roof sloped to our height

Not too tall, of the seven by seven foot chamber

That warmed past ninety in a trice

When I tested the stove later in the season


Judith went to see it only once and said, “You’re a good builder.”

The stair steps down and up again exhausted her

She rested for hours afterwards, saying “You don’t know.”

That she would have no part in the winter ritual from my ancestral past

Alienated me from the prospect, so when the fire people

Tacitly watched while it caught from the inferno they had left to flame

Without a drop of water I accepted the judgment of fate

That a pyre had been prepared for Isaac and his staff of life

Placed on gathered sticks for atonements unknown past and future

Enlighting the Eastern hills with thoughts of the ages

Including the pages letters and drawings of Slavomir Rawicz

Who also like Isaac and Ishmael escaped alive to tell thee

When months later in unaccountable loneliness

I bought a few books as emblems of Memory

A copy advertised “in good condition” arrived from near Nottinghamshire

Slavomir’s family home with his autograph on the title page

And the salutation, “With best wishes.”

As though Death had no dominion upon winged Spirit’s incomprehensible flight

— WJ Ray (Jan. 4, 2020)

* * *

(photo by Will Lee)

* * *


by Bill Grimes

A pleasant experience, seldom remembered in our days of mind-seeking ubiquitous information, is the feel of something special, something significant, in one’s hand. Could be the handles of your first two wheeler, the fingers of your baby child, the doorknob of your home, the document received at college graduation, and the hand of another whose touch created an instant of happiness.

While perhaps not as ethereal or unique as those above, what I held in my hand today was the equivalent of the Library of Congress, the Oxford American dictionary, nearly every newspaper and radio station in the world, a million movies, a selection of live sporting events, tv shows from the beginning of time, interviews with the most accomplished people in the world, and the ability to talk to (and see) another person near or far away. Of course it was the smart phone, my iPhone, I clasped in my hand.

The aluminum backside of the device furnished a welcomed coolness on this searing August afternoon. I was standing on the street outside the big house, eyes fixated on the image on the screen displaying a map of my surrounding locale. The Lyft App. Black lines on a light green backdrop represented streets and the icon of a car moving one centimeter every couple of seconds on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, heading in my direction. Beneath the map the depiction of a shiny black Honda Civic Sedan and its driver’s name and picture, Drupadh.

I was headed to Oakland to meet son Lee at the historic Fox Theater which opened in 1928 as a movie theater, now a 2800-seat concert hall, to see David Byrne and his new band perform. 

Minutes later the Honda pulled up and I was greeted by Drupadh who looked about thirty. I thought he was Indian or Paki. The interior of the car was unsullied, the widows spotless, the scent was pristine, a blend of hide and gunmetal suggesting the Honda had recently departed the factory. The welcomed temperature inside I guessed was 70 which felt like Christmas Eve in upstate New York.

As I settled into the back passenger seat the driver said, “Hello, John.” I was called John by all Lyft and Uber drivers because I registered for their Apps by my full name: John William Grimes. And my Chase Sapphire card knew me as John Grimes.

I hadn’t spoken to anyone in nearly two days and was ready to hear a human voice. So I started with “You know the image from the GPS on my Lyft screen is about a quarter of a mile behind where you were. I’ve noticed this before.”

Drupadh said, “Yes that’s true. Particularly when there are several consecutive turns. Seems the GPS needs a moment to catch up.”

I liked his succinct reply. Some drivers talk too much. Some have to be told to turn off their radio. Others never speak unless spoken to. I figured Drupadh would be in the latter group. And so I thought about chatting him up. Living alone I found myself increasingly talking to myself. A response from another mind was welcoming.

“Nice car. A Honda, yes? New?” 

 “Thanks, John. It’s four months old.” His iPhone was attached to a holder fixed on the dashboard. I asked if he used Google maps or Waze.

 “It’s Waze. I like it because it seems more intuitive, and you can warn, and be warned, by other drivers of changes in traffic, speed cams, hazards on the road to your destination.”

After a few minutes of silence we were on Highway 101 approaching the exit to Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. I asked if he knew Oakland.

 “Yes I do. I live in Alameda.” There was a silence, a minute or two. I wondered whether I was being too talkative.

Nonetheless I forged ahead. “Do you drive for both Lyft and Uber?”

With this he turned his head towards me. He was a nice-looking man. Hazel eyes and olive skin, a strong chin.

“No more. I like Lyft better because we drivers get five more percentage on the fare, 75% instead of Uber’s seventy. Also Uber has its problems, a lot of negativity in the press. Lyft is gaining market share.”

I had not used Uber in two years. I arrived back then in SFO one evening near midnight from a long flight. Used Uber app which confirmed driver would arrive in twenty minutes. I noticed on screen the automobile icon seemed to be going in the opposite direction. I waited until thirty anxious minutes passed, my stress and anger increasing by the second. Five more minutes I got the text message that the driver would not be able to pick me. My guess she, and it was a she, decided going all the way to Marin at this hour was not in her interest. I told Drupadh this story and he said once a Lyft driver accepts the call he must pickup the customer. 

First time I heard a Lyft or Uber driver speak of the market share. Impressive.

Feeling we had a bond of sorts developing with this exchange I asked him if he were Indian.

“I’m from Nepal.” 

“Oh, how long have you been in the U.S.?”

We were now across the bridge heading towards Berkeley with a logjam of vehicles ahead crawling at turtle pace. So many cars with only the driver, no passenger. I thought this had to change for the environment , and the sanity and safety of the drivers. How long would it be until vehicles were driverless? Musk was working on it.

Would I try one? Think I would.

“Been here for nearly two years, Received financial aid to study for my doctorate degree in Economics.” He mentioned the college or university, one I hadn’t heard clearly or did not recognize. I decided not to ask again and instead asked, “Are you still engaged in that study?”

“No, I got bored, I’m ashamed to say. I’ve applied for the lottery to gain US citizenship but missed it last year so I have one more chance.”

“How’s that lottery work and what’s one more chance mean?”

“Each year people from most foreign countries who are in the US on a green card visa can file electronically for citizenship. I filed and was not selected. About ten million people filed last year, or maybe it was the year before, and 100,000 were the lucky winners. Completely by chance. And that really is unfair and in my opinion a stupid policy by the US. This country needs more citizens with skills and education. I have both. And this year since I’m not attending university which is why I got the green card visa, if I don’t get lucky I’ll have to leave the country.”

I knew nothing of this lottery. I knew we granted a lot of immigrants for citizenship but how many I had no idea. When I returned home I googled. In fiscal year 2016, 752,800 people were naturalized.

I asked about his educational experience.

“We were poor. My mother used to wake me up two hours before my elementary and high school class to study with her, go over my homework, ask me questions. I graduated first academically from my high school which enabled me to get my degree in business administration, paid for by our government, at a top Nepal university.

“I wanted to study economics, get my master’s degree and I heard about a program in Turkey that was offering foreign students free tuition, room and board for certain masters and doctorate programs. I was accepted. There I had a Muslim roommate, as did about twenty other foreign students. What I learned was none of us foreigners were of the Islam religion. But we each had a Muslim roommate whose job it was to convert us to their religion. My roommate was a lazy guy who seldom attended class but spoke to me every day, telling me Allah is the unique, omnipotent and the only deity and creator of the universe. He said that in the Koran it was a sin if a Muslim who had the opportunity to convert non-believers and didn’t take it seriously.”

Having my instinctive belief that organized religion has done many un-godly things, and having recently watched on YouTube Christopher Hitchens debates with leading Christians, Jews and Muslims arguing quite persuasively, there is no proof that a god exists and religion “poisons everything,” 

It also crossed my mind that Catholics and Mormons sent young people with bible in hand across the globe to convert those to theism and their brand of it. Proselytizing for faith was not a good thing. People should think for them self and not be influenced by religion peddlers.

I responded to Drupadh with enthusiasm. We agreed that monotheistic religion, particularly that of Islamic radicalism, was the driver of many wars over the centuries. Hitchens pointed out that every leader of the nations involved with starting the First World War were Christians and that Hitler in his second paragraph of Mein Kempf mentioned he was a Christian. We had been in the car for thirty minutes and we were on crawl to Oakland. 

Having exhausted our rants on religion and my interest in his life peaking, I asked what he did after his MBA in Turkey. I was now certain he was at least thirty years old. 

“I was hired by the founder of the largest private poultry company in Turkey as the chief financial officer. We sold our products through retail.”

I said, “My son who you are driving me to see is in the food business. His company represents small food-making companies not large enough, or sufficiently capitalized, to afford a sales force to gain distribution in retail food stores.”

“Well, John, that gives me an idea. I still maintain contact with my boss from there. He would love to get distribution in the U.S. He sells his poultry products for a third the price here in Turkey.’

I said, “I’ll have my son contact you.” He reached over the seat and handed his card with name and email address.

We were now a long two miles from where I was meeting Lee, a restaurant near the Fox Theater.

I had read in the latest Economist a negative article about Turkey’s President Recap Erdogan and his continued move towards authoritarian governance.

“Drupadh, what is going on with Erdogan?”

“He did a lot of good things initially. But now he has jailed thousands of people and has become more stridently Islamist. He thinks the remedy on the nation’s financial problems is to borrow more money. Doesn’t seem to worry that higher interest rates cause inflation.”

Yes, so I’ve read. But what about this issue over his refusing to release an American pastor accused of terrorism?”

“Yes, that’s true but the U.S. won’t extradited his long time political opponent who now lives in Pennsylvania. Erdogan believes this man was behind the failed coup to overthrow the government. I think Trump should make the deal, a trade sending both of them home.”

 “Yes, but wouldn’t that result in the Turkish man here going to prison for life there?” I recalled reading this guy here has a large following among well-educated and professional Turks.”

“That’s true but both countries are being hurt by this. Turkey is moving away from the West, closer to Russia, and the US. is losing support among the people of Turkey.”

We turned off the highway and I shook Drupadh’s hand goodbye. And wished him luck in the upcoming lottery.

Not many lifts can spark this kind of conversation. 

* * *

An afterthought:

No matter how many times I hitched rides on the same 150-mile route to and from home to college during my four years at Wesleyan, each journey and experience was different. The people who stopped to give me a lift in their vehicles varied in age, occupation, and personalities. I met truck drivers transporting bales of hay, lumber, and heavy equipment; a traveling salesmen who stacked their products in the back seats of their sedans; farmers in pick-up trucks going to and from markets; elderly couples in old coupes heading to a store; professors driving to or from one of the state’s eighteen colleges; a couple of men who seemed quite interested in my sexual preference; and, for all I know, a criminal or two. 

Some drivers talked incessantly, happy to have a captive ear; others seldom spoke at all – reinforcing my supposition that they were very introverted or very intelligent, or, more fun to contemplate, criminals on the run. Or maybe they correctly assumed I had not much to talk about in those days. Though there were the curious ones, the lonely ones perhaps. Those who wanted to know everything about me: how I liked school, where I lived, what I would do after college, what was my favorite sport, movie, and on and on. All kinds of people made these geographically identical excursions different experiences. What was the same, every time, were the roads, the signs, and towns I passed through. I soon had definitive and specific pictures in my mind of Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Grafton, and Phillipi. I could recognize the next town when the vehicle I was in was within two, three miles of it.

And since much of this commute traversed by-passed and failing towns characterized by empty storefronts, abandoned buildings, and ignored railroad station depots which once thrived on glass manufacturing, coal extraction, and timber from the state’s high density of forests, I began think about poverty. Rural, hardscrabble poverty. I decided to add the following thoughts on the subject.

Most of the intellectual commentary, advanced research, and informed literature about poverty in America has focused on urban poverty. Poverty in the big city ghettos where gang members and drug dealers roam the streets and fearful people lie awake at night in tired tenement buildings. What that walk long ago in Grafton called to my attention – long before I knew anything about urban poverty besides the Hollywood version in “Blackboard Jungle” – was that the poverty in the hills and hollows of West Virginia, of Appalachia, was more insidious, more enduring—less physically violent perhaps—but deeper in its emotional and lasting impact on its victims. The reason is that rural poverty – visibly manifested in the hollowed cheeks, missing teeth, and sallow skin of those who live with it – is a lonely disease, a more stealthy, and more difficult to combat kind of poverty. 

In the city slums people who live in ant-colony closeness – seething tenements with hundreds, even thousands of impoverished people – are able to share their misery, to talk to each other, to complain, to empathize, to contemplate what to do next, or to go to bed and listen to the familiar sounds of their neighborhood; screams from open windows, nearby breaking glass, squealing tires of cars escaping the scene, ethnic music from radios above and below, and howling delight and pain from kids’ voices in the streets. Those afflicted with urban poverty have these comforts: to suffer, to survive and to die together. Poverty, apathy, hopelessness is community shared.

The tragedy of rural poverty is its voiceless silence; its sole-experienced nightmares of things not heard, not seen. Its isolation and loneliness. It’s characterized by sudden-appearing, smoky shadows and scowling ancestral ghosts feared to dwell in the basements or attics. Hobbling skeletons reserved for Halloween everywhere else appear and linger in young minds. Superstition, bleak and unforgiving, not the religious kind, or sometimes combined with it, is passed along through generations. Life’s sameness, like a tattered coat than can’t be shed, lingers season after season. Every day in rural poverty is a Halloween with teeth. 

When the sun falls below the hilltops and menacing sounds emerge from the eerie woods behind the withering hovels, the feral mewls of nocturnal creatures and the moaning nightly winds howl through the hollows. The pine-wood walls of bedrooms creak and the sagging roof murmurs with the patter of tiny footsteps. Rural poverty digs into the soul, latches on and fights like a bobcat mother protecting her cubs. The mind, working solo, has so many frightful explanations, the kind that grow exponentially, the kind that sticks to the ribs of those who live in isolation, in the graveyards of pastoral penury. 

These people can be seen – though infrequently – if you drive slowly through the desolate back roads of West Virginia and Appalachia. The children there are more visible than adults, in groups of two, three, walking to or from school perhaps, or standing idly in front of decrepit dwellings with smoke emanating from a metal pipe on the roof, with rusting satellite dishes in the unkempt yard the size of small dinosaurs, and thread-bare clothes languishing on a cord connected to two trees, hoping to dry. An occasional man can be seen, digging, raking, sawing, hardscrabbling through his day – alone. You’ll see a woman, aged beyond her years, bucket in one hand, pumping the handle of a well with the other, or hanging those clothes.There a sullen dog or two linger along the grounds, ribs protruding, teeth glinting, red-tongued, and alert. These are the postcard pictures of rural poverty that Hollywood ignores. Newspapers write about it occasionally but the human ruins in rural poverty lends itself to visual graphic images, black and white the most telling. 

* * *

Beach in 1970: There are no fat, tattooed, plastic, etc... There are no sunbeds, umbrellas and sunglasses, various creams... There are no cell phones, so people talk, and there are no white lines in the sky... There is nothing, but there is everything! 

* * *


by David Ligouy

David Ligouy is a French writer and climate champion who is very concerned, as we all should be, with World Climate Change and Loss of Biodiversity. He earned a Master’s of Science Degree specializing in ‘Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology for Developing Countries’. At 53 years of age, he works with an NGO, Le Mouvement de la Paix (Peace) that has its roots originating during the French Resistance in WW2. This organization has had recent success in a national trial conviction against the French Government for not addressing Climate Action, and has also been a part of the impetus behind the ‘Treaty of Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons’, banned on Jan 22nd, 2021. It was David first goal “Don’t Bank on the Bomb”. The Bomb is now illegal according to international law, but still financed. 

But Bank on the Biodiversity and the Climate (third goal) to secure peace and the planet.

Presently David is riding a solar panel powered electric assist trike (3-wheel recumbent bicycle) in his 4th year Worldwide (27 countries and 5 continents to date). He intends to go to COP28 Climate in Dubai and to finish his journey at COP16 Biodiversity in Antalya, Turkey. His main objective is in trying to effect public awareness of critical Climate Change. 

Especially he’d like to connect with Youth who will be alive to face more serious consequences if we all don’t change our detrimental habits very quickly Worldwide. In December 2022, David was a journalist at Montreal’s World Politicians and Expert Speakers UN Biodiversity Summit Convention (COP15). With the amazing result of Goal D which commits 700 billions US$/year to protect biodiversity. This means that the second goal of David’s Tour “ Bank on the Biodiversity” is a success. 

David is a compelling and timely speaker, or interview for either radio, newspaper, or television to talk about the situation of your country but also how your cities or regions can get involved He is going down the Pacific Coast to Tijuana where he and colleagues are going to develop a e-kit for bike for low income people. The best way to contact him on his travels is by his cell phone number (+1) 818-339-0611.

* * *

LOOK AROUND at the squalid mess that America has made of its own terrain: the endless wastelands of free parking and slumping strip malls, the wilderness of tract housing subdivisions, the cities left cored, rotting, and stinking in the fall drizzle, the countless redundant roadways -- and while you're at it, take a good hard look at the depressing and disgraceful industrial boxes that school is conducted in, these euphemistically-named "facilities." We live in physical surroundings that are the perfect growth medium for serial killers, mass murderers, psychopaths with no feeling, and sado-masochists preoccupied only with the ritual orchestration of their own shame and guilt in the service of inflicting pain.

— James Kunstler

* * *

Maga Badges

* * *


by Alex Sanchez (not his real name)

It’s difficult to work undercover. Let’s say, we buy some crack cocaine, like, little nickel and dime stuff off the street. Somebody looking like me is not going to fit in, I don’t look like a basehead, you know, a user. They are going to be able to tell that right away. Or you might not look like the type that would buy off the street. Ten, fifteen years ago, when I first started, anybody could have gone — the police chief could have dressed down and gone out there and ten guys would bum rush the car: “Buy from me! Buy from me!” But, they learned that then we’d swoop in and arrest them. They know the tactics, so now they’re very careful. They'll ask you, “Who are you? Who sent you?” If they are the slightest bit suspicious they won’t sell.

One time we actually borrowed this guy from a neighboring agency, because we’ve done this so much, they knew us. He looked kind of like he used crack cocaine, but he didn’t. So we dressed him down and he did really well for us, because he was a fresh face. We got him wired up and we’re listening. He walks up to them and says, “Hey, give me? I need a twenty?” — Twenty dollars worth of cocaine. They look at him, they’re kind of leery. So he’s about to walk away and one of them goes, “OK, come back, man. I’ll take that penitentiary chance.” He ends up giving him the rock, walks away, then we swoop in. So, it has its humor.

One of the other facets of my job was working the organized crime groups — like the bikers, for example. Now, I don’t ride motorcycles, some of these other guys do, but when you work events that are large, you don’t have to. The bottom line is when you do something, you talk the talk, you don’t dig yourself a hole, talking about something you’re not. Bikers for example, if I sit there and start talking about different types of Harleys, the intricacies of the biker world —I can easily slip up and get burned. It can be dangerous for me. If I’m dealing with, say, drug manufacturers, like meth or something, I could talk the talk. I’m a court-recognized expert on manufacturing meth, and I could make it if wanted. I’ve never done it but I know how it’s done. But if I didn’t know, and I’m dealing with a cook — someone who manufactures meth — it could be detrimental to my safety.

Most departments will not allow you to use drugs. I don’t want to say that it’s never done. I know with some of these real deep undercover federal agents, when they’ve infiltrated there are different techniques on how to do it to make it look like you’re doing drugs, but you’re not. With weed, they may give you stuff that was produced in a laboratory setting where they know it’s very low THC or it’s not laced with anything. I’ve never actually seen it done that way, so, you need to be careful about that stuff.

There have been times that it’s been kind of heavy working the biker clubs, like the Hell’s Angels and the Mongols, but at the same time it’s like Daniel in the lion’s den. There was one occasion where I started a conversation at one of the big Hell’s Angels events. I walked up to one of them — sometimes you have to be ballsy and just do it. It gets scary, but they bleed just like anybody else. So, I walk up to him, and start a conversation. You could see his motorcycle right there. He’s got all that Hell’s Angels stuff written all over it. I asked him, “Do you guys get hassled a lot being Hell’s Angels?” And he says, “You know, cops mess with us, they think we’re a bunch of bad guys, a bunch of criminals, blah blah blah, but they’re wasting their time with us because they should be looking at the Mongols. Now that’s a gang.” There’s no difference! I was acting stupid, asking questions, unwittingly, he was telling me things.

Then, after talking to this guy for about an hour, he says, “Cops are always trying to watch us.” He says, “But they’re not that slick.” I said, “Really?” He says, “Look at that guy, for example, that guy’s a cop.” And he points to this guy who was standing maybe ten feet from us. So, I’m thinking, maybe one of our guys got burned. I say, “Well, who you looking at?” He points to this guy who was just a tourist. So I said, “How can you tell that he’s a cop?” “Well, look at him,” he says. “Look at the way he stands. Look at his demeanor. He’s trying to blend in but he can’t.” I look at the tourist, he’s not one of us, so I’m relieved. I’m thinking, this guy’s an idiot. I said, “I still don’t see it. I just don’t understand what you’re looking at.” He says, “Well, when you’re a Hell’s Angel, you can spot a pig a mile away.” The funny thing is that I was close enough where I could kiss him if I wanted to. I say, “Man, you’re good.” But, I did get burned a couple of times doing that stuff.

Actors win Academy awards for their performances, well, this is like — the award you get is to live. In undercover you’re acting for your life. If we were going to actually do an undercover buy, whether it’s guns, drugs — whatever it is — those operations are very dangerous. A law enforcement job is very dangerous, period. But when you’re an undercover cop, it adds to the danger tenfold. Tragically, we’ve learned from the mistakes of our predecessors. They did things that we would never, ever, do now. In the past they would go to the crooks and say, “Hey, let me come to your apartment.” We would never do that. These crooks, they’ve learned too. They know they can be the victim of a rip-off, so they don’t want us to go to their home. It’s a mutual thing. You meet somewhere neutral, somewhere we are in control, where we could shut down all the escape routes and are able to have a constant vigil on the undercover officer. You can’t always wear a bulletproof vest. If you do, it’s going to show. And then they'll go, “Why you wearing a vest?” I know they show them wearing vests in Hollywood, but in reality that doesn’t happen.

In this job, you have your peers to talk to, but even in the workplace, when you’re working special assignments, you can’t tell anybody. In fact whatever we do in our investigations are usually secrets. It’s like — a need to know, a right to know. If you are caught talking or divulging information that you shouldn’t, you can be disciplined.

* * *

* * *

BUT FOR NOW, Mack will just watch the ducks, watch them summoned by their caretaker, an old uniformed black man who blows a silver whistle and wields a long rod, signaling the ducks out of the water, out onto the carpet in a line. They haven’t had a thing to say about it, these ducks, thinks Mack, haven’t done a thing to deserve it, but there they are, God’s lilies, year-round in a giant hotel, someone caring for them the rest of their lives. All the other birds of the world — the mange-hollowed hawks, the lordless hens, the dumb clucks — will live punishing, unblessed lives, winging it north, south, here, there, searching for a place of rest. But not these. Not these rich, lucky ducks! graced with rug and stairs, upstairs and down, roof to pool to penthouse, always steered, guided, welcomed toward those golden elevator doors like a heaven’s mouth, and though it isn’t really a heaven’s mouth, it is maybe the lip of all there is. 

— Laurie Moore

* * *

LEAD BELLY was a man of contradiction and complexity. It was hard to truly know him, said the people who tried, and it was next to impossible to place him in a particular music style or form and have him remain there for long. He was a folk musician who also played the blues. He knew his share of work songs and field hollers, having sung them while picking cotton and doing farm chores. He learned prison songs while incarcerated, and he sang them like a man who had seen life’s underbelly. 

Lead Belly (photo by Gordon Coster)

Spirituals and gospel tunes came naturally to him. He gave new life to old ballads whose origins were buried in the past. He could sing children’s songs when kids were present. And at house parties and local fish fries, if someone wanted to hear a few standards or a pop hit of the day, he could sing and play them too. 

Lead Belly moved through American music genres and song circles naturally and effortlessly, never seeing the boundaries and categories that were created for commodity’s sake by men with bow ties and clean suits. He was the very definition of a “songster,” an old-time, old-school human jukebox of a performer and recording artist who never quite realized just what an American music treasure he had become in his life.

Lead Belly possessed a powerful, virile voice, yet he could be remarkably gentle at times. In the song “Bring Me a Little Water, Silvy,” a plea for a simple sip of water turns into a touching display of human emotion from a calloused field worker who is all but immune to such things as compassion and dignity. “Irene,” one of Lead Belly’s best-known songs, is a beautiful lullaby sung by a man who probably slept half his life with one eye open. While most other musicians of his kind played a 6-string guitar, Lead Belly played that 12-string Stella much of the time, its rich, resonant sound competing with his strong, arching voice through every step of a song. 

Woody Guthrie described it this way: “His guitar was not like a friend of his, not like a woman, not like some of the kids, not like a man, you know. But it was a thing that would cause people to walk over to where he is, a thing that made sounds that gave his own words richer sounds, and would give him his way to show his people around him all of the things that he felt inside and out.”

- Jeff Place

* * *


by Warren Hinckle (1974)

The acknowledged chaplain of the San Francisco Chronicle’s press room in the 1960s was Charles Dougery, a charming rogue of a Chronicle reporter who was said to be Roman Catholic and to have once attended Mass with Monty Woolley. Dougery’s position as moral arbiter was based on the firm ground that, the most adventurous among us, he was peculiarly fit to judge when the limits of press room propriety had been exceeded, since this would have entailed the offender's having done something that Dougery himself would not have done. The other crime reporters were characters out of a discarded chapter of ‘Catch 22.’ The SF Examiner's daytime watch over urban crime was manned by Walter Crowley, a somewhat cranky man with a shock of white hair who seemed to spend half his time calling home to see if his wife had snuck out and gone shopping on him. That newspaper's night watch was maintained by George Erickson, a lumbering Swede who represented the best that was Oakland about the Oakland police beat. Known variously as George, “Swede,” and “Eric,” he wore green shirts and creased brown gabardine slacks as if they were a uniform. Every afternoon he arrived at the press room carrying the same lunch: a large tin of pickled herring and a half-dozen bottles of potent home brew, which he had bottled in the used ginger ale bottles he was always collecting from the cops, who not infrequently dropped in for a taste.

George was the most efficient among us at flattening newspapers. The Swede would start in on the day’s stack of papers as soon as he had hung up his coat. Flattening them at an even pace, frequently wetting his thumb to get better traction on the newsprint, he continued for approximately three hours straight, stopping only to answer the telephone or the call of nature or to toss down a slug of bourbon with his colleagues. When on occasion I or some other guardian of the public’s right to know desired to leave the press room premises for an evening, protocol had it that we would clear it with George, who was always the anchor man, then purchase a pint of Old Yellowstone, have one or two sips with him, then leave the bottle with him and go off about our mischief, checking in periodically during the night by telephone in the unlikely event that any news had occurred, in which case George would give the details so we could call the story to our city desk from wherever we might be in the province of dalliance.

After he had unfolded sufficient papers to ensure a leg up on the whiskey fund, George would settle himself at a desk and eat his pickled herring, which was always wrapped in heavy wax paper and transported in a large cookie tin that had yellow and red roses painted on the outside, and begin sipping at his home brew, poured carefully so as not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. He drank from a glass as big around as his hand. While thus sipping, he would begin the laborious process of reading the final edition of the Oakland Tribune, a newspaper so bereft of content that it normally required more time to read the comics than the remainder of the paper. But the procedure was for George more ritual than reading: After two to three hours of going through the Tribune, line by line, sip after sip, he laid his head down on the desk to nap. He was not disturbed except in the event of a story. When George's shift was over, at around 2 a.m., the early man on the Tribune police beat would gently shake him, and George invariably would snap up his head with a snort and demand to know whether anything had “happened” while he’d been taking a nap. Other reporters took to the couches to sleep; not the Swede. He considered it somehow a violation of duty to do anything but sit there at his desk reading and re-reading the newspaper until the home brew did its job. This was his routine of almost 20 years’ standing.

Often, in subsequent years, standing at a bar in some over-sophisticated town of great distance from Oakland, I would think of the Swede, know precisely what he would be doing at that moment, and raise my glass to him in a silent salute to continuity and solidarity in a universe of otherwise constant flux and change.

* * *

Traveling knife sharpener with a customer, early 1910s

* * *


by John J. Lennon

In the winter of 1957 Edgar Smith, a white twenty-three-year-old former marine living in Bergen County, New Jersey, with a wife and newborn, was driving down a dimly lit road when he saw a 15-year-old named Victoria Zielinski. He knew Zielinski from town and had given her rides in the past. On this night, he bludgeoned her to death and dumped her body in a sand pit on the side of the road. He confessed to the crime. A conviction and a death sentence soon followed.

In the beginning of Sarah Weinman’s new book about the case, ‘Scoundrel: The True Story of the Murderer Who Charmed His Way to Fame and Freedom,’ Weinman situates herself firmly on the side of the victim. This passage is a shot to the gut, especially for this reader, because it forces you to feel the true loss caused by murder. “The tragedy of early, violent death is that it strips away the person and leaves only the act, the making of the dead girl, rather than the celebration of the lived life,” Weinman writes.

The killer has the power. The one who dies loses it all. Victoria Zielinski not only lost her future, her power, and her promise on the night of March 4, 1957: she lost her existence, overridden by the needs and wants and desires of the man who murdered her.

It’s an important point to make, because the man who murdered this girl got to make a life for himself as a successful writer. This is something I know about: the man I killed was 25.

Even though I’ve only experienced it thus far from a prison cell, this writing life I’ve built for myself—this voice I’ve developed, today at the age of f45 — is meaningful. It feels dishonest of me, as I go on writing this review, not to acknowledge that the man I killed could have had a meaningful life, too, had I not ended it so early.

Edgar Smith, left, being led by detectives to New Jersey State Prison after he was ­sentenced to death for the killing of Victoria Zielinski, Trenton, New Jersey, 1957

Smith was sent to the Death House in Trenton State Prison. When you're sentenced to life in prison, or condemned to die, the time after sentencing paradoxically takes on more of a purpose. It is still life. You’re fighting to exist, to matter. This applied to most men who lived on the death row tier with Smith. And they, like Smith, claimed they were innocent.

An ambitious autodidact, Smith knew he had to educate himself: “to turn his back,” Weinman writes, “on his old, shiftless self.” He read, he wrote, he took a correspondence course in accounting.

His chances of avoiding execution were slim, but there were some people still rooting for him. In 1962 Smith’s former high school football coach wrote a column in a local paper describing Smith’s daily routine. It included reading the National Review—at least until the chaplain who gave him the magazine moved on to another part of the prison. William F. Buckley, the National Review's founder, was shown the column: he wrote Smith and offered him a free subscription, Smith, here, may have seen a way out.

Smith and Buckley became pen pals and, as Buckley recognized Smith's literary talent, friends. Smith took the opportunity to tell his powerful new ally that he was an innocent man. Buckley published an article in Esquire casting doubt on Smith's conviction, and used the fee for his legal defense fund. He introduced Smith to a Knopf editor, Sophie Wilkins, who helped him shape the book ‘Brief Against Death’ (1968), presented as a memoir, in which Smith blames someone else, a nineteen-year-old named Don Hommell, who worked at a local pharmacy, for Zielinski’s murder.

In 1971, with Buckley’s influence, Smith's murder conviction was overturned on the grounds that his unsigned confession was unconstitutional because it was coerced. 

Around the same time, New Jersey abolished the death penalty. In order to avoid another trial, the prosecution essentially offered Smith time served if he pleaded guilty to the murder. Smith took the deal, and after the 14-plus years he'd already served, walked out of the Death House and into a limousine with Buckley. They drove straight to a studio and filmed an episode of Firing Line, Buckley’s weekly TV show, in which he portrayed Smith as the picture of innocence.

“It made me bitter to read about Smith’s return to society—shopping, visiting the National Review office, the press in tow—because I knew it ended badly. ‘Brief Against Death’ sold well. He sold a novel, ‘A Reasonable Doubt,’ to a different publisher. With the advances and royalties from these books he rented an apartment on the Upper West Side, where he racked up (paid) speaking engagements, wrote for the Times and Playboy, even bought a gold Cadillac. In 1974, at 40, Smith met a 19-year-old named Paige Hiemier, also from Bergen County. They moved to San Diego and married.

Weinman sums up these years as if she were writing the log line for a Hollywood noir called ‘The Saga of a Bad Man,’ which is the title of one of her chapters. “As a result of Buckley’s advocacy,’ she writes,

“Edgar Smith vaulted from prison to the country’s highest intellectual echelons as a best-selling author, an expert on prison reform, and a minor celebrity—only to fall, spectacularly, to earth when his murderous impulses prevailed again.”

That downfall started on September 30, 1976, when Smith asked for a staff position at The San Diego Union and was turned down. The next day, Smith kidnapped a 33-year-old seamstress named Lisa Ozbun as she left work. He threw her in a car at knifepoint. Ozbun fought back and pulled the wheel. As the car veered off the freeway, she later testified, she managed to jump out—but not before Smith shoved a knife into her stomach.

Smith went on the run and told his wife and friends that he had been trying merely to rob Ozbun. From a hotel in Las Vegas, he called Buckley’s secretary. Buckley promptly gave up Smith’s whereabouts to the FBI. Weinman surmises that Smith was being manipulative when he got on the stand during his 1977 trail in San Diego and tearfully admitted that he tried to rape Ozbun. “At the time, in California,” she writes, “kidnapping with rape was the motivation could garner a lesser prison sentence, with the possibility of parole, while kidnapping in order to rob did not.”

As for Victoria Zielinski — Smith admitted that he had been guilty of killing the girl all along, “I recognized that the devil I had been looking at for the last 43 years was me,” Smith told the court. He got life in prison without the possibility of parole. Buckley and almost everyone else abandoned him. In 2017, at the age of 83, Smith died in a California prison medical facility,

* * *

* * *

TO ONE who has never entered the land of hashish, an explanation would mean nothing. But to me, last night was like a thousand years. I was obsessed with indescribable sensations, alternative visions of excessive happiness and oppressive moods of extreme sorrow. I wandered for aeons through countless worlds, mingling with all types of humanity, from the most saintly persons down to the lowest type of abysmal brute. 

— Jack London on smoking hashish

* * *

* * *


Just returned from little excursion to nephew’s home to bring late birthday present and collect plate I brought the previous birthday on. 

My great-nephew, lying on the couch, didn’t look up from his device when I came in.

Never really thanked me for the cake I had brought him some months ago.

No one thought to return the plate to me, although they come into town all the time.

Bottom line: The idea of manners and courtesy, not to mention maybe actually learning to make an effort to have a conversation (with an older relative) in a social situation, seems to have totally flown out the door.

* * *

Bill Pinnel and Morris Talifson with a massive brown bear in Alaska. They were known as 'The Last of the Great Brown Bear Men'. These two old timers were some of the finest brown bear hunters in the history of Alaska. (via Everett Liljeberg)

* * *


Evacuations from frontline Bakhmut have slowed to a trickle, a Ukrainian official said Sunday. Five to 10 people leave daily, and up to 4,500 residents remain.

Russia has spent months trying to capture the besieged city in eastern Ukraine. Bakhmut's symbolic importance outweighs its military significance.

In southern Ukraine, Russian shelling killed at least four people in the Kherson region this weekend, and the death toll rose to 13 from an earlier strike on a high-rise in the city of Zaporizhzhia. 

The US is working with Ukrainian pilots in the United States to determine how long it would take to train them to fly F-16 fighter jets, CNN has learned.

* * *


  1. Kirk Vodopals March 6, 2023

    Hey Kunstler! Don’t forget to add cheap and easy access to military-grade weapons to your apocalyptica perspective. America!

  2. chuck dunbar March 6, 2023

    The Magic of Live Music

    We went last evening to the Oak and Thorn presentation of Molly O’Brien and Rich Moore at Little River Inn. We’d not seen them before, knew nothing about them, turned out to be a talented musical couple from Denver—Molly a gifted singer of blues and soul, Rich a very fine guitarist. One piece of their magic was to take the bouncy pop song from my youth—“I’m Your Puppet” —and slow it way down into a touching, soulful love song. Molly made the song anew, brought a few tears to my eyes, partly of nostalgia, partly from the wonder of live music and the genius of song singers.

    • Stephen Rosenthal March 6, 2023

      With all the money that’s wasted, it’s pathetic that the County can’t/won’t provide these items. Losers not Leaders should be Mendo’s motto of government.

      • Lazarus March 6, 2023

        ” Losers not Leaders should be Mendo’s motto of government.”

        Where’s 3rd District Supervisor John Haschek, or is this another Creekside RV Park bridge debacle?
        I suspect most of the “Amazon Wish List” is within the county’s holdings somewhere.
        Isn’t there a County Emergency Services Department that can help Laytonville? A few grand would make this go away…
        Be Well,

        • Jim Shields March 6, 2023

          This is not the first time the county has dropped the ball regarding our emergency shelter operations. I’ve put the item on the agenda for our Town Council meeting this month. We don’t need the county to assist with shelter operations. It would be beneficial if they, through OES provided emergency supplies, but they can’t even pull that off with a fully stocked OES trailer parked right on the shelter’s site. The cause of the problem is as old as government itself: petty bureaucratic interference/incompetence. I’m confident we’ll get this solved at our meeting, one way or the other. -Jim Shields

      • k h March 6, 2023

        It is a shame.
        But in the meantime we can all try to help our neighbors. I’m sure AVA readers will chip in if they can!

  3. Chuck Dunbar March 6, 2023


    “…With you at my side, we will demolish the deep state. We will expel the war mongers… We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists. We will throw off the political class that hates our country … We will beat the Democrats. We will rout the fake news media. We will expose and appropriately deal with the Rinos [Republicans in name only]. We will evict Joe Biden from the White House. And we will liberate America from these villains and scoundrels once and for all…“We have no choice.. this is the final battle…If we don’t do this, our country will be lost forever.”

    • George Hollister March 6, 2023

      Trump comes across like a nutcase, and does a very good job of alienating swing voters, the voters he needs in order to win. The Democratic Party loves him.

      • Chuck Dunbar March 6, 2023

        Jimmy Kimmel has suggested that CPAC stands for “Clowns Periodically Assembling in Convention Centers.” Trump serves nicely as chief clown.

  4. Marco McClean March 6, 2023

    Re: Tom Madden’s (not his real name) post of made-up proposed imaginary demands of an imaginary communist Democratic party in California:

    This last week in Florida real-life Republican lawmakers proposed a real law outlawing, among other things, any party opposed to it and, in addition, the real-life Republican governor of Florida suggested requiring anyone who writes anything for publication criticizing a Republican government official or Republican policies to previously register with the state and obtain a special license to do so.

    Also of note: the pro-gun-culture pins that only Republican congresspersons wear on their suit collars, to signal the sort of people they rely on for re-election not to shoot them but the other guys.

  5. Nathan Duffy March 6, 2023

    “The frantic, atomizing quality of daily life in the suburban matrix probably even defeats any critical contemplation of it as Americans incessantly motor from home to work to mall to soccer field to burger barn in lives devoid of repose and tranquility, the necessary conditions for reflection. A few wary citizens may sense that something feels increasingly wrong with the picture, but they’re apt to draw the wrong conclusions, for instance, that a conspiracy exists involving some fantasized elite scheming to deprive middle-class Americans of their natural entitlements to a life of comfort and convenience. We’ll have trouble otherwise accounting for the coming failure of our basic living arrangements. People facing dreadful losses commonly look for scapegoats to blame. The implications for political mischief along these lines are not very appetizing. There is no previous case in history of a civilization making capital investments as heedlessly as we did, of constructing what it turns out to be a throwaway human habitat. The tragedy is impressive.” – James Howard Kunstler “Too Much Magic; Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation” p.24

  6. Marmon March 6, 2023

    You can either be an American or a Democrat. You can’t be both


    • Bruce Anderson March 6, 2023

      Get help, Jimbo.

  7. Margot Lane March 6, 2023

    i was behind the climate champion when he waved me forward, on the windy stretch just above the Navarro River. Pretty sure, anyway, as there was a solar panel above his head. I am guessing with pep he ends up today in…..Gualala?

  8. Marmon March 6, 2023

    “I am your voice today, I am your warrior. I am your justice, and for those who have been wronged and betrayed. I am your retribution.”

    -President Trump


    • Bruce Anderson March 6, 2023

      Even the orange blimp’s speech writers are nuts.

    • Marshall Newman March 6, 2023

      What a pile of self-important hooey.

  9. Margot Lane March 6, 2023

    …Update: Hey guys, he’s camping right now in Boonville, somewhere, Buy the lad some suds. Also it’s cold!

  10. k h March 7, 2023

    There are still items on the Laytonville Emergency Shelter wish list this morning.

    If you can’t afford to contribute, can you possibly boost on your personal social media account?

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