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Mendocino County Today: Monday, March 20, 2023

Clearing | Wandering Goats | Childcare Job | Healing Catfish | Space Debris | O'Connell Memorial | Vernal Equinox | Mendo Foilies | MacKerricher Beach | Grants | Curious Closet | Ukiah Howl | MAC Benefit | Spiritual Center | Westport Beach | Remembering Ricky | Variety Show | Rock Stop | Crow Clarifications | Northern Nights | Table Cat | Cold Steel | CYO Champs | Bart Book | Outhouses | Yesterday's Catch | Usual Post | President Inmate | Chron Fabrication | Izzy Einstein | Election Hostages | Hendrix SF | Pinky Date | Painters | Absent Father | BBQ | Cellar | Jim Bridger | Ukraine | Radioactive

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LIGHT SHOWERS will linger across Northwest California this morning, and then dissipate going into the afternoon. A period of dry weather will then occur through Tuesday morning, followed by another round of light rain spreading north from the Bay Area. After Tuesday, additional light beneficial rain chances will exist during mid to late week. (NWS)

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MISSING GOATS: Found wandering around at Anderson Valley Brewing Company with a group of disc golfers… We called Pennyroyal and Jerry but they aren’t theirs. If you know anyone who’s missing goats, they’re at the brewery.

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We are looking for a young, energetic person to monitor and play with our students in the afternoons!

-Monday, Wednesday, Friday 3-5

-Tuesday, Thursday 3:30-5

-$15.50 per hour to start, room to grow into more hours if childcare/teaching is your passion!

Must Haves:

-Transportation to and from our campus in Philo.

-At least 18 years old

-US citizenship or greencard

-Experience and comfort with children from ages 3-14

-References and resume appreciated!

Please email if you are interested in applying! We look forward to hearing from you all! Thank you

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CATFISH JACK CHAUVIN'S HEALING JOURNEY FUND (popular local musician fighting cancer)

Catfish Jack Chauvin was recently diagnosed with cancer. A beloved music teacher, performer, father, and friend, he has touched the lives of people of all ages. Jack has been teaching people how to connect through music for the last 25 years. He is as passionate about mentoring young adults as he is when performing Blues harmonica. Most importantly, he is always giving back and serving his community. He works with teens who struggle in their personal and academic lives, creating an environment for them to be present in expressive art therapy.

Jack Chauvin is in the early stages of rectal cancer, and will begin chemo-therapy and radiation appointments at the end of March. He is looking at probably a year of treatments and recovery, and he is also facing the possibility of surgery during treatment. We are seeking funds to cover the cost of his monthly rent and bills, to help defrays the cost of the treatments, and to help with other modalities that support healing. Getting these funding needs covered will allow him to focus on his recovery.

Catfish Jack lights up the world with every note he breathes. Help us give back to him, and please share this page.

Love and blessings.

Jack's community of friends

p.s. Jack is incredibly grateful for all the support from everyone!

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A MESMERIZING DISPLAY OF LIGHTS streaking in the night sky over Northern California on Friday was caused by the re-entry of flaming space debris into Earth’s atmosphere, experts said.

Specifically, flaming chunks of communications equipment, which were jettisoned from the International Space Station in February 2020, streaked across the sky at 17,000 miles per hour, said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian and Harvard Center for Astrophysics.

The orbit of the equipment had shrunk over the past couple of years until it got low enough to break apart and burn up.

“What you’re seeing is some actually very small objects releasing a lot of energy, very high up, traveling extremely fast,” he said.

The retired 700-pound communications antenna, called the Inter-orbit Communication System-Exposed Facility, went into space on a 2009 shuttle flight. About 10 percent of equipment like that might fall to Earth in small pieces, rather than melt on the way, Dr. McDowell said.

The equipment came down in an uncontrolled re-entry, which means experts cannot predict where exactly the objects will land. Dr. McDowell said that pieces likely landed somewhere around Yosemite National Park…

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Memorial for Bob O’Connell: April 2

Please join family and friends to remember and celebrate the life of Bob O'Connell. 

We'll be gathering on Pomo Tierra (at the main house) on April 2nd, 2023.

Memorial at 2pm (come as early as noon)

Potluck meal ~4:30pm

We hope to share stories and memories of Bob and celebrate the life he lived with the people that he loved and we welcome you to share this invite and forward to anyone that you think would like to be there.

For questions or to coordinate dishes for the potluck, please email me at

With love and appreciation,

Sean and the O'Connell family

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Every year around the vernal equinox, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have front row seats for an interesting light show. From late February through April but best right around equinox, if you look to the West after dusk and conditions are good, you will see what looks like a hazy pyramid of light on the horizon. Often mistaken for the lights of a distant city or lingering twilight, it is caused by the scattering of sunlight by interplanetary dust. This week, with a new moon following quickly on the heels of equinox, it will be far easier to spot it, if the weather allows, in the moonless and dark night sky. In the same part of the sky our two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, which conjoined earlier this month, will be shining as well, adding to the show.

Zodiacal light from the summit of Mauna Kea (Wikimedia Commons)

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Mendocino County was recognized as one of America’s “worst in government transparency” last week by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and investigative news platform Muckrock, which awarded a “Foilie” to county officials in honor of Ordinance No. 4507 —  local legislation passed last year that introduced unlawful fees to access public records in clear violation of state law. The dubious award puts the Board of Supervisors in such questionable company as the FBI, NSA, Cyber Ninjas and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)…

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[from "The Foilies 2023"]

The Transparency Tax Award: Mendocino County

The Foilies regularly recounts outrageous public records fees that seem clearly aimed at discouraging specific records requests. But those are usually one-off efforts aimed at specific requests. This award to officials in Mendocino County, Calif., is based on their creation of a fee system that appears designed to discourage everyone from requesting public records.

The ordinance lets officials charge you $20 per hour to look for records if you fail to "describe a specifically identifiable record." So, if you asked for the sheriff's "Policy 410.30," you wouldn't get charged, but if you asked for "all directives, policies, and orders related to body-worn cameras," you might have to pony up hard cash. Even worse, the ordinance says that if you ask for emails or other types of records that "may" include information that needs to be redacted or withheld, the county would charge you $50 or $150 per hour, depending on whether an attorney needs to be involved. 

In other words, the ordinance punishes the public for not knowing exactly how the county organizes and stores its records, or what records might contain sensitive information. If you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the county's systems and how to request records, you may not be charged any search fees. But if you are a normal person who just wants to find out what's happening in the county, you are probably going to be charged a huge search fee.

Mendocino County's ordinance is on shaky legal ground. The California Public Records Act does not give state and local government agencies the authority to assess their own search fees, review fees, or even fees to redact records. The law only allows agencies to charge the public what it costs to make copies of the records they seek.

But aside from being potentially unlawful, Mendocino County's fee ordinance is an affront to its residents. It treats all records requests as hostile, resource-wasting inquiries rather than a central mission of any public agency committed to transparency.

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I’m so impressed with myself that I rated worthy of being on such a list!

My two cents, if I request a service of the County I WANT to pay the full bill of what it costs to provide those services. Always!

The copying costs are not the true cost of creating those copies. The true cost (in my world it’s called TCO, Total Cost of Ownership) isn’t just the ink and paper. Would you like to be the one down there all hours scouring various documents in various locations and departments, possibly named something different than the requester specified? Would you do it for free? If no, that indicates a cost. 

But while I agree with the intent of the ordinance, and am proud of our BOS for taking what was sure to be unpopular position, I also agree with the position that the lawsuits that may arise could cost more than the fees charged, justified or not. 

So, looks like our only solution is for Mr. Sakowicz to volunteer his time to come down, do the research required to compile the requested documents for the applicants, free of charge.

Deal John Sakowicz?

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MacKerricher (photo by Dick Whetstone)

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Are grants a good thing or a bad thing?

Plenty of discussions have arisen lately about grants and how they either help or hinder our communities. Basically, grants from the state and federal government provide an opportunity to use our tax dollars to fund, or partially fund, programs and projects that the local governments don’t have the means to accomplish on their own. They provide the money that allows local governments the ability to accomplish projects that benefit their communities.

This leads to the question, are grants good or bad? Grants can and should be utilized to build out or improve our communities. Examples of this can be seen in the grants the City of Fort Bragg received to replace all of our water meters and to refurbish our water treatment facility. Both of these grants will have an effect on nearly all of our residents for years to come. 

Some grants, while serving a specific purpose, may not sit well with a majority of the community. In the middle of the last decade it seemed the city was seeking any and all grants, thus shaping our community simply based on what grants were available. This did not sit well with a large portion of the populace and, of course, soured those folks on applying for and receiving grants. On one level that was understandable but blaming the grant was putting the onus in the wrong place. For example, we used CDBG grant opportunities to fully build out and support a service provider in town who did not necessarily have the entire community’s best interest in mind. We did this to the tune of several million dollars. The grants assisted a particular group in purchasing property and renovating their current properties. This provoked a loud uproar from a significant number of citizens. As it turns out the dissenters were probably onto something but were not being heard by the entire council at the time. 

Just a year or so later the community, and a large portion of our downtown businesses, were upset about the affects this particular service provider was having on the downtown. When we approached the provider about being better neighbors and helping us fix the problems they instead blamed the businesses and the community for lacking compassion and understanding. This after the city used taxpayer dollars to fund their grand plans. Looking back one can understand the outcry for the city to stop utilizing grants, unfortunately giving grants in general a bad name 

My first year on council, 2016, I took it upon myself to gather the support of council to change the way we approach grants and in 2018 with councils support we placed that directive into our council goals thus redirecting our focus to apply for grants that had a broader impact on the entire community and not just one demographic. This has had an amazing result. Now, there are few arguments about grants or the city utilizing grants. Often times these grants free up other monies, allowing local governments to get additional projects done. Other times, grants require matching funds allowing local government to get a two-for-one deal out of their money. 

The next time you find yourself upset about your local government seeking and utilizing grants, ask yourself, is the grant the problem or is the problem which grants are being sought?

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MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: When the late Norm Vroman was running for DA against incumbent DA Susan Massini he pledged at a public meeting in Philo that he wouldn’t seek grants for DA activities because the grant terms frequently required the DA’s office to do things he didn’t agree with. But once elected, Vroman switched his position, denied he’d ever said such a thing, and continued with the grants that were already in place. Apparently, once in office he saw that grant funded activites such as the victim-witness office were useful and, despite their requirements, could be conducted without too much meddling from the grant-givers.

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I’ve decided to incorporate my old shop into my new shop, and offer my tea and gift shop as a clothing consignment as well, simply because I feel like the valley really needs this!

So I’ll be getting a clothing rack and anyone who is interested can bring in their used or vintage clothing for me to consider. You get paid a percentage when it sells! Let’s do this!

I’ll be at my shop in the John Hanes Art Gallery in Boonville Friday through Sunday, 11 am to 3 pm. show me what you’ve got! 

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by Tommy Wayne Kramer 

When we saw polar bears skateboarding down the big hill on North Dora Street we knew we were back in time for another glorious spring in Ukiah. 

So nice to see the snow and holiday lights. Wait until November when lines run down School Street to get into Triple S Camera, and Jill has to print 9,000 Christmas card orders all showing snow on houses from last March. 

But enough chit-chat. Let’s get on with news (at least to me) from around town and county: 

No Bench Downtown?

I am troubled to think that Ukiah’s Racoonatics were unable to keep the downtown bench in operation during my absence. 

But alas, it’s so. Warring factions, internal strife, fiscal mismanagement and the collective inability to remember where they’d stored the bench last winter all contributed to its disappearance. 

The city is considering a row of wheelchairs lined up at the corner of South School and Church Streets.

Fort Bragg Must Go

It’s obvious to me, you and probably everyone else that it’s long past time to change the name of Fort Bragg. 

Yeah, yeah, there’s all the history and culture and tradition stuff, but the tradeoffs are well worth the minor troubles of renaming it Coastopia or Tolerancetown. 


Look at all the world peace and harmony that broke out when Aunt Jemima’s picture was taken off boxes of her pancake mix. And who wasn’t astonished when standards of living among Native Americans improved dramatically once Cleveland fired Chief Wahoo and the name “Indians” was dropped. 

Long live Anyplace, USA, clap clap. 

Such Cute Panda Bears 

I don’t do Facebook but am able to keep up with the latest because occasionally (about four or five times each morning) wife Trophy makes me look at cute stuff on her Facebook thing. 

By “cute” of course I mean dogs, because nothing else on planet earth comes near, except kitty cats and Panda Bears. 

What’s interesting to a towering intellect like mine is that for every million photos that people put on full Facebook display (“Benny the Bulldog celebrates his third birthday” and “Mister Fluffy before he passed away 10 years ago and I still haven’t gotten over it”) there are precisely zero pictures of parents. Just for an example. 

No shots of mumsy and pops on their 50th anniversary, no pictures of the family at Grand Canyon in 1988 and no images of grandma on her 100th birthday. 

But here’s my cat, Ringworm, standing on the sidewalk. 

Destroy The Cartels

Instead of military billions funneled to any and every global uprising, as if we could determine which horse to back in 100% of the war-torn countries, why not put our money where our national interests most need it? Why not declare war on the cartels? 

These violent drug-trafficking criminals bring nothing positive to the USA, a country they’ll happily abandon whenever convenient. Making money from the murder and miseries of fentanyl is low, even among drug dealers.

What To My Wondering Ears

You won’t believe this (I don’t believe this) but after a one year sabbatical in the land of cotton I returned to a first-night serenade by the Ukiah Howlers. (Not its real name) 

I well remember the neighborhood barking serenades. Every night, and I mean every night would come coyote cries across a narrow band of Ukiah’s deep westside, heartfelt solo vocalizations in appreciation of first responders during the barely remembered Covid era. 

Perhaps “howliations” would better describe it. Anyway, here I am back in town and it’s like they never left, and I’m sure they never did. 

So cool to hear the 8 p.m. canine calls and responses each and every night. Why thanks very much, and let me assure you it’s nice to be back! I want to maximize my Ukiah time, so let’s go bowling and roller skating and eat a lot of pears. Then to the Water Trough and Forest Club for nightcaps, with TWK picking up the bill.

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THE WELL IS READY!! ARE YOU? Meditations, Music, Classes, Healing

Mondays: Music for Kids 3:45-5:00pm

Tuesdays: Buddhist Style Meditation 10-11am

Wednesdays: Tai Chi-Qigong 10:30-11:30am; Guided Meditation 5:30-6:30pm

Thursdays: Yoga Meditation 6-7:15pm

Fridays: Cultivation of Pure Perception 9:30-12:30pm

Saturday April 1 Musician John Redding in Concert

Second Saturdays: Namaste Cafe 6-8pm

All are welcome.

All offerings are by donation


45004 Albion St. #8, Mendocino

Text: 707-357-3446

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Seagull chasing Oyster Catchers at Westport Union Landing Beach (Jeff Goll)

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Deputy Sheriff Ricky Del Fiorentino was shot and killed while searching for a subject who had committed violent crimes in Oregon earlier in the day and then shot at a store owner near Leggett, California.

Officers from multiple agencies were searching the area when Deputy Del Fiorentino came across the subject's car in the town of Cleone, near MacKerricher State Park. The subject ambushed Deputy Del Fiorentino, firing multiple rounds and fatally wounding him before he had a chance to exit his vehicle.

A Fort Bragg police lieutenant who was nearby and heard the gunfire responded to the scene to discover the subject going through Deputy Del Fiorentino's patrol car. The lieutenant exchanged gunfire with the subject and struck him in the leg, causing a fatal wound.

Deputy Del Fiorentino had served with the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and Fort Bragg Police Department for a total 26 years.

Deputy Del Fiorentino is remembered for his kind heart, boisterous laugh, positive attitude and dedication to community service personally and professionally. 

We miss you every day and will never forget your contributions to the public safety profession, the community and to the Sheriff's Office family.

Rest in Peace

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Got an act? We wanna see it! The 2023 Anderson Valley Variety Show May 12-13th is looking for locals to perform! Finally we CAN get together! Now it's your turn! It's your year! After all, you've had 3 years to get ready! We are signing up acts right now…funny or theatrical skits, music, poetry, dance, storytelling, circus or acrobatic skills, animal tricks perhaps?…whatever you got! Don't be shy! Call Abeja at (707) 621-3822 or Cap Rainbow at (707) 472-9189.

Wanna know the background story? Here’s a history blurb from our infamous Variety Show host Captain Rainbow:

“The AV Grange Variety Show Rides Again!”

You heard right neighbors. After a 2 year hiatus, waiting around for the rest of the world to get on it's feet, the Anderson Valley Solar Grange will be hosting....well, all of you, 'er us, either onstage or in the hall for the 30th now considered “annualish” Variety Show on Friday May 12th and Saturday May 13th.

The whole Megillah began because there was no money to hire a band for the grand opening of the finally completed Grange hall (this is back in the early 90's). 6 years earlier the original hall built in 1939 burnt to the ground. The Grange didn't have much insurance, but an unlikely crew of volunteers began showing up every weekend, usually a bit hung over, to cut some boards and bang some nails. Many of us feel that this running out of insurance and not having money was a blessing in disguise, forcing us to rely on each other, it forged new friendships and respect. 

Smokey Blatner was the head honcho and somehow he managed this mangy crew and came up with the cheapest deals on materials you can imagine. Finally it was time to throw a party and baptize this new hall. And there was literally no money. So what did we do? We said "guess we'll have to entertain ourselves". The place was a bit barren with bare sheetrock all over, but we did cobble together a pit band, no sound system but there was a spotlight donated by the Boont Town Players and a stage curtain that the high school was tossing out. The show opening had Billy Dawson and Captain Rainbow dressed in bib overalls and doing the secret "Stranger's" handshake. They dragged out a partly burned up old trunk and claimed it was the only thing that survived the fire and hadn't been opened for 5 years.

Of course they had to shoot the lock off, it opened with a creak and oddly enough the sound of farm animals. Out of this trunk came a scythe then a manure fork with what looked like a cow pie which they tossed into the crowd. More animal sounds and some live chickens flapped out which were promptly gathered up by the 2 "Strangers" and tossed into the audience as well. The spotlight focused on the trunk and a rubber chicken popped up and danced to the band playing Turkey in the Straw. Now more sound, it was singing, and darned if it wasn't the first act, a barber shop quartet climbed out of that old trunk and sang. Must of been pretty cramped in there, whew. Other acts followed, (but not out of the trunk), a great mix of valley people, kids, old folks rednecks and hippies having a good time together.

That show was only one night but we had so much fun it became a yearly event that grew to 2 nights and pretty quickly expanded to 20 acts each night give or take, with totally different acts each night. 

Remember, this is a Variety show NOT a talent show. We run the gamut from first time kids, or grownups, to literally world class performers. There are no tryouts or auditions though there is a tech rehearsal the weekend before where all the acts come to learn the order and how to exit and enter, what kind of lighting they prefer and a sound check. Betcha never knew the Roto Rooter guy sang opera or that waitress can balance a broom on her nose while rollerskating. The audience is the best, sometimes it feels like a large rather unruly family gathering where everyone is there to have a wonderful time with each other.“

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Normally I would not take issue with something said about me. Especially by a mental case such as Patrick Redmill, But in this particularly scenario this is my issue. 

In the 2/8/23 issue Redmill wrote that I had multiple warrants for “elder abuse.” I am in state prison, surrounded by people who want to kill those who have multiple warrants for elder abuse. 

Redmill’s false statements can and will place my life in jeopardy as people tend to believe what is printed in the AVA.

In fact I have no such warrants for my arrest.

No offense, but I seriously doubt you will give this letter a second thought. I will still send it in hope that I can appeal to your compassionate side and you see the danger in my situation.

Redmill also falsely stated that I do not have State 4 liver disease. Again, people believe what they read in the AVA and the last thing I want or need is for my community to think I was lying when I wrote I was stage 4 given the possible ramifications of Redmill’s false statements and the danger it places me in. I ask the following:

Call my investigator Justin Cozad at 707 234-2952 at the Mendocino County Public Defender’s office, Confirm with him that I do not have multiple warrants for elder abuse and in fact do have State 4.

Tell him the code word “Old School" which will enable him to answer your questions.

A 60 second phone call my seem like drama to you but it could potentially save my life!

A clarification publication in the letters section would be appreciated more than you know.

Alan Crow

CMF Vacaville

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Northern Nights Music Festival has announced the phase one lineup for its 10th anniversary, taking place in Northern California’s iconic Redwood Forest this July 14-16. With an eclectic music lineup, top-tier cannabis and wellness programming, and serene natural landscapes, Northern Nights remains one of North America’s most unique boutique festival experiences.

Northern Nights’ penchant for discovery continues to make it one of the West Coast’s staple summer music festivals. It all begins with the music, where the picturesque backdrop of Cook’s Valley Campground provides the ideal setting for fans to discover their new favorite artists alongside performances from some of electronic music’s freshest names.

Northern Nights’ phase one lineup marks its biggest and brightest effort yet, offering something for all fans of electronic music and beyond. The ten-year celebration billing is topped by the much anticipated Northern Nights debut of live multi-instrumentalist duo Big Gigantic and returning favorite G Jones, the bass music icon whose epic sound design was bred from the coastal forest landscapes of Northern California. The lineup continues with a slew of additional Northern Nights firsts from GRAMMY-winning producer Mura Masa, multi-genre producer and Young Art label head TOKiMONSTA, and house hitmaker Dr. Fresch setting the vibes in the Redwoods.

The lineup veers into more eclectic soundscapes with emotionally-charged singer and songwriter Bipolar Sunshine, stylish twin sister DJ duo Coco & Breezy, house maven Nala, live performance duo Elephant Heart and introspective live electronic duo Night Tales.

Festival scene icons past and present complete the lineup, featuring electro-soul-hop producer Daily Bread and next-generation breaks riser Mary Droppinz alongside Random Rab, Forester, Megan Hamilton, EAZYBAKED, Moontricks, Dos, and Lapa.

In 2019, Northern Nights became the first music festival to have legal onsite cannabis sales and consumption, establishing the event as a pioneering force in the legalization force that has swept the country. In 2022, Northern Nights became the first music festival to have dispensaries located at stages and the first music festival to have multiple on-site dispensaries, which were showcased in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties. For its 10th anniversary in 2023, Northern Nights will continue its reputation as an innovator in the space by becoming the first music festival to create its own in-house cannabis strain.

Following a multi-year process of pheno-hunting for the best cannabis qualities, Northern Nights will have seeds and samples of its own custom creation at the festival’s farmers market. Created in collaboration with world-renowned breeder Humboldt Seed Company, the new “Northern Nights” strain furthers the commitment of the organizers to revolutionize the ways that cannabis culture can be showcased in a music festival format while supporting local curators. Not to be confused with the infamous “Northern Lights” strain, the festival will be the only place to purchase and consume this very limited batch of Emerald Triangle grown products.

The renowned Tree Lounge cannabis consumption area remains a bedrock of the Northern Nights experience, hosting the industry’s premier cannabis brands, medicated experiences, bespoke yoga and wellness programming, and more. The Tree Lounge will have a new, central location within the festival footprint to bring further attention to this best-in-class experience.

All of the magic happens at the remote yet easily accessible location of Cook’s Valley Campground, set behind the Redwood Curtain in the fertile crescent of the Emerald Triangle. The festival grounds feature a river where attendees can float or swim by day, the largest Redwood grove campground in the world, and plenty of space to explore the great outdoors. Throughout the day and into the night, the present and future of electronic music will shine at the various stages – Main, River, Grove, Silent Disco, and Bunker.

Chart your journey now to one of the most unique festival experiences of the year. Tickets for Northern Nights Music Festival are available now on the festival’s website.

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AN ON-LINE COMMENTER WARNS: These guys are scumbag promoters. They are required to have shuttles never had one. They say they donate to local non profits, who please tell. No real benefit to local commerce, most of their guests travel no further north than Piercy. More glitter and sun screen in the river than any reggae ever could. I heard this year they blocked the mateel from producing reggae on the property next door, blocking competition in a back door attempt to earn more money from their investments in Sierra Nevada music fest. Their security drive through the event at high speeds with no care for patrons safety. Their bunker stage has been identified as a serious danger from collapse and still they pack it with people, a total disregard for safety. They are bound by their permit to clean the river but every year my family pulls dozens of popped “floaties” from down stream. The mendocino land owner draws directly from the river to meet their water needs, while rolling and grading the river bar without approval or oversight from fish and wildlife. Their cannabis zone is a joke, last year they put local farmers a 15 minute walk away from the event hidden on a separate property. And filled their primary cannabis area at main stage with out-of-town corperate cannabis brands. They give nothing back to our home just take. they promote the corporate Chad’s that are destroying our local cannabis community. Booooooo on your new strain and your corporate ethics.

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(photo by Saffron Fraser)

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by Bruce Anderson

Boonville’s first-wave hippies called a meeting one Sunday afternoon to discuss what to do about a loose knit, perhaps mythical, Boonville vigilante crew calling itself Cold Steel, whose stated purpose, if you could find it, was to beat up hippies, cut hippie hair, burn hippie shacks, and generally purge the valley of hippies, hip-symps, latent hippies, closet hippies, and all carriers of the hippie virus as determined by Cold Steel. The thinking went that with all the long-haired men and loose women back in Berkeley and San Francisco, the valley’s decent people could return to their pre-hippie lives of serial adultery, wife beating, alcoholism, and bar fighting.

What to do about Cold Steel before The Restoration?

We gathered in a ridgetop, owner-built hippie house to talk mutual aid. There were so many hippies stuffed into the three-story shack for the meeting, and so many women in granny dresses, I half-expected the old woman who lived in a shoe to appear with a tray of lemonade and cookies.

We were directed by our host and his “old lady,” a young woman who looked like she was about 16, to array ourselves in a circle which, the very young old lady explained, “will discourage hierarchical thinking and facilitate communication and community.”

The meeting flier had been illustrated by a male cartoon figure smoking pot. The flier said the gathering would be potluck. Potluck, get it? We were also supposed to bring something to eat that was “healthy, preferably organic.” And right there you understood why so many “straight” Americans wanted to force feed hippies deep fried jelly donuts. And since the occasion was an afternoon affair, why would we have to bring anything to eat since the meeting time was after the lunch hour and would be ended before dinner? Come to find out, as a redneck narrative would put it, there was a minority of hippies who seemed to live for these things; they stuffed themselves on cadged meals in between which they lived on giant blocks of government commodity cheese.

I brought a big bowl of potato salad that the hippies, without asking if the dish had been prepared according to hippie halal, was nearly consumed before I could find a hole in the circle big enough for me to sit down in. Mine was the only real food anybody brought, and I never did get my bowl back. From that day forward, whenever I went to any kind of liberal potluck, and liberal politics inevitably meant circles and dope, I brought stuff straight from Safeway’s sale table. The negative food value items disappeared just as fast as the organic whatever.

That day’s banquet also included some scraggly strands of unappetizing blackish-green vegetable matter that a man told me was seaweed rendered edible. There were a couple of hunks of homemade bread with the appearance and texture of cannonballs; and a big vat of watery slop billed as soup. And, of course, there was marijuana, the sacred herb around whose consumption so many stoned lives then revolved.

At a Green Party meeting several years later, the circle meeting format had been expanded to include a tiny, Peter Pan-ish fellow who said his name was Morning Light. The event began with Morning Light holding up a battered asparagus fern. “Only persons in possession of this fern are empowered to speak,” he said, “and I will start the discussion by passing it to the person to my right.” I wondered who had empowered him. Had the gnomish little fascist simply taken advantage of stoner inattentiveness to seize control?

Morning Light declared he would also function as “vibes watcher,” explaining that if the discussion became too heated, he’d play a tune on his flute until proper rhetorical order was restored. Morning Light added that instead of clapping and cheering when we heard something we approved of, we should “twinkle,” raising our hands over our heads and silently wiggling our fingers. “It’s so much less disruptive than clapping and cheering,” he explained.

These protocols kicked in in the early 1980s. At that initial Cold Steel meeting we were merely arrayed in circles, no vibe watcher.

A big bush hippie was one of the few sensible persons attending the what-to-do-about-the-vigilantes meeting. He was only a year from the fighting in Vietnam, a fierce looking man with long, unattended black hair and a big black beard and wild eyes to go with it. He’d mustered out of the Army with enough money and VA benefits to buy 40 acres somewhere up around Spy Rock, north of Laytonville. He told me that he was visiting a friend “near Boonville” when he saw the flier. The bush hippie was about sixty miles south of his Spy Rock neighborhood, which had already established itself as, ah, self-governing. He didn’t introduce himself and no one seemed inclined to pry.

“Why don’t we just grab some of these Cold Steel assholes and shove some cold steel up their ass?” the bush hip suggested.

A perpetually smiling, curly-headed man who was considered a notorious deadbeat even by hippies with an “old lady” even more notorious for parasitism, began his monologue, rushing his words as if to cancel out the tactical suggestion of the alienated man fresh off his jungle adventure,

“I really love living in Anderson Valley, and love the people, plants. animals, streams and rivers, the whole place and everybody and everything in it. By ‘love’ I mean I sense the ultimate oneness of all, and the love force which is the most powerful force in creation. Also I am a person of strong political opinions — opinions which change with the help of my friends: opinions which sometime differ from those of my friends and neighbors. I love and respect my neighbors, even though their politics may differ from mine. We are all coming from different life experiences, and are viewing these different experiences from different perspectives. I relish political debate, but only if the participants love and respect each other in the process. I especially love the notorious characters of Anderson Valley, whose comic and-or tragic flaws, are as apparent to me as my own flaws, entirely invisible to me of course but are seen clearly by my Anderson Valley neighbors. I am a ‘radical’ in that I love to get to the root of things. Now our country has become so dominated by men of fear, greed, and the desire to exploit and dominate, that it is rapidly destroying itself. This means that every year I, as a landless family man and worker-entrepreneur in Anderson Valley, become more dependent on my friends and neighbors for all I need to survive and live happily. Indeed, we in Anderson Valley need each other more every day, in so many ways. Let’s get together in love, relishing our diversity.”

The bush hippie, a big smile on his hairy face, answered, “Me too. I love the valley. The robins here are much better than the ones around Laytonville. Down here they’re so nice and fat and all fluffed out that they’re easy to pick off with a bb gun.”

A wiry little fellow announced solemnly, “Politics is the art of the possible,” and the meeting plunged irrelevantly on until one of the stoners finally asked, “So, who are these Cold Steel people anyway?”

No one knew, but everyone seemed to have a preferred villain. Names tumbled into consideration, but not one could be confirmed as Cold Steel.

“Maybe there isn’t a Cold Steel,” a woman suggested. “Maybe there’s just kind of these freelance rednecks who beat up hippies whenever they get a chance.”

“Well, my friend from Albion,” began a long hair, “said he went into the Boonville Lodge last Saturday night to buy a six-pack, and while he was inside some rednecks hooked up his VW bus to the tow bar on their pick-up truck. My friend came outside just as they got his bus connected to their tow bar. He told them to leave him alone and un-hook him. They just stood there laughing at him. Finally, one of them pretended to un-hook him and told him he could go. But my friend was still hooked up. The rednecks got into their truck and towed my friend all around Boonville for about half an hour, like it was all a big joke.”

The bush hippie laughed.

I laughed.

“Sounds like an initiation ceremony to me,” I said.

A large woman with a small, downturned, perpetually unhappy mouth had been grazing the potluck table ever since she’d arrived, suddenly shouted out, “We must remain non-violent!”

Volcanically angry herself, as I came to know from seeing her in action at succeeding hip-lib events, the unhappy woman, whom another bush vet called a “power cow,” was always pretending to be shocked, gasping so loud at public meetings whenever something was said or done that violated hippiedom’s stated ideal of collective peace and love, the people in the gasped room would have to take a timeout, like a flock of birds sent suddenly airborne from a telephone wire, until the traumatized flower child stopped hyper-ventilating. A discussion would be stumbling along when suddenly there’d be a kind of coyote-like yelp that segued into great gulping inhalations on the frontier of hyper-ventilation until her alarmed eruptions finally subsided into sighs and, we all hoped, peace. These explosions were a staple of hippie gatherings, as predictable as pot and patchouli.

Deep in the Cold Steel meeting, a terrible scream erupted from the righteous one. A sudden cry so loud, so piercing that for all anybody knew she’d just taken a machete stroke to her back. I wasn’t the only one who was startled.

We stared at her, shocked. What the hell had happened? Nothing, as if turned out. A man had fired up a non-marijuana cigarette a good forty feet from where earth mother, wrapped in layers of shawls and a mammoth earth-toned muumuu, had spread herself out like a heavily graffitti-ed freeway pillar. The cigarette smoke had somehow penetrated the marijuana haze that hung over the room to make its evil way to earth mother’s nostrils, her sacred space, her drift. The woman had been violated! 

The drift interlude took up about half an hour because it had given birth to a prolonged argument about the relative lethality of cigarette smoke versus marijuana smoke.

Just before the meeting broke up with no resolution of the Cold Steel problem other than the bush hippie’s stated intention to meet violence with ultra-violence — “If any of those assholes fuck with me…” earth mom, as she did at every political meeting, announced that she would appreciate donations so she could continue “doing important political work.”

And that was the end of Cold Steel.

Among the county’s hippies, Boonville did indeed have the reputation as a place to avoid, but there was never any evidence of organized hippie-bashers.

* * *

MARIN COUNTY CYO CHAMPS (Gemma Lafrenz, #34)

* * *


by Clark Mason

He was the Old West’s most prolific stagecoach robber, a polite bandit who said “please” and left poetry at the scene of his crimes, yet eluded law enforcement for years.

Charles E. Boles, better known as Black Bart, robbed more stagecoaches than anyone else — 29 before he was finally caught — including holdups in Sonoma and Mendocino counties in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

The story has been told of how lawmen finally identified Black Bart from a telltale laundry mark left on a dirty white silk handkerchief at the scene of a holdup in Calaveras County. Detectives traced the mark by searching 91 laundries in San Francisco and linked it to Boles, an elegantly dressed man in his early 50s posing as a mine owner and stock speculator.

But a new book takes a deeper dive into Boles’ remarkable double life, his background as a seasoned Civil War veteran, his failures as a Gold Rush prospector and farmer and the abandonment of his wife and children for the lure of easy money.

“Gentleman Bandit” is the latest from New York Times bestselling author John Boessenecker, a Bay Area lawyer and former police officer who is considered a leading authority on crime and law enforcement in the Old West.

Black Bart was successful for so long because he acted alone, kept to himself and never took anyone into his confidence. He operated under the nose of law enforcement in San Francisco, even befriending cops.

While Boles stole from Wells Fargo and the mail, he didn’t take from passengers and never shot anyone. In fact, Boessenecker said, his darkest crime “was lying to his wife and loving daughters, promising to come home.”

Boles used his robberies to support a comfortable lifestyle. He carried a gold cane and stayed in fashionable hotels. He dined on fine food in popular restaurants.

He resembled a grandfather on leisurely strolls through the city’s amusement park, botanical gardens, zoo, art museum, music hall and outdoor theater. He loved betting on horses at the Bay District Race Track. And he probably had at least one mistress.

But when the money began to run out, he would plan another stagecoach robbery.

Boles, along with his brother, joined the California Gold Rush in 1850 but never struck pay dirt. But he was acquainted with the backwoods and wagon roads that connected far-flung tent encampments and boom towns.

“This knowledge would prove of great value to him in his later career (of stage robber),” Boessenecker said.

Boles was careful not to rob stages escorted by shotgun guards, which had the most valuable shipments. He never made a really big haul and sometimes came up empty.

His largest score was more than $4,000 in gold — equivalent to more than $450,000 today. Buckshot grazed his scalp in that holdup, his last before he was caught. He dropped the fabled handkerchief while fleeing. Later, in a bid for leniency, he led authorities to the hidden loot.

Boles’ modus operandi was to wear a white cloth sack over his head, with two holes cut out for the eyes. He would meet the stagecoach with a shotgun as the horses labored up a hill, making it easy to step into the road and take over the reins.

Boles was conditioned to walking long distances by his years in the Union infantry in the Civil War. He could tramp 50 miles a day with a pack and rifle and survive on little food and drink.

Twice wounded in action, he was remembered by his comrades as a man of bravery. He rose to the rank of sergeant and fought in a number of grueling battles against the Confederates. He was with Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in Georgia on the infamous March to the Sea when the Yankees laid waste to the defeated South, pillaging and torching houses and factories.

Boessenecker, who became fascinated with the Old West watching TV Westerns as a child, has been researching his subject for more than 50 years, tracking down primary sources in letters, libraries, courthouses, census and genealogy records and old newspaper accounts. More recent digital files have made it easier to uncover additional source material and shed new light on Black Bart.

Boessenecker has twice been named Best Nonfiction Writer by True West magazine and has appeared as a historical commentator on PBS, the History Channel, A&E and other networks.

In “Gentleman Bandit,” he meticulously details Boles’ life and escapades, along with the legendary lawmen who hunted him, the widespread newspaper coverage of his exploits and the copycat bandits he spawned.

Boles’ criminal career began near the gold town of Sonora in 1875, where he placed sticks in the brush behind him to resemble gun barrels. It fooled the stage driver, who thought the robber was backed up by a gang.

Sonoma County robberies

It was two years later when the elusive bandit first struck in Sonoma County. He held up his fourth stagecoach, which was on a two-day trip from the picturesque logging village of Mendocino to Duncan Mills, then a railroad station on the Russian River.

He appeared near Timber Gulch, south of Fort Ross, on a ravine and sharp bend in the road, thereafter named Shotgun Point. The masked gunman stepped in front of the slow-moving lead horses, halting the stage.

“Please throw out the (strong) box and the mail bags,” was the almost polite demand of the robber, according to the passengers.

It was trademark Black Bart, known for being courteous to passengers, especially women travelers, and declining to take their money or jewelry.

The driver quickly complied and the stage continued to Duncans Mills, where a small posse was hastily organized.

When they got to the scene of the holdup, the pursuers found a shattered express box and an old ax. On the reverse of the Wells Fargo waybill, Boles had inscribed a short poem that would be recited for years to come in the annals of Old West crimes:

“I’ve labored long and hard for bread,

For honor, and for riches.

But on my corns too long you’ve tred,

You fine haired sons of bitches.”

There were many bandits in California, but none as active, or as elusive as Black Bart.

Besides striking as far away as Oregon, he committed eight stagecoach robberies along the isolated roads of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, north of the where the railroad terminated in Cloverdale at the time.

One spot in Walker Valley, 14 miles north of Ukiah, was close to a huge boulder, later named Black Bart Rock.

Another was about 10 miles north of Potter Valley on a stage road that ran through the Round Valley Indian reservation.

In 1880, he again returned to the Sonoma Coast area. This time, he probably took a train to Duncans Mills before walking north on Meyers Grade and robbing a southbound stage about 4 miles south of modern-day Seaview.

In 1882, he struck 6 miles north of Cloverdale, on a wagon road that followed the course of the Russian River, near Cummiskey Creek.

Trackers conducted an extensive search but turned up empty-handed. They concluded the perpetrator hiked east, skirting Clear Lake and crossing the Coast Range into Sacramento Valley, where he could have boarded a train.

The same year, he held up a stagecoach about 5 miles south of Willits. One of the terrified passengers was Hiram Willits, the postmaster for whom the town was named.

There were two subsequent holdups on Geysers Road. Boles had no interest in the conveyances filled with tourists that ran between Cloverdale and the Geysers. Instead, he targeted stagecoaches from Lakeport to Cloverdale, which carried Wells Fargo’s express and mail.


Boles’ last heist before he was publicly identified was in June 1883, followed by an arrest, quick trial and sentencing to six years in San Quentin Prison. He was a model prisoner and worked as an assistant in the prison pharmacy, leading to an early release after just four years in custody.

During his incarceration, Boles exchanged long and frequent letters with his wife and daughters, then living in Hannibal, Missouri. He had abandoned them many years before after a failed attempt at farming. He expressed remorse and regrets and promised to reunite with them. It was not to be.

When he left San Quentin, Boles told a reporter he was done with a life of crime. But Wells Fargo detectives believed Boles went back to his old ways and was responsible for three more stage holdups, netting him a small fortune. One was in Mendocino County 10 months later, at the top of a hill a few miles north of Black Bart Rock, where he stepped in front of a Ukiah-bound coach and trained a shotgun on the driver.

One of the more tantalizing clues to Boles’ whereabouts after prison comes from an interview in the Santa Rosa Republican, 15 years after he was set free.

In 1903, the newspaper reported Boles was “in Arizona, or New Mexico, aged and respected, his identity not known, a man of family in affluent circumstances, an extensive stock range being his realm.”

It could have been dismissed as a wild rumor, except the newspaper said its informant, who lived in Santa Rosa, had been a fellow volunteer with Boles in the 116th Illinois Infantry.

That man was undoubtedly Boles’ friend, Dr. Joseph Hostetler, the surgeon for the Army regiment. It’s possible Boles wrote to his Civil War comrade and boasted of the success that had long eluded him, according to Boessenecker.

Someday, the ultimate fate of Black Bart may come out, but until then, Boessenecker concluded, “It remains one of the great mysteries of the Wild West.”

* * *


Outhouses normally were found close to a house although in my case, I found that out closer to livestock rails and a bar, they had a well next to the house which still works but was covered, and the rock lined as well as having rock all the way up to feet above the ground level with boards over the top and her old-fashioned hand pump, to get the water out, the one in the barnyard I believe was probably used for livestock water and there were other buildings like cabins that were there in the early years, this particular well was wood lined and was about 35 feet deep, when I first saw it there was part of a plow sticking up out of the ground, when the price of scrap iron skyrocketed about 20 years ago, I was going scrap iron out of every nook and cranny, everything from old tracks and rollers from the logging days in the 50s, larger things sticking out of the ground, that's how I found the well took the back: dug around it on the outside wanted to disturb what was in the center, ended up having it takes the bulldozer: dirt away 50 feet back so I could get the backhoe down so I could reach more than 17 feet, it became a several year project for the deeper I went the more I found, medical bottles from a hospital in Mendocino, part of a human femur that had been sawed off somebody probably an accident, a Dresden doll head cracked, part of a waistcoat made out of wool, two mismatched high button shoes, a couple of gold coins and some silver coins as well, and abundance of whiskey bottles of various sizes and shapes, silver spoons and forks, at the 25 foot level the water was flowing in with great abundance so we had to dig up a trench, off to the south to keep the water draining out I had never gotten to the bottom but it was wood lined with three-inch redwood planking, with 4 x 4 redwood posts that were on the inside, the nails were square it looked like, they'd oversize the well in-depth so they can put would around the posts and mala planks with big square spikes but wouldn't cave in to become a problem, I believe it probably even a well planked floor in the bottom, the original area and many cabins and it was a settlement or part of the property, there was a stagecoach Road it went through that people paid to ride through the property, and I'm sure somewhere up there is probably more things that have never found, when model digging was a big thing in the 70s a lot of people would come up and dig around like the owners of the Little River inn they would come up and we'd all have lunch on the hill and they would dig for bottles, one thing about outhouses it was usually a well or hand dug depression, but because of the area in the logging days and had so many caps, and the branches scattered out countywide I believe, that there's a lot of sites but now that we have electronic devices, like ground penetrating radar it might be easier to find these historical areas that hold many treasures that should be brought out, into the light of day for all to enjoy, but remember to wear your rubber gloves because some of the germs that ended up in these holes may still be alive, the historical lands Mendocino County have many hidden secrets, and a lot of the old-timers are not telling people where these things are to keep the birds of treasure hunters out of our yards, aren’t enough people interested in history, only how much money they can make without regard for discipline to the truth of the county, all artifacts should be turned in and made available to the counties to large historical societies, one on the coast and the one in Ukiah, history belongs to all of us and none of you should try and make money from historical items that we find.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, March 19, 2023

Alexander, Carrillo, Grace, Kidd

DONALD ALEXANDER, Willits. Assault, criminal threats, use of offense words likely to provoke violation reaction, trespassing.

NATALY CARRILLO-ZAMORA, Willits. Domestic battery, false imprisonment.

BRUNO GRACE-FECKER, Healdsburg/Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.

SHANNON KIDD, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol. 

Malagon, Nunez, Ortiz, Rodriguez

JENNY MALAGON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

JESUS NUNEZ-CAMACHO JR, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Controlled substance for sale, bringing controlled substance into jail, county parole violation, failure to appear.

LUIS ORTIZ, Ukiah. Controlled substance for sale, evasion, county parole violation.

MARCOS RODRIGUEZ-TURNER, Ukiah. Parole violation.

Silva, Smith, Strandberg

ALEJANDRO SILVA, Covelo. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance.

RONDY SMITH, Willits. Domestic battery, false imprisonment.

EMILY STRANDBERG, Eureka/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license, probation revocation.

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BYRON SPOONER: Judy and I will be at our usual post at the big table at Specs' this Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 or so talking, drinking, laughing. Join us. North Beach, across from City Lights.

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Imagine Trump being elected and in prison. I guess they could throw a large oak desk in there and he could sign bills and stuff. And answer questions to the media in the cafeteria or something, with his fellow prisoners listening and off to one side.

* * *


by Sarah Feldberg

The Oct. 16, 1933 Chronicle front page heralds the arrival of the U.S.S Macon Navy airship. Ninety years later, we discovered the centerpiece photo was a fabrication.

On Oct. 15, 1933, the U.S.S. Macon Navy airship sailed over the Bay Area to its new home inside the $5 million Hangar One at Moffett Field. 

“Crowned with the gold of California’s sunshine, the sky queen’s arrival was a spectacular event, which turned hundreds of thousands of eyes skyward,” The Chronicle crowed the next day. 

According to the front-page story, the 6.5 million-cubic-foot dirigible “loafed” over Monterey Bay and flew past the Santa Clara Valley on its way up the Peninsula. It circled San Francisco, then pointed south, drawing 30,000 spectators to see the flying aircraft carrier (which held four Sparrowhawk fighters) nose down to its dock in Sunnyvale. 

But the Macon did not, apparently, cruise past the Chronicle building in downtown San Francisco with the United States flag flapping majestically in the foreground, as depicted in a photograph printed across four columns on The Chronicle’s front page the next day. Or if it did, we missed the shot. 

Now, 90 years later, we know that image — which ran Oct. 16, 1933, under the headline “Sky Queen and Old Glory — Long May They Fly!” — was a fake. 

I run The Chronicle’s Vault Instagram account, where we share photos from the paper’s vast archive. In January, I was posting a series of aviation-related images — including the 1968 Japan Air Lines flight that landed in San Francisco Bay and Amelia Earhart in Oakland before an around-the-world attempt — when I came across a photo of the U.S.S. Macon. 

In the image, the airship hovers just above The Chronicle’s gothic clock tower, the words “U.S. Navy” clearly visible on its flank. An American flag ripples just so in the breeze, and the clock’s dial reads 1:27 p.m. 

I remember pausing when I came across the shot in an 8-year-old blog post by former Chronicle librarian Bill Van Niekerken. It was arresting and graceful, a familiar view of our workplace made remarkable by the vehicle floating past.

I posted the shot to Instagram and went to bed. 

The next morning, the post had hundreds of likes and a growing chorus of comments: 

“Why does the flag look like a painting?” 

“The airship also has a border that looks rather scrapbook-ish.”

“[W]hat’s up with this picture?”

A few weeks later, Chronicle Culture Critic Peter Hartlaub and I ventured into the archive to see if we could find the image in question. We had almost called our expedition a bust when Peter pulled the yellowed, 90-year-old photograph out of a folder labeled “Military - US Navy - Airships”. 

Sure enough, the clock had been doctored and the flag drawn on with what appeared to be liquid paper and ink. When we wiped off the print, only a ghostly shadow of the Stars and Stripes remained, alongside an empty flagpole. 

The Macon, meanwhile, was glued to the background of the photo with a telltale ridge around its perimeter. When I pried up a corner to peek at the original image, nothing was underneath. 

“I find it hard to believe that they would manufacture the photo,” said Van Niekerken, the former Chronicle librarian who has spent countless hours paging through the paper’s old editions and past prints. “It kind of stuns me that they got so creative.”

While total invention violated the norms of newspaper photography even a century ago, in previous eras, Chronicle photographers, layout artists and designers took liberties that would be ethically unthinkable today. They often used white or dark retouching fluid to paint over objects in the background, removing distracting elements so the main subject of the photo popped off the page. 

Rather than deceiving the reader, that kind of retouching “was basically seen as good reproduction practices,” said Chronicle Director of Visuals Nicole Frugé. “That was how they made finicky printing presses work well.”

In one egregious example Van Niekerken discovered, some overzealous staffer had cleaned up a shot of Jerry Garcia at his bandmate Pigpen’s funeral, giving the Grateful Dead frontman an unsolicited haircut. “I had the photo and there was all this liquid paper on it to make his beard more nicely groomed,” Van Niekerken said. 

“The standards throughout the history of photography have absolutely changed,” said Ken Light, the Reva & David Logan Professor of Photojournalism at U.C. Berkeley. 

Before digital photography became the norm, newspaper photographers worked in the darkroom to develop and process their film. 

“I remember Chronicle photographers talking about the hand of god, which was when you dodged a print in the darkroom," Light said. “They used a long coat hanger with a piece of paper attached so you could lighten the face or lighten the background. And that kind of photo process was ethically accepted.

“Those are considered no-nos today,” Light added, “at least in the mainstream media.”

Frugé points to a generational shift in accepted practices for photojournalists over the past 25 to 30 years. Things like setting up photos or removing background elements have become “a fireable offense, as opposed to how you did your job.”

Even as ethical standards for photojournalism have tightened, the ability to manipulate images has exploded. In a Super Bowl ad last month, Google touted the ability to remove people from photos taken with its newest phone. Photoshop and other software can dramatically alter digital images, and social media is full of manipulated photos, from Kardashian-level retouching to run-of-the-mill Facetune. Artificial intelligence is capable of inventing “photographs” from scratch — without a lens or a subject.

“We are living in a dangerous age,” Light said.

However, the history of photojournalism is also full of examples of photographers and publications stepping over the lines. As far back as the Civil War, photographer Alexander Gardner moved a Confederate sharpshooter’s corpse into a more picturesque location to get a better shot. National Geographic squeezed the pyramids closer together to fit on a 1982 magazine cover. 

Van Niekerken wondered if something similar was at play with The Chronicle’s image of the U.S.S. Macon. Maybe, he said, the photographer captured a similar frame, but “they did some fudging” to make it fit the four-column opening on a crowded front page.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “To glue the airship on the image is just very surprising. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt.” 

Frugé has a less forgiving assessment of her predecessors’ work in 1933: “The main thing is that you’re not removing things and not adding things. The two biggest lines are what they crossed. They put something in that wasn’t there.”

* * *

* * *

A FOUR-DECADE SECRET: One Man’s Story of Sabotaging Carter’s Re-election

A prominent Texas politician said he unwittingly took part in a 1980 tour of the Middle East with a clandestine agenda.

by Peter Baker

It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of the president of the United States.

It was 1980 and Jimmy Carter was in the White House, bedeviled by a hostage crisis in Iran that had paralyzed his presidency and hampered his effort to win a second term. Mr. Carter’s best chance for victory was to free the 52 Americans held captive before Election Day. That was something that Mr. Barnes said his mentor was determined to prevent.

His mentor was John B. Connally Jr., a titan of American politics and former Texas governor who had served three presidents and just lost his own bid for the White House. A former Democrat, Mr. Connally had sought the Republican nomination in 1980 only to be swamped by former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Now Mr. Connally resolved to help Mr. Reagan beat Mr. Carter and in the process, Mr. Barnes said, make his own case for becoming secretary of state or defense in a new administration.

What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal.

Then shortly after returning home, Mr. Barnes said, Mr. Connally reported to William J. Casey, the chairman of Mr. Reagan’s campaign and later director of the Central Intelligence Agency, briefing him about the trip in an airport lounge.

Mr. Carter’s camp has long suspected that Mr. Casey or someone else in Mr. Reagan’s orbit sought to secretly torpedo efforts to liberate the hostages before the election, and books have been written on what came to be called the October surprise. But congressional investigations debunked previous theories of what happened.

Mr. Connally did not figure in those investigations. His involvement, as described by Mr. Barnes, adds a new understanding to what may have happened in that hard-fought, pivotal election year. With Mr. Carter now 98 and in hospice care, Mr. Barnes said he felt compelled to come forward to correct the record.

“History needs to know that this happened,” Mr. Barnes, who turns 85 next month, said in one of several interviews, his first with a news organization about the episode. “I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”

Mr. Barnes said he had no idea of the purpose of the Middle East trip when Mr. Connally invited him. They traveled to the region on a Gulfstream jet owned by Superior Oil. Only when they sat down with the first Arab leader did Mr. Barnes learn what Mr. Connally was up to, he said.

Mr. Connally said, “‘Look, Ronald Reagan’s going to be elected president and you need to get the word to Iran that they’re going to make a better deal with Reagan than they are Carter,’” Mr. Barnes recalled. “He said, ‘It would be very smart for you to pass the word to the Iranians to wait until after this general election is over.’ And boy, I tell you, I’m sitting there and I heard it and so now it dawns on me, I realize why we’re there.”

Mr. Barnes said that, except for Israel, Mr. Connally repeated the same message at every stop in the region to leaders such as President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt. He thought his friend’s motive was clear. “It became very clear to me that Connally was running for secretary of state or secretary of defense,” Mr. Barnes said. (Mr. Connally was later offered energy secretary but declined.)

Mr. Barnes said he did not reveal the real story at the time to avoid blowback from his own party. “I don’t want to look like Benedict Arnold to the Democratic Party by participating in this,” he recalled explaining to a friend. The headlines at the time, he imagined, would have been scandalous. “I did not want that to be on my obituary at all.”

But as the years have passed, he said, he has often thought an injustice had been done to Mr. Carter. Discussing the trip now, he indicated, was his way of making amends. “I just want history to reflect that Carter got a little bit of a bad deal about the hostages,” he said. “He didn’t have a fighting chance with those hostages still in the embassy in Iran.”

* * *

Jimmy Hendrix, Panhandle, SF, 1967

* * *

PINKY ELIOT had lost weight, though for sure he still weighed more than the teacher. He was about 45, with all his hair still dark. He was not bad-looking, elf-nosed and cat-eyed, though a little soccer ball-ish through the chin and cheeks, which together formed a white sphere with a sudden scar curling grayly around. Also, he had the kind of mustache a college roommate of hers used to say looked like it had crawled up to find a warm spot to die.

They ate dinner at the only Italian restaurant in town. She drank two glasses of wine, the cool heat of it spreading through her like wintergreen. One of these days, she knew, she would have to give up dating. She had practiced declarations in the mirror. “I don’t date. I'm sorry. I just don’t date.”

“I always kind of liked the food here,” said Pinky.

She looked at his round face and felt a little bad for him and a little bad for herself while she was at it, because, truly, the food was not good: flavorless bladders of pasta passing as tortellini; the cutlets mealy and drenched in the kind of tomato sauce that was unwittingly, defeatedly orange. Poor Pinky didn’t know a garlic from a Gumby.

“Yes,” she said, trying to be charming. “But do you think it’s really Italian? It feels as if it got as far as the Canary Islands, then fell into the water.”

“An East Coast snob.” He smiled. His voice was slow with prairie, thick with Great Lakes. “Dressed all in black and hating the Midwest. Are you Jewish?”

She bristled. A Nazi. A hillbilly Nazi gastronomical moron. “No, I’m not Jewish,” she said archly, staring him down, to teach him, to teach him this: “Are you?”

“Yes,” he said. He studied her eyes.

“Oh, she said.

“Not many of us in this part of the world, so I thought I'd ask.”

“Yes.” She felt an embarrassed sense of loss, as if something that should have been hers but wasn’t had been taken away, legally, by the police. Her gaze dropped to her hands, which had started to move around nervously, independently, like small rodents kept as pets. The wine settled hotly in her cheeks, and when she rushed more to her mouth, the edge of the glass clinked against the tooth in front that was longer than all the others.

Pinky reached across the table and touched her hair. She had had it permed into waves like ramen noodles the week before. “A little ethnic kink is always good to see,” he said. “What are you, Methodist?”

— Laurie Moore

* * *

Painters atop the Woolworth Building in New York City, 1926

* * *


by Nick Flynn

I was sixteen when my father went to jail. We didn’t talk about him much before that. My mother had a warrant on him for non-payment of child support and he knew that if he came around he’d get arrested. He wasn’t supposed to, but he would come by and see our grandmother — my mom’s mom — and leave inappropriate gifts for us. Like a dog. The dog stayed with my grandmother. They were drinking buddies.

I didn't meet my father until I was in my late 20s but I got letters from him for ten years before that. I have hundreds of them, from when he was in prison and then after. He used to write us all Xeroxed form letters. I would get them and so would my girlfriend’s parents who he knew, Ted Kennedy, Patty Hearst, maybe Dustin Hoffman. He was cultivating a list of famous people. There were clippings in them all that he would Xerox. He would usually write a little sentence to you, personalizing it. There was something about that that kind of bothered me. I have a friend now who is starting to write Xeroxed letters, it just makes me feel like the person is insane. I'd rather not write a letter than write a Xeroxed letter.

He probably got three to five years and got out in two. The last ten years I have seen him every couple of months. He’s hardly an old gangster. He just acts like a tough guy. When I met my father he was talking like he was in a noir film, like Bogart or Cagney. It seemed characters like that had influenced him. I think he got caught up in the whole mystique of it.

The first time I really met him, he came to the boat I was working on. He was driving a cab at the time. This was a couple of years before he was homeless. He shows up totally hammered and yelled down, “Nicholas.” Phil, my buddy who I owned the boat with, was on deck. He looked up and — never having met my father before — immediately knew who he was. It’s just one of those things — like the time I stopped to pick wildflowers in Texas on my way to Austin. I was wearing sandals and I stepped in these fire ants, They bit my feet and as soon as they bite you, the first words that come to your head are, “fire ant.” Even if you have no idea what a fire ant is, suddenly you know exactly what it is. So Paul had never seen him before and he was like, ‘You’re Nick's father. My father goes, “Is Nicholas there?” He said, “No, but he’ll be back soon.” “Oh. Can I wait for him?” So he went down to the boat with this really frowsy woman he was with. They had a bottle of vodka with them and his cab was running on the curb.

I came home and I’m just like, “What the fuck is this? My father’s here?” I hadn’t seen him since I was eight. He just wanted to say hi and show me off to this woman. It’s not a very memorable meeting. For dramatic purposes, I left that meeting out of the book and I made the first meeting when he called and was getting evicted, which was two or three years later. I didn’t see him in the meantime. It was this one dreamlike moment and then he vanishes again. So, I felt like let’s just pick it up from where the story starts really, I don’t know what he talked about that first time. He usually just talks about himself.

* * *

* * *


by Eric S. McMahon

It was referred to as the cellar, never called a “basement,” though I’m not sure yet I understand what distinguishes them.

You could get down there either by the steep stairs leading from the pantry, or through the slanted, slatted, pull-apart pair of — you guessed it — cellar doors, outside.

The latter, always creaky and not painted recently enough, carried a hint of Kansas, like what you’d flee beneath as the twister furthered its advance. We weren’t at risk of those Oz-style weather patterns, that I knew of.

Our cellar was appropriately dank, though, and sprouted mold, and spider-webs, and broad indelible stains one wouldn’t want to analyze at random locations on the irregularly poured cement foundation floor.

If you were full-grown, you’d be advised to crouch and watch your head, dodging a capricious suspended network of pipes, support shafts, and hanging hazards. A good set of clothes could get ruined in a hurry.

The house had an attic, too, where all the cleaner, drier stuff we didn’t really need was stored. Banished to the cellar were the outlaw goods — the rusty, musty, greasy, leak-prone, noxious, caustic, or just plain nasty commodities.

It was more beach-head than colony, lacking a workshop but not short of loose tools.

Rakes, shovels, and hedge-clippers leaned against the measled walls, kept company by gallon cans of paint long-since congealed, near-empty cans of now-expired automotive fluids, lengths of brittle, rolled-up hose, and mossy parts from disemboweled machines.

Stacked slabs of slate, superstitiously salvaged from a roof upgrade years earlier, owned one corner, opposite the soiled silo of the boiler. A sink, more like a square, speckle-glazed tub, had faucets that still functioned, but they splashed and sputtered and ran orange with iron oxide.

At either side of the base of the pantry stairs, and beneath them, that was the civilized territory. Broad, enamel-painted shelves were stocked with excess canned goods toward the top, fuels and detergents at the bottom. In between were hand-bottled preserves — pickles, stews, and jams — presented by Old Country relatives in clamped, dated and labeled, sometimes paraffin-sealed glass Mason jars.

Would this have been our fall-out shelter? Some of my schoolmates’ parents had constructed the real thing. I had even toured one. The drinking water, survival rations, personal hygiene items, miscellaneous supplies (including board games) were all stacked and arranged in compact efficient, appropriately paramilitary fashion.

Our cellar wasn’t like that. Aside from basic creepiness, it was a mess. We’d not have lasted long underground, despite the jugs of home-fermented berry wine, and borscht, and floating marinated turnip slices.

Soon enough, en masse or one-by-one, we would have ventured topside, where the radiation was.

It was a weak line of defense, our cellar, but no more foolish, I thought, than the school drills which trained us to crouch under desks in preparation for the thermonuclear blasts.

The cellar’s real advantage was as a short-term sanctuary, when you were sought as a youthful offender, accused unjustly of malicious mischief: They never looked for you there. At such times, the fetid atmosphere seemed fresh, not unlike the air in uncompleted prison-break tunnels.

Years later, I accepted wages to disguise double-wide trailer units, bolted together and trimmed out, as vacation homes. A cherry-picker lowered the halves of these sorry dwellings onto 18- inch footers we’d poured whenever it was warm enough.

Second thoughts were mostly stifled as we cashed our boomtown checks. Once, at least, however, I can recollect reflecting that these cellar-less bastards, in times of crisis, wouldn’t have a place to hide.

* * *

219 YEARS AGO, Saint Patrick’s Day, Sunday, March 17, 1804, famous American Fur-Trade-Era frontier mountain man James Felix “Jim” Bridger (1804-1881) was born at town of Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Missouri frontiersman Jim Bridger was one of the most able & influential of mountain men. The inscription on his tombstone summarizes his life: “Celebrated as a hunter, trapper, fur trader, & guide. Discovered the Great Salt Lake 1824, The South Pass 1827, visited Yellowstone Park & geysers 1830, founded Fort Bridger 1838, opened Overland Route by Bridger’s Pass to Great Salt Lake. Was Guide for U.S. exploring expeditions, Albert Sidney Johnston’s army in 1857 & G. M. Dodge in Union Pacific surveys & Indian campaigns 1853-1865. Later Jim purchased a farm near Westport, Missouri, but soon became ill & blind.

During his old age, Jim Bridger was known as a teller of tall tales. Some of his unusual stories, such as those about the geysers at Yellowstone, proved to be true. Others were clearly far-fetched tales intended to amuse. Bridger often told of visiting a “petrified forest” in which “petrified birds” sang “petrified songs.” In one of his favorite yarns, he related that, after being chased by one hundred Cheyenne warriors for several miles, he found himself trapped in a box canyon with the Indians bearing down on him. At this point, Bridger would go silent, prompting listeners to ask, “What happened next, Mr. Bridger?” Bridger would reply, “They killed me.”

On Sunday, July 17, 1881, Jim Bridger met his earthly demise at the age of 77 when he died peacefully in bed from the effects of unspecified natural causes at his farm near Kansas City, Missouri.

* * *


Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the Kremlin said Sunday, just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest.

Mariupol has been in Russian hands since last May and was subjected to some of the campaign's most brutal strikes.Ukrainian officials and residents slammed Putin's trip as a cynical ploy.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet with Putin tomorrow during his first visit to Moscow since the start of Russia's invasion. Western governments are warily monitoring the countries’ deepening ties.

Ukraine and Russia agreed Saturday to extend the Black Sea grain deal, a critical arrangement for addressing global hunger. 


* * *


  1. Harvey Reading March 20, 2023

    “The equipment came down in an uncontrolled re-entry, which means experts cannot predict where exactly the objects will land. Dr. McDowell said that pieces likely landed somewhere around Yosemite National Park…”

    LOL. Aint technology grand! Worship your guvamint, the folks who spend tax money for garbage like this…all so that some big-bucks con artist can set up camp on Mars.

  2. George Hollister March 20, 2023

    In Mendocino County, government grants have become a source of funding for the hogs at the trough that have become an economy unto them selfs. The best interests of the community are disregarded. It is good to see someone in elected office has finally pointed out the problem, and effectively dealt with it.

    • John Kriege March 20, 2023

      I think the organization Bernie Norvell refers to is the Hospitality Center,. In 2015, the then City Council gave the Center the OK to use a grant to purchase the Old Coast Hotel. Supporters argued that since the hotel had been closed for years, why not let the Center move in. Besides office for staff, the hotel was to include transitional housing, and the restaurant/bar converted to a coffee shop for occupational training for clients. I don’t think either of those services happened.
      For me biggest loss was Fort Bragg’s last historic hotel was taken off the market. And now sits two blocks away from an entrance to the tourist-popular Costal Trail. No chance now for property taxes and occupancy revenues.
      And don’t get me started about letting the Noyo Bowl become a church.

  3. Marshall Newman March 20, 2023

    Nice to see Smokey Blattner (NOT Blatner) mentioned in the AVA. A good neighbor, a jack of all trades and husband to Charmian, among Northern California’s longest serving newspaper columnists

  4. John Sakowicz March 20, 2023

    R.I.P. Deputy Sheriff Ricky Del Fiorentino. You are remembered. And loved!

    • George Dorner March 20, 2023

      “No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his fellows.”

  5. Marmon March 20, 2023

    BREAKING: Governor Ron DeSantis just confirmed he will NOT aid “Soros-funded” New York D.A. Alvin Bragg in his attempt to extradite former President Donald Trump.

    Trump is scheduled to hold a rally next Saturday in Waco, Texas. A Republican State. I wonder if Texas’ governor will do the same thing?


    • Chuck Dunbar March 20, 2023

      Such a great image/idea, that DT might become a fugitive from justice in New York state. Just another way to be seen as the coward he is. One wonders how low the man can sink, but there’s never a damn bottom for him.

      • Marmon March 20, 2023

        And how will the Secret Service respond to a Trump arrest? They’re sworn to protect him, even die for him.


        • Harvey Reading March 20, 2023

          You need to see a lawyer to get your answer. For one thing, the scumbag is no longer prez, and, if this country was a democracy, he would never have been elected to begin with. That vile Clinton woman got more votes.

      • Louis Bedrock March 20, 2023

        I’m no fan of Donald Trump; however, his crimes are less egregious than those of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and the demented President currently in the White House, who may lead us to oblivion. Trump bashing is the tactic of know-nothings.

        • Marmon March 20, 2023

          Trump may not be perfect, but he’s not one of them, he’s a true outsider and the swamp is in need of a draining.


        • Marshall Newman March 20, 2023

          What a pile of hooey, Louis.

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