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Mendocino County Today: Friday, May 12, 2023

Warming | Iris | 128 Fatality | Cow Rescue | Public Records | Plant Sale | One Shot | Foxglove | Recovery Center | Reading Time | Haschak Report | Craft Fair | City v Skunk | Child Abuse | Scootering | Pollenated | Catholic School | Planning Agenda | Pileated Woodpecker | Hotel Fire | Marijuana Legalization | Open Studios | Horticultural Position | SNWMF 2023 | Marie Helmey | Yesterday's Catch | VA Healthcare | Act Normal | Close Shave | Societal Breakdown | Ticket Price | Steph Era | Airbags | Mother's Day | Cormac's Typewriter | Flying Boats | Hitler's Bathtub | Organizing Principle | Gun Handy | Getting Worse | Lincoln House

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HIGH PRESSURE BUILDING into the area will bring warming temperatures through the weekend. Hot temperatures are forecast for the interior this weekend, with temperatures even approaching 80 degrees along the North Coast on Sunday. Coastal stratus will decrease into the weekend as offshore flow increases. A gradual cooling trend and more coastal stratus is expected next week. (NWS)

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Democrat Irises (photo by Val Muchowski)

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On May 11th, 2023, at approximately 12:54 AM, the California Highway Patrol responded to a solo vehicle crash on SR-128 west of Navarro. Based on the preliminary investigation, Timothy Marino, 43, of Ukiah, was driving a 2022 Isuzu box truck sedan on Highway 128, eastbound. For unknown reasons, Marino allowed the vehicle to travel off the south road edge of Highway 128. As a result, the vehicle collided with a tree. The vehicle sustained major front-end damage. The unidentified passenger sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene. The driver, Marino, sustained major injuries. At this time, it does not appear that alcohol or drugs were a factor in this collision. 

The death investigation is being handled by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. The name of the deceased will be released by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, pending the notification of the next of kin. 

This crash remains under investigation by the California Highway Patrol, Ukiah Area. Anyone with information pertaining to this incident are asked to contact the CHP office at (707) 467-4420. 


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On Wedneday, AV Fire received a walk-in report of a cow in an old well. Chief 7400 and Rescue 7431 responded and were able to connect with the owner of the animal before carrying out a plan to assist it out of the well with a tow-strap and winch. AVFD provided the plan, the equipment, and assistance, but this was a group effort which included friends who'd heard about the rescue and took their time to help out. 

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by Jim Shields

Happy to let you know that on this past Tuesday, May 9, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to repeal the unlawful Public Records Ordinance that was approved last year.

As most of you know, for the past two months I’ve written a series of columns, drawn from legal briefs I’ve prepared, outlining how County Ordinance 4705 (so-called Public Records Act Ordinance) violated the California Public Records Act, as well as a seminal California Supreme Court decision rendered a couple of years ago.

I want to thank everybody who has been thanking me for my part in getting this dispute resolved. But it’s what I do, as over the years, I’ve tackled a lot of sticky issues, and with the help of others, we’ve been able to solve quite a few problems. I’m not a journalist, I’m a good government advocate, a local government official who manages a water district and is chairman of our town council, host a politics/current events radio show, and I happen to publish a newspaper, the Mendocino County Observer. And most important of all, I have fun doing all these things because you can’t be all solemn and serious-minded about politics and governing all the time. That’s unsolicited free advice for some of the more somber and unsmiling “activists” that share with us what Nelson Mandela called “our rented space here on Earth.”

Here are some of the comments that I made at the BOS meeting via zoom.

I’m assuming that everything will go according to plan and that County Ordinance 4705 (so-called Public Records Act Ordinance) will be repealed today.

The root of the problem is there is this digital divide now existing that creates this gap between old school paper records and electronic records and databases.

That’s the issue where the California Supreme Court in a May 2020 unanimous opinion [National Lawyer’s Guild v. City of Hayward], concluded after a comprehensive review of the CPRA’s text, structure, and history, that “just as agencies cannot recover the costs of searching through a filing cabinet for paper records, they cannot recover comparable costs for electronic records. Nor, for similar reasons, does 'extraction' cover the cost of redacting exempt data from otherwise producible electronic records.”

Aside from joining the Court’s unanimous ruling, Justice Cuéllar also wrote a separate concurring opinion where he spoke of bridging the gap between paper and electronic records. Cuéllar said, “… electronic data can be stored in nearly infinite ways, jurisdictions … can respond to public records requests using technologies that continue to evolve. Imagine a not-so-distant future when government entities deploy more thoroughly automated, artificially intelligent systems for responding to Public Record Act requests. Such systems would likely weave into a nearly seamless quilt –– either because of the software’s design and functionality, or because of how the relevant data were classified –– the search of government databases for responsive records, their extraction from the databases, and the editing of portions of the data exempt from disclosure. Such technology could readily help agencies be more accurate, efficient, and thorough in responding to public records requests — and allow members of the public to receive quicker access to government records.” 

Right here in Mendocino County, we have a Sheriff, Matt Kendall, who is aggressively and positively leaning forward in a very progressive manner using one of these new electronic data intelligent systems for responding to Public Record Act requests. MCSO IT staff is still in the process of installing this new technology that will enable the public to search, download, and retrieve both paper and electronic documents. Kendall says the system will also perform redactions and protect personal privacy as required by law. He plans in the near future to make a presentation to the BOS on MCSO’s newly acquired integrated records management system. Kendall’s goal is “to put every record possible online.”

Subsequent to this Ordinance's repeal, requesters of public documents who paid illegal fees should be compensated without any argument from the County. If the County refuses to make requesters whole for paying unlawful fees, then litigation will occur and the County will lose that lawsuit without question, and then would have to pay requesters attorney's fees also. Of course those are our tax dollars that the County would be wasting, but I don’t believe that will happen.

So, the dispute is now settled in Mendocino County, I want to thank Supervisor John Haschak for his support and assistance, especially in circulating my legal briefs and case citations to his Board colleagues and County Counsel.

I also want to thank Supervisors Ted Williams and Mo Mulheren for doing the right thing by joining with 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak to take action to strike down the illegal ordinance. I also want to thank Supervisors Glenn McGourty and Dan Gjerde for voting to repeal the Ordinance and making it a unanimous decision.

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The Board also agreed with my recommendation to reimburse members of the public who were charged illegal fees prohibited by the Public Records Act.

County Counsel Christian Curtis said, “I don't agree with Mr. Shields that the prior ordinance wasn't legal. However, the Board may decide that the amount of fees in question [for obtaining documents], simply aren't worth any potential litigation over that issue. So I think I may ask to work to work with Risk Management and then possibly bring forward a plan to the Board to address that issue.”

At the same May 9th meeting, the Supes approved a new policy establishing guidelines for the retention and disposal of emails generated or received by County personnel in the course of their official duties. While I haven’t had the opportunity to fully review and analyze the policy yet, it appears to be one of those “electronic documents” issues that would comfortably fit into Sheriff Kendall’s new artificial intelligence system for handling, instead of relying upon County staff to sort through potentially hundreds of thousands of emails.

Although the Chinese consider it a curse, I’ll say it anyway, these are interesting times we live in.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher,, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live:

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On Tuesday, May 9, 2023 at 10:19 A.M., Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to contact a 47 year old adult female regarding an assault that had occurred during the early morning hours on that date in Philo.

The Deputies were unable to contact the adult female by phone, so they responded to the Boonville area. They searched the area of Boonville and Philo for the adult female and eventually located her in the Boonville area.

Deputies learned that shortly after midnight, the adult female was with her boyfriend and her boyfriend's friend, Pedro Saldana, 29, of Boonville at an address located in the 12600 block of Anderson Valley Way.

Pedro Saldana

At one point during the night, Saldana threw an unknown item at the adult female, with no provocation. Saldana then began arguing with the adult female. Saldana retrieved a handgun from the residence and pointed it at the adult female. Saldana then fired one shot over the adult female's shoulder. The incident ended shortly thereafter.

The Deputies learned the property, which the incident occurred on, was owned by an uninvolved person and that no one was allowed to be on the property. The Deputies received consent to enter the property and all buildings.

The Deputies responded to the area and contacted the adult female's boyfriend (adult male). At first the adult male denied Saldana was on the property and advised Saldana had recently left the property.

The Deputies observed the adult male was in possession of a two-way radio and there was a vehicle parked at the location. The adult male said the vehicle belonged to Saldana but could not articulate why Saldana did not take his vehicle when he left.

The Deputies detained the adult male and verbally announced for Saldana to come out of the residence. This went on for approximately 15 minutes before Saldana came to the door.

Saldana refused to leave the threshold of the front door of the residence, despite the Deputies verbally telling him to do so several times. Saldana eventually exited the residence and was detained.

The Deputies searched the building Saldana was in and located a handgun, a personal usage amount of suspected methamphetamine, methamphetamine paraphernalia as well as other items of evidence. The Deputies observed items of evidence in the vehicle which was in open view. The vehicle was searched, and items of evidence associated with the firearm were located inside the vehicle.

As a result of the Deputies investigation, they developed probable cause to believe Saldana committed the crimes of Assault Deadly Weapon Firearm, Possession of Controlled Substance While Armed with Loaded Firearm, Discharge Firearm Grossly Negligent Manner, felony arrest warrant, Misdemeanor Violation Probation, and Misdemeanor Battery.

Saldana was arrested and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held on a No Bail status.

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Branscomb Foxglove (Jeff Goll)

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FEMA DISASTER RECOVERY CENTER OPENING IN WILLITS for residents impacted by February/March 2023 Winter Storms Disaster. Mobile Registration Intake Centers (MRICs) to operate in Laytonville and other North County towns as needed

A Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) is opening in Willits at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, May 15th, 2023. The DRC will remain open through Friday, June 2nd, 2023. Residents who were affected by the winter storm disaster can register, update their FEMA applications, and learn about state and community programs and other available assistance at the center. The full DRC in Mendocino County is located at:

Willits Community Center

111 East Commercial Street, Willits, CA 95490

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturdays, Closed Sundays.

Specialists at the DRC can clarify the information you received from FEMA, the Small Business Administration, or other agencies; explain the rental assistance available to homeowners and renters; and fax your requested documents to a FEMA processing center and scan or copy new information or documents needed for case files.

A FEMA Mobile Registration Intake Center (MRIC) will operate in the North County towns of Laytonville, Leggett, and Piercy to register residents in those areas.The sole function of MRICs is to register survivors for FEMA Individual Assistance. MRICs move around regularly and may be in an area for a short period of time to reach survivors who need registration help only. Additional information on locations and hours of operation for the MRIC operations will be released as soon as it is available.

Residents do not need to visit a DRC or MRIC to apply. Here are other ways to apply:

Go to, use the FEMA mobile app, or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. If you use video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, give FEMA the number for that service. Helpline operators are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Press 2 for Spanish. Press 3 for an interpreter who speaks your language.

For an accessible video on how to apply, got to

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Ground was broken on the Highway 162 multipurpose trail in Covelo. It has been a needed dream for many years. The trail will provide a safe walking/biking pathway to town.

FEMA added Mendocino County to its list of counties with declared major emergencies for the February and March snowstorms. Mendocino County was approved for the Individual Assistance program which allows residents with damage to homes from the snows, fallen trees, etc. to receive financial assistance for their recovery. FEMA will be back in Mendocino County helping with the application process as soon as a location has been identified for a disaster recovery center. In the meantime, impacted residents can register online at or by calling 800-621-3362.

The Board unanimously joined me in rescinding the Public Records Request ordinance. Charging people to get public records went against the spirit of open, transparent government. The County was being threatened with multiple lawsuits. Last month, I wrote in my report that I was awaiting another Supervisor to join me in my calls to rescind the ordinance. I am glad it finally happened.

A 171-unit housing development was approved for the south side of Ukiah. 39 of the units will be for senior housing and 13 will be moderate income. It is outside of city limits. With housing in short supply throughout the County, this is a welcome step forward. After approval by the Board, the Project Manager called me to say that the developer is interested in working in Willits. I directed him to City Planning. In my conversations with the City of Willits, this would be welcomed.

The cannabis department continues to streamline the process. I chair the General Government Committee and we met twice in April to eliminate duplicative processes especially if the state has a similar process, get the administration of the permitting process fully functioning, and clean up the department’s budget mess. Two major grants had to be revised but competent staff are working on these issues. With the County and State working together to get people to their State annual licensure, there is a feeling of optimism that these efforts will work.

The Sherwood Firewise Council had a 5th Anniversary party. As usual, it was informative and community building and great to be back in person. Kudos to all the volunteers who are working to make our communities safer. The SFC has received more than a million dollars in grants to create emergency access routes and defensible space and educate the community. Together we are working on several significant grant applications.

My monthly table talk is on May 11 at 10:00 at the Brickhouse Coffee in Willits. Please reach out to me at or 707-972-4214.

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On Monday, May 1, 2023 at approximately 2:41 P.M. Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a report of a possible child sexual abuse which occurred in the 17000 block of Oklahoma Lane in Fort Bragg.

Deputies responded to the location, with the assistance of Social Workers with Mendocino County Child Protective Services.

The involved parties in this case were identified as being Robert Hrbac, 44, of Fort Bragg, and a 6-year-old child.

Robert Hrbac

At this time, Deputies and Social Workers obtained information which caused concern for the safety of the 6-year-old child, and she was taken into protective custody by Child Protective Services.

This case was then referred to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Investigations Bureau for further follow up.

During further follow up investigations between May 1, 2023 and May 9, 2023, Detectives developed probable cause to arrest Hrbac on this case.

A search warrant was prepared for the residence. On May 9, 2023 at approximately 10:15 P.M. Detectives and Deputies served the search warrant at the residence. Numerous electronic devices believed to possibly contain evidence on this case were seized during the service of the search warrant and will be forensically analyzed at a later time.

Ultimately, Hrbac was placed under arrest for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 10-years-old, continuous sexual abuse of a minor.

Hrbac is a convicted sex offender in the State of California stemming from a 2006 conviction for 288(a) PC [Lewd and Lascivious acts with a child under 14-years-old].

Hrbac was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he was to be held in lieu of $200,000.00 bail.

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Haul Road, Fort Bragg, Thursday, 11th May

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by Marshall Newman

Ah, spring. The season when the hills turn green, the flowers pop and, the deciduous trees gain vibrant foliage. It also is the season where many of our noses and sinuses go absolutely crazy, in a display nobody wants to see and NOBODY wants to experience.

Pollen allergies are a rite of spring for many. Rain year, drought year, early spring or late: doesn’t matter. We pollen allergy sufferers suffer regardless: the only difference is the frequency and degree of sneezing, snuffling, runny nose, clogged sinuses, watery eyes, postnasal drip and headaches. We don’t suffer quietly; everyone within earshot knows and the closer they get, the louder and more disgusting the sound effects. We sufferers also are first-class complainers, which makes our affliction even less appealing to significant others, unless they are fellow sufferers. Misery loves company. 

We – my significant other and I – have coined a name for this annual event: snotfest. It probably won’t catch on, but one never knows. 

A range of pollens are responsible for pollen allergies and people purportedly react differently – some more, some less - depending on which pollens and the amount of each are in the air. Emphasis on purportedly. With one exception, I seem to react to them equally, which is to say, with a flamboyant display of pollen allergy symptoms. The exception is acacia; for some reason acacia sets me off worse than any other pollen. When driving in spring, I could always tell when I was approaching Napa Valley (where acacia grows abundantly) – my allergy symptoms got worse. 

Every pollen allergy sufferer seems to have one or two symptoms that stand out. In my case, it is sneezing and a runny nose. There is nothing singular or subtle about my sneezes; they come in series and they are explosive. So explosive, in fact, they should be considered a test of my muscular-skeletal health.

Of all the health issues one can have, pollen allergies may be among the most benign. On rare occasions, pollen allergies will land a sufferer in the emergency room with anaphylactic shock. Almost no one dies solely from pollen allergies, though sometimes we sufferers become miserable enough to see the possibility.

For sufferers, pollen allergies also are not a spring constant. Some days - usually one but sometimes two in a row – I am absolutely fine. For similar stretches, I am a complete mess, with every symptom turned up full. It is probably the same for fellow sufferers. Is it the particular pollens in the air? The weather? Wind or a lack thereof? Karma? If anyone knows, please share. 

There are over-the-counter medicines to treat pollen allergies. Many people find them beneficial. My significant other uses one, with modest success. I tried a few and gave up. Antihistamines left me completely clogged. Decongestants left me snottier and sneezier. Sometimes the cure is worse than the malady. 

So nose blowing – LOTS of nose blowing - became my “go-to” solution to the spring pollen allergy onslaught. Handkerchiefs made sense initially, until they didn’t (for reasons best left undescribed). They soon gave way to facial tissues (i.e. Kleenex). On really bad days, paper towels come into play. As well as petroleum jelly, to soothe the resulting red nose. 

Pollen allergies notwithstanding, spring is a season to be savored. However, for folks like myself, summer cannot arrive soon enough. Tomorrow would be good.

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The Staff Report(s) and Agenda for the May 18, 2023 Planning Commission meeting is now available on the department website at:

Please contact staff if there are any questions, thank you!

Jocelyn Gonzalez-Thies

Staff Assistant III

Planning and Building Services

Mendocino County

860 N. Bush Street

Ukiah, CA 95482

Telephone (707) 234-6650<tel:7072346650>

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RASCHELLE RAY: If you're lucky enough to see these beautiful birds they are “almost” endangered. Especially here in Mendocino county! Pileated woodpeckers are very large and beautiful with a distinctive sound as if something from the rainforests! Woody woodpecker was a Pileated pecker. Very shy and hard to capture on camera! Average 12 inches tall. Can get up to 16 inches! We have a pair that have returned in early spring to East Road for decades.

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April 29, 1878 - A destructive fire burned the Big River House Hotel to the ground. This hotel was located on the north side of Main Street, east of Woodward Street. The flames spread quickly to an adjoining building which housed W. T. Wilson’s restaurant and saloon. That building was also destroyed. These structures weren’t rebuilt.

The Beacon reported that the fire was discovered between 3 am and 4 am. “The usual quiet of our town was disturbed by the cry of fire in the Big River House. Before many were at the scene the flames had reached too much headway to be extinguished. All the lodgers were in bed when the alarm was given, who had barely time to escape through the doors, some of them being compelled to jump from the second and third story windows, while others who retained their presence of mind lowered themselves to the ground with the bed sheets. Several who threw themselves out of the windows sustained severe bruises.” Fortunately, everyone survived.

The guests of the hotel lost all of their belongings in the fire. Joseph Lazarus, who had purchased the hotel the previous November, reported a loss of nearly $7,000 for the building and its contents, but only $1,400 of his loss was insured thru the Western Assurance Company. The origin of the fire remained a mystery. Some people thought that the hotel caught fire on the second floor over the kitchen, while others believed it started downstairs in the back of the building.

The Big River House Hotel was originally built in 1871 by William Norton who put it up for sale in 1874. That same year he opened the Norton House Hotel on the south side of Main Street, east of the intersection with Lansing Street. The Norton House Hotel was also destroyed by fire in November 1879. Norton rebuilt that hotel, which was renamed the Occidental Hotel by new owners in 1887. In 1941, the Occidental Hotel burned to the ground and was never rebuilt.

Big River House Hotel, c.1877

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by Kevin Sabet

A decade's worth of data are in, and the promises of marijuana legalization are increasingly proving empty. From more marijuana-related hospitalizations to higher usage rates and an expansion of the illicit market, the effects of legalization have been detrimental to public health and safety, communities of color, and even the environment. Politicians who bought Big Marijuana's line about big tax money have also been made to look foolish.…

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Memorial Weekend Open Studios just around the corner. If you have no plans yet this is a great event to visit (totally free and self-guided). With this late spring the valley should still be vibrantly green and our gardens full of flowers, an added bonus to the art on display. There are also some new members of the art group, check them out! 

I am attaching my personal invite as well as the official map with participants addresses. 

If you want to know more about individual artists go to the web page.

Really hope to see you, best to you all

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MENDOCINO BOTANICAL GARDENS: Fabulous full-time job opportunity! This Horticultural position will provide care and maintenance to a vast array of plant material within a designated area of the 47-acre Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, specifically, the glorious Perennial Garden and Display House. Learn more at 

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by Howard Campbell

The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (SNWMF), a calendar event for reggae since 1994, returns on June 16-18 after a five-year break. It will be held at its traditional base — the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, California.

Gretchen Smith — wife of founder Warren Smith who died in 2021 — leads the team for the three-day show which features Burning Spear, Beres Hammond, Tarrus Riley, Kabaka Pyramid, Derrick Morgan, Luciano and the Soul Syndicate Band in its line-up. In an interview with the Jamaica Observer she spoke about staging the SNWMF without her husband, who was a respected figure in the California reggae community.

Founders of the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, the late Warren and Gretchen Smith

"Bittersweet. Bitter that he is not here; sweet that I've been able to continue his life's work after a five-year hiatus. Warren was a good teacher. We worked together side by side for 25 years to create SNWMF. He left me a clear path to follow. It is also sweet that after so much COVID isolation we can have festivals and gather together again," said Smith. She disclosed that the Mendocino County Fairgrounds was secured two years ago. That was followed by getting top acts who reflected the roots music her husband discovered in the early 1970s when he heard songs of Jimmy Cliff.

In addition to reggae artistes, next month's event features Canada-based Haitian singer Wesli, Bassekou Kouyate of Mali, and the Soul Ska band from San Francisco.

Travel arrangements, Smith revealed, was the most challenging part of her job. "The visa requirements have become so strict; this is an issue that really needs attention. It's becoming more and more difficult for international artistes to tour in the United States and for Americans to be exposed to other music cultures," she said. "There were a few artistes who couldn't be present this year at SNWMF because of the restrictive visa requirements."

Along with Reggae On The River, SNWMF is one of the enduring reggae shows in California, where Jamaican culture first found an audience in the early 1970s through The Harder They Come movie and soundtrack. Cliff, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and The Wailing Souls helped make the "Golden State" the strongest market for roots-reggae in the United States.

Born in Sacramento, California, Warren Smith promoted his first reggae show at San Francisco's famed Winterland Auditorium in July 1975. Inner Circle, Dennis Brown and Toots and The Maytals performed. Three years later he held the Island Music Festival in Trelawny, with Peter Tosh and Burning Spear as headliners.

Smith also operated Epiphany Records which released songs and albums by Jamaican roots-reggae acts like Earl Zero and the Soul Syndicate Band.

(Jamaica Observer)

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by Bruce Anderson

Marie the mystery woman was so much the mystery woman it was hard to find out her last name, but it was Helmey, Marie Helmey, the older lady in the long black coat with a bemused little smile on her taut features as if everything around her was amusing. Marie lived out her days in a tiny apartment in the Mannix Building, which she left every afternoon to walk down the street to the Boonville Lodge for one small beer.

Mannix Building

She lived in Boonville for a long time, maybe for as long a time as 20 years, which is a long time in a transient little town in a transient time. Before Boonville, Marie lived in Ukiah. She was a hot lead typesetter and linotype operator from the old days of newspapers when typesetters plucked each letter of each word out of overhead cases containing all the letters of the alphabet in many typefaces and sizes to make every word that went onto every page of the newspaper, when newspapers were composed by hand, one letter at a time. 

When the Ukiah paper went from hot lead to cold type technology in the 1960s, Marie moved to Boonville where Homer Mannix continued to make his paper the old fashioned hot lead way — one letter, one word, one page at a time. Homer’s handcrafted weekly would have been impossible without Marie Helmey, the last working hot lead typesetter in California, maybe the last hot lead press operator in the United States.

Homer Mannix worked out a deal with Marie to move from Ukiah to Boonville. She would live upstairs in one of his apartments and work downstairs every Tuesday when Homer’s Advertiser was put together on an antique hot lead linotype machine. The deal was good for more than twenty years.

From the service counter on paper days you could see a dim figure moving very fast from task to task in the rear of the shop, the ancient machinery wheezing and clanking around the mysterious dervish whirling at its center. Stepping behind the counter and peering into the mechanical murk, there was Marie in her long, black coat, fingers flying at hummingbird speed, blindly but unerringly plucking letters from their overhead cases, placing them exactly where they had to go to make a word, then a sentence, then a complete story, then a full page of stories.

Boonville people who didn’t know how the paper was produced every week, only remember Marie as the tall-ish, spare, spry elderly woman who always wore that long, black dress coat even if it was a hundred degrees outside, one-ten inside. Most people also knew Marie had some sort of function at the newspaper, although they didn’t know what that function was. And they knew she lived upstairs in the Mannix Building, quiet and to herself among rotating, often raucous, tenants.

Vivid in her interminable black coat, Marie was part of Boonville’s human panorama, as eccentric as the rambling, pre-code Mannix Building itself. She walked like a bird, a few quick head-down steps, pause, look around, smile, then a few more quick steps, gingerly, haltingly but somehow briskly making her way to the Boonville Lodge or the Horn of Zeese where she took most of her meals.

Marie had no family that anybody knew of, no friends, belonged to no associations, never ever was seen at community events. But up close, Marie always looked amused, happy even, her eyes twinkling. She got along just fine outside the social ramble.

At the Lodge where she stopped in every day, Marie would linger over her one short late-afternoon beer, smiling to herself, nodding to the regulars who greeted her. She was locally famous for continuing to sip her Miller’s the day a woman was shot to death a few stools down by a jealous husband. 

Marie had looked on impassively, finished up her drink and walked her stutter-stepping blackbird’s walk on home to her front bedroom in the Mannix Building, bathroom down the hall. Nothing got in the way of Marie’s daily beer, and the Lodge in those days, even before nightfall when it could become positively thrilling if not life-threatening, could be an extremely distracting establishment. It was no place for a lady, and certainly no place for a senior citizen lady, not that there weren’t ladies, senior and junior, among the bar’s regular customers. But the Lodge wouldn’t ever be confused with the Unity Club whatever the gentility quotient among its female patrons.

The occasional afternoon mayhem never bothered Marie. On another ultra-violent afternoon she was downing her daily mini-Miller’s when a little guy broke off a cue stick and stabbed it deep in a big guy’s back. The matador then ran for his life out onto the middle of Highway 128 where he pivoted south and kept on running towards Cloverdale, the wounded bull right behind him, the shattered cue stick sticking out of his back, blood running down into his Levis.

Unfazed, Marie would be back the next afternoon right about four. If the venue got a little rough sometimes, so what? There she was every afternoon except paper day, the day her flying fingers worked their obsolete hot lead press magic in Homer Mannix’s living history newspaper museum, Boonville, California.

Marie spent her long Boonville life in that austere upstairs room in the Mannix Building where she was the beneficiary of many kindnesses from the Mannix family. Homer’s wife Bea gave Marie clothes because Marie spent very little money on herself and always refused the raises Homer tried to give her because she was afraid the extra money would reduce her pension and social security income. She had a lot of money salted away, it was said, as it’s always said about reclusive, mysterious figures.

Marie’s one-day-a-week job with Homer’s Advertiser ended with the sale of the paper and the technology upgrade brought to the operation by the new owners, although Marie went on living in her room upstairs over the print shop, went on walking down the pitted margins of Highway 128 to the Horn of Zeese and, every afternoon, to the Boonville Lodge, for her one beer. When she began to fail, a nephew appeared from somewhere and took Marie away, and Marie left town like she’d arrived — not a word to anybody.

Mike Mannix, Homer’s nephew, remembers Marie this way:

“She was about the same age as the old linotype machine. I had the impression that she drank a lot. All week long nobody saw her, but she’d come down on paper night and work her miracle with that cranky old Merganthaler, c. 1898, and make it happen. Things would start sparking and arcing and jamming up, but she never lost her cool. She always wore that long, black coat. Homer would say to me, ‘Just stay away from it. She can make it happen.’ I remember her fingers flying in and out of the type boxes. When something happened, something went wrong, Marie would know just what to do. She didn’t seem to have a life other than those Tuesday production nights. Now that you mention it, she was dark like an Indian, with a sharp-featured, angular face.”

The one time I tried to talk to Marie in the Lodge she’d said, “Sorry, gotta go,” and got up and went. Someone told me that Marie was an Indian, not that that was a question I would have asked her. But I was hoping to get to know her a little bit so she’d volunteer some personal bona fides. Nope. Sorry, I gotta go, she’d said, making it clear that she’d always gotta be going if I should ever try to get to know her again.

I knew an Indian in Covelo named Geno Jamison who’d been trained as a hot lead printer at an Indian school in the 1940s. He told me that Mendocino County Indians were often taken away to Indian schools up through the 1950s to get them out of their Indian-ness; the government viewed Indian-ness as incompatible with consumer capitalism. These abductees, my Covelo friend told me, often took advantage of the Indian school’s vocational emphasis on the print technology of those times. I thought maybe Marie had learned her amazing trade at an Indian school. Because she looked like an Indian I thought she probably was one.

With the help of a San Francisco researcher, I was able to track the mystery woman to Wayland, Michigan, where she died, at age 85, on December 16th, 1989; her date of birth was listed as February 4, 1904.

Irvin and Helen Helmey owned and operated the Wayland Globe, a weekly newspaper, until 1986. It had been founded by the Helmey family in 1884. It is safe to say that the Helmeys were also Marie Helmey’s family.

“My great uncle, Irv Helmey,” writes Lisa Dye, “owned the Wayland Globe, a weekly newspaper in Wayland, Michigan. He had a sister named Marie. He also had a sister named Audrey, who was my grandmother. I never knew Marie, but she was a favorite of my dad’s. My name is Lisa Marie in honor of Aunt Marie. I don’t know if this is the Marie Helmey you are looking for, but it makes sense that she may have come back to live with her brother, my great uncle, Irv Helmey, before she died. I think Marie was a single lady; I vaguely recall that she was considered adventuresome and somewhat eccentric. She’d had mental problems, and had been put away when she was a young woman for a few years. There was talk of her running naked through the streets, a great scandal for that time. The family never talked about it, and when she went out to California, life in Wayland went on without her. My people on Marie’s side immigrated from Norway to settle originally in the Dakotas. My grandmother was reportedly born in a ‘soddy,’ in a sod hut the settlers built for lack of lumber. I wish I had been older when this generation was lost. I’d love to know more about them.”

The hot lead Anderson Valley Advertiser, publisher Homer Mannix, Marie, the Mannix Building, and all the museum-quality equipment used to publish the paper are gone, as is much of old Boonville, a distinct place with vivid personalities to match, a town now so changed, so blanded down, it’s as if there’s been a population transplant and the history of the place destroyed.

Pretty soon we’ll be gone too, but this beguiling place of big trees and sea shore, golden hills and ghost dances, will go on, its laughter and its great sorrows all the way back to the first people, folded into its beauty as if none of it had ever happened.

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, May 11, 2023

Alcazar, Basilio, Camargo

RAMON ALCAZAR, Ukiah. Trespassing.

GABINO BASILIO-COLIMA, Lodi/Ukiah. Failure to appear.

JONATHAN CAMARGO, Ukiah. Arson of property.

Craig, Dominguez, Fahey

RONALD CRAIG, Willits. Failure to register.

ARTURO DOMINGUEZ, Ukiah. DUI, leaded cane or similar, paraphernalia. 

CORINNA FAHEY, Manchester. Failure to appear, probation revocation.

Graux, Lawson, Morales


LAWRENCE LAWSON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, county parole violation.

NATHAN MORALES-SALDANA, Covelo. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, under influence. 

Munoz, Oliver, Olvera

ORLANDO MUNOZ, Ukiah. County parole violation.


MICHAEL OLVERA-CAMPOS, Ukiah. Parole violation.

Peters, Rodriguez, Stone

ROGER PETERS, Clearlake/Ukiah. DUI, Domestic battery, protective order violation, suspended license. 

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, Redwood Valley. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.

PATRICIA STONE, Philo, Resisting. 

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Letter to the Editor 

Re: VA item in May 3, 2023 edition

I’m a longtime fan of your wonderful paper and just happened to be visiting friends in Mendo when I picked up a copy of its May 3 edition with an “Off The Record” item praising the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for unusual outreach to patients, like your colleague, “The Major.”

I’ve written three books about our veterans healthcare system and co-founded a Bay Area group which is fighting privatization of the VA, a bi-partisan campaign fueled by corporate media attacks on our best working model of socialized medicine.

I can assure you that it is very rare for any media outlet to appreciate one the major differences between VA hospitals and clinics and the private healthcare industry. Care givers at the VA call their patients to check up on them and take better care of them because they are not part of a profit-driven system and about one third of them (100,000 VA employees) are veterans themselves. This creates a unique institutional culture of empathy and solidarity that veterans and their families do not find anywhere else in U.S. healthcare.

Unfortunately, corporate Democrats and conservative Republicans are colluding to out-source billions of dollars worth of VA care. More than a third of the agency’s direct care budget is now diverted "in costly, wasteful, and unnecessary fashion" to reimbursement of private hospitals and for-profit medical practices. This privatization push is an ever increasing threat to nine million veterans and their dedicated health care professionals and support staff, in California and throughout the country.

AVA readers can find out more about how to fight this Obama-Trump-Biden Administration policy disaster by checking out our website at the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute or consulting a new book called Our Veterans: Winners, Losers, Friends and Enemies on the New Terrain of Veterans Affairs (Duke University Press), which reports on the anti-privatization campaigning of Veterans for Peace, Common Defense, and other veterans' advocacy groups.

Best wishes and many thanks for indeed being the last and best community newspaper in America!

From: "Suzanne Gordon" <>

Author, Our Veterans, Wounds of War, and other books Senior Policy Fellow, Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute 747 Lobos Ave, Richmond, CA 94801 Facebook | Twitter | | Medium (617) 460-6606

PS. You should definitely find your DD214 and get enrolled ASAP, before the VA is further de-funded and dismantled!

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Never thought I'd pick up the AVA and see a picture of Sam Maglie. Maglie's nickname, Sal the Barber", is one of my all time favorite nicknames. His high hard ones gave batters a close shave. Maglie was also the starting pitcher in the Bobby Thomson game. The SF Giants had a journeyman pitcher in the 70s named Steve Barber. According to Krukow ( I think), Steve Barber's nickname was "The Maglie."

Joe McHenry

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A READER WRITES: Always interesting to see comments from visitors to San Francisco re the filth, street scene (sidewalks festooned with bodies) etc. The latest evidence of societal breakdown is now MUNI has been hiring guys who check public transit passengers to see if they have paid their fare. For years MUNI has suffered from lack of oversight and lack of workable methods initially so they reaped the mess they now have. So now the next tact is to ARM these guys. Someone I know who has never touched a gun will be given “gun familiarity training” and sent to work. Can’t wait to see the fallout from that.

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THANKS TO STEPH CURRY, Warriors are fighting Lakers for California’s basketball soul

by Ann Killion

When this second-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors started, Lakers coach Darvin Ham almost snorted at the concept of a rivalry.
“I think the last time they matched up in the playoffs was ’91?” Ham observed. “I don’t think that’s a rivalry.”
Not on the court. Ham is right; there haven’t been enough high-stakes games to stoke the natural NorCal-SoCal divide in terms of basketball competition.
But in some ways this matchup has been a rivalry for the hearts and minds of Californians. For West Coast basketball.
The Lakers have traditionally, not surprisingly, had a stronghold on loyalties on this side of the country. They’ve had two different dynasties in the past 50 years. They’ve had larger than life personalities. They’ve been entertaining and flashy. They were the team that was on your TV screen all the time. 
And it didn’t matter if you lived in L.A. or not. A lot of people — even in Northern California — fell in love with the NBA thanks to Magic and Kareem’s Showtime teams, or learned to love the Lakers in the Shaq and Kobe era. That purple and gold allegiance has been passed from generation to generation. Plenty of those fans have shown up at Chase Center rocking their Lakers gear during the past two weeks.
But over the past 10 years, the Warriors have created their own huge fan base. All over the country and the world, and also here on the West Coast. A decade of brilliance, six trips to the Finals, four championship rings and a transcendent, generational player has created a competing wave of fandom.
And that’s why there were also a lot of Warriors fans at Arena. You could hear their cheers during Games 3 and 4 when the Warriors were doing well, before they were drowned out by Lakers fans. They didn’t necessarily travel to the game. Many Warriors fans live in L.A., and many Lakers fans live in the Bay Area.
Just as Magic Johnson, with his smile and flair, created a generation of diehard fans, so has Stephen Curry — in very similar fashion — spurred a wave of fans in the 21st century. Both players have transcended the game, drawing in demographics well beyond the NBA diehards.

Earlier in these playoffs Steve Kerr gave an eloquent explanation of the Curry effect. He said that every time he sits down to a dinner with his good friend and mentor Gregg Popovich, the Spurs’ head coach will fill everyone’s wine glass (with some delicious vintage) and say, “Here’s to Tim Duncan.”
“His point is that without Tim, none of that happens,” said Kerr, who was among those who won a championship ring with Duncan. 
“That’s how I feel about Steph. We can all sit here and thank Steph for this era. It’s been a great collaboration. Different coaches and teammates, Hall of Fame guys, an impressive collection of people and talent.
“But it’s Steph.”
It is Steph, who was here before current ownership, coaches and teammates. It is Steph who remains the one indispensable player. It is the Steph Curry era.
“Remove Steph from the equation, and I’m not coaching here for a decade,” Kerr said. “I would have been fired a long time ago. That’s how this works. Every superstar has this type of impact, and it goes so far beyond the wins and the losses. What it does for the brand, the city, the joy, the interest.”
There’s a downtown arena in San Francisco, a city that had never had that kind of modern entertainment venue.
You can go anywhere in the world and see kids wearing No. 30 jerseys. I’ve seen them in Asia, in Europe, all over the United States.
No one asks anymore “Where’s Golden State? What is that?”
The concept that the Warriors were once the league laughingstock is completely foreign to an entire generation of NBA fans.
The fact that of the 27 NBA games played since 2015 that have drawn more than 14 million viewers, all involved the Warriors.
“Think of how many kids have been born over the last 15 years,” Kerr said. “Whose first basketball moment was watching Steph Curry making a 35-footer and immediately fell in love with the Warriors.
“How long does that last? A lifetime usually. Because your team when you’re 5 is usually your team when you’re 55. Steph is behind all that.”
Which is why, for decades to come, those associated with this era of the Warriors will probably be popping corks, filling glasses and saying, “Here’s to Steph Curry.”

Thanks to Curry, there finally is a competition between the Lakers and the Warriors. For wins and losses. But also for the hearts and souls of NBA fans.


* * *


The system only needs to be further developed, and will later no longer be mounted on the person, but on the steering wheel.

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by Marguerite O’Brien

With Mother’s Day weekend fast approaching, a brief history of the holiday in the United States is in order. The popularity of the holiday in this country is due to the efforts of three women. In 1858, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia organized the first of her “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs,” which served as parenting classes for women to learn how to care for their children. In 1868, she helped to plan “Mothers’ Friendship Day” to bring together mothers and former Union and Confederate soldiers to aid in reconciliation after the Civil War. 

The idea of mothers and women working to create peace was also the primary focus of Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870. Howe, the pacifist/abolitionist who penned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1862, advocated for a day when women of all nationalities would gather together “to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” The goals of both women were to reach a time when no mother would have to mourn the loss of her children to war.

After the death of Ann Reeves Jarvis in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, began to work towards the creation of Mother’s Day as a national holiday because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” In 1908, Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, WV. This caught the attention of the state government, leading to West Virginia becoming the first to adopt Mother’s Day as a state holiday. Its popularity kept increasing and, by 1911, all the states observed Mother’s Day in some form. Finally, in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring the second Sunday of May as a national holiday to honor mothers.

The first reported observance of Mother’s Day in Mendocino was on May 16, 1909, at the Presbyterian Church. Everyone was requested to wear a white flower in honor of the day. In particular, a white carnation was the flower chosen by Anna Jarvis to represent the purity, sweetness, and faithfulness of mothers. The gifting of white carnations was meant to bring good luck to the mothers who received them, and flowers remain a staple for the holiday. More importantly, Jarvis encouraged everyone to visit and spend time with their mothers.

An excellent way to spend some time with your mother over Mother’s Day weekend is to join one of the historic district walking tours offered by the Kelley House. On the tour you will visit New England-style pioneer homes, learn why Mendocino was known as the city of water towers, and enjoy its rich cultural heritage, from the Pomo tribes that lived here for thousands of years, to the European and Chinese immigrants who built the town you see today. All the while you and your mom can revel in the beautiful new blooms of spring.

Historic District Walking Tours will begin at 11 AM on Saturday, May 13th and Sunday, May 14th. Tours cost $20 per person and last approximately 2 hours; all tours meet by the flagpole on the Kelley House lawn. Tickets can be purchased online, in person, or requested via email at Drop-ins are welcome.

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by Martha Gellhorn

Air travel was not always disgusting. Those big PanAm flying boats were marvellous. We flew all day in roomy comfort, eating and drinking like pigs, visiting the Captain, listening to our fellow travelers, dozing, reading, and in the late afternoon the plane landed on the water at an island. The passengers had time for a swim, a shower, dinner, and slept in beds. Since that was air travel at its best, it has naturally disappeared.

On the way to Hongkong, at Guam, we were introduced to spear-fishing by a passenger whom I described to my mother as “a character like Lawrence of Arabia, a marine aviator en route to Egypt,” and that’s all I now know about him, sinful bad memory. I never speared any fish nor tried to. I thought it unwise and improper to dive into depths where I didn’t belong and interfere with activity I didn’t understand. Keeping a respectful distance on the surface, I have watched underwater scenery and fish with joy all these years. Fish must perceive me as a rowboat. It is not that easy in life to find an unfailing source of joy.

U.C. (Hemingway) took to Hongkong at once. Hongkong bore no resemblance to the present city as seen on TV, a forest of skyscrapers, a mini New York set against the great triangular mountain. Travelers of the next century, always supposing there are any, will scarcely know whether they are in Buenos Aires or Chicago, skyscrapers all the way, skyscrapers to break the heart. When we saw it, the working city of Hongkong at the base of the Peak looked as if nailed together hurriedly from odd lots of old wood and sounded like a chronic Chinese New Year. It was brilliant with color in signs and pennants; the narrow streets were jammed by rickshaws, bicycles, people, but not cars; the highest building was an imposing square bank and it wasn’t very high. The gentry lived in gracious homes up the sides of the Peak, social position established by height.

We stayed in an old hotel downtown, perhaps the only hotel there was: big rooms with paddle fans on the ceilings, antique bathrooms, a large public lounge with large beat-up leather chairs; very Maugham to me. U.C., in the twinkling of an eye, collected a mixed jovial entourage, ranging from local cops with whom he went pheasant-shooting to fat wealthy crook-type Chinese businessmen who invited him to Chinese feasts. A bald middle-aged Caucasian of obscure nationality and occupation, self-styled “General,” was a special favorite, and a huge polite thug from Chicago named Cohen whom U.C. believed to be a hit man for some Chinese warlord.

U.C. could not bear party chatter, or discussions of politics or the arts, but never tired of true life stories, the more unlikely the better. He was able to sit with a bunch of men for most of a day or most of a night, or most of both day and night though perhaps with different men, wherever he happened to have started sitting, all of them fortified by a continuous supply of drink, all the while he roared with laughter at reminiscences and anecdotes. It was a valid system for him. Aside from being his form of amusement, he learned about a place and people through the eyes and experiences of those who lived there.

Though a hearty talker in my own right and given to laughing loudly at my own jokes, I was a novice drinker and had a separate approach to learning. I wanted to see for myself, not hear. U.C. did not mind what I did as long as he didn’t have to do it too. Much as I like conversation, I like it only in bursts for a few hours, not marathons, and seldom in group formation. I slipped away from the large leather chairs. UC used to say, kindly, “M. is going off to take the pulse of the nation.”

* * *

LEE MILLER, a female American combat photographer, taking a bath in Hitler's bathtub in his Munich apartment, April 30, 1945. Just a little before this picture was taken, she photographed the Dachau concentration camp.

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I WILL NEVER SUPPORT ANY FORM OF CAPITALISM, because no form of capitalism — real or hypothetical — will ever have an answer to the problems of ecocide and the need to care for the needful.

Every capitalism-based solution that has ever been proposed for these problems is self-evidently ridiculous; the notion that privatizing the natural world can preserve oceans and rainforests is infantile nonsense that's refuted by all of human history, as is the notion that the needful can be cared for solely by voluntary charity. No intellectually honest person believes this is true. No ancap who's thought hard enough about ecocide and caring for the needful sincerely believes that capitalism can address these problems. At their most honest, they'll say that ecocide and starvation are necessary sacrifices that must be made for the freedoms and conveniences they want to have for themselves.

I appreciate a right-libertarian who straight up admits that they're fine with environmental destruction and the weakest members of society dying off rather than pretending the "free market" can address these issues, because at least they're being honest about where they stand.

And of course the current western status quo model of capitalism with a little state welfare and a few superficial environmental restrictions isn't working either, because here we are. Every possible capitalist school of thought has failed to find a solution to these problems. You can yell "but communism bad" at me all you want, but that doesn't address the fact that people are struggling to survive and our biosphere is hurtling toward collapse, and that literally nothing anywhere in capitalist thought has anything resembling a viable answer for this.

We won't ultimately have a solution to ecocide and exploitation until mass-scale human behavior ceases to be driven by the pursuit of profit altogether, because ecocide and exploitation are profitable. We're going to have to find another organizing principle if we're to survive on this planet.

— Caitlin Johnstone

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* * *


On homelessness, mental illness, and the collapse of capitalist society

by Rhyd Wildermuth

My back up against a bank of mailboxes in the main lobby of the shelter, I stared at the man’s knife, waiting for my coworkers to come help me.

I shouted again. And again, all the while trying to wrest the drunk man’s body away from me. He’d had me pinned against the wall for several minutes now, and my coworkers still hadn’t come. I shouted again, and again, and then I finally pushed the man with all my weight backwards. He fell, dropping the knife, and I ran into the office for safety.

“Where the fuck were you guys?” I raged, seeing both of my coworkers sitting at the main lobby desk.

They both looked up, shrugging. “The police are coming. They told us to stay in the office since he had a knife.”

My relief at escaping gave way to fury, and then eventual exhaustion. I was angry they hadn’t come to help me, but I also understood why. None of us were being paid enough to get stabbed.

For six years in Seattle, I was a social worker for a large non-profit homeless services agency. That’s where that incident occurred, along with many, many others.

The attempted stabbing wasn’t the only time I was attacked, but that was absolutely the worst. For the next three weeks, I’d arrive to work and immediately go to the bathroom, vomit out anything in my stomach, and then start my shift. Because this is how trauma works, I didn’t even notice anything strange about this sudden habit. It would just happen, and then I’d work, and then I’d return the next day and do the same thing again.

In fact, I didn’t realize anything was wrong with me until my boss found me crying in the corner of a side office, curled up in a fetal position. I didn’t even realize I was there, and didn’t understand why he was standing over me telling me to get up and go home.

What had happened that day, the day I finally understood I wasn’t well, was that they’d told me the guy who attacked me wasn’t being charged with a crime and would soon return to the shelter. He was homeless, and mentally-ill, and addicted to alcohol and several other drugs, and so all of that had “explained” why he’d attacked me. And though the policy was to enforce police no-contact protection orders against any client who attacked an employee, I was being asked not to enforce mine. By keeping myself safe, I’d be making the man sleep out on the streets, and that was of course an immoral thing.

In fact, the entire reason that incident had gone on for so long was that we weren’t allowed to use any force when being attacked. We were trained in avoiding and de-escalating physical conflicts, and were also told in no uncertain terms that any physical force against a client — even one trying to kill you — would result in termination and potential criminal charges.

So, by pushing my attacker away from me, I’d technically crossed that line. I was told I should have run away sooner, despite having no safe way to have done so.

The day my boss found me crying on the floor, he told me I should go talk to the Human Resources department. They, in turn, gave me the number of a contracted therapist to whom they sent employees having “trouble” dealing with the job. I expected little from the session, perhaps a prescribed week away from work at best.

I hadn’t expected her to tell me to quit my job.

“Listen,” she said, after I told her what had happened and what was happening to me. “I could give you medications for this, and you’ll feel better for a little while. But your employer sends me people like you all the time, and each time I tell them the same thing: you’re not being paid enough for this to happen to you.”

She was right. The pay wasn’t worth it. For the same amount, I could have been cooking, or standing behind a counter making coffee. For a little bit more, I could have been ringing up other people’s groceries. And for much, much more, I could have been answering customer service calls.

I could have been doing anything else. Instead, I was getting spat on, yelled at, attacked, harassed, and constantly degraded by the homeless, mentally-ill, and drug-addicted people I was working to help. 

Despite knowing this, I actually argued with the therapist. “I’m doing some good there,” I said, but as the words left my mouth, they sounded hollow.

“There are other ways to do good in the world that don’t cause so much trauma.”

The work I did with that agency wasn’t always traumatic, wasn’t always violent, wasn’t always degrading. There were some beautiful moments, and some funny ones. There were shifts after which I went home smiling, feeling I’d done something really important for others.

Stories of tragedy turned to hope — and an inherited sense of Christian martyrdom — were what kept me hooked to that job. The guy who’d been 30 years on the bottle and 20 years on the street, now sober for two years with an apartment and even a job. Especially, there was one woman a social worker had found huddling behind dumpsters, smelling like a dead animal and clawing at him like a live, feral one. She’d become well enough to go to community college, and I was teaching her to garden.

There were beautiful stories, but those were really, really rare. More frequent — more everyday — were the ones of inhuman horror. I never could shut myself off from the monthly deaths from overdoses and liver failure, but especially hard were all the murders. Some were drug-fueled “accidents,” like when someone meant just to punch but instead killed. Some occurred during psychotic episodes or hallucinations, as when the old black man stomped repeatedly on the skull of the old Mexican man in a public area of the shelter. He’d been certain his victim was someone else, but still wouldn’t believe he’d killed the wrong guy when we could finally stop him. There was nothing left of the man’s face afterwards, and we’d had to scrape up his brains from the floor.

All this violence, this death, this horror, was all just part of the job. We were doing “good” in the world, but that therapist was right: there were other ways to do good without so much trauma.

I really haven’t thought much about my work there over the last few years. I wrote a bit about it in Here Be Monsters, citing the problems of its homelessness management model as a metaphor for larger problems with social justice frameworks. For a long time, I was able blissfully to forget I ever did that job, though I’ve had more and more reason to remember in the last few months.

I’ve been thinking about it especially in light of a recent event in New York City, the death of a homeless, mentally-ill man on a subway. I still get alerts from a few Antifa activists in the United States, a way to divine who will be their next ideological target. From one of them, I read something about a “white supremacist fascist vigilante” who’d “murdered an innocent black man” in New York, so I did a search to find out what had happened, and that’s why I’m thinking about all this again.

The dead man in question, Jordan Neely, died after three passengers subdued him. Specifically, a coroner ruled his death a homicide, caused by the choke-hold one of the men used to keep him immobile. That man, Daniel Penny, is the one Antifa activists are calling a “fascist vigilante.” Others — including Black Lives Matter leaders and Democrat politicians — are calling the event a “lynching.” Especially troublesome for many is the fact that Penny wasn’t immediately charged with murder, though a grand jury ruling which will determine if he should be charged is currently ongoing.

By all accounts, the dead man was quite mentally-ill. Reports on his history and previous arrests (including for assaulting an old woman and for kidnapping a 7-year old girl), as well as accounts of his previous aggression in public transit against other riders, give only partial context for what might have happened that day. Contrary to what you’d think from Antifa accounts, no evidence has yet turned up that the man who killed him, a former marine, was a white supremacist, fascist, or in any way aligned with such ideologies.

We can’t actually know what happened to Jordan Neely, because we weren’t there. Those who think they can be certain — especially the activists who believe Daniel Penny is a “fascist,” but also those on the other side convinced he must be innocent — are filtering the event through their own ideology.

This same problem of ideology occurs when people try to grasp the larger historical forces in which these incidents are situated. Mental illness, homelessness, increased crime in cities, problems with policing, increasing racial tensions, and even the ideological capture of entire sections of American society all affect events such as these, and no one’s got any coherent answers for them.

Even anti-capitalist leftists such as myself must admit this. Homelessness is certainly a product of capitalist property relations, but mental illness doesn’t go away just because you finally have a safe place to sleep. Jordan Neely’s mental instability was linked at least partially to the trauma from the horrific murder of his mother. Such things don’t get healed by universal basic income and affordable housing. And to be clear, they also don’t get healed by any of the pro-capitalist social justice solutions, either.

More so, it’s not clear what most leftists are really suggesting one do in such situations. Many of those certain Daniel Penny is a murderer state that Jordan Neely “needed help, not violence.” While this is quite a true statement, I wonder how many of them have actually been in such situations?

During the Occupy protest movement in Seattle, I was asked to give a training session for the leaders of the encampment on how to deal with homeless, mentally-ill people who were being violent. By the second week of the protests, about a third of the “residents” of the Occupy camp were homeless people, drawn there because so many supporters had donated tents. One of them tried to rape a young activist woman, others stole money, cameras, phones, and computers, and most of them were smoking crack, crystal meth, or both. Some of the leaders had heard I was a social worker dealing with precisely the same population, so they asked me to teach their security team how to de-escalate the problems while being sensitive to their economic and mental struggles.

The problems only increased, though, and the violence within the camp quickly drove away many of the less committed activists. As with the much later protest encampment in Seattle, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, internal violence involving drugs and mental-illness destabilized the movement just as much as police violence did.

American leftists and radicals don’t have any coherent or workable answers to these problems. Nor do European ones, either. Here in Luxembourg, which is only now starting to experience glimpses of late-stage capitalism’s societal collapse, the best anyone’s come up with is playing loud classical music to chase the drug dealers, drug users, homeless, and the mentally-ill a few blocks away from the train station. They’ve all moved now to the street where my favorite Turkish market resides, so I get accosted a minimum of twice each time I go buy my tea, my Lebanese flat breads, and my Aleppo soap.

Friends and strangers both have started frequently to remark aloud to me about the growing homeless population, as if asking me a question. I nod, and say: “it will only increase.” Just as it’s increased in America, almost double in Seattle as what it was when I first started working with the homeless there. Fentanyl wasn’t yet a thing back then, nor were tents set up on downtown streets, but of course the mental illness was always there.

To mention drugs and homelessness and mental illness all in the same sentence seems perhaps harsh, or misguided, or even a bit judgmental, as if I’m asserting they’re all the same thing. That’s not the case, but in the psychiatric language social workers often adopt, they’re common comorbidities. They often occur together, and feed into each other. Severe mental illness often leads to homelessness and to drug addiction. Homelessness often leads to mental illness and drug use. And drug addiction can make you mentally-ill if you were not already, and the more severe the addiction, the more likely you’ll end up on the streets.

Increasing treatment for mental illness and drug addiction would help, but it won’t end these problems. Increasing housing would go a very long way towards reducing homelessness, but it wouldn’t stop it altogether. None of those things, though, are really possible within a capitalist framework, and no socialist framework currently offers a realistic analysis of what’s actually happening, nor do most leftists ever soberly admit how dangerous a homeless, mentally-ill addict can be to others.

Not that liberals or conservatives offer anything better, of course. More prisons and more police won’t stop the acceleration of societal collapse, either.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been reading quite a bit about medieval Christian conceptions of magic and demons. What we call mental illness now was called demonic influence then, and though that religious explanation has fallen away, we’ve only really just changed the aesthetic. It’s still not clear to me we’ve come up with anything more coherent than what those societies did, especially since the current explosion of homelessness and mental illness now looks much like it did during the transition to capitalism.

The reason why someone threatens others on a subway in New York City now is “mental illness,” while back then it would have been “demons.” Neither answer is necessarily more right nor more wrong than the other, and they are both identical in one important way: they displace all agency away from the actor onto an invisible third.

I bring this up not to suggest this is wrong. On the contrary, I suspect we can only look at such things with an eye towards the unseen. As the author at Flat Caps and Fatalism said last year, “Demonology is a necessary mode of social explanation.” Mental illness is our new demonology, our new necessary mode, but there’s no important difference between that older mode and this one.

No leftist political framework we currently know could take seriously the implications of such an observation, anymore than they could offer coherent advice on what to do when encountering an unstable, potentially violent person. What do you do when a mentally-ill homeless man has you pinned up against the wall and is trying to stab you? What do you do when one tries to rape a young female activist in your protest encampment? What do you do when they hold a gun to you on the street in front of your partner’s home? And what do you do when you’re in a crowded subway car with no trained authorities to sweep in and take control of the situation?

No answer could possibly be correct, no matter how much faith we have in our ideological certainty. Trust me: trained social workers don’t really know what to do, either. Put them, or any activist, in these situations and they’ll act just like everyone else. Some will simply move away, some will pull out a camera, some will cower in a corner. Some might try to intervene, and that intervention may not turn out as they’d hope it would, and someone might die.

The only answer I can possibly give for this is the same one I give to every person here who mentions the increase in homelessness, of assaults by mentally-ill and/or drug addicted people: “it will only increase.” It will increase, and continue, and become so common that eventually we might let ourselves think a little more about what else is possible.


* * *


  1. George Hollister May 12, 2023

    Note to Marshall Newman, try an over the counter nasal steroid. For me, they work great. One much advertised product is Flonase.

    • Chuck Dunbar May 12, 2023

      Yes, Flonase worked well for me when nothing else did, with no noticeable side effects like drowsiness. However, I stopped taking it after realizing it is a risky drug for those with glaucoma (steroid), as it can raise intraocular pressures. So, like Marshall and his partner, I suffer through the spring season.

  2. Stephen Dunlap May 12, 2023

    I am skeptical on the ladies on the Haul Road picture posted take yesterday ?

    • Emily Strachan May 12, 2023

      Actually, the AVA seems to have pictures of women’s bodies as a prevailing focus this week. What’s up with that?

      • Eric Sunswheat May 12, 2023

        RE: Actually, the AVA seems to have pictures of women’s bodies as a prevailing focus this week. What’s up with that? (Emily Strachan)

        —> Gender balance and cosmic relief is one prevailing theory. Suicide girls dot com raised their yearly fees renewal if one’s payment card expires. Do you think it easy to research drab public policy issues in pursuit of contentment.

        Mother’s Day is upcoming Sunday on tap. I understand that one out of three women has been sexually violated during her lifetime, and personal therapy necessitates acting out recovery modalities.

        Banning community standards seems an overreach to celebrating springtime renewal of life’s joys, so a few male bodies pics may be up lifting for Fathers Day next month, in a continuing saga.

        RE: We’re going to have to find another organizing principle if we’re to survive on this planet.
        — Caitlin Johnstone

        -> May 12, 2023
        President George Washington, in his farewell address to the nation, specifically warned against falling prey to a party-dominated approach to politics — and he’s been proved correct about the outcome.
        Any super-majority comes with it the potential for abuse of power and a desire to strip rights away from the citizens…

        Ranked choice voting has the potential to change that. The idea is simple — you look at a ballot and rank the candidates from most desirable to least. The Campaign Legal Center explains the outcome this way:

        “If a candidate is the first choice of more than half the voters, that candidate wins the election. But if no candidate gets the majority of the vote, the candidate with the least amount of support is eliminated, the second-choice votes for that eliminated candidate are redistributed, and this process continues until a candidate wins more than half of the vote.”

  3. Marmon May 12, 2023


    “I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter! @LindaYacc will focus primarily on business operations, while I focus on product design & new technology.

    Looking forward to working with Linda to transform this platform into X, the everything app.”

    -Elon Musk @elonmusk


    • Bob A. May 12, 2023

      Which brings to mind a scene in The Jerk where Navin (Steve Martin) is being worked on by a couple of con men:

      Con Man: If your initial investment is a half a million dollars and your apartments are up in March, you should have x amount of
      dollars rolling in by the end of this year.
      Navin: Ah, x amount. That's very good isn't it.
      Con Man: Not only that, you can depreciate the entire building for
      the full amount!
      Navin: Depreciate! Hum, very good. I like that.

      • Marmon May 12, 2023

        A lot of conservatives are upset with this hire because she is known to be a little too “woke”, but she will have nothing to do with content or content moderation. She will be tasked to use her skills and connections to bring in advertisers and money. Remember, no one is excluded from the new Twitter, not even liberals or liberal news outlets.


  4. Mazie Malone May 12, 2023

    Absolutely true, our young people are being destroyed by addiction to high potency cannabis….. this article mentions the ER visits….. not the psych stay visits…psychosis due to cannabis use is real & destructive!!


    • john ignoffo May 12, 2023

      The anti reefer folks will never change their notions. Reefer is not a healthy elixir, but it is not nearly as destructive as the alternatives. Take away the reefer and the stoned will embrace sobriety? Dream on friend. (The statistics in the article were more than a bit questionable!). Yes, reefer can be “abused”, like most things. Self medicating entails some risk, even with a relatively harmless drug.

  5. Craig Stehr May 12, 2023

    When you have had enough of the inconsequential local irrelevancy, and the American national spectacle as well, you may then stop wasting your life and plug in here: Vedic Chants | Sanskrit Juke Box >>>
    Stop identifying with the body and the mind, and your problem is solved!
    Craig Louis Stehr
    c/o Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center
    1045 South State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482
    Tel. (707) 234-3270
    Send Money Here:
    May 12th, 2023 Anno Domini

  6. Chuck Dunbar May 12, 2023


    “On homelessness, mental illness, and the collapse of capitalist society”
    by Rhyd Wildermuth

    A powerful, utterly disheartening, dystopian piece, told from the inside. While part of this problem may be rooted in capitalism and its failures, I doubt that capitalist-system countries are the only locales for such issues. The world is beset by too many people, too few resources, too few governments and economic systems that truly care for the least of their populations and/or have the ability to provide care for their citizens (as is the case of so many immigrants from South American countries trying to enter the U.S—this population of course, is not fully comparable to our cities’ homeless)… This is an issue, as the writer asserts again and again, that we don’t know how to overcome in any solid, lasting way.

    As to this problem in our local communities, there’s been discussion here recently about the Fort Bragg community approach, led by Mayor Norvell and others town leaders, which is having some success. Another decades-old and still ongoing example is the Boston program that provides medical care for this population, led for many years by Dr. Jim O’Connell. While this humanitarian program has not ended the homeless problem in Boston (and that was not its goal), it has excelled in outreach and high-level medical care for those persons willing to participate. Tracy Kidder’s new book about this program—a great, uplifting story and the result of several years of investigative journalism—“Rough Sleepers,” is worth the read.

  7. Mazie Malone May 12, 2023

    Really interesting article thank you💕

  8. Marco McClean May 12, 2023

    Re spring allergies. Some things that help me when it’s bad:

    Don’t eat anything. If you have to eat something, simple salad with mostly lettuce, and oil, vinegar, garlic and cayenne pepper for dressing. A real meal with meat and fat and salt and sugar and all makes everything worse for hours. And stay away from cleaning products and people who reek of cigarets and laundry soap with perfume in it. Yuck.
    If the problem is just a runny nose, keep a soft old t-shirt near the computer or in bed to blow your nose into. It takes a long time to fill one of those up. If you’re already up, blow your nose directly into the sink and wash your face with cold water.
    If the problem is your eyes are burning and itching, do not rub them. Get 12-oz. white plastic squeeze bottles of Equate-brand STERILE SALINE SOLUTION from the drug store, in the contact lens aisle. It’s salt water with the same salt content and pH as tears. Get one for the car and one for the refrigerator. When your eyes are itchy and burning, tip your head back, hold an eyelid open and squirt plenty straight down into the eye and wash it out. It gets your shirt wet but who cares? Instant long-lasting relief. And it’s cheap, 100-times cheaper by the ounce than tiny vials of medicine eyedrops. (For me, it has to be Equate-brand. I got the Bausch and Lomb kind once and that hurt worse than the allergies. I don’t know why.)

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