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Valley People (June 21, 2023)

THE ANDERSON VALLEY HISTORICAL SOCIETY board will be hosting a festive gathering at the Little Red School House Museum on Sunday, July 9, 1:00 to 4:00 pm. This year we are pleased to have Eileen Pronsolino as our featured speaker. As many of you know, Eileen and her husband Angelo are lifelong residents of Anderson Valley. Eileen will focus on the history of vineyards/wine in Anderson Valley. The Pronsolino family still resides on Vinegar Hill, one of the earliest vineyard/wine regions in the valley. Eileen will be speaking at 2pm. The speaker and complimentary food and drinks will be set up in the Rose Room. All buildings on the museum grounds will be open for your wandering pleasure. Members and Non-members are welcome. A chance for all to get fed and feted while supporting the AV Historical Society. (Sheri Hansen)

SUPERINTENDENT SIMSON WONDERS: “What the heck is up with the town’s embracing this music festival? I had drunk, disrobed, disrespectful people on my campus today with the Sheriff having to respond. I have kids in summer school. I will not be approving the parking use permit in the future except for Saturday and Sunday. Is this really what Boonville wants to be known for? What a sad example for our youth...”

NATHAN DUFFY: RE: SNWMF. I showed up for festy Sunday around 3 just in time for Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba which was a perfect intro of melodic west African instrumental intricacy, I was transfixed. Bring your camping chair and set up in the middle of the kids and families and be ready to share some goodies. Everyone who set up around us were overly gracious, talkative and friendly and I was given handfuls of home grown from several dads. Lila Ike was next level and really drives home for me one of the reasons I so love this music is that the women are so strong, vocal and talented. Her and Protoje who came next represent more lyrical intricacy in their verbal flows and thus a bit more of a modern hiphop sensibility but radically cultural nonetheless.Protoje had some great energy and stage right front we had a big rally of folks jumping and belting out lyrics, there’s nothing like it folks.Can’t forget the Indiggnation Band who was the backing band throughout the afternoon. I mean the musicality and workmanship of these players of instruments is really something to behold. Good backing bands can successfully play for many artists. Burning Spear is legendary and more rootsy but still came out with loads of energy for the nearly 2 hour set. The absolute familiarity of his voice (which hasn’t changed in 50 years?) and rhythms really just brought it all home for the joyous crowd at hand. Kudos to everyone involved. I received zero hassle or bad vibes the entire day, I talked to dozens of random people as if I knew them and hadn’t seen them in awhile. To top it off when my buddy and I showed up a nice young lady Tiffany and Lenora approached us and asked if we would like tickets. She had bought them for her daughter who it turns out had zero interest. “Do you want a couple hundred bucks?’ “Nope, just one round of drinks”. “Done!”We chatted the gals up like any good gentleman would and they set us free at the receipt of their drinks. Just one of a hundred amazing things that happened on this great day with no hassle and no strings attached. If this festy has a reputation for mellow vibes, well that was it man. Be easy!

KIRK GOES TO BOSTON: Just returned from a quick anniversary trip to Boston. The highlight of the trip was a comedy performance by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the theater adjacent to Fenway. The other highlights included: kayaking on the Charles River, the North End, lobster rolls, practically zero homeless encampments, and delicious food that was consistently 2/3 of California prices.

Fun trip. Kirk Vodopals, Navarro

HELP WANTED. We need to hire a couple of aides at the high school. If you know anyone, can you please refer them to me or Sara Hayward at 707-895-3774. All that is required is a basic skills test or college units apply. This is a great gig to be on your students’ schedule, so if you know any parent/guardians who are seeking a job, please refer them to us. We also have a special ed teaching position available that we can work with someone who has a bachelor’s degree to get them set up. — Superintendent Simson

Derek Billy

CONGRATULATIONS TO DEREK BILLY (Ponca/Pomo), out of Point Arena, California, who was selected to the 2023 Atlanta Braves Native American All-Star Baseball showcase to be held June 23-25, 2023 in Atlanta, GA. Derek was named as the NCL III league MVP.

AWARDS CEREMONY, THE PHILO YACHT CLUB: The exceedingly creative people of Anderson Valley have once again gotten very busy building boats. After a 13 year hiatus, the Philo Yacht Club (founded in 1983 by Steve Derwinski) made a grand return on Sunday May 7th, celebrating its 40th anniversary. About 150 people showed up, dressed up, and partied down below the Philo-Greenwood bridge alongside the launching of over 60 small boats in the Navarro River. There was the usual in-water Tug-O-War, the return of Janet Anderson’s kazoo band and the Name That Nautical Tune barefoot race to the gong, a lime wedge eating contest, a team buoy toss game, speeches, swimming, and a shimmering trophy display, all culminating in the prestigious regatta itself and followed by a spirited award ceremony at the water’s edge. Commodore Scott Handley and Vice Commodore Rita Bates would like to thank all the courageous boat builders and participants, and especially acknowledge the honorable judges–Joansey Dewolff, Tim Bates, and Jana Hansen–and the gallant co-organizers and heavy lifters who made it all possible, chiefly: Jerzy Skupny, Willy Schmitt, Steve Derwinski, and Marcus Magdelano. Stay tuned for the regatta next year... a tradition worth continuing! 

ELIZABETH JENSEN: Thank you to Glad and her son for stepping up to help move our new picnic tables into their space. Summer picnics now have a whole new spread. (Now we just need some help pulling out the weeds from the pea gravel and we’ll be all set!) Interested in being a part of new park improvements? Have the tools or skills for landscaping or limbing up trees? Know how to build fences or fix pergolas? Love raising funds and awareness for local causes? Call/text me at 415-713-3833 or DM to learn more. It Takes A Valley!

ANDERSON VALLEY FIRE received our new 2000-gallon tactical water tender just in time for wildland fire season! 

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making this happen! A special thanks to Clay Eubank and Hans Hickenlooper for driving the rig all the way back home from Austin, Texas while enduring a tough round of COVID they picked up along the way. 

Feel free to check it out in front of our Boonville firehouse when you pass through. It will respond out of Philo but be available for all of Anderson Valley’s fire suppression needs!

LAST TUESDAY’S SUNSET was a stunner — mesmerizing, as viewed from the Boonville weekly’s action desk. The unsettled weather seems to gift us with an even greater variety of golds as the setting sun dies on the east hills.

IF THIS IS EL NINO, let it never end. A winter of hard rain followed by a week of pre-industrial air, golden days, bracing nights — all so perfect that one wants to put aside everything else and roil around in the embracing beauty of it! But duty tugs at one’s sleeve and it’s back to the vicious personal attacks, half-truths, cruel innuendos, random libels, and Unity Club meetings that comprise your local newspaper. I dispute it all, the whole litany, but there it is.

VISITING the ava Thursday were Mr. and Mrs. Michael DeLang, and further confirmation that the Boonville weekly has always drawn more visitors to the Anderson Valley and Mendocino County than the tax supported boondoggle called Visit Mendocino. Yes, sir, the welcome mat is always out at the AVA. 


Do we have a major bike issue in the Valley that I don’t know about? Of course the rail is for seniors but are people leaving their bikes here for long periods of time? Inquiring minds want to know.

DEPUTY! DEPUTY! I think I smell marijuana! Just got back from my second-ever Rasta-Fest. After a five-year timeout because of covid and the death of event founder, Warren Smith, the rastafarians seemed to have turned out in force for the festival’s revival at the Boonville Fairgrounds. Mr. Smith, a genius organizer, came to Boonville with Rasta-Fest because venues closer to the cities also drew criminal gangs whose predations made event management more difficult than it needed to be. Boonville is just far enough from the bright lights to keep the undesirables away. (Won’t ever forget a San Francisco cop exclaiming, “Hell, we can’t arrest people just for being undesirable.”)

AS UNCOOL as I am, I was afraid that even with a press pass I might be turned away, but the rastas are probably the least judgmental people to gather in self-identified groups, and far more peaceful than, say, a Saturday night Fair crowd, at least those Saturday nights of yesteryear when the Sheriff’s Department was out in force to suppress the drunks and the bar fighters. And in the early years of the annual beer fest, before the event was contained inside the Fairgrounds, the dude-bros were beating on each other all over town. 

THERE wasn’t a cop in sight Sunday afternoon, either inside or outside the Fairgrounds. The Mendo Sheriff’s Department used to shake down, er, assess the event a large fee for security although even the on-duty deputies said the Rasta crowds presented no problems except for an occasional rogue drunk. As one put it, “Problems? What problems? They’re all stoned.” 

A RUMOR of an overdose death circulated this morning (Sunday) but, as of press time tonight, the rumor remains unconfirmed. Call me old school, but I was surprised to see so many children in the crowd, some of them bopping around to the tunes until I remembered Miguel Barajas, who used to run errands for us from the time he was in the second grade. He told me he and his friends attended the Rasta event every year from the time he was in kindergarten, sneaking in through the Boonville entrances, i.e., holes in the fencing and the “security.” As an adult, Miguel seems untraumatized. 

AT LEAST ONE resident of Lambert Lane took off for Lake County for the weekend to elude the festivities next door at the Fairgrounds, and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one. Three days of amplified tunes, whether Wisconsin polkas, Frank Sinatra or reggae, would tend to grate, but the music is religiously squelched well before midnight, and may even be a kind of sleep aid given its predictable rhythms.

AT TWO-THIRTY rasta-afternoon Sunday, I stopped in at the Mosswood Cafe for a pastry, settling for a brownie among exactly six remaining items. They were just about sold out, which would seem to mean that local businesses, despite the Fairgrounds being ringed inside with traveling businesses of all kinds, enjoyed a big weekend at the cash register.

FOR PURE DEVOTION to his faith, I am in awe of pastor Dave Kooyers who was advertising specific invitations to visiting Rastafarians, a less pious-seeming congregation not to be found, one might think, among all God’s creation. But looks are deceiving when you remember that Rastafarianism is at least partly inspired by Christianity. “Rasta, Jesus, and the Bible,” read pastor Kooyers’ flier, and I hope he packed ‘em in Sunday morning. (Had to chuckle that the pastor’s flier also stated “No dress code.” I should think! Given the number of women in Boonville over the weekend clad in dress ordinarily considered immodest at church services, the pastor gets high marks for such an elastic embrace of all God’s children.

JUNE BEING gay pride month Eric Von Gehrig, aka Swoop, wasn’t the first gay person in Boonville, and he wasn’t the only gay, but he was certainly the most memorable. He’s been gone for 30 years, but lots of people remember him because he was very, very funny and, in a way unique in the then Boonville experience, very, very brave because he was unabashedly gay in a night time context — the Boonville Lodge — which wasn’t exactly a center of genteel tolerance at the time. Swoop memorably danced on the bar in a mini-skirt one raucous New Year’s Eve, circa 1974. The guy was a one-man rural gay liberation front. 

NOT ONE to let perhaps lethal homophobia stand between him and the bar, Swoop was so outlandish, so hilariously charming he disarmed the most volatile hetero, soon becoming a permanent fixture in a milieu where fists, bottles and pool balls frequently flew. Boonville is a pretty tame place these days, but when Swoop first showed up in the early 70s, it was the kind of place where tough guys from miles around showed up weekend nights for recreational combat. But Swoop was a psychological tough guy — he was who he was and so what was his attitude — but I always had the feeling he wouldn’t hesitate to throw punches if it came to it, and that he could and would defend himself if he had to. 

WHEN he first arrived in Boonville Swoop lived about two miles south of town on the old Minor Ranch. A light-haired man of about forty, built like a running back, Swoop commuted to the Lodge from his home on foot. Nobody “fagged” him back then, and I never heard of anybody “fagging” him later on as he became part of The Valley’s always vivid peoplescape. 

I’D OCCASIONALLY give him a lift somewhere and try to get some of his history out of him, but he always deflected these probes with one of his raspy-voiced jokes. He wouldn’t even tell me why he was called Swoop. He was a mystery man. Some people said he was orphaned as a child and grew up hard, others said he was from a family of aristocrats who’d disowned him. If he’d grown up hard, he wasn’t mean from the experience. He appeared out of nowhere, and was gone as suddenly as he’d arrived. I understand Swoop’s liver finally gave out. Better to wear out than rust out, the wild people say, and Swoop put in a lot of real hours before he wore out.

MY WEEKLY pamphlet from the Jehovah’s Witnesses is titled, “Will People Ever Love One Another?” I’d say people are pretty much unteachable, but bless the Witnesses for trying. 

A BOONVILLE old-timer called to ask if we knew anything about an article about Amelia Earhart which appeared several weeks ago in the Ukiah Daily Journal. He specifically wanted to know how to reach the archaeologist/author to find out if he had any information about alternative theories as to Ms. Earhart’s disappearance and possible whereabouts. The old-timer says he worked for a couple of years at a ranch in the Sacramento valley in the 40s. The woman who ran the place had a maiden name of Crittendon and a married name of Smith, explained the old-timer, and she was a dead ringer for Earhart. On top of that, there was an untouched plane kept under canvas in a barn which the old-timer says was just like the tri-motor Fokker that Earhart flew. People at the ranch were told to stay away from the barn. According to the old-timer, Earhart may have been a pre-WW2 spy whose cover had something to do with her flying adventures, and who, according to this theory, might have undergone an identity change via her government sponsors. Her spook-sponsors concocted a story about her “around the world flight” during which she was “lost at sea.” All she would have had to have done, according to our source, was take off from California, head west for a while, and then turn right around and land at the ranch near Sacramento. Interestingly, Earhart is known to have learned to fly in California after serving a two-year stint in a Canadian nursing corps before she moved back to Boston from which she flew her initial 1928 Atlantic crossing with pilot Wilmer Stutz and mechanic Lou Gordon. Later, she flew her more famous solo flights, and in 1937 at the age of 39 her plane was declared “lost” near the extremely remote and tiny Howland Island in the Pacific.

AS RASTA FEST tunes up down the street right here in Boonville, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen or heard anything from or about Sister Yasmin lately. She has been a fixture at all these three-day musical events since they began. Yasmin even stayed at my place a couple of times, and she was an easy guest, thoughtful and gracious, which surprised some people given her often pugnacious personality. I hope the old girl is ok.

YEARS AGO, I invited Yasmin to lunch because she said she had something important to tell me. What followed was the back and forth as we tried to work out the logistics for the mother of all lunches, which never came off.

Yaz: If you ever take me out to lunch I can make hair grow on your head if I tell you everything I know about KZYX. But we can’t go to Bookends in Point Arena because I don’t want to be seen with you. If I’m seen at Bookends with you my reputation will be ruined. We have to go someplace more hidden.

Editor: I beg your pardon? I offer to buy you lunch and you say you don’t want to be seen with me? 

Yaz: I said lunch! You have a public face and a private face, like most men. You’re different at home than you are when you’re doing horrible things to me and to KZYX in your so-called newspaper. I thought to myself, “This guy’s too weird to go out to lunch with.” I don’t have any sexual tensions. I put them into my spirituality and my creativity.

Editor: Who said anything about sex therapy? If I buy you lunch I’ll have to ask you not to say the word “spirituality” or talk about anything abstract. Agreed?

Yaz: Why do you mess with my press releases? Why can’t you just put them in the paper like I was Val Muchowski or Els Cooperrider?

Editor: I’m going to make you a star, kid!

Yaz: It’s called libel or slander and you even brought Allen Green’s name into it!

Editor: What possibly could be wrong with libeling Al Green?

Yaz: They’re going to know I told you the pizza story! It’s a yuppie KGB at KZYX!

Editor: One finger, Yaz. One finger. They put one finger on one hair of your pretty little head and I’ll, I’ll, I’ll. Why, I’ll go to the FCC, that’s what I’ll do.

Yaz: Why didn’t you pretend it came from someone else? You could have written it like this: “It was overheard at the KZYX programmer’s meeting the other night that some poor KZYX peon only got one slice of pizza while the playboy millionaire got to take a whole one home ostensibly to feed to his underpaid, overworked, pesticide-laden farmworkers who work for him for slave wages.”

Editor: That’s very good, Yaz. How’d you like to write for my paper?

Yaz: You’re going to get me fired!

Editor: They wouldn’t dare. It’s war if they go after you, baby!

Yaz: The next two weeks is pledge drive. They’ll all be nicey-nicey for the pledge time, then they’ll go after me! They’ll say I fed you private information! Margaret Thatcher will bury me alive in teacups!

Editor: Theresa Simon as Margaret Thatcher? Dividing up a pizza is private information?

Yaz: You don’t know these people like I do! OK. We can’t have lunch at Bookends. How about Sea Ranch?

Editor: Sea Ranch?!!! What about my reputation?

Yaz: How about St. Orr’s?

Editor: The place that looks like a Russian mausoleum?

Yaz: Yes. They have great big plates and tiny bits of food. How about dinner at St. Orr’s?

Editor: I see things are escalating here. I had the bean sprout special at Bookends in mind, and here you are talking about dinner.

Yaz: I’ll see if I survive the pledge drive. Then we’ll talk about it. I have to raise $2,000 in two weeks. They’re after me at KZYX! And don’t mess with my press releases! 

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