Warm 4th | Torn | GJ Reports | ATV Victim | Nutter Arrested | Museum Features | Westport Art | Mendo T | Eileen Memories | Logo Contest | Fireworks | Ed Notes | Broom Blossoms | Couple Candidates | Early Light | Pre Debate | Outhouse Flowers | Community Shun | Yesterday's Catch | AP Headline | Me Cry | Upsidedown | Costco Towel | Leech/Leach | Pitching Duel | Hoover Institute | Indispensable Nation | Tahoe Killer | Houston Power | Seeing Stars | Party Platforms | Whatever | Christie/Trump | 15 Years | Blobocracy | Border Sky | Mental Maturation | SOB | Margeart Pebeahsy | Prigozhin's Folly | Bong Case | Ukraine | Breast Lesson | Homecoming | Over Stimulated | People
TEMPERATURES will hold steady today then trend downward Wednesday through this weekend. Diurnal coastal stratus returns this morning and will persist through the end of this week. Showers are possible over the mountains late Wednesday and Thursday, with a slight chance of thunder Thursday afternoon. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): The stratus quo continues with 53F under foggy skies this 4th of July morning on the coast. The fog bank is large but not venturing far inland. The NWS forecast is calling for clearing by the weekend, we'll see.
CAROLE HESTER, Foreperson, Mendocino County Civil Grand Jury: "Please be advised that the above Reports are now posted on the Mendocino County Website"
FATAL ATV ROLLOVER VICTIM IDENTIFIED
FROM THE CHP: On July 1, 2023, at approximately 1635 hours, Maureen Gagne, 54, of Napa, was driving a 2013 Polaris Ranger, side-by-side ATV north on a dirt trail on private property at 4350 Young Creek Road. For reasons still under investigation, Gagne ran off the road and the Polis overturned onto its left side, on top of Gagne. Ukiah Valley Fire Ambulance personnel responded and attempted life-saving measures but Gagne succumbed to the injuries she sustained. Both passengers — Jordan Davidson, 33, of Napa and her 2-year old female child — were uninjured in this collision. Alcohol and/or drug impairment is not believed to be a contributing factor to this collision. The cause of this collision is still under investigation by the Ukiah CHP.
FIRST FRIDAY AT GRACE HUDSON
The Grace Hudson Museum will be free all day and open to all on First Friday, July 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. A midsummer walk in the Wild Gardens might be in order, along with a visit to the latest exhibit "Something's Happening Here: Artistic Reflections on the Back to the Land Movement." It's also the perfect time to view Grace Hudson's artwork, and exquisite Pomo basketry. Music and refreshments will be provided.
The Grace Hudson Museum is at 431 South Main St. in Ukiah. For more information, please go to www.gracehudsonmuseum.org or call (707) 467-2836.
ART SHOW AT WESTPORT HOTEL
I will be showing my oil pastel paintings as well as a new project I've been doing with acrylic on old redwood roofing shingles at The Westport Hotel for the month of July. There will be a special Opening Celebration Saturday, July 8, from 6 to 9pm with music by Christopher Cisper. Come enjoy the music, art, views and food! Thanks, Jacquelyn Cisper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE NOTICE: Regards the upcoming party at the museum… As many of you know Eileen (Pronsolino) is having health issues. She (and we) kept hoping she would be able to speak on the 9th, but she just isn’t feeling up to it. She is home from the hospital and we wish her well in her recovery. Lucky for us, Eileen wrote down her memories and findings on the history of vineyards/wine in Anderson valley. So, her longtime friend and fellow “old time” valley resident, Christine Clark is going to fill in and share Eileens writings with all of us. We look forward to a wonderful afternoon of history and shared memories. See you on July 9th at the museum. Christine will speak at 2p. The buildings will be open for touring from 1-4. Complimentary food and drink.
UPDATED LOGO DESIGN CONTEST
Howdy to the gang at the AVA.
I'm forwarding an email from the Ukiah Senior Center. They are having a logo contest and the winner will receive $500. The design review is scheduled 7/15/23. They are trying to raise their profile and part of that is re-doing their graphics.
If you think your wide and creative audience might be interested, would you mind including something in Mendocino County Today about the contest? Non profits serve so many people and they are always struggling to find support.
Kris and I worked together at the Mendocino Book Company for many years, and she is on the board at the Senior Center. My mom and I were delighted to serve some holiday meals there last year. It's a fine organization that does a lot of good and I thought the many artistic and talented people in Mendocino County who read the AVA might want to contribute.
HEADLINE of the week from the Fort Bragg Advocate in January of ’97: “Workers OK Layoff Package.” Like they had a choice? The story is about Georgia-Pacific’s announcement of a pending lay-off of somewhere between 65 and 72 workers at its doomed mill in Fort Bragg, among them a suspiciously large number of union people. “It seems like we’re salami, and we keep getting cut,” as one guy deftly summed up not only his position in the corporate firmament but the position of all wage workers everywhere in that same sky.
MASONITE, about the same time in ’97, was one of Ukiah’s biggest private sector employers when it announced it was laying off 192 workers, 169 hourly people, and 23 salaried workers, average pay $13 an hour. Masonite made molded doors and siding in Ukiah and employed a total of 376 people. The company said it can’t compete with West Virginia, Malaysia and Australia where the same products are made cheaper.
GOT a couple of nasty letters from Bay Area “radicals” I don’t know, and a real nasty letter from a bulge-eyed crackpot I do know telling me that I’d been kicked out of the left, which is the same as being invited to join since it doesn’t exist. The nastiest expulsion came from a guy who said he’d given up “Randian objectivism” to join the left and that I was a big disappointment to him. He went on to say he’d notified Noam Chomsky that I was out, with Chomsky writing back with a vague tsk-tsk at whatever context-free lie had been relayed to him by the Randian. (Have you ever met a Randian who wasn’t crackers?) Well, I’m very sad. After all years of noble service, too, to be tossed out like this. Can I keep my uniform? My ID card? My Monthly Review subscription? Am I out forever? What will I do for boring meetings, stupid rhetoric, crude prose, self-righteous posturing?
MY LATE COMRADE, Alexander Cockburn, was once accused by Michael Moore of being out of touch with working people, that Cockburn ought to go bowling to get in touch. Unless you live in Limo Land, where Moore himself has resided for many years, one is in touch all day every day. Second, it’s patronizing — to put it mildly — and a cartoon caricature to assume bowlers or any other group of Americans with annual incomes under fifty thousand need a “leftist” to interpret currents events for them. The UPS drivers of Mendocino County had it all figured out before we wrote about their strike in the AVA, but three of them went out of their way to tell me how much they’d appreciated Cockburn’s stuff on the strike and the AVA’s support during it. So who’s out of touch? Finally, what the limo libs always leave out of the discussion is the fact that during Moore’s formative years in Flint in the 40s and 50s, and every other place in America at the time except for the truly ruling class enclaves, there weren’t the huge differences in income there are now; wage workers often lived in the same neighborhoods and earned roughly the same kind of money as so-called professionals. Moore didn’t grow up any more gloriously blue collar than anybody else. My neighborhood, for instance, contained a family of mostly unassimilated White Russians supported by an old lady who worked as a seamstress, recent Sicilian immigrants who kept cows in their backyard, a warehouseman, a telephone lineman, the owner of a small grocery, two prison guards, a school principal, a barber, a bartender, and a couple of white collar workers. The Italians called the Russians “Molotov” and the Russians called the Italians “Mussolini.” Everyone got along pretty well, but nobody went on ski vacations or much of any place else because the funny money hadn’t kicked in yet. But nobody was hungry either and most parents wanted their children to go to college because, “You can get an easy job and make a lot of money if you go to college,” was the way I often heard the reason for higher education explained.
THIS APPARENT need in essentially secure middleclass American “radicals” to claim blue collar origins seems to me nothing beyond a pathetic yearning for authenticity, and if you feel the need for authenticity you’ve got some head probs you should work out before you head for the bowling alleys to lecture the working class.
TREVOR MOCKEL (June 15, facebook): “Yesterday, I attended the Redwood Valley Advisory Council, where I got the opportunity to listen to Supervisor Glenn McGourty and Sheriff Matt Kendall address some of issues currently facing Redwood Valley. Their insightful remarks provided valuable insight into the challenges they face daily.”
(June 8): “Had a wonderful time tonight chatting with Assembly Member Jim Wood and some of our local Democratic Central Committee members. We tackled some of the most pressing issues that Mendocino County faces, and it was truly enlightening to exchange ideas and perspectives with them. Looking forward to more conversations like this in the near future.”
County Superintendent of Schools Nicole Glentzer commented: “It was great to see Trevor Mockel, candidate for Mendocino County 1st District Supervisor, at the Inland Mendocino Democratic Club meeting tonight (at Mountain Mike’s Pizza).”
* * *
FIRST DISTRICT SUPERVISOR CANDIDATE Carrie Shattuck has been trying to figure out where all the money is coming from to pay those costly outside lawyers to handle Mendo’s many lawsuits, including the pending cases. So far she has discovered, as we expected, that most of the cost is covered by the County’s General Liability insurance. But, Shattack notes, Mendo’s general liability insurance now costs about $4 million a year, which is higher, proportionately, than other area Counties. Shattuck has also discovered that Mendo’s insurance costs are distributed and buried in the various departmental budgets by some arbitrary formula that assumes that departments should carry a proportionate load. This approach not only obscures the real cost of the County’s outside lawyers, but puts an additional burden on departments, most of which don’t incur much legal liability. As Probation Chief Izen Locatelli told the Board at a recent budget hearing, it’s not fair to burden the departments with a bunch of overhead costs over which they have no control and for which they can not be held accountable. But that’s apparently the way Mendo does it.
SHATTUCK also told us on Monday that she had resigned from this year’s civil grand jury because they told her that she couldn’t address the Supervisors during public expression while serving on the Grand Jury at the same time! Shattuck was fully prepared to comply with the Grand Jury’s requirement not to discuss the Grand Jury’s activities in public. But to be told that she can’t even ask the Board ordinary questions or address them as a private citizen on other unrelated matters is ridiculous.
PART OF THE OATH of a grand juror is: “I do solemnly swear (affirm) that … I will not disclose any evidence brought before the grand jury, nor anything which I or any other grand juror may say, nor the manner in which I or any other grand juror may have voted on any matter before the grand jury. I will keep the charge that will be given to me by the court.”
WHICH imposes no restriction on talking about Mendo affairs outside of the Grand Jury’s scope.
PS. According to a March 8, Ukiah Daily Journal article, this year’s Grand Jury foreperson is Carole Hester of Ukiah.
THE NAME CHANGE DEBATE
PHILIP ZWERLING: Lindy is biased, has publicly spoken against the name change loudly and at length and so no one of us will accept him as a moderator. I can continue to work to find another moderator (since you said you didn't care who moderated) or we can just forget the whole thing.
ED REPLY: You claim Lindy is biased, and so what if he is? A moderator moderates. He's not a participant. I'm sure you'd like to duck it, and I'm not surprised you've created obstacles. You and your acolytes are a primo example of bad faith. If you weren't you'd put in the work of putting the issue to a vote. You know you'd lose, and now you're making excuses for your sabotage of what might have been an interesting event. Why don't you get one of your Name Changers to moderate? Wouldn't bother me in the least.
Zwerling: No one us afraid of debating you. No one is ducking a debate. A moderator moderates if he is competent. Lindy, by belief and temperament is not capable of moderating fairly. I learned that when I went on his TV show as a guest and he spoke over me, shouted, used anti-semitic tropes and then stormed off the set. I was only keeping you informed of a single person, Jason, who declined to moderate. Since you have once again affirmed you are open to a moderator other than Lindy I shall continue the search.
ED REPLY: Bullshit. Lindy wrote in to say it was you who talked over him and then stomped out. How about the bartender at the Tip Top. Bet she'd do it.
KIMBERLY WRIGHT: According to folklore, hollyhocks were once called "outhouse flowers". These tall flowers were grown around outhouses to hide the privy. The practice was so common that the sight of hollyhocks told guests where the outhouse was located. In fact, there are some seed varieties of the flower that are named Outhouse Hollyhock.
JOHN REDDING: A comment, not a complaint.
I am paying the price for speaking my mind and being in the public eye. Venues where I routinely performed music in the past are ignoring me. I made the right choice, though, so no complaints or regrets. (It does hurt, to be sure.)
When I first moved here, people would ask what I liked most about Mendocino. I would answer, the feeling of community. That would not be my answer today. I have been told too many times that me and my values have no place in "our" community.
I realize I am thinking about this today because of what people who supported American Independence must have endured. Far more, as yet, than anything I have endured.
Those who foolishly think they’re “expertly” straddling” the line of decorum by continuing to be friends with these people, are about to find out what an epic fail this type of behavior has been.
I’ve always lived by the simple truth - when people show you who they are, believe them.
Words lie, actions do not…
Redding: I found out how quickly a mob forms to attack you. A mob that includes people whom you thought were friends or friendly acquaintances. And I do mean "attack" because they come after your character and wish you harm.
CATCH OF THE DAY, Monday, July 3, 2023
ALBERTO ALDACO, Fort Bragg. Protective order violation.
MICHAEL FURSTENBERG, Ukiah. Elder abuse resulting in bodily injury or death, extortion.
OMAR GUZMAN, Ukiah. Domestic battery, damaging communications device.
KIMBERLY JONES, Ukiah. Trespassing.
JEREMY MARCHI, Laytonville. Parole violation.
MERLIN PETERS, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
KORY WHIPPLE, Covelo. Possession of vehicle with altered number, suspended license, false impersonation of another, offenses while on bail.
JUST IN! STOP THE PRESSES! (for your ‘duh’ file). Associated Press Headline June 30, 2023: “New study says high housing costs, low income push Californians into homelessness.”
Marco here. There's something I want to ask you all. You can go into any level of detail. Here's my question: What part of a story or line from a song or bit in a movie or something from real life, especially from many years ago, affects you so that whenever you think of it there's a kind of uh-oh moment, where you have a chance to skip past it, so usually you do, because if you think about it some more right then, you just start crying, and the tears run down your face and get in your mouth and you can taste it, you're crying that hard.
Tell me a few of yours, and I'll tell you some of mine. Ordinarily I start, with projects like this, but in this case I really don't want to influence the results with my style, so I'll chime in later. Of course I want to read all of it on the radio. Thanks.
— Marco McClean
Bruce Anderson: ‘A Summer Place’ by Percy Faith and his orchestra. I was playing summer semi-pro baseball with the Santa Maria Indians when I heard it over the loud speaker as I was doing wind sprints in the outfield grass of a soft summer evening. Whenever I hear it years later, which is seldom-to-never unless I look it up on YouTube, it takes me back.
Mark Scaramella: ‘Living with a Hernia’ by Weird Al Yankovic. When he jumped and did the splits and then landed right on his hernia and screamed in pain in his attempt to parody James Brown it always makes me wince to the point of nearly weeping for poor Al as well as for the memory of James Brown himself. Oh man. The sacrifices they made for their art! Ouch!
To the Editor,
I saw pictures of downtown San Francisco. The homeless camps on the cement sidewalks. The upsidedown people are definitely in charge there and mostly throughout California. San Francisco is the cultural center of moral collapse with Los Angeles and political boomtown Sacramento on the same page.
Upsidedown people needing other upsidedown people, or so the song goes.
That pretty much describes the Democratic National Committee. Upside down people love lies and hate the truth. Let's make a list of some of the more popular lies that support the cultural cancer we are witnessing today in the form of homelessness, drug addiction, from both street drugs and prescription drugs, and computer addiction, etc. Here's a short list of some very important fundamental lies that support human upsidedownism.
A fetus is not a human life.
Nazis are not socialists.
Free money is good for people.
Hard work is to be avoided.
Weird sex is good for you.
Your conscience is lying to you and is some kind of cultural programming.
Power to take money from people who work and give it to people who won't work is a good thing.
Hard work is not a good thing and people should not have to do it.
We are better off now than before we had computers.
You actually own your real estate and are not a tenant.
Of course there are many more lies. Can you see them? Or am I lying to you?
You should know, if not find, friends and join political parties that agree with your rebellion against the truth.
Which way do you think California is headed?
It should be quite clear from the pictures taken that your unsafe feeling, and the stuff you step in, that California is the hierarchy of upsidedown people and is unsustainable.
Obviously I'm not running for office. California is the home of Proposition 13. Weak as it is was, it sent the upsidedown people running and squirming and crying, Where did my pork barrel go?
I have faith we can turn this thing around. Long live California, not the upsidedowners.
PS. Where else could you print this letter?
AS NIXON SAID, ‘MISTAKES WERE MADE.’
Either you're getting old or I'm going crazy: Didn't I read your screed on cliched insults in a post-literate world (first paragraph, Off the Record, 6/28) in the same column, same place, in the last few months? If not, call me just another flipped-out hippie suffering years of drug damage. Not that you should be bitching about literacy when a few paragraphs down the page re: water and the SoCo Supes turning the Russian River into an “impromptu leech field.” Wrong Word, as old English teachers are inordinately and gleefully fond of pointing out. Unless you meant the Supes were creating a flooded field in which to raise blood-sucking freshwater worms (class Hirundinea), perhaps for sale to old school physicians, you more likely meant LEACH, “to dissolve out or remove by the action of a percolating liquid.” But before your vitality as an educated word-wonger leaks, or is sucked, away, consider many TV attorneys made the same mistake when trolling for class-action denizens of Camp Lejune, the big Marine base with toxic drinking water thanks to leeching (sic). When, feeling puckish, I called the number on the screen and informed them of the mistake, the usual response was “Ah shit!” or “I'll let those responsible know.” Subsequent ads deleted the causal action and just said something about “exposed to toxins in the water.” Do you think humanity's proclivity to err is the source of our humility to correct, or will a heartfelt “Ah shit!” suffice?
Cheers, Jim Dodge, Recording Secretary, SOL (Society of Language, Jack Spicer Chapter)
FROM NORM CLOW: This is why we watch baseball. 55 years and two days ago, one of the greatest pitching duels in baseball history played out in Candlestick Park between the Giants and the Milwaukee Braves. Rising San Francisco superstar and future Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, 25, went up against 42-year old Hall of Famer to be Warren Spahn . . . . . for 16 innings. When it was over, Marichal had thrown 227 pitches - two hundred and twenty seven in case that didn't sink in - and Spahn a mere 201. Marichal recorded 48 outs; alas, Spahn only 46, because after retiring Harvey Kuehnn to open the bottom of the 16th, he had the misfortune to throw a screwball to Willie Mays, which, as Spahn said afterward, "didn't break worth a damn", but which Mays sent over the left field wall to end it all just after midnight. 1-0 in 16 innings, and this with two teams with sluggers like Cepeda, McCovey, Alou, Davenport on the one hand and Aaron, Matthews and Crandall on the other. After the game, we learned that somewhere around the ninth inning, Giants manager Alvin Dark asked Marichal between innings if he'd like to come out. Marichal simply pointed to Warren Spahn on the mound, and said "see that guy? He's 42 years old. If he comes out, I'll think about it." Both pitchers, by the way, made their next start. You couldn't get 200 pitches out of some of today's million-dollar starters in three games. (Trivial tidbit: Marichal gave up one double — to Warren Spahn.)
AS THE STOMACH TURNS
One of the propaganda outlets I pay some attention to is the Hoover Institution at Stanford, despite it’s leadership (Condi Rice) and pro-military stances (Gen. H.R. McMaster, Rtd.), finding the level of cogitation a respite from ordinary Facebook “repartee.”
The June 26 edition of the “Good Fellows” confab focuses on the latest scene in the Soviet-Ukrainian bloody soap opera, and the Prigozhin circus holding sway in this episode of “As the World Turns.”
Of course, I grew up in a world that included the Rand Corporation and most of my gainful employment was generated by affiliation with the hated military-industrial complex. (Of all the living examples of our country’s villainous hypocrisy, Kissinger first and then Cheney are among my most detested public figures — somewhat outshined by the Supreme Court on this day, but still…). Gen. McMaster reminds me of one of my favorite world class high tech bosses, an avuncular affiliation that I used effectively to grow my own “career.”
My upbringing also occurred in the era of post-WWII and the mythification of the US as the “world’s benefactor,” hideously reprehensible but temporarily entrenched in the global culture (until the next thing comes along). As far as I’m concerned, the White House has clearly demonstrated its ungovernable rogue status throughout every presidency in my recall. The Stanford “Good Fellows” convey the aura of savoir faire to mere commoners like me, while retaining the authority of their elite sinecures in California’s most ivory of towers.
IF WE HAVE TO USE FORCE, it is because we are America! We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.
— Madeline Albright
‘THE KILLER KILLED HER TOO’: Mystery that rocked Tahoe led to another tragic death
by Kevin Fagan
Nearly two years after her husband was killed in a case that captivated Lake Tahoe and far beyond, the horror of it finally overwhelmed Wendy Wood. In the worst way possible.
Wood had been shot twice in the head after an intruder broke into the couple’s home on the west shore of the lake and peppered them with what he must have thought was a fatal fusillade of gunfire. Wood’s husband, Robert Spohr, died. Wood survived — but suffered from disability, depression and a longing for the man she’d been with for 50 years.
On March 9, in a senior home where she’d been slowly regaining strength, Wood killed herself. She was 70, the same age as her husband when he died.
Now her daughter Adrienne Spohr, already filled with a hunger for justice, is even more determined than ever to catch the man who killed her father — and, in her mind, killed her mother as well.
“She couldn’t handle it, the loss,” Spohr said from her Petaluma home. “She missed my dad like crazy. She was just stunned. It was like the killer killed her too. When we bring that person to justice, I certainly hope they are held accountable for both deaths. They are very much responsible for both.”
She said the shots that felled her dad and ruined her mom also left her with emotional scars that still gape wide. Only the capture of those responsible for the savagery can start true healing, she said.
“It’s awful,” Spohr said. “You can’t really ever go back to normal. There’s this big question mark floating — something horrific happened, and yet it’s like … everyone else goes on with their lives, but there’s this chasm in your life.
“You have your suspicions, but no one has yet been brought to justice.”
She believes the killer knew her parents “directly,” and she stays in close contact with the sheriff’s office in Placer County, where the victims’ towering chalet-style home sat in an upscale neighborhood alongside the lake and the Homewood ski resort.
Investigators said they have new clues that lead them to think someone may have hired the shooter to kill the couple on June 5, 2021 — and that whoever put up the money for the job or pulled the trigger may be from the Reno area.
The killing happened on a sunny Saturday with plenty of people around; the house sits next to the popular Hurricane Bay Beach and a busy bike path. There was no sign of forced entry, detectives said, and no reports that day of anything suspicious in the area.
The main clue into how the shooter got into the house comes from a surveillance video showing what officials believe to be a man loping up the driveway in the afternoon before 5:30 p.m., wearing a hoodie and a white mask over his face.
Once inside, detectives believe the shooter waited for the couple to arrive home. And when they did, sometime before 10 p.m., the killer pounced, shooting both in the head at point-blank range. He then fled, taking nothing from the house with him.
Wood managed to regain consciousness just long enough to dial 911, and though she couldn’t speak, dispatchers could tell something was wrong and sent officers to the home. There, they found Spohr dead near a fireplace on the second floor. Wood was prone in the bathroom. Her daughter thinks their dog, Maggie, licked her out of concern long enough to revive her to make the phone call.
Given the execution-style nature of the shootings and the lack of robbery, investigators quickly came to a preliminary conclusion: “We firmly believe this was some sort of planned event. … Targeted,” Placer County sheriff’s Lt. Nelson Resendes said at a news conference a week after the attack.
However, after two years come and gone, police are finding it tough to close in on the people they suspect were involved, according to investigators close to the probe who were not authorized to speak publicly.
“We are looking for multiple suspects who we believe were involved in the murder of Gary Spohr. … We continue to track down all tips and leads,” Placer County sheriff’s spokesperson Angela Musallam said. Beyond that, she said, “We cannot provide any additional details at this time.”
Adrienne Spohr, 33, said she does know some of those leads, though, and she is encouraged.
“Placer County did a good job of refocusing on the case,” she said. “They’ve been working on it every day. That’s been huge. They have a lot to do, and they have some leads.” She didn’t elaborate on what those leads were.
The family kept the house in the small Homewood community, but last summer Spohr finally took the nostalgic photos and heirlooms out of it. Her mother was making progress physically with the help of friends and family at the time, but “struggled with a lot of depression and anxiety,” she said.
Wood had no memory of being shot, Spohr said. But the absence of her beloved husband, with whom she had built a life of managing and developing real estate while living first in Orinda and then Tahoe, was too much.
“My mom just could never move on. This huge thing happened — it’s like you’re reading a novel, and the final pages are missing. Or you’re writing a story, and there’s no ending. … And ultimately it killed her.”
Spohr said that even though her mother didn’t remember the shooting, “she had some feelings in her heart. She thought it was someone she knew.”
The violence and mystery are an unexpectedly shocking end to what had been an almost idyllic story for the Spohr family.
Robert Spohr and Wood moved up to Tahoe 20 years ago, but while living in the wooded enclave of Orinda for many years before that, they built their successful real estate business and raised their two daughters.
They first used the Tahoe home, with its huge windows facing the lake in a bucolic woodsy setting, as a vacation getaway before they finally moved there for good. They were enthusiastic adventurers, jaunting to locales ranging from Hong Kong to Afghanistan, and loved living in the mountains.
Wood played pickleball and was an avid skier. They took walks with floppy-eared Maggie, who loved the lake area. Life was a happy blur of trees, lake and placidity.
Growing up in Orinda, Adrienne was a star on the Miramonte High School volleyball team as it won regional championships. She continued the sport at New York University while studying business with stints in China and London, and became marketing director at the iconic Clover dairy firm in Petaluma. She kept that job until she left to take care of her mother and run the family real estate business.
Adrienne’s older sister, 38-year-old Erin Spohr, married Major League Baseball pitcher Dan Serafini — whose career spanned 11 years with many teams, including a stint with the San Francisco Giants — and they ran a bar in Sparks, Nev., near Reno. The Bullpen Bar had a surge in popularity after making it on to the “Bar Rescue” TV show in 2015, but it later closed.
“We sold that bar a long time ago, and my husband now works in underground mining here,” Erin Spohr said from her home in Reno. “I miss my parents tremendously, and I wish they could see my kids (sons, ages 2 and 5) grow up.
“I have no idea who did that to my parents. I wish I knew.”
Adrienne Spohr started a webpage a year ago — www.homewoodhomicide.com — and announced that the family was offering a $150,000 reward for tips leading to the capture of the killer or killers. The page urges anyone with information to contact the Placer County sheriff at 530-889-7853 or at email@example.com.
“My mom was the strongest person I know, but as the emergency faded away and the reality set in, she just got overwhelmed with the loss,” Spohr said. “She said about my dad, ‘I feel like my left arm is missing.’ ”
She paused for a moment to gather herself. “We spread some of Mom’s ashes this winter on one of her favorite ski runs,” she said quietly. “We just need one good break in this case. You never know who has information and wasn’t willing to come forth back then.”
Some of the best cartoons are older ones.
A funny cartoon featured Bugs Bunny instructing his young nephew, Clyde Bunny, who said he was failing his American History class, had a test coming up, where he had to recall some dates and facts about the Revolution. Perhaps stretching the truth to make his points, Bugs retold some crucial events in his own words: like when George Washington received a draft notice in his mailbox or when Gen. Washington crossed the Delaware in a rowboat with Bugs in the stern, and when Bugs is walking along a wooden sidewalk up to Betsy Ross's house as she is sewing the first US flag.
The one she is holding on her lap has the red and white stripes on properly but the blue on the upper left is just a solid blue. Bugs steps on one end of a loose board which flips up striking him in his head. A whole bunch of white stars circle around his head giving Ms. Ross the crucial idea for the stars on the flag!
Maybe some congresspersons could sometimes use a tap on their noggins.
Frank H. Baumgardner, III
IT IS THE REPUBLICAN Party’s job to expand the US military, rob and oppress the working class, serve US plutocrats, facilitate ecocidal capitalism, and foment division among the electorate. It is the Democratic Party’s job to do these same things while blaming it on Republicans.
— Caitlin Johnstone
JERSEY BOY TAKES ON FLORIDA MAN
Chris Christie says Donald Trump has “never run against somebody from New Jersey who understands what the New York thing is and what he’s all about.”
by Maureen Dowd
I offered to help prep Chris Christie for the debate with Donald Trump.
Christie helped prep Trump in 2016, saying he played Hillary Clinton very aggressively so that Trump would think the real thing was “a cakewalk.”
And now, sitting at a table in the New York Times cafeteria with the former New Jersey governor, I figured I could play Trump.
We have both known the blackguard for decades. And let’s be honest. We want Christie on that wall. After years of watching Republicans cower before Trump, it’s bracing to see the disgraced former president finally meet his mean match.
Even my Republican sister, who does not want to vote for Trump — but may if it’s Trump versus President Joe Biden — sent Christie money to help him secure a spot on the debate stage.
Trump has boasted that he’s so far ahead of his Republican rivals that he might not bother to show up for the first debate in August, hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee.
“I think that he’ll show up at the debates because his ego won’t permit him not to,” Christie said. “He can’t have a big TV show that he’s not on.” He smiled, adding, “He’s on Truth Social going bonkers, and no one’s paying attention? He won’t deal well with that.”
I warned that Trump is an asymmetrical fighter, so it’s hard to know how to go at him. Clinton tried to rise above him, and Marco Rubio imitated his crude style.
“You just brought up two of the most unskilled politicians I’ve ever met,” Christie said, noting about Trump, “I don’t think he’s ever gone up against somebody who knows how to do what he does. He’s never run against somebody from New Jersey who understands what the New York thing is and what he’s all about. For people like me, who’ve grown up here and lived my whole life in this atmosphere, he’s just one of a lot of people I know who have that personality. He knows I know what his game is.”
He said he isn’t running to get back at Trump for giving him a horrible case of COVID. Trump came to debate prep in September 2020 without telling Christie or anyone else that he had tested positive the day before, and Christie ended up in the intensive care unit for seven days. And he said he isn’t seeking payback because Trump didn’t make him attorney general. (Jared Kushner was still nursing a grudge because Christie put Kushner’s father in prison.)
But even for a guy who could be plenty nasty as governor, trying to overturn democracy was a bridge too far.
“The idea that somehow everyone’s going to stand around and wait for him to collapse of his own weight and then say, ‘Oh, I didn’t say anything bad about him,’” he said. “He’s never fallen of his own weight. The only time Donald Trump’s ever backed off in his life is when he’s been beaten to back off. I saw it happen in Atlantic City. He was bankrupt three times. He had to finally give in and close down.”
Christie mocked Ron DeSantis responding to Jan. 6 by saying he was not in Washington; “Was he alive?” Christie asked Kaitlan Collins on CNN. He thinks DeSantis has already lost the authenticity contest: “If you say to Tucker Carlson that Ukraine is a territorial dispute, and then a few days later, you go to Piers Morgan, and you call Putin a war criminal, well, it’s one or the other.”
What about the end of the love affair with Fox News and Trump?
“I’ve known Rupert for a long time,” Christie said. “I suspect Rupert’s view is, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Is Trump, as his former chief of staff John Kelly said, scared to death?
“He’s scared,” Christie said. “Look, a guy like him, the last place you ever want to be in life is in jail because you give up all control, and he’s a complete control freak.” Trump is playing checkers, not chess, Christie said, just scrambling to make that next jump.
Christie is the ultimate Jersey guy. (His relationship with his idol, Bruce Springsteen, which shattered over his stint as a Trump sycophant, is “a work in progress,” he said.) So I wonder how he feels about Jack Smith zeroing in on vivid scenes at the golf club at Bedminster, New Jersey, with Trump waving around classified documents and then telling reporters it was simply “bravado” and the documents were merely plans for a golf course.
“Yes, because, look, for Donald Trump, it is better to be called a liar than to go to jail,” Christie said. “If what it buys him is a get-out-of-jail-free card, he’ll take that trade every day.”
Trump has been peppering Christie with insults about his weight — “slob,” “Sloppy Chris Christie” and a phony video showing Christie feasting at a fried food buffet.
“I’m not going to say it never bothers me,” Christie said, noting that whenever you’re hit for “a weakness or a failure,” it depends on your mood how hard you take it. But, he added, Trump is no Adonis, so “coming from him? Who cares? Look in the mirror. I always thought it was very funny that he has this vision of himself. He told me one time the reason he ties his ties so long is that it slenderizes him and I should do the same thing.”
Trump is also the one, back in 2005, who first suggested to Christie that he get lap-band surgery, which he eventually did. So, I ask, Trump used to be concerned about your health, and now he viciously insults you about your weight?
“That’s, in part, the magic of him,” Christie said. “He’s got it in him to do either. It’s not like he’s unable to be charming. He can be. But only when he’s looking for something from you.”
What about the Biden age debate?
“I think he’s beyond his sell-by date, and I think Trump is, too, by the way,” Christie, 60, said, adding about Biden, “I think his family should let him go home.” He asked, “Are they actually motivated by love for this guy, or is it motivated by the grift?”
And Hunter Biden’s appearance at the state dinner for the Indian prime minister, two days after his plea deal?
“Look, that also shows you Joe Biden’s not in control, because if he were of right mind, I don’t care how much you love your kid, he doesn’t have to be at the state dinner,” Christie said. “It’s not like you’re saying, ‘You can’t come to the White House. I can’t see you. I can’t visit with you. You’re toxic.’”
He believes Kamala Harris is “a problem for Biden, and it will hurt him,” saying, “I don’t think Dan Quayle hurt George Bush 41. But George Bush 41 wasn’t 82 years old.”
Since we’re heading into the Fourth of July, I wonder if Christie is having any acid flashbacks to the Fourth of July weekend of 2017 when, as governor, he was photographed sunning himself on a closed public beach during a state government shutdown.
“My mistake,” he said. “I blew it. But no acid flashbacks.”
by James Kunstler
Neocon war is unpopular, ugly, venal. Worst of all, it is unsuccessful – meaning instead of ending in triumph and celebration, it persists as a confusing, contradictory and costly problem multiplier. …Neocons are the Dylan Mulvaneys of American politics, albeit with less sincerity and self-awareness.
— Karen Kwiatkowski
The American Revolution was a long emergency, too. Try to see past the elegant uniforms, the dashing horsemen, and the beautiful, unspoiled country to imagine the darkness of uncertainty those people lived in, trying to go their own way against an implacable, distant authority. This holiday we admire the birth of that new nation, though it has aged into a monster repudiating its finest achievements: liberty and the rule of law. The DC Blob is the new distant, implacable authority, and many of us are not happy with it.
By happenstance lately, out and about, I met up with several old friends and attempted to check-in with where they stood on these matters — how are things going in our country? The phrase our country seemed to make their heads snap back a little and their eyes goggle. Their answer, uniformly, was “Trump, Trump, Trump,” issued as a sort of barking. Trump’s criminal insults to democracy must be stopped, was the drift.
My next question was: How’s “Joe Biden” doing? (They didn’t see the quote marks, and I didn’t use my fingers to signify.) “He’s doing pretty well… accomplished a lot,” they said. What’d they make of the developing bribery scandal? “Huh… the what?” Raking in all that money from foreign governments when Joe was Veep, and then after. “Oh… right-wing talking points… baseless….”
This is what my old friends think. Quite a few of them are aware that I write this blog. They don’t actually read it; they seem to just hear about it. The old community of Boomer friends thinks I’ve “gone off the deep end.” One thing these encounters taught me is how successful the censorship and propaganda campaign of the Blob has been. These were people, you understand, who came of age believing in free speech, freedom of the press, respecting civil rights, decrying political persecutions, and, most of all, being against hegemonic wars — which, back in the sixties, was called imperialism.
These days they’re all for a righteous defense against misinformation that threatens our democracy, meaning: censorship. They wouldn’t call it that, exactly. They consider it a battle against right-wing extremism, white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, the usual bugbears. It never occurs to them that the Blob lies to them continually, remorselessly, promiscuously about everything.
They apparently believe what comes out of CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, et cetera. They were told to go get vaxxed. They went and got vaxxed. Some are not looking too good. They don’t seem to know that the vast machinery of public health in our country has been marshalled to do them harm, that the people running that machinery were well-aware that their vaccines did not get properly tested, and the little testing that was done did not turn out very well. Those agencies lied about it and worked strenuously to prevent the duped and vaxxed-up public from learning what had been done to them.
What we’ve got, then, this Fourth of July holiday, 2023, is basically the pro-Blob Americans against the anti-Blob Americans. It’s a vicious conflict with no sign of resolution. No amount of factual disclosure — no Durham report, no fruitless Mueller report, not any number of whistleblowers, no alt news — can persuade the pro-Blobbers that their beloved Blob lies and deceives. And no degree of coercion or punishment will convince the anti-Blobbers to fall into line and just do what they’re told. I think my old friends are insane, and they think the same about me.
Everybody knows that the tension building is unendurable, that eventually things will break, and we all worry what kind of country we will have when the breaking ends. I’ll tell you what it will be: it will be a country without a Blob. The Blob thrives on money, and one of the first things to break will be our money and all the operations that generate, multiply, and move it. For years, we anti-Blobbers have been on the receiving end of punishments doled out so liberally by the Blob and its followers. Soon, all the lying, including the lying about our money, will bring on events that’ll deprive the Blob of its nourishment. It will shrink and desiccate into a fragile little nugget of residual malevolence that can be put down like a small, rabid animal.
There will be fewer of us around then, and I think you know who that will mostly be — if the Blob doesn’t do something desperately stupid and suicidal in its agonizing demise, like provoke a lobbing of nukes around the world (as it is currently threatening to do). Otherwise, those fewer of us will then inhabit a land in recovery from a long list of injuries, bad choices, and insults. We’ll know what lying sounds like and there will be a lot less of it because you will no longer be able to pretend that it’s for our own good.
Hard times will produce strong men and women with a bias toward reality, which naturally tends to comprise things that are truthful. Untruth will be consigned back to its traditional category: Evil. It will be shunned, as it should be. Nations come and go and perhaps America, as a federation of states united as one, will go. Many of the self-evident truths that were born with her will remain to be honored one way or another, in some region of this large land-mass, or another. Events await. Facing our time of dark uncertainty, we have a lot to think about this Fourth of July, a very solemn holiday.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
With most people, there is not much more to their mental processes than repeating the last thing they heard–whether it was on TV or from their acquaintances. Their brains are recording and playback devices, and of course many of the last things they heard were that certain sources of information are to be disregarded or vilified. Part of the reason for this is because they were trained that way in school, and part of it is laziness and immaturity.
Most people in our society never mature mentally, and education and work experience (especially government work) discourages mental maturation, due to lack of accountability. If they had to make a living by running a small business, or even just by working in any situation that involved accountability, even the dullest of them would smarten up fast. I do have one former neighbor who was “riden’ with Biden” before the election. He had to get a job for perhaps the first time in his life, after his wife lost her high-paying job, and he has ever since been bitter about the necessity for employment–and the fact that no one will pay a 55-year-old guy with no skills or work experience a “living wage.”
I MEAN, just convict the son of a bitch in the press. That’s the way it’s done.
— Richard Nixon on Daniel Ellsberg, July 1st 1971
IN AN INTERVIEW from the 1930's, Margeart Totite Pebeahsy lovingly reflected upon some memories from her life. Born in 1898, she was one of many children from her generation to have attended established Indian schools.
Of Margeart's experiences in life, she shared the following: "I am a Comanche Indian, 37 years old. My husband's name is Lemuel Noddayah, he is 35 years old. We have fourteen children, ten of whom are now living. I was born at Turkey Pond in the Oklahoma Territory where Greer County now is, near where the town of El Dorado, Oklahoma is now located. My husband Lemuel Noddayah [is} a World War veteran and he is a good worker in the church and a good farmer. We live on a farm adjoining Cache." And Mageart further added "My father could not speak English nor my mother but I try to be educated and try to educate my children."
Additional information from Life Among the Texas Indians: The WPA Narratives by David LaVere.
by Seymour Hersh
The Biden administration had a glorious few days last weekend. The ongoing disaster in Ukraine slipped from the headlines to be replaced by the “revolt,” as a New York Times headline put it, of Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary Wagner Group.
The focus slipped from Ukraine’s failing counter-offensive to Prigozhin’s threat to Putin’s control. As one headline in the Times put it, “Revolt Raises Searing Question: Could Putin Lose Power?” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius posed this assessment: “Putin looked into the abyss Saturday—and blinked.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken—the administration’s go-to wartime flack, who weeks ago spoke proudly of his commitment not to seek a ceasefire in Ukraine—appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation with his own version of reality: “Sixteen months ago, Russian forces were . . . thinking they would erase Ukraine from the map as an independent country,” Blinken said. “Now, over the weekend they’ve had to defend Moscow, Russia’s capital, against mercenaries of Putin’s own making. . . . It was a direct challenge to Putin’s authority. . . . It shows real cracks.”
Blinken, unchallenged by his interviewer, Margaret Brennan, as he knew he would not be—why else would he appear on the show?—went on to suggest that the defection of the crazed Wagner leader would be a boon for Ukraine’s forces, whose slaughter by Russian troops was ongoing as he spoke. “To the extent that it presents a real distraction for Putin, and for Russian authorities, that they have to look at—sort of mind their rear as they’re trying to deal with the counter offensive in Ukraine, I think that creates even greater openings for the Ukrainians to do well on the ground.”
At this point was Blinken speaking for Joe Biden? Are we to understand that this is what the man in charge believes?
We now know that the chronically unstable Prigozhin’s revolt fizzled out within a day, as he fled to Belarus, with a no-prosecution guarantee, and his mercenary army was mingled into the Russian army. There was no march on Moscow, nor was there a significant threat to Putin’s rule.
Pity the Washington columnists and national security correspondents who seem to rely heavily on official backgrounders with White House and State Department officials. Given the published results of such briefings, those officials seem unable to look at the reality of the past few weeks, or the total disaster that has befallen the Ukraine military’s counter-offensive.
So, below is a look at what is really going that was provided to me by a knowledgeable source in the American intelligence community:
“I thought I might clear some of the smoke. First and most importantly, Putin is now in a much stronger position. We realized as early as January of 2023 that a showdown between the generals, backed by Putin, and Prigo, backed by anti-Russian extremists, was inevitable. The age-old conflict between the â˜special’ war fighters and a large, slow, clumsy, unimaginative regular army. The army always wins because they own the peripheral assets that make victory, either offensive or defensive, possible. Most importantly, they control logistics. special forces see themselves as the premier offensive asset. When the overall strategy is offensive, big army tolerates their hubris and public chest thumping because SF are willing to take high risk and pay a high price. Successful offense requires a large expenditure of men and equipment. Successful defense, on the other hand, requires husbanding these assets.
“Wagner members were the spearhead of the original Russian Ukraine offensive. They were the ‘little green men.’ When the offensive grew into an all-out attack by the regular army, Wagner continued to assist but reluctantly had to take a back seat in the period of instability and readjustment that followed. Prigo, no shy violet, took the initiative to grow his forces and stabilize his sector.
“The regular army welcomed the help. Prigo and Wagner, as is the wont of special forces, took the limelight and took the credit for stopping the hated Ukrainians. The press gobbled it up. Meanwhile, the big army and Putin slowly changed their strategy from offensive conquest of greater Ukraine to defense of what they already had. Prigo refused to accept the change and continued on the offensive against Bakhmut. Therein lies the rub. Rather than create a public crisis and court-martial the asshole [Prigozhin], Moscow simply withheld the resources and let Prigo use up his manpower and firepower reserves, dooming him to a stand-down. He is, after all, no matter how cunning financially, an ex-hot dog cart owner with no political or military accomplishments.
“What we never heard is three months ago Wagner was cycled out of the Bakhmut front and sent to an abandoned barracks north of Rostov-on-Don [in southern Russia] for demobilization. The heavy equipment was mostly redistributed, and the force was reduced to about 8,000, 2,000 of which left for Rostov escorted by local police.
“Putin fully backed the army who let Prigo make a fool of himself and now disappear into ignominy. All without raising a sweat militarily or causing Putin to face a political standoff with the fundamentalists, who were ardent Prigo admirers. Pretty shrewd.”
There is an enormous gap between the way the professionals in the American intelligence community assess the situation and what the White House and the supine Washington press project to the public by uncritically reproducing the statements of Blinken and his hawkish cohorts.
The current battlefield statistics that were shared with me suggest that the Biden administration’s overall foreign policy may be at risk in Ukraine. They also raise questions about the involvement of the NATO alliance, which has been providing the Ukrainian forces with training and weapons for the current lagging counter-offensive. I learned that in the first two weeks of the operation, the Ukraine military seized only 44 square miles of territory previously held by the Russian army, much of it open land. In contrast, Russia is now in control of 40,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory. I have been told that in the past ten days Ukrainian forces have not fought their way through the Russian defenses in any significant way. They have recovered only two more square miles of Russian-seized territory. At that pace, one informed official said, waggishly, it would take Zelensky’s military 117 years to rid the country of Russian occupation.
The Washington press in recent days seems to be slowly coming to grips with the enormity of the disaster, but there is no public evidence that President Biden and his senior aides in the White House and State Department aides understand the situation.
Putin now has within his grasp total control, or close to it, of the four Ukrainian oblasts—Donetsk, Kherson, Lubansk, Zaporizhzhia—that he publicly annexed on September 30, 2022, seven months after he began the war. The next step, assuming there is no miracle on the battlefield, will be up to Putin. He could simply stop where he is, and see if the military reality will be accepted by the White House and whether a ceasefire will be sought, with formal end-of-war talks initiated. There will be a presidential election next April in Ukraine, and the Russian leader may stay put and wait for that—if it takes place. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said there will be no elections while the country is under martial law.
Biden’s political problems, in terms of next year’s presidential election, are acute—and obvious. On June 20 the Washington Post published an article based on a Gallup poll under the headline “Biden Shouldn’t Be as Unpopular as Trump—but He Is.” The article accompanying the poll by Perry Bacon, Jr., said that Biden has “almost universal support within his own party, virtually none from the opposition party and terrible numbers among independents.” Biden, like previous Democratic presidents, Bacon wrote, struggles “to connect with younger and less engaged voters.” Bacon had nothing to say about Biden’s support for the Ukraine war because the poll apparently asked no questions about the administration’s foreign policy.
The looming disaster in Ukraine, and its political implications, should be a wake-up call for those Democratic members of Congress who support the president but disagree with his willingness to throw many billions of good money after bad in Ukraine in the hope of a miracle that will not arrive. Democratic support for the war is another example of the party’s growing disengagement from the working class. It’s their children who have been fighting the wars of the recent past and may be fighting in any future war. These voters have turned away in increasing numbers as the Democrats move closer to the intellectual and moneyed classes.
If there is any doubt about the continuing seismic shift in current politics, I recommend a good dose of Thomas Frank, the acclaimed author of the 2004 best-seller What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, a book that explained why the voters of that state turned away from the Democratic party and voted against their economic interests. Frank did it again in 2016 in his book Listen, Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People? In an afterword to the paperback edition he depicted how Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party repeated—make that amplified—the mistakes made in Kansas en route to losing a sure-thing election to Donald Trump.
It may be prudent for Joe Biden to talk straight about the war, and its various problems for America—and to explain why the estimated more than $150 billion that his administration has put up thus far turned out to be a very bad investment.
UKRAINE, MONDAY, 3 JULY
Eyes are on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner mercenary group one week after an attempted mutiny against the Defense Ministry. Plenty of questions remain. Among them: Where is Prigozhin now? Will Wagner fighters join the Russian military or move to Belarus? Will the group stop recruiting?
Family and friends of American reporter Evan Gershkovich are anxious for news of how he's holding up in Russian jail after the U.S. ambassador to Russia was granted access to him on Monday following weeks of requests.
On Thursday, Turkey and Sweden are expected to hold talks in Brussels on the Swedish bid to join NATO.
On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is due to give a preview of next week's summit of the alliance in Lithuania.
Protests and events against war and NATO expansion are also expected in Brussels.
President Putin tried to restore calm and control after the rebellion by Wagner mercenary fighters he has relied on for conflicts in Ukraine and other countries. In a speech, he thanked the military and security services, saying "you have stopped a civil war." Putin said some Russian pilots were killed. He did not mention the name of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who had launched the armed march.
I WENT INSTINCTIVELY for the buxom girl. I remember the milestone event of my first feel. I felt a female bosom and I learned something — I learned something fast. I learned that once you held a breast in your hand, there wasn’t much you could do with it.
— Joseph Heller, Now and Then
GET OUT OF MY WAY
by Jeff Costello (from the AVA Archive, March 1998)
Greetings from Puget Sound, Seattle, home of Starbucks, the mega-chain coffee shop that took the word “latté” out of Italian neighborhood cafés and cast it willy-nilly into malls and financial districts everywhere. Anybody can be a coffee “connoisseur” (snob) now, because everywhere you look there’s Espresso. A few Capitol Hill yuppies heard one of their friends muse that “what Seattle needs is a gourmet coffee shop” and in that moment Starbucks was born. They knew the American Dream could be theirs with a reasonable investment and some appropriately aggressive marketing. As yuppies — educated, properly attired, urbane and bloodthirsty — they also knew that what people, certainly people like themselves, want is power. They envisioned a nation of “coffee achievers.” Was their favorite buzzword not “empowerment”?
During the 70s and into the 80’s era of “me,” Reagan, Milken and Trump, cocaine found its way out of the seemingly unrelated worlds of junkie-musicians and High Society idle rich, into the vast, square wasteland of the middle class. People with impossibly dull and unfulfilling white-collar jobs suddenly had access to a magical substance that gave them a breathtaking new sensation: a feeling of power. Cocaine had snob appeal, too. Unlike the wrong-side-of-the-tracks low-life that used speed, yuppie cocaine users were able to maintain a rather fantastic and narcissistic self-image. When it came to egos, rock stars had nothing on the early Marin County cocaine cowboys and their hot-tubbing clientele. They were “quality” people.
Sadly though, even “quality” people could become addicted to the drug and many did. I remember stories about hotshot lawyers and brokers freebasing themselves into the street, having lost their jobs, homes, cars, stock portfolios — everything. Into the late 80s and 90s cocaine, to some extent, has gone back to more, shall we say specialized users in the form of crack. And even though methamphetamine and heroin have become the drugs of choice at the mall, large numbers of the BMW/Sport Utility and cellphone crowd have been embracing moderation and even total sobriety.
And this is where espresso comes in. It ain’t coke, and it sure ain’t meth, but it’s a central nervous system stimulant, damn it, which brings that feeling of power. Power lunches, power ties, and let’s not forget all that power the latest software gives you… All these, together with a double tall latté or two, well, it gives mid-level crapola promoters and corporate hacks the illusion that they’re important, powerful. The power to conceptualize new paradigms, to create breathtaking color presentations and flow charts, to become the Sales Division Einstein in (terms of) demographic marketing strategy…
Give everybody a little central nervous system stimulation and what you end up with is exactly the scene I encounter every morning, just going to the post office. Everyone is jacked up on caffeine and most of them have a vitally important agenda and a very tight schedule. And this is a small town. Where one might expect this sort of thing in the city, it can be shocking here in the sticks. All those writers and scholars investigating “road rage” are either missing something or beating around a large, uncomfortable bush: Drivers are angry because they’re probably cranked up on caffeine, they’re sitting on a bundle of horsepower they can’t really use, and most significantly, they have something urgent to accomplish which is far more important that anything you could possibly be doing. It’s a little odd to me that drivers of the more expensive “prestige” vehicles seem to have the worst cases of road rage. One might think that having achieved a certain income and comfort level, they’d be more relaxed… But no, the more expensive the vehicle, the more important the driver’s agenda. Just GET OUT OF MY WAY.