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DRY WEATHER and above normal daytime temperatures are forecast to prevail for the next 7 days. Remnant moisture associated with a front may push onshore on Wednesday and provide light rain or drizzle. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg): A cool 42F under clear skies to start this holiday week. If you like great holiday weather you're gonna love this week. Good buddy Steve Paulson at KTVU says it might be early December before we see our next rains, we'll see.
NAVARRO RIVER: NO FLOODING LIKELY
I no longer think there's any chance of flooding of Hwy. 128 near the Navarro River bridge.
I went to the river late this afternoon and found that the level, though higher than last visit, was still about 3 ft. below the edge of the pavement at the 0.18 mile marker. The marsh on the south side west of the Navarro Bridge is fully flooded, but Navarro Beach access is open. The river level has already passed the previously predicted high point.
For the past two days the river has risen sooner than the NWS chart predicted, and as of 4:30 PM Sunday it had reached 2.95 ft. and leveled off. Although the measured river flow rate into the top of the estuary was about double what it was a couple of days ago, the water level was only a few inches higher. Even though the sandbar is still blocking the river mouth, a significant amount of the river flow is able to filter through the sand, moderating the expected increase in water level.
With dry weather forecast for the rest of this week, there will be no increase in river flow in the immediate future. It will take some significant rainfall, several inches over a few days, to bring the water level up enough to again raise concerns about Hwy. 128 flooding.
In other words, ALL CLEAR on the Navarro flood potential that I posted about yesterday.
Enjoy the fair weather and have a Happy Thanksgiving holiday!
Dear Anderson Valley Community,
Basketball is back! It is great to see so many students out at practice. This is a big commitment, and it is important that students maintain their grades while they play. For Junior/Senior High players, we have built-in support in the library during the day and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday after school for academic help. I am delighted that in January, Mr. Labowitz’s schedule will also permit one period of pulling out students that need additional support to help with math.
Friday was the big day for construction bid opening. I would like to thank our architect Donald Alameida for all of his time and care on this project at the high school. Going through the public bidding process is a paperwork tsunami. Throughout the bid process when contractors have questions, an addendum is issued so that all contractors have the same information. Don had a busy week. The result was really good news. Six bids were received and we will be able to complete the full library wing of rooms, the two science rooms, and some additional work to boot!
The elementary school has been doing deep work with the county office providing math coaches. We are very excited to have this opportunity where our teachers have these supportive coaches in classrooms and staff meetings modeling instructional strategies to support math achievement.
Peachland Preschool cooked up a storm with tasty loaves of Pumpkin Bread. Yummy! So great for students in this valley to have such a quality preschool program.
Please take the time to sign up for two dinners the week we come back. These are district- wide. The first one is the Pozole dinner with an opportunity to view student work on November 28 at 5:00 p.m. in the cafeteria. The ELAC dinner for the district is on Thursday, November 30 in the high school library at 5:00 p.m. We will be honoring students that have been re-classified. To make sure we have enough food, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a reservation. Participating in your students' events and schools is huge. I always say that it is better when we come together in circles rather than rows. Sitting together around a table and having a meal and a conversation is a great way for us to build a strong school system.
Further State testing data analysis is on-going and our English learner progress was off the charts with more than 60% demonstrating progress. This achievement is in large part fueled by the shift to phonics at the elementary school through the new language arts adoption, as well as concentrating post-pandemic on English only in the lower grades. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are clawing our way back. Everyone wants to know why test scores matter, and part of it is it is an accountability measure for us on how we are serving students, but there are some much larger implications regarding regulations and requirements from the State, if we don’t show progress. Those paperwork nightmares eat up time and effort and pull resources away from kids. Test scores matter.
I know some families don’t agree with the testing, but for the good of the District it really helps for students to participate so that we can focus on daily instruction instead of jumping through reporting hoops. These tests are not used for placement. Furthermore, we really look at the data in cohort levels year over year, rather than comparing last year's third grade to this year’s third grade. Looking at the cohort growth shows important changes over the same group of kids.
There is no school next week in honor of Thanksgiving break. I hope you all have a happy and relaxing time with your family. Please make sure your student is back to school on Monday, November 28.
Just a reminder, we do not grant independent study on either side of the Winter Break. The semester ends on December 15 at the Junior/Senior High School and grades are final. Students at both campuses return on January 8. Independent study is meant for a VERY short amount of time during the school year related to short term emergency needs, not as a substitute to in person instruction.
The Leadership class at the high school is coordinating the food drive. This was a hugely successful student service program last year that helped feed our community. It is a classroom competition. Please have your students bring a can of food for the grade level basket. The winning class will receive a special event as a prize. Plus, students can feel good that they are supporting others that need help with food security.
Have a healthy and safe holiday!
Louise Simson, Superintendent
THE GREENWOOD Community Church/Greenwood Civic Club is sponsoring its 23rd annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday, December 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The fair will be held at the Greenwood Community Center in downtown Elk. Take home jewelry, pottery, wreaths, food products, bath & body items and other handcrafted delights for all ages. Come support your local organizations and artisans. Snacks and lunch will be available for purchase. Funds raised will help maintain the historic Greenwood Community Church. For more information, or to inquire about booth rental, contact Mary O'Brien at (248) 917-3369.
LEMONS MARKET, Philo. Winter Hours: 7am-6:30pm
PRICE CONVICTED OF LESSER CHARGE
After a Mendocino County Superior Court jury acquitted him of murder and, instead, found him guilty of the lesser offense of involuntary manslaughter, the trial defendant, Drew Anderson Price, age 40, of Ukiah, Wednesday withdrew his second plea of not guilty of causing the death of the victim by reason of insanity.
The defendant was found guilty Wednesday afternoon of involuntary manslaughter in the March 2022 death of then 55-year-old Deborah Garner-Flicker in her Gobbi Street apartment.
Under the California Penal Code 192(b), involuntary manslaughter refers to the unintentional killing of another person while committing a crime that is not in itself a dangerous felony that might result in death.
While the murder charge was still on the table and pending, the defendant had entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. When such dual pleas are entered, the court is required to conduct a bifurcated trial and the issues of guilt and sanity are separately tried with the guilt phase going first.
Had the defendant not withdrawn his insanity plea Wednesday upon hearing that he had been acquitted of murder, the jury would have remained empaneled to next determine the insanity phase — whether the defendant was not guilty of involuntary manslaughter by reason of insanity.
As legal background, a successful insanity plea relieves the defendant of all criminal responsibility. If the verdict is returned in the insanity phase of a jury trial that the defendant was insane at the time the offense was committed, the court, unless it appears that the sanity of the defendant has been fully recovered, is required to direct that the defendant be committed to the State Department of State Hospitals or any other appropriate treatment facility for the care and treatment of persons with mental health disorders. The court may also order an “insane” defendant be released on outpatient status for treatment in the local community.
A felony conviction for involuntary manslaughter carries a “prison” sentence of up to four years in Realignment County Prison (the Low Gap jail facility versus state prison) and fines of up to $10,000.
Given that the law currently affords day-for-day pre-sentence credits for most defendants convicted of felonies, it is expected that defendant Price has less than four months left to serve in the county jail even if sentenced to the maximum term (four years) authorized by law for involuntary manslaughter.
If sentenced to something less than the maximum term, defendant Price will be deemed time-served and ordered to be immediately released from custody.
The Ukiah Police Department is the law enforcement agency that investigated what medical first responders thought were suspicious circumstances. Based on the external injuries of the victim, the police call-out quickly evolved into an unlawful homicide investigation.
The prosecutor who presented the People’s evidence to the jury was Supervising Deputy District Attorney Luke Oakley.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Victoria Shanahan presided over what was not a controversy-free trial. The prosecutor had objected to giving the jury the verdict option of involuntary manslaughter, arguing that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support that reduced theory of culpability.
Both trial attorneys were also critical of and voiced objections to Judge Shanahan’s undisclosed interactions with the jury while the jury was deliberating, party objections that were being entered into the record while the jury was outside the courtroom in the hallway waiting to be allowed in to announce its verdicts.
The defendant’s sentencing hearing is now scheduled for January 10, 2024 at 9 o’clock in the morning in Department B of the Ukiah Courthouse.
* * *
DANGERS IN UKIAH’S WESTERN HILLS
To the Editor:
In my opinion the Western Hill subdivision has become a financial burden that cannot be carried in the current economic and climatic conditions. Many residents are having difficulties with, if not impossible to pay, fire insurance rates. Or having cancelations. How can a subdivision be built in an isolated hill area, with no fire station nearby? And the obligations, in the deal when property was donated, means the donation came with financial obligation, from the taxpayers, to fund roads, utility infrastructure to a future isolated subdivision? The consultant survey is online for anyone to read.
Most developers build where infrastructure is in close proximity because of costs. And most cities ask the developers to bear the burden of that huge cost. There was a total denial of this area becoming drug grows in the beginning. But now, a default of drug activity grows if a subdivision does not go through. Is that being put out publicly? So the developer made access and now says grows may develop because the subdivision doesn’t go in?
I please ask the pretense that trails are the reason for this plan. If it was just trails. Trails can exist without houses, in fact they usually do. It’s about a high end subdivision or now possible pot grow parcels. Using Western Hill wilderness water, resources. I guess this is supposed to be progress.
But if progress means populating the Western Hills with drug grows or high end uninsurable homes for only a few, I vote No. Best to use money to help struggling taxpayers and citizens, with fire abatement, and good roads (besides just downtown).
In the current economic environment, why is the city council focused on a high end very small subdivision, instead of the entire city’s population and the government work force. These citizens are just trying to survive insurance costs of fire abatement, policies and inflation. Some are sinking into unsustainable circumstances and adjusting without any acknowledging from the city council about all the Ukiah valley’s taxpayers’ current issues. Government is supposed to exist for all the people. Dreams and progress are not a bad thing. But on the backs of all for just a few possible luxury homes, isn’t financially responsible, especially in the current economic climate, and dry forest environments, in my opinion.
Catherine Lair, Ukiah
MODERATING THE COAST CHATLINE
by David Gurney
Since June of this year, the Mendocino Unified School District (MUSD) has been preoccupied at their meetings by the issue of cyberbullying and Listserv moderation. It should be made clear from the start – we are not talking about content moderation in any way, shape, or form. What we are talking about is moderation to limit hate speech, threats, false and malicious personal attacks, doxing or the advocation of illegal and felonious criminal activity. All these things and more have been happening on a regular basis on the MCN Discussion List over the last 4+ years to the present, sometimes even spilling over onto the much-revered MCN Announce List. (The Discussion List, as of last summer, had 533 subscribers, the Announce List 2488.)
Two important things were revealed at Thursday’s meeting. First, Jason Morse, Superintendent of the MUSD, said the person who had offered, and was being seriously considered to take over the Lists (thus allowing for private moderation without fear of litigation) had backed out, stating that he feared for his own personal safety to act as moderator, based on some of the posts he’s seen. (On a personal note, it’s almost hilarious to see that someone is afraid to moderate the Lists for their own personal safety, as opposed to someone who’s actually been the target of these despicable lies, libel, false accusations, doxing and threats. Think for a minute how I must feel.)
The issue for MCN and MUSD has for years been the fear of getting sued for First Amendment violations if they, as a public entity, moderate the Lists in any way. This included both content moderation, and the possible banning or suspension of individuals who break some simple, well laid out rules of behavior as listed above.
But the second important thing revealed at Thursday’s School Board meeting is that, according to Superintendent Jason Morse, MUSD’s legal counsel has in the interim concluded that MCN can indeed moderate their lists, to prohibit hate speech and presumably all the other things mentioned above. It’s unclear why the MUSD Board will not act accordingly with this new legal opinion in mind.
In an ironic twist on the subject of moderation and feared litigation, I witnessed at this meeting something I’ve never seen before, and hope to never see again. In an effort to “moderate” public comment on this issue, Board President Michael Schaeffer took and carried a motion on a course of action BEFORE the public had a chance to speak. Fortunately, he did not take a vote, or he would have put MUSD in serious legal jeopardy for direct violation of the Brown Act. Schaeffer’s intention was to limit free speech, and direct public comment only to his premature motion and second. An attempt to “moderate” public comment if you will. Of course, this shady violation of the Brown Act failed.
The Brown Act is the local government version of the Bagley Keene Open Meetings Act, which governs California’s state-level meetings of government bodies. The Brown Act covers County level meetings, such as the Board of Supervisors, School Boards, City Councils and other County level Boards, Commissions, Councils and Department meetings, and states:
“The Brown Act requires that the public have an opportunity to address every item before it is acted on by the Council (Board, etc.)”
“You cannot suppress someone’s speech merely because you do not like what they are saying; if you do, you violate the First Amendment, and potentially put your agency, and yourselves personally, at risk of liability for damages under the federal civil rights statute, section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code.”
It is ironic that MCN and the Board cannot do a simple thing like reasonably and duly moderate their lists, but had no problem attempting to moderate public comment at their board meeting. Putting public comment after-the-fact in making a motion or decision is to essentially negate any and all influence, suggestions and input by the public in the decision-making process. To have any meaning at all, public comment must take place before the Board makes any motion or decision, otherwise the public is a mere footnote, a meaningless spectator. What took place was disgraceful, and a possible violation of the Brown Act, which states:
“The Brown Act requires that the public have an opportunity to address every item before it is acted on by the Council.”
“You cannot suppress someone’s speech merely because you do not like what they are saying; if you do, you violate the First Amendment, and potentially put your agency, and yourselves personally, at risk of liability for damages under the federal civil rights statute, section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code.”
Thus, the attempt to limit and direct public comment and abrogate any meaningful contribution by the public was a potential violation of both the Brown Act and the First Amendment - not to mention common sense.
In conclusion, I can only hope that The MUSD School Board and MCN will act on the recent findings by their legal counsel, that they can indeed moderate their lists, not for content, but to ban individuals who violate certain basic rules of common decency as listed in a revised “Terms of Service.” MCN could easily set up a “flagging” system, where posts that are flagged could be reviewed by a moderation committee of two or three. The violator could be warned once, and then banned or suspended for repeated violations of these basic terms of civility and human decency. This system of moderation would require a minimal amount of time – no doubt far less time than has been spent arguing about this issue.
Finally, it should be reiterated that no content whatsoever would be moderated. You can argue on the Lists that Covid-19 is a government plot by the same people who shot Kennedy and choreographed 9/11, that the Earth is flat and we didn’t land on the Moon - just no threats, no malicious personal attacks, no doxing, etc.
In my last two letters I may have been a bit off-putting to some readers. I want to apologize. That's not who I really am. I suffer from severe mental illness and yes, sometimes I let my emotions get the better of me. Does that make me a bad person? No! Does it mean that all I know how to do is treat people badly? No! I simply let my emotions get out of control.
I have been through a lot of hard times in my life. For example, I come from an abusive family where my stepdad beat me and abused me mentally for years. Not to mention I was lost and confused as a child because my biological father left me home one day for his deployment and never came home. I found out years later when I was 17 that he died 16 months after he deployed and the military had lost his records. My mother died when I was 16. So she never was informed of such information.
Anyway, I may have said some hateful and hurtful things in my last letter and I realized that shortly after I mailed it in. Just because of that it doesn't mean I'm like that all the time. I just lost my temper with Mr. Dorner.
Not to mention that I'm not on my proper medication just yet. The doctors in this jail are still adjusting them accordingly. But as with everything in jail it takes time. We only get to see the psychological doctor once a month, and sometimes it takes two months. So far I have been waiting six weeks to get my medications adjusted. Not only am I trying to get my psychiatric meds adjusted, I've been trying since I got here to get my suboxone which is a medicine to get off opiates, specifically heroin or fentanyl, both of which I am addicted to. That needs to be adjusted just so I can quit going through the withdrawal symptoms I'm experiencing.
I apologize again for my outbursts. I hope all readers of this paper forgive me. As for Mr. Dorner, I would kindly ask for you to keep your comments to yourself this time. I'm trying to change my life. So please leave me alone and let me do so and I will do the same to you and your daughter.
Mendocino County Jail
NICK DARGAHI REMEMBERS TUMBLING McD
I attended Tumbling McD as a camper from 1972 to 1976, and would stay the entire 6 weeks (e.g., 3 two week sessions back to back). I remember the head counselors Karen and Kevin, and some of the others (Danny?). Kevin saved a kid once, it happened in a flash of a second that a horse decided to roll with the kid in the saddle, and within a fraction of a second he was kicking that horse, and biting his ear to get him back on his feet. Fortunately, the kid was not hurt, but I remember being amazed that Kevin was so observant and protective over his little charges, and sprung into action from his horse nearby like a super hero. He saved that kid’s life that day.
I had a horse named Blue, who was given to me solely because I developed good ridership skills, and she was spooky and had a tendency to scare kids who were assigned to her. I loved Blue, and always asked for her, because she and I had a rapport. Whenever her ears went back, I knew she was signaling that she was about to do something, like back into a branch or tree, or dart sideways, or worse, kick the horse behind. She couldn’t help being bad from time to time, but she never intentionally hurt me, it was always because of something that scared her or made her skittish. She grew to like me, and we got along great each summer.
Loved the overnight ride to the river campground, where we had the most delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and fried potatoes ever!
I remember Archie inviting us to swim at the pool in the afternoons, he was by then quite old, but had a tall TV antenna installed, I don’t think he had great reception, it was hit or miss, and it seemed like he was disappointed when some of his favorite shows were washed out in static. He also would come up to attend the campfire singalongs from time to time, and for the weekly square dances, and of course the end of session horse shows. I think he loved seeing all the young kids enjoying themselves, like a grandpa would his own grandkids. It was like family there, and we were treated as such.
One of the highlights of the session would be an overnighter to a dark and lonely campground way up the mountain where Kevin would recount his story about Big Foot. One of the counselors would hide in the woods, and then make a sudden appearance as Big Foot, to scare all the campers. It got to be a yearly tradition, so nobody was really fooled, but it was fun!
I didn’t’ know it then, but there was a music camp that I also was to attend in later years at El Ranch Navarro, across the river from Tumbling McD. The Berkeley Youth Orchestra had rented out the place for a retreat, and I remember as a cello participant who was playing Kol Nidre by Max Bruch, that I was right next door to my old summer camp!
I wonder if the old picnic tables are still there at Tumbling McDee where we all carved our names into the wood? That would be a blast from the past to remember all the campers who attended over the years!
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, November 19, 2023
DIEGO BERMUDEZ III, Pacifica/Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol&drugs.
JACOB BRATCHER, Olivehurst/Ukiah. Domestic battery, arson of inhabited structure, vandalism.
WILLIAM CARDIN III, Boonville. No registration, suspended license.
JACOB GARZA, Willits. DUI, reckless driving, no license.
SHAYLA GUERRERO, Ukiah. Domestic abuse.
BRADY KELLOGG, Sebastopol/Piercy. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MICHAEL PATEREAU JR., Covelo. Suspended license for DUI.
SEBASTIAN RABANO, Willits. Parole violation.
AARON STILL, Fort Bragg. Paraphernalia, county parole violation.
CESLEY WILLIAMS, Ukiah. Contempt of court.
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
I was in the driveway yesterday, enjoying the last of the warm fall weather, doing a little project working off the tailgate of my truck when I heard the door to the house open and my wife enter the garage. I was thinking uh oh, what now? I could hear her moving stuff around & I could see her gathering cans of WD40, which she threw into the trash. What the hell are you doing? “Why do you need so many of these? This garage needs to be cleared out!” I didn’t argue, just fetched the cans after she went in.
THANKSGIVING: HELPING THOSE IN NEED
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
“Alright then,” announced Mr. Bumpers. “It’s decided. We’ll open the house to those less fortunate, like homeless-type people guests, right? All in?”
Nods of agreement around the table. “It’s great,” said Tallulah, the eldest daughter. “I mean, we have so much. And who wants to spend another Thanksgiving with Uncle Wheezer?”
“Oh Lord,” said Millie the mom. “No thanks. Loads a bong and starts his yawner about how we stole the land and owe it all back and it was utopia ’til we got here. Anyone off the railroad tracks is a better bet.”
And so it went. Barley shrugged, and secretly thought it would be really cool to have some homeless guy get a nice turkey dinner and talk about being outside all the time, getting to camp out and have your own dog.
The next day Mr. (Bob) Bumpers and Millie went over to the Building Bridges roosting spot on South State and, though they had talked about having a selection process, it wound up being haphazard, and five random souls were invited to Thanksgiving dinner at their house on Glenn Eriksen Drive.
“Come over whenever you want,” beamed Bob. “Mi casa is su casa too!” Millie smiled weakly. “Dinner 3 o’clock? I hope.”
And so it was that Thanksgiving Day 2023 began with a tentative knock on the Bumpers’ family door a little past 7 a.m. Mister Bob groaned and yawned and stretched and ran his hand though his hair and opened the front door where stood a cheerful bearded man with a dog on a rope.
In he came, excuses were exchanged, promises of coffee and maybe some eggs and have a seat anywhere you want let me go get organized a little, and the day was underway. Looper and his dog Parvo got comfy on a couch.
Bob was uncertain how the day might turn out, and in fact suddenly had misgivings. Well, he thought, what’s the worst that could happen?
Between passing potatoes and declining yams, by 4 o’clock the guests began talking about being homeless and how they got there.
LOOPER dropped out of college in the 1970s to “bum around” the country. He hopped freights, hitchhiked, stayed at communes. “But homeless is a much better life, a more evolved situation,” he said.
“People think these camps are full of dangerous bums? Try a commune run by a bully who says he’s a guru. Communes are gone, so the best alternatives are camps,” he said. “There are home-free free souls wherever I go.”
BORIS, a former Ukrainian with no appetite for fighting against his relatives in Russia, arrived in the USA a year or so ago. He was still awaiting clearance at customs but instead changed his name from Ivan and left. “Not perfect here my life, but better than wars, yes? And guns?”
PARIS left Beverly Hills six months ago. Tired of the boring people, vacuous conversations and zero purpose in her superficial life, she went to the LA Greyhound depot with a $3200 backpack and matching sleeping bag ($4400) that she had carefully smudged up. “I wanted something more real. I found it amongst honest people with beautiful dreams,” she said.
PIERRE explained he was an anthropologist criss-crossing the country, homeless everywhere, while studying the curious behavior of both the “unhoused” and the advocates who made money working on their behalf to make certain they remained unhoused so that paychecks would continue to flow to the advocates.
SUNBURST said she was a longtime drug addict and believed there was no better place on earth to obtain pharmaceuticals and other medications. Also, she said, she liked the medical care and detox options at homeless shelters.
SLOTMAN had been a reporter at the Cleveland Press; when the newspaper died he experimented with drinking, then depression, and now had a contract for a book called “Homeless: America’s Planned Crisis.” All he needed was a photographer, but who wants to roam camps snapping pictures?
The feast disbanded around 8 o’clock. Mr. B and Trixie, feeling both exhausted and energized at their successful contribution to Making the World a Better Place, trundled off to bed. They congratulated one another; “The Worst that Could Happen” didn’t. They slept well.
Friday morning Mr. B lumbered downstairs feeling pretty dang good over the successful Thanksgiving feast. He hit the “On” button, the machine burbled, and he noticed a yellow sticky note on his coffee cup.
“Dear Mom & Dad,” it said. “I decided to use the camera you bought me for my birthday and accompany Slotman around the country helping him with his book. It’s all good. Luv ya both!” Hugo.”
Bob Bumpers, startled, looked up to see another note on the counter. “Don’t want you to worry but I’ll be going to North Dakota with Sunburst to meet her family and help her get into a program. At last my life has purpose!” It was from eldest daughter Talluhla.
Taped to the fridge, a note from Barley: “Pierre can get me a scholarship, full ride!—in anthropology at the Institute of Toodle in Australia if I help him in his anthropological studies. I’ll be in touch.”
Another, from Weegee the youngest: “I’m so happy! Paris gave me keys to her house in Beverly Hills! I audition at her uncle’s talent agency Friday!”
And crumpled on the floor, a wadded up note: “Help Boris taking hostage me Russia Help!”
Then Millie came down for breakfast. She and Bob then talked about whether or not the worst that could happen, did.
HER CAR WAS STOLEN IN S.F. The Ordeal Led To A ‘Ridiculous’ Journey Over A Parking Ticket
by St.John Barned-Smith
It would have been easier, Krista Klein understands now, to just pay the fine.
But months after a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency meter attendant dropped a parking ticket on the windshield of her Jeep after it had been stolen, her repeated attempts to get the citation dismissed became a fight on principle — a crusade against San Francisco’s grinding bureaucracy.
Klein bounced between the SFMTA and San Francisco Police Department for nine months, making phone calls and sending emails. The MTA told her they needed a police report, but she could not get the police to turn it over. Meanwhile, the fine climbed from $87 to $218 and Klein felt as though no one cared that this had all begun with a crime committed against her.
“It’s so ridiculous. All this hassle for this car, that is barely worth anything,” she said. “I do not understand why SFPD and SFMTA can’t connect. I’ve spent so many hours on this ridiculous citation. … I can’t believe it’s so difficult.”
After the Chronicle inquired with the Police Department and the Transportation Agency about Klein’s predicament on Tuesday, city officials worked together and dismissed her ticket.
An MTA spokesperson, Erica Kato, told the Chronicle that Klein had failed to provide sufficient information to the agency in a timely fashion despite multiple notices, and called it “an extremely rare case” where a customer “apparently could not obtain a police report from the SFPD.” A police spokesperson, Evan Sernoffsky, said the department worked quickly with MTA to resolve the case after being alerted to it.
But Klein’s bureaucratic nightmare highlights the lack of coordination and communication between the two city agencies — a situation underscored in a Chronicle story last month detailing how the city issues tickets to the owners of stolen cars.
San Francisco police had logged 5,890 car thefts from Jan. 1 to Nov. 12, a 7.5% increase from last year. Many stolen cars in the city get ticketed for parking violations, because the MTA doesn’t check to see if the vehicles they are ticketing are stolen. The Chronicle’s story prompted Mayor London Breed to order the MTA to figure out a way to stop ticketing stolen cars and instead identify stolen vehicles and alert police.
It’s still unclear how the departments plan to do that, however, and the MTA has not made anyone available to discuss the matter.
For Klein, the problems began when she woke up Feb. 13 to find that her aging Jeep Grand Cherokee had vanished from outside her Glen Park home. She immediately filed a police report.
The car wasn’t worth much since it was 23 years old, but Klein’s 17-year-old son used it. Her ex-husband spent days driving across the city in search of the vehicle. He flagged down a police officer to ask him to check if the car had gotten ticketed. Sure enough, two days after Klein reported the vehicle stolen, an MTA parking control officer had ticketed the car for street-cleaning violations on Dorman Avenue in Bernal Heights.
Her ex-husband drove to the neighborhood, hoping to find it. He didn’t that day, but when he returned on Feb. 18, there it was — with a woman inside. He called police, who showed up and arrested the woman, identified as 33-year-old Traci Rogers. Officers released the car to him.
Klein spent more than $1,000 cleaning and repairing the car, she said, which was full of burglary tools, laptops, trackers and other tools. Police told her she could keep the stolen property or throw it away, she said.
Rogers now faces one felony count of unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle, District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Randy Quezada said. Valerie Ibarra, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, confirmed her office is representing Rogers, but did not provide additional comment.
Weeks after recovering her car, Klein received a citation from the city for $87. She protested the fine and, on April 8, received a letter from MTA asking her to submit a copy of her police report.
Two weeks after receiving the MTA’s letter, Klein sent a photo of the follow-up slip a police officer had given her after she reported the car stolen. An MTA employee emailed back two days later to inform her that the slip wasn’t sufficient — she had to get the full report from SFPD. By that point, the fine had risen $38, to $125.
She sent an email to SFPD and SFMTA on July 6, asking for a copy of the police report related to her car’s theft.
“I have the original report filed on 2/13/23 when we reported it missing, but not the full report showing that it was found and returned to us the following weekend, on 2/18/23,” she wrote.
“I keep getting asked to pay a parking ticket issued to that vehicle on 2/15/23, when it was not in our custody,” she said. SFPD told her they would send her the report within 10 days, “if good cause exists.”
She thought it would take a day or two to get the report. But a week passed, then another. On Aug. 19, she emailed again, noting that the case was still listed as “under additional review.”
“I requested this police report more than a month ago,” she wrote. “I need this report asap, because my car was stolen and received a parking ticket from the SFMTA before it was recovered. … Can you help me?”
The delay had caused the fine to rise an additional $53, MTA records show. An SFPD employee emailed back Aug. 22, saying they’d sent a note to see if they could get the report approved. Six days later, MTA added another $40 “special collections fee” to Klein’s citation. Frustration rising, she emailed MTA in October.
“I am still (since February!) dealing with a situation where I received a parking ticket two days after our car … was stolen and not in our custody,” she said. “You have told me in the past (I submitted a protest with all the original documentation from the stolen car) that I need the full police report to prove the car wasn’t in my custody in order for you to forgive the citation. I requested it long, long ago and sent numerous emails to the SFPD about the report, which is still pending (see screenshot below — ‘under additional review’).”
“I do not deserve to have this ticket on my record and would like this resolved asap,” she continued.
When she called MTA, the agency told her that the opportunity to appeal any fine had expired. There was nothing it could do.
In November, police responded to another of her emails. They apologized for any inconvenience, but said the department was still waiting for the report to be approved. If she had questions, she could call the Burglary Division.
Kato, the MTA spokesperson, said Klein’s past correspondence hadn’t included information that would indicate vehicle, plate, date of incident or other information that would allow the SFMTA to confirm the vehicle was stolen. She also said Klein had failed to respond to notices sent in June, July and August.
Klein provided a number of emails to the Chronicle showing efforts to retrieve the required report from SFPD and to resolve the case with the MTA. She sent one email in April to the MTA with her case number. She also sent one email to SFPD — and the MTA — on July 6 with her police report number, license plate number and citation number. And on Oct. 25, she sent the MTA another email with her plate number and a screenshot of her report request listed “under additional review.”
Klein said that had she known how much aggravation the situation would entail, she probably would have just paid the fine. But she was invested. Principles were at stake. And the theft already cost her enough money repairing and cleaning the car. Most importantly, she didn’t do anything wrong.
“It’s such bulls—, it’s so ridiculous,” Klein said. “It’s just crazy after a while.”
In response to the Chronicle’s questions, Sernoffsky, the SFPD spokesperson, sent a statement saying the department “always seeks to respond and provide police reports to victims of crime as quickly as possible.”
“After being made aware of this case, we worked with the MTA to provide the information required so they could immediately dismiss the citation,” he said. “We understand that vehicle theft cases can be very disruptive for people. The SFPD is prioritizing these types of cases and using new approaches to deter criminals and solve cases.”
THE FOX & THE LEAFHOPPERS
by Paul Modic
Is it time to confess environmental crimes against nature?
I had decided to expand my pot patch into a new area in the back forty, a cute trick on just one acre, no doubt. I roamed across a grassy field wielding my loppers, creating spots along and behind clumps of bushes. As I got closer to the sunniest spot, a sizable copse of scotch broom and coyote brush on the edge of the field (the former invasive and the latter native), I heard a fox screeching.
Each day as I flattened the ground on the edge of the field with my pickaxe (the tool that made Humboldt famous) I heard its plaintive screams, or maybe it was just normal fox talk, but it seemed distressed. I didn't fucking care, I kept working and by the time I arrived to the sunniest location the screeching had stopped.
I am an artist, or was an artist. I was a camo artist with my loppers and pickaxe.
It was a very sensitive visual zone perched on the hillside just above the river and below our private dirt road, then up the hill was the county road. All of these points of view had to be taken into account including human activity on the river and the houses across it. The reality was that probably no one noticed or cared but I was careful to leave just enough vegetation so the plants were nearly invisible from those vantage points.
One exposure I didn't worry about were a couple turnouts up the steep cliff a quarter mile away on Highway 101. (Not “The” 101, I'm not from freaking LA.) From up there you could look directly down into the garden, an obvious bright green flag waving next to the yellow field, where I had artfully carved out spots for the plants. (I often thought about stopping at one of those turnouts to have a look myself, take a picture or ten, but never did.)
You might say that the fox got a modicum of revenge for being unceremoniously pressured out of its natural habitat and forced to find a new home for its family. (If I had still been any kind of a hippie I would've had a ceremony, but that ethos had long been subsumed by the quest for the Yanqui dollar.)
As to the fox's alleged revenge, that area became a horticultural disaster. Some bugs, virus, or unknown pests were killing the plants methodically. First the leaves curled, then one branch turned brown, followed by all the others until the whole plant became this disheartening brown skeleton. What was the problem?
Leafhoppers! Leafhoppers? They were hopping all over those green then dying plants and my research showed that they do indeed suck the moisture out of and kill plants. Have you ever looked at a photo of the head of a leafhopper magnified multiple times? It's a monster! (Note to Hollywood: “Attack of the Giant Leafhoppers!”)
What to do? I sprayed with Safer Soap but that didn't get any results. Someone said try diatomaceous earth and I went out there and dropped a handful on top of the plants and shook. Both the plant and I were covered in heavy white dust. This was too messy and I got one of those mechanical applicators that spray it on but that didn't work either. Late in the growing season I replaced a few dead plants and the new ones survived and thrived. Hmm, I had an idea.
The next year I grew up the starts three feet tall in three gallon containers, in preparation for hauling them an hour out to my cabin on the cliffs of Mendocino. In early June I crawled in the back of my pickup with black plastic bags and grey tape to cover the windows. (The metal bed was painful on the knees so I put down sheets of cardboard, problem solved.) I loaded the plants on their sides double stacked and secured with multiple bungie cords, some up against the cab and the rest up against the tailgate.
When I got out there I transplanted them into five gallon containers and grew them up on the big sunny deck, sometimes foggy and definitely pest-free. (I was going out there anyway twice a week to water my coastal garden, ie fog weed. When I moved twenty miles inland I finally realized what Humboldt weed was all about: solid and pungent sparkly buds.)
Toward the end of July I hauled the robust bushy plants back to town, hiked with them two at a time out to the fox's former home, then transplanted them into the waiting 65-gallon-containers in that sunny zone above the river. They all thrived and a healthy crop was harvested in the fall.
My neighbor always doubted my leafhopper diagnosis, on those many occasions when we bored each other with shop talk. Maybe it was rats nibbling at the base of the plant, instigating the death spiral of leaf curl, brown branches, and dead plants?
A couple years later I spotted a fox bouncing toward me down the driveway with a big rat in its mouth and it made me wonder: Did my thoughtless displacement of the fox and her family disrupt the balance of nature when I claimed the area, and then the rats took over with no fox left to control them?
Maybe, but I'm still blaming the leafhoppers.
49ERS PUT BUCCANEERS AWAY, BUT STILL NEED TO RETIRE THEIR FRONTRUNNER REP
by Ann Killion
The San Francisco 49ers’ motto for the 2023 season might be “get in your seats early.” Because the outcome of the game might pretty much be determined before you get settled.
On Sunday, the 49ers jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their second possession of the game. That was a good omen for how the day would go, because, coming into the game, when the 49ers had scored first they had already won six of seven games this season, mostly in dominant fashion.
Make that seven of eight victories now when they’ve scored first. Despite some big plays from the Buccaneers in the fourth quarter, the 49ers went on to defeat Tampa Bay 27-14.
The 49ers are the ultimate frontrunners. Give them an early lead and they almost always emerge with a win.
But Sunday’s result was not a great omen for what lies ahead. Because the 49ers still haven’t proven they can come from behind and win. They still haven’t shown that they can win the “grimy games,” as Fred Warner stressed after the loss in Minnesota.
And there is a lot of potential grime lurking in the coming weeks.
The 49ers will play Seattle twice in the next three weeks and nothing has been as grimy for the 49ers over the years as their battles with the Seahawks. They go to the grimiest place in the NFL, Philadelphia, on Dec. 3. On Christmas Day, they host the Baltimore Ravens, whose play has been absolutely filthy this season — and that’s a compliment.
So, yes, there are still important things we don’t know about the 7-3 49ers. Mostly having to do with how they respond when things get mucky and yucky. What happens when they don’t build themselves a nice lead.
But what we learned on Sunday is that, once again, when the 49ers are good they are very good. The home game against Tampa Bay was a potential trap game, coming before the difficult stretch begins. But the 49ers, having suffered a midseason slump with three straight losses going into their bye, learned the hard way not to take any opponent for granted, to sidestep traps.
On their first scoring drive, the 49ers chewed seven minutes off the clock and finished with a touchdown by Christian McCaffrey, giving him the start of a new scoring streak. McCaffrey has now scored at least one touchdown in 18 of the 49ers’ past 19 games.
The 49ers seemed to put the game away in the third quarter, scoring on their first possession in just three plays, on a 76-yard pass play from Purdy to Brandon Aiyuk. On their next possession, Purdy led the team more methodically downfield, finding George Kittle in the end zone for a 27-7 lead. Though the Bucs scored early in the fourth quarter and threatened twice more, the game never slipped over into the grimy category.
Purdy was terrific, becoming the first 49ers QB not named Joe Montana or Steve Young to score a perfect passer rating in a game, an equally perfect bookend to his wild year. He got his first start against Tampa Bay on Dec. 11, 2022, having come into the game the week before against Miami when Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.
“Going into that game, everyone’s eyes were on me,” Purdy said last week. “Like, how’s this rookie going to handle it? It’s one thing to get thrown into a game and not all the pressure is on you. … But now you got a week to prepare and it’s like, all right, let’s see what you can do with it. There definitely were some expectations and pressures.”
Purdy rose to the occasion last year. He beat Tom Brady’s Buccaneers 35-7 and suddenly Mr. Irrelevant was incredibly relevant. He also broke a rib and strained his oblique in that game and was — just like this year — facing a quick turnaround with a game in Seattle just four days later.
We know the rest of the story. Purdy played the next game despite the injuries, won all five of his regular season starts plus two playoff starts and made it to the NFC Championship Game, where he suffered an elbow injury on the sixth offensive play. But by that time he had secured the starting job. The 49ers had their new quarterback.
It all started with Tampa Bay.
“It was a huge game for myself, my confidence,” Purdy said. “It’s sort of fun to see where I was as a backup, trying to make my way in the NFL and then sort of making a name for myself. It’s a good memory, for sure.”
For most of his whirlwind year as a starter, Purdy has had a winning formula: score early, rely on the defense to smother the opposition and front run all the way to the finish line. It’s a great formula but the NFL isn’t that easy every week.
There is definitely going to be some grime ahead. How will the 49ers handle the dirt?
ROSALYNN CARTER, the wife of former president James ‘Jimmy’ Earl Carter Jr, has died at the age of 96.
Mrs. Carter was moved into hospice care in Georgia two days ago. The longest-married couple in U.S. presidential history, Jimmy and Rosalynn celebrated their 77nd wedding anniversary on July 7, 2023.
GAZA V. UKIAH
To the Editor:
The other day I found myself lying on a hospital examination table in a spotless, perfectly illuminated room. A nurse and a med tech each asked me my name and date of birth, which hadn’t changed since admission half an hour previous. They asked me to initial an insurance form. They also asked me what music I’d like to hear. They expertly prepped me to the tune of Mozart’s “Voi che sapete.”
As I looked around the immaculate hospital room I thought “If we were in Gaza we’d all be dead by now.” Even the angry, vengeful God of Deuteronomy would by now be satisfied.
Stop the slaughter NOW.
IS CAPITALISM EVER COMPATIBLE WITH DEMOCRACY? John Maynard Keynes, arguably the twentieth century's most important economist, believed so. Keynes hoped to marry the productivity of the market to the politics of liberal democracy. The key, he felt, wasn’t for capitalism to be unleashed or abolished but for it to be “wisely managed,” so that the unruly market could be led to serve a broad public.
Led, that is, if politicians could keep hold of the tether. Keynes worried that if capital slipped its leash, it might wreck the welfare state. The wealthy, “constantly taking fright because they think that the degree of leftism in one country looks for the time being likely to be greater than somewhere else,” would send their fortunes scurrying around the map. Mobile wealth wouldn’t just deprive interventionist states of tax revenue; it would destabilize the world economy. To tie global finance down, Keynes sought to regulate it and set stable exchange rates. Such controls, he hoped, would prevent currency trading and long-distance speculation.
— Daniel Immerwahr
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
Sorry Bruce, but even stretching it a bit, your response to the reader (Off the Record, Nov.15) who inquired why the media never publishes maps that illustrate the "ethnic cleansing" of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homeland and destruction of 500 Palestinian villages by European Jews who arrived there before World War One--already planning to "transfer" the Palestinians across the borders--does not past muster, in particular, as to why the US supports Israel and what Oslo was all about.
I really can't believe that you believe your assumption that anyone in the US government cares one whit whether Israel has a democratic government there or a democracy anywhere else. Clearly, if Trump, his supporters and his Supreme Court appointments have demonstrated nothing else, it is that our "democracy" is a cruel hoax. Hell, there is nothing in our Constitution that even guarantees all Americans the right to vote.
There is one primary reason for US support for Israel, with nothing else remotely close. It was expressed back in 2011 by the New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, no shrinking violet, whose Zionist credentials are impeccable, after watching a joint session of Congress give Israeli PM Netanyahu 29 standing ovations, three days after he had dressed down Obama as if he was an errant schoolboy. "The US Congress," wrote Friedman, "is bought and paid for by the Israel Lobby," what Rep. Ilhan Omar would later face fire for by referring to those payments as "the Benjamins." Other than their annual feeding of the weapons manufacturers, support for the billions for Israel each years is the one issue that finds a Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer walking arm and arm with, let's say Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton.
You really blew it with your description of Oslo and Arafat. Although in his early years he earned a reputation as fierce freedom fighter, by 1973, he had made contacts with the CIA and Henry Kissinger and made no secret of his desire to sit in Washington's lap. The Oslo agreement came along at a time when Arafat's reputation had sunken lower than ever before and it was essential for Israel and Washington that he main his position, just like both countries have supported his successor, the collaborator Abbas, afraid what will happen if the PA falls apart.
As for the Oslo agreement itself, there as nothing in it that point to a two state "solution, nothing in it for the Palestinian people other than being ruled by a tin-horn Arab dictator who literally swooned when Shimon Peres referred to him as "Rais," or president. But what Arafat did was commit the worst betrayal by the leader of an oppressed people's struggle (that frequently comes after victory) when he legitimized Israel's presence in 60& of the West Bank (Area C), arguably a violation of international law and agreed that the new PA militia that would be trained by the CIA, would prevent any further resistance to Israel occupation. At the same time, Rabin made no commitment to curtail Israeli settlements and they kept on growing even after the applause for their Nobel Prize had long died out. Not one single Palestinian intellectual supported the agreement and none have since. On the day Oslo was announced, I was at a meeting in San Francisco with a number of Palestinians and the famed Egyptian poet, Nawal al-Sadawi, and she announced that "Arafat has just become Israel's sheriff." Everyone nodded.
Arafat, to be sure, did not come away empty handed. Every month, Israel deposited $8 million USD into his private bank account. It was not for his personal enrichment but to pay the salaries of the FOURTEEN separate "intelligence" agencies under his command that were functioning in the West Bank and Gaza. It so happened that Natan Shransky, a celebrated Russian immigrant who had written a book on democracy which had appealed to George W Bush, and was an Israeli cabinet minister, complained to his fellow cabinet ministers that Arafat was running an "undemocratic Palestinian Authority," and putting aside the irony of the allegation, no truer statement could have been made.
About that time an editorial appeared in Fatah's English Language weekly, Al-Fajr, which called for readers to report instances of PLO corruption, and Arafat promptly closed the paper (just after I renewed my subscription and it never reappeared.) When the great Palestinian historian and member of the Palestinian National Council, Edward Said, apologizing for not having spoken before, condemned Arafat and the PLO corruption, Arafat immediately banned all his books and writings from being sold in the West Bank and Gaza and he was allowed to get away with it, as most Palestinians in Palestine as well as the diaspora, I suspect, are ignorant of that any of what I have written here on Arafat.
Three last points: As ugly as was Hamas' attack on October 7, it was not nearly as deadly as the massacre of an estimated 2000 to 3000 defenseless Palestinians. mostly women and children in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila on the outskirts of Beirut in September 1982. Over a day and half, under the orders of Israel's Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, the Lebanese Falangist Forces turned the camps into a killing field while Israeli soldiers stood guard, preventing Palestinians from either leaving or entering the camps, feeding the Lebanese killers, firing flares during the night so the killing could continue and providing bulldozers to bury the bodies. The reason those in the camps were defenseless was that under an agreement, negotiated by the US and UN with Sharon, all of the Palestinian fighters, led by Arafat, who had resisted Israel's vaunted military during a 76 day siege of Beirut, agreed to evacuate the city by boat for Tunis.
News of the massacre drew 400,000 Israelis into the streets of Tel Aviv demanding the firing of Sharon. After a hearing by a commission set up to investigate the massacre, Sharon was forced to step down as Defense Minister. But the Israelis are a forgiving people, at least of their fellow Israelis. In 2001, 19 years later, he would be elected to two terms as Israel's Prime Minister whose actions would provoke the Second Intifada.
Finally, Israel has no right to exist. No state, in fact does. The idea that the PLO would have to recognize Israel's right to exist was the brainchild of Henry Kissinger which Washington used as a prerequisite for talking with the PLO. Rather, I would argue, the expulsion of the Palestinians and the establishment of Israel on their depopulated land, just two years after the liberation of Auschwitz, was the first war crime of the post war era. And that is the context that must not be ignored when discussing Gaza.
Jeff Blankfort, Ukiah
ED REPLY: Like most Americans, I know more about the NFL than I do the IDF, so I'll defer to your vastly superior knowledge on this harrowing subject, and thank you for correcting my flawed understanding.
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 19TH NOVEMBER
When was the last time you saw a live television news report from Ukraine? It’s likely been a while.
The raging war in the Middle East has put the prolonged war in Eastern Europe largely on the back burner, in terms of media coverage, with Vladimir Putin’s campaign of brutality against Ukraine receiving much less attention from the press than it did prior to the Israel-Hamas conflict breaking out.
Closed-captioning data from the Internet Television Archive, which was analyzed by the GDELT Project, showed that on cable news, coverage of the Ukraine war plummeted dramatically after Hamas’ shocking Oct. 7 terror attack. In the days before the Israel-Hamas war, the battle in Ukraine amounted to about eight percent of CNN’s television coverage. After the attacks, CNN —the cable news network that provided the most Ukraine coverage — fell to under one percent.
As the chaos to elect a new House speaker ensnared Washington, there was a notable uptick in mentions of Ukraine on cable news networks — but the focus of the coverage mostly pertained to U.S. funding of the embattled nation, not the actual state of play in the war.
Data provided by ComScore, an Internet analytics firm, showed a similar trend play out online. The data indicated that there has been a significant drop in discussion on social media about the Ukraine war since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict, though it also indicated that in general, there had been a lull in attention to Putin’s invasion in recent months.
The noted drop in Ukraine war coverage from the press, given the fresh violence in the Middle East, is not completely surprising. The horrific acts of violence Hamas carried out in Israel has shocked the world, arresting the attention of those who normally pay little regard to global affairs. U.S. outlets have also been juggling several other important stories in the last several weeks, including disarray in Congress, Donald Trump’s legal issues and a monstrous mass shooting in Maine.
But, at the same time, the drop in attention paid to Ukraine has been nothing short of a boon for Putin. The authoritarian Russian leader, who has committed unspeakable atrocities as his forces invade a sovereign nation, has been able to wage his war with far less scrutiny on his appalling actions.
Paul Kolbe, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in Harvard Kennedy School, who served for 25 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, told me that Putin must be “delighted” that the war between Israel and Hamas “is diverting US attention” as Russia “continues to strike Ukrainian cities and civilian targets.”
“Even as Western press coverage of war in Ukraine wanes, Russia fills the vacuum in reporting with its own campaign of distributing lies and disinformation,” Kolbe said. “Putin’s strategy is to wear down Western patience and support, play upon U.S. domestic divisions, and to prey upon those in NATO which harbor latent Russian sympathies.”
In addition to the kinetic military action, Putin is also waging an information war, using all the tools at his disposal to lie about and sanitize the acts of savagery being committed against a civilian population under his orders. As Kolbe told me, “Putin’s media campaign to paint Ukraine as divided, corrupt, and a puppet of the U.S. and NATO, is a central part” of his strategy.
The lack of press attention makes that all the more easier.
A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES
by Doug Holland
It was late summer, 1987. A hot afternoon was fading into evening, after I'd spent the day working six games as an umpire in the state softball playoffs, in Wentachee, Washington. I'd blown a call at second base, been yelled at and deserved the yelling, so sweaty and tuckered and far from home, I decided to treat my van to a drive-in movie.
La Bamba looked good, and was playing at something called the Vue Dale Drive-In, which I found after a few wrong turns. But tragically, the movie was sold out.
I didn't have a hotel, was living in my van, so it was either my little black-and-white TV for entertainment, or reading a book under a streetlamp, or whatever was playing on screen 2.
Madonna's Who's That Girl? Why not? I'd liked Desperately Seeking Susan. Anyway, the Madonna movie had plenty of empty speaker-spaces, so I bought my admission.
The drive-in was rickety but charming, nestled against a hillside, as the sun was settling behind the hill. You drove twenty yards up a very slight incline, then curved back and faced down the hill to watch the show.
I parked in a slot with empty spaces all around, and as I walked to the concession stand for popcorn and chocolate, I waved at the closest customers, a black family in a station wagon — mom, dad, three kids — three spaces away.
When I came back to my van, the dad smiled and walked a few steps toward me, and said, “Madonna doesn't do it for me, but La Bamba was sold out.”
I said, “Me too!” and laughed, and we talked very briefly, as Mrs. Black set up a tailgate meal at the back of their station wagon. She offered a piece of fried chicken, so I said thanks and took a bite, and it was soooo dang good. When I said so, she gave me two more pieces.
This wasn't the Colonel. It was the best dang fried chicken ever in my life — chicken I'll always remember. Each piece was huge, oozing juice, and coated with buttery batter that stung my tongue with spices just right.
And I liked the movie, too. I remember wondering why it had gotten such bad reviews, so I watched it again tonight in 2023, eating a plastic tray of chicken from the grocery deli. And guess what?
The chicken back then must've left me in a crazy good mood, because the movie is utter crap. It's a screwball comedy without laughs. I clicked it off after 20 minutes and six or seven impossible plot developments. It's too stupid to merit another sentence.
But damn, that chicken was good. Not tonight's chicken; that was lukewarm and short on taste. But that chicken 36 years ago? My oh my.
The internet tells me that Wenatchee's Vue Dale Drive-In closed in 2010, and is now Vuedale Storage — because the whole world has gone wronger and wronger, all my life.
CAMUS ON TOUR
by Vivian Gornick
Nothing in a professional writer's life more resembles the life of a traveling salesman than the literary book tour. The superficial difference between writers on tour and salesmen on the road is that writers are encouraged to imagine themselves prized personae whose pitch is eagerly awaited by the anonymous crowd, whereas salesmen know themselves to be an intrusion, albeit one with an edge.
While both are beggars at the gate, each one singing for a bit of supper, salesmen are independent entrepreneurs, pretty much calling their own shots; writers, on the other hand, are performers in someone else’s show—a talk at ten, a class at twelve, a panel at three, a reading at seven, and oh, did I forget the ten or twelve interviews tucked in at every break in the day? — all the while being dragged around by people otherwise known as “handlers” who every half-hour tell them how much they are loved, how much their work is prized, how many lives it has changed. and yes, they know how tired you must be by now, but would you mind giving just one more very small interview, this guy's been waiting all day to talk to you. By now it’s ten or eleven at night, and you, the writer, are sitting in a restaurant, still smiling and nodding at a tableful of people whose small talk is nailing you to the wall. The handler can see you're falling off your feet, but believe her (it’s almost always a her), it will be good for the book if you could just have one more drink with one more admirer.
So if you happen to be a veteran of this circuit, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that one day in 1949, in the middle of a two-month-long South American book tour, the celebrated French writer Albert Camus, a man who'd recently endured the German occupation of Paris, wrote in his diary, “Obliged to admit that for the first time in my life I feel myself in the middle of a psychological collapse.”
Albert Camus was already a cultural hero of the West when in March 1946 he crossed the Atlantic by ship and arrived in New York City, the first port of call on a North American tour undertaken to promote the publication in English of his 1942 novel ‘The Stranger.’ Three years later, after finishing his second novel, ‘The Plague,’ a book that would brings him world fame, he again crossed the Atlantic by ship, this time landing in Rio de Janeiro, where he delivered the first of the lectures he was due to give in South America. Now a selection of Camus’s diary entries from those two trips comes to us in the form of a slim volume of 148 pages that allows us to glimpse something of the emotional experience of a literary great on a book tour.
Born in 1913 into a working-class family in French Algeria, Camus grew into a man of the left bitterly opposed to the colonial regime under which he himself had grown up. In 1940, having been blacklisted for his anticolonial journalism, he left Algeria for France, a country where he never felt at home. Nonetheless, when the war started he joined the Resistance and soon became the editor of Combat, one of its clandestine newspapers. Camus’s editorials, both before and after liberation, revealed a man who, as the conflict wore on, had become more and more sobered by the great paradox of life: that human beings are compelled to seek meaning: in a world where meaning clearly is not to be found. It was the condition he famously labeled absurd.
For a nihilist the principle of the absurd might have seemed worthy of mass suicide, but Camus was not a nihilist. It was not suicide that he saw ahead for humanity; it was struggle. It was struggle alone, he said, that would humanize us. In the middle of the war he published two of his most important works, ‘The Stranger’ and ‘The Myth of Sisyphus.’ The message that each delivered was this: it is our obligation as individuals to value the life within us for its own sake; indeed, it is our obligation as individuals to embody that value. Not an easy task for any but the saintly. Yet the essay on Sisyphus — who is destined to roll up a mountain a stone that, just before it reaches the top, rolls right down again — concludes with the declaration that the struggle itself ennobles our lives. The implication here is that life can be lived all the better if one accepts that it has no meaning.
(New York Review of Books)