Press "Enter" to skip to content

Mendocino County Today: Monday, Nov 23, 2015

* * *


Who Is Mitch King & Why Do They Want To Shut Him Up?


Mitch King is a quiet, affable, 57 year-old guy, not a person you'd suspect to be the point man in a coast sex triangle with Hospitality House Director Anna Shaw, an affair he alleges cost him his job, his self-respect and any chance to find employment on the coast due the "black mark" his orchestrated "firing" has had on his employment record after the four-month affair ended in 2012.

King, who worked for Hospitality House for more than a decade, said there were attempts to "sweep this (affair) under the rug" at his expense and he was advised by many "not to mention the affair" but added, "It's just not right. I was not only an employee — I was a client at Hospitality House having been diagnosed with severe depression. Both Anna and her husband, Jim Shaw, can be very intimidating people and I am just tired of being intimidated."

When he confided the affair to a friend he was helping one day in October, the friend wrote a letter to the Hospitality Center Board of Directors detailing the affair saying, among other things, "I am not sure of the policies at the Hospitality House and whether Anna and Mitch broke any rules. I am sure that Anna Shaw is married to Jim Shaw so morally this is not right. This is why I am making you aware of this. If you do not have a policy in effect, you should. I do not think the director of the Hospitality House should be sleeping with house managers there, especially ones who are married. This is someone who represents Hospitality House as well as the directors."

The letter also said the friend had been told by another employee they were asked to "lie" that Mitch King had misused a county van.

King recently filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in San Francisco alleging breach of confidentiality, employment discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

And why did he file his complaint now, rather than, say, a year ago when he was terminated? Or back in 2012 when the affair ended?

"It took me a while to realize what happened," King said. "I was conflicted, I still had feelings for her. I was, and still am, in therapy dealing with it."

King, who was born in Pennsylvania but has lived 55 of his 57 years on the coast, readily admits he has had "substance abuse problems" in the past and was a member of Narcotics Anonymous. He was also employed in the usual coast industries "at the mill, the fisheries, the usual," he said.

The Affair With Anna Shaw

King said, "I had been working at the Hospitality House & Hospitality Center for about eight years when executive director Anna Shaw handed me a note in the office at the Hospitality House. It was shortly after dinner was done for the night, about 6:30-7:00 pm. She told me to read it after she left.

“When she got up and left, I read the note. It said she really liked me and wanted to 'touch me' and if I felt the same way to call her.

“I did and she was waiting in the parking lot in the alley behind the Hospitality House."

King said the pair drove out on Sherwood road and engaged in "kissing and heavy petting" that night, but both got spooked that they may be discovered at the remote location and decided to "cool things down until I got an apartment."

"In fact, Anna was the one who picked out the apartment. We looked at several until we found one she liked. She had the key to it in a couple days."

The two continued their "intimacies" at the apartment for about four months and sent steamy sex texts back and forth that King said "read like the 'Forum' section of Penthouse Magazine. She even set me up a Yahoo account so we could have some sex play at work."

But it all came to an end one day when King reported to work and found "the key she had to my apartment was in the desk drawer. She gave no explanation, but it was then and there I knew the affair was over."

"Shortly after the key was returned things changed," King said, "it was like I couldn't do anything right. I was getting 'write ups' and scoldings — the handwriting was on the wall, they wanted me out of there and they were looking for ways to do it. Getting 'put down' actually started to become a regular thing."

King said he was "pressured by Anna and others to sign medical releases — and I thought I would be fired if I didn't."

"I had a lot of emotional distress after Anna dumped me and the key was returned. I still had feelings for her and hoped we could get back together. But it seemed she started a crusade to destroy me to get me out of the picture to cover up the affair we had.”

King's employment with Hospitality House ended August 28, 2014 when, after a meeting with Hospitality House's Operations Manager Paul Davis, he wrote:

"This letter confirms our discussion today that your employment with the Mendocino Coast Hospitality Center is terminated for cause, effective immediately."

The reasons listed were:

One: “You neglected to return the county van keys to the Social Services office as agreed on 8/25/14 which caused a disruption to that agency...”

Two: “Prior complaints from Social Services that the van had been returned unkempt.”

Three: “You were not available for on call service at the agreed upon time and did not notify your immediate supervisor that you would not be available for that duty.”

King said, "Of course, these were all trumped up allegations. If they were true, I wouldn't have been able to receive unemployment benefits. It was on THEM to prove those allegations to the Employment Development Department and they couldn't, so after the EDD did an investigation, I did end up receiving my unemployment benefits, but have been unable to find a job because of the black mark they left on my record. Not too many people will believe a job applicant when they see you were fired by an employer. So, while I did receive unemployment benefits, I became unemployable thanks to them."

King added the third reason they gave in the termination letter, "my service availability was irrelevant as it was volunteer work. I believe I was fired because of my sexual relationship with Anna Shaw as well as age issues."

And what happened to the friend who wrote to the board about the affair in late October?

He was hit with a temporary restraining order by Jim Shaw, Anna Shaw's husband, a couple days after the Hospitality House Board received his letter.

Jim Shaw, (apparently tipped off by the board of directors), tried to file a "five-year restraining order" against him in Mendocino County Superior Court. The hearing was last Friday. Restraining orders are only for three years according to King.

So King, along with four witnesses and a sworn "under the penalty of perjury" statement traveled to Ukiah (Courtroom E) and were all ready to testify in support of the friend who had gone to bat for King with the Hospitality House.

It wasn't necessary. The judge tossed the request.

So where does it go from here?

"I just want people to know all is not as it seems at the Hospitality House. I have often thought 'Have others gone through this? How many?'," King said. "I am not seeking anything but justice."

MSP will continue with this story as it develops. King also gave MSP a copy of a letter from a licensed therapist detailing (after King signed a release) that King did, indeed, tell him about the affair back in 2012 and the fact he felt he was "being treated unfairly since the end of the affair and was feeling increasing stress in the work environment."

* * *

COMMENTS posted on MendocinoSportsPlus after MSP's Paul McCarthy posted the teaser:

Charles Brandenburg Mmmm probably not good to air this here. Life and relationships can be tricky.

MSP: We have the paperwork that was filed.

Scott Taubold I don't think he fired anybody following an affair?

Julie McHenry He did not fire her she fired him ! Court record. I wonder how her husband feels about her getting some else where?

Chanyn Lowe Hospitality House Good for her, that place must be a nightmare ... Get some Anna, I got your back!! What if we poked around into your sex life pal?

MSP: You'd be bored to tears...

Patricia Cogburn-Peeler Terrible post.

MSP We'd like to recommend you to the Beacon/Advocate sites, nothing ever transpires there Patricia...

Charlotte Anne Smith If it was just an affair I might agree, but if this man lost his job because he slept with his boss it could be a big deal! If he want's to speak, let him. If this turns into a lawsuit, it could be a big problem for Fort Bragg.

Joe Wagner please tell me there's a flobed somwhere in all this....

Wallace Baker Sr Nice bosses with benefits. You go girl.

Bruce Koski He's a good man, and wouldn't be coming forward with this without good reason. I've graduated with Mitch and know him well, and hope he gets justice for what was done to him.

Julie McHenry I agree with you Bruce.

Dawn Ferreira me too! Have known Mitch for years, really nice guy!!

Acheya Wachtel Someone's sex life should not be a reason to lose a job position if they are two consenting adults. It should frowned upon if the affair is with you employees, but I feel losing a job is too far.

Kim Taylor Known Mitch since I was a teen. Really nice guy.

Julie McHenry I knew him all through school, he is a nice guy.

Michelle Becerra Makes me wonder if the people not liking this post are involved in some kinda sex scandal.

Scott Taubold Why is that pray-tell?

Mike Tubbs Makes me wonder what else is going on in that place if this is true.

Sheelah Meyer Oh please. Here you go again. If I wanted this kind of reporting I'd read the National Enquirer.

Charles A Peavey Tell us more! Let it all hang out. I'm all for full disclosure regarding those who take public money!

Joe Wagner tic tock.... come on, you’re killing us... when's that game

Scott Taubold I think Jim must have threatened him!

* * *

And Alice Chouteau added this comment on

Thanks for the news item about the Ukiah court hearing regarding the extra marital activities of Anna Shaw, head of Hospitality House, Fort Bragg, and now proud ruler of the historic Old Coast Hotel. I must admit to finding this situation rather gratifying….. that Ms Shaw, who in unity with our city council, expressed righteous outrage at anyone who opposed that backroom deal, labeling critics, ‘bigoted, ignorant, mean, etc etc’, now finds herself in the spotlight for allegedly immoral, improper ‘helping’ of Mitchell King, a former ‘guest’ at HH. 
Let’s see how the council puts a spin on this incident.

— A. Chouteau

* * *

THE COUNTY GRAND JURY blasted the County's Family and Children's Services (FCS) agency last year as "an embarrassment to the community" in a reported titled “Children at Risk.” Formerly known as Children's Protective Services, FCS has been understaffed for years, and when it was fully staffed, the agency, with unqualified and/or badly trained persons at the power levers, performed poorly, making decisions that not only didn't protect children, but in one case killed the child the agency had placed with a known dopehead. That dopehead, by the way, as confirmed by many other persons, was visibly in no condition to care for himself, but there he was with the doomed infant placed in his Fort Bragg home.

THE CHARGES against Family and Children's Services shouldn't fall on their fumbling heads alone. It's not as if Superior Court judge Cindy Mayfield hasn't known for years that the agency she works with every day isn't exactly a model of competent functioning. And we know that the Supervisors are aware that the dependent children of Mendocino County are at the mercy of, how shall I say this, limited persons. But the protective bureaucracy, from the judge on down, give themselves great big moist kisses on what wonderful jobs they're doing defending the poor unfortunates from the massed evils of contemporary America. (Mendo recently had a smart, conscientious guy working his way up in the FCS bureaucracy. Of course they fired him when he rightly refused to sign off on a dubious custody case and, into the bargain, claimed they were afraid of him. cf James Marmon.)

COUPLA quick anecdotes from my experience with Mendo CPS, as it was then called. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but years later I'm still furious about it. An Arab man, a Syrian as it happens, married to an Indonesian woman. He was fluent in English, she knew no English. Female child born to them in Saudi Arabia. Husband deserts his other Saudi wife and runs off with his Indonesian wife and two Saudi children to America where they land, of all places, in Albion on the Mendocino Coast.

DAD soon runs off with the 300-pound Coast reporter for the Press Democrat. Of course this all happens in Mendocino County. Where else could it happen? Mother is left with her infant daughter in Albion.

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER seek succor with a feminist group in Fort Bragg. The fems, unable to communicate with the mother, correctly buy her a bus ticket for San Francisco and a referral to the Asian Women's Shelter in The City. Meanwhile, the father decides he wants custody of his infant daughter. He calls the Sheriff and says his wife has not only rented his daughter to the Satanists then rampaging up and down the Mendocino Coast (another only in Mendo saga), she has carried the child off to San Francisco, sin headquarters of the Western World.

WHEN THE GREYHOUND pulls into The City two San Francisco policemen have to wrestle the screaming child from the arms of her hysterical and uncomprehending mother. (Those two cops were so outraged at having to do this on what turned out to be false pretenses, they followed the case and, much later, traveled to Ukiah at their own expense to testify against the father. I've given cops the benefit of the doubt ever since.) But Mom is arrested for child abduction.

MOM is in jail for several weeks in the SF Jail. She is finally sent back to Mendocino County where she is placed in our County Jail. No one can communicate with her. After a month, it occurs to someone, “I mean like duh isn't the Boonville newspaper guy's wife some kind of Asian?” Yes, the kind of Asian that speaks Malay and five other dialects including one of Chinese. The Indonesian woman and her Boonville translator make it clear to the Mendo authorities what has happened.

BUT IT TAKES MOM another 18 months to get full custody of her daughter. Meanwhile, the father has maxed out his Satanist Child Abuse gambit, but he is able to convince the cretins at Mendo CPS that his former wife is a pervert, and a mercenary pervert at that, what with renting her daughter to the Satanists and all. (About here, intelligent, rational authority would lock up the father, but this being Mendocino County where authority is traditionally a crap shoot....)

THE CHILD is bounced around eight different foster homes and, at the insistence of her deranged father, forced to undergo frequent pelvic exams to make sure she hasn't been violated. Natch, the County's social workers take the crazy father's word for the serial slanders he aims at his bewildered Indonesian wife. While all this is wending its way through our slo mo courts, with the obviously crazy father being taken seriously every step of the way, and a revolving bunch of underemployed, marginally capable Ukiah lawyers assigned to represent the mother, Mom finally gets supervised visitation rights. (I noted at the time that the social workers I was dealing with tended to be childless.)

ABOUT THIS TIME, a social worker named Ms. Korn, former wife of Louis 'Creeping Jesus' Korn, casually informed me that child abuse is "quite common in Indonesia" (!) I knew in my bones there was no one in the entire CPS apparatus, from the judge to the imbeciles functioning as social workers, who could tell Indonesia from Indianapolis.

WHEN THE FATHER knew he'd lost, he and his girlfriend, the former Press Democrat reporter, now weighing in at about 450 and totally togged out, head to toe, in the full Bedouin tent worn by today's female suicide bombers, abducted the child and ran off.

ABOUT A YEAR LATER, the FBI tracked them to a Midwestern motel where they were arrested. The child was re-united with her mother and went on to become an honors graduate of the University of Oregon and a mother herself, no thanks to Mendocino County. Mom eventually married a nice man and has lived happily ever after with him. The crazy father, predictably, got off light in the Mendo courts, spending a few months in the Mendocino County Jail. The Press Democrat reporter died years ago. The father, last we heard, was living in Hawaii on his eighth or ninth wife.

* * *

JAMES MARMON WRITES: FSC, primarily Bryan Lowery, had been ordering me to petition custody warrants so that I could not sign in good conscience. The Agency still operates this way. The Administrative Law Judge ruled in my favor on this allegation but upheld the allegation that I broke the chain of command by reporting this and other issues to County Counsel, CEO Angelo, and the Board of Supervisors. Change has to come from the top. FCS will continue to fail our county as long as Lowery is in the mix. They will never find any qualified staff who will work under these conditions. As the Grand Jury stated, the Agency’s command and control management style causes low morale which leads to staff leaving the county’s employ for places where they are valued more.

“The Agency's attempt to shift these responsibilities directly to itself (vis-a-vis the Paradigm Shift) offends the plain language of the statute and clear expectation of the court. Given the apparent legal mandates at play, Lowery arguably had no authority to direct Appellant to complete custody petitions that he could not, in good conscience, sign under penalty of perjury. ln fact, Respondent offered no evidence of such authority. Accordingly, Appellant's refusal to sign the custody/detention petitions on June 14, 2011, and August 17, 2011, cannot be construed as insubordination under Section 17544.” (James Marmon, Case11-2112, State Personnel Board).

What’s important to remember is that social workers can face criminal and civil charges for doing so. Mendocino County’s under-educated “home grown” social workers currently sign these things every day, not truly understanding their legal responsibility. The Agency made their paradigm shift to protect under-educated and unqualified social workers from “being torn apart on the witness stand.” In Mendocino County social workers are taught to say it was the “Agency’s decision” so that they don’t have to justify themselves or their actions.

Is this what we want for our children and families? There is a written county policy that places responsibility on the social worker, but the Agency has ignored it for this unwritten policy they operate under now. Furthermore, because of this paradigm shift, the Agency doesn’t care if they’re not in compliance with the state’s staffing requirements. “Masters” are not really needed in Mendocino County’s System, they tend to have a difficult time fitting in. Independent judgment is not tolerated and is aggressively discouraged.

James Marmon MSW.

* * *

CATCH OF THE DAY, November 22, 2015

Alvarez, Bolton, Boutiette, Fisette
Alvarez, Bolton, Boutiette, Fisette

EDUARDO ALVAREZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.


MATTHEW BOUTIETTE, Ukiah. Assault with deadly weapon not a gun, suspended license.


Gomez, Hoff, Nuno
Gomez, Hoff, Nuno

SALVADOR GOMEZ, Covelo. DUI, probation revocation.

BENJAMIN HOFF, Ukiah. Petty theft, probation revocation.


Opolinski, Salas, Solis
Opolinski, Salas, Solis

ALEX OPOLINSKI, Manchester. DUI, paraphernalia.


HECTOR SOLIS, Ukiah. Burglary, vandalism.

Thompson, C.Turner, R.Turner
Thompson, C.Turner, R.Turner

DANIEL THOMPSON, Manchester. Resisting/threatening cop.

CHRISTINE TURNER, Fort Bragg. Court order violation.

RICHARD TURNER, Oakland. Possession of ammo by prohibited person, transport-import-manufacture of assault weapon, ex-felon with firearm, false ID, false information, no license, probation revocation.

* * *


When it comes to politics, Americans are idiots. Because American voters are political ignoramuses, Bernie Sanders found it necessary to take the stage at Georgetown University yesterday to explain what socialism, and democratic socialism are. The point being that too many Democratic primary voters plan to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton, not because they like her or her ideas, but worry that a self-declared socialist (or democratic socialist) won’t be able to beat the Republican nominee in the general election. Setting aside the rather idiotic idea of voting for a candidate because everyone else is voting for her — what’s the point of holding an election? we’d might as well turn elected office over to the candidate with an early lead in the polls — I have to wonder whether an electorate that knows nothing about socialism is qualified to vote at all. And remember: these are Democratic primary voters. One must shiver in fear at the colossal dumbness on the Republican right, where climate change denialism is normative, Ronald Reagan was brilliant (and brought down This Wall) and Tea Party marchers famously carry signs demanding “government get out of my Medicaid.” To them, socialism means Stalin — if they know who he was.

* * *


From the Review of Public Arts Programs:


The City has two Percent for Art programs, in which a percentage of capital project costs are allocated to art. The San Francisco Arts Commission administers the 2 Percent for Art program, which requires that the City’s publicly funded capital projects spend two percent of the project costs on artwork. The Planning Department administers the 1 Percent for Art program, which requires some private developers, mostly in the downtown area, to acquire or commission publicly accessible art equal to one percent of the development’s hard construction costs. The intent of the 1 Percent for Art program was to enrich large building projects with publicly accessible works of art in the downtown area.

There's a whole lot of "enriching" going on, mostly of so-called artists. For the money numbers, see pages 3, 4 and 6 of the Review of Public Arts Programs by the Budget and Legislative Analyst's Office, the subject of a recent SF Examiner story (Development art fee not living up to potential).

Turns out that few downtown developers are contributing to the Public Art Trust Fund. Instead, they can commission art---or "art"---on their own to "enrich" their projects:

For some, it’s a missed opportunity to have desperately needed revenue to counter the displacement of artists and preserve The City’s creative spirit. The revenues could bolster art organizations and assist artists being squeezed by rising real estate costs. If the trend continues, the fund won’t see any of the $19.1 million expected in art fee revenues from 94 developments underway or in the approval process, based on the report by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose. Instead, developers will meet the mandate by paying for on-site art, such as placing sculptures in lobbies, according to the report...[Supervisor]Kim questioned whether a developer installing public art was really a public benefit, since it arguably benefits the development and the community has no say on how those fees are spent, unlike other development fees like transit and open space.

In short, Supervisor Kim and others want a say in how all that money is spent. (It's of course not about the quality of the art that's supposedly "enriching" us, the public.)

Seems like they're going to have to write new legislation grab some of the money, since there's no reason now for private developers to contribute both to the trust fund and pay for their art.

The San Francisco Arts Commission's first artist in residence created the piece below:


(Courtesy, District 5 Diary)

* * *


World War I began like a summer festival — all billowing skirts and golden epaulets. Millions upon millions cheered from the sidewalks while plumed of the Imperial highnesses, serenities, field marshals and other fools paraded through the capital cities of Europe at the head of their shining legions.

It was a season of generosity; a time for boasts, bands, poems, songs, innocent prayers. It was an August palpitant and breathless by the prenuptial nights of young gentleman officers and the girls they left permanently behind them. One of the Highland regiments went over the top in its first battle behind 40 kilted bagpipers, skerling away for all they were worth — at machine guns.

Nine million corpses later, when the bands stopped and the serenities started running, the wail of bagpipes would never again sound quite the same. It was the last of the romantic wars; and Johnny Got His Gun was probably the last American novel written about it before an entirely different affair called World War II got underway.

DaltonTrumboThe book has a weird political history. Written in 1938 when pacifism was anathema to the American left and most of the center, it went to the printers in the spring of 1939 and was published on September 3 — ten days after the Nazi-Soviet pact, two days after the start of World War II.

Shortly thereafter, on the recommendation of Mr. Joseph Wharton Lippincott (who felt it would stimulate sales), serial rights were sold to the Daily Worker of New York City. Four months thereafter the book was a rally point for the left.

After Pearl Harbor its subject matter seemed as inappropriate to the times as the shriek of bagpipes. Mr. Paul Blanshard, speaking of Army censorship in The Right to Read (1955) says, "a few pro-axis foreign-language magazines had been banned, as well as three books, including Dalton Trumbo's pacifist novel Johnny Get Your Gun, produced during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact."

Since Mr. Blanshard fell into what I hoped was unconscious error both as to the period of the book's "production" and the title under which it was "produced," I can't place too much faith in his story of its suppression. Certainly I was not informed of it. I received a number of letters from servicemen overseas who had read it through the Army libraries; and in 1945 I myself ran across a copy in Okinawa while fighting was still in progress.

If, however, it had been banned and I had known about it, I doubt that I should have protested very loudly. There are times when it may be needful for certain private rights to give way to the requirements of a larger public good. I carry it too far, but World War II was not a romantic war.

As the conflict deepened and Johnny went out of print altogether, its unavailability became a civil liberties issue with the extreme American right. Peace organizations and "mothers" groups from all over the country showered me with fiercely sympathetic letters denouncing Jews, Communists, the New Dealers, and international bankers who had suppressed my novel to intimidate millions of true Americans who demanded an immediate negotiated peace.

My correspondents, a number of whom had used elegant stationery and sported tidewater addresses, maintained a network of communications that extended to the detention camps of pro-Nazi injured internees. They pushed the price of the book above $6 for a used copy which displeased me for a number of reasons, one of them fiscal. They proposed a national rally for peace-now, with me as cheerleader. They promised (and delivered) a letter campaign to pressure the publisher for a fresh edition.

Nothing could have convinced me so quickly that Johnny was exactly the sort of book that shouldn't be reprinted until the war was at an end. The publishers agreed. At the insistence of friends who felt my correspondents' efforts could adversely affect the war effort, I foolishly reported their activities to the FBI. But when a beautifully matched pair of investigators arrived at my house, their interest lay not in the letters but in me. I have the feeling that it still does and it serves me right.

After 1945 those two or three new editions which appeared found favor with the general left, and apparently were completely ignored by everybody else including all those passionate wartime mothers. It was out of print again during the Korean War at which time I purchased the plates rather than have them sold to the government for conversion into munitions. And there the story ends, or begins.

Reading it once more after so many years I've had to resist a nervous itch to touch it up here, to change it there, to clarify, correct, elaborate, cut. After all, the book is 20 years younger than I, and I have changed so much and it hasn't. Or has it?

Is it possible for anything to resist change, even a mere commodity that can be bought, buried, banned, damned, praised, or ignored for all the wrong reasons? Probably not. Johnny held a different meaning for three different wars. Its present meaning is what each reader conceives it to be, and each reader is gloriously different from each other reader and each is also changing.

I've let it remain as it was to see what it is.

Dalton Trumbo, March, 1959

* * *


A PIVOTAL MOMENT in the conversion of what was left of the populism of the Democratic party occurred in the early 1970s. California Democrat Tom Rees entered Congress in the 1960s and became a darling of liberals because he never missed an anti-war rally. Inside of Congress Rees was the point man for the Savings and Loan industry. In 1970 Texas populist Wright Patman introduced a major bill to reform the interlocking arrangements between S&Ls and all the hangers-on of the real estate industry — title attorneys, appraisers, insurers, etc. Former banking committee staffer turned Naderite Jake Lewis recalls: "I remember Rees walking into a caucus of committee Democrats, shaking his finger at Patman and warning, 'This is the gravy for the savings and loan industry and neither you nor anyone else is going to take it away from them so long as I'm here.' And the Patman bill failed."

— Alexander Cockburn

* * *


by Denis Rouse

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” — F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Scott’s famous metaphor, the last line of “The Great Gatsby” applies to motorcycle touring, for much of what we seek aside from the joyful highs of the road and the wind is appreciation of the history we ride.

With such in mind I phoned riding bud Duane to urge him to meet me in the abbreviated Eastern Sierra burg of Big Pine so we could partake together the 400-mile loop told here. Big Pine is situated halfway between our respective domiciles, his in Southern California, mine up here on the remote northeastern high plains of the state. Memories of riding this region thirty years ago remain fresh like those from a good book that begs to be read again.

Big Pine, California -- We begin here in this lonely niche of a town on the Owens Valley floor squeezed between the vertical walls of the Sierra and the prehistoric humps of the White Mountains where at eleven thousand feet still grow trees that were ancient when Rome fell. The retro Big Pine Motel is a good beginning because it’s my kind of place to spend the night, where the sweet ladies who run the motel treat me like family, where my motorcycle is parked three feet from the door of my room, where the evening stroll to my favorite steak and spaghetti house is a short one, and where I’m relaxed and as anonymous as I was before I was born. Sadly, said restaurant, a much loved institution run by pioneer Big Pine ranch family Rossi since the Thirties has been put up for sale, but thankfully brother Mike is keeping the lights on and tradition alive a few doors away from the old building his mother bought when he was still in diapers, where he and I bantered across the bar all those years ago when we were both a lot younger. After I inhaled my plate of spaghetti and meatballs I said, Hey Mike, great to see you again and, trust me, I know what it’s like surviving a family business. Glad to see you’re beating the rap. Your meatballs are still scare-me good.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest National Monument — Ernest K. Gann, a fine American writer who wrote of aviation with fierce talent, said the most beautiful thing about an airplane is the sky. We who are stuck to the surly bonds of earth on two measly patches of rubber, say it’s the road that’s the thing. It’s a golden late October afternoon when Duane and I soar a mile up into the wild blue yonder on one of the great ones, Highway 168, from the heights of which one’s knees are weakened by a panoramic aerial view across the Owens Valley of the fourteen thousand foot minarets of the Sierra, and of the arid Inyo Mountains plunging hugely southeast to meet their date with Death Valley. We’re here to have a look at the oldest known living things on our beleaguered planet, the Bristlecone Pines, a unique stand of trees that have been sculpted by four to five millennia of all the fire, ice and sandblast nature can dish out, and they look it; the trees aren’t tall and stately things of beauty, but short and contorted, most reaching no more than 25 feet, and erosion has exposed a large proportion of their root systems. Many of the trees are partly dead and it is thought therein lies the secret to their survival over the ages, only a small vein of living tissue keeps the tree alive. Clearly there’s a lot more to learn here. Trivia question: What American president once uttered, “When you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all”? Don’t tell me, I keep hope alive it was false reporting.

Deep Springs College, Deep Springs Valley, California — I stopped here once curious. A college campus that since 1917 occupies an historic 300,000-acre cattle and hay ranch in a desert valley as remote as the moon? No frat rats? No party hearty? No fight on for old D.S.? The all-male stratospheric SAT Score student body (less than thirty) runs the ranch and reads Shakespeare and Kant before breakfast. They learn heavy equipment operation and irrigation and how to butcher beef and pork they raise and how to fix fences and Emersonian self-reliance and the profound ideals of true social conscience, and they learn to write and speak well. I was especially interested in a re-visit to Deep Springs because there’s a Deep Springs alum I admire who writes like an avenging angel, William T. Vollmann, whose latest novel “The Dying Grass” is masterful immersion into a great American tragedy known as The Nez Perce War. When Duane and I rode in to take a few shots we lucked out meeting first year D.S. student Tom Sullivan from Ipswich, Massachusetts whose mother first learned of the school from a story in the New Yorker and convinced him to apply, and who kindly offered to show us around.

The college was founded by L.L. Nunn, a brilliant electrical engineer who pioneered hydroelectric energy and alternating current delivery in the early 1900’s. What he said in 1923 best expresses the goal of the school: “The desert has a deep personality; it has a voice. Great leaders in all ages have sought the desert and heard its voice. You can hear it if you listen, but you cannot hear it while in the midst of uproar and strife for material things. ‘Gentlemen, for what came ye into the wilderness?’ Not for conventional scholastic training; not to become proficient in commercial or professional pursuits for personal gain. You came to prepare for a life of service, with the understanding that superior ability and generous purpose would be expected of you”.

Goldfield, Nevada — Following a major gold discovery in 1904 Goldfield became the biggest, richest city in Nevada. At its height population swelled to 30,000, it boasted three newspapers, five banks, a mining stock exchange, the longest bar in any mining town, Tex Rickard’s Northern Saloon that required 80 bartenders to handle its customers, and the most luxurious hotel between Chicago and San Francisco that was said to have champagne flowing down the entryway steps on opening day in 1908. Today the Goldfield Hotel is a forlorn wreck being promoted to tourists as a “ghost hotel” and the semi-ghost town, population 200, still the Esmerelda County seat, is more accurately referenced an outdoor museum of the gold rush era that can’t even boast of a single gas station. The best restaurant in town, the Dinky Deli, is sited on the ruins of one. No gas here concerns us because Duane’s 1989 Honda Hawk is on reserve and next fuel available on our planned route is 60 miles south in Beatty. So it’s either chance it 27 unscheduled miles north to Tonopah or buy “emergency gas” here on the black market at eight bucks a gallon. Anyway, postscript Goldfield history: By 1910, unimaginably wealthy gold mines were in severe decline, a flash flood surged through town in 1913 and then a devastating fire in 1923 pretty much closed the book on Boomtown.

Rhyolite, California — Now we’re talking real ghost town, no semi about it. The last guy who lived here died in 1924. Duane and I arrive on our motorcycles in streaming roseate light I’ve never seen anywhere else but late afternoon in the desert in October. No one else is here. We’re alone on this stunning painting of gold rush history. In 1907 Rhyolite rivaled Goldfield as the mega million dollar yellow metal queen; fifty saloons, sixteen restaurants, an opera house, a monthly magazine, a public swimming pool, and three banks, the ruins of one of them bathed in that haunting light as we approach it, the John S. Cook and Co. Bank, once an impressive three-story brick and stone building but now no Italian marble stairs, Tiffany lamps and imported stained glass windows, what’s now is a once grand citadel of the gold rush barb wired off that looks bombed into a skeleton; think of newsreel shots Berlin 1944. Orion Pictures used Rhyolite in their 1987 science fiction movie “Cherry 2000” depicting the collapse of American society.

If God forbid you ever wonder why you love your motorcycle it’ll become clear again as you begin the fifty mile, four thousand foot descent from Rhyolite into the yawning sub-sea level Pleistocene sink of Death Valley. You sense every degree of elevation drop, temperature rise and every scent of licorice and mint of hardy vegetation that thrives in aridity. You know in your heart that in a car you’d miss every sublime second of it. When Duane and I pull into Furnace Creek Ranch we look at each other after sharing such an extraordinary experience with that knowing look, not a word need be said.

Morning as it usually does comes. The Borax Museum at Furnace Creek is closed but the open air exhibit of old mining machinery is a fine after-breakfast stroll, and what’s left of the nearby Harmony Borax Works invites contemplation of the 12 million pounds of borate salt, called “white gold” in the years between 1881 and 1888, that was shoveled into carts by 45 men, most Chinese, for $1.50 a day, most of which went back to the company store for staples like rice, tea and dried cuttlefish. The famous twenty-mule teams that hauled 100-ton wagon loads of the refined product 160 miles across the desert to the railhead in Mojave are notable enough, but like most human history worth memorializing, the devil’s in the details.

Highway 190 winds westward for fifty miles from Stovepipe Wells to the Owens Valley like a giant snake through the huge vertiginous basin and range terrain of the Panamints. The road validates the trite adjective breathtaking because that’s what happens behind your handlebars as you negotiate every rise, sweep and descent through this stark elevated amphitheater of stone and space. When Duane and I pause at an overlook to take a few shots of the immense falling away of the world I notice his hands are shaking a little too and he’s thirty years younger than I am.

Keeler, California — We pull in because even the bit we knew of Keeler was intriguing. It was a steamboat port in the 1870’s. Mark Twain would have loved it. The sternwheeler Bessie Brady was dockside regularly from the west shore of Owens Lake, loaded with charcoal from the kilns on Cottonwood Creek for the Cerro Gordo mine smelters above town in the Inyo’s, then returned across the lake to Cartago with tons of cargo in her hold, the King of Persia’s wealth in silver ingots. Before the railroad kicked in on the west side of the lake, there’s history of mule teams that hauled the rich bounty three hundred miles south to Los Angeles, a dusty frontier town, but then as always, money ruled. The mines played out early and in 1913 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power with authority invested under the golden rule, he who has the gold makes the rules, began to divert Owens Valley drainage into an aqueduct to L.A. By 1926 Owens Lake went dry. Today you stand on what was a shore in Keeler and stare across the dead bed of an ancient sea and get into your head that Owens Lake covered one hundred and eight square miles and it was fifty feet deep a millisecond ago in T.E.T., that’s True Earth Time. Then cruise town for a look at the railroad station that used to be right on the tracks that are no longer there, and the schoolhouse that’s so overgrown you’d need a machete to get a favorable look at it. Talk to the compassionate lady who lives behind Keeler’s defunct gas station, she’s one of fifty souls who still live here, she’ll tell you she thinks the railroad station and the schoolhouse need to be spruced up. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I disagree, that I think Keeler needs to proceed gently into the good night as history au natural, my favorite kind.

Independence, California -- Thirty years ago I rode into town on a late October morning when winter was coming early. The Sierra passes were snowbound and I was bone chilled despite everything I owned under my riding suit. It was way past the breakfast hour at the Winnedumah Hotel, an historic B and B with the appellation of a local Paiute legend, but I was warmly greeted by a lovely woman working alone there who implored me to shed my arctic riding wear and make myself comfortable while she made me a whopping hot breakfast I’ll never forget.

She was long gone when Duane and I checked in but the memory persists, and Independence remains one of my favorite places in the world. Walking up a leafy street from the hotel in this beautiful town is the house of Mary Austin who wrote lyrically of local people and places in her 1903 masterpiece “The Land of Little Rain”. Fronting her home is a stone affixed with a brass plaque engraved with the last lines of her preface: “If ever you come beyond the borders as far as the town that lies in a hill dimple at the foot of Kearsarge, never leave it until you have knocked at the door of the brown house under the willow tree at the end of the village street, and there you shall have such news of the land, of its trails and what is astir in them, as one lover of it can give to another”. Duane knocked but no one was home.

The Kearsarge to which Ms. Austin refers is the eleven thousand foot pass that traverses the Sierra above town, named by local mine owners during the Civil War to honor a Union war ship that sank the Confederate raider CSS Alabama off the coast of France in 1864. In retaliation, Confederacy sympathizers, of whom there were many in The West, named the range to the immediate south the Alabama Hills. Such is how history forges nomenclature. The ride up this pass to 9200-foot Onion Valley perched on a shoulder of 14,389-foot Mount Williamson is another little scoot worth mentioning, the mile-high views of Owens Valley and the great range of the Inyo’s beyond challenge your respiration and nurse great affection for guardrails around every sweeper. Two additional venues here require parking your machine: The Eastern Sierra Museum is one of the few repositories of history where I could spend a week in fascination. And a few miles south on Highway 395 is Manzanar where ten thousand American citizens of Japanese descent were stripped of everything they owned and imprisoned during World War II. The guard tower clearly visible from the busy highway is a stark reminder that the integument of democracy in the land of the free can be very frail.

Fitzgerald had no idea how prescient was his metaphor.

* * *


Here's the latest installment of my video comic strip for the AVA. — Scott Peterson

* * *

BLOCKBUSTER SHOW! -- The Clinton Foundation Is a Money Laundering Operation -- on KMEC Radio, Monday November 23

KMEC Radio, 105.1 FM, in Ukiah, CA, presents a special edition show today, Monday, November 23, at 1 p.m., Pacific Time, on "The Clinton Foundation Is a Money Laundering Operation for Influence Peddling by Dictators."

Washington, D.C. base investigative reporter, and Harper's Magazine contributing editor, Ken Silverstein is our guest.

John Sakowicz and Sid Cooperrider are our hosts.

Support Mendocino County's public and community radio station, KMEC Radio, at the Mendocino Environmental Center, by becoming a member. Please go to:

Our shows stream live at: www.kmec

Our shows are archived and available as podcasts. We may also post shows to Youtube. For even wider distribution, we may post shows to NPR's Public Radio Exchange or to Pacifica's Radio4All.

Thank you.


  1. David Gurney November 23, 2015

    A little too much hospitality at the Hospitality House?

  2. james marmon November 23, 2015

    I can relate to Mr. King. Anna Shaw is extremely powerful in Mendocino County. Not only does she provide mental health services for the people on the coast, she also belongs to several boards and committees and is on first name basis with all the Board of Supervisors.

    The day Hospitality House fired Mr. King, his career was over. He is totally blackballed from employment in any agency or program in the County. He will be forced to leave Fort Bragg and his home of 55 years if he ever wants to work again.

    Human Services in Mendocino County tough business and these people play rough. There are millions of dollars at stake and they have no problem destroying individuals who they determine to be disposable.

    Lost will be his lifelong friends, family, and the people he chose to serve for the past decade. I hope the best for this gentleman, he must really feel confused and betrayed, I know I do.

  3. Jim Updegraff November 23, 2015

    49ers and Raiders: another loss for each – Oh well, there is always next season for a comeback

  4. Jim Updegraff November 23, 2015

    I am signing off until the 1st Of December – going to Seaside on the Oregon Coast where my wife’s family rents a house for the Thanksgiving holidays. I am not taking a laptop or any other electronic devise, will not watch news on the TV – the wee ones watch Loonie Tunes. And no newspaper. Brought a book to read – ‘Christianity without God’ by Lloyd Geering.

  5. james marmon November 23, 2015

    Prior to the paradigm shift the Agency operated under the following policy. They have yet to develop a written policy for the way they are operating now. I think if it was anyone but Lowery as director the Agency would go back to the one below. For the time being, it does not jive with the “command and control” management style that currently plagues FCS so it is not being implemented.

    Mendocino County Department of Social Services’ Policy and Procedure #06-02

    “Responsibilities, Authorities, Decision-Making

    * Case assessments: The social worker initiates and recommends.
    * Case decisions: The social worker initiates, recommends and, authorizes.

    The policy also states that “it was the intent of the Department Management Team (DMT) to clarify and standardize decision-making throughout the
    Department and align authority for decision-making at lowest level possible, whenever it can be legally and appropriately moved to the lowest level.”

  6. Keith Bramstedt November 23, 2015

    Mitch KIng: “Not too many people will believe a job applicant when they see he was fired by an employer.”
    Why is that? Why is the system so biased toward the employer? Is it because we are in an authoritarian society, so most people will automatically believe the employer/authority figure?

  7. Kimberly Ortwein November 23, 2015

    These people of the county (not all there are a few exceptions) CPS workers SWA and on up have sold their souls to the devil himself. The lies and deceit they do day in and day out under oath and sworn to serve and protect is a joke to them. They become more corrupt as time passes and at a rapid rate. they screw you once and to cover that up they keep adding to it making more false reports and more lies until they cant to do any more and just sell the children to anyone under what these people call “adoption” and use the excuse that “they need a stable home” or “structure” or another good one I’ve heard is ” you have too may children, give half to a family member who cant or doesn’t have kids and you keep the others and everyone is happy.” Pardon me but WHAT TH HELL do you think this is a litter of animals to pick and chose whose the cutest to keep and the other I adopt out. NO!!!!! I’m sick of the unqualified and the emotionally evolved CPS and court workers getting the power to do and say what they want over our children. This needs to stop and fast. More harm than good is being done and the best of the best CPS and court workers who do their jobs RIGHT and fix and reunite families and give REAL SERVICES are getting fired and leaving because they are tired of seeing the mockery and filth that the undereducated and over worked workers are doing to these families. STAND UP AND DO WHATS RIGHT AND STOP DISTROYING FAMILES AND CHILDREN! I will put some people on blast here…. Tammy Lynch from Willits took children without warrants and then lied under oath about it and falsified court documents knowingly signing them under oath. Bryan Lowery did the same and then trying to cover up the truth has tried making reports and other court documents disappear from CPS offices as well as sign and swear under oath that he knowingly and honestly reported the truth. Lawyers in these cases knowingly deny the right of parents to have the children’s voices heard and present video and audio of children confessing the violence they are put through in care and control of the county. The courts scared to go against a lesbian couple deny the Children’s wishes to return home and order adoption by the lesbian foster parents even though these children cry tears of hurt, sorrow and pain and long to be with their mommy and daddy. This is the kind of court system and CPS system we have. If you need proof we got the proof in hand to back up every single “accusation” and proof that these people are falsifying and lying to snatch children. in result traumatizing children and family day in and day out just to may get a paycheck. I call this KIDNAPPING AND SHOULD BE PUNISHED.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *