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Valley People (Dec. 13, 2017)

JUST AS her husband was preparing to preside over last weekend’s 60th annual Redwood Classic Basketball Tournament, Cecilia Pinoli suffered a stroke at her Philo home, which might well have been fatal if Cecilia hadn’t instantly recognized exactly what had befallen her and called for help. Robert Pinoli and Anderson Valley’s emergency services people were soon at Cecilia’s side and she’s going to fully recover. In the absence of tourney director Pinoli, school super Michelle Hutchins, after some frantic moments spent searching for power switches and other last minute must-haves, and aided by some long-time hoops fans, managed to get the basketball games underway right on schedule.

SATURDAY, December 16th, which is this Saturday, it’s Christmas caroling with our very own community pianist, Lynn Archambault, at Lauren's Restaurant in downtown Boonville. Lauren herself is among the many talented local songbirds, and everyone is welcome. Complimentary mulled wine will be on offer, song books provided. You won’t spend a more enjoyable evening all year. Singing starts at 8.30pm.

PERSONNEL NOTE: Former Boonville high school principal, Jim Tomlin, has left public education for the much less stressful work in golf course management, Lake County.

WE ASKED Boonville Fire Chief, Andres Avila, the following questions:

1. Is Narcan (the opiod blocker) part of EMT or ambulance gear in Mendo County?

Avila: Soon. AVFD is hosting one of many "new EMT skills" trainings at the Philo Grange in mid-February. Once all Sonoma and Mendocino County EMTs have received the opportunity to obtain the required training, CVEMSA (Coastal Valley Emergency Services Agency) will release a date for our EMTs to start carrying and using Narcan, Epinephrine, glucose meters and CPAP (positive air pressure machines). We are excited to see these new skill sets being approved and hope they will help our EMTS deliver a better service.

2. Is a winter fire possible now in the county or the Valley, dry as it is?

Avila: When judging fire potential, fire growth will be dependent on several contributing factors. Temperatures, humidity, wind, topography, location, type of fuels, size of fuels, fuel moisture, etc. A fire is always possible. Extreme fire potential is low, but the light flashy fuels have not yet decayed and could easily support an escaped burn or campfire. We typically see several escapes during the Spring and Fall periods because of the assumption that fire will not escape. This is proven wrong time and time again and can sometimes get into adjacent structures or unintended locations. Fire escape should always be considered.

3. What's the current fire danger/alert and burn permit status? 

Avila: Winter burning season is open. Anyone with a burn permit can burn on a burn day. Air quality determines burn status for each day. The burn status determinants have little to do with fire potential but are primarily determined by the quality of the air. Our recent high pressure has created a steady night and morning inversion layer that holds smoke down in the valleys. This is why we are seeing the recent no-burn days. We have had to enforce several illegal burns within the last week.

MSP TELLS US the Navarro is poised to flood 128 again as the eerily rain-free weather continues with frigid nights and Miami-like afternoons.

THE UNITY CLUB’S ANNUAL HOLIDAY BAZAAR at the Apple Hall was jam-packed with smiling locals Saturday afternoon. The crowd was clearly all the way into the Christmas spirit as they chuckled over their raffle tickets, splashed cash into donation jars, gift-shopped, and sugar-binged. Children were occupied with seasonal crafts and amusing themselves with the ample supplies of toys. Santa was present for photos with local kids and “the young of heart,” who did not include me. Refusing to pose with the old boy I shuffled back down the street to the austerities of the ava office, but strangely elated at how much fun I’d had, and still wondering who the heck had played Santa this year. (MS)

ABSOLUTELY the best Christmas window in all Mendocino County has got to be the one at Rossi Hardware, Boonville. Locals always look forward to the Rossi holiday display, and you transients zipping through town would also be glad you paused for a look.

THE CHILL. Boonville nights are again annually warmed by the Christmas lights on the big tree at the Boonville Hotel, lights strung by Wayne Hiatt we understand, and I’d say Shorty Adams and Steve and Terri Rhoades are running neck and neck for first place for the most spectacular night time yuletide extravaganzas. Beautiful work by both parties.

CHRISTMAS brings out the atheists, the anti-celebrants with their rote screeds against Christianity,  its implausibility,  its deluded believers, its iconography, even its music, and you are truly an unbeliever if you aren’t moved by Pavarotti renditions of Christmas songs. And of course everyone who specifically goes Christmas shopping is denounced as a sucker.

It’s a nice time of year, with the stepped-up bonhomie of it, the exchanges of merry christmases, the strings of night time Christmas lights burning out of Anderson Valley's dark hills, even the eggnog so long as you can still taste the whisky in it.

I've always wondered at the glee non-believers seem to feel, or fake, at the prospect of stepping into an eternal void. "You fools can believe whatever myths you like, but clear-thinking, unromantic me? I popped into life outta nowhere and I'll pop off into nothing.  Nothing miraculous about it, and certainly nothing precious. Random all the way. We come from nothing, we go to nothing."

Maybe, maybe not.

I like Christmas. I like everything about it. I have no idea what comes next after this life, if anything, but I do like the idea of an eternal day at the ballpark with family and friends, all of us sitting up there at the very rim of AT&T on a warm summer day with the fog's first finger punching through the Golden Gate.

Way back, a friend and I were hitchhiking up Highway One from San Luis Obispo, the scenic route to San Francisco. As an aspiring beatnik I'd probably read one of the Big Sur novels and wanted to see for myself the magic vistas the bearded ones were talking about. I was also deep into Christian writers, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy particularly, and I knew some young radicals affiliated with the Catholic Workers, an organization I've always admired. (Youthful feminists, on the off chance they're taking in any new information from non-psychotic sources, might profit from a look into the life of Dorothy Day.)

At Cambria, a Mendocino-like tourist destination not all that far from Hearst Castle, we got picked up by a middle-age man who said he was a Benedictine monk and a friend and neighbor of Henry Miller. (The best Catholics really are catholic. Can you imagine vice president Pence enjoying a chat with the author of Sexus?) The Benedictine quizzed us on our beliefs. Nobody had ever asked me. Really, who cares what a kid thinks about anything? Before I got into Russian novels I hadn't even thought about the meaning of it all. Preliminarily, life seemed chaotic, often crazy, but just as often thrilling, and I was gulping as much of it as I could. I had to confess that about all I knew about religions was that the Catholics ate fish on Friday and everyone else weren't Catholics. My brief exposures to church services as a child didn't leave me hungering for more.

As we drove north, the Benedictine explained that he and his fellow monks had been headquartered in Italy, but their order had come to America to build a retreat on a ridge in Big Sur. I didn't want to sound dumber than I was so I didn't ask him what a "retreat" was. I thought retreat was what you did when you lost a battle. As I recall the Big Sur area in '62 when I first saw it, everything north of San Simeon and south of Carmel was called Big Sur. I don't remember a town called Big Sur.

The monk said he did the talking for all the monks up on the ridge where they were building their “retreat.” He said the monks had taken vows of silence the better to focus on their mission, which was to pray for the sins of mankind as a way of atoning for those sins, the largest, most futile task I could imagine. The monk said we were welcome to stay with them. "We'll trade you work for food and a place to stay," he said.

I stayed for almost two weeks, and was tempted to stay forever. One of my jobs was to deliver the food trays to the doorsteps of the monk's cells, which were one-room cabins. They spent their days in study and prayer, emerging as a group of thirty or so to conduct chanted services whose intervals were announced by bells.

These days, I think, New Camaldoli, as it's called, seems to be a kind of high end spa where wealthy drunks come to enjoy the ocean views while they dry out. My experience there still resonates with me. This late in my game, if I were going to be anything I'd be a Catholic. They have room for everyone, and all us perpetual sinners get to start all over again every week.

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