- Fire Updates
- Ruben Recovered
- Celebrate Professionally
- Boonville Fourth
- Lemons Market
- Three Cheers
- Little Dog
- Doctor Fired
- Permit Patti
- Ecstasy Speculation
- Barrett Mum
- Emeritus Milliman
- Appeal Denied
- Haschak Statement
- Museum Resignation
- Yesterday's Catch
- Old Women
- Weed Apocalypse
- AVA T-shirts
- Different Clown
- Putin Ritz
- Minority Rule
- Olympic Peace
- Cage Liberals
- Morning Light
- Light Green
PAWNEE FIRE in Lake County is now up to 14,700 acres, 75% contained and mostly surrounded. The “Double Eagle” subdivision is still under mandatory evacuation. The Yolo Fire continues to expand, with its smoke and ash reaching into the Bay Area.
Calfire reports this morning: "Ground resources worked throughout the night to reinforce control lines and extinguishing interior hotspots. Hot and Dry weather conditions today still pose the potential of future fire growth. Multiple ground resources and air assets are available in the area to take quick action if the need arises."
* * *
ANOTHER LAKE COUNTY FIRE
(This one near Kelseyville appears contained however)
Firefighters have contained a small brush fire that broke out late Sunday afternoon near Kelseyville.
RUBEN THOMMASON of the Anderson Valley Market Thomassons, will soon be back in his Boonville home attended by an in-home care person. A hearing in Superior Court, Ukiah, last Wednesday determined that Mr. Thomasson had sufficiently recovered himself after an early morning episode three weeks ago during which he fired shots at invisible tormentors. Doctors determined that the popular Thomasson was delirious from an infection and has since been restored to non-hallucinatory functioning.
CELEBRATE THE FOURTH of July at the Boonville Fairgrounds from 12-4 on July 4th. Featuring relay games, bouncy house, delicious local food, a kids' parade, chicken clucking contest, cake auction, and the renowned Deep Enders vs. High Rollers tug-of-war. ALL ARE WELCOME! This is a fundraiser for the AVUSD Wellness Committee which promotes healthy food in our schools.
LEMONS MARKET, PHILO, is festooned in red, white and blue, among the most vivid of the patriotic displays in the Anderson Valley, followed closely by Anderson Valley Market and Rossi Hardware, Boonville.
THREE CHEERS FOR US
by Herb Caen (July 1985)
Fourth of July. The very words sizzle like a hot dog on a griddle, and as long as you’re up, I’ll have one, easy on the relish. Oh, and an ice-cold beer, pronounced “a nice cold beer.”
Fourth of July, the nation’s birthday, proudest day in our history. Will someone kindly dredge up a copy of the Declaration of Independence and don’t spill any catsup on it. Now that was a piece of writing, composed and signed by giants in wigs and knee breeches who probably spoke with a British accent. July 4, 1776, the first date we memorized in school, never to be forgotten. John Hancock signed boldly, defying the British, and passed into the language — maybe. The other night at the Balboa Cafe, the waitress said briskly to a young man who was paying with a credit card: “Put your John Hancock right there.” “Huh?” said the young man, pen poised uncertainly over the credit slip.
“I’m As Corny as Kansas in August, high as a flag on the Fourth of July” (thankya, Oscar). The Glorious Fourth: hot, sweaty, noisy, dangerous, as American as a holiday can get. A day to get sunburned, mosquito-pocked, sandy-shoed, aching-backed, quite a bit loaded, quite a bit hung over. A day for Frisbees, leaping dogs, bawling babies, mayonnaise stains on the blanket and tuna sandwiches that drip. A day to exult — if anybody stops to think about it — that we are free people on a paid holiday (or making overtime) paying tribute in our varied and peculiar ways to those newly minted Americans who would have had their elegant necks stretched if the Continental Army hadn’t won, with a little help from the French. A toast to Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette. Oh, and one to our own Colonel Stanton, who had the wit and style to say "Lafayette, nous voila!" when the first Yanks landed in France in 1917.
Fourth of July is for kids, getting bruised knees and elbows, splinters, burns, dirty, smelly, sick and altogether lovable, the hope of this mighty nation. The trouble with being a kid in San Francisco is that you can’t celebrate the Fourth in the time-honored manner without breaking the law. Because of our tinderbox cracker-barrel Victorians, firecrackers are forbidden, except to the Chinese on Chinese New Year’s, and newcomers always demand to know why. As I recall, it’s because Chinese New Year’s is a religious observance and fireworks are part of that observance, and if you believe that, I’ve got a nice ball club called the Giants to sell you. Whatever the reason, it works for the Chinese. The Fourth of July, while a religion in our hearts, remains safely secular.
As I’ve observed more than once, nostalgia is a lousy reporter who gets the facts and dates all wrong and isn’t above total invention, but I do remember July Fourth as the high spot of the long Sacramento summer. For days we hoarded fireworks of all kinds, from the tiny “spaghetti” jobs (what were those called?) that spat like angry cats, to the possibly illegal cannon crackers, looking big enough to destroy the neighborhood. There were torpedoes that you ground your heel on, magical pinwheels that whirled on the trunk of the catalpa tree when they didn’t fizzle, crackers to be exploded under tin cans for a satisfying “whomp!”
Then there were the ones that didn’t go off until you picked them up, thinking them dead. That called for a bandage — this was eons before Band-Aids — worn as a badge of honor. You had paid the price. A really dead one you broke open and set ablaze with your punk — fwoooosh! — impressing the girls with your courage.
Fourth of July, a long hot day that began at first daylight with the first firecracker going off in the street below. Drat, somebody had got there first! A leap out of bed, dash down the stairs and outside, banging the screen door and setting the porch furniture to rocking. “Herrrrberrrt, did you brush your teeth?” No, it’s the Fourth and I don’t want breakfast, either. A day that seemed to go on for 48 hours, laced with corn on the cob, iced tea, watermelon and the unceasing wail of sirens. All over Sacramento, houses burned. At our corner of 26th and Q, the vacant lot with its dried weeds was soon ablaze. We threw dozens of crackers into the backyard of the grouchy old man we didn’t like and we concocted painful plans for his cat but never carried them out. We could just see that dumb cat streaking up 26th Street, trailing a plume of smoke. We laughed so hard we fell down on the soft tar street, getting sticky-icky black stuff on our backsides.
I think it was on a July Fourth that Crazy Charlie ate the June bug, or was it on June Fourth that Charlie ate the July bug? If you’ve ever seen a June bug, you know it’s an impressively large and ugly insect, but Charlie would do anything for a buck; so we raised a few and bet him he wouldn’t. Like hell he wouldn’t. He looked that big bug right in the eye and popped it into his mouth. What impressed us most is that he took a bite. That made us fairly sick, but Charlie looked fine as he pocketed the money.
Happy Fourth of July in the land of the free. Salute the flag and the founding fathers at least once. Let yourself be a kid again, hot and smelly, dirty and exhausted, with naive eyes shining at the endless promise of the American dream, promises that are sometimes kept.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “These fires all over the place have me worried. I've seen places here in the Anderson Valley where I'd have to sleep with one eye open. Yes, they're that overgrown. Little Dog says, Clear That Brush!”
AGEE STRIKES AGAIN. Several years ago here in Boonville, the fill-in boss at the Anderson Valley Health Center, Diane Agee, fired a popular and long-time Health Center employee. Firing the unfortunate woman apparently wasn't enough. Agee, who was and is also the boss at Gualala's Health Center, took the fired Boonville woman's keys and marched her off the premises as if she were a criminal. No reason for the humiliating dismissal was ever made public, if indeed there was a reason. When an angry crowd turned out to demand why the woman had been fired, the Boonville Health Center's supine board of directors simply stared eerily and mutely back at inquiring speakers, as if suddenly zombo-ized.
THE BRUSQUE MARTINET has struck again, this time in Gualala where she has summarily dismissed the Gualala Health Center's new-ish doctor, leaving him angry and headed for lawyers. "I was fired for no cause," Dr. Patrick Fullerton told the ICO, "…dismissed on the spot. I was told to take my things and give them my keys, and they walked me out to the car. I asked what was going on, and they said, ‘This is the way it is,’ no discussion."
AGEE told the ICO "It's in the hands of our attorneys at the moment. So, all I could say is ‘no comment’."
DR. FULLERTON said that unqualified Physician Assistants are doing patient work they aren't qualified to do, an assertion Agee of course denies, but dollars to donuts those Physician Assistants are, like all the rest of the employees at the Gualala facility, totally dependent on and loyal to Agee.
THE SAME humiliating dismissal technique — a kind of Mendo-specific perp walk — is practiced by County CEO Carmel Angelo. The doomed County employee shows up for work, is told to hand over his or her keys, and marched out to the parking lot as if detected in a criminal act.
THE BOONVILLE CONTINGENT of the Nationwide March For Families marched from the Fairgrounds to the AVA offices Saturday morning, and for a minute there we thought the Bolsheviki were upon us. But we soon saw the demo was comprised of several dozen Valley people undeterred by the hundred degree heat, all bearing signs demanding that the sanctity of the family, all families, be honored.
WHEN THE MARCHERS returned to the Fairgrounds parking lot on the south end of town, a female Fairgrounds staffer, our very own Permit Patti, told the group that they needed a permit to enter the Fairgrounds parking lot. “No we don’t,” a marcher replied, “this is government public property, this is California State property.” “No, it’s fairgrounds property,” insisted Permit Patti, adding that if the group didn’t leave she’d call the Sheriff, your basic idle threat to this crowd of veteran dissidents, and doubly idle given the patient reasonableness of resident deputy Craig Walker, perhaps the most unlikely cop in America to slap the cuffs on Americans in the act of being Americans.
WAS IT A STROKE? We're hoping that the Chris Skyhawk camp will clarify his medical status, and we further hope that the Hawk returns soon to ride the campaign trail towards the 5th District seat on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors.
BUT THE SCANNER two weeks ago had dispatched emergency services to "a possible ecstasy overdose" at Skyhawk's Albion address on G Road involving a "56-year-old male, possible intentional ecstasy overdose" and that "the patient was suffering stroke-like symptoms on his left side."
IS IT FAIR to report what's heard on the public airwaves via scanners? (Yes.) Are some public people to be protected from full disclosure? (No.) We wish the guy no harm, and hope he's soon returned to full health.
KEEP IT CLASSY, BRIAN. Brian Barrett of the Ukiah School District, vanquished by Michelle Hutchins of Boonville in his bid to become County School's boss, has not acknowledged his defeat or expressed congratulations to Mrs. Hutchins. Mrs. H, by way of contrast, has released an appropriately grateful and conciliatory message to local media expressing her hope that the County's collective educational effort, under her leadership, will meet its mounting challenges.
FORT BRAGG should sit down before reading this front page headline from the Curry Coastal Pilot out of Brookings, Oregon: "Retiring manager lauded. Gary Milliman named city manager emeritus, party set Thursday afternoon…"
MILLIMAN or, as he was popularly known when he functioned as Fort Bragg's city manager, "Gary Middleman," functioned as errand boy for the same Fort Bragg businessmen responsible for the Fort Bragg Fires of 1987, and answered to a Fort Bragg City Council several of whose members were granted no payback loans from the criminals then calling Fort Bragg's tune. I laughed, though, when I saw this story accompanying Milliman's Oregon send-off: "Curry County Board of Commissioners. Boice facing paying back travel expenses…"
UKIAH CITY COUNCIL MEMBER DECLINES TO WITHDRAW APPEAL OF HOUSING PROJECT
by Justine Frederiksen
After Ukiah City Council member Steve Scalmanini Friday declined to withdraw his appeal of a proposed housing project near the corner of Norton and North Main streets, his fellow board members voted to deny his appeal and uphold the Ukiah Planning Commission’s approval of the complex called Main Street Village.
“I am not going to withdraw my appeal and instead retain the next steps as available,” said Scalmanini, who added only “no comment” when asked after the meeting if he intended to appeal the City Council’s decision to move forward with the 35-unit complex to a higher court.
“But I stand by the reasoning that we should do everything possible to make this a better project,” said Scalmanini, explaining that he felt that “all avenues to increase the density were not exhausted. I believe that a year from now (if this complex is built), we will look back on this and regret that we didn’t try harder to make it a better project.”
Earlier this month, Scalmanini and neighboring property owner Julienne Waters appealed the project proposed by developer Guillon Inc of Chico, submitting a list of more than 50 reasons. One of the main reasons, Scalmanini said, was not because he was opposed to the project in theory, but that he felt its location afforded a rare opportunity to add even more density near the downtown core because three stories could be built.
“If we don’t do it here, where are we going to do it?” he said. “If we build only 35 here, a year from now we’re going to be looking around for the next infill opportunity, and where is it going to be?”
When told during the discussion Friday that the project’s density was maxed out at 37 units, and that adding a third story would not mean more people could live there, Scalmanini argued that more units could be added if the proposed lot expanded to include the back half of an adjacent neighbor’s property.
City Manager Sage Sangiacomo said that years ago when the city was using redevelopment funds to buy property intended for future housing projects (a process that successfully brought the senior apartment complex next to the Grace Hudson Museum), “we tried to assemble as many parcels as possible, and we had significant discussions about being able to include that empty parcel, but the property owner was not ready to move forward, and you can’t force a property owner to sell a piece of property.”
“We are being short-sighted and squandering an opportunity,” Scalmanini told his fellow council members, adding that “minimal consideration was given to the adjoining properties” and that the city should determine whether both (Loretta Ramponi and Waters) are willing to sell their properties for the project now.
“I think that’s an unreasonable request that should have been discussed two years ago,” said Mayor Kevin Doble. “I think that idea is off-base, and a pitiful excuse for trying to justify what you’ve done. I think if we go down that road, we might not end up with any (housing) units at all.”
“It is tough to take by a private developer that someone who did not participate in the planning process can file a last-minute appeal by throwing everything against the wall to see what will stick,” said Steve Honeycutt, speaking on behalf of Guillon, and referring to a city ordinance that allows a sitting City Council member to file an appeal of a project without requiring them to either state their objections during a public hearing or to pay the $150 fee. “Every project is a balancing act; there is no such thing as a project that hits every single mark as a 10.”
“We need infill projects and I think we need to be careful of making perfect the enemy of good,” said Neil Davis, a public health nurse who is also the executive director of Walk and Bike Mendocino, describing the project as a good fit for the urban core because it would encourage residents to walk or bicycle to their jobs, especially if they work at nearby Adventist Health Ukiah Valley, one of the employers the project was designed for. “There will be a lot of places where we will have to make concessions and not get everything we want, but this project is a good step.”
“If we don’t want to encourage sprawl, we need to make it easier to build in the city and harder to build outside of the city,” said Doble. “In my opinion, (this appeal) is a little unfortunate because it sends the wrong message and drives developers away. This level of uncertainty scares them.”
“We as a city really need to start making some serious policy decisions that are less car-centric and create a community around walking and bicycling,” said Vice-Mayor Maureen Mulheren. “We as a community need to be realistic about our goals and have conversations as a community, not as one council member bringing them up. And we really need to look at the ordinance that allows one City Council member to file a last-minute appeal.”
The City Council then voted 4-1 to deny Scalmanini’s appeal and uphold the permit granted by the Planning Commission for the project. Scalmanini said he has 90 days to decide whether to appeal that decision, and declined to say what his plans were.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
CALL ME TO SHARE
Letter to the Editor,
With the final results for the primary election in, I would like to express my gratitude to the people of the 3rd District for their vote to send me on to the general election in November. As a teacher and first time candidate, I feel honored that so many have voted for me for County Supervisor.
There were 8 candidates in the race representing a wide variety of experiences, viewpoints, and skill sets. Many people have noted that there has never been such a large field of candidates for this position. I found that each candidate has a deep love for our community and wants to do what is best to move this county forward. Some of the candidates were long time acquaintances while others became new colleagues. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their ideas for making this a better place to live and their efforts to run for office.
One of the best parts of this campaign so far has been meeting new people from around the district. The 3rd District has an incredible amount of talented, knowledgeable, dedicated, and hard-working people. We care about where we live.
Between now and November, I will continue to meet more people from our district, talk about our ideas to bring positive change to Mendocino County, and work hard to earn your vote. We certainly have our challenges with an economy in transition, disaster preparedness, and a County structure that needs greater transparency, responsiveness, and openness to the needs of our citizens.
I hope that in the next few months we can share our visions about how to build stronger communities together. We have the potential to create a County which could be a model for all other counties. We can protect our citizens, create a thriving environment, ensure that our air, water, and land are kept clean, and provide a County government in which we can all be proud. Please feel free to call me at 707-513-6166 if you would like to share your ideas.
DEAR SUPES: I QUIT
To the Editor:
Dear Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, June 26, 2018:
I regret to inform you of my formal resignation from the Mendocino County Museum Advisory Board. I took the volunteer position out of a desire to support my County museum. I began my journey with optimism and a willingness to listen, learn, and support. I served for eighteen months. Over the past year the museum has been in a state of chaos due to the loss of a director and severe lack of communication from the Board of Supervisors to the Advisory Board.
On Aug. 16, 2011 the Board of Supervisors passed Resolution #11-119. The first paragraph states “An Advisory Committee shall be named by the Board of Supervisors to review operational policies and to recommend necessary innovations to the Board of Supervisors in Connection with the Historical Museum.”
The Advisory Board has not been able to perform its founding duties because the CEO and Director have failed to provide any financial reports. Furthermore, there’s been no opportunity for the Advisory Board to give advice on operational policies. Operational decisions have been made without seeking any advice from the advisory Board. The Board of Supervisors have not valued the system they put in place.
An amendment was approved by the BOS on Feb. 17, 1976 to add voting rights of the CEO. This amendment has been reinforced throughout the document. However, the CEO in my eighteen months never attended a single meeting and failed in her duties to provide the Board with information to perform its basic function.
The last paragraph on the first page of this resolution states, “Each Supervisor shall appoint, in a timely matter, an advisor from either inside or outside his or her district.” The advisory Board has had vacant seats for a year. We informed the Director of this issue. No new appointments have been made. It’s hard to fill volunteer positions to these types of boards or committees if one does not feel the role they are filling merits any value. This will continue to be a problem for the BOS if there’s not a change.
In a factsheet dated March 10, 2017 and provided to Advisory Board members it states our purpose: “The purpose of the Museum Advisory Board is to provide direction and support for the creation and preservation of the Mendocino County Museum. The Board Advises the Museum Director and the Board of Trustees (Mendocino County Board of Supervisors).”
The Board of Supervisors has decided to consolidate the museum into a new Cultural agency. The Director position was reduced to four hours a week and new management job positions have been created and reduced. The Advisory Board was told it would have an opportunity to place the items on their agenda and give advice to the BOS. This has not proved truthful. Furthermore, the Director and CEO has failed to provide us with requested documents that affect daily operational procedures. The museum lacks current clear policies and procedures. This will continue to plague the success of the museum without a Director to fulfill these responsibilities. I respectfully ask the BOS to value the history of the County by properly ensuring the County Museum’s long term viability.
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 1, 2018
JAVIER ACEVES-LIZARRAGA, Willits. Contempt of court, failure to appear.
EFRAIN BARRON, Ukiah. Protective order violation.
ISABEL BUENROSTRO, Ukah. DUI, resisting, probation revocation.
BRANDON CLELAND, Willits. Probation revocation.
ALFRED DOMINIAK, Ukiah. Camping in Ukiah.
CARLOS FLORES, Fort Bragg. Evasion.
TRAVIS HAWK, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, failure to appear.
ACEA HENDERSON, Point Arena. Under influence
LACEY MORRIS, Fort Bragg. DUI
DERRICK RIDENOUR, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ANDREW SNYDER, Ukiah. Under influence.
RICHARD STANISLOO JR., Ukiah. Failure to appear.
SUSAN WIDMER, Ukiah. Failure to appear.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD WOMEN (Part 4)
by Eleanor Cooney
I don't keep a ringing phone in my bedroom. Whatever it is, unless it's an invasion from Mars, in which case it wouldn't matter, can wait until I've had a night's sleep, I figure. One morning, just when I was beginning to relax a little, I found the light blinking on the machine. It was the head nurse at the home, calling at 3 AM: She'd had to get out of bed herself and drive over to the home to wrestle Gwendda's cane from her hands. She'd left her room in the middle of the night, seen a staff member going door to door to check on people, decided this person was planting bombs, came up behind her and whacked her, hard, with the cane. Never mind that she was 88 and all bent over with osteoporosis; she was impressively strong, said the nurse, herself a large robust woman. It had been quite a scuffle getting the cane away from Gwendda. She was in another world, said the nurse—struggling, fighting, shouting about bombs. Yeah, I thought — she was in London in 1941. I had no doubt that the chemicals, which were supposed to subdue her and enclose her in calm, had enclosed her in a waking dream wherein she was transported in time to the most intense years of her life. Phantoms and memories draw sustenance from the night. It had been night when my mother roamed the exact same hall after leaving the exact same room, her brain hissing and sizzling with the exact same alien chemicals, and attacked.
Gwendda was kicked out. It was the purest déjà vu: Formerly friendly voices turned cold and officious, reciting rules. My mother had been dead for less than a month. I called the 150-miles-away home where she had died. Would they take our British friend? Bring her on down, they said. We can handle her.
So we took her on down. Tricked her into the car, again, just as we'd tricked my mother into the car, again. When my mother died, I thought that my days of 300-mile roundtrips were over. Not quite. Gwendda did pretty well at the new place. I drove down to see her a couple of times. Her 89th birthday was in early August. Two days later, she had a stroke and was sent to the hospital. I drove down. She was out of it, just about comatose. She came around long enough to open one eye, look at me and say my name. Then she slipped back under for good. I watched her: eyes closed, way, way gone, but she raised her arm occasionally and spelled out letters with her index finger as if on a dream window pane.
She was comatose for about ten days. She went back to the home, just as my mother had, then died in her room there, with a Filipina nurse praying by her bed. I drove down, went to the same funeral home I'd gone to three months before, sat at the same table with the same Miss Thanatogenous, filled out the same forms. I went back to the home, loaded up the car, dropped most of the stuff off at the same thrift store where my mother's things had reentered the cycle. The interval until the actual cremation was about the same as with my mother.
On the official Zyprexa website, I'd seen this when the drug was first prescribed:
Elderly people with psychosis related to dementia (a brain disorder that lessens the ability to remember, think, and reason) are at increased risk of death when taking certain mental health medicines (such as ZYPREXA) compared with a sugar pill. ZYPREXA is not approved for these patients.
I'd asked various medical people, not too forcefully, if Zyprexa was a good choice. It's fine, they all said. A good drug for old people. What exactly did they mean by "fine?" I have a lurking conviction that we all tacitly colluded in euthanasia. Was that a bad thing? There's the $64,000 question. Or maybe $64,000,000, adjusted for inflation.
It's a couple of months later now. The silence and lack of traveling vast distances is peculiar. So much square footage of my consciousness and reflexes were filled for so long with driving, worrying, managing, phoning, scrambling, prevaricating, dissembling, hiding, failing and fretting that it's like the skin of a circus fat lady who's suddenly lost seven hundred pounds: things don't just snap right back into place. Plenty of time and space now for cultivating my lush garden of regrets and Weltschmerz. I had to tell Gwendda's 95-year-old once-upon-a-time boyfriend that she had died. I considered fibbing to him, telling him she was doing just fine, but I didn't.
I had to tell him. Didn't I?
Jump back a few years: Not long after my book DEATH IN SLOW MOTION came out, 2005 or so, I was sitting in a movie theater watching the credits after "Kinsey," starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. The long arm of synchronicity reached out and pinned me in that seat, because usually I get up and get out when a movie is over. A name rolled by on the screen: Romulus Linney. Father of Laura, well-known playwright, and one of my mother's long-ago paramours. I'd failed to recognize him in the cameo role he played in the movie because it had been almost 40 years since I'd last seen him.
Jump back further, to 1965: Romulus had been a smooth-faced and handsome 34 or 35, standing in front of the fireplace in the Connecticut house, his elbow on the mantelpiece, his gaze on my mother, who was 42 and at the height of her gorgeousness, holding court at a little cocktail party. I'd been a sullen, faux world-weary, Gauloise-smoking, self-absorbed, black-eye-makeup-wearing teenager. But not so self-absorbed that I didn't notice Romulus. I liked him, a lot. It would have been fine with me if my mother married him. She didn't, of course; she married Mike. Romulus was the guy who directly preceded Mike.
Over the years, after Romulus and my mother parted, I'd occasionally hear his name and the names of some of his plays: "2: Goering at Nuremburg," "Holy Ghosts," "Heathen Valley." He was the real deal, an actual successful playwright, stunningly prolific, making a living at it. And I'd think, in passing, Ah, yes — Rom Linney, the husband who might have been.
When his name rolled by in the credits that night in the movie theatre, it had been a long time since I'd thought of him. I was jolted: Romulus! Alive and kicking! I want to talk to him! The next day, I found his phone number in New York, called, got him on the second ring.
Hello, Rom, I said. This is a voice from your past.
Ellie! he said, right there, totally and immediately. Forty years fell away.
I told him about my mother, I told him about the book, and we had a terrific conversation. He didn't know about the book, wondered how it was possible that he didn't, but said he'd go get a copy as soon as we hung up.
A day later, a long, long letter poured out of my fax machine:
Let me begin with the picture of Mary on the front of the book, where I think she is a few years younger than she was when I met her. It was, to use the indispensible cliché, deeply moving. What I did not expect was the photograph of her at the end of the book looking exactly as she did in 1964 when we met. Turning the page, I was startled by the loud, clear sound of my own voice, instantly crying out to her. I am filled with so many memories and so much love....
They were together for a year and a half, he wrote, and the only time she ever turned her withering tongue in his direction was when they were having a final sort of conversation about the future of their affair ...when it was time, we both knew, to part. He was, he said, chewing gum at that moment, and she let him know she didn't like it much. Ha. I can imagine. Though I don't blame him at all for chewing gum; he'd just finished lugging a mountain of my mother's stuff into her new walkup apartment (third floor, no less) on 71st St. She waited until the job was done before she delivered the news. Nevertheless, he said with great generosity that she was unfailingly kind and courteous to him, that he saw her pierce other people's balloons, as he put it, but she left his alone.
She domesticated me. When I met her, I did not think I would ever be able to live with and for one woman...she brought me into a world of romantic, sexual and social civility that I had never entered...
He spoke of my mother taking him to Connecticut parties, one of them at William Styron's, and to parties in New York, and the gratification he got from being her escort:
She several times preferred me, to my enormous male satisfaction, over some other very aggressive older men, who were scornful of me...
As for the difference in their ages, he had this to say:
For me, she was so natural, healthy, funny, wise and beautiful, I never thought about it. She took me into her house with a simplicity and generosity that (she didn't know it) made me cry....
And they had between them something extra, a rich dimension of rapport:
As writers, we were young together. I loved her novels, and she respected mine...My God, how many things your mother did for me. I had a terrible kidney stone, ended up in Lenox Hill in that awful kind of pain. Just after they gave me morphine, and I was floating in a boat of relief, there Mary appeared, absolutely like an angel from heaven, handing me a Virginia Kirkus rave review of my just-published novel. I have always thought that book the best writing I will ever do, so the fine comments that came after that will always be accompanied with a vision of her.
What he really wanted to do, though, was write plays. He had an idea for one, about Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. It burned to be written, but the task loomed in an overwhelming way. How could a whippersnapper from Appalachia write a play about the "Enlightened Despot" of mid-18th-century Prussia? He put off and put off actually starting the play, took refuge in endless research.
My mother busted through all that. I can so easily imagine her face, her expression, her tone when she did:
It was Mary who told me in no uncertain terms, when she dropped me off at (the writers' retreat) Yaddo in the summer of 1965, to for God's sake stop reading forever and ever about Frederick the Great and write whatever impossible thing I was going to write about him. With Mary's injunction ringing in my ears, I did that, starting the next day, and began my life as a playwright.
The rest is, in every sense of the word, history: "The Sorrows of Frederick" got written, produced, and made his name. He went on to write eighty-four more plays.
In the letter, he spoke of sweet times in my mother's company:
There was a Chinese restaurant on 72nd St. It was plain and simple, but with very old mahogany-seeming walls, lovely ancient booths, and it served very weak Stock vermouth and Gordon's gin martinis, which we loved, because we could have several and stretch the evening out without real overindulgence. We collapsed into those booths with happy sighs....My God. Happiness comes in many forms. It is wonderful to share this with you, who will care about it, because Mary was happy then too...
Mary was happy then too! I seize on this. I add it to my mental store of happy times in my mother's life. Maybe this will tip the balance, crowd out the heartbroken times. By the time I was reading Rom's letter, though, Mike had been dead for sixteen years, and my mother had been incarcerated for five of them. And anyway, happiness is fragile and airy compared to sorrow, which has the durability and atomic density of lead.
But happiness has its own peculiar occasional qualities. It's been known to soar, to create its own upward-wafting, gravity-defying thermal currents under its wings:
There was an old southern hymn we both enjoyed in our childhood churches, about all that was left of that to agnostic writers, FAIREST LORD JESUS. We would sing it together often, over martinis, in bed, driving somewhere. I used it in the most performed of all my plays, and I never see that play or hear that hymn without loving her again.
Remember, we're talking about two non-believers. I know exactly what they were doing. Here's a little insider secret: some of us non-believers have a weakness for religious music. It has to be quality music, though: Handel's Messiah, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, certain hymns. We play them, or sing them, and vicariously "believe" for a few moments. My mother and Rom were both good singers. My mother was great at harmonizing. I can so imagine the coziness of their two voices inside a car, the complicated playfulness of them singing that particular song, the beautiful escape velocity that happens when you're making music.
Why did they part? He writes in the letter of being young, broke, struggling.
Mary understood that however much I loved her, I was too poor to care for her in any material way. I am astonished that she stayed with me for so long…
And so came the gum-chewing moment.
Soon after the faxed letter, Romulus sent me a recording, made especially for my mother, of himself singing "Fairest Lord Jesus." He greets her before he starts to sing, calls himself an old, old friend from a long time ago. His rendition is measured, soulful and fond; he has a pleasant bit of tremolo in his singing voice. When he's done, he says: We used to enjoy singing that together, Mary, and I send you my love. My name is Romulus, and I hope you're well, my dear. Bye-bye. There's a poignant lilt, gallant and southern, in the way he says those last words: Bye-bye.
On my next visit to my mother, I put earphones on her head and play the tape. I can't hear it myself while it's being played, but I watch her face. Music cuts through Alzheimer's, they say. People who can't speak anymore can sing the words to old songs. Old frayed wiring lights up. Music is resistant to the ravages of The Beast, as if it has its own private circuitry.
Her eyes widen. She looks right at me while she listens. I have this really horrible theory that people with dementia are still completely themselves way deep inside, everything shrunk down to a desiccated nugget, and constrained, like struggling in the mud of a bad dream, but there. I hope I'm wrong, because most of the time, it's a thought not to be borne. But my mother's wide eyes and astonished expression while she listens tell me that recognition is occurring. How much, what kind, I can't possibly know, but the sound of Romulus singing has found its way through to the place where she dwells. Contact!
I report this to Rom. We both get huge satisfaction from it. We did it right.
Before another year has passed, Romulus tells me he wants to write a play inspired by my book and by his memories of his time with my mother. Over the next couple of years, he sends me drafts. It's shaping into something wondrous in the hands of this seasoned professional. Damn, I think; I sure am glad I sat there in that movie theater for those few extra minutes after "Kinsey." My mother dies in 2008. I sadly tell Romulus that she's gone. I had to tell him. Didn't I? By the summer of 2010, there is a staged reading at New York Stage and Film of "Over Martinis, Driving Somewhere."
Rom credited my mother with jumpstarting his first play. As it turned out, she also inspired his last: he died in early 2011.
I have a photograph, taken in 1964 at the Breadloaf Writers' Conference in Vermont. Eight people, sitting and standing, are on the porch of a fine big vintage wooden building. Seven of them are men, all of them young, several of them dark, brooding sorts. The one woman is my mother, in the center, in a chair. She's wearing a slim black sleeveless dress. Her long elegant legs are crossed, sandals on her feet, and she's talking to the man seated to her right, one of the brooders, who's listening intently. There's her fine profile, her shiny sleek brunette hair, her bare tan arms. Is that a cigarette in her hand? Probably. Standing behind her right shoulder is the young Romulus, not at all dark and brooding, cheery and smiling and obviously really, really happy, looking down at my mother, his attention on her like a beam of sunshine. It's a decorous picture, but it's also sizzling hot. Breadloaf was where they met. Elsewhere, he wrote about my mother at that conference, wearing a man's crisp white shirt, drying her hair in front of a summer fire....
Had they begun when that picture was taken? Something had, that's for sure.
It's a snapshot, long ago and far away, a few inches square, an itty-bitty window to another world, removed by time, inaccessible, like the tiny door to Wonderland where Alice can't go.
Old age: It's no country for old women, no country for old men.
(4th of 4)
'WEED APOCALYPSE' in California as stricter rules for sale of legal marijuana come into effect today, forcing vendors to slash prices of goods that don't meet the mark
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Has anyone considered that because US elections are so vapid, irksome, pointless, corrupt, and boring that outside interference might be a welcome relief? But no-o-o-o-o! We’re getting all lathered up about a system we all hate and most of us avoid because some “Russian strong man” might have put his pinkie on the scales? Grow up. Hillary was never going to win. Bernie was the best hope of keeping Trump out of the driver’s seat. Apparently it was more important to the Democratic mucky-mucks to keep their corporate sell-out on the ballot than win as long as they could find a scapegoat after the unthinkable happened. True to form the Republicans let the free market rule the day. Trump was good for business. That clinched it.
So what if Trump goes down? The powers that be will want to limit the damage, which means Pence for president. We go from a clown with a fright wig to a clown with fangs. Wait. You thought getting rid of Trump would suddenly add billions of barrels of WTI to the oil inventory? It would bring factory jobs to Gary, Indiana? Convince Assad to retire to Aruba? Starbucks announces hazelnut toffee macchiato? I think not.
Aloha, and Success In All Ventures (thank you, John Chamberlin!)! Can't recall if I sent you this li'l doodle... Please make use of it, if needed...
Thanks a LOT, again and again, AVA! As about the only LIVE NEWSPAPER LEFT of the Left, Right, or What Have Ya, in the Land of the More or Less 'Free,' y'all Anderson Valley Advertiser stalwarts should be getting flood-donations, subscriptions, BigAss Cash Grants, Generous Stipends, and an occasional ticker-tape parade. Each and all. I bet you knew this.
Rick Weddle, Hawaii
THE US SUPREME COURT HAS TAKEN A SLEDGEHAMMER TO THE NEW DEAL
by Heather Cox Richardson
Of the three decisions the US supreme court handed down this week, the gay wedding cake case and travel ban cases were the latest battles in the culture wars that Republicans long have waged. The Janus decision declaring that public sector employees cannot be required to pay fees to the unions that represent them went beyond culture to the very meaning of the American government and how Republicans define it.
Since the 1930s, when then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised to break the hold of moneyed men on the government and broker “a new deal for the American people”, a cabal of reactionaries resolved to destroy the new government Democrats created. Roosevelt’s New Deal regulated business, protected social welfare and promoted national infrastructure on the principle that the role of government was not simply to protect the property of the wealthy, but rather was to promote equality of opportunity for all. The popularity of both Roosevelt and his agenda showed that Americans recognized that the government must rein in the runaway capitalism that had brought the nation to its knees.
But not everyone was on board. A group of reactionary Republicans sided not with the cosmopolitan eastern Republicans who came around to the New Deal but with Ohio senator Robert Taft, a proud representative of small-town, traditional America who maintained that the New Deal undermined liberty and snaked socialism into the nation. They hated government rules and laws that protected their workers, and the need for new taxes to pay for bureaucrats and welfare programs. Above all, they rejected the idea that workers should have a say equal to theirs in what the government did. They loathed the Wagner Act, which empowered workers to unionize and bargain collectively.
The “completely one-sided” Wagner Act, they complained, enabled labor leaders to challenge business leaders. In 1947, when Republicans regained control of Congress, their first step in their quest to roll back the New Deal was to weaken the political power of unions. The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed closed union shops and weakened union political activism. It passed over then president Harry Truman’s veto.
Taft-Hartley seemed destined to be the last gasp of reaction in the face of the overwhelming popularity of the newly active government. Republicans rejected Taft as their standard-bearer in 1952, turning instead to Dwight Eisenhower, who launched the “Middle Way”, his version of the New Deal. The Middle Way included the largest public works project in American history: the Interstate Highway system, which updated American roads for a driving generation with leisure time on their hands, but expanded the federal government’s purview.
But Eisenhower’s policies extended some opportunities to people of color, and race gave the Taft Republicans a wedge to begin razing the activist state. Equality of opportunity for African Americans could only be achieved through the use of state power, and that would cost tax dollars. Equal rights, Taft Republicans insisted, simply redistributed wealth from hardworking white taxpayers to undeserving people of color.
Using this formula, the reactionaries split the liberal consensus and, in 1980, put Ronald Reagan into the White House. True to their ideology, Reagan announced in his inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”. His administration began destroying the New Deal state and slashing taxes. The process accelerated when the House speaker, Newt Gingrich, purged Eisenhower Republicans – people he called “Rinos” (Republicans in Name Only) – and replaced legislative aides with lobbyists.
And now, Donald Trump is achieving their dream. But this scheme has created a crisis in American democracy. New Deal-era programs are as popular now as they were in the 1950s, and voters have come to recognize that Republican policies have hurt them. After the American people did not condemn the Democratic president Bill Clinton as Republicans expected, the Republican party has maintained control by gaming the system. Since 2000, Republican policies have suppressed Democratic voting; since 2010, Republican gerrymandering has given the Republicans a heavy systematic advantage in Congress; and the last two Republican presidents have won the White House while losing the popular vote to their opponents.
Movement conservatives have always known their program appealed to only a minority of Americans, and from the start they have worked to pack the courts with allies. Reagan named more than 375 federal judges, and while Trump has let vacancies eat holes throughout the government, he has concentrated on filling judicial vacancies. That strategy is now paying off. While the Janus ruling strikes at the power of public unions, the other, limited decisions reinforce the cultural parameters of the 1920s: traditional religion and the president’s power to determine immigration, a power rooted in a law from 1924. FDR promised “to restore America to its own people”, and the coffin seems to have closed on that principle.
But perhaps not. Reactionaries tried this strategy before, in the 1890s. When congressmen working with industrialists dismantled that era’s popular government, they, too, could retain power only by gaming the system, suppressing votes and packing the courts. By 1900, it seemed they had won, thanks to a pro-business supreme court that strengthened the power of business owners, crippled labor unions, and declared the income tax unconstitutional. But all of those decisions – Plessy v Ferguson, Lochner v New York, in re Debs and Pollock v Farmers Loan – were overturned in a progressive backlash to their extremes, and now lie ignominiously in the ash heap of history.
(Heather Cox Richardson is professor of history at Boston College)
by Manuel Vicent (translated by Louis S. Bedrock)
Donald Trump is locking up Mexican children that have crossed the border and is cutting up their shoes so they can’t walk; extreme right populism is spreading like leprosy through Europe and thousands of immigrants on the verge of drowning in the Mediterranean have been described as “human meat” by the Italian politician Salvini.
The Israeli army fires at will at a crowd of unarmed Palestinians; globalization is about to provoke a worldwide economic war. Add to this catalog of infamy any personal misfortune: unemployment; the desertion of your partner; sickness; the fear of finding yourself without the money to pay for your burial.
And when it appears that universal evil is going to sink everything is sight, suddenly the landslide stops.
What has happened?
Simply that the Spanish national soccer team has scored a goal in Kazán — the winning goal against Iran. Although it has been scored without glory, thanks to the caprice of the soccer ball that bounced off the leg of a forward, the release of irrational emotion has momentarily swallowed all the problems of this treacherous world. The Apocalypse can wait.
Among the three phases of human evolution, homo sapiens, homo faber, and homo ludens — the triumph of the idea of the play element as an interpretation of life is the most noble phase and most suggestive of the human spirit.
In ancient Greece, every four years a truce would be forged among the warring cities so that the Olympic Games could be celebrated in peace. Victorious athletes transferred the glory of their triumphs to the collective soul of the tribe.
It remains to be seen if sporting events like the World Cup and the Mediterranean Games will impose their values of harmony that will make us forget the misery of politics for a few days. Here, the stopwatch and the soccer ball are the masters of destiny.
PUT THEM AWAY
I was sitting out in my yard on Sunday about noon with an eagle eye out for smoke because Comptche is nearly a bomb ready to explode if we get a fire in this area with the wind blowing the way it is and as dry as it is and people all off away fighting fires. It's pretty sad. It's also sad to see how many fires are burning in California. There are over 25 of them. I think that's probably a lot of people getting even with Jerry Brown for the ridiculous, cynical, stupid, asinine laws he has made and the way he has treated this state, spending our tax dollars on stupid liberal BS things instead of fixing the infrastructure. Stupid gun laws and so on. It doesn't make any sense to me. I don't know why he would want to do that but I'm pretty sure that's why a lot of people are setting fires.
Maxine Waters. She is a California liberal representative. That is one bad person. I don't know what these liberal people think they are doing. Now they have another liberal, a big donor for the Liberal party, a multibillionaire who is saying that the best thing that could happen to this country is to have a nuclear war after President Trump's term is over. What kind of a dingbat would say something like that? Somebody who has had so much money shoved up his keister that he does not know what he is saying.
Nancy Pelosi is no better than Maxine Waters. Chuck Schumer is no better than both of them put together. And there's a guy named Jeff Johnson, he's a congressman I think, and he is an out-of-control liberal and he should be put behind bars.
Have a good day, God bless Donald Trump.
As someone who is raising two elementary school-aged grandchildren, I’m upset to read “Let there be light? Daylight savings change to voters.” (SF Chronicle, June 29). While keeping California on daylight savings time year round will provide more light at the end of winter days, it will also mean more darkness at the start of them. That means that sunrise in San Francisco in wintertime will be as late as 8:25am. I don’t want my grandchildren walking to their school in darkness and risk getting injured by vehicles as they cross city streets. It’s hard enough getting young children up each morning and preparing them to be educated. Extra morning darkness under year-round daylight savings time will only make this process more difficult and dangerous.
Dorothy Van Horne
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE WEEK
If someone feels it’s hopeless or too late, I can’t really argue with them, but until I know it’s totally hopeless I’ll support trying. I limit my CO2 emissions to a fair extent but am nowhere near hair-shirt level, so can claim no virtue. My life is still comfortable. And I know full well that if it comes to lifeboat time, when push comes to shove people pushier and shovier than me will get in the lifeboat before me, even though I’ve tried to put their need to get into a lifeboat at all back as far as possible, but that’s life. You can only live it the way you see fit. Changes need to be made at local and national level – some of us doing without cars and planes, keeping our heating turned down or off as much as we can in winter, and buying less stuff isn’t going to save the world. It’s very ‘light green’. I can look at a wealthy person with half a dozen children I know will all grow up to have fancy houses, fancy cars and fancy holidays and I might ask myself why I’m bothering, but I’d feel a hypocrite if I didn’t (bother).
As the late Prof. Mackay used to say (author of ‘Renewable energy without the hot air’), every little helps – but only a little.