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Letters (April 17, 2019)

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Dear Editor,

A friend alerted me to the AVA’s recent Hamburg post, which included my name. Thanks for pulling me out of winter hibernation, in between warm weather mural painting seasons. I trust you won’t mind a comment and reprint of my heartfelt letter responding to your previous mention of Dan’s marital scenario. 

I always thought Dan was nuts to leave me, and events during the subsequent years sort of proved my point. In 2015, Dan’s descent was my own private nightmare, until its radius extended. I was no longer privy to inside information, but public events were bizarre enough. For example when, rather than reasonably staying away from endorsing a fellow progressive candidate in 2018 while he was the sitting supervisor, he splashily backed the only Republican in the race with full-page color ads. The secret selling of his property out from under the kids, as you mentioned, was super strange and seems perhaps to go against what I believed to be the wishes of his late wife. There is also the way that mental health professionals in his intimate circle acted in a personal capacity, no doubt at his urging, but possibly to the detriment of his professional care. His absence at months of Supervisors’ meetings naturally raised concern. The flight to Oregon seems like a last ditch effort to make life changes through a geographical move.

In my letter from 2016, which I include below, I said I intended to land on my feet. It hasn’t always been easy, but I think I have, thanks especially to two large public projects, the second — my historical narrative mural depicting our region in twenty-six scenes on the north wall of the Ukiah Valley Conference Center — headed for completion this summer. I’m fine being a recalled mayor, a divorced newlywed, an exceptionally trained artist, and author of three upcoming works: my historical novel about a real double portrait of two men, one the famous Venetian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini and the other his little-known lifelong assistant; a trilogy set in Paleolithic Europe, which will illuminate what people did for survival but also for fun (including demonstration sex); and the promised autobiography. Perhaps tantalizing first pages might be printed here to stimulate sales.

Before closing, I just feel the need to clarify your paper’s remark about the motivation behind my marriage to Dan. It wasn’t for the insurance! Thanks to Obamacare, it would have been cheaper to buy it.

After all is said and done, much to the disruption of both our lives at the time, and despite what came after, Dan and I did it for love.

In May 2016 you guys concluded your remarks about us with this:

“HAMBURG’S PRIVATE LIFE is nobody’s biz but his. It becomes public business when he uses public money to fix his estranged wife’s feet. On the other hand, who can begrudge the abandoned Ms. Sinnott, a nice lady fallen into narcissism's very cynosure? We hope she lands on her new feet.”

Here, again, is my response:



Wow, I was just told of your recent pieces concerning my marriage to county supervisor Dan Hamburg! Your source must be someone very close to Dan, to judge from the detailed information provided. My husband’s response when you asked for comment was also telling. I’m no fan of euphemisms, but I might have been comforted by a generic “Please respect our privacy as my wife and I get through a difficult time, for her sake if not for mine...” Instead, he offered only a correction of his married lover’s name, thereby confirming her role in his life and displaying his solicitude for her. As for me, I have neither been spoken for nor had a voice in the matter, so why not respond to your story about my life? Regarding several of the points in your article, I would offer comments about begging, foot surgery, insurance, love and dashed hope, as well as a literary observation.

As you wrote, there was a very dark day last October, in the tenth month of our marriage, when my husband came home with his absolutely shocking announcement of divorce with no discussion, and I did beg, but not for my surgery. It was to give us not a second, third or fourth chance, but a first chance! I begged him to give me more than one single hour to talk and to work on any issue he wanted and -- especially -- to get counseling. The answer to all of it was no. I also of course begged him to tell me why, and the answer to this was “I don’t know.”

At that moment, my first surgery had already happened, and was wildly successful: I kept up with all my physical work and my foot now contains three really large titanium bolts. My cast had just come off that week and I was back on my feet (and bike.) The next surgery, on the other side, was already planned for this year. You wrote that my husband “uses public money to fix his estranged wife’s feet.” The reality is more mundane. Similar to employees across the country, the supervisors have health insurance, paid half by the employer — the county — and half by the individual for him or herself. The employee pays extra to include a spouse in the plan, as is the case for us. This was pretty wonderful for me who, as a self-employed artist, never before had access to an employee benefits package. I was also grateful that my flat feet, which had stayed strong for so long, chose this newly insured year to go south. Now I could start walking, even dancing again.

But in one day, the comfortable life I was wrapped in blew away. The months following were isolated and tearful, but also introspective and healing. I had waited a long time to remarry and took the commitment seriously, so this reversal was huge for me, yet even in the saddest times, I knew the good outweighed the bad. No one can steal history, and I will always have the experience of our many candlelight dinners, cooking together and slow dancing to our wedding play list, champagne corks popped into the oak forest, dreaming up interesting topics of conversation, lying under the starry night sky, our massive work effort together on Dan’s castle cottage, asking questions about items on his agenda (yes I do enjoy that!), picking fruit so I could make frozen smoothies for us on hot Ukiah afternoons… Etc.

All of that outweighs the harsh and fast end. Dan and I are working together through this period with love, if not courage, and no one needs to feel awkward around either of us. Plus I have the great outfit I made for our wedding, which will certainly not go to waste. Please indulge me, AVA, since you have shown prior interest in my clothes (May 7, 2014). Allow me to mention that should anyone throw a formal party, I have a French blue and gold tailcoat, sheer under-dress, black and white lace bodice, ivory mini skirt, and historic 18th-century shoes.

So yes, the experience of our love outweighs the more recent story of Dan’s descent, which — although it shredded our marriage — is not mine to tell.

Finally, in your May 6 edition you say:

"On the other hand, who can begrudge the abandoned Ms. Sinnott, a nice lady fallen into narcissism's very cynosure?"

I can't let a sentence like that pass by without praise. It is not often that I am led to the dictionary, but I was, and it was worth it! A sentence both apt and brilliant, though really, narcissism’s very cynosure — the brightest star and center of attention even amongst a whole group of stars of their own shows — that might be a certain presidential candidate we see nightly on the news. I’ve been telling friends that I’m doing well. I have too much to do (books to write, pictures to paint) to mope. I think Dan was lucky to get me as a wife, and — when you think of the public crying and screaming that could occur — he was lucky to get me as an ex-wife. This chapter in life will produce reflection and personal growth, and will translate through art into beauty. Plus, with your phrase you have provided me a chapter heading.

And I certainly do intend to land on my new feet.

Lauren Sinnott

Point Arena

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Re: Joe Biden and “personal space” of women.

Biden should play it safe and not even shake women’s hands in his public duties. I suggest he employ the Vulcan hand salute used by Mr. Spock of Star Trek and tell them, “Live long and prosper.”

Keith Bramstedt

San Anselmo

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RESPONSE TO RECENT NEW YORKER piece about farm labor automation:

To the Editor of the New Yorker magazine,

Re: “Machine Hands,” New Yorker, April 15, 2019.

Living in the heart of Northern California’s premium wine grapes and with a long-ago Master’s Degree in enology from Fresno State, I’m pretty familiar with the wine-grape industry and its labor situation. Grape growing is accompanied by a raft of problems like pesticides, rangeland clearing and scraping, dewatering of local streams, skyrocketing land costs, housing cost escalation, labor competition from California’s newly (semi-) legalized pot industry, additional welfare and education for worker’s children in the off-season, etc. Labor is probably the least of them. The story fails to note that most farm labor is seasonal, maybe for two weeks, so, in the case of wine, the cost of labor amounts to only a few pennies per bottle and bears almost no relation to the market-based retail price. What does it say about wealthy growers and marketers that they would rather spend millions of dollars on marginal automation instead of improving pay and working conditions for the people who do the real work and form the basis of their business? 

Mark Scaramella

Boonville, California

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I am going to fight this Air Resources Board BS to the death. I'm looking for people to help me. It's unconstitutional. Cover-up. Alibis. Social media. No one knows what's going on. I will make a stand on this. I don't care if it comes to gunfire. When they come to my shop to get my truck there will be war.

How does a person who has paid taxes for 70 years try to speak to a representative If you are a Republican? For three weeks I have been trying to reach a representative or Congressman in our district. No chance. No reply. Nothing. Are they there? What's the problem? It's sick.

Are you sick and tired of this California dictatorship? Are you ashamed of California? Are you ashamed of living in the most rotten, filthy, illegal state in the union? We have the worst infrastructure, the worst leadership, the worst ideas, attacking the people trying to make a living. If you are not ashamed of California then I am ashamed of you because I am ashamed of California and sick and tired of it and so are thousands of others.

Here's what's wrong with California: open borders, high taxes, too many regulations, rotten bridges, highways, dams. Sanctuary cities. Abortions. Dictatorship. Air Resources Board. Stupid gun laws. Highest gas taxes in the country. Highest gas prices. The filthiest city in the world, San Francisco. Crazy, unAmerican politicians. Especially the previous and present governors. And a lot more.

Mendocino County is no better. The worst road system and infrastructure in a state which is already the worst in the country. County roads have brush way over the fog line and grass as high as the window of your car. Bumps. Potholes. Sickening. Where is our tax money going? Very weak government. And who would want to cut off the water to Potter Valley? Insane. Come on, people. Think about what we are doing and get this county back on its feet spending our tax money wisely.

God Bless Donald Trump.

Jerry Philbrick


One Comment

  1. Tom Quinn April 19, 2019

    Thanks to Bruce and Marco Mclean for their kinds words about Jennifer Wolfman. I was meaning to contact the AVA about her passing and so am glad you picked up this news, sad though it is. Yes, her bookstore was wonderful and she was one of the most literate and erudite people I ever met, but completely lacking in any pretention or snobbery.

    I met Jennifer in 1996 when I was in law school in San Francisco and came up to deal with my long lost half-brother who had gotten into some trouble with the law on the Mendocino Coast. Prior to that time I worked in the commercial fisheries in Alaska since the early 80s. After graduating I moved to Ukiah where I got a job with the public defender, but moved in with Jennifer in Fort Bragg after she and her husband split up, with a crash pad over the hill where I stayed during the work week. Since 2003 I have been working in Lake County in a similar position.

    Before this tragedy occurred I read an article somewhere that stated that 40% of the deaths of people under medical care have as a material cause medical error, a factoid I dismissed as exaggerated. Sadly, however, Jennifer’s death was principally caused by that. She was a healthy, strong and vigorous woman- a cross country skier and regular yoga practitioner-who went in for what was billed as a routine operation and had a stroke the day after she got out and died two weeks later. Why? because she had atrial fibrillation (“Afib”), an irregular heartbeat that causes blood clotting. But nonetheless, her local treating physician insisted she submit to surgery to remove an early stage tumor from her colon even though he knew full well that she had Afib for which he had prescribed her blood thinners which had to be discontinued for this surgery which-like any surgery-increases the clotting behavior of blood. But at no time was there any due diligence regarding her risks of undergoing this procedure and what her prognosis would have been had she not undergone or postponed the surgery. Consequently complaints have been filed with the Medical Board of California against this doctor and the surgeon who runs a surgical mill in the city, the narrative portion of which as regards the latter (slightly redacted for legal reasons) is enclosed [for the print edition] which sums up what happened. Please feel free to publish it as a cautionary tale if you wish.

    A couple days ago I received a call someone at the California Pacific Medical Center that sums up the bumbling incompetence that contributed to Jennifer’s death when I was asked how she was doing recovering from her surgery! I regret that I lost my composure and rudely hung up on this person.

    Thanks so much,

    Tom Quinn

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