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Mendocino County Today: February 8, 2012

SMOKE AND FLAMES from Elk. Remember that fire last summer when the rich lady's home burned down south of Elk and priceless painting were destroyed? Now, it turns out, that the Elk Volunteer Fire Department, emphasis here on Volunteer, has received notice from the rich lady's attorney that the Volunteers may be sued for lots and lots. The rich lady's contention seems to be that the Volunteers didn't properly fight the fire. Rumors persist that an indoor grow organized by the rich lady's kids was the cause of the blaze.

A SICK BAT recently found in the Ukiah area has tested positive for rabies.  It is the first animal testing positive in Mendocino County since 2008.  Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system.  The virus is usually passed to humans via the bite of a rabid animal.  Occasionally rabies can be transmitted if the saliva of an infected animal gets into a fresh scratch, break in the skin, or contact with eyes, mouth or nose.

STEVE SPARKS reminds us: " These Valley Old-Timers have spent many, many years in Anderson Valley, their whole lives in some cases, and they will all be taking part in the A.V. Historical Society’s Roundtable Discussion entitled “Anderson Valley in the 30’s and 40’s” this Sunday, February 12th. This free event will be at The Grange on Hwy 128 beginning at 1.30pm and everyone is welcome to attend what will surely not only be a fascinating afternoon of old Valley stories and memories but also a unique piece of history in the making...Clyde Price Jr., Ben Van Zandt, Catherine Nobles (Sinott), Donna Cox (Reilly), Dick McAbee, Johnnie Pinoli, Berna McAbee (Walker), Eileen Brown (Pronsolino), Wes Smoot, Marian McAbee (Crosby), Gloria Ornbaun (Abbott), Pat Hulbert, Eva Pardini (Holcomb), Janese Brunton (June)."

THE GREENWOOD Creek Bridge at Elk, age 56, is being replaced. The new bridge, which will include a walkway, will be finished, CalTrans says, in the fall 2014 and cost $20.5 million.

SLOW LEARNER. I first ate at Original Joe's in 1962, and soon after downed my second seminal Frisco meal at what to me was another upscale joint around the corner called Polo's on Mason. The two restaurants were just about identical and, as a starving student, I couldn't afford them very often, cheap as they were. Mostly, I ate at a four-table Chinatown place on Jackson where you could get two pork chops and gravy on a big plate of rice and cabbage for under a dollar. If I timed that meal at about noon, I was good for the day. But I left my heart at Joe's. For many years Joe's was the only place I looked forward to for a meal out. There was the pugnacious Puerto Rican chef behind the sit down counter and a gentlemanly Croatian waiter who always seemed to be there. All the waiters, even the Americans, were old world gentlemanly in their tuxedos and old world manners, but the two people I remember most vividly were the menacing chef and the unperturbable Croat, as natural an aristocrat as you could find. As a kid of twenty-one or so I always sat at the counter where the Puerto Rican, one of three or four multi-ethnic chefs always on duty, randomly ambushed fellow workers and select male patrons — only the males — with sudden barrages of insults  and bawdy remarks. He put on quite a show, and must have permanently estranged lots of customers who might put up with him once but never again. He asked me once, "How you doin' with the girls? You know any young ones who want to meet a real man?" Another time I'd come in after some kind of demo still wearing a button that said something provocatively mawkish, like, "Love One Another." The Chef asked me if I was a communist. I tried an evasively nuanced reply, "Well," I began, "do you mean in the small 'c' sense....." He cut me off. "You think I have time for your bullshit?" He didn't have time for anybody's bullshit, what with the non-stop demands of his job, but he certainly managed to keep up his bullshit, which he aimed scattershot at everyone within range, including people coming through the nearby door. He was also a great one for looming up in your face with a big roast knife in one hand like he was about to fly over the counter at you if you so much as lifted an eyebrow at him. He got his work done, though, and messing around like that probably helped him make his shift go faster. That guy was there for years, and for years the menu didn't change. They say it still hasn't changed, but you'd have to fight your way through North Beach's shoals of trendo-groove-o's and tourists to find out, and when you get inside you aren't unlikely to be fake-menaced by a knife-wielding chef. Customers at the Old Joe's were regular working people heavy on Chronicle reporters, cops, show biz people from up on Geary, gamblers, and older people who lived in the neighborhood. My daughter called it a "time warp," and would chastize me, "Not everyone is as tolerant of aberrant behavior as you are." (Embrace the asylum, I say. Embrace it!) The old Joe's was always busy, but lots of people refused to go there "because of the neighborhood," which, then and now, can be unnerving, especially for unescorted women and even the escorted ones if they happen to draw the attentions of a terminal. The prison writer Dannie Martin, a bank robber, who lived for a while across the street in a federal half-way house, told me, "I see more crime just looking out my window every day than I saw ten years in the joint." Taylor near Market got progressively wilder over the four decades I ate at Joe's, especially in the crack years. But Joe's let all kinds of sketchy people in to eat so long as they behaved themselves. Then there was a fire and Joe's closed for a long time before re-opening a couple of weeks ago in North Beach. Sketchy people are unlikely to get in the new place. It's designed like a funnel. You've got to get through the small end to get inside to the big end, and it's already jammed with the instant nostalgics, the people who never went to the old Joe's "because of the neighborhood" but now say, "I loved that place." Yearning for the old Joe's, and like a fool somehow assuming the new Joe's would be a replica of the old Joe's, I tried to get in Saturday afternoon about 4. "We don't serve dinner until 5," a black-clad young person chirped as four more metro-sexuals bobbed their heads in back-up. The old Joe's you could get most of the menu any time day or night, 11pm to 4am. I looked around at the new Joe's, and not to be a reverse snob about it, except for the door handles, Joe's was gone. It was all shiny and all shiny people and, taken whole, about as diverse as the Redwood Room at the Clift. I walked around the corner to Cafe Sport on Green where the food is always good and the Mexican waiters slick their hair back to look like the Italians who own the place. I don't think it's changed since the day it opened.

THE KIDS who go to school on the bus

Should put up a pretty big fuss

If bus budgets are cut

It’d hit the kids in the gut

While the educrats say, Don’t cut us


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