Cloudy Dry | 46 Cases | Missing Person | Vaccination Clinics | Old Structure | Virus Variant | Sea Bar | Toy Distribution | Passionate Dissent | Frontyard Sheep | Miss Confidentiality | Pacific Coast | Ed Notes | Strange Trunks | Streetscape Update | Lumber Port | Makahiki | Trump Legacy | Young Ossoff | Fearsomely Alike | Coastal Arches | Background Inequality | Seastacks | Impure History | Redwood Lightshow | Pathological Accumulation | Silent Night | Tactical Weapon | Nonlinear Civilization | Corktop Report | Found Object
MAINLY DRY WEATHER is expected today, although some clouds may linger through much of the day. Another front is expected to bring rain Friday afternoon and evening. Occasional light showers are expected Saturday. Periods of significant rainfall are possible Sunday into early next week. (NWS)
46 NEW COVID CASES reported in Mendocino County on Wednesday, bringing total to 2487.
MISSING PERSON: KERRY ANN BONANNO (69 year-old from Gualala, CA)
On 12-30-2020 at about 5:30 PM, Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were dispatched to a missing person situation in the 37000 block of Old Stage Road in Gualala, California.
Upon arrival Deputies learned several members of the community, family and South Coast Fire Department personnel were searching the area for Kerry Bonanno.
During their investigation, Deputies learned Bonanno had telephoned family/friend and said she was walking away from her home into the woods as she was despondent.
Deputies searched the area during the night but were unable to find Bonanno.
Bonanno is described as being a white female adult, standing 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 130 pounds. Bonanno has blonde hair, blue eyes and it is unknown what clothing Bonanno was wearing when she walked away from her residence.
This investigation is ongoing at this time and anyone with information about Bonanno's current whereabouts is urged to contact the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office by calling 707-463-4086.
The Sheriff's Office will be deploying Mendocino County Search & Rescue resources for a further search during the morning of 12-31-2020 to include a bloodhound tracking dog to aid in the search.
Further updates will be posted via press release and on the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MendocinoSheriff) as they become available.
Sheriff Matthew C. Kendall would like to thank the Mendocino County Search & Rescue volunteers for their continued support and dedication to life saving missions of this nature.
MENDOCINO COUNTY BEGINS VACCINATION CLINICS
On Tuesday, December 22nd, the County of Mendocino held its first COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. Clinics are now taking place weekly, according to Nash Gonzalez, the county’s Interim Planning Director, Recovery Director and Vaccine Coordinator. Access to the vaccine has been eagerly anticipated by front line healthcare workers who are at the greatest risk for contracting the Coronavirus.
The clinic is the first of what Dr.’s Andrew Cohen and Mimi Doohan describe as a watershed moment for county residents. “Our goal is to vaccinate a very substantial number of county residents within the next six months,” notes Coren, the county’s Public Health Officer.
With the recent arrival of the Pfizer vaccine to Mendocino County, staff rapidly implemented the rollout of its vaccination clinic, located separately from the ongoing Optum Serve testing site at the Fairgrounds. The clinic is not open to the public, and at this juncture is strictly limited to vaccinating frontline healthcare personnel on an appointment-only basis.
“In order to determine who receives the first round of vaccines, we continue to follow rigorous directives from the CDC and the California Department of Public Health,” explained Dr. Coren. On the first day of the clinic, a maximum of 72 doses was made available to “Phase 1a” individuals: frontline healthcare workers. Sixty individuals were scheduled, but because some vials of the vaccine contain extra medicine, 12 additional people were placed on a vaccination standby list and were contacted if there were cancellations, no-shows or if an extra dose became available. A clinic held on December 30th vaccinated approximately 100 people, and it was anticipated that another 80 individuals would be vaccinated on December 31st.
Gonzalez anticipates the number of people vaccinated on a weekly basis will continue to increase. But, he stressed, the number of vaccinations available to county residents is completely dependent on the allocations of vaccine received by the county.
“We are not able to schedule folks for an appointment until we have the vaccine in hand, and we must constantly adjust to CDPH’s refinement of the vaccination tiers and phases.” To date, the US lags behind the original projections for the vaccine rollout, with about 11 million of the promised 20 million doses distributed.
The clinic is staffed with physicians, RN’s and other medical staff, and like many counties throughout the state, selected volunteers are providing support for the clinic. Volunteers are being screened and provided through North Coast Opportunities and include physicians, nurses and individuals currently in Med School as well as community members wanting to lend a hand.
Using logistical processes similar to the Optum Serve virus testing site, vaccine cohorts enter Carl Purdy Hall through one door and exit through another. For safety and security reasons, no one but those being vaccinated are allowed to enter the building. Individuals are screened to confirm their identity and their membership in the Phase 1a tier. Most importantly, as the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, every person vaccinated is given a follow-up card and a phone call to ensure they receive their “booster” vaccine within Pfizer’s prescribed 21-day window.
Included in the pre-screening is a brief health check to confirm the vaccine recipient is currently asymptomatic for COVID-19. Groups of 15 are seated in the hall with chairs spaced ten feet apart. Following their vaccine, the group completes a post-vaccination observation period and exits the facility before the next group is admitted. Two nurses provide the vaccinations, and paramedics are on hand to care for anyone who displays distress following the vaccine.
Thus far, based on over 500,000 people who have received the Pfizer vaccine in the United States, the ratio of adverse symptoms such as an anaphylactic reaction is approximately one in 100,000 people.
The plans for the clinic were based on recommendations from the county’s previous Public Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan, who continues to support the county’s pandemic response in an advisory capacity. “Getting the vaccine is an altruistic act,” notes Dr. Doohan. “Everything about the vaccine is to help our community to help others.”
With assistance from Adventist Health Ukiah, the first round of Pfizer vaccines was stored at the hospital while the county awaited receipt of their own ultra-cool freezer. “Now, Mendocino County’s freezer has arrived,” notes CEO Carmel Angelo. In addition, notes Gonzalez, the first allocation of 400 Moderna vaccines has also arrived.
Dr. Coren noted it will take time for the general population to be vaccinated. Currently, the CDC is still finalizing its “phase” system, but for now, all 975 doses of the county’s Pfizer vaccine are allocated to those in frontline, 1a healthcare positions.
The first group of vaccine recipients are in what is being called the “jump-start phase” by the National Institutes of Health, which it estimates comprises about 24 million people. This also includes residents and staff of long-term care facilities, who will be receiving their vaccines through commercial pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens. “On January 7th, the contract with pharmacies will begin, but again, no one can anticipate when vaccines will arrive, or how much vaccine will arrive,” Gonzalez explains. “Staff who work in skilled nursing facilities will be vaccinated by the county, and residents of skilled nursing facilities will be vaccinated through arrangements with the pharmacies.”
“The Mendocino County Pandemic Response Team rose to the occasion one more time on Tuesday with the rollout of our very first county operated COVID vaccine clinic. This is public health in action. Thank you to our great team for managing this enormous, complex endeavor, and thank you to our dedicated healthcare workers who stepped up to receive their first vaccine today. We are all in this together,” CEO Angelo concludes.
The County of Mendocino’s Call Center will provide residents more detailed answers to specific questions regarding their place in the “vaccine line” as soon as updates from CDC and the California Department of Public Health have been distributed. For more information about Mendocino County’s COVID-19 response, available resources and other information, please visit the county's COVID-19 page, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The county’s Call Center is staffed from 8:30-5:00 PM Monday through Friday at (707) 472-2759.
DISCOVERY OF VIRUS VARIANT IN COLORADO AND CALIFORNIA ALARMS SCIENTISTS
A contagious variant of the coronavirus spreading through Britain has left that nation grappling with new lockdowns, curtailed air travel and a surge in infections. Now it has appeared in Colorado and California, threatening to complicate what had seemed a hopeful, if halting, path to recovery from the pandemic.
UPDATE ON THE TOY DRIVE last week: it was a great success!
Thanks to the many generous donations, families were able to choose the toy that was the right fit for each child. Thanks to everyone who supported this effort. And thanks to the parents who came and picked up toys for letting us help out a little! Hope everyone had a happy and healthy Holiday season.
(Anderson Valley Fire Department)
IT IS INTERESTING to see how the establishment deals with dissent. It gives you a fair idea of who the establishment really is. You see who crawls out of the woodwork to take you on. Very often, it's an unexpected person. It's not the people who are completely on the other size of the spectrum, who are completely opposed to your point of view. It will be cowardly people who position themselves as being "balanced" critics. They really can't deal with the real questions because they are instinctively undemocratic. There is nothing they condemn more passionately than passion. But I insist on the right to be emotional, to be sentimental, to be passionate…. When people try to dismiss those who ask the big public questions as being emotional, it is a strategy to avoid debate. Why should we be scared of being angry? Why should we be scared of our feelings, if they're based on facts? The whole framework of reason versus passion is ridiculous, because often passion is based on reason. Passion is not always unreasonable. Anger is based on reason. They're not two different things. I feel it's very important to defend that. To defend the space for feelings, for emotions, for passion. I'm often accused of the crime of having feelings. But I'm not pretending to be a "neutral" academic. I'm a writer. I have a point of view. I have feelings about the things I write about — and I'm going to express them.
— Arundhati Roy
by Mark Scaramella
The first half of the latest Measure B Committee meeting on Wednesday, December 16, was a long, tedious, and irrelevant bookkeeping discussion about which hours for which staff person should appear on which account. This appears to be a priority topic for the Measure B committee lately since they have no idea what they’re doing on actual mental health facilities or services. And even if they did, they’d be stonewalled by the staff (two of whom are committee members, conveniently) at every attempt to be involved.
After that waste of half their meeting, there was a minimally informative discussion of ongoing contracting activity.
Dr. Miller: “We are in the process of finalizing the evaluations for a provider for the Crisis Residential Treatment (CRT) facility that will be on Orchard Street in Ukiah. We are hoping to finalize that in the next week or so and a letter will go out to that provider and then we can start doing negotiations on a contract and make sure we have a good rate and what we want to see in that provider. We did close our Request for Qualifications for a Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF/’Puff’). Those closed on November 30. We have started the process of evaluating those. We have started meeting. There's not a lot of information I can give you because while we are in that process it is confidential but we did receive some proposals and we are starting a process. I'm not sure when we will be done with that process and have it in front of the Board (of Supervisors). We know it will be at least a month or two or more [sic]. We want to make sure we thoroughly evaluate these and then work with a potential provider to negotiate a contract.”
Measure B Committee member Mark Myrtle: “How many responses did we get for the CRT?”
Miller: “I cannot provide that information yet until it's finalized.”
Myrtle: “So we don't get any input on who the provider is going to be or what the details of the provider are?”
Miller: “The contract will be handled through Behavioral Health [Miller’s department] because unfortunately most of it is billed through Medi-Cal so it becomes a behavioral health contracted provider. We will let you guys [sic] know once we have more details and provide more information once it's no longer confidential.”
Myrtle: “So before you get into an agreement with a provider wouldn't you want to know what the expenditure requirement would be for Measure B?”
Miller: “I will bring that back if there is going to be a cost for Measure B. The hope is that they can provide services without any extra Measure B dollars besides the facility.”
Committee Member Tom Allman: “Will we know that before the contract is awarded or will it be after the signatures have already been collected?”
Miller: “If there is a need for Measure B dollars to fund either facility we will come back and at least let you know how much we would need to use Measure B dollars. That will still need to go to the Board. if there is a flat -- it is not going to cost anything. It is really Medi-Cal dollars and if there is no requirement for Measure B dollars to augment services then we wouldn't bring that back. But if there is a request that we are going to have to augment the program with Measure B dollars that will be brought back.”
Allman: “We are talking 100% operations and it has nothing to do with the physical brick and mortar?”
Miller: “100% operations right now, yes.”
Allman then asked about any other facilities?
Measure B project manager Alyson Bailey: “What is the status of the RFP for the psychiatric health facility?”
Miller: “The RFQ is out. It closed on November 30. We are in the process. We have a committee that is in the process of evaluating those and it's for an operator of a Puff or a psychiatric unit. That process is going to take a couple months as we go through and really evaluate them and we choose the right provider for our county. I cannot say how many we got but we got, um, some. So I can say that we did get some. We are in the review process for those right now.”
Let’s read between the lines here. Dr. Miller is saying they don’t need any Measure B money so there’s no need to bother mentioning any contracting details to the Measure B committee in a public forum. Instead, the contract will be secretly arranged and negotiated and presented to the Supes as a done deal package for them to rubberstamp.
Unless, of course, there is a “need” (as determined by Dr. Miller, et al) for Measure B money, which of course there will be and should be because Measure B was supposed to improve services, not just build a building for existing services. So by the time the Measure B people are notifed that Measure B money will be “needed” there will be nothing left to discuss. Camille Schraeder will say there’s a “need.” Dr. Miller will agree. And Measure B will happily provide it. They won’t have any choice. And absolutely nothing will change other than the value of the Schraeder’s “negotiated” contract.
Pretty neat, you have to admit. They’ve got this down to a fine art.
Also, we don’t understand all the secrecy revolving around even the number of bidders. After all, back in 2018 the Kemper Report made it clear and public who had the CRT contract and there’s no reason to think it will change.
From the Kemper Report: “Redwood Community Services (RCS), an affiliated agency of RQMC, was awarded a contract by Mendocino County to provide CRT services, as well as locate and secure a property [on Orchard Street] as the County’s designated [sic] grantee. RCS projects it will serve up to 800 individuals annually at the facility. SB 82 grant funds were provided to purchase real property, renovate real property, purchase furnishings, equipment, and information technology and to finance 3 months of start-up costs. The Land at 631 S. Orchard Street, Ukiah, was purchased with the SB 82 funding and construction of a facility, which would include a CSU on the same grounds, depends on receipt of other financing. [How long will it be before there’s a “need” for a CSU (Crisis Stabilization Unit) in the CRT?] The projected cost of construction for the combined Crisis Residential Treatment facility and CSU is approximately $4.66 million, not including the land that has already been purchased.”
Kemper was right about the approximate cost of the CRT but his estimate included a CSU. Either way, the muddled “services” to be provided are all in the giant, confidential gray zone range of services defined by Dr. Miller and overseen by no one, and can be labeled as they see fit to maximize the CRT utilization and billing.
The Letter to the winning “Provider” that Dr. Miller referred to should have already been sent out by now according to her own schedule. So you’d think that the County would have already issued a press release on the award of that CRT services contract to RCS/RQMC since it’s already essentially public. But of course, when it comes to such things everything has to be kept extremely hush-hush — to protect the privacy of the mental health patients and to maintain the integrity of the unbiased contracting process.
Just like they did with integrity of the Ortner evaluation and selection process back in 2013 — until the Grand Jury report came out more than a year later pointing out that the Evaluating Committee was set up by the former Ortner executive who had been brought in to privatize the mental health services and who scored Ortner’s main competing bid as “zero,” effectively torpedoing the competition.
The Supes at the time insisted that all that was completely above board and copacetic and scolded the Grand Jury saying they were not just wrong, but “wholly” wrong, wrong, wrong wrong wrong — nothing illegal had occurred, so no problem.
Until three years later when, after complaints from local cops and doctors, the same Mr. Kemper determined that Ortner wasn’t doing too great a job and soon Ortner’s contract was not renewed and all the mental health contracts — $20 million worth in total — were handed over to, guess who? “Redwood Community Services (RCS), an affiliated agency of RQMC.”
WITH the rest of Boonville dark, Boont Berry Farm lights up the night so spectacularly the little store that could and always does rivals the Christmas display at Navarro.
SAD SIGHT on 128 about 11am today (Wednesday). A thin young woman in dark glasses fast-walking at a psycho-tweeked pace, a death's head grin on her pretty face.
KATY TAHJA, the Comptche-based historian, writes: “Hey! I'm famous! I've got my very own youtube video. A new first for me. It's a 50 min. lecture on my new book recorded before an audience of no one and sent out as a holiday surprise to Friends of the Coast Community Library. If you want to learn about eclectic county history google “Katy Tahja book talk 12.6.20” and it pops up. I'm always startled at how “east coast” my voice sounds. Enjoy!”
ANOTHER SIGN that things are unraveling fast: The Atlanta City Council has proposed a $1.6 million plan to provide a private police force for the affluent suburb of Buckhead days after a seven-year-old girl was shot dead there by a stray bullet. Even the mayor says gun violence “is out of control.” Noting the obvious that it takes the death of a child in a wealthy enclave to get the political class thinking “gated communities” and publicly-funded private police forces.
UKIAH STREETSCAPE PROJECT CONSTRUCTION UPDATE - December 30
Due to the incoming storm, the work that was projected to occur on the week of January 4th will be pushed to the following week. Please see edits below:
3 8: No construction
4th 11th: Preparations for the underground electric installation begins, including saw-cutting and removing concrete, between Seminary Avenue and Mill Street along the west side of State. There will be noise and dust associated with this work.
5-8 12-15: Installation of the underground electric utility begins at Mill Street, heading north toward Seminary. North-south traffic on State Street will remain open at all times. However, there may be short-term, intermittent closures to East and West Mill Street as needed.
Construction hours are from 6am – 5pm; no night work is planned.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Shannon Riley, Deputy City Manager, w: (707) 467-5793
A BANQUET OF ABUNDANCE
by Jake Rohrer
A Year in Review: Makahiki / Arrival / Farewell to Max / Working on a Building / Hilo and Kehena / Ed's Party / The Search for Pele's Vagina / Makahiki Redux
Laurie is up and out of the house at four forty-five Saturday morning to attend the makahiki (the coming year) ceremony at the big heiau (temple) in Wailuku, a pagan tribute and chant to the rising sun. The ancient Hawaiian god of war, Ku, is put to rest for four months. Weapons are laid aside while a period of feasting, games and leisure is observed. The benevolent god Lono is now in charge. Come March, Lono will be ousted by Ku and the people will be free to go back to war, flailing away at one another with lethal cudgels embedded with shark's teeth and the like.
In other countries there is a ceremonial changing of the guard. Here in Hawaii we have a ceremonial changing of the god. If it's a significant cultural event and it's happening on Maui, it's a good bet you'll find my wife nearby. If makahiki has a western culture equivalent, it would be Thanksgiving, as difficult as it might be to imagine a pa`ina (feast or banquet) with four months of Thanksgiving-like feasting. It might, though, answer a few questions about the immense physical dimensions of many Hawaiians, some of whom claim eating until they're full isn't the point; rather, they eat until they're tired.
We arrived on Maui in November of 1996 to find our new home, for all its years a rental unit, in serious need of some TLC. The front two acres of the property was a jumble of weeds, guava bush, mixed jungle and blue-flower, a home for horses. Cane grass, tough and prolific, established colonies reaching 10 feet and more. Scraggly ti (pronounced “tea”), planted as ornamentals, struggled to maintain life. Cactus-like century plant fronds overgrew walkways. Crab spiders claimed title to the front porch while swaggering cockroaches of startling dimensions roamed the kitchen with a cocky air of authority. Towering eucalyptus trees spewed their by-product over the landscape and overhanging branches were cause for concern. Windows and toilets hadn't had a proper cleaning since the “World Series” Quake of '89. Curiously, there wasn't a single door-stop remaining anywhere in the house. A couple of doors had holes punched in them. So did walls where missing door-stops allowed doorknobs to act as wrecking balls. Towel hangers matched the number of bathrooms: two. And there was no garage. In Ha`iku, where it's known to rain “ … slightly more than somewhat,” absence of a garage can be terminal to an automobile. Things were austere, on the threshold of dismal. The prospect of work stretched out before us like a desert highway, no end in sight. And work we did. Laurie's green thumb brought new life to old plants while new plantings became a daily occurrence. I was the handyman-in-residence and part-time mule. I could usually fix what needed fixing and dig pukas (holes) for new plantings. I waged my own private war on guava root, weeds, blue-flower, and cane grass.
Farewell to Max
We were just starting to see progress when we got word that Max, our beloved `ohana (family) mainstay and champion, was in the hospital in Hilo. We didn't need to be told it was serious. Max wouldn't walk into the industry of western medicine of his own accord; he'd have to be carried. A week later he was still in ICU with no improvement. We were on the next plane to Hilo, both of us sensing an urgent need to be with Max, maybe for the last time.
Sadly, it was. We had opportunity for visits and closure but his lion-heart was soon to beat its last, leaving all of us who knew and loved him less than what we used to be. I had always looked to Max as the Keeper of the Fire, an earth-grounded conduit to life lived on its own terms. Even in his mid-70's, the spark of youth remained—you could catch it in his eyes and hear it in the music of his voice. He always seemed to be in charge, ready and capable to take on anything that might come down the pike. He carefully forged an existence that somehow wasn't subject to the incessant demands and forced conformity of our government and society. He was one of my father's closest friends and confidants, filling that role for me when we lost dad 35 years earlier. Both were members of that special generation often referred to, accurately in my opinion, as the “greatest.” Max was a man of great spirit and courage; we will celebrate his life always and strive to maintain the flame he left us.
Working On a Building
Back home on Maui I undertook to design and build a garage that would hold 3 vehicles, a shop, and an attached `ohana unit for my mother. It was my first ever such undertaking. Since I lacked the practical experience and many of the required skills, I had to go about it slowly, simply and methodically. Trees were felled and ground was cleared and leveled. I parked our cars where I figured the garage should be, staked it out and measured things. I drew the plans the same way, applying common sense and basic drafting technique learned in a junior-high mechanical drawing class.
My first draft was rejected by the building department. I had to be more detailed. I went back with my second set of drawings and sat down across from a sour-faced young woman who so completely lacked even a hint of humor or passion, I thought I might be dealing with an alien species. She looked at my plans as though I had handed her a pornographic manuscript. I was soundly rebuked for spanning a 10-foot reach with a 4 X 8. Didn't I know that required a 4 X 10? Where's the roof detail? And what about this here … do you intend to have a door between the garage and the studio? You haven't noted a firewall. And so on. Try as I might I couldn't get this woman to smile, but I learned things from her and thanked her warmly for her assistance. A couple of weeks later I had a building permit. When I arrived at construction stages, I hired a skilled builder to assist me.
It was a rough start. It rained daily for several weeks—as you might guess, slightly more than somewhat—clearing for an hour here, an hour there. We labored in the muck, setting piers, beams and joists. Then we were “out of the mud,” a cause for celebration: we had a sub-floor. And then walls and a roof. Gimme shelter. I felt the war was won—bring on the rain! But summer soon kicked in and it rained very little (perhaps less than somewhat) in following months.
Occasionally something out of the ordinary would happen and slow things down. I was working on the roof when I saw a car under tow delivered to the front of the property and recognized it as belonging to someone who lived at my brother Peter's property. I paid little attention to it but later noticed it had been moved from where the tow-vehicle had left it. No concern of mine, I gave that little thought as well. At lunchtime, walking across the `ohana property to visit with mom, I spied something that stopped me in my tracks: there was that car, upside-down, resting at the bottom of the gulch that more or less divided the front half of our property from the rear. I checked the car for a possible occupant and found none. What the hell? Maybe the parking brake wasn't set and a strong gust of wind set the car in motion, driver-less, but following the gentle slope of the land. With no conscious hand on the wheel and powered by gravity for about the length of a football field, it was funneled by swale, dips and the lay of the land, finding its way between royal palms and newly planted citrus, and into the gulch on a steep and narrow dirt entrance, overturning as it neared the bottom. There was no witness to whatever had happened, but I could come up with no other way to explain it. With the help of a tow-truck equipped with boom, winch and cable, the rest of that day was devoted to returning the car to upright and removing it from the gulch.
It was a normal day in Ha`iku where unexpected events could rearrange your day—or night—without warning.
The building project consumed most of my energy and attention for the first year of our occupancy on Maui. A good deal of money as well. With Thanksgiving again upon us, I had only carpet and tile to bring things to completion. The structure is square, plumb, sturdy and pretty much how I envisioned it. It looks better than fine, it looks as though it belongs, a companion building to the one we live in.
Hilo and Kehena
Laurie's wanderlust and love of Hawaiian culture would often lure us away for a few days. April found us again in Hilo for the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, a competition sometimes referred to as the “World Series of Hula.” We stayed with Max's now widowed partner, Maureen, at her home in the coastal village of Kehena which literally translates as “bare-assed.” I guessed that it was named for the local beach where you see a lot of that, but Laurie assures me the origin lies elsewhere.
We've always been drawn to the wild and natural beauty of the Puna coast and the Kalapana area, although the absence of Max created a huge hole for us. In earlier years, when we were living in Berkeley, we came to Hawaii often to visit family on Maui and Max and Maureen on the Big Island where we likened their off-the-grid home environment to “living on the edge of the world.” Kehena is just a few miles from the devastation of Kilauea's on-going “east rift zone” eruption and so distanced—if not in miles, then in spirit—from the rest of civilization that it felt we must indeed be very near the edge of the world. The volcano goddess, Pele, was at work nearby creating acres of brand new real estate. At night we'd listen to the ocean crash against the rocky coast, sounding as though breathing as it receded, spellbound by the shimmering glow of the volcano reflecting off the underside of clouds while the spirit of Pele hovered all around us. A few days without electricity, hot water, TV and the rest of it is part of living on the edge, doing without and finding that modern convenience is not a requirement for a rich and fulfilling existence, although a good book and a decent glass of wine can help considerably.
We returned to Hilo and the Big Island in July for Ed Olson's annual party at his spectacular property overlooking the Wailuku river in Hilo. Everyone is welcome at this grand pa`ina and invitation is by word of mouth. Bring a friend, it's okay. For over 20 years, Ed has hosted his annual “deck-party” and put on the ritz, Hawaiian style, for his friends, neighbors, employees, and those Big Island residents in the know. Large stones are super-heated in a fire pit called an “imu” which is then covered with dirt, burlap and banana leaves to hold in the heat while pig and turkeys cook to a smokey, tender perfection in this underground oven. Fishermen bring a fresh catch of ono (wahoo) and ahi tuna, prepared on a grill and passed around the tables, along with macadamia nuts and various produce from Ed's orchards. There is a coffee bar representing his plantation and mill in Ka`u. A full bar is staffed and well-stocked with spirits and a number of non-spirited beverages. Fruit and dessert tables are piled with contributions by many of the guests. Pies, cakes, cookies and other treats sparkle with invitation. By the end of the day, three or four hundred people are fed from the imu, served up with an array of complimenting Hawaiian side-dishes, everything gratis. Entertainment by local musicians includes solo artists, groups, hula dancing, and a lively Tahitian group. The evening closes with skilled musicians playing contemporary pop and rock.
A word of caution to the uninitiated: Tahitian dancers, half-clothed lovely young maidens decorated with exotic feathered headdress and accouterments, abide by a Tahitian tradition I've seen carried out many times. At some point in their performance, unannounced, they fan out into the audience to grab unsuspecting males then drag them to the stage to learn (in about a minute or so) Tahitian dance. The captives are then cajoled into performing with their lithe and able captors to the frenetic beat of Tahitian drumming. This seizure of the innocent never fails to bring to my mind Trevor Howard's superb portrayal of Captain Bligh in the 1962 movie version of Mutiny on the Bounty. At an arrival celebration in Tahiti, the stiff and rhythm-challenged Bligh is mortified to learn that refusal isn't an option when invited to dance with the king's daughter. He then proceeds in what must be the most rigid, gawking, ungainly—and hilarious—attempt at Tahitian dance ever filmed, contrasted by the graceful and erotic Tahitian dancers surrounding him on all sides while the Tahitian royal court looks on aghast and unbelieving. Brando as Fletcher Christian, holding back his mirth, offers his sympathies as Bligh steps forward to accept his duty: “…it does seem a rather difficult dance, doesn't it Captain?”
I of course see myself as the clumsy Bligh whenever threatened by the possibility that I could be chosen by the maidens to put my own haole lack of rhythm on display. Sometimes insistent maidens will team up and grab some poor unfortunate, one on each arm, and pull him to the stage, ignoring whatever protest might be lodged. So I keep a keen watch on the proceedings, ready at all times to flee for sanctuary ahead of possible seizure and public spectacle. Long ago I formed the opinion that a majority of white males have had soulful dance movement, so evident and appealing in people of color, starched out of them by the historic and shameful attempt to define themselves as a “race above.” Here at Ed's party I am at least proud to have my gender represented by Troy Keolanui, Ed's handsome and smiling farm foreman and right-hand man. When captured by a gang of maidens, Troy stepped to the stage without concern and performed confidently to boisterous applause.
I've known Ed for over forty years and, like Max, Ed became and remains a cherished member of our `ohana. Like cousins, members of both `ohanas (Ed's and ours), recognize the ties that bind us together in friendship and allegiance. Initially a successful contractor (whose company is said to have constructed some fifty thousand swimming pools in Southern California), he became a real estate mogul and one of the nation's leading self-storage operators before becoming one of Hawaii's largest farm operators and land holders. I think Ed-as-farmer suits him well, someone who reaps rewarding gratification and personal satisfaction from the business and art of growing things. All that he does seems done on what my brother Robbin calls “The Olson Scale,” Ed's gift of seeing life and investment on an expansive and overreaching scale of measurement that seems to guide his decision-making process. His entry into whatever endeavor he may undertake has always reflected an ability and desire to play at a major-league level. Never a “fortunate son,” Ed has done it all on his own.
As he approaches his 90th orbit around the star we call our sun, it's apparent to me (for whatever the hell that might be worth) that Ed is where he belongs, preferring Hawaii's second-largest city, funky Hilo, to cosmopolitan Honolulu with its tall buildings and freeways that decry the loss of true Hawaiian values. I believe that Hilo and the Big Island called to Ed with an informal etiquette and the warm invitation of Hawaiian aloha. Here was a place to grow things and a welcoming community in which he wasted little time in becoming an important member: farmer, businessman, employer, and philanthropist. His counsel has always been valued and available whenever the need might arise. His respect for and support of the native Hawaiians and their culture is apparent where ever appropriate within his endeavors.
The Search for Pele's Vagina
Hawaiian mythology and lore is perhaps best exemplified in the stories of Pele, sacred goddess of the volcano. It is said Pele came to Hawaii from Tahiti, carrying at her breast the “egg” of her little sister Hi`iaka, to eventually make her home in Halema`uma`u, the massive crater at the summit of the Kilauea volcano. Locally, stories and legends of Pele abound, especially on the Hilo side of the Big Island and perhaps even more so in the coastal regions of Puna, the site of recent eruptions and flows. Residents of this area have told stories of meeting Pele in the guise of an old woman who would mysteriously disappear after a brief encounter. Some believe Pele takes this form to monitor the behavior of residents toward travelers and those in need, a responsibility of her divinity.
Mythology also has it that another of Pele's sisters, Kapo, had a detachable flying vagina (well, why not?) that she used to distract the unwanted advances of the pig-god Kamapua`a who was stricken with his lust for Pele. The legend of Pele is fraught with stories of fierce battles between the families of Pele and Kamapua`a. Some, I am told, still worship the legacy of Pele, and I find myself wondering if there are those who persist in the worship of the pig-god? Fletcher Christian may have thought so, admonishing Bligh whom he is about to set adrift: “…you can thank whatever pig-god you pray to you haven't turned me into a murderer.”
Hawaii is ripe with myth, legend and stories of mysterious events. On Maui in the late sixties, resident hippies would swear that flying saucers emerged from the Haleakala crater at night, “…I seen 'em, man!” In the small and shadowed little village of `Opihikao on the Puna coast, some residents claim to have heard, even seen, the Night Marchers, phantom apparitions of dead warriors who come out at night to continue the noisy march from where they had met their death in some ancient battle. I also heard a story of something called the Vagina Cave, wherein a lava-formed image of Pele's vagina supposedly exists in fine detail.
There's no telling who you might meet at Ed's annual party, but among the vips, business associates, neighbors, locals, Polynesian and Hawaiian natives, I met a fellow who claimed to know the location of the Vagina Cave. Though I'm generally a skeptic, I am open to exploration and the search for validity. How could I resist an invitation to explore a labyrinthine lava tube (said to connect the coastline with the summit of Kilauea) in search of Pele's vagina? Lieutenant JR, reporting for duty, sir!
The entrance to the lava tube lies hidden in a mix of sparse jungle, guava, orchids, and scrub vegetation under ficus and banyan trees, not far off a highway and in sight of nearby housing. But if you didn't have a good idea of where it lies, you could search for days and not find it. But find it we did and into the darkness we went, Laurie, Maureen and I, with our local guide who seemed confident he could find the object of our search. Our flashlights illuminated the rust-colored lava tube we were in, high and wide enough to accommodate an RV if you could get it in there. We wound our way through passageways and level elevations, sometimes descending, sometimes climbing. We followed what looked like a pathway on one side of the tube, but found out the hard way it was more illusion than pathway. It grew more narrow by the step and we soon discovered that it narrowed to the point of being a just a ledge, inches wide, and we found ourselves clinging to the lava tube wall about eight feet above the floor of the main artery we were following. Platoon reverse! There was barely room enough to turn around, but we managed.
We encountered several false starts as we explored off-shoots of the main tunnel. We descended another level and then came upon a large chamber-like room that was an obvious burial site. Several coffin-shaped stone outlines lined the chamber, suggesting they once held burial remains. High in the roof was a small opening to the forest above. The silhouette of gnarly roots traversed the opening like spidery fingers and we heard occasional songbirds, but it didn't provide enough light to see our way unaided. Water dripped here and there, an audible distraction adding to the humidity. We discovered another entrance to that place and saw that someone at sometime had hauled enough iron bars and cement down there to close off the entrance to this chamber with chain and lock.
It is unknown when and by whom this was done, but the absence of remains suggests the burials were moved to another site. Hawaiians are known for their aversion to the idea that occupying haoles might someday mess with their bones or the bones of their ancestors. Would they also harbor similar feelings about haoles gawping at the vagina of the volcano goddess, Pele? Probably. Sacred is sacred, don't mess with it. There was only the four of us and the idea among ourselves that we would behave other than respectfully was unthinkable. But where was the object of our search?
Just beyond the burial chamber, we climbed to another passageway that doubled back to a smaller room that, like a balcony, overlooked the main chamber. There was a musty stillness to the air here; if sacredhad its own feel this was it. Our lights then fell upon the object of our search: there on the floor in the center of this smaller chamber, six feet or more in length and intricately formed of smooth-flowing pahoehoe lava, was the striking three-dimensional image of a vulva, complete and detailed with rose-colored labia. If not belonging to Pele, then to whom? Unlike any old pole that might be labeled phallic or some cleft said to have a female nature, here the aspect and accuracy was life-like and stunning, enhanced by the lava-provided hue and coloring. There was no mistaking what was before you: the female organ and birth canal aperture. We turned our lights off and sat in silence for some time before leaving, taking care to leave everything as we had found it.
I trust that a little female anatomy is okay with you. It was one of the most unforgettable moments of that year and this here, you will recall, is most of a year in review.
Back on Maui it's Sunday morning, the day following the makahiki ceremony. Laurie has made the morning coffee and put the newspaper on the table. She is suspiciously chipper for this early in the morning. What have I done to deserve this fawning attention? And what's with this smirk she's trying to hide? I'm sipping my coffee and gazing off at Haleakala, not too focused on anything, and she's hovering nearby, a little too jaunty, still with that smirk. Okay. What is it? What am I missing here? I look down at the paper and there it is, front page and in full color. I could pick her out of any crowd. It's Laurie and the other attendees greeting the sun from the big heiau in Wailuku, a formal welcoming committee for makahiki and Lono.
It's official. Ku, is dispatched elsewhere for four months; Lono will oversee this period of peace, games, leisure and plenty. Laurie is pleased that this traditional ceremony is recognized so prominently in the Maui News and I find myself wondering, how do we keep Ku, this god of war, from coming back in March?
Since this is a conservative paper, that's not a joke. What can they have in mind? The big tax cut for corporations and the rich, packing the system with right-wing judges for a generation, a hateful immigration policy, a methodical attempt to undermine the country's environmental regulations, undermining the independence of the Justice Department and our legal system, to mention only part of his legacy that comes immediately to mind.
HOW GEORGIA DEMOCRAT OSSOFF MADE HIS POLITICAL CHOPS: Helping defeat the most honest and courageous member of Congress, Cynthia McKinney, in the 2006 Democrat primary.
“In the spring of 2006, Ms. Crowell helped arrange Mr. Ossoff's transfer to work for the campaign of Hank Johnson, who was running a primary campaign against Representative Cynthia McKinney.
“He came to me asking if I could connect him,” she said of Mr. Ossoff. “I knew the folks who were running Hank's campaign. So I said: 'I know this young kid. He's a go-getter.'“
“Mr. Ossoff had just finished his freshman year at Georgetown University and had never worked on a campaign before. But in an initial three-hour meeting, he pitched Mr. Johnson, a local politician with a small law office, on using the internet to communicate with Democratic primary voters as well as donors, reporters and bloggers elsewhere.”
THE PATIO WAS CROWDED, so we sat inside at the snack bar. All around us were people I had spent ten years avoiding — shapeless women in wool bathing suits, dull-eyed men with hairless legs and self-conscious laughs, all Americans, all fearsomely alike. These people should be kept at home, I thought; lock them in the basement of some goddam Elks Club and keep them pacified with erotic movies; if they want a vacation, show them a foreign art film; and if they still aren’t satisfied send them into the wilderness and run them with vicious dogs.
— Hunter S. Thompson, “The Rum Diary”
THE SUPREME COURT has ruled that the Fourth Amendment bars police from searching luggage, purses, or wallets without a warrant that is based on probable cause to believe evidence of crime will be found. But at the same time, the Court permits police officers to approach any citizen — without any basis for suspicion — and request “consent” to search. The officer need not inform the suspect that he has a right to say no. This tactic, not surprisingly, is popular among the police, and is disproportionately targeted at young black men, who are less likely to assert their right to say no. In this way, the privacy of the privileged is guaranteed, but the police still get their evidence, and society does not have to pay the cost in increased crime of extending to everyone the right to privacy that the privileged enjoy. This pattern is repeated throughout the criminal justice system: the Court affirms a constitutional right, but in a manner that effectively protects the right only for the privileged few, while as a practical matter denying the right to those who are less privileged. By exploiting society’s “background” inequality, the Court sidesteps the difficult question on how much constitutional protection we could afford if we were willing to ensure that it was enjoyed equally by all people.
— David Cole, "No Equal Justice" (1999)
Enough of this search for purity in our history. Who in our past was pure of heart? Why not put efforts into putting up statues that celebrate Black history (or any other ignored group of people) to balance what has already been celebrated? If you want to take the angry mob’s argument to its fullest conclusion: Why not destroy all the Christian churches? Look what has been done in the name of Christianity over the last 2,000 years? Why not do this? Because Christianity also brought goodness and hope to millions of people. Nothing is pure and no one is perfect. Stop this witch hunt, start learning history and help to reteach our history so that everyone knows the truth. But tearing it down and destroying it won’t make it go away.
THE MORE BOMBARDED WE ARE by uncontrolled chaos, from crashing planes to brutal wars, the more we seek security through what we can control: the things we own. For most of us, stuff serves a positive purpose, even though accumulating it may result in our feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. For some, accumulation becomes pathological.
— Cathy Madison
IN THE GENERAL UPROAR of gifts and unwinding of wrappers it was always a delight for me to step out on the porch or even go out on the street a ways at one o’clock in the morning and listen to the silent hum of heaven diamond stars, watch the red and green windows of homes, consider the trees that seemed frozen in sudden devotion, and think over the events of another year passed.
— Jack Kerouac, “Not Long Ago Joy Abounded at Christmas”
WE ARE TOLD that the evolution of human civilization is a linear process – that it goes from stupid cavemen to smart old us with our hydrogen bombs and striped toothpaste. But the proof that the Sphinx is many, many thousands of years older than the archaeologists think it is, that it preceded by many thousands of years even dynastic Egypt, means that there must have been, at some distant point in history, a high and sophisticated civilization – just as all the legends affirm.
— John Anthony West
MEMO OF THE WEEK
Mike Thompson: My work for you in the 116th Congress
As this tough year ends, I’m sharing with you my report on the 116th Congress. This includes important milestones that my team and I were able to reach through our work solving problems and responding to your questions and concerns. In response to your inquiries into my office, my casework team and I resolved 3,017 cases and returned $5,378,754.33 to folks in our district in the 116th Congress, critical funding in such a hard economic year. This includes over $40,000 in economic impact payments to constituents who did not initially receive their payments as intended from the CARES Act.
On the legislative side, 13 of my bills were signed into law. From expanding access to telehealth during the pandemic, to providing low-income tax credits, to expanding access to affordable housing in our disaster counties, my legislation is helping our constituents confront the multiple disasters facing our communities. As Chair of the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee, I was able to move legislation to help green the tax code, create incentives to hires veterans and disadvantaged employees and support the hardworking men and women in our district.
I also responded to 175,843 constituent letters, held 39 Town Halls and provided 657 Capitol and White House tours in the past two years. I look forward to continuing to serve our district and provide the best service possible through my legislative and casework operations. Please know you can always call my office if you have a question or need help with casework.
Member of Congress
FOUND OBJECT [you supply the caption]