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Valley People (January 6, 2021)

BOONVILLE GREETS 2021: Gunshots started a little after 8pm on New Year’s Eve with small arms fire and/or firecrackers going off in downtown Boonville. Then there was a lull of a couple of hours and it started again as the Big Moment approached. A variety of sizes and gauges of booms and pops and blasts continued until just past midnight, belatedly joined by what sounded like a few shotgun blasts from down by the intersection of Highway 128 and Mountain View Road. A few minutes later forlorn Ranchero music arose from the dark, damp void to add an international Rednexican sound track to the midnight celebration.

A MENDOCINO WRITER, Paul McHugh, writes:

The last time I got something into the AVA was in 1984-85 just before I decamped from Anderson Valley to San Francisco to go to work for the Chron. I don't even remember now what it was I published with you. Probably something having to do with paddling the Navarro or working on a sheep ranch. Sheep dogs? That could have been me. I was caretaker of the Lowry Ranch in Yorkville from 1983-1985. Anyway, after 22 years at the Chronicle, mostly doing outdoor stuff, but some investigative front pages too, I took a buyout in 2007 and proceeded to work on fiction. If you want to know anything about those periods, a lot of it is up

My very latest thing is my fourth novel, “Came A Horseman,” mostly set on the Lost Coast. I'm doing the print launch in conjunction with Christy Day Olson at Gallery Books in Mendocino. We will do a zoom-chat for all comers on January 14 at 6 pm followed by a Facebook Live on January 21 at noon. Even after all this time I still consider myself a Mendocino writer. I mean, that's where I got my start, working for seven years out of a literal garret at the top of a small Victorian on the corner of Ford and Covelo streets. Cheers.

A READER ASKS: “Trying to find out what is going on with propane prices in this county is impossible. My propane is costing me $3.60 a unit/meaning a gallon. That’s outrageous as I read there is a glut of propane…. My bill more than doubled this year. I know it’s been cold…. one little propane heater in the cottage was on “some” of the time but my guest mostly used an electric heater. The propane bill was $255!!! $255 for a week???? My house was $855!!!! breathtaking. I read that the average cost in the US is about $2.00. It has always been more expensive in  this county. But something is really wrong here. I believe price gouging is a felony during an emergency. I would say the pandemic has emergency written all over it….especially with people staying home. So the propane companies are getting away with highway robbery. Could you look into this?” 

THE REDWOOD DRIVE-IN was closed for a holiday week, but re-opened at 6am Monday morning. I wasn’t surprised at how many people seem discombobulated by the temporary and well-deserved vacation that Ricardo Suarez and Company enjoyed because the Drive-in is even more central to the life of Boonville than ever, what with Pic 'N Pay destroyed by fire, and AV Market on reduced hours. The Drive-in being directly in my office viewshed, I saw people peering in the darkened windows and rattling the doors all day every day they were closed, as customers couldn’t quite believe that the essential business was temporarily shuttered.

THE CHRON’S wine writer, Esther Mobley: “We said goodbye to Milla Handley whose Handley Cellars helped put Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley on the map as a fine-wine region. She died in August at age 68. The cause: COVID-19.”

Milla Handley

DARREN DELMORE'S latest novel is called Unplanned Parenthood whose title alone is sure to resonate with millions of Americans but is notable to us Mendos because it's set, mostly, right here in the Anderson Valley's wine industry. The wine biz may look placidly tidy on the surface, but boyoboyo don't let appearances fool you, dear prospective reader.

Kary Mullis

STEVE HEILIG re Navarro’s smartest guy ever

Nice photo of Nobelist Mullis. I was once on an AAAS conference panel with him, wherein he denied HIV had anything to do with AIDS, saying it was all from drug abuse-related immune suppression (an utterly nonsensical belief). It was midday and he reeked of booze. He said “I’m thirsty”, looked around, saw a half empty cloudy water bottle on the floor in the corner, walked over and drank it down, then said “I’m building up my immune system!” All the scientists present were shaking their heads, disgusted/sorry for him. I said “Any physicians in the audience might diagnose this as ‘Nobelist Syndrome” (wherein said prizewinners suddenly believe they know everything about everything). Loud laughter ensued, but it was actually quite sad.

MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: Back in those days, the late Kary Mullis’s controversial views on AIDS were so well known and disputed that KZYX actually set up an hour-and-a-half debate between Mullis and Bay Area physician Dr. Mike Alcalay, competently moderated, if I remember correctly, by Yorkville resident Jill Hannum. Alcalay won the debate with ease as far as we were concerned, but Mullis made his points and did not sound drunk. (And I’ve seen him quite drunk at his then-home on Gschwend Road.) That debate was the first of four (that’s a total of four) KZYX-hosted local debates in the station’s 32-year history, or about one every eight years. The other three involved then-private attorney Keith Faulder debating John McCowen, KC Meadows and Ross Liberty on the subject of the cannabis re-regulatory Measure B, which turned into a fiasco when the station suspended Meadows for voicing her own pinion [gasp!] whereupon she rightly quit her volunteer position as news talk moderator, the smartest, most articulate show host the forlorn station has ever had,. The third debate was Ted Williams debating Jim Little on the subject of Measure V, the standing dead trees/nuisance initiative which Williams seems now to have abandoned as a sitting supervisor. All three programs were proof that KZYX could be a forum for proper discussion and debate of local issues, but seldom even tries. Oh, there was one more semi-debate when pre-blackballed programmer John Sakowicz had me on to debate Richard Shoemaker and Sean White on the subject of wine grape water usage and regulation. I would venture an opinion on who won that one, but I’m biased. Needless to say, of the two, White was the much more formidable debater. 

AVA COLUMNIST Katy Tahja reports she was driving to Point Arena when she saw a rancher south of Elk out on the headlands feeding cattle from the back of his pick-up truck. Trotting in the middle of, and towering over, the cows was a bull elk with a huge rack. The elk obviously knows where to find a free meal, and who's to stop him? There are elk back in the environs of Elk (township). Tahja believes this bull may be part of a herd she hears has been slowly moving south from the Lost Coast over recent years. Gotta be. These big boys don't travel alone, and they're not known to cross-species miscegenate with mere cows.

THE LAST TIME I hiked the Lost Coast with my late friend, Alexander Cockburn, we rounded a bend where a big bull was munching away at the overstory. Nothing we could do until he moved on. It's heartening that these magnificent creatures are thriving, but weren't they relocated from Potter Valley a few years ago when PV's sons of the soil complained they had become a nuisance?

BOB ABELES NOTES: “Denizens of Boonville were surprised today to see a new street sign. The old back fair road intersecting Lambert Lane is now named Grey Fox Road. The meaning of this new moniker remains a mystery.”

AARON OLIVIER of the Anderson Valley: “I am a local author, just trying to spread the word on my first publication. Did you know that DNA is 5D. You can learn about how the tree of life is a 2D representation of a 5D substance that is found all over the earth. It also tells us how the tree of life is related to human DNA. The Philosophy of the Universe and the Dimensions of the Multiverse. A Unified Theory of Everything. ISBN: 9781649903556”

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)

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 just north of Boonville about 11am last Wednesday. A thin young woman in dark glasses fast-walking at a psycho-tweaked pace, a death's head grin on her pretty face. There’s so much aberrant public behavior anymore that it doesn’t surprise us.

SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS: “I monitored the Mendocino County Public Health COVID-19 vaccine clinic today from 8-4pm. Highly impressed. The event was well coordinated, competently staffed, free of ambiguity, with proper distancing. I left confident that our only bottleneck to scaling up is vaccine supply.”

THOMAS LEMONS disagrees: “My friend with symptoms and missing work can't get a test until next week. Not impressed with Mendocino County’s response to Covid or road work.”

WE RECENTLY posted a photo from the 1930s of an elderly woman standing in her vegetable garden. The caption read, “She survived The Depression because she knew how to do things.” Yes, but preparedness and thrift preceded that crash because government wasn't available for help, and most Americans, especially rural and small town Americans, knew that in a pinch survival was up to themselves. Also, there were less than 130 million people in the US when The Depression took hold, about half of them still on the farm or not far from the farm. There are now 330 million of US, most in cities or suburbs of cities, which means that the covid-caused Depression ahead will place the most desperate millions fully dependent on government for their lives.

I HAVE VIVID memories of visiting my maternal grandparents at their home in a small, former coal-mining town in southern Illinois called Hillsboro. They owned a small-ish house that seemed large because it had a basement that ran the full length of the house and an attic that also ran the full length of the house. Throughout the summer months both my grandparents worked a half-acre garden in the backyard whose produce my grandmother and her daughters “put up” and stored in the basement which, to my childish eye, seemed to contain enough preserved food to feed a small army. When The Depression hit Hillsboro, in my mother's memory, the family lived out of their garden and a couple of milk cows they shared with their neighborhood. She said there were times when all they had to eat was milk and potatoes that my grandmother creatively batched up from a variety of recipes. Tough as it was, my mother always said with many other Depression-era Americans saying the same thing, “But we had a lot of fun. We were all poor and in the same boat, but people helped each other out and we had dances in the cold months and picnics in the summer.” Also like a lot of Depression-era Americans my mother saved everything from string to tin foil. “You never know when you might need it.”

RESPONDING to CounterPunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair's best books of 2020 (posted on our website, I've listed a bunch I've profited from during these long months of mass house arrest: ‘Hitler: A Global Biography’ by Brendan Simms; ‘The Silence by Don Delillo;  ‘Essays,’ by George Orwell (Everyman's Library edition); ‘A Jog Down Memory  Lane’ by Jim Gibbons; ‘Melville’ by Elizabeth Hardwick; ‘Just the Way It Is’  by Annie Proulx; ‘The Great Thirst — Californians and Water; a history,’  by Norris Hundley; ‘Bear and His Daughter’ by Robert Stone; ‘Verdi at the Golden Gate’ by George Martin; ‘The Women at Point Sur’ by Robinson  Jeffers; ‘Inferno: The World at War’ by Max Hastings; ‘Vietnam: An Epic  Tragedy’ also by Max Hastings; ‘Stories’ by Anton Chekov; ‘Ulysses Grant In  War and Peace’ by H.W. Brands; ‘History of the Great American Fortunes’ by  Gustavo Meyers; ‘The Mountains of California’ by John Muir; ‘73 Poems’ by  e.e. cummings; ‘Embattled Dreams’ (Ca history) by Kevin Starr; ‘The Hotel Oneira, Poems’ by August Kleinzahler; ‘Spirits of San Francisco — Voyages  Through the Unknown City’, by Gary Kamiya, drawings by ‘Paul Madonna’; ‘Capital’ by Thomas Piketty (read around in it more like because it's  heavy going and often too much for my pretty little head to absorb; ‘A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald’ intro by Michael Wreszin;  ‘Lush Life’ by Richard Price; ‘Star Wars Empire,’ by Bill Kimberlin; ‘Bullets and Opium — China after the Tiananmen Square Massacre’ by Liao Yi Wu. And, esp for all you senior citizens, my fave ‘Shakespeare, King Lear.’   

One Comment

  1. Debra Keipp April 7, 2021

    Aaron Olivier? Isn’t he Erin Olivier who broke local Ryan Stearns’ ankle in an attack at the Redwood Drive-in on March 1, 2021? Steer clear. Nut-job!

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