Quiet Before | Reopening California | Another Death | 320 Boostered | Atmospheric River | PV Pipe | Supe Priorities | Main Street | Beer Fads | Public Services | Ed Notes | Grammar School | Peasant Uprisings | Hipster Hater | Q&As | Flute Solo | Virtual Concert | Yesterday's Catch | Early Rockport | Blind Catch | Handcar Matrons | Conspiratorial Fantasizing | Bean Sandwich | Media Slush | Mitten Fits | Dharma Bums | Early Elk | Privatization Creep | Socialist Snowplow | Running Dog | Ocean Light | Henry Aaron
A MIX OF SUN AND CLOUDS is expected today with some scattered rain and snow showers near the coast. Starting Tuesday afternoon a significant winter storm will bring rain, heavy low elevation snow, and strong winds through Wednesday evening. Thursday and into the weekend additional rain and snow is expected. (NWS)
CALIFORNIA WILL LIFT REGIONAL STAY-HOME ORDERS across the entire state today, a source close to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office told The Chronicle on Sunday. The source confirmed that the state plans to move back into the reopening framework based on colored tiers.
Most counties are expected to move into the purple tier — the most restrictive, but less stringent than the statewide order. In that tier, restaurants can open for outdoor service, and personal care services like hair and nail salons can reopen with modifications.
21 NEW CASES reported yesterday; another death.
MENDOCINO VACCINATION STATUS DASHBOARD, as of Jan. 22, 2021
BIG STORM IN THE FORECAST
Ahead of what is forecast to be the region’s largest storm so far this wet season, the National Weather Service on Sunday issued a flash flood watch for much of the North Bay and warned that strong rainfall could trigger debris flow in the region’s numerous recent wildfire burn scars.
The flood watch starts Tuesday afternoon, corresponding with the arrival of an atmospheric river, and will last through Thursday afternoon, impacting a vast swath of western California, from south of Big Sur to Napa, and it includes all of Sonoma County.
Flooding danger is likely to be preceded by fierce winds, according to a National Weather Service wind advisory for many of the same areas Sunday night and Monday morning.
Consistent northwest winds are expected to reach up to 30 mph between Sunday night and 10 a.m. Monday, while gusts will top out at 50 mph, said Brayden Murdock, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Monterey. That will lead to coastal hazards such as rip currents, ocean swells and sneaker waves just before the arrival of an atmospheric river to the North Bay Tuesday night.
“It’s not exactly a good time to be out and about at the beaches,” Murdock said. “When we start seeing winds that strong, we get worried about already damaged trees falling over, the power lines and high-profile vehicles. And then, that’s where we start to worry about the midweek stuff as well.”
Following some light weekend showers, weather models are holding, Murdock said, with rainfall in the Santa Rosa area projected at between 4 to 6 inches through Wednesday evening, and as much as 8 inches at higher elevations. The storm’s biggest punch is forecast to land in the Santa Cruz mountains, Big Sur and the Central Coast, at nearly a foot of new moisture, he said.
The North Bay, including Napa and Marin counties, will remain below its average rainfall totals even if precipitation in the region reaches those larger totals, Murdock said. By this same time over the past four decades, Santa Rosa, for example, has averaged almost 19½ inches of moisture. Last year, the area received more than 15 inches of rainfall by late January, he said.
This winter, Santa Rosa stands at roughly 6 inches total, or less than a third of normal. The coming atmospheric river, a narrow corridor of condensed water vapor, could double the precipitation over just two days, Murdock said.
“This is going to be our most significant rainfall so far in the water year. Unfortunately, even if get some of higher amounts forecast in that area, it will still only be at halfway point of average,” he said.
In the 2020 burn scars of the Meyers and Walbridge fires, Glass fire, as well as the Woodward fire in the Point Reyes National Seashore, residents should be ready to evacuate in case of power outages, debris flow and possible flooding. Combined with heavy wind gusts, Sonoma County should prepare for heavy precipitation through at least Wednesday, with some light showers lingering into Thursday.
“So it’s going to be a lot of rain, and it’s going to be coming at you fast,” Murdock said.
(Kevin Fixler, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
DECISIONS & PRIORITIES
by Jim Shields
As discussed here two weeks ago, at their kickoff meeting on Jan. 5, the Board of Supervisors — with the exception of newly seated 2nd District Supe Maureen Mulheren — high-handedly extended the contract of San Diego-based Medico Mimi Doohan to advise current Public Health Officer Andy Coren.
If Coren needs consultative assistance to do his job, why not employ a Mendocino County physician, many asked including Mulheren. The best answer the Board could conjure up was Doohan would provide some sort of unspecified “continuity.”
A recent item in the Anderson Valley Advertiser caught my eye because it provided an example of a local M.D. who would appear to be ideal to advise both Coren and Doohan, given that County Executive Officer Angelo said if she had her druthers, she’d hire three public health officers for our 90,000 residents. Well, what’s another hundred grand-plus in this county where at minimum several million dollars a year is spent on consultants and special advisors for mostly dubious purposes.
According to the Advertiser’s Mark Scaramella, Dr. Drew Colfax, Emergency Room Doctor from Adventist-Ukiah (and home-schooled in Anderson Valley son of former Fifth District Supervisor David Colfax), said on KZYX Friday afternoon that vaccination “is going to continue to be fairly confusing and rumor driven, I’m afraid, for the next couple of weeks. I urge people to just relax. A couple more weeks of sheltering and doing what we’ve been doing is going to be fine.” We think Dr. Colfax is being very optimistic about the timeframe. At the rate Mendo is going on vaccinations it’ll take months, not a couple of weeks before things are “fine.” Colfax added that nobody knows when or how much more vaccination will arrive, nor even if the booster shots for the people who have been vaccinated will arrive. It’s unclear what the production rates for vaccine are nor when the state will get follow-on deliveries or in what quantities. “It’s a mess,” said Colfax, as Mendo tries to get people vaccinated to the extent possible. “There’s no top-down structure.” Colfax commented on one of the main reasons for “the mess”: “We have this completely discombobulated, for-profit disorganized health care system in this country that’s extremely expensive and frankly not very good. If we had a single-payer system like any other developed nation in the world, it would be much easier to have an organized vaccine roll-out. We don’t, so we have various big hospital chains in the state of California and even in this county that are working in a different parallel universe for their vaccine roll-out. There’s no transparency about how much each hospital chain — Sutter, Kaiser, the big ones — has or where it’s going or how much the state of California has or where it’s going. It’s an incredibly complex, poorly designed system that is unbelievably poorly suited to a pandemic like this.”
I believe Colfax could potentially serve as a much-needed, professional-informational counterweight to how Pandemic policies and orders are now processed by the current Public Health Officer duo. Apparently, the CEO thinks three heads are better than two, right? Makes sense to me.
Supes Say They Need Help In Setting Priorities
Interesting discussion at that first Board meeting of 2021.
Fifth District Supe Ted Williams’ first thought was demonstrably better than his second thought on the subject of priorities and so-called strategic planning.
The agenda item up for talks was, “Discussion and Possible Action Regarding Board Priorities, Roles and Responsibilities and Development of a Long Term Strategic Plan for Mendocino County. Action: Discuss options and provide direction to staff to work with supervisors to focus on board priorities, roles, responsibilities, and develop a long-term strategic plan for Mendocino County.”
Initially, Williams recommended that the supervisors themselves do the actual work of determining priorities and developing a strategic plan, instead of relying on outside assistance (from consultants).
But he quickly capitulated when 1st District Supe Glenn McGourty countered with the well-established precedent of putting out the call for the expertise of consultants and facilitators. And, of course, it was soon decided by unanimous acclamation to bring in the outside hired guns, after all everybody knows that elected officials aren’t competent, knowledgeable, or even aware of these mysterious intangibles known as “priorities” and how to put them into a plan that’s no mere plan, but rather a “strategic plan.”
I’m going to keep this short because I know most folks already know what I’m about to say.
Nearly all plans are strategic. In this case, the strategy surrounds the identification of constituents’ priorities. Who knows the priorities of constituents better than the person elected by the voters.
All so-called strategic plans are tactical because tactics are the means by which each priority is implemented.
Constituent priorities are the primary building blocks of the political and governing process. The Supervisors themselves, and no one else, determine what their collective priorities are, hopefully in a manageable and orderly format.
The tactics or means to implement or phase in implementation of priorities is where the expertise and input of County department heads, staff, and rank-and-file employees must be called upon. That process is as critical, if not more so, than establishing the initial list of priorities. Those are the people, especially the rank-and-file employees, who know best how to get things done, including the impediments, risks, costs, efficiencies, unintended consequences, and probability of success.
The voters didn’t elect consultants, facilitators, and other outside third parties to represent them in establishing and implementing priorities.
That’s the job of the person they elected, and no one else.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
A JOURNEY TO CRAFT BEER & BACK AGAIN
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
Reviewing my notes and sifting through relevant historical documents, it appears the last era in which I qualified as genuinely hip (or was it hep?) was in the mid- to late-‘70s.
Since then it’s been a slow slide into grumpy irritability with a few sparks of indifferent rebellion, and an overall refusal to think outside the ruts: My middle years in 25 words or less.
But the 1970s? Man, I was full down with punk rock (saw the Sex Pistols at Winterland, and The Clash back-to-back nights in Berkeley). I hung at the Mabuhay Gardens and was hip and hep but not hip hop and rap. Or disco. Jimmy Carter was cool, Reagan was evil, I was all over the InterDada ’80 fest and wore what appears to be, in photos from the era, a mullet.
So I wasn’t all avante garde and hep. Hip. Much of cutting edge society passed me by yet, oddly, I was among the first to embrace the next wave in brewing. Yes, I had seen the future of beer and it wasn’t the watery stuff on tap at Club Calpella.
It was a dawn that would revolutionize the beer world and it started right here. Thunder Beer was smuggled in brown bottles filled with cloudy fluid surreptitiously extracted from the trunks of parked cars and sold to select customers for the princely sum of $3 a six pack. This was circa 1977 and well within the penumbra of Prohibition’s long shadow; bootleggers understood transporting illegal beer wasn’t much different from operating a black market still. Or a backyard marijuana garden.
Young Thunder Beer, proudly and illegally brewed and bottled in Ukiah, was a beer that lay upon the tongue like a furry film, tasted better than radiator flush, and cost double what Augie Busch charged for a six-pack that came all the way from St. Louis.
Such was the price I paid for being a trendsetter, a man who was drinking craft beer before craft beer had been invented.
Thunder Beer was first a rumor, then a product and ultimately (if my genealogical tracings are correct) it spawned progeny: Blue Heron and Red Tail Ale. In the checkered history of the Mendocino Brewing Co. there should be a footnote acknowledging Thunder Beer as a pioneer, with DNA linking it to next-generation brews like Black Hawk Stout.
So we’re talking hep. Originally I liked Thunder Beer because it wasn’t Stroh’s or Olympia. It was more like Rainier Ale, nicknamed Green Death both for the color of its cans and the crippling hangovers it administered.
As an early insider I consumed a couple six packs of Thunder Beer a month and bored everyone at how hip-hep I was at the vanguard of a coming beer explosion. Then the Hopland Brewery opened and Red Tail Ale was unleashed in a sudden flood of craft beers, media frenzy and everybody heated up about the Next Big Thing.
Except, of course, me. If craft beer was the hottest thing since Napa wines, I was all for cooling off, jumping ship, and hustling down to Foggy’s Liquors for a cold case of Falstaff. And some pork rinds.
Because once craft beer got hep, the hip crowd got snooty. It was now all about subtle hints of caramel, a muted evanescence of ambergris, and a rounded though bold finish. They were turning beer drinkers into wine snobs, so I backtracked to Schlitz quarts. My craft brew days were done.
To be honest it was also because of the hops, the bitter gnarly hops. Hops became the MSG of craft beer. Hops were to it what brie and chardonnay were to west side Ukiah, or cocaine to Hollywood. Hops provided the distinctive bitter flavor that all craft beers had (and still have) but is notably absent from their cousins in the industrial wing of the beer business. Coors, Corona and PBR would have hops arrested at the factory gate.
The fad beers had degrees from UC Davis, were choked with hops, and the people who flocked to them were yuppies, food critics and other snoots. But to me hops tasted like chewing on a big tough dandelion root, and I devoted subsequent decades to drinking beer’s mildest offerings, although never sinking to Lite anything.
Then for no reason a few weeks ago I brought home a six-pack of Torpedo Ale. Whoaa! It was as if all the Sierra Nevada master brewers had set their dials on “Bitter,” then stirred an extra fistful of acrid, ground-up hops into each 12-oz container. Torpedo Ale is Green Death reincarnated, cloaked in the same scary dark green can, big alcohol content, supremely undrinkable.
But because I’m old and my taste buds gave out a long time ago, I’m able to snort black pepper, gargle hot sauce and eat raw possum livers. If I live long enough I might someday be able to drink an entire can of the stuff.
Yes, dear readers, I find Torpedo Ale an amusing little affair, charming yet never pretentious, wry but not sarcastic, with harsh notes of chicory, grapefruit rinds and well-boiled expresso.
It pairs nicely with a hops-infused pan-roasted Goodyear tire.
FORMER SUPERVISOR McCOWEN'S alarm that marijuana planting might escape his cockamamie, utterly failed local rules is almost funny in its pure delusion. I'm sure pot gardens thrive within a few yards of McCowen's Westside Ukiah home, just as they thrive everywhere else in all kinds of neighborhoods throughout the county. They certainly thrive in central Boonville. Why I even had a small garden on my place this year! Me, a guy who doesn't smoke the stuff and never has except, you know, late at night way back when we were all drunk. Never had the slightest desire to re-visit the love drug. Let me explain further: This Mexican kid I know asked me if he could put in a “legal” garden to the rear of my heavenly acre. “I will give you five thousand in November. Cash,” he said. I told him I didn't need five thousand, I needed fifty, at least, and not to worry about it. If “legal” ever had a more protean meaning than “legal” has in this county… Hell, even Humboldt has rules, on paper anyway. Mendo's rules are like that old joke about the umpire who makes a bad call. Challenged on his interpretation of the rule, the ump says, “I'll show it to you as soon as the ink is dry.” So all summer a couple of young guys, and a little kid they were apparently babysitting, came and went, tending their magical gro. By the end of the summer, their plants looked like marijuana plants. I admired their enterprise, their work discipline. Then, one day in late October, they uprooted the plants and drove off. In November, the jeffe kid came to me and said, “I have bad news. I am sorry to tell you that I got drunk with these guys in Ukiah. They told me they would take my buds and pay me $40,000 in one week from then, but when I went to get paid they laughed and told me to go away or they would kill me. I got ripped off.” The story might even be true, but I said I didn't care that I wouldn't be getting five thousand, and that I was sorry he'd worked so hard for six months for nothing. “Be careful who you get drunk with,” I said.
THE PANDEMIC does have something of an upside. Darn near all the orphaned dogs at the County Animal Shelter in Ukiah have found homes. The last time I had a look at the place they seemed to have every dog in NorCal in border-like cages, so many, and so many pit bulls, I had to admire the people engaged so faithfully in what seemed so obviously a hopeless task.
NOW IF WE could find permanent homes for all the orphaned children this small county manages to produce we might call ourselves a civilized, even “progressive” place. But orphaned children, unlike orphaned cats and dogs, are valuable as orphans, little funding units worth hundreds of thousands dollars each to the caring professionals whose cush jobs they fund, but by the time they reach 18 when they are suddenly non-reimbursable the caring professionals disappear, and…
I'M OPERATING on the safe assumption that I won't get a covid vaccination in Mendocino County, that Mendo, being low priority in every area of public life, that by the time the vaccine is available for outback geezers, odds are that old age will have carried me off. And two shots? Totally beyond Mendo's organizational capacity. Anyway, even if by some fluke the vaccine does become generally available in Mendo prior to my 82nd birthday in July, I'm waiting for the one-shot, made in America, Johnson and Johnson vaccine. My colleague, The Major, (also president of The Lost Italians of Mendocino County), declared, “I'll get the vaccine when Johnson and Johnson is available at the Anderson Valley Health Center,” which will be right around the 12th of Some Time.
HERE'S one that makes me violent every time I hear it: “Violence is never the answer.” Violence is always the answer, as even the most cursory glance at the historical record demonstrates, and the history of this country's social-economic organization establishes beyond all argument.
AT 78, Joe Biden is the oldest sitting president in US history; he is even older than Ronald Reagan was at the time he left office after serving two full terms.
HERE'S A STAT FOR YOU: Since Biden was born in 1942, he, and everyone else of his vintage, has seen a full 33 percent of all our history. Who arrived at that stat I don't know. I read it somewhere and then spent an hour or so jotting down as many major historical events I could think of and I arrived at 40 percent. Has Biden learned anything from all that experience? No indication that he has, and what choice do we have but to live in hope?
NOT INTENDING to come off as a sexist here, but I am able to distinguish Megyn Kelly from the rest of the blonde women with neon white teeth who appear regularly on television. Meg said the other day that media outlets like CNN are partially to blame for the January 6th Capitol riot because they failed to cover Donald Trump fairly. “They hated him so much that they checked their objectivity, and it wasn't just CNN, all of them did,” Kelly said in an interview with the BBC Saturday. She said the outlet openly described Trump and his behavior as racist, sexist and misogynistic and their views made the public lose trust in the network. “Part of the reason we saw what happened at the Capitol … is because there had been a complete lack of trust in the media and people don't know where to turn for true information.”
THE BIDEN BAILOUT PLAN consists, so far, of an extension of unemployment benefits; $1400 checks for you and me; and tax breaks whose beneficiaries are not identified. Total package — $1.9 trillion.
“TRUMP'S finally gone, but if Joe Biden wants his return to normalcy to be any more successful than his predecessor’s appeal to greatness, he’ll need to take on the real issues dragging red and blue America down: economic torpor, ever increasing inequality, and policies that diminish people’s prospects of making it into or maintaining their positions in the middle class. These pressures are felt most among the young, a third of whom suffer from anxiety disorders and who collectively have very low levels of optimism about the future—with good reason. Many express their frustration in shockingly violent ways, sometimes by dressing up as ‘riot ninjas.’ What we have been witnessing—during the protests this summer and after the canard of a “stolen” election—reprises the often inchoate peasant rebellions that happened periodically in Medieval Europe. More troubling still are similarities with the German Weimar Republic, evidenced by the mass support of a would-be despot in the White House, rising anti-Semitism, an out-of-control upper bureaucracy, a politicized media, and the rise of armed militant groups at both extremes of the spectrum in a modern version of the street fights between Communist and Nazi street gangs, committed to bashing each other and undermining basic civil order. Acquiescence and outright approval for looting, burning and even takeovers of urban neighborhoods were widespread among progressives this summer. The people who stormed the capital on Jan. 6 may see themselves as ‘patriots,’ but they acted more like Nazis.”
— Joel Kotkin
THESE TIMES certainly emit a Weimar vibe, but we've managed to out-Weimar the Germans in the decadence department. And the Germans had a large communist movement with intelligent leaders but not intelligent enough to arm themselves against the nazis, who also had intelligent, capable leadership. (Literalists please understand that by simply noting that the nazis had capable leadership isn't an endorsement of them. Sheesh, does Uncle Bruce have to explain everything?) Our commies are, well, heavy on theory, but unless tenure at the university level is abolished they'll still be writing their unreadable books on American fascists when our fascists make their move. But, at this point, our fascisti lack leadership, to put it mildly. They have the numbers, though, and in the crunch, as in Germany, the big money will be behind them.
FROM MENDO’S QUESTIONABLE FREQUENTLY ASKED VACCINATION QUESTIONS PAGE:
Q: How do I make an appointment for vaccination?
A: The county is currently not scheduling appointments for vaccines. We are working on an online appointment scheduler. Once completed this will be posted on the county website under the Vaccine tab and a press release will be sent out.
Q: Can I walk into a mass vaccination clinic?
A: Walk-ins are not advised and there is no guarantee you will receive the vaccine. If you wish to walk in and wait in line at an event, remember you MUST provide two forms of ID that show that you are in a qualified tier. Examples: California Driver License or Identification Card, pay-stub, work badge from a Food or Ag operation.
Q: How can I stay up to date on Vaccine news?
A: You can sign up to receive eNotifications regarding any published news concerning the COVID Vaccinations on our eNotifications Page.
(ms notes: We signed up, but there’s no specific “vaccine news” notices option.)
LE VENT DU NORD, FEBRUARY 7 AT 2PM
UCCA presents Le Vent du Nord - a virtual performance
“Exceptionally skilled, exceptionally experienced, and exceptionally entertaining” – SING OUT! magazine
Le Vent du Nord, the “wind from the north”, is virtually blowing into town on February 7, 2021 at 2:00 p.m. in a 30-minute performance for our Ukiah Community Concert audience. Be prepared to tap your toes or even dance in your living room as Le Vent du Nord delights you with a virtual concert. Share the joyful sound of these great musicians in your own space.
This playful and accomplished band from Quebec is a leading force in its progressive francophone folk movement. The group’s vast repertoire draws from both traditional sources and original compositions, while enhancing its hard-driving soulful music (rooted in the Celtic diaspora) with a broad range of global influences. Le Vent du Nord has played concerts worldwide and has garnered many prestigious awards. Their choice of instruments includes the hurdy gurdy, button accordion, violin or “fiddle”, guitar, and their five powerful voices.
Viewers need only a computer (desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone, Android, or tablet), a reliably strong internet connection, and an email address to which UCCA can send the Zoom link. After the February 7 performance, the program will be loaded onto UCCA’s very own YouTube channel and available to subscribers and single-event ticket buyers for 30 days.
As part of a special promotional offer, tickets for non-season subscribers are $15 and available online at www.ukiahconcerts.org. UCCA offers free access to Mendocino College students who request in advance as part of our continuing educational outreach program. For more information, please call 707-463-2738, or send an email through our website: www.ukiahconcerts.org. Visit us there, and Like us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Ukiah Community Concert Association has been presenting internationally acclaimed talent since 1947. This all-volunteer nonprofit’s mission is to build and maintain an enthusiastic concert audience by presenting stellar and enticing live performances. It is also our goal to encourage and develop music appreciation in the schools because Live Music makes Life Better!
UCCA thanks our members for their continued support as well as our sponsors Schat’s Bakery, Black Oak Coffee, and Rivino Winery and W/E Flowers. Special thanks to the Mendocino Arts Club and Mendocino College Recording Arts & Technology club for their ongoing support and collaboration.
CATCH OF THE DAY, January 23, 2021
SANTIAGO CASTRO-ROSSI, Vallejo/Ukiah. Burglary during emergency, stolen property, ammo possession by prohibited person.
HEATH CHAMBERS, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
SHANNON KIDD, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, parole violation.
ROBERT WAUGH, Fort Bragg. Protective order violation.
MY BIG CATCH
by Jim Gibbons
“I was in the same mold as Joe DiMaggio. Nothing flashy. What you saw on Monday was the same thing you got on Friday.”
– Henry Aaron, RIP 1/21/21
In 1957, the year the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series, I liked taking the streetcar out to County Stadium and hang out in the left field bleachers waiting for a home run ball. And I always took my glove.
That’s where the right-handed sluggers, particularly Big Joe Adcock and Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, would hit them over the fence. And that’s where I caught one.
It was a Sunday morning just before a double-header, during the pregame batting practice. A bunch of us were hanging around the left field fence waiting for a long one, when someone yelled, “Heads up!”
We all pushed against the fence with our gloves up in the air. When the ball landed we all looked at each other trying to see who caught it. I looked in my glove and there it was, right in the webbing.
I had caught it! It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life. I only wish I knew who hit it. Whenever I told people I caught a home run ball, they would ask, “Who hit it?”
Someone there had said Andy Pafko, but when I told people it was Pafko, they would say, “Gee, that’s too bad, are you sure it wasn’t Hank Aaron or Eddie Mathews or …?”
When I showed my mom the ball that evening, she asked why I didn’t take it to the dugout for the players to autograph? No matter, she was a waitress at the Elk’s Club where the players were having a dinner the next Friday night. She took the ball to the dinner, told how her 13-year-old son caught the ball, and they all signed it.
The signatures are faded now, partly because the ball is 63 years old, and mostly because one day a friend came over to play catch. He brought his glove but neither of us had a ball. So we played with my signed ball. Really stupid, I know, but you can still make out most names: Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Billy Burton, Johnny Logan, Joey Jay, Joe Adcock, and the largest of all, Satchel Paige.
1957 was the third year the Braves were in Milwaukee and the only World Series they ever won, thanks to Aaron’s 11th inning homer, which also helped him win the MVP award.
I lost interest in the Braves after they moved to Atlanta in 1966, though I followed Aaron in the news, as his consistent 30 plus homers and over .305 batting average was adding up. He never hit 60 or 61 homers in one season as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris did, but he got a hit almost every third time at bat.
I started dating my first wife in the Winter of ’65-’66. She was an only child from a well-to-do, conservative suburb north of Milwaukee called Mequon. She told me Aaron lived near her parents’ home, so one day we drove past.
It was a one-story brick house, like many in the area, nothing fancy. Aaron had all the qualities of a good neighbor. Quiet, responsible, hard working. In short, to paraphrase Aaron’s opening quote: “What they saw on Monday was the same thing they got on Friday.”
But some didn’t like it, some felt that blacks, no matter who they were, didn’t belong in white neighborhoods. Aaron received hate mail, even death threats, and occasionally people would drive by and throw stuff on his front lawn.
To me, Milwaukee’s racism was a surprise and an embarrassment. I mean, didn’t all the racists live in the South? We Northerners didn’t have WHITE ONLY public bathrooms, like I saw in Atlanta, which just happened to be where Aaron finished out his career, and broke Ruth’s home run record.
It was in August of 1974 he hit his 715th homer, breaking Babe Ruth’s hallowed career record, which caused a controversy, as die hard Ruth fans said Aaron had more times at bat than Ruth and felt he should have done it in the same number of games, but the League had lengthened its schedule, giving Aaron more games, more times at bat.
“It should have been the most enjoyable two or three years I had in baseball, but circumstances prevented that,” Aaron said of his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s long-standing record.
We’d seen more than a few leaders gunned down during the 60s and 70s, so Aaron’s threats were taken very seriously. He said he was “A victim, a prisoner of my own doing. I had a security guard with me and an escape route from each ballpark.”
Aaron retired after 23 seasons with the Milwaukee Braves (’55 to ’65) and Atlanta Braves (’66 to ’78), was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982, and died on 1/22/21.
Postscript: This article was written in 1990 for one of my columns in the Willits News and edited on 1/23/21.
WHEN FANTASY BECOMES TRUTH
by Geoffrey O’Brien
By the early 1980s we were awash in recovered memories of satanic child abuse that led to trials and convictions on the basis of what amounted to spectral evidence, and by the 1990s heavily armed militias were scanning the skies for black helicopters heralding the New World Order. William Cooper's best-selling "Behold a Pale Horse" (1991) corralled in the JFK assassination, the Trilateral Commission, the Knights of Columbus, the purported laboratory creation of AIDS, and the 1949 suicide of former Navy Secretary James Forrestal into a metanarrative about a cosmic conspiracy of space aliens to conquer Earth.
In 1999 the science-fiction movie ‘The Matrix’ introduced the red pill/blue pill metaphor beloved of conspiracy theorists (who prefer the red pill that reveals the horrifying reality unseen by others), and Alex Jones founded Infowars. (A proponent of birtherism among countless other conspiracy theories, Jones was given a hero's welcome by armed protesters outside the Maricopa County vote counting center after the election, leading chants of "Arrest Bill Gates!" And "Arrest Joe Biden!") In Oklahoma City in 1995, Timothy McVeigh took the lives of 168 people in a terrorist attack partly inspired by the political fantasy novel "The Turner Diaries (1978).
A different sort of counterculture was taking shape.
In ‘Lying About Hitler,’ an account of the trial of David Irving, Richard J. Evans writes of a genre of popular pseudo-history about the Third Reich -- tales of secret Doppelgangers and caches of Nazi gold and ancient secret societies working for the Resistance -- that offered "a perverse kind of entertainment" in which "nothing was quite what it seems, and terrible secrets had been supressed by mainstream historical scholarship for decades or even centuries… On the whole it seemed fairly harmless." He contrasted such material with the truly disturbing and dangerous disinformation campaigns of Holocaust deniers like David Irving.
The last two decades have made it harder to discern the line between perverse entertainment and ominous intercepted message.
As conspiratorial fantasizing spreads more widely thanks to digital technology, taking ever more extreme forms as it travels, even the most casual onlooker might feel that there is indeed a conspiracy underway, nothing less than a worldwide conspiracy of conspiracy theorists, whether motivated by cultic rapture, Machiavellian scheming, entrepreneurial zest, or the adrenaline of gaming. Perhaps it is a matter of surrendering, out of discontented boredom, to the pleasures of connecting dots, feasting on the "Easter eggs" (hidden images or messages) planted as treats for diligent consumers of video games and blockbuster movies and on the cryptic "breadcrumbs" laid out to provide hints for devotees of QAnon. Facts are confining and dispiriting; fantasy is unbounded and exhilarating even when goaded on by dread. These narratives of escape, even if they must culminate -- as they so often do -- in a dream of annihilation.
— Geoffrey O'Brien, “Hitler in Antarctica’ (New York Review of Books)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The way Big Media is covering Biden, I haven’t seen anything like it since ’08, when they proclaimed Obama to be The Messiah. The word ‘Sycophant’ doesn’t quite describe it. MSNBC went so far as to compare Biden to Jesus Christ himself — yet, Biden has a 50 year track record to examine, in which he’s proven himself to be nothing more than a run of the mill pol looking for the Main Chance.
Almost all of their reporting seems like DNC agit/prop; is it meant to be taken seriously?
These media people in Atlanta, NY and DC, they have no problem debasing themselves in front of a national audience? What’s the goal? Do they think we’re all stupid out here, that we can’t see thru them? For example, yesterday, hard hitting reporters at MSNBC were raving about the fab shoes Kamala was wearing.
“Who designed them? The color is just right, matching her outfit perfectly. Isn’t it wonderful to have someone back in the White House with such exquisite fashion sense? We will let our audience know where they can get a pair of these shoes as soon as our exclusive interview with the VP tonite.” And so on.
SEE, THE WHOLE THING is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, and all of ‘em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures.
― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
THE CORPORATE/ESTABLISHMENT NEWS MEDIA oft analyzed Donald Trump’s presidency in an historical vacuum, ignoring the decades-long, bipartisan embrace of neoliberalism that helped bring about his successful candidacy while focusing sensationally on his cult of reality TV personality. Such bread and circus tunnel vision misses the bigger picture. Trump, even with all his faults, is a symptom of a much larger pattern brought on by increased privatization of the public sphere, especially in the realms of education and media, which go back over half a century, particularly the past forty years.
— Nolan Higdon-Mickey Huff
We now allow 12 year old Eddie
To sleep in our bed
Blind and lame in one leg
Often runs waking me up
his little legs, running against my body.
Still, it makes me so happy
Knowing he still can run.
3am the witching hour
Often upon waking
I get ‘the thinkys’
Stay awake worrying about
The sad state of the world
I will go back to my good dreams
Where I too
Embody my younger body
and run with Eddie.
— Emjay Wilson
HE HAD A HAMMER: HENRY AARON PRESENTE
by Dave Zirin
When you write for a living, you invariably pen obituaries in advance so they are ready to be published as soon as the death knell of the famous is sounded. I could never do that with Henry “Hank” Aaron. Even at 86, he seemed so precious that I was in no position to even imagine a world without him. He seemed too important to die, like a monument that people would form a human chain to protect against the hordes determined to tear him down. Aaron was living testimony not only to greatness with a bat but to this country’s racism. His willingness to testify to this reality made him the foe of the darkest corners of this country, from chat rooms to the White House.
What we have lost in Aaron is more than just an all-time baseball player (he is among the best to ever take the field, with a record 25 All-Star selections, more RBIs than any player who ever lived, and a decades-long reign as Home Run King with 755 dingers, even though he never hit more than 47 in a season). We have lost one of our last living links to the Negro Leagues, where Aaron played for several months with the Indianapolis Clowns. We have lost someone who, even though he played much of his career in Atlanta, was a fierce foe of Jim Crow—and then the New Jim Crow, with its savage inequities in the criminal justice system. As he once said, with his deep and sincere humility, “Am I a hero? I suppose I am, to some people. If I am, I hope it’s not only for my home runs… I hope it’s also for my beliefs, my stands, my opinions. Still, I’m not at ease being a hero.”
We also lost someone who could attest like no one else to the racism that runs deep in the marrow of this country and the limits of sports heroism as a vehicle to transcend that racism for the Black athlete. It was Aaron who was mercilessly threatened with murder as he chased down Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs in 1973. Aaron came up just shy, breaking the record in April of 1974. But that meant he received a ton of letters that winter—the most anyone in the United States not named Richard Nixon had ever received—that alternately pledged support or promised death for him and his family. The latter were the letters Aaron never threw away. These threats were so vicious that Aaron and his family needed bodyguards—even his daughter, who was away from home at the time. The threats were so vicious that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pre-wrote an obituary to have on file in case of his assassination. Remember, this was just five years after the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, so the idea that greatness could be snuffed out at a moment’s notice was not far from the American imagination.
When Aaron was making his iconic home run trot in 1974 after hitting number 715 off of Al Downing, two young white hippies ran out of the stands to shake his hand, smiles on their faces. They had no idea that Aaron’s bodyguard, Calvin Wardlaw, had his hand on his gun ready to end their lives if the situation went sideways. This should have been his singular moment of unvarnished joy—instead, it was nearly a crime scene. As Aaron said, “It really made me see for the first time a clear picture of what this country is about. My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp. I had to duck. I had to go out the back door of the ball parks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time. I was getting threatening letters every single day. All of these things have put a bad taste in my mouth, and it won’t go away. They carved a piece of my heart away.”
Later in life, Aaron was able to heal, but he was never shy about showing his scars. He was a superstar of uncommon decency who had lived through segregation and Jim Crow only to come out on the other side ready to lend his name and fame to keep the struggle alive. In 2018, he was asked whether he would visit Donald Trump’s White House and he answered simply, “There is no one there that I want to see.” This was a special man, and it is an indelible mark of shame on this country that he wasn’t treasured through every phase of his life. The most we can hope for now is to hold his memory high and stand on his shoulders for the battles to come. As Aaron said, “My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.” Damn right.