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A COOLING TREND is expected early to mid week as an upper level low approaches the area. This low will also bring a slight chance of dry thunderstorms Monday evening to the far northeastern mountains of Trinity County. Slightly better chances for interior storms are expected Tuesday and especially Wednesday. (NWS)
IN RUSSIAN RIVER’S FABLED VINEYARDS, THE HARVEST OF A DROUGHT
Rich with promise and potential, the grapes that create the Russian River Valley’s famed wines are ripening in the intense midday heat. But soon they’ll face the fight of their lives, deprived of water as the state diverts scarce supplies from agriculture to the region’s thirsty cities and subdivisions.
FORMER COUNTY HYDROLOGIST Dennis Slota, who is one of the sponsors of the more extreme “repeal it” cannabis referenda now being circuated in response to what his group says is an unwarranted expansion of pot grows in Mendocino County was interviewed in Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal about the cannabis permit program and how Mendo got itself into the very bad situation it is now in. While there are a variety of public perceptions about what should or should not be done to try to correct the situation — from focusing primarily on “Phase 3” to more tinkering with the current ordinance to a cap on the expansion to the outright repeal — there’s pretty broad agreement that the current mess is hopelessly beyond repair.
Slota told Rifkin: “Prior to Carmel Angelo becoming CEO in 2010, when I worked for the County, there was stability. County Counsel had been there for decades; the planning director, the ag commissioner had been there decades; there had been overall stability within the county. Taking into account the financial crisis of 2008, there still remains a heightened level of instability. There has been pure incompetence in the cannabis program. Previous to the program coming to the ag department there had been a long record of one commissioner [Dave Bengston — ms]; afterward there were multiple commissioners in just a few years. Illegal permits were issued without site reviews, with no review for sensitive species. When the cannabis program was later moved to the Planning Department, there was a constant turnover at the director level and within staff. Kristin Nevedal was recently hired as the County’s new Cannabis Program Manager. It has taken over four years of turmoil to finally move in this direction. With this record of failure and ineptitude, no one is held accountable. In my mind, the buck stops at the top. I would have to say Carmel Angelo is responsible for this debacle. By definition and by the work chart, she’s in charge. If outside corporate interests want to change county policy, I presume they would talk with her. Ultimately, this is about getting more money for the county. I believe there should be a county employee survey to ask how many county employees have confidence in CEO Carmel Angelo as a leader, how many enjoy working for her.”
Rifkin: “With an unprecedented coalition of agencies and individuals working in opposition to the board’s proposed cannabis ordinance, those working on the referendum are confident it will succeed.”
Slota: “It’s so unpopular with the residents and the incompetence of the county is so obvious, we believe this referendum will easily pass. Citizens are upset with how poorly the county has managed the program to date and we believe they have no capacity to pursue a major expansion, especially considering how they haven’t been able to handle what we already have. How does adding an additional work load improve performance? Right now, the board is on a blind rush to expand before an EIR is required. However, when this referendum passes, they will automatically have to do one.”
Rifkin: “[Slota’s repeal-referendum group] SOWWW [Save Our Water, Wildlife, and Way of Life] is still hoping the Supervisors will change their minds on the 22nd but, if not, they have a fully trained team of signature-gatherers ready to go on the 23rd and multi data bases with which to work.”
Slota: “Maybe the next step will be a recall of supervisors who decide to vote with outside corporate interests rather than with their constituents. That is now an ongoing conversation.”
* * *
A READER WRITES: “No matter what the Supervisors do, the process is still way too cumbersome and time-consuming which they should relax for smaller growers. But Mendo has a history of not enforcing permit conditions so these supposed fancy rules are mostly academic paper exercises which won’t make much difference. I don't expect the overall landscape to change much with most growers staying in the black market. Some ‘legalization’.”
ANOTHER READER WRITES: “I think Supervisor McGourty highjacked Phase 3 to help the grape growers convert to cannabis because they over-planted vines. Supervisor Williams was a willing participant because it helps his agenda against the small farmers. Word has it that he advocated for a small farmer constituent, who burned him and he got pissed. The cannabis program is slow in reviewing current re-submittals and there has been no formal announcement of when the County’s ‘Portal’ will be online, so that current Phase 1 applicants can do the county's work for them by re-applying and providing a regurgitation of documents that were previously submitted. Williams’ 90% failure rate prediction [a reference to the number of current applicants who Williams says could never get a permit], can only come true if staff is directed to make it so. A close reading of Phase 3, virtually eliminates the traditional cannabis farming areas and concentrates it into the Valley floors. I doubt that vineyard owners will have the knowledge to grow quality bud. More than likely, they will grow for the extraction [concentrates, oils, ingredients, etc.] market. I predict that you will see cannabis extraction facilities pop up like wineries.”
COUNTY FINAL BUDGET NOTES
FINAL ADOPTION of the County’s 2020/2021 Budget is on Tuesday’s Consent Calendar but will it stay there? On June 9 the Supervisors directed CEO Carmel Angelo to meet with Sheriff Matt Kendall to try to reach agreement on two key issues. How much money does the Sheriff need for a realistic budget? Can the Sheriff’s Office IT department merge into the County’s IT department?
WE PREVIOUSLY REPORTED the dispute between the Sheriff and the CEO a couple of weeks ago.
THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE claimed they were being underfunded by $1.5 million, primarily for replacement of high mileage patrol cars that are overdue for replacement. The Sheriff also insists that law enforcement confidentiality requires a separate IT department for law enforcement for security reasons.
DID THE CEO AND SHERIFF meet? Did they agree on funding for vehicle replacement? Did they agree on any merger of IT? Tuesday’s consent calendar item is silent on this significant budget dispute. The only apparent issue was adding additional funding for the uncontroversial Fire Safe Council.
MOST PUBLIC JURISDICTIONS post the entire proposed budget for everyone to see. But in Mendo the CEO keeps the detailed line item budget info under wraps. And the CEO keeps the Supes and the public in the dark. What is the budget for expensive outside legal counsel? What is the budget for acquisition of property for CEO Angelo’s secret deals? Without making the line item details of the proposed $346 million budget public there is no way to know. The budget is whatever the CEO says it is.
ALSO LEFT UNANSWERED is the legality, not to mention the stupidity, of the Supes sending a bill to Sheriff Kendall if he goes over budget. The CEO’s budget presentation quoted State law saying department managers could be held personally liable for budget overruns. Supervisor Williams was surprised and wanted to know if that was true. County Counsel Christian Curtis, after engaging in his usual verbal obfuscation, finally concluded yes, the County could send a bill to an allegedly overspending department head. Williams wanted a handshake from the Sheriff’s Office that they would stay within budget. Undersheriff Brewster, subbing for Sheriff Kendall who was in Sacramento that day, said he’d like to but couldn’t when he knew the Sheriff’s budget was underfunded from the start.
WILL ANY SUPERVISOR question the CEO’s selective account of Board direction from June 9? Will anyone ask if the CEO met with the Sheriff? Will anyone ask why the Supes and the public are not allowed to see the proposed $346 million dollar budget in full prior to voting for it? Or will it sail through on consent with no questions asked?
WATER HISTORY, LOCAL CHAPTER
Readers should know why the Russian River doesn’t dry up in the summer, like it did before 1908. In 1908, Eel River water was diverted into the Russian to generate power. In dry years, power was not generated, so Scott Dam was built on the Eel in 1920, forming Lake Pillsbury. This reservoir supplies water year-round for the Eel and Russian rivers.
There is a movement to take down Scott Dam and empty the lake to enhance fish populations on the Eel. The problem is not the dam; what is killing the young salmon and steelhead are illegal water diversions from the tributaries by cannabis growers and increasing populations of predatory pike fish.
The proposal is to let water travel into the diversion tunnel at Potter Valley in wet years, but not in dry years like the past two. Without Lake Pillsbury’s storage feeding the Russian, Lake Mendocino would be dry, and so would the farms and towns from Ukiah to Healdsburg. Russian River water co-mingles with Lake Sonoma, which supplies water from Windsor to Marin Country.
Saving fish is an excuse for environmentalists to remove dams, but this plan will not solve the fish or water supply problems.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Biking/Hiking on Logging Roads…
I'm no authority, but…Most of the logging roads in the area are on private timber companies' land. Visiting these places is sometimes frowned upon, sometimes tolerated, sometimes allowed by permit. It depends on which company you're dealing with and which company rep you're talking to. As long as you're not a guerilla pot grower, however, you're unlikely to get in real trouble. But these places are usually pretty trashed except for the immediate riparian zones where they're not allowed to cut. Then there's the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. The JDSF is public land. You're welcome to ride the logging roads there, there is a network of bike trails built and maintained by the community, and there are even a few remote camp sites. BUT, several of the nicest parts of the JDSF are closed for butchery, and one of them is a war zone.
As for maps, check this out: https://boredfeet.com/mappages/map9780985599409.php
Or visit the JDSF's office in Ft. Bragg; they've got a pretty good map of those lands. Or visit the Outdoor Store or Catch a Canoe.
— Garth Hagerman
A READER WRITES: You nailed “strategic plan.” I have already added it to the two-words-for-one list, along with its pretentious cousin, “Mission Statement.” I once suggested to a client that his firm replace it with “Purpose” or “Our Goals” but they wanted a sanctimonious ring to their brochure because “people expect it.” Also, the word “mission” has religious overtones, which give me the creeps. (So does the word “holistic.”) Missionary evokes Spanish slavers in frocks and Bible-carrying Evangelicals making Central and South America safe for United Fruit and Chevron. Missionary, mercenary, two wings on the bird of prey. Plus “mission statement” just sounds so square.
MENDO’S CRISIS RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT FACILITY, an exchange
James Marmon: Why does the CEO want to buy a Redwood Valley home? My suspicion is that it’s the home the Schraeders have been using in Redwood Valley the last couple of years as a temporary Crisis Residential Treatment (CRT) facility until they could get the Orchard Street facility built. Measure B funds will most likely be tapped into eventually and the Schraeders will use it for supportive housing. Just a wild guess.
* * *
Pam Partee (retired County Social Services employee): A couple of grant fund/Sales Tax Measure project rhetorical questions: How is that the Orchard Avenue CRT facility is costing $5 million sales tax measure dollars? Driving by, it is very small for such a huge sum. And, why is it that Ukiah was allowed to divert sales tax Measure Y street funds to supplement the grant-funded Downtown Street Diet while no other city streets are being repaired?
* * *
James Marmon: We in Lake County are happy to have the Orchard St. CRT, we’ll make sure to keep it full so the Schraeders can bill Medi-Cal for full capacity. It’s going to be a big savings for Lake County Behavioral Health. Thank you Mendocino County voters and Measure B Citizen’s Oversight Committee.
* * *
Mark Scaramella: Is this more Marmon sarcasm? A reference, perhaps, to the number of reimbursables in Lake County? Funny, though, I don’t remember Lake County being mentioned in Measure B’s text. The CRT only has eight beds in four bedrooms anyway, so I don’t think it will make much difference to Lake County. And it certainly won’t make any dent in the kinds of street mental health/drug cases Measure B was sold on.
* * *
Marmon: Miller has been telling the [Measure B] Committee for months that she is working on a regional plan with Lake County to make sure these facilities (PHF, CRT) can operate at full capacity. Gal Pals, Angelo, Schraeder, and Lake County CEO Hutchinson would love to go that way. The only reason Lake hasn’t gone completely privatized is because of Adventist Health who the Schraeders would have to compete against. AH already has a presence here [in Lake County] with their Behavioral Health Program. Most of the Children’s System of Care is already provided by the Schraeders. I worked in their office in Lakeport, 20 years ago. You’re right, it isn’t what the people voted for, but it is what they’ll get. PS. Finding 8 severely mentally ill clients to volunteer to be housed in the CRT on any given day is going to be difficult. The facility will lose money if they can’t keep it full. The Schraeders will be accepting Lake County clients at the Orchard CRT, I shit you not. They will not operate it at a loss. They are only going to put reimbursables in the CRT, not “street mental health/drug cases,” and it’s totally volunteer. If someone refuses housing there they will be sent to a PHF out of County, which isn’t that bad, they will be back on the street within 72 hours. Allman sold Measure B to the public without knowing what he was talking about.
* * *
Scaramella: Dr. Miller’s presentation to the Supes next week says that in 2019/2020 there were a whopping 8522 “total undupliczted persons served by MHSA” (MHSA, Mental Health Services Act, aka Proposition 63 passed in 2004 which imposed a 1% tax on incomes over $1 million for “new” Mental Health Services.) Mendo has been getting over $1 million a year from this proposition which goes to the usual nebulous services for the usual suspects.
According to Dr. Miller the MHSA money “supports and supplements the Specialty Mental Health Sytem which Promotes recovery and wellness for adults and Promotes resiliency for children and youth. Including: Community Services and Support Programs, Prevention and Service Early Intervention Programs, Innovation Programs [sic] and Full Service Partnership (FSP).” Which tells us nothing about the “service,” of course.
Dr. Miller claims that these services have produced “a decrease in Impairment/Symptoms” in 79% of cases — according to them, and their obviously subjective self-assessment.
In addition, Dr. Miller says that in 2019/2020 3362 “unduplicated persons were served by the Mental Health Plan.”
So, are you saying that out of all those “unduplicated persons” — at least 3362, maybe over 12,000 — they’ll have trouble finding eight Mendo people to accept a few days in a gold plated motel on Orchard Avenue?
* * *
Marmon: Yes. I bet you 95% of unduplicated persons served did not meet severely mentally ill criteria and just received an assessment, and it is most likely over 60% percent of those unduplicated persons served were children who can not be placed in the CRT. I’m not here to argue with you, but Miller is blowing smoke up everyone’s ass.
* * *
Scaramella: Haven’t you forgotten that Schraeder & Co do their own assessments? Isn’t it fairly easy for them to fudge the definition of “severely mentally ill clients” so that the numbers remain at least enough to fill the CRT facility? It’s kinda like Special Ed, right? If MCOE have staffing for x number of Special Ed/SELPA kids, it’s not that hard to find that at least that many are declared Special Ed, even when you can’t tell a lot of them from ordinary slow learners.
HOLDING DEPARTMENT HEADS PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for their budgets — an exchange:
Supervisor Ted Williams:
“At the time, Supervisor Ted Williams wanted the Board to simply adopt the idea on the spot since state law requires it.”
Not exactly. There is nothing to adopt. The BOS is bound by state law. California Government Code provides:
29121 Except as otherwise provided by law, obligations incurred or paid in excess of the amounts authorized in the budget unit appropriations are not a liability of the county or dependent special district, but a personal liability of the official authorizing the obligation.
29122 The board shall not approve a claim and the auditor shall not issue payment for any obligation in excess of that authorized in the budget unit appropriation, except upon an order of a court, for an emergency, or as otherwise provided by law.
Are you [Mark Scaramella] arguing that county departments should have the right to spend beyond budget? The budget becomes a soft guideline?
* * *
Sure, but with explanation and presumably authorization.. And with advance notice so that the budget can be changed if reasonable. But you, the Board, don’t get timely budget reports, you don’t get annotated line item expenses, so you don’t know of pending or recent overruns until after the fact. If the Board got routine monthly departmental budget reports, as you should (and as is done everywhere else that I know of), you’d have either a heads up on budget problems and why, or you’d hear the explanation and adjust the budget. (Why do you have reserves?) All routine. If a department head goes over budget by spending on unapproved or unauthorized things, yes, that’s a problem. But if the budget is managed properly, that doesn’t happen. Budgets are plans, not guarantees, not promises, and plans have to be flexible. Further, if you take this state code literally, then you will be pressuring departments to hide stuff in their budgets or operations (like Budge Campbell and Dennis Denny used to do), and the budget no longer would reflect reality. Department heads could inflate costs and staffing for example to give themselves private reserves, or they could delay or underspend on necessary expenses so that they artificially stay under budget. It’s a formula for mistrust and mismanagement. You don’t want to encourage fooling around with budgets. Fix the budget process, don’t create a gotcha culture with the department budgets. It’ll backfire.
* * *
Supervisor Williams is conflating two different ideas there. Just because the budget is a guideline doesn’t mean that every department should spend beyond it.
No citizen would argue that departments should spend beyond budget. But a budget made a year (or more) prior seems like it would be a guideline, yes.
Aside from having a large reserve, how does a department respond in an emergency situation which wasn’t budgeted for?
I have a monthly budget – house payment, food, insurance, taxes, utilities, communications, discretionary spending. If my car breaks down, I revise the monthly budget.
* * *
Lazarus of Willits: When the previous Sheriff was in office, he said on numerous occasions that his department did not exist to save the people money. It existed to provide services. And I would suspect the current Sheriff feels similar, and perhaps many other County officials and department leaders do also. I heard a Supervisor say years ago that he could not believe how much money rolled in every day…Perhaps with that attitude, the budget issues are understandable.
* * *
Supervisor Williams: I fully support funding public safety at the level necessary to meet public expectations. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether state law is to be followed. Can departments spend beyond budget at their discretion or must they come forward to request budget adjustment?
(To be continued… — ms)
LIT CHAT: Peter Lit writes: “Thank you for recommending ‘The Steam Pig.’ What a view of apartheid and racism. I ordered several more of his Kramer/Zondi crime stories. The one I have finished, ‘Caterpillar Cop,’ was a ‘better crime/mystery story’ in ways, but not as revealing politically.
“Also read ‘Killing Commendatore’ by Haruki Murakami which is a thought provoking read, elements of Western mythology woven into a Japanese sensibility. I don't know what to think. Sometimes it seems like “woo-woo” nonsense, but like ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude,’ or ‘The War At The End Of The World’ or ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being,’ it is compelling. I couldn't even tell you if it was well-written except that it grabs you. Anyway, thanks for McClure.”
I'VE BEEN READING Paul Theroux's travel books, which I highly recommend, especially for under-traveled persons like myself who aren't likely to get to Patagonia, or even England. Theroux gets to obscure destinations and stays long enough to write about them at intelligent length. Like a lot of book readers I always have a few others going at the same time as my major focus. In between Theroux's walking tour of England, I'm reading Hemingway's ‘Men Without Women’; Larry McMurtry's ‘Oh What A Slaughter’ and, for highbrow lit-crit, Elizabeth Hardwick on Melville.
CAN'T HELP but notice that my grandchildren, in their spare moments, grab an electronic tablet rather than a book or magazine. The other day granddaughter was watching an instructive lady baking and icing a cake, while grandson was rapt at a guy building complicated Lego structures. They both read well, but I wonder at the long-term effects of so much screen time. The world has changed, my fellow print dinos. Images and noise prevail.
READERS of the on-line ava began bombarding us early this morning with complaints they couldn't get into the site. Neither could we. Like everyone else we're at the mercy of these mysterious electronic processes, which aren't made any less frustrating by seemingly explanatory but impenetrably cryptic messages from the vague, presumably human-type persons responsible. We were back up in full by 11:30am.
POSTED ON AV FACEBOOK some time Saturday: "Suspicious middle aged white male, yellow T-shirt, wearing a face mask, walking west, towards the airport, on Mountain View…saw him walking out of the high school. His movement and walk pattern made him suspicious to me. Please be aware."
THESE ARE tough times for white males. We're all under suspicion, but the only thing suspicious about this particular white male is his face mask while walking outside in a rural area.
SUSPICIOUS WHITE MALE, UPDATE: Late afternoon I saw him myself. He was Jade Bennett.
Jade grew up in Boonville. He's not dangerous, but he is seriously mentally ill, one of those many non-reimburseables who, so long as he stays on his meds, meaning he gets some professional help but not enough. Ordinarily, Jade lives with his mother in Fort Bragg, but from time to time he wanders off and gets himself arrested for making a nuisance of himself, and off he goes to the County Jail where, like so many mentally ill Mendo people, he will be housed until he's stable enough to return to mom's house in Fort Bragg. Just speculating here, but Jade touches down in Boonville because this is the place where he retains the best memories of his troubled life. Jade is in his fifties now.
EDDIE CARSEY has his restaurant building and adjacent houses (3?) for sale at $1.2 mil. The restaurant was Lauren's Restaurant in its most recent incarnation. The Carsey complex rests in the center of Boonville.
THE BOONVILLE BREWERY, with Lauren's gone, has become a focal point for a range of activity, from our Farmer's Market to Frisbie Golf, as more and more locals abandon the unwelcoming Fairgrounds for a more accommodating venue.
THE DEMONSTRATIONS at Jackson State Forest are about to go full-arrest ritual, as more and more people block Anderson Logging from access, and more and more people invade the logging site itself. We understand that Sheriff Kendall has been meeting with some of the enviro matriarchs — Linda Perkins of Albion for one — to try to reach an agreement that doesn't involve a lot of deputy time and lengthy arrest logistics.
THIRD HAND REPORTS have it that an effort is underway in Round Valley to cite and fine unlicensed water trucks/carriers, but the citations are little more than traffic infractions and do not address where they’re getting their water, just the trucks and driver’s licenses. We have not seen any of them in the Booking log so they are not rising to the levels of misdemeanors. They might have to impound a few trucks to make even a dent in the problem. If the unlicensed/outlaw water truck operators are already operating illegally, traffic/license/fix-it citations are not likely to produce much results.
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 20, 2021
JAMES ANDEREGG, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
DOLLY BAKER, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
GARY BALMAIN JR., Willits. Disobeying court order.
KOREY BURROUGHS, Lakeport/Ukiah. Parole violation.
RYAN COGGAN, Yuba City/Willits. DUI with Blood-Alcohol over 0.15%.
WESLEY DICKSON, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
NATHAN FELIZ, Redwood Valley. Disobeying court order, reckless evasion against traffic, failure to appear.
SEAN FLINTON, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
REMELEE LAXA, Willits. Trespassing, disobeying court order.
PEDRO LOPEZ-GARCIA, Fort Bragg. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JACOB MCGOLDRICK, San Francisco/Ukiah. DUI, suspended license.
CIERRA MCKNIGHT, Irvine/Ukiah. Controlled substance.
PARKER MCLARIN IV, Huntington Beach/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, criminal threats.
JESSICA MODDER, Ukiah. DUI-alcohol&drugs, under influence, controlled substance, no license, probation revocation.
AARON ORESCO, Redwood Valley. Burglary, controlled substance, paraphernalia, suspended license for DUI, probation revocation.
KRISTO OUSEY, Ukiah. Trespassing-entering and accupying real property or structure without consent, resisting.
FREDY REYES-RUBIO, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
EDWARD STEELE, Ukiah. Attempted first degree burglury, county parole violation. (Frequent Flyer)
ANTONIO THOMAS, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
KATELYN WALKER, Willits. Domestic battery.
by Ion Vlad
Today they close early, I have to keep that in mind. Here at the library, I can easily fall asleep. Everything is so peaceful, so quiet. Every now and then though, a bum gets in from the cold and throws a fit. The janitor kicks him out and there’s a lot of screaming. Then things go back to normal and you can sleep or read a book or just look at photographs. A beautiful book I often look at is by some Brazilian guy. Book’s called “Genesis.” Lots of pictures of birds, oceans, and mountains… And people, once in a while, but not many. Mostly nature.
Recently, I met this chick who used to live in the city but was evicted three years ago. Tall, blond, unassuming, probably mid-thirties; her name’s Ingrid. Used to teach kindergarten. Has no family. Always reads Danielle Steele. She prefers early Danielle Steele, she says. Her and I often talk about kids these days, their Internet, their telephones. Sleeps in a tent in the park behind the building. Good girl.
I check to see if they’ve brought in any new copies of “Clarity” by Sidney Stark. Fucking Sidney Stark! Hate the man! Hate his style, primarily! He should be banned or immobilized. I bet nobody prints him in Canada. Fun fact: Jack London used to read in here as a kid. Grew up in the Bay Area, mostly Oakland. When Oakland was a different place. There’s a new copy of “Clarity.” One too many. I take it and hide it in the inside pocket after I rip off and toss the cover. This way, the alarm won’t go off. The book is about dysfunctional families in the suburbs, in a nutshell. That storyline just won’t do, I’m not putting up with that shit! Computer says two other copies floating around, luckily not checked out yet. One at Lake Merritt and the other at Rockridge. They’re both walkable distances, but I have to leave early and not mess around in order to get home before lockdown.
By the time I exit the library, it’s warmer outside and the fog is lifting. The sun starts to come out and there’s a lot of activity by the lake. There’s biking and jogging and children selling treats. Some people do tai chi, others just meditate. Life is happening all around. I choose a respectable spot and try to sell the other two volumes I picked up along with “Clarity.” One is a Laotian cookbook and the other a photographic travelogue of the American Southwest. I sell the cookbook fast, in the first ten minutes, for five bucks.
“You like Laotian?” the woman asks as she hands me the money.
“Not my favorite,” I say, “but their soups are pretty good.”
“There’s a wonderful place in Temescal,” she says, ”The Lowland Elephant. You should check it out!”
I promise to do that.
About a half hour later, a biker purchases the photo album. I get another ten dollars. The Lake Merritt branch features Sidney Stark’s bestseller in the New Books section. I give the cover the same treatment and walk away unafraid. There’s a white pavilion by the top of the lake. I sit for a while and think of Jack London. I remember the prospector’s passage through the tundra from ”Love of Life” in “The Klondike Tales” and the first encounter between Avis and Ernest Everhard in “The Iron Heel,” when she doubts him. Then I walk over and chuck the two copies of “Clarity” in the water. As I watch them sink, calm overtakes me.
The trip to Rockridge is gruesome. It is getting dark. As I go up and down the hills, the growing pain in my gut reminds me I’ve had nothing to eat since the piece of toast this morning. I stop at a Wendy’s and get a spicy chicken sandwich and a chocolate frosty. Good stuff, has yet to let me down. By five thirty I’m at the Rockridge branch and searching hard for the book because it is misplaced. Someone had put it in the kids section. I identify it, stuff it in my pocket and start walking back toward the lake. Many people out on the streets, mostly young, apparently happy. Hard to know, they all look and speak the same. As I get back to the lake and search for the best depository location, I look across the bay and see the fog wall over the city. The top of Sutro Tower is the only thing that sticks out, like a lonely candle. The rest is many fading lights and I can’t tell if they’re the bridge or the city. I drop “Clarity” in the water and remember that today they close early. I have to head back.
It’s Saturday. By eight everything shuts down at our storage facility. As I cross the lobby and pass the front desk, I greet the receptionist. She’s a young girl with a friendly demeanor who always seems to be studying for a college course. She nods and attempts a polite smile. As if she weren’t familiar with me. As if I’m a new tenant and customer service matters. But I think she’s clued in and all she wants is to get home. Someone has rented the space across from me, a father and son who cram a lot of fishing equipment in there. Then you’ve got the silent guy farther down the hall. He’s here every night, taking large garbage bags packed with stuff in and out. Intriguing person. Don’t think he’s a fellow resident just yet.
I pretend to rearrange my belongings: two wooden chairs, the books, the table lamp. I wait for everyone to clear out. They leave. The lights go out and the alarm signals that the building is now in lockdown. I turn on the flashlight. A four by five cell for $150 a month. No windows and no oxygen surplus either, to be honest. Warmer nights find us gasping for air and it’s not at all uncommon to pass out. But I always bounce back somehow. Either way, I’d rather say good-bye in here than leave the unit and become easy prey in the hallways.
Now I’m thirsty and have to walk down to the lobby and get some water from the bathroom. I make my way there avoiding all cameras. All this I know by heart. The bathroom door is locked, someone’s in there. Hoping it’s a friend, someone I know. Luckily it’s Dusty, who lives on the same floor. He moved in this summer, used to rent a studio in Hayward.
Dusty grabs my shoulders and shakes me.
“Think he’s here tonight?”
“Doubt it,” I say, “weather’s too nice.”
“Take me in, man.”
“Tonight’s tough Dusty, gotta get some sleep, I’m drained.”
It kills me but I can’t get him used to that. We climb the stairs back together. He goes to his space, I go to mine. We say good-night. Several hours pass. Then the screaming begins. First someone I can’t recognize, on the floor below us. Then it’s Dusty. He calls my name. A few units away, I can hear Dusty being shoved around. The intruder smashes his body against the walls and into the door. The screaming, now muffled, goes on. I cover my ears, put on my headphones and try to listen to Chick Corea. I can still hear them.
“You sonofabitch, stand down or I’ll kill you, you fucking sonofabitch!” the stranger yells. The fight goes on for another ten minutes. Then everything is silent.
A man rumored to have a gun visits us from time to time. He beats people up and steals from every storage space he can get in. He knows exactly where to go. Maybe we see him during the day, maybe he works here. Maybe he is just like us.
Found a way to weld two pretty big metal rings to the inside of my door. Put a padlock on them every night, shoplifted from Ace Hardware. This is how I survive. Toward dawn, a familiar voice calls softly through the door, from the hallway. I open and see Dusty crawling on the floor, one of his arms covered in blood. I take him in. He’s crying. I wrap his hand in a t-shirt and let him stretch on the mattress. I sit on one of the wooden chairs nearby. Then I pick up the guitar and just hold it.
After a while, he opens his eyes and I can see their shine clearly in the darkness:
“Can you play any Neil Young songs?”
“Not now, Dusty… maybe later,” I say.
The lockdown ends at seven. Dusty is asleep and I leave him there. I walk down to the lobby and prepare to face another morning. On the way out, some young guy stops me on the stairs. A student, by the looks of things.
“Excuse me,” he says, “want a free bookshelf? It’s still in great shape.”
“If I take it, I got nowhere left to sleep,” I say.
by Paul Modic
I never thought about privilege, white, male, or class, when I was a kid although, sure, we were told about the starving people in Africa, China, or India when we didn't eat our broccoli.
I didn't realize that just living in a normal house in a normal town was privileged although it didn't feel particularly privileged living at dysfunction junction with fighting parents and divorce on the way.
When I went out hitchhiking on the road (after reading On The Road) with just fifty bucks in my pocket that didn't seem very privileged. Okay, I lied. When I went out on the road I had five hundred dollars, my life savings, and I was the richest hitchhiker out there in 1972. Only right now while writing this am I making the connection between that $500 and privilege.
I earned that money with my teenage jobs including house-painting, parking lot attendant, phone solicitor, and paperboy. When I worked for the painter I made $2.25 an hour doing the nastiest jobs like climbing up a very tall ladder to spray poison on the wasp nests near the roof. Another time I painted a small barn and planned an elaborate bank robbery as I worked for hours. (Living in the outlaw Northern California hills for forty years was actually like committing a slo-mo bank robbery.)
I bought nothing, saved every dollar, and that's the connection to privilege: I didn't have to help support my family with my after-school jobs, it was all mine, all gravy.
From my twenties through my fifties I never thought about privilege although I did come to realize that my fellow denizens out here in the hills were probably the most privileged people on the planet: living with clean air and water, an easy job with great pay, and long vacations.
It was only after I retired from the green-race that I started to contemplate the nature of this concept.
I wasn't going to feel guilty about being a white male and having stuff: I had lucked into this hippie lifestyle, my neighbors a generation of well-off bums, and sorry millennials, you were born forty years too late and will probably never have anything.
In a recent essay about this area I mentioned white privilege and I was corrected by a commenter: there was no “white privilege” out here in the hills, ie, the few Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and many Native Americans here had the same opportunity as anyone else to put some pot plants in the ground and make bank. It took some happenstance and serendipity to end up here, and who you knew sometimes mattered which points to privilege again.
What makes America wealthy? First of all we're at peace, well not in the under-privileged ghettos, but mostly we live without fear in our small towns and rural areas. What makes the U.S. wealthy is that even the most impoverished renter can take a hot shower, a reality not shared with most of the world's population. (Sixty per cent of humanity does not have access to clean water.)
Yes we are privileged, especially as seniors with socialized medicine: I recently got a hip replacement absolutely free just because I'm sixty-five, wow, what a gift — changed my life.
No, I have no solutions except to maybe give some of it back to those less fortunate: I have a friend who made fifty grand on Tesla stock recently and he donates $7000 a year to worthy causes, good man! And when his wife sells her rentals, gained by inheritance, they go to the long-term renters at below market prices. They are a very nice couple, but you can bet they will be passing the bulk of their wealth down to their child, no doubt.
See, we should give some or a lot of our stuff, our houses and wealth, to those less fortunate but we won't. Why? Because it's dog-eat-dog out there and we cling to our bank accounts to help us get through this last chapter of our privileged lives, old age, right?
Look at the big picture: the wealthy white people control a lot of the world's wealth, we didn't ask to be privileged, and now that we are what are we going to do about it?
I have some extra rooms and could probably take in seven homeless people but why would I want to ruin my life just to be a saint?
A SELFISH AND BLIND PREOCCUPATION with material interests has caused us to reduce this cosmos, so marvelous to him with eyes to see it, to a hard matter-of-fact place. Soon the horse and the pig on the one hand and wheat and potatoes on the other will replace hundreds of thousands of animals and plants given us by God.
— Abbe David, 1865, naturalist
AL CAPONE — AFTER PRISON IN FLORIDA
by Jodi Mailander Farrell (VisitFlorida.com)
He may have been born in New York and become notorious in Chicago, but Al Capone and Florida go way back. One of the most famous American gangsters of the 20th century made the Sunshine State his getaway from cold Chicago winters and assassination attempts. Capone first visited Miami in 1926. Despite the best efforts by law enforcement, the governor and local newspapers to run him out of the state, Scarface returned again and again, and eventually took his last breath here. Miami wasn’t his only hangout.
Due to his failing health, Capone was released from prison on November 16, 1939, and referred to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for the treatment of paresis (caused by late-stage syphilis). Hopkins refused to admit him on his reputation alone, but Union Memorial Hospital accepted him. Capone was grateful for the compassionate care that he received and donated two Japanese weeping cherry trees to Union Memorial Hospital in 1939. A very sickly Capone left Baltimore on March 20, 1940, after a few weeks of inpatient and outpatient care, for Palm Island, Florida. In 1942, after mass production of penicillin was started in the United States, Capone was one of the first American patients treated by the new drug. Though it was too late for him to reverse the damage in his brain, it did slow down the progression of the disease.
In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist examined him and concluded that Capone had the mentality of a 12-year-old child. Capone spent the last years of his life at his mansion in Palm Island, Florida, spending time with his wife and grandchildren. On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve, but contracted bronchopneumonia. He suffered a cardiac arrest on January 22, and on January 25, surrounded by his family in his home, Capone died after his heart failed as a result of apoplexy.
His body was transported back to Chicago a week later and a private funeral was held. He was originally buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. In 1950, Capone's remains, along with those of his father, Gabriele, and brother, Salvatore, were moved to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL
Recall when we pledged
Our Lives, Fortunes, and Honor
All to each other.
Now we mock, insult
And ridicule each other
Mostly for cruel fun.
Forgetting our pledge
We disrespect too much that
Might deserve respect.
A House divided
Can’t stand. Time to take our heads
Out of our asses.
— Jim Luther
ANYWAY THE WIND BLOWS
Anyway the wind blows is-a fine with me
Anyway the wind blows, it don't matter to me
'Cause I'm through with-a fussin' and-a fightin' with-a you
I went out and found a woman who is gonna be true
She makes me oh so happy, now I'm never ever blue
Any way the wind blows
She is my heart and soul and she loves me tenderly
Now my story can be told, just how good she is to me
Yes, she treats me like she loves me and she never makes me cry
I'm gonna stick with her till the day I die
She's not like you baby, she would never ever lie
Any way the wind blows
Now that I am free from the troubles of the past
Took me much too long to see that our romance couldn't last
I'm gonna go away and leave you standing at the door
I'll tell you pretty baby I won't be back no more
'Cause you don't even know what love is for
Any way the wind blows
— Frank Zappa
FORGET ROCKET SHIPS, super technology, moving sidewalks and all the rubbish in science fiction. No one will ever go to Mars and live. A religion has evolved from the belief that we have a future in outer space. But it is a half-baked religion -- it is a lot like Mormonism or the Cargo Cult. Our future is a mildly poisoned earth and its smoky air. We are in for hunger and heat and hard work, the highest stage of poverty -- no starvation, but crudeness everywhere, political art, simple language, bad books, brutal laws, plain vegetables and clothes of one color. It will be damp and dull. It will be monochrome and crowded. How could it be different? There will be no Star Wars or Galactic empires and no more money to waste on the loony nationalism of space programs. Our grandchildren will probably live in a version of China. On the dark brown banks of the Yangtze River the future has already arrived.
— Paul Theroux
YESTERDAY'S MCT POP QUIZ: two good guesses were submitted but the answer we were looking for was "dirt hole." The phrase in question, bioretention facility, appeared in this week's Streetscape Update in this photo caption: