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Valley People: Dec 24, 2013

WE'RE GRATEFUL to Thom Elkjer for his affecting reminisces of Brian Blumberg, a crucial Valley guy for at least 30 years. Brian did a lot of our plumbing work at the old AVA compound on Anderson Valley Way. Our infrastructure on an extremely crowded half-acre was, to say the least, complicated, but Brian seemed to get a big kick out of trying to figure it all out. One day he asked, "Did you know that there's an old iron pipe from next door that's still alive?" You mean, like, alive with running water? "Yes," Brian said. Of course we had no idea, and the strange thing about the mystery pipe was the water it drew from some unknown place was pure and sweet, unlike the foul iron and sulfur flow from our well. Brian said the mystery pipe "went a long way back, probably before World War Two." The place next door had been, we're told, a small dairy, from which our half-acre had been shaved. Brian capped it off and drove off chuckling to himself. He was very smart, unfailingly amiable and, over the years, quietly did many kindnesses for many people, including a number of apprentices other employers were unlikely to hire. We'll all miss him.

THEY HAPPEN. Errors, I mean. Even the inexcusable ones. We made an embarrassing one this week when we assumed a Hopland letter writer had his facts straight. He or she didn't, identifying, of all people, John Bartlett, as the author of a Christmas visual that got some Hopland people all riled up. It wasn't John, as we should have known because we belatedly recognized John Bartlett as the friendly and effective top fire guy at the old Boonville CDF station. Mrs. Bartlett worked at Anderson Valley Market, then the Ukiah Safeway. Very nice people, hardworking people, family people, with kids and grandkids. Sunday, I called John to apologize for the error and, true to form, he was gracious and understanding.

NO SOONER had we complained about the fence at the foot of the Ukiah-Boonville Road, the new one that would cut off public access to the swimming hole under the bridge, than it disappeared. And good on the new owners of that property for removing it.

KZYX MANAGER John Coate has announced that Paul Lambert will stop doing the local news as of December 24. Between December 25 and January 2, KZYX won't run local news apart from travel advisories and bulletins the snoozing station deems newsworthy. Coate's pal, the ponderous Ukiah gasbag, Michael Kisslinger, is going to share local news duties with somebody named Sheri Quinn. Ms. Quinn is a fairly recent arrival to Mendocino County, but she is reported by John Coate to have 13 years experience as a public radio news reporter, producer and host, mainly with Utah Public Radio. Even though Ms. Quinn now lives in Willits, she does public affairs programs for Utah Public Radio. The 5-minutes of local news KZYX offers is being expanded to 10-minutes. Fifty more minutes to go to keep even with KMUD and nearly every other public radio station in the country.

A READER WRITES: "Are you asking about Pete the Russian? I believe he suffered cardiac arrest in Sheriff's custody. Story goes, he was put up in a cell to get him out of inclement weather back when Reno Bartolomei was high sheriff…rumor has it the seasoned deputy who knew the old guy brought him in out of the cold and wet late one night that's according to Lars Liljeberg!"

PETE THE RUSSIAN lived in a redwood stump at Hendy Woods. He and Bicycle Man were two different people, Bicycle Man being a transient, Pete being a full-time resident. Neither one of them bothered anybody, but that was back in the live and let live days.

BACK WHEN we still had winter and the big rains of winter, water was never a source of anxiety. It is now. We're all wondering how our wells will hold up if it doesn't rain this year, the driest yet of three consecutive dry years. Gravity flow water sources are long gone for many people, and the rest of us scan the summer-blue skies like Bedouins searching for an ancient oasis.

THE VALLEY'S Chamber of Commerce might want to revive the annual Christmas light display contest. We have some great displays this year, and we just have to say we think the ones in SoBo (South Boonville) are slightly more spectacular than the ones in NoBo (North Boonville). We're biased for SoBo because we live there, but the whole town is beautiful at night. Imagine travelers driving all those dark Highway 128 miles to suddenly emerge into the multi-colored splendors of Boonville! Mendocino County's most happening place! For years, Shorty Adams walked off with the winner's cup, but over the last decade, Shorty has had a lot of competition, and he would again be in the thick of it with his display this year if we still had the old contest. Bring it back!

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