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Mendocino County Today: January 1, 2014

THE ROACH CLIP — In 2003 the Pride of Tacoma Press published a limited edition (150 copies) of a piece written by Charles Willeford in 1973 called “The Ubiq­uitous Roach Clip.” Willeford is a very sardonic and funny writer — a realist — who died in 1988 at the age of 69.

CharlesWillefordWikipedia describes him as “an author of fiction, poetry, autobiography, and literary criticism, Willeford is best known for his series of novels featuring hardboiled detective Hoke Moseley. The first Hoke Moseley book, Miami Blues (1984), is considered one of its era's most influential works of crime fiction. Film adaptations have been made of three of Willeford's novels: Cockfighter, Miami Blues, and The Woman Chaser.”

His occupations are listed as “writer, college profes­sor, magazine editor, boxer, actor, horse trainer, radio announcer, US Air Force master sergeant, US Army master sergeant.” We're looking into the context in which Willeford published “The Ubiquitous Roach Clip” in '73. Here it is:

* * *

As a general historical rule, the evolution of an art form is a slow and gradual process. Man, the tool-maker, out of need, fashions first a field expedient; the refine­ment, embellishment and decoration usually take a great many years to develop.

But such is not the case with the roach clip. In a rela­tively short period, beginning in the early 1960s, the roach clip has metamorphosed from a split match (the "Jefferson Airplane") to the swirling curves and curva­tures of Baroque and Art Nouveau. Indeed, the 1973 roach clip is a beautiful thing to behold (especially if one is holding).

First, the need: why is the roach clip so necessary in our contemporary weed culture?

There is a common, jointly-hold belief (whether it is true or not is immaterial) that the shorter the hand-rolled stick becomes, the better it gets. The shorter the ciga­rette, you see, the more packed the residue — in tars, resins, ashes, bits of seeds, and essence cannabis. Therefore the last and final drag, all residue darkly pre­sent, is surely the greatest toke of the entire cigarette. Besides, Mary Jane is an expensive broad, and it is cer­tainly Un-American not to get one's money's worth.

As the cigarette burns down and down (after it passes the half-way mark the stick becomes a butt, or roach) the weed becomes warmer and warmer, and the last three-quarters of an inch —the best part of all— becomes too hot to handle with the naked fingers.

A roach clip is needed, a device that will keep the fin­gers from burning, and a clamp that will clutch the roach gently enough not to rip through the now damp­ened paper and still allow the even flow of smoke 'n toke.

Initially, a bent paper match in the form a "V" was a hasty field expedient, which was quickly followed by the split wooden match. These crude implements did the job, perfunctorily, but they were not quite satisfactory. The width of a kitchen match is much too narrow for a firm finger grip, especially when one is passing the roach from hand to hand during a shared experience.

The bobby pin was much better, a natural development as women were drawn inevitably into the weed culture. With one flat interior side, and one bumpy side, the bobby pin was an evolutionary milestone, and a far better roach clip than the ordinary office paper clip. The paper clip, however, which can be bent into various forms, depending upon the twisting skills and artistic inclination of the stone-age artist, held it own with the bobby pin for two or three years.

Today's roach clip, beautiful, bejeweled and Baroque, is an eclectic design taking the best features of the bobby pin and the paper clip, with unlimited, if finite, possibilities still to come for jewelers who specialize in drug culture ornamentation.

At present, Baroque and Art Nouveau roach clips seem to be the most popular, if less practical than the simpler gold or brass clips with the simple cannabis leaf identification of purpose. (The latter, you see, do double duty as ear-rings and tie clips). Still to come is the Rococo, with tiny bits of decorative seashell, découpage, Pop Op, and Minimal roach clips.

At any rate, the Renaissance of the roach clip has been over for several years. It came out and disappeared in a cloud of smoke, and hardly anyone noted or regret­ted its passage.

* * *

We trust that Willeford has found compatible souls in Purgatory, and is tracking the evolution of the vapor­izer. (—FG)


FRANK BARDACKE, a serious book guy, sends along his Top Ten Books:

Here are my ten, leaving out the already listed Moby Dick, Madame Bovary, and Huckleberry Finn. They are in no particular order, except for Number 1 which was my first love.

1. Ring Lardner, You Know Me, Al

2. The Collected Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

3. Conrad, Lord Jim

4. B. Traven, The Death Ship

5. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

6. Leslie Marmom Silko, Ceremony

7. Isaac Deutscher's three volume biography of Trotsky

8. Philip Roth, Operation Shylock

9. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold

10. Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution




If you are a PG&E customer, your most recent bill probably has a few of those thin white corporate valen­tines they often include. This month we got two: the EMF one, reminding us that using a blow dryer is akin to suicide; and a second circular about "Rate Reform."

Take a close look at that second one. It's a double reverse Robin Hood proposal: that is, take from the fru­gal, give to the profligate and take from the poor, give to the rich. PG&E wants to lower the cost of electricity to those who consume large amounts of power and raise the price on those who use little. But they don't stop there, the meaner part of this proposal is aimed at low-income customers who participate in the CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy) program. PG&E wants to jack up the price of their electricity, substantially, regardless of use.

This "Rate Reform" is wrongheaded on all counts, penalizing customers who conserve energy and can least afford it, while rewarding those who least deserve it. We should be doing just the opposite, encouraging people to use less electricity in their daily lives, not more. Oppose this proposal. Oppose!

Mike Kalantarian, Navarro


ONLINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: If you have to book a last minute one-way flight, the last thing you want to do is to pay for it with cash. A couple of New Year Eves ago I was in LA and my brother called and said he had a free hotel room in Vegas and if I could get to Vegas he would drive me back to LA the next day. So I showed up at the airport with little luggage and paid cash for a one-way ticket. When I was going through security I was pulled aside, had a full search of what little luggage I had and was subjected to many questions about who I was, where I was going, why I bought a one-way ticket etc. An airline employee later told me that they place a code sign on cash tickets to inform Homeland Security because she said that Homeland Security considers paying for a plane ticket with cash is a security red flag because it’s much easier to generate a security profile by linking a person with his credit/debit card purchasing profile that the banks use to determine if there is unusual activity on a card, paying cash removes that level of passenger screening.


(Photo Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
(Photo Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

ON DECEMBER 30, 2013, at about 12:30am a vehicle driven by Kenneth Phillips, age 49, of Willits crossed over a double yellow line and struck a Sheriff's Office marked patrol vehicle in the 200 block of Sherwood Road in Willits, California. The suspect vehicle (1988 Chrysler sedan) was traveling E/B in the 200 block of Sherwood Road when the driver, Kenneth Phillips, crossed over the double yellow line of the roadway and collided with the marked patrol vehicle (SUV) that was traveling W/B on Sherwood Road. The patrol vehicle was driven by K-9 Deputy Joseph DeMarco who suffered minor injuries as a result of the collision, while his K-9 partner was uninjured. The patrol vehicle driven by K-9 Deputy DeMarco suffered significant damage during the collision and was subsequently removed from service. Following the collision, personnel from the Willits Police Department arrived to conduct a traffic collision investigation. During the course of the investigation it was determined Phillips had sustained minor injuries. It was also determined Phillips had the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from his person and breath, he had no automotive liability insurance and he was unlicensed. Phillips was arrested by the Willits Police Department and booked into the Mendocino County Jail for suspicion of causing bodily injury while driving under the influence, operating a motor vehicle without a driver’s license and for operating a motor vehicle without proof of financial responsibility. Phillips is currently in custody at the Mendocino County jail where he is being held on $50,000.00 bail. (Sheriff’s Press Release)


NEW YEAR’S EVE: America’s Biggest & Ugliest Bender

by Jimmy Cannon

JimmyCannonDec. 31—Nothing will help you. You'll get drunk and regret it with a belligerent pride. You'll go for more money than you should. You'll tip the captain of waiters a day's pay to sit down close to the floor show which you'll never see because they'll have you out in the men's room putting ice on your forehead when it goes on. You'll tell the guys down at the shop about the hole the blonde's cigarette burned in your tux. You'll swear you'll never do it again. It's a pledge you'll fracture in a year. You'll bet you left your ring and wrist \watch on the sink in the gents' room. Your wife will contradict you and insist the cab driver rolled you when he lifted you out of the taxi. You'll wear your eye black with the dashing pride of a company clerk showing off his Good Conduct Medal on the first furlough. You'll be sick to your stomach.

On Saturday morning you'll telephone your friends and describe your misconduct on the hazy night before and they'll recite what they did. It will all sound like what happens in a hog pen at the end of a famine but it will make you proud when you relate it. It will please your wife that while you were hugging the hat-check girl the doorman leered at her with what she will confuse with desire as long as she lives. All of you know this before you start out tonight on our country's biggest and ugliest drunk.

It will happen in farmhouses, cold-water flats, in mansions and in tenements, in apartments of all types, in houses in the countryside, in villages and in cities great and small. There will be parties in furnished rooms, in offices, in lodge halls rented for the occasion, in public places which include lunch carts and hotels.

There will be the commotion of frivolity in bars and grills, restaurants, night and country clubs, down in basements with a keg of beer tapped badly, and humid. The solvent will do it right and the bums will mooch the price of a demijohn of wine and sleep it off in doorways.

It is done unwillingly in many instances. The reason for it is economic. On all plateaus of our society being sober on New Year's Eve lowers a man's prestige.

The guy who can't go to the office Monday morning and brag that he violated every dogma of indoor protocol will be considered obsolete and used-up. The junior clerks will identify this as a flaw and start scheming to grab his job before he is put on the pension and given the wristwatch for x years of meritorious service.

New Year's Eve is the time when people are deliberately rude. Normal politeness is rejected as eccentricity. I am a guy who gave up drinking for various reasons, including many defeats by guys a sick chorus girl could trim. I suffer most from sobriety on this night of mass boozing. I find myself to be the representative of conservatism at all functions pitched on this clamorous midnight. People treat me as though I were a spy among them who was there to witness their calculated gracelessness.

The most proper of my acquaintances have prepared for this night with a reluctant cunning. They protest they dread the torture of making spectacles of themselves. But they understand a man must get obnoxiously loaded on New Year's Eve if he intends to stay socially acceptable for the next twelve months.

They cry they are being fleeced in the inns and cabarets. But they feel it is their duty to go broke getting drunk even when they have no affinity for alcohol. It is not only the amateurs and the semi-pros who do this but the real rummies.

The rummies stand against bars and control the wild impulses which whiskey instigates in most men. They preserve their dignity while under the influence of liquor every day of the year but tonight. Occasionally they knock themselves helpless with Martinis because this is the most ferocious drink ever made by man.

They go limp and their old ladies come down to the corner saloon and sweep them up like trash. On ordinary days such pass-outs shame them. They frequently go a whole hour without taking a peck at the bottle they conceal in their desk. They create alibis for these collapses and it seldom has to do with the drinking of whiskey. It is usually blamed on lack of food or n inept bartender who polluted their Martinis with the wrong brand.

On this night the saloon manners of the whole country change. Every one believes propriety is a weakness and succumbs as rapidly as he can to surliness, insensibility or the romancing of women.

Guys who can drain a quart of brandy without changing their position at the bar once have been known to put on paper hats after a tumbler full of champagne on New Year's Eve. They throw confetti and wish people they despise a Happy New Year. They roll around in the sawdust. They make passes at their best friend's wife even when the lady doesn't appeal to them.

On New Year's Eve all those who drink act like demented children and a reveler is believed to be a failure at frivolity if he doesn't insult all those who come in contact with him. But on this night it is the good drinkers I pity. The rummies suffer most.

(Jimmy Cannon was a legendary and oft-imitated New York City newspaperman. In his cranky emeritus years he was a fixed point against which a younger generation of sportswriters oriented themselves, but in his heyday, particularly on the subject of boxing, he was often the best thing going. For more, check out his anthology, Nobody Asked Me, But ...: The World of Jimmy Cannon. Originally published in 1951 and anthologized in Nobody Asked Me, But ...: The World of Jimmy Cannon.)



Jazz Lovers, Save the Date! Sun. afternoon Jan. 26th at the North Coast Brewery. Mendocino Coast Jazz Society "Local Jazz Appreciation Party." Details to follow.


One Comment

  1. Bill Pilgrim January 1, 2014

    RE: American speech. To continue with our occasional glimpse at how Americans talk; while much attention is paid to the evolution (or devolution) of vocabulary, not as much is focused on speech patterns. Is anyone else as annoyed as I am by the proliferating habit of “uptalk” in people’s speech?
    Uptalk is the habit of raising the pitch of a word at the end of a declarative sentence, or within the sentence, or both, that makes it sound like a question when it is not.
    Normal talk: “Please don’t make it sound like a question.”
    Uptalk: “Please don’t make it sound like a…question?”
    Double duty uptalk: “Please don’t make it…sound?…like a question?”
    A linguistics professor who has been studying the phenomenon found that it is most prevalent among young women, but listen carefully and one can hear it creeping into the speech patterns of every strata, even among polished, professional talkers. Teri Gross, longtime host of NPR’s Fresh Air, comes to mind. Lately it seems she cannot get through a single interview without that singsongy uptalk slipped in at least two or three times. “It seems that the character? was written into the script? with you in mind?”
    Yet another indication of the spreading infantilism of our society?

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