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Valley People (June 18, 2014)

THE YOUNG MAN killed by a falling tree limb at Scharffenberger Winery, Philo, on Saturday morning May 17th, has been identified as Jose Luis Gonzalez-Che, aka Jose Ismael Che Noh. He was 29 and made his home in Fort Bragg.

A BOONVILLE KID, honor student at SF State, non-stoner, non-drinker, good guy as personally verified by the Boonville newspaper, is in desperate need of a room in impossible San Francisco. Chris Balson had been living in an on-campus freshman dorm, but he's no longer a freshman. Please contact the AVA if you have something.

JUNE BEING GRADUATION MONTH, and me being tasked with handing out some money to Boonville's graduating scholars on behalf of my nephew last Thursday evening, I found myself charmed by both the ceremony and the matriculators. To bring off something nice amid the medium-security prison structures of public school architecture isn't easy; it takes planning, something of a civilized aesthetic and energy, which is why I was caught unprepared for how pleasant the evening turned out to be. Staged in a kind of bower created in the normally austere space between the gym and the cafeteria, it was obvious that smart planning and a lot of work had gone into making the event attractive and comfortable for the large audience. We have a new principal here in the Anderson Valley who's really tuned the place up, radically improved the vibe, you might say.

THE SOUND GUY, by the way, managed to bring off a minor audio miracle, by local standards anyway; you could hear every word. I've seen him at Mendo events before but I don't know his name. But his contribution to the overall success of our public events is always crucial.

YEARS PAST, in my experience anyway, and I've sat through a lot of these things, high school graduations were a kind of endurance contest held in the summer sweatbox of the high school gym, and heavy on the Hallmark rhetoric these doggedly upbeat occasions demand. You'd need a small army of grief counselors standing by if you even attempted to tell the young the truth about what they can expect out there in the rapidly crumbling society that will demand all the cunning and discipline they can muster. “Life is whatever the hell it is and at the end of it you die alone, and probably painfully, in your own arms,” assuming your arms haven't been shot off in some distant desert. That might be a little extreme, but one wonders why we can't get some deviation from the Yellow Brick Road. I don't think you do the young any favors by lying to them.

THURSDAY NIGHT'S graduation spared us the usual endless translations of graduation banalities I've endured many times over the years. Since the medium of instruction at the school is English, why any translation? But the largely bilingual audience typically gets a double shot of rhetorical tedium that even the monolingual know is the usual pro forma uplift anyway. We were also spared the literally infantile videos documenting each graduate's life, from toddler-hood to adolescence, all of it set to musical mawk. You may be fascinated by a blow-by-blow rehash of your 18-year-old's life, but unless he's Mozart, spare me. One of these excruciating events I recall as lasting for more than three hours! Not Thursday night's though. Speakers got on and got off, which is the way it should be.

(MY ALL-TIME graduation bummer occurred at St. Mary's College where my daughter went to school. Lynne Cheney, wife of Darth Cheney, was the commencement speaker. I wanted to sue the school for educational malpractice.)

THE BOONVILLE GRADUATION drew a large crowd for Anderson Valley, the largest I've seen. Children of Mexican immigrants made up a large majority of the graduates, and the Mexicans turned out in force. The class of 2014 struck me as serious, mature even, especially for high school kids, perhaps because Mexican kids, in the Anderson Valley anyway, are raised in strong, intact families solidly aware of the decadent seductions presented by their adopted country and have worked to inoculate their young against them.

AV High, Class of 2014
AV High, Class of 2014

REPORT FROM THE FIELD, Thursday, June 12th: The Navarro River, already closed for weeks at the mouth, is down to a trickle at the Greenwood Bridge, Philo. Gone are the swimming holes beneath the bridge enjoyed for years by locals. All the County's streams are depleted early this year. There are an unprecedented number of draws on Mendocino County's waterways, but this year the early depletions seem more attributable to drought than vineyards and pot grows.

SAD to see the Little League field at Mendocino neglected. A meticulously maintained little jewel of a miniature ballpark for a number of years, the baseball-oriented children of Mendocino now play in Fort Bragg, historically a baseball stronghold.

FOR A WORK DAY THURSDAY, I was surprised to see the large number of passengers, replete with delighted and waving children, riding the Skunk Train as it chugged through town. Fort Bragg, given its amenities and beauty, has always seemed to suffer from an under-reporting of its charms. Noyo Harbor, which still retains a kind of Cannery Row feel with a population of characters right out of Steinbeck, was busy with innumerable salmon boats coming and going over the always treacherous breakwater; the old Haul Road off of which are probably a hundred hidden little beaches, and the coherent uncrowded, unhurried town itself with its plethora of good restaurants and interesting shops, including three really good bookstores. Fort Bragg is quite a pleasant contrast to cluttered, crowded Mendocino just down the road.

JIM MARTIN WRITES: "A capacity crowd enjoyed an evening of dinner, drinks and music at the historic Navarro Inn at Navarro River Redwoods State Park, as part of the first Navarro-by-the-Sea Day on Saturday, May 31. This is the first time in over 30 years that any events have taken place inside the Navarro Inn, which has been shuttered for decades and was saved through the continuing efforts of local supporters in partnership with California State Parks. The event started with volunteers working on various maintenance projects, including invasive species removal, trash pick-up on the beach and estuary, and repairs to the historic inn and nearby Mill Company House, the two remaining buildings of the original town of Navarro built in the 1860s... Over $6,000 was raised during the all-day event to help continue the renovations on the inn and get it open as a public interpretive center to share the cultural and natural history of the area. The goal is to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the renovations and to have the inn open on a regular basis to the public or available for private rentals by the time it turns 150 in 2015. But there is still a ways to go in completing the renovations, including the permanent roof, rebuilding the fireplace as a source of heat, restoring the floors downstairs and historic windows upstairs, finishing the interior interpretive displays, and making the building ADA accessible. History: Since 2000, the all-volunteer nonprofit Navarro-by-the-Sea Center has been working with State Parks to save both the inn and Mill Company House. The inn was built by Captain Charles Fletcher as a tavern and inn for mill workers, sailors and travelers on the coast. It was in continuous operation as a roadhouse and popular dining spot and bar until the 1970s when it was eventually shuttered. State Parks acquired the inn and surrounding property in 1996. But by 2010 the inn was on the verge of collapse, with the wood footings rotted away, shed additions tearing away from the original building, siding unraveling and fasteners rusted through. Led by the efforts of Navarro-by-the-Sea Center, the inn and Mill House were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, and the focus has been on raising funds to complete critical stabilization work on the inn before the building was lost. The stabilization work was completed in fall of 2013 by Rosenthal Thornton Construction, and interior finish work on the downstairs was initiated by Lori Kaye this past winter. But there is still a ways to go in completing the interior work and having the building ready for regular public use...."

CATE WHITE, a native daughter of Mendocino County, was raised on Greenwood Ridge Road and was educated in the Anderson Valley schools. She is the daughter of Alfred and Mary White of Ukiah. Cate is an artist living in Oakland. She also makes her way as a gardener. The talented Ms. White has been selected as one of eight finalists for the Tournesol award — 10k plus giant studio at Marin headlands for a year, plus solo show at a big time gallery in SF.


THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT recently took a call from a young woman who said she had been kidnapped and held captive by a band of outback pot growers concealed in the wilds of Fish Rock Road. Which is either Yorkville or Point Arena, depending how far out you are on that seldom traveled track, much of it unpaved. (We consider the Zeni Ranch the cutoff point. Past Zeni you're on the Point Arena side of the mountain, pre-Zeni, you're Yorkville.) Where the kidnapper's grow site was we don't know, but we think it was somewhere considered Yorkville.

ANYWAY, the alleged kidnap victim turned out to be a lonely young woman from Connecticut who came out west looking for love in all the wrong places, although Fish Rock Road, considering the possible alternatives for an unescorted lass, has got to be among the more wholesome of Cupid's possible venues.

THE CONNECTICUT GIRL responded to an on-line ad that said a couple of likely young men working an organic farm sure would like it if an unattached young woman would join them on their earnest collective in Mendocino County, the beautiful beating heart of romantic California, land of fresh starts. Connecticut Girl was soon winging her way west.

GREETED PUNCTUALLY AT SFO by a couple of scruffy dudes — they were fresh off the farm after all — Connecticut Girl was spirited north, and may have become at least slightly apprehensive as the familiar signs of civilization melted away behind her and, as the dudes hooked a left over Rancheria Creek and headed west, those signs soon disappeared altogether and Connecticut Girl was deep in the Mendo outback.

THE ORGANIC FARM turned out to be a couple of WalMart tomato starts and 5,000 plants of the type that can garner their farmers more money in one summer than a tomato farmer makes in a decade. And the organic idealists turned out to be a little rough around their edges, and their edges grew impatient with Connecticut Girl's griping that they not only didn't have an espresso machine, but snapped at her to “Shut the bleep up and get dinner ready” whenever she asked to go into town. If there was a town to go to. These guys certainly didn't seem like marriage material or even short-term relationship-likely. Connecticut Girl yearned for the Nice Boys of her placid suburb back home.

CONNECTICUT GIRL still had her cell phone, however, and she was soon calling home. “Mommy, I think my new friends are criminals, and they aren't being very nice to me. One of them calls me ‘Fatso,’ and they won't let me leave but I don't know where I am. Help!”

AT WHICH POINT, Mommy or Daddy or some responsible person of the type they didn't seem to have in California, called the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department. Mendo's finest quickly determined Connecticut Girl's whereabouts and soon retrieved her, advising the disillusioned organic seeker that making false police calls is a crime. The cops, veterans of organic farm tours, had instantly sized up the situation and Connecticut Girl was soon headed home with enough material to write five papers on the theme, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.”


A 22 YEAR OLD BOONVILLE MAN named Alexis Arias was arrested last Saturday for “assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.” Mr. Arias was reportedly waving a knife around to menace family members at the Elderhome property his mother rents just south of the Fairgrounds. (No physical harm was done.) The week before Arias had been declared 5150 (a danger to himself or others) and shipped off for evaluation to a psychiatric holding facility in the Central Valley. No sooner had the 72-hour holding period elapsed than Arias was back in his mother’s house in Boonville. Described as “apparently bipolar” by a local who knows him, Mr. Arias is apparently fine when he's in the correct pole. But other times he tends to go off on his family. He's currently being held in the County Jail on a $30k bond, but given the current state of jail crowding and the near total absence of mental health services in the County despite the recent privatization of those services, he’s likely to soon be home again. (The County has contracted out mental health services, to the tune of about $30 annual million (total for adult and children’s mental health services), to a for-profit outfit based in Yolo County. It seems to us that the privateers often dump the less well-insured, more volatile of Mendocino County's mentally ill on the Mendocino County Jail.)

SIERRA GITCHEL WRITES: Lenny Wagner is head coach at SRJC Football and is head of LEAD Sports Academy. Lenny is hosting this camp from Friday, June 27 (5-8pm), Saturday, June 28 (9am-noon) and Sunday June 29 (9am-noon) which is being held at Mendocino High School. LEAD Sports will be bringing NFL players, including Anderson Valley Grad/Indiapolis Colts Defensive Lineman Martin Tevaseu, and College Coaches. Full Pads for High School. No Pads for Youth. Gear not provided. Bring your own water and snack. Just $75 for the three days. For more information go to Or email Lenny Wagner at (707) 888-3759. Advance registration requested. (Payments will also be accepted for walk-ons on the day of the event if slots are available.)

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