- Ed Kowas Dead
- Styrofoam Ban
- Senior Trustee
- Town Beautification
- Liquid Ag
- Lake Mendocino
- Hire Me
- Drinking While Driving
- Bad News
- Opium Smokers
- Mendo Wit
- Catch of the Day
- Ukiah Gunslinger
- Hugh Scaramella
ED KOWAS has died, apparently of a heart attack at his home near Fort Bragg. Ed was best known for his work at Coast radio station KMFB. Ed was 73.
AT TUESDAY'S SUPERVISOR'S meeting (July 8th) supervisors Gjerde and McCowen will propose a County ordinance called “Disposable Food Ware” aimed at permanently banishing styrofoam. The destructive stuff is, of course, widely used in the take-out food and beverage industry. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that polystyrene foam “can have serious impacts on human health, wildlife, the aquatic environment and economy.” Although not regulated at the state level, many California jurisdictions have banned the stuff.
FORMER MTA BOSS, Bruce Richard, now enjoying a flush retirement after nearly three decades of running a heavily subsidized County bus service to and from a few locations in vast Mendocino County, now serves as a trustee on the Ukiah Senior Center board of directors. So, why even mention the guy? I don't know, really, except there's something deeply irritating about him, as there is about most of Mendocino County's public bureaucrats. There's the smugness, of course, and the big pay these characters get that they'd never get in the ever more ruthless private sector. I've always thought that the manager of the Ukiah Safeway or Ukiah Co-op could function and function well in any public job offered by Mendocino County, but very few of our public bureaucrats could run the Ukiah Safeway or the Ukiah Co-op.
EXCUSE THE CYNICISM but the lead story in the current edition of the Willits Weekly got a laugh out of us. “Willits Merchants Form Main Street Group,” read the headline, an assurance that torpor was sure to follow. It did. “Business owners have formed a group to make Main Street, Willits, a better place, from city limit to city limit.”
WE'RE ALL FOR IT! But short of bulldozing at least three-quarters of the existing structures along Willits' seemingly endless skein of random eyesores, the how of it will be, to say the least, formidable. Trees would help. Trees always help. False fronts would also help, but they'd have to be total disguises. And flower beds. Wide sidewalks and pedestrian comforts like benches and water fountains might also alleviate the fast food assaults that attack the visitor from one end of town to the other, that and the pervasive smell of deep fry. But there really isn't much that can be done to make Willits attractive, and it's hard now to believe that up through World War Two it was a coherent, pretty little town whose principal citizens took great pride in what their town looked like. Ditto for Ukiah, which also now offers a Willits-like aesthetic experience, and will, in a few years, look even worse when the County's nine (count 'em) Superior Court judges get a brand new County Courthouse all their very own. This monstrosity will resemble the now-abandoned Willits Courthouse but, unlike the Willits Courthouse, which is partly hidden off a side street, the new County Courthouse and a McDonald's — a one-two visual punch — will be the first two structures visitors to the County seat will see when they exit 101 onto West Perkins.
ONE OBSTACLE to visual tune-ups for Ukiah and Willits is the sociological fact that most of the trendo-groove-o's of those communities live apart from the horrors of their main drags. Ukiah's aesthetes are holed up in their own westside ghetto where it's all stately homes and broad, tree-lined streets. Willits' aesthetes — and yes, there's a big element of self-cancelling phrase at work here — live outside town. Like most Americans, including this one, they put a lot of time and effort into beautifying their own property while assuming the public areas of their towns are hopeless.
BOONVILLE isn't exactly Parisian, but we have the aesthetic advantage of size — we're small. And most of the property owners strewn out along our main drag work to keep up appearances. We also have the advantage of a torrent of new money. The parvenus have bought in and built and fixed up a number of Boonville buildings, half-transforming our main drag to one that doesn't cause the traveler to cry out, “Are these people blind?” There is even excited talk about Boonville becoming “the next Healdsburg.” If we Boonvillians had an infrastructure — central water and sewage disposal — and the outside economy wasn't poised to big time tank, and it could become Healdsburg without old guys in Greek seaman's caps, varicose-veined ice cream cones, Healdsburg might be a desirable ambition for Boonville. But for now, the varicose shuffle is pretty much confined to the village of Mendocino, a stuffy, crowded venue designed to accommodate shoals of shoppers.
FORT BRAGG is where it's at. (Covelo is easily the prettiest little town in Mendocino County, but so far off the beaten path that even people who've lived here all their lives have never visited the place.) FB, though, has it all, and it's pretty much intact, visually, as the blue collar town it once was even though the mill and the jobs that went with it are gone. It's heavy on retired people and, like much of coastal Mendo, also heavy on trust funders and mystery money young people. Willits and Ukiah don't get many money people buying in.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS STATEMENT? (Apart that it's from the wine-dependent Santa Press Democrat?) “Sonoma County's ongoing wine grape boom held the countywide loss of irrigated farmland in recent years to just 117 acres, limiting a problem that elsewhere in California has eliminated wide swaths of productive agricultural land, according to a new state report. The net loss of irrigated farmland amounts to a sliver of Sonoma County, which spans about 1 million acres, and about 0.15% of its 80,000 acres of farmland. Sonoma had the smallest net loss among the 47 counties included in the report, ranking it just behind 10 counties — including Mendocino — that had net gains in irrigated farmland.”
IT ASSUMES that vineyards are agriculture in the sense of feeding people. Potato patches and cows is agriculture. Wine grapes are a luxury.
DEPARTMENT OF UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR, Ukiah Daily Journal, July 2, 2014: “Swimming Ban Lifted At Lake Mendocino.” (Fortunately, the news item itself by UDJ reporter Justine Frederiksen concluded with a more realistic description of the “usage” of Lake Mendocino: “Despite the boat ramps remaining closed, Supervisory Ranger Chris Schooley said lots of people are using the Lake so far this summer. ‘We have a pretty robust schedule,’ he said. ‘Our campgrounds are about 80-90% full’.”)
AUDITOR-CONTROLLER RECOMMENDS HERSELF for post-retirement employment — at $440 a day.
Board of Supervisors Agenda Item 5c for their July 8, 2014 meeting: “Approval Of Temporary Extra Help Appointment of Meredith Ford to Fulfill Critically Needed Duties After Her Retirement, Per GC 7522.56
“In accordance with Government Code Section 7522.56, the Auditor-Controller [i.e., Meredith Ford] would like to hire Meredith Ford as temporary extra help (at $54.97 per hour flat) [or $440 per day] to fulfill critical duties, including training her successor on statutory requirements in regards to the Redevelopment Agencies, their Successor Agencies and the pending Redevelopment Bond lawsuit. Government Code Section 7522.56 (f) allows the County to rehire a retired employee prior to the 180-day waiting period if the following conditions have been met: The employer certifies the nature of the employment and that the appointment is necessary to fill a critically needed position before the 180 days have passed, and the appointment has been approved by the governing body of the employer in a public meeting. The appointment may not be placed on a consent calendar.”
* * *
“Extra Help Description
Dear Board Members:
Although I am retiring on June 20, I will need to come back to intensively train my successor on all of the statutory requirements surrounding the County’s three remaining Redevelopment Agencies and their Successor Agencies. This training must occur after the Assessor has completed the 2014-15 tax roll valuations, so it cannot be achieved [sic] prior to my retirement date. Redevelopment is an extremely complex issue, and a through understanding of it is vital, as it affects property tax allocations for the County, Cities, Special Districts, and School Districts. I have had responsibility for these calculations for the last 22 years with no backup in place. Also, I have been named in the lawsuit the City of Ukiah has filed against the State over the use of their previously issued redevelopment bonds, and I expect to be required to participate in the process, should the suit go forward. Therefore, I request that your Board find that my appointment as extra help is necessary to fulfill critically needed duties before 180 days have passed since my retirement. — Sincerely, Meredith Ford, Auditor-Controller”
DRINKING WHILE DRIVING
It's August and I have not
Read a book in six months
except something called The Retreat from Moscow
Nevertheless, I am happy
Riding in a car with my brother
and drinking from a pint of Old Crow.
We do not have any place in mind to go,
we are just driving.
If I closed my eyes for a minute
I would be lost, yet
I could gladly lie down and sleep forever
beside this road
My brother nudges me.
Any minute now, something will happen.
— Raymond Carver
“I OPENED THE DOOR and I seen the man in the dress greens and I knew. I immediately knew.” This was what the mother of a 19-year-old killed by a bomb in Kirkuk said in a documentary produced by The New York Times and HBO, quoted by Bob Herbert on the morning of November 12, 2004. “But I thought that if, as long as I didn't let him in, he couldn't tell me. And then it — none of that would've happened. So he kept saying, ‘Ma'am, I need to come in.’ And I kept telling him, ‘I'm sorry, but you can't come in’.” (Joan Didion)
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Where religion, the opium of the people, fails, pot, the opium of the rest of the people should pick up the slack. Has anybody considered the idea that legalization of pot is just another tool to keep the people from being overly concerned with the condition of the country?
I know, I know, let me find my tinfoil hat. But really, isn't it funny how pot is moving from dangerous scourge to miracle drug in the eyes of so many? As civil rights and freedoms are taken away en masse for the good of the people. our government, bickers and pays lip service to the problems of the day, while they divide the people and consolidate their power.
We don't need to encourage people to live in a haze of bliss, we need people prepared to problem solve and work. Medical pot for cancer patients and people with MS. The rest of you pull yourselves together.
The FCC didn't believe K. Massey and neither do I. Bruce, you sold your dentures to restore two pages of the AVA for such as this? Could you at least train the KZYX dissidators to write up to the AVA's usual engaging level? Certainly we agree that these extended impositions are not only (1) lengthy, but also (2) witless.
Gordon Black, Mendocino
ED REPLY: Only you, Gordy, can achieve those Wildean levels of wit that seem to wow the wowsers at KZYX, but I think both of us, deep down, know that the Mendo wit bar stays right at ground level. PS. Is a dissidator kinda like a voluptuator, as in your timeless line, “I left her voluptuating in the doorway”? (Who was that woman anyway?) PPS. Now that you're making up words, will your letters also soon include glossaries so we can puzzle out your meaning?
CATCH OF THE DAY, JULY 6TH, 2014
IGNACIO AYALA, Ukiah. DUI.
ELIGIO BERNAL, Cloverdale. Maintaining a place for selling, giving and using drugs. Can Cloverdale stand the excitement?
KENNETH BRENSEL, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public.
LEARTIS CARADINE, Ukiah. Violation of parole.
KENN FINK, Willits. Ex-felon in possession of a firearm. This guy? An ex-felon?
JEDIDIAH GOSSETT, El Granada. DUI with prior DUI's.
PABLO MATIAS, Sacramento. DUI. No driver's license.
JESUS PENA, Willits. DUI.
NOAH SANCHEZ, Philo. Under the influence of methamphetamine.
RONALD SEVY, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public.
ON JUNE 27 at about 1:56 AM Ukiah Police responded to Elm St regarding a male subject branding a firearm. Upon officers arrival they located and contacted 24 year old Mason McGee. McGee was seen going through a parked vehicle by residents. When confronted McGee reportedly brandished a small black semi auto from his waist, racked the slide and pointed it at the reporting party. McGee held the reporting party at bay while he walked away. McGee was located in the area by officers and arrested without incident. McGee was later booked into the Mendocino County jail for prowling, felon in possession of a firearm, and public intoxication.
December 21, 1948 - July 5, 2014
by Mark Scaramella
The Republican convention of July 1952 was the first televised national convention. Although my younger brother Hugh was only four years old, he sat, transfixed, for all five days. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Earl Warren, Douglas Macarthur, Robert Taft… Hugh remained a political junkie for the rest of his life, although his affiliations would change and his faith in American politics would be strained almost, but not quite, to the breaking point.
Hugh grew up and went to school mostly in Fresno, then, after high school, he went on to our father's alma mater, UC Davis, where he got a BS in political science, followed by a law degree in 1975. Hugh practiced law in places at least one-step removed from courtrooms for ten subsequent years, working in the California Legislative Council's office, then as a traveling administrative law judge, and finally with farmworkers at the Delano office of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA). He would become disenchanted with the law — “at almost every level it boils down more to money than it does to justice,” he would say.
Hugh was a seeker. He studied religion and philosophy after effectively dropping out of American culture and the law in 1985 to undertake a series of months-long adventures, mostly in Mexico, South America and Europe. Hugh was multi-lingual; he was fluent in Spanish and conversational Portuguese, French and German. During his travels, he lived frugally out of his backpack — no car! — until his savings from his lawyer days finally ran out in the early 90s and he took a job as a waiter at Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, soon rising to Food Service Manager for the entire Park, working seasonally at Yellowstone and other national parks. Seasonal labor gave him months off every year for further adventures or to take writing and philosophy courses at San Francisco State.
In the late 1990s, after our parents retired to the Mendocino Coast, Hugh returned to Mendocino County to be of help to them as they aged, and got a job as an eligibility worker in Mendocino County's Fort Bragg Social Services office.
Over the next 15 years until he officially retired in May, Hugh was steadily promoted from line eligibility work and given additional responsibilities for training new eligibility workers, reviewing and conducting welfare case appeals, developing policies and procedures for MediCal, Food Stamps and various welfare policies and programs. By the time he retired as a “senior analyst,” Hugh was the County’s point-person for Obamacare implementation. He'd declined several managerial promotions.
Around Christmas of 2013 Hugh was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Testosterone blocker injections slowed the progress of the disease somewhat, but the cancer was too far along when it was discovered to be effectively treated. He lived in my home in Boonville for the next five months as the disease took its inexorable toll. In early June, Hugh became a permanent resident of a Ukiah nursing home where he died Saturday morning, July 5th.
A lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, Hugh was very happy to see the Giants meteoric early 2014 season winning record. Thankfully, he was too sick to be disappointed when the Giants went into their collapse in early June. In prior years he would exclaim, “They just can't hit!” several times a game, assigning amusingly sarcastic nicknames to various weak Giants hitters.
* * *
When Hugh's retirement was official in late May, his co-workers assembled a collection of tributes and testimonials and delivered it to him in his hospital bed. Hugh was always easy to know, easy to like; he wore his extensive education and experience lightly, and gave of it freely, as the following excerpts indicate:
* * *
I'm going to miss your help and your laughter. … You were there when I interviewed, you were there on my first day, and you were always there when I needed your support. Thank you so so much. … You have been a teacher and an invaluable resource to us all, not to mention a good guy to work with. I wish you all the best. … You have taught me much and I have cherished every moment I have been able to spend working with you. … I feel like we will be lost without you. … I'm glad to say I worked with you so long ago on the [intake] floor. … Sad to say, we are losing your brilliant contributions. The County was lucky to have you! … You will be missed by everyone who knew you and many who never got the chance, but knew your work. … I'm already missing you, but I'm happy you're taking this big step to retirement. It was always fun to visit with you, even when you wished me to have a terrible day every day (ha ha — you know what I'm talking about). … Desfrute su tiempo libre, me amigo! Your expertise will be missed as will your humor and wit. … You will be missed by one and all! You have taught me a lot about undocs with all the knowledge you store in that wonderful mind of yours. … I already miss your great wry sense of humor, witty personality and great advice. Most of all your smile and friendship. … You can't leave! You can't leave! You are too helpful and a wealth of information. Thank you for your many years of quiet, steady efficient work. You are greatly appreciated. … Hugh: Just want to let you know that those people who said it would get easier with time? They lied! … Thank you for all your knowledge and help; I'm a better worker for it. … This isn't fair. You should have retired sooner and had a longer retirement. … I always admired your intelligence and eccentricity equally, two qualities I certainly aspire to. … It's been a great ride! I will miss our talks and interpretations of regs! GO GIANTS! … I have truly treasured our years of working together! It goes without saying that I would not be here if it wasn't for you. … You have always been the crusader for the front line. Thank you. Many times you would start a training session by discussing the difficulty of a line staff job. How comforted I was when you did that. I was sure I was the only one having trouble with the job. … I will miss your contributions to the work. But most of all I will miss who you are as a person. Thank you for all the support you have provided. … Your humor, knowledge, opinions and friendship are so missed. You were more than just a co-worker. You were my close friend and confidant. I have had so many interesting conversations with you. You really make people think. … I so enjoyed your enthusiasm and ideas for training. You were such a good trainer. People here really do miss you. … You will be greatly missed. The depth of your talent and knowledge will not be replaced soon. … How will we get by without your lovely demeanor, not to mention the espresso bars! … You have always been a wonderful trainer and I always look forward to seeing you! It's been a privilege and an honor to work with you. … I recall the days of you training the coastal eligibility workers, shop talks, and having to pull out a dictionary to look up the meanings of some of those $10 words. The coastal worker group faced a huge loss when you re-located to Ukiah. And now our division faces even greater challenges with you retiring. … I will never forget your hilarious fee-for-service rant for any and all requests. [Hugh frequently answered an office question jokingly first with something like “That’ll be $2, please.” — ms] … We will miss your humor, your compassion and your teaching ability. Thank you for making sense of the senseless. You were always able to give a lesson that was about more than just reading aloud from the training manual. By giving us the big picture and explaining the “why” instead of just dictating the rules has helped us all to learn problem solving and to think for ourselves. It is the mark of a great teacher to give their students the skills and desire to keep learning on their own. … I don't know how many times just in the last month I said to myself or heard someone else say, “We could really use Hugh right now to help make sense of this.” You would answer and not talk down to us, making us feel like we have a friend to turn to. I guess at this point I should mention Obamacare so I can justify the time I spent on this note on my time sheet. … You are a fountain of knowledge and will be sorely missed, not just for your knowledge, but your humor as well. It was great working with you on NCAC. If it wasn't for that and your hints I might not have been promoted to the position I'm in now. … I want you to know how much I have appreciated working with you. I respect and value your knowledge and opinions. I have gained knowledge knowing you. Thank you so much for all the things you have passed on to me. Go Dodgers! (Ha!)
* * *
Excerpts from ‘A 30th High School Reunion’ by Hugh Scaramella
Fresno, California, September 1996 — Entering the banquet room at Smugglers’ Inn on Blackstone Avenue, I was filled with emotions, and not a little trepidation. Still single and somewhat at loose ends, I was returning to my Fresno roots by attending the two-day, 30th reunion of the Hoover High class of 1966. I had no idea what to expect. … My high school years somehow got buried underneath the memory of seven rather turbulent years at UC Davis and various subsequent phases commonly known as adult life in America. … In our mobile, fast-paced, status-oriented society, we Americans seem to neglect and not do too well with roots and long-term friendships. Nevertheless, what transpired over the next two evenings was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Time after time I encountered lovely and thoughtful people who I knew and appreciated as a youth and who had completely fallen out of my human gyroscope for various reasons. Once engaged again at the reunion, it was amazing, bordering on incredulous, that after 20 or even 30 years, I fell right into serious and sometimes profound conversation without any effort or pretension. … In an age where anomie, rootlessness and fear are rampant and almost endemic, particularly in this state of California, here was a group of human souls (almost 200 the first night, 180 the second, out of a class of 380 or so) a clan, a gathering, a secular church; caring, having fun, almost like it was graduation night, 1966. … To my starry eyes at this point, we were all teenagers again, living in a never-never land where we hadn’t really grown up. And to me, this group of improbable adults will always be the teenage class of 1966, and probably that’s the way it should be. … It seemed to me that evening that high school classes instill in us Americans the tribal nature like few other institutions. We are imprinted in our youth, for better or worse; it is here we spring from, nowhere else. We are still that scrawny bunch of kids from North Fresno who opened Hoover High and did a darn good job of it. And we still are — better or worse, a promise of America. … Upon a bit more reflection, I can also say that there was a little of that mysterious power of redemption working in that Blackstone strip mall banquet hall those two nights — a redemption of faith in my childhood, peers, hometown and, yes, even the human race. Somehow I felt more “me” in those brief hours, and I am still sad that the time was so short. … And one final irony: The boy voted “most likely to succeed” (me) is currently unemployed, while most of my classmates have gone on to greater things.
* * *
Hugh maintained contact with one of his long-time friends from his first year as a waiter in Yellowstone in 1990, a young man from Georgia named Spencer who now lives with his family in Chicago. Spencer kept up with Hugh’s worsening condition and wrote what would be his final letter to Hugh a few days ago that didn't arrive until the afternoon after Hugh’s death. Hugh never got to read it, but it captures Hugh's spirit as well as anything I could write. Maybe somewhere out there Hugh will be picking up the AVA, reading this, then grumbling about one part or another of this overly personal obituary, or telling me (again) that I had no right to use his stuff in the AVA without his permission.
“Hugh: You have been a faithful correspondent and friend to me over the years, but more than that you should know that in fact you've served, along with a handful of my other friends, as something of a moral compass. Your professional endeavors, your treading lightly on the earth in the national parks, your personal ambitions of going abroad to learn more of what's out there beyond the bubble of the United States culture, and your devotion to helping the vulnerable through your work, as well as your devotion to your parents in their final years — all these things have inspired me immensely.
“Thank you for visiting us in Chicago several times. My wife Jennifer is so glad she got to meet this mysterious ‘Hugh’ after so long and I'm glad you were able to delight my little girls, not to mention that I got to show you Wrigley Field and White Sox Park in 2012.
“Your realistic worldview, your kindness and your innate decency are no doubt an important part of the legacy you've already shared with those of us who have had the pleasure to know you. It has been an honor.”
* * *
Remembering Hugh Scaramella
by Terry Ryder
I met Hugh Scaramella only a few months before his diagnosis of prostate cancer. We played trivia together at Lauren’s a few times. I appreciated his dry wit and was sorry that he didn’tcontinue as a regular player. One day his bother Mark Scaramella told me about his illness. Of course everyone who knew him was hopeful that with treatment he would recover but it didn’t go that way. First his legs got weak and he started using a walker. For a vital man of 64 this was depressing and difficult but he made do. Before too long his legs gave out and he was confined to his bed most of the time.
I began visiting him pretty regularly because I put myself in his place and thought how difficult his life was. He welcomed my visits and we spoke of many things but he tired easily. He rarely complained and was very grateful to his brother Mark for taking him in and caring for him. Mark was a steadfast caregiver undaunted by even the most unpleasant tasks. These brothers were old school in their loyalty to each other and it was heartening to see.
Eventually a complicated bedsore and an inability to move at all below the waist made it necessary for him to move to a skilled nursing facility in Ukiah. This was hard on everyone. Although there were many kind people helping him there Hugh was an extremely private person and depending so much on the kindness of strangers was very, very hard. He was however always courteous and cooperative to a fault with everyone who assisted him.
This gets me to my main thought about Hugh. He was above all a dignified man — not in a stuffy and false way but with deep decency. Toward the end he actually told us he was sorry it was taking him so long to die. His quiet dignity in the face of unbearable hardship and pain rocked me to my core. In the end he kept saying over and over “Make me bigger…more open.” We all had different ideas about what he meant by this but for me he was already as “Big” as you can get and completely “Open.” Thank you Hugh for being my friend. I really miss you and I will never forget you.
* * *
Hugh Scaramella is survived by his brother Mark, various distant relations around the County, and his two cats, Miss Bob and Newman. I am particularly grateful for the many hours that Terry Ryder, Bob Sites, David Severn, and Will Parrish spent at Hugh's bedside and helping with transportation. Their presence was a great comfort to Hugh. At his request there will be no services. Donations can be made in his name to the Mendocino Cancer Resource Center, 590 So. Dora St., Ukiah, CA 95482.