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Off the Record (Aug 20, 2014)

DA EYSTER could teach Gandhi a few things about passive resistance. An occasional rumor wafts out of the DA's office that the prosecution of Dr. Peter Keegan for the murder of his wife, Susan, “remains under consideration.” Where it's remained for four years now. Mrs. Keegan was found bludgeoned to death on November 11th, 2010, and was quickly  ruled a homicide. Dr. Keegan was the only other person on the premises when his wife died. He told the police that Mrs. Keegan probably died from a drunken fall in her bathroom, nicely maligning his wife of thirty years for the last time. The prob is that the wounds, plural, to the top of Mrs. Keegan's head were not consistent with a fall. So here we are nearly four years later and… “the case remains under consideration.”

ChiefMayberryFORT BRAGG POLICE CHIEF Scott Mayberry submitted his resignation to the Fort Bragg City Council at Monday night’s Council meeting. A roomful of Mayberry’s supporters were on hand to ask the Council not to accept the resignation, implying that the popular Mayberry was somehow being pressured to resign by the City. But substantial rumor has it that Mayberry was indeed pushed out by Fort Bragg's city council and their two administrators but is also considering a position working for the DA's lead investigator Kevin Bailey. Meanwhile, the City is paying for an outside interim Police Chief until further notice. A complete account by Malcolm Macdonald of the sleazy manner by which the Chief was pushed out appears on this week's front page.

CHIEF MAYBERRY SHOVED OUT? Purged and treated badly, too. The Fort Bragg Advocate’s Kelci Parks reported Thursday what Mrs. Mayberry said about the crummy treatment her husband got to the Fort Bragg City Council at the meeting where Chief Scott Mayberry announced his retirement last Monday night: “When Roberta Mayberry walked to the podium, she addressed mainly the crowd, with the exception of references directed specifically to City Manager Linda Ruffing and Assistant City Manager Ginny Feth-Michel, who were both present. ‘The reason I'm here right now is because three and a half years of disrespect has been given to my husband,’ Mrs. Mayberry said. ‘After the shooting of Deputy Del Fiorentino … [Lt.] John [Naulty] had to take leave, for obvious reasons,’ she said. ‘And Scott has been left there since March 20 to man this department, 50% down because of illnesses, etc. He cannot get the city government to move quick enough to get people hired. It's been a constant problem. Scott finally decided he had to take some time off.… On the Monday after Scott had given his leave, he received an email from Feth-Michel saying that Mr. [Interim Police Chief] Willis was at Scott's desk and his emails would be shut off. Mind you, he's still the chief of police,’ Mrs. Mayberry continued. ‘We walked into the department and Scott's name was off his door and off his desk and it said Chief Steve Willis. If that isn't disrespect, I don't know what is. Scott just wanted 30 days off. He needed to heal and he needed a break,’ she said.”

WHY DOES FORT BRAGG even need an assistant city manager? To do the stuff city manager Ruffing won't do?

DECOY STINGS are never crummier than when they target small businesses. Find an old-looking kid and send him to buy cigarettes from a Mom and Pop store? And do it in a context where a large percentage of the young people allegedly being spared the horrors of nicotine have been huffing pot products and whipped cream re-chargers since they were twelve? The cigarette police seemed to have gone on the inactive list in Mendocino County, but the office of Alcoholic Beverage Control marches on.

ACCORDING to an intriguing story by Lisa Walters in the August 8th edition of the Independent Coast Observer, Bones Roadhouse in Gualala was cited on the 21st of July for selling a beer to an undercover teen. “A longtime Bones bartender told the ICO a mix-up occurred during a particularly busy evening when an inexperienced server took an order for beer from a large party. Though he asked for IDs and the decoys had the correct year and month, July 1999, the day of birth was still several days off, the bartender said.”

A HARRIED SERVER in a busy restaurant is expected to notice to the day the ages of the little narcs hired by a government agency to deceive him? Who's being protected  from what here?

DR. ALAN SAMPSON, an opthalmologist with offices in Lakeport and Ukiah, has filed a claim against the County of Mendocino for $7,869,310. The doctor's 24-year-old son died in a 4am accident at the 101 and Highway 20 off ramp on January 11th of this year. The claim alleges that the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department was "negligent" in not establishing a "landing zone for helicopter, causing Cal-Star helicopter to be waved off, thus leading to delay in treatment, resulting in the death of claimant's 24-year-old son."

FROM THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL, January 14, 2014: “Lake County man dies on Hwy 101; Alcohol appears to be a factor, CHP says A Kelseyville man was killed early Saturday morning when his car rolled over while exiting Highway 101 to Highway 20 near Ukiah, the California Highway Patrol reported. The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office identified the man as Andrew D. Sampson, 24, of Kelseyville. According to the CHP, Sampson was driving a 1997 Honda Accord and exiting northbound Highway 101 onto Highway 20 around 4am on January 11 when the car veered onto the left shoulder of Highway 20. When Sampson tried to regain control of the car, it overturned and landed on its roof in a drainage ditch on the south shoulder of the highway. Sampson, who reportedly was not wearing his seatbelt, was ejected. Sampson suffered major injuries and was airlifted to a hospital in Santa Rosa, but died enroute. There were no passengers in the car. The CHP reported that alcohol appears to have been a factor, but the cause of the collision is still under investigation.”

IN A LESS POIGNANT CLAIM, Luis Hernandez wants the County to buy him a replacement pair of shoes he says he didn't get back when he was released from the County Jail. Hernandez wants $79.99 for the shoes and $28 for the insoles, "the ones with the jelly inside." He says the County can send him the money "at my mailing address," which isn't listed.

RECOMMENDED EATING: 3 Potato 4 at 1051 Market, San Francisco, between 6th and 7th, a wholesome little restaurant in an unwholesome neighborhood. The place is so small there's not even room for a stool, let alone a table — a literal hole-in-the-wall. The friendly young guy proprietor sells “gourmet organic russet wedge-cut or waffle-cut sweet potatoes.” He also sells gluten-free soups and chilis. Friendly Young Guy bakes the potatoes in the shape of fat french frys in a hurry-up oven, shovels them into a paper cone and hands the customer the potatoes and one or another of more than a dozen “artisan sauces,” if you're the potato-dipping type. Choosing the garlic pepper mayo dip, I walked outside to a table-top trash bin to enjoy my meal, hoping Friendly Young Guy can stay in business on a block whose customer base — a big sector of it — isn't exactly committed to healthy ways of living.

UP A BLOCK I waited for the Market Street shuttle to get me up to Market and Castro where, a block over, I could catch the 33 up and over the hill to Clement. The stop was crowded with Trendo-Groove-o's, the girls made up like Betty Boop, the manboys kinda reminiscent of Archie comics. They were headed west for the mass aural assault called Outside Lands, a “concert” in Golden Gate Park that screws up the flora of the park for a month. You could hear the “music” all over west San Francisco, and I'd have paid at least a hundred bucks not to get any closer than I was.

ANYWAY, here come two young cops, on foot, both white. An older black guy was smoking a cigarette, a cigarette-cigarette. He was togged out in tough guy duds — do rag, oversize football jersey, black trousers cut off at the shins — the whole of it sartorially age-inappropriate, and more comic than menacing at any age. At some point in his fraught life he'd pumped a lot of iron. He looked a lot stronger than the two cops. “Excuse me, sir,” one of the cops says, “there's no smoking at Muni stops. You'll have to put it out.” Here we go, I thought, major unpleasantness is about to kick off. Everyone around me seemed to tense up, expecting the worst, and probably surprised at the unheard of request.

LIKE ALL the other witnesses, I thought, What the hell? Market Street from Powell to Van Ness is a sea of criminality, and the cops are telling this guy to put out his cigarette? Eating my fries across the street I'd watched a couple of drug deals consummated and then a furtive cash exchange for an undoubtedly stolen hand-held gizmo. Enforcing a smoking ban in the Market Street context borders on crazy. But without so much as a defiant mutter the smoker dropped the smoke and ground it out with his shoe. Later, on-line, I confirmed that smoking in Muni shelters is indeed an infraction, but I'll bet these two cops were the first guys to enforce it maybe ever.

SHERIFF ALLMAN in the New York Times: “Old hippies are not our problem — old hippies get it,” Sheriff Allman said. “They're going organic; they're doing water reduction.” So are “young hippies,” he continued. “I'm talking about people that move here in April, grow marijuana as fast as they can until October,” Sheriff Allman said. “The 20-year-old kid who wants to make his million bucks, and he's using these steroid fertilizers. He doesn't care about how much water he uses, or what he puts in the soil.”

FRED GARDNER WRITES: Here's an item about Mrs. Doubtfire from 1993. It ran under a piece about Prozac. I wonder if he was on it, or some chemical variant. "The real theme of Mrs. Doubtfire is success. Sally Field is a very successful interior decorator who can't get home to her Pacific Heights mansion till 7pm. Robin Williams is an actor, a failure. She kicks him out after his impulsiveness has cost him yet another gig. But when he gets his own TV show, she lets him see his kids again. It's one blatant implausibility after another. That a 13-year-old girl, a 12-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl would hang out together after school. That yuppie kids would have no extracurricular activities or separate friends. That Wild Robin and Prissy Sally could have made it together for 14 years. That there are no nannies from Central America in San Francisco. That a man can get made up as a woman and become unrecognizable to his wife and children. That a father can have a "healthy relationship" with his children posing as a female nanny. That an unemployed actor would skip a meeting with a TV station owner offering the break of a lifetime. That a father needs his kids more than they need him."

DAVID GURNEY WRITES: "The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to go with the sole timber harvest bidder, and decimate an area of old and second growth redwoods in an area of County property that should have been protected as a park. Coast 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, in an act of total cowardice and non-supoort of his local constituents, and the advice of County Staff, voted along with three other conservative board members to go ahead full steam, with a faulty plan to destroy this beautiful area. Dan Hamburg was the only Supervisor to recommend waiting until more reasonable plans are adopted."

SUPERVISOR DAN HAMBURG ADDS: "Dan Gjerde seconded and voted for my motion (which failed 2-3) to reject the Mendocino Redwoods Company bid and direct staff to resolve the outstanding issues of public access, old growth retention, protection of native plants and choice of timber operator before bringing this back to the Board in 2015. Dan voted with the majority on a motion (which passed 4-1) to refer public access issues to the Airport Advisory Commission. I also voted "no" on that motion because I believe that bifurcating the issue (ie, separating the timber harvest from the public recreation/access objective) will result in the latter remaining unaddressed. I'm very disappointed in the Board's action today. I believe it was short-sighted to take a small amount of money (perhaps $100k) in exchange for a much more valuable public resource. … I think that the majority of the Board doesn't believe that public access is a key component of what goes on at the county-owned LRA property. This in spite of the fact that it is included as one of five objectives in the Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) that is the legal guide for operations there. But please ask the Board members themselves (Pinches, McCowen, and Brown) to speak for themselves.


At the time of its acceptance [by voters], the cost of constructing the rail and pedestrian/bicycle system between Cloverdale in the north and Larkspur in the south was estimated to be $541 million. Eight months later, the 2007-2009 economic downturn was taken into account, and the estimate increased to $664 million. Today, construction plans have been scaled back and are being managed in segments. The first phase, between Sonoma County Airport and San Rafael, represents approximately 60% of the system’s intended distance at a projected cost of $428 million. SMART estimates another $230 million will be required to complete the entire 73-mile project. SMART’s inability to generate accurate cost and revenue projections puts into question the reliability of its forecasting methodology (pages 15-16). To date, SMART has only identified operating and maintenance reserves in its long-term forecasts. Actual costs will not be understood until labor contracts and operating logistics are better known — probably in 2015. The unpredictability of operations and maintenance costs represents an enormous economic risk. SMART has limited options for dealing with unexpected costs.

THE CANDIDATES FOR LOCAL OFFICES in the November 14 General Election are now official.

County School Superintendent: Paul Joens-Poulton vs. Warren Galletti.

Supervisor, Third District: Tom Woodhouse vs. Holly Madrigal.

Fort Bragg City Council (3 positions): Dave Turner (incumbent), Heidi Kraut (incumbent), Mark Iacuaniello, Lindy Peters, Michael A. Cimolino.

Point Arena City Council (2 positions): Deborah Heatherstone (appointed incumbent), Doug Burkey (incumbent).

Ukiah City Council: (3 positions): Phil Baldwin (incumbent), John Johns, Kevin Doble, Maureen Mulheren, Miranda Mott, Jim Brown, Mark Hilliker, Christian Luiz.

Willits City Council (2 positions): Ron Orenstein (incumbent), Larry Stransky (incumbent), Robin Leler.

Mendocino Coast District Hospital Board (3 positions): John Kerman (incumbent), Kitty Bruning (a registered nurse), Michael Carroll, Peter Glusker (brain surgeon), William Rohr.

The only countywide ordinance on the ballot will be Measure S, “Anti-Fracking Measure”: “Shall the ordinance, which is titled An Initiative to Assert the Right of Residents of Mendocino County in Order to Secure Clean Water, Air and Soil and Freedom From Chemical Trespass, Which Would Ban Hydraulic Fracturing, Directional and Horizontal Drilling, and Waste Injection Wells in the County of Mendocino and Invalidates Any and All Laws Contrary to this Purpose to the Extent They Effect the County of Mendocino, be adopted? Yes or No.”

ALTHOUGH the state elections mostly present the usual choices between bad and worse, the Mendo elections in November will be interesting.

LOCAL RACES are seemingly sedate affairs with the real electioneering off-stage and gossip-based, kinda tea leafy, Indonesian-ey shadow play-ey-like, in a seething county in a collapsing country where history starts all over again every morning and you are whatever you say you are. You get some real passion in these things, albeit off-stage.

THERE'LL be a couple of candidates’ nights in chuckling but tense rooms where the questions are carefully vetted to exclude those that might actually elicit an interesting or telling response. Then the local papers will be deluged with “I'm for him” or “I'm for her” letters because him or her is “for the kids” and likes dogs. Some time before the vote the candidates will take out ads listing the names of all the people they can dragoon into signing up to endorse their candidacy. This 6th grade practice seems especially effective in Mendo where the totally uninformed can say to him or herself, “Hmmm. I see that Billy loves Jennifer, but I don't like either one of them so I'm voting for Barb.” Study enough elections and you understand how George W. Bush got elected. Twice.

THE BASIC SPLIT in the Mendo vote is between the conservative liberals of the Jared Huffman type and what might be called the old timers. Old timers now include not only the old old timers but the neo-old timers repelled by the smug arrogance of liberals, all of them quite well off and/or ensconsed in good paying public jobs. About ten percent of the vote understands that the Democratic Party is also corporate-owned and no different than the Republicans on the big issues of war, peace and economics. In Mendo, a lot of Republicans, about 40 percent of the vote, are blue collar people privately employed. They've voted against their true interests for years but hate liberals so much they just keep on voting against themselves.

AT THE LEVEL of the Mendo board of supervisors, Pinches, McCowen, Carrie Brown, and Dan Gjerde draw support from both camps. Freshman supervisor Gjerde, although tightly affiliated with the oppressively un-progressive local Democrats, is generally a good nuts and bolts guy who sticks thoughtfully to local issues.

(CAVEAT: We think Gjerde and his fellow Supes are totally wrong on trying to sell Fort Bragg and the rest of the upper Mendo coast a $5 million trash transfer station, and we think he and three of his colleagues' inexplicable 4-1 vote to log that small parcel of County-owned land abutting the Little River Airport makes no environmental or economic sense. If the County leadership thinks it needs the money that bad (a measly projected hundred thou from the log job) why not sell the parcel for perhaps a much bigger profit? Hamburg was the only No vote, which was the correct vote, seems to us.

DAVID GURNEY WRITES: "Excuse me, but cutting down the trees has nothing — zero, zilch, nyet, nada — to do with public access, people and dogs crossing the runway, pilots trying to miss trees a quarter-mile downwind, etc. Once you wreck that grove for your hundred grand, it's gone. And what's unbelievable is that Dan Gjerde had no sooner voted for Hamburg’s absurd motion — that tied all the above mentioned issues with the Timber Sale — then ten minutes later, voted for a motion to approve the timber sale, unequivically. When you find out what prescription meds Gjerde is on, I want some. Not so with Pinches, whose name and Fox News persona reminds one of the last act one commits while sitting on the John — him and his tin-horn heavy handed running of a public meeting. McCowen — Who knows? Shame on the Board of Supes for this bad, bad decision. And let's not forget the abominable Carre Brown, who rose from her heavily padded chair like a creature from the swamp, to second the Pinches motion to go ahead and destroy one of the last, and our Mendocino County owned, redwood grove in Little River.

CHRIS SKYHAWK WRITES: “I am disappointed that the BOS did not defer to local sentiment expressed through petitions, meetings, and our supervisor. For many years the County has not taken public access seriously in its planning. This was a real chance to reverse that and all for a bid that came in much lower than was anticipated. Very, very sad.”

A READER WRITES: “As usual, the imperious Hamburg and his cult like followers are throwing hissy fits and calling names because they didn't get their way on a THP they seem to know little about. David Gurney puts out an appeal for the masses to show up to stop the cutting of old growth. Hamburg makes a motion to stop the timber harvest plan until public access and old growth retention issues have been resolved. Except no old growth will be cut. And the public has access now, although it’s a problem when people are walking across the airport with planes coming in. The motion to refer the issue to the Airport Advisory Committee, that Hamburg voted against, was to come up with a plan to allow public access without endangering lives. Hamburg is against that?”

WITH THE BALLOT solidified for the November elections, we have Warren Galletti headed for an easy win over Joens-Poulton for Mendocino County Superintendent of Schools. Galletti has the huge advantage of being a Mendo native who's well-known from his years as a local sports guy, having gotten to know lots of people as he traveled all over the County for ball games. And County Superintendent is a county-wide election.

JOENS-POULTON is preferred by the long-time present superintendent, Paul Tichinin, with whom, given JP's stumbling ballot statement, he apparently shares a severe learning disability. The County Office of Education has for years been an absolute sinkhole into which millions of annual educational dollars disappear every year. This year's Grand Jury has confirmed that the present superintendent, Paul Tichinin, is a featherbedding incompetent, and that several of his lieutenants are straight-up bully boy jerks. The GJ said the whole operation is, as we've said for years, spectacularly mismanaged, even by Mendo standards. This Joens-Poulton character, assistant superintendent to Tich, would represent more of the same and, of course, is supported by Tichinin. Galletti's no intellectual, the goddess knows, but he's at least coming in from outside the Talmage office. The superintendent's “job” comes with no identifiable duties, an assistant with even less visible responsibility and pays better than $120,000 a year.

WE PREFER Jolly Holly Madrigal over Tom Woodhouse for 3rd District supervisor. Madrigal has a public record of votes you can like or dislike, but Woodhouse, so far, hasn't taken any stands on anything, putting himself out there simply as Mr. Nice Guy, always a savvy strategy in a county run by Very Nice People (who you never want to turn your back on).

THE PRIMARY reservation we have about Madrigal is her proud alignment with that oppressive blob of a local Democratic Party apparatus. What Mendocino County definitely does not need is a combined female version of Wes Chesbro, Dan Hamburg, Richard Shoemaker, and Jared Huffman. The job is supposed to be non-partisan, which is how 3rd District supervisor John Pinches, whom Madrigal aims at succeeding, always approached it. Pinches was totally focused on local stuff, and way, way ahead of the curve on the crucial water issue and the Willits Bypass, to name two matters the Laytonville cowboy tried to do us all big favors by keeping them front and center. (Pinches, early on, and way before most of the present opposition to the Bypass boondoggle, lobbied to have the Bypass run along the existing railroad right of way.) And Pinches always watched how public money was spent. The above mentioned Democrats — collectively regarded here as the Chesbro Curse — are totally focused on themselves and their personal welfare. They live to suck up tax money and think they deserve it.

AN INTERESTING RACE for Fort Bragg City Council pits former mayor Lindy Peters and one of the Cimolinos, a relative of the former supervisor presumably, against fog belt versions of the Chesbro Curse. Peters and Cimolino are arrayed against incumbent mayor Dave Turner, Heidi Kraut and, gasp! Mark Iacuaniello, the last narrowly averting a perjury charge during his truly shameful performance during the Matt Murray affair, revisited below.

ONE ELECTORAL bright spot burning beacon-like out of the Fort Bragg fog, is an actual brain surgeon running for the Coast Hospital Board: Dr. Peter Glusker! A truly great doctor, if anyone can cure Coast Hospital of its perilous fiscal ailments, Glusker can.

THE FORT BRAGG COUNCIL RACE is indicative of the County-wide split we described above which, in simpler terms, might be best understood this way: “I've lived here for 50 years. I go to a meeting of the Fort Bragg City Council or the school board or whatever board, and I see people sitting up front in big leather chairs making decisions about my town who I've never seen before. Or even heard of. And they all kinda look like Cabbage Patch dolls and grin and chuckle a lot, but there's obviously something deeply untrustworthy, deeply false about them.” Iacuaniello is the archetype.

IACUANIELLO narrowly missed a perjury charge in the Murray matter, lying on the stand after betraying Murray at the Point Arena School District where Murray was hired to bring some order to the elementary school in that perennially troubled school system, then operating in a kind of state conservatorship. Murray pulled things together and was so good at doing it the existing staff, a twenty-year-old entrenched clusterfuck of sloth and edu-stupidity, led by Iacuaniello, teamed up against Murray and got PA's gutless school board to fire Murray.

HERE'S HOW Iacuaniello was summed up in court by Murray's attorney: “Mr. Iacuaniello consistently tells only part of the story, half-truths, the half of the truth that benefits him, but not the other half. Even though Mr. Murray's first year evaluation was outstanding on all the elements, yet he rated Mr. Murray as less than satisfactory. In a confidential report to the board he reported that Mr. Murray was ‘good but not outstanding’ and if there was no improvement in teacher relations he would not recommend a raise or contract renewal. He effectively manipulated the board in one direction while telling Murray the opposite.“Mr. Iacuaniello insisted that the teacher who falsified her credentials and background continue to work at the school under a change in title and slight change in job where she was no longer the teacher of record, but still the teacher of the class.“Then there was the Beguiristain fraud in which Mr. Beguiristain didn't have a bachelor's degree but Iacuaniello continued to let him teach Spanish even though he had seen a transcript showing that he did not have a bachelors degree.“Mr. Iacuaniello had already set up Paula Patterson as [elementary school] principal in the months prior to Mr. Murray’s termination. He had planned it and asked for her resume in the spring of 2006. [Murray was terminated in November, 2006.] Then he placed her into a coordinator job so that she could get administrative experience. Mr. Iacuaniello wrote that he would continue to support Mr. Murray while at the same time he was developing ‘the Patterson Plan.’“Mr. Iacuaniello continued to insist that complaints be described as ‘concerns’ so that they would not have to be reduced to writing. Yet at the same time he was raising these so-called concerns in private confidential reports to the School Board. Murray never got an opportunity to see or respond to these complaints or concerns.”Iacuaniello’s own attorney’s response did not refute these statements, only attempted to put them in a different light:.“Would you really ask for complaints to be put in writing if you had the personality that my client has? Instead, he called them ‘concerns’ so that they could be dealt with without being reduced to paper.

TRANSLATION: My client is too dumb to formulate the necessary malice that's required for you to find in favor of Mr. Murray.

YOU'LL KNOW that Fort Bragg is forever doomed if Iacuaniello joins the incumbent passo-aggressos on the Fort Bragg City Council, but it wouldn't surprise us. Fort Bragg elected Kendall Smith, twice, to the board of supervisors, and she was a straight-up crook, and 5150, we'd say, after years of watching her in action as a supervisor.

ANOTHER RECONDITE READING RECOMMENDATION, this one “Escape From Quantopia, Collective Insanity in Science and Society” by Ted Dace. (If you came in late, the first one was Jim Martin's Reich bio.) This here AVA being the kind of publication that ranges from faux high brow to knuckle-dragging low, a book that promises “an unforgettable trip from the foundation of physical and biological existence to the psycho-social maladies currently undermining human prospects,” is pretty much likely beyond our understanding. I got the psycho-social maladies part but was otherwise mostly at a loss. Dace, an occasional AVA contributor, is such a good, clear writer that anyone with a good basic education in the sciences will profit from his instruction. I'm still reading, which means the author still has my fragged attention, meaning if he has my attention he can get through to anybody.


When you think about drugs that threaten the health of teens, whipped cream could be the last thing that comes to mind. But the pressurized containers used to store canned whipped cream contain a propellant gas called nitrous oxide, which can be inhaled quickly by mouth to get a brief but intoxicating rush. Nitrous oxide is also sold in miniature canisters called “whippets” — inexpensive containers that have become popular among teens in search of a cheap high. (A box of 50 canisters can be purchased on line for as low as $19.) In surgical and dental settings, nitrous oxide is used as a short-term anesthetic. Because this colorless, odorless gas can create euphoric sensations, it is commonly known as “laughing gas.” Teens may believe that because nitrous oxide is used in medical settings and has no strong-smelling fumes, it is safer than inhalants like gasoline, paint thinner or glue. They are wrong. Inhaling nitrous oxide from whipped cream canisters, whippets or balloons can deprive the brain of oxygen, potentially causing unconsciousness, seizures or death. George Washington University reports that many deaths from nitrous oxide occur when the user loses consciousness and strikes his head on the ground or a sharp object. Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, numbness, slurred speech, confusion, hallucinations and fainting are the short-term side effects of inhaling whippets. Nitrous oxide inhalation affects motor coordination, increasing the risk of a motor vehicle collision or an accidental injury. Teenagers who abuse nitrous oxide on a regular basis may suffer serious long-term complications, including: Damage to the heart tissues, An irregular heartbeat, Nerve damage and Bone marrow suppression. The Orange County Register reports that a lack of regulation has led to an increase in the use of nitrous oxide, also known as “nozz,” among teens in Southern California. Large tanks of this gas can be purchased at auto body shops, where it is supposedly sold to enhance car performance. Teens who are too young to purchase liquor can legally purchase large quantities of nitrous oxide in these tanks from their local auto dealers. The widespread availability of this mind-altering gas has been linked to a number of fatal car accidents among Orange County teens in recent years. Canisters or tanks of nitrous oxide are often available at parties and raves, where teens inhale this gas while drinking alcohol or taking other drugs. Combining these intoxicants heightens the risk of an overdose, injury or death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, whippets and whipped cream canisters are most frequently used by teens ages 16 through 17, while amyl nitrite, another powerful inhalant, is more popular among adults. However, nitrous oxide and amyl nitrite abuse have been reported in teens and adults of all ages. It’s never too early to intervene in a teenager’s substance abuse, even if the substance seems relatively harmless. For curious teens who like to take risks, inhalant abuse is often the first step in a long, rough path to addiction. If you’re worried about a young man in your life, we urge you to contact our treatment professionals for help.


ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY: Re: The new 49er stadium in Santa Clara: I guess if fans need a $1 billion stadium with all the bells, whistles and luxuries, charging $55 for parking and $10 for a beer is, indeed, the price the suckers — I mean fans — need to pay. Or are these prices simply reflective of what the Powers-That-Be figure is what the market will bear? (I'd bet on that one.) When I was a little boy in the 50s we'd go to 49ers games at Kezar. We'd bring smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. The adults would bet 25¢ or whatever on what would happen on every play. We'd watch Y.A. Tittle, Leo Nomellini, Bob St. Claire, Hugh McElhenny, R.C. Owens, Joe Perry et al, year after year. You had a TEAM to root for, and not just laundry worn by rented players. (Yeah, yeah, Y.A. left for the Giants, but John Brodie had been there for a while, groomed to take over when the time came.) I don't remember what the prices for tickets or concessions were then. (You can't compare parking because there was none.) For all I know, the prices were equivalent, adjusted for inflation. (Although I suspect, not so much.) But I guarantee that attending those games was less stressful and more fun.

(This mention of Leo Nomellini reminded the Major of an item he wrote back in the fall of 2000 a few days after Nomellini’s obituary appeared in the SF Chronicle.)

LeoNomelliniLEO ‘THE LION’ Nomellini, star tackle for the 49ers from 1950-1963 died of cancer at age 76 October 22, 2000, at Stanford Hospital. His football friends contributed tributes and anecdotes to a couple of pretty good Bay Area obits for the big bruiser the following day. But they left one anecdote out. It happens that Mr. Nomellini was a down-the-street neighbor of ours when I was a kid growing up in Palo Alto from 1953 to 1955. Mr. Nomellini was born in Italy and grew up in Chicago. He was a tough but friendly man who was well known to the neighborhood as the big 49er lineman down the street who always waved and smiled at the star-struck kids who rode by on their bikes. These were the days of hand-powered push mowers. Nomellini, who stood 6-feet 3-inches and weighed upwards of 270 pounds, impressed us kids by being able to stand on one edge of his front lawn and give his big push-mower a giant shove and it would somehow mow 20 or so feet of grass before it came to a stop at the other end of Nomellini’s lawn. Nomellini would then stroll across the new-mown strip, turn the mower around, give the mower a couple of short pushes to catch whatever it had missed on its prior one-shove dash across the lawn, and then shove the mower back across the lawn again, and again, and again in single bursts until it was thoroughly mowed. By the time he was done, Nomellini usually had ten or twelve awestruck kids standing around watching and applauding each shove. He didn’t pay us much attention though — the future Hall of Famer was all business. — Mark Scaramella

EVERYONE who keeps talking about how San Francisco is losing its “diversity” does not ride the bus and never walks through the Tenderloin, up Market Street, along any stretch of Mission, through Golden Gate Park. If The City was any more diverse I think I'd die of excitement.

Diversity has never been more diverse, and certainly more diverse than the 1950s, the first part of the 1960s and so violently diverse in the 1970s that all the hippies took off for the hills of Mendocino and Humboldt. Sure, the residual psychos don't have the literary panache of the Zodiac, but most people aren't sad to see the street violence of the late 60s and much of the 70s mostly disappear altogether in most areas of San Francisco.

CULTURALLY, though, SF is about as interesting as Ukiah. The creative lit coming out of here is ho-hum because, in this book reader's opinion, although the culture is no longer print-based and the print zeitgeist is sprinting past us to a new home in cyber-space,  the prob with the new creative lit people is that they aren't at odds with the larger society — they love it, don't see anything wrong with it, aren't angry with it. A lot of them are holed up in colleges, and move serenely from writer's workshops and college seminars to their comfortable homes in nice neighborhoods like the ones they grew up in. And they hang out with people exactly like themselves. The great writers this country has produced, even if they were from the privileged classes, at least had some every day experience, including military experience, and most of them knew in their bones how the other half lived because they were the other half. There are lots of lively blogs, which is where journalism has gone, and lots of journalists anymore are better writers than the writer-writers because they come into daily contact with the diversity some people say they miss in San Francisco, conflating diversity with the economic squeeze applied by the oligarchy. Journalists tell more interesting stories. Maybe the economic squeeze and the looming catastrophes will produce some real literature — the last one did, but the next art will probably be in movie form. HBO is much closer to the zeitgeist than anything the creative lit people are doing, and the writing is better, too.

WILLITS got short shrift from the San Francisco Giants play-by-play announcers on Sunday afternoon as the Giants beat the Phillies. Between innings a roving camera focused on a kid with a small magic-markered cardboard sign that said “GO GIANTS.” Below that the kid had written “from Willits, Ca.” Jon Miller said, “I’ve never heard of Willits; have you, Kruk?” Mike Krukow paused for a couple of beats, and said, “I think I knew a guy from Willits when I was in college at Cal Poly in the early 70s.”

ALL YOU PEOPLE insured (well, partially insured anyway) by "non-profit" Blue Shield will be pleased to learn that Blue Shield has invested in a luxury box at the 49er's new stadium in Santa Clara. These hog heavens cost somewhere between $250,000 AND $400,000 a year. Blue Shield says the “primary purpose” is to interact socially with some of our larger membership groups. The box comes with 20 tickets, parking passes, “field level access during games,” and ever higher health insurance rates for all you Blue Shield serfs.

A COMMENTER POINTED OUT, "The primary purpose [of the luxury box] is to interact socially with some of our larger membership groups,’ said Blue Shield spokesman Sean Barry.” But you can buy a LOT of beer and pizza for $2.5 million and feed a lot more than 20 people at a time. I guess they mean ‘special representatives’ of the larger membership groups. Special people hosting special representatives. But why interact socially at all? Shouldn't this be a business relationship? And the business based solely on facts and finances? What gives? How about making ALL participation in the luxury boxes a matter of PUBLIC RECORD?”

HOW MANY TIMES have you been buttonholed by a hemp obsessive with a monologue about how hemp will save the world? The hemp nuts may be slightly less obsessive now that small, experimental hemp crops in Kentucky are about to be harvested. Even arch-reactionary Mitch McConnell is for the restoration of legal hemp farming, which has been banned in the US since 1970 because, like devil weed, this most versatile plant comes with a tincture of thc. Our government feared that people might smoke their shirts.

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