Press "Enter" to skip to content

Off the Record (Jan 21, 2015)

THE FORT BRAGG CITY COUNCIL, Lindy Peters dissenting, has voted 3-1 to allow the sale of the old Coast Hotel to the burgeoning Hospitality House and freshly privatized County Mental Health complex who, in turn, got the purchase price in the form of a public grant. The stately old structure will be converted for use as "transition housing."

TOM CARINE, a Fort Bragg native who now lives in the San Jose area, has sold the landmark hotel to Hospitality House for $900,000, hugely discounted from the more than $2 million Carine had marketed the property for eight years with no buyers. (Mama Carine's legendary restaurant in Noyo Harbor, operated by her and her son Anthony, is also a Fort Bragg institution, and a favorite stop of generations of locals and tourists.)

COAST HOTEL was purchased by Carine about 15 years ago. He and his wife Nina spent many thousands of dollars on its restoration and tried to operate it as a combination restaurant, bar and hotel from their headquarters in the South Bay. A previous owner (Tom Vargas?) had also obtained a public loan to fix up and operate the Coast but went broke, as did Tom Carine before he closed the place in 2008 as the Recession set in. Insiders say crooked employees were robbing the absentee Carine of register cash and expensive liquor. For a while, however, Coast racked up rave reviews for its food and elegant hospitality.

CARINE then put the Coast up for sale at an unreasonably high price that has kept it vacant since '08. He also refused to lease it to other ambitious proprietors.

THE SMALL-ISH but substantial building is a little architectural gem almost dead center in the middle of Fort Bragg, and one of the few structures left in Fort Bragg reminiscent of the early 20th Century. Most places, historical preservation societies would not permit its conversion to something as prosaically unrelated as a mental health project. (Surely there are more suitable locations in the greater Fort Bragg.)

REGARDING FORT BRAGG'S architectural legacy, in one night of spectacular and unpunished criminality, arsonists burned down much of it, torching the old Piedmont Hotel and the town's splendid 19th century library and the attached Ten Mile Court. The people responsible were never indicted, and records of DA Massini's “investigation” — 39 boxes of evidence and related material — have since disappeared. Fort Bragg is running out of historical buildings.

THE FB CITY COUNCIL'S vote to convert the Coast Hotel to transition housing and related mental health services has not gone down well with many Fort Bragg residents. They argue that such a facility does not belong in the center of a town always struggling to establish itself as attractive to locals and visitors alike. Critics are also suspicious that the persons in favor — most of the speakers at the meeting where the Council voted for Hospitality House either work at Hospitality or have benefited from its services — had as much as three months advance notice that the Council would be voting on it, plenty of time to write letters in support. Critics had much shorter notice; they maintain that official Fort Bragg leaked notice to persons in favor but kept the general public in the dark.

AT THE CRUCIAL City Council meeting, some 15 Hospitality House workers spoke for their employer, 8 persons against. 80 letters appeared in support, 15 letters were on record as opposed.

ONE CRITIC wondered why the long vacant Carine Motel a few blocks south, or the empty lot across the street, also owned by the Carines, weren't considered as more suitable for an extension of Hospitality House. “I think,” this person said, “that Tom Carine is just giving his home town a final middle finger with this deal. He's still bitter about failing to make a go of the Coast himself.”

JOHN FREMONT posted this comment on the Coast Listserve regarding Fort Bragg’s decision to convert the Old Coast Hotel to a housing facility for homeless and mentally ill: “Does the City Council's decision to allow the old hotel and restaurant to be used for transitional housing and services for the homeless and mentally ill contribute to a downtown upgrade? Wouldn't the Affinito building south of town house more patients in a cleaner and safer environment? Just asking.”

FRANK HARTZELL, also posting on the Coast Listserve, commented on the future of downtown Fort Bragg in general: “If we want local, solid businesses people need to do more to support local business and the City needs to do something to develop LOCAL business rather than awarding contracts to out of town companies. Local People have one bad exchange at a local grocery store or hardware store and then set their face to buying stuff from China over the hill. It’s an excuse to do what the advertising drone in your head is telling you. The inevitable result is a town full of chains, low pay and near zero opportunity for young people.”

THE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD has refused to grant outgoing County School Superintendent Paul Tichinin a retroactive raise, a minor miracle given the history of County School Boards' subservience to the guy they're supposed to be supervising. Trustee Camille Schraeder seemed torn. She really wanted to give Tichinin a parting gift of public funds: “There is a real, live burden of responsibility (for the superintendent) that's worth some increased amount of compensation. The teachers would not be able to teach without someone worrying about the budget. There is a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes that helps support the teachers.”

AND THERE IT IS, the fatal assumption that our “educational leader” should get lots and lots of scarce edu-dollars for “worrying” with no mention of specific functions the worrier might perform. Of which there are none, in this case. Ms. Schraeder, you won't be surprised to learn, is herself a handsomely rewarded administrator with Redwood Children's Services, also funded out of public money. She and Tichinin could easily switch “jobs” with neither agency knowing there'd been one.

I'VE OFTEN told this story. One day, finding myself in Ukiah with a few hours to kill, just for the hell of it I dropped in on the Superintendent of County Schools, the late Lou Delsol. I had an array of beefs I wanted to air but assumed the boss man, then located in modest quarters on Low Gap Road, would be too busy for the likes of a Boonville bellyacher wandering in off the street without an appointment.

BUT NO SOONER had I walked through the door when Delsol himself bustled out of his office with a big smile on his face and an outstretched hand for me to shake. Months later, I remembered it as a Robinson Crusoe Moment, a marooned edu-crat so eager for something to do, someone to talk to, he'd even embraced me.

AT SUBSEQUENT MEETINGS, Delsol's enthusiasm for me had, shall we say, waned, but I always kinda liked the guy, and I came to appreciate his candor. One day, encountering the old boy in the hall during a heated morning session of the school board, he said to me with a sigh, “Jesus, I'm tired of your bullshit, Bruce.” I've laughed for years about that one because, in living fact, I did do a stalker-quality number on Delsol and his crew of crooks and slackers for a solid year, and when I couldn't get to a meeting I dispatched my nephew, then a brash (very brash) high school sophomore to ask questions like, “My uncle says you people are a bunch of thieves. Are you?” (School boards are especially disgusting when an actual kid appears. Everyone falls all over themselves, beaming back out at the little idiot no matter how wacky or dumb his remarks are. Nephew tested that indulgence to the max.)

GETTING BACK to my first unannounced meeting with Delsol, he spent a solid two hours with me, during which time his phone never rang, no harried secretary stuck her head in the door to say, “Mr. Delsol, you have a meeting scheduled in two minutes.” I realized I was in the presence of a man with no duties, a man who made a lot of money for doing absolutely nothing! And if the boss didn't do anything, what did his subordinate administrators do?

I DO REMEMBER a capable woman in that office who checked credentials, did payroll and shuffled budget numbers around. Her name was Williams, I think. But apart from her, my general impression was of middle age men, mostly, and a few women, wandering around with coffee cups, blissed-out smiles plastered onto their faces. It's always been like walking into a Moonie compound.

THING IS, I was correct in my assessment. The County Office of Education was an organization of featherbedders heavy on criminal conduct, complete with a couple of verifiable crooks your beloved community newspaper was instrumental in sending to jail. One of the crooks, a fellow named Hal Titen, then Tichinin's boss, took “educational” video equipment to the back room of a bar he owned on North State Street where he made pornographic films starring underage girls. That particular educational enterprise got Titen a couple of years in the state pen, but it was the cops and the DA who busted him, not his colleagues or the County School Board. (To give them due credit, then trustees Don Lipmanson and David Colfax worked from inside to corral the criminals and, as long as they were on the board, always tried to rein in the agency's more egregious schemes. After their departures and Tichinin's ascendance, things pretty much reverted to coffee cups and Moonie grins.)

WE THOUGHT OF R. CRUMB, former Mendo guy (Potter Valley) as soon as we heard of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Crumb now lives in France. "Hope someone gets him to draw something," was how the talk went in the AVA's office. And sure enough, here he is with a cartoon statement that is not only funny but perfectly encapsulates the entire controversy. Makes us proud to be Americans. Way to go, Bob!


SUPES GEAR UP FOR POT LEGALIZATION. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors has sent a letter to federal and state elected officials to formally support and call for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. The Board adopted Mendocino County Code Section 9.31 in 2008 to regulate medical marijuana in a manner that is consistent with State law and which promotes the health, safety, and general welfare of the residents and businesses within the unincorporated territory of the County of Mendocino. County Code 9.31 was amended in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to decrease plant exemption from 99 to 25 plants.

BUT LEONA WILLIAMS, boss ma'am of the Pinoleville tribe, is way ahead of the Mendo pot curve. She and Pinoleville will soon produce the miracle drug on an industrial scale, putting all the rest of the local grows, some of them quite large, to shame.

THE SIERRA NEVADA Music Festival promoters have agreed to pay $27,500 for fairgrounds rent at their annual Boonville event this year. They’re also being charged $19,000 for Sheriff’s "security", although they provide their own. (The so-called security provided by Mendocino County seems to mostly consist of short, fat people from the Probation Department and other public bureaucracies tangentially related to security as most of us know it. Stoners don't require much policing.) Sierra Nevada also cleans the place up afterwards. The agreement also includes a requirement that 300 tickets be sold to locals for little or nothing. We think Sierra Nevada is the victim of a Mendo shakedown, but we seem to be alone in that opinion.

GO AHEAD, call me a moron, but I think the 49er saga is muy interesting. Like lots of us wheezes born and raised in the greater Bay Area, as a kid I watched Frankie Albert, Y.A. Tittle, Hurryin' Hugh McElhenney, Joe The Jet Perry, John Henry Johnson, Leo The Lion Nomellini, and my fave, Hardy Brown, at Kezar Stadium on the edge of Golden Gate Park.

BROWN'S “shoulder block” was too rough even for the NFL and was outlawed. A defensive back, Brown, running at the ball carrier full tilt, got his shoulder under the back's chin, clotheslining the poor guy and often knocking him unconscious, much to the delight of fans who'd give Brown a Standing O every time he took someone out. Hey! I'm not endorsing it, I'm just remembering a time when the game was assumed to be ultra-violent, way beyond amelioration, when pro football was purely a game played by large, violent men and watched by men, and lots of women, who enjoyed the spectacle. Hardy Brown, by the way, was so violent the Niner coaches wouldn't let him practice with the rest of the team! He'd wreck them, too. I was saddened when another sports fan told me last week that Brown, not long after he left football, had to be confined to a mental institution where he would die.

Hardy Brown closing in on Otto Graham, 1953.
Hardy Brown closing in on Otto Graham (1953).

I'VE ALWAYS been a Niner fan. Never got into the Raiders or any other football team except the Boonville Panthers who, by the way, are as much fun as the pros, for me anyway. I don't think pro basketball, except for San Antonio, is very interesting anymore. They just run up and down throwing up downtown threes which, to me, is too boring, not at all as fun to watch as the old school team play that used to prevail and that San Antonio still plays to great success. For me, it's the Giants and the Niners.

CARMEN POLICY, Eddie D's brains when The Little Prince owned the Niners, said the other day that he and a group of investors had had a viable plan for keeping the Niners in San Francisco but the York family rejected it, and from there on shut out Policy, Joe Montana and several million fans who wanted the team to stay in SF. The Policy group would have fixed up Candlestick, the scene of the team's greatest triumphs and kept the Niners in Frisco, and we all would have lived happily ever after.

THAT MOST PERFECT of all outcomes— Niners in Frisco — didn't happen and it was off to Santa Clara, which seems to be little more than a series of soul-free suburban neighborhoods from which its residents commute to San Jose. The stadium the Yorks talked the Santa Clara saps into building for them is like a football-themed mall, with about half the thing devoted to luxury boxes for the nearby billionaire gizmo gangs of Silicon Valley, i.e., non-football fans, and a Niner “museum” you pay $15 to get in to. By half time, the gizmo people have left (regardless of the score) or are watching the game on tv from stadium bars. And the Yorks haven't even been able to get the turf right, as we see on tv with its dirt patches and first downs in a cloud of dust. All that and stratospheric ticket prices that throw real fans right out of the park.

AND NOW the firing, essentially, of Jim Harbaugh, an obvious maniac (first coach I've ever seen who literally foamed at the mouth in frustration at bad calls) but a winning coach. Harbaugh had us all optimistic despite the ghastly Santa Clara stadium, but now he's out for the crime, I'd guess, of not kissing owner bum, and we have a defensive line coach shoved into the breech over his own boss, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.


HERE'S where I depart from most fans: I'm happy defensive coach Tomsula got the head job. All this bullshit about him lacking head coach experience assumes the game is a form of muscular brain surgery that only highly skilled, mucho experienced people can do. Tomsula has always been in the game. He knows what to do. The only question about him is how much autonomy he'll have in a context of a treacherous (and very dim) owner in Jed York. Tomsula looks like a good guy, although he was totally panicked and wholly inarticulate during his introductory news conference. But, hell, he's a football coach, not one of those Ken Doll feebs who read the 6 o'clock news. Stick to football and Tomsula can talk.

TOMSULA is said to be very popular with the players, but then so was Harbaugh, and you'd think the Yorks would get these guys some professional speech help before they're fed to the media jackals. Their great quarterback, Colin K, no intellectual certainly, is lost in front of the cameras. He's got a ton of natural charm, charisma, but no one has helped him deal with the jackals. All you really have to do with jock journalists is learn to feed them platitudes and they go away happy. But Kap has always presented as an arrogant, non-verbal thug, alienating much of the fan base in the process.

WHAT WE HAVE HERE is a bad owner who's saddled us with a bad, distant stadium and an unstable team made unstable by that young owner and his wine-yup old man, a pair of undeserving rich guys without, well, anything in the way of the kind of experience that might make them smart enough to turn the team over to football people.

THIS REMARK FROM YORK as he booted Harbaugh reminded me of something a low rent pimp might say as he opened up a three-bed whorehouse deep in the Nevada desert: “Jim is a great teacher and a tremendous mentor who conducts himself with great class and integrity.” Jesu Cristo! Why'd you fire him, then? The Yorks serve nicely as a metaphor for late capitalism — undeserving, essentially stupid, arrogant and on and on.

A READER CALLED to ask, “Why did you guys print that long article from the crazy guy on your front page?” My, my. Sooooo judgmental. Heck, if we applied a mental health standard to submissions we'd be printing a one-page paper, if that.


THE CALLER was referring to the long account by Mr. Arik Caldwell of his picaresque journey from Oregon to the Mendocino County Jail, replete with 5150 encounters along the way. First off, for a nut, the guy's a very good writer. Most crazy people are too scrambled to put together any kind of coherent narrative. Second, Mr. Caldwell's descriptions of his adventures are emblematic of the journeys of thousands of mentally ill people pinballing around the country in lieu of national funding and realistic strategies to deal with them. Mr. C. seems fairly benign but, as any cop can tell you, typical of the worrisome, free floating irritants they deal with on a daily basis. But here at the mighty AVA, it's the quality of the prose that counts, not who writes it.


BILLY RAY DOAK JR., 42, of Fort Bragg, hung another jury last week. Doak is charged with committing mayhem by use of a firearm on a domestic partner. His girl friend's finger was shot off, but she says she accidentally did it herself. The only witness was the couple's 9-year-old son. Opaque evidence and two expensive losses aside, the DA's office immediately announced they'll try Doak again, the third time. Why? Especially when the much stronger Keegan case out of Ukiah remains "under consideration" for four years now. There's a stronger case against Dr. Keegan's bludgeoning murder of his wife of thirty years than there is against Doak, and Keegan killed his entire wife, not just one of her fingers.

KENDALL-JACKSON carries forward The Big Wind's litigious tradition. The late and unlamented (unlamented here anyway) Jess Jackson sued Gallo because he claimed their label was similar to one on his wine. He sued winemaker Jed Steele to prevent Steele from using the Steele-developed "recipe" for chardonnay in his own wine. Just before he died, Jackson tried to get Sonoma County to change the name of a mountain to Mount Jackson. SoCo said no. Now here's the K-J gang suing a tiny beer business on the basis of nothing at all. Jackson was, and is, a good example of how the rich get what they want via the courts. They can afford to litigate their opponents into bankruptcy by keeping them endlessly in court. Dominic Affinito did it to Fort Bragg when he illegally added an extra floor to his then new motel, the garish view-blocking tourist dump called the North Cliff Motel.

‘LAW ENFORCEMENT CAN’T SOLVE THIS’ A Ukiah couple exemplifies the thorny issue of persistent homelessness by Justine Frederiksen, whose story in the Ukiah Daily Journal last week begins, "It’s no secret that Ukiah is having problems with homeless people. But what is somewhat secret, at least to those who don’t work for law enforcement, the hospital or social services, is that many of the problems are caused by just two people: a man named Scotty L. Willis and a woman named Kelisha S. Alvarez...."

MS. FREDERIKSEN'S comprehensive story on Ukiah's most intransigent homeless couple, Kelisha and Scotty, perfectly explained the Mendo dilemma vis a vis the unhoused. We've also covered the adventures of the intransigent couple who, even if they weren't a couple, would present major probs singly. As a tag team, they're impossible.

KALISHA, a compact, very compact 5'0'' and 385 pounds, is light on her feet and stronger than many men. She's known to smack Scotty around and he, her, although he invariably gets the worst of it. Then they both call each other in for domestic violence. (Scotty's maybe half Kelisha's weight, if that. Physiologically, we've got a Jack Spratt case here.) If Kelisha doesn't want to be arrested, well, anybody who doesn't think cops earn every penny should try subduing her. But it's them against the world, and baby might make three if the terrifying rumor that Kelisha is pregnant is true.

Alvarez, Willis
Alvarez, Willis

WE'VE FOLLOWED Kelisha and Scotty for a few of years now, ever since the night they were evicted from the Adventist Hospital's emergency room where, at the time, they liked to camp out to watch television in the waiting room. As I recall, they were so indignant at being asked to leave they attacked hospital staff. It took the sorely put upon Ukiah Police Department to restore order.

ALMOST ALL THE REST of the County's frequent fliers are drunks or multiple substance abusers, as are Kelisha and Scotty. The straight-up 5150s (crazy people) aren't exactly rare here in our rural paradise whose economy is pegged to intoxicants, but they're a separate problem who tend to come and go. When the 5150s go dangerously off they're housed in a special unit for the vulnerable at the County Jail. We estimate that there are 40 to 50 non-crazy frequent fliers, almost all confined to Ukiah, Willits and Fort Bragg, and they're almost all lost to alcohol.

THE COUNTY'S police forces constantly deal with the homeless and the drunks, most of whom, in the days before America lost its way ('67 was the pivotal year), habitual drunks, and people unable or unwilling to care for themselves, were housed in state hospitals where, and contrary to myth that state institutions were snake pits, there were programs that attempted to make broken people whole again. As a nation, I'd say we were collectively more humane then than we are now. Now, we have "liberals" living off the broken, and non-liberals whining about the money spent on them.

SUPERVISOR McCOWEN deserves a special citizenship award for not only constantly drawing attention to the homeless in the Ukiah area, he spends many, many of his non-public hours cleaning up after them, especially in the areas that drain into the Russian River. As McCowen will concede, Mendocino County is overdue for a serious, concerted effort to house our houseless. Kelisha and Scotty, and versions thereof, plus the forty or fifty intractable drunks? Until something more permanent can be worked out, our Superior Court, who now blithely run these people through their courtrooms many times a year like they'll never see them again, should give them all six months to a year in the County Jail. After all, they're repeat offenders, and some of them, given time to completely dry out for the first time in years, just might stay sober, learn to like feeling good again. But any serious attempt to address the socially demoralizing and endlessly public spectacle of free range drunks and versions of Scotty and Kelisha destroying public morale by their constant, untreated public presence, has got to involve the judges, the cops, the city councils, and the supervisors. There are no signs this will happen, but we live in hope!

HUMBOLDT COUNTY, which has a larger population of homeless people and larger problem with tweaker crime, maintains a “homeless court” that at least tries to get the drug and alcohol-addicted some help. There are many reasonably successful homeless models in various areas of the country that Mendo might learn from, but Mendo seems unteachable.

WE REMEMBER discussions between Sheriff Allman and (now former) HumCo Sheriff Mike Downey aimed at a jointly operated county farm located on land near Piercy whose owner was willing to lease the site for token rent for exactly that purpose. How about reviving that one?

MENDO already has a number of pieces in place, expensive pieces whose work, to varying degrees, could be aimed at Kelisha and Scotty, metaphorically speaking here. There's the lavishly privatized Ortner Management Group whose alleged specialty is mental health, and who so far is cherry picking who they deal with, and there's what's left of non-privatized County Mental Health itself. And we've got the courts, the realignment program, Prop 63 money, and so on. If all this stuff somehow got on the same page, and they would get on the same page if the courts demanded it, we might at last get back to the future — a County farm where the chronics would spend time until they got straight. If they never got straight, they'd live out their days at Camp Mendo.

ATTABOY, LEE. Lee Howard, the crusty senior citizen and long-time member of the Russian River Flood Control and Water Conservation Improvement District (and a veteran of many other inland boards), has been censured by his colleagues. According to fellow trustee, Richard Shoemaker, one of Ukiah's lead passive-aggressives, as quoted in the Ukiah Daily Journal, “If you pound the table and wag your finger and raise your voice at other people, they tend to have a negative reaction.”

SO THE WIMP-TWITS “threatened by Howard,” went out and spent district money on “the firm Herum, Crabtree and Suntag” who found:

• Howard raised his voice and made comments to [District General Manager Sean] White during board meetings in a manner that was reasonably perceived to be unprofessional and inappropriate;

• Howard engaged in physical behaviors directed at White during board meetings in a manner that was reasonably perceived as intimidating, including pointing his finger and rising out of his chair and/or leaning into the table while forcefully addressing White;

• Howard also sent e-mails to White that were found to be inappropriate and were reasonably perceived by White as intimidating and aggressive.

HOWARD rightly told the Journal that he regarded the censure as a “badge of honor.”

A READER COMMENTS: “Raising his voice, wagging his finger, and leaning into the table?" I am surprised the PC police did not refer him to Eric Holder on domestic terrorism charges. And how much did the outside legal firm charge for their ‘investigation’ — that is what I want to know. Remember when Wysocky yelled at the City Attorney and the SR mayor ordered up an investigation? It took $42,000 of taxpayer money to establish that Wysocky and the City Attorney did not get along with each other? Jeesh!”

JIM HOULE passes along this revelation from national commentator, Richard Johnson, not the late One True Green of Ukiah: “Ever wonder how lowly paid lawmakers leave office filthy rich? Sen. Dianne Feinstein is showing how it’s done. The US Postal Service plans to sell 56 buildings — so it can lease space more expensively — and the real estate company of the California senator’s husband, Richard Blum, is set to pocket about $1 billion in commissions. Blum’s company, CBRE, was selected in March 2011 as the sole real estate agent on sales expected to fetch $19 billion. Most voters didn’t notice that Blum is a member of CBRE’s board and served as chairman from 2001 to 2014. This feat of federal spousal support was ignored by the media after Feinstein’s office said the senator, whose wealth is pegged at $70 million, had nothing to do with the USPS decisions. When the national debt is $18 trillion, a billion seems like small change.”

FOR THE FIRST TIME, more than half of US public school students live in low-income households, according to a new analysis from the Southern Education Foundation. Overall, 51 percent of U.S. schoolchildren came from low-income households in 2013, according to the foundation, which analyzed data from National Center for Education Statistics on students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Eligibility for free or subsidized lunch for students from low-income households serves as a proxy for gauging poverty, says the foundation, which advocates education equity for students in the South. The report shows the percentage of schoolchildren from poor households has grown steadily for nearly a quarter-century, from 32 percent in 1989. "By 2006, the national rate was 42 percent and, after the Great Recession, the rate climbed in 2011 to 48 percent," says the report.

HERE IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, that percentage is somewhat higher. In Anderson Valley alone the percentage of students qualifying for subsidized food is a little over 80 percent.

A READER WRITES: “No doubt you've enjoyed every polished phrase in the wine mob's masturbatory 24-page snow job about "sustainability" (undefined in 24 pages), that arrived in the Sunday PD. Then, tucked away on page T2, older wine guy Lance Cutler is quoted, "The local wine industry has been taken over by corporations run by businessmen, and they are determined to squeeze every last drop they can out of the revenue stream." And soon, with legalization of marijuana, the conversion of the North Coast into a full-blown Intoxicant Disneyland for rich tourists will really take off. Happy happy!”

HEY! I've got a Selma story for you. No, I wasn't there but the FBI said I was. According to my file, obtained via a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, I was on the famous march. In fact, I was in Borneo with the Peace Corp. How could the feds be that wrong? Why was a harmless lib lab like me being watched by the FBI? Beats me. I suppose I was surveilled, as they say, because of my associations as a member of the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE). Lots of my comrades were commies, the remnant of the old Communist Party USA or, as my friend Fred Gardner describes them, "the ultimate liberals." And I was in a lot of the initial civil rights demos in San Francisco at a time, the early sixties, when the SFPD still maintained a "red squad" who kept tabs on radicals. As did the FBI. Capitalism's front line muscle, these red squads and crackpot J. Edgar's G-Men, were able to amass names of the people who kept on turning up for demos because, initially, there weren't that many of us, and we're talking two or three or four hundred people at most events, which seems, well, ironic, now that the Bay Area is home to, by their own self-identifications, several million "progressives." The old commies always called themselves progressives, not socialists or radicals. The older commies and "com-symps," as fellow travelers were called, had been under federal surveillance for years. My younger brother and one of my first cousins were, by '65, either in federal prison for refusing to register for the draft or on their way. I'd already been in and out of the Marines and had to make a special effort to get my draft card so I could burn it in front of the Federal Building, circa '67. The feds must have figured they had a whole nest of subversives in our one family alone. I got a severe grilling by Peace Corps honchos on my political views — they wanted liberals, not radicals. I convinced them I'd always been much more of a Menshevik than bolshie. I would have spared the Czar's family, not taken them down into a basement and gunned them down, children and all. And even as your standard-issue starry-eyed young doofus, I didn't like the Leninist model: "We're gonna make and then run your revolution for you people because you're too goddam dumb and irresponsible to do it yourselves." The dictatorship of the proletariat my ass. It was really a matter of changing one group of people who got to ride in the big black limos for another, one set of tyrants exchanged for the other.


  1. pete swendner January 22, 2015

    what happened to captain fathom ? don’t hear anything about him in long time.

  2. John Fremont January 23, 2015

    I saw Captain Fathom at Martin Luther King, Jr’s celebration in Fort Bragg last week. He looked hale and hearty for a geezer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *