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Valley People (Jun 22, 2016)

ACCORDING to a letter in the ICO from Mary Mobert, the Gualala precinct she worked boasted an impressive 75.5 percent turnout. Boonville? Anecdotally, good turnout but no specific numbers yet.

THE RASTAFARIANS have come and mostly gone. At dawn Monday, a few dreadlocked stragglers loomed up out of the mists looking like survivors from a midnight shipwreck. An hour later, the organizers of this remarkably well-organized annual event had a crew cleaning up central Boonville, a task ordinarily carried out singlehandedly by consensus Boonville mayor and early riser, Tom Cronquist.

AMONG Monday morning's stragglers was Goat Man, a bedraggled figure who looks like he could have been traveling with Moses on the prophet's Red Sea expedition. Goat Man inspires....

FLASHBACK, circa 1975, and out of Ukiah comes a recollection of the oddest of the very odd couples prevalent at the time, Otter G'zelle and his boon companion, Morning Glory. The G'zelles had created a unicorn. It was a goat between whose eyes they'd grafted a unicorn horn. They hauled the animal to hippie events where the more credulous flower children seemed to assume the creature had just stepped out of the Hobbit, which was generally considered non-fiction in those circles. The unicorn people were pals of serial killer Leonard Lake. Lake, presumably pre-murders, functioned as recording secretary for the Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department. "Yeah, yeah, I know he was a psycho," as an old timer once put it, "but he had the best handwriting of any secretary we ever had." (Boonville's never been a judgmental kinda town.)

STROLLING DOWN MEMORY LANE, I think back to 1970. The only weekend event in Boonville was the Mendocino County Fair and Rodeo. There was fist fighting all over central Boonville, drunks galore. The Boonville Lodge was so crowded people spilled out into the street, which then and now was Highway 128. Cops were out in force, and still there was hand-to-hand combat everywhere. Tough guys from all over drove to Boonville to get into fights with the locals, who were also tough guys, so tough the outside brawlers usually traveled home in much worse shape than they arrived. Slim Pickens, pre-stardom, called rodeos. He said Boonville was the roughest place he ever worked. Hard to imagine in the blandly correct, tasting room ambience of now. At the 1970 rodeo, the announcer told race and hippie jokes, which were pretty funny, actually, but he'd be arrested if he told them over the PA in 2016. Times change. Fifty years later, peace and love, mon, and $75 tickets to get in.

FRIDAY NIGHT'S rain was just enough to pull the plug early on the World Music Festival. Saturday, the Rastafarians resumed praising Jah, and by Sunday it was comfortably warm, and Monday late afternoon it was as if the many thousands hadn't been here at all.

DEPUTY WALKER said Monday the festival was uneventful. Only two calls, both minor, and probably not related to the musical event. Two episodes were handled in-house, one a 14-year-old drunk, the other related to a pot brownie.

PARKED OSTENTATIOUSLY outside the Fairgrounds was a huge high-rise black pick-up emblazoned with an "Armed Security" sign and Trump signs. The driver, it seems, got some cheap jollies disturbing the Rastafarians, who remained undisturbed. "There was a little psycho-looking guy behind the wheel, but all I know is he had nothing to do with the event," summed up a concert-goer.

BOONVILLE, Mendocino County's most happening community (by far), will host a basketball camp led by none other than the great All-American, Jennifer Azzi, presently the women's head coach at USF. Detective Luis Espinoza of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department and coach of small school champs, Anderson Valley High School, with a big assist from AV High grad Robert Anderson, has put it all together for July 15, 16, and 17. Called the Jennifer Azzi Basketball Camp, attendees were selected by their coaches and other members of the community for their dedication to basketball and their sportsmanship. The campers include 4th-8th grade boys and girls (3 boys/3 girls per grade).

COACH ESPINOZA reports that all slots have been filled. "It should be a great time," Espinoza says, "and I look forward to learning quite a bit myself during those three days. Because this is not a school related function, it took a little more work than usual to get this going. I would like to thank the CSD Recreation Committee for their assistance with the insurance part of it, AD Robert Pinoli and Superintendent Michelle Hutchins for the use of the gym and Robert Anderson for this great gift. Most importantly, as most of you who know me also know, I couldn't get any of this done with out my wife, Shauna Espinoza, who is the begrudging volunteer queen. Thank you! I look forward to seeing all the kids on July 15th!"

PS. High School Boys Varsity will begin playing summer league basketball at Mendocino College beginning 06/15/16 at 1800 hours. Bored and want to get out of the heat? Feel free to come watch the boys!

BLACKBIRD FARM, Philo, aka Pathways in Education, is requesting a major expansion of its Philo presence from 36 guests and employees "to a maximum of 292 over a 7 year development time line," according to the Mendo Planning and Building Department. To access the site, which began as the homestead where the late Charmian Blattner, long-time columnist for the Boonville weekly was born and raised, and then there was its lengthy incarnation as a high-end retreat called the Highland Ranch....

SPARE US your groans at the creaky reference, but Balzac said behind every fortune lies a great crime. In the case of Blackbird, the crimes were small-ish, more a matter of the diversion of public ed money to private charter school programs, a diversion and criminal investigation described at length and great detail by the LA Times. But where better to reinvent oneself than Mendocino County where, as we never tire of repeating, history starts all over again every day, and you are whatever you say you are.

WHEN CHARMIAN was a girl, Highland was a long haul across the Navarro River and on up into the hills on foot or by horse. Today, easy access via Ray's Road or Greenwood Road.

THE PROPERTY became well-known as Highland Ranch under the gentlemanly auspices of George Gaines, about whom a negative word has never been heard. Mr. Gaines developed the property as a comfortable, high end retreat for comfortable, high end people. Not long ago Gaines sold Highland's lush 200 acres to the Hall family of Los Angeles. Jamie Hall, a young woman still in her twenties, is the daughter of John and Joan Hall. She presides over the Highland property, now re-christened as Black Bird Farm and organized as a tax-exempt non-profit.

MOM AND POP, John and Joan Hall, struck it rich in the oft-plundered gold fields of public education funding. The Halls were teachers at Hollywood High School when they discovered a particularly lucrative public ed loophole in public education funding requirements, and very soon the Halls were multi-millionaires via a chain of store front charter schools called Options for Youth and Opportunities for Learning, paying themselves some $600,000 annually to run their publicly funded schools, a nice step up from their modest previous salaries at Hollywood High.

THE OPTION most frequently exercised by Options For Youth seems to have been millions in private profits for the Hall family. In 2006, a state audit concluded that the Halls had been "overpaid" by the state to the tune of $57 million, but since they'd been operating inside California's notoriously lax school funding guidelines, the Halls had done nothing illegal. They got to keep the money, some of which apparently made its way to Philo where more than $3 million was spent to buy Highland Ranch from George Gaines. The Halls also own a lavish ranch in Colorado.

THE HALLS set up a charity run by daughter Jaimie seeded with $10.8 million, and it's that charity that seems to be the funding device fueling the fortunate Miss Hall's Blackbird Farm in Philo. Blackbird says it's an organic farm that brings in underprivileged youth for stays in lavish rural circumstances that the individual underprivileged youth probably hasn't even seen on television.

EXCEPT for the ranch foreman, all the old Highland Ranch employees have been sent packing. They say the Halls first drove down their pay to minimum wage then sacked them.

OUR FAVE LOCAL FARMERS WRITE: "Thus far June has paced itself more deliberately. This has been one of the loveliest springs we've experienced in our thirteen years out here. Recently we had another 1/3" of rain, very unusual, sandwiched by several days of overcast with moderate temperatures all of which thrilled every growing thing, including the wild grasses (and we fear the bugs and fungus). The weed whacking has been and will continue to be endless. The bobcats seem thrilled too and are proliferating. A few days ago yet another chicken was snagged in broad daylight, number 8 this year, and despite hearing the chicken ruckus and running out as fast as we could, the cat was over the fence and gone leaving only a trail of feathers. Not only do we lose a laying chicken in her prime, but the rest of the flock become too upset to lay for a few days. The trap is set and we're awaiting our third cat capture for the season."

ABOUT A WEEK AGO, a young man, 24, was driving wild and fast, headed west on the Ukiah-Boonville Road. That's 16 miles of twists and turns, including a couple of precipitous hairpins. He was late for work at a local restaurant, or would be late if he didn't step on it. So he stepped on it all the way over the hill from Ukiah when, about six miles from Boonville he lost control of his car and over the side he plunged.

The report we saw said he'd tumbled fifty feet off the pavement, but it was more like 30, although he'd bounced off an embankment and a couple of trees and big rocks on his way down. It must have seemed like an endlessly long fall to the kid. He may even have entered the White Tunnel with smiling strangers beckoning to him at the Uh Oh I'm Dead end.

The car was absolutely crushed, and the kid would have been crushed too except he was drunk and miraculously placed in such a way that he was somehow protected from death. God looks after drunks and children, they say, and this guy was really drunk and not all that removed from childhood, so drunk he would read 2.7 on the Loop-O Meter.

So there he was way down in Soda Creek and not visible from the road. And he was upside down in the wreckage. And drunk, very drunk. Somehow though, he managed to extract himself from what should have been his steel coffin and started to climb out to the road. In the wrong direction. South towards Yorkville. Sober, it would have taken him a couple of days to get somewhere that wasn't one ridge after another of seldom-trod forest, several more streams, open meadow. Maybe an armed trespass grow. That's all there is back there.

At the top of the first ridge out, very, very drunk and with a big gash in his head, our hero re-oriented himself and struggled back to the Boonville-Ukiah Road where he was soon tended to by the angels from the Anderson Valley Ambulance and much less sympathetic officers of California Highway Patrol.

Major head trauma, an arduous hike in the wrong direction and he still blew a 2.7! And he was on his way TO work, not FROM work. It's not unknown for restaurant staffers to down a few after-hours belts, but you've got to be reasonably sober during work. We have to wonder if the kid had shown up for work at 2.7 what his employers would have done. 2.7 is staggering drunk for even experienced juicers. One assumes that you can't have a guy dropping dishes, bumping into tables and peering down the dresses of attractive customers.

The kid's vehicle was towed to Starr Automotive in Philo. Starr is a discreet tow service whose stories, if they ever told them, would make wonderful reading. Locals marveled that the young man had survived. His crushed car was briefly a sort of visual cautionary tale.

A few days later the boy's father turned up with two young people in tow. They were the drunk's younger brother and sister. Dad wanted them to see their brother's car, and if that sight didn't teach them not to drink and drive, nothing will.

DAVID SEVERN COMMENTS on the Reach-Calstar merger: "Reach is a for profit outfit, Calstar a nonprofit. So in the merger Calstar abandons somehow its nonprofit status. Reach is owned by Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc., the second largest medical air transport company in the US. Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc is in turn owned by KKR & Co. LP, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. Originally started by Jerome Kohlberg, Henry Kravis and George Roberts, they became infamous for being the main players in the leveraged buyout debacle of the 1980s. Personally Kohlberg owned the Toll House on Highway 253 for a while though he has sold it and also resigned from the company. Last year he died at 90."

"THE BRAMBLES — Anderson Valley's newest vacation spot blends ecotourism with the area's historic past."

Thus begins the introduction to a permit application recently filed by Philo's James Roberts. "In the summer of 2016, than The Madrones [the wine-themed commercial complex south of Philo] owners, Jim Roberts and Brian Adkinson will be offering a sneak peek for travelers searching out a wilderness experience at their new sister property: The Brambles. The first accommodations available on the property are located in the historic homestead which has been recently restored. The stick and shingle style architecture which is typical of the late 1800s and the heyday of the timber boom is crafted out of the original old-growth redwood boards. Over 100 years later and the owners nod to the Valley's historic past while creating a vision for the future and conserving the area's natural resources. Located next door to The Madrones and adjacent to the hamlet of Philo, this 12-acre ancient redwood grove is bordered by Indian Creek. The Brambles is partnering with the Nature Conservancy to restore the water flows to a sustainable level which will create a beneficial habitat for local salmon and steelhead to spawn. The greater property is currently slated for a 2017 Midsummer opening. The accommodations will be a mixture of treehouses and vintage styled bungalows. In addition there will be a Victorian style stumpery, central campfire pavilion, future natural swimming pool with vegetation filtration, event barn and orchard meadow as well as an historic train car used for dining and private parties. Early summer bookings for the homestead guest quarters will be available this spring at" The parcel is nextdoor to the old abandoned Philo mill.

AT LAST WEEK'S Community Services District board meeting, Philo resident Gene Herr said that since The Brambles proposal would mean a large Philo parcel would serve tourists and preclude permanent housing for locals, it would be a significant departure from the County's General Plan. Ms. Herr thought the proposal should be publicized more and more local comment should be made to the Planning Department regarding the project. She also said the proposal should be withdrawn because, once in place there will be no chance to convert it to residential housing. The CSD Board did not respond and took no action.

CALTRANS HAS AGREED to place a pedestrian crossing sign near the bustling Yorkville Market in the hope that traffic will be slowed to pre-Daytona speeds. Fire Chief Andres Avila told the Community Services District Board that Caltrans had already done some tree trimming in the area of the sign. Board Chair Valerie Hanelt said she expected that the slow down plea would be installed "soon."

DAVE EVANS, Mendocino County's premier live music presenter, who brings big time acts to his Navarro General Store and Theater, the most unique venue in all of America, is gearing up for another big summer of music under the redwoods.

ON FRIDAY, July 8th the featured performer will be "LaBonfire." On August 6th the ever popular Sub-Dudes. Randy Hansen on August 27th will present a Jimi Hendrix Revolution Tour. On September 7th we get Joe Louis Walker; and on October 1st Robben Ford (plus the Ford Brothers Blues Band) will perform.

POLICE CALLS. A deputy (not named but probably the long suffering Deputy Craig Walker) was dispatched last week to a residence on Philo-Greenwood Road where a "verbal dispute" between two women over "H&S" (marijuana). The woman reporting the disturbance said she had access to "two firearms" and sounded predisposed to use them on the other woman, sisterhood be darned.

WALKER probably also had the sad duty of trying to talk a despondent Navarro woman out of harming herself.

APOLOGIES to defendant Kelly Boss of the Holmes Ranch. The marijuana-related charges Boss faces do not include guns.

THE NEWLY ELECTED President of the Philippines says he'll award medals to people who kill drug dealers. We understand the sentiment. Case in point: A born and bred Boonville man, not a bad guy who wouldn't be in any trouble ever if he could withstand the lure of white powder. He was arrested two weeks ago for stripping the inactive Philo mill of its copper wiring. Copper thefts and methamphetamine have become synonymous throughout our drug-saturated land, and Mendo County, where meth is prevalent, is no exception. Copper can be quickly converted to cash at the scrap yard in Ukiah where it can also be easily traced by the police. And was, and our guy was arrested with even more copper pipe stashed in his truck. This particular guy is one more person brought low by the drug. Clean for years with a good paying job, he recently relapsed, hence his doomed copper caper. Meth kills, and most places people wouldn't miss the people who sell it with no regard for its lethal consequences.

LIZ DUSENBERRY writes: "The A.V. Library will reopen Saturday June 25th. Our $4 a bag book sale will start and last through the end of July. Our last open day will be August 2nd, when we close for the summer. So come on in and stock up on your summer reading. Library hours Tuesday 1:30 - 4:30 and Saturday 2-4."

ABOVE AND BEYOND. Kathy Cox has again taken six students from the high school and six adults to Oaxaca where they'll study at the Language and Culture Institute. She's been leading these most valuable learning expeditions for years now, and by golly here she is from Oaxaca:

"Hola a todos. We have finished our first week in Oaxaca. Things are going very well. The kids have been great! They are enjoying their classes and the city. The weather has been pleasant, a little rain every day and not too hot. We now have some accomplished salsa dancers and some weavers. Their Spanish language skills improve daily. We are all looking forward to the weekend and the opportunity for a little R&R. Currently, Oaxaca is the location of a large demonstration of support for a national teachers strike. It has been an interesting learning experience for the group to observe. One result of the strike is that the buses are not running consistently. As a result, after consultation with the American Consulate here, we have decided to fly next Saturday the 25th to Mexico City instead of via bus. The plane tickets are about $100/ea which was not budgeted. We have bought the tickets and you can reimburse Jeff when we're back in Boonville. According to the consulate this strike happens every year between May and June...causing minor inconveniences for travelers, but no danger. We did not want to risk missing our flight out of Mexico City, and upon discussion, concluded this was the most prudent choice. I am thrilled with the progress the students are making with their Spanish and with their openness to each new experience. They are great travelers. Jeff's phone number is (707) 357-1896 -if you have any questions or concerns feel free to call after 1:00 today or on the weekend or next week."

AS A WARRIOR'S FAN, I'm not sad the Warriors lost Sunday night. The Cavs won every quarter, came all the way back in the series when it looked like the Warriors would sweep, and LeBron showed why he's the greatest player in the game. Ever. Heard some ESPN drone compare him to Wilt. LeBron is all-round better than Wilt was. Draymond Green played a great game. Everyone else was off. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “The Cavaliers deserved it.” They did. The Warriors disappeared in the last ten minutes of the game. But they certainly gave their fans a very good season and us fans have nothing to complain about. When one thinks back to the dry years, or more accurately the dry decades, when the Warriors never even came close to making the playoffs, these last two years were more than any fan could have hoped for.

THE ANDERSON VALLEY Historical Society is a non-profit, volunteer organization who collects, researches and shares the rich history of Anderson Valley. Their annual meeting/public presentation on Sunday, July 17 will include a presentations about Boontling, the whimsical local language once spoken widely throughout the valley. Students from Nadia Berrigan’s High School Computer Class will share details on their Cemetery mapping project, and there will be music, food and fun. We hope everyone interested in preserving local history will help out with contributions to the Society as it upgrades and perhaps even expands.

One Comment

  1. Debra Keipp June 22, 2016

    Check out Morning Glory and Otter G. Zell, who changed his name to Oberon later, on their website. Morning Glory was quite a woman. She died a few years ago. What a couple!

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