- Rain Forecast
- Jury Duty
- Autumn Leaves
- Walk & Bike
- Senior Fundraiser
- Public Radio
- Dumpster Warning
- Grape Harvest
- Yesterday's Catch
- Prop 64
- Ranked Choice Voting
- Teflon Nobel
- Weed Water
- Consumer Protection
- Going Where
- Two Women
- Creatively Writing
- Real Pynchon
- Make Airplanes
IT’S GONNA RAIN!
Satellite imagery shows the approach of an atmospheric river aiming toward the Northwestern California coast. A series of storm systems is expected Thursday through Sunday bringing periods of heavy rain, strong south winds, and large surf to the coast. (National Weather Service)
FROM HUMBOLDT COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT:
“Last week, the Humboldt Superior Court jury staff began phoning prospective jurors that had failed to complete jury service. Because of a low appearance rate of 25%, the Court has been using a five day telephone standby process in order to have jurors available for jury trials. In addition to telephoning jurors who have failed to complete jury service or to be excuses [sic], the Court may issue an order directing the Sheriff to escort individuals to the courthouse for jury service and/or may issue an order to show cause for appearance at a court hearing. Sanctions that could be imposed against prospective jurors who are found in contempt of court for failure to complete jury service are: assessment of a fine, incarceration, or both.
Trial by jury is a constitutional right and jury service is an obligation of citizenship (CCP, 191).”
I WAS ABOUT to say, “Don't get me started…” but it's too late. Never has the judicial system been more remote from public control. Judges are automatically re-elected, but they never really leave office, because even when they do "retire," they work for exalted stipends as fill-in judges around the state. At the moment, I believe Mendocino County has about 20 "retired" judges pulling down a couple hundred bucks an hour saying, "I'm going to continue this…" until the other guy gets back.
THE JURY SYSTEM, as it dysfunctions here in Mendocino County, is as inconvenient to the citizens it allegedly serves, as it is in Humboldt. Much public distress with the jury process would disappear if the law said the first 12 people to show up were the jury. After all, we vote and it's the voter registration rolls from which our names are drawn for jury duty. One civic-minded voter is as good as the next, one would think.
INSTEAD, we drive from all over vast Mendocino County to sit in the County Courthouse basement where we watch a highly idealized video on how it all works then, since the lawyers upstairs have played Let's Make A Deal with the would-be defendant, and we're all sent home.
IF THE CASE GOES FORWARD, we're summoned from the basement for fine-tuning. We get to watch the lawyers on either side play Perry Mason, as they narrowly consider reactions to subtle questions like, "You know the defendant?" Then seated as a juror, you listen to mostly incoherent arguments about the guilt or innocence of a person almost always caught in the act of committing a crime.
(JUDGES, HOWEVER, RECUSE themselves on the flimsiest pretexts to duck out of politically sensitive matters. I watched a judge remove himself once because he said he'd done some business with a relative of a witness. How hard is it in a small town like Ukiah not to do business with a person twice removed from a witness? And, natch, we won't even mention the cowardice of the local justice system when the person who should be tried is not because he's, gosh, a Nice Person? cf Doctor Peter Keegan. Beat his wife to death nearly six years ago, no indictment.) Or the guilty person who can afford a strong defense? He's not going to jail even if they have movies of him committing the crime.)
I USED to show up for jury duty until the day both lawyers laughed as I was dismissed. "Oh, no. Not you. No way you're getting on a jury." Har de har. And defense attorneys, for years now, have quizzed potential jurors, "Do you read the Anderson Valley Advertiser?" If the answer is Yes, no jury duty for you.
FOR MANY YEARS, like many people, I simply ignored summonses for jury duty. Why show up for an automatic rejection? I can stay in Boonville and get rejected every place I go without driving to Ukiah for rejection.
I FINALLY WROTE a letter saying don't even bother summoning me because I am not coming. And that's where it stands with me. It's bad enough that the courts are so casual about YOUR time and travel and inconvenience, but ask The Robes some time why THEY don't come to us?
YEARS AGO an arrogant, entitled little fellow called Combest, a judge out of Covelo, complained when he was required to drive to Point Arena to hear a case. Combest said it was tough for him to make the trip. But it's not inconvenient for Point Arena people to drive to Ukiah, of course, and that's what citizens of Mendocino County have had to do for years now — drive from wherever they live to Ukiah to sit in the basement, watch an insulting instructional movie that bears no relation to the reality upstairs, get dismissed because the legal masterminds have settled out of court. Or you're simply bounced from the jury because one of the yobbos arguing the case don't like your looks.
FORT BRAGG'S TEN MILE COURT? Privately owned, leased back to the County at extortionate annual rates. It was sold as a boon to Coast people, to spare them a trip to Ukiah, although lots of stuff still goes to Ukiah. Or Willits. Oh, wait. They closed the Willits Courthouse because it started to fall down about a month after it was built.
BEFORE THE PRESENT judicial arrangement, we had justice courts all over the county. And each community elected its own judge who did not have to have a law degree. People simply voted in a man most people thought was fair and honest. People with law degrees, you see, are more honest and more fair than your neighbor who you know for a fact from personal experience is honest and fair.
THE LAWYERS who comprise our state legislature, by fiat, destroyed the old system. The justice court jobs (among the most lucrative sinecures anywhere in the land) went to people with law degrees, people who had passed the State Bar Exam. Here in Boonville a dopehead who'd been playing naked grab-ass in the hills after law school was soon sitting in judgment of us. Stoner Dude is still shuffling around the state as a substitute judge off the few months he sat in the Boonville Justice Court, which was subsequently abolished when the whole show went over the hill to Ukiah.
THIS ON-LINE COMMENT from Lost Coast is perfect: "I go in when summoned and have never been seated on a jury. Just dismissed sitting in the basement. How 'bout I have the judge and lawyers come to my house first thing in the morning, waste a quarter of their day and then send them back to work. This does not seem like there is a lack of folks, just more inefficiency in our court system.”
SORRY. I don't know why I'm shouting at you like this. We get ripped off in so many ways by the government we pay for, but this particular swindle always gets me going.
* * *
PS (by Mark Scaramella): “…the Court may issue an order directing the Sheriff to escort individuals to the courthouse for jury service…”?
Title 28, USC Section 1866(g): “Any person summoned for jury service who fails to appear as directed may be ordered by the Court to appear and show cause for his or her failure to comply with the summons. Any person who fails to show good cause for non-compliance with the jury summons may be fined $1,000.00, imprisoned for not more than 3 days, ordered to perform community service, or any combination thereof.
We kinda get that the Court “may” order the juror to show cause, and, narrowly speaking, we get that there could be a fine and imprisonment and community service. But “directing the Sheriff to escort individuals to the courthouse for jury service”?
“NOT GUILTY, Your Honor!”
ON WEDNESDAY WE RECEIVED THIS PSA introduction: “Walk and Bike Mendocino is creating healthy communities by making it easy to Walk & Bike. We promote walking and biking as a primary transportation choice in short distance travel in Mendocino County. Functioning as a non-profit, public benefit organization (501(c)(3)) W&B staff support pro walking and biking governmental policies and infrastructure, provide public education, and collaborate with other organizations and volunteers working on similar or supportive projects to meet shared goals. What would we need to do in order to get our PSA aired? It is attached. Thank you. — Yanik Zuluaga, Field Coordinator, Walk & Bike Mendocino. YZuluaga@ncoinc.org”
MR. ZULUAGA’S ATTACHMENT is a short .m4u audio file just over a minute long. I guess we’re supposed to somehow figure out how to post this short psa which was obviously read by Mr. Zuluaga and sent to us because who couldn’t agree with the warm and wonderful goal of walking and biking? (Mr. Zuluaga couldn’t just send us the text of the psa he read into a recorder — On no! He sends us a recording of him reading it — to a NEWSPAPER!
SO WE went to the trouble of trying to find a link to the press release or its text. Oh boy. Mr. Zuluaga’s email address says he’s part of North Coast Opportunities (ncoinc). So we went there. At the bottom of a list of 14 separate dubiously helpful but fancy looking projects each with its own “program director” or “project coordinator” or “project manager” and each with its own web-page and staff, we found “Walk & Bike Mendocino,” (the only one without a Project Director listed) which in turn sent us to a separate Walk & Bike Mendocino webpage which in turn sent us to the Walk & Bike Mendocino website. Once there, we went to “who we are.” And, of course, we found the Walk & Bike Mendocino “Director,” a weirdly cheerful Mr. Neil Davis and his four person staff of “field coordinators” (aka bike riders, including Mr. Zuluaga) and a “lead traffic safety educator.” In addition we found their “advisory board” of Tarney Sheldon, Jed Diamond, Holly Madrigal, Mary Anne Landis, Dr. Marvin Trotter and Linda Helland. (That’s right, the “walk and bike” people need an “advisory board.”)
WHAT WE DID NOT FIND was 1. The audio file they want us to somehow toil over to figure out how to post (a non-standard audio format to boot) and 2. their source of funds.
WE DID FIND that Supervisor Dan Gjerde is on the NCO board, so we sent him an email asking where Walk & Bike Mendocino gets their operating funds.
AV SENIOR CENTER OCTOBER FUNDRAISER
Don't miss out, reserve your tickets now for the Oktober Fest Fundraiser, Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the big barn in Philo, next to the Anderson Valley Farm Supply. Tickets are limited so get them early. You can call the AV Senior Center at 895-3609 for ticket locations.
DONATE TO REAL PUBLIC RADIO
A Clear Choice. Help Out Real Radio, KMEC & KNYO.
KZYX is run by Mendocino County Public Broadcasting, a corporation run by people so inept that, even with $140,000 to $190,000 every year in tax-derived CPB bailout money, it (corporate speech) claims it can't afford to pay good local airpeople to do their shows and it even requires them to use their airtime to beg for even more money to pour down the rat-hole of its secretive, Nixonian administration. Somehow — and they've never given an open accounting as to exactly how — they blow well over half a million dollars every year, with nothing to show for it. One year not too long ago they managed the magic trick of spending over three-quarters of a million dollars. And I repeat: they don't pay their airpeople, and they refuse to even consider paying them.
When you're smarmily reminded by KZYX by mail or on the air of how important it is for you to donate and become a member to keep the great shows on the air (as they put it), they are lying to you. There's no other word for it: they are big fat liars.
KMEC in Ukiah gets by on $20,000 a year. They don't get any government grant. They need your money much more than KZYX does. KNYO in Fort Bragg gets by on between ten and twelve thousand a year. They don't get a government grant. They also need your money more than KZYX does. There's rent on the storefront performance space, and electricity, and city water to flush the toilet and wash your hands, and so on. If KNYO had just a little more money it could have a much better mixing board in the main place and more guest microphones, and it wouldn't cost much to power-blackout-proof the transmitter and every one of the many satellite studios KNYO airpeople use.
Support KMEC: http://kmecradio.org
Support KNYO: http://knyo.org
Also, if you have a great show to offer and you take it to KZYX, they will not schedule it. They will keep on syndicated shows from Boston and Minnesota, and they will run and rerun the same recorded syndicated shows over and over in the night, and they will keep on ossified airpeople who show up with nothing, no preparation, no dedication, who sleepwalk through their airtime, and they will put you off for years, ignore you and/or insult you, and when you point this out they will go, See? We don't want someone on KZYX who gets upset after we pissed on you and treated you with disdain for a quarter of a century. We were right all along to exclude you and your work. Ta ta.
If you take your show to KMEC or KNYO, they will make an effort to schedule it. Here's my experience: When I brought my show (Memo of the Air: Good Night Radio) to KMFB in early 1997, Bob Woelfel told me how much underwriting I had to bring in to pay for it, and I went out that afternoon and drove around and arranged it, and my show went on that week, and Bob paid me for my time on the air, a cut of the underwriting, and also paid me for maintenance work at the station. When I brought my show to KNYO in 2012, Bob Young met me at the studio, showed me what to click on to get on the air, pointed at the microphone switch, and my show was on the schedule the next week. When I contacted Ed Nieves last year about getting my show on KMEC, there was a problem with other shows conflicting for the time, so he told me he'd talk to the others and move things around until it could work, and set Sid Cooperider on the technical case, and now my show is not only on KNY0 107.7fm in Fort Bragg 9pm-4am every Friday night, but I also have KMEC 105.1fm from midnight to 3am the same night. That was almost 15 years on KMFB, and it's almost four years for KNYO and a year for KMEC, respectively.
Just to let you know: that's how it goes at a real public radio station. That's how it can go for you.
KZYX doesn't need your money. KMEC and KNYO do; the only difference between them and KZYX is the difference in allowable transmitter power. When the poobahs at KZYX tell you that it's fifty to seventy times as complicated and expensive to run their station compared to KNYO, that is just another part of their ongoing big fat lie.
Marco McClean, email@example.com
NORTH COAST GRAPE HARVEST WRAPS UP BEFORE RAINS COME
by Bill Swindell
A grape harvest that again started earlier than usual this year has essentially wrapped up in the North Coast, about two weeks ahead of the typical end of the season and before weekend rains that could have presented major problems for winemakers.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect at Rodney Strong Vineyards in Healdsburg, where workers on Wednesday received their last bunch of grapes, cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. The pick came right before storms that are expected to come in Thursday night and dump several inches of rain through Sunday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
“Today is our day,” said Ryan Decker, grower relations manager at Rodney Strong. He added that anything more than half an inch of rain from a storm could pose problems for wineries. “The imminent weather kind of forced our hand a little bit.”
The season will be noted for mostly ideal weather for the more than $1.1 billion cash crop: adequate rainfall during the winter, a frost-free spring, and a few short heat spikes during the summer that provided a quick and steady pace of picking since kickoff on July 28 in American Canyon.
There were a few reports of powdery mildew, a fungal disease that can ruin the fruit.
“This year has just been beautiful,” said Michael Silacci, winemaker at Opus One in Oakville. “The pace of harvest was amazing.”
The only major downside was again the growing lack of available labor in the local industry as a result of immigration restrictions and competition from the construction industry. That led to more machine picks during the year.
Rodney Strong relied on more machine picks from vineyard management companies this year given the worker shortage, Decker said, though it prefers hand-picked grapes. Its hillside grapes and fruit for high-end wine are still picked by hand, he noted.
But the winery’s hand was forced this year in some cases when its winemaking team wanted to schedule a pick.
“We either pick in two and a half weeks (by hand) or in three days with a machine,” he said.
This year’s yield will be larger than last year’s crop for Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake counties — 402,489 tons. Last year’s crop followed three years of massive crops, growers say.
The Ciatti Co., a grape broker, has predicted a crop of around 500,000 tons, which would be above the 10-year average of 463,000 tons. The company predicted more than 150,000 tons for Napa and more than 210,000 tons for Sonoma.
The vast majority of North Coast grapes are under contract for wineries before the season begins. But those who were looking for additional grapes, especially in pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, found a very tight market, said Brian Clements, vice president of Turrentine Brokerage.
“Whatever was delivered to the wineries wasn’t enough,” Clements said. “The market demanded and wanted more than Mother Nature could provide.”
The vintage should benefit from the mostly temperate weather during the summer, which allowed the winemakers to decide when they wanted to pick rather than being forced by the temperature or other weather conditions.
“I think the cooler vintage overall really helped preserved a sense of freshness in the wine,” said Caleb Mosley, senior viticulturist of Michael Wold Vineyard Services in Napa. He said the fruit in Napa Valley had beautifully resolved tannins with deep color.
(The Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
CATCH OF THE DAY, October 12, 2016
STEPHANIE ALBAN, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
RUSSELL GREEN, Willits. Domestic assault.
JOSE MARTINEZ-AGUILAR, Sacramento. Controlled substance, possession of drugs while armed, loaded firearm in public.
MANUEL MENDOZA-ROSAS, Ukiah. Controlled substance, possession of drugs while armed, loaded firearm in public.
KENNETH PARTRIDGE, Santa Rosa/Fort Bragg. Mail theft, attempt to commit a crime.
DUVAL PHILLIPS, Potter Valley. DUI.
SERGIO RODRIGUEZ-ZAZUETA, Ukiah. Pot cultivation, possession for sale, probation revocation.
DEAUNDRA SIMON-COLEMAN, Richmond/Willits. Protective order violation.
10 THINGS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU ABOUT PROP 64
A simple guide to the Adult Cannabis Usage vote
How will you vote on Prop 64 this November?
Before you answer, do you really know what’s actually in the 62-page proposition? It’s a lot more complicated than just deciding whether or not you want to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
This massive ballot initiative lays out a pretty comprehensive plan for taxing, regulating, permitting, and licensing the cannabis industry along with eliminating or lessening penalties for possession.
If that makes your eyes glaze over, it’s understandable. After pouring through the hefty document, we’ve come up with 10 surprising facts about Prop 64 you might not know.
- Prop 64 is about the regulation of marijuana, not just about toking up legally.
While the passage will mean adults over 21 can use recreational marijuana (at some point), Prop 64 is mainly about regulating the marijuana industry in California and gathering millions (possibly billions) in taxes and fees each year.
That means clear(ish) rules about permitting, testing and overall transparency in the California cannabis industry. Some are worried that the layers of state, county, and city permitting may be debilitating to California’s small growers. Testing regulations, however, that address issues of mold, dosing, and THC levels could lead to safer and more consistent products.
One big plus for small growers is the Cottage Cannabis Farmer’s Bill just signed by the governor that allows modified rules for grow operations smaller than 5,000 square feet or 50 plants. Large commercial growers (more than one acre outdoors, or 22,000 square feet indoor) will not be licensed until 2023.
- Even if marijuana is legal in California, you aren’t necessarily going to have easy access…
So here’s a big issue: Localities trump state law. Cities and counties can allow voters to choose whether or not to allow cannabis businesses. But here’s the rub: Areas that ban the businesses won’t reap cannabis-related money allocated to police and safety programs. If localities allow adult use, there are many issues (like zoning and permitting) that will have to be decided at the local level. For example, Sonoma County has extensive zoning regulations currently under consideration that cannabis businesses will have to comply with. Regardless of local mandates, if Prop 64 passes, adults will still be able to grow up to 6 plants (sort of, because there are a lot of rules on odor, visibility, and leased properties) and possess limited amounts of marijuana legally.
- …Or be able to light up a joint just anywhere. Actually pretty much nowhere.
Anywhere you can’t smoke a cigarette, you can’t smoke marijuana. Add to that any public place, park, federal land, your car or anywhere near where children are present. You can smoke in a private home (as long as you aren’t bugging your neighbors or your landlord) and at certain businesses licensed for on-site consumption. Think coffee shop or lounge, but no booze or tobacco can be sold in these licensed locations.
- Recreational marijuana isn’t going to be available for a while. Like maybe 2019?
Don’t plan to line up at the dispensary on Nov. 9 and get legal marijuana. You’ll still need a physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana to buy legally as the permitting process for adult recreational use goes into effect. Prop 64 opens the gate to legalized adult use of marijuana, but many timelines are unclear, especially at the county and city level. Permitting processes will begin in January 2018 at the state level, providing a path to regulating the industry, but it will take time for states and localities to get in sync with clear permitting and zoning laws. Plan to cool your heels for a good while.
- How much is 28.5 grams?
Under the ballot measure, adults would legally be able to possess 28.5 grams of marijuana (flowers, leaves) and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana (bubble hash, shatter, concentrates, etc.) If you’re not familiar with the measures of bud, that’s about an ounce, which doesn’t sound like much until you know how marijuana flowers are usually measured. A “dime bag” is usually about a gram, while 1/8 ounce (3.5 grams) or 1/2 ounce (14 grams) is a typical measurement sold in dispensaries. For a recreational user, an ounce is actually a pretty decent amount of marijuana.
- What about the black market?
Prop 64 aims to “incapacitate the black market” in California with regulation that will be enforceable. Easier said than done, but it does make clearer those who are operating inside and outside the rules of compliance. With such a long history of operating in black or gray markets, it seems unrealistic to think that the entire cannabis industry is going to want to be subject to regulation. Black-market operators who circumvent not only the growing, but transportation, legal processing, and testing will lessen their overall costs and raise profit margins. Tempting, right? However, those in the regulated businesses will likely not want to jeopardize their licenses by working with black market businesses and law enforcement will have clearer targets.
- Protecting children is addressed extensively in Prop. 64. But is it enough?
One of the most divisive issues of this Prop. 64 is “normalizing” marijuana usage and exposing children to recreational use of what the federal government still classifies as a Schedule 1 drug. Opponents say we’re going down a dangerous path that could result in higher drug usage by kids, exposure to media messages advertising marijuana and concerns about safety for youngsters. If passed, significant tax revenue would be set aside for youth drug education, drug treatment programs, police enforcement and public safety. Prop. 64 also sets out rules about labeling, packaging, marketing, and child-resistant packaging, along with advertising guidelines. Does it go far enough? Opponents say no, but the proposition does allow for a lot of wiggle room to make changes to the law.
- Organic Mendo Gold is gonna be a thing
Get ready for marijuana with a pedigree. Prop 64 allows for AVAs (American viticultural areas) similar to wine, so regions known for primo cannabis (like Humboldt or Mendocino Counties) can advertise that fact (as long as it’s really grown there). Also, there are regulations and testing for using the term “organic” on cannabis.
- Wild salmon love Prop 64
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Prop 64 finally puts some serious teeth into the environmental effects of growing and processing—notably water. In a drought-stricken state, water is a big issue and unregulated farming and processing resulted in some serious environmental damage, including pesticides, waste runoff and damage to public lands. Money will be set aside to deal with damage, with state agency oversight regarding water usage and environmental impacts.
- The price of pot is gonna go up
Growers will be paying cultivation taxes, along with permitting and licensing taxes (to some degree it’s mind boggling how many hands are going to be dipping into their pockets) from the state level to the city and county level. Consumers will pay 15% state tax as well as any additional local government taxes (county, city). Though it’s still a bit unclear, medical patients may be taxed at a lower rate.
Oh, and just so you know, even if California votes YES on Prop 64, marijuana growing, possession and transport are illegal according to federal law.
This is just a first pass at a few of the details of Prop. 64. Much bigger issues of social justice and public safety will be investigated more thoroughly in future articles.
If you want all the nitty-gritty, here’s a link to BallotPedia (a sort of longer guide) or the full text of Proposition 64. You really should take a look.
(Courtesy, EmeraldReport.com, part of SMI Media Investments, which owns the Press Democrat, Sonoma Index-Tribune, Petaluma Argus-Courier and Sonoma Magazine. Its purpose is to give a look at the culture of medical marijuana. PD reporters will also contribute interesting videos.)
RANKED CHOICE VOTING: BOGUS "GOOD GOVERNMENT" IDEA THAT REFUSES TO DIE
Voting in general is getting easier and more convenient, unless you live in a red state where Republicans are trying to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Here in Progressive Land there's early voting and few obstacles.
Once you're registered, however, the artificial complication begins with the dumb, delusional Ranked Choice Voting system. From a recent story in BeyondChron:
In San Francisco, ranked choice voting will help voters choose among the many candidates running this November. There are nine candidates vying for the open seat in District 1 (currently held by Eric Mar); five candidates in District 7 (currently held by Norman Yee); four candidates in an open seat race in District 9 (currently held by David Campos); and five candidates in the open seat in District 11 (currently held by John Avalos).
No, RCV won't help you choose, since you can only make three choices after you have already gone through the process of sorting out the candidates and finding three you find acceptable.
Like a lot of people, I often find it hard-to-impossible to find even one acceptable candidate, let alone three. This was the case in the November, 2011, campaign for Mayor of San Francisco, when there were 16 candidates.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi was the only candidate who was even minimally acceptable to me, so I simply chose him three times. If he's eliminated in the first round, so be it. My candidate loses and someone else wins. But that's what elections are about: there's always only one winner in the end.
The only good thing about RCV: it saves money, since the city doesn't have to pay for run-off elections.
But run-off elections should be an important part of the process; they force a debate between the two leading candidates on the issues. As it is, during campaigns candidates now play down their policy differences to woo support from other candidates so that they can get voters' second and third choices.
The city's Advisory Committee on Elections warned about this when RCV was on the ballot in 2002:
...there could be collusion between various candidates to be listed on each other’s campaign literature as their second or third choices. The cost of that collusion would be to reduce the level of meaningful debate on the issues and to hide ideological differences. The losers would be the voters and the media who would be unable to discern one candidate from another.
That's the way it works now, with the bland leading the bland and the least offensive candidate winning in the end. That's what happened in District 5 in 2012, when there were 12 undistinguished candidates—-politically indistinguishable, actually—-for District 5 Supervisor. I couldn't bring myself to vote for any of them.
We ended up with London Breed, who didn't know much of anything and was quickly co-opted by City Hall on all important issues. A run-off election between Breed and Christina Olague might have revealed that reality.
City voters don't like the RCV system, as the last poll that asked about the issue showed.
(Rob Anderson, District5Diary)
JOHN JONIK WRITES:
Since Alfred Nobel is famed as the inventor of dynamite, perhaps it is fitting that Obama, before he did anything to deserve it, got that Nobel Peace Prize...especially now with the Obama administration's funding and support of the horrific Saudi bombings in Yemen...for starters. Think "R.I.P."...about peace after all. Did the Nobel Committee know ahead of time that he'd be such a champion of deadly explosives? It is apparently widely understood...a given...that no one is permitted to get near being US President unless they are inclined towards military "solutions" for any and all perceived international problems. The idea of instituting a draft of US military contractors (certainly those which don't patriotically volunteer to come to their country's defense without a thought of profiteering) is a non-issue across the board. Internet search for "Obama Return Nobel Prize" turns up a surprising number of calls, currently and over time, for Obama to return his grossly undeserved prize...but those stories have been blindingly invisible in mainstream media, even in "alternative" media (which, apparently, sees any attacks or even slurs on Obama, and by association, on Clinton, as gifts to the Right Wing). Talk about "Teflon presidents"....
DRY CALIFORNIA FIGHTS ILLEGAL USE OF WATER FOR CANNABIS
by Melena Ryzik (August, 2014)
An abandoned recreational vehicle was the first clue. In this hamlet two hours north of San Francisco and barely a mile from the largest natural freshwater lake in the state, the trailer sat on a hill, hidden from the main drag. Behind it rose a flimsy fence, tall enough to shield its bounty: 50 marijuana plants in hastily constructed wooden boxes.
“This is common,” said Michael Lockett, the chief building official here in Lake County, giving a tour of the now-derelict plot, where a pipe ran from a stream to a large water tank.
It was just one of hundreds of illegal marijuana operations in Lake County, officials said, some of which have been diverting water for thousands of plants.
The scene has been repeated across Northern California. Amid the state’s crippling drought, many communities are fighting not the mere cultivation of cannabis — which is legal in the state, though subject to myriad restrictions — but the growers’ use of water. Marijuana is a thirsty plant, and cultivating it at a time when California residents are subject to water restrictions has become a sticky issue.
When a statewide drought emergency was declared in January, “the first thing we wanted to address was water theft and marijuana,” said Carre Brown, a supervisor in Mendocino County, a major cannabis hub west of Lake County.
By mid-July, the sheriff there, Thomas D. Allman, had already caught growers siphoning water from springs because wells had run dry too early in the season. “I have told my marijuana team, ‘I want you to fly the rivers, fly the tributaries; let’s prioritize the water diversion’,” Sheriff Allman said.
In July, Lake County enacted an ordinance that demanded that growers account for their water supply; as in Mendocino, the county also has a tip line to identify violators. “It’s very pointedly meant to stop a lot of what we’re seeing — the illegal diversions, damming up of creeks, tapping into springs that may be on someone else’s property,” said Kevin Ingram, the principal planner for Lake County.
Late last month, federal and state agents raided the Yurok Indian Reservation in a move requested by tribal elders to halt illegal marijuana farms whose water use threatened the reservation’s supply.
Using Google Earth imagery, the state Department of Fish and Wildlifehas estimated that outdoor marijuana cultivation in Mendocino County and Humboldt County doubled between 2009 and 2012, with what the agency described as disastrous effect. A marijuana plant can consume five to 10 gallons of water, depending on the point in its growth cycle. By comparison, a head of lettuce, another of California’s major crops,needs about 3.5 gallons of water.
Not all marijuana growers are cavalier about their water use. Swami Chaitanya, 71, has been tending — and smoking — cannabis for decades. “I grew my first plants in the shadow of the Bank of America in San Francisco on Telegraph Hill in the early ’70s,” Mr. Chaitanya said. (He adopted the name Swami Chaitanya after studies in India, and prefers it to his given name, which he asked not to use.)
Now ensconced in an off-the-grid farm in Mendocino County, Mr. Chaitanya and a few helpers produce a small crop of medical marijuana plants for an Oakland dispensary. Their beds are watered daily from tanks fed by a spring on the property. To minimize the environmental impact, he said, he recycles his wastewater. This year, he has also reduced the number of plants, he said.
“Most people we know are saying, ‘We’re growing less because of impending drought,’ ” Mr. Chaitanya said. “We have a responsibility.”
Environmentally minded marijuana growers say that illegal operators and water guzzlers are giving them a bad reputation. Seth Little, 28, an organic medicinal marijuana grower near the Lake County town of Clearlake, said neighbors could be resentful. “They just think that we’re all kind of dooming everything,” he said, “and stealing everybody’s water, and dumping chemicals into the aquifers.”
Mr. Little, who has been growing marijuana for nearly five years with a special irrigation system designed to minimize water use, said many fellow growers had been heedless of the water problem. “A large percentage of them are just really not environmentally aware; they’re not in compliance,” he said.
But the artisanal ways of Mr. Little and Mr. Chaitanya can conflict with the demands of the market and, sometimes, the law. Because there are countywide restrictions on the number of marijuana plants even legitimate growers may keep, Mr. Chaitanya said, they have an incentive to make those plants as robust as possible — and that means using more water. Mr. Chaitanya suggested that the problem was exacerbated by confusing regulations.
Sheriff Allman of Mendocino County was skeptical of this. “That sounds like logic they’ve made up after smoking a joint,” he observed.
But, he added, the environmental offenders are not the stereotypical marijuana grower.
“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.”
(The New York Times)
CONSUMER PROTECTION TAKES A HIT
Yesterday, 11 October 2016, the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, dealt a devastating blow to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The Court ruled that the structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional. The Court did, however, reject the idea of shutting down the CFPB.
House Republicans are hailing the the decision is good for democracy, economic freedom, due process and the Constitution.
Today, the leadership of the House Financial Services Committee spoke briefly after a press conference. The comments were off-the-record and not for attribution, but they provide insights into why it has been so hard to bring real reforms to Wall Street, the Dodd-Frank Act notwithstanding.
Here's what they said:
By design the CFPB is arguably the most powerful and least accountable Washington bureaucracy in American history, and it shows. The Bureau has infringed on the economic freedoms of consumers, limited their financial choices, increased their costs, and failed to hold managers accountable for widespread discrimination and abuse of its own employees. This must change. The CFPB has an important mission. Properly designed and led, it is capable of great good. But the Bureau’s bizarre and defective structure allows it to evade the time-tested checks and balances that are necessary to hold it or any other government bureaucracy accountable. Our Constitution requires these checks and balances to protect our God-given liberties from government abuse. It is astonishing that the Democrats who voted for the Dodd-Frank Act so casually disregarded their constitutional obligations to the American people. It’s also astonishing that President Obama illegally bypassed the Senate by appointing Richard Cordray to serve as the Bureau's Director. It is time to restore the rule of law and Constitutional governance to this nation. While House Republicans welcome today's decision, it’s absurd that a judicial opinion was necessary.
The Financial CHOICE Act, approved by the House Financial Services Committee last month, solves the constitutional defect identified by the court today. The Financial CHOICE Act replaces the current unaccountable single director with a bipartisan, five-member commission – which is how virtually every independent regulatory agency, including those responsible for consumer and investor protection, currently operates.
Republican efforts in the Financial CHOICE Act to reform the Bureau are and have always been grounded in the fundamental belief that all government bureaucracies should be accountable to hardworking taxpayers, especially those bureaucracies like the CFPB that can spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year with no oversight or control from Congress or the executive branch; that employ an army federal employees; and that have a direct impact on the personal finances of virtually every American citizen.
Does anyone want to be a call-in guest on my radio show on this recent decision?
We air every Monday at 1 pm, Pacific Time.
Please, let me know.
John Sakowicz at www.kmecradio.org
GOING WHERE THE LONELY GO
Rollin' with the flow
Going where the lonely go
Anywhere the lights are low
Going where the lonely go
Making up things to do
Not running in all directions, trying to find you
I'm just rollin' with the flow
Going where the lonely go
And I've got to keep goin'
I can't lay down
Sleep won't hardly come
Where there's loneliness all around
I've got to keep goin'
Traveling down this lonesome road
And I'll be rollin' with the flow
Goin' where the lonely go
(performed by Merle Haggard, written by Scrapper Blackwell)
HILL V. SHILL
I am ashamed to admit I totally fell for Hillary's October Surprise. But fortunately for only 24 hours. A friend in Texas and another in California reminded me of my own thoughts not long ago that "Trump is assuredly a shill planted to manipulate people to vote for HRC. Obviously it is working if even you, of all people who knows better than nearly everyone how everything is a rich man's trick, are saying you'll vote for her. Jill Stein is offering everything the world needs now," my woman friend in California e-mailed me yesterday morning.
Trump's most disgusting remarks to date about women were made eleven years ago in 2005 and they're just now surfacing? What perfect timing! This sounds to me like something out of the CIA's vast Department of Disinformation's playbook. I'm not suggesting Trump didn't say all this. I'm just questioning the timing.
"They" let him run for president for awhile making HRC look good all along, then to really knock him out of the race when he closed the gap too much, they dropped his own words on him.
Funny how the media gave Trump all kinds of good exposure early on, as if they didn't know what kind of buffoon he was, then suddenly turned on him with his own miscogynist remarks. One thing this has revealed is that the Clintons are definitely Establishment and Trump is NOT. HRC can be counted on to do everything she is ordered to by whoever is really running the US government. My guess it's Wall Street and the Pentagon with the CIA running foreign policy. But Trump is a wild card who might for instance refuse to provoke the Russians into at least some hot name-calling.
That the USA is in serious trouble economically cannot be denied. Wall Street is on the verge of hysteria. What better way of diversion than something more serious like war. Niccolo Machiavelli, 16th Century Florentine statesman and writer suggested to a young prince that his first act after taking control of his country should be to trump-up a war with his weakest neighbor. In one stroke, he would emotionally motivate and unite his people behind him by exploiting their programmed need to divide the world into us and them. At the same time, he got his people fighting for their collective status and pride rather than squabbling among themselves and fighting him and his administration.
And I maintain no one gets into the White House without being vetted by the CIA—"Capitalism's Invisible Army" as Buckminster Fuller called it. This bunch of gangstas is one of the group that runs the US government and the Clinton's have a long history of playing nice-nice with the Agency. See link below. And for more information on the biggest outrage of the 1980s, Google "Wikipedia Iran-Contra Affair."
Just a reminder—there are TWO WOMEN running for president of the USA and one is a healer rather than a professional politician or businesswoman. If you don't know about Dr. Jill Stein, find out. Your life may be at stake. And check the links below how the unelected have been running the USA and for decades.
JUST IN FROM ALA MOANA
Spiritually-Focused Creative Direct Action Groups Needed Now!
Comfortably seated in the food court of Honolulu's Ala Moana Shopping Center, cooling off with a large peanut butter moo'd from Jamba Juice, all is relaxed and groovy here. Just concluded a lengthy conversation about the critical need in postmodern America for spiritually-based direct action groups to be formed and fully engaged, particularly on the New York City~Washington D.C. power strip. Ordinary forms of protest, demonstrations, and lately even longer term efforts are increasingly ineffective. This is mostly because government and multinational corporations are machine-like, lack conscience, have no interests beyond financial profit, and only change when forced to do so. The 2016 American presidential election is proof that the United States is moving in the wrong direction. Spiritually based direct action is the corrective, to basically force a global civilization to go in the right direction. Individuals must be spiritually focused, and then engaged in creative direct action representing radical environmentalism and peace & justice. There is no other intelligent way to go. I am seeking others who understand this. At this time, I am in Hawaii where I have been creatively writing, and have been considering what future course to take in the face of global ecological implosion, and the increasing social chaos. I am willing to return to the mainland, am ALWAYS seeking housing since I have used up my travel hostel time in the NYC-D.C. area until next spring, and I wish to be active near the monster's mechanical heart on Wall Street and in political D.C., for the purpose of cutting it out and burning it.
Feel free to send this message out to your friends. Please contact me at:
Craig Louis Stehr
A FORT BRAGG LITERARY SAGA
(began as mystery, ended as tragedy…)
by Donald Foster
And although I met Thomas Pynchon one evening in Berkeley in June of 1967, I cannot say I really know him.
— Andrew Gordon, “Smoking Dope With Thomas Pynchon” (1994)
Little, really, is known about the life, looks, or immortal soul of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. Born on Long Island in 1937, he shares a May 8 birthday with such notables as Harry Truman, president; Sonny Liston, boxer; Ricky Nelson, one-time teen idol; and Beat poet Gary Snyder. Scion of an old New England family, the novelist is believed to be a great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the William Pynchon whose religious tract, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650), was condemned for its heretical opinions and burned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Literary historians and cult followers say that Thomas Pynchon attended Cornell, left school to serve in the Navy, returned to college, changed his major from engineering to English, and completed his degree in 1959. Pynchon has since been credited with the authorship of, among other works, five mostly great novels — V (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity's Rainbow, (1973), Vineland (1990), and Mason & Dixon (1997) — an oeuvre that has become grist for a cottage industry in professional literary studies, including a scholarly journal called Pynchon Notes. He does not like having his space invaded.
Everyone who has ever made it through Vineland, or read The Crying of Lot 49 for a college English class, knows the Pancho Villa story. The year was 1963. When Time's book editor dispatched a photographer to Mexico City to take Pynchon's picture to accompany the magazine's glowing review of V, the novelist fled to the hills, taking refuge behind an enormous mustache that inspired the locals to call their shy Yanqui guest “Pancho Villa.” V’s author has been missing in action ever since. The last known (or supposed) photograph of Pynchon is from l955, or rather that was the last, until 1995, when editors for New York magazine published a reputed shot of Pynchon's backside as the novelist walked down a Manhattan sidewalk with his only begotten son. But the New York photograph only added to Pynchon's reputation for ineffable divinity (cf. God to Moses: “After I have passed by … I will take away Mine hand and thou shalt see My back parts, but My face shall not be seen” Exod. 33:22-23). A year later, the London Sunday Times Magazine published a full Monty of Pynchon & Son's violated privacy, an Instamatic point-and-shoot, taken by the aspiring paparazzo James Bone. Not everyone believed it was Pynchon. Some Pynchonophiles (as they call themselves) say that Thomas Pynchon is not even real. Some say that his novels were written by J. D. Salinger, or by the Unabomber, or by an extraterrestrial sapience, or by a secret organization. Or that Thomas Pynchon is really Wanda Tinasky. Or vice versa.
“Along with some lesser Counts,” the Rev is replying, “'twas one of the least tolerable of Offenses in that era… the Crime they styl'd 'Anonymity.' That is, I left messages posted publicly, but did not sign them.”
— Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dlxon (1997)
An age is darkened when truth lies not in what is said, but in who says it.
— Wanda Tinasky, Mendocino Commentary (28 July 1983)
In the 1980s, a seemingly insoluble mystery perplexed the denizens of Mendocino County in Northern California: Who is Wanda Tinasky, and who in hell does she think she is? Wanda wrote scathingly funny critiques of local artistes and politicians, publishing her observations in the same periodicals in which community activists, left and right, agitated, and in which local poets contributed their musings on the eternal verities. Ms. Tinasky described herself as an elderly Jewish bag lady, a White Russian émigré living outside the Fort Bragg limits, under a bridge (Fort Bragg is a foggy coastal hamlet inhabited by bohemians, loggers, fishermen, and hemp farmers, not to be confused with Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the U.S. Army's Airborne Division and Special Ops). Ms. Tinasky confessed to being “old and poor and funny-looking” with “gaposis and halitosis and B.O.” She admitted to eating out of garbage cans and to dressing out of the free box. But after eighty-some years her mental faculties were still sharp. “It is a bas canard,” wrote Wanda, “or in the Queen's English, a duck fart, that I am an alcoholic escapee from a mental institution.” In 1984, soon after getting started in this epistolary vein, Wanda was booted from the Mendocino Commentary for her biting assessment of the local Literature Industry, and for remarking, urgently, that the Commentary's poetry editor “wouldn't know a poem if it bit her in the ass in broad daylight.” Wanda promised to continue exercising her critical rod with welt-raising vigilance: “'Whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth.' (The Lord, c'est moi).” Banished from the Commentary, she found a new home in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, an upstart leftist weekly published out of Boonville (an actual town in the Anderson Valley), a paper whose “old-fashioned masochistic horsewhippable editor,” Bruce Anderson (no relation to the Valley), promised to print anything, any time, and did. While professing herself devoted as always to Reader's Digest and to the mystical writings of Nicholas of Cusa, Wanda penned a testimonial saying that the AVA was absolutely the best paper in Northern California. In fact, after her underwear gave out (she said), she sometimes used the AVA for that purpose and was quite satisfied.
In dozens of letters published in the AVA from 1984 to 1988, Wanda reviewed American television (“TV is no worse than smack and coke, the slobs just don't know how to handle it, that's all”); media stars (“I admire Phil Donahue for calling himself a 'workaholic.' Phil's idea of work is sitting under a hair dryer”); and politicians (“Ronzo [Reagan] claims he doesn't wear makeup on TV — the likeliest story since Linda Lovelace claimed she thought she was getting a tonsillectomy”). Most of Wanda's commentary, however, concerned the lamentable state of the arts in Mendocino County. Week after week, Wanda detailed the vers libre crimes of such artsy-fartsy coteries as the Ten Mile River Poets, the Albion Ridge Poets, and even Wanda's own secret society of one member, the Pudden Crick Poets. In her original verse for the AVA, Wanda roasted the canonical authors along with the local hempen homespuns (on Ezra Pound's Pisan Cantos: “He brought out Joyce & Eliot— / There must be something in this s*** — Wanda Tinasky”). Wanda's sharpest barbs were reserved for the doyennes of local culture, such as Beth Bosk, host of Eve in the Afternoon, a controversial radio talk show. (Bosk's advice to listeners included such locally famous advice as “When a woman is bleeding, she should go into the garden and squat. It's good for the plants.”) Wanda wrote tolerantly to the AVA of being “amused or stimulated” by Ms. Bosk's radio show, “never infuriated or bewildered.” (“It is true that once, in trying to say 'fecund,' she spoke a word not commonly met in family broadcasting or publications, but I was not outraged by it.”) Despite their differences, Wanda hoped Ms. Bosk would continue to think of her as a comrade, although not in arms.'
In September 1988 Wanda's letters abruptly stopped. The AVA carried on without her. But in 1990, while reading Vineland, Bruce Anderson felt a shock of recognition. Lights went on. Bells rang. “Wanda Tinasky” was Thomas Pynchon! In a 1986 letter, Wanda had professed to be writing a “thinly veiled novel of life in romantic Mendocino County” — and eureka! here it was: Vineland. Pynchon, while researching the novel, had resided somewhere in Northern California, no one knew just where, but Vineland was populated with aging hippies like those evidently known to Wanda Tinasky from her wanderings in Mendocino County and from her pit stops at Fort Bragg's Tip Top Lounge. On March 21, 1990, after running the Pynchon-Tinasky attribution past the noses of a few Pynchonophiles, Bruce Anderson announced his discovery: “SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED. The justly famous American novelist, Thomas Pynchon, is almost certainly the pseudonymous comic letter writer, Wanda Tinasky…” The announcement was greeted with a flurry of letters, also published in the AVA, one signed “T. Pynchon,” another, “T. Pinch,” still another, “Wanda Tinasky-Pynchon,” each one hinting that Bruce Anderson could be right, or he could be wrong.
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
— Thomas Pynchon, “Proverbs For Paranoids” (1973)
Personally, whenever I see one of those bumperstickers that say, “Question Authority,” I always write “Why?” on it.
— Wanda Tinasky, Letter, Mendocino Commentary (28 JULY 1983)
It was in June 1996, a few weeks before Joe Klein fessed up to Primary Colors (but half a dozen years after Bruce Anderson first looked into Vineland and saw the spittin' image of a Fort Bragg bag lady), that reporters and book editors began calling me about The Letters of Wanda Tinasky. Edited by TR Factor, fully annotated in semi-scholarly fashion, the Letters were now on sale and believed by many, including Ms. Factor, especially Ms. Factor, to have been written by Thomas Ruggles Pynchon. Though interested, I had not yet seen the letters and could not comment.
Following Joe Klein's July 17 Primary Colors confession, the calls resumed, on the Literary Influence theory that if Joe Klein or his agent lied about Anonymous, then Pynchon and his agent may have lied about Wanda. In October, after a “Who's Wanda?” call from the Washington Post I finally gave in to my curiosity and wrote to Bruce Anderson, editor of the AVA, to inquire how I might obtain a copy of the Tinasky Letters, if only to speak in a more informed way when reporters or reviewers phoned. A few days later, I received a package mailed from Oregon, the first of several, from a person who introduced herself to me as “TR [no periods] Factor.” (I never did learn what the “TR” stands for. “Thomas Ruggles,” perhaps.) The goodwill parcels from Ms. Factor included a digital and hard copy of the Letters, plus back issues of the AVA, plus reams of material about Pynchon, plus contact information for a dozen Pynchon scholars, all free of charge, and with no strings attached except an obligation to demonstrate, the sooner, the better, that Thomas Pynchon really was Wanda Tinasky, the bag lady of Fort Bragg.
Taking me under her wing, TR for the next three years advised me to get off my academic duff and deliver the inevitable verdict. From Ms. Factor's point of view, Pynchon's authorship of the Tinasky letters was transparently obvious. A firm denial by Pynchon's wife and literary agent, Melanie Jackson, had forced upon TR, and upon the whole Pynchon Establishment, a rhetorical posture of agnosticism (“The Literary Mystery of the Decade” TR called it in her advertising); but TR felt the proofs were as strong as Holy Writ. Stronger, even. The Wanda Tinasky Research Group had discovered beaucoup evidence that Wanda was Tom, and Tom, Wanda. There was the internal evidence: Ms. Tinasky had employed a highly unusual word, a slang term used also by Pynchon: Wanda, like Tom, wrote “86d” to mean evicted. Wanda, like Tom, constructed elaborate puns, tossed off obscure literary allusions, and peppered her work with wacky original limericks and song lyrics. Like Tom, Wanda spoke irreverently of literary book awards & exhibited an unkillable fondness for the ampersand. The two writers employed similarly eccentric symbolism. In one of her earliest letters to the AVA, Wanda had suggested that Bruce Anderson rename his paper “The Boonville Bugle.” In Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49 a muted bugle is a central if meaningless symbol, the emblem of “Tristero,” a secret postal system. Lot 49's protagonist, Oedipa Maas, finds the bugle emblazoned, among other places, on the walls of a women's latrine. Wanda Tinasky professed to have been a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, during which time, she said, she had entertained herself by “writing on the walls of unobservable places such as the women’s can.” How much evidence did one need, for god's sake?
Then, too, there was a world of biographical and ideological coincidence. Like Wanda, Pynchon had an ancient interest in the Beat poets and in obscure rock and roll (but in the '50s, I reasoned, among aspiring American writers, who didn’t?). Both Wanda and Pynchon waxed nostalgic for the counterculture of the '60s; both were skeptical of modern technology. Pynchon was believed to have composed Vineland on a manual typewriter, an Underwood — the same make as Wanda’s! (But that was bad information: Pynchon's typewriter was an Olivetti.) TR's smoking gun was a 1985 letter in which Wanda mentions having worked for Boeing Aircraft “about thirty-five years ago.” Pynchonophiles knew that while writing V the novelist was employed by Boeing Aircraft — from February 1960 to September 1962. (Go ahead, do the math!) For TR Factor and fellow members of the Wanda Tinasky Research Group, you didn't have to be a genius: those little Pynchonian clues added up.
There are some irregularities, Miz Maas.
— Thomas Pynchon, The Crying Of Lot49 (1966)
While reading TR Factor's annotated edition of The Letters of Wanda Tinasky, I was slow to perceive the obvious. Wanda was witty, smart, and well read. She may have read Pynchon, but she did not seem (to me) very Pynchonian. I had trouble hearing, in Ms. Tinasky's blatantly satirical prose, the rhythms of V or Vineland or Gravity's Rainbow. For one thing, Wanda was too funny. Pynchon wields his irony like a rapier, deftly. Wanda's punch lines usually left some Mendocino County poet or other bleeding on the floor. I looked at Wanda's language and texts from every angle — Wanda's diction, grammar, syntax, her political and literary sensibilities, topical allusions, reading matter, internal biographical evidence — all of which seemed (to me) a poor match with what I knew of Thomas Pynchon. But then, I did not really know Thomas Pynchon. Other scholars had vouched for the attribution, one of whom was reported by TR to have ventured a hundred-to-one, a thousand-to-one odds” against Wanda Tinasky's identity matching that of any writer except Pynchon. (Okay, that particular scholar had changed his mind the next morning, reversing the odds, but TR felt sure there were other Pynchon scholars who had seen the light, and who would endorse the attribution if they were not such bleep-sucking cowards.) TR arranged for collectors of Pynchoniana to supply me with photostatic copies of rare letters actually typed and signed by the novelist, but these yielded only fresh cause for alarm. Wanda usually put an unnecessary space between a quotation and the quotation marks, front and rear, or between marks of parenthesis and the bracketed phrase, “ like so ” and ( like so ). Pynchon did not. Nor did the typeface for Wanda's surviving letters match that of Pynchon's original typescript of Vineland, sample pages of which were sent to me by John Kraft, a scholar who was himself skeptical of the Pynchon attribution. Charles Hollander, however, a Pynchon expert enlisted by the Wanda Tinasky Research Group, affirmed that the handwriting of Wanda Tinasky and of Thomas Pynchon were “nearly identical,” especially the lowercase c, m, and t. Hollander's remark reminded me of Malvolio's mistaken text analysis in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (“These be her very c’s, her a's, and her t's and thus makes she her great P’s”). To my admittedly fallible eye, in no way did Pynchon's hand have the cut of Wanda Tinasky's.
Wanda and Pynchon appeared to have followed different paths to the Northern California coast. For one, Wanda seemed older. To illustrate her critical observations, she recalled obscure news stories as early as 1938, from the days when Tom Pynchon Jr. was still in diapers. Topical references in the Tinasky letters placed Wanda in Washington State in the 1950s, Northern California throughout the 1960s. Wanda spoke of her past acquaintance with Lance E. Davis and John R. Meyer, distinguished scholars who graduated with B.A.'s in 1950 from the University of Washington, and with various Beat poets, mostly on the West Coast. None of that sounded to my ears like Pynchon's biography.
Then, too, Wanda was just too damned mean to be Pynchon. Most of Pynchon's rare public statements consist of generous book-jacket blurbs for other authors. In his known letters, Pynchon similarly praises other writers while deprecating his own work. Pynchon seems disinclined to take out the kneecaps of aspiring writers (except, perhaps, of journalists who invade his privacy). I could not imagine this man, a successful and critically acclaimed novelist, holed up in Mendocino County dashing off letters to the AVA, skewering local poets, harpooning fish in a barrel as a morning warm-up exercise while writing Vineland. And the hypothesis that Pynchon would call Alice Walker “a purple-assed baboon” (as Wanda had done) was unthinkable. Was that Pynchon's style?
Pynchon And The Pynchonesque In Mendoland
You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
— Thomas Pynchon, “Proverbs For Paranoids” (1973)
And here they are, now. Find the remote, get out the Snapple and Chee-tos, and like the Love Boat staff always sez, Welcome aboard.
— Thomas Pynchon, Liner Notes For Lotion’s Album, Nobody's Cool (1995)
Before opening a parcel from “Fred Gardner” of San Francisco — no one I knew — I matched the address with a phone number and dialed up Mr. Gardner to ask what he had sent me. Enclosed in the parcel, explained Gardner, was the nonexplosive product of his own painstaking literary research, outlining his reasons for believing that a comic West Coast letter writer calling herself Wanda Tinasky was actually Thomas Pynchon; and that a sexually ambiguous West Coast virago calling herself TR (no periods) Factor was a mendacious, usurping, plagiarizing, typescript-stealing, opportunistic, goddamn bleeping bitch. Or words to that effect. Fred had heard from Bruce Anderson that I was interested in the Wanda phenomenon. Fred was interested, too. The Letters of Wanda Tinasky was his baby, snatched from his arms, he said, by his late-arriving editorial assistant. Mr. Gardner had sent me a copy of his work, together with a single-spaced, twenty-page report in which he detailed how badly he'd been bleeped over by Miz bleeping TR Factor. He was thinking, now, about suing her pants off, and it would not be pretty.
Fred Gardner was no Boonville yokel but a man of the world, a sixties radical and a onetime boyfriend of Jane Fonda (1969-1970, after Roger Vadim, before Tom Hayden), back when he was organizing GI coffeehouses to radicalize the U.S. Armed Forces (which was another project that never totally worked out). He works today as Public Information Officer for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. In 1994, Gardner intended with his friend and fellow journalist Alexander Cockburn to edit an AVA sampler that would feature commentary by Bruce Anderson and other Mendocino County wits. Searching back issues for the liveliest material, Gardner hit upon the Wanda Tinasky letters, learning from Anderson that Wanda may have been Pynchon, Fred realized that Bruce was sitting on a gold mine. Gardner volunteered to gather the necessary evidence for Pynchon's authorship and to edit the Tinasky letters into a book. The Wanda Tinasky Research Group was born, an organization composed of Fred, his son Marc, and another Pynchon enthusiast, Steve Howland. Alexander Cockburn wisely bailed, wishing them all the best of luck.
In his twenty-page single-spaced history of TR Factor's book-editing caper, Fred explained to me that it was he, not Factor, who did the research for the annotated Tinasky. It was he who transcribed and edited the letters, solicited scholarly commentary, and personally interviewed every living individual ever mentioned by Wanda, friend or foe, from Boonville to Seattle to Boston to L.A. and back again. Then he hit a snag. In June 1995, as the typescript neared completion, Gardner wrote to Melanie Jackson to let her know what was coming down. Ms. Jackson wrote back to say that a mistake had been made: that Pynchon was not, in fact, Wanda Tinasky, and had never pretended to be. (“I have conferred with the author and his editors and publishers,” said Ms. Jackson, “and no one can see any resemblance between his work and any of these letters… Thomas Pynchon's name cannot be associated with your project in any Way.”)
The course of true literary detection never did run smooth. Mulling over Melanie Jackson’s strong denial, wondering if (just possibly) he had been bamboozled, Fred Gardner, on a tip from Beth Bosk, drove to Oregon to interview TR Factor, a former Mendoland resident and contributor to the AVA who Bosk believed was the real Wanda Tinasky. TR denied it (“Be still, my beating heart!” she exclaimed to Fred, upon learning of the attribution. “Thomas Pynchon has read my prose.”). TR graciously volunteered to join the WTRG, assisting Fred with the annotations for $10 an hour, with deferred wages until after the book went to press and started making megabucks.
The Gardner-Factor partnership, rocky from the outset, soon turned acrimonious. Fred thought TR's annotations too long-winded. TR thought Fred too bossy, and deficient in his typing skills. Fred advised caution in ascribing the letters to Pynchon. “Wimp!” said TR. The showdown came in the last week of August, in Boonville. Fred and his new assistant got into a huge screaming match that lasted for two days, hour after shrieking hour, barely avoiding (according to one eyewitness) knockdown fisticuffs, a fight that Fred would probably have lost, if it had come to that. One of them had to go, either Fred or TR. Fred walked.
When The Letters of Wanda Tinasky was finally published in June 1996, “Edited by TR Factor,” the new editor tipped her cap to Fred in the acknowledgments, then shed his blood in a two-page diatribe in the AVA. “Nothing Fred had was usable,” she explained, “much less professional… not an iota, smidgen or mote of scholarship… A high school typing student could have done a better job and without the scores of errors.” And then she took it from there. The thought occurred to me that I could be in trouble with this Ms. Factor if I said that the Wanda letters were not really by Thomas Pynchon. She took her Pynchon very, very seriously. Not wishing to have a falling-out with Ms. Factor, I back-burnered the Tinasky letters while looking for an opportunity to slip out the back door unnoticed. If Thomas Pynchon got himself into this mess, he could probably get himself out of it without my help.
In April 1997, while I was still working, by day, on my report for the Unabomb prosecution and wondering, by night, how to break the news to Ms. Factor that I could not give her the endorsement she had hoped for, Ron Rosenbaum, a columnist at the New York Observer, saved the day. Ms. Factor and the Tinaskyites had demanded a cogent, reasoned argument that Melanie Jackson was lying about Pynchon's nonauthorship of the Tinasky letters. Rosenbaum delivered the goods. Appearing on the eve of Mason & Dixon's publication, Rosenbaum's April 1997 article on The Wanda Tinasky Letters highlighted Pynchonesque features of Wanda's prose that Rosenbaum himself dubbed “The Cap/Cape of Invisibility Riff,” “The riff on reverse Schadenfreude,” and “the disappearance of Maxwell Perkins-type editors” (lines of attributional argument that I still do not fully understand or appreciate but that made perfect sense to many Pynchonophiles besides Mr. Rosenbaum). There was also Wanda's don't-lose-your-ass riff. Rosenbaum cited an episode in Pynchon's V in which a man born with a golden screw in his navel removes it, only to have his ass fall off. “But think about the name Tinasky,” counseled Rosenbaum. “Break it down to tin ass key. A tin key that unlocks the ass, a golden screw that holds the ass on.” Could that be a coincidence? I thought it probably could. But it made Ron Rosenbaum wonder aloud “why whoever Wanda is hasn't come forward — unless it is the Man himself.”
There was more. Rosenbaum had received an advance copy of Mason & Dixon, which had not yet hit the bookstands. Taking advantage of this sneak preview, Rosenbaum made the hitherto unreported observation that one of Pynchon's characters in that book signs a letter (like most eighteenth-century epistlers), “Y'r ob'd't s'v't.” That also happened to be Wanda Tinasky's trademark sign-off, or pretty close: “Yr. ob'd'nt Servant, &c., Wanda Tinasky.” Rosenbaum's announcement sent a shock wave from New York to Boonville and back, registering ten points on the Richter scale at Tinasky Central. A jubilant TR Factor shot me an e-mail from her Oregon hideout concerning the “Y'r ob'd't s'v't” in Pynchon's soon-to-be-published Mason & Dixon. “If this is true,” said TR, “Pynchon may as well have autographed the Wanda Tinasky books himself”
Until Rosenbaum hopped onto the Tinasky bandwagon, it might have been enough for me to say: “Get real, folks. Thomas Pynchon is not, was not, and never will be Wanda Tinasky, not in her wildest dreams.” But after six years of a slowly growing Wanda cult, and with new converts being won over daily by Mr. Rosenbaum — who professed also to know that it was not really Shakespeare who wrote “A Funeral Elegy” — it seemed to me that Wanda would never rest in peace, nor Thomas Pynchon in Manhattan, until the author of the Tinasky letters was truly identified. That, however, was easier said than done. Wanda could have been almost anyone — anyone except Pynchon — who lived in Northern California between 1978 and 1988. I had no guarantee that Wanda's creator was still living there, or alive at all for that matter. Finding a retired bag lady, a decade after she quit writing, from my own home three thousand miles from Fort Bragg, with no reliable witnesses, no original documents, no tips from the public, and not so much as an authenticated writing sample, seemed a virtual impossibility, like searching for a good three-dollar bill in Fort Knox. One thing for sure: there would be no confession forthcoming. If Wanda Tinasky intended to reveal her identity, she would have done so by now, if only to gloat over having been mistaken for the Great American Novelist Thomas Pynchon. The odds of finding Wanda Tinasky were minuscule.
In August 1998 I decided to give it the old college try. I applied the methodology that might have been employed to help find the Unabomber before the Unabomber was found, and had freakish good luck. It took only a month to track Wanda down.
And the voices before and after the dead man's … searching ceaseless among the dial's ten million possibilities for that magical Other who would reveal herself out of the roar of relays, monotone litanies of insult, filth, fantasy, love, whose brute repetition must someday call into being the trigger for the unnamable act, the recognition, the Word.
— Thomas Pynchon, The Crying Of Lot 49 (1966)
An only child, Thomas Donald Hawkins was born in Pangurn, Arkansas, on January 11, 1927. He grew up in Port Angeles, Washington, where he received local acclaim for his acting skill in high school theatrical productions. After graduating in 1950 from the University of Washington, where he majored in English, Tom married Kathleen Marie Gallanar, supporting his bride as an employee of Boeing Aircraft. In 1955 the Hawkinses moved to Beaumont, Texas, where Kathy went to work for an ad agency and Tom became a studio director for the city's new television station, KFDM-TV. On April 24, 1955, pictures of Tom Hawkins appeared in Beaumont's Sunday Enterprise, one of them on the front page, the other on page C-6 over an article headed “Food Seen on TV Isn't Edible (Shaving Soap Serves as Cream and Coffee Is Plain Dye).”
Quitting KFDM-TV after just two years, Tom worked with Kathy at the Beaumont ad agency, but they returned to the West Coast in 1960. Eager to join the Beat poetry scene, the Hawkinses settled in San Francisco. Tom took a job with the U.S. Postal Service and shocked fellow workers by growing a beard, something that had not been seen on the face of a San Francisco postal clerk since — who knows — the days of the Pony Express. To entertain himself during breaks, Hawkins wrote poetry on the toilet stalls, signing himself “Dr. Mung.”
Searching for a wider audience than those who sometimes sat in a San Francisco post office Employees Only men's room, Tom submitted his poems and letters for publication in Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Journal and Evergreen, and Paul Krassner's Realist — without success. So he started his own house, the Ahab Press, comprised of a mimeograph machine and a post office box. Inspired by Tuli Kupferberg's YEAH, Tom's major publication for the next few years was Freak, an underground newspaper (a “little magazine,” as they were called in those days) featuring the original writings of “Tiger Tim Hawkins” — film reviews, consumer reports, literary criticism, social satire, scatological limericks, crude cartoons, essays on the etymology of sexual slang. Also, jokes about twins separated at birth, a game that Hawkins was still playing as Wanda twenty years later (“Dashielle Hammett and William Faulkner,” “Steve Martin and Governor George Deukmejian,” “Patty Hearst and Dan Quayle,” “Heather Locklear and Barbie”).
In the 1980s, writing as Wanda, Hawkins recycled some of his old “Tiger Tim” material almost verbatim. For example:
Tiger Tim Hawkins, Freak's Clean Poems (1964):
In days of old when knights were bold / And rubbers were not invented, / They trod the ooze in wooden shoes, / And waded til they were contented.
Wanda Tinasky, “Parodies & Congeries,” Anderson Valley Advertiser (1987):
In days of old when knights were bold / & rubbers were not invented, / They trod the ooze in wooden shoes, / & shloshed til they were contented.
Tiger Tim's Freak sold for two bits at the few Bay Area bookstores and Beatnik pubs whose managers made room for it on consignment. Sales were disappointing.
Thomas Donald “Tiger Tim” Hawkins did know good writing when he saw it, even if it wasn't his own. For the Tiger's money, William Gaddis's The Recognitions (1955) was the greatest, most brilliantly original novel ever written. No one else seemed to appreciate that fact except “jack green,” publisher of an underground Manhattan newspaper called newspaper (published 1957-1965). Tom's attributional epiphany came on December l4, 1962. While browsing in Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore, Hawkins discovered a copy of jack green's newspaper no. 12, and began reading. Mr. green, like Tom himself, was a huge Gaddis fan — no, wait, there was more to it! — Tom read on. While studying green's spirited reply to William Gaddis's boneheaded reviewers, Hawkins felt a shock of recognition. Lights went off. Bells rang. The newspaper publisher, jack green, didn't just admire William Gaddis, jack green was William Gaddis!
Hawkins walked home, sat down, and typed Mr. green a letter that very afternoon — on the same manual Underwood typewriter that he would use two decades later when writing as Wanda Tinasky. Typing in lowercase (“as a mark of respect”), Hawkins coyly presented himself to green as a “sweet con fan” of newspaper. The true and undisclosed object of this letter, however, was to investigate, discretely, whether jack green also wrote the Great American Novel The Recognitions by William Gaddis. Tom slyly inquired of Mr. green whether “anyone in any publication, to your offhand knowledge, [has] taken notice of the velikovskyan catastrophism in the recognitions? … I presume that you are in contact with william gaddis; have you discussed this element of the recognitions with him?”
Following this curious paragraph, green wrote one word in red pencil — “No” — and mailed the letter back to Tiger Tim. But that handwritten “No” from jack green's red pencil in 1962 had no more effect on Mr. Hawkins than a typed “No” from Melanie Jackson would have on TR Factor in 1995. Hawkins was now convinced that green and Gaddis were definitely the same guy. Escalating his commitment to this wrong idea, he set forth his theory in a little book called Eve, The Common Muse of Henry Miller & Lawrence Durrell, a self-published paperback in which “Tiger Tim” Hawkins affirmed that “Eve” Durrell and “Eve” Miller were essentially the same Muse; that Eden's “forbidden fruit” was a hallucinogenic drug; and that jack green and William Gaddis were truly the same person. Selling for $1 Eve never achieved bestseller status. Two copies have survived, one at Trinity College (Connecticut), the other at Amherst College (Massachusetts).
More than twenty years later, Hawkins was still trying to win converts for his theory that William Gaddis (author of The Recognitions, JR, and Carpenter's Gothic), was really jack green. In 1963, theorized Hawkins, the prolific Mr. green also began writing under the nom de plume Thomas Pynchon. In a footnote to a 1985 letter to the AVA, Wanda wrote, “The novels of William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon were written by the same person.” Wanda did not disclose who. But a year later, writing to Beth (Eve in the Afternoon) Bosk, Wanda enclosed a few essays by someone named “jack green,” with the explanation that green “did pretty well in the auctorial line with novels published commercially under the names of William Gaddis & Thomas Pynchon.” Who would write that?, theorized TR Factor, in 1995 — who except Thomas Pynchon, trying to fool Beth Bosk into thinking that he was really some guy named jack green?
fabulate (fab-ye-lat) verb 1. To talk or narrate in fables; 2. To invent, concoct, fabricate:
- “a land which … had given itself up to dreaming, to fabulating, to tale-telling” (Lawrence Durrell)
- “praise and curse, laugh and cry, fabulate and sing and, when called upon, take off and soar” (Thomas Pynchon)
It was after Tom Hawkins retired from the U.S. Postal Service that he and Kathy moved north to Mendocino County, buying a small house and three sheds on a lot just north of Fort Bragg. Tom and Kathy's Beal Lane neighbors thought they were a real sweet couple. Tom, granted, was a little eccentric. The Hawkinses had no visible means of support, and no automobile. Tom stretched his budget for food and household supplies by writing letters complaining to manufacturers of defective products, demanding and often receiving multiple replacements. To buy groceries, he thumbed a ride into Fort Bragg, or caught a lift with neighbors, often stopping for solitary drinks at the Tip Top Lounge or browsing Fort Bragg's three bookstores to trade or steal used paperbacks. Lest he should be recognized, he changed his manner of dress and appearance every few months, shifting from clean-shaven to unkempt beard to goatee or bushy mustache and back again. When venturing into town, Tom wore disguises, and always a different hat. His hats, more plentiful than Elton John's collection of sunglasses, were displayed on row after row of Styrofoam heads on the west wall of his writing shed.
Tom Hawkins's opium gardens were lush and flamboyantly beautiful — opium poppies of every color, a scene made more exotic by the strutting peacocks that he kept for watchdogs. (The bane of the neighborhood, the peacocks shrieked at night like crying babies. Tom and Kathleen had no children but treated their peacocks like family.) Tom's favorite pastime, when not in the shed knocking out Wanda letters on his manual typewriter, was to rake the eucalyptus droppings from his yard and poppy plots. Until the back pain got too much for him, he was out there almost every day with the rake, year-round, gathering the eucalyptus pods and leaves and fallen bark into piles. During breaks, he skulked about the neighborhood and would sometimes appear suddenly, unexpectedly, at a neighbor's window, peering in. Sometimes he would say hello. Other days he would just turn and walk away, and go back to his rake, or to his Underwood.
Kathleen Hawkins was a tall, sweet-tempered woman with curly blond hair who looked much younger than her fifty-odd years. Late in life, she came into some money, which gave her a measure of freedom she had not known during her first thirty years of married life. She bought a pickup truck for Tom and an old Honda for herself, learned to drive, and took pottery classes at the College of the Redwoods, where she made new friends. Despite crippling arthritis in her hands, which made every artifact a painful labor of love, Kathleen was naturally gifted in molding clay. With encouragement and assistance from other local potters, she built a kiln, setting up shop at her home on Beal Lane. Tom often puttered about the studio, helping out, sometimes making pots or plates of his own, but Kathleen was the artist. Neighbors said she never seemed happier. Pottery gave Kathy a freedom of expression, a source of recognition and praise, a sense of accomplishment. She produced large plates and vases carved with figures of cranes. At the time of her death she was working on a series of elaborate clay masks, inspired by African models, a few of which still turn up from time to time in Northern California galleries. Her works are signed with a line drawing of a peacock.
Despite their odd ways, neighbors told the Fort Bragg police, and journalists for the Press Democrat, that Tom and Kathy Hawkins were just a pair of “old lovebirds,” and “real nice, real friendly, willing to help you in any way.” No one saw any signs of trouble. One neighbor later speculated that Tom may have been unsettled by the change in his wife and nursed a growing resentment until one day he just exploded. Or perhaps it was the painkillers he took for his bad back, or the opium. In September 1988, three weeks after mailing what would be his last Wanda Tinasky letter to the AVA, Tom bludgeoned Kathy in his pickup truck, crushing her skull.
Amazed, perhaps, at his own ghastly violence, Tom carried Kathy's body inside, into the living room, where he mourned over the corpse for several days until it became infested. On Friday, September 23, he arose and set the house on fire. As a column of smoke rose to the sky over Beal Lane, Thomas Donald Hawkins drove north on Route 1 in Kathy's orange Honda at top speed, soaring into space over the cliffs at Bell Point, crashing onto the rocks ninety feet below. His decomposed corpse was found in the surf on October 6 near Ten Mile River Bridge, five miles from the Chadburn Gulch, where Kathy's Honda lay smashed and sunk. No one, perhaps not even Kathy, suspected that Tom Hawkins was also Wanda Tinasky, culture critic for the Anderson Valley Advertiser.
… Wanda Tinasky amok
like the bodies popped off and
burned in the house at the
top of the hill blazing glory …
— Gordon Leon Black, Mendocino Commentary (1986)
Gordon Leon Black, high priest of Mendoland culture, disliked Wanda Tinasky. For one thing, Wanda had adopted the unpleasant habit of calling him “Back Page Black,” a nickname inspired by the location in which Gordon's original poems could usually be found in the Mendocino Commentary. Mr. Black never figured out who Wanda really was, but he didn't mind saying that he didn't like her Philistine attitude. In fact, he said so all the time. Once, Gordon went so far as to liken Wanda to a killer arsonist. In October 1986, three years into Wanda's epistolary crusade for better poetry, two years before the Hawkinses' domestic tragedy, a former Hell's Angel settled down in Fort Bragg for a virtuous retirement from gang life, along with his motorcycle-mama spouse and their two children. The fellow brought with him a suitcase full of Hell's Angels' money (which he had embezzled) and a trove of borrowed bike parts. In October, someone killed the man's wife and children, then him, then burned the place to the ground with the bodies inside, then vanished.
In a poem for the back page of the Mendocino Commentary, Gordon Black compared this horrific crime to Wanda Tinasky’s unfair literary criticism — “Wanda Tinasky amok.” Those four hapless (”popped off” victims were like the Albion Ridge Poets, and Wanda Tinasky (with her “anonymous attacks in the letters column was like their cold-blooded killer, still unidentified, a nattering nabob of “negative affirmation” whose mockery was not to be endured by those with truly cultural sensibilities. Writing to the AVA, Wanda Tinasky in the next week's issue loudly objected to the imputation:
Dear Mr. Anderson:
Please don't worry if you don't hear from me for an issue or two, as I am a bit distraught about having to move again. This morning a “law man” crawled under the bridge asking for “Wanda Tinasky,” & of course I was co-operative, offering to take a message, & from what he said I gather that some Albion Ridge poet known as Back Page Black published a scurrilous “poem” in the Mendocino Commentary, implying that I was involved in the multiple murders-cum-arson that put Ft. Bragg on the map for a day or two recently. “Aw,” I told him, “Wanda's too puny to do anything but eat nana pudden, & whine to go on the Donahue show,” but I don't know that he was totally convinced & think it the better part of valor to haul ass for a while until this thing blows over — maybe I'll have to sue for a million or two, to defend my goddamn honor. Do you know a cheap lawyer, Mr. Anderson? Would you like to run the Mendocino Commentary for me? I'll be in touch, when I get relocated.
Yr. Ob'd'nt Servant, &c. &c.,
The appended “P.S.” and “P.P.S.” were about other matters.
Wanda at this point in her life was innocent of arson and homicide, and Gordon Black was whistling in the dark about her true identity. But Back Page Black was evidently a shrewd judge of character, even eerily prophetic. In drawing his analogy between homicide and Wanda's literary criticism, Black seems to have known Wanda better than Wanda knew herself. Or perhaps the Hawkins murder-suicide two years later was just another instance of someone's life imitating someone else's art. Even in our secular, unartistic, postmodern age, a piece of poetry or a great novel can sometimes make a small difference, register an influence, change the world.
Fishing For Wanda
You hide, they seek.
— Thomas Pynchon, “Proverbs For Paranoids” (1973)
The linguist's first order of business — when seeking to identify the elegist “W.S., or the novelist “Anonymous,” or the Unabomber “F.C.,” or the bag lady “W.T., or any other anonymous author — is to obtain an accurate text of the Questioned Document(s). The second step is to obtain known writing samples by possible suspects. In August l998, when I finally took up the Wanda Tinasky question, much of that labor was already done for me. Most of the authentic Wanda letters had been gathered and edited by Fred Gardner, and published by TR Factor in the 1996 Tinasky volume. A few may have been overlooked. Others were missing by legal necessity: Beth Bosk withheld permission for a reprint of the Wanda letters that were addressed to her as the host of Eve in the Afternoon and as editor of The New Settler Interview — withholding them not because she was embarrassed by the satire but to express solidarity with her ripped-off friend Fred Gardner against rival editor TR Factor. For my purposes I didn't need every letter that Wanda Tinasky ever wrote, but I did need to cull those that were not true Wanda. A few of the Wanda letters that Factor had thought to be authentic, and had reprinted from the AVA, were transparent forgeries by Wanda wannabes.
From 1983 to 1988, if you were someone who hung out Wednesdays at the Sea Gull Bar, you could tell when a new Wanda letter had appeared in the AVA. Some Albion Ridge or Ten Mile River bard would shuffle into the Sea Gull with a rolled-up AVA tucked under his arm. With hand in pocket, fingering an imaginary Smith & Wesson, the dejected poet would ask his fellow artistes one by one, “Are you Wanda Tinasky?” (“Not I” “Don't look at me!” “Ain't me.” “Nope.”). The latest victim of Wanda's serial criticism would then take a seat beside his colleagues at the Gull — many of them fellow victims of Wanda Tinasky's ridicule — and drown his sorrow in Boont Amber Ale or Belk's Extra Special Bitter (local brews), or a horn of zeese. (The Anderson Valley, home of the AVA, has its own dialect, called “Boontling,” with a homegrown loggers' vocabulary that goes back to the days of the vertical redwoods. A “horn of zeese” is a cup of coffee. A few Mendoland bards have written whole poems in the Boontling tongue, with never a word of praise or encouragement from the likes of Wanda Tinasky.)
Wanda was tough on artistic morale in Mendocino County. In “I Remember Wanda,” Karin Faulkner recalls her colleagues at the Sea Gull plotting a futile revenge on Wanda Tinasky, and on Bruce Anderson, too, for giving column space to that bilious witch. Some wrote anonymous replies to Wanda, or even forged Wanda letters of their own for publication in the AVA, just to get her goat. (Wanda hated that!) Karin never forged one herself, though she knew she “could imitate the style. Any good writer with an imagination could. Letters to the Editor are so short. And print is such an easy place to conceal identity.”
I began my belated search for Wanda ten months after receiving that initial summons from TR Factor. Acting on Faulkner's caveat, I weeded out a few letters signed “Wanda Tinasky” though not penned in her characteristic style. Next I did a quick read through known writings by the local candidates, one of whom was Michael Koepf from the coastal village of Elk, a controversial figure variously described in the AVA as a “fisherman,” a “pot farmer,” and a “Scheiss Koepf.” Mr. Koepf was also a novelist, not widely read, but twice accused (by authentic Wanda) of having forged Wanda letters to the AVA. Koepf's Icarus, once owned by the Fort Bragg Public Library (before it burned to the ground in an arson fire), was rarely checked out. Nor did it check out (when I found a copy in Poughkeepsie) as a text attributable to Wanda Tinasky.
Mike Koepf had told Bruce Anderson and Fred Gardner, and now me, that he knew for a fact that Wanda Tinasky was really Don Shanley, one of the Ten Mile River Poets. According to Koepf, no one in Mendocino County had ever read one of his novels except Don Shanley and Wanda Tinasky, who made fun. Beth Bosk told me that Shanley was her suspect as well. From The Western Edge (Ten Mile River Press) I learned that Don Shanley wrote his first real poem (inspired by Ginsberg's Howl) in 1959. From the AVA I learned that Shanley was a friend of Bruce Anderson's by shared sympathies and good times, a seed wholesaler by profession, and “Horticultural Expert to the Stars” by tongue-in-cheek self-description. None of which got me very far. But when I discovered that Shanley favored the ampersand, & that he inserted spaces ( thus ) inside his parentheses, I asked him for a copy of his collected poems, which he kindly sent me by FedEx at his own expense. But Mike Koepf was mistaken. Shanley's a bright and witty guy, just possibly California's most literate landscape artist, but his life-defining experience as a poet was a gut-wrenching tour of service in Vietnam. There was too much human feeling in his poetry, too little glibness, for him to be true-blue Wanda Tinasky; and the prose was no match, either.
Scratch Mike Koepf and Don Shanley. Scratch Bruce Anderson, Devereaux Baker, the Berry Lady, the Bicycle Man, Beth Bosk, Bill Bradd, Lawrence Bullock, and every other local candidate from A to Zeese. I tried for an eyewitness. Wanda, in a 1985 letter, recalled being picked up while hitchhiking and having to share a cramped truck bed with the classical musician Marcia Sloane and her large cello. I called Ms. Sloane. She remembered riding in the back of a pickup with a middle-aged hitchhiker in a sweatshirt but did not recognize him. She said she would not have recognized Thomas Pynchon, either.
Here's What They're Saying About “ Eve ”
“ Orotund pshit ! ” — G. Legman
“ Laughed & laughed ” — L. Ferlinghetti
“… intriguing. Do you take hallucinogenics? — G. Snyder
— Tiger Tim Hawkins, Freak’s Literary Tertiary (1964)
If you're sap enough to buy a book some whore of a paid reviewer recommends, you get what you deserve.
— Wanda Tinasky, Anderson Valley Advertiser (13 March 1985)
September 7, 1998. It had now been more than fifteen years since Wanda's first letters to the Mendocino Commentary, a decade since Wanda vanished from the AVA, and three weeks since I began looking for her. I seemed to have reached a dead end. The locals had their private theories but no evidence concerning Wanda's identity. I would have to follow some other line of inquiry than eyewitness accounts or inside information. I could look for prior publications, but where, and under whose name? Wanda's principal literary sources were the Beats, especially Gary Snyder, Gershon Legman, Kenneth Patchen, and Kenneth Rexroth, all of whom Wanda appeared to have known and admired, and Paul Krassner, whom Wanda remembered with contempt as a pimple-faced armpit-sniffing “hero of the Kiddiekar revolution.” Wanda professed to have been “ghosting for Krassner while he was ghosting for Lennie Bruce.” That seemed as good a lead as any, but Lenny Bruce, the envelope-pushing comedian who wrote How to Talk Dirty and Influence People (1965), had died of a drug overdose in 1966; and Paul Krassner knew nothing of the Tinasky letters except what he'd been told by Fred Gardner.
While angling for Wanda in 1995, Gardner had interviewed just about every living person named in one of Ms. Tinasky's letters. His net had come up empty. (E.g., Gardner to Krassner: “Did Thomas Pynchon ever write for The Realist” Krassner: “Oh, no. Never did. I've never met him, never had any contact with him. … Nobody ever ghosted for me.”) Gardner had asked the right people the wrong questions.
Searching on-line databases for books about Paul Krassner earlier than 1980, I found five titles, one of which was called Paul Krassner, The Realist, & $crap: Plus a P.S. on it, by “Tim” Hawkins (San Francisco: Ahab Press, 1964). That sounded pretty interesting. In her postscript to a 1986 letter, Wanda Tinasky promised readers of the AVA: “P.S. I'm going to improve myself… & learn to write good and not use ampersands & put all I want to say in some coherent hole without doing a P.S. on it.” This 1964 book by Tim Hawkins—with its ampersand in the title, and a “P.S. on it,” and its apparently hostile reference to Paul Krassner's “$crap” — might shed light on Wanda's cryptic remarks twenty years later.
In a comprehensive computer search, I located only one surviving copy of Hawkins's Krasner, at Columbia University — and that was in the first edition (1963), which lacked the 1964 “P.S. on it.” No matter. Ordering a photocopy from Interlibrary Loan, I learned that Paul Krassner in 1963 had used some of Tim Hawkins's material, not in the Realist, for which the submission was intended, but in a porn magazine called Escapade, with which Krassner was then associated as an anonymous contributor. Furious at having been thus ghosted, “Tim” Hawkins wrote the “$crap” essay, denouncing Krassner for involvement with Lenny Bruce; for making crass jokes in The Realist about Nazism, racial violence, thalidomide babies, abortion, rape, and incest; for contributing to pornographic magazines; and for pleading poverty while making big bucks off the degradation of women. As puffed by Hawkins, Paul Krassner &c. came in “three decorators shades of yellow.”
I wrote Paul Krassner in Venice, California, to ask whether he recalled this episode. Mr. Krassner wrote back, “Don, I vaguely remember the tract but have no recollection of Hawkins. Sorry, P.K.”
At the time, however, the Hawkins publication must have jiggled Mr. Krassner, if only a little. On December 17, 1963, Lawrence Ferlinghetti dropped Tom Hawkins a note after hearing the editor of The Realist flame Hawkins on a Bay Area radio show: “I wonder if you heard Krassner the other night,” wrote Ferlingheni, “when he spent about two hours talking about your book? I think you kind of upset him…” (But at this point in the investigation, I was still looking for a “Tim” Hawkins, and knew nothing of the Ferlinghetti-Hawkins correspondence. That discovery was still a week away.)
Once I thought that “literature” was mainly a means of communication between isolated human beings in a world of uninhabited bodies. I no longer think that.
— Tiger Tim Hawkins, Freak’s Literary Tertiary (1964)
Searching on-line databases of library holdings across North America, I found additional works by “T.” or “Tiger Tim” Hawkins under his own Ahab imprint: Eve, The Common Muse of Henry Miller & Lawrence Durrell (1963), Freak (1962?-1964), Freak's Literary Tertiary (1964), and On the Fairy-Fag Doublet (1964). I ordered copies from Vassar's Interlibrary Loan Office and, while waiting, rang up John Robert Meyer, now a distinguished professor of the history of economics at Harvard — but known to Wanda as an undergraduate at the University of Washington in the late '40s. When interviewed by Gardner in ’95, Meyer had suggested that Wanda could be a woman named Anne Orem, whom he knew while at Purdue. Orem didn't check out. I now asked Professor Meyer if he remembered anyone named Tim Hawkins. No, but he did know a Tom Hawkins, a prankster who grew up in the town of Port Angeles, Washington. The last time Meyer heard from Tom Hawkins he was working for the U.S. Postal Service and hanging out in Beatnik pubs in San Francisco — but that was a long time ago. Meyer hadn't heard from Tom in years.
In a 1987 “Open Letter to Gary Snyder” published in the AVA, Wanda professed to have written a poem, some “18 or 19 years ago, commemorating the birth of Gary Snyder's son (“How big is the moon? Big / As a silver dollar…”). Snyder at the time was “living in a basement apartment on the south side of Pine street in San Francisco, by the Zen center.” Wanda reminisced, as if addressing Snyder: “I disguised myself as a mailperson & took you some miniature pink roses…
I e-mailed Gary Snyder, now a professor emeritus, Department of English, at UC Davis in Sacramento. Did he remember a fellow named Thomas Hawkins? Yes, he remembered Tom quite well. Did Hawkins send him a poem on the occasion of his son's birth, a poem beginning “How big is the moon?” Yes, yes, that was Tom's work. But Professor Snyder had not heard from Tom Hawkins in years.
Taking my inspiration from milk-carton ads for missing children, I sent flyers to Fort Bragg's Tip Top Lounge, Fort Bragg bookstores, the Fort Bragg Seniors Center — asking in boldface 24-point type: “Do you remember TOM HAWKINS?” Evidently no one did. In the meantime, I located a phone number for a Thomas Hawkins of Fort Bragg and gave him a jingle. When he answered the phone, I did not ask: “Mr. Hawkins, are you Wanda Tinasky?” but rather, “Mr. Hawkins, are you the same Thomas Hawkins who was known to the Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder and Kenneth Rexroth?”
This was the wrong Tom Hawkins, but the call was not wasted. This Mr. Hawkins remembered that there was another, older, Tom Hawkins, also of Fort Bragg, who passed away, oh, maybe ten years back, in 88 or thereabouts. Drove his car into the ocean and drowned.
I called the Mendocino County Coroner's office. Yes, they remembered the case. “Thomas Donald Hawkins. Killed his wife, then himself.” (That did not sound to me like anything Wanda Tinasky would have done.) “No kids. Next of kin was an uncle, same name, Thomas Hawkins, of Port Angeles, Washington…” (Port Angeles!)
While waiting for a photocopy of the coroner's report, I turned to the Internet, did a reverse-address lookup for Tom Hawkins's Beal Lane address, and called the current residents, a couple named Ed Sander and Tenaya Middleton. Tenaya, who was not a reader of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, asked if I was the same guy who had called her fellow cellist Marcia Sloane only a few days earlier to ask if she had ever traveled with her instrument in a pickup truck, along with a hitchhiker who may have been “Wanda Tinasky.” I confessed I was. So who was this calling?, Tenaya silently wondered. Some strange fellow from New York with a thing for placing unsolicited telephone calls to Mendocino County cello players? I had not known that Tenaya was a cellist. I explained that I was actually looking for a fellow named Thomas Hawkins.
Tenaya was a big help. On September 23, 1988, she happened to be in the neighborhood visiting a friend and saw the billows of smoke over Beal Lane. It was only by chance, on a tip, that she came to purchase the Hawkins property when it was auctioned off by the executors. Except for the main house, destroyed by fire, the property when purchased by Tenaya was just as Tom and Kathleen Hawkins had left it. In the shed out back where Tom did most of his writing was an old Underwood typewriter and reams of correspondence, most of which Tenaya threw away without reading. But while working through the debris — musty books, unpublished typescripts, back issues of the Anderson Valley Advertiser — she discovered and saved a bundle of cards and letters addressed to Mr. Hawkins from Gershon Legman, Kenneth and Miriam Patchen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Gary Snyder. Graciously, trustingly, Ed and Tenaya sent me the correspondence, news clippings, and other papers that documented the life of Thomas Donald Hawkins.
On September 12, 1998, ten years after Tom Hawkins killed Kathy, his partner, lover, and Muse, with a blow to the head, and took his lonely flight over the Chadburn Gulch, I faxed a letter to Melanie Jackson with the news. Apart from a few hoax “Wanda” letters, Wanda Tinasky, the bag lady of Fort Bragg, was a fellow named Thomas Donald Hawkins, deceased. A few days later, by U.S. Post, I received a thank-you letter, typed, corrected, and signed by Thomas Pynchon. It was no joke. The author of V and Vineland and Mason & Dixon really does exist, and he writes exactly like Thomas Pynchon.
You cannot imagine, my friend, the satisfaction I feel at heaving chicken livers at Mercedes, the release. There's nothing quite like that oozing bloodred slug trailing its path across the hood of an expensive foreign car…
— C.O. Jones, “Self-Expression,” The Letters Of Wanda Tinasky (1996)
Pynchon's meat, to be sure…
— Tr Factor, “Is Thomas Pynchon Wanda Tinasky?” (1997)
How to break the news? After more than a year of receiving TR Factor's heel-nipping correspondence, the woman remained, for me, a shadowy figure. TR had volunteered no information about herself, no credentials, no resume, no phone number, no return address. Before saying who Wanda really was, I wanted to learn who TR Factor really was. Searching through back issues of the AVA, I hunted for stray writings by TR — and became interested in a contributing writer who signed his or her letters “C.O. Jones.” C.O. Jones sounded like TR Factor. And in fact, C.O.. Jones was TR Factor, born and christened Diane Kearney. This fierce Mendocino County polemicist had peppered her political commentary with ad hominem zingers until 1985, when a fellow contributor ridiculed her nom de plume, a pun on cojones (Spanish slang for testicles). “If C.O. Jones needs a pair that bad,” wrote her AVA critic, “she should get her name on the waiting list at Stanford Hospital where they are transplanting baboon balls. Until then, for accuracy in media, she should be called Sans C.O. Jones. [signed] E.N. Tranas / East Palo Alto.” Jones shot off a testy reply, observing that Tranas's name and city could be reshuffled anagrammatically to read: “AN APE SATAN / TOTAL LOSER.” In making this witty riposte, Ms. Kearney-Jones/Factor evidently overlooked the fact that “E.N. Tranas” was already a pseudonym on the same model as her own “C.O. Jones” (entranas: Spanish for bowels).
Feeling underappreciated, Ms. Jones collected her marbles, moved to Oregon, and changed her name legally to TR Factor, where she was found, still sulking, by Fred Gardner in July 1995, and invited by him to participate in the Wanda Tinasky Research Group. A troublesome thought now occurred to me. If I should disappoint TR by saying that the Tinasky letters were not by Thomas Pynchon, what vile anagrams might be constructed from “D. W. Foster / Poughkeepsie” in the letters column of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, or on the Internet, or in the planned second edition of The Letters of Wanda Tinasky?
I bit my tongue and said nothing. Melanie Jackson and Thomas Pynchon now had the scoop on Wanda Tinasky and Tom Hawkins. Let them do with the information as seemed best. I was done with the residents of Mendoland. But they were not yet done with me. In March 1999, Gordon Leon Black — Albion Ridge Poet, author of “Wanda Tinasky amok,” host of classical music on KZYX radio, and all-round high priest of Mendoland culture — wrote to the Anderson Valley Advertiser with his assessment of “Foster's literary detection,” which was not high. Having read “A Funeral Elegy” by W.S., Mr. Black invited Bruce Anderson to print an “ample sample” of the “Shakespeare” elegy and let readers of the AVA decide for themselves whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote it.
I took the occasion of Mr. Black's skepticism to contribute my one and only letter to the Anderson Valley Advertiser (March 17, 1999), observing without fanfare that the “Wanda Tinasky” of local memory, believed by many to be the novelist Thomas Pynchon, was actually Thomas Donald Hawkins (1927-1988) of Fort Bragg; and that Mr. Hawkins's five-year gig as Wanda Tinasky had inspired a few copycat letters to the AVA and Mendocino Commentary that were not really his, including one by Gordon Leon Black. Explaining these matters to a local audience that still remembered Wanda more than a decade after her disappearance, I hoped that no one would really notice, or care, that Ms. Tinasky was not Thomas Pynchon. TR Factor noticed. TR Factor cared. TR Factor went ballistic. She wrote a blistering letter to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, using such colorful language that Bruce Anderson, whose free speech policy is to print almost all of the letters that come in, would not print it. In her own original Amazon.com book review of The Letters of Wanda Tinasky (copies of which may yet be ordered, while supplies last, from Amazon.com), Ms. Factor let me have it with both shovelfuls, spicing her remarks with opprobious comments on “Don Foster” that she'd picked up on the Internet. Sometimes I just don't know when to bite my tongue.
P.S. On It
But why am I boring you like this with ghost stories of the dead and so-well-buried Beat Generation of literaries? Oh, yes: jack green…
— Tiger Tim Hawkins, Eve, The Common Muse Of Henry Miller & Lawrence Durrell (1963)
When he first learned from Fred Gardner (then from TR Factor, then from major news organizations) of The Letters of Wanda Tinasky, Thomas Pynchon speculated, not implausibly, that Wanda was really Bruce Anderson and that the Pynchon attribution was a hoax designed to gain attention for the AVA. He was mistaken about that. TR Factor and Bruce Anderson believed that Wanda really was Pynchon. They, too, were mistaken. Hawkins, who never intended for Wanda to be misidentified, believed that Thomas Pynchon was really William Gaddis, who was really jack green. Hawkins was only two-thirds mistaken. Gaddis is Gaddis, and Pynchon is Pynchon, but jack green was not really jack green. The publisher of newspaper was actually John Carlisle, the son of Helen Grace Carlisle, author of The Merry, Merry Maidens (1937). Carlisle adopted the “jack green” nom de plume in 1957 after he quit his job as an actuarial clerk for Metropolitan Life Insurance, grew a beard, and founded newspaper.
A few years ago, selections from jack green's newspaper were republished under the title Fire the Bastards! (1992), edited by Steven Moore. This is the same Steven Moore who wrote the definitive Reader’s Guide to William Gaddis's The Recognitions (1982), and this is the same Steven Moore who (twist upon twist) wrote the foreword to TR Factor's edition of The Letters of Wanda Tinasky. When publishing his scholarly work on jack green and William Gaddis, and when contributing to the Tinasky volume, Professor Moore (who really is Steven Moore) never knew or suspected that Wanda was a fellow admirer of jack green. For Moore's money, Wanda was Pynchon. (“Well, if it ain't Pynchon,” wrote Moore, “it's someone who has him down cold: his inimitable literary style, his deep but lightly worn erudition, his countercultural roots, his leftist/populist politics, his brand of wit and humor, his encyclopedic range of reference, his street smarts and raffish charm, his immersion in pop culture and sports, and his hatred of all agents of repression.”) The inimitable Tom Hawkins would doubtless have been pleased with the epitaph. He was not Pynchon and never pretended to be, but the Wanda Tinasky story was his best laugh ever, and as Pynchonesque as any story not by Thomas Pynchon will ever get.
DESSERT, DEMONSTRATION & DISCUSSION WITH LOCAL AUTHOR/CHEF SULIN BELL,
Oct. 25th @ 6:30pm - Please RSVP @ 463-4490!
Kids of all ages are invited to attend this STEAM-powered event, which is part 2 of our 3-part “Things that Fly” workshops. Make airplanes using only tape, paper straws, and cardstock, or create a paper whirligig. Then try out your own design ideas and see how well they fly! This is a free event sponsored by the Ukiah Valley Friends of the Library.