- Willits Bypass Opening Ceremony
- Laytonville Observer Endorsements
- AF Observations
- Weed & Wine
- Boss Trial
- Trump HQ Vandalism
- Yesterday's Catch
- Coming Price Crash
- Little Dog
- Gloriana Carolers
- Vet Pet Vaccinations
- Friendly Pixie
- Big Oil Spending
WILLITS BYPASS CEREMONIOUSLY OPENED Thursday With Huge, Dignitary-Filled Party on a Freeway Viaduct
by Hank Sims
At least a thousand people gathered on a bridge in the middle of the Little Lake Valley this afternoon to commemorate the opening of the Willits Bypass, a construction project first envisioned some 60 years ago, and which will officially open to traffic sometime later today.
Two Congressmen were in attendance — Reps. Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson — as was Assm. Jim Wood, Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty and a good portion of the California Transportation Commission, Humboldt County Supervisors Estelle Fennell and Rex Bohn, and numerous other dignitaries from around the region and hundreds of members of the general public.
The ceremony took place about halfway along the bypass, at the entrance to the Jesse D. Pittman Memorial Bridge, just to the east of downtown Willits. The new highway winds through groves of gnarled oaks, with views of the backsides of various businesses and fog-shrounded mountains in the distance. People who came early wandered up and down the viaduct, taking in the sights.
The crowds were larger than expected, and when it was time to begin it took a moment for Betsy Totten, the Eureka-based Caltrans District One public information officer who served as master of ceremonies, to clear a space in front of the podium, so that some special invitees — families of soldiers killed in action — could have a view from the seats set aside for them.
“Everybody please move back,” Totten said into the public address system. When some uniformed military members started to find new places for themselves, she amended her request: “Actually, Navy SEALS — you can stay there.”
Recently retired Caltrans District One Director Charlie Fielder was the first person invited to speak. He spoke of the challenges that have dogged the bypass since it was first envisioned in the late ‘50s — the 1964 flood, the oil crisis of the 1970s, the Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes — all times, he said, when the little bypass in the north part of the state was pushed back down to the bottom of California’s priority list.
Throughout, he said, the people of Mendocino County were steadfast.
“One thing that’s never changed is the support of the people we had locally,” Fielder concluded, thanking the various mayors and city councilpersons and members of the Willits public in the crowd. “So here we are, 50 years later, and boy am I proud to be standing on this viaduct right here.”
Malcolm Dougherty, Fielder’s former boss, got off the joke of the day when he was brought up to the podium.
“Someone once told me the Cubs would win the World Series before this bypass opened,” he said, to much guffawing.
The fog started to burn away as Dougherty spoke, which allowed the California Highway Patrol to perform a helicopter overflight of the scene — something Caltrans had helped arrange. It was, like much of the ceremony, intended as a mark of respect for Pittman, a Willits kid turned Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Afghanistan.
Many more speakers followed the flyover. Rep. Mike Thompson, who represented the region before redistricting took the North Coast away from him, told a joke that got a lot of laughs. The butt of it was a colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers — the agency that regulates wetlands fill — and how totally dumb and unprincipled his opposition to the bypass was. It was well received.
This was a thread that ran through several of the following speakers — scorn aimed at regulatory agencies and protesters who held up the project at one time or another. A representative of the Operating Engineers Local No. 3 union bemoaned the “myriad of frivolous and costly delays” around the project over the last four years. Likewise, a representative of Flatiron, a construction firm that worked on the project, thanked the California Highway Patrol for escorting workers to the site when protesters were about.
Willits Mayor Bruce Burton marveled at the amount of red tape that went into getting the bypass approved, and of the amount of headache occasioned by protests and lawsuits filed by environmental interests, among others.
“There’s something we gotta do to streamline the process around this if we’re going to improve our country’s infrastructure,” said Burton to applause.
Assm. Jim Wood corrected this a bit when he was brought up to introduce the segment of the morning honoring Pittman. Before presenting the SEAL’s family with a proclamation from state government honoring his life and his deeds, he said that Jesse Pittman fought for a country where dissent was honored, and given the several speeches that had preceded Wood it was hard not to read the sentiment as an apology (or something) to those who had opposed the bypass from the start.
Two of Pittman’s fellow SEALs spoke. They had served with the young Willits native who was killed in Afghanistan along with 29 other U.S. serviceman when their helicopter was shot down by rocket-propelled grenades in Afghanistan in 2011. Then Pittman’s brother spoke about his childhood.
They told of a rebellious, strong-willed young man who fought wildfires before aspiring to join the service. They talked about his childhood, and about his amusing personality, and about the specific details of the dangerous operation he was sent on when he came under fire.
All three of these speakers were brilliant, and I won’t attempt to summarize them. Do yourself a favor and see them yourself in Caltrans’ recording of the event. They start at about the 57-minute mark.
Before they were introduced, Betsy Totten, the emcee, said she had thought she should play Pittman’s favorite song at the ceremony. That was before she knew what his favorite song was. From his mother, she said, she had learned that his favorite song was by AC/DC, and it was about a highway.
“So, obviously, we are not going to play it,” Totten said.
The crowd booed.
Again: The Willits Bypass opened to through traffic late Thursday.
THE LAYTONVILLE OBSERVER RECOMMENDS: “Vote Yes on Measures AG and AH. Let's restore mental health services in Mendocino County. Mental health matters and it affects everyone. Vote No on Measure AF, the Heritage Initiative. Say no to special interest group legislation. Legalized marijuana must be regulated and enforced. Maintain local control.”
A READER WRITES: "Kudos for exposing the false claims that Measure AF was written for the small farmer. By connecting the dots between the Tommy Chong endorsement video, Chris Halmo and his big time ad agency, the marijuana holding company, the venture capital attorney, the growers promoting AF, and the wine guys, you make it very clear that AF is about the big fish getting bigger. (Off The Record, Nov. 2, 2016)
"THE TOMMY CHONG endorsement is hilarious! But how stoned do they have to be to think it will convince anyone to vote for AF? But it is funny! Which is why I watched it several times in a row. And I finally realized that Chris Halmo and Tom Rodriguez (the wine guys) are also in the video! We already know Halmo is representing the local farmers. Now we see him and Rodriguez standing in a marijuana garden with Swami. I wonder if anyone in the AF camp realizes they just gave it away that Swami, Tim Blake and company wrote AF so they could go big? And the way they plan to go big is to partner with wine guys like Rodriguez and Halmo. Because the wine guys have the land and the water. And Halmo will promo the Swami Select brand at the same time he is promoting the Chong's Choice Herbalizer.
"THE TOM RODRIGUEZ in the video is also the same guy that signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure AF. And he also had a letter in the AVA headlined ‘A Grape Farmer For Pot.’ The letter is almost as funny as the Chong video. Rodrigues says there are 68 counties in Cali when the real number (as any school child knows) is 58. But Rodrigues likes to go big on his numbers. He says there are over 10,000 cannabis farmers in Mendoland; that 70% of the local economy is from cannabis; that 80% of all the cannabis consumed in the United States is from northern California. Then he goes into a detailed explanation of the value of premium wine grapes (2$ per pound) and marijuana ($1,000-2,000 per pound). If AF passes on Nov. 8, Rodriguez will be yanking out the pinot vines on Nov. 9! And Tim Blake and Swami will be helping him!"
LEADERSHIP MENDOCINO hosted a structured debate on Measure AF between yes on AF campaign manager Sarah Bodnar and No on AF committee member Hal Wagenet. Ms. Bodnar is a participant in this year’s Leadership Mendocino class, which, all things being equal, ought to have given her an edge with her classmates. But Measure AF is so fatally flawed that at the end of the debate the class participants voted 17-9 against Measure AF. Which means the only groups endorsing Measure AF are made up of marijuana growers. And even pot growers are increasingly aware that AF was not written to protect the small farmer.
MEASURE AF, the so-called Heritage Initiative, was written by an in group of marijuana growers who are hoping to model expansion of the pot economy after the wine industry. And the pot growers have already formed alliances with some of the wine guys to do exactly that. The big time pot growers who wrote AF aspire to be on equal footing with the wine guys. And some of the wine guys are obviously ready to replace an acre of grapes with an acre of pot. In place of the grape monoculture that increasingly dominates the Anderson Valley, if AF passes there will be a shift toward the dual intoxicant industry of weed and wine. More oak woodlands will be bulldozed in favor of a string of wine and bud tasting rooms from Yorkville to Navarro.
MEASURE AF looks to be going down decisively based on informal assessments leading up to Tuesday election deadline. Which means Swami and Tim Blake seriously miscalculated. Instead of free reign for the pot industry, the eco groups opposing Measure AF are calling for the County to adopt a grading ordinance and protections for oak woodlands. And if stronger environmental regs can be applied to pot, why not wine? The alliance between weed and wine, instead of creating a pass for pot farmers, may have the unintended consequence of stronger regs for the local wine industry.
KELLY, BOSS, PHILO, was back in court Thursday, most of the day, with pretrial hearings; his big hope — that the report of Joan Sturgis on his financial status would qualify him as a specimen as one of those things, as that rare entity — elusive as Bigfoot — that he was just a Poor Hippy, working like a saint for the benediction of his conscience, your honor, the good of the afflicted, not his bank account.
E.D. Lerman and co-counsel Rebecca Mandrible had produced the reports the judge ordered last week, and they were brought to her by her bailiff. It took about ten minutes for Judge Moorman to scan the report and declare, “I’m highly doubtful I’d allow Ms. Sturgis, from what I’ve seen here, to opine this grow was in compliance; that conclusion is not appropriate for an expert to make." Ms. Lerman was livid! She began to protest when Ms. Mandribil reacted --- first she hushed her law partner in the style of a librarian — with a shushhh! — then more demonstrably by sealing Lerman's lips with her hand and a preemptory popping of the eyes. "Let's get the 402 hearing started," Moorman said. "It looks like it will take all day." And my-oh-my what a beautiful fall day it was! I went home and put on my jeans and tennis shoes and went about winterizing my quarters. Poor old Kelly Boss (his lawyer complained to me about what other people were saying about him, and urged me to trust her, that Kelly (who writes her enormous checks on a regular basis) “he’s a really sweet guy!”) Poor chap will have to worry about his own legal difficulties — until trial, which starts Monday!
VANDALS CONTINUE TO ATTACK TRUMP HEADQUARTERS IN UKIAH
by Justine Frederiksen
Vandals continued to attack the Trump headquarters in Ukiah this past week, reportedly throwing a pumpkin at the building and using a caulking gun to write inflammatory statements on it.
Wayne McBride, a former captain with the Ukiah Police Department who is often manning the Trump headquarters at 461 N. State Street, said Saturday morning he found the word “rapist” written on the building with caulk, right below a large swath of red paint that had been sprayed on the building weeks earlier.
McBride reported the vandalism to the UPD at 9:07 a.m. Oct. 29, and an officer took a report. Because of the building being vandalized earlier, McBride said surveillance cameras were installed on it that appear to have recorded the vandals.
According to the footage, at around 12:30 a.m. Oct. 29, a young male and female are seen standing in front of the building and they appear to be looking at the camera before the female returns with a caulking gun. After appearing to smear stuff on the building, the female returns holding a pumpkin that McBride said she threw at the building three times, causing little damage.
The following day, Oct. 30, McBride said he learned that a witness reported seeing people in a red car taking down a large Trump sign at the corner of North Orchard Avenue and Brush Street around 2:30 p.m.
McBride said that sign was worth about $250 because of “all of the materials, plus the time and energy used to put it up,” especially given the system used to take it down and put it back up every day.
“Now we’ve put up an even bigger sign that is six feet higher,” McBride said, adding that the attacks have been a mixed blessing for him and others at Trump headquarters.
On the one hand, he said, it is dismaying for the group to feel attacked for simply expressing their support of a presidential candidate.
“I’ve worn many uniforms to support our right to Freedom of Speech in this country, so I take that right very seriously,” said McBride, who served with the United Stated Marine Corps before becoming a police officer. “I just want to make our voice heard.”
On the other hand, McBride said he feels heartened by the outpouring of support from the community following the attacks, as many people who may not support Trump have come by the building to say they don’t support the vandals attacking the headquarters.
“People even came over from Black Oak Coffee (located directly across State Street) with a coffee card for us,” said McBride, explaining that his response to anyone that goes by the building “yelling obscenities” is to smile, wave and say, “Have a nice day."
“That’s the best way to overcome that kind of behavior,” he said. “It takes the wind right out of their sails.”
A third recent incident occurred on Halloween, when a caller reported to the UPD at 9:19 p.m. Oct. 31 seeing “someone throwing something” at the Trump headquarters. An officer responded and determined that someone had thrown eggs at the building.
McBride said he planned to share the footage of the suspects with the UPD and with the public via social media in an attempt to identify the latest vandals.
(Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
CATCH OF THE DAY, November 4, 2016
WESLEY DICKSON, Redwood Valley. Probation revocation.
FERNANDO DURAN, Willits. Drug court sanction, probation revocation.
KENNETH EWING, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
RICHARD EZELL, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
SCOTT FABER, Ukiah. Meth possession, community supervision violation.
MATTHEW FOSTER, Willits. Probation revocation.
COLE HARBOUR, Fort Bragg. Probation revocation.
OWEN IRVIN, Santa Barbara/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
ARMANDO LOPEZ JR., Covelo. Meth possession, controlled substance, failure to appear.
ZACHARY PAEYENEERS, Willits. Failure to appear.
AARON RUELAS, San Leandro/Ukiah. Unspecified charges.
ROBERT SHINAULT, Willits. Failure to appear.
MARIJUANA GROWERS PREPARE FOR A PRICE CRASH IF PROP. 64 PASSES
By David Downs
On a recent morning, as he does every morning, Eric Battuello gets to work in San Francisco’s Dogpatch by 8 a.m. to check on “Maui” — a room full of potent, profitable marijuana flowers.
Walking through the crowded, pungent rows of strains named Gorilla Glue and Cookies, Battuello looks at ease. “It’s feeling good,” he says. “We’re a little warm, and starting to break a sweat, but the air conditioning will kick on.”
But nowadays, it’s the business climate outside the grow room that’s the bigger issue for the founder and CEO of Butterbrand, a high-end cannabis farm. If Californians legalize pot Nov. 8, prices could eventually collapse 90 percent, according to data from the Rand Drug Policy Research Center. Such a dive would dramatically affect who grows cannabis and where, who profits, who stays in the black market and who drops out entirely.
California’s multibillion-dollar cannabis agriculture sector promises to be upended by the historic drawdown of prohibition. The passage of Proposition 64 would legalize personal use and growing of marijuana and would license and tax cannabis commerce. By Jan. 1, 2018, licensed retail stores and farms would be open in many cities. It would bring huge changes to pot producers.
One of the most significant changes would be economic: The price of cannabis would inevitably drop, as it has in Washington and Colorado, and that alone would upend the industry. That’s a boon to consumers, but a bust for all but the best, most efficient growers.
For the first time in decades, Battuello’s green thumb is less useful than his undergrad studies in Building Construction Technology from Purdue University. Says the 41-year-old Sonoma County father of two, “These days, I’m completely using my education.”
Butterbrand hopes to stay in San Francisco and produce high-grade indoor flowers, despite rising costs and thinning margins. Battuello anticipates prices for top-shelf flowers will tumble 35 percent in the coming years. “Below that and we’ll see. There’s going to be a bottom [price] for indoor[-grown cannabis], if people want high-quality indoor. The price bottom will be much lower in other sectors.”
A major consequence: Growers are rethinking who their customers are. No longer will young men with a high tolerance for risk and marijuana drive the market. As prices for flowers fall, Butterbrand’s trendiest products will become higher-margin, value-added, highly processed goods for those Californians with no marijuana tolerance whatsoever. The vast majority of the state cannot handle modern high-grade cannabis, Battuello says.
“If these newbies were to smoke a bong hit of our trademark Butter OG — it’s goodnight Irene. They might be lying in bed for a few hours with the covers pulled over their heads.”
By contrast, the company’s new disposable cannabis e-cigarettes have almost no euphoria, no “highness,” dizziness or altered senses — but lots of the therapeutic pot molecule cannabidiol (CBD), which can still treat pain, inflammation and anxiety. Says Battuello, “It just leaves you in a better mood.” That appeals to old stoners for whom modern pot is too strong, as well as legions of pain and anxiety sufferers willing to try a newly legal alternative to opioids and sedatives.
All across California, even before Tuesday’s vote, a great winnowing has already occurred. Twenty years of steady price declines, plus the state’s year-old medical marijuana regulations, have forced perhaps 30 to 40 percent of small-time growers to quit the game over the last five years, Battuello estimates. A similar proportion plans to stay the course in the black market, exporting to prohibition states and selling without a local or state license. That black market might exist for only a generation.
“I feel bad for them, but they won’t change, and they will get passed by,” Battuello says. Outlaw farming isn’t something to teach your kids. “Teach them to code,” he suggests.
Pot prohibition may have been one of America’s most effective small business programs, notes cannabis historian Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML. Prohibition punished large-scale operators with prison time and kept prices and profits high for the smaller guys. First criminalized in 1913, California made more than 100,000 pot arrests in 1974, after President Richard Nixon declared a nationwide war on drugs. In the ensuing four decades, police made hundreds of thousands more arrests while, at the same time, California became the No. 1 domestic supplier of pot to the country, second to Mexico. Medical marijuana legalization in 1996 helped created a licit industry worth about $2 billion today, according to estimates from The Arcview Group, a cannabis angel investment network. The recreational market could be five times as big.
But as much as 90 percent of the cost of street pot is the markup from the risk of prohibition, researchers conclude. As prohibition collapses, so does that markup. For example, pot prices peaked in California just before medical legalization in 1996 and have slid ever since. Consumers once paid $20 per gram for high-grade cannabis flower. In newly legalized Washington, the average wholesale cost for flower currently is $2.97, reports Danielle Rosellison, from Trail Blazin’ Productions, a Washington producer. Many growers are struggling.
“It’s really difficult for farmers to make ends meet,” Rosellison says. “There are a million issues all the time — from an entrepreneur level, from a local government level, from a regulatory level and from a state level. We’re losing a lot of good people.”
Battuello believes that, in California, less than a fifth of medical or black market growers will try to go legal. Those staying the course will try to double down on their crops, take on capital, beef up legal counsel and spend on marketing. But many lack the capital and business acumen to adapt.
The smaller farmers are already facing bigger competition under medical laws. And in five years, Prop. 64 allows for new, mega-scale indoor farms, likely in the Central Valley. High-quality herb from such farms stands to undercut expensive urban indoor farming.
Battuello, however, remains optimistic about adapting.
“It’ll affect us. There’s no doubt about it.” In his home county of Sonoma, he notes, “the third- and fourth-generation apple orchards of Sebastopol are now corporate-controlled wine vineyards.”
Today’s cannabis farms are already facing similar disruptions. “It’s sad, but it’s change. And it’s a part of being human.”
Post-legalization, Butterbrand would need to get, in addition to a medical license, a local recreational cultivation license, or it would be game over. Without that, the company would not be able to obtain a state license — the other half of a mandatory dual state-local licensing structure.
So Battuello is encouraging the San Francisco Cannabis State Legalization Task Force to fast-track local licensing.
The county’s supervisors won’t be opposed to cultivation licensing, says task force Chair Terrance Alan, but they might not seize on it either. If Prop. 64 passes, the task force will deliver to the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 12 recommendations for steps to implement its local licensing component, he says.
“I’m sure there will be some cultivators who’ll make a market for themselves,” Alan says. But as for the growing of cannabis in the city, “I don’t think it’ll be as widespread as people think. I think the fate of indoor cultivation has very little to do with the regulatory system and everything to do with economics.”
Prop. 64 is designed to overlay 2015’s new medical regulations — but even those medical regulations are just now being drafted. All new local and state regulations for recreational use will have to be created, largely from scratch, and each one could greatly impact growers and retailers.
If Tuesday’s vote passes, The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation evolves into the Bureau of Marijuana Control, which has powers to issue new, emergency rules. Virtually overnight, regulators could, in theory, cap marijuana product potency, mandate child-safety packaging, or limit advertising. In the medium term, new restrictions on worker safety and labeling could bite down first. Longer-term, the entire cannabis supply chain must pass quality control testing at licensed labs.
So Butterbrand must track those draft medical regulations through 2017 and try to stay ahead of the legal curve. “The big thing is, will the recreational regulations be different from the medical ones, or the same?” Battuello says. “We don’t know.”
Next door to the “Maui” grow room sits a barren office area. Butterbrand had planned to build out another flowering room, but has reconsidered. The empty space will now be a marketing showroom. Battuello points toward a freshly painted white alcove. “That whole area behind you will be filled with branded flowers, and extracts. Plus T-shirts, lighters, beer koozies, art — you name it.” A public-facing pop-up showroom in the Mission District could follow. Butterbrand is also looking at advertising on the sides of Muni buses. “It’s pretty expensive, but you make a good splash.
“We’re in the marketing think tank right now,” Battuello says with a smile. “You’re going to see some fun stuff coming out.”
(The San Francisco Chronicle)
“NEVER WAS A MAOIST MYSELF,” says Little Dog, “but I know one in Ukiah named Mike.”
HIRE THE GLORIANA CAROLERS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!
We are happy to announce the return of The Gloriana Carolers. Dressed in Old Fashioned Victorian Costumes, they volunteer their holiday cheer and are ready to hire for your business organization or home to sing carols during your parties, events and festivities. Proceeds go towards the Gloriana Scholarship Program. If you would like to hire the carolers or have additional questions please contact Jan Littrell at 925-200-3220 or go to http://www.gloriana.org/carolers
MENDOCINO COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES will hold a FREE vaccination clinic for dogs and cats owned by Active Duty, reservists, veterans and/or their dependents. The event will take place on Tuesday, November 8, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Veteran Services Office in Ukiah, 405 Observatory Avenue. Also, at-cost rabies vaccinations will be available for dogs and cats owned by the general public. This is a great opportunity for our vets to get their companion animals vaccinated; dog and cat diseases are on the rise, but are preventable. For more information, call the Ukiah shelter at 707-467-6453.
The Shelter is also sponsoring a PETS FOR VETS program, available for active duty, reservists, veterans and their dependents living in Mendocino, Lake and Sonoma Counties. The PETS FOR VETS program is available to offset adoption fees for pets adopted from the Ukiah Shelter. Please check out the shelter's website: www.mendoanimalshelter.com.
THE RIGHT KIND OF TRIMIGANT
by William Kraft
I was blazing home down the highway from Eureka intoxicated by a suspenseful murder mystery I was listening to when I flew by a hitchhiker, but not a normal one: here was a woman, a young woman with a bicycle, a little dog bopping around at her feet, and a big smile on her face. I kept going half a mile till I found a spot to perform an illegal U-turn, then hurried back before someone else could get her. I passed her again the other way wondering if she would think that suspicious, (later she said she didn't even notice) then swung another U-ie and pulled up in front of her. She was a friendly pixie and explained that she had hurt her knee and had to hitchhike up the hills because of the pain, she was from Brooklyn pedaling down the coast from Canada to Mexico. We put her bike and bags into the back of the truck and she got into the front with her little dog. I was only about five miles from home and as we hurtled down the Redwood Highway along the curling Eel river she told me she was behind schedule and might not make it to the Standish Hickey campground by dark.
“What do you do?” she asked?
“I grow weed,” I said. “You know, Garberville?”
“Never heard of it.”
“It's only the weed-growing center of the universe.”
“I'm a bicycle mechanic,” she said, “and I also have an office job working special events publicity at NYU.”
We traveled a couple miles, talking, and then I said, “You know, I should take you home, I have a nice guest space and you could rest up for the next day's journey.” She hesitated a beat and I said, “Well, I'm just outside of town, why don't you come check it out for a minute, it's a pretty cool space.” We buzzed through Garberville where the wannabe trimmers were actually sitting on folding chairs on the sidewalk in little groups as they laid seasonal siege on the street. South of town we drove down a mile long dirt road and she said, “Oh, this hill! How will I get up it later?”
“Oh, no problem, “I said. “I'll drive you back up.”
“Great!” She said.
We got home and I showed her the accommodations, I assume it blew her mind, not many guest houses have a basketball court in the living room. We toured her around and in the kitchen she said, “Wow, you're taller than I thought.”
“Well, you're just as short as I thought.” I pointed through the windows, “See? Those are the plants. They're pretty little, short, that's what happens when you depend on clone dealers for starts, you just never know what you will end up with. I need help staking them though they're so small it might not even matter.”
“I'll help you,” she said. “I'll just go out and tie the string to them?”
“Well actually,” I said. “Its a two person job, we get on either side of the plant, we each have a stapler, and as we pass a roll of string around we staple it to the stakes. That's great that you'll help me! I had another girl but she went off for a full-time job trimming dep up in the hills and she just comes back now and then to fit in a few hours with me. She's great, I picked her up hitchhiking last Hallowe'en and have been working her ever since to be my harvest girl, I think it might happen. Great, I'll pay you to help me stake and tie.”
“No, you don't have to,” she said. “What's 'dep'”?
“That's when you cut the light on the plants artificially forcing them to bud early. It's what has ruined this area with dep plantations, hoop houses, all over the hills trashing the land and lowering the price. Alright, let's start in fifteen minutes at 6:30.”
I went over to the main house, played a couple Scrabble moves online, put on my work clothes, and found her on the deck ready to go. I gave her a fanny pack and put mine on too, each containing rolls of string, scissors, staples, and a staple gun. “Do you want to take your dog with us?”
“No, we can leave her inside.”
We got to work. “The idea,” I told her, “is to have the string just barely touching the branch, don't pull it back against it.” As we worked we talked and I asked her a lot of questions, she had two sisters and a brother, her mom was a housewife and her father, a Marine, was dead.
“I grew up in Florida,” she said. “We had a family farm, a lot of country folks, a lot of meth — that's just what they do.”
She had recently left a failing relationship but they had a very nice apartment in Brooklyn so they lived together for another six months while she was looking for her own place, which she finally found and sublet immediately.
“So why did you break up?” I asked.
“Oh, it was just getting kind of boring,” she said.
“Well, was the sex good?”
“No, not so great, but God he was so hot, my friends could not believe I was leaving him! He was going to come along on this tour anyway, as an Ex, but then he changed his mind, that's why I have this double tent that I really don't need.”
“Well, you know what I always say, 'the hotter the lover the more shallow the relationship.'” She smiled.
“Actually I delivered weed on my bicycle in New York,” she said. “It was great, I could make, like, $400 a day.”
“Did you ever have any weird experiences?”
“No, everything was really organized and the clients, who paid cash, were vetted gradually into the system. The dispatchers weren't even in New York, I think they might've been in Florida or somewhere. I might go back and do that again, I know a lot of the delivery kids at various companies. The only thing I didn't like was I had to keep all the money overnight or even for a couple days, a few thousand dollars, that was stressful.”
“Yeah, well, its practically legal out here now,” I said. “The growers are stressing, there's a lot of uncertainty.”
“Yeah, my friends delivering it are worried about that, most of them are artists who do it part time so they can finance their creative projects.”
“This plant is Sour D.”
“Oh, we like that in New York!”
“And that one is Girl Scout Cookie and over there is OG.”
“Huh, never heard of those,”she said.
“This is funny,” I said. “From here on the farm to you delivering the finished product on your bike! We plant, water, feed, stake, harvest, dry, cure, trim, bag, sell, and then somehow it gets to New York and you deliver it to the consumer at his apartment. Man, I wish we could work something out! Wouldn't it be cool to go right from the farmer directly to the bicycle-deliverer?”
“I'd love to,” she said with a big smile. “I know lots of people, we could have our own little operation — look at all this Sour D!”
“Yeah, but it would be so hard to get it there, maybe it would be fun to just write a story as if it happened.”
“We could really do it!”
“Boy, you really want to make it happen. I wonder how they get it there, maybe in a crate buried under other crates in a semi-truck or something? You can come and get some pounds?”
“Ha! No way.”
“So I'd have to show up at your apartment in Brooklyn with a suitcase fulla weed? That's not going to happen, but it is encouraging to think about all those millions of people in New York wanting weed, maybe the industry will continue for a while more.”
“They love it there,” she said. “The market is hot.”
We continued working and talking, she told me more about her boyfriend, he was Mexican and it was interesting to go to dinners with his family — she picked up some Spanish.
“Well, I like girls too, I like 'em butch, tough, muscular, just like my men, but I don't like to be labeled bisexual,” she said. “When I came out to my Mom in high school she was cool but later when I was back into guys she said 'See, I knew it was just a phase.' God, I did a lot of DMT back then, drank like crazy, and dealt weed.”
It got dark so we quit and I went to check on the game, see how the Giants were doing although their hitting was so anemic they might not make the playoffs. I called my friend, “I've got this sweet little woman in my barn with her dog.”
“You're with dog?” he said, knowing me.
I had an idea and went across the yard to the barn and knocked on the door; she had already locked it - I had told her earlier that though its a pretty safe neighborhood last winter some cold intruder had tried the doors in the middle of the night startling my trimmer woman awake. (The next one slept in the attic with a golf club nearby.) She answered it with her hair wet from the shower and I said, “I had an idea. If you work with me for a few more hours in the morning to finish this job I'll drive you up to the top of the Leggett mountain.”
“Yes!” she said with a big smile, “that's awesome.” We high-fived and went to bed.
In the morning I saw her out on the deck and she invited me over or a cup of coffee, she had freeze-dried coconut creamer, the kind you use when you're on tour, as she called it. I looked at her tattoos all on one leg, very nice, one was of her dog and another was a shark running up her thigh. She pulled her shorts up high so I could see its head. We sat on the couch and she told me more about her life, her days at Florida State University, her time in Ireland, then landing back to New York to be near her siblings. Then we had breakfast and got back to work.
It was an easy job, passing the roll of string around the plant but the last girl had stapled her thumb once — that hurt. I told her some wild stories, one about the young hooker who had surprised me at my door last Spring, her legs spattered with mud, while I was watching the Republican debate.
“I was a prostitute,” she said.
“Oh? What was that like? Did you have any bad experiences?”
“No, I usually had a Madame, I was a high-end call girl, most of the men were unhappy, lonely, and usually married. I made a lot of money — it was good work.” We continued working and she told me more about 'the life.'
“When I meet a man now I tell him about it before we sleep together, if he's not cool with it then that's it, I'm not interested.”
“So its a political thing?”
“Yeah, even though I'm not a prostitute anymore if they can't accept prostitutes then forget it, not for me.”
“So you're not doing that anymore?”
“Well, last Spring my old Madame got ahold of me with an offer, two guys for the weekend for $5000. They would take me out on the town, take me to restaurants and shows — I was in demand because I look so young.” I looked at her, she was petite with a pixie face, just a hint of breasts and very strong-looking legs. She was 26 but could probably pass for a teenager.
“Were they Arabs?”
“Yes, good guess!”
“So did you do it?”
“No, I ran it by my boyfriend but he didn't like the idea so I didn't.”
“Yeah, I couldn't handle that, my girlfriend fucking other men; you being with other women would be no problem, men find that kind of hot. Do you think that lead to the breakup?”
“No, I don't think so. I have a new boyfriend now, he works in the bike shop with me, when I told him I'd been a prostitute he said, 'Great! Go make a pile of money and buy me nice things!'”
I asked her a question that I'd been thinking about recently. “Do you think if a woman says she was raped then she was?”
“No, not always,” she said.
“Because there's this local woman who insists she was raped even though she never said no and she wasn't too drunk to drive home afterwards. If you're slightly inebriated and have sex, then regret it later, is that rape? Rape is all in the news now.”
“Yeah, that Stanford guy, I heard about that. I've been raped twice, once by a friend at a party.”
“Did you tell him no? Fight him off?
“Yes! But he persisted, very drunk, later he didn't remember any of it, nothing came of it. And I was raped by my father when I was fourteen, he was convicted and went to prison for seven years.”
“Damn, that is fucking intense. Shit, after all you've been through you seem pretty nice, not all messed up.”
“Yeah, it was an ordeal, he's completely out of the family now — I think he's a mechanic or something somewhere.”
We went up to the farmer's market where I was read the riot act by a vendor who I had given a flower and a story to the week before, apparently the content was too racy for her. When we got back she spent an hour or so packing and cleaning — god, how people can spread out in just a day, blows my mind! Finally we loaded up the truck and hit the road South.
“Do you know any self-defense? Have a weapon,” I asked, as we cruised along the Eel River.
“No, not really, just a little two-inch knife, that's legal.”
“Well, just be careful, if someone doesn't feel right don't take the ride.” She had my ice pack on her knee and was planning to hitchhike up the hills with her bike and dog in the little basket.
“Oh, I don't like to do that, it might piss them off if they stop and I don't take the ride.”
“Well, then that's the kind of person you don't want a ride with!”
“Yeah, you're right.”
We stopped at the drive through tree and took a couple pictures, then drove on toward the Highway One turnoff. I was only planning on taking her to the top of the Leggett mountain but we kept talking, I kept driving, and drove her all the way to the sea. “Can I give you $50 for helping me?” I said, still a bargain for me.
“No!” She said. “This was great, thank you so much! So are you going to tell your friends all about me?”
“Oh yeah! Unless you don't want me to.”
“It doesn't matter, I'll never meet them.”
We got to the glistening coast and I unloaded her bike and packs from the back of the truck. As I was getting back into the truck I shouted over at her, “Don't be afraid to refuse a ride!”
She responded affirmatively and I drove away back up the mountain.
FORMER MLPA CHAIR'S BIG OIL LOBBYING GROUP TOPS 2015-16 SESSION SPENDING
Western States Petroleum Association Finishes Second In 7th Quarter CA Lobbyist Expenses
by Dan Bacher
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) usually captures the top spot in the quarterly lobbying expenses listed on the California Secretary of State’s website, but Tom Steyer’s Next Generation Climate Action, a campaign committee, actually beat the oil industry trade association in spending in the seventh quarter of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session.
WSPA dumped $2.6 million into lobbying legislators and state officials in the seventh quarter, while Steyer’s group spent an unprecedented $7.3 million, almost 3 times the oil industry group’s expenses.
In spite of WSPA finishing second in lobbying expenditures last quarter, the California Oil Lobby remains the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $32.4 million so far. "That’s the equivalent of dropping $50,750 EVERY DAY since January 1, 2015," reported Stop Fooling California, http://stopfoolingca.org.
"$32,400,000 is enough money to get Netflix and chill for 270,000 years, buy 648 refurbished DeLoreans, Give away 81 thousand iPad airs, get 92,571 goats, see Beyonce’s Formation World Tour 11,571 times, buy 16,200 Portuguese Water Dogs and go tandem skydiving 155,024 times," the group noted.
WSPA has spent a total of $16,619,272 in the first seven quarters of the 2015-2016 session, the most of any lobbying organization. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&view=activity&session=2015
"So far this legislative session, the biggest spender is the oil industry's lobbyist, the Western States Petroleum Association," Stop Fooling California said. "And that should come as no surprise. They’ve regularly bought this honor, having single-handedly spent more than $60 million lobbying in California since the passage of AB 32."
Deep Regulatory Capture
In a shocking example of deep regulatory capture that state officials and some environmental NGOs don’t want to discuss, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the WSPA President, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create questionable "marine protected areas" in Southern California from 2009 to 2012 as the oil industry was fracking coastal waters. She also served on the task forces to create "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)
While she was overseeing the creation of "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, oil spills, pollution, military testing and other human impacts other than sustainable fishing and gathering, her husband, James Boyd, served as vice-chair of the California Energy Commission from February 2007 to January 2012 after serving as a commission member from February 2002 to January 2007. (http://www.energy.ca.gov/commissioners/boyd.html)
The spending by Steyer’s group helped propel the passage of Senate Bill 32, legislation that reduces greenhouse gas level to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, in spite of strong opposition by the oil industry. Prior to the passage of this bill, virtually no legislation opposed by the oil industry in the past few years was able to make it out of the Legislature without being gutted, as in the case of Senate Bill 4, considered the “greenlight for fracking” bill by anti-fracking activists.
“The passage of SB 32 is not a reason to celebrate,” said a disappointed Reheis-Boyd after the vote in September. “It is unfortunate it went this direction. The rushed vote was deliberately schemed in order to cover-up today’s terrible cap-and-trade auction results.”
“The lack of accountability and transparency in this sort of maneuver is embodied in SB 32. There is no accountability in providing blank check authority to a state bureaucracy. Furthermore, SB 32 puts accessible and reliable energy at risk. Today is, in fact, a setback for California’s global leadership on climate change,” she claimed.
The Western States Petroleum Association is a "non-profit trade association that represents companies that account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in the five western states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington," according to the WSPA website: http://www.wspa.org.
In spite of California’s “green” image, the state is the third largest oil producer in the nation, right behind North Dakota (second) and Texas (first) – and where the regulatory apparatus has been captured by Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests. For my in-depth investigation on the five ways WSPA and Big Oil have captured California politics, go to: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/12/27/1464053/-The-five-ways-Big-Oil-and-WSPA-have-captured-California-politics
Tom Steyer is single biggest donor in 2016 election
Tom Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, describes himself as “a business leader and philanthropist who believes we have a moral responsibility to give back and help ensure that every family shares the benefits of economic opportunity, education, and a healthy climate.” (https://nextgenclimate.org/about-us/)
He is the single biggest donor in the 2016 election in the nation to date. "By the time he’s done, Steyer will have spent more than $75 million on this year’s elections – much of it on ads, starring him, to mobilize millennials for progressive causes,” reported CBS news. (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/10/24/billionaire-tom-steyer-is-single-biggest-spender-in-2016-election/)
Steyer said his Next Generation Climate Action has registered almost 750,000 new California voters this year. He is also backing or opposing a number of California propositions on the November ballot.
Steyer donated $25,000 to support Governor Jerry Brown's water bond, Proposition 1, a water grab for corporate agribusiness and Southern California water agencies, in the 2014 election.
Speaking of propositions, you can watch Consumer Watchdog’s new animated short, “Who’s Behind the Props?,” that explains the 17 ballot measures and each prop’s top financial backers in two and a half minutes: https://youtu.be/O50_Y0SqRNc