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Off the Record (March 15, 2017)

THE FOLLOWING POST appeared last week on Sheriff Allman’s Facebook page:

"Hello my Facebook Community. I thank you all for the support I receive around the county each day. I appreciate the openness of this venue, so please, allow me to do some minor venting. Apparently, someone out in Mendo land has enough time on their hands to be following my family and I, and writing letters to the Board of Supervisors about me. I swear folks, I'm not making this up. Some person has sent a letter to the BOS documenting my family activities, and making false allegations. They followed us to Ukiah, watched our car for 4 1/2 hours as we were playing cards with three other couples, and then followed us back to Willits. Really?

“As your Sheriff, my life is somewhat public… However, I don't take kindly to stalkers. If you have a question for me, my phone number is in the book. I will speak with anyone. If you are lacking the intestinal fortitude to contact me, I will pray for you to grow up and act like an adult. It is really silly to document six hours of my life, make incorrect assumptions, and send an anonymous letter. If we were all in the second grade, I would expect this type of activity. Whoever you are, please find another hobby."

THE SHERIFF’S startling announcement, a front-pager any other place but Mendocino County, roused no local or outside media interest.

WE'VE RECEIVED several calls from a man, maybe two men who sounded alike, who didn't identify himself or selves but were Allman stalkers. They promised to send us a video of Allman allegedly driving under the influence. The video never appeared, but a lengthy letter purporting to have filmed Allman in the act of DUI-ing did arrive.

IT SAYS in prose what the perhaps mythical video allegedly shows, and refers to a CHP officer by name who, the letter claims, can verify that Allman was reported to the CHP and to the Willits PD for driving recklessly but neither agency acted to corral him.

I TWICE called the CHP officer named in the anonymous letter who didn't return my calls. But one officer did say that the CHP frequently gets calls alleging this or that County official is drunk driving. This officer said he was unaware of any Allman calls.

OF COURSE there's a big difference between calling the CHP or the Willits PD and either of those agencies acting on the allegation as if they are perpetually on red alert to drive out and catch someone in the act. (Over the years I've called in three people who left my office in no condition to drive. None of them were arrested, and two of them were headed for San Francisco from Boonville. Yes, I asked them to sober up before departing, but short of fighting them for their car keys, what's a snitch to do? There was also a strong disincentive to have them around while they got straight, a stance anyone who has ever had to babysit a drunk can assuredly sympathize with.)

I'M HARDLY a forensics guy, but whoever wrote the Allman letter went to some trouble to make sure it couldn't be traced. It's out of an old printer, signed in illegible initials, postmarked San Francisco. It names names and gives times and dates, plus Allman’s license plate number, as it cites a total of three alleged episodes. It says the reason it's anonymous is because the writer fears retaliation from the Sheriff. But the Sheriff, so far as I'm aware, is not known to be vindictive. (And we hear everything here at the mighty ava. Everything, I tell you!) Besides, using police authority to retaliate against critics usually backfires when it becomes known.

SHERIFF ALLMAN, by a very long distance, is the best known and most popular County official in recent history. Most County residents are barely aware of their Supervisor, and I'd bet 99 out of a hundred locals could not name any County official except Allman. He's a ubiquitous presence at public events. He even showed up at former Supervisor Norman de Vall's birthday party, and is omni-present at funeral services and community events from Gualala to Covelo. He's about as accessible a public official as there has been in Mendocino County.

OF COURSE Allman has enemies. Name a cop who doesn't. He was not supported for election by most of his deputies, not that any of them went public with their objections to him.

THESE DUI ALLEGATIONS against the Sheriff are not confirmed by actual arrests, and so they'll remain only allegations. If the Sheriff is having a few belts at social functions at least he now knows he'll need a designated driver. And he already knows he’s being watched.

WE ARE DELIGHTED to see the county animal shelter in Ukiah operating so smoothly, and the caring expertise coming from new shelter director Rich Molinari.

The shelter has been through some tough times in recent years and although we generally kept faith that the shelter was basically a good operation, a new director was clearly needed.

Molinari seems to be a take-charge kind of guy and knows his stuff. He talks about cats and dogs with assurance and the knowledge of what it takes to make sure shelter animals are adoptable.

We are not among those who think the shelter must be absolutely a no-kill shelter, but we do think there are animals with borderline – or even not so borderline – behavior problems that can be corrected with patience and training. Molinari and the wonderful volunteers at the shelter have programs in place that will make a big difference in the adoptability for many animals who might otherwise be euthanized.

We are looking forward to the upcoming visit to the shelter by UC Davis animal shelter experts who will have a look around and give the county feedback on things that can be improved. We assume that the county will be supportive in providing funding to the shelter when those suggestions come along.

In the meantime we are happy to see the shelter operating on all cylinders and we urge anyone who would consider working with shelter animals and giving them the love and care they need as they move from orphan to family member to contact the shelter and volunteer.

— KC Meadows (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)

IN JANUARY of this year County CEO Carmel Angelo told the Supervisors: “One of our goals is metrics. We’d actually like to measure — you know the phrase ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ And we have that throughout our system. So we’d like to have performance measures and some outcome measures for our departments. Each [leadership] team member committed to focusing on at least one of the identified goals. Members of the County’s Expanded Leadership Team will have an opportunity to become involved as work teams are formed for each goal.”

I.E. WITHOUT METRICS — performance and outcome measurements — “you can’t manage” the organization. Ms. Angelo admitted that when it comes to the lack of metrics and associated management, “We have that throughout our system.” I.e., there are no metrics, and therefore no management “throughout our system.”

GUESS HOW MANY TIMES the subject of “metrics” has come up since Ms. Angelo’s bold pronouncement two months ago. If you guess anything but zero, you’re way too high.

MAYBE WE NEED A METRIC on how Ms. Angelo is coming along with her metrics development?

BUT, as we’ve often noted: Metrics — or whatever buzzword you choose to use — simply will never happen, ever. Nobody in official Mendo really wants to know the status of anything because (1.) Except for Howard Deshield and his hard-working County road crews, and the Sheriff’s Department, the rest of the County departments range from fully to mildly dysfunctional. And 2. If the Supes knew about the true state of the SS Mendo they might have to do something about it.

(THE BABE-I-FICATION of Carmel Angelo. Not to be too much of an oinker about it, but I didn't recognize County CEO Angelo when I sat down to watch the Supe's meeting the other day. The old girl looks mondo boffo!)

THE ODD PRESS RELEASE — odd to us anyway — from the CEO’s office announcing “Leadership changes within the Executive Office and Department of Planning and Building,” requires the usual parsing of tea leaves most local government communiques require.

THE PRESSER said that Steve Dunnicliff was leaving Planning and Building for the CEO’s office and a three-person team of planning and building staffers was taking over the Planning and Building. Period. No further explanation. But it had a kind of deck chair rearrangement flavor.

OF COURSE, those of us down here at the bottom of the tea pot will never know the reason for the “changes.” Which is all the more cause to engage in some idle — but not necessarily unfounded — speculation.

THE COUNTY is about to implement its new pot rules — rules which most of the attempting-to-be-legal pot growers don’t like. The rules re-write is occurring against a backdrop of resistance to expanded legalized pot from non-pot growers and a looming crackdown from the totally retro Sessions Justice Department.

THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT is one of the keys to implementation of the neo-pot laws, including zoning verifications and enforcement. A smart person will be needed to drive the regs bus. Dunnicliffe is a very smart person.

ADDITIONALLY, the Planning Department will have to pick up whatever pieces of background they can get from whatever Undersheriff Randy Johnson was doing back when he was in charge of pot permits. And live with them as best they can.

FINDING an experienced senior planner with knowledge of both planning and building who is willing to take a high ranking position in Mendocino County under these circumstances is problematic at best. The planning department has had great difficulty hiring qualified employees even as its workload has increased and it is currently both short-staffed and inexperienced, except for Mary Lynn Hunt, an unsung hero of the department and one of the three persons on the newly created management team. Of course she can hardly be expected to do it all.

SEVERAL CONTROVERSIAL AND HIGH-PROFILE MATTERS are in the planning pipeline, beginning with the artificially complicated pot regs. But there's also the inflammatory Grist Creek asphalt plant south of Willits (which so far refuses to comply with County code or permit terms) and the Blackbird Ranch permit application, which is opposed by nearly everyone in Anderson Valley. (If there's an AV person for the preposterous Blackbird application (outside of their paid staff) to build hotel accommodations for 292 persons deep in the west hills of Philo, that person has held his applause.)

DUNNICLIFF is as capable a person as there is in local government. He did a creditable job at Planning and Building when he was plunged into responsibility for it. (We also like Alan 'The Kid' Flora, another up and comer in local government.)

MAYBE DUNNICLIFF can handle it all. Maybe we’re exaggerating the challenges that the three person team (and the Ag Department in the case of the pot regs) will face. We'll see.

PLANNING DEPARTMENT UPDATE: Based on last week’s CEO press release we wrote that the Planning and Building Department was being turned over to a three person management team. Former Director Steve Dunnicliff’s is back at the CEO’s office as Deputy CEO, perhaps preparing to assume the top spot when Ms. Angelo retires.

IT TURNS OUT that since our already dated post, in a matter of days in fact, Mr. Ignacio ‘Nash’ Gonzalez, a former County planner and P&B Director, has been appointed “Interim Director,” having recently returned from a job in the Santa Clara County Planning Department. Meanwhile, Mendo's patented “nationwide search for excellence” is underway to find a long-term Planning & Building Director. ("Excellence" is invariably discovered inside the Ukiah city limits in someone's pal, sex partner, blood relative, love child, not that Nash falls into the usual nepotistic categories.)

PLANNING & BUILDING is expected to be about $400k under budget so far this year due to “staff vacancies,” mostly due to either experienced people leaving for better paying jobs, or senior staffers being promoted to supervisory or management positions. Most of the department’s new hires are inexperienced trainees. So several senior positions remain vacant.

THE TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT’s winter repair priorities, according to Transportation Director Howard Deshiell, are Orr Springs Road repair, Peachland Road repair, and Mountain View Road repairs. But final repairs may be held up while Dashiell makes sure that any outside contract repair work will be reimbursed by the Feds.

DASHIELL reports that even though there are about 20 unfilled positions in his far flung department (because qualified people are in high demand in the area) his employees have stepped up with overtime to meet the many emergency repair situations stemming from the relatively heavy rains this winter.

MENTAL HEALTH IS RUNNING more than $1.5 million over budget for this fiscal year, which Health and Human Services Director Tammy Moss-Chandler insists will be covered by a $3 million Mental Health (slush) Fund, line item 1221. The overrun is reportedly “state audit exceptions and ASO [administrative service organization, i.e., Ortner until replaced last year by Redwood Quality Management Company] changes over the last year.” Audit exception corrections from 06-07 are expected to produce some money back to the County this March. County Auditor Lloyd Weir said that the state doesn’t hesitate to hold back money when they find mental health billing problems, but when subsequent corrections are in the County’s favor it seems to take years for the County to get reimbursed. So the County expects to get $2.3 million back from 06-07 which is the lion’s sharw of the 1221 Mental Health (slush) Fund.

BUT THERE WAS a $1.1 million take back (i.e., payments being withheld) in audit exceptions which go back to the years prior to mental health privatization. Director Moss-Chandler insists that none of the current overrun is directly associated with the change in Mental Health privateers from Ortner to Redwood Quality Management Company. (That change was mostly complete before this fiscal year began.)

MS. MOSS-CHANDLER says the current overrun has more to do with “hospitalization.” (Which probably means that again this year the County is paying a lot of extra money to send mental patients to high-priced out-of-county facilities — one of the many potential budgets savings that could have resulted from the Sheriff’s Mental Health Facilities proposal had it passed last November.) It will be several more years before the now nearly forgotten Ortner period is audited by the State and nobody knows how bad that audit might be. But, according to Director Moss-Chandler, her mental health staff is working on trying to be prepared for whatever the state does with Ortner bills for “service.”

THERE'S AN EXTRA $1 million in a special mental health audit exception reserve fund which may or may not be enough to cover whatever financial problems may result from the Ortner years. Since County mental health staff is running under budget due to predictable difficulties in hiring people for the non-privatized portion of mental health activity, that reserve may be bumped up again next year.

THE DA’S RESTITUTION PROGRAM is running about half what it was compared to its first year back in 2011. DA David Eyster noted that those revenues are volatile and should not be depended on, but it is a budget factor — meaning that there is a significant reduction in supplementary law enforcement funds for this fiscal year.

PROP 64 LEGALIZED possession of some drug crimes, and some convictions will be reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors, meaning that there will be fewer cases where the DA can pressure pot defendants to pay restitution on felony cultivation cases if the offense is no longer a state felony. The DA pointed out that since the DA has already reduced many pot convictions to misdemeanors under the restitution program there won’t be as many Prop 64 applications to reduce felony charges to misdemeanors in Mendocino County.

A LETTER SIGNED by Undersheriff Johnson that Johnson said he did not write himself, and no one so far as claimed authorship, informs permittees that their 9.31 permits will not be renewed, and that zip-ties are no longer being sold or issued.

THEORETICALLY, permit holders and growers should be able to apply for permits under the county’s proposed medical cannabis cultivation ordinance — but not until it passes. (It’s in final form and is up for more discussion at the Board’s March 21 meeting). So for now growers are in limbo as the growing season approaches but the County says it “lacks clear authority” to issue new permits. So for now the previous limit of 25 plants applies. Commercial growers who want to go legit don’t think they can make any money with only 25 plants.

JOHNSON ducked responsibility for the letter saying, “What it says on the permit is to some extent irrelevant… I didn’t write the letter, I was just instructed to send it out.”

SO WHAT are growers with more than 25 plants supposed to do?

AT LAST WEEK’S Supe’s meeting, Roger Wheeler made what was probably the most pointed remarks about the situation to the Board of Supervisors:

WHEELER: I got this little letter from the Sheriff's office. It's not really anything I didn't expect. But given the way things have gone the last year under your direction, Supervisor at McCowen, we are further behind than we were. You seem to like getting business done behind closed doors. You make promises you don't keep. You have really broken the trust that the Sheriff’s office had started to build. It was a fragile trust but Randy Johnson and Dan Knapp and all the people I contacted in the Sheriff's office did a great job. I can't help but think that they are kind of caught in the middle here. I think that's probably an accurate assessment. I understand — and I have this on good information from a third party person — that about 350 permits were issued last year. Do the math on that. And there is an estimate that an equal number was shut out due to the deal you made behind closed doors with the Black-Tailed Deer Association [which had sued to force the County to comply with California Environmental rules before issuing any cultivation permit program; the County then put a moratorium on new permits under a settlement agreement]. You do the math on that, The Sheriff's office took in about $1.3 million just on that alone — applications and the zip ties that they sold as a result of that. Figure that out. There’s probably another 350 who were blocked out. Do you think the Sheriff's office needs another $1.3 million in their pocket right now? Last week they said they couldn't make budget. Well, I think they probably could. I'm holding you responsible for that [pointing to Supervisor McCowen]. When the committee was formed, all you guys [i.e., Supervisors], not you Mr. Hamburg, I wish he was able to speak and be involved in this issue, he is the only reasonable voice on this whole board. I think he's a good representative of what's going on in this county.”

BOARD CHAIR John McCowen seeing Wheeler’s three minutes were up: “Please conclude.”

WHEELER: “I would like to see you [McCowen] removed from the committee. Put someone in there that's a little more open-minded.”

McCOWEN: “There is no committee. Thank you. We're going to the next speaker.”

WHEELER “You did have a committee.”

McCOWEN: “Your time is up, sir.”

A FEW MINUTES LATER, McCowen, in a general response, said: “We all know that that letter went out. And we knew there was going to be a gap between the 2016 program and the program currently under development that we hope to adopt as soon as we reasonably can. We are under legal scrutiny. We do have to follow CEQA [environmental rules]. That has inevitably made the process more drawn out. I understand everyone's concern. I think we all do. I also am reasonably confident that the Sheriff understands the situation and will have respect for the fact that people who are doing everything they can to be legally compliant are not the highest priority for law enforcement. But that's going to be between you and law enforcement. Again, we are doing the best we can to get a permit regulation in place. We are not going to have a debate here.”

THE BOTANICAL GARDENS, one of Fort Bragg's many amenities, is giving a class on the propagation and care of rhododendrons. Too hot in Boonville for rhodos, although I've seen them do well in the redwoods of the west hills. But every time I see mention of Fort Bragg's city flower, I think of the late Vern Piver, an ace rhodo gardener, and Fort Bragg mayor in perpetuity.

WHERE'S COSTCO? The City of Ukiah is still working on the fix to the energy component of the EIR, the one area where the court found in favor of Mr. Kopper, the Davis-based attorney for the anonymous group of "progressives" who sued the city over this, that and the other CostCo-related matter, thus endlessly retarding the one big box store everyone (except them) wants. We're informed that final obstacle is about to be cleared and should be coming back to the City Council soon for the green light.

After Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight

across my forehead

I played at the front gate, pulling


You came by on bamboo stilts, playing


You walked about my seat, playing with

blue plums.

And we went on living in the village of


Two small people, without dislike or


At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never

looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with


Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the lookout?

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river

of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise


You dragged your feet when you went


By the gate now, the moss is grown,

the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in


The paired butterflies are already

yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me. I grow older.

If you are coming down through the

narrows of the river Kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Cho-fu-sa.


Translated by Ezra Pound


Mitch Clogg: “I have not been listening to KZYX for a long time. I will tune in. But will the KZYX news make any mention of this board meeting? [Silence.] Great. I was hoping that somebody would say, Well of course! But instead I have the sense that this is like so many board meetings that I have attended — not just KZYX. There is a typical thing: we listen politely to the people out there who are strident and annoying. And then we forget it. You have heard some very pithy stuff tonight. If this were to be broadcast in the news, I would listen to hear, What does the station have to say about the things you have heard at the board meeting last night? [i.e., financial irregularities and failure to follow their own rules]. Because I would like very much to know whether KZYX deserves a scintilla of my attention, or whether it deserves my condemnation, whether it's in print or any other damn place that I can find to do it. Because that's the way it's been done: shifty, secretly, and with a kind of straightfaced silliness, and impassive arrogance. So if you are collecting money from people every year so that you can give it away to people who don't really deserve it, I'd like to know about that. You have heard a lot of things that need to be responded to.”

Board member (and Ukiah realtor) Ed Keller: “You understand that the board isn't paid, right?”

Clogg: “What?”

Keller: “You understand that the board isn't paid?”

Clogg: “I'm sorry, my hearing isn't what it used to be.”

Board member Meg Courtney: “It's a volunteer board.”

Keller: “You understand we are volunteers, right?”

Clogg: “I would hope.”

Meg Courtney later responded: “I've never thought about it [broadcasting the board meeting or a news summary of the board meeting] because it never came up.”

KZYX Board Member Jonathan Middlebrook, after first starting to answer a simple question from a woman in the audience about whether Board members have to be members of KZYX, then interrupting himself: “Are we not supposed to answer public comments?”

A TRULY GLORIOUS SUNDAY propelled me up and out the door for a long walk from Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge, through the tourist throngs at the Frisco end of the Bridge — you're a definite old timer if you remember the restaurant there — and up through the Presidio and on into fields of gold sour grass which, I think, has been recently introduced but may be native. I should be able to say one way or the other because I hike the area year-round, but I've never seen it this stunningly abundant. Nice scent, too, kinda like certain varieties of heather.

SO, I'M TRUCKING along a bike path to avoid an impassable muddy stretch of trail, when this cyclist comes roaring past from behind me, close enough to startle me out of whatever happy reverie I was enjoying. He shouts, "Get back on the path!" I was so surprised all I could yell back was a partial Boontling insult, too obscure to have the desired effect. "Share the road, esel!" (Sound it out and you'll know what it means.") But the esel was moving so fast I doubt he heard me.

THE BIKE BRIGADES are so politically influential they've compelled CalTrans to erect "Share the Road" signs all over the place, even on the Ukiah-Boonville Road where cyclists are as rare as a person on foot. They, however, only share the road when they feel like it, or if they're alonE. (Try and move CalTrans to do anything.)

CLAD in Total Dweeb, all I could see of this one was a black lycra blob disappearing far ahead. I'm not alone in finding something deeply annoying at the mere appearance of these people and their five thousand dollar bikes and Lance Armstrong costumes. I know I live in the land of perpetual childhood, but where did these flying packs of two-wheeled rats come from, riding four abreast down public streets? That was the third time one of these two-wheeled milk monitors has yelled at me to get out of the bike lane. Only one has turned around to argue. I began that discussion by peppering the guy with defiant insults. Then I saw that he was only a kid in his twenties, and I felt like a major crank getting in his face, although he had come back for a one-on-one. And, as mentioned, I don't know what the law on bike lanes is, but he took Grandad's word for it though. The boy actually looked chastened as he pedaled slowly off. I've made a note to check with the cops about bike lane protocols.

NOTE FROM AN AMATEUR BOTANIST ON SOUR GRASS: "As a kid I always munched the stems of these little yellow flowers. It was sour tasting but surprisingly refreshing. I thought I was brilliant calling it sour grass. Come to find out that is what everyone calls it. Hence, common name sour grass. If I knew then what I know now I would have eaten the whole thing. Sour grass’S real name is wood sorrel even though it is not a sorrel or a grass. Its genus is Oxalis, the binomial name is Oxalis acetosella. Acetosella is Greek for sour. Confused? Nevermind. All you need to know is that you can eat the leaves, flowers, seeds and roots, and call it whatever you want. It has true heart shaped leaves."

THE NEW YORK TIMES runs a column called "What We're Reading," assuming, I guess, that we're supposed to care specifically about what NYT staffers are reading and run out to the nearest bookstore and buy on their say-so. There's so much log rolling in what's left of the book review racket, I trust only individual recommendations from people I know. Sometimes these people are on a different page, often we're not, but most can be trusted not to foist off "Lassie, The Greatest Dog Ever." Word of mouth is pretty reliable for movies, too, especially now that all the honest reviewers, the Pauline Kaels and the Dwight Macdonalds are gone.

FRIENDS SENT ME A BOOK last week that grabbed me from the first page, a book I'd never heard of, not that I'm claiming biblio-omnescense here. It's called "Six Red Months in Russia" by Louise Bryant, famously depicted in the silly movie "Reds" as John Reed's girlfriend, then wife. I'd put her right up there with John as a writer-journalist, although he's the much better known author of "Ten Days That Shook the World," considered the best account of it being made by an eyewitness or anyone else.

TO ME, Bryant's book is the better of the two for conveying the "feel" of the event as it was experienced live by Russians at all levels of Russian society. She makes it clear that for Russians unconnected to the owning classes almost everyone regarded Lenin and Trotsky as dual saviors. There's not a mention of Stalin anywhere in the book and, as we know, Lenin famously warned that it would be disastrous for Russia if the "man of steel" assumed power.

YEAH, YEAH, we all know what happened after the Bolsheviks consolidated power, but what happened seems inherent in the Leninist means of revolution, that the revolutionaries — trust us; we'll run this sucker on your behalf — are soon being chauffeured in the same big black limos that carried their predecessors. But there's no book like this one for conveying the idealism and the pure hope the Russian Revolution brought to the damned and the doomed everywhere in the world, hope soon crushed by Lenin's heirs.

"DR. FEELGOOD" is a brief history of the life of Dr. Max Jacobson who "treated" America's pioneer tweakers with mixtures of methamphetamine and all kinds of stuff the doctor seemed to include randomly in his popular witch's brews. But it was the meth that kept his patients coming back. Wielding his popular needle for an array of celebs, circa 1950-mid-1960's, Doc Feelgood eventually succumbed to his own concoctions, becoming so unhinged he lost his medical license.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY was Jacobson's most famous patient until Kennedy was convinced by his sanctioned medicos that the stuff would kill him if he kept it up, and would cause him to become totally irrational before it did. As it was, after one injection Kennedy threw off his clothes and was cavorting nude in the hall before aides corralled him. "I don't care if it's horse piss. It works," Kennedy is quoted as saying before he got off Jacobson's magic potion. The president was straight by the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, fortunately for mankind.

DOPERS of a certain age, people like me, I suppose, although the last dope I took was some exceedingly pleasant mescaline some time in the late 1960's followed by thirty or so triperoos on acid, the first scaring me straight enough not to walk around grotesque Frisco neighborhoods while under its powerful influence, which I'd underestimated because every hi-ho hippie I knew was promising personal interviews with God and warning not to take it without reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead beforehand. "Bullshit," I declared. "Just give me the goddamed pill. In fact, give me two!" Big mistake. It took thorazine to rescue me from sniveling incapacity, but I did get a head full of astounding imagery, but without so much as a glimpse of The Big Guy. Prior to that, I'd occasionally gulped speed in the form of "white cross" pills sold at truck stops. Never got into marijuana, preferring alcohol for consciousness raising most of my adult life. It occurs to me, though, if they made a mild white cross for seniors I'd be tempted.

I PICKED up a Brit paperback called The Very Best of the Daily Telegraph Books of Obituaries from a free box and have enjoyed very much reading death notices of people I'd never heard of, but certainly noteworthy in the British context, and so much better written than anything you'll read in American publications; these obits are a literary genre in themselves. You won't read about an idiosyncrasy like this one as our abundant population of eccentrics pass on: "Frank Morgan was a tall, hawk-like figure, noted for certain eccentricities. He had lost an eye as a child and wore an eyeglass in the remaining one. He could eject this by jerking his head upwards, and then catch it again in the socket. He said he found this a useful trick when addressing restive or sleepy audiences."

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