- Weed & Wine
- Little Dog
- Love Generation
- Love Drug
- Remembering Mike
- Meth Progression
- Homeless Response
- Gualala Poems
- Owl Boxes
- Yesterday's Catch
- The Future
- Kaepernick's Problem
- Moving Forward
- Single Payer
- KMEC Interview
- Mendocino Mystery
MAPLE CREEK WINERY’S Tom Rodrigues made a noteworthy statement to the Board of Supervisors last week as the Supes finalized the County’s medical marijuana cultivation regulations.
“I'm a winery owner, a grape grower, and a ranch owner here in Mendocino County. I sit on two boards — the MWI [Mendocino Winegrowers Inc.] board that represents 570 vineyards and wineries here. I was also elected to the MCIA [Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association] board which represents the cannabis growers.
“As far as grape growing and pear growing and other agricultural products here in Mendocino County, even though I grow organically, there is a large number of our vineyard owners and growers that use herbicides, pesticides, Roundup, and a lot of negative elements that affect our environment that end up in the streams and end up in the creeks and rivers, killing fish and yet they do not have the requirements and issues that the cannabis people are having to deal with. The cannabis people are probably the most organic farmers that we have here in Mendocino County. Only 25% of our vineyard owners grow organically. Most everyone else uses massive amounts of these chemicals put up by Monsanto. My concerns are, Why do cannabis farmers have to jump through these large hoops that grape growers and pear growers don't have to? I don't want to shoot myself in the foot or my industry, but it seems to me the the cannabis people are being put up against the wall a little bit harder than what we already have here in our county. There is more destruction with Roundup and herbicides and pesticides to our environment and the cannabis people don't use that. You can't put that in a cannabis farm. It would not be beneficial.
“The cannabis people are also going to be paying a higher tax. Why is it that other industries like grape farming and pears don't have to pay a 5% gross sales tax? That's kind of unheard of. I know there is some paralleling with the wine industry and the cannabis industry moving forward. The cannabis industry is looking to the wine industry for regulation and how to move things forward. But I would like to say that these people are really kind, and they love the environment. Whereas the grape farmers — a lot of them are just in it for the money. And these cannabis people are in it for the love. And the medicine does work. People are getting cured by it. Thank you.”
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “A little drama here this morning. My friend Cough — short, brown, curled-up tail — kinda went off this morning right in the middle of 128, barking at nothing but quite upset. Cars were honking at him, swerving around him, stopping for him. A coupla good people came out of the Redwood Drive-in to try to talk him down. Coupla hours later, Animal Control showed up. Attractive young woman behind the wheel of the pooch wagon. She looked all over for Cough but I don't think she got him. Myself? I think he was on some bad dope. I know where he lives, but I ain't sayin'.”
TAKE THIS, HIPPIES: Drugs Won The War On Drugs
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
The generation that has been squatting atop American society for the past half-century will soon enough be gone, thank God. The Love Generation is dying off every day, but for the good of the world and especially America it can’t happen fast enough.
The Baby Boomers think of themselves as creators of a wonderful world, a far better place than the one they inherited from their mean old uptight parents and all the rest of The Establishment they hated.
Baby Boomers (born between 1941 and ’55 or so) believe their generation is the one that stopped the war in Vietnam, ended racism and sexism in America, and gave the world the best, grooviest, most amazing and thought-provoking music ever. None of this is even close to being true.
There are many reasons to despise the Love Generation. I loathe all those arrogant hippies for their towering greed and their willingness to bankrupt future generations so they are able to live in luxury via grand pensions and budget-busting Social Security payouts. That’s only the first on my list of grievances, and my list is a long one.
Boomers inherited a country with excellent public schools, fine public transportation, a healthy and robust middle class, rapidly improving racial relations, a healthy, poised military and, not least, a promising and optimistic outlook for the future.
All gone today. Behold a country plundered by a single generation of greedy, lazy, stupid citizens.
Let’s focus on a cornerstone that has propped up shifting cultural attitudes and assumptions since about 1965. I was 17 years old in ’65 and even then, and even in the midwest, the push was on to glorify and consume illicit drugs. The push succeeded.
Look anywhere, and I suppose Ukiah is as good a place to look as any, and see the devastation wrought by our greedy, lazy, stupid fellow citizens. Ask Ukiah old-timers about changes they’ve noticed over the past half-century and often you’ll get trembling, stuttering semi-coherent responses that go something like this: “It just wasn’t like this! This was a safe town, a nice town, not much crime, people got along with each other.” Those who’ve lived here the longest are the ones most disgusted and disappointed at what Ukiah has become.
And it all began with marijuana. The hippie argument, not unreasonable, was that pot was a mild intoxicant and no worse than a Martini; the ongoing debate comparing and contrasting weed-whacked loadies to gin-soaked cocktailers remains unsettled.
Acceptance of marijuana was the first domino to fall. The official slogan among hippies became “Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll!” and what seemed at the time like merely a defiant and rebellious t-shirt emblem in retrospect illuminated the shallow, short-sighted, self-absorbed core at the center of boomer values. Pot was the only thing my generation was willing to fight for. Who was supposed to fight back?
Cultural attitudes sagged and then collapsed under relentless pressure from the Love Generation, proving that from now on the nation’s children were in charge. The music, the movies, TV and all the media glommed onto a groovy new audience eager to tune in, turn on, and get incapacitated by drugs.
Cocaine became fashionable. Everyone from Jack Nicholson to Eric Clapton to McKenzie Phillips were open advocates of coke, and soon living rooms all across the country were infiltrated by mirrors, straws, coke spoons, deviated septums and ambulance crews. Heroin then made its appearance, and our social infrastructure began to wobble.
Crime got on a roll in big cities and small towns, even as legalization advocates continued to insist drug use was a “victimless crime.” Law enforcement cracked down, and the judicial system doubled down.
Now we stare out at the American landscape and watch an opioid wave roll across the land leaving nothing behind but casualties. The opioid crisis succeeded the heroin crisis, the crack cocaine crisis, the methamphetamine, ice, bath salts, fentanyl crisis and half a dozen other drug crises jumpstarted by the generation that launched the whole sorry mess 50 years ago.
How many homicides, suicides, robberies, overdoses, and destroyed lives can be fairly blamed on drugs? Thousands of men have spent vast portions of their lives in prison. Mothers have abandoned their children to foster care so they could do more meth, and now those kids are mucking up their own lives with our old friend marijuana.
How many of our inner cities and small towns have been destroyed? How many kids have dropped out of high school to join gangs? Those kids are fighting and killing each other in turf wars in order to sell drugs to your grandchildren so they can die too. There’s been no end to the criminality, the thieving, rehab, heartbreak, despair, depression, jail and broken dreams caused by drugs, and that’s just the family next door.
But at least there haven’t been any victims.
(Tom Hine, a former hippie and an early whiner for drug legalization, acknowledges his enthusiasm may have been misplaced, as it was for other causes. TWK, his imaginary friend, believes we should take a more holistic view and appreciate the cool druggie stuff like Peter Max posters, love beads, ugly tattoos and the songs of Donovan.)
LUNCH AT THE YORKVILLE MARKET CAFE
SO, A COUPLA local guys agree for the one guy to transport a big load of marijuana back east somewhere where Mendo dope brings big prices. The load is large enough and lucrative enough for its grower to expect it will pay off his mortgage. But the transport guy returns to the Anderson Valley with a sad and wholly unconvincing tale that the cops separated him from the Boonville cargo in some place like Utah where a kind of cottage industry has developed intercepting youngish men with California plates tooling along with a tail light out or some other visible pretext for a stop. Sure enough, the vehicle reeks of Mendo Mellow and, fast forward, either the forces of law and order made a nice buck off the ensuing fines or the driver sold the dope and kept the money, as has been known to happen. The transport guy made it back to Anderson Valley suspiciously fast, so fast it was unlikely that he had been, as they say, incarcerated. The two parties to this sad chapter in weed free enterprise encountered each other the other day in central Boonville, the ripper blithely telling the ripped off to go have sexual intercourse with himself, while the ripped off said he intended to kill the ripper and his children. And they call it the love drug.
IT WILL TAKE me a while to think of Mike Shapiro as the "late Mike Shapiro," because he was a friend for so many years. I first met him at a school board meeting in, I think, 1971. He was there, as I recall, to speak to a problem with the school bus schedule. As he spoke, a hostile audience muttered, "Sit down" and "Shaddup." As newcomers to the Anderson Valley, we were unwelcome participants in the local democratic process. The hostility increased as I complained about the district's haircut policy. The burning issue of hair length had already been to the Supreme Court where it was ruled, "Like, really, who could possibly care?"
OUTSIDE in the parking lot, Mike and I commiserated. "Where the hell are we?" Etc. A couple of weeks later I was sucker punched as I exited a meeting and won my first local tko, going on to rack up more losses than wins before growing too old for hand-to-hand combat.
MIKE was always much more of a liberal than me, going on to become a stalwart in the local Democratic Party, an active supporter of semi-public radio, a reliable vote for incompetent supervisors, and so on through the Mendolib catechism.
BUT HE REMAINED an open man, and a kindly one. We argued down through the years without animus on either side. I always recommended Mike to people looking for property in The Valley and, when I sold my place on Anderson Valley Way, I warned him, "Mike, there's more structural illegality on that half-acre than any property in Mendocino County." He said, "I don't see anything here that presents major problems." That was the man. He never hesitated to have a go at the insurmountable.
I SPOKE WITH HIM only two weeks ago by phone, and he sounded so good, so much like the Mike I've known all this time, that I thought he'd beat back the Reaper. And then he was gone. Right behind you, Mike. I look forward to seeing you again Upstairs somewhere between the eternal school board meeting and Class K Street.
THE FACE OF METH
HOMELESS ENCAMPMENTS NEED A PLANNED RESPONSE
The recent clearing of a growing homeless encampment at the Ukiah Depot pocket park on Perkins Street shows us how quickly homeless people will begin to take possession of a comfortable spot if they are not disturbed.
We hear people calling for the Ukiah Police Department to do more to keep these gatherings out of view. But we can’t simply ask the police to keep moving people around just so we aren’t offended by them.
Don’t get us wrong, we do not want homeless people sleeping in our parks, by our river, in our alleys or other vacant areas. Not even Walmart’s parking lot.
But asking the police to simply be the method by which we move them around, isn’t fair.
There is a school of thought out there that if the police go around telling people to get up and move, many of those people will get sick of being disturbed and move along out of town.
That may be true to some extent. We also know that there are people who are inhabiting our vacant spaces who are indeed local and who even have resources they choose, for whatever reason, not to use.
The winter shelter is about to close for the year and more people will be joining the homeless encampments.
It is not fair to simply lay the problem at the feet of our police officers. We think it’s time to get a city-county partnership up and running in which teams of people including social and mental health workers go with police to these encampments. We do indeed have laws prohibiting public camping. For those who are just making themselves comfortable in Ukiah for awhile, ticket them, threaten them with some jail time and some will leave town. For those who have mental health or addiction problems, let the social workers try to help them, get them signed up for assistance and keep tracking them. Some of them may also be able to move into existing transitional housing. Though they were put on hold, the county still has plans to develop some kind of tiny houses area, or it can help provide funding to turn old motels and other vacant buildings into small apartment units.
The key is that it is going to take a group effort.
Yes, let’s move along the young people who seem to just want to hang around waiting for the dream marijuana job to appear. Let’s move along the people who want homelessness as a lifestyle. When it becomes uncomfortable, they’ll leave or commit to getting off the streets.
There is no solving this problem in the near future. But we think it’s time for the police to get a break. They need partners in the effort, or failure will be the only outcome.
–K.C. Meadows, Editor, Ukiah Daily Journal (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
GUALALA POETICALLY DEFINED #1
The saga of the Gualala;
Wood axle deep
In mud rocks and twine
my burro is dead from pullin' the line
Can't seem to cross the old A'wah'hala li
She's washed all of my wares a way's out to sea
But hell bent on makin' the river's cross
I'll show this damned River who's the boss
I'll gather all I have to muster
to cross this River with all of it's lustre
And should I fail and slip and fall
Ain't no tellin' who to call
Ya see, all alone we make our way
We're crossing the Gualala River today
The last to follow, I'll tell the tale
Just the wagon, me and Jezabel
I'm on my knees
in this watery Hell
An' if I get to the other side
who'll follow in my stride?;
The preachers who must abide,
the carpetbaggers on the backs of others
oh how they will ride,
the sweet little missy's all dressed in pink
Oh lawdy, lawdy, how my boots do stink
I gotta get out o' the way;
the pack train behind me
with mules that bray.
They say "you're in the middle of the path"
Hell, what's keeping them from takin' a bath
On the riverbank
I watch them pass
I'm just wondering
"who is the real jackass"
They say the first ones here
we're Russians from afar
I'll stick with the Pomo
whose world is ajar
From this side to that
the River has taken my hat
None worse for the wear
But I never want to cross that River again
To that I swear…
* * *
GUALALA POETICALLY DEFINED #2
Ain't doing the hollow sound
of mausoleum or return around
of embalmment or ashes
upon to weep
my body is for nature to keep
Set me free in a COSTCO casket
or leave me in the river
in an old growth basket
Wherever I go is no big deal
And I wish all of you the best of zeal
A DEMOCRAT STRAIGHTENS US OUT. SORRY, HUFF.
(So We Can Be Confident You'll Support Bern's Medicare For Everyone Bill?)
Jared Huffman supports single payer and has for years. No doubt one reason he was endorsed for Congress by the California Nurses Association - though not the only reason because if I recall correctly most if not all of the Dem candidates for Congress in our district in 2012 supported single payer.
Huffman is also a co-sponsor of John Conyers' new single payer bill in Congress, https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/676/cosponsors
If you google "Huffman single payer" you'll find plenty references to single payer bills he co-sponsored and supported while in the CA Legislature - Here's a quote from Huffman from 2006 such a search:
"I have directly legislated on issues regarding access to healthcare for the last six years in the California State Assembly. While in the Assembly, I supported and co-authored single payer legislation each year, and will continue to champion this as the ultimate goal for health insurance policy in Congress."
From Smart Voter, 2012 campaign:
What, if any, changes should be made to federal health care policies or programs?
We must defend the Affordable Care Act. It's already making a difference for millions of Americans and lives are being saved through coverage that otherwise would have been unavailable. Longer term, America needs single payer. I've co-authored single payer legislation each year in the Assembly and will continue to support it in Congress.
Here's what he told constituents this year at town halls, multiple reports, but here's Kym Kemp's February 23, 2017 report (in bullet point form):
"Single payer healthcare–Huffman said the future of single payer is hopeful. He has personally been a cosponsor of MediCal for All for many years. "
And March 9 in the Petaluma newspaper:
"Huffman also voiced his support for single payer health care, though he said it could be a “long slog” to establish such a system."
Maybe you don't think he's done enough, sure, fine. Maybe you'd prefer him to talk in more glorious if not exactly reality-based language: "We WILL have single payer THIS YEAR in Congress, and I will lead the charge!!!" I dunno. But like him or not, think he's effective or not, for the record, Jared Huffman supports a single-payer health system, he talks about supporting such and why he does, and he has so for years.
OWLS (BARN AND OTHERWISE) & BOXES
Barn owls do not like redwood forest, and much prefer warm, open meadow areas. I've seen them on top of Navarro Ridge and in open areas of Comptche, but not right here on the coast. There are many in the Anderson and all the interior valleys. They like a two-room box that needs to be cleaned annually, and aren't fussy about how high it is off the ground. Many boxes can be seen in the organic vineyards on posts about 15' high and only 50' apart.
Owl Boxes: (in a nut shell)
We have lots of screech and great horned owls in redwood areas, a small number of saw-whet and pygmy owls, barn owls are rare in redwood forested areas. I'll have nest box patterns to distribute at the woodlands wildlife programs later in May, but just go on the internet and you'll find plenty of patterns. Each species has it's own set of specifications, so be sure to Google "barn owl box" or "great horned" or "screech owl" etc. Barred or Spotted owls are rare and have such specific requirements, they don't use man-made structures. Do not use redwood--it's toxic and can harm baby owls, also splinters are a big problem, and do not 'decorate' the box with any sort of rusty metal decor (cut bird's feet). Boxes need to be placed at a certain height from the ground, facing north, not in full sun.
it's probably too late already this year to put out a box and expect it to be used. Owls are already on the nest and hatch may have started by now. Owls like to 'shop' around in their territory, so it's good to put one up now but don't expect it to be used until possibly next spring. Do not be surprised if a squirrel or woodpecker takes up residence.
Ronnie James (MCN Listserve)
CATCH OF THE DAY, March 26, 2017
TRAVIS GRAUX, Willits. Marijuana cultivation, marijuana possession for sale.
AARON GUILLORY, Fort Bragg. Petty theft.
ROBERT KAHNY, Bonita Springs, Florida/Willits. Drunk in public.
MICHAEL LARSON, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, probation revocation.
CHRISTOPHER LOPEZ, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
DEANNA MADRID, Calpella. Domestic assault.
DWAYNE MCKENZIE, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
JASON PICKETT, Willits. Paraphernalia, protective order violation.
CHERRI ROBERTS, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
PATRICK WILLIAMS, Willits. DUI.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
It’s hard for me to imagine the near future. There’re so many fuckups possible, why bother to try to figure out which ones will occur? It’s like being given a choice of which way you want to die, by hanging or by firing squad? Either way it will hurt and you will be dead. What I have trouble with, is why am I still feeling positive that things will work out? I can come up with an exhaustive list of reasonably probable terrible events, but almost no good ones – at least for the near and intermediate future. Could I have reached my current old age being so unrealistic? I don’t want to be negative, no matter what – it just doesn’t pay. I’m emotionally ready to accept whatever happens – I think – but I’ll be danged if I run around being depressed. As Sha Na Na said, live for today…
KAP HAS HIS MOMENTS, OTHERWISE CAN'T PLAY
It’s his play, not his politics, costing Kaepernick
This week President Donald Trump bragged that he is the reason free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn’t signed with an NFL team.
Now, this isn’t the place for Trump commentary. For that you can go to … well, almost any other page of the newspaper.
But his comments feed into the red (white and blue) herring that says Kaepernick is out of work because he refused to stand for the national anthem. The narrative is that the NFL has such lofty moral standards that no team will risk signing a player with that sort of baggage.
These are the NFL teams who are right now attempting to come up with a justification to draft Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who can be seen in a 2014 video punching a woman so viciously that he broke her jaw. Spoiler alert: He’s going to be drafted, and probably in the early rounds.
This is the league commissioner — Roger Goodell — who, after Baltimore running back Ray Rice knocked his girlfriend unconscious in 2014, ruled that he should serve a mere two-game suspension. (Goodell increased it to “indefinite” after a horrifying video of Rice’s assault appeared.) This is a league that last year drafted offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil in the first round, despite a video appearing to show him smoking marijuana while wearing a gas mask for a maximum high.
Next to those examples, Kaepernick doesn’t look like such a menace to society. He’s even made compassionate donations to Meals on Wheels and drought-plagued Somalia.
Remember, for all the cries of how his protest was shredding the very fabric of society, it wasn’t until the third preseason game that anyone even noticed he was doing it.
And by the way, where do we draw the line? I was once at a high school football games where a guy had the hat knocked off his head because he didn’t take it off during the anthem. Are we going to enforce that at Levi’s Stadium? What about putting your hand over your heart? You’re supposed to do that, too. If you don’t, should you be removed from the stadium?
I don’t know what NFL teams are thinking about Kaepernick, but I can tell you what I think and I’ll bet many teams feel the same way.
I don’t care if Kaepernick sits, kneels, stands or does jumping jacks during the anthem.
I want to see him complete a 12-yard out. For a first down. Consistently.
That’s not happening.
You can pick your favorite metric, but they all make the same point — when it comes to passing accuracy and production, Kaepernick isn’t in the top 20.
There’s no shame in that. There are millions of people who can’t play quarterback.
Every year hundreds of college quarterbacks — first, second and third string — take the field, hopeful of making their mark. How many of them even get drafted into the NFL? Ten? And how many of those make it? Not many.
Playing quarterback in the NFL is the most difficult job in professional sports. You have to throw 30 yards with pinpoint accuracy, read defenses on the fly, and get rid of the ball before big, angry men knock you flat.
Kaepernick hasn’t done that.
Still, for years, the 49ers have persisted that improvement is just around the corner.
Kaepernick went to summer quarterback camp with Kurt Warner and returned with a whole new throwing motion. They were going to tailor the offense to his skills. He’s getting better at reading the field, we’re told.
And yet, still not in the top 20.
The 49ers’ version of “waiting for Colin” has made “Waiting for Godot” look like a light-hearted tale of joyful reunions.
C’mon. He’ll be 30 in November. He’s entering his seventh year in the NFL. If he’s going to turn it around, we should have seen it by now.
Loyal fans defend Kaepernick because of his signature scrambles. When protection breaks down he takes off, sometimes running for long first downs or even touchdowns.
It’s very exciting. Unfortunately, it is not an offense.
An NFL offense is crafted by sophisticated deep thinkers who create precise patterns for 11 men to move in unison. Players run complicated routes to create a moment in time when a receiver pops open in space. At that exact second, the quarterback has to deliver a ball into the receiver’s hands.
Kaepernick doesn’t do that consistently. And that’s the job description.
Now, is there a chance he’ll get it together, find a team and a coach that can make the most of him? Sure. He may prove everyone wrong. What a laugh he will have on those of us who doubted him.
But he’s had his shot with the 49ers.
Teams are looking at his body of work and doubting he can play quarterback in the NFL.
If they thought he could, they’d sign him — regardless of the anthem protest.
The deep parts of my life pour onward,
as if the river shores were opening out.
It seems that things are more like me now,
that I can see farther into paintings.
I feel closer to what language can't reach.
With my sense, as with birds, I climb
into the windy heaven, out of the oak,
and in the ponds broken off from the
sky my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
MEMBERS OF VERMONT'S CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION told hundreds of constituents at a rousing town hall meeting Saturday that the defeat of the Republican health plan was "a victory," with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders telling the cheering crowd that he plans to introduce a "Medicare for all" bill soon.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said he would introduce the same bill in the House of Representatives.
"It wasn't just we defeated them," Sanders, an independent, said. "It was how we defeated them," with rallies around the country, town meetings and people standing up and fighting back.
"No, we're not going to give $300 million in tax breaks to the top 2 percent and then throw 24 million Americans off of health insurance. Ain't gonna happen," Sanders said.
Welch called the Republican health plan designed to replace the Obama-era health law known as the Affordable Care Act a tax cut bill masquerading as health care.
"This health care bill was not the art of the deal. It was the art of the steal," he said.
TRUMP CALLS FOR MAJOR ESCALATION in Syria -- on KMEC Radio, Monday, March 27, at 1 pm — John Sakowicz and Sid Cooperrider interview Peabody award-winning foreign correspondent, Reese Erlich, on Monday, March 27, at 1 pm, Pacific Time. We'll talk about Trump's plans to sharply escalate U.S. military intervention in Syria. The New York Times recently reported: “The White House is drafting a presidential directive that calls on Defense Secretary James M. Mattis to devise plans to more aggressively strike the Islamic State, which could include American artillery on the ground in Syria and Army attack helicopters to support an assault on the group’s capital, Raqqa, officials said.” MEC RADIO broadcasts at 105.1 FM in Ukiah, from the offices of the Mendocino Environmental Center. We also stream live from the web at www.kmecradio.org. Our shows are archived, and may be distributed through NPR's Public Radio Exchange or Pacifica's Radio4All. More than 47,000 viewers have watched some of our shows on our Youtube channel.
Please support KMEC Radio and the Mendocino Environmental Center by becoming a member or underwriter.
A MENDOCINO MYSTERY IN THREE PARTS
Wanda, the Fort Bragg Bag Lady
by Professor Donald Foster
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.