- Administrative Leave
- High-speed Mohawk
- Edmundson Corrections
- Little Dog
- FB Haikus
- Yesterday's Catch
- Asking Why
- Presidential Schtick
- Dissent Disarray
- Trump Correct
- Country Dance
- Obama's Endorsement
- J.D. Salinger
- Mendocino Theatre
- Stupid Cruelty
- Rollercoaster Life
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL PUT ON PAID LEAVE.
In the latest development at troubled Anderson Valley Unified School District, the elementary school principal has been place on paid administrative leave. Bad feeling between the principal, Dr. Riddick, and district superintendent, Michelle Hutchins, boiled over early last week when Dr. Riddick filed a police report claiming that Ms. Hutchins had shouted at her and physically prevented her from leaving the superintendent's office.
At a special board meeting on May 24, Anderson Valley Unified School District (AVUSD) Board members decided to put Anderson Valley Elementary School Principal Dr. Katherine Reddick on paid administrative leave while they gather additional information regarding a dispute between her and Superintendent Michelle Hutchins on May 17. Board members also asked that any complaints or concerns regarding either administrator be forwarded directly to the school board via board member Eric Arbanovella via email at email@example.com.
Board president Dick Browning said, “There’s been a lot of speculation about recent events. It’s our job to take appropriate action based on facts, not hearsay, and that’s what we intend to do.” Board members have met twice in the past week to address concerns expressed by local parents and AVUSD staff members. When board members heard that some people may not be coming forward because they feared retaliation, board members temporarily changed the standard complaint practice, allowing people to share confidential concerns directly with the board. Browning said, “We encourage people not to gossip. If you have concerns, share them with us. Otherwise, know that we are doing our best to get to the bottom of this issue while respecting the rights of all parties. Our first priority is always doing what is best for AVUSD students. As soon as we have enough information to take action, we’ll do so.”
* * *
TODAY'S NEWS from the tumultuous Anderson Valley School District. The following letter is from resigned trustee, Eric Arbanovella. He's the guy who concluded his letter announcing his resignation with a martyred, "I won't do this anymore," with no explanation what he wouldn't do anymore.
HE'S ALSO the guy who shows up to meetings with a well-thumbed copy of Robert's Rules of Order, which he brandishes while interrupting the already stumbling proceedings to claim points of order. (Boonville school board meetings go on for hours.)
THE OCD-ISH tenor of Arbanovella's message serves nicely as Exhibit A of why the school board itself has exacerbated present tensions among staff. Why Arbanovella, who's finished at the end of June, is still involved in making decisions for the district… Well, such is the reigning confusion that the board turns to the guy who's creating most of it.
I ASKED ARBANOVELLA, "What is the present status of high school principal, St. Jeor?"
ARBANOVELLA REPLIED: "Please ask the Board President or the Superintendent. Individual Board members are not to comment on personnel matters, and I know that I do not have the latest information. PS: re today's blog, I only operate dictionaries when I'm writing or when I'm asked politely by a child, and I'd be happy to explain what I can about being late to yesterday's meeting to anyone who actually voted me into office."
JEEZ. Seriously, can you even imagine being trapped in a meeting room with this guy for four hours? And in the press release announcing the paid suspension of Dr. Reddick, we have trustee Browning asking people not to gossip.
THE COMMUNITY is abuzz, Mr. Browning, because prior to today's press release nobody had a clear idea of what was happening. Gossip is what the school board gets when it resorts to secrecy when there's no reason for it.
SUPERINTENDENT HUTCHINS told us this afternoon that high school principal St. Jeor had been reassigned as a Spanish Teacher for next year.
EARLIER in the day, the superintendent denied that she is seeking, or had sought, another position.
WHILE WE'RE TALKING local school management, the Boonville schools are diverting thousands of dollars to lawyers that should be going into the classroom. I'm sure Arbanovella, with his blind love for the legal profession, is largely responsible for hustling the trustees into "consulting" attorneys over stuff that ought to be sorted out by the school board itself. If basic decisions are going to be made for us by dubious, un-elected lawyers sitting in Santa Rosa, why do we even need a local school board?
THE OTHER NIGHT we're all stuffed into the superintendent's office, and here comes a lawyer, mumbling inaudibly over a speaker phone, relaying what seemed to be instructions as to what the school board could and could not do! (The five-minute phone call probably cost the district a couple of hundred bucks.) The gist was three options on how to deal with a student expulsion. Natch, the school board selected the most expensive option, a retired judge to represent them.
USED TO BE, the board listened to the case for expulsion all by itself. If the kid expelled and his parents did not like the decision rendered by the board, they could appeal to the County School board. Didn't cost nobody nothin'.
I'VE DEALT off and on over the years with the lawyers in Santa Rosa. That office is its own scam, begun by a slick character who parlayed his purely self-alleged edu-law expertise into a permanent, fat annual retainer for himself and, three decades later, he's got a small army of attorneys, the whole expensive show paid out of classroom money by ALL the schools of Mendocino County and, I believe, Sonoma County with, of course, individual nuggets of advice like we got by speaker phone the other night, costing their own fee. The upshot is that children, the funding units who pay for all this, are represented by no one.
PS. THE DA'S OFFICE said that no report on the altercation alleged between the superintendent and the elementary school principal had been received by his office.
On May 21, 2017 at approximately 4:16 p.m., Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies were involved in a vehicle pursuit of a red Polaris Slingshot 3-wheeled motorcycle driven by a white male adult with a mohawk. The vehicle pursuit was initiated after Deputies attempted to conduct a traffic enforcement stop on the driver for excessive speed. The vehicle pursuit spanned from the 33000 block of Simpson Lane to the 28000 block of Simpson Lane where the driver abandoned the motorcycle and fled on foot. During that pursuit the driver drove into oncoming traffic and caused oncoming vehicular traffic to take evasive action in order to avoid a collision.
On 05-22-2017, the motorcycle was confirmed to be stolen out of Roseville. The suspect operating the motorcycle has not yet been identified. The Mendocino County Sheriff's is asking for community assistance in identifying the suspect who had been transporting individuals on the motorcycle that same day throughout the Fort Bragg and Mendocino areas. Anyone with information regarding the above male subject may contact the Sheriff's Office anonymously at 707-964-6308 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections to a Letter to the Editor
It's always nice to be remembered and I thank Beth Bosk for her letter published in your May 24th issue, but I must straighten out the record.
From beginning to the end of her letter:
I was, in fact, 18 years old, not 21, and wasn't yet a college student.
I drove to Chicago the day before with my older brother.
The iconic photograph — Jeff Blankfort's, in fact — was printed in Ramparts Magazine, not on the cover of Life (see Attached).
I didn't become one of the Chicago 7, I was a witness for Rennie Davis and John Froines of the Chicago 7 in their defense against Federal conspiracy charges.
Hoping to set the record straight. And, yes, still alive and kicking.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “Big mystery here today. They found a used condom in front of their office. ‘What the heck is going on around here at night, Little Dog? Erotic hijinks under your nose, and not so much as a woof?’ they asked. I guard what I can. I need another dog to patrol the whole place. Late at night, way out in the parking lot? Some crazy stuff goes down in Boonville after midnight. I'm not going out there alone!”
FORT BRAGG NOTES
by Rex Gressett
Fort Bragg City Manager Linda Ruffing’s prepackaged ready to believe biweekly spin sheet just arrived in my email box. Linda writes her “City Notes” to let folks know what is going on in Fort Bragg City Government. It comes out every two weeks. Of course the Advocate prints it without comment. Linda provides this epitome of transparency with the same sort of abstracted happy-face that is her trademark in discourse before the City Council. The style itself has become an institution in our city and rightly deserves to be recognized and applauded. Happiness, tranquility and competent management are radiant in these abbreviations of complex policy. It must not be easy. Ms. Ruffing has evolved her own special style in these regular bi weekly missives, in which she strives to get the most information to the most people in bite sizes that accommodate virtually any attention span.
Putting a great deal of information into tiny bits is a wonderful challenge. I contemplated how these nuggets of truthfulness and thoughtfulness might be made even more nugget like. Although they cannot compare with the original prose, here are Linda’s May 25 City Notes rendered in Haiku. I have excluded the ‘Mark Your Calendars’ section (good reading in its own right.) to concentrate on her substantive message.
The dry shed is doomed
permits pending. It comes down
the mill site withers.
Pot grows like money
the city would like a cut
quiet meetings drone
Painting city hall gray
Guest House roofing in the spring
money flowing softly
Coastal trail now is linked
a sad saga decades long
stand by for Segways
the Glass Beach stairway
embarrassment for too long
might yet be started
CATCH OF THE DAY, May 25, 2017
AURELIUO ALCARAZ, Ukiah. DUI.
DONNA DERESKERICIUS, Mendocino. Probation revocation.
MICHAEL DONAHE, Ukiah. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
BILLY EATON, Willits. Battery, petty theft, receiving stolen property.
RACHEL HENDRICKSON, Cape Coral, Florida/Hopland. DUI, drug addict driving a vehicle.
GARRIE HOAGLIN, Covelo. Failure to register, parole violation.
KELLY LORETZ, Daly City/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
STEVEN LUNA, Covelo. Drunk in public.
JOSEPH MARQUES, Ukiah. Failure to register, vandalism.
LUKE NADEAU, Fort Bragg. DUI.
TERRY OMLER, Redwood Valley. Probation revocation.
NOE PEREZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.
AUBREY THOMAS, Willits. Controlled substance, probation revocation.
KRISTINE TUPPER, Ukiah. Camping in Ukiah, trespassing, probation revocation.
JAMES WHEELER, Laytonville. Domestic battery, protective order violation.
Dear Editor —
I began teaching in September, 1957. I taught history. History teaches us the Who did what, when and where. I am still "teaching" as a substitute. "Teaching" is in quotes because over the years I have discovered that real learning only takes place when we deal with an attempt to answer the question "Why?"
Dealing with "why?" is very subjective. Why were the Kennedys and Martin Luther King "killed"? I put "killed" in quotes because my "why?" goes beyond the standard historical answer. I am talking about "assassination."
This is where "why?" leads to a dangerous conclusion. Rather than enter into the realm of conjecture, the educational "establishment" chooses to avoid dealing with the question. I'm talking about K-12 as well as universities such as Stanford where I graduated.
The Anderson Valley Advertiser offers its readers a chance to see the reasons beneath the "facts." Consequently, many object to "fanning the flames of discontent." But if we don't fan those flames, how will we ever learn?
Julian Assange cannot afford to leave the safety of the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Those who expose the "truth" are rarely popular and mostly threatening to those in power.
Little children are often asking "why?" The answer is often, "because." Until we begin answering the questions truthfully, we will never learn and never grow.
NEARLY TWO YEARS INTO our relationship with Donald Trump, politician, his core schtick is no longer really a secret. The new president swings wildly between buffoon and strongman acts, creating confusion and disorder. While his enemies scramble to make sense of the outrages of a week before or yesterday or 10 minutes ago, and spend valuable energy wondering whether the man is crazy or stupid or cunning (or perhaps all three things at once), Trump continually presses forward.
We always assumed there was a goal behind it all: cattle cars, race war, autocracy. But those were last century's versions of tyranny. It would make perfect sense if modern America's contribution to the genre were far dumber. Trump in the White House may just be a monkey clutching history's biggest hand grenade. Yes, he's always one step ahead of us, and more dangerous than any smart person, and we can never for a minute take our eyes off him.
But while we keep looking for his hidden agenda, it's our growing addiction to the spectacle of his car-wreck presidency that is the real threat. He is already making idiots and accomplices of us all, bringing out the worst in each of us, making us dumber just by watching. Even if Trump never learns to govern, after four years of this we will forget what civilization ever looked like – and it will be programming, not policy, that will have changed the world.
— Matt Taibbi
THE RISE OF THE ALT-CENTER
by Jennifer Matsui
In this day and age, ‘dissent’ means little more than feeding mostly vetted, crowd-pleasing opinions into some online algorithm that will yield better results for a pharmaceutical giant or a law enforcement agency. We can say all kinds of shit to a highly selective, built-in audience of multiple selves, and feel good about exercising our right to free speech – in the meantime forgetting that all this 'activism’ is just more content to be harvested like organs for marketing and surveillance purposes.
As data donors, we entrust ourselves to a system that crunches us into numbers and demographics based on whatever self-serving agenda needs a conflated mathematical formulae to increase the bottom line of a corporation and/or the governments they run.
We can wage a “resistance” against the monster we have inadvertently, but predictably created, having empowered right wing populism as a means to further disenfranchise the left, which had already abandoned its economic platform to focus on ‘identity’ and sexuality. How long can you insist that a fashion faux pas is on par with The Killing Fields in terms of “appropriation” before your irrelevance becomes well-deserved fodder for the sub-Reddit community? And who would have guessed that prioritizing correct pronouns over actual policy to address a widening and worsening income gap would cause the most struggling and despairing segment of the voting bloc to throw their lot in with the now Cheeto-Bag-in-Chief as payback for NAFTA and Lena Dunham?
You could make the argument that the left’s capitulation to identity politics would be enough to convince the powers that be that they have eliminated the risk of stirring up the sort of social unrest that demands a radical overhauling of wealth distribution instead of cosmetic adjustments to speech. But why settle for an effective neutering of ‘left’ opposition when you can take a chainsaw to the whole damn dog?
For the same reason acquiring the lion’s share of the world’s wealth isn’t quite the same as ‘having it all’. A mindset that could be best summed up as “My yacht is only 500 meters longer than an aircraft carrier because some fucking kid in Detroit still has the luxury of eating lead and ketchup for breakfast”. Rather than tolerate pesky, profit-reducing labor unions, universal healthcare, public education and environmental regulations, why not just replace them all with angry men yelling at their TV sets? And equally angry women yelling at skinny models? As a strategy, it seemed to work until, well, . . . Donald Trump.
Scientifically speaking, an exploding, loose cannon ball of earwax as leader of the ‘Free World’ is what happens when you successfully kill off a vital organism – “good” bacteria, if you will, in order to allow another one to thrive and multiply without impediment. Either by accident or design, we are helpless against the ruling class as our resistance to these ultimately host-killing predators have been eroded by the absence of a political organism that could create the necessary bulwarks against their expanding and unchecked powers.
Having purged the elements necessary for a diverse and evenly keeled political eco-system that provides the checks and balances necessary to maintain an actual democracy, we are left with a walled-in sectarian ‘Free Trade’ zone where the rights of pipelines and bathroom stalls are vigorously upheld and protected under a ‘No Smoking’ sign.
The deliberate and ongoing political engineering necessary to give multinationals their global stranglehold was introduced with predictable blowback-inducing results in much of the Middle East when left wing politicians and parties were dissolved at the behest of the US, and dissenters were driven into mosques, creating the present political vacuum that gives people in Muslim-majority countries the ‘choice’ between a corrupt neoliberal order enforced by a US installed dictator or a motley band of head choppers with a more proactive approach to capitalism.
People in South and Central America have been similarly forced to cede their sovereignty in exchange for not finding themselves at the mercy of armed drug dealers on the same payroll as their IS counterparts in Syria and Iraq.
It was only a matter of time before our overlords would apply the same divide-and-conquer strategies at home, where the so-called Red/Blue state divide discourages solidarity between unemployed autoworkers in the Michigan, and the equally redundant factory and farm workers south of the Rust Belt. This division is demarcated along ‘color lines’, even though both demographics are collateral damage left in the wake of deregulation, privatization and the ruinous trade deals that successive war party administrations have implemented to increase the bottom line of their donors.
Our own elite-ascribed ‘tribal’ affiliations result in an endless televised tug-of-war that pits “rednecks” against “thugs” and “snowflakes” against everything that isn’t organic, fair trade or LGBT-friendly for the short-term gains that meaningless victories engender when “clapping back” on Twitter represents the pinnacle of dialectical achievement.
The same strategies used to forestall Arab unity and Pan-Africanism are behind our own failing, upended political system, where both ‘left’ and ‘right’ issue meaningless, social-based ‘fatwas’ against, say, same-sex marriage and gluten as their corrupt leaders run victory laps around the boardrooms of Goldman Sachs. And why shouldn’t they rejoice at their success in synthesizing globalization with a growing strain of a parasitic brain wasting disease to replace a system whose regulatory ‘glitches’ slowed down its cancerous growth. Enter a murderous ‘healthcare’ bill to hasten the incremental death of surplus labor so that our smart phones can communicate with our lampshades in the worker-less, post-Trump utopia ahead.
In the meantime, it’s hardly surprising that a ‘super bug’ would emerge after three decades of the political and social engineering necessary to transform left opposition to war into a Red-baiting faction of warmongers.
What else could explain the liberal establishment agitating on behalf of the FBI and the CIA, citing “grave concerns” about national security based on Israeli espionage? Notice how no one is asking why this particular foreign government is so closely embedded into the American state security apparatus, despite its refusal to curb its illegal settlement expansion in the occupied territories. Or why Joe Liebermann, the Apartheid regime’s biggest booster, is being considered to head the FBI, with the same bipartisan support his Israeli benefactors receive from both Republicans and Democrats – most notably the “socialist” Bernie Sanders – to excuse Israel from adhering to international law.
American liberals are upset, it seems, over their “loose-lipped” president inadvertently cockblocking an Israeli strike on Iran by sharing gathered intelligence about impending terrorist attacks with a G8 member state. Russia’s concern for its own security is just more evidence of the cunning Putin’s dark designs on the Oval Office where by sleight-of-hand, a leaking bag of Cheetos has replaced the US presidency.
You couldn’t make this shit up if you were gacked on ‘Krokodil’ laced with bath salts and asked to explain current events to a flock of invisible, face eating seagulls shooting out of the moon. Welcome to the Meth Lab Matrix, where the Deep State cooks up the establishment-serving narratives necessary to enlist bipartisan public support for the coup that will rid the White House of its problematic resident, and replace his itchy Twitter finger with one more calmly poised over the nuclear codes.
You could say that the outcome of this symbiotic relationship between outrage producing organisms has resulted in the present political vacuum where liberals revive discredited cold war tropes to uphold their half of the war machine, while ‘conservatives’ genuflect at the feet of the entity who threatens to bring it all crashing down. In the absence of a left opposition, we are stuck with an ‘Alt-Center’, where social justice warriors, goaded on by the state propaganda organ known as ‘Comedy Central’, lob cruise missiles both figuratively and literally at domestic and overseas targets they deem not in line with the objectives of a sensitivity-training seminar. In the meantime, their Republican cohorts get down to the actual work of dismantling the last remaining obstacles to their planetary host-devouring objectives.
(Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org)
MENDOCINO ENGLISH COUNTRY DANCE
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Newcomer instruction at 7:30 pm
Caspar Community Center
$10 Admission (High School Students: Free)
Support your local dance events by coming out and dancing!
Calling & instruction by dance leader Dan Kozloff
Lovely dancers and band members who kindly bring potluck food, please also bring your own utensils and a bag to put everything in when dance is over so the volunteer cleanup people can more easily do their work.
OBAMA ENDORSES CHO-MO?
If what I am led to believe is true, the new First Lady of France is a child molester. This woman first set her sights on Emmanuel Macron when he was a schoolboy in her classroom. At the time she was practically old enough to be his grandmother, was married, and had three children of her own. Emmanuel's family disapproved of this. They removed him from the school and then moved to another town. She continued contacting the child and, in the end, gave up everything — her marriage, her children, and her profession in order to marry this youngster.
I would not presume to tell the French how they should vote, however, I am amazed that President Obama made a special effort to endorse these people. What if this woman has abused other children? What if a middle-aged male teacher went after one of Obama’s daughters? What would he think?
To me, Obama’s endorsement sets a very poor example for America's children and I just do not understand.
J.D. SALINGER: HOW TO SPAWN A MONSTER
by Manuel Vicent
Translated by Louis S. Bedrock
Not all writers are lucky enough for a murderer to be reading his best novel at the moment of his arrest, just after he has committed a historic crime. What’s more, it’s necessary to be a privileged author, blessed by the gods, in order for that famous murderer, Mark David Chapman — who fired five bullets point blank into the back of John Lennon after asking him for an autograph in the hallway of the Dakota apartment building in New York City on December 8, 1980, once the cylinder of the .38 Special revolver had been emptied, to sit quietly on the curb next to the sidewalk to read Catcher in the Rye and wait for the police to arrive.
In his defense, he confessed that he had done nothing more than calibrate his life with the life of Holden Caulfield, the hero of the novel.
—This is my confession —he exclaimed, exhibiting the book as he was handcuffed.
Sales of J.D. Salinger’s novel, already in the millions, took off once again. A new wave of readers launched a massive assault on bookstores when they learned that the story had sufficient power to provoke the erasure of John Lennon from the map. Lennon had been the hero of a rebellion in which several generations of young people recognized themselves.
By then, J.D. Salinger had made his escape; anonymity is one of the works of art that permanently consecrates an artist. Salinger lived as a refugee on a Cornish farm and to find him was a mission as difficult as finding a monkey on Mars — if the explorer was a journalist, biographer, literary critic, or biographer; but not if she were a young female admirer or a young woman on a scholarship inclined to spend some time in his arms.
Mark David Chapman had murdered Lennon seeking fame; J.D. Salinger didn’t want fame and had made himself invisible.
The writer Salinger, the murderer Chapman, and even the murder victim John Lennon had something in common with Holden Caulfield, the hero of The Catcher in the Rye, a young man from a good family who moved around like a loose screw in the machinery of the New York society of that era, when people felt happy among the abundance of raspberry tarts brought about by the victory in World War II.
All four of them, Salinger, Chapman, Lennon, and Holden, had been sarcastic, rebellious, non-conformist, badly adapted adolescents and had displayed an irreverent nonchalance toward adults, be they parents, teachers, or simply preachers of the morality of consumerism.
All four were expelled from high school. All four hated rituals, customs, and the expressions of the dominant order; for them, everyone else was an idiot, an attitude that in some cases ends with the disappearance of acne and becoming respectable adults, and in other cases incites them to write, or play the guitar until they become artists, and still others to order a revolver through the mail and use it against the hero of their dreams.
All four had passed through the YMCA, the religious organization for young people. There, Mark David Chapman was put in charge of caring for children, a responsibility that he carried out perfectly, earning him the nickname “Nemo”. Holden Caulfield showed the same concern for keeping an eye on children as they played among the rye near the end of Salinger’s story.
At the YMCA, a friend of Chapman’s lent him a copy of Salinger’s novel to read and the future murderer decided to arrange his life according to the life of the protagonist while he was living in Chicago and playing the guitar in churches and in Christian nightclubs.
Salinger was born in New York on the first of January in 1919. He was the son of a Jewish man named Salomon, who was the son of a Rabbi. Salomon, according to malicious gossip, had grown rich by importing hams. Actually, Salomon Salinger was an honorable importer of meats and cheeses from Europe. The Hoffman Company, for which he worked, became embroiled in a scandal when it was accused of putting bogus holes in cheeses, but Salomon emerged unscathed from that disaster and wound up living in a luxurious apartment on Park Avenue among New York City’s upper middle class.
It was there that the young Jerome David Salinger began to sharpen his writing skills. After being expelled from the McBurney School, he was admitted as a cadet to The Military Academy of Valley Forge, where he started to compose short stories under the bedsheets in a notebook illuminated by a flashlight. He sent these stories to glossy magazines for many years without success.
Later, he was admitted to New York University where he continued to write and seduced young women whom he would later ridicule. He was a supple, rich, intelligent, snobbish, and sarcastic young man. He would behave like the hero of his novel—a Holden Caulfield wrapped in the black Chesterfield coat that was the envy of his classmates.
The girls went crazy over him while he single-mindedly struggled to become famous; but there was one who remained elusive: Oona O’Neill, the daughter of the famous playwright, to whom he wrote a thousand love letters until Charlie Chaplin, 40 years older than her, snatched her away and had six children with her.
Salinger’s case is symptomatic. No aspiring writer worked harder to make himself known while seeking success; no one worked harder to get his stories published in magazines that had made other writers famous — writers in whose image Salinger saw himself: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Capote.
And at the same time, no one was more fastidious and fought more excruciating battles with the directors of the media—The Story, The Saturday Evening Post, Bazaar, and above all, The New Yorker. No one else sought fame with such determination and later, feeling overwhelmed by it, sought refuge from it underground as if it were a perverse bombardment from a war that had been won.
Before this turmoil, Salinger had traveled to Europe during a period in which he considered becoming a merchant of cheeses. Then he enlisted during World War II. He participated in the landing at Normandy and at the same time was busy converting his own character and experiences into the fictitious character he would make famous. He published The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, a paradigm of youthful restlessness; four years later, the monster that the book engendered was born.
By that time, Salinger had already fled the world and plunged into a hole. He had become a disciple of Jesus, Gotama, Lao-Tse, and Shankaracharya, until his anonymity made him a legend—a withdrawal that did not impede his savoring the secrets of younger and younger women.
Chapman was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1955 at the same time that Holden Caulfield was beginning to sweep through all the bookstores. His father was a sergeant in the United States Air Force; his mother, Katheryn Elizabeth Pease, was a nurse. Chapman said that he was afraid of his father when he was a child.
On the morning of December 8, 1980, Chapman walked out of the Hotel Sheraton where he was staying, left his documentation in his room to make the work of the police easier, and headed toward a bookstore on Fifth Avenue. There, he bought Salinger’s book, and beneath the title, he signed his name next to the name of the author.
During the morning of the crime, the murderer had visited the lake in Central park, which was frozen over, and had asked where the ducks had gone—just as Holden Caulfield had done. His crime was nothing more than a part of his attempt to stage scenes from The Catcher in the Rye.
He was sentenced to prison for twenty years to life. He continues to be incarcerated in the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York after having been denied parole on six occasions. The monster in prison; the writer of fiction condemned by fame to live underground. This has been their story.
OR’S LAST WEEKEND
The Mendocino Theatre Company's current production of Liz Duffy Adams' hilarious comedy OR closes this Sunday! OR is a sexy, modern account of one night in the life of Aphra Behn who, in addition to being an important playwright, was an international spy, a libertine, and a friend of King Charles II. As she struggles to complete her script, she is interrupted by friends, lovers and the king himself. OR, plays Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm, with a Sunday matinee at 2pm, through May 28th. For tickets and information, phone 707-937-4477, or go to mendocinotheatre.org.
”All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” — Virginia Woolf
There were a couple of changes in my last letter (May 17 issue) one of which reversed my meaning from the original. I can’t complain much with what happened to your own writing, that capital T that keeps jumping your f-i combination (Tremen for firemen. Tretruck) must be driving you nuts. Besides, my ribbon was faded and I sent you the typed original. So anyway, what I wrote was that the Sun, should John Calvin lead a Crusade to beat it down and put it where it belongs, would zip him into nothingness faster than an insect in the fireplace. It would be the same for a Jihad. Zip. Zip, not rip. Kind of petty I know, but I really liked zip.
The second one I want to clarify more seriously. I was going on about how some people intend, even procaim their intent, to use Democracy and its protections to destroy Democracy and its protections. Mainly I was furious about the case in Detroit, the doctor who before his arrest had set up a FGM [female genital mutilation] practice that some women were actually willingly supplying their daughters to (ages 6-8), an unbelievably cruel act that sets a chid or woman up for a lifetime of overwhelming pain, blockages, infections and general suffering that could not possibly be intended by the Origin or Creator of human beings’ anatomy. It’s like cutting out a child’s eye or tongue.
A New York Times editor published an article about it, saying she didn’t want to use the word “mutilation” to descibe it, considering it culture-threatening and preferring the word “cutting.” 166,173 children under 18, not living in the US have been put through the procedure, if I may use the words “put through.” It is very common for the mother to tell her daughter that it’s not going to hurt, but in some places the neighbors dance around the vicitm, I repeat victim, singing traditional songs about how she will suffer pain and walk bowlegged all her life. So I wrote, “Whatever the New York Times says (comma,), it is not a senentive issue, it is an issue of insensitivity at its absolute worst.” Meaning whose senses are being violated in this matter, the editor? The culture?
Otherwise, regarding the efficiacy of Scripture, in truth it varies, sometimes its authors were obviously self-serving, and by saying it isn’t perfect or eternal I mean that it is human, and didn’t exist before it was created by humans, largely from spoken lore that far predated it, with a lot of writing and translating, derivations and influences since. The self-serving authorship and the embellishment over centuries of hierarchies is not at all atypical of political life in general, social, cultural agreements without much consideration or interest in what life will be like for most people, the basic idea is that they can do what they are told and be sueful, while what meaning you can find in it is too easy to put aside for the fruits of intimidation. But the real meaning of life is ultimately unavoidable, and stupid cruelty is no match for it.
THE PRINCE OF ALIENATION, My Life As A Rollercoaster, Chapter 16
by Thomas Cahill
"Hullo Gray," I answered after picking up the telephone, "Tom, I have bad news," my step-son blurted out. "Sedonia was killed in a car accident in Morocco this morning." he told me about his mother and my former wife in words devoid of life much less emotion. For the single greatest shock to my almost then 63-year-old brain, my emotional and spiritual navigation system went immediately to auto pilot. I don't recall my first verbal response but I do remember there was neither outcry nor tears. That would come an hour or so later after our brief conversation.
The date was 1 February 2000, eleven days before Sedonia's 64th birthday and 13 days before my 63rd. Thus began the new Millennium for me, her three children, other loved ones, and many, many admirers.
"I'm flying down to San Francisco tomorrow morning to break the news to Annie-Laurie," he then told me about his sister.
"I'll pick you up at the airport and take you to her," I responded without thinking about the long drive ahead of me, my tight budget, and much unfinished business.
As soon as we hung up, I rushed to my friends and neighbors at Ten Mile Ranch, Barbara Harwood and Susan Charles, for emotional first aid. In telling them my plans to drive down to the Bay Area and stay with Gray and his sister if they wanted me, Susan insisted I take her brand new cell phone with me. At first I didn't see any need for it, but then agreed it might come in handy if I needed more emotional support. Then the dam burst and the tears flowed out of me greater than from all my childhood hurts and disappointments combined.
Within an hour, I was driving the winding road south in my big, old, pick-up with the camper on the back in which I lived for ten years parked on the streets of San Francisco before moving to Ten Mile Ranch. Fortunately I brought along a wet wash cloth in a plastic bag because no sooner was I underway than the tears started flowing again. I have absolutely no trouble admitting I'm a cry-baby. I have long considered tears a sign of emotional strength not weakness. While men tend to be physically stronger than women, women may be emotionally strong than men. One indication of this is that women can cry more easily then men. In the 21st Century, which strength is more important to health and healing? And . . . in ancient Greece it was considered "manly" for a warrior to weep at the funeral of a fallen comrade. Besides all this, scientists have discovered chemicals in tears that provide emotional relief when released.
Sedonia, dead? Unbelievable! She was so full of life, so life-affirming, so bigger-than-life. For years she had been taking good care of her health spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually, "walking in balance" as she would quote Native American philosophy in which she immersed herself. And she was and remains the single most powerful influence on me. Because of her guidance, I expected both of us to live into advanced old age, well past our eighties, with clear minds and spirits doing our Aquarian dharma to help humanize humankind.
Although a beautiful drive, the road from Fort Bragg to Cloverdale on the Mendocino Coast is not only winding but narrow with few turnouts. At times I was literally driving blind with salt-stinging tears blurring my already poor vision until I could pull over onto a shoulder or turnout and wipe my eyes with the wash cloth. The sky was appropriately gray with thick sooty clouds trying to release their heavy load of rain. It was like the heavens were weeping with me, spraying the windshield of my '71 Chevy with its tears.
At one wide spot in the road, I turned off and brought the truck to a stop. From the glove compartment I dug out a tape of spiritual music. I slipped the cassette into the tape deck and soon the first song began playing. It was one of my favorites — "Panis Angelicus" sung by Placido Domingo and the Vienna Boys Choir. For most the rest of the trip south, as soon as the number was finished, I'd rewind it and play it over and over and over as a dirge to my lost love.
Sedonia dead? No, no, no, no. It couldn't be. It's some cruel joke, I thought, among a jumble of other thoughts battering my mind. And I'd have to pull over and wipe my eyes and do some deep breathing after I noticed I was taking short, shallow breaths like I was trying to suffocate myself to end my misery.
My plan was to spend the night at my sister's home in Napa. In the morning, I'd drive on to San Francisco Airport that was about an hour and a half from Napa. There I would wait for Gray and take him anywhere he wanted to go. So on and on I drove, through the gloom, weeping, forcing myself to breathe, remembering incidents from my life with Sedonia both funny and painful, while Placido Domingo and some Austrian lads tried to ease my pain singing a song in Latin of which I understood not a word. Only now, writing this, have I looked up the translation of "Panis Angelicus" — "The Bread of Angels."
Not far from Cloverdale, an hour and a half from my home on the Ten Mile Estuary, disbelief got the best of me. I steered the truck onto another muddy shoulder and punching numbers into Susan's cell phone, I called Gray for a reality check.
"Yeh, you weren't imagining anything, Tom," said Gray. "Sedonia is dead," he told me. "But I'm going down tomorrow. My friends talked me out of making the trip right now. I've been trying to call Annie Laurie to tell her the news but I keep getting her machine," Gray reported.
"Okay, Gray, I'll be standing by in Napa till any of you need me." I responded. "You have Teresa and Arthur's number, don't you," I asked.
Then back on the road, another few hours that seemed like days to Napa. It was dark and cold when I arrived but the kitchen of the house on the corner of E Street was bright, warm and cozy. Like the surrogate mom my younger sister had long been to me, Teresa was baking me our favorite peanut butter/chocolate cookies to help ease my pain. Soon after hugging both of them, I made a dash for the phone in the guest room. I called Annie Laurie to give her support since I figured Gray must have told her by then.
"Hiieeee Tom," answered Annie-Laurie in such a happy-to-hear-you voice that I immediately knew Gray hadn't yet gotten through to her. My normally slow brain raced ahead of itself and I quickly decided it was unfair to withhold from her a minute longer the news of her mother's death.
"NOOOOOOOOOOO," she screamed into the telephone almost at the top of her voice. I held the receiver tight against my ear as if to try to absorb some of her pain. "NOOOOOOOO," she wailed on and on for what seemed like many minutes until her husband, David, took the handset away from her. Then in the background for minutes more, I heard her sobbing loudly, "I want my mommy. I want my mommy. I want my mommy." The thought of this from a grown woman, a mother herself, never fails to rekindle my own grief. For the rest of her life Annie-Laurie must hate me for being the messenger of such horror to her. All the while the tears coursed down my cheeks when I thought my tank was empty.
I told David what little I knew and that Gray had been trying to get through by phone to his little sister for hours. I gave David Susan's cell number and with little more to say and much shock to process, we hung up.
A half hour later, Annie-Laurie called me. She was calm, totally in control, not a trace of trauma in her voice. She was definitely her mother's daughter, strong and brave. We talked about our fears for Brad, her oldest brother who had been driving the car at the time of the accident, and how this might devastate him emotionally for a long time. Brad's wife, Connie, received a head injury, and their aunt — Sedonia's sister, Cindy — cheated death with many broken bones and was the most seriously injured of the survivors. Eventually the complete picture emerged; the four had been driving a desert road laughing and joking, having a good time when they came upon a Moroccan Army truck filled with soldiers going very slowly. In trying to go around the truck, the car hit a soft spot in the shoulder and rolled over down a steep embankment. Sedonia was thrown clear of the car and one of her ribs pierced her heart. She may have died instantly with a smile still on her face, I hope. The truck may have stopped and the soldiers may have provided assistance including getting Sedonia and the survivors to Casablanca. And the daymare continued with the two women critically injured, Brad trying to telephone his brother and sister, the American Embassy being contacted for support, and eventually it was Sedonia's aunt, Mary Jane Carter, widow of Clifton Carter, a long-time top aide to Lyndon Johnson from the Senate to the White House, who had to draw on some political favors she still may have been owed to get Sedonia's body back to California.
Gray had told me that Brad had expressed guilt at having invited his mother to join him and his wife on a motor tour of Morocco. And before leaving for North Africa, Sedonia told me herself that for many months Brad had been depressed about his life in general and his work as an acupuncturist in particular. At forty, he may have been having an early mid-life crisis. On top of the one layer of guilt over his mom's death just mentioned, I saw two more — he was driving the car at the time of the accident and of the four in the car, he was the least injured. His wife and aunt had to be hospitalized but he was only bruised from being tossed about.
Years earlier in analyzing Gray during one of his manic-depressive episodes, Sedonia, who was a licensed psycho-therapist with an MA, disagreed with me about something and angrily called me a "dime store shrink," to which I quickly owned-up. The study of the human mind and emotions has long fascinated me and of course helped me understand myself. I've long considered myself a "psychonaut," an explorer of innerspace. And beside twenty years or more of psychotherapy, I've done much reading especially about my own emotional problems that include being bipolar, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and co-dependence which I think many psychologists do NOT take seriously enough. I'm also dyslexic that also may be at the bottom of the scale of emotional problems for most psychologists but I know how painful some of my experiences with dyslexia were to me.
I hate to interrupt the narrative of Sedonia's death, but this might be a proper point to finish the evaluation of my own emotional state. I have long been a participant in the "Stand Up For Mental Health Campaign" dedicated to eliminating the stigma of mental illness. I may be "crazy" but I'm not "insane." There's a big difference between the two. The definition for Insanity is when a person doesn't know right from wrong and is a danger to self and others. "Silly" or "eccentric" can be interpreted as "crazy" and I own up to being eccenric, even "zany" as a reporter once called me in Texas.
On the other hand, the Department of Veterans Affairs in a "rating decision" dated January 3, 2013 for "compensation" presented "evidence" of a diagnoses of "Service connection for schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type with post traumatic stress disorder." I, in turn, maintain I am NOT delusional nor do I suffer from hallucinations. I clearly know the difference between delusion and fantasy and while on LSD and years later under the influence of Iboga, I knew at the time I was hallucinating. But I understand where the VA's misdiagnosis came from.
As I've written before, so bummed-out was I by 1968 with the assassination of Pres. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, civil rights abuses and other foreign and domesteic policies of the US government, that even BEFORE the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy and many months BEFORE my rape in jail that year (1968) as well as several years before I learned of the My Lai Massacre, I gave up my US citizenship emotionally and spiritually and emigrated — in my mind only — to the three by five mile Duchy of Grand Fenwick, the fictional location tucked in somewhere between France and Switzerland of a series of satires by Irish author Leonard Wibberley, some of which were made into movies of the "Mouse" series. I had read the entire series and seen all the films, my favorite of all of them (books and movies) being the film version of "The Mouse That Roared" (1959) starring Peter Sellers playing three roles. Taking up where Leonard Wibberley left off, I invented the "unarmed forces of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick" to wage peace with all the warring nations of the world. And having been greatly "disappointed" in my brief career in the US Air Force, I "enlisted" in the "Royal Grand Fenwick Navy" rapidly rising in rank to "captain" through the vast collection of bits and pieces of uniforms I still had in storage from our vintage costume portrait studio, then with a simple uniform change, I busted myself down to "seaman no/class" for insulting a US Navy Captain at a hearing in 1986 on homeporting the battleship USS Missouri in San Francisco in 1986.
A group of us calling ourselves "Missouri Loves Company" including Daniel Ellsberg (PhD Economics) spent a weekend in jail demanding that the "Missouri be docked near the "USS Arizona" in Pearl Harbor, a much more appropriate berth for the ship than the city of St. Francis. The time behind bars turned out to be a symposium on the radical imperative. Upon leaving jail, I made a short but impassioned speech to my fellow jailbirds in which I told them that long ago I had had the worst experience of my life to date in jail and because of their solidarity and dedication to peace that weekend, I had now had the very best experience of my life in jail. I then decorated Dr. Ellsberg with a Gandhi button for distinguished service to all living things. Smiling broadly, Dr. E then invited me to lunch. I declined telling him I had an important engagement but didn't tell him details which was my bowels were about to burst from not being able to move them in public in the open jail cell. What's more since Sedonia's death in 2000, I have had episodes of neither mania nor depression and I can't help but feel she has been helping me psycho/spiritually from the "other side." Sedonia is co-author with Joshua Halpern of "The Ceremonial Circle: Practice, Ritual, and Renewal for Personal and Community Healing" (1992). Knowing about her work all over the world raising consciousness of the power of these healing and governing circles, just days after her death in February 2000, I asked her help in forming a circle on the "other side" of all our deceased heroes throughout history for the purpose of stopping the rape of prisoners. Having rescued a defunct organization of "People Organized to Stop Rape of Imprisoned Persons" (POSRIP) in the late 1980s and having recruited a number of gifted people including Lara Stemple, a graduate of Harvard Law School, I asked Sedonia to help us help stop this barbarism that to which, it seemed to me, the US criminal justice industry had long been averting its eyes and ears in order to make crime pay for all those who make, interpret and enforce The Law. Within an incredibly short time, Ms. Stemple had raised enough funds to pay a staff and rent a suite of offices in Los Angeles. And within three years, she and her able assistant (now director of the organization, Lovisa Stannow) had organized and promoted the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 with Democratic and Republican co-sponsors in both Houses. In the Senate, Teddy Kennedy was the Democratic Party co-sponsor while Jeff Sessions was Republican co-sponsor.
The PREA passed unanimously in both Houses of Congress and in the Oval Office on 4 September 2003, I witnessed Pres. George W. Bush sign the bill into law. I had been invited to the signing ceremony because I was a survivor and the activist who worked on the issue longest.
POSRIP has gone through several name changes and is now "Just Detention International" monitoring prisons all over the world for sexual assault and sexual harassment with Lovisa Stannow director. Lara Stemple is now director of graduate studies at the UCLA School of Law. In the years since 2003, my contribution has been to stay out-of-the-way of the highly competent board and staff of JDI.
Sorry for bouncing around in this narrative, but back to Sedonia. After hanging around Napa for a few days, I returned to the Ranch. Arriving after dark, I switched on the lights and was immediately overwhelmed by a large, life-sized painting of Sedonia with a spotlight on it that had been hanging in a prominent place in my home from 1987 to 2000 in the hay loft converted into a studio apartment in the ungentrified horse barn that probably dated back a century or more. It was a life-sized portrait in pastels made by her cousin, Michael Chreisman, in the early 70s that originally hung above the marble mantle of a fireplace in the beautifully-restored Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco where we lived a short two years during our salad days when our vintage costume portrait business was doing so well. When we moved to Mendocino in 1974, there was no place for such a large painting until I moved into the horsebarn on Ten Mile Ranch and Sedonia and Michael let me borrow it. When I decided to move to France in 2013, I gave it — with Michael's permission — to Annie-Laurie for safe keeping within the family.
In the painting that is as fine a pastel that I've yet to see in any museum or gallery in Paris, Sedonia has long dark hair with mauve and blue scarves intertwined around her head. She's wearing a long, black velvet dress of her own design and making. It has a blue, green and yellow embroidered bodice of antique material she found at the Alameda Flea market years earlier and saved for something special. In her pierced left nostril is a tiny gold ball she wore like women in India long before such ornamentation was fashionable in the US. She has a slightly sad expression, but she looks stunning and I have long called the painting "The Hippy Queen."
After an e-mail from a French friend, Joelle Amilcar, dated 8 April 2016, I wonder if both Sedonia and I suffered from "weltschmerz" — "world-wearniess caused by the ills of the world." In her e-mail, Joelle wrote how to her and her friends, I appeared "dignified, well-mannered and educated but sad." Since Sedonia's age and mine was a year and two days apart, our astrological charts are incredibly similar, says our cousin Michael.
After so much rain, Monday, 7 February 2000 was a beautiful but cold. crisp winter day. It was a week since Sedonia's death and I drove to nearby Fort Bragg for mail and groceries. I was playing a tape of Joan Baez folk songs, one of which was Sedonia's favorite, "Wilde Mountain Thyme." It reminded me of our "deadbeat boutique" at the Alameda Flea Market near San Francisco. After so many tears, it was good to laugh again, and laugh I did recalling some of the adventures and misadventures of the hippie queen and her prince consort also known as the NoaCount and NoaCountess of Grand Fenwick.
I had just climbed out of my truck when I met an old friend, Al Altvater. Al died in 2003 but was a survivor of one or more of the air raids, called "Operation Tidal Wave, on the oil refineries in Ploesti, Rumania in 1943 and '44 . He lost good friends and was of course traumatized when his B-24 Liberator was shot down by Bf-109s and FW-190s . He and his wife, Heidi, were so politically liberal, they were more often radical in their political views. It was Heidi who told me Beneto Mussolini preferred to use the word "corporatism" instead of "fascism."
I found Al to be self-effacing, soft-spoken, kind, considerate, generous and a gentleman to the max.
"Tom, I've been meaning to call you about the veteran's support group I've been attending," said Al shaking my hand. "You ought to think about coming to one of our meetings. We meet every Monday night at seven."
No sooner were his words out of his mouth, when rage started boiling up inside me. In recent years, I had been working hard on eliminating anger which I felt I could no longer afford because it stressed me out much too much and I do not do well with stress. From 1987 to 2000, I had a "100 percent non-service-connected" disability pension from the Department of Veterans' Affairs for post traumatic stress disorder the result of rape/torture in Texas just weeks before Sedonia and I met in 1968.
"You know, Al, for thirty years I've been wanting to tell a group of veterans that, especially as a veteran myself, I feel betrayed by my country. When an individual betrays his country, he can expect a stiff penalty like death in wartime. But what about when a country betrays its people?"
Al knew my history from having attended a meeting of Amnesty International two years earlier in October 1998 in Fort Bragg when I gave the first of many more reports all over the country for Amnesty International (AIUSA) about prison rape. In my report, I showed two memos from my FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act but not without the extra help of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA). In one memo from San Antonio FBI COINTELPRO — the counter intelligence program against the "New Left" — the San Antonio office suggests to Washington ways to "neutralize" me for my newspaper work trying to stop the war in Vietnam. This memo was dated 10 September 1968, one month BEFORE I was brutalized in Bexar County Jail 14/15 October 68. The other memo dated 18 March 1969 was one month AFTER my sister and I arrived in San Francisco,
In this memo, San Antonio COINTELPRO reported to Washington, "Since referenced letter, both CAHILL and his sister, an ex-nun, have subsequently moved from San Antonio and now are reportedly in California. San Antonio feels that this is another excellent accomplishment to curtail two New Leftist activists in the San Antonio Division."
"I know how you feel, Tom," responded Al. "I've long felt the same way, like a discarded, used condom," said the former US Army Air Forces bombardier and major.
I was so shocked with his graphic language and the sentiment behind it, all I could say was, "I'll be there tonight, Al." And we shook hands.
To the meeting I wore my dress white uniform with "Grand Fenwick" in large white letters on the black ribbon in front of the hat, and the light blue pom-pom on top. The white bell bottoms were made by Sedonia, the middy was Russian Navy surplus from WW II I picked up at an MGM costume and prop sale in San Francisco in 1970 possibly from the movie "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming" made in part in the village of Mendocino where we once had a studio at the end of Main Street not far from the famous "blow hole" where waves would shoot up during winter storms. I wore one medal, made from a coin for me by Cody Grundy with whom I performed in a music group. Cody awarded me the medal for my harmonica playing.
At the meeting, I showed the group of mostly WW II, Korea, and Vietnam vets my honorable discharge from the US Air Force and my DD 214 (a service history). I told them I had been in the Air Force between Korea and Vietnam, from 1954 to '58. I told them I was bi-polar and might be manic right then and there because of the shock of the death of my ex-wife who I dearly loved. But if I was manic, it didn't feel anything like what I was used to. I told them about my rape in jail in Texas and showed them the two memos from my FBI files.
Mr. Cahill, are you there? Mr. Cahill, are you there? Mr. Cahill are you all right?," she asked while I was trying to come to my senses from what I later considered a "double whammy."
"Yes Ma'am, I'm still here. It's a good thing I was lying down when you called," I recall telling the bearer of this incredible news. Instead of the few hundred dollars I was getting together with the Social Security I was receiving since age 65 that totaled about $1,000 a month. I would be receiving — with Social Security — about $3500 a month. It was a double whammy as Al Capp used to call a major blow in his cartoon strip "Li'l Abner" that ran for 43 years in many newspapers across the US and had 60 million fans.
An ordinary "whammy" was enough to stop a charging bull in its tracks, according to Capp in his cartoon strip. In an instant, from what the woman told me on the phone my normally slow mind computed the math and I knew I could then move to France where I dreamed of living my life out in self-exile. It was like winning a small but sufficient lottery.
Why France? In 2001, I sold some of my collection of Battle of Britain memorabilia to finance a Eurail Pass. These treasures included the pre WW II sheepskin flying boots coveted by Hurricane and Spitfire pilots in the Summer of 1940 that I paid fifty cents for at the MGM sale in San Francisco years earlier, a sheepskin flying jacket and a complete parachute both made by the same Irvin Company of the UK, an RAF Flight Lieutenant's uniform with winged brevet and ribbon of the Distinguished Flying Cross, a "Mae West" inflatable life vest, some instruments from a Hurricane or Spitfire, and a big, aluminum chunk of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 with a letter from the man who cut it out of the German fighter stating the date and place the fighter crashed.
A Eurail pass wasn't good for Eastern Europe, and I wanted to visit the Black Madonna in Czestochowa, Poland and also St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow which I did but without the pass. I was in Moscow on 11 September 2001. Returning late to my hostel, the young manager who spoke little English grabbed me and guided me into his office where many people were sitting watching TV. When I saw an airliner fly into a building, I must have expressed clearly enough my disinterest in a low-budget American thriller because the manager said "For real, for real, for real," to a chorus in better English, "It's not a movie. This is a newscast from New York," said some English speakers in the group.
Even before I saw a building collapse in its own "footprint," I thought of my cousin Anthony who had retired as an air traffic controller at Newark Airport, part of the greater New York system. As I understood Tony's job, it was to see that the airliners kept to a specific course as to not collide with each other. The skies over a big city are mapped out like city streets to keep the traffic flowing safely. The second an airliner veers off course, Air Force or Air National Guard interceptor jets flying much faster than the airliners and from air bases near by have the airliner in their computerized gunsights just waiting to shoot the airliner out of the sky over the least populated area that their controllers are studying in real time.
Later we learned from the Bush Administration the jet interceptors were miles away chasing each other in a mock air battle exactly like the one that should have happened over New York and Washington. And no interceptors were kept at their home bases in reserve. What a coincidence!
And "how many coincidences does it take to make a conspiracy," Mae Brussell would have asked had she not died in 1988. She was called the "Queen of Conspiracy Sleuths." Read her book, "The Essential Mae Brussell: Investigations of Fascism in America," (2014) described as "a compilation of chilling essays and radio transcripts by the seminal anti-fascist."
And what's more the air maneuvers were directed from the President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) in the basement of the White House by none other than Vice-President Dick "Darth Vader" Cheney. So how many more "False Flag" attacks must we suffer before a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" of non government members brings this treason to a halt? You bet I'm a conspiracy realist! I believe "conspiracy" is SYNONYMOUS with politics especially in such high stakes poker politics as played in the USA where and when billions of dollars are bet this way and that. To hell with people's lives. The USA has never been a Christian nation. Mammon has always ruled ! >>>>
The Russian telecast that night in Moscow also showed people from all over the area converging on the US Embassy with lighted candles in obvious sympathy for the families of the victims of the tragedies in the USA earlier that day. I wonder if Americans would have done the same if the attacks had been made on Moscow.
So before ending my travel adventure in Paris, I saw the icon of the Black Madonna that is thought to have miraculous powers among the Catholic faithful and I saw St. Basil's Cathedral that I think is one of the architectural wonders of the world in part because it's made of wood and has never suffered fire damage in more than five centuries. In fact, "The building is shaped as flames of a bonfire rising into the sky," according to Wikipedia. And according to legend, Ivan the Terrible who commissioned the cathedral to commemorate one of his victorious battles, had the archetict blinded so he would never re-create the masterpiece elsewhere.
St. Basil's was being repainted with scaffolding all over it when I visited, so I couldn't get a decent photo. Neither did I venture inside. Thus I'll have to return some day. Hey, I'm a history and art freak. Okay?
And that's why I ended my trip in Paris where art and history and EVERYTHING beautiful in life was invented. And my Irish side especially likes a good tale along with my art and history. But alas chill Winter rains were beginning when I hiked down the Champs Ã‰lysÃ©es to see the Arch of Triumph for the third time in my life. But the glassed-over Batobus was still running. This is my favorite touristy thing to do in Paris. It's a glass-domed boat that stops at all nine of the main tourist attractions along the Seine River. By holding on to your dated ticket, you can get on and off the boat anywhere you please. So protected from the rain, I rode the boat/bus in comfort for a few hours. And for this "naval person," as Winston Churchill liked to call himself even though he served in the Army in WW I, it was a cheap way for me to go boating on the Seine.
With barely a taste of Paris, I had to fly home. But I vowed to myself I would return. And two years later I did return. After spending six weeks in Iraq in 2003, I spent six weeks in Paris with a few side trips elsewhere in France before returning home. Over much of Europe, the weather that May was unseasonably hot for that time of year. Many people, mostly the aged, died because of the intense heat. But I wandered Paris in sandals, shorts, and t-shirt. One time I couldn't resist dipping my feet into Leontre's Pool in the Tuileries until a Gendarme gave me a harsh look. He didn't say anything probably because I quickly pulled my feet out and possibly because he may have liked to do the same. Hey, like a Spaniel, I'm drawn to water.
I stayed in a hostel at about $20 a night much of the time but for a couple weeks I stayed in the winter residence of Anna Nicolai, a woman Sedonia and I knew in San Francisco in the 70s. It took a few days but I broke the various codes for the Metro and from then on easily criss-crossed the city visiting mostly the beautiful parks. Like I wrote earlier, I think the French have invented everything beautiful in life including the expression "joie de vivre" — the "joy of living." I ate well but never in restaurants with table cloths.
One side trip I took was to Granville to visit friends of a neighbor of mine on Ten Mile Ranch. Helene Cneude was a tour guide at Mont St. Michel and one morning she took me to work with her, took me on her first tour, then turned me loose to wander up and around the steep streets and alleys of what's known as "The Mount." I met her at her car a little after five, and she drove home the scenic route along the Bay of St. Michel.
Helene's partner, Michel Vaugrante, is a semi-retired psychologist. Interested in my time in Iraq, he telephoned the local Granville newspaper, "La Manche Libre," asking if they would like to interview me. So in the 15 May 2003 edition, there's a photo of Michel and I shaking hands under the headline "Un Americain Boucle Humain a Granville."
I was having such a great time in France that I hated to return to California. This time it took an extra year for me to get it all together to return. In 2006, Anna-Marie and I flew to France, stayed a month together in her friends' chateau near Poitiers near where she bought a house. It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision for her. In 2001, she stayed with her friends and had fallen in love with the area, and between that visit and her next five years later got it together to buy a house there. Under the influence of Iboga — as described in an earlier chapter — we planned to live together in the hamlet of La Rabateliere near the village of St. Pierre de Maille. But over the course of time, Anna-Marie inherited a house on the Mendocino Coast that was too fantastic not to live there. I, in turn, still wanted to live in France and as of May 2013, I've been here four years.
But in 2006, after Anna-Marie returned home, I toured France in a tiny Opel van loaned to me by Helene Cneude who, at the time, owned two other vehicles. The area behind the seats was just long enough for me to stretch out diagonally. I criss-crossed the country using several Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness guide books and was so amazed I started playing the lottery while still in France so I could live out my life there.
Not my favorite experience in France, but certainly the most amazing happened on the Normandy coast. After sleeping in the van one Saturday night in the parking lot of the US military cemetery in Coleville overlooking Omaha Beach, I was driving the coast road toward Vierville-sur-Mer, when I pulled up to a WW II vintage American M3 "halftrack" stalled in my lane. The M3 is sort of a tank with two wheels in front and the crew of this one were all wearing WW II US Army helmets and combat uniforms. I was so blown-away, I sat there many minutes wondering if I was hallucinating after spending the night near the cemetery. Regaining my senses, I simply drove around the halftrack but I didn't go far. Deciding to follow the M3 for awhile, I did a double u-turn and halted where I had been minutes earlier. By now the driver of the halftrack had restarted the motor, and soon was off with the crew and I waving at each other. We didn't go far when the halftrack made a right turn with me following at a safe distance. Then I watched as it drove through a gate into a field of other WW II vehicles and tents. The gate was guarded by two "GIs" and I knew I wasn't welcome with a modern, civilian vehicle so I parked on the side of the road nearby.
Grabbing my camera, I walked to the gate and feeling like a war correspondent, I questioned the guards while eyeing the encampment. There was everything from Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles in WW II US Army colors and markings neatly lined up to M5A1 Stuart light tanks also lined up military fashion and ambulances with women dressed as what I assumed were American Army nurses. Just outside the gate was a neatly-painted sign with insignias announcing the camp to be that of the "82nd Recon of the 2nd Armored Division." The men and women were historical reenactors from clubs all over the USA and especially the UK. One hundred of them were Brits and about fifty American — all wearing US Army uniforms of the Normandy invasion period. All the vehicles were perfectly restored with authentic unit markings and serial numbers. A lot of research had gone into this encampment.
With the trained eye of a photographer as well as a student of this particular period of history and a vintage clothing freak to boot, I studied everything in sight and saw only two things out-of-place and out-of-time. One was a red fire extinguisher that for obvious reasons should have been painted olive drab especially in a combat zone. The other was a white plastic grocery bag on the back of a jeep that mismatched the age of the vehicle. Otherwise it could have been a perfect movie set.
The American gate guard told me just one Stuart tank and one jeep in the same shipping container cost $8,000 to "mail" from the USA, reminding me of the quip, "The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys." But I wasn't being judgmental. I was enjoying this bit of living history too much. It was a beautiful sunny day with everyone, self included, obviously having a great time. Years ago when I stopped smoking marijuana, I vowed to find natural ways to get high. Travel/adventure is one way I have found.
I can imagine the reaction of French locals who may have witnessed all these vehicles and reenactors debarking the ferry at Quistreham from the UK. On the other hand, such scenes in this part of Normany may be a common event.
Before she returned to California, Anna-Marie also had an amazing experience time-traveling to 1944. The father of a friend of hers, Charley Griesbach, was killed in the invasion. One day soon after we arrived in Granville, Michel invited Anna-Marie and I to a remembrance ceremony held at a US military cemetery in St. James not far from Mont St. Michel. After the ceremony, we walked with Michel to the grave sites of two young Americans killed in action who he had "adopted" and watched as he placed flowers on their graves. This is an annual event for him and many other French people still grateful to the USA for their liberation from Fascism. Then walking around the more than 4,000 marble crosses and stars of David, totally by chance, Anna-Marie found the grave of Charley's father — Private Gordon D. Griesbach, killed in action July 23, 1944. I, naturally, took a photo of Anna-Marie placing flowers on the grave, later made two copies and mailed them to her, one for Charley of course.
Wow moments like these keep me enthralled with France.
Then in early June 2014, the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, I returned to the area in my "camping car," as the French call what we in the USA refer to as a "recreational vehicle" or "RV." My 1996 Peugeot Boxer is equipped with bunk, frig, lots of storage space for my Hobie i9S inflatable sailing kayak and electric-assist foldable bicycle. The van has two stoves, one for cooking and one for heating while the vehicle is parked with the motor off. This heater runs off the diesel tank with a glow plug while the cooking stove runs off a butane tank. My camping car was a former police "Paddy wagon" converted by two owners before me into a very self-contained RV and with power steering, very easy to drive despite its size for which I named it "Mamut the Elephant" after Field Marshall Erwin "The Desert Fox" Rommel's captured British command lorry he used to direct his "Afrika Korps." It was Rommel who would have directed German forces in Normandy against the Allies had he not been home on leave where he was arrested and suicided for his role in an assassination attempt on Hitler.
For a week or ten days, I roamed the beachheads from "Utah" in the west to "Sword" in the east part of the Channel Coast of the Department of Normandy. The area abounded in restored vintage jeeps, trucks, armored cars, and tanks of the Allied forces and I saw one German "Kubelwagon." Around the beachheads in mostly US combat and dress uniforms were mostly French men and women. Some of the clothing was authentic and some reproductions, both of which were very hard for me to tell apart. Most of the Frenchmen were dressed as paratroopers of the 82nd or 101st US Airborne Divisions that jumped in the early morning darkness 6 June 1944 to secure strategic road intersections such as "Dead Man's Corner" near St. Come-du-Mont where there had been a fierce firefight. In fact for five days beginning 5 June 2014, members of the "International Round Parachute Club" using the old outdated round type parachutes and dressed in US paratrooper uniforms made mass jumps from the same types of airplanes used in 1944 when they were mostly called by their British name — "Dakotas." The first day there were nine of the C-47s and DC-3s (the US designation), and as the days wore on, there were fewer of them. It must have cost a fortune to keep these old aircraft flying. One was in the livery of Air France that I later saw at an airshow near Granville. But several of the Dakotas were in wartime colors and marked with the black and white stripes on wings and fuselage denoting Allied aircraft of the invasion of Normandy as in 1944.
Not long before leaving the area, I visited the encampment of a group of British reeanactors and told one I thought about 90 percent of the reenactors in American para uniforms were actually French. The man, dressed like a sergeant major of an artillery unit told me he totally agreed.
One day parked near the monument at "Omaha Beach," comfortably sitting in the passenger seat sipping my morning tea, I watched out the windshield as women, some dressed in front line combat gear and some in the dress uniforms of mostly US Army nurses, began gathering for what I guessed was to be a ceremony in front of the monument. Some of the women were in the white hospital uniforms with dark blue capes of US Army nurses similar to that worn by my mother, a registered nurse from the 1930s till she died in 1964. Later on closer examination, I saw that beside their nursing school pins like my mother and later my sister wore, these women wore US Army Nurse Corps badges and rank insignia and all uniformly in the same place as if they all share their research and help each other look as authentic as possible. If there was a wrong insignia out-of-place, it escaped my very educated eagle eye.
The only gig I would have given any of these "US Army nurses" was a French woman in a very rumpled summer dress uniform. Even her overseas cap was wrinkled. But all her brass was in perfect order and she had the proper shoes and handbag. And I didn't have the heart to tell her, "Madame, you must take an iron to your uniform et chapeau." Who more than the French are more fastidious about their appearances? I figured she preferred to run the risk of not passing the inspection of her peers to missing the ceremony which was in honor of all women of all nationalities who helped in the liberation of France. This included women dressed as British nursing sisters and even "Maquisards," women dressed as guerrilla fighters of the French Resistance with "captured" German small arms that I later learned were very excellent, non-firing reproductions imported from a firm in Tokyo just like the "Chicago piano" (aka "Thompson Tommy gun") Sedonia and I had for 1920s gangster portraits in our studio in San Francisco.
Later in the museum at Utah Beach, I came across four English women with proper 1940s Hollywood hairdos and dressed in identical US Army Air Forces flight coveralls, one with even the proper flight wings with "caduceus," the winged staff of Mercury which is the symbol of the medical profession. The youngest looking one wore the silver "railroad tracks" of a captain while the oldest wore the gold bar of a second looey. Again I didn't have the heart to suggest these women switch ranks but since only one wore the wings of a US AAF flight nurse, I instead asked why (?) since all four should have qualified. They told me they haven't yet been able to locate more of these rare collector items on the Internet. I then suggested they might try to find a jeweler who could reproduce in pewter the sterling silver one they had. A smile swept across all four faces. "Good idea," they chorused.
Then I asked to take their photo, wishing out loud we had a better backdrop. Again in a flash — simultaneously as if on cue — all four pointed over my shoulder. Shame! How could my eagle eye have missed it. Changing positions, I photographed them against the big red cross on the white field on the side of a battered US Army ambulance in it's original wartime condition.
I had fallen in love with all four of them, each the age of my two granddaughters. But alas we all had to move on from our wartime romance. Then I saw another beauty in the same museum who turned out to be also from England. Recognizing her, i excitedly shouted out, "ROSIE !"
The woman wore a bright red bandana with big white polka dots over her upswept hair. She also wore a blue workshirt with blue denim bibbed overalls. Who else could she be but "Rosie the Riveter."
In the crowded but quiet museum, and from all angles came rude glances my way even from Rosie herself until she realized I had recognized the historic character she was portraying and who we were both honoring. Then she lit up like a lamp just then plugged-in.
Entire families were in period clothing and near Ste.-Mere-Eglise, I discovered where some of them were getting some of their clothes and accouterments. There was an entire flea market specializing in genuine and reproduction uniforms, clothing and memorabilia of the WW II war years. One stall offered polkadot and other dresses made from 1940s patterns as well as hats, sweaters, jackets, shoes and even eyeglass frames. Again I had a hard time telling the reproductions from the real McCoy. Among the memorabilia were US AAF goggles for almost $300, a milk bottle with "America" printed in red on it with what looked like a P-47 Thunderbolt illustrated also in red for about $75, a US Army officer's visor cap for about $125 and one "artisan" was stamping out US dogtags on an authentic machine from more than a half century ago.
I saw only five Germans. Four were together queued-up for hotdogs in what appeared to me modern camos with the WW II style caps devoid of insignia. Only one wore something of WW II, a German army belt with the buckle engraved with the winged swastica and inscribed "Gott mit uns." The only other German was in the uniform of a para of the US 101st Airborne Division. He had driven from Germany in a restored US Army Dodge WC 56 Command Car (sort of a big Jeep) with other members of his club of reenactors, all in American drag. He passed my close-order inspection right down to his reproduction, non-firing M1 Garand rifle.
What could I say to the overaged, overweight, gray-hairs in the otherwise faultless uniforms of French Marine Commando Number 4 smiling into my camera? Strip down? You can't play here today? No way would I be the bearer of such news to these club members who obviously look forward to these gatherings each year or so. But not far away I ran into others dressed like Number 4 Commando who were much younger and looked more the part for central casting. I just hoped the two clubs never crossed paths. Near Riva Bella, I visited a museum of this famous Combined Operations unit, forerunners of the American "Green Berets."
And in a part of Omaha Beach sectioned off for hungry celebrants, people were enjoying their hotdogs, hambergers and Cokes to the recorded music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and of course the Andrews Sisters.
Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me,
Anyone else but me, any one else but me
No! No! No! . . .
I must have heard this song a hundred times that week. But I never got tired of it. Everyone was having too good a time. I have it on good authority, this is what wars will be like in the future — bloodless, painless, inexpensive and most of all . . . fun. There will be fireworks instead of actual gunfire like on the evening of 5 June 2014 where from a high point on Utah Beach, I could see right around the curve of coastline to Sword Beach, communities competing with each other in their fireworks displays making the area reminiscent of the bombardment by Allied warships on the German artillery bunkers the early morning hours of 6 June 1944.
And you ask why I chose to live in France? As I wrote earlier, this may be the most amazing travel/adventure I've had so far in France but it's not my favorite.
Escal' Atlantic for me was a terrific "lagniappe," a French Cajun word for "unexpected gift." I was looking for the remains of a huge submarine pen built by the Germans early during the occupation of France as featured in the movie "Das Boot." This was were U-boats — under many feet of reinforced concrete impervious to all but the very biggest "block buster" aerial bombs — were repaired, refitted, refueled and rearmed for their dangerous patrols of the Atlantic in WW II in which three out of four U-Boat crewmen perished at sea, a 75 % loss ratio. What price glory?
Having given up my search in Saint-Nazaire, on the west coast of France, I was eating a sandwich while parked in the lot of a grocery store when I glanced out the windshield at a massive concrete structure that had to be the destination of my hours-long search. The U-Boat bunker had found me.
After lunch I explored the large water-filled garage-like rooms where the submarines were given new life after months being battered by the sea as well as Allied naval and air forces and where the crews were allowed to debark for more pleasant accommodations. All this is depicted in the film, "Das Boot" that to me is the best war film, the best anti-war film, and the most realistic sea adventure film on my favorites list. Last winter I planned to visit the Bavaria Filmstadt in Munich where much of "Das Boot" was filmed but instead got busy with this memoir.
So it was I stumbled on another tourist attraction inside the U-Boat bunker — Escal' Atlantic is a re-creation of a typical ocean liner of the period 1900 to 1960 containing actual parts of famous ships such as the "SS Normadie" and the "SS France" both built and dismantled in Saint-Nazare. From the engine room overheated and smelling of lubricating grease and with sound effects to the bridge with it's large steering wheel and instruments, to the staterooms and others where hairdressers plied their trade, everything was authentically reproduced. In a glassed-in section of one side of the ship with wooden lounge chairs, one looks out onto a huge movie screen showing a night scene of the moonlit ocean with lighted ships passing in the night and real water swirling below probably moved my a propeller. Leaving this area, one walks out into the open deck and is blasted by cold wind. Looking down, one sees the same water swirling as if "the ship" is moving in the space where U-boats were once overhauled. And the same night scene can be seen on the huge movie screen. So from the heat and throb of the engine room to the deck exposed to the cold wind and view of real water as well as water on a big movie screen, it's all very impressive and well worth the price of about $15.
But the finale of the tour of "the ship" is just as amazing. In a small theater, after viewing old black and white films of the famous ocean liners docking in New York or events such as shuffleboard or dancing aboard ship, an alarm is sounded and we were ushered into an actual lifeboat and lowered by davits into the swirling water below with what must have been a powerful air conditioner aimed at us. We debarked into the salon in which we started our "cruise" and in which was displayed in glass cases evening dresses and tuxedos as the more affluent travelers might have worn in the films we had just watched on the deck above from which we were lowered in the lifeboat.
That's the French for you; an amazing people living in an amazing piece of geography the size of Texas but far, far more diverse. Only at one attraction did I feel I didn't get my Euros worth. It was at a castle on the Loire River that seemed mediocre compared to all the more famous ones I visited such as Chambord, Chenonceaux, Chateau d'Usse and Villandry.