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Off the Record (July 12, 2017)

THE CASPAR INN closed a few months ago, but we only heard about it recently when the Caspar's former owner, Peter Lit, stopped by to chat. Too bad. The Caspar, under Lit's management, was the most popular entertainment venue on the Mendocino Coast, and drew people from all over with top notch local and national entertainment. (My late friend Alexander Cockburn and I were the headliners a couple of times, probably the only times Lit took a beating at the cash register.) Lit, who worked like a man possessed to make Caspar the go-to place in the county, sold the place and retired back in the late 1990s, and the Caspar was all downhill from there. Mendo Realty lists the property and building as “former café with deck” for sale for $895,000, not including business license, permits or furnishings." Not even the half of it. The Caspar Inn should be recognized as the pivotal place it once was in the night life of Mendocino County.

WITH THE KEY NAYSAYERS on board this time, Sheriff Allman's ballot measure to organize an in-county mental health facility has a strong chance of passing. Last year, Measure AG was defeated by a mere 168 votes, but pivotal mental health advocates, including Supervisor Hamburg and a skeptical Supervisor McCowen, did not campaign for AG, a half-cent add-on to the sales tax for five years.

THE COUNTY'S now privatized Mental Health Department once operated a psych unit on, as I recall, Bush Street, Ukiah, where the County government complex is located. But it was beyond the management capacities of the helping professionals of the time who relied heavily on the Ukiah Police Department to subdue the more volatile "clients." And, Mendo being Mendo, the helping pros never could manage the place and would hide behind locked doors to frantically dial the police to restore order.

PRIOR to America losing its way, circa 1967, persons unwilling or unable to care for themselves were confined to the state hospital system. Mendocino County enjoyed the convenience of the state hospital at Talmage. Mendo could take its permanent population of drop-fall drunks and its then small population of mentally disordered persons (dope was not yet prevalent), directly to Talmage, a beautiful facility housed in mission-style buildings amid perfectly maintained grounds, all of it lush with stately old elms.

THE COUNTY was offered the property for a token $240,000 but the supervisors of the day feared maintenance costs and declined. Buddhists, presently one of the County's few growth industries, and clearly not averse to savvy real estate buys in between whirls on the The Great Wheel of Life, picked up the old hospital for the price of a handful of begging bowls. They've also bought the former Catholic Albertinum on Ukiah's somnolent Westside.

SERIOUSLY DISTURBED MENDO people are these days packed off to distant locked-door facilities that charge upwards of $800 a day to basically juggle the patient's meds until that unfortunate is re-chemicalized to a state of manageable docility. As the Sheriff has argued, the County can not only save enough money to perhaps amortize the cost of its own psych unit, the families of the temporarily deranged will be nearby to help with their re-entry process. And the cops will be able to take disturbed people directly to the in-County unit instead of housing them at the County Jail.

A BALLOT PROPOSAL for the in-County facility is scheduled for discussion before the Supervisors in two weeks. All of it occurs in a broader and ongoing discussion of what to do with the increasing number of free range unhoused persons. Somehow, some way, the chronic alcoholics and the insane, and the temporarily insane via self-induced drug abuse, have to be separated out from the people who destroy all public space and have permanently, flagrantly, dropped out. I daresay if you put it to a vote, Mendolanders would ask, "Why are we feeding bums?"

THE UNHOUSED people trying to clamber back onto the sinking ship SS America, the bad luck people still trying to get themselves together, should be first priority after the deranged. But well-paid persons allegedly helping the helpless are always an obstacle to local resolution of the "homeless problem."

FORT BRAGG'S Hospitality House has become the source of much contention in Fort Bragg. Founded in 1986 by congregants of the Episcopal church, the idea was to provide meals and shelter for locals struggling to resume mainstream lives. Since '86, the 24-bed facility on McPherson Street has grown far beyond its modest beginnings, recently acquiring the Old Coast Hotel, also in the center of town, a town whose economy is largely pegged to tourism.

AND THERE'S THE RUB, or much of it. The growth of Hospitality House has coincided with the growth of the homeless population, many of them transients, many of them alcoholics, and many others free-range drug addicts. Add in the inevitable mentally unhinged and old school bums drawn to Hospitality's daily hospitality, and central Fort Bragg's downtown business owners, not to mention ordinary citizens, are understandably upset.

THE CITY OF FORT BRAGG has expedited Hospitality House's expansion every step of the way, faithfully defending the program against its growing body of critics. A new City Council, rightly concerned about HH's no questions asked influence with the City, has recently been elected by people hopeful that HH can be reined in.

BUT Hospitality House's board meetings are not open to the public, most of the trustees and HH bigwigs don't live in Fort Bragg, the organization is unreasonably secretive, its director seldom available. And now…

AND NOW we learn that HH, in violation of its use permit, has quietly increased its rehabbing population from an authorized 24 "guests" to 34 residents. As word of the flagrantly illegal move by Hospitality House's phantom management gets around, the unauthorized expansion is certain to further anger the sorely put upon people of Fort Bragg.

THE STATE’S PERV roster may be poised for a revamp. The problem with it in its present form is that it treats all sex offenses the same when they are not the same or anywhere near the same. Everyone agrees that the violent offenders, and the repeat offenders, should be listed forever. But there are lots of people who should be taken off. A violent rapist is not the same as a 19-year-old who experienced mutually consenting carnal relations with a 15-year-old twenty years ago. And lots of people like this are on the list for life. Stay tuned as SB421 wends its way through the legislative process.

THE LOST COAST TRAIL is highly recommended as the best semi-wilderness hike you can get in NorCal. I bring it up because acquaintances who have a couple of teenagers are thinking about doing it. I also bring it up because the guides I've read aren't clear about either the dangers or the difficulties of both routes. And doing either of these hikes with kids is impossible unless the young 'uns not only really want to do it, but are in good enough shape to manage it. Ideally, to really, really enjoy the experience you should allot yourself three or four nights out. My Lost Coast hikes were forced marches with one night spent under the stars. Both were physically grueling but there's nothing like the human-free vistas of sheer cliffs rising from the sea to the forests.

HIKE ONE is straight down the beach. It shouldn’t be described as a “trail” in the guides. If the tides are right, you truck along ocean's edge on hard-packed sand. If you catch an incoming, well, does anyone enjoy making their way through a foot of sand for five or six miles at a stretch? There are lots of inviting places to camp, doubly inviting because they offer zero amenities. Both routes, you have to carry all the stuff you'll need, which requires planning if you take your time and sleep out three or four nights. (My knees are now steroid-dependent, preventing me attempting the Lost Coast again, but if I could find a mute young person to pack food and drink, I might consider another go.)

HIKE TWO is an actual trail high in the King Range above the ocean. It's up and down the whole way, and stunning vistas the whole way. It's also about thirty miles to get to Usal from the trail head, while the beach slog is a little less than twenty. Both routes have plenty of spring water but it's prudent to carry one of those magic filters. Usal, incidentally, is kinda wild these days, with lots of undesirables who drive in from Highway One and aren't there for a nature experience. To get away from them is simply a matter of hiking a mile or so back up the trail. The debauchees don't go anywhere they can't drive to.

I’VE DONE both trails, one of which, as mentioned, is not a trail but a straight slog down the beach from either Petrolia or the lost suburb of Shelter Cove. Starting from the Petrolia end at the mouth of the dying Mattole River to hike the beach to Shelter Cove is the wiser because walking north to south you have the wind at your back. But the beach hike is very dangerous if you haven't consulted the tide tables. You can find yourself, as we did, skittering around sea boulders on an incoming tide, simply to regain the beach to continue slogging south.

THE TRAIL-TRAIL in the mountains is a tough trek but at least you won't have to worry about getting swept out to sea.

THE LOST COAST isn't lost anymore, never really was, but it's far enough from the pavement that you really have to want to be there, which means you can walk for miles without seeing anybody but your companions.

A LETTER to the New Yorker objected to this assertion re Mendocino County's lead maniac, Jim Jones: “Jones 'persuaded more than 900 people to commit suicide.”

THE OBJECTOR WROTE: “In fact, a third of the victims were children, who were doing as they were told, and some were too young to understand death, let alone suicide. Many of the adults drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid under duress, even at gunpoint, and two who refused to do so were shot. Lumping together all the victims simplifies the concept that Aviv so carefully explores throughout the rest of the piece: the incredible susceptibility of the human mind to suggestion, and the difficulty faced by — and bravery required of — those who resist it."

THE MAN who jumped off the Noyo bridge last Friday just after 2pm seems to have gone over the side deliberately, but was then seen trying to swim to shore. Seeing that the would-be suicide had changed his mind, a still anonymous Samaritan entered the water and pulled Donald James Neubauer, 70, to shore where CPR efforts failed to revive him. Captain Van Patten of the Sheriff’s Department described the dead man as “a 70-year-old male who’d lived in Fort Bragg for a month prior to his death.”

THE COP CAR REAR-ENDED a few weeks ago near the Mendo-HumCo county line, saw Sgt. Bruce Smith at the wheel with his "ride-a-long" passenger, Paul Trouette riding shotgun. Trouette sustained moderate injuries

TROUETTE is the founder of Lear Asset Management, a private security company. Lear offers "marijuana eradication services" to timber companies but, in 2014, Lear popped in on people who were on their own property and, in at least one case, were not growing marijuana. Some North County people say Trouette is closer to Smith than he ought to be, Trouette being a private business and Smith being one of the main ops in the County's pot raid teams and its "major crimes" unit.

A FORMER Bay Area junior college basketball player and his friend from Reno were convicted by plea this morning of trading illegal assault weapons and large capacity magazines for marijuana. The so-called Mendocino County-based marijuana dealers the two defendants were dealing with were in reality undercover law enforcement officers. The two defendants caught up in the sting are Matthew Stephen Williams, 20, formerly of Oakland, Reno, and Louisiana; and Christian Alfredo Alcantar, 20, of Reno. Mendocino County Superior Court Judge John Behnke accepted no contest pleas from Williams this morning to four felony charges and two sentencing enhancements relating to three separate gun deals he committed between January and April 2017 in Mendocino, Sonoma, and Alameda Counties. Williams, the main player in the crimes, will be sentenced on August 4th to a stipulated Realignment prison sentence of 136 months. Judge Behnke also accepted no contest pleas from Alcantar to four felony charges relating to his having assisted Williams in committing in April the final gun deal in Oakland. Alcantar will be formally sentenced on August 18th. The plea and sentence bargain Alcantar was offered and accepted will place him on supervised probation for up to five years. As term of that probation, Alcantar will be required to serve a jail sentence of up to one year in the Low Gap jail.

THE INTERESTING MURALS at the Ukiah Fairgrounds were painted fifty years ago by Kathy Shearn and Ed Cassel. And they are doomed. They were originally commissioned as part of a state Arts In Public Places grant, with Michael Barton Miller, the local force behind the project, creating and submitting the proposal, about 40 years ago. Ms. Shearn herself notes, “The murals are in terrible shape, faded badly and I cannot see how they could be fixed. In 1995, the paintings were retouched, but at this point they are too far gone for touchup. I noticed a few additions were made by the 1995 touchup crew with some white-looking mushrooms on one of the panels.” A knowledgeable person says it’s more of a case that the walls on which the murals are painted need shoring up than it is simple destruction of the art. The work on the walls can’t be done without saying sayonara to the murals.

UKIAH POLICE have pointed the finger of suspicion at a pair of transients as the likeliest suspects in a series of arson fires along the railroad tracks that bisect the town. The abandoned tracks function as a kind of alternative highway for the small army of homeless who camp and commute along them to central area stores and to Plowshares where many transients take their daily meals.

UKIAH'S GAY Pride March, according to the Ukiah Daily Journal, "starts Sunday morning, July 9, at the corner of North State and Scott streets, near Black Oak Coffee. People will gather at 10:30 to march along the sidewalk of State Street at 11 to Alex R. Thomas Jr. Plaza, where there will be booths of all kinds, including food booths, nonprofit booths, booths designed to raise awareness about social issues, and vendors."

WHICH REMINDS ME. One afternoon shortly before she died, I was watching the television news with my mother when a segment began featuring two women getting married at San Francisco's City Hall. "Quick, Bruce! Turn that off," the old lady shouted. I was already halfway out of my chair headed to the manual controls on her ancient PhilCo when she said, "Oh, never mind. It's probably a good thing homely people find each other."

IF BLUSTER were reality, Kim Jong Un already would have died from fright at Trump's promises to "do something" about him. But, as Mark Bowden explains in the current edition of the Atlantic, "every option the United States has for dealing with North Korea is bad. But accepting it as a nuclear power may be the least bad." At the slightest hint that he's about to be attacked, Kim has the will and the means to destroy Seoul and Tokyo. The situation is perilous indeed because, basically, the fate of much of the world is in the hands of the two most unstable people in it. Bowden makes a strong case for doing nothing about Kim while peaceful means are pursued to cool him out.

RE: THE FIRST STEP to overcoming addiction is to recognize it. Then, get into a support group. In my experience, this is true for some, not for others. I drank quite heavily for 20 years, beginning at age 19 (well, I got good and drunk once in high school). If it contained alcohol, I drank it, the cheaper the better (the Safeway house brand of rum was great when mixed with Hawaiian Punch…). Also smoked grass (though avoided driving after smoking it because it made me drive too slowly yet think I was speeding) when it was available, and tried cocaine a couple of times in the early 80s, before crack cocaine, (did nothing more for me than allow me to drink all night and awaken with twice the hangover). I started smoking tobacco at age 13 and smoked 2+ packs of cigarettes per day after graduating from high school until the last 3 or so years (bless Allah for American Indian smoke shops). Since then I’ve reduced my smoking to about half a pack a day. I doubt that I go lower than that, but there are plenty of other poisons in the environment out to get me despite all the focus on tobacco. Plus, I have no desire to live forever. Maybe if I could do it without ageing, but hanging around as ones body deteriorates ever more quickly has no appeal to me at all. To me, that’s not living; it’s merely existing. By the mid 80s, I started seriously considering quitting drinking, so I went to a few AA meetings. They completely disappointed me because of the religious tone (which they claim isn’t what they do, but they do), and, more importantly, the requirement that one accept the notion of being unable to whip the problem on ones own without help from some “higher being”, and that one should expect to be dependent on a sort of “buddy system” in order to stay off booze. The dependency-on-others and the 12-Step program lines thoroughly galled me. I accept that such systems work for many, but they don’t work for all, and I have my own pet ideas on the reason why. I also considered rehab, which was covered by my health policy. After researching what was involved, I decided “no thanks” to that as well. Confinement for a month had no appeal for me. One evening, in early 1989, I made a very stupid choice (one of many). During the early evening I, as usual, had been drinking quite heavily at my favorite bar. I managed to get home, but then decided to go back and drink some more. On the way back I got busted. About a month later, I was once more driving home from the bar, plastered, and it hit me that I was acting very stupidly, that I was apt, like so many others, to get a second DUI before my first one was resolved in court. Luckily, I made it home. That was the last time I drank until 2003. I experienced no withdrawal symptoms and found that it was easy not to drink. Hell, I didn’t throw out my booze until I retired and moved east. I had friends who drank after all, but I wasn’t tempted to do so myself. My sister and her husband got my unopened 1.5-liter bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold, that I had owned for over a decade.. In 2003, I decided to see if it was possible for me to drink “moderately”. I did so at night, at home, no driving. I learned in a few months that I in fact could not drink moderately, and that I was drinking as heavily as before, so I quit. Again, for me it was easy. My conclusion is that when one is ready to quit drinking, one does, and one can. It worked for me.  (Harvey Reading)


(1) Hey Now! We should have better ways of separating out the actual down-on-their-luck don’t-really-want-to-be-there homeless and help them work their way out. There are many ways you can get kicked to the curb and once there it’s a steep climb back to anything! Our compassion gets burned out by the abusive idiots in the bunch but there are also many homeless that deserve basic respect and help. And honestly, there but for the grace of our local (now crumbling) economy it could be many of us!

(2) If the choice is between an incompetent autocrat and a competent theocrat I will choose the former. Leave the zombie prez in place for less mischief on the home front.

(3) Millard Fillmore? That’s the second time I’ve seen Millard Fillmore’s name in print in the last 3 days. The first time was in a book about early 18th century pirates. It seems Fillmore’s great grandfather was a pirate on the high seas during the final bloody violent decade of high stakes buccaneering, 1716-1726, serving with Ned Low after being shanghaied off a captured merchant ship. It’s a miracle he escaped hanging, as almost all of his shipmates, indeed all pirates, ended up on the gallows. They got ‘suspended sentences’ you might say, 4 ft off the ground. This Fillmore ended up buying a 50 acre farm near Norwich, CT, and is also somehow related to Teddy Roosevelt’s wife Edith Carow. I think all those 17, 18th and 19th century Americans were related to one another, descending from a relatively small group of English settlers in Virginia and Mass.

(4) Where are the fish? You should look at the damage the timber industry did. The tons and tons of silt going into the rivers from clearcuts caused, and still causes the majority of damage. The water goes underground and runs through the silt. That’s why the eel looks so bad right now, the silt coming into the ocean this winter from the eel was visible from space. The eel watershed already has a lot of natural erosion and siltation. The fish have been suffering for a long time, before these huge grows. Not to say there’s no impact from the jerks who divert water and all that crap. It’s just not the source of the entire problem, and focusing only on that allows all the other problems to get worse. If only the timber industry, cattle ranchers and grape growers were being regulated as much as cannabis. In the 70’s Fish and Game thought it a good idea to take all the debris out of the creeks to help the fish. Now we’re spending thousands of dollars in restoration work to put things back in. Like huge downed trees nailed in place in the creek as the fish need cool water, places to hide and the holes made by the water rushing under a tree/branch. Really, let’s all get some perspective and stop the blame game. One almond you eat = 1 gallon of water. Think about it, a pound of almonds took at the very least 50 gallons of water to grow. Grapes are huge water users. Cows take so much water to grow, think about how much they weigh. The hay they eat takes soooo much water. Remember when the hay farmers upriver on the Klamath had to stop using so much water to grow hay as it was severely impacting the fish downstream. You can look up the pic of the sheriff standing idle while the farmers broke into the water station and literally turned the water for their fields back on. The picture was on the front of the times standard. If you haven’t lived here for at least 20 years, or weren’t reading much over that time period, you really ought to do some research and learn about the steady decline of our rivers from multiple sources. Sometimes I wish it was all just from pot growing so we’d have just that one thing to fix. I don’t think most folks realize how much other resource extraction industries get away with. In Mendo they’re still allowed to poison the trees they don’t want to harvest and leave it standing like a giant piece of kindling. Firefighters were at the county meetings to express how much that rule needs to change. It wasn’t changed, which beyond the other obvious things, costs us more money as dead standing trees make fires way worse and way harder to fight.

(5) Impeachment is not a legal process, it is political. Impeachment does not require a president to violate criminal law. But once impeachment proceedings get underway, and particularly if Trump were to refuse to resign, the House Judiciary Committee could examine Trump’s possible conflicts of interest, attempts to intimidate judges, and violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Should members of Congress begin subpoenaing business records to explore those issues, given the president’s previous reluctance to disclose records, Trump might decide the game is up and resign.

(6) For all their talk about fiscal responsibility, Republicans only care about that when a Democrat is in the WH. When it’s one of their own in the WH, it’s drunken sailor on shore leave, Katie bar the door time with all spending thrown on the credit card for future administrations and generations to worry about. Most of the country won’t see a dime of this money because the current crew in power only cares about its own. Always remember how conservative common sense works: spending $100 billion a year on police, munitions, threatening gadgets, prisons, etc. to suppress people makes much more sense to them than spending $25 billion a year on welfare to just buy them off. But money will be spent at breakneck speed until it can’t anymore. That will be the only point where thing break down, and it may come this Fall. We shall see.

(7) 15,000 years ago a child brought some nuts into the family cave. The mother, recognizing them as toxic, promptly threw them into the fire along with the carcass of a rat she killed and an old threadbare loincloth. Obviously, archaeologists have determined that these people roasted nuts and rats in a ritualistic funeral fire. Making up shit is a science.

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