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FROM THE SKYHAWK FAMILY
Tonight came a note from Chris Skyhawk's family and friends:
"Earlier this week Chris Skyhawk suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was taken to the hospital. Close friends and family appreciate the community's patience, understanding and support during this critical time. The family will endeavor to keep people updated as information becomes available, and ask that the community respect their privacy, continue to be patient and avoid feeding any rumor-mill. Thank you."
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WILLIAMS CAMPAIGN ON HOLD
"In light of the tragedy that has befallen Chris Skyhawk and his family, we are suspending active campaigning forthwith. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to Samantha and the children and we wish Chris a full and speedy recovery."
HOSPITAL PARCEL TAX VOTE RECOUNT
by Malcolm Macdonald
An Albion area resident has paid a $2,900 deposit to the Mendocino County Clerk's Office to start a recount on Measure C, the $144 per parcel tax that would fund Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH). County Clerk Susan Ranochak has estimated that the 6,879 ballots cast would be individually recounted at an approximate additional cost of $870 per six hour day. The individual paying for the tally can ask for the recount to be stopped at any point. Ms. Ranochak hopes that the count will be concluded by July 5th. For full disclosure: the person paying for the recount is a relative of this writer, though, up to and including the present, there has been absolutely no communication between us regarding this issue.
If MCDH receives voter approval for the parcel tax measure this would bring in somewhere between $1.5 million to $1.7 million per year. Unfortunately, the financial hole at MCDH is a bit deeper, to the tune of nearly $3.5 million in arrears for this fiscal year.
That parcel tax money would equal the salaries and wages paid to hospital staff for this past month. It has been written here before, but the statistical fact bears repetition. The parcel tax dollars equal just one month's salary and wages at MCDH. That doesn't include one month's worth of employee benefits: another three-quarters of a million dollars or physician's fees (approx. $562,000 for the most recent month). When you add it up, the entire parcel tax money would pay barely more than half of MCDH's salaries, benefits, and physician fees for just one month. That doesn't include registry costs (over $600,000 in May, 2018), supplies (about $770,000 in May), and $128,000 in other professional fees (usually meaning legal costs).
You might well ask, what's the escape plan? New Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mike Ellis presented a potential narrative for improvements at the hospital's finance committee meeting on June 26th. According to Ellis, improvements in the revenue cycle are under way. That means some of the billable money that's been falling between the cracks is now being captured. However, MCDH must slow or halt negative spending trends in registry (over a million dollars more this year than last), professional fees for physicians (by the end of June, 2018, this amount will be well over a million dollars more than the previous fiscal year), and net losses in multiple millions from the hospital's clinic (North Coast Family Health Center [NCFHC]).
When Ellis went through the basic numbers for NCFHC, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards didn't bat an eye, a complete turnaround from a couple years back when Drs. Glusker and Rohr, the MCDH Board representatives on the finance committee, tried to dig down into the finances of individual departments within the hospital. At that time, Edwards nearly burst his buttons to halt such a monetary inspection.
What is usually a negligible factor in a hospital's finances is the amount of bad debt it incurs. At the end of the last fiscal year (June 30, 2017) that total at MCDH was a little over $220,000. This year's bad debt will total out at $1,660,000. That's a number that Mr. Ellis projects as correctable in the coming year. It is a number of interest in another way. In March, when interim CFO John Parigi gave his parting financial report, CEO Edwards essentially scoffed at the idea that the bad debt column would continue to grow. Mr. Ellis's year end estimates bear out Parigi's prediction to the tune of $400,000 more dollars in bad debt. That $1.66 million in bad debt is almost an exact match for the parcel tax money.
Another area that may help bring in more cash is a proposal to take billing matters away from EmCare, the emergency room provider, and return it to the hospital's billers. The inability of EmCare to code, charge, or bill fully and accurately became clear within the MCDH Finance Dept. and clear to CEO Edwards within a month or two of EmCare taking over the Emergency Department in August, 2016. However, Mr. Edwards has seemingly been unable to come to grips with that fact enough to act upon it until June of 2018.
CFO Ellis is hoping that the following can be achieved in the coming fiscal year in order to offset the $3.5 million hole the hospital is stuck in: a $1.2 million improvement in the aforementioned revenue cycle, a $400,000 uptick in net patient volumes, cutting registry costs by a million bucks, and a $360,000 drop in employee benefits. The latter number would have to be negotiated with the hospital employees' union, which leads to a decades-old Catch-22. The hospital's salaries have been substantially lower than what employees could earn elsewhere, but they have been offset somewhat by a worker friendly set of benefits (perhaps 20% higher than the state average). Therefore, when MCDH management goes to the union looking for a reduction in the benefit package the union is going to counter by saying we already did that last time, any further benefit reductions are going to have to be countered by salary increases. Time will tell on that issue as they will on drastically reducing registry costs. To do that requires more permanent local employees. Of course, it is hard to draw permanent employees if you are going to ask them to accept a cut in benefits and still labor at wages that are substantially lower than are available elsewhere.
Ellis's proposed budget for next year includes a similar amount for maintenance as the current year. There's about $10 million in state mandated repair projects on the horizon. The less than one million dollars budgeted apparently means MCDH is going to muddle along under the precept that something doesn't have to be fixed until it is dead and buried. Perhaps the maintenance budget number is a harbinger of reality-yet-to-come. In its current state MCDH can't afford to fix more than a million dollars worth of equipment and infrastructure, let alone $10 million worth.
* * *
NORM DEVALL: Out of District Votes and Measure C Re-Count
Header says it all: I’m hearing of people in Philo who voted on Measure C, Elections says “that could not happen.” Karen Calvert has requested a re-count of Measure C.
JAZZ ON THE LAWN 2018, July 5 at Mendocino Art Center, 1 pm
JAMES MARMON WRITES:
My prayers also go out to the Skyhawk family for Chris to have a full speedy recovery.
With that said, Molgaard and Schraeder were hoping to get one of their own on the Board of Supervisors. Skyhawk’s opponent Ted Williams is not a big fan of the privatization of Mental Health Services:
“In general, I’m not enthusiastic about outsourcing core government responsibilities. There are circumstances where private industry can outperform public agencies. SpaceX is a great example. These circumstances are where innovation and execution offer a financial reward. This paradigm does not encompass a responsibility like the administration of mental health services. Outsourcing removes transparency and is a sign of capitulation of competency. If we can’t pull off government locally, how can we expect anything on a state or federal level? There’s some basis in that we haven’t done a great job at a lot of things, but I’d rather we improve our competency than privatize the operation. I expect well defined metrics with regular reporting to gauge success over time. I don’t mean hiring another high priced consultant. If a school anywhere in the county calls with a concern, what’s the follow-through? If we have an addict on the south coast looking to come clean, is the assistance effective? I have a rebuttable presumption that the money is not being spent as effectively as it could and that a secondary motivation is avoidance of our pension situation. Convince me otherwise.”
— Ted Williams
BERNIE NORVELL (Fort Bragg City Council) on the clean-up of the Cypress Street homeless camp: “All done. Eight people, one backhoe, one day and 50 yards of trash cleaned up and hauled away.”
FROM THURSDAY MORNING'S PRESS DEMOCRAT: "The surprise win for a 28-year-old Latina activist over a 10-term incumbent in a New York congressional Democratic primary Tuesday may simply be down to the differences between the two candidates as people, Rep. Jared Huffman said Wednesday. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a political newcomer who stunned Rep. Joe Crowley in the Queens-Bronx district, came across as “an extremely compelling candidate” — a young, hard-working, articulate woman — “in a year when people are looking for change,” said Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat who represents the solidly blue North Coast. News reports cited Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist affiliation and far-left platform, promoting universal health care and abolition of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. But Huffman said she and Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, were not far apart on the issues."
TALK ABOUT not getting it. The diff was two people as people? But leave it to the PD to out-dumb Huffman, who at least pointed out that Crowley and O-C weren't far apart on the issues as the paper's writer, Guy Kovner, blithely contradicts himself with a characterization of O-C as "far left."
SHE'S a Bernie democratic socialist, not a Leninist. Democratic socialists are hardly the "far left." Compared to the squishy party hack Huffman and the Billery wing of the Democratic Party, O-C is certainly on the left, but for all you slo-learners and deliberate obfuscators out there let's walk through the basic distinctions one more time:
LENIN and the Bolsheviks were the far left on the left-right spectrum. They banned capitalism, nationalized all property right down to the family cow. By force. North Korea is the last "far left" state in the world.
THE BOLSHIES were opposed by the Mensheviks, who were also socialists but held out for a peaceful transition to beneficial public programs. The Bolsheviks murdered all the lead Mensheviks who didn't flee. The basic Bolshevik-Menshevik distinction obtains today, although there are very few Bolshevik, Stalinist-like political groupings left in the world. The primary difference between the left of the socialist type and, say, liberals like Huffman is that socialists don't compromise, the good ones don't anyway. Bernie, for example, is more of a liberal than a socialist, but in the American context he's routinely libeled by the Koch Bros and other One Percenters as the "far left." If Americans woke up tomorrow in the country envisioned by O-C and Bernie they'd think they'd died and gone to heaven. The Koch Bros and the One Percenters would whine about high taxes and re-locate with their money to Switzerland, but the only people listening to them would be Huffman, the Press Democrat and Trump.
FULL MOON RISING through the trees
(Photo by Dick Whetstone)
WILDLIFE TRANSPORT NEEDED
Woodlands Wildlife needs a little help
Woodlands Wildlife has been doing wildlife rehabilitation here on the Coast for 3 decades. We occasionally need help transporting baby or injured critters, usually birds, to the Santa Rosa area. If you're willing to join a team, or know people who commute and might consider dropping animals off, please reply to WoodlandsWildlife@mcn.org
The plan is to send out a request a day or two in advance when we need a transport, then arrange to meet the driver with the animal (or they can pick up in Little River). The following qualifications apply: Animals need to be transported inside an air-conditioned car or truck cab, not in the bed of a pickup. They can’t be transported w/ a dog in the vehicle. If you are running errands, they would have to be done after the delivery. Basically, the need arises once a week in the summer, and maybe once a month in the winter. Detailed information (maps) about destinations will be provided, and contact with Woodlands Wildlife and the destination facility is available during any transport.
TWEAKERS WITH TOOLS AND A FELONIOUS KNIFE
On June 27, 2018, an Officer of the Fort Bragg Police Department observed a pick-up truck exiting the alley east of the 600 Block of S. Franklin Street with a male suspect seated on the tailgate of the vehicle wearing a ski mask. A traffic enforcement stop was completed based on the vehicle code violation and Officers contacted Jeremy Kenyon and Shane Porter.
Officers identified approximately $1000 worth of tools in the bed of the truck including a large air compressor and a generator. K-9 Maverick was deployed and he alerted to controlled substances during a walk around of the vehicle.
A search of the vehicle revealed evidence of controlled substance distribution including suspected methamphetamine, packaging materials, a digital scale, and a large amount of cash. A search of Porter’s person led to a felonious “punch knife” (photo below) which was concealed in his belt. At the time of the traffic stop, there was a lack of evidence to identify the tools in the truck as being stolen. The truck was towed from the scene and secured, and both suspects were arrested and transported to County Jail.
Approximately three hours after the arrests, a resident in the area where the suspects were initially observed reported a burglary to an exterior tool shed. During the course of that investigation, the victim identified the tools in the suspect vehicle as being stolen during the burglary. New criminal violations of Second Degree Burglary and Possession of Stolen Property were forwarded to the County Jail to be added to the suspect’s list of charges.
Questions or information regarding this press release and incident may be directed to Officer O’Neal at (707) 961-2800 ext. 167 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARILYN DAVIN OBSERVES: “...that the same ‘liberals’ who so passionately destroyed the visual history of the South chose as last week’s Pride Week symbol the pink triangle that identified homosexuals in Nazi Germany. Several publicly gushed about it as a reminder of crimes past. That’s just what I would have told my kids if we walked by a statue of Robert E. Lee...”
SEEN IN WILLITS
(Photo by Susie de Castro)
SHOW BIZ NOTE
Paul McCarthy writes:
It looks like the McCarthy v. Gressett "Great Debates" will be starting up again — this time on the Fort Bragg cable channel. We argue every morning at coffee anyway, so we decided to take it to the air. Next week we'll be talking about the Highway 20 Rec & Parks property and whether they should allow motorcycles and off-road vehicles there. Naturally, Rex wants it to remain pristine — the hippy bastard.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, Pretty sure Mrs. Skrag is preggers, but you should see Skrag hiss and scratch her outta the way at meal time. If it's possible for a cat to be a dick, this cat is a major dick.
I KNEW ONE 4th Division Lurp who took his pills by the fistful, downs from the left pocket of his tiger suit and ups from the right, one to cut the trail for him and the other to send him down it. He told me that they cooled things out just right for him, that he could see that old jungle at night like he was looking at it through a starlight scope. "They sure give you the range," he said.
This was his third tour. In 1965 he'd been the only survivor in a platoon of the Cav wiped out going into the la Drang Valley. In '66 he'd come back with the Special Forces and one morning after an ambush he'd hidden under the bodies of his team while the VC walked all around them with knives, making sure. They stripped the bodies of their gear, the berets too, and finally went away, laughing. After that, there was nothing left for him in the war except the Lurps.
"I just can't hack it back in the World," he said. He told me that after he'd come back home the last time he would sit in his room all day, and sometimes he'd stick a hunting rifle out the window, leading people and cars as they passed his house until the only feeling he was aware of was all up in the tip of that one finger. "It used to put my folks real uptight," he said. But he put people uptight here too, even here.
"No man, I'm sorry, he's just too crazy for me," one of the men in his team said. "All's you got to do is look in his eyes, that's the whole fucking story right there."
"Yeah, but you better do it quick," someone else said. "I mean, you don't want to let him catch you at it."
But he always seemed to be watching for it, I think he slept with his eyes open, and I was afraid of him anyway. All I ever managed was one quick look in, and that was like looking at the floor of an ocean. He wore a gold earring and a headband torn from a piece of camouflage parachute material, and since nobody was about to tell him to get his hair cut it fell below his shoulders, covering a thick purple scar. Even at division he never went anywhere without at least a .45 and a knife, and he thought I was a freak because I wouldn't carry a weapon.
"Didn't you ever meet a reporter before?" I asked him.
"Tits on a bull," he said. "Nothing personal."
But what a story he told me, as one-pointed and resonant as any war story I ever heard, it took me a year to understand it:
"Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened."
I waited for the rest, but it seemed not to be that kind of story; when I asked him what had happened he just looked like he felt sorry for me, fucked if he'd waste time telling stories to anyone dumb as I was.
His face was all painted up for night walking now like a bad hallucination, not like the painted faces I'd seen in San Francisco only a few weeks before, the other extreme of the same theater. In the coming hours he'd stand as faceless and quiet in the jungle as a fallen tree, and God help his opposite numbers unless they had at least half a squad along, he was a good killer, one of our best. The rest of his team were gathered outside the tent, set a little apart from the other division units, with its own Lurp-designated latrine and its own exclusive freeze-dry rations, three-star war food, the same chop they sold at Abercrombie & Fitch. The regular division troops would almost shy off the path when they passed the area on their way to and from the mess tent. No matter how toughened up they became in the war, they still looked innocent compared to the Lurps. When the team had grouped they walked in a file down the hill to the lz across the strip to the perimeter and into the treeline.
I never spoke to him again, but I saw him. When they came back in the next morning he had a prisoner with him, blindfolded and with his elbows bound sharply behind him. The Lurp area would definitely be off limits during the interrogation, and anyway, I was already down at the strip waiting for a helicopter to come and take me out of there.
— Michael Herr, Dispatches
CATCH OF THE DAY, June 28, 2018
MALISHA ALVAREZ, Willits. Controlled substance for sale, transportation of controlled substance, ex-felon with stun gun, ex-felon with tear gas.
MACKY CHAMBERLAYNE, Mendocino. Trespassing.
TED DEMITS, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery, probation revocation.
KEVIN KEMP, Laytonville. Under influence, registration forgery, evasion.
RUBEN NUNEZ, Laytonville. Grand theft, controlled substance, paraphernalia, use of someone else’s credit card, conspiracy, forgery, failure to appear.
SHANE PORTER, Fort Bragg. Burglary, receiving stolen property, concealed dirk-dagger.
ROBERT TAYLOR, Covelo. Concealed dirk-dagger, criminal threats.
ANTHONY TOLBERT, Willits. Public nuisance, probation revocation.
NATHAN TUPPER, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
KENNETH WHIPPLE, Covelo. Suspended license, county parole violation, probation revocation.
CODY WIRT, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, failure to appear, probation revocation.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD WOMEN (Part 1)
by Eleanor Cooney
2008: I'm driving a stolen car. Not technically stolen, but it feels stolen. My guilty conscience clatters along everywhere I go in the car, like the tin cans and old shoes honeymoon-bound brides and grooms used to tie to their rear bumpers, minus the festiveness. The car, a beige 1988 Ford Taurus, had belonged to Gwendda, the 88-year-old woman I look after. One day about four years ago, she parked the car in the garage and hung up her keys. The car had sat for three years after that, a fine coating of pale green mold gradually dusting the steering wheel and dashboard.
I drive toward the dumpy-looking little nursing home in the next town where Berna, another old lady I know, is permanently flat on her back in bed. Like the Chief in "Little Big Man," she decided one day it was time to lie down and die. Old Lodge Skins only stayed up on his funeral platform for a day or so waiting fruitlessly for death; Berna has lain in that bed for almost five years now. She disassembled her life, broke the set, reduced her earthly belongings to a box or two, and checked herself into the nursing home to die. But she didn't. I have her car, too.
Tomorrow, I'll go visit my Alzheimered mother in the assisted-living place where we put her eight years ago. The distance I drive roundtrip will be the equivalent of crossing Nebraska. The last time I was there, Christmas day 2007, a 17-year-old kid was getting killed by an escaped Siberian tiger at the San Francisco zoo, about 50 miles from where I was, right around the time I finished the visit and got into the car.
Things had been more grim and silent than usual at my mother's old-folks' home when I'd arrived. It looked as if everyone had keeled over from a poison gas attack: one guy slumped with his forehead resting on a table; another was on his back on the sofa with his eyes open, head hanging off the side. My mother was in a recliner in front of the TV, head back, eyes shut, mouth open. I sat down by her chair and read out loud from the National Enquirer, as is my wont, and my mother came back from far, far away and actually laughed at a couple of the stories. She looked at me as if I were someone familiar but whom she couldn't quite place. I also hauled out the photo album I assembled a few years back, full of pictures of her when she was young and gorgeous. She never fails to respond to it, and it attracts the attention of the staff, who gaze in wonderment at the pictures and then at the ruin in the chair.
When it was time to go, I put my head right next to hers and whispered in her ear, telling her who I am and that I love her and such, and her hand went around and caressed the back of my neck. This almost destroyed me. You become accustomed to the "remove" of dementia, accommodate yourself to the notion that she's "gone," and out of habit and self-protection, harden up. But in that moment, she was not gone; she was fully there, she was my mother, and she was caressing my neck. I went out to the car and blubbered. Not for long; I blew my nose, started the engine and got going.
On the drive home, I heard about the tiger attack on the news. And I thought: is this the exact diametric opposite of what's happening to my mother, or what? She's 86 and dying a protracted, ignominious death, decaying in full view while she still breathes. The kid at the zoo steps out one fine day, at the apex of youth, and gets killed in the space of a few seconds by a huge predator. What's the statistical likelihood of that in a major American city in the 21st century?
Back in the Pleistocene, death at 17 by big cat was more of an everyday sort of event. You were lucky if you even made it to 17. I remembered a demonstration by an anthropologist I'd seen on TV: he had two skulls, one of them a juvenile humanoid with a pair of dime-sized holes in the back, right at the base; the other a sabre-tooth cat, complete with wicked scimitar canines. The anthropologist took the sabre-tooth skull and fitted it over the humanoid skull: the canines slipped cozily into the two holes with a precision fit, as if that particular sabre-tooth had killed that particular humanoid. The anthropologist had a theory: The big cats, he believed, were our species-specific predator, with a taste for the very young. This is why children have an instinctive fear of the dark, he opined, why there are "monsters" under the bed. Because once upon a time, there literally were monsters that came for you in the dark, sank their fangs into your skull and dragged you out of the cave. When the zoo tiger was on the kid, I have no doubt that ancient ancestral memories were activated in his brain during the brief moment before consciousness was extinguished.
Gwendda, the 88-year-old woman whose car I'm driving, is British. I met her about twenty-four years ago when she hired me and the guy with whom I was writing a giant novel about 7th-century China to paint her house. This was what we did before we got a contract and an advance: slung ladders and buckets, risked our necks teetering way high up in thin air on rickety scaffolds. What she wanted us to put on the house turned out to be not exactly paint, but blue oil-based stain, even runnier and drippier than water, with that aggressive velocity peculiar to refined petroleum products. My writing partner hated house painting, and didn't give it his full attention when he was doing it. I didn't like it much either, but I was good at it and had earned a living at it for years and years during my misspent early prime.
My coauthor got into big trouble pretty quickly with the blue stain. It raced, ran, dripped, exploded and splattered. If the stuff had been red, the deck and west wall would have looked like the scene of a really atavistic murder, complete with spatters and footprints. Gwendda wasn't happy at all. I salvaged the situation by telling her that I would finish the job by myself, including remedial work on the drips and footprints, and that when it was done, she could decide what she wanted to pay. I remember the moment when her expression went from exasperated and expecting the worst from a couple of grifters to pleased and surprised that the encounter had been so sensible, civilized and satisfactory. Thanks to my mother, I knew how to actually listen and be reasonable when another person talked.
I could not possibly have imagined how that little moment of cultivated diplomacy would play out, a couple of decades and many convolutions down the line.
Berna, the woman in the bed at the nursing home in the next town, had been a writer and a first-rate reader. She came from a family with a congenital streak of craziness; she told me this herself, along with stories to back it up. Her sister, she said, had been a full-on madwoman, turbocharged by a high I.Q. and a law degree. Berna had been an odd duck, but considered the "sane" one in her family. She'd had a stroke at age 69. It left her able to walk, but feebly and clumsily. She hired me to empty her house, gave me her car, an '86 Toyota, as payment, and put herself into assisted living. After a few miserable years among people old enough to be her parents, she checked herself out, got a senior citizen apartment, settled into a wheelchair and played fierce games of Scrabble. Then she had another stroke. She wasn't paralyzed, but she said that if she raised her head even slightly, she was overcome by black, sucking, devouring dizziness. This was when she put herself in the nursing home. I'm done for, she said to me that first week, looking up from her pillow, after arranging herself to receive the Reaper.
Still waiting, she lies in one position, asleep or awake, forbids anyone to crank the head of the bed up, bellows in fury if they try. She refuses a TV, a radio, a Walkman, those prismatic glasses that allow people flat on their backs to read at a 45-degree angle. No Books on Tape, no movies, no nothing. Her mind is intact and dementia-free; when I visit, she remembers exactly what we talked about the last time and asks for news of the world. She's grown deaf to the point where you have to shout directly into her ear, like the town crier. But when she's alone, she just lies there, drifting and dreaming. Year after year after year. People who used to know her are frightened when they learn that she's not demented, not dead, and still just lying there. That's crazy, they say.
Gwendda, the Brit, had led a strong, adventurous, stunningly competent life. In a photo album she showed me, there's a picture of her when she was a baby just sitting up. There's a slight but definite "caste" to one of her eyes in the baby picture, a subtle misalignment of the features that kept her just this side of being beautiful when she grew up, and which had everything to do with making her ferociously sexy. Later pictures show a long-legged athlete doing handstands on beaches in Spain alongside bare-chested, muscular young men, posing on fountains with skirts hiked up to display sleek shapely thighs and calves, then, during the war, in uniform and in full frog-woman gear, being trained to plant explosives on German subs. Always in the pictures there's this look on her face of deep, sly satisfaction, the slight irregularity of eyes and nose alluring and transformed by cheer, humor and confidence. Like those holographic postcards, though, that change when you tilt them — so that Jesus' eyes, for instance, open and close — those irregularities are tilted into something ominous when a certain misaligned defect in her personality occasionally emerges.
Four years ago, right around the time she'd quit driving because she knew she was slipping, Gwendda was ready to go back to England. Her younger brother, who still lives there, was making arrangements to bring her home. She has no children, but plenty of nieces and nephews and a couple of surviving siblings. She was ready to pack her bag and walk right out the door, leaving her house and everything in it behind. Then, during a phone conversation with her brother shortly before she was to leave, she said something that shook him so badly that he abruptly cancelled all plans to bring her home.
I know the brother, like him a lot, had met him on a trip to the U.K. We spoke about that conversation. Whatever she said was evidently so horrible that he couldn't bring himself to repeat it, but he did describe it: Vicious. The word resonated. From the way he was affected, I knew this was something from way, way back, something chronic and ancient in its toxicity.
This was how I came to be "in charge" of her affairs. The brother engaged me from across the Atlantic to oversee her existence — shop, pay her bills, take her to the movies, look out for her. She's two years older than my mother. She doesn't have Alzheimer's. She has plain old-fashioned senility, not the same thing at all. Her short-term memory is shot, and her world slowly narrows down like the closing-in walls of the room where Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher sloshed around in "Star Wars." But she knows where she is and who she is, bathes and dresses herself, reads books and the newspaper, and occasionally surprises the hell out of me by remembering something we talked about on another day. She walks strongly despite being all bent over with arthritis, takes no medications whatsoever, and freakily enough, does not need glasses to read. Occasionally, she gets confused about the real world versus the dream world, but not like my mother, who dwells in a perpetual shifting kaleidoscopic fusion of the two.
Like her brother, I'm scared of her, though not quite to the same degree. It's a remnant of my own glimpses of her deep perverse streak. She'd traveled the world, lived in Australia and Canada before emigrating to the U.S., was a high-powered executive before she retired and moved to the house she still lives in. She'd invested wisely, saved and grew her money, was fun, worldly, well-read, sophisticated, sociable. For years, she threw Sunday afternoon mad tea parties that spiraled up into wild sugar-and-caffeine-fueled hilarity. Invitations were prized. She'd done what a smart, successful person without offspring does to prepare for old age: cultivated financial security and friends. And the plan had always been to return, eventually, to England.
But she ended up in exile and with just one viable friend: me. How did this happen? Right around the same time she had the fatal phone conversation with her brother, she was on a tear about another friend stealing her credit card. I knew this woman, and she would no more steal a credit card than I would knock over a convenience store. It was just flat not possible. But Gwendda repeated the story every day, and even acted it out: She was riding in the back seat of my car. I saw her in the rear view mirror, holding my purse in her lap. She thought she could slip the card out and that I wouldn't see. But I did. Every time she repeated the story, she embellished it, demonstrated the wrist action and the cunning removal of the card, and it became more real to her. I heard the story so many times that I had a lurid video of the event running in my own head, though I knew full well it was fictional, complete with a chilling cinematic moment involving the mirror, the old lady's surveillance-camera eyes, the thief caught in the act. The accused woman had been a devoted friend, the kind that comes along maybe once or twice in any lifetime. Twenty years younger than Gwendda, she would have been an invaluable old-age asset. But she was driven away permanently.
Stealing. She has a pointed British way of saying this word so that it comes at you like a heat-seeking missile, imbued with an accusatory, fatalistic cynicism: They act like your friends, but eventually you'll catch them stealing from you. And this was the theme, in one permutation or another, of the terrible perversity that emerged from time to time, so incongruous with her largesse, sociability and hospitality, like a form of Tourette's Syndrome — ugly, baffling, intrusive, shocking. I suspect this beast had had her in its jaws all her life.
My coauthor and I once house-sat for her when she went to England for a month. When we knew she was on her way back, we scrubbed, vacuumed, dusted, washed windows and polished floors, stocked the refrigerator and arranged fresh flowers in vases, fear nipping at our heels. A big part of our terror was that we'd left a car in neutral in front of her garage a few days before. It had rolled forward about four feet on the gentle incline, hit the door and left a mark and a very slight dent in the wood. We'd scurried around in a fever, mixing paint, dabbing it in the concavity, darkening and lightening it, trying for a trompe-l'oeil effect to disguise the damage. The result looked totally crude to me, glaringly obvious, but she never noticed. She seemed quite pleased with everything when she arrived home. We'd successfully distracted her with the dazzlingly clean house.
Later, we heard that she complained to a mutual friend that we lost things, hid things, stole things. That was when I understood that she was in the grip of a poisonous compulsion. Much later, she drove away the last of her tea-party friends by urging them to borrow books from her, then calling up a week later and unpleasantly demanding them back. And all of us, every friend she had, including me, were "after her money." She came close to getting rid of me, too; soon after I started looking in on her at her brother's behest, she left a message on my answering machine: Those children you brought to my house yesterday stole my figurines. If you don't bring them back, I'm calling the police.
Of course, I'd brought no "children" to her house. It had been a dream that had leaked through the sleep/wake barrier, persisted, and merged synergistically with her chronic suspicion. That was the last time she accused me of anything, though. I haven't a clue how she dealt with her fatal flaw throughout her life; surely she was aware of it, but as with many people of her generation and class, the mechanics of self-reflection are kept assiduously hidden. But I think another, pragmatic part of her understood perfectly that I was her last friend and all that stood between her and — as her brother picturesquely put it — the "geriatric knacker's yard," and that part of her prevailed. And with the manners and social skills I learned from my mother, I was well equipped for the diplomatic aspect of the job.
The thing is, I'm not totally convinced that I'm not a thief. You'd think it would be plain — either you're a thief, or you're not a thief. But it's not plain at all. It's hazy, shape-shifting, the conviction rising and falling like the stock market, and just as mysteriously. I've felt like a thief for a while anyway, ever since we put my mother in assisted living. What you learn when you are dealing with the non compos mentis is that truth, honesty, and transparency are worse than useless; they can be downright destructive. Deviousness, deception and manipulation become virtues. It's harsh and confusing, but you get used to it. And in exercising these neo-virtues, questionable parts of your character, which were there all along but kept mostly in check, grow new blood vessels, thrive and expand.
I didn't feel like a thief when I got the car from Berna, the woman who now lies in bed waiting to die. That was a clear, unambiguous exchange of goods for services. We were both satisfied, and there was nothing wrong with her mind. And my own mind was much less damaged then, because that transaction happened a couple of years before we tricked my mother into a van full of her clothes and furniture by telling her we were going on a "picnic," drove her 120 miles away, and essentially committed her. Now I know: I traded my mother's life for mine, and it turned out to be a devil's bargain. That was the thievery. I think I thought I could get my youth back, but what happened instead is that my own old age and decrepitude leapt into view with the disturbing immediacy of looking at a faraway scene through expensive German binoculars. I don't believe in karma, but I have a powerful conviction that I've forfeited any hope, or right to, or expectation of a lucky old age. And not exactly "forfeited," but learned that there's no such thing as a lucky old age, because old age by definition means precisely that your luck has run out. Some people's luck runs out more egregiously than others, to be sure, but everyone's luck runs out if they live long enough.
(Part 1 of 4)
Whole Foods controversy — I called a number I found online for Whole Foods and asked if they supplied from factory farms. The response was that I needed to call an individual store because each store has different suppliers. I then called the Sebastopol Whole Foods store and asked a simple question: "Do you supply from factory farms?" The employee's response was that he had no idea and didn't even know what a factory farm was.
Frustrated, but not discouraged, I called the Whole Foods Regional Office in Fremont. When I asked, "Do you supply from factory farms?" Jessica responded that they were not allowed to disclose the source of their meat and poultry.
Whole Foods charges a premium for their products, claiming superior quality, etc., yet refuse to reveal where their meat and poultry come from. As consumers, we have the right to know.
Here is the # of the Regional Office of Whole Foods: 844-936-8255. I think we should call and pester them until they provide an answer. Boycotting, in the meantime, isn't a bad idea either.
“President Trump went on to say that nominating himself to the Supreme Court would be ‘an excellent side hustle’. ”
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ REPRESENTS THE FUTURE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
"What the institutional Democrats who closed ranks around Crowley until his dying breath can’t understand is that there is no place, any more, for action to not match rhetoric. Not any more. You can’t wave the progressive flag, as Crowley had begun to, and vote for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and take gobs of cash from Wall Street. You don’t get to do both. You don’t get to be the Democrat who sells out the working class in the name of a mythical idea of moderation that only serves those with money and power."
HARBINGER OF THINGS TO COME
The news that the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest has canceled upcoming performances of the smash-hit musical “Billy Elliot” isn’t likely to cause great alarm around the world, but it should.
The impetus for this decision was a pro-government newspaper’s admonition that this musical could “turn” kids gay, but there’s a bigger story here. The government in question is the most virulently right wing — bordering on fascistic — of the “populist” coalitions that several European countries have elected into power.
Journalists and others there who have criticized their government frequently have been victims of scurrilous pro-government hit pieces replete with career-damaging outright lies. In addition, that government has passed a law that mandates jail time and fines for any person who aids illegal immigrants.
President Donald Trump has said on many occasions that he’d like to silence the media and those who disagree with him. The fact that these things actually are happening in another “democratic” country should be a clarion call to Americans who blithely cling to the belief that these things could not happen here.
The heroic abolitionist Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.”
MURAL ON RAIL TRAIL COMPLETED
Ukiah, CA -- On the morning of June 26th, artist Solange Roberdeau was putting the finishing touches on her mural, which faces the Rail Trail at Perkins Street in Ukiah, CA. The mural took approximately two and a half weeks to complete, and features a large abstracted Pomo basket design in a palette of grey, black, and red.
The Rail Trail is a well-travelled paved pathway that runs parallel to the tracks, connecting Gobbi Street at the south end to Clara Street on the north. The City of Ukiah has secured funding to continue the trail north and south to approximately the city limits.
Executing a mural on the Rail Trail was an unusual experience for Roberdeau. At one point, a homeless person offered the artist a can of soda; another time, a passer by made off with some of her painting supplies. Fortunately, she was able to retrieve them from the dry bed of nearby Gibson Creek with help from a bystander's tip. Other than this minor mishap and some of Ukiah's 100-plus degree plus days the project was executed smoothly and as planned.
Kelly Moore Paints generously donated the paint and supplies and the Arts Council of Mendocino County provided funding to the artist through a competitive Local Impact grant from the California Arts Council, as well as matching funds from the community, raised by Art Center Ukiah. The mural was originally designed for but ultimately not used at the Ukiah Library, and the Arts Council was able to arrange for a modified design to be transferred to the new site. Local artist and patron of the arts Laura Fogg provided local lodging to the Elk-based artist.
The California Arts Council's Local Impact program fosters equity, access, and opportunity by supporting small arts organizations with operating budgets under $1 million in reaching underserved populations with limited access to the arts. The local arts council's grant from CAC is being used to fund two mural projects in Ukiah this year: Solange Roberdeau's completed mural on the Rail Trail and Lauren Sinnott’s larger mural on Church Street.
Both artists were selected through a competitive application process and Sinnott's design engaged the City of Ukiah's Public Art Policy due to its location on a wall of the Ukiah Conference Center, which is a public building. That proposal was therefore reviewed by and (unanimously) approved by the City's Design Review Board as well as the Planning Commission. The Arts Council secured an encroachment permit from them, and work for both murals began in mid-May.
For more information, contact the Arts Council of Mendocino County at ArtsMendocino.org or 707.463.2727.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
To my mind there are plenty of good reasons to criticize the government regarding food and farming, but to my mind SNAP is not one of them. Here in Washington state SNAP recipients can take their benefits to farmers markets and use them that way. How likely are they to is maybe a different question, because food sold at farmers markets is, in my experience, not even close to competitive with WalMart. The reason for that is the farm bill. The money that is allocated to farmers through that bill is almost exclusively given to mega farms.
In college I had the opportunity to visit some of these farms. One egregious example has always stood out in my mind. It was a dairy in California. It was the stereotype of a poorly run dairy: sickly cows living knee deep in their own excrement. We had the chance too see what the owner was feeding his cows in their Total Mixed Ration, industry jargin for the things you combine to give them a nutritionally complete feed. For protein he was feeding them blood meal. I asked the guy, “Aren’t you worried about mad cow disease?” He wasn’t, and apparently neither was the government. If I remember correctly his milk was ending up in Safeway stores. God only knows where his hamburger is going, but I pray for a blessing on those who eat it.
Property taxes were the big issue I faced in my early years. I was blessed to inherit my family’s farm which is located in the same county as Seattle. People in Seattle seem to have this delusional notion that the government can do no wrong and that if you give them enough money then eventually we will live in a utopia. The citizens of that city pretty much run the county (and possibly the state). Any way, in my early years there was literally a time when I was starving myself in order to pay taxes. Partially that was due to my own inexperience, but partially it was also due to not having the money I needed to make investments in tools, livestock, and infrastructure. I still feel like this is a crime on some level. I currently have a stack of cash sitting in the bank ready to pay my October tax bill. I cant help but look at it and think, “There goes the wood splitter, front end loader and hay baler I need.”
Then there’s the regulations. I have a neighbor who sells the best raw milk. Technically, its illegal because the government has not inspected his facilities and given him their seal of approval. To get that seal would require tens of thousands of dollars of infrastructure and a mountain of red tape. Officially, his stuff is dangerous and should banned, but the guy in California isn’t. WTF!?!
So do I have a problem with SNAP? No. Do I think that the government of the United States is run by Satan and his minions? Yes. I’m entirely convinced of that.
Where We Are
Took the T to Jamaica Plain yesterday, after consulting the anarchist Lucy Parsons Center website. Followed the LPC website directions, which resulted in a #41 bus ride to the end of the line, and then began what was supposedly a short walk. This led me to the Arborway! Clearly, I needed to go in the opposite direction, which I did. About a half hour later, stopped into Whole Foods for a large salad bar meal, plus a shot 'o Yerba Mate. Continued on Centre Street and there, within three blocks of the Jackson Square T where I originally boarded the bus, was the LPC with a CLOSED sign and a hand written note which read: "We are an all volunteer collective, and thus do not have regular hours. We are currently closed. So sorry!" This information was NOT indicated on their website, which did publicize regular book store hours. I ask you, is this any way to run a revolution? Full of organic salad bar offerings and jazzed on the Yerba Mate, I returned to central Boston and arrived at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness just in time for the lecture on the subject of precisely what our spiritual identity is, which was followed by a half hour of chanting the Mahamantram to neutralize negative energy worldwide. An Indian style prasadam dinner was served in the upstairs dining room, free to all. Being full of organic vegetables already, I demurred, and quietly made my way out of the temple. Found a politically incorrect Starbucks near Copley Square, and mulled everything over whilst enjoying a caramel macchiato and gazing blankly beyond at the monolithic Prudential building. Please note that I am booked into Hostelling International on Stuart Street in the theater district until July 8th. No plans beyond that. Seriously, how could I make any?
Craig Louis Stehr
CHOMO FILES, PWOG DIVISION:
Frank Runninghorse, Lifetime registered sex offender grabs media opportunity
Convicted in 2006 for sexual assaults on 14 year old African American girl. True name is Steven Bruce Orcutt, voter registration name is "S. Runninghorse Orcutt". A white boy pretending to be First Nation. Deep ties to Contra Costa and Alameda Peace and Freedom groups. Prowls junior college campuses looking for young women. Has been arrested for failure to notify campus police before some of his forays onto grounds of higher learning.
TAYLOR DAVIS CAN'T TAKE HIS EYES OFF YOU