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Off the Record (Sep. 5, 2018)

BETSY CAWN WRITES: 'In Nebraska, state legislative districts are based on watersheds. They also have a unicameral government, the only one in the US. Not that it’s ideal — nothing in governance is — but that’s how I would do it if I had the magic wand, in California. The sickening destruction of the northern counties’ natural resources — plundering the mega-producing watersheds to keep constructing and paving and growing frivolous crops while murdering the ancient groundwater supplies — will never end, and Mendo/Lake’s pissing contests over pot and power are just typical examples of how brainwashed we all are.'

THE BIG FIRES are just about extinguished but still no formal announcement of their causes. We are reliably informed that the reason for the largest, the Ranch Fire, is known and not arson. But the River Fire remains under investigation. If you came in real late, the Ranch Fire started on the Guntley ranch property off Highway 20 near the Potter Valley turnoff. The River Fire that began just off Highway 175 and burned east over the mountain darn near into Lakeport is still a mystery as to what ignited it.

View of Ranch Fire east flank from Stonyford Base Camp August 29, 2018. Photo by Mike McMillan for USFS. (click to enlarge)

WHY THE SURPRISE? In-N-Out donates $25,000 to Abe Lincoln's political party and Twitter World goes crazy with boycott promises. But how could any consumer of those supposedly fresh French fries have missed all those Biblical uplift quotes on the victual's packaging? I've eaten once at the Ukiah venue just to see what all the hoopla was about, and another time at the In-N-Out at Fisherman's Wharf in the big city because a couple of junior consumers demanded it. Darned if I can figure out exactly how these negative food value viands are any different than your basic Big Mac. Besides which, and this might be news to liberals, these franchise food places are not owned by Obama Democrats except for Ray Kroc, or at least his wife, who underwrites a lot of NPR programming along with the Koch Brothers. (O the Mendo ironies! The Kochs not only bring us NPR, but own 400 acres of ocean front Fort Bragg. Libs to your battle stations!)

KRON'S TV NEWS didn't have much going for it up against the competing Chuckle Buddies at KPIX and KGO, but it did have Stanley Roberts' useful and always amusing, People Behaving Badly. Whatever happened between Roberts and management, it was doubly chickenshit of KRON's management to claim ownership of Roberts' YouTube oeuvre and remove it. If you've never seen one, what Roberts did was travel around the city filming people in the act of behaving badly, everything from running red lights to failing to clean up after their dogs. As he said, "There's never any shortage...."

THE COUNTY of Mendo doesn't permit messages to County workers that include f-bombs and other obscenities, of which the County probably gets its share and without which increasing numbers of Americans are unable to communicate. I discovered the chastening block when I attempted to send a County pal a copy of a prolonged denunciation of me by a notoriously foul-mouthed fog belt belle, a kind of classic of its genre from this particular shrew, but merely the latest of many over the years. The email bounced right back.

FOR THE FIRST TIME in recent memory an article by Mike A’Dair in last week’s Willits Weekly made us laugh out loud.

But it wasn’t funny.

A’Dair interviewed Second District Supervisor John McCowen about the reasons that pot permit applications have “slowed to a trickle” in recent months.

McCowen’s answers were jaw-droppingly delusional:

• Staff turnover and program management turnover.

• The rules need to be “streamlined.” (No specifics suggested.) “The Board of Supervisors is actively considering amendments to the cultivation ordinance that will help streamline the process,” said McCowen oxymoronically, adding, “I think it’s organizational. We have to get a more systematic process in place. … We have to be committed to doing whatever it takes to make this program functional.” (It’s not functional now? Who knew?)

• The rules have changed over time. (McCowen: “It’s understandable that with all the changes going on there would be a lull.”

• Not enough training and workshops for applicants.

• No manager for the permit program. “I’m optimistic that we’re going to see dramatic improvement in the unit,” said McCowen. “I think there’s a critical need for an additional position in the unit, that of cannabis manager. That position would be between the program administrator and the ag commissioner. This person would run the unit and would answer to the ag commissioner.”

• It has taken time for cannabis unit [now back] in the Ag Department to "write policies and procedures affecting how the several county departments involved in processing and regulating cannabis will work together."

* * *

The funny part? The conspicuous avoidance of the fact that McCowen’s pot permit rules are ridiculously complicated, unworkable, contradictory, hopelessly muddled and even if you get a permit “issued” or “approved” (yer basic distinction without a difference but apparently there is one depending) you’re still liable to get busted.

HEADS UP, ALBION. Coastal Commission: Sept. 12. CalTrans is obviously planning to replace the Albion Bridge. The Coastal Commission will hear their application to remove trees and bore holes into bed rock on both sides of the existing bridge. Please visit the Commission Agenda, read the staff report and be at the meeting at Fort Braggs Town Hall on 9-12-18.

MENDOCINO REDWOOD COMPANY, Mendocino County’s largest land owner, continues its fight to avoid paying the same special tax residents pay within the Albion Little River Fire Protection District. Judge Reimenschneider has directed Mendocino Redwood Company to draft a Statement of Decision finding MRC’s parcels are by statute not within the District.

Albion fire has provided service to MRC’s parcels over the years in response to dispatch requests from CalFire — lightning complex fires, medical aids, etcetera. Under this ruling, the district will receive $0 per year from Mendocino Redwood Company. This goes against an earlier statement from MRC’s Vice President, video link attached.

If this ruling stands, it furthers an inequity in public policy, taxing small property owners while allowing the largest to remain exempt. Albion-Little River Fire Department is expected to suppress and prevent the spread of fire within the district boundaries, but without financial contribution from the parcels in red, as if “commercial” forestland is not flammable. (Forest land not commercially operated remains taxed.)

At trial, MRC was able to secure a witness from the State of California, which they argued to qualify as an expert witness in fire rules and regulations. Some of his answers were peculiar:

Q: Do you know if CAL FIRE provides emergency rescue services or medical services to the local districts?

A: To the local districts?

Q: To a local fire district. Does CAL FIRE — I'll repeat it. Does CAL FIRE provide any emergency rescue services or medical services within the local fire district?

A: I believe the answer would be yes, based on the nearest available resource. I'm not sure I fully understand your question.

Q: Does CAL FIRE maintain ambulances?

A: We do.

Q: And are they made available every time there is an emergency dispatch in a local fire district?

A: I believe so.

PROBABLY in the minority here, but in times like these we're all in one kind of minority or other anyway. But when Kissinger tottered to the podium to extol John McCain at last week’s interminable McCain send off, I thought, "Well, Satan must have been unavailable." Then, as the camera panned an audience that included Bush, Cheney, Joe Lieberman, Bill and Hillary, and Christ only knows how many other long distance killers and corporate bagmen, it was obvious that Beelzebub himself had clearly organized the service. Another McCain affair narrowly missed being flat out vulgar, with the casket exiting the cathedral as Sinatra belted out My Way. Nobody does it solo, least of all a Navy prince like McCain. I admired McCain's courage while a captive, but that's all I admired about him.

DO NOT GO GENTLY DEPARTMENT. Tommy Wayne Kramer enlivens the Daily Journal's pages only on Sundays, but he's always a must read. Cuts right through the mendo-mawk characteristic of much of this area's published prose except, of course, for comment lines, but there you've got to wade through miles of psychosis to get the occasional interesting observation. Anyway, Sunday morning, TWK's thoughts turned to the inevitable, the dread day you no longer recognize your mate and NPR seems reasonable. You want to finish out your days in some medical gulag, bars on the windows, pureed hot dogs three meals a day? That question haunts all of us senior Seniors. Kramer’s at the age where the end is within shouting distance. So am I. I sometimes wake with a start because I think the Reaper is crouched at the end of the bed, grinning and chuckling at me, "Hey, sucker, walk all you like, and wear yourself out with the push-ups, but gitchee gitchee goo, you're a goner."

ANYWAY, MR. KRAMER'S VIEW: “Listen up y’all!! I don’t want to get shuffled off into some warehouse either, which is why I’ve instructed my kids to strap a 36-ounce fentanyl patch to my forehead when I get too old to tie my shoes, zip my trousers or sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” But worse than an old folks home would be coming through the back door of one of my kid’s houses. Everyone would hate that, starting with me. Isn’t every old person’s Number One fear being a burden to the children? Or do you want your children to grind up their lives so they’re always available to make you another bowl of Campbell’s pea soup and change your undies every half hour? We’re lucky to have easily available full-time care, including round-the-clock doctors and nurses, to watch over vulnerable elders. Not many societies can afford it. Putting gramps on an ice floe like Eskimos do (and polar bears appreciate) is not exactly an improvement. You can always go visit granny five times a week, you know. I don’t want a basement converted into a “temporary” bedroom and I don’t want grandkids remembering grandpa as a grumbly old guy who made the couch smell funny and left his teeth on the kitchen sink and didn’t know how to tell time and only watched the stupid weather channel. "

INCORRIGIBLE: A MEMOIR by Dannie Martin. Highly recommended as a remarkable book by a remarkable man about his remarkable life as an outlaw and a drug addict, the latter making the former inevitable. You are unlikely to read anything like this bracingly candid account of a life mostly lived in prisons beginning with juvenile prisons. I happened to be a correspondent of Martin's when he began writing to the AVA in the late 1980s. Soon after he became famous for his breakthrough columns on prison life written for the San Francisco Chronicle, the first of their kind in Americano journalism, and for which a brave editor at the paper, Peter Sussman, who made it possible, and Martin, won a bunch of well-deserved prizes. In Martin's case, like everything else in his life, the awards were hard-earned.


THE WRITER is a bona fide tough guy. He downplays much of the violence involving him directly, but he defended himself in many fight or die places, places where you just might die anyway if you're fighting one guy and suddenly that guy's two amigos show up with shanks and start slicing at you while you're trying to hold off the first guy. Not a tall man, Martin spent a lot of prison time at the weight piles, becoming more than strong enough to deter frontal assaults. But as he says, it was the sneak attacks, the sudden slash to the neck from a passerby, that Martin and all convicts lived in fear of.

AFTER YEARS in prison, Martin emerged with his humanity intact, and his compulsion for altered states of consciousness as hearty as ever, and it was the accumulated damage from that compulsion that finally carried him off, but not before he racked up an impressive oeuvre of non-fiction and two fine novels. (Personal aside: In my experience with the guy I had no inkling he was on the pipe. We'd have something to eat and he'd go off to lift weights at the YMCA on Golden Gate. He had to have been the fittest junkie ever.)

WHEN MARTIN paroled out for the umpteenth time in the early 90's we met for lunch a couple of times at the old Joe's at the foot of Taylor. Martin was staying across the street in a federal halfway house where, he said, "I've seen more crime just looking out my window than I saw the last ten years in prison." (The venerable Joe's finally had to give up on the neighborhood and move to the less street-fraught North Beach. And we thought Frisco was nuts in 1990!) Martin told me he'd been warned to stay away from me because I "was a bad influence." We both got a big laugh out of that one. Here was a guy who'd done time with and was on a friendly basis with America's best known outlaws — George Jackson, Sonny Barger, T.D. Bingham, not to mention honchos from the Mexican Mafia with whom he was in the smuggling business. After one linguini lunch at Joe's, Martin said he was going by BART over to Oakland to visit Barger, a visit prohibited by the strict terms of Martin's parole, which prohibited any and all contact with ex-cons, an unrealistic prohibition if a guy's entire social circle consists of felons. Check that: throughout his life Martin had a loyal, loving, and undoubtedly exasperated family who always, all the years he was in the life, welcomed him home. He also had a devoted cadre of reliable straight people, for a total support network, odd as it was, as reliable as many blood families.

THE GUY never paid any attention to the straight world's rules. You can talk about your existentialists, your day-to-day edge walkers, but this guy was unique in doing what he had to feloniously do, accepting the consequences with the calm inevitability of a Zen master. Obvious square john that I was (and am) and as I've said, I had no idea that Martin was wed to drugs, especially heroin. The instant he was beyond the walls, parole restrictions and urine exams notwithstanding, he searched out dope, sticking up banks and burglarizing pharmacies to get it. He describes a couple of releases where he's met at the gate by people who gifted him with a load! It's not as if he ever said, "That's it. I'm done." Which he did say several times before he went out and did it again. And again. And the consequences were, well, most of us would have been scared straight the first time. Martin's account of withdrawals is as vivid as any I've read. I'd always thought that junkies exaggerated the pain of cold turkey, but Martin's description of its excruciating throes made me happy to be reading about them rather than experiencing them.

LIKE MANY long-term convicts, Martin was an autodidact. Having so much down time, and always a fervent reader, that reading inspired him to write himself, so effectively that the warden at Lompoc had him placed in ISO and, at one point, committed Martin to "bus therapy," a prolonged, shackled road trip on prison buses and planes simply to hide him from the media.

THE MAN was in and out of most of California's prisons — local, state and federal, not to mention prisoner transit centers. All along the way, as he watches the prison system expand from five state pens in the 1950s to their present day multiplicity, public and private, he meets with old pals from this or that institution with whom he laments the nutting up of the federal system, meaning the current practice of lesser jails unloading unmanageable psychotics on the federal system. These crazy inmates scare hell out of the mainline convicts because they are extremely, violently unpredictable, and add immensely to the daily terror of a man just trying to do his time in peace. But it didn’t take long for us to get used to the idea of jails as psycho wards, one more add-on to the inhumanity of the present justice system's inordinately long sentences and the absence of sensible rehabilitation programs.

THE FOLLOWING is from this unforgettable book:

In reality, I never had a prayer of getting a parole. I had 13 "shots" or incident reports on record since 1981 when I had arrived at Lompoc. There was one for the weapons charge and the other 12 were for positive morphine urine tests. A person's system turns heroin back to morphine so that heroin in the system comes back morphine positive. The problem I had was that under their own rules and policy the parole commission could not grant me a parole as I had 13 "shots."

"Mr. Martin, I'm Kelly and I will be your examiner today," he said, when I walked into the room. I thought to myself: "Fuck it. I'm dead here, anyway. I'm going to tell him something he'd never heard from a convict.” I was fixing to tell him the truth.

He told me that I had 14 incident reports, and he had them in his hand, a pretty imposing sheet of paper.

"That's not true. I have only 13," I replied.

He counted them again and it came to 14. I insisted again that I only had 13. The argument got heated and, beginning with a knife fight in the hallway, he started reading them one by one, marking each on a pad and making me knowledge that I had gotten them. His nose had turned red and I could see a vein pulsing in his neck. He was becoming very tense. He finally read one that had been duplicated, put down the papers, and said: "Well, all of them are for using morphine and that's what got you in here. What do you have to say about that?"

I told him I felt lucky that I'd only been caught 12 times because I had used heroin hundreds of times. I told him that if it grew on trees with big fences around it that I would get some bolt cutters and would be cutting the fence down to get it.

"You're absolutely right about it getting me in here and to be frank, I doubt I'll ever quit using opiates," I told him. I then added: "but I can promise you one thing. I'm not going to ever rob another bank. If it comes to that I'll get on methadone or whatever, but my banking career is over with."

He sat back in his chair and looked at me for what seemed a long time, finally telling me to step outside while he talked with his colleague who had been intently listening to the dialogue between Kelly and me.

Those waits on the bench outside the parole room usually take about 10 minutes while they make their decision and those 10 minutes seem like an hour. I sat on that bench for over an hour waiting for them to call me back in. A convict sitting beside me, waiting to be called in, said to me: "Damn, hawg. What did you do in there? I hope you haven't made them mad."

"I don't know, but that could be a possibility," I told him.

The cop came and told me they were ready for me. I walked back in and sat down. Kelly said: "Martin, we’ve decided to give you a September 1991 parole date. If you want to keep it you had better get on top of that drug problem."

I was stunned and got up, walking out in a daze. That was the best possible date I could ask for, about one third of my total sentence. I told Paul Allen what I had told Kelly and Paul swore that the man had rewarded me for being the first convict in 10 years to tell him the bare naked truth.

Danny M. Martin, “Incorrigible: A Memoir”


Harvest/Home Invasion season again? Like moths to a light, these illegal unpermitted large grows attract their predators, they go hand in hand, remember last summer’s crime spree around Labor Day? Armed robberies and invasions? There will probably be more until it slowly fades. If you are old enough and have seen the before and now the evolving after of what is happening with the Green Rush, you can only hope the north coast can somehow return to tourism, small businesses, and safer family friendly communities. The problem is the area has become a magnet for those that are the unemployable zombie masses all in the last couple of decades and they are now trying to figure out what to do and where to go and what to steal. This is what happens when anarchy arrives and the criminal laws have been unenforced for so long and now the criminal laws are changed to the point of being a joke so the best way for the county is to use administrative law and liens and foreclosure which makes sense, and which should have started about 20 years ago, but it’s a start at least. Most law abiding legit people support the crackdown and whatever it takes to get the bad element out. The law is now 6 plants for personal use and this seems reasonable and armed thieves probably aren’t interested in a home invasion for it. Way past time for a clean-up and return to some level of sanity and small town life the area used to have.

One Comment

  1. Debra Keipp June 29, 2019

    I was a huge fan of Danny Martin. Alice Kahn had a column around that time, too! I remember when the prison system transferred Martin all around the Country in order to hide him from publishing in the BayArea. Great read!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for this article reminiscent of Danny Martin’s writing years!

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