SONOMA COUNTY’s most prominent (and most expensive) defense attorney, Chris Andrian, couldn't keep 27-year-old Lyndsay Murray-Mazany out of three years and eight months in the state pen. The young woman had been convicted of felony drunk driving in the deaths of two elderly Cloverdale women, only one of whose survivors wanted to see the clearly repentant Murray-Mazany go to prison. Murray-Mazany had been “wine tasting” in Sonoma County when she hurtled across a double yellow line into the vehicle containing her two victims and three other women. The deceased were in the back seat of a Subaru. The three other women in the car survived the collision. Ms. Murray-Mazany was supposed to be the designated driver for an outing with friends but had had a glass or two herself. Her 0.10 blood alcohol level at the scene of the accident put her legally over the limit, and it did indeed seemed to convert her 4500-plus pounds of SUV into a death missile. Andrian asked the judge what social good would be gained by sending an otherwise law-abiding young woman to state prison. He also pointed out the contradiction in drinking laws that allow boozing and driving so long as the person at the wheel tests out at 0.08 or less. “In a county where wine is celebrated," Andrian said, "any number of esteemed and upright citizens could in other circumstances be standing by me awaiting a sentence. I've had so many people come up to me and say, ‘That could have been me’.”
BACK IN THE DAY, when there were relatively few tasting rooms in the Anderson Valley, my brother and I, with our designated driver Pilar Duran, drove from Yorkville to Navarro, downing a free glass of wine at each stop. We tried to look like we knew what we were doing by sniffing then swishing the booze around in the glass prior to guzzling it. I thought of throwing out remarks like, "A little too reminiscent of young oak and old socks for me, but zesty all the same," but I happened to know the pourers and they already knew I was faking it. Piling on with a pretentious comment would have been a little too much. By the time we got to Handley Cellars at the Navarro end of The Valley, a distance of about 14 miles, we were swigging directly out of the free bottle someone had given us early in our adventure. We'd made about six stops. If Pilar hadn't been driving I would have been driving, and don't tell me a lot of the people wine tasting in the wine-heavy Anderson Valley aren't driving up and down our stretch of highway absolutely blotto. Andrian is right about the arbitrariness of .08. Who tests out at better than .08 depends on the size and booze capacity of that person, not everyone. When I was a kid the neighborhood drunks could walk home from a night at the bar. Now, the way our harum-scarum country is organized, drunks are mostly compelled to drive to drink and then drive home. But unless a person habitually drives drunk, they shouldn't be sent to prison. This young woman shouldn't go to prison. She made one criminally dumb mistake that destroyed two old ladies. Why destroy the young lady who did it? Instead, send her out to tasting room parking lots to warn revelers what can happen after two glasses of the stuff, especially when you've got entire communities organized around what are essentially roadside bars strung out along miles of treacherous country road.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The Fighter, by far the best boxing movie since Raging Bull but not about boxing as boxing but more about what I guess you could call family values. Wonderfully acted and starring two guys who look and move like boxers, The Fighter is based on the true life story of "Irish" Mickey Ward, a welterweight contender of a few years ago.
RECOMMENDED READING: The War Crimes Times which, I feared when I first saw it, would merely be one more lefty-wefty collection of atrocity stories compiled by people far removed from where the fast bullets fly. In fact most of it is written by veterans of the ongoing fighting in the Middle East, which is always most interesting because the mainstream media seldom presents the stories of veterans who have become non-believers. Produced quarterly by Veterans For Peace, you can get on the mailing list for a modest donation of your choosing by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing WCT/VPF Chapter 099, Box 356, Mars Hill, NC 28754.
FIGHTING OFF SLEEP through every soporific sentence, I was trying to read a Press Democrat story of December 15th about how Governor Jerry Brown is going to address the state budget when this paragraph jolted me fully awake: "Anyone who thinks we get by that without everyone getting hit probably should live in Mendocino County," he said. "There are going to be cuts."
THE "HE" REFERRED to was State Treasurer Bill Lockyer; the Mendocino County libeled by Lockyer is you and me, brothers and sisters, residents of dear old Mendoland which, apparently, is now synonymous with delusion, at least in Lockyer's troubled mind.
ERIC CHRISTOPHER GRANT, 33, went missing during work hours on October 27th. Grant's employer, Mendocino Redwood Company, called the Sheriff's Office at about 6 pm that day when Grant's truck was found at the parking area off Highway One near Navarro Ridge Road but so sign of Grant. The vehicle, whose keys were not left in or around it, was said to have been parked at an odd angle as if its driver had abandoned it in a rush. Grant, a fit young man not known to be suffering from depression or any other psychological problems, was unmarried. He worked a "forest science technician" with MRC, and lived in Fort Bragg. He was known to take lunch breaks at the location, but despite thorough searches by MRC employees, Search and Rescue, the Albion Fire Department, the Coast Guard and close friends, no trace of the missing man has been found. Anyone with information is urged to call the Sheriff's Office at Fort Bragg substation at 964-6308.
BURIED in last week's news was the ominous notice that grocery prices, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, grew by more than 1 1/2 times the overall rate of inflation this year, outpaced only by costs of transportation and medical care.
THE MENDOCINO ART CENTER is trying to regroup after receiving the perhaps terminally bad news that the venerable Coast institution is broke and getting broker, so broke it's in danger of closing. A bunch of trustees have resigned, new ones vowing an all-out fundraising offensive have replaced the departed. Tom Becker, a retired banker who has been running the show since the fiscally disastrous reign of the departed Karen Ely, will stay on for a while as "volunteer operations director," a job description that seems to mean, "You can keep your free on-site apartment for a while, Tom, but you're outta here in like three months."