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My appointment book says Sunday, Sept. 23, will be the “first day of fall.” My Humane Society calendar says it will be the day “autumn begins.” Which is it? Or both? And if so, why does the season have two names. Both originate in the British Isles, but “autumn” is the more-common term there while fall is preferred here in the US.

From what I read, “fall” came into use around the 1500s in such terms as “fall of the year” or “fall of the leaf.” Within a century it was contracted to simply “fall.” Autumn, which comes from the Latin autumnus by way of the French automne, means the same thing but didn’t become popular in the British Isles until the 1600s.

Every year in West Marin, leaves with fall colors — poison oak’s red leaves in particular — decorate the countryside. Which reminds me of my itchy youth in Berkeley. When I was learning to read and write at Hillside Elementary School, one teacher at the start of a school year told our class to write poems about autumn. Expressing my chagrin at the end of vacation, I wrote:

“Autumn, it comes in the fall./ Autumn should not come at all./ For when it’s fall, it is a rule/ All of us go back to school.” I can’t remember the teacher’s reaction to my rhyme, but I know she didn’t always understand what I wrote. When I once used “mise” in a paper, she drew a circle around it. “What’s that word?” she asked. I was astounded that she didn’t know. My parents were always saying, “We mise well do this” or, “We mise well do that.”

The summer was so dry that the horses grazing on the hill next to Mitchell cabin ate down all the grass and are now living off bales of hay distributed by their owners.

A hillside in the Murray Buttes region of Mars. (NASA photo)

Mars or mythology? Recently while looking into the origins of words, I became curious as to the origin of “Hesperian.” There’s a city called Hesperia in San Bernardino County and an Elementary School called Hesperian in San Lorenzo. Hesperian is also the name of a major boulevard which parallels the Nimitz freeway in Hayward.

But when I looked up Hesperian in Wikipedia, the first definition listed said, “The Hesperian is a geologic system and time period on the planet Mars characterized by widespread volcanic activity and catastrophic flooding that carved immense outflow channels across the surface.” The Hesperian probably began about 3700 million years ago. Why would anyone name a city, or a school, or a boulevard after that?

Apparently as it’s being used, however, Hesperian suggests “western” or “occidental.” In ancient Greek and Roman mythology, Hesperides referred to both a garden producing golden apples at the western edge of the world and to nymphs who guarded the garden with the aid of a dragon. Again I ask: why would anyone name a city, or a school, or a boulevard — even in the West — after nymphs with a dragon or their garden?

 

 

 

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A line of wild turkeys advances on Mitchell cabin.

This week’s posting mostly concerns the unrecognized origins of everyday words. But it will be pun-tuated by lines of animals. My authority is the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. Computer techie Keith Mathews gave me his copy when he moved from Point Reyes Station to Augusta 11 years ago.

Let’s start with “hobnob.” Although it sounds like slang, it’s actually “a word of impeccable ancestry,” according to the dictionary. It first showed up at the time of Chaucer as habnab, meaning “to have and have not.” The word originated in the 14th Century as a term for “the social practice of alternating in the buying of drinks.” Eventually it came to mean having social exchanges with someone.

Or how about “boondocks?” After all, don’t we West Mariners live in them? “Boondocks” comes from the Tagalog word bandok, meaning “mountains.” During their occupation of the Philippines in World War II, US servicemen picked up the word and used it as a general term for “rough back country.” In time, “the boondocks” came to mean “the sticks.”

Deer tend to approximate a line when crossing fields while grazing. If one of them is alarmed by something, it inevitably alerts the rest.

Most Americans who use the word “ramshackle” know nothing of its origin. As the dictionary notes, it comes to us straight from Iceland, where the word is ramskakkr, meaning “badly twisted.” In English that term came to mean “about to fall to pieces.”

Horses in the field seem to line up only when walking on a trail in rough terrain.

Canada. My mother was a Canadian immigrant, but I never knew the origin of the name Canada until I read the Morris Dictionary: “According to the best authority, canada was originally a word in the Huron-Iroquois language meaning ‘a collection of lodges.'” The French explorer Jacques Cartier coined Canada when he wrote in 1535 that he had talked with an Indian chief who waved his arms about when he said kanata, apparently referring to all the land in the region. In fact, the chief was merely referring to a nearby village. But mistakes happen.

Corduroy is an especially sturdy fabric, which is one reason I usually wear cords. But despite its workhorse connotation in English, the word originated in French as corde du roi, meaning “cord fit for the king.” In fact, corde du roi was once used exclusively by kings as part of their hunting regalia. Quant à moi, je suis ce que je suis, as Popeye says when in Paris.

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Tomales celebrated its annual Founders’ Day Sunday with its traditional parade down the main street and festival in the town park. Tomales artist and cartoonist Kathryn LeMieux incorporated her California Mermaids characters into this scene, which she painted for the festival poster.

The parade was more spread out than in years past. Fewer floats took part. Tomales High did not send cheerleaders as it often does. Nor was there the usual contingent of antique cars, farm tractors, etc. but the crowd was still enthusuastic.

As is common at parades in West Marin, more than a few participants threw wrapped candies to kids along their route. Meanwhile the festival, which included a variety of food booths, art offerings, and music, was packed and convivial.

The Boy Scouts provided their own color guard. Tomales’ main street is Highway 1, which had to be closed through town during the parade.

The parade marshals turned out to be sisters, Mary Zimmerman and Kathleen Sartori.

Tomales rancher Al Poncia and his wife Cathie rode a three-wheeled motorcycle that was pulling a trailer with a keg labeled “Papa’s Grappa.”

The Hubbub Club from the Graton-Sebastopol area of Sonoma County.

Tomales sheepman Dan Erickson drove a truck marked “ZOOMALES,” which was loaded with plants and scary-looking creatures.

A “Tomales Baby Boom” entry celebrated the “future” Future Farmers of America.

E Clampus Vitus is annually a colorful participant in the parade. The Clampers are a boisterous club which pulls pranks but also puts up memorials for events in local history considered too small for the State Historical Society to commemorate. The Los Angeles Times once mused whether the group should be considered an “historical drinking society or a drinking historical society.”

The 1877 William Tell House bar and restaurant, the oldest saloon in the county (the building on the left), reopened last month under new ownership.

Mexican dancers, who pull their own drums with them, add excitement to many parades around here.

Not so excited was this participant who appeared to doze off while riding in a parade entry.

Far more excited was this canine passenger, Rylo, riding with Karen Lawson in Curtis McBurney’s parade entry.

Providing music for the festival in Tomales Town Park was a group called Foxes in the Henhouse.

Along with all the food, music, and crafts  in the park, townspeople could sign up to become volunteer firefighters or to take Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. Kids could climb, swing, and take slides in the park’s small playground. In short, there was something for everyone.

This week’s  journey started out when Sausalito poet Paul LeClerc and I got to talking during a break in the jazz one Friday evening at the No Name Bar. As noted in my July 8 posting, he recommended I read Joseph Mitchell’s 1938 book Joe Gould’s Secret, so I did. Not surprisingly, the author’s style turned out to be extremely engaging, for Mitchell was a longtime writer for The New Yorker. Much of the book had already appeared in that magazine. Whenever that had happened, Gould received some much-desired publicity.

— Poet Paul LeClerc (in white hat) at the No Name Bar

As I wrote last time, Gould was an unemployable eccentric who frequented the dive bars of New York City. Sometimes he called himself Professor Seagull. He claimed he’d learned the language of seagulls and had translated various poems into “seagull language.” He survived on donations of money, food, and clothing.

To justify his having no job and no money, Gould told people he was busy writing “the longest book in the history of the world.” He called it An Oral History of Our Time and was constantly recording in composition books conversations he was overhearing. The “secret” was that there was no such book, only a bunch of his notebooks, as Mitchell (below right) would discover. Gould was eventually hospitalized with a variety of physical and mental problems and died with people still looking for a copy of his Oral History.

— Los Angeles Times illustration

The story fascinated a college student named Jill Lepore (left), and one semester she joined the hunt for Gould’s missing Oral History as part of a thesis. Her paper became the genesis of her 2015 book titled Joe Gould’s Teeth. With its 77 pages of footnotes, it’s probably better researched then any other book I’ve read. Appropriately, Lepore, now 52, has become a professor of American History at Harvard as well as a staff writer for The New Yorker.

Lepore depicts Gould in far less flattering terms than Mitchell did. “Joe Gould was a toothless mad man who slept in the street,” Lepore writes, also noting that he sometimes “bunked in flophouses.” She also describes Gould’s obsession with sculptor Augusta Savage and his behavior toward her after she rejected his marriage proposal. Gould became so distraught he had to be hospitalized, and upon his release, he began stalking her.

This gets us to a stunning revelation that explains the title Joe Gould’s Teeth. Gould over time was admitted to several psychiatric hospitals, and “it was likely at Central Islip [hospital in New York] that Gould (above) lost his teeth,” Lepore concludes. “‘The first thing they did with all patients was take out all their teeth,’ wrote the psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner recalling her residency at a mental hospital in New Jersey at the time. This was on the theory, she explained, ‘that mental illness of any sort was always the result of a physical infection.'”

Lepore subsequently notes: “In New Jersey, Gardiner found the care of patients in the state mental hospital appalling. What most distressed her was the removal of their teeth. ‘I read their charts,’ she later said, ‘and some of them literally had had teeth, tonsils, appendix, uterus, every organ that you can live without removed for no apparent reason except they were schizophrenic…. None of them had ever got better.'”

That medical quackery explains the title Joe Gould’s Teeth. Oddly enough, Lepore merely refers to it only twice briefly and well before the conclusion. It’s almost as if that cruelty were incidental to her account and not the focus of the book’s title. But since Lepore writes for The New Yorker, I won’t second-guess her style.

Paul Manafort (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I first heard the news from gleeful friends whom I ran into downtown around noon. This morning, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted of eight felonies. The corruption charges should mean he will now spend the rest of his life in prison — unless Trump pardons him. That could happen. After Manafort’s verdicts were announced, Trump made a point of calling the crook “a good man” and calling his conviction “a disgrace.”

Equally significant, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen in another courtroom pled guilty to eight felonies, including tax fraud, false statements to a bank, and campaign finance violations on behalf of Trump. Cohen, you’ll recall, is the bag man who paid off porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal before the 2016 election to keep quiet about Trump’s exta-marital affairs with them. Cohen has apparently now agreed to provide information to help the Justice Department’s investigation of the President’s repeated wrongdoing.

Cohen wasn’t the only one singing. A dark-eyed junco on my deck sang when he began eating his supper.

Lynn and I scatter birdseed on the deck railings a couple of times a day for all the jays, doves, crows, towhees, juncos, sparrows, finches, chickadees, quail and more that stop by on a regular basis.

A scrub jay drops by Mitchell cabin for his dinner. Like the junco, he is for me a symbol of a tranquil world away from national politics.

Meanwhile, a roof rat helps himself to the birds’ seed and the birds’ bath. 

The junco is a bit wary of the rat but doesn’t stop pecking up seed.

Dining on the deck along with the birds and rats, are raccoons. They too avail themselves of the birds’ bath. And like some birds, they don’t hesitate to bathe in the water they’re drinking.

Even without the general schadenfreude over the Trump team’s starting to get its comeuppance, my home and animal friends would have seemed especially cheerful today.

 

Responding to the President’s ranting, American newspapers, big and small, this week are editorializing in defense of a free and unfettered press. I’ve read several editorials, but I’m particularly impressed by the words of a weekly newspaper in a red state, The Yankton County (South Dakota) Observer.

It should be noted that South Dakota’s politics are hardly Berkeley’s. Republican Donald Trump carried South Dakota in 2016 with 61.5 percent of the vote. He won in Yankton County, with 58.8 percent of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 34.3 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson picked up the remaining 6.9 percent.

The ranting President, Donald Trump

“President Trump would have you believe the media’s role is to serve him,” observed an editorial in The Observer. “Criticism of his words and deeds are reframed as unpatriotic attacks on America. He calls the press ‘the enemy of the American people’ because they are counting his mounting pile of lies. There is a long and hateful history to labeling groups as ‘enemies of the people.’ Stalin, Hitler, and Mao all used those words….

“[America’s] founding fathers did not always like their newspaper coverage, but they knew a free press was democracy’s best defense. They enshrined that ideal as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment.”

Thomas Jefferson

America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, was the principal author of the US Constitution. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government,” he subsequently wrote, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Trump, for his part, has talked of suing his critics and challenging several networks’ FCC licenses. (He apparently wasn’t aware the FCC doesn’t license networks.)

Unfortunately, as the editorial from South Dakota noted, “our 45th president answers coverage of his easily disproven stream of lies by smearing the press for spreading ‘fake news.’ Trump’s lifelong love for false witness is catching on. Elected officials at all levels see his success with the ‘fake news’ deflection technique. Many have weaponized it for their own purposes.”

Having spent 35 years working at five newspapers, large and small, I have seen reporters risk their lives to get the facts. And in the relatively few cases where they got something of significance wrong, they corrected it. The bulk of the American press knows it’s their duty to keep the record straight. When Trump in one of his rants calls journalists “enemies of the American people,” and says that they’re “disgusting” and “scum,” it smells to me like his colon is backed up right into his mouth, and he’s relieving himself orally.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters photo)

Meanwhile across the seas in Turkey, Trump’s doppelgänger, President Tayyip Erdogan, is using the same sophistries to rationalize repressing the free flow of information. In part because of Erdogan’s policies, the Turkish economy is in a shambles. The value of Turkey’s lira currency is collapsing, and inflation is soaring. The mainstream Turkish press, however, is too compromised and intimidated to fully analyze the problem, so the Turkish public have begun discussing among themselves — via social media — whether there will be currency controls. Erdogan wants everyone to shut up.

“There are economic terrorists on social media,” Erdogan recently declared. “They are truly a network of treason,” Reuters quoted him as saying. “We will not give them the time of day… We will make those spreading speculations pay the necessary price.”

Turkey’s interior ministry has reported identifying “346 social media accounts carrying posts about the exchange rate that it said created a negative perception of the economy. It said it would take legal measures against them but did not say what these would be,” Reuters added. “Separately, the Istanbul and Ankara prosecutor’s offices launched investigations into individuals suspected of being involved in actions that threaten Turkey’s economic security.”

The French philosopher Voltaire in the 18th century might have been envisioning a President Erdogan or a President Trump when he warned: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

 

 

Inverness Park’s Richard Blair and his wife Kathleen Goodwin have a new book, which consists of top-notch photography documenting life in San Francisco from the 1960s to the present. Although a couple of Richard’s subjects are well known, the quality of his photography makes each come alive in new ways.

Much of what makes Richard’s photography great is his combination of timing and perspective. Here’s the Transamerica Pyramid as seen through a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge as seen looking up from Fort Point on the San Francisco shore.

A variety of artists painted the murals inside Coit Tower during 1934 as part of a public work project.

Most of Coit Tower’s murals can be seen on the main floor, but, as Richard notes, “A rarely seen section on the second floor, where space is tight, can be viewed as part of a tour.”

An exotic, jungle-like elevated walkway at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

A highlight of a drive through Golden Gate Park is the elegant San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers on John F. Kennedy Drive.

Hippie days recalled — A pyrotechnic display last year illuminated the conservatory during a 50th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love. During that summer back in 1967, “music was in the park with the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane providing the soundtrack,” Richard writes. “We were stoned on pot or acid, and life was good (if the Vietnam War didn’t get you).”

Party time in Mission Dolores Park — “The largest concentration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGTQ) people in the world lives in San Francisco,” Richard notes. “Their freedom is a wonderful thing that everyone can enjoy, whether they are gay or straight.

“LGBTQ people are a major contributor to the city’s economy. Because of San Francisco’s tolerance we are getting a lot of the world’s talent!”

A dancer at Carnaval San Francisco. Photo by Kathleen Goodwin.

As it happens, all the other photos in this posting are by Richard Blair although his wife Kathleen Goodwin also shot some of the notable images in San Francisco, City of Love, including this one.

Marian and Vivian Brown were identical twins born in 1927 who grew up to be frequently pictured in the press and on television sporting identical snappy outfits and coiffed hair. They accompanied each other everywhere and would often eat dinner at one of the front tables in Uncle Vito’s restaurant near the top of Nob Hill. Marian died in January 2013, and Vivian died 22 months later.

An old man heads across the street in Chinatown.

San Francisco, City of Love does an impressive job of documenting the city’s fascinating people and special places. The book is starting to be available in bookstores, and at Toby’s Feed Barn, and can also be ordered from <http://blairgoodwin.com/BlairGoodwin/SF__City of__Lovehtml/>. 96 pages, $9.95

 

California’s wildfires reached the Tomales Bay area this Wednesday. The first of two was a small fire near Highway 1 in Olema. The fire, which was started by a tree falling onto power lines, broke out around 4 a.m. Thanks to a quick response from county firefighters, Bolinas volunteer firefighters, and Inverness volunteer firefighters, the fire was limited to about 100 square feet, but more than 2,000 homes and businesses at the head of the bay were temporarily blacked out. Most got their power back over the next few hours, but a few were without electricity for up to 11 hours.

An air tanker drops fire retardant on a line of flames.

The second fire was on Black Mountain west of Platform Bridge, and it was far larger.

The wildfire was first reported at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday. Five air tankers, two helicopters, an air-attack plane, three bulldozers and 100 firefighters from the county, the City of Novato, Ross Valley, Bolinas, Inverness, Nicasio, Skywalker Ranch, and Novato responded. They were able to limit its spread to approximately 50 acres, the Marin County Fire Department reported.

Firefighters worked through Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning they reported 80 percent containment. At 3 p.m., they announced full containment.

The fire began beside the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road west of Platform Bridge and the Farm Stand. Fueled by dry grass, the fire raced up a ridge to the top of Black Mountain where firefighters stopped its advance. No structures were damaged. No people were harmed or needed to evacuate although one herd of horses was evacuated as a precautionary measure. The Point Reyes-Petaluma Road was closed at Platform Bridge and at Highway 1 until Thursday morning.

 

The air tankers’ repeated dropping of fire retardant left Black Mountain looking as if an artist had taken a paintbrush to it. Photo by Linda Sturdivant

 

Looking out the kitchen door earlier this week I saw a handsome bobcat among the dandelions.

It’s been a periodic visitor around Mitchell cabin, but of late its visits have become more frequent. When the bobcat’s around, it spends most of its time hunting gophers, often sitting or standing like this waiting to pounce. I can only assume it’s seen a gopher head pop out of the dirt for a moment or that it can hear a gopher scratching underground.

A smelly surprise this past week was a triad of young skunks marching in close formation back and forth across the hill. I have no idea why they arranged themselves in that fashion, but it was fun to watch.

But the biggest surprise I encountered this week was in a 28-year-old copy of Hustler magazine that I came upon.

As part of a photo feature in the men’s magazine, there was a picture of a wind farm with a couple of scantily clad young ladies standing in front of it. All that was typical Hustler. The odd part was the accompanying quotation from Wade Holland of Inverness, who back then was manager of the Inverness Public Utility District.

Before I asked Wade today about the quote, he was unaware he’d been in Hustler and found the revelation quite amusing. Wade said the remark dated from an abandoned proposal by IPUD directors to use windmills to generate part of the town’s electricity. God only knows how the magazine came upon his comment. Did someone at Hustler have a subscription to The Point Reyes Light (where coincidentally Wade is now copy editor)?

Less amused was a different Wade B. Holland. When I initially tried to call West Marin’s Wade B. Holland, I found the number I was using had been changed. I then searched online for another number and found one that looked like it might be his cellphone.

I called the number, and when a man answered, I asked if he was Wade Holland. He said he was, so I asked him if he were aware he’d been quoted in Hustler back in 1990. The man, who turned out to be in North Carolina, was astounded.

And when I read the quotation to him, he become a bit indignant, saying he was not the Wade B. Holland in that magazine. So I said goodbye and left him to tell his friends about the bizarre call he had just received from California.

There were no coyotes in West Marin for 40 years because of poisoning by sheep ranchers in northwest Marin and southern Sonoma counties. However, coyotes never disappeared from northern Sonoma County, and after the Nixon Administration banned the poison 10-80, they started spreading south and showed up here again in 1983.

A lean coyote on my driveway last week. (Photo by my neighbor Dan Huntsman)

In the years since then, coyotes put an end to more than half of the sheep ranching around Marshall, Tomales, Dillon Beach, and Valley Ford.

A coyote eyes my car as I park at Mitchell cabin.

Ranchers initially proposed outfitting their sheep with poison collars since coyotes typically go for the throat. The collars would not save the sheep that was bitten but would prevent the attacker from killing more sheep. The collars were not allowed, however, on grounds that a coyote which died from poisoning could, in turn, poison buzzards and other carrion eaters that came upon it.

A coyote runs past my kitchen door.

In 1995, Tomales sheep rancher Roy Erickson told The Point Reyes Light he had lost six ewes — most of them pregnant — to coyotes in the previous two weeks. Back then, each ewe sold for $85, and the unborn lambs would have been worth the same amount the following year. Financially, “it’s like someone slashing a pair of new tires every few days,” Erickson said.

Unless the state loosened its ban on toxic collars, the sheep rancher sarcastically remarked, “they’ll have to rename our place Fat Buzzard Ranch.” Fortunately, the ranch was able to survive.

Coyotes can walk at more than 20 mph and run considerably faster than 30 mph.

Tomales sheepman Dan Erickson today told me that thanks to special fencing, guard dogs, and hunting, there are still 10 or more sheep ranches in the Marshall, Tomales, Dillon Beach, and Valley Ford region. Coyotes continue to kill a few sheep, but they haven’t won yet. I’m happy to report we’re not hearing the ranchers howling, as the coyotes do almost every evening.

A sad afterward: Friday evening, July 20, Lynn and I were on Lucas Valley Road when we saw a young coyote walking in the grass beside the road. This was on the flats about a mile and a half east of Big Rock, and since there are no sheep ranches in the area, seeing it was a treat. Alas, later that evening when we passed the same spot while driving home to Point Reyes Station, we came upon a flattened coyote in the roadway. What a shock! Dammit, we all need to slow down at night.

 

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