It all began in a dream one night earlier this month and ended in another dream during the wee hours this morning. Between the dreams were events of enough moment to command Lynn’s and my full attention.

Here’s how it started. My friend Janine Warner, who in the early 1990s reported for The Point Reyes Light, recently returned from a week of coaching journalists in Chile. Among the subjects she taught was how to use small drones to photograph news scenes. When she and her husband, Dave LaFontaine, called from Los Angeles, Lynn and I wanted to hear all about her classes.

However, conversations between old friends tend to wander onto numerous topics, and somewhere along the way, Dave brought up the topic of urban rats. As it happened, in 1983 during my two-year sojourn reporting for the old, Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, one news story I covered was the replacing of the sewer under Hyde Street on Russian Hill. As I told Dave, the old sewer had been so antiquated that it was made of bricks, not pipes, and rats regularly got into it through chinks between bricks in order to eat fat in the sewage. A bit to my frustration, however, I had a momentary mental block and could not come up with the name of the hill, only of the street.

Later that night, I was asleep in bed when Lynn asked me to roll over because I was snoring. I muttered something that Lynn didn’t understand, and she asked me, “What?” After being asked two or three more times while still only half awake, I said, “Russian Hill.”

“What about Russian Hill?” Lynn asked. “That’s where all the drones and small explosives are,” I replied. “Okay,” answered Lynn, “but please roll over. You’re snoring.” I mumbled, “I will have to do that,” but I was still mostly asleep and just sank lower into the pillow. Lynn got out of bed and went into the living room to sleep for awhile on the couch.

When we later got up, Lynn was curious as hell about Russian Hill, the drones, and small explosives. The first two were obvious, I said. Russian Hill was the name I hadn’t been able to remember while on the phone the night before when we were also talking about drones. As for the small explosives, the FBI on June 2 had made a much-publicized arrest of a well-established political consultant, Ryan Kelley Chamberlain, after a bag of components for homemade bombs was found in his Russian Hill apartment.

The associations the mind makes while dreaming can be amazing.

Calzone Restaurant on Columbus Boulevard in San Francisco’s North Beach, an historically Italian neighborhood and birthplace of the city’s Beat Generation.

And now for something completely different, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The youngest of three stepdaughters from my fourth marriage, Shaili Zappa, last week flew out from Minneapolis where she is starting her senior year at the University of Minnesota. Lynn and I see her only every year or two, so when she visits, we like to take her to places that are also out of the ordinary for us.

Shaili (left) with Lynn at one of Calzone’s sidewalk tables where we stopped after picking her up at the airport.

My favorite San Francisco restaurant is Calzone’s, two and a half blocks north of Broadway. Not only does it serve excellent Italian fare, its sidewalk tables are great for people watching, which can be fascinating in North Beach. It’s open till 1 a.m. every day, and thanks to heat lamps, one can sit outside at midnight and not get cold.

Beach Blanket Babylon is the longest-running musical review in theater history with more than 15,000 performances in 40 years.

We headed back to North Beach Wednesday evening to take in Beach Blanket Babylon at Club Fugazi on Green Street. I’d been to the theater twice before, and each tongue-in-cheek performance was vastly different from the other but equally wonderful.

A parody of Miley Cyprus twerking and Robin Thicke singing.

To quote publicity for the current show: “Beach Blanket Babylon follows Snow White as she takes a fast-paced journey around the world in search of her ‘Prince Charming.’

“Along the way she encounters a star-studded, ever-changing lineup of hilarious pop-culture characters including President Barack & Michelle Obama, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Prince William, Kate Middleton and their baby Prince George, Beyoncé and Jay Z, Paula Deen, Katy Perry, Governor Jerry Brown, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, Michael Jackson, Adele, Lady Gaga and the San Francisco Giants.”

We spent an hour and a half laughing and clapping. Shaili, who had never seen a musical review before, was at least as enchanted as Lynn and I were.

For more than 50 years, the No Name Bar in Sausalito has provided another home for the Beat Generation, and on Friday night we took Shaili there. In the rear is a covered garden where customers go to smoke and drink while socializing.

Drummer Michael Aragon has performed blues and modern jazz every Friday night at the No Name for 31 years. The Michael Aragon Quartet consists of Aragon on drums, Rob Roth on sax, Pierre Archain on base, and KC Filson on keyboard. _________________________________________________________________

Much of Michael Aragon’s jazz reminds me of the late John Coltrane’s. It tends to be free-flowing and spirited but never chaotic.

I’ve followed his work for years, and I’m playing his CD Horizon Line while I write this.

From left: Lynn Axelrod, Shaili Zappa, Dave Mitchell, and Michael Argon at the No Name Bar. ______________________________________________________________

Then came the earthquake. Shaili flew back to Minneapolis Saturday evening, and Lynn went to bed around midnight to catch up on her sleep after several late nights. I’m more of a night owl, and at 3:20 a.m. I was still sitting at my computer reading an al Jazeera article when the house began to shake.

Oh, we’re just having an earthquake, I thought. When the quake continued and got stronger, however, I began to wonder if the roof would collapse. As soon as the shaking stopped, I hurried downstairs to check on Lynn.

The shaking had awakened her — sort of. Patting the bed next to her she asked, “Where’s mom?” I was confused. “Where’s our mother?” she demanded. “There’s no mom here,” I answered. “You’re still dreaming.”

Frustrated, Lynn got out of bed to look for her mother and make sure the earthquake hadn’t done her any harm.

Still half asleep, she walked across the room and stepped into the hall where she finally woke up.

Lynn’s mother, Miriam Axelrod (at left), died in 1998.

At first I didn’t fully understand what had happened although Lynn began to laugh about her dream.

As it turned out, she had recognized me but in her mind had blended me with her brother whom she hasn’t seen in years.

Once again I say: the associations the mind makes while dreaming can be amazing.

As for the quake itself, the US Geological Survey website, which Lynn immediately checked, listed it as magnitude 6.1. Hardest hit was the Napa area where more than 200 people were injured, three of them critically including a 13-year-old boy hit by bricks from a collapsing chimney. Fifteen buildings in downtown Napa received major damage, and numerous others in Napa and Vallejo had moderate damage.

In addition, four mobilehomes were destroyed by fire and at least two others damaged, presumably because the quake broke gas lines. The quake also brought down powerlines in Contra Costa County, blacking out 69,000 homes and businesses. Some wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties received extensive damage and lost large amounts of wine in barrels, vats and bottles.

Between two memorable dreams there intervened great food, great theater, great jazz, and great damage. It’s been an interesting fortnight.

Past postings are numbered in the order they went online, with the most recent postings located immediately below the Table of Contents.

To go directly to stories without scrolling, click on the highlighted phrases following the numbers.

Weekly postings are published by Thursday.

371. A photographic look at signs of life

370. All in one day: displays in Point Reyes Station & Inverness of arts, crafts, & public service

369. A word with you, if you please

368. Sorry I’m late, but here are a bobcat, albino robin, and five fox kits to make up for it

367. Nurturing nature

366. Riding an old narrow-gauge train and modern Amtrak plus driving the ‘Highway to Hell’

365. It was like winning a second Pulitzer Prize

365. Well, would you look at that?

364. Photography, drama, etchings, and paintings worth seeing this summer

363. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade and Saturday’s 4-H Fair draw enthusiastic crowds

362. White House Pool enchanting despite vandalism and poison oak

361. Humor — including blonde and similar jokes — that’s gone through at least 3 countries

360. My deer friends

359. A few of my photos in war and peace from West Marin to Southeast Asia to Central America

358. Animals provide relief from an animalistic world

357. Gala for just-retired popular librarian; preparing for disasters; odd news reports

356. America owes a lot to its weekly newspapers

355. Pining for a couple of old friends

354. Creatures of spring at Mitchell cabin

353. Gallery Route One exhibiting whimsical art with messages from three women

352. Save a spaniel

351. When words fail us

350. With spring 10 days away, late-winter rains give a boost to West Marin flora and fauna

349. A gallery of photos from Point Reyes Light open house, staff reunion, and book readings

348. Misunderstandings and other ‘small’ news plus a big ‘ol party

347. ‘Picturing the Point Reyes Peninsula’ exhibition opens in Jack Mason Museum

346. Readings from ‘The Light on the Coast’ draw crowd to Tomales Regional History Center

345. Jon Langdon’s ‘Beyond Geometry’; Mr. Badger goes a-huntin’; Gypsy cobs cloppin’ downtown

344. Point Reyes Station innkeeper and former jeweler Ann Dick a prolific writer at 87

343. Oldtimer says dams, not homes and ranches, had hurt salmon runs; now it’s the drought

342. Legends of the Celtic harp wow enthusiastic crowd in the Dance Palace

341. A gallery of local-wildlife photos

340. The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

339. The holidays are the time for us in West Marin to start preparing for disasters

338. The last days of fall

337. The Light on the Coast due to gleam this week

336. Using words well and not so well

335. My 70th birthday

334. The Mitchell cabin perspective on protection and food for wildlife

333. Guatemalan murder suspect, who was hunted via social media, caught in Mexico via TV

332. Mulling a potential flap at the confab

331. My frantic flight from Latin

330. The Fall of Nicasio and Point Reyes Station

329. A dead buck, buzzards, flies…. and who else?

428. With federal parks here closed, art exhibits getting more attention

427. From Paris’ Montmartre to New Orleans’ Storyville to San Francisco’s Tenderloin

426. Masterful new book set in Alaskan wilderness is a story of conflicts that echo West Marin’s

425. The pressure on journalists as the NSA pushes US toward becoming George Orwell’s ’1984′

424. The US government’s love-hate relationship with Syrian brutality

423. Tomales Founder Day parade and party in park draw a huge crowd

422. A visit from Pepé Le Pew

421. A young leviathan dies at Stinson Beach

420. Images of many types of dogs at Inverness Fair

419. First the grim news, then the gay

418. Don’t believe everything you read; newspapers will survive

417. Don’t Bogart that smoke detector, you roach

416. Wildlife relish outdoor dining at Mitchell cabin

415. ‘The town that West Marin forgot’ celebrates its park with food, auctions, rock ‘n’ roll, and grand opera

414. Raccoon-noitering

413. Thoughts about our infatuation with animals

412. Fox News in Point Reyes Station

411. New Age detritus found to be littering roadside in Lagunitas

410. Western Weekend 2013: good weather, good fun; close call

409. The mysteries of words, birds, and the NRA

408. Remembering massacres under Guatemalan President Ríos Montt

407. My good buddy gets hit by a car and dies

406. Tormented by computers, comforted by spring

405. Way out west in West Marin

404. Enduring a week of terrible events

403. Bicyclist killed in Inverness Park

402. Of cats and bobcats, burros and burrows

401. Google boggles blogger

400. Exhibition of portraits of ‘Tomales Neighbors’, past and present, opens to kudos

399. Deus ex machina

398. Proposed law would end trapping of bobcats for their pelts

397. Postal Clerk Known for Feralhood Retires

396. Whatever Happened to Our Curiosity?

395. Filmmaker Ole Schell, formerly of Bolinas, with jookin’ dancer Lil’ Buck, actress Meryl Streep & cellist Yo-Yo Ma in China

394. The Point in Winter

393. When critters watch but don’t bother to bother each other

392. Quotes Worth Saving IV

391. Inverness museum exhibit on Swiss immigrant who came to be called ‘Mr. Point Reyes Station’

391. Our fascination with how words are used — some examples from across the pond

390. A collection of favorite wildlife photographs snapped around Mitchell cabin

389. Counting curves on Highway 1

388. The winter solstice of 2012

387. Shoreline School District blessed compared with a number of others

386. Pearl Harbor Day, Point Reyes Station’s Christmas tree lighting, and a new era at MALT

385. Quietly photographing all natural neighbors

384. The old codger connects Thanksgiving, turkeys, and NATO missiles

383. Feeding time

382. What a week for the press!

381. Our political D-Day

380. Marin agriculture as photographed between 1920 and 1950 by the county’s 1st farm advisor

379. Zen and the Art of Motor-mouth Maintenance

378. Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, a reminder of the Croatian immigration to Marshall

377. North Bend Ranch — rich in narrow-gauge railroad history — put up for sale

376. Young Kosovar refugee, whose diary West Marin read during war, sends an update

375. At the end of our line we found Cazadero

374. Typical-graphical errors and other journalistic confusion

373. Why Marin needs to approve Measure A

372. Tomales Founders Day parade bigger than ever

371. A convoluted look at language

370. Not quite what you’d expect

369. Jack Mason Museum opens exhibit on Inverness Yacht Club 100 years after it was first launched

368. Tomales High turns 100 years old as NASA’s Curiosity lands on Mars

367. Wild scene from my deck as photographed over two weeks

366. Far West Fest hot as a wildfire and lasts longer

365. The story of a ‘Deputy Sheriff in Wild and Wooly West Marin’

364. Drakes Bay Oyster Company struggles on against Park Service

363. Fighting a thorny intruder in West Marin

362. Unintentional double entendres in the press

361. Summer brings a new assortment of wildlife to Mitchell cabin

360. A short trip to exotic Gualala

359. Pictures from a fun-filled Western Weekend in Point Reyes Station

358. Marin County agriculture brought in $70 million last year

357. The agony and the ecstasy of Spring

356. History and merriment combine at Nicasio sesquicentennial celebration

355. Most 2nd District congressional candidates want US to legalize medical marijuana

354. Old Farmer’s Almanac still fresh after 220 years

353. A photographic history of Inverness Park

352. On eve of June 5 election, Supervisor Kinsey describes his grueling schedule

351. Glimpses of the narrow-gauge railroad

350. Senator Feinstein says Park Service employees ‘feel emboldened to once again fabricate science’

349. A drought for livestock but not for people

348. The origins of Point Reyes Station

347. More shenanigans by the Point Reyes National Seashore

346. Surviving another earthquake

345. Turkeys — both avian and human

344. Crowd at memorial honors beloved Realtor

343. Former National Seashore Supt. Neubacher & his boss Jon Jarvis becoming a political problem for the Obama administration

342. Grim times abroad and tranquil days at home

341. Using social media to hunt for Guatemalan murder suspect in US

340. The Great Storm of ’82 in pictures

339. Caught in the great storm of 1982

338. A roundup of wildlife at Mitchell cabin

337. Seasonal greetings can be confusing

336. Christmas Day visitors

335. How our Christmas turkeys got their name

334. A Christmas Carol

333. Who’s been naughty or nice

332. A gallery of visits from wildlife

331. The changing of the seasons

330. Artist Thomas Wood’s studio show captures nature’s beauty

329. Save America’s Postal Service

328. Symposium on National Seashore misdeeds; pancake fundraiser for firefighters & Disaster Council; barn dance — all in Pt. Reyes Station

327. Occupy Wall Street protest expands to Point Reyes Station

326. Joel Hack to retire as publisher of The West Marin Citizen

325. Women of West Marin

324. E Clampus Vitus gives further recognition to Duncans Mills’ trove of coastal history

323. Ungulates in the news

322. Incurring the raccoon gaze

321. Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace celebrates 40th anniversary

320. Tomales Founders Day parade and picnic

319. Newswomen heroic in covering combat

318. Gopher it

317. Inverness Fair provided an antidote to Weltschmerz

316. Saturday’s opening reception for an exhibition of Elisabeth Ptak’s collages

315. Living among the wildlife

314. The threat from a runaway sand dune

313. Saturday’s Far West Fest

312. What’s in a name?

311. Tomales’ party in the park

310. The frustrations of home maintenance — a lesson learned from ‘The Arkansas Traveler’

309. The turtle

308. Hats off to Safeway

307. As expressions come and go, do you know what you’re saying?

306. We’re back following an unknown hacker’s vandalism to this blog

305. The sun shone on Sunday’s Western Weekend parade

304. The Western Weekend 4-H Fair and barn dance

303. Words, pictures, and the press

302. Memorial for Jonathan Rowe who led creation of the commons in Point Reyes Station

301. Goddamn winter’s back

300. This blog turns 300

299. Charge ahead! or pay cash

298. Daughter dies in Nevada County

297. What does the Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus’ resurrection?

296. West Marin update

295. Tales from West Marin’s forgotten past

294. When everything goes wrong

293. Writer Jonathan Rowe dies unexpectedly at 65

292. Some of the creatures that visited my cabin in a single day

291. Finding small absurdities in the midst of major crises

290. Bolinas exhibition takes an artistic look at the world

289. A fox at the table

288. The common people are revolting

287. How two resourceful women coped with crises

286. Have a happy and trippy Valentine’s Day

285. Quotes Worth Saving III

284. Facebook, the bizarre culmination of mass communications

283. A Great blue heron, mondagreens, and three cheers for Ghana

282. Video of two tributes to Missy Patterson during her memorial reception

281. Wishing a healthy, happy new year to West Marin’s critters — you included

280. ‘Tis the time of Janus, the god who looks forward and back

279. The death of a West Marin matriarch

278. Improbable politics in Wasilla, St. Petersburg and Point Reyes Station

277. Faces along the Path of Lights

276. Literary and civic news sponsored by the creatures of West Marin

275. Another round of inter-species peace negotiations at Mitchell cabin

274. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott takes turns performing with Corey Goodman and Maria Muldaur at amazing fundraiser in Marshall

273. Trailer Stash — a musical fundraiser to prepare Marshall for disasters

272. Day of the Dead celebration in Point Reyes Station

271. Point Reyes pedestrian home from hospital after being struck by deer

270. Have a happy (or scary) Halloween

269. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce — a part of West Marin’s Latino heritage — further refined

268. This fall’s wildlife census for my hill

267. Culvert project at White House Pool aims to reduce flooding along the levee road

266. Greetings from your governor

265. Bolinas boy makes good with documentary on fashion models

264. Scotland’s ill-fated colony in Panamaand why I read the Economist

263. Avoiding more victims by capping a sticky gusher

262. Crafting the Considerate House

261. West Marin remembers Duane Irving

260. The art of boating

259. Firefighters in action

258. Do you like coyotes and bobcats? How about rats?

257. Los mapaches con cacahuates; también fotos de los cuervos y venados

256. Proposal for ceasefire in West Marin ‘newspaper war’

255. The young creatures of summer

254. Eli’s coming — causing momentary dismay at The Point Reyes Light

253. Under the volcano and in the eye of the storm — a firsthand account

252. The duel between The Point Reyes Light and The West Marin Citizen

251. Santa Muerte and El Cadejo

250. Wildlife around my cars on the Serengeti Plain of West Marin

249. A big Western Weekend Parade in li’l old Point Reyes Station

248. 4-H Fair and Coronation Ball keep alive Western Weekend’s agricultural traditions

247. A tail for West Marin to bear in mind this Western Weekend

246. Point Reyes Light sells and will incorporate as a nonprofit

245. Point Reyes Station area blackout rumored to have been sparked by bird

244. Planned Feralhood desperate for a new home

243. John Francis takes a walk down under

242. A day in a small town

241. Point Reyes Station’s notorious curve is scene of yet another vehicle crash

240. The Mother Goose method for getting rid of thistles

239. A benefit so that handicapped kids can go rafting

238. Where angels fear to tread

237. The Chronicle, hang gliders, and horses

236. Crowd celebrates 80th birthday of Marshall artist-political activist Donna Sheehan

235. A classic revisited

234. Nature celebrates spring

233. More on diplomatic news we’ve been following

232. Sportscar flies off embankment; no one hurt in miraculous landing

231. A chat with the Trailside Killer

230. Life and death on my hill

229. Valentine’s Fair raises money for Haiti relief

228. Historic irony as milk truck overturns in Marshall

227. Encouraging my bodhisattva possum on her path to enlightenment

226. Benefit for Haitian earthquake survivors filled with mixed emotions

225. What drought? Nicasio Reservoir overflows

224. Disconcerting standup reporting

223. The storms begin; schools close; a near miss at my cabin

222. Spare the rodent (or rabbit) & spoil the diet

221. Lookin’ out my backdoor: some of my favorite wildlife photos

220. Careening through the holidays

219. Chileno Valley journalist working in Abu Dhabi brings new wife home for visit

218. Just what would Mayberry be like on acid?

217. The foxes of downtown Point Reyes Station

216. Interpreting dreams

215. Let’s talk turkey

214. You’ll Never Walk Alone — an unlikely story

213. A wistful walk on the bottom of Nicasio Reservoir

212. Progress in the backyard peace process

211. John Francis leaving; 4 other artists turn pages but sticking around

210. What we inherit

209. Over 200 show up at fundraiser to help pay injured ad manager’s medical bills

208. A community helping one of its own

207. A country mouse in the Tenderloin

206. News of the week reported through pictures

205. Update on injured ad manager of West Marin Citizen; benefit planned; and will there be a race?

204. Startling weather; amazing stepdaughters

203. Talented-animal tales

2o2. Saga of The West Marin Citizen ad manager’s recovery spreads around the globe — not always accurately

201. And you were there

200. Hospitalized ad manager of West Marin Citizen coming home; friends volunteering to provide meals

199. Scenes from the Inverness Fair

198. Great progress for injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen despite problems with convalescent hospital

197. Thieves use ruse to clean out till at Station House Gifts

196. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce goes on sale

195. A hillside of wildlife

194. Kaiser Permanente’s ‘Sicko’ machinations shock injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen

193. Immobilized by multiple injuries, ad manager keeps selling from hospital bed

192. All creatures feathered and furry

191. The wildlife of summer around my cabin & an update on Linda Petersen’s condition

19o. West Marin Citizen advertising manager hurt in crash; her popular dog Sebastian dies

189. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade

188. The Western Weekend Livestock Show

187. Western Weekend parade will be Sunday despite reports to the contrary

186. The purple couch beside the road

185. A funny thing happened at the car wash Friday & other odd events

184. My brush with a badger

183. Scientists find no evidence oyster farm harming Drakes Estero; more likely restoring it

182. Why bottom of Drakes Estero can never become part of a wilderness area

181. Badger, Ratty, and the sensual raccoon

180. ‘And how the wind doth ramm!/ Sing: Goddamm — Ezra Pound

179. A tailgate gallery of bumper-sticker humor; Point Reyes weather both Arctic & tropical

178. Crowd in Inverness Friday calls for reviving park’s Citizens Advisory Commission

177. Flying over Northwest Marin

176. Spring meditations in a Miwok cemetery concerning the news of West Marin.

175. Two warning signs of Spring

174. Tomales may be little but it’s lively

173. Doe stalks cat; raccoon emulates Scripture — for the rain it raineth every day

172. Three-year drought comes to a symbolic ending as Nicasio Reservoir overflows

171. Pot busts at my cabin — again

170. Happy Valentine’s Day (as it’s evolved)

169. Blogging about blogging

168. Thinking about words

167. Point Reyes Station celebrates President Barack Obama’s inauguration

166. A reader in Ghana

165. The bittersweet story of a hardy little tree

164. A parting look at 2008

163. Blackout hits Tomales Bay area

162. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVIII: Way Out West in West Marin

161. Chileno Valley Ranch as depicted by a rancher-artist who lives there

160. Nature’s Two Acres XXXVIII: This time it’s a tale of two bobbed cats

159. Thanksgiving in Point Reyes Station

158. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVII: a bobcat at my cabin

157. Quotes Worth Saving II

156. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVI: The migrating birds of fall; or ‘Swan Lake’ revisited

155. Election night euphoria

154. The fun and anxiety of preparing for a disaster

153. Porky Pig, Demosthenes, Joe Biden, and ‘K-K-K-Katy

152. The political zoo.

151. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXV: Mr. Squirrel

150. A coyote at my cabin

149. Preparing for the fire season

148. Telling the Raccoon ‘Scat’

147. Faces from the weekly press

146. Tomales, Tomales, that toddling town

145. How park administration used deception & sometimes-unwitting environmentalists to harass oyster company with bad publicity

144. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXIII: Photographing wildlife indoors and out

143. What government scientists elsewhere had to say about the park’s misrepresenting research to attack oyster company

142. Landscape photos & paintings in Stinson Beach

141. What’s in the Inspector General’s report on the park that newspapers here aren’t telling you

140. Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher seen as ’scary’

139. A demonstration to save Point Reyes National Seashore deer; park administration dishonesty officially confirmed

138. The good, the bizarre, and the ugly

138. Alice in ‘Wilderness

137. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXII: The first raccoon kits of summer

136. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXI: The pink roses of Point Reyes Station

135. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXX: Baldfaced hornets

134. Scenes from my past week

133. Artist Bruce Lauritzen of Point Reyes Station draws a crowd for opening of exhibit

132. Kite day at Nicasio School

131. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade in photos

130. Early projections hold: Obama, Woolsey & Kinsey win… Leno easily bests Migden & Nation

129. Western Weekend’s 4-H Livestock Show fun — but smaller than ever

128. Humane Society of the US says National Seashore claims about deer contraception are misleading

127. Lt. Governor John Garamendi joins battle to save fallow & axis deer in Point Reyes National Seashore

126. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXIX: Cold-blooded carnality… Or, why be warm blooded?

125. Nature’s Two Acres XXVIII: The first fawns of spring

124. The Beat Generation lives on at the No Name Bar

123. ‘Still Life with Raccoon

122. Nature’s Two Acres XXVII: Animals about town.

121. Newspaperman from Chileno Valley describes his life in the United Arab Emirates

120. Point Reyes Station and Inverness Park demonstrators call for a pedestrian bridge over Papermill Creek

119. Seeing history through newsmen’s eyes…. or the pen is mightier than the pigs

118. Five Faces of Spring

117. Supervisor Steve Kinsey defends further restrictions on woodstoves in West Marin

116. Prostitution in New York, Reno, and Point Reyes Station

115. A country without the decency to ban torture

114. National Seashore’s slaughter of deer traumatizes many residents here; ‘we demand a stop’

113. A tale of Kosovo, West Marin, and a bored battalion of Norwegian soldiers

112. Dillon Beach sewage spill update

111. ‘Drive-by journalism’

110. Sewage spills into ocean at Dillon Beach

109. Nature’s Two Acres XXVI: Which came first, blacktail or mule deer? Hint — their venison is oedipal

108. Nature’s Two Acres XXV: Talking turkey

107. Here’s hoping ‘the goose hangs high this Thursday for Valentine’s Day

106. Signs of bureaucratic contamination

105. A final thought about the Caltrans worker who just did his job — and saved the day

104. Statewide campaign to legalize hemp and marijuana comes to Point Reyes Station

103. Heavy news media presence briefly halts axis-deer slaughterin the Point Reyes National Seashore

102. Storm damage bad but could have been tragic

101. Nature’s Two Acres XXIV: Buffleheads, Greater Scaups, and the 16.6 million wild ducks shot annually

100. Lawsuits against and by Robert Plotkin settled out of court

99. Nature’s Two Acres XXIII: Bambi, Thumper, and Garfield

98. Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close Tomales Bay State Park to save money could prove expensive

97. Old Christmas trees, wild turkeys, and the famous cat-and-rat scheme

96. Blackouts, newspapers in the news, and poetic frustration on the prairie

95. Hurricane-force wind & heavy rain take heavy toll on West Marin

94. Marin County gets a bum rap from itself

93. ‘Eco-fascism in the Point Reyes National Seashore

92. Guess who came to Christmas dinner

91. Yuletide greetings from Santa Claws

90. Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s ominous mailer

89. Nature’s Two Acres XXII: They’re hundreds of times more deadly than cynanide… and headed this way

88. Non-native species stops traffic in Point Reyes Station

87. Blackouts bedevil Point Reyes Station area

86. Urban legends

85. Nature’s Two Acres XXI: Coyote influx benefits some birds around Point Reyes Station

84. Winter Moon Fireside Tales — an undiscovered gem draws only four ticketholders opening night (but more for second show)

83. Striptease in Point Reyes Station… well, sorta

82. Our Lady of the Chutzpah — the many faces of State Senator Carole Migden

81. Stefanie Pisarczyk (AKA Stefanie Keys): a woman of two worlds

80. Point Reyes Station’s ‘Path of Lights’

79. Lessons to be learned from the oil spill

78. Nature’s Two Acres Part XX: Where coyotes howl and raccoons roam free

77. West Marin Community Thanksgiving Dinner celebrated in Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace

76. Giving thanks for an abundant harvest

75. Being a Gypsy isn’t enough; KPFA fires host criticized for not being a ‘person of color’

74. Nature’s Two Acres Part IXX: ‘Things that go bump in the night’

73. Point Reyes Station pharmacist decries health-insurance practices

72. Farm Bureau president quits; defends independence of wife who disagrees with his political position

71. Ship hits Bay Bridge; spilled oil drifts out Golden Gate and mires birds on West Marin coast

70. California photo book’s release celebrated with gala on Inverness Ridge

69. Coastal Post’s December issue to be its last, assistant editor says; publisher contradicts her

68. West Marin’s ‘Mac Guru’ leaving town — a friend with a knack for surviving

67. One last warm weekend before the season of darkness

66. Ranching matriarch Hazel Martinelli dies at 101

65. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVIII: Seasonal sightings

64. White House Pool: a public park where management listens to the public

63. Tuesday’s Marin County Farm Bureau luncheon for politicos

62. Hawks on the move

61. Point Reyes Station’s Hazel Martinelli celebrates 101st birthday with party at son’s deer camp

60. Vandals dump sewage at West Marin School

59. Paving Point Reyes Station’s main street at night

58. Bolinas firehouse and clinic opening party Sunday

57. Nature’s Two Acres XVII: As seen by an old, almost-blind dog

56. Despite public-be-damned management, it’s still a beautiful park.

55. Language, politics & wildlife

54. Truth becomes an endangered species at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

53. ‘Possums,’ a sequel to the musical ‘Cats’

52. The KWMR/Love Field ‘Far West Fest’

51. Quotes Worth Saving & the Inverness Fair

50. Watching the Point Reyes National Seashore obliterate cultural history

49. Congress sees through Point Reyes National Seashore claims

48. Music, wildlife, and the cosmos

42. Garbage in, garbage out

41. 76-year-old Nick’s Cove reopens

40. What we didn’t celebrate on the Fourth of July

39. Ship’s flare or meteor

38. The death of a salesman: Andrew Schultz

37. Preventing fires at home while The Point Reyes Light feels the heat

36. Monday’s demonstration against The Point Reyes Light

35. Inverness Park fire Friday razes art studio

34. Western Weekend retrospective; anonymous satire of Point Reyes Light distributed at parade; Light’s use of unpaid interns may run afoul of labor laws.

33. Sunday’s Western Weekend parade and barbecue

32. Many fail to find Western Weekend livestock show; a new newpaper debuts in West Marin; The Point Reyes Light reports a former bookkeeper is in jail on embezzlement charges.

31. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVI: A gopher snake & other neighbors

30. New newspaper to be published in West Marin

29. Mermaids, cows, Horizon Cable, and Russia’s Internet war on Estonia

28. Nature’s Two Acres Part XV: ‘Among animals…one finds natural caricatures.’

27. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIV: ‘The world, dear Agnes, is a strange affair.’

26. Sheriff Bob Doyle stays the course despite blunder

25. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIII: ‘Who’s the Head Bull-Goose Loony Around Here?’

24. Nature’s Two Acres Part XII: April showers ‘cruel’ with ‘no regrets’

23. Nature’s Two Acres Part XI: The perky possum

22. Former Point Reyes Light columnist John Grissim, the late pornographer Artie Mitchell, Brazilian President Lula and the advent of orgasmic diplomacy

21. Nature’s Two Acres Part X: ‘Nature Red in Tooth and Claw’

20. Nature’s Two Acres Part IX: Point Reyes Station’s blackbirds

19. Nature’s Two Acres Part VIII: ‘Mice & rats, and such small deer’

18. The Gossip Columnist

17. Saying Yes to Change: A former Point Reyes Station innkeeper finds true joy by moving in with a working-class family in a poor neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

16. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes Part II: Whatever happened to the Citizens Advisory Commission to the GGNRA & Point Reyes National Seashore?

15. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes: Part I

14. Marin supervisors refuse to tilt at McEvoy windmill

13. Nature’s Two Acres Part VII: Rats v. dishwashers

12. Nature’s Two Acres Part VI: How Flashing Affects Wildlife

11. Nature’s Two Acres Part V: By Means of Water

10. Bankruptcy court trustee lets Robert Plotkin hold onto some of his Ponzi-scheme ‘profits’

9. Big Pot Busts at My Cabin

8. Storm-caused fire razes Manka’s Lodge and Restaurant in Inverness

7. Nature’s Two Acres Part IV: Christmas turkeys & where the buck stopped

6. Nature’s Two Acres Part III: Insectivores and Not

5. My background: Biographical information on newspaperman Dave Mitchell

4. Nature’s Two Acres Part II: Living dinosaurs actually found around my cabin

3. Nature’s Two Acres: A Point Reyes Station Photo Exhibit

2. Robert I. Plokin

1. Introduction to this site SparselySageAndTimely.com plus an account of orphaned fawns being released in Chileno Valley.

This week’s posting looks at some of the signs of life I’ve photographed over the years. Why signs? My premise is that what gets displayed in public is a good indication of the social-cultural concerns of a certain time and place.

Left Bank, Paris, 1985

The now-defunct newspaper France Soir once had one of the largest circulations in Europe, approximately 1.5 million. Parisians are known for their sophistication, so the gaudiness of the newspaper’s self-promotion seemed a bit gauche: “the BIG BINGO! with France Soir, 250,000,000 to Win.”

Paris, 1985

This scene also stuck me as a bit incongruous. A houseworker wearily lugs home food for dinner while a semi-topless girl on a billboard behind her flirtatiously laughs, “My shirt for a beer.”

A city cemetery in northeastern Iowa, 1969

A sudden, unexplained shudder or shivering, according to some superstition, can be caused by someone walking over your future grave. Nonetheless, I figured it was highly unlikely my ghost-like shadow was giving some far-off person a creepy feeling so I took my time to compose an image.

San Salvador, 1982

With FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) guerrillas mounting an insurrection, armed soldiers and bodyguards were seen throughout El Salvador’s capital during the weeks before the 1982 general election. The political billboard these men are passing says: “All for the Homeland, Defending Justice, Together the People and the Armed Forces.”

Note the Lions Club sign at the right.

San Agustín, El Salvador, 1982.

Control over San Agustín in eastern El Salvador went back and forth between the government and leftist guerrillas for months. On this wall pockmarked with bullet holes, guerrilla graffiti warned, “Death to the Ears,” the ears being townspeople who were government informants.

San Salvador, 1982

Coming upon a patrol of Salvadoran soldiers in pursuit of a guerrilla sniper outside a Coca-Cola bottling plant, I couldn’t help but remember the 1971 Coca-Cola commercial: “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.” Fat chance.

Alas, even though the insurrection has ended, El Salvador is still wracked with criminal violence.

San Salvador, 1982

This election center had been under fire from guerrillas earlier in the day, and the office was under heavily armed protection. With a national election only weeks away, the official slogan was: “Your vote: the solution.”

The election resulted in a rightwing demagogue, Roberto D’Aubuisson of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA party), becoming head of the Constituent Assembly (the national legislature). More significantly, days of political negotiations ultimately led to a moderate, US-educated economist, Alvaro Magaña, becoming head of state.

As time has passed, the former guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front have gained legitimacy as a political party, and on March 12, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, FMLN’s candidate, won the presidential election in a runoff.

Before I sign off, I should note there are many collections of public-sign photography — each different because of time and place and because of each photographer’s unique framing of the world he sees. If you get a chance, pick up a copy of Neon Nevada by newsman Peter Laufer and his wife Sheila Swan Laufer. It’s fascinating in style and concept (and available online).

“What sort of day was it?” the late CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite used to ask at the end of each installment of You Are There, a reenactment-of-history series that aired from 1953 to 1957. Then answering his own question, Cronkite would add, “A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times… and you were there.”

And I was there, but rather than try to reenact events, I’ll just show you the pictures. Yesterday at the foot of Tomales Bay, the neighboring small towns of Inverness and Point Reyes Station were filled with events that alter and illuminate our times in West Marin.

The biggest event Saturday, the Inverness Fair, as always offered a mix of music, fundraising for local civic groups, people selling arts and crafts, and good food.

The fair is held each year along Inverness Way between the firehouse and the library. On Saturday, Latinas sold Mexican food beside the firehouse to raise money for Tomales Bay Waterdogs, which teaches children living around the bay the crucial skill of swimming.

The women’s aprons all said, “Thank You, Maidee Moore.” Maidee, who founded the Waterdogs almost 45 years ago, died last month at the age of 101.

A display that attracted crowds throughout the fair was this Planned Feralhood cage where young people played with kittens that were up for adoption. Kathy Runnion of Inverness Park, who heads the program, was able to find new homes for five of the nine available.

Because the kittens are in the midst of spay, neuter, and vaccination routines, the new owners could not take their cats immediately home from the fair. The delay will at least give them a few days to prepare for the kittens.

Inverness Garden Club again this year sold plants to raise funds for its civic programs. The club maintains plantings on the median of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through downtown, at Inverness’ aptly named Plant Park, at the Gables (which houses the Jack Mason Museum and Inverness Library), at the Point Reyes Station Post Office, and at the Point Reyes Station Library.

The KWMR radio van, which also provides communications for the West Marin Disaster Council, was on hand to raise funds for the community-radio station and recruit volunteers for the Disaster Council. Here Point Reyes Station Disaster Council coordinator Lynn Axelrod talks about communications with Richard Dillman as he sits inside the van.

Dillman is the communications engineer for the Disaster Council and the “transmitter wrangler” for KWMR. He spent 30 years as a special-services officer for Greenpeace, and in 2011, the environmental group donated the van to the nonprofit radio station.

Inverness Yacht Club Youth Sailing program sold grilled hotdogs as a fundraiser for its classes that have taught many young people how to sail. As a former sailboat owner, I didn’t want to be tacky, so I bought a hotdog. Yummy.

Outside the Inverness Library, used books were sold as a benefit for the library system. By the end of the fair, the sellers were offering: “All the books you can put in a shopping bag — $5!”

Tables displaying a variety of arts and crafts for sale attracted fairgoers arriving and leaving on Inverness Way.

Meanwhile in Point Reyes Station, Gallery Route One is in the midst of its annual fundraising “Box Show.”

The show is both an exhibit and a silent auction, featuring three-dimensional works that at least in part take their shape from a box. This box created by Jane Santucci is called Sail A-Weigh.

I’m Feeling Beachy is the title of the box at left, which was created by artist Geraldine Lia Braaten. The box at right, Searching for Water, is the work of artist Ellen Gray.  ______________________________________________________________________

An eerie Society’s Child box by Sandra Audfang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meanwhile, five blocks away at the other end of Point Reyes Station yesterday….

Gathered below Ralph Stein’s painting Negative Spin.

Friends, relatives, and admirers of artist Ralph Stein of Point Reyes Station gathered at the Dance Palace Community Center for a memorial showing of his paintings. Stein, who was born in Milwaukee in 1928, died Feb. 24 in Sausalito surrounded by his family. An intermittent resident of Sausalito, Stein had moved to Point Reyes Station in 2012. _____________________________________________________________

Stein (right), an abstract expressionist like Jackson Pollock, had studied art in New York City.

While hanging around with other “Bohemians,” as they were called, he got to know such art-world luminaries as Pollock, William de Kooning, and Robert Motherwell.

He became a personal friend of poet Grace Paley. ___________________________________________________________________

During a reception for the memorial exhibit, Bruce Fox performed surprisingly melodic music on this steel drum from Switzerland. The UFO-shaped instrument is called a hang (pronounced hawn). By tapping on different parts of the hang, Fox was able create an impressive range of resonant notes.

Stein’s determination to become an abstract expressionist painter intensified after he suffered a stroke in 1962, which affected his language center. As a painter, he would not need to use words, he told himself. Fortunately, he was able over time to regain his ability to speak normally.

The artist’s paintings will remain on display in the lobby of the Dance Palace until Sept. 14.

The next time you hear some haughty person refer to the uneducated masses as “the hoi polloi,” you can take secret pleasure in knowing the person is revealing his own lack of education. Hoi polloi, which comes from Greek, means “the many,” so “the hoi polloi” is literally “the the many.” Thought you’d want to know.

When former Point Reyes Station computer techie Keith Mathews (right) in 2007 moved to Augusta, Georgia, where his son lives, he gave away some of his possessions. I was lucky enough to receive his venerable copy of the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins.

I’m fascinated with etymology (the study of how specific words evolved), and because I don’t know many people who have copies of William and Mary Morris’ reference book, I’m devoting this posting to some fascinating tidbits from it. For example:

When you hear someone exclaim, “Holy Toledo,” he’s not referring to Ohio but to Toledo, Spain, which became a center of Christian culture after the Moors were driven out in 1085.

I had always assumed that when a person referred to “the honcho” or “head honcho” (meaning big shot or boss), he was using a word derived from some European language. But I was wrong. According to the Morris Dictionary, “honcho” actually comes from the Japanese word hancho meaning “squad commander.” American servicemen picked it up during the occupation of Japan following World War II.

More puzzling yet is the Japanese word banzai. “The war cry ‘Banzai‘ meant, ‘May you live 10,000 years,’” the Morris Dictionary notes, adding, “The Japanese, with a logic incomprehensible to Western minds, used to shout it when launching a suicide attack.”

My parents (at right in 1945) occasionally referred to stylishly dressed women as “fashion plates,” but even though my father was in the printing business, I doubt he knew where the phrase comes from.

I just learned myself. To quote the Morris Dictionary, “The original ‘fashion plates’ were the printing plates from which illustrations were printed in early magazines of fashions.

“Then came the expression, to describe someone who dressed in the latest mode, ‘She’s an animated fashion plate.’ The final step, to the point where the person herself was described as a ‘fashion plate,’ is obvious.”

Apropos the albino robin photo that neighbor Jay Haas contributed to last week’s posting, here are some connections I never would have imagined without the dictionary. “The robin, the traditional harbinger of spring, bears little resemblance to a German soldier — but the word has much to do with soldiers.

“It is derived from the Old High German heriberga, which meant ‘shelter for soldiers.’ Originally, a harbinger was one who went ahead of any army or a royal party to arrange for lodgings and other accommodations.

“Since then it has come to mean anyone who goes ahead to announce the coming of others — or a person or thing which hints of coming events. That’s how the robin got into the act.”

To “smell a rat” is to suspect something devious is going on. But what does the phrase literally mean? It turns out to be an allusion “to a cat’s ability to smell a rat it cannot see,” according to Morris. Makes sense.

We’ll end with the expression “knock off work,” which I’m about to do. According to the Morris Dictionary, the phrase originated back when galleys were rowed by slaves. “To keep oarsmen rowing in unison, a man beat time rhythmically on a block of wood,” the dictionary explains. “When it was time to rest or change shifts, he would give a special knock on the block, signifying that they could ‘knock off work.’”

Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins is still available online and probably in some bookstores. Any writer with the ambition of rising above the level of Wikipedia ought to have his own copy.

Unfortunately, my posting is a bit late this week. Three afternoons visiting physicians, five and a half hours on Sunday in Kaiser Hospital’s Emergency Room, and an MRI scan on Monday put me behind in my schedule.

The medical consensus is that a couple of weeks ago I was hit with “temporal arteritis,” which is a big headache, believe me. Left untreated it can lead to blindness. Temporal arteritis amounts to inflammation of an artery that goes through the temples (hence the name “temporal”) and feeds blood to the eyes. The problem is common enough that rheumatologists have developed a standard treatment using the steroid Prednisone. The cause of temporal arteritis is unknown, but it mostly hits us older folks.

With me just out of sick bay, my neighbor Jay Haas has graciously stepped up to help with this week’s posting. Jay shot all the photos and tells much of the story.

Like Lynn and I, he and his wife Didi Thompson, get a fair amount of wildlife around their front door — bobcats, foxes, all manner of birds, and much more. In fact, we probably share many of the same animals.

The number of bobcats showing up around Point Reyes Station homes has increased in recent years. Some townspeople believe that the pastures of the Giacomini ranch had been the prime hunting grounds for a local bobcat population, but those cats were forced out when the Park Service bought the land and in 2007 flooded it.

A bobcat walking past Jay’s and Didi’s home — I suspect this is the same individual that for a few days roamed my fields next door.

White robin

The first robin of spring in the yard of Jay and Didi five years ago was an albino. “For some reason, albinism and partial albinism have been recorded in robins more than any other wild bird species,” this blog at the time quoted the the American Robin website as reporting.

“One study found that 8.22 percent of all albino wild birds found in North America were robins. But only about one robin in 30,000 is an albino or partial albino. Most records of robins with albinism are only partial albinos, which of course live longer than total albinos.”

As the American Robin explains, totally albino birds have no pigment in their irises and retinas to protect their eyes from sunlight, and many eventually go blind.

Providing a more-recent springtime show was a family of gray foxes that began appearing around the deck where Jay and his friends have been known to share a drink at the end of the day.

“The vixen and her kits, already fairly large, showed up one night under ‘The Gin Deck’ in late May 2012,” Jay wrote on Friday. “The kits would get fairly close to me on the deck,” he added, his toes bearing evidence of the fact.

Fox in the tomato bed.

“Mom would stand farther away and scowl at me.”

“The kits clearly had fleas, as they were scratching all the time.”

“One interesting observation was that when mom brought prey home, [such as] a bunny, the kits would fight over it. Then one would take it away and fight off its siblings, eating it all.

“After a few weeks, I had some friends visiting, and we were all out on the deck for quite some time. There goes the neighborhood — This was too much for mom; the next morning they were gone. Just as well; I was tired of cleaning up all the poop.”

The old dichotomy of “nature v. nurture” may be a false one. As a couple of photos shot at Mitchell cabin last week demonstrate, nature also nurtures its own.

These photos are hardly remarkable in and of themselves, but they record what a remarkable variety of nature is just outside my window.

The sunset on July 14 gave the western sky the dazzle of a technicolor movie.

Even more dazzling was this simultaneous rainbow in the eastern sky. Numerous people around Point Reyes Station saw it, and several posted photos of the rainbow on West Marin Feed-Facebook.

After relentless begging with its beak open and its wings fluttering, a juvenile blackbird finally gets a parent to feed it birdseed even though it’s perfectly capable of feeding itself.

Last week Lynn spotted a fox on our picnic table peering in our living room between the slats of a chair. Its presence kept the blackbird at left on the railing and off the table.

The Gray fox was on the table to eat seed Lynn had scattered for the birds.

Staying well away from the fox, a jackrabbit eats grass just outside our kitchen window.

A doe and her fawns can be seen around Mitchell cabin virtually every day.

One of the sweetest-looking little animals around, a blacktail fawn walks past our bedroom window.

Fawns seem to be often on the run. At their age, it would appear, they enjoy being able to dash from here to there.

A young blacktail buck grazes by itself in the field below our deck.

A cross between a House sparrow and a Great horned owl?

Lynn and I correctly guessed the bird is actually a young House finch, but we had no explanation for its “horns,” so we dropped by the Point Reyes Station office of the Institute for Bird Populations.

Dave DeSante, the institute’s president and founder, was in the office, and we asked him what was going on with this bird. After pondering the bird’s unlikely appearance, he concluded the horns are actually pin feathers that somehow got ruffled on opposite sides of the finch’s head.

An adult, male House finch eats birdseed next to our birdbath. As I noted here back in May, their coloration is derived from the fruits and berries in their diets. Adult female house finches tend to be light brown with white streaks.

Nor is all peaceful around Mitchell cabin. A redtailed hawk — I believe it was this one — killed a collared dove on our deck last week. We heard the impact when it swooped down and seized the dove, leaving behind a mass of white feathers as evidence of nature’s savagery.

A raccoon, which had been showing up each evening on our deck begging for scraps of bread, showed up this past week with three kits in tow. No wonder she’d been looking so tired of recent.

Here the raccoons scour the grass around the deck for slices of bread Lynn threw there to keep them away from another, feisty raccoon on the deck.

And while the kits are perfectly able to eat bread, they still try to get mom to nurse them. They sort of remind me of juvenile blackbirds that want to be nurtured.

With airlines becoming increasingly unpleasant — airport security treating passengers as suspected terrorists, flight attendants abusing fliers, and seats too close together to sit comfortably — there are better ways to travel.

Three weeks ago when Lynn and I traveled to Durango, Colorado, we saw no need to let an airline ruin an otherwise happy trip, so we didn’t. It was a good decision.

On the first part of our journey, we rode Amtrak from Emeryville to Grand Junction, Colorado.

Our roomette gave us space to stretch our legs and to sleep lying down. Unlike airlines that travel at roughly 30,000 feet, trains travel at ground level, and the scenery we passed through, such as this stretch of Utah desert, was spectacular.

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From Grand Junction, we drove almost 150 miles to Durango.

South of Ouray, Colorado, Highway 550 crosses Red Mountain Pass, and last year USA Today described that section of highway as one of the “world’s 12 most dangerous roads.”

As The Durango Herald reported while we were in town, it shares that distinction with the “Highway of Death in Iraq” and “Death Road” in Bolivia.

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“Red Mountain Pass, per mile, has the highest avalanche hazard on the North American Continent,” The Durango Herald added. “The narrow, two-lane road winds through the mountains like a drunk crazily stumbling, and there’s no guardrail to protect cars attempting hairpin turns from hurtling into the jagged ravines that lie, stunning and ominous, hundreds of feet below.”

While Amtrak locomotives, of course, burn diesel fuel, steam locomotives still burn coal. The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE), whose conference Lynn and I were attending, took an excursion on the 132-year-old Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Silverton to Durango. I had as much fun as a kid with a Lionel Train set.

While trains in general are rich in history, steam engines are especially rich in nostalgia — even for the trainmen. Our engineer, Mike Nichols (seen releasing extra water for making steam), has been on the run for 43 years.

The route of the Durango and Silverton Railroad provided spectacular scenery of its own. Some passenger cars on the train have traditional, enclosed seating while some are open-air for enhanced sightseeing.

You may recall Arlo Guthrie’s hit, The City of New Orleans, in which: “The conductor sings his song again: the passengers will please refrain….” The line may be an allusion to a ribald ditty that folk legend Oscar Brand popularized with a 1956 recording. Sung to the tune of Dvorak’s Humoresque, it begins: “Passengers will please refrain/ from flushing toilets while the train/ is in the station, Darling I love you….”

Toilets on trains traditionally dumped their sewage on the tracks, which was unpleasant for track workers and for anyone below a bridge the train was crossing. At the insistence of Congress, Amtrak between 1991 and 1996 installed holding tanks for sewage in all cars with restrooms. Likewise, the Durango and Silverton Railroad’s toilets no longer empty onto the tracks although its restroom sinks still do. ___________________________________________________________________

Like all the Amtrak crew members we encountered, Nathan, the attendant for our two-level passenger car, was friendly as well as efficient.

Not only did he maintain the car throughout its trip from Emeryville to its ultimate destination, Chicago, he converted our roomette seats to beds at night and back to seats in the morning.

He also provided passengers in his car with free coffee, juice, and snacks.

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A view of Utah from a window in the dining car.

Passengers in sleeper cars pay nothing extra for their meals, and Amtrak does not skimp on its fare. Steak and seafood were among the dinner entrées.

Travelers typically are seated with other travelers at tables in the dining car, and all the strangers Lynn and I ate with turned out to be pleasant, friendly folks. Train travelers, we soon realized, more easily socialize with each other than air travelers do.

Amtrak’s lounge car was great  for sightseeing, snacking, and socializing. Some passengers brought their computers there to work in pleasant surroundings.

Riding Amtrak provides a tour of numerous towns that remain part of the Old West. This is Truckee near Donner Pass over the Sierra Nevada.

Winnemuccca, Nevada.

Amtrak does not own the tracks it travels on, and our train rode on Union Pacific rails the entire way. Union Pacific freight trains have priority, and Amtrak trains have to sit on a siding or stay in a station whenever a freight comes along. As a result, Amtrak is almost never on schedule.

We spent an unscheduled 90 minutes in Winnemucca while waiting for the Union Pacific’s relief engineer and conductor to show up. The delay was no problem for Lynn and me. It just brought to mind the old Hank Snow song I’ve Been Everywhere, which begins with a trip to Winnemucca.

Airplane contrails high in the sky over the Utah desert. Eighty million years ago, the USGS website says, most of this area was covered by a warm, shallow, inland sea.

Seen from our Amtrak window, the Colorado River flows past Utah’s dramatic rock formations.

Ouray, Colorado

After enjoying a family get-together with my cousin Leck Mitchell and his wife Pat in Grand Junction, we embarked the next day on a mostly relaxed drive to Durango. Along the way, we stopped for lunch in the old mining town of Ouray. The city of only 1,000 residents is full of historic buildings and offers a variety of places to eat. __________________________________________________________________

South of Ouray, however, our drive over Red Mountain Pass became a challenge.

“Although the speed limit is 15 mph for much of Red Mountain Pass,” The Durango Herald noted, “more than 300 accidents took place there between 1995 and 2010.

“The majority occurred in dry conditions and involved only one vehicle. Eight accidents killed nine people, including five highway workers.”

The newspaper quoted Nancy Shanks, the local Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman, as saying, “It’s so scary it forces people to focus and slow down.”

Another reason there aren’t even more wrecks, a shopkeeper in Silverton theorized, is that there’s no cellphone reception going over the pass, so drivers don’t get distracted by texting as they skirt the precipices. ___________________________________________________________________

With no guardrails and — in many places — no shoulder between the asphalt and the edge of a cliff, the pass must be impassable for drivers bothered by vertigo.

Heidi Pankow, public relations manager for the Ouray Chamber Resort Association, told The Herald, “People stop in and ask, ‘Why are there no guardrails?’ We explain there’s no room because plows have to push the snow off the edge in winter. It’s definitely a topic that comes up a lot.”

The road is also known as the Million Dollar highway. However, “the origin of the ‘Million Dollar’ name is clouded in myth,” Road Trip USA has noted. “Some say it was first used after an early traveler, complaining of the vertigo-inducing steepness of the route, said, ‘I wouldn’t go that way again if you paid me a million dollars.’

“Others claim that it derives simply from the actual cost of paving the route in the 1930s. But the favorite explanation is also the most likely: when the highway was first constructed, the builders used gravel discarded by nearby gold and silver mines, only to find out later that this dirt was actually rich in ore and worth an estimated ‘million dollars.’”

Lynn prepares to board the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Silverton during the ISWNE excursion.

Silverton was born as a silver- and gold-mining town in 1874, and at one time Blair Street (pictured) was lined with 40 saloons and brothels that served the miners. Most of the old buildings are still standing, and the downtown area is now a National Historic Landmark District. With an elevation of 9,308 feet, the town has a summer population of around 600 but far less in winter.

The town’s 139-year-old newspaper, The Silverton Standard, is now a nonprofit owned by the San Juan Historical Society, which took it over five years ago when The Standard was about to go out of business. The paper is now marginally in the black, its editor, Mark Esper, told ISWNE members when we met with him in the old county courthouse.

In keeping with Silverton’s rakish past, the town council is now considering modifying its zoning to allow a retail marijuana shop just east of downtown, The Standard reported while we were in town. Current zoning would already allow a marijuana-growing facility in the area, the paper noted.

ISWNE members gaze at the scenery as the narrow-gauge railroad crosses the San Juan Mountains en route to Durango.

Train conductors warn passengers not to stick their heads or arms out the window during the ride. The train passes so close to rocks and trees a passenger could easily bang into them.

Like the “Highway to Hell,” the train route in places winds along the edge of cliffs. The precipices, however, seem far less daunting when riding on a train than when driving above them in a car.

Air travel too, of course, includes a lot of looking down from high places, and that makes some people even more queasy. All in all, Lynn and I found traveling by train and car far preferable to flying, and the scenery was immensely better.

As last week’s posting noted, our destination was an annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, which this year was in Durango. I was there to give a talk and receive ISWNE’s Eugene Cervi Award, and these were the highlights of our trip. But getting there, around, and back was great fun too.

My life companion Lynn Axelrod and I have just returned from Durango, Colorado, where we attended an annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors at Fort Lewis College.

Two posts will deal with our adventures. The second will concern transportation, ranging from driving “the highway to hell” (in the words of the Durango Herald) to travel by old-fashioned steam engine and modern Amtrak. Because this first post deals with my receiving a journalism award, I’ve let Lynn prepare it.

Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, opened in 1891 as a boarding school for Native American Indians and remained so until the 1930s when it became a two-year college. In 1956, it was relocated from the town of Hesperus to its present location 18 miles to the east and became a four-year college. Under federal law, Indian students attend it tuition free. (Photo by Tim Waltner, member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and publisher of the Freeman Courier in South Dakota)

By Lynn Axelrod

The highest international award in the English-speaking world for editing a weekly newspaper went to Dave Mitchell of Point Reyes Station last week.

Mitchell, 70, who retired in November 2005, edited and published The Point Reyes Light for 27 years. On June 28, Mitchell received the award in Durango, Colorado, during the annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE).

Editors from throughout the United States and Canada, as well as from England, Scotland, and Australia, were on hand.

Mitchell’s “Eugene Cervi Award” is named after the late editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain Journal in Denver, where some Colorado politicians once called the liberal newspaperman “the most dangerous man in Denver.”

Eugene Cervi (at left)

After he died in 1970, “the New York Times described Cervi as ‘one of the most outspoken voices in American journalism,’” ISWNE executive director Chad Stebbins has written.

The Eugene Cervi award recognizes “a newspaper editor who has consistently acted in the conviction that ‘good journalism begets good government.’

“The award is presented not for a single brave accomplishment, however deserving, but for a career of outstanding public service through community journalism and for adhering to the highest standards of the craft with the deep reverence for the English language that was the hallmark of Gene Cervi’s writing.

“The award also recognizes consistently aggressive reporting of government at the grassroots level and interpretation of local affairs.”

Chad Stebbins (left), executive director of ISWNE, and Mitchell standing with the Eugene Cervi Award, which is represented by a street-vendor “Newsman.”

Although the four-day conference was held in Colorado this year, ISWNE’s annual conferences are often held abroad: Calgary, Alberta, 1994; London, Edinburgh, Cardiff & Dublin, 1995; Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1999; Victoria, British Columbia, 2000; Galway, Ireland, 2003; Edmonton & Fort McMurray, Alberta, 2005; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, 2009; Coventry, England, 2011. In 2016, the group will head to Australia.

In 1979 when Mitchell and his former wife Cathy published The Light, the newspaper received the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service. It was only the fourth year since the prizes were established in 1917 that any Pulitzer had gone to a weekly newspaper.

The prize was for an investigation and editorial crusade warning about violence and other illegal activities by the Synanon cult. Synanon, which officially dissolved in 1991, was headquartered on Tomales Bay in Marshall during much of the 1970s.

Mitchell’s new book, The Light on the Coast, which was coauthored by Jacoba Charles, includes key articles and opinion pieces about Synanon. Using news stories published when events occurred, The Light on the Coast tells the history of West Marin since the paper’s founding in 1948. At ISWNE’s request, Mitchell gave an hour-long talk on Synanon and other stories from the book. The Light’s reports on five waves of ethnic immigration to West Marin beginning in the 1850s were a major part of his talk.

Fort Lewis College, which is named after Lt. Col William Lewis, a hero of the Union Army in the Civil War, is in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado at 6,872 feet in elevation. It borders wildlands, and a small herd of mule deer graze the campus undisturbed.

Nominating Mitchell for the award were San Francisco Chronicle reporter and columnist Carl Nolte, retired Santa Fe Reporter editor and publisher Richard McCord, and California Newspaper Publishers Association executive director Thomas Newton.

Newton praised Mitchell for trying to make The Light the “New York Times of West Marin” and for his “swashbuckling journalism for the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, including trips to El Salvador and Guatemala to cover the upheaval and insurrection of the time [1982-83].”

Commenting on Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning reporting Nolte wrote, “Synanon was very tough. Big city papers went after the organization but were scared off by threats of lawsuits…. But nobody and no lawsuit could stop The Light.”

He added, “Don’t think The Light is a one-trick pony…. Mitchell has taken on the Park Service, which runs the [Point Reyes] National Seashore with an iron hand…. He has also followed the immigration patterns on the land, from the now nearly vanished Miwok Indians to newer people…”

Richard McCord (seen introducing Mitchell at ISWNE’s awards banquet) is best known nationally for his 1996 book The Chain Gang, which exposed the Gannett newspaper chain’s illegal efforts to drive competitors out of business.

In his letter of nomination, McCord focused on The Light’s Synanon exposé: “Despite warnings that he might… be in physical danger, Dave Mitchell continued writing about Synanon in stories and editorials.”

During the awards dinner, Mitchell told the crowd he had “thought he was fading away like the old soldiers cited by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his farewell speech to Congress,” ISWNE’s June 29 newsletter reported. “To me this is like winning a second Pulitzer. It had been so many years since I had put on a tie, I couldn’t remember how to tie it.”

“Thinking is more interesting than knowing but less interesting than looking.” — Goethe

While in the Seahaven neighborhood of Inverness a week ago, Lynn and I happened to park under one of the everyday world’s oddities. I was once again intrigued by the sawed-off section of a tree limb that years ago had grown around the guy wire to a utility pole.

A closeup reveals how thoroughly the cable became embedded in what remains of a long-gone branch of a long-gone tree.

Nor is there only one overhead reminder of arboreal history. Further down Drake Way on the other side of the utility pole, another limb had grown around a pole-to-pole cable. The tree may be gone, but this relic of a limb remains.

A log in a tree? Now that’s a real widow-maker, I said to myself last week when I spotted it teetering 10 feet off the ground in a crotch of a pine tree. The pine grows at the entrance to neighbors Skip and Renée Shannon’s driveway.

However, when I walked around the tree to get a better look, the optical illusion became apparent.

A Western gray squirrel soaks up the morning sun beside my birdbath. I see squirrels around Mitchell cabin fairly often, but it’s hard to photograph one. The moment they’re aware I’m around, they dart out of sight. Last week I got lucky. The squirrel didn’t see me.

There’s always evidence that squirrels are around. They leave the ground underneath my pine trees littered with well-gnawed pine cones and the green tips of limbs. Squirrels like to feed on pine trees’ cambium layer, which is immediately under the bark. The bark that’s softest and easiest to gnaw through is at the narrow ends of growing limbs, resulting in squirrels forever gnawing off the ends.

“Well, we brought reinforcements too, so you can warn your king we’re going to keep advancing a pace at a time and over two until none of his knights is left standing.” (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

California quail

A mother quail marched across the yard a week ago as a dozen chicks ran to keep up. Males and females both have crests. The males’ is black, the females’ brown. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

When a noise in the bushes caused momma to suddenly stop, the nervous chicks collided in a quailing pileup. But there was no danger, and soon all of them were off and running again. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

A purposeful doe and her small fawn hurry past the bedroom window.

“We live in an old chaos of the sun,/ Or old dependency of day and night,/ Or island solitude, unsponsored, free/ Of that wide water, inescapable./ Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail/ Whistle about us their spontaneous cries.” — Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning

 

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