My father was a good photographer, and when he travelled, he was constantly shooting pictures of the landscape. I, in turn, got in the habit of photographing the signs I saw along the way since many of them represent different communities and values. I started doing this back in the 1970s and 80s. This posting is a representative sampling from that era.

The line is catchy, but ‘My shirt for a beer!’ didn’t seem to catch the attention of this housemaid lugging food to work in Paris, circa 1976.

‘All for the Country Defending Justice — the Junta, the People, & Armed Forces.’ A 1982 billboard in San Salvador, El Salvador, supported the government in its battle against an insurgency led by leftist guerrillas.

‘Death to the Ears.’ This threatening guerrilla graffiti in San Agustin, El Salvador, was a warning to any would-be government informants. (1982)

San Salvador’s election center with its large Coca Cola ads received military protection after it came under fire one morning in 1982.

‘With the murder of Ana Maria, the Salvadoran revolution will not stop.’ This declaration strung across a rural highway let travelers know they were entering guerrilla-held territory.

Paris, 1983.

In 1982 guerrillas blocked a Salvadoran highway by felling trees across it. Because the government had previously barred local residents from cutting timber in the area, the locals put up a sarcastic sign of appreciation: ‘Thanks for the firewood, guerrillas, mules and sons of a whore.’    

 

Guatemala — The country’s military strongman, Gen. Lucas Garcia, in 1981 took advantage of his position to have a large sign put up along a new highway, giving him credit for it: ‘Another public work by the government of General Lucas.’                                                                                  

‘I was his home for nine months. Now it’s provided by Clayeux [diapers.]’ A billboard in Paris, 1983.

 

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The Panjshir Valley had been the one province of Afghanistan the Taliban had not conquered until last week. When it was conquered, provincial commanders blamed their loss on Pakistani aid to the Taliban. Many residents of the valley are Tajiks, as are many residents of neighboring Iran. As a result, the loss upset Iran, along with Pakistan’s traditional adversary, India.

Craziness. But that seems typical of warfare. As a reporter for The San Francisco Examiner, I first observed combat craziness during El Salvador’s civil war 38 years ago. I was startled by it. As it happened, I told my story to a reporter from The Des Moines Register, which soon put it in print:

Harrowing experiences in war-torn El Salvador

By Jerry Perkins, Register Staff Writer

(Photos by Dave Mitchell added)

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR — We went looking for guerrillas; instead we found the war. Photographer Rich Rickman and I left the capital city early one morning by taxi and headed east on the Littoral Highway. Our taxi driver, Jose Alvorado, carefully instructed us that we were not to tell the army where we were headed — a small village named San Augustin (45 minutes southeast of the capital) where the guerrillas often come to buy supplies….

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A Salvadoran peasant family in whose front yard guerrillas bombed a utility pole. The railroad sign says, “Stop, Look, and Listen.”

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As we drove up the highway, Salvadoran troops were walking toward the river and came up to the taxi to beg for water. One was carrying a limp iguana, a bullet hole in its head. ‘There’s a war going on, and these guys are wasting ammunition on iguanas,’ I said to Rickman.

Up ahead , we could see the taxicab hired by David Mitchell of the San Francisco Examiner and Cynthia Clark, his translator. Mitchell and Clark, standing beside a tree, were taking pictures of a Salvadoran soldier, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his M-16 blazing away. I thought the guy was just showing off for Clark. Another waste of ammo.

But as we drove closer, the leaves in the tree above the group started to disintegrate. Then Mitchell and Clark jumped behind the tree and crouched for cover.

Salvadoran soldiers take cover in the firefight with guerrillas from the Popular Liberation Front.

The reporter in me took over. I was frozen in the front seat, my eyes glued to the tree and the people behind it. ‘Oh my God,’ I remember thinking. ‘I’m watching those people get shot!’ Then Rickman called my name, ‘Jerry,’ he said, ‘get out of the *$@# cab.’ I looked around. Rickman was lying in the ditch. Alvarado, the taxi driver, was beside him. I scrambled out and crouched beside the cab. Mitchell and Clark, who weren’t touched by the shooting, ran to their cab and headed back to the village by the river. We got back in our cab and prepared to return with them….

A Salvadoran guerrilla stops a Toyota jeep belonging to the government-owned phone company. And then lets it pass.

Mitchell, a lanky, gregarious Californian, came up with the best story of the trip. He was taking pictures of guerrillas checking cars at a roadblock when a Toyota jeep was stopped. Mitchell thought the jeep looked like it belonged to ANTEL, the Salvadoran national phone company.

Cynthia Clark, serving as my translator, interviews Combatiente William of the Popular Liberation Front at the roadblock. He’s carrying a raw-pineapple snack.

Mitchell learned that the guerrillas let telephone company employees clear the roadblocks so they can keep the phone lines open in guerrilla-held territory. In return the company lets the guerrillas use the jeep at night for road patrols. The guerrillas return the jeep every morning. It’s that kind of war. — Friday, July 1, 1983 • The Des Moines Register

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For government employees in time of war to loan vehicles to the enemy would seem to epitomize craziness. But so do the Taliban’s hostile relations with India and Iran. If my country were going to war in that part of the world, I’d want those two on my side.

 

A month-long exhibit of paintings by Nicasio artist Thomas Wood opened Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery in Point Reyes Station and drew an enthusiastic throng of art lovers.

Wood has been represented in dozens of exhibits, and a review of a show 10 years ago can be seen by clicking here. That review also describes the artist’s impressive background, including the surprising fact that his painting California Hills was on display in the US embassy in Belize from 2005 to 2008.

Thomas Wood with his 36-by-50-inch painting Point Reyes National Seashore, which during the exhibit sold for $3,600.

Audubon Marsh.

Masked (except while sipping wine) a number of folks were particularly fond of this group of paintings.

Inverness’ Chicken Ranch Beach.

Redwoods, Morning. (While the fog is still clearing.)

Black Mountain from Inverness Ridge sold for $1,600. Sales in general were good, and the artist was pleased with the results.

To get away from the present grim realities of human society, as were discussed here last week, this week we’ll take a few looks at the fascinating realities of the non-human society that’s seen around Mitchell cabin.

This past week, my wife Lynn spotted a bobcat in a persimmon tree next to our front steps. It’s not that we live in a literal zoo. Bobcats are fairly common here and elsewhere in Point Reyes Station.

Pouncing. A bobcat pounces on a gopher not far from our deck.

Coyotes. Predators even more noticeable are the coyotes. This one is looking at my parked car. Most nights the coyotes on this hill howl to establish territory. Contrary to widespread opinion, coyotes do not howl to announce a kill, for that would invite other coyotes to steal the prey. 

Grey foxes are another set of predators we see fairly often. These are just outside the kitchen door scouring up the last of the kibble I had earlier given to some raccoons.

Badgers. Where did they go? When I first moved to this hill 45 years ago, there were a number of badger burrows. I spotted this pair one morning when I looked up from the breakfast table. They were easily visible on a nearby hillside. From their burrow’s entrance, the sow and cub were keeping an eye on the world. New badger holes used to be annual events here, but I haven’t seen a new one in five years or more.

Chipmunks are totally absent from our hill. This one apparently wandered over from Inverness Ridge a decade ago, but it didn’t stick around.

Gray squirrels can be a nuisance, and controlling them is an annual topic for discussion around here. The squirrels like to eat the cambium layer just under the bark on pines, often killing the ends of the limbs they munch on.

The possums we see around here are Virginia Opossums, which are native to North America. Their lifespan is typically around four years. Possums are marsupials with counterparts found in Central and South America, New Zealand, and Australia.

To quote Wikipedia: “A marsupial is a mammal that raises its newborn offspring inside an external pouch at the front or underside of their bodies. In contrast, a placental is a mammal that completes embryo development inside the mother, nourished by an organ called the placenta.”

A jack rabbit in our backyard. As noted here before: “Jackrabbits were named for their ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as ‘jackass rabbits.’ The writer Mark Twain brought this name to fame by using it in his book of western adventure, Roughing It. The name was later shortened to jackrabbit.”

Raccoons and skunks end up eating together so often they get along with each other fairly well.

A blacktail buck makes his daily appearance grazing beside Mitchell cabin. Of all the creatures I see, the bucks seem to have the most regal bearing.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

 

Here are some thoughts about the world and a few portraits of some local critters. This cute couple is a stray cat, Newy, we’ve adopted, and a curious blacktail fawn. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Where do our world views come from? My outlook has been grim enough of late to start me wondering. In large part, our views are shaped by news reports, and the media out of necessity draw attention to matters going awry. I’ve certainly been troubled by the past couple of months’ series of unrelated disasters around the globe — ranging from the Taliban takeover of far-off Afghanistan (with 1,700 civilian deaths) to a 7.2 earthquake in neighboring Haiti (which killed more than 2,200 people).

Likewise a quick scan of headlines reveals that wildfires are burning everywhere around our drought-stricken planet, from Russia to Greece, from Alaska to California. In this state, wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres so far this year.

 

A weary raccoon snoozing on our deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

The Covid pandemic keeps spreading too. In the past seven months, 209 million cases around the globe have been reported, including 4.39 million deaths. Marin County accounted for approximately 1,600 of those cases, including 240 deaths.

Ironically the pandemic has simultaneously reduced the number of newspapers headlining all this. According to a report published by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, the pandemic so far has closed more than 70 local newsrooms throughout America. As a retired newspaperman, I consider these losses another disaster.

 

While the raccoon prefers a nap on our deck, Newy catnaps in a nearby tree, both seeming a little gloomy. Perhaps fire weather is also getting to them. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Falls are in the air.  Moreover, we all must deal with close-at-hand disasters of varying magnitude. Charlie Morgan, handyman and popular KWMR emcee, tragically died from a fall downtown July 31. My friends Jon Fernandez, Andy Baker, and Gary Blevins also suffered bad falls in the past month. As for me, I fell headfirst down our indoor stairs on July 30. For the next three weeks, I frequently experienced jolts of pain when I tried to do much with my right hand, such as type.

Finally on Wednesday, Kaiser Hospital determined I’d fractured a bone in my right shoulder. Sounds like I’ll be wearing my arm in a sling when I go out for the next couple of months. It’s not a major disaster — especially compared with death and with violence — but only now with the help of multiple painkillers am I again able to focus more on the rest of the world.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

I’m taking a week off from writing a posting and will let my wife, Lynn, fill in. Just typing this brief explanation is a bit painful. Friday afternoon I bought a new pair of shoes and put them on in Mitchell cabin when we got home.  Unfortunately, the heel on the shoes is thicker than what I’m used to, and coming down from our loft, I tripped and fell head first down several stairs.

Luckily, my head wasn’t hurt although my glasses were broken. Along with scapes and bruises, the ligament joining my right arm and shoulder blade was badly pulled, so my right arm is momentarily in a sling. The wound is painful, irritating, but not much of a disaster. So without further adieu, here’s Lynn (at far left):

By Lynn Axelrod Mitchell

On Saturday, July 17, CERT trainees and volunteer trainers met at the Coast Guard property in Point Reyes Station for the final training requirements for the Community Emergency Response Team.

Because of the pandemic’s shelter-in-place issues, CERT officials worked out a hybrid of online training preceding the in-person day of activities. Ordinarily all of the training would be in-person. 

This also was the first year that current CERTs ran the in-person activities. Those of us participating as trainers had received all our training from active Fire Department personnel. We arrived from our various West Marin communities. A few active-duty Fire personnel slipped in to help. We were guided by Bolinas Assistant Fire Chief Steve Marcotte (far right, group photo) and Maggie Lang, Acting Marin County CERT Coordinator. We dropped our masks for this photo but otherwise wore them all day.

CERTs are activated to help ‘hold the line’ during disasters and emergencies until the professionals arrive. Training in-person included fire extinguisher use, basic search and rescue, triage/bandaging, cribbing (ie, how to lift heavy items off victims without relying on muscular strength alone), radio communications, incident-command system, disaster simulation. CERT certification allows for workers’ compensation coverage during an official activation. 

If you think you will want to help during a community emergency, you may as well get some training. Volunteer CERTs are asked to help when they can. More information can be found here: https://readymarin.org/cert-hybrid-training/

 

Yours truly trying to look reasonably competent using a hand-held radio. (My left hand, flipper positioned, is possibly a holdover from childhood ballet school days but, in any case, is not required.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing everyone good health & safety,

Lynn, Coordinator, pointreyesdisastercouncil.org 

 

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These days it’s hard to predict what I’ll find when I go out the front door of Mitchell cabin.

 

Eight to 10 raccoons hang around Mitchell cabin most evenings begging for food, so finding a raccoon asleep just outside the door isn’t unusual or worrisome.

 

Finding a skunk, however, puts me on alert. Years ago, a friend gave me a grinding stone found in the hills near Gilroy, and we keep it on the deck with water in the bowl for birds and other wildlife. Nowadays, among the other wildlife that’s taken to dropping by for a drink are a couple of skunks.

 

Skunks and raccoons get along surprisingly well. The raccoons are deferential, and the most aggressive the skunks ever get is to shoulder one aside.

 

When I put out a few handfuls of kibble for the raccoons, two and occasionally three skunks sometimes show up to peaceably partake in the repast.

A mother raccoon with four kits. The mating season for raccoons is March through June.

Stuck at a border crossing between two pastures, horses belonging to Point Reyes Arabian Adventures (as seen from our deck) provide us with an especially orderly view of animal life.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

There’s been quite a bit to report these last few days, ranging from a camera crew spending a day at Mitchell cabin to having a clutch of baby swallows fledge shortly before their mud nest fell off a cabin wall and shattered on our deck.

Preparing for a podcast interview, gaffer Arthur Aravena (left) and cameraman Jake Futernick set up lights in Mitchell cabin’s loft. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

On Saturday, a crew from Pegalopictures in Los Angeles showed up to interview me about The Point Reyes Light’s investigation of Synanon. That probe occurred back in the 1970s when I edited and published the newspaper.

Synanon, which was founded as a drug-rehab program, evolved into a violent cult. Among its various crimes, Synanon tried to murder Los Angeles attorney Paul Morantz by hiding a rattlesnake in his mailbox. The snake’s bite almost killed him and prompted law enforcement to belatedly pay attention to the group, which was then headquartered in Marshall.

Pegalopictures’ podcast will air in coming months. Podcasts (digital files for the Internet) can be called up on YouTube at any time. Less than a day after my interview, Pegalopictures began promoting it (above) as on their horizon.

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Fuzzy Slippers in Sausalito — Before the pandemic, I used to go the No Name Bar every Friday night with architect Jon Fernandez to listen to live jazz featuring the Michael Aragon Quartet. This past week, the bar resumed its musical performances. Aragon, the drummer has now retired but showed up Saturday with the band Fuzzy Slippers. From left: KC Filson, keyboard; Rob Fordyce, guitar, singer, and band leader; Michael Aragon, drums; Luis Carbone, congo drums.

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Cliff swallows, as I’ve been reporting, built a nest in the eaves over our kitchen last month. They do it almost every year. Because the nests are made of mud stuck to the wood, they sometimes fall off and shatter.

A cliff swallow flies away from its nest Saturday.

 

A chick in the nest waits with a gaping mouth to be fed.

The disaster of cliff swallows is evident on our deck.

We found the smashed remains of the nest on Tuesday, a day after the three chicks in the nest fledged. Along with their droppings soiling the deck below them, their mud nest lined with grass left us with quite a mess to clean up. Even so, it had been fun having the swallows around.

 

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This week I’m departing from my traditional format and going commercial. I want to sell my second car, a 1992 Nissan glass-roofed convertible. It runs well but has a few dings in the body, such as a rust hole (taped over) in the right rear fender. As a result, I’m asking only $450 for it — which is too little to warrant traditional advertising.

 

Lynn and I this afternoon took the car on a farewell ride up Tomales Bay, and I used the opportunity to shoot a couple of photos.

‘Twas a happy outing with the sun warming us and Sibelius’ joyous music providing a pleasant soundtrack. 

 

Unlike the rest of the car, its CD Player with AM/FM radio is relatively new. It, therefore, includes BlueTooth, Pandora, a telephone hookup, and more.

 

Here is how the hard-top convertible looks with its glass panels in place. When the roof is open, the panels lie on the floor of the trunk.

Potential buyers can see the car up close. Just email me at davemi@horizoncable.com so we can arrange a time.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

A Great Blue Heron stepping out in front of Mitchell cabin Monday. Herons and egrets drop by occasionally to hunt for gophers. This guy later speared one coming out of its hole.

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A compendium of bloopers spotted on hospital charts is making the rounds in West Marin:

• The patient refused autopsy.

• The patient has no previous history of suicides.

• Patient has left white blood cells at another hospital.

• She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.

• Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.

• On the second day the knee was better, and on the third day it disappeared.

• The patient is tearful and crying constantly.  She also appears to be depressed.

• The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.

• Discharge status: Alive but without permission.

• Healthy appearing decrepit 69-year old male, mentally alert but forgetful.

• Patient had waffles for breakfast and anorexia for lunch.

• She is numb from her toes down.

• While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home.

• The skin was moist and dry.

A deer and heron together went looking for breakfast awhile back. Herons are crepuscular, meaning that they’re most active around sunrise and sunset.

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• Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.

• Patient was alert and unresponsive.

• Rectal examination revealed a normal size Thyroid.

• She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.

• I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.

• Both breasts are equal and reactive to light and accommodation.

• Examination of genitalia reveals that he is circus sized.

• The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

• Skin: somewhat pale but present.

• The pelvic exam will be done later on the floor.

• Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.

 

 

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