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When my New Yorker arrives in the mail each week, the first thing it does is remind me that I’m more interested in humor than in more serious matters. And it’s only after I’ve thumbed my way through all the cartoons and jokes that I take time to check out what the main articles are.

This week’s posting is going to be kept short because I’m having troubles with my computer program. For example, there’s an unintended space between the fifth and the sixth jokes. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birthday lunch. Maddy Sobel of Point Reyes Station (standing) took my wife Lynn and me out for lunch at the Station House Cafe Tuesday to celebrate my 78th birthday.

Because of Covid restrictions, the cafe’s only seating was outdoors in the garden, which was attractive but chilly enough to warrant my wearing a hood while eating.

Now in my 79th year, I’m enjoying myself but have problems walking and remembering things. In short, I am definitely slowing down.

When I was born on Nov. 23, 1943, the US was about halfway through our involvement in World War II. My parents and I were living in the Marina District of San Francisco, and though I was too young to understand what I was seeing, my parents later told of freight trains chugging past the Marina Green carrying tanks and other military vehicles to ships heading off for the war in the Pacific.

The one thing I do remember of the war was the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. China had been our ally against Japan, and the surrender prompted a massive celebration in Chinatown. Hearing about it, my mother loaded great aunt Amy and me into our family’s Pontiac and drove across town so we could see it first hand. The merriment no doubt was exciting, but as a two year old, I found it terrifying. Firecrackers were exploding everywhere, and as we headed up Grant Avenue, they started raining down on our car from overhead balconies. The traffic was so heavy, mom couldn’t immediately drive away, and for the next couple of years, loud noises — even from kids’ cap guns — frightened me.

Merely growing up in the United States has meant my lifetime’s been filled with warfare: World War II (1941-45); the Korean War (1950-53); the Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian Wars (1956-75); two wars in Iraq (1990-91 and 2014-17); and the Afghan War (2001-present). I never fought in any of these wars, but I did witness a couple of others. In 1984, while working as a reporter for The San Francisco Examiner, I was sent to Central America to cover the wars then being fought in El Salvador and Guatemala. All this left me with a sense that the world is never going to be peaceful, at least not in my lifetime.

Just keeping happy is enough for me these days. I spend afternoons carrying armloads of firewood into the living room and spend evenings sitting by the fireplace, smoking, listening to jazz from an earlier era, and chatting with Lynn when she’s not in the bedroom watching British murder mysteries on the TV. Keep calm and carry on, she says.

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.

Among those performing with drummer Michael Aragon Sunday was Rob Fordyce, guitarist for the band Fuzzy Slippers.

It was a musical event to remember. Sunday afternoon, Jon Fernandez of Inverness and his wife Patsy Krebs rode with Lynn and me to San Rafael to be guests at a wonderful jazz reawakening.

Although he’d become widely respected in the Bay Area jazz scene, drummer Michael Aragon, 77, retired two years ago for health reasons. By then, his quartet had played the Friday night gig at Sausalito’s No Name Bar for 36 years. Jon and I, sometimes accompanied by Lynn, attended most Fridays in the last five years.

Last weekend, Aragon hosted a jazz party at the San Rafael Yacht Club, and a number of fellow musicians, along with fans from his Sausalito days, showed up.

‘Twas a convivial gathering in which the afternoon’s performers mingled with the guests. From left: keyboardist KC Filson, brothers Gene and Joe Handy, and caterer Diane Johnson, who showed up with a scrumptious array of hors d’oeuvres.

The San Rafael Yacht Club with its beautiful location on the San Rafael Canal has been around since 1938, but I was unfamiliar with it before Sunday’s party.

During a break, Aragon chats with Ray E. Smith, who with his partner Vivian, for years showed up at the No Name most Friday evenings to hear Aragon’s quartet. Also taking part in this discussion are Patsy Krebs and her husband Jon. Sitting next to me is Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of the Ocean Voyages Institute, which was all over the news a year ago. “The [institute’s] first mission brought back an impressive 103 tons of plastic debris after 48 days at sea, setting a record for the largest open-ocean cleanup to date,” the North American Marine Environment Protection Association glowingly reported at the time.  (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Conga drum player Luis Carbone helped arrange for the party to be held at the Yacht Club and contributed a savory pot of chicken adobo to the hors d’oeuvres table.

Aragon is already talking about having another party at the Yacht Club. As evidenced by the enthusiasm of Sunday’s crowd, many of us would like to see it become his regular venue now that he’s performing again.

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.

Seven of the nine deer that often show up together these days in the field below Mitchell cabin.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has estimated that well over half the roughly 560,000 deer in California are Columbian blacktails, the deer native to West Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area.

For years many people believed (and many websites still say) that blacktails are a subspecies of mule deer, a species found from the Northwest to the deserts of the Southwest and as far east as the Dakotas. DNA tests, however, have now found mule deer to be a hybrid of female whitetail deer and blacktail bucks. Or so says author Valerius Geist in Mule Deer Country.

Whitetails first appeared on the East Coast about 3.5 million years ago. DNA evidence suggests they spread south and then west, arriving in California about 1.5 million years ago.

In moving up the coast, whitetails evolved into blacktails, which resemble them in appearance and temperament. Blacktails eventually extended their range eastward, meeting up with more whitetails coming from the east. 

“Apparently the blacktail bucks [as seen here] were able to horn in on the harems of their parent species. The result: mule deer. Mule deer are so named because of their long ears.

Our word “deer” comes from the Old English word “deor,” which referred to animals in general, of course including deer. In Middle English, the language of Chaucer (c.1343-1400), the word was spelled “der,” and The American Heritage Dictionary notes it could refer to all manner of creatures, including “a fish, an ant, or a fox.” Or as Shakespeare wrote in King Lear, “Mice and rats, and such small deer,/ Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.”

A buck sniffs a doe to determine whether she’s in heat.

“Deer rely heavily on scent for communication, especially during the mating season,” writes Jane Meggitt in Mating and Communication Behavior of Deer. “Certain gland secretions mix with urine, which gives deer information about the sex and reproductive state of other deer in their vicinity.”

“Before the actual mating, does play ‘hard to get’ for several days. The buck chases a doe, and she eventually allows him to ‘catch’ her.

“After copulating several times over a period of a few days, the buck stays with the doe for a few more days until she is [no longer in heat]. He stays by her to keep other bucks away,” Meggitt writes.

“When he leaves, he might go on to find other does with which to mate. If the doe doesn’t get pregnant during that cycle, she goes into another estrus cycle within three to four weeks…. After an approximately seven-month pregnancy, a doe gives birth to her fawn, or fawns.

“It isn’t unusual for healthy, well-nourished does to give birth to twins or triplets. Fawns found alone aren’t usually abandoned. Their mother is nearby, but out of sight. Does and fawns vocalize to let each other know of their whereabouts. If a predator threatens a fawn, the mother stamps her forefeet, snorts and might try to drive the threatening animal — or person — away,” Meggitt adds.

Two bucks ignore each in passing. The older deer in the foreground initially eyed the younger buck to see if it would try to horn in on his harem. It didn’t, and the old guy soon lost interest.

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Billy Hobbs holds a croton houseplant my wife Lynn gave him Wednesday as a house-warming present.

A NEW DAY has dawned for a long-time-homeless resident of Point Reyes Station, Billy Hobbs. Billy, who was homeless for seven years following the breakup of a 25-year marriage, is now housed.

Thanks to the California Section 8 Housing Program, Billy two weeks ago moved into a pleasant, one-bedroom apartment in San Rafael. The second-floor apartment comes with a fireplace and the deck on which he is standing above.

In his younger days, Billy, now 63, worked in construction, house painting, agriculture, and more. In recent years, however, he’s occupied himself with art.

 

Here he is seen drawing outside the Point Reyes Station postoffice two years ago.

Billy Hobbs was sleeping outdoors in Point Reyes Station when the rain and cold winds hit two winters ago, so Lynn and I offered to let him wait out the bad weather in Mitchell cabin. Once he did, Billy was able to resume showering and getting his clothes cleaned regularly. Add to that a haircut and a beard trim, and he had dramatically cleaned up his act.

This past winter, I parked my second car (since donated to KQED) on Mesa Road downtown for him to sleep in; the car had to be moved every 72 hours to comply with the law. Earlier this year, he stayed briefly in a San Rafael motel at county expense. His Section 8 housing is funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

By now, Billy’s situation is known to editors around the world. A posting I wrote about Billy two years ago was reprinted by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors and distributed among members in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia, South Africa, Nepal, and China. And these reprints do get read. A reprint of my Aug. 20 posting, in which I mentioned breaking my shoulder falling on the stairs, drew a get-well message from France.

I know of folks who have been on the waiting list for Section 8 housing 20 years, so Billy would probably appreciate it if readers who know a bit about his story wrote to congratulate him on his new home: 100 Laurel Place, Apt. 17, San Rafael, CA 94901.

 

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 bird in the hand,” wrote Cervantes, “is worth….

 

“two in the bush.” (Don Quixote, 1605)

 I had opportunities to enjoy both this past week, and at least for entertainment value, the bird in the hand is definitely more interesting. It was the third time recently that I’d had the opportunity to hold a live bird. Our cat Newy catches birds outdoors, brings them indoors as gifts for Lynn and me, and drops them on the floor where they are relatively easy to scoop up by hand.

As I noted last week, it appears that the experience of being carried around in the cat’s jaws is enough of a shock that it leaves them fairly dazed for brief period. But that doesn’t last, and the bird I’m holding above flew off after I took it outside.

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Environmental news

Of course, in West Marin even what animals belong outside is matter for debate. One of my favorite sections of The Point Reyes Light are its Sheriff’s Calls. On Sept.28, the column reported, a Woodacre man complained to deputies that “his caretaker fed the raccoons, and he was worried the animals would become dependent on people and turn into a larger issue. He said there were too many animals outside.”

That left me guessing: Was he only concerned with an abundance of raccoons? What other kinds of animals might he have on his mind? Just the name Woodacre would seem to refer to wooded acreage where wild animals might be expected.

And now for some more nutty national news

“A woman is accused of fatally shooting a man earlier this week,” The Chicago Sun Times reported Saturday, “when he refused to kiss her and instead asked his girlfriend for a kiss. The three were hanging out and drinking at their home….

“While they were drinking Thursday [Claudia] Resendiz-Flores asked 29-year-old James Jones for a kiss and became jealous when he refused and instead turned to his girlfriend and asked for a smooch,” prosecutors allege. “That’s when Resendiz-Flores’ demeanor changed and she again demanded he kiss her…

“When Jones said he wouldn’t kiss her, Resendiz-Flores took his gun, which was tucked between couch cushions at the home and aimed it at him,” prosecutors added, noting that Jones tried to push the gun down, but she “shot him once in the chest, killing him.” Resendiz-Flores has been charged with first-degree murder.

It’s as nutty as last week’s story about a man who shot his brother to death because his brother, a pharmacist, was administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The killer was convinced that the vaccinations are the government’s way of poisoning people. And while he was busy killing his brother, he took time out to also kill his sister-in-law and an 83-year-old woman who was a friend of hers.

It’s all tragically nutty.

 

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When I got home today, our cat Newy ran inside with a present for me in her mouth: a live sparrow. When she dropped it on the bedroom carpet, the sparrow took a few steps but didn’t try to fly. This allowed me to scoop it up with one hand and carry it outside where I released it seemingly unharmed under a bush.

 

The sparrow was Newy’s second surprise of the day. I had previously discovered she’d coughed up a series of hairballs on the staircase. They looked ickier than they proved to be when I cleaned them up, and they didn’t smell all that bad. Nonetheless, they were still a nuisance. (Note: After we took in this previously stray cat (above) a year ago, I named her “the Nuisance Cat,” but my wife Lynn changed the name to “Nui” and then to “Newy.”)

There’s a reason for the expression “what the cat dragged in.” Many cats, such as Newy, like to bring home presents for their masters. Along with several birds, numerous lizards have shown up in Mitchell cabin, thanks to Newy.

 

Here’s a blue belly lizard she dropped off on the living room couch.

 

Lizards, like the sparrow, often are in a dazed shock after spending time in the cat’s jaws, and this makes it possible to catch and pick them up as Lynn is doing here.

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And now for some nutty national news.

 

 

Rightwing conspiracy theories have moved beyond being just goofy to being downright dangerous. Police in Maryland say Jeffrey Burnham, 46, (above) murdered his brother Brian Robinette, a pharmacist, because Robinette has been administering Covid-19 vaccinations. The vaccinations are part of a government plot to poison people, Burnham had claimed, adding that his brother “Brian knows something.”

But apparently Burnham wasn’t really all that concerned about protecting people’s lives, for while he was eliminating his brother, he also murdered his sister-in-law, Kelly Sue Robinette, 57, and an 83-year-old friend of hers, Rebecca Reynolds, police report.

If the government really wants to reduce the population, using nutty people to do the job would sound more certain than administering millions of vaccinations.

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Some international news

 

 

My youngest stepdaughter, Shaili Zappa, 28, flew back to Guatemala Tuesday after a nine-day visit.

Shaili is the third daughter of Ana Carolina Monterroso of Guatemala City, my fourth wife. Her sisters are Kristeli and Anika.

A little over a decade ago, Shaili attended West Marin School while Anika and Kristeli attended San Marin High. Shaili plans to move back to the Bay Area beginning next year and already has a job lined up with a high tech firm.

An adventurous young lady, Shaili has traveled widely. Here she feeds a giraffe mouth to mouth in Kenya. Shaili said the creature was as friendly as it looks.

Lynn and I, along with a number of friends from her earlier days in West Marin, are certainly looking forward to her return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 family heirloom — In 1856, my great-grandfather Luke Parsons moved from Ohio to Kansas, where he went to work as a clerk at the Free State Hotel in Lawrence. Kansas at the time was still a territory, and Congress had decided to let Kansas residents vote on whether to allow slavery when it became a state.

Parsons arrived  in Lawrence just in time for two terrorist attacks by pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” from Missouri.

A report by the Kansas Historical Society notes, “The first attack took place on May 21, 1856, when approximately 800 pro-slavery advocates descended upon the Kansas town and proceeded to destroy anti-slavery forces. The second attack, led by William Clark Quantrill on Aug. 21, 1863, resulted in the death of nearly 200 people and the burning of many business and homes within the community.”

“Notably, only a few of the ordinary border ruffians actually owned slaves; most were too poor,” notes Wikipedia. “What motivated them was hatred of Yankees and abolitionists, and fear of free Blacks living nearby.”

The ruffians’ violent attempts to get free staters out of Kansas ahead of the vote was known as “bleeding Kansas.” Abolitionist leader John Brown formed his “army” to protect the abolitionists, and Parsons joined John Brown’s Army. As part of the “Army,” Parsons on Aug.30, 1856, took part in the Battle of Osawatomie, in which members of the opposing militias lost numerous men. Out of such battles, the Civil War (1861-65) erupted.

 

Parsons (above) did not take part when John Brown’s Army attacked the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, hoping to get weapons to arm slaves for a revolt. It was fortunate Parsons didn’t take part because the attack failed; Brown and other followers were subsequently executed.

During the war itself Parsons led a company of Native American soldiers in the Oklahoma territory as they hunted for “bushwhackers,” who ambushed Union soldiers.

After the war, Parsons took up life on the prairie in Salina, Kansas, where he eventually mail-ordered the clock that inspired this posting.

My father was born in Salina and inherited his grandfather’s clock, which I in turn eventually inherited.

However, the clock long ago stopped working, so in April, I took it to Tim Eriksen, The Clockmaker, in Novato. Eriksen got it working, but within a month its chiming on the hour and half hour stopped. Soon afterward, the hands of the clock stopped turning, so this week I took it back to The Clockmaker.

I was worried how much further repairs would cost, but Eriksen quickly figured out why the bell wasn’t chiming. The spring that drives the striking mechanism needed to be wound more tightly, as did the spring that drives the hands of the clock. Somehow I missed that.

Inside the clock.

 

Within minutes, Eriksen had the clock working as well as it presumably did 125 years ago, and on the mantel behind our woodstove, it again seems worthy of great-grandfather Parsons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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