General News


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The  previously announced closing of the Station House Café this coming Monday has been postponed until after July 4, owner Sheryl Cahill said this week. It could stay open through September if revenue is  keeping up with costs. Cahill dismayed West Marin three weeks ago when she said she would close at the end of May because new landlords planned to raise her $100,000 per year rent to $252,000, which she couldn’t afford.

For the next three months, however, her rent is frozen. Once she does close, Cahill hopes to find a new site, and landlord John Hural hopes to find a new restaurateur to rent his building.

This New York Times headline from 10 years ago still amuses me, for it implied that the Palestinian Authority considers indoor plumbing unacceptable in a Muslim country. As it turned out, Hamas was actually upset with women smoking hookahs.

A mother raccoon, who shows up outside our kitchen door every evening begging for kibble, brought four new kits with her the past two nights. They’re very cute and often climb the lattice to the railing but then have trouble climbing back down. They do it headfirst, so it’s a challenge.

Even more of a surprise was this blacktail doe who showed up on our lower deck two mornings ago and then went down some stairs to a still-lower level to inspect our hot tub. My wife Lynn already suspected that a deer had been venturing onto the lower deck at night because some buds in a flowerpot there were getting eaten. I was skeptical, but I guess she’s right.

A male red-winged blackbird repeatedly buzzes a raven drinking from our birdbath and eventually drives him away. Since ravens sometimes eat baby birds, the blackbirds don’t like ’em.

Well, hello there. In West Marin, the past couple of weeks have been full of surprises, such as this inquisitive gopher snake which greeted me as I headed down the driveway Thursday.

It was a good-sized snake, more than four feet long. The snake eyed me as I leaned over it but made no attempt to slither off.

Smoke from a fire at the old Foresters Hall in Point Reyes Station drifted over the town on Friday, April 24. The blaze damaged the northeastern exterior of the landmark, including a porch and staircase. Water damage to two apartments forced the tenants to move out. (Marin County Fire provided this photo)

The Foresters of America, a benevolent group, opened a chapter, Court No. 219, in Point Reyes Station in 1905. Its members began designing the hall in 1916. When I arrived in West Marin 45 years ago, the building was called the Sandcastle Gallery, which Jeanne Booras and her husband Bill operated. Kathryn de Laszlo and Stephen Marshall of Petaluma now own the building. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. (Sheriff’s artistic photo)

Another surprise. Sheriff’s deputies in Bolinas on Sunday, April 27, arrested a bicyclist allegedly toting bags of methamphetamine and armed with a loaded revolver, as well as multiple knives, on charges he had just stabbed a friend during an argument. The suspect, Derek James, 39, of Bolinas was jailed with bail set at $50,000.

Last week, Marin County eased the coronavirus lockdown enough at golf courses to allow residents here to play but with groups limited to two people. No doubt many golfers were happy, but evidence for the Marin Independent Journal’s headline was hard to spot in its photo of golfer Nate Siedman from Bolinas.

A small bone surprised us by showing up beside our birdbath Wednesday, and I’m fairly sure a raven brought it there for rinsing. From appearances, it is a chicken bone probably found in someone’s garbage.

For a few years now, ravens have occasionally used our birdbath for preparing dinner. Here a raven brings a mouse’s head to the birdbath for washing.

Obviously feeling at home, raccoons often take naps on our deck at night, which makes us feel — surprise — like housemates.

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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.

Pandemic humor forwarded to me by retired Sheriff’s Sgt. Weldon Travis, who patrolled West Marin for many years. 

What to do when we’re all supposed to stay home and away from each other during the coronavirus pandemic? The result, as has been reported in the press, is too often loneliness and boredom. I certainly miss Friday evenings listening to jazz at Sausalito’s No Name Bar, and I miss late mornings reading my San Francisco Chronicle over a cup of mocha outside Toby’s Coffee Bar. Much of my current social life evolved at those two locations.

While sheltered in place, I’ve tried to compensate for the loss of the No Name by starting to drink two or three rum-and-pineapple-juice cocktails every evening. I now read that I’m part of a trend. Newsweek reports that in one week after stay-at-home regulations began, sales of hard liquor were 75 percent higher than they were a year earlier. “Beer is the next most popular drink, with purchases up by 66 percent, then wine up 42 percent,” the magazine added.

Going to pot. Since shelter-in-place orders took effect, I haven’t had too many random conversations with townspeople, but I have learned that at least some folks are enduring the isolation by smoking more marijuana than usual. An Inverness Park friend a few days ago told me that while pedaling her bicycle into Point Reyes Station that morning, she’d noticed the smell of pot coming from a surprising number of car windows as they passed her on the road. Nor is this phenomenon limited to West Marin. A headline in The Independent Journal of March 22 confirmed, “Marin pot sales surge amid coronavirus lockdown.”

As soon as the countywide stay-at-home order was announced, the San Rafael-based marijuana-delivery company Nice Guys Delivery started getting 60 orders per hour, The IJ reported. Only essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, and hardware stores are being allowed to remain open during the countywide lockdown. As for Nice Guys, The IJ quoted Danielle O’Leary, the city’s economic development director, as explaining, “San Rafael has deemed cannabis delivery services an ‘essential business,’ and is allowing the companies to continue operating during the lockdown.” That is heady news.

 

A NASA model of Voyager 2, which is a small-bodied spacecraft with a large, central dish and many arms and antennas extending from it.

Scatological science: On Saturday, the Australian news service Happy Mag carried a startling headline: “Uranus has started leaking gas, NASA scientists confirm.” The news service noted, “NASA scientists looking back through decades-old data from the Voyager 2 spacecraft have discovered a mysterious gas escaping from Uranus. The data showed some mysterious force sucking the atmosphere straight out of the planet and into space.”

The Voyager spacecraft is still sending signals back to NASA 42 years after it was launched. From examining old data, it has now been determined that while traveling past Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 passed through a “plasmoid,” a glob of ionized gases pulled from the planet’s atmosphere.

NASA’s enhanced photo of Uranus showing where atmosphere was pulled off.

“Did you hear Uranus is leaking gas?” I asked a friend. “I guess I’d better cork it,” he laughed. Not surprisingly, the easy play on words has been widely recognized. “Uranus, No Joke, Is Leaking Gas,” headlined Popular Mechanics last Saturday. “Bursts of atmospheric material,” that is “globs of gas,” in the magazine’s words, “are flung away from a planet by its magnetic field.”

Apparently Earth isn’t the only planet on which things are falling apart.

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Sheltering in place to avoid the coronavirus pandemic, as we have been instructed, clearly is keeping local customers away from a number of West Marin businesses, creating financial calamities for some of them, as The Point Reyes Light reported Thursday.  And it’s creating a dilemma for homeless residents. Where can someone without a shelter go to shelter? We retired folks probably have it easiest. I simply pull up the covers, turn on the electric blanket, and lay my head on the pillow.

(Updates: On Saturday, March 21, so many folks from out of town wanted to get out in nature that they clogged roads to and from the coast, prompting the Sheriff’s Department to warn that “the visitors created traffic congestion which interferes with first responders’ ability to handle emergencies. In addition, state and county park parking lots and bathrooms are closed due to the shelter-in-place order, adding to further congestion and creating problems with sanitation.”

Sheriff’s Department photo of traffic heading into Dillon Beach.

On Sunday, the Park Service responded by closing Limantour access road, Drakes Beach, Drakes Estero, and Mount Vision Road gates. Also closed were visitors centers at Bear Valley, Drakes Beach, and the lighthouse. “Limited access will be allowed to Palomarin Trailhead area beyond Commonweal entrance, Pierce Point Road, Lighthouse and Chimney Rock parking lots,” the Park Service noted.)

President Trump on Sunday, March 22.

President Trump on Thursday raged against the major news media’s coverage of coronavirus and the White House’s response to it, lambasting NBC reporter Peter Alexander for asking him: “What do you say to Americans who are scared?” The president responded, “I say that you are a terrible reporter.  That’s what I say.” He went on to also claim The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post “are very dishonest….

“It amazes me when I read the things that I read,” Trump said. “It amazes me when I read The Wall Street Journal, which is so negative, and The New York Times — I barely read it. We don’t distribute it in the White House, and the same with The Washington Post.” In short, he writes off the three most respected newspapers in his country. No wonder he’s such an ignoramus.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy later commented, “This is unbelievably dangerous. The press has done nothing but convey the gravity of the crisis, and by discrediting the media, Trump empowers the hoax purveyors and conspiracy theorists who tell people there’s nothing to worry about.”

Three bald eagles sharing a nest and together incubating the eggs. (Steward of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge photo)

Elsewhere in the press, Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke has penned a tongue-in-cheek denunciation of a “pervy bird threesome….  A trio of Illinois bald eagles — two male and one female — have formed a wholly indecent three-person couple… Thanks to nearby cameras — presumably installed by avian pornographers — the uninhibited bird pervs have shoved their nontraditional lifestyle in the faces of wholesome people across America and around the world….

“It’s unnatural, and the fact that this three-way eagle fornication party is happening in nature — thus interfering with my ability to call it unnatural — makes it even more unnatural…. To preserve the values that made America great and to protect the proud infallible institution of marriage, I demand the Illinois Department of Natural Resources intervene and break up this so-called marriage.”

Marijuana buds.

One news story circulating internationally in the English-language press concerns an eight-year-old Canadian boy who won a $200 gift basket of marijuana-laced chocolates at a raffle during a youth hockey tournament in British Columbia. According to a New Zealand news service, Newshub, “Each team is usually responsible for putting a gift basket or prize together with a minimum value of $50.”

The boy’s father gave him $10 to spend on raffle tickets, and the kid put a ticket on what he thought were conventional chocolate candies. As his grandfather, Keith Redl, later recalled, “My grandson thought he had won a great prize. ‘Dad, I won chocolate!'” Redl  recounted. “No son,” the boy’s father said. “There’s bad drugs in the chocolate.” This prompted the boy’s grandfather to muse, “How do you explain that to a kid?”

The Dawson Creek Minor Hockey Association later said the donated gift basket was intended for an adult winner, and the cannabis was never exposed to children. Commented the disgruntled grandfather, “I was a policeman for 32 years, and you … try to protect people from [this] stuff…. There is no place for drugs at a child’s hockey tournament.”

Filmmakers Steven Spielberg (left) and George Lucas on the set of Star Wars in 1977.

Still more unlikely news. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s daughter Mikaela has announced she’s started producing her own sex videos to run on the internet’s PornHub. “I got really tired of not being able to capitalize on my body, and frankly, I got really tired of being told to hate my body,” she explained in an interview with The U.S. Sun, a tabloid based in the British Isles.  “And I also just got tired of working day to day in a way that wasn’t satisfying my soul.”

Mikaela Spielberg.

Mikaela said her parents don’t mind her new porn career and that she’s limiting herself to masturbation videos because she doesn’t want to be unfaithful to her fiancé Chuck Pankow.

That may sound a tad conservative to be coming from a porno actress, but she did acknowledge that her long-term goal is to become a stripper.

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The president isn’t just two-faced (Huffington Post graphic).

 You may recall the violence when white nationalists including the Ku Klux Klan held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, NC, in 2017.  They were protesting the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.  As The New York Times then reported, “Groups such as the Neo-Nazi movement and the KKK have felt emboldened since the election of Donald J. Trump as president.” 

David Duke, former imperial wizard of the KKK, told the rally they were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump to take back our country.”  However, a peaceful counter-demonstration then followed, and this prompted one of the white nationalists, James Alex Fields, 20, of Ohio, to speed his car into the group, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 34 others.

Fields was quickly charged with second-degree murder and three counts of malicious wounding, but Trump refused to publicly criticize the white nationalist and instead falsely claimed there had been “violence on many sides.” In fact, Trump often amazes us by sticking up for disreputable public figures, such as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, whom he says is “smart” and whom he credits with having “done an amazing job.” The result can make for some strange alliances.

From within Russia, US citizen Rinaldo Nazzaro runs an American Neo-Nazi group. He “left New York for St. Petersburg less than two years ago,” the British Broadcasting Company reported on Jan. 24.

“The American founder of a US-based, militant Neo-Nazi group, The Base, is directing the organization from Russia, a BBC investigation has found…. The Base is a major counter-terrorism focus for the FBI. Seven alleged members were charged this month with various offenses, including conspiracy to commit murder.

“Court documents prepared by the FBI describe The Base as a ‘racially motivated violent extremist group’ that ‘seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethnographies-state,'” the BBC added.

Perhaps Putin’s hosting one of our domestic terrorists is yet another international “favor” our president wants.

First Lady Melania Trump previously modeled for the British ‘Gentleman’s Quarterly’ magazine. Obviously Trump considers her “hot” since he has made a point of prizing “hot” women. Two decades ago, he went so far as to openly promote his teenaged daughter’s sexiness.

In 1997 when his daughter Ivanka was 16, she hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant, and while she was on-stage, Trump turned to the then-Miss Universe and asked, “Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?” 

Never before in this country’s history has there been such a bizarre administration, and hopefully there’ll never be another. 

Candidate Bill Bailey (at far right) listening to jazz in Sausalito’s No Name Bar last Friday.

Thankfully, American politics on the local level are generally more traditional and draw more reasonable candidates, at least in this county. In West Marin, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni is currently running for reelection against challenger Alex Easton Brown. In Southern Marin, the Board of Supervisors seat is open, and Bill Bailey is one of the candidates for it. He’s a technical engineer running on a platform of fiscal reform.

Bailey frequently shows up for the Friday jazz performances at the No Name, just as I do. I’m not familiar with his campaign, but I’ve come to recognize him. Even when he’s squinting into my camera’s flash, his low-key, movie-star looks are unmistakeable.

Joining Lynn and me and our homeless friend Billy Hobbs at the No Name Friday was another friend, Guido Hennig of Switzerland, an engineer who visits San Francisco annually for business conferences. Given our nation’s political turmoil, I asked him about Europe’s impression of Trump and was told that it’s generally not very good. No surprise there.

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The shoulder of Highway 1 uphill from downtown Point Reyes Station is not all that wide, as one unfortunate couple discovered Saturday. I have no idea why they left the road.

Creeping discrimination: We’ve all heard President Trump railing against refugees from south of the border because, according to him, many of them are murders and rapists. And last week he banned immigrants from still more Muslim countries as supposed threats to national security. Now, if you believe the headlines, the State of California wants to take all this a step further and get rid of all its teenagers.

San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 29, 2020

And:

Teenagers, I suppose, have always been considered troublemakers, but how far should we go in protecting ourselves? Perhaps we could let most of them remain in California but keep them under house arrest.

I

It certainly seems as if the sun is setting on that promising new world in which I grew up.

Many in the country, though, have been working hard on electoral matters, including informing voters who have been “deregistered” in various Republican-controlled states (i.e. letting them know how to check their registration to make they can vote). Voter suppression has been a method of disenfranchisement for almost as long as the Republic has stood, but now it is being confronted by various groups, including The Center for Common Ground’s Reclaim Our Vote project. Residents involved with Indivisible West Marin organized a talk last week by Andrew Miller, the ROV founder. There are ways to help, from telephoning to post carding to texting voters in other states.  All hope is not lost.    

Caveat lectorem: When readers previously submitted comments, they were asked if they wanted to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people said they did. 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 that includes all photos by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

No more comments for now. This posting was slightly delayed by an avalanche of scam comments that began showing up on past postings, and it took a fair amount of time to delete them all. Among the hundreds of comments were ads for sex toys, “free” porn, NFL t-shirts, swimsuits, dating sites, and food. Some of the scam comments came from Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, occasionally with words written in non-English script. Most probably were attempts to hack this blog. As a result, I’ve had all additional comments temporarily blocked.

More than once I’ve commented on wild turkeys intermingling with deer around Mitchell cabin.

Judging from this pair of Siamese twins, that intermingling has progressed to interbreeding.

Santa and Mrs. Claus find they have each other’s sacks.

Also delaying this posting was a false alarm from an eye doctor who thought I might be at risk for a stroke. After days of scans and blood testing, an MRI and visits to different doctors, it turned out that I’m not at risk although my wallet is a bit lighter.

KWMR is the radio station I most often listen to, but of recent I’ve started to also listen to a Sonoma County station, KHITS (104.9 FM). It’s all pop music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s presented with mirth, such as this oft-repeated exchange between two men. “Surely you can’t be serious,” says one of them. “I am serious!” the other man growls, “and don’t call me Shirley!”

Something is definitely wrong with the US Postal Service. For a month — just when people have been trying to send out Christmas cards —  the Point Reyes Station postoffice has been out of stamps and unable to get a new supply. Couldn’t district headquarters just mail a bunch?

Equally hard to believe: the friendly face of Point Reyes Station’s postoffice, the clerk Brian Stage, departed Saturday for a new postal job in San Bernardino where he has a good friend and housing is cheaper. During the roughly two years Brian worked in Point Reyes Station, he was homeless and living out of his car. The next time someone speculates about the causes of homelessness, you might point out that one of them can be working for the US Postal Service.

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Billy Hobbs last spring impressed me with this self-portrait that showed his face collapsing in a landslide.

Billy Hobbs first showed up in SparselySageAndTimely.com (click here to read) at the end of May when he wrote a letter to Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, suggesting ways county government could help its homeless population. Billy, who will turn 62 at the end of this month, grew up in Lucas Valley. He has been homeless for five years following the breakup of his 25-year marriage.

For a year, he has spent his days sitting on a bench near the Point Reyes Station postoffice, drawing in sketchbooks. For awhile, he slept in the postoffice lobby but hasn’t in recent months, instead lying down at night outdoors under an overhang.

When the weather is good, I usually have my morning mocha at Toby’s Coffee Bar, sitting at a picnic table not far from the postoffice, and that juxtaposition led to Billy’s and my getting to know each other.

Billy last May drawing pictures inspired by Native American, Buddhist, and Greek history while sitting next to the Point Reyes Station postoffice.

He may have looked scruffy, but I came to realize that despite his dirty hands and clothes, Billy was worth talking to. Previously, he had lived and worked (primarily as a carpenter) in Montana, Mexico, Novato, Tiburon, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael, and San Francisco, which gave him insights into a variety of cultures. Nonetheless, because of his appearance, aggressive men occasionally demanded he leave town, but of course he never did.

Then came the last couple of weeks of cold winds and rain, which made Lynn and me worry about his sleeping outdoors, so we invited him up to Mitchell cabin.

The new Billy.

Staying here not only let Billy sleep warm and dry, it gave him a chance to resume taking regular showers and getting his clothes cleaned. Then Danny at the Point Reyes Barber Shop cut Billy’s hair and trimmed his beard. Voila, suddenly there was a new gentleman in town, and more than one person complimented him on his appearance.

For Lynn and me, watching it all happen has been heartwarming, but it’s also been another demonstration of how appearance alone can determine how people fare in society.

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.

PG&E vs. LSD. Overheard outside the Point Reyes Station post office during the blackout a week ago, one Sonoma County evacuee grimly commenting to another: “Reality is like acid! It’s intense!”

At Mitchell cabin, thankfully, the absurdity was far more gentle. In time, we got used to leaving a candle burning in the bathroom all evening. (For safety, we placed it in a corner of the acrylic shower stall.) We briefly stopped using the woodstove because of a red-flag alert and couldn’t use our large, electric space heater. I therefore had to turn our propane furnace on for the first time in 15 years.

All that, just because of earlier wildfires elsewhere, which the President says are all state government’s fault.

President Trump expressed his contempt for California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a tweet, “Get your act together, Governor.” The President claims that California’s failure to “rake” its forests has been causing its wildfires, and now says he’s going to withhold emergency wildfire aid from the state.

The President holds Russian President Vladimir Putin in higher regard, calling him “smart,” and saying that Putin “has done an amazing job.” So four months ago he offered Russia aid in its battle against wildfires in Siberia. Putin hasn’t yet decided whether the aid is needed. No wonder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month observed, “All roads seem to lead to Putin with the President.

Lynn with our cornucopia. The decoration is a harvest-season tradition in Mitchell cabin. Having worked for several days on the Point Reyes Disaster Council’s response to the blackout, she’s now hoping to get some rest and forget about the disaster in Washington.

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.

Gallery Route One’s popular Box Show closed today with a silent auction, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres. A throng of art lovers and curious tourists filled the gallery within an hour after today’s show opened.

A box titled “XXI Century” by Ted Stoeckley, like several boxes in the show, amounted to artistic social-commentary.

“Thinking Outside the Box” by Rich Bolececk and Margaret Boehm.

A visitor studies “Celebrating Their Legacy,” a box by Bruce Burtch.

“Off We Go” by Dennis Ludlow and Prartho Sereno.

“The Bear Valley” by Bernie Schimbke.

“Where Are the Children?” by Suzanne Radcliffe.

More social commentary, “Immigration Policy” by Kieu Lam.

“Sticks and Stones” by Earl Speas.

The annual box show is both an exhibit and a fundraiser for Gallery Route One, and today’s show appeared successful on both fronts. Past Box Shows are archived on GRO’s website.

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