Personal


The big news in my life since I temporarily stopped maintaining this blog last December is that my longtime partner, Lynn Axelrod, and I have finally become engaged. No wedding date has been set yet. On the other hand, half the people we know only casually — workers in local businesses, for example — assume we’re already married and refer to Lynn as my wife.

Lynn, as many readers know, is the Coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. As such she’s an independent contractor for the Marin County Fire Department. She is a retired attorney who had specialized in land-use issues, having earned her doctorate of law from UC Hastings. While she was still practicing law, Lynn volunteered at a few environmental groups — the Tamalpais Conservation Club, Wildcare animal rescue center, and others. After she stopped practicing law, she became a jewelry maker for the late jeweler Anne Dick. More recently she canvassed for progressive candidates.

 

Lynn with me in our living room. (Photo by Sarah Rohrs)

We first met when she was hired to work in advertising and typography for The Point Reyes Light back while I still published the newspaper. We’ve now been living together for eight years, and therein lies this story. As I’ve aged my hearing has become less sharp. Most of the time I hear well enough, and I sometimes wear hearing aids — but not to bed at night.

Our bed is king size, so there should be plenty of room for two people, but at times Lynn’s been known to jestingly grumble that I’m “encroaching” into space she needs for sleeping. One morning last winter Lynn awakened me with a laughing accusation, “My encroacher!” In confusion, I responded, “What about Mayan culture?” Then it was her turn to be confused.

A month or so ago, two East Marin friends dropped by with their dogs, and we all went for a walk at White House Pool. The dogs were wonderfully playful, and they impressively obeyed their masters’ commands. We all enjoyed them. The next morning as we were waking up, Lynn mumbled, “I was dreaming I had my arms around a doggy.”

“A donkey?” I asked in astonishment. 

“No, a doggy.”

“Why would you have your arms around a donkey?” I persisted, still not hearing her clearly. It took a while to straighten this one out.

Weird but also true. Wasn’t last weekend a scorcher, even without the fires burning in other parts of the state? At Mitchell cabin, the hottest day was Friday. At 10:30 a.m., the thermometer outside our kitchen window registered 105 degrees. One hundred five degrees! We could have taken a dip in the hot tub to cool off. And we escaped the worst of it. The Light reports that in neighboring Olema the mercury hit 117 degrees.

 

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.

529. Kremlin interferes with this blog: the full post-truth story

528. Words matter…. as if you didn’t know

527. Milk, cheese, and Donald Trump

526. Majority of voters go for Clinton but… Trump wins election; Kremlin, ISIS, & KKK celebrate

525. Undeterred by rain, small-town Halloween celebrations held throughout Pt. Reyes Station

524. Recalling the tribulations of a courageous contractor from Point Reyes Station

523. ‘Plutocracy’ to occupy four theaters, starting with two in West Marin

522. Pt. Reyes jeweler’s memoirs describe difficult marriages, Philip K. Dick’s science fiction, horse vaulting, and West Marin history

521. Park Service ousts Donald ‘Trump’ Neubacher

520. The transgender journey of an Inverness woman

519. I’m back and hitting the bars

518. A Staggering Debacle

517. Memorial set for Russ Faure-Brac of Dogtown

516. The zoo in my backyard

515. The Teddy Bear picnic and why to stay at home

514. Western Weekend this year proved to be especially colorful

513. Wake for Donna Sheehan of Marshall reflected her eccentric life

512. Memorial Day weekend chaos

511. MALT art show a testament to rural beauty

510. A trip to Tomales

509. Party for publisher who sells her newspaper

508. Birds, deer, a cat, a rat, a face in the flames, and another overturned truck

507. The adventures of Bigfoot

506. Art in Bolinas, hail in Point Reyes Station, and Emergency Response Team training in Nicasio

505. Wish get well at Toby’s; then Gather at Perry’s

504. The whole truth and a bit more

503. Caltrans meeting about replacing Green Bridge draws mixed responses

502. West Marin’s bridges to its past

501. Patrolling the CHP

500. A sparse serving of sagacity

499. Small town slumbering and cows stampeding

498. The highs and lows of St. Valentine’s Day weekends, past and long past

497. Presidents’ Day, Valentine’s Day; in Canada indigenous people to protest

496. Eastern Door newspaper exemplifies courage in a Mohawk community

495. Documentary by ex-resident of Bolinas tells story of Burundi-genocide survivor

494. Focusing on the birdlife around Mitchell cabin

493. Wandering around in early January

492. A gallery of critters around Mitchell cabin

491. Stunned to learn French, New Anus State Park, and other surprises in the world of news

490. Some Christmas surprises

489. In West Marin the drought symbolically comes to an end

488. Occasionally the most intriguing parts of newspapers are the miscues

487. Despite a series of downpours, Point Reyes Station steps out to celebrate the Yuletide

486. A visitor from New York

485. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

484. The Comoros solution for undocumented residents

483. Finding refuge in my surroundings

482. Remembering the past in Point Reyes Station and Tomales

481. Point Reyes Station focuses on helping preschool and preparing for disaster

480. Little Nicasio was a happening place Saturday and Sunday

479. Mowgli taught me to love jungles

478. A Scottish journalist’s observations regarding the vote to remain part of Great Britain

477. Racoons waxing and Tricolored Blackbirds waning plus a mystery in the woods

476. The autumnal equinox is upon us

475. Grito de la Independencia in Point Reyes Station

474. Some Nicasio Reservoir history is seldom seen, and some is seldom recognized

473. Tomales Founders’ Day draws a goodly crowd despite a shorter-than-usual parade

472. It all happened between two vivid dreams

471. A photographic look at signs of life

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

469. A word with you, if you please

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

467. Nurturing nature

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

465. It was like winning a second Pulitzer Prize

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

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

462. White House Pool enchanting despite vandalism and poison oak

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

460. My deer friends

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

458. Animals provide relief from an animalistic world

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

456. America owes a lot to its weekly newspapers

455. Pining for a couple of old friends

454. Creatures of spring at Mitchell cabin

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

452. Save a spaniel

451. When words fail us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

441. A gallery of local-wildlife photos

440. The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

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

438. The last days of fall

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

436. Using words well and not so well

435. My 70th birthday

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

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

432. Mulling a potential flap at the confab

431. My frantic flight from Latin

430. The Fall of Nicasio and Point Reyes Station

429. 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.

Hello again. After posting on this blog every week for 10 years, I abruptly stopped without explanation 14 months ago. Well, I’m back. Here’s what happened.

Keeping me away had been some damnable eye problems: first, temporal arteritis (an inflammation of the artery through my temples that feeds blood to my eyes); second, botched cataract surgery on my left eye.

The temporal arteritis began with an extreme headache in my scalp that ultimately required half a day in Kaiser’s emergency room. I was prescribed a lengthy — perhaps too lengthy — regimen of Prednisone (a steroid). It stopped the pain and prevented me from going blind, but some of its side effects are still with me. My balance standing and walking is not what it should be.

The botched surgery, which occurred in January, is also continuing to take its toll. I should have been forewarned when the surgeon often seemed impatient discussing the operation in advance. During the surgery, she nicked the inside of my left eyeball, causing the lens to start falling out.

The result was double vision and poor focus. I’ve now received two more operations from another surgeon to repair the damage. The lens has been stitched onto the eye’s retina, and my vision is improving. I won’t need another operation if the progress continues, but that won’t be determined for sure until November.

In any case, as a result of my Prednisone problems and damaged left eye, I needed some R&R and stopped posting.

A secondary problem with the cataract surgery was to postpone dental surgery that was glaringly needed as a result of breaking off two front teeth last December. Because of the eye surgeon’s concern that the dental surgeon’s painkillers could interfere with her cutting into my eyeball, I had to spend half a year without two prominent teeth.

In an unsuccessful effort to hide the gaps, I began wearing my moustache extra long. Finally, after the last eye operation, I was able to get my dental surgery, which, in turn, meant I could resume trimming my moustache back and no longer feel slightly self-conscious whenever I smiled in public.

Dave Mitchell at the No-Name Bar in Sausalito

The No Name Bar in Sausalito is an unusually friendly place, and now that my moustache and teeth are fixed, I can again openly enjoy the Michael Aragon Quartet. (Photo by David Fischer)

Like many people in frustrating circumstances, I’ve dealt with my woes by hitting the bars. I was already going to the No Name Bar in Sausalito almost every Friday night to mingle with Bay Area illuminati and listen to great jazz. As it happens, I’m a fan of the Michael Aragon Quartet, which has performed at the No Name virtually every Friday for 33 years.

The No Name has a patio out back where there’s frequently a chess match, and smoking is permitted. People mingle easily as if they were all at a cocktail party. My usual “cocktail” at the party, by the way, is an Irish coffee.

Sarah Burke, server, and J.J. Miller, the barkeep, at the No Name.

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or merely that I like coffee, but the other bar where I hang out is Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. Most days in early afternoon, I sit at an outdoor table reading the morning Chronicle, drinking a mocha, and chatting with friends as they walk in and out of the post office next door.

Toby's coffee bar in Point Reyes

Reading The San Francisco Chronicle while getting a tan at Toby’s Coffee Bar. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

It’s a cheerful spot, and I spend enough time there that a few townspeople have started to refer to my table as my “office.” Were I consuming booze instead of coffee, by now I’d be one of the town toss-pots (the term at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Shakespeare uses for sots).

Barista Jenna Rempel of Inverness at Toby’s Coffee Bar.

Barista Jenna Rempel of Inverness at Toby’s Coffee Bar.

Because I’m now living life in the slow lane, I’m able to resume blogging, but it remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to do so every single week as in the past. At least for the moment, I have enough material on hand to keep going for a while. So goodnight for now. It’s good to see y’all again.

As a result of a brief marriage to a Guatemalan in 2003, I have three stepdaughters, and because their birth father is a US citizen, they have dual US-Guatemalan citizenship.

I met their mother in 1982 while I was reporting for the old, Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner during a 2.5-year sabbatical from editing The Point Reyes Light. The Examiner had sent me to Central America to cover uprisings in Guatemala and El Salvador, and in Guatemala she was my part-time translator.

As I write, my middle stepdaughter Kristeli Zappa was supposed to be flying back to New York City after visiting for a week; however, United Airlines is now reporting online that the flight is being delayed for maintenance. Kristeli is in her senior year at New York University, and, boy, has she led an interesting life for someone in only her mid-20s.

Growing up she attended schools in: Guatemala; France; and the United States, including time at Tomales and San Marin high schools and a year of grade school in Minnesota. She worked for a spell in Barcelona and spent her first year and a half of college at a university in Taiwan. While there, she rowed on one of the school’s dragon boat teams.

Kristeli (center), Lynn and I last Wednesday enjoyed a late-evening dinner outdoors under heat lamps at Calzone’s Italian bistro in North Beach. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Kristeli and her younger sister Shaili resemble each other so closely that several times during her visit I called her by her sister’s name. So it was probably fitting that we took Kristeli on several of the same outings we took Shaili on when she visited in August: watching Beach Blanket Babylon, dropping by Calzone’s for dinner while in North Beach, listening to jazz at the No Name bar in Sausalito, and having dinner with Anastacio and Sue Gonzalez in Point Reyes Station.

When Shaili was here three months ago, the Gonzalezes went with us to Café Reyes for pizza. This time Anastacio cooked us a yellowfin tuna he had caught in the Sea of Cortez and brought back on ice. It was the best fish I’ve eaten in years.

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station filled the main hall and adjoining former church Thursday afternoon. The event drew so many people they ate all the pumpkin pie. That hadn’t happened in years, if ever, one of the regular volunteers told us. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The turkey dinner is always free although donations are welcome, and it’s always well prepared. There is even a vegetarian plate for non-turkey eaters. For many of us diners, however, the best part of the dinner is the opportunity it provides to catch up with old acquaintances we seldom see. That’s one way we keep our sense of community alive.

A week of rainy days interspersed with sunny ones has been helping the grass turn green in the horse pasture next to Mitchell cabin. The stockpond is far from overflowing, but the water level is rising. [Update: At the end of 4 inches of rain Tuesday night-Wednesday morning, Dec. 2 & 3, the pond was overflowing.]

Even dramatically low Nicasio Reservoir, which belongs to Marin Municipal Water District, appears to be slowly recovering from the drought. The rest of the district’s reservoirs were already in pretty good shape. If all MMWD reservoirs are counted together — Alpine, Bon Tempe, Kent, Lagunitas, Nicasio, Phoenix, and Soulajule —  “current storage is 94.42 percent of average storage for this date,” the district reported on Nov. 23.

When Lynn and I went to the No Name bar in Sausalito to hear jazz, as we often do on Friday nights, we, of course, took along Kristeli. What was unusual about the evening was that drummer Michael Aragon, whose quartet has played at the No Name virtually every Friday night for 31 years, wasn’t on hand.

Instead we heard Sausalito bluesman Eugene Huggins’ band which plays at the No Name regularly but not on Fridays. Besides wailing on a variety of harmonicas, Huggins sang an engaging selection of blues and blues-rock. Although Huggins is well regarded, none of us had heard him before, and we were all impressed.

And then it was time for Kristeli to fly home. Lynn and I drove her to the Larkspur ferry terminal, so friends of hers in San Francisco could pick her up at the Ferry Building, show her around, and ultimately drive her to the airport.

For me her visit had been quite an experience. Kristeli had lived in Mitchell cabin for only a few months during my brief marriage to her mother 11 years ago, and I hadn’t seen her since although we periodically correspond by email. Yet by the end of her visit, Lynn and I were genuinely sad to see her go. I don’t know if Lynn and I, Kristeli and her sisters, together fit the formal definition of an “extended family,” but it sure feels like one.

When I was a lad in the 1940s, the fictional character who fascinated me was not Superman, Roy Rogers, or the Lone Ranger. It was Mowgli. Of course it’s easy to romanticize living naked with a pack of wolves, but one of Mowgli’s adventures in particular remains part of my life.

Mind you I’m not talking about the Mowgli of Walt Disney’s animated movie The Jungle Book. That trivialized portrayal of the youth would not come along for another 20 years. I’m talking about Mowgli, the hero of nine Rudyard Kipling short stories. My mother read me at least three of the stories from Kipling’s 1893 collection, The Jungle Book, and I was more intrigued by what Mowgli got to see than by what he actually did.

Kipling (1865-1936), a British short-story writer who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, made a name for himself in two disparate genres: 1) children’s stories; and 2) stories and poems about British imperialism in India. The Jungle Book, naturally, is set in an Indian jungle.

Mowgli growing up with wolves. (Illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg)

Mowgli is the boy who grows up in the jungle with a pack of wolves after his parents lose him during a tiger attack. A mother wolf with cubs decides to raise the child as a man cub, and because he is hairless, she names him “Mowgli,” which apparently is wolfspeak for “Frog.”

Mowgli’s greatest accomplishment is to kill a malicious tiger, Shere Khan. With help from two wolves, he causes water buffalo at two ends of a ravine to stampede down it. Shere Khan gets caught in the middle and is trampled.

Monkeys in the abandoned city of Cold Lairs sit around its crumbling palace.

For me, the highpoint of the stories occurred when a pack of monkeys kidnapped Mowgli and took him to the Cold Lairs, an abandoned city complete with a palace half overgrown with jungle. Mowgli escaped when Kaa, the python, hypnotized the monkeys with a writhing “hunger dance,” but that wasn’t what intrigued me.

What I, as a young boy, found hardest to imagine was a jungle so aggressively overgrowing grand buildings from past cultures that the buildings ultimately disappear. When my mother assured me that large structures really can get lost in tropical forests, I began to fantasize about finding one.

A Burmese family’s home faces the railroad tracks while out in back tropical foliage has begun to swallow a deteriorating British-colonial building. (Seen from a train approaching Rangoon, 1986.)

It was only when I finally made it to such places as Guatemala, Thailand, and Burma in the 1980s that I saw for myself how readily jungle vines, bushes, and even trees can take root on abandoned edifices such as temples, palaces, and government buildings.

Vines and other foliage taking over an abandoned commercial building in downtown Rangoon create a romantic sadness. It may be exotic, but it’s hard not to feel sentimental when seeing former grandeur being consumed by opportunistic plants.

I’ve carried my fascination with intrusive jungle life with me for many years. The area around my desk in the old Point Reyes Light newsroom in the Creamery Building was filled with laurentii and dieffenbachia while pots of philodendrons and spider plants hung from the rafters.

As it happened, the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) in 2004 named The Light first in Public Service statewide for a series of stories about a Guatemalan immigrant who was attacked in Bolinas and nearly died. His personal tragedy was a catastrophe for his family. His wife was very ill, and he had been supporting her and the rest of his family, who were living in rural poverty in a remote area of Guatemala.

Light reporter Ana Carolina Monterroso and photographer Anika Zappa covered the story from Guatemala while Victoria Schlesinger was the key reporter in West Marin. Victoria represented the newspaper at the awards ceremony aboard the Queen Mary, and CNPA wanted a photo of Light staff to project on a screen while she received the Public Service plaque. The newsroom’s jungle was the perfect backdrop to symbolize the back country of Guatemala, so Victoria and I (above) posed amid the foliage. ________________________________________________________________

My love of the jungle is most evident these days inside Mitchell cabin. Here and there spider plants cascade down from the loft into the living room and dining room below.

Screened from the dining room by a floor-to-ceiling tower of spider-plants, Lynn prepares dinner in our kitchen.

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________

If you don’t look where you’re going in the dining room, it’s easy to find greenery in your face.

Lynn and I have pretty much learned to avoid becoming entangled, but guests are forever brushing spider plants out of their hair.

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________

Having spider plants hanging into the living room from the floor above often results in our peering through a bit of jungle while carrying on a conversation.

What’s more, it only takes a little jungle to make everything seem more exotic. I may have moved into the village, but deep inside me the romanticism of Mowgli in the Cold Lairs palace lives on.

 

 

___________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

“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.

__________________________________________________________________

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.”

After my former wife Cathy Mitchell and I went our separate ways in 1981, she began teaching at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and became the school’s first full-time professor of Mass Communications. She earned a doctorate at the University of Tennessee and with an Economics professor, Pamela Nickless, founded UNC’s Women’s Studies program.

In 1995, she wrote a book about the pioneering newswoman Margaret Fuller, who had worked for Horace Greeley at The New York Herald Tribune beginning in 1844. I’ve read the book, Margaret Fuller’s New York Journalism, which is first rate. Five years ago, Cathy published another book that I only just now had a chance to read.

(After my book, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light, was published at the end of last year, she and I traded books cross country.)

Cathy’s latest book is called Save a Spaniel, and like Franz Kafka’s story Investigations of a Dog, it’s told in the first person (first animal?) by a canine narrator.

Kafka’s dog spends its time contemplating the nature of existence but pays no attention to the role of man.

In his world, humans don’t feed dogs. Rather dogs through incantation, dance, and song “call down” food “from above.”

Unlike Kafka’s dog, the Boykin spaniel named Star, who narrates Cathy’s book, is fixated on how to get along with humans.

She is terrified when she angers humans, whom she calls “leaders,” rejoices when one calls her a “good dog,” and is ecstatic when one gives her a treat of yummy food.

Now retired, Cathy volunteers with Boykin Spaniel Rescue and has a spaniel of her own named Lily (seen below with Cathy in a Verve Magazine photo). Lily inspired her story, Cathy notes, “but this book is a work of fiction.”

Star is a dog that every leader calls “pretty,” but she requires training. She pees indoors when she’s scared, and she lightly nips leaders a couple of times.

Rather than train her, first one family and then another puts her up for adoption.

The first time it happens, an animal shelter comes close to having her euthanized.

Finally, a woman with more patience adopts Star, takes her to obedience school, and eventually trains her how to stay out of trouble.

Although she likes to chase rabbits, Star ultimately saves a pet rabbit she finds injured in the woods, and this cements her reputation as a “good dog.”

“No one dog could have as many adventures as little Star does,” Cathy writes in the book’s acknowledgements. “However, my Lily really did save a pet rabbit’s life.”

Sonora, 1971. Cathy (upper right) sitting with Bruce McKenzie of Berkeley and his wife Brigitta while I hold Andy.

Although she doesn’t mention it, I’m fairly certain one of Star’s other adventures is based on another dog in Cathy’s life.

When Cathy and I lived in Sonora, she teaching at Columbia Junior College and me reporting for The Daily Union Democrat, we got a cockapoo from the Berkeley pound.

A cross between a spaniel and a poodle, she looked like a small sheep dog. We named her Andromache after the wife of Hector in the Trojan War, but we called her Andy for everyday purposes.

One day Andy and the neighbor’s dog spotted a rattlesnake in our carport. When the neighbor’s dog started to inspect the snake, I quickly pulled the dog away only to have Andy get close enough to be bit.

Cathy and I rushed Andy to a veterinarian who didn’t sound particularly concerned. He didn’t administer any serum but did give her a shot of antibiotics. You never know what the last thing was that snake bit, he said.

With some uncertainty, we took Andy home. A goiter the size of an orange had formed on her neck, and she appeared to be drugged. It took a couple of days for her to recover, but she did.

In the book, Star is similarly bit by a rattlesnake and is taken to a vet who says almost word for word what the vet in Sonora had told us. Star too recovers. Cathy notes she discussed snake-bitten dogs with veterinarians at All Pets Animal Hospital, but Andy must have provided the inspiration.

The dominant theme of Save a Spaniel is the problem dogs and humans have understanding each other, but the problem can be solved. By the end of the book, Star has evolved into a therapy dog that regularly visits an old folks home where everybody wants to spend time with her, and she wants to spend time with everybody.

Save a Spaniel is an excellent book, and I’m hardly the first reviewer to say so. It’s available from Amazon for $13.46.

During an open house and reunion Saturday, a happy throng of Point Reyes Light readers, staff, and columnists joined with former staff and correspondents to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the newspaper’s first issue.

The reunion drew staff and contributors who had worked at the paper at different times during the past 44 years. A number of former staff traveled hundreds of miles to attend. A couple of them arrived from out of state.

From left: Laura Lee Miller, David Rolland (who drove up from San Diego), Cat Cowles, Wendi Kallins, Janine Warner (who drove up from Los Angeles), Elisabeth Ptak (back to camera), Gayanne Enquist, Art Rogers (talking with Elisabeth), Keith Ervin (who drove down from Seattle), B.G. Buttemiller, and (in blue shirt with back to camera) Víctor Reyes. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine) ______________________________________________________________

The party was also a celebration of the Tomales Regional History Center’s publishing The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light.

Stuart Chapman of Bolinas, a former member of the staff, shot this photo, which he titled “Dave, Proud Father” because I authored the book.

My co-author was Jacoba Charles. Jacoba reported for The Light under its previous ownership and is a member of the paper’s board of directors under its present ownership, Marin Media Institute.

The colored Post-its, by the way, mark selections that I, along with others, would be reading to attendees. ____________________________________________________________

From left: Co-author Jacoba Charles, photographer Art Rogers, scientist Corey Goodman, photographer David Briggs, editorial consultant on the book and former member of The Light’s ad department Lynn Axelrod, and Spanish-language columnist Víctor Reyes. (Except where noted otherwise, the photos in this posting were shot by former Light reporter Janine Warner)

Michael Gahagan (left), who drove down from the Sierra Nevada town of Columbia to attend, published The Light from 1970 to 1975. Here he reminisces with historian Dewey Livingston of Inverness. Dewey for many years provided a weekly historical feature titled “West Marin’s Past.”

During the Gahagan years, Lee Sims (left) was the newspaper’s main typographer. This was back in the days before offset printing, and each page that went on the press had to be composed in lead.

In a piece written for The Light’s 30th anniversary in 1978 and reprinted in The Light on the Coast, Michael Gahagan’s former wife Annabelle comments, “Poor Lee, he had the disadvantage of being a friend of ours. One can always depend on friends — and we did lean on him! He was always underpaid and overworked. (Weren’t we all?)”

Catching up on old times are (in foreground from left): former news editor David Rolland, who drove to the reunion from San Diego, former typesetter Cat Cowles of Inverness, and former reporter Joel Reese, who flew in from Chicago. Standing behind them are current reporter Christopher Peak (left) and Matt Gallagher, who filled in as managing editor from February through July 2011. _____________________________________________________________

Samantha Kimmey (on the left) has been a reporter at The Light for the past year. With her is Tess Elliott of Inverness, who has been The Light’s editor for the past eight years   ____________________________________________________________

Gayanne Enquist was office manager during much of the 27 years I owned The Light. She was there when I arrived in July 1975, and she was there when I left in November 2005. (I was away reporting for the old San Francisco Examiner between September 1981 and the end of 1983.)

Former reporter Michelle Ling trades stories with Don Schinske, who was business manager during the 1990s and was co-publisher from 1995 to 1998. At left is her father, Dr. Walter Ling who teaches at UCLA. With his wife, May, Dr. Ling drove to Point Reyes Station for the celebration. In the background, Mary Papale listens intently to Laura Rogers.

Ingrid Noyes of Marshall (left) tells a story to my co-author, Jacoba Charles, outside The Light office.

Former staff recall the days of yore. From left: artist Laura Lee Miller, news editor David Rolland, typesetter Cat Cowles, reporter Janine Warner, and San Geronimo Valley correspondent Wendi Kallins. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

Sarah Rohrs was a reporter at The Light in the late 1980s. When several of us took turns reading aloud selections from The Light on the Coast, I read Sarah’s wonderfully droll account of a county fireman in Hicks Valley having to get a cow down out of a tree. (Photo by Joe Gramer)

Larken Bradley (left), who formerly wrote obituaries for The Light, chats with librarian Kerry Livingston, wife of Dewey.

Photographer Janine Dunn née Collins in 1995 traveled with news editor David Rolland to Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino and to war-torn Croatia in doing research for The Light’s series on the five waves of historic immigration to West Marin. Here she chats with the paper’s current photographer David Briggs (center) and her husband John Dunn.

Former Light graphic artist Kathleen O’Neill (left) discusses newspapering in West Marin with present business manager Diana Cameron. _____________________________________________________________

Former Light reporter Marian Schinske (right) and I wax nostalgic while photographic contributor Ilka Hartmann (left), looks on and Heather Mack (center), a graduate student in Journalism at UC Berkeley, takes notes. ____________________________________________________________

Former news editor Jim Kravets (left) jokes with photographer Art Rogers.

John Hulls of Point Reyes Station and Cynthia Clark of Novato have in the past worked with The Light in various capacities. In 1984, Cynthia set up the first computer system for the newsroom and ad department.

From left: Stuart Chapman of Bolinas, who formerly worked in The Light’s ad department, swaps stories with journalist Dave LaFontaine of Los Angeles and Light columnist Víctor Reyes.

Historian Dewey Livingston (left), a former production manager at The Light, poses with former news editor David Rolland while former business manager Bert Crews of Tomales mugs in the background.

In preparing to shoot one of his signature group portraits, Art Rogers directs members of the crowd where to stand. With the throng crowded into the newspaper office, getting everyone in the right place to be seen was such a complicated operation that some of the photographer’s subjects began photographing him. _____________________________________________________________

In shooting a series of three-dimensional photos, Art had to use a tall tripod and balance precariously on a window ledge and ladder.               _____________________________________________________________

Art’s wife, Laura, who didn’t have to work nearly as hard, pages through a copy of The Light on the Coast. _______________________________________________________________

The party was in part a book-signing, and I signed copies off and on all afternoon. ______________________________________________________

Light editor Tess Elliott reads Wilma Van Peer’s 1998 account of working for the paper’s founders, Dave and Wilma Rogers half a century earlier. The newspaper was called The Baywood Press when it began publishing in 1948. The paper’s fourth publisher, Don DeWolfe, changed the name to Point Reyes Light in 1966.

Originally the readings were scheduled to be held in the newspaper office, but so much socializing was going on they had to be delayed until the party moved around the corner to Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant where the banquet room had been reserved.

Among those reading besides Tess were Dewey Livingston, David Rolland, Matt Gallagher, and I. Anyone wishing to watch me read former publisher (1957 to 1970) Don DeWolfe’s account of his initiation to running the paper can click here.

It was a grand party, and I want to thank present Light staff, who made arrangements for the party, and former staff, some of whom traveled significant distances to attend the reunion.

Two other book readings are also scheduled. At 3 p.m. Sunday, March 9, in Point Reyes Presbyterian Church, Point Reyes Books will sponsor readings from The Light on the Coast and from Point Reyes Sheriff’s Calls, Susanna Solomon’s book of short stories inspired by Sheriff’s Calls in The Light.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27, in its Corte Madera store, Book Passage will sponsor readings from The Light on the Coast. Refreshments will be served.

I was raised by Christian Science parents in Berkeley and attended Berkeley High School, but in the middle of my junior year I abruptly transferred to a boarding school in St. Louis. The story of how that came about illustrates what a teenager is capable of doing out of fear.

As a 16 year old, I often chafed at parental restrictions on my driving and staying out late, but at Berkeley High, I earned good grades in most subjects. Advanced Latin, however, proved to be a step too far. One afternoon in the fall of 1959, I went directly home after school in order to spend extra time studying for a Latin test only to realize the battle was lost. Given my grades so far, it was impossible for me to pass advanced Latin.

It was a frightening thought. I had never received less than a C in any class, and that alone had brought down my parents’ wrath. I had been grounded and had my allowance cut for a month. What might happen when I brought home an F was too awful to imagine.

It was obvious I couldn’t still be living at home when report cards came out. But what to do? Suddenly I remembered a Christian Science high school my parents had mentioned in glowing terms. It was called Principia and was safely located 1,800 miles away in St. Louis. I feared the school might be overly religious, but anything was better than facing my parents with an F in Latin.

I got up from my desk and went looking for my mother, who was in the kitchen cooking dinner. “I want to go to Principia,” I announced. My mother was startled, but given the pressures of trying to raise a headstrong teenager, she didn’t oppose my request. Instead, she took it up with my father, and a week before Berkeley High mailed home my grades for the fall semester, I boarded a train for Missouri, having no idea what I would find.

At Principia, where football players were generally smaller than at Berkeley High, I was big enough to play offensive tackle. I’m No. 74 in the middle of the back row. Because Principia’s sports program was far more modest than Berkeley High’s, I was able to letter in both football and track during my three semesters in St. Louis.

Principia Upper School had a newly opened, suburban campus on Clayton Valley Road, and the place had the pleasant charm of brick buildings and expansive lawns. Its religious atmosphere was about the same as in my home back in Berkeley.

A few days after I had been assigned a room and roommate, I got a call from my much-distressed parents. They had received my report card from Berkeley High and discovered I’d flunked Latin. How could I have done so badly when I’d been assuring them I was doing okay in Latin? “I’m as surprised as you,” I replied with feigned concern. “I must have blown the final exam. Everything seemed fine before then.”

My parents started scolding, but I interrupted to say I was being called away to Sunday dinner. Reluctantly, they said goodbye and hung up. In fact, there was nothing going on — other than my jubilation at being beyond their reach.

I sometimes practiced high jump barefoot. At Berkeley High, good jumpers were able to clear six feet. My best jump at Principia was five feet, six inches, but when I made it, that was enough to win the event, which was the last of the day in a track meet with John Burroughs Academy. When the high jumping finally got underway late that afternoon, each school’s total points happened to be the same, so my not-so-high jump won the meet for Principia.

Berkeley High had taught most courses a bit earlier than Principia did, so I frequently was already familiar with subjects when they came up in class. Nor did Prin offer any Latin. As a result, I was one of the top three students in my graduating class.

All this helped get me into Stanford University where circumstances eventually forced me to again take Latin. This time, however, my grades were three A’s and two B’s. Ironically, it was my best subject as an undergraduate. How could that be?

First, thanks to my classes at Berkeley High, I was already familiar with basic Latin. Second, the night before each final, I sat down with a Latin-English dictionary and practiced translating passages from Caesar’s Gallic Wars, The Aeneid, etc. The passages were typically ones the professor had emphasized in class, and I figured some of them were likely to be on the exam. That quickly turned out to be true. Three times I managed, with the help of a dictionary, to translate every passage on a final exam just before I took it. My flight from Latin was over.

Next Page »