Dave Mitchell


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Shoreline along Cannery Row in Monterey with a memorial to author John Steinbeck, who gave the area a special allure with his romanticized novel Cannery Row and its sequel, Sweet Thursday.

As regular readers of this blog know, Lynn Axelrod and I were married April 27 at Civic Center. The following month, we drove 80 miles up the coast to Gualala, where we went canoeing on the Gualala River, for the first half of our honeymoon. This past week we drove (actually Lynn did the driving) 160 miles down the coast to Monterey for the second half of our honeymoon.

The second photo down shows the living room in our suite, the Borogrove, with its view of Monterey Bay.

We stayed at an inn with a storybook quality, The Jabberwock, which is located in a mansion built in 1911. I’m sure many of you remember The Jabberwocky. It’s a nonsense poem in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice in Wonderland. The Jabberwocky begins: 

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/ All mimsy were the borogoves,/ And the mome raths outgrabe.
 
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!/ The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!/ Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun/ The frumious Bandersnatch!”
 
However, the young man armed with a vorpal sword  is able to slay the beast, and his father is ecstatic:
 
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?/ Come to my arms, my beamish boy!/ O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”/ He chortled in his joy.
 
 
Complementing our joy: we found red and white wine, sherry, and hors d’oeuvres set out each evening in the inn’s enclosed sun porch. We also found a bottle of champagne, a decanter of brandy, and a plate of chocolate-fudge-coated strawberries in our room when we arrived.
 
 
Part of the Monterey County shoreline is within Asilomar State Park, and Lynn and I enjoyed several strolls along the water.
 
 
Flocks of pelicans could be seen frequently as they glided above the shore break.
 
 
Since I wasn’t smoking in the inn, these walks also provided opportunities to enjoy my pipe.
 
 
An official sign in a public restroom in Asilomar State Park. I wonder how many dogs can read it.
 
 
A visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium was one of the highlights of our trip. Probably the aquarium’s most popular exhibit is a tank of sea otters swimming casually around, typically on their backs.
 
 
Another particularly popular exhibit is a tank of puffins that paddle about seemingly oblivious of the crowds watching them.
 
 
A sea turtle swam above us.
 
 
As we wandered from one exhibit to another, schools of fish would sometimes give us the eye.
 
 
We saw exotic jellyfish and ….
 
 
…some of their luminescent cousins.
 
 
Throughout our stay in Monterey, we enjoyed sunny days, even when a few light sprinkles fell. What rain we had fell at night. At left a jet flies under a dramatic rainbow, which we could see from the inn for almost 40 minutes Wednesday late in the afternoon. From our perspective, we’d found the pot of gold.
 
 

It’s been a mixed week.

Last evening I was amazed to look out a bedroom window and see a red ball shining in the eastern sky. Lynn and I realized that the Lake County fire was the explanation. News reports said smoke from that fire was blowing south into the San Francisco Bay Area. As of this writing, the Pawnee Fire in Lake County has burned 14,150 acres and is only 73 percent contained.

 

Not wanting any wildfires here, I’d hired some guys to mow the fields around Mitchell cabin and neighbors Dan and Mary Huntsman’s home. All went well except for this one patch in the middle of a field that wasn’t cut all the way down. Much of the land was mowed using a tractor, but when the tractor operator got to this spot, he suddenly came under attack from a colony of yellow jackets which had a hive in the ground. I could have had the hive destroyed but opted not to since yellow jackets can be beneficial: they dine on flies and spiders.

This gopher snake showed up at the edge of the garden the same weekend two months ago when Lynn and I were married. I decided that was a good omen since we were overrun with gophers.

Today, Lynn spotted this four-foot-long gopher snake on our front steps. To give you a sense of scale, the railroad ties that make up the steps are three feet long. This snake’s tail winds through the grass up to the step and back down where it disappears on the left side of the photo. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

I was impressed by the snake’s girth and snapped this photo of it.

There are numerous variations in the coloring of gopher snakes, but most retain a rattlesnake-like hide. In fact, when gopher snakes feel threatened, they try to imitate rattlesnakes, hissing, coiling up, and shaking their rattleless tails. A week ago I was driving home up Campolindo Road when I spotted a gopher snake that looked like this one, lying across the narrow roadway. Not wanting anyone to drive over it, I stopped, got out, and walked over to the snake, which did not move. I then leaned over and grabbed the snake right behind its head. The snake hissed and tried to turn its head but couldn’t, and I carried it into the grass and let it go.

Garter snakes could be found around here fairly often 25 years ago, but the only ones I’ve seen recently were along the levee road. When I moved one of those out of the roadway a while back, I got a dose of the stench garter snakes spray when they feel under attack.

A rubber boa with a slight eye injury. These seldom-seen snakes (they hunt in the evening or at night) can also emit a stinky spray when frightened. Mice and voles are among their main prey.

I found this Pacific ring-necked snake in a rotten log while splitting firewood, as was reported here awhile back. The snake eats very small creatures — tadpoles, insects, and especially salamanders. It has just enough venom to immobilize them but is not dangerous to humans.

A mother raccoon and her four kits receive a few handfuls of dog kibble when they show up in the evening. The kits are usually weaned by the the time they are four months old but often stay with their mothers for up to nine months.

A blacktail doe with two offspring are also staying together. Here the family rests contentedly after crossing the barbed-wire border between fields without getting separated. Under the current Administration, human refugees apparently deserve less.

 

As regular readers of this blog know, Lynn Axelrod and I were married on April 26. The first installment of our honeymoon began June 5 when we headed up the coast to enjoy a few days in Gualala, Mendocino County. The second installment will come later this summer when we’ll probably head down the coast to Monterey County.

Gualala makes for a romantic getaway, and we’d previously vacationed there a couple of times. The downtown sits beside an ocean bluff at the foot of forested hills. Every year ocean waves restore a sandbar that closes the mouth of the Gualala River. This creates a lagoon that lasts until the next rains swell the river enough that it can burst through the sandbar.

The Gualala River is a large part of what keeps bringing us back. (Lynn took this photo of me during a 2012 trip.) Adventure Rents, which operates from a clearing on the bank just downstream from the Gualala Bridge, offers kayaks as well as canoes; we always rent a canoe. The river’s current is fairly weak at this time of year, making it easy to spend an afternoon paddling upstream. Because of wind off the ocean, paddling downstream into the lagoon and back would have been far more laborious.

A bald eagle regularly perched in a dead tree near our inn. We were told it had a mate, but we never saw it.

A covey of mostly very young quail greeted us when we returned to Point Reyes Station after being away four days. In fact, young animals of other species had also begun hanging out around Mitchell cabin.

A blacktail fawn stays alert in this unfamiliar world.

A couple of small jackrabbits were among the other youngsters. Rabbits are weaned when they’re a month old or less. They then start grazing away from the nest but return to sleep. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

A rapid rabbit: While I was watching this adult rabbit last week, it started and bounded off downhill as fast as it could go. When I looked uphill to see what had alarmed the rabbit, I saw ….

a male bobcat. He was acting pretty much like a male dog: peeing on posts to mark territory and rolling on the ground on his back with his feet in the air. He didn’t chase the rabbit.

A raccoon with four small kits now show up on our deck every evening, and we usually give them handfuls of dog kibble. Unfortunately, a skunk recently figured out the routine and has begun arriving around the time the raccoons are done eating. Neither animal alarms the other. This mother raccoon sometimes takes a nap while the skunk eats. On other nights, they eat side by side. It’s really too bad that humans don’t have the gentility of raccoons and skunks.

A great believer in marriage, I got married for the fifth time on April 26. My bride is my longtime partner/girlfriend Lynn Axelrod, known to many in town as the coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. As such, she works with the county fire department. She’s 68 and from New York and Boston. For many years, she worked as an attorney in San Francisco. I’m 74 and from the San Francisco Bay Area. I worked in journalism for most of my adult life.

Our wedding was in the bluff-top garden beside the 3rd floor of Marin County Civic Center. (Photo by Kathy Runnion)

The garden is right outside the County Clerk’s Office, and conducting the ceremony was (at center) Olga Lobato, a supervisor in the Clerk’s office.

The office’s wedding schedule is a busy one. We had to settle for getting married on a Thursday because Friday was booked up well in advance.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” supervisor Lobato told Lynn and me with a flourish. (Photo by Kathy Runnion)

Acting as official witnesses were Tony Ragona of Point Reyes Station and Paul Kaufman of San Rafael (formerly of Marshall).

I must say being married is fun although it’s had some prickly moments. For the past three weeks, I’ve been digging up, pulling up, and cutting up thistles in the fields around Mitchell cabin.

Now that’s not fun.

The night after the wedding we headed down to Sausalito’s No Name Bar for our weekly ration of jazz, which is inevitably fun.

Inside the bar, the bride spotted one of the regulars, the prominent Sausalito artist Steve Sara, sketching her as she listened to the music. Obligingly she moved a bit closer to his sketchpad and was rewarded with an attractive drawing.

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.

Lynn and I took Amtrak halfway across the country and back three weeks ago on a frustrating trip that went nowhere but cost a fortune to get there.

Here’s what happened. I am a member of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, which this year held its annual conference in Columbia, Missouri. The conferences move around. Next year’s will be in Australia. Last year’s was in Durango, Colorado.

Lynn’s and my conference fees came to $1,250, but we considered it money well spent. Last year’s conference was the first we had attended, and both of us were impressed by the community-newspaper editors from around the world whom we met.

Organized discussions ranged from newspaper ethics to how to cover major disasters. Moreover, the group presented me with its Eugene Cervi Award for my years as an editor, and I returned to West Marin just glowing.

This year’s conference was scheduled for June 24 to 28 in Columbia. Lynn and I decided to travel by Amtrak as we had last year, for we had thoroughly enjoyed the ride. We would take the train to Ottumwa, Iowa, rent a car, and drive the rest of the way to Columbia, so we reserved a sleeper compartment for $1,329 roundtrip.

However, as I’ve noted here before, a year ago I came down with temporal arteritis (an inflammation of the artery in one’s temples that feeds blood to the eye). Left untreated temporal arteritis can cause blindness, so the doctor put me on a 10-month regimen of Prednisone (a steroid). As the months went by, he had me slowly taper off on the dosage until it got down to nothing just before we left for Columbia.

There are numerous problems with Prednisone, however, and in my case one side effect was being constantly weary. Another was frequently losing my sense of balance. Falling down on stairs became commonplace but caused no serious injuries. However, a fall while weed-whacking on Memorial Day and another fall at the end of May bruised my ribcage to where it became painful to walk.

Nonetheless, Lynn and I were determined to travel to Missouri for the newspaper conference. We already had a roundtrip ticket to Ottumwa on Amtrak, and we reserved a car from Enterprise in Ottumwa for $175 per day.

And so it was that on June 22 we drove to the Amtrak station in Emeryville where our train was more than an hour behind schedule, but Amtrak is notoriously late much of the time, so we thought nothing of the delay. Because Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks it travels on, its trains have to give way to any freight trains that come along.

Our engineer was trying to make up time, we were told, but the train was about four hours behind schedule by the time we reached Colorado. And in Colorado things really slowed down. Track maintenance caused more than a few delays, and when we finally reached Nebraska, these delays seemed nonstop.

Part of the problem resulted from a rainstorm in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. In some places the tracks were flooded, and in others, springs gurgled up between the rails.

The view along the tracks in Nevada sometimes seemed a pretty good symbol of our Amtrak trip. (Photos by Lynn Axelrod)

We crept through western Nebraska, getting a good chance to inspect everyone’s back yard. They’re much tidier in Nebraska than in Utah, Nevada, and California where abandoned car parts and dilapidated buildings dominate the scenery in a some places.

I slept most of the way but got up three times a day for meals. After a couple of days, however, the lurching of the train was aggravating the pain in my ribs. Getting to the dining car or the restrooms required walking down narrow corridors in several cars, and despite trying to be careful, I was occasionally thrown against the walls of the corridor.

So I downed a bunch of Ibuprofen. Bad idea. With nothing such as yogurt available to buffer the painkiller, I was sick as a dog by the time we reached Ottumwa. That convinced us to spend the night in a hotel before traveling on. We rented a room near the train station for $90 per night, and I climbed into bed. Lynn meanwhile headed out to pick up the Enterprise rental car we had reserved. The agency, however, told her that because of the rainstorm, no vehicles were available or would be for several days .

Hertz was out of cars too, but Lynn finally found a family business that had a car for rent at $220 a week, and she took it. By the next morning, however, I was ready to go home. My stomach was still queasy, and my walking was reduced to shuffling because of my balance problem.

Amtrak told us the next train west would be that evening, and the only compartment available was a “family room,” which provided more space for stretching out but cost an additional $822. We bought a ticket and returned to the hotel to sleep all day for an additional $90.

Glenwood Springs along the Colorado River was one of the more attractive towns where the train stopped.

When we arrived at the Ottumwa train station that evening, Lynn and I encountered a new set of problems. Our train couldn’t get to Ottumwa because of the bad weather, so we would be put on a bus for a four-hour ride to Omaha where we would catch the train which would arrive from Chicago by a circuitous route. We had become resigned to our fate and agreed to the arrangement.

The bus was full of Amtrak passengers, and when we all got to Omaha about 11:30 p.m., we learned our train wouldn’t arrive until the next morning. Lynn and I were irritated. Several passengers who were heading to the airport in Denver were angry about missing their flights. Much of the throng spent the night in the train station. Lynn and I rented a hotel room nearby for $188.

The next morning Lynn and I arrived at the Amtrak station early only to have our train show up an hour and a half late. Our family room was relatively comfortable for resting. That was good because we kept falling further and further behind schedule. The delays were felt even in the dining car which began running out of various foods.

Amtrak serves good fare, but at the end of the trip all it could offer for our last meal was a bowl of rice with three spoonfuls of beef stew on top. The good part was that we were always seated with other passengers who inevitably were intelligent, friendly people.

Twelve hours behind schedule our train finally rolled into Emeryville, and just over an hour later we rolled back into Point Reyes Station. Unfortunately when we began unpacking, we discovered we’d left a $500 camera and a $40 pocket knife on the train. Lynn called Amtrak, but no one had turned them in. At least no one broke into our house while we were gone, we told each other, but then we discovered our stapler was missing. I just about became unstuck.

Our trip to the Midwest had cost more than $4,400, but I wouldn’t have minded had we actually reached the ISWNE conference. From what I’ve now read in ISWNE’s report on the event, those who did make it had a very good time and learned a lot.

 

 

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.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I turned 71 Sunday, which was probably a good decision, but I threw out my back earlier in the week, which definitely was not a good move. You never realize how much use you have for something until you throw it out.

Just standing up is now a pain, and walking is even worse.

Doug Hill, president of the Berkeley City Commons Club, relays a member’s question to me at the end of my talk. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

As it happens, Morton McDonald, who has a home at Duck Cove in Inverness, had invited me to tell the Berkeley City Commons Club what I knew about Synanon from the cult’s days in West Marin. I had agreed to go last Friday but had to strut and fret my hour upon the stage from an overstuffed chair.

I’ve tried to portray my injury as caused by rugged work, telling friends I threw out my back while working with a chainsaw. “What were you cutting?” they ask. “Daisies,” I sheepishly reply. They’re inevitably startled. “No one throws out his back cutting daisies,” they say, “and no one cuts daisies with a chainsaw.”

It’s a long story. Former Point Reyes Light reporter Janine Warner and her husband Dave LaFontaine drove up from Los Angeles for my birthday and are staying for five days. My stepdaughter Kristeli, who is in her last year at New York University, will fly in Tuesday and stay for five days over Thanksgiving.

Vegetation was hanging over the railing along the outdoor steps, and I wanted everyone to be safe when they used the stairs. When I cut four or five dead fronds off a palm and three dead branches off a couple of pines, the chainsaw went right through them. But when I bent over to cut some woody branches from dead sections of two daisy bushes, a muscle spasm locked onto my back with all four feet.

Heating pads, back braces, and a ball-bearing-filled massage machine are helping, and I’ll no doubt recover in a week or two although post-traumatic-stress disorder could be a lingering problem.

I sign a copy of The Light on the Coast for Morton McDonald. The book includes a section on the paper’s investigation of Synanon, an investigation that led to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

In the “best of times” category, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported by The Point Reyes Light, which I wrote with Jacoba Charles as coauthor, is now in its third printing. The Tomales Regional History Center is the publisher, and the book can be ordered online using the History Center link in the righthand column.

Two blacktails butting heads outside my kitchen window last week. I’d think a deer could easily get an eye poked out that way, but I’ve never seen a buck with an eye patch.

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