Like many of my friends and neighbors, I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency; however, I’ll dilute my despondency with joyful pictures from a current exhibit on West Marin’s milk, butter, and cheese industry.

To get our minds off politics for a couple of hours, Lynn and I on Sunday took a drive up the bay to Tomales where the Regional History Center on Saturday and Sunday afternoons is holding an exhibit: “From Milk to Butter & Cheese: 160 Years of Local Creameries.”

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The exhibition is in conjunction with one showing through the end of the year at the Bolinas Museum. That exhibit is called, “Bounty: Fine Food Production in Coastal Marin from 1834 to the 21st Century.”

Seen in an historic photo from the Tomales exhibit, a rancher while milking a cow gives a cat a squirt.

Environmentalists I’ve talked with worry about Trump’s financial advisors’ denying climate change, calling for renewed coal mining, and sounding as if they’re willing to sacrifice public land for short-term revenue.

         Latino families throughout West Marin are uneasy because many of them have at least one relative who might be deported under Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals.

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M.B. Bossevain was Marin County’s first farm advisor. He is seen here in the Tomales exhibit standing in a patch of sweet clover.

         Black acquaintances resent Trump’s lack of respect, and they fear he may appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn major civil rights victories. After all, Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News Network executive chairman who will be Trump’s senior counselor, is known for his white-nationalist views.

         The Huffington Post quotes Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as saying Trump’s choice of Bannon “signals that White Supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House….  It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion.”

         I may not live long enough to see this country recover from the potential damage of a Trump presidency, but sometimes my mortality seems almost consoling. A neighbor, who has resigned himself to one or two terms of Trump, remarked today, “Well, at least I probably won’t live that long.”

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         In keeping with this melancholy mood, the country this week is simultaneously mourning the death of singer/composer Leonard Cohen. For the last two nights I’ve played his mournful, sometimes hymn-like, music during dinner, which made the meal feel like the Last Supper in a Parisian bistro.

A storage area for the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company (seen in the Tomales exhibition).

I delayed this posting for a couple of days, hoping I would be celebrating most American voters having preferred the decency of Hillary Clinton to the demagoguery of Donald Trump, but as of this morning, the uncouth bigot had won the election. Clinton carried this county with 78 percent of the vote and carried this country by more than 100,000 votes, as of this evening’s count. (Update: The count as of Dec. 20 had Clinton receiving almost 3 million more votes than Trump.) Yet she trailed 228 to 279 in the Electoral College, which ultimately is what counts.

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Although immigrant bashing was at the core of Trump’s campaign, the candidate is for the second time married to an immigrant, Melania of Slovenia. His first wife, Ivana, was from the Czech Republic, but they divorced after he started having an affair with Marla Maples, who would become his second wife.

The now-well-known picture of the bromance between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump first showed up in May as a mural on the back of a barbecue restaurant in Lithuania. The nude photo of Melania first appeared on the cover of Gentlemen’s Quarterly in January 2000, shortly after she started an affair with Trump despite his still being married to Marla Maples.

Putin and Trump more than once expressed their admiration for each other during the campaign, and Putin was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump on his victory. In the Russian Duma (lower house of parliament), members broke into applause when Trump’s victory was announced. I personally will certainly be uncomfortable that a US president is chummy with Putin, one of this country’s longstanding adversaries. No doubt many Americans (and almost all Ukrainians) feel the same way.

In the Middle East, Islamic extremists are also celebrating Trump’s victory, which they see as a sign of America’s fragmentation, The Washington Post reported today. They also believe that Trump’s outspoken contempt for Islam is alienating Muslims everywhere. Meanwhile in North Carolina, the Ku Klux Klan is so pleased with the election results it will hold a victory parade on Dec. 3.

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À la the Donald, bucks around here openly stalk females and try to poke them although the does usually trot off before they can.

When I discussed the election downtown today with Point Reyes Station residents, their comments ranged from bitter to sarcastic.

This is not a community that wants to deport immigrants — even those who marry Donald Trump.

Fortunately local races in West Marin were far more polite than the presidential race despite being hard fought. Many voters had strong feelings about the Board of Supervisors candidates, but neither side saw the election as an armageddon.

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Local elections can be messy, as has been evident along West Marin’s roadways for the last few months. Hopefully, all those messes will soon disappear. Residents unhappy with roadside campaign signs tore down some of them even before the election.

In the end, Fourth District supervisor candidate Dennis Rodoni beat Dominic Grossi 53 percent to 47 percent. In the race for Superior Court judge, Sheila Lichtblau beat Michael Coffino 52 percent to 48 percent.

The high-light, so to speak, of the California election returns was the passage of Proposition 64, which by a 56 percent to 44 percent vote legalized recreational marijuana. Also highly significant was the passage of Proposition 63; by 62.6 percent to 37.4 percent, Californians approved a variety of gun controls.

As the national election results dribbled in last night, I found them so worrisome, I stopped watching the news. By the time I went to bed, the presidential battle had been lost, and I dozed off wondering if I should move back to Canada, where my mother was born, or hunker down in place. For the moment, I’m opting for hunkering, but that could change.

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Sadly, I can see the lamps going out all over America, and I fear we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime, to paraphrase British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey on the eve of World War I.


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Like Rocky Raccoon (right), what we all need now is a good rest.

 

 

 

 

Despite wet weather, celebrations of Halloween and Día de los Muertos enlivened Point Reyes Station Saturday and Sunday in advance of Monday’s trick or treating.

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Wendi Kallins (left), a candidate for county supervisor in the June primary election, and Constance Washburn as “Super Gaia” during the Day of the Dead party in the Dance Palace Saturday evening. The altar is decorated with memorials for deceased friends and relatives.


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Toby’s Feed Barn also held a Halloween party with a Día de los Muertos altar Saturday night. Here Feed Barn owner Chris Giacomini enjoys the decorations.


On Sunday, the festivities continued across town.

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In the firehouse, the annual pancake breakfast prepared by firefighters from Point Reyes Station and Inverness was held Sunday morning as a benefit for the Point Reyes Disaster Council.

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Marty Frankel (left) and Eileen Connery selling tickets at the pancake breakfast. Lynn Axelrod (far right), coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council, checks out the crowd at the breakfast.

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For youngsters, one of the highlights of the pancake breakfast was a chance to take a firetruck ride around town.


Also on Sunday, Papermill Creek Children’s Corner preschool held a Halloween party in the Dance Palace.papermill-creek-childrens-corner-halloween-party

 Enthusiastic party goer at the Dance Palace takes a run between the rains that fell sporadically Sunday.

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For the youngest children, the chance to ride a horse around the block was a special thrill.

 

 

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Wearing tiger ears framing an exit sign, Lourdes Romo, executive director of the preschool, with three of her young charges.


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Halloween costumes:  Everywhere in town, many adults and children wore costumes all day Monday. The most realistic costumes I saw were worn by this group of trick or treaters, who showed up at our door that evening.

       Don DeWolfe, who died in 1987, published The Point Reyes Light/Baywood Press from 1957 to 1970 in what is now the Coastal Marin Real Estate building. He wrote the first part of this Bob Worthington retrospective as a column for the Jan. 19, 1984, issue.

By Don DeWolfe

 “Former resident Bob Worthington was in town. Bob built a number of homes here. The first was George DeMartini’s home on Highway 1 north of the school.

Worthington (seen below in 1970), died in 2001. He was a World War II vet with a Purple Heart, as well as a former contractor, prison guard, and police informer.

“He built a cluster of homes on the Mesa, including his own, which is now owned by [Krauth Brand].

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“He also built the apartment house on Mesa Road behind The Point Reyes Light building.”

“Worthington bought the lot from Burt Jensen, who owned Sunbeam Motors, and had it surveyed. [Sunbeam Motors was located on the main street where Cheda’s Garage is today.]

“Through the years as the county road crew replaced the blacktop on Mesa Road, they had rounded out the corner so much that the corner of Bob’s lot was now right in the center of the road. He took a pick and dug a hole in the blacktop at that spot. Sure enough, he found the old surveyor’s monument, and Bob needed every square foot of the lot for his building [to have enough setback from the road] to qualify for a building permit.

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“On a Friday afternoon from the back window at my printing shop at The Light, I saw Bob appear, along with Walt Kantala and his backhoe.”

Don DeWolfe (right) pretending to type a column at the bar in the Old Western Saloon, which he frequented.

“Walt proceeded to tear the blacktop off the road. I walked back and said, ‘Bob, you’re fixing to get into a heap of trouble. You can’t just tear up the county road.’

“‘The hell I can’t,’ he replied. ‘It’s on my property.’

“‘But, Bob,’ I explained, ‘By right of eminent domain the county is going to claim they now own the road part of the lot.’

“‘Look, Don,’ he said. ‘It’s Friday afternoon. All the big wigs at Civic Center have already left for the weekend. By Monday morning, I’ll have the forms all in and be ready to pour the foundation.’

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When I first came to Point Reyes Station in 1975, the fence to the right of the tree had not yet been erected, and more than a few inattentive motorists drove over the then-small sapling, usually breaking a bunch of limbs.

“Monday morning came, and so did the county. After a few words they departed. Next morning the road crew appeared and moved the road back over where it belonged. Bob built a monument on the corner and planted a tree in it.

Later Bob did some remodeling for Sally Stanford at her San Francisco home. [Sally Stanford had been a brothel madam in San Francisco and later opened the Valhalla restaurant in Sausalito, where she was elected to the city council and became mayor.]

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“One night on the way home Bob stopped at a bar in Sausalito for a drink. He overheard a couple of guys at the bar plotting to break into Sally’s home while she was away and steal her valuable jewelry. He tipped off the police, who put a stakeout on the place. A couple of nights later they nabbed the two guys trying to break in.

“Later someone fired a shot at Bob while he was driving along the road at Nicasio. The bullet went through the open window of his pickup right in front of his face and out the closed window on the other side. So Bob moved away.”

Sally Stanford in 1947

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At this point, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Ralph Craib picks up the story. In a Nov. 4, 1966, report, “Good Citizen Pays High Price,” Craib described the many ways criminals exacted revenge on Bob Worthington for his informing the police about the impending burglary. Here are some excerpts from the article. By coincidence, Craib, who died in 1995, was the reporter who nominated The Point Reyes Light for its 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

By Ralph Craib

“An armed but frightened man recited yesterday the harrowing personal price he has paid since serving as a police informer.

“His [contracting] business is dead; he has been ambushed and shot, and his wife and two children live in constant fear and almost continuously on the move, said one-time San Quentin guard Robert Worthington.

“Worthington provided police with their first tip of the impending burglary of the home of Sally Stanford at 2324 Pacific Avenue in April of last year [1965]. Police Officer Salvatore Polani and three others were later convicted after falling into a trap which Worthington, then a Point Reyes contractor, helped set.

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“Once his identity was revealed, he said, police were immediately assigned to guard him, his wife, and his daughter, 13, and son, 11.

“But his business began falling apart. He couldn’t go out to a lot to inspect a prospective building site, he said, until police had checked out the person he was to meet. He had to have his telephone disconnected because of ominous calls received by his wife.

Ralph Craib (right) celebrates with Cathy Mitchell and me in the Point Reyes Light’s newsroom on April 16, 1979. She and I had just learned that, thanks to Craib’s nomination, our little weekly newspaper had won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

“He has moved his family home five times and has had to send his family out of town on several occasions when police warned him that there was danger. Two cars he owned have been repossessed. Three homes which he had built and in which he had substantial investment have been foreclosed.

“On a couple of occasions, I was followed by strange cars,” Worthington said. “One night I was followed by a car without lights and went up to 100 miles an hour. At night time you can’t see back and the only thing to do is run.”

“Worthington was provided a gun by police — and used it once. He was ambushed on Lucas Valley Road in Marin County, Sept. 5, 1966, and grazed by a bullet. He fired two shots back at his attackers. ”

____________________

      In 1999, Bob Worthington belatedly received a Purple Heart, having suffered PTSD and having developed a serious heart condition while fighting on Guadalcanal in World War II. He died in 2001 in Coos Bay, Oregon, at the age of 76.

 

Plutocracy, a new musical show by Bolinas composer Dale Polissar, will premiere this month with two performances in West Marin: in the Bolinas Community Center  at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23, in the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station.

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Debuting as a “semi-staged concert performance” with five singers and a narrator, Plutocracy imagines what happens when the head of a global oil corporation dies and, to everyone’s surprise, leaves control of the company to his young hippie poet son — with a powerful CEO uncle determined to stop the boy.

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Polissar’s previous musical satirizing the George Bush administration, By George, It’s War!, got standing ovations at the Throckmorton and other Marin and Berkeley venues. Popular Marin choreographer and dance teacher Doree Clark, who choreographed By George, is also choreographer for the new musical, which is produced and directed by the composer.

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Polissar studied composing at Stanford University, has had choral works performed by major choruses, and plays clarinet professionally with such artists as pianist Si Perkoff and guitarist Bart Hopkin. He has written and produced three political musicals, and he proudly states that “in addition to musical honors, my resume includes three arrests for civil disobedience.”

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About Plutocracy Polissar says, “It touches on many contemporary issues, but above all I hope it is engaging and entertaining — in the great tradition of American musicals — with songs that are sometimes fun, sometimes very moving.”

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The cast includes several Marin singers and actors — Beth Carusillo, Madeline London, Daniel Patrick, and Bob Scott — as well as, from the larger Bay Area, Tim Mayer and Peter Webb. “Plutocracy will play at two other Bay Area venues in November: at La Peña in Berkeley on Nov. 6, and at the Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco on Nov. 18.

I originally wrote most of this posting as a book review for the July 28 Point Reyes Light where I was editor and publisher for 27 years before retiring 10 years ago.

Anne and the Twentieth Century is the surprisingly appropriate title of newly published memoirs by Anne R. Dick of Point Reyes Station.

Anne at 89 is an impressive woman. She runs a bed-and-breakfast inn, Seven Gray Foxes, and has published seven books of poetry and reminiscences in the past six years.

West Marin residents have also known the author as the proprietor of a successful jewelry-making business in Point Reyes Station, Anne R. Dick Jewelry. That would seem to be a straightforward name although, as Anne recalls with a laugh, one customer wrote it as “Antarctic Jew.”

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Longtime residents in West Marin may also remember the girls’ horse-vaulting team that she organized in 1967. (Horse vaulting is often described as gymnastics on horseback.)

With Anne as coach, the Point Reyes Vaulters in 1976 won the National C Team Championship in Malibu. The following year they won the National B Team Championship, and the year after that the National A Team Championship.

The book is called Anne and the Twentieth Century because in telling stories about herself and her family, she uses as backdrops contemporaneous news events throughout the century.

These range from the Great Depression (“Mom served one vegetarian meal a week to save money”) to World War II and the rise of Hitler, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the death of President Roosevelt, and the atomic bomb.

Periodically Anne gives her own pithy assessment of political, cultural, and military affairs. Adding further color is the book’s taking note of songs and movies that were popular when events occurred.

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Anne and Phillip K. Dick at their home in Point Reyes Station in 1958, a year before their marriage.

Anne’s second husband (1959-68), with whom she had one daughter, Laura, was science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, who gained international recognition for his books, 11 of which were turned into Hollywood movies.

Among the best known are Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which became Blade Runner and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale which became Total Recall. Unfortunately, he was paid very little for screen rights. Blade Runner grossed $28 million, but he received a mere $1,250.

Anne has lectured at several universities including the Sorbonne about her knowledge of Philip Dick, but because she previously wrote Search for Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982, he appears as mainly “an interlude” in her new book.

Getting more attention in her new book is her first husband, the late Richard Rubenstein. Anne’s family had moved to St. Louis after her father died, and Richard came from a prosperous St. Louis family.

The two were married by a justice of the peace, and Anne candidly explains: “We must have thought that going to a justice of the peace wasn’t bourgeois but that a big fancy church wedding was. To be called ‘bourgeois’ in those days was an insult, but we certainly weren’t members of the proletariat either.”

Philip Dick would later turn out to be shy and occasionally paranoid, but Richard Rubenstein, who fathered her daughters Hatte, Jayne, and Tandy, was troubled by severe anxiety.

From St. Louis the couple moved to San Francisco, and “as we drove across the country, Richard was too nervous to go into restaurants. I had to bring his dinner to him every night in our motel room,” Anne recalls, adding, “Not much fun.”

Indeed, life with Richard apparently included many uncomfortable moments. When they moved into an apartment in San Francisco, they bought a large, “handsome” couch. “I spilled some ink on it,” Anne relates, “while trying to sit on Richard’s lap for some affectionate hugging.

“Richard became angry at me for spilling the ink and possibly also because I was trying to hug him. I think some men, maybe many, are fearful of intimacy with women, but they like sex with a woman — which they don’t seem to think of as intimacy.

“Richard didn’t converse. Period. If we went to a restaurant together, we just sat there….

“Richard received a modest monthly income from a property his mother owned in Quincy, Illinois, which paid for food and rent. If we needed a new car, Richard’s mother would buy one for him. If we wanted to go on a trip, Richard’s mother would send money for the trip….

“I felt uncomfortable that Richard didn’t work and earn money, but there was nothing to be done about it. Richard felt he was too nervous to work.”

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Anne and Richard Rubenstein, her first husband.

An aspiring poet, the only people he didn’t feel ill at ease around were other poets and San Francisco’s Bohemians. Fortunately, he and Anne arrived in the city just as the Beat Generation was coming into its own.

Richard started a poetry magazine. It lasted only one issue but put him in contact with such poets as Kenneth Rexroth, Dylan Thomas, Robert Creeley, and Gary Snyder.

His mental health, however, was deteriorating, and while in a New England psychiatric clinic, he had an allergic reaction to an anti-schizophrenic medicine and “dropped dead while drinking copiously from the water fountain,” Anne writes.

“I don’t think he was schizophrenic. He was anxious and drank too much alcohol at times.”

At the end the movie Blade Runner, an extraterrestrial android (human-like robot) played by Rutger Hauer, dies.

Just before he does, Hauer bitterly tells actor Harrison Ford, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe — attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-Beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All these moments will be lost in time like tears in rain .… Time to die.”

Anne Dick likewise has some remarkable memories, and she too doesn’t want them to be lost in time. Anne and the Twentieth Century engagingly preserves for her family, friends, and the general public what she has seen of relationships, celebrities, West Marin, American culture, and key events in a fascinating century.

The book is available at Point Reyes Books or from the publisher at Point Reyes Cypress Press, Box 459, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956 and online at <www.pointreyescypresspress.com>.

 

During the 15 years Don Neubacher was superintendent of the Point Reyes National Seashore, he behaved deceptively on a number of occasions. Nonetheless, in 2010, he was made superintendent of Yosemite National Park.

It was a dramatic — albeit absurd — promotion. After he’d been on the job in Yosemite for six years, the Park Service in response to employee complaints conducted an investigation last August and concluded that Neubacher had created a work environment that was “toxic” for many staffers.

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National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher (left) at a 2004 town meeting in Point Reyes Station.

Besides the August investigation, 18 Yosemite Park employees a week ago informed the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the House of Representatives that Neubacher had bullied, intimidated, and humiliated staff who complained of misconduct by him and other Park Service personnel.

“In Yosemite Park today, dozens of people, the majority of whom are women, are being bullied, belittled, disenfranchised and marginalized,” Yosemite fire chief Kelly Martin told the committee in written testimony concerning several parks.

During last week’s hearing, committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) quoted an Interior Department investigator at Yosemite as reporting, “The number of employees interviewed about the horrific working conditions leads us to believe that the environment is toxic, hostile, repressive, and harassing.”

The congressman added, “It is our understanding that of the 21 people the investigators interviewed, every single one of them, with one exception, described Yosemite as a hostile work environment as a result of the behavior and conduct of the park superintendent.” The one person who did not agree, Congressman Chaffetz wryly noted, was Supt. Neubacher.

Making matters worse, committee members said, was the fact that Neubacher’s wife Patty has been deputy director of the Park Service’s Pacific West Region, which oversees Yosemite.

But the jig is up, and last Thursday Supt. Neubacher acknowledged in an email to park employees that regional administrators had decided Yosemite needs new leadership. He had been offered an advisory job in Denver but had decided to retire from the Park Service effective Nov. 1. On Sunday, Patty Neubacher announced that she too was retiring as of Nov. 1.

Supt. Neubacher didn’t acknowledge actually doing anything wrong at Yosemite, only that he might have been insensitive. Writing to park staff he claimed, “Until recently I wasn’t aware of these concerns and am deeply saddened by this….”

“It was never my intention in any way to offend any employee.… If I did offend any of you at any time, I want to sincerely apologize.”

He didn’t intend to harass and belittle staff, female staff in particular? It was all a misunderstanding? Just how sincere is this apology?

Don Neubacher addresses addresses the West Marin citizens about the pepper spray incident in 2004. The crowd of townspeople who heard Don Neubacher (upper right) prevaricate about his own actions after the pepper spray incident in 2004.

That kind of dissembling was on display all too often during Neubacher’s 15 years on Point Reyes. Many examples could be recounted. Here are just a couple: In July 2004, an emotionally out-of-control Point Reyes National Seashore ranger accompanied by a second ranger aggressively pepper-sprayed a teenage brother and sister while in Point Reyes Station. The attack was so savage that in order to spray directly onto the eyeballs of the girl, who was crouched on the pavement in handcuffs, the ranger held her eyelids apart.

The siblings’ only crime was to show up to ask why two friends of theirs had been taken into custody by rangers outside the park. The friends, by the way, were never charged with any misdeed.

The pepper-spraying created a public outcry, and a town meeting was held in Point Reyes Station so people could question park officials about it. To mollify the crowd, Neubacher told them he had asked the Park Service to conduct an internal investigation into the rangers’ behavior. And to allay any suspicion that an internal investigation might be biased, Neubacher added, he’d asked the Marin County District Attorney’s Office to conduct a “parallel” investigation.

The next day after the now-calmed crowd had gone home, a perplexed assistant DA remonstrated that the park superintendent had done no such thing. Neubacher hadn’t asked the DA’s Office to investigate the rangers; he had asked it to prosecute the brother and sister. Many townspeople who had been taken in by Neubacher’s fabrication were furious. In any case, the DA refused to prosecute the teenagers, and in September 2005 the Park Service paid them $50,000 to settle claims growing out of the incident.

In 2007, Neubacher began pushing a proposal to shut down Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Regardless of what you thought of the idea, there was no denying that Neubacher outright lied to the Marin County Board of Supervisors in arguing for it.

When the supervisors held a hearing to express support for the oyster company, Supt. Neubacher showed up to claim the oyster operation was bothering harbor seals. Neubacher had previously asked the US Marine Mammal Commission to look into this allegation, but earlier that same day, commission staff had faxed him that so far there had been no decision to do so.

Nonetheless, Neubacher told county supervisors, “The Marine Mammal Commission wrote us a letter this morning. They’re going to take it up on a national level.”

When an investigator from the Inspector General’s Office of the Interior Department later asked the park superintendent about his deception, “Neubacher conceded that it might have been a little bit misleading for him to say that the Marine Mammal Commission was taking up the issue and had written the National Park Service a letter,” the investigator reported.

What will Neubacher do now? Given his repeated fabrications while administering the Point Reyes National Seashore and his misogynistic style of management while administering Yosemite National Park, there may be a job waiting for him out there — working for Donald Trump.

I originally wrote this posting as a book review for the Sept. 1, 2016, Point Reyes Light where I was editor and publisher for 27 years before retiring 10 years ago.

There was no stir in West Marin last Friday, Aug. 26, when a federal judge curbed a new North Carolina law that restricted transgender students’ access to restrooms.

While the case may seem a continent away, the ruling in favor of three plaintiffs has significance even for residents here. An Inverness resident and former West Marin School bus driver has been going through a transition from male to female and, less than a month ago, published a book describing her experiences.

Leslie Scott, who had been known as Scott Leslie, tells her story in “Outside-In, Inside-Out: A Transgender Journey.” It’s an informative autobiography that is at times humorous and at times painful.

Many people mistakenly equate being transgender with being a transvestite. The book, however, explains, “True transvestites have no interest in changing their gender; they just like wearing the clothes [and] aren’t considered members of the transgender community. And so the term ‘cross-dresser’ is now preferred.”

When Leslie was a young boy, he was harshly scolded for playing dress-up with a neighbor girl. Each time his mother saw him dolled up, she flew into a rage—even though the girl’s mother had dressed him and applied his makeup.

After the second time, Leslie’s mother would not speak to the girl’s mother, and, she writes, “I never again had any kind of a ‘real’ friendship with any girl. I guess I never as a man had any kind of ‘real’ friendship with any woman either.

“And though I always preferred the company of girls and women, there was always the feeling of a nameless, underlying taboo about it, and such a friendship never seemed, at least until recently, like something I would ever be allowed to really know.”

In the 1970s, Leslie moved to San Francisco. “I lived in the Castro District before and after it was taken over by the gay scene,” she wrote. “I had no end of opportunities to experiment with homosexual liaisons, the idea of which did sometimes intrigue me, but the idea was all that ever happened.”

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Scott Leslie (before transition, left) worked as a security guard for Renaissance and other fairs, did “roustabout-type jobs, including truck driving, garbage detail, outhouse servicing,” and studied to be a peace officer and a journalist.

Ultimately, Leslie earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Riverside. Throughout his adult life, he covertly experimented with cross-dressing, but inevitably threw out the clothes.

He had several serious girlfriends, one of whom became his wife for nine years.  Coincidentally, they both had a stammer, and both “were enthusiasts of all things Scottish or Highland, meaning games, dancing and bagpiping.”

In 2005, Leslie became a bus driver for West Marin School and discovered that he “liked” the driving and “loved working with the kids.”

“What put me on the road to actual gender transition,” she relates, “was a tiny baby step, a venture so small that I could convince myself it was no more than a whim or a lark: I set out to grow breasts.” Leslie ate fennel seeds—rich in plant estrogens—for a couple of weeks, which caused him to start developing breasts. But he was startled when his therapist noticed something different about him.

“I realized that the phytoestrogens—i.e., plant equivalents of estrogen—in the herb were affecting my demeanor, and I panicked: I ‘straightened up’ and tried to look more masculine, and when I got home I dumped the herbs and again purged my wardrobe of things feminine,” she wrote. But the seeds had worked, and Leslie now had breasts: they “were very small, but they were noticeable.”

In 2010, the full transition started. She began by regularly drinking an herbal mix of her own creation. The results were immediate, and in six months she switched to estradiol, a medical form of estrogen, and spironolactone, which eliminates testosterone.

It wasn’t always easy, and “sometimes I would be driving my school bus back to the yard at the end of the day, feeling my body changes in wonder, and suddenly I’d panic, asking myself, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I learned to reply with one word, ‘courage,’ to get through the angst attacks,” she wrote.

Although she was keeping the transition private, the author stated that “other people noticed a change: my colleagues at the school commented on how much happier I seemed and how much more involved I was with the children, especially the youngest students, to the point where the annual Young Writers book was dedicated to me.

Leslie Scott“It doesn’t get any better than that; I cried at the presentation. Indeed, I did a lot of crying—and laughing—during that period, as my body adjusted to the hormones.”

Leslie Scott (after transition, left)

In 2012, Leslie went on her first Trans March in San Francisco; afterward, she came out to the school and the community. “The response was mostly positive and supportive,” she relates. “The few exceptions were people who simply didn’t seem to understand what I was doing.”

Two years ago, Leslie took the biggest step of all and was surgically reconfigured into a woman. The operation was paid for by Kaiser, which sent her to a surgeon in Arizona and paid for her flights and room.

The surgery was complex, and the book includes the doctor’s description of how he fashions vaginas and clitorises from penises and labia from scrotums. Included in the book is a small photograph of Leslie’s vulva as it appeared a few weeks after her surgery.

So why should someone peruse all this? “Outside-In, Inside-Out” is not only a good read, it is also relevant as the rights of transgender people become political issues around the country.

In May, the United States Department of Justice issued a directive that said students have the right to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identities. Several states responded by suing the federal government, and North Carolina passed a law that mandates the use of restrooms be determined by the gender on one’s birth certificate.

That law, however, amounts to illegal sexual discrimination, as the judge in Winston-Salem wrote in Friday’s temporary restraining order.

Interviewed in Point Reyes Station that day, Leslie said she hopes her book’s readers “will take away an appreciation of how difficult and scary and painful gender-transition is. There are times I’ve felt overwhelmed by the enormity of it. This is a very painful subject, but any major life change like this is grist, at least at times, for the humor mill.”

“Outside-In, Inside-Out: A Transgender Journey” is available at Point Reyes Books, and online from Amazon and at the author’s website, lesliescott.org. It’s also available at Book Passage in Corte Madera and Copperfield’s in Petaluma. I’ve been told it will also be for sale at the Book Passage store in San Francisco’s Ferry Building.

 

 

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.

 

 

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