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.

 

 

There will be a celebration of Russell Faure-Brac’s life on Saturday, July 11, at the Bolinas Community center from 1 to 4 p.m. Guests have been asked to bring their favorite desserts and memories of Russ to share.

A onetime Defense Department engineer, Mr. Faure-Brac became a peace activist during the Vietnam War. He died May 20 at the age of 71 in the Dogtown home he and his wife Anne Sands shared. She is the coordinator of the West Marin Disaster Council.

Russ with a MaiTai in Maui a few weeks before he died.

“After receiving a master’s degree in Engineering Economics from Stanford University, he worked for SRI as a weapons systems analyst, applying statistical models to death tolls from the Vietnam War,” The Point Reyes Light reported. “In 1968, when he saw the disparate valuing of U.S. lives ($50k) vs Vietnamese lives ($0), he underwent a crisis of conscience and resigned in protest.

“The film But, What Do We Do? (click here to see) documented Russ’ decision to leave the defense industry, to pursue the teachings of Gandhi & Martin Luther King at Joan Baez’ Institute for the Study of Nonviolence, and to participate in the Peace Games, an immersive event that explored nonviolent approaches to a hypothetical Soviet invasion of Northern California.

Members of Russ Faure-Brac’s family (from left): Gabe Faure-Brac and wife Megan Fromer of Stamford, NY; Anne Sands and Russ Faure-Brac; Josh Faure-Brac and “main squeeze” Catherine Wood of Los Angeles.

“After spending two years as a VISTA volunteer in rural Missouri, Russ joined friend Hugh Cregg (later known as Huey Lewis) at Neil Smith’s Whole Systems in Mill Valley, CA.  With a truckload of color-coded burlap sacks, they began one of the nation’s first curbside recycling programs.”

The main focus of his post-defense industry work was the founding of an environmental consulting firm. However, after the “9-11” attack on the World Trade Center in New York, Mr. Faure-Brac returned to his peace activism, developing a project he called Transition to Peace (transitiontopeace.com).

He wrote a book of the same name, gave talks on the subject, and hosted a program on KWMR, the West Marin community radio station. Many residents along coastal Marin knew him for his “defense engineer’s search for an alternative to war,” as he described his later-in-life journey.

A year ago I was hit with a medical problem called temporal arteritis, which sent me to the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda. As I wrote here at that time, it was a big headache, but left untreated it could have led to blindness.

Temporal arteritis amounts to inflammation of an artery that goes through the temples (hence the name “temporal”) and feeds blood to the eyes. The problem is common enough that rheumatologists have developed a standard treatment using the steroid Prednisone. The cause of temporal arteritis is unknown, but it mostly hits us older folks.

Well, the Prednisone worked in that it took away the headache, but I had to consume it every day, and that itself produced temporary problems ranging from less-focused thinking to a loss of balance. I began taking increasingly serious falls. The worst was on Memorial Day when I fell to the ground from a standing position. I landed on stainless-steel metal and badly bruised the right side of my ribcage.

I had just about recovered from that fall when today I stumbled on my deck and landed on the left side of my rib cage. What a pain! As a result, I’m taking it easy on myself, which is why my posting this week consists of photos from my collection— not ruminations. Most of them have appeared here previously.

Gray squirrel at my birdbath.

The raccoons around Mitchell cabin are amazingly adventurous. These walked right in when I left the kitchen door open.

Three animals who seldom hang out together in nature — a possum, fox, and raccoon — were convinced to eat peaceably together when I scattered honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. Animal populations, however, go up and down, and I haven’t seen many foxes or possums around Mitchell cabin recently.

A blacktail doe takes a rest behind my woodshed.

Two does and a flock of wild turkeys forage side by side uphill from Mitchell cabin, both species seeming oblivious of the other.

Two years ago, a lone peacock began keeping company with the turkeys. It’s pretty but its calls sound like a woman in distress.

Coyotes can often be heard at night howling around Mitchell cabin. Getting a chance to see one is far less common.

It’s far more common to see bobcats. Here one takes a rest while hunting downhill from the cabin.

A mother badger with her kit. The most ferocious predators near the cabin are badgers. Even a bear would be no match. Badgers live in burrows up to 30 feet long and 10 feet deep, for they are remarkably efficient diggers thanks to long claws and short, strong legs.  Although they can run up to 17 or 18 mph for short distances, they generally hunt by digging fast enough to pursue rodents into their burrows.

Lost in thought, a gray fix sits on my picnic table.

Jackrabbits, of course, are always around. Jackrabbits, which are also known as black-tailed hares, avoid predators by using “an element of surprise and escape that works well,” Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zigzagging across open country until it finds shelter.”

Two young does graze beside Mitchell cabin. To me all this is my home on a hill, but it could just as easily be a zoological garden.

 

 

 

If you go out in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise.

For ev’ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Ev’ry teddy bear who’s been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvelous things to eat
And wonderful games to play.

Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
Cause that’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.

If you go down to the woods today
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home.

Written by the Irish composer Jimmy Kennedy (1902-84), who also wrote Red Sails in the Sunset.

A Western fence lizard basking in the sun on my front steps last week. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Male Western fence lizards do pushups to intimidate other males. In the process they reveal their blue undersides, which is why they’re sometimes called Blue-bellies.

A pair of Cliff swallows tried for three weeks to build a mud nest under the second-floor eaves of Mitchell cabin only to have the mud come loose from the wall and the nests come crashing down. Each collapse was disheartening for me and no doubt worse for the swallows. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Finally a couple of swallows got a nest going, building it with pellets of mud from the nearby stockpond. A typical nest is made up of approximately 1,000 pellets, which represents 1,000 roundtrips to the stockpond. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

A week ago the swallows completed their nest. Stain on the bottom of the eaves shows where previous nests had been attempted. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The female lays three to five eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. The eggs typically hatch in 12 to 17 days. The young begin to fly when they’re 20 to 25 days old. The young live in or near the nest for a few days for their parents to feed them, and they remain in the area for several weeks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Rounding out this tour of nature around Mitchell cabin, a covey of quail hunt for birdseed that has blown off my deck and landed in the grass below. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

We’ll end this week’s program with a faux-Irish lullaby sung by Bing Crosby. Click here, then sit back, feel nostalgic, fall asleep, and we’ll see you here next week.

Point Reyes Station’s 66th Western Weekend this past Saturday and Sunday continued a colorful tradition that began in 1949 when a women’s group, Companions of the Forest: Circle 1018, held a festival, fashion show, and cake walk in their hall. (The Foresters’ Hall on Mesa Road still survives under private ownership. It’s immediately north of the Old Creamery Building.)

The following year, members of the local Lions Club, many of whom were married to Circle 1018 members, added a parade and a livestock show for 4-H and Future Farmers of America members. The event was called a “junior” livestock show because all those showing animals were 4-H and FFA members.

When I came to town in 1975 and my newspaper called the event Western Weekend, as many people by then did, more than a few oldtimers told me the proper name was the West Marin Junior Livestock Show. “Western Weekend,” they grumbled, was the name of the livestock show in Novato.

Western Weekend queen Graciela Avalos in Sunday’s parade.

Nigel, left, and his cousin Annabelle make contact during the West Marin 4-H Fair on Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn. Sisters Olivia and Phoebe Blantz of Nicasio brought them as they have in past years, so they are all regulars.

 

Eva Taylor, 6, holds an eight-week old Champagne D’Argent rabbit. The breed was brought to the U.S. from France in the early 1900s. They are known to have been bred since the 17th century, according to Dorothy Drady of Nicasio, who oversaw their care at the fair.

Megan Binford, 14, of Tri-Valley 4-H, shows a four-month old Broken Black Mini-Rex doe named Ribbons, or, as a local rancher quipped, “a Holstein rabbit.”

A float in memory of Dorothy Rocca, who died this past year. She was the longtime owner of the Palace Market. The entry took first place in adult floats.

The exciting music and dance of Ballet Folklorico of Petaluma Paquiyollotzin wowed the crowds all along the parade route.

KWMR Community Radio and The Point Reyes Light marched together in a media section of the parade. The entry took 2nd place among adult floats.

Lynn Axelrod was among the MainStreet Moms calling for people to drink tap water rather than bottled water, which clutters the environment with plastic bottles. Mom Kathryn Callaway created the signs for her sisters.

The Coastal Health Alliance on the march.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is dedicated to eradicating childhood cancer. The organization is named after a child who sold lemonade to raise funds for other kids, leading to a global effort that totaled more than $1 million. Ezequiel  (Ez) Powell and the Porrata-Powell family will hold their own lemonade fundraiser Sunday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Town Commons.

Two young ladies took turns singing to the crowd as the Dance Palace Kids Musical Theater proceeded down the main street.

Towtruck driver Tim Bunce (right), who entered a 1953 Farmall Tractor in the parade, photo-bombs Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Pittman’s picture. Bunce took first in the Farm Vehicle division and first in the best-vehicle division.

More of the vibrant Mexican dancing in stunning costumes.

The littlest ones waved and snoozed from their float in the mid-day sun.

The Aztec Dancers took the first-place award for best street show.

Richard Kirschman and Doris Ober promoted the West Marin Fund, which encourages people to spend West Marin currency in West Marin.

Point Reyes-Olema 4-H Club took first place in the kids’ street show awards.

Mexican food was offered and mariachi dancing after the parade continued until about 8 p.m. in the West Marin Commons on the north end of the main street.

A woman draped in the colors of the Mexican flag dances at the Town Commons.

I’m still a bit gimpy as a result of a fall I took three weeks ago (and wrote about here), so my partner Lynn was good enough to fill in, shooting most of the photos for this posting and writing about half the text.

Hundreds of people gathered in and around the Dance Palace Sunday to celebrate the life of Marshall artist and political activist Donna Sheehan, who died April 17 at the age of 85.

Paul Reffell, Donna’s partner for the past 21 years, took the microphone to start Sunday’s memorial, during which more than a dozen friends and relatives of Donna told about their often-amusing experiences with the multi-faceted artist/activist.

The memorial was a potluck, and a large amount of food (such as these oysters) and drink was consumed.

Paul and Donna at her 80th birthday party, which was celebrated in Toby’s Feed Barn five years ago.

Paul was 21 years Donna’s junior, but they often collaborated on newspaper columns and books. Together they wrote a book titled Brainlines and another titled Seduction Redefined, which advanced Donna’s belief that women, not men, are the natural pursuers. Seduction and orgasms were central to Donna’s world view, and she never had a problem talking or writing about either. One of Sunday’s speakers, Toni Littlejohn of Point Reyes Station, told of the time Donna called her to report with hesitant pride that she’d had 25 orgasms that morning.

Donna’s nephews Erik Oehm (right) and Jacob Day told of the joy of having her as an aunt. Local musicians performed after the speakers were done.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

An altar adorned with photographs of Donna and with her art was set up in the Dance Palace’s “church space.” Also part of the display was the hat she often wore.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Donna’s art, as usual, drew numerous compliments during the wake. She had little art training but had studied design and printmaking.

Photo copyright Art Rogers 2002

But it was political activism for which Donna was best known. During a chilly rain on Nov. 12, 2002, Donna gained worldwide attention when she assembled 50 “unreasonable women” at Point Reyes Station’s Love Field. Lying naked on the wet grass, the women spelled out PEACE with their bodies while Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers recorded the event.

Donna at the time explained she got the idea from a similar protest in Nigeria earlier in the year. Women fighting corporate exploitation stood nude in a vigil that lasted several days outside of Nigeria’s parliament, she noted. “[The Nigerian women] shamed the men and won their cause,” she said. This photo of the demonstration, which was published in The Point Reyes Light, was immediately republished throughout the world and inspired many similar demonstrations.

Donna had previously garnered widespread attention in West Marin when in 1983 she organized a group called MOW (Mow Our Weeds) to pressure Caltrans to start mowing weeds along Highway 1 and stop using herbicides.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

The crowd for Donna’s wake was so large it spilled out onto the Dance Palace’s front deck and lawn. In a testament to how many people were in Donna’s world, more than a few people remarked that they kept running into old acquaintances they seldom get to see.

A movie with and about Donna and her lifelong pursuits was shown in the church space. Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Donna died of “an overdose while I was away for an hour, shopping in Point Reyes Station,” Paul explained at the time. Her suicide was not unexpected. “We had talked many times, including [with other people] about her finding a way out as her health deteriorated and her pain increased,” Paul wrote the next day.

Sunday’s wake was organized by Robin Carpenter in accordance with Donna’s wishes.

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