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“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. He could have been describing my past week. On the good side…

I’m now in my 80th year. Wednesday was my 79th birthday, and my wife Lynn arranged for a birthday party at Rancho Nicasio. What fun!

From left: Maddy Sobel, Austin King, the birthday boy and Lynn. (Photo by Kathy Runnion)

 

Our lunch was held on a deck under sunny skies, and our  food, which ranged from fish and chips to bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches, was tasty and plentiful.

The next day would be Thanksgiving, and Lynn would be roasting a turkey, so Lynn and I invited Austin to join us. Austin, who had been living in Point Reyes Station, has now found an attractive apartment in Larkspur. However, since he doesn’t have a car, we suggested he spend the night at Mitchell cabin.

Which he did, along with his loveable dog Gypsy. I’ve seen few dogs more obedient to their master than Gypsy is to Austin. His command, “Stop Gypsy! Come here!” was usually enough to get her to turn around and return to him, even when she was starting to chase deer or raccoons.

 

 

Austin and Gypsy on the deck at Mitchell cabin.

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But then came Friday. Lynn and I drove Austin and Gypsy back to Larkspur. After admiring his new apartment, we headed home. Within five minutes, I was driving through San Anselmo where we decided to stop for coffee. 

Finding a parking spot on a narrow street was difficult. When we did, Lynn got out to give me directions into it. Unfortunately there was a utility pole immediately next to the curb, and the right-side mirror of my Lexus clipped the pole. With my mangled mirror hanging down, I attempted to drive forward and stop, but my foot missed the brake pedal and hit the accelerator.

The resulting debacle shocked me. My car shot across the narrow street and slammed into an unoccupied parked car. The parked car suffered a badly dented left side behind the driver’s door but remained driveable. My car was not, for my left front tire was pushed back against its wheel well.

Nor would the debacles end there. After a taxi brought Lynn and me home, I felt mighty glum, so I decided to try cheering myself up with an ice cream sandwich.

Unfortunately when I  took a bite out of the sandwich, I heard a dull pop. Feeling something hard in my mouth, I spit out two front teeth.

Could anything else go wrong that day, I worried until I fell asleep.

 

 

Despite the expectations of friends, I have little to say this week about the national election. I’m, of course, glad the predicted “red wave” never materialized and that Republican candidates who called the last presidential election “rigged” mostly lost. Now that Donald Trump has said he’ll be running for president again in 2024, I’m sure there will be plenty of malarky to write about in future postings, so I’ll wait and write about other beasts this week.

An old man, wrote Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace, used to say a nap “after dinner was silver — before dinner, golden.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cornucopia (i.e. horn of plenty) in the living room of Mitchell cabin symbolizes the harvest season and dinners to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cottontail rabbit enjoys a golden nap after showing up in the field outside our bedroom window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside our kitchen window, a sleepy blacktail buck enjoys a silver nap as well as a golden nap before resuming his grazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later outside our living room window, a raccoon lay deep in a silver nap.

 

 

 

 

Awhile ago it began to feel like this country had lost its way, what with school shootings, political violence, and a former president’s describing as “genius” Vladimir Putin’s strategy for Russia to take over parts of Ukraine.  

In contrast, life in our northern neighbor appeared mostly calm and friendly. Maybe it would be a happier place to live. Helping create that impression was my late mother’s being an immigrant from Canada who’d become a naturalized US  citizen.

On a lark, I looked up what all I’d have to do to go back and become a Canadian citizen. As it turns out, not much. In fact, I may be one already. Here’s how a Canadian law firm specializing in immigration-law, Allen and Hodgman, explains the situation: “Was your mother or father born or naturalized in Canada? Under recent amendments to Canada’s Citizenship Act, nearly all persons whose parent was born or naturalized in Canada are now Canadian citizens.

“This is true even if your parent left Canada as a child; married an American citizen (or other non-Canadian); or became a U.S. citizen (or citizen of another country).

“These new laws apply to the first generation born abroad. So if your mother or father was born in Canada you are likely a citizen…. Canadian citizens are free to live anywhere in the world, so you can obtain your Certificate of Citizenship without having to leave the US.”

All that sounded like an invitation from extremely attractive neighbors until I read Friday’s news. David DePape, the man who tried to attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but instead injured her husband Paul, is a Canadian. Overstaying his visa, he has been in the US illegally for the past 14 years.

Apparently he was progressive and liberal 14 years ago, but ultraconservative  conspiracy propaganda turned him into a rightwing terrorist. (DePape’s now said he’d planned for the attack on Pelosi to be the first of several.)

Apparently not everybody is happy no matter where they’ve lived.

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At least life in Point Reyes Station has been relatively happy in the past week. Here is the highpoint of happiness — the Halloween celebration Monday:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It ranged from children in costumes celebrating….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to Davis, the town’s postmaster, doing the same. Evidently one doesn’t have to live in Canada to enjoy himself, so I guess I’ll stay put.

 

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

On Oct. 10, 1978, attorney Paul Morantz reached into the mailbox of his Pacific Palisades home and was bitten by a 4.5-foot-long rattlesnake whose warning rattles had been cut off. The snake had been placed there by two men whose truck’s license plate was traced to Synanon headquarters.

Morantz a week earlier had won a $300,000 judgment for a woman who said she’d been abducted by Synanon and abused. Synanon founder Charles Dederich was offended by the judgment and was repeatedly heard asking his followers, “Why don’t you break his [Morantz’s] legs?” an ex-member told me.  A few days before the rattlesnake attack, Morantz himself called me to say he was aware a campaign against him had been launched in Synanon and that he was concerned about a possible attempt on his life.

Synanon attorney Phil Bourdette subsequently turned over to Los Angeles police two members of the cult suspected of the crime. They were Lance Kenton, 20, son of bandleader Stan Kenton, and Joe Musico, 28, a Vietnam veteran who had entered Synanon as a drug addict.

Paul Morantz in his younger days.

Morantz went on to litigate against brainwashing by a variety of cults, including Scientology, Peoples Temple, the Hare Krishnas, and the Rajneesh movement. He represented various clients pro bono and was frequently described as heroic.

But he never completely recovered from the snake’s bite. “To this day,” Oxygen Crime News reported two years ago, “Morantz suffers from a lifelong illness related to the rattlesnake venom, which requires him to receive blood transfusions every other week.” The music magazine Shindig noted that Morantz said he got blood disease from the venom. 

On Monday I received a sad email from Morantz’s son Chaz, saying that his father “passed away yesterday at the Santa Monica hospital. I was with him when he let go peacefully after far too much pain and suffering these last couple of years.”

 

Chaz wrote that this photo “was taken just a couple of months ago when we took him out for his 77th birthday, for sushi in the Palisades.”

The San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday carried a front-page story headlined, ‘Birdseed Lady to blame for rat swarms?’ The Chronicle reported a woman, who “appears to be experiencing mental illness,” daily leaves “mounds of birdseed throughout [the] commercial corridor” of the Glen Park neighborhood.

In doing so, she appears to be “fomenting the area’s formidable rat and pigeon problems.” As the article noted, city government still hasn’t figured out how to deal with her even though “city law forbids spreading birdseed in public places.”

The problem is more than esthetic. “The issue exploded into public view this month when health inspectors temporarily shuttered Canyon Market, Glen Park’s posh and popular grocery store, after finding gnawed pasta bags, rat droppings, and other evidence of a severe rodent infestation.”

I’ve seen the pattern on a small scale at Mitchell cabin. The birdseed Lynn and I put on our deck daily for our feathered neighbors also draws a handful of roof rats.

The birds such as this towhee act as if the roof rats were just other birds and are quite content to eat alongside them.

The birds also share their bath with the rats, who like to take sips from it.

 

So far the roof rats are not an insurmountable problem although they do nibble on flowers Lynn planted in our garden and — worse yet — on the wiring for her car’s engine.

The rats are amazingly predictable. We tend to put out seed around 5:30 p.m. daily, and the roof rats show up around 6:30 p.m.

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Among the other trends in wildlife around Mitchell cabin are changes in the fox community, which had mostly kept out of sight during the past couple of years. Foxes, nonetheless, made their presence known by frequently peeing on my morning Chronicle. It’s all about marking territory. Thank goodness subscriptions are delivered in plastic bags.

Last week I spotted two foxes together on our deck until they were scared off when two young raccoons got into a noisy tiff.

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A young man in town told me he wants to wear a pest-control uniform for Halloween. I told him to gopher it.

Have you ever wondered why cats eat fur balls. They do it because they love a good gag.

And why do bears have hairy coats? Fur protection, of course.

 

The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (right) in 1894 wrote his eight light-hearted humoresques, the best known of which is Humoresque G flat No. 7. You’ll recognize it the minute you hear it. The short composition, in turn, led to some unlikely associations six decades later.

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As it happens, toilets on most trains traditionally emptied onto the tracks below or onto their shoulder.  Some trains in the British Isles, in fact, still do. In the US, however, this unesthetic arrangement has been largely eliminated, so to speak.

Amtrak phased out its use of such toilets in the 1980s after waste from a Silver Meteor train on a bridge crossing the St. Johns River in Florida landed on a fisherman who filed a lawsuit.

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 Before then, railroad companies were more concerned with toilet waste landing in train stations during stops. In the 1950s, all this inspired a Canadian-American folksinger/songwriter, Oscar Brand (1920-2016), to write a comic song (click to hear) that relates romantic love with the need to use a toilet while on a train, as well as with the Union army’s Gen. William Techumseh Sherman. Brand (left) took the tune from Dvorak’s Humoresque No. 7.

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Passengers will please refrain

From flushing toilets while the train

Is in the station. Darling, I love you!

We encourage constipation

While the train is in the station

Moonlight always makes me think of you.

 

If you wish to pass some water,

kindly call the pullman porter,

He’ll place a vessel in the vestibule.

If the porter isn’t here,

Try the platform in the rear —

The one in front is likely to be full.

 

If the woman’s room be taken,

Never feel the least forsaken,

Never show a sign of sad defeat.

Try the men’s room in the hall,

And if some man has had the call,

He’ll courteously relinquish you his seat.

 

If these efforts all are vain,

Then simply break a window pane —

This novel method used by very few.

We go strolling through the park

Goosing statues in the dark,

If Sherman’s horse can take it, why can’t you?

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Amen, but can you safely goose a horse, let alone a statue of one?

(more…)

 A 90-year-old man smoking pot on Mount Tamalpais this past July 3 sparked a blaze that set his clothes and the hillside around him on fire, according to the August edition of Tamalpais Guardian published by the Tamalpais Conservation Club. 

Mount Tamalpais

Were it not for a north wind that blew it toward the shore of Lake Bon Tempe, the two-acre fire could easily have spread through the watershed and the Cascade Canyon area of Fairfax, The Marin Independent Journal reported at the time.

 Of the various criticisms aimed at pot, its potential to start wildfires is not usually among them. But not all dangers are obvious. I just read about the danger of eating too much melon. Pope Paul II in 1471 died in the Vatican from a fit of apolexy after indulging his appetite for melons, writes historian Ross King in The Bookseller of Florence.

On the other hand, “some — mainly the pontiff’s critics — said that he had died [of a stroke] whilst being sodomized by a page boy,” according to Wikipedia. Another unrecognized danger, I suppose.

Pope Paul II

Anti Status Quo

Back before the mural on the neighboring post office was painted over, I got to know Laure Reichek at Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. She lives in Hicks Valley near the McEvoy olive ranch, and I first met her at seasonal parties there.

This is the cover of her last book, which came out two years ago.

As noted in a posting here at that time, Laure was born in Paris in 1930 and in 1951 moved to the US with her husband. He was an American veteran she met after the war when both were studying in Paris. 

Laure at 19 in Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laure’s latest book of poetry in part reflects the trauma of having seen World War II and fascism closehand as a child. Anti Status Quo is a collection of mostly grim ironies.

A week ago, she and I reconnected at Toby’s where she presented me with the book. Here are a couple of biting poems from it:

Of Thee I Weep

Can a man, woman, or child

walk anywhere on this planet?

 

Our planet?

 

It depends

whether he/she has

the money.

 

Money

 

to buy required papers

to cross artificial borders

of nation-states.

With money

you are welcome

to go anywhere.

 

Without money

you are allowed

when needed.

 

Without money

the beacon of light

will lead you to prisons

and the doors

will be locked.

 

While the poor

walk over mountains, deserts,

drown in rivers,

the rich will fly

in comfort through the air.

 

Oh, Liberty

of thee I weep.

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If They’re Poor

It’s their fault

for not choosing their parents well.

Instead of their labor to sell

they should have chosen oil wells

or football teams—

very profitable and clean.

My friends own pipelines

and the oil companies,

but I control the armies,

the press, the judiciary.

I’m the emperor of the

twenty-first century,

your thought content and context

your past present and future,

your freedom is the one I own.
I’m rich because I made the right choice.

If they’re poor, that’s their problem—

not mine.

 

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Laure in Paris, 2019

This collection of her poems and her book Autrefois to Today are available at <reichek.org/Laure> (upper case L).

For the second September in a row, the art gallery at Toby’s Feed Barn is featuring an exhibit by the superb landscape artist Thomas Wood of Nicasio. The show closes Sept. 27.

“My paintings are meditations on nature,” Wood commented last year, and once again all the works on display are landscapes.

 

San Geronimo Valley Road.

 

 

 

 

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Rush Creek near Novato.      Sold for $3,200

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Wood has been represented in dozens of exhibits, the artist’s background is impressive, including the surprising fact that his painting California Hills was on display in the US embassy in Belize from 2005 to 2008, as I’ve noted here before.

 

 

 

Thomas Wood at Toby’s last year. <twoodart.com>

 

 

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Lucas Valley

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Limantour Wetlands

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North Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore

The public is at least as impressed as I by Woods’ artwork. In the exhibition’s first three or four days, paintings were selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

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