General News


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.

Most days I get a caffeine hit in the late morning at Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. It’s a convivial place with good pastries as well as good tea and coffee. I was sitting at a picnic table inside the barn a week ago when an older gentleman came up to me and asked if I was “Dave Mitchell’s father.” Unsure whether he was joking or serious, I replied, “I’m Dave Mitchell himself.” In either case, I took his comment as reflecting how much older I look these days. My hair’s gray, I’m stoop shouldered, and I often shuffle when I walk. Old age is a bitch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another day last week, I was again seated inside the barn when I heard a loud crash. Assuming two vehicles had collided on the main street out front, I went outside to look. Instead I found that a balcony on the front of the building had partially collapsed. A forklift raised too high had slammed into a lateral beam.

A different older gentleman had been sitting on the deck under the balcony, and he too had heard the crash but didn’t realize at first that the balcony overhead might come down on him. He wasn’t upset, but since then he’s taken to sitting inside the barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the deck encircled by a yellow warning ribbon, the feed store moved its flower display indoors too. Here Danny Holderman enjoys having lush bouquets beside his table.

 

 

 

 

 

Toby’s might as well be a community center so much goes on there. Beside the store and the coffee bar, a farmers’ market is held in the parking lot every Saturday each summer. Behind the store, art exhibitions are frequent, such as the current Marvelous Marin Landscape Show, featuring works by 14 artists.

 

As for events closer to Mitchell cabin, more rabbits than usual are around this summer. This jack rabbit, which is technically a hare, not a rabbit, frequently hops close to the cabin but never comes in.

Also seen around the house in early summer are baby cottontails, which are true rabbits.

 

 

Buoying Ukraine: West Marin residents’ opinion of Russia has fallen pretty low since its invasion of Ukraine. In a show of support, the blue and gold Ukrainian flags are being flown at the Peace Garden next to Toby’s, along Highway 1, and elsewhere around town.

As it happens, crab-pot buoys periodically break their harnesses and wash ashore in the National Seashore where I’ve found several. A couple of them have Ukraine’s colors, so a blue-and-yellow buoy now adorns our garden.

 

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.


National Night Out block parties and cookouts are held across the country, US territories, and in military bases in the beginning of August, to help develop neighborhood camaraderie and develop positive relations between communities and law enforcement.

Point Reyes Station holds one every year in front of the Arthur Disterheft Public Safety building, and this year’s celebration — complete with a barbecue, ice cream, and a band — was held Tuesday. Pictured center-left in sunglasses is Marin County Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Bret McTigue. In khaki (and a mustache) to the right is Marin Sheriff’s Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brenton Schneider.    

Several county fire department personnel, including Battalion Chief Bret McTigue, standing behind the Hog Island Oyster grill were on hand. The barbecues were set up in front of the public safety building, which houses the Point Reyes Station firehouse and the sheriff’s substation.

On a more serious note, last reports were that the Marin County Fire Department sent crews running five fire engines and a bulldozer to help fight the McKinney Fire, northwest of Yreka in Siskiyou County. We wish all first responders a safe return. The wildfire started Friday, July 29, and has now grown to almost 59,000 acres with only 10 percent containment. There have been four deaths of residents.

Lineup of community members (L to R):  Ron Wagner, my wife Lynn Axelrod, Tom Quinn, Ken Levin, Jeri Quinn. Ron is perusing disaster readiness info at Lynn’s table. Lynn is coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. (Photo by Rhonda Kutter)

Cindy Morris of Point Reyes Station and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni hold up some disaster readiness information. More is available at pointreyesdisastercouncil.org.

The free barbecue drew a large crowd of West Marin residents and lasted until 8 p.m. If you missed it, be sure to attend the one next summer.

Doreen Miao and I were neighbors for at least a couple of decades, but I never got to really know her until her life’s difficulties were compounded by a freak traffic accident on Highway 1 north of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road on Oct. 25, 2010.

I have only just now learned that she died peacefully at home this past April 26 with her caregiver Tina, her sister Amy from Mendocino County, and her sister Vida, from New Jersey, present. Here, as a memorial, is a synopsis of a posting I wrote about her 10 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroically cheerful despite bizarrely bad luck, Doreen Miao, then 57, and her dog Tully after her release from the hospital in 2010.

I first met Doreen after she was the human victim when a deer bolted in front of a passing car. The car hit the deer and threw it onto Doreen as she walked her dog Tully beside the road. Doreen later said that all she remembered was walking beside Highway 1 and then being in an ambulance.

Photographer Marty Knapp, who at the time lived on nearby Tank Road, told the Highway Patrol, as well as me, he saw the oncoming car, saw the buck and heard the crash but did not see it. Marty said he was not immediately aware that Doreen was lying on the ground, but two neighbors who could see her rushed over to help.

Marty added he felt certain the car hit the deer and didn’t hit Doreen. The sound of the impact was what one would expect if a car traveling 25 mph were to hit a 200-pound buck, he explained —  far louder than if a pedestrian were grazed. Despite the blow, the blacktailed deer managed to recross the highway and disappear. The driver stopped and told officers he’d hit a deer, but he was not aware of Doreen’s involvement. His car received only minor damage, the Highway Patrol noted.

Doreen, meanwhile, was knocked down and suffered a compound fracture to one leg, a broken clavicle, and rib damage. She then spent six days in Marin General Hospital, using a walker when she left. Doreen had already been dealing with an inability to straighten her fingers — a result of rheumatoid arthritis.

A native of Shanghai, Doreen lived most of her life in the United States. At the time of the accident she walked her dog Tully to the post office and back almost every day. Her three-mile round trip was mostly over steep hills.

After the accident, Tully, a miniature Australian Shepherd, returned to the post office where townspeople recognized him. Vicki Leeds of Cabaline tack shop took Tully and Doreen’s cat Maui to the Point Reyes Animal Hospital. After a week away, Tully and Maui joyfully returned home. And despite her injuries, Doreen was heroically joyful to also be back in Tomasini Canyon.

Sunday’s Western Weekend parade in Point Reyes Station as always included a lively bunch of dancers, such as the group Esforco seen here, which won the Adult Drill Team entry award and took the Grand Prize trophy.

Western Weekend had a good crowd for a joyous return after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This posting is just a superficial look at events. My wife Lynn and I shot numerous photos, but for unknown reasons, my blog’s computer program is refusing to load most of them.

 

The group of political progressives, Indivisible West Marin, was well represented in the parade, joining with Mainstreet Moms, a group of female activists, made up of both real moms and honorary moms. Sitting in the vehicle driven by Charles Gay are (left to right) Kathy Hunting, Wileen Sweet, Pam Ross, urging everyone to vote.  

 

Founded as Mainstreet Moms Opposed to Bush, aka the MMOB, the group carried signs that recalled key victories in the struggle for equality, such as: “1920, WOMEN CAN VOTE,”  plus “1952, ALL ASIANS CAN VOTE,” and “1971, EIGHTEEN YEAR OLDS CAN VOTE.”

Indivisible West Marin is a chapter of the nationwide grassroots movement that began as a response to the Trump election and continues to engage in “bite-sized” actions for democracy, especially electoral work, via telephone calls, texts and/or postcards. Local activists do as much as they feel comfortable with and support each other’s level of involvement.  A parade sign to “Join Us” means just that; they are always looking for more local participation. IWM produces weekly action suggestions and has a publicly accessible Facebook page.    

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

Rabbit showmanship — Junior Livestock, so to speak. As usual, Chris Giacomini made Toby’s Feed Barn available for Saturday’s contests and showmanship events. Here are the awards given out at the rabbit show: •Novice 1st Place: Hannah Slocum, •Intermediate 1st Place: Ricky Kelley, •Intermediate 2nd Place: Danielle Breeden, •Intermediate 3rd Place: Nick Kelley, •Senior 1st Place: Grace Perkins, • Senior 2nd Place: Tammy Kelley,          • Best of Show Rabbit: Tammy Kelley for her Mini Rex Senior Buck, •Reserve Best of Show Rabbit: Grace Perkins for her White Mini Senior Buck. Pictured are Trixie, a nine-month-old French Lop held by Danielle of Petaluma with her friend Hannah.

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.

Landscape painter Thomas Wood is in the midst of a four-Saturday show at his small studio on the square in Nicasio. The show will wind up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 25, and anyone who hasn’t seen it yet really ought to take a ride to Nicasio.

“My paintings are meditations on nature,” Wood comments, and indeed all the works on display are landscapes (with a bit of the Petaluma River thrown in). Morning, the painting at the upper left, portrays the morning fog in the trees.

 

Wood <twoodart.com> has taken part in more than 150 exhibits. Works by Wood and Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers were shown together at West Marin galleries in 2008 and 2009. Last year he held a well-received show in Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery and sold a number of paintings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Petaluma River in downtown Petaluma.

Redwoods.

The marsh at Schooner Bay.

Nicasio Reservoir changing hues. On our way home from Wood’s exhibit, my wife Lynn Axelrod Mitchell, and I stopped beside Nicasio Reservoir to try to figure out what is making a cove look light blue. It couldn’t be art. Could it be chemistry? (Lynn, by the way, shot all the photos in this posting on her Iphone because the battery in my Nikon was dead.) The shoreline at left is lined with foam, so I called Marin Municipal Water District, which owns the reservoir, to find out if it knew of anything dangerous in the water.

Update: I got a call back Tuesday morning and was told what looks light blue is probably some form of algae, which also occurs at Bon Tempe Reservoir. District staff, however, took water samples to confirm that the reservoir was safe.

 

 

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.

We’ll begin with a bunch of the jokes that are now circulating in West Marin:

• Wi-fi went down for five minutes, so I had to talk to my family. They seem like nice people.

• My doctor asked if anyone in my family suffers from mental illness. I said, “No, we all seem to enjoy it.”

• I told my wife I wanted to be cremated. She made me an appointment for Tuesday.

• I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me

• Camping: where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.

• I really don’t mind getting old, but my body is having a major fit.

• If you see me talking to myself, just move along. I’m self-employed; we’re having a staff meeting.

• Life is too short to waste time matching socks.

• A dog accepts you as the boss… a cat wants to see your resume.

• I thought growing old would take longer.

• At my funeral, take the bouquet off my coffin and throw it into the crowd to see who is next.

• The officer said, “You drinking?” I said, “You buying?” We just laughed and laughed…. I need bail money.

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The following sounds like a joke, but it’s really a news item from The New York Daily News and occurred in the State of Washington on April 19:

“Washington firefighters rescued a woman after she fell headfirst into an outhouse toilet last week.

“The incident occurred at Mount Walker as the woman attempted to grab her phone, which she dropped into the toilet during an outing last Tuesday, the Brinnon Fire Department said.

“The department’s chief says the woman took apart the toilet seat and tied dog leashes to herself as she went to reach for the phone.

“They didn’t work very well, and in she went,” said Chief Tim Manly…. “After falling in, the woman grabbed her phone and managed to contact authorities, who saved her.

“‘I imagine that she was probably very fortunate,’ Manly said. ‘I don’t have any experience with that kind of a rescue, except for now, but I know that is not a good place to be.’

“Mount Walker is in the Olympic National Forest, which is about 55 miles northwest of Seattle.”

 

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.

Russia’s attempt to annex parts of Ukraine upsets many US citizens; we’re horrified by Russian massacres of Ukrainians; many of us wish we could counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cruel policies. Well, one Point Reyes Station resident has been moved to try.

Betty Grinshtein, an assistant cheesemaker at the Cowgirl Creamery, this summer will fly off to Lviv, Ukraine, which is at the Polish border and is the city where she was born.

Betty Grinshtein (left) at the Rotary Club’s Peace Garden. The garden on the main street of Point Reyes Station these days is frequently adorned with Ukrainian flags.

Grinshtein, 44, hopes “to volunteer with the International Rescue Committee and help them with translation work,” as well as “any projects they may have for me.” Her ability to translate should prove invaluable, for besides English she speaks Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, French and some Spanish.

She holds a BA in modern history with a minor in linguistics from UC Santa Cruz plus a master’s degree from San Jose State in teaching English to speakers of other languages. She has already spent six years teaching English to non-native speakers.

One of her goals for traveling to the war zone is to help some of the millions of Ukrainian refugees “navigate their stay in Poland.”

This summer she plans to fly to the Polish side of the border first for “safety…. I feel the Russians may still bomb Western Ukraine, and I’d like to come back alive.”

For those who would like to contribute to Grinshtein’s endeavor, a GoFundMe page has been set up at <https://www.gofundme.com/f/going-to-poland-to-help-ukrainian-refugees>.

 

 

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