Archive for December, 2010

January takes its name from Janus, the god of gates and doorways in ancient Rome and Greece. Small statues of the god, who had two faces, one looking inward and one looking outward, were often placed at the entrances to homes. New Year’s is likewise a gate between two years, making this a time to both look forward and look back. So here goes.

Nicasio Reservoir overflowed Seeger Dam last Thursday afternoon, Dec. 23, district staff reported. More than 9 inches of rain have fallen here in the last two weeks.

As 2010 comes to an end, Marin Municipal Water District is looking into the new year with healthy water supplies. MMWD provides water to the San Geronimo Valley, along with most of East Marin south of Novato, and as of this week, the district’s seven reservoirs were at 97 percent of capacity.

With more than 200 people on hand, Missy Patterson’s daughter Alicia Patterson Ferrando (at center) on Tuesday spoke emotionally about her mother’s love for her family, as well as her candor.

A reception in memory of Rosalie “Missy” Patterson, who died Dec. 19 at the age of 84, was held Tuesday afternoon in the Dance Palace. The reception was preceded by a High Church mass in St. Columba’s Episcopal Church. So many people were fond of Missy that there was standing-room-only in the church for much of the crowd.

Missy, who came to West Marin in 1959, was the mother of 11 children. For 28 years under four ownerships, she was circulation manager and front-office manager for The Point Reyes Light.

Missy worked for me 22 years, and at Tuesday’s reception I noted she came to learn so much about her job that she sometimes had to explain to government staff the regulations for dealing with newspapers. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

People in West Marin trusted Missy, and when the last publisher found that numerous oldtimers felt he had turned The Light into a scandal sheet and had stopped reading it, he made Missy a columnist in an effort to win them back.

The column, Ask Missy, was a compendium of Missy’s thoughts about the world. Sometimes she was indignant and sometimes bemused. In her last column, which was published three days before she died, she wrote about being hospitalized (with pneumonia) on Dec. 2.

If she’d had her way, Missy wrote, her friend Barbara would have driven her to Cabaline Country Emporium and Saddlery to look at some shoes, but Barbara instead drove her to the West Marin Medical Center.

Missy ended up in Kaiser’s Terra Linda hospital for a week and then stayed briefly with a friend before returning to Kaiser. In her final column she thanked everyone who had come to her assistance, adding, “Take good care of yourself… and it’ll keep you around almost longer than my 84 years.”

Like many other West Marin residents I was dismayed by Rosalie (Missy) Patterson’s death Sunday at the age of 84. She was mother to 11 children, a pillar of St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, and a long-time employee of the Point Reyes Light.

For decades beginning in 1959, Missy and her family lived in Inverness although she spent her last few years at Walnut Place in Point Reyes Station.

Missy’s 28-year tenure at The Light was the longest of anyone’s in the paper’s 62-year history. I was second with 27 years.

Sometime after my former wife Cathy and I sold The Light to Rosalie Laird and her short-term partner Ace Ramos in late 1981, Rosalie hired Missy to help with bookkeeping. I kept her on as circulation manager when I reacquired The Light through a default action at the end of 1983.

When I sold The Light to Robert Plotkin in November 2005, he too kept Missy on the job and eventually had her also write a weekly column, Ask Missy. When Marin Media Institute bought The Light earlier this year, Missy kept her front-office job as well as her column.

Missy with former Light reporter Janine Warner and me in 2008. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

As front-office manager, as well as circulation manager, of The Light, Missy controlled who was admitted to the newsroom, the ad department, and the production area. She was very aware of the paper’s weekly deadlines and protected staff from folks who just wanted to gab when the paper was going to press.

Her sense of humor was wonderful. She was particularly liked recounting the time an indignant reader slammed the door as she stormed out of the office, only to be jerked to a stop when her skirt caught in the door.

When impertinent acquaintances remarked that she and her husband Donald must have made love constantly to have produced 11 children, Missy would cut them off with, “No, we only did it 11 times.”

Missy in the 2005 Western Weekend parade flanked by the late Frank Cerda (left) and the late Ed Brennan.

Part of Missy’s workday at The Light included trips to the post office and the bank. Six or seven years ago when walking long distances became a strain, Missy acquired an electric scooter to get around town, as well as back and forth from Walnut Place.

For Missy, the scooter was virtually a go-cart. She loved to speed up and down the sidewalk, beeping her horn and sometimes forcing townspeople to jump out of her way.

When Linda Petersen, who runs the front office of the competing West Marin Citizen, had to temporarily use a scooter herself following an horrific traffic accident last year, numerous people encouraged them to hold a race. Missy, whose scooter was more powerful, would inevitably respond, “I’d win.” Linda agreed, and the race was never held despite their being on friendly terms.

Missy died Sunday at Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda following a brief illness. A funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28, at St. Columba’s Church in Inverness. A reception will follow at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes Station.

When Sarah Palin said in a Nov. 24 radio interview, “Obviously, we gotta stand by our North Korean allies,” it was impossible to say who was more surprised: the US government, Korean War vets, South Korea, or…. North Korea?”

If General MacArthur were still alive, he’d be rolling over in his grave, so to speak.

This week, however, another politician surprised the world even more. At a fundraiser in St. Petersburg for children with eye diseases and cancer, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sang in English Fats Domino’s signature ditty Blueberry Hill.

If you haven’t watched Putin’s performance, I urge you to do so. It’s pure opera buffa. Although he pronounced it “Blueberry Heeel,” Putin managed to stay on key and delighted his audience, which included a host of Hollywood celebrities.

Meanwhile, my efforts to negotiate peace among this hill’s foxes and raccoons have run into a bit of a snag. Although there have been no outbreaks of hostility, each has taken to stealing the other’s food.

This initially caused me to leave bread for the foxes just inside my kitchen door, where the raccoons couldn’t see it, but the stratagem worked only briefly.

It didn’t take the raccoons long to figure out what was going on, and they began grabbing the bread before the foxes could get to it.

This left the foxes sadly contemplating the disappearance of their dinner.

Then I remembered what the late Jerry Friedman once demonstrated. Friedman, a Marin County planning commissioner, was also co-founder of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.

Back when I edited The Point Reyes Light, Friedman showed up one day with a photo, which we published, of his hand-feeding a fox that lived near him. If the EAC co-founder could hand food to a fox, I figured, I could too, thereby making sure the food was distributed evenly.

So far, Friedman’s system is working, and I’m feeding three foxes a night, along with three or four raccoons. The foxes and raccoons remain a bit wary of each other, and they all consider me as much a danger as a benefactor.

As for Putin, the US remains wary of him, but whether he constitutes a danger to this country is unclear. Also unclear is whether Palin is dumb like a fox or just plain dumb.

Friday’s Path of Lights in Point Reyes Station gave a festive start to the yuletide. Hundreds of West Marin residents flocked downtown after dark for events in several locations.

The annual lighting of the town Christmas tree, which is between Wells Fargo Bank and the Palace Market, drew a crowd that sang Christmas carols and held up candles.

West Marin Senior Services organized the tree lighting. The group’s chairman, Chuck Gompertz of Nicasio, welcomed the crowd, who sang along with Harmony Grisman and other West Marin musicians.

Part of the crowd (from left): Jasmine, Maria, Carina, with eight-month-old Giovanni.

Across the street, Point Reyes Books celebrated the release of The West Marin Review, Volume 3, a fascinating compendium of art, stories, essays, and poetry. The contributors range from Nicasio School 8th grader Kevin Alvarado, whose painting warns of violence against cattle rustlers, to native Alaskan Jan Harper Haines, who writes about belief in the supernatural. In Hootlani!, Jan describes her Athabascan village’s fear of referring to dead people by name.

Point Reyes Books and the Tomales Bay Library Association co-published The Review. Here Steve Costa (center), who owns the bookstore with his wife Kate, ladles out hot, spiced cider while contributor Amanda Tomlin (left) signs a copy.

Having contributed Tall Tales of Intelligent Animals to The Review, I was asked to take part in the book signing. I did, but many of those on hand were more interested in my new electronic cigarette. E-cigarettes, which provide users with a minuscule hit of nicotine, have no tobacco and emit only water vapor. Because there’s no smoke, I was allowed to enjoy mine inside the bookstore.

One oddity of the e-cigarette is that the recharger for its battery, which powers the vaporization, does not plug into a wall socket but into the USB port of a computer.

Meanwhile down the street, the gallery at Toby’s Feed Barn opened a show of art by Celine Underwood, carvings by Ido Yoshimoto, and prints by his father Rick Yoshimoto, as well as photographer Art Rogers’ portraits of the artists.

Santa Claus showed up among Toby’s hay bales to hear children’s Christmas wishes.

Also on hand at Toby’s was West Marin Citizen publisher Joel Hack. The once disheveled journalist is looking dapper these days now that West Marin’s newspaper “war” seems to be coming to an end.

Joel has hired as a part-time reporter my friend Lynn Axelrod, who once worked for me at The Light. Earlier in the day when Lynn tried to use a coverup in order to take a nap, Eli, the dog of Citizen ad manager Linda Peterson, quickly tracked her down and took her into custody.

Lynn, by the way, took all the above photos except this one.