Archive for March, 2014

Gallery Route One in Point Reyes Station on Sunday held an opening reception for a three-woman exhibition of highly individualistic, often whimsical art. The crowd that showed up loved it.

Jessica Eastburn of Oakland, recipient of the gallery’s first Fellowship for Young Artists award, hung an exhibit titled “Mutatis Mutandis,” which is a commentary on today’s rampant consumerism. This work by Jessica is called “Trouble with the Sweet Spot.” _________________________________________________________________

Jessica calls this picture “Pistols at Dawn.”

Given the current corruption and gun-dealing scandal involving State Senator Leland Yee and gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, I asked the artist whether she had Shrimp Boy in mind when she created Pistols at Dawn.

Jessica told me with a laugh that she painted the picture before the scandal broke.



“Bad Vibrations: Middle Class,” meanwhile, includes a crime in progress. The picture in the middle shows what appears to be a security-camera video of an armed robber fleeing a convenience store. _________________________________________________________________

Former West Marin resident Lauri Studivant, is displaying an exhibit of “Applied Junk Art.”

Lauri, who now lives in Siskiyou County, once worked for the County of Marin organizing West Marin’s recycling program.

These days she collects litter and turns it into art.

Here Lauri (right) stands with her sister, Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park, in front of a nine-foot-high, three-foot-wide hanging made of waste paper. It’s appropriately called “Scraps.”



Lauri’s free-standing statute titled “Picking Up the Pieces” was assembled from 33,246 jigsaw-puzzle pieces.

Her sister Linda said it took Lauri a year to complete this statue of a woman.


Lauri looks through a circle of clear plastic in one of her hangings made from discarded items.



The artist Vickisa of Bolinas, a long-time member of Gallery Route One, displayed the most-colorful art in the exhibition. The artist told me this painting, “Precious Things,” is her favorite among the pieces she has in the show. ________________________________________________________________

A circus-like scene painted by Vickisa includes a fire eater, a sword swallower, musicians, and acrobats on horseback.








Another whimsical, circus-like scene, comes complete with musicians, a clown and a unicycle rider.

My favorite character in the painting, however, is the woman being drenched by rain falling from her umbrella which she is holding over her head on a clear day.






A guest admires Vickisa’s painting, “I Am Right Where I Am Supposed to Be.”

The self-portrait shows her painting in her studio as her dog looks in the window.





Vickisa owns a rescued cattle-dog mix named Rosebud.


Vickisa’s fondness for her dog can be seen in the number of times Rosebud shows up in her paintings.







Usually, but not always, dogs add a bit of humor when they appear in Vickisa’s art.

A couple of weeks ago, Vickisa told The West Marin Citizen that through her work she tries to show that art does not have to be a product of angst.

In her art, she said, she likes to demonstrate that art can also reflect joy and quiet contentment.


“I Am Just Coming into Myself” is the title of this portrait.

The artist calls her exhibit “The Vickisa Experience.”

The Citizen, referring to her “hard-won contentment” [the paper’s words, not hers], quotes Vickisa as saying she is “really pretty happy now.”

One thing that probably makes her happy is that her art is fetching good prices.

Vickisa’s pieces in the exhibition ranged in price from $250 for prints to $1,600 and $1,800.

Gallery Route One is open every day but Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The current exhibit will last through Sunday, May 4. __________________________________________________________________

After my former wife Cathy Mitchell and I went our separate ways in 1981, she began teaching at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and became the school’s first full-time professor of Mass Communications. She earned a doctorate at the University of Tennessee and with an Economics professor, Pamela Nickless, founded UNC’s Women’s Studies program.

In 1995, she wrote a book about the pioneering newswoman Margaret Fuller, who had worked for Horace Greeley at The New York Herald Tribune beginning in 1844. I’ve read the book, Margaret Fuller’s New York Journalism, which is first rate. Five years ago, Cathy published another book that I only just now had a chance to read.

(After my book, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light, was published at the end of last year, she and I traded books cross country.)

Cathy’s latest book is called Save a Spaniel, and like Franz Kafka’s story Investigations of a Dog, it’s told in the first person (first animal?) by a canine narrator.

Kafka’s dog spends its time contemplating the nature of existence but pays no attention to the role of man.

In his world, humans don’t feed dogs. Rather dogs through incantation, dance, and song “call down” food “from above.”

Unlike Kafka’s dog, the Boykin spaniel named Star, who narrates Cathy’s book, is fixated on how to get along with humans.

She is terrified when she angers humans, whom she calls “leaders,” rejoices when one calls her a “good dog,” and is ecstatic when one gives her a treat of yummy food.

Now retired, Cathy volunteers with Boykin Spaniel Rescue and has a spaniel of her own named Lily (seen below with Cathy in a Verve Magazine photo). Lily inspired her story, Cathy notes, “but this book is a work of fiction.”

Star is a dog that every leader calls “pretty,” but she requires training. She pees indoors when she’s scared, and she lightly nips leaders a couple of times.

Rather than train her, first one family and then another puts her up for adoption.

The first time it happens, an animal shelter comes close to having her euthanized.

Finally, a woman with more patience adopts Star, takes her to obedience school, and eventually trains her how to stay out of trouble.

Although she likes to chase rabbits, Star ultimately saves a pet rabbit she finds injured in the woods, and this cements her reputation as a “good dog.”

“No one dog could have as many adventures as little Star does,” Cathy writes in the book’s acknowledgements. “However, my Lily really did save a pet rabbit’s life.”

Sonora, 1971. Cathy (upper right) sitting with Bruce McKenzie of Berkeley and his wife Brigitta while I hold Andy.

Although she doesn’t mention it, I’m fairly certain one of Star’s other adventures is based on another dog in Cathy’s life.

When Cathy and I lived in Sonora, she teaching at Columbia Junior College and me reporting for The Daily Union Democrat, we got a cockapoo from the Berkeley pound.

A cross between a spaniel and a poodle, she looked like a small sheep dog. We named her Andromache after the wife of Hector in the Trojan War, but we called her Andy for everyday purposes.

One day Andy and the neighbor’s dog spotted a rattlesnake in our carport. When the neighbor’s dog started to inspect the snake, I quickly pulled the dog away only to have Andy get close enough to be bit.

Cathy and I rushed Andy to a veterinarian who didn’t sound particularly concerned. He didn’t administer any serum but did give her a shot of antibiotics. You never know what the last thing was that snake bit, he said.

With some uncertainty, we took Andy home. A goiter the size of an orange had formed on her neck, and she appeared to be drugged. It took a couple of days for her to recover, but she did.

In the book, Star is similarly bit by a rattlesnake and is taken to a vet who says almost word for word what the vet in Sonora had told us. Star too recovers. Cathy notes she discussed snake-bitten dogs with veterinarians at All Pets Animal Hospital, but Andy must have provided the inspiration.

The dominant theme of Save a Spaniel is the problem dogs and humans have understanding each other, but the problem can be solved. By the end of the book, Star has evolved into a therapy dog that regularly visits an old folks home where everybody wants to spend time with her, and she wants to spend time with everybody.

Save a Spaniel is an excellent book, and I’m hardly the first reviewer to say so. It’s available from Amazon for $13.46.

Wives Kill Most Spouses In Chicago, read a perplexing banner in the Sept. 8, 1977, Florida Times-Union. (Compared with cities nationwide, Chicago’s wives are the most likely to kill their husbands? Or is it that wives tend to hold off killing their husbands until they get to Chicago?) It was another meandering headline. As we all know, the press is full of them albeit not always quite that dramatic. Here are a few other confusions from years gone by.

First some background for those of you too young to remember: The first swimming pool at the White House was built by FDR in 1932. He used it regularly, as did Presidents Truman and Kennedy. In 1969, however, President Nixon had the pool floored over to create a press-briefing room but left it structurally intact. In 1975, President Ford replaced it with an outdoor pool designed for diving. Now that you know all that, perhaps you can make sense of this Sept. 12, 1974, headline from The Argus of Rock Island, Illinois: New ambassador to Japan joins Ford in missing swimming pool.

And I may never learn what The Bellingham (Washington) Herald meant by its Feb. 15, 1977, headline: State diner featured cat, American food.

These goofups from the 1970s were compiled for a 1980 Columbia Journalism Review book titled: SQUAD HELPS DOG BITE VICTIM and other flubs from the nation’s press. Such “flubs,” of course, continue to this day — even in this age of Internet media.

Here is the headline for a basketball story that was posted online Saturday:

Sometimes the mistakes are malapropisms (a word that sounds similar to the one that is intended). For example, The New York Times on Feb. 7, 1977, published the headline: 14 Are Indicted On Obscure-Film Charge. At least there was nothing Obscene in the headline.

Likewise, when The Alabama (Montgomery) Journal on April 23, 1976, ran a story about an induction, the headline was: 4 Indicted Into Military Hall of Honor.

Here’s an excerpt from a story that ran in The Scranton Tribune on Jan. 14, 1975: The breaking down of most prejudices and discriminations has lifted women from mental work to important management and top professional positions. My guess is that an overworked typesetter disliked her menial job and was bitter about top management.

Of course, some malapropisms in print are really typos. The Arkansas Gazette back on April 11, 1975, announced: Libertarians To Protest All Texas. They’d never do that today.

A mere three weeks ago, the headline below ran in The West Marin Citizen:

The fact that three young ladies worked up a sweat while supporting Future Farmers of America would seem to be a testimony to their diligence. Moreover, “sweetheart” when spoken with a backwoods drawl might be pronounced “sweatheart.” ________________________________________________________________

And then there are those times when incompatible headlines end up together.

Monday having been St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll close with this example from the March 17, 1977, Odessa (Texas) American.













“With joy I sing the miracle of spring/ The promise true of life anew the warm days bring.” — Popular lyrics to The Happy Farmer by the German composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Six blacktail deer stay together as a herd as they graze in the fresh, green grass around Mitchell cabin.

Many animals identify other members of their species by smell, not by sight. Unlike dogs, however, deer have the good manners to sniff each others’ front ends when making sure who is a family member.  _______________________________________________________________

The horses in the pasture next to mine at last have green grass to munch on.

They had been hanging out as a group, but with patches of new grass here and there, they now spread out looking for the thickest  clumps.

Their enthusiasm for dining over a wide area makes me think they had gotten tired of eating together at piles of dried alfalfa.


We’ve had 20 inches of rain in West Marin during the past two months, bringing the total for the season (July 1 to June 30) to 25.5 inches. In a normal year, West Marin would have received 40 inches by now.

Among the creatures appreciating the recent rains is this salamander, which I uncovered when I pulled a handful of pine needles out of a drainage ditch at the bottom of my driveway. Even in the open air, the salamander’s coloring provides amazingly good camouflage from potential predators. _________________________________________________________________

Many ancient Greeks and Romans believed that salamanders are born in fire.

Some salamanders inhabit rotting logs, and when the logs were put in a fire, the salamanders would try to escape, leading people to believe that salamanders were created by the flames.


The hills are alive with the sound of music.

The recent rains have not only turned the hills green again, they’ve brought back our nightly chorus of tree frogs.

The frogs are loudest at two stockponds near Mitchell cabin, but some hop on over to my lower deck to chirp.

This one is on bamboo growing in a wine barrel.

A Pacific tree frog’s color depends on where it is at the moment.

Unlike chameleons, whose colors change to match background colors, tree frogs’ colors change (between brown and green) depending on how dry or moist their surroundings are. _________________________________________________________

Immigrant flora and fauna next to Mitchell cabin.

Daffodils are native to meadows and woods in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, with a center of distribution in the Western Mediterranean, according to The Cultural History of Plants, a 2005 collection of scientific writings edited by Mark Nesbitt and Sir Ghillean Prance.

Turkeys, meanwhile, are native to North America but not to West Marin. Working with the California Department of Fish & Game, a hunting club in 1988 introduced the local wild turkeys on Loma Alta Ridge, which overlooks the San Geronimo Valley. The original flock of 11 hens and three toms all came from a population that Fish & Game had established in the Napa Valley during the 1950s. ________________________________________________________________

Turkey hunting, however, has dropped off significantly in recent years, and in some parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, wild turkeys are becoming a problem in gardens and on roadways.

Last year one bicyclist died when he crashed in Martinez trying to avoid a flock of the birds, The Contra Costa Times reported.

The year before, a motorcyclist wrecked but survived when a turkey hit him on Interstate 680.

And as I noted here a couple of weeks ago, a wild turkey blacked out the town of Tomales for four hours in 2005 when it flew into power lines over Highway 1 downtown.

Nor was it the first turkey problem in Tomales. They were already considered pests because of their tearing up gardens and aggressively challenging schoolchildren. On one occasion turkeys lunged at two youngsters on scooters, and although neither was harmed, both were forced to abandon their vehicles and flee on foot.

A Point Reyes Light article on the blackout (which, of course, is quoted in our new book, The Light on the Coast) reported: “Tomales residents’ efforts to get rid of the turkeys have met with little success. The Marin County Humane Society deals only with domestic animals, and Fish and Game refuses to relocate turkeys until an Environmental Impact Report is completed.

“In their desperation, residents even sought out exterminators but could find none willing to take on an assignment involving turkeys.”

During an open house and reunion Saturday, a happy throng of Point Reyes Light readers, staff, and columnists joined with former staff and correspondents to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the newspaper’s first issue.

The reunion drew staff and contributors who had worked at the paper at different times during the past 44 years. A number of former staff traveled hundreds of miles to attend. A couple of them arrived from out of state.

From left: Laura Lee Miller, David Rolland (who drove up from San Diego), Cat Cowles, Wendi Kallins, Janine Warner (who drove up from Los Angeles), Elisabeth Ptak (back to camera), Gayanne Enquist, Art Rogers (talking with Elisabeth), Keith Ervin (who drove down from Seattle), B.G. Buttemiller, and (in blue shirt with back to camera) Víctor Reyes. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine) ______________________________________________________________

The party was also a celebration of the Tomales Regional History Center’s publishing The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light.

Stuart Chapman of Bolinas, a former member of the staff, shot this photo, which he titled “Dave, Proud Father” because I authored the book.

My co-author was Jacoba Charles. Jacoba reported for The Light under its previous ownership and is a member of the paper’s board of directors under its present ownership, Marin Media Institute.

The colored Post-its, by the way, mark selections that I, along with others, would be reading to attendees. ____________________________________________________________

From left: Co-author Jacoba Charles, photographer Art Rogers, scientist Corey Goodman, photographer David Briggs, editorial consultant on the book and former member of The Light’s ad department Lynn Axelrod, and Spanish-language columnist Víctor Reyes. (Except where noted otherwise, the photos in this posting were shot by former Light reporter Janine Warner)

Michael Gahagan (left), who drove down from the Sierra Nevada town of Columbia to attend, published The Light from 1970 to 1975. Here he reminisces with historian Dewey Livingston of Inverness. Dewey for many years provided a weekly historical feature titled “West Marin’s Past.”

During the Gahagan years, Lee Sims (left) was the newspaper’s main typographer. This was back in the days before offset printing, and each page that went on the press had to be composed in lead.

In a piece written for The Light’s 30th anniversary in 1978 and reprinted in The Light on the Coast, Michael Gahagan’s former wife Annabelle comments, “Poor Lee, he had the disadvantage of being a friend of ours. One can always depend on friends — and we did lean on him! He was always underpaid and overworked. (Weren’t we all?)”

Catching up on old times are (in foreground from left): former news editor David Rolland, who drove to the reunion from San Diego, former typesetter Cat Cowles of Inverness, and former reporter Joel Reese, who flew in from Chicago. Standing behind them are current reporter Christopher Peak (left) and Matt Gallagher, who filled in as managing editor from February through July 2011. _____________________________________________________________

Samantha Kimmey (on the left) has been a reporter at The Light for the past year. With her is Tess Elliott of Inverness, who has been The Light’s editor for the past eight years   ____________________________________________________________

Gayanne Enquist was office manager during much of the 27 years I owned The Light. She was there when I arrived in July 1975, and she was there when I left in November 2005. (I was away reporting for the old San Francisco Examiner between September 1981 and the end of 1983.)

Former reporter Michelle Ling trades stories with Don Schinske, who was business manager during the 1990s and was co-publisher from 1995 to 1998. At left is her father, Dr. Walter Ling who teaches at UCLA. With his wife, May, Dr. Ling drove to Point Reyes Station for the celebration. In the background, Mary Papale listens intently to Laura Rogers.

Ingrid Noyes of Marshall (left) tells a story to my co-author, Jacoba Charles, outside The Light office.

Former staff recall the days of yore. From left: artist Laura Lee Miller, news editor David Rolland, typesetter Cat Cowles, reporter Janine Warner, and San Geronimo Valley correspondent Wendi Kallins. (Photo by Dave LaFontaine)

Sarah Rohrs was a reporter at The Light in the late 1980s. When several of us took turns reading aloud selections from The Light on the Coast, I read Sarah’s wonderfully droll account of a county fireman in Hicks Valley having to get a cow down out of a tree. (Photo by Joe Gramer)

Larken Bradley (left), who formerly wrote obituaries for The Light, chats with librarian Kerry Livingston, wife of Dewey.

Photographer Janine Dunn née Collins in 1995 traveled with news editor David Rolland to Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino and to war-torn Croatia in doing research for The Light’s series on the five waves of historic immigration to West Marin. Here she chats with the paper’s current photographer David Briggs (center) and her husband John Dunn.

Former Light graphic artist Kathleen O’Neill (left) discusses newspapering in West Marin with present business manager Diana Cameron. _____________________________________________________________

Former Light reporter Marian Schinske (right) and I wax nostalgic while photographic contributor Ilka Hartmann (left), looks on and Heather Mack (center), a graduate student in Journalism at UC Berkeley, takes notes. ____________________________________________________________

Former news editor Jim Kravets (left) jokes with photographer Art Rogers.

John Hulls of Point Reyes Station and Cynthia Clark of Novato have in the past worked with The Light in various capacities. In 1984, Cynthia set up the first computer system for the newsroom and ad department.

From left: Stuart Chapman of Bolinas, who formerly worked in The Light’s ad department, swaps stories with journalist Dave LaFontaine of Los Angeles and Light columnist Víctor Reyes.

Historian Dewey Livingston (left), a former production manager at The Light, poses with former news editor David Rolland while former business manager Bert Crews of Tomales mugs in the background.

In preparing to shoot one of his signature group portraits, Art Rogers directs members of the crowd where to stand. With the throng crowded into the newspaper office, getting everyone in the right place to be seen was such a complicated operation that some of the photographer’s subjects began photographing him. _____________________________________________________________

In shooting a series of three-dimensional photos, Art had to use a tall tripod and balance precariously on a window ledge and ladder.               _____________________________________________________________

Art’s wife, Laura, who didn’t have to work nearly as hard, pages through a copy of The Light on the Coast. _______________________________________________________________

The party was in part a book-signing, and I signed copies off and on all afternoon. ______________________________________________________

Light editor Tess Elliott reads Wilma Van Peer’s 1998 account of working for the paper’s founders, Dave and Wilma Rogers half a century earlier. The newspaper was called The Baywood Press when it began publishing in 1948. The paper’s fourth publisher, Don DeWolfe, changed the name to Point Reyes Light in 1966.

Originally the readings were scheduled to be held in the newspaper office, but so much socializing was going on they had to be delayed until the party moved around the corner to Vladimir’s Czech Restaurant where the banquet room had been reserved.

Among those reading besides Tess were Dewey Livingston, David Rolland, Matt Gallagher, and I. Anyone wishing to watch me read former publisher (1957 to 1970) Don DeWolfe’s account of his initiation to running the paper can click here.

It was a grand party, and I want to thank present Light staff, who made arrangements for the party, and former staff, some of whom traveled significant distances to attend the reunion.

Two other book readings are also scheduled. At 3 p.m. Sunday, March 9, in Point Reyes Presbyterian Church, Point Reyes Books will sponsor readings from The Light on the Coast and from Point Reyes Sheriff’s Calls, Susanna Solomon’s book of short stories inspired by Sheriff’s Calls in The Light.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, April 27, in its Corte Madera store, Book Passage will sponsor readings from The Light on the Coast. Refreshments will be served.