Archive for March, 2021

Creekside Birds, Jack Long’s exotic-bird-breeding operation along the levee road in Point Reyes Station, has fascinated me for more than 40 years. Although at 96 Jack has greatly reduced the number of birds he keeps, they’re still all around his home, and on Friday he gave Lynn and me a tour.

Jack Long, a retired plumber, keeps a couple of parrots company in his living room, and they, in turn, engage him in two-word conversations along the lines of: “Hello, Jack.”

A pair of cockatiels inhabit a roomy cage just outside Jack’s kitchen door.

Jack’s operation sits on a narrow strip of land between the levee road and Papermill Creek. When the record storms of 1982 struck, his home and his cages were sitting in water.

Parrots nuzzling each other in their cage.

A Dene goose, the state bird of Hawaii, lets loose with a chorus of squawks while two goslings circle their cage.

A family of swans paddle around a pond in their cage. Ten years ago Jack was in the news (click here to read) for nursing back to health an injured swan from the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts lagoon.

As Lynn, Jack, and I strolled round his facility, we got to talking about a news story I covered for The Point Reyes Light back when his late wife Betty Jean ran a hair salon on the bottom floor of their home. One night a skunk wandered into the salon and managed to get trapped in a garbage can. The next morning while a couple of women were in mid-shampoos, a maid unwittingly dumped a wastebasket in the garbage can, and the skunk cut loose. With coughing women scrambling out to the street, a deputy sheriff soon showed up and shot the skunk. Despite being a quiet little place, there’s often a bit of excitement brewing at Jack’s spot by the creek.

 

Praise be, Lynn and I managed to get our second covid-vaccine shots Wednesday. In less than a fortnight we should be safe from the pandemic, and the people we encounter will have nothing to worry about from us.

Up until now, social distancing has been a lonely practice:

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But just scheduling the vaccinations was hardly a simple matter. Luckily we’re old enough to qualify for senior-citizen priorities. Kaiser Permanente in Terra Linda administered the shots, not at the hospital but at the Terra Linda High gym, a few blocks away.

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Lynn called to me one morning last week to say the the light was out in the refrigerator. In fact, the refrigerator itself didn’t feel as cold as it should, she said. “Maybe it’s come unplugged.” So I pulled the fridge out of its corner. It turned out to be plugged in, but we couldn’t immediately tell; there was a barely penetrable jungle of spider webs behind it.

While Lynn was struggling her way through the cobwebs, I decided to check our breaker box in the hall closet. As soon as I tried to turn on the closet light, I immediately figured out our refrigerator problem. We were in a blackout. That was a bit of a relief, but it left a jungle of cobwebs that had to be cleared away before we put the refrigerator back in place.

Afterwards, we decided to drive downtown and see how widespread the blackout was. As soon as we started uphill on Highway 1, its source was evident. A PG&E crew had the highway reduced to one lane at Tank Road (the unsigned road that leads uphill to the town water tanks). A four-story crane with two buckets, each holding a worker adjusting the overhead lines, was taking up the southbound lane.

Lynn asked one of the workers if this was the source of the local blackout. He said it was and that a cross-arm on a power pole had broken, interrupting our service.

Our power was off only two or three hours, which we easily endured. And we got rid of all the spider webs behind our refrigerator! Yay!

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Once again this week, my cartoons were forwarded to me by Pat Mitchell, wife of my cousin Leck in Colorado, and judging from several friends’ comments on her Dec. 12  jokes, her humor rings true here too. Thanks, Pat.

I’ve been so busy with my broom this past week that I didn’t have much time to prepare this posting, so I’m going to borrow some humor from other writers. I wasn’t sweeping floors in Mitchell cabin, by the way, but cutting Scotch broom at the bottom of our driveway.

We’ll start with two competing looks at what Noah’s ark was like.

The New Yorker, 1979

The New Yorker, 1988

The New Yorker, 1988

Back in 1988, holes in the earth’s ozone layer were constantly in the news because they allow UV radiation levels to rise at the earth’s surface, increasing the amount of skin cancers, eye cataracts, and immune-deficiency disorders.

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Some humor from Rodney ‘I don’t get no respect’ Dangerfield (1922-2004)”:

• “My wife met me at the door in a sexy negligee. Unfortunately she was just coming home.”

• “I told my wife the truth. I told her I was seeing a psychiatrist. She then told me the truth: that she was seeing a psychiatrist, two plumbers, and a bartender.”

• “I went to a fight the other day, and a hockey game broke out.”

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The New Yorker, 2004. Frustrating the bad guys in this modern era.

The New Yorker, 1979 — Said the rich guy.

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Comedian Red Skelton (1913-97)

• Recipe for a happy marriage: My wife and I always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.” — Red Skelton

• “I don’t need glasses, but I’ve reached the age where curiosity is greater than vanity.” — Red Skelton

• “I married Miss Right. I just didn’t know her first name was Always.” — Red Skelton

• “I know my limit. I just keep passing out before I reach it.” — Red Skelton

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The New Yorker, 1977

The New Yorker, 2004

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Comedian Bennett Cerf (1898-1971). He  was best known to me as a panelist on the popular TV program What’s My Line? when I was a boy 

• “The Detroit String Quartet played Brahms last night. Brahms lost.” — Bennett Cerf

• “Football season: The only time of the year when a man can walk down the street with a blonde on one arm and a blanket on the other without encountering raised eyebrows.”     — Bennett Cerf

• “Good manners: the noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.” — Bennett Cerf                            

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Bob Hope (1903-2003)

• “A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove you don’t need it.” — Bob Hope

• “People who throw kisses are hopelessly lazy.” — Bob Hope

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Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

• “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.” — Groucho Marx

• “A man’s only as old as the woman he feels.” — Groucho Marx

• “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them . . . well, I have others.” — Groucho Marx

This week we’ll look at some counter-intuitive observations.

Australia, for example, covers as much of the earth’s surface as the United States.

You could fit all of Poland into Texas and still be able to drive around it.

Each blue-colored state has less population than the County of Los Angeles.

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When I first heard the following admonition from some environmental-activist friends, I was skeptical.

If you lug a six-pack of sodas with you on a hike or a walk along the beach, the worst litter you can leave behind are the plastic rings that hold the cans together, or so my friends said.

The rings can entrap birds and other animals, such activists warn and often display photos of seagulls which had poked at something through one of the rings and then couldn’t get their heads back out. I’ve known of skunks getting into trouble the same way.

To avoid this, my friends say, we need to cut the rings apart before disposing of them.

So this apparently is the environmentally sensitive way to litter the countryside?

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Many of you classical-music lovers are probably familiar with Trois Gymnopédies by the French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). The composition is so light and dreamy that one San Francisco radio station used to play it every evening at sunset. Click here to hear.  (Sorry about the brief introductory ad.) I never knew what the word Gymnopédies meant, however, until I finally decided to look it up this week after hearing the music once again.

A Gymnopedia as portrayed on antique Grecian pottery.

What  a surprise! Trois Gymnopédecian refers to the gymnopedia, or festival of naked young men, which was celebrated every year in ancient Sparta to honor the gods Apollo, Artemis et al. The day-long festival concluded with gymnastic exhibitions and frenzied dancing offered to Dionysius. So the next time you hear this relaxed yet dignified melody try to remember it’s all about naked young men dancing competitively in Greece a couple of thousand years ago.

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Perhaps the most unexpected of all:

The Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marin County Office of Emergency Services, and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary all responded Friday to a grounded vessel along the shoreline north of Dillon Beach.  (Fish and Wildlife photo)

The Coast Guard at 8:45 a.m. Friday, March 5, received the first alert that a 90-foot vessel, the American Challenger, was in trouble near the town of Dillon Beach, according to a state report. The Challenger had been getting towed south from Puget Sound by the tug Hunter, but the tug lost propulsion when a rope became entangled in the propeller.  At 1 a.m., Saturday, the vessel grounded on a rocky shoreline near Dillon Beach where it remains, Fish and Wildlife has reported.  At this point officials’ main concern is that the Challenger could leak enough fuel to create an oil spill.

All of the world’s domestic turkeys “come from the wild turkey Meleagris gallopavo, a species that is native only to the Americas,” notes the Cornell Lab website All About Birds. “In the 1500s, Spanish traders brought some that had been domesticated by indigenous Americans to Europe and Asia. The bird reportedly got its common name because it reached European tables through shipping routes that passed through Turkey.”

Wild turkeys are native to every US state except Alaska but are not evenly distributed, so in the 1950s, the State Department of Fish and Game released a bunch in Napa County because of their appeal to some hunters. In 1988, Fish and Game took a group of turkeys from the Napa flock and released them on Loma Alta Ridge between Big Rock and Woodacre. All the wild turkeys we see in West Marin are descended from that small group.

Wild-turkey hunting is not all that common, so the West Marin group keeps growing, and flocks are now found throughout this area. This 25-bird flock is pecking for bugs and seeds on the hillside below Mitchell cabin.

Peacocks, on the other hand, are native to Asia and not the United States; however, some have been imported and released. It was in the news awhile back that some had been released in Texas. As it happens, a few have reached California one way or another, and a lone peacock now lives not far from Mitchell cabin.

For company, the peacock hangs out with the local wild turkeys although it sometimes wanders off on its own. Here it wandered through our garden last weekend. For a moment, there was pandemonium. The peacock and our cat Newy were both startled when they spotted each other only a few feet apart. Both then fled when they saw running toward them a fawn that, in turn, had been startled when it spotted me.

A Black Lives Matter demonstration came off peacefully in Point Reyes Station Saturday on the Wells Fargo Bank corner. A week earlier, some onlookers from out of town  and wearing Trump’s MAGA caps had yelled insults at a previous group and thrown a water cup at them.

Such demonstrations have been held nationwide in recent months to protest a pattern of unwarranted killings of black people by racist officers. Some people interpret the BLM slogan  “defund the police” (seen above) to mean “eliminate the police.” In fact, it was coined to mean reduce police department budgets and distribute the saving among social-service programs.

(Addendum: One nearby example occurred the day after this posting first went online. “The Oakland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct staff to design a pilot program to dispatch counselors and paramedics from the city’s fire department to mental-health crises instead of police officers,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported March 3.)

The Giacomini wetlands between C Street and Papermill Creek drew a few visitors last weekend but managed to remain a tranquil place for a stroll. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

With its wild turkeys and anti-racism demonstrations, Point Reyes Station is staying busy even as the rest of this stricken country slows down.