Archive for January, 2022

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This weekend I rediscovered a trove of old t-shirts when a knob came loose on a dresser drawer in the bedroom. The drawer, which I had rarely opened, turned out to be full of badly worn shirts I’d collected during the past four decades but then forgotten about. In picking through them, I found many of these t-shirts were souvenirs of places I’d been and things I’d observed. T-shirts are often sold as such, but what I discovered is they can be arranged to tell stories.

This Synanon t-shirt, which an ex-member of the cult gave me, was an instant reminder of the late 1970s when I edited and published The Point Reyes Light and when Synanon was headquartered in Marshall. As The Light revealed, Synanon’s focus had evolved from drug-treatment to making money. It claimed to be a church in order to avoid regulations, as well as taxes on that money. Its lawyers began referring to Synanon as a “cult.” From there it was a short step into becoming a criminally violent organization. This history makes the shirt’s “Synanon the People Business” message all the more ironic.

Now here’s a souvenir I can use some help with. The shirt commemorates “The First Annual West Marin Oyster Festival.” I vaguely remember such an event, but I don’t recall where it was held nor whether there were more West Marin Oyster Festivals. Any reader who does remember is encouraged to let us all know know in the comment section.

“It Was Another Safe & Sane 4th in Bolinas.” What year was this? What prompted the boast?

How about this t-shirt from  the Gibson House, once a highly regarded bar and restaurant in Bolinas? Was there a particular issue that inspired this? If so, when?

The Marshall Tavern had its own shirt. Does anyone remember when this came out?

The Point Reyes Light distributed a number of t-shirts. This one from the 1970s is a reminder of the days when the cover price was a tenth of what it is today.

One of The Light’s particularly popular features was Tomales cartoonist Kathryn LeMieux’s Feral West. As seen, there was a time that graffiti artists frequently scrawled “SKIDS” along West Marin roadsides.

The vast majority of Mexican immigrants in West Marin are from Jalostotitlán. Beginning in the 1980s, The Light sent reporters to southern Mexico three times to document the historic immigration from Jalos.

As for my own foreign reporting, in the early 1980s, I took a two-year leave from The Light to report for The San Francisco Examiner. The then-Hearst-owned daily sent me to Central America for three months to cover fighting underway in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Surprising acronym. One of my favorite t-shirts from these adventures was from the SPCA Salvadoran Press Corps Association.

Because unfamiliar people showing up during a firefight can easily be suspected of being enemy personnel, the back of my SPCA shirt carried the message: !PERIODISTA! !No DISPARE! Journalist! Don’t shoot!

An example of  the violence in the air when I was in Central America. However, since “your country” referred to El Salvador, why was the message in English and not Spanish?

 

 

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.

The great American writer Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) is remembered especially for four novels: You Can’t Go Home Again, Of Time and the River, The Web and the Rock, and Look Homeward, Angel, which is my favorite. Although it’s a work of fiction, the book’s protagonist, Eugene Gant, is largely a stand-in for Wolfe himself. The author sets the stage for Look Homeward, Angel with an introductory poem:

. . . A stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.

Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.

Thomas Wolfe as a young, 6-foot, 6-inch, pipe smoker.

What brings all this to mind is remembering that a couple of decades ago when I was between marriages, I briefly tried answering ads published by online dating sites. As it happened, one woman I began exchanging emails with wrote that she is a fan of poetry and asked that I send her my favorite poem. Without hesitation I sent her Thomas Wolfe’s existential poem and was surprised by her response, which amounted to: “If that’s your favorite poem, you sound too grim for me. Goodbye.”

Apparently I disqualified myself by being a Wolfe man.

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.

This is a belated review of an entertaining linguistic book, A Charm of Goldfinches and Other Wild Gatherings. It was originally published five years ago by Ten-Speed Press. My wife Lynn gave it to me for Christmas.  The author, Matt Sewell, is a Canadian ornithologist, illustrator, and artist who has exhibited in London, Manchester, New York, Tokyo, and Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As most of us know, a group of geese is called a “gaggle” — but if the geese are flying in formation — the proper term is “skein,” writes Sewell. The term “comes from an old French word for ‘V’ Formation.”

Some group names are grim but accurate. Here a “wake” of vultures divvy up a skunk killed by an owl.

Virtually every night at Mitchell cabin we can hear a “band” of coyotes howling.

Groups of coyotes are called “bands” although to my mind, “choirs” would be more accurate. Sewell notes that “outside of their guarded family units, coyotes hang together in unrelated gangs, scavenging and doing whatever coyotes do.”

A “sulk” of foxes atop a shed at Toby’s Feed Barn. These were spotted by postal staff outside a postoffice window.

 

A “plague” of rats. Given my recent experience with roof rats, I would second the group name “plague.” Roof rats found their way into my car’s engine compartment around Christmas and chewed wiring, piled up debris, and damaged the car’s computer. The final tab at garages in Point Reyes Staton and Santa Rosa to repair the damage came to more than $2,500.

 

A “trip” of rabbits.

Sewell frequently indulges his ironic sense of humor. Describing how groups of rabbits came to be called “trips,” Sewell writes: “Now, some of you may be thinking: the trip would be to follow the white rabbit down the rabbit hole.  Sadly not: this term is from the 15th century, not the 1960s Jefferson Airplane lyric, or even Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which inspired the song. It is, in fact, about as psychedelic as a turnip patch.

“A colony of rabbits is a flighty bunch — not surprisingly, as the whole world is their enemy…. They are rarely safe for long, not when they’re hunted by hawks and owls, weasels, foxes, domestic pets, and humans, to name just a few.”

As noted previously, “jackrabbit” is short for “jackass rabbit,” a nickname it got because of its ears.

A “lounge” of lizards. This is a blue-belly lizard on the wall of our cabin.

 

Lizards are cold-blooded “so they need to warm up from the sun or on warm stones.”

“It’s this lounging that gets them into trouble though as lizards are easy prey in this laid-back state.

“If they are cruelly snatched, lizards at least have a last-gasp mechanism for freedom: they can release their tail, which will wriggle around in the predator’s mouth, confusing the daylights out of it while the lizard makes a dash for the undergrowth.”

I hope it gets there safely.