Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Writing: Going Down With the Ship


When I'm not quite ready to write about something, my mind takes evasive steps from Oh, look! Shiny! to a case of getting lost in low-lying brainfog, or extreme sleepiness. Sometimes I  can slog through it, sometimes I just abandon ship. Sometimes it feels like I'm standing with a leg each in two rowboats slowly drifting apart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Becky Dart: Born to Run DRAFT

DRAFT

Me and Becky Dart ca. 1969. The fence is cribbed so I had her a while.


Once upon a time I had a sorrel mare so fast at the quarter mile, no other horse could beat her. When Becky Dart ran, it was like riding the wind, or a barrel down the rapids. She exploded with energy so fierce, it was hard to stay mounted. Of course, I rode bareback, and had thighs of steel. I was addicted to speed and she was born to run.

The thrill of riding an animal faster than any other four-legged creature on earth, save the cheetah, or antelope—neither of which you can ride—was euphoric.

My five-year-old mare came from Olema Ranch and cost $500. In those days there wasn't much readily available information on the pedigrees horses. Most pedigree story was passed down by word of mouth. My aunt's friend Chuck traced her pedigree chart, the long hard way. At first, he thought her pedigree was forged, then he said that she was valuable as a broodmare, her bloodline was that of champions. I had no idea.

Becky Dart carried the same ancestry as California Chrome—right back to the Darley Arabian—they were Drinkers of the Wind. I had the fastest horse in West Marin. I rode the wind. No one could beat that horse at the quarter-mile. But at the two-mile marker, on the old Lagunitas railroad bed in Samuel P. Taylor Park, I was always left eating crow. Or dust. My competitive mare wouldn't give up until she was thoroughlywinded and sobbing for breath.

I pored over that pedigree chart, the size of a coffee table, and memorized the names of her ancestors all the way back to the thoroughbred foundation sires. Her pedigree was studded with Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes winners: she had Triple Crown winners on both sides of the family tree. She was related to Man o' War, (1917-47) one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses of all time, through War Hug. And one jockey's name appeared again and again: the famous racing icon, Willie Shoemaker.

I remember watching Willie Shoemaker riding the legendary Candy Spots to victory at the 1963 televised Preakness.

Becky Dart's grandfather was Three Bars (1940-68) (XXX need to check this when I find that pedigree: it may be her great-grandfather). Other than a wide blaze, she looked like him. Same tiny ears, dished face and teacup nose, reflecting Arabian ancestry. she even held her tail up like a flag when she ran. The mare was a bit slenderer, though. And she had scarred knees.

How the mare came to that ranch in Olema, her sire, (XXXneed to check) Dart Bar, owned by Bill Cowan, was from McNeal, AZ), is a bit of a mystery. But her scarred knees suggest something went wrong and she was not racing track material. Retired from the track  before she even began. But she carried the names of Three Bars, and Dart Bar.

A cowboy at the Olema Ranch mentioned she wore braces as a foal, that's why her knees were bald. She probably sold at auction to the knackers, or a claims race, and was rescued by those cowboys who ran the dude ranch. For a cripple, she sure could run. She had a palamino sister at the ranch too, also out of Dart Bar.

That spring, I put my mare in Mary Bianchi's pasture to graze on the lush grass. I checked on her after school and she was fine. But that evening, I had a hunch something was wrong and and I found her down and sweating.

Nothing should've gone wrong, but it did. Shehad colic , and though I walked her for 18 hours, she never got better, she'd twisted her colon—peritonitis had set in. No way to save her. She died in Edie Lehman's sand arena, where I worked as a exercise groom—after a long, and violent struggle.

I never got over watching her die like that, screaming, and rearing over backwards, to escape the pain. The vet ended it with a foot-long needle to the heart. I always meant to write about her, never quite managed to do a decent job of it. A snippet here and there. A horse like that leaves a deep sinkhole in the mind, and I had backfilled it with grief.

I worked for the Lehman's training stable, and showed their horses at gymkhanas, I collected armloads of blue and red ribbons, but I didn't want to own another horse, losing her was devastating. She was big and beautiful, there was so more of her to love. There was nothing much left of my childhood landscape. Sometimes I dream of my horses running free on the slopes of Mt. Barnabe, and wake up with an inconsolable sense of longing.

I had to wait decades for the internet cute animal memes to parade forth in order to find this page on Doc Bar...which led to this post.

My brother Guy, and a relation—who, I'm not sure.

SOME LINKS  (research for later) Q, was Doc Bar a direct lineage, or were they related via Dart Bar?  I need the pedigree chart in order to iron this out. Meanwhile some resources. She was definitely a Dart Bar filly (the name alone reflects that). meanwhile, I probably saw Doc Bar, and his get in the arena at the Grand National, I religiously attended every year until I was 19. In those days, rodeo champ Larry Mahan melted my butter. I had a brief moment with him in passing...appraising eyes in both directions. Startling blue eyes. But we both kept on going. Walk on.

Larry Mahan won the title of World All-Around Rodeo Champion for five consecutive years from 1966 to 1970, and a sixth time in 1973.

Here's how one horse changed an entire breed forever: The story of Doc Bar  the most famous Quarter Horse in American History. According to an article from Horse Channel, Doc Bar began life in 1956 to ranch owner, Tom Finley. The hope was that the chestnut foal would be groomed to be star racer. However, that dream was short-lived when Doc Bar earned less than $100 on the racetrack.

Doc Bar Doc Bar was foaled in 1956, and his sire was Lightning Bar, a son of Three Bars (TB). Doc Bar, a quarter horse foundation stallion, was born on Tom Finlay's ranch in Arizona. He was bred to run but he wasn't successful. Instead, he made an exceptional halter horse, and was best known for revolutionizing the cutting horse sport. 

Doc Bar - Build for Rodeo one of the most desirable rodeo sires in history is the infamous Doc Bar. Where Doc Bar may have failed as a racing legend, he is one of the most recognizable Quarter Horses in the world. Doc O'Lena, one of Doc bar's most famous progeny, revolutionized the world of cutting and reining with his agility and speed. Doc Bar is now the all-time leading cutting horse sire

Doc Bar Color: ch Height: 14.2 SIRE OF: 487 foals, 1960-1978. 323 performing foals, Top Ten World Show Offspring. AQHA Hall of Fame. Doc Bar was humanely put down on July 20, 1992. He was 36 yrs old.

Flashback: The Story Behind Doc Bar Anyone with even a remote interest in the Quarter Horse world will recognize the name Doc Bar, for never has there been such a prolific sire of cutting horses. Doc Bar lived on a ranch is in California, near the town of Paicines, 45 miles south of Hollister. The author makes a pitch that Doc Bar got his good looks form his dam, but I disagree, as Becky Dart was not related to her and they share the same refined looks.

DART BAR ch. H, QUARTER HORSE, 1953  Color: ch  Breeder: Sidney H. Vail, Douglas, AZ. Owner: Bill Cowan, McNeal, AZ. His sire was THREE BARS and his dam, War Hug, was great-granddaughter to MAN O WAR  
William R. Cowan

William R. Cowan
William Cowan obit. 1924-2006   Bill's remuda was grounded by the renowned sons of Three Bars, Kid Bars and Dart Bar, who sired Chocolate Dart, Tom Dooley, and Mr. Grayson.
Obit of Bill's wife Cordy Cowan 1924-2011. She became well-known for riding beautiful horses and infamous for streaking the bathing suit competition in a pair of red-and-white checkered cowboy boots.  Kid Bars, Dart Bar, Mandy Bar, Chocolate Dart, Mr. Grayson, Tom Dooley, Joker, Stitches, Sorgum were horses many folks will never forget.  cordy.cowan@gmail.com

More info on Dart Bar at stud here but I can't get to it as you need an account. Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 21. Sept. 19, 1963
 
He served on Governor Bruce King's Border Commission and was featured by radio commentator Paul Harvey. Known as a man of honesty and integrity, Bill and his family most cherish his reputation as "cowman's cowman" bestowed upon him by his peers in the livestock industry. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/tucson/obituary.aspx?n=william-r-cowan&pid=20265773#sthash.bUEp6zb6.dpuf
Bill's remuda was grounded by the renowned sons of Three Bars, Kid Bars and Dart Bar, who sired Chocolate Dart, Tom Dooley, and Mr. Grayson. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/tucson/obituary.aspx?n=william-r-cowan&pid=20265773#sthash.bUEp6zb6.dpuf

William R. Cowan

William R. Cowan
THREE BARS ch. H, THOROUGHBRED, 1940  Color: ch Height: 15.3 leading sire of racing Quarter Horses. American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame 1989. Died April 6, 1968.

Three Bars  In the 1950s, the stud was rustled, and during the episode, Three Bars was clubbed, which broke his nose. The horse was found, however, wandering around in a junkyard. Three Bars was at Vail's Dart Ranch at Douglas, Arizona, from 1947 to 1951. Three Bars, the most influential Thoroughbred in American Quarter Horse history, was foaled April 8, 1940 near Lexington.   Despite severe circulatory problems in a hind leg, The chestnut stallion possessed not only speed, but excellent conformation and disposition.   A legendary sire of almost transcendental genetics, Three Bars sired champions in all facets of the American Quarter Horse breed.

Bill Shoemaker August 19, 1931 – October 12, 2003) was an American jockey. For 29 years he held the world record for total professional jockey victories. Willie was born in Fabens, Texas., At 2.5 pounds, Shoemaker was so small at birth that he was not expected to survive the night. Put in a shoebox in the oven to stay warm, he survived, but remained small. His diminutive size proved an asset, as he went on to become a giant in thoroughbred horse racing despite being a high school dropout. His racing career began in his teenage years, 1949 at  Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California. After retiring in 1990, Shoemaker returned to the track as a trainer, where he had modest success, training for clients as Gulfstream magnate Allen Paulson and composer Burt Bacharach. After an accident that left him paralized, Shoemaker authored three murder mysteries, featuring jockey-sleuth Coley Killebrew.

I remember watching Willie Shoemaker riding the legendary Candy Spots to victory at the 1963 televised Preakness.

Becky Dart


I have lifted a few of my own sentences from  three previous post about Becky Dart. I need to synthesize and expand this and make it all about her—vs an envoi to another story. Maybe when I retrieve her pedigree chart from among my papers in storage, it will provide the fodder I need.


Here are the other posts where Becky Dart is mentioned:
Eating the Wind  2014
Horse Chestnuts  2012
While Reading Essays by Robert Hass The Hass essay dates back to 1987, but I suspect I did a bit of revision by the time it made it to this blog format in 2007. In those days, I wasn't posting original writing, or first drafts. Now I also try and post first drafts whenever possible.


FIRST DRAFT

Once upon a time I had a horse so fast at the quarter mile, no other horse could beat her. When Becky Dart ran, it was like riding the wind, or a barrel down the rapids. She exploded with energy so fierce, it was hard to stay on her. Of course, I rode bareback. I had thighs of steel. She came form Olema Ranch and cost $500. In those days there wasn't much information. Most was by word of mouth. A friend did her pedigree chart and said she was valuable. Her grand? father was Three Bars. I memorized the names all the way back to the foundation sire, Man o War. Kentucky Derby, Preakness, she had Triple Crown winners on both sides. And one name again and again: Willie Shoemaker. 


I had to wait decades for the internet cute animal memes in order to find this page on Doc Bar...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Baking a Cake on Bastille Day


Last night, distraught by the news of a terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day, I baked a cake. When the going gets tough, tough broads make lemon cake. I haven't baked in ages. But last night, it seemed like the right thing to do. To balance all that bitterness and grief with something rich, sweet and tart.

I surfed the net before settling on a recipe I could tolerate. And even then, I was adapting it in my head, unconsciously nudging it toward the sublime symmetry of poundcake—quatre-quarts—made  with a 1:1:1:1 ratio; a pound each of butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. Sturdy bread flour, not cake flour, that has no gluten to hold it all together.

I assembled the dry ingredients, and as the oven was warming, I plucked handsome lemons off the same tree where I had placed that orphaned towhee chick I rescued a few days ago. I added an extra egg for luck, three golden jumbo-sized suns glistened in the bowl. Melted butter.  The Mexican moreda sugar gave the batter a faint caramel flavor.

I scraped little runnels of Meyer lemon peel into the batter, like the fine golden threads that connect us all. I jettisoned the sweet milk and substituted double the yogurt for sour cream. Alors, the yogurt had mold on the top, but I scraped it off, and carried on. I am amazed how people go off the deep end if there's a little extra spontaneous culture on their yogurt. I mean, it's already spoiled rotten. Just do a generous scrape-off and use it for cooking.

A friend sent a recipe for coffeecake. If only we could go back to a gentler time, to, say, The Koffee Klatch in Fairfax, circa 1972. The Bon Appétit recipe sounds divine. They're generally very good. Intriguing concept to brown the butter first, drive out all the water and whey, to give it a nuttier caramel color and taste. (Like ghee, but toasted).

Already I am adapting and revising that recipe in my head. I'd just use all soured milk products: buttermilk, or yogurt. No fresh milk. Why use both? What's the logic behind it? You balance the sour milk ratio with baking soda, and baking powder. Quick breads are a gaseous Alka Seltzer-laden  doughy mess that rises as the heat sets it in place. And soured milk products, besides being better for you, make for a finer crumb and taste.

A general yuppified recipe peeve I have for the Let Them Eat Cake crowd: Why use unsalted butter if you're going to add more salt to savory dishes, or cookies and cakes? What's the rationale? Who made it an inviolate "rule" is that you had to use unsalted butter? Nonsense. I get the theory (fresh vs old butter) but these days, there's little difference, cooking-wise—unless you're making chocolate truffles.

As it is, for that browned butter coffeecake recipe, you're going to fry the living daylights out of the butter, char the milk sugars and trace minerals to a crisp, and then vaporize the emulsified water, so all that's left in the pan is clarified fat. I say use whatever butter's at hand... Just remember to cut back on the salt. And buy butter you like to eat. Just don't use Crisco.         

And while we're at it, what's with the hoity-toity kosher salt? Is it a case of using iodized vs not-iodized salt? What's the rationale? I don't think anyone will be able to tell if rabbis or foreskins were ecumenically invoked. It's all NaCl, folks! Like bitter tears. Just use less salt. Always taste as you go. Ditto that with the butter.

For what it's worth, I generally argue with most online recipes. I question ratios, choice of  ingredients, order of preparation. I'm a member of the less bowls to wash up is more club. There is so much voodoo and hype around recipes—vs logic, or common sense. (My folklore prof., Dr. Dundes, would have called it the use of sympathetic magic.) It's chemistry, not alchemy, fergawdsakeses.

Do most of those internet foodies even know what they're doing? Or are they blind sheep? We can thank/blame reality cook shows for much of the hype. Ina Garten and Martha Stewart insist on using unsalted butter and kosher salt, but it doesn't blend as well as fine grained table salt. Julia Child's sidekick, Jacques Pépin, the only voice of reason, said if you use salted butter, cut down on the salt in the recipe. (Or eliminate it entirely). Not rocket science. The rule of thumb is to taste and correct seasonings as you go.

Apparently, during times like this, I seek logic and clarity. Something with discrete steps. Plausible. Logical. With a tangible end result. Hypothesis, theory, outcome. Sometimes, it manifests itself by my reorganizing decades' worth of photo files, or rebuilding my old computers No emotion there. Unless I'm swearing because I fucked it up. Besides I've been doing that all summer long.

The  errant cake overran the edges of the pan, sending smoke signals out the door, which brought Himself steaming into the kitchen, all in a huff, fretting with his manspeak vocabulary of blame. I told him to shove off. It is what it is. Was I supposed to pull the raw cake out of the oven and scrub the hot oven right then and there? Never mind that the cake would collapse into a hockey puck or a black hole. And the whole point was to make comfort food during this time of terror.

Je suis Charlie, je suis Paris, avec Brussels, Bagdhad, Orlando, Istanbbul, je suis épuisé. Je suis fatigué. Je suis fatigué. And now a coup in Turkey.

The timer rang in some good news. I found myself singing:

Orléans, Beaugency, Notre-Dame de Cléry.Vendôme, Vendôme.
Quel chagrin, quel ennui, de compter toutes les heures 

Quel chagrin, quel ennui, de compter jusqu’à minuit, 
Mes amis que reste-t-il?


The cake came out golden as the sun and sweet as a child's kiss and it satisfied a small corner of the soul.




Ask The Food Lab: Do I Need To Use Kosher Salt?
Unsalted v Salted Butter

original post: Last night, distraught by the news, I made lemon cake, I picked lemons off the tree where I had placed that orphaned towhee chick, and I scraped little runnels of lemon peel into the batter, like the fine threads that connect us all. I haven't baked in ages. It seemed like the right thing to do. I used some yogurt instead of sour cream, and alors, the yogurt had mold on the top but I scraped it off, and carried on.

Bon Appétit recipe sounds divine.They're generally good. Intriguing to brown the butter first, drive out all the whey, and give it a nuttier taste. (Like ghee, but toasted). I'd just use all soured milk products: buttermilk, or yogurt. No fresh milk. Soured milk products make for a finer crumb and taste.

A general yuppified recipe peeve I have: Why use unsalted butter if you're going to add more salt to savory dishes, or cookies and cakes? What's the rationale? Who made it a "rule" is that you use unsalted butter" Nonsense. I get the theory (fresh vs old butter) but there's little difference, cooking-wise—unless you're making candy. Just cut back on the salt. And what's with the hoity-toity kosher salt? Iodized vs not? I don't think anyone will be able to tell if rabbis were invoked. It's all NaCl, folks! Just use less salt. Taste as you go. Ditto that with the butter.

For this recipe, you're gonna fry the shit outta the butter, charring the milk sugars and minerals to a crisp, and vaporizing the emulsified water, so all that's left is clarified fat. Use whatever butter's at hand...

FWIW, I generally argue with most online recipes, amount ratios, ingredients, order of preparation—so much voodoo hype around them—vs logic. (My folklore prof., Dr. Dundes would have called it sympathetic magic.) It's chemistry, not alchemy. FGS. We can thank/blame reality cook shows for much of the hype. Ina Garten and Martha Stewart insist on using kosher salt, but it doesn't blend as well as fine grained table salt. Jacques Pepin said if you use salted butter, cut down on the salt in the recipe. Not rocket science.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

DEATH OF A SONGBIRD, BASTILLE DAY

DEATH OF A SONGBIRD, BASTILLE DAY
 

This morning I heard the drab towhee
calling out her plain one-note song.

She bobbed and wove like a supplicant
at the Wailing Wall. She kept calling out to him,
but there was no answering chirp or warble
from the wayward fledgling that I had rescued,
and placed near her nest in the lemon tree.
The yard felt emptier than usual. An echo, a sob.

I found the grounded chick in the driveway,
there was no escape from the habūb shadow of tires
running the gauntlet down carnelian curbs, they were
insurmountable as the Grand Canyon to one so small. 

Meanwhile, on the promenade in Nice, tourists dance & toast 
la Fête Nationale, fireworks blossom—oh la belle rouge!
while a terrorist mows down flocks of revelers with a truck.
Sirens wail an off key La Marseillaise in the distance.

Among, the fallen, 10 children. A woman lies on the ground
talking  to her dead child who cannot answer. 
Small feathers of grief rise in the wind.

7/14/2016




Nice" derives from the Greek, "Nike," victory.


I have a feeling this poem will change, or even divide, as I revise it:

This morning I heard the towhee calling her one-note song. And no answering warble from her wayward chick. The yard felt emptier than usual. Sad to say, I found the chick, or his brother, squashed in the driveway, the salmon-painted curbs, insurmountable as the Grand Canyon to one so small.

3rd draft:
This morning I heard the towhee
calling out her plain one-note song.
But there was no answering warble
from the wayward fledgling that I had rescued,
and placed near her nest in the lemon tree.
The yard felt emptier than usual. An echo. A sob.
Sad to say, I found the chick, or his brother,
squashed in the driveway,
the dark shadoub shadow of tires (I meant haboob)
running the gauntlet of salmon-painted curbs,
insurmountable as the Grand Canyon
to one so small. Meanwhile, on the clement shores Nice,
a terrorist mows down flocks of beachgoers with his truck.
Sirens scream an off key La Marseillaise in the distance.
Small feathers of grief drift in the wind.

7/14/2016

an envoy I don't know whether or not to add.


She's hopping up and down the driveway, bobbing and weaving like someone at the wailing wall, she keeps calling out to him, he no longer answers, he lies so near her in the garden above the curb, but she can't see him, can't smell him. Meanwhile the ants begin their grim work, transforming the chick into another iteration of the self.

This is one clusterfucked global village. Words fail. I can no longer keep track of the atrocities. Can I even name them all?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

CAMP Season: Georgia DEA Declares War on Gumbo


Ah, here's to the joys of the dog days of summer, as we head into CAMP-ing season replete with those pesky DEA helicopters hovering over our bucolic West Sonoma County vineyards, like overgrown gnats on steroids.

What I like to do during CAMP season (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting), is to set out a lawnchair, pop open a cool one, and watch federal agents risk life and limb as they practice their rope ladder acrobatics mid-air over the orchards. It's like having my own private high-wire circus. Emphasis on high, here.

A chance reading of a news headline from The Washington Post gave me both comic pause and a serious meandering of the mind:
Georgia police raided a retired Atlanta man's garden last Wednesday after a helicopter crew with the Governor's Task Force for Drug Suppression spotted suspicious-looking plants on the man's property. A heavily-armed K9 unit arrived and discovered that the plants were, in fact, okra bushes."
OK, so I'm a tad behind on my reading, that article dates back to 2014. But CAMP is still the largest law enforcement task force in the United States, I guess they have to justify that ginormous budget. Now, I can't say I especially like okra, I like the idea of okra, aka ladies' fingers, but this illicit war on drugs thing is going a bit too far. Doncha think?

Not only is CAMP a colossal waste of taxpayer money, it's devolved into a war on the Southern national dish, gumbo. I mean, really. Ya all don't find that funny? As one cannibal said to the other cannabis eater, does this clown taste funny to you? Hold the Häagen-Dazs. I respect the farmer's right to grow okra. Who knew that in Georgia, it's Give me gumbo filé, or give me death? Or at least a death sentence for cultivating okra.

I admit I like the idea of eating Malvaceae flower buds, aka mallow (origin of mauve—and purple prose). The Malvaceae family includes hollyhocks, hibiscus, cotton, and cacao—especially cacao—but noshing on gooey mucilaginous vegetables doesn't float my boat. Or slime my throat.

How the DEA mistook okra for cannabis suggests they've been smoking some of their own confiscated booty. Or they need to take a botany class. And hold the brew with the gumbo stew. 

The West African word okra, or okro is from the Igbo ọ́kụ̀rụ̀. One source suggest that the origin of gumbo is from the Bantu, ki ngombo, another suggests that it's the Choctaw word for filé, kombo. Medieval Moors called it bamya, from the Arabic. First written account of okra was in 1216, from a Spanish Moor in Egypt who described an herb the locals relished for their tender pods. It was not mistaken for ganja.

Flowering okra and seed pod—does this even remotely look like pot to you? —Wiki

Okra arrived to the Americas via the Atlantic slave trade. By 1800, okra—synonymous with gumbo,  was grown throughout the southern United States—Georgia included. It also became synonymous with southern cooking—especially in Louisiana. In fact, gumbo is the official state dish of Louisiana. You'd think the Georgia DEA would know the difference between pot and okra by now. What a fine kettle of fish calling the pot back.

This is a hibiscus, it is related to hollyhocks, cacao, cotton, and okra gumbo, not grass

Reading up on this curious matter, I discovered that 98% of all DEA helicopter busts are for ditchweed, aka feral hemp, from the pre-plastic WWII day. Not pot. Or okra.
"... of the estimated 223 million marijuana plants destroyed by law enforcement in 2005, approximately 219 million were classified as "ditchweed.... Unlike cultivated marijuana, feral hemp contains virtually no detectable levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, and does not contribute to the black market marijuana trade.  —98 Percent Of All Domestically Eradicated Marijuana Is "Ditchweed," DEA Admits

This is a hollyhock, related to hibiscus, okra & cotton, it is not grass.

For the record, most ditchweed, ferus cannabis, or hemp, has no THC whatsoever. I guess the DEA's other 1-percent track record on the war on drugs is for okra busts. Everybody let's not get stoned. Gumbo munchies? Last I heard, no one in their right mind has ever attempted to smoke okra, but ya never know. Ditchweed, yeah, but I heard it's like smoking rope. Harsh. 

Ditchweed is a growing concern throughout the Midwest as well. But it's no longer under close DEA surveillance in South Bend, Indiana. Said a police spokesman, “It looks like you’re in Colombia when you’re down there. You can eradicate ditch weed as well as you can eradicate dandelion” —Wild pot grows unhindered in farmland

 Love that dandelion. No report on the progress of massive dandelion busts in Indiana but I hear the dandelion wine is just fine.

The article went on to say: "Police said people commonly flocked to the area from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York to pick the low-grade reefer. “It’s a terrible quality, so whoever is harvesting it probably thinks they’ve hit a gold mine." —ibid

Hemp was used for rope fiber, weaving, paper money, oil, human and animal feed. Paint, varnish, soap and linoleum were made from hempseed oil. (Think I'll go nosh on some of my grannie's linoleum floor. Yum. I'd rather eat linoleum than okra.)
"According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, "The United States is the only developed nation in which industrial hemp is not an established crop." —ibid

A French hemp maze. France leads the world's production in hemp. Sacre bleu! —Wiki

The Greek term kánnabis may have been borrowed from an older Scythian or Thracian word. With the first Germanic sound shift (Grimm's Law), the "k" morphed into an "h" sound, and was possibly adapted into Old English as hænep. Another possible word origin is from the Assyrian qunnabu, a fiber, medicine, and oil used in the 1st millennium B.C.

 
The Yamnaya were one of the prehistoric cultures to found Western civilization—
with new languages, and metal tools—not to mention really good pot.


And the word canvas, as in canvas sails, was derived from cannabis. Yeah, Columbus arrived to the New World using cannabis sails. Smokin' the sails at sunset means you can never go home again.


Biodiesel fuel is the next big thing. Not to mention biodegradable plastics. Only in the USA are people busted for growing okra, and a feral plant legal in the rest of the world, is routinely busted by the DEA for growing in a ditch while under the influence....

Even cooler yet, hemp can be used as a filter to remove impurities from wastewater, sewage effluent, phosphorus from manure, and industrial chemicals; it was also used to clean nuclear contaminants at Chernobyl. Maybe it should be used to clean sewage effluent that's loaded with Prozac, cocaine, etc., and all those happy bay shrimp will have to get their street drugs elsewhere. No! Don't swim towards the light! (Shrimp hopped up on dissolved Prozac.) No more gender bender fish because of all the birth control hormones in the water. Bliss out, baby
More on cannabis nomenclature at the THE POISON GARDEN website including this gem: in Mexico, cannabis was available in the brothels and was nicknamed marijuana. Yeah, Dick goes to see Mary and Jane in the brothel and apparently a good time was had by all. Must've been really, really good okra.

And of course, you do know that hemp is closely related to hops.
And you wonder why you get the munchies when drinking beer. Before Prohibition, Sonoma County led the nation in hop production. "From 1915 until 1922 California was the leading hop-producing state in the Union." (Tinged with Gold: Hop Culture in the United States, Michael A. Tomlan).

Hop production survived Prohibition, but languished, shall we say, tanked? during the post-WWIII economy. My first boyfriend's mother used to earn her pocket money harvesting hops every summer. During hop-time, she waxed on poetically how families would camp out under stars all summer long. 


Hop-picking at Healdsburg, Cal. photo: MD Silverstein  —Healdsburg Shed

Remnants from that era survive as placenames, Hop Kiln winery, Walters' Hop Kiln Ranch (Healdsburg), Hopyard Road (Livermore), and Hopland just across the Sonoma County border.  Wohler Ranch was the county’s largest hop ranch, with eight hop kilns, alas, the kilns burned to the ground in 1945, the ranch is now part of the ambiance of the Raford B&B Inn.

In its heyday, the hop industry of Sonoma County was world famous. Hop kilns dotted the horizon along the middle reach of the Russian River and the flat plain between Santa Rosa and the Laguna de Santa Rosa.   — Windsor Times

Hildegard of Bingen first documented the use of hops, a resinous preservative and a sedative (it is related to pot), in beer in the 9th century. Before that, brewers used gruit: borage, burdock root, mugwort, and dandelions to embitter their brew.

And with all those boutique beer breweries popping up all over the left coast, it's become a poetic purple prose minefield for naming brews. There's the Russian River Brewing Co.s seriously swell swill, the immortal Pliny the Elder and Hoptime, Lagunitas Brewery features lupulin-laced  Born Again Yesterday, and Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid Ale (yeah, yeah, it's in Petaluma, they got kicked out of Lagunitas, my hometown—but the name stuck).

Add Death and Taxes, Lunatic Lager, and Reality Czech, from Moonlight Brewing in the old chicken processing plant in Fulton. 

I have a special fondness for
Hop Rod Rye, Big Bear Black Stout and award-winning Red Rocket Ale from Healdsburg's Bear Republic Brewing Company, in that I taught their daughter poetry at Alexander Valley School, where I've been teaching the kids poetry through California Poets in the Schools for 25 years. Bear Republic was named after Sonoma County's infamous short-lived Bear Flag Revolt and the inspiration for our state flag.


Thanks to the proliferation of micro-breweries, once again Sonoma County is producing heritage gardens of the finest quality hops on the Pacific Coast. Carneros Brewing Co. in Sonoma, is unique in that it grows four different varieties of estate-grown hops.

Hop along now, and don't spill your tall cool one, and you'd better hope and pray that CAMP and the DEA don't get the urge to bust the heritage hop growers next.

Herbaceous hop flowers (aka seed cones or strobiles) Humulus lupulus Wiki


Warning: some substances may or may not have been imbibed during the construction of this article. I'm pleading for a fool fifth as soon as the clock strikes five. See, there's a 3rd Street Puddle Jumper  languishing in my fridge.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!



SOME LINKS I visited, in no particular order

Heavily armed drug cops raid retiree’s garden, seize okra plants

 Wild pot grows unhindered in farmland

98 Percent Of All Domestically Eradicated Marijuana Is "Ditchweed," DEA Admits

Getting Hopped Up—Again The craft beer boom brings a quiet but triumphant return to hop growing in Sonoma County

Get Into the Gruit

County’s hop history, historic ranch celebrated with plaque

(With thanks to a Facebook post by Penelope la Montagne for inspiring this ridiculous blog post. Here's to you, Miz. Penny, the bottom's in danger....)  

First draft: my original post. Reading up on this further, 98% of all DEA helicopter busts are for ditchweed, aka escaped hemp, from the pre-plastic WWII days. No THC whatsoever. Hemp was used for rope fiber, weaving, paper money, oil, human and animal feed. Paint, varnish, soap and linoleum was made from hempseed oil. (Think I'll go eat some of my grannie's linoleum floor.)

And the word canvas, as in canvas sails, was derived from cannabis. Yeah, Columbus arrived to the New World using cannabis sails. Smokin' sails at sunset. The Greek term kánnabis may have been borrowed from an older Scythian or Thracian word. With the first Germanic sound shift (Grimm's Law), the "k" morphed into an "h" sound, and was possibly adapted into Old English as hænep. Another possible word origin is from the Assyrian qunnabu, a fiber, medicine, and oil of the 1st millennium B.C.


Even cooler yet, hemp can be used as a filter to remove impurities from wastewater, sewage effluent, phosphorus from manure, and industrial chemicals; it was also used to clean nuclear contaminants at Chernobyl. Biodiesel fuel is the next big thing. Not to mention biodegradable plastics, Maybe it should be used to clean sewage effluent that's loaded with Prozac, cocaine, etc., and all those happy bay shrimp will have to get their street drugs elsewhere.
 

More on nomenclature here. In Mexico, cannabis was available in the brothels and was nicknamed marijuana. Dick goes to see Mary and Jane.
And of course, hemp is closely related to hops. Hop along now, and don't spill your tall cool one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rescueing a Towhee Chick


 
Found this little towhee fledgling scurrying up the driveway like a mouse


A bird in hand is worth...? I found this little towhee fledgling scurrying up the driveway like a mouse. I was going to head out to do some shopping. I completely forgot to do my errands, as I played nursemaid to this chick. No milk, no TP.


No tail feathers, a suggestion of wings, orange ass coming in nicely.

Note to feather-brained self: don't jump from the nest until your feathers have fully fledged. He was reunited with his ma in the lemon tree. Lots of squawking going down. They had much to say to each other. I'm sure scolding was involved.

Are you calling me cheep? Ckeep? Why I oughta...

 S/he's been playing Marco Polo with the parental-unit in the lemon tree all afternoon. Mother bird barks a shrill militant "Marco," and her offspring dutifully answers with a melodious "Polo"—somewhat like a raven's secret warble song.

Insert Beatles song here: "She's leaving home..." Methinks s/he will be spending the might alone in the tree. S/e was eating bugs earlier, preening, simultaneously stretching both leg and wing at the same time, like a very small ballerina dancing to Swan Lake on a branch.


Um, you're not my mother. Emits an ungawdly squawk of protest.


Maw, come back! Feed me. I'm so very hungry.

ENVOI: Two days later, on Bastille Day, when I finally got around to running my errands, I heard the towhee calling her one-note song. And no answering warble from her wayward chick. The yard felt emptier than usual. Sad to say, I found the chick, or his brother, squashed in the driveway, the salmon-painted curbs, insurmountable as the Grand Canyon to one so small.

She's hopping up and down the driveway, bobbing and weaving like someone at the Wailing Wall, she keeps calling out to him, he no longer answers, he lies so near her in the garden above the curb, but she can't see him, can't smell him. Meanwhile the ants begin their grim work, transforming the chick into another iteration of the self.

I don't think it was me who ran over the young bird, rigor mortis had set in.It may have been another bird, but I think not. I went back and checked, I was feeling so bad.... So, despite my best intentions, I guess I didn't interrupt its karma, I merely changed its delivery date. Then I got the news about Nice. It all fell into place and became a poem.



DEATH OF A SONGBIRD, BASTILLE DAY

 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Type Faster


This morning, Facebook coughed up an old memory, a quote:

"What would I do if I had only six months left to live? I'd type faster."
                         —Isaac Assimov

I think I'd also travel. I love travel, how it unleashes language. And photos, the unformed image resonating on the retina, begging for the stasis of the photograph. Line and form.

But the main thing I would focus on, would be to get all my writing organized, online, etc. Books, art, photos, and writing re-homed... A daunting task, at best. I've been nibbling at the concept in one form or another during the past year, and beyond. I still haven't uncovered all my writing from those madcap SSU daze. Only hints here and there resurface. It's like an archaeological dig into the past of one's craft.

I'm also snagging old Facebook memories that pop up daily (mainly from 2009 to 2013), and turning a few of them into blog entries as well—if they merit it, and no, I don't think my aesthetic standards have slipped. Well, not too much, anyway. Facebook offers up old status quotes by the day, not by year. So it's interesting to see what I was doing on July 4, from 2009 to time present. Sometimes the gold's in the comments. Not the post itself.

Funny, I didn't twig that many of my old Facebook posts were also writing worth saving, other than the obvious ones. I am still uneasy with the concept of prose, and tend to shy away from it, as it's a different voice, not like how a poem comes, complete, and unbidden. And so it goes.

NB: Well, I've managed to load the bulk of my nature photos for 2015-2016 up onto Picasa, in two days... A whole lotta editing and culling: 72 folders and counting! I was up until 5 AM, and I hit the keyboard by 8 AM. Still to do Monument Valley and Flagstaff.  It becomes a diary of sorts. What I took photos of. Last year was tough emotionally. My partner went batshit crazy in Febuary, and it peaked in June. I was sleeping on my cousin's couch a lot. Seeking beauty and solace in nature.

I have people/event pix on another Google+ site. To do. Recycled a few bits of old FB fragments in my blog. Picasa's being shelved, deep-sixed, going to the dark net, so it means that some pix will show up on Google+. Not sure of all my kid teaching pix. I may need to rescue them. Or consolidate my two sites. I need to create a new Google+ site for CPITS pix as an archive, so that's a project in the works. I've got some pix and poems from 2015 in Dropbox, But I can see that I'll soon run out of room. Future task. One among many. Trouble is, I hate Google+, and I don't like the photo layout, but storage is now limitless. 



WIKI IS THE NEW OED
Straddling the Continental Divide
ALARMED AND DANGEROUS

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Finally found my cellphone


Finally found my cellphone—on the lam since Memorial Day Weekend. Not so sure if I'm glad I found it, or not. It's supposed to buzz and spin on its back like a hissing Hawaiian cockroach, when I call it. Hmmmf. Kafka's dead, I tell you. So much for Metamorphosis. Twigged my neck scooting all over the floor into deep corners, on my stomach, like a very large dustmop. Nursing a headache and a prodigious thirst. Didn't get anything done on my To Do list. Too traumatized. Just forget about any passwords working. Not in the cards. Yesterday the neighbor went on a batshit crazy rampage over rats. Tried to board up OUR crawlspace. I said But what about the 'possom who lives there? I won't mention the black widow nested under the Route 66 thermometer, I was playing toesies with. That's one way to get your kicks. More like kicking and screaming. I seem to have my own personal lowgrade Mercury retrograde techie cloud following me. The gnarliest of which, is that my wireless keyboard has completely lost its bluetoothy mind. Or has exquisite caviar taste in batteries. Stupid brushed al-u-mini-um battery-sucker stalls, stutters, or plain old types unrelated letters. Maddening ghost in the machine. I have to smack it like paddle to get it to work again. (It's holding its own now, small miracle.) No way I'm gonna upgrade the new hard drives in my computers now. Not in this state. I'm all elbows, arseholes, and emotional sinkholes. Make that a black hole. Mateo got my hopes up, told me to freeze my crashed hard drives for an hour, and maybe they'll start. Nope. Dyslexia is having a field day, unchaperoned, with spare change in its pocketses. Think I'll sit in the garden and watch the fennel grow. Maybe set the clock to 5PM. It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right? Maybe on the Yeast Coast. But, yeah, I'm fresh out of milk, which, in this household, is tantamount to a nuclear disaster, and coaxing himself to go get milk requires strategic tactics, I don't have the chops, and I don't dare drive with this techno-cloud hanging over me. The stolen car whose gifts keep on giving: like the new wheel bearings in Willits. I won't mention the quirky ignition tricks. Let's just say, you don't need a key anymore. Parking now requires a S&M steering wheel club and clutch club bondage routine. I can't seem to get anything done, let alone, done right. Spazzykakes crazy. Blame it on NASA's Juno orbiting Jupiter, which, apparently, is a big ball of gas. Juno is searching of an explanation on our humble beginnings, how everything started. 'Splains a lot.
And how was your day, Dearie?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

WORLD CUP


Around the world,
men are collectively screaming
at their TVs in unison,
yelling about the weather as well.
But not doing a damned thing about it.

#soccer

6/6/16

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Yet Another Migraine Day


I need to finish my final kid-book of poetry, but that blasted migraine just won't let go of me...just try reading with a migraine...Advil takes forever to kick in, and does as little as possible. Lazy sloth.

Not to malign sloths. I think they're adorable, especially when they snack on hibiscus flowers, or try and cross a road, clinging to the pavement with those long arms, like that time I got right smashed in Dougie McLean's pub, the Taybank in Dunkeld, and had to crawl down the humped bridge over the River Tay...  

Dunkeld, Dùn Chailleann means Fort of the Caledonii. They exacted a strange revenge. Or was it tribute? As we sat in the beer garden overlooking the River Tay, I also didn't factor in how long the gloaming lasted that far north. What seemed like minutes, was probably hours.

Great Birnam Wood, with its dark secrets, was to my right. People still leave flower offerings in the hole in the trunk of a massive oak reputed to be one of the last original big trees, but that would make it a thousand years old! The three witches told Macbeth he'd be safe until Birnam wood reached his castle at Dunsinane, some 13 miles away. He figured he had it covered. Across from Birnam Wood, was Beatrix Potter's beloved Eastwood House, where she was inspired to write her tales of Peter Rabbit. Odd juxtaposition of history.

Old Tree in Birnam Wood c 1880

THIRD APPARITION
Macbeth shall never vanquished be until
Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill
Shall come against him. —Macbeth, Act 4, scene 1

The Birnam Oak?
Och aye, I was the chicken crossing the road, and high Dunsinane Hill was upstream. Or was that the bridge? Oh puddleducks! I remember a hump in the middle. I admired the stop sign with its cryptic "Look" painted on the road pointing to Birnam Wood (were the trees on the move? Or was it an Ent crossing?), replete with white zebra zigzags that glowed like fangs— on all fours. Scottish beer seemed to be a tad stronger than American beer. I bet the next morning wasn't a pretty sight.

I'm thinking of sacking it. The Advil, that is, not the sloth, the beer, nor the puddleduck. Today I did manage to hand-calligraph 30-something Poetic Licenses for the kidlets. First names will have to do, I'm afraid. I can't focus long enough to decipher their last names.

OK, I've got a book title. Let's get on with it, shall we? Done with the final fiddly-bits, art work plugged in! Now to hobble over to the school in my stolen car that I can't clean up until the adjuster sees it, and the starter's permanently stuck in the ON position, so you can start it with just about anything. a nickel, a pen, your big toe.

When I got to school, I literally couldn't focus, all that bright light, spectacles were useless. So the teacher had to set up the copy machine for me....I banged out 40 kid-books, it looks lovely. I couldn't read my intro either, so here's hoping it'll pass muster, or my name's Grey Poupon.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

WHAT THE CAMERA SEES


What I see,
and what the camera sees
are not necessarily the same thing.
The camera is always post aha!
An afterthought.

6/4/16

Friday, June 3, 2016

Tomales Bay Photo


Tomales Bay from Inverness Park, New Year's Eve. The last gasps of a dying camera. This was the day my camera went south, the photos came out incredibly dark, and the imager had developed several black reflection spots. I was so discouraged that I didn't edit them. My skills weren't up to the rescue job.

Lightening the image up enough to see the trees turned the hill a ridiculous noisy blue. Cropping the sky close got rid of some of the splotches, and by playing with the levels, I was able to salvage some of the photos. I had to clone the black spots out of the water and sky. 

The worst sunspots eventually healed/faded on the imager, and I did a factory reset on it to partially restore light functions, but it's still shooting way too dark. And depth of field is not what it was. I can't trust it, now it only works on autofocus mode. I got a new camera in Feb. It was a long 2.5 months sans working camera.

Sadly those are also my last photos of the famous beached boat, the Point Reyes, before some asshole photographers burnt it down by wool spinning a strobe light on it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Earless Cat at San Juan Bautista Mission

At the San Juan Bautista mission, after hours, outwaiting traffic, we sneaked in through the back garden gate where I was greeted by a cat who was born without ears, and for our trespass fee, she wanted a belly rub. Pronto! She had a  nice thick coat but was in need of grooming. She doesn't get a lot of pets from what I can gather.

She was a sweetheart. Earless kitty, no scar tissue, the outer fur made a nice fat lip. Perhaps she had cancer of the ears, she is a white cat. But they didn't look malformed. And she twitched her stumps. I never realized how much I depend upon their ears to read their emotions. I didn't want to get chomped for rubbing her belly....but she really wanted a belly rub and a head scratch. So I obliged.

She's not a Scottish fold cat, as their ears are bent over. I don't know if it's a weird mutation or a new breed. She has a little igloo nest with a foam pillow and a blankie, her nest is surrounded by statues of saints... clearly she is loved. Ears, or no ears.

Monday, May 23, 2016

IN THE OPPRESSOR'S TONGUE


Caernarfon Castle,
built by the enemy,
a sign of oppression,
as we spoke glowingly
in the oppressor's tongue.

5.23.16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Farewell To Spring Photo




Clarkia, Farewell to spring, One of my favorite flowers. Our lower hillside in Forest Knolls was covered with them. Farther up the hill in the canyon, Chinese houses/pagodas.  

These beauties were blooming on Loma Alta ridge, near Big Rock, Marin. There were also scads of globe gilia, Itherial's spears, and brodiaea nearby, aka blue dicks... If I had included the blue dicks in the photo, added a little rock and roll music, it would've been the Dick Clarkia 5. OK, the Dave Clarkia 5. Ya gotta roll with the punches.

I love "crawling" inside a flower like that with a camera. See that ant?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Dawn, Mt. St. Helena, Photo

Dawn, Mt. St. Helena, Soda Rock Lane. Maureen Carden asks: Okay, how did you get the extremely bright sunset and the shadowed but clearly visible landscape in the foreground, together in the same shot?

I aim camera at the sky to set the imager to get the most color saturation for the photo (point lens to sky, hold shutter partially down to lock lighting setting, then drop camera lower to reframe photo, and click. 

I'm a minimalist. I try and do as little as possible to my photos, other than hit the auto contrast button. Then in Picasa, I lightened the mid ranges a bit, and used the sky filter to keep sky value. It's like a windowshade pulled down on the top of the photo, it helps restore the color.

I also use several settings, distance, sunset, night, until I find the one I like. Truth be known, I mostly use distance straight up, no sunset filter, as I don't like the color range. I also ruin all my cameras with sunspots....

Sunday, May 15, 2016

FLOATING WORLD


I once believed the world was flat.
I thought that if I went beyond the barbed-wire fence
where the milk box nested by the side of the road,
that I might fall through an invisible wall,
a well into a parallel world where it was dark,
but similar to this one. A reverse image.
But I also knew there was no way back up
no latter, no rope—nothing. I'd be stranded.
How would my grandmother find me?
The sun rose towards its zenith and azimuth,
until it cooked the milk, I wouldn't fetch it,
I couldn't—not even for my grandmother.
It was a seemingly simple request,
how could she know it fraught with demons?
So the glass quarts sat in the milk box
until they curdled and separated
into parallel floating worlds
of curds and clouds.

5/12/2016