Saturday, February 18, 2017

Getting your Kip


 Someone posted a list on how to get a good night's sleep. At best it's a hodgepodge list of cobbled-together quasi-science. It's also making a lot of cultural assumptions. Which got my goat. Or my rhetorical flycatcher.

Here's the list.
Tips for good sleep include:
Eliminate caffeine.
Avoid naps.
Don’t drink alcohol.
Don’t eat a large meal near bedtime.
Exercise.
Try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
Reserve your bedroom for sleep – no TV, piles of laundry to sort or even books. If you can’t sleep, get up after 20 minutes.
Go into another room and read or listen to music until you’re sleepy.
Avoid bright lights and electronic screens before bedtime.

At first glance the list looks good, and some of it's fairly sound advice, except that napping is good for you, unless you're an insomniac.  (We do love our lists. They make us feel so organized...)

I would move Exercise to the very top of the list. Exercise during the day (not in the evenings after work). It releases endorphins. Exercise at night will certainly rile you up. 

Eliminate caffeine. Or just don't have any after after 2 PM. That includes chocolate. Yes. (Gasp!).

Avoid naps. You decide. Some people thrive on naps. Depends on the culture too. Me, I can't nap and I don't like falling asleep too early because I will wake up at 2 AM raring to go. I sometimes get my best work in during the middle of the night. 

Don’t drink alcohol—let's amend that one: after dinner. Why cut alcohol out completely unless you have a problem with it? Seems silly. I can see getting blottoed before bedtime could be a problem, but a glass of wine with dinner is good for the heart. It releases endorphins. Just like exercise. And chocolate. What should be on that list is no sugar (in the evening) because sugar, like caffeine, interferes with sleep. As does chocolate. Yes, chocolate.

Don’t eat a large meal near bedtime. Well, duh. Digestion and sleep don't mix well. Eat your dinner at dinnertime. Unless you're in Spain, or anywhere in the Mediterranean, then eat your dinner during the day and your supper late. But then, take long afternoon naps, call them siestas.... Oh wait, you're still sleeping after a big meal...

Move this list to another culture and the paradigm falls apart. How we divide our day with food and sleep is entirely cultural. There is no one correct method.

I did some research on sleep patterns since the Middle Ages It turns out this eight hours of solid sleep a night is a post Industrial Revolution thing. And all kinds of myths have arisen around the concept of what constitutes sound sleep patterns. Most of them are bogus. (See my reading list below.)

The point on that list that rankled me most was: Reserve your otherwise empty bedroom for sleep and have nothing in your bedroom, including laundry, or books...that is so post 20th c., and a first world notion. For whom is this sleep list meant for? It strikes me as very Northern European Anglo-centric. Waspish even, with a Puritanical hangover. Laundry causes sleeplessness? Oh my. There's an embedded judgement in there.

If clutter were a factor causing sleeplessness, then no one would be able to sleep in their bedrooms—since at least the Middle Ages. In fact, during the Middle Ages, most people didn't even have bedrooms. Or beds. Besides, you can't see those clothes hanging on hooks and book avalanche invading your sleep space when the lights are turned off—unless you have very good night vision.

I've lived on other countries, and slept in some odd places. My bedroom in Leningrad was also a well-stocked famine pantry. I slept on large vats of canned foods, the cupboard above my head was stacked with dried bread, dried garlic and onions hung from the walls. (I won't mention what it was like sleeping in the Indios' best company beds in Andean huts.) Most people in the USSR didn't even have separate bedrooms, the living room couches converted into beds. I doubt that it's changed much.

Ditto that in Japan where the communal living space converts to sleeping space. Where everything is beautifully austere and clutter-free. I could go on...

And what about we artists in our live/work spaces? Clearly clutter has little to do with getting a good night's sleep. Messy rooms, messy desks, equals a fertile imagination. No books? What's with that? My old poetry professor David Bromige propped his bed up with books. (Don't ask how I know, and no, it wasn't me).

I get the idea—remove anything from your room that you might be stressing on. But that sounds like a case of evoking sympathetic magic as Prof. Dundes might have said.

The idea of an empty bedroom equals a good night's sleep, also evokes the austerity of a nun's or monk's cell. For the record, they didn't sleep well. Or even through the night. There were novenas to be said, water clocks to be reset in the middle of the night. And that instruction: Go into another room to read...how we repeat the past. That's exactly what the monks did. They said their prayers then crawled back into bed for their second kip.

And the current pseudo-science notion that anything electronic (blue light) including a Kindle, an iPad, your computer screen (or TV), disrupts or interferes with sleep patterns is unsupported "science." The whole "blue light spectrum" theory is one person's hunch, no scientific studies have actually been done on it, and it keeps getting repeated as a fact...until it becomes "fact." Personally, I think she had a grudge against K-Mart's Blue Light Special.

Now I love incandescent light, it's comfy, reminiscent of hearth fires and candlelight. I'm no fan of LED or florescent light, and I don't like the blue color range. So you'd think I'd jump on the electronic blue light bandwagon. But I don't think it disrupts one's circadian rhythm to the point of creating insomnia.

I'm still toying with how it ties in with the idea of light boxes and SAD. Or if that's its origin. Besides, by now, almost everyone uses those energy saver light bulbs, right? Hello? Blue light? Yep. So having that table lamp on is emitting the same color spectrum as my iPad or laptop?

Someone at Apple read that same theory and now since the installment of iOS 10, my blasted iPad starts glowing like an orange pumpkin with indigestion at sunset because of the so-called blue light theory. First few times it happened I thought I was losing my mind...Why is the screen glowing orange? No, I'm not getting sleepy. Is there something wrong with my eyes? TG I found the app that caused my iPad to glow so strangely....

That said, TVs and electronics can keep you overstimulated at night when you're trying to doze off...but they seem to have the opposite effect on me....zzzz.

What probably messes with our sleep patterns more than anything is our fear of not getting a good night's rest. We've been told that we need eight hours of uninterrupted sleep—or else. Just like we've been told that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day—or else. There's not science behind either notion. There is no magic formula.

While we do need at least eight hours of down time, how we get that sleep, as long as we get both REM and lighter sleep (or deep rest), and we're not tired, then all is good. Unless you're Margaret Thatcher operating on four hours of sleep a night while running a country, That's not good. (I don't want to know the sleep habits of the Orange One.) But there is such a thing as sleep deficit. Hey-ho, hey-ho, it's off to work we go probably messes with our sleep patterns more than we care to admit.

Snyx? Did I miss something? I wasn't asleep, really...



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lemon Meringue Marengue



Though down for the count with a headcold, yesterday I decided to make lemon meringue pie for my beloved, a birthday and Valentine's Day tradition that had fallen by the wayside. But in an uncharacteristic pique of cabinet cleaning frenzy, I had thrown out the old yellow box of Kingsford cornstarch with the recipe on the back, and the elderly Albertsons's box only had glazed chicken recipes printed on the back and sides, which was not useful.

So I cracked open food-encrusted (sign of a good cookbook, is the resident food patina) Silver Palate Cookbook, so lovingly inscribed to Neil from Ingrid Gerstmann so many decades ago. A housewarming present from 1991—when he moved to this cottage. I thought of sweet Ingrid in NY, how she knew Neil from the theatre, dahlingk, how I went to school with her, and how small the world really is.

The scalloped pie crust baked (if only I had kept my grannie's spare dentures, the scalloping process would have gone much faster). Thanks to Jim Henin's old poem, my mind wandered far afield.

I gathered Meyer lemons from the tree. Because of the recent rains they had doubled in size, they looked like schools of bloated yellow pufferfish trapped in a green net made of leaves. Meyer monsters the size of oranges. Forget canary-sized. Or pamplemousse. More like Pamelona. The running of the bulls.

I peeled the rinds of three large lemons off in small wormy slivers (forget the 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest—we were going for the full Diet of Worms with the lemon zester to make up for lost time.) I juiced them, but because of the rains, they weren't very sour. So I added another lemon or three  until I had a large cereal bowlful of juice and rind.

I threw in 3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch into the bowl of juice and rind to let it soak. And then I looked for little swimmers—TG it was weevil-free. Nothing much likes cornstarch except maybe blankmange pudding and chicken glaze. That was way more juice than what the recipe (recollected in memory) called for, by a factor of three, maybe four.

I pulled the crust from the oven and began assembly.

I washed the French copper bowl down with salt and white vinegar until it glowed like a new penny (and thought of Neil Cook with his small army of salvaged copper pots), I scrubbed the equally country French huge balloon whisk (it looked more like bailing wire than a cooking utensil—no stinkin' stainless steel here!) with a large wooden handle—which hadn't been used for years, maybe longer (both gifts from my Aunt Jane when she was at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris).

I set up the double boiler (also unused for years—there was a time when I baked early and often), and I got down to it.

But when I read The Silver Palate recipe, it was all wrong. Two cups of milk in that much lemon juice? A real curdler. Not what I remembered. My grandmother and Aunt Jane had been adapting their variation of the Kingsford recipe since the middle of the last century.

So I went online, and found Alice Waters' Chez Panisse recipe from 1987, courtesy of the New York Times. I tossed in two eggs, three yolks, sugar and juice, and stirred the mixture in the double boiler, running back and forth from the computer screen to kitchen, oops! Not two whole eggs....then I saw how much butter... A cup? I wasn't making lemon butter FFS. WWJC say? (Julia Childs).

So, I flipped back to the Williams-Sonoma recipe. Closer to what I was looking for. But by that time I was so far off the recipe reservation, I was winging it. More sugar, more eggs. OK. Hey, what about that Limoncello in the back of the cupboard? Vanilla bean sugar? Why not?

Not that much butter. Are you kidding me? A cardiac arrest feature built right in, for Valentine's Day, so I tossed in another yolk to compensate. So much for watching the cholesterol. So I tossed back a capful of Limoncello for good measure.

I whisked the whites, added cream of tartar, noting that it too was from the middle of the last century—as was I, for that matter), that balloon whisked whipped the whites until they resembled glistening clouds in the bright copper bowl the color of a sunrisen sky.

I whisked the lemon curd which had thickened to the texture of fresh cement (maybe that was a bit too much cornstarch and egg yolks? So that's why all the butter—a loob job). I needed 2, maybe 3 more arms—make it a shiva's dozen arms. I was wearing lemon curd in my hair and on my newly washed red cashmere sweater (which I can probably never wash again, as it's desperately trying to shrink its way back to doll-sized despite my best efforts of washing it in creme rinse to relax it and stretching it with s steam iron—but it's red. Crimson red, I tell you.)

By this point, I had gobs of lemon goo in my hair, and no free arms to speak of. Where's that bottle of Limoncello? And by this point, the lemon curd was so stiff, it couldn't boil if it wanted to.

Lightbulb. I'll chiffon it with some meringue. Or was it bouffont? So I tossed in another yolk into the curd mix, added more whites for more meringue madness. Or was it merengue madness? I whipped them some more until my arms ached. Luckily the meringue held its air, from this rather unorthodox treatment—and didn't collapse on me. A real ollie.

Limoncello? Wherefore art thou? Forget Romeo. Give me the freakin' Limoncello, or give me death. By this point, I really wanted to die, I was so tired, And when the meringue resembled the texture of angel wings, I carefully folded in half the whisked whites into the concrete curd until it resembled pie filling. Or a yellow cello sponge.

Then I dressed the pie crust in raspberry jam knickers to keep it from getting a soggy bottom, added the filling, with a meringue chapeau (next time make sure the meringue can clear the height of the broiler shelf). And hoped for the best. Luckily the oven did the trick. Me, I went back to bed to recover from the ordeal. Best pie ever. He has no idea, of course.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Reading: Maureen Hurley & John Oliver Simon, Feb. 27, Bay Area Generations, Edition #42, The Bellevue Club, Oakland


Maureen Hurley emerged in 1952 from the ravine that trickles from the bloody green wordstreams of Eire out of the poverty creeks on the backside of Tamalpais where her mother hung out for a thousand years in the No Name Bar with Jack Kerouac and Bob Kaufman. Schooled in her craft with California Poets in the Schools, she has carried her lyre from Chernobyl to Lake Titicaca. She holds an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State and has been awarded eight California Arts Council artist in residence grants. She lives in Oakland.

—John Oliver Simon


John Oliver Simon began his worldly travels in 1942, from the red diaper bullpen of New York City, to scribing poem-broadsides to sell on Telegraph Avenue. While at Cal, he was active in the Free Speech Movement; he read with Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch and Kenneth Rexroth. Since 1971, he has taught poetry to kids, with California Poets in the Schools, where he has passed the poetry baton onto his granddaughter. In the 1980s, he began translating poets from Mexico to the farthest corners of Latin America. He picked up an NEA translation fellowship along the way. And the City of Berkeley honored him for his 50-year-contribution to arts and culture, proclaiming January 20, 2015, as "John Oliver Simon Day."

—Maureen Hurley



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Transliterating the names of drugs


My friend Jorge Luján, a poet from Mexico, developed a poetry lesson for kids called Imaginary Translations. My favorite: Dragons—stoves on the run.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my old UC Berkeley professor former Jeopardy champ (he got married on set!), Dan Melia's been having a good run with his own version of Imaginary Transliterations using drug names:
Drug names: Repatha: prize-winning Bollywood film.
Taltz sounds like something you can get a bad case of.
Trintellix: a low-cost cell phone service or Trinidad and Tobago's equivalent of the CIA. Trulicity: online university or Christian matchmaking app. Namzaric: master of the pan flute, or latest Sasha Baron Cohen character. (Or both.)
Viberzi: Italian cheese or one of those annoying horns they blow at soccer matches? (Someone quipped: All drug names are Dungeons and Dragons character. This one was a gnomish illusionist.) Victoza: right wing Spanish political party or Miami Dolphins running back.—Dan Milia


So, I decided to have a go at it.

OK, I'll bite.  Omeprazole: it's all about me, oh, me, oh my—self praise, I'm a fiesta screaming ¡Ole! while sticking in your craw. 

Omeprazole (alternate definition): an orange acid-reflux twittering Cheeto with smol hands, that causes, not cures, widespread indigestion upon contact. Approach with caution. And carry a big stick.

AKA Prilosec: Someone who stoops pretty low to hurl an insult, but doesn't take the time to properly masticate it and so it comes back up to haunt him.

AKA Losec: A harried SNL phone operator trying to swallow lunch and talk at the same time.

PeptoBismol: A pretty-in-pink pepOmint-flavored gullet unguent that tastes abysmal butt also has a dark side.


An Apostrophe too far


The Case of the Missing Apostrophe, or an Apostrophe too far.

I read an eoook where a clueless author got her apostrophes wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME! You'd think there'd be a 50% chance of her getting it right, but, no. Simple plurals were well beyond her intellectual grasp. She even wedged apostrophes into words that naturally ended with -s—which made for some very surreal reading pleasure. Not. I was swearing a bluestreak by the time I finished that book. She did not get a very good book review.

You see, I take this stuff seriously. I have dyslexia, and an apostrophe can make or break the meaning in a sentence. So, why are teachers wildly successful with teaching the rampant and errant use of apostrophes every time an S appears on the tail of a word? Clearly no one has a clue as to why they're using them. Other than they must use an apostrophe if there's an S. Hiss. His's? Hiss's?Cats and snakes have better grammar skills than said author.

OK, I looked it up. An apostrophe is a bridge that replaces missing letters or words! Blame it on Chaucer. Like German, olde English nouns in the genitive case picked up an -es to show possession. Mine! Take the genitive forms of Boyes, Mannes, Knyghtes, Kynges and Goddes. Drop the -e, enter the possessive apostrophe. The Kynges speech becomes the King's speech. Quit swearing! Hisses (oh, look, it retained the plural -es stem).

OK, so why did vegetable, and apple get to keep that final -e? Shouldn't it be vegetabl, and appl? Children? Come back! Ms. deVos, please do sit down. Quit polishing that apple. It won't do you any good.

Towhee in the Kitchen


Yesterday we had an orange-ass'd towhee sneak past the kitchen door which was open a crack, looking for crumbs, but then she couldn't get back out. She had a lot to say with her plaintive one-note call, as she tried every window looking for the way out.

My grandmother said that when birds enter the house it meant someone would die soon. She said this, as the towhees gathered morning crumbs at her feet like small chickens. The cats ignored them. Death wasn't on the menu.

Today she was back in the kitchen again, eating crumbs off the floor. (The towhee, not my granny.) In this case, it's all about the free lunch. Or a place to nest. Not death. This time she also knew where the door was. She only swore at me once on the way out. We're making progress, that towhee and I. 

See, last year, I tried to save her baby who fell out of the nest too soon, before it could fly. I perched it in the lemon tree—and I think she remembers something of it. Who knows the reasoning capacity of towhees? She has no fear of me. That's for sure.

She's baaack! This time she ventured down the hall to collect some fluff-n-stuff. I really should vacuum more often.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New swearword of the day: fascist, loofa-faced s***-gibbon

New swearword of the day: fascist, loofa-faced s***-gibbon.

Thank you Senator Leach for a gut-wrenching belly-laugh.

Score a 10 for sheer creativity. Shakespeare would be proud. Not the first time oor wee manny's been called a s***-gibbon, for aa' that. A right guid Scots epithet that made headlines when he mistakenly claimed Scotland voted to leave the European Union last June, (not to mention those ill-fated golf courses) which kicked their ire up a notch. The Scots loaded both barrels because wee nyaff just wouldn't do.

My friend Mark Adler quipped: I can't unsee it. I'll never look at a loofa-sponge the same way again. Yeah. Shades of the Bill O'Reilly loofah escapade. Scrub-a-dub-ya-dub. There's a new Dubya in town. So hysterical I'll even forgive the loofah typo. But it's so not fair to slander and malign the poor gibbons with the Orange One.

Think I'll file this one under linguistics. Ya can't make this shit up.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy Birthday Dougie Jarret,


Dougie Jarret, last night I dreamed we were still young, you were driving your hotrod. Revving a turquoise two-tone Chevy in front of your house in Forest Knolls. I was banging on the passenger window of a car from this century, just as we were slowing down to turn up Arroyo Road, toward home. I was trying to get your attention, screaming Happy Birthday Dougie! But you couldn't hear me from across the ages. So, I rolled down the window, entered your world, and you smiled that James Dean smile that left the girls giddy and breathless. And still you couldn't hear me. I awoke to find that today is your birthday. Like, Dude! Happy Birthday and now, get out of my dreams already!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

RAIN HAIKU


Tempestuous night
rain hammers a thirsty land
mountains become prone.


She didn't expect
runaway nightmares, sleeping
on the horse-sleigh bed.


Staccato of rain
cats racing to the front door
to outwit the storm.


His words are windows
streaked with the grime and decay
of alternate facts.


Sing America
while the enemy within strikes
down justice and truth.

Preserving the past: Centrum in the early 1980s (photo)




In the process of using old Facebook Memories to flush out the gaps in my blog, I discovered that I had met Meridel LeSueur, not in 1981, but according to the Centrum site, it was 1980. I will need to readjust many (undated) poem dates...

Not only that, as I attempted to fill in the gaps on this timeline, I discovered that I've been misspelling Meridel's last name for decades. It's LeSueur, not LeSeuer!!! Got that. Awg, egg on face. Blame it on dyslexia. (True—I had a hard time unraveling it—even now, when I knew it was wrong and I had to resort to a snapshot of her name to keep it right in my head.)

As to fluffing out this blog, the trouble is, my Facebook Memories only date back to 2007. So it doesn't help flush out those impoverished writing years. I'm still sorting old papers, so more work is coming, but the bulk of the poetry has been scanned and posted (a huge task). Now it's come down to transcribing old journal entries. (Not the highest on my priorities list, of sorting all my old papers, filing them, and eventually dispatching them.)

The year 1980 is particularly dicey in that I didn't seem to keep a proper journal. Napkins, paper place-mats and menus were pressed into service, along with carbon paper separator tissue, as well as the backs of old posters and poem revisions—an odd sleuthy way to date my many undated old poems.
 
So, I must've gone to Centrum three times. I know we were personae non gratae for crashing the gates of the kingdom when Meridel was there. Mary Jane Bangs in particular had it out for me. She actually chased me out of a reading, screaming bloody murder, the only thing missing in that lunatic chase, was a cleaver in her hand. No matter that it was free and open to the public. Luckily she never knew my name. The nerve. Crashing  a poetry reading/reception like that. I was an alley cat, hungry for poetry. Perhaps the free wine and hors d'oeuvres were involved as well. 


Jim Heynen, one of the other Centrum coordinators, apologized to me later. He didn't mind that I was there as a freeloader. Jim read a screamer of a poem about someone using false teeth to make the scallops on a pie crust, and David Lee read from The Porcine Legacy. Worth the gate crashing entrance fee.






Writing at Centrum

1980 (I went to this one; I remember meeting Lisel Mueller, and Bill Knott as well as Donald Hall; I think this is the year I met Bill Root and Pan Uschek, and Rusty North.)

FACULTY: Galway Kinnell, Meridel LeSueur, Richard Shelton, Ann Standork, James Bertolino, Madeline DeFrees, Donald Hall, Sam Hamill, Bill Ransom, Lisel Mueller, Bill Knot.




1981 (I'm pretty certain I went to this one too as I have a journal entry on Jack Cady; and I spent time with Tree Swenson and Kathleene over at Copper Canyon Press. Kathleene West (what was her last name back then. I found out that Linnerson was her maiden name, she said she was always reinventing herself. Anyway, she got me to apply to teach poetry to kids in Montana.)

FACULTY: Margaret Atwood, Robert Haas, William Matthews, Sam Hamill, Tree Swenson, Leslie Marmon Silko, William Stafford, Jack Cady, Jane Yolen.
 
1982  (I know that I went to this one too, I remember singing and drinking with Tess and Ray (note to self: don't try to keep up with them drinking); I fell in love with Thomas McGrath. I remember his imaginary letters, and something about coal mines.)

FACULTY: Olga Broumas, Henry Carlile, Sandra McPherson, Carolyn Forché, Tess Gallagher, Sam Hamill, Paul Hansen, Jim Heynen, Thomas McGrath, Richard Shelton, James Laughlin, Raymond Carver, Gordon Lish.







This photo engendered an interesting conversation on June, 2013, which was worth preserving in situ.
Facebook conversation (photo) Lyle Daggett & me on Bukowski, Black Sparrow Press, Doubiago

And another much shorter version of this post was filed July 10, 1980, for continuity's sake.
Port Townsend Poetry Conference 1980 (photo)



Preserving the Past: scanning old family photos (at what cost)


I've been preoccupied with the process of creating order out of orphaned papers since November, 2014, when we had to clean out my grandmother's house (which not only contained her memorabilia, her husband's memorabilia, but also that of her three daughters, as well).

And when I suddenly had to move all my stuff from my old cabin, which in danger of falling down, during the summer of 2015, I was left with mountains of my own paper, photos, etc., that had accumulated during a 35-year-career of being an artist and writer. The penny dropped. Get it together now. Don't leave all that crap behind for those who will survive you. Because it will all wind up in the county dump.

In 2015, I rescued and scanned thousands of family photos—after catching my uncle pitching my aunt Jane's France photos in the trash—Jane had lived with my grannie until her death in 1987, then moved down to Santa Cruz with my aunt Toddy ca. 2002, when she had breast cancer.

My aunt Canice, who lived in my grandmother's house too, until her death from colon cancer in 2012, also left mountains of memorabilia behind. And my mother's stuff from 1994, not to mention her ashes, was still in the house as well. None of the three sisters particularly got along, and each one of them was a hostile hoarder.

In the summer of 2015, I created an online photo archive. By 2016, I finished scanning most of the family photos. Except for the ones in Santa Cruz. Then my aunt Jane, who was living in Santa Cruz, with her sister, my aunt Toddy (Kathleen), died a month after her birthday.

I had made order out of most of Jane's old photos, scanned them, and had returned them all to her in Santa Cruz in June, on her birthday—when we found out that Jane's cancer had metastacised as melanoma and uterine cancer.

My cousin Katie saw me looking though a box of Jane's photos, accused me of stealing Jane's photos as I was returning the last batch.The irony is that most of them were photos that I salvaged from the basement trash cans. I was merely taking the final batch of photos north to be scanned, and Jane had given me permission.

But Katie, misread the situation, not knowing that Jane had given me permission to take more photos, thought I was stealing them. It just doesn't make sense, but Katie was under a lot of stress at the time. My explanations fell on deaf ears. And the "problem" escalated.

For some reason, all three of my Santa Cruz cousins completely lost their minds because I continued to scan family photos. Maybe they thought I'd stop if they got angry enough? I don't know. It's useless to speculate on irrational behavior. The next time I went down to see Toddy, in October,  all kinds of accusations of theft and epithets were hurled at me—for preserving family history.

I was devastated, in that I loved my cousins, and had devoted thousands of hours to the process of preserving our family history. As my cousin Barney verbally abused me, with his brother Myles joining in, I realized that I'd never set foot in that house again, that I'd never see their mother, my aunt Toddy, alive again. I hugged my aunt, made my final goodbyes, walked out their front door into the night, and waited for the death announcement to come.

Meanwhile during the summer of 2016, I began scanning my own photos—I had lots of travel photos. I still need to process them and put them online, which I do, from time to time, in random fits and starts. I still need to tackle the black and white photos of the 1980s and 1990s when I worked for The Paper, etc. Mostly photos of famous poets, etc. But for that I need a negative scanner. On the TO DO list. A massive task.

When my aunt Toddy died last month, we were able to go into the family archives and share the wealth of our family history. Toddy's daughter Katie and I made up at the memorial last weekend, but Barney and Myles are still heavily barricaded behind their irrational anger and misdirected hostility towards me for scanning (not stealing) family photos, so they kept their distance.

They needed a scapegoat. I was a convenient target. I doubt they'll ever get over it. Dickheads who were raised better than that. But I remind myself, searching for a small grain of compassion in my heart, by not fueling my own anger towards them, I reminded myself that they're survivors of a dysfunctional family.

Their older brother (mine too, as Toddy adopted Sean) was a drug addict, and a convicted felon for possession, who killed himself on October 16, 2007, rather than go back to prison (for assault), on the Third Strike program. And their father was a functional alcoholic for most of his life. In recollection, Toddy always had a can of beer in her hand, as did her husband.

Toddy, who was a two-times cancer survivor, later admitted that she had a problem with drinking too during the early years, but when she became a mother, all that changed. She held the family together as John spiraled out of control, losing jobs.

Toddy held the family together, against all odds, also raising Sean's children as her own, and once her faculties began to fail, her granddaughter/niece Tiffany took care of her, every single day for seven long years, as an unpaid laborer. No time off. No vacations. Once I was part of that family matrix, spending every Thanksgiving, Easter, and summers in Santa Cruz, going to the Feather River with Toddy and the gang. Halcyon days.

It all changed when I began to scan the family photos. To cope, everyone opted to live in a continuous fucked-up time present, where the relics of the past stayed firmly entrenched in the past, and the future was undefined. And here I was, disturbing carefully reconstructed timelines, uncovering the angry ghosts of the past.

With Toddy's death, my ties to that family are severed, except that Sean's children are also my blood nieces—not that anyone's ever acknowledged it. What I didn't know is that the family hatred and rage wasn't limited to just me, some of it was directed toward Tiffany, and it continues to stain the unblemished days of the future present.  I'm not big on prayer, if I were the praying kinds, I'd pray for them. All I can do is offer compassionate thoughts, and keep my distance. And hope that they begin to heal themselves.

Meanwhile, I've got some more scanning to tackle. That's what we do best. Carry on. Even in the face of adversity.


Declining coho run on Lagunitas Creek: It's the damned dams, Stoopid!

An Open Letter to Alastair Bland:

Who, in an article, Big Rains Bring Both Good and Bad News for Salmon, for of newsdeeply.com, wrote that: "Lagunitas Creek and its lower tributaries, have been lined with bank fortifications and berms that confine the streams to their main channels..." are the real problem for failing coho salmon runs ... Not.

Hmm, that's MY creek you're talking about, Mr. Bland, and there are no berms on Lagunitas Creek. NONE! Unless you're referring to the dams on upper Lagunitas Creek, they are called, you know, flat-out dams, not berms.

As to your reference to the damage to the lower tributaries, you're way off mark (have you ever heard of primary investigation vs using Wiki as a reference, bolstered by a Marin Municipal Water District quotes. Nice touch, BTW. Lends a real air of authenticity.

Has it also ever occurred to you that MMWD just MIGHT be part of the main problem? Not exactly an unbiased source. Think about a a moment. I'll wait. Five dams. Has the penny dropped?) Oh, right. Dams! MMWD's bread and butter. Ka-ching!

One main tributary to Lagunitas Creek (other than Olema Creek), the San Geronimo/Creamery Creek does not have extensive berms, and certainly not any new channeling, and the fish runs were huge when I was a kid.

I know damned near every bend of these creeks. (And most of the tributaries). And I have swum in, or ridden most of the streambeds. On Lagunitas Creek, south of Kent Lake Dam, Devil's Gulch Creek, another main tributary, has NO berms whatsoever... never had them, so this is bogus info. Total bullshit. Olema Creek, ditto. Cowshit might contribute to the problem in Point Reyes. But I have seen silver salmon runs where the water was roiling with fish in cowshitted water.

There was a fish ladder (at Roy's Dam) on the San Geronimo Creek in San Geronimo. Unless the fish ladder was later removed, SPAWN's claim to fame is somewhat hyperbolic. The fact, that in 1997, the fish were still navigating San Geronimo Creek suggests it wasn't a problem. I distinctly remember going to the ladders to watch the coho navigate the steps in the 1970s.

It is possible that the SGV Golf Course changed the structure of the ladder ca. the late 1980s, early 1990s, and I wouldn't have witnessed it. (From what I can gather, upon further sleuthing, the fish ladder was in disrepair, and fixed in 1999 and Roy's Dam—if you can call it a dam— was removed).

Maybe Andy Giddings has more specific info on the SGV creek fishladder as his father was Fish & Game Warden for the San Geronimo Valley during the 1950s-1980s?

BTW, Fish also made it all the way up to our tertiary creeks, Barranca and Arroyo during the 1960s.

On San Geronimo Creek, where it meet Lagunitas Creek, Shafter's Pool was dammed during the summer, but that practice stopped in the late 50s, early 60s. It was a seasonal dam, a summer swimming hole for kids. It had zero impact on coho runs. And the salmon were still plentiful. No other dams on the creek. So what exactly are you talking about?

The silver salmon and the coho runs declined in the 80s-90s, there's something else at work: like over-fishing. Oh, and the biggest "berm" of all, Kent Lake Dam—is probably the biggest reason of all why critical fish habitat was destroyed. (The other dams date back to the 'teens" so they didn't have a huge recent impact on failing coho runs of the 1990s.

Lake Lagunitas dam was built 1872, Alpine Dam 1917, Bon Tempe 1948, Kent Lake (Peter's) Dam, the largest reservoir, in 1954—it was still filling up in the late 50s. The dam was raised 45 feet in 1982, after the drought of the 70s. Nicasio Dam was added in 1962.) And then there was the drought. Did I mention drought. As in several back-to-back long-term drought cycles?

So, to be clear, Lagunitas Creek (and its three forks) is dammed at Lake Lagunitas, which drains into Bon Tempe Lake, then to Alpine Dam, then to Kent Lake Dam, then to Lagunitas Creek at the confluence of San Geronimo Creek. Note: they are full blown DAMS not berms.

And then there's Nicasio Creek, which flows from the Nicasio Reservoir (1962), to Platform Bridge, where it joins Lagunitas Creek— another damned dam, to the mix. That's the source of the problem. All the damned dams.

FYI: From Kent Lake to the sea, Lagunitas Creek is a wild creek through Samuel P.Taylor Park, through Jewel, around the bend, past Devil's Gulch, past McIsaac's Ranch, my cousin's Gallagher Ranch at Elephant/Black Mountain, to Point Reyes Station, to the Point Reyes bridge....still NO channels or berms, on to White House Pool, that I can recall—then it empties into Tomales Bay... Even Olema Creek is not bermed. So, what are you talking about?

Seriously, this makes me steaming mad. Self-serving SPAWN (litigious Todd Steiner's Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) began its alternative truth campaign in 1997, which has been wildly successful at obfuscation and litigation...probably leading to some of the factoids in your article, a case in point. It's the damned dams that are the problem. And droughts. DI I mention the droughts???

Otherwise, a good article...


Google Maps screenshot of San Geronimo Creek headwaters. Roy's Dam was at the golf course, where SGV Rd turns up to Nicasio road.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Fluffing out the blog timeline (home stretch)



Lately I've been adding a few Facebook Memories to my blog. The past few months, I've been scanning adding variations, revisions of old poems and generally fluffing out the blog timeline (home stretch). My goal is 52 posts per year (poetry, prose, journal, or art).

The weak-kneed anemic years:, but 40 posts per year is doable; hell, I'll even settle for 35 posts per year, which means I have 10 9 8 abysmal years to fluff out... In which case, I need to focus on 1986; 91, 92, 96, 98, 99;  2004, 05, 06. The rest is pure gravy. 

The 1990s I was traveling a lot and never got around to transcribing my travel journals. Truth be known, I'm resistant to typing up stuff, so searching for typed work is a higher priority than cracking open old journals. There is some resistance. This is my carrot, this is my stick. Flagellate! Flagellate! Avanti!)