Saturday, June 15, 2019

Historic Dixie School District to lose its name


In a reference to Nazi Germany, novelist George Orwell wrote, in his science fiction novel, 1984: Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. In an alarming trend to be "politically correct" replete with an Orwellian twist, school boards are intent on whitewashing the past. In June, a Marin County school board voted to expunge the name of a school, the school district, which includes the historic one-room Dixie School building, now a museum, though its founder, pioneer James Miller, did not support the Confederacy during the Civil War. It's an odd case of guilt by association.

The man who founded the school ca. 1862, rancho owner, Irishman, James Miller had a right-hand foreman who was a Coast Miwok named Dixie, whose wife was Mary Dixie. Miller, who had also adopted two Coast Miwok children, XXXX named the school after her, Hence the name Dixie School, or so one story goes.

SIDEBAR: Below is an article on Dixie School's name change initiated by newcomers to Marin, what the Irish would call blow-ins, who want to homogenize it, make it spotlessly lily-whiter-than-thou-yet. Newcomers intent on rearranging the past with alternative facts to suit their egos. The school was not named after the Confederacy, nor was it named in support of the Confederacy. The Confederate naming of the school story is pure 1970s apocrypha invented more than a hundred years after the fact.—probably just to save the historic building.

The new name of the historic Dixie School (and district) will be Lucas Valley School, Miller Creek Elementary School District. Here's the rub, it's not even in Lucas Valley, it's in Las Gallinas Valley. But I guess naming the building after a flock of chickens is oddly inappropriate. Hopefully, the historic Victorian one-room school house will retain its name, as it's a museum.

When we look into a window of the past, we often forget to shed our modern-day notion. For example, when looking into the life of an immigrant to the United States during the19th century, we may need to be reminded that life was not equal if one was, say, Catholic, or Irish, or Italian, or Greek, etc. The social milieu of the United States during the 1840s, reached its zenith towards the end of the 19th c., is best summed up by this:
Political cartoonist Thomas Nast regularly lambasted Irish Catholic immigrants as drunkards and barbarians unfit for citizenship; signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply,” ...statesmen warned about the dangers of admitting Catholics from Southern and Eastern Europe onto American shores, for fear that they were something less than civilized (and less than white)....native-born Americans regarded Catholic immigrants as an ideological and racial threat.  —When America Hated Catholics
Due to overt racism in the United States, Irish Catholics had few opportunities—other than low-paying dangerous jobs at the bottom of the occupational ladder: working in the coal mines, building railroads and canals. More importantly, they had no legal representation, no opportunity for citizenship, thus no vote. Many Irish Catholic immigrants found Mexico's Alta California's laid back lifestyle more agreeable than the United States.

So the modern-day reasoning behind removing the name Dixie form James Miller's legacy, including his name, claiming he was a racist, is ironic. We have some modern-day Thomas Nasts among us, wolves in sheep's clothing dressed in the "politically correct" raiments of social justice warriors. And it seems no one has noticed the predators among us.

According to one WeAreDixie, (LP) spokesperson intent on keeping the historic Dixie School District name intact, noted that the players include a rogue school trustee, Green Party activist Marnie Glickman, and her tribe of social justice warriors, Mill Valley activist, Oakland native, Kerry Perison, and PR spokesman Noah Griffin of Tiburon, who have for the past year, disrupted every school board meeting with their agenda. According to an article in The Guardian:
“People wanted a nice story,” said Marnie Glickman, a Dixie School Board trustee who was a driving force behind the latest effort to change the name. “They wanted to believe that racism and the Confederacy couldn’t exist in Marin.” —Dixie school district: why it took 22 years to change a name in liberal California
The irony is that the naming of Dixie School is an alleged association with with racist antebellum southern states as claimed by outsiders. It boils down to a matter of interpretation. Marin County, thousands of miles from the South, never supported the Confederacy. Yet these players, convinced of their own moral certitude, were not above dividing a community by twisting the truth and revising history to suit their own political agenda. I have to ask, to what endgame?

Some historical background: In 1846, James Miller, an Irish Catholic immigrant from County Wexford, immigrated to Marin County, California, which was then part of Mexico. Miller received as a gift, 680 acres of Rancho Las Gallinas from Don Timoteo (Timothy) Murphy, a fellow Wexford man. He was in good company from the Emerald Isle. Another Wexfordian, surveyor Jasper O'Farrell, who designed Market Street in San Francisco, bought Rancho Estero Americano in 1843, and Tiburon's famous Dubliner, John Reed, who sang Irish airs to his cows, owned Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio, and constructed the first sawmill in Marin County in 1834.

James Miller was not an American, but he was a farmer. If anything he would've been quite anti-slavery, given the anti-Catholic racist sentiments at the time. Imagine traveling from Ireland to Quebec, Canada, in 1828, then 13 years later, at the age of 27, emigrating to Missouri to farm for two years and three months, from 1841 to 1844. According to the US Census records of 1840-1844, when the Millers lived in the pro-Union Holt County, Missouri, there were no slaves. Also, Missouri is located in the Midwest, not the South.

When Miller had saved enough money, he journeyed to California with the 13-wagon Stephens-Townsend-Murphy party. from Iowa, with his wife, Mary Murphy, and their four children, to the Yuba River in the Sierra Foothills. They then went onto Sutter's Fort, landing in Marin, in 1845, where Miller was gifted 680 acres from fellow Wexfordian, Don Timeteo Murphy. Was Miller part of the Bear Flag Revolt, aka, the 1946 Mexican American war? Did Miller stand with Mexico, the country that recognized him, or the United States? That, we'll never know.
But James Miller had a history of paying homage to indigenous people. It is a historical fact that he and his party named the Truckee River and Lake based on the name of the chief of the Paiute Nation.

During the Gold Rush, Miller and his foreman, John (James or Bill) Dixie, a Coast Miwok rounded up 150 head of the Mexican longhorn cattle and drove them to the placer camps in the Sierra Foothills. Hungry miners purchased the cattle for a dollar a pound. Foreman Dixie stayed in Murphy's Camp and Miller returned to Marin. it seems that John Dixie met his wife, Mary, there, and stayed in the Sierra Foothills.
In 1849, James Miller, who had a long-abiding interest in fostering education, built the first schoolhouse in San Rafael. In 1855, with Timiteo Murphy who donated 315 acres, Miller helped build St. Vincent’s School, a Catholic orphanage near his his hacienda, Miller Hall. (The windows in our own house were from St. VIncent's)

By 1862, Miller really needed a larger school, he had ten kids by then, not counting the two Coast Miwok kids he had adopted. Miller donated 3/4 an acre near the las Gallinas home ranch, and helped haul redwood from the Nicasio Mills for construction of both school buildings. The school was ready by 1863-4.
Two of the Miller girls had stood up as godmothers to two Indian babies. When their mother died, the father brought the Indian children in baskets to Miller Hall and presented them to their godmothers. The Millers raised the Indian youngsters as part of their household. —The History of James Miller/Founder of Dixie School
Marin did not have a pro-Confederacy contingency during the Civil War. It was demographically similar to Petaluma which was a solid Yankee town. Marin and Sonoma—the entire North Bay (except parts of Sebastopol and Santa Rosa) voted for Abraham Lincoln, a Republican (AKA the National Union Party)— against George B. McClellan, a Southern Democrat. It should also be noted also that not all listed Democrats in the larger Bay Area were pro-Confederacy. In San Francisco, there were 15,000 pro-Union Democrats at a rally in 1861,  which was “a figure equal to the number of voters in the city.”

The total population of Marin was 323 Anglos. Two of Miller's sons were listed on Union military registers as were various Reed, Murphy and Miller relatives. Miller's daughter married a Union soldier. During the Civil War, Irish Catholics were overwhelmingly Republican, or northern Federalists in direct support to Federalist naturalization laws that gave immigrant Catholics the right to vote.

"The Vatican never recognized the Confederacy... (and) priests around the country called upon the faithful to don blue uniforms because, “The Union must and shall be preserved.” ... By the end of the war, Catholics and non-Catholics living, marching, and fighting together overcame many old prejudices."  —Catholics and the Civil War

The ONLY Democrats in the North Bay Area were in parts of Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, total population was well under 600, and not all were supportive of the South. There were no Democrat workmen commuting to Marin, there was no railroad. And central Sonoma County where those pesky Democrats lived, was waterlogged much of the year by the vast Laguna de Santa Rosa—"where mud was king" there was little opportunity to travel south.

The Petalumans couldn't even get to Santa Rosa until the dry season. So a bunch of Confederate workers from Santa Rosa (or Scotland) working for James Miller in Marin is a huge improbability. especially since he had a vast labor pool to draw from in Petaluma alone, the biggest town on the North Coast, with a population approaching 1000 Anglos who were vociferously anti-Confederate.

Another unsubstantiated story mentions that Miller hired Scottish workers to build the school. But if they were Scottish, and living in Marin, they would hardly be Democrats or Confederates. They would be Scottish. Another stretchy spandex post facto "fact." And even of they were laborers who may or may not have supported the Confederacy, what difference would it make?  The school wasn't named after them. It was named after Mary Dixie.

Maybe Miller named it Dixie as in dix/dex—for his ten kids.

The flaw in the origin of how Dixie School was named, is that it was coined long after founder James Miller had died. In folklore terms, we don't have terminus post quem. No proof of when it began. And Miller's granddaughter, who supposedly made up the story, was born 5 years after Miller's death, she couldn't have heard it from her grandfather's lips post mortem. So, it's a story of a story repeated by a friend of a friend, not the granddaughter—and the earliest terminus post quem is dated 1972, in other words, it's all hearsay.
In 1972, the Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation submitted an application to the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service to get the old Dixie Schoolhouse added to the National Registry of Historical Places. The document submitted by Old Dixie Schoolhouse Foundation states that the name “Dixie” was a direct reference to the nickname given to the Confederate States of America. —History — Change The Name
and
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Dixie name dates back to the days of the Civil War itself but that nobody can quite agree on whether it was originally meant to refer to the Confederacy or not....The site also notes that the campaign to get the original Dixie schoolhouse added to the National Register of Historic Places played up Civil War association, alleging that early Marin County settler James Miller picked the name on a dare....Mill Valley resident Kerry Peirson, who organizes much of the anti-Dixie initiative, told the San Jose Mercury News that he first challenged the name back in the 1990s. —Marin neighbors demand Dixie School District change its name
Let me get this straight: instigators, call them "social justice warriors," Kerry Perison, 51, of Mill Valley, and Noah Griffin of Tiburon don't even live in Terra Linda! Nor did their kids attend school there. Yet they get to dictate what place names are appropriate? Peirson was a former Marin Community Foundation trustee, and Noah Griffin is a trustee for the Buck Fund portion of the MCF, he is also a public affairs consultant, speaker and former public member of the IJ’s editorial board.

Sounds like this is some form of a psycho Orwellian publicity stunt to me. In fact, Griffin actually draped himself in a confederate flag and posed for the cameras in front of the historic Dixie Schoolhouse. What is their connection with school board member Marnie Glickman, one of the instigators of this brouhaha? They're hellbent on obliterating an entire school district because of a name? There's something far more devious at work here.
The Green Party activist was a leading force behind successful efforts to jettison the “Dixie” moniker. The change was based on the alleged association of the word “Dixie” with racist antebellum southern states. Glickman was the sparkplug stretching what was a local effort into a regional media circus. Her strategy worked, but at the cost of a sadly divided school community. —Glickman could avoid recall effort by running again
The beleagured district is searching for a new superintendent to replace former Dixie School District Superintendent Jason Yamashiro, who suddenly quit at the end of June.

In a 2013 OpEd piece, Marin Voice: Is it true what they say about Dixie? Noah Griffin couldn't even get the basic facts right. He claimed Miller was a Missourian. True, Miller worked in pro-Union county in Missouri for a little over two years, during 1841 to 1844, but he came from Ireland by way of Canada in 1828. That hardly makes him a Southerner. Last time I checked, Missouri was in the Midwest. And during that time, according to the US Census, Missouri had no slaves. Miller lived in Quebec for 13 years before emigrating to the US. Miller didn't purchase 300 acres in Marin, but he was deeded 680 acres by a fellow Wexfordian, Timothy Murphy. Land was everything to the Irish, who weren't allowed to own large parcels of land in Ireland.

Noah Griffin thoroughly maligned James Miller as a Southerner, because he farmed for two and a quarter years in the Midwest. I repeat, Missouri is not part of the South. It has never been part of the South. Missouri was and is, according to the US Census Bureau, part of the Midwest. If Miller were a Scotsman, or a Scots-Irish Protestant, then there might have been some grounds that Miller could have been a Southern sympathizer. But Miller was a good Catholic, the Vatican admonished Catholics to support the Union—or else.

In a hostile takeover, to rebrand the school, the doubtful duo of Peirson and Griffin further claimed that Miller enslaved Chinese and Native Americans, selling them to ranchos. By 1849, there were few Natives left, the missions were closed in 1823, due to decimated Native populations. The Chinese really didn't arrive en masse until the 1860s with the coming of the railroad. Griffin cites no sources. So I seriously doubt the veracity of his statement. Methinks this is a case rampant ego at work. Or corporate raiding. Perhaps it's a set-up to go after the deep coffers of the MCF Buck Fund? Griffin even went so far to buy a Confederate flag, and stood in front of Dixie School for a sick photo op. How yellow is your journalism, Sor?


 

The Dixie School house, now a museum, was saved from demolition, thanks to an attempt to designate it as an historic Civil War building in 1972. It was then moved to the Miller Creek Middle School site in the late 70’s, or early 80’s. Originally it was situated off Highway 101, near the old Roger Wilco, which is now a school bus yard. The modern Dixie School will henceforth be called Lucas Valley School, at Miller Creek School District.

No matter that the former Dixie  School is not even in Lucas Valley. Don't let pesky little facts stand in your way. Lucas Valley itself begins on the other side of Big Rock. It's not part of the Miller Creek watershed. It's part of the Tomales Bay watershed. Just because the road that comes from Lucas Valley is called Lucas Valley Road, and people erroneously think that all those Eichler homes are in Lucas Valley, doesn't mean that it is Lucas Valley, it's not. It's Las Gallinas Valley. Look at a topo map.

I guess they didn't want to name the school district after some chickens.

Whether or not the school was named after James Miller's foreman also named Dixie, or Dixie's wife, Mary, is moot. Or after Miller's ten children, or on a dare to some Scotsmen (why he would even do such a thing is unclear). Dixie is a diminutive form of the Anglo-Saxon surname Benedict that existed long before the advent of the Civil War. Where does this "political correctness" stop? Do we erase Mr. Dixie from the historic records because of his name, and his wife Mary Dixie at the whim of three strangers? And like modern day Orwellian Thomas Nasts, Glickman, Griffin, and Pierson, not content with destroying Dixie School, also want to completely expunge Miller's name from the district—based on hearsay.

Will we need to rename Dixieland jazz next? Or the Dixie Chicks? We've effectively stripped and expunged Fray Junipero Serra from several California place names for cruelty to Indians. Let me tell you, our famed Mountain Men, Kit Carson and John C. Fremont were much worse, they mass murdered the Indians at will. Should we rename the city of Fremont next? Next up on on the list to expunge and hide the past, and rearranging history is George Washington High School's historic WPA mural.
..."who controls the past controls the future" is a warning about the mutability of information. In today's world, the quote reminds us that we need to continually question the authority of oligarchs, that we need to be able to recognize when we are being manipulated, and that the dangers of being manipulated, whether to take action or not, can be devastating. —ThoughtCo, Kris Hirst
Restructuring the historic past to fit current political trends is the basis of totalitarianism. This is a slippery slope. When will this malignant political correctness stop?


Wilfred A. Lang, painter (1915-1994)

in progress....

from the  The Wilfred A. Lang Gallery 

My growing collection of Wilfred A. Lang notes from my previous post, suggests another post entry is needed. So little information on him on the internet. Where to even begin, when my imperfect memories gathered in youth, imperfectly recollected and transposed now that I'm older that dirt, makes this more of an act of fiction than anything else.

A defunct Angelfire site was the only decent reference I could find on Wilfred. (No I'm not referring to the Shanghai artist, born in 1954, who cranks out dreadful urban landscapes and sailboats with a palate knife and a fan brush.) Wilfred A. Lang was a complex artist, a student of Robert Stackpole, who worked in complex layers, embellishing a mythos to ordinary subjects.

I knew one of his wives, perhaps it was his second wife Betty—who was like a second mother to me, and four of his children, and the infamous Sausalito Hoffmans, so the Angelfire biography seems accurate.

Wilfred was always larger than life. As kids, we were terribly excited when he came to visit Pat & Betty Wall. I remember him grizzled, and laden with massive turquoise and silver jewelry, and his haughty wife Marcia in her long flowing skirts, and aquiline nose, who walked like a goddess. She resembled her portrait that hung above the daybed in the living room.

That colorful full-length abstract portrait that Wilfred gave to Betty mesmerized me. I always thought it odd that he gave Betty a painting of his next wife, who left him soon after. But it was gorgeous. As a child, I stared at it for hours on end, following the intricate ghost calligraphy embroidered on the painting.

I didn't know of Wilfred's Sonoma County presence. I'm sitting here writing this blog post a stone's throw from where he lived in Mays Canyon. Wilfred was friends with Zachaim, and also stayed at Marguerute Wiildenhain's Pond Farm, in Guerneville. So he also had Bauhaus connections as Walter Gropius was a frequent visitor to Pond Farm. (MORE LATER)

Sad that The Wilfred A. Lang Gallery only has 35 monochromatic Cubist landscapes, churches, some nudes but it's not a retrospective. He was such a prolific artist. I wonder who all owns his paintings? Most of the old Sausalito crowd is gone now. I would love to see more of his work. In this lifetime.

Bohemian Housewarming Party

Giving back old photos



Scanning old photos and trying to date them always conjured up the most unlikely of memories. Like the photos I took of Pete Lang in Park City, near Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island in 1981. I never expected to find his daughters on Facebook when I posted some old photos on my friend Micaela Wall's page. It was such a magical time for me hanging out with Pete's family. I always adored Pete, I knew him since I was a child. Almost as long as I've known Micaela. She was called Miranda in those days. Pete was her step-brother. He mooned after her while she mooned after his handsome younger brother, Stan—a wild one with hair slicked back like James Dean. Those New Mexico boys with their tall boots and tooled leather belts, seeking distant horizons, got under the skin like fine desert sand. I was always the one left out of the moon's capricious equations. Pete saw me as the little kid down the road. Sometimes he'd drop by to visit my granny and me in Forest Knolls after Micaela's dad, Pat Wall, sold the house moved north to Fort Bragg. Pete was living in a trailer on the headlands by the botanical garden. Paradise on earth. I've an early memory of Pete leaning against our sawhorse, by the woodpile, playing his Martin guitar. He left town, became a spy, joined the CIA, or was it the FBI? The Lang brothers went the way of lost cowboys in search of a one-horse townor a horizon that just wouldn't settle. Maybe it was the high desert winds spurring them on. But they couldn't stay still in any one place for long. We ran into each other in BC, by then Pete was married, with two daughters, but the wife was stepping out with the mayor on the side. It broke my heart. We lost touch. They moved to Florida where he built wooden boats, got divorced. Last I heard, he was in Galveston, Texas, working as a private eye, probably to be closer to his father, the Bohemian sculptor / painter Wilfred. Stan sailed off to the Virgin Islands became a carpenter, and met death by bottle on the old plank road. I eventually got a Martin too, but I could never play it like that. Pete gave me some folk songbooks too. Back copies of Sing Out!, a little Woody Guthrie, some Baez, but no Dylan. But I never could play those songs without remembering Pete bending over his guitar, head canted as if he were ciphering a story from those whispering guitar strings.

Revising old Facebook posts: Ebbe Borregaard, Stephen Torre & John Haines


An old Facebook fragment also written on a dreary Saturday, in 2013, evolved into a memoir piece of sorts, Woodbutchers and carpenter poets: Remembering John Haines, Stephen Torre, and Ebbe Borregaard. Six years later, I still haven't found out much about those poets. They seem to predate the internet, as it were, and were obscure enough poets, that no one has taken up the torch to post their work online, or to mention them on blog pages. They were my teachers. And here I am, still wondering about those poets on this grey misty morning, mid June. I sometimes revisit my FB memory lane pages to see if there's a fragment of writing I might have missed or that that I might want to add to my blog. Mostly dross. But every so often, I find a fragment that's still compelling. I had already added my knee comments and fashioned them into a blog post, but not this first bit on Ebbe. Like Death, I stopped to fix a typo, and an hour later, I'm still revising it, hammering the nails into the memory coffin. Ya never know what will spark another bit of writing. I'm certainly the last to know. Typical. So, the question begs: is it a piece from 2013, or a new piece if it's extensively revised? Too OCD for my own good.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Rainbow at the end of the tunnel (photo)



This visage certainly stopped me in my tracks. I thought I was seeing things. Turns out, I was. I was also at the right place at the perfect, if odd time—the right angle of the sun, and right time of day, as the light rapidly changed. I was thinking about what photographer Jerry Downs had said about seeing ordinary, or mundane things "different" when I climbed the rise. And gasped. The old adage rang true—tho  best camera was the one in my hand, tho it be on its last legs. I wasn't expecting to find a rainbow in a culvert at the end of a fireroad. Or a magic portal to another world in a dam runoff overflow culvert.



Upon closer inspection, it looked like an entrance to the Otherworld. At first I thought I was having some sort of flashback, or heatstroke vs. brainfreeze. The side view was equally astonishing. By then I was singing Somewhere Under the Rainbow.....



Added bonus, it was a huge swamp cooler. I stood in front of the colorful culvert to chill out on this hottest day of the year. No rainbows were harmed in the process. Synchronicity at Soulajoule Dam, Walker Creek Road, West Marin. The synchronous moment was right before I got out of my hot car, I was using a little battery-operated spray fan, wishing it was way bigger. I think I got my wish, and then some.

Truth be known, I was feeling a bit despondent, and in need of a lift. From a rainbow, apparently. It was hot, I took the weird way home, planning to stop at the Elephant Rocks. See, 22 years ago, I was in a horrific car accident on Walker Creek Road, something that changed my life completely.

Today, I was making amends with the road. I forgave it, and the person who drove us off the road. This was merely a madcap pitstop, a girding of the loins segue enroute to the spot where my life irrevocably changed. I think it also means after 22 years, I get my old life back. Trying hard not to think of those years as wasted years. But, in retrospect, it was a life-sentence of sorts.


The mystery rainbow revealed—a dam overflow runoff valve with so much pressure, it's ricochetting off the culvert creating a fine mist. The culvert, acting like a hood contained the rainbow.

This version was shared in Digital Photo Academy Community

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Brownie Mary photo scan




Well, that's done. Spent three intense days cleaning up a 27-year-old photo of Brownie Mary Rathbun for a traveling show. On its way to the Weedmaps Weed Museum where it will tour for three years. I scanned it in 24-bit color at 800dpi, so I could capture all the greyscale range, and to properly clone out the artifacts....all those slubs on her sweater had what looked like lint, OMG!

And I was aghast by all the embedded artifacts and surface scratches. I don't like DigitalIce, it softens the image. Ah, the joys of Tri-X, pushed. My trusty old Pentax K1000 with a Vivitar zoom lens. Good glass. Not that I know much about PS, but after I cleaned it up, I did a sharpen layer, for her face, then a Gaussian blur layer, sans her face, to soften the clone clean up (even tho the print looked fine, it was a mess!) I also scanned the negatives later. They came out better than expected.

We met Brownie Mary at SF General Hospital's AIDS ward, as she was making her volunteer nurse rounds delivering respite to her AIDS patients. Her boys,, she said. I first met her at the Sonoma County Jail where she was arrested for buying pot in Cazadero. I covered the story for The Paper. Tony Serra took on the feds and won. I coordinated a photography expedition for Dutch photographer Jan Bogaaerts who was doing a story on the AIDS crisis for Granta Magazine. It was a heart-wrenching time. The frailness of mortality.

FWIW, I ate some of those brownies, but I may, or may not have swallowed. Mary and I had an Irish heart connection that went deep. In the process of working on the photo, I just found out my aunt Jane used to make travel arrangements for Mary at Valley Travel. Small world. Of course, she never knew... Special thanks to Jerry Downs for contract advice.


Museum of Weed coming to Los Angeles in early 2019



Que Sera, Serra: Remembering Tony Serra
Brownie Mary