Guest Posts

Todd Walton: What’s Going On?


From TODD WALTON
Underthetablebooks.com
Mendocino

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” Malcolm X

One of my guilty pleasures is watching sports highlights on my computer, many of which are prefaced by thirty-second ads for shoes, cars, beer, and the Army. I have become adept at turning off the volume and relaxing for those thirty seconds before each highlight, but occasionally a new ad grabs me and I’ll watch and marvel at the senseless inventiveness of capitalism. The last Army recruitment ad I watched began with a video-game-animation of Caucasian American soldiers morphing into actual Caucasian American soldiers interdicting and arresting impoverished American black men, brutally and at gunpoint.

I haven’t the slightest doubt that twenty years ago such an ad would have caused a huge public outcry for its racist violence and for the implication that American armed forces are servants of a racist police state. But this ad, I have since been informed, has been running for several weeks through several mainstream media outlets, and no outcries are being reported (which, of course, doesn’t mean outcrying isn’t going on.)

“I think I’m an actor because I have a very strong imagination and empathy. I never studied acting, but those two qualities are exactly the qualities that make for an activist.” Susan Sarandon

As I was pondering this latest indication of the thorough conquest of our media by the corporate state, my brother sent me a link to an article about a large new study by the American Red Cross that reveals nearly sixty percent of American teenagers (both male and female) think brutal torture

Gene Logsdon: Tired of Tires


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Do you know how many pneumatic rubber tires you own? I bet when you count them up, you’ll be surprised. Even on my little one horse farm, there are 40 tires in use, not counting the ones on the car. And ten percent of them are flat at any given time. This is partly because most of my tires were vulcanized in the late Middle Ages or thereabouts. But it is also because there is something unsustainable and unnatural about riding around on air wrapped in a substance that comes from trees that grow half a million miles away.

This is the time of year when I fare forth to another season of mowing and planting. I know without looking, that my first chore, after getting all the motors (6) running, will be fixing flats. I thought maybe this year would be an exception. The green tractor started right up and the hydraulic system on it worked fine. I backed up to the disk to hitch up and the hole on the disk tongue lined up with the drawbar hole perfectly on the first try. Oh perfect joy.

One pass across the field and behold, the left tire on the disk was as flat as a pancake. I pumped it up (by hand) and proceeded on to the gardens which were actually dry enough to disk (the corn ground wasn’t) and worked up two of the plots before the tire went flat again. Pumped it up again and it lasted until I had finished the other two plots. I would not have been so stubborn about it except rain was threatening and it might be another two weeks before the soil was dry enough to work again.

Have you ever stopped to think just how dumb it is to have pneumatic tires on a disk? They are only in use when the disk is not disking and that would mean, in my “operation”, about three hundred feet a year at a speed of not more than two miles per hour.

Todd Walton: Young Pot Moms



From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“Youth is wasted on the young.” George Bernard Shaw

When I and my middle-aged and elderly Mendocino Elk Albion Fort Bragg peers convene, talk often turns to the paucity of younger people coming along to fill the local ranks of actors and musicians and writers and artists and activists. The excellent Symphony of the Redwoods plays to audiences of mostly white-haired elders and is itself fast becoming an ensemble of elders, ditto the local theater companies, ditto the legions of Mendocino artists and social activists. People under fifty in audiences and at art openings hereabouts stand out as rare youngsters; and the question is frequently asked with touching plaintiveness, “Will it all end with us?”

“The supply of good women far exceeds that of the men who deserve them.” Robert Graves

A few days ago I was waiting my turn at the one and only cash dispensing machine in the picturesque and economically distressed village of Mendocino, my home town, and I couldn’t help noticing that the woman using the machine was young (under forty), expensively dressed, and pushing the appropriate buttons with an ambitious energy that made me tired.

When it was my turn to stand before the cash dispensary, I noticed that the young woman had declined to take her receipt, which hung like a punch line from the slot of the robot. Being a hopeless snoop, I took possession of the little piece of paper, affixed my reading glasses, and imbibed the data. Did my eyes deceive me? No. This young woman had a cash balance in her Savings Bank of Mendocino checking account of…are you sitting down?…377,789 dollars.

Todd Walton: Kings and Presidents


Video Clip Here

From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“Divine right of kings means the divine right of anyone who can get uppermost.” Herbert Spencer

I just finished reading an excellent book by British historian Derek Wilson: A Brief History of Henry VIII, 386 pages of densely informative prose that is certainly not brief by American standards. I do not often read history, but I’m glad I read this book because it illuminates much of what’s going on in the world today. But before I tell you a little more about Henry VIII and why his story reminds me so much of George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and innumerable bullies and louts responsible for the ruination of our local, national, and global societies, I thought you might enjoy knowing how I came to be interested in Henry VIII.

“Kings are in the moral order what monsters are in the natural.” Henri Gregoire

Several years ago, I wrote a play about a history professor who has a nervous breakdown that features visitations from Queen Elizabeth I, Henry VIII’s daughter. When I came out of my trance and found

Todd Walton: The Play’s The Thing


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“More relative than this—the play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.” William Shakespeare

Yes, it will only be a staged reading in a tiny theater on the fringes of civilization, but I feel like my play Milo & Angel is about to open on Broadway. And you’re invited! When I was sixteen years old, I decided to try to make my way as a playwright and actor amidst the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, but other scenarios intervened, other roads were taken, and all the plays I wrote remained hidden from public view.

True, the actors will be sitting in chairs and holding scripts as they perform, and they will only have rehearsed a few times under the inspired guidance of Sandra Hawthorne, but they will be on a real stage in a real theater (not a living room or a café) imbuing my lines with character. What an amazing process it has been so far, the blessed night still to come—April 13, a Wednesday evening at 7 PM at the Helen Schoeni Theater at the Mendocino Art Center—mark your calendars.

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” George Bernard Shaw

Mike Sweeney: Ukiah Post Office — What are they hiding?


From MIKE SWEENEY
Ukiah

When the United States Postal Service announced that it had financial reasons to close the Ukiah Post Office, many voices said:  “Show us the numbers.”

Since the USPS is a government agency, I assumed such information was in the public record and filed a Freedom of Information Act request.  The USPS denied it.

Both the City of Ukiah and Congressman Mike Thompson’s office asked for the same information, and they were denied too.

Then the City asked for permission to inspect the post office building so that it could make an independent evaluation of repair costs, if any.   More than two weeks after this request, the USPS hasn’t bothered to reply.

This stonewalling doesn’t do the USPS any good.  It arouses mistrust and casts doubt on the truthfulness of any of their numbers.  As Councilman Doug Crane told a local newspaper, “It appears to be rationalized math. Without their willingness to disclose what supports the math how can we accept or consider that math is valid in any way?”

Getting The President To Laugh


From GENE LOGSDON

The kind of readers who visit this website may have noticed that one of our heroes, Wendell Berry, made President Obama laugh right out loud the other day. Wendell recently received a National Humanities Medal in Washington, and when the President leaned forward to drape the award over Wendell’s shoulders, the two exchanged whispers and the President broke out in a huge grin. It is a wonderful picture and appeared in many newspapers. To be able to get the president of the United States to laugh like that in front of the whole world in these awful times… well, that’s a real accomplishment. I am not surprised, however. If you know Wendell, he can make very funny remarks at the most unexpected times. I asked him what he whispered to the president but he’s not talking. Says he can’t remember.

Two other writers who received a National Humanities Medal this year were Joyce Carol Oates and Philip Roth. Jacques Barzun, the historian, got one too. This is top notch stuff, and I don’t know anyone who deserves the recognition more than Wendell. He is the hardest worker I know, traveling and giving speeches incessantly. He’s written 40 books so far and still manages to do a little farming with the help and support of his equally amazing wife, Tanya, and his son Den and daughter Mary and their families. His message, now and always, is that society is ignoring and abandoning ecological and economic common sense

Todd Walton: Kyoto Amore


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

“But a whole school of lady koto players

Best kimono and Japanese hairdo

Perform on tatami platform underneath falling blossoms”

Philip Whalen

I’ll never forget the night in 1989 when we danced at Melarkey’s on Broadway in Sacramento, dancing for joy because in a free and fair election, for the first and only time in history, the majority voted to shut down an active nuclear power plant. And only a handful of people know that Ben Davis started the whole thing, and I, in the beginning, helped him keep the ball rolling.

Ben, an eccentric, stubborn, self-educated advocate for the public good, first tried to shut down the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Facility by single-handedly taking SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) to court for not having an adequate emergency evacuation plan in the event of a catastrophe such as the multiple catastrophes ongoing in Japan today. The courts wouldn’t oblige Ben for the usual putrid reasons (putrid as in corrupt), though Ben had more than ample proof that SMUD, for all intents and purposes, had no evacuation plan at all.

Failing to overcome the entrenched putrescence

Bruce Patterson: Animal Rescue


From BRUCE ‘PAT’ PATTERSON
4 Mules Blog
Anderson Valley

About a month before my second book came out, I received a form email from my publisher’s Manager of Marketing and Publicity. At the ripe old age of 29, I was informed, worn down by the workaday grind and determined to follow her heart, she was quitting her job so she could devote herself to doing volunteer work with Animal Rescue. So I emailed her back: “How bout me? Ain’t I an animal?”

Although I never received a response, I like to think she got a chuckle of out my wisecrack, at least until she realized I had a point. I mean, imagine if we people loved each other the way we love our little house doggies and pussy cats. Since we’re taking leaps of imagination here— for this we’d need Divine Intervention—what if we loved each other as much as we love the money in our pockets? Since about 90% of human misery is caused by greedy humans, imagine how sweet and easy our lives would be if ever we got out from under their thumbs.

I’ve been an outdoors person, both as vocation and avocation, my whole life, and I’ve spent more time around house pets, wildlife and livestock than most any busload of the kind of animal rights activists you see on TV. Yet, while my attitude toward animals ain’t nearly as romantic as theirs, we’re on the same page ethically. If “soul” is what makes humans more than the sum total

Gene Logsdon: Oaken Resilience



From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

The one thing that I’ve learned living in the woods is that trees can take care of themselves. All we puny humans need to do to help them is to stop the bulldozers from removing them in favor of more asphalt and corn. But since my inclination is to worry too much about almost everything, learning that trees know what they are doing has not been easy.

I like oak trees, especially white oaks. They may not be the very best wood for any particular purpose, but they rank up close to the top in just about everything wood is good for. One big old beauty stands right outside our bedroom window. We run the clothesline on pulleys over to it from the deck, the way the Amish run a clothesline from a porch to the side of a barn. Easy to reel the day’s laundry out for drying and back in again. I also take great pleasure in sitting on the deck for unseemly long periods of time staring up into its branches.

Taking special notice of this tree every day, I have become aware of just how many dangers the oaken world faces while it goes about its business.  I am beginning to understand the resilience of nature. The trees will outlast us even if they don’t know

Todd Walton: Cliff’s Bowl


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Cliff Glover recently gave us one of his bowls. Cliff is an excellent potter and a superb cook. Tall, and possessed of a magnificent froth of silver gray hair, Cliff and his partner Marion Miller share a house and ceramic studio a couple miles inland from the hamlet of Albion. Marcia and I met Cliff and Marion for the first time at one of Juliette White’s spontaneous dinners, Juliette being Cliff and Marion’s neighbor for many years. The mugs we drank from that night were Cliff’s mugs; and for my birthday two years ago, Juliette gave me a Cliff Glover teapot, an exquisite two-cupper. Juliette was a big fan of Cliff’s pottery.

The bowl Cliff gave us on Marcia’s birthday in February is now my favorite bowl, and possibly my favorite thing, after my piano and not counting myriad mammals—Marcia, friends, cats; although the trouble with cats…but that’s another story. Cliff made it clear when he gave us the bowl that even though he was giving it to us on Marcia’s birthday, the bowl was for both of us. I asked him to repeat that when I was sure Marcia was listening so there wouldn’t be any confusion…that the bowl was for both of us, or in legal terms: the bowl is our joint property.

My previous favorite bowl, which I still love, (though not as much as I loved her before I met Cliff’s bowl) was given to me by my dear friend Katje Weingarten, an extraordinary poet who lives in Vermont, which is crazy.

Will Parrish: On The Roosting of Nuclear Chickens


From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville

Less than a decade after the United States visited a nuclear iki-jigoku (“hell on earth”) upon the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instantaneously killing at least 150,000 and delivering countless more Japanese people to the grim reaper of gruesome radiation sickness, three of America’s leading nuclear technology boosters embarked on a promotional tour across Japan. Their purpose was to help swing Japanese public opinion in favor of the country’s infant civilian nuclear power industry, which was poised for a windfall of technological and financial assistance from the United States.

The international liaison was part of then-US President Dwight Eisenhower’ “Atoms for Peace” program, a Cold War diplomatic offensive aimed at providing nuclear technology loans and exports to so-called “developing” nations, so as to render them reliant on western capitalism for development of their energy infrastructures, rather than on the Soviet Union. A 1955 National Security Council directive framed the matter thusly: “[Atoms for Peace will] strengthen American world leadership and disprove the Communists’ propaganda charges that the [US] is concerned solely with the destructive uses of the atom.”

The American promotional contingent in Japan, which arrived in May 1955, was comprised, respectively, of the man perhaps

Todd Walton: Myth & History



From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.” Book of Proverbs 25:3

“Have you seen The King’s Speech?” asked a friend.

“Marcia has and loved it,” I replied. “I’m waiting for it to come out on Netflix.”

My wife Marcia and I are on the two-movies-a-month plan, and we often don’t find the time to watch even that many.

“Of course,” continued my friend, “they’ve taken great liberties with the historical facts. I read one article that said the movie isn’t even close to the truth and another that said it has some truth in it, but not much.”

“The only way to speak the truth is to speak lovingly.” Henry David Thoreau

Historical facts. Hmm. When I was attending UC Santa Cruz in the late 1960’s (and I really did do that) Norman O. Brown came to teach at our newborn college. His course Myth & History was open to undergrads, so I signed up to hear what the famous man had to say. Who was Norman O. Brown? Having taken his Myth & History class, and having spent a few hours blabbing with Norman about this and that,

Bruce Patterson: Mendocino Stories


From BRUCE ‘PAT’ PATTERSON
Anderson Valley

A while back in the nearby woods a large gaggle of wild turkeys started raising a ruckus to the high heavens. A veritable convention of agitated gobblers, it was, them being in their tribal mood. By and by a bunch of the turkeys came running out the tree line, hopped the pasture fence and started circling in the grass, not so noisy now that they’d switched over to dancing. One Tom turkey froze, puffed himself up like a balloon, shuddered to make himself a teensy bit bigger by getting his chest feathers to stand on end, then fanned his tail feathers, curled his neck and broke into a skittering little soft-shoe, his movements dainty. “Lookee here,” he was saying, “ain’t I something?”

Self-expression is everywhere in nature, everything from the rocks on up tells a story, and each story is inextricably woven into all. We are the creatures of our earthly surroundings, and Delta Blues rose out of the rhythms of stoop labor and sweltering sun; Jazz mimics the sounds of the city, Bluegrass the songbirds, creeks and breezes. If a writer writes about the desert, his or her prose will be spare; writing about the jungle, florid, the sea, in ebbs and flows reflecting the lack of solid ground underfoot. The creator is made manifest in creation and self-expression, whether animal or human, is meaningful to the extent it is social. Art for art’s sake? How about

Todd Walton: Poets and Artists and…


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

“The poet’s only responsibility is to write fresh lines.” Charles Olson

With all due respect to the organization known as Poets & Writers, I have always felt that if there’s no poetry in the writing, who needs it? Oh, I suppose a Chemistry textbook needn’t be rife with lovely language, but in the best of worlds all writing would be touched by the writer’s experience of having read and appreciated great poetry and beautifully crafted prose.

I sold my first short story for actual dollars when I was twenty-five. The year was 1974 and the buyer was Cosmopolitan magazine. This was at the very end of the era when that historic magazine along with a few dozen other large-circulation magazines in America still published fiction. Eventually I would sell stories to teen magazines and men’s magazines, along with several more to Cosmo, as my agent called that trashy mag, but I assure you I wrote all my stories with The New Yorker and Esquire in mind. Alas, those lofty literary realms were off limits to the unwashed likes of me. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as I am wont to do.

That first story I sold was about a black female prizefighter who, through a series of bizarre events, gets a shot at fighting a top-ranked male welterweight boxer.

Todd Walton: Your Inner Bushman


From TODD WALTON
Mendocino

“The five groups of San or Bushmen are called the First People. Most call themselves Bushmen when referring to themselves collectively.” Elizabeth Marshall Thomas from her book The Old Way

I wanted to open this article with that quote from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, a great friend of the Kalahari Bushmen, so I would not be accused of using a derogatory term when speaking of the people from whom all humans on earth are descended. One of my favorite scientific discoveries of the last few decades is that every human being currently alive on the planet can trace his or her lineage directly to the same Bushman woman who lived in Southwest Africa 172,000 years ago.

The gathering of pertinent genetic data from around the world, as well as the complicated figuring that went into determining the identity of our great Mother, has now been duplicated by multiple scientific teams, and there is today universal agreement among physical anthropologists and geneticists (though not among members of Congress) that Eve, as the European-centric researchers have named her, was, indeed, a Bushman. The name I prefer for our Very First Lady is N!ai, the exclamation point indicating a loud click made by pressing the tongue against the top of the mouth and popping it down simultaneously with the sound ai (I).

Among the many groovy things about tracing our collective beginning back to N!ai is that until the 1950’s there were still extant bands of Bushmen in and around the Kalahari Desert living very much as they had for tens of thousands of years, and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and her parents and brother were among the first and last non-Bushmen to gently interface with these people and to record in great detail, in writing and film and sound recordings, how our Neolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors lived. Thus we know, in a tangible way, from whence we came.

“Interestingly, no anthropologist wanted to join us, although my father tried hard to find one and would have paid for his or her salary and all expenses. However, unlike the modern Kalahari, where the anthropologist/Bushman ratio

Gene Logsdon: Tasty Meat Comes From The Kitchen, Not the Field


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Furious arguments sweep back and forth over the landscape about whether pasture-raised meat is better or worse than corn-fed meat. I think pasture-raised might be healthier food depending on the quality of the pasture, but when the debate focuses on taste, oh my. Years and years ago, a similar argument was popular: whether hogs fed on steamed slop (garbage) tasted better or worse than corn-fed hogs. A butcher could supposedly tell by finger-punching a hog carcass, whether the hog had been slop-fed or corn-fed by how soft or hard it was. We farm boys had a sort of ritual. We would finger-punch each other and, if praise were in order, pronounce the boy so punched as “corn fed.” If he were deemed soft and sissified for whatever reason, a finger punch would draw forth a derisive “slop fed.” In that kind of culture, pasture-raised meat was never going to have a chance over corn-fed even if the hams had no more give in them than anvils.

Then along came my father-in-law who raised and butchered his own hogs and smoke-cured the best-tasting hams in Kentucky, so everyone who ate at his table claimed. He told me that the way to do it right was to feed a hog for two years (none of this modern four to five-month wonder stuff) mostly on acorns and then cure the hams by his own special mix of salt (had to be a particular kind of moist salt he bought by the barrel), brown sugar and pepper, rubbing the mix into the meat every day for the first month of the curing process. He even specified how many rubs (ten) each ham should be given at each rubbing. Then he smoked the meat with hickory just so-so and left it hang in the smokehouse to age a month or more. Corn, or lack thereof, had very little to do with it.

I was out in Nebraska once talking to a tough old cowboy type whose flesh was as dark and sinewy as father-in-law’s hams. He sort of snorted at my praise for a corn-fed beef steak I had eaten in Omaha. He declared that a really tasty filet came out of the back strip of a four- year- old range cow that wouldn’t know an ear of corn from a watermelon.

Gene Logsdon: Heating With Wood Is An Eco-Crime?


From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

That’s what a recent (Jan. 20) article suggested in the New York Times. After a few more provocative captions like that and a liberal use of the subjunctive mood to convince us of the dangers of burning wood, the article simmered down to saying what most of us already know: if you use dry seasoned wood and a certified low-polluting heating system, burning wood is as safe as heating with anything, but perhaps not in areas of heavy population like New York City. It is questionable whether automobiles are appropriate technology for New York City either and many people there in fact do not own one. I wonder how the Times would be received if it voiced a notion that driving cars is an eco-crime.

I don’t know the statistics but I will bet anything that the airplanes flying high above us belch out more pollution in a day than the fireplaces and woodburning stoves of New York City emit in a whole winter. I am certain that the millions upon millions of cars, buses, trucks, tractors and bulldozers in this country emit more pollutants every second than all the woodburning stoves do in a year. Furthermore, have the people who think burning wood is an eco-crime ever stopped  to consider how many millions of tons of coal and natural gas and fuel oil are burned every day to provide them with heat or to generate electric heat that they think is so much “greener” than burning wood? Then add on the vast amounts of these fuels that are burned to manufacture the appliances that deliver that heat to all those businesses and high rises and oversized suburban mansions. Then add on the whole energy consumption

Todd Walton: Dead Airplane Kerouac Caen


Jefferson Airplane: Chauffeur Blues (Signe’s Last)

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“The past is never dead, it is not even past.” William Faulkner

When my wife and I joined forces four years ago, she came equipped with the nicely aged Toyota pickup I’d always wanted and I came with a Toyota station wagon ideal for toting cellos, so we swapped. The station wagon was subsequently crushed by a falling pine and replaced by a more commodious sedan, but the pickup lives on and I love the old thing.

Marcia bought the truck from the person who bought the truck new, Jim Young, our superlative chiropractor and friend and coach of the Mendocino High School (boys) basketball team. Now and then when I am under Jim’s thumbs, as it were, he will inquire about his former truck and I am happy to report the old thing is humming right along and still getting admirable mileage in this age of fast-rising fuel costs.

The pickup is faded white, eighteen years old, with the requisite rust spots and windows that must be manually cranked up and down. Otherwise non-descript, the truck sports a subtle ornament that Jim affixed to the rear window, an insignia identifying the vehicle as a chariot of the Dead, the Grateful Dead, the band, not my ancestors.

Todd Walton: Creeping Up On God


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

So this guy goes to see a psychiatrist and after fifty minutes the psychiatrist says, “I think you’re crazy.”

And the guy says, “Hey, wait a minute. I want to get a second opinion.”

And the psychiatrist says, “Okay, you’re ugly, too.”

My father was a child psychiatrist. Until I was eight or nine, I had only vague notions of what my father’s practice consisted of. I knew he had a playroom adjacent to his office, and in that playroom there were board games and a sandbox and dolls and trucks and other cool things for kids to play with, and I knew my father wore a suit and tie when he interacted with these kids, and that he was sort of a doctor.

So this guy with a chicken on his head goes to see

Todd Walton: Whales & Predictions


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” Allan K. Chalmers

Sunday. The second of January 2011. My wife Marcia and I are sitting on a bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean a few miles south of the village of Mendocino, the pale blue sky decorated with flat clouds, grays and whites, the celestial artist in no mood for billowy today. The sea is relatively calm and several pods of whales are passing by close enough for us to see them clearly without binoculars, their impressive water spouts presaging glimpses of their even more impressive enormity, our excitement at seeing them giving way to ongoing joy that the leviathans (my favorite synonym for whales) are right there, sharing the world with us, and saying hello so delightfully.

We have come to this promontory above the deep to give back to the ocean some forty pounds of stones and shells we’ve collected over the last five years for the decoration of windowsills and table tops; and as we throw the pretty gifts into the depths, we send with them our hopes and intentions for the year ahead.

The news of late has been full of predictions by economists and financial prognosticators about what may befall the national and global economies in the coming year,

Todd Walton: All Or Nothing


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

“Every day: meditation, chocolate, a glass of port wine, and flirting with young men.” Beatrice Wood at age 98 on her secret to longevity

“I’m never drinking coffee again,” said my friend, reciting his New Year’s resolutions. “And no more alcohol. And I’m off all sugar. And I’m joining a health club and I’m gonna work out for at least an hour a day, every day. Without fail.”

“Wow,” I said, having heard similar declarations from this fellow before. “Sounds draconian.”

“Look,” he said, piqued by my hint of sarcasm, “it’s all or nothing with me. One cup of coffee, I’m hooked again. One piece of chocolate, I’m a goner.” He glared at his big round tummy. “Moderation doesn’t work for me.”

“There can only be one winner, but isn’t that the American way?” Gig Young

I’ve often thought ALL OR NOTHING could be our national motto, for the concept infects virtually every aspect of our political, economic, social, and emotional lives.

“The only way I can figure out what I really think about anything is to write about it.” Norman Mailer

Throughout the 1990’s I worked with hundreds of writers to help them improve their writing. Some were beginners,

Todd Walton: Scholar Jim


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

“There are several kinds of stories, but only one difficult kind—the humorous.” Mark Twain

I wonder how Mark Twain would feel if he knew his novel Huckleberry Finn has been rewritten in such a way that the meaning of his book is entirely changed, and that such an execrable mutation of his work is about to be afflicted on the next generation of American schoolchildren. I ask because such a crime has just taken place. Yes, it’s true, and I quote from The New York Times:

“Throughout the book [Huckleberry Finn]—219 times in all—the word nigger is replaced by slave, a substitution that was made by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama, which plans to release the edition in February.

“Alan Gribben, a professor of English and a Twain scholar at Auburn University, approached the publisher with the idea in July. Mr. Gribben said Tuesday that he had been teaching Mark Twain for decades and always hesitated before reading aloud the common racial epithet, which is used liberally in the book, a reflection of social attitudes in the mid-19th century.

“‘I found myself right out of graduate school at Berkeley not wanting to pronounce that word when I was teaching either Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer,’ he said. ‘And I don’t think I’m alone.’

“Mr. Gribben, who combined Huckleberry Finn with Tom Sawyer in a single volume and also supplied an introduction, said he worried that Huckleberry Finn had fallen off reading lists, and wanted to offer an edition that is not for scholars, but for younger people and general readers.

“‘I’m by no means sanitizing Mark Twain,’ Mr. Gribben said. ‘The sharp social critiques are in there. The humor is intact. I just had the idea to get us away from obsessing about this one word, and just let the stories stand alone.’ (The book also substitutes Indian for injun.)”

Gene Logsdon: Oh What A Beautiful Morning


From GENE LOGSDON

It was 50 degrees and the sun shining here on New Year’s Day. That’s a beautiful morning for this time of year in Ohio, not as beautiful as the one in the musical, “Oklahoma!” when “the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it seems to be climbing right up to the sky,” but beautiful for January. So I went to the barn singing that song, reminding myself once again of why I like it so much. My father used to sing it in the barn where he thought no one could hear him and we used to break up laughing at his performances. He could not carry a tune in a bushel basket and “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” is a difficult song to sing. In the very first line, all sorts of sly half notes and flats and sharps lay waiting to catch the wariest of voices. If you direct church choirs, the perfect way to audition singers is to have them sing that line. Anyone who can do it without accompaniment and nail every note exactly right,  especially on the first syllable of the word ‘morning’, then he or she can sing in anyone’s choir.

But that’s not why this song is so special to me. Its lyrics and that of other songs in “Oklahoma!” are just so very reflective of the farming spirit.  (I write about this at some length in my book, “The Mother of All Arts” if you’re interested.)  In addition to the lines above, there are others just as culturally perfect: “The breeze is so busy, it don’t miss a tree, and that old weepin’ willow is laughing at me.” Even the incorrect grammar is just right. Can you imagine anyone coming up with lyrics like that today?  Especially in the refrain of the song, this line:  “I’ve got a wonderful feelin’, everything’s going my way.”  No one today could write a song that happy. What we hear today mostly in our cowering, fearful environment is: “Uh- uh, baby- baby, eff- word, baby- baby, uh- uh. ”

Whatever happened to joy in this country?

More to the point, how could Oscar Hammerstein II

Neil Davis: Justa’ bikin’ in the rain…


From NEIL DAVIS
Mendo 2 Mile Challenge

Do I look nutty? No wait, don’t answer that!

What is it about bikes that attracts, no I think inspires, so many impassioned nutcases, zealots, and holy roller bike preachers? What is it that makes so many of us feel that we need everyone else to join us? “It’s not enough for me to love this bike riding, I need you to as well”. How do I know when I’ve crossed the line and become a wing nut bicyclist? Are we the nutcases, or is it everyone else? And why don’t more people see the reason behind our passion and join us?I was bundling up to ride home from work the other day – it was pouring down rain. Really wet. I was happy, done with work for the day and getting ready to ride home in the rain. How could I not be happy?

A coworker walked by and offered me a ride home, “really, we can throw your bike in the back of our truck”. I laughed and declined. Another coworker walked by, “I can give you a ride home”. I countered her offer with an offer to give her a ride home on my bike, “You can ride on my back rack”. She laughed and declined.

They think I’m nuts.

I don’t think I am. I know I had more fun on the way home than they did, I can feel it in my bones. They think it was a big ordeal for me, that I went to all kinds of trouble, just to prove a point ( I suppose). I can imagine that it appeared that way. After all, they saw me pulling on my rain gear. They didn’t have to do all that. I suspect they didn’t see that they got as wet dashing to their cars as I did riding home (I arrived with the bottom inch of my left pants leg wet). I’m not sure they appreciated that I only took about 2 minutes to pull my rain pants on, probably roughly the same time it took them to settle into their cars and buckle up etc.

Oh well, they think I’m nuts.

Todd Walton: Propaganda of Childhood



From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com

Mendocino

“What we remember from childhood we remember forever—permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.” Cynthia Ozick

The propaganda of my childhood said that Santa Claus rewards children for being good by giving them what they want. And long after I figured out that my parents were Santa Claus, I continued to believe that the reason I never got what I wanted was because I was not good. Every year I was given clothing I did not want, books I did not want, and things my father wanted, so that as I unwrapped those gifts he would chortle, “What a coincidence. Just what I needed.”

However, when I was ten-years-old, my parents gave me a real bow and arrows with steel tips, something I had been asking for since I was old enough to ask for something. And when I went outside to shoot that bow and arrows, and found that my father had also bought a bale of hay to which he had affixed a beautiful target, I was more than happy; I was filled to bursting with the sense of being good.

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” Shirley Temple

In response to the depressing fact that the latest tax bill signed into law by President Obama actually increases taxes on the poorest 150 million Americans while allowing the super wealthy to pay no taxes at all, a friend remarked, “That doesn’t fit with the propaganda of our childhood.” And her comment struck me as a cogent explanation for why my peers and I continue to be so deeply disappointed by the machinations of the corporate overlords as carried out by their trusty puppets. And her comment also explained why we, the people,

Bruce Patterson: The Darkest Night


From BRUCE “PAT” PATTERSON
4Mules Blog
Anderson Valley

“When steam first began to puff. . .the wild child humanity was caught and put in a harness. What we call business habits were invented to make the life of man harmonious with the steam engine, and his movements rival the train in punctuality. The factory system was invented and it was an instantaneous success. Men were clothed in cheapness and uniformity. Their minds grew numerously alike, cheap and uniform also.”
–G.W. Russell (1867-1935)

Maybe 30 years ago, back when my wife and I were living “off the grid” (back then we called it living without electricity and indoor plumbing) up near Mountain House, a friend told me of a tribe of people—I think they were Patagonian highlanders—who navigated by the night sky but without using the stars. Instead of focusing on the stars, galaxies and constellations, war chariots, Greek gods and wild animals, they used their peripheral vision to see the web work of black pathways connecting them. Myself having always been a stargazer—under High Sierra skies, Mojave skies, Montana skies—I was skeptical because I’d never noticed such a thing.

Yet my friend was well schooled in life’s mysteries and so I decided to put it to the test. It was a hot August night, clouds were about as scarce as January tourists, and after the last of the sunset’s afterglow had gone out to sea, and before the moon had risen, and in order to get away from the glare of our cabin’s kerosene lamps, my wife and I followed a sheep trail to a nearby a point of land.

The wet blanket of hot air was stone still and, while we were getting settled on our sitting spot, we heard the faint echoing chugging of a locomotive pulling a train up the Russian River Canyon.

Todd Walton: Slow Going


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin

Five years ago, a few weeks before I made my move from Berkeley to Mendocino, I came within a few inches of being killed by a young man who was driving his pickup truck very fast while simultaneously using his mobile phone. I had just stepped into the crosswalk at the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Avenue, having been given the go ahead to cross by the illuminated symbol of a human being taking a walk. The young man who was driving his pickup very fast apparently did not see the red light or me or possibly anything as he sped through the intersection with his phone pressed to his ear. I don’t know if he was talking to someone or listening to someone else talking, or perhaps he was listening to music; I am only certain he was pressing his phone to his ear as his two-ton missile shot by within inches of my puny little flesh and blood body. And whether there is such a thing as fate or whether life is a muddle of meaningless happenstance, had I been one step further along at that moment, I would have been smashed to smithereens.

So today I’m driving our old truck into our soggy hamlet to get the mail and groceries, a cold rain falling, and because I am the unelected president of Mendocino Drivers Not In A Hurry To Get Anywhere, I’ve only gotten a few hundred yards down the Comptche-Ukiah straightaway before my rearview mirror is filled with the sight of a pickup closing fast upon me. As is my custom in these situations, I move to the outer edge of the road and slow to a crawl, timing my move so that whoever is driving that oncoming pickup will have an easy time passing me—the road ahead empty, the broken yellow line entirely on our side. But this particular pickup (going at least seventy miles per hour) zooms to within a few feet of my bumper

Bruce Patterson: Harvesting Christmas Trees



From BRUCE ‘PAT’ PATTERSON
Anderson Valley

I’d driven down this particular beaver slide twice already this year, but never with a full trailer during a cloudburst. My brand-new, one-ton diesel, company pickup truck’s full blast windshield wipers were allowing me flickering peeks of the straight-shot clay road down below, the distant bottomlands seemingly as flat as a pond, and the road looked like a yellow-brown waterfall slicing in two a pure green munchkin Doug fir forest planted at double-arms interval. If I slid out of control, I knew, I was going to wipe out some Christmas trees and, worse, get my truck and trailer mired axle-deep in mud. I’d also scratch the truck’s pristine paint job and maybe even give its front side and fenders some inaugural dings. Imagining such a veritable catastrophe, I could see my boss’s face lengthen and redden and then lengthen and redden some more as I bashfully spilled the beans.

Yet we were already late getting to the landing, and I couldn’t very well sit there idling at the top of the beaver slide awaiting a change in the weather. I couldn’t back out of there, either, or ignore my three soaking wet and shivering compadres huddled atop the load. The only way to take the chill off their bones was to get them back to work, and the best thing about off-loading Christmas trees was how it got your body warmed up and put the feeling back into your fingers. Then, if worse came to worst and I crashed, my body wouldn’t get hurt and we had a D-7 Cat tractor parked not two miles away that could come get us back on the road. “Better late than never,” I recited to myself while steeling my nerves.

After telling my three compadres to climb down off the load and then walk behind me down the hill,

Todd Walton: Happiness



From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“If only we’d stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time.” Edith Wharton

November thirtieth. The weather report said Mendocino could expect rain tonight and for the next several days, so in anticipation of the deluge I spent an hour giving my three garlic beds their second mulching with some well-aged horse manure. I planted my garlic on October 17, my birthday, and now all but a few of the hundred and forty cloves I inserted into the friable soil have sent up sturdy green shoots.

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” Mark Twain

Both garlic and humans gestate in their respective wombs for nine months before arriving at the optimal moment for emerging into the light. The poet in me finds this similarity delightful and significant.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” Colette

I am sixty-one and have grown garlic every year for the last thirty years. I began growing garlic while living in Sacramento where I had a large vegetable and flower garden in the backyard of the only house I ever owned. I have grown vegetables since I was six-years-old, but waited to sew my first bed of garlic until I was certain I would be living in the same place for more than a year.

Before I planted my first garlic crop, I consulted pertinent chapters in gardening books and interviewed an elderly Italian woman who grew gorgeous garlic plants in a large circular patch in the center of her impressively green lawn a few blocks from my house. I gathered from my research that in the event of an early and persistently wet winter I might not need to water my garlic until spring, but if no rain fell for some weeks at a stretch

Neil Davis: Is it just me, or is this nutty?



From NEIL DAVIS
Mendo 2 Mile Challenge
Ukiah

Somehow my second month of winter town biking has slipped by. It’s been chilly to cold, in a Northern CA kind of way, so not really that cold. But I am glad to have my gloves and a nice wool cap on in the morning.

We had 3.8 inches of rain (less than normal) in November and not very much of it landed on me, or my bike, despite my riding at least twice a day five to six days a week. There were two days when I rode in a light rain, a couple when the road was wet (but my fenders handled that) and one day when I decided to skip a meeting rather than ride to it in the pouring rain. So the weather hasn’t really provided any excuse to drive the car, nor have I needed to be particularly valiant in my quest to leave the car at home.

I felt kind of guilty when I realized I was deciding to skip a meeting rather than ride in the rain and it made me question my moral fortitude (actually I think I just regretted losing the self righteous high ground). Then as I thought about it more, I realized this makes sense. Is it really bad to decide to stay home when it’s stormy out? Is it bad to actually think about, and weigh the pros and cons, of travel in dirty weather? Is it worth it to go out? Is it safe? I don’t have the stats to back it up, but I suspect there are many more accidents, bike or car, in stormy weather.

Staying at home when it’s stormy is likely the age-old norm. There’s no way Cro magnon Neil would have

Todd Walton: Changing Seasons


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

Every year for the past four years I have been commissioned by Bay Woof, a Bay Area Dog magazine, to write a Christmas story for them, a short short story about dogs and their people at holiday time. I hope you enjoy the tale.

1

Early December. A sunny kitchen. Tea and cookies.

“The dog is the problem,” says Carol, wasting no time stating the case to her brother Ben. “And because I have four cats, two little kids, a busy husband, a formal Japanese garden ill-suited to a large dog, and no time to take the dog for walks; and you are single, self-employed, have a big unkempt, pardon my French, backyard, and your grown daughter visits only rarely, you should take the dog.”

Ben waits before responding, certain his sister has more to say.

“We’re so close to resolving this,” she adds with a hint of ferocity. “He needs to move.”

“Pop or the dog?” asks Ben, the quip irresistible, though he knows Carol will take him literally.

“Pop, of course,” she says, exasperated. “He spends half his time at Fall Creek Village with Mary already. He’d move tomorrow if he could feel okay about leaving the dog behind.”

“Kirk,” says Ben, stating the dog’s name, short for Kierkegaard, their father a retired philosophy professor. “The last time I talked to Pop

Nicholas Wilson: Whiny Wendy and the MCN Listservs


From NICHOLAS WILSON
Little River

[You may have thought the recent elections here in Mendocino were over. The votes were counted, the winners announced, now time to get on with our lives, right? Well, not so with one losing Supervisorial candidate who can’t seem to reconcile herself with her overwhelming rejection in the 5th district. This is a followup report to these prior posts: MCN Discussion List To Be Shut Down; Regarding The Transition Of The MCN Discussion List; True Colors: Wendy Roberts now has a public record; Mudslinging in Mendo; Wendy Roberts’ Dirty Tricks Campaign; Sorry, Wendy. Money can’t buy you love; and A vote for Wendy Roberts is a vote for the Right Wing, Privatizing, and Dumb Growth. “MCN” is an Internet Service Provider Owned and Operated by the Mendocino Unified School District. -DS]

First, the good news that the MCN-Discussion listserv termination has been canceled or postponed. MCN General Manager Mitchell Sprague wrote in a list post dated Dec. 6, 2010 at 9:26 AM titled “MCN Cancels December 15th Discussion List Closure”:

After hearing the various comments and opinions raised in the last few days, I have spoken with Dave Miller, MUSD superintendent. The December 15th timeline for the closure of the discussion list has been removed.
The MUSD board will take up the discussion of the future of the unmoderated, open subscription discussion listserv at a *timed* item at a future board meeting. Superintendent Miller has asked me to pass along that he and the MUSD Board are aware of the other important public meeting regarding the Navy on the same night as the December 16th MUSD Board Meeting,

Bruce Patterson: Back-to-the-Landers?


From BRUCE ‘PAT’ PATTERSON
4 Mules Blog
Anderson Valley

Bruce Anderson, the esteemed editor and publisher of the Anderson Valley Advertiser—about the best little weekly in the West—once told me that he has never considered himself a Back-to-the-Lander. A child of the Great Depression born and raised in San Francisco, Bruce “went country” to escape The City he loved that was getting devoured by the car-crazed megalopolis spreading in all directions like a steel, smoke and concrete rash.

Dave Smith, the noted environmental activist and the owner of Mulligan Books in Ukiah, once told me how his farm stock mother reacted when he told her that he was washing his hands of the wheeled rat race and going back to the land.

“The land?” His mother huffed indignantly, “You can keep the land.”

And that was reasonable enough seeing how, traditionally speaking, the worst thing about rural poverty was being forced from cradle-to-grave to bust your ass in order to maintain it. I’m a second generation American, half Irish and half Slovak, and while growing up I wasn’t ever allowed to forget that I was only two measly generations removed from centuries of hunger, filth, disease, heartbreak, slavery and peonage. The Statue of Liberty was built with folks like my grandparents and me in mind, and stepping ashore in New World was supposed to mean leaving behind the ancient, senile and soiled aristocracy of the moneybag.

Even if my ancestors hadn’t’ve been forced to contend with bloodsucking Feudal landlords, Church-State totalitarianism, brigands and rapacious imperial armies, still tilling another’s land was seldom easy and never profitable, living hand-to-mouth being their version of living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Todd Walton: My Black Heroes


From TODD WALTON
Mendocino

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” Bob Dylan

The black athlete I am currently most enamored of is Michael Vick, the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles who recently spent two years in federal prison for financing a large and illegal pit bull farm where dogs were raised and trained to fight and kill other dogs, and where dogs deemed unfit to be successful fighters were ruthlessly murdered, some by Vick himself. Several of my friends are unhappy with me for liking Michael Vick, just as they were upset with me for liking Mike Tyson, and for liking Muhammad Ali before it became politically correct to like the man who started out as Cassius Clay, and for liking Sonny Liston before I liked Cassius Clay.

I don’t like that Michael Vick treated dogs cruelly and killed them, but I understand that raising and fighting pit bulls is an integral part of southern culture. I sojourned in South Carolina in the 1970’s and attended barbecues at the homes of both white people and black people, and the climax of every such party came when the man of the house took me and a few other men to visit the kennel wherein he kept his illegal fighting dogs and the coop wherein his illegal gamecocks were caged. And as we stood in the presence of these ferocious dogs and ferocious birds, our host would proudly regale us with tales of grisly battles fought by his dogs and cocks, tales for which he expected to be greatly admired.

I don’t recount this southern lore to defend Michael Vick, but to suggest there is a cultural context for his actions. Had he come from China and been the son of a cat breeder providing cat meat

Todd Walton: Attention Deficit Nonsense


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

“Tell the children the truth.” Bob Marley

1957. Las Lomitas Elementary School. Menlo Park, California

“I invite those people with ants in their pants,” proclaimed Mrs. Davenport, my third grade teacher, “to run to the oak tree and back before we get to work on our projects.”

Those people always included me, so I and several of my cohorts, boys and girls, walked sedately to the classroom door from where we bolted into sunlight and fresh air to run across the playground to the gigantic oak that overshadowed the playing field. Upon our return, Mrs. Davenport would say, “Todd, Jody, Wendy, I invite you to circumnavigate the oak one more time because I can see you’ve still got a little jitterbug in you.”

Mrs. Davenport was from Oklahoma and proudly one-eighth Cherokee. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in all my eight mortal years. She was astute, funny, musical, athletic, and she enjoyed using words somewhat beyond the official Third Grade vocabulary. We loved Mrs. Davenport because she loved us and had great empathy for our collective predicament: being eight-year-olds.

In 1957, may the fates be eternally blessed, there was no such thing as Attention Deficit Disorder, nor were hideous drugs routinely and epidemically administered to children with ants in their pants. Thus I was spared the pharmaceutical suppression of my true nature, which was, as our beloved Mrs. Davenport so aptly put it, “To jitterbug.”

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela

Todd Walton: Critical Delusion



From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“The fraudulent practices that got people into homes they couldn’t afford are at the heart of our problem.” Robert Scheer

There is no doubt I am happier and more productive and healthier and much more hopeful when I lose touch with the world outside the local watershed; and I am especially happier when I don’t read articles by Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges and Jim Kunstler and other brave and intelligent left-of-the-now-non-existent-center pundits. When I do read articles by these folks, or essays by relatively moderate commentators like Paul Krugman, I feel depressed and hopeless and mentally bludgeoned because these well-meaning folks keep saying the same things over and over again, week after week, month after month.

So to climb out of my slough of despond, I abstain for days on end from news of the outside world, and the bloom returns to my cheeks, and my writing picks up steam, and new melodies present themselves, and I improve as a husband and friend and neighbor, and I start to think life is pretty okay; and then someone sends me an incisively gruesome article or someone emails me a link to a frightening treatise, and I am once more sucked into reading commentaries elucidating how and why things in the great big world are, indeed, going from bad to worse, and I feel bludgeoned again, and while I’m being bludgeoned I try to make sense of the avalanche of facts about the legions of crooks who own and run the world, though the ultimate sense to be made is the same sense I’ve been making since they ran Jimmy Carter out of office in 1980

Todd Walton: Le Village


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
Mendocino

“I always felt that the great high privilege, relief, and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.” Katherine Mansfield

A soggy afternoon, the last Friday in October of 2010, Halloween two days away. I moved to Mendocino from Berkeley on Halloween five years ago and I have yet to tire of going to the beach. I mention the beach because almost everyone I met during my first two years here assured me that I would soon tire of going to the beach. These same people also told me that after I lived here for a year or two, I would grow stir crazy and hunger for the cultural excitement of the outer world. They were adamant I would want to travel to Mexico or Hawaii or Europe or Manhattan, or at least to San Francisco, but after five years here I have yet to experience the slightest urge to go anywhere but the village, the forest, and the beach.

Today was the last farmers’ market of the year in Mendocino. I love our little mercado. I hope one day to be one of the people selling things in our market. I will vend vegetables and fruit and books and CDs and greeting cards and Giants T-shirts and Giants baseball hats and Cliff Glover and Marion Miller ceramics, and each week zany and eccentric friends will make guest appearances at my booth. I will also have a weekly poetry contest (one entry per person), and a guess-how-many-beans-are-in-the-jar contest, with valuable prizes.

Today I would have bought a farmers’ market pie from the wonderful Garden Bakery people, but I am gluten free now and the Garden Bakery people only sell pies full of gluten. I’m predicting big things for gluten-free foodstuffs in the near future.

Todd Walton: Sport


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable
Mendocino

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” Thich Nhat Hanh

My maternal grandfather, Myron “Casey” Weinstein, went to the University of Michigan in 1918 on an athletic scholarship to wrestle and play baseball. Casey was the backup catcher behind the great Ernie Vick, and proudly recited this historic tidbit even after Alzheimer’s had robbed him of virtually every other memory. My paternal great grandfather, Charles Walton, was a world champion roller skater in the days when skates had steel wheels. His world’s records for sprints and long distances stood for decades after steel skates were things of the distant past.

Even so, my parents were horrified to discover they had given birth to a son, yours truly, who shortly after learning to walk wanted to do little else but play ball. My father was a non-athlete and openly contemptuous of men who played or followed sports. My mother was fond of saying that only boys who weren’t smart enough to do anything else became athletes. I knew this was nonsense because I was one of the smartest guys in my class (judging by the number of silver stars after my name on the class chart) and I adored sports. In fact, the smartest guys I knew, the best guys, were crazy about sports. Kickball, dodge ball, four-square, tetherball, baseball, football, basketball. If a ball was involved, sign me up. I liked bows and arrows and spears, too, but I was most enamored of balls. In an earlier epoch, I would have been a warrior and a hunter.

Gene Logsdon: The Best and Worst Smells On A Farm


From GENE LOGSDON
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Pat Leuchtman brought up an interesting subject when she reviewed my book, “Holy Shit,” on www.commonweeder.com. She reminisced about her early experiences on the farm and how much she liked the smell of cow manure in the barn when she was a child. Lots of us agree with Pat but it has been awhile since I’ve heard anyone praise the smell of manure right out loud. It got me to thinking about the subjectivity of nasal sensations. I wonder if you, dear reader, would agree with my list, below, of the worst and best farm smells, or if you have riper candidates.

The worst farm smells:

1. A bucket of decaying potatoes.
2. An egg so rotten that what remains inside the shell is just a rubbery, almost dry remnant of yolk.
3. Liquid manure slurry from factory hogs fed with a high soybean meal protein supplement. When this manure is being stored in underground pits, the odor will lay you out prostrate on the ground.
4. Buzzard vomit. I don’t know this from experience but my father always said this was “by far the worst smell God ever created.” If you are innocent enough to approach a buzzard nest, this might be your fate.
5. Rotting plant residue on a cabbage field after harvest.

The best farm smells:

1. Wild grape blossoms
2. Good quality hay curing in the mow
3. Freshly-turned, rich, moist soil
4. Air filtering through a woodlot in the spring after a rain shower
5. Blooming apple trees over an orchard floor of white clover.

The odor of barn manure after it has been soaked up and mixed with straw bedding and aged a bit is not offensive to me. It smells like money. As I try to show in my book, high quality manure is going up in value. That’s because commercial chemical fertilizer prices are skyrocketing…

Full article here
~~

Todd Walton: Disappointment


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTable.com
Mendocino

Whilst discussing my hopes and expectations for the San Francisco Giants with Mark Scaramella, he suggested I try my hand at writing about disappointment. I just hope my attempt doesn’t disappoint him.

“Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” Eric Hoffer

What is disappointment? The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines disappointment as: dejection or distress caused by the non-fulfillment of desire or expectation. Substitute the word suffering for distress and we land smack dab at the outset of Buddhist philosophy. The First Noble Truth (and I have yet to read a satisfactory explanation of why the Four Noble Truths are noble rather than big or unavoidable or groovy) is that life is suffering. I recently read an article in a Buddhist magazine suggesting that suffering might not be the most accurate translation of the Sanskrit word Buddha purportedly used. The article suggested that annoying might be a more accurate translation. And in some texts the First Noble Truth is stated as: Life is full of suffering (though not necessarily completely full, which would allow for the occasional pizza, chocolate bar, or delightful flirtation).

But seriously folks, the Second Noble Truth states that the cause (or origin) of suffering is attachment. If we can learn not to be attached to things and people and baseball teams winning the World Series, or even just to being alive, then our suffering will lessen and might even disappear entirely.

Marylyn Motherbear Scott: Speak clearly. Vote for Dan Hamburg!


From MARYLYN MOTHERBEAR SCOTT
Fifth District Mendocino

Everyone wants to enjoy life. That’s one of the reasons we live in Mendocino County. Relatively, we are a small community, nonetheless noticed on a larger map. Why? Simply because we have spoken clearly with our voting voice. We have a strong model of being green, being organic, voting down GMO’s, building up Farmer’s Markets, and caring for our citizenry. We are in a lineage of old time ranchers and farmers, hippies nee neo-pioneers, artists, and small business entrepreneurs. Both the heritage and the promise — a creative individualism that runs deeply and proudly through our county’s esprit de corps and esprit de force.

When I look back to consider why I came here, it was the land pure and simple, the clean water, the clear air, the good earth, the Back to the Land Movement, the neo-pioneering lifestyle that was a part of it. Translation? Do It Yourself — grow your gardens, build your houses, teach your children well. A growing awareness. We are a treasured part of the Garden that is Mendocino County. Our part? We need political leaders who will keep us in good tilth, to help our gardens grow, to support independent means of survival, one that finds the means of support for a vibrant community, one that helps itself and has enough and some to share.

Changes are inevitable. The change we now face is more critical than ever before. In District Five, we have an opportunity to elect an experienced representative to the Supervisor’s Chambers, one who will work toward keeping our county healthy and independent, a reflection of its inhabitants. Dan Hamburg proved himself as a responsible and accessible Supervisor and Congressional representative. We need what Dan has to offer.

Gene Logsdon: The Lonely Hickories


From GENE LOGSDON
Upper Sandusky, Ohio

Along the one lane country roads in our county, the traveler encounters an occasional roadside tree, all by itself at the edge of the endless fields of corn and soybeans. The casual passerby may see nothing unusual about the trees but those of us who have lived here almost as long as these trees have, think of them as quite remarkable. They stand as monuments commemorating the passing agrarian life we cherish.

These trees are hickories, already bearing when I was born seventy some years ago. To understand why they are precious, visualize this landscape when these trees first sprouted at least a hundred years ago. Much of this land was originally forested, and was still in the process of being cleared. All through the 20th century, more trees vanished every year. By the time I worked in the fields, there were still a few sentinels of the old forest dotting the grain fields and pastures. They were left there mostly for shade. In those days farmers spent a lot of time in the blazing sun, not in tractor cabs, and all of you who have felt the July sun bearing mercilessly down on you know what a pleasure it is to be able to rest a bit in the shade. Worth losing a little bit of corn for. A few trees in the pastures were spared for the same reason— shade for the livestock.

One by one, these silent sentinels from the past were cut down or died. It was not much of a bother to dodge a field tree with two-row equipment,