Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We ain't racist......

Reality check.

Other countries....who have experienced actual diversity (Spain has more than half female ministers, including a pregnant Defense Minister, for instance) are completely puzzled my American media coverage of our Presidential campaign.

The entire US media is obsessing over Jeremiah Wright and how his relationship with Barack Obama will affect the Presidential race.

In Europe.....having access to actual facts, and actual journalists.......and having news programs that have the luxury of actually exploring ideas in depth......they are puzzled: why does Barack get flack from a minister who says things that are patently true, if phrased incredibly poorly....a minister he has distanced himself from.....when John McCain gets a free ride for enthusiastically embracing the support of a radically homophobic, sexist, religious lunatic?

Reverend Hagee disagrees with domestic violence laws because they distort the sanctity of the home and family by undermining the Man's authority over Woman....and continues to assert that New Orleans deserved Katrina for allowing a Gay Pride parade. And this is not news......because????

And this is not racist....because????

People are going on and on and back and forth about Hillary and Barack and the change in the opinion polls over bowling and orange juice and Rev. Wright.

In Europe......they understand that the fight is over. Hillary Clinton has lost mathematically and factually. Only the US media can save her now....and they are hard at work at their task.

Watch this.

Hillary has adopted the strategy and ideas of Karl Rove in attempting to destroy Barack Obama so that she can achieve her God given right to rule America. If she were in Europe, the media would have already caught her in her 101 Dalmatian fur coat.....but American MSM gives her a free pass.....and we won't even talk about John McCain's free pass. Yet.

Obama is so non-confrontational that his people are down-playing Hillary's Glenn Close channelling, rabbit-boiling persona as........nothing the Republicans won't try later.

Wrong.....there is a legion of young...and old....folk looking for leadership in what some would call a new direction, but what is actually an old, tried and true, American direction: hope, peace, progress, intelligence, humanity. The direction that caused the rest of the world to pay attention to us and put faith in us to begin with.

My young people are already giving up on the Democrats.....and making plans to abandon the process and/or emigrate.....and they are not kidding.

Check out what Ted Sorenson had to say in this week's New York Times Magazine Q and A:

Ted Sorenson worked for John F. Kennedy for 11 years as an advisor and speechwriter. (I hate having to put that note in there for the Carmel High kids........)

As the so-called poet of Camelot, are there any lines or phrases even one you are willing to claim authorship of? I acknowledge that I played a large part in the American University commencement speech on peace on June 10, 1963. “What kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”

Was your working relationship with J.F.K. the great love affair of your life? Yes, of course.

Barack Obama, whom you’ve endorsed, has been compared to J.F.K., probably because of his youth and charisma. By me.

Do you find the comparisons facile? Not my own.

What do you make of Hillary’s comment that Obama’s promises and speeches are “just words”? Kennedy’s rhetoric when he was president turned out to be a key to his success. His mere words about Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba helped resolve the worst crisis the world has ever known without the U.S. having to fire a shot.

Isn’t it melodramatic to call the Cuban missile crisis the worst crisis ever? What about, say, World War I? With all due respect, with World War I the survival of the earth was not at stake.

When will the contest for a Democratic candidate end? I think it’s likely to be almost as close as it was for Kennedy at the Democratic convention in 1960. We felt that he had to be nominated by the first ballot because if it ever went to a backroom he wouldn’t emerge. Probably the same is true of Obama.

Don't blow this, boys and girls.......

Why we fight....Part IX

I am the world's worst photographer. I am also the world's worst swimmer, and I can't carry a tune in a bucket despite years of attempted piano lessons. I have failed to learn how to swim, despite marrying at least two licensed swim instructors, one of whom was even a Royal Swim in licensed to teach actual royalty, or at least Cypriot immigrants in a Royal Ghetto.

I put it all down to genetics. I am Irish. Immersion in the Irish Sea....or the relatively warm Irish side of the a death sentence in twenty minutes or so. I have witnessed seventy foot storm surges on the Kerry coast, and the futility of learning to swim became clear to me. My relatives on both sides were sea-captains. No one can swim for shit. What is the point?

I fought this genetic thing for a long time.....witness two marriages to swim instructors. I also became a rescue diver. It turns out that wet suits will float matter what, for no matter how long. And, with a generational propensity for sinking to the bottom of any available salt water body at hand....I was already fully past-life experienced with functioning under salt water, albeit for however short a time. The fact that the twentieth century gave us sinking micks alternative breathing devices on our way to the bottom just made the whole experience absurdly comfortable and easy.

My friend Phil Sammet trained me past the no-swimming thing....and even got me down to 230 feet in Bluefish Cove at Point Lobos. In wetsuits. The famous deep-dive nitrogen intoxication never affected us, as the foto below shows.....

Who better to save you than this guy.....a non-swimming Irish guy. If you GET saved by this grateful that Darwin missed you.

And, as a rescue diver.....I actually saved some folks. Amongst the many proofs of the existence of an ironic diety is the fact that one of my saved souls now lives a hundred meters from The Store, is less than robustly clean and sober, and makes a daily, annoying and time-consuming appearance in all of our lives.

Photography, though.....It ain't happening. We worked for Ansel Adams, Tom Millae, Rod Dresser, Kim Weston, Cole Weston, Andre Kertesz. I can't get the fucking image when I see it.

I have friends who can, which makes it all the worse: Bennie Spiedel, Brian Buck, son Conall Jones....or Jacek, a blog-friend. These guys, left alone with light and some silver oxide can capture all you need to know about any given moment in time and light. Effortlessly.

This brings us back to the whole "a picture is worth 10,000 words" thing.

This time of year finds us trying to rally from Seasonal Affective Disorder.....and Seasonal Bridal Disorder......and Seasonal Tax Disorder. This is why you buy dogs.....who drag you up the mountain twice a day, no matter what. We have twelve acres of poison oak on the cold side of the mountain...even marijuana won't grow here.....but the dogs religiously drag us up and down the mountain in the early morning and the late light at dusk.

The morning hike goes down mountain. Old Morgana....the half-wolf with the bad hips....struggles as I do on the way back up. She still goes religiously, even though she falls a lot. Her job is to protect me from mountain lions. No matter where I go, she is a couple of yards upwind, vigilant. Grandpuppy races through the woods like a maniac, while Floyd (the Tassajara Monastery reject) and Sparky paddle around aimlessly.

I take machetes and cutters and save my absentee neighbors' oaks from giant poison oak vines. I steal the neighbor's Herald on the way down to try to blot out the whole Nature thing. That lasts a minute or two.....

This morning, with the Herald fully read.....on a twenty minute walk over half of which was on a paved driveway.....I counted 28 varieties of wildflowers. This is without bending over and looking closely. Each new iteration of each wildflower called for my attention, and I fought it....except to register the ordinal.

Then I came around a turn and was faced with this view....apologies to Bennie and Jacek and Conall.....none of those guys would have the phone line in the shot....and they would have gotten the colors right. Colors that almost stopped my heart.

The dim bell went off in the back of my head: "Pay attention, dipshit!"

Life is going on around you......and your eyes are closed. Fuckhead!

Somewhat inspired, I went back to my desk......and eight hours later the dogs dragged me back outside. This time up the hill.

We thrashed through the brush....did some clearing of the trails. Every time I pulled out some poison oak I felt guilty.....We are right now during Work Period at Tassajara, and I am responsible for keeping their trails clear of poison oak. What am I doing working my own piece, when the monks have nobody?

Grandpuppy Xabi came barking up to me......trailing a long gown of purple vetch. He was thrilled.....he had found a deer antler, and it had somehow become entangled with vetch and baby wild daisies.

I followed him off the trail, trying to catch his flower-train. We ran through the deer mint.....the high notes (square stemmed lavender, basil, mint, etc) of fragrance ricocheting off the dangerous earthy tones of the crushed poison oak.

We came out in a clearing where the poison oak had killed a wild oak. In front of us was a quarter acre of purple vetch, monkey flower and deer mint relaxing in the shade of the surviving wild oaks. Out beyond was Rancho Chupinos....same view as in the morning....but with the purple lupines going off, and the California poppies picking up the setting sun.

The view exactly matched the fragrance of the woods. Even the dogs stopped in their tracks.

Where is Bennie, or Jacek, or Conall....when you really need them.

Or Robert Frost, for that matter.

Tomorrow to Tassajara. Gotta start paying attention.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Lives of Others.......

You know how you watch the Oscars.....and always think: "Wow, that sounds great.....I gotta see that film!" Especially when it comes to foreign films.

I dunno. Since 90% of you are younger than I, and have acutal probably get to go to movies. The last film I saw in a theatre was actually "Pan's Labyrinth"....but you all know I am a Spain fetishist, so it doesn't count.

And it was two years ago.

Tonight....when I was supposed to be posting about Tassajara and Spring!......Brendan brought home some films to watch. There was a strong hint of "Family Bonding".....and since we have this new family, I thought I had better do some Bonding.

What? New family? What....adopted Mormon children from San Angelo? No......just Nike.

Nike's family has temporarily dissolved, so we are walking that thin line.....once again....between all the various government agencies that are: "Here To Help Us!"

Nike's situation is that if we try to get her some help by telling someone official about her family situation......the mere fact of her being with her family would violate her probation.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Inspector Javert.......

We are back to getting up at 6 something and trying to make the 7:10 bus in The Village to Carmel High. And back to calling Ann Berry at CHS with excuses for those missed first periods when we don't make it. And those second periods. For Ann Berry.....getting phone calls from me in 2008 about failed car batteries, fallen trees, mountain lions, washed out driveways, obscure allergies and ailments for a high school sophomore....must be like getting chicken pox again at age 55. First, there were my three Robert Klem-kicker......and Arwin......then Chloe for three years. I am a seventeen year migraine for poor Ann Berry.

Last night as I was settling in to watch the Daily Show and fall asleep (at 8:30.....) I rallied and realized that at our advanced age we are probably not providing a really good intellectually stimulating and supportive environment for Nike. We are so worn out by human contact and food esoterica that at home we just grunt at each other, micro-wave some organic pad thai and retreat into dark corners.

So last night I crawled out of my den to check with Nike: "Are you OK? Can I get you anything or help with anything?"

"No. I am fine. Thank you so much for letting me stay here......." generous of us. To let one of the smartest, most emotionally brave and durable people I have met in a decade sleep in the empty spare bedroom? What a drag it is to have a happy, smiling face to deal with at 3pm and 6am. Like mother birds are bummed by all those little chicks going "Cheep, cheep, cheep."

And her alternative available spot to live is on the couch at Rippling River in her drug-dealing uncle's State funded apartment.....with his dogs, his girlfriend.....Nike's mom and her little sister. Nike's mom actually called me the other night and in a drunken moment demanded that I bring Nike home so she could help her Mom fight with her Dad.


One of Mom's more precious moments recently was demanding that Nike pay for the family groceries at The Store, since their charge was maxed out. When the fifteen year old demurred....Mom screamed for all and sundry to hear: "You are lucky to even be on the planet. You were just a drunken mistake!"

I was worried about our legal position in all of this.....we are marking time until May 6th, when Nike's probation ends....and she can possibly self-emancipate. We all think of it as Nike's real birthday. I was somewhat assured when Nike's social worker spent the afternoon with her yesterday.......and dropped her off at our house for dinner.

Maybe my house isn't so bad after all......

"Nike...we love having you here. You are helping us, it is not us helping you....

Do you have homework?"

The next thing I knew I was in a discussion about physics....and the dreaded "E" word.


Awww, Jesus. I fetched my college physics teacher was the actual Richard Feynman......and Stephen Hawking, and Carl Sagan (who used to eat in our restaurant every Friday in Ithaca). I even had a biography of the equation e=mc2....and a book about who got Einstein's office at Princeton.

The poor girl.....she had no idea of the geekdom she had inadvertently submerged in. We talked for three hours about entropy, and tried to figure out if you really could measure it with a Go board like Feynman said.

And missed the goddam 7:10 bus. "Uh, Ann. Nike missed first period due to an excess of...... entropy."

No shit. I think that is my family motto, though I don't know how to say "excess entropy" in Gaelic.

Some drunken mistake.

Anyway, back to Family Bonding. Brendan grabbed "The Lives of Others"....a German film about the Oscar winner from last year or the year before.

I was thrilled...but I speak German. The three of us sat on the couch with Puppy and watched a long, intricate, finely cut examination in German of morality, ethics, love, loyalty....and the power of The State.

The film examines the East German Secret Service (Stasi) and their investigation into the loyalty of a writer and his actress lover. It is a Romeo and Juliet of the George Bush era.....well, actually the Erich Honecker era (it is tough to keep these dictators apart) before the Berlin Wall fell.

The film is devastating. Brendan loved it because all the scenes shot in East Berlin reminded him of Prague when he first arrived. I loved dissecting the sub-titles take on the actual language.....and how apt the whole theme of utter State invasion and dominance of private life was to our situation today.

The kids missed it: "Wow. I am sure glad I didn't live then....when the government could totally tap your phones and invade your house, and wreck your life if you didn't agree with them....."

Uh, kids......check out the FISA debate...and Telecom immunity. You really think every text message, email and cellphone call you have ever made is not available for scrutiny? That it is up to those holding the data to decide if and when and where to bring you down?

This is to the kid who checked out GoogleEarth and saw his ex-girlfriend walking down the street with the new guy......

Nike did get the ethics and courage theme. The rest had never occurred to her.

The Stasi agent....number the role of the priest in Romeo and Juliet almost.......deflects the State scrutiny away from the hero just enough to create a little space for him. At the cost of his own career. Like Javert letting Jean Valjean slip away at the end of "Les Miserables".

At the end of the film it all clicked for her. The subtlety, the fine lines and fine choices, the daily balancing act, the threats, the courage in the face of ultimate power and ultimate drudgery.

I watched her actually expand before my eyes as it all registered: "This is what I do!"

Some "drunken mistake"......

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dylan's Birthday......

Bear with me folks.

I was born in Hawaii...the old Hawaii. My grandfather was the Marine Surveyor of the Hawaiian Islands....and a merchant marine captain during WWII. He finished out as a Master for the Matson Lines....the Lurline, etc for you old farts. Our produce guy today in Carmel Valley, Denis Thush, was a steward on the Lurline when my grandfather was Master.

My grandmother was cut from different stock. She was also from Oregon (we still use her grandmother's recipe to preserve ducks and pork)......but she was small and dark. In Hawaii, she fit right in, and everyone thought she was a local.

Gramps was away a lot...and Grannie lived in a third floor apartment on the Ala Wai Canal.....kind of a gnarly neighborhood in later days, but fully working class in 1946. On the second floor lived a great roly-poly Japanese butcher. Grannie was terrified of the man, because they often arrived at the same time and she had to dodge around him on the stairs.....he with his blood-soaked apron and handful of carving cleavers.

One day, she missed her dodge around the butcher and was trapped on the landing outside his apartment as he opened his door. The giant bloody butcher with an armful of razor sharp chopping cleavers and knives invited her in for a cup of tea.

Trembling in fear....she accepted. She had her tea, and could not help but notice the cages of gorgeous singing pigeons that the butcher was raising in his tiny apartment. The birds were fat, and loved, and beautiful...with sweet, soulful voices. Grannie, in her discomfort....and frank terror.....admired several of them profusely. The butcher seemed pleased with her praise. She eventually made her escape.....and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Next morning, when she emerged from her apartment to get the newspapers....there were four beautifully wrapped packages on the mat.

The pigeons she had admired.

The local Hawaiian culture was such that if you went out of your way to admire something......that person who owned or created it would be honor bound to give it to you.

Hold that thought.........

This is Dylan's birthday week. Actually he is an April 18th guy.....In New Jersey when you say: April 18th, people immediately say: "It was April 18th of '75, hardly a man is yet alive.....who remembers the famous Day and Year......of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere....."

In Carmel they go: "Huh?"



By growing up in California, Dylan has at least been spared the unending historical trivia that his birthday would generate in the Northeast. Still, the lad lives in Santa Cruz....and the 4/18 is perilously close to 4/20. Along with being Buddha's birthday, 4/20 is the International Smoke Out Day....and we are not talking Cohibas here.

Having a birthday close to 4/20 in Santa Cruz is like having a birthday close to Christmas in the rest of America.....hard to get personal attention.

I thought it would be nice and completely different and out of Dylan's normal orbit to do a birthday dinner for him at Manresa....our favorite restaurant on this continent....or at least this half of this continent.

Manresa plays in the same leagues as our favorite Spanish restaurants: insane attention to detail and technique, whimsy, insane attention to detail quality and variety of ingredients, insane attention to detail of the plate.....

"Insane" in my world is not a perjorative, by the way.

Taking Dylan to Manresa, once we got him there, and got him installed in his seat.....I realized....was in the same league as me buying my Dad the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album for Christmas in 1965. The possibility of self-gratification was all around the "gift".

Dylan lives in a hive of a dozen or so Banana Slugs on the railroad tracks in North Santa Cruz. The house is close to: 1) a cheap Thai restaurant; 2) Safeway; 3) a brew pub. He and his other engineering genius housemates are working on the design of a vehicle to travel up the railroad tracks to the brew pub and the Safeway.....

DUI on a railroad track? Not possible.

His rent is $300 a month.

So....spending five months' rent on dinner for a gesture almost on the level of a rock band trashing an expensive hotel room. Why did we do it? Because we CAN, dammit!

Enjoying David Kinch's food at Manresa always fires us up. When it is great, we are awe-struck and inspired. When it is just good.....we are really inspired, because we can do that too! Regardless, the innovation and vision we see on his plates always lights us up and gives us big push on the crazy swing-set we call Culinary Life.

We just went through this with Dylan's brother Conall in Spain....having wonderful, exotic, creative, over-the-top meals and great conversation en-famille....and then trying to hide the bill from him. To me....a couple months' momentum is worth a couple months' rent. No?

And....Dylan has started working with me as a chef on the hotside at The Store. The lad needs to see gorgeous plates.....we are knocking out a hundred or so each every Monday, and I wanted him to understand why I have falling down fits about the exact color of the dust on sole fillets, or the placing of the Himalayan Red Rice just so, or the direction the asparagus lays......or why I curse the waitress when she tries to pull the plate away before the Cypress lava salt gets its time.....

I am protecting Dylan from Brendan's station for a while. Don't want to scare the kid off. After 23 years in a restaurant family we are just now coaxing him in to our culinary crack house......He has been wary up to now.......Why ever?

In the course of basking in the glow of my favorite chef's food and the company of most of my favorite people on the planet.....I hearkened back to Dylan's first birthday.

Dylan's full name is Dylan Ansel Slattery Jones. The Ansel is for Ansel Adams....our employer and mentor for the first years of our business.

Ansel died on April 22, 1984.....a year before Dylan was born. The circumstances of his death are worth a book.....and certainly a good blog post. Ansel Adams was/is definitely in there in Dalai Lama Land: wise, connected, ironic, kind.......all that.

A year later, Ansel's wife Virginia asked us to go to Yosemite to do the catering at the first anniversary of Ansel's death....and the occasion of the naming of Mount Ansel Adams in Yosemite. Fuckin' A! Of course.

Virginia grew up in Yosemite.....She was Virginia Best, the princess of the premier California art family. Her Dad was a famous painter, and had the concession at the shops in Yosemite. Virginia still did.

Ansel became famous....but Virginia was always the Queen. When Virginia and Ansel married, Pops Best was not stoked: his daughter was marrying an unemployed piano player with a big camera. It was for us, years later, to watch people fawn over Ansel and ignore their peril.

So....when Virginia said "Jump!" we already knew to say "How high?"....on the way up, of course. This is not to imply that Virginia was a bitch......quite the opposite, she was our buddy and co-conspirator....but power is power.

Saturday, April 20th....Yosemite....Reception for 150...No problem, Virginia.

The only problem in the way of our catering this party two hundred some odd miles and five hours away from our kitchen in a remote location with no staff, no facilities, no refrigeration and international scrutiny was one tiny one: my wife was nine months pregnant.

No worries.....Jane is a trooper. She'll deliver on time, and everything will be fine. kind of worked out. We got all our prep done, lined up some stalwarts to make the trip with us: me, partner Valentine, Deborah2, Crazy Robert, Chef Peter....and, of course Jane, Brendan (age 4.5) and Conall (age 2.5). We would leave on Friday morning the 19th....get situated, meet our local staff, do the party on Saturday problems.

I was so the bad way...that I had flights booked for all of us on Sunday night for New York. To get Jane and the baby to good room service.


Jane....God love her forever....went into labor on Thursday, right on schedule.....and Dylan was born Thursday afternoon. We didn't know his name was Dylan yet....that was decided by public vote a few weeks later: Owain and Gawain were the other choices. Jesus. Talk about child abuse. Even those crazy Texas Mormons don't go that far......

Baby and mom home from hospital to the joys of a pre-party pack. We bundled everyone up....."Nice to meet you, Baby! Please stand back....we are loading the van."

Dylan was now eight hours old, and we loaded him in the catering van and drove to Yosemite to do a party.

When we arrived at Yosemite some five hours later, we attempted to check in at the Awahnee...the gorgeous old hotel. Nope...sorry, folks. Camp Curry for you worker bees. No worries.....we checked into our shitty motel and still made it in time for dinner at the Awahnee. Deborah2, who became Dylan's godmother by virtue of being the only female Catholic in California who would talk to me.......had not brought formal clothes. We bought her a big T-shirt in Virginia's gift shop, and a belted it.......Voila!

We did the Fancy Restaurant Perp Walk.....Me, 4+ Brendan, 2+ Conall, recently pregnant Jane with 14 hour old baby, Deborah2 in belted T-shirt, Valentine, etc...... Everyone stared, and our waitresses were note-perfect. One of them took little Dylan on a tour of the giant gorgeous dining room. Somewhere I have a foto of her with him standing inside one of the humongous fireplaces...

Next morning, I walked outside of Camp Curry in the cold frosty dawn with little Dylan. We walked up to a famous old oak......the "Oak Tree Snowstorm" oak. I gave the little guy a monologue about oaks in general....and this particular tree, and about Ansel. We stood there as the sun came up and the groundfog lifted....and both of us....all three of us at this point...stood in shock and awe as the light whipped through all her various tricks as the day began. Day One for Dylan.....kind of. Day 1.5 for sure.

Anyway.....we did the party. Knocked their socks off. Dylan was a star, as was Jane. The wonder and absurdity of a 36 hour old mom and baby caterer tickled anyone who cared to notice.

After the party, I wandered through the gift shop. I stopped in front of the jewelery section and admired the turquoise. Ten years before I successfully lured Jane back into my life in Telluride, Colorado......and bereft of the normal human communication skills....I bought her turquoise and silver from the Four Corners Navajos who would occassionally sneak into our cursed valley. All of it was stolen by kids as soon as we moved to Carmel Valley...but enjoyed looking at it all....especially one belt buckle that reminded me of one I had bought Jane...... and told as much to the sales girl. I also told her about Dylan and my little session with the oak. She was nice.

Virginia had lots of turquoise because she loved it, too.....and had a route to buy it all through Arizona and New Mexico, back in the day. If you know anything about photography, you know about the visual relationship between Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keefe....and the launching of Ansel's career with the image of "Moonrise Hernandez". The only reason Ansel was introduced to New Mexico and Arizona was because of Virginia's turquoise Jones....

Anyway, we packed up and left.....we had a plane to catch!

The story goes Los Banos and New York City.....


When we returned to Carmel Valley there were two packages waiting for us at our house.

Package One was small. I opened it up: the silver and turquoise belt buckle I had admired in the shop.

Package Two was large and flat.

I opened it up: one of the very few personally signed and personally printed images of "Oak Tree Snowstorm" that Ansel Adams ever did.

Virginia Adams was.... and is..... my image of the perfect employer. She ran a 90 year old business from a distance....a business the existence of which changed the face of modern art and photography.....and yet was so in touch with her products and her workers that she could devine a special gift for a friend out of counter-top gossip.....

And the morals and ethics of which gift matched Dylan's' great-grandmother's experience in Hawaii forty years before.

There are still folks out there who are paying attention to every detail......moral, social, practical, ethical, visual, political.....spiritual.

So....dinner at Manresa was not such a bad choice.

And...... Dylan.

His mom was totally blase about delivering a baby and immediately diving ensemble into Catering Land for the first 48 hours of his life....

And I was wondering why it took Dylan so long to try to dip his toe back in the culinary waters?

Bad kind of insane, Dad.

But...... a great kind of backwards birthday present to be working with my son in the Sturm und Drang of hotside service on Monday Night at The Cachagua Store.

And a huge "Thank You" to Jane.....and Virginia....on the occasion of Dylan's Birthday.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Remember that whole Compassionate Conservative thing with our former President?

By the way...thanks to an electronic calendar someone brought us at Monday Night Dinner.....I can tell you we have only 275 days, and some 22 hours left to endure this awful, useless prick......

Well, those of us who think of themselves as actual Compassionate Conservatives.... I guess that we ran smack-dab into John Calvin with these current douche bags we call a government......Everything is pre-determined, you see. God's way of showing his favor is to make you rich. Poor people are depraved and unworthy.

In Cachagua, we are surrounded by poor people. This is the ocean we swim in.....even though we sally forth to take care of our wealthy friends in town.....Cachagua is really is all that John Calvin needs to know about us!

Actually, the REASON we are in Cachagua has more to do with corrupt Monterey water use regulations and politics.....but nevermind. The fact that we tolerate these folk is all that anyone need know about us.

Part and parcel of moving to Cachagua to operate our catering kitchen has been to deal with the homeless, and the peri-homeless.

Is it a home if you live in an illegal dwelling and have no lease...even if you have been there for forty years? Oh, and you have no electricity, and carry water in buckets....and the daughter your raised there is graduating magna cum laude from Carmel High and is stressing out over whether to go to UC Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Davis or Santa Barbara on full scholarship?

Is it a home if....even though you have paid cash and have legal title....the property you bought is so stuffed with old cars, batteries, water heaters and such that five years hence you find yourself fighting not only foreclosure but Monterey County: "Maintaining a Public Nuisance"? Because you irritated Officer Cocksucker.......

Or guys like Dave...with no car, no ID, no social security.....who lives in a trailer I bought by the creek out back of the Store. Dave is a steady pack of Camels, 12 pack of Coors, food, electricity and so exchange for sorting the re-cycle, filling the Monday Night water bottles, and raking the yard.

Dave has cost me $60,000 in the past five years.

I used to be bitter. I work my ass of every day. I get three weeks off a Spain. These homeless, low-lifes seem to have every day off.....and I am supporting them?

It is like my immigration thing....I used to blame the immigrant, ignoring the fact that US businesses are luring these people north by promising them jobs that violate every possible aspect of modern employment law...actually even Victorian employment law......for decades now. And have been cashing in on the difference between illegal wages and benefits and American wages and benefits.....for decades. And then call themselves True Americans and rail against the poor bastards that they have lured in and have been under-paying.......

Wait. Upton Sinclair ran for Governor of California in 1930 on the EPIC platform. End Poverty in California. Sinclair was concerned with these exact same issues. William Hearst made short work of him....with the able assistance of the California Highway Patrol, the Kern County Sheriffs and other stalwarts. 1930 is perilously close to a hundred years ago. Nothing has changed.

Anyway, we have a lot of contact with homeless guys.

Exhibit One: Grant Risdon.

Grant....just go to Conall's blog on the left over there....or go to YouTube and type in "jackabdiel" as a search and look for Conall's 'Granting Rant' stuff.

Grant is a poetic and artistic and lyric genius. Well, he does have some drug and alcohol problems.....but having Grant around is like having Jesse James, or Ike Clanton, or Brendan Behan's fucked up Dad out back. The man is living history.

Grant lives on the Hillbilly Bocce court behind The Store in late winter and early Spring ....then moves into the creekbed when it dries up for Summer and Fall. Winters he searches out Jesus, in his many forms and appearances, and lives in various Missions in Salinas. The Victory Mission embraces Jesus and eschews alcohol. Grant luckily found a Latino Mission that is kinder towards fermented beverages and appreciates his musical bent.....though he happily took his free teeth he got from the Victory folks and ran like the bandit that he is.

They don't fit well...the teeth....and Grant did better as a toothless guy, but what the hell?

Here is Grant's Corner at The Store....shot by my awesome friend Brian Buck:

Grant has been profiled here before. Do a search for "Grant".

I understand that Grant gets about a grand a month from his police brutality settlement from the 80's....when he lassoed the sheriff and dragged him up the road and got beat into a six-month coma for his troubles. He is on a strict budget.

We buy less than sterling wines for Grant that he can get for $4-5 a bottle. Grant comes in at the end of our various meals and takes what we can give for $5 or so. Everything is served properly on real plates. There is no condescension on our part.....Grant is a real customer. Dignity....ours and crucial.

Other times, Grant comes by with a joke, a witticism, an anecdote....or just a happy-go-lucky attitude that helps us through our day. We make him a sandwich, or a plate.....all parties are happy.

Tonight, I caught myself being Republican. People made reservations for dinner tonight....we are secretly open on I came in and Micah and I worked for a couple of hours on a simple prix fixe. No one showed.

Whatever.....fuck 'em. We all made prime rib sandwiches for ourselves, down to the nub...which was slightly dry and overcooked, but not much. Niman Ranch prime rib. I was wrapping up the nub to take home to Xabi the Wonder Dog. Fuck these people....I love my dog. Better he should have your food.

Grant had been around during the evening at a polite distance. I have learned to judge his relative hunger by his relative distance from the kitchen. Tonight he was on the periphery, waiting to go to the Evangelical Mexican Band Practice.....he is the castanet player.

I took a moment......let go of my anger at the no-shows, and any lingering resentment at the not working homeless guys......and got some of Micah's bread from Monday.....sliced it, hosed it down with good olive oil and fried it in a pan. Sliced up the prime rib nub, laid it on the fried homemade bread, spread on some Whole Foods mustard and wrapped the whole thing up in parchment for Grant. I took extra care to make sure that everyone knew that this was not charity, but us just involving Grant in the same Workers' Community of Left-Over Niman Ranch Prime Rib Because the Rich People Didn't Show Up that we all were part of....

Because he belongs. Grant is an organic part of our or no work. "From each according to his each according to his needs." You just have to pay close attention to the "from" and the "to".

A no-brainer, right? But this dynamic goes on every our town, our dogs eat better than many of our people.

There is a dog caterer. Really.

Speaking of dogs.....

Two other homeless guys....Jay and Fred....used to be Cachagua residents, for years and years. Fred's dad, Pablo still lives out here. Amanda says that Pablo at age 80 has the prettiest legs in Cachagua. Pablo has a great story about driving over the Oakland Bay Bridge with Richard Brautigan with a dead guy in the car...back in the day. Pablo was a butcher at Nielsen's in Carmel on Day 1940 or whenever. Pablo is the first to tell you that he smokes Camel Filters in the box....because the box protects his drugs (meth) from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune....but he still has the prettiest legs in Cachagua.

Fred was not Pablo's real son....but a homeless kid that Pablo took in fifty years ago. When Fred got polio, Pablo went to the wall for him....gave up his house and his life and his make sure that the kid got treatment.

Fred was our dishwasher, and Jay was our painter. The painting sucked and peeled immediately, and Fred broke nearly as many dishes as he washed successfully. Both guys are working fools, though. They did our roof, and it mostly doesn't leak....too much.

Fred is such a hard worker that his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not in his mind...but in his hands. Fred worked in concrete.....smoothing the stuff with his hands for decades....and on fishing boats. His hands are so preternaturally rough that the cracks and fissures will actually tear denim if he is not careful and mindful.

Fred and Jay lived in little cabins in Prince's Camp right on the river. Unbelievably idyllic. your heart out. We rent a cabin next door for our interns.....and we are still waiting for the novel. Steinbeck and Cannery Row? Fuck off. Sam Urmy...bring it. A Spanish kid is moving in this spring.....maybe.

Fred and Jay love dogs.....Fred has Henry, and Jay has Blue. Henry is a purebred some kind of something that reminds me of Michael Spinks.....sleek, black, incredibly strong, gorgeous and possibly scary, but kind and ironic. Blue is a Cachagua dog....a Nason mix of border collie and various cattle dogs who is a first cousin to our Tassajara dog, Floyd.

Fred and Jay are also the two guys that made possible our Memorial Day thing on the beach two years painting 2500 stakes white on all four sides on three day's notice. Again....check out Conall's blog for the results. Or look here....

These guys did this work because they believed in us, and supported us to the very best of their abilities.....the one time anyone gave them a chance. They did this work for friendship.....because friendship is their core value. Oh, and they did it for free.....even though they had no money.

Eventually, Jay and Fred came to the decision that the $250 a month they were paying each would be better spent on drugs and alcohol. So they moved to the mountain canyon above Whole Foods in Monterey.

Blue is kind of scary looking, so the legion of homeless guys who live on The Mountain use Henry to beg outside Del Monte Center....or on the corners of Munras and Soledad.

Turns out the joke is on them....Henry is so sleek and gorgeous that the Carmel and Pebble Beach ladies would do u-ies and go back inside and buy bags of organic dog food for the lad. The campsite has a mountain of dog food.....and not so much cash and people food.

One night last week, a pack of coyotes attacked the campsite to get at the dogfood. The homeless guys rallied, but Blue and Henry really rallied and kicked some coyote ass. There was a huge fight....and Blue and Henry disappeared into the woods in a snarling mass of angry canine war.

Fred and Jay freaked out, too. They ran off in search of their buddies. Fred fell into the canyon and broke his ankle. Jay climbed down, did the first-responder thing on Fred.....learned over years on tuna boats in Alaska....and back packed Fred up the hill to CHOMP.

Unfortunately, there was a journalist present......and when Henry killed a coyote the fucker ratted him out to Animal Control.......who responded and took a now placid Henry off to the SPCA.

The boys....left to no other option....called The Cachagua Store for help.

This is the definition of being Shit Out of Luck....calling the Cachagua Store for help.

But.....we responded.

Two hundred bucks to bail out Henry. Driving to the SPCA to talk to the ladies. Having our lawyer call the Monterey cops to make it all cool.

Sadly, Henry is now labeled as a "dangerous animal" in we had to find him a temporary home in Cachagua.

Even more sadly....Jay and Fred have to move out of the Monterey city limits to keep Henry and they are going to have to move back to Cachagua.....away from any source of cash and dog food from the rich ladies of Carmel and Pebble Beach.

Luckily, we are Compassionate Conservatives......anyone who would give up his home and income, however humble....for love of his my kind of human.

I am trying to figure out how to explain this to my accountant....and inevitably, the IRS.

Oh....and my wife!

Oh....and Officer Cocksucker...who will not be far behind, enforcing ordinances protecting the rich folk from any possible vision of people like Jay and Fred....and Henry and Blue.....

I have come around. I am no longer angry and resentful. To me it is an honor and a privledge to know and support these guys.

I know, John losers, all of us.

One for our finny friends....and relatives....

From truthout, just now:

Remember from the Farm Bill wars.....ten percent of farmers receive 80% of subsidies. And, Monterey County....despite having a very effective Representative in Sam Farr, is way down on the totem pole of government farm handouts. That's what we get for growing those silly vegetables and yuppy grapes.

The Central Valley on the other hand.......

Once again, this was a case where the folks in the White House personally intervened to overturn conclusions and decisions by their own scientists. The fact that the water thus diverted went in many cases to crops that are also heavily subsidized by the same government makes this a real stick in the eyeball to anyone with any sense of outrage.

And my bold print at the end of the article.....

Federal Judge Tosses Plan to Export More Delta Water
By Dan Bacher
t r u t h o u t | Report

Friday 18 April 2008

Fresno - On April 16, Federal Judge Oliver Wanger tossed out a controversial federal plan that would have allowed more pumping of water from the imperiled California Delta at the expense of five species of protected Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

Recreational fishing, commercial fishing, conservation groups and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe celebrated the ruling as a victory for the millions of Californians, who depend on the delta for drinking water, fishing jobs and agriculture. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is the largest and most significant estuary on the West Coast - and increased state and federal exports to subsidized agribusiness and southern California, in recent years, are a key factor in the collapse of Sacramento River salmon.

In his opinion, Judge Oliver W. Wanger relied on the National Marine Fisheries Services' (NMFS) own finding that diverting water from the bay-delta was killing huge numbers of salmon. He said, "This morbid projection is inconsistent, if not irreconcilable" with the agency's opinion that the project operations did not jeopardize the survival of the fish. He also faulted the agency for failing to analyze the effects of global warming on the fish, calling that failure "arbitrary and capricious."

"How extirpation of approaching one-third of the species affected by Project operations does not constitute jeopardy is not explained," said Wanger. "NMFS's no jeopardy conclusion for the Project operations' effects on the spring-run Chinook is expressly contradicted by underlying data and opinions of the BiOp."

The ruling that throws out a 2004 longterm water plan, known as OCAP (Operating Criteria and Plan), comes in the wake of the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council's April 10 decision to cancel this year's commercial and recreational salmon fishing season because of an unprecedented collapse of Sacramento River Chinooks. The California Fish and Game Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to close state waters in conformity with the federal body's decision.

The Commission will decide on whether or not to close salmon season on Central Valley rivers at its meeting in Monterey on May 9. However, it is extremely likely the Commission will close salmon fishing on the Sacramento, American, Feather, San Joaquin, and other rivers in conformance with the PFMC's "zero take" allowance for the dwindling salmon population.

Earthjustice attorney Mike Sherwood, the same attorney that litigated to get winter run Chinook salmon protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the early 1990s, also litigated this case successfully.

"With his decision today, Judge Wanger has placed salmon survival back at the center of California's struggle to protect our natural heritage," said Sherwood. "There are several man-made factors that have contributed to the collapse of salmon runs. One factor is pumping too much of our water from the delta and exporting it south. This ruling makes it clear that there are biological limits to the amount of water we can export south."

"The teachings of our Spiritual Leaders and our inherent cultural beliefs - that the salmon are our relatives, are sacred and necessary for the continuation of life - makes us feel happy and sad on this day," said Gary Mulcahy, governmental liaison for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, after hearing of the historic decision. "We are happy that the salmon - who cannot speak for themselves - had friends, allies and warriors to step up on their behalf and because of that they may yet have a chance to continue in the cycle of life. We are sad that it had to come to this and the near extinction of our relatives before it was acknowledged that the people who had the responsibility to actually protect them were in fact responsible by intentional manipulation and misstatement of facts for their near total extinction."

He emphasized, "But, has that not been the case throughout water management in California? Nothing seems to be important to those that want to take, except how much more they can get. We thank Judge Wanger for not letting this one pass."


The following is a press release from Earthjustice, followed by key quotes from the historic decision:

Biological opinion for salmon and steelhead in California groups say delta water project operations must protect water supply for fish and people.

April 16, 2008

Fresno, California - A federal judge has invalidated a water plan that would have allowed more pumping from the San Francisco Bay Delta at the expense of five species of protected salmon and steelhead trout. Fishing and conservation groups and a California tribe called the ruling a victory for the millions of Californians who depend on the delta for drinking water, fishing jobs and agriculture. The ruling comes in the wake of federal fisheries managers' unprecedented April 10 decision to cancel this year's salmon fishing season because of a record decline in spawning fish.

The decision is the second time the court has ruled that water export plans would harm the threatened estuary. The court scheduled a conference on April 25 for the parties to address developing interim remedies to protect the fish.

In his opinion Judge Oliver W. Wanger relied on the National Marine Fisheries Services' (NMFS) own finding that diverting water from the bay-delta was killing huge numbers of salmon. He said, "This morbid projection is inconsistent, if not irreconcilable" with the agency's opinion that the project operations did not jeopardize the survival of the fish. He also faulted the agency for failing to analyze the effects of global warming on the fish, calling that failure "arbitrary and capricious."

The court also cited NMFS' findings that "current operations result in the loss of 42 percent of the juvenile winter-run Chinook population, and proposed project effects are expected to result in an additional 3 to 20 percent loss of the juvenile population."

NMFS also found that proposed water project operations would kill as many as 66 percent of Central Valley steelhead and 57 percent of juvenile spring-run Chinook salmon - likely leading to the extirpation of the spring run in the Sacramento River and steelhead in the Central Valley. These findings, the court ruled, are the "diametric opposite" of the finding that the projects would not jeopardized listed salmon species.

"When most of our native fish species are struggling to survive, the water project's plans to eliminate habitat, reduce cold water flow requirements and increase delta exports made no sense," said Dr. Christina Swanson, a biologist with The Bay Institute, a plaintiff in the case. "Ecological collapse in our rivers and in the delta is not just bad for fish, it's bad for the millions of people who depend on delta water for farming and drinking."

The plaintiffs challenged a 2004 longterm water plan known as OCAP (Operating Criteria and Plan) that would have allowed increased exports south of the delta by reversing many of the decade-old protections credited with saving endangered winter-run Chinook salmon from extinction, including relaxing cold water flow requirements and eliminating nearly half of the available spawning habitat in the Sacramento River. These operational changes have corresponded with significant declines in protected Chinook salmon populations since 2004. This year's salmon run has largely failed to show up.

"Salmon need cool, clean water," said Kate Poole, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a plaintiff in the case. "Meeting their needs can keep clean water flowing from our taps as well, without losing our salmon fishing industry."

"We've never seen the Sacramento salmon return as bad as this year," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations, a plaintiff in the case. "California's water projects must be operated in a way that helps protect these commercially important species, rather than driving them to extinction."

The court's ruling follows an August 31, 2007 decision to protect the delta smelt. In that ruling the court ordered state and federal water managers to reoperate the giant pumps that draw water from the delta to supply farms and cities in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The fishing and conservation groups say keeping enough fresh water in the delta is vital to protecting the fragile ecosystem.

Biologists have grown alarmed in recent years about a cascading series of crashing delta fish populations; salmon, steelhead, delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, sturgeon and Sacramento splittail are all in trouble.

"With his decision today, Judge Wanger has placed salmon survival back at the center of California's struggle to protect our natural heritage," said Mike Sherwood, an attorney from Earthjustice who represented the coalition of fishing and conservationists. "There are several man-made factors that have contributed to the collapse of salmon runs. One factor is pumping too much of our water from the delta and exporting it south. This ruling makes it clear that there are biological limits to the amount of water we can export south."

The Delta's fragile ecosystem and drinking water supplies already face severe pollution threats from agricultural pesticides and dairy waste," said Sejal Choksi, program director for San Francisco Baykeeper. "Today's ruling is a huge step forward in restoring our Delta to a healthy state."

The court will now schedule hearings to establish an interim salmon protection plan for project operations. Agencies predict that a new biological opinion for salmon will be complete by December 2008.

Conservationists say water managers could restore the delta by following the advice of the state's own master water plan, which identifies conservation, water recycling and better groundwater management as the biggest, cheapest sources of untapped water supply.


Prior to construction of the state and federal delta water pumping systems, Chinook (or "king") salmon and steelhead were abundant in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River systems. Sacramento River salmon were of great cultural and spiritual importance to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and remain a major economic contributor to northern California.

As a part of the pumping projects, a necklace of dams was constructed up and down the western slope of the Sierra Nevada on every major river flowing into the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, blocking the upstream migration of Chinook salmon and steelhead to and from their historic spawning grounds. Of the 6,000 miles of historic steelhead spawning grounds, today only 300 miles remain. Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River resulted in the extinction of the spring-run Chinook salmon in that river. Shasta and Keswick Dams on the Sacramento River blocked the winter-run Chinook salmon from their historic spawning grounds, forcing them to spawn in a 40-mile stretch of less favorable river habitat below those dams.

Every year, the pumping of huge volumes of fresh water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta sucks in and grinds up juvenile salmon and steelhead as they attempt to migrate down the rivers and though the delta on their way to the ocean. As a result, Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead populations have plummeted from historic abundance and all three species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

In August 2004, federal scientists charged with reviewing the plan to increase pumping to 8 million acre feet concluded that doing so would illegally jeopardize protected salmon. However, after political interference, the agency flip-flopped and released a final opinion in October 2004, that concluded the project operations plan would not harm listed salmon and steelhead species. But after several negative independent science reviews and widespread concern over inappropriate political influences on the opinion, the US Bureau of Reclamation and the State Department of Water Resources asked NOAA Fisheries to reconsider the plan in April/May 2006. Yet, the agencies continued to implement the new plan without any lawful analysis of its impacts to listed fish species while a new opinion is written.

The plaintiff coalition that launched the legal challenge includes: Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the Institute for Fisheries Resources, The Bay Institute, Baykeeper, California Trout, Friends of the River, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

Read the decision online here:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Art.....or Craft?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Copyright....Austin Kline.

Le plus ca change.....

Le plus ca change pas.

My buddy Donnie Brascoe was up for the post of Ambassador to Australia a bunch of years ago.....I think back under GHW Bush.....though it could have been Reagan.

Don is a Stanford guy, and a Republican from a family that was Republican probably before Lincoln. Don lived in Australia, and wrote a book about the place.

Don also ran/runs a successful family business, belongs to all the right clubs, knows everyone.....shoots birds in Scotland with the right bird shooters, and has a house in France in a proper part of the country. The successful business part probably means that he gave all the right donations to whomever you have to give donations to get on the Ambassador list to begin with.

Meanwhile, lest you get the impression that Donny B has five broomsticks stuck up his ass......Last week my food writer friend Charyn asked me to write down my last meal request. There is a book out of interviews where famous chefs do this. Since both she and I are Spain whores.....I put down a meal that came from all my favorite places in Spain. Unpublishable and boring to anyone but Charyn and I. My REAL list, of food from America, would include the best by far piece of meat I have ever encountered, much less eaten.

This was a Dall sheep loin that Don gave us as a present. Sorry, vegetarians.....the carnivores are interested in seeing what a Dall Sheep looks like. Note the big fucking mountains in the background.

The above picture is of Dall sheep conveniently located near Prince William Sound....which sounds (sorry, punsters....) almost downtown. Donny's Dall sheep was located in the middle of nowhere. After hiking in days and days, and skulking around mountains with insanely expensive weaponry and optics.....Don shot his Dall sheep, retrieved it, dressed it..... and so on. You don't carry out the whole sheep....who knows if he took the head, skin, whatever.....but he took the loins.

Don then walked out for two days over a glacier moraine composed of giant broken rocks. He showed us a picture taken of him about halfway through. He looks like John Walker Lindh.....on that perilous precipice of madness and exhaustion.

And he flew back to Carmel Valley.....and gave me the Dall sheep loin.

The loin had been aged in a backpack......and tenderized by a glacier moraine. The old Tatars used to season and preserve their meat (unsuccessful horses of the previous day....sort of a Russian Steppe Idol thing....) by packing it under the saddle and letting the salt of the sweaty horse and the pounding of the day's ride tenderize and season the meat. Steak Tartare anyone? There may have been something of that in the Dall sheep loin.

The meat was beyond, nutty and wild in the sense of that glacier moraine. You could feel the wind and taste the air and rocks. Absolutely clean, pure flavors......This was a Dall sheep that did not die in vain. I still have the entire experience imprinted on my chi.....along with that '59 Musigny Les Amoureuse, Comte de Vogue......"a peacock's plume.....opening in your mouth....."

And, like all culinary wasn't just the physical protein, was the work, the consideration, the depth of thought....and the sacrifice.

It was one of the best presents I ever got....right up there with the "Rose and Driftwood" from Ansel....and the amazing "Sensual Dune" from Rod Dresser. I can still look at the photographic images every day.....and I can still taste that Dall sheep loin. Don did not get the Ambassador gig. It went to Bill Lane.....son of Margaret Lane of Sunset Magazine fame.....and an useless wanker. We worked for the old lady.....and watched her scowl at old Bill. (Search this blog for "Larman".....Amanda says I should stop using real names.......)

Ambassador Bill served in the Pacific in WWII, and was an Ambassador at Large to the Pacific Islands in the seventies.

At Ambassador Bill's confirmation hearings.....televised, unfortunately for became clear to all and sundry that Ambassador Bill didn't actually realize that New Zealand was not an actual part of Australia. He thought Auckland came with the Sidney gig.

And they confirmed him anyway. I would have thought ritual seppuku would be more apt.

The term "dumb as a rock" doesn't apply. How about "dumb as a glacier moraine"? After actually supposedly fighting there, he couldn't get the boundaries straight? Anyone who knows anything about rugby, for instance....would know that confusing New Zealand with Australia is a potentially lethal error, depending upon the bar one was in at the time. And, in his defence.....Ambassador Bill probably knew most of the bars in the Pacific.

Donny B is still bitter.

So.....on to relevance.

Here is today's news: (from Huffington Post)

President Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley appeared on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos and repeatedly confused Nepal and Tibet.

Discussing how Bush has "no reason not to go" to this summer's Olympic games in Beijing and how boycotting them would be wrong, Hadley discussed the outcry over Tibet and the US response, only he kept saying Nepal.

"If countries are really concerned about Nepal, we shouldn't have this sort of non-issue of opening ceremonies or not. They should do the hard work of quiet diplomacy to urge the Chinese government -- in their interest -- to take advantage of this opportunity to do something," Hadley said.

He went on, "The way to deal with the issue of Nepal is not by some -- a statement that you're not going to the opening ceremonies and say, therefore, I checked the Nepal box."

And it didn't end there. "What he's doing on Nepal is what we think the international community ought to be doing, which is approaching the Chinese privately through diplomatic channels and sending a very firm message of concern for human rights, a concern for what's happening in Nepal, urging the Chinese government to understand that it is in their interest to reach out to representatives of the Dalai Lama, and to show, while the whole world is watching China, that they are determined to treat their citizens with dignity and respect. There is an opportunity here."

Nepal, which shares a border with Tibet and which is an independent constitutional monarchy, has about 29 million people, is 10% Buddhist and is not the home of the Dalai Lama.

We have a big poster in The Cachagua Store....with a photo-realist-Stalinist-socialist motif:

"People of Darfur!

Need Assistance in Your Hour of Need?

Take Two Aspirin....

And Call Us When You Are:

White, Christian.....


Then maybe our National Security Advisor will be able to remember your name........

Annoying voice......

Why let reality get in the way of policy?

You heard it here first......If you like Obama.....

You will LOVE RFK2.....I am thinking 2016 if the Mainstream Media doesn't destroy Barack this year.....2012 otherwise.

Except that his physical voice is really grating.

Doesn't bother me......I am desperately in love with a woman who sounds like Minnie Mouse on helium. And that is just her brain!

We just passed the miserable anniversary of MLK's assassination....and are approaching that of RFK.......

And it is haunting old guys like me.

So pleased to hear cogent thinking like this from The Kid.......

The Next President's First Task [A Manifesto]

By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Vanity Fair

May 2008 Issue

Last November, Lord (David) Puttnam debated before Parliament an important bill to tackle global warming. Addressing industry and government warnings that we must proceed slowly to avoid economic ruin, Lord Puttnam recalled that precisely 200 years ago Parliament heard identical caveats during the debate over abolition of the slave trade. At that time slave commerce represented one-fourth of Britain's G.D.P. and provided its primary source of cheap, abundant energy. Vested interests warned that financial apocalypse would succeed its prohibition.

That debate lasted roughly a year, and Parliament, in the end, made the moral choice, abolishing the trade outright. Instead of collapsing, as slavery's proponents had predicted, Britain's economy accelerated. Slavery's abolition exposed the debilitating inefficiencies associated with zero-cost labor; slavery had been a ball and chain not only for the slaves but also for the British economy, hobbling productivity and stifling growth. Now creativity and productivity surged. Entrepreneurs seeking new sources of energy launched the Industrial Revolution and inaugurated the greatest era of wealth production in human history.

Today, we don't need to abolish carbon as an energy source in order to see its inefficiencies starkly, or to understand that this addiction is the principal drag on American capitalism. The evidence is before our eyes. The practice of borrowing a billion dollars each day to buy foreign oil has caused the American dollar to implode. More than a trillion dollars in annual subsidies to coal and oil producers have beggared a nation that four decades ago owned half the globe's wealth. Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value.

We know that nations that "decarbonize" their economies reap immediate rewards. Sweden announced in 2006 the phaseout of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991 the Swedes enacted a carbon tax - now up to $150 a ton - and as a result thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun, and the tides, and from woodchips, agricultural waste, and garbage. Growth rates climbed to upwards of three times those of the U.S.

Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe. Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy-independent, with 90 percent of the nation's homes heated by geothermal and its remaining electrical needs met by hydro. The International Monetary Fund now ranks Iceland the fourth most affluent nation on earth. The country, which previously had to beg for corporate investment, now has companies lined up to relocate there to take advantage of its low-cost clean energy.

It should come as no surprise that California, America's most energy-efficient state, also possesses its strongest economy.

The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden does. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind; indeed, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas alone produce enough harnessable wind to meet all of the nation's electricity demand. As for solar, according to a study in Scientific American, photovoltaic and solar-thermal installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation's electricity needs without any rooftop installation, even assuming every American owned a plug-in hybrid.

In America, several obstacles impede the kind of entrepreneurial revolution we need. To begin with, that trillion dollars in annual coal-and-oil subsidies gives the carbon industry a decisive market advantage. Meanwhile, an overstressed and inefficient national electrical grid can't accommodate new kinds of power. At the same time, a byzantine array of local rules impede access by innovators to national markets.

There are a number of things the new president should immediately do to hasten the approaching boom in energy innovation. A carbon cap-and-trade system designed to put downward pressure on carbon emissions is quite simply a no-brainer. Already endorsed by Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama, such a system would measure national carbon emissions and create a market to auction emissions credits. The supply of credits is then reduced each year to meet pre-determined carbon-reduction targets. As supply tightens, credit value increases, providing rich monetary rewards for innovators who reduce carbon. Since it is precisely targeted, cap-and-trade is more effective than a carbon tax. It is also more palatable to politicians, who despise taxes and love markets. Industry likes the system's clear goals. This market-based approach has a proven track record.

There's a second thing the next president should do, and it would be a strategic masterstroke: push to revamp the nation's antiquated high-voltage power-transmission system so that it can deliver solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable energy across the country. Right now, a Texas wind-farm manager who wants to get his electrons to market faces two huge impediments. First, our regional power grids are overstressed and misaligned. The biggest renewable-energy opportunities - for instance, Southwest solar and Midwest wind - are outside the grids' reach. Furthermore, traveling via alternating-current (AC) lines, too much of that wind farmer's energy would dissipate before it crossed the country. The nation urgently needs more investment in its backbone transmission grid, including new direct-current (DC) power lines for efficient long-haul transmission. Even more important, we need to build in "smart" features, including storage points and computerized management overlays, allowing the new grid to intelligently deploy the energy along the way. Construction of this new grid will create a marketplace where utilities, established businesses, and entrepreneurs can sell energy and efficiency.

The other obstacle is the web of arcane and conflicting state rules that currently restrict access to the grid. The federal government needs to work with state authorities to open up the grids, allowing clean-energy innovators to fairly compete for investment, space, and customers. We need open markets where hundreds of local and national power producers can scramble to deliver economic and environmental solutions at the lowest possible price. The energy sector, in other words, needs an initiative analogous to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which required open access to all the nation's telephone lines. Marketplace competition among national and local phone companies instantly precipitated the historic explosion in telecom activity.

Construction of efficient and open-transmission marketplaces and green-power-plant infrastructure would require about a trillion dollars over the next 15 years. For roughly a third of the projected cost of the Iraq war we could wean the country from carbon. And the good news is that the government doesn't actually have to pay for all of this. If the president works with governors to lift constraints and encourage investment, utilities and private entrepreneurs will quickly step in to revitalize the grid and recover their investment through royalties collected for transporting green electrons. Businesses and homes will become power plants as individuals cash in by installing solar panels and wind turbines on their buildings, and by selling the stored energy in their plug-in hybrids back to the grid at peak hours.

Energy expert and former CIA director R. James Woolsey predicts: "With rational market incentives and a smart backbone, you'll see capital and entrepreneurs flooding this field with lightning speed." Ten percent of venture-capital dollars are already deployed in the clean-tech sector, and the world's biggest companies are crowding the space with capital and scrambling for position.

The president's final priority must be to connect a much smarter power grid to vastly more efficient buildings and machines. We have barely scratched the surface here. Washington is a decade behind its obligation, first set by Ronald Reagan, to set cost-minimizing efficiency standards for all major appliances. With the conspicuous exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger's California, the states aren't doing much better. And Congress keeps setting ludicrously tight expiration dates for its energy-efficiency tax credits, frustrating both planning and investment. The new president must take all of this in hand at once.

The benefits to America are beyond measure. We will cut annual trade and budget deficits by hundreds of billions, improve public health and farm production, diminish global warming, and create millions of good jobs. And for the first time in half a century we will live free from Middle Eastern wars and entanglements with petty tyrants who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.

Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-governmental organization that promotes clean water throughout the world.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Black Hand......

As in: The Green Thumb.

The Black Hand was the Serbian underground......the Slavic IRA....who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and started WWI and the killing of a bunch of millions of young men a hundred years ago.

I am more the former than the latter. Millions of seeds have died at my hands....all in the spirit of anarchy. I am good at growing sorrel....and another herb that is not very legal and invites helicopters. Wait, borage loves me....and pineapple sage. Nasturtiums don't really hate me.....much.

Bergamot....not so much.

Trying vainly to focus on posting some 4,000 transactions from last year to keep My Government happy before Tuesday the 15th...I take breaks and sally into the garden.

My garden sucks. The sorrel is fine....and we seem to have a bumper crop of thistles. My Hungarian friends will be happy. My Hungarian friend......who is actually Czech. Nettle soup.

Oh, well.

We are trying to revive the Slow Food chapter in Carmel....and no greater proof of the existence of the diety need be produced than the day that Slow Food USA called from Brooklyn while I was working in the rain trying to protect the bergamot seedlings that had grumpily lived over the pilot lights on my household stove for six weeks.

We are talking Slow Fucking Food......

Hmmmm. Maybe we should start a counter movement......

Naaah....that would just attract aphids, and lawyers. I can spray for aphids.....but the whole lawyer thing is harder.....There is social opposition to automatic weapon fire.

I got a call today from a conference planner. She heard we are ''Green'' and wanted to schedule a "Team Building" experience for a corporation.

"Great! Bring them out! They can turn the compost! No better team building than that!"

Really. My crew has never been more unified than in their opposition and avoidance of anything remotely related to compost. Unifying my guys is like herding cats.....unless there is compost involved

Then.....We are a solid team.......

I work like dog in stinky conditions all year....and use the compost to grow sorrel, borage, pineapple sage and cardoons. When my friend Jamie at Serendipity could grow this stuff...... without trying a minute.

I am like the annoying client that wants to go over my recipe for margaritas for the wedding......six months out. To see if it matches his ideal that he makes for two friends twice a year. Dude. You can either do it or you can't.....If you can't, shut up and get out of the way......Let the pros deal with it.

I notice lots of other miserable Black Hand folk amongst my clients. Yesterday at an insanely gorgeous mansion.......sorry, mansion has negative connotations.....insanely gorgeous living space....smack dab in the middle of the Pebble Beach golf links.....I spied a baby greenhouse.

I instantly ran inside to check on the happs. The hostess and her assistant started blushing at the get-go: "Oh, we are just starting to work on that project......."

Believe me, I know.......

Inside the baby greenhouse were a squad of struggling orchids. Don't be embarrassed, ladies. I can kill anything that lives that isn't a pot plant or pineapple sage......

Orchids, though.....

Giving someone an orchid is an excercise in passive-aggression. Each week at the Monterey Farmer's Market I try to find some flowers to bring to my Mom and her landlady. Typically the choice runs to: a bunch of cut flowers for twenty bucks.....or a gorgeous, living orchid for eight bucks.

Do not buy the orchid, dummy. The fact that the orchid is living implies a responsibility for the recipient of your gift to keep the fucking thing alive. This means consulting The System of Tubes....buying acutal printed matter like books.....and special fertilizer, pH detectors, misters (mist-ers) and the like.

And the goddam things die anyway. Well, they don't die.....they just sit there and absorb attention, money and concern like a Carmel High cheerleader....and give you nothing in return....but maintenance.

I did have one huge success with orchids, though. My cranky friend Gerry married a crazy woman and hired us to do the wedding on his property. Gerry is into big machines and he created a gorgeous little piece of heaven beside the Carmel River for the festivities....two or three acres of flat grass with a pond and a fountain. People came in droves, and all had a great time. However, since it was not at an actual house....the wedding gifts piled up awkwardly. Also, there was some alcohol involved.

At the end of the night we tried to load the wedding gifts in Gerry's SUV, and there was this annoying orchid that would not fit without breaking. Gerry said: "You take the fucking thing....."

I carefully hid the orchid away....and got it home in one piece.

I checked out The System of Tubes....and bought two books, some fertilizer and some soil checking devices. I swore that by the soul of Blessed Oliver Plunkett....I was not going to kill this orchid.

It worked. For once in my ADD-HD life.....I was able to carry forward a plan over an extended period of time. The lush and luscious velvet purple flower of my orchid reigned supreme on the cutting table in the kitchen for months. I followed my routine, fed and watered.....did not over-water....fertilized, and did not over-fertilize. I felt on the verge of a husbandry breakthrough.

Six months out, Brendan came home with Chloe one night just as I was dealing with my orchid. Chloe is gorgeous, kind, and connected to that Earth Mother-y part of the world where fishes, kitties, puppies and orchids all thrive in her very presence. Not to mention the men-folk.

I was kind of chuffed to be showing off my orchid expertise in her presence: "My fucking orchid has a great big blossom....still! Take that, you hippy!"

Chloe watched me feeding my plant for a few moments while Brendan found her a glass of champagne.

"Michael....what are you doing?"

"Huh?" (I am demonstrating my positive mastery of that whole Earth-Mother Gaia thing, you dummy!)

"Why are you feeding that plastic plant?"

Dammit, Jim.

Who knew. Those crafty Chinese, anyway. Thing thing even had plastic roots! And plastic soil!

At least I didn't kill it....

Unlike the bergamot.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Day in the Life......

I heard the news to day......oh ho.

The Blog has lots of different readers.

We have food folk, politics folk, gossip folk.

Some are homesick and far away and want a taste of California, or Carmel, or Carmel Valley, or Cachagua.

Taste of Cachagua? Don’t go there.

So.....for those folks.....I bring you:

Today at The Cachagua Store:

It was a gorgeous 84 degrees with perfect filtered sunshine. The creek is still running, so the mellifluous sounds of cold water over rocks is a gentle background to all that happens.

It was warm enough that the compost really stared cooking. The black plastic almost melted into the piles in the heat. The chickens and peacocks stood around waiting for something to move that they could eat.

How romantic!

The Vibo-Meter was set on "Kindness and Understanding".

Among the news:

Melody got up at 4am to make pot brownies for By and Connie. They were going fishing. She had to get up early because she burned the butter the previous night. She gave one brownie…actually a cupcake…to Amanda. Amanda gave it to Grant, who got so high he forgot to be annoying. Grant came in later and said it was one of the best days he can remember. Which would mean it is better than yesterday.

Grant is waiting for the Creek to stop flowing so that he can have his old bedroom back. He spent the winter with Mexican Christian Evangelists and got new teeth….but they don’t fit right, and Jesus is wearing a bit thin…..

Grandma DeeDee spent the day at The Store…..talking and reminiscing. Kira, the reporter for Monterey County Weekly spent the day on the bench with Grandma DeeDee, trying to assess the situation at Jensen Camp.

Grandma DeeDee was so happy at being able to tell nice stories about Cachagua that Amanda thinks she will die now. She has lived here for 70 years, and just wants people to think well of Cachagua. I wish Conall were still here to record some of her stuff…….

Toddy came in and wanted to talk to the reporter as well….about Officer Cocksucker. Amanda had to explain to Kira that she had to interview Toddy out back, because Grandma DeeDee hates him.

James, the unemployed Union Carpenter got a part-time gig with Duncan tomorrow….after heavy lobbying from yours truly. This morning he was on his way to Barney’s and stopped in for coffee. Amanda had hidden the last pint of Coconut Pineapple Haagen Dasz under the frozen foods for Barney, and sent it along with James. She is hoping this will make up for her mistaking Barney’s new girlfriend with the wooden leg for his mother last weekend…….

Christine came in and was cold to Amanda. Last weekend we came in to work for Sunday Brunch and found that someone had done Diggy Donuts in the parking lot and filled the porches with rocks, dust and gravel. These folks had also kept the Camp up half the night…..and carved “Fuck Mexicans” into the sandstone message board on Cachagua Road.

We instantly knew it was Robin….he is already banned from The Store for doing Donuts in the parking lot and almost killing Store Kitty. Amanda made a giant sign from butcher paper that hung across The Store all last Sunday:

“Donut Boy Sucks!”

All day long people came in and inquired about doughnuts: “I didn’t know you guys had doughnuts! What…no delivery?”

Christine says that it wasn't Robin.....She knows who it was, but isn't telling.

Meanwhile.....Wednesday morning found me at the sandstone in my chef's coat scratching out "Fuck Mexicans"......and scratching in: "Metal is Gay!"

Giant James came in and sat out back holding court. He was The Connection for a long time, but now lives in The Desert. Giant James is Jabba The Hutt. He was The Man for a long time. He used to keep Amber The Whore on a string….he traded sexual favors for crack, and confiscated her psych meds for re-sale.

Amanda tried to save the girl, and was even her designated financial executor for a while. The State pays Amber $1100 a month for being a Polar Bear…..sorry, bi-polar. Plus health care and meds. When Amanda balked at writing checks to Giant James supposedly for food, Amber reported her to The State as an embezzler. We had State Auditors poring through Amber's charge account at The Store. They rejected a couple of charges where Amber bought notebooks, pen and paper as being inedible.

Amber still is on the State tit, and has a doctor in Soledad who prescribes her enough State sponsored drugs so that she so she can re-sell them and can pay for gas for her Mercedes and her extra-curricular fun. She doesn’t bother with the whole license and insurance thing for the Mercedes. She was never stopped, which probably has nothing to do with the fact that our local Sheriff was sleeping with the daughter of the other local crack dealer, who took over when Giant James moved to The Desert.

And Amber doesn’t need to worry about rent, since she is in State sponsored Section 8 housing.

Oh, and to receive State and Federal Polar Bear money, or Section 8 housing, you don’t need to pee into a cup….ever.

Go ahead and wonder why I am a Barry Bonds fan……..

Giant James is so fat that he used to pull up in front of the store in his truck and honk for service. He sat and chatted with his two sons, Grant and James the Union Carpenter out back. Giant James asked about me in a kindly way.

I have employed both his sons….the elder at Silver Jones back in the day. He had worked for us for a couple of years when I asked him to drive the van to Seaside for a smog check.

He declined…..and I asked “Why not?”

“I don’t have a license!”

“Shit, you drove to Laguna Seca and back last weekend….”

“Yeah, but that was at 4am!”

“What….did you get a DUI?”

"Mike….I am only 13!”

We later wrote letters and got this kid into the CIA in Hyde Park. He parlayed that into some gigs in Denver and Las Vegas and did very well. He stopped cooking and now runs all the computer stuff for a local government agency. My ex-landlords at Rippling River, in fact.

The second son was drifting towards Idiot Land like his Dad… I lent him $5k to buy a truck, and set him up with a pretend loan at the bank to establish credit. This is after the whole family took me to the Labor Board for supposedly under-paying one of the sons…..and they were embarrassed by their forged paperwork….which in California means it was really bad forgeries. Second Son used the truck to drive to a job, and now he is a Union road worker. Still hasn’t actually paid me back….but whatever.

Meanwhile….Kayla the Hippy dumped 20 chickens at our house and built a Hippy Chicken Coop….from which the chickens escaped in four minutes. They spent the next year living in the oak trees outside my room with a dysnumeric rooster who would start crowing at 3am. I used to bring home empty champagne and wine bottles from catering and line them up on the deck railing to throw into the trees in the middle of the night to try to kill the crowing roosters and chickens. It never worked.

Chicken Super-Heroes. Who knew?

Finally the ex-wife of one of the major old-school, Native American gangster families who was working as a bartender for us and living with Giant James at his compound in Arroyo Seco came by and collected the chickens. It took us hours to catch them, and the vision of this woman running around through the woods in a faded grey sports bra.... chasing crazed super-chickens through the poison oak….would be better than chemical castration for sex offenders.

At one point her frustration led to automatic weapon fire at the rooster.

My neighbor Marilyn called up: “Michael, is everything OK? I thought I heard an AK-47…..”

“No Marilyn…'s of the Chioni women is trying to shoot a rooster….It is not sighted in......”

“Oh, OK then. Just checking…..”

The chickens were eventually caught and moved to James the Giant’s compound in Arroyo Seco....aka "Meth Land". I later heard that the chickens were so violent that they pecked to death the rabbits in the next pen and ate their brains. The rooster was donated to Hacienda Hay and Feed at Mid Valley…and still lives a happy dysnumeric life.

It was nice to hear that James the Giant thinks well of me….

It was a gorgeous day in Cachagua.