Sunday, March 29, 2009

Legalize it......

Austin Cline again.....obviously. Gotta love the guy.

Personally, I am not a pot smoker. This is not by personal choice.....I kind of like it....but it is the overwhelming choice of everyone who knows me. Apparently, after two hits of da kine I become the most annoying human since the Sham-Wow guy. Rather than become all drifty and stoney...I get wired and try to fix stuff and philosphise about it ad nauseum.

I also don't drink scotch. I think there may be parallels in the whole marijuana behavior thing.....but I survived 18 years with a crazy, drunken banker for a father (do adjectives like crazy and drunken need to be tossed in before nouns like banker anymore?).

I don't drink gin, either. Unless it is really, really hot.....and there are English people around. Or malaria.

My dad worked in New York and Jersey City in banks. Dad was a bottle of gin a day type guy...maintenance. Three martini lunch? Routine. Plus the BarCar on the Erie-Lackawanna on the way home....and the bottle of Boodles waiting in the den back at the house.

Living with him was nuts....

Visiting him later in life was an extreme sport....sort of like hanging with that Iranian guy....I'm a Dinner Jacket, or whatever his name is. You never knew what to expect. Hugs and kisses....or nuke Israel.

One time on a pass through from France, I heard that Dad had stopped drinking and smoking. (I still have PSTS about cigarette smoke after a childhood of being trapped in Studebakers driving around Orange County in a nicotine fog, looking for new houses to move into).

So, dinner with Dad seemed like a possibility.

We agreed to meet at The Palm....or The Palms...or some such famous NYC steak place. I think there had been a notorious mob hit there....which was not a big deal for a banker from Jersey City.

We got a nice table, and the captain and waiters rushed over to fawn: "Can we bring you gentlemen a cocktail?"

Dad: "Thank you, yes. I'll have a Scotch and soda."

"Dad, I thought you stopped drinking!"

"Well, I did: Gin.........."

He was serious.

Scotch and soda is Coors Light to an old-school banker.

Anyway, I don't drink any of that stuff....and Coors, either for that matter.

But I don't have any particular negative judgements against those who do......and I have made a living for forty years enabling gin, Scotch and Coors drinkers.

I actually really like marijuana as a plant. It grows really well in Carmel Valley, and is a beautiful thing all by itself. Beats the hell out of orchids, and is a whole lot easier to grow.

And....beautiful orchids may gain you the envy of the old biddies in the Garden Club, but a pound of orchids won't buy you three weeks in Costa Rica.......airfare, massage, rainforest and surfing included. A pound of orchids won't pay two months mortgage, and pay for the maid and gardener......and dinners in The Village. A pound of orchids would be a huge greenhouse full of anxiety. A pound of pot is one plant....grown outside in God's sunshine.

Somewhere around Ronald Reagan the whole thing went south for the local marijuana industry. There used to be a sign nailed to the phone pole across from the Corkscrew, just above the Kiwanis sign and the Rotary sign: Welcome to Carmel Valley, Carmel Valley Rope Growers.

Back then there was a real hardware store, the Village House...that made a killing selling irrigation pipe and fittings. Murphy Lumber dealt with the wood. The bars were full, the restaurants were full.....of locals, not tourists or dickheads from town (my apologies to the clientele of Cafe Nazica). You could buy breakfast in The Village. The Summerhouse, Sweet Retreat, the Chatterbox, the Iron Kettle. There were actual fun bars: the Buckeye, Wills Fargo, the Swollen Zit, the Stirrup Cup, Village Pizza, Robles del Rio. There were restaurants: Graciella's, Will's, Fernand's, Plaza Linda. No one pretended that the Stirrup Cup....aka the Running Iron...was an actual restaurant.

We were caterers, with a kitchen where Heller Estate's tasting room is now. We did our catering number...but every day we had Cachagua people stopping in to load up on good beer, good wine and whole 12 pound roasts of New Yorks and rib-eyes.

The money all came from Sinsemilla.

Later in all economic bubbles....the knuckleheads started spending more of the funds on white powder and less on strip steaks and fine dining and irrigation. The line at Gordon's house on Holman Road (when the porch light was on.....) was longer than the line for dinners at Graciella's...

The County parlayed federal money into suppression of marijuana to bolster the Sheriff's budget.....and Cachagua reverted to a West Coast Appalachia.

Gene-Gene the Love Machine....once famous for wheel-chair Santa Catarina sinsemilla....also once famous for trading a pound of Santa Catarina for six months in New Zealand, Laos and Thailand......and the purchase of an lives at Rippling River.

And Obama.....

When Obama....who famously parlayed his internet skills and networking into a national movement....won the election he set up an Open Government site to seek out input from his netroots supporters. You could ask any question, and folks would vote on your question's validity, relevance, and importance.

After a month or so of millions and millions of individual inputs....the top six topics on the Open Government website were all about legalizing marijuana.

I kept hammering away about Ag policy and Tom Fucking LimpBallSack....down around Topic 300 or so.

At the famous Web Town Hall the results were the same....and Obama pissed all over the pot people. "Heh, heh....I guess this tells you all you need to know about the internet...." The number one question proposed for his internet town hall meeting was about marijuana.

I'm sorry....but didn't the internet turn you from a junior douchebag Congressman from a rustbelt state more famous for corruption than progress into the most powerful person in the world? Maybe that was some other Hawaiian half-breed motherfucker.......

Some of us geeky types have been working like dogs for ten days to put together a stimulus grant application to employ local contractors to tear out the old concrete "causeways" across Cachagua Creek and the Carmel River, and replace them with rail-car bridges......or just tear them out so the Steelhead have a fighting chance.

We found a dozen or more concrete of them so serious it has been ruining the steelhead harvest for forty years. There is intense competition for the stimulus funds. Projects must be "shovel ready"....ready to fly next week.

David Patterson....the non-hooker hiring governor of New York..... said it best about the stimulus process: "Projects must be "shovel-ready". Now every motherfucker with a shovel thinks he's ready......"

The total cost of removing all six indentified causeways, and replacing three of them with rail-car bridges runs to about $350,000. It will help the steelhead immensely, help the community, and provide some desperately needed work for some of our local contractors. A one-time shot.

Obama not actually making fun of marijuana legalization....and maybe sending a back-off message to douchebags like our Sheriff Mike Kanalakis.....would put a couple of million dollars a year into our local economy.....Permanently.

And it is not like the pot is not being grown and sold and smoked anyway. The local stuff is traded and sold among friends. The gangs and the Mexican Mafia are making the real money.....and they are not buying pipe at Murphy's.....or having dinner on a Wednesday at Will's Fargo. is not just the weird stoner internet community that is calling for legalization.....or discreet absence of enforcement. Here is a graphic from The Economist....the most conservative financial journalists on the planet:

On March 5th.....once more (The Economist called for legalization 20 years ago) they brought up the subject again.

Drugs are a main reason why the United States....bastion of freedom....has five times more citizens in prison than the world average. Why one in five black men spend time in prison.....and on and on. The president of Brazil is on board, along with three other colleagues from South America. Study after study shows that legal drugs are a medical issue.....illegal drugs are crime issue. Illegal drugs fuel crime. Countries with vicious drug enforcent programs have the same or worse evidence of drug use than countries with lax enforcement.

Personally.....I don't care about the consumption issue. I am a Champagne guy.

I would really like to buy irrigation equipment for my damn chervil in The Village.....instead of having to drive to Gonzales.

And what would it be like to have decent restaurants in The Village again?

And......One thing you can say about stoners......

They know how to eat!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Granting Rants.....

Taking a break from reading in close detail all 117 pages of HR 875.....the establishment of the Food Security Agency. Which apparently will require me and all of my suppliers and everyone I know to register as food producers, file massive paperwork, and be subject to another layer of inspection above and beyond Roger from MoCoHealth.

Did I mention the million dollar fines? Which dollars will be used to finance even more scrutiny and further fines?

No one believes me that I am a Republican. I am a business guy. I hate douche bag Democrats.

This is the kind of crap that brought us eight years of George Bush....which was even worse than DoucheBag Democrats.

Well, maybe. Cachagua, we have no trouble with finding roads and paths to alternative forms of stimulation. Now, instead of hiding sinsemilla plants from the helicopters....we will be hiding raised beds of aji chiles (the seeds of which were smuggled in from Peru by former Pine Cone food writers...perhaps as a dry run for plutonium seeds).

According to the legislation......sponsored by food producers will have to notify the Federal Government when we change our recipes.

Well, I am only halfway through the bill.

Oh.....and the competing Republican bill is even worse. one listens to me. I howled at the moon when Obama appointed Junior Dick Panetta to continue running all the bad shit at the CIA. I also howled at the moon when Obama appointed Governor emptyBallSack to be Secretary of Agriculture. The result of the emptyBallSack appointment for each and every one of us is infinitely worse than the Panetta deal.

Few of us are actually very dark-skinned, with Arab-sounding names, and therefore subject to internment, incarceration, transportation to black sites in countries with more consonants than vowels......

Hmmm. Perhaps except for folks like Barack Hussein Obama!

All of us, however, are currently sinking under the thumb of a federally supported food autocracy that throws billions of dollars after empty calories. If you thought the Wall Street bonus thing was have not been paying attention. This shit has been going on in Ag for decades. Half the members of Cypress Point are bankers and money people...the other half are rice farmers.

In 1940, it required one calorie of energy input to produce 2.3 calories of food energy. Today, it takes 10 calories. And each and every one of the missing nine calories are federally sponsored, tax-funded, and distributed to the top 1%. It is the American Way.

So, the Obama folk....instead of cutting the nuts off Archer Daniels Midland and returning us to some faint hope of a rational food/chemical/water policy that might someday lead to moderately healthy food some of us can afford....has decided to hunt for microbes on Johnny Kinder's farm in Cachagua. (John has two clients: us and Tassajara).

And put in place an entire new bureaucracy to hunt these future possible microbes. So now, instead of just having to take off your shoes before you fly to Portland.....there will also apparently be hot and cold running TSA style Filipinos combing the hills of Santa Cruz County checking out the hippy farmers for e-coli.

I have been trying to earn a food living while trying to write about the amazing seminar I audited last week about sustainable raising of cattle. The insanity of these new food bills leads me to think that I should instead sell my house and spend my time walking around Whole Foods stores with picket signs and automatic weapons.

Wait a minute. Nothing has changed, really. In my world view, every Whole Foods should already be surrounded by chefs and farmers armed with picket signs and automatic weapons.....but I digress.

In the course of my native grassland class, I learned a lot of stuff. The team leaders were a crazy redneck with a bad surfing jones from Yolo County, and a nutty rancher from Petaluma. I say "crazy" and "nutty" in the non-perjorative way. The Yolo County guy is a serious cowboy poet and photographer....along with running all the outdoor science for his county. The cc's from emails that I have gotten since last week from them are very nice....they liked the food....but the subject matter makes CSI-Miami seem like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.

Table 1. A comparison of Globo H and SSEA3 expression in
BCSCs and non-BCSCs Positive Glycan and No. of population patients

Globo H or SSEA3 expression was determined by flow cytometry as described
in Materials and Methods. BCSCs were defined as CD45 CD24 CD44 cells, and
non-BCSCs were defined as the remaining populations of CD45 cells.
*Range was calculated as percentage of positive cells in total cells.
†Among the 53 tumor samples, 28 were examined for the expression of both
Globo H and SSEA3, 13 were tested for Globo H only, and the remaining 12
were tested for SSEA3 only.
‡Tumor cells from 1 of the 41 patients showed an absence of CD24 CD44
subpopulation. cgi doi 10.1073 pnas.0808811105

Yeah, well. These Cow People were clearly not just Cow People.

I did get to ask the main question that had been troubling me about rural cattle/cowboy life:

If you have a horse that is prone to bucking and bad it true that breaking a bag of water over his neck will freak him out?

Supposedly the misbehaving horse will think that it is his own warm blood that is pouring down his neck and he will stand still for a moment.

The Yolo guy had heard this, but never tried it. The Petaluma guy had heard this from his dad.

On a break from the class, I asked Grant.

Oh, yeah.....I have heard that. Break a bag of water, and he thinks his throat is cut.....and he stands still long enough to get control.

Any comparison to our current financial "crisis" is not called for.

Grant and I got to talking....

Conall is now free from his last film and ready to focus on his film about Grant. Yesterday he came up with the original Monterey Herald article about Grant whacking that dude in the ass with an axe.

"Carmel Valley Man Sought in Axe Attack".

Grant discovered his girlfriend in the sack with a younger man....and hit him in the ass with an axe.

Well, a hatchet.

Grant ran for the hills....and successfully hid out for three years until his teeth let him down.

Years later, after giving up and serving his time.....Grant found himself in a NA meeting with the kid who he had chopped.

At breaktime in the meeting it turned out that they both reached for the last donut at the same time, and each had a part of it in grasp.

The room got very quiet......

Grant broke the silence:

"Listen.....I know I have been a pain in the ass in the past. Butt.....let's bury the hatchet. Don't you think it is time to turn the other cheek?"

The Kid....Forever known as Three Cheeks....did not laugh.

Everyone else did!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Dynamite Story.....

Does anyone else hate McAfee? Here I am trying to type a few words after a 16 hour day and I can't stop those fuckers from updating and scanning my machine. I would rather have a virus.

Chatham Township High School business class.....and the Smith Barney wire room on Wall Street....taught me to type at 120 wpm for hours.....43 years ago. And now in the modern age I have to wait for people I am paying to protect me to let me do what I normally do?

Reminds me of standing in line with my shoes in my hand to get on a jet. There was a time when I took an extra moment to check the knot on my tie before I tried to get on a jet...and now I stand there in my socks.

A nearly 60 year old person should not be able to type faster than the fucking internet.

Are you listening, McAfee?


Are you hearing me?

Definitely not.

Anyway.....Fuck McAfee. We once did a corporate bonding party for them a decade ago. It involved beach volleyball, which is really dumb if you are not fit. Even the fittest guy I know....Micah the Pizza Guy....was eventually brought down by competitive beach volleyball, writhing in pain.

Corporate bonding over beach volleyball probably really involves corporate enabling over the Vicodin needed to recover from the corporate bonding.

Hey! It works for the movie and restaurant businesses. And baseball. And the construction industries......

But, we workers keep our shit under control. Anyone who has ever worked on a union movie shoot knows to get ready to deal with cranky people about four hours after morning call. Not two hours, not three hours.....four hours, like it says on the bottle. The dumbass AD's and producers may be asking for lunch six hours after breakfast...but we know better.

That is probably what really went wrong with "Carmel: The Movie."

McAfee needs to get in touch with its higher power.......and stop with the friggin' corporate bonding....and stop controlling my computer for my own sake. I have a Mom.....and she hates McAfee, too. the throes of the Bush Depression, we wee working types continue to attempt to carry on like always. Part of our business, handed to us mostly by geography, is doing the catering for scientific seminars at Hastings Reserve in Deep Carmel Valley.

We do Bluebirds. We do Salamanders. We do Newts.

We also aggressively recruit among the staff at Hastings....young grad students on stipends in the middle of nowhere. They are prime catering fodder: Bright, Bored, and Broke.

This week was going to be "Sustainable Grasslands". Twenty to thirty folk expected to come down to learn about managing a ranch or preserve with the goal of protecting or establishing sustainable grasslands (preferrably native grasses)....while maintaining a profit.

Two days out.....four people had signed up. I asked the admin person from California Native Grasses: "How much is the course?"


For three breakfasts, three lunches, two dinners prepared by me......three nights lodging....and 22 hours of instruction in grassland management? And I am cooking and getting paid?

Sign me up!

I signed up to be my own client and agreed to cook for myself.

Meanwhile, we thought we had the week off. Brendan was off in New York City at the French Culinary Institute learning about Hyper-Colloids......Twelve hours of instruction over two days, no lunch, no room, no board......$1500. Class sold out at 32pp.

Put that in your Depression computer......

The hyper-colloid class turned out to be a huge revelation and life changing event.

The sustainable grasslands class turned out to be a huge revelation and life changing event.

More about both later.

Meanwhile....we....I mean, I....worked 20 parties in eight days, while attending the class. Sleep was a rare thing, barely glimpsed.

And Monday Night we did a record 110 dinners....all without Brendan.

Today, I was just recovering, and we had yet another party up at Heller for Navy spooks.

Our level of exhaustion was such that I gave up and found myself sitting in the side yard of the Store talking with Grandpa Fred Nason. I told him about my ranching class.....

This is like hanging with Leondardo DaVinci....and mentioning that you sent in for a drawing class you heard about on a matchbook.

I asked Grandpa Fred about one thing I had learned: "In the teens and twenties, when there were not so many cows and lots of empty land.....and five or six really busy breweries in Salinas.....folks used to drive to Carmel Valley in the fall and randomly seed acres and acres with barley. No farming, no irrigation.....just spreading seed. In the spring they would return and harvest whatever had grown on its own, and sell the stuff to the breweries. The bottom fell out, not by Prohibition (when did prohibiting anything work on the Central Coast?) but because of the Depression.

Meanwhile...the great-grandchildren of this beer-seed was still out-competing native grasses all over the Central Coast.

Fred was thoughtful. He responded by telling me the location of several of his Dad's up by Durney....and another in the bushes over where Galante is now. Fred's mom taught his dad the necessary skills. Pops already could make grappa, but Moms brought in the whiskey expertise. Pops had stills all over was a miracle he did not burn down the whole valley.

Fred then allowed as how there were probably more schools in Cachagua and the Valley than stills. There was the school at the Bucket. There was a school where Dickie Springs lives now on Cachagua Road (the Steelhead folk are trying to get a Stimulus grant to remove the concrete causeway that went to the School)....There was even a school in the canyon leading to Asoleado, a mile from the Dickie Springs' school: "I don't know how the hell the kids even found that school......"

And of course the Jamesburg School...which was not located in Jamesburg, but in a now secret place I learned about in my grasslands course and the location of which I was sworn to uphold the secrecy thereof. And of course the regular Jamesburg school a few miles away.

And, of course the old school on the Cahoon property that Bookenoogan burned down to avoid National Historic registry the day he bought the place.

So....I learned about five competing schools in an area now served by exactly no schools....and we had not even got to grasslands yet.

Change we can believe in? Can we roll things back to 1900? Kids in Cachagua now meet the bus in the dark at 6am in front of The Store....and return at 4pm... of the schools and booze led to talk of the roads....the Finch Creek road that led to the original Jamesburg School before Tassajara Road went through to Carmel Valley Road.

"We lived over here where the Bernardus vineyard is, but my dad had a job working for the County building roads. So did Bill Lambert. They didn't have much equipment.....just an old tractor that pulled a sled...but they had a dump truck, too. They kept everything across the street from the Wagon Wheel....(at Cachagua Road and Carmel Valley meet that bus at 6:45am).....

"One day, my dad had to drive over to Salinas to get some dynamite from the County he took the dump truck.

"Of course....he stopped in a few bars.....(the entire Nason family joined AA thirty years there is a quality to Fred's "of course" that needs two or three thousand more words).

"On the way home, he knew he was late and probably in trouble with my he went as fast as he could in that old dump truck. The box of dynamite started bouncing around in the back....and eventually the box gave out, and sticks of dynamite started bouncing all around the bed of the truck.

"Well, some of them found their way out the back in the gap where the tail gate was....and bounced out onto the road.

"Dad made it home in one piece....but there wasn't much dynamite left in the dump truck by then. The Sheriff got some calls.....and followed the dynamite bread-crumb trail all the way to our house.

"My father had to quit that County job after that......."

Any questions?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fishy Stimulus.....

Quickly....because we have somehow done 20 parties in 8 days....and have two more to go, all without Brendan.

The Carmel Steelhead people have put together a "shovel-ready" grant application to hire locals to repair the creekbed of Cachagua Creek, and the riverbed of the Carmel River.

These guys pull 3,000 baby steelhead from our creek every year.....and have single-handedly saved the species....and much of the huge economic benefit of the California salmon run from utter devastation. Now it is only devastated....not utterly devastated.

The destruction of the West Coast salmon fishery.....I must remind you....was principally engineered in a casual thoughtless moment by Karl Rove and Dick Cheney to reward some low-level Republican oat growers from southern Oregon.

Anyway.....while contemplating the Stimulus Bill, I thought that the odds of any dough penetrating Cachagua were like the Chance Brothers: Slim and None.

We have Union execs running scab labor, after all.....If the County unemployment rate is 16%....ours is more like 50%. Trust me....I wouldn't hire half these douche bags, either....but there is a highly skilled, highly motivated, highly frustrated 25% ready and willing to rock and roll.

Our guys know heavy machinery, materials, electricity, carpentry, plumbing....and they all hunt and fish and are ready to rock and roll.

The Steelhead guys want to replace all the cement "causeways" that all the various idiots, pioneers and numbnuts have built across the Cachagua Creek, Finch Creek, James Creek and the Carmel the last 150 years.

Salmon and steelhead love gravel.....and in low-flow years the concrete roadways across the waterways can completely stop migration of our favorite fish. Not to mention the inconvenience to the locals two weeks ago when it finally started raining....and no one in Jensen Camp could drive across the Creek over the causeway.

So....If you know someone with Creek or River issues.....concrete, old wrecks, oil drums, me or the Steelhead folk.

The Steelhead Stimulus Grant will allow local working people to break up and remove artificial and poorly thought out river obstacles and replace them with rail bridges.

Fish win, workers win......we all win.

Time is short. This has to get done this week.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dog Dictatorship...

I live in a Dog Dictatorship.....

God forbid I should sleep past 7am......

Should I try...and try to ignore the sounds of breaking glass and pottery....this is the kind of thing I might see when I open my eyes on my day off:

Screw the Dog Whisperer guy....we need that English chick with the boots and the RHD XKE convertible.....and the whip.

So....after a long day of turning compost, barrowing topsoil into our new raised beds, sifting gravel, and all that boring manual labor that is required to have actual agriculture at ones disposal....I came home for an ice cold Speakeasy wheat beer and some microwaved frozen food and some Keith Olbermann.....another Cornell guy.

My doggie drama queens acquiesced........kind of.

It was cold.....59 degrees inside. I was beat from communing with my Irish ethnic heritage of shovels and barrows and rocks and compost.

I turned to Puppy and said: "You wanna go for a little walk?"

Puppy turned from cute lap-puppy into psycho whirling dervish. I put on layers, and off we went.

Even Morgana came. Morgana is Pants' dog......I have custody. Morgana is 16, mostly wolf.....and now that she has met Amanda, becoming used to a lifestyle that includes a personal chef.

In November, Morgana had a stroke. She could not move, or swallow.....We had to drag her around from A to the pouring, freezing rain.

It was a crisis. We thought she was done. We got doggie downers from the vet, and I shoved a couple of dozen Vicodin down her as Pants' dad dug a nice hole in her favorite spot on the mountain.

Brendan got his .22 magnum out of hock.....and we braced ourselves for Morgana's passing.

She rallied. Like a good caterer or Hollywood queen....she shrugged off her burden with the help of Vitamin V......and came back to Earth.

Morgana is royalty.

She was born under a trailer in Palo Colorado and lived there for many years. One of her many claims to fame is the day when she came home with a human hand in her mouth.....

There had been a plane crash in Big one could find the wreck. Well, except for Morgana.

Now, she is a million years old....but she is still a warrior. Once upon a time, Pants and his dad Marc would take her for long hikes in the Sierras. Now she cannot cut she cruises with me and Puppy each morning.

Despite her age and arthritis.....she always manages to be uphill and downwind of us when we hike. She is covering our asses from the pumas, and she takes her job seriously.

It is kind of like counting on John McCain for flying the jets that will stop the Russkies.....but how can you not love the old girl, struggling up the mountain through the brush to maintain her post?

Today.....on our last minute hike, she joined in.

I went up to Brendan's homesite....and Puppy took off up the road towards the Douche Bag Rich Neighbor's property.

These guys never saw a tree they didn't want to cut down....or a wildflower or bush they did not want to have weed-eated. They put in a new gate, and a fancy new drive and came on our property and cut down trees they thought might someday fall onto their cool road.

Ignoring the fact that the roots of the trees they killed were supporting the hill from falling down onto their cool new gate and road.

These people continue to appropriate parts of our lives and property....because they are rich, and their grandparents fucked the first goat in Cachagua....apparently.

Lately we have been doing research, and discovered that we actually have rights to a cool creek, and property along the awesome new road.

Still, we don't trespass the new gate.....we walk down from the woods.

The creek just started flowing. Drops and drips.....and way up high on the mountain....but our creek, and our drips.

Eventually, the creek flows down out of our land and across the new road.....suitably funnelled in a culvert and tossed down the cliff towards Alfred and Kathy and the olive trees.

Morgana saw us up the mountain and tried to go around up the road...the easy way. She saw the culvert and smelled something cool......

And climbed into the culvert......

And got stuck. And howled loud enough that I heard her up top in the canyon.

She went in....and was too big and too old to turn around.....

We coaxed her out to the far end of the the middle of the cliff.

Morgana is the Queen.....she was not jumping off out of some culvert into some poison oak infested cliff......

She barked and howled.....Where the fuck is my limo, and my publicist?

Of course, the rich neighbors drove by.....and saw me trespassing to find her in there culvert.

I called Amanda.....Amanda is Morgana's personal chef......Amanda had me bend down to form a platform.....Walter Raleigh eat your heart out......and tried to convince the old girl to crawl out of the culvert onto my back. She got as far as two feet....but, no.

It was like working in Hollywood with Lauren Bacall.

Morgana was stuck in a pipe, on a cliff, in the middle of nowhere with no friend but us....but she had standards. She was not coming out onto a slope of more than 10 degrees.....and she would bite anyone who disagreed.

I hiked back up to the house and got the lid off our hot tub, and hiked it back up the mountain and down into the canyon. Eventually, the old girl came out onto the hot tub lid, with me underneath......and Amanda tackled her.

Howling and biting....slammed into the side of the cliff.

Did I mention that Puppy found an old soccer ball stuck on the cliff in the poison oak...brought it back and barked hysterically at Morgana the entire time?

Now, Morgana is stuck on the cliff with Amanda keeping her from falling into the abyss.

Our lunatic neighbor feeds the deer with dozens of feeding stations. The local pumas think of us like Koi in Beverly Hills....the cool place to dine. Conveniently, each feeding station has a few hundred feet of really good water hose.

I unhooked a couple hundred feet of garden hose and carried it down the cliff....hooked it under Morgana's front legs. She bit the fuck out of me.

Amanda took off her sweatshirt, slipped it over Morgana's head, and strapped it down tight. I cinched down the garden hose around Morgana's front legs....ignoring the snapping and howling.

Amanda was down cliff, I was up. For an hour, we shoved and lifted.....knocking down a world of erosion into the canyon.....while Morgana continued to try to bite our arms off.

Morgana is the 120 pound wolf dog wrapped in the blue sweatshirt. The hand is my 60 year old hand trying to haul her up the cliff while Amanda shoves from below.

Amanda is laughing hysterically, as you can see.

It all worked out.

We were covered with nasty Morgana fur, dirt, poison oak.....and we had knocked a dozen yards of dirt into the canyon....probably undermining the new driveway.

I got back home......and fielded a call from a bride..... wondering why I had not emailed her back with a proposal right away like I had promised......

Hey.....there is the queen...

And there is The Queen.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Strange Days....

Brendan drove down to LA today to buy some mahogany doors for his house. Fifty bucks.....the bittersweet side of the recession.

The kid he bought the doors from....well a kid of 28, like hustling working three Brendan.

Door Guy's great-grandmother moved from Italy to Monterey back in the 20's. She worked in the canneries in Monterey.

The family still has a fishing boat.

Brendan's great-grandfather moved to LA from Ireland, and worked as a ship's carpenter for the canneries in San Pedro and Terminal Island. Brendan's great-grandmother moved from Ireland to Los Angeles, and became a teacher and later the the first woman principal of a school in LA County.

Our family still has books.

The Door Guy lives across the street from White Point School in San Pedro.....where Brendan's great-grandmother taught for 30 years.....

I think that was a good business deal for the boys.....and I am sure there is a lesson there.

Door Guy is coming up for Monday Night Dinner.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There is Good News.....


All that Hope stuff is not just smoke blown up our collective butts.

Despite reading a long depressing article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine about Cleveland real can buy a house in Cleveland for $4k on eBay, but the copper pipes and wiring will already be stripped out.

The old jobs are long gone: Walmart convinced everyone that it was more in our national interest to save all 300 million of us ten cents on t-shirts, and their stockholders another nickel a shirt.....than have, say North Carolina with a 300 year old textile industry.

And....we are betting on being smarter than the rest of the world to pull our asses out of the fire?

Here are some nuggets......two from Reno, one from Pittsburg, PA.... and one from Livermore.

You get Reno because I went to middle school and high school there. It was nice....Reno ain't Vegas. We will start there.

Biodiesel is all the rage. In Minnesota has a law now that all diesel sold in the state has to contain 2% biodiesel......grown by the Minnesota soy bean farmers, of course.

We won't even talk about how stupid it is to use food crops grown in frigid Northern Plains conditions to make fuel....

In Reno, researchers found two and pond scum.

In coffee.....these crazy Indian imports (scientists whose names literally look like a fist fight at a Scrabble tournament.......Narasimharoa Kondamundi is one. DOCTOR Narasimharoa Kondamundi to you.....) have figured out a way to extract oil from coffee grounds in a way that makes money.

As with all poor grad students the world over.....these guys live on coffee. One day one of them noticed an oily scum that formed over the surface of one of the many forgotten cups that littered the lab. Hmmm.

The boys started collecting all the grounds from the local Starbucks and working it. I won't go into detail, but it works and is financially feasible. Five kilos of grounds yields a litre of pure biodiesel. The fuel is of such quality that it can just be dumped in the tank without any modification or pre-heating, unlike the fast-food fat fryer biodiesel.

And...the upside is that your exhaust smells like a Venti Mocha.


Oh....and the by product of the process? Compost.

In American we consume seven million tonnes of coffee each year. This would yield 340 million gallons of biodiesel.

Isn't that a nice wake up?

The second Reno project is not so sexy. Another group of scholars have developed a strain of algae that loves salt and can grow outside in uncovered ponds even in winter. One 5,000 gallon pondlet produced a couple of hundred pounds of algae....that converted into twenty gallons of biodiesel every three weeks. Just by sitting around in the sun.

This would be a perfect industry for Cachagua. We have sun, we have scum, we have a whole reservoir full of algae....two actually. And Lord knows.....we have diesel engines. Many of them still run, most of the time.

Next, on to Pittsburgh, PA.....where you can also probably buy a house for $4k on eBay. Pittsburgh has a battery company called Axion Power who is rejuvenating 150 year old battery technology.

Previously, to be good a battery had to be heavy. Lead, after all, is among the densest of elements. Axion has figured out a way to use activated carbon instead of lead.....and has a lighter battery that lasts three times longer than even deep-cycle batteries available now.

Being from Pittsburgh, Axion did not put their energy into a sporty little roadster like the $120,000 Tesla from Burlingame.....they converted a pick-up truck. A Ford, of course. Conversion cost was only $8,000. So far, the truck only has a 45 mile range....but frankly that compares well with many of our current Cachagua vehicles.

The good news is that these are early days, and Axion is getting smarter. They already have a contract with the US Marines to power their assault vehicles. I can't picture a tougher trial arena.....and how sweetly ironic is it to think of electrically powered tanks and APC's cruising around over all of that fossil fuel in Iraq...

Finally.....back to California for some hot air and partying. Really. Some guys were probably stoned or drunk and contemplating metal balloons at a party. (I don't know their background offhand....but I am thinking Cal rather than Stanford). It is completely uncool to buy metallized balloons because they inevitably escape, fly away, and way too often wind up shorting out power lines and causing wild fires. Or landing in dry fields and randomly focussing sunrays on dry grass, etc.

CoolEarth in Livermore came up with the idea of coating half of a balloon with metal and leaving the other half clear....and putting a solar cell in the middle to collect the reflected energy. Rather than needing thousands of acres of mirrors in the desert to power one giant plant....the CoolEarth balloons can be anywhere.

Current costs run about a dollar a watt of energy to install.....the same as awful coal powered plants. Coal plants last longer, obviously...but balloons are fueled by the sun, for free. So far net costs are about ten cents a kilowatt-hour......which makes actual money.

So.....three of these going, viable projects.....if described on Fox News....would generate gales of laughter and ridicule: "Fucking Obama is spending money on diesel from Starbucks! And pond scum! And party balloons!"

Well, these things actually work....they are all made in America, will supply jobs, and don't need much more help from research dollars.

That help came last week with the big, dumb stimulus bill. I can't believe these are the only deals going like this....this is the result of five minutes of research.

Oh....Cool Earth and Axion are hiring.

So.....wake up, America! Smell the coffee! Or the pond scum!

It is not all bad news......

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Signs that The End is near......

If this is your Valentine's Dinner plan and you are an American male....or a butch American probably means your manufacturing job was out-sourced to China by Wal-Mart last year to save everybody in America ten cents on their NASCAR T-shirts.

Not that I have anything against White Castle....

Or its New Jersey incarnation: the White Diamond....aka "The Greasy D"......

The Greasy D was a high school haven for me: hamburgers for 19 cents.

I know, Grandpa...and you had to walk through snow to school uphill both ways.....

Well, actually.....

Gas was 32 cents a a Greasy D hamburger cost a half gallon of gas.

In Now Terms that would be a buck.

Back then, you could still buy a sack full of burgers.....uphill and downhill.

Supposedly, Greasy D invented the square hamburger that Wendy's pirated. The square burger does not curl up on the grill or something....but I suspect an urban legend that Snopes would know more about than I.

All through high school, I never had a Greasy D burger in daylight.....well, maybe at dawn once.

It was sports related.

I was a high school hockey player in New Jersey....

Kind of.

The proof of the innate kindness of hockey players is that they allowed me to call myself a hockey player.....despite the fact that my California upbringing and my genetics caused me to have no hand-eye coordination, little depth perception, a pathetic ability to skate....and a dim understanding of the rules.

I had watched hockey from an early age. In Los Angeles in the Fifties, late night black-and-white TV was strictly boxing from the Olympic Auditorium, some pro wrestling.....or hockey from the same Olympic Auditorium. In New Jersey, I had a six-year-old's, black-and-white TV, middle-0f-the-night understanding of hockey.

Still, they took me in. With infinite kindness, I was shortly moved to the position of "Hockey Reporter". I still went to all practices and games....and got to skate. Sometimes.

Hockey in Northern New Jersey is a tribal sport.....All the tribes participate: the Jews, the Poor White Boys, the Rich White Boys, the Blacks.......we didn't have Mexicans back then. Darwin wasn't born yet.

There are exactly two ice rinks available for several million people in Northern New Jersey....and several hundred high school the private stock broker teams and leagues who got the good ice times.

All our prep and public school practices and games took place in the middle of the night, an hour's drive from home on the school bus.....into a world our parents could not have imagined.

One of the rinks was indoors....and perfectly fine....well, with a 3am kind of East Orange vibe.

The other was outdoors in east East Orange....the heart of the Inner City.

Racist ass-wipes like to make jokes about black skiiers, black swimmers, etc. Dumbass racists would probably try to make jokes about black hockey players as well......But you cannot imagine the skills of black folk with a 24-7 ice rink with a sport where you skate like hell and get to hit guys with sticks.

I went to Cornell and was the roommate of famous hockey players. My ex-roommate is the most beloved hockey guy in Canada, Wayne Gretsky not withstanding.....and now apparently possibly the premier or something.

He was a goalie, though.

The best skater I ever saw was a black man from Montclair who single-handedly put his school on the map against all the yuppies....

I hope he owns a hedge fund now. Or a repo firm......

Anyway, at 3am, outdoors in the ghetto in was not the only thing happening. The local vibe is best summed up as follows...

In a crucial game in our conference, our lead forward charged on attack with the puck and got slashed across the face by a defender. All the skin of his forehead fell over his eyes in a flap and blinded blood poured everywhere. He still made a couple of moves and scored the go-ahead goal.

When he skated blindly over to the boards for first 3am in the ghetto.....there were locals there to help. Tape.... needles and dental floss for stitching.....a rainbow of painkillers.....and an intense interest on the part of the locals for our guy to get back in and get another goal.

They had money on the game, after all. Nothing but the best.....just take a hit of this, more.


When it was clear Our Hero was done for the night after another shift on the ice with blood everywhere......there was a date with a local lady over behind the closed snack bar......perhaps for some First Aid. Or definitely Second Aid.

After the practice or game, everyone was at the Greasy D.

Everyone: players, reporters, fans, gamblers, coaches, bus drivers, ad hoc medics....

I got 35 cents a column inch for my reportage from the New Jersey Star I could spring for a sack full of Greasy D burgers.

The sound track was: Spencer Davis Group, with a fifteen-year old Stevie Winwood: Gimme Some Lovin'.

The walls and floors would literally jump to the beat........


We hockey folk learned more about life from hockey than we did from anything the high school had to offer....Or college, for that matter.

Soccer guys are the same.....

I just can't write about them until the statute of limitations expires.... terms of romance of Valentine's Day....

Actually, my Amanda would be thrilled to have a Valentine's date at the Greasy D....

She would be among friends.....

Just so it was 3am......and the locals were there.

Anyway.....our Valentine's was something different.

We had been booked for the whole Valentine's week, which coincided with the ATT, with our number one client.

We refer to him as either "The Richest Man in the World", or "The Nicest Man in the World."

He is an owner of Pebble Beach, and he is the only guy other than Frank Sinatra who walks into a venue he controls and gives everyone he encounters a crisp, new hundred dollar bill. Not from a place of arrogance...but from a place of respect.

Meanwhile, our guy's assistant went on vacation the week before the ATT. She told her understudy: "Make sure you call Michael about the catering."

We were all fired up ready to go, because we know our guy and what he wants....and had all the food in.....

The dumbass chick called Michael's Catering.....where there is no Michael anywhere.......and they hijacked our week.

So.....bored, broke (our guy did later send us a check for the tips for our crew for the party that never happened) and pissed off.....we decided to a Valentine's Dinner like we would like to have.

We put it up on Facebook and sold out in a half hour.

The funny part was the locals who snapped up the Valentine's opportunity at The Store, and expected to get a Caesar, some Tri-Tip, and some Chocolate Mousse.....and found themselves strapped to the table for five hours and fourteen courses.

Yeah....this is what we do...

They were thrilled, loved it.....and now know more about how we really work.....

Valentine’s Dinner

Cachagua Valley, 14 February 2009

Various hors d’oeuvres…

Gruet Rosé

Sour Grapes and Yuzu-cured Monterey Sardines

’83 Bernkastler Badstube Spatlese

Potato Foam with Czar Nikolai California Ossetra

’88 Hospices de Beaune Cuvée Baudot Meursault-Genevrieres

Roasted Leek Paper, Crab Caviar, Ginger Infused Whitefish Caviar

’83 Meursault Expensive Lawsuit

Maine Lobster, Sautéed in Vanilla Lobster Butter with Parsnip Purée, Nori Powder and Peach Spuma

’79 Quady Essencia

Chai Smoked San Joaquin Squab with Broccoli Couscous, Beet Chips, Beet Jus and Roasted Yam Gravy

’79 Silver Oak Cabernet (Alexander Valley) in Magnum

Kadoka/Saffron Linguini with Carmel Chanterelles, Trout Roe and Yuma Asparagus Sandwich

’83 Smith-Haut-Lafitte (Graves)

Bacon Roasted Venison, Grated Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Juniper/Plum Sauce and Wild Rice Blini

’79 Durney Cabernet (Cachagua)

Melon Shooter with Chile-Salt Spuma

Gruet Brut (New Mexico)

Fennel and Rose Marshmallows with Hibiscus Gelée

Probable Failed Anti-Griddle Course

Lemon Poundcake Goat Toast

Cheese and Savouries

’77 Smith-Woodhouse Port

’78 Gran Coronas (Spain)

Still......I woudn't mind being at the Greasy D instead. Just so it was 3am, during hockey season.

Amanda is that kind of romantic, too.

What's not to love?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Joe's gift......

My friend Joe Ortman is a prickly sort of a guy.

Boston Irish probably says it all. One minute you want to strangle him.....the next minute he shows up with tools when the compressor breaks on your walk-in.

Joe is living history in my strange literary world. Joe was the EMT on the call when Richard Farina crashed on the motorcycle at The Bucket the day "Been Down So Long" was released. The same day as Richard's wife, Mimi's, 21st birthday.

Richard died in Joe's iconic moment in 20th century music, literature and culture.....and tragedy.

Anyway....Joe lives up at the top of Tassajara Road. Well, not the top top.....but pretty far up. He lives at the This Way part of the road at the This Way That Way sign.....or maybe it is That Way. Everyone up there spends half their time pissed off at me for writing something indiscreet about them.....and the other half of the time laughing their asses off because I wrote something indiscreet about the other guy on the other ridge.

Joe and I go way back. I remember one time when some random passer-by.....JJ, in fact....dosed me with something I didn't want and didn't expect.....Joe followed me to Dr. Tocchet's and stayed with me in the room while we all debated on calling the ambulance I couldn't afford. Joe produced a raw emerald from Colombia and laid it on my chest and assured me that the stone would bring my pulse back down below 300.

It worked.....I guess. I got out of there, and still pulled off the party we had that day.

Anyway, Joe lives way up on Tassajara I said. The view from his property is all the way across the bay to Santa Cruz. We have done experiments with fire and explosives.....and you can see Joe's house from the David Bruce winery in the mountains above Santa Cruz. The statute of limitations has not yet run out on that one, so I will say no more.....but no one was hurt.

Well, badly.

Joe is also famous for being an obsessive flute guy. If you were ever at a party, or Mass in the Village or the Mission....and there was a flute guy, it was probably Joe.

Joe also has been obsessively keeping rainfall records on his property for thirty years now. I have been researching the whole rainfall vs. prosperity thing in Monterey County for a while.....and Joe has some of the best records around, and he has shared them with me and therefore you.

My early training as an electrical engineer at Cornell causes me to freak out in the presence of numbers....and roll around on the carpet and drool like Roman Polanski at a Hannah Montana slumber party in the presence of thirty years worth of data.

More later, but here is the quick take.

Our average rainfall in Cachagua... shit, I mean about 35 inches.

In the last thirty years, there have been nine years with more rain than the average, three pretty much bang-on average....and 28 below average.

When it pours.

In the last ten years, two years have been over average. Two years ago was half.

Here....thanks to the Kiddy part of the NCES website are some graphs of this year vs. the average.
This is an area graph. The deficit is the distance between the green and the blue mountains.

And here is the March history.

We are already over the average of 5.44 inches......


So......enjoy the sunshine....

Pray for rain.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Christy Nolan.....Resquiat in pace.....

I am a book junkie.....two or three books a week, no problem. Plus magazines. Plus internet.....and we won't talk about Facebook, OK?

Plus, I am an Irish Irish books. Yeah, Joyce, Yeats, Samuel Beckett....but also Roddy Doyle, JP Donleavy, Flann O'Brien.....Christy Brown.

So....knock me over with a feather to hear of Christie Nolan's passing last week in Ireland.

Christie Nolan was born in 1965 in Ireland with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was without oxygen for two hours, and was basically born dead. The little fucker survived a paraplegic with really bad cerebal palsy.

My brother Rob, the real writer in our family, was born in 1953 with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was without oxygen for only a couple of minutes.....He lucked out and only had 20-300 vision and vicious migraines his whole life. Rob missed the CP bus.

Christie could not walk, talk or control his arms or neck. For the first eleven years of his life no one but his Mom believed that he could communicate beyond yes (head bob) and no (eye raise). His Mom was a fierce Irish you need the adjective to describe Irish women.....and insisted that Christie be enrolled in regular school. She went with him, just to hold his head so his muscle spasms wouldn't break his own neck.

At age eleven, someone figured out to attach a unicorn horn stylus to Christy's that he could type letters on a typewriter.

Turns out that his mind had been boiling for eleven years. He remembered in detail every story his Da ever told him, every conversation conducted around him, every song, every prayer, every lesson......all the Yeats and Joyce and Synge and Beckett.

"Can't chew, can't swallow, so why chew? Can't call--can call, a famished moan maybe yet it suffices.....can't cry--can cry, can cry, can cry, wet pillows full but who cares....can't laugh--can laugh, can can can."

By 13, he was writing stuff like ten minutes a word:

Among firs, a cone high-flown,
Winged, popped,
Hied, foraying, embalming,
Sembling tomb
Among coy, conged fir needles
A migratory off-spring
Embarks on life's green film.

At his grade school he was not without friends. Paul David Hewson was one; Paul's girl Ali and his friends Adam Clayton, David Evans and Larry Mullen appreciated Christy's gift for language and accompanied him on to Trinity College in Dublin....the Stanford, Harvard and Yale of Ireland.

His friends later wrote a song for him.... "Miracle Drug"...... where they pictured St. Bernadette talking to Christy:

I want to trip inside your head
Spend the day there,
To hear the things you haven’t said,
And see what you might see,
The songs are in your eyes,
I see them when you smile.....

For the clueless: Paul David Hewson is better known today as Bono; David Evans is The Edge; Ali is Mrs. Bono....and the whole crew is now known as U2. Grade school friends of the cripple.

At 15, at ten minutes per word, the rush of thoughts came out in a book of poetry, Dam Burst of Dreams. People immediately recognized the whispers of Joyce and Yeats in Christy Nolan's thoughts.....and even better stuff.

By 21 he had clawed out an autobiography, "Under The Eye of The Clock"....which won the Whitbread Award for best book written in the English Language.

"Some said that disability got the prize for him, but what won it was the language, uncorralled and fesh as though the words had never been tried before. He made words into everything his body could not. Among his favorites were "frolicking" and "rollicking" and "hollyberries"....meaning compensations among the sharp things of life......"
From The Economist review.......

From Christy, himself.

"His own mother cradled his head but he mentally gadded here and there in fields of swishing grass and pursed wildness. his mind was darting under beech copper-mulled, along strams calling out his name, he hised and frolicked but his mother called it spasms. Delirious with the words ploppping into his path he made youth ree. where youth was meant to stagnate. Such were his powers as he gmleted his words onto white sheets of life......."

His Mom was his companion and champion. She held his head and steadied it as he pecked each and every letter of each and every word. She told him when he was three that she liked him just as he was. From that point, "he fanned the only spark he saw.....his being alive."

Once, on vacation at the seashore, his parents buried him in sand up to his neck. For the first time in his life, he felt what it was like to have a calm, straight, serene body.

But......even so, his head just above the sand was at the level of everyone else's feet....and he demanded to get back to his wheelchair.

Christy died last week.....

His family's statement:

"Following ingestion of some food into his airways......

Oxygen deprivation returned to take the life it had damaged more than 40 years before."

We should all have half the courage, half the skill, half the agility....half the heart.

I have the books if you want to check them out.

Sorry about the tear stains.....

Ars longa....vita brevis.


My friend Charyn....who once was the food editor of The Pine Cone....writes that she is enjoying her suite at the Royal Hawaiian.

This of course reminds me of a story.....


My restaurant godfather, Bill Brown of Carmel.....not THAT Bill Brown from the Pine Cone, uncle of the evil Scott Brown.....

My Bill is a Doud/Sharon, Sam Farr's uncle or cousin, Doud as in Doud arcade, Sharon as in old goldmining money from the Gold Rush.......

Anyway, my Bill was the manager of the Royal Hawaiian in 1949, so I started thinking about Bill when Charyn wrote.

Bill Brown and I had all these crazy connections. Bill was a Cornell guy, I am a Cornell guy. He adopted us back in the day. My brother was Editor-in-Chief of Harper Collins and did Jeremiah Tower's cookbook. Bill's daughter, Sharon, was Jeremiah's AA from back in the day in Berkeley at the start of the new California cuisine. Sharon was a waitress at Chez Panisse back when the silverware didn't match, and Jeremiah was a chef. Our first restaurant in Monterey was Secrets where Tarpey's is now....and it was a Stars knockoff. Bill helped us immensely with stuff like green papaya salad and general wise restaurant advice.

We used to do all the family (Sharon's and Doud's) picnics in Big Sur at Point 16. Bill and I would drive down the coast each year stopping in every bar and restaurant to check out Point 16...... in case it had changed since the previous year. My son Brendan was two, three, and four and used to ride along in the back seat....probably getting ready to drive if Daddy and Uncle Bill got too loaded.

One memorable day on the way back from Big Sur there was a storm and a related accident at the Carmel River bridge. We were stuck waiting in traffic for a while out towards Point Lobos, along side the Fish Ranch. Brendan was two, and kicking it in the backseat, pointing out all the nice cows to Bill and I.

Suddenly a giant bolt of lightning came down and zapped the living shit out of a cow not 50 yards from the car. The cow was fried, and a small grass fire started all around it. The thunder was like the doors of hell slamming.


Brendan laughed.

"What happened to the cow, Dad?"


For years, stuck in other traffic jams, I could see the traces of the outline of the zapping and fire......and I still always think of Bill when I drive by.

Bill is also the guy who brought Meyer lemons to the Peninsula.

Bill's second wife was John Steinbeck's crazy first wife, Carol. That leads to twenty more stories......

One of them is that Carol was crazy and Bill was his daughter Sharon was farmed out to the Sacred Heart nuns in Menlo Park at a young age. My mom was also farmed out to the Sacred Heart nuns in Menlo Park at a young age. My great-aunt, Mother Cecily.....who is buried at Menlo.....was Sharon's principal when she was in grade school and high school.

Another involves a Steinbeck/Brown family heirloom.....Hilario.

One day Carol, who drank a bit.....was at a flea market and ran across an old photo of a Mexican vaquero. She fell in love with it/him instantly and brought the portrait home to hang in a prominent spot in the house. She named him Hilario. She planted a big 1940's red lipstick kiss on the glass over him and Hilario became part of the family.

When we opened our next restaurant after Secrets.....Silver Jones......Sharon and her friend Nan brought me Hilario as a gesture of love and as a good luck talisman.....complete with Steinbeckian lipstick smack.

One day, my super efficient Oaxacan cleaning crew noticed the lip print......and polished that sucker away......

Oh, well......Sharon is now a Buddhist......attachments are to be avoided.

Hilario still graces my kitchen wall......and is still an awesome talisman.

Anyway, back to the Royal Hawaiian.

On September 22nd, 1949......Bill, who drank a bit (he died at the bar at the Rio Grill for example) was leaving work in the early morning hours, hammered. Honolulu at the time had two tourist hotels and a bunch of sailor bars and hotels, and was basically a shipping port with sand and palm trees.

My grandfather was the marine surveyor for the Islands and had a nice house up on Manalani Rise over Kaimuki, looking down on Diamond Head. My mom and dad had no money and lived in the guest quarters on the lower level. My dad worked for Castle and Cook shippers in the Aloha Tower.

Anyway......On Bill's way back to his Studebaker on that equinox night in 1949.....a coconut fell directly out of the tree onto his head and nearly brained him. One of the Kanakas who worked for him saw the whole thing and rushed Bill to Queen Liliokalani Hospital where they packed him in ice and fixed him up.

His room was on the second floor.

How do I know this?

Early in the morning of 9/22/49..... I was busy being born in Queen Liliokalani Hospital....

On the second floor......a little further down the hallway.


Here's to Bill....and to Whoever Is In Charge.

Love the sense of humor.

Hilario has a shit-eating grin himself....the old dog.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Privacy Schmivacy.....

'Surveillance Self-Defense' Gives Practical Advice on Protecting Your Private Data

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched its Surveillance Self-Defense project today -- an online how-to guide for protecting your private data against government spying. You can find the project at

EFF created the Surveillance Self-Defense site to educate Americans about the law and technology of communications surveillance and computer searches and seizures, and to provide the information and tools necessary to keep their private data out of the government's hands. The guide includes tips on assessing the security risks to your personal computer files and communications, strategies for interacting with law enforcement, and articles on specific defensive technologies such as encryption that can help protect the privacy of your data.

"Despite a long and troubling history in this country of the government abusing its surveillance powers, most Americans know very little about how the law protects them or about how they can take steps to protect themselves against government surveillance," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The Surveillance Self-Defense project offers citizens a legal and technical toolkit with tips on how to defend themselves in case the government attempts to search, seize, subpoena or spy on their most private data."

Surveillance Self-Defense details what the government can legally do to spy on your computer data and communications, and what you can legally do to protect yourself against such spying. It addresses how to protect not only the data stored on your computer, but also the data you communicate over the phone or the Internet and data about your communications that are stored by third party service providers.

"You can imagine the Internet as a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up all of the private information that you let near it. We want to show people the tools they can use to encrypt and anonymize data, protecting themselves against government surveillance," said EFF Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley. "Privacy is about mitigating risks and making tradeoffs. Every decision you make about whether to save an email, chat online, or search with or sign into Google has privacy implications. It's important to understand those implications and make informed decisions based on them, and we hope that Surveillance Self-Defense will help you do that."

Surveillance Self-Defense was created with the support of the Open Society Institute.

For Surveillance Self-Defense:

Sunday, March 01, 2009

There is Hope.....

Everyone should know that the parking lot of The Cachagua Store is now paved........

Ours Christian Landlord fell for an old-school scam......and we are now paved.

No more stepping out of your ride and sinking over your ankle into mud and piss......

Or, no more sun wretched dust blown horror of summer......

Kids can skate.......

Of course, since this is Cachagua.....people bitched.

"You have taken the "Country" out of the "Cachagua Country Store".

For three days, locals refused to even park on the asphalt.

My response......

"No.....we took the "Count" out of "Country".......

This morning we arrived for a full day of catering and building raised beds for herbs and crap......and dealing with the backwash of the asphalt project.

Two cute kind kids were waiting by the door at 8:30 am.

"Do you have any work for us?"

They are twelve......

One of the kids Amanda calls "Jesus" because he is so sweet and kind and connected on levels of which we know not.....

Well, sure! We have work!

Meanwhile.....the "Jesus" kid's mom is the ex-wife of one of my fellow soccer coaching guys.....and the daughter-in-law of one of the partners in my old restaurant, Silver Jones.

I actually at one point in my Dive Rescue Mode.....saved this kid's mom from drowning in Blue Fish Cove at Point Lobos during a storm. She was with her sister-in-law, and I saved them both....and the sister-in-law commissioned a nice sculpture that I still have next to my TV....

So...arguably.....the kid would not be here if I had not saved the Mom.....

The kid is many years younger than my sculpture.....and the years do not reflect the many, many bad choices his mom has made.....other than the choice to conceive him. She is definitely in the top five worst moms the point that often I have almost regretted having saved her life.

Anyway....we found work for these boys. They shoveled compost....they raked rocks.....they raked leaves....they filled in shitholes.

After two hours good work they came into The the middle of a pogrom of asswipes who had not made reservations for Sunday Brunch.

I made scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes and organic blackberry pancakes with organic maple syrup for the two kids before I even contemplated the older, rich, white folks needs......

I paid the kids minimum wage.....$8 per hour in California. Two hours.....$16 each.

Breakfast was on me.

Two hours later, the kids swaggered into The Store with their friends......and were buying rounds. Some red licorice, some gummy bears, some sodas......

And....for this one new kid, seriously skinny, no one knows what his story is....they bought him a cheeseburger that the kid devoured in a heartbeat.

Watching the smiles on their faces.......

Hard work.....friendship. Investment in hope that the new guy will turn out OK.....

Pride in accomplishment......

Willingness to invest your share of hard work in a new kid who might turn out....

Stay tuned.

Or come by on Sunday morning and meet the crew.