Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Uncle Ted....

From my friend Kathy.....a reminder:


A Message on Ted Kennedy to Conservatives Who Hated Him (Mostly Profanity-Free for the Kiddies):
Let's just get this right:

Do you like your state and not the federal government controlling the curriculum of your kids' schools? Thank Ted Kennedy.

Do you like being able to vote starting at age 18? Thank Ted Kennedy.

Do you think low-income people should get help with heating their homes in the winter? Thank the man.

Do you think the federal government should fund cancer research? Yep.

Do you believe that Meals on Wheels is a good thing? Ditto.

Does your daughter (or you, if you're female) like playing soccer or basketball or softball at school? That'd be because of Ted Kennedy.

Do you think that disabled people should be able to go to school? Have access to buildings? Not be discriminated against for housing and loads of other things? Kennedy, big time.

You like your cheap airfares? You know the answer.

You think people on welfare oughta get jobs? So did Kennedy.

You think mental institutions should treat people humanely? Yeah, so did your new friend, Ted Kennedy.

You believe that the Defense Department should provide child care for the kids of soldiers? Kennedy did.

You think a woman shouldn't lose her job if she gets pregnant?

You think 100,000 more cops on the street's a good idea?

You think poor kids should have health care?

You think soldiers in Iraq should have the proper armor?

Just tick those things off the list. Some of them would have been accomplished without him; many would not have been.

And Ted Kennedy did more for real, actual democracy than almost anyone else in our entire history as a nation.

More on that tomorrow in a real tribute.

(By the way, perhaps we now know why Barack Obama was trying to get health care reform done quickly.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Best and Brightest.....

A few years ago....a Forbes Magazine worker assigned to ferret out America's "Best and Brightest" would have probably have been slavering over a fairly recent Harvard grad working in technical parts of a private equity firm....walking point on America's financial patrol of the world markets.

I am a chef guy...with forty years working in hot, sharp and dangerous dungeons where all decisions are instantaneous....and all judgments are permanent. Our loyalties in the kitchens of the world are to each other...and we band together even as we watch the forces of the outside world pick us off one by one and assign us to the void of......


The forces that kill us are familiar to all: drugs, alcohol, stress, money, politics, love, jealousy....each and all combining in lethal combinations....

I spend a lot of time with creative folk, and seriously successful folk...and I find the differences to be mostly accidental and genetic. the kitchens and dining rooms there are very rarely entire classes of people actually trying to kill us.

I am continually amazed at America's total support for war as an instrument of public and foreign policy....and a complete and total disregard for the agents who wield that instrument....our soldiers, sailors and airmen.

We see this same attitude in kitchens and dining rooms. Random rich fucks appear constantly and expect their own personal culinary fantasies to appear unbidden....and are willing to punish anyone who fails to produce them...and are clinically unable to reward those who actually fulfill the impossible dream they have conjured up.

But rarely does anyone shoot at cooks......

Charles Schultz was a client. Every waiter of a certain age remembers a comic strip where Lucy is approaching Snoopy's doghouse.

"Snoopy....I love you, and I have for you that which every dog dreams of."

Snoopy snaps to attention, dreaming of Chateaubriand and center-cut pork chops....

"The ultimate expression of love......"

Snoopy is wide awake and all about it as Lucy approaches.....

"A pat on the head......"

Pat. Pat. Pat.


In the real world it doesn't work out like that.

Our bridges and overpasses have been stuffed with Vietnam vets for 40 years who could not deal with the transition from being the center point of American policy to being part of the re-cycle.

Our new millenium warfare has become infinitely more efficient....and has chewed up and generated an order of magnitude more potential bridge and overpass dwellers.

Fair enough. Fuck you. You couldn't get into Harvard? Enjoy your bridge.

What is awful, horrible and revolting is that our modern discarded warriors are no longer opting for the whole bridge and overpass life-style...they are just cutting the crap and just killing themselves after fulfilling their obligations to our nation and our nation's foreign policy.

Suicide rates have ballooned past anything even contemplated in the Vietnam era. 2008 was a banner year....way beyond anything experienced in the American military in its history.

2009 blew past the 2008 mark six weeks ago. In seven months we obliterated the previous 12 month record that dominated anything experienced by our troops in the 225 year history of our Republic.

Official policy has lagged decades behind reality. George Bush was a dumbfuck who was concerned....but lacked the technical and organizational ability to help. And his corrupt friends had already stolen all the money anyway.....

Obama can intellectually feel the pain, and is not a dumbfuck.....but his people somehow know better than those little people out there. They are so much smarter than all of us....that they don't need our input. all percolates back down to the local level......

Generals and Admirals posture and strut....

Staff Seargents and Captains....and the occasional enlightened Colonel..... run the actual world.

Here are 9 PTSD guys.....lives turned upside down after committed service to their country....who found themselves walked into a corner whose only escape seemed to be a short trip with a heavy bullet or a giant mouthful of pills......

I submit to you that the people running this story......

Climbing Mt. Whitney.......Highest peak in the Lower 48........

With our un-recognized wounded........Getting all nine guys up to the peak and back......

Our folks at Paradox Sports.......

Are our best and brightest......Far and away.

Maybe it is time to get them off the battlefield.......

Check it of our returning disabled officers from Iraq does climb Mt. Whitney in a Chicken Suit.

Where there is Life....there is Hope.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine..... is a story of probably no interest to anyone.......

I am a famous test-taker. For some weird idiot-savant type reason, I score well on any kind of test. It may be related to my upbringing in the Anaheim School District under the evil Max Rafferty. Max turned me and thirty of my classmates into proto Uber-Youth back in the 50's by fast-tracking 5th graders into calculus, ceramics, publishing...and godforbid.....even learning Spanish and Latin. Of course, I had to test well to get into the class.....

The testing thing is so absurd that I once took a Hebrew Advanced Placement test.....and scored well. At the time I did not know that Hebrew is read upside down and backwards. I did better in Hebrew than my brother Rob did in actual math. Go figure.

In high school in New Jersey I took the National Merit Scholar test....and fell 20 questions short of finishing. So....I just guessed at the remaining answers. And got one of the highest scores in the country. Whatever.

On the test, there was a box to check if you were interested in a Telluride Foundation Scholarship. I checked the box.

I wound up failing miserably at the scholarship competition because you actually had to write things, not just mark boxes. Still, Telluride House was at Cornell University. Cornell got a copy of my test scores and sent me a postcard when I was a junior, accepting me to the University.

It turned out that my lunatic best friend from high school had similar scores.....and was similarly drafted. We were inivited up for a weekend, turned over to fraternity guides, encouraged to drink ourselves into insensibility....and we were hooked. We never looked back.

This whole testing thing was big in the 50's and 60's. Cornell had embraced the trend and placed the best testers all in one dorm in their newly constructed University Halls. The practice was eventually abandoned, probably after our year there. See, no one was testing for maturity....and things got really ugly.

Still, there was some history to the project....however short. The U-Halls had been built in 1953....and Peter and I arrived in 1967. Some of our fellow SuperDorm residents were the character in the Life Magazine story who tried to have sex with a Coke machine under the then completely legal influence of LSD.....and a famous rebel and rabble-rouser named Richard Farina.

In the course of several administrative hearings about our poor conduct it was revealed to Peter and I that we were the direct geographic descendents of this Farina person, who had occupied our room twelve years earlier. It was not a positive reference, so we instantly took on Farina as a patron saint of rebellion and misbehavior.

We were not completely off base. Like us, Farina started as an Engineer. He quickly switched to English, which never occurred to me. Richard was a ladies' man and was part and parcel of one of the first great student uprisings....the Collegetown Riots. He and his buddies were upset at college rules that forbade women and men from gathering together even in off-campus housing without supervision.

Richard was expelled, said "Fuck you" and followed the bohemian road to Greenwich Village, then to Ireland and France. He met and became friends with Bob Dylan and Tommy Makem in the Village. He flirted with the IRA in the early 60's....and soon met Mimi Baez in Paris. Mimi was 16, not even close to legal in the US at the time. They built and played their own dulcimers and recorded sweet ringing folk music. They married in 1963, when Mimi was 17. They had one moderate hit: "Pack Up Your Sorrows"...written by Richard and Mimi's sister Pauline. To me it is one of the top two or three folk songs ever written.

Meanwhile Richard finished his novel about his Cornell years: "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me". It was a breakthrough novel. Richard's friend and fellow Cornell failed Engineer, Thomas Pynchon called it: "like the Hallelujah Chorus done by 200 kazoo players with perfect pitch....hilarious, chilling, sexy, profound, maniacal beautiful and outrageous all at the same time." Pynchon dedicated "Gravity's Rainbow" to Richard....which is all you need to know about his continuing literary influence.

Peter and I discovered "Been Down So Long...." took it as a field manual for Cornell life. We had already experienced a lot of it: Ma Snyder's creepy motel where you could take dates....with the toilet in the middle of the room; Ithaca's gorges...and it's crazy mix of crushing winters and glorious springs that matched the miserable depression and constant brilliance of the lunatics that we found ourself surrounded by.

One of Richard's more amusing and poignant episodes I have adopted a few times: at one point his main character has a brutal, killing hangover. His friends call a priest to administer last rites. The ashes, the annointing with holy oil.......

Been there....done that. Sorry, Lord. But, works!

Eventually, I too was tossed from Cornell. I too fell in love with a 17 year old and ran off to Europe with her and lived like bandits in Ireland and France with just our motorcycle to get us around. There were no dulcimers, no Bob Dylan, no magical folksongs.....and no novel.

"Yet knowing how way leads on to way......."

Jane and I found ourselves in Telluride.....running a restaurant that looked up at the world's first AC power line...that had led to the money that led to the founding of Telluride House at Cornell.

And eventually found ourselves in Carmel Valley Village. We lived on Flight Road, just up from the Running Iron, and across the street from a little house where a lawyer friend had his practice. We had our little catering company and a crew locals from Cachagua would drop by and trade this and that for this and that. Gene and Claire. Peyton and Pauline. The kids.....Dianna and Pearl. Tommy Nason. Smoky Joe Ortman. Tom O'Neal.

I still had my motorcycle from Europe....a Dunstall Norton cafe racer. Zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Less than 4,000 miles and two major crashes. When by Norton buddies came to town we would race from the Village to Cachagua Road and back....taking great joy in getting air by clearing the center of the S turn by The Bucket in the air at 90 mph.

One day, I felt a whisper of cold on my neck as I landed the Norton on the far side of the S and hit some sand just before The Bucket. Brendan was 18 months.....I parked the bike in the garage so I could live to see him graduate from high school.

Long story short: Richard Farina published his book in April of 1966. He was visiting his sister-in-law Pauline in Carmel Valley and they had the book party at the Thunderbird bookstore.....the little house across from the Running Iron that is now a day spa.

It was Mimi's 21st birthday as well. Mimi was miffed that Richard had not gotten her a present, and they quarreled. Richard wanted some pot, and a friend of Pauline's had a connection...and a motorcycle.

They took off at 90 mph, heading for Los Tulares. They didn't make the S turn. The bike crashed, and Richard went through the fence where the vineyard is now.

The Valley Volunteers responded. Joe Ortman was the EMT. Richard died in his arms.

When Mimi got home days later, she found the wilted flowers that Richard had had delivered for her on her birthday.

Fast forward 35 years.

It is July, 2001. A Thursday. My brother, Rob has just left after a visit and returned to New York City. Rob is dying of lung cancer and not eating....and I am trying to think about how to arrange my schedule so I can go to New York and cook for him, because he will always eat my cooking.

KPIG is on the radio......the reception gets better as I pass The Bucket.

Pack Up Your Sorrows is playing:

No use crying, talkin to a stranger
Naming the sorrow you've seen
Too many sad times, too many bad times
Nobody knows what you mean

But if somehow you could pack up your sorrows
And give them all to me
You would lose them, I know how to use them
Give them all to me.....

Yeah, no shit.....

If somehow.....

The hairs rise on my neck as I pass the vineyard.....

As I pass the old Thunderbird, Arden on KPIG says....

"We just got word that Mimi Farina has died of cancer at her home........."

You would lose them......

Fast forward another eight years.

Thomas Pynchon has a new novel. I order three copies: one to wrap and save; one to read in the bath tub; one for Peyton.

Peyton (and Pauline) and I are members of the Upper Carmel Valley Light Reading and General Soporific Society. We read good trashy novels. Luckily we have enough favorite authors that theree is usually a bright light in any given month. We all agree that real literature is often too much of a load. We are Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, John Sanford folk. Annie Proulx is our step above.

Each of us is almost ashamed to deny that a beautiful afternoon spent alone on the couch with a great book.....or alone and unbothered in a restaurant with a great all we really want from life anymore.

Did I mention that Peyton and Pauline attended Thomas Pynchon's wedding? Or that Pynchon was best man at Richard and Mimi's wedding?

It is Monday Night, and I know Peyton and Pauline will be in, so I have the book all wrapped up waiting on their table.

Monday Nights at 6pm are the most stressful moment of the week. Still, when Peyton and Pauline come in, we are taken a step down....reality check. We do this for our friends. This is our one chance in a week to use our skills to make our friends happy.

Deep breath. It will all be fine.

Peyton waylays me in the office with a paperback.

"I was looking through the old stuff for something to read and thought I would try this one again."

Lord Jim. Joseph Conrad.

Jesus. Real literature. God, Peyton.

"Then I thought you might like it......"


I open the cover of the very old but very good shape paperback.

In small script on the first page inside the cover:

"R. Farina, Cookstown, N. Ireland, 1962"

Some town people at 6pm, waiting for their menus as I walk past heading for the garden.....

"Isn't that the chef? Why is he crying? Is everything OK?"


It looks like Up to me........

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Swine Flu

Ummm.....I have been slayed by allergies for three days, flat on my back whenever possible.

And, since there is a God....and she has this awful sense of was on the day of our great Deep Carmel Valley Hike at Hastings.

Mark was always. I went home and slept for 14 hours.

Barely made it through today.

Almost walked from the job tonight. Busiest week of the year.

Poor me.

Then, I come home and talk to my friend....who has to drive to Camp Pendleton tomorrow at 5am for two suicide interventions, asked for by name.

Out in the ozone, when folks are grasping for straws...and actually want to stay here, my friend's name comes up.

His success rate is 50%.

I tried to tell him to think of baseball, not golf.

.500 in baseball puts you in the Hall of Fame.

"Yeah, but.....half of the guys.....


Trying to be the Tiger Woods of suicide.......


Catering looks easy...

And insignificant.

No....Catering IS easy.....

And insignificant.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hanging with the Danes......

My brain is exploding.....

I spent the afternoon and evening absorbing aspects of our Afghan policy direct from various horses' mouths.

My friend Col. Dan just returned from Afghanistan. His assignment was to use his "cultural acuity" to assess the situation, and the viability of any hope of success in our mission there.

The powers that be gave him 60 days to do this.

As a very smart guy....a Hoover Institute Fellow.....he first did a deep self-analysis of the term "cultural acuity".

Upon arrival in Kabul, he immediately ran into a shitstorm of whatever the opposite of "cultural acuity" is.

Afghanistan is a monumental vortex of clashing bureaucracies: NATO, the UN, the US State Department, the US the Italians, the Brits, the Germans, the Danes, etc.

Oh, yeah. There are apparently pesky Afghans as well. And, of course.....Afghans come in all stripes and flavors....many of which compete and clash in the same person from day to day.

In fact....Col. Dan's first message was this: Afghans are geographically, religiously, genetically, socially, and economically all tossed in a blender.

And Col. Dan is supposed to make sense of 4,000 years of hatred, violence and religious frenzy....and give a report in 60 days? is not so hard, after all. I thought working 20 hour days, six days a week at age 60 qualified me for some kind of hall of fame.

Forget it.

I am a geography and politics geek....I read the NY Times, and the Economist, and the Guardian, and some Spanish newspapers....because I am a compulsive reader. I was fascinated by some of the things I learned today....which are probably completely boring to anyone else.

Here goes:

The DLI does not just train dumbass incoming E-9's to speak various languages in preparation for years of flying around in big jets listening to Pakistani radio. DLI is part of our intelligence and diplomatic operations and many of the students there are colonels and majors and captains. DLI trains one species of operative called an FAO....foreign area officer or operative, pronounced Fay-O. These linguistic, cultural and military liasons who wind up placed in strategic spots in the military and diplomatic bureaucracy.

The commander of the DLI is a woman.....a foreign service expert who spent 14 years living in all parts of Africa and was tapped by the Clinton's to go to West Point as an instructor. The was abracadbra'd as a Captain for her West Point posting....and is now a highly respected Colonel. She is the kind of modern military person who would rather understand, convince and coopt our various foreign friends and foes....rather than bomb them back to the Stone Age.

At least at first.

There are also something called "48's"....which are straight up military diplomats. These are divided into six groups based on the geography of their specialty. Charlie48's are Middle East guys. Delta48's are South American guys. Foxtrot48's are Chinese experts.

We have lots of super-smart Charlie-48's deployed in Afghanistan. And the odd Baker-48. And one Delta-48.

This all sounds good, until you think about the geography. Afghanistan is not actually IN the Middle East. Afghans are in Central Asia. The languages, culture, climate, geography, economics, politics and religions are not even close to what goes on in the actual Middle it is some kind of conceit on our part to stock Afghanistan with Charlie-48's just because there is Allah and sand involved.

And the Delta-48 guy they brought in from Colombia to advise about the drug trade? Not quite the same thing with the coca guys in jungle as with the poppy guys in the desert mountains of Central Asia.

Col. Dan's take on the situation in Afghanistan was held pretty close to the vest. It is "pre-decisional", meaning that the decisions based on his study have not yet been if he told us what he concluded he would have to kill us.

Still, he did share various observations.

Hardcore, solid government guys are tied to tribal weirdos who run heroin, but are great on security. Whack-job heroin guys have awesome armies and political control of large areas and are religiously stable. Fucked up, whack-job Muslim extremist heroin smugglers can be dealt with rationally. Other religious extremists hate the poppy thing, hate the Taliban thing, have control of large parts of the country.....but hate the corrupt fuckers we put in power in Kabul. Then, there are still actual communists.....who hate the poppy, hate Islam, hate the US.....but not so much that they are not willing to make a deal, for a while.

The government in Kabul is very weak, and virtually useless outside Kabul itself. We run the risk of losing our credibility by supporting such obvious losers...but we still have to support them somewhat because they are all we have.

The people of Afghanistan are exhausted by 30 plus years of war and destruction....and, in principle, welcome our aid and help. What they really want is some sense of security and stability....They would much rather live under the guarantee of horrible, draconian religious tyrants who are at least always horrible, always draconian, and always tyranical....rather than bounce around in the economic, political and military void our bumbling policies bring them, however well-intentioned and well-meaning.

If you think this is weird.....just drive down I-5 and listen to AM radio. All you get is Rush, Jesus, hell-fire, and screaming fear of Jews, niggers, socialists, Clintons and Kennedys. The Taliban should get into the Jesus franchise. Redneck Republicans would love to be able to beat their wives, wrap them in burlap from head to toe, and let the local preacher tell them how to act and how to vote. Like they aren't already.

Plus....who do you think is doing all the heroin the Taliban is producing? From where I sit, it is all the out of work plumbers, electricians and carpenters who voted for George Bush, along with their children and relatives. The Talib's are missing a great marketing opportunity. What they need is a Muslim Harvard grad to get into politics and help steer their marketing program.

Anyway, our guy did a good job. He is very smart and intuitive. The fact that the new commanding general in Afghanistan had the insight to send in an auditor of the systemic cultural acuity is a good thing.

Until you reflect a moment about the time-line.

We have been in Afghanistan for eight years, billions of dollars and a thousand dead soldiers, sailors and Marines.

Someone just thought of this? gets worse.

One of the questions asked of Col. Dan was from a Marine who was at DLI to learn Pashtu, one of the many tribal languages of Afghanistan. His question involved the politics and bureaucracy of the different language groups. Turns out that Pashto is not the national language of Afghanistan, so our policy is that speakers and students of Pashto cannot rise to the same level (Charlie-48, FAO) as speakers of Dari.

In the room of a hundred or so FAO's and future FAO's listening to Col. Dan were a bunch of folks in different digital camos....more blues and greens. I could not help but notice that some of the different camo folks were very female, and very hot. Then I noticed the little Danish flag on the sleeve of their uniforms.

Duh. Someone point me to an ugly Danish woman. There must be one or two....but the small local sampling of even their military trends against.

At the beer blast after the briefing I somehow found myself chatting with the supermodel Danish camo lieutenant. Imagine your surprise.

Lt. Alexandra turns out to be a Pashto speaker who has been training in Pashto for a year at DLI and was about to ship out back to Denmark.

As a non-military, moderately well-informed citizen and fan of Jeopardy I knew that Pashto speakers in Afghanistan come from Helmand province, in the south west on the Pakistan border. Helmand province is where all the poppies are grown.....or most of them. It is also where the Taliban has the most influence and control. The Brits and the Danes have been fighting a brutal war there. The Brits are under-supplied by their anti-military Labor government and have been losing scores of soldiers to roadside bombs because they lack helicopters. When their commander moves around Helmand, he has to borrow a US chopper. Embarrassing.

The agriculture and therefore much of the money in Helmand is controlled by a big central canal. For years, the NATO strategy was to liberate a town or village from the Taliban and move on. Of course, the Talibs would move right back in on Day Two. New policy is to fight, hold and keep territory. The Brits have been fighting for a year on one section of the canal, and advanced less than two kilometers. The Danes have one battalion (700-800 men) and have been involved in some of the heaviest fighting.

I was chatting with Lt. Alexandra about her next job....commanding all the Pashto speakers and translators in the Danish Army when Mr. Marine butted in. The guy that asked the question about Pashto speakers to Col Dan.

"So, you are studying Pashto, huh. I am about to start."

"Great. Good luck with your studies."

"When do you deploy to Afghanistan?"


"To where are you deploying?"

"Uh....Helmand Province."

"Really? Where is that?"

Jesus wept. One of our incoming Marine officer trainee's learning Pashto does not know that: 1) Pashto is spoken in Helmand; 2) our actual Marines are deployed to and fighting and dying in droves in Helmand; 3) the Danes have been there for years; 4) the different camo and the little red flag with the white cross on her shoulder means that Lt. Alexandra is a Dane.

I know this.....and I am the cook at a shitty restaurant in the middle of nowhere in the Santa Lucia Mountains.....and no one has handed be a rifle in many years.

DJ and I instantly kidnapped Lt. Alexandra and took her to Stoke's for champagne and Monterey's best pizza....and some gentle interrogation.

Alex joined the Danish Army out of high school because they had a much better language program than the Danish universities. After basic studies and ten month's training she became a Sargent....and applied to the Danish DLI.

These guys receive 3,000 applicants....and take 30 students in. Alex studied Arabic for two that she now had Danish, English, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish....and enough Spanish and French to get by. Typical Danish high school grad.

After a tour in Iraq, Alex was assigned to DLI. Her year spent with Pashto, she was deploying to Afghanistan to run the Danish Army's Pashto interpreters: Danish speakers of Pashto, Afghan immigrants to Denmark who were ex-pat native speakers, plus the local volunteers in Helmand. The Danes have at least one Danish officer speaker of Pashto per platoon, plus the Dane/Afghans, plus the natives.

Alex gets promoted to Captain for the job....and well she should be.

Alex talks about the importance of not just learning the words, but the local culture: "Pashto has 100 words for mud.....and 100 words for sheep. If you memorize 99 words for each, and you are talking to a villager who is talking about a sheep stuck in the mud...and it is the one word you don't know....your mission is a failure."

Alex is defensive about the Danish role in the confict: "Everyone makes fun of the Danes....but we are holding our territory and making a difference. We are not a mighty military with big guns and tanks and aircraft. We have to work with other skills. After all the ultimate object of war is peace. It doesn't matter in the end how you achieve it....right?"

No offense.....but our Army cannot compete with the Danes. Many, many of the soldiers...and even many of the command officers have the vision....but the institutional inertia is immense. I wonder what Col Dan's recommendations will be.

Oh, yeah.

Alex will be 23 in November.

Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I am amazed to watch the destruction of health care reform take place before my eyes. I watched the Chicago cops brutalize actual democratic demonstrators forty years ago and was equally amazed. I was so staggered by the serial assassinations of our best and brightest politicians and religious leaders forty years ago that I left the country......

Luckily, out of country.....I learned a new trade.

Now, watching big industry destroy any hope of my company, my family and my workers ever having any kind of reasonable chance at any acess whatsoever to any kind of health care....even that available to tribal Africans in the middle of war zones in the middle of the most desolate and backwards part of the planet.....I am lining up my options.

Luckily, my grandmother had the good sense to be born in a backward, third world country....not to mention my grandfather.

Grandma was a scholar. Her college poetry teacher was shot against a wall in a prison in south Dublin....400 meters from her classroom....for advocating the kind of freedoms we all take for granted and willing cede away. Grandma voted with her feet, married a writer/gambler/horses guy and emigrated to Redondo Beach to live the new life in the New World.

Grandpa Jack meanwhile got kicked out of his upscale Irish family for his penchant for gambling...and probably his penchant for speaking truth to power. He started a labor newspaper in Terminal Island amongst the Irish sailors and workers.....and got a beating for his trouble. The ruptured intestine, and the drunken doctor who was all Grandma could afford were not enough to keep Jack alive.

Grandma took the Red Trolley from Torrance up to USC every night to finish her degree. She left Uncle Jim to fend for himself in Redondo....and farmed out my mom to the Sacred Heart nuns up in Menlo. Mom rarely saw her family.....she is still kooky about holidays and family.

Grandma finished her degree....and her determination led her to become the first woman principal of a school in LA County.....White Point School in San Pedro, overlooking Terminal Island.

Grandma married a ship's carpenter who worked in the canneries. Grandpa Tom had grown up in the same small town in Ireland as Grandma.....Tom was a union man. The process of progress from apprentice to journeyman to master carpenter actually carried with it physical changes and deformities that eliminated the need for any kind of written union card: hand held wood planes required that the apprentice bent in his little finger to hold the plane steady as he smoothed the giant beams used in shipbuilding. After only a few years, the pinky finger became permanently twisted and bent under and into the palm of the apprentice.

Hence....when Grandpa Tom found himself in America looking for work....all he had to do was hold out his hands, in lieu of CV. The crippling effects of his work were enough to guarantee him entree into the higher levels of his profession: union carpenter.

Chefs and bakers have similar deformities. The skin on your forearms....the ones that moms use to test baby bottles...are especially sensitive, and prone to scarring. My arms look like those of one of those scary tribal Nigerian bus conductors in London.....and I got two new "stripes" on Monday: one under my right arm, one behind my right elbow. No wonder that Vicodin is the State Bird of Caterland..... ironic is it that I watch my health care insurance costs spiral out up beyond my rent....that I realize that it is perhaps time to cash in my genetic and social heritage.

I am a dual citizen. My grandmother's and grandfather's birthplace in Dungarvin guarantee me a passport to the country that millions of my relatives left 150 years ago as being the most brutal, murderous, deadly place on Earth.

Ireland was Darfur in 1846.....probably worse.

Ireland was Chechnya in 1921.....probably worse.

Ireland was Lebanon in 1969.....probably worse.

And now...this destitute, benighted speck of exhausted land and exhausted people has a health care system that makes that of the "Greatest Country on Earth" look like Darfur's.

Check this out:

Any questions?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Slow....hopefully boring fire....

As you can see the fire is moving southeast......into Indian, and Army country......

Knock wood.

Plaskett is in the upper right hand corner of the map. Think Jade Cove.....

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New Big Sur Fire...

Big Sur Kate has the real always.

Thank God this summer has been so merciful....but we are walking on thin ice. It is so dry that for me smoking salmon is a huge task.....the oak leaves and twigs ignite and burn in the presence of any heat, even in the absence of oxygen. I have a teenager with a mister sitting by the smoker, spraying away.

Rancho Rico is the source of one of the fires.

Rancho Rico is just before the Big Sur Bakery on the right and up the mountain....approximately where Mark Hudson ran over that poor girl last year.

We are hearing reports about a campfire started fire on Naciamento-Ferguson Road at the same time...but there is so far nothing on the thermal imaging satellite.

Naciamento-Ferguson Road is within arrow shot of Big Sur if there was some action there we would know.

Love Big Sur Kate....and deferring all lawyer jokes....

And, by the way......Sheriff Kanalakis crashed the Barbara Boxer fundraiser we did in Monterey on Friday. He was super nice and sweet and complimentary to me. Weird and creepy given that whole "Sheriff C......." thing from last summer.

Duh......Election year.

I mentioned our interaction to a couple of his deputies that were hauling off some of the few remaining Cachagua knuckleheads this weekend.

They said: "Duh....Election year." They did not seem stoked with old Sheriff Mike. Morale seems to be not actually high.

I am trying to be as kind as possible....since all these guys monitor this site.

Best take and hilarious ironic joke of the law enforcement year so far in our world:

The official Thomas Brothers Map Book that the Sheriff's Department uses.....lists Jamesberg as "Jonesberg".

Hey...we have only been there six years......Not long enough to have a town named for us.

Not to mention the whole "Jamesberg Ain't Cachagua" thing......

Probably they meant Buddy Jones......the awesome, much mourned and revered bass player and keeper of the World's Best Cheesecake Recipe.

The deputies, when Amanda pointed the hilarity of James vs. Jones out to them....

"No wonder dispatch has no clue what we are talking about when we call in from out here....."

This is the same outfit that dispatched units every day during the fire last year to Nason Road instead of Nason Ranch....where the Incident Command Post actually was.

One of the main knuckleheads hauled off today must remain nameless.....Or let us just call him "Roy". I got in huge trouble with the locals last summer for writing about how a Sheriff SUV bumped down the road past a place where Roy and some other knuckleheads were drinking beer and smoking a fatty. Roy was on the idea that he would be near beer or marijuana meant instant incarceration. one in Roy's family has been more that two meters from both beer and marijuana for three or four generations......and that is not a bad thing.

The boys.....the modern incarnation of the Boys from Steinbeck and "Cannery Row" and "Tortilla Flats" tried to stop the Deputy from bouncing down an impassable road into certain doom. The Deputy assumed that their warning meant a huge meth lab or vast sensimilla field just around the turn.

He got stuck. And hiked back for help from The Boys.

I have a photo of Roy...behind the wheel of a Monterey County Sheriff SUV....prominently displayed next to the beer taps at The Store.

Sort of like a photo of Osama BL at the helm of a 747......

When our friend Sheyne....the best tree guy in Monterey County....had all the gasoline, oil, and hydraulic fluid syphoned from his rigs left at The Store.....suspicion immediately turned to "Ray".

"No. No. I just steal all the oil, gas and hydraulic fluid from all the County rigs left by the roadside. I would never steal Sheyne's....


The second knucklhead the Sheriffs picked up was "Ort"....

"Ort" is a former complete idiot. A sweet kid who was one of my soccer kids....and subject of one of my favorite soccer stories. No time for that now. Awful family....fell into the meth trap. Was justifiably arrested and jailed when the cops found him passed out on his couch with a two-year old playing with a 9mm or some such. I was the guy that called the cops.....And I still feel good about it.

While in jail...."Ort's wife had sex once with the Guinness World Record Biggest Idiot In The Universe. She thought that you couldn't get pregnant until you had had sex a few times with the same guy. Or something.

"Ort" meanwhile did his out......reconciled with his wife, and fully accepted his new "son". Meanwhile, the kid is awesome somehow. And the couples' real son is beyond awesome. Must be the grandmother's genes. "Ort" is a highly skilled auto mechanic.....and he graduated from the Toyota school, worked at a local Valero successfully and graduated to become head mechanic at a big-time dealership in Salinas.

Auto mechanics are nothing to sneeze at. They get paid by the book.....what you are charged, less the dealer overhead. If the book says changing your carburetor takes three get charged three hours, and the mechanic gets paid for three hours work at $70 or $80 an hour.

If the mechanic can do the job in fifteen minutes.....he still gets paid for three hours....and you get charged. This is why in the worst job market in recent memory....a Toyota mechanic, or a wheel alignment guy, or a brake guy who knows ABS.....will be making $125k, easy. Sullivan Tires will be fucking Rossi Tires to steal their alignment guy.....

This is where "Ort" landed.

His mother-in-law landed him a sweet deal in a trailer near The Store and life was good.

He was eight days away from finishing his parole and probation.

Someone in the Sheriff's office noticed that he had not completed his Community Service part of his original sentence for being a knucklehead back in the long ago none of us can even remember that guy that he was for that brief period of time.

The Community Service part of his hours....turned out to be more the remaining eight days on his sentence.

Never mind that the guy had fixed an infinite number of cars and trucks for free for people in Cachagua so they could get to work, day-care, the doctor, the hospital, the Safeway, for chrissakes. "Ort" worked for free on cars so folks could get them running so that Officer Cocksucker could not have them hauled away for Abatement.

Nevermind that I am one of the folks who can assign people Community Service to satisfy their obligations.....and I have known this kid since he was 6.....and would gladly vouch for him if anyone had asked.

The second that "Ort's" Community Service hours were more than his remaining time on probation.......


If I had known this Friday when I poured a drink for Sheriff Kanalakis.....I would have pissed in his hat. More likely I would have pissed in his drink. The dumbfuck never would have known.

So, here in print.

Fuck Mike Kanalakis.....Sheriff Cunnilingus.

At the Boxer event Old Mike was all Peace-Love-Tie-Dye....but Mrs. K was bitter and gave me the look of death. Maybe there is something about my nickname for Old Mike that hits too close to home.

What a wretched excuse for a public servant. No control, no understanding, no concept of any of the basic goals of modern law enforcement. We had a huge hint last summer with his Dipshit Junior Dick Cheney Junior G-Man fake evacuation of people with no need of evacuation.....

Taking away a fully reformed, clean, sober, hardworking family man.....destroying his job and profession and family......

This is why the Republicans brought California to its financial knees.....

I can't disagree. Whichever bureaucrat followed "Ort's" case and caused this to happen, and is being paid by tax dollars to do this kind of work as a profession.....Jesus.

And.....Sheriff Kanalakis might be a nice guy.....but he is clearly clueless and an actual danger to each and all of us in his position as head of Monterey County law enforcement.....

But that is just me talking......