childmeWhen I was six years old, I stood in the kitchen while my mother washed dishes. It was dark outside and rain splattered against the window above the sink. “What will happen when we run out of water?” I asked. She chuckled as she rinsed soap off a plate. “We’ll never run out of water.”

But now we have. “Council Declares Stage 3 in Emergency Meeting” (Fort Bragg Advocate-News, September 30, 2015). Apparently, high ocean tides have polluted the Noyo River with salt water. This river supplies 40 percent of Fort Bragg’s water supply. So here we are, almost out of water.

I’m not happy to have been lied to all those years ago.

As California steadily dried up, I did my best to ignore it. At the risk of public ridicule, I’m going to admit what others harbor deep in their hearts—the past three winters with day after day of bright, crisp sunshine have beat the hell out of the previous ones where we suffered endless, miserable rain. The warm, luxurious summers have been a huge bonus. There, I said it—so stone me.

In the two decades I’ve lived here, a couple of winters stand out: the one when it rained every day during the month of January, and another when it rained nearly five feet from October through May until it finally, mercifully stopped.

Whenever I hear—usually from others who pay attention to the news—that a town like East Porterville (wherever that is) has run out of water, I frown, tsk-tsk, shake my head, feel compassion, but mostly great relief that I don’t live in a town like that.

Now I do.

I’ve always done my part to respect the planet, which allows me to feel quite smug. For decades, I’ve recycled, reduced, reused. I’ve driven fuel-efficient cars and rarely wasted water to keep them clean. I’m so obsessed with saving electricity that my family calls me the Light Nazi.

plantsWe have never watered our lawn and rarely the outside beds. This past summer, we overhauled a portion of the yard and installed drought-resistant plants. We have a bucket sitting in the kitchen sink that collects what would normally be wasted water to feed the outside plants. We have low-flow toilets and water-saving appliances. We repair leaks immediately.

Up to this point, my heroic efforts have caused only minor inconvenience.

I can handle every sacrifice that comes along with saving water except one—at the end of a stressful, planet-saving day, I like a long, hot bath.

My job can be very demanding. I also exercise regularly. I’m not a person who merely perspires. I sweat. After a strenuous workout, I’m often asked if I’ve been swimming.

So yes—stone me again—I enjoy an evening bath where I can relax and let go of the day.

I’ve never been fond of showers. I have difficulty regulating the water temperature. It’s either too hot or too cold. It also irks me that the amount of water that goes down the drain could be used to fill a soothing tub. I leave the experience feeling deprived.

A few years ago, out of respect for the drought, I reduced my baths from seven per week (yes, I hear your gasp of contempt) to six. As the drought gained momentum, I reduced them to four. When the stage three water emergency was declared, I eliminated baths and succumbed to extremely short showers.

This last sacrifice turned me to a fit-throwing two-year old in the grocery store who’s been denied a candy bar. The damned drought has now robbed me of the ability to calm down. Friends suggest yoga and deep breathing. Right. Sure. No thank you.

Two weeks into the new normal, I’ve decided to look on the bright side. I can actually live—not happily, mind you—without an evening bath. Next year, I could be reduced to hauling buckets of water from Pudding Creek. womancarryingwaterIn the meantime, I’ll sing along to this:



Braxton Bragg

i sent this to The fort bragg advocate-news where it appeared in the july 23 edition. the publisher gave permission to reprint it.

braxton1Recent talk about changing the name of Fort Bragg, California, made me curious about my town’s namesake. For years, I’d assumed that Confederate General Braxton Bragg had a hand in setting up the fort. But that’s not true—he never stepped foot in Northern California. Furthermore, the place was given its name four years before Bragg served in the Confederate Army.

In the summer of 1857, First Lieutenant Horatio Gibson was dispatched to the California hinterlands to build a military post near the Noyo River. Ten years earlier, Braxton Bragg had been his commanding officer in the Mexican War. Horatio was one of the few soldiers who claimed to admire him.

horatioI’d like to offer an opposing theory for how our town got the name. Before global warming, the weather was not kind to the Mendocino Coast. For decades, residents had to choose which weather pattern—fog, rain or wind—they hated the least.

I imagine Horatio and his crew struggling to build shelters with subpar tools. When the winter rains began, someone probably said, “Hey, why don’t we name this Godforsaken place after that nut ball Braxton Bragg?”

Despite growing up in a poor family, Bragg attended West Point and finished fifth in a class of 50 cadets. In 1856, after nearly 20 years of military service, he retired to farm his Louisiana sugar plantation. Shortly before retirement, he was given two crappy assignments—Fort Gibson in Oklahoma Indian territory and Fort Washita near the Texas border. This may have been the Army’s way of “encouraging” him to retire.

braxton3In his early years, Braxton proved to be a brave soldier, saving the life of future Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Mexican War. Over time, his behavior became increasingly kooky.

Ulysses S. Grant wrote that Bragg had an obsessive need for proper procedure that bordered on mental illness. At one time, Bragg had been both a company commander and quartermaster (the officer in charge of approving the disbursement of provisions).

As company commander, Bragg made a request to the company quartermaster— himself—for something he wanted.

As quartermaster, he wrote an official reason for denying it.

As company commander, he argued that he was entitled to it.

As quartermaster, he continued to persist in denying himself what he needed.

Bragg finally requested the intervention of the post commander who said, “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself.”

Initially, Bragg opposed the idea of secession. However, when civil war became imminent he emerged from retirement and returned to the military in 1861. His years away had not improved his mental state. His men were often mystified by his orders on the battlefield. He would command reckless, aggressive offensive attacks or become bizarrely hesitant to move forward, sometimes in the same battle.

braxton2After a victory at Chickamauga, Bragg passed up a chance to thrash Union forces by letting them retreat to Chattanooga, Tennessee. After this debacle, Confederate Cavalry General Nathan Forrest said to him: “You have played the part of a damned scoundrel, and are a coward, and if you were any part of a man I would slap your jaws and force you to resent it. You may as well not issue any orders to me, for I will not obey them. I say to you that if you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life.”

Bragg’s subordinates threatened mutiny and called upon President Davis to remove him. But Davis stood by the man who had once saved his life and, instead, transferred the generals under Bragg’s command.

After the Civil War, Bragg returned to Louisiana to find that the Union Army had seized his plantation. He eventually found work as the superintendent of the New Orleans Waterworks and then as chief engineer of Alabama. He moved to Texas in 1874 to become the chief engineer of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad and later served as the chief railroad inspector for the state.

Bragg died in Galveston, Texas, on August 27, 1876 while walking down the street with a friend.

Given Braxton’s history, it’s hard to imagine any place named after him, let alone four. In addition to our little town, the Army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and a ghost town in Hardin County Texas share his name. There’s also a company in Knoxville, Tennessee, called Braxton-Bragg, which specializes in “Tools for Granite, Marble, Tile, Polished Concrete & Stone Restoration.”

California State Senator Steve Glazer claims the name of our town pays tribute to the Confederacy and has introduced SB 539 to persuade us to change it. This is absurd. Braxton Bragg was an inept Confederate and holds the distinction of being one of the most hated military men of all time. Our town’s name does not honor him. Over the last century and a half, the name Fort Bragg honors the generations of people who lived, worked and died here. It belongs to us and we aim to keep it.

Photo courtesy of that fabulous guy Tony of Tony Argüelles Photography

What’s in a Name?

sglazerRecently, California State Senator Steve Glazer revealed he has a great deal of spare time on his hands. I believe he must have been lounging in a chaise next to his pool in Orinda when he had this ah-ha moment: “I’ll propose a bill that will remove names associated with the Confederacy from all public places in our fair state!”

He composed Senate Bill 539 and introduced it to the State Legislature.

Dan Walters, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, picked up on this and wrote an article questioning whether the bill might affect our little town of Fort Bragg, which is named after—uh-oh—the Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

This hit the internet and unleashed a torrent of comments.

Reactions in the mainstream media are, for the most part, carefully worded. For example:
I was born and raised in the Deep South. I certainly agree that confederate flags should not be flown over government building but that is where I stop…most of the people things and places are named after did more than just fight in the war on the losing side. In one way or another they helped shape our nation. I gripe all the time about the far right wingers who jump over the cliff about their issues and now the far left wingers are jumping over that same cliff…the bodies at the bottom are really piling up.

Comments on the Facebook pages of the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, Mendocinosportsplus and You Know You’re From the Mendocino Coast if…. are more raw. I must say I most admire these comments because these people are unafraid to say what they really think (no grammatical errors have been corrected):

This is why I say liberals SUCK

WTH…I’m about to leave this God forsaken state…

Lunacy at it’s best! My biggest concern is we may have to change our dog’s name to be in accordance to the law, his name is Braxton. I could say he was named after Toni Braxton. But I will probably say he was named after Braxton Hicks.

It’s going to suck for all of you anti-gun liberals when the next civil war happens which is a lot closer to happening than many would like to think what’s going to happen is a lot different from the civil war that has already happened and that you criticize so much. You won’t have any way to protect you because “all cops are bad” “all guns are bad” you all have got another thing coming your way and honestly when the next civil war happens I’m going to enjoy taking part in the winning side (I’ll give you a hint: its the side that will actually have weapons)

Really?? This is what is on Sacramento’s agenda? With ALL the REAL problems out there, these numbnuts have to after something with no bearing on anything. This state gets more communistic every day, all these bleeding hearts, “oooo, someone’s feelings are hurt”. Grow up this is the real world, if any of these bleeding hearts go anywhere else in the world, it will chew them up and spit them out.

Fortbragg focus on giving us a Taco Bell or even a Mall, Not something that’s part of our History

lol – Bunch of rebels there in Ft. Bragg I was one –

The Dems . Won’t be happy till it’s called Jose’s Rainbow Bay !!!!!!

So if it applies to schools would Fort Bragg High School have to change its name?

I need to start a “WTF” page so people can really say what they feel.

We should probably rename it to “Fluffy Kittens” that way nobody is offended

It won’t happen anyway so I’m not worried about it. However I am curious as to what the natives called this area before it was Fort Bragg.
Response: Maybe they called it “the beach”….but that may have been offensive to someone.

No series of comments would be complete without at least one fight breaking out:
Original commentator: forts and braggng….mmmm the north coast deserves a name more fttng
Response: are u even from Fort Bragg?Or live there? I’ve seen u bad mouthin our home’s name on all Fort Bragg sites and our beautiful home is obviously not a place for u.
Original commentator: I live in Jenner and would love to move farther north, (I’l throw a party you’ll never forget when ft bragg changes its name
Responses: Actually why don’t you stay down there in jenner.
No one in Fort Bragg cares about your party you could never do it Fort Bragg style anywAy that’s obvious
Original commentator: keep playing dumb, and being hurtful, it reveals so much.
Responses: Who’s being hurtful. So far you are the one thats approaching that level.
It only hurts because her ego is being deflated.

Finally, my favorites:

Let’s name it Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But we’ll call it Fort Bragg for short.

Enough is enough. Find something else to do. Bake some cookies, do the laundry. Try to keep busy.cookies

Space Talk

A few months ago, The Fort Bragg Advocate News introduced a column called “Face Talk.” Each week, the editor posts a question on Facebook and encourages people to respond. The following Thursday, the paper publishes select answers.

I find this an excellent opportunity to piggy-back on that idea by instituting my own column called Space Talk where I’ll lift the more passionate arguments that do not get published in The Advocate. (Note: spelling, punctuation and grammar of commentators will not be altered.)

Recently, the following question was asked: Fort Bragg Planning Commission denied property owner Robert Affinito’s proposal to use a portion of the former Social Services building at 825 S. Franklin St. for a Dollar Tree store. What do you think about that decision?

Cutting down the puff-puff-passes: Right now the only thing you are a prototype for is how NOT to do things. You want the downtown mom and pop stores to thrive? Stop letting them price gouge and give them some competition. Instead of catering to the non-existent tourist traffic, cater to the locals. If you want that tourist traffic to start pouring back into your community, then you will have to cut down on all the puff-puff-pass and start revitalizing, making jobs and making a tourist friendly environment, because what you have now is really just smokescreens and mirrors hiding a plethora of problems.

Clever use of parentheses to highlight persuasive points: I say if the property is zoned for it and the owner meets all the city codes it should be allowed. All new business bring (JOBS) we have way to many (HOMELESS) in this town. WE need (JOBS)

Unable to classify: I think it’s a good decision. We don’t want to be known as an everyday kind of town now do we??? NO!! We don’t. We want to be the prototype for the all the other town’s in need of repair and down home ma and pa style honest, productive, resourceful, uniqueness. Enviromentally sound recognising our true power in ingenuity. With unity and diversity being our master tools. Self sufficient emergency savy homegrown music loving solid rock homesteading peoples~

Rebuttal: ??????? What??????? Where are you from?

Locally-grown products: Well if he holds out until after November, he might be able to put a pot shop there! New retail selling locally grown products = perfect fit.

Idiot Mines: Like i said the other day, you have a bunch of idiots trying to run the town and all they have on there mines is where can we spend money, they don’t care about people like the Affinito’s who would bring money into the community. All they care about is spending like the property they bought from the Johnson family that is located next to the city turd farm. What a joke

Church leading ignoramuses: Obvious outsiders coming in trying to everyday the way. It’s time to use your MINDS to create jobs, how many jobs do you really believe a dollar store will produce??? Duh, not many. Californias should be making these desions not, ‘church’ leading ignoramuses from God knows where? This spewed hatred toward the homeless, isn’t benificial to our ‘community’ growth. Ingenuity is !!! Try and come up with something fresh if your going to be involved. The issue itself is of minimal importance in the realm of “issues’ in our town!

Post-card mailing tourists: As an “outsider” who married into an OLD Fort Bragg family, I see things in a different light. My first time in Fort Bragg, I was treated to panhandlers blocking the way into Safeway. And how many other tourists would come back after going to the Post Office to mail off a postcard having to walk past 3-5 drunk/drugged men screaming at them, getting into their personal space and just plain harassing them? Or how about the guy who jumps in front of vehicles on Highway 20 (that’s a GREAT first impression!)?

http---www.mendocinosheriff.com-newbooking-pdfs-August_18_2012.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

Itsy runs in front of and chases cars because he finds it amusing.

Finally, my favorite: I say he should put in a strip club and piss everyone off.

Plastic Bag Passion

The man in front of me at The Purity is asked by the clerk if he’d like to buy a grocery bag.

images“Damnit! I left mine in the car!”

The clerk says, “It’s only 10 cents.”

“Damnit! Shit!”

The clerk remains silent.

“Okay, I’ll buy the goddamned bag!”

On December 10th, the Fort Bragg Advocate News posted on their Facebook page:

Starting today, Monday, the City of Fort Bragg’s carryout bag ordinance will prohibit supermarkets and large drug stores — Safeway, Harvest Market, Purity, CVS, and both Rite Aid stores — from providing plastic bags at the check stand and will require a minimum 10 cent charge for paper bags. Only “carryout” bags given out at the check stand are affected by the ordinance. Smaller bags for produce, bread, prescriptions and other items aren’t restricted and may still be plastic.

The 60 comments from passionate community members are roughly divided into half who support the ban and half who do not. The folks who support it can be summed up by the following two:

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that the area I live in is proactive about the environment. Our future generations depend on our actions to provide a healthy planet for them. This is one small action that will make a HUGE impact for the children & the earth we reside on.

After seeing a perfect photo opportunity on the Pudding Creek trestle a couple months ago, ruined by 2 of those controversial plastic bags pasted against the cliff by wind and weeds, I did the HAPPY DANCE when I heard they were going to be outlawed. I’m going to put on my big girl grownup pants and bring my own dang bags or pay .10 for forgetting.

There are a variety of theories espoused by those against the ordinance:

The Conspiracy Theory:

this is the LAMEST law ever…. why restrict one type of plastic bag and not another? sounds like a profiteering conspiracy….

Big Brother strikes again!

The Stupid Yuppie Scum Theory:

Stupid scum yuppies from the Bay Area moved up the coast and ruined it ,,, this is just another one of their stunts!!

Rebuttal: I’m “a local and not a bay area yuppie” and I’m 100% for this law. A plastic bag might be gone in anywhere from 10 to 100 years (estimates vary), but scientists report they never fully decompose. Americans only recycle 0.6 percent of the 100 billion plastic bags they take home from stores every year; the rest end up in landfills or as litter. Landfills are few and far between, making the costs of transporting our garbage more expensive all the time. And then there is the carbon pumped into the atmosphere from trucks moving garbage long distances. And as the Advocate stated there is a destructive impact on the environment, particularly wildlife and fisheries.

Rebuttal to rebuttal: I rest my case ,, the people that have a problem with what I said are NOT LOCALS!!!! I don’t like plastic bags either ,, my big problem is all the people making the decisions on the Mendocino Coast Have NO right to say anything!!! If you don’t like what was out nice logging and fishing community then GET OUT!!!

The Pet Waste Management Theory:

How will we take care of cat poop? I’m so stressed!

The First Amendment Right Theory:

I have to repeat this every time in these same tired arguments: get rid of all your foolish bags — plastic, paper, and cloth. Get yourself a BOX! You can get one at the store. You can bring one from home. I’ll give you as many as you want. The box can hold more than the bag. It’s easy to carry. It won’t tip, rip, or drip. Get a BOX!!! And another benefit of the box: you won’t have to go on like an idiot arguing this lame culture war over bags. Yeah, you. I said shut up!

Rebuttal: This is America, and no we don’t have to shut up.

The Germ Theory:

I would be concerned about the increase in germs coming into the store. Do the baggers touch peoples bags from home? Maybe they should start wearing latex gloves that have to be disposed of.

Great idea? Make sure that you wash your reusable cloth bags after each use to protect yourself from contamination, food poisoning, illness and death.

Can you imagine all the germs and bacteria all those cloth bags have in them.

Rebuttal: what about the germs on your mustache? your breath? keyboard, your chair? Did you wipe of that soda can before you drank out of it? Germs???? THEY ARE UNAVOIDABLE! Bring your own bags

The I Can’t Classify These Theories:

Well, that will save the world!

For decades it has been trees vs oceans. Oceans are winning currently. And recycling is a sham. Reusable is the best for the environment, but having to bring your own when you are a volume shopper is absurd. Wal-Mart has it right, stores like Safeway should pay attention!

I think it is only a get-rich scam. If people who wanted to bring their own bags would have done so to begin with, the plastic wouldn’t have been a big problem, it sounds like. I’ve hated it since Wal-Mart enacted it in Ukiah (only to line their pockets even more because who remembers to bring in the millions of bags we’ve been forced to buy floating around in the back of the car now), and I’ve boycotted Lo Bucks in Willits because I am SICK of their paper bags ripping as I’m trying to carry my bags up the driveway.

what’s not to love about half-measures? I mean, we cant starve the Great Pacific Garbage Patch floating out there…it might sink or something….we have to feed it little bags.

And the Theorist who waxes poetic:

Plastic bags are a byproduct of making gasoline !images
Now what to do with it?
Burn it as waste!
Thanks to all your tree hunger
Al gore lovin
Obama freak

Local Newspaper Goes Viral

Our weekly newspaper, the Fort Bragg Advocate News, began a Facebook presence a couple of years ago. This opened up a fantastic opportunity for any person with a computer and internet access.

In order to make your voice heard, you no longer have to go to the trouble to type a letter, put it in an envelope, and spend money to mail it.

The newspaper’s Facebook page makes it easy to express your opinion for all the world to see. You are not required to be grammatically correct. (Screw you, third grade writer’s workshop with your insistence upon spelling, punctuation, and complete sentences!)

And–here’s the best part–you don’t have to struggle to formulate an opinion that even remotely makes sense.

You can disagree with other commentators, instigate fights and resort to name calling. You can even precede a highly descriptive noun, such as moron with an obscene adjective.  (The Advocate News staff will eventually remove such a post, but it’ll take them awhile to do so.)

Since I no longer have kids in local schools, I don’t mingle with a wide variety of people in ways I once did. This Facebook page puts me back in touch with the core of Fort Bragg, and reminds me of the many reasons I love living here.

Sometimes the Advocate News posts a topic that incites a great deal of passion. Like this picture of graffiti on the CV Starr Aquatic Center property with the heading: “Does anyone know what this means or who did it?”


The post received 123 comments over the course of an entire week. My favorites:

A guy named Caps.

Oh i better stop before i hurt someones little feelings. Bottom line grow some balls. Keep your kids in check. Hell keep your neighbors kids in check also.

Well, ‘CAPS’ made his mark. Let’s hope “lower case” doesn’t follow suit.

Get over it talking shit on bob marley the way people dress judgeing a book by its cover those are the kind of things ignorant people say a rad neck take over please are u serious it will never happen I guess keep talking shit if it makes u feel better about urself lol some funny shit.

Whos talking shit about bob marley. There is no ignorance besides you telling me to stop talking shit and get over it. Lol. Did this topic hit a nerve in your brain. It made you comment as if you were the queen bee stepping in and taking control like we were your children. I can sence you fidgiting around in your chair now flipping your hair and letting out the typical women “Pffffftttttt” noise. Now this is talking shit. Know the difference please before you jump on here and font fuck your opinon.

Toward the end—around comment #117—came a non sequitur:

Can someone tell me if their is a craft fair going on anywhere for whale festival weekend and where and who to contact to set up a booth?

This seemed to simmer everyone down. Five posts later, the comments stopped.

After such an exhilarating experience with the Advocate News Facebook page, I like to take a moment and ponder what I’ve learned:

  • I will plant balls in my garden this year with the hope that, as they grow, I will be able to keep both my kids and my neighbors in check.
  • I have never, nor will I ever, talk s—t on bob marley, but I must admit I feel better about myself when I keep talking s—t in general.
  • I happen to prefer the “typical women Pffffftttttt” noise over many of the other noises my body spontaneously emits.
  • I always enjoy the Whale Festival craft fair, especially now that the mere mention of it has a calming effect on people.