This is Episode 7 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
Down A Road, Slowly
One Year of Our Shared Discontent
Having now become a veteran of the court system, with my appearance in Judge Labowitz’ courtroom, I found that my experience was about to expand. In Episode #4, Out of Step, I have documented Imika’s growing discontent at the traffic on the road. Without being judgmental of the plaintiff, the members of Bell Springs were dismayed that all of our efforts to avoid conflict had still resulted in a lawsuit, to be settled in Superior Court, County of Mendocino.
When Imika had complained that there were too many cars, we reduced the number of vehicles that went past her house. When she complained that we drove too fast, we slowed to five miles per hour. When she asked us to stop driving past her house and walk instead, we did so. When she asked us to stop walking past her house and build a different route, we acquiesced and built a path. When she took Joe to court, we threw in the towel, hired a lawyer and joined Joe in court. Like “The Fisherman’s Wife,” Imika had gone too far.
I participated in eight separate lawsuits filed in the Superior Courthouse in Ukiah, five initiated by Imika and three by me. The following events chronicle the injunction that Imika sought against Bell Springs and its members to limit/prevent egress and ingress to the school. We got pretty familiar with the jargon of the court.
One of the documents submitted to the Honorable James W. Luther, in that first courtroom showdown, between imika and Joe (Bell Springs), was a letter that Imika had written and had had notarized on January 3rd, 1989. I am recording the letter in this narrative, because it helps clarify for the reader her thought process during this time. Dated December 28th, 1988, the letter read, verbatim, including errors in punctuation and usage, like this:
To Bell Springs Education Collective and Community Center,
Enclosed find copies of notorized letters. The reason for writing is to notify all of you that your year and a half time limit to remove all encroachers which you are has come. In spite of countless requests, meetings and warnings you have ignored and your encroachment has continued with no concern for my health, personal family life, peace of mind and privacy I have realized that I am dealing with a group of totally callous bunch with no concern as to how the stress from this situation affects my life let alone my privacy and well being or my daughters. Since it is obvious that none of you have been taking my words seriously this notorized statement is to let you know that your time is up NOW and you are all to stay off my property from this time on as your ENCROACHMENT is totally unacceptable and remove yourselves permanently or face the legal repurcussions of your violations of the law. Joe and Karen have a right to cross my property to get to their property the rest of you do not. I am totally serious about all this and I gave you all many chances to change the situation and you have chosen not to.
In all Sincerety,
Appeared before me this day January 3, 1989, Joyce Romero, Notary Public.
I included the letter, not so much because it adds to our knowledge of the case, but because the letter speaks for itself. It speaks quite loudly, in fact, to the state of Imika’s mind. For her it was simultaneously about injustice in the big picture, and unfairness at each step of the way. The way her thoughts all seem to keep colliding with one another within her letter indicates a conflicted individual. The different avenues she was considering, kept crisscrossing her mind at an uncontrollable speed, causing her to act and speak frequently, in a disjointed manner. She wrote out the letters in an effort to clarify her thought process, without having the ability to see what everyone else could: she was so tangled up in anger that the result was a fisherman’s knot of confusion. No one saw it better than the members of the legal system.
Thus it was that we assembled once more in Ukiah, where the first question we asked Barry Vogel, Esquire, was, “How can she get away with this? How can she sue us like this? None of her arguments makes sense.”
Barry took his time answering, I think, just to make a point. “Everyone has the right to file suit; it’s one of the cornerstones of our judicial system. You have the same rights.”
I remember Barry as though it were yesterday. He was a slight man, wearing steel rimmed glasses, his thinning, sandy-colored hair, neatly ignored. With the possible exception of Richard Matlock, I have never seen such facial expressivity. When we would ask him a question, you could read the range of emotions that worked their way across that furrowed brow, his eyebrows rising precipitously at a peculiar notion. His clothing was informal, slacks and a button-down, and his manner was light and breezy, even though the winds of dissension swirled fiercely about him. The winds did not so much as ruffle his feathers. The actor Barry Fitzgerald brings Barry Vogel to mind, sans the lilt.
We had multiple meetings in his office, the most memorable being the one where Burk brought the watermelon. Whether it was intellect or wit you wish to compare, I think Burk was the best match for Barry. Sitting cross-legged on one of the office chairs, the watermelon straddling his knees, Burk bantered back and forth with Barry, after first courteously offering him some of his watermelon.
Though the letter above was dated January 3, 1989, the date on the final judgment for Joe, was January 11, 1990. An entire year went by while we fiddled with the barrage of requests/demands that were thrown at us, before the issue was decided in Joe’s favor.
One year of our shared discontent.