Dozer, the Bulldog

Dozer, the Bulldog
Feeling the "Bern"

Ellie Mae

Ellie Mae
No time for gates...

Ollie Mac

Ollie Mac
My cooking assistant

Ollie and Annie

Ollie and Annie
Azorean grandmother


38 years on this mountain, come May 31st...



Papa and Ollie Mac

Papa and Ollie Mac
Priorities, Baby


Annie, my Sweetest of Apple Blossoms

My first portrait

My first portrait
"Mr. Farmer"

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

Monday, July 29, 2013

Relay for Life

Relay for Life

Annie and I just completed the Relay for Life weekend, in Willits, California, which sought to heighten people’s awareness of cancer and its many ramifications, as well as to raise money for cancer research.  Annie had officially joined the team at Geiger’s Long Valley Market, and had signed up to be in Willits for the two days.  She also signed up to walk the Sunday fourAM-fiveAM and the fiveAM-sixAM shifts, because she figured I would want to walk with her, and we are both early morning people anyway.

All three of her sons were there on Saturday morning, as well as one of her daughters-in-law, for the “Survivors/Caregivers” walk, which followed introductory comments and an overview of the planned events.  We had arrived early enough Saturday morning to be able to help Abbe decorate our booth in a Mardi Gras theme.  Abbe had arrived with a store of decorations and as we worked, we watched two dozen other booths spring up along the route the relay would follow.  All demonstrated creativity and color, while some provided a wealth of information about various forms of cancer, mostly motivated by close personal loss of loved ones.

After the initial ceremonies were concluded, Annie and I stayed around for a while, but then headed back to the apartment.  Having walked to the site to begin with, we returned home, cutting through a few parking lots, and more or less traveling diagonally across town, which is what you can do when you live in a small town.  It took thirteen minutes each way, to get from the center of Willits, to the park, located right across from the Willits Museum.  Annie would return during the afternoon, while I stayed in the apartment and napped, having arisen at three in the AM, to take care of chores, so that I could leave the mountain no later than six.

Together, we returned Saturday evening for the luminaries ceremony and to listen to a cancer survivor’s personal account of his medical journey.  Afterwards, we did a couple of laps, and got our first glimpse of the 351 white bags, lining both sides of the track, with names and brief messages on the outside, and burning candles on the inside.  I know how many bags there were because I counted them: 188 on outside of the track; 163 on the inside.  I had plenty of opportunity to count them, circumventing the track 34 times this morning.  Purportedly, four times around the track was a mile, but there’s no way we walked eight and a half miles in two hours.  We’re fast, but not that fast.  I would guess that in two hours, we walked about six miles.

After watching Annie have a rough past week, I was thrilled to see her so rejuvenated by all of the hard work and good vibes these folks put out there.  I know she enjoyed working with Bonnie and Anna, both good friends from her days in the school district, as well as Abbe and a couple of high school girls, one belonging to Anna and one to Jessica.  I know she enjoyed seeing June walking her laps.  I also know she wanted to be around others who are dealing with many of the same issues with which she has to contend.  And I know she appreciated those who were there to support her.

For myself, I struggled through parts of the agenda, and I struggled to explain it to Annie.  I felt guilty for not having that same seeming effervescent outlook that Annie had, and I felt overwhelmed at times, by the most innocuous of incidents.  To say the least, I did not enjoy myself.  After our two-hour-relay walk this morning, we returned to the apartment, where I promptly fell asleep, while Annie returned to the park, and walked more laps(!) before watching the concluding ceremonies.  After she had returned, and I had awakened sufficiently enough to be coherent, we rehashed the weekend, and I tried again to figure out why I had such a hard time. 

I think it goes back to a discussion JT and I had about fear of loss.  Everyone at the Relay for Life had known someone who was battling cancer or who had lost a close loved one.  Annie is battling cancer.  It was just too hard to get a grip on what it would be like to lose her, for me to be relaxed enough get pleasure out of what I was experiencing.  It seems pretty clear to me now that my fear of loss trumped any chance for enjoyment.  

I only hope Annie makes appearances in each of the next twenty-five or so Relays for Life.  If she does, I promise to enjoy them.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gone Camping

Gone Camping

We spent a couple of days and nights over at the coast, letting some of our cares and worries go, while we walked, read, cooked and rested.  Pure, unadulterated bliss.  I had just completed your basic, average, run-of-the-mill, fourteen-hour-workday on Saturday, and Annie had just completed her work-week, down in Willits, so it seemed like a good time to spring off the mountain, and get in touch with our camping souls.

We loaded up the pick-up with some firewood, the camp stove, our four tuppies filled with our camping utensils, our newly-purchased sleeping bags, and an ice chest filled with fresh veggies and other ingredients for a couple of days.  We headed straight over to Westport, where we strategically planned our arrival for mid-day Sunday, so as to snag a spot from all of the weekend departures; our plan worked to perfection.

The sky was overcast, but the temperature was mild, and we set up camp without any obstacles, even managing the complexities of our small dome tent, with its two poles.  Unlike our previous tent, the one which was the size of a gymnasium, with a half-dozen poles, and a mini-doghouse attached, this little tent was ideal.  Besides, we never could convince our dog(s) to stay in the little attached house.

While I was doing some manly thing or another, making the camp just perfect, Annie whipped me up a sandwich, and all was well with the world.  We then embarked on a walk down to the shore, where I proceeded to take about thirty photos, a couple of which were not of Dozer, our English bulldog.  We walked until we ran out of sand, and looked straight up at the cliff blocking our way, where we decided the Doze would never make it up the side.  We retraced our steps and headed back to the campsite.

Some folks’ notion of a getaway is to get in the motor vehicle and drive until you get home.  My idea of the perfect break is to go from home to point A, and then, at some distant time in the future, return home.  While residing at point A, besides cooking and eating, high on the list of things to do, is reading.  It doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t matter if I have already read it.  I think my passion for reading while camping dates back to when we were kids, and we took a suitcase filled with paperbacks whenever we camped.

If we go into Westport or-heart don’t stop-Ft. Bragg, then we get the newspapers.  I can spend more time with the paper while camping, than I ever can in the comfort of my own home.  Otherwise, with the paper dispensed with, I return to my book.  I finished a Harlan Coben novel called “The Woods.”  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I’ve read four of his books now and the jury is still out.  I just happened to find a couple of thrift stores, one of which sold all hard-back books for a buck apiece.  I stocked up, based on one of his novels I had read.  I have job security in the book department.

The best thing about the two days was that Annie relaxed, and got some much needed rest.  While she’s in Willits, she ends up working at the video store.  When she’s up here on the mountain, she’s baking and getting ready for market.  So it was nice to see her kick back.  

When we got home on Tuesday morning, I put all of the camping gear together in the workshop, after going through all four tuppies of utensils, and washing everything, including the Tuppereware itself.  This way I am trying to convince Annie that we could do the coastal visits more frequently, with minimal hassle.  

And she’s tickled that the ranger asked us if we were eligible for any discounts, when we went to pay the $25.00 nightly fee.  We asked him what sort of discounts?  He mentioned being a veteran was one, so we got to camp both nights for the $25.00.  And if you’re old enough to remember when the same campground was free, just keep it to yourself and enjoy the sight of the waves crashing on the sand.  That’s worth the $25.00 all by its lonesome.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Prine Time

Prine Time

I enjoyed all of the music I heard at the Kate Wolf Festival, but I enjoyed John Prine the most.  Six of the first seven songs he did came from his first two albums, and those are my favorites.  All along, Prine had the top billing, so it was only appropriate that he would play last, starting at nine o’clock, on the third and final day of the festival.

Annie and I were there in the Bowl, an hour and a half before he started his set, so we had time to spare.  We had just come from Poor Man’s Whiskey, who combined with the Brothers Comatose, to play a lively set over at the Arlo Stage.  Having figured out the best vantage point to hear the music, was on the gently sloping hillside, behind the rest of the audience, we had enjoyed the show immensely.

But now it was time for the main act.  Annie had her dinner with her, chicken cooked in white wine and lemon thyme, with a side dish of braised cabbage with pieces of bacon and onions, on a bed of brown rice.  I know what her dinner consisted of, because I cooked it up, earlier in the afternoon, and had eaten mine before we left the house.  Annie had to work on Sunday, so at least she did not have to come home and cook, and she was nice enough to tell me that she loved her dinner!

When we first got to the site of the Prine music, we found a couple of vacant chairs and plopped ourselves down in them, since the owners were off and about.  The rule at the festival, all weekend long, was that folks could set their stuff out, and come and go as they pleased, so long as they understood that the empty chairs were fair game for anyone who wanted them.  If you were sitting in someone else’s chairs, when they returned, you just had to be willing to give them up.  

As the time for music grew closer, we decided to look for a more desirable spot, where we could spread out our little quilt, and take a seat.  The spot that we eventually selected, worked for a while, but eventually the people in the immediate vicinity, drove us away, because they seemed to forget that there was music playing.  I thought it funny that people who came to a music festival, found so many other diversions, in which to engage, that the music seemed forgotten.  So we moved.

I had also made the command decision, not long after we had spread out the quilt, that I would rather see the concert, while sitting upright in a chair, which was inconveniently residing out in the truck.  Having plenty of time, Annie graciously accompanied me out to get a chair, which was a good thing, because I was sure that I would never be able to stay comfortably sitting on the ground.  My plan was to sit until I couldn’t, get up and stand for a few minutes, and then repeat the process.  It’s funny what a sixty-year-old youngster can and can’t do anymore.  And sitting on the ground, even for as exciting a venue as a John Prine concert, comes under the category of things I can no longer do.  You win a few and you lose a few.

Casey and Amber had also relocated, but Courtney, her daughter, Ry, and Annie and I stayed together.  One thing that happened though, in the confusion, was that Amber’s very expensive and very dear hula-hoop got left behind, and we didn’t discover that fact until the next day.  Fortunately, a couple of phone calls were all that was needed to put things to right, the following week, so it was all good.

John Prine’s music was very intense and very special.  The first time I ever heard his music was 1972, while overseas in Korea.  That’s forty-one years of enjoying his music, before I got to see him live.  So I associate much of his music with a period of my life, in which things were pretty topsy-turvy.  I got chills listening to all of the old songs, and goose bumps to boot.  Afterwards, I heard many people voicing the opinion that his show was terrific, and I couldn’t agree more.  

As far as I was concerned, Prine time was prime-time and appropriately topped off the three days of fun and music.

Friday, July 5, 2013

As Patriotic as it Gets

As Patriotic as it Gets

I celebrated the Fourth of July, by exercising my freedom of speech, in what seems to me the most appropriate use of this holiday I have ever experienced.  Joining a select group of demonstrators, I spent a couple of hours alongside Highway 101, in downtown Laytonville, protesting the existence of Monsanto in general, and G.M.O’s in particular.  My sign read, “JUST SAY NO TO G.M.O’S.”  As far as I’m concerned, that’s as patriotic as it gets.

In anticipating the event, my thoughts did not go beyond the general idea that I would be carrying the sign, and it would be hot.  As it turned out, that was exactly the case, except for the fact that there was an added component, and that turned out to be acknowledgement by those on the highway.

First of all, the highway was extremely busy, considering it was a major holiday.  I said to Casey at one point, “I can’t figure out why there is so much traffic.  I always figured that everybody always got together and barbecued on the Fourth.”  And then it occurred to me that the traffic was exactly that; people traveling to different destinations to barbecue.  We were down there by around eleven and left by one, so it was a bit on the early side, so we probably got a lot of early commuters, heading to their respective parties.

We continuously got these twenty-thirty car caravans, which normally would indicate controlled traffic for road construction.  But on the Fourth of July?  Not likely.  It was far more probable that the single lane on the highway, both north and south of town, just bottles the Type-A personalities up behind the mellower drivers.  The result was that if someone at the very start of the “caravan” indicated his or her approval of our demonstration, by honking and waving, then others naturally joined in.  Rarely did we fail to garner acknowledgement, and only once did someone holler out dissent to our opinion.

On the other hand, we were very active in our demonstration.  I canted my sign in the direction of the cars continuously, making sure that both southbound and northbound traffic could always see my succinct message.  Casey held a sign which said, “Local Farms-No Monsanto,” and Courtney encouraged response by continuously giving travelers her “princess” wave.  Also, Casey must know most local residents, because he was constantly telling us who it was in the vehicle(s) who was making so much racket.  Almost never did a string of cars go by without some kind of horn-honking, hand-waving action.  Not surprisingly, it fueled our enthusiasm.  I am convinced that at least half the vehicles which passed us felt inclined to side with our political stance.

Every time I would point the easy-to-read sign and get a response, I would thrust my left arm high in the air, and wave frantically.  I wondered idly, while we were down there, whether travelers had passed a similar demonstration, down in Willits, or up in Garborville.  The knowledge that others, all over the country, were engaged in a similar process, was very encouraging.  The only other people demonstrating when we arrived, were Susan and her friend, Sharon.  After we had been there a short while, we were joined by Atlanta Will and Johnny, and they hung out for quite a while, before continuing on their journeys.  Others drifted in and out of the arena, touching base, and sharing political views.

We made sure we had our water bottles, and just about the time mine was empty, Susan ambled over and suggested that we give it a few more minutes, and then pack it in.  After all, there were barbecues to fire up, and libations to ingest.  I don’t know that our efforts accomplished a whole lot, but it sure made my Fourth of July a memorable one, and not for the quantity of beer I drank, or the hangover I woke up with.  And that there is a good thing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Who's Counting?

Who’s Counting?

The Kate Wolf Festival offered a wealth of sights and sounds to be embraced over the three days of fun and music.  The fact that Annie and I decided, long before the event, to forego the camping element, did not detract from our enjoyment of the festival.  If anything, it enhanced it, because, as it turned out, Annie had to work both Saturday and Sunday, so we could not get there any earlier than four-thirty or five in the late afternoon.  

Because of the heat, arriving at this time was probably a good strategy for being able to go all three days.  Another strategy was keeping an open agenda, with only two or three items etched in concrete.  So it was, as Annie and I made our way back out to the festival on Saturday, we immediately headed for the Arlo stage again, to hear Perla Batalla, which was all well and good, except extremely hot.  Having unsuccessfully looked for niece Isabel on Friday, we kept our eyes peeled today, and sure enough, off to one side, we quickly spotted her, and I made my way over to touch base with her.  She seemed delighted to see me, as we exchanged hugs, and we spoke briefly before agreeing that we would meet again shortly.

Later on, when Isabel joined us where we had set down our quilt, considerably behind the audience, on the side of a very gentle hillside, and out of the sun, we got a chance to find out a little more about her presence at this festival.  She explained that this was just one way in which she could gain knowledge and experience in her field-music.  It was not a paying gig, but the fact that she could put doing the sound for one stage, over a three-day period, on her resume, would help for future endeavors.  Once she becomes proficient in different areas, and has successfully done the jobs, then she could start to command a salary.  

After the show, on the short walk over to the Bowl, I spotted a six or eight hundred gallon water tank, with a sign indicating that this was drinking water, so we stopped and filled our water bottles.  Hydration was a key to success, and the folks at the hog farm did an awesome job of making this happen.  In addition to the drinking water, there were port-a-potties strategically placed throughout the grounds, and we never had to wait in a line-not once.  

We encountered a boatload of acquaintances, both old and new.  We had no sooner come onto the grounds the first night, when we ran across John, who wanted to know right away if we were camping.  No, we told him.  And you?  “Hell no,” he responded.  “I’m way too old to camp.  Let these kids do the camping-I’m going home when it’s time.”  That seemed to be the general consensus of opinion.  The kids camped and the elders did not.

My favorite music from Saturday was Coyote Grace, playing on the Revival Stage.  Not only did I enjoy their music, but I liked their story.  Mixing bluegrass and blues, the band told of bearded guitarist Joe Stevens’ transgender change, "resolving a lifetime of dissonance between being raised as a female, while identifying as male."  Not without cost, Joe’s transition "closed some doors while opening others."

Afterwards, when we got to the Bowl, the site of the main stage, we hooked up with Casey and Amber, and enjoyed some more music and local cuisine.  I went for a turkey burger with fries and plenty of ketchup, while Annie had some skewered chicken with rice, with a little glass of wine.  We sauntered around checking out the booths, including the “smoking tree,” the designated spot for, well, smoking.  Whether it was tobacco, or something to mellow out your head, people were encouraged to congregate in a large area so that others in the crowd who did not choose to indulge, would not have to be a part of it. 

That didn’t mean that there was no smoking in other parts of the grounds, but it did mean that in the area of the Bowl, people were very respectful of this request.  Just for the record, I saw ten times the amount of reefer being smoked than I saw tobacco, but who was counting?


Monday, July 1, 2013

Old Hippiedom-All the Way

Old Hippiedom-All the Way

People came from all over Northern California, and points beyond, this past weekend, to join in this year’s Kate Wolf Festival, at the Black Oak Ranch, better known as the Hog Farm, just five miles north of Laytonville.  Since its inception, in 2001, this festival, held annually around the end of June, has gained in popularity, and hence its attraction, both for the performers, and for those who come to enjoy the music.

Because there is just too much to talk about, and so much of it is good, I will break up my report into several installments, the first one covering the events of Friday, June 28th, and Annie's and my appearance, beginning in the late afternoon, when we rolled in about five o’clock, and met up with Amber and Casey at their campsite.


The “campsite” is probably not that much different from any other that I have stayed in, being located in the shade of the great oak trees, and allowing one to get out of the heat of the blistering late June sunshine.  But there, all similarities end.   The “campsites” were not individual in nature, instead being a mass-campout, with no barriers, and nothing to distinguish one “campsite” from another.  

I am famous for wanting to camp, but in my own campsite, with appropriate boundaries, and an invisible line so that others know that this is MY camping site.  Never gonna happen at Kate Wolf.  At least, not in the traditional way.  If you wanted to camp, and you wanted to be within reasonable walking distance from the music and food, you were kind of stuck.  Now, I did see some campsites, out in the general parking area, which indicated that there are others who feel as I do: that camping elbow to elbow, and sleeping within a mass of packed-in-humanity, can be challenging at best, and disastrous, at worst.

Because Annie and I had long since decided to commute back and forth from home, this was not an issue.  However, we still wanted to be able to chill at times with Casey, Amber, and the slew of Bell Springers, that had made the trek to the festival, so we stopped in first thing, and brought along a table, which I hauled in.  We then made our way to the closest performing venue, the Arlo Stage, where we quickly settled in for some rousing music, performed by Red Molly, while keeping an eye out for niece Isabel, who was rumored to be doing the sound for the Arlo stage, the whole three-day festival.  It was comfortable, without any pretenses, and we were able to take in the scenery around us, while enjoying the music.

The most interesting element of the audience, is that this festival is not geared to young folk; rather, it is old hippiedom all the way.  It’s no secret that the Hog Farm has been around since the days of the Merry Pranksters, and that old gray-haired icon of the Hog farm, Wavy Gravy, is the one who appears fairly frequently on stage to help disseminate information that helps keep logistics to a minimum.  What was truly amazing, is that old folks were in the majority, and no one seemed to notice.  I was just another of thousands of graybeards, trying to get comfortable, sitting on the ground, and finally falling back [literally] on a folding kitchen chair, that if placed appropriately, did not block anyone’s view.  I just can’t sit on the ground for more than a few minutes, anymore, without hurting something, somewhere.  I ain’t complaining-just telling it like it is.

Anytime we walked into one of the stage areas, we were asked if we had any alcohol or glass, and we always looked the questioners directly in the eyes, and lied.  Actually, I never consumed one drop of alcohol, the whole three days, so that would not have been an issue in the first place, but my sweetest of Apple Blossoms, does enjoy a glass of wine with her music, so I wanted to make sure she did not have to spend seven dollars per glass, for some Cabernet, served in a little plastic glass.  After all, they weren’t worried about us drinking wine; they were just worried that they were not the ones selling it to us.

I had a nice twelve-ounce plastic water bottle, filled with Annie’s choice of wine, which fit nicely into the large pocket, of my cargo shorts.  Therefore, when the nice man or woman would ask me each time, if there was any alcohol or glass in my carry-around bag, I could honestly say, no.  After all, it was not in my bag; it was in my pocket. 

After Red Molly was done with their set, we ambled over to the Bowl, where the main stage was set out, along with vast unlimited booths, both for food and artistic goods, and got our bearings.  Here was where John Prine would play, on Sunday night, as the festival closed down, but now it was only Friday night, and there was much to take in.

Having struggled in the past, with this type of venue, I was thrilled to be there in comfortable surroundings, encountering countless old friends and new, reveling in the music and the fact that I was with Annie, as we celebrated this event, with the tickets she had received for her birthday, from our three sons.  I couldn’t imagine a better gift, nor a better way to celebrate Annie’s birthday, than this environment known as the Hog Farm.  Luckily, Annie invited me to accompany her, and I could not have been more happy.  What a nice lady she is!

Next up: Saturday