Exploring the Unexpected at Bank of America

August 3, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Thank you for calling Bank of America. For security purposes….[bla bla bla... I
establish my identity.] Thank you for banking with us since March of this year.
How I can help you tonight?”

“I’d like to change my billing date. I got a $40 late fee last month because
you bill on the First, but I get paid on the First and pay my bills on the
Second or Third.”

“Yes, I can take care of that for you. [click click click] What is the
best date for your biling date?

“The Eighth.”

“Ok. [click click click]. I’ve put that in for you. It may take a few billing
cycles for that to take effect, so you may want to call.”

[ignoring the fact that I have no money before the first, so calling won't
help, I simply say]:

“Ok…”

[And I decide to go ahead and ask, because they can only say no. ]

“Can you reverse the late fee I got last month?
Because I pay my bills the same every month, you can see that I
paid it on the Third.”

“Yes, I can check to see what I can do.” [click click click. silence.
click click click] I can only reverse half of it, so I can give you a credit
of $19.95. We’ll meet you half-way; how’s that?”

“Ok, well, thanks for trying.”

At this point I’m ready to get off the phone. But
she needs to try to sell me something.

“While I have you on the phone, I’d like to offer you the Bank of America international
Credit Protection Plus. For certain life events, such as death of a family member,
birth of a child, or a marriage, we will pay up to three of your minimum monthly
payments, and…”

“Wait a minute. If I get married, you’ll give me a wedding present of, like $60 or
$80 bucks?”

“Uh, yes, something like that.”

“But I’m gay. I can’t get married. And yet you offer this benefit to straight people.”

“Well, you need to pay nineteen cents per month for every $1000 balance….”

“Sure, I know its not free, but do you see what I’m saying? This is a benefit
Bank of America gives to straight people and not to me, because I can’t
get married. You must see what I’m saying.”

[silence]

“I’m sorry you’re offended.”

“I’m not offended. I’m flabbergasted. I can’t believe that Bank of America
would still be doing something like this. I can’t wait to tell all my friends.
This is going on facebook. And I hope that this call is recorded and
you pass it around to everyone who works there.”

[I should say that my tone here was not angry, but very calm and logical. My housemates were
listening in and said later that my tone was not agnry, but stern with
just a little hint of humor.]

“I’m very sorry.”

“That’s ok, but isn’t it amazing that you couldn’t give me a full refund on a late fee that I
really didn’t deserve, and you would give me more than that if I
got married, which I can’t because I’m gay. Do you see what just happened here?”

“I guess I see your point.”

[silence]

“Thank you for banking with Bank of America since
March of this year, and have a nice evening. Good bye. ”

The Search for Sappho of Green Springs

March 21, 2010 at 2:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I’d never read Bret Harte’s “Sappho of Green Springs,” and even though Project Gutenberg makes it available to me, I’ve not finished it. I can tell already that it is not a Gold Rush lesbian love story—not that that surprises me—but I had a sliver of hope. Apparently one of the female characters is a poet. That slight disappointment did not stop me from trying to find Green Springs because of this passage in The Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite by Irene Padin and Margaret Schlightmann.

Keystone is said to have gained its name from the number of roads focussing there. In this chapter we are giving such data as we have accumulated about these feeder roads with the towns, or crossroad stores, that enlivened their otherwise lonely miles. They were important in their day but are lost to memory now except for just such small mentionings as are given here. If they are not of interest skip the next few pages. If they are, by all means use the map.

First—the combined Willow Springs and Rock River Road (often called Cooperstown Road) arrived at Keystone from the south via what is now the railroad track. From here on to within a mile of Chinese Camp the route that evolved from this old Indian trail had another name, the Mound Springs Road.

Second—the Sonora Road, which deviates from the course of Highway 120 to curve through Keystone on a detour of less than one-half mile, leaves by way of the railroad tracks, joins the highway again and makes its way more or less north, through Mountain Pass, to Jamestown and Sonora. At Keystone it ceased to be called the Cloudman Road and became the Mountain Pass Road but that eccentricity was just to make things interesting for future historians. In its entirety it was still the old Sonora Road.

The forgotten community of Green Springs stood north of the highway (Sonora Road) at .6 mile beyond the turnoff into Keystone and is noted as the locale of Bret Harte’s “Sappho of Green Springs.” There are at least two springs of which one has been cemented and is wreathed thickly in blackberry vines. In the early ’50s Thomas Edwards operated a stopping place here and the Joseph Aldridge home also dated back to mining days. The John Grohl family lived at Green Springs very early and the property still remains in their possession.

One-quarter mile west of the springs, but considered as being at the settlement, is the grave of John T. Brasefield. He is buried under a symmetrical oak tree which is often eaten off by cattle to an even distance from the ground. John Brasefield was born in 1830 and died of a gunshot wound in 1855. Further information about him seems to be non-existent. He may have been a stranger who left a waiting and wondering family somewhere in the east or he may have been well rooted in California. Possibly some reader will be able to add extra details to present knowledge of this grave.

The first orange trees in Tuolumne County were planted on the Jules and Jean Reynaud ranch to the right of the highway.

Presently Highway 120 (approximately the old Sonora Road) crosses Green Springs Creek and, a mile farther, the Milton-Chinese Camp Road leading to O’Byrne’s Ferry bridge and Copperopolis. Just beyond, on the early Beckwith ranch, stands a ruined stone structure. This was originally about ten feet high, had four embrasures facing the road and was intended for defense against Indians. The Captain Grant who commanded the militia at Knight’s Ferry in 1849 had something to do with its construction according to Robert Curtin. Old-timers have referred to it as the fort.

The book is on-line here. It’s is a history of a road, the road between Stockton and the southern mines and Yosemite. Why there are not more histories of roads I do not know because I haven’t read one that wasn’t fascinating.

You can tell from that passage how delightful it is to read this book, published in 1959, and researched some 15 years earlier than that. So when we read “still,” that’s at least fifty years ago. When I read first this section it completely absorbed me. Someday I would trace this tangle of roads, I vowed, but whenever I went through the area I always was with someone else, and with something more important to do than poke around for forgotten springs and fictional poets.

When we last left the story of my travels I had found one old spring between Priest’s and the-town-that-had-been-Jacksonville but is now at the bottom of Don Pedro Reservoir. From there I headed down Hwy 120 toward Chinese Camp. I knew I was going to end up at Keystone, and Green Springs Road.

Before I arrived there, however, I wanted to see Six-Bit Gulch. Here it is described by Irene Paden:

Beyond the springs is abrasive country—full of sharp rocks, stickery weeds and digger pines. It is also full of turkeys who do well in the 1000 to 2000 foot level. Turkey raising seemed at first to be a sublimation of the tendency of the region to propagate grasshoppers. Not since the Indians counted them a dietary luxury had these excitable insects been so popular. Now the industry is so standardized that the pampered birds, raised within fences, never see a hopper. The road, winding north of Mount Pleasant, comes to Six Bit Gulch about where the smaller Picayune Gulch empties into it. Both names were given in derision because of the poor diggings in their neighborhood. On these gulches lived, in peculiar mud huts, a few Chinese of different habits and appearance from those of Chinese Camp. They were generally known by the townspeople as “Tartars” and never mixed with the other Orientals. One hut survived until recently and may still be there.

Six Bit Gulch was a welcome sight in early autumn as a the cattlemen drove the herds back from the high mountains. It was the first convenient watering place west of Jacksonville. …

Beyond the gulch, which now is not even dignified with a bridge, stood the establishment of John Taylor and his wife, Margaret. The house was on the left immediately beyond the ford, between the gulch and the road as it turns and leads north toward Montezuma. Directly across the road was the large barn. The corrals were between and were so arranged that the road passed through them, necessitating the opening and closing of two gates. This was primarily for the convenience of the cattlemen who broke their drive at this point. Taylor’s stage and freighter stop was founded after he had failed in the diggings. He did not maintain a regular dining room but, of course, any hungry man was welcome to come in and eat. Taylor was Justice of the Peace and, although hospitable, he was also practical. This story of early-day court practices came our way: A jury case was slated to be held at Taylor’s Ranch. The court was assembled at the old house in Six Bit Gulch. The attorney for the prosecution, a Sonora lawyer who liked his liquor, discovered upon investigation that there was no great amount of that commodity on hand. He rose and requested the judge for a change of venue to Jamestown. Judge Taylor, deciding that if one of the two must be discommoded it might as well be the lawyer and not he, slapped his hand resoundingly on the table and announced firmly, “I’ve just bought a two dollar roast to feed the jury. Change denied.”

At Taylor’s the traffic for Big Oak Flat and Yosemite Valley left the Mound Springs Road which continued northward with Six Bit Gulch. ..

And so, having used the Mound Springs Road from Keystone to Six Bit Gulch, the wagons bound for the Big Oak Flat Road and Yosemite said goodbye to it at Taylor’s and turned uphill to the northeast.

The one-mile-long stretch connecting Taylor’s with the next town goes through scrub-grown, broken country, beautiful only in spring. It surmounts the hill at an open level filled with yellow tar weed across which is a vista of but medium allure—the outskirts of Chinese Camp.

You can see the attraction of Six-Bit Gulch: “scrub-grown, broken country, beautiful only in spring.” When I get this attraction feeling, it is best to follow it. I easily found Red Hills road at the back side of Chinese Camp. I didn’t need to stop there. Once you’ve seen Chinese Camp—and I have—you’ve seen it. But Red Hills road: this is a road worth taking more than once. It is one of those wonderful paths that people have long traveled through but never stayed long, so road is narrow and the country side is open, unbuilt, soft.

After fording Six-Bit Creek (pictured above), I was surprised to see a parking lot and bulletin boards. Obviously, someone found this scrub and digger-pine land more interesting than Irene had.

I pulled in and learned that this “abrasive country” is now the Red Hills ACEC owned by all Americans and managed by the BLM. What makes it special is serpentine, California’s state rock–the same geologic rarity that is found near New Idria and Mercey Hot Springs ( the location of some adventures last spring). Serpentine supports different plants than other soils, which means different animals, which means pockets of rare ecosystems. ACEC means “Area of Critical Environmental Concern” which is about as green a statement as you can expect from the BLM. According to everything I have since read, this ACEC is beautiful only in spring because of the abundant and rare wildflowers that bloom there. Right about now is the best time to visit.

I was there too early for flowers, but the parking lot is a trailhead for several hikes, and I started down “Old Coach Road,” a common name for “neat hike with an easy grade.”

On another day, Old Coach Trail may have lead to even more adventure, but I didn’t note how many miles the loop was, and I didn’t have enough water to do even half of it. So I decided to stop and sit a while before going back. While I sat writing and thinking and being present, I designed the labyrinth I hope to build in the garden this spring.

Onward toward Green Springs. The Red Hills Road dropped into a valley at the site of Crimea House, which was still standing when Irene wrote her book. Now there’s just a E Clampus Vitus monument and this a beautiful stone corral.

(That’s Taylor Mountain in the background, named after the same Taylor in the stories above.)

I had enough daylight to put off Green Springs for a few hours, and I decided to drive over to Byrne’s Ferry, because my map said that near there was Negro Peak. This is what Irene has to say about that:

A post office officially termed Cloudman was opened in ’82 in John Curtin’s front room. Daniel C. Cloudman, growing older and deafer, was appointed postmaster. In ’95 the first telephone toll station in Tuolumne County was installed in the same room.

John Curtin, Jr., took over the management in 1908, adding by purchase several adjoining ranches. One especially was of interest because of the owner’s name. Jack Wade, better known as “Nigger Jack” came to the state as a slave, bought his freedom and settled down as a recluse. His 460 acres were located at the base of Table Mountain, southwest of O’Byrne’s Ferry bridge. He was respected for his honesty but was illiterate and suspicious. He lived alone to a great age in a tiny hut squarely in the middle of his property and surrounded by his cattle, hogs and chickens. On present-day maps a mountain of the vicinity bears the caption, “Nigger Jack Peak.”

I remember as a child being fascinated that there was a place called Nigger Jack Peak. A terrible word, but how cool that a mountain had been named for a black man. I can remember my Dad mentioning it, in the mists of a disconnected memory of a drive we took through Jacksonville that last summer before it was flooded by the reservoir. I think that this is Negro Jake Peak, taken from O’Byrne’s Ferry.

On the road at O’Byrne’s, I saw a billboard for “Copperopolis” which promised shopping and restaurants. I’d never been to Copperopolis, and “shopping and restaurants” are uncommon in Gold Country.

Copperopolis. Doesn’t that word feel good in the mouth? There are two Copperopolises. One is real, a town that clusters its ruined prosperity for two blocks on both sides of the highway. It had more of a twentieth-century life than many of the towns in the area, so is therefore worse-for-wear. The other Copperopolis is the one mentioned on the billboard. Four miles from historic Copperopolis is ersatz Copperopolis, something like Santana Row, something like Disney’s Main Street, mostly For Lease. I set up my camera to take my photo, and was joined by Bear, a friendly dog.

I was hungry, but the only open restaurant specializes in panini, which I do not care for.

So what Green Springs? Not a trace of them, the grave, the “fort,” nor an old ranch where an immigrant child wrote poems that impressed a newspaper man. Just open oak cattle country and a few prefab ranch houses. I didn’t take pictures because it looks just like everything else around there. After so many years wondering about that tangle of roads, and poring over old maps; once there, I just passed on through, not disappointed nor inspired, content and happy with another day of wandering. I headed west towards home, and decided to put off dinner until I got all the way to Santa Nella, and their all-you-can-eat bowls of pea soup. As the waiter refilled mine, I thought, “Huh. A bowl of pea soup, refilled as I drink from it, like a green spring.”


Keystone on Dwellable

My Saturday Night

March 14, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My life is normally scheduled full of Something days and weeks in advance, yet sometimes I discover I have whole stretches of hours without any obligations or plans. Last night was one of those nights. Saturday night with Nothing to do.

So I did what I often do, walk downtown to see what turns up.

As I was crossing the bridge, a young woman called to me from the opposite bank. “Hi!, hi!”
“Hi, how are you?”
“I’m GREAT!”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to a RAVE!”
“Really? That sounds fun. I’ve never been to a rave.”
“You haven’t? They’re so fun. You should go with us.” She gestured under the bridge to include her friends.
“Who are you with?”
“Just my friends. They’re under there making out.”

We shouted our conversation as I crossed over. We shook hands on the levee; her name was Jessica. She glowed, both metaphorically and with her “rasta sticks:” in green, yellow, and red cylinders that hung from her wrist.

“You should come to the rave with me, at the Catalyst.”
“I’m not sure, what would I wear? “
“You’d dress like ME!”
“What are you wearing there, is that a skirt?”
“No, it’s more like little shorts (very little), and my fishnets, and my raver candy.” Both wrists were covered half-way up to her elbows with plastic beads.
“But, I don’t have any raver candy.”
“We’ll give you some, everyone just gives everything away in there. You’ll like it, it’s so great.”
“Hm, will I need to get high first?” She laughed and looked at me out of the corner of her eye.
“Do you want to get high?”
“I don’t have any pot.”
Jubilation. “I have pot!… if you promise not to tell anyone.”
“I promise you, you can tell me anything and do anything with me and it will go no further. (Am I breaking that promise here in my blog?)
“We have a cone of silence?”
“Absolutely. So who’s the band?”
“There’s no band, there’s a DJ and they play like trance music.”
“How much does the rave cost?”
“Sixteen dollars, (she must have seen some expression from me) But it’s WORTH it!”
I allowed that it probably was, since I had never been, and now I had a friend to go with.
“Yes, We’re ALL your FRIENDS!”
“Even them?”
“Yes, them too, but those two are, you know…”
“Particular friends?”
“Yeah.”
“Ok, I might see you later in there.”
“Oh, I hope so, you’ll see me dancing….” and she walked down toward the two under the bridge. I walked down the levee bank with an alternate plan in my back pocket, in case the doing Nothing plan didn’t work out.

The 418 was hosting another dance and I overheard someone say loudly that he was going to the Jumping Monkey. It was only a few seconds later that I remembered that was the name of a restaurant. As I approached Pacific from Cathcart, I heard people shouting in the rhythms of a political chant. Too late for a political rally, and it sounded too organized for a union. Finally I could make it out:

WE love JE-sus, YES we DO. WE love JE-sus. HOW BOUT YOU?”

The twenty of Jesus’s own cheerleaders had already passed me by the time I got to the Del Mar and exchanged grins with college students, but members of their crowd lagged behind passing out postcards.

“I don’t love Jesus,” I told one of them as I refused the card. I know. I was being a pill. But they did ask the direct question.

It was about 7:30 and I hadn’t had supper yet. When I got near Rosie McCann’s I heard someone call my name and saw the warm smile of a dear friend from Big Sur. What are the chances? Hugs and more smiles. She was in town for a party and a concert, but said that when she woke up that morning she knew that she would meet someone significant and new. So she told me about a man she had met at Kinkos who was creating sleeves to contain CDs of Sanskrit mantras. I told her about Jessica. We promised to continue our evening’s adventures and tell our stories to each other later. (Hi Lisa, this is for you.)

I walked down as far as Bookshop and almost turned around, but the adventure impulse pushed me a little farther. Benten, for dinner, of course. I hope this memory is accurate, but wasn’t Benten one of the first places to open up on Pacific after the earthquake? Weren’t they the Bento box place in the Cooperhouse that then moved to the current cinder block building on the alley that was one of the few that was still standing? That’s my memory of them, anyway: dark entryway, warm welcome inside.

Unlike that stand-on-the-sidewalk zoo down the street at Shogun, you can always get a table at Benten. Perhaps the fish isn’t quite so absofrickn fresh, but it’s fine enough. The miso is great, and there are lots and lots of clever vegetarian choices. The rolls aren’t large, so you can have a few of them, they aren’t smothered in sauce, so you can taste them, and the music is the same tape I heard in the early 90s: plunk plunk plunk. Is this Japanese roots music? Or the equivalent of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling?” Came for the dinner, stayed for the mochi ice cream.

Well fed, I headed back down Pacific toward Logo’s because I had some trade credit slips that were burning a hole in my pocket. I ran into a few more postcard-bearing Christians and I’m sorry to say I was a pill to them too. “He must go unrequited,” as the song says.

At Logo’s I came away with three new books. R. Crumb’s illustrated Book of Genesis which I had heard about and is every bit as good as they say. Given my conversations with the Christians, why this? Because of Crumb’s art. And the stories. And how they provide the mythological grounding of the culture we live in. A notion that relates to another book I picked up from the remainder table, The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization.“The last wild frontier of Classical studies,” says The Times (UK). I hope it is not the last, but it is a wild place to take Classical studies. Perhaps young people will take it up once again. The third book was a slim 1970 edition of Huxley’s The Doors of Perception.

I decided to go home, but turned involuntarily down the alley toward The Poet. Ok, drop in for just a pint and stay if there’s someone in there you know. There was, plus a band, the Wild Rovers. It was The Poet’s 28th birthday, celebrated every year the Saturday before St. Patrick’s day. I stayed for hours. Traditional, original, silly and sad. Everything you need in a evening’s music.

How lucky I am to walk home a little tipsy from the Poet, trade-credit books under my arm, over our earnest little river. I’m not married, I have no kids, I’m not rich or famous. I will not leave a lasting mark in human civilization. But this life I’m leading is so fun, so full of love, music, art, and spirit. What a miracle that there is Something rather than Nothing, and this ordinary Something so rich.

Prevention

March 14, 2010 at 12:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hey Kids! Remember to drive your Art Car at least once EVERY week!

A reply to the woman who wondered if any woman were 100% happy with her body

March 10, 2010 at 4:37 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I wrote this poem years and years ago–I must have been 24 or 25 years old. I posted it to the first internet list for lesbians in the mid-1980s. In a discussion of what we called “body image” someone wondered, and I replied. Yes. Yes, I am 100% happy with my body. Even now, as it ages, what an amazing gift my body has been to me.

A reply to the woman who wondered if any woman were 100% happy with her body

I sing praises of my body as did Innana in ancient times:

In my life, I have seen my hair go from flax to honey; from beauty to beauty.

My eyes are golden gates to love and light, opening on creation, welcoming in my lover’s heart.

My mouth and tongue sing praises of my ecstatic life tide; I kiss my lover’s body, I kiss my friend as she sleeps after sorrow; I taste pomegranates and wheatgrass, still living the mother enters my body.

My throat hums under my lover’s touch. My strong neck holds up my head, and bends beneath my lover’s caress.

These slender arms embrace new friends, and haul in firewood.

Hands, thou wonderous hands, where hast thou been? In paradise.

My perfect precious breasts, they are milk.

Oh belly, laugh with me. My lover feeds me food grown under her own hands. Now she rests her head upon you, and dreams.

Vulva: softest-hair, clit, lips, oh cave. So magic, gives and receives, again again again. again.
May I honor my most womanly places, as they have honored me and my lovers.

My strong thighs carry this dancing body, I praise you now. Now, you anchor my body to my lover’s head, as I cry out and beyond riding.

My wise knees, they teach me flexibility.

My practical feet are as sensitive as my earlobe. I praise thee, both feet, both feet so capable and smooth. So often blessed, I do walk sure in her ways; you ground me.

I sing praises of my body, my spirit basket, woven for me to live in, in this lifetime.

IT help ticket humor

February 27, 2010 at 12:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Just found this in a ticket and had to share.

Hi CXXXXX,
AXXX FXXXXX, the supposed author of the mm_menu.js file that the Health Center web site uses, says:

So for your benefit, I’ll now tell you how to fix the mm_menu.js. Follow these simple instructions:

1. Acquire one (1) shotgun. Loaded, preferably.
2. Acquire one (1) shovel.
3. Pump mm_menu.js full of buckshot until you feel better.
4. Repeat Step 3 as necessary or desired.
5. With the shovel, dig a hole.
6. Dump the remains of mm_menu.js into the hole.

What diversity is for

February 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Day to Day | Leave a comment

On the bus this morning, I listen to two students discussing their progamming assignment. From her voice I think one is a Latina. The other is a white man who sounds Southern Californian. She is tutoring him. He asks her question after question like “How do you count mouse clicks?” She answers him with assurance and accuracy. Her phone rings. She speaks animatedly in Spanish. She hangs up. Where were we, she asks. He asks another question about the homework. “I already told you, and she makes a connection between and earlier solution and the question he just asked. “Do you have a study partner?” she asks. He does. “Good, then you won’t have a problem then,” she says confidently and with the tone of experience.

This is what “diversity” is for. The brightest kids in the state regardless of who or wherefrom coming to UCSC to be scholars together. It’s about ending whatever it was that would have kept that girl from getting here before.

Greetings from Second Garrotte

February 23, 2010 at 8:02 am | Posted in Day to Day | 1 Comment

Parts of the trip I took last week I planned ten years ago. Which doesn’t seem that strange since one of my guidebooks was “Big Oak Flat Road” which was written in the 1950s. I’ve gone on road trips with out-dated guidebooks before. The last time I looked in vain for a campground near Growlerville (aka St. George) and then realized it had been converted to a prison. But that’s another story.

After an amazing weekend at Pantheacon, I left San Jose headed for Roseville where my friends A and A were putting me up for a few nights. The good thing about furloughs is that you get time off. That bad thing is that I have a 7% pay cut, so vacations tend to include hospitable friends. (I have a guest room here, for those friends contemplating a holiday in Santa Cruz.)

Roseville has such a pretty name, and perhaps some ancient guidebook describes a different city than the one I saw, which even A described as “horrible, horrible. ” It is a kind of boom town, with strip mall after strip mall, and all the streets seem to be named “Stanford” which was disorienting. It’s a place where the twentieth-century threw up.

I had every intention of a wholesome visit to the Sacramento museums, but instead I turned north to visit Malikoff Diggins. I’ve wanted to see the ruins of a mountain that was washed to the sea, causing so much destruction that a farmer filed a lawsuit. Never before had environmental destruction been an impediment to getting gold out of the ground. It changed the world through its awfulness. I take hopefulness from this.

Originally, the town had been called “Humbug” because whatever gold the original prospector had found hid itself from the men who came afterward. Gold Rush towns have silly names just like Web 2.0 products did. Humbug is now the ghost town of North Bloomfield which I found deserted since it was a weekday in winter, and what with the budget cuts for the parks, most of them are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays anyway. Its graveyard is more evocative than most, as it is the final resting place of souls who died even farther down a dirt road, across a green river, than other towns I visited that day, like Nevada City, and Grass Valley.

I drove through those two towns, but didn’t like them much. There are lots of contractor trucks, and a desperation in the air. I felt safe since I had I decided to drive the invisible sedan instead of the art car truck this time.

In Grass Valley I stopped at Laura and Sarah’s Golden Empire Market where the cook asked, “What can I make for you?” so sincerely and warmly my heart melted. I asked for a quesadilla (yes, I’ll take the peppers), and enjoyed the clamato drink so much I had another while I waited for her to finish. House of Quality, indeed.

Grass Valley is home to the Empire Mine State Park, but it was closed too. I wandered around anyway and discovered that the good bits, that is, the ruins of mines and such are carefully fenced off so that now the park is just a nice place to walk the dog. The mine ruins are fenced off because they might be dangerous, what with the asbestos tailings and all, but I got the feeling it was because they are too expensive to provide security for, and those kinds of places do tend to attract drunk idiots after hours, and who needs a lawsuit? What with the budget and all. So I don’t blame them.

I heard running water and found a gentle place to stop a while and listen to the stream rushing down the ravine into a mountain of tailings before changing course.

That night, A & A and I tried a Mediterranean restaurant in Sacramento, but that was as close as I got to Sutter’s fort. The next day I left early, and tried a chain pancake diner that offered a gluten-free menu, fresh ingredients, and coffee in cups and saucers. It’s the sort of place where you can hear the conversations of everyone but you don’t mind because it feels like you’re sitting in someone’s kitchen. As I left, I chatted with a couple of regulars, learned they have a daughter in Aptos, and they love it. They asked me about my trip, and I said that I was visiting State Parks, but they are closed during the week because of budget cuts.

Cheerfully, I went on: “But last week I signed a petition to get a proposition on the ballot so that we can pay a fee with our car registration. It will fund the parks and Californians won’t have to pay fees to get in.” They both thought that was a great idea. “Why shouldn’t we tax ourselves to keep our parks open to all Californians for free? It doesn’t make sense to tax ourselves $6 every time we feel like visiting one of our own parks, does it? Why not just pay $5 once?” Their smiles fell a little at the phrase “tax ourselves” but there was no arguing the logic and they wished me well. I hope they vote for it and tell their redstate friends.

I drove south, and then east toward Coloma. I’d visited the place where the gold rush started before, but this time I was headed for Prospector Rd, which was once “the main route from Coloma to Georgetown.” I wanted to drive it because I read that it was haunted, but on that glorious morning I met only its own natural beautiful self. I eventually rejoined Highway 49 (the miners’ highway) and skipped towns I’ve been to before like Placerville and Amador city, and stopped in Jackson for lunch. The deli had that familiar old make-do feel to everything like these towns do, which is most obvious in the restroom. I was delighted to find pear and dried cranberry salad with feta in the case right next to the meatloaf.

A black fur coat with suede lapels –too small, dang it–attracted me into “Heaven on Earth,” a used clothes store and I had a great time finding a few new skirts and blouses. The owner gave me a cash discount, which seemed a very gold-country custom. She recommended another co-op down the street where I found a cute NSFW velvet dress. That owner said I could use the restroom to change in, even though it was otherwise Out-Of-Order. “But only if you model it for us,” which of course he thought I wouldn’t, so of course I did.

Jackson is a real town, and it has a nice feel to it. The owner of Heaven on Earth asked me what my next stop was and when I said “San Andreas,” she asked “Why do you want to go there for?” I tried to explain, “There’s a history museum…” and she shrugged, but now that I’ve been there, I understand her disgust. San Andreas does have a terrific history museum, but the historic main street is hemmed in by disinterested twentieth-century ruins of every decade except the last. Part of the problem with San Andreas is that because it is the county seat, it puts entirely too much attention on crime stories like Black Bart, Joaquin Murietta, and the various hangin’s that were committed there, both legal and lynching. And it’s the seat of a county called “Skulls.” (According to Bill Bright’s “1500 California Place Names,” a great traveling companion.)

The museum is housed in the old Hall of Records building, just like ours (in Santa Cruz) used to be. Behind that is the old Court House, and behind that the jail and the jail yard. It just goes on and on and because it was a Wednesday afternoon, I had it to myself and could freely be creeped out by the fake bodies in the jail beds. It made me want to buy a pack of cigarettes.

I had started out that day seeking ghosts on a glorious mountain road and they seemed to find me there in that jail. So it perked me up to find this car parked outside. That’s the Black Bart Inn on one side of the street, a grave yard in the distance, and the ubiquitous Real Estate Office in the Historical Building next to the museum. You can’t read the bumper stickers on the car but they are: “All Who Wander Are Not Lost,” “Keep Missoula Weird,” and “The Goddess is Alive and Magic is Afoot.” My people.

That night I saw Avatar in Angel’s camp. Others have said better what it is. I’ll just say it is a gilded turd.

I stayed at A’s lovely little place outside of La Grange that night. She has a view of the valley and Coast Range that cannot be properly photographed, but I was attracted to this pretty valley looking southeast from her driveway.

And then it was on to Coulterville. Have you been there? Such a sweet little crossroads town. I remember picnicking there with my family when I was a girl, sitting on the train engines. That morning I ate at the diner and marveled at the layers of time and cultures, business and pleasure that this land is.

That tall thing is a stamp mill. Four huge hammers would pound gold-bearing quartz to a powder that was then mixed with mercury. The amalgam of Hg and Au would then be heated, the Hg would boil off (mostly) leaving the pure gold behind. An ancient alchemy. Kinda dirty though. You can see a wagon wheel to the left. The wheel is part of a bench that looks exactly like the benches I’ve seen made out of teak farm wagons from China and I think that is what it is: the discarded historic farm implements of a land undergoing a gold rush right now. To the left of the stamp mill is a miwok wikiup, which seem to be erected in a fit of guilt and patronage at all the historic sites these days. This one serves as the centerpiece of a “Peace Garden.” Across the street is a real estate office that is, itself, for sale.

Since I was in Coulterville, I decided to take one of my favorite drives, the Priest-Coulterville Road up to Highway 120 and then to Big Oak Flat. If you have the time, always take this road instead of highway 49. I forgot to take pictures.

When I was a girl Big Oak Flat was where we went to mass if we had to go to mass, while we were camping at Pine Mountain Lake. I think we may have gone to mass here a few times, but it is so ridiculous to take four girls from age 10 to infant to mass in the middle of a camping trip, I think my parents eventually realized that God didn’t intend for them to do that. I drove up to Mt. Carmel for the cemetery and took this terrible picture, but while I was there a cute terrier came up to me and tried to get in my car.

Lucky for me, “Smitty” drove up and said he had been looking for her. We chatted about how great dogs are, and I learned that he was 80, his wife was 76, they had just gotten her from the pound down in Oakdale, he used to drive the school bus, and before that he did lumbering. He did not say how he came to be on oxygen, but I could imagine him swinging a bus around mountain curves with a Camel hanging out of his mouth. I suppose had made the right decision the night before about the smokes. I said I was doing a history tour and showed him the guidebook. He was familiar with it. He told me about an arrastra that he and his crew had found while lumbering: 4 miles outside of Groveland, take Shanahan Road, just past Sugar Pine Ranch. An arrastra is a poor man’s stamp grinder. You know the gold is in the rock, but how do you crush it without capital? You get a mule and a post, and a big rock. Here’s a picture of one.

I hadn’t planned on driving that way, but with a secret arrastra to find, why not? Smitty’s directions were perfect, but alas, no arrastra was to be found. I found the arrastra location between the two streams, just like he had said, but the BLM had done some stream “restoration” and it was gone.

Since I had driven past Groveland, I decided to continue on to Second Garrotte. The first town after coming up the Priest grade and entering the forest is Big Oak Flat. Although the Oak is long gone, the road still curves around it, which I think is just delightful. The second town is Deer Flat, but it’s not really a town anymore, although it was an Indian town during after Big Oak Flat was founded. The next town is Groveland, which started out as First Garrotte. Someone was also hung in the next camp up the road, so that town became Second Garrotte. Unlike the oak down the road, this town was able to keep theirs, although the rest of the town is gone.


Second Garrotte is on “Old Highway 120.” There’s a hotel that is trying to stay in business. A few houses along the way that are recently constructed. I found a freshly built Mormon church, so it must be more populated than it looks.

The house at the southern intersection of the Old and New highway is for sale. If only. I tried to find it on the MLS when I got home but it is no longer listed.

From Second Garrotte I went down Priest grade. I was headed toward an old settlement in my guidebook called Keystone, although since I had never heard of it outside that book I doubted I’d find anything there. The book said that at the half-way point on Priest grade was a spring. I’d been up and down that road dozens of times, but I had never stopped at this wide spot to find the spring.

There it is (with my invisible car). You can see New (and sickening) Priest grade is across Grizzly Gulch.

The springbox is there, full of trash as they often are, and without water, although the land around had plants that need more water than rain provides so perhaps the spring flows at other times of year.

My adventures on the way to Keystone will have to wait for another night: Red Hills ACEC, Crimea corral, Negro Peak, Copperopolis (both real and the fake), and the search for Sappho of Green Springs. Read it here.

A Message from God?

January 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This morning a friend and I sat on the front porch and talked over our past history with our non-traditional families, the heartache and the love. While we chatted, we noticed two Jehovah Witness missionaries making their way up the street, knocking on doors. I joked to my friend: “Please god, don’t tell them to come over here.” My friend said something like, “We’re doing fine here, a jew and a pagan.” A few minutes later we left to go on an errand.

When I got home there was a tract tucked under the mat: Enjoy Family Life. Can families really be happy? How is that possible?

The pictures in the tract were: a white family with pets: a baby cheetah, a baby lion, and a macaw…


…a black family with dad holding a soccer ball up to his baby daughter. (Dad obviously thinks she’s not as femme as Mom has dressed her, what with that bow on her head)…

… and a chinese single dad, holding his daughter on his shoulders (no pets or sports).

I was relieved that the tract didn’t specifically say that lesbians can’t form families–I actually only need to read the newspaper or my own diary to learn how hard THAT is. Most of the message was the usual, but it included two proverbs which–like most of that part of the bible –has a common sense that transcends theology: “Better to eat vegetables with people you love than eat the finest meat where there is hate.” “Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than have a banquet in a house full of trouble.”

Amen, sister.

Corporations are People? With Free speech?

January 22, 2010 at 2:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Corporate personhood is the opposite of slavery. Slavery found people to be property, and therefore ineligible for civil and human rights. Corporate personhood finds property to be people, and 100 years of corporate law has given them more rights that human beings.

Dennis Kucinich on 10 Questions about Corporate Personhood

Ralph Nader has been speaking about Corporate Personhood for decades. He says here “corporate personhood should become a widely debated subject.” Yes. If people understood this, I think even the republicans would be repulsed by its monstrousness. Here’s his statement today.

Jane Anne Morris says it all pretty succinctly. But her amicus brief didn’t matter to those 5 Supremes.

Corporate anthropologist and Madison resident Jane Anne Morris’ recent book, “Gaveling Down the Rabble: How ‘Free Trade’ Is Stealing Our Democracy” (Apex Press, 2008) is cited in an amicus brief filed in support of the Federal Election Commission in this case.

I dunno. Perhaps it is my eternal optimism, but perhaps this time, they have over-reached. Corporations have free speech? Really? Does the Sports Talk Radio crowd know that?

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