THE GRUESOME facts of the wine industry are these: It’s wholly dependent on immigrant Mexican labor for whom the industry provides little to no housing or labor protections or fair compensation or anything else that American labor, also on the ropes these days, more or less assumes as its y birthright.
The wine industry receives enormous public subsidies in the form of ag tax exemptions and in the various forms of welfare benefits citizens must pay which immigrant labor depends on in lieu of fair compensation and benefits.
MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS suffer more from the prevalent dumbassification encouraged by popular culture. And Mexican-American children, like all the children of the American poor, suffer from poor public schooling. In Boonville, where more than 60% of the K-12 student body is made up of the children of recent immigrants, the entrenched edu-satrapy is impervious to reform because immigrant parents are unable to pressure the public apparatus on behalf of their children because (1) They don’t speak English, let alone edu-speak, an obfuscating language all its own, (2) Immigrants can only look on in horror as the public schools condone behavior and dress not tolerated in the villages of rural Mexico or anywhere else hoping to produce young people who can successfully function in techno-world, (3) Immigrants are mostly illegal and generally fear the repercussions of involvement in public controversies, and fear those repercussions specifically in small communities like ours which are dominated by their gringo wine industry padrones, public school employees, and their interchangeable allies, the oblivious Subaru-libs of the NPR type. An immigrant who looks to Mendolib for specific help is a doomed immigrant. (4) Immigrants assume, fatally, that the gringo knows best when it comes to education, realizing too late that education in America, like all other forms of success in our materialist sweepstakes, is class-based. People who begin life on third base are much more likely to score than people perpetually in the on-deck circle.
AND THEN there are the drug and gang interdependencies plaguing the immigrant communities and the rest of us. Immigrants rightly fear the criminals among them because the gang and drug trades, are the source of great misery right here in the bucolic Anderson Valley, Anderson Valley being constantly touted by the co-dependent wine and tour industries as "an unspoiled Napa." Gangs and drugs are interchangeably affiliated and are now omnipresent throughout Mendocino and Sonoma counties. Gangs have a strong presence in Ukiah, have extended their evil influence into Fort Bragg, Willits, Boonville, and Potter Valley. (Gangs are way outta hand in Santa Rosa.) Mexican criminals now dominate the marijuana and methamphetamine businesses in Anderson Valley. Mom and Pop Hippie dope farms have been bonged by the Mexican syndicates whose energy and enterprise are such that they’ve driven pot prices to all-time lows.
THE WHOLE SHOW has been brought to us by the wine industry and America’s padrone class generally, George W and John Kerry, proprietors.
AND THE WINE industry is catastrophically bad for the land, aka the environment. First they clearcut, then they poison the earth to depths of 10 to 12 feet to plant the vines. Thereafter, literal tons of herbicides and pesticides are applied in annual maintenance dosages. Of course the wine industry also helps itself to whatever water is in the area and the vines themselves aspirate huge, eternal gulps of the water table the deeper their roots penetrate.
A LETTER in the Press Democrat the other day said it was only Bush’s "strong leadership" that spared America from having to fight the Mohammedans in New York and San Francisco. I suggest a compromise, and I’m ready to fight them and Jerry Falwell, too, but let’s fight them in Santa Rosa. It’s an easy commute from Boonville and there’s no architecture worth saving.
RICHARD GARLICK of Fort Bragg is one of Mendocino County’s more active and passionate senior citizens. At age 81, Mr. Garlick sits in the Mendocino County Jail on bail of $500,000 he’s unlikely to raise accused of trying to incinerate his estranged wife and his sister-in-law. His wife, herself on the casket side of 70, had left him. And his sister-in-law? She has put in a lot of time helping her sister stuff Cupid’s arrows back in the quiver. Mr. Garlick’s way of resolving his neo-bacherlorhood didn’t seem aimed at reconciliation. At 12:16am the morning of Thursday, May 6th, an hour most citizens of Mendocino County who’ve achieved their 8th decade are deep in slumber, their dentures resting beside them in peaceful jars of Polident, Mr. Garlick set out for the 400 block of North Whipple where, on the wall of the alley residence occupied by his departed wife and her sister, he wrote a great big but non-specific "Fuck You" and set the structure (and himself) on fire. Fortunately for everyone on the block, and the very block itself, 24 ace Fort Bragg firefighters were able to contain the blaze. (For every person living in a street-front Fort Bragg house, it seems like there’s five people living in hobbit huts out back in the alley.) Nobody but Mr. Garlick was injured, and him not seriously. The murderous old fool, his forearms and eyebrows singed, was seen driving off from the fire and he was soon under arrest. Mr. G. was arraigned Monday in Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg, on charges of attempted murder. Mrs. Garlick had previously obtained a restraining order aimed at keeping the old boy away from her.
IT LOOKS LIKE one of many crucial services Mendocino County will lose to budget cuts is the invaluable Care-A-Van, the County-funded spay and neuter program run by the comparably invaluable Ruth Rosenblum.
ONE OF THE REASONS the County is broke is named Patti Campbell, 4th District supervisor. Campbell, the lamest of ducks, and a predictable vote for fiscal irresponsibility her eight long years in office, won’t finally leave that office until the November elections, although her replacement, Kendall Smith, a professional Democrat out of Congressman Mike Thompson’s office, was elected to succeed Campbell in March.
MARCH! APRIL! MAY! June! July! August! September! October! It won’t be until the first week in November when Campbell finally, mercifully, steps off into the invisibility of the Fort Bragg fog! But all this time, all these many months, Campbell will draw her pay and full bennies for not showing up for meetings, for not representing any of her constituents (including, even, the Baxman-Affinito Axis that put her in office), for not so much as answering or responding to a constituent’s telephone call. On those rare occasions when Campbell does show up for a Supe’s meeting she tends to blubber, literally, about how sad it is that County employees like Ms. Rosenblum are about to lose their jobs! For doing absolutely nothing her last 8 months in office, Campbell has cost local taxpayers at least $40,000.
RECOMMENDED READING: The short story "Old Boys, Old Girls" by Edward P. Jones in The New Yorker coupla issues back, and a truer portrait of the ethnic-based part of the War On Drugs, or class warfare, or love relationships is unlikely to be found in any short form than conveyed by this masterpiece. It’s the kind of story that’s so good you find your mind coming back to it weeks later.
ALSO RECOMMENDED is "Mendocino Mystery" by our very own Mary Cesario Weaver, a nifty page-turner pegged to Mendocino County and, loosely, our very own Brinks truck robbery back whenever it was, the late 70s, I think. Mary gets just right the lurking menace behind the jolly facade of "unspoiled Napa" some of us Mendolanders feel, especially those of us aware of the extraordinary incidence of crime among a mere 85,000 people. It’s almost as if Mendocino County is some kind of open air Witness Protection Program designed to hide unreconstructed nuts and unrepentant crooks. (It’s impossible to hold any kind of "liberal" public meeting in Mendocino County without it being overrun by the outpatients, and it’s very unwise to enter certain areas of the County without a gun handy.) Mary’s tidy little mystery is very loosely based on our first and, so far, only Brinks job referred to above.
IN REAL LIFE, that one was brought off by a gang of white supremacists from some pale face stronghold of eastern Washington or Idaho. The robbery was either extremely bold or extremely dumb, depending on your perspective on high stakes crime, but it worked. Or it worked until the putative master racers, having immediately exchanged ideological commitment for second homes and big engine motor boats, prompting their envious neighbors to wonder out loud to the cops, "How come the crazy bastard next door suddenly has a lot of money?" And soon everyone but the leader, a guy named Matthews who failed to emerge alive from a shootout with the FBI and about 500 cops on an island near Seattle, was in jail.
BUT THE WAY the Matthew’s Gang hit the Brinks truck for something like $11 mil in cash was a one-of-a-kinder. It happened out on Highway 20 just past the Redwood Valley turnoff on the long grade approaching the north end of Lake Mendocino. The hold-up men were in the back of a pick-up that suddenly stopped in front of the eastbound Brinks truck as the truck labored up the hill. A man jumped from the bed of the pick-up onto the hood of the Brinks truck, spraying its windshield with automatic weapons fire. The two Brinks men in the cab of the truck instantly advised the guard riding with the money in the back to open the door to the bandits. As traffic — including a Boonville-based Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department deputy named Dennis Miller — backed up nearly to Highway 101, the robbers, taking their time, threw thousands of pounds of money bags into the back of their pick-up, drove to one of Lake Mendocino’s grungy, deserted picnic areas, transferred the money bags to another vehicle, and drove the loot out Orr Springs Road to a travel trailer they’d parked at Armstrong State Park, somehow managing to drop $10 grand or so beside the road not far from Ukiah where it was eventually discovered by a group of retarded folks out for a walk. The bandits and the money was at Armstrong over night, as I recall. The Matthews Gang was either dead or locked up within a couple of years. Nothing like it has been attempted since, not counting the recent Bari-Cherney-Sweeney Gang’s federal heist of $4.4 mil, a robbery far more brazen and implausible than the Redwood Valley Brinks Job, but so far successful.
BRING BACK LOGGING! Premier Pacific Vineyards, Inc. of Napa has bought up 19,000 (30 square miles) of the Gualala watershed, thus reviving the mother of all vineyards scheme conjured by Coastal Forestlands Ltd. a few years ago. Coastal Forestlands couldn’t quite bring off 30 miles of vineyard after logging what was left of marketable trees remaining from previous blitzes of the land. According to the Independent Coast Observer, the purchase "consists of more than 100 parcels, many of them adjacent to each other" and that "CalPERS, the California Public Employee Retirement System, was a partner in the venture."
A GLIB FELLOW by the name of Thompson is front man for Premier Pacific. He says his company is "primarily a farming business. Thompson has announced that the 30 miles of severely logged-over land at the southwestern tip of Mendocino County is now called "Preservation Ranch," a sure sign it is about to be destroyed by industrial viticulture.
"MUCH OF THE LAND," Thompson told the Independent Coast Observer, "is historic farmsteads," which is not true. The historic farmsteads were long ago bought up and consolidated by large timber concerns. The few homesteaders living deep in the hills of the South Coast were forced off the land by the timber barons, occasionally at gun point, early in the 20th century, a process comprising one more chapter in the untold history of Mendocino County. The largest timber holdings were amassed by capitalists who paid "homesteaders" — Frisco barflies, for instance — to lay claim to designated parcels vast tracts of undeveloped government land. The big boys of early timber would then buy out the phony homesteaders.
THOMPSON, front man for distant investment collectives is, in keeping with the times, less direct than the old robber barons. He says Premier Pacific "is interested in planting previously-farmed areas in vineyards, with some orchard crops. It’s most likely there would be a minority of grapes, and a majority of timber," he said. "We’re intrigued by the viticultural potential. In terms of forest practices, we’ll see if we can treat the land more gently than [it has been] in the past."
TRANSLATION: Thirty miles of grapes relieved by scrub oak and a few upscale homes.
BRUCE ANDERSON is the publisher of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, America’s best weekly newspaper.