King Cobb

PIC_0064By Dante DeAmicisPIC_0069

Cobb Mountain is the tallest mountain in Lake County this side of the Northern wilderness area.  Konocti gets all the press and photos but its a lowland compared to the mighty Cobb at about 4700 feet.   I’ve worked on the ridge below the peak where the view of Sonoma and Lake Counties is awesome.  I decided I would find a way to reach this flattened high point of Lower Gooberstan.

There are no public roads or right of ways going up to Cobb even though there are antennas and a chunk of state owned land at the top.  The internet revealed the location of the old right-of-way formerly used to service the antennas.  ATT and Mediacom now go through gated Calpine roads which are very well maintained.

The internet site revealed the old road has been abandoned to fallen trees, erosion, rockfalls, and is overgrown in places.  In the best of times the road was cardiac steep for hikers.  But the owners were used to the road being used by outsiders and don’t seem to be reasserting their property rights at this late date, in spite of the gate and scary signs.  We’re told its two and a half miles to the summit.

I decided I would discover the mysteries of Cobb after my October 28th grave shift on Bottle Rock.  So off I went walking to Whispering Pines, following the sparse directions from internet bloggers.  Through the gate at the end of Pinewood I went until I reached the still used dirt road that went left and the broken has-been of a road went up and right.  My first decision.  Yes, that had to be the one true way – upward and onward.

Soon the old road passes between a row of large boulders.  Sometime in the past someone created this passage through these silent sentries.  The road winds around the face of the great old one which is sporting an edgy new growth of pine stubble in the former clean shaven road, another symptom of unemployment.  One positive effect of neglect and harshness is I haven’t seen a single piece of trash.

Whiners on the web site complained of fallen trees but someone has been cutting away limbs and notching through the big trees.  The trail disappears but I decide since it was originally a fire trail I would continue in the same direction. Sure enough, the road reappears as if by divine intervention.  Finally I come to the first switch back around a monolithic boulder.  Another half mile and the now trail widens out to a crater filled with broken rock.  A tall dead tree over hangs.  New tenants have moved in.

The trail gets steeper and the feeling of hiking up the side of a canyon is gone.  The rocks have all morphed from spotted gray to dusty white.  Even though the trail is clear it is clearly a trail.  All traces of this being a former road have vanished.  In addition to the rounding of erosion and the absence of tire tracks there are thousands of seedlings and Christmas Tree size trees probing and prodding from both sides.  The trail seems to be consenting.  It is as if nature decided to landscape the trail for hikers and serious bikers at the expense of the unused road space.

There is little indication of much more mountain to climb.  A large tree that has fallen across the path has been cut through with a chain saw.  Laying on one side of the log passage is a woman’s lacy top.  I notice it is size XXL.  A woman from a “Robert Crumb” comix has passed this way.  This ain’t no ordinary nature trail.

Sure enough, another half mile later I reach a junction on the top ridge.  The old fire trail resumes to the left.  A hundred yards I hit the current, well maintained road coming up from Calpine controlled leases.  In front of me are two side by side cyclone fenced compounds for the ATT and Mediacom antennas, suggesting segregated playgrounds for machines.  The mountain top is surrounded by tall trees obscuring what would be a fantastic view.  A narrow wedge next to the ATT erection gives the sole aerial view of planet Earth below.  I hear voices but no one appears.  A sign.  I commune with the sacrament I thought to bring.  After taking some pictures I pick up a rock for a souvenir, slightly reducing the mountain’s sky reach.

I start my decent, a refreshed pilgrim.  Nature, exertion, and Rasputin have shown me the way.  But the way is unsteady going down hill on loose rocks and pine needles.  I weave my way down the mountain, carrying on a friendly argument with gravity.  I emerge off the mountain bearing not the word of God on tablets but four dead martyrs for Jesus.

The entrance gate nears.  Two young men in a new truck and cargo trailer await.  Are they Roman oppressors attempting to enforce some Philistine private property edict on me?  No, they are contractor seekers for ATT looking for the one true way up to service the cell phone towers.  I assume my new role as the guru of Cobb mountain and address the bewildered.  “No, this the old road for chariots of Mammon.  It has been reclaimed by the Great Mother. You must take the Road of Bottle Rock and pass through the gates of Calpine.”  They rejoice for having met one of wisdom coming down the trail.

Big Read – Chapter Two

By Dante DeAmicis

October was Big Read project month for Lake County. They chose Joy Luck Club to beat to death. What for? For the $4,000 of course. That’s what funneled down to us from the NEA. Actually, I have no idea if they beat it to death. For all I know the books are still in the shipping crate as mother-daughter relationships and Chinese culture are being explored in other ways this month.

The requirements are loose to qualify for this $4,000 but I assume there is some accounting requirement. Predictably, there are several teacher and councilor led discussion groups. How many readers are showing up? How many show up because they have to? How many who show up had a voice in choosing the project book? It would be nice to get some numbers after October.

The Big Read schedule of events is posted around the County. Most activities are organized by existing groups who have tweaked what they do anyway to tie in with themes and action in the book. Other than a hiking club that is stopping every so often to allow Joy Luck Club toting fans to read their “favorite” passages from the book, the groups’ spin offs can stand alone from the novel.

There is a Chinese food cooking class, a dinner theater producer who wrote a play with a Chinese theme, a Chinese film festival, mahjong lessons, a chess tournament, and book inspired art exhibits. I wonder how much the activities support the book and how much the book is boosting ongoing functions. I know you can’t be too original for a program that disappears in a month. Perhaps if there were a shell program that regularly launched coordinated projects. But I guess no one is handing out money for that brainstorm.

There are already designated months for this or that. Occasionally bookstores select an anointed month or holiday, for a window display. Streets are closed off for festivals. But again, this is a lot of hoopla for one book, and novels at that. An ongoing book club could be the source of broader themed reading projects that follow each other. It sends a bad message to shut down a community based reading project as soon as a check is blown.

When October comes to a close the reading community could ask themselves, “What’s happening in November?” It just so happens that the 50th anniversary of America’s coup d’etat, commonly remembered as the JFK Assassination, rolls up on the 22nd. Conveniently, a ton of conspiracy research and theories has been published on the subject. But no one is giving the Homeland Security Book Review Club a $4,000 check to pull it off. Still, if enough of a splash is made on the 50th with some events on my list we can develop more ideas for future Novembers. Keep it fresh. Check out the list.

Get any books on the subject by Harrison Livingstone or Harold Weisberg. Study up for the Grassy Knoll Trivia Game. Take turns reading selections one night a week, as “Bedtime Stories”, in the wee hours on KPFZ. The Photo Shop Art Show will show your skills in matching up body parts on different bodies. Run the Dealey Plaza obstacle course mock-up and dodge paint balls. Write and perform your own assassination slams. For the kiddies we’ll have the Toss-the-Bean-Bag-Brains-Back-into-the-Paper-Mache-JFK-Head game and the Conspirator Coloring Book contest.

Test your memory and reflexes at the Magic Bullet Shooting Match where non target friends become target enemies depending on what event flashes on screen. Read official testimony with friends on video and edit for most hilarious effect. We’ll cap off the month with the assassinated witness zombie costume party. Dance to the Warren Commission Trio (actually a full band but they swear there’s only three of them.)

The official Big Read for 2013 managed to tie two chess events to The Joy Luck Club so I feel obligated to create one of my own. The coup d’etat chess tournament will have customized pieces on a board embossed with the Dealey Plaza. Here are my pieces. There were no shortage of villains and Quislings to choose from but I had to scrape for heroes.

The white king and queen would be JFK and Jackie while the black counterparts would be LBJ and Ladybird. These pieces are chosen because of power positions before and after the assassination, not because LBJ was at the head of the conspiracy.

Going to the opposite end of the power spectrum we have the pawn positions, occupied by 8 identical white cigar chomping Castros and 8 black pinhead-on-bodybuilder Oswalds.

In the corners, I’m designating the non personality rooks as two white hands holding a movie camera. Without the Zapruder film the conspiracy opponents would never have gotten any traction. In opposition to the magic of celluloid we have the real alternate reality of the anti-hero black caped magic bullet rook characters, holding a wand over a top hat.

Out on the front lines we have the black knights Allen Dulles, the defrocked CIA head, and mafioso Carlos Marcello. commanders of their respective columns. Leading the counterattack is Cyril Wecht, Allegheny County, PA Coroner and District Attorney Jim Garrison.

The official gospel is defended by black bishops Supreme Court Justice Warren and future Senator Arlen Specter. In the best position to promote a reformation are white bishops Attorney General Robert Kennedy and House Select Committee on Assassinations founder Congressman Henry Gonzalez.

Let the “big think” games begin.

Lake County and “The Wedge”

By Dante DeAmicis

While “localism” is very trendy these days, cities and counties are still packaged in regions.  There’s rough agreement on the general area that makes up a region and usually the descriptive name for a multi-county region.  However, in comparing maps of regions I’ve noticed there’s a problem of boundary zones where its not agreed if a piece of geography belongs in one region or its neighbor.  Lake County is one of those boundary zones.

A single county is not a region.  Some map makers will include our county in the high status “Wine Country.”  This is the preferred regional label among chamber of commerce types.  Probably a more common grouping is with the “North Coast”- except we aren’t on the Coast.  Within the subculture, Lake has a more solid standing as a member of the “Emerald Triangle.”  This designation is not used or useful outside the subculture.  There won’t be an Emerald Triangle road map.

Although it is discouraged, sometimes counties are split between two regions for some purposes.  Sonoma County occasionally finds its bottom half in the “Bay Area” and its top half in the North Coast.  Legislative districts split counties all over the place and not consistently from one branch of government to another.

Creating a new region from border zones is not out of the question.  It just requires some marketing.  Lake County would have to link up with some related pieces to have a remote chance of being considered a “region.”  Is there such a natural region that would include aspects of our visible and strong points?  Yes there is. I call it “The Wedge.”

I created the Wedge from noting where my out of County trips still leave me feeling that I haven’t left my region.  I can’t shake that I’m almost local.  Most people wouldn’t catch this nuance unless they traveled more intentionally and slowly by bus or bike as I often do.

Which direction should we look to extend Lake County as a region?  Definitely not to the East.  Our Northern wilderness ends our regional expansion in that direction. That leaves the West and a maybe a little of the South without carpetbagging too much of the Wine Country or Bay Area.

My first attachment crossing the County border is the Ukiah Valley, extending up to Willits.  When I hear the call of the Coast without an accompanying itch for a road trip I go West to Fort Bragg and a few communities to the South of it.  The Western urge can include going out the South end of Lake County, nicking off the Northern tips of Napa and Sonoma Counties.  The strict Southern boundary of the Wedge is the Russian River and out to the Coast.  Welcome to my region map makers.

Until the Wedge catches on as a region it can be used as a purely descriptive term.  “Where is Lake County?  Its in the wedge between the Bay Area and the North Coast.”  Note that Mendocino is sometimes in and sometimes out of “Wine Country.”  When people hear the description enough they will drop the “between” after wedge and just say  “You know. Its the Wedge.”

A definitive “Wedge” bicycle tour would look like this.  Start in Willits at the Skunk Train Depot or the circus tent Shakespeare Theater.  Then East through the canyons to Potter Valley, Southeast to Witter Springs, through Scott Valley, around the rim of Big Valley, over Bottle Rock, Highway 175 to Middletown and out Butts Canyon Road.  Now into Napa Valley at St. Helena Hospital and North on Highway 128 to the Healdsburg turn off, South on various roads to the Russian River Highway 116, slowing at the Bohemian Grove to flip off the one-percent, then straight on to the Coast at Jenner.