Going Like 60

by Dante DeAmicis

I’m turning 60 tomorrow. I guess I can’t be called too young to know what I’m talking about anymore.  Of course, I’ve noticed that many people can live to a thousand and they will still be too young to know what they are talking about.  Knowledge and wisdom is progress forward minus backsliding.  Even with the support structure of organizations and intellectual models it seems that humanity keeps getting dumber and dumber.  Its all so sad.  I’ve had to leave behind so many fellow travelers, babbling nonsense on the side of life’s highway.  Ideological baggage was shed piece by piece so there would be space to pocket gems picked up along the way.  Sometimes its just a grain of gold I caught in the light of day.

But the journey is not over yet, not by a long shot.  In fact, the path forward is studded with manifested truths, large and small, just waiting for me to stumble over them.  Such as, just recently it occurred to me that what we call the holiday season is really an obstacle course.  It is not really a specific period at all.  Thanksgiving appears to be a warm up event for the real holiday frenzy.  It doesn’t seem to have a coherent point by itself.  Right after this weak excuse for a four day weekend not much happens except isolated zombie shopping with no special regard for the time of year or our fellow man.

Gradually, as the Winter solstice approaches, people start taking various numbers of vacation days to begin an extended circuit of family whistle stops around the country.  Coverage at businesses and hospitals gets thinner and thinner even though we are still only “approaching” the holidays.  The calendar becomes a free-for-all on Christmas Eve, defined as the whole day before Christmas.  Some are off some aren’t.  Most get off early.  Christmas is holiday ground zero, ignoring the pagans’ claim that the original Bacchanalia started on the Solstice.  Once again, some get a day-after rest period, some don’t.  And again, some lucky employees are off and some small businesses are closed until after New Years.

Bottom line, there is no clear holiday shut down and ramp up section on the calendar.  Its more of a series of skirmishes of varying participation.  What is the reason for this?  Obviously capitalism is to blame.  The 10 day pagan Saturnalia was to be reduced under Christian management to a day off in the middle, a day off at the end, and maybe an hour off early the night before.  We weren’t supposed to mention the Solstice unless we wanted a lump of coal in our stocking.

The problem is that rather than either one big week and a half party or a sweat shop two days off, we get an indeterminate period of poor functioning.  The solution: bring back the Solstice.  That’s around December 21st for the astronomically challenged.  This way we get a clean holiday shut down and a building of the festive mood, then a mellowing til January 1st.  People who have to work would get double time during this official holiday season.

…..On a more political note, Lake County is a job destroyer.  There is no money here except from State and Federal checks.  A few pot farms and vineyards are arguing over who is in second place but neither produce many jobs.  This year I had two low paid jobs shot out from under me by government policies.

Clearlake put in a taxi regulatory scheme that was proven to be boiler plated from a large city.  But there is no big city taxi money here so drivers and owners would be working for less money under a morass of regulations that the City itself does not understand.  After I complained the City Administer said the regulations were required by the Motor Vehicle Code, the PUC, and their cooperative insurance carrier.  These sources were easy to check and easier to disprove.  Did anyone care that the administrator was proven to be a liar and had a class war agenda?  No, it passed the council unanimously.

My next job was driving the transit bus during a period of tense labor negotiations.  The managing political authority wrote up a contract with a private managing company that basically let them do whatever they wanted labor-wise.  Then the Board threw up their hands and said “The contract won’t let us interfere.”  When these out of county goons forced a strike they had already lined up a flood of union busters from five of their bus companies in three states.

The end result was the elimination of wage structures that had existed for years.  Every driver was to make starting wage…forever. Well, that’s not quite true.  After a driver is licensed, trained, and minimally experienced they can get a decent driving job elsewhere, ultimately leaving no one except beginning drivers behind.  Many striking drivers and non striking but problematic drivers such as myself were not called back.  Check out my video on this sorry story “Report From Driver 39.”

Most of the jobs I’ve been applying for are “temporary/part-time/on call/minimum wage.  The managers dug in here are psychopaths who were exiled from decent places that don’t promote hostile work places.  That’s Lake County and that’s the way the small minded goobers who run things want it.  Taking the bus to Napa or Ukiah is looking better and better.

Now about my birthday bicycle trip.  I’ve been researching the old surveyed railroad route from Napa to Lake County.  It never happened but it was an exciting attempt that occupies a place in history.  The idea is to plan a bicycle event that roughly follows where the tracks would have been laid.  Who knows what this line would have been called. But I’m declaring this train themed bike tour the “Konocti Kannonball Run.”  Kind of catchy, don’t you think?  My birthday ride will be a partial recreation with video and photos.  I’ll take a lot of notes.

The high points after leaving Highway 29 in Middletown are Pope Valley, Butts Canyon, Chiles Valley, then dropping down into Napa Valley through Saga and Conn Canyons. Going into the city of Napa by the original identified roads, the trip will officially end at the old trestle site on Napa Creek. The trestle is long gone but there is a new foot and bicycle bridge in its place. This is in the new old town tourist district. After basking in glory, its a pizza and a bus back to Lake County. Look for the photos.

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.