working together or, for that matter,
was going to be easy?
a husband-and-wife team,
on the following issue
in the news.
penalty debate is
at home and work
The pros and the
Stanley Tookie Williams
by John Elliott
Since 1978, when California
reinstated the death penalty, 12 inmates have been executed. None have
provoked more controversy or international attention than the latest:
Stanley Tookie Williams.
Williams, 51, died Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 12:35 a.m., from
a lethal injection administered by doctors at San Quentin State Prison.
Outside the prison gates were Williams’s supporters and protestors
who wanted clemency for the co-founder of the notorious Crips street gang
from South Central Los Angeles. There was also a contingent that agreed
with Gov. Arnold’s Schwarzenegger’s refusal to spare such
a notorious life.
It was Arnold’s clemency statement that said without
an apology for the execution-style murders there could be no redemption.
Williams never admitted to being the triggerman when he was convicted
in the 1979 shotgun slayings of four people nor would he ever snitch on
his fellow gang members.
Williams lived by a tough code of honor necessary for survival,
he claimed, for a homeboy raised on L.A.’s meanest streets. But
killing Tookie may actually do more harm than good for those that wanted
to silence the reformed gang-banger who for the last decade has advocated
non-violence for African-American men and youth.
That’s the sentiment of Barbara Becnel, a spokesperson
and co-author with the convicted killer.
“If they think
they [state officials] succeeded by killing him into getting people to
forget about him they have done just the opposite,” Becnel said.
As Becnel planned for a Los Angeles funeral befitting a statesman,
his supporters vowed to continue his work discouraging youth from following
the gang lifestyle. Williams has published several books on the subject
and had another in the works with rapper Snoop Dogg, another reformed
In 2000, Mario Fehr, a member of Swiss Parliament, nominated
Williams for the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, saying that Tookie had changed
the lives of countless others through his books and efforts to strike
a lasting gang truce. That was the first of six Nobel Prize nominations.
In his writings, Williams admitted that he was a megalomaniac
who had beaten and shot at innocent victims. But what he said he regretted
the most was helping to launch the Crips — originally called “Cribs”
— who have been terrorizing urban ‘hoods for three decades.
Gang violence, its rap music, gestures, video games, and
defiance permeate our society to its core and via the media have reached
every community in America. So by killing Williams what kind of message
are we sending to our children?
Foremost, I think we are saying in circumstances like capital
punishment its okay to kill another human being. Not only is it the right
thing to do, it’s necessary. Like terrorism of the other kind, we
cannot tolerate gang violence and those who kill innocent people.
But capital punishment is still cold-blooded murder, and
the graphic accounts of the IV going into Tookie’s arm in a converted
gas chamber with dozens of witnesses only serves to desensitize us all
even more to violence and death. Violence begets violence; murder begets
murder and retribution.
Every day, our children are besieged by murderous violence
on TV, movies, video games, and on city streets. How do we stop the killing?
The voices of compassion and reason say that we, the people
— the good people who do not break the law — must take the
lead in ending the violence and the killing. Like all of you, I feel for
the victims who have suffered at the hand of Tookie and his Cribs. But
I believe we must have compassion for those less fortunate if we are ever
going to figure a way out of this violent world we have created.
Imagine a world with no death penalty, no need to send troops
anywhere, and a place where everyone is getting ready to celebrate the
remarkable birth of a little baby boy. Wouldn’t that make for a
The punishment fit the crimes
by Sarah Elliott
When I became a mother
17 years ago my stance on crime and punishment took a severe shift to
the right. This, I believe, is one mother’s way of further protecting
her family from harm, something that all moms instinctively do in various
I have never been a staunch supporter of the death penalty
because it is barbaric and, generally, I’m not willing to risk even
one innocent person’s life who may be mistakenly put to death, even
if it guarantees the death of all murderers.
In the case of Stanley Tookie Williams, justice was served
in denying him clemency in his 11th-hour appeal. The evidence against
him was overwhelming when he was convicted 24 years ago by a jury for
the murders of four innocent people, ages 26 to 65.
Although he has now spent almost half his life in prison
and claimed redemption, he never admitted to his crimes or showed remorse.
When facing a choice of the death penalty or making amends, then redemption
becomes the obvious choice that many behind bars select, especially as
they grow older and presumably wiser.
However, if Williams had been found not guilty or never even
been arrested for his heinous crimes, would he be the person today that
he became in prison — drug-free, law-abiding, denouncing gang activity?
Most likely not.
Four victims paid a high price for this alleged reformation
of the co-founder of the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles, as have
others who are victims of his gang’s continuing violence and for
whom Williams also has a moral responsibility. The victims’ families
might forgive but won’t forget and, certainly, will never understand
why such a sacrifice of their loved ones had to be made in the name of
Instead of being immortalized by his supporters as an author
of meager-selling children’s books and as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee
(past “nominees” of this unselective process include Adolf
Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, and Fidel Castro), Williams’s
legacy would be better served if his punishment would deter even one such
senseless murder in the future, therefore taking one giant step forward
in the ultimate safety of my family and yours.
of troubling issues
by Sarah Elliott
On page 30 of the November 28-December 4 issue of The Washington Post’s
“national weekly edition” is a story of some of the Central
Valley’s poorest residents. The article is entitled “The Tale
of Two Fresnos: Officials confront a problem after a report shows 40 percent
live below the federal poverty line.”
The article cites a recent study by the Brookings Institute,
a nonprofit think tank, that said “a higher proportion of poor people
in Fresno (population 456,000) live in areas of concentrated poverty than
in any other major city in the country — pre-Katrina New Orleans
was number two.”
Currently, Fresno ranks 16th among the nation’s largest
cities in terms of its overall poverty rate. What makes this city different
from others at the top of the rankings, such as Miami and Atlanta, is
that the city’s chief industry is agriculture, which “depends
on a cheap, seasonal workforce…”
The article also cites the city’s high dropout rate
that, as a result, ensures that these job-seekers will remain unqualified
for more skilled — read: higher paying — jobs.
Here’s how Post staff writer Evelyn Nieves described
her tour of the city for the nation to read:
“A drive through
south Fresno found streets with wilted, squat wooden and concrete houses,
a handful of prostitutes standing dejectedly on corners, huddles of young
men standing outside a weedy lot drinking beer, and mothers with children,
but few children playing on the streets.
“North Fresno appeared
like a suburb, with gated communities, shopping centers, and traffic heavy
with late-model SUVs.”
Why the poverty is so concentrated, the article explains,
is because of the real estate boom in the Central Valley’s largest
city has caused a lack of affordable housing and a 15-percent increase
in rents, with the cheapest rents being in south Fresno.
Mayor Alan Autry also says illegal immigration is a huge
challenge for the city that is draining its resources. “The vast
majority of the tenants in the worst housing in the worst neighborhoods
are immigrants, presumably including illegal immigrants,” the article
These days, even full-time workers are lining up at soup
kitchens, unable to afford food on minimum wages.
The rest of the Central Valley needs to keep an eye on Fresno
because what’s happening there is, or will soon be, occurring in
other like communities. It’s a sad statement on our society today
that there is such a blatant divide between the haves and the have nots.
Illegal immigration, poverty, gang activity, crime, teen
pregnancy, and low graduation rates are all issues that need to be recognized
and dealt with proactively by citizens, civic leaders, government officials,
and the state’s and nation’s lawmakers. The nation’s
KING OF THE ROAD… How ironic that while preparing to
publish last week’s story entitled, “Fatal crashes caused
by animals at all-time high,” the youngest driver in our household
had a wildlife-involved collision while driving home at night around Lake
Apparently, an owl got caught in the headlights, flew in
front of the truck, and was hit. The impact of the crash dented and bent
in the front grill.
Granted, we are more distraught about the demise of the grand
bird. But judging from the damage to the vehicle, if it would have hit
the windshield, it would have completely obliterated it, and no telling
what may have happened as a consequence.
In August 1983, I also had a wildlife encounter near Lake
Kaweah. I was on my way out of town at about 5:30 a.m. and I rounded a
corner to see a deer on the shoulder, preparing to head off the road.
I slowed and gave him a wide berth by going into the other
lane and darned if that deer didn’t turn a 180 and run directly
into my path. As I slammed on the brakes, the truck caught the deer on
the hop and he slid on his back across the hood and through the windshield,
where he crashed into my face before coming to rest on top of me.
I knew I had to get out from under the deer immediately because
if he was still alive and started thrashing, I would be in an even more
dire situation. Without even thinking, I punched my fist through the windshield
that was also now in my lap to unfasten my seatbelt and got out of the
I opened both doors of my Volkswagen pickup truck, and stood
alongside the road, Fleetwood Mac still blaring on the stereo and head
wound dripping blood.
The first car to happen along was George Tomi of Three Rivers.
He pulled over to assist. It was the slamming of his car door that jolted
the deer from his state of shock and caused him to scramble out of the
truck and down the embankment, where he hopped a barbed wire fence and
bounded off, seemingly no worse for wear except for one missing antler.
I assured George that I was okay and he went on his way.
This was in the day of no cell phones and, I soon found out, no payphones
around the lake, so I climbed back into my truck, turned it around, and
made a slow and very chilly drive back to Three Rivers.
I showed up on my parents’ doorstep bruised and bloody,
but alive. Later that day, after some medical attention, my dad and I
went looking for the deer and found no sign of him or even his antler
so, hopefully, he survived his hitchhiking escapade.
These days, driving is not a choice but a necessity. But,
for those who care deeply about other living creatures, the automobile
is a deadly weapon.
Driving to and from such a wild area as Three Rivers becomes
a juggling act between our consciences and our need to travel from here
to there… often and fast.
So, since we have to have our beloved cars, then we need
to take responsibility for ruling the roadways:
—Drive with increased
awareness, especially between dusk and dawn, when wildlife traffic is
highest and a driver’s visibility is the lowest.
signs on the highways. Ironically, my accident occurred a stone’s
throw from a deer-crossing sign.
—Reduce your speed
in wildlife areas. This increases response time.
Some species will be attracted to roadsides solely because they smell
food, whether fast-food containers, an apple core, candy wrapper, or beer
law-enforcement if you are involved in a wildlife-vehicle collision so
wildlife agents can treat injured animals, remove dead ones, and search
for any orphaned young. If you hit an endangered species (the San Joaquin
kit fox is an endangered species that calls these foothills home), immediately
—Write to Cal Trans
and encourage them to incorporate wildlife considerations — such
as corridors, underpasses, and other crossings — into future transportation
planning and the renovation of existing infrastructure.
On July 29, 2005, Congress approved and the president signed
into law a transportation bill that, more than ever before, addressed
the detrimental effects that roads have on nature. It contains key sections
that direct the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a national study
of methods to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and the “addition
or retrofitting of structures” to eliminate or reduce accidents
involving vehicles and wildlife.
In the northern Rockies region (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming),
the bill introduces the “Corridors of Life” that mandates
any new highways maintain interconnected corridors for safe wildlife travel.
Hopefully, that model will soon reach to all rural areas of the West.
2 , 2005
citizens and Thingerie things
by Sarah Elliott
The Thingerie has been
in continuous operation in Three Rivers for 30 years, managed by the Woman’s
Club. From argyle and boucle to corduroy and herringbone; cargos and capris;
birettas and berets; and espadrilles and pumps, the thrift store has seen
every fad and fashion trend come through its doors, then go back out again
with a new owner.
The Three Rivers Woman’s Club hosted a luncheon last
month and the guests of honor were the club’s faithful Thingerie
volunteers. On Monday, Nov. 14, approximately 30 women gathered at the
Three Rivers Memorial Building, all of whom have donated time and effort
to this Three Rivers institution.
The luncheon was catered by the new Sierra Subs and Salads.
And, move over Naomi Campbell, Iman, and Heidi Klum because while enjoying
this fresh fare, the women were treated to a fashion show in which the
lovely Thingerie supermodels walked the runway wearing ensembles and accessories
obtained from the thrift store.
All the inventory at The Thingerie is from donations by community
members who have cleaned out a closet or cupboard. Proceeds from store
sales benefit the projects of the Woman’s Club, which include community
betterment and assistance, as well as financial scholarships for Three
In addition to the counter sales positions during Thingerie
operating hours, many behind-the-scenes volunteers work to sort, clean,
and stock the items that are donated. Granted, these tasks aren’t
as glamorous as the Thingerie supermodel responsibilities, but they are
no less important.
The Thingerie is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The store is closed Sundays,
Mondays, and the first Wednesday of each month.
by John Elliott
Ah! November in Kaweah
Country. It’s the best of times and the worst of times all rolled
up into one frantic month. The best of times if you are spending those
warm, sunny afternoons outside enjoying all that great football weather
working out or, maybe, just working. Yard work, clearing rain gutters,
cutting wood, or even tending a burn pile can be especially satisfying
this time of year… and then on November 24, we all give thanks and
count our blessings.
If you’re one of the thousands of Californians with
a high school senior, then November can also be a frantic time, preparing
a half-dozen University of California or Cal State college applications
that are due on or before November 30. Essays are required for each with
the exception of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a popular choice for local
students due to its proximity and one of the most highly competitive of
the state colleges.
By this time in the process, you and your student have probably
visited a few colleges, perhaps even zeroing in on a number-one choice.
If you haven’t done the campus tours portion of the search, the
“apply sight unseen” means applying, then perhaps waiting
to see which campus accepts your student (March 2006) and then visiting
and choosing the best fit by the end of the school year.
However a family chooses to find the right college, it’s
become a very complex and costly process.
Application fees alone can range from zero at a community
college to $60 for a UC and $75 for a private institution like Stanford
University. At $47,000 per year, most students need to work out some substantial
financial aid to attend “The Farm” and become a part of the
Trying to navigate how financial aid works is nightmarish
but that annual paperwork is not due until March. So, for now, it’s
time to focus solely on where we want our not-quite-ready-for-primetime
players to do their thing while getting the best education money can buy
and maybe even find a job or a career that they can pursue with passion.
When we took over ownership of this newspaper, our oldest
child was in first grade. Now, in the blink of an eye, she’s a senior
in high school.
Attending Woodlake High, she’s had the benefit of Sally
Pace, who has counseled her students down the right college tracks for
more years than she wants to admit. This school year marks her farewell
as she will retire in 2006 after 35 years at WHS.
My wife, Sarah, had “Mrs. Pace” in the 1970s
as her Home Economics teacher. Now, as Dean of Students, Sally is pointing
our kids to the resources they will need to make the most of being Woodlake
It is no coincidence that Woodlake students have a reputation
for impressive collegiate achievements. That is an important part of Sally’s
legacy and the commitment of the staff at Woodlake.
Here are a few things that we have learned about the admission
process that might help. The bottom line is cost, so let’s begin
by getting the painful part out of the way.
On the average, a frosh year at any of the 10 University
of California campuses will cost $20,000 to $22,000. That is tuition,
room and meals, books — the whole nine yards.
At a state college — Cal Poly, for example —
an average freshman year will cost $16,000, more or less depending on
the living situation. Cal Poly currently has a shortage of dorms so, unlike
a UC campus, some Cal Poly frosh do not have the option of living in the
Any student who has ever lived in “the dorms”
will have tales to tell and memories that will last a lifetime. They are
the obvious place to make new friends but in most dorms, students who
want quiet find they need to stake out a cozy corner of the library. All
campuses anticipate this need and also provide group study areas where
even a pizza can be delivered for extended sessions during finals week.
As parents, we have been carefully inspecting housing options,
knowing that a bad living situation can really start a student off on
the wrong foot. The California campuses we have visited all have decent
dorms, but there’s no guarantee at any that a student will get their
first choice. The key is to apply early and pay the first-quarter’s
dorm fee by deadline.
The UC campuses have a program where students can meet their
prospective roomies and plan out who brings the TV, fridge, and so forth.
In addition to the usual orientations, there are also summer classes with
small enrollments so that incoming frosh lessen the transitional shock
from, say, small high school to mega-university.
The University of California, like the new SAT exam, is big
on essays. Several of the college recruiters I spoke with explained that
so many students apply with excellent grades that the essay is often the
“The essay, more
than any part of the application, allows us to hear your voice,”
said Andrea Helfer, UCSB admissions counselor. “You don’t
need to summarize everything in your application, but rather we want to
know what you are passionate about and what you bring to the university
experience. That passion is so important as we try to determine the best
fit for each student according to his or her academic aspirations.”
october 21, 2005
on the money
by Sarah Elliott
Most people would give
anything to have a copy of her signature although, if told the name, would
say they’ve never heard of her.
Take a look at one of the newer dollar bills in your pocket
and there it is: The signature of Anna Escobedo Cabral.
On July 22, 2004, Anna Escobedo Cabral was nominated by President
Bush to serve as Treasurer of the United States. She was confirmed by
the U.S. Senate on Nov. 20, 2004.
Anna is the cousin of Greg Mendoza of Three Rivers. And she
is a heartwarming story of triumph and success.
She was born and raised in the California heartland, the
daughter of migrant farmworkers, that is, before her father was injured
and couldn’t work at all. Ironically, money was sparse when Anna
was young and, today, she is a financial-education expert and in charge
of all the money in the United States.
In 1975, at the age of 16, Anna graduated from high school
in San Bernardino County. It was a high school teacher who helped her
get to college by convincing her dad and providing scholarship opportunities.
“I had never met
anyone who went to college,” she told a women’s gathering
in Lodi on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
Anna went on to major in Political Science at the University
of California, Davis. She earned her Master’s degree in Public Administration
with an emphasis in international trade and finance from the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University.
She’s been married to Victor Cabral since 1979 and
the couple has four children. Despite her immense success, she has never
forgotten her roots and has been a staunch advocate of Hispanic issues
in and around the federal government.
Prior to being appointed the 42nd U.S. Treasurer, Anna most
recently served as Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center
for Latino Initiatives where she put priority on improving Latin American
representation in exhibits and public programs at the Institution’s
19 museums, five research centers, and the National Zoo.
Before this prestigious position, she was president and CEO
of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, a nonprofit organization
in Washington, D.C., that partners with Fortune 500 companies to increase
Other positions include Deputy Staff Director for the U.S.
Senate Judiciary Committee and Executive Staff Director of the U.S. Senate
Republican Conference Task Force on Hispanic Affairs.
As Treasurer, Anna advises the officials of the United States
Mint and the director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. She was
instrumental in the design of the new $10 bill, soon to be in circulation,
and will be instrumental in the design of a proposed new $100 bill.
As new denominations enter circulation, her signature will
appear on those as well.
As Treasurer, her short-term goals are to ensure payments
reach hurricane victims on time and that money contaminated by the residual
floodwaters is taken out of circulation. Long-term, it’s Social
Security reform, about which she has had the chance to speak with President
Bush regarding the various options.
Greg is very proud of his cousin and rightly so. And the
moral of this story is: Never give up on a child.
Look around you while at a school or walking through a mall.
Any one of those kids could be a U.S. Treasurer one day… or, perhaps,
SEPTEMBER 16, 2005
to watch and read
by Sarah Elliott
A new reality show on NBC will premiere Friday, Sept. 23, at 9 p.m. and
feature a segment on Abby Castleberry, the granddaughter of Charlie and
Darla Castro of Three Rivers.
hosted by Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Amy Grant, will begin
the first of its 10-episode run in Sonora where, in April, wishes were
granted to area residents with tales of inspiration or woe.
Abby, now 11, was critically injured in a November 15, 2004,
car accident. The “wish” of a playhouse and rehabilitation
center came true when built adjacent to her home in rural Sonora earlier
In addition to Abby, watch for her mom, LeAnn (Castro) Castleberry,
who was raised and educated in Three Rivers. Also, Three Rivers family
members — grandma Darla and cousins Kylie and Phoebe Castro, to
name a few — might also be spotted in the footage.
When Amy Grant was interviewed on the Today show about Three
Wishes, she commented on how much she adored the Castleberry family. Promotional
spots with images of Abby have also been featured in commercials on NBC
and in People magazine.
Other wishes to be featured in the premiere episode are the
new artificial turf donated to replace the worn grass at Sonora High’s
football field and assistance provided to ensure that a Tuolumne County
sheriff’s deputy could quickly adopt his stepson.
Whether the show will continue beyond the first 10 episodes
will depend on its ratings. Remaining episodes of the show were shot in
Iowa, New Mexico, and Utah, among other locales.
IN A NEWSPAPER… The Los Angeles Times
was back in the southern Sierra this week with the story “Big trees,
brown skies,” which appeared in the Sept. 13 Outdoors section.
But where the section’s August 16 feature about Bearpaw
and August 23 story about Slicky promoted the region, this article won’t
exactly convince the Southern California masses to pack up their Hummers
and hybrids and head for these hills.
Sadly, this Sierra installment reveals our dirty little secret
— air pollution — and announces that Sequoia-Kings Canyon
is the smoggiest national park in America. An accompanying graphic shows
that Sequoia-Kings Canyon is second only to L.A. in the number of smoggy
days in the state over the past three years.
Now, I should add an editorial comment here about the over-dramatized
incidents allegedly caused by bad air that park personnel spun for this
L.A. Times story. I should also mention that on the same day the article
hit newsstands, the local Park Service gave the go-ahead to ignite a prescribed
fire in Giant Forest that has had Three Rivers residents choking on smoke
each subsequent morning. I should, but I won’t, because I think
most can see the irony for themselves.
IN A MAGAZINE… Proving that a Three
Rivers lifestyle is good for your health, Anjelica Huston appears on the
cover of the October 2005 issue of Architectural Digest, looking absolutely
stunning. And her home doesn’t look half-bad either.
Entitled “Architectural Digest visits Anjelica Huston:
The actress is right at home on her rustic California ranch,” the
article about the Three Rivers property begins on page 224. More than
a dozen photos depict the inside of the main house with Anjelica’s
eclectic decorating touches, the outbuildings, and grounds.
The article never mentions Three Rivers by name, but says
that it is a “remote ranch near Sequoia National Park.” Also,
a major hint of the location that Three Rivers residents will pick up
on is when the article discusses the hand-painted windows and door frames
that are “symbols for protection from rattlesnakes, fire, flood,
Coincidentally, another feature in the current issue of the
magazine shows a room in the Ireland castle owned by the late John Huston,
famed Hollywood director and Anjelica’s dad.
SEPTEMBER 9, 2005
must be rebuilt
by John Elliott
As we all struggle to
make some sense out an unprecedented tragedy — Hurricane Katrina
— we can look to the history of these devastated places for clues
on what we must do, especially in the case of New Orleans.
Just the mention of the name of this great melting pot of
American culture conjures myriad images. Unfortunately, much of what Americans
think about New Orleans will now be influenced by the news media and even
Oprah after she choked on the stench of the Superdome following its use
as a shelter for 11,000 souls seeking refuge from the monster storm of
What complicates this story is that the majority of those
who are suffering, and the thousands of dislocated families, are poor
blacks. I don’t want to believe that racism was the reason why FEMA
and the powers that be were slow to mobilize but, undeniably, it is a
factor. New Orleans, a city of 600,000, is predominantly black (62%).
It is also arguably the best place to understand the history of African
Americans and it happens to be the birthplace of one of its unique contributions
to our culture — jazz music.
For the more than a decade that Sarah and I have produced
a Three Rivers newspaper, one of the enigmas that I have pondered and
written about on occasion, is how Three Rivers, more than 2,000 miles
away, has become a bastion for the preservation of traditional New Orleans
music. Of course, I am referring to the evolution of the High Sierra Jazz
Band and the local Sierra Traditional Jazz Club with its several hundred
People have asked me at Jazzaffair why aren’t more
black musicians playing traditional jazz today? When High Sierra plays
any of the dozens of Dixieland festivals on the circuit, it’s almost
exclusively with all-white bands for all-white audiences.
There is no simple explanation for this resurgence of New
Orleans music. But one way to understand this phenomenon and appreciate
the role of New Orleans in our history is to check out Jazz: A Film
by Ken Burns.
The six-set VHS series first aired on PBS in January 2001.
It was difficult to watch all of the 90-minute segments when it first
appeared but I saw enough to recommend to the local jazz club that they
purchase the documentary and make it available at the Three Rivers Library.
Now more than ever, the series is relevant and should be
required viewing for all us, but especially students of American culture
and history. Episode one, entitled “Gumbo,” is a penetrating
overview of Black American history and the development of New Orleans
in the 19th century.
Ken Burns is a master at retelling the past through archival
film, historic photos, music, and interviews. He chooses his on-camera
personalities with aplomb, employing historians, writers, music critics,
and musicians to set the stage for the birth of jazz ca.1900.
But it is Burns’s presentation of the rise of the Negro
race and the cultural implications of their emancipation from slavery
that is especially brilliant. Wynton Marsalis, an accomplished trumpet
player and composer who hails from a musical New Orleans family, serves
as a key consultant for the project.
“If you were a
slave you had to learn to improvise right from the beginning,” Marsalis
said. “You had to eat different food, work at new jobs, and adapt
to a whole new life just to survive.”
The ability of these people to survive tremendous hardships
is nothing new. Blacks were not the only Americans exploited and discriminated
against, but they were the only people who were enslaved.
“There was something
so resilient in black people,” Marsalis continued. “You had
to do some degrading things to come to terms with this terrible affront
After the Civil War, black people were supposed to be free,
but soon Jim Crow laws created “separate but equal” facilities
throughout the South. For a time, New Orleans escaped these segregation
laws and developed as a free and unique city in the Deep South.
Rural blacks left the plantations and sought work in New
Orleans. It was in the latter years of the 19th century that people of
color became the majority of the population.
Jim Crow laws were passed in New Orleans in the 1890s and
this sizable population of free blacks was forced to take several giant
steps backward in time.
to be denied access to being recognized as Americans,” Marsalis
explained. “But that doesn’t change the fact that they were
Americans. In the way that profound things always happen when opposites
are meshed together, New Orleans gave birth to jazz music.”
Of course, New Orleans has given birth to a lot of things
and not all of them the prim and the proper. It is America’s best-known
place for debauchery but has also been the site of historical events of
national significance, unique architecture, and expressions of our society
and culture that, quite simply, do not exist elsewhere.
Maybe the best lesson of all as we all come together to do
what is right by these people is what we learn about ourselves.
“Race for this
country is like the thing in mythology that you have to do for the kingdom
to be well,” Marsalis conjectured. “It’s always something
you don’t want to do… It’s always that thing that is
so much about you confronting yourself that is tailor-made for you to
fail in dealing with it. The question of your heroism and of your courage
in dealing with this trial: can you confront it with honesty and do you
have the energy to sustain an attack on it? The more you run from it the
more we run into it. It’s an age-old story. In this instance, it
SEPTEMBER 2, 2005
by Sarah Elliott
Shortly after the tsunami hit
southeast Asia in December, our family was in New Orleans. At this time,
it was evident through the local media coverage and in personal communication
with residents how much the city was pulling together to assist victims
of the tsunami.
What we also learned by touring the outlying regions of the
city, there are many, many underprivileged people living simply…
or simply living. Now, however, the playing field is level as both rich
and poor in this city are left without shelter or basic sustenance and
New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast are reeling due to
the mass devastation left by Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster
to ever hit the nation. The Category 4 storm struck three Gulf states
— Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama — on Monday, Aug. 29.
Besides the sustained winds of more than 150 miles per hour, the following
storm surge and unprecedented flooding have left death and destruction
in its wake.
The scope of the damage won’t be fully known for weeks
to come. There is no landline or cell phone service or email, no electricity
— lights, refrigeration, air-conditioning — no safe drinking
water, no showers, no flushing toilets, no schools, no banks, no gas,
no businesses, no medicine, no hospitals, no airports, no bridge access,
no grocery stores, no restaurants or fast food. New Orleans has ceased
to be a functioning city.
Think about it. When, in your lifetime, have you witnessed
an entire U.S. city being rendered uninhabitable? Not even on 9/11.
There are dead bodies, gas leaks, polluted water, sewage,
dangerous debris, stray animals, breeding mosquitoes, violent looters,
and conditions that are ripe for a rampant outbreak of disease.
There are entire parishes that have just disappeared. They
were there on Sunday; gone on Tuesday.
Those in Three Rivers know what it’s like to live in
an area prone to natural disaster. Not a hurricane, certainly, but fire
and flood. If you feel the call to help, here’s how:
The American Red Cross is in the midst of its largest mobilization
ever. Call 1-800-HELP-NOW to help the Red Cross in its efforts to provide
food, water, shelter, medical supplies, counseling, and other assistance.
The Salvation Army is also on the scene. To donate monetarily
or to volunteer to assist, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.
And, remember, to watch out for those who use such disasters
for their own profit. There are those already gearing up via phone and
email to try to con generous donors out of their hard-earned money.
Research your charity thoroughly to avoid donating to a phony
one. Make sure that at least 70 to 80 percent of your dollar will be going
directly to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Never give your credit card number or any personal information
to a telephone or email solicitor.
If in doubt, visit the Better Business Bureau’s website
— www.bbb.com — for a list of reports on the various and numerous
time to sack
More than one billion
single-use plastic grocery bags are provided to consumers worldwide for
free everyday; about 90 billion annually in the U.S. alone or about 8.1
pounds per person.
Free? Hey, everything comes with a price. Here are some of
the costs of using this one-time convenience.
Production— The production of plastic
bags requires petroleum and often natural gas, both nonrenewable resources
that further our dependency on foreign suppliers. Additionally, drilling
for new resources contributes to the destruction of fragile habitats and
ecosystems around the world.
The toxic chemical ingredients needed to make plastic produce
pollution and create global-warming emissions during the manufacturing
Consumption— The annual cost of plastic
bags to U.S. retailers along is about $4 billion.
Nice of the retailers to give away free bags, huh? The costs
are actually passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Disposal— An estimated eight billion
pounds of plastic bags, wrap and film, and sacks are disposed of “properly”
every year in the U.S. But in a landfill, plastic bags can take up to
1,000 years to degrade.
And we’ve all witnessed where many of the improperly
disposed of bags can end up after traveling on the wind: billowing from
tree branches, along roadsides, and in waterways. As litter, they break
down into tiny pieces and contaminate the soil and water for the next
The bags are often mistaken for food by wildlife, domestic
animals, and marine mammals, and if ingested, they can cause an agonizing
death as the plastic chokes them or blocks their intestines.
* * *
Just five percent or so of the grocery bags will ever get
recycled into another useful plastic product. It is time to reduce the
bags’ presence on the planet.
Taking the lead is California, of course, and more specifically,
the city of San Francisco, where discussions are being held on placing
a 17-cent fee on plastic grocery bags to discourage use.
Sacramento, San Juan Capistrano, and San Jose are planning to add bundled
plastic bags and film (such as dry-cleaning bags) to the cities’
curbside recycling programs.
At many supermarkets — Savemart in Visalia, for example
— there are recycling bins for the return of plastic bags.
So, paper or plastic? That has been the question ever since
the plastic alternative was introduced in the early 1980s.
Plastic bags cost about a penny apiece to manufacture, compared
with 5½-cents for a paper bag. They also take less space at the
checkout counter and adapt to odd shapes.
Both types of bags use energy and create pollution to make,
so the best option of all is to use reusable bags of canvas, cotton, or
Because of the manufacturing process (petroleum… nonrenewable…
when it’s gone, it’s gone), plastic bags are considered more
wasteful than paper. Paper bags are more likely to contain recycled paper
and to get recycled themselves.
The life of a grocery bag is measured in minutes. It goes
from the store to the car to the house to the garbage.
So, even if they are handed out for free, there is a tremendous
cost to the environment and society. Join the global push to reduce the
prevalence of these plastic bags.
It’s time to BYOB (bring your own bag).
AUGUST 16, 2005
trails: One family's
For the past several
years, our family has traveled up and down to Oregon so our son could
attend a basketball camp in Vernonia. We’ve written before about
this exceptional camp hosted by Chris Dudley, a Yale grad and former 16-year
NBA player who, like our son, has Type 1 diabetes.
Dudley’s camp, now 10 years running, teaches kids with
this condition how to cope playing sports, but mostly how to succeed in
life. Our son, Johnnie, now 15 and in his sixth year at the camp, came
back inspired after his most recent experience.
The best part is that he spends the week with 74 other kids
(ages 10-17) from all over the country who also have Type 1 diabetes.
They are the chosen few (the camp has a huge waiting list) who for one
week get to forget the loneliness of their lot.
We use the to and fro to sample some of the best places of
this unique region of the great Northwest. In past trips, we’ve
pedaled trails that have replaced historic rails, climbed Mount Whitney
in a day, compared California’s sequoias to its redwoods, studied
volcanoes up close and in-depth, been soaked by coastal deluges, and witnessed
two of the West’s most tragic wildfires way too close for comfort.
The 14 days spent traveling each summer are always enlightening
and never fail to furnish a fresh perspective in what we do. Sarah, who
Oregon-izes everything so we never miss a beat of a rigorous publication
schedule, is also an expert at planning the logistics of our adventures.
This year, there was little discussion as to where to go
with our little 1963 teardrop trailer and dome tent. It was time to get
coastal after we had ventured inland for the last couple of years. The
fact that the mercury climbed into the triple-digits for most of July
made us realize the prudence of our decision.
Choosing where exactly to camp along several hundred miles
of rugged coastline from Point Reyes to Astoria, Ore., is always a challenge.
There is so much to do and so little time.
The decision for choosing at least a part of the trip was
made easier by a tip from Lee Crouch, a Three Rivers resident who was
raised in Charleston, Ore. Lee informed us that Sunset Bay, located west
of Highway 101 and Coos Bay, and just five miles from Charleston, is one
of the best-kept secrets of the Oregon coast.
Located several miles off the highway on a scenic loop at
the outer edge of Coos Bay, visitors do not routinely venture to Sunset
Bay State Park unless they are planning an extended stay. We are big fans
of the Oregon State Parks system so on Lee’s recommendation we booked
three nights, sight unseen.
Those three nights were among the highlights of a trip packed
with astonishing sights: rugged coastline and wildlife in an ocean setting
— sounds: the crashing of the thunderous surf that was so comforting
for sleeping tent-side — tastes: fresh seafood procured each and
every afternoon right from the docks and cooked nightly at our campsite
— and smells: where the rainforest meets the sea.
Sunset Bay, a sheltered cove, offered a nice change from most of the rugged
coastline where we encountered daytime temperatures in the 50s at places
like Abalone Point and Fortuna in California and then two more nights
after Sunset Bay at Cape Lookout near Tillamook and its famous cheese
One part of Oregon that we have yet to explore is Astoria,
located where the mighty Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Astoria,
the oldest town west of the Rockies, is a loaded with history, Lewis and
Clark lore (it’s the bicentennial anniversary), romance, seafood,
and plenty of potential for adventure.
We did, however, do a cursory visit on one afternoon last
week, taking time to climb the 164 spiral steps to the top of the Astoria
Column. Our party was in agreement that in the future Astoria and Oregon’s
most northwesterly coastal corner should also be further investigated.
JULY 15, 2005
Wow! What a busy and eventful July 4th weekend. The spate
of sensational news in the July 8th issue had something to do with the
fact that we stayed home so we were local when the North Fork auto theft
bust went down (July 3). For most of the past decade, we’ve opted
to use the long weekend for some Mineral King time so if we had been in
the mountains, we would have had to compile the “hard” news
from second-hand information without benefit of photos.
This year, we had plans the next day (July 4) for me to be
the designated driver for an SUV-load of teens with advance tickets to
an all-day music event in Fresno. Attending a concert or at least listening
to music, a picnic in the park, a baseball game, water sports and, of
course, fireworks in the evening are how most Americans celebrate Uncle
Like most folks, I’ve done all of the above but this
year it will be the music I remember most, having attended Warped Tour
‘05. This was one of several Fourth of Julys when I celebrated with
My musical memories of the Fourth of July date back to 1970.
As a fledgling student at University of Tennessee that summer, attending
a music festival seemed like the best way to diffuse the collective anger
of a generation still smarting from the horrific shootings at Kent State
in Ohio a few months prior.
The festival, held on a farm near Byron, Ga., owned by the
Allman Brothers, was billed as the Great American Pop Festival. Organizers
were expecting even more music fans than had gathered at Woodstock the
As it turned out, so many “hippies” showed up,
the event’s promoter quit selling $20 tickets at 375,000. As of
Friday evening, the three-day event was declared a “free festival.”
There were many highlights, but outstanding sets that I recall
were performed by Grand Funk Railroad, Poco, Mountain, Goose Creek Symphony,
Richie Havens and, of course, the Allman Brothers Band. Sunday’s
lineup, timed to begin just after dark on July 3, featured a rousing rendition
of The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix with some awesome fireworks.
It was the next to last concert before the rock icon’s untimely
My next musical Fourth of July memory was in 1978 after leaving
Miami, having just completed my college years. I was en route to Southern
California to job hunt and live near family who, by this time, were scattered
about Orange County.
On the way, I decided to make a stop in New Orleans and visit
the French Quarter. I timed my arrival with the Fourth of July. A huge
crowd had gathered on Bourbon Street to watch a Satchmo look-alike contest
in which some of the Crescent City’s finest street musicians were
impersonating native son and the grandpappy of jazz, Louis Armstrong.
The fierce competition, featuring dozens of trumpets, was
great fun. When it ended, many of the performers joined with a local brass
band playing some of America’s finest marching music under the rocket’s
red glare. It was as American as apple pie, only on this night, I ordered
On this most recent Fourth of July, along with 8,000 mostly-teenage
alternative music fans, I wandered around the parking lot at Save Mart
Center in Fresno. The grounds had been converted by an entourage of 800
touring warpsters into a huge swap meet dubbed “Superhero City”
and clustered around 10 sound stages.
The show, or mini-festival, was a menagerie of 70 bands that
each played 30-minute sets at what seemed like “warped” speed.
The music was louder than any concert I can remember — louder than
The Who, Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, anyone from back in
I noticed all the musicians were wearing earplugs so I headed
straight to the customer relations table inside the arena where ticket
holders were allowed to chill out and, of course, buy stadium-priced beverages
and food. Earplugs were free for the asking and were indispensable for
my being able to cope with the maxed-out Marshall amplifiers.
I never saw much of any of the kids I brought to the show
during the entire nine hours of music. They were busy going from stage
to stage seeing one act or another.
Headliners among the 70 bands were Dropkick Murphys, The
Transplants, The Unseen, All-American Rejects, Avenged Sevenfold, My Chemical
Romance, Hawthorne Heights. These bands are, according to my teens, some
of the really big and rising stars of the genre.
To this grizzled musical veteran, most of the groups sounded
way too loud, very angry, and had so many tattoos it spoiled the effect.
One group, Bedouin Sound Clash, actually was quite talented with upbeat
vocals and a sound that the nifty program described as street punk with
an international splash of reggae.
What was novel about this touring format, which has really
prospered in its 11 years of existence, is that after each set the musicians
report to their respective booths to sign autographs, pose for photos
with fans and, of course, hawk CDs and T-shirts.
The Warped Tour was very cool, literally, for parents as
it provided an air-conditioned “Reverse Daycare,” where parents
could get free soft drinks, watch a movie, and kick back while waiting
for their teens to do their thing. There was also an MLB trailer with
all the day’s baseball games on monitors via satellite and free
Warped Tour was a safe and reasonably sane, albeit commercialized,
environment in which to celebrate the new music of the Fourth of July.
The only thing missing was the fireworks, but we saw plenty of those on
the drive home.
JULY 1, 2005
a hard place
On this Independence
Day weekend, as we all freely choose where we want to go and when, it
is fitting to reflect on why these freedoms and so many others are ours
to enjoy as Americans.
For several centuries and among each generation, so many
have given their all and even paid the ultimate price to ensure life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America.
Currently, it has been more than two years that the American
military has been fighting in the so-called War on Terror in Iraq.
To date, more than 1,700 Americans have lost their lives
there; more than double the toll of a year ago. In addition, nearly 12,000
Americans have been severely wounded and hundreds of thousands of innocent
Iraqi civilians have died as a result of this American cause.
Today’s troops are just as brave, patriotic, and capable
as their military predecessors. Although there has been no discovery of
weapons of mass destruction and no evidence that Iraq had the ability
to build a nuclear weapon — the reasons a preemptive strike was
waged — our troops have accomplished so much, including deposing
and imprisoning a tyrant and giving Iraqi civilians the chance to shape
their country’s destiny.
On this Independence Day, we recognize our military’s
patriotism and thank each and every soldier for putting their life on
the line on a daily basis.
But, currently, it is the pretense of this war that is causing
many Americans to question the motives of the Bush administration. It
is becoming evident that this war had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden
It is becoming quite evident that military occupation of
Iraq will not turn that country into a democratic nation. And as long
as there is American military in Iraq, there will be insurgents to protest
The hard part is that in Iraq there are no front lines. Even
if there were, terrorists know no borders.
In this war, there is no enemy that will wave the white flag
and surrender. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because the enemy
is invisible, but continuously growing in number due to a common mistrust
and hatred of the United States.
Even though it is believed we want to help the Iraqi people,
our motives can easily be interpreted as greed. After all, the U.S. is
the largest importer of Iraqi oil.
Being at war definitely brings out the worst in both individuals
and governments on all sides. To name just a few infractions against humankind
recently, there has been the withholding of information about the death
of former NFL player Pat Tillman, an Army Ranger in Afghanistan; a false
Newsweek story about alleged mistreatment of the Quran, abuse of prisoners
at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the gruesome beheadings of hostages,
many of whom who are civilians.
By limiting our military resources to one country and continuing
to fight there indefinitely, we will eventually alienate all allies in
the Muslim world and hinder efforts to create a united global front against
Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
In this age of technology and terrorism, the rules have changed
and adaptation is necessary. Wars need to be fought with intelligence
and psychological tactics more than weaponry and boots on the ground as
this is not a war that’s about conquering lands but, instead, of
winning minds and hearts.
Being in Iraq has created additional hostility toward our
country and its citizens. In contrast, the U.S. needs to work for peace
throughout the world, ensure Americans are safe on U.S. soil and abroad,
and rebuild our reputation as a fair yet powerful nation.
Rivers Memorial Building --
asset worth keeping
It’s the only item
for local voters to decide via the inaugural touch-screen voting machines
on Tuesday, June 7. At issue is whether or not Three Rivers property owners
should be levied a $23-per-parcel annual tax to be used for the maintenance
and operation of the Veterans’ Memorial Building, and the precinct
place is, as always, yet ironically, the Veterans’ Memorial Building.
Fifty years ago, foresightful Three Rivers civic leaders
recommended withdrawal from the Woodlake Memorial District so that this
community could have a memorial building of its own instead of sending
tax dollars to support a building 18 miles away. When the Three Rivers
Veterans’ Memorial Building was constructed a few years later, it
became the community center for an array of functions.
This was the sole reason that taxpayers consented to this
local district — the promise of the building that came with it.
With this building, Three Rivers for the second time became the beneficiary
of one of California’s unique contributions to government. A “special
district” was formed solely to manage the facility.
As of 2000, there were 3,361 special districts that applied
focused services from airports to zoos in specifically defined areas (unlike
counties and cities that provide services throughout their boundaries).
In the small town of Three Rivers, there are three special districts —
memorial (since 1960s), cemetery (since 1940), community services (since
1970s) — that provide specific services that the local population
has deemed necessary.
In an unincorporated area such as Three Rivers, special districts
are vital because they tailor services to local demand. Without special
districts, decisions, funding, and facilities would be at the discretion
of county government.
LOSS OF FUNDING
That the Three Rivers Memorial District has made it this
long without turning to taxpayers directly is commendable. Special districts
have faced tough financial times for more than 25 years.
Before Proposition 13 (1977-78), special districts received
$945 million from property taxes; in 1978-79, the property tax revenues
dropped to $532 million, a loss of almost 50 percent.
Responding to this financial hardship, the state Legislature
created the Special District Augmentation Fund (SDAF) to provide a supplemental
income for special districts. The state government sent state money to
the SDAF in each county based on a formula in state law.
The county supervisors, in turn, allocated the SDAF money
to the special districts within their counties. Concurrently, the State
took over a greater percentage of funding for schools from local governments
to help local governments get through the Proposition 13 transition.
This practice lasted from 1978 to 1992. Faced with huge state
budget deficits in 1992-93 and 1993-94, state officials shifted almost
$4 billion annually in property taxes from local governments (cities,
counties, special districts, and redevelopment agencies) to an Educational
Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) in each county.
The property-tax revenue in the ERAF supports schools. ERAF
helps the state government fulfill its constitutional duty to fund schools.
When the Legislature abolished the SDAF in 1993-94, the state
transferred $244 million in special-district property-tax revenues to
schools. Because non-enterprise special districts (those who don’t
collect fees) rely almost entirely on property-tax revenues, many were
fiscally devastated as a result of the ERAF funding shifts.
Although state legislators have granted some partial relief
to special districts, ERAF’s fiscal consequences remain especially
harsh for non-enterprise districts. Currently, the ERAF issue remains
So, basically, the question is not about $23 a year for a
local special district, but instead about where the rest of our tax dollars
are going that were supposed to support it in the first place.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF
A ‘MEMORIAL’ BUILDING
Preserving the Three Rivers Memorial Building at district
taxpayers’ expense is understandably a difficult decision.
First of all, it is no longer the only venue for events in the community.
Unlike a half-century ago, today there are other options in Three Rivers
for certain events.
So is the local memorial building dispensable? With a full-service
kitchen, stage, bar, large and small meeting rooms, indoor restrooms,
two outdoor patios, barbecue, and well-manicured landscape, it still provides
an unparalleled gathering place for specific events and remains an incredible
asset to the community.
Just imagine what a few upgrades — aesthetic, technological, etc.
— could do to enhance this 40-something-year-old facility.
Maintaining the memorial building as a local public-events
venue makes economic sense because the facility is a draw to groups of
people who will also spend their money elsewhere in town — lodging,
dining, shopping, gas, and other services.
Most importantly, as Americans, we have a duty to never forget
the sentiment of an entire nation that was the impetus for the development
of memorial buildings in the first place. The movement began after World
War I and really took hold following World War II.
Americans paid a debt of gratitude to all those who fought
in those wars. Various communities said thank you in perpetuity by constructing
buildings in honor of everyone who went to war — to those who came
home and especially, to those who did not.
It was important then; it should continue to be a priority.
Finally, on a personal note, as I was driving to the Three
Rivers Memorial Building last November 2, I was thinking out loud on how
I would vote on the current attempt for a parcel tax.
The last thing I wanted was a higher property tax bill because,
within a few years, I will be paying college tuition for two and, thus,
my spending habits have become quite conservative. But my son was accompanying
me on this trip and just by being in his presence I realized that there
is no way to vote but “yes” on issues that rely on local taxpayers
for the betterment of the community.
I realized that this issue is not just about me and my use of the memorial
building, but rather ensuring that I am sustaining it for the next generation.
In addition, my vote would also fulfill my obligation to teach my children
to vote with their conscience rather than their bank account.
I have learned over the years that hording my money is not
the key to being “rich.” Riches come in many forms, one being
the quality of life for one and all — locally and globally —
in this generation and those that will come.
Please vote YES on local Measure C. --sbe
APRIL 8, 2005
Welcome, jazz fans! It
seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the 2004 finale, and now
here it is, Jazzaffair 2005. During my favorite weekend of the year, I
often wonder how I landed in Three Rivers and in the publisher’s
chair at the local newspaper office.
It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it (and I’m
not kidding when I say that). My assignment again this week: to cover
one of the premier small-venue jazz festivals on the West Coast or anywhere
for the matter.
For the last five years, the weeks and days leading up to
the Thursday night Recognition Night opener have settled into somewhat
of a routine. Unfortunately, I don’t usually get to be there Thursday
night at Lions Arena because there are last-minute details to ensure that
this newspaper performs its Jazzaffair role.
Not only have we been responsible for the official program
the last five years, more importantly, we provide the visitors with a
glimpse into what life is like in a town that doesn’t have traffic
lights or a McDonalds and that ebbs and flows with the natural rhythms
of the Kaweah River.
It’s obvious that hosting Jazzaffair is very important
to this community and, in one way or another, touches all who live in
As a newspaper, this is our 11th Jazzaffair. In that span,
I’ve written myriad related topics, history, news, and jazz idiosyncrasies.
It’s like I prepared to do this job all along in my career as a
Among my earliest memories of Jazzaffair was 1995 and experiencing
then-leader Al Smith’s High Sierra opening set Friday night at the
Memorial Building. Jean Kittrell’s outfit followed the host band
and in those days featured Jimmy Haislip on trombone and, just like this
weekend, Red Lehr on sousaphone.
Another evening’s final set was reserved for the Alamo
City Jazz Band from San Antonio, Texas. There were only a hardcore few
left for the last set and the Texans didn’t disappoint playing one
rousing New Orleans-style performance.
I was hooked. But my love for Jazzaffair was natural because
I had been a fan of jazz since the 1970s. By 1978, I made the New Orleans
connection when I spent a few nights in the French Quarter.
At the time, I was relocating to Southern California after
graduating with a history degree from Florida International University
in Miami. I was en route solo with my clothes and a trunk full of books
and not in a hurry to start that new job in the Los Angeles area.
After watching an incredible Louis Armstrong look-alike contest
on Bourbon Street, I garnered some standing-room-only in Preservation
Hall. The Hall wasn’t so much for tourists only like it is today.
There were some old masters up on the stage, and some of their peers and
protégés were in the audience.
That night, it was members and alumni from Papa Dejan’s
old Olympia Brass Band. They were black, beautiful cats dressed in white
shirts, and they played the very essence of New Orleans jazz — trumpet
marches, Creole trombone tunes, amazing clarinet solos, barrelhouse and
stride piano, and oh that banjo — rhythmic, but with some finger-pickin’
I remember not knowing exactly what I was experiencing at
the time (I later figured out it was traditional New Orleans-style jazz),
but was totally stunned by how each musician was equally adept at a solo
or playing a part in the group’s tight, collective sound. This is
precisely what the musicians of Jazzaffair do and is essentially the jazz
tradition they all work so hard to preserve.
A Jazzaffair audience at our cozy venues can really get up
close and personal with some of the finest jazz musicians of our time.
We can see, hear, and feel the music and, most importantly, celebrate
right here in Three Rivers what some call the only truly-American art
form — jazz.
MARCH 4, 2005
10: The good,
and the ugly
the news and raise hell.
--19th century news mantra
This month marks the
10th anniversary of The Kaweah Commonwealth.
On my calendar for this week in March 1995 is scrawled in
red marking pen, “Hell Week.” I’ve saved that page and
have never forgotten what was endured in order to put out the first issue
of the newly revived Commonwealth on March 1, 1995, nor will we forget
how far we’ve come since that time.
As a business owner and publisher with my husband, the past
10 years with The Kaweah Commonwealth has been a life-changing experience.
If I were to chart these years on a graph, they would look a bit like
the stock market — lots of ups, many downs, some straight lines
but, overall, trending upward.
We had moved to Three Rivers from Southern California in
April 1993. I was raised in Three Rivers and it was our goal to provide
our children with the same wholesome upbringing.
We both loved our well-paying jobs, but we left them behind
in exchange for a higher quality of life for our children. In an effort
to not only live in Three Rivers, but work here as well, we became involved
with and eventually purchased the former Sequoia Sentinel.
This career was not something we had dreamed of nor even
planned. It instead had more to do with, I think, destiny and fate.
We made the decision to purchase the community newspaper
because we knew Three Rivers was a unique place and felt that the weekly
publication could do more to reflect that to both residents and visitors.
At the time, people who we queried were mostly apathetic or indifferent
about the Three Rivers newspaper and we made a commitment to change that
What we didn’t know is that this goal wouldn’t
be accomplished in the first issue, or even the first 50 issues. The learning
curve on this job was a long, uphill climb.
We handed over payment and, in exchange, were given a blank
canvas and required to fill it in within a few days. And then, when that
was done, we had to do it again and again and again.
Meeting the publication deadline that first week required
several days with no sleep. This was accomplished while also caring for
our children, then ages four and six.
In those first frantic months, we were like deer caught in
the headlights. There were so many people who assisted and supported us
but, sadly, this was overshadowed by some who never gave us a chance,
didn’t trust us, or would not cut us a break.
Publishing this newspaper has proved almost too challenging
at times but, we soon discovered, John and I both thrive on challenge.
We fell into our separate job descriptions rather naturally and have found
the greatest reward to be in the personal and professional lessons we
have learned from going through the most difficult experiences.
This is not a job that gets left at the office when it’s
5 p.m., so it has been significant in shaping our family dynamic. We’re
all a little more high-strung than we may have been otherwise but, I tell
you, our kids are very informed about their community.
We have never intentionally angered or hurt anyone, so we
are always surprised when we receive communication from someone who is
livid because of the interpretation of one paragraph or one sentence or
even just one word in an article. Just remember, we disseminate so much
information each week that it’s mind-boggling, literally.
Over the years, dissatisfaction and resentment have been
expressed anonymously, from others we have never met, and even from those
we considered our friends. Since we never publish a news story with malice
or intent to personally harm anyone, such angry feedback is like a punch
in the stomach — it’s that intense.
Then again, there are times when we write what we think is
a blockbuster piece of journalism and don’t receive one single word
of praise or criticism. Some weeks, we just have to wonder if anyone is
reading at all.
Although we have taken editorial positions on many issues
that are important to us, we are open-minded and intelligent enough to
know there are two sides, at least, to every issue. We have never hesitated
to print opposing views and those contrary to ours in the newspaper, and
it has made us better people as well as taught us and our readers so much.
Consider this: There are those who could publish a newspaper
in Three Rivers — and have in the past — who wouldn’t
be so impartial and would solely present their own agenda and that, folks,
is freedom of the press as well.
We’ve learned from our mistakes, which means we should
be really smart by now because, oh boy, have there been a lot of mistakes.
Let me count the ways: headline misprints; typos, omissions, transposed
phone numbers, incorrect dates, typos, misinterpreted facts, misspellings,
misstatements, last lines disappearing, dark photos, photos with wrong
captions, upside-down photos, lost photos, typos and, the worst, committing
a complete error in judgment.
Mistakes will happen, and they do, on a weekly basis. When
they do, we correct them, quickly and apologetically. But mostly, because
so much thought, care, and discussion goes into the most controversial
of issues, we stand by everything we print.
Publishing a newspaper in a small-town creates its own challenges
that a larger newspaper doesn’t have to consider. There’s
the two of us and we have to answer for everything that’s printed.
We can’t publish a controversial story and expect to
remain unrecognized as writers at the big-city newspapers can do. And
we usually know the subjects of each story.
To that end, we put our name on every issue. If we don’t feel our
writing is worthy of that, then it doesn’t get published.
We ask that contributors uphold that same sense of responsibility,
so nothing, including a letter to the editor, is anonymous.
Over the years, we have received many letters from unknown
sources asking us to investigate certain aspects of Kaweah Country life.
But, think about it, if the writer won’t put their name on a letter
to us or make their complaint public for fear of reprisal, then how fair
is it to ask us to put the complaint in writing with our names on it?
This is a newspaper and we realize the responsibility that
comes with that, but the rules are changed a bit when it comes to small-town
journalism. After all, we have to live here, too.
When you think about it, there are no prerequisite skills
required to buy and publish a newspaper. Anyone who can pay for it is
allowed to do it. That has actually been the demise of many attempts at
a Three Rivers newspaper in the past.
What we brought to the job were writing skills, a business
sense, an immense knowledge of Three Rivers and the region, a dedication
to the community, and a strong work ethic. Our goal has always been to
report the local news — the mainstream, the offbeat, the hilarious,
We require of ourselves to uphold a high standard of accuracy,
professionalism, morals, and principles while, at the same time, having
to maintain our own peace of mind during events that may involve great
suffering or trauma.
It is also in our hands to provide a narrative of our time
and the many people, incidents, elements, interests, conflicts, and developments
that make up Kaweah Country life. After all, in a century and beyond,
where are people going to look first when researching Three Rivers’s
past? The community’s newspaper, of course.
* * *
Today, the paid circulation of the newspaper is more than
seven times what it was when we bought it. The Classifieds/public notices
have grown from a few inches to an entire page.
The Letters to the Editor page is unprecedented for a small-town
newspaper. We receive dozens of letters each month, and that is a commendable
statement on the vitality and healthy exchange of communication within
The reputation of the Commonwealth has become such that there
are no regular ad sales at all (except for special publications); advertisers
come to us. Worthy of mention, however, are the 15 advertisers —
nine display ads and six Kaweah Network advertisers — who have been
with this paper for the last 10 years.
We can’t stress enough that a newspaper, any newspaper,
can’t survive in a community without a loyal ad base. It’s
these advertisers that ensure you have a paper each week and, in turn,
are making an investment in the entire community of Three Rivers. They
are deserving of the readers’ support.
For our part, we attribute our success to hard work, honest
business practices, credible news reporting, and an intelligent, faithful
readership. We are constantly thinking of ways to capture our readers’
attention — some ideas work, some disappear.
We have seen great changes in technology in the past 10 years.
We started by cutting and pasting copy onto layout sheets. Now, for better
or worse, the newspaper is sent digitally to the printer.
And to join a cultural shift from print toward electronic
media, we are in our third year of publishing selected portions of the
newspaper online via The Kaweah Commonwealth’s website and, in doing
so, have received feedback from people worldwide.
But does advancing technology mean the erosion of community
newspapers? Probably not because, after all, we print on paper the things
you won’t read, see, or hear anywhere else!
These days, we have fallen into some semblance of a rhythm
in publishing the newspaper week after week.
For the most part, I enjoy my routine of getting up each
day before dawn and walking to work… which entails going downstairs
to my home office.
february 18, 2005
In this wartime era of
terrorism and in a world beset by starvation, disease, and immorality,
a man who was born 257 years ago on this week and faced countless challenges
in his 67-year life reminds us that etiquette and good manners are timeless
in a civil society.
By the time he was 16 years of age, George Washington had
hand-copied the 110 Rules of Civility and memorized them, as was assigned
to schoolchildren at the time. Washington’s handwritten copy of
Rules of Civility is now in the Library of Congress.
Though Washington faced sorrow, cold, hunger, persecution,
and violence in his life, he based all his actions and conversations on
these simple guidelines.
To pay tribute to George Washington on what is, on February
22, his 257th birthday, here is a selection of the rules by which he lived
his life, preceded by a contemporary translation:
TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT:
1st. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect
to those that are present.
2nd. When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body not usually
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS. DO NOT EMBARRASS OTHERS:
5th. If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately;
and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before
your face and turn aside.
6th. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, speak not
when you should hold your peace, walk not on when others stop.
8th. At play and at fire its good manners to give place to the last comer,
and affect not to speak louder than Ordinary.
22d. Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were
DON’T DRAW ATTENTION TO YOURSELF:
24th. Do not laugh too loud or too much at any public spectacle.
28th. If anyone comes to speak to you while you are sitting, stand up
though he be your inferior...
35th. Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.
38th. In visiting the sick, do not presently play the physician if you
be not knowing therein.
39th. In writing or speaking, give to every person his due title according
to his degree and the custom of the place.
DO NOT ARGUE WITH YOUR SUPERIOR. SUBMIT IDEAS WITH HUMILITY:
40th. Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your
judgment to others with modesty.
41st. Undertake not to teach your equal in the art himself professes;
it savors of arrogance.
BE KIND AND THOUGHTFUL:
43rd. Do not express joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary
passion will aggravate his misery.
WHEN A PERSON DOES THEIR BEST AND FAILS, DO NOT CRITICIZE:
44th. When a man does all he can though it succeeds not well, blame not
him that did it.
WHEN ADMINISTERING CRITICISM:
45th. Being to advise or reprehend anyone, consider whether it ought to
be in public or in private; presently, or at some other time, in what
terms to do it, and in reproving, show no sign of choler, but do it with
all sweetness and mildness.
WHEN RECEIVING CRITICISM:
46th. Take all admonitions thankfully in what time or place so ever given,
but afterwards not being culpable, take a time and place convenient to
let him know it that gave them.
DO NOT MAKE FUN OF WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO OTHERS:
47th. Mock not nor jest at anything of importance...
WATCH YOUR MOUTH:
48th. Wherein you reprove another, be unblameable yourself, for example
is more prevalent than precepts.
49th. Use no reproachful language against any one, neither curse nor revile.
DON’T BELIEVE ALL YOU HEAR:
50th. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.
CLEANLINESS AND FASHION:
51st. Wear not your cloths foul, unripe or dusty, but see they be brush'd
once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any uncleanness.
52nd. In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature, rather
than to procure admiration. Keep to the fashion of your equals such as
are civil and orderly with respect to times and places.
54th. Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you
be well deck'd....
ASSOCIATE WITH GOOD PEOPLE:
56th. Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own
reputation; 'tis better to be alone than in bad company.
ALWAYS ALLOW REASON TO GOVERN YOUR ACTIONS:
58th. Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for 'tis a sign
of a tractable and commendable nature: and in all causes of passion admit
reason to govern.
BE A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL:
59th. Never express anything unbecoming, nor act against the rules moral
before your inferiors.
61st. Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave and learn'd men
nor very difficult questions or subjects among the Ignorant...
62nd. Speak not of doleful things in a time of mirth or at the table;
speak not of melancholy things as death and wounds, and if others mention
them, change if you can the discourse, and tell not your dreams but to
your intimate friend.
BE SENSITIVE TO OTHERS:
63rd. A man ought not to value himself of his achievements, or rare qualities
of wit; much less of his riches, virtue, or kindred.
64th. Break not a jest where none take pleasure in mirth and laugh not
aloud, nor at all without occasion, deride no man’s misfortune,
though there seem to be some cause.
65th. Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest and scoff
at none although they give occasion.
GIVE OTHERS THEIR DO AND DON’T BE OVERBEARING:
67th. Detract not from others; neither be excessive in commanding.
DO NOT GIVE UNSOLICITED ADVICE:
68th. Go not thither, where you know not, whether you shall be welcome
or not. Give not advice without being ask'd and, when desired, do it briefly.
DON’T TAKE SIDES:
69th. If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained;
and be not obstinate in your own opinion. In things indifferent be of
the major side.
DO NOT CORRECT OTHERS:
70th. Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to parents
DON’T STARE, AND THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK:
71st. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of others and ask not how they
73rd. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out
your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.
76th. While you are talking, point not with your finger at him of whom
you discourse nor approach too near him to whom you talk, especially to
77th. Whisper not in the company of others.
DON’T MAKE CONVERSATION ABOUT YOURSELF:
78th. Make no comparisons and if any of the company be commended for any
brave act of virtue, commend not another for the same.
GET THE FACTS STRAIGHT:
79th. Be not apt to relate news if you know not the truth thereof.
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS:
81st. Be not curious to know the affairs of others nor approach those
that speak in private.
KEEP YOUR PROMISES:
82nd. Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your
IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY…:
87th. Be attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn
what others say.
88th. Be not tedious in discourse, make not many digressions, nor repeat
often the same manner of discourse.
DON’T BE A BACKSTABBER:
89th. Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.
MIND YOUR TABLE MANNERS:
90th. Being set at meat, scratch not, neither spit, cough, or blow your
nose except there's a necessity for it.
91st. Make no show of taking great delight in your victuals; feed not
with greediness; cut your bread with a knife, lean not on the table, and
neither find fault with what you eat.
95th. Put not your meat to your mouth with your knife in your hand neither
spit forth the stones of any fruit pie upon a dish nor cast anything under
96th. It's unbecoming to stoop much to one’s meat. Keep your fingers
clean and when foul, wipe them on a corner of your table napkin.
DON’T CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN:
97th. Put not another bite into your mouth till the former be swallowed.
Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.
98th. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you
while you are drinking.
99th. Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily.
100th. Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife,
but if others do it, let it be done with a pick tooth.
101st. Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.
103rd. Lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.
104th. It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and
fall to meat first.
DON’T TALK WITH YOUR MOUTH FULL:
107th. If others talk at the table, be attentive, but talk not with meat
in your mouth.
108th. When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously and
with reverence, honor, and obey your natural parents although they be
109th. Let your recreations be manful, not sinful.
IT’S WHAT’S INSIDE THAT COUNTS:
110th. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial
fire called conscience.
— Finis —
your own business
by John Elliott
In Kaweah Country, changes
in the local business scene are typical for the first quarter of any year.
There are closings and openings as entrepreneurs, for myriad reasons,
try to make a go of it in Three Rivers or somewhere near the Highway 198
corridor. Some are success stories while others learn that maybe the grass
is greener elsewhere.
In general, the future looks bright. Why not make a local
investment as a means to live and work in Three Rivers, one of California’s
last best places?
Population growth in the region is projected during the next
decade and, of course, Sequoia National Park remains a viable attraction,
though the character of its visitation has greatly changed in the last
Be sure to watch for the April issue of Sunset magazine,
due on newsstands in March. It will contain an interesting article that
describes how others view Three Rivers. The writer, who gathered material
on two separate visits, depicts Three Rivers as an outstanding, off-the-beaten-path,
No doubt, a few more Three Rivers reservations will be booked
by some first-timers who use the venerable glossy publication to plan
their vacations. If the thorough effort by Sunset’s fact-checker
is any indication, it should be an informative, intriguing piece.
No matter when the visitors come or how many, Three Rivers
remains a quirky, finicky place to own a business. In our 10 years of
covering Kaweah Country, never before have we seen more closings, more
businesses changing owners, and more preparing to do something new and
different for the approaching season.
Last Sunday evening, after one final “blowout”
sale, Candy and Marcos Guzman, owners of Whitewater Contemporary Art and
Crafts, shuttered their gallery and store located between Three Rivers
Chevron and Cort Gallery on the river. Candy said the couple had decided
to return to Cambria, the place from whence they had come.
In 2000, the Guzmans rented the former digs of Angelina’s
Restaurant because they had been enchanted by the Kaweah River. That enchantment
eventually turned to a seasonal annoyance as they became caught up in
the local trespassing to access Slicky situation.
As a showplace of a variety of arts and crafts, the Whitewater
gallery did a creditable job. Jim Mathias of Three Rivers, who displayed
some of his woodworks there, said the shop had one of the best wood-turning
collections to be found anywhere in California. Marcos, who worked in
the construction trades as a carpenter, had a genuine affinity for wood.
Marcos is also deserving of credit for starting the annual
Polar Dip at the Gateway Restaurant on New Year’s Day. Since he
and a handful of hearty souls that included Petit Pinson took the inaugural
plunge in 2002, a growing legion has joined in each year in what has proven
to be a fun way of shaking the effects of too much New Year’s Eve.
Dedicated to making Three Rivers even more scenic is the
newly opened TRU Salon and Day Spa. A new salon has for sometime been
a dream of TaMara Dutro, formerly of the Cutting Room. TaMara, who developed
quite a following in nine years at her familiar Cutting Room chair, finally
took the leap into a new occupation as a small-business owner.
Through all it takes to open the doors, TaMara has had the
unwavering support of her husband, Scott, and her father, who helped remodel
the former Epicenter Market (in the rear of the Century 21 complex) into
an attractive beauty shop.
“Opening my own
place is something I’ve wanted for quite some time,” Tamara
said. “What we’re doing here will appeal to our regulars,
new clients, and guys who just want to come in for a haircut.”
There are several more new businesses that are now open or
gearing up to open soon, including an “authentic” taco stand,
a cyber café, a souvenir shop, and more. Stay tuned!
february 11, 2005
Gras: Let 'em party
king cake too
by John Elliott
As I write this on the
morning of Fat Tuesday (February 8) while monitoring a live video feed
from the French Quarter in New Orleans, I can’t help but wonder
how all those wacky tourists ended up at the 256th Mardi Gras. The New
Orleans celebration, the largest in this country, certainly has its bawdry
side, but it annually attracts more than a million visitors in a season
when many destinations like Three Rivers are begging for tourists.
Ironically, when the old Creole carnival of the 18th century
waned, it was eventually revived by a group of white, wealthy Americans
who resided in the Garden District of New Orleans. These early pranksters,
calling themselves the Mistick Krewe of Comus, first appeared in 1857
on floats after dark illuminated by torches. (Comus, and the krewe in
general, had a connection historically to Mobile, Ala., which had some
sort of Mardi Gras-like celebration as early as 1831.)
The Mistick Krewe was soon being mimicked in New Orleans
by other krewes, giving the celebration an essence of theatre on wheels.
It wasn’t long before pompous parades presided over by kings became
a local Mardi Gras tradition.
It was the Twelfth Night Revelers, who in 1871, began the
practice of throwing trinkets from floats. The practice disappeared for
a time but was later revived in the 20th century. The aim of the krewes
on floats is not just to entertain but also to give souvenirs away —
mostly cheap yet colorful plastic beads in the Mardi Gras official colors
of purple, gold, and green — to the throng of revelers lining the
Among the most valuable throws are the hand-painted coconuts
tossed by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club krewes in the Jackson
Avenue/St. Charles Avenue parades. These black krewes affiliated with
Zulu first appeared in 1909.
Preceding King Zulu were the Mardi Gras Indians, who first
organized parades in the 1880s. Black street gangs masquerading as Plains
Indians started these krewes. The first of these, called the Creole Wild
West, were followed into Mardi Gras annals by others like the Wild Tchoupitoulas,
Yellow Pocahontas, and the Wild Magnolias.
Chiefs of these Mardi Gras Indians — like Chief Jolly,
Tootie Montana, and Bo Dollis — have become legendary and inspired
an entire genre of Mardi Gras music. The Neville Brothers, one of New
Orleans’s all-time favorite rhythm-and-blues bands, sing a heart-warming
anthem that immortalizes the day the hearse took Chief Jolly away.
The ornate costumes and headdresses, and the role of the
Mardi Gras Indians in the parades, have become a source of pride among
New Orleans’s predominantly Black population.
“Mardi Gras Mambo,”
a catchy jazz tune written by Art Neville in 1955 is among the classic
carnival standards. It is a part of the repertoire of Blue Street Jazz
Band, a Fresno outfit that annually plays Jazzaffair in Three Rivers.
Mardi Gras music has become synonymous in recent years with
a funky R&B style. Its most famous proponent and father of Mardi Gras
music is the New Orleans piano legend Professor Longhair.
Traditional jazz remains an important part of the Mardi Gras celebration
but to a lesser extent in the era of modern carnival. In 1949, Louis Armstrong,
a native son, returned to New Orleans and, in Zulu costume, performed
on a Mardi Gras float.
The float on which he was riding broke down and the great
Satchmo just continued to play in the street to the delight of the thousands
who witnessed the impromptu jam session.
Viewed in its context of carnival, Mardi Gras is actually
the culmination of a chain of events and activities that begin January
6. That day, known as King’s Day or Twelfth Night in the Catholic
Church, celebrates the arrival of the three kings at Jesus’s birthplace.
In New Orleans, this symbolic end of Christmas in three centuries
has been considerably paganized and signals the start of Carnival. The
first part of the season is marked by the profusion of king cakes and
invitations to lavish coronation and masquerade balls.
King cake is an oval spongy Danish pastry with gooey icing
topped by purple, gold, and green sugar. It contains a plastic peanut-sized
baby inside. Whoever is served the piece with the baby is supposed to
buy the next cake.
One more tradition, and one in which every Mardi Gras visitor
is expected to respect, is the costume contest. On Fat Tuesday, two famous
civic-sponsored contests are among those held in the French Quarter, offering
prizes for original costumes. Visitors, whether they participate in a
contest or not, are expected to wear a costume for Mardi Gras.
The closest thing to a local Mardi Gras celebration is held
in Fresno the week before in the Tower District, and a Mardi Gras Jazz
Festival (February 10 to 13), sponsored by the Fresno Dixieland Jazz Society.
At this weekend’s jazz event, the 21st annual Mardi Gras festival,
there will be a great lineup of nine bands, including High Sierra Jazz
Band; a king and queen coronation ball; a huge king cake; lavish costume
parades; and merrymaking.
Fresno’s Dixieland Society Mardi Gras 2005 festival
is headquartered at the Radisson Hotel in the downtown district. For ticket
information, call 292-3999. Single-day admissions may be purchased onsite.
and its 3R connections
by John Elliott
It seems irreverent to
be writing about Mardi Gras when so much of this issue is devoted to aid
for the tsunami victims. But, in truth, more than a million people are
preparing right now to descend on New Orleans, La., for the zaniest party
in the world.
Mardi Gras, which this year occurs on February 8, is always celebrated
on “Fat Tuesday” the day and night before Ash Wednesday. That
Wednesday, in the Roman Catholic faith and for Christians everywhere,
marks the beginning of Lent or the six weeks preceding Easter Sunday.
So how then did Mardi Gras, the epitome of irreverence and
everything bawdy, come to be synonymous with New Orleans? The answer to
that question lies in the history, the people, and the culture of that
unique crescent-shaped city situated in the delta of the Mississippi River.
In Three Rivers, we have a direct link to all that history
and culture — the High Sierra Jazz Band. That’s because these
humble purveyors of traditional jazz play the music of New Orleans.
In part, the complexity of this relationship is why some people who hear
this music — and by this music, I mean mostly Dixieland and classic
jazz — don’t immediately grasp the significance of what these
California musicians are playing or doing musically.
In other words, when we hear these guys in Three Rivers, it’s slightly
out of their New Orleans or Dixie context, hence the term “trad”
or traditional jazz. In certain ways, High Sierra Jazz Band has remained
more in tune to the roots of jazz than many of the more famous New Orleans
musicians playing today.
Jazz actually began in a red-light district in New Orleans.
I’ll tell that story when we get closer to Jazzaffair (April 7-10),
because it furnishes such a great way to understand and appreciate our
own festival, one of the finest small-venue gatherings in the land.
For now, some history of New Orleans — often called
“the only truly European city in America” — will help
us understand the context of Mardi Gras, the place itself, and this incredible
local link we have with one of the most musical and soulful places on
on the mighty Mississippi
This year, our family of four took the New Year’s cruise
with Jazzdagen Tours aboard the American Queen luxury steamboat. The entertainment
included High Sierra Jazz Band and a six-night itinerary that started
and ended in New Orleans.
The American Queen, owned and operated by Delta Steamboat
Company, a subsidiary of Delaware North Companies, is truly a grand and
most fitting way to arrive in New Orleans.
In the 19th century, during the heyday of steamboating, thousands
of passengers arrived in much the same fashion. The American Queen, with
its 455-passenger capacity, was built in 1995 and recreates the best of
the historic paddlewheelers, albeit larger and more modern than its predecessors.
Mark Twain, who for four years worked as a steamboat pilot
on the Mississippi River, said that the best steamboats were superior
to even the most elegant accommodations and dining to be found on land.
As for cruising, steamboating — in terms of its sightseeing opportunities,
history lessons, and the cultural experience of the region — is
by far the best bang for the traveler’s buck.
The cruise traveled upriver from New Orleans to Natchez,
Miss., and back. Along the route, there were stops at plantations in Acadian
country, visits to historic river towns like Natchez, and New Year’s
Eve in the bustling capital city of Baton Rouge. Civil War buffs should
choose the itinerary that includes Vicksburg and add another day to the
Acadians — French-speaking people who had been expelled
from Nova Scotia by the English in the latter half of 17th century —
made their way to southern Louisiana in several expeditions. By the census
of 1787, more than 1,500 were living in the hinterland of New Orleans.
Today, the descendants of these refugees from Acady are still living somewhat
primitively in these Delta districts, but are better known by their corrupted
name — Cajuns.
Add to all this southern flavor and river history the nonstop
musical entertainment on the boat and a Jazzdagen cruise on the Mississippi
is very difficult to beat. It’s among those things in life I think
should not be missed, like snorkeling in a tropical paradise, a pilgrimage
to our nation’s capitol, the Alaskan wilderness and, of course,
at least one Mardi Gras.
Most first-time visitors to New Orleans are surprised to
learn that, no, the city is not situated on the Gulf of Mexico at the
mouth of the Mississippi. The river actually flows another 90 miles to
where the fresh and saltwater exchange.
The mighty Mississippi River and its tributaries flow 3,100
miles and drain approximately 40 percent of the continental U.S. On the
average, the river is a mile wide and flows typically through its Louisiana
section at 513,000 cubic feet per second (that’s 100 times as much
water daily as flows during one or two days at spring peak flow on the
The founding fathers of this nation realized early on that
a port situated strategically near the mouth of the Mississippi River
was indispensable to westward expansion. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803
not only made that expansion possible, but by adding the Mississippi River
drainage, it became the determining factor in the growth and future development
of 31 states that were situated along it banks.
To be continued…
JANUARY 14, 2005
A historical perspective
by John Elliott
It seems appropriate
to be writing about the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that killed more than 158,000
people and left many thousands homeless while wondering whether the warm,
torrential rains of the last 24 hours will bring floodwaters down the
Kaweah canyon. As of Sunday morning, Jan. 9, public safety personnel in
Three Rivers were asking NPS rangers in the parks to be on the lookout
for a wall of water.
But flood waters that could endanger low-lying areas of Three
Rivers are more likely to come in a dramatic rise in the channel like
events of Nov. 8, 2002, and Jan. 2, 1997, not in a wave that suddenly
materializes from rain melting snow. A half century ago, a wall of water
did come down the Middle Fork — on Dec. 23, 1955 — but that
was caused by debris that backed up behind the Dinely Bridge, suddenly
smashing the concrete and steel span.
When all that pent-up energy was released, it caused a wave
— or wall of water — estimated at around 30 feet, to crash
into the North Fork Bridge and topple that structure too. Nearly every
building in the current floodplain was swept away in what has been dubbed
a 100-year event, the worst in recorded history for these parts.
The release of that pent-up energy associated with the 1955
flood is a good way of understanding the recent tsunami. When those tectonic
plates shifted and caused that monster 9.0 earthquake deep beneath the
Java Sea, it released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs,
according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Giant forces that had been building up deep in the Earth
for centuries were released suddenly on December 26, literally shaking
the entire planet. The violent shaking triggered a series of waves that
sped across the Indian Ocean at 500 m.p.h. or roughly the speed of a jetliner.
The actual epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude quake was under
the Indian Ocean near the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
A violent geological event is not new for this part of the world but a
trans-tsunami, or “train wave,” that travels 3,000 miles to
the African coast is rare indeed.
The last time an event of such proportion occurred was in
1883, when the region was violently shaken by the eruption of the volcano,
Krakatoa, the first globally-experienced disaster of the modern age. When
the famous volcano erupted, eyewitnesses wired accounts to all the world’s
major newspapers virtually as it was happening.
Of course, Morse code was a far cry from the graphic images
— both professional and amateur — being broadcast of the recent
tsunami on news networks worldwide. But there are striking similarities
and connections in the two events that occurred 121 years apart. Tsunamis
from the 1883 eruption killed 36,000 coastal inhabitants and when the
new volcano, Anak Krakatoa, that is now growing upon the site of the old
erupts eventually, that death toll, even with a warning system, will likely
be many more times than in 1883.
The fascinating scientific history of the Javanese region
is told in a recent New York Times bestselling book, Krakatoa— The
Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883. The book, by Simon Winchester,
was published in 2003 and will undoubtedly experience a resurgence of
Simon Winchester, an Oxford-trained geologist, has created
a compelling work of nonfiction explaining how the region is a living
laboratory for studying how the planet is being re-made both physically
and from the context of its exotic Muslim culture.
Winchester opens his book with a 1944 quote from W.H. Auden:
At any given instant
All solids dissolve,
no wheels revolve,
And facts have no endurance—
And who knows if it is by design or pure inadvertence
That the Present destroys
its inherited self-importance?
Ironically, I recently read the book, finishing its epilogue
in early December, a couple of weeks before the Christmas weekend tsunami.
The book really affected me because it contains some incredible facts,
not the least of which is its very straightforward explanation of plate
I won’t try to explain how two plates colliding caused
the recent 9.0 earthquake that triggered the deadly tsunami, but simply
stated, it was pressure, or steam and magma being released from deep within
the Earth’s core. The very same kind of energy was released just
a few miles away in 1883 when Krakatoa exploded.
Winchester also explains the significance of the Wallace
Line, named by Alfred Russell Wallace, who also has an oceanic trench
off Java named after him and a 13,300-foot peak in the Sierra Nevada.
Wallace’s line is an imaginary north-south demarcation that runs
just east of Borneo-Bali, only a few miles east of the recent quake’s
Wallace formulated the line while doing research on the origin
of species in what was then (1850s) the Dutch East Indies. He found that
Australian fauna like cockatoos and kangaroos were extant east of the
line; to the west were Indo-European thrushes, monkeys, and deer.
Wallace forwarded his findings to Charles Darwin who soon
thereafter published his Origin of the Species. Only recently have evolutionists
begun to credit Wallace for being the impetus behind Darwin’s enduring
pronouncement of tenets like the survival of the fittest.
What Wallace realized well ahead of his time was that the
reason these two biological regions had so nearly merged and yet remained
so distinct was due to geology. He was, in fact, offering sound evidence
for a theory of continental drift that left these Java islands in isolation
but may have been a part of a larger continent or continents eons ago.
Winchester also narrates the region’s Euro-American
colonial history from the spice trade to the U.S.-inspired coup that followed
Indonesia’s independence from Dutch rule in 1949. Much of Sumatra
and Java had already become Islamic by the beginning of the 15th century
and local people, according to the author, were acutely sensitive to the
strange ways of the European infidels.
The political legacy of Dutch colonialism was further complicated
by U.S. intervention ca. 1960, which was deemed necessary to ensure that
Indonesia did not become a Communist nation.
Clearly, the recent events are related to the disasters of
the past and there are many lessons to be learned from Krakatoa and the
Warning systems can help but we must educate those in harm’s
way what not to do and how to be prepared. That task would be much easier
if Easterners did not innately harbor such distrust of Westerners.
JANUARY 7, 2005
of the Asian tsumani:
assistance of care with care
by Sarah Elliott
The worst natural disaster to ever occur struck on the morning of December
26, 2004, when a 9.0 earthquake occurred. The epicenter of the massive
quake was just off the Indonesian island of Sumatra and hundreds of aftershocks
have been experienced since.
This seismic event spawned massive ocean swells that have killed an unprecedented
155,000 people and left millions more without clean water, food, or shelter.
The tsunamis have devastated coastlines, homes and villages, tourist resorts,
and entire islands in the countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Burma,
Thailand, Pakistan, Malaysia, as well as other areas in the Bay of Bengal
region of southeast Asia.
ZERO DEGREES OF SEPARATION
As the death toll continues to rise by the thousands daily, those surviving
the catastrophic event now face the threat of disease and infection, including
typhoid fever and malaria. In addition, thousands are still searching
for family members and friends, whether dead or alive, who were swept
away by the tidal wave, some literally pulled from their loved one’s
The effect of this devastating catastrophe has left no one untouched.
It has created an awareness that globally we are not separated by countries,
races, or religions, but instead are one world, one people.
WORLD TO THE RESCUE
And as the relief efforts move into full swing, it is important to not
let the spirit of giving get in the way of common sense. As with any tragedy,
there are those already designing schemes on how to profit from it.
Therefore, the general public is encouraged to contribute to tsunami relief
efforts, but donors are urged to use caution when giving to avoid potential
Potential donors should know two things before they give to any organization:
1. Is the organization they’re supporting legitimate; and,
2. Will the funds they’re giving be used in an appropriate way,
consistent with their intent?
Regarding the latter point, some organizations might be concentrating
on relief efforts only in certain countries or emphasizing certain aspects
of the relief efforts. In some cases, charities may have already received
enough funding for their relief projects and may encourage giving to a
general fund, where the money might be used for future disaster relief.
This is okay as long as the charity is upfront about how your money will
be used. If you want your money to go to a certain country or particular
effort, make sure you know exactly what the organization is doing and
who or how it is helping.
Many national and international charities are household names. However,
the Internet has allowed individuals and smaller groups to organize local
efforts that are equally worthy, but not as well-known.
Even those you haven’t heard of, the majority of organizations who
are working on tsunami relief efforts are legitimate. But there are always
a few unscrupulous scam artists who would seek to take advantage of your
generosity to make a quick buck at the expense of others.
—When giving via a website, make sure the site is secure and that
your personal information cannot be seen or stolen by others. Make sure
the website itself is legitimate; sometimes scam artists use similar but
slightly different names or domain names.
—When giving via the phone, obtain a phone number for the charity
and call the number to ensure the number is legitimate.
—Be aware of organizations with similar sounding names. “United
Wayfarer,” for example, sounds similar to “United Way,”
but it may be a completely different charity or simply a fraudulent organization.
—Be suspicious of callers and organizations that talk about having
“tax ID numbers” or other official-sounding information. Lots
of organizations have tax ID numbers but that doesn’t mean they
—Do not give to an organization that promises to have a driver come
immediately to your home or office and pick up a check. That’s usually
a sure sign of fraud.
—Report suspicious activity to your local police and/or state Attorney
really do fly
The author is a friend of Cindy Marinos of Three Rivers. He is about 67
years old and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served in the Vietnam
War, where he was seriously injured in an aircraft crash.
I’m writing from Asia/Thailand, where I have lived for the last
four years. And, at this point in my life, I have no future plans of returning
to the U.S.
I have a nice house/houses here and a position flying a corporate jet
for an English company. I am also flying part time as a bush pilot for
a Thai tourist company.
A bush pilot is a person who flies airplanes in and out of tiny dirt/grass
airstrips that any pilot in his right mind would never do unless he had
once flow for Air America, a subsidiary of the CIA and, at one time, the
largest unknown-best-kept-secret-airline in the world.
It’s all true! We have one flying with us; a Thai guy about 1,000
years old. We use him as an aeronautical chart since Thailand doesn’t
have any maps — aeronautical charts, that is. I actually tried to
get my hands on one and it was dated 1929.
So, like everyone else, I/we use the thousand-year-old-Air-America-Thai-guy-pilot
as a navigation aid. He doesn’t say much, just points out the direction
that we need to fly, and we do.
When he starts to point out dead airplanes smashed into the side of mountains,
we know we’re close to our destination. The dead airplanes act like
a string of final approach marker beacons. These so-called runways, in
name only, are all grass, dirt, mud, and less than 2,000 feet long and
sandwiched into the kind of mountains that hate you, want to eat you,
and oftentimes do.
Why do we do it? Because we can.
My flying takes me all over Asia — as far north as Beijing, China,
and Tokyo, Japan, to the east; Malaysia and Indonesia to the south; and
Burma to the west. We fly to some pretty exotic places that are full of
some pretty exotic people.
Malaysia and Indonesia’s population is made up of 95-percent Muslims.
These are places you want to be cool, keep your wits about you, and your
head, too, if possible.
When I am not flying, I live in a very nice two-story, three-bedroom house
located next to the water on the white beaches of the Gulf of Thailand.
I need to live close to water and real coconut trees. Our house is 2½
hours by car south of Bangkok; by airplane, only 20 minutes.
* * *
And I wrote this before the tsunami struck. At the moment, I’m flying
18 hours a day to the small islands that do not have airstrips.
We’re making it up as we go along. As you can see on your TV, it’s
not good. We do what we can: save those who are savable.
As for me, I continue to fly into and out of those tiny islands; the ones
without airports, to transport the most seriously injured to the nearest
If they can carve us out a makeshift runway 600 to 900 meters, we’ll
figure out a way to land on it. It’s the only thing I do well.
I find myself crying a lot. After you’ve seen dead men, women, and
children hanging out of coconut trees and buried in the piles of rubble,
it does have an effect on you.
I would like to be somewhere else, but I am where I should be. I know