Friday, October 30, 2015


      A chilling seasonal premise-a year to the Presidential election.
      Maybe sleeping gas or sleeping pills are in order, for the candidates or perhaps, mercifully, for the rest of us.  
      These self named debates are a joke. At its inception, it is an attempt by networks to instigate a food fight. The more friction and raised voices, they assume, the better the ratings. Maybe I'll take an early vote and turn them off, until someone hosts a real debate that goes beyond verbal japes and well rehearsed sound bites. There's a lot of substance to explore. Sad it is not being done. It should be. Presidential elections are for adults.
   A couple of interlopers, looking at goodies in the garden but from the wrong side of the fence.
Got my eye on this…
   …should be in a salad, soon!
   7:30 AM on the tennis court, heard something for the first time there-the surf. The courts are a long way from the beach, but the big blue was pounding with such vigor, the roar carried for miles.  
    "You'd think a freeway was nearby," quipped one of the players.
big noise at low tide
    Parting thought on the "debates." They were good debates and insightful, when the League of Women Voters organized and sponsored them. They were designed to illuminate. These recent exercises are more about entertainment and gotcha…would like to see the political media of '60-80's back on the scene. Substance mattered. 

    See you down the trail.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


     It's hard work trying to surface truth, facts and reality. It's tougher when spin, malice and political motivation are part of the landscape. The years I spent as an investigative reporter were brutal. There was never a way to turn it off.
     Now a couple of new films reprise two of the most celebrated and controversial investigations of recent. I plan to see both, but I'm familiar with the reality behind the cinema.
     Spotlight, which details the ordeal of the Boston Globe in breaking the Priest sexual abuse and cover up and Truth, the troubled CBS News investigation of George W. Bush's special treatment as a slacker and no show in his air national guard duty, will give viewers a glimpse into the imperfect world of ferreting truth, or at least getting enough information to make the truth self evident.
     When media seems as devoted to Face book, Twitter and popular culture as it is to hard news, significant stories or investigations, it may be helpful these films open the door on what real journalism involves.
     Dan Rather wrote this weekend he's not happy that a low point in his career is the subject of a film, played by no less than Robert Redford. Though the report was flawed by fraudulent documents, the Truth remained the same. It took a toll on Rather. The members of the Boston Globe team also endured emotional trauma, for simply trying to tell the truth.
     Truth and honest facts can be dangerous. We live in an age when billions are spent to avert our gaze from the truth. Those who seek the facts and try to root out truth, remain my heroes.
     Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican Presidential Candidate is in the pantheon of American Conservatives. There was a time when it was inconceivable you could get more far right than Goldwater. Those who knew or covered Goldwater may have questioned his policies, but everyone respected him for saying it like it was.
     The following graphic is making its way around Twitter.

    Well, on the other hand there have been countless Christians, even church leaders, who have been open minded and facile. Reinhold Niebuhr, Andrew Young, William Hudnut, John Danforth, Benjamin Hooks, Robert Drinan, (President) James Garfield, John Bull, John Witherspoon, Dean Johnson, Walter Mueller were all Christrian pastors or leaders and were capable of compromise and negotiation. Goldwater was right about the Christian Evangelical right.  It is worrisome to traditional, moderate, centrist or even "old fashioned conservative" Republicans. Does the word zealot fit?
  There is a variation in the personality of this character amidst all of the Scarecrows on display this month all over Cambria.
    This may scare in a different way.
      Lana created a take on the Statue of Liberty and if you were able to look closely you would see it is made from pages of a Bible. For the record, it was an old Bible, from childhood and the binding was ruined. Here it is recycled as a statement that some Christian quarters are more open minded and loving than those Mr. Goldwater worried about.
      In the eye of the beholder, eh?

 Hemingway being fastidious.
Count the toes.  
Six on each paw

    See you down the trail  

Thursday, October 22, 2015


     Reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 prompts memories of this man, introduced to President John Kennedy as "America's James Bond."
      William King Harvey was a legend in his own time and for good cause. Because his CIA file is classified until 2051 it is difficult to know with certainty, but one of his assets on the ground in Cuba is said to have developed the first knowledge of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba. Harvey ran the CIA Cuban operations and would likely have been CIA Chief of Station had a planned US invasion gone forward.
   Harvey was CIA Station Chief in Berlin when the Berlin Wall was put up. He engineered an operation that remains one of America's greatest intelligence victories.
    These intelligence photos show the Berlin tunnel operation that tapped into all Soviet and East German communication. In an era before computers, satellite phones and the Internet
  Harvey's operation was a gold mine and compromised all communication via phones. The US listened to and gathered a volume of information so, according to a former CIA agent, buildings were built at Ft Meade to translate, decipher and decode.The NSA was established at Ft. Meade in the early '50s.
   Using the cover of this warehouse, the CIA tunneled into the East.
      In an event that went unreported, CIA Director Allen Dulles presented Bill Harvey with the CIA Distinguished Service Medal.
      After Berlin Harvey began working Cuba. Intelligence sources told me Harvey was at the White House to give President Kennedy first knowledge of Soviet nuclear preparations in Cuba. Kennedy cut short a trip in Chicago. Press Secretary Pierre Salinger said Kennedy had developed a cold, but in truth was flying back to meet with Harvey.
     Harvey and President Kennedy got along, but he tangled with Bobby Kennedy. Eventually he was reassigned to Rome. Because he was from Indiana I had interest in Bill Harvey and his career. Years ago I wrote and directed a documentary putting some of the Bill Harvey story on public record for the first time.
      From the end of WWII into the 1960's Bill Harvey worked or crossed paths with historic figures in government and intelligence. Many told me of exploits and adventures that earned Harvey the nick name "America's Bond," which he detested. Harvey was loyal to his second wife CG, who was also an intelligence operative. A love of his life was his beautiful daughter Sally, left on his door step in Berlin.
     Harvey spoke his mind and made enemies in politics and government, but those who served with him revered him. There is a great story of how and why Bill Harvey was the first to sense that British Intelligence's Kim Philby was a Soviet double agent. Harvey was probably the first to expose Philby  to Bedell Smith. General Walter Bedell Smith was CIA director from 1950 to 1953.
      A little has been written of Bill Harvey, some of it misinformation. It has been said that while James Jesus Angleton made his rise to Chief of Staff of CIA Counter Intelligence Operations as an inside man, Harvey was the quintessential counterpart as an "operations" man, in the field as a spy and running other spies. A lot about Bill remains secret and unknown. His life and his death are extraordinary. 
     As a younger man I appreciated the Bill Harvey Martini--a water tumbler of vodka with ice. His ability to consume martinis was also legendary.  
      Whenever I read or see material on the October Cuban Missile Crisis I think about Bill Harvey and understand why a tumbler size martini made sense.

       Cheers!  See you down the trail.


Monday, October 19, 2015


Early evening October moon over Cambria
    The little gray cells were massaged nicely in the last few days and they can't refrain from sharing a few tips for you.
     He Named Me Malala is a spellbinding and inspiring documentary of Malala Yousafzai, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Though the world knows her story, gunned down by the Taliban for speaking up for education for girls, the film takes you into her life and deeper into the context of the shooting and her extraordinary recovery and travel since. She is special and so is the film. The animated sequences are especially well done. You'll be left with a sense of hope despite the presence of the damnably wicked Taliban and Isis. Here is how good wins out.

     Bridge of Spies combines Hanks and Spielberg in a script written by the Cohen brothers and young Brit Matt Charman. 
     James Donovan was real and engineered and negotiated an extraordinary spy swap at the height of the cold war and the fear of nuclear war. Hanks gives life to an American who's effort and accomplishment is also inspiring.
     The Hank's as Donovan conversation about the "rule book"- the Constitution-with a CIA handler is a classic defense of a constitutional government that is forced to play by its own rules. At the apex of US-USSR tension and toe to toe, when the Soviet's test was to push until they got resistance, Donovan's insistence to do it properly was seen as a strength by both the East Germans and the Soviets who were also at odds. Again doing and saying the right thing wins. 
     Great to see history told in a Spielberg film. Mark Rylance as Col. Rudolph Abel, the Soviet Spy, creates a character who defines what it is to be laconic but also riveting. Hanks is masterful, but so is Rylance. Spielberg knows how to entertain and inform. The visual look, even the light in the scenes, puts you back in 1962. We think this is a great film.
    Tobey Maguire's portrayal of Bobby Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice is one of the outstanding acting performances of the year.  Director Edward Zwick gives us an enthralling film about the 1972 world Chess championship and the intense mental game it is, including the haunted mind of Fischer. Liev
Schreiber scores as Russian Boris Spassky.

    Nancy Meyers (As Good as it Gets) new film The Intern is nothing but entertaining, a bit touching and a great study of values. De Niro and Anne Hathaway are great together as generational antagonists and eventual allies. A tag line or a working title could have been Baby Boomers meet the Millenials. This is a feel good film.

    My first viewing of this film was in my head as I read Jon Krakauer's Book Into Thin Air. Krakauer is not pleased by the film Everest that was written independently of his book, though it is based on the tragic incident in spring of 1996 when 8 climbers died in a ferocious blizzard on Mt Everest.
     Director Baltasar Kormakur tried to film some of the movie at 15 thousand feet but said he and the crew were so oxygen deprived most of the film was unusable. The real life episode played out at about double that altitude. The film underscores what Krakauer and other journalists have said of that ill fated day-too many people trying to summit, and too many bad judgements including by veterans who knew better.
      This is an intense adventure-disaster drama with a host of great actors making it powerful. Jason Clark, Thomas Wright, Josh Brolin, Jake Gylenhaal, Robin Wright, Keira Knightly, Emily Watson, Tom Goodman-Hill, Ang Phua Sherpa, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly and believe or not, even more. More than a couple of people I know came away from this film wondering even more strongly, why would someone put themselves through all that? That answer remains elusive.
         I hope Cambrians will avail themselves to the rollicking and even poignant comedy, VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE that is playing the CCAT. I wish all could see this production.
     The work by Christopher Durang was the 2013 Tony winner and is perfect for the Cambria demographic.  It is fresh, timely and "speaks" to us. 
     Under Nancy Green's directing the cast provides what is a stunningly entertaining evening. Talented Jill Turnbow combines her ability to own a character with her brilliant comedic timing and punctuates the night with laugh after laugh, while also breaking your heart. Oz Barron is perfect as her brother and his climactic rant and harangue had the audience howling.  Susie Fulton as the third sibling was perfect as the glamorous movie star famous sister bound for a big change of life. Some of the best moments of the evening came from Priscilla McRoberts as the hilarious "psychic" house cleaner Cassandra. Kathryn Gucik brought a fresh and idealistic Nina to life, endearingly and Wade Tillotson was perfect as a boy toy who had trouble keeping on his clothing. 
      It is splendid when a full cast excels and in this case it made a brilliant script jump off the stage in a masterful and enjoyable way.     
  Lana's recent poster design, now an oil painting, is hanging at Cutruzzola Vineyards wine tasting room in Cambria's west village.
   As this post is a series of reviews, I thought I'd tell my favorite artist that she can add Poster Art to her resume that includes Plein Air, abstract, expressionism and ceramic work. She is a talented woman with an inexhaustible creativity.

    See you down the trail.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


   The setting is the great beyond. The card players are Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

    "Say fellows, did you read what David Brooks said about the Grand Old Party?" Reagan reaches for a jellybean.
     "Well, I've got to say even though he works for that liberal Jew New York Times, he's a good man!" Nixon wipes sweat from his upper lip.
      "I couldn't agree with him more," Ike says.
      "How's that Mr. President?"
      "I'll tell you how Ronnie. Ever since that gas bag Rush Limbaugh got the holy, holy treatment from Republicans our old party has, as Brooks said, become 'bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced.' They remind me of the old John Birch society."
      "Let me just say I stand four square for Republican values, but these people are radicals. They're as destructive as the yippies and SDS. All they want to do is tear down government," Nixon pokes himself in the eye as he gestures.
      "Well, you know boys, Old Tip and I didn't see eye to eye on things but we still took time to visit and you know we got things done." Reagan eats another jellybean.
      "These damned fools who call themselves the Freedom Caucus don't know the first thing about freedom or the price so many have paid. It's like Brooks said, 'Self-expression is more valued than self-restraint and coalition building.' Think we could have won the peace if we didn't build coalitions or I couldn't find a way to work with Mongomery for crying out loud?" General Eisenhower stands and straightens his tie.
     Nixon stands and almost salutes Ike. "I just want to put it out there, put it on the record so to speak, that I believe in the practice of politics, the whole enchilada. Politics is America and as American as the flag. These people are anti political. They don't know how to make a deal."
      "Dick I've never doubted your ability to be a wheeler-dealer, so I'll give you credit on that.  Brooks says this have it their own way "anti political ethos produced elected leaders of jaw dropping incompetence." He's right-jaw dropping incompetence. Hell, all you have to do is turn on C-SPAN and watch some of these damned fools. Brooks is right, the Freedom Caucus and the tea party are "insurgents, incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. If I could I'd bust them all to buck privates and make em spend the rest of their life cleaning latrines."
       "Mr. President I want it clear that I am not in favor of these people being called Republican." Nixon mops his brow.
       "Leave it to these people and everything we worked for will disappear. None of the three of us could pass their litmus test. They are not the Republicans we used to be. They should be thrown out on their asses."
        The door of the card parlor opens and Tip ONeill enters,
"Hey Gents. I've been listening and all I can say is thank God that orange haired carnival barker is now calling himself a Republican. Dick, hand those cards to the General so he can cut the deck."

        Meanwhile back here-Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan campaigned on and worked for ideas the Freedom Caucus and Tea Party right wing fringe now reject. Ideas like rebuilding slums, "eradicating racism," attacking poverty, income inequality, low cost housing, expansion of social security, equal pay regardless of sex, support for the UN, closer federal scrutiny of mergers, better anti trust enforcement, better SEC policies, protection of employment benefit programs, federal funds to train doctors and scientists, low rent programs, environmental protection, fair immigration and citizenship programs and occasionally even a tax increase. 
        Surprised? Either memory fails you or more than likely the restricted and partisan atmosphere of the last few years has made old fashioned Republican and conservative ideas look liberal. The same is true for Democrats as they, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, have become more centrist and business friendly. Conservatism has been drubbed and so has liberalism.  
         In old fashioned "politics" the nation has been moving right under corporate sponsorship. Sociologically the US has been fragmenting by income, education, gender and sexual identity, ethnicity and aspirations.  It is harder to find the "old center" of the commonweal and as an aging democratic republic with a dysfunctional government and towering maintenance issues, we should find our way back to consensus, negotiation, pragmatic solutions and survival.
The first who get tossed out of my ship of state are the ideologues, zealots, numb skull egoists and narcissists.


   See you down the trail.

Monday, October 12, 2015


      The dreary October morning heated up a bit when I started chipping about how Columbus Day was a fraud.
      I was part of an early morning radio team and in what I thought was harmless chat suggested that if we were going to observe Columbus we should also make accommodation for Leif Erikson or even nameless Chinese sailors who may also have reached the continent before Columbus. I also took offense to the idea that native Americans were "discovered" since they had been here a while.  The switchboard almost blew up. The program manager liked it.
      Years later when doing a couple of documentary programs for Discovery and TLC we profiled how the Taino people of Hispaniola were ultimately slaughtered and savaged by the "discovering" forces of Christopher "Christ on his Shoulders" Columbus. The Taino were good, trusting people who were exterminated by the representatives of the "advanced" European Court civilizations.
     I think Indigenous People Day is a marvelous idea and centuries over due.  It can't make up for historic offenses but it can begin to educate succeeding generations.
     But I think we should also have an "Explorers Day," celebrating the courage, daring, intelligence and effort of those who have pushed the boundaries.  For the sake of this discussion I nominate those who were Americans and those who's efforts touched or opened knowledge about our continent and our life. 
     Here's a partial list, a conversation starter.  Add your own nominees.
     Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Glen, Christopher Columbus, Leif Erikson, Magellan, Balboa, Jim Bridger, Richard Byrd, Lewis and Clark, Adriaen Block, Robert Ballard, Cabrillo, Jonas Salk, Watson and Crick, Bell, Edison, and
you get the idea. A day to celebrate the accomplishment of intellect and courage as well as exploration of the planet and life we inhabit.
   Dear friends John and Deanna Schleeter of Indianapolis
provide this next account.  The Indianapolis Museum of Art has opened an exhibition by British sculptor Richard Wentworth-False Ceiling
  It is a striking presence in the Efroymson entrance Pavillion.
Thanks to John and Deanna's efforts a copy of my first novel THE SANIBEL ARCANUM hangs there.

As most authors will tell you, there are always extra copies of your books someplace.  That someplace for me included John and Deanna's garage. Amongst their distribution efforts is the IMA. I am grateful.
   See you down the trail.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Archive Photo Courtesy of RMonseth
    It was a raw winter night, shortly after the first of the year in 1980 and New Orleans was in a post holiday slumber. We were there on assignment tracking drug smuggling and had checked into a hotel in the French Quarter. I asked the night manager if he could recommend a good local eating spot. He told us about a new place a few blocks away that he said was Cajun-Creole. That is when we found K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, open for less than a year and not yet famous.
     Steve Starnes, one of the truly great photographers and I wondered in. There were only two other guests. We were greeted joyously. As the waitress-hostess explained the menu and the "special" quality of the food, the big man in the open kitchen asked if we'd like a Cajun martini, on the house. Hard offer to pass up. The big man brought us his concoction, pepper vodka, vermouth and a jalapeno pepper. He sat with us, sipped a drink and asked what we liked and what we knew about Cajun food. The big man was Paul Prudhomme, still unknown to the New York Times and the worlds food writers.
      We got a special creation, heaping plates full of everything he made. And we had another martini, which put a big smile on the big man's face.  We ate everything put before us including a couple of deserts. It was one of the great dining experiences in my life. The waitress-hostess, who it turned out was Kay Prudhomme, the K in K-Paul's, was actually stunned both plates were clean. She said "that never happens." She went to the hostess station and brought back two gold stars which she attached to our cheeks. "You boys keep these and remember us."
      About two years later I was back in New Orleans and for months had been thinking about getting back to K-Paul's. The hotel concierge said Prudhomme wasn't taking reservations since the Times and a few others had "discovered" the place.  He said you'll have to wait in line which could be up to two hours.  
      I was stunned by the number of people in cue and was told you needed to put in your name.  As I got to the check in I had a flash of brilliance. As Kay asked for my name, I opened my billfold where I had stuck the gold star and put tape over it.  Crazy, I know, but what a memory. Anyway I asked Kay, do you remember this. "Oh my, the clean plate and you kept that star? Honey you stand right there and as soon as that tables clears you're going to sit down."  With that she padded off to kitchen area, now busy with others and said something to Paul. He looked at me smiled and gave me a thumbs up.  When I was seated a waitress brought me a Cajun Martini.
      Paul Prudhomme who gained fame for his Creole-Cajun fusion food died this week at 75.  He many a lot of us smile.  
   I'm fascinated by the shape of wine bottles and especially those of French Rose'.


  This week Joy and Hemingway have decided to bunk on the top of the washing machine! 

    See you down the trail.  


Monday, October 5, 2015



    It is one of the strangest political videos ever, at least from my view.  Donald Trump being "prayed over" by an ecumenical group.
   And so it prompted an imaginary conversation between Jesus and the Donald.

"Hey Donald?"
"That yew Jezus?"
"Yes Donald.  Follow me"
"What'cha mean?  I got this thing going on?"
"Follow me.  Become a fisher of men?"
"Whatcha talkin bout? Fishin' for men?"
"Follow me.  Give away your wealth.  Give it to the needy."
"Hey now, yer gettin' inta my expertise.  You see we can cut their taxes and then they can get jobs. Low paying' at first, but you know how that works"
"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to the Lord what is the Lords?"
"You Crazy? I'm tryin to do something here about greatness. That aint giving the government anymore. We got these laws you can use. And who you talking about being the Lord. That's who I thought I was."
"The first will be last and the last will be first."
"Now you ain't makin no sense!  Didn't you read the art of the deal?"
"It is harder for a rich man to attain heaven than it is to drive a camel through the eye of a needle."
"You are one crazy bastard."
"Will you sacrifice yourself as an atonement?"
"Uh, hey, Security.  We got an issue here.  How'd this guy ever get into this room?"
   We are continuing to watch the old Pine in a neighboring field, hoping it will survive until rainy season.  So many of its forest mates have not.
    I am challenged to understand how those who argue that climate change is not real can explain away what is remarkable change by disputing data, arguing the government is fudging on technical data, or that it is a conspiracy. Intelligent people, even some who have science backgrounds dispute that change abounds.  
    Undeniable occurrences of "super storms" longest droughts in history, migration changes in wildlife, temperature variances, warmer oceans and more are real and not made up.  In the face of that how can one argue something is changing?
    There is a condition today that explains a lot, about this argument and in fact so much of political discourse today.
     From Science Daily-in psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one preconceptions, leading to statistical errors. Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias and represents an effort of inductive inference toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study.
    From Psychology Today  A Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. 

     There is a lot of that going on today in many arenas.  There's another way to get to root issues, political alliances and economic agendas.  Who pays for "studies?"
     And there is observation, pure observation. When we see weather that is in fact historic-the breaking of records-the most, the first, the most severe of something and we see how rapidly and frequently these historic levels are coming at us and when we see data about repercussions that are dire, simply to err on the side of caution seems only wise. That is my bias-better safe than sorry.

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


     Do you have triggers in your life? Something that turns a switch in your brain?
      This does it for me.  As far back as I recall, simply seeing a small boat switched on two circuits of emotion.  Adventure-the romanticized notion of going to sea as a fisherman struck me as a noble endeavor-man in the elements and nature, laboring earnestly for good purpose. Hard work, health, independence.
       And it awakens a deeply embedded dread-Davy Jones Locker.
     It started at "The House."  "The House" was a large two story turn of the century affair complete with root cellar, orchard, a barn like shed, massive garage, grape arbors and a front porch that spanned the big place. It was in all practicality a boarding house, in this case the residence of my widowed grandmother, her sisters, including husbands, and her eldest sister who was also widowed. Nana Cochrun, Aunt Sarah, Aunt Anna and Uncle Ed, Aunt Mat (Martha) and Uncle Pete and their daily tea and supper companion, their "kid" brother Uncle Bill. The sisters were English, emigres from Tinkers Green Farm by way of Warwick. Ed was a Scot, Pete was an Irishman. Bill, though born in the US, was the perfect English gentleman and always "dressed like the Duke," as the sisters said frequently. The accents were thick, the behavior prim and proper-the sisters never without their purses-and the culture was pure Brit.
      Being the eldest child of WW II vets I was often padded off to "The House" as my young parents enjoyed a post war social life and time with friends. It was in this context Davy Jones locker was embedded deep in my psyche.
      The books were from the UK and it seems an inordinate number of them contained harrowing stories of sailors lost to sea. A couple of the illustrations are so affixed in my memory they give me shivers still. 
      I don't know why I spent so much time on those stories, but I remember my stern English grandmother, very much a no nonsense woman, telling me if I didn't behave I'd end up in Davy Jones Locker.  Bad boys it seems were parceled off to the British Navy or merchant fleets and being the bad and inexperienced lads they were they ended up as fish food.
      Today I admire those boats and the sea but as a devoted landlubber. Sure going to try to avoid Davy Jones Locker.
       Is there anything from your childhood that frightens you today?

 Driving south on Highway 1, I spotted a frenzy of birds feeding on a bait ball.  If you look to the left and lower third  in the above frame you will see a tell tale fin of another diner.
   Brown pelicans, western gulls, Heerman gulls, cormorants, sooty shearwaters, black vented shearwaters and terns all looking like an Escher print.
   Pelicans provided an aerial assault show.

   All the drama playing out under a morning quilt.
     Autumn on the central coast.

       See you down the trail.