Warm_It_UP_Winter_flyer

 

 

 oh Angel City * keep my shifting focus true * art words music you

oh Angel City * keep my shifting focus true * art words music you

I have to share this because Hollyweird happens:

 

Like today, after farmers market when a fellow creative put me in check, a chiding encouragement delivered with body-shaking force to show-me-the-life-of-the-mind.

 

A young man originally from Georgia writing in Hollywood, socially-media-ed and strategic. We have our phones and use them to look at each other’s work and projects, a peek into where we’ve been as reference for where we’re going. Where we want to be.

 

Where we will be.

 

“Sing something right now,” he casually dared.

 

Of course. Amazing Grace—my song. A mantra. Everyday.

I sang. Delivered. The people sitting next to, across from us smiled, the guy

selecting focus * shapes how you feel about the * things within your view

selecting focus * shapes how you feel about the * things within your view

behind the counter smiled. A shared moment of unexpected cheer and authenticity. It was nice.

 

The light coming through the large open windows shifted with the passing clouds. The young man stood up slim and serious and grabbed my shoulder, pulling me to my feet.

 

“What are you doing? When the grace of God shines on you, you must use it. Be relentless. Everyday you sing—sing covers, sing originals and post them on YouTube. You have a YouTube, use it! Be relentless. Live relentless. RELENTLESS. Listen to me, Monday you are relentless and you shine and you don’t give up. Shine on, angel sister!”

 

His gripped my shoulder firmly once more before raising an eyebrow and sitting. The fervor of our conversation reached the people beside us, drawing us all together. And it was good.

 

perspective depends * on where you choose to focus * choice is up to you

perspective depends * on where you choose to focus * choice is up to you

Here’s the thing: I had just been having—five minutes prior?—a conversation with a friend encouraging him to use video and YouTube and social media to promote his band (Free Rain) and new CD. When this young man stood up and shook my shoulder, it was like all that encouragement, advice and ideas I’m constantly spouting were double-slammed back at me. Listen, we’re telling YOU: follow your own damn advice and do those things! LISTEN!

 

Fuck. Be relentless, lady.

 

RELENTLESS.

Do not give up.

Do what you say.

 

Not too long after, I had to excuse myself. Because I got sick, really, like ate-something-funky-at-the farmers-market ick. Puked. Not good. And I had to bail on dinner plans with Kyle and Iku. I went home. Got sick again. And slept until now when I am compelled to re-commit to relentless.

 

But do you see how we’re connected here? It’s like when you recognize another beating white heart against the flames and the urgency you feel to reach across the inferno to help keep each other’s space. You get it?

 

Also check out Barton Fink.

by Josephine Johnson

What a month.

crossing the desert

me & the droids

What a year.

What a life.

It’s that time. Because less light. Because reflection. Because gratitude. Because introspection. Because warm hugs. Because friends. Because family. Because the light begins to return. Because holidaze. And I will do my best not to make this one of those cringe-worthy year in review posts tinged with melancholia. Or braggadocio. Mostly, I’m really thankful for all the people I’ve met on the journey this year and thankful for friends and family who keep on with me. Because spirits. Because guidance. Because all this love we have to share. Share it!

Let’s kick this off with a track the guys and I worked on just before Christmas. I’m a sucker for the obscure, weird, uncool and off the beaten path. Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away” is one of those underdog songs, well-written with an uplifting, egalitarian message. Piet and Jay liked the track, too, so we hit it, tracked it, and then Piet mixed and made it radio-ready—all in a few short hours. I think the recording captures the friendly, easy ethos typical of our interactions—we don’t get to see each other much these days, and when we do, our company is golden. I think that feeling comes through.

The Guys: sound art cool like that * yo no matter the idea * always got my back

 

Hope you like it:

I’m blessed and lucky to get to write, sing, and perform music with a lot of great folks that I love.

I do. Love. I am.

Lucky. Not only have I gotten to work with some of Humboldt’s finest and kindest musicians (Piet, Dan & Jay!), but also this year I’ve gotten to meet a whole new crew of awesome, talented, and keen players. Like Kosuke Yoshitome.  We played some super fun spots—El Cid, House of Blues, Viper Room, concerts for our housemates, house parties and anywhere we could find/create an audience. I’m grateful for his friendship and encouragement, and I am in awe of his talent and generosity.

Kosuke: dang such a bass boss * all treble clef and four strings * he gets the funk out

Here’s a recording from our May 2014 performance at the El Cid in Los Angeles:

Another highlight of the year was meeting Juli Crockett and the Evangenitals. The Evangenitals. EVANGENITALS! C’mon, try saying “Evangenitals” out loud without smiling. Go on…TRY it! See? Chortles and grins—you can’t without cracking a smile. And the Evangenitals are a win, too, because, well, they already love YOU. They do. And they loved me so much right away  that in February, I got to be part of their video for Turbulent Flow, a song from their 2014 release “Moby Dick“.  A really great crew of people. Juli, Michael, and I are collaborating to record a few songs for my next album project along with Humboldt’s Piet, Jay, and Dan. More on that in the new year. 🙂 Ready for some rad-ness from the Evan (ha ha!) genitals, Evangenitals— shout out to Sofia Garza-Barba who directed. Oh, I’m the pink-tentacled anemone.

Juli Crockett-Feldman:  renaissance lady * million dollar double fists * dang how you slay me

Enjoy!

I can’t forget Modesto and all the good folks I’ve met there this year— music and art, some of the most generous folks in the universe live in that sleepy agricultural town. Here’s an adventure I won’t forget, that 102 degree July afternoon when Anthony Edwards convinced me to ride bikes with him. And it was a beautiful day of searing blue skies riding along almond groves and irrigation canals. But *dang* that sun was oppressive, full on summer heat so heavy you could feel

droids do it digitally

really, we’re getting down

it in your ears, behind your eyes. Melting. Challenging your ability to breathe, pedal, and think. So I put my head down and gave up thinking. Pedal on! Yeah, it was hot….but we made it. A true bonding experience. 🙂 Or more recently when Steve Nelson and I showed up at Cafe Deva to cheer for Modesto’s most beloved singer-songwriter, Patty Davis Castillo. Patty does this arrangement of Amazing Grace that makes me look up and catch my breath every time, a beautiful way to begin Sunday morning. Thank you, my Modesto family, for taking me in and letting me be one of you. Many thanks to Aaron Rowan for booking me at several of his acoustic events this year!

Here’s this great pic from the Anthony’s annual benefit concert at the State theater in Modesto. The people on this stage are wonderful humans, so humbled to be among their friends. I love these folks!!!

Modesto: almonds cattle trains * singing whispers in the rain * comfort finds me there

Anthony Edward's annual fundraiser

Modesto “Bringing Them Home” Fundraiser

 

Well, for goodness sakes, it’s been a lovely year, and I’m so thankful for the love, good people, and great spirits that have managed to find me. I don’t know how to tie this all up in an elegantly incisive way, so I won’t. Just know that I’m aware of all the love and good thoughts you all send my way. I can feel them and I’m grateful for all the encouragement and support. Thank you! We’re really gonna send it in the new year—you ready? I am!!! Let’s do this.

 

osephine & Kousuke live at House of Blues, Voodoo Lounge, Thursday, August 7, 2014

Josephine & Kousuke
live at House of Blues, Voodoo Lounge, Thursday, August 7, 2014

Let It All Out 2014

Let It All Out 2014

I wrote this cover for the North Coast Journal, Eureka, California, in April 2013 and am just now sharing on the blog. I realize it’s out of sequence, but it’s  important that it have a home here. And better late than never, right? Also, I realize the timing is kind of a downer—an assisted suicide story shared  the week before Christmas? Potentially very dark, depressing, and icky. But it’s not. I Promise. This is a tale of a loving son and family who are brave in helping their parents die with dignity. Bravery, compassion, and release. And love.

Click the title to link to original post on the Journal’s website.

click to flip through (10)DAWSON FAMILY PHOTO - Reg and Betty Dawson married in 1946 and celebrated more than 60 wedding anniversaries before they died, side by side, in the fall of 2012.
  • DAWSON FAMILY PHOTO
  • Reg and Betty Dawson married in 1946 and celebrated more than 60 wedding anniversaries before they died, side by side, in the fall of 2012.
In early September 2011, Dominic Dawson, a lean and soft-spoken delivery driver who lives in Manila, received an email from his ailing father in Wales. “I’m ready to go to Switzerland, October 2012,” Reg Dawson wrote his son. “What do you think?” Dominic was sitting at his desk in a second-story cupola peering over Humboldt Bay. From here, he could often see small flocks of dowitchers erupting from the shore, shimmering in the morning haze. He knew that “Switzerland” meant his father hoped to die at a Zurich apartment where an organization called Dignitas helps people commit suicide legally. Diffuse sunlight seeped through the old Victorian’s window. Outside, shore birds pecked in the mud, shifting and turning in unison. Dominic cradled his coffee mug.

He was surprised, but not shocked. His father, in his late 80s and struggling with Parkinson’s disease. was losing the ability to walk unassisted, sit upright and feed himself. About a year before, Reg had begun talking about Dignitas with his wife and his daughter, Teresa Schwanauer. When Teresa filled Dominic in, she’d confided that she didn’t think their father would go through with it. Now Reg was sounding more certain. And Dominic felt oddly comforted that his father had reached out to him, after a long estrangement that had lessened only gradually, as they both grew older.

He read the email again, and before the morning faded, forwarded it to Tina George, his partner of 10 years, who lives in Arcata. That night they talked logistics: Reg wanted the whole family to gather beforehand in England, to celebrate his life — and not to mourn. Dominic had no qualms about the suicide itself. He had long believed people have a right to die when and how they choose. So mostly, he and Tina talked about arranging the trip and whether she should come along.

The next morning, though, Dominic struggled for words to put into his email reply. What do you say to your own father when he announces his plans for passing? How do you sound supportive but not cold, or worse, eager? Dominic wrote, finally, that he didn’t know quite what to say. To which Reg replied, “That is perfectly normal and understandable.”

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Dominic Dawson had severed ties with his parents in 1968, moving out of the family home in London when he was 16 years old. He and his parents just didn’t think the same way. He was embracing the freedom-loving ethos of the 1960s — equal rights, anti-war, Eastern mysticism — while his parents remained politically and socially conservative. He moved in with friends and took temporary jobs that were easy to find in London then: a clerk, a messenger, whatever kept him free from his parents’ rules. After a couple of years he craved more adventure and traveled overland to India. He met and stayed with royalty in Bangladesh, and he lived for six months in Calcutta, working for an international relief organization. Then he bounced around some more — traveling in the Middle East, then over to the United States, settling in the early 1970s in Santa Cruz, where he married and had his first daughter. In 1979, he arrived in Humboldt. To make it on the North Coast, he worked odd jobs and did lots of manual labor. He backpacked all over the Trinity Alps. He had a second daughter, in another relationship. Rooted in Humboldt, held by its natural beauty, Dominic has lived in the same Manila neighborhood since 1985.

The family ties with his parents reknit, but slowly. He would see them now and then, when they made trips to America. In 1996, the whole family gathered in England for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Not long after, he and his father began corresponding again. When the email about Switzerland came, Dominic was 60, with a 2-year-old grandson of his own. Gray-haired, blue-eyed and fit, he was semi-retired, running a delivery service, taking rafting trips with Tina. Now there was this — and before it was over, both his parents would make fateful decisions.

[][][][]

In California, as in many other states and many nations, helping or encouraging someone to commit suicide is a crime. The law stands even as public opinion has been shifting. In a 2006 Pew Research poll, 60 percent of those polled nationwide thought that people in great pain with no hope of improvement had a right to die. And 53 percent said people with an incurable disease had a right to choose death.

The idea appalls some advocates for the elderly and for people with disabilities. They worry about pressure from relatives who are crumbling under the stress of care, or who want to preserve family assets. Some religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, orthodox Judaism, and many evangelical Protestant denominations, consider suicide or helping with suicide a sin. Opponents warn that opening the door to legal assisted suicides could eventually lead to encouraging death for people deemed undesirable, people whose lives are looked at as somehow less worthy or less worthwhile than the lives of others. But amid those warnings, many religious, civil rights and patient rights groups champion the idea that people have a right to die, and that helping should be considered a kindness, not a crime. Legally assisted suicide, they say, gives people who have no hope of recovery the option to die before physical pain becomes unbearable or mental abilities are lost.

Worldwide, assisted suicide is legal in only a few places, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Oregon and Washington, and the laws vary widely. Oregon and Washington have similar legislation, legalizing suicide under narrow conditions. A patient must be at least 18, a state resident and terminally diagnosed with six months or less to live. The patient must convince a doctor that he or she is of sound mind, making two oral requests and one written statement. Two doctors must sign separate forms verifying the patient’s terminal illness. Then the state must approve the suicide, no sooner than 15 days after the first oral request. After all that, a physician can prescribe — but not administer — a lethal, swallow-able drug. No injections.

On the other end of the spectrum is Switzerland, with the most liberal suicide law in the world. Under article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code, assisting another’s suicide is criminal only if the motive is for personal gain. This sparse pronouncement was interpreted in the 1980s as a legal green light to create self-assisted suicide organizations. EXIT, founded in 1997, and Dignitas, founded in 1998, are among the best-known. Dignitas, which was featured in a 2012 Frontline documentary, is the only Swiss organization to accept foreigners. In the years since Dignitas’ founding, the Swiss Supreme Court has expanded the law even more, ruling in 2006 that chronically depressed and mentally ill people have a right to assisted suicide. Today, Swiss law allows people with a range of non-terminal and progressive ailments to apply — and if approved — to choose to die.

Not all Swiss are on board with this right-to-die, death-with-dignity mission. In 2011, the Evangelical People’s Party of Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Democratic Union lobbied heavily for a citywide referendum in Zurich over the practice. The May 2011 ballot measure asked residents whether assisted suicide should be banned altogether and whether organizations — Dignitas specifically — should admit foreigners. Despite heavy funding from Switzerland’s conservative and religious right, the proposed ban was rejected by 84 percent of voters. And 78 percent voted to keep assisted suicide services available to overseas users.

[][][][]

Dominic had always thought of his conservative parents as swift-witted and independent. Reg Dawson grew up in London and met his wife, then Betty Johnson, in the first years of World War II when they were both at a community dance. She was 15 and he was 17. Reg was getting ready for a stint in the Royal Air Force doing communications work. Theirs was a long courtship — they didn’t marry until after the war ended, in February of 1946Their wedding picture shows him in uniform, his hair already thinning, one hand clasping Betty’s. She is smiling a little more broadly, a white veil billowing behind her, sprays from a lavish bouquet trailing nearly to her knees. By then, both had converted to Catholicism. Dominic speculates the religion offered them a sense of spiritual security during the frightening years of wartime air raids.

Their oldest child, Teresa, was born in 1947. Soon after came Paul, then Dominic and Christopher. After the military, Reg worked as a negotiator in the British civil service. Once, Dominic recalls, Reg helped keep some commuter rail services alive by leaking information about government plans to stop them. Betty was a homemaker, focused on raising the children. She enjoyed cooking and baking and reading popular novels, her children remember. Once they were grown, she returned to school and became a business skills instructor, teaching typing and dictation. Over the years, both drifted from Catholicism — Reg becoming an atheist and Betty an agnostic. Reg grew skeptical of organized religion and critical of government.

In the late 1980s, when Reg retired after more than 30 years in the civil service, he and his wife were still in good health, and Betty was a regular swimmer. That began to change with the turn of the new century. In 2002, Reg was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disease. Their children noticed Betty’s memory significantly slipping in 2006, although she wasn’t officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until 2012. Her early memories persisted — childhood, early years of marriage, her children’s youth — but she was losing track of the day-to-day: luncheons, medical appointments. Had she turned off the stove, or was the water running in the bathroom? Reg first broached the subject of suicide with Teresa, a retired computer analyst who lives in Walnut Creek, when she was visiting her parents at her brother Christopher’s house in London in the fall of 2010. “If your mother passes before I do,” he directed in his calm British English, “I want to go to Switzerland and commit suicide.” At the time, Teresa didn’t think that her father would travel all the way to a Swiss clinic to end his life. “I wasn’t worried,” she recalled later. “I Skyped with them every week and was certain that when my father passed, it would be at their retirement community in Wales.” Teresa and her three brothers assumed that Reg would die before their mother.

[][][][]

As Reg’s condition worsened, he became less and less willing to wait for his wife to pass away first. Even in October 2010, when he was 88 and she 86, she could no longer lift and move him. An attendant at their retirement community in Wales had to bathe him. And Betty had left a burner on. Again. Reg began emailing with his oldest son, Paul, about choosing suicide if he was unable to live and move independently. And Parkinson’s disease does that, steals a person’s independence. It’s a nasty degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that begins with slight physical tremors, rigidity and difficulty walking, and then progresses to uncontrollable cognitive and behavioral problems. In late stages, dementia is common. Reg resisted using a wheelchair and insisted on walking as much as possible. By December 2011, though, he was resigned to a wheelchair most of the time, and by then, all four of his children knew he wanted to die. “When he announced his plan, my only surprise was how late he had left it,” Paul remembered. “He was clearly not enjoying life at all.” And Dominic, who at first had thought he would only attend his father’s going away celebration in England, now reassured Teresa that he would go farther. If she wanted his help and support accompanying their father to Switzerland, Dominic would come along for that, tooTogether, then, all four children planned how to best support Reg’s choice, while making sure their mother would have a good quality of life after he was gone.

Betty, though, did not approve. Not for religious or philosophical reasons, but because for more than 60 years of marriage, they’d always been a team. Even as Reg’s body withered, Betty had remained physically strong and able to help him. As she became more forgetful, Reg’s mind remained razor sharp.

“But my mother also knew the reality of Alzheimer’s,” Teresa recalled, “My mother was afraid that if Reg went to Switzerland to die, that she would be alone and eventually die not knowing who her children are. This terrified her.” And at least with Reg by her side, Betty had someone. Without him, she feared dying without memories or knowing who she was.

It wasn’t so much that Betty didn’t want Reg to go to Switzerland but that she didn’t want him to go without her. Even with all four children ready to help, Reg hated the thought of leaving Betty alone. But he hated his continuing decline even more.

[][][][][]

In late October 2011, Reg paid $250 and joined the assisted suicide organization Dignitas, intent upon ending his life in Zurich, Switzerland, sometime in late 2012. The application process is not simple. There are thick packets of paperwork, and a Swiss physician must review the applicant’s full medical records. To further complicate matters, assisted suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom, and doctors can lose their medical license and face up to 14 years in prison if caught knowingly releasing records for a suicide that would occur outside the country. But Reg wanted to do the right thing, be above board the whole way through. He was honest. At first. He told his doctors exactly what he was doing.

They curtly denied release of his medical records.

A clever man, Reg changed tactics. A few weeks later, he re-contacted his physicians, this time telling them the records were needed for travel insurance to the United States for his 90th birthday celebration. It worked. He submitted his full application in December 2011. Now he had to wait, for Dignitas and for the approval of the Swiss government.

By then, in mid-December 2011, Reg’s health was in a tailspin. Feeding himself had become prolonged and excruciating — loss of muscle control meant that what food wasn’t lost down his front was often smeared across his face. “My father was an extremely dignified man,” Teresa said. “It was messy, but he preferred to feed himself.” A meal could take an hour or more. And he had become incontinent.

Dominic, keeping in touch from afar, hated to think of his father hunched in a wheelchair, unable to go to the bathroom by himself. Reg’s choice seemed courageous to his second son, and the obstacles he had to overcome were just one more sign of that courage.

As Reg worsened and Betty contemplated his hopes to die, she became uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn. She cut short Skype sessions with her daughter and grandchildren, or skipped them entirely. This was not the vivacious business instructor and nurturing, reassuring mother Teresa had known. And then came the startling email from Reg. In January 2012, he wrote Teresa that Betty had read the Dignitas literature and wanted to die with him. Life would be intolerable without him, Betty felt, no matter how hard her children would try to help. She, too, would apply to Dignitas.

[][][][]

By the end of January 2012, Reg Dawson received the provisional green light from Dignitas, which meant he had passed the Swiss medical review and could proceed with setting a date for his assisted suicide. The organization carefully advised him not to plan it on or near birthdays or other important family celebrations. At the same time, Betty began her application. They were hoping to die together.

To apply to Dignitas, a patient first must pay and become a member. Then comes the packet of paperwork and the required medical records, which can take up to three months to be evaluated. If the documents are approved, the patient must go to Zurich and meet with a physician, who will assess whether he or she is unpressured and of sound mind. Only then does Dignitas grant a provisional green light for the suicide. The week of the scheduled death, the patient must meet with two separate doctors to be sure this is what he or she wants to do.

Betty’s application would be tricky. To comply with Swiss law, doctors affiliated with Dignitas would have to determine whether she was mentally sound enough to choose death. The question for doctors in such cases, according to a Dignitas pamphlet, is whether the decision is “a wish to die that is an expression of a curable psychic distortion and which calls for treatment” or a “self-determined, carefully considered and lasting decision of a lucid person.” It is a difficult distinction for anyone, and was complicated by the Alzheimer’s, which is considered a mental illness under Swiss law. Betty would have to convince doctors that she was capable of deciding to die.

And then, to make things even more difficult, she and Reg were applying for a double assisted suicide. The family was told that such suicides, with their more complex logistics, are relatively rare in Switzerland.

After three months of emailing between the Dawsons and Dignitas, a rewritten request letter from Betty, and more medical appointments in the United Kingdom and Zurich, Betty got the provisional green light in May of 2012. Now both of Dominic’s parents had been cleared for assisted suicide, and they wanted to do it together. They needed two separate physicians for each of them to prescribe the lethal dosage. In August, Reg got word by email: the doctors had been arranged. After working around a large family’s birthdays and wedding anniversaries, Reg and Betty set Sept. 17 as the day of their passing.

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Even the final arrangements would be complicated. Paul, an international finance professor, had professional obligations in Asia and couldn’t be by their side. And the family feared that Christopher, a British citizen, could be detained and possibly arrested for involvement with their suicides once he returned to London. They all decided it was safer for him not to be in Switzerland. Teresa, Dominic and Tina — all U.S. citizens — seemed likely to face less, if any, scrutiny on their return to London from Zurich. It was agreed. The three of them would travel with Reg and Betty that final week.

With the suicide date set, Dominic and Tina flew to London during the first week of September. All of Reg and Betty’s children, their nearest grandchild, and Reg’s brother and wife also arrived. They talked and reflected quietly during the day. In the evenings the family dined together in London restaurants. On Sept. 11, Reg, Betty, Teresa, Dominic and Tina left London for Switzerland. There, they interspersed pre-suicide doctor visits with trips to Lake Thune and a visit to a pumpkin festival.

On Sept. 17, the five of them arrived at a Dignitas apartment in an industrial part of Zurich. The sun was bright and warm. A light breeze stirred the trees. Earlier that week, Reg and Betty had met with the physicians and had gotten their final approvals. Calm and relaxed, the family sat in the apartment, completing the last bits of paperwork. A Dignitas assistant brought Reg and Betty each cups of a liquid antiemetic to coat their stomachs so they wouldn’t vomit on the lethal barbiturate dosage that would come later. Teresa and her mother left the apartment to sit beside a small pond outside and quietly enjoy the splendor of the warm afternoon. Reg, Dominic and Tina chatted for a bit and drank coffee for over an hour, long enough for the stomach coating to be fully effective. When the Betty and her daughter came back indoors, both parents were smiling.

“I think it’s time,” said Reg.

As required by Swiss law, a videotape was running. Reg and Betty Dawson were helped into a twin bed, where they nestled together. They had selected music for their passing. Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 played softly, followed by Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. A dream of love, and then the underworld.

Reg joked about the luggage — there will be more than necessary for the flight home. What will they do with the suitcases? The adult pads? “We won’t need those anymore,” he said. And Betty, smiling, piped up, “Oh, my jewelry.” She slid off her engagement ring and wedding band, and lovingly extended them to Teresa.

The non-physician Dignitas assistant brought them each a cup of sodium pentobarbitol. These Reg and Betty had to drink very quickly, and they had to drink them unassisted. Reg sucked his through a straw. Betty slugged hers back without hesitation. When the cups were empty, the assistant gave them each a piece of Swiss chocolate to banish the bitter taste of the barbiturate cocktail.

The room was still. Betty leaned over and kissed Reg. Dominic held his father’s free hand. Teresa held her mother’s. The music continued softly in the background. Reg and Betty clasped hands and fell asleep slowly, peacefully. Finally.

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Dominic Dawson returned to his parents’ home in Wales to put the last of their affairs to rest. Papers, books, family photos, CDs all sorted and organized by his hand. He listed their assisted living unit on the market. On Oct. 1, the family held a memorial service and Reg and Betty’s ashes were scattered in the memorial garden of the British Railway Preservation Society, where they had been lifetime members.

Dominic, back home in Humboldt now, does not sorrow. From his cupola window, he can watch gulls soar. He can see a squadron of pelicans, flying in formation above the bay. “There’s nothing to be sad about” he said. The way he looks at it, both his parents accomplished something worthwhile, and they both kept their dignity. “It was awe-inspiring. There was no fear or regret in those final days. I am thankful I was there.”

On the Ridge

I know. I hinted at the Treehouse Masters for this post. That’s coming. But super quick-like, here’s a link to most recent article for the North Coast Journal. Enjoy!

Sunny Brae residents Natalia Collier and Adam Brown know this trail. Up Buttermilk Lane, past the middle school and left onto Margaret, where a large army-green water tank marks the trailhead and a concrete staircase on the right rises into the Sunny Brae portion of the Arcata Community Forest. Collier, Brown and their dog Casey hike here at least once a week. This new trail is a welcome dose of solitude and near-wilderness in their backyard, but, says Brown, “It’s so new, there aren’t any names or signs up yet, and most people really don’t use this part.” Well, technically, the Sunny Brae section of the Arcata Community Forest isn’t open.

Not just yet.

But it will be, and soon more folks will hike and love it because this trailhead also marks the start of the Arcata Ridge Trail, which is getting closer and closer to completion. That means if you want to hike from Sunny Brae over to West End Road — that spot under the 101 overpass with those concrete curb-like structures will be the other trailhead — you’ll be able to bike, hike or horseback ride the 3.8-mile trek by summer 2014. By spring, the northern portion of the Arcata Ridge Trail, which begins on West End Road, should be ready for exploration, and sometime in February 2014, the south fork of the Janes Creek Loop trail will be open.

The Arcata Ridge Trail started out as an idea about 15 years ago, according to Kirk Cohune, a principal at Greenway Partners and a community trail volunteer. The goal was to connect South Arcata (Sunny Brae) with north Arcata (West End Road) via trails and create a system where responsible timber harvest and volunteer support would sustain the trail’s management. Mark Andre, Arcata’s environmental services director, acquired land and conservation easements throughout these timber lands. In 2000, Sierra Pacific, the company that owned the forest adjacent to Sunny Brae, wanted to log the hillside. Enter Sunny Brae local and now Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace. He and concerned neighbors formed the Sunny Brae Neighborhood Alliance to stop large-scale logging near their homes. When Sierra Pacific finally offered to sell the land, the Alliance and the community raised $100,000 to help Arcata buy the property and turn it into a community forest. The cash allowed Mark Andre to secure matching grants from the U.S. Forest Service, CALTRANS, the California Department of Forestry and other agencies, and in 2006, Arcata bought most of the Sunny Brae part of the forest.

There’s a nice sign near the trailhead thanking many state and community organizations for the forest’s conservation. Again, not open yet. And just because other folks are hiking doesn’t mean you won’t get a ticket. Of course, hypothetically, if a reporter did accidentally hike its wide paths in all their splendor before she knew it was closed, it might have been magical. Think redwoods, Doug firs, Bigleaf maples. She mighthave seen faded, broad leaves twisting and falling all along the hillside, sunlight dappling them as they dance their way down to the forest floor. Add sunshine, crisp sky and a gentle, late autumn breeze, and it would have hypothetically been the stuff of fairies, wizards, sprites and unicorns. It’s the perfect place for the Arcata Ridge Trail to begin. (Of course, said reporter also might have gotten lost for a couple of hours with no signs to guide her, and she may have been very grateful to have brought a friend, a phone and plenty of water.)

Can’t wait to get in there? Dennis Houghton heads up the trail maintenance crew for the City of Arcata, and he often needs volunteers. Maybe you could help. Craft some sweet signage for these amazing community trails with Houghton, his crew and a legion of community volunteers. Contact Dennis at 707-822-8184.

by Josephine Johnson

Josephine, Fieldbrook Market

Josephine, Feb. 24, 2012, Fieldbrook Market

Hey all!

It’s V WEEK and this weekend is the 15th annual production of Eve Ensler‘s Vagina Monologues—this year’s performance benefits two great North Coast charities—North Star Quest Camp for Girls (ALWAYS accepting donations!) & the Women’s Resource Center. We’re in production week, honing our monologues, getting ready for the show this weekend.

Friday, March 2nd, we’ll be holding it down at the Arcata Playhouse. On Saturday and Sunday, March 3rd & 4th, we’ll be performing at the Eureka Theater. It’s been a blast so far and I’m so looking forward to sharing the evening with such fine, fine ladies—you really must come and see—we will knock your socks off! And your panties! We will blow YOU away.

Much love,

~Jos

Vagina Monologues! V WEEK!

V WEEK

they beat the girl out of my boy

they beat the girl out of my boy---Amy, Sarah, Katelyn, Christin

Eureka Theater check in---with Chelsea, Kyra, Chelsea, Sarah, Katelyn & Soja

Eureka Theater check in---with Chelsea, Kyra, Chelsea, Sarah, Katelyn & Soja

A quick update!

Molly Severdia---reclaiming cunt!

Molly Severdia---reclaiming cunt!

Monday, March 5, 2012—The show’s over folks, the memories will last a lifetime—Humboldt‘s V Week 2012 was amazing, just incredible. Again, so thankful to have met and worked with such fine, talented ladies. I’ve included a few pics from the show—some are from the Arcata Playhouse, the others from Eureka Theater. And I found my favorite Storm Large song that EVERYONE should sing!

ladies backstage playhouse

ladies backstage playhouse

sassy cast, snappy vaginas

sassy cast, snappy vaginas

In the Can

NEWS STORY / BY JOSEPHINE JOHNSON

In the Can

What Arcata can learn from Eureka’s public bathrooms

(JAN. 5, 2012)  Ever wander the Arcata Plaza and have to go? Really have to get to a bathroom quick? Maybe you high-tailed it to Jacoby’s Storehouse and sneaked into its facilities. Or if things were a little less pressing, perhaps you fast-stepped it to the Co-op, got the door code, and maybe waited behind a person or two before finally breathing that sweet sigh of relief. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Trouble is, Arcata doesn’t have a public bathroom, and people have argued for years over whether it should. Occupiers renewed that debate in October, and now City Council is considering whether to build public facilities somewhere near downtown.

But public bathrooms pose their own set of challenges, including cleaning, maintenance and vandalism prevention — as well as a budget to pay for them.

Old Town Eureka, the can...

And if the goal, at least partly, is to give the homeless somewhere they can go with dignity, Eureka’s experience might offer lessons for Arcata.

Eureka built restrooms in Old Town in 1993, partly in response to merchants who hoped that a public bathroom would reduce the number of non-shoppers seeking relief in their stores.

It has worked, several merchants say, but it’s a sort of a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t undertaking.

The City of Eureka’s two unisex bathrooms, each with a single toilet, are tucked away behind the northwest corner of the downtown gazebo. Brick on the outside and with bare-bones accommodations inside — fluorescent lights, lime green cinder block walls, stainless toilets and wash basins — the bathrooms show signs of hard use. On different days in December, black plastic bags of old clothes were propped against the wall of one toilet, and the other had wads of cardboard in the toilet bowl.

Both bathrooms have custom, protective metal guards over the toilet paper dispensers. One has a stainless steel mirror, and the other lacks anything reflective. Each outside door locks, and homeless folks occasionally lock themselves inside, posing problems for the maintenance man who takes care of the Old Town restrooms.

“Bottom line is everyone goes to the bathroom, and a good functioning bathroom in Old Town is a necessity,” says Jonathan Buckmaster, who has maintained the facilities for the past five years. Buckmaster, an HSU graduate — as well as a clarinet prodigy who performed with L.A. big bands and symphonies throughout his teens – knows the ins and outs of these bathrooms. He opens them each morning around 8:30, returns to clean them at 4 p.m. and closes them at 5 p.m.

Vandalism, he says, is a near-daily occurrence. Sometimes it’s as minor as Sharpie marker graffiti. Other times it’s incapacitating, as in

Jonathan Buckmaster, clarinet marvel who manages Old Town's bathrooms

Jonathan Buckmaster, clarinet marvel who manages Old Town's bathrooms

2008, when the former, porcelain toilets and sinks were smashed to bits and light fixtures and hand dryers were ripped from the walls. After that, the bathrooms were closed for nearly three months for repairs. And six months ago someone tried to demolish the cinder block partition in one of the bathrooms, putting that one out of commission for a few days.

It costs about $9,500 a year just to clean and keep toilet paper in the two bathrooms in Old Town, according to Jeff Raimey, Eureka’s harbor operations supervisor. And that doesn’t even touch the cost of major repairs post-vandalism. The city’s public restrooms at the Samoa bridge boat launch and marina also endure vandalism and cost about the same to maintain, he said. All are cared for with money from the city’s general fund, which is supported by sales and property taxes.

Some merchants say the Old Town restrooms are vital — or at least, better than nothing. They provide an option for locals and tourists, even if they’re not the coziest or the cleanest.

Dorine Leisz, store manager at Many Hands Gallery at the corner of F and Second streets, thinks the bathrooms are embarrassing. “I cringe when I send tourists across the street,” says Leisz.

Charlotte McDonald, executive director of Eureka Main Street, also is familiar with the pitfalls of Old Town’s restrooms. Knowing what Eureka knows now, she says, it would have helped to build bathrooms with doors that don’t lock from the inside, and in a more visible place. “The current location is a place not so easy to monitor. It’s out of the way, making vandalism that much easier to undertake.”

Some have suggested a full-time, on-site attendant could help. The city claims this is too costly, and really not a viable option for Eureka. That might be different in Arcata, says Laura Cutler, who has been following closely the Arcata public bathroom dilemma since October.

Cutler, a Westhaven resident and formerHumboldt County counsel, helped Arcata Occupiers bring the issue to local government officials, reminding the community that those on the lowest socio-economic rungs often “literally do not have a pot to piss in.” Cutler’s idea? If an on-site attendant would minimize vandalism and help keep facilities clean, then why not make a community service work position in which minor offenders would serve by tending to the bathrooms? “In homeless court people are sentenced with community service,” says Cutler. “This could be one way to monitor and maintain the bathrooms at a community level.”

Arcata is considering bathroom designs in which stalls latch but doors don’t lock, said Councilmember Susan Ornelas, who is on the committee studying bathroom options. “We’re also considering involving local artists for public art on the facility.”

The committee has its eye on the space between Arcata City Hall and the Crabs ball field for a potential site, said Ornelas.

So far, though, no date has been set for the council to review the committee’s ideas.

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