Wednesday, 24 July 2024


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



ain’t no words to this song

you just dance and hum along …

 - Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong


Good God! We are just about down to the last quarter of the year 2009.

This year is the anniversary of two very large cultural events in the lore of America. Motown, The Sound Of Young America as envisioned by Berry Gordy, was birthed in 1959. Woodstock, the epitome of all Rock & Roll music festivals, happened 10 years after in 1969, pun intended.

The first single that was released by Gordy’s fledgling Tamla label, the forerunner of the Motown imprint, was a naturally dancable ditty with vocals by the above mentioned Barrett Strong.

Of course many acts over the years had hits for Motown including Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, The Contours, Shorty Long, The Marvelettes, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and many, many others.

For me, I’ve always sensed a semi-charmed co-existence with Stevie Wonder, notably after I found out we were born on the same weekend of the same year. It happened to be Mother’s Day Weekend. God was not jiving!

In my opinion, one of many great moments in recorded musical history occurred when Berry Gordy, striving to transmit the essence of the genius of Wonder to the record buying public, recorded the then-monikered Little Stevie’s live performance of the song entitled “Fingertips.”

The song is a jazzy improvisational, mostly instrumental showcase of his harmonica and bongo drumming skills. Stevie does a call and response vamp to the bridge with the audience that seems like the end of the song. After he is led off the stage to thunderous applause he appears onstage again to add a few more harmonica licks.

As the band races to catch up with the supercharged Wonder, a surprised musician who didn’t anticipate the encore is heard to shout, “What key? What key?” They pull it off to ecstatic climax.

Time marches on. Stevie Wonder is the only artist from the Golden Era of Motown that is still with the label, now sold and conjoined to an entity entitled Universal Motown. When the CyberSoulman counted the current roster of 95 acts, he had only barely heard of a dozen or so. Conversely, I was able to count more than 20 former Motown artists and acts that are still alive and performing, relegated to the county fairs and oldies circuit with maybe a cool payday every blue moon in Europe someplace. I guess it beats a blank. The point is that Motown, as we knew it is gone. Many of the artists have left this earth.

Similarly, consider Woodstock. It was held at Max Yagur’s farm in upstate New York for four days, Aug. 15-18, 1969.

From what I’ve been able to gather the original lineup included Richie Havens, Swami Satchidananda, Country Joe McDonald, John B. Sebastian, Sweetwater, Incredible String Band, Bert Sommer, Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Quill, Keef Hartley Band, Santana, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Mountain, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly & The Family Stone, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Country Joe & The Fish, Ten Years After, The Band, Blood, Sweat And Tears, Johnny Winter, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha-Na-Na and Jimi Hendrix.

There was a great movie and accompanying soundtrack that were released to huge acclaim. All of the above artists did not make the final cut in the film or the album. I can remember anticipating with youthful exuberance the release of both. Wishing we could’ve all been there.

Then, a few months later, in an attempt to stage a Woodstock West, The Rolling Stones headlined a concert at Altamont Speedway in Livermore. It drew about 300,000 folks. Not as many as Woodstock but close enough. I almost went. Glad I didn’t. There were four deaths – one by stabbing, two by hit and run and one by drowning. It was a bad scene. A documentary, “Gimme Shelter,” was produced.

Sadly, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were dead within a year of Woodstock. Many of the artists of the era are gone.

On a brighter note, many artists from that celebrated time are gathering to commemorate Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary at WestFest in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Oct. 25.

Confirmed acts include Leslie West of Mountain, Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, The Original Lowrider Band (founding members of War), Greg Errico, Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini from Sly & The Family Stone, Country Joe McDonald, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, Edwin Hawkins and the New Edwin Hawkins Singers.

For a more complete lineup and more information go to .

And if the drive is too much for you and you can’t stand the city, Country Joe will be at the Soper-Reese Community Theatre in Lakeport on October 17.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Monday, Sept. 28

The Bottle Rock Blues & Rhythm Band featuring Mike Wilhelm and Neon. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or .

Thursday, Oct. 1



Open mike at 6 p.m. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Information: 707-275-2233 or .

Friday, Oct. 2

Gil Scott-Heron at The Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., San Francisco. Telephone 415-673-5716.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at .

CLEARLAKE – Two men accused of beating and stabbing to death a Clearlake man earlier this week entered not guilty pleas in a Friday afternoon hearing.

Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, appeared before Judge Stephen Hedstrom in Lake County Superior Court's Southlake Division Friday.

The men are charged in connection with the murder of 25-year-old Shelby Uehling, who was found dead alongside of the road in the area of Old Highway 53 and Clement Drive after an alleged early Tuesday morning confrontation, as Lake County News has reported.

Uehling had been severely beaten and was stabbed multiple times, sustaining a wound to the lower back that punctured his lung and a 3-inch laceration to his carotid artery, according to a Wednesday autopsy.

Edmonds faces a single charge of homicide, with a special allegation of using a knife, that could result in a sentence of 26 years to life in prison if he's convicted, according to the prosecution.

Norton faces 52 years to life if convicted of homicide, a special allegation of using a billy club-type weapon, assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury, a special allegation of inflicting great bodily injury, a count of being an accessory and a strike enhancement, Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff told Lake County News.

Defense attorneys Stephen Carter and Doug Rhoades – representing Norton and Edmonds, respectively – entered not guilty pleas and denied the special allegations on behalf of their clients.

Sitting in the front row of the courtroom was a young woman, accompanied by her mother, said to be the woman who was at the heart of the disagreement that led to the fight between the men.

Police Chief Allan McClain told Lake County News in a previous interview that the investigation produced information that Uehling had been dating a young woman that Edmonds also had been dating, and that allegedly led to the fatal fight.

When Edmonds, Norton and several other inmates were brought into the courtroom Edmonds turned his head to look over at the young woman as he was being directed to sit in the jury box.

After Carter entered the not guilty plea for Norton, the young woman and her mother loudly scoffed.

Rhoades and Carter didn't waive the time limits for their clients, which means that the preliminary hearing for the men must be held within the next few weeks.

Carter noted that no discovery information – including police reports and other investigative materials – have yet been made available to the defense in the case.

Hinchcliff, who has handled the case so far, told the court that the discovery documents should be available on Monday.

Judge Hedstrom set the preliminary hearing for Norton and Edmonds for 8:15 a.m. Oct. 6, in a courtroom that will be determined in a hearing scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Oct. 2 in Department 3 in Lakeport. Both Norton and Edmonds must be present for that Oct. 2 assignment hearing, Hedstrom said.

Norton and Edmonds are being held on $1 million bail each, after Hedstrom granted a motion filed by Hinchcliff Tuesday to have the normal $500,000 bail schedule doubled in this case.

Carter said after court that a bail hearing may be held to address that issue, since the original motion hearing included no representation for the men.

“That's an open question right now,” said Carter.

Rhoades previously served as Edmonds Fifth Amendment counsel in the prosecution of Renato Hughes, who was charged with two counts of murder and several other charges for an alleged December 2005 break-in at Edmonds' Clearlake Park home.

Hughes was charged with the deaths of friends Christian Foster and Rashad Williams, who were shot by Edmonds as they ran from the home. Edmonds was not charged, but Hughes faced prosecution under the provocative act. That law allows a person to be prosecuted for any deaths that result from a violent crime in which they took part, and which could be expected to have a lethal result.

Family searches for answers

Members of Uehling's family, including his stepfather, John Holland, and uncle, Tim Tillman, were at the brief afternoon hearing, which took just under 10 minutes.

Uehling's family followed the young woman said to be Uehling's girlfriend out of court in an effort to speak with her and find out more about the situation.

Holland, from Ennis, Montana, said Uehling had moved to Clearlake from Montana in March.

Uehling's family wasn't aware of his involvement with the young woman and is struggling to understand what happened.

“We're trying to put this together and it makes no sense to us,” Holland told Lake County News.

The family suspects drugs may have been involved. Uehling hadn't previously had a drug problem, but appeared to be involved with drugs lately, Holland said.

Holland had been in California for a hunting trip, and was in Cottonwood – south of Redding – when he got word that Uehling had been murdered.

At the time of the Friday afternoon hearing, Holland said he and his family had yet to speak with police about the case, and were headed to the Clearlake Police Department to try to get some information.

The family has had to deal with a tremendous amount of tragedy since the summer of 2008.

Uehling's brother, Staff Sgt. Cody Herring of the 820th Red Horse Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, died as the result of injuries he suffered in an off-duty motorcycle crash on Aug. 16, 2008, according to a story the base put out on the crash.

Three days later, Uehling's mother committed suicide, Holland said.

Holland said Uehling's natural father, Steve, died of cancer about 16 years ago.

“I've been with him since he was 3 years old,” Holland said of his stepson.

Holland said the family moved from San Diego to Montana in 1997. Uehling graduated from Ennis High School, located near Bozeman.

The young man's death brought back all of the tragedy that the family has suffered since last summer, Holland said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

LAKE COUNTY – At its event this past Saturday the Lake County Wine Auction once again raised a considerable amount of funds for community causes.

On Thursday members of the Lake County Wine Alliance Board of Directors announced the proceeds of the 10th annual Wine Auction, held on Sept. 19.

The charity event received more than $120,000 in revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, the live and silent auctions and raffle, a special fund-a-need item, entry into the Vintage Vault, sales of fine edition posters and a winery dinner, the board reported.

Event organizers noted that expenses were reduced about 20 percent from the previous year, and overall revenues were down about 30 percent from the income received in 2008.

Attendance was close to a sell-out once again for this popular benefit that raises funds to support the arts, health and community while also promoting Lake County as a premier wine grape growing region.

Premier sponsors included Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Beckstoffer Vineyards, Kelseyville Lumber, Saw Shop Gallery Bistro, Mendo Lake Credit Union and Wildhurst Vineyards.

The Wine Alliance is a nonprofit organization of Lake County wineries, winegrape growers, related businesses and community supporters directed by an all-volunteer board of directors, under the leadership of Margaret Walker Stimmel, president; Marie Beery, vice president; and Rob Roumiguiere, treasurer.

Andy Beckstoffer, chairman and chief executive officer of Beckstoffer Vineyards, was the Wine Auction honorary committee chair for the 2009 event.

Special guest Congressman Mike Thompson attended, and offered the live auction lot that garnered the highest bid, a barbecue at his ranch in Lake County with wines made from the grapes grown in his vineyard. Thompson has participated every year, and is a strong supporter of Lake County’s wine industry.

Other highlights of the event included the auctioneering talents of Tom DiNardo, the music of the LC Diamonds, the new Vintage Vault with seven Lake County wineries pouring special wines, the addition of local actors lending fun and pizzazz, and the transformation of the National Guard Armory building into a Tuscan courtyard with draped walls and garlands of twinkle lights.

Representatives of the organizations that will receive proceeds from the Wine Auction participated by setting up, decorating and cleaning up the venue.

The beneficiary organizations will receive their respective share of the net proceeds from the Wine Alliance later this year.

Those to benefit include: the Allegro Music Scholarship Program, the fine arts programs at the five Lake County high schools, the Lake County Hunger Task Force, the Meals on Wheels programs at five senior centers, the St. Helena Hospital Clearlake mammography fund, the Stitch and Give Knitters, the Lake County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans, People Services Inc., Senior Law Project Inc. and the Ely Stage Stop and Country Museum.

Information about the 11th annual Lake County Wine Auction will be available at  or by calling 1-866-279-WINE.

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – The Mendocino National Forest is entering the fall prescribed burning season as part of a continued commitment to protect communities and natural resources from wildfires.

The public may notice smoke in various parts of the forest during the next few months. As cooler weather and higher humidity move in, bringing to a close the hot and dry wildfire season, there is an opportunity to bring fire into the forest in a controlled setting. Prescribed fires are used to clear the forest floor of small fuels and brush without burning or killing large trees.

During prescribed burning season, fire crews also burn piles of wood debris and fuel that are the result of fuel reduction activities in the Forest. This year the Grindstone Ranger District also plans to burn a pile at the Chico Resource Conservation Center.

Prescribed burns are conducted when there is a window of opportunity and specific conditions and criteria are met before, and will be sustained during and after the burn. These include temperature, wind conditions, relative humidity and fuel moisture levels. The forest also takes air quality into consideration.

The season traditionally runs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 as weather permits. The burning operations are monitored and patrolled frequently to ensure public safety.

“Prescribed burning is an important tool for the forest to use for hazardous fuels reduction and forest health improvement, including wildlife habitat,” said Grindstone Fuels Officer Matt Ellis. “The fires are intended to be slow, low-intensity creeping fires on the forest floor. Although there are only a few opportunities for prescribed burns, they produce less smoke and there aren’t the resource impacts typically created by large wildfires.”

In addition to the pile burning in Chico, there are plans to burn additional piles across the Grindstone Ranger District.

The district also plans to conduct prescribed burning activities on approximately 2,500 acres, including understory burning in Alder Springs, Oak Ridge and Little Stony, and a combination of pile burning and understory burning for vegetation type conversion maintenance.


On the other side of the forest, the Upper Lake and Covelo Ranger Districts are also entering the fall prescribed burning season.

There are plans to conduct prescribed burning activities in areas including Elk Mountain Road, Howard Mill, Deer Valley, Boardman Ridge, High Valley, Horse Mountain, Tar Flat, Howard Lake, Pine Mountain, Lake Pillsbury and the vicinity of the 2005 Hunter Fire (Buckhorn and Skidmore Ridge).

Selected campgrounds, guard stations and miscellaneous pile burning will also be included in the prescribed burning operations.

Prescribed burning announcements will be placed at local Ranger Stations prior to ignition.

For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest Grindstone Ranger District at 530-934-3316, the Upper Lake Ranger District at 707-275-2361 or visit .

MENDOCINO – Mendocino County officials are dealing with water quality concerns in the seaside town of Mendocino.

The Mendocino City Community Services District made emergency repairs at the sewage treatment plant located at the far west end of town from Aug. 24 through 28, the county reported. The repairs necessitated wastewater to be diverted to the plants overflow pond.

On Aug. 28, repairs were complete, the pond was pumped dry and plant flow returned to normal, according to the county's report.

At about the time the repairs were completed, a resident located immediately adjacent to and east of the plant complained of foul smelling water coming from their well. Officials said the shallow well located approximately 100 feet away from the pond.

The Division of Environmental Health (DEH) was notified on Sept. 15 of a water sample taken from the well testing positive for the presence of fecal bacteria. DEH staff visited the neighborhood on Sept. 18, to obtain information on well construction in the area and to collect additional water samples.

Well construction varied from old, poorly constructed, shallow wells to newer deep wells installed to meet sanitary requirements, officials said.

DEH staff collected water samples from five wells. Two samples collected from shallow wells tested positive for bacteria, but none of the samples were found to contain fecal bacteria. Another shallow well in the area that was tested by residents also was reported to be free of fecal contamination, the county reported.

Mendocino County DEH staff conducts inspections at food facilities in Mendocino and those establishments on private well have water samples collected.  Of the most recently collected water samples from 16 food establishments, none were found to contain fecal bacteria.

Aside from the one positive sample there does not appear to be fecal contamination of water wells in the vicinity of the Mendocino sewage treatment plant, the agency reported. The source of contamination in the one well has not been determined.

DEH staff recommendation is for homeowners whose water is supplied from shallow wells to have the system inspected and repairs and upgrades made as required to minimize the risk of harmful bacteria getting into the water supply.

A seaplane about to set down on Clearlake during the second day of the 30th annual Clear Lake Splash-In in Lakeport on Saturday, September 26, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.


LAKEPORT – Even though the lake level was low this year due to the third year of drought plaguing all of California, spirits were high at the 30th annual Clear Lake Splash-In in Lakeport on Saturday, the largest gathering of seaplanes west of the Mississippi River, which is held annually on Clear Lake.

“By all measures, the event is once again a success,” said Chuck Kimes, organizer of the annual event, which brings dozens of seaplanes and land planes to Lake County for a few days of education, fun and aerial competition.

Workshops for pilots included International Flight planning for seaplanes, seaplanes and invasive species, and exhibitions from NorCal Aviation, Sierra Seaplanes, Big Foot Air LLC, Solo Flight School and Wipaire.

But what the public comes to see are the competitions – aerial feats of grace that include spot-landing and water-bombing contests, the latter involving pilots dropping a floating plastic jug and trying to hit a target in the water, as well as the Grand Flying Parade of Seaplanes.

The heyday of seaplanes – also referred to as float planes or amphibious planes – was in the 1930s and 1940s. That was when Clear Lake was a stopover point for seaplanes after the 17-hour flight from Hawaii during World War II, when San Francisco was fogged in.

In the 1930s, seaplanes also were tried out as a way to get visitors to and from Lake County, but the idea never really “took off.”

Seaplanes at the event on Saturday ranged in age from the 1940s to the new 2009 Gweduck (pronounced gooey-duck, and named after a clam). The Gweduck is an experimental twin-engine flying boat-style seaplane of composite construction instead of metal that is reminiscent of the Grumman-style planes.

The planes also had a value range that went from $25,000 to more than $1 million – a none-too-cheap labor of love. Most seaplanes hold two to four passengers and are constructed from fabric, fiberglass or metal. Ultra-lights with floats also participated in the event.

Pilots from as far away as Washington, Arizona and Nevada participated in Saturday’s splash-in, with more than 30 arriving in seaplanes, and more than 20 in land planes.

“This is a unique site for the Clear Lake Splash-In,” said Mike Dunlap, the local splash-in contact, of the grounds at Natural High School, explaining that it’s very accessible to both the pilots and the visitors, with amenities close by.

Dunlap explained that the Clear Lake Splash-In is great for the local economy. A survey they did last year found that the registered participants in the three-day event put more than $80,000 in to the local economy.

The owner of the only dedicated seaplane ramp on Clear Lake, Dunlap was in his element on Saturday and eager to speak with visitors about the beauty, history and mechanics of seaplanes – as well as the volunteer opportunities for residents.

“In the upcoming years,” Dunlap said, “we’re hoping for more local involvement in the event,” including food and beverage vendors and more.

For information about volunteer and vendor opportunities for the next three years’ Splash-In, (Sept. 24-26, 2010; Sept. 23-25, 2011; Sept. 28-30, 2012; and Sept. 27-29, 2013 ), contact Dunlap at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 877-828-2286.

Check out videos of the day at Lake County News' YouTube Channel, .

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .




Planes came and went throughout the day on the Helen L. Roe memorial seaplane ramp in Lakeport on Saturday, September 26, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.

MIDDLETOWN – A local man was the victim of a fatal Friday morning crash near Middletown.

The 47-year-old Lower Lake resident died at the scene of the solo-vehicle collision, which occurred on Butts Canyon Road a mile and a half east of Highway 29, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The man's identity was not released Friday by the CHP or the coroner's office pending family notification.

Just a few minutes before 7 a.m. the man was driving his 2008 Ford Edge westbound on Butts Canyon Road at an unknown speed when, according to the CHP report, he allowed his vehicle to drift off the road's south edge.

When the car went off the road it overturned and hit a utility pole, the CHP said.

The driver, pronounced dead at the scene, was wearing his seat belt and the vehicle's airbag had deployed, according to the CHP report.

CHP Officer Steve Curtis is leading the crash investigation, the agency reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

LUCERNE – A former director of the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center has been rearrested and charged again with embezzlement and grand theft.

Rowland James Mosser, 65, of Lucerne was arrested shortly before 9:30 a.m. Thursday and booked on four felony counts, two for embezzlement and two for grand theft, according to court records.

Mosser, whose current occupation is listed as business consultant on his booking sheet, posted the $10,000 bail later in the day and was released from the Lake County Jail.

Gary Luck, the county's retired district attorney who now works as a part-time prosecutor, said he is pursuing the same charges as were previously alleged against Mosser, but which were dropped during a January preliminary hearing due to the need for more evidence, as Lake County News has reported.

“It's the same case all over again,” but with a much deeper accounting of records, Luck said.

However, the case will differ in at least one way – charges have not been refiled against Mosser's wife, Jayne, who previously had faced a single felony count of grand theft.

“We don't feel we have enough evidence to convince the jury that she participated in it,” said Luck.

Judy Conard, who has acted as Mosser's attorney, did not have a comment on the case when contacted by Lake County News on Thursday.

Mosser was the center's executive director from July 2002 to August 2005.

The senior center's financial issues were the focus of an extensive grand jury investigation that was released as part of the 2006-07 report.

The refiled case against Mosser alleges that the embezzlement and theft activities took place between Jan. 1, 2005, and Aug. 12, 2005.

After the initial case was dropped earlier this year, the District Attorney's Office had a forensic examination conducted on the center's books and bank records, said Luck.

That, he said, gave the prosecution a better understanding of what was happening to the center's finances while Mosser was the center's executive director.

Former center officials told Lake County News in previous interviews that they could not account for between $150,000 and $175,000 in center funds after Mosser left in August 2005.

However, as to the total amount Mosser is alleged to have taken from the center, Luck said he doesn't have a “firm amount” and that such a total may never be available because Mosser didn't keep accurate financial records.

“Our case is built on his poor record keeping,” said Luck.

One figure that has become clearer is that between $60,000 and $64,000 was supposed to have been in the center's vault at one point, Luck said.

“The money had to go somewhere,” said Luck.

During testimony in the January preliminary hearing, Ron Larsen, the case's investigator, said he had found evidence of the Mossers' home electricity bill being paid at one point by the center.

Larsen also had testified to reviewing the Mossers' own bank statements, noting that over the period from 2003 to 2005 the couple went through a large amount of money, more than $167,000, which had appeared to come from investments.

In 2005 when the couple closed their personal checking account, all of that money appeared to be gone, with their only income source being Rowland Mosser's salary, Luck had stated in the preliminary hearing.

“When their money disappears, that's when the Lucerne Senior Center's money disappears,” Luck stated at the time.

Mosser is tentatively scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 20, according to booking records.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .




When I started to do restaurant reviews, the idea wasn't to hurt any restaurants’ reputations with scathing reviews. After all, food, like humor, is a very subjective thing, and many people might not be as thrilled with monkfish liver or be as disgusted by refried beans as I am.

So the decision was made to only write reviews on my great experiences and omit the bad ones; and trust me there have been bad ones.

For every good review I write, I eat at two other restaurants that I didn’t enjoy. Not that they were necessarily really bad, but they weren’t the experience I was looking for at the time, perhaps because the chicken was overcooked or the hostess smelled funny, etc. I’m actually in a pinch right now because I haven’t eaten anywhere that I have enjoyed recently.

When deciding what restaurant to review I try to eat at every corner of the map of the county, so I don’t appear that I am only eating in one area and I want to review places local for everybody. So if it appears that I am not eating at your favorite place it’s just because I ate at someplace else nearby recently and am writing about it, so next I’m going to another area of the county.

I could easily write reviews using phrases like “inedible,” “the chef must have a lobotomy scar” and “I think I know what happened to my missing dog,” and I’m sure many people would love my Don Rickles-inspired humor in that kind of review. But while articles like that are fun to read (and write!) they wouldn’t serve much purpose or help you choose a new place to eat. I put enough humor into every column as is … I think.

I don’t let any restaurant know that I am there as a reviewer, and I pay for every meal just like everyone else. I’m a good tipper too! If I need to make reservations I do it under a fake name. So even if I know someone on the kitchen staff or am completely smitten by the waitress, every restaurant gets the same treatment. I also admit my personal relationships or biases to a place up front anytime there is one, so you can rely on the integrity of the review.

I also try to keep in mind that people have different tastes. That’s why I don’t like the star or points system for rating a restaurant, because without a common standard or regulated idea of what the terms mean there will always be disagreement of opinion. It’s like trying to define what a “beautiful woman” is.I, of course, would make my wife the standard. She says I’m a Barbie chaser, though she is not a Barbie type. (A note from Ross’ wife: Ross’ “type” is “gorgeous.” Don’t let him try to tell you he has a “type.” Anybody even remotely good looking isn’t safe from his flirting.)

But sincerely I think that you can learn more by reading detailed descriptions about my experience and then see if you agree rather than quickly scanning the name of the restaurant and seeing “Ross gave it four stars!”

I sit there, smiling and nodding when people tell me, “You have to eat at this place, it’s my favorite in the entire county!” Meanwhile in my head I’m thinking “I’ve eaten there six times and never had a good meal yet!” But I do try to eat everywhere and several times so I really get a good feel of a place.

Here are some of the notably bad experiences I’ve had that I think you would enjoy hearing. Of course, I’m leaving names out!

I’ll admit menus give me the most entertainment. Reading descriptions of items that say it is a “classic recipe” but then go on to tell how it is a very nonclassical version makes me giggle – wondering why they call it that if it isn’t going to be the traditional recipe? Does the word “classic” allow you to add a dollar to the price? Or is it “classic” because that’s the way Mom always made it?

Then there are the ones that say “braised” when it isn’t. I think chefs just like the sound of the word “braised” and throw it out anytime they can.

I went to one restaurant where the house salad consisted of iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, a slice of cucumber, a slice of radish, croutons out of a package and a salad dressing that came out of a one gallon jug (I could see them dress it from where I was sitting). I felt almost insulted that they would serve anyone a salad that was more appropriate for a minimum security prison food program than for a moderately priced restaurant. I was dreading the rest of the meal and whispered to my wife, “I hope the salad isn’t foreshadowing of what’s to come.”

It was.

While still eating our salads the waitress brings our entrées and desserts – so if you like to eat and run this was the place to go! There was no room on the table to fit everything so my wife finished her salad while holding it in her lap.

The baked potato that accompanied the entrée was cooked several hours ago and then reheated in a microwave oven; the color and texture was a dead giveaway. In case you have never cooked a baked potato, let it cool and then rewarmed it in a microwave, let me tell you that it is like eating warmed Play-doh ... with potato flavoring, of course. When the potato cools the starches crystallize, and then when reheated you get the awful pasty texture (my apologies to the people at Play-doh). So the potato sat untouched on my plate.

My order of “prime rib, rare” was raw – not rare, raw – and had grill marks on both sides. Technically that meant that it wasn’t an undercooked prime rib but an undercooked rib eye steak. It also was only a quarter of an inch thick! Between the grill marks on the meat and how thin it was, it looked like I was eating the sole of a tennis shoe. All I could think is that the chef must be relying on the idea that his diners are so desperate for food that this will appear to be manna from heaven.

From the prices on the menu I had high hopes for the meal (dinner for the two of us cost about $75) but by the end of it I told my wife, “I will never set foot in here again.”

I’ve since cooled off and have eaten there again. The salad and potato were the same but the prime rib was much thicker and excellently prepared. I’ll return again in a few months to see if there are even more positive changes.

Then there is the little off-the-beaten-track restaurant that had amazing food, but the service was like calling for the concierge at your local high school cafeteria. All of the staff members were chatting among themselves in the back room, leaving me to wonder when I was going to get my drink. I went back a couple more times for lunch, hoping the service would improve but it never did.

I did enjoy the waitress describing one dish saying, “and topped with capers, but I don’t know what those are.” I even went to it one morning to pick up some coffee for my wife and the person attending the coffee bar asked me how to make a macchiato. Sorry, it’s all burned beans stewed in hot water to me, I don’t do coffee. She eventually found a cheat sheet and made the cuppa joe.

I also wonder what to do if I go to a place that has fantastic dinners but terrible lunches (or vice versa). What do I say about that? If I recommend it should I say “But don’t go there for lunch”? I’ve been to several places like that, and as of this moment I haven’t written about them but I want to. If they have good dinners they should get their bon mot. Still working that process out.

In one certain place I probably looked like the most finicky eater ever, even though it was completely accidental – I promise!

The soup was quite good but there was a lot of it and I didn’t finish it all as I wanted to save room for the rest of the meal. In retrospect, I wish I had finished the soup.

The entrée came and all I could think was, “You have got to be kidding me!” I was so disappointed that after a couple of bites I just pushed it away. The waitress must have been watching me because she immediately appeared to remove the plate. She asked if I wanted some dessert and my thought was, “Of course, I’m starving!” She mentioned a cobbler that sounded good so I requested it.

When the cobbler arrived I could see that the berry compote was a bit dehydrated and looked a little leathery, as if it has been in the refrigerator for a day or two. I thought, “Oh, what the heck,” and started eating.

The moment I started to bite down I could feel the unmistakable texture of a walnut (to which I’m allergic, and which the waitress never mentioned) and I immediately spit the mouthful out onto the plate and pushed it aside.

Again, the waitress must have been watching me as she walked up right away, and with a sheepish look on her face asked, “Are you done with this?” I said yes, as I was licking my napkin trying to remove any remnants of walnut in my mouth.

My waitress asked me no questions about my meal; she just gingerly slid my bill on the table and snuck away. I would have happily given her a large tip since she was so attentive, but since she seemed more interested in getting me out than trying to discover just what it was that displeased me, I only gave her 10 percent. I then walked a few doors down to another restaurant and started over, all the while wondering how awful I must have looked to the waitress.

I don’t get bothered when people don’t agree with my reviews. As I said, the quality of food and service are very subjective. Some people like the wait staff to be standing at their elbow, while I prefer them to be invisible; neither of us is correct, it’s just personal preferences. Just like my humor – some people love it and some people don’t get it, and that’s totally OK with me. I just want to let people know when I have a great experience so they can be confident that they probably will also.

So please feel free to disagree with me, suggest your favorite place for me to try, or just tell me I have the palate of a zombie on crack. I’m always interested in hearing from you, whether you agree with me or are wrong.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, .

MIDDLETOWN – The California Highway Patrol is reporting a possible fatal crash near Middletown.

Throughout the morning CHP officers remained on the scene of the crash, which occurred on Butts Canyon Road approximately one mile from Highway 29.

The solo-vehicle collision involved a vehicle that was reported to have been wrapped around a power pole, according to the CHP.

The collision caused the road to be shut down while Pacific Gas & Electric worked to replace the power pole, the CHP reported. Shortly after 7:30 a.m. the road was opened under one-way traffic control.

The CHP did not have additional details on the crash or its victim available during the morning.

Lake County News will update the story as more information becomes available.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

Konocti Harbor is reported to be under a sales contract, according to a representative of the company overseeing the resort's sale. Courtesy photo.



KELSEYVILLE – A representative of the company overseeing the sale of Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa said Wednesday that the resort is currently under a sales contract.

The news comes just a few weeks after it was announced that the resort would close temporarily but indefinitely beginning in November.

James Bishop, managing director of WhiteStar Advisors LLC, shared some basic details about the resort's current sales situation in an interview with Lake County News.

“There is a signed contract but they have not yet reached the date by which the escrow needs to be opened,” he explained.

Bishop would not disclose the identity of the potential buyer or discuss terms of the contract, including the price, which is stated as $15 million on the county's multiple listing service.

The purchase contract is still being negotiated, Bishop said, and he wouldn't guess as to when those negotiations or a sale might wrap up.

The 90-acre full-service lakefront resort includes an outdoor amphitheater and indoor showroom, swimming pools, a marina, restaurant and night club facilities, hotel accommodations, a spa, and meeting and conference rooms.

The property had been listed locally by Coldwell Banker Town & Country. However, Bishop noted, “This particular contract did not involve a local Realtor.”

Coldwell Banker Town & Country representatives did not return calls from Lake County News seeking comment.

In November 2004, the US Department of Labor sued Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Journeymen, whose Convalescent Trust Fund, Lakeside Haven, has owned Konocti Harbor since 1959.

The federal suit alleged that the union diverted $36 million from pension funds to help run the resort, as Lake County News has reported. Department of Labor attorneys told Lake County News in a 2007 interview that the amount the union transferred to the trust fund between 1994 and 2004 was actually around $54 million.

The suit's settlement was finalized in August 2007.

WhiteStar Advisors LLC, based in Boca Raton, Fla., was appointed to act as the resort's independent fiduciary in September 2007, according to federal court records. The company is being paid $25,000 per quarter for its services.

“In this particular case our primary role is to facilitate the sale of the property,” said Bishop. “We see that as our most important function at the moment.”

He added, “Our job is not to manage and run the resort on a day-to-day basis.”

The lawsuit settlement, said Bishop, contains a formulation for the application of the sale's proceeds. “The first money goes back to the trust fund,” he said.

Bishop said the firm doesn't have a permanent presence, and relies on assistance from the current management team – led by Greg Bennett, the resort's longtime president and general manager.

Gloria Della, spokesperson for the US Department of Labor, told Lake County News on Wednesday that the consent order that resulted from the lawsuit isn't affected by the resort's closure or the current situation.

“The independent fiduciary continues to manage the property and the Department is monitoring the case on an ongoing basis,” she said.

During the two years that WhiteStar has been on the job, the economy has changed dramatically, which has proved a challenge in finding a seller.

There have been interested buyers, including Bay Area firm Page Mill Properties, which had at one point looked at buying the resort for $25 million, as Lake County News has reported.

However, that deal fell apart, and Page Mill has now fallen into troubles of its own. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the company failed to make a $50 million balloon payment to Wells Fargo last month and now has a court-appointed receiver overseeing it operations.

Page Mill also is locked in lawsuits over rent hikes in East Palo Alto, where it's the biggest landlord of rent-controlled properties, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

While there have been a number of people looking at Konocti Harbor, Bishop said resorts across the nation have been hit hard in the current economic climate, which is affecting all sectors.

WhiteStar has real estate and investment activities across the country, said Bishop. “We see the same kinds of problems in very high end properties with very sophisticated, high-end type buyers,” he said, just as they struggles for smaller, local properties.

Efforts under way to help employees

Earlier this month, WhiteStar sent Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letters to local and state government officials, notifying them of the “expected temporary closure” of the resort, effective Nov. 11, as Lake County News has reported. The letter also was sent to Unite Here Local 2850 of Oakland, which represents the resort's workforce.

The closure, which the WhiteStar letter stated was to be for an “indefinite” period of time, was to affect approximately 700 employees, although an accompanying employee count list submitted to the state Employment Development Department listed approximately 559 staff slated for layoff.

Unite Here Local 2850's president, Wei-Ling Huber, said the economy has a lot of accommodations businesses struggling in other places like the Bay Area. I think Konocti's been hit a lot harder than a lot of the other hotels were hit,” Huber said.

Bishop said he didn't know whether the resort will be sold in time to prevent those employees from losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, in response to the announcement that the resort was closing, local officials created a committee to assess the economic impacts, primarily the displaced workers.

County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox said Wednesday that he can't say much publicly about the county's efforts at this point.

He did say, however, that the county has communicated its “strong desire” to all parties involved that the current owners keep Konocti Harbor open and operational until its sold.

“We have also been obtaining information about programs that may be available through the federal government to assist in keeping the facility open,” he said.

Huber said the union has a successor agreement which requires a new owner to retain the current employees if Konocti Harbor continues to be operated as a resort. That successor agreement also is supposed to uphold the current employee contract under new ownership.

She said Unite Here Local 2850 has has a good relationship with UA Local 38, which is working to ensure benefits and severance for the resort's employees.

Huber said Unite Here will meet in early October with UA Local 38 to discuss the succession and worker benefits issues.

She said this is the time of year when Konocti Harbor's seasonal workforce starts to shrink following the more active summer months. Huber estimated the resort tops out at about 700 employees in summer and is reduced to less than 100 employees during the winter.

No potential new owners have yet been introduced to the union, said Huber.

“It's pretty early in the process,” she said, explaining that, in general, the union doesn't start talking to new owners until a few weeks before the new ownership actually takes over.

In the case that Konocti Harbor goes to a new owner who intends to use it for a nonresort use, thus canceling out its succession agreement, Huber said the union will help point union members toward services and assist them in transitioning to new employers.

Teddie Pierce, executive director of the Lake One-Stop Center, located at 55 First St. in Lakeport, said she wants Konocti Harbor's employees to know that help with services including unemployment information, work readiness and career transition counseling is available if it's needed.

She said they can get immediate information about employee assistance by calling the office at 707-263-0630, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or emailing a request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at .

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