Wednesday, 17 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Local social services programs could be hard hit if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's current budget proposals become reality.

On Tuesday, Lake Family Resource Center (LFRC) reported that Schwarzenegger's proposals include elimination of programs that would result in almost a $1 million loss to LFRC services.

Proposed cuts include eight of LFRC’s safety net programs, according to Executive Director Gloria Flaherty.

Those cuts include one of the agency’s revenue streams for Freedom House, its domestic violence shelter, funding for two teen parenting programs, the pregnancy prevention program, Healthy Families, and CalWORKS domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health programs, Flaherty said.

In past years, these “safety net” programs were mostly exempted from severe budget cuts or complete program elimination, said Flaherty.

But this year, that is most definitely not the case, with the state considering complete elimination of several of the agency's programs. In past years, when the state budget was late, Flaherty said LFRC had confidence that the programs would continue, even with some reduction. Last year the reduction was between 10 and 15 percent.

If the state follows through with eliminating the agency’s funding this year, more than 3,400 individuals – equal to 5 percent of the county's overall population – will go without services from LFRC annually, Flaherty reported.

“The programs being contemplated for elimination weave a safety net for some of the most vulnerable members of our Lake County community, and children, especially, will be at high risk,” said Christina Roth, chair of LFRC's Board of Directors.

Roth said if the state cuts Healthy Families – the children’s health insurance program that assists low-income, working families – more than 1,700 children in Lake County would lose their coverage, jeopardizing preventive care and other medical services.

That will result in a loss of more than $2 million per year to the local economy, LFCR reported.

The agency's highly effective teen parenting program provides services to more than 140 teens and their children every year, providing access to medical care, parenting development, prevention of second pregnancies and assistance in staying in school.

Limited domestic violence services, including the shelter, would survive due to other funding streams, but program staff would be cut by two-thirds, which would result in far more restricted services to survivors of domestic violence and their children.

Lake County’s teen pregnancy rate is falling due in part to the excellent work being done through the adolescent pregnancy prevention Community Challenge Program, according to LFRC. Several hundred young teens receive information about abstinence, results of early sexual activity, healthy relationships, and positive life choices through that program every year.

Flaherty said LFRC has taken the unprecedented action of advising its staff members of potential layoffs due to state budget impacts.

She said the agency has notified 12 people that if the state does not adopt a budget by July 1, they will be furloughed until adoption of the budget.

Depending on the state’s final actions, up to 25 of LFRC’s 57 staff may be permanently laid off.

In previous years, the agency had confidence that its programs would survive the budget process, even when the budget was late; that is not the case in the current year.

“I don’t think anyone can have confidence in the state’s processes this year – it just seems highly volatile and unpredictable,” said Flaherty. “We cannot accept the potential financial liability for the agency should we to continue to incur costs that would not be reimbursed.”

If the state budget is adopted after July 1 and programmatic cuts are made by the state retroactively, it is very unlikely that LFRC will receive any reimbursement for costs it incurs after June 30.

“The individuals who are at risk of being furloughed July 1, and others who may later be at risk, depending on legislative actions, are dedicated, well-trained, professional staff members; we are hopeful of continuing their employment, but if we cannot, other employers should seek them out,” Flaherty said. “These individuals would be an asset to any business or organization.”

LFRC will continue to provide a continuum of countywide family services including domestic violence response and counseling, the Freedom House shelter, mental health services, child abuse treatment, child abuse prevention, rape crisis center, Early Head Start, parenting, anger management and other kinds of classes and workshops, and teen lifeline.


“We urge Lake County residents to let Gov. Schwarzenegger and our local representatives, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro and Senator Pat Wiggins, know the impact of the loss of these services to our community,” said Flaherty. “Lake County does not have a ‘deep bench’ of community services – there is little to no duplication of the services being contemplated for elimination.”

The governor’s office can be reached by calling 916-445-2841, or faxing 916-558-3160; Wiggins’ contact numbers are 916-651-4002 (phone) and 916-323-6958 (fax); and Chesbro can be reached at 916-319-2001 (phone) and 916-319-2101 (fax).

Community members who would like to provide financial assistance to LFRC may make tax-deductible donations to the agency at 896 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport, CA 95453.

Some of the agency’s programs that will continue can always use volunteers with experience and skills related to that program. LFRC also provides specialized training for volunteers in its domestic violence and sexual assault programs. Those who are interested in volunteering should call Michele Meek at 707-262-1611.

LOWER LAKE – The Lake County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about a new scam that reportedly took $30,000 from a local woman.

Sheriff's Capt. James Bauman said Monday that an elderly Lower Lake woman reported on May 29 that she had been scammed out of $30,000 by a man posing to be her grandson on the telephone.

This is the third report of scams or attempted scams this year in which elderly victims have been called by someone posing to be a grandson who alleges to have gotten into trouble in another country and asks for large amounts of money, Bauman said.

Seventy-two-year-old Marie Newsom reported getting a phone call on the morning of May 28 in which the male caller told her he was her grandson, Joshua Hazzard, according to Bauman.

Bauman said the caller told Newsom that he and several of his friends had been arrested in Hong Kong for soliciting prostitutes and they needed $30,000 transferred to a Hong Kong bank to bail out of jail.

Immediately after getting the call, Newsom arranged for the transfer of funds to the Hong Kong bank, Bauman said.

The same man called Newsom back later in the day to see if she had transferred the funds and she told him she had, according to Bauman's report.

The following day, Newsom became concerned that she had been scammed and called her grandson’s other grandmother in Las Vegas where Hazzard apparently resides. She then learned Hazzard was in Las Vegas and had not been to China at all, said Bauman.

An elderly Clearlake Oaks couple fell victim to a similar crime in February of this year when they got a call from a man posing as their grandson who told them he was in jail in Canada and needed $3,000 to bail out, as Lake County News has reported.

Another elderly man from Clearlake Oaks got a similar call in January of this year in which the “grandson” asked him to wire $6,000 to Canada to get him out of trouble. Fortunately in that case, the would-be victim called his daughter and the mother of his grandson in Los Angeles before sending any money and learned his grandson was not in Canada, Bauman said.

Bauman said the sheriff’s office is again reminding all members of the public that there isn’t nearly as much advice on avoiding being the victim of such scams as there are ways to be defrauded.

However, aside from always protecting your personal information, members of the public are encouraged to always verify unsolicited transactions of any kind before acting on them, Bauman said.

Visitors pack Main Street in Upper Lake for Wild West Day on Saturday, June 6, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




UPPER LAKE – Cowboys, horses and visitors crowded Upper Lake's streets on Saturday as part of the 16th annual Wild West Day celebration.

The daylong event saw Main Street lined with vendors of all kinds – from food to clothing and jewelry and horse tack – plus historic displays of steam-run farm machinery and antique fire equipment. Most stores along the street also had their doors open to welcome visitors.

The day started with a pancake breakfast, and also included music, skits and wagon rides.

Wild West Day, sponsored by the Upper Lake Community Council and the Northshore Fire Protection District, recalls the town's past. Upper Lake was founded in 1854 and was the site of a stagecoach stop along the route from Sacramento to Mendocino.

Cowboys keep an eye on things during Wild West Day on Saturday, June 6, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Northshore Fire Protection District, an event cosponsor, displayed some of the antique fire equipment from its Upper Lake station during Wild West Day on Saturday, June 6, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Nothing hearkens to the wild west like horses, which were in evidence as part of Wild West Day on Saturday, June 6, 2009. These horses took visitors on a ride through town. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – Local law enforcement officials are cracking down on trespassing on private lands near Hidden Valley Lake.

Past complaints of vehicular trespass in the Putah Creek area of Hidden Valley Lake have prompted assertive enforcement measures to stop the random misuse and frequent destruction of privately owned, unoccupied lands, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said deputies have been focusing patrols on private lands to the east of Highway 29 on both sides of Hartmann Road near Putah Creek for the past two months.

Thus far, only verbal warnings have been issued to off-highway vehicle (OHV) operators and pedestrian trespassers, Bauman said.

Those contacted during the two-month “grace period” have respectfully complied with requests to leave the properties, he added.

However, beginning this month, Bauman said those found trespassing will now be subject to arrest, citation or criminal complaint.

Bauman said the sheriff's office and the state Department of Fish and Game will work together with absentee land owners to abate the Hartmann Road and Putah Creek areas in the coming months.

He said the sheriff's office further advises all off-road motor sports enthusiasts to enjoy their recreation without violating the law by using designated OHV use areas such as the Cow Mountain Recreational area, designated areas of the Mendocino National Forest, and the newly opened Oasis Motocross track in Clearlake Oaks.

OHV enthusiasts must otherwise comply with the provisions set forth by state law and county ordinance when enjoying their sport on private property, Bauman said.

NICE – A vehicle crash late Sunday morning closed Highway 20 for more than an hour and a half.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the collision took place shortly before 11:30 a.m. near Robinson Rancheria in Nice.

A white pickup rolled over and hit two other vehicles, blocking the roadway.

CHP, Lake County Sheriff's deputies, Caltrans and Northshore Fire medics responded to the scene.

Three subjects, whose names were not immediately available, were reported injured, and two air ambulances came to the scene to transport them to the hospital.

The CHP reported the roadway was closed, with vehicles being diverted at the Reclamation Road cutoff.

Caltrans road signs were activated at the intersections of Highway 20 and Highway 53 and Highway 20 and Highway 29 to alert drivers to the closure.

The roadway reopened at 1:10 p.m., the CHP reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

COVELO – Officials are investigating a shooting that took a Covelo man's life early Saturday morning.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that Jason Ray McLean, 23, died after being shot several times in a gunfight with 22-year-old Andrew Timothy Card, also of Covelo.

According to the report, McLean appears to have instigated the gunfight.

Deputies were dispatched to the intersection of Short Creek Road and Murphy Ridge Road, a rural secluded area of the valley floor, just before 5 a.m. Saturday on the report of a shooting, according to the sheriff's office report.

Arriving at the scene they found McLean with multiple gunshot wounds. He was receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Deputies also learned that a private citizen had transported Card, who also had suffered a gunshot wound, to the Covelo Fire Department.

Before deputies could attempt to interview the men about the incident McLean died of his injuries and Card was flown by air ambulance to a Sacramento-area hospital for treatment. The agency reported that detectives responded to the hospital and later interviewed Card.

Sheriff's office deputies responded to the shooting scene to investigate. They found that earlier that morning there had been a party at the intersection of Short Creek Road and Murphy Ridge Road, with the party goers drinking alcohol at the scene.

McLean and Card, who had past problems, also were at the party, according to the report.

The sheriff's office reported that Card had been arrested on Sept. 2, 2007, after having stabbed McLean while the pair were at the Covelo Rodeo Grounds early that morning. Card was subsequently prosecuted by the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office and a sentence was imposed by the Mendocino County Superior Court.

At the time of the Saturday gathering, the men reportedly were friendly toward one another, according to the investigation.

However, while McLean was leaving the gathering he stopped the vehicle he was driving for an unknown reason while Card was standing nearby. Investigators reported that McLean got out of his vehicle with a high-powered rifle and gained Card's attention with a few spoken words.

According to the investigation, McLean fired the rifle at Card without warning. The bullet entered and exited Card's abdomen and arm.

Card produced a handgun and began to shoot at McLean while the pair were standing approximately five feet apart, based on the investigation's findings. The pair reportedly engaged in a gun battle wherein each shot several times at each other.

As a result of the gun battle, a preliminary examination of McLean's body showed he sustained approximately four gunshot wounds to include wounds to his torso, an arm and a leg.

Card appears to have only suffered one gunshot wound – the shot initially fired by McLean, officials reported.

Mendocino County Sheriff's officials report that Card is expected to survive his injuries after having undergone surgery.

The report said detectives recovered the rifle at the shooting scene and the handgun is currently outstanding.

Detectives are still conducting investigations into this case and persons with information are urged to contact the Sheriff's Office Tip-Line by calling 707-467-9159.

LAKEPORT – A teenager convicted of stabbing to death a classmate last summer received a seven-year state prison sentence on Monday.

Gabrielle Rachel Varney, 19, a former Carlé Continuation High School student, pleaded guilty on April 27 to voluntary manslaughter and the use of a knife in killing 17-year-old Heather Valdez following an argument on June 5, 2008.

Judge Arthur Mann, decided Varney – who has no previous record – is not likely to be a repeat offender or a danger to others, and sentenced her to the middle term of six years in state prison and one year for the use of the knife.

She will receive 369 days of credit for time served and 55 days for good conduct credit, Mann said. As a result, Varney likely will serve just over five years in state prison. She also was ordered to pay more than $20,000 in restitution.

Varney's 80-minute sentencing resembled a miniature trial. There were victim impact statements and, in an unusual touch, Varney herself was called to the stand to discuss the case.

Victim-Witness advocates escorted into the courtroom many members of Valdez's family, who sat on the left side of the courtroom. Many of them wore black t-shirts with pictures of the victim. One young man's shirt read, “RIP Heather Valdez.”

Tammy Davis, Valdez's aunt, read her own victim impact statement as well as those of several family members.

The stories the statements told were of a devastated family, stricken by fear, economic hardship, foreclosures, job loss and despair.

“On June 5, 2008, the lives of an entire family changed forever,” when Heather Valdez's life was “brutally” taken by Varney, said Davis.

Davis called Varney, sitting at the defense table with Stephen Carter, a “cold-blooded murderer.”

The main question of why Varney killed Valdez, remains unanswered, said Davis. “We only know your side. We will never know Heather's side.”

Valdez would have turned 18 on April 7, and this Friday would have graduated from high school, said Davis. “You have taken something very special from us.”

Davis told Varney, “I have never hated a person more than I hate you,” and said she wished Varney would die in the gas chamber, a comment which caused one of Varney's family members to break down in tears.

Cheryl Valdez, Heather Valdez's mother, said “You think this sort of thing isn't going to happen to you.”

She said the lives of the family members have been destroyed. “I can't even convey to you the pain and loss in my life,” she said, explaining that she can look out her window every day and see the spot in the street where her daughter died.

Valdez said her daughter was not a violent person or a bully, and asked the judge for the full 12-year sentence for Varney.

Tammy Davis also read statements from several other family members, including Judith Davis, Heather Valdez's grandmother; the girl's father, Tom Valdez; uncles Jim and Jeff Davis; aunt, Donna Davis; and sister, Jennifer Valdez.

Judith Davis, who helped raise Valdez, recalled spending time with the girl, whose death she has lived over and over each day.

Her statement noted that she saw Varney laughing in court one day. “I hate you with every inch of my being,” she wrote, recalling how Varney had visited her house and had dinner with her family when the girls were still friends.

Tom Valdez wrote in his statement that his days are filled with sadness and fear. He's been unable to work and afraid to leave his home.

He added, “I feel let down by the justice system.”

Jim Davis was business partners with Tom Valdez. But Valdez's inability to work resulted in the failure of their business, and the loss of two houses and three cars, leaving Davis homeless.

He criticized both the District Attorney's Office and the Clearlake Police Department for their handling of the case, and said he plans to leave Lake County and take his business with him.

Jennifer Valdez wrote to the court that she had attended college in Sacramento where she was studying fashion design. When Heather Valdez graduated from high school, she was supposed to move in with her sister.

Her sister's death caused Jennifer Valdez to suffer an emotional breakdown and return home to her parents. She wrote that she's watched her young brother lash out at friends, her mother get thinner with grief and her father – who she'd never seen cry before – weep for her dead sister.

“My sister was a good person,” she wrote. “She was not the person she was made out to be.”

Heather Valdez had a hard life, and also had been bullied, but she never decided to handle problems with a knife, Jennifer Valdez wrote.

Varney tells her story on the stand

Following the statements, Carter called Varney to the stand.

Wearing a black and white jail jumpsuit, with her wrists shacked at her waist, Varney answered questions in a soft voice.

“This case has hurt me emotionally, too, and I know a lot of people aren't going to believe that,” she said.

Varney said the fatal incident haunts her every day. “I am so sorry for what happened,” she said, adding that she would trade her life for Valdez's.

She stabbed Valdez because she was scared of getting hurt, and she couldn't fight but knew Valdez could.

Varney said Valdez pushed her as they were getting off the bus. While on the bus she had taken a knife out of her purse and put it in her back pocket. After being pushed, she took out the knife and said to herself, “You think you're funny?”

Valdez didn't hear the comment and came toward her. Varney said she had the knife out and hoped Valdez would see it. But after Varney had the folding knife open she said Valdez punched her in the face several times, causing her to bleed.

Varney said Valdez pinned her left arm behind her and was pulling her hair. At that point Varney – who had no experience fighting with a knife – said she began to throw the knife wildly in the air but didn't think she had made contact.

But, according to statements in court, she did make contact – striking Valdez in the neck, chest and abdomen.

Carter asked Varney what she wanted to say to Valdez's family. “Where do I begin? There is so much I wanted to tell you,” she said.

Varney added, “I wish that I could take this back more than anything in this world.”

Prosecutor John DeChaine questioned Varney about how long the disagreement between she and Valdez had been taking place. Varney estimated about six months, with the issue initially arising over a cigarette. Under questioning, she admitted that Valdez hadn't previously assaulted her but she had tried.

About three months previous to the stabbing Varney started carrying the knife, she stated.

DeChaine asked Varney is she had ever asked adults for help in dealing with the tension with Valdez. She said she told then-Carlé High Principal William MacDougall and teachers. She conceded she wasn't assaulted afterward but Valdez would say “very, very mean things to me.”

The prosecutor questioned Varney about a written statement by a fellow student who witnessed a conflict between Varney and Valdez. Afterward Varney had allegedly said, “I swear I'm going to kill that bitch.” Varney said she didn't recall saying it.

The final deadly conflict between the two teenagers had reportedly been over a mutual friend, who Valdez had asked to choose between them. Varney told a probation officer that she was upset about the issue, but on Monday she said she hadn't been upset enough to hurt Valdez.

As DeChaine's questioning continued, Varney said she hadn't mean to stab Valdez, only to scare her. DeChaine asked her if it was happenstance that she just happened to hit Valdez in vital areas with the knife. Yes, Varney replied.

Carter said the Valdez family's story was compelling, and he was sorry for their loss.

“I must come here to give the other side of this story, and there is another side to this story,” he said.

Varney, whose school nickname was “Mouse,” is a bright but troubled teenager who was described by witnesses as someone who had been making “leaps and bounds forward” before the stabbing, he said.

No one can blame Valdez's family for their anger and pain, said Carter. “But Gabrielle Varney is not a monster. She, too, is a human being, and she acted that day out of fear.”

She's not a murderer, he said; she's been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and from the beginning had admitted her guilt and didn't try to hide it or run away. “She just didn't know what to do in the aftermath of what had happened.”

He said she has an excellent chance of moving forward with her life once she's out of prison, and wants to move to New York to live with her father. “She does care. She is insightful. She is intelligent, and she wants to succeed,” he said, adding she's “extremely remorseful.

A report Carter had submitted to the court said a doctor who has been treating Varney in jail found that she “does not pose a significant risk of future offenses.”

Recalling the victim, Carter said, “Heather didn't deserve what Heather got. You'll never hear me argue that she did.”

Mann turned down the option of giving Varney probation rather than a prison sentence, saying she wasn't overly provoked. But neither did the crime demonstrate planning, he said. He said it was a “tough call” about whether or not she would be a danger to herself or others; he found that danger to be moderate.

DeChaine argued for the 12-year prison term because of the great violence and bodily harm of the crime. He accused Varney of goading the conflict, and said if she truly had been scared of Valdez she wouldn't have made some of the comments that fueled the argument.

Replied Carter, “The only thing my client planned was to not get beat up.”

Carter – who argued for the lower, four-year term – called the stabbing “a violent act” that arose out of “genuine teenager fear.”

DeChaine responded by attacking the presumption that the final fight resulted from bullying, once again drawing attention to Varney's statements about being upset with Valdez over the disagreement regarding a mutual friend.

Mann found that there was “great violence” in the death of Valdez, who was stabbed three times. However, he didn't find it was planned, and considered it a one-time occurrence.

He also gave her credit for pleading to the voluntary manslaughter charge. “From day one she was admitting her guilt.”

Mann then passed sentence on Varney. As the filled gallery emptied out of the courtroom, Varney was placed in the jury box, where she sat alone, sobbing.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

CyberSoulMan Thurman Watts (right) with Koko Taylor. Courtesy photo.



I ain’t in no hurry

but I ain’t got no time to lose ...

Chicago Blues Queen Koko Taylor, June 5, 2007

These are difficult times for your CyberSoulMan. Some of you may know that my mother recently left this earth for the next level and I’m dealing with all the accompanying emotion that accompanies a loss of that magnitude.

Koko Taylor, who passed June 3, was an artist dear to my mom’s heart, as well as my own.

My mom helped shape my blues sensibilities. I’ve written before that my mom introduced me to the music of Sugar Pie DeSanto. By way of mother inserting Koko Taylor’s classic song “Wang Dang Doodle” on the hi-fi, I became a Koko convert as well.

I actually met Koko face to face several times – on two occasions at the Russian River Blues Festival. At the 2007 Russian River I hung with her one on one for about 20 minutes until Little Richard’s limo pulled up and he requested her queenly presence. I also spoke with her briefly at the Chicago Blues Festival last year

I was very proud of returning from the 2007 Russian River Blues Festival with a picture I’d taken with Koko Taylor to present my mother. She, in turn, proudly displayed the picture on her refrigerator.

Prior to the event on the Russian River, I interviewed Koko Taylor on June 5, 2007, by phone for my Internet radio show. When I told her that my mom introduced me to her music she remarked that she would like to meet mom when she came to California. I thought that a very kind thing to say and when I repeated it to mom she received it kindly as well.

When Koko agreed to do a radio promo for me she graciously insisted on doing multiple takes until it was perfect. She was so willing to please and thoroughly enjoyed her work.

During my travel to the Chicago Blues Festival of 2008, I was able to witness Queen of the Chicago Blues Koko Taylor meet and greet Queen of the West Coast Blues Sugar Pie DeSanto.

Here is how I reported it for .

Fast forward to June 6, 2008. Before leaving the Essex Hotel for sound check, Queen of the West Coast Blues Sugar Pie DeSanto is summoned by the hospitality coordinator to the parking garage because Chicago Blues Queen Koko Taylor wants to greet Sugar Pie. They meet and greet each other like the long-lost sisters in the blues that they are. They hug and charm each other with statements like, "What you gon' do girl?"

"Honey, I'm gon' kill 'em." Koko does her dance. Sugar Pie does hers. It's a Soul Patrol moment.

That was exactly a year ago Saturday. I listened to the audio of the interview I did with Koko on Saturday and will be posting it on my Web site in the near future. Then you can hear Koko explain how she and her husband came to Chicago in the early 1950s from Bartlett, Tennessee. They came by bus and when they arrived all they had was a box of Ritz crackers and 35 cents between them.

Her story entails her humble beginnings scrubbing floors for $5 per week, meeting the legendary Willie Dixon at Sylvio’s in Chicago, auditioning for Leonard Chess and catapulting to the top of the Blues world and staying there her whole career.

She performed her last gig on May 7, where she received her 29th award for Traditional Blues Artist of the Year. Koko Taylor, The Blues Wailer, rest in peace.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool local events:

Lake Blues All-Stars w/Neon, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 8, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, .

Open mike night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 11. Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake. Telephone, 707-275-2233, or online, .

Chris Botti in concert, 8:15 p.m. Saturday, June 20. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at .

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Telephone, 800-660-LAKE, or online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks. Telephone, 888-77-CACHE, or online at .


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






I’m here to educate, not insult; if some readers are insulted by the end of this special column I will understand, but I will also have done my job. After all, I sit at restaurants and watch you eat, and you need some advice.

Most Americans have the table manners of an Irish setter. I can hear you already claiming, “Not me!” as if you are the Apostle Peter being questioned. Face it, Peter knew Jesus and denied it, just as you have the etiquette that would make Miss Manners get the dry heaves and yet you still profess, “I have good manners!”

I’ve mentioned before the fact that I had grandparents that were a little pedantic when it came to proper etiquette and I have had formal etiquette training. I, however, don’t swagger into the every room like James Bond or open the car door every time for my family. I scratch my self inappropriately in public and sometimes a little too vigorously. I’ll admit that I’m not perfect, but I do put forth an effort for my fellow diners.

My wife loves it when we go to a formal event because I turn on the formal etiquette switch and become the most desired man at the table (except for the fact that I look like a yeti … in a tux). I can employ manners so refined that I have seen women gaze longingly at the idea of being treated with such courtesy and the men sitting at a table with me become embarrassed. But it’s the ones that never even notice what I do that I want to address today.

I went to a charity dinner not too long ago and fully expected to write about the event for this column. My wife wasn’t able to accompany me, and the tables seated even numbers so since I was there on my own I was seated at a table where I didn’t know anyone with other mismatched guests. The food was good, the ambiance was elegant, but the people at my table had such disgusting table manners that it ruined the evening for me, and I had no intention of sharing this horrible experience or marring this charitable event with a full sordid portrayal.

The dinner was served family style, which means the food comes on serving platters for the entire table and you serve yourself from the communal plate. The salad was brought to the table in a large bowl and immediately one of the ladies at the table began to pick the croutons from the serving bowl with her fingers and eat them. I couldn’t believe she was doing that, but then again all of the men at the table (except for me) were wearing hats; my hat was stashed in the corner of the room. Evidently nobody informed me that baseball caps are now considered formal dinner attire. I decided the faux pas to this point were forgivable and continued with my dinner.

When the main course arrived there were serving tongs with the food, but evidently they were a foreign tool to my compatriots as they all virtually simultaneously reached out with their forks and stabbed the food in the shared plate and hoisted it to their own dinner plate. I guess my dinner companions’ hunting and gathering efforts for the day were a failure and they needed to gorge themselves as quickly as possible before the saber-toothed cats showed up. Clearly my eyes must have widened in shock at the sight because one of the guests looked at me as if I had a frog on my face.

Later when one of the ladies of the table needed to leave for a moment, I rose up as she did and stood there as she left before sitting back down. The other men at the table looked at me momentarily, wondering where I was going, but then returned to chewing on the carcasses on their plates. It was at this point that the dinner became a dismal failure for me, which was unfair to my hosts. It wasn’t their fault; they had provided a lovely atmosphere with good food, but the behavior of my tablemates literally spoiled my appetite.

What’s the big deal about etiquette? Why should it matter how people act at in public?

Etiquette is a matter of mutually supported self-protection. Etiquette came about as a way for enemies to meet to discuss treaties and be assured that the each man wasn’t going to assassinate the other.

The handshake, for example, originated as a full grasp of an opponent’s forearm as a way of determining that he had no hidden knives up his sleeve. It evolved into a polite greeting among friends.

Raising a glass in a toast started out being a splashing of one man’s mead into another’s, and honor demanding they both drink to prove trust that there was no poison. Removing one’s hat indoors was required by the host so that he could see his guest’s face and determine his intentions.

Over time habits such as this evolved into civilized and polite social customs, but there is still merit in them. Displaying etiquette shows respect for your host and your host’s guests. Not picking food off a communal plate with your fingers is a sanitary issue.

Soon after my charity dinner fiasco, I attended a much more formal charity dinner (I attend a lot of charity dinners). Now me being the silly goose that I am, I expected to be joined by people of more refinement. I bet you’re laughing already aren’t you?

Here’s a couple of standouts: One of the women at the table knew someone at another table and they yelled back and forth to each other as if a conversation between people 20 feet apart is perfectly normal at a formal function. And maybe you’re not aware of this but it is perfectly proper to eat asparagus and fried chicken with your bare hands ... but not your baked potato. Really, I watched that take place this evening also.

I can understand why proper manners are falling by the wayside. Personally I think the fact that families aren’t eating together as much anymore is one of the main reasons that people don’t know or aren’t learning etiquette anymore. I had parents, grandparents and nuns with yardsticks always pushing proper etiquette on me and my siblings. It was a constant subject at every meal, even when dining at home. With the lack of eating meals together, there’s no opportunity to hone the finer points of etiquette, beyond “Don’t rub spaghetti in your hair!”

I’d like to help. Let’s cover a few basics ...

A gentleman should – yes, that’s what you should aspire to be – a gentleman should consider his date’s comfort at all times and in any way possible. He should accord her every display of respect. Why? In this day and age when women have equality, why should we treat them so specially? Because, let’s face it, we still want to be with them, don’t we? Behaving like a gentleman, you become desirable to women. Trust me on this, I’m no George Clooney. I’m surprised that I don’t have to club women over the head like a Neanderthal and drag them off by their hair. But once I turn on the refined manners, I get attention.

A gentleman stands up every time any lady leaves or arrives at the table. You have to be observant, notice that they are coming or going and have your napkin ready and wipe your mouth and swallow before standing. As I heard it said once, “The price for dining with a lady is eternal vigilance.”

A gentleman will not touch his food until every lady at the table has taken a bite out of their meal, not just his own date. It’s a sign of respect for women in general. No one should touch a drink or eat a bite until the host has. He or she sets the tone and pace of the meal or event, and that position should be respected.

There are many schools of thought on where your arms should be during dinner. The French custom is to see both hands in sight at all times, the origin being so they could be sure that their guests were not going to pull a knife on them. Therefore, they rest their forearms on the edge of the table. The English custom was established by more sanitary concerns, so they keep inactive hands in their laps. Under no conditions should elbows make it onto the table.

Never use your napkin as a handkerchief. ‘Nuff said.

Your drink is to the right side of your setting, your bread dish to the left. Remember it by “Drink Right.”

Wait staff is trained to serve you from the right and clear from the left, so cool it on the grand gestures and flailing arms. They know what they’re doing, or should.

I don’t know why I have to say this, but ... please, swallow your food before you speak. Your anecdote isn’t so interesting that I want to watch your food as you tell it.

Foods that it is considered to be proper etiquette to be eaten with the fingers are: artichokes, asparagus, bacon, cookies, corn on the cob, whole fruits or berries with stems, hamburgers, hors d’ourves, hot dogs, French fries, fried chicken, pickles, oysters on the half shell, potato chips ... you get the idea.

There are many more things that I could mention here but I think that these basics will make your meal and the dinner of your companions much more enjoyable and civilized. No one ever talks enthusiastically about their wonderful dinner with the Cro-Magnons next door.

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.

LAKEPORT – “The Moving Wall,” a half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., will arrive this week in Lakeport, its only Northern California stop on this year’s tour.

The Moving Wall has visited more than 1,000 communities in the past 20 years and will be on display in Lakeport from Thursday, June 11 through Monday, June 15.

The Lake County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is bringing The Moving Wall to Lake County as a community event that will provide an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience the memorial. It will be on display at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St., Lakeport.

On Monday, in preparation for the wall's Wednesday arrival, VVA and its volunteers began building the wall's platform and installed the Avenue of Flags, said VVA President Dean Gotham.

Gotham reported that they also completed set up for the opening ceremony, which is set for 9 a.m. Friday, June 12.

Following the opening, The Moving Wall will be accessible 24 hours per day until the closing ceremony on June 15. An information booth with a directory of names and refreshments will be available.

“ ‘A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,’ President John F. Kennedy said. The opportunity for Lake County to reveal itself will occur when The Moving Wall opens on June 11,” said Gotham.

The goal of The Moving Wall, which was built in 1983-1984 by the Vietnam Combat Veterans Ltd., was to share the feelings and experiences of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. as many veterans and the general public do not have the opportunity to see the memorial in person.

Spanning over 250 feet in length, The Moving Wall, will provide visitors the opportunity to learn, demonstrate honor and respect, and provide some closure to Vietnam veterans.

For more information or to volunteer assistance, materials, or tax-deductible donations, call Gotham at 707-350-1159 or visit .

Lucerne resident Jim Harris was aboard the destroyer USS McCook at the D-Day invasion in June of 1944. He recounted that day at a 65th anniversary commemoration held June 6, 2009, in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – Several dozen people gathering at the lakeside Saturday morning to remember the day, 65 years before, when 155,000 Allied soldiers took part in history's largest amphibious invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France.

D-Day – June 6, 1944 – was the day when thousands of troops and ships arrived and began the historic landing at Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno and Gold beaches.

The actual operations ran from June 4 through 14, 1944, as part of Operation Overlord, an audacious and seemingly improbable plan that ultimately pierced Adolf Hitler's hold on Europe and led to the Allied victory in World War II.

The local ceremony, led by Ronnie Bogner, was held at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's memorial mast in Library Park. The Lakeport Sea Scouts – teenagers not many years different in age from the young men who would have arrived on Normandy's beaches decades ago – raised the American flag on the mast.

Rev. Mike Suski, a chaplain with the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Lakeport Police Department, offered an opening invocation.

Suski, born in Poland, said D-Day had special significance for him; his father, at age 16, was taken from his home by the Nazis and forced into slave labor in the salt mines on the border of Germany and France. The Allied advance freed the elder Suski and millions of others, and turned the fortunes of the war. Suski said his fathered died March 13.

He remembered those who gave their lives for freedom, peace and democracy, and prayed for those now serving in the country's leadership.

Businessman John Tompkins led the group in singing the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Bob Bartley, a Kelseyville resident who is a member of a World War II reenactment group, wore an authentic wool uniform like that worn by the soldiers landing at Normandy. Bartley had attended last year's D-Day ceremony in full uniform, including the pack carried by the men, which can weigh as much as 70 pounds. He skipped that part this year, noting that it left his back out for days the last time.

Those heavy packs proved fatal for many soldiers in the landing. In some cases, the soldiers were let off of the amphibious carriers in deep water and had to try to swim to shore with the weight. It was noted during the ceremony that many men drowned under the packs' weight.

Other historic military touches included a 1968 Kaiser relay truck used by the Marines during Vietnam which Carl Thompson, a California Highway Patrol officer, is restoring.

One of the featured speakers was Lucerne resident Jim Harris, who was at both the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 and at D-Day, where he served aboard the destroyer USS McCook (DD 496).

He recalled the practice run for D-Day at Slapton Sands, near Dover, England. “This rehearsal was what you might call chaos,” he said, noting that German submarines showed up and sank three troop ships. Slapton Sands was kept so quiet that the men who died there were counted as casualties at D-Day he said.

The stormy weather in June of 1944 caused a delay in the invasion, he said. Many ships already had been under way and had to be rounded up after the cancellation order was given.

Eventually, though, on the morning of June 6, 1944, 5,000 vessels were under way toward the French coast. “We were so very fortunate that the fog held,” Harris said.

But there were problems with the landing, from men landing too far out and struggling under heavy packs to the soldiers scrambling up onto the beach to find they had only 8 feet of beach up against a cliff to find safety, while fierce fire came from the cliffs above at Pointe du Hoc.

Harris said the USS McCook's captain saw Germans firing from the cliffs above onto the Allied forces on the beaches. The admiral gave the command to go after them, so the 345-foot McCook was steered into the breakers, trying to avoid mines while attempting to get close enough to shoot at the cliffs above. With each wave, the ship had to be thrust into reverse to avoid the mines or running aground.

In his book “The Americans at D-Day,” author John C. McManus writes that the McCook shot 1,000 rounds that day.

Harris, a helmsman on the McCook, said she and another destroyer, the USS Carmick, wiped out the German fire power in the cliffs in about 20 minutes, including German “tiger” tanks.

“That was the longest day I ever lived,” he said.

Another World War II veterans, 89-year-old Bob Tucker, spoke at the ceremony.

Tucker wasn't at D-Day, but he took part in the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942 under Gen. George Patton, “the greatest soldier that walked this earth.”

He shared D-Day statistics: there were 5,303 ships, 13,000 US paratroopers, 325 heavy bomber planes and 2,500 dead. Omaha Beach was an important landing spot because of the cliffs and reefs that prevented landing elsewhere along the coast.

Recalling his own trip to Europe for the war, Tucker said as he sailed out of New York City, he looked at the Statue of Liberty and said, “Oh, girl, I may never see you again.”

Punctuating the end of the ceremony was a rifle salvo by the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team and the playing of “Taps.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




The Lakeport Sea Scouts posted the colors at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's memorial mast in Library Park at the beginning of 65th anniversary commemoration held June 6, 2009, in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Bob Tucker, a World War II veteran, discussed the war and D-Day on June 6, 2009, in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




The United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team offers a salute as the bugler plays

Want to have good food and wine this month? Here are some events to check out.

You can now follow me on Twitter! Log onto and see what events I’m going to!

June 1: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Michael Barrish and Scott Sommers on guitar and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 8: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Lake Blues All Stars with Neon will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 12: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030.

June 13: Concert in the Vineyard Series, Moore Family Winery, Kelseyville. The Fargo Brothers, Rock and Roll; fajita feast, $8, or hot dog meal, $5.

June 14: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Will Seigel and Friends from Ukiah, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 15: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Blues Farm with Dave Broida will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 19: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030

June 21: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. A special Father’s Day Brunch will be served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jay Blue on guitar, flute and vocals, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 22: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Twice as Good with Paul Steward will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 26: Fondue Fridays, Lake County Wine Studio, Upper Lake. Begins at 6 p.m. Cheese fondue available with wine. Telephone, 707-275-8030.

June 28: Sunday Brunch in the Garden, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Austin & Owens on Flamenco guitar, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

June 29: Monday Blues, The Blue Wing, Upper Lake. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Bottle Rock Blues Band with Mike Wilhelm will perform. Telephone, 707-275-2244.

Ongoing activities


The New Cool at Konocti Harbor featuring David Neft. Konocti Harbor hosts “The Piano Man” David Neft, playing the grand piano from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in the relaunched dining room. Visit Konocti Harbor online at

Certified Farmers Market, Steele Winery, Kelseyville. A variety of produce grown in the area as well as flowers, coffee, pastries and bread, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. Saturdays starting at 8:30 a.m. until noon, May through October.

Langtry Estate and Vineyard Tours, Middletown. Langtry Estate and Vineyard is offering exciting and innovative tour programs. Guests ride in battery-operated Global Electric Motorcars. Tours are offered Tuesday through Saturday. The Tephra Vineyard Lunch Tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. $40 per person includes lunch and wine tasting. 21000 Butts Canyon Road. Reservations required 24 hours in advance. Info: 707-987-2385.

Tuscan Village Friday Concert Series, Main Street, Lower Lake. Live music, food, wine tasting. Presented by 2Goombas and Terrill Cellars. 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Info: 707-994-3354.

A Taste of Lake County Wine Tours, countywide. Spend the day sipping fine wine, enjoying a gourmet picnic amongst the vines, taking in the rustic beauty of Lake County. Tour includes picnic lunch and tasting fees. Perfect for small groups. Tours of Napa also available. Visit Aero Shuttle online at ; or call 707-987-1920.

Beer Master Dinner Series, Molly Brennan’s, 175 N. Main St., Lakeport. Second Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Different brewery featured each month, with beers paired with each course of a five-course meal including dessert. Advance reservations required. Info: 707-262-1600.

Lake County Wine Tours, countywide. Experience the “Undiscovered Wine Country” that is Lake County. Taste award winning premier wines at friendly tasting rooms and in stunning vineyards. Knowledgeable guide, all tasting fees and a gourmet picnic lunch included. Visit them online at ; telephone, 707-998-4471.

If you have a food- or wine-related event and would like to have it listed in the coming months, please feel free to call Ross Christensen at 707-998-9550.

Upcoming Calendar

07.18.2024 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Clearlake City Council
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar



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