Earth Day – Then and Now

Gaylord Nelson, Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, originated the first Earth Day in 1970. (Also born in 1970 was Paul Ryan, an Ayn Rand acolyte elected to Congress by Wisconsin voters in 1998.) Nelson wanted a “national teach-in on the environment.” Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman, from California, served as Nelson’s co-chair. What are the chances today of a Democrat and a Republican coming together on environmental issues?

Twenty-million Americans demonstrated on April 22, 1970, sending a message that it was time to address the deterioration of the air, the water and the land. Later that year, President Richard Nixon issued an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress soon after ratified the order. Nixon – yes, that Richard Nixon – also signed the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Forty-seven years later, flanked by coal-company executives, coal miners and the vice-president, along with various administration flunkies, Donald Trump signed an executive order rescinding his predecessor’s “Clean Power Plan.” Just to rub the EPA’s nose in it, the president held the signing ceremony inside the agency’s offices. He finished by telling the deluded coal miners, “C’mon, fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says? You’re going back to work.” According to the Associated Press, renewable-energy jobs already outnumber coal jobs, and many renewable-energy technologies are on their way to being cheaper than coal.

Obama’s executive order was a plan to reduce carbon emissions. Trump’s EO lifts a moratorium on new coal mining leases on federal land and relaxes limits on new coal power plant construction.

I wonder what our children and grandchildren will think about this.

…and in other news…

In a lawsuit filed against Palm Beach County, Trump demanded $100 million damages, alleging that emissions from the jets flying overhead are “causing substantial destruction of the materials” used to build the club, which include unique and historical items like “porous Dorian stone, antique Spanish tiles and antique Cuban roof tiles.”

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the suit claims noise and fumes from the air traffic have “substantially deprived” Trump and the club’s members the ability to use the property’s outdoor areas and amenities.

Volunteer Fire Departments

A few decades ago, I served as a volunteer fireman. I proudly displayed the “Cannon Beach Fire Department” frame around my car’s license plate. We met at the station on Tuesday evenings for training, followed by beer.

For some of us, training sometimes included practice maneuvering the fire truck in reverse back inside the station. One of the volunteers, whose day job was driving a log truck, did it with his eyes closed, (Not literally.) We were paid $2.00 per meeting and $2.00 per fire call; even way back then not enough to compromise our volunteer status.

Once, I volunteered to assist EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) training by being a literal pincushion, for their practicing giving injections and taking blood samples. A major perquisite was the annual American Legion crab feed. Members of the volunteer department ate – and drank – for free.

Not all volunteer fire departments are thriving. In Sonoma County, where I spent the past twenty-plus years before moving back north, eleven volunteer departments are struggling with budgets and lack of volunteers and political bickering. A year ago the county had fourteen volunteer contingents. Response times have increased in rural area. Departments who viewed each other as competitors are now consolidating or putting up a united front for funding and administrative services.

Sonoma County is a microcosm of national trends. An aging population combined with those in the workforce commuting to urban areas and able to respond to emergencies in their rural communities only at night or on weekends.

Sustenance on the Road

People whose employment requires travel can be divided into two groups: those who eat at whatever is in the hotel or at the Applebee’s across the parking lot (Is there an Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar that’s in an actual neighborhood?) and those on the endless and often frustrating search for a good meal.

Calvin Trillin, on the road reporting for the New Yorker magazine’s “U.S. Journal,” became a food writer too, resulting from his quest for something decent to eat in strange towns. He found that hotel clerks and acquaintances always directed to what they considered the best place in town, what he referred to as the generic “La Maison de la Casa House, Continental Cuisine.”

  • Yelp and TripAdvisor are only incidentally helpful; even establishments with a lot of stars also have negative reviews because of small portion sizes or some slight by a server.
  • Zagat compiles reviews from those who consider themselves sophisticated diners in major cities.
  • AAA Tour Books try, but their restaurant listing stick pretty much to the mainstream and avoid the out of the ordinary
  • Michelin Guides cover only limited areas in this country and are directed at gourmands with unlimited funds or unlimited expense accounts.
  • Roadfood, the work of intrepid travelers and diners Jane and Michael Stern has been my consistent guide for local, sometimes quirky, places since before the Internet age. (Their newly “upgraded” web site is harder to navigate than its graphics-light predecessor.)
  • Santa Rosa’s favorite celebrity, Guy Fieri and his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, will steer you to high-fat, high calorie dining.

Which brings us to Duncan Hines. Yes, Mr. Hines was a real person. From the 1920s through the ‘40s he traveled the country selling office supplies and looking for a clean restaurant with decent food. He  carried a notebook to record his experiences.

Hines self-published his first edition of Adventures in Good Eating in 1936. It listed 475 restaurants. Word-of-mouth sales were so good, for the second year’s edition, he raised the price from $1.00 to $1.50. A revised edition was issued annually until he retired in 1954.

While not accepting advertising for his guides, he did lend the Duncan Hines name to food products. Today the Duncan Hines brand is owned by Pinnacle Foods, the folks who also bring us Armour, Tim’s Cascade Chips, Nalley, Wish-Bone, the Mrs. Paul’s and Butterworth’s, Swanson, Birds Eye, Vlasic and on and on.

Chuck Berry Miscellany

Brian Wilson put new lyrics to Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” for the Beach Boys’ monster hit, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Berry sued and got songwriting credit… and royalties.

Chuck Berry put new lyrics to “Wabash Cannonball,” for his hit, “Promised Land.” No copyright disputes, as the old folk song was in the public domain.

Longtime pianist sideman and collaborator Johnnie Johnson sued Chuck Berry in 2000 claiming co-composing credit for dozens of songs. The suit went nowhere because too much time had passed since the songs were written.

Chuck Berry: The Autobiography is slightly less self-serving than many, and is no great literary feat. But it’s an interesting read and gives some insight to a complicated personality.

Chuck Berry toured regularly without a band. The promoter was responsible for hiring musicians to accompany him. Berry figured it was not a problem because everyone knew his songs. When Berry turned sixty, Keith Richards decided an appropriate birthday gift would be a decent backup band. The movie “Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll” chronicles this and the head butting between Berry and Richards.

Lenten Travel and Dining Tip

Breitbach’s 2009

Breitbach’s Country Dining claims to be Iowa’s oldest dining establishment, in business since 1852. (Breitbach’s, unlike Breitbart, won’t give you indigestion.) As you travel the Great River Road, you’ll find Breitbach’s in Iowa, high above the Mississippi River, about halfway between Guttenberg and Dubuque.

Breitbach’s until 2007

Jacob Breitbach, who worked for the founding owner, purchased the business in 1862. It has been owned and operated by the family since then. The building itself is relatively new. The original structure burned in 2007. The restaurant has hosted luminaries such as Jesse James, George (Norm from “Cheers”) Wendt, Madonna and Brooke Shields.

Why report on this now? They are featuring a Friday-night seafood buffet during Lent. If you have a desire for deep-fried fresh catfish, here’s your place. They also promise their soup du jour will be meatless until Easter.