Did you miss your annual splurge of Thin Mints this year? Were you not accosted by cute little girls in Girl Scout uniforms as you entered your neighborhood grocery store? You’ve been working from home so no colleague of yours had a sign-up sheet to order cookies from a daughter’s Girl Scout troop?
The Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on the Girl Scouts. Membership in the venerable organization is down. In 2021, Girl Scouts of USA projected reduced sales. Even so, orders from the local councils were overly optimistic. The cookie season finished with 15 million unsold boxes.
For more than a century local Girl Scout troops have funded programs, travel, camps and other activities with their yearly cookie sale. The annual promotion typically sells 200 million boxes, bringing in $800 million.
For safety, there was very little person-to-person selling this year. Local scout councils tried taking orders on-line, drive-thru sales, even partnering with GrubHub.
As if the fear of Covid were not enough, in some areas cookie sales suffered from boycotts of products made with palm oil. News stories had linked palm oil with child labor.
Girl Scouts of USA is working with their two cookie bakers to sell or donate excess cookies to food banks, the military or prisons.
They are hopeful for a better season next year. ”Girl Scout cookie season isn’t just when you get to buy cookies,” said one leader. “It’s interacting with the girls. It’s Americana.”
The first operating lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast was on Alcatraz Island. Isolated in San Francisco Bay, the storied Alcatraz is better known as the site of the infamous prison. It was a federal maximum-security facility for only twenty-nine years, from 1934 until 1963. For a century before, it had been various iterations of military fortifications and military prisons.
As a federal prison, Alcatraz was designed to hold troublemakers from other federal prisons. It became home to notorious bank robbers and murderers, including Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. Rafael Cancel Miranda, who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party’s armed attack on the United States Capitol building in 1954, also spent time at Alcatraz.
The panoramic view of the close-by city of San Francisco is said to have intensified the misery of being incarcerated in Alcratraz Prison. “Baghdad by the Bay” sits only a mile-and-a-half away but is an unobtainable swim through cold, swirling currents.During its time as a federal prison, Alcatraz claimed there had been no successful escapes. Thirty-six men tried in fourteen escape attempts. Twenty-three were caught; six were shot and killed; two drowned; five were listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”
In normal current times, Alcatraz is a popular tourist site, managed by the National Park Service. In these COVID lockdown days, one can intuit the reverse of a penitentiary inmate. Sheltering in place in San Francisco, you can see Alcatraz, but you can’t get there.
As this is being written, zillow.com lists twenty homes for sale with views of Alcatraz Island. Asking prices range from $1.225 million (839 sq ft condo) to $25 million (7,000 sq ft house).
(Thanks to Mi Ae Lipe for the inspiration.)
Attorneys have filed a class-action suit on behalf of what they say are hundreds of people exposed to tear gas last summer while being held in the Multnomah County Detention Center. Federal and local law enforcement regularly unleashed the chemicals to combat the nightly demonstrations in the streets near the county jail. The suit claims that the building’s ventilation system sucked tear gas into the cells and staff did nothing to ameliorate the bad air.
Portland’s downtown changed, head-snapping quickly.
Continue reading “Whither Portlandia?”
The Russian River Brewing Company has canceled its 2021 Pliny the Younger release event. Their super-hopped India Pale Ale is brewed only once a year and is available for only a couple weeks. (Pliny the Elder IPA is on the brewpub’s menu year round.)
Last year’s release attracted beer aficionados from forty-seven states and fourteen countries. Every February, intrepid beer drinkers wait for hours in blocks-long lines outside the brewery in downtown Santa Rosa for a ration of the celebrated brew. (Russian River Brewing opened a second, larger brewpub in nearby Windsor in late 2019.)
The Sonoma County Economic Development Board estimates the two-week Pliny the Younger event brought $5.1 million into the local economy last year.
The two Russian River brewpubs have been closed for indoor drinking and eating since March. Husband-and-wife owners Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo think it very unlikely that they will be able to host even outdoor dining by February 2021. Even if COVID-19 is under control by then, February weather in Sonoma County is typically not welcoming to outdoor seating.
Pliny the Younger will still be brewed. Most will be bottled this time. A few kegs will be set aside for local brewpubs who have been loyal customers in past years. The bottled beer can be purchased online beginning late January, but will be shipped only within California. The Cilurzos are working on a web site robust enough to handle the expected traffic. They also want to block Internet bots from buying cases and reselling them through online beer-trading forums. Last year, 510-milliliter Pliny the Younger bottles that sold for $10 turned up online for as much as $120 a bottle.
The COVID pandemic has affected everything else, so of course it will have an impact on Thanksgiving dinner. Family gatherings will be small, intimate affairs. Smaller gatherings mean less demand for twenty-four-pound turkeys. Supermarkets are ordering more small turkeys, more hens and fewer toms. Growers are slaughtering their birds earlier.
Does this mean distributors’ freezers will be filled with unsold twenty-pound birds? Taking the Wayback Machine to 1953, we see ten railroad cars filled with 260 tons of frozen turkeys the Swanson Company had not been able to sell by Thanksgiving. Refrigeration only worked when the cars were moving. The train rumbled back and forth between Swanson’s headquarters in Nebraska and the East Coast while executives figured out what to do.
The solution was to put slices of turkey on partitioned aluminum trays along with sweet potatoes and cornbread stuffing. Thus was born the TV Dinner. In the first full year of production, Swanson sold ten million frozen dinners, turkey, beef, chicken and others. The company’s timing was good; by 1954, sixty-four percent of American homes had television. (A decade later, it was ninety percent, in time for the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.)
If a frozen holiday dinner is not appealing, Williams-Sonoma is taking orders for Willie Bird free-range turkeys. Prices start at $139.95 plus shipping.
During my twenty years in Santa Rosa, planning a turkey feast usually included a short drive to the Willie Bird store. Willie Bird’s farm was in the hills behind the store. Family-owned for four generations, Willie Bird was woven into Sonoma County life. The county fair or farmer’s markets or most other outdoor events typically included Willie Bird’s barbecue, grilling drumsticks. Willie Bird’s restaurant was a mainstay in Santa Rosa for years.
Diestel Family Ranch, also in California, purchased Willie Bird this past summer. The new owner says the Willie Bird name will continue. The restaurant was sold last year and now operates as “The Bird.”
Remember Cliven Bundy and his boy Ammon? They faced off with the Bureau of Land Management—the other B.L.M.—in 2014 because they didn’t want to pay rent for federal land. They said their livestock should graze for free, that U.S. taxpayers should subsidize their ranching business. When B.L.M. came to impound Bundy’s cattle, they recruited the right-wing Oath Keepers “militia” to join them in a stand-off with the B.L.M.
On the second day of 2016, Ammon led an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. The takeover was to support father-and-son arsonists Dwight and Steve Hammond. They had been convicted of torching more than a hundred acres of federal grazing land to get rid of juniper and sagebrush, so more grass for their grazing cattle would grow. (They were recently pardoned by the current occupant of the White House.)
The months-long occupation resulted in property damage totaling millions of dollars to the Refuge’s headquarters.
Since that time, Ammon has distinguished himself by declaring the Mormon church had been infiltrated by socialists, globalists and environmentalists. He has criticized the current president’s immigration policy regarding Central Americans seeking asylum, expressed support for Black Lives Matter and said the United States is like Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
During August of 2020, he led mask-less demonstrations at the Idaho state capitol protesting COVID 19 restrictions and disrupted legislative sessions. State police handcuffed him to a chair and wheeled him out.
Last week Ammon Bundy attended his son’s high-school football game, but was refused admission because he was not wearing a mask. Watching the game from behind the end zone, he refused to comply with requirement to wear a mask on school property. When he wouldn’t leave, the game was cancelled at half time. “I don’t give two shits what you have to say, you’ve ruined it for everybody!” a woman told him on her way out.