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Robert Clark Young: Writing the Book on Elder Care After Five Years’ Caring for Gravely Ill Parents

Posted on 13 July 2013 by John Rippo

DSC_2287WEBBetterOneRobert Clark Young recalled the day his life changed. He was in the shower when the phone rang with a call from his father about his mother. Something was very wrong; she was confused, agitated, speaking jibberish and barely responsive. Robert’s 80-year old mother suffered a massive stroke and was entering a new world of aphasia and ever-decreasing mobility and function that eventually ended in her death. But on that day, Robert thought of how long he’d have to be gone from teaching in Sacramento and the trip back to his boyhood home in Imperial Beach. That was in July, 2008. Robert Young still hasn’t gone back; for him and his parents, a series of escalating health crises changed their lives permanently.
“There was nothing in life that prepared me for this,” he said. “I walked into a situation with no idea of what it takes to care for elderly people. I had to learn fast by doing it.” Young suddenly found himself mired in the language of doctors and hospitals and insurance agents; of lawyers, caregivers and of his mother whose failing language abilities morphed into a post-verbal patois that Young soon began to understand and relate to. He realized that though his mother was gravely affected, she still understood what was going on—and what was said in her presence.
“Everything you imagine that will happen doesn’t happen,” he said recently, referring to the fears and stresses of elder care. “Bad things happen but they’re unexpected. Like when my mom had a heart attack right in front of me, and went back to the hospital. They gave her Tylenol,” Young said, in one of many bitter references to the levels of health care that even well-insured people can expect. The aftermath saw Young equipping his parent’s house like a hospital room with a bed for invalids and support equipment. It was several weeks before his mother was well enough to return home and when she did, Young found himself a virtual prisoner of circumstance, unable to leave even for short outings for supplies. It was a harrowing time and it was only the beginning, too.
One of the “unexpected things that happened” was his 81-year old father’s severe stroke coming only four months after Robert’s mother was stricken and which paralyzed his father’s right side and limited his ability to speak. Robert was alerted to this new disaster when his father suddenly fell out of bed, incoherent and waving his arms. As the EMT’s took his father to the hospital, it dawned on Robert that what was a temporary return home was now permanent. “For sure, I was never going to leave,” he recalled.
Since then, Robert Young has become expert at caring for his disabled elders and navigating the systems that his parents depend on. His opinions on everything from HMO’s to elder law attorneys and doctors’ bedside manner is unusually well informed and he expresses them in a column for Yahoo News on issues relating to elder care—including things like the vast amount of economic value saved by society by unpaid care giving. Young makes a case for some $350 billion expended yearly by millions of Americans who have stepped up to care for their families and save their loved ones from becoming a financial drain on society. The loss is bearable—if you’re wealthy, Young argues, or even if you’re poor. But for what was once known here as the solid middle class, it’s a different story.
This was brought home to him when his father couldn’t eat anymore due to the paralysis of his internal organs on the side of his body incapacitated by his stroke. Progressing brain injury robbed Robert’s father of his ability to swallow and internal paralysis meant that peristalsis no longer occurred. Robert’s father was dangerously constipated. Levels of care needed ramping up and costs ramped up with them and while seeking information on state assistance, Robert was told that his parents income was too high for them to qualify for it—unless they got divorced. Divorce would lower each parent’s income to levels qualifying of assistance, but for a couple married for 53 years and depending on pensions and Social Security interactively, the option wasn’t feasible, though it was repugnant. The family’s belt tightened a bit further and life went on, with difficulty than before.
Robert’s cost in time and stress is measured in health concerns and opportunities lost. He developed vertigo and hyperthyroidism that he considers is a direct result of the strains of the last five years and lost nearly 40 pounds. Sober for 27 years, he uses lessons from AA in daily affirmations that keep him grounded even as he loses touch with friends and associates from the past. Writing is an outlet and besides the column for Yahoo, Young is working on a book on elder care written for those who, like himself, are suddenly confronted with the enormity of the tasks involved in caring for the gravely infirm. The Survivor: How to Deal With Your Aging Parents While Enriching Your Own Life is a combination memoir and how-to guide with instructions on every aspect of caring; this is interspersed with stories of Young’s experiences and notable successes. One of whihc is his father’s continuing function, free of disease complications even while catheterized. Young was told that he could expect that his father would die within six months of the procedure. Two years later, his father functions well and has recently begun to move fingers on his paralyzed side. His website,, isa clearing house of useful information in anticipation of publication.
Young’s experiences as described in his book are as diverse as dealing with adult diapers—“When you’re pooped upon, you just wash it off and the problem is over in two seconds. I wish all of the challenges in life wer this easy to wipe away,” to confronting one’s old family issues and stresses. Young takes a deep breath and releases it with a smile as he formed his description of what that means to him. “You can’t resent them anymore. Whatever is, is done and gone and the more involved it is, the sooner it heals all the old stuff. It’s like a second chance to grow up again.”
In August, Robert Young will mark his fifth anniversary of being his parents’ caregiver. It’s a marker he’ll look forward to proudly.

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Balboa Park Exhibit Tells Story of San Diego Fishing

Posted on 16 May 2012 by mburgess


The legacy of San Diego’s tuna fleet is a proud one. From humble beginnings among displaced immigrants using ancient equipment to a modern, far-ranging and all too effective harvester of the seas, San Diego led the way in advancement of one of man’s oldest ways of finding food.

The epitaph of one San Diego fisherman perhaps sums up their collective contribution: “For every day of 33 years at sea, he risked his life in order to feed his family ? and millions of others around the world.”

“Tuna! Celebrating San Diego’s Famous Fishing Industry” is an exhibit that opened at the San Diego History Center (SDHC) April 21. It gives a view of San Diego’s fishermen and their associates: the boats and the people who changed the way the world fishes today, but its presenters had to overcome a severe obstacle before this exhibit could even be mounted: artifacts are surprisingly hard to find, just like schools of fish that vanish.

The tuna fleet disappeared more than 20 years ago and, although it was once San Diego’s largest industry, many of its most notable characters and ephemera are gone too. There isn’t much to draw on anymore, but the SDHC does a credible job with what it has. The almost life-size photographs convey plenty of atmosphere and there are hands-on opportunities to appreciate the kinds of dexterity and perseverance demanded by the industry.

Although I recall with some bitterness my personal involvement in San Diego tuna fishing, as a boy of 9, pressed into service on my father’s boat, I feel moved to endorse this exhibit as a fine tribute; one long overdue to those who created a world ? and a social system ? out of nothing. San Diego’s earliest fishermen are perhaps best understood as underdogs who persevered in the face of cruel nature and indifferent people.

In fact, they were outcasts in their earliest days here. Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, Portuguese and Italians were separated along ethnic and racial lines from the dominant society and literally lived on the edges of the city, out of sight and consideration of residents a little more than a century ago.

Nevertheless, many technological advances, that have affected the whole world, were spurred on by unlikely combinations of people working under absurdly difficult conditions for many years in San Diego waters.

Those people had to coexist with a city whose population was mostly unfamiliar with the high-quality exotic seafood, which in the early days only found demand in foreign markets or in exclusive immigrant communities.

As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, few resources existed here to build boats and the other equipment needed for fishing. These items were often fabricated by the fishermen themselves or by other new arrivals to American shores.

As it turned out, they had everything they needed to become the foremost industry of their kind in the world.

More than 100 years ago, San Diego’s Italian and Chinese fishermen sailed boats their ancestors would have been familiar with a thousand years earlier. The Chinese modified their junks for fishing while the Italian feluccas were derived from Arab vessels that could be handled easily by one man even in rough weather.

In the span of a single lifetime, these primitive traditional boats gave way to modern, locally designed and custom-crafted boats that could range over the world’s oceans for months at a time. They caught and preserved fish in a quantity undreamed of by earlier generations, all in relative safety and that could yield profits previously unimaginable to the men who founded San Diego’s early fleets.

The fishermen were notably free from constant, overt antagonism caused by racial or ethnic differences and this allowed them to share innovations of every kind. In this, they were supported by the canneries that rose up along the waterfront. The cannery operators were savvy enough, from the beginning, to find markets throughout the US and the rest of the world for tuna and other fish.

Support also came from the Japanese and Italian governments, which opened their home markets to American imports during wartime food shortages.

Gasoline engines, electricity, navigation aids, refrigeration, and larger hulls roughly marked the separation from the primitive, traditional boats and the first “American” styles. Later, steel hulls replaced wooden ones and stern-mounted live bait tanks surrounded by outrigged-rails (on which fishermen wielded bamboo poles with baited hooks) gave way to purse-seiners (boats equipped with a vast net and crane operation which worked like a woman’s draw-string bag to scoop up tons of fish in a single operation or “set” that might take only a few hours to accomplish).

Nylon nets replaced cotton. And more agile speed boats served as mounts for fishermen who herded tuna toward them like sea-going cowboys. Light seaplanes extended the range beyond that of traditional lookouts in crow’s nests. The airmen could find schools of fish a hundred or more miles from a tuna boat.

The lessons learned with each new boat were quickly applied to new ones built at shipyards in San Diego, San Pedro and Tacoma. As time passed, purse seiners grew ever larger; the boats of 1960, which filled their holds with perhaps 200 tons of tuna, were dwarfed by boats of the mid-70s that could hold a load five times as heavy. Demand for tuna kept the fleet busy and development of boats and their systems seemed limitless.

Development was fast ? but it was costly in terms of men’s lives as well as money. Equipment worked or else it didn’t. And, when it failed, it could kill or maim those dependent on it.

Putting a dozen men into a small boat at murderously close range demanded self control, acceptance of others’ quirks and the kind of leadership from a captain that would sometimes make Captain Bligh look like Mother Theresa. And then there was the sea, dangerous and cruel, no matter how good the technology or how talented were the men on the boat.

Every generation had stories about how men were wasted out there: men bitten to death by sharks washed across the deck in heavy weather; men crushed by falling equipment or lost overboard or snipped in two by a parting steel cable, or thrown from crow’s nests; men stricken with sudden, unexplained illness with no hope of getting to help ashore in time. Some simply vanished, along with their boats, in sudden explosions of uncertain origin. Nothing was easy at sea for San Diego’s fishermen, yet they persevered, year after year, with a remarkably good outlook supported by the kinds of family structures they maintained.

One photo on the wall of this historical exhibit evokes a particularly poignant glimpse of the industry. It shows a tuna clipper outbound with a pair of wives waving goodbye. The wives, mothers, daughters and sisters formed a broad community that was a matriarchy of sorts that raised children, maintained homes and every aspect of life ashore and provided continuity for all professional, social and cultural aspects of the fishing community. Beyond that, they helped maintain the boats in the early days of the industry by making and repairing the nets, hulls, and everything else.

My own grandmother ? the daughter and wife of a fisherman ? once scandalized her community by wearing her husband’s pants while making repairs to the wire rigging on his storm-damaged boat. When upbraided for cross-dressing, she looked her accusers in the eye and told them she had five children to feed and the sooner the boat was repaired, the sooner life could go on as before but, if anyone wanted to shinny up the mast and take the halyard with them, they were more than welcome.

Women worked in the canneries, packing fish their men had caught, and this added a very powerful incentive to the fishermen to produce more on every trip. The women in the canneries were the other half of San Diego’s tuna fishing industry, working endless hours hand-packing the cans that fed the world San Diego’s catch year after year. They formed a significant addition to labor organization in San Diego in the years prior to World War II, winning conditions from their employers on safety and compensation issues. It’s good to see this historical exhibit gives those women the respect they deserve.

Another way women in fishing communities aided the industry was simply by cooking the fish. A century ago, San Diego’s population came mostly from states that did not have a tradition of seafood, and the knowledge of how to cook and enjoy all kinds of fish and other delicacies were spread through the city by women familiar with the cuisine.

Katherine Ghio, a fisherman’s widow who turned to cooking fish in a small waterfront restaurant just after World War II, made a business out of seafood that has prospered for some 60 years. She is single handedly responsible for familiarizing many locals and tourists with more ways to enjoy every kind of food found in local waters.

Generations of women who carefully fed their children’s school friends won converts among those who never tasted crab, lobster, tuna, sea bass or abalone before. And those children’s mothers often would later be found in fish markets with their contemporaries, getting recipes for paella, cioppino and clams bordellaise.

It was a subtle and marvelously effective way to grow a market for fine seafood, and its resonance affected American tastes for things that go well with fish: wine and spices and eventually all the other elements of slow food, organic farming and perhaps specialty coffees and craft beer.

Even children got involved. A century ago, a fisherman’s son was usually taken to sea at age 6. Later, as American standards of child rearing and public education filtered through the immigrant and second-generation communities, the age crept up to perhaps 12 and boys went to sea on shorter summer trips so that their contributions to their family and their training for their future wouldn’t be impeded.

I first went to sea, when I was 9, in the engine room of the Southern Queen as a motor monkey. A motor monkey’s job was to assist the chief engineer by taking care of any parts of the machinery a grown man couldn’t reach. It was hot, dirty and dangerous work and the engine room of the Southern Queen was run by a German former U-boat engineer who was familiar with the boat’s captured Blohm & Voss diesel engine. He managed the engine room ? and the motor monkey ? just as he’d run a wartime submarine in the North Atlantic.

Even for a 9-year-old, the discipline was exacting and the hours were long; such was common for fishermen’s sons up until the end of the industry here.

That end had several causes. The first oil embargo of 1973 forced many owners to either retire or obtain larger, more cost-effective vessels. The price of fuel cut deep into San Diego’s fishing fleet as did growing awareness of environmental concerns of overfishing and “bycatch” ? particularly the capture of dolphin in the nets.

Increasing regulation against the fishing fleet and its practices had two primary effects: it scattered San Diego’s fleet to places where American laws did not apply and it prevented a San Diego-inspired remedy to save dolphin from being caught.

Joe Medina, a lifelong San Diego fisherman, created the “Medina panel,” a kind of trap door that allows dolphin to escape a purse seine. The panel quickly proved its effectiveness and was mandated for all tuna boats under the American flag at a time when changing economics transferred tuna boats to other nations. The Medina panel is not used everywhere, unfortunately, and issues of overfishing and dolphin endangerment continue.

The exhibit runs until December 30 at SDHC in Balboa Park. See for more information.

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Unpaid taxes will cost you your passport, Boxer says

Posted on 16 May 2012 by mburgess


Making its way through Congress is a bill that will prevent you from traveling outside the USA if you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service. It also calls for recording devices to be placed in all new cars, beginning in 2015, to record mileage and to log destinations in order to collect a tax-per-mile charge planned by the federal government.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has sponsored bill SB 1813, which is called the Moving Ahead For Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21 for short. What does Barbara Boxer have to say about her bill? So far, nothing. Neither her offices in San Diego nor in Washington have answered ESPRESSO’s repeated requests for comment about SB 1813. Boxer seems to prefer silence rather than substance on such issues. Does she believe that by simply not speaking about her bill, she can avoid the inevitable wrath of her constituents?

The bill runs to 1,676 pages, most of which are about road improvements and other mundane matters, but section 40304 amends subchapter D of chapter 75 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 with a clause that revokes or denies passports in cases of some tax delinquencies. A taxpayer would only have to amass a debt of $50,000 or more before his or her passport would be cancelled or denied.

Some civil liberties advocates are raising alarms about Boxer’s bill. Among these are David Laszlo, a San Diego attorney and Constitutional law specialist working on challenges to Section 40304, even in advance of the bill’s passage.

“What should the IRS have to do with your passport?” Laszlo asked. “This bill is a Trojan Horse for government to attack citizenship without oversight or due process. If you notice, there is no limit to what the feds can claim is a ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ and they can change the amount when they want to. Tax debts can escalate with fees, penalties and whatnot and you can be $50,000 in debt before you know it — and they can go back ten years on your records.”

Exceptions to the new rule allow for passports to be renewed if debts are being paid “in a timely manner” or if collections for tax debts are suspended during court hearings on the validity of government claims. Unspecified “humanitarian situations” may allow Americans out of the US, while those Americans abroad alleged to owe tax would find their passports altered by government for return to the US only. In essence, those passports would become a one-way ticket home.

There is no requirement for a judgment by a court. No conviction for fraud or evasion is necessary — merely a “certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue” that claims the government is owed money and which directs the Department of State to withhold or cancel your passport. The bill makes an end run around your right to due process; there is no provision for any review by any court of the government’s actions where your right to travel is concerned. But, if SB 1813 passes, traveling and driving in the United States will never be the same.

The bill automatically adjusts itself for inflation with a cost of living clause that bumps the trigger for revocation by increments of $1000, assessed yearly. If passed in its current form, SB 1813 will come into effect on January 1, 2013.

SB 1813 will, for the first time in US history, link the IRS to the Department of State for purposes of issuing a passport and will allow for the taxing authority to determine who may or may not travel. If the bill passes, it will alter the way government works by giving the IRS vastly increased administrative powers, where travel is concerned, which will far exceed the power of the US State Department. This extraordinary shift in government function – and its affect on every American — seems, so far, to have been ignored by media, though it is of great importance. If the bill passes, a mere administrative decision without any substantive due process will be enough to prohibit an American from going abroad — with the burden of proof on the taxpayer to show why he or she shouldn’t be penalized.

Laszlo said if ever a national identity card law came to pass, SB 1813’s language could be used to segregate Americans from opportunities, housing and benefits based on tax status. “This is a perfect way to legislate second class citizenship; no habeas corpus, no conviction needed, just an administrative finding that determines a person is guilty of a crime. And what will the states do if it passes? Does California get to stop you at a checkpoint and prevent you from going to New York because you owe them, too?”

The few lines of Section 40304 in Boxer’s bill are a game-changer, with respect to the relationship the American people has with its government. But, not many are concerned about this. Some point out that passports are already denied to felons and those who fail to pay court-ordered child support. But people denied passports for those reasons have at least been tried and found guilty by a jury of their peers in open court. For them, limits on travel is part of a criminal sentence and in keeping with traditional limits on government power.

As if Section 40304 weren‘t enough, other sections of the same bill will make “black box” event recorders mandatory on all new cars starting in 2015.

Section 53006 the “Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications systems deployment,” requires vehicles to be installed with systems that constantly beam information about location and other diagnostics both to other vehicles, potentially police cars, and to infrastructure — presumably government monitors who will track car movements in real time, all the time.

Given that light poles are now being fitted with computers to both receive and broadcast wireless internet signals, this would be the easiest method of connecting all vehicles to the ‘Internet of things’ in the future.

Not only would this open the door to total surveillance of Americans’ traveling habits as well as constant real time eavesdropping of what is happening inside their vehicle, including audio sensors to record conversations, it would also grease the skids for a carbon tax system whereby drivers are charged by the mile.

Tax-by-the-mile ideas have been floated in California for the last decade and usually forecast a gas pump with a reader embedded in it that will communicate with a car to read its mileage and calculate a tax additional to the price of the gas. Drivers would have to pay the tax on the spot or be unable to drive for lack of fuel. In other, more draconian scenarios, the tax delinquent car wouldn’t be allowed to start until the bill for fuel and previous mileage was paid. Obviously, this would prove disruptive to both drivers and to business.

Boxer’s bill will speed the process and hasten the day when pumping gas will become a nasty surprise for those already struggling to make it through tough times.

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Saying “I’m Sorry” to Iraqi War Victims Can Be Uplifting

Posted on 29 November 2011 by John Rippo

WMD founder Steve Garber with Desmond Tutu.

Steve Garber is, among other things, a San Diego plumber, poet and Zen practitioner who decided to make a difference in the futures of the US and Iraq. This is expressed in a movement to organize Americans willing to offer the Iraqi people—and all others involved in America’s longest war—a personal apology for the trauma, loss and devastation inflicted by American and coalition arms.
Garber was inspired by the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu while listening to an interview with the Archbishop conducted by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. Tutu, to say the least, has said much on reconciliation and the need to recognize the transformative power of forgiveness during and after his term as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Created by Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity in 1995 to help South Africans come to terms with the legacy of Apartheid, Tutu’s efforts recognized the need and realized the benefits of reconciliation as a way to reclaim dignity, humanity and personal integrity from the past for both victims and perpetrators of violence to help create a future for both less poisoned by history.
Garber’s response to Tutu’s message led him to create an “Apology Project”— a collection of short videos made by individuals expressing remorse for the invasion of Iraq intended to be made available to all those impacted by the war. This includes American and coalition soldiers as well as the Iraqi people.
Sometimes known as the “I’m Sorry” project, Garber says that his aim is to “encourage healing through dialogue between all those involved in the Iraqi conflict.” After a slow start, the number of videos sent to the project increased to a steady stream of short declarations from people everywhere; mostly the result of word of mouth dissemination. “This is Mike from Austin, Texas. I’d like to say I’m sorry to the American and coalition forces, the Iraqi people and each of their families for the loss and suffering they have experienced because of this conflict.” Another said, “Hi, I’m Ben from Bisbee, Arizona…I feel that war is a travesty and it pains me to think that so many have suffered so much resulting from the violence. I’m sincerely sorry.” Many others are in a similar vein—usually just a few seconds long—as people step up to assert themselves and individual sense of being involved in events not of their choosing. As Garber is quick to point out, the Project is not about politics or even the Iraqi War as much as it is about empathy—to acknowledge human suffering and recognize the pain of  all those who suffered and so to pay them respect as fellow humans. It’s also about circumstance. Perhaps the contributors to the project feel a sense of responsibility as well as sorrow and are willing to own their expressions to those afflicted from what they could not stop. Participants in the project become more than mere spectators to events; they empower themselves to do what Tutu describes as the first step toward a future with more respect between peoples, acknowledgment of suffering, loss and a chance for progress with less ill will between those peoples affected by war.
The project grew into the WMD foundation started by Garber; Wisdom, Mediation and Dialog is dedicated to creating more peaceful communities throughout the world by echoing  Tutu’s message.  Continuing the development of a nonviolent philosophy to resolve conflict that can be used by a wide audience, the WMD Foundation has attracted a core of talent to its board skilled in communications, conflict resolution, negotiation and outreach that seeks to broaden its power by linking up with other like-minded groups. To that end, Garber and WMD associate Alexis Dixon met with Desmond Tutu on May 12 in Tacoma, Washington, to seek support and advice from the man that inspired them. As it turned out, Tutu did not recall the Goodman interview but was moved by Garber and Dixon’s wish to further dialogue toward a better world. The Archbishop listened and approved of the mens’ work and noted that those calling people to their higher selves can expect grave challenges along the way. “We are giants who want to remain dwarves,” Tutu told them. In the end, the Archbishop told them that what they are doing is good work and that he would pray for them. He emphasized that prayer is an action, heavy with meaning, and that dialog takes time.
The WMD Foundation is a noble attempt to bring some change into a world marred by lack of respect, transparency and empathy. Millions of people who had nothing to do with the Iraq War faced violence that overwhelmed them; their posterity will echo their pain for generations to come and their history will carry the stain of these times permanently. Others, mislead by cruel manipulators safe from harm, lost their lives and futures too, and this is the spur that moves a plumber from San Diego to stand up and be counted as a voice of reason and sanity for a growing number of people willing to assert their common humanity to tell those who fought on our behalf—as well as those who were our adversary—“I’m sorry.” The future, Garber asserts, can’t move forward without that acknowledgment. will offer the interested person information on how to say something that matters.

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New Entertainment Fees Threaten Coffeehouse Venues

Posted on 13 September 2011 by John Rippo

On July 1, San Diego enacted a new series of fees for entertainment permits that will have serious effects on coffeehouses and entertainers of all kinds who depend on café venues for their living. Increases of over 700 percent for yearly entertainment permits is likely for some cafés and the chilling effect of high fees are likely to cut the number of coffeehouses that can afford to host musicians and profit from entertainment.

The new fees are part of a package that was voted unanimously by the SD City Council on June 23. The new package raised fees for many other permits and city services, including building permits, inspections and medical helicopter flights. Also included in the scheme to collect some $774,000 annually is a new way to fund the SDPD Vice Squad, which oversees issuance of entartainment permits to all venues, including coffeehouses.

The City claims that in tight economic times, “cost recovery” of services rendered to businesses regulated by Vice is necessary and that means that regulated venues have to pay for the Vice Squad that does the regulating. Though the City insists that previous fee structures only collected some 26% of costs, where the Vice Squad is concerned, the numbers are unknown. Vice does not make its budget public as of June 23, 2011—the day the vote came in at City Hall. The Vice Squad determines its own budget, unburdened by any oversight—and charges regulated businesses accordingly. So far, there has been no challenge to this from of cost recovery and SDPD has resolutely refused to comment on what Vice’s budget amounts to.

This will have significant and perhaps grave meaning for the businesses that face sharply increased costs. Entertainers will be affected too.

For example, the new fee structures for cafés, restaurants and clubs will see a rise in yearly permit fees from last year’s $379 to this year’s $2,383—for a place with a 100-person maximum occupancy that sells alcohol. Depending on the occupancy rate, alcohol sales and history of police calls, a place like that described could face yearly costs of nearly $4000 per year for a permit to keep entertainment going.

Smaller cafés will pay less—from the current $184 annually for a place that seats 50 or more without alcohol or dancing, to a new rate which will be $288. Places that seat fewer than 49 persons without alcohol or dancing used to pay $126; they will pay $230 this year. For cafés with alcohol and dancing, the costs will skyrocket—to $1840 for more than fifty seats and alcohol where dancing may be allowed; and to $920 for under 49 persons with alcohol and dancing.

In addition to that, many small venues will be forced—as a condition of maintaining their entertainment permit—to reconfigure their structures to the same standards as nightclubs use now. This means double doors on exits, panic bars to open those double doors, at least two restrooms and one security guard for every 25 guests. Last year, the rate was a single guard for every 75 guests. For most coffeehouses that were never built to this “nightclub” standard and whose levels of entertainment income do not allow them to afford the muscle at the doors, this will likely mean that the curtain falls on entertainment permanently.

As if that weren’t enough of a blow, new rules will force all businesses offering entertainment to stop while they reapply for entertainment permits from year to year. In effect, each business will face an entertainment moratorium for an inderterminate time on what is for some, a primary profit center. “You couldn’t ask for a better way to hurt our business,” lamented one Mission Valley coffeehouse owner. “It’s like they have a handle on the faucet and can turn off your profits as long as they want from one year to the next.”

For some, the new fees are Deja Vu all over again.

That’s because in 2000, the City tried to pass similar laws that would have made coffeehouses and other small venues 21 and up only, if they offered entertainment of any kind. The building upgrade language in the new law was there in the 2000 legislation and then, SD City Attorney and Vice publicly stated that “entertainment equals crime” since all venues served as conduits for drug and gang activity, in their opinion. The proposed law was skewered by media and hotly contested by many of San Diego’s entertainers, coffee people and others concerned that it would cripple the growth of local culture, hurt business and interfere with redevelopment in some areas.. After two hearings by the full City Council, the law was amended. Now, the baser portions of the 2000 law are back and hailed as a cost cutting measure.

Councilmembers De Maio and Zapf opposed the rate hikes until the final vote when they voted for the measure which was originally championed by Kevin Faulconer as a strong “law and order” message coupled with saving City money.

At first glance, a yearly fee of $920 does not seem to amount to much; but when coupled with high costs of hiring security guards and new construction demands, the total cost to maintain code compliance becomes unaffordable for many small venues.. As one café owner put it, “The day they do that to me, I’ll just throw parties after hours in the street. That will cost them plenty and get me no end of great press…”

The ones most affected by any change in fees will of course be musicians and other entertainers robbed of places to play. Until now, coffeehouses in particular have reported a surge in numbers from entertainment of all kinds and more venues means more money and public support for the next Jewel, Tom Waits, Blink 182, Jim Morrison and Novamenco that first got started in the San Diego coffeehouse scene. Coffeehouses outside San Diego city limits may benefit from the blockade of culture forced by the PD; and at least one La Mesa café reports that it is aggressively seeking new bookings from bands and singers forced out from San Diego cafés.

Some in the hospitality industry point fingers at the California Restaurant Association, a trade group that has long regarded “non-standard” venues as a direct threat to its members’ bottom line, for promoting the new rules.. Like the 2000 effort before it, the new rules were allegedly promoted with urging from that organization. Cal Restaurant did not respond to ESPRESSO’s questions on the matter by press time.

Others in hospitality say that the City has it all wrong when it comes to jacking fees for small venues like coffeehouses. The San Diego Food & Beverage Association has been quietly lobbying the city for a more enlightened form of permit structure that would take types of entertainment into account for purposes of regulation and also factor in occupancy and previous history. Until the budget plan was proposed by Vice, some progress had been made toward setting maximum sizes of stage and numbers of musicians with unamplified music in small venues. The current mantra of “cost recovery” coupled with dodgy Vice budgets killed that plan.


Though it may surprise some, San Diego’s Finest have long worked to undermine the growth and divergence of the coffeehouses when it came to expanding into entertainment of any kind. That’s because for the last fifty years, many in city government and the PD have looked at coffeehouses as problems in regulation and undesirable social action waiting to happen. Ever since the 1960’s, coffeehouses in the city faced opposition when they ventured out beyond the sale of coffee and into entertainment—or what some regarded as activism. Whether serving as hangouts for anti-war youth in 1968 at the once famed Blue Whale or Upper Cellar, to the stirrings of gay activism in the 70’s at The Study, to the café-cum-nightclub antics of Java Joe’s in Ocean Beach in the 90’s or to more prolix activism at Chicano Perk, the seven-year run of which was ended suddenly last year by the City for alleged zoning violations—two weeks after lectures on Socialism were offered to area youth at the coffeehouse—to the pols and cops, coffeehouses have been the square peg defying the round hole where regulation is concerned. The cops and presumably City Attorney Jan Goldsmith would like to see them limited solely to selling coffee. The coffeehouses realize that especially as times tighten, entertainment is crucial to their ability to grow. Entertainers of all kinds have used cafés to start careers, build new acts and develop their talent.

SDPD has long stated that its manpower and money resources are low and their pro-active stance toward anything that may cause a problem too hard to control means suppressing trouble before it starts. Where entertainment is concerned, it means tightly controlling how venues can operate and to some extent, what kinds of entertainment they can offer. For a half century, coffeehouses have been a traditional wild card for the PD; Vice wants to regulate them the same as bars, clubs or concert halls and calls from business owners who point out that the kinds of trouble often found in other establishments is virtually non-existent in them fall on deaf ears. Now, Vice needs to make its budget from regulated businesses entirely and this hardens their stance when negotiating with business groups for breathing room. The net result is that coffeehouse venues are threatened, the PD is enriched and entertainment—and chances for an organic, homegrown culture to arise in the cafés suffers.

The uphill battle for any change in fees is with Vice to overcome their insistence that a having a good time is likley a crime—no matter if it’s had at Lestat’s, Anthology, HOB or at the San Diego Symphony Hall. Whether that can happen now is anyone’s guess and hospitality insiders offer long odds on change. As one hospitality insider put it, “There’s no way this thing is going away. Not now.” Still, change occurred last time, in 2000 when hundreds of maddened entertainers and others threatened by entertainment permit concerns flooded the PD with publich protests and crammed City Hall twice with hundreds more people demanding change. Last time, the cafés in San Diego were lucky and found some friends in City Hall at a crucial time. Whether that will happen again without organization between the coffee tradespeople and entertainment intresests is perhaps unlikely.


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Pannikin Founder Bob Sinclair Dies in NM Crash

Posted on 09 August 2011 by John Rippo

SD premier coffee man victim of injuries in motorcycle accident.
Bob Sinclair, founder of Pannikin Coffee & Tea  and later of Cafe Moto, died on August 6 after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle crash in New Mexico on July 28.
The crash occurred around 4.30 p.m. as Sinclair travelled east on NM 502 and attempted a left turn onto County Road 101 East. For unknown reasons he lost control of his Ducati motorcycle and was thrown from the seat. Head injuries were extensive though he wore a helmet. Transferred to the ICU at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Santa Fe, he lingered in a coma until August 6.
Robert “Bob” Sinclair was born in Hollywood on November 1, 1942 and grew up on a farm in Antelope Valley. After four years in the navy, most of them in San Diego, he and his first wife opened a cookware store on La Jolla’s Prospect Street. An incidental product was whole bean coffee and an antique roaster set up in his home garage on Rosemont Street fed the appetites of a growing number of La Jollans. The shop soon sold more coffee than cookware and the Pannikin was born.
Eventually, Sinclair established several coffeehouses throughout the county and a second retail shop on Girard Street in La Jolla. A large roastery was sited at the corner of 13th and J Streets in what is now East Village. A flair for location was always evident and The Pannikin counted the former Santa Fe Railroad station in Leucadia as its most magnificent jewel. Another location sits across the street from La Jolla Cove and operates as a restaurant. Along the way, Sinclair supplied every one of the early coffeehouses in San Diego in the 80’s and quickly became respected as San Diego’s premier coffee roaster.  Hundreds of restaurants, cafés and bars throughout the county and elsewhere became Sinclair’s clients and under the wholesale entity now known as Cafe Moto, the business continues to expand.
Bob Sinclair’s Pannikin set a style for coffeehouses in San Diego for layout, design and signature coffees that endures. He introduced whole bean specialty coffee to San Diego, revived coffee roasting singlehandedly here and was the first to create public awareness of coffees’ diversity. His business model and taste helped frame the style of many coffeehouses that elevated them from offbeat hangouts to the comfortably chic places they’ve become. There is perhaps no one individual with more significance to more aspects of San Diego’s coffee and allied trades than Bob Sinclair, dead  at the age of 69.

Front page image by Nan Palmero, Creative Commons

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Colt’s .45 Automatic: Iconic Design Marks Centennial

Posted on 08 May 2011 by John Rippo

On March 29, the centennial of one of the longest-lived designs in US industrial production occurred. That was the date in 1911 that the US government adopted a new “automatic” pistol for the armed forces of the United States. The Colt “Government Model” was the result of nearly a decade of experimentation and testing by its inventor, John Moses Browning in partnership with the Colt Firearms Company of Hartford, Connecticut and the pistol became a defining element of the American army and culture throughout the 20th century.
The Colt .45 has remained in production ever since 1911 due to  a dynamic combination of mechanical dependability, ergonomic suitability and lethality. Though the .45 requires a good deal of intense training to master and a strong arm to stand the shock of repeated firing, generations of American soldiers came to praise its ease of function—or “pointability” to hit a target without relying the pistol’s sights for aim. The heavy, slow moving slug is renowned for “stopping power” which  immediately disables or kills its victim. In 1911, the  cavalryman’s  horse was as likely a target as an enemy soldier, so  the .45 was made powerful enough to kill a horse at close range. The army had a saying, “Nobody gets wounded with a .45,” that inspired confidence in the soldiers armed with the automatic. The pistol is well made and tough to break and even with indifferent maintenance some examples that are as old as the design itself are still as ready for use as they ever were.
The .45 automatic is something of a misnomer. Pistols of its kind are more accurately known as “self-loaders” and this design form was strongly desired by top brass in the US Army a century ago. “Automatics” were seen as modern, compact and faster shooting than the revolvers the military used then, but suffered grave limitations in actual use because no one really knew how to design one that worked well enough to replace the old fashioned large caliber revolver. Early automatics blew themselves apart when firing powerful cartridges and they were too complicated for the average soldier to handle. It took Browning years of patient, incremental development beginning in 1897 before a suitable mechanism was developed.
The Colt .45’s mechanism depends on a locking device of meshing barrel rings and grooves in the upper part of the pistol aka the slide, that when fired hold together long enough for the bullet to emerge from the muzzle and the gas pressure to drop. Slide and barrel continue to move backward from the gas pressure raised by the discharge of the cartridge. As they move, a pivot under the barrel turns, unlocking the barrel from the slide and pulling it downward, positioning it to accept another cartridge from the magazine. The slide continues backward to its stop, carrying the empty cartridge case with it to an ejector which knocks it free and away. A spring pushes the slide forward again where it lifts a cartridge from the magazine in the pistol’s handgrip and feeds it to the chamber end of the  barrel. When the slide and barrel line up and lock into place again, the trigger engages a lever, readying the pistol to fire. When the shooter pulls the trigger, the hammer drops and process repeats.
Browning’s inspiration for this mechanism originally came from a parallel ruler and his early automatic pistol designs are still called “parallel ruler types” to this day. The 1911 model modified that articulation, allowing the gun to dissipate the stress of firing from the barrel into its surrounding bearing,or “bushings”. This solved the problem that ruined earlier designs that snapped their barrels in two after a only a few shots.
Browning’s prototype fired hundreds of rounds without failure in grueling test against several competitors and emerged a clear winner. Production began in mid-1911 and the services began to receive them in 1912.
Any weapon is a menace to those untrained in its use and Browning was well aware that soldiers used to a revolver might be at risk with his new automatic pistol. The 1911 was designed with two kinds of safety systems to prevent the pistol from firing at the wrong time.  A switch in the grip must be squeezed by the shooter before the pistol will fire; this usually prevents a 1911 from going off if dropped, at least in theory. Another latch at the rear of the pistol frame locks the hammer back in the “fully cocked” position. The hammer can also be thumbed back to a “half cock” position which  some claim is a third safety. Modern gunnery instructors tend to frown on the half cock safety feature and drum into their student’s skulls that their trigger finger and constant awareness are the best safety mechanism ever invented. Over the decades, other variations were tried, but one hundred years on, the originals still appear on every gun of the type turned out today.
At a century’s remove, it’s hard to imagine that at least one major arm of the US Army was not much interested in the automatic pistol. The cavalry liked their revolvers and wanted to keep them and had some good reasons for their preference; the revolver could be used with only one hand while the 1911 requires two hands to get it “into battery” or loaded for the first shot. Extracting the magazine from the pistol was difficult for horsemen who had to keep a handrul of reins in the left hand while operating a weapon with the right. If their right hand was wearing a glove, it made doing anything with a magazine—and automatic pistol—much harder to accomplish. Magazines easily got lost and a lost magazine left the automatic pistol useless. Still, the army pressed on with its development in spite of continuing criticism from its elite corps. The decision was the right one in the long view; the horse cavalry is gone while the 1911 automatic is still around.
Gun writers for the past century have often told a tale of how the 1911 Colt was designed to combat an all too effective insurgency in the Philippine Islands that followed the Spanish American War of 1898. When the Philippinos realized that their independence came with American strings attached, many of them revolted and began a guerilla war against US forces in the islands. The Moros—a particularly fierce band of muslim islanders determined to rid their homeland of foreigners—were particularly feared, especially when the Americans realized that their .38 caliber revolvers did not stop charging Moros armed with barongs, a kind of heavy machete that could chop down small trees and American soldiers with equal ease. The US Army demanded some heftier firepower, so the legend runs, and the Colt .45 was the result. While a good story, it isn’t entirely true. the Colt .45 took years to develop and by the the time it was ready for battle, the Philippine fight was over. The .45 automatic missed the boat for the so-called Philippine Insurrection.
The Colt .45 spawned other automatics used by other countries—Mexico, Argentina, Norway, Russia and the UK either bought Colts or designed their own forms from the original; while a later Browning design inspired by the 1911 became the sidearm of France, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, China, Australia and New Zealand. Many modern automatic pistol designs owe Browning for their inspiration if not their design features.
San Diego has its own remote tie to the Colt .45 automatic too. In 1918, the A. J. Savage Arms Company was built at west end of Market Street, fronting the railroad tracks. The gun mill was specially intended to produce the .45, though it’s doubtful if any were ever made there. Collectors of early .45’s rage endlessly over whether complete specimens came from San Diego; a small number of slides were known to have been made at A.J. Savage and these turn up on pistols assembled for WWII service. Commonly called “Augusta Arsenal” models, they command a fair premium in the collector market.
There are plenty of legends surrounding the Colt .45;  of a Japanese plane brought down by one during World War II; of an Italian  tank stopped by an army private with a .45 who shot the tank’s crew through their defective armor; of bears, sharks and moose killed by .45’s; of Pancho Villa’s horsemen having their horses shot from under them and charging soldiers stopped cold—and permanently—after being hit with .45 slugs; of cars and boats having their engines shot to pieces by them—the list is endless. But what is not disputed is the .45’s power was usually enough to settle fights in the Americans’ favor and its dependability kept it in the arsenal long after many European armies all but discarded handguns from their forces. The American army has traditionally been a pistol-packing kind of organization in which non-coms, officers and soldiers whose jobs burden them with too much equipment to carry a rifle are traditionally armed with a pistol. Coupled with traditional tactics of using pistols offensively instead of for personal defense, the .45 became a preferred weapon for many soldiers in the trenches of World War I or the jungles of the Pacific Islands of World War II where fighting was at close range and often started with a nasty surprise from the opposing side.  When it was adopted, the Colt .45 was believed to be a perfect quick firing, hard-hitting companion to the 1903 Springfield rifle which was celebrated for its ability to hit a man at extreme distances measured in hundreds of yards. All bases seemed covered by the firearm combination, and the choice of weapons proved adequate in two world wars and for decades thereafter.
But in the late 80’s, some in the miltary procurement system decided to phase out the venerable war-horse in favor of a new, 16-shot automatic pistol in 9-millimeter caliber. Long favored by NATO, the 9mm offered the advantage of standardization of munitions which had already been imposed on small arms in all NATO forces. The American pistol was the last hold out and finally went out of service in 1988, to be replaced by the Italian Beretta Model 92. Though the Beretta and its derivations are excellent weapons, they rely on having a lot of cartridges ready to use when needed. This is said to make up for the inferior power of the 9mm compared to the .45. American police forces have adopted the 9 mm caliber in many automatic pistol designs and the FBI has done all it can to make a law enforcement  loading for the smaller cartridge so that it functions like the .45 does.
The American public developed an affinity for the Colt .45 over the years, bred by veterans who used them in service, and the list of after-market modifications, alterations and presumed improvements to the original machine is enough to fill volumes and keep endless cottage industries going. The Colt .45 underwent several official changes over the years, but the mechanism remained unaltered and in this the Colt seems unique in US military history. Few of our weapons in the modern machine age remained in service for some 70-plus years without major modification, but the Colt did—and this is all the more remarkable considering that its inventor, Browning, created it from paper clippings, wooden models carved by hand and rough machined prototypes that were hand fitted together and refined until the finished design worked as intended. Browning combined his innovative effort with a novel ergonomic sensitivity for how the shooter’s hand ought to fit the gun grip, and this resulted in a powerful pistol that can pointed quickly onto a target. Many afficionadoes of the .45 say that it is a far better gun for quick, point-and-shoot work than for careful, aimed target shooting, and the military- approved stance for target shooting with the pistol is hardly convenient, easy to learn or easy on the arm for that matter.
The Colt .45 Government Model Automatic was one of best elements of design, functionality and durability that the US produced in the 20th Century and is a worthy example for every designer to learn from. It is perhaps the last American industrial element still in production and commercially available a century after its introduction, and if anything can point to a kind of perfection of form and utility, this must be it.

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1960 Manual on How to Run a Coffeehouse In San Diego Illustrates Half Century of Changes in the Trade

Posted on 17 February 2011 by John Rippo

In 1960, a successful coffeehouse didn’t need an espresso machine, but it did need entertainment that was live and original and a “clean-up man” to handle the dishes filled with the residue of chocolate covered caterpillars, caviar and smoked octopus. There have been a lot of changes in fifty years of San Diego coffeehouses and the primitive manual illustrated at right is ground zero for a vanished earlier age of café culture here.
How To Run a Coffeehouse was a slight compendium filled with the considered observations of Bob Stane, owner of The Upper Cellar, once located at 6557 El Cajon Boulevard in the 1960’s. The Upper Cellar enjoyed a good deal of success in its years of operation since it was near SDSU and there were few competitors around. Stane’s manual was as much a promotion of his place as it was a way to help other aspiring coffeehouse owners understand the business as it then was. How To Run a Coffeehouse was a spirited, yet shrewd series of observations on building a successful business from the ground up that still resonates today—when it doesn’t stop the reader abruptly with recommendations that seem like they came from another planet.
For instance, in 1960, coffee was still an experiment for many people and was merely the hook on which customers fixed their money  while enjoying the atmosphere, conversation and music. Specialty coffee wasn’t single origin, organic, fair trade anything; it was mixed drinks that anticipated the Starbucks menu by fifty years. Stane’s coffee offerings, while imaginative and complex, even by contemporary standards, were brutally amateurish and primitive. Anise flavored some coffee drinks at four bits a cup—Stane recommended measuring the spice on a matchstick. Russian Coffee was an espresso flamed in a stove-top mocha pot to which a dollop of Hershey’s Chocolate syrup was added. Described in the menu as “the strength of a Cossack and the authority of  a Czar” it wouldn’t likely rate high on a house’s offerings today. A now-forgotten form was Stane’s Rum & Butter Coffee—extract of rum mixed with butter and poured into a cup of French Roast. It was a pricey item, too; selling for 70 cents a cup. Slightly less expensive was the Café Creole, a coffee and chicory blend topped with whipped cream and shaved almonds for 55 cents per cup. Tea, cider, Italian sodas and Turkish coffee were available at The Upper Cellar, too; all retailed for less than 85 cents per serving.
Food was important too, and in 1960, no one seemed prone to the specialty diets common today. The Upper Cellar offered corned beef and salami sandwiches, served on onion rye with Monterey Jack cheese, tomato and lettuce at 70 cents each; kippers and sardines with soda crackers cost 45 cents per plate. But the specialties of the house—which Stane shrewdly used as a tool to promote his house and set it apart from the rest, were smoked cuttlefish, caviar, smoked octopus and chocolate covered ants, bees, caterpillars and grasshoppers—all of which could be had for less than 85 cents a serving, with sherbet for dessert.
One can only imagine how modern coffeehouse patrons would react to food offerings like this today; calls to 911 would likely be common.
But there was fine method to Stane’s seeming Eisenhower-era madness, and if the menu was primitive and amateurish, it was nothing compared to the bare bones approach to the business itself. Much of that advice is still golden today.
To quote Stane, “…as an owner and manager, the coffee house is one thing; a business. Granted it is a fascinating, sometimes weird, sometimes whimsical business, but a dollars and cents, sweat and efficiency business. When reading this book, keep this in mind or all will be lost.”  Stane set out the basics: theme and atmosphere, location, interior arrangement, employees, menu and above all, entertainment in a few paragraphs that relate everything to everything else and made the Upper Cellar a profitable business from its mutually supporting parts. The theme of the coffeehouse was of course an upper cellar and everything from the entrance to the interior decor (if that’s what it could be called) recalled the notion of one. Pipes ran across the ceiling; windows were above eye level just under the bare beams. Lighting came only from candles on the tables; bulbs were shaded behind the counter. The Upper Cellar had the lock on a kind of dignified shabbiness that was all its own and its patrons loved it.
Stane chose his El Cajon Boulevard site because it was near SDSU and El Cajon Boulevard was a mecca for drag racers and other youth that filled the neighborhood then. The outer door was hard to miss. His kitchen was a one-man epitome of efficiency; everything was laid out so that one person could operate it with a minimum of wasted steps and motion. All of his equipment was used and paid for in cash. “The credit system will ruin you,” appears several times in the manual and as too many modern coffeehouse operators have learned to their sorrow, Stane’s words are as true now as they were in 1960. Portable, easily stored and easy to clean tables, chairs, movie projectors and puppet stages were important; every square inch of the Upper Cellar was for business use and nothing, not even the restroom that was labelled “The People’s Sandbox” was bigger than it needed to be.
Perhaps the biggest difference in coffeehouse operations fifty years ago from today concerns entertainment. Stane believed that both canned and live entertainment was the soul of his establishment. Silent movies and bullfight films, newsreels and anything that wouldn’t be seen on television flickered on the coffeehouse’s screen, usually double-billed with folksingers. The only other canned stuff were jazz or folk records that were run between acts. Live acts were on tap every night of the week, from opening time at 7 p.m. to closing at 3 a.m. Poetry readings, artists offering a running repartee to the audience as they created works before their eyes, comedians, puppet shows and fortune tellers were usual fare. But the real juicy stuff were the musicians; folk, jazz, blues, pop or anything else that was acoustic and preferably the work of no more than two musicians at a time. Stane frowned on paying for a group when a single singer or duo would suffice. In July, 1960 Stane boasted a run of  “a blues and American folksinger, a classical voiced folksinger, a ‘Slick’ folksinger, a comedian, a puppet show and old time movies.” And he had reserves of entertainers just in case.  The Upper Cellar was home to several Spanish singers and those of other cultures and Stane had some sympathy with the more progressive movements of his day. He recommended that other budding coffeehouse operators cast as wide a net on the public as possible and it was good business to let all kinds of the right kinds rub shoulders in his Upper Cellar.
Stane’s stage stood nine inches above the floor and was only three feet by three feet when the upright piano was figured in. Sets flipped every twenty minutes and all his musicians were talented people just finding a first audience—one of whom was a kid from Coronado by the name of Jim Morrison—later of the Doors. Stane recommended that as soon as entertainers got on radio or TV, others should be found to take their place since audiences could listen at home.
Practices like these are a night and day contrast to the world coffeehouses face now. Restrictive laws hamper entertainment in all but the smallest houses and in the little ones, entertainment is usually unable to make a profit. Coffeehouses with fifty seats or more have to apply for costly entertainment permits that come with many strings attached that limit business operations, and it is no simple matter for a musician looking for a first audience to play in a coffeehouse without being harassed by BMI or ASCAP, claiming that the new tunes on a six string are actually derived from a famous name and liable to infringement penalties. Coffeehouses like The Upper Cellar could not exist today under current laws and modern coffeehouses have been forced to find other forms of attracting and holding a clientele. One can only wonder what Stane would have thought of free WiFi or coupons. We do know what he thought of local laws and customs, however. He was explicit in his manual on the need to proactively approach law enforcement that often took a dim view of coffeehouses and their patrons.
Stane recommended a neighborly visit to the cops before a coffeehouse opened; where an owner could explain the nature of the house, assure the cops that no booze or dope would be tolerated and that vigilance would be maintained. He urged the prospective coffeehouse owner to work with and befriend officialdom at all levels. It worked—for awhile, though Stane explicitly stated that he discouraged servicemen from coming to the Upper Cellar and recommended other coffeehouse owners to do the same. In his opinion, uniforms and the free spirit kind of atmosphere a coffeehouse needed to thrive were incompatible. Stane had it right, unfortunately, and his manual merely foreshadowed the conflicts that all but killed coffeehouses in San Diego in the late ’60’s.
Conservative to its core, San Diego was a Marine and Navy town that saw ever-growing conflict with college types at SDSU, USD and eventually UCSD. Many young people were against the draft and Vietnamese War then, and many of the growing antiwar youth organized themselves in the Upper Cellar and other coffeehouses that sprouted all over San Diego. The powers that be didn’t like that and soon passed new cabaret licensing laws that made it harder and more expensive for coffeehouses like the Upper Cellar to keep entertainers on stage. As the war continued and feelings polarized, many coffeehouses were routinely harassed and raided by local PD in search of pot, pinkos and perversion in a drive to enhance conformity. Stane and others realized that they couldn’t fight city hall and by 1966, The Upper Cellar had passed from the scene. By 1970, very few coffeehouses remained in San Diego. Their numbers dwindled steadily until the late 1970’s when coffeehouses began to come back to San Diego—though usually without entertainment.
The battle against the coffeehouses didn’t end there. In 2000, another series of laws aimed at curtailing coffeehouse entertainment gathered momentum—until a combination of entertainers, coffee traders and media thwarted the campaign. A re-worked set of laws made it more expensive to apply for the desirable entertainment permit and the wait for bureaucratic review is now enough to discourage many house operators from bothering with one. As a profitable substitute, more coffeehouses have added beer and wine to their offerings, as well as food which also require costly permits and changes the character completely from what Bob Stane would have known in 1960. The net result has  limited the kinds of culture that coffeehouses were once known to produce as a byproduct of their existence and the net effect of bureaucracy is to make more coffeehouses poorer and just like all the others. This helped giants like Starbucks undermine the independents; from the mid-1990’s, chain coffee became a serious threat to independent coffeehouses throughout San Diego and this state of affairs continued until it was moderated by the economic disaster of 2008. As Starbucks lost market share, independent coffeehouses got a reprieve from an uneven contest.
Bob Stane’s thin manual from 1960 is filled with the shrewd observations of a businessman bent on making his profits by enabling his customers to play in a world of Stane’s making; one that allowed people to step comfortably out of their regular lives and enter a happy place filled with fun, good things to eat and drink and perhaps some great entertainment from performers making their rise to stardom. It really didn’t matter if the Upper Cellar lacked an espresso machine or if the anise was measured on a matchstick or if the coffee was warmed in a diner’s cast off coffee pot. Coffee was the excuse and the means to make a buck; the real profit came from patrons that would drive twenty miles one way regularly to buy from Bob Stane in the dingy coffeehouse on El Cajon Boulevard and later proudly tell friends,  “I go to the Upper Cellar.” Stane knew what the sentence meant—his customers were the loyal citizens of the place he created and he underscored this meaning in his manual. For those yearning to make their coffeehouse dream into a unique and character-filled place of coffee-powered human interaction, Stane had one word: “Go.”
Fifty years later, that hasn’t changed.

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SOHO Looks Out For the Ladies: Save Our Heritage Organization in forefront to preserve local history

Posted on 02 December 2010 by John Rippo

July 16 is the anniversary of the founding of San Diego in 1769. One would think that the city might commemorate the date of its founding but this doesn’t happen here. One reason why it doesn’t is because history tends to get in the way of some people’s future and those who shape the real estate realities of San Diego have little patience with the monuments to the dead hand of the past when seeking future profits.
San Diego offers a rich, layered and multi-dimensional history packed into less than 250 years of Euro-American impact on what was a thriving Native American community for millenia. Spain, Mexico and the United States collided here. The Spanish started California’s wine industry here, and established their first Mission here. The Mexican Californios shaped the American state far more profoundly than the conquering Americans give them credit for. Two of the men who did that shaping were neighbors in Old Town; their history has been deftly suppressed for over a century in the interest of cultural imperialism and the means to easier profits.
When history is suppressed and obliterated its lack robs meaning from the current populace of the region by removing a sense of continuity and community. It is as if residents live in a place lacking any organic logic of how it came to be;  its human scale is diminished and residents’ links to it are weakened. As Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, “There’s no there, there.” San Diego shares a similar problem with Oakland; “There” keeps changing and changes are made by by people who decide what is best for a place and make  change happen—whether locals like it or not.
Luckily, there is an organization dedicated to fighting that and to preserving what it can of San Diego’s architectural, cultural and topographic heritage. This is the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO).
SOHO is forty-one years old. It marked its anniversary in November. It arose almost by accident in 1969 when artist Robert Miles Parker agitated to save a Middletown Victorian from the wrecker’s ball. His ad-hoc citizen’s activist group morphed into the non-profit organization now headed by Bruce and Alana Coons that has saved hundreds of worthy structures from becoming firewood. The list of their victories is impressive: The Hotel del Coronado, the Marston House, the Villa Montezuma at 20th and K Streets; much of downtown and numerous other Victorian houses that date to the 1870’s still stand because SOHO interrupted the process of “progress” on their behalf. One of the structures they interceded for is the Verna House, on San Diego Avenue in Old Town. The antic 1870’s cottage serves as a museum shop for SOHO and is the public office for the organization. Next door is another saved structure—the New Orleans Café, one of this city’s exemplary offerings of Gulf Coast fare which is located in a tiny false-front wooden structure that dates to when Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. To some, this proves that even ancient structures can have a worthy and even vital place in modern society. The Coonses seem to place a high emphasis on this idea; Bruce Coons has floated a concept to use the 1910’s California Theatre Building at 4th and C Streets as a home for nearby City Hall as a way to upgrade the needs of the City without resorting to the massive expense of a new building.
In recent years, SOHO successfully energized a designation for some buildings deemed worthy of preservation. Called the Mills Act after state senator James Mills, it encourages homeowners whose structures have proven historical significance to keep and maintain the outer structure of the homes as original as possible. The incentive is a tax break on property value. Critics of the Mills Act claim that too many “insignificant” properties are taken from the tax rolls which hurts the city’s bottom line. Others maintain that the numbers of suitable properties for Mills Act consideration are not great—less than 400—and that keeping old structures in place prevents them from being replaced by unquestionably insignificant, indifferently designed and cheaply constructed modern replacements that have all the character and appearance of a packing crate. Besides that, the distinct character of neighborhoods can be preserved and preserving neighborhoods preserves the property values in places like North Park, Hillcrest, Mission Hills and the Gaslamp, making these areas more desirable for home and business owners and helping to stabilize property values in a time of depression.
The Coonses have stated publicly that preservation is more than saving the odd Victorian here and there. They say it’s about culture and the ability of individuals to preserve the cultural elements that are important to them.
Preserving cultural elements is where things get interesting.
San Diego is a battleground of cultures struggling for prominence. On one hand, there are the neighborhoods whose residents are happy with their status quo. Barrio Logan, Mission Hills, Sherman Heights, Ocean Beach, La Jolla and others are filled with people who grew up in their neighborhoods who define themselves through their turf and who are reluctant to face sweeping change, especially when it’s imposed by outsiders. On the other hand are developers and others who want to reap the benefits of tearing down the old and building anew. This group has no use for the history or people in a targeted zone except as a basis for a marketable fiction that can be used as a selling tool for real estate. To the developer, history is merely a gimmick and preservation of old structures is an impediment to redevelopment of scarce land. Great fortunes can be made more quickly from the development of real estate if the means to profit—manipulation of the past—can be safely guaranteed. The carefully groomed past is a gold mine; the sizzle that sells the steak.
For example, the chic neighborhood now called Little Italy that markets itself as an stylish Italian oasis to locals and as a tourist attraction to cruise ship passengers does little to recall the generations of residents that gave the neighborhood its historical street cred now used by modern promoters. Most of the original structures were bulldozed to make way for steel and glass boutiques while other remaining buildings have been remodeled out of all proportion and their sometimes colorful histories ignored. Marketing an ethnic Italian essence with poster images of notable ethnics who never set foot in Little Italy substitutes fiction for the past realities of the neighborhood; this makes for high sales volume for everything from cannoli to condos. While Little Italy is beautiful and dynamic it isn’t real in any meaningful sense with respect to its own past. SOHO as well as others who live and work in this neighborhood and others, have to deal with these kinds of competing pressures all the time. Unfortunately, there are many losses as well as victories for the organization.
One of those losses was a building that belonged to the Salvation Army which stood at the corner of Park Boulevard and Broadway. Built as a car dealership in the ’30’s, it was celebrated by architects as a classic of deco design; one that had escaped significant alteration. Though the building had been neglected and was in an area that had suffered blight at least since the 1960’s, it still had meaning to those who understood its character and the value derived from it. Efforts to preserve it failed and the owners destroyed it in a military-like demolition that occurred on a weekend when legal interference was unlikely. At press time, the rubble of the wreckage still remains on site and the site’s future is unclear; the Salvation Army claims its standing as a religious organization exempts it from the kinds of review intended to save historic structures. There are many like this building that got away—The Hotel San Diego, The Arctic Café, Calvary Hill, Ryan Aeronautical, the downtown YMCA and too many others. SOHO is overtly powerless to force owners to conserve their structures. Even with public pressure, a common tactic for many owners of unwanted old buildings is to let them deteriorate to the point where they become dangerous, at which time they can be levelled in the interest of public safety and to reduce blight. One of the unfortunate realities that often follow this kind of tactic is that the new structures that arise on the spot of the lost do little to add to the esthetic of the surroundings. SOHO’s archive and that of the San Diego Historical Society are filled with pictures of what once stood here—buildings with charm, elegance and even grandeur—which are now the sites of unremarkable structures that do little to add to the city’s image as “America’s Finest City”.
Amid the losses, there are mistakes, too. History is often a choice of what some prefer to recall, commemorate and respect. Preserving cultural elements is a lot like beauty—the eye of the beholder is paramount and choice is rarely a democratic process.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Old Town. Until the 1870’s, Old Town was San Diego and the most important elements that shaped Spanish, Mexican and American California happened in the area that spans from Presidio Park to the Five freeway. It was here that San Diego first became settled when Spanish explorers and soldiers established the  rude garrison and church on Presidio hill and its remains still lie on the hill slope where the inattentive wanderer may trip over them due to a lack of clear markings about their presence and importance. The destiny of the future San Diego was first guaranteed in Old Town when the San Diego River was controlled by a US Army topographical engineer named George Derby who—when sober—constructed a channel that is still followed today that directs the river to the Pacific through Mission Bay instead of along its original path where Taylor Street now runs toward San Diego Harbor. The Presidio situates the spot where the Stars and Stripes first flew over California in 1847, and Old Town’s Casa de Pico was once the residence of the family of  Andrés Pico, the Californio lancer who defeated the hapless American cavalry under Stephen Watts Kearney at the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican American War. The Casa de Pedrorena was the residence of  Miguel de Pedrorena, San Diego delegate to the first California Constitutional convention in 1849. The Oxford-educated Pedrorena was a powerful voice that helped make California a free state and worked to preserve the rights of the Californios newly taken into the American Union. On Old Town’s Plaza the misnamed Ramona’s Marriage Place stands—an architectural ancestor of every ranch-style house built ever since. Near it is the site of the Casa de Bandini—home of Juan Bandini who in his day was the single most important man in the Mexican and early American period.
Though Old Town and its immediate surroundings are historically important, it has been scrubbed nearly clean of its Spanish, Mexican and Native American historical significance in favor of the early American period. Nowhere is this historical revisionism more visible than at the Casa de Bandini—now restored as the Cosmopolitan Hotel, which it was for a short time in the 1870’s. The jarring switch from the historically prominent Mexican to the insignificant American history of the building is a dash of cold water to anyone familiar with the earliest years of San Diego and calls into question whose history is to be preserved—and why.
Part of that answer lies with Bruce Coons and the realpolitik of preservation efforts. New York concessionaire Delaware North wrested control of Old Town’s main plaza operations from the Bazaar del Mundo over a decade ago. Afterward there came an alliance with SOHO which resulted in energetic and costly efforts to preserve the area at great expense. Over the past decade, Delaware North—and Coons—showed a marked preference for emphasizing Old Town’s early American years at the expense of the founding Spanish and Mexican ones and  this preference obscures the time from the 1769 arrival of the Spaniards to the Mexican American War. Delaware North is now gone but the cultural impact on the history of Old Town will be long lasting—evidence that even the good guys can make very bad mistakes when trying to do the right thing to keep historical treasures from turning to dust and fading away.
Nevertheless, SOHO is the leading local champion of preserving the past and one of their current crucial battles involves the Kumeyaay Indian burial ground at UCSD. The ancient spot, crucial to the local Indian culture, is admittedly hard to spot and to some, of questionable importance when weighed against the plans for the future. But the friends of historical preservation argue that culture, heritage and the significance of the past is crucial to a sense of place and community for the present and can shape the future in ways that give all people here a better sense of their home territory. And for that, SOHO stands pre-eminent.

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A Tale of One Who Came Back From the Dead

Posted on 13 September 2010 by John Rippo

For those who escape from a sinking ship, the battle for life is far from over. One struggles to stay afloat and conscious in spite of the cold. Desperate swimmers hunt for boats, rafts or wreckage that will hold them up long enough for rescuers to find them. Survivors do all they can to be noticed by other ships or planes overhead, and sometimes watch unbelieving as ships or planes pass them by—heedless of their screams and frantic waving.

In the intensely lonely hours left to those in the water, questions and terrors rise in survivors’ minds. Every man hopes he’s not alone out there and that his friends got away in time. He wonders if a distress call was made before the ship sank; one that gave its accurate position, and he hopes that it was heard by ships close by. He deludes himself that his situation and injuries aren’t so bad and silently worries that whatever he and fellow survivors do may not be enough to save them from death by drowning, freezing or any of the other ways the sea can kill them. He realizes that by saving himself from sinking in a steel coffin to the bottom he may only prolong his suffering on the surface. If he lasts long enough, he wonders why he is alive and why others are not. For those who survive sinkings, the time in the water is a unique and exquisite kind of torture and to those saved and landed ashore life is never the same again. For them, following the terror, loneliness and desperation, life is surreal; a strange blessing. Sailors refer to it as “coming back from the dead”.

Julio Morales works at a gas station at the corner of 16th and Market Streets downtown. The friendly, fortysomething Guatemalan native was once a crewman on a 184-foot long fishing trawler named the Alaska Ranger based in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, that fished for every kind of catch available in the cold, northern seas. Alaska Ranger was a hard working boat that carried forty eight men for up to six weeks at a time; its catch was taken up in a long net flowing off the boat’s stern and as the net was wound back up into the huge reels that define the trawler’s form, the fish was sorted, gutted and stacked in gigantic freezers in the bow of the vessel. Boats of this kind a sort of floating factory and their machinery is complex and tempermental. Like all trawlers in the Bering Sea, Alaska Ranger had to contend with ice floes that endangered its progress. Julio Morales says that the impact of the ice thudding into Alaska Ranger’s bows was a likely cause for its later sinking. The boat was a kind of sea-going misfit, too. Originally built to service offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska Ranger’s flat bottom meant that it rode unusually hard, with a sloppy roll in rough weather. Its automatic engine controls would kick the engines into reverse if the bow hit anything and since bumping small icebergs was common, the boat was always shuddering to a stop and reversing itself. This tended to add lots of un-needed wear to the engines and propellor and contributed to the Alaska Ranger’s loss.

Alaska Ranger’s end came on Sunday, March 23, 2008. At around 2 in the morning, one of the crew heard an automatic alarm bell indicating a water sensor had tripped. Opening a watertight door, the man saw a foot of water in a space where no water should have been—one deck above the boat’s engine room, all the way aft near the rudder. “Hey, we’re flooding!” he called out to others watching a video in the galley. The words at first didn’t register; men blinked silently and stared and tried to convince themselves that they hadn’t heard what he said. The first mate, San Diego tunaman David Silveira came into the galley and told the men, “We’re taking on water in the ramp room. Go down there and do your jobs.” As it turned out, going to the ramp room, where the boat’s repair tools were kept was an exercise in futility, if not a death sentence. The room was already flooded and though several men ran in to activate the boat’s pumps, the freezing water up to their knees gave them leg cramps almost before they could activate them.
Julio was in his bunk and awoke from the alarm. He heard someone yell that they were flooding at the rudder. Getting out of his bunk, he met one of his bosses who told him to get ready to abandon ship. “Are you serious?” he asked. “We got to get out!” the man answered. “The rudder room is filling up!” Julio later explained that the Alaska Ranger was a victim of bumping into too much ice. This, he says, led to hammering of the engines, propeller shaft and the through-hull—a bearing sealed at both ends that supports the turning propellor shaft and and seals the outer, submerged side of the boat from the interior. The through-hull lost integrity and the unsupported propellor shaft likely tore the upright rudder post off the boat. It became clear immediately that Alaska Ranger had no steering ability, and this would have happened only if the upright rudder post and rudder had gone. Open to the sea at the stern, Alaska Ranger was done for. No one on board knew how long she might float, but those on deck could see she was down at the stern and the cold, black water was rising up to the main deck. It was time to go to the suits.

The “Gumby” Suits are thick neoprene, full body outfits that are pulled over clothes and zipped up. They look like a kid’s footed pajamas and are equipped with a hood, strobe light and whistle. They provide buoyancy and insulation even when immersed in cold water. But for them to work properly, the suits have to fit well and be free of rips or tears. Any water that gets inside reduces that the wearer’s life expectancy. Alaska Ranger’s suits were relatively new and had been tried on in some half-hearted training events before the boat left the dock, but this effort had damaged many of them. Julio Morales noticed that his had a rip at the seam of the left arm; another small tear graced the suit’s left ankle. It didn’t help that the suits were stiff with cold and since Alaska Ranger was losing power—and heat in the accomodation spaces—everyone was stiffening up and finding it harder to function. The wheelhouse was crowded with worried men dressing up in suits and to make room, the ones who were suited up went outside into the 40-mile per hour wind and snow. Julio watched as waves broke over the Alaska Ranger’s stern and flowed higher up the main deck toward the wheelhouse.

Some forty men stood on the icy deck, gripping the rail, smoking and waiting. With even their mouths and noses covered, it was hard to tell them apart. Julio scanned them, looking for his cousins, Marco and Byron. It was Byron’s first trip as a fisherman and he’d been on the boat only four days. Julio was worried about his younger cousin because he didn’t know how to swim.

While trying to tell his cousin Byron to tuck his hair in his Gumby suit, the Alaska Ranger took a sudden, violent lurch to starboard. Alaska Ranger suddenly went dark as the water shorted the AC generator and, true to her early form, the last power input to the engine was to kick the boat into reverse; she was going slightly astern when a wave crashed onto the stern and retreated with the boat’s net out onto the sea. The loss of the net was one more added danger to the men soon to be adrift since it could entangle swimmers. While this was going on, some crewmen tried to launch the two large life rafts near each side of the bow. They had trained for this and it seemed easy enough before, but with a boat sinking on a freezing night at odd angles with no lights and going in reverse, it wasn’t long before the raft launch became a fiasco. One snapped its tether as soon as it hit the water and sailed off into the dark. The other remained but strained its lines at a long distance from the boat; getting to it and inside it would be no easy task for anyone who could reach it.

Byron seemed frozen on deck, unable to move. He called Julio for help, but he was downhill on the low side of the boat and couldn’t climb up the wet, frozen side in his suit. Crewmen were following ropes streamed over the side into the water in an orderly process and Julio told Bryon to do the same. Julio turned to look at something, and when he turned back to look again, Byron was gone with the rest.
A raft drifted back alongside and one man made it in and tried to lift an unconscious shipmate into it. This was like lifting 200 pounds of wet, slippery deadweight with one arm over a high wall without help. Another shipmate helped push the unconscious man in. Soon, a collection of mustered into the raft; four men out of forty eight who were determined to find the rest, even though they couldn’t see them.
Julio went overboard with the rest and so began a five hour ordeal in a leaky Gumby suit in freezing water whipped by snow flurries. All the swimmers separated; it was impossible to maneuver and stay together in the suits. The flashing beacon attached to Julio’s suit malfunctioned and no strobe flashed to mark his position as it did for the others. No one could see him; no one could hear him. The nearest man to Julio was face down and dead; plagued by this corpse that wave after wave tossed up against him, Julio constantly fended off the dead man with his right arm, hour after hour. Hypothermia slowly set in, checked only by the adrenalin, and with time, Julio began to think of his grandmother who had died years before. He and his cousins had been close to her; and now he was cheered at the thought of seeing her again soon. Lots of thoughts clouded his mind in those hours; the decisions that led to a job on the Alaska Ranger; the fate of his cousins; anger at God for letting this happen and finally, accepting that he was going to die in the cold dark, alone. He fended off the dead man and wondered how soon it would be before he would be just like him. He thought about unzipping the suit and getting it over with, but soon found himself getting sleepy and decided to just wait. With hope gone, there came a strange peace. Julio didn’t know if he was dead or not.

Before Alaska Ranger sank, she had sent a mayday call that was picked up by several other vessels and the Coast Guard, which immediately set a rescue plan in operation involving a cutter, the Monro, a long-range observation plane and several helicopters that would fly to their extreme range repeatedly to find and rescue the crew. The helicopters carried rescue swimmers; men trained to jump into water in any kind of rough sea and organize survivors into groups that can be lifted into waiting helicopters. Though the nearest Coast Guard base was hundreds of miles away, a plane was sent to scout the dark seas looking for tiny lights on the surface. The plane found them—and two rafts in which a few swimmers lay, seasick, puking and half frozen. The plane did not see Julio Morales or his dead companion; neither had working strobe lights on their Gumby suits. What saved Julio was the coming of dawn—and some sharp eyed helicopter pilots.
Julio saw a helicopter. Stunned to action, he began waving and shouting and watched in disbelief as it flew by. What he didn’t know was that his—and his dead companion’s—orange Gumby suits had been seen and their positions marked. Returning, the helicopter’s swimmer found each man and loaded him into a basket that was winched up into the aircraft. It was long work against the deadline of running out of fuel, and another helicopter joined in, refuelled from the Monro at a distance. Julio remembers seeing a raft drop to the surface not too far from him, and soon a swimmer clasped his arms around him. The swimmer led a cluster of survivors before catching hold of Julio and began to load these men one by one into a basket hanging from a helicopter. The raft drifted almost on top of the group and the swimmer instead launched Julio into the raft and swam back to the others. Julio was the last of his group to go from the wild ocean into a loud, churning flying cargo box of a helicopter. They shoved him up against the back of the pilot’s seat and Julio and placed a dead man at his feet. It may have been the dead man who floated alongside Julio for hours out there; it turned out to be David Silveira, Julio’s friend and Alaska Ranger’s first mate. Julio was relieved when someone placed a cloth over the dead man’s face.

It was just as well that Julio and the rest of the survivors on board the helicopter didn’t see the near collision between the helicopter and another fishing boat that arrived on scene to assist. Finally, they landed on the Munro. Julio stood up and the water which had seeped into his suit drained to his feet making walking nearly impossible. The Munro crewmen carried him across the deck, waterlogged legs of the Gumby suit dragging behind. Shivering uncontrollably, he was stripped out of the suit and wrapped with hot towels. For Julio Morales, the rescue was over. By 10.15 a.m., the search for the crew of Alaska Ranger ended. Of 48 men on board, 47 were accounted for; several were dead and the one missing had last been seen by Julio in the boat’s wheelhouse, calmly smoking a cigarette and in no hurry to go over the side and take his chances.

For Julio Morales, the aftermath following the sinking was difficult. He testified at the inquiry, telling investigators about the shortcomings of safety equipment on the boat and what happened to him and others. His extended family ostracized him, blaming him of the death of his cousin Byron, and this has been a bitter pill for him to swallow. They find it hard to understand and accept that he is here and Bryon is not and to a great degree Julio has trouble accepting that he’s here too. He sometimes wakes up startled, as if from a weird dream, unsure if he’s alive or dead. It takes time to reassure himself by touching walls and looking out windows and focusing on his breathing before he’s convinced. For a long time following the sinking, Julio saw psychiatrists, spent up to seventeen days in a hospital in Riverside and drank heavily in order to sleep and dull the nightmares of being in a wild ocean in the dark. He credits the people he met in recovery for helping him adjust and refers to those efforts as a “silver lining” that has helped re-focus his life in ways that will help him help others fight fear. Though he still can’t stand the smell of diesel oil—the other ever-present smell on any fishing boat—and says that smelling it brings back the taste of it that he experienced in the water after his boat went down, Julio has not let this stop him from going back to the ocean and become certified as a diver. He says as long as he’s in the water here and not in the Bering Strait, it’s okay and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Julio Morales may be back on the road to some kind of happiness in the small house he shares with his aged parents in Southeast San Diego. A settlement received from his employer following the sinking gave him some stability and he works at a gas station mainly to keep him around people and occupy himself while he plans his next move. One of those moves was a series of interviews with author Kalee Thompson, who authored a book about the loss of Alaska Ranger. The Deadliest Sea: The untold story behind the greatest rescue in Coast Guard history tells a complete story of the events with emphasis on the Coast Guard efforts to find and rescue the crew. Julio read the book while at work when things were slow.

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