Tag Archives: california

California Dreaming on the Last Hippie Houseboats


22ND JAN, 2016


Hippies and houseboats; they seem to go together almost like wine and cheese. At least, they used to, especially in California in the 1960s when a mix of old beatniks and young hippies formed a community of whimsical water homes in the Bay Area…


I found this photostory lurking in the depths of the LIFE archives, titled “Floating-Houses-California” by Michael Rougier. No other information provided. It took me a moment to figure out exactly where Mr. Rougier had taken these images by trying to identify at least one of the quirky floating structures he’d photographed through a Google search of various marinas and harbours around California.


arkIn the end, I found a grainy little photo that matched the most eccentric of the waterfront arks ↑. Its caption gave away the location: “The Madonna, built around an old pile driver, was a Gate 5 landmark until it burned in 1974”.


Gate 5 refers to the houseboat community on the site of a WWII era ship building company in Richardson Bay, Sausalito. After the war, thousands of people flooded into the waterfront area to work in the new shipyards. Housing was scarce, but since they were building ships anyway, the laborers got crafty and began salvaging materials from old boats to create their own make-shift homes. Not soon after, struggling artists and hippies got wind of the alternative lifestyle and liked what they saw.


They settled in during the sixties, some homes could barely float, some were perfectly navigable houseboats that floated freely around the bay, but most all of them were eccentric, fanciful and dreamy places to live.


An old article in the English magazine, The Strand, describes the quaint community:

There is an indescribable charm about the life; one has the pleasures of boating combined with the comforts of home; sea baths are at one’s very threshold; fish are caught and cooked while you wait. …The monotony of the scenery is varied by the swinging of the ark as it turns with the tide. There are neighbors, thirty or forty families of them, within easy reaching distance if one can pull a stroke, for there is always a following of rowboats lazily resting upon the water in the wake of each ark. The butcher, the baker, and others …who supply the needs of daily life each has his little boat which he sends around every morning for his customary order, and the joint for dinner and the ice cream for dessert are delivered as promptly to the ark-dwellers as they are to those who are still in the city.


The parties were endless, and several famous bohemians were part of the scene, including the drummer for the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzman who lived there for a while. Noted California photographer Pirkle Jones captured the colorful characters of the Gates.

Gate Five #33, 1970 printed 1970

Jean Varda, collagist and close friend of Picasso on his Gate 5 houseboat with two dancers in 1970. 


More of these images here



But of course, if you build paradise, people will come. The waterside lifestyle became more popular, housing prices soared in the Bay Area and unpleasant issues such as waste discharge became a big problem. As the community’s population grew, the services provided by the marinas such as shower facilities and waste removal became overwhelmed.


A law was established by the state to make a regulate development and prepare long-term planning. Houseboat owners were soon given the choice to either bring their homes up to code and berth them on docks where they would be connected to the sewer systems– or to pack their bags. The “houseboat wars” of the 1970s began.


For a decade, it was common viewing on local news channels to see long-haired hippies defending their floating homes against sheriffs raiding homes and trying to play tough with the free-and-easy residents who refused to comply with the program. Meanwhile, just as the hippies had once infringed on the ship labourers’ community, middle class retirees and holiday makers began to make themselves at home in the marinas, with fancy new up-to-code homes complete with hot tubs and cable TV.













But even to this day, the hippies, now with a few more grey hairs than before, are still trying to keep up the fight. The Gates Co-Op represents the last of the 70’s era bohemian lifestyle, a small eclectic collection of houseboats, one called “the pirate ship” and a few built on the old WWII shipbuilding tugs. While protests are still being played out in courtrooms and hearings to this day, new development plans are likely to see these boats disappear within a few years.


floatinghomesWhile most of the original hippies have left, the bohemian spirit is still alive and well at the Sausalito waterfront. If you’re ever in the area, make sure to check out the Floating Homes Association website to see if you’re lucky enough to be there at the same time as their open homes tour.

Life Photographs by Michael Rougier, find the full story in the archives here.

Further Reading


A photograph from the wonderful 1977 book, “Houseboat: Reflections of North America’s Floating Homes … History, Architecture, and Lifestyles”, available on Amazon


5 Famous Hidden Song Meanings (That Are Total B.S.)


5 Famous Hidden Song Meanings (That Are Total B.S.)

Because songwriters worry more about catchy rhymes than deep meaning, song lyrics can be more abstract and esoteric than Jackson Pollock farting chalk dust into a napkin. The problem is that some fans swear that every nonsensical song has some deeper interpretation just waiting to be decoded. That’s why so many classic songs have mythical (and often dark and disturbing) alternate meanings that fans insist are true.They’re almost always wrong. For instance …

#5. “Hotel California” — It’s About Satanism, Right?

Whether you know “Hotel California” as “that weird Eagles song” or “that weird devil-worshiping song” probably depends on how religious your parents were.

When “Hotel California” was released in 1976, everyone heard it but no one really knew what it meant. The lyrics talked about trying to “Kill the beast” and “Stab it with their steely knives,” and included the ominous line, “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.” Honestly, it kind of sounds like they’re singing about using the reference section in a library full of giant monsters, since those are the books you can technically check out but aren’t permitted to remove from the building.

“Lookin’ it up in the local libraaaary!”

That was when someone noticed something odd about the album cover, which features a picture of the band in some luxury hotel courtyard with crowds of people in the background. Above the crowd, looking out from a balcony on the upper left, is a shape whose face you can’t fully see, but vaguely looks bald, goateed and threatening.

It Will Pass
“Hey, sorry everyone, but is the ice machine down there?”

Naturally, people came to the conclusion that the figure on the balcony was none other than Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, author of The Satanic Bible and proud parent of a son that he freaking named Satan.

He even had “Anton + Satan = BFFs” tattooed above his ass.

Now that Anton LaVey was found, the lyrics seemed to make sense: “The Beast,” “You can never leave” “This could be heaven or this could be hell.” “Hotel California” is a song about Anton LaVey converting people to his church of Satanism, from which they could “never leave.” The “truth” about the song persists to this day, found in Internet forums, an old issue of The Milwaukee Sentinel and the nothing-if-not-reputable website Jesus Is Savior.

They’re on to your globe-spanning Satanist conspiracy, Eagles.

Actually …

“Hotel California” has pretty much nothing to do with Satanism. The Eagles have admitted it was a way of speaking out against the greed and hedonism of the music industry in the 1970s (i.e., the drugs, money and women they themselves were drowning in). The photographer responsible for the album cover said the picture expressed “faded loss of innocence and decadence,” which is pretentious-speak for “a bunch of assholes standing in a lobby.”

“What about the face in the window?” you say. “I heard somewhere they didn’t even know it was there. Maybe it wasn’t Anton LaVey, but really … a ghost.” Unfortunately not. As Snopes points out:

“The shadowy figure was a woman hired for the photo shoot.”

That is kind of a lot of hair for a bald man.

Yep. The person mistaken for a bald, goatee-sporting antichrist was, in fact, just some lady who had nothing to do with anything and wouldn’t even have been memorable were it not for the poor lighting of the photograph and the bafflingly deliberate decision to separate her from the rest of the group, presumably because she showed up late for the shoot and/or got Don Henley’s name wrong.

#4. Isn’t “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” About an Acid Trip?

Mention the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” to a group of people and inevitably one of them will start talking about LSD. And, in fact, we’re wagering that most of the people in our readership who know the song only know it as “That song that’s secretly about doing acid.” After all, it’s coded right there in the title, right? Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

In 1967, John Lennon alone accounted for nearly 40 percent of the world’s LSD consumption.

And then you get lyrics like this:

“Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain/ Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies/ Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers/ That grow so incredibly high.”

So incredibly high.

Clearly it’s alluding to an acid trip. And this isn’t exactly a stretch: The Beatles, remember, were a band that wrote songs about an octopus inviting people to the seabed to visit his garden, people who believe they are Arctic blueberry animals and general dick-twisting insanity.

Really, we’re not sure that most of what the Beatles did wasn’t about goddamned acid.

Actually …

Shockingly, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is about a girl called Lucy, in the sky, with some diamonds. See, John Lennon’s son Julian drew a picture of his best friend Lucy surrounded by diamonds in the sky, and John liked it enough to name the song after it.

Although to be fair, the kid was clearly on acid when he drew it.

The Beatles freely admit to using drugs as inspiration for songs, and odds are LSD was one of them. But as for this particular song being a metaphor for the drug itself? Sorry, but no. John Lennon said, “It was purely unconscious that it came out to be LSD. Until someone pointed it out, I never even thought of it. I mean, who would ever bother to look at initials of a title? It’s not an acid song.”

This didn’t stop the BBC from banning the song, which, considering they were OK with a song about a child who murdered the fuck out of everyone around him with a goddamn hammer, seems a little hypocritical.

Don’t worry, folks. “I Am the Walrus” is still definitely about drugs. All the drugs.

#3. “Puff the Magic Dragon” Is Totally About Smoking Pot …

Hopefully, you don’t need to be told anything about “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary, but if you do, please click the link. Even for a children’s song, it seems overly bizarre and surreal, so of course it wasn’t long after its release in the early 1960s when people started trying to dissect the lyrics:

“Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea/ And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee/ Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff/ And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.”

People don’t hug like that sober.

Remember, this was the ’60s, a time when pretty much everyone was smoking weed. So with “Puff the Magic Dragon,” aside from the obvious “chasing the dragon” metaphor, people figured that’s what the song was about. “Puff,” i.e., to smoke, “dragon,” as in “draggin[g]” or “to take a drag” and “autumn mist” being the fog of pot smoke.

“Little Jackie Paper,” the little rascal he was, was obviously a reference to rolling papers. Sealing wax, fancy stuff — bongs, clearly. People have managed to find meaning in pretty much every line in the song, and we must admit, it seems pretty convincing. And it makes sense that a folk rock trio like Peter, Paul and Mary would aim a song at the rapidly growing hippie movement.

Here they are in 2006, looking more like math teachers than doobed-up radicals.

Actually …

We’re sorry to drag you down to earth like this, but “Puff the Magic Dragon’s” writers never intended any hidden meanings. In fact, they were pretty upset about the rumors, claiming the song was about:

“… a loss of innocence and having to face an adult world … I find the fact that people interpret it as a drug song annoying. It would be insidious to propagandize about drugs in a song for little kids.”

But what about their 1970 hit, “Hops the Frothy, Full-Bodied Llama”?

“I can assure you, it’s a song about innocence lost … What kind of mean-spirited SOB would write a children’s song with a covert drug message?”

Mary goes on to say that if there were drugs to be mentioned, they’d be mentioned up front:

“Believe me, if he wanted to write a song about marijuana, he would have written a song about marijuana.”

Peter, Paul & Mary
We look forward to hearing from Peter, Paul and Peter’s bong soon.

Actually kind of hard to argue with that.

#2. The “Horse” in “Horse With No Name” HAS to be Heroin …

Even if you’ve only heard this song once, chances are you know the chorus by heart:

“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name/ It felt good to be out of the rain/ In the desert you can’t remember your name/ ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.”

“My name is Chuck, CHUCK dammit! Nobody fucking listens.”

Ridiculous grammar aside, obviously this means something, because nobody writes that kind of line unless there’s some deeper meaning behind it. And “horse” is a pretty old and well known slang term for heroin, so naturally that’s what a bunch of people figured the song was about. Back in the ’70s the song was even banned from several radio stations because of its supposed drug reference.

The most common beliefs are that the band (America) is either singing about doing heroin (hallucinations) or about the effects of heroin withdrawal (“After two days in the desert sun/ My skin began to turn red”). Honestly, it all fits together nicely if you think about it: The desert symbolizes the effects of the withdrawal, the horse symbolizes the heroin and the ocean/river at the end symbolizes the clarity of rehabilitation. Perhaps America are skilled wordsmiths that deserve more credit. After all, it’s not like their band name is trite and obvious.


Actually …

This couldn’t be more pulled from the ass if it were literally torn from the anus of a donkey. Let’s save time here by going straight to Dewey Bunnell, the man who actually wrote the song:

“I wanted to capture the imagery of the desert, because I was sitting in this room in England, and it was rainy.”

“I fingerpainted this desert and then I wrote a song about it.”

“I had spent a good deal of time poking around in the high desert with my brother when we lived [in California]. And we’d drive through Arizona and New Mexico. I loved the cactus and the heat. I was trying to capture the sights and sounds of the desert, and there was an environmental message at the end. But … I see now that this anonymous horse was a vehicle to get me away from all the confusion and chaos of life to a peaceful, quiet place.”

So, back when he was a kid, Dewey was playing around in the desert, found it interesting and years later wrote a song about it with a message about the environment. No heroin-induced hallucinations or allegorical desert, but real, actual desert.

Dewey Bunnell, human cipher.

#1. But “Turning Japanese” Is Definitely About Masturbation, Right, Guys?

English band the Vapors released a song in 1980 called “Turning Japanese,” much to the chagrin of the current status quo. You see, in addition to being vaguely racist, “turning Japanese” is a slang phrase for masturbation, specifically referring to how one’s eyes become screwed up and narrow at the climax of a particularly feverish hand shandy. Now this could easily be a coincidence in name, but listen to the lyrics (or read them, your choice):

“I’ve got your picture of me and you/ You wrote ‘I love you’ I wrote ‘me too’/ I sit there staring and there’s nothing else to do.”

Not pictured: Jergen’s.

So he has a picture of his girlfriend and finds he has “nothing else to do.”

“I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture/ I’d like a million of you all round my cell/ I want a doctor to take your picture/ So I can look at you from inside as well.”

We’re still not seeing the Japanese.

He mentions a cell, so this must mean he’s in prison. Also, he seems to want an X-ray of her, for some reason. Or photos from her colonoscopy.

“No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women/ No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it’s dark/ Everyone around me is a total stranger/ Everyone avoids me like a cyclone ranger/ That’s why I’m turning Japanese/ I think I’m turning Japanese/ I really think so.”

The Vapors, demonstrating every stage of the mullet life cycle.

It would seem that this trail of lyrical bread crumbs leads to but one place: Fistopolis. Population: This guy’s wiener. Just take a look at the people interviewed in this video, at about 2 minutes 20 seconds. It’s a pretty popular interpretation, and any sites mentioning the song on the Internet eventually come to the same conclusion.

Actually …

We really wanted this one to be true, but the only thing this song has in common with spanking it in a darkened room is that it’s about feelings of shame and loneliness. If you watch the end of that video linked above, the band finally tells us what it’s really about:

Hint: Nothing Japanese.

“The Americans seemed to think it was written about that. That it was an English phrase about masturbation. It wasn’t. The song was a love song about someone who had lost their girlfriend and was going slowly crazy — turning Japanese is just all the cliches of our angst… turning into something you never expected to.”

So no, the Vapors’ song isn’t about dick-whittling (masturbation/penis joke quota met). It’s simply about a man who has taped hundreds of pictures of a woman he’s obsessed with around his tiny room as he plots to see her insides, and whose emotions can apparently transform him into a Japanese man like the Incredible Hulk.

As illustrated here.

See? It makes perfect sense.dden



Bodie, California: Best Ghost Town In The West!

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The Curse of Bodie: Legacy of Ghost-Town Ghosts?

Today, the ghost town of Bodie, California, is one of the most authentic abandoned gold- mining towns of the Old West (figure 1). It is also reputed to be a “ghost” town in another sense: Some claim, according to a TV documentary, that Bodie is inhabited by ghosts who guard the town against pilferers (Beyond 2000). Supposedly, a visitor who dares to remove any artifact can be plagued by the dreaded “curse of Bodie.”

Boom Town

The 1849 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in the western Sierra foothills lured men and women to California from across the United States and indeed the world. Prospectors equipped with picks, shovels, and the ubiquitous gold pans searched for placer deposits-loose flakes and nuggets that have eroded and washed into streams.

These deposits were searched for by “panning” (an art I once learned in the Yukon) in which the lighter dirt is deftly washed out, leaving behind the flakes of “color” that are collectively called “gold dust.” The discovery of sufficient placer deposits sparked quests for the “mother lode,” involving hardrock mines laboriously dug, blasted, and shored up with timber (Williams 1992, 5; Smith 1925).

A decade after the gold rush began at Sutter’s Mill, four prospectors made a rich strike on the opposite side of the Sierras-that is, in the eastern foothills. They agreed to keep the discovery secret until the following spring, but one, W.S. Bodey, returned with another man, a half-Cherokee named “Black” Taylor. Having traveled to Monoville for supplies, the pair were returning to their cabin when they were caught in a blizzard and Bodey perished.

Named for its discoverer, camp Bodey was soon rechristened “Bodie” when (according to local lore) a sign painter misspelled the word and the new version was preferred (Bodie 2001; Misspelling 2003). At first Bodie was largely neglected due to other strikes in the area. Mark Twain was among the gold seekers who rushed to nearby Aurora, Nevada, for instance.

However, Bodie eventually boomed. In 1876, a freak mine cave-in exposed a valuable body of gold, and the Standard Consolidated Mining Company responded with a large investment in equipment and lumber. Another rich strike followed in 1878 in the Bodie Mine, which, in just six weeks, shipped gold bullion worth a million dollars. Meanwhile, Bodie grew rapidly, with boarding houses, restaurants, saloons, and other enterprises springing up (Williams 1992, 9-10).


Camps like Bodie attracted a breed of adventurous types:

Besides the business and professional men, mine-operators, miners, etc., there were hundreds of saloon-keepers, hundreds of gamblers, hundreds of prostitutes, many Chinese, a considerable number of Mexicans, and an unusual number of what we used to call “Bad men”-desperate, violent characters from everywhere, who lived by gambling, gun-fighting, stage robbing, and other questionable means. The “Bad man from Bodie” was a current phrase of the time throughout the west. In its day, Bodie was more widely known for its lawlessness than for its riches. (Smith 1925)

There were other perils and hardships, including the savage winter of 1878-1879 in which hundreds died of exposure and disease, and mining accidents that claimed victims by falling timber, the explosion of a powder magazine, and other means (Smith 1925; Bodie Cemetery n.d.).

Given Bodie’s reputation, it is perhaps not surprising that one little girl, whose family was moving to the mining town, reportedly prayed: “Goodbye God! We are going to Bodie” (Smith 1925).



Hardships and violence aside, Bodie was a thriving, bustling place, containing some 600 to 800 buildings and a population that reached over 10,000 (Williams 1992, 10; Johnson and Johnson 1967, 20). As it appeared about 1880,

The traffic in the streets was continuous and enlivening. There were trains of huge, white-topped “prairie-schooners,” bringing freight from the railroad, each drawn by twenty or more horses or mules, and pulling one or two large, four-wheeled “trailers”; ore wagons, hauling ore down the canyon to the mills; wood wagons bringing huge loads of pine-nut from long distances, for the mines and mills and for general use; hay wagons, lumber wagons, prospecting outfits, nondescript teams of all descriptions, spanking teams driven by mine superintendents’ horses ridden by everybody, and most exciting of all, the daily stages that came tearing into town and went rushing out; the outgoing stages often carrying bars of bullion, guarded by stern, silent men, armed with sawed-off shotguns loaded with buckshot. . . . (Smith 1925)

However, like other boom towns, Bodie’s period of glory was brief, lasting from 1879 to 1882. The decline was slow, with the two major mines-the Bodie and the Standard-merging in 1887 and operating successfully for the next two decades. A disastrous fire struck in 1892 and-with a steady decline in the interim, including additional mine closings and abandonment of the Bodie Railway in 1917-another devastating fire destroyed much of the town in 1932 (Johnson and Johnson 1967, 20-21). Although Bodie was already dying, further decline having resulted from Prohibition and the Depression, some mining continued. However, there were no new strikes and companies eked out only minor profits, largely by using the cyanide process to extract gold from old tailings (i.e., mine refuse). By the 1950s even this recovery operation ceased and Bodie became a ghost town. Explains one writer: “When people were leaving Bodie, there were no moving companies in the area. People simply packed what they could on one wagon or truck and left the rest behind.” He adds, “That is why many of Bodie’s buildings still contain belongings that were left here years ago” (Williams 1992, 36).

In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie became a State Historic Park, and two years later the Ghost Town of Bodie was dedicated as a California Historic Site. It has also been designated a National Historic Site. Bodie is maintained in a state of what is termed “arrested decay,” which means the buildings are protected but not restored (Johnson and Johnson 1967, 21; Bodie 2001, 3).

Ghost Town, ‘Ghost’ Town

Old, deserted places inspire the romantic and the superstitious to think of ghosts, and Bodie is no exception. It represents an entire townful of potentially haunted houses and other premises-168 remaining structures-as well as the Bodie cemetery. It is, gushes one ghost-hustling writer, “A ghost town that is really a ghost town” (Myers 1990).

However, the reports of ghostly activity tend to fall into categories of familiar, well-understood phenomena. Consider, for example, occurrences at the J.S. Cain House at the corner of Green and Park streets. Once the home of a prominent businessman and then the residence of caretakers’ families, it is supposedly haunted by the specter of a Chinese woman, possibly a maid who worked for the Cains (Hauck 1996).

Reportedly, this “heavy set” Chinese lady appeared to children in their second-floor bedroom. Also, a ranger’s wife stated:

I was lying in bed with my husband in the lower bedroom and I felt a pressure on me, as though someone was on top of me. I began fighting. I fought so hard I ended up on the floor. It really frightened me. Another ranger who had lived there, Gary Walters, had the same experience, in the same room, except that he also saw the door open and felt a presence and a kind of suffocation. (Myers 1990)

All of these effects are well known and may occur when one’s consciousness shifts into a state between being fully asleep and fully awake. In this condition, seemingly realistic “waking dreams” often occur, involving ghosts, aliens, or other beings. Also in this interim state one may experience “sleep paralysis” in which, although the mind is awake, the body is still in the sleep mode. The sensation of being held or strapped down is a typical consequence (Nickell 2001).

Some apparitional or auditory experiences such as those reported at Bodie-for example “a woman peering from an upstairs window in the Dechambeau House” or “the sound of children’s laughter . . . heard outside the Mendocini House” (Myers 1990)-may be similarly explained. These typically occur when the experiencer is relaxed or performing routine work. Such a mental state may allow images or sounds to spring up from the subconscious and thus be superimposed upon the consciousness (Nickell 2001).

One man visiting the Bodie cemetery with his little girl noticed her giggling and apparently playing with an unseen entity. This was supposed to be “The Angel of Bodie,” a child who was killed when she was accidentally hit in the head by a miner’s pick (Myers 1990). Actually the dead child was Evelyn, the three-year-old daughter of Albert and Fannie Myers, who died in 1897. Her grave is surmounted by the figure of a child angel, sculpted of white marble (Bodie Cemetery n.d., 5)-an ideal model for a little girl’s imaginary playmate (see figure 2).

Figure 2: Investigator Vaughn Rees examines the tombstone of “The Angel of Bodie,” reportedly one of the resident ghosts.Figure 2: Investigator Vaughn Rees examines the tombstone of “The Angel of Bodie,” reportedly one of the resident ghosts.

I have found that some people seem especially susceptible to ghosts-because they are more inclined to believe or because they are especially imaginative. I continue to use a questionnaire that helps me analyze reported ghost encounters, and thus far I find a good correlation between those experiences and the number of traits associated with fantasy proneness (Nickell 2001).

This correlation continued with my research at Bodie, although colleague Vaughn Rees and I obtained only four completed questionnaires there. (A ranger stopped the project since I had not obtained official permission, something I usually try to avoid to keep employees from being told what to say.) Nevertheless, even with this limited sample, the highest ghost-experiences score was matched by a high fantasy score, and similar results were obtained with six questionnaires we obtained at another California ghost town, Calico.

In addition to perceived phenomena, photographs represent another form of “evidence” for alleged ghosts at Bodie. Again, however, there are familiar patterns. For example, streaks of light in some photos (Lundegaard 2002) are consistent with the camera’s flash rebounding from something-such as the wrist strap-in front of the lens (Nickell 2001).

Bodie Curse

Yet, if some people are to be believed, there are not only ghosts in the windswept town but, purportedly, spirits who are responsible for protecting its treasures by implementing the “Curse of Bodie.” Explains the narrator of one television documentary:

Bodie’s inhabitants were of hardy stock, fiercely possessive of what they had built in this barren desert, and it is said that the long-dead spirits want to ensure that what they left behind remains intact. According to legend, anyone who removes anything-large or small-from the town is cursed with a string of bad luck. Misfortune and tragedy are heaped upon the victim until the stolen item is returned. Some claim that the ghosts of Bodie patrol the crumbling ruins to guard against thieves. (Beyond 2000)

According to park ranger J. Brad Sturdivant, “The curse still exists today.” Spooked former visitors often return old nails and other souvenirs taken from Bodie. While “Most of it comes back in an unmarked box,” the ranger states, “We still get letters . . . from people saying, ‘I’m sorry I took this, hoping my luck will change’” (Beyond 2000).

The earliest use I have found of the phrase “The curse of Bodie” appears in the 1925 reminiscence of a former resident. However, he was speaking of something entirely different, namely what had befallen Bodie and caused its decline. As he wrote: “the curse of Bodie, as it was of ‘The Comstock,’ was the stock market, which was manipulated by stock gamblers in San Francisco for their own profit, regardless of the merits of the mines, and without thought for the thousands that found their ruin in the unholy game . . .” (Smith 1925).

The notion of a quite different Bodie curse-one that does not harm the town but instead defends it from pillagers-is of much more recent vintage. Not surprisingly, it appears to follow efforts to preserve Bodie as a historic site. Obviously the “curse” is being officially promoted today when a ranger encourages the idea on a television program and the museum/gift shop displays an album of letters from those believing themselves accursed.

Although these letters may be only a selection and three are undated, the earliest of the remaining twelve was sent in 1992. Having taken a nail from Bodie, the writer states: “Life since then has been a steady downward slide. It’s possible that all the unpleasant events of the past nine months are a coincidence, but just in case the Bodie curse is real I am returning the nail.” Another letter, from 1994, is addressed, “Dear Bodie Spirits”:

I am SORRY! One year ago around the 4th of July I was visiting the Ghost Town. I had been there many times before but had always followed the regulations about collecting. This trip was different, I collected some items here and there and brought them home. I was a visitor again this year, and while I was in the museum I read the letters of others who had collected things and had “bad luck.” I started to think about the car accident, the lost [sic] of my job, my continuing illness and other bad things that have “haunted” me for the past year since my visit and violation. I am generally not superstitious but . . . Please find enclosed the collectibles I “just couldn’t live without,” and ask the spirits to see my regret.

This was signed, “One with a very guilty conscience.”

On the TV series Beyond Bizarre (2000), a German man related how his uncle had removed a small bottle from Bodie and two days later had a car accident on the Autobahn. The next day his son took the bottle to school to show classmates and on the way home had a bicycle accident. Said the man, “Yes, I do believe in the curse of Bodie.”

Figure 3: Artifacts from Bodie - especially ones pilfered from there, like this old fork - supposedly attract the fearsome “curse.”Figure 3: Artifacts from Bodie – especially ones pilfered from there, like this old fork – supposedly attract the fearsome “curse.”

Belief aside, such anecdotal evidence does not prove the existence of a “curse” (or “hex” or “jinx”)-an alleged paranormal attack. Indeed, belief in curses is merely a superstition, a form of magical thinking. Once the idea takes hold, there is a tendency for any harmful occurrence to be counted as evidence for the belief, while beneficial events are ignored. Through the power of suggestion, the magical conviction spreads from person to superstitious person, until many believe, say, in a King Tut’s curse, a Hope Diamond jinx, or a Kennedy family propensity for misfortune (Nickell 1999).

A different mindset allows one to shrug off such nonsense. Skeptics sometimes hold “Superstition Bashes” during which they break mirrors and challenge other superstitions without fear of consequence. In attendance may be a resident spokesperson (such as myself), identified as a friggatriskaidekaphobiologist-that is, one who studies the fear of Friday the Thirteenth and, by extension, other supposed causes of bad luck.

I have even specifically challenged the Curse of Bodie-not by pilfering items from the site, which is appropriately illegal-but by collecting artifacts that have come from there. As shown in figure 3, these include an 1879 check, drawn on the Bodie Bank, and two 1882 issues of the newspaper, The Bodie Evening Miner. If it be argued that these were not pilfered from Bodie, the other item, an old fork, reportedly was: I bought it from an antiques dealer who said she picked it up herself at Bodie several years ago without apparent consequence.

I would like to donate these items to Bodie. I am only waiting for the time when the town’s custodians officially cease promoting superstition and disclaim the existence of any Bodie curse.


I am grateful to CFI Librarian Tim Binga, SI managing editor Ben Radford, and intern Dawn Peterson for research assistance, and to Paul Loynes for his professional word processing.


  • Beyond Bizarre. 2000. Travel Channel documentary, September 24.
  • Bodie Cemetery: The Lives Within. N.d. Bridgefort, California: The Friends of Bodie.
  • Bodie State Historic Park. 2001. Guide booklet. Sacramento: California State Parks.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. 1996. Haunted Places: The National Directory. New York: Penguin Books, 36-37.
  • Johnson, Russ, and Anne Johnson. 1967. The Ghost Town of Bodie. Bishop, California: Sierra Media Inc.
  • Lundegaard, Karen. 2002. Identifying spirit photos. Available atwww.karenlundegaard.com



  • Misspelling of Bodie. 2003. Available at www.bodie.net/st/Bodey.asp.
  • Myers, Arthur. 1990. The Ghostly Gazetteer. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Contemporary Books, 40-48.
  • Nickell, Joe. 1999. Curses: foiled again. Skeptical Inquirer 23(6), November/December: 16-19.
  • —–. 2001. Phantoms, frauds, or fantasies? Chap. 10 of James Houran and Rense Lange, Hauntings and Poltergeists. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 214-223.
  • Poag, Larry. 1997. Poag’s Guide to Shopkeepers and Shootists of Bodie. Lake Grove, Oregon: Western Places.
  • Smith, Grant H. 1925. Bodie: The last of the old-time mining camps. California Historical Society Quarterly IV: 1; reprinted in Williams 1992, 11-24.
  • Williams III, George. 1992. The Guide to Bodie and Eastern Sierra Historic Sites. Carson City, Nevada: Tree By The River Publishing.

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell's photo

Joe Nickell, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and “Investigative Files” Columnist forSkeptical Inquirer. A former stage magician, private investigator, and teacher, he is author of numerous books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin (1998), Pen, Ink and Evidence (2003), Unsolved History (2005) and Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (2007). He has appeared in many television documentaries and has been profiled in The New Yorker and on NBC’s Today Show. His personal website is at joenickell.com.

Peter Fonda’s Iconic ‘Easy Rider’ Chopper Headed to Auction Block

'Easy Rider'
Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Easy Rider’
Courtesy Everett Collection
Peter Fonda’s Iconic ‘Easy Rider’ Chopper Headed to Auction BlockRead more: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/peter-fondas-iconic-easy-rider-chopper-headed-to-auction-block-20140917#ixzz3DsICVKC9
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook
BY RYAN REED | September 17, 2014
Easy Rider, meet Big Spender: The tricked-out, Captain America Harley-Davidson driven by Peter Fonda in that 1969 film is headed to the auction block on October 18th, and it’s expected to secure a hefty price tag. According to The Associated Press, auction house Profiles in History estimates that the iconic American flag chopper will bring between $1 million and $1.2 million at the sale, which will be held online and at their galleries in Calabasas, California.RELATED alice in wonderland
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The bike’s seller is California businessman Michael Eisenberg, who previously co-owned an L.A.-based, motorcycle-themed restaurant with Fonda and Easy Rider co-star/director Dennis Hopper. Eisenberg acquired the chopper in 2013 from Grizzly Adams star Dan Haggerty, who was responsible for maintaining the custom Harley during filming for the classic counterculture road flick.

Easy Rider stars Fonda and Hopper as two drug-smuggling hippies on a psychedelic – and, ultimately, tragic – cross-country trek to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Fonda’s panhead chopper, which comes with three letters of authenticity (one signed by the actor himself), features “forward-angled front wheel and handlebars, fishtail exhaust pipes and a teardrop-shaped gas tank.”

While four bikes were created for the film, Haggerty told The Associated Press that the other three were stolen “even before the movie was released,” demonstrating the cultural significance of Easy Rider itself. This particular Harley could be the most significant: It was used during the movie’s literally explosive crash scene climax – which finds Fonda’s character, Wyatt, flying off to his death after being shot at during a drive-by confrontation in Florida.

Eisenberg might rope in a nice chunk of change for his milestone memorabilia, but he also plans to donate “a significant amount” to the American Humane Association in Fonda’s honor.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/peter-fondas-iconic-easy-rider-chopper-headed-to-auction-block-20140917#ixzz3DsHoihjV

Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

Real Life Story of Friends Who Discovered a Beautiful Message in a Bottle

These days, finding a message in a bottle seems like something out of a storybook. But this heartwarming tale is a real life experience that took place just recently along the shores of California. While some friends were fishing, they came upon a glass bottle that had washed up on the sand. Upon closer inspection, they discovered that it had a message sealed inside.Finding that the bottle was tightly sealed, the friends used a pocket knife corkscrew to open the container. Upon unrolling the laminated, sealed message, they discovered a photo and a note from a family who had recently suffered the loss of a beloved family member, Mel. According to the short story on the page, Mel had a love for the ocean and so, after he passed, the family wanted him to continue his journey through the sea. They wrote down a brief summary of his life and placed it, along with a family photograph, into the…


HIWAY AMERICA – A modern-day Dust Bowl


A DUST BOWL IN CALIFORNIA As a drought unfolds slowly and devastatingly, California farmers feel desperate and abandoned

Yahoo News

CLICK IMAGE for slideshow: A sign alongside barren farmland outside Mendota, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

CLICK IMAGE for slideshow: A sign alongside barren farmland outside Mendota, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Bob Taylor was barely 2 years old when his parents packed as many belongings as they could into their rickety old car and headed west from New Mexico toward California.

It was 1936, the height of the Dust Bowl, when the worst drought the country had ever seen forced tens of thousands of families to abandon their parched farmlands and head west in the hope of finding jobs and a more stable life.

Taylor’s parents were farm laborers, cotton pickers from Oklahoma and Texas who had slowly inched their way west chasing the crops that had somehow managed to survive the lack of rain. But then came the terrible dust storms, choking black blizzards of dirt fueled by the loose soil of eroded farmlands that swept across the plains, turning the days as dark as night. They were monsters that suffocated the life out of anything the drought hadn’t managed to kill — crops, animals and even people, who began to die from the dust that filled their lungs.

Taylor was too young to remember how bad it was. But he grew up hearing the stories from his parents, of how the land that had once been so rich and lush and healthy had slowly turned cracked and brittle and unwelcoming of life. How a drought that initially seemed like nothing more than a passing dry spell gradually unfolded into a disaster that destroyed the livelihoods of millions of people and deeply scarred the land in ways that never really healed.

“The time was hard,” Taylor said. “People were tough, my parents were tough… But the drought didn’t let up. It had no mercy at all on anything or anyone.”

CLICK IMAGE for slideshow: (Dorothea Lange/Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photo Collection/Library of Congress)

CLICK IMAGE for slideshow: (Dorothea Lange/Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photo Collection/Library …

The terrible struggle of Dust Bowl refugees was later immortalized by John Steinbeck, who based “The Grapes of Wrath” on the experiences of people like Taylor’s parents. Photographers like Dorothea Lange documented the heartbreaking plight of migrant farm families, as they escaped the drought only to suffer extreme poverty and discrimination as they tried to rebuild their lives out west.

But the most important testimony of that era may rest with Taylor and other children of the Dust Bowl, the last generation of Americans who understand in a way many never will the quiet danger of a sustained drought and how devastating it can be to the land, its industry and people.

Destitute pea pickers in California, 1936. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. (Dorothea Lange/Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photo Collection/Library of Congress)

Destitute pea pickers in California, 1936. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. (Dorothea …

It’s those stories he heard as a child that Taylor has been thinking about lately as he’s driven the back roads of Kern County, the heart of California’s central farming valley, where his family resettled and he’s spent his entire life working in agriculture.

Taylor, who is now 80, has watched as some of the most viable farmland in the country has slowly withered away in recent months. In its place is the same kind of cracked, fallowed ground that his parents spoke of so long ago, perpetuated by a drought so catastrophic that many here have wondered if the dry spell that drove their ancestors toward California decades ago may be repeating itself here in a way that could be even more devastating.

An unprecedented 82 percent of California is in an “extreme drought,” according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report released last week. Of that, 58 percent of the state is in an “exceptional drought” — the driest conditions possible — an increase of more than 20 percent in a single week. Record-low rainfall has sent rivers, lakes and water reservoirs to their lowest levels in decades — threatening the water supply of many cities. The unusually dry conditions have increased the risk of wildfires, which have already ravaged parts of the state — most recently an area near Yosemite National Park.

But the drought’s biggest victim could be California’s Central Valley, the source of fully half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, where panicked farmers are taking extraordinary steps to survive a drought that could drive them out of business. In Kern County, one farmer recently drilled five new wells at 2,500-feet deep apiece — twice the height of the Empire State Building — in a desperate attempt to tap into new water sources below.

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“You look around, and you feel sick. It’s hard to believe we are so dry out here when other parts of the country are so damn wet,” Taylor said. “I think about what my mother and dad went through, how hard that time was… You see what’s happening to the land [now], and you can’t help but worry. How bad is this beating going to be?”

A recent University of California, Davis, study found the state’s agriculture industry stands to lose at least $1.5 billion this year alone due to the drought — losses that threaten to devastate a region where virtually everything is tied to farming. Already, small towns, like Mendota, Calif., where the population is made up primarily of farm laborers, are warning unemployment rates could hit 50 percent in coming months because there will be no crops to harvest.

That’s terrible news for an area already stricken by some of the highest poverty rates in the nation and where many cities still haven’t fully recovered from the Great Recession.

“What we’re dealing with is a multiplier effect: No crops means people can’t work. Prices for produce go up, and people can’t afford to eat,” said Cindy Pollard, president of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. “People here are tough, they are problem solvers. They don’t sit around saying ‘woe is me.’ They work to rise above the obstacles, but there’s only so much you can deal with.”

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Irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, California on May 1. 2014. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, FILE)

Irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, California on May 1. 2014. (AP Photo/Jae …

On a windy afternoon this past March, Shawn Stevenson drove his truck out to one of his family’s orange groves along Highway 168 in Clovis, Calif., east of Fresno. It had been an unusually warm winter, and though the hundreds of acres of trees on his land had already lost their blooms, the air still faintly smelled of the sweet orange blossoms that magically perfume this part of the Central Valley every spring as millions of citrus trees come to life.

It’s that unmistakable fragrance, the literal smell of trees flowering anew, that usually makes spring a happy time on the farm. But Stevenson, the third generation of his family to work the land, could feel only anguish.

Like many farmers in the Central Valley this year, he was running out of water. And in coming weeks, he would be forced to do the unthinkable: bulldoze hundreds of acres of thirsty but still relatively healthy orange trees because he didn’t have the moisture to keep them alive through the worst drought people here have ever seen.

But Stevenson wasn’t sure what was worse: issuing a premature death sentence to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of trees that still had years of life in them or the sick feeling of abandonment he felt. Like others here, he had a growing sense that nobody outside the Central Valley really understood the far-reaching implications of the drought, how it was putting a main source of the nation’s food supply at serious risk, threatened to disrupt an entire industry and ruin people’s lives. Even worse, he worried people simply did not care.

It was the anguish that compelled him to the orange grove that day, the frustration he felt that led him to scale a water tank on the far edge of his property closest to the road and, in the blustery wind, unfurl a plastic banner he’d had made that summed up the crisis in the most concise way he knew how. “NO WATER. NO TREES. NO JOBS. NO FOOD,” the sign read, a basic message that he hoped, in its simplicity, would communicate exactly what the drought was putting at stake.

A sign calling attention to the drought next to Shawn Stevenson's recently bulldozed orange grove in Clovis, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

A sign calling attention to the drought next to Shawn Stevenson’s recently bulldozed orange grove in Clovis, Calif. …

By then, the region had already become a pit stop for politicians claiming to feel the Central Valley’s pain. California Gov. Jerry Brown, House Speaker John Boehner and even President Barack Obama had made high-profile visits to the valley in the weeks prior, each making his own separate trek through the shockingly arid farmland and offering vague promises of help before moving on to seemingly more urgent crises.

“The truth of the matter is that this is going to be a very challenging situation this year, and frankly, the trend lines are such where it’s going to be a challenging situation for some time to come,” Obama declared during a three-hour visit in February, a side trip to a West Coast fundraising swing.

So, too, came media attention from all over the world, reporters and photographers chronicling the desperate times of struggling farmers before they, too, moved on.

To Stevenson and others, nothing seemed to change. There was no sense of anxiety or alarm — not even in California, where Brown had issued a drought emergency in January and urged residents across the state to voluntarily conserve water. But a recent study found that some parts of the state — including many cities in Southern California — have been using more water than they did a year ago. That recently prompted the state to issue mandatory water restrictions across California — increasing fines for those caught wasting water by watering their lawns or washing their cars. But some wonder if it will even make a difference at this point.

In some ways, the lack of urgency isn’t surprising. A drought does not have the immediacy or frenzied excitement of tornadoes, hurricanes or other natural disasters. But a prolonged lack of rain has the potential to be every bit as destructive, if not more so, as devastating storms. In many ways, a drought is a disaster in slow motion, with an impact so gradual that the true scope of its devastation often goes undetected until it’s too late.

“What is happening right now has the potential to be our Hurricane Katrina or our Hurricane Sandy or the wildfire that destroys everything. It’s just going to take a lot longer to unfold,” Stevenson said.

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His plastic sign is still hanging along Highway 168 — an even starker message now against the backdrop of a dusty moonscape of a field on a farm where the drought is claiming more victims by the day. A few days ago, Stevenson bulldozed another few hundred acres of trees — Valencia orange specimens that should have lived years more, dead because there isn’t enough water. His daughter Caroline, home from college, blinked back tears, but Stevenson could only steel himself and move on, knowing in the back of his mind that things are likely to get much worse before they get better.

“I guess that’s why farmers are unique, being faced with a bad situation and continuing to press on somehow,” he said afterward. “It’s all you can do.”

In all, Stevenson has lost about 500 acres of citrus trees this year — nearly half of his crop — and more are at risk, kept alive with just the bare minimum of water in the prayer they can make it until next season.

The same story is happening all over the Central Valley. Thousands of acres of citrus and nut trees — legacy crops that normally would be expected to live years if not decades — are drying up or are dead already. Fields that would normally be dark green and flourishing with plants sprouting tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, strawberries, melons or the countless other varieties of fruits and vegetables grown in the region are nothing but barren plots of earth.

The scene repeats itself again and again from south of Bakersfield heading up north toward Modesto, as an estimated 500,000 acres (about 10 percent of the farmland) have gone unplanted this season — left empty by drought-stricken farmers who didn’t have enough water to sustain a crop this year. The setting is eerily reminiscent of the ravaged land depicted in some of Lange’s most iconic images of Texas and Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl era.

A melon field left empty in Firebaugh, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

A melon field left empty in Firebaugh, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

People here had been hopeful about predictions of a possible El Nino weather pattern this fall — rains fueled by warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures. But the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center recently downplayed the impact, suggesting the El Nino effect would be moderate to weak, at best, and not provide the moisture the state desperately needs.

It was more bad news for a region that has struggled with the question of whether what they are going through is simply bad luck or, as Obama and others have suggested, a symptom of warming temperatures brought on by climate change.

Stevenson, who is 54, has spent his entire life on the farm, learning the trade from his father and his grandfather before him. He hopes to pass on the farm to his daughter and nephew, who have been learning the family business so they can carry forward the legacy. But there are days when Stevenson wonders what the future will hold.

He has never seen his land so dry. The pond where he swam as a kid is empty, and the pasture, where he also raises cattle, has so little grass you can see the cracked earth below. All last winter, Stevenson knew things were going to be bad, and the thought of the hard decisions he knew he would have to make in order for the farm to survive kept him up at night, even as he held out hope that maybe it might rain and there could be some reprieve.

But there was no miracle, and according to Stevenson, he’s experienced some of the darkest days of his life trying to keep the farm going. It wasn’t just the gut-wrenching decision to sacrifice his trees, a devastating economic loss that will take years to recover from. The “worst day” so far, he says, was when he had to lay off four of his full-time workers — 40 percent of his regular staff. Some were men who had been with the farm for more than 30 years, people he’d grown up working with and was as close to as family. And the situation is only growing more dire. While he’ll make it through this season, Stevenson’s not sure about the next — which is a scenario facing many farmers in the Central Valley.

“If this goes on longer, you are talking about unimaginable economic devastation, farms going out of business, people losing their jobs, and a blight on the land that could take years to repair,” Stevenson said. “But sometimes you feel like no one cares. You drive through neighborhoods and see people watering their lawns, and you see that extra water running down into the gutter… When you are someone that knows pretty much down to the gallon how much you need to keep your crop alive, you wonder how some people can have their heads so deep in the sand.”

An empty lemon grove field in Lemon Cove, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

An empty lemon grove field in Lemon Cove, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)


The delta smelt is a tiny sliver of a fish that resembles a sardine and, at barely two inches long, is no bigger than a guppy. It used to be just another obscure species in the vast catalog of California’s ecosystem, a bluish-silver native of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, east of San Francisco, a key source of water for the Central Valley cropland.

But it’s this minuscule fish, an endangered species in California, that has become an unlikely symbol of outrage among drought-stricken farmers, who point to it as proof that it’s not just Mother Nature responsible for the unfolding nightmare here.

Environmental regulations aimed at protecting the endangered smelt and fish habitats upstate years ago curbed the flow of river water through the delta from Northern California south into the parched Central Valley. But when some of that excess water was allowed to run into the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, farmers who have struggled to survive were stunned — infuriated at the idea of even one drop of water being wasted as their crops shrivel and die.

“They are fighting to save an endangered fish, but in the process, they are endangering us, the people that grow the food that is on your dinner plate,” said Greg Wegis, a citrus and nut farmer in Kern County. “How does that make any sense?”

The angst over the protection of a fish most people had never even heard of until recently is rooted deep in the complicated politics of water in California, a bitter debate that spans decades and has grown even more intense as the latest drought has slowly burned up the land.

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A stream of water trickles on the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, California January 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

A stream of water trickles on the bottom of the Almaden Reservoir near San Jose, California January 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Robert …

California has been through dry times before — including a major drought in the 1970s that wiped out millions of dollars in crops. But it was “nothing like this,” recalled Bob Taylor, the Dust Bowl survivor who was farming back then.

A major difference was that farms in peril were able to rely on at least some help from the elaborate series of dams, canals and water reservoirs that are the lifeline of the agricultural industry here, rerouting water from rivers upstate and capturing runoff from the Sierra Nevada snowpack to feed the crops below.

But earlier this year, the state’s two largest water systems — the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project, which is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation — announced for the first time in their history they would allocate no water to farmers in the Central Valley.

Those in charge blamed the extreme drought conditions — including record-low snow levels in the mountains, which depleted aquifers below. But shell-shocked farmers blamed onerous government regulations—seizing on the puny delta smelt as a symbol of misplaced priorities.

But it’s not just the fish. People are mad at Brown and other California lawmakers, who pledged $700 million in drought aid but have shown little appetite to tackle long-term problems like upgrading the state’s antiquated water system to improve storage facilities and develop technology that would encourage water recycling. Another sore point is the state’s reluctance to rethink outdated water rights rules, some inked more than 100 years ago, that gives some corporations, farmers and cities unlimited and unregulated access to water, even as others dry up.

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“What we are dealing with is a natural drought, but it is also a political drought, complicated by this maze of rules . . . and an infrastructure that was not designed to serve a [state] population of 40 million people,” said Tom Wollenman, a longtime citrus farmer who manages LoBue Citrus in Lindsay, Calif., a tiny farming town in Tulare County.

In Lindsay, the main road into town — Highway 65 — is lined with barren fields and groves of orange trees that are dead or dying, some from the other natural disaster that hit the region this year: a major freeze. But the situation is even worse for cities to the south and to the east. Along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in western Tulare County, it’s not just farmers who have run out of water, but residents, too, as wells have dried up and groundwater supplies have dwindled. Food banks in the region have reported record requests for help — mostly from temporary laborers who have lost their jobs and others who can’t afford to buy bottled water or food to eat.

Lately farms have raced to dig deeper wells that pump water from aquifers deep below—costly journeys to unprecedented depths in hopes of finding moisture to survive. Since the state does not put limits on groundwater pumping, the new wells have fueled concerns about what could happen when that source is drained. “It’s like having a glass of water with 15 straws in it,” Wollenman said. “It’s just not sustainable.”

In Terra Bella, where the main water source has been the Central Valley Project, desperate farmers have scrambled to save an estimated 7,000 acres in orange trees valued at more than $100 million from drying up. Some there have anted up big money to buy water from farmers who decided it was more valuable to sell the water they had stockpiled last year to guard against the drought than to raise a crop. And that’s set off a wild frenzy in the valley, where water is being auctioned off at the cost $1,200 to $2,500 an acre-foot (the amount it takes to cover one acre of ground the depth of one foot). That’s at least six times the price of what water was going for last year, fueling charges of price gouging. But many desperate farmers just trying to keep their crops alive feel they have no choice — an economic hit some fear could send the region into further financial peril.

Young citrus trees next to a dried up orange grove in Lindsay, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

Young citrus trees next to a dried up orange grove in Lindsay, Calif. (Holly Bailey/Yahoo News)

“It’s just not profitable to pay that much for water, but when you’ve already invested so much, the thought of watching something die is unbearable,” said Ryan Jacobsen, head of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. “The instinct is to beg and borrow and do anything you can to survive.”

But for the farmers of the Central Valley, the trauma of the drought is about so much more than economics. It’s about identity, heritage and a powerful connection to the land.

Some of the happiest moments of Joe Del Bosque’s life have been the days he’s spent simply wandering through his fields, getting lost for hours admiring the incremental changes in his crops that might not be so obvious to other people — the colors of the leaves, the size of the fruit, the texture of its skin. Nothing ever looks or feels the same.

At 65, Del Bosque, who has been working the land all of his life, is still amazed by essential miracle of farming — the idea that a tiny seed smaller than a fingertip can, with the right love and care, birth a cantaloupe larger than the human head. But it is the love and care that matters — a lesson instilled in him as a child by his father, a Mexican immigrant who came to the Central Valley during the Dust Bowl and spent his life tending cantaloupe fields.

“You don’t just plant things,” said Del Bosque, who farms 2,000 acres of melons, asparagus and almond trees in western Fresno County. “You water it and nurture it and manage it… I was always taught that you treat the land with love and respect, and it responds.”

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Joe and Maria Del Bosque, right, of Empresas Del Bosque farm walk with President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown, left, on February 14, 2014 in Los Banos, California. (Wally Skalij- Pool/Getty Images)

Joe and Maria Del Bosque, right, of Empresas Del Bosque farm walk with President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry …

And that’s what has made the last few months so hard. In the spring, Del Bosque was forced to allow roughly 600 acres — about 25 percent of his farm — to go barren, fields that would have normally been flush with several hundred thousand cantaloupes this summer. But even though he’d stockpiled extra water last year, in anticipation that the drought would only get worse, it wasn’t enough to keep the entire farm alive. While he knew it was the right thing to do to survive, there has never been a moment when Del Bosque didn’t see those fallow fields — not on his walks through the farm, not even when he gave a tour to Obama, who used his barren land as a backdrop to his visit to the Central Valley in February — that he didn’t feel as though some part of himself had been lost.

“You put so much of yourself into the land, understanding the soil and how crops respond to the most sensitive things, like moisture and the air… It’s very intense. [The land] becomes a part of you, and to see it fallow, it just kills you,” Del Bosque said.

Del Bosque and so many other California farmers have had to succumb to extreme measures to survive the drought. Now as they await the coming season they can only hope — or pray — for the return of the bounty that until now had always sustained a nation. But in a way the deeper question, as it was during the time of the Dust Bowl, is whether through all of the adversity and hardship they will be able to sustain their spirit or if that’s one more thing the drought will take, too.




The Hearst Castle is Californian Historical Sight mansion on Central Coast in California. It has been built between 1919 and 1947 and it is designed by architect Julia Morgan. The castle has been designed for William Randolph Hearst who died in 1951. Since that castle has been donated to the state of California and has been stated as historical park. The few things that caught our attention are indoor and outdoor pools, library, dinning area, jewel box and exterior design.Hearst Castle The Hearst Castle

The Indoor Pool

Hearst Castle swimming pool 1 The Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle swimming pool 2 The Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle swimming pool 3 The Hearst Castle

The Library

Hearst Castle library 1 The Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle library 2 The Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle library 3 The Hearst Castle

The Outdoor Pool

Hearst Castle grand pool 1 The Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle grand pool 2 The Hearst Castle

The Dining Area

Hearst Castle dinning area The Hearst Castle

The Isabella Jewel Box

Hearst Castle jewel box The Hearst Castle

Charles “Hank” Bukowski


Charles “Hank” Bukowski


The Secret

don’t worry, nobody has the
beautiful lady, not really, and

nobody has the strange and
hidden power, nobody is
exceptional or wonderful or
magic, they only seem to be
it’s all a trick, an in, a con,
don’t buy it, don’t believe it.
the world is packed with
billions of people whose lives
and deaths are useless and
when one of these jumps up
and the light of history shines
upon them, forget it, it’s not
what it seems, it’s just
another act to fool the fools

there are no strong men, there
are no beautiful women.
at least, you can die knowing
and you will have
the only possible


Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ lyrics top $2 million at auction


Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ lyrics top $2 million at auction

Auction ServiceBob DylanPoetryAl CaponeSotheby’s Holdings Incorporated
Manuscript for Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ sets auction record for rock lyrics
Unidentified buyer pays $2 million for Dylan lyric manuscript
$2-million sale of Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ tops record of $1.2 million for Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’
How does it feel? Like a new record for the sale of rock lyrics at auction, as a handwritten manuscript for Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” sold Tuesday for just over $2 million at Sotheby’s auction house in New York.

The identity of the buyer was not released, but the purchase price bested the previous record of $1.2 million paid in 2010 for John Lennon’s lyrics to “A Day in the Life” from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Lyrics to another Dylan classic, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” sold for $485,000, according to Reuters, at Sotheby’s first dedicated music history sale in more than a decade.

Other items in the sale included memorabilia from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley, with pre-auction estimates ranging from as little as $200 to $300 to $1 million to $2 million for the draft of “Like A Rolling Stone” that Dylan wrote on stationery from the Roger Smith Hotel in Washington.

According to Sotheby’s, the lyrics were put up for auction by a man identified only as a fan from California “who met his hero in a non-rock context and bought [the lyrics] directly from Dylan.”

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By Joshua Gardner and Caters News Agency

A cow rescued from a neglectful animal hoarder is now free to roam her California ranch, but whatever you do don’t call her a heifer.

Milkshake, as she’s called, believes she a dog.

Beth DiCaprio at the Grace Foundation says the cow trots around the El Dorado Hills ranch along with her canine best friend and even refuses to eat grass like her bovine relatives.



Moo? Milkshake is an 8-year-old cow in California that thinks she’s a dog

Rescued: Milkshake was kept locked in a tiny cage by an animal hoarder until she was rescued by staff at the Grace Foundation Ranch in El Dorado Hills, California

Rescued: Milkshake was kept locked in a tiny cage by an animal hoarder until she was rescued by staff at the Grace Foundation Ranch in El Dorado Hills, California

‘Milkshake is still not convinced she is a cow and has never been a fan of grazing,’ DiCaprio told Caters.

The 1,200 pound Hereford heifer was taken in by the Grace Foundation — a non-profit that usually only fosters needy horses — after she was rescued from an animal hoarder who kept her locked in a cage.

‘When Milkshake first arrived at the ranch she didn’t even know what grass was,’ said DiCaprio.

Now she has all the space to roam she could want. But she’d prefer to follow DiCaprio and her mutt friend Riley.

Milkshake refuses to graze like normal cows and demands she be fed from a bowl like her canine friends

Milkshake refuses to graze like normal cows and demands she be fed from a bowl like her canine friends

Picturesque: Now Milkshake is free to roam the golden California hills alongside her furry farm dog friends

Picturesque: Now Milkshake is free to roam the golden California hills alongside her furry farm dog friends

‘She follows me around all day long, just like my dogs – she comes and watches me tend to all the other animals,’ said DiCaprio. ‘She’s even followed me into the bathroom before, although she was a little scared of her own reflection.’

Milkshake also eats like a dog.

‘I think she thinks it’s pointless finding her own food when she can wait on us bringing it to her in a bowl, like her dog friends,’ DiCaprio said.

Now eight years old, Milkshake is like a real-life bull in a china shop – especially when there is food to be found.

The Grace Foundation Ranch normally rescues horses but made an exception for quirky Milkshake

The Grace Foundation Ranch normally rescues horses but made an exception for quirky Milkshake

'If she goes into a room she causes mayhem - especially if she spots some snacks,' said Milkshake's main caregiver Beth DiCaprio

‘If she goes into a room she causes mayhem – especially if she spots some snacks,’ said Milkshake’s main caregiver Beth DiCaprio

The heifer goes graze-y whenever food is around and has been known to knock over furniture that’s been in her way.

Beth, 51, said: ‘If she goes into a room she causes mayhem – especially if she spots some snacks.’

The Grace Foundation, which was founded 10 years ago, is home to more than 200 ‘last chance’ animals who have been saved from all over California.

The not-for-profit ranch normally only takes in horses but Milkshake is a real hit with visitors and staff alike.

Beth added: ‘Everyone loves Milkshake – she’s certainly one of a kind.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2652156/Shes-udderly-confused-Half-ton-California-cow-thinks-DOG.html#ixzz34G9nQA3f
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She’s udderly confused! Half-ton California cow thinks it’s a DOG