Thursday, December 3, 2009

This Old Earthquake

Record release party 
Bolinas Earthquake Ball   

by Shari Faye Dell, West Marin Citizen (published December 3, 2009) 

Bearing nearly 80 years of musicianship between three members, This Old Earthquake 
brings to full gestation the tears, toils and joys of experience with the release of the 
groups’ first album, Portuguese Murder Ballads. 
The self-produced nine-song collection of originals blends sweet harmony and a laid- 
back tempo into melodies that linger just behind the beat. The effect is somber, bitter- 
sweet and nostalgically melancholic. The songs invite meditative reflection. 
In May of this year, the three men–Steve Trivelpiece, Michael Burton and Ethan 
Okamura–made the 3600-mile-round-trip to Palmer Texas for a coveted five-day session 
in Palmyra Studios.  

A cut above 

“Its one of the nicer analog studios in the country,” say Ethan Okamura, This Old 
Earthquake’s singing, song-writing guitarist. 
Owned and operated by Paul Middleton, an engineer to Bonnie Raitt since 1986, Palmyra 
is home to the audiophile’s collection of state of the art vintage audio equipment as well 
as his crown jewel, the 1969 Automated Neve analog-mixing board previously owned by 
Abbey Road Studios in London. 
 Middleton first heard This Old Earthquake in Bolinas at a private party. “He took some 
interest in us,” says guitar and vocal artist Steve Trivelpiece. Later, a mutual friend 
provided Middleton with a copy of the promotional CD the group completed in 
December of 2008. From his studio in Texas, Middleton told the Citizen, “I listened to 
the songs at least hundreds of times...these songs touched me so strongly I just couldn’t 
get away from it.”  
An industry professional for many years, Middleton expresses concern he has with 
standard digital recording practices and the tendency to tweak things or over produce, “I 
didn’t want that to happen to their music,” he says. “I knew they didn’t need to tamper 
with it. All the group needs is find the right feeling and go in there and record,” says 
Middleton. “We wanted to help capture that.” All said and done he adds, “The sheer 
passion in the’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in many, many years.”  

It takes a village 

Being family men, it took the group several months to arrange time off from work and 
child-care. Family and friends heartily orchestrated necessities for the journey a van, 
coolers packed with provisions and domestic support for the young family members 
staying at home. 
Upon arriving, the group set to the task. “We made the most of it. We slept right in the 
studio; we recorded–we were in there [working] 13 or 14 hour days,” says Trivelpiece. 

Drawing on experience

The difference between performing before a live audience and recording in a studio is far 
from subtle. While individual instrumental nuances and interpretations may come off 
nicely during a performance, they don’t necessarily translate into solid musical terms on 
“For several years, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the studio,” says Okamura. In 
addition to a former partnership in the Terra Linda studio, Okamura has a studio at home. 
Thanks to the advancement and availability of technology, “It is easy to stock yourself 
with a descent home studio,” he says.  
Going into the studio is often a challenge for performers. However, all three of the 
seasoned musicians have done studio work on other projects. During sessions in Terra 
Linda for the 2008 demo, This Old Earthquake worked out arrangements and solidified 
parts. The solidarity served them well when they hit Texas–nine songs in five days is 
quite a feat.  
“We barely got what we needed to get done;” Okamura iterates, “literally, at three in the 
morning.” “We were loading the van,” Trivelpiece chimes in. “I was finishing up a guitar 
track,” Okamura says with a grin. 
The group hit the highway for a long haul home at 3:30 a.m.. 

Fixing an identity 

“Wasn’t our first gig at the community center?” asks Trivelpiece, unable to recall the 
exact moment the ball began rolling. 
 To be certain, in the fall of 2007 Trivelpiece moved back to West Marin following an 
eleven year-hiatus. Okamura and bass player Miguel Burrtone, (aka. Michael Burton,) 
expressed an immediate interest in forming an all-acoustic trio. Shortly thereafter, the 
three men got together to test the waters. Although the three had played together 
previously, more than a decade had passed, they began by picking out a Gram Parsons’ 
tune, Sin City, which was later to become the only obvious inspiration for the groups’ 
official identity. Thus, from the Parsons’ adage, ““This old earthquake’s gonna leave me 
in the poor house,”” the band name was formed. 

Old Earthquake will perform at a semi-formal record release 
party on Friday, December 4 at the Bolinas Community Center. Serving Hog Island 
Oysters and wine, the band begins at 8 p.m.. 
Shari Faye Dell - West Marin Citizen (Dec 3, 2009)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Birth of Bay Area Shellfish industry

by Shari Faye Dell

California oyster farming bloomed with the growing populations of people coming west in search of gold and opportunity.  As early as 1851, entrepreneurs in San Francisco including Captain John Stillwell Morgan established businesses marketing native shellfish.  Connoisseurs of the bivalve reported West Coast varieties as small and coppery in taste, not as desirable as varieties available in the east.  Within a few years, Bay Area marketers began supplementing local stock with transplanted oysters from Willapa Bay, Washington.  Commercial beds were established as long term storage facilities near Sausalito and parts of northern San Francisco Bay, production lasted only a few years before water cannon mining in the Sierra’s sent tons of silt down the San Joaquin and the Sacramento Rivers burying North Bay oyster operations in 1862.  The sheltered underwater acreage off San Mateo County became the new hotspot for a growing shellfish industry; real estate values began a steady climb.

Oyster production in the Bay evolved following completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869.  Oystermen imported East Coast seed for cultivation, built canneries, and shipped the mature, packaged product back across the country.  According to a bulletin published by the United States Fish Commission, in 1880 the United States was the largest producer of shellfish worldwide: the Bay Area ranking sixth largest harvester in the country.  Canned oysters became an essential and affordable source of nourishment nationwide. 

The California Oyster industry prospered.  By 1870 six well established companies vying for market advantage engaged in a series of buyouts and mergers.  By 1886, shrewd business choices granted Morgan Oyster Company the monopolistic advantage.  But, Bay Area population continued to grow and California’s most valuable marine industry was threatened by pollution and the presence of salmonella and coliform bacteria (from raw sewage) in estuarine waters.  A Typhoid Fever epidemic in 1899, believed to have spread through the consumption of shellfish grown in contaminated waters, seriously handicapped the industry.  Oxygen levels in the water continued to drop reports declare that by 1908 “seedlings could not attach themselves to a solid surface.”  Within a few years mature oysters suffocated as well.

Shellfisheries: a second childhood on Tomales Bay.
According to a National Park Service working draft of “”Tomales Bay Environmental History,”” the first Tomales Bay oyster beds were sown near Millerton Point in 1875 by Terry and Weinard.  
The search for clean water brought Eli Gordon, operating as the Pacific Coast Oyster Company (PCOC), to underwater acerage at Bivalve in 1907 followed by the Morgan Oyster Company in 1909, planting near Millerton Point.  In 1910 Gilbert Oyster Company established beds, also near Millerton Point.  In 1913 a group of SF businessmen purchased Morgan’s Tomales Bay holdings, officially renaming the fishery Tomales Bay Oyster Company.
Both companies changed hands a number of times before Pacific Coast Oyster Company purchased Tomales Bay Oyster Company.  The combined operations were regrouped.  TBOC continued to farm both East Shore properties and PCOC focused on marketing, wholesale and retail, in San Francisco.
Conveniently, the North Pacific Coast Railroad, incorporated in 1871 to freight lumber from the Russian River and dairy products from West Sonoma to San Francisco provided worthy transport.
Mass oyster die off in San Francisco bay, in the 1880’s, during the height of production, prompted the United States Fish Commission (USFC) to research oyster cultivation.  A paper published by Charles Townsend, a USFC researcher assigned to studies at Morgan Oyster Company’s San Mateo beds, suggests a number of mariculture improvements including the introduction of Pacific or Japanese oysters into Bay Area ecology.  The suggestion, although originally overlooked, prompted the California Department of Fish and Game in 1928 partner with TBOC to introduce the Pacific Oyster, a variety from Japan, to Tomales Bay.  A few years of experimentation produced an exceptional harvest in 1935; the Pacific oyster grew in popularity and became the West Coast standard.
Oscar Johannson, hired by Tomales Bay Oster’s parent company in 1926, managed growing operations at the Tomales beds, eventually, he gained ownership of the farming side of the company.  He continued to cultivate the tidelands with his son until 1988.  He sold the company and retired a few weeks before marrying on his eightieth Birthday.   To date, Tomales Bay Oyster Company is the longes continually operating oyster farm in the State of California (Insert photo from saving Marin).
In 1915 Morgan built a small post at Hamlet (on the mouth of Walker Creek, south side, between Nick’s Cove and Ocean Roar) before falling to financial ruins in 1921.  The Consolidated Oyster Company took over Morgan interests and in 1926 took up residence at the Hamlet post transplanting mature oysters imported from New York and New Jersey into recuperation beds before moving them to markets a month later.

Henry J. Jensen arrived on the Tomales Bay oyster scene sometime during the 1930’s, he continued to work the Walker Creek mud flats near Hamlet until selling to his son, Henry F. Jensen in 1955.  By that time Tomales Bay had grown to become the largest oyster-producing region in the State of California.  Young Jensen and his wife Virginia expanded the parking lot to accommodate their newly opened bar and restaurant.  Virginia recalls:
“Back in the 50’s and probably the early part of the ‘60s we used to wholesale oysters out, delivering them to Nick’s Cove, Tony’s Seafood, Tides Wharf . . . we did quite well, I really can’t complain.  Oysters at that time were, what, six dollars a hundred or something or other like that.  Weekends use to be quite hectic, but back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and even into the ‘70s I wasn’t serving that much food . . . so I was in the oyster business from the time I got up until the time I went to bed opening oysters.  In those days everybody wanted their oyster opened, nobody, you couldn’t con a person into buying an oyster in the shell to kill yourself with . . . every one was opened.”

Coast Oyster Company employee, Charlie Johnson purchased the oyster farm on Drake’s estero in 1957 assuming the name Johnson’s Oyster company.  Rumored at one time to be responsible for half of all oyster production in the state, the second generation of Johnson oystermen sold the company to Point Reyes peninsula rancher Kevin Lunny.  The company is now known as Drake’s Bay Oyster Company.

Three biologists founded Hog Island Oyster Company, just south of Audubon’s Cypress Grove Preserve, in 1983.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Farallon Islands: a structural history

by Shari Faye Dell, Bodega Bay, West Marin Citizen Staff
and Charles Whitefield, Bolinas, Farallon Island Volunteer

The article “Strange balance in the Farallones” published a few weeks ago (Thursday, February 26) in the other Point Reyes Light misrepresents Southeast Farallon Island facilities and practices. 
There are records of a human presence on the Farallon Islands beginning around the turn of the 19th century.  First came fur traders followed by eggers, harvesting island wildlife. The North and Middle Farallons were designated a National Preserve by order of Theodore Roosevelt in 1909.  In succession the Lighthouse Service, US Navy, and the United States Coast Guard maintained a presence on the island with little regard for their effect on resident populations.   In 1969 the South-east Farallon Island garnered protection as the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge following the installation of an automated solar lighthouse.  Management was transferred to Fish and Wildlife who then contracted Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) to maintain a protective human presence, oversee stewardship of the islands, and monitor wildlife. Due to the thirty years of protection biologists are now seeing a resurgence in the number of animals and the variety of species, a testament to the success of this protection. 
Before arriving at the island, visiting ships communicate with PRBO biologists via maritime radio.  Upon arrival, vessels tie to an offshore buoy where they are met by the island safe boat.  Weather permitting, biologists, workers, and supplies are then taxied to and from the island.  Resident biologists must gauge timing between swells to attach the twenty foot craft to cables suspended from a boom crane.  The boat and occupants are lifted to East Landing thirty feet above.  Pinipeds or seals inhabit the waterfront areas of the island, there are no beaches or docks, therefore, for tactical reasons, the crane, powered by diesel generator, is the only access to and from the island.
A set of rails stretch west from the landing and allow supplies to be pushed by trolley to and from the mainhouse. 
Halfway between the main house and east landing a cinderblock powerhouse is home to renewable energy storage batteries, back up generators, and a machine shop.  The roof is outfitted with a solar array that provides all of the island’s 110v. electrical needs. 
Churman’s claim that researchers built several new structures including a house is incorrect.  Historical photos show many structures that no longer exist. Many buildings and structures have been dismantled since the 1950’s.
A pair of identical Victorian houses were built in 1878 and 1880 by the governing Lighthouse Board to accommodate lighthouse keepers and their families.  PRBO’s managing biologist, and depending on the season, 2 to 4 interns occupy the western or mainhouse.  Fish and Wildlife retain the other for maintenance personnel visits and project crews.
A few hundred feet of rail, formerly known as the Farallon Midland, is the last vestige of a trolley system that nearly circled the island during the fur trade.  The Russians, trading at Fort Ross, were not the first to harvest Farallon bounty–seals, for their fur, meat, and oil; sea birds for eggs, meat, and feathers–nor were they the last.  By 1837, diminished seal populations made trade no longer a viable enterprise.  Today, the level path where the rail previously ran allows biologists to move around the island without traveling into bird and seal colonies.
Several circa 1900 photos published in “”The Farallon Islands: Sentinels of the Golden Gate”” written by Peter White, published in 1995 (p. 69-70) show the North landing much as it stands today.  Modifications and new materials have been employed over the years, but the elements remain the same: boathouse, derrick or boom, and a stairway over steep rock bank to and from the water.
A path heading Northeast from the powerhouse leads to a century old (1905) stone duplex housing a carpentry shop and a pipe shop.  Originally a Navy bunkhouse, the building now houses island maintenance materials.
Beyond the shop building, a large cement surface installed by the Navy during the WWI era as a water catchment pad is still in use as the islands only source of fresh water.  A partially submerged cement cistern, built in conjunction with the water catchment pad is capable of holding seventy thousand gallons.
Another large cement paving or water catchement pad built pre WWII, referred to by Churchman as “the new helicopter pad”, was part of a military fog-horn-station annex.  Under current island management, helicopters are only used during the non-breeding season (Sept.-early March) when there are few birds on the island and then sparingly for major construction projects such as the re-roofing of the powerhouse,  and the transporting of old 1600 pound solar batteries back to the mainland.
PRBO uses three bird blinds, two of which were built in the early 70’s.  The “new” bird blind on the windward side, mentioned in Churchman’s article as “a perfect getaway for a VIP researcher and friend” is the only new structure to be built on the island since the 70’s.  Known to researchers as the copper blind, the 10 by 7 foot shed was built and donated to facilitate the study of a developing colony of Murres who have taken up residency on the edge of a Cormorant colony.
Awarded Refuge of the Year in 2008 by U.S.F.W.S for Environmental Leadership.  The award recognizes the accomplishments the Refuge has achieved in recycling, reducing consumption, and environmental stewardship of the islands. It also highlighted the partnership with PRBO and other groups to implement creative recycling efforts including: recycling concrete foundations into bird habitat; re-vamping historic water catchment systems with a small business to become self-sufficient in water; building boardwalk bird habitat from recycled materials; and recycling gray water to flush toilets.
The award also emphasized the huge efforts made to reduce reliance on petroleum, specifically mentioning the solar photovoltaic system, and long-time contributions of PRBO's volunteer Farallon Patrol skippers, who "sail with a purpose" to get personnel and supplies to the island.
PRBO states, “We strive to understand and protect the birds, marine mammals, and other wildlife that inhabit this amazing natural resource.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Committee unveils design

 Bolinas’ Downtown Park Committee will unveil its draft plan for the development of the vacant lot on Wharf Road, currently known to locals as Burnt Park, at the Community Center Sunday, February 8 at 4:00 pm.
“After going through various incarnations,” says Downtown Park Committee member Jack Siedman, “this is what we have come up with.” The committee solicited public input at a well-attended meeting in the Fall of 2007, then distilled the ideas amongst themselves before approaching Alethia Patton, local designer, with the list of elements they wanted to include in the park.

Park Components
Patton’s design schematics include a quartered off children’s play area, a low-lying stone barrier or “rock garden” along Wharf frontage with an open arbor, a curvaceous burmed park perimeter, flat open grassy areas, a stone labyrinth inlay across the girth of the green, a Boche Ball court, a restroom, a service access driveway, and small handicapped parking area.
Water Catchment System in the Natural Landscape
In discussing a green lawn and minimal water issues, Patton brought up the idea of moving the park toward vegetation sustainability.  The group widely accepted the idea of a water catchment system where runoff from the Little Mesa slope could be channeled against a series of natural rock retaining walls. The stone structure would also serve as a climbing surface and a seating area.  A deck at the base of the hill would conceal the partially underground cistern that can hold up to 18,000 gallons of water.  Patton’s plan includes an overflow system that would divert excess runoff into a slightly depressed area where sedges and other water loving plants would help with the dissipation, easing the impact on the town’s storm-water drainage system.  Native plants would comprise most of the parks landscape, providing the park with a drought resistant, low maintenance, ecological scheme year round.  From the central lawn, “bench high curved stone retaining walls would follow the natural contours of the site as it slopes upward toward the hill,” Patton explained. 
“Less is more, has been our theme all along, ” says Siedman.  The committee doesn’t want to fill-up the park, but rather keep it open and spacious–allowing park usage to point the direction for further development of the space. “It will become apparent what the community needs.” In accordance with this principal, Patton says she would like to refrain from paving a path through the park, “allowing people to find their own path” and later add some soft or hardscape to accommodate the natural flow of foot traffic.
Patton hopes that the entire community will take part in the different phases of construction, but has approached a few community members in the building trades about overseeing some of aspects of the project to achieve an “over arching aesthetic.”
The next stage in the planning process after Sunday’s presentation to the Bolinas community is to begin talks with county planning and retain the services of a civil engineer, says Siedman.  An engineer is needed to shore up calculations for the burms and other fill before submitting plans to the county for approval.  Before plans are brought before the county the committee hopes to retain Patton’s services as well, naming her as project manager, to date, she has donated over 100 hours of her time and services to the project. 

Burnt Park Lots Donated to the Community
A little over two years ago a couple, who wishes to remain anonymous, heard that the downtown properties were on the market.  After some consideration, the two approached a local realtor with the idea of turning the lots into a park and inquired as to how they could go about it.  The couple was referred to Mesa Park board, the governing entity for the town of Bolinas’ only community owned park.  The Boards Chairman, Jack Seidman welcomed the idea and put things into motion.  In addition to covering the initial cost of purchasing the three parcels designated for the new park, the donors have agreed to provide some additional funding to help cover the costs of construction.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Beyond the Blue in Bolinas

by SF Dell
Bolinas Filmmaker James Fox with Larry King promoting his film Out of the Blue in 2008. Pictured from left, Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, sister Kelly Fox, James Fox, Larry King, and nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman.

Bolinas filmmaker James Fox will screen his new documentary, “Beyond the Blue,” a follow-up documentary to his 2003 film, “Out of the Blue: The Definitive Investigation of the UFO Phenomenon,” at 6:30 pm on Friday, Jan. 23 at the Bolinas Community Center.
In this rough cut of the film, Fox pieces together the best evidence to reveal what people from around the world have encountered with UFOs. Meeting with witnesses ranging from a former Arizona Governor, a retired General in the Iranian Air Force to officials from CNES (France’s equivalent to NASA), Fox seeks the truth. Beyond the Blue hopes to expose reasons for the government’s secrecy from people who were there.
Hosted by the Fox, the event will raise funds for the Bolinas Community Land Trust to complete a state-mandated upgrade at their Bo Gas Station.
The statewide mandate requires Bay Area gasoline dispensing facilities to obtain Enhanced Vapor Recovery (EVR) phase II equipment and permits by April 1 with the goal of reducing daily hydrocarbon emissions by 372 tons, evaporation of 120,000 gallons of gasoline and daily costs to consumers of $360,000.
The non-profit Bolinas Community Land Trust purchased the 110-year-old building, formerly known as the Bolinas Garage or the Longley Building and gas station in 2004. The trust owns and operates a total of three buildings in downtown Bolinas – providing the community with 15 affordable rentals, three work studios, three commercial storefronts, and the only gas station between Mill Valley and Point Reyes Station.
Trust executive director Lesa Kramer said the event is the first effort to reach for community support in raising the estimated $25,000 necessary to comply with the mandate. After seeking alternative funding, the land trust board is deferring to community support. “We haven’t owned the gas station long enough to qualify for any grants that are available,” Kramer said.
The mandate deadline falls just months after BoGas has filed its first fiscal year of net profit; however, revenues fall short of covering upgrade costs.