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A History and Memoir of Salud

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This is a history and memoir about the Salud Concept of communty medical clinics, and its impact on the the Salud Clinic in Broderick California,  which opened on May 21, 1971, and still operates on its 46th anniversary in May 2017. Details and time line are taken from public documents, board minutes, and personal records. I dedicate this history to the Board of Directors; to the community that gave rise to the clinic; to the Broderick Christian Center which encouraged and nourished the seminal ideas of the Salud Model, and the building of the of the clinic itself; to the entire staff, but in particular to Salud Community Health Workers and Family Nurse Practioners.

In October 1968 Central Broderick was an older unincorporated town like West Sacramento, the adjacent relatively prosperous port and residential community of West Sacramento,  and Bryte, the smallest town, home to many East European immigrants, notably those from Russia and the Ukraine. Collectively the towns were known as West Sacramento or East Yolo. Older streets are still lined with one and three quarter story buildings, like those seen in central Sacramento; the lower level rises only seven feet above ground. They had been built that way in expectation of frequent flooding common many years before.  As flood control became more effective these low-ceiling spaces began to be used for living or storage.1

With the completion of the cross country Lincoln Highway in 1916, travel boomed.  The auto court was the way people settled for the night. Many large tree shaded lots were later converted into trailer parks, and in Broderick, some were filled with clusters of ten by ten wooden shanties, without indoor plumbing,  rented to single men. Despite attempts to condemn them, these shanties, sometimes owned by politically powerful people,  survived until incorporation of the city in 1988 2.

East Yolo was a short distance in miles, but over  50 years distant in time, from Yolo County administrative centers in Woodland, where county services and low cost medical care were  available at the Yolo General Hospital. Across the Sacramento River were the State Capitol, and the the Sacramento County Hospital, but medical care was not readily available there to uninsured Yolo county residents. There were two  West Sacramento  pysicians in private practice. Many people survived in an economic and political backwater even though Yolo County maintained a Dept of  Public Health office and a sheriff’s substation in Broderick.  There seems to have been a self effacing humility; the I Street Bridge is still named  for a Sacramento alphabet street,   and the area of West Sacramento,  sounds like an appendige to a cross river county.

I arrived in 1959,  and was the only Spanish speaking physician in the county until  eight years later our office took on a bright new partner, Brooks Smith.   We become the first physicians for the Family Nurse Practitioner  ( FNP) program at U C Davis; we hope that FNPs will work in small clinics and towns under the supervision of a licensed physician who need not be physically always on site.  The Salud Model concept develops after Herbert Bauer, former Yolo County Director of Public Health gives me a long list of places where migrant workers live seasonally.3  That leads to a series of small free night clinics for migrant workers in rural Yolo County. The first is at Madison; it’s still there on highway 16 just before getting to Esparto, hardly noticeable to people en route to Casche Creek Casino.

A pre-medical student Paul Hom, will would later become the Director of Public Health for Sacramento County, is also a lawyer. He creates  a non profit corporation, The Salud Health Foundation, in order to help build and operate the several migrant farm worker clinics. These have the support of many  local volunteer physicians. That name, Salud,  is  familiar to Spanish speakers because it means ‘health’ as well as ‘Drink up!” Some non Spanish speakers in Broderick, later rhyme it with ‘mud’, which rather nicely describes the drinking water in Broderick at that time… so bracksh that some people bring their own when working to build the clinic  there. 4

The Foundation first helps the ” U C Davis Amigos”, a group of students, to build a clinic building at the Madison camp. Later, people from Chico, Woodland, and small rural Yolo County towns, like Yolo and Esparto, request assistance to develop clinics. I  am able to explain the Salud Concept of community clinics, and the process; but projects require more than ideas. or words. They require commitment, and action; I can advise, but not commit or act on them all.

In a short time there are two  more bare bulb Migrant Health Worker weekly evening clinics; my favorite is at a large operation on the El Macero Ranch, south  of El Macero. A two story building holds a large bunk house for up to 100 men upstairs; below is a big dining room and kitchen. There are family units adjacent.  Meals are delicious, ample,  and authentic. After clinics I always chow down and schmooze with the cook.

Men who immigrate for farm work one way or another, are gererally economic  pioneers, admirable adventurers, like those of the Gold Rush… at least as I see them.  They are generally healthy enough to invade illegally, work, live on  very little, and send money home. When I was young I interpreted for them during the WWII Bracero program;  much later, often live with them during  my own summertime migration from Minnesota to work in the N Calif almond industry.  In time that  pays for my college. We are thereore generically, and animically, brothers,  even though I work for myself,  while they do mostly for relatives. Many stay on indefintely, some spending a lifetime alone and estranged from the family they support.

A friend in Woodland was an elderly peg  legged cook at a small restaurant where I often ate lunch. He had lost a leg in a  Texas farm accident at age 18. One day he told me his daughter, a judge in Leon, Mexico,   was flying in to the local airport; could I take him to meet her? Of course; we picked her up from her private plane and went to lunch.  But the enconter was quite ugly, confronttional and difficult. She made clear he was an uneducated old man; and worse,  a victim of the abusive capitalist Yanquis who stole half of Mexico, and abused and oppressed Mexicans.  He made clear that whatever she had achieved resulted from his work here, which he was grateful, for and proud of. He loved the this ncountry and the people.  End of visit. I took her back to her plane, and him to his work. Such personal stories  are not rare.

Of course there were also women and children in migrant worker camps,  in  families who move with the crops, mainly people who live in other  parts of  the US. The children in particular often had health problems: anemia; parasitosis; malnutrition related to diet where the hallmark is a mouthful of stubby decayed yellow teeth; silent tuberculosis; inadequate immunization for childhood diseases; chronic otitis. The beauty of those conditions is that all are easily diagnosed and treated. The Yolo County Health Department and the County Hospital were very helpful. 5

In a few years the UC Davis School of Medicine appears on the Davis campus. The migrant clinics are interesting and appealing, with superb medical and community support; they address the needs of farm workers, an important ethnic community. Very alertly, the school of medicine asks for help to  submit a several million dollar  Federal Grant application and it is  approved, with UCD administrative  responsibility for the project. Unfortunately two complications quickly impact the project:

First, by the time the University obtains control,   technology has already changed Yolo County agriculture amazingly rapidly and radically. Seasonal migrant workers have  been replaced by chemicals and machines; they are no longer needed, at least not here. Second, the medical school mismanages the program, perhaps because their main challenge, and burden, is to build a new school from scratch, rather than provide migrant care. They lose the grant.

However the project is large, and significant from a human and political standpoint. There is a need for  basic rural health care in small towns, the  same situation that Salud  conceptt addresses; and there is a desire to support Spanish speakers in education and in health. So the migrant project is salvaged, becoming Regional Rural Health, RRH,  generally along the lines of the Salud Model with the addition of  bilingual education, a popular idea of the time.  RRH, managed by a Spanish speaking Board of Directors,  would establish bilingual rural primary schools and offer health care to local people of all sorts.  Salud Clinic, meanwhile, proceeded at Broderick with the strong support of the Christian Center and the Broderick-Bryte Neighborhood Council.

Paul Gutierrez and John Siden introduce me to Broderick. Paul was disillusioned with the politics of the Economic Opportunity Council; although he told me nothing of the details, apparently the feeling was mutual. He wanted to open a food service for the poorer residents in the area and call it Paul’s Kitchen, and to organize the community to develop a health care facility. He and Jess Perez had gathered some 4000 signatures in support of a clinic. John was director of the Broderick Christian Center, and expressed similar hopes regarding health care. The Center hosted a series of meetings where  the focus was a health facility. It remained the planning, meeting, and eating place while the clinic was built. Without that support the clinic would not have been built. I was invited to discuss the Salud concept with emphasis on local control, and  ownership, by a Board of Directors. The council decided to adopt a comprehensive plan for the Salud East Yolo Medical Facility.

October 6, 1970 Council Meeting: The Salud East Yolo Board forms, and draws up  organizational papers. East Yolo lawyer William Dedman acts as consultant to the board.  They continue to meet regularly at the Christian Center. Emilio Lopez,  (Human Rights Commission) is elected president of the Board of Directors. Pete Villarreal takes the job of fund raising. Carlos Salinas ( Washington Unified School District) chairs the Building Committee;  John Pagett is  sub chair for Carpentry, with French Francis.  Ray Gutierrez, (Bryte Council) electrical, and grounds.  Lillian Newton PHN, Publicity Chair; Janette Vaughn, East Yolo Youth Council; and Carlene Sharples, Welfare Worker, Legal Chair. For many years Lillian has been tireless in promoting dental health for E Yolo children.

November 22, 1970 Escrow closes on  the building in Broderick. It is condemned and the lower floor reeks  of rat offal, but it has some unique assets besides rats: 1)  it comes with a second lot to the East that could be a community garden. 2)   the main structure is solid; 3) there is a wedge of vacant land in front of the building that could be used for off street  parking, and might be acquired from the State, as it has no other useful purpose. 3) a complete  second floor apartment is in good condition.

The condemned house is brazenly named the Salud East Yolo Medical Facility, with plans to open in 1971. Mike Kolar, UCD student who had been a driving force in the building of the Madison Migrant Camp addtion, had graduated and is hired part time as part of his conscientious objector deferral from the military draft. The Salud Health Foundation assists in raising funds, with much community support. They have many pages of donors mainly in amounts less than $20.00.

November 28, 1970  There is a sudden flurry of interest from  Yolo County. Captaine Thompson [County Director of Mental Health Services, whose spouse becames a County Supervisor] organizes  a meeting of dignitaries with the Salud Board. It does not go well; I note some quotes from my personal  record:

Dan Kelly, Administrator, Woodland Memorial Hospital (read Woodland Clinic)

“You are naïve.”

Glenn Snodgrass: UCD Medical School:

” UCD Med School is fully committed and unable to help.”

Emilio Lopez: Board President Salud E Yolo Medical Clinic

“The trouble with outsiders is you go home to your cushy life and remain ignorant of our local reality.”

French Francis: Salud Board Member and favorite professional curmudgeon:

“We don’t need any help. Or want it.”

January 4, 1971 Every weekend volunteers work at the building. We have lunch at the Broderick Christian Center. Adolph (Tiny) DiGiulio is a 300 lb genius who organizes the meals. Rumor has it that he solicits food like day old bread and slightly outdated vegetables and meat from known but safe sources. Whatever the truth, the three course meals with beverage are simple, tasty and ample; they usually cost Salud about $20 for 20 people, including but not limited to:

Alex Creighton,

Lloyd Newhall,

Emilio Lopez

Felix Mejia

Jessie and Alberto Rodriguez

Fred, and Robert Loofbourow

Carlos Salinas

French Francis

John Pina, and

Chuck OHara and others from Johnny’s Time Out Bar

Members of the Jay Cees

It is awkward for me to list these names, because I’m certain there are many missing. For example, I recall Steve, a UCD student, but can’t remember his last name. I apologize to those volunteers, with only the excuse it’s more than 45 years since I saw you last. Mike Kolar, worked with many local people during the week to meet the complicated code requirements of a commercial building including lab, and lead shielded X-ray.  The Second floor is used  for meetings and training of clinic staff.

We always are short of funds of course. Arguably,  that shortage is a cost of freedom or independence. There are many inventive activities that we, and I, are involved in over the next two years; some are contracts for services, others things that the board accomplishes; anything that allows us to complete the building, and later  will support operations. These include:

A contract with Yolo County Compensatory Education to do 200 child exams.

Auctions conducted by the Board

Consultation with EOC to organize, train and supervise staff for Senior Citizen Screening Clinics, coordinated by EOC director David Pollard in Auburn, Forest Hill, and environs.

Contract with the Sacramento Concilio New Careers Project providing Health Workers with the option to go to Sacramento Community College with half time support.

Consultation and testimony regarding pesticide legislation ( Petris SB432)

Family Planning clinics in Yolo county and at Salud.

On the recommendation of Dr. Helen Kleviscus, a volunteer in the Yolo County Migrant Clinics, we apply for, and the Board of Directors agrees to participate in, a drug trial for Abbot Labs. This would  now be called a phase III investigation, and while it is not so well compensated as similar trials today it is very helpful, providing volunteer subjects with a physical and lab workup. Many have never had that experience before.

Broderick was ground zero for the diabetogenic and atherogenic diet, the alcohol stricken family and individual, the tobacco toxic lung, kidney, and heart. The environment was often dismal, or harmful; like the water previously noted; I felt that the soul, the ethic, and the driving force of a community clinic lives only within the community itself. The physical manifestation of that soul can be reflected in a  Board of Directors, and  by their operation of the clinic, involving people in the community. 

Therefore I write a grant proposal   for A Community Health Worker ( CHW) Training Program for submission to the Yolo County American Cancer Society, where I had previously served on the board. The grant application is predicated on the idea that the development of cancer is generally a many year  process– like many other chronic health problems– greatly affected by life style and environmental conditions.

There is a time-honored principle of  Public health: No law, or fine, or regulation is very effective in changing harmful personal behavior; what is effective is when people  conclude themselves  that a  beneficial behavior is in their interest. The corollary is that nothing can be so effective to improve health  as involving people who are a part of the community itself.  Emilio Lopez and I present  the proposal to train CHWs, and it is approved. We are forever admiring and  thankful for the Cancer Society sprit, and intelligent foresight;   oterwise I don’t think the CHW project would ever have been completed.

We would train local people to  both work in the clinic  and learn about the main factors affecting health in the community.7 Community Health Workers,  and later, FNPs become the most effective and unique  feature of the Clinic.

May 21, 1971 Opening of Salud Clinc with participation in the ‘Rub out Rubella Campaign.

Herbert Sabin, volunteers as clinic nurse. He is a dedicated worker, always There, decisive, authoritative, dressed in his white uniform. He is capable and experienced in Xrays.  On the other hand he is a take charge guy,  often dramatic, who likes to Intervene in a way  that makes me uncomfortable. I am a more conservative minimalist who likes to keep in mind how our citizens suck up pills as if there were never any side effects; and feels that Beg Pharma and Big Tech seed  TV and the ‘news’ with misleading true lies.  Observe that today’s  medical consensus is all to often tormorrow’s medical sin. As it turns out the board later has to negotiate about a child with a temporary patch of subcutaneous fat loss after Herbert gives a steroid injection without consultation. It was a minor self limiting complication, but at the time, looked ugly.

September 1971: Interview and selection of CHW trainees.

Victoria Odem

Ray Rubio

Carmen Shelley

Geraldine Hernandez

Raquel Carmona  left for nursing school was replaced by Anna Sankey

Mary Romo

A felon, who violated parole was replaced by Joan Schauberger

March 1, 1972 Dick Noble, MD, is hired as part time physician, but leaves abruptly in September without giving notice other than writing Pig on his desk.  He had never objected and never said why he was so intemperate or outraged. Maybe we couldn’t pay him enough;  or What? It was not as if he worked for free! Ouch.

July 1972 Data on 600 Senior Citizen Screenings8: ( % approximate)

50%  abnormalities of vision, Blood pressure*, hearing.

10% fasting blood sugar diagnostic of Diabetes*

5% anemia

3% abnormal intraocular pressure.

* These abnormalities are based on old criteria. Today some % would be much higher because criteria have tightened.

September 25 1972 A proposal to the California Community College system to develop a career ladder for CHW training and progression, beginning with a program to train and certify CHWs is rejected

January 6, 1973 . The Salud CHW Training Manual, in which the beautiful artwork is done by Sandra Tiller, is adapted for use by George Kent for the Chico State Satellite Closed TV training projects. 9

February, 1973 The clinic continues to be busy, seeing nearly 50 patients daily. Yet Salud has not become self sustaining. We all realize that the ambitious and arguably arrogant attempt to provide medical services without accepting government funds will not succeed unless I continue to subsidize the operation at about $2000 monthly  or become the government myself. That makes me slightly sympathize with Congress; but only for an instant can I sympathize with people who  live high,  and exempt themselves from laws and regs they lay on the rest of us.  But my physical, emotional, and personal resources are drained. I am divorced, and my contribution to that personl loss is having pretty much abandonded my wife and children in favor of Farm Workers, Broderick and even, I suppose, to my own fading idealism, which might be viewed as ambition.

‘Revenue Sharing’ has been started by the Regan government, and I reluctantly apply for funds. I know, as does the board, it is a pact with the devil. But.. Who Else?

May 1973 Two years after the opening of Salud our  Federal Revenue Sharing Grant receives preliminary approval. Yet the devil is here: the Yolo County Board of Supervisors must agree. They reason that it is wrong to add a third ( and relatively independent)  entity  in the county to provide care for indigent  East Yolo people. Their approval requires that 1) the entire operation be turned over to the Yolo General Hospital or to the Yolo County Public Health Department; our choice! 10 2) that the Board remain only as an advisory body. 3) that the County acquire the clinic for what I originally paid for the building, without consideration for what the community or anyone else invested. We smell brimstone and sulfur, but agree, providing:

1) We are assured the CHWs individually and as a role model be kept as employees with full benefits. 2) The advisory status of the board be documented.  After discussion the Salud Board elects to go with the Health Department, under the direction of Otis Cobb. If I or the Board had more determined, if we knew our true strength, one of us might have refused; in view of the nature of politics, the County very likely would  have back tracked.  But I ,for one, was whipped, not sure whether I was Faust or Don Quijote.

After a brief time the original Salud clinic Street is abandoned by the Health Department and moved to a building nearby. Our cherished little medical office with lab and X-ray will be put to other uses; maybe.  The littered lot remains as it was, though perhaps the county improved the clinic building; they acquire the parking area in front, something we were not able to do. In the next few years I occasionally visit when Salud is in an old school near the I Street Bridge. It operates reasonably well, and health workers are included.  Yet there is a sense the sprit is dead despite  devoted and inspired efforts of the physicians, nurses, FNPs, and CHWs who seem unable to move the Public Health behemoth into the arena of Primary care. Maybe that is inevitable, because it  that kind of service never has been the Health Department’s primary job.

To quote John Siden:

” Although Salud was subsumed under the health dept in the early 1970’s, soon thereafter all the county’s health functions were administratively reorganized and the clinic became a branch of Yolo General Hospital’s outpatient clinic…  It acquired a little more of a look of a traditional clinic, but in fact it was always the ugly step sister as far as the hospital was concerned.  But it had a dedicated and devoted staff, from the health workers through the MDs.

“The (original) organizing effort was so powerful that to this day the rather meek and mild Salud Advisory Board that lives on in county ordinance is listened to by local politicians far in excess of its present strength. …The forces (of) … the early 70s were still at work when the county set out to replace its facilities in WS in the early 90s… ( including) a new ( and far more luxurious ) Salud … (W)hen the hospital was closed in 1991 the clinic operations were taken over by Davis Community Clinic (now Communicare).”

Salud has come full circle, arriving at its beginning as a community clinic. Nonetheless, the new owners are absentees, and distant; they are not familiar with the local reality; they have far larger and more significant concerns, even though Salud remains the most active, profitable, and productive of their several clinics, like an ugly stepsister who is otherwise admired by the polyglot and multicultural  community for her CHWs and FNPs, and the constant, consistent, and  persistent devotion of David Katz, the chief Salud physician, who has a long history and awareness of the Salud Model and concept.

After Salud is suibsumed into the county government,  the RRH, stepchild of the Migrant Health project survives, but barely. I still have a soft spot in the brain for them, and agree to become medical director. They build a Dixon clinic and rent space in Esparto, and Courtland.  For a couple of years I try to breathe life into those operations, but fail miserably.   The millions of Federal dollars fade away. I leave but am still unwilling to let go of my own illusions, and  then agree to become medical director for a Federal project attempting to create an HMO for  Sacramento, where CHWs and FNPs are key providers. But again, the Federal DNA is fatal, and after a number of million dollars, the patient dies.  Yet,  I am  cured, at least superficially,  give up the private practice of Community Health. I devote my  next 25 years to Emergency Medicine,  to my family, and to traditional medicine

The most significant personal events of these past nearly fifty years have been:  First, 41 years with my fierce and stubborn  but tolerant wife and children; Second,  25 years in Emergency Medicine, the last 20 at Kaiser PMG. I think  often of Salud, vaguely aware of the changes over the years.

For a while after retirement I volunteered at Salud; it was rewarding to care fpr the same  patients we saw early on. Salud,  nominally,  has come full circle, arriving at its beginning as a community clinic. Nonetheless, the new owners are absentees; they are not familiar with the local reality,  the people, the history of Salud, or the concept. It seems they have far larger and more significant concerns to attend to, though Salud remains the most active, profitable, and productive of their several clinics–  a weird stepsister who survives and is adored by locals for polyglot and multicultural CHWs,  for FNPs, and  for the persistent effort of David Katz, who has a long history, devotion, and awareness of the Salud Model and concept.

Recently I spoke with Katz, and found the clinic name on line is name is now Communicare Health Center. Yet there is much unchanged–The CHWs and FNPs remain the body and soul of the operation, providing interpretation not only of language and culture, but of spirit, and community,  through vital connections that would never otherwise exist.  The heart of Salud remains the Board of Directors; it beats only quietly in the background, but it is alive.

To my family,  my love, sincere admiration and gratitude for patiently or at least kindly tolerating my excesses; and to  you all at Salud , for preserving, and further developing that which we began to create so long ago.   Because of you May 21, 2017 was the 46th anniversary of the opening of the Salud Clinic.

Bravo; Brava!

 

1 See three articles in the March 2004 History issue of Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine pp 5-20. Trappers came down from Oregon finding only the Sutter Buttes sticking up out of an inland fresh water sea; they brought malaria with them which decimated the native population. Cholera came up the river and decimated Sacramentans. In the 1850 flood of Sacramento, Dr Morse, whose office was on the second floor, floated dead bodies in the water below, until they could be moved. That was a very bad year!

2 One generations is often very different from the next, each unaware of the values and physical reality of the other. These buildings were structurally and hygienically marginal, but rents were $75, the equivalent of about $200 now. Yet they compared favorably to neglected motels, public housing, and rest homes, precisely because they offered a certain freedom, an independence, a dignity, in the way the people  interacted with one another and the surrounding community. The renters were from an age past, with their own set of truths and values. Single, usually older men, could be called bums. But they were a driving force in building Salud, and active on the Board.

3 I have a 1966 list of 117 migrant camps in Yolo County alone. Some 10,000 workers were required yearly from March to September. With the help of the Yolo County Health Dept, County Hospital, and Medical Society, we established four night clinics with follow-up at the Yolo General Hospital. Later the UC Davis School of Medicine opened and became involved. However within a very few years agricultural practices changed so radically that the camps are nearly all gone, and migrants generally seek work elsewhere. The migrant clinics became obsolete.

4 For a perceptive study on the East Yolo and the development of Salud, including the water problems, see Donna Fazackerley’s ‘The Politics of Health Care in East Yolo‘, which she submitted as a Senior Project for the UCDavis Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences in June 1973. Donna moved to Broderick and lived there for three months in preparing for her report. I also have somewhere a 4 page history of Salud, author unknown. It relates the development of the facility and includes a nine point exposition of the Salud concept for Community Clinics. It ends with the notation “Salud- Power to the People, 1972.”

5 We had to send stool samples to be examied for parasites, and of course the parents collected the samples, and took them to the hospital lab. I had once a wonderful letter from a lab technician where he colorfully described how he would arrive at work to face a clutter of bottles and cans, filled to the brim with stools. He hoped we would teach migrants how better to collect save the specimens.

6 There were many more. Among them Alfred Biles, Chuck Snodgrass, Ray Pines, Paul Gutierrez, David Ingberg, Alex Creighton, Gary Oschner, Tiny Di Julio, and Fran Molina were sub committee members, some on more than one committee. Fred Adams, Harold Hocker, Lloyd Newhall and Len Ortiz( plumbing), These were the people who sustained Salud in the difficult times ahead.

7 The training course held five afternoons weekly for 6 months, and was relatively intensive. Though the Salud CHW Training Manual was adapted by other programs, and went trough several revisions, I have only the templates for the first two sections and the Table of contents, for the original version. ( I am missing section 3.) Although local community colleges declined to offer a course or a career ladder for CHWs, it has been done elsewhere.

8 An El Dorado OEO project for Senior Citizens where CHWs performed most of the screening, and abnormalities were referred to local physicians.

9 I later was hired as physician and developer of a CHW training project for a federally funded HMO project in Sacramento. However it lacked community support and control, relying solely on very generous ( millionary) federal funding requiring a huge federal burden of oversight. It died almost as quickly as the money disappeared.

10 See: The Politics of Health Care in East Yolo. The problems and deliberations of the Board are presented with sympathy and accuracy by the author.

Isocrates, Milton, Osler, and the Internet

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Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress. Isocrates, 436-338 BCE   

Some 2360 years ago, Chios, Cos, Rhodes, and Byzantium bolted from the Athenian Confederacy over abuses of central power by Athens. Isocrates wrote a long essay urging peaceful resolution of the conflict. It was surely not delivered orally for the reasons he mentions in the opening paragraphs:

“…you do not hear with equal favour the speakers who address you… while you give your attention to some, in the case of others you do not even suffer their voice to be heard. And it is not surprising that you do this ; for in the past you have formed the habit of driving all the orators from the platform except those who support your desire …you ( cause them to say) not what will be advantageous to the state, but what (pleases) you. …how can (we) wisely pass judgement on the past or take counsel for the future unless (we) examine and compare ( opposing ) arguments? …although this is a free government, there exists no ‘ freedom of speech ‘ except that which is enjoyed…by the most reckless… .

It sounds very 21st century USA, doesn’t it?

Fights broke out Saturday during pro- and anti-Trump protests in Berkeley, California.

February 1, 2017 - Berkeley, California, U.S - Anti-fascist protesters dressed in black arrive at a protest on the University of California-Berkeley campus against Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart writer who has grown notorious for his comments targeting women and minorities. Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak Feb. 1 at the invitation of College Republicans but he left the campus an hour-and-a-half before his scheduled talk as protesters grew unruly, throwing objects and setting off a bonfire

Anti-fascist protesters using “black bloc” tactics – covering faces, dressing in black – arrive at the protest last week.Jeremy Breningstall/ZUMA

 

In the mid 15th century, thanks to the printing press, common people began to acquire printed material containing ideas or knowledge formerly limited to wealth, state and church’  which were joined at the hip. Later, In 1522, Luther published the bible in vulgar German, instead of Latin, making it widely accessible for the first time. Over the next hundred years wildcat or unschooled publishing exploded, causing rulers to fear a access to information- arguably knowledge- putting power in the  hands of a gullible and ignorant public. In 1641 Britain–to protect the public (of course) !– made all printing illegal without prior official approval. Two years later a defiant John Milton published Aeropagitica, a title he adapted from Aeropagitcus, where Isocrates urged the revival of the Aereopagus, a court to control education of the young and public immorality.

Since the1990’s the internet has become exponentially available to an entire world. Authority is challenged or attacked by unschooled, unapproved wildcat non line e.publishing that is consumed by an awakened, restive national and transnational public. Free Speech is again so intolerable that Isocrates’ stale words echo down the hallways of time, and it seems clear that –again– civil dialogue and speech are true lies that recur throughout what we call history. While in the past, technology driven change required centuries to come to a boil, this pot took only a few decades to boil over.

I try to believe our little e.fire  will cool down, that we will control the pot of the e.verse. Yet it seems even more techno-crises are almost upon us: artificial intelligence; bioengineering; bioprinting; robotic automation and their spawn; Mars; and driverless cars (though two story high trucks of open pit copper mines in Chile have not had drivers for many years.) I was once an arrogant little pilot, like so many physicians who fly and sometimes die. But long ago on a several week trip to Punta Arenas, on the straits of Magellan,  I found that even a simple array of instruments was a better pilot than I. Therefore, thinking of the unknowable,  which is now seems almost everything ahead, I know that–looking back– my greatest good fortune was to become a physician, not so much through merit as luck, and the influence of a friend. To study my physician predecessors and colleagues is to move outside my own limits. It reminds me of this from Empedocles:

The nature of god is a circle of which the center is everywhete and the circumferance is nowhere—!

and this from Mathew Arnold’s Dover Beach:

I say: Fear not! Life still
Leaves human effort scope.
But, since life teems with ill,
Nurse no extravagant hope:
Because thou must not dream,  
thou need’st not then despair

So today, wanting a dose of something other than alcohol, I pulled down Osler, but quickly put him back, in favor of pulling him up : such is the joy of a browser! Aequinimitas was his valedictory address, University of Pennsylvania, May 1889. He spoke of the physician’s need for equanimity:

 “ clearness of judgment in moments of grave peril, immobility, impassiveness, or, to use an old and expressive word, phlegm.”

Phlegm! How choice a word for equanimity that is! He continues in that grandiloquent elite euro-greco-roman slang :

“in the Egyptian story…Typhon with his conspirators dealt with good Osiris; …they took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds; and, as Milton says, “from that time ever since, the sad friends of truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them; We have not yet found them all,”

And there it is again! The quote is from Milton’s ...Areopagitica! 

 

The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis.

Letter 10: American Syncretism

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Feb 6 – Mar 25 2015 Brazil and Chile

In the USA we are familiar with syncretism of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in what we call The West, meaning Greece, Rome, and Europe. We speak of the Melting Pot especially in that regard. Yet The Americas, meaning the continents of our hemisphere, also share the unique mestizo heritage of our indigenous and European past.   Syncretism often reflects change, hopefully progress. But it can send a message; in several American countries,  Mexico, for example, El Día de la Raza  – or racial day- is celebrated on October 12,  which is Columbus day in North America. But there it is devoted to the mestizo or mixed race.  Syncretism can be seen everywhere.  In the Americas, especially in North and South America there are some curious inversions, geographical, linguistic, and cultural:

In the South, Daylight savings is ‘Spring back, Fall forward’; and Winter lives in the Deep South not the Far North. Santa spends Christmas in South America though he and his reindeer sweat in Summer heat. The global map below is a way of looking at the same world from another viewpoint.

In the Americas we share some holidays that sometimes seem out of place; the indigenous altiplano peoples love dance, song, and colorful costumes and in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, Halloween is celebrated with wild abandon: jack o’lanterns, witches, trick or treats; the next day is a traditional  Día De Los Muertos, or day of the dead, with feasting and ceremony held at a local cemetery, more strictly a Spanish American religious  holiday.

In Cuzco Cathedral there is a beautiful painting of the Last Supper by an Inca artist – of the  people who actually built the cathedral with stones originally carved by their ancestors, from structures torn down by the hands of the conquered at the command of the conquerors. The Cuzco painting features not wine, but chicha, a purple fermented corn drink. The meal is cui– roast guinea pig. There are corn based dishes the table. Judas clutches his gold in the lower right hand corner wearing the curiously browned face of Pizarro who looks directly out at the viewer, as does Christ. It is a syncretic symphony.

Where the Valley of the Inca meets Lake Titicaca, small groups of Uros live on their floating reed islands; I first was there 40 years ago, when they were isolated, impoverished, fearful, sickly and short lived. The children attend a floating totora reed island public school. They have solar electric panels,  with connections to the world, and have become quite worldly, taking visitors on guided tours in 30 foot long reed boats, welcoming them onto their islands, greeting them with multilingual songs, and coaxing visitors into conversations, story telling and singing. They invite visitors into their reed homes, explain the raising of guinea pigs and birds for meat, speak about potable water and waste disposal, and recycling systems. They welcome overnight visitors. The change from 1975  is almost inconceivable, until one takes into account syncretic development.

The oldest painting in a Sao Paulo museum, was done by a French artist who had never been there; all his native subjects wear white skin and French faces, a curious syncretic error. In North America Spanish and native place names are everywhere, among those of classical Greece, Rome, and Europe. Yet while we myopically worry, pander, and focus on the forever fratricidal Mideast and Europe, we become ever more American—North and South. Ordinary Americans are by most measures relatively apolitical, hardworking, and productive. That is a priceless advantage in a chaotic world; we try to preserve American syncretism, and reject Mideast bad tempered tribal misogynist and vindictive jealous gods who urge us to destroy one another in- of course- His name.

I am writing this at the home of a rancher in the Lake District of Chile. Even in this, the 4th year of drought, his farm is green because of the unique climactic conditions where mountain and sea air clash. He has set up a small hydro-power plant purchased in– of all places–Redding, CA. His home is modern, with automated radiant heating, showers– no tubs, no bidets. It is electronically world connected, but preserves a fancy old wood-burning kitchen stove that conveys a feeling of simpler times past. Even in summer, the old stove is lighted and used for cooking; it is ecologically sound for this region, operating on modest amounts of renewable fuel. It is a perfect syncretism of North, South, old and new.

Language itself a verbal and cultural living recording of syncretism;  indo-european group winds its way across the globe- from Sanskrit to English. Spanish and English in particular are melting pots of Indo-European languages,  rich with related words, ideas, literature.  In the Americas there is constant ebb and flow of language fostered by our proximity and shared past and present. 

While everything in our Americas North, South, or Central, is not ideal, or without troubles and unsolved problems, by comparison we are far more civil than much of the world, avoiding America wars. To young Americans everywhere I suggest this: Don’t just look East or West: Look North and South. The Americas are your home, our home; savor them, save them, cherish them, share them. As the saying goes, if everywhere is your home, Where is your home. While you should not reject the East and the West but your true syncretic  home and your wider American family is here, and now.

A Modest Proposal* on Diabetes Detection and Control

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Self Management of Early and Silent Diabetes or Pre-Diabetes

Colonet is an inland town of about 2500 in Baja California. I have gone there four times with my daughter Amy and the Los Gatos Methodist Church to build small houses. They have now built more than 40, generally during Easter vacations so school children can participate. There are two doctors offices and two pharmacies in the tiny  town but it serves a wide local area; ‘universal care’ is available at a government clinic staffed – in a common South American way –by a recent medical school graduate who must pay back year for year of medical school by staffing several remote rural clinics; he is there only a few hours each week, so people line up at 4 AM for one of the few openings. Otherwise they must see a private doctor at about US$35 a visit. For those who have a job, the average daily income is about US $10 per day, but work is not available year round. The nearest hospital is 60 Km distant.

It may seem surprising, but the area is highly agriculturally productive. The largest tomato grower in the world is nearby. The Driscol strawberries we buy here are grown in the region. Why? It sits between the ocean and the Sierra de San Pedro mountain range that reaches up 10000 feet to suck in winter  rain, allowing for irrigation like a tiny San Fernando Valley; water and sun and hard work make it productive. Migrant workers, often speaking no Spanish, invade for harvests. This year it rained a great deal and the area is lush with small blossoming plants and green with bushy growth.

The local Christian Church has been very helpful in building the small homes. They often help people to acquire a tiny  plot of land, which is a required, as well as someone in the family with a job. The pastor’s wife has diabetes as does her mother and their four year old  daughter;  they assisted in preparing for a series of evening diabetes screening clinics during my week there. The disease is so  common that among the first 20 people screened ( excluding the pastor’s family)  9 had diabetes or pre-diabetes.  Below is the translation from Spanish of the written introduction  and information that was given to people who attended the screenings. Of course, the problem is obvious: When you find a person with diabetes, under these circumstances what do you do? I believe self management is the only realistic, timely, and practical option. To make that sort of thing work, it is best for small groups of people with diabetes to work together over time to solve problems like Where to find medications and supplies most reasonably; How to measure and keep track of glucose levels; How to safely adjust medication in view of the results. The pastor  has an internet connection. It is a long and twisted road, but one that otherwise most Colonet people with diabetes travel alone. What follows below is information  provided at the screening clinics, addressing the screening process, the general nature of the disease, glucose self monitoring, and possibilities for  self treatment. It is translated and redacted  from a Spanish blog.

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RAPID SCREENING FOR DIABETES AND PRE-DIABETES

Blood glucose is measured about two hours after a sugar or starch rich meal.

Diabetes Positive Screening test:

  1. Any blood glucose level above 200 mg/dL at any time, including the
  2. Challenge test: Blood glucose above 200 mg/dL 2 hours after a sweet or starchy meal
  3. After 10 hour fast: any blood sugar over 125 mg/dL

PreDiabetes Positive Screening test:

    1. after a  10 hour fast: blood sugar 100-125 mg/dL
    2. 2 hours after sweet or starchy meal blood sugar 140-199 mg/dL

 Conversions between mmol/dL  and mg/ dL  here

Screening tests are highly suggestive but not diagnostic. When positive, reconfirm whenever possible, with a qualified laboratory and physician.

 These screening tests are valid at all ages.

Diabetes has serious complications, all caused by elevated levels of blood Glucose (sugar). In early years the disease is silent. One feels fine while high glucose levels destroy the most delicate but critical circulation in the kidneys, retina of the eyes, feet, and elsewhere.Fortunately we live in a time when prevention of that damage can be  effective, and simple. But only those who have or who discover their  disease can successfully treat it; especially those with the most common kind:  silent diabetes. To do that the disease must be revealed… diabetes diagnosed if present,. , and then controlled by:

      1. Using a personal glucose monitor to keep track of blood glucose levels
      2. Measuring and recording glucose levels
      3. Learning to manage the illness… i contend that is best done as a member of a small group who regularly share their experiences and information.

Some may wonder why it is essential or practical to self control and self manage this particular illness. Although it can best be done with the help of a physician, only the person who has this disease can do so. Physicians cannot hang around 24/7. The time a physician can actually help most is after the disease had done so much damage that a foot has to be cut off, or a kidney replaced: too late for prevention. A competent physician welcomes self management of early or silent disease. All this may seem complicated, but it becomes quite natural quickly when the diabetic can:

  1. measure, blood glucose, record the result, and then
  2. use the results to manage and control the disease
  3. share results and experience with others who have diabetes for: a) interpretation of results; b) finding sources for test strips, medications or professional advice;c) understand medications and ways to manage it. For example, glucose monitoring is crucial, but very expensive. However, an hour drive away is a large international chain store where  costs for glucose monitoring supplies are: ( US$):  Monitor $  9.00; 100 test strips $17.88; one time cost of lancing device $5.84; 100 lancet needles, $1.84 Total $34.24 , adequate for about 6 months monitoring– $0.19/day! By comparison,  costs where test strips alone are $ .50-.75 each, are many times that depending on how many strips are required.

The personal glucometer (glucose measuring device or meter) is inexpensive, accurate and lasts for years. One must learn to use it, use it regularly and record results and circumstances affecting each  test. . At first it is advisable to measure glucose levels often in order to better understand the illness. Yet because test strip use can often gradually be reduced to as little as 5 or six times weekly, plus anytime a concern arises. For example, one might suspect, for whatever reason, a blood glucose is low, and eat “just in case.” That should not be done: measure, don’t guess!  

 

The blood glucose monitoring record: ( for one month…the first of 30 spaces appear) below)

Date mo/day Time 24 hr Level before meal 2 hours later Useful details like: what was eaten, an unusual event like illness, or any other comment

 

How food affects blood glucose:

Carbohydrates fats and proteins can all be converted to glucose…which  is vital to the human body even if too much is harmful. Some carbohydrates convert to glucose very quickly and therefore are a problem for people with diabetes:

Fast: processed or refined bleached grains like white wheat flour, and white rice; processed fruit sugars (fructose) like corn sugar and beet or cane sugar; starchy vegetables like potatoes and some sweet fruits like peaches, apples, bananas, oranges.

Slow: beans, seeds like most  nuts, peas, lentils, meat, fish, chicken, cream is less fast than milk because less lactose, milk sugar.

Take control of your diabetes when  it is silent and serious irreversible complications are most easily prevented.

You are the only person who can control your disease!

Note 1) Insufficient insulin was discovered to be present in diabetes nearly 100 years ago. Insulin is made in the pancreas; in the most common sort, Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still can make some insulin, but not enough to meet the body needs; so glucose accumulates. The disease  usually gets worse with time– especially if not controlled well. In type 1 diabetes almost no insulin is produced, and that is a different but related illness.

Note 2) Fasting blood sugar— after not eating for about 10 hours– can be deceptive in Type 2 diabetes because the pancreas has been resting (usually overnight) making enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal or nearly so.

Note 3) Hemoglobin A1C test: Red blood cells are not alive. They were grown in the bone marrow, and when growth is complete, they are delivered to the blood where they act as tiny carriers of Oxygen. That Oxygen is delivered to the tissues, and the empty red blood cells are sent back for more. They live about 90 days and are then discarded. But when they were being formed they took in the amount of glucose that was in the blood at that time. Therefore, the average glucose level in those red blood cells is a measure of the average blood glucose during the previous 90 days. Problem: both high blood sugars and low blood sugars can be seen in early type 2 diabetes because the pancreas can over react to high blood sugars and therefore over-produce while trying to catch up at night. So an average of high and low glucose can be deceptively normal. Conclusion: a challenge test, similar to the old glucose tolerance test, is superior to looking at averages or fasting blood glucose level. This screening test is significant because it offers a fast, and economical screening that can be done by anyone with a glucose meter.

Note 4) The personal glucose meter was pioneered by Richard K Bernstein, an engineer with severe diabetes working on a glucose monitor for physician offices. His diabetes became so advanced he  began to control his own blood glucose very tightly and began to improve; then he did his own study among students, which suggested a personal glucose monitor was the key to diabetes control.   What happened is classic:The study results were rejected by the academic  medical profession. So he went to medical school and began to practice immediately as a diabetes specialist. His book –The Diabetes Solution- is largely viewable on line

Dr. Bernstein completely recovered on a very low carbohydrate high protein diet and tight glucose control; he suggests an average blood glucose of 81 mg/dL;  he is alive, and lively, over 80 years old. He participates regularly in Teleseminar Webcasts. The March 29 2017 event can be seen  here.

* A Modest Proposal is a 1729 satire by Jonathon Swift: For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick’. He outrageously suggests newborns be harvested for food to reduce the numbers of poor and also feed the rest. Perhaps the only bearing of Swift’s satire to this little essay is the focus on the millions of poor we seem willing to sacrifice to diabetes, even though it’s cruel, and irrational. and avoidable.

 By working together outside a system that tends to sacrifice the good to the perfect, and by self managing their own disease, people can at least greatly improve their lives and well being. Yet for our world’s millions of unsuspecting pre-diabetic and diabetic people, only those who discover their disease early and begin to self control it can easily limit its ravages. I believe that worldwide– and even in the USA– there are tens of  millions who could benefit from a similar process  until something more academically perfect comes along.

 Even privileged, idealistic and committed people can  become  insensitive, intolerant, and dismissive, based on disagreement about dogma, about the meaning of ideas and words. Words are, after all, only symbols; like metaphors they represent things or ideas usually unseen. When we hear or  read a word, we rewrite it in our own minds. We interpret and give it our own personal twist. When one half of our nation cannot stand to hear or see the other half, because of ideas or words, it would seem wise to ask ourselves Why do  Words Hurt? Why are we so willing to wound  one another? Or to  put another way, Why so terribly thin skinned? Who ever said ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me’ was from another era; like Swift.

It seems to me more appropriate to think about deeds rather than only  words. So in Colonet this year, I wore a baseball cap with a silent modest proposal written on the face to imply  that :

We are in this together. In this place, this nation, this world. We should try to ‘read’, or value one another for what we DO, not what  we appear to BE: Not color of skin or political affiliation; or religion; or citizenship, or age, sexuality or gender— but rather, our behavior; our acts; and judge ourselves and others as reasonably as our acts allow.

“THNIK”

 

Wheed Machey

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I have diabetes and use a long acting repository insulin that slowly is released over about 24 hours. At night, if my blood sugar is very low  I sweat and awake.* That can happen if I forget to eat at all  after mid day because of mild 
gastroparesis;  my slovenly slouch stomach just sits there silently doing-nothing. I don’t get hungry.  see https://nwalmanac.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/a-90-hour-fast/  

For the same reason, lazy stomach,  I don’t like to eat much before lying down to sleep; a meal will stagnate acidly while   waiting for attention like a supplicant at The Department of Motor Vehicles.

By contrast,  mildly low  levels during sleep can spin off splendiferous dreams. At night when my bed is toasty warm the little lake of repository insulin warms up  too, and that heat causes a faster release of insulin. Last night I had such a dream based on the following real life situations:

My daughter, a well known free lance writer, has been waiting during several years for an eminent national  U S newspaper to be granted a visa to send her to Cuba for an interview with their most popular TV personality; he has, in effect, become too big to fail; he gently but sharply lampoons the average Cuban’s encounters with the dictatorship.

Yet it is unlikely a visa will be granted for an interview in the near future because of the  politics and economic circumstances of the two countries. The Cuban government fears calling more attention the embarrassingly popular TV show magnate. Our government– while grandly announcing an historic breakthrough in  diplomatic relations, tourism and commerce– fears voters.  Long after the hoopla, no average citizen can visit freely, independently, economically, and legally.

The two governments have quietly collaborated on restrictions which give each what they want, but pitifully little to the average would be visitor who hopes to travel freely and communicate freely with average Cubanos. The restrictions  and process remain obscure, but effectively make it impossible to visit except under conditions imposed by cooperating tour agencies and privileged Cuban groups that can profit nicely from the  great interest in Cuba travel. It is as usual: profit and  politics rule.

But last night was different. In a low sugar moment, L’s visa was approved. After a long and involved series of preparations too detailed to recall or understand, she left. Shortly afterward, a mysterious person called to ask me to remind her to look up Wheed Machey in Havana. At that point I awoke, recalling that I had not eaten much supper. Blood sugar 73; half a banana and a quarter of an apple took care of that nicely.

But what to do about Mr. Machey? Afraid to forget details as in most dreams, I wrote down his name and slept on it. Today I called L, but she didn’t know how to reach him, so I am posting, emailing and Face-booking this open letter, hoping it will be shared, and ultimately reach Wheed Machey H:

Muy estimado Sr. Machey,

Le saludo cordialmente. Lamento la nececidad de intentar conectarme con Ud. de esta manera tan extraordinaria. Creo que posiblemente somos parientes. Mis tatarabuelos vivian en Matanzas ,  pero no se nada de ellos. Por la situacion internacional creo que no voy nunca poder viajar a Matanzas antes que me muera.   Con la esperanza que me pueda responder lo mas luego posible,

Atentamente,

Juan Heriberto Huachuca  Machey

 

*Long ago I used both insulin and two oral medications for diabetes; after 45 minutes sweating in a very hot sauna, which always delights me, I felt weak; thanks to the combination of oral medications and long acting insulin my blood sugar was 10! But since stopping all medication except insulin I have never had a similar problem.

 

The Journal Of John Woolman, Quaker

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My Kindle was lost somehow. Not thinking it stolen, but simply misplaced, I searched for a week. But found only that I was lost myself without it, and bought a Kindle Fire 7. It is a much superior edition than the old one, and with a wireless connection offers email, browsers, movies, on line series and much more. It has a decent battery and offers Amazon Prime movies and series. It uploaded all my old books, and I added a complete set of Harvard Classics as well as a complete set of Britannica Great Books…for $2.99 for each set. While I have both these 50 volume series in hard back, the kindle versions are portable and searchable. Instead of marking up the margins , flagging or dog-earing pages, I can highlight or save quotes.

The Harvard sets begin with John Woolman’s Journal. He was a Quaker who, after visiting Barbados (1671) became most known for his active opposition to slavery among his fellow Quakers. Woolman begins his journal with a short account of his youth, including an episode that is my own.

I saw… a robin sitting on her nest, and as I came near she went off; but having young ones, she flew about…. I stood and threw stones at her, and one striking , her she fell down dead. …I ( became) seized with horror, at having in a sportive way, killed an innocent creature while she was careful for her young….. I climbed up the tree, took all the young birds, and killed them, supposing that better than to leave them to pine away an die so miserably.”

Why my own? In the way that itinerant children must adapt and integrate to survive, I always did so, as my father moved us each year to different mining towns. I had to focus on those little worlds, completely unaware of the rest. In Santo Domingo, Chihuahua, Mexico, when I was about ten, my friends and I used slingshots meticulously fashioned from a proper stick, an inner tube strip of rubber and a leather pouch. We shot at lizards with rare success, but always killed imagined enemy planes. It was during WWII, but so fresh was the painful loss of the northern third of Mexico to the USA, that; they were always Gringo planes. We shot at most anything alive, and at lifeless windows in an abandoned buildings. We rolled rocks into canyons, heedless of whatever was below. We shot at bats in limestone caves by the light of carbide miner’s lamps.

One morning walking to school I shot at a sparrow perched on a wire. It fell. A strawberry sized hemorrhage developed immediately aside it’s head . I can still see it quivering on the dry ground.

Yet I have never had a second thought about rational killing. When my grandmother asked me to ‘wring a hen” or take the .22 and shoot a dying old Tom cat I did so without qualm. The headless hen flapped around for a little, and soon became dinner. Old Tommie stopped suffering. Like the faithful border collies, cats were only farm instruments to help control varmints. They had names, but never were ‘family’, never in the farmhouse, ever. There was no wealthy Small Animal Vet, waiting in the wings, no Veterinary Small Animal Medical Drug and Devise cabal.

A couple of days ago I went to a friend’s cattle ranch, to watch their annual roundup of calves for branding, tagging, immunizing, worming, and dosing with antibiotics. The veterinary medical aspects of the roundup process are fascinating and most procedures familiar to physicians, including the thoughtless and dangerous industry driven excess use of drugs and antibiotics.

The procedures themselves are brutal to the innocent eye and ear: Frantic crying and bawling of frightened calves, roped, tied down. Burning hair and skin of the brand. Blood from ear markings and castration, the injection of vaccines. Adjacent,  one hears the baleful angry calling of the calves’ mothers observing from a pen nearby. Frankly the castration reminds me of the way we once circumcised infant boys: restrain and proceed. But the mothers were not there.

Even so, a Round up is pageantry, and there is beautiful co dependent relationship between people, horses, and dogs. It seems surprising that small scale cattle ranching is so nearby, so extensive, so common, and so invisible. Many local horse /human skilled pairs at my friends small ranch roundup compete nationally; one is a current national champion, several are ranked or former champions in various aspects of their work and art. The cowboys, and girls, dressed up in their fine and fancy gear, working seamlessly with highly skilled horses, makes the word ‘awesome’ appropriate.

During the Fall or Spring, local ranchers go from one small ranch to another, in a spirit of camaraderie and community. Yet there is a subtle, subdued sense that they belong to a culture with no future; at least here where people seem to love to eat meat, but hate to see how it is made. California cattle ranchers seem to suspect that their way of life will be exported to some less chicken-hearted area; or be off shored. They fear of global warming may make us all heartless vegetarians,  in a recent version, dating from at least as far back as 1962 when Rachael Carson , published her seminal work, Silent Spring. They expect there will be a CA ballot initiative soon called the Cattle Cruelty Act.

Even so, I regret the coming loss of cattle culture, despite the feeling it is rational and in many respects politically inevitable. Surely dressage, horse racing, polo and such will survive; but these are  reserved for the wealthy and privileged, unlike the rough and raw culture of cattle ranching. How easily we are blinded by belief, by dogma.  I’m  reminded of of time I worked as physician on an expensive scientific expedition to Antarctica. It was on a refurbished icebreaker abandoned when the USSR collapsed. One day all 12 scientists and 20  pampered passengers watched Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth. We seemed to believe it all, while simulataeously burning more fossil fuel on that one  trip, producing more global warming gas in that week than 400,000 methane producing cattle could in a year. There is a story about Alaska: A pilot crashed and survived by eating a Bald Eagle. When rescued by the Forrest Service, he was arrested for killing a protected bird. In court he plead no lo contendere, guilty, then was let off, considering the circumstances. But the judge was curious and asked what Bald Eagle tasted like. The accused thought a moment, scratched his chin and said

“Well, judge, somewhere between a California condor and a spotted owl.”

As to Woolman’s lifetime long efforts and essays. or addresses to  Friends on slavery, and abolition, they are well worth reading, and re reading. I have a much better understanding  and admiration of Quaker thinking, and their situation among Northern colonies.   Of course I never will  shoot at a sparrow again. The experience was painful, and the bird was dry, tough, and tasteless, without enough meat to keep a bird alive; I doubt Woolman’s robin was  any better.

Book Review: The Log from the Sea of Cortez

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With the Dec 7 1941 attack of Pearl Harbor, my father immediately volunteered with the Naval Sea Bees hoping to build airfields, and bases. Yet he was a geologist and mining engineer at a large remote Cascade range copper mine in Holden Washington.  Since copper was essential to the war effort he was rejected by the Navy, and quickly transferred to the Santo Domingo copper mine in the Municipality of Aquiles Serdán, Chihuahua, Mexico, to help develop it and other nearby copper mines. He was 33 and I was 9. We lived in those particular parallel worlds of father and son. I understood nothing of the Great War or mining, but everything a boy can know about the demanding and transient childhood culture of boys in remote little mining towns. He understood blasting hard rock a mile or more underground, and analyzing diamond drill cores to make 3D maps of mineral deposits. I understood  one had to carry a stick to make it to school unscathed until he could transform himself into a local peer.

In that March and April of 1942 of the log, we lived about three hundred miles to the West, of where John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts, were in their own parallel world with a crew of three, aboard a boat on the Sea of Cortez. They were collecting littoral sea shore specimens at each low tide,  and afterward sorting and preserving the specimens, and collaborating on a journal while joyfully consuming 2500 bottles of Corona beer. They knew not of the crush of  day to day events of WWII, nor did their close Monterrey friends know of  their days and nights on The Sea of Cortez… sea cucumbers, limpets, rays, swordfish, Gulf of California life forms including the local human  inhabitants.

While my former Holden childhood friends shot down  imagined Zeros, my new friends and I shot down Gringo warplanes. In the Cascades of Washington, WWII raged. In Chihuahua wounds from loss of the northern 1/3 of Mexico’s territory still wept. Each world was unaware of the other. That has generally been the way of humanity, at least until recent decades when people are progressively more heavily bombarded with the sounds and sights of suffering people in other contemporaneous worlds, thanks to technology. It remains to be seen if that assault of ugly information will lead to more  mutual understanding, or will dull our sense of common humanity. So far the outcome is in great doubt, as if we are the generations of chaos suggested by Moisés Naím in The End of Power,   another book review on this blog. 

But The Log from the Sea of Cortez. ISBN978-0-14-019744-1 is the subject of this review. The cover names only John Steinbeck, and yet the content, and interplay of writing styles, clearly supports the two old friends claim that they both wrote it. They make that claim in a brief introduction as well as in the text; there is a rough map of the route; there is a Glossary of Terms- mostly devoted to taxonomy and ecology. But on first opening the book The Appendix drew my attention. It is a long eulogy to Ricketts written in Steinbeck’s, sharp, often moving and often humorous, unhurried rich prose on the life and death of his friend and co-author.

That long eulogy is in contrast to the many sections of the log with taxonomic names and descriptions, and pithy commentary about ecology, the nature of collecting specimens, the importance of life’s diverse forms; and life’s natural purpose – or better said- non purposeful, non teleological nature. There are many dense little essays on the ecology, the one-ness, of living and non living matter, and the interrelation of individual animals to the collection of all those individuals that make up and entirely different animal; there are crisp philosophical discussions on the nature and fate of life. The log is clearly a joint effort by two great writers who became one, in separate but contemporaneous world of the 1941 Sea of Cortez.

A brief introduction sets forth the authors’ vision: “We take a tiny colony of soft corals from a rock in a little water world… Fifty miles away the Japanese shrimp boats are dredging with overlapping scoops …destroying the ecological balance of the whole region. … Thousands of miles away the great bombs are falling and the stars are not moved thereby. None of it is important or all of it is.” But the following 221 pages of log entries make clear the authors believe that both are true: none and all.

The pages are encrusted with zoological terms, sticking like limpets to the pages. There is a glossary of terms —from Aboral ( upper surface of a starfish brittle star, sea urchin.), Amphipod, (paired legs of beach hoppers, sand fleas, shrimp-like crustaceans..), Atokous ( sexually immature forms of certain polychaet worms) … to zooid (individual members of a colony or compound organism having a more or less independent life of its own.

The Log is chronological. It begins by detailing the process of finding a suitable boat, The Western Flyer–a 70-some foot long well maintained and well built trawler; finding and getting aboard scientific equipment and supplies, six weeks food stores, and introducing the reader to the characters crew, including an outboard engine that has its own troublesome personality. It becomes immediately evident these writer/explorers are not simply adventurers, but a team of zoologist ecologist and gifted writer.

By March 11, at page 25, after a days-long raucous celebration and farewell, they cast off. The log speaks of writers classically educated in history and literature and science, in the mold of lovers of knowledge: Philosophers. The Captain, Tony, is a solid sailor, a careful hard bitten technician. Tex is the engine man whose very bones are parts of a diesel engine; Tiny and Sparky are old friends, ‘bad boys’ become bad men, rough sailors, whose perceptions and salacious comments are–to everyone’s delight– in sharp contrast with those of the toney writers. Page 18 begins a seven point/paragraph introduction to the remaining crew member, an outboard engine called The Sea Cow, who always promises to propel their skiff, but always refuses, or quits when it causes the greatest problem. They row. Except for the captain and Sea Cow they all share a great affiliation with 2500 bottles of Corona beer.

This log is informative, entertaining, and thought provoking. The fame of the authors makes it especially notable and relevant to those familiar with the Monterrey area and history. It is doubly enjoyable to me because in the same days and nights described in the log, I lived nearby in my own very different parallel world, one that is in another sense the same world. Goodreads offers many quotes and have note-booked many of Steinbeck’s beautiful portraits of people, seascapes, places, children, towns, officials, and natives; and many pithy Ricketts short essays on the nature of nature, of ecology, of relationships among living beings. But if one doesn’t read both Steinbeck and Ricketts in their log habitat, they seem to me lifeless as a diaphanous pellucid sea creature in a specimen jar, where color and motion and even structure are lost. To enjoy that one must simply… Jump into the Log!