Saturday, February 20, 2016

Boys of Spring: Leslie's Homage to Dodger Town

Every year from 1974 to 1992 Leslie and I visited my retired parents in Vero Beach, Florida, during  spring training. The Dodgers no longer train there but the memory lives on. Photos are great but her drawings on back of plain postcards capture how stars seemed like friends and fields of green grass felt like your back lawn.

An autographed drawing of Pedro Guerrero giving an autograph. The slugger did a double take when asked to sign the drawing. No wonder he was a good hitter.

Steve Garvey at bat. He always expected everyone to look at him and always had a pleasant smile on his face.

Maury Wills, the great base stealer, always had an audience around first base. We thought he would be a great coach or manager. That year Davy Lopes seemed to be Wills' major project. Lopes is now a great first base coach.

Manny Mota, the great pinch hitter, had the most well thought autograph. Trouble was they sold us a ballpoint that didn't work so Manny's "M" is blurred and his "O" a bit out of control.

Fernando Valenzuela became Leslie's annual spring drawing. Here he is in 1982, the year after he won Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young award

She didn't get his autograph in 1983; can't remember if it was because Fernando was a very big deal by then. There is an "LA" instead of a number on the jersey so maybe he was wearing a practice jersey. This is a very good drawing, easy to see why batters didn't want to face Fernando's screwball

The spring after Fernando's first losing season, Leslie got his wife's autograph, Linda Valenzuela.
The Tokyo Giants twice joined the Dodgers in Dodge Town
During their earlier visit, she got Sadaharu Oh's autograph. He hit 868 home runs.

The drawing below is of two Giant catchers

Who were not unlike the terns at the beach

Only good memories of Dodger Town, especially with 
Sadaharu Oh at bat looking like Mel Ott

I met my boyhood hero Mickey Vernon there
who for one year was the Dodger's batting coach

And at Vero Beach I learned I was not cut out for baseball. During the 1976 lockout that delayed spring training, Leslie saw Joe Ferguson on the beach and learned from him where the boys were practicing on their own. We dropped by. I think that Garvey and Dusty Baker are in the poor photo below.

And I think that is Davy Lopes at the plate. Obviously he wasn't wearing a number. I cropped most of the Vero Beach high school players in the background but kept the glove in the foreground. The players, only about 6 or 7, were amenable to fans going out into the field to help shag the flies. Not me. Don Sutton was throwing easy pitches and the resulting line drives were blistering and the grounders ball breakers. No way did I want to get in the way of them.

Leslie's favorite baseball pose is the catcher crouched down ready for the pitch. So she signs off with drawing of one, Don Crow, a rookie who didn't make it, which, unfortunately, is what spring training is basically all about for most players.

See more of Leslie's art at: Kuter Art 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Amateurs, Play On! (January 30, 1977, Washington Post Show Section)

One Saturday night not long ago while the big political fish were off spawning, Ditte Kaufman threw open her cozy Capitol townhouse and let the Trout run. The musical soiree began quietly enough - a Haydn Quartet and Bach Cantata- and then Norman Irvine lugged a double bass the size of Kate Smith through the front door.

With the quick eyes of a musician on the trail of a quintet, Irvine cased the instrument cases in the hall. He saw the trappings of a violin, viola, and cello, heard the piano and without further ado fished out the music of Schubert’s Quintet in A Major, Opus 114, a.k.a. (since it attempts so many slippery and fishy with the tune of a Schubert song of the same name) the Trout.

Word that the Trout was loose rippled through the dozen musicians and soon four amateurs volunteered to set out with Irvine to catch it. Lawrence Wallace, a deputy solicitor general of the United States, manned the violin, Marty Plotkin, a computer programmer, tuned his viola. Steve Flanders, a political scientist, steadied his cello and discussed tempo with Louise Lee, a church organist, who was poised at the piano.

Irvine, a professional musician who has played for the National Symphony, welcomed the amateurs. The quintet had never played together, but after a deep breath, they took off in allegro vivace -- and then some.

From the first bite of the violin, the wine-sipping crowd of 20 arrayed on couches and the living room floor knew they weren’t rooting for either Isaac Stern or Izaak Walton. Still, they were wise enough to know that to appreciate The Good, one must be acquainted with The Not So Good.

At the end of the first movement the crowd let out a shout. Marty Plotkin shook his shoulder-length hair with a “Wow!” The deputy solicitor murmured about “some approximations” but looked as pleased as Hamilton Berger before Perry Mason begins the case for the defense. A few of the weak-hearted fled to the dining room, and the spread of wine and snacks on the table there.


So the musicale is alive and … well, alive. The evidence is apparent in Kaufman’s Capitol Hill living room, in Constance Holden’s apartment off Columbia Road, and in the Old World charm of Heidi Wiencke-Lutz’s Kensington home.

A directory called Amateur Chamber Music Players lists only 30 people in the Washington area who want to get in touch with others to join them in music making. But few in the know believe that is the limit of the Have Instrument, Will Travel crowd here. Amateur players seek out rumors as they find them (are there really 150 secret string quartets in the State Department alone?), quietly lure friends to their pianos, and introduce themselves without warning to anyone seen carrying a violin case.

Lew Lipnick, contrabassonist for the National Symphony, was enlisted at the tender age of 13 into the musicales his family doctor used to have.

“There must be one musicale a week out in Silver Spring and Chevy Chase,” Lipnick says. “Per capita, Washington probably has more than New York, and maybe as many as the San Francisco area. There must be at least a thousand amateur musicians here, and good ones, too.”

Meanwhile, harpsichordist Reilly Lewis has begun signing up musicians, music lovers, and hosts who’ve always wanted to organize a party around a couple of string quartets, into a program called Musical Offering, Inc. (3439 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, Va., 22201). The musicians rate themselves, tho potential hosts let their needs be known, and the appropriate match-ups are made.


Kaufman, a native of the Netherlands, is a free-lance translator. Like her former husband - psychiatrist Harold Kaufman, owner of Harold’s Rogue and Jar - she has been on the Washington music scene for many years. Five years ago she began inviting people over to play chamber music.

"I’ll phone about 10 musicians, half amateurs and half members of the National Symphony or players in the armed service bands. And then I’ll phone about 20 people who like to listen to music. The musicians will bring along other musicians, and people will bring friends. I try to keep the number of people to under 50.”

She likes things to be spontaneous. “Maybe I’ll ask one person to play something special or invite a poet to read, but most of the time the musicians bring the music and see what’s available and then play what they want.”

Some nights she’s like a general marshaling the troops.

“Once we had guitars playing in the hall, a string quartet in the living room, recorders in the dining room and madrigal singers outside. People are always coming and going and sometimes we don’t stop until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Kaufman’s genius is collecting people as varied as the prints and paintings or her wall. Some of the musicians and guests (students, professionals, neighbors) seems at one with the 18th century prints she has on the wall behind her piano. Others have the splash-dash flair of her Hundertwasser posters and paintings. She’s no Contessa of Capitol Hill holding wakes for the Old World. Che Guervara posters paper the bathroom.


Constance Holden, a writer for Science magazine, has a passion to play the piano. Every few months she invites eight to 10 musicians to her apartment just off Columbia Road.

“I never invite another pianist, so I get to play all the time. Sometimes we get people playing in every room of the apartment. We can make quite a racket. I love it. And I invite a few people over who just listen. People are pathetically grateful to listen to any live music.”

Holden’s music room is just big enough to accommodate one quintet after the Trout, but any listener who took umbrage at the performance at her first musicale of the season could move a few feet over to her living room and listen to madrigal singers and recorders.

Bob Greene, a tennis instructor and clarinet player, has been going to Kaufman’s and Holden’s events since they began. He also recalls wild one night stands.

“Ah, the Bach and Beer Society -- That was about four years ago. A friend of mine took me to a gathering at a house near the Cathedral. I haven’t heard anything about the Bach and Beer Society since, though. In many ways the chamber music scene is much like pick-up basketball games.”

Reilly Lewis hopes his organization will do to chamber music what recreation leagues did to pick-up basketball games.

“It’s a nonprofit referral service for musicians, a total-resource operation,” says Lewis, who after being a student of Nadia Boulanger’s in Paris can hardly be expected to settle quietly in his job as music director of Clarendon Methodist Church. “Any musicians, amateur or professional, can fill out a form, rate themselves and then Musical Offering can help them get in touch with other musicians. And the professional musicians are eager to participate. Some National Symphony members are starving to play chamber music. And people who aren’t musicians can arrange to just listen. We can have musicales like Ditte Kaufman’s all over the area, even in the remotest suburbs!”


After the Trout ended and musicians and audience filed into Ditte Kaufman’s dining room full of snacks, some musicians were eager to talk about Lewis’s plan but others seemed to prefer romance over organization. “There’s a woman named Heide Weincke-Lutz who has musicales,” Mike Donaldson, who had just sung a Bach cantata, related with a smile. “Furtwangler and Kirsten Flagstad used to come by for evenings at her parents house in Germany. She’s trying to keep the tradition going.”

Indeed, a jovial Heide Weincke-Lutz does try to keep the tradition going in Kensington. But although she is “very, very happy” when she can get 10 or 12 good musicians in her house, she admits that it doesn’t really harken back to her days in Schwarz-Sonderhausen, a town of 10,000 with a concert hall and an opera house “that put the Ring on every three years.”

Her family had the best guest room in town and a good piano. Where else was Flagstad to stay and warm up when she came to sing for the Schwarz-Sondershauseners?

That romance is ashes now. Weincke-Lutz can’t remember if it was the Russians or Americans who bombed the old opera house into ruins.


By 11 o’clock, the stars had arrived at Kaufman’s. Reilly Lewis was officiating at the piano. Members of the National Symphony Orchestra were trickling in fresh from Rostropovich and Shostakovich.

Soon an eager amateur charged into the dining room: “Oh you missed a wonderful piece! We have to get a recording of Hummel’s Septet!”

Kaufman thinks one of the most exciting things about her gatherings is the chance it gives amateurs to play with professionals. “The professionals are so good about playing with them.”

“After playing Shostakovich I’m really too tired to play anything here,” said the Symphony’s trumpet. John DeWitt, ’but I always have such a good time at Ditte’s. I didn’t want to miss coming. I’m really glad I’m here. I couldn’t think of a better place to come to, after what happened.”

On his way over, DeWitt endured one of the brief discordancies of civilization. Two kids mugged him, busted his eyeglasses, cut his forehead and stole his wallet, which had $60 in it. But he still had his trumpet, and they didn’t cut his lip.

During the Fourth Brandenburg the police interviewed DeWitt quietly.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” sighed Kaufman.

Ironically, the mugging seemed to improve the music. The surrounding world of violence that had so rudely intruded inspired the musicians and listeners. Each note, each harmony, seemed welcome evidence that civilization still existed.

Lew Lipnick played a solo composed for him by a friend. An hour earlier he had been pacing the hall angered at what had happened to his colleague DeWitt.

Then Norman Irvine steadied his double-bass in front of the 20 or so people who remained at 1 in the morning. The diffident, soft spoken man -- “if you don’t get enough wine in you, you don’t do this sort of thing” -- launched boldly into a Bach Suite “for unaccompanied cello with accompanist,” he said, waving to Reilly Lewis at the piano. “I need him to cover up my mistakes.”

Irvine played a sonata for bass by Henry Eccles.

“Who is Eccles?” somebody called out.

But sitting on the floor a few feet from the double-bass, Eccles slapped the back like an old friend.

Then Bill Patterson of IBM and Bob Kraft of the National Symphony played a recorder sonata with keyboard accompaniment,

“When in doubt, trill,” laughed Kraft after one movement.

But Lewis covered his mistakes, his piano a lively, graceful understatement that brought a tear of joy after the Trout, the mugging, the Hummel and the Eccles.

Music lovers of Washington, quit the solitude of your lonely rooms.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Moby Goldfsh

In the fall of 1973 I bought two goldfish for a quarter at the steamy tropical fish store on H Street in Chinatown. For another quarter I bought a box of goldfish food. The fish, no bigger than an inch, found a new home in an old two-gallon tank I had around the apartment. I named one Bix after Bix Beiderbecke and the other Hooey after the favorite expression of my Far Eastern history professor. I fully expected to enjoy their short lives.

I had owned goldfish before and none had ever celebrated the first anniversary of its becoming my pet. But I didn't mind the brief acquaintance. Goldfish lived quietly, and died quietly.

In the fall of 1974 Bix and Hooey thrived. Not only did I buy a second box of goldfish food for 39 cents (for a one-ounce box) but I invested in an air pump so I wouldn't have to change the water in their tank every two weeks. I feared that the air pump would be noisy. To my relief, it sounded like a babbling brook - the quietest sound in the universe. I even moved the tank into my bedroom. The sound of water, I found, was conducive to sleep.

My second box of goldfish food didn't last a year. It fed my fish for 10 months and seemed to have more effect than the first box. Hooey grew a tad longer than Bix and began bullying his companion. At least their contretemps were quiet.

To give Bix a chance I bought a five-gallon tank and placed a little rock garden complete with a little Buddhist temple at the bottom. If the symbol didn't quiet Hooey, Bix could at least hide behind it.

In the fall of 1975 I began bragging to friends about my goldfish going on three. I didn't knock on wood. Bix came down with red blotches on his fin, tail and body. I prepared for the end thankful that fish don't whimper.

Then a friend told me that science had made medicine for fish. I bought eight 250mg tablets of tetracycline hydrochloride for $1.99, popped them into the tank and cured what I learned was probably bacterial hemorrhagic septicemia! Well, cured for a a few months at least. The dread disease broke out regularly and just as regularly responded to medication. I began calling the bane "goldfish acne."

Another test came for me.

My pet store stopped carrying the 39 cent boxes of goldfish food. Instead of those crunchy concoctions of cornmeal that reminded me of the "sleepy sands" I found in my eyes after a good night's sleep, the store carried goldfish food flakes. These large oily wafers that actually smelled fishy cost $1.69 for a 3/4 ounce box. That's $37 a pound. The label argued why. Engineers or chefs had combined 10 ingredients including cod liver, kelp and dayfly eggs into flakes that carried a guaranteed analysis of 30 percent crude protein, 3 percent crude fat and 10 percent crude fiber.

I solaced myself with the belief that my finny 4-year-olds would never live long enough to devour a pound of that ambrosia. But all that crude did not go for naught.

I have not kept a journal of my growing relationship, financial and personal, with my fish. I can give evidence of their ravenous appetites. I have a growing collection of empty $1.69 to $1.89 boxes. Friends can attest to Bix and Hooey's remarkable growth, which is not to say that it pleases me that the first thing said upon entering my bedroom is, "My, your fish have grown!"

Only I can attest to the nightmares. The crescendo of high boot goose steps! The Gestapo wasn't after me when I awoke. Bix and/or Hooey were rolling their Buddhist temple over their rock garden,
I bought a 10-gallon tank hoping that liberal doses of flakes, which float, would keep them from rooting around the bottom in sacrilegious racket.

Not long after, I dreamed of thrashing water, screams of men! The sinking of the USS Indianapolis, and I was there as the sharks feasted on hundreds of men. Quint, of "Jaws" fame, was there!

It was only Bix and Hooey scrimmaging at their soggy salad bar. In the morning I put a finger in their tank. One of them bit it. They're both big, both gluttons, both mean. Neither has outgrown acne. I can't tell them apart.

While the quiet relationship between me and my goldfish has ended, friends tell me I am lucky. I have goldfish with personality. They always wiggle... for food and more food at $37 a pound! And don't forget their $453 a pound tetracycline hydrochloride habit, and their propensity to reinterpret my dreams.

Proud as I may be of my two five-inch 8-year-olds with personality plus. I still keep a copy of Melville's Moby Dick by my bedside, just in case.

Published in Washington Post Magazine, September 27, 1981, as Bedroom Leviathans. Drawing by Leslie Kuter who fed them half the time.

R.I.P. Bix and Hooey died the summer after I wrote the article. We let friends of friends use our apartment and also care for our goldfish. When we returned the fish were dead and the stricken caretakers said they kept giving them food even though they seemed dead which, of course, made the tank an awful mess. So even in death our once dear little goldfish lived large, running up their tab until the bloated end.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Less Tanks, More Apple Pie: two encounters with Pete Seeger

There is something pure about an obituary: facts, garnished with quotes, sprinkled with commonly held assumptions about the obituated's influence, and when it is a non-operatic singer in question, most to the point is how Bob Dylan was influenced, though to be sure, the phrase "influenced Bob Dylan" is all that can be said because who the hell really knows.

We were all influenced by Pete Seeger. He was famous. That's what fame means, an influence for better or worse. When I made a feint for a guitar once, my brother Bill said with an angry sneer "You are not going to sing that Pete Seeger stuff?"

Remembrances of the just dead is a tricky genre since it usually winds up more about the rememberer than the remembered. On the CBS morning news show they showed an interview Charlie Rose did with Pete Seeger in the 1980s and immediately afterwards Rose's colleagues remarked about how good he, Charlie Rose, looked and sounded in the interview.

Pete made people look good and feel good. He was a singer who liked people, a rare bird when you think deeply about it.

Leslie and I had two run ins with Pete because Leslie was invited to Nicaragua for the Third Anniversary of the Sandinista Triumph and neither one of us spoke Spanish good enough to get by. Leslie was making a mural for the foreign minister Miguel D'Escoto and worked at the art school, a dusty building or two close to Lake Managua. We heard that there was a teacher there who spoke very good English. We latched onto Mika.

Mika liked Leslie because she was a good artist and hard worker, and, strangely, she liked me because I was content to louge around reading poetry and threatening to write some while Leslie worked. I think she was burned out by being around macho Latinos jealous of her competence and impatient at her lack of deference to them. Anyway we all became friends.

When we left Nicaragua, Leslie explained to me that Mika was Pete Seeger's daughter. We went back to Nicaragua a few years later and while Mika prepared some shrimp for lunch for us and our sons (she now had a little house and pottery studio on the shores of Lake Managua), she sang the folksong "Mary Anne" which convinced me that she was Pete's daughter. Here's an after lunch photo:

Back in the states, we vacationed up in the St. Lawrence Valley and one summer decided to go down the Hudson valley on the way home and visit friends. That took us near Mika, who had just moved back to the US after breaking up with her Nicaragua companion. She was staying at her parents' place in Beacon. We arranged to have lunch with her there.

The Seeger house is the beacon of Beacon, straight up a wooded hill just out of town. We drove a huge lime green 1976 Pontiac Electra

and as I gunned it up the hill, I hoped that if Pete were there that he had a secret love of gas guzzlers. Doubting that, I hoped that Pete wasn't there. Indeed, I expected he wouldn't be. He was famous after all. Why would he be at home?

But he was, and Mika wasn't there. Fortunately just out to get somethings in town.

It proved easy to explain yourself to the Seegers. Pete's wife Toshi more or less gave us the eye and left us alone. Pete put us at ease and didn't react to my apologies for the gas guzzler, only to say that some worse cars had roared up that hill. We had our 3 year old son Ottoleo with us. Mika's sister Teenya was there with her five year old son, who was still getting breast fed. Plus there was a young German woman just in from East Berlin.

We saw the sturdy modest (but famous) Seeger cabin but everyone except Toshi seemed to orient around a large table on a concrete slab. There was a separate house, we assumed for Teenya. And, I think, when she and her son Tao came back, Mika showed us hers and Toshi's kiln. There was a good view of the Hudson and the best place to get that view was where Pete chopped firewood.

Of course, Toshi was busy getting the food and while nothing seemed special lunch was clearly the main event up on the beacon of Beacon. The only bother was that the phone kept ringing. Toshi would get up from the table and answer it. Call for Pete. He'd get up and then come right back. He got about three calls and maybe missed five minutes of the lunch conversation, and missed none of the food. How many famous people can manage that trick?

I think he was tickled to have the guest from East Berlin. The wall was just down. We could join the conversation because just the year before thanks to our Austrian diplomat friend we got through Check Point Charlie without the required pass and motored to Sans Souci illegally and toured the museum and grounds.

The news of the day was national angst over whether we had enough tanks to manage another hot spot in the world. As we dug into apple pie which Pete explained was the greatest American invention, he offered the slogan for the day:

"We should send the world less tanks and more apple pies!"

We visited Mika again about 5 years later. She lived on a farm with her new husband in Rhode Island. We stopped in for lunch between seeing friends in Stonington and Boston.

The first thing that startled us about Mika's farmhouse was that it looked not unlike the house she had in Managua. No screens on the window. The second thing that startled us was that Mika wasn't there. The third thing was that Pete was there doing the dishes with Penny, Mika's adopted daughter, looking on.

It turned out he was there to sing at a fund raising event for a local cause. I began to wonder if Pete ever had lunch away from his family in a place like home. He was famous. People would pony up for any number of good causes to have lunch with him.

Anyway, dishes done, he, Leslie and I set about entertaining Ottoleo and Penny. We eventually turned to noise making instruments. Ottoleo had had piano and drum lessons. We had bongos in the trunk. Penny seemed keen to pound on a little guitar. I tried to frame a memory for Ottoleo of his playing music, maybe even singing, with Pete Seeger. I reminded Ottoleo of "In the Jungle" and "Put Down the Ducky" which elicited no great sparks of creativity. We always played a CD of Weaver's songs in the car. Pete fondly recalled how over produced they were. Pete did sing and play the banjo. I took a lousy photo.

Then Mika, Toshi and another little girl arrived with the fixings for lunch

I got the impression that Pete enjoyed our company at lunch at Mika's house for reasons other than his fondness for people. Mika's husband, a retired engineer, never got off his tractor to join his illustrious father-in-law for lunch. Imagine for a moment that there was someone in your spouse's family who had a endless knack for spouting upbeat optimism.... maybe you'd miss a lunch or two

We all pitched in to clear and clean the dishes, done so quickly that I have no idea if I can brag that I cleared Pete's plate off the table or he cleared mine. Then we went to the shop in town where Mika sold her pottery. This time the lunch conversation was all about vegetables.

But Pete's brief outburst on the banjo and children's song I can't remember solidified my ideas of what made him a great folksinger. To me, it always sounds like he has the jump on the song he is singing. Most banjo players I've known avoid singing at all. The banjo is all over any song in an instance. 

I had a brief  acquaintance with Pete's half brother Mike Seeger and he seemed to sing while playing the banjo in the opposite way that Pete did, a sort of lagging growl which I think was a honest imitation of how banjo pickers in the mountains where Mike lived sang.

Pete's song always has a slight jump on the accompaniment, and to me that has two virtues: keeps me awake and gives me the, usually wrong,  impression that I also know the song. Maybe that's why Pete had such a knack for getting everyone to sing,

And maybe that's why he was such a good communist. You can call a famous man who does the dishes and has a passion for lunch at home with guests either a small "d" democrat or a small "c" communist. Pete was a communist because he was out in front of every song and bringing us out there altogether. 

Your small "d" democrat is a nice enough fellow and certainly with him no feathers are going to ruffled but you won't come away with that delirious illusion that there's a better song and soon we'll all be singing it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Restoring Beavers in New York, 1914 update

In the early 1900s the State of New York began restoring beavers in the Adirondacks, the state's principal wilderness area that fills most of the northeast section of the state. In 1910 the Adirondacks included between 5000 and 6000 square miles of mostly forested mountains, lakes, plateaus, but villages, sawmills and mines as well. By then it had been settled with about 100,000 permanent residence and timber and mineral resources had been tapped for a century. Most of the report just pinpoints where beavers have been seen. I hope to include maps soon so better sense can be made out of the spread of the beavers from 1905 to 1914, but there is a poetry in all the names of lakes and streams, for anyone who likes beavers.

from State of New York

Fourth Annual Report of the Conservation Commission 1914

Return of Beavers to the Adirondacks

The beaver has been restored to his favorite haunts, the Adirondacks, by means of restocking and effective protection, according to the reports of systematic observations of protectors and others received by the Conservation Commission. These investigations show that there are to-day between 1,500 and 2,000 beaver in the wilds, which the Iroquois Indians called "Koh-sa-ra-ga," "The Beaver-Hunting-Country," and whose ownership was challenged by the Canadian tribe, styled in derision by the Mohawks, the "Adirondacks," the "Tree Eaters."

The Adirondacks to-day are again entitled to their old Iroquois name, for they are rapidly becoming the country of the Beaver, although this favorite fur bearing animal is no longer persecuted by the trapper and hunter.

The Legislature of 1903 appropriated $500 to begin the restocking of the Adirondacks with beaver and in 1905 three pairs were liberated. One pair were given their liberty on a small stream entering the south branch of Moose river, where another beaver which had escaped from the Woodruff preserve had built a dam. The other four were liberated on the northeast inlet of Big Moose Lake, but moved over into Beaver river, twenty miles ot the northeaast, to being housekeeping. During 1905 Edward H. Litchfield liberated about a dozen beavers in his preserve near Big Tupper Lake, and several of these escaped into adjoining preserves.

In 1905 there was reported to the Fish and Game Commission the existence of a "small native colony of beavers, the last of the remnants of the original stock, inhabiting the waters northwest of upper Saranac Lake." That year the Commission placed a "conservation estimate of the beaver in the Adirondacks" at "about forty." (p 252)

In 1906 the Legislature appropriated $1,000 for continuing the restocking of the Adirondacks with beaver and the following year seventeen were obtained from Yellowstone Park and distributed. The Commission gave the beaver census that year at 100.

In 1904, about the time the State of New York began its work of restoring the beaver to his native habitat, an authority on "American Animals" recorded in his book the sad fact that "the beaver is now nearly extinct in the United States." Much general interest has been displayed in the work of restoration in this State and the Conservation Commission is happy to say that popular co-operation has made the task of protecting Castor canadensis a comparatively easy one .

The reports received by the Conservation Commission show that beaver are multiplying rapidly and are taking possession of their ancient heritage in many different sections of the Adirondacks.

Colton District. Protector Smith of Colton reports three colonies in his territory of the Raquette river country.

Cranberry Lake District. Protector Hand of Cranberyy Lake records 1 colony on Grasse river below the reservoir; 1 colony on Cranberry Lake Inlet; 1 colony on Bog river; and "signs in the Town of Webb."

Croghan District. Protector Andre of Croghan reports 2 colonies at Sunday Lake; 1 at Stillwater, Beaver river; 1 at Francis Lake; 1 at upper end of Watertown Light and Power dam; 2 on west branch of Oswegatchie river. All "good sized colonies with large houses." Also a few beaver scattered in various places, without permanent habitat as yet.

Forestport District. Protector Bellinger of Forestport reports 3 colonies on the Black river; 1 at Kayuta pond; 1 three miles above Enos where they have built a dam; 1 on the Stillwater below North Lake; 1 colony on north branch of North Lake; 1 colony on second Stillwater above Honondaga Lake on West Canada Creek; several colonies on Indian river. Also reported by protector Ball, 1 colony on Wintime pond; 1 on Little Black Creek; 2 on Twin Lakes streams; 3 on Big Woodhull streams.

Fulton Chain District. Protector Ball of Old Forge enumerates and locates no less than 79 colonies, with 76 dams, inhabited by 223 beaver. The beaver locations in Ball's district are: Old Forge Pond, Big Spring Creek, First Lake and marshes, Second Lake, Third Lake, Fourth Lake, Fifth Lake, Sixth Lake, Seventh Lake, Eighth Lake, Cedar Creek, Black Mt. Creek, Eagle Creek, Limekiln Creek, Red river, Indian river (mostly bank beaver), Nick's Lake, Dry Lake (not dry now, flooded by beaver), Moose river (bank beaver), Hellgate Creek, Indian Spring Creek, Inlet of Big Otter, North Branch above Fulton Chain, Rondax Lake, Snake Pond, Chub Pond, Constable Pond, Queer Lake, south and west branches Beaver river.

J. Gilbert Hoffman, of Fulton Chain, finds that the beaver are increasing rapidly in various sections he has visited. He found a colony at Red Horse Chain and others reported by protectors. In that territory the intelligent animals have apparently lost most of their natural fear of man. A beaver dam on Eagle Creek which caused the flooding of the highway, was torn down under the direction of Protector Ball. The beaver reconstructed the dam over night. In another interesting case, the beaver insisted on invading Dr. Nicholl's property on First Lake. Protector Ball placed a lighted lantern in a lodge of the intruders, but they refused to take the hint to move on and, industriously extended their lodge over and around the warning beacon. Then in order to circumvent the trespassing beaver, the men put up a wire fence so the beaver could not get into Nicholl's yard where they were cutting poplars for food. Thereupon the wily animals vindicated the assertion of a scientist who said that "beaver apparently (sic) depend more upon reason and less upon instinct than do the majority of the forest folk." They piled wood against the fence and easily climed (sic) over into the forbidden territory.

Mr. Hoffman says the Brown's Tract Lumber Company is glad to see the beaver restored to the Adirondacks. In his opinion they do no great damage except in rare cases where they become so tame as to invade summer camp groves.

Glenfield District. Protector VerSnyder of Glenfield reports the beaver numerous in his section: 1 colony at Mud Hole Pond; 1 at Little Pine Lake; 1 on Pine Creek; 1 on Crawford's Fish Pond. Protector Quirk of Pulaski reports that he has not learned of any beaver in Oswego County. He has information of 1 colony on Crooked Creek, Lewis County, one mile from the south end of Stoney Lake, and 1 colony east of the north end of Stoney Lake in Independence river.

Gloversville District. Protector Masten reports that "the beaver made several visits to Fulton County," but founded no permanent colonies. It is possible that the few beaver in that section are "bank dwellers," as the animals, when disturbed by or not yet accustomed to civilization, do not build lodges.

Keene District. Protector Seckington, Elizabethtown, reports in September a beaver colony at Hull's Falls, town of Keene. On December 10 he reported discovering a new colony which has constructed a dam about 75 feet long, and flooding about 25 acres, on Gates Brook. The animals have built a lodge 15 feet in diameter accommodating 10 to 12 beaver.

Lake Pleasant District. Protector Howland of Speculator, reports very numerous in his territory: On Miami river, two dams with at least 20 beaver at each, and a third dam building in September on that river; 1 colony on Mill Brook; 2 large dams on Whitney Creek. To support the first dam, the beaver have built a dam half a mile below, backing up the water to it that distance. The first dam floods the stream one mile. One small colony on Mosey Fly stream. One large dam on outlet of Spencer Lake, with back water of two miles, inhabited by at least 200 beaver. Large colony and dam on north branch of Sacandaga river, with 30 to 40 inhabitants. Beaver in September were building a new dam on Samson Lake outlet and colony is established there.

Long Lake District. Protector Butler of Long Lake reports at least 30 beaver in his section. He makes this observation of special interest to the trout anglers: "The people living in this section think the beaver are doing fine and are glad to see them back. They tell me the beaver are a protection to our small streams containing trout, because the beaver builds dams and flood the marshes back of the dams. This makes it hard for the fishermen to fish all the pools and gives the trout a chance to grow."

Newcomb District. Protector Bissell of Newcomb reports 2 large colonies in the town of North Hudson; 1 colony in the town at Minerva and 4 colonies in the town of Newcomb.

Plattsburgh District. Protectors North and Kirby report from Plattsburgh that they found a "good sized colony" of beaver on Smith's Kiln Brook, town of Saranac, Clinton country. The animals have built a dam 35 feet long, flooding an acre.

Protector Riley of Plattsburg learned that the colony which had established itself near the mouth of the Ausable river last spring had moved up near Ausable Forks.
Protector Kirby of Brainardsville makes report of a colony on Redford Brook.

Raquette Lake District. Protector Lynn of Raquette Lake makes a detailed report of numerous colonies in his territory, showing over 250 beaver inhabitants. His record of locations is as follows: In Township 40, colonies on Bowlder Brook; 1 on Beaver Brook; 1 on Otter Brook; 2 on Brown's Tract Inlet; 1 on Brandeth Lake stream; 1 on Marion river. In Township 41, 1 colony on Cascade Lake stream; 1 on Shallow Lake stream; 1 on Cranberry Pond; 1 on Eagle Creek; 2 on Two Sisters Pond. In Township 39, 2 colonies on north branch of Shingle Shanty stream; 1 on East Pond. In Township 36, 1 colony on Big Salmon Lake; 1 on Carey Pond; 1 on Rack Pond stream; 1 on Flat Fish Pond; one on Bottle Pond stream. In Township 35, 1 colony on Loose Pond stream; 2 on North Bay Brook, Forked Lake; 1 on Upper Sargeant Pond. In Township 34, 2 colonies on Utawanta Lake; 1 on Loon Brook. In Township 6, 1 colony on Marion river; 2 on South Inlet; 1 on Bear Brook. In Township 5, 1 colony on Brown's Tract Pond. In Township 3, 2 colonies on Hess Pond; 1 colony on Fifth Lake; 1 colony on Seventh Lake; 2 colonies on Red river. In Township 4, 2 colonies on Falls Pond; 2 colonies on Mitchell Pond; 1 on Summer Creek; 2 on Indian river.

St. Regis District. William Bump, a caretaker of the Brooklyn Cooperage Company's tract on the St. Regis river, reports the beaver becoming quite numerous around the Ten Mile. Henry House of the Five Mile Camp, St. Regis river, found several families of beaver on Alder Brook.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Did a Raven Read My Mind?

After my wife and I bought 52 acres of wild land,

we soon noticed that we were not alone. We often saw huge flocks of ravens over head. We soon learned that one neighboring farmer was also a butcher and too often dumped his waste in a neighboring ravine. We didn't appreciate that, but it did attract the ravens which we soon saw were engaging birds to watch especially when they pair off and perform indescribable aerial dances.

The ravens I hear have a call a bit deeper and more melodious than a crow's caw, and a becoming gurgling like noise. Compared to crows and blue jays, ravens are circumspect, and when they do make a noise, you never get the impression that they are being carried away by any emotions. At first they never gave me the impression that they noticed us at all.

It took us a good while to become familiar with 52 acres of woods, fields and ponds. When we were off exploring, my wife would often call out her nickname for me, Bert, to get my help or show me some beautiful or curious thing. I'd call back and head off to where she was. One day I heard "Bert! Bert!", shouted back and began heading her way, then a raven flew over me calling "Bert! Bert!" I waited. No more shouts from my wife. She hadn't called me. I realized that a raven might be mocking our pedestrian limitations. It could encompass our whole land with a few flaps of its wings.

It would not take anything with a bird's eye view long to see why I loved the land. We gleaned our firewood from it, but I never used a chainsaw or any other machine, because I wanted to see and hear the birds and other animals. One of our first treats was realizing that cuckoos nested on our land.

Their "cuk-cuk-cuk" seemed very close and soon enough we began to get glimpses of them. I was sawing firewood one day, and I saw a cuckoo in a nearby honeysuckle. At the same time I heard another cuckoo calling as it flew above us. I looked up and saw a raven. Like a good naturalist, I took what nature showed me at face value. Although much bigger than a cuckoo, the raven must have felt some competitive pressure from a bird bigger than most using our land. But the cuckoos hung around and I got the suspicion that the raven's imitation was for my benefit.

Our land is not far from a huge swamp, about 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. I frequently sat on a high ridge overlooking the swamp

and the most entertaining sound to hear is the "galumphing" cistern-pump-like sounds of the bittern. Adding to the pleasure is that the bittern is seldom seen. So one listens to the obvious and strains to see its invisible source. My principal pleasure on our land was watching the beavers. Once you get the knack, or as I like to put it, soak up the odor of the land so as not to overly alarm a beaver's excellent sense of smell,

it is relatively easy to see beavers, but a good bit of patient sitting and waiting are required. The beaver pond I often watched nestled in a wooded valley was not bittern territory. There were no high grasses for the bird to hide in.

So when I heard its characteristic galumphing sound maybe 50 yards away from where I was sitting, I was electrified. I whipped out my camcorder and though I couldn't see the bird, I took video of that area at high magnification hoping that a close look at the video might reveal the bittern. Then a raven laughed after its fashion and flew away.

On a hot, humid September evening just as it was getting dark, I was startled to see a bobcat walking along the shore of the beaver pond.

This was the first time I had seen a bobcat and was most impressed by the power and swagger of its strut, and the noise it made that seemed to fill the valley, an electric "cack-cack-cack." This was not a predator stealthily hunting but a predator showing who was boss. I didn't see a beaver, but I heard one slap its tail. I saw the bobcat for about 15 seconds and got a 4 second video of it. But I continued to hear it as it continued down the pond, crossed the pond and began to come up the side of the pond where I was sitting. I noticed that it getting dark and headed back to our cabin....

The next day I walked around the pond to see if there were any dead beavers, no. Then in the evening I sat up on the ridge again in case the bobcat routinely paraded down the shore of the beaver pond. While it was still pretty good light, I heard the "cack-cack-cack" again. Of course, I had sat with camcorder in hand. I turned it on and aimed where I expected the bobcat to strut. Then I heard a raven laugh and saw it fly away.

Since there was no doubt that I heard the bobcat make that noise the day before, I could only conclude that the raven had been perched up in a tree that evening and heard the bobcat. I didn't have to take the raven's imitating the bobcat personally, maybe it would have done it if I had not been there. But I did take it personally. The raven who probably well knew the bobcat's routine, since it might leave morsels for it to scavenge, was making fun of my limitations.

While ravens come and go, they don't have a seasonal pattern and we share the winter with them, though we spend most of our time in warm house about 10 miles away on the St. Lawrence River. Ravens don't hang around the river much. When we get to our land on a good winter day, we tracks animals.

One day I picked up a coyote's trail, crossing the beaver pond and then going up a ridge heading for a man-made pond that is on our land, where there were also beavers. A coyote's trail is usually pretty forthright not winding like fisher's or devious like a bobcat's. It has one ploy that I've experienced. When it senses that something is tracking it, it will my a wide circle to high ground so that it can get to the back of its pursuer. So when I heard a coyote-like barking behind me and off to the right, I whipped out my camcorder and contemplated my next move: approach it directly, stand and wait for its next move, or try to circle around it? Then I heard a raven laugh and fly away.

I didn't mind this trickery, and made good stories of it, but for my own self respect, I did remind myself of experiences I had in the woods that the raven did not mock. The raven must have figured out that I spent hours watching beavers, and listening to them. The beavers were familiar enough with me, that they didn't slap their tail at me whenever I was around. But they do make sounds, hums, whines and murmurs, often making them in their lodge before they come out for the evening, and sometimes communicating that way in the pond. Those sounds are music to my ears, and if the raven was so smart, it must have noticed how I enjoyed them. I decided that I had one up on the raven: it could not imitate a beaver. Indeed, when beavers gnaw wood, it is quite audible. The raven didn't imitate that either.

The beavers I watch at the man-made pond on a land, which they do dam to make higher, are refugees from that huge swamp nearby that is heavily trapped. There has never been a beaver family there and beaver families with adults, two year olds, yearlings and kits usually do a lot of humming and whining with each other. Even when there were three refugees in the man-made pond and even when they shoved or groomed each other, I rarely heard any hums or whines. Because the beavers were not a family, I often worried that they had left, as eventually they usually did. So watching beavers there meant sitting still and hoping that there were beavers there to watch. I often sit on a shady knoll 15 feet or so above their bank lodge.

They often stayed there as well as in several bank burrows on the opposite shore. One evening I was relieved to see a beaver come out of the lodge below me, then after it dove into the water heading to the opposite shore, I heard a beaver hum. Then a raven flew out of a tree above me, and laughed all the way as it flew across the pond. I waited in vain for another beaver to come out of the lodge, or for another hum. But the beavers in this pond almost never hum....

I gave up any pretense that I could rival a raven's understanding of what I continued to insist was "my" land. But while the raven was showing me that it knew exactly what I was doing, I couldn't say that it had read my mind. One day in late July, I saw a bobcat again, this time walking down the dirt road that forms one of the borders of our land.

It was silent, though obviously not on any stealth mission. It turned and went down to the dam of the man-made pond. I followed and when I got there, I saw two beavers swimming in the pond looking up at the shore where the bobcat must have just been.

Later in the fall, I found a dead beaver in the inlet channel to the pond, and I saw bobcat prints in the mud nearby. Yet I didn't hastily conclude that the bobcat ate a beaver. For one thing the bones of the beaver were rather picked clean

and I had seen the two beavers I was accustomed to see here a few nights before. Had someone used our dirt road to drive down and dispose of a beaver carcass? Now and then we've been graced with a deer carcass or two. But after I found the beaver carcass in the pond, there were no beavers in the pond for a week, which suggested that one was taken by the bobcat and the other went to the safe swamp below with acres and acres of marsh and channels where a bobcat can't go. Then two beavers reappeared in the pond....

One evening after I collected a few more of the dead beaver's bones that didn't smell as much as they had before, I sat on the high bank of the pond and ran several scenarios through my brain, more or less at the same time. Generally I am a patient tracker. Tomorrow's signs may well explain what you saw today. But there comes a point where all the data seems to be in and an important conclusion has to be drawn. I have never seen evidence of a bobcat killing a beaver before. As my mind struggled with these questions, I heard a raven in a nearby tree continuously babbling, which I've never heard a raven do. But this was babbling with an edge to it, reminding me of the almost dissonant rumblings in Chopin's Second Sonata just after the Funeral March but with more sharps than flats. The raven was mimicking the confusion in my mind. Sitting on a wet green bank in the evening with sunset unfolding above is conducive to clearing one's mind. So that's what I did. I thought on the reflections in the pond below. The raven stopped babbling. But my yoga skills are minimal. My mind soon began twisting around the beaver-bobcat conundrum again. The raven started babbling again. As I tried to clear my mind again. It flew off laughing.

Evidently the raven could read the confusion in my brain by the change in my body language. I'm sure it can notice a wrinkle, a twitch, a tensed muscle. But how did it so neatly summarize my confusion with its babble?

The raven has been off my case ever since, save that I occasionally hear a raven making a galumphing sound like a bittern, but that must be fun. Indeed, I've heard ravens making galumphing sounds to each other, before flying off with raucous laughs. Sometimes I wish a raven would enter my mind again. Perhaps we could converse playing a kind of twenty questions. I could think of something and it could babble if I was way off base, laugh if what I was thinking was simply stupid, and caw smartly if I was right. But what do you ask a god who has always mocked you?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Did I Help Spawn the Tea Party?

I avoid reading articles about the Tea Party, but made an exception for Jill Lapore's New Yorker article about Sarah Palin & co. in Boston. Boston Tea Parties Past and Present Lapore writes well about the 18th century, a favorite cubbyhole of mine, and I thought her pointing out that the Founders were trying to build a new nation not tear one down would be a tonic.

I was about to give up on her uncharacteristically convoluted reportage (I guess the New Yorker still pays by the word), and then she mentioned the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. I worked for the ARBC from August 1971 to August 1972. In her story she suggested that the rise of the Tea Party hinged in part on the failure of the ARBC! To wit: "After Nixon’s Bicentennial Commission failed in every attempt to organize a national celebration,..." it was one slippery slope downhill to the nonsense we have today.

While she doesn't note it, I helped cripple the ARBC by leaking reams of documents showing political favoritism by the Commission. Then she paints the People's Bicentennial Commission (I worked for them too!) as a left wing harbinger of the current Tea Party movement! To wit:

"Today’s Tea Partiers say that they’re concerned, for the most part, with taxes. So was the left-wing Peoples Bicentennial Commission, which, in 1974, called on Americans to form a new TEA Party (the acronym standing for Tax Equity for Americans); it urged organizers to use the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me,” and suggested “How about forums on Tax Day, or on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party—in front of IRS or H. & R. Block?” The Peoples Bicentennial Commission also published a manifesto called “Common Sense II: The Case Against Corporate Tyranny.” It was left, not right, but, aside from that, it has a lot in common with a book published last year, “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government.”

I leaked the ARBC documents to the PBC and through them to the Washington Post and Progressive Magazine, helping its leader Jeremy Rifkin gain credibility and funding!!

Oh my god! Lapore chastises historians then and now for letting amateurs bend the past to current political agendas! She suggests that the time to have stopped it was in 1976! If only I had leaked the documents to the American Historical Association and Bernard Bailyn, the big Harvard historian of that day. Instead I washed my hands of all slants on '76 in Expose of an Expose, a March 18, 1973, cover story in Potomac Magazine, then the Sunday magazine of the Washington Post.

HISTORY BITES BACK! I could have saved the Republic and instead suggested two cases of German beer was as good a way as any to sum up the American Experience....

Read the story, and weep!

Expose of an Expose

Confessions of the Bicentennial Commission Spy

by Bob Arnebeck

I have always dreamed grandly, lived less than grandly. After college I worked for the Post Office a, then blew my earnings on a trip to Europe. I wrote and produced a play on the history of the Ford Motor Co. One hundred people saw the play in two weeks, 50 were friends and 25 were relatives of the actors.

By July 1971, I needed money. My father had the contacts to get me in touch with the right man at the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, the agency charged with planning the celebration of America’s 200th birthday. I said yes, yes, and landed a GS-5 job opening all the mail that came to the Commission.

My love was to popularize history and the Commission seemed to be the place to do that. I anticipated rapid advancement from the mailroom to a position where I could hobnob with great historians at meetings laced with lengthy discourses on the American experience.

As I lay in bed the night before I began working for the ARBC, I suddenly recalled an odd fact I had uncovered in my youth: My birthday coincided with the anniversary of the day Nathan Hale was hanged for spying.

On August 14, 1972, The Washington Post and The Progressive magazine carried articles I aided with papers exposing the Nixon Administration’s plans for using the Bicentennial celebration for the glorification of Nixon and Big Business. As I paced in the quiet summer’s night outside the Post building waiting for the papers headlining the expose, I imagined the cries of indignation, the chants of “Shame, Shame, Shame” being led by none other than George McGovern.

The Octopus

In July 1966, Congress established the Bicentennial Commission “to plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate the commemoration of the American Revolution bicentennial.” The Nixon administration created a bureaucratic octopus with numerous committees, advisory panels, and special advisory panels, and consulting teams. The 50 Commission member include Cabinet officers, congressmen, and representatives of the public.

Way back in 1876, P. T. Barnum celebrated America’s Centennial with a traveling circus including three live eagles, four bears, five lions, six elephants, a chorus of several hundred to sing “America” and a dwarf eight inches shorter than Tom Thumb. President Nixon’s Commission is more representative of the American people. He corralled five historians, five educators, four businessmen, three publishers, two broadcasters, two lawyers, one judge, one engineer and the former Mayor of Dallas, Texas; one popular entertainer, four blacks, one Mexican-American, one American Indian and four member under 25, but alas, none under five feet tall.

The Nixon Calendar, Etc.

The Big Shows of the Commission are its quarterly meetings to endorse Bicentennial projects. An endorsed project can display the official symbol of the ARBC, a red, white and blue pretzel. Anything can be endorsed - books, TV shows, parades, ice cream cups, and fights against disease. The Commission even endorsed a whole city, Niagara Falls, N.Y., as the first Bicentennial City.

The Commission just had to honor a city with plans to build a 400-room hotel that rotates so that every room can see the Rainbow Falls - and whose congressman is on the committee that gives the Commission money.

The star of ARBC is its Chairman, David J. Mahoney, a 50 year old millionaire with a Palm Springs tan, the sort of trim physique, slowly bulging in the middle, that is the envy of board room hearties.
He is an advertising and marketing champ who heads a burgeoning conglomerate, Norton Simon.,Inc., that runs McCall’s Magazine, Hunt Wesson Foods, Canada Dry and soon Max Factor.

The Commission meetings I saw were interminable bureaucratic wrangles. When my pet subject, history, came up, Mahoney’s Bronx banter would erupt: “Sometimes, to me, history is the last ten minutes.”

Mahoney had to grapple with the pressing urban problems of today. My first day on the job I ferried Eyes Only memos from Mahoney to Robert Finch and others at the White House. He made an impassioned plea for White House support in procuring more free government parking spaces for the ARBC staff.

While few historians worked with the commission, hundreds of schemers did. Their proposals ranged from the ludicrous - like changing the calendar so that every month has the same number of days and naming the new system the Nixon Calendar - to the profitable: Sara Lee wants to sell birthday cakes, the Franklin Mint wants to sell collectors’ medals, and Lipton Tea wants to sponsor a tea party for America’s blue bloods to celebrate the Boston Tea Party and help market Lipton English Blend Tea.

One day, Miss Rose Bowl 1972 floated into the Commission. She delighted all with roses and peddled the Good News that the Rose Bowl Parade for 1976 would be a patriotic Super Parade.

Collecting the Goods

The Commission staff of about 60 Republicans and a smidgen of Democrats invented red tape for any heady liberal schemes. The staff panned David Wolper’s film “Washington” as too controversial for Commission endorsement. The staff slashed red tape for the red, white, and blue projects that it loved like the rotating hotel.

Some got very special treatment. Mahoney’s secretary forwarded a proposal to the staff urging it be handled with “TLC” (tender loving care.) The proposal was from the wife of a Price Commission official and “Norton Simon, Inc., needs the Price Commission’s good will.”’

On January 25, 1972, Jack LeVant, Chicago businessman and Director of the ARBC, wrote in an Eyes Only, Confidential draft of a letter to his business buddy Mahoney that the Bicentennial could be the “the greatest opportunity Nixon, the Party, and the Government has as a beacon of light for reunification and light within the nation and with the world.”

I decided the Commission was turning into a U.S.I.A. for the domestic front - coordinating parades, fairs and TV extravaganzas to pound into Americans that they were the greatest, are the greatest, and will be forever and ever, under Nixon, the greatest.

Section 7301 of Title 5 of the United States Code, the government employees’ Code of Ethics, commands a public servant to “put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party or Government Department… and to expose corruption whenever discovered.”

I had a clear mandate.

My method of exposing the biggies was suggested by James Copley, a conservative newspaper publisher and ARBC member, who once forwarded a copy of an article by Jeremy Rifkin of the People’s Bicentennial Commission called “Red, White and Blue Left.” He urged Mahoney to read what the “enemy” was doing. Whom else do you spy for but the enemy?

In February 1972, I invited Rifkin to my apartment and shared my information.

After months of working where I didn’t dare say what I really thought, I found someone with ideas about the Revolution like mine. We both agreed the best way to celebrate the Revolution would be to have another Revolution (figurative, of course) attack the Fat Cats and rally the Left. We became fast friends. We decided I should stay at ARBC, collect more information and then we would write an expose.

Leftward March

Spying is one notch above playing hooky. One delicious Spring day I uncovered a juicy memo from Leonard Garment of the White House staff. I charged up Connecticut Avenue, almost knocking over a little kid, to the PBC office. Afterwards I celebrated at a bar called the “007!”

But spying also has its drawbacks. I felt like a rat - especially since my desk was in the basement next to the Pepsi machine.

I found the following techniques helpful in fulfilling my nefarious designs:

I kept a messy desk. Once the secretary of the ex-director whose files I had open on my desk came to get a Pepsi. The confusion of papers, bottles, pencils, and magazines prevented her from discovering the files and me.

Once my boss called me in to discuss “sensitive” material. He told me to keep an eye out for a leak. During our conversation I kept my mind on my outward appearances so I wouldn’t betray fear. I controlled my breath maintained normal eye contact, and made my fingers symbols of relaxation. A spy would do well to study Buddha.

From February to July, I amassed the documents that unmasked the ARBC. Late July, the Progressive magazine went to press. The world would know the truth about the Bicentennial the week before the Republican Convention.

Although the higher-ups at the ARBC were so suspicious of each other they seldom suspected a GS-5 could stab them in the back, I was sure they’d suspect me as the leak. I don’t crave martyrdom, so I left the government the week before the expose. Later I found out they first suspected another super grade who didn’t fit in with the “team.”

The mad summer if ‘72 fed any expose artist’s dreams - ITT, the Watergate, the wheat deal, and the bicentennial papers!

A perfect expose works like this: a respected magazine publishes an authoritative article raking the muck… a respected newspaper is given prior notice so that it can fully illuminate the brilliant article…. the opposition party picks up the cudgel… television, radio, and wire services jump on the scandal… Agronsky & Co. discuss the outrage… the White House ducks embarrassing questions… the attacked agency trembles… other patriotic bureaucrats release more incriminating documents… and the March to Utopia begins.

The stories in the Progressive and the Post came out and the House Judiciary Committee began an investigation of the Commission.
The day after the bomb hit, we waited for McGovern’s reaction. Monday passed to Tuesday, then Wednesday and the Dakota Populist maintained silence. Finally, Thursday morning an aide on the McGovern speech research staff called the People’s Bicentennial.
I answered the phone. “Do you think McGovern should say anything about this Bicentennial stuff?” asked the aide.

Picking myself off the ceiling I replied in measured tones, “Well, it’s sort of embarrassing to Nixon.” After a short speech establishing that he would be a better judge of what might embarrass Nixon, he asked “ Do you have any more documents that McGovern could release?”
Finally I outlined a possible statement McGovern could make. “That sounds good. Could you type it up and bring it down to K Street along with some of the documents?”

Since I had read Samuel Rosenman’s autobiography I knew all about speech wiring for Presidents. A couple of “shocks,” a dash of flag waving, a poignant quote from a founding father juxtaposed cunningly with a quote from one of the damaging documents, a peroration calling on the nation to raise its sights from Republican stench to what McGovern could be by the Bicentennial, and voila, I had a statement.

A little heavy, I thought to myself, calling Nixon a Tory and throwing in that old Roosevelt “economic royalist” jive. But McGovern campaign headquarters released the statement nearly verbatim. Rather than pack my bags and join the McGovern campaign plane I had a humble second though - so this is politics?

Fie on the Lest Too

Spiro Agnew told me that the Eastern Liberal Press is a bunch of conspirators who know no higher joy than to jump on any chance to embarrass Richard Nixon. So the day after the front page story in the Post, I expected a front page story in the New York Times. The following Sunday, six days after the Post story, the Times ran an article on page 56!

Apparently, they were upset because they didn’t get the story first. I restudied my Agnew. Tears streaked my cheeks when the Post reported McGovern’s statement on page E-26. I suppose that’s what they mean by breaking a story.

TV networks expressed immediate interest, filmed some documents, and went to get reactions from the ARBC. They had no reaction. No reaction, no story, so there was nothing on the networks.

To wind up the March to Utopia, Agronsky was on vacation, the White House didn’t have to duck because nobody asked any questions.

Since Agnew let me down, I followed the advice of his pal Frank Sinatra and picked myself up, dusted myself off and … began working with the People’s Bicentennial Commission to, as their promotional literature phrases it, “rekindle the true Spirit of ‘76.” Overjoyed to be rid of the government bureaucracy when the dust settled, I found myself in a bureaucracy on the Left.

The PBC is supported by foundations financed through the utilization of tax loopholes by the rich, the PBC attacks the rich and their tax loopholes.

The PBC occupied a two-room suite with a bathroom on the tenth floor of the Dupont Circle Building. The outer office is a madhouse of paper, chatter and anywhere from one to six workers. The inner office is the sanctum where leader Jeremy Rifkin tete-a-tetes with journalists, roving radicals, and do-gooders looking for a story, a movement or Good Deeds to do.

The 28 year old former anti war activist is a small, fast talker from Chicago’s South Side who wears a roguish Australian cowboy hat with Don’t Tread on Me buttons on it.

When he’s excited, for instance when I presented him with a juicy morsel from the ARBC files, he screams and jumps around the room like a caged Yippie.

When the people around him are excited and arguing, the former business school and international affairs student sits quietly, lights his pipe, profoundly pronounces that, “It’s not an either-or question,” like an old labor organizer calming hotter heads.

He doesn’t look like a revolutionary with the leather coat from Britches that his wealthy father bought him , and he’s proud that even after years in the struggle he never spent a night in jail.
Rifkin’s genius is persuasiveness with foundation. He gets their money with the pitch that he’s going to explain to the disenchanted, “the Wallace-McGovern constituency,” their revolutionary heritage by sending them a “” a hard-hitting Populist message.”

Writing articles for Ramparts magazine, producing plays for college campuses, and distributing radio spots attacking government snooping into bank accounts seems more weighted to the McGovern rather than Wallace constituency.

Like the wealthy for centuries before them, they crave excitement. “I tell them the Bicentennial Era could be another McCarthy Era,” Rifkin confided to me, “those rich liberals lap it up.”

Unfortunately, the foundation money went to the PBC through the Youth Project. Even liberal foundations won’t spend money to stop a new era of McCarthyism if they can’t get a tax break. After our big expose the Youth Project got cold feet.

The PBC’s attack on the Administration during the campaign might be construed by the IRS as politics. The Youth Project governing board decreed that the PBC would have to apply for its own tax-exempt status. If not, they would give back sizable sums of foundation money earmarked for the PBC.

Like Mahoney, LeVant and millions of other patriotic Americans would, the PBC went for the money. It decided to make itself suitable for tax exemption. They would be non-political and non-propagandistic, on the surface. But underground - ah that was different! At one point Rifkin talked eagerly about taking over the Democratic Party in 1976.

After exposing the deception of the ARBC, I was in a deceptive group on the Left.

My special projects at the PBC were attacking corporations and an oral history project - denigrate the fat cats and celebrate the People. I wrote a sassy little theater piece about ITT, Wonder Bread and Ben Franklin, but the Director of the PBC Theatre had trouble with it. He preferred plays about the American Dream.

My oral history project petered out, too, after I discovered that very few people know how to tell a good story, Also Jeremy didn’t think an oral history project would have much relevance to the Bicentennial. He wanted a slide show on the American Dream.

My chief task was serving as resident expert on the government Bicentennial. After the foundation flap, however, Rifkin wanted me kept under wraps. He did not want me to go to public places to talk about the Bicentennial. He feared I would be arrested and he would have to waste his time raising money for my defense! Bad as ARBC was, they never told me where I could and could not go.

I, Double Rat Fink

My swan song as a radical came when Rifkin attacked me for political naivete. I had written a handout attacking the District of Columbia Bicentennial Commission as being a tool of the White House. The DCBC is predominantly black. As with many white leftists, the nightmare of being called a white elitist by blacks seemed to haunt Rifkin.

I accused Rifkin of delusions of grandeur. Who would get anything out of attacking him? (Except me.) When I refused to tell him about a confidential meeting I was to attend, he blew up. We engaged in five minutes of Albee dialogue minus the sexual innuendoes. We finally faced the truth, agreed we didn’t trust each other, and I quit.

There is a river that winds its way through the streets, elevators and offices of Washington - the filthy River of Revenge. I decided to sail down it and become a peg. A peg is what a journalist spends his days looking for.

Since the same stale characters, Mahoney and Rifkin, who pegged the July 4, 1972, stories were still around, I was a preminum commodity for July 4, 1973. I approached the writer doing a story for Playboy - after a few meetings, sure enough, he thought about me for his peg. I contacted a Wall Street Journal reporter. He bought me lunch at the Press Club. As of yet he hasn’t made me his peg, but maybe he will. But I couldn’t wait. I craved swift revenge, so here I am.

Apologies to the ARBC!

I botched my Bicentennial career. Now I’m a double rat-fink, and in retrospect, the crimes of the ARBC seem less corrupt than stupid. I apologize to the ARBC for being overzealous, but at least I can cease my search for truth justice and a meaningful Bicentennial. Why not have a meaningless Bicentennial, with lots of laughs? As long as I can remember the Fourth has been a time for fun. Just because 1976 is the 200th is no reason to get in the way of a good time. I’m going to celebrate by cornering a couple cases of old German beer for the Fourth.