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Archive for the ‘Marin County’ Category

Marin’s search-and-rescue team “ready to roll”

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
November 9, 2004

On Sept. 11, 2001, Marin County Fire Department Fire Captain Tim Walsh was fighting a fire in Butte County when his pager went off.

He was dispatched to McClelland Air Force Base, where he waited hours for the clearance necessary to board a plane to Virginia, the scene of a terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

“Dawn comes around and we can see out the windows, and there are fighter escorts on either side of us,” Walsh said. “We felt important — until we were told they were there to shoot us down if our plane veered from its course.”

Walsh was dispatched there as a member of Marin Urban Search and Rescue team, which recently became the first of its kind to be deputized to respond to emergencies anywhere in the state of California. He spent more than two weeks on the ground in Virginia helping the federal USAR team clear away the wreckage, rescue survivors and handle the bodies of the dead.

It took a few days for local crews to figure out what to make of Walsh, who spent the first 24 hours mopping floors and setting up cots. Soon they figured out he was trained to create maps of crisis scenes and analyze them, and he was good at getting things done.

“They asked us to get copies of the incident action plan, and I asked if it would be easier to buy a copy machine,” Walsh said. Others were skeptical, but he made it happen. “Twenty minutes later, trucks were backing up with Kinko’s-sized copy machines.”

Walsh helped federal USAR teams create new blueprints of the damaged areas of the Pentagon, and maps of where the bodies were. He set up his own geographic information systems laboratory in his hotel room.

The work was slow because it was a major rescue operation, but also a crime scene. “You had the Department of Justice, the FBI and agencies I’ve never heard of. Everyone’s conducting separate investigations. USAR wants to clear it out because they’re searching for bodies, and the others want to preserve the crime scene.”

The impressions of the scene have remained with Walsh, from the charred interiors of the Pentagon’s lower floors to the melted and warped plastics of upper floors and “a lot of stuff you obviously would like to forget,” he said.

At the end of those two weeks, Walsh returned home to life with the Marin County Fire Department, returning his expertise to Marin USAR.

Marin Urban Search and Rescue, a public entity, consists of personnel on loan from other agencies including local fire departments and protection districts, the Marin County sheriff’s department, public works departments, the San Francisco Fire Department, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the National Park Service.

Marin USAR got the attention of Gov. Gray Davis after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “When the teams were being deployed, the governor’s office asked if they could use our personnel in the intelligence center they created,” said Farhad Mansourian, director of Marin County Public Works and a co-founder of Marin USAR. “Our personnel were so highly trained, they impressed people. [The governor’s office] started looking at us more and more and liked what we’d done.”

After the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif., Mansourian and others realized that local agencies could be responsible for heavy-rescue operations in collapsed freeways or large buildings. “But we had no training, no equipment and no formal way of providing that,” Mansourian said. “Even a huge department like Los Angeles County was overrun with problems.”

Marin USAR has spent the past 10 years recruiting team members from public works, firefighting and other agencies, honing their skills and scrimping and saving to purchase state-of-the-art equipment.

“There’s really no budget,” Mansourian said. “The equipment and everyone comes to us through begging, borrowing, stealing and granting. The federal government has not handed over millions of dollars.”

Mansourian said the slow, quiet progress has earned Marin USAR quite a reputation, even if Marinites don’t know about it. “We are now a task force for the state of California. Many are surprised that we have such a sophisticated rescue team in our backyard and they don’t even know it.”

In recent years, the threat of terrorism has created a need for teams that can handle hazardous materials or weapons of mass destruction. And Marin learned that, in a major disaster, it would be on its own.

“We were told that under a regional disaster, other federal and state teams would not come here — they typically go where the center of population is. We felt we are completely vulnerable,” Mansourian said.

Today, Marin USAR has a variety of specialized departments, including logistics, structural engineering, HAZMAT/WMD, water rescue, confined-space rescue, heavy rigging, medical and incident management.

In 10 years, the group has acquired an impressive array of equipment, starting with what Mansourian describes as a “23rd century response vehicle. It’s very powerful and it looks like outer-space vehicles.” It’s used to lift heavy objects while also having a lot of components on board.

In addition, Marin USAR has boats and personal watercraft, sensitive machines to detect hazardous materials or nuclear weaponry, unique medical equipment, machines to assist in confined-space rescue or trench rescue, and sensitive listening devices and cameras that can detect the smallest amount of movement or sound.

To go with the specialized equipment, Marin USAR has a diverse crew of people to handle various operations — and they’re constantly training. “We have expertise from crane and heavy-equipment operators to folks from the fire side and emergency response. It’s a unique combination,” Mansourian said.

The team has learned “it doesn’t take an urban setting to have a disaster,” Mansourian said. In recent years, it has responded to rescue efforts such as when a three-story home in Tam Valley collapsed, creating a mudslide that buried two teens. Marin USAR’s water-rescue team is frequently dispatched.

“You don’t need to call for the entire task force,” Mansourian said. “These are just added community resources that provide a higher level of service.”

Marin USAR can help fill the gap between first-responders and federal USAR teams. “We are mobile, ready to roll. The goal is to hit the road in 45 minutes,” Mansourian said. “Federal teams have more heavy equipment, so it takes them a while to get there. They have a four-hour window to report to their data point just for personnel to get together.

“In rescue, time is of an essence,” Mansourian added. “The longer victims are buried, the less chance of survival.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

November 9, 2004 at 8:44 PM

Posted in Marin County

Clients sue investor for allegedly mishandling money

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
Nov. 2, 2004

Two women have accused Marin banker Kit Cole of mishandling their investments, but this may just be the tip of the iceberg: attorneys representing both women say more potential plaintiffs are waiting in the wings.

Leslie Klor, a San Rafael businesswoman, filed suit against Kit Cole Investment Services on Oct. 18 in Marin County Court, accusing Cole of fraud, deceit and negligence. Klor says she lost about $250,000 after investing with KCIS — a sum she had relied upon for her retirement.

“I was really injured by her,” Klor said. “Kit Cole holds herself out as a ‘sister’ — a friend to women.”

Klor invested a $300,000 inheritance with KCIS in 1999. She met with Cole and requested a diversified portfolio, but said Cole encouraged her to invest all of her money in stocks.

In 2000, when the stock market began its decline, Klor began to lose money. According to her lawsuit, she contacted KCIS, but the situation continued. Klor became so distressed that she stopped reading her monthly statements. By the time she gained the courage to look again, she found that she only had $57,000 left.

According to the suit, Klor asked Cole why she had not been contacted. Klor was told she would be informed when her account equity dropped to two years of living expenses, or $48,000.

“We consider this matter to be a private controversy between the corporation and plaintiffs,” said Larkspur attorney Tom Hyde, who represents Cole. “We have not seen the lawsuit and can’t comment on any of the specific allegations that might be there.”
Cole could not be reached for comment.

Martha McMahon, who filed suit against Cole last year, became so close with Cole during her investment with KCIS that Cole served as maid of honor at her second wedding, according to McMahon’s attorney, Bob Gonser.

According to Gonser, McMahon lost more than $2 million in three investment accounts with KCIS, one of which was her pension fund. She initiated arbitration in June 2003, but was unable to meet with Cole.

In August of this year, the American Arbitration Association awarded McMahon $1.2 million in damages, which have not yet been paid — despite the fact that KCIS received a $1 million check from Columbia Casualty Company to help cover it, Gonser said. “This hasn’t been put to bed yet,” he added.

Now, “we are filing a number of writs of attachment; we suspect there may be assets. We believe some of KCIS’ current and former attorneys’ trust accounts may have significant assents. We’re doing everything in our power to bring everything to a close,” he said.
“The McMahon case is a private mater,” Hyde said. “We continue to have discussions and hope to resolve this.”

He suggested that Cole might take legal action if the adverse publicity continues. “Some reputations are being damaged. We don’t want this dealt with in public, and continuing to publicize this is only going to jeopardize the process. This thing may potentially end up with some further actions,” Hyde said.

Klor said that since she filed suit, she has received a number of phone calls from other women who “have told me horror stories about how their financial security was shattered.”

Klor’s attorney, Emeryville-based James Jay Seltzer, said that by the middle of last week he had received five phone calls from others who have alleged claims against Cole. He was in the process of interviewing them at press time.

The news of Klor’s suit has brought more people to Gonser’s doors, too. “I have received calls from six new people who have allegedly suffered losses, from $180,000 to $1.2 million,” he said. “One is a man whose mother is 91 years old and was invested with Cole until June of 2002, and lost upwards of $250,000.”

Cole is the CEO of Epic Bancorp, the holding company for Tamalpais Bank. Gonser said that he is investigating whether Epic Bancorp, a publicly traded company, could be found financially liable for KCIS because the Epic Web site directly refers investment clients to Kit Cole.

Cole has filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court, claiming that McMahon’s suit has damaged her business.

A Mill Valley attorney, Richard Idell, arbitrated his case against Cole and was awarded $352,000. Cole has paid that judgment, as well as some additional court costs, but has appealed the judgment. Like the others Idell accused Cole of mismanaging his investments.

In September Cole announced her intention to resign as CEO of Epic, saying that she wanted to focus her efforts on the bank’s visibility and expansion. Mark Garwood, vice chairman of Tamalpais Bank, was promoted to CEO. The changes take effect Dec. 31.

Garwood would not comment on the situation last week.

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

November 2, 2004 at 8:42 PM

“You didn’t hug Nixon, but you hugged Nelson Rockefeller.”

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
July 6, 2004

One could compare lawyer and former legislator William Bagley’s vast and productive career to the stretch of Highway 101, from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael, that is named for him: long, busy and so much a part of daily life that it often goes unnoticed. Or it could be compared to his San Rafael hillside garden, in which he grows 20 different kinds of fruit trees, 30 vines and every kind of vegetable imaginable.

Born in 1928, Bagley was raised in Woodacre in a two-room summer house with no central heating. He recalls that Woodacre first opened its post office in 1925, and his family had P.O. Box number 2.

Bagley attended the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1949 and earning his law degree from the university’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1952. He paid for his undergraduate studies with the $450 he earned each summer.

Bagley’s accomplishments are dizzying. After working for Pacific Gas & Electric fresh out of law school, in 1956 he joined a small San Rafael firm, Gardner, Reid and Elliott. He worked there until 1960, when he successfully campaigned for California Assembly, representing Marin and Sonoma counties for 14 years.

As an assemblyman, Bagley was chair of the Welfare Committee, the Joint Committee on National Tax Policy, the Finance and Insurance Committee, the Statewide Information Policy Committee and the Special Committee on Open Records. The self-described “evangelical moderate” prides himself on pushing freedom-of-information laws.

After leaving the Assembly, Bagley failed a bid for state controller, and then went to Washington, D.C. in 1975, where President Gerald Ford named him the first chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In 1980 Bagley returned to California, where he joined the law firm of Nossman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott. He later became a senior partner.

Bagley served on the University of California board of regents from 1989 to 2002. His career has earned him numerous accolades, including an award for Most Effective Assemblyman from the Capitol Press Corps, Legislator of the Year by the California Trial Lawyers Association, the Golden Bear Award from the California State Park and Recreation Commission, the Sigma Delta Chi Freedom of Information award, and Alumnus of the Year from the University of California at Berkeley in 2003.

Bagley and his wife, Diana, have two children, Shana and Tracy. He has three children with his former wife, Doris: Lynn, Walter and Bill.

Most recently, Bagley was named to the board of directors for the Marin Communty Foundation. He was appointed to that board by the president of the University of California.

News Pointer: You attended school at the University of California 50 years ago. How has it changed since then?

William Bagley: The institution has changed massively. UC Berkeley was built in 1868, and UCLA was built in the early 1920s. There was an agricultural center in Riverside and a farm in Davis. But no universities, aside from Merced, have been built in the last 20 years. We’re living on our fathers’ investments and taxes.

In 1940, there were 10 million people in California. In 1960, there were 15 million. In those years, we built the state. But Ronald Reagan didn’t govern.

NP: It sounds like you didn’t like Reagan’s style very much.

WB: Ronald Reagan learned to govern after his first two years in office. During the first two years, he wanted to clean the place out. He literally didn’t govern. But then his staff said, “We might need you to run for president,” and that was when he started to govern.

He wanted to get rid of fair housing; he wanted to repeal the Rumford Act. It was assigned to my conference committee, and this is one of the three or four things I’m most proud of: I didn’t convene my conference committee. If I had, Reagan would have repealed it. And a few months later, he thanked me.

Reagan was a decent man. He never wanted to hurt anyone, and he was secure. Nixon was insecure, but Reagan was secure.

NP: Whom have you admired most?

WB: Nelson Rockefeller — he’s the first one that comes to mind. I traveled the state with him in the 1964 campaign when he was running against Barry Goldwater for the presidential nomination. Three to five of us joined him, and had he won the nomination, we would have been on his delegation.

During his campaign, he chartered a plane and we traveled all over, from Siskiyou to San Diego. He was so human, so decent. He didn’t need to do this, but he cared about his country and was going to dedicate himself to us. And he was a big puppy dog. You hugged him. You didn’t hug Nixon, but you hugged Nelson Rockefeller.

NP: Tell me about your early years in Marin.

WB: That was a beautiful part of my life. The streets were literally dirt. I could catch trout or shoot quail. I grew up as a country boy. Back then, there were only three high schools, Tomales, Tamalpais and San Rafael. Novato had 500 people and no high school, and the kids arrived 15 to 20 minutes late every day because they had to milk the cows.

NP: In 1941, you changed your name from “Baglietto” to “Bagley.” Why?

WB: My father changed the name. People used to ask me why I changed it, and I would tell them, “You can say anything you want about me — but not about my deceased father.” It was Baglietto, and in 1941 he shortened it because he got tired of spelling out his name. It was during World War II, when Italians were not that popular.

He wanted his son to be an attorney. My father drove a fish wagon for $5 a week to support his widowed mother; he never went to college. When I was 10 years old, he had business cards printed for me that read, “William T. Bagley: Attorney at Law.” He wanted his son to succeed.

NP: What were your early law jobs like?

WB: I graduated from Boalt Hall in 1952. I was 23 years old. You don’t go into law practice when you’re 23 years old. I could get paid $300 a month by the big firms in San Francisco, or I could make $325 a month at PG&E, and they had rugs on the floor. They tried their own cases, so I ran all over the state trying their cases.

I came here in 1956, and there were two or three law firms in San Rafael, and no lawyers advertised. I tell you, I get stomach contractions when I see those full-page ads for lawyers in the yellow pages.

NP: And then you entered the world of politics.

WB: In 1960, I ran for state Assembly. In those days, the legislation was part-time. You worked 180 days a year in odd years, and did a 30-day session in even years. The beauty of it was, you got to come home. You didn’t go to Sacramento to earn a living.

NP: Do you think the change to a full-time legislature has made a big difference?

WB: Oh, yes. What has hurt Sacramento is term limits, which for the assembly is six years. It takes you four years just to learn who to trust, and to work out what are the arenas in which you want to work.

The other thing is political reform. In 1974, when Jerry Brown was running for governor, He sponsored Prop. 9, which said you can’t pay more than $10 a month on get-togethers for legislators. It ruined collegiality. A group gathering doesn’t happen. The only time they get together is at fundraisers, because those are exempt. We used to have card games on Monday nights in some legislator’s office, but you can’t do that anymore because using the office costs more than $10 a month.

NP: What do you think of our current assemblyman, Joe Nation?

WB: Nation is an exception. He’s one of the brightest people in Sacramento. He has a future. He’s a public person, like I am, and he’s a moderate, which means he wants to govern by consensus and he wants to accommodate people. He’s damn effective.

NP: Do you follow local politics in any way?

WB: I know who is where, to some extent. It has changed massively. In the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, the courthouse crowd ran the county. You had George Jones as the county clerk, Al Bagsaw as the district attorney and a single judge, Edward I. Butler. In those days [in San Rafael], the Elks Club was on Fifth and B, the courthouse on Fourth and A, and the Albert Building was at Fourth and B. And you would go from one to the other — it was a very small triangle.

These days, it’s a clean county; the government is very clean. I haven’t followed local enclaves, but you have a good group of decent people running the county.

NP: What were some of your accomplishments?

WB: The California legislature in the 1960s and 1970s was called the number one in the country. We were effective. I don’t want to brag, but we carried a lot of good stuff. We added a few tax brackets, I sponsored welfare reform and property tax relief. I was steeped in civil and human rights. Those were good years in California.

NP: You say you don’t want to brag; is there anything you regret not having been able to do?

WB: When we passed tax withholding, there was a year in which you were taxed from April, but you were also taxed from January, so there were about four months of double-taxation. The governor wanted to give it back and the Democrats wanted to spend it all.

It was about a billion dollars, so we gave about half back in the form of a tax credit, and the other half went into capital outlays, including a couple hundred million for schools and a couple hundred million for parks. But I wish I had specified urban parks, because we already have one Yosemite. We need parks in the barrios.

NP: Do you think the freedom of information laws that you championed are still working?

WB: Yes. I make an analogy: people say you can’t legislate morals. That’s absurd; the entire appeal code is an effort to legislate morals. But you can legislate atmosphere.

I make a comparison between freedom-of-information acts and fair-employment acts, which came into law in 1959. It’s been an age of progress since then. You didn’t see black secretaries in the ’40s and ’50s, but once you were encouraged to practice fair employment, it became acceptable. There has been a progression of diversity.

The very fact that you are supposed to have an open meeting and open public records, and for people who never sat on city councils or public bodies, the first thing they’re told is a rundown on public information laws and open meeting laws. Whether they like it or not, they begin to practice it. This creates an atmosphere of openness. Yes, they work.

NP: What did you do after you left the Assembly?

WB: I ran for state controller in 1974 … and I ran out of money. I had the support of every newspaper, but I didn’t have enough money. Had I won, that was an obvious stepping stone to becoming governor. I would have gone that way. When you get that far, you want to climb the ladder. In retrospect, I think I’ve done enough; I’m pleased.

They say that working in politics is like waiting for a streetcar. You have to be on the right street corner, and when the streetcar stops there’s got to be a vacancy, and you’ve got to have your two bits to pay for the ride.

NP: How and why did you return to law?

WB: I went to Washington for about five years. I knew Nixon, I knew Ford. I was appointed as the first chair of the Commodities Future Trading Commission. In 1980 I came back to California and started my current office, which was originally a Los Angeles law firm, Nossman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, LLP. Jack Knox had been representing West Contra Costa County and was recruited to start a Northern California office.

Three of us opened an office on the Embarcadero. Now we have 150 lawyers, about 40 of those in San Francisco. Our practice was mainly the government arena, although we were never lobbyists. We’ve worked for water rights and utilities administration.

I’m now a counsel to the firm. I can’t really retire — I’ve got too many people who need me for something. But I’m essentially retired, though I still do three to four days a week.

NP: What do you think of the current media?

WB: I enjoy journalism. I enjoy the press corps. I think the Los Angeles Times is a wonderful newspaper. I like the San Francisco Chronicle.

What’s happened to media is the decline of the family-owned paper. I could go up and down the state and find such papers from the Eureka Standard to the San Diego Union — that’re going away. They have all disappeared, virtually all. I don’t know what it’s done nationally, but locally it’s taken the roots out of communities. If you like roots, that’s not good.

NP: You have a freeway named after you, which not many people do. How did that happen?

WB: Years ago, I was a consultant to the senate’s transportation commission. The process is very simple; it involves passing a joint resolution. Without talking to me, the chair put in a resolution. Two of my partners also have freeways named after them, and we joke, just among men, about whose freeway is longest. Well, my freeway is longest.

NP: When did you return to Marin?

WB: We came back in late 1979 and bought a house on the hillside above Glenwood. My house looks out over the bay.

Remember, my name is Baglietto — every Italian has to have a garden, and has to have a fig tree. Name a vegetable and I’m growing it. Every morning between May and October, I have breakfast in my garden. I eat the berries, the apricots, the plums. It’s wonderful, and I get my exercise, too.

NP: You recently joined the board of the Marin Community Foundation; what do you hope to accomplish there?

WB: I don’t have a [feeling] for it yet. It’s a wonderful, worthwhile organization, and has grown tremendously as a foundation. But I think it spreads itself too thin. I think it could have more impact, rather than anyone who’s a brother or sister gets $3.50. That’s a formed opinion of mine — if they want to talk me out of it, let them try.

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 6, 2004 at 8:49 PM

Marin Symphony debuts work based on Björk album

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
April 27, 2004

This week, the Marin Symphony will be the first to perform composer Kevin Puts’ new work, “Vespertine Symphonies,” inspired by an album by Icelandic pop singer Björk.

The piece was commissioned by philanthropist Kathryn Gould, who is underwriting a series of Marin Symphony premiere works. Knowing he needed to produce something for Gould, Puts began toying with the idea of writing a symphony based on Björk’s “Vespertine,” an album he found himself enchanted by.

“I don’t know a whole lot of pop music,” Puts said by telephone from Texas. “When I was in Rome, living at the American Academy, I saw the video for [her song] ‘Pagan Poetry,’ and I was immediately interested. It beautiful, powerful music with a lot of depth.”

Immediately, he went out and bought all the albums he could find — and came home with “Vespertine” and an earlier album, “Homogenic.” “I like ‘Homogenic,’ but ‘Vespertine’ struck me as a complete album. I thought it was incredibly well put together and a real journey from beginning to end.”

Puts said he felt a kinship to the way Björk structured her melodies and harmonies, and began working at the piano, asking himself whether there was a way to recreate her unique singing voice in a symphonic setting.

“Vespertine” is structured around samples of everyday sounds — it even uses the sound of shoes crunching through snow as a drum track for one song — and a series of melodies played on harp and music box. Puts wanted to kick off his own creation with something similar.

“In the studio, [Björk] can boost anything — but with an orchestra, you can’t do that. I made my own [music box] out of harp, celesta and orchestral bells. I wanted to begin with that, and then have the strings come in, divorced rhythmically from the ‘music box,'” he said.

Although Puts didn’t plan on including Björk’s lyrics into his own piece, he obtained permission to use some of her lines as titles to the three movements of “Vespertine Symphonies.” The first is called “Through the Warmthest Chord of Care,” from the first line of the first song on the album, “Hidden Place.” The second is called “Recurrent Dream,” from Björk’s song “Heirloom” and the third is called “It’s Not Meant to Be a Strife,” from “Undo.”

The first movement introduces the themes of the symphony, while the second swirls in a quick, dreamlike way. “It never gets very loud, but it’s incredibly busy,” Puts said. He used his love of epic sounds to finish the piece. “After an introduction, things back off and there’s a four-minute-long crescendo. Until the very last bar, it’s building. I like that sense of riding along a landscape like that rather than concentrating on local moments.”

Born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1972, Puts began taking piano lessons when he was 8. In his early teens, he moved with his family to a small town in Michigan, and a piano teacher encouraged him to start composing. “I started writing some little pieces. After a while, I got hooked on that. It was much more exciting than trying to be a pianist,” he said.

Later, he became influenced by minimalist composers like John Adams and Steve Reich, but also likes and creates music that is heavily romantic. “I want people to feel something very strongly. When they hear new works, people don’t comment on [beauty], they say a work is cool or challenging. But I feel the need to write beautiful music,” he said.

Puts has won acclaim for a number of his previous compositions, including “Millennium Canons,” commissioned by the Institute for American Music and performed by the Atlanta Symphony; “Canyon,” written for marimbist Makoto Nakura and premiered in New York at the 92nd Street YMCA; and “Alternating Current,” premiered by pianist Jeremy Denk at the Kennedy Center.

Puts won the 2003 Benjamin H. Danks Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2001 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Scholarship, a 2001-2002 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and the 1999 Barlow International Competition, which resulted in premieres by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Utah Symphony.

But Puts is especially nervous about seeing “Vespertine Symphonies” performed for the first time. “It’s because I care so much about it. I put a lot into this piece,” Puts said. Marin Symphony musical director Alasdair Neale has corresponded with Puts during rehearsals, reporting that they’re going well.

“He’s enjoying the piece,” Puts said. “And he’s the guy who is going to make it happen. If the players understand that he’s taking it seriously, they will all come to the piece. I have to rely on the conductor to buy into it.”

Aside from feeling a kinship with Björk’s music, Puts seems inspired by her personality as well. “She’s known for being abstract and eccentric, and I think that’s fair. But there’s real artistic depth there, and originality. She’s eccentric, but it doesn’t feel phony,” he said. “I admire someone who allows herself to show the eccentric part of herself. I haven’t yet found a way to do that in my own music.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

April 27, 2004 at 6:44 PM

Posted in Marin County, Music

How Marin fell in love with hot tubs

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Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
December 30, 2003

It may have begun in the 1960s, when Al and Barbara Garvey built a small wooden soaking tub into a tree in their Fairfax home. But somewhere along the way, Marin County became synonymous with hot tubs.

Of course, it didn’t help that when John Walker Lindh, who was raised in Marin, was found among Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, former President George Bush accused Lindh of being “some misguided Marin county hot-tubber.”

Whether by good press or bad, Marin is one of the places in California where hot tubs gained popularity. That may have to do with its proximity to Japan more than anything else, however.

The oldest known spa, or mineral bath, has been traced back to Merano, Italy, where residents organized regular use of a hot spring that’s still in use 5,000 years later. Egyptians are thought to have used therapeutic hot baths as early as 2,000 B.C., and the Greeks were using mineral and thermal baths by 500 B.C. Hippocrates recommended hydrotherapy for the treatment of rheumatism and jaundice.

The Romans, being the social engineers they were, were among the first to create bathhouses where hundreds of citizens could enjoy a hot soak at the same time. Large stone bathtubs were fed by aqueduct systems that carried hot, mineral-infused waters to private rooms, steam rooms (early saunas) or public bathhouses.

Romans brought their bathhouse technology to England when they conquered the country, and English royalty continued to use the waters well into the 20th century. The waters at Bath, England, are 120 degrees Fahrenheit and contain minerals including calcium, sulfur, potassium and magnesium.

Although Native Americans enjoyed hot springs centuries ago, and many in the United States made use of natural hot springs for therapeutic purposes, it was World War II veterans who introduced the idea of a self-contained hot tub to the Americas.

Those veterans learned the habit while stationed in Japan, where the ofuro — a freestanding tub filled with hot water — has been a family custom for centuries. Tad Irvine, a soldier in the Second World War, had enjoyed the comforts of the ofuro and built one of his own in Stinson Beach in the 1960s to enjoy with his wife, Charlotte. But they had strict rules about who was allowed to use it.

“In 1966, we were invited through a mutual friend for dinner at their house,” Garvey recalls. “They told us about their Japanese bath, and so that was our first experience. In Japan they have communal bathing, but [the Irvines] didn’t believe in it. Only married couples could go in together. You couldn’t go in it with your girlfriend. And when you were finished, somebody else would go.”

Garvey liked the experience, but not the restrictions. “I thought it was a terrific idea, and fell in love with it immediately. So I decided to build myself one.”

He and his wife had recently returned from two years living in Majorca, Spain, although they had lived on a Sausalito houseboat in the early 1960s. After some house hunting, they found a place in Fairfax. Having the space to build his own hot tub was high on Garvey’s list of requirements.

And building it was one of the first things he did — even before moving into the house. Garvey found a company that made water tanks out of redwood, and consulted with the owner. “He thought I was completely crazy,” Garvey recalls.

But the tub was built to Garvey’s specifications — 4 feet in diameter, but deep. Garvey jury-rigged the plumbing and used an old water heater to provide hot water. “I figured out how I was going to fill it up and empty it out and heat the water. There was no idea of a filter system or recirculation system. It was as simple as possible,” he says.

As soon as the Garveys moved into their new house, they began inviting friends over for hot-tub parties. He estimates that, during the summer of 1966, hundreds of people used the tub. “It was incredible. Everyone flipped out over it,” he says.

“If I had any commercial sense at all I would have gone into the business, but I didn’t,” Garvey laughs. He built a dozen or so tubs for friends, all of whom had hot-tub parties of their own. And he taught another friend how to build them — and that friend went into business.

Soon, there were a few hot-tub builders in Marin, including Redwood Hot Tubs, which opened on Shoreline Highway in Mill Valley in 1973. Long-time hot-tub salesman Jim Henderson, owner of Marquis Spas in Novato, took a job at Redwood in 1976. “Work was hard to find; there was a recession,” he says. He took the hot-tub job because they needed someone who had a background in plumbing — Henderson’s family business.

“In those days, they were redwood barrels, and much more of a construction project. We had to build them by hand,” Henderson says. There were so few vendors, Redwood was getting contracts to build tubs as far away as San Jose and even Reno, NV.

At the time, the clientele was varied. Although some people bought the tubs for therapeutic purposes, most buyers were young homeowners who were seeking a means of entertainment and relaxation with friends, Henderson says. By then, tubs could hold 10 to 12 people and constituted a huge outlay of money — up to 10 or 15 percent of the value of the home.

Today, hot tubs cost about the same amount of money — anywhere from $2,000 to more than $4,000 — but are more like 1 percent of the value of a home. Although they’re still purchased primarily by young homeowners, it’s for a different purpose.

“Hot tubs have become a way for families to be together and for kids to learn about water safety,” Henderson says. “The people who are looking will often say they’ve been thinking about buying for a long time, and sometimes there is a specific medical reason, like spine or neck pain, or rehabilitation from an injury.”

Hot tubs now come in a variety of models and sizes, from simple, round tubs with a few jets to large, rectangular facilities with built-in reclining areas, dozens of jets and light shows. Some look more like sport utility vehicles than relaxation chambers. They’re named things like “Utopia” and “Paradise.”

Mostly, people come to the showroom to find something that will help them cope with day-to-day tension. “There’s a lot of stress in this area,” Henderson says. Buying a hot tub can be a bit like creating a home spa, “turning the home into a kind of vacation destination.”

Henderson’s showroom, one of the biggest in the Bay Area, includes a backroom with trial tubs “so folks can give them a test drive,” he says.

When asked about the stereotypes associating Marin with these tubs, Henderson recounts the story of the Irvines’ historic Stinson Beach soaker, as well as Cyra McFadden’s 1970s book “The Serial,” a satirical look at Marinites’ extravagant lifestyles. “She talked about hot tubs and peacock feathers. There was a little of that going on, especially in southern Marin and West Marin,” he says.

These days, there are more than a dozen hot-tub vendors in Marin County, from Henderson’s showroom in Novato to Stellar Spa in Corte Madera. For those who can’t afford to install their own — or whose homes don’t provide space for one — there are local spas like Joseph F. Smith’s Massage Therapy Center in Fairfax and Shibui Gardens in San Anselmo.

Despite one former president’s snide remarks, the pastime continues to be a favorite among Marinites. The association between the two is so strong, in fact, that when Lindh was captured, newspapers as far away as England focused articles on Marin’s liberal, party-going reputation.

Bush’s remarks “fed into the popular notion of Marin as a home for superannuated hippies, lying around in hot tubs listening to Grateful Dead tapes with a joint in one hand and a glass of chardonnay in the other,” according to the UK Guardian. Bush was so chastened that he wrote an apology promising to “never use ‘hot tub’ and ‘Marin County’ in the same sentence again.”

Some, however, are content to let the hot tub fade into history. The Garveys’ bath, which inspired so many, has since rotted away, and Al hasn’t been interested in buying a newer model. “I don’t care for the ones they started building some years ago, the commercial ones made out of plastic,” he says. “That took the life out of it for me. They’re just awful-looking things. I don’t recommend that for anybody.”

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 30, 2003 at 9:15 PM

Posted in History, Marin County

Marin man pleads guilty to serving with Taliban

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By Beth Winegarner
News Pointer Editor
July 23, 2002

A 21-year-old Marin County native has pleaded guilty to charges he provided service to the Taliban and carried weapons and explosives while doing so.

John Walker Lindh — who grew up in Fairfax — gave his pleas in federal court last week. They were part of a plea bargain in which the United States government will agree to drop more serious charges of treason against Lindh if he tells them everything he knows about the Taliban and terrorist leader Osama bin Laden’s al Quaeda network.

“I provided my services as a soldier to the Taliban last year from about August to November. During the course of doing so I carried a rifle and two grenades.” Lindh, said, describing his crimes to the court last Monday.

Lindh’s father, San Rafael resident Frank Lindh; his mother, Fairfax resident Marilyn Walker; his 13-year-old sister Naomi and his 23-year-old brother Connell attended the hearing. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the charges against him.

Before the plea bargain, he had faced a 10-count indictment with a potential sentence of life in prison plus 90 years. If the judge agrees to the terms of the deal, Lindh will serve two consecutive 10-year prison sentences. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 4.

Lindh’s path from Marin County to the mountains of Afghanistan was a circuitous one. He attended Tamiscal, an alternative high school in the Tamalpais Union School District, before discovering Islam. He studied the religion locally, then traveled to the Middle East to immerse himself in the language and culture of Islam.

According to court documents, in mid-2001, Lindh crossed the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan and took up arms with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance. He reported to the Dar ul-Anan Headquarters of the Mujahedeen in Kabul, Afghanistan, which was used as a Taliban recruiting center, and told personnel at that facility that he was an American and that he wanted to go to the front lines to fight.

He agreed to attend a training camp, and from there traveled to al-Farooq, for additional and extensive military training. The facility is thought to be associated with Osama Bin Laden. During the summer, he remained at the camp and took courses in weapons, orienteering, navigation, explosives and battlefield combat.

Lindh swore allegiance to jihad after completing his training and traveled to Kabul to assist the Taliban. He was given an AKM rifle to carry and sent with 150 non-Afghani fighters to the front line in Takhar in northeastern Afghanistan. Between September and November, his company was divided into smaller groups that rotated in one- to two-week shifts in the Takhar trenches. When he was on duty, Lindh also carried grenades, court documents said.

He continued to serve the Taliban until November of 2001, when he was captured by American forces in Afghanistan. He was kept in a prisoner camp, where CIA agent Johnny “Mike” Spann was killed.

In January of 2002, Lindh was taken to a prison in Virginia. There, according to photographic evidence and defense attorney statements, he was stripped, handcuffed, blindfolded and duct-taped to a stretcher for two days.

Because some of Lindh’s statements were extracted during this time, it was unclear whether they would be admissible as evidence in court. In addition, there was some doubt as to whether Lindh had been read his Miranda rights before officers interrogated him.

“The U.S. government should not be able to plea out of its obligation under international law to protect those in U.S. custody from ill treatment. All allegations of abuse in custody should be investigated and the use of such methods should be strongly condemned,” said Vienna Colucci, International Justice Specialist for Amnesty International USA, speaking about allegations Lindh was mistreated in prison.

Although many called the outcome a victory, both for the federal government and Lindh, some disagreed. “I don’t think it’s a victory to the American people, to the ordinary people. I don’t think it is a victory to my son, who gave his life,” said Gail Spann of Winfield, Ala., the mother of the CIA officer killed in a Taliban prison uprising after interviewing Lindh and other prisoners.

Lindh’s family remained supportive, however. “I’m proud to have him as a son.” Frank Lindh said.

This article originally appeared in the San Rafael/Terra Linda News Pointer.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 23, 2002 at 10:05 PM