What’s in your wallet?

Did you hear about the recent bank heist in Davis where the bandit was refused service because the plastic bags he brought to carry away the loot were not the re-useable type? The frustrated robber argued that Nugget plastic grocery bags were obviously re-usable, since he was putting them to a secondary use, namely crime. Further, he pointed out that the nylon stocking (with the run in it) that he was wearing over his head to disguise his identity was recycled and re-purposed from his wife’s collection of locally-purchased and now discarded stockings. At which point, the nonplussed bank clerk told the failed-felon to go home and get some rest, and reminded him he had a late-night Natural Resources Commission meeting ahead of him that evening. As the would-be thief skulked away, the helpful clerk suggested, “Next time you have a short-term cash flow problem, please use the ‘plastic’ in your wallet.” — Happy Epiphany from yours truly, Colorful Clay.

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JFK Assination — My Memories of those awful Days

5th Grade ClassI was in the fifth grade at Neil Cummins School in Corte Madera, California. It was the mid-morning recess, and my friend Marty and I hadn’t gone outside like we were supposed to. Marty was combing his hair in the picture-tube reflection of a boxy Black &White TV on a cart, which happened to be in our classroom that day.

Just then our teacher Mrs. McKinney , a grey-haired lady with normally charming southern manners poise, charged into the classroom in a lather. She collared Marty, through him to the floor, and switched on the TV. The TV took several minutes to warm-up. In the meantime, we protested Marty’s treatment. We thought our teacher was over reacting to our minor transgression. Mrs. McKinney turned and said, “Shut up, you two!” I’d seen our teacher’s wrath before, but I had never seen her loose emotional control like that. Then the TV came on and we learned the awful news. The President had been shot. We were dumbstruck.

All the fourth, fifth and sixth grader were told to go the Lunch Yard. It was about 10:30 A.M. Pacific Standard Time. We sat there quietly without supervision, while the principal and teachers decided what to do. I remember a chubby redheaded kid named Peter had thought to grab his lunchbox on his way out to the picnic tables. As time went on, we were all getting hungry. Peter tried to sneak a bite of his sandwich, and I remember some of the girls exclaiming, “Peter, how can you eat at time like this?”

The teachers and principal learned that JFK had died in the hospital about 11 A.M. our time. The doctors could not save him. We were not told. It was decided to send us home. I walked home by the sloughs and up Palm Hill to 17 Blue Rock Court. At home I learned from my distressed mother that the President was dead.

Our little portable TV was on almost all the time that weekend. That was unusual in our household. Mom had a one hour a day TV policy. The TV was turned off when we went to church on Sunday.

There was a big turnout that Sunday. The ushers asked me to help them, a big deal for this 11, not quite 12, year old kid. The Pastor came into the back of the church and was telling the adult ushers something. I overheard. When I was escorting two grey-haired little old ladies, in hats, gloves and their Sunday best, to their seats, they whispered to me, “What was the Pastor telling those men?” I told them the news that the man they thought killed the President Kennedy had been shot. I was surprised to see the look of anguish on their faces. But they knew what I was not yet old enough to understand.

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Two sons of San Francisco, from very different neighborhoods, thrown together by World War II, warmed to each other and melted a little of the racial prejudice and segregation that was then so rampant. As young men, they both attended San Francisco City College and both ended up in the 285th Combat Engineers, though they did not know each other.

During their training in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi, the 285th Combat Engineers were being moved from one location to another overnight by Pullman Sleeper train. There weren’t enough berths, so the order was given — one soldier to an upper bunk and two soldiers to a lower bunk. My dad, Art Brandow, being a big guy (6’2”), tried to grab an upper bunk for himself without success. All were taken. Then he tried to find the smallest guy in the unit to share a lower bunk with. That guy was Bill Lee.

After discovering that they were both from San Francisco, they became friends. They each got leave to visit home before shipping out to Europe, but not during the same week. Together they arranged for Bill to have dinner with Art’s family in Westwood Park near City College and for Art to have dinner with Bill’s family in Chinatown.

Even though Bill’s father was a cook for a wealthy white family who lived on Nob Hill, Bill had never been invited to a Caucasian family’s home for dinner. Likewise, Art had never been invited to a Chinese family’s home for dinner. It was the summer of 1944. It was a simple act of kindness between two army buddies and their families, prior to these two sons of San Francisco facing the hazards of war. But it was a very meaningful expression of unity, considering the segregation that existed at that time.

I got to meet Bill and see him and my dad reminisce about these days, during their 285th Combat Engineers Reunion in Nashville, TN in 2004. The 285th was thrown into the breach at the Battle Bulge (Hitler’s last great counter-offensive) two-days before Christmas 1944 and then fought with General George S. Patton’s Third Army into and across Germany. Art’s job was to demolish bridges the enemy might use, and to build new or to reinforce existing bridges for Patton’s advancing troops and tanks. Bill’s job was transporting and potentially deploying chemical weapons. Unlike World War I, both sides decided not to use these horrific weapons in combat, but they did have them at the ready.

Bill Lee published a book in 2010 called San Francisco Son about some of his life experiences. Bill was born in 1923 in Chinatown, San Francisco, CA. Much of his book is short pieces about growing up in Chinatown in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Bill writes in his book about his journey back to California from Germany and his discharge from the Army at Camp Beale (now Beale AFB) near Marysville, CA. in February 1946, and then immediately resuming his classes at UC Berkeley for a B.S. in Chemistry. Art must have been on the same transport, because he quickly ended up as a transfer student at UC Berkeley in Civil Engineering the same month.

Art went on to a successful career as a civil engineer with the City & County of San Francisco and as a city manager for the Town of Corte Madera and the City of Belmont. In 1964 he came out strongly in favor of the Rumford Fair Housing Act (banning housing discrimination in California) and against its repeal by ballot proposition. That was an unpopular position for a small town city manager to take, but it was the right thing to do. Art retired in 1985, moved to Davis a few years later and died in 2006.

Bill went on to get a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota. Then after his first job in Dayton, Ohio, he returned to California and worked a full career at SRI (Stanford Research Institute). He now lives near one of his three sons in Sunnyvale, CA.

Bill is an interesting and humble guy. When I started drawing cartoons for the Cal Aggie college newspaper years ago, every time dad saw one of my cartoons he would say, “You know I have a friend named Bill Lee who drew cartoons in the army and in college.” So it was fun to meet Bill in 2004, and it was fun for me to read his book San Francisco Son.

I hope Bill Lee writes another book and includes a story about the two sons of San Francisco who visited each other’s homes just across town, but worlds apart in 1944.

2004 Reunion of the 285th Combat Enigineers. Nashville, TN.

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Burney Falls

Burney Falls

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has an opening for a hydrologist just starting out. The job is in Portland, OR. The job probably involves water quality, flows, and fish, as well as power production. It’s a GS-7/11 ($41k to $93K) with promotion potential to a GS-12. Job opening closes June 12, 2013. So hurry. A link to the job announcement on the Avue website is listed at the end of this post.

These kinds of government jobs are often “wired,” meaning that there is a candidate with an inside shot at it. Sometimes you can make a few phone calls and get a feeling for that. Often they won’t tell you or they lie and tell you that the job is not “wired.” Unfortunately that is just part of the game in applying for federal jobs. This can be frustrating. I know. I’ve been there. How do get the insider information you need, not waste time on extreme long-shot federal applications, become the “wired-one” and get federal the job? My advice to young hydrologists and young hydros tech is network, network, network!!! If you don’t know how, ask me. I’ll help you.


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It’s not about the Domes

40-year Reunion of the Dome Pioneers of Baggins End on the UC Davis campus. August 2012.

Note: This was originally written for Bob Dunning’s 2012 contest: “Replace the above pictured columnist (aka Bob Dunning of The Davis Enterprise).”

Twenty-one years ago I wrote in this space about organizing a twenty year reunion of the folks who built the domes at Baggins End on what was then a remote, treeless corner of the UC Davis campus. I posed the ponderous question, how do you organize a reunion of anarchists? This column lead to an all expense paid, sit down, candlelight supper at McDonald’s at which my wife, Brooke, innocently asked to see menu. The McDonald’s menu was shorter back then, and most people like Bob Dunning carried it around in their heads. But I’m not going to write about the domes this time.

Five years ago, I did write in this space about the 30-year reunion of the dome builders. We always get a good turn-out despite the fact that the group of 40 or so is made up primarily of anarchists, iconoclasts, and other free-spirits, who think sign-up lists are for other people deemed less enlightened. After 35 years I was able to write about the experience of building the domes well enough that a version of my of my “Replace the above Pictured Columnist” piece was published in UC Davis Magazine, and the UC Regents sent me a check for $100.00. That’s right, the first money I ever got for a writing a column was in the low five–figures, with a floating decimal point.

But I told myself I’m not going to write about the domes this time, even though this year the domes are now 40-years old and the community of folks who live there now did a remarkable job in 2011-12 of saving the domes from the wrecking ball. The students of Baggins End, kindred alumni and supporters accomplished this the same year as the infamous, but unrelated, student paper spray incident took place – a year when relations between students and the administration were strained to say the least.

My work with the current and former residents of Baggins End over the last couple of years in this Herculean effort, waged on all fronts, to try and save this little counter-culture community in the midst of all the conformity that surrounds it, made me realize what a wealth of political, organizational, building and general can-do talent lives there now and has lived there in the recent past. In this respect the current student residents are much like the folks who built the domes – a group with diverse nascent talents willing to learn quickly and to pull together for a moment in time for a common cause.

At the 40-year dome pioneers re-union this August, it was amazing to see so many old-friends now nearing the end of their work-a-day careers and learn where they have been and what they have done in their lives as artists, engineers, doctors, and the like. Many are parents and grandparents. The mixing of the generations on a Saturday evening among the domes with some of the current student-residents for a midsummer potluck was magical.

Life is best lived in a community of interconnected communities. Catch the contagion of community life and you will never want to go back to your old life in a neighborhood of strangers, no matter where you live. It’s not about the domes.

BIO: Clay Brandow is a hydrologist with water on his mind most of the time, but at 60 is seeking other diversions, including writing, Rotary and grandparenthood with his lovely wife with a watery name, Brooke.

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Dome Summer of 1972

Dome of Summer 1972 Here is a little slide show on our dome building summer of 1972 at what became the Baggins End Community on a little corner of the UC Davis campus. I used this PowerPoint when talking to local Rotary Clubs about this one of a kind project. Remember these slides are from the summer of 1972, forty years ago. We all look very young, indeed.

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Clay vs. Clayton

My given name is Clay, not Clayton, not Claiborne, nor any of number longer, more formal variants.

When I was in Kindergarten and learning to write my name, my teacher, Miss Manina, insisted my name was Clayton and that my insisting on just writing “CLAY” in my labored, 5-year old, block letters just demonstrated a tendency towards laziness.

“Clayton, you must write your full name. Stop being lazy,” Miss Manina admonished while hovering over me, much too close for comfort and much to my embarrassment.

“My name is Clay and I’m not lazy!” I tearfully protested.

Things quickly spun out of control between me and Miss Manina. Finally, my mom had to come down to the school with my birth certificate to satisfy my teacher that her assumption that my name was Clayton was wrong and that my given name was Clay. Miss Manina was not happy, but she relented.

Mom never disputed the teacher’s second assumption about me, which has proved to be largely correct over the last five and half decades. Miss Manina had me pegged, and mom was not about to contradict her on the laziness issue.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Hope things are fine in Heaven.
Your grateful son,

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