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Raisin’ Caen, Pride and Prejudice

Herb Caen – jonathanbecher.com

Herb Caen: Pulitzer Prize winning King of the Columnists. More than 16,000 columns of 1,000 words each over almost 60 years. He wrote a column every day except Saturdays until 1990, when he cut back to five a week. Holy cow. How did he do it?

My friend Robert Minch has been compared to Caen in the Red Bluff Daily News of late and with good reason. Robert, at age 94, has just retired from his column, I Say, which he has been writing weekly since 1964. His father started the column in 1959, and when he passed away, Robert took over. I wrote about him in my RBDN column last week and he emailed to thank me for the kind words. He told me he was always a bit jealous of and inspired by Caen and mentioned that they shared the same birthday, April 3, although Minch is 13 years younger. Whippersnapper.

Robert Minch and his talking dog, Murray. Or it might be Jazz. – redbluffdailynews.com

He also wrote about the personal signed letters he had received from Herb, which he hung on the walls of his office. Caen replied to every letter he received – I have a few myself in a box somewhere. Maybe you do, too.

I made it into Caen’s column once. On September 29, 1995, Caen wrote. “…Add foreign substances: Liz Merry of Red Bluff, who lives up to her name, is delighted to discover that an organizer of the new marijuana initiative, bound for the ’96 ballot, is Nathaniel Reifers of Chico. Yes indeed, pronounced “reefers.” As for Red Bluff, that’s what Khrushchev tried when he put missiles in Cuba.” Hah. Great little Red Bluff joke, although it never achieved the notoriety of the “Chico Velveeta” blurb. You can read the whole column here.

The June “Buckeye Rains” have been lovely and welcome, with the smell of petrichor in the air and wet thunderstorms putting on awesome light shows without starting a bunch of fires. Not like in Canada, where wildfires are raging and there is thick smoke in NYC and down the eastern seaboard as far south as Virginia. Unprecedented. Thank goodness there’s no such thing as climate change! Can you imagine how bad it would be then? (Insert eye roll and sarcasm font.)

The George Washington Bridge smothered in smoke – photo by Seth Wenig/Associated Press

June is a time of joy. Dads and Grads, Brides and Pride. Pride? Yes, this is the month we celebrate diversity and the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community. It started as a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, when patrons of gay bars in Greenwich Village fought back against the police raids and beatings that were occurring with regularity in 1969. It has evolved into a month-long event nationwide.

The Stonewall Inn – photo by Larry Morris/The New York Times

The Red Bluff City Council had an agenda item Tuesday on which a Pride Month Proclamation was discussed. It was an information only item, so no vote was taken. The council chambers were packed with people wanting to speak on the topic. Many who spoke against the proclamation noted that any deviation from “one man – one woman” was against their religious beliefs. Quick note to them – the proclamation doesn’t mean you have to become LGBTQ+, it just asks you to consider accepting them as they are. Like Jesus would have.

Pride in Red Bluff – photo by George Johnston/Red Bluff Daily News

A Gallup poll from 2022 found that 7.1% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+, with one in five Gen Z folks (born mid-1990s – mid-2010s) included in that total. And that’s just the people who admit it. Who knows how many people are stuck in the closet, fearing negative reactions from family and friends?

The proclamation comes back before the Council on June 20 for a vote. A tip of the cap to Mayor Pro Tem Clay Parker for suggesting a meeting with the proponents to amend some verbiage that might be more palatable to all. More kudos to him for his concern about the division in the community over this. Parker and Mayor Kris Deiters met with the proponents this week, so let’s hope they came up with something everyone can feel comfy with.

The proclamation was also sent to Tehama Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Moule by recently censured Red Bluff City Council Member Cody Strock for inclusion on the county agenda. Moule declined the opportunity – apparently unilaterally. Maybe send it to the entire board next time?

Red Bluff City Council Member Cody Strock

No matter what is decided in the Red Bluff City Council Chambers on the 20th, it doesn’t change the fact that June IS Pride Month, even if it’s not officially recognized by one or another local governing body.

Pride Flag – photo by Iliya Mitskavets – stock.adobe.com

So get out there and celebrate, like the sold-out (minus about 10 seats according to Frank Treadway) crowd at the Cascade Theatre in Redding on June 3.The line to get in snaked around the corner and people from every walk of life had a fun night of entertainment, amazing costumes, and wonderful music spanning generations.

And that, my friends, is what you call a rough segue into Shasta County stuff. You have surely heard about slovenly citizen Alex Bielecki’s use of the N-word at the Shasta Supes meeting last week because it made national news and has been blasted all over ANC. Board Chair Patrick Jones did not admonish Bielecki for using that word. Instead, he ejected the only black man in the room, my friend and Air Force veteran Nathan Blayz, for loudly objecting to the word. A good portion of the audience objected with Blayz.

I bring this up as a comparison – Tehama’s Board Chair, Bill Moule, has tried to restrict the public’s First Amendment rights whenever possible, while Jones uses the First Amendment to allow racist hate speech in Board Chambers. Isn’t that difference interesting? Both chairs twisting laws and the Constitution in different ways to make it work the way they want it. Happily, neither are getting away with it.

Tehama Supervisor Chairman Bill Moule

Shasta Supervisors Chair Patrick Jones with his beloveds – photo Redding Record Searchlight

Also – I was a bit shocked to learn the Shasta Supes hold public budget hearings. Their County Executive Officer prepare a budget and Department Heads come before the full board and the public to explain their requests. The board continues to meet daily (for up to 14 days) and work on it together until it’s done. That is so civilized.

In Tehama, there is a private two-supe ad hoc that isn’t even formed until after the Recommended Budget is presented. Those two people try to comb through all the detritus and then give up because time has run out and it passes without the hard work ever being done. Score one for Shasta.

If you appreciate Liz Merry’s reporting and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Liz Merry

Liz Merry was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx, then transplanted to the Jersey Shore. She moved to Chico in 1984 and married her comedy partner, Aaron Standish, in 1990. They have lived in Manton since 1994.

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