Nevada City is not a Thomas Kinkade painting — it is much more

Thomas Kinkade’s “A Peaceful Retreat”

Thomas Kinkade was an American painter of popular pastoral and idyllic subjects. The “painter of light” was known for his paintings of cozy cottages with windows that glowed, quaint towns with twinkling lights, and English gardens. “I love small towns. I love their scenic charm, their local history, their strong sense of community and their fast ties to family heritage,” the late painter once said. (For another perspective on Kinkade, read “Dark Portrait of a Painter of Light” here).

If Nevada City didn’t exist, Kinkade would have painted it. We have been residents for over a decade, and we enjoy all it has to offer. This weekend we enjoyed Victorian Christmas. It was packed with locals and visitors alike.

But the “real” Nevada City is much more than that. While romanticized like a Kinkade painting, it also has embraced diversity and differences of opinion — in what is now largely a homogenous, lily-white county.

Embracing differences is not a new theme for Nevada City. “There were black cowboys and miners, and Nevada City even hosted services of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,” as Robert Scheer wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1991. “Schools were integrated in 1876 and ‘coloreds,’ including freemen from the East who augmented the ex-slave population, entered the commercial and social life of an area that had been strongly pro-Union.

“The Bonanza market on downtown’s Broad Street, for example, has been run by a Chinese family since I first came to town, and you can check with proprietor Jack Yock as to memories of his family’s history there.”

David Osborn and Charles Woods were two transplanted San Francisco designers who helped shape the town. The graphic artists and partners helped invigorate the town, now known for its arts and culture scene.

Against this backdrop of tolerance, it seems out of the town’s character to propose that its current mayor, Reinette Senum, be censured or demoted. It will be debated at a Nevada City Council meeting on Dec. 10. More details are here.

“I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing Reinette for many years and she still finds ways to amaze me,” said Marching Presidents founder David Parker, who presented a community service award to her at the Marching Presidents post-parade awards banquet at Miners Foundry.

“Her list of community accomplishments is long and growing longer each year. She has helped transform our historic community in ways that have put Nevada City on the cutting edge of the 21st Century,” he said. “The Famous Marching Presidents are proud to honor Reinette with our 25th annual Lambert Award.”

In the agenda packet, I was surprised to read that some of her vociferous critics (read their letters in the link to the agenda packet) were the same people we saw standing in line for the farm-to-table dinners that Reinette organized.

I don’t always agree with Reinette or her approach, and she has made mistakes. But I also appreciate what she has done for our town — as a council member and a volunteer.

Nevada City is not a Thomas Kinkade painting — or the setting for Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” where act of stoning someone somehow “purges the town of the bad and allows for the good.”

To be sure, the punishment directed at Reinette is not that extreme. But the “punishment does not fit the (alleged) crime.” It will set a ugly precedent.

I am hoping common sense prevails when the Council meets on this agenda item, but I am doubtful. This is a provincial town and it’s often “personal.”

We face some real big issues in our town that have nothing to do with Reinette. This is where the Council should direct its attention.

You Tubers The Piano Guys: "O come, O come, Emmanuel"

The Piano Guys are an American musical group consisting of pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, videographer Paul Anderson, and music producer Al van der Beek,” as Wikipedia reports. “They gained popularity through YouTube, where in 2010 they began posting piano and cello compositions combining classical, contemporary, and rock and roll music, accompanied by professional-quality videos. As of August 2018 the group had surpassed 1.6 billion views on their YouTube channel and had 6.2 million subscribers. To date, they have topped the Billboard Classical Albums chart six times and the New Age Albums chart eight times.”

"It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas"

We cut a beautiful Douglas Fir tree at McBurney’s Tree Farm in Cedar Ridge this afternoon (while enjoying the crackling outdoor fire and hot chocolate); brought it home in our Chevy pickup (free netting and loading, as always); and hung its branches with our beloved collection of hand-blown glass ornaments. Each one has a “story.” We wrap them in tissue paper like jewels and store them in big, sturdy boxes in the garage.

It is an eclectic collection: Some of them date back to my grandma Ella’s childhood in Park City, Utah (fragile!). Others come from the famed Podesta Baldocchi Flowers in San Francisco (a fabulous store that made a cameo appearance in Hitchcock’s Vertigo), the striking Neiman Marcus Rotunda, fabled Bullock’s Wilshire in Los Angeles, and joyous FAO Schwarz in Manhattan, as well as our trips to Europe. One is from Tokyo, a harrowing journey for such a fragile thing.

Our son Mitchell made some of the ornaments in grade school at Mt. St. Mary Academy (one reads “I love everyone in the world”). Others are vintage hand-painted ornaments from the iconic De Carlini in Italy (…/artisan/the-de-carlini-family) and  The Christopher Radko Company (…/christopher-radko-the-man-who-super-siz…).

Some have nicknames, such as “Icicle Man.” And I’m sad to say that a few (like “Mr. Octopus” with its fragile tentacles) broke in past years.

As a child, I used to lie down on the floor under the tree and look up into the ornaments and lights, imagining a magical world. Now it’s an opportunity to reflect upon the past and contemplate another New Year.

PG&E reaches $13.5 billion deal with wildfire victims

“After months of tense negotiations, Pacific Gas & Electric and lawyers for victims of wildfires that killed dozens of people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes and businesses have agreed Friday to a multibillion-dollar legal settlement,” as The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting.

“The victims would not receive all of the $13.5 billion that is being made available under the agreement. Some of it would go toward paying the claims of federal and state agencies, and the victims’ lawyers would receive a portion.

“The accord is a big step forward for PG&E, whose response to wildfires has often faltered. For victims, the money would help them rebuild homes and lives after months of uncertainty, though many would most likely get a lot less than they had hoped for or need.

“And a settlement would significantly increase the likelihood that PG&E will emerge from bankruptcy before a crucial deadline in June. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in January, saying it faced an estimated $30 billion in wildfire claims.”

The rest of the article is here.

Heidi Hall announces re-election bid for 2020

Heidi Hall released this press release:

Heidi Hall is pleased to announce that she is running for a second term for the Nevada County Supervisor’s seat in District 1.   In her first term, she advanced important issues that benefit the citizens of Nevada County, including work on homelessness, fire safety, cannabis and broadband, among others. She looks forward to continue providing leadership addressing these and other challenges, while protecting Nevada County’s distinctive rural character. Everyone in the County benefits from a Board that works well together and a community that participates.

“I am proud of my first-term successes, seeing the County much more engaged in meeting our challenges with creative and collaborative solutions.  There is more to do to on our key priorities, while upping our game to support our beleaguered small businesses.  I work hard, and I persist, and I look forward to seeing real achievements in the next four years,” she said.

California’s primary has been moved forward, and the final date to vote is March 3, 2020.  Nevada County is a vote by mail County, and ballots for the primary will be mailed out in early February, according to the Elections office. 

Heidi’s endorsements include the State Controller Betty Yee, California’s Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, and State Senator Mike McGuire, who is a statewide champion for rural issues and has asked Heidi to work with him on cannabis issues.

“I look forward to our challenges in the coming years, and I plan to run on the merits of my work completed so far and my vision of a thriving County moving forward.  I hope to see a good turnout on March 3.” To contact Heidi, go to or email her campaign at ###

Doctor Dogs

“Doctor dogs are amazing dogs on the cutting edge of medicine,” according to Maria Goodavage, author of a new book “Doctor Dogs.” “They help keep people safe from a growing variety of physical and mental health issues, often by virtue of their incredible sense of smell. And of course, their bond with the people they love.

“This video — with music by Emmy-winning singer-songwriter Parry Gripp — features real dogs who detect cancer and Parkinson’s in fun research settings, and dogs who alert people to seizures and diabetic lows or highs and other life-threatening physical ailments.

“Doctor dogs are also helping people with autism, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Other intrepid canines who are protecting people from antibiotic-resistant bugs, and to dogs may one day help keep us safe from epidemic catastrophe. Their paycheck for their lifesaving work? Heartfelt praise and a tasty treat or favorite toy.

“For more on these dogs and the people whose lives they save, pick up a copy of the book, Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine, by New York Times bestselling author Maria Goodavage. It’s available on Amazon and other online retailers, as well as bookstores and libraries.”