Letters to the Editor, Feb. 16 - 19

Jack London, during the construction of Wolf House. London historian says it was spontaneous combustion of linseed oil rags that led to the building's firey demise.


To build a fire

EDITOR: The recent article in the Index Tribune (“Mrs. London Tells Her Side in ‘Secret Life,’” Feb. 2) includes a quote attributed to Rebecca Rosenberg, the author of the new book “The Secret Life of Mrs. London,” which exhibits a gap in Jack London research regarding the cause of the Wolf House fire. There was an insinuation that the docents at Jack London State Historic Park are not revealing the correct cause of the fire that destroyed the house. It is important to know that docents try to present Jack London history in terms of facts and not rumors.

What we do know is that spontaneous combustion has been determined to be the most probable cause of the fire. The day of the fire had been over 100 degrees and the large windows had not yet been installed, so the dining room was open to the outdoors. At the end of the work day piles of linseed-oil-soaked rags that had been used to wipe all the woodwork and plank floors had been left on the floor. Through natural chemical reaction, heat increased until it reached ignition temperature to start the fire and spread with the aid of the oil in the wood.

In 1995, a forensics fire team of 10, led by Dr. Robert Anderson, spent four days on site and were unanimous in their conclusion that spontaneous combustion was the cause of the fire. I can supply a summary of the study if a request is made through Jack London State Historic Park. There is mention by Rebecca Rosenberg that many experts maintain that this is not true. I need to know who these experts are in order to uncover any evidence I have not encountered in my 20 years of Jack London research.

Since Rebecca Rosenberg’s book is a biographical novel, maintaining accuracy of events can be avoided. However, I am concerned that fiction written about real people can cause readers to confuse fact and fiction. If truth is stretched too far by supposition and imagination, it can be disrespectful to the dead.

Lou Leal, park historian

Jack London State Historic Park

To put out a fire

EDITOR: In response to the letter regarding the fire at the Paul’s Resort site (“Dampened Expectations,” Feb. 13), Sonoma Splash was disheartened to learn of the damage caused to our neighbors by the fire in the early morning hours of Jan. 24, and we are grateful that no one was injured in the incident.

While the official cause of the fire remains unknown, Splash has been aware of the illegal presence of transients on the site at various times during our ownership, and have taken steps to keep the site secure.

We have had in place a standing no-trespassing order, and have asked for and received regular look-ins on the property by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department, who have been very helpful and supportive in this regard. We were unaware that any structures on the site were being used to any extent by transients at the time of the fire.

We had previously cut all power to the site and removed all asbestos from the structures, as a prelude to demolition. The process for the demolition of the structures on the site was already underway before the fire, and all structures on the site are now either down or soon will be.

We now look forward to the development of the site into something both our neighbors and the entire Valley can be proud of.

Paul Favaro

Sonoma Splash

Anybody got a light?

Marijuana: Cue the psychedelic music. The challenge in writing about marijuana, pro, con or indifferent is not falling into the Vortex of Cleverness.

That’s wherein the Siren call to work in all the slang and puns one can muster, call it potology, takes over. It’s become almost mandatory to work in joint, high, grass, buzz or bogart every other sentence in the irresistible urge to be snarkier than thou. So with that proviso I’ll give it a go.

I came out about being a longtime pot smoker in a piece I wrote about 20 years ago called, “The Last Big Closet.” Then, as now, I didn’t advocate its use or prohibition as I felt then and do now it’s an individual choice, like drinking alcohol, vegetarianism, religion or taste in music. Chacun a son gout, as the Tralfamadorians say.

What I do know is that human beings have been altering their reality, getting high, since they first looked around, saw what things were like and thought, “Holy crap, there must be something better than this.” Humans have been messing with reality for millennia, from spinning when we’re kids to get dizzy, to ingesting plant matter or fermenting foodstuffs. Concocting potions to change consciousness is ancient human behavior. We come by it honestly. It’s not an aberration. It’s what humans do, so let’s lighten up here a bit.

As for addiction to pot, it’s not physiologically addictive. Period. If it’s psychologically addictive, which for some seems to be the case, there are many substances and behaviors that also fit that bill quite nicely. Life is a complicated matter.

Then there’s the elephant-sized matter of hypocrisy when a region such as Sonoma – “wine country” – writ large, would disparage marijuana use. The byproduct is the same – changing consciousness – though individual effects can differ. The criminalization of marijuana use has been devastating for tens of thousands for basically no reason whatsoever, and perpetrated by ignorance, stupidity and venal motives.

Again, this is not to advocate its use. It’s an individual choice and there’s a host of pros and cons in so doing that should be considered. But like the song says, “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.”

If the City Council chooses to prohibit pot businesses in Sonoma and the residents go along with that, so be it. That’s democracy. If the people no like then they have to vote themselves in new representatives. That’s democracy. Last I heard it’s still the system, despite taking a beating from the current putative President.

Will Shonbrun

Boyes Springs