The jig is up
by Gareth Penn
There is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail.
— Olivia, Twelfth night
I had always been baffled by my descent into evil until July 2002, when I visited my cousin Valerie, who lives in New York. All three of my cousins and I had been baptized together in April 1944, when I was too young to form permanent memories. Valerie, who is a few years older than I, remembers the event, and she belatedly — 58 years after the fact — filled me in. She says that when the pastor’s hand, cupped to hold the holy water, approached my head, I bobbed and weaved and practically did a backflip to keep from being tagged. She thinks the holy water did not even touch me. If she is right, then I was not even symbolically washed clean of the burden of Original Sin. That, of course, explains the path my life has followed since then.
What amazes me most about the furor surrounding my criminal past is how little incriminating material the leading theorists have managed to dig up. In the interest of justice, I would like to contribute a number of items that they have somehow overlooked and which would greatly enhance the quality of the discussion concerning my transgressions.
On 10 November 1965, I was undergoing basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, when Fort Dix and the entire northeastern part of the United States — not to mention two Canadian provinces — were blacked out by a power failure that lasted ten hours. Twelve years later, in July 1977, I was in New York when all five boroughs (and Westchester County) experienced a 36-hour blackout. And then when I was in New York in July 2002 (learning late in life about my non-baptism), there was yet another blackout, this time in Brooklyn. I wasn’t actually in Brooklyn when the last of these events took place (I was in Staten Island at the time), but even the dullest among us must see that since there is a power failure in New York City every time I am there (or nearby), I must be responsible for it.
My baleful influence extends to college athletic programs as well as the power grid. When I was a freshman at Berkeley, I went to all the home football games, but I did not go to a single football game in any of my other three undergraduate years. For my first two years at Berkeley, I went to all the home basketball games, but never went to another game as a junior or senior. In the one year I attended the football games, the Golden Bears went to the Rose Bowl; in the ensuing half century, they have never returned to it. The same is true of Cal basketball; in both of the two years I went to their home games, the Bears won the NCAA championship, but they have never since even made it into the semifinals. Some of my dorm mates drove down to Pasadena to root for the football team in January 1959, but I stayed in Berkeley; UC’s loss to Iowa (38-12) is obviously attributable to my lack of school spirit. Sabotaging my alma mater’s athletic program may not be the legal equivalent of murder to a judge and jury, but the corps of Cal alumni would probably feel differently about it.
Speaking of my undergraduate years at Berkeley, at that time, there was a professor in my department named Erwin Gudde. Professor Gudde was a linguistics scholar who had devoted years of study to California Indian languages. This led him to compile a list of place names derived from those languages, and, since he was a German, a Teutonic compulsion to thoroughness drove him to expand his list into a dictionary of all California place names; that dictionary is now the standard work on the subject. In the entry on the town of Paradise (Butte County), Gudde notes that a railroad map published in 1900 misspells the place name as “Paradice.” The Zodiac murderer misspells the word the same way in four documents; Gudde and I were in the same department, so it is amazing that none of those who comment on my criminal activities has ever brought up this stunning piece of circumstantial evidence. I never took a course from Gudde, and I don’t even know what he looked like, but he must have been influential; the results speak for themselves.
I was at Berkeley as a graduate student from the fall of 1968 through the summer of 1972. During that period, I also lived in Berkeley and was employed by the university as a teaching assistant. At the beginning of January 1973, my wife, son, and I moved to 701 Capitol Street in Vallejo, where we rented the main part of the house while looking for a home to purchase in Napa. We lived at 701 Capitol Street for five months in all, moving to Napa late in May. The house had a mother-in-law unit, which was occupied by someone whom we could hear typing late into the night. When we introduced ourselves, our housemate turned out to be one Tracy Kidder, who had an assignment from the Atlantic Monthly to write about the trial of accused serial murderer Juan Corona, which was going on in Solano County Superior Court in nearby Fairfield. Kidder had been there since September, and he left again around the end of January. He expanded his Atlantic article into a book, which appeared under the title The road to Yuba City (Doubleday, 1974).
It boggles the mind that, given the attention they have devoted to the minutest details of my biography, the commentators have missed this damning piece of evidence: Tracy Kidder and I both lived at 701 Capitol Street for five months, overlapping there by one month (January 1973), and we both wrote books about serial murderers. Furthermore, a very cursory look at Kidder’s biography reveals that he and I were both in the U.S. Army in 1967. A more thorough investigation would without a doubt turn up more striking parallels. It seems inescapable that “Tracy Kidder” is a lightly disguised form of the phrase “trace the kidder,” a kidder being someone who is disingenuous (i.e. kids), and that when someone introduces himself as “Tracy Kidder,” he is slyly hinting that if you look more closely into the facts (i.e. trace them), you will find that he is actually someone else. It follows, given the biographical parallels between us, that Tracy Kidder and I must be one and the same person.
My involvement in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal office building in April 1995 is something else the commentators have, to my astonishment, completely overlooked. Timothy McVeigh and I, both Army veterans, were both ordered to pull over to the side of the highway by Oklahoma law enforcement officers. Both of us came out of these confrontations without getting a ticket (he was arrested for possessing an illegal firearm; I got a lecture). Before his trial was moved to Denver pursuant to a change-of-venue motion, it was scheduled to take place in Comanche County Court, in the same courthouse where I was married on 23 December 1966 (by Comanche County judge Lewis F. Oerke — “It rhymes with ‘Corky,’” he pointed out). These eerie parallels simply set one’s spine a-tingle.
But damning as all the above is, it and everything else that has been written about the black deeds I have committed pale in comparison to the complex of data surrounding my involvement in the assassination of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk as well as the massacre of 900 people at Jonestown in Guyana. Much has been made of an extramarital affair which I had in 1978, since the woman with whom I was involved was the niece of the woman who had discovered the corpses of the Zodiac’s victims at Lake Herman Road ten years earlier. These things are all intricately connected, as will become obvious in the following presentation.
To begin with, they all happened in 1978; thus they are linked by synchronicity alone. The circumstances that led to my extramarital affair eventuated in a divorce (1982-1985), in which I was represented by an attorney named Susan Wilkinson. Wilkinson left the practice of the law a few years later to work as an assistant to California Assemblywoman Jackie Speier. Before she ran for her Assembly seat, Speier had been an assistant to Congressman Leo Ryan and had accompanied him on a trip to Guyana to investigate complaints of misconduct on the part of the Reverend Jim Jones, the leader of the People’s Temple, which had recently relocated to Guyana from San Francisco. Ryan and his party were attacked at the rural airstrip where their plane landed by members of the People’s Temple; Ryan was killed by gunfire and Speier was wounded. The poisoning of hundreds of People’s Temple members with cyanide-laced Kool-Aid took place the same day. As you can see, I am connected to these lugubrious events by a chain of associations consisting of only two links (I am linked to Wilkinson, Wilkinson is linked to Speier, and Speier is linked to Jonestown).
As to the assassination of Moscone and Milk, they were murdered in San Francisco City Hall, a building with which I have numerous connections. My daughter worked there for a number of years in the 1980s-1990s, and my father worked for the California Division of Highways (now called CalTrans) in the 1940s-1950s in the California state office building across McAllister Street from City Hall. Furthermore, my wife Mary Ann — whom I married in the courthouse that almost hosted the Timothy McVeigh trial — and I had, for a number of years, season tickets to San Francisco Opera, which holds forth at the War Memorial Opera House across Van Ness Avenue from City Hall. And in 1972, I participated in a meeting with San Francisco Sheriff Richard Hongisto at his office in City Hall. The People’s Temple had, before its removal to Guyana, been located in San Francisco, and it was a force to be reckoned with in city politics. Jim Jones supported George Moscone’s election, and it is conceivable that without Jones’ help, Moscone would not have been mayor. The mayor’s office is in City Hall, and so there is another two-link chain connecting me with the Jonestown massacre (I am linked to City Hall, City Hall is linked to George Moscone, and George Moscone is linked to Jim Jones). Come to think of it, Moscone’s press secretary was Mel Wax, who had been the editor/moderator of KQED-TV’s Newsroom, Richard Hongisto had been a reporter on Newsroom before his election to the sheriff’s office, and when Mary Ann and I were expecting our first child, we answered an ad offering a used crib; when we asked the seller for her name so we could write her a check, she turned out to be Norma Hongisto, Richard’s sister-in-law. After his stint as sheriff, Hongisto was a supervisor with an office in City Hall. SF City Hall is stuck to me with Elmer’s Glue-All!
Mary Ann and I usually parked our car in the Civic Center garage and then walked west on McAllister Street to get to the Opera House. There is a statue of the eponymous Hall McAllister on that side of City Hall, and right behind the McAllister statue is a semicircular driveway that goes down to an entrance on the basement level of City Hall. Now, if Hall McAllister were to look backwards over his shoulder, he would be able to see the basement window through which former supervisor Dan White entered City Hall to murder Moscone and Milk in 1978 (the same year — just in case you’ve forgotten — in which I had an affair with the niece of the woman who discovered the Zodiac victims’ corpses in 1968). He did so in order to avoid the metal detectors at the public entrances, which would have disclosed that he was carrying a pistol. The prosecution argued that this showed premeditation on White’s part, an argument that was trumped by the famous Twinkie Defense; the jury accepted the defense argument that White acted on an impulse triggered by excessive carbohydrate intake. But I digress.
The People’s Temple decamped for Guyana in 1978 following publication of an article titled “Inside People’s Temple,” which appeared in the 1 August 1977 issue of New West, the California sister publication of Clay Felker’s New York. The authors were Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy. In 1980-1981, I sold three articles to New West, one on global warming, one on geodesic dome houses, and one on the Zodiac murders. Furthermore, Kilduff went on to write for the San Francisco Chronicle, which had received the majority of the Zodiac’s letters in 1969-1974, and his co-author’s surname is Tracy, the given name of my housemate in Vallejo of 1973 (vide supra). Felker, whose magazine published my contributions as well as Kilduff and Tracy’s People’s Temple exposé, once taught journalism at Berkeley, my alma mater, which also employed a linguist who published a reference book in which the word “Paradice” appears and whose athletic program was reduced to ruins by my non-support. This plot is so thick you could slice it with a chain saw.
One day in 1974, when Mary Ann and I were running late to get to a performance of Manon Lescaut, we were fearful lest we miss the curtain and have to stand through the first act, so we ran. She tripped and fell, landing on her chin right at Hall McAllister’s feet. She didn’t break anything, but the flesh on her chin was ripped open, and she left a small puddle of blood on the sidewalk. Blood makes very persistent stains, and it took around five years for this one to weather away (I know this because in subsequent years, I monitored its status every time I walked past it on the way to the Opera House). Instead of listening to Manon croak out Sola, perduta, abbandonata as she dies of thirst in the desert of Louisiana, I watched a baseball game on TV in the waiting room of Kaiser San Francisco’s emergency department while Mary Ann got her chin stitched up (the injury left a very unobtrusive little scar on the underside of her chin). Be that as it may, this incident could have been summarized with the headline BOMBSHELL! PENN SPILLS BLOOD AT CITY HALL, a piquantly ambiguous statement, since it does not specify which Penn is meant, and “to spill blood” can be passive (to emit blood from one’s own body) as well as active (to cause another to emit blood), so it covers all the bases. Since it can be read as meaning that I am responsible for an act of violence committed at City Hall, I am surprised that no one has ever made use of it.
Five years later, on 5 October 1979, I was involved in a shooting incident at City Hall and had a confrontation with San Francisco Police Department. Shortly before Mary Ann and I arrived for a performance of Don Carlo, a man broke into an upper-story office in a building overlooking the Civic Center and used a rifle to shoot at pedestrians in order to express his solidarity with the downtrodden peoples of Third World countries. In Act IV of Don Carlo, the Marquis of Posa, the champion of the downtrodden people of the Netherlands, is assassinated with a musket. The report of the firearm and the odor of burned gunpowder, which quickly spread throughout the auditorium, gave us a foretaste, er, foresmell of what awaited us outside. The curtain came down, but the house lights did not go up, and Maestro Kurt Herbert Adler, propped up by his cane and accompanied by a high-ranking SFPD officer resplendent in creaking leather, hobbled out onto stage. He introduced the SFPD officer, who then announced that because of the sniper situation going on outside, no one would be permitted to leave the Opera House through the main entrance facing Van Ness; everyone would have to exit through the carriage entrances at the sides of the building. Our car was in the Civic Center garage on the other side of City Hall, and no one was allowed to cross Van Ness. It was late evening, we had two children left in the care of a babysitter 50 miles away, and we had no way to get home. We knew another couple from Napa who had season tickets the same evening we did (Malcolm and Lisi Reynolds), so we searched the crowd for them; when we found them, we asked if we could hitch a lift with them. They agreed and pointed to where their car was parked; we could see it in the last parking space at the corner of McAllister and Van Ness, on the City Hall side of McAllister — but across the street. A quick flit across Van Ness, and we would be on our way. We were stopped by an SFPD officer; we debated with him, adducing all of our excellent arguments in favor of our plan: the car was right across the street, our homes and children were far away, it was late at night, and so forth. He was obdurate and would not let us pass. Eventually, we borrowed the car of a friend who lived in San Francisco, drove home, and then returned the car the following evening, after the sniper had been apprehended.
The catalogue of my crimes includes literary ones such as overdescription and digression, the preceding paragraph being an egregious example of both, and I apologize. To get back to the subject, let me summarize what we have so far. In 1978, the same year in which I had an extramarital affair with a woman whose aunt had discovered the corpses of the Zodiac’s victims at Lake Herman Road ten years earlier, 900 people were killed at Jonestown, an event to which I am closely linked, and two city officials were assassinated at City Hall, a building with which I am, if anything, even more closely linked (by way of my daughter, my father, my opera subscription, the blood-shedding incident on McAllister Street, my meeting with Sheriff Hongisto, and the Don Carlo shootout).
The City Hall murders of 1978 are the subject of the movie Milk (2008), which includes an excerpt from Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca (whose second act ends with the murder of a city official in Napoleonic-era Rome’s equivalent of City Hall, the Palazzo Farnese); Manon Lescaut, which Mary Ann and I missed because one or the other of us was spilling blood at City Hall, is also a Puccini product, and Puccini is a composer who has an unwholesome preoccupation with the morbid: murder by strangulation (Il tabarro), torture (Tosca, Turandot), suicide (Suor Angelica, Madama Butterfly, Tosca), murder of a city official (Tosca again), lynching (La fanciulla del West), death from tuberculosis (La Bohème), and probate fraud (Gianni Schicchi). I have attended many performances of operas by this composer, and I own recordings of his entire oeuvre. I don’t think I need to draw you a picture; anybody who enjoys Puccini has, at best, criminal tendencies.
I have saved the best part for last, because there are people out there who need to read the foregoing before their heads explode from reading the following, which a Saddam Hussein, if he wrote for the National Enquirer, might describe as the mother of all bombshells (“bombshell” used to describe something of trivial importance is an Enquirer staple). Harvey Milk is portrayed in the movie Milk by actor Sean Penn, whose surname is identical to mine. If that isn’t a smoking gun, I don’t know what is.
Not only do Sean Penn and I share a surname; we used to share a county (we both lived in Marin, across the Golden Gate from San Francisco). Even more significant, he and I used to patronize the same bookstore (Book Passage in Corte Madera). I went in there once to pick up a book they had special-ordered for me, and the clerk handed me a book that I didn’t recognize as mine. When I said so, she replied, “Sorry — that one is for Sean; here’s the book you ordered.” To summarize, I have held in my hand a book owned by an actor named Penn who played the part of someone murdered at City Hall along with a mayor supported by the People’s Temple in the same year as the Jonestown massacre and my extramarital affair with the woman whose aunt discovered the bodies of the Zodiac victims at Lake Herman Road ten years earlier.
(A subsidiary riddle to which Internet true-crime buffs will certainly want to apply their investigative skills is what Erle Stanley Gardner would likely have titled The Case of the Substitute Soprano. In the movie, Harvey Milk is shown watching a performance of Tosca in the San Francisco Opera House shortly before his assassination. Catalan soprano Montserrat Caballé sang the title role in SFO’s 1978 season, but only in the first five performances, the last of which was on 25 October. Milk was murdered on 27 November, over a month later. In the last three performances of Tosca, Caballé was replaced by Gwyneth Jones (29 October) and Magda Olivero (22 and 25 November). Jones is Welsh and Olivero was 68 years old at the time. Neither is overweight. The soprano in the movie is overweight — like Caballé — and doesn’t look either Welsh or elderly. I saw Tosca on Friday evening, 20 October 1978, when Caballé was on deck and, just in case anybody’s forgotten, ten years after the aunt of my partner in adultery discovered the corpses of the two Zodiac murder victims at Lake Herman Road. If Milk — who, once again, is played by an actor named Penn living in Marin County, where I lived from 1982 to 2005 — is actually watching Caballé, and if minute analysis of the movie shows that he is sitting in Row N, center orchestra, where my season-ticket seat was, then it must follow as the night the day that he, Tracy Kidder, and I are all the same person masquerading as three different ones.)
Finally, I would like to add a note concerning the cryptological methodology used by certain commentators to incriminate me as a serial murderer; they may have succeeded in removing the first six veils, but penetration of the seventh still eludes their grasp, and to hasten the actualization of justice, I will now disclose what they have so far failed to reveal. My full name, GARETH SEWELL PENN, is an anagram of NELLS GREAT NEPHEW. My maternal grandmother was indeed named Nellie, and her great-nephew would be, if I understand consanguinity correctly, my second cousin. Now, MY SECOND COUSIN is an anagram of I USE NYC CONDOMS, which would indicate that I am a sexually active resident of New York City; I SYNC CONDOM USE suggests that I am employed by a family planning clinic; YOU SIN SOME, DNC means that I am a Republican political activist (DNC = Democratic National Committee); COMEDY IS SO NUNC bespeaks an affinity for Steven Sondheim, the opening number of whose musical A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum — based on Roman dramatist Plautus’ play Miles gloriosus — is “Comedy tonight!” (nunc = Latin “now”); and SOME SOUND CYNIC corresponds to my being in good health but attitudinally acidulous. All of these statements are, of course, very apt descriptions of me, and as in other areas of this investigation (see above), I am surprised that no one has made an issue of them.
I hope that all this will be helpful to those toiling in the vineyard of righteousness, but I anticipate that none of them will even say thank you.
Appendix 1: one degree of Kevin Bacon
In 1961, Michael Gurewich filed his doctoral dissertation at MIT, an empirical study of social networking. His work provided the basis for a theoretical extrapolation by Manfred Kochen in his Contacts and influences (1978) and the work of Stanley Milgram, who published an influential article in Psychology today titled “The small world problem” (1967). Milgram’s article began the process of popularization of this subject, the final touches to which were supplied by playwright John Guare with his play “Six degrees of separation” (1990; movie version 1993), whence the popular figure of speech. Milgram found that any two people in a population the size of the United States can be connected by a chain of associations having as few as three links; in his book, Kochen reduced that to two.
Social networking theory tells us, in essence, that everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows Meryl Streep; most people are not aware of these connections because they don’t look for them. Ignorance of how small the world is socially analogizes ignorance of how small it is environmentally. The latter kind of ignorance has led to predicaments such as global warming; the former has led some people to believe that it is somehow remarkable that I had an affair with a woman whose aunt came across the Zodiac victims at Lake Herman Road and had been a high school classmate of one of them. The woman in question was born and raised in Vallejo, and her parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and at least one sibling that I know of also lived in Vallejo. She had gone to school, K-12, in Vallejo; she worked in Vallejo, and most of her co-workers lived in Vallejo; her husband lived in Vallejo, and his co-workers lived there, too. In the 1960s and 1970s, the population of Vallejo was about 60,000. Since social networking research has established that a chain of associations of as few as two links can connect any two individuals in a population the size of the United States, it is hardly surprising that she had some connection to one or more of the Zodiac victims, four of whom lived in or near Vallejo. Indeed, it would have been surprising if she hadn’t had such a connection.
I can illustrate the implications of social networking theory with examples from my own life. The story of the most spectacular one begins in April 1968, when Mary Ann and I were camping in Yugoslavia. We were trying to make our morning coffee with a cheap little kerosene cooker we had purchased in Athens, and it wasn’t working. An American couple camping nearby offered us the use of their Primus stove, and as we stood around waiting for the water to boil, we introduced ourselves. They, like us, were from the Bay Area; their names were Howell and Joan Breece. As we were waiting for the water to get hot, Joan stared intently at Mary Ann’s feet. Whatever we had been talking about, she suddenly changed the subject, asking Mary Ann if Jamie Robertson had made her sandals. Of course, he had; Robertson was an artisan whom both Joan and Mary Ann knew. In the ensuing conversation, it turned out that the Breeces knew two other people who were associates of mine, neither of whom had any connection to Robertson.
Over the next few decades of our acquaintanceship, I learned that Howell had been born and raised in China as the son of a professor at a missionary college. He had come to the U.S. for the first time at age 17 for a university education. Not long afterward, the Second World War came along, and following that, the Chinese revolution, and he never returned to the land of his birth. During the war, he had been drafted into the Navy, which sent him to a Japanese language institute in Colorado to learn Japanese prior to utilizing him as an intelligence officer (they reasoned that since he spoke Mandarin like a native, he would have little difficulty learning Japanese).
Thirty years after I met the Breeces, I was working as a librarian for the National Marine Fisheries Service at its laboratory in Tiburon, California. I had our journals bound once a year by a bindery in Sonoma owned by one Stewart Hummell. I would box them up and drive them over to Sonoma in the laboratory’s pickup truck, and he would bring them back bound in his station wagon. One time, the effort of schlepping a load of heavy cartons into the building left him bushed (he was in his eighties), and while he was getting his second wind, I struck up a conversation with him. I don’t recall how it got started, but he said something about his past that led me to draw him out about his life. He had been born and raised in China as the son of a professor at a missionary college. He had come to the U.S. just before the Second World War for a university education; because of the war and the subsequent revolution in China, he had never returned. During the war, he had been drafted into the Navy, which — because he spoke Mandarin like a native — had sent him to a Japanese language institute in Colorado before utilizing him as an intelligence officer.
He hadn’t gotten very far into his biography before I interrupted him. I said that I had a friend whose life had followed a very similar path and wondered if he knew him. “What’s his name?” Mr. Hummell asked. “Howell Breece,” I replied. “Howell Breece!” he exclaimed. “Why, I haven’t seen him since 1944!” I had thought the two of them might have known one another in China. They hadn’t. They had met for the first time at the Japanese language institute, where they were classmates, and they served together in the same office during the war — until 1944, when one or the other was transferred elsewhere. After the war, they had both settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for nearly a half century, until I had my conversation with Mr. Hummell, neither was aware of the other’s presence nearby. (I have a daughter, incidentally, who does not know either Howell Breece or Stewart Hummell and so was inspired by neither of them when she earned a BA in Japanese at the University of Colorado in the successor to the same institute at which they had learned the language.)
I had a friend in graduate school named Dave McCann, who was married to a woman named Feelie Lee. Feelie taught school in South San Francisco, and one of her co-workers was a woman whom both Dave and Fee tried to fix me up with (we were both single). We both resisted, and their matchmaking efforts came to naught. Two years later, when I was in the Army, I returned to the Bay Area on two weeks’ leave. Fee would not let me see Dave, since he was preparing for his PhD orals; he had received a Germanistic Society of America scholarship to the Free University Berlin (I had had the same scholarship, to the same institution, three years earlier, in addition to a Fulbright scholarship), and a friend of theirs in San Francisco was giving them a going-away party. She invited me to the party, where she said I could visit with Dave. I attended the party, and the hostess and I immediately fell head over heels in love with one another (we were married two months later, in the same courthouse where the Timothy McVeigh trial was scheduled to take place thirty years in the future). Naturally, she was the same woman whom Dave and Fee had unsuccessfully tried to fix me up with years before. That is a digression, and I would apologize for it if it weren’t such a good story. The main point is that the purpose of Dave’s coming sojourn in Berlin was to work on his dissertation, whose subject was playwright Bertolt Brecht’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. His research included corresponding with Helene Weigel, Brecht’s widow. I knew Dave McCann, Dave McCann corresponded with Helene Weigel, and Helene Weigel had been married to Bertolt Brecht. There is thus a chain of associations connecting me to Brecht, and there are only two links separating us.
I took two courses at Berkeley from Heinz Politzer, one a Kafka course and the other on the application of Freudian psychology to the study of literature (during the Kafka course, Politzer appeared on an ABC television Sunday-afternoon show called Meet the professor; he took along six of his students to put on a mock Kafka seminar lasting fifteen minutes on national television — I was one of them and another was a young woman whom I married a year later and who is the mother of my daughter who went to the same school in Colorado that Howell Breece and Stewart Hummell attended). Politzer had been a friend and professional associate of Max Brod, and Brod had been a friend and colleague of Franz Kafka. Thus there is a chain of associations linking me to Franz Kafka consisting of only two links: I knew Politzer, Politzer knew Brod, and Brod knew Kafka.
When my mother and I lived in Carmel, California, she became the friend — and after my father went into the Army, the housemate — of a woman named Dorothea Bassett. Dorothea was married to W. K. Bassett, who had edited a left-wing publication titled Pacific weekly in the early 1930s. One of his associates at PW was muckraker Lincoln Steffens (who is best known for a comment on his visit to Russia shortly after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917: “I have been over into the future, and it works”). W. K. also knew Harry Bridges, the head of the International Longshore Workers Union and a long-time member of the Communist Party. I was the son of my mother, she knew Dorothea, Dorothea was married to W. K., and W. K. knew both Steffens and Bridges. Three links each. From his time in the Monterey-Pacific Grove area, my father was acquainted with marine biologist Edward Flanders Ricketts, who was a close friend of John Steinbeck. The chain linking me to Steinbeck has only two links. Dorothea’s son Oliver, who lived with me and my family after his mother’s death, worked as an extra in the movie One-eyed jacks (1961); thus, I am connected by a chain of one link to Marlon Brando, who directed and acted in that movie, and was, if only briefly, Oliver’s employer.
When I was a graduate student at Berkeley in the years 1963-1965, one of my pals was the late F. Robert Lehmeyer. Bob’s roommate was a history grad student named Bernard Bachrach. For some time, a regular ritual at Bob and Bernie’s apartment was a Sunday-afternoon fan-tan game. One of the regular players was an acquaintance of Bernie’s from the history department, a woman named Nancy Maginnes. Ten years later, Nancy married Henry Kissinger, who was at that time U.S. Secretary of State. I was of course hurt when he did not consult with me about the peace negotiations with North Vietnam and the NLF, but what really stung was that he did not ask me for my opinion about Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, because he and I are connected by a chain of associations made up of one link: I used to play fan-tan with Nancy Maginnes, and she married him. The Wikipedia page on Kissinger shows a photograph of him and Nancy at the Metropolitan Opera in New York; thus there is a possibility that one of them has sat in the same seat I occupied the last time I was there (La forza del destino, 1967 — the lights stayed on that time).
(Just in case Nancy is reading this, I’ll address a remark to her. Nancy, I still remember your talking about how, back in your White Plains days, your mother disapproved of ketchup bottles on the dinner table, and so you kept one on the floor under your chair. When you and Henry got married, I started looking for a silver ketchup dispenser as a wedding present. Thirty-six years later, I’m still looking; please forgive the delay. I mean well.)
On a more poignant and recent note, the Coast Guard was alerted by the cruise ship Statendam to the abandoned 22-foot sailboat Rose about 70 miles northwest of Point Conception (California) on 13 May 2010. A thorough search by air and surface vessels failed to find the missing sailor and owner of the boat, Felix Knauth. Felix was my favorite high school teacher, and the Statendam was the ship I sailed on from New York to Rotterdam in 1962. Around the time that I was taking English and world history from Mr. Knauth, my dentist, Harold Rosenthal, was also lost at sea, not too far from where the Rose was found. Add to the list of my sins that I have transplanted the Bermuda Triangle to the Pacific Ocean.
In 1987, I spent some time on the phone talking to a Boston Herald reporter named Eric Fehrnstrom, with whom I also exchanged some written correspondence; Fehrnstrom wrote an article about a book that I had published that year which covered two pages in the Herald’s issue of 29 October 1987. Recently, Fehrnstrom has worked for both Scott Brown, elected in 2010 to the Senate to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy, and Mitt Romney, who would like to fill a hoped-for vacancy in the White House in 2012 (thus only one link separates me from Brown and Romney). And speaking of Republican politicians, I worked in 1983-1985 for Litigation Support Corporation in San Rafael. LSC had a small staff (about a dozen people), and I rubbed elbows with everybody, including the company president, Harry Dent Jr. Harry Jr.’s father, Harry Sr., was Richard Nixon’s Karl Rove. Thus there is a chain of associations linking me to Richard Nixon having only two links; somebody who is trying to connect me with right-wing politics would have an easy time of it because of my intimate connections to the Nixon administration and the Massachusetts wing of the GOP. These connections are offset politically, however, by my links to the far left (Lincoln Steffens, Harry Bridges, Bertolt Brecht, and John Steinbeck).
When I was in Beverly Hills in the summer of 1981 to confer with the editors of New West about an article I had submitted to the magazine, I made a trip to the men’s room, where I used a urinal abutting the one the magazine’s publisher, William F. Broyles, was using at the moment (Broyles had recently purchased New West from Clay Felker, vide supra). He and I introduced ourselves without shaking hands, which were otherwise engaged, and had a short conversation. A few years later, he wrote the screenplay for Apollo 13, in which the part of Jack Swigert is played by Kevin Bacon. I don’t know for sure that Broyles ever met Bacon, but such a meeting is plausible, and in any case, Bacon recited the dialogue and mimed the actions that Broyles had set forth in his screenplay. Thus I am connected to Kevin Bacon by a chain consisting of only one link. (Come to think of it, my ex-wife’s trust — vide infra — lost some money invested with UBS Financial Services, which had entrusted its funds to Bernard Madoff; Kevin Bacon also lost money to Madoff, so the beneficiaries of the trust — my children — are also connected to Kevin Bacon by a one-link chain, i.e. Madoff, who, as one of my daughters has pointed out, is well-named, since he made off with everybody else’s money.)
These observations are based on a very cursory examination of my life; a really thorough investigation would undoubtedly turn up many more such coincidental and amusing but not significant connections. But anyone ignorant of — or perhaps deliberately ignoring — social networking theory could twist them into a proof of almost any imaginable theory, for instance that my ties to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger involve me in Operation Linebacker, the Christmas 1972 bombing of North Vietnam. The same is true of everybody else on this planet. The reason that most people are unaware of the manifold ways that they are connected to everyone else is that they don’t ask the right questions. If all you ever talk about is baseball or the weather — or true-crime theories — you will never discover how close you are to Meryl Streep (I’m still looking for that one myself).
Appendix 2: the lawsuit
For reasons that I cannot fathom, my involvement in a lawsuit in 1995-1997 fascinates true-crime buffs hard-wired into the Matrix, er, Internet. I don’t understand why it has become an issue, but since it has, here are the facts for the record.
My ex-wife Mary Ann died of cancer in 1991, nine years after we separated and eight years after we were formally divorced. She was impecunious when alive, but death made her a millionaire. She had the house she and I had built (which her estate eventually sold for $635,000), and she had $400,000 worth of life insurance. Mortgage insurance paid off the house, so her estate had a pre-tax value of just over a million dollars. She wrote an elaborate will in dozens of pages establishing a living trust, and she appointed her sister, Lorna Winterrowd, to be the trustee. Our two children were the main beneficiaries.
Both California state law and the terms of the trust required the trustee to render a financial accounting to the beneficiaries at least once a year. The first three years of the life of the trust went by without any accounting. I consulted counsel and was advised to file a lawsuit immediately to force her to account for her stewardship. I could not do so in my own right, since I did not have standing. My son could, but my daughter could not, because she was still a minor. I obtained her consent to act as her guardian ad litem, and my son and I jointly filed a lawsuit seeking removal of the trustee and payment of any damages that might have resulted from mis-, mal-, or nonfeasance. The proceeding went on for over two years, during which time my daughter turned eighteen; at that point, I dropped out of the lawsuit, and she took it over, seeing it through to the settlement conference which concluded the suit.
The discovery process resulted in a mind-boggling array of misbehavior and neglect on the trustee’s part. Here’s a partial list:
1) The principal asset of the estate, the house, had been left uninsured against fire for three years; if it had burned down, the beneficiaries would have lost most of their inheritance. The trustee took out a fire insurance policy only after legal proceedings were begun.
2) Mary Ann had provided for a half-dozen small bequests to various individuals. The trustee had not paid any of them, saying that she had not been able to locate the recipients. Some of them were listed in the local telephone directory, and all but one of the rest could have been found simply by asking the beneficiaries, who knew their whereabouts. She made these payments only after the lawsuit was filed.
3) Mary Ann’s will had directed the trustee to cremate her remains and inurn the ashes at Tulocay Cemetery in Napa. She was cremated in Chicago, where she died, but her ashes resided for over three years in a tool shed in Napa, California. The trustee did not see to her inurnment until after the lawsuit was filed.
4) The trustee had deposited $250,000 of trust funds in a non-interest-bearing checking account and left it there for three years. If she had invested it in a certificate of deposit, the trust would have been enriched by somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000; as it was, it lost value to inflation. She finally invested the money in securities, but only after the lawsuit had started.
5) Mary Ann died with $120,000 in personal debt, of which $100,000 was from a line of credit secured by the house; the rest was credit card debt. The trustee put off paying these obligations for a year, although she had the funds to do so, incurring around $6000 in unnecessary finance charges, which came out of the beneficiaries’ pockets.
6) The trustee did not file an inheritance tax return until after the lawsuit was filed, more than three years after it was due. This exposed the trust to a 25% penalty and three years’ worth of interest payable to the IRS both on principal and penalty.
7) The only investment the trustee had made with trust money prior to the filing of the lawsuit was a loan to the father of a friend of hers. He had approached the trust for a loan because he could not obtain a loan from a bank, since he was not creditworthy. The loan was made at a very low interest rate and was secured by a second mortgage on the borrower’s condominium. Second mortgages are not a fiduciary-quality investment, due to their high risk to the lender, and the trustee would have been removed by a judge for this action alone if the case had come to trial. She called in the loan and terminated the second mortgage only after the lawsuit was filed.
8) The trustee hired an unlicensed and unbonded handyman to fix up the house preparatory to renting or selling it. She did not entertain bids and so had no legal hold over the workman. She couldn’t even take administrative action against his license, since he didn’t have one. Her arrangement with him was open-ended; she simply told him to do whatever he felt like doing and to send her the bill. He spent more money fixing up the house than I had spent building it from the ground up. When the work was done, she did not put the house on the market. It earned no income for the estate for over two years after having been refurbished. Under the pressure of a lawsuit, she rented it out for $650 a month, arguing, when challenged, that that was the going rate for a three-bedroom, two-bath house on a ten-acre lot with a fifty-mile view within commuting distance of San Francisco. Under even more pressure from the lawsuit, she finally turned the property over to a management company, which immediately rented it out for twice as much as what she had claimed was the going rate.
9) Under the terms of the trust, the trustee was obliged to provide financial support to the beneficiaries if they were enrolled in college. When my son was in college, he was frequently months in arrears on his rent because the trustee couldn’t be bothered to write him a check; after the lawsuit was filed, she did not respond to such requests from my daughter, now in college, unless they were addressed to her attorney, and even then, she dragged her feet.
10) The trustee treated the trust account as her own, writing checks on it to pay for her personal expenses. At the low end, she wrote checks drawn on the trust account to pay for a college transcript ($10) and a GRE report ($14) so that she could apply to UCLA to enroll in its MBA program. At the high end, she wrote a check for $32,500 to Mission Viejo Imports, a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Mission Viejo, California, using my children’s money to buy herself a luxury automobile.
11) The trustee, facing a lawsuit seeking to remove her from office and to require her to pay damages for losses the trust incurred through her stewardship (or lack thereof), retained legal counsel, which she paid for with trust money. In all, she spent another $30,000 of the beneficiaries’ money to this end. What she obtained with it was a torrent of letters written by her attorney (Larry Bemis, Newport Beach) accusing me of all manner of crimes and misdemeanors and asserting that his client had done nothing wrong or out of the ordinary. (My standards for slander were set by this episode, in which I was the target of $30,000 worth of the professionally written sort. The sophomoric kind written by amateurs proves once again that you get what you pay for.)
12) The trustee did all of these things (or left them undone, as the case may be) while paying herself fees out of the trust for managing it. If she had been removed by the court, she would have been ordered to repay these fees as well as the money she had spent on legal defense, since she did not perform the services she was paying herself for, and because of her mal-, mis-, and nonfeasance, she was not justified in spending trust funds to defend herself against a lawsuit seeking her removal.
The purpose of Bemis’s attacks on me was to drive a wedge between me and my children, particularly my daughter. For her part, Lorna flew my daughter down to Southern California and bought her hundreds of dollars worth of clothing at the mall. Since there was no way for them to deal with the substance of the complaint, their plan was to alienate my daughter from me and curry favor with her so that when she came of age, she would take sides with her aunt and drop the lawsuit. The plan didn’t work, and not long after her eighteenth birthday, Lorna chose to settle. As noted above, I did not participate in this part of the process, having been superseded by my daughter. The judge to whom the case was assigned participated in the settlement proceedings, observing aloud that there was little to distinguish the trustee from an ordinary embezzler; he estimated that if the case were to go to trial, he would probably assess damages of at least $45,000 and possibly as much as $60,000. The trustee settled for resigning, appointing a successor of the beneficiaries’ choosing, and paying them damages of $15,000. What I find particularly galling about this episode is that when Lorna and her mother were left destitute by her father’s death in 1973, Mary Ann and I contributed financially to Lorna’s support; half of that money came from me. I put food on her table when she was a teenager.
Appendix 3: data
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about my whereabouts in the 1960s-1970s. For the benefit of those who find this subject exciting, here is my residential history beginning in 1947:
September 1947-August 1958: Campbell, California
September 1958-August 1962: Berkeley, California
September 1962-August 1963: Berlin, Germany
August 1963-July 1965: Berkeley, California
August-November 1965: Berlin, Germany
November-December 1965: Fort Dix, New Jersey
January 1966-October 1967: Fort Sill, Oklahoma
November 1967-June 1968: Europe (mostly Greece)
July 1968-December 1972: Berkeley, California
1973 (January-May): Vallejo, California
1973 (May-December)-1982: Napa, California
It appears that confusion is also rife concerning the residential history of my ex-wife, Mary Ann Winterrowd. We were married in December 1966; her history before that date:
1938-1960: Cincinnati, Ohio
1960-1962: Berkeley, California
1962-1963: Europe (Denmark and U.K.)
1963-1966: San Francisco, California
One topic that doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of attention but probably should is car ownership. Here’s a time line of the Penn family surface fleet:
1958-1966: no vehicle
December 1966-October 1967: Triumph Spitfire (blue)
November 1967-March 1971: 1968 model VW beetle (white)
March 1971-May 1975: 1971 model VW campmobile (also white)
September 1972-February 1985: 1972 model Mazda pickup (red)
I married into the Spitfire, which Mary Ann had purchased in 1965, before I met her. The first automobile registered in my name was the 1968 VW beetle. I got my first driver’s license in Oklahoma in January 1967.
Just for grins, here are some biometrics:
Hair color: blond
Eye color: blue
Body type: ecto- to mesomorphic (weight in 1960s: 160-170)
Height: six feet
Shoe size: 12
Blood type: A negative
Fingerprints: on file with the FBI since October 1965, when I joined the Army; they received a second set when I was hired as a federal civilian employee in April 1991. As of 2010, my fingerprints have been accessible to law enforcement agencies for 45 years. In 1985, the FBI’s holdings were digitized, enabling investigators to compare an evidence fingerprint taken from the scene of a crime with all fingerprints ever recorded in the U.S., including mine.
And finally, employment history. I was employed as a teaching assistant by the University of California (Berkeley) in 1963-1965 and 1968-1970. From October 1965 to October 1967, I was a member of the U.S. Army. My only other employment during that period was at two temporary jobs in the summer of 1971, one full-time in the Department of Physiology and Anatomy at Berkeley (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) and one part-time at Delta Trucking Lines in Emeryville (7:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.). Fortunately, this arrangement lasted only three months. Mary Ann was a graduate student at Berkeley in 1960-1962, and after returning from a year in Europe (1962-1963), she was employed by the San Mateo County school district at a job in South San Francisco (1963-1966). After moving to Oklahoma in February 1967, she worked as a substitute teacher in the schools of Lawton, Oklahoma, and as a librarian in a Special Services library at Fort Sill. We were both unemployed from November 1967 until the fall of 1968, when I resumed my teaching assistantship at Berkeley, and she got a job teaching eighth-grade English in Vallejo. In the school years 1970-1971 through 1972-1973, she was not employed as a teacher but as a consultant implementing a new management program called PPBS throughout the school district; during this period, she commuted to Vallejo two or three days a week. She went back to the classroom in the fall of 1973. I was hired to work in the same city by what was then Vallejo City Library in September 1972 (VCL merged with and has been part of Solano County Library shortly thereafter).
To clear up some widespread misunderstandings, here is a bit of history concerning two of my employers, the NMFS laboratory in Tiburon and PRBO Conservation Science in Stinson Beach. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service laboratory known as the Tiburon Marine Laboratory was established at 3150 Paradise Drive in Tiburon in 1961. The Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, of which TML was a unit, was transferred in 1970 from the USFWS (in the Department of the Interior) into the Commerce Department and renamed National Marine Fisheries Service, part of the umbrella organization called NOAA (officially, “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;” unofficially, “No Organization At All”). One of the early members of the NMFS Tiburon laboratory staff was a fisheries biologist named Norman Abramson. Abramson came to NMFS from the California Department of Fish and Game. He was impressed by the CDF&G scientific library in Long Beach and began lobbying for the creation of a library and a librarian staff position at the Tiburon laboratory. His efforts were eventually crowned with success, and a professional librarian was added to the laboratory’s personnel roster in April 1974, when Maureen Woods was hired to fill the position. She held it until the fall of 1990, when she was promoted into a job in Seattle. After a six-month hiatus, I was hired to replace her, beginning work at Tiburon in April 1991. I mention this because some bandwidth on the World Wide Web is taken up with assertions that I was employed at the Tiburon laboratory in 1970; not only did I not start work there until twenty-one years later, but the position I held had not even existed in 1970.
PBRO Conservation Science, originally named Point Reyes Bird Observatory, had been located on the Point Reyes peninsula; during the 1960s, its offices were housed in a bunkhouse on a dairy ranch there. Around 1970, PRBO moved to what is now the PRBO field station at Palomarin, on the ocean side of the town of Bolinas. In 1980, it moved again, into a three-bedroom house on land owned by Audubon Canyon Ranch, on the northeast shore of Bolinas Lagoon. In 1985, PRBO hired its first librarian, Karen Hamilton. She held the job until 1995, when she quit, and I was hired to replace her, beginning work there in October 1995. The PRBO job was 0.2 FTE (one day a week), and thanks to the Commerce Department’s policy on flex time, I was able to hold down both a full-time and a part-time job from then until the end of 2000, when the NMFS laboratory moved to Santa Cruz and I left the staff; I continued to work at PRBO until June 2005. During my tenure at Tiburon, I worked about a month a year at sea on a NOAA research vessel. On one research cruise in the late 1990s, we anchored near Southeast Farallon Island, where PRBO has another field station. We invited the entire PRBO staff aboard for dinner, and with my NMFS co-workers, I was able to host my PRBO co-workers aboard ship. We sent them back to SEFI with several gallons of ice cream, which they were very glad to have, and a good time was had by all. Add to the list of my crimes that I have participated in the depopulation of an island, which some will probably interpret as ethnic cleansing or possibly even genocide.
Appendix 4: literature
I gather that there is considerable interest in an article of mine that appeared in The Ecphorizer in May 1982 titled “Gone with the 25-cent potroast,” which some see as evidence of my having committed a murder in Vallejo in 1969 (thirteen years before publication of my article), since the subject is a Vallejo resident who died twenty-five years even earlier than that in the Pacific theater of the Second World War. I would like to put this article — the only one of sixty that I published in that magazine (or anywhere else) that has anything to do with Vallejo — in perspective and suggest other material which researchers will certainly find more useful.
Some time in the late 1970s, when I was working as a reference librarian at Solano County Library, we received a reference referral from a library in Fresno, California. The requestor was the editor of an aviation magazine, and his request was for information on the life of Grant Mahony, a decorated military aviator whose home town was Vallejo. My supervisor assigned the referral to me, and I discovered what was available on the subject and then forwarded it to Fresno. I thought the Mahony story was intriguing; he had been lionized as a hero by his home town during his lifetime, but because of demographic changes following the war, the community in which he had grown up was dispersed to the four corners of the earth, and it didn’t take long for him to be completely forgotten. There was a memorial to him in a public park, but neither the park’s neighbors nor responsible city agencies nor relevant civic organizations had any idea who Mahony was or what he had done to merit a memorial. This seemed to me to be a poignant reminder of the transitory nature of fame and memory and worthy of a prose treatment. I would have written the same kind of article if the subject had been a resident of, say, East Elephant Breath, Arkansas.
Here’s my suggestion for a more fruitful area of research for those who seek sinister significance in my meager literary output. I worked my way through an undergraduate education at Berkeley as a busboy at the Men’s Faculty Club. I was responsible for one of the buffet tables. In 1962, Aldous Huxley was a visiting professor at Berkeley. He was nearly blind, and when he loaded up his tray at the buffet table, he had to bend over the table until his eyes were only two inches from the food. One day, he was having trouble deciding on a fruit dish and asked me for assistance. I told him what he was looking at, he thanked me, and then he put the dish on his tray and went to find a table. I believe that his choice was a halved pear topped with a dollop of cottage cheese.
Ten years later, an article of mine titled “Gottfried von Strassburg and the invisible art” appeared in Colloquia Germanica (1972,2:113-125). The article opens with a quote from C. S. Lewis’ book The discarded image (1964). Now, C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day (22 November 1963). The article has to do with the structure of the Love Grotto in Gottfried’s thirteenth-century romance of Tristan and Isolde, and until the mid-1970s, the airport serving Dallas was Love Field. I have flown into and out of Love Field as well as DFW several times, and the same is true of JFK airport in New York. JFK was assassinated in Dallas on the same day that C. S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died, I quote Lewis in my article, and I helped Huxley out with his fruit dish in 1962. The only thing lacking is a “QED.” A major character in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia is a lion named Aslan. Aslan is Turkish for “lion,” and I published an article in The Ecphorizer on Turkish language instruction (“Cevat emptor,” August 1982) only five months after the Grant Mahony article; and Turkey Day 1963 followed the Kennedy assassination by only six days! In the Colloquia Germanica article, I quote not only C. S. Lewis but also Jost Trier, who takes his name from the city of Trier, which I visited in the spring of 1968; Trier is the birthplace of Karl Marx, Fidel Castro is a Marxist, and Lee Harvey Oswald was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. (The place name Trier is derived from the Latin Augusta Treverorum, Castro was born on 13 August 1926 — my first cousin and my paternal grandmother were also born on 13 August, which some minds will find sinister — and Oswald began distributing FPCC fliers in New Orleans in August 1963; the Warren Commission has inexplicably failed to take note of this mass of circumstantial evidence.) My obsession with presidential assassinations is demonstrated by the fact that in September 1962, I attended a public event in Köln at which Charles De Gaulle spoke, a few months after he was the target of an assassination attempt by the OAS, and in June 1963, I attended another public event in Berlin at which John F. Kennedy spoke, a few months before he was assassinated in Dallas. As if that weren’t bad enough, I wrote an article titled “The world according to Dallas,” which appeared in Integra in June 1988. (The fact that the true-crime crowd has failed to take note of this highly significant bit of evidence proves that they are being manipulated by a clandestine cabal.) The “Dallas” I discuss in that article is the prime-time soap opera, not the city; but then one of the characters in the mock-soap Soap is named Jodie Dallas and is played by Billy Crystal, who married Janice Goldfinger; and the movie Goldfinger was in the last stages of development at the time of the Kennedy assassination, which makes up for that discrepancy. Besides, Soap was on the air in 1978 (and we all know what that means!). It should be obvious even to the densest that I am The Man on the Grassy Knoll.
And finally, the July 1982 issue of The Ecphorizer contains my article on the limerick (“Lima Riki”), in which I challenge readers to compose a paraphrase of the Gettysburg Address in limerick-form. In his response, published in the same issue as “Cevat emptor,” Patrick Franklin not only meets my challenge; he also mentions a group of true-crime sleuths called “The Black Widowers,” one of whom rewrites The Iliad as a series of limericks. The true crime-enthusiast connection closes the circle, since what has made me into an urban legend in my lifetime is the unflagging effort of the true-crime sector of the Matrix — I keep saying that — I mean Internet. I am the co-author of another article (“The constellation of characters in the ‘Tristan’ of Gottfried von Strassburg,” Monatshefte 64,4:325-333 , with F. C. Tubach), which opens with Saint Thomas Aquinas’ comment on true crime-enthusiast methodology, …ex duabus rebus tercia vero res constituta, which, roughly translated, means “one plus one is three.”
Appendix 5: River’s End
On 28 April 2010, an anonymous caller left a message on the answering machine at my son’s place of business urging him to provide the Sonoma Sheriff’s Department a DNA sample to aid them in their efforts to prosecute me for a double murder that was committed at Jenner, California, over the weekend of 14-15 August 2004. The victims had intended to spend the weekend at an inn called River’s End (Jenner is at the mouth of the Russian River), but since they had no reservation and the inn was full, they opted to spend the night on the beach in their sleeping bags. They were shot to death as they slept.
The anonymous caller describes me as a “suspect” in this case. On 30 April 2010, I called Sergeant Tim Duke in the Investigations Division of the Sonoma Sheriff’s Department and asked him if I was indeed a suspect. He said that he could not recall my name ever having come up in connection with the case, now six years old. He was also unaware of allegations circulating on the World Wide Web concerning me and the Jenner murder. (About six months earlier, I exchanged e-mails with Inspector Kevin Jones, who has responsibility for San Francisco PD’s Zodiac investigation. Since Christopher Farmer claims to be working hand in glove with the police to effect my prosecution, I asked Jones how his collaboration with Farmer was coming along. He said he had never heard of him. Mr. Farmer simply has to do a better job of marketing his website to the police.)
To get back to Sergeant Duke, I offered him a sample of my DNA, and he refused to say whether DNA evidence is even relevant to a resolution of this case, since the investigation is still an ongoing one. In two words, no sale. I subsequently sent him a letter in which I volunteered, for the record, to provide a sample if he should ever want one. I cannot urge the anonymous caller or other like-minded folk too strongly to get in touch with Sergeant Duke (707/565-2185) and share their evidence with him. Otherwise, he may never take me up on my offer. I’ve done what I can to further the cause of justice; now it’s up to the community of anonymous callers. The police are welcome to my DNA; they can publish my genome in Nature for all I care. I would also like to urge members of the Internet true-crime community not to call my son, who has no more pull with the Sonoma Sheriff’s Department than I do; call them instead. Once again, the phone number is 707/565-2185.
In the interest of justice, and to make things easier for this anonymous caller and others like him, I would like to provide some more information that he and they can use in assisting the police in their inquiries. The murder of Lindsay Cutshall and Jason Allen took place either on the night of Saturday, 14 August 2004, or the morning of Sunday the 15th. At that time, I lived at 40 Corte Real, Greenbrae, and I worked one day a week at PRBO Conservation Science, whose address was 4990 Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach (PRBO relocated to Petaluma in 2006). The day I worked at PRBO was Monday, a fact which can be confirmed by consultation of California Library Directory, a publication of the California State Library. According to an obscure website whose existence is known only to a handful of people outside of The Illuminati and which goes by the name of MapQuest, driving time between my address in Greenbrae and River’s End is an hour and a half one way, and the same is true of the driving time between PRBO and River’s End. Anyone who thinks I am a “suspect” because I lived and worked a ninety-minute drive from the scene of the crime might want to consider that in 2004, Senator Barbara Boxer also lived in Greenbrae, which would make her a “suspect” as well, not to mention the fact that Santa Rosa, a city made up of 160,000 murder “suspects,” is closer to Jenner by a half hour (thanks to MapQuest once more).
Without intending to, the anonymous caller did provide one last proof, if any more were needed, of how correct Stanley Milgram’s “small world” theory is. I advise Internet true-crime sleuths to be sitting next to a telephone programmed to speed-dial 911, because what follows may get them so worked up that they will require emergency medical service. The woman with whom I had my now notorious affair in 1978 and I spent a romantic weekend in that year at River’s End. Unlike the two murder victims of 2004, we had a reservation; like them, we were turned away, albeit only temporarily, since we had arrived early and the maid had not yet gotten our cabin ready. Our relationship was in an early phase that could be described as hot, and so, while our cabin was being readied, we found a secluded spot on the beach — and I don’t need to draw you a picture.