Archives for category: La Conner Weekly News


These are very challenging times for so many reasons.  Many of us have lost loved ones, some of us have lost our jobs or had them shut down, hopefully for the time being.

This are especially trying times for people like me who are very social and love to be out and about.  Ironically, as much as I love directing television, my shpilkes makes it very difficult for me to hunker down at home.

Shpilkes is Yiddish for a playful gas and a fun way to describe being ADHD.

Fortunately, I chose this time to adopt a puppy, which I could not do when I was going from directing movie to movie.  I’ve got a wonderful companion who is by my side most of the day unless I’m playing golf or singing karaoke.

Rosie is now a year and a half old and like me she is very social.  We rotate between several off-leash dog parks and we’ve both made lots of new friends.

And there is another new huge sea change in my psyche.  I’ve always been impatient, in a hurry to get from one place to another, in a hurry even if there was no reason to hurry.
The people who hired me to direct projects with challenging schedules really appreciated my pace and efficiency as well as my storytelling ability.

Recently I had an epiphany and had a very serious talk with myself and decided that I ain’t in no hurry and it’s time to take a deep breath and smell the roses.  Literally as well as figuratively.

So one of the things I do now is to take a different route each time I go somewhere.  One way there and another way back.  That’s not always possible but I’m discovering wonderful new places and have moments of pure joy as I drive along the waterfront or head to Mount Baker or discover new lakes in Skagit and Whatcom that I didn’t even know existed.

I figured out how to get satellite radio in my car and I listen to a little news, but so much of it is sad and depressing that I tune into 60’s on 6 or The Bridge and sing along with the music I grew up with and occasionally come up with a new karaoke song.

I’ve always been charitable because I grew up economically challenged since the holocaust kept my parents from getting an education.  I got a wonderful education and found an occupation I loved that allowed me to live in beautiful places like LaConner.  And I’ve doubled and tripled down on contributing to local people who are now jobless and homeless.

Covid will go down in history books as a brutal era and it could get worse before it gets better. Hopefully most of my readers agree with me that It’s always smart to err on the side of caution and not do what they did in Idaho, naming an idiotic Covid denier to run the state’s health department which has resulted in all of the hospitals overflowing with Covid patients.

We are blessed to live in a place where we can keep away from crowded interiors and go boating and fishing and camping, exploring new horizons and for many of you, continue to work from home.


In the summer of 1969, I was in the South of France, visiting my cousins, when Neal Armstrong took a stroll on the moon.

The event blew my mind.  I’m not very technically savvy, so it was beyond my comprehension that something like that could be accomplished.  And it made me think that our world, and our country, were extremely advanced.

More than 50 years have gone by and it is abundantly clear how wrong I was.  Let’s just look at the start of the year 2021.

Mass shootings in the United States in the first five months of the year have reached an all time record of 321 as I write this column on Sunday night.

Thousands of people around the world are still dying of Covid-19 because we can’t get vaccines to them fast enough and some people are just too stupid to take the dangers seriously.

Racists and misogynists and anti-Semites have come out of the closet.

Worst of all, Autocracy has surpassed Democracy worldwide and authoritarianism is rampant.  According to the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, this is the most trying time for democracy worldwide since the 1930’s, when racism spread across Europe.

Ironically, one of the factors for this is the advance of technology, which instead of enabling  a free exchange of ideas are increasingly being used by populists and other extreme voices to amplify their messages.

Autocrats around the world have learned from the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who are democratically elected and then use their power to manipulate the system to distort the will of their countrymen.

We are heading towards a moment of truth in our country unlike anything that I have ever experienced in my lifetime.  The midterm elections in the United States in 2022 will tell us a great deal about where our democracy is headed.

Generally speaking, midterm elections favor the minority party.  Now we are engaged in a ridiculous situation in which politics has taken over for principle in the Republican Party and Senators and Congressmen who personally despise Trump will not dare to speak their true feelings because their priority is to get reelected.

With this in mind, the Republican Party has succeeded in making it much more difficult to vote in many states, but hopefully this will inspire a backlash that will get many more progressive voters to the polls.

Of course, there is the chance that Trump will be on trial in New York or Florida and even Federal courts before that happens and that will give Republicans a very tough dilemma in deciding to vote on their principles as Mitt Romney and Liz Chaney continue to do or to sell their souls to the man who neutral non-political historians will deem to be one of the most corrupt Presidents in the history of the United States of America.


Dear Sir Donald,

I’m writing to you as a fellow New Yorker. Okay, we grew up a little differently but we are both very tough and very proud people.

We both avoided fighting in Vietnam. I failed my physical but your rich father used his connections to get a doctor to make-up a story that classified you as 4F.

We were both Bill and Hillary Clinton supporters back in the day but I became a progressive independent and you became a right wing Republican.

It’s clear after last weekend’s fiasco in Tulsa that your reelection campaign is going down in flames and I know you well enough to gauge that you do not want to go down in history as one
of America’s greatest political losers.

That became clear right after several very highly respected military leaders said you were not fit for the job. My sincere advice is that you drop out of the race sooner than later. You have many reasons you can use: it is clear that the times and fates have conspired against you, your health isn’t great, the American electorate is just not smart enough to understand you, the media has conspired to use fake news to paint you in a very negative light.

Oh, and you are paying the price for leading the country during the worse Pandemic since the influenza just over 100 years ago. You aren’t as stupid as you come off when you are purposely dumbing down to appeal to your base—saying things like we need to stop testing for Covid-19 to keep the numbers down.

You will bow out in time for your party to select a reasonable candidate, probably Mitt Romney, and your richest backers will support this decision. Believe me, you do not want to undergo a media campaign in which the words of the likes of Mitch McConnell will be used against you and your disgusting quotes about women and your praise of Nazi sympathizers are played over and over again on TV and radio.

If this isn’t enough to convince you to step down, hopefully with grace, then feel free to contact me directly via the LaConner Weekly News and I will present you with so much more damning
evidence that you are heading for one of the worst shellackings in American history.

From one New Yorker to another, I’m here for you man!!!

Ah, life during a Pandemic.

This is usually my favorite time of year. Mostly sunny but not too hot. Flowers blooming. Great golf weather. Start of the Major League Baseball season.

My solution to social distancing is to get in my car and exploring new places, listening to as much bad news as I can bear before turning the radio dial to old time rock and roll.

Have you driven along the South Skagit Highway? Because it’s a road rarely taken, it has some funkiness but there are also beautiful farms and incredible views. The part God did is amazing and mankind is starting to clean up its mess. The beautiful winding river is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped foothills.

Lots of time for contemplation. Am I living the life I should be living? How are my kids going to survive this disruption in their careers? How long is this going to last? Should we open things up to save the economy even though we know there will be a cost in human lives? Usually a challenge like this unites a nation, but nowadays, we have young people holding signs on bridges over the freeway saying “open” while old people are dying in record numbers.

I have seasonal allergies so I’ve been waking up coughing and sneezing and my doctor thought it might be a good idea for me to be tested for Covid-19. I had the blood test for antibodies which turned out negative and then I had the swab test to see if I currently have the virus.

It was so easy. Drive to the eastern parking lot at Skagit Valley College, show them your driver’s license and health care card and, not so much fun, stick a small swab into your nostril and dig out anything you can. They tell you if your results are negative, you’ll get a text within three days. If it’s positive, you’ll get a call.

The next day I got a text. One word. “Negative”. Best one-word text ever.

And now, feeling pretty optimistic, I have a revelation. I’m going to buy a puppy. The shelters are mostly shut down, appointment only, and only access to dogs with lots of issues, such as “not good with cats” or “not good with small children” and a neighbor tells me that his friends just had a litter of Golden Retriever puppies.

Lo and behold, I now have a wonderful companion to help me get through these challenging times, with the film industry shutdown and most of my family far far away. Her name is Rosie and she is sitting on my feet right now as I type away in my home office.

She’s affectionate and already loves to chase balls and she’s not even nine weeks old. We’ll see how she does when we are reunited with my wife and her new rescued cat Bobby but I’m optimistic that we can overcome all of these challenges and learn to live together in peace.



Did you know that Shakespeare did some of his best work during a Pandemic? And he even referenced it in his work. “A plague on both your houses” are Mercutio’s dying words in Romeo and Juliet.

Now that I am a totally ADHD person dealing with the challenges on self-imposed, government mandated (common sense) isolation, I’m finally sitting down and finishing my play, MAX TO THE MAX. I’ve had staged readings with theatre companies in Vancouver, BC, and Santa Rosa, CA, notes from friends I trust, and I’m finally sitting my ass down and finishing the thing.

Okay, maybe I’m not Shakespeare but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Still, there is much more time in the day and I am spending a lot of that time driving around the beautiful back roads of the Pacific Northwest, along Bay View Road or up and down the Mount Baker Highway looking at lush farmlands surrounded by beautiful foothills and even a mountain or two.

I’m driving with Fred, my older brother, who sadly died just before his 59th birthday. Fred was my hero from boyhood to manhood (a journey that’s still ongoing), and a tremendous inspiration to my siblings and me. He was president of his high school class, played Curley in Oklahoma, served in the Army, went to law school and prosecuted the bad guys in Florida.

He contracted some kind of onerous virus while in the tank corps in Texas, and fought it his whole life but managed to raise two wonderful sons. His picture is scotch taped to my dashboard and as I drive around, he is a constant reminder to me that we have to appreciate every minute and every hour and every day we have on this planet.

Yes, it’s not all a bed of roses, sometimes it’s guns and roses, sometimes it’s a pandemic that came out of nowhere and is killing innocent people who did nothing more than inhale at the wrong time and place or touch an infected surface before touching their face.

As of now, there is no vaccination for this disease. Inspired by the Plague, the Bard wrote: “The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope.”

Yes, hope and prayer are important but I think we can be more proactive than that. Our challenge is to make the best out of a terrible situation, definitely the worst in my lifetime. Yes, I lost friends and classmates in the Vietnam War but that did not have the worldwide reverberations of Covid-19.

My advice to all of you is to keep your distance while you’re in your house, but also get out of the house as much as possible, weather and location permitting. We are blessed to live in a very beautiful place with good air and so many beautiful hiking trails. That is a very healthy version of isolationism.

Explore new places. Meditate. Talk to God if you’re religious. Or write a play!

ImmigrationAbout 15 thousand migrant children spent Christmas yesterday locked up in tight spaces at the border, with no contact allowed with family or reporters. Two young Guatemalans died in custody in the last month.

One of the few things that I agree with this President on is that we need a more responsible immigration policy. However, the simplistic bombastic way he has handled it has wreaked havoc on people’s lives.

I suspect that politicians like George Bush the younger and Rand Paul have turned a blind eye to our porous Southern border because their rancher and farmer friends and constituents relied on cheap illegal labor.

My first documentary, made in 1971, was entitled The Illegal and my crew and I filmed Mexican farmworkers as they easily waded across the Rio Grande River into Texas. We interviewed many Mexican-American members of the farmworkers union who were passionately asking our State and National governments to stop the flow.

That never happened. It just got worse and worse. And it was exacerbated by new groups of migrants trying to escape poverty and unstable governments in Central America.

So if we agree that we need to control our border and we have to be selective about whom we let in, what is the best solution to the problem?

For one, there is a diplomatic approach. I have never heard one TV report that explained how all of these asylum seekers get into Mexico. Instead of the absurdity of expecting Mexico to pay for the wall, why aren’t we challenging Mexico to control it’s own southern borders.

How did that enormous Caravan that got so much attention get into Mexico from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to begin with?

And when you elevate the conversation above a solid wall, the most intelligent analysts say that there are so many modern technological devices that would allow 24-7 surveillance of wide stretches of the border, whereas you could never hire enough people to make sure nobody climbs over or digs under such a huge expanse.

As the son of immigrants, I am very proud of the message on the Statue of Liberty. Yes, give us not just your Einsteins, but also your tired and poor if they are fleeing persecution and they are willing to work hard in an ever-expanding economy.

Hitler deprived my parents of a high school education but they were able to jump through many hoops and finally get passage across the Atlantic and a welcome at Ellis Island. My mother’s brother, Harry Rosenfeld, was still young enough to get a high school and college education and became the editor in charge of the Watergate investigation for the Washington Post. Their four children were able to attend wonderful public schools and end up with college degrees. My older brother served the US military and then went to law school and became a prosecutor. That is immigration at its best.

It wasn’t easy. The State Department and President Franklin Roosevelt claimed that Jewish immigrants could threaten national security. In 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis and it’s 937 passengers, mostly Jewish, were turned away in Miami, forcing the ship to return to Europe and more than a quarter of those people died in the Holocaust.

It’s time to stop making desperate people pawns in a very cynical political chess game and find a responsible passage to a country that hopefully will indeed behave like a great nation should.



The fall of the Great American Empire is upon us and frankly I don’t give a damn.

The Chinese have developed missiles capable of reaching North America and they are starting to catch up with us militarily as they steam ahead economically. A perfect example is the way they keep scooping up islands in the Pacific Ocean and planting their flags with nothing more than a peep from the USA and its allies.

This was inevitable. No dynasties last forever. The Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the British—they all had their moment of dominance. I’m pretty sure nobody is sitting in a cafe in Athens, Rome, Cairo or London bemoaning the good old days gone by.

And there is a very good reason for that. There is a huge price to pay for dominance and I for one do not want to see the USA continue to pay that price.

It’s very expensive to maintain the most powerful military in the world. Let’s defer to the Chinese and focus on the real direct threats to our country. As far as policing the rest of the planet, let’s do it as just another United Nations and NATO member.

That will save the lives of lots of American members of the military and cut way back on the number of veterans suffering from PTSD for fighting a war that nobody at home seems to understand or really care about.

I am extremely supportive of our soldiers but I don’t want them dying in vain. If you look at the death toll in Afghanistan and measure it against our accomplishments there, it is very difficult to justify. This was also true in Vietnam, where I lost both high school and college friends for a war that all of my military friends now say was useless.

Financially, we are spending way too much of our budget on maintaining the largest force on the planet and that is money that is sorely needed for education and health care. Compare that to the ratios of all of our allies and you will see that there are huge discrepancies.

If we all take a breath and leave our collective testosterone at the door, this makes a lot of sense. For the first time in years, the US Military has fallen way short of its recruiting goals and that will mean lowering our standards to try to pump up the numbers.

Instead, let’s create a smaller, more elite force of fighters and defenders who can serve out their terms and eventually come home feeling very good about their service to their country.

We will focus on securing our borders and spend money and manpower proportionately. The Trump administration is absolutely correct in calling our fellow NATO members out on the carpet for sitting back and letting the big badass Americans lead the charge without paying their fair share.

Of course, it will help if we tamp down the volume and cool it on the braggadocio and no longer feel we have to be first up San Juan Hill. Let’s do it right. Let’s do it together with our allies and become one of many great countries in the world standing up for peace and prosperity and social justice for all.

OvermountainIt was a crowded noisy dance floor but I heard the phone ring and it was my good friend Heather who couldn’t wait to tell me that Senator Kevin Ranker had just announced that the State of Washington put aside a cool ten million bucks to protect Blanchard Mountain from further destruction.

Whoopee! I couldn’t help myself. This is such good news for us tree huggers.

And the timing could not have been better. The following evening was the Skagit Land Trust Annual Membership meeting and, honest admission, it’s so nice to be in a room full of fellow travelers at a time when our country is so divided.

We met at the Fidalgo Bay Resort owned by the Samish Indian Nation in Anacortes and the meeting started with a haunting melody sung by a young Samish woman in her native language. This made me happy to hear that a new generation is preserving an ancient culture. Another example of preserving something that is precious to so many!

For me, the highlight of the meeting was the special commendation to Rusty Kuntze and Libby Mills for donating 23 acres of their land in Bayview to the Land Trust as a conservation easement. Rusty is the retired Judge for the Swinomish Tribe. Libby is an educator and naturalist whose passion is introducing people to special places and the flora and fauna found there. She has taught me and many others more about birds then I thought was possible.

Rusty and LibbyRusty calls Wren Ridge his Walden Pond and has come for the first time to understand what a special relationship Henry David Thoreau had with a place that wasn’t necessarily considered a primo spot. It wasn’t the Grand Canyon or the Redwood Forest but became a place he went to for redemption and realization.

Rusty points out that Jesus, Moses, Buddha and Mohammed each had a special place in the wilderness where they were able to find enlightenment. As a little kid, Rusty always wanted a treehouse but it never happened in his New Jersey suburban home. Now he has a whole forest that is his treehouse.

They stated that because they don’t have children, their legacy will be the opportunity to ensure the diverse wetlands and forests of Wren Ridge will protected for future generations. Forever!

The prestigious Blue Heron Award went to Molly Doran, who is the executive director of the Land Trust. The award usually only goes to a staff member who is retired so Molly was wonderfully stunned to realize she was this year’s recipient. Through clever subterfuge, the staff led her to believe that award was being to a former board member.

Blanchard Overlook, Molly DoranThe Blue Heron Award is given to someone who has shown extraordinary dedication to the lands of Skagit County. During Molly’s watch, there has been big growth of supporters and community participation in protecting special places. She made it clear that she loves her job and has no plans of retiring.

Near and dear to me are the wetlands that are being preserved on the Southern end of Big Lake. I’m hoping we can add a learning center so visitors can see for themselves what makes wetlands so fascinating and worthy of preservation. The best scenario is to preserve a spot and still allow it to be accessible to a new generation of caretakers.

This is what’s happened with Blanchard Mountain. With this generous grant from the State, the beautiful trails through 1400 acres of forest land will be protected. Birdwatchers, hang gliders, hikers will forever be able to enjoy a peaceful place with fantastic views.

I was driving down from my day job in Canada a few days ago and I decided to take the mellow route. It was a perfect winter day, with peekaboo blue skies and beautiful cloud formations. I craved something sweet and decided to detour to my friend’s delightful bakery in Edison. When I made a turn on Colony Road, there was Blanchard Mountain, tall, majestic, wearing a cumulus top hat.

Tears of joy started running down my cheeks, so much so that I had to laugh. Talk about SWEET!!!


If you are a dog owner, (and I know many of you are), please pay close attention.

Are you letting your dog or dogs bark a lot, to the extent that your neighbors can hear them? Are you letting your dogs run wild onto a neighbor’s property or onto the street?

Hopefully not. Unfortunately I’ve found out recently that these are common occurrences—just based on my own first-hand experiences. At my last Bellingham house, my neighbors had hearts of gold and rescued a bunch of dogs.

Unfortunately, they barked incessantly with just the slightest provocation—even a squirrel would set off one of the dogs, and then the others would chime in.

I noticed this while I was in escrow before moving in so I called the County and asked what the rules were and sure enough there were ordinances prohibiting this kind of distraction.

But with encouragement from a member of my synagogue who knew my neighbors-to-be, he said I should be a man and just go knock on their door and let them know how I felt.

Which I did. One woman was a doctor and I could see that she totally agreed with me. Her wife was obviously the dog rescue person and it was a harder pill to swallow but she agreed to do something about it.

They put a barking collar on the instigator dog and the problem was easily solved.

Next place I lived, every time I drove down the street that led to my street, two of the neighborhood dogs would chase my car. I was very nervous about running one over so it made a quiet country street into a tricky nerve racking venture.

The dogs belonged to a retired policeman and according to other neighbors, he was unsympathetic and wouldn’t restrain the dogs. Uninterested in enforcement, he allowed his dogs to run wild all day over a wide range of properties.

Recently I prepared to move again—remember, I’m a Hunter-Gatherer— and while I was in escrow, I went to play with the seller’s two dogs, who were usually home alone while he was at work. I’m a dog lover and if I weren’t working on films in God knows where, I’d have a retriever.

Ringer, one of the two dogs, is an amazing ballplayer and he would tirelessly chase a ball or a stick and always be ready to go again. But I noticed that the neighbor behind my new house-to-be had a small chihuahua tied up to a tree right over the property line, practically in what would be my new backyard.

He would bark incessantly, not only when I was playing with the other dogs but whenever anything moved in his periphery. I spoke to the seller who said he would talk to the neighbors but it didn’t do any good. I made videos of the dog barking just in case it ended up at the county.

But once again, I decided to be a grown up and I spoke to my new neighbors-to-be. The husband was sympathetic but the wife was quite upset. She agreed to put the dog in a caged area closer to the house but that actually made things worse.

I explained that I moved to this quiet neighborhood on a lake for peace and quiet and a respite from my hectic work life. She reluctantly agreed to keep the dog inside when they were away from home and the problem is solved.

The same neighbors have also have a rambunctious Golden Retriever puppy who loves to visit me, eat the cat food, and jump all over me. Again, I’m a dog-lover, so this doesn’t bother me, but I can’t help that other neighbors don’t feel the same way.

In fact, that rambunctious retriever is the leading suspect in the killing of my of my other neighbor’s chickens, which also run wild and love the bird seed that falls from my feeders

Now only the two dogs that belong to a neighbor across the street bark wildly whenever someone passes. I wish they didn’t but at least they bark only in short spurts.

I am very perplexed by this phenomenon. It just seems so blatantly rude and insensitive but I’ve been reading up on it and apparently some people feel that dogs bark and they shouldn’t be constrained. I’d love to hear from any readers who feel that way.

With a little bit of internet searching, I found out that you can order a device that sends high frequency sounds to your neighbors house that only the dogs will hear and it will discourage them from barking.

If that doesn’t work, I will install big speakers in the front of my house and blast my favorite operas loud enough to drown them out.

Figaro, Figaro, here we go, here we go.



We wrapped a challenging first week of my latest movie just before midnight last Friday. As if it’s not enough to work with a new crew and new actors all settling into their roles, we had to contend with horrible air quality caused by the fires nearby in British Columbia by providing oxygen and air-conditioning tents on set.

I headed for the Sumas border crossing, wanting to wake up in my house in Skagit County. Siri routed me through the little town of Everson. The smoke was eye-burning bad and there were no other cars until I saw headlights parked at an angle facing me on the other side of the street.

The car pulled out and the lights started to flash. It was a cop laying in wait at a speed trap. I pulled over and was told that I was driving 47 mph in a 35 mph zone. I was really surprised because I thought I was driving below the 50 mph rural speed limit because of the poor visibility.

He said “Couldn’t you tell you were in a town?” “No”, I said, “There were no lights on and it was smoky and I couldn’t see a 35 mph speed limit sign.” He asked if I had ever been to Everson before and I told him I hadn’t.

On hearing this, he seemed to soften his position but he disappeared for more than 5 minutes and came back with a ticket. He said he lowered my speed to 45 which would save me over $60 so he was somewhat sympathetic to my explanation.

I asked him if I could express my opinion about what was taking place and he nodded in the affirmative. Needless to say, it was a slow night for law enforcement and only two cars passed us during the whole 15 minute ordeal.

I told him I admired that he had dedicated his life to law enforcement and public safety but I didn’t think laying in wait in a dark smoky spot for a very sober person driving responsibly was the best way to accomplish that mission.

I told him I was guessing he chose that spot because others would be confused as I was by the change in speed limit and I could tell he had heard enough at that point and I took my ticket and headed back into the dark smoky night.

It was a very sad drive home after a very uplifting day. It seems very cynical to me that this is how someone who has dedicated his or her life to public safety ends up as a shill for the local economy.

I get why it makes sense to have the guy sitting in his car looking out for speeders as opposed to hanging out in a squad room with nobody to talk to. But I’m guessing he’s very bored and jumps at the opportunity to leave rubber, flash his lights, and pull someone over even if that person is absolutely no danger to anyone.

When I got to my house, I looked at the printed out ticket and discovered that one option was to pay $150. That means it would have been over $200 if the officer hadn’t lowered my speed.

Everson is a small town. I would love to know how much income it gets from issuing speeding tickets. I’d also like to hear how the police officer laying in wait could get an accurate reading from his speed gun in such a short span on such a dark, smoky night.

After this weekend’s welcome rainfall, I drove back to Canada on Sunday night through Everson. The air had cleared and the visibility was better but it still was very difficult to read the signs on the outskirts of town where I was clocked and pulled over.

It reinforced my feeling that this was an injustice so I’m going to court. Hopefully the hearing officer will see things my way, although I know that’s a long shot. Meanwhile I’m preparing a closing argument that would make Perry Mason and Mr. Smith in Washington proud!