One in an occasional series exploring life and lore in California Gold Country.

The North Star House, Grass Valley, CA

There’s so much we leave behind when we move. When my wife and I arrived in late 2020 at the Gold Country California town of Grass Valley, we’d left our share in the Bay Area: friends and relatives, jobs and steady paychecks, plus some favorite hangouts and enough books to open my own store. With Covid hovering like a black cloud, we managed only a few decent, and masked, goodbyes.

But then, a short while ago, almost six months after we arrived in Grass Valley, we were…


Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, CA

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.” —

Shirley Jackson — The Haunting of Hill House

“Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth, and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” —

Blaise Pascal — Pensees

Death has been hovering about my backyard more than usual lately. And you bet I’m a little nervous.

Last December, I took…


Ahhh retirement!

Just the other day, I finally got fed up. I’d taken all I could stand, and I wasn’t gonna take any more. My face like a steaming stewed tomato, I marched right up to my Boss, stuck my finger right between his eyes and chewed him a fresh new one.

“I’ve just about had enough, you son of a bitch!” I snarled. “You got me up at six-thirty the other morning to go the doctor for an eight a.m. appointment! You know I don’t get up ’til eight-thirty! And you don’t pay me enough, you cheap bastard! On the beans…


The World We Left Behind

For some, withdrawal from the world during Covid was the easy part.

In ways that some might find disturbing, the pandemic had little emotional effect on me. That may be because I’m a cautious stoic for whom danger is a given. (Call me “conservative” if you will, a once fine, useful idea hijacked and ruined by fanatics and opportunists.) To me, Covid was one more danger, though a bigger one than many of the dangers (mostly human) I’ve faced before.

Now the threat comes from Nature, up front, direct. I fear it as I should but, unlike human danger, I…


In his first trip to a movie theatre since the Big Lockdown began, your correspondent takes delight on the new film musical from the creator of Hamilton.

Somewhere, Busby Berkeley is smiling

What better way to stagger out from Covid’s dim cave into bright sunlight than by going to see the new film musical In the Heights.

Adapted from a 2005 Broadway musical with songs by Lin Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and book by Quaira Alegra Hudes, it’s a burst of energy seldom seen since La La Land (2016) — but even better. …


(The most estimable movie star George Clooney has been making the rounds again with new movies, a school opening, and even an invite to all of us to join him and his wife, Amal, for lunch. Sound like fun? Maybe, but , as this following piece, first posted on my old site awhile back, wonders, maybe not.)

“Is George Clooney the Hottest Guy in Hollywood? Seems Everyone Wants to Be his Bud.” — Headline on Yahoo! News.

“George and Amal Clooney want to fly YOU out to Lake Como to celebrate with them! Sound fun?” Omaze.com ad on Facebook

“I’m…


In which we consider Alan K. Rode’s immensely entertaining life of one Golden Age Hollywood’s best directors and how the crown of “auteurism” somehow escaped him.

Michael Curtiz directed so many Golden Age Hollywood classics — The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and, most famously, Casablanca — that most so-called auteurs would turn green with envy and die of despair. Yet he’s never shared auteurism’s limelight alongside Orson Welles, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and others. He seemed trapped in the shadow of his own work.

Film historian Alan K. Rode’s rich and absorbing biography Michael Curtiz: A Life…


Good summary bu tdon't forget Hitler's biggest, number-one blunder . . . being born.


In which we consider an agnostic’s strong argument for Christianity’s role in human moral progress.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World (Basic Books) by British historian Tom Holland is a rich, colorful and — but for one glaring flaw — absorbing epic history of Christianity and its ideas, uniquely told from a liberal-left perspective.

Though he never says it outright, Holland is an agnostic, which might lead you to expect a book that tears the Faith — nowadays seen by many as the dominion of reactionary cranks — yet another one, to be tucked in the shelf alongside…


Recently published in The Union, the newspaper for Nevada County, California, the following provides a brief look at the author’s move to a small Sierra town.

Home at Last . . . .

One Spring day in 2018, the stranger came to town. In a surly mood, he moseyed about Grass Valley’s charming Main Street, his patient wife by his side. Then suddenly, as he remembered his long-ago Hudson River Valley hometown and its high green hills, he turned to her and growled, “Yeah . . . let’s move here.”

He’d been looking for something he’d lost. Now maybe he’d found it.

Later that day, the pair…

Thomas Burchfield

The author of BUTCHERTOWN, a 1920s gangster thriller and DRAGON’S ARK, a contemporary Dracula tale, both published through Ambler House Publishing.

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