California Today: California Today: A Story of Loss and Community in a Little Almond Tree

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An almond tree south of Hughson, a rural town in Stanislaus County, is decorated for the holidays.

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Courtesy of Danielle’s Gift

Good morning.

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A small tree at the corner of an almond orchard just outside Modesto is decorated several times a year with colorful ornaments.

For passing motorists, the festive display has been something of a mystery.

So a couple weeks ago, the Modesto Bee looked into it.

The tree, it turns out, was cherished by a little girl named Danielle, the daughter of the orchard’s owners.

For whatever reason, the tree had failed to thrive, and David Genzoli, Danielle’s father, planned to rip it out. But Danielle protested.

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“She was a nature girl and just loved the trees,” Kimber Genzoli, Danielle’s mother, said by phone this week. “So it became their project to save this little tree. She called it her Charlie Brown tree.”

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Then in 2005, Danielle was killed in a car crash at the age of 16.

As Christmas approached that year, the family didn’t have the heart to celebrate.

The Genzolis went out to the orchard soon to discover that somebody had decorated the tree with homemade Christmas ornaments.

“We don’t know who it was,” said Ms. Genzoli, “but it kind of started from there.”

One February, Danielle’s first grade teacher had her students create laminated hearts that they hung from the tree for Valentine’s Day. It was festooned for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter.

At some point, Danielle’s grandfather and great-uncle began running electricity out to the tree so they could add lights. People sometimes left notes with remembrances of Danielle.

Right now the tree is decorated for Halloween.

David Genzoli said he was driving a tractor in the orchard last Saturday, when he saw an older woman hanging a small cellophane pumpkin on the tree. He wandered over.

The woman told him she had been touched by the story in the Bee and that in February she had lost her son, a father of two girls aged 3 and 5.

Inside the pumpkin were notes written by the girls to their father.

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(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

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People waited in line to go through security before a speech in September by the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Elijah Nouvelage/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• California has become, however improbably, a leading exporter of the energy that is animating the conservative movement. [The New York Times]

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• At least seven people were arrested at Cal State Fullerton during a visit by Milo Yiannopoulos. Inside, the right-wing speaker was greeted by a standing ovation. [Orange County Register]

PGE reported at least eight instances of trees or tree limbs bringing down power lines on the night when devastating wildfires broke out in California’s wine country. [KQED]

• Officials declared the last of the deadly blazes fully contained. [The Press Democrat]

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A Senate Judiciary subcommittee convened a hearing on Tuesday about Russia’s campaign of election interference with executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google.

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Eric Thayer for The New York Times

• On Capitol Hill, Facebook, Google and Twitter acknowledged their role in Russia’s influence on the presidential campaign. In a heated exchange, Senator Al Franken asked Facebook to reject political ad purchases in foreign currencies. [The New York Times]

Taxes on cannabis in California may reach as high as 45 percent, according to a Fitch Ratings report. [CNN]

• Officials said a distraught parent held a teacher hostage for hours at a Riverside elementary school before being fatally shot by the police. [The Associated Press]

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Kenley Jansen reacted after striking out Carlos Beltran of the Astros to end the game.

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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

• Game 7! The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the Houston Astros in a winner-take-all game for the World Series championship on Wednesday. [The New York Times]

Michael Tilson Thomas, who helped spur American classical music’s westward expansion, will step down as music director of the San Francisco Symphony. [The New York Times]

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• The artist Andrea Zittel left an art career in New York for a lone stucco shack on the edge of ghostly Joshua Tree National Park. Her art involves an intense examination of what it means to live. Now, she’s inviting others to join her. [The New York Times]

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The comedian Maria Bamford is starring in the Netflix series “Lady Dynamite.”

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Photographs by Emily Berl for The New York Times

• While hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, the comedian Maria Bamford found hope that she could be in love one day:

“Over and over again, I encountered people with debilitating mental illness who were also part of a couple. They weren’t working, they needed care. They were a burden. And yet they were loved. I started to think: That could be me. If I ever got better, maybe I would meet someone who could love me as I am.” [The New York Times]

• “I tell people they’ll get cuts and bruises. It’s aggressive.” People are warned before entering a San Diego haunted house that simulates an abduction experience. But some say it goes too far. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

And Finally …

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Evening rush hour traffic on the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles.

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Monica Almeida/The New York Times

It’s gas tax hike day.

After much wrangling and debate, the price of a gallon of gas is rising 12 cents.

For a typical car, that could mean roughly $2 extra per fill-up. But don’t expect to notice the difference right away.

As it happens, the tax increase is happening on Nov. 1, the same day that California gas stations switch each year to a cheaper winter blend of gas.

The cost of a gallon of gas typically drops as much as 10 cents with the changeover, said Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, which opposed the gas tax.

From the consumer’s point of view then, the tax hike may appear to be canceled out.

“I don’t know if they timed it this way,” Mr. Spring said. “But it’s smart.”

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The tax increase is part of legislation intended to raise more than $5 billion a year over the next decade to help fix the state’s roads and bridges.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed it in April.

But the wrangling may not be over. Republican leaders are fighting hard to dismantle the law.

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Los Osos. Follow him on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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