California

My Pandemic Trip to Louisiana

Painting by my favorite Louisiana artist, Clementine Hunter. 1886-1988.

In the past six months, I have been operating at about 30% capacity. Yes, I have tried volunteering and writing and baking. I hike a lot and keep in touch with friends and family. I remind myself how good my life is, but my feelings ignore my thoughts. At this time of my life, I need new places and people and ideas. I need instability.

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The Crack in Everything

Stock photo

Last week, I nearly had a melt down when the formatting in my 286 blog postings unexpectedly disappeared. This relatively trivial problem triggered something that kept me up all night questioning the meaning of life. What am I doing here? Why? Who cares? This is not my usual thing. Even while it was happening, I knew my existential angst was not about formatting.

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Bird-Brained

Pablo Picasso

Here in Berkeley while I am waiting for “the clouds” to pass, I have made a few new friends. This has been possible without visiting bars because my new friends are birds. I’ve gotten to know them by putting out treats on the top railing of my deck. I don’t do this just to be nice — there is plenty to eat year-round in Berkeley’s moderate climate. I do it for a little entertainment and hoping to learn something. Continue reading

Send in the Locusts

Allie Brosh

At our outdoor distanced dinner this week here at Maison Marianne, we laughed about a post on social media that said “I think my bingo card for 2020 is full.” And it’s only August.

Remember when the corrupt Senate impeachment process was the worst news? That was a million years ago in February. Since then, a global pandemic, economy tanking, demonstrations and rioting.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, this week in California: 560 raging fires and the worst air quality in the world after two days of rare lightening storms.

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California Poster Child

Hannah Wichrowski, 2017

Posters are everybody’s art. They gained popularity in the mid-19th century and took off by the end of the 19th century. They announce events, advertise products, or provide information about matters of public interest. The most familiar are those that were designed to advertise absinthe or draw you into a cafe or encourage you to support the war effort.

Some go a little further to tell important stories, envision the future, or present exceptional artistry. Some of the best examples I found all happen to be a part of California history. Except one.

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Getting Rid of the “Bad Apples” Won’t Fix Things

I understand why so many people are angry. I am angry. Over the years, I have had numerous explicitly racist encounters with police from the Bay Area cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont. I know my black son has had many more, and his are dangerous. I have worried about him every day of his life since he was old enough to walk down the street by himself. It’s all so painful and personal, it’s hard to even think about it.

And yet, I believe police officers should not be the main target of our anger. That’s because they are not the main cause of America’s police brutality problem. If we were to hold every police officer accountable for every act of racism and unjustified violence — and we should —  we would still have racist policing and police brutality. That’s because the problem is not “bad apples.” Circumstances and government policy have converged to create a policing culture that promotes racism and violence.

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The Burden of Truth

Berkeley demonstrators

This period of protest and national dialogue should make me feel hopeful but, so far, it makes me more despairing. It reminds me of the racism my son, Gabe, has endured over the years in our “liberal” Bay Area community. It reminds me of the anger I feel for the times I have tried to talk about racial issues and gotten the message that I should move on. It reminds me of the shame I feel for the times I could have done something and didn’t.

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