By this time, I suppose, you may have some skepticism about this project. What is my motivation? Is this writing some species of revenge, cowardly pay-back inflicted on a dead man. KJL can’t defend himself from my account of his life, which is, certainly not impartial and, also,necessarily tendentious – certain themes are developed in this essay and the alert reader (hypocrite lecteur) will detect, I suppose, arguments about my friend’s life that the dead man is unable to refute. There are qualities in this prose that were foreign to KJL. If the readers suspects bitterness on the part of this writer, you must understand that my subject was never bitter – indeed, even when gravely ill, he was determinedly optimistic and, as far as I could see, happy with his station in life. Similarly, there may be traces of rancor, even, regret in this chronicle – in many ways, KJL lived the life that I wished for myself. But, as Sartre reminds us, regret is nothing but bad faith – had I wished to live otherwise, I surely had agency in selecting my style of existence. I could have done something else with my life, but didn’t. I never heard KJL ever express any regrets about anything that he had done or left undone.
Simply stated I admired KJL but am well-aware that he didn’t admire me. My accomplishments, such as they were, meant nothing to him, and were meaningless in the context of the world that he made for himself. It can probably be said that I spent half my life admiring KJL and wishing I could be more like him. Of course, I admired his courage, his ability to interact with the widest variety of people without self-consciousness or self-doubt, his freedom, and, even, his powerful physique that impressed women and that defeated men in athletic competition. He was worldly and had a great deal of what people once called savoir faire. By contrast, I tend toward naivety and everything frightens me.
Therefore, it is right to understand that I admired KJL for half of my life and pitied him for the other half. He didn’t want my pity and, if he had known that I felt that emotion, he would have disdained it. Indeed, the last time I saw him, when he was terribly stricken, I asked him to let me buy him glasses so that he could see better. Proudly enough, he rebuffed that suggestion.
This essay has become a burden to me. I wake up in the middle of the night and start ransacking my memory for anecdotes about KJL and, after a few minutes, my recollection comes to life and I am suffocated with thoughts about him. It is as if I am next to a great dismal torrent on which my memories are floating like a froth of scum. I want to seize as many as I can but it’s to no avail. The efforts don’t add up to anything like the man himself.
Last night, I was tormented by these thoughts and couldn’t sleep and, at last, I decided to get up to use the toilet – it is an old man’s curse, an aging urinary tract. When I arose, I felt an awful pain in my right hip. It was as if I had been wrestling with some celestial being and that, as dawn was whitening the horizon, the angel touched a hollow place near the socket of my hip and put it out of joint. The pain was really shocking, worse I suppose because imaginary, and it made me shiver in my bed. But, then, I fell asleep and everything went away.
-- John Steven Beckmann, "On KJL," January 20, 2020.
Caitlin Marchetti, 23, of Guerneville, decided not to evacuate Saturday or Monday.
She and her boyfriend, Jamie Miller, 31, went to a supermarket on Sunday to see how gas stations would handle the logistics of transporting gas after the Tubbs Fire burned down some stations. The emergency gas sign near a Chevron gas station still read: “Due to extensive damage due to #shelter-in-place status please pull into only required drop off locations until resumption of services.”
Ms. Marchetti was unsure how the stations would work in the long term. But she said in the meantime, she was happy to be safe.
There is a “sunny spot” on her family’s property in Sonoma County, she said, in a reservoir where it’s cool. They are making plan to put on their clothes and cross their fingers that the emergency button will go off.
Mayors London Breed of San Francisco, Sam Liccardo of San Jose, and Michael Tubbs of Stockton have all endorsed Michael Bloomberg for President, despite minimal support among their constituents for his candidacy, according to The Guardian:
There’s nothing surprising about a billionaire winning the support of the mayor of San Francisco, a city flush with tech wealth and new money.
But when the billionaire is Mike Bloomberg – and the endorsement is the latest from a string of California mayors he mentored and supported – the vow of support raises some eyebrows.
Bloomberg announced on Thursday that London Breed, San Francisco’s first black female mayor, would serve as his campaign’s chair of African Americans.
“Voters re-elected London Breed by a wide margin because she is taking on the biggest and toughest issues – and she puts progress over politics,” the former New York mayor said in a statement. “I’m honored to have her support and look forward to working with her not only to win this election, but to help make San Francisco and all of California stronger, fairer, and greener – with more affordable housing, more good jobs, and healthcare for all.”
Breed, who previously supported the California Senator Kamala Harris in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination, said on Facebook that she is backing Bloomberg because he “is the only candidate for president with a real plan for African Americans”, touting his Greenwood Initiative to increase black home ownership and the number of black-owned businesses.
All three mayors have attended Bloomberg's Harvard City Leadership Initiative program. Bloomberg was the first choice of only two percent of California Democrats in a December University of Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll. He has spent $24 million on political ads in California (all other candidates have spent $5 million) and is skipping early primary states to focus on California and other Super Tuesday states.
I wanted the mind of a scholar, but it seemed that Dr. Kerry saw in me the mind of a roofer. The other students belonged in a library; I belonged in a crane.
The first week passed in a blur of lectures. In the second week, every student was assigned a supervisor to guide their research. My supervisor, I learned, was the eminent Professor Jonathan Steinberg, a former vice-master of Cambridge College, who was much celebrated for his writings on the Holocaust.
My first meeting with Professor Steinberg took place a few days later. I waited at the porter's lodge until a thin man appeared and, producing a set of heavy keys, unlocked a wooden door set into the stone. I followed him up a spiral staircase and into the clock tower itself, where there was a well-lit room with simple furnishings: two chairs and a wooden table.
I could hear the blood pounding behind my ears as I sat down. Professor Steinberg was in his seventies but I would not have described him as an old man. He was lithe, and his eyes moved about the room with probing energy. his speech was measured and fluid.
"I am Professor Steinberg," he said. "What would you like to read?"
I mumbled something about historiography. I had decided to study not history, but historians. I suppose my interest came from the sense of groundlessness I'd felt since learning about the Holocaust and the civil rights movement -- since realizing that what a person knows about the past is limited, and will always be limited, to what they are told by others. I knew what it was to have a misconception corrected -- a misconception of such magnitude that shifting it shifted the world. Now I needed to understand how the great gatekeepers of history had come to terms with their own ignorance and partiality. I thought if I could accept that what they had written was not absolute but was the result of a biased process of conversation and revision, maybe I could reconcile myself with the fact that the history most people agreed upon was not the history I had been taught. Dad could be wrong, and the great historians Carlyle and Macaulay and Trevelyan could be wrong, but from the ashes of their dispute I could construct a world to live in. In knowing the ground was not ground at all, I hoped I could stand on it.
I doubt I managed to communicate any of this. When I finished talking, Professor Steinberg eyed me for a moment, then said, "Tell me about your education. Where did you attend school?"
The air was immediately sucked out of the room.
"I grew up in Idaho," I said.
"And you attended school there?"
It occurs to me in retrospect that someone might have told Professor Steinberg about me, perhaps Dr. Kerry. Or perhaps he perceived that I was avoiding his question, and that made him curious. Whatever the reason, he wasn't satisfied until I admitted that I'd never been to school.
"How marvelous," he said, smiling. It's as if I've stepped into Shaw's Pygmalion."
-- Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (New York: Random House, 2018).