Monday, August 31, 2015

Had my car broken into in our parking lot -- and the culprits appear to have taken more than the briefcase from my trunk ... .

the briefcase contained my IRS records for the past several years, so my identity is unquestionably compromised.

I'm totally thrown and can't seem to function at all since it happened on Saturday morning.

Discovered the theft Saturday morning as I got into my car to head for the Visitor Center on the shoreline. I immediately shut the implications out of mind in order to get through another impossible day.  On my schedule were two one-hour presentations in our theater; one at eleven and another at two o'clock.

The eleven o'clock was totally filled (48 seats) and there was simply no time to put in a police report since having them come to the Visitor Center would raise public attention in ways that I didn't want to deal with.

Because another article on my work appeared in the AAA's VIA magazine on Friday, the weekend audience was unprecedented.  We'd put in a numbering system in order to not go beyond the fire department regulations.  One hour before my talk visitors are given tickets so that we can know that we haven't exceeded our capacity, and for the two o'clock talk every ticket had been distributed within the first five minutes -- everybody had to be turned away after that!

And the compartmentalizing I was doing in order to retain my sanity was threatening my stability, and I can't imagine that I got through it all without totally freaking out!

But I did.

It's just that from the moment I returned to my apartment until now (two days later), I've been only half-conscious, I think.

Last night I finally sent my attorney an email seeking help, and first thing this morning he responded. We're meeting this afternoon.  I've still not filed a police report.  I suspect that it's out of a sense of uselessness.  This is the third time my car has been broken into in the past several months.  Twice in my carport, and once just outside City Hall where our headquarters office is located -- in Civic Center Plaza.  Both times I made police reports.  Both times it took many hours for an officer to respond.  And the experience only led to my feelings of helplessness because there is just no real defense against such incidents, and I knew it.

I mentioned the break-in on Facebook and among those who responded with wishes for recovery and assistance was a message from our police chief, offering to do whatever he could.  For that I was grateful, not so much for his official offer of help as for his friendship.  Chris Magnus is my friend, and I know he is sincerely  concerned.  But it didn't cause me to act on my own behalf, but just to give up any hope of a solution ... .

This afternoon I will have an appointment to meet with my attorney.  He's warm and caring, and seeing Steve may serve to break through the ennui and sense of helplessness that I'm sill not able to recover from ... .

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Spent much of this afternoon doing something I rarely do ... .

... read back through random posts in this journal, and was soon lost in time.

Such a long and varied life I've lived.  Some of the accounts of the days of struggling toward recovery of our little business were unbelievably difficult and stressful -- and I had forgotten how fearful I was so much of the time, but certainly courageous.  I must have become softer with age, because I'm certain I could not live through such times now.  And this was a period of life that followed 20 years of being an upscale suburban housewife, and a second marriage into the life of a faculty wife on the University of California campus.

South Berkeley during the Seventies was much like Ferguson, Detroit, Chicago,  Baltimore, and other troubled areas in many parts of the country today.  It has now gentrified out of that identity, and the former low-income black residents have been displaced through being priced out of residency by economic forces.  Berkeley has lost its racial diversity over many years.  'Tis the pity, I think.  I'm far more comfortable in Richmond these days, where the diversity is rich, volatile, edgy, cantankerous, and warmly engaging.  I've grown to love Richmond. 

I remembered that when my embattled black businessman husband complained to the police that our store was being broken into about every 3 months, and that we were without adequate police protection in the community.  Since we'd parted, and before, he'd taken to sleeping on a cot in the back of the store with a rifle at his side.  The police explanation was, "... we like to have neighborhoods like this.  When something happens in other parts of town we know where we can most likely pick up the culprit."  They were using our neighborhood as a catchment area.

Of the nine halfway houses for addicts in recovery and returning former prisoners, seven of them were placed in our neighborhood by the City.   The neighborhood was ground zero for the drug trade, and those high risk people were cynically set down in the middle of the "candy store" where they were expected to live where recidivism and relapse into drug abuse would be most likely be inevitable.  Children in such areas are put at risk of their lives as time has clearly shown.  The sound of gunfire now so common had not yet become a problem, though -- over time -- I saw 4 young black boys/men gunned down within 500 yards of our store.  One Saturday afternoon -- with several customers leisurely browsing record albums -- a bullet came through the storefront window from police activity across the street -- whizzed past just over my son, David's, head and settled in the wall!

I've outlived the cynicism that had to be developed in order to withstand the quiet terror that had to be lived with every day, and that so many have had to survive while retaining enough scar tissue to serve as protection from the effects of having to spend our lives as 3/5th of a human being.

... and there were fine and upstanding folks living in that corner of South Berkeley; folks caught up in a dehumanizing system caused by poverty and degradation.  We took care of each other as far it was possible to do so.  My lot was cast with those around me, and we all made the best of it.  Despite all, I look back fondly on those troubled years, and find that I'm still spinning off lessons learned.  That period added a richness and depth to my life that continues to serve as grounding for today's small victories.

In the archives there's a good record of those years -- starting in March-April of 2004.  Use the little white search bar on the left side of the screen above the banner.  You can just check on the dates in the archives list, of course. 


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gone, Gone, Gone!   I'm free of vertigo and up and runnin' again!

Betty Reid Soskin: A World War II Homefront History

August 16, 2015 - 1:30pm-4:00pm 
Come hear Betty Reid Soskin recall Richmond and the Bay Area during World War II.  This exceptional speaker and homefront hero will show a short movie of Richmond during the years 1942-1945 and follow it up with an inspiring talk that you must experience.  Betty is currently a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Park in Richmond, and was once employed in the Richmond shipyards during World War II.  Her talk will move you.
Event Category: 
I'm also back at the wheel, and "Old" will just have to take a number and wait in line.

Just showered and dressed for a presentation at the Berkeley Main Library at 1:30 this afternoon, and expect to see old friends in that audience.  Having lived in Berkeley for many years, I've left a mark on it as we all do in those places where we've shared lives -- and it surely has left its mark on me.  I never thought I'd be happy living anywhere else, but I'm firmly planted now in Richmond, and think of the city as home.  But maybe home is wherever the heart is at any moment in time.  If so, I've had many, and this is only the latest version.

That 20 years in the suburbs -- painful though it was at times -- probably provided the greatest and deepest growth, and friends with whom those years were shared left their mark on my life as in no other period.  Strange.  Maybe that was the take-away in exchange for the confidence and security acquired as the result.  The pain may have been well worth it.  I'm still spinning off those years.  They've given me the needed balance to continue building on the foundation provided by the early years of woman-building that started when I was six, with Papa George as mentor.

These recent years of connecting the dots and knitting together decades of experiences -- having retained enough accumulated wisdom to articulate that -- is something I could never have anticipated.

But then, maybe that book has been thoughtfully written, and I've not yet discovered it ... .  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Well, that was short-lived ... .

Saw the neurologist today.  He administered the magical Epply maneuver and, voila!  Dizziness disappeared in one fell swoop!

It could not have been more dramatic had the genie stepped out of that bottle and chanted his magic oath.  The cure was immediate.  It took less than 10 minutes, and the world stopped spinning and I came in for a landing.  "Sleep with 3 pillows tonight; about a thirty degree lift to your head, and ... .  " ... If there is any further dizziness, give me a call," says the genie.

I'm not going to let myself wonder why this wasn't done 3 months ago ... but we won't go there. 

Blood pressure higher than ever, but it was taken after I'd been through a wild ride through rush hour traffic to the Oakland Medical Center -- and I'm the quintessential passenger-seat-driver -- and it was horrendous!  My son did the honors, but only with invisible help from my imaginary brake pedal.  We were late for my appointment -- and I hate being late -- so it was a perfect storm.

Blood pressure was off the charts upon arrival, and when it was taken again when the doctor had completed his work, it was one point higher!

On the drive home, I was in no better shape, but now I'm aware of an elevated score, so I'm ready to cash in and give up the ghost.  Even silently considered retirement ... .

Within an hour after arriving home my primary physician called to inquire about how my appointment had gone --he was aware of the (alarming) rise in my pressure, and asked me to come in tomorrow at eleven to have it taken again.

I told him that I would need to arrange for a ride (remember, he'd ordered me to give up driving), and you can imagine my surprise when he answered, "... you can drive yourself.  Now that the vertigo and dizziness have been taken care of, there's no reason why you can't do so."

Go figure.

So, I guess I've been reprieved until further notice, and will return to work on Tuesday as planned.

Now I need to seek out a treatment for whiplash!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A life changer, maybe?

After 3 months of persistent fluctuating blood pressure, and dizziness caused by the concussion suffered in May, I'm having to face the fact that -- while not yet being advised to retire or to cut back on my work schedule by my doctor -- I have been advised not to drive until further notice.

Tomorrow I will see the neurologist for answers to just what is causing continuing vertigo.  Much will depend upon her findings.

These last two weeks have been spent resting, but on Sunday afternoon I will do my presentation at the Berkeley Main Library.  I'll have a driver.  I'm looking forward to getting back in gear, and on Tuesday will return to my regular 5 day/wk work schedule.

I suppose I should be getting ready to face that "...whatever are we going go do with the old lady" conversation.  Whenever I've asked my supervisors if it's time ...  up 'til now, it has always been, "not yet, Betty."

But the handwriting may be showing up on the wall, though dimly ... .

I've always wondered if I would know when it's time to leave the stage ... maybe I'm beginning to suspect ... .

Whenever the time comes, it will be in the middle of my movie.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Caught enough of Krasny's Forum show this morning to have it dominate my thoughts over the past hour ... .

The subject was the situation in Ferguson as those old wounds have been reopened, and the violence returned.

Just last night I watched coverage on CNN and learned of the continuing "ticketing for profit" practices that are still going on, adding to the festering of those old wounds.  But I also noticed the presence of a diversity of races on those streets and was reminded ... .

One of the most valuable lessons learned during the earlier versions of the Civil Rights struggles was -- I suppose because I was experiencing those struggles from the position of a middle class black living among enlightened white liberals in an otherwise hostile white community -- down through history there has always been good folks tryin' to get it right, and often at the risk of their own lives.

 One might start with the Quakers,  abolitionists, and John Brown.

In this morning's discussion there was a representative of Black Lives Matter -- the current version of the struggle -- and she was articulate, and clearly disheartened by the lack of progress being shown in the clashes between the black community and the police.  She defended the actions at the Bernie Sanders rally, and made the point that in the aftermath he made his first clear statements on the state of the persistent racial problems in the nation.  Attorney Eva Patterson, one of my all-times heroes, was her clear and present -- wise and gracious self -- giving voice to the voiceless.

The call-ins that joined the debate had one thing in common.  They were from people sympathetic to the cause of justice, but clearly expressing concern that the wrong tactics were being used by the Movement ("... why Bernie Sanders, he's one of the good guys'), and suggestions for how it should be done.  May I suggest that all responses -- if coming from a place of moral intent -- are needed.   There is not one correct way to respond to unreasonable and crippling injustices.  Corrective measures have many faces, and will draw many responses depending upon countless variables.

Maybe it's my age, but I find that my eyes are ever searching the television coverage for the racial makeup of the street demonstrations.  I see hope in the fact that the diversity is growing, and that here are the folks who, historically, have always been "tryin' to get it right," and in the chaos there is a lot of democracy being built.  There always is at such times.

Every generation has to rebuild democracy in its day.  We have a constitutionally-protected right to be wrong.  We also have a constitutionally-protected right to protest those wrongs in the belief that what is right will prevail.

Democracy is a process, and every citizen has the right and responsibility to participate in that
process in order to actualize it and keep it vibrant for the next generation.

That can be ugly at times if we neglect our duty to maintain an informed electorate, but it is the price we pay for freedom.

Building and keeping a coalition of those "tryin' to get it right" is of critical importance.  Our black lives may well depend upon it.

We cannot do it alone.  It is an American problem fueled by white supremacy, but mistakenly seen as a problem based purely in black inadequacy and criminality.  Until we recognize it for what it is, we'll continue to fail to find answers.

If my Sixties experiences have any validity at all, then I have to believe that those racially-diverse street demonstrators are doing the right thing by simply being there together showing that Black Lives Matter for the nation and the world to see.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Turned up in NIAD art exhibit today
This is painted directly on a wall - it is huge!
Call came from the editor of a publication in which my life story will be included in September  ... .

... she wanted to fact-check a few things, and her first question was -- "I was a bag lady for the Black Panthers!"  Of course I said, yes, that I'd said that (probably in the Bancroft Library oral history at the university), and it was technically true, but didn't come close to telling the whole story.

What was being referred to was the fact that I raised funds among my friends and church members in order to help to fund the work of the Panthers, and delivered them to Kathleen and Eldridge Cleaver at their San Francisco apartment on Oak Street.  What I did not say was that I'd been driven there by our late  Rev. Aron Gilmartin, pastor of the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church.  He didn't hesitate picking me up in his little Volkswagen to make the delivery.  That was life in the Sixties.  You were either a part of the problem or a part of the solution, and we took that very seriously.  I'd drive into the city to march with the Panthers on the Alameda County courthouse steps many a day in order to fulfill that self-imposed obligation.

This was in my pretty little brown Doris Day with the faux wood-paneled station wagon period, and I faithfully lived up to the image.

I'd decided that -- though I was living in the suburbs at the time -- far away from the action -- with the Oakland hills dividing the flat lands of the inner city from the "(sur)real" world, there was a role to be played by the black middle class (of which there were few where we lived).  White liberals who were stirred by the struggle as it was being played out on the streets of the Greater Bay Area, and with whom I had credibility, were asking me for information about what was going on beyond the hills, and as long as that was true I needed to be informed.  I had access into the Movement, and they didn't.  I saw it as my duty to drive to where the action was in order to tap into the power that I had access to where I was.  It was those same great friends and allies who would support me through the next decade -- sometimes at the national level.  We were all being educated through my involvement.  It was a heady time, and some of the lessons learned in those years are what fuels my work today.

by Dorian Reid - 8/8/2015
No one was going to grant power to a black man standing on the corner with a brick in his hand, but I was choking on it.   I could be a conduit to power, and I knew it. At that time some of my friends were among the most effective of those in political leadership.  The mayor of the town, Doug Page, was a member of my church, and I could probably have parked my car on the City Hall lawn and not been ticketed.

And,  I'm probably living proof that the Black Panthers were, at heart, non-violent.

I recall one of those demonstrations when -- dressed in my beige pleated skirt with cashmere sweater with pearls and tawny hip-length suede jacket --  I was marching along passionately while loudly yelling, "Free Huey Newton!" with the rest of the crowd when the chant turned unexpectedly into, "Off the Pigs!  Off the Pigs!"  Appalled, I marched straight up to the front of the demonstration in my spiffy alligator pumps to where some of the leaders were gathered and loudly announced, ".. if you don't make them stop yelling those awful words right this instant,  I'm going to leave and never come back!"  That someone didn't make quick work of me right on the spot showed unbelievable restraint on the part of the black-leather-jacketed brothas, and proof that those awesome Black Panthers were not without a sense of humor!

From that day forward I figured that my code name in the Black Revolution should have been Chicken Little!

... but as we can surely see, I've evolved.

note:  ... and apparently Dorian is also evolving.  She is showing political awareness that must have been acquired over the years.  Stephen Sondheim was right, "Children will listen."  These sketches turned up in the National Arts and Disabilities (NIAD) show today, to serve as a reminder of those days. For those new to my writings, Dorrie is my mentally-retarded daughter.

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