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How broken will our lives be?

21 Jul

brokenlives_book

As part of my “regimen” of reading to acquire some historical context for my “Three German Women” project, I am now reading Jarausch’s Broken Lives:  How Ordinary Germans Experienced the 20th Century.  While Jarausch focusses on the generation born in the 1920s and only one of my women (Maria) was born in 1920, the stories told by a cross-section of ordinary Germans who grew up in this era do provide some illuminating insights into a time that many of us have too quickly dumped into some “that was then and we know how it turned out for those Nazis” bin, giving little thought to what it was like to grow up in such a tumultuous atmosphere.  He depends on many memoirs and diaries, both published and unpublished, as well as interviews with those still living (their memories, of course, colored by time and hindsight). While I am still focussing on the Weimar years and through World War II, Jarausch is particularly interested in documenting how Germany and the German people, both East and West, overcame the total destruction of their cities and their society and rebuilt so successfully after the war. This fact is another aspect that we as “victors” sometimes gloss over: despite all of the help given by the Allies for reconstruction, it was not necessarily a given that Germany and Austria would become so prosperous, so functional that they are now major players in the global economy and culture.

For my purposes, the book’s greatest strength is in emphasizing what I want to highlight:  that while larger political upheavals were taking place, most ordinary people, and especially young people, were simply living their lives–falling in love, getting jobs, finding enough to eat, going to concerts–without much thought about–or participation in–the conquest of their culture by fascism or, later, by Soviet ideologies.  As one informant writes of being an adolescent in the 1930s,  “The years of my apprenticeship in Leipzig were on the whole quite happy. I hardly paid any attention to politics.” (p. 89)  Sound familiar?

As for the commonly-heard statement, “why didn’t everyone protest against Hitler?” Jarausch presents some harrowing first-hand accounts, and concludes : “The memoirs show that it took exceptional insight and courage to remain aloof, refuse to comply, or actively resist the twisted universe of the Third Reich, since the sanctions were lethal.” (p. 96) Even in those families that were politically aware, Jewish, and/or Communist, peer pressure, for example, to be part of Hitler Youth triumphed over any objections parents might have. The author also finds ample evidence in these memoirs of how EXCITING all of these new actions could be, especially for German youth from rural areas, who for the first time met–through country-wide sporting events and Nazi-organized activities–other young people, all sharing this idea of “making Germany great again” after the shame of losing the Great War and the humiliation of the punitive Versailles Treaty.

And in the beginning, Hitler’s policies DID greatly improve the lives of ordinary Germans: autobahns, free health care, sponsored outings in the fresh air, recognition for healthy living, and guaranteed employment for those who followed the rules.  But when sanctions grew against Jews, when trade unionists were arrested, when militaristic propaganda took over the schools’ curriculum, not having paid attention led to the realization that they were heading toward a war that very few had anticipated.

Much has been written about the fact that after the debacle of the Second World War, the deprivations of the post-War years, the efforts at “de-Nazification”, few Germans have been willing to, as Jarausch writes, “confront their personal responsibility and commit themselves to doing active penance.”  This fact, too, I see as a normal human reaction: one remembers the good stuff, and has a hard time owning up to one’s complicity in evil.  In the sections of the book on the post-War years, both in the GDR (East Germany) and the FRD (West Germany), the memoirists focus primarily on how hard they worked to gain economic stability and eventually, material prosperity. Ideology seldom plays a major role in everyday life, or at least not in an obvious way.

Given that I have been reading this during weeks when the news in the U.S., as well as in other countries around the world, is incomprehensibly terrifying, as we endure a mentally unhinged, probably traitorous, American president, and we watch in helplessness at the rise of autocratic leaders in previously democratic nations,  all of these stories give me pause.  I will not make the simplistic comparison of Hitler and Trump–too many differences, despite some alarming similarities.  But I am struck by reading of the consequences of not paying attention to what is happening on a grander scale as we live our daily, usually banal, lives, and certainly the consequences of not learning from the (very recent!) past.

As Jarausch writes at the end of his worthy book, “[h]eeding the lessons of experience and memory has transformed many Germans into sincere democrats and pacifists who want to prevent a recurrence of earlier horrors.” Will we–our children and grandchildren–be able to prevent more broken lives by learning from the past? So I conclude by once again posting the signs of fascism. The American trajectory may follow different paths determined by different banalities, but the end results may be the same.

fascism_signs_2004

 

 

Where have you been?

23 Jun

A woman dresses a girl while staying at a shelter with fellow members of a caravan of migrants from Central America, prior to preparations for an asylum request in the U.S., in Tijuana

Several friends have written to me, wondering why I haven’t been writing on my blog for several months.  I had no idea that I had such ardent followers!  So let me just say that the last few months have been an arduous mix of surgical “procedures” (all of them relatively minor in execution, but requiring lots of recovery time), some work on the book I am purportedly writing (mostly now a translation of Irmgard Kern’s “Autobiografie einer jungen Frau”–Autobiography of a Young Woman– from 1934), and hours of utterly terrified despair at the political situation in this country.  The photo above encapsulates this mood:  the complete inhumanity of removing helpless, innocent children from their families in the name of a hateful, entirely unnecessary  “policy” and “crackdown” against illegal immigration at the U.S. southern border.

As a born and bred California Girl, I have grown up in a multicultural society from the very beginning. Our neighbors always included Mexicans, whether “legal” or not; it was never a question for children. I went every day to Nellie’s house to eat stacks of her flour tortillas, either hot from the griddle with butter dripping off the sides, or with a dollop of refritos. I have never found that taste again, in all the years of trying–except for a brief time in San Antonio, when the secretary of one of the university departments where I worked shared her lunch with me, including HER home-made flour tortillas.  Mexican food was like mother’s milk to me, as it is for so many Californians and other Southwesterners.

My father was the foreman and chief grower in a flower nursery. Almost all of his workers were Mexican–initially, those who came to California through the bracero program, which allowed them to stay for 6 months a year, then they went home to Mexico, and would come back the next year.  I remember getting post cards addressed to “Estimado Rudy” from some of these workers, who would want to return the next year. They ate at our house, and taught us Spanish words, and told us how much they missed their own children back home.  Later on, when the bracero program ended (in 1964), my father’s workers were either Latinos born in California, or illegals. When I worked in the greenhouses when I was in high school, we sang Mexican songs–I was learning Spanish in school by then–while we debudded chrysanthemums to get them ready for market.  These women were absolute whizzes at doing this job, and could complete a row of plants before I was halfway through.  When the Immigration people showed up unannounced, my father would whistle some signal, and the illegals would jump out the back door, while we played games of interference.

ee&1stgradeclass_crenshawelem1_1956

My first-grade class in Torrance, California, 1955.

Mexicans weren’t the only group of “others” that I grew up with. My father’s boss was Japanese, one of the many Japanese-American flower growers who had established the floral industry in California.  One of my dad’s assistants in the greenhouses was Takako, an issei woman who we loved to visit at her house in Gardena, because she gave us rice-paper-wrapped candies, and laughed when we told her our Norwegian grandmother served us rice with cinnamon and sugar on it, which she thought was the weirdest foodway she had ever heard of.  I took piano lessons with Irene Shinoda, my dad’s boss’s daughter, and I was good friends with Lynn and Linda Nakamura, twins in my 5th-grade class.  These families, all of whom had been in America longer than my family had been, had been sent to detention camps during World War II, and were housed for a time in the horse stables at Santa Anita racetrack.  I knew about this example of America’s treatment of “others” from a very early age.

Perhaps this early exposure to lots of different people is why so much of California (although not all)  is so resistant to these current atrocities.  I am constantly charmed today when going to any “ethnic” restaurant in LA that the clientele will almost always be a mix of all these cultures–Armenians eating Mexican food, Mexican-Americans eating Vietnamese, Afro-Americans eating Chinese.  America at its best is a happy melting pot, ethnically diverse and so mixed that racial categories become relatively irrelevant and hard to pin down.  The warm glow I feel when experiencing tolerance and acceptance just makes the hateful headlines we now read every day heart-wrenching and incomprehensible.  Why would anyone want to support such cruel and UNNECESSARY political actions?

So, my friends, that’s where I’ve been:  sitting on my butt recovering from minor surgeries and stewing in helplessness about the fate of this country because of an aberrant electoral technicality that is now leading us away from our “better angels” toward a surreal fascism that has no happy ending for anyone.  On that happy note, and in lieu of my usual cat photo, I submit this list of the signs of fascism:

fascism_signs_2004

 

 

Book proposal accepted!

14 Mar

cambridgecontract

So my book proposal, Three German Women:  Personal Histories from the Twentieth Century, has been accepted by the press to whom I sent the proposal!  EEEK!  Now I really have write it!  I am excited, and not yet daunted.

Here’s the blog I wrote about the topic:  https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/a-book-proposal/

I have changed the deadline to September 2019, just to be safe, but I hope I will have it finished by next Spring at the latest.

And here’s the “blurb”, as the publishers call it, that I just sent back with the contract:

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

THREE GERMAN WOMEN:  PERSONAL HISTORIES FROM THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

 

This book presents the life stories of three women of the German-speaking realm whose lives inspired the author directly: mathematician Maria Weber Steinberg (1920-2013);  journalist Irmgard Rexroth-Kern (1907-1983) ; and Viennese art historian Fr. Dr. Anna von Spitzmüller (1903-2001).  The lives of these three women serve as emotional mirrors to the cultural transformations and tumultuous history of the 20th century. Their stories tell of the hardships, struggles, and victories of intellectual European women in this era. Each was related to men who played a role in European cultural life, men who received some prominence in history books; these women, in contrast, received very few public accolades for their important achievements. Placing them in the cultural context of the times in Germany and Austria, the author  highlights the traumatic choices imposed on ordinary people by political and social circumstances over which they had no control. Along with the women’s individual stories, the chapters focus on overarching themes: intellectual women’s roles in European society , the fate of Jewish culture in Germany and Austria, and specific historical background describing the incidents affecting their life trajectories (e.g., Irmgard Kern’s involvement in Berlin’s literary world,  Dr. Spitzmüller’s work with the Monuments Men, and Maria Steinberg’s father’s position in the Reichstag of the Weimar era).

As you can see, I simply cobbled together aspects of my original proposal.

And now I put out the call:  anyone who has any information about any of these women and their families–photographs, too!–please contact me, either here in the comments or through email at esauboeck@gmail.com.

Now back to work!  Right now I’m converting Fr. Kern’s “Autobiografie einer jungen Frau,” published in 1932 in a German newspaper in Fraktur, into readable text; then I will translate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Rad Lib Aggregator

16 Feb

[No doubt many of you will recognize that this entry comes not from me, Erika, but from George, the other half of ESAUBOECK! He’s so sweet and earnest to have taken on this experimental project. –Erika.]

 

Just after the start of the year, I became impatient with the bland news reported in Google News and Huffington Post, the two aggregators I follow.  I decided to aggregate news from left-leaning publications, then added a few “from the other side of the aisle”.  A daily task undertaken at about 4:00 in the afternoon, it was really pretty interesting and only took a little more than an hour each day.

After a six week trial, it seems to me that RealClearPolitics.com does just about as good a job as I can with way better graphics, though being less selective.  The conclusions:  it is much easier to find positive, forward-looking articles in liberal publications than in conservative ones.  National Review is particularly noted for preferring attacks on opposition figures over descriptions of efforts by conservatives.  Selecting the appropriate publication from which to take popular stories was often a challenge.

Technically, finding current postings of classical music on YouTube is time consuming due to the incredible number of dippy “classical music for relaxed studying which will also put your baby to sleep”; they generally don’t give proper attribution.  WordPress’s free blog function works pretty well, despite some odd layout editing, the most frustrating being an inclination to automatically run paragraphs together.

I have no idea if anyone found the blog.

Here is the list of the not particularly Rad publications I looked through for this post followed by a few weeks of the post itself, enough for you to get an idea of the coverage.

The Atlantic.
Center for American Progress
Dead Spin 
Foreign Affairs
Gizmodo
Guardian
Huffington Post
Jezebel
Los Angeles Times
The Monthly Today
The Nation
New Republic
New York Book Review
New York Times
The New Yorker
Politico
Salon
Splinter
Washington Post
YouTube
From the other side of the aisle:
The Hill
Fiscal Times.
National Review
Reason.Com.
Washington Examiner

Feb 15, 2018.  On this day in 2001, the first draft of the  human genome is published in Nature

Why Can’t the U.S. Treat Gun Violence as a Public-Health Problem? A 1996 bill has had a chilling effect on the CDC’s ability to research the problem.  Sarah Zhang. The Atlantic.

Why Drones Are Still the Future of War. Troops Will Learn to Trust Them. Paul Scharre; Jacquelyn Schneider and Julia Macdonald.  Foreign Affairs.

119,000 Passports and Photo IDs of FedEx Customers Found on Unsecured Amazon Server.Dell Cameron.  Gizmodo.

What Happens When A Journalist Gets Beat Up? Too Often, Not Much.  Bernie Lunzer. Huffington Post.

Bipartisan Senate effort to protect Dreamers collapses after Trump threatens veto. Los Angeles Times.

Cry me a river. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is key to the PM’s legacy. He must save it.   Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

Amazon Doesn’t Just Want to Dominate the Market—It Wants to Become the Market. The company is a radically new kind of monopoly with ambitions that dwarf those of earlier empires.  Stacy Mitchell.  The Nation.

What Congress Has Accomplished Since the Sandy Hook Massacre. More than 1,600 mass shootings have taken place in America since then.  New York Times.

The Sad Reality of Trying to Keep Guns Away from Mentally Ill People.  Michael Luo.  The New Yorker.

Trump struggles with consoler-in-chief role. The president gave remarks that were appropriate to the moment following the Parkland school shooting, but failed to convey the sorrow Americans expect from their leader. Edward-Isaac Dovere.  Politico.On social media, Parkland students subvert the news cycle. A generational culture of real-time social media empowered witnesses to redirect the national conversation. Nicole Karlis.  Salon.The AR-15: ‘America’s rifle’ or illegitimate killing machine?  Most Americans back a ban on the weapon used in many school shootings. But the rifles and their cousins are among the nation’s most popular and profitable guns.  Marc Fisher.  Washington Post.

Giselle – Act II pas de deux (The Royal Ballet).  YouTube.

Feb. 14, 2018.  On this day in 1920, the League of Women Voters is founded in Chicago.

The Out Olympics .  Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy show the entertainment value, and political power, of gay people embracing full visibility.   Spencer Kornhaber. The Atlantic.

Cracking the Shell. Trump and the Corrupting Potential of Furtive Russian Money.  Center for American Progress.

The China Reckoning. How Beijing Defied American Expectations.  Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner.  Foreign Affairs.

We’re Averaging One School Shooting Every 60 Hours In 2018. Wednesday’s shooting at a Florida high school is the 18th school shooting of the year. Lydia O’Connor. Huffington Post.

ICE launches new immigration sweeps in L.A. area; at least 100 detained so far. Los Angeles Times.

Big business tax cuts a non-starter. You can’t cut tax for companies paying zero.  Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

With His Assault on PBS and NPR, Trump Seeks to Eliminate Real News.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

South Africa’s Zuma Leaves Behind a Broken Democracy. Can the party of Nelson Mandela cleanse and revive itself?  New York Times.

“America’s Harvest Box” Captures the Trumpian Attitude Toward Poverty.  Sasha Abramsky.  The New Yorker.

The best photo we have of the Trump White House is Colbie Holderness and her black eye. The photo of Rob Porter’s wife with a black eye is a picture of hate and violence. Lucian K. Truscott IV.  Salon.

South African president resigns amid corruption allegations.  The African National Congress had pressured Jacob Zuma to step down. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma as ANC leader in December, is expected to become acting president.  Kevin Sieff and Krista Mahr.  Washington Post.

“The Song of Trees” by Keiko Abe. Performed by Felix Reyes.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Under pressure, Trump says he’s ‘totally opposed to domestic violence’.   Jordan Fabian.  The Hill.

How Trump’s Budget Would Cut the Social Safety Net. As a candidate, President Trump said he would not cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. But his 2019 budget proposal seeks to reduce spending on all three programs.  Yuval Rosenberg. Fiscal Times.

Success Academy Charter Schools Are a Big Success. Kids who attend New York City’s Success Academy charter schools do remarkably well. John Stossell.  Reason.Com.

VA Secretary David Shulkin regrets misusing taxpayer funds for European trip, reimburses government.   Naomi Lim.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 13, 2018.   On this day in 1914,  the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) was established to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members.

Trump’s Top Intelligence Officials Contradict Him on Russian Meddling.  The intelligence community has a stark warning about Russia’s intentions to interfere in the 2018 elections—but no public plan to prevent it.  Natasha Bertrand. The Atlantic.

A Bad Budget for America’s Place in the World.  Center for American Progress.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israeli police recommend indicting prime minister. Attorney general will examine evidence and decide whether to indict after police investigation of the prime minister in two cases.  Oliver Holmes. Guardian.

Trump’s Plan To Screw Over Your Bartender. The Restaurant Owner-In-Chief Wants To Give Employers More Control Over Tips.  Dave JamiesonHuffington Post.

As foreign hackers plot next attack, Washington struggles to shore up vulnerable voting systems. Los Angeles Times.

Why Does the Pentagon Always Tell Us the End Is Right Around the Corner?  What they should say is how many times they’ve been wrong about that.  Tom Engelhardt.  The Nation.

Information Wants to Be Chinese.  How investment from the People’s Republic is dividing Washington and Silicon Valley.  Moira Weigel. New Republic.

The Hidden Political Message of Michelle Obama’s Portrait Dress. From the pattern to the designer, the dress is the most revealing part.  Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell.  Politico.

Chopin Waltz Op.69 no 2 played by Thu Le, Classical Guitar. Arranged by Roland Dyens.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Schiff: We’re not going to revise Democratic memo.  The Hill.

Democracy in Chains Author Nancy MacLean Calls Autism a Leading Cause of Libertarianism.  “It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause seem to be on the autism spectrum: people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others.”  Robby Soave.  Reason.Com.

Greece is the word: Fiscal recklessness portends a crash.  Quin Hillyer.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 12, 2018.  On this day in 1817, Frederick Douglas was born into slavery in Maryland.

The Fetishization of Kim Yo Jong.  Krishnadev Calamur. The Atlantic.

Election Security in All 50 States. Defending America’s Elections.Center for American Progress.

U.S. Soccer Blew It.  Billy Haisley. Dead Spin.

Frustrations at the White House and the Pentagon. Why They Can’t Seem to See Eye to Eye on North Korea. Julianne Smith and Loren DeJonge Schulman.  Foreign Affairs.

Why Purebred Dogs Are Sick, Miserable, and Ugly.  George Dvorsky.  Gizmodo.

Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits expand beyond usual format. The pictures, painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, are vivid depictions by African American artists and will hang at the Smithsonian.  David Smith. Guardian.

Do You Like Paying Tolls? You’re Gonna Love Trump’s Infrastructure Plan. The proposal would allow more states to toll interstate highways. Igor Bobic. Huffington Post.

Jeff Sessions, Not Trying to Hide It, Praises ‘Anglo-American Heritage of Law Enforcement’. Ellie Shechet.  Jezebel.

Minding the gap. For once, really important targets are making a difference. Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

Randy Bryce’s Campaign Is Not Just Pro-Union—It’s Unionized.  The Campaign Workers Guild has negotiated its first collectively bargained contract, with the Democratic candidate challenging Paul Ryan.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

Trump Budget Ignores Deficit With Increases for Military.  The plan also includes large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade.  Julie Hirschfeld Davis.  The Nation.

Trump’s Words Will Leave a Lasting Mark.  History proves that presidential rhetoric impacts policy, sometimes long after the president himself has left office.  Jeet Heer.  New Republic.

God’s Own Music.  The Anglican choral tradition is one of the great successes of English cultural diffusion.  Ian Bostridge.  New York Book Review.

Trump Budget Ignores Deficit With Increases for Military.  The plan also includes large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade.  Julie Hirschfeld Davis. New York Times.

The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony: People Are Awesome. The Games feel like a testament to human pleasure: let us gather, and do these pure and ridiculous things for fun.  Amanda Petrusich.  The New Yorker.

McConnell’s immigration gamble. The Senate majority leader is unleashing a free-for-all debate over Dreamers — and his endgame is a mystery.  Seung Min Kim and Burgess Everett.  Politico.

Jeff Sessions Let His Racism Peek Through a Little More Than He May Have Intended To.  Emma Roller. Splinter.

Trump wants to overhaul America’s safety net with cuts to health care, food stamps and housing. The budget proposal presumes lawmakers will change entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do.   Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey, Amy Goldstein and Jeff Stein. Washington Post.

Gregorian chant.Early Music Sources.YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Trump fires first salvo on drug prices. The Hill.

The Trump Budget’s $7.1 Trillion Hole. Yuval RosenbergFiscal Times.

When Border Searches Become Unreasonable. Allowing warrantless searches everywhere within 100 miles of the border leads to much abuse.  Kyle Sammin.  National Review.

Trump’s New Budget Plan Is a Fiscal Disaster. The administration’s spending blueprint continues the fiscal decline that began during the Bush era.  Marc. Joffe.  Reason.Com.

Feb. 11, 2018.  On this day in 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers’ Union following a sit-down strike lasting 44 days.

A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue. Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates.  Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.

Cryptojackers Strike Again, Hitting Thousands of Sites Including US and UK Government Pages.  Tom McKay. Gizmodo.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food. Guardian.Heartbreaking Video Shows Black Parents Teaching Their Kids About Police Encounters. “Do everything that you can to get back to me.” Taylor Pittman.  Huffington Post.

Weinstein Company Sale Delayed by New York State Lawsuit.  New York’s attorney general filed a suit alleging the studio and its founders repeatedly violated state and city laws barring gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and coercion. It appeared timed to at least temporarily stop a sale.  Brooks Barnes and William Neuman. New York Times.

Progressives storm Democratic primaries. Veteran blue-state incumbents are hitting unexpected turbulence this year.  Laura Nahmias and Lauren Dezensky.  Politico.

White House wants to turn space station into commercially run venture. The administration plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the station altogether, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Post. Christian Davenport. Washington Post.

Paganini Violin Concerto no. 1 arrangement for reduced orchestra by Rechtman. Israel Camerata Orchestra.YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Trump officials do damage control after staff turmoil. Julia Manchester. The Hill.

Trump touts Lou Barletta as a ‘Great Republican’ running against Sen. Bob Casey. Steven Nelson.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 11, 2018.  On this day in 1937, General Motors recognized the United Auto Workers’ Union following a sit-down strike lasting 44 days.

A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue. Americans would be less alienated from one another and solve problems more easily if they recognized one little-noticed distinction in policy debates.  Conor Friedersdorf. The Atlantic.

Cryptojackers Strike Again, Hitting Thousands of Sites Including US and UK Government Pages.  Tom McKay. Gizmodo.

The Guardian view on childhood obesity: forget small steps, tackle big food. Guardian.Heartbreaking Video Shows Black Parents Teaching Their Kids About Police Encounters. “Do everything that you can to get back to me.” Taylor Pittman.  Huffington Post.

Weinstein Company Sale Delayed by New York State Lawsuit.  New York’s attorney general filed a suit alleging the studio and its founders repeatedly violated state and city laws barring gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and coercion. It appeared timed to at least temporarily stop a sale.  Brooks Barnes and William Neuman. New York Times.

Feb. 10, 2018.

How WeWork Has Perfectly Captured the Millennial Id.  The company sells a somewhat uneasy combination of capitalist ambition and cooperative warmth.  Laura Bliss. The Atlantic.

Purdue Pharmaceuticals Says It Will Stop the Aggressive Opioid Marketing That Made It Billions.   Tom McKay.  Gizmodo.

Corporations Won’t Fix American Health Care. They Already Run It.  Neil J. Young. Huffington Post.

White House floats an offer to keep legal immigration at 1 million per year instead of cutting it. Los Angeles Times.

Can Germany’s Social Democrats Get Their Groove Back?  The turn to neoliberalism demoralized the party—and helped fuel the rise of the extreme right.  Jordan Stancil.  The Nation.

The Heart of Conrad. (Review of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World by May Jasanoff).  Colm Tóibín.  New York Book Review.

G.O.P. Squirms as Trump Veers Off Script With Abuse Remarks.  Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.  New York Times.

class=”River__hed___re6RP”>Sports Illustrated’s Spectacularly Silly #MeToo Swimsuit Issue.You may have heard that women everywhere are sick of being sexually harassed; Sports Illustrated has, too.  Alexandra Schwartz.  The New Yorker.

The Democrats’ secret weapon to take back statehouses. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is pumping money and infrastructure into an array of legislative races. Special election results suggest it’s paying off.  Edward-Isaac Dovere. Politico.

Catching a glimpse of “the black tech renaissance”. I went down to BlackTech Week in Miami with a group from Maryland to see the future of cybersecurity.  D. Watkins.  Salon.

Danish folk song by Bon Voyage Music Project. YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

EPA chief’s questions about climate science draw new scrutiny.  The Hill.

In Memoriam: The GOP Pretending to Care About Fiscal Restraint.  The new two-year budget deal will result in a $1 trillion deficit.   Austin Bragg & Meredith Bragg.  Reason.Com.

Feb. 9, 2018.  On this day in 1950,  U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R. Wisc.) said that the U.S. Dept. of State was full of communists which he considered a bad thing.

6 Things to Watch for in Trump’s Infrastructure Scam.  Center for American Progress.

How to Win a Great-Power Competition. Alliances, Aid, and Diplomacy in the Last Struggle for Global Influence.   Benn Steil.  Foreign Affairs.

Trump’s America will be saddled with debt – just like his bankrupted hotels.  Guardian.

Dow rises 330 points Friday, but stocks still have worst week in two years.    Los Angeles Times.A New Housing-Rights Movement Has the Real-Estate Industry Running Scared.  In cities across the country, tenants are demanding robust regulations to keep rents affordable and stop unjust evictions.  Jimmy Tobias.  The Nation.

Could This Madman Accidentally Bring Peace to the Korean Peninsula?  The Trump administration’s extreme rhetoric on North Korea is forcing South Korea to seek a new solution for its longterm securityJeet Heer. New Republic.

Welcome to the Post-Text Future.  The internet was born in text. Now, video and audio are ascendant, writing is being left behind, and everything will be different.  Fahrad Manjoo.  New York Times.

Trump Gives Wife Beater Praise He Usually Reserves for Child Molesters and Nazis.  Andy Borowitz.  The New Yorker.

Justice Department’s No. 3 official plans to step downRachel Brand will take a private-sector job after nine months as associate attorney general, said a person familiar with the decision.Sari Horwitz and Josh DawseyWashington Post.

Brahms – Piano Concerto No.2 (recording of the Century : Emil Gilels/Reiner, 1958, Chicago).YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Pence did not stand for Korean delegation at Olympics opening ceremonies: report.The Hill.

Trump declines to release Democratic memo.   Kelly Cohen.  Washington Examiner.

Feb. 8, 2018.  On this day in 1575, Leiden University was founded; its motto, Praesidium Libertatis or bastion of liberty, while appropriate from the start, was coined in 1839.

The Weirdest—and Possibly Best—Proposal to Resolve the North Korea Crisis. The administration is nowhere near out of peaceful options. Peter Beinart. The Atlantic.

10 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2018.Center for American Progress.

ICE Wants to Be an Intelligence Agency Under Trump. Immigration enforcers have tried for years to get access to spy agency secrets. Civil libertarians call the prospect ‘frankly terrifying’—and a lot more realistic under Trump.  Betsy Woodruff.  The Daily Beast.

Muslim Voters and the European Left. When Inclusion Leads to Populism. Rafaela M. Dancygier.  Foreign Affairs.

Google Will Soon Start Shaming All Sites That Don’t Use HTTPS as ‘Not Secure’.  Sam Rutherford. Gizmodo.

As Vladimir Putin steals the Russian election, our leaders are shamefully silent.  Guardian.

U.S. Gun Companies Manufactured A Record 11 Million Firearms In 2016. The gun industry’s output doubled over the Obama era — and it appears likely to keep growing. Nick Wing. Huffington Post.

George W. Bush says Russia meddled in 2016 U.S. election.  Curtis Lee. Los Angeles Times.

Sex, Lies, and Human Resources. If you think the #MeToo reckoning is over because the Weinsteins of the world have been toppled, you’ve missed the point.  Marie Claire and Esquire came together to ask some of the smartest people we know 21 questions to cut through popular opinion, diagnose how we really got here, and debate where we go next. Edited by

Am I bothered? Big bank regulatory risks are being priced in comfortably. Paddy Manning .  The Monthly Today.

John Kelly Has Got to Go.  His awful response to domestic-abuse charges involving a top aide is just the latest in a series of toxic blunders.  John Nichols.  The Nation.

We All Have Stake in Stock Market, Right? Guess Again.Wall Street’s up and downs have little impact on the income or wealth of most Americans, despite the bromides of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Patricia Cohen. New York Times.

North Korea’s Mesmerizing “Army of Beauties”. The allure of the country’s cheerleading squad is connected with the degree to which its members appear to be under complete control.  Jia Tolentino.  The New Yorker.

Rand’s latest stand puts government on brink of shutdown.  Get ready for a long night.  Burgess Everett. Politico.

Mike Pence Is Having a Full-Blown Meltdown Over Being Called Out for His Homophobia.  Isha Aran. Splinter.

With 1,000-point loss, Dow drops into correction territory for first time in years.  Thomas Heath. Washington Post.

Saint-Saëns: The Swan (The Carnival of the Animals) – Sarah Joy. YouTube.From the other side of the aisle:

If a School Cop Threatens Your 13-Year-Old with Child Porn Charges for Sexting, Get a Lawyer.  Families should never consent to have school resource officers search kids’ phonesRobby Soave.  Reason.Com.

Prison reform, the time is now.  Cal Thomas.  Washington Times.

Feb. 7, 2018.  On this day in 1898,   1889 Emile Zola was brought to trial for libel for publishing J’accuse,  a letter accusing the government of France of anti-semitism in the Dreyfus affair.

How Humans Sank New Orleans. Engineering put the Crescent City below sea level. Now, its future is at risk. Richard Campanella.  The Atlantic.

Nancy Pelosi Holds The Floor More Than 8 Hours To Demand Immigration Promise. The Democrat says she won’t support a budget deal until the House speaker commits to holding a vote for Dreamers.  Elise Foley and Igor Bobic. Huffington Post.“403,000 jobs in a row”. The PM should be careful grandstanding on the economy. Paddy Manning.  The Monthly Today.

A Glimpse of North Korea’s Isolated Athletes.  We’ve gathered insights from the country’s state news media, analysts, defectors and athletes who have competed alongside North Koreans.  Motoko Rich.  New York Times.

Raining on Trump’s Parade. The reason to oppose the President’s desired military showcase is simply that it is not—in the old-fashioned sense—the American way.   Adam Gopnik. The New Yorker.

Trump’s military parade draws bipartisan rebuke.  Bryan Bender.   Politico.

Trump’s big parade turns military tradition and honor on its head.  Toy soldiers and toy tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue will make him look like a tin pot dictator. Lucian K. Truscott IV.  Salon.

Extreme Homophobe Mike Pence Doesn’t Seem to Get Why a Gay Person Won’t Talk to Him.  Kinsha Aran. Splinter.

In Conversation: Quincy Jones. The music legend on the secret Michael Jackson, his relationship with the Trumps, and the problem with modern pop.  David Marchese.  Vulture.

Republicans are doing a complete reversal on the deficit.   The debt binge, which is projected to push the annual gap between spending and revenue past $1.1 trillion in 2019, caps off a major shift for the Republican Party, which has been swept up by President Trump’s demands for more spending and tax cuts.  Damian Paletta and Erica Werner. Washington Post.

Quincy Jones – The Best Quincy Jones – (full album) HQ.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Right revolts on budget deal.  The Hill.

Big Jump in Corporate Buybacks.  Critics of the GOP tax overhaul argue that businesses will use their tax cut windfall not for domestic investment but to boost buybacks and enrich shareholders.  Fiscal Times.

Jeff Sessions Says Opioid Addiction Starts With Marijuana. Here Are 6 Studies That Say Otherwise.  Sessions: “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”  J. Ciaramella.  Reason.Com

Feb. 6, 2018.  On this day in 1959,  Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments filed the first patent for an integrated circuit.

On the Proper Name for the Trump Era: ‘Democracide’, ‘Ochlocracy’, or Something Else.  James Fallows.  The Atlantic.

Falcon Heavy Now Officially the Most Powerful Rocket in the World.  George Dvorsky.  Gizmodo.

Daniel Barenboim. Beethoven Piano Concerto # 5 – Jansons / Bavarian Radio S.O.  YouTube.

From the other side of the aisle:

Pentagon planning grand military parade for Trump. Avery Anapol.  The Hill.

Trump’s NAFTA Antics Will Drive America’s Auto Industry Into a Ditch.  Daniel Griswold.  Reason.Com..

Feb. 5, 2018.  On this day in 1994,  Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Boycott the Republican Party. If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees. Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes. The Atlantic.

Fertile Ground. Using the 2018 Farm Bill To Grow Investment in Private Lands Conservation. Ryan Richards, Mary Ellen Kustin, William Murray, and Caroline Kitchens.  Center for American Progress.

Why Spanish Nationalism Is on the Rise. And What It Means for the Country’s Politics. Omar G. EncarnaciónForeign Affairs.

Apple Music Was Always Going to Win.  Adam Clark Estes. Gizmodo.
Australian and Japanese stock markets slide after Dow suffers biggest one-day points fall.   Claire Phipps, Graeme Wearden and Nick Fletcher.

Guardian.

Trump:  Dems Who Didn’t Clap at SOTU “Treasonous”. President Attacks Democrats Not Clapping At State Of The Union As ‘Un-American’. Marina Fang. Huffington Post.

Millennials Are Keeping Unions Alive. Jobs are precarious, health-care costs are skyrocketing, and wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living—no wonder young people are organizing.
Michelle ChenThe Nation.

The Elizabeth Warren Model of Political Leadership. As her campaign against Wells Fargo shows, success on Capitol Hill can’t always be measured through a legislative scorecard.   David Dayen.  New Republic.

Stocks Plunge as Sell-Off Enters 2nd Week. The Dow and S.&P. Lose About 4% as Investors Grow Wary.  Matt Phillips.  New York Times.

Trump Goes Quiet as the Stock Market Slumps. Having boasted as the Dow Jones was rising, the President can hardly complain if people now associate him with it as it falls.  John Cassidy.  The New Yorker.

From the other side of the aisle:

Apple Music on Track to Overtake Spotify in U.S. Subscribers. 
Apple’s U.S. subscriber-account base has been growing about 5% a month, versus No. 1 Spotify’s 2% clip.  Anne Steele.  Wall Street Journal.

Feb. 4, 2018. On this day in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook.

China’s Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone. The country is perfecting a vast network of digital espionage as a means of social control—with implications for democracies worldwide. Anna Mitchell and Larry Diamond. The Atlantic.

After Credibility. American Foreign Policy in the Trump Era. Keren Yarhi-Milo. Foreign Affairs.

No 10 rules out customs union with EU. Statement comes after ministers contradict each other and reports of a challenge to Theresa May’s leadership over issue. Rajeev Syal. Guardian.

A book proposal

16 Jan

As some of you may remember, I have wanted to expand my writings about “my” German women into a book–their fascinating stories should be told. Recently, the film historian Thomas Elsaesser discovered my blog about Fr. Kern, and was kind enough to send me photographs of her from the 1930s. (Please see Elsaesser’s page about the Martin Elsaesser Foundation at http://www.martin-elsaesser-stiftung.de/.)  This serendipitous correspondence provided the necessary impetus for me to go ahead with this project. Here is the book proposal I have submitted to an interested publisher. I would appreciate any comments.]

Title:  Three German Women: Personal Histories from the Twentieth Century

Author(s): Erika Esau

Publication type:

(Monograph/Series volume/Edited collection/other):  Monograph

Subject:  German Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies

Estimated manuscript delivery date:  January 2019

Number of words:  35,000 maximum

Has the proposed title been published elsewhere in the same, or a similar form?

A small segment of the section on Anna Spitzmüller has been quoted in Hermann Weissgärber, You Can’t Copy Tradition:  A view on the eventful history and bilateral work of the Austro-American Institute of Education from 1926-2016, vol. 1, Vienna 2016 (ISBN 978-3-7412-1906-1).

Rationale for publication:

This project began when I learned of the death of Maria Steinberg, a woman who had worked as a volunteer in my library until she was 86. She had such an interesting and historically significant life story, and I could not find any but the briefest of obituaries for her.  I kept thinking that her story should be told, as an example of the battles and successes faced by intelligent women confronted with the conflicts and explosive events of  20th-century Europe.

The decision to tell her story made me remember the other women in my life whose fascinating stories have also never been recounted. I then realized that other women who had inspired me came from my German-speaking life:  Irmgard Rexroth-Kern, a journalist and Wellesley graduate who I met while on my Fulbright in Darmstadt in 1973-74; and Fr. Dr. Anna von Spitzmüller, my art history teacher in Vienna in 1969-70, who was in the 1930s the first female curator in Vienna.  The lives of these three women serve as emotional mirrors to the amazing changes and tumultuous history of the 20th century.

Their stories tell of the hardships, struggles, and victories of intellectual women in this era. The three women were related to men who played a role in European cultural history, men who received a relatively prominent place in history books and online sites, and at least gained recognition through obituaries that outlined their achievements. These women, in contrast, received very few public accolades for their equally important achievements. All of them (one of them was Jewish) had to endure astonishing hardships during World War II. In focusing on these stories, I hope to place them in the context of the times, in Germany and Austria, and to highlight the way in which traumatic choices were imposed on ordinary people (even well-educated and socially prominent ones) by political and social circumstances over which they had no control.

All of my previous writings have been decidedly academic; the work closest in tone to what I will write here is the biographical sketch of the collector LaVera Pohl in my catalogue, German Expressionism at Lawrence University: The La Vera Pohl Collection (Appleton, Wisconsin 1988). While I want to retain the more personal voice of my blog entries in writing about the women, I will also ground these subjects in an academic framework, with a chapter focusing on some overarching themes: intellectual women’s roles in European society and culture, the fate of Jewish culture in Germany and Austria, and specific historical background describing the incidents affecting the women’s life trajectories (e.g., Irmgard Kern’s escaping Berlin bombings to give birth, Dr. Spitzmüller’s work with the Monuments Men, Maria Steinberg’s father’s position in the Reichstag).

The academic literature of this period is, of course, vast, much of which serves as a scholarly foundation for the book.  Of particular pertinence, I mention the following:

Petra Unger. Frauenspaziergänge:  Entdeckungsreisen durch Wien. Vienna 2012

Tim Bonyhady. Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900. New York 2011

Maja Haderlap. Engel des Vergessens. Göttingen 2011

Marjorie Perloff. The Vienna Paradox:  A Memoir. New York 2004

Karen Hagemann, Jean Quataert, Gendering Modern German History, New York 2008

Angela Thompson.  Blackout:  A Woman’s Struggle for Survival in Twentieth Century Germany. 2012

Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin:  Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary. New York 2006

Edgar Feuchtwanger. Hitler, My Neighbor. New York 2017

Fritz Stern. The Politics of Cultural Despair:  A Study in the Rise of German Ideology. Berkeley, CA 1974.

Anton Gill. Dance Between the Flames: Berlin Between the Wars. 1970

Ehrhard Bahr.  Weimar on the Pacific: German Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism) Berkeley, CA 2008

 Table of contents:

(Please include at least one sample chapter or writing sample as an Appendix to this form)

I. Introduction

II.  Women in the Tumult: Stories of Beauty and Endurance

III. From Berlin to California:  Maria Weber Steinberg (1920-2013)

IV.  Kernel’s Brilliant Career:  Irmgard Maria Rexroth-Kern (1907-1983)

V.  A Child of Empire:  Anna von Spitzmüller (1903-2001)

VI. Appendix:  Translation of Irmgard Kern’s 13-part “Autobiografie eines jungen Mädchens” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 1934.

Who do you feel is the main audience for this work?

Those interested in stories of the Weimar period in Berlin, German women’s biographies, history of Germany 1920-1970, and memoirs of Viennese culture.

 What are the existing competitor titles?

I would say that Angela Thompson’s Blackout (2012) and Marjorie Perloff’s The Vienna Paradox (2004), as well as her recently released Edge of Irony: Modernism in the Shadow of the Hapsburg Empire (Chicago 2018) would be closest in subject matter.

What makes the proposed title different?

These stories encompass a broader range of topics than either memoir, and offer  specific stories about one of the participants in the events that Perloff discusses in her most recent book, as well as women directly connected to historical events in Weimar Berlin and World War II in Germany.

Where the publication might be promoted, when published?

I would imagine that any of the places that promote books on German and Austrian culture would do, as well as ones specializing in women’s studies. Two specific sources also come to mind:

1) Film historian Thomas Elsaesser, whose family knew Rexroth-Kern and her husband in the 1930s and who has just produced a film about his famous relatives, has written to me:  “At some point early in 2019 we will be working on Rexroth’s literary estate, and it would be wonderful, if by then your book/study of Irmgard Kern were also to see the light.”

2) Hermann Weissgaerber, Director of Amerika-Institut in Vienna, where Anna Spitzmüller taught, has already published a small segment of my writing on Fr. Dr. Spitzmüller (see above), and would be overjoyed to have a more comprehensive publication about her to promote.

What networks do you have to support this?

Followers of my blog, my website, Facebook, and connections through my work with the Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I would also consider as “networks” the contacts mentioned above, Thomas Elsaesser and Hermann Weissgaerber.

Author biographies: 

(Please detail (or attach as a separate document, or include a link to a webpage) your main academic credentials, including publication history)

Curriculum vitae sent by email as a separate document.

Appendix:

Links to blog entries already written:

Maria Steinberg:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/maria-and-other-german-speaking-women-of-influence/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/10/16/more-on-maria/

Irmgard Rexroth-Kern:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/frau-rexroth-kern/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/frau-kern-part-ii-germany-and-the-war/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/footnote-frau-kerns-obituary/

Anna von Spitzmüller:

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/spitzi-part-i-my-memories/

https://esauboeck.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/spitzi-part-ii-her-life/

 

 

 

 

What a crazy trip!

9 Jan

So we have finally made it home to Pasadena, after driving about 3500 miles in 2 weeks, the last stretch from Sacramento to home through a death-defying torrential rain storm–the first significant rainfall  in SoCal in a year, and one that is now causing all kinds of mudslides and flooding in the areas affected by the fire. Before putting this wild ride to bed, I’ve just gotta share a few more weirdnesses that took place along the way.

Get this: so we drive from Chico to Sacramento on Saturday, and park at our old friends the Detwilers’ house–we had a lovely visit with them while we stayed in their “little house”. (The pictures above, by the way, are from Chico–perhaps more on that later. Suffice it to say we had a lovely, if wet, visit in this college town, and could very easily live there if it comes to that!) Our car is parked on the street outside their house in the upscale part of town where they live. We bring in everything in the car except a plastic bin of gifts and books and notebooks in the trunk. We forget to lock the car’s front door when we at some point go out to retrieve a coat later in the day. In the morning, I go out to get another book, open the trunk, and notice that things seem to be a in some disarray, but assume G. had just messed stuff up when unloading. We go out to visit a realtor, and I notice that the glove compartment is open; again, I just assume we’ve forgotten to close it. When we get back to the house after a few hours, Peter is all excited: their neighbors about 4 houses down the street, by chance seeing Peter, ask if he knows any George visiting, because another neighbor walking her dog in the early morning has found on her lawn a passport for someone named George!!  Yep, it’s G’s passport. We then realize that we had left our passport wallet, with ALL FOUR of our passports in that plastic bin in the trunk, and finally twig to the fact that someone, probably kids, had indeed rifled through all our belongings, looking for whatever they could find of value.  Sigh…Apparently this is a common occurrence in Sacramento, going down rows of cars looking for any that are open and taking what they can find.  Surprisingly, I have never heard of this method of thievery, much to Peter’s astonishment.

We then started looking down the entire street to see if we can find the other missing passports (they took nothing else, even leaving a pair of binoculars). Sure enough, we found the wallet, with one other passport in it, under a truck a few feet away, and George found my two passports still tossed in the trunk.  Whew….Of course, we still felt like idiots, and a bit amazed that this whole set of what Jung would call “synchronicities” led to our car being uncharacteristically unlocked on the very night that little mischief-makers hit that street to carry out their vandalizing activities.  And in a more positively serendipitous example of synchronicity,  Peter just happened to be out as the neighbor was working in her yard, asked him if he knew a George, and she knew the neighbor who had found the passport in the first place.  This is what comes of living in the same neighborhood for decades, and knowing one’s neighbors.  We were then able to go down to the dog-walking neighbors and thank them for retrieving the passport and going to the trouble of trying to contact us. She had even searched for George’s name online, had found our website, and written to us!  A synchronistic world indeed!

20180108_160355.jpg

On the Grapevine, January 8 2018.

This was just one in a string of wild occurrences on this trip–from having to detour in Utah down to New Mexico to get to Colorado, forgetting our computer bag in Utah, George losing his debit card, and having to drive home in the first rain to hit the state in months. We were trying to get home quickly because George has a bad tooth, and was anxious to get to his dentist’s this morning.  (He also has the toddler’s cold that we have been passing around the family now for weeks.) He got up bright and early, drove down to the office–to find that they had no power because of the rain storm!  They were all sitting around in the dark, unable to see any patients. We’re still waiting to hear from them as I write this.

A wild ride, yes?  Finally, the feral kittens that we so dutifully got neutered and released back into their colony have, apparently, not figured out how to hunt or be good feral cats. They just sit at our back porch, bleating for food all day.  Oh, dear, not quite what we expected to happen by having them fixed….Welcome to 2018!  In the end, though, nothing was life-threatening, all resolved itself with no trauma except financial, and we made it back in one piece.  Let the wild rumpus begin!

20180109_091300.jpg

 

 

Southwestern peregrinations

5 Jan

 

 

Our plans for the 2017 holidays began with a fairly simple set of decisions. We rented our house to friends who were keen to see the Rose Parade, and then had to find an inexpensive way to be elsewhere for two weeks.  We were going to go up to my sister’s place near Yosemite for a week, while they drove their RV (or five-wheeler, or whatever the behemoth is) for a nice little holiday stay on the coast in Ventura.  Then for another week we would head up to Chico and Sacramento–places still on our list as possibilities in the “where could we move to that we would like and can still afford?” contest.

Then all Hell broke loose: the fires that have devastated so much of Southern California burned down my sister’s vacation spot, and they couldn’t find another place to go! Not wanting to impose on them while they were at home, and still thinking we should try and save a little money by finding amenable accommodation, we resigned ourselves to do what we had vowed never to do again: to drive to our kids in Denver during the winter. So on December 23, we set out on the shortest route (via Las Vegas), with the intention of stopping in our favorite mid spot of Cedar City, Utah, then crossing through the mountains to arrive in Lakewood, Colorado, on Christmas Eve evening, in time to see the near-two-year-old grandson open his presents on Christmas morning. Despite the driving, this seemed a very nice alternative, as long as the weather held.

Traffic to Las Vegas, through the desolate California desert, was, as always, insane: bumper-to-bumper cars and impossible drivers urgently trying to get to the casino tables. As soon as you hit Nevada, the traffic suddenly opens up, but until then, it’s stop and go and frustration. Max points out, correctly I think, that this is because California has no desire to make the highways easy to get to Vegas, taking all that money out of the state. We eventually made it to Cedar City and got to our hotel, having had no weather problems at all.

That evening we checked the forecasts for I-70 going through the Colorado Rockies at Vail Pass. Eeek! An unexpected blizzard had closed down the entire pass! Not even cars with chains were getting through! What to do?  Briefly, we considered turning back and prevailing upon my sister to put us up. Then we started scouring the internet maps for alternative routes that might have had reasonable weather conditions. Finally, in the realm of making lemonade out of lemons, we decided to head south, through Arizona’s Navajo Nation, past Monument Valley (where all those John Wayne/John Ford movies were filmed! Remember “The Searchers”?), onto Four Corners, and into Farmington, New Mexico, where we would stop for the night before driving into Colorado for another 8 hours before reaching Lakewood on Christmas Day evening.  Since this was a part of the country we had not yet experienced, we were actually excited to have an excuse to make this rather extended detour.

The roads were completely clear all the way to New Mexico, and we arrived in Farmington with no problems, having seen some interesting desert landscapes and even a few Native Americans on horseback.  The only distressing incident:  when we got to the hotel, we realized that we had somehow forgotten a bag in Cedar City–the one with BOTH of our computers in it!  In 40 years of travelling, we have never done anything as bone-headed as this kind of oversight. We were so distressed by this forgetfulness that we started to think we should hang up our travelling spurs. To our great relief, we called the hotel and found out that we had left the bag in our hotel room. While it took a few days to arrange because of the holidays, we were able, for a not completely impossible price, to have it delivered to Max & Dottie’s house by UPS. By this time, of course, our idea of having an inexpensive holiday had gone out the window, and I was forced to remember my father’s favorite saying: “Never worry about anything that money can fix.”

The journey from New Mexico  through Colorado involved the only hairy bit of driving, as we forgot that there were inevitably going to be mountain crossings. Fortunately, by the time we got to La Manga Pass, the sun was shining brightly and the iciest parts of the road had melted.  This being Christmas Day, we saw very few cars on the road, and everything (outside of a store on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation!) was closed. When our Colorado friends later learned of our route, they told us that we would have been in great trouble if the weather had turned, since there are no services along most of those highways.  Luck was on our side, and we made it to the family’s house before Christmas dinner!

 

It was so worth the effort!  Such a treat to see our beautiful, precocious little grandson, who, despite one epic toddler meltdown, was throughout a delight–devouring books, learning new words every day, and being mischievous enough to make us laugh. Poor exhausted parents are doing a fantastic job of turning him into a civilized empathetic creature, even if they aren’t sure they are.  Both Max & Dottie had the holiday virus that their child had so generously shared with them and has now passed on to us. No matter: we cooked and ate, and read stories and took walks in the freezing Colorado landscape. It was grand, with memories that will last (although I imagine Lyle is still too young to remember them when he’s older). Nothing can take the place of a two-year-old’s little kiss and a “Bye bye, Grammy!” with a wave as we departed.

 

In our only venture outside the Lakewood house, we did manage finally to meet our friends Don & Cyndy at one of the real “destinations” of Denver, the Clyfford Still Museum. Don is an avid aficionado of the place, and could tell us all about how this incredible collection of one man’s oeuvre came to be in Denver, with an admirable building created specifically for the collection. Still, who was notoriously cantankerous, had held on to most of his works, reluctant to sell them; they were languishing in a barn when he died. His wife, with the collusion of his nephew living in Denver, amazingly persuaded the city fathers to acquire 95% of the paintings the artist ever did, and to make this museum to house them.  Well worth a visit!

 

Having already planned to be in Chico on January 2, we reluctantly departed Lakewood on New Year’s Eve Day, deciding to take the northern route back to California–on Interstate 80, crossing southern Wyoming and Nevada. and into the Sierra Nevada range. Getting to I-80 involved driving through a foggy whiteout through the Poudre Valley shepherded by a 16 wheeler–fascinating if scary–but once we were on the freeway we had absolutely clear skies, if cold temperatures, for the entire route. We spent New Year’s Eve night in a lovely little apartment in North Salt Lake, then drove on to the phantasmagoric glitz of a Reno casino for the night of New Year’s Day (don’t ask why). This itinerary meant that we experienced the desolate expanses of southern Wyoming and middle Nevada, a journey that can only cause tremendous admiration for those early pioneers who crossed these wastelands in the mid-19th century, having no idea what was in store for them. That any of them made it is miraculous. (For a fascinating account of one of the first crossings, read John Bidwell, the founder of Chico, by clicking here: Gold Hunters of California. The First Emigrant Train to California )

I was elated when we finally crossed into California and saw trees again!  We stopped in the artsy little gold town of Nevada City for lunch–and were able to sit outside in the sun on January 2! This is, of course, not good news–the mountains really should have more snow by now–but we were so happy to be warm again. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the main street, to compare with the 1856 daguerreotype by Starkweather that I included in my book about Gold Rush photographers. Many of the buildings being raised then are still there in town.

So we are now in Chico, scoping out this nice little college town, waiting to return home on Monday after a few days in Sacramento. That’s another 7 hours of driving, which seems like a breeze after traversing all of the Southwestern states in the last week.  We have indeed driven from California through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming! Another adventure in what George has taken to calling our “life on the lam.”

Oh:  before closing, I would be remiss without including a cat: the regal and inimitable Freddy was a constant entertainment!

freddyinsnow