Perspectives

Wheel of Time: A Grieving Mother Sees All Her Alma Mater Offers, and What it Lacks

The campus was shining as only our spectacular splotch of Bay Area real estate can do. Clusters of high school kids posed for pictures at the university they hoped to attend. Cal T-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, and athletic jackets sauntered by. Frisbees flew, and a giant dog galloped over to offer a passionate greeting that left me happily cloaked in white fur.

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Guilt Trip: How to Justify a Bargain Vacation in Beleaguered Greece

From the start, the whole trip seemed haphazard and conceptually incoherent. What was the rationale, our friends asked, for spending a week in the Czech Republic followed by 10 days in Greece and four in Paris?

The simple, reasonable answer: Horse-trading. It was our 20th anniversary and my husband, Dan, and I had learned that collaborative skill of long-term couples through trial and therapy. Dan would pick a place and I would pick a place, and we would start and end in Paris, the home of close friends and a hub for cheap non-stop flights.

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Famous in Guinea-Bissau: In Africa, Berkeley Band Becomes ‘Non-Militarized Face’ of USA

 Drenched in sweat, I rushed to pack up my cello before the crowd stormed the stage again. It was dark, and all the dancing had filled the hot air with reddish dust. We’d just finished our set, and I couldn’t wait to get my gear locked up in the van so I could relax. But as I knelt down to pick up my rosin, the mob of kids rushed my bandmate Brendan and slammed his back against the wall. By the time I turned, a sea of hands and fingers were rippling over his entire body.

From the Summer 2016 Welcome to There issue of California.

Frat Friends Forever: Monk and Lawyer with a Disability Agree on Almost Nothing, But…

So a lawyer with a disability and a Catholic monk walk into a bar…

What would be considered a bar joke for some is actually a description of a night with a friend for me.

In an era where the only difference between American politics and a WWE match is the amount of spandex involved, the time is right for me to tell the story of why I have regular phone conversations with a Catholic deacon.

A Line in the Darkness: In Solitary, a Letter from the Outside Can Be Everything

I have been incarcerated most of my life, in and out of juvenile facilities as a minor, and as an adult I’ve been in and out of the prison system therefore spending many years in solitary confinement. My first experience of solitary confinement was in 2001. Being behind bars in a cell is bad enough, but getting placed in “The hole” is a dark, lonely, and eerie place. There is a misconception that society has.

“Did You Kill Anybody?” I Just Didn’t Say Anything, Because People Didn’t Have a Clue

I enlisted in 1966, in the Navy, so that I wouldn’t be sent to Vietnam. But it didn’t work out that way. I was sent to work as an advisor to the Vietnamese Navy’s swift boat operations in Qui Nhon, north of Nha Trang; beautiful country, beautiful people.

We had about ten boats operating there, and about 20 U.S. personnel. The mission was to patrol the coast to make sure the North Vietnamese weren’t coming in with contraband. We also worked with Seal Team One insertions and did MEDCAPs, where we’d take corpsmen or doctors in to treat villagers without medical care.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

The Other Side of War: I Volunteered for Mortuary Affairs to Honor Their Sacrifice

It was Super Bowl Sunday, 2005, and we were on base—this was in Hit City, Iraq—waiting for the very last convoy to come in, so we could watch the game together. It was gonna be a special night. We were going to have wings. It was about three in the morning, and that’s when we heard the booms. I lost count of how many. We all loaded up, headed out to go see what’s happening, and confirmed it was an incident involving our personnel—the last convoy in.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

The Extremes of Human Experience: Maybe That’s What Attracts Men to War

I registered for the draft when I was 18 and was called up in March 1944, just five years after my parents and I had arrived in the United States as Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. I still hadn’t finished high school and was technically an “enemy alien.”

My eyesight was so bad that I had to memorize and fake reading the first two lines of the eye chart to pass my physical. Certainly I wanted to fight the Nazis, but I also wanted to get away from home and be part of history in the making.

From the Spring 2016 War Stories issue of California.

Division Street Debacle: Nothing Else Works—Why Not Legalize Homeless Encampment?

For superstitious reasons, 13th Street in San Francisco is called Duboce, and Duboce eventually becomes Division Street, running beneath a freeway that splits right to Oakland and left toward the Golden Gate Bridge. It was here, where the sidewalks had little foot traffic and there was some shelter from the rains, that a settlement of homeless people grew up in the past year. It was much like a smaller version of the favelas of Rio do Janeiro or the colonias of Tijuana, yet big enough to upset the San Franciscans driving by.

Reconciling the Laura I Thought I Knew with the One Whose Life and Death Were a Mystery

My daughter, Laura, was a vibrant, witty and loving young woman who grew up in Vermont and California—earning a master’s in library science and eventually becoming executive assistant to the dean of Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley. She was a writer, photographer and gifted musician who was close to her family and many devoted friends. In other words, she was a highly intelligent, responsible young woman with a bright future.

She was also a very secretive addict.

Trivia Pursuit—How I Graduated From Law School and Wound Up Practicing Journalism

May 19, 1972—the day I graduated from Boalt Hall.

I wasn’t going to attend the ceremony, but I found out the day before that the featured speaker was going to be my favorite professor, Jan Vetter. He’d not only defended me successfully two years earlier when the university tried to throw me out for violation of the dreaded “time, place, and manner” regulations during an antiwar demonstration (translation: I was spotted leading a sing-along of “Yellow Submarine” during a sit-in at Sproul Hall), but had also given me the lowest grade I ever got on a final exam.

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Pages

Subscribe to Perspectives