The Leading Republican Contender in the Attempt to Unseat Governor Newsom
Tomorrow, we will discover whether our mostly popular governor will be unseated by a Republican shock jock, or manage to hold his seat. If he is unseated, he will be replaced by someone who does not have his vote-drawing ability.
It is not a good sign that Larry Elder is complaining that he will lose as a result of an unfair election … before the votes are even tabulated! I don’t see where that makes any sense; but then, very little that the Republican Party makes any sense at all, unless one obtains power by any means necessary—fair or foul.
Recall elections are one aspect of California politics that I would like to see amended. In the race to unseat Gavin Newsom, there were a total of 46 candidates, none of whom are qualified to govern the most populous state in the Union. The field is in fact so lackluster that it must require very few signatures to qualify.
One candidate, Holly L. Baade (D) describes her contribution as “Leadership for a brighter tomorrow.” Then there is Angelyne (No Party), the Billboard Queen, famous only for advertising herself on billboards for several decades. A Green Party candidate, Dan Kapelovitz, only says, “Can you dig it?” (Answer: No.) Another, Adam Papagan (No Party) says only, “Love U.” (Love not returned.)
No Way, Angelyne!
The politicians we elect to power are by no means perfect. And yes, Gavin Newsom has made some horrible mistakes. Does that mean we have to replace him with someone who is even less qualified, less perfect for the role?
I can only hope that none of the 46 even comes close to unseating Governor Newsom when the ballots are counted.
John Muir understood the forests of California better than anyone: “And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” There are beautiful forests in California, as well as beautiful mountains and even beautiful deserts. Thanks to climate change, however, in a very few years we might still find the mountains, but in place of the forests, we will have greatly enlarged deserts.
Currently, the driest desert on earth is the Atacama, which comprises parts of northern Chile and southern Peru. It is a major event there if the rainfall runs to several millimeters! As California becomes ever drier and the wildfires ever more uncontrollable, I can foresee much of this happening in the dwindling years of my lifetime.
California has both the largest and the oldest living things on earth in its forests. The Sequoia Redwoods can run to 115.5 meters (379 feet) in height. They can—under normal circumstances—live between 1,200 and 2,200 years. In the White Mountains on the other side of the Owens Valley are the Great Basin bristlecone pines, which, unlike the redwoods, look hardly alive. Yet the oldest trees of this species are 4,800 years old, making them venerable oldsters while the Greeks were conducting the Siege of Troy described by Homer in the Iliad.
Bristlecone Pine Tree of the White Mountains
Both types of tree are hardy and have survived multiple wildfires caused by lightning strikes in the last several thousand years. But man is a relatively new factor, and many of the fires that are decimating the forests of California are the result of arson or human carelessness.
Call me a tree-hugger if you will, but there are many things in California that I have come to love. Let me close with another quote from John Muir, who is the bard of the wilds of California: “Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill.”
Yesterday, Martine and I visited the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park. Many of the galleries were still closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but what there was, was choice. I am specifically referring to the exhibit of California Indian art entitled “When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California.” What impressed me the most was work from a Nontipom Wintu artist from Northern California named Frank LaPeña (1937-2019).
Artist Frank LaPeña
What draws me to American Indian art is its spirituality and brilliant imagery—both qualities notably lacking in so many academic artists. These are not works to decorate a corporate boardroom: Instead, they are works to make you feel grounded in a separate reality, one that is part of the world from which the artist comes.
Frank LaPeña’s Dream Song
In a strange coincidence, there is an accused murderer with the same name who is totally unrelated to the artist. This other Frank LaPeña was recently released from prison in Nevada where he was wrongfully incarcerated for hiring a hit man to kill the wife of a Caesars Palace in 1974.
I will try in the week ahead to highlight some more California Indian artists from the Autry show.
The rainy season of 2017-2018 turned out to be something of a bust. Oh, we had one good rain that killed a lot of poor people in Montecito. That whole range of hills that abuts the Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Gaviota is subject to mudslides whenever there is a short period of intense rain. It happened to the pretty little coastal town of La Conchita in 2005, and this time it was Montecito’s turn.
I just looked ahead to the forecast for the next 10 days. On Thursday, April 19, there is a 20% chance of rain—which probably just means a few droplets in the mountains and foothills. Most of Southern California will continue to be bone dry until the end of the year, if not longer.
The term “April Showers” doesn’t have much meaning in a Mediterranean climate zone such as the one I live in. If you were to drive for an hour and a half east of here, you would wind up in the Mohave Desert. Drive eight hours north of here, and you would be in the wetter Northern California zone. There are some 20 climate zones of 24 possible classifications to be found in California. I just happen to occupy one of the drier zones.
This Overpass on SR 14 Collapsed in Both 1971 and 1994
Assembling California is the fourth volume of John McPhee’s geology tetralogy, the other volumes of which are Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, and Rising from the Plains. I delayed finishing the quartet because, as a California resident, I relished the enjoyment I would get from reading Assembling California. My only disappointment is that, being an Easterner, McPhee was mostly enthralled by Northern California, especially the area around I-80. Oh, well, it happens.
Assembling California is all about a fact that the geology, in its own way, replicates how the people of California came together from everywhere. So, too, did the pieces of rock that form the state migrate from all over the world and stick together—a process which will continue over millions of years to take the start apart just as it put it all together. Geologist Eldridge Moores writes:
People look upon the natural world as if all motions of the past had set the stage for us and were now frozen. They look out at a scene like this and think, It was all made for us—even if the San Andreas Fault is at their feet. To imagine that turmoil is in the past and somehow we are now in a more stable time seems to be a psychological need. Leonardo Seebler, of Lamont-Doherty, referred to it as the principle of least astonishment. As we have seen this fall, the time we’re in is just as active as the past. The time between events is long only with respect to a human lifetime.
I, for one, have been through two major quakes—the Sylmar Quake of 1971 and the North Hills Quake of 1994.
There are times when I stop and listen, waiting for the earth to rise up again and send me into paroxysms of terror. Whether I live or die will depend if “I am in the right place at the right time.” I can pretend that I will never experience another earthquake, but the chances are good that I will.
This evening, I was reading John McPhee’s Assembling California when, suddenly, I came upon this quote by John Bidwell who wrote the following in his memoirs, first published in 1900:
It is a question whether the United States could have stood the shock of the great rebellion of 1861 had the California gold discovery not been made. Bankers and business men of New York in 1864 did not hesitate to admit that but for the gold of California, which monthly poured its five or six millions into that financial center, the bottom would have dropped out of everything. These timely arrivals so strengthened the nerves of trade and stimulated business as to enable the government to sell its bonds at a time when its credit was its life-blood and the main reliance by which to feed, clothe, and maintain its armies. Once our bonds went down to thirty-eight cents on the dollar. California gold averted a total collapse and enabled a preserved Union to come forth from the great conflict.
Bidwell should know: He was, in addition to being a California settler as far back as 1841, but was a member of congress and a candidate for Governor of the State of Califonia.
McPhee states that “by 1865, at the end of the American Civil War, seven hundred and eighty-five million dollars had come out of the ground in California, making a difference—possibly the difference—in the Civil War.”
As I sit here writing this, I hake my head in total perplexity. On one hand, today was so hot that I felt my face burning off. On the other, a mega El Niño event is predicted for later this year and possibly lasting through next spring. Of course, predictors hasten to add that it wouldn’t put an end to California’s historic drought. (Sounds like nothing would, short of another Noah’s Ark flood.)
The way it looks, I will be burned by searing heat, and then drowning in an incredible flood. Will there be any transition between the two? Will there be a day with not a cloud in the sky and 120 degree heat, followed immediately by waves of heavy rain fronts? Or will it be a slow transition?
In the end, the only person who, to my mind, has ever shed light on what El Niño means is the late Chris Farley, in this video clip on YouTube.
The Church at Mission Santa Barbara with Martine in the Foreground
The California Missions are probably the state’s best claim to a rich history going back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I find it nothing less than amazing that most if not all of Franciscan Father Junipero Serra’s missions are still in existence, after all the earthquakes, fires, and other disasters to which California is prone.
Mission Santa Barbara is one of four missions dedicated to converting and regimenting the Chumash Indians of the area (the others are La Purisima in Lompoc, Santa Ynez in Solvang, and San Buenaventura in Ventura). Although Father Serra was declared beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988, there are still unresolved issues regarding mistreatment of the Indians. Each of the missions also contained Spanish military barracks for troops enforcing the political dictates of the Spanish Viceroys. So it is not uncommon to find stories where the Indians were both helped and repressed by the Missions and their dual religious and political functions.
Chumash Painting of St. Francis
Whatever really happened at these missions, today they are, collectively, a cultural treasure—islands of peace dotted along the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco Solano in Sonoma. I have visited perhaps ten of them so far and hope to see the rest of them eventually.
Martine and I visited Mission Santa Barbara (for the third or fourth time) on Saturday during our recent trip to the area.