Published, “Surrendered To ATF,” written by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News Service in San Francisco, December 4, 2001
Unpublished Letter to American President George Bush, by Lurene Gisee, June 24, 2006. Letter regards American diplomatic course at time with Iran.
I did not really expect acknowledgement from The White House staff for this and the following episode from Baghdadi Proposal memoir which was sent with the letter, but I thought if 500 letters of similar persuasion came to The White House, it then could make a slight difference. This is always my logic in writing letters if to famous addresses.
The letter urges the American leader to wait for the general population inside Iran to take more control of the country and the Iranian leadership. I did not believe we were seeing a true picture of the population because Iran is an Islamic dictatorship.
With the episode, I am pointing to the difference between old leadership of Soviet Union, and the Russians we saw later emerging from the region.
Today, December 4, 2007, it seems I was largely on target regarding Iran (in arguing we were not seeing true face of majority), but still not much understanding today’s Russia or modern Russian. They seem to show more instability now. [Note: Man I call Moshe in episode was actually Shabi Gamlieli of Jerusalem. The episode is true.]
Yet one more add: As of today, February 15, 2009, I think it matters little what Iran’s population believes about international relations; if they allow the Islamic Republic’s rulers to construct nuclear weapons, they’ll be looking at mass death. Not because of the United States, since we’re sadly overextended in the Mideast in February 2009, but because Iran’s regional neighbors are clearly able to make a pre-emptive strike.
Unpublished Episode Sent To President George Bush June 24, 2006, From Baghdadi Proposal Script, Written By Lurene Gisee. Was sent with letter listed as no. 16 above.
Published or Unpublished Letters About Israel/Lurene Helzer To Dana Negev, June 6, 2001/Through Hotmail About Mitchell Report On Israeli-Palestinian Violence Flawed, By Stephen Zunes, Fpif, Middle East Editor Of Global Affairs Commentary
Published news story, Car Donation Tips, By Lurene Helzer, Bay City News, December 4, 2001 Or April 12, 2001
Published news story, Questionable Treatments, article for Bay City News Service about new guidelines by Federal Trade Commission regarding specious claims on internet for miracle health remedies, by Lurene Helzer, published in 2001 some time
Unpublished Email To Dana Negev, Sept. 25, 2001, Sent Through Hotmail, Subject line: Tell Me What You Think Of Short Article I Wrote
Satire, unpublished, Divorce Story Or “I Was Married To A Human Sundial.” By Lurene Kathleen Helzer, December 20, 1985
The Talon, unpublished poem written by Lurene Helzer, used in Baghdadi Proposal manuscript, likely sometime between 2000 and 2005
The Charity Drive, unpublished satire, by Lurene Helzer, April 1, 2005
Unpublished, Brenda Lurene Leonard’s Advice from Lurene Gisee for College, June 13, 2006, written by Lurene Gisee for Brenda’s High School Graduation in Hayward, CA
Looking at the Tree, unpublished poem by Lurene Gisee written by hand in English and Hebrew, probably between 2003 and 2005. This poem was selected by Poetry.com for publication in Immortal Verses, which is scheduled for publication in the winter of 2007. The poem is scheduled to be published on its own page, and as of November 21, 2006, was certified as a semi-finalist entry poem for the International Open Poetry Contest for Poetry.com. It could be a cash prize-winning poem.
Dana Negev and Laurie Winestock helped me to re-translate it into the original Hebrew, in which I initially scribed it. Laurie’s re-working of it is here. Dana’s is not, but she re-translated twice. It will not be published in any language other than English for the book, however.
Democratic National Convention, 1984, commentary by Lurene Helzer. Unpublished. Report on my wanderings in downtown San Francisco near the convention hall with the press credentials I was given. I was 20 at the time.
Unpublished remarks by Lurene Helzer, December 15, 1987, written while at the desk of Pacific Telesis Foundation’s front office working as a temporary receptionist in San Francisco’s financial district, at their 140 New Montgomery Street office. (I was 23 when I wrote this, and find it interesting because I was very correct in some of my political observations, though incorrect in others.)
Unpublished letter, by Lurene Helzer to Harry David of New Haven, CT, September 14, 2005, demonstrates my interest in the history of American cities, which has been a episodic, recurring theme in my writing. Harry David and I had a romantic tie, as well, which was recurring and episodic!
“Depression,” a poem by Lurene Helzer, sometime around 1979-1980, published in high school booklet. I recall the high school was one for “at-risk” youth, in the Seattle region. I can’t remember where it was I was living even.
Unpublished paper written by Lurene Helzer for unknown reasons about then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s published account of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which began October 14, 1962. The date I wrote the paper is also unknown, but it was sometime before Aug. 2002.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963, about seven months before my birth. On the actual day of my birth, June 19, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was still in debate; racial segregation was still quite legal in the United States. Nevertheless, Martin Luther King was assassinated April 4, 1968. Then, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated June 5, 1968, shortly before my fourth birthday.
My point is, there was no way for me to be mentally unaffected by the events of those years, even as I was a fetus, baby and then toddler. It doesn’t matter what people like me thought of Kennedy, King, or the political violence which shaped the 1960s. These events were imprinting the American culture and political/media landscape from the time I was conceived. I can’t stress this enough. To this day I keep photo of President Kennedy in his 1955 Senate office up on my desk. I can’t exactly explain why it this seems to make me feel so much more “normal” while conducting regular business. I think there are a lot of people who are just like me, though. I don’t feel special in this regard. People around me in those years were probably operating in some form of recurring and half-acknowledged shock.
To top it all off, my maternal grandfather, an Irishman, died shortly before my birth, adding to the emotional shock of my mother, who was still pregnant with me. So is it very surprising that I would just happen to read Kennedy’s account and impulsively write this paper in my late 30s? No. Not really.
So, for American kids born in June of 1964, there was no way to grow up unaware of what was being played and re-played during television and radio shows that might have been broadcasting in the background. The name “Kennedy” certainly still would have been regularly appearing in front page headlines in those years.
Unpublished Examination book for Lurene Kathleen Helzer, class is Humanism and Mysticism, final exam, May 27, 1992, San Francisco State University, Professor Leonard. Earned an A grade.
Unpublished letter to cousin Paul Yockey of Santa Rosa, Friday, December 27, 1996, by Lurene Helzer
Unpublished Christmas Poem for Matt of San Francisco, by Lurene Helzer, December 12, 1996, written as gift for Matt and Carey.
Unpublished poem by Lurene Gisee, October 2, 2005, found by accident, and written on a scrap of paper and used as a marker in a rather philosophical mathematics theory book. I can’t determine now what prompted the writing.
Unpublished math quiz, with questions written by Lurene Gisee and answers written by Harry David of New Haven, CT, May 18, 2006, originally written for my nephew, Drasil S. Helzer, who was not yet in middle school, and was eleven years old.
One of the best quotes from Mr. David in this paper follows: “Numbers, or more accurately, mathematical symbols and terminology, has all of the attributes of a human language – namely, the capacity to communicate concepts, ideas, and other attributes of reality. It has an alphabet consisting of symbols that are universally recognized, formulas and theorems and corollaries that are provable and which provide shorthand for logical communication”
Unpublished letter written January 28, 1998, by Lurene Helzer to Cornelia Ilie, Swedish professor, regarding my travels, and my political writings. I discuss a trip to Nevada and my adventures in ghost towns with friends, P.J. Adams and her friend Skip. We all had cameras in hand with 400 speed black & white film. This quote I wrote below describes part of our adventure:
“…Now, these towns are abandoned and completely empty. Half-crumbled banks and saloons, homes, roads. I took photos in a few of the old cabins. I found one that some modern visitors had occupied. They left an old, brittle newspaper in there, lying amid debris. It had a picture of Bill Clinton with a headline that said: PROPHET. Of course, this was marvelous, because at the moment I took the picture of that abandoned cabin with that paper on the floor, Clinton was struggling with his political survival. It was January 25, 1998, the day I was there….”.
Published story in East Bay Journal, The Changing Profile of HIV, May 19, 1994, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer. By time I wrote this story, AIDS was becoming an increasingly common illness among women and African-American populations. I interviewed my old friend Kathy Stabilito, who contracted HIV, for the story. I’ll never forget her words:
“It scares me because all kinds of people are going to have sex and they’re going to have sex like me – without love. I think the heterosexuals are headed for a huge epidemic because everybody has sex with each other. I mean, that’s something everybody does, and that’s a direct transport.” (See note at end.)
Unpublished holiday satire by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, December 18, 1995, Feckless the Cat.
Quote from the satire: “Feckless,” he said, “is an ill-bred, ill-mannered cat that comes around when he wants to play annoying pranks, or plot his way into our home. I have nothing good to say about Feckless. He has a black and white, checkerboard face which arouses suspicion in all who see it. His left ear has a revolting tattoo – a Jack Russell Terrier impaled on the spire of Grace Cathedral.”
Unpublished letter to Lincoln Shlensky, maybe sometime around 1997, who was one of the members of A Jewish Voice for Peace, a San Francisco political group that tried to encourage prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and encourage all promising moves toward peace in the immediate region when it involved prospects for Israel and the Palestinians. (I am not Jewish, but JVP had non-Jewish members. I was one, possibly the only one, at least in those first years of the organization.)
This letter involves help JVP was trying to give a deaf children’s school in Gaza called Atfaluna. I think we were encouraging a two-state solution. With the encouragement of friend Bruce Ballin of San Francisco, who I worked with while in a temporary job for either San Francisco law firm Graham and James, or San Francisco law firm Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison.
I joined JVP as it was first forming in probably 1996 or 1997, along with or soon after Bruce Ballin. Founders of JVP were Julia Caplan, Julie Iny, and Rachel Eisner. I also had live or emailed conversations with early members Dana Negev and Laurie Winestock.
I felt some responsibility to help in whatever effort toward peace for Israel I might find. I had been a visiting student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem for the academic year, 1989-1990. Scientist Albert Einstein helped to begin this university before his death. I lived on campus during that year in Jerusalem, of course. I stayed off campus with a Jerusalem family, too. The first Intifadah raged the entire academic year. We sat in the classrooms discussing history of Jews in Europe and elsewhere, the history of the founding of Israel and its subsequent wars, and the people of Syria and other Arab states.
So, now back to the states, these new people in JVP seemed to me friendly, dedicated, smart, and honest.
But my confidence in the Palestinians began to grow less, I grew more conservative, and I eventually resigned, by letter, from the hard-working group, probably the late 1999, or 2000. I continued studying the conservative positions, the Israeli positions, with a lot of assistance from various friends who would email articles for me to read. (Harry David in Connecticut, for example.)
Now, in 2005 and 2006, I hardly recognize JVP as the group I had joined in the late 1990s. They have grown and have broadened their activities. They maintain a website. I do not continue to have ties with them today. What I want to see from both the left and the Palestinians is a legal recognition of women’s rights and a willingness to recognize Israel. We have not truly seen this as of October 17, 2007.
Unpublished, Revised Outline, my criticism of Bruce Ballin’s memoir, Denial of the Sabbath Princess, May 27, 1997, note: Bruce and I were together in Jewish Voice for Peace, and he was the man who invited me to attend. I did this criticism of his work to help him edit it. I don’t know if it helped him, or if he accepted it. Much later, when I formally resigned from JVP, he told me he viewed me as having abandoned my political values.
Unpublished Resumes for Lurene Kathleen Gisee, describing journalism and/or writing activities, 1985 and on. Two versions here. Edit as necessary. Add cover letters as needed, references.
Unpublished essay describing an incident which might have happened around 1971 in Fremont, CA, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, December 22, 1993, This Year’s Christmas Story.
Unpublished Partial letter by Lurene Helzer to American Israel Public Affairs Committee office on Pine Street in San Francisco, February 6, 2003.
Unpublished essay by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, Virtual Irrelevance: The Children of the Post-Revolution Era, dated June 15, 1993. These remarks are a good example of so I thought back then, so wrote for self-entertainment, but would be quite unlikely to scribe now, in 2006.
Unpublished College paper by Lurene Helzer, The Wizards of Madison Avenue, October 15, 1984, written for an English course, and graded “A.”
Israel Exists, Unpublished Essay/Editorial, July 20, 2006, by Lurene Gisee. Originally written in my Baghdadi Proposal manuscript.
Published news story for North Beach Now, San Francisco’s free neighborhood monthly, August 21, 1991, R. Alan Williams profile. See: bayarealureneb.blogspot.com
Published news story, by Lurene Helzer, El Cerrito Journal, Bond. October 2, 1990
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, by Lurene K. Helzer, September 27, 1990, Society’s heroes visit the EC Plaza
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal and Hills Publications, October 20, 1990, and October 25, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer, “EC votes support of Measure E”. Ballot initiative to prevent the Marsh Canyon area from becoming garbage dump.
Published story about the California city of El Cerrito’s budget for fiscal year 1990-91, by Lurene K. Helzer, October 25, 1990, budget. This story’s importance lies in fact that on October 20, 1991, the famous East Bay Hills Fire began, which affected Oakland and Berkeley’s hills, nearby El Cerrito. The massive conflagration killed 25, injured 150, and destroyed 2,449 single family dwellings and 437 apartment or condo units. The economic loss was estimated at $1.5 billion, according to summaries by Wikipedia. The fire occurred exactly one year after the writing of this story, by coincidence. The story includes text about inadequate financing for El Cerrito’s fire department, which is to say, frequent remarks by El Cerrito’s city staff. (Paragraph # six.) Of course, I can say this about any number of published paragraphs I wrote. Most of the irony comes, of course, from remarks made by city staff at city council meetings I covered as a reporter, not my own predictions about San Francisco area fires.
Published story by Lurene K. Helzer in El Cerrito Journal, October 12, 1990, project, describes effort by its council to create citizen task forces to deal with its shortage of revenue.
Unpublished notes, by Lurene Gisee, of July 15, 2006 interview of attorney Dominique Zervas at the Ask a Lawyer table in downtown Bellingham, WA. Discussion concerned an anti-smoking campaign I was trying to organize.
Published story in El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, October 18, 1990, trees, regards discussions and arguments during El Cerrito City Council meetings about city trees.
Unpublished email I sent, July 28, 2006, regarding a shooting spree in Seattle.
Published story about hostage-taking and murderous rampage in El Cerrito in September of 1990 by Mehrdad Dashti, published in El Cerrito Journal, November 25, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer.
Unpublished academic paper, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, May 13, 1992, titled “Fascism.” Written for class at San Francisco State University called Revolutionary Ideologies. I earned an A-Plus for the paper.
Published article by Lurene K. Helzer, El Cerrito Journal, Nov. 25, 1990, Judge, Berkeley-Albany Municipal Court judge faces charges, resigns from bench
Unpublished academic paper by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, Course: Humanism and Mysticism, Name of paper: Rituals, April 21, 1992. Discussion of the death penalty in California. Some of the text represents opinions I do not hold today, like the opinions about what constitutes sexism and nationalism. I would not think this way now. I have matured, grown more conservative.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for The Oakland Tribune, October 28, 1992, “Workers honored for community help in N. Richmond”. I was a special correspondent for The Oakland Tribune. Oakland is a major city in the San Francisco Bay area.
Story highlights some major community activists in North Richmond, and the problems then emerging, like AIDS. I enjoyed meeting the activists to do this story very much. Yet, you could not pay me enough to work or live regularly in this immensely dangerous city.
In 2005, the Richmond mayor even requested that the State of California declare a state of emergency for this city because of the violence. The Richmond murder rate is almost always between first and fifth highest in California, which ranks it alongside the larger California cities of nearby Oakland and Compton, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Compton, unlike Richmond, has a lot of violence between black and Hispanic gangs, much of it being homicide. The whole idea of African-American populations being victims of racism, but not devoted contributors to it, is completely without merit. If you don’t believe this, ask a Spanish/English-speaking grandmother in Compton.
Still, having said that, the black community activists featured in this 1992 story were serious activists, and stood virtually alone against violence, ignorance, poverty and hopelessness.
Unpublished academic paper entitled on Soviet Reform and its Implications, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, April 21, 1988, required work for an International Relations course at San Francisco State University. I remember those days fairly well, the hesitant moods drifting on campuses everywhere. Robert Plant’s 1988-released song Heaven Knows was being played by Western students everywhere. It seemed to express what many were unable to publicly acknowledge. Students everywhere were witnessing odd changes in the world.
It was a sort of turn in the Cold War with Mr. Gorbachev now at the helm in Moscow. Glasnost (openness) was being increasingly accepted and used inside communist states as a tool. This was huge, because Russia was a dictatorship the West had been locked with for decades by now.
[Note that the U.S./Soviet Cold War was still in progress during this year, and that the Soviet state had not yet collapsed.]
Paper was graded A- by Clare, a professorial assistant. She wrote on the paper: I would like to meet with you to discuss the final. Your midterm grade was much too low.
Published news story for The Daily Review, March 21, 1986, “There’s no business like their kind of show business,” by Lurene Helzer, Correspondent, article is about Aunt Lil, who was a frequent guest of our home when mom and dad were still married. She was predisposed to music, entertaining.
Unpublished academic paper, Professor Pentony of International Relations 350, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, November 11, 1991, San Francisco State University, Syria’s Involvement in the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, graded 185 out of 200 possible.
(This college paper written few months following the first Gulf War, which erupted when Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. The Kuwaitis, shortly after cessation of hostilities, expelled some 400,000 people. Most of them were Palestinian guest workers, who were largely in sympathy with Hussein.
This is an important side note because there is a lie maintained even in 2007: All Arabs support Palestinians, and Palestinians are a valued section of the Arab world. Syria, of course, has always claimed to hold this position.
Of course, most of the world knew and knows this is a fantasy, but this war showed it to be vividly true.)
Published news story in Phoenix Journal, January 4, 1993, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, headlined “Fire-area lot prices a mystery” One of many stories I did about the long economic recovery following the giant San Francisco East bay hills conflagration in 1991.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, writing as a correspondent for The Daily Review in Hayward, CA, December 26, 1985, headlined “Castro Valley doughnut shop closes.”
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, writing as a correspondent for The Daily Review in Hayward, CA, January 14, 1987, headlined “BART examining ideas to regain lost ridership.”
Unpublished essay by Lurene Gisee, September 2, 2006, “How to Recognize Bad Political Speech.”
Essentially, it’s an essay about the wealth of conspiracy theories popular with the left, especially around election times. I submitted this to the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed section, editing it slightly for the 700 word requested limit, but they declined.
Published editorial by Lurene Gisee, September --, 2006, Whatcom Independent, “No Smoke in Bellingham Public Housing.” Also, sent copy of this to Bellingham’s Republican Party office during the impending election, so they may have put in a good word for me to the editors of Whatcom Independent. Craig Mayberry, who was running for a Whatcom County council seat, or one of his colleagues, might have helped my cause. I began doing some volunteer office work for the Republican candidates in return for their attention to my concerns about cigarettes in public housing. Also, Deanna Christianson (sp), also running for local office, backed by Republicans, was also supportive of me. She is a resident of same building here as I.
Unpublished partial academic paper by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, February 25, 1988, “Primitive Patriotism: Anti-Communism in America Today.” The text of the paper is missing, but the cover page and references page remain. On the reference page is the grade of “A” with initials R.Mc, who was professor, and remarks: “Lurene – Very good analytical essay – You’ve clearly thought about these issues and have expressed your ideas well in this paper – Also, good use of references.”
Unpublished academic paper by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for World Religions course at San Francisco State University, May 1, 1992. This paper was one of several required for the World Religions course on the God Religions. We also studied other varieties of world religion, like Buddhism. This paper, though, was on Judaism. I received a comparatively low grade of B-plus, which, honestly looking back, I barely deserved, because I could have done much better on this paper. Looking at it today, I think some portions of it are plain stupid. Particularly since I’d just returned from a year of study in Jerusalem at The Hebrew University. Yet, having said all of that, the critical professorial remarks remain a valuable section of the paper for me today. They demonstrate how I can digress as a writer, and a thinker. When this happens, nobody benefits from the paper.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer, July 8, 2004, to grandmother Lois Strickland.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer, The El Cerrito Journal, October 11, 1990, “Kids or quiet debated.” Story is about an unpopular neighborhood childcare center coming under scrutiny during an El Cerrito City Council meeting. Complaints were mainly about noise and stray toys.
Episode from Lurene Gisee’s manuscript Baghdadi Proposal, edited for submission to web blogger Ami Isseroff of Israel, September 14, 2006. This episode is scene about my tense dealings with an Arab merchant in Jerusalem’s old city in October of 2000. Ami Isseroff said – in essence – that it was well-written in areas, but viewed it as far too condemnatory of Moslems for his own use/website.
Letter to American President dated November 15, 2000 by Lurene K. Helzer, with letter re letter to East Jerusalem resident Riad Adahme, and acknowledgement by White House. Subject is Arab opinions in Jerusalem of the time. I wrote the letter because Riad asked me to do so when I met with him in October of 2000 for lunch. I had been visiting Jerusalem during that time for about two weeks, mainly to see Shabi Gamlieli, however, not Riad. Lunch with Riad was a detail of the trip, actually.
Published news article in The East Bay Journal, June 20, 1994, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, headlined: Berkeley mayoral race; Fred Collignon – philosopher candidate. Article details Mr. Collignon’s political positions in his campaign for mayor.
Collignon is an assiduous participant in Berkeley politics. With this comes an encyclopedic knowledge of hundreds of facts about city hall and the way it operates. Ask a question about anything going on in Berkeley and you might get a professorial discourse.
For example, what does Collignon mean when he calls Berkeley a conservative city? A Reagan-era joke?
“The great irony of Berkeley is that Berkeley is in many ways a very conservative city. I don’t think Berkeley likes to change. In that sense, it’s conservative. It’s very strange for a city that likes to boast itself as progressive.”
Published news story for East Bay Journal, September 19, 1994, ran on page one, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, headlined “City auditor sues Berkeley”
Published news story for East Bay Journal, September 19, 1994, ran on page three, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, headlined “Council incumbent speaks out.” Caption under photo of Ms. Spring reads, “Dona Spring, incumbent District 4 City Councilmember running against Linda Powell this November.”
Dona Spring, the council’s most liberal figure, was able to hold her seat on the Berkeley City Council starting in 1993. She was severely disabled by rheumatoid arthritis. I remember my interview with her going well because she was so gentle in her conversational style despite the debilitating pain from her condition.
She died on July 13, 2008 at Alta Bates hospital, by then well-recognized in Berkeley for her persistence and steadfast devotion to the city.
Published news story for East Bay Journal, September 19, 1994, page four, “Loitering and panhandling measures draw fire,” by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, caption below photo reads: “Civil rights attorney Osha Neumann makes a point about panhandling at a recent Grey Panthers meeting.”
Published news story for East Bay Journal, September 19, 1994, page six, “Fire economies slow down,” by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, caption below photograph reads: “Erich Bickel said he has to offer larger incentives to retain his customer base in the hills now that rebuilding has slowed down.” I knew Erich Bickel through a third party. He was a Berkeley-area resident who emigrated from Germany. Most of what remains in my mind of importance about this story is the joke about California it illustrates so well: The state is also known as The Four Seasons hotel because you have fire season, landslide season, riot season and earthquake season. No year passes in California without at least one of those seasons making an appearance, no? As I re-visit this story in order to record it here, as a matter of fact, fires are raging around Palm Springs, and four firefighters are dead, thanks to some arsonist.
Published news story which ran in The Berkeley Voice, November 29, 1990, headlined, “Area Iranians carry burden of shooting.” It was written by Lurene K. Helzer. Story is about a Berkeley shooting incident committed by Mehrdad Dashti, who was mentally ill. When I read it now, I think the local, Iranian community’s expectations about local community, Berkeley, were quite unrealistic, even childish, frankly. In some areas, the story angers me now. The paragraph which details the strip search irritates me, for example, because the men interviewed speak as if Iranians have special reactions to police searches, as opposed to, say, Italians or Canadians. Even Americans, for that matter. No, when I read it now, I think these men were not analyzing the incident realistically.
Essay Exam for course I took at San Francisco State University, dated April 1, 1992, called Revolutionary Ideologies, taught by Dr. Dwight Simpson, the professor for the course, who had emigrated from England.
“Marxism has a vision of a future, classless society, and has underlying ideas on why it should be that way. Marxism, by its own nature, is heavily intellectual, and can hardly be read, ironically, by a proletarian. Yet, being impressed, the intellectuals simplified it for the Zealots, which led to the Russian Revolution in 1917,” I wrote on the exam, which today is one of my favorite quotes. (Not to imply others did not do better than I did that day in 1992.)
I earned an “A minus” for the exam. On the front of the examination book, Dr. Simpson wrote: “Lurene – This is very good, and in certain areas excellent work. You have displayed fine comprehension, you obviously have read and understood the material and you have written a very good exam. I am very encouraged by your work. A- – DJS”
November 3, 2006 email to Israeli Zionist website writer, Ratna, from Lurene Gisee, about an essay Ratna penned regarding the Israeli branding of modern Israel to attract tourists, and business investors. I am in agreement with Ratna, in most respects, and make my remarks in this response to her essay. I include it in my library here because it shows my attitude today about modern Zionism and Anti-Semitism, as it continues to be tolerated, politically.
November, 2006, critique of Dana Negev’s poetry book. She is old friend who now lives in New Mexico.
Unpublished email to Dana Negev about her mother, who was questioned by the FBI about her American loyalty during the Cold War McCarthy years, and threatened with deportation, which I typed Friday, October 27, 2006, as one in a series of notes to Dana about her poetry book.
Editing work I finished on November 8, 2006. I intended it as a surprise for the writer. The editing was on an article by journalist/friend/writer/actor Harry Piken which appeared in the December, 2006 issue of Aquarium Fish Magazine. Mr. Piken lives in Studio City, CA and was a friend I met online. I visited with him when I took a trip to Southern California in 2004 or 2005. The article is titled, “Oscar-Spawning Adventures: An author’s experience with spawning Oscars reveals a little about their genetics.” Harry Piken also authored the photos which run next to the article in the magazine.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Gisee to the Bellingham Housing Authority, written November 13, 2006, regarding cigarette smoking at 409 York Street building.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal, November 25, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer. Concerns Cathie Kosel being chosen for mayoral post in El Cerrito, and former Mayor Bob Bacon taking role as redevelopment agency chairman for that California city. One note: At the time, I was critical of redevelopment as an action and as a concept in local governments. Today, in 2006, I am nearly opposite in my thinking; I believe redevelopment is the only hope for several blighted communities across the United States, and certainly in the San Francisco Bay area.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal, January 4, 1991, by Lurene K. Helzer. Regards the near-bankruptcy of the Richmond Unified School District. El Cerrito, the town I was covering, was an uneventful suburb of Contra Costa County. But other areas of the county were slums, like Richmond, the town after which the school district is titled.
The city of Richmond’s per capita murder rate, according to the April 1999 figure, was more than five times the rate of murder in California, more than double that of other Bay area cities. Even Oakland, which is throughout California recognized, probably incorrectly, as the most dangerous city in the state, has a lower homicide rate, if those statistics are still holding. Of course, what the two cities share is a high percentage of lower-class, poorly educated black Americans.
The left almost never confronts this concept, due to a fear, among many others, of being labeled racist. The Pacific coast is quite filled with politically liberal residents. (I was for years liberal myself, but facts such as this, along with multiple others, slowly turned me toward more conservative beliefs.)
I believe there is racism, in greater and lesser degrees, always and everywhere through the world, but I think we severely misunderstand its traits/features in this, and any other, society.
If we had truly understood the dynamics of racism and recognized its features and were able to tell the difference between fair societal/sociological criticism and plain old hate, in fact, we would not have seen much of the grief and mass murder we’ve had throughout human history.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, January 4, 1991. Involves secret romantic affair between a local detective and a county judge, and the legal disturbance caused by it in the community.
Unpublished email, March 28, 2006, by Lurene Gisee to Laurie Winestock, who I knew through Dana Negev. I met Dana through my involvement with Jewish Voice for Peace in the San Francisco Bay area.
I ultimately resigned from JVP, in the 1999 - 2000 timeframe, I believe, for various reasons. I can’t locate the dated letter of resignation I wrote, addressed to JVP member Julia Caplan. Standing out among the reasons for my break with the too-hopeful peace organization stood my loss of faith in the constructive intentions of Arab activists who had been advertising themselves as progressive, at least some of the time, at that time.
Other reasons behind my decision were petty, in comparison, and I can’t today say what they were as I actually cited them in the resignation letter. (The organization, JVP, was founded by five or six liberal Jews who resided in the SF Bay area. Three of those selfless names were Lincoln Shlensky, Julia Caplan, and Rachel Eisner. The group was so named with respect for the broad and ghostly concept of an eventual peace between Israel and her neighbors.
Uniquely, JVP was open to people of any ethnic/religious background with a peaceful interest in Israel/Palestine, the term preferred today by liberal groups, here and abroad. I was one of those non-Jewish activists of this slightly naive political period– writing this short memoir in 2006 here, remember.) I was introduced into that group by Bruce Ballin, my friend I worked with in temporary jobs I occasionally worked for San Francisco law firms in that city’s financial district.
The historically struggling writer I was, and today remain, thus the temp jobs when I needed them. My friend Harry David of New Haven, CT, received a CC copy of this email. Harry was the most conservative of us here mentioned, but I, by 2004-2005, was running closely behind him, politically, because I viewed Islamic/Arab actions by that time as irrevocably belligerent.
Harry was a former operations executive with Hubble. We dated and traveled together on five or six occasions, sharing our views of international affairs often. He was a Baghdadi Jew who’d grown up in exile, essentially, in India. Being extraordinarily talented in mathematics and other subjects, he gained for himself entrance to Yale University, graduated, gained employment with Hubble, and thereafter lived in Connecticut.
So, having preambled with the preceding, the following text written to Laurie concerns the massive and mysterious nation of Iran, as it existed in March, 2006.
Unpublished, academic class notes, “Hebrew University Notes March 1990-June 1990 Jerusalem”, from various classes I took as a visiting student at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
I was there as a one-year student during the 1989-1990 academic year, on loan from San Francisco State University’s International Program, as it was titled. I had to win a spot with grades and recommendations from Cal State University system. The first Intifadah raged on for the entire year I studied there. I was much more left-wing in those days, politically naïve, and too sure of my own opinions.
The Hebrew University, or “Ooniversitah Eevreet” as it is pronounced in Hebrew, is situated on Mt. Scopus in Jerusalem. The campus is ranked at “60” amid the world’s universities, according to an international ranking that was released in 2006 by Shanghai-Jiao-Tong University in China.
It was founded by several historical figures: scientist Albert Einstein, Psychologist/Dr. Sigmund Freud, philosopher Martin Buber, and the first Israeli President Chaim Weizmann.
I was there as a student, but am today angry with myself for not saving more of my written work. It was, frankly, of only mediocre quality, if that even, but I still wish I had it. These notes, luckily, I found one day while digging around old papers in my closet.
Otherwise, I remember the campus as intellectually serious, but unpretentious and welcoming to all who were on it, whether they were scholars or not. That atmospheric detail is an important note because I recall feeling a little intimidated during my first week or so on campus because of Mr. Einstein’s role in the founding of the school.
Unpublished letter/poem I wrote to Yair, April 10, 2006, who I dated on one occasion, while visiting San Francisco. This letter is included with this library simply because it is one of the few writings you will ever find authored by me with a romantic tone. I generally do not bother with such lines. About that evening in San Francisco, it wasn’t outstanding for romance, but Yair was still a kind and nice-looking man, so the account here is accurate in that respect.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, January 25, 1991, about El Cerrito’s Tree Policy. The first Gulf War was happening at the time, and the first George Bush was president.
Unpublished series of four emails, the latest dated November 16, 2006, between Dana Negev and myself regarding my comments on her poetry. The poem we are discussing is The Carpet, about an Arab woman’s response to an Israeli military group searching of her home for Palestinian militants.
The poem hit me as a series of bad memories regarding Arab society, especially with regard to the typical Arab man’s treatment of women. Dana, an Israeli-American, takes a more tolerant, relativistic view of Arabs than I do, as the text implies. For this and other reasons, our political ties ended here, though without much debate about my shift by either of us.
I use this concept “end” cautiously, because Dana was only being what she truly is. She was not insulting me or doing an injustice to me. Still, we are obviously far apart in our political views today. The most apparent difference between us today, I believe, is in our views of the Arab-Israeli quagmire. I believe the Palestinians and Arab states are taking far too little responsibility for Palestinian problems. Dana sees it as mainly an Israeli-generated issue, from what I gather from her words over the years.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, January 13, 1991. Regards cuts in El Cerrito’s budget.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, October 24, 1990. Story regards El Cerrito’s public tree policy. Story includes quotes from Friends of El Cerrito Trees founder Sandy Kerr.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, October 26, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer. Story is reporting the Park and Recreation Commission’s treatment and discussion of the city’s tree policy after public comment by an oppositional group, Friends of El Cerrito Trees.
A memorial note: Sandy Kerr was a weirdo. I frequently, in my time as a journalist, would ask a photographer to come with me to a city council meeting to record events on film. I took photos. A few of them ran alongside stories I’d written. But I was not a photojournalist; Photos were not even remotely my specialty in journalism. So, Tina Dauterman, as she was then known, came with me to one of these meetings where Sandy Kerr spoke.
She took a photo of him that the editors ran on the front page. It showed him with a crazed look in his eyes, displaying a large pair of scissors, nearing the cutting tools to the city’s budget.
“I feel sorry for his wife,” she said, cigarette in her mouth, as she slapped the still wet photo for me on the kitchen counter.
The El Cerrito Journal published that photo. It was good journalism, and I still credit her for telling the story, through the black-and-white image, accurately. That’s what journalism’s first aim is: accuracy.
It’s hard to meaningfully accomplish or define accuracy, though. We live in a subjective, human world, and it could be that journalism’s hallowed objectivity is a 20th Century publishing illusion, anyway. Writing this in Dec. of 2006, with Time Magazine naming “You” as the personality of the year, and the art of past centuries fetching unreal, surreal prices, I am almost certain of it; there is no longer a meaningful world belief in objectivity.
Unpublished paper Lurene Gisee wrote for the Whatcom County Republican Party, primarily for members of the organization’s Women’s club, December 20, 2006. I presented the paper, however, at a meeting in the Republican quarters regarding Vietnam veterans, especially those who continue to suffer effects of exposure to Agent Orange. The Vietnam War has been over since the mid-1970s, but we are still seeing veterans of that war speak out about medical and psychological trauma in 2006. It is a frustrating section of American history for the conscientious student of the 20th Century.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for The El Cerrito Journal, January 13, 1991. Regards El Cerrito’s police chief Dan Givens. Article gives at least some glimpse into his publicly-relevant attitude toward his job.
El Cerrito, a San Francisco East Bay community with varying income levels within its residential borders, had the fourth highest crime rate in Contra Costa County, California, at the start of 1991. When I read this story today, I am reminded of the way police talk, the forms they use.
Also, how police have grown increasingly self-defensive as the nature of crime has broadened, and changed. This is part of what comes out in this story featuring Chief Givens.
As well, there’s a growing -- and stark -- difference between the guy applying for a law enforcement job in Beverly Hills, California and the guy applying for that same job in Oakland, California.
One difference lies in what the residents are willing to tolerate in their residential zones. The resident of Beverly Hills pays a higher price for his home partially because the law enforcement is more effective, aggressive toward the transient, petty street dealer and mugger; the number of violent, drug-addicted criminals on his streets is comparatively low for this reason.
Apologists for cities like Oakland, Detroit and Philadelphia will quickly cite the drug problems of the wealthy, but this argument is easy to refute. For every Britney Spears, there are thousands of indistinguishable, high-income homeowners.
The resident of East Oakland has done business all his life with violent criminals, and truly can’t avoid them on the block and grocery store. He learns to sort people into the bad, not-as-bad as…, the improving, and the genuinely trustworthy.
El Cerrito is akin to neither example, but is geographically between communities of the very wealthy, San Francisco, and communities of the very poor, Richmond. The city of the Golden Gate bridge is known for extraordinary wealth. Richmond is often noted for last week’s homicide, and contains a large percentage of uneducated, drug-addicted residents. San Francisco has crime, but most of the violent crime is confined to poor, ethnic areas of the city. Easy to avoid. Thus, the crime is more tolerable, as long as you personally bring in the city’s middle-standard of income.
Editorial contribution by Lurene Gisee to Vietnam Veterans of America, an organization locally headed by Bellingham’s Jim Pace. Mr. Pace, here with this email of Dec. 22, 2006, was trying to write a letter for editors of local newspapers regarding Agent Orange. This was a chemical defoliant used during the Vietnam War by American military, manufactured by American company, probably Monsanto. Here, my suggestions are in bold. I began to help with this effort as result of my involvement with local Republican Party. My personal position on the matter is undecided. I am not sufficiently educated about the matter.
Unpublished letter to Dana Negev, December 22, 2006, by Lurene Gisee. Regards photograph of American playwright’s original manuscript, Death of a Salesman. I include it mainly to remember that Ms. Negev was an eager student of American culture. She enjoyed both reading and writing poetry.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, February 3, 1991, by Lurene K. Helzer about curriculum and problems of El Cerrito High School. When I read this story today, I find myself wondering why these kids were not presented with more stringent academic requirements in preparation for college, a career. The “peace assembly” is to me a clear political function, and not a preparatory event for – say -- the Scholastic Aptitude Test which usually must be passed for acceptance to most American universities. As of 2006, furthermore, the SAT itself is easily mastered by foreign students who are competing with American students for entrance to American universities. So, this story shows me today why this achievement gap exists, at least in part.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, January 18, 1991, regarding Richmond Unified School District’s request for a massive loan from the California legislature. RUSD requested the loan to meet their payroll obligations to staff, and avoid financial collapse.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, January 25, 1991, regarding proposals for transportation improvements in Contra Costa County over the next 20 years, especially with regard to parking for automobiles at BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] stations.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer to Vincent Tavoletti of Chicago area suburb of Lansing, Illinois. September 24, 2005. I met him, face-to-face, at top of Chicago’s famous Sears Tower. Love at first sight, at least for him. I include this letter because it is so clear by text here that I am wasting his time, though he had been clear by September of 2005 regarding his intentions toward me, and his honest love, desire to marry.
Reading the letter in early 2007, I faced in myself unfortunate trait of sometimes toying with the emotions of men as long as I could get away with it. I’ve nothing against Mr. Tavoletti, either. He’s a nice man. It’s just that I’ve never achieved with myself an honest willingness to get married. That may change, but up to now, I remain a child of the divorce-saturated 1970s. That is, an American who can’t help viewing marriage as a joke for other people, but not me.
Unpublished press release written for Vietnam Veterans of America, Ron Davenport Chapter, January 2, 2007, by Lurene Gisee. I was asked to do this as a member of the Whatcom County Republican party. Item concerns promotion of “Agent-Orange Month.”
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Helzer, February 3, 1991. Regards Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito, and features the quotes of Principal Steve Collins about modern schools.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Helzer, April 11, 1991. Tagged, “Budget Shortfall,” it’s a financial story regarding the rising cost of living in El Cerrito, and the city’s ongoing efforts in commercial development.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, April 17, 1991, tagged Landscaping Plan.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer, slugged “AIDS and the anti-hate ordinances,” February 24, 1991. Written for The El Cerrito Journal. I think the story is an accurate-enough reflection of a political trend in those days on the California local level, but I must admit that at this viewing of the 1991 story in January of 2007, I carry mixed feelings on how useful these laws really are for American society.
Really mixed. I have to say this because such laws may prevent people like me, and, more significantly, groups of people, from learning how to negotiate societal problems independently and successfully, by themselves, without the participation of the state. I mean, it’s starting to look like we expect the state to get involved when someone takes cuts in front of us at the supermarket.
On the other hand, if you study documents out of old Europe, even 20th Century Europe, you see how much the notion of a “hate crime” could have saved the world’s ethnic groups from slaughter.
So, all I can say is this: People will always require simple expressions like “excuse me,” no matter which laws weight the books. Also, in unfettered and unobserved conversations, people carry the same prejudices, regardless of such laws. They just go around these laws when going through their daily lives, like the laws themselves are literally orange traffic cones on the main boulevards of someone else’s town.
Yet, -- one last remark -- having just written this, I must also admit my preceding theories regularly and obviously crumble within other cultures, and have not even held up through all sections of American history.
So, all I can conclude is that although I admit fatigue with hate laws and the sub-subjects, I can’t call myself an adequate predictor of what will happen inside societies in reaction to events – events which are bound to happen whenever people are forced to deal with one another politically, socially, and commercially.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer, February 23, 1991, for El Cerrito Journal. Story is tagged “Public Tree Policy”, and concerns arguments that raged that night within the city council chambers with the voting public regarding visibility of trees in El Cerrito. (This story is more my typical paid work, much unlike the piece that follows this one.)
These local stories, to me, are the bread-and-butter work for reporters. If you can’t report carefully on issues like this, you are not going to mean much in civic journalism for any metropolitan region. Journalism can’t be all glamour and adventure, as portrayed in popular films.
Also, this story makes me reconsider the old questions of proper grammar and its importance within local reporting, i.e., how often, where and when to use quotation marks. I chose to be cautious in this story and use them often. But I acknowledge that the reader can be left confused as to whether the journalist is being legally accurate, or sarcastic. That is, whether the reporting stands biased on one side or the other of this surprisingly volatile American issue of city planning.
“The Press Conference,” episode/satire from larger memoir, The Baghdadi Proposal, by Lurene Gisee, March 2003 – 2007. Memoir regards trip I took to Jerusalem in October, 2000.
It did not generate much interest from others. It sets an imaginary scene of a discussion of events in today’s Israel involving several historical figures and perspectives. I give, for example, a cameo role to the now-dead Arafat. Why? Because he is still considered some kind of diplomat out of Palestinian history, but in actuality, Arafat did not achieve anything for today’s Palestine. He ripped them off blind like any other Mideast dictator.
The Palestinians are not achieving anything because they keep pretending Palestinian idiots are competent leaders and Palestinian thieves are credible accountants. They are being betrayed by themselves, by other Arabs, and by the UN. The worldwide left feels sorry for them and blames it all on the U.S. and Israel, mainly because nobody demands leftists truly defend their political assertions.
It was the same during Cold War. Remember, after the Berlin Wall fell, you did not exactly have Berkeley’s leftists excitedly booking plane tickets to see Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Moscow, etc. I’ve never heard a liberal confrontation of this fact, either.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians keep popping out the kids as if they’re in Dubai with busloads of oil wealth.
So, in general, the Palestinians are worse off now than they were under the Ottoman Empire, which – let’s be honest -- recognized them as far less an independent entity than does today’s Israel.
Comments to Ami Isseroff, February 16, 2007, in response to essay he wrote, released on same date as above, for his web-a-zine on recent Mecca talks between Palestinian factions. I include it here to recognize that I often had brief email exchanges with Mr. Isseroff about his ideas. One almost always learns new facts from his work.
Draft manuscript, by Lurene K. Helzer, 64 pages, The Nightclub Man, It was written in installments probably between November 1997 and December of 1999. Moved to bayarealureneb.blogspot, number 421.
Published news item about Lurene Kathleen Helzer which appeared in the Express, which is subtitled The East Bay’s Free Weekly. It is dated September 16, 1994. The item was written in the regular weekly column, Sticks and Stones, by columnist Paul Rauber. The item, subtitled “The Root of the Matter,” concerns article about new panhandling laws Berkeley City Council had passed that I wrote about for The East Bay Journal. It appeared about the same time. Panhandling, along with 1991 fire and political affairs, rated as a common preoccupation. Thus, I frequently wrote about those issues.
I became well-informed about the difficulties the city’s leaders had controlling panhandling, while still trying to be mindful of American civil rights. Berkeley then, and still, considered itself a morally superior city in its regard for civil rights, which stems really from the 1960s history in the city, the UC Berkeley campus, old Vietnam era protests, and so on. You have to know Berkeley commercially as well as politically to cover it fairly, in my opinion.
Unpublished letter, May 27, 2002, written by Lurene, to Sheryl. I am not certain if this is Sheryl Hull or a misspelled version of Cheryl Bjorkland. Letter used expletives for comedic effect, but I edited them for the letter’s inclusion here. The joke title of this letter might be “How to Call Someone a Dick Face in Hebrew.” As to the obvious question of why I wrote such a zany letter, I honestly don’t remember. Probably a series of earlier comedic conversations between myself and the recipient of the letter prompted this fool discussion.
Unpublished small note on a piece of a torn yellow legal folder, dated April 18, 1998, written by me, Lurene Helzer, marking the death of a pet I had in San Francisco. The pet was a hamster that would frequently engineer himself out of his cage and virtually wake me up in the morning, and stand by while I fried eggs in the kitchen. He was a unique little being, so I on that day marked his passing.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal, June 23, 1991, by Lurene K. Helzer. Story regards city’s proposed budget. I actually enjoy doing government budget stories, for some reason, and feel I should have written more of them. But having said that, I would also write a much different story today. Today, it would have more third opinions in it, and more math.
Published news by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, undated, but likely between 1992 and 1994 published in The Oakland Tribune. I was working as a Special correspondent, which means freelance. Story headlined “Workers honored for community help in N. Richmond”. Another sad story about the then-emerging AIDS epidemic. By this time, it was starting to clearly show itself, in its patterns, as an overwhelmingly and lower-economic class illness.
Manuscript by Lurene Gisee, "Baghdadi Proposal," completed and posted at "http://baghdadiproposal.blogspot.com" in its final form in late January 2009.
Regards trip to Jerusalem in October of 2000. The trip coincided with start of Al Aqsa Intifadah. I completed much or most of it in late 2000 or mid-2001 in San Francisco, but left it in file, unedited, until mid-2008. I did not give it a web address until early 2009.
Intelligence test for Lurene Helzer, July 12, 2002, San Francisco. I only include it in my library because it has a few interesting findings. The test shows clearly why I studied what I did, and why I was always so attracted to writing and reading.
Published news story for The Oakland Tribune by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, Special to the Tribune, September 12, 1992. Story is headlined “A Gap To Bridge: Crockett residents aren’t pleased with Carquinez.” The story is running under photo taken on The Carquinez Bridge’s opening day in May of 1927. Women had umbrellas against the sun and hats. Elaborate suits were considered normal attire, even while sitting on grassland. Only thing I might say about this small story is that transportation, as a subject, comprises a large part of the local news reporter’s work day, and work year.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, March 8, 1991, Slugged “GLM Office, no go.” This story illustrates some of the details that are necessary for a city staff to build up a commercial district. This is simply about a small suburb in SF Bay area, but imagine how many of these stories would be written, and how complex they would need to be, to accurately portray the rebuilding of hurricane-ravaged New Orleans or – God forbid – New York City!
Unpublished, unfinished writing originally done for Margarita Platner, formerly Margarita Ochoa, who lived near me in San Francisco. We were friends for some years. Date of this small story might be something like 1995 or thereafter.
Margarita was raised as a valued member of a wealthy family in Mexico, but she at some point relocated to the United States. Here, she was a single woman who fit in well with local society. Pretty and slim, caring of those who lived around her, and generally of cultured, upper middle-class tastes. Perhaps Catholic, but am not sure.
I still carry very fond memories of her. She was a trusted friend, who initially had apartment on upper Fillmore Street of San Francisco when we met. She was a patient woman always.
She later married Jim Platner, a financial broker of some kind, and they moved to Portland, OR. She thereafter developed serious vision problems. We all once traveled to Manzanillo, Mexico for a few days. Jim loved her dearly, or at least that’s what I saw when they were together. It was in the way he treated her, and in the way he did not care what others thought of his devotion to her. These were two people who honestly seemed to belong in marriage to one another.
That inspired me greatly, because by the time I’d met Margarita, I was sick and bloody tired of seeing divorce, and short-lived financial partnerships.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal dated April 28, 1991, by Lurene K. Helzer. The story was slugged Prehistoric Trees in El Cerrito. Of course, this is the way city staff was marketing it to get money from the state of California, and to catch the interest of El Cerrito residents. I say this because one can trace most living species back to dinosaurs, the formation of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the days of King David, the European Dark Ages, etc. Having said that, it was a clever and educational public marketing idea; one can sell toothpaste this way if the ad is clever enough.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, April 6, 1991. Brief story is about the redevelopment agency’s “get lost” payment to a bowling alley specialty store, which was part of larger urban renewal effort. El Cerrito city planners were paying the bowling supply store’s owner to relocate so they could make way for the development of the more revenue-producing Target store.
Published news story for Chabot College student newspaper The Spectator in Hayward, California, January 24, 1985, by Lurene Helzer. Chabot was a community college. The story is headlined “Lights Go Out On The Planetarium.” It runs alongside photo taken by photographer/editor-in-chief Jeff Warrin of Chabot instructors Larry Toy and Billy Smith.
It won the 1985 Journalism Association of Community Colleges in California (JACC), Second Place News Story award.
The award is only notable, really, because of California’s size, and the number of students with whom we had to compete to win anything!
California’s Proposition 13 was still being widely blamed/debated in those years, which was an initiative passed by the state’s voters in 1978. It did lead to major financial changes for all sectors of society within California, changes both good and bad for state residents. Its consequences are still strenuously debated by historians, politicians and economists.
As a reporter, all I can say is: Hey, that’s democracy. Take it or leave it…. In those years, of course, the Cold War was still going strong, so you literally could have left it. There was still The Soviet Union.
I was a reporter for the paper in January of 1985, and Jeff Warrin was the editor. I later served as the paper’s chief editor. The faculty advisor I remember most clearly is Nancy Demac.
Published editorial by Lurene Helzer, January 24, 1985, in Chabot College Spectator, regarding pay for pre-school teachers. Features my long-time friend Janet Leonard of Hayward/San Leandro area of California, whose statements about the low pay teachers earn are featured. As of 2007, Janet is still a pre-school teacher, but today has higher position and pay.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer and David Plummer in Chabot College Spectator, January 24, 1985. Profiles the college’s board of trustees and runs with photos taken of the individual trustees by photographer Matt Santos. Headlined, “Profile: The Board Of Trustees: Who Are They?” Seven photos run with article with captions as follows: The Board of Trustees, which is responsible for all policy decisions for Chabot, meets on the first Tuesday of each month in the Administration Building Boardroom at the Hayward campus at 7:30 p.m.; Lawrence Jarvis; L. Arthur Van Etten; Fred Timm; Dorothy Hudgins; E.J. Chinn; Fred Duman.
Published news article in the East Bay Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, November 1, 1993, headlined “Berkeley: Multi-culturalism runs into roadblock.”
The story today, seen in the aftermath of the June 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision to limit the power of 1954’s Brown vs. Board of Education for public education, stands out.
One thing the story does now, and did then, is display ultra-liberal Berkeley’s residents in a far truer light. The 1993 story reports how busing, initially started to promote racial integration in schools, is losing its (primarily white) liberal support.
This is said by analysts to be a result of minority family breakdown, higher minority crime rates throughout the country, consistently poor academic performance, and poverty.
Some black American commentators have pointed to harmful U.S. actions over the decades affecting the descendants of slaves. Other black leaders have said America’s black speakers need to adopt a harder, more reproving tone toward their listeners.
Also, the American family has changed, in general, since the passing of the Civil Rights era; it’s become far weaker. Divorce is common, so the distressed kids sometimes have problems focusing on their school work.
The story runs alongside photo by photographer Chris Duffey captioned, “Integration in Berkeley elementary schools dates back to 1968 when the city voluntarily began busing children.” The 1993 photo shows kids of different ethnicities boarding a school bus.
Published news article by Lurene Kathleen Helzer in East Bay Journal dated July 19, 1993. Headlined “DeLong makes public State Farm memos.” This subject – fair insurance compensation -- was immense in the aftermath of the East Bay fires of 1991.
Record of Lurene Gisee’s phone conversation with Grandma Lois Strickland, July 1, 2006. One of few records of Helzer family’s position on political events as they went on in Nazi Germany. This is my father’s paternal half of family. My grandmother divorced herself from them before I was born. James Strickland was grandfather figure/role model I had, who was not the literal blood-relative.
My grandmother’s parents, born in the U.S., died before World War II formed. She remembers her father as a patient man with the family, a “jewel.” She remembers her mother as more cutting, occasionally demeaning to others.
But my paternal half was a different story, being 1910 - 1920s immigrants from Germany. Clearly, the war was on by the time Ludwig Helzer, my father’s paternal grandfather, a legal American, was loudly voicing his support for the Nazi regime in Germany. I doubt that Mr. Helzer was ignorant of fact Nazis were the nightmare regime they were; he must have approved of Hitler’s policies to a great extent from his American living room.
It was more than evident by the late 1930s what Adolph Hitler was doing, intending to do, and what he and his German supporters would do in future as long as he could get away with it. Germany had been increasingly, politically anti-Semitic since 1920, and more so since Hitler began to rise, politically, in 1924. Not to deny that much of Europe and the world nursed a long history of ethnic war and hatred, of course.
I do not know how my immediate grandfather, Edward Helzer, digested all of this, but my grandmother divorced him because he had a clear mean streak within the family, quite apart from his political positions, whatever they might have been. I honestly do not know what his stands were on Germany because I do not recall him discussing it during his rare visits to see us kids. He may have avoided the subject by 1964 when I was born. My dim memory only leaves me image of an American who valued his kids and grandkids, but had clear issues with authority, anger.
Back to my great-grandfather, Ludwig Helzer, my grandmother once asked him why he did not return to Germany if he so much loved the government. America had entered the war in Europe by this time. He either quit sharing his thoughts about the Nazi regime, or quietly, privately changed his mind. I will never know.
Of course, what we do know is that he did not return to Germany. I take from this story an enduring skepticism when confronting foreign-born people who profess to despise the United States from their American living rooms.
Additionally, my own father had a problem with violence, well-known to anyone who was on the block when I was a child. My mother finally divorced him when I was about 12.
The main point is that the paternal German side of my family had an extremely clear issue with violence in general, but especially toward women. My grandmother carries notion it was something that came with the German culture, however fair or unfair that notion may be.
My opinion? I think Germans changed greatly by late 20th Century, especially after fall of The Berlin Wall. I will probably never visit that country, but I would not presume I knew someone only because they were German. I would keep an open mind.
However, I personally do not buy, and never will buy, the argument some Germans make, even today, that their grandparents were just powerless civilians following orders. There is too much hard evidence against this. Let’s be plain: There were enough of those powerless Germans to bring the Nazis to power in the first place, and there were multiple problems through Germany throughout the 20th Century.
Of course you had exceptions, rebels, but they were too few, and where they existed, they were often killed if they did not manage to emigrate. Sad to say, but my great-grandfather was one of those lucky immigrants, but still chose to voice support for Hitler in at least the first few years of his nightmare regime.
Unpublished poem by Lurene Gisee, November 11, 2004. Poem regards then-obituary in Mideast.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, December 1, 1990, regarding conflict involving local newspaper for West Contra Costa County and the area government.
Published news article for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, December 2, 1990. It was the first of two interviews with El Cerrito Mayor Cathie Kosel. She is speaking about the press, and urban redevelopment.
Published news story, interview, by Lurene K. Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, December 7, 1990. Interview is of El Cerrito Mayor Cathie Kosel, the second of two interviews, regarding her background and her position on current controversies. I ask her several questions regarding gender roles in politics/professional life, all of which she answers readily.
The questions now would not be necessary of an American politician because American woman are genuinely past this in most ways. But the questions and the mayor’s answers could still be of interest to many, especially those from less-advanced societies abroad. I do not mean technically or industrially advanced, either. I am pointing to societies where women in 2007 remain legally and socially subservient to men. Iran would be one example, but one can cite many.
Published news story, May 2, 1985, Chabot College Spectator, Hayward, California. “Instructor May Ride The Shuttle,” by Lurene Helzer. A pretty brief story of only six paragraphs. Runs on page one of this small student newspaper alongside photo of instructor William Dillon authored by photographer Matt Santos.
The story would, at the next meeting of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, be named the second-place news story for that academic period. Notable really for two reasons: First, that I won such a prize at all, given the number of students in California’s community colleges in 1985. This is the less-important reason compared to the other.
The other reason is this: national tragedy. Chabot Aeronautics Instructor Dillon, who the story is about, might have been on the space shuttle Challenger during its January 28, 1986 launch. Had he done so, he would have perished along with the space vehicle’s other occupants that day.
The shuttle disintegrated shortly after launch. There was a school teacher on board, Christa McAuliffe, chosen as finalist for the so-called Teacher in Space Project, but she died with all other occupants of the space vehicle. School children everywhere who were following the lift-off were shocked. Dillon was a finalist as McAuliffe had been.
After the disaster, the news traveled rapidly. It at least made people aware of danger of space exploration. It has always been a risky and demanding job.
Published news story, May 2, 1985, Chabot College Spectator, Hayward, California. “Campuses Nationwide Join Berkeley in Fight Against Apartheid,” by Lurene Helzer. Runs on page five of this small student newspaper aside photos taken on UC Berkeley’s campus by photographers Matt Santos and Jeff Warrin. Thanks in large part to worldwide political protests, South Africa’s segregation-government no longer exists. Apartheid was a regime based on legal, educational and professional racial segregation.
Today, however, it’s slightly disingenuous to say the population in that country is truly better off. The old government is gone, but native Africans have little if any good health-care system or tradition of taking personal responsibility.
South Africa’s black population has an astonishingly high rate of AIDS. Most if not all black African nations do. We can think about black America here, too.
There is a relatively high rate of HIV in black American communities, and they also, like black South Africans, do not understand personal responsibility. I am not being critical here, either. We see this today with the high incarceration rates, high rates of poverty, high economic and bodily reliance on the illegal drug trade, and the broken relationships that run rampant inside the typical African-American family. Falsely, Americans truly believe themselves to be free of the dregs of the U.S. Civil War.
Americans of all ethnicities are afraid to say these obvious things because they are petrified of being labeled racist by the broader culture with the nation coming, as it has, through unabashed slavery and segregation itself. Blacks, Hispanics and journalists rarely discuss these issues plainly, either.
There is still racism today, but it’s heavily distilled for easier public consumption and for legal endurance inside American society. This is true in too many ways to be believed.
The black community itself helps uphold this dynamic. The members of media are just as responsible. So are our legislators and lawyers. We are in need of a new kind of Martin Luther King today. If he arrives, he could be assassinated, as King was on April 4, 1968, but by some nutzo urban gang leader this time, for speaking frankly.
No, I do not believe King’s murder came out of a conspiracy. I think James Earl Ray acted of his own accord, but with plenty of encouragement by the society as it existed then. Today’s assassin would come from the ‘hood; look honestly at urban America today. Look at the major black neighborhoods of Oakland without the foolish political distortions.
So, whether it’s popular or not to say, AIDS is an illness found frequently in the world’s black populations, wherever they may be. According to article in Wikipedia, “Africa is without doubt the region most affected by the virus. Inhabited by just over 12% of the world’s population, Africa is estimated to have more than 60% of the world’s AIDS-infected population.”
Published news item about Lurene Helzer when she was editor of Chabot College newspaper The Spectator, May 2, 1985. This small, front page text box reports a prize I won as editor, two weeks earlier, that is distinct from the prize I won some time later from the same organization, Journalism Association of Community Colleges. The later prize was for an article regarding William Dillon in this same, May 2, 1985 issue. Other students won prizes when I was editor, too.
So, to get it clear, before May 2, 1985 I wrote story that won a prize, and after that May 2 issue was printed, I won a prize for separate story in the May 2 issue.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for The Spectator of Chabot College, May 3, 1985. Page one, “Moore Looks Forward To New Role.” I was editor-in-chief of paper by this time. Moore was resigning his position as Chabot President/Superintendent to accept a new position in higher education.
“Letter to the Editor” by Lurene Helzer, published in San Francisco Chronicle, August 31, 1999. Commenting on editorial writer Joan Ryan’s debut opinion column, which ran August 24, 1999. The internet was born in the San Francisco Bay area, and my letter was one of many pages written by people in Northern California on the economic effects and cultural/intellectual meaning of the internet to the U.S. This letter was pulled from the SF Chronicle website, but I re-typed it for this library.
Published news story for Chabot College Spectator, by Lurene Helzer, May 2, 1985. Brief item on page one announces a new chancellor for the community college system in California.
Published editorials for The Chabot College Spectator, by Editor Lurene Helzer, May 2, 1985. First one, which ran above the fold on page 2, was headlined “Fortune 500 Companies Must Divest.” This refers to South Africa’s Apartheid regime, as it then existed. I did not run a by-line, because the opinion was thought to be one held by the entire staff of the college paper, and because it is usual for papers to run unsigned editorials which represent the paper’s official stance.
When I examine it today, I think it is typical work for a 21-year old journalism student. I would not author the final paragraph today, in 2007. It portrays personal guilt, as a motive, too prominently in the protesting student body.
In reality, students wanted to see a more evident separation between the financial interests of U.S. investors and the businesses inside Apartheid South Africa, the international corporations keeping the system of national segregation economically functional, respectable-looking.
(I write elsewhere in this document about South Africa on a different issue, however. I write they now can be legitimately criticized as an independent state for the high rate of AIDS. I have to digress for a moment here for that reason: This Spectator story was written just three months before AIDS was publicly acknowledged in San Francisco’s Gay neighborhoods through the SF Chronicle; American movie legend Rock Hudson had died of AIDS. So, on August 3, 1985, San Francisco Chronicle Reporter Randy Shilts wrote a story, which ran in the far back of the paper, page A-99, about the emerging disease that had claimed Hudson’s life. I still remember being 21, seeing photographs that were published at that time of Hudson, all bones, near death. I was completely horrified at that picture. Completely.)
“In July 1985, Hudson joined his old friend Doris Day for the launch of her new TV cable show, “Doris Day’s Best Friends”. His gaunt visage and his nearly incoherent speech, were so shocking it was broadcast again all over the national news shows that night and for weeks to come. Day herself stared at him throughout their appearance,” writes Wikipedia.
So, this was an important time altogether in the history of the San Francisco Bay area.
Second editorial, which is by-lined with my name, runs below the fold on page 2. It is about President Ronald Reagan’s support for the so-called “line-item veto.” That legislation would have allowed the American executive branch to still pass congressional bills while crossing out areas of the legislation. It would have been an alternative to the use of veto for Ronald Reagan, as well as for subsequent holders of the American presidency.
My position was, and still is, that this goes seriously against the intent of the U.S. Constitution, as it was originally adopted in the late 1700s. I do not think the executive branch needs that much power over the legislative branch, ultimately, over the nation’s voters. I am less disturbed by its practice at the U.S. gubernatorial level, though. In any case, it is used as a financial tool for an executive over his/her legislature. Executives have typically wanted to cancel specific spending items inside an otherwise acceptable legislative bill.
Reagan did not see his ambitions realized in this matter. But the line-item veto is legal in many U.S. states for governors to practice, and has been debated off and on within the U.S. presidency. Bill Clinton also nearly succeeded in making it a permanent feature of the American presidency. George Bush has spoken in favor of it.
The U.S. Supreme Court got involved. In 1998, they struck the notion down as practiced by U.S. President Bill Clinton. “The court said the act violated the Constitution because under the Constitution, the only way for a president to use the veto power is to veto an entire bill. In order to give the president line-item veto power, the nation would have to adopt a constitutional amendment,” according to online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Yet, as mentioned, the debate continues even through the George Bush administration, which will conclude January 20, 2009, when his elected successor is scheduled to be sworn in.
[Editor’s note: Constructive Engagement was term used to describe President Reagan’s diplomatic and economic policy toward Apartheid South Africa, as it existed then. It was heavily criticized as ineffective, and a mere diplomatic slap on the racist wrist of the country. The Apartheid government, as it then existed, crumbled between 1990 and 1994. Today it is generally acknowledged that Reagan’s policy toward South Africa was ineffective.]
Published news story in Chabot College Spectator by Lurene Helzer, 1984, about interview with Soviet Vice Consul Germandy German, then San Francisco Soviet Consulate on Green Street. I today do not have copy of this story, but I have the photo of then-Soviet Vice Consul taken by Photographer Howard Ford. I wrote it for the college paper, so I include the mention of it here.
I at least remember that the interview itself yielded no news or interesting comments by the consulate staff, but fact that Howard and myself got the interview at all, admittance to the consulate at all, was the real news.
The newspaper is stored today still at Chabot College in Hayward, California. My copy of the photo, unfortunately, is not dated specifically. It only is labeled as being taken in 1984. Currently, as of July of 2007, I am trying to get brief follow-up talk with someone at Russian consulate in San Francisco, and have tried to notify Howard Ford of my effort. For this library document, it would be interesting to have a few paragraphs given by today’s Russian diplomats.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, December 1, 1990. Story reports on an IBEX development, which was part of the city’s Redevelopment Agency’s larger plan to renew the city’s commercial district. Then, and today, it was always a controversial issue. However, the familiar values of liberal vs. conservative are upside down when it comes to urban commercial renewal. Customarily, liberals campaign for dramatic change, and conservatives stand for the upholding of long-held values, i.e., sexual values and/or marriage laws.
But in the case of residential and downtown business renewal projects, the liberals are all on the side of “keeping things as they are,” as in case of dangerous and violent public housing projects, that are in reality ghettos using attractive commercial space. This is today the case in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and in the hurricane-ravaged areas of the American South. Poor minority populations typically want to keep things as they are, while the richer, more educated populations – usually white – want desperately to see dramatic residential and commercial change.
I personally favor major changes for public housing projects and programs. The poor have been singing the same song for a long time now, but consistently fail to substantially change their self-destructive habits from generation to generation. We’re basically paying to house those who can’t quit smoking, have multiple kids with different partners, do poorly in school, and so on. This story does not highlight the worst of these, but it’s the top layer of the financially dependent class.
It’s time to ratchet up requirements for handouts. I am not so much focusing on the mentally disabled or very ill, but those who are relatively sane and healthy. I feel I can say this in all fairness because I ended up doing a lot of stories arising from these poor populations and their problems.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, November 11, 1990, by Lurene K. Helzer. Redevelopment Agency authorizes director to go ahead on series of commercial developments. This story was being written a few months into the first war with Iraq when U.S. President George Bush, Sr. was in office.
(That war was touched off when Iraq, led then by Iraq President/Dictator Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait August 2, 1990.)
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, December 7, 1990. Story contains interviews with city officials and elected leaders about the financial outlook. It is interesting today because it takes us back to the presidential years of Ronald Reagan, though he was no longer in office when this was published, and how leaders at various levels of government reacted to his financial philosophies.
The story shows how maintenance is truly a top concern of state and local government, although most of what we hear discussed in political action groups is foreign affairs, liberal vs. conservative views, and election-related trivia.
I covered these boring financial issues many times, and they are extremely important to the public. Reagan, his predecessors and his successors usually had the same degree of detachment when it came to state infrastructure repairs. In fact, local maintenance issues had only some relevance to the then so-called “Reaganomics” the country was still operating through. (Also, see information elsewhere in this document regarding Proposition 13.)
In other words, when the “London Bridge is Falling Down”, you can be as liberal or conservative as you please about who took the Oval Office, but now you’re drowning, the guy who can help you is at the shore, and you’d better act fast.
Email between Lurene Gisee and Dana Negev, August 30, 2004, regarding her visit with Israeli Mordechai Vanunu while visiting Israel. Vanunu was and remains a figure of serious controversy in Israeli society today.
Vanunu was a nuclear technician who illegally discussed details of Israel’s classified nuclear program with British journalists in 1986. The Mossad captured him in Rome, brought him back to Israel, convicted him of treason, and kept him in prison for eighteen years. Eleven of those years were served in solitary confinement. He was released in 2004 with multiple restrictions on his speech and travel, and has since then been re-arrested several times, though briefly.
This story is more complex, but the email here regards Dana Negev’s visit with Mr. Vanunu after his first release in 2004. Dana is Israeli/American citizen. I met her while more politically active myself in Israeli affairs. I later stepped substantially away from political activities, and grew more conservative.
Just to be clear, I have no personal or public position on Vanunu, and consider it a strictly foreign matter. I today am no longer a journalist, and no longer a political activist. I am more conservative in general. I never was involved in this matter or similar matter. I would not meet Vanunu if today visiting Israel because it is not in my interest. Nobody would gain from it, including the Mossad-apprehended, convicted Israeli Mr. Vanunu. So far as I have read, he is still closely monitored by Israeli intelligence authorities; He will never again be a truly free man.
Once or twice a year, I still write Dana in email, but on comparatively trivial subjects like her family, my poor skills in Hebrew, poetry.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal, January 25, 1991, by Lurene K. Helzer. The story concerns nine property condemnations by the city’s redevelopment agency aimed toward less-desirable businesses in the city’s main commercial district. Condemnations of this kind had to be done through lawsuits brought by the city against the businesses. It was all being done to make space available for a more-profitable Target store. This businesses being condemned were all listed in my story – a beauty supply store, a bowling alley, an auto repair shop, a trailer park on the main commercial drag, and an old restaurant that specialized in heavily-spiced and sauce-coated meats and potatoes. The restaurant gives color to the whole culture war going on inherently with redevelopment in the SF Bay area.
One can see part of the whole motive of redevelopment, first, when reading the advertising language on a similar Southern-style restaurant’s website. The restaurant quoted here is from Kentucky Greg’s Hickory Pit in Depew, NY:
“In his soft-spoken Southern style, he compares his huge pulled pork and beef sandwiches to the indigenous beef on weck. ‘They’re what folks want – a lot of meat on a bun.’
The walls are covered with photographs of Southern juke joints. Blues players and barbecue joints. ‘These are falling-down clapboard and sheet-metal shanties that still line the highways of the South.’ One photo is of Greg’s 1977 Dodge Van converted to a mobile smoker.”
[Side note: a “weck” is a bread roll, popular in Western New York, topped with pretzel salt and caraway seeds.]
Secondly, skipping forward to 2007, with El Cerrito’s Target store now up and running on that commercial drag of town, we can see the socio-economic/racial divide that continues to this day. Go to a sub-section of The Contra Costa Times reporting on some of the crime for August, 2007 in El Cerrito. Much of it involves arrests of nearby Richmond residents, which is a poor black community next to El Cerrito. A disproportionate number of those arrests are involving petty theft and methamphetamine.
So it’s clear today that El Cerrito officials were reacting to this emerging economic pattern. The split between black and white America is all too evident when looking at commercial patterns within suburban areas and metropolitan regions. More often than not, the black neighborhoods are loaded with crime, drugs and lack of commercial innovation. We see this pattern always and everywhere giving itself new life in the face of constant, refurbished and re-structured government charity/affordable-housing programs.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, December 8, 1990. Story regards proposal by a Bay Area developer to the city’s redevelopment agency to rehabilitate the El Cerrito Plaza shopping center, which included an Emporium Capwell’s at time. That major California department store in El Cerrito was closed in 1996, and demolished in 2000. This acquired chain of stylish department stores was transformed, bit-by-pricey-bit, into Sears, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, or into other fashionable retail names which tend to attract higher-income consumers.
Today, the appearance of the main commercial area is much better. The new stores in town like Target and BedBath & Beyond generate more tax income for El Cerrito, thus, its police, fire and other city departments can function more efficiently.
They absolutely must function efficiently to keep the police in top organizational form. Why do I say this of El Cerrito in particular? Because El Cerrito is next to Richmond, CA. According to the 2005 FBI ranking, Richmond is the most dangerous city in the state of California. As well, Richmond, like most majority-African-American cities in the U.S. today, has extraordinary problems with violence. It is the 11th most dangerous city in the United States by that same 2005 ranking.
Unpublished notes on talk between me, Lurene Gisee, and my paternal grandmother, 87-year Lois Strickland, which took place August 4, 2007. She is today at nursing home in Missouri because she needs routine medical care/ assistance at her age. This is pretty normal for someone in their 80s, though. The good thing is that I get to call her each week and have productive talks with her, since she is still cognitively healthy. These notes stem from one of those weekly talks. As of February 2009, I am still calling her weekly.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for The El Cerrito Journal, May 4, 1991. Concerns construction project involving the IBEX development group. What you are reading with these stories involving El Cerrito redevelopment is a controversial subject no matter how blighted the area may be. This story is just small part of the process as it marches forward, of course. But a longer story might include what has now become the typical rhetoric of communities in these areas.
I would put the rhetoric into four general categories:
one, the language used by actual city staff, elected officials and commercial real estate developers;
two, the upper or middle-class homeowners who demand improvements in various areas of city;
three, the relatively educated residents who disagree with aspects of redevelopment because it clashes with their own business or residential interests;
four, the areas of community that are either politically ultra-liberal, or the areas of community that are quite poor and tend to contribute in one way or the other to the actual process of urban blight.
When I refer to this last segment, I am recognizing them usually through their language. They call the entire process “gentrification” and tend to describe the whole series of events as an affront to economic decency, racial integrity, or hard-won civil rights. They stick to these vague allegations no matter what the actual facts might be, i.e., rampant drug-related crime and homicide amid crumbling buildings.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for El Cerrito Journal May 11, 1991. Story regards a difficult-to-redevelop commercial property that was and remains the site of The Old West Gun Shop.
The story is notable because the Old West Gun Shop had been central to another news event in the area involving a Berkeley shooting. The gun shop owner was praised for being a responsible gun dealer and member of the local community. I covered that event with two stories less than a year before this one was written. Those stories also are in this library, and mention the name Dashti.
I must add here that violence/weaponry is an unavoidable part of journalism. No matter how much you want to avoid covering street issues, war, poverty and illegal drugs, you can’t completely avoid these items if you want to be a news reporter. I did not write much of it, though, since I focused most of my work on economic/development issues.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene K. Helzer, June 1, 1991, regarding proposed 1991-1992 fiscal-year city budget with new taxes on residents to meet the costs of infrastructure repair, like to the city’s storm drains. I tried to write it to be of interest to local residents, but these subjects can be quite plain.
As dull as a story like this may be to read, it is better than reading news about consequences of inadequate financial management -- potholed streets, structurally unsafe public buildings that crumble during earthquakes, and higher crime rates that result from a meager police force.
But those are minor issues that can confront an American city. If you want a city paper that does not bother running local finance stories because it has more serious issues, you want either a slum, or a casino. Not a real city.
If you can’t understand why city voters should read local budget stories occasionally, or elect their own leaders, then the newspaper of Port Moresby, in the country of Papua New Guinea might suit you for a few weeks. If there’s a newspaper, that is!
There are some 850 languages spoken on this wretched island in Remote Oceana. It’s just slightly south of the earth’s equator, off the northern coast of Australia, east of Indonesia. Port Moresby was in 2004 ranked by a major economic magazine in England as the worst city in the world; the murder rate alone is three times that of Moscow, and twenty-three times that of London. But we’re just getting started!
The truly astounding facts for a working reporter would probably include the thriving population of blood-sucking leeches, extremely remorseless crocodiles, the Malaria-packing mosquitoes and the literal, stone-age human cannibals. Yes, actual, modern human cannibals exist there. You can investigate the subject through encyclopedias, but to refresh your memory, a cannibal is defined as a human that eats other humans. I won’t continue here…..but all of this is to demonstrate that coverage of small suburban communities is far preferable to the every-man-for-himself plan that still literally exists in some places on the planet. So quit complaining about taxes. Thank human history for the very notion of taxes!! You don’t know the authentic meaning of human poverty until you’ve taken a trip to a city like Port Moresby.
Published news story by Lurene K. Helzer for The El Cerrito Journal, June 8, 1991. Story concerns a utility tax on residents of city who subscribe to cable services. This subject has always been a controversial one for cities. One thing that is today still interesting about this story is its mention of U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Usually, when the public is made aware of this amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees free speech, it is in flashy context of someone’s claim that their rights to speech are being curbed for political reasons. But as this and many other historical documents show, there are multiple issues where the First Amendment to the Constitution becomes legally and financially relevant.
For the record, this amendment to constitution was ratified in 1791. The text reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I am constantly hearing of new challenges to this part of constitution, of course. Lately, people have had to be reminded that the wording is that congress can make “no law” on these issues. That does not mean some laws are, as some would today put it, “okay sometimes if, like, someone is, like, offensive enough, you know.”
No. It says “no law” because it means “no law.” Yet, this whole principle comes up for argument quite often in metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles and many smaller cities. It also is debated within companies like Microsoft because of the internet. So the debate remains vigorous.
Unpublished story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, May 16, 1998, The Bird. It’s a true story which is set in my old neighborhood of Pacific Heights. In Lafayette Park, there were a variety of birds, and people used the park to walk their dogs daily. Charlie was a hamster I had in my apartment on Sacramento Street. I also had a cat, PolarKitty, who would allow him to roam about on his own when he escaped his cage. The cat wasn’t interested in his antics, for some reason. I buried Charlie in the park up the block because it was easy, and because it seemed like the kind of place he would frequent, anyway.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer, April 23, 1999, page one, for the Berkeley Daily Planet. It concerns the debate regarding tritium in the local scientific and political community. It was headlined “Tritium debate resurfaces: Three leave work group monitoring Berkeley laboratory.”
The newspaper appears on the web now, but they do not yet have the stories of early 1999 listed through the site. They have stories about tritium listed, however. So the subject generated public interest for a while, but faded in importance eventually.
Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, was being used at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It is the substance commonly used in the glowing exit signs in public transport stations, and is used to make “tritiated water.’ What most concerns nearby populations around laboratories like Lawrence Berkeley is the substance can be used inside nuclear weaponry. Understandably, this frightens people.
This story is lengthy because the debate was complex. I did not mind working on it because, though it is boring, the debates regarding these substances are necessary.
Of course, such debates attract lunatics. But what’s the alternative? More Chernobyl incidents? Frankly, there is no way to accommodate radioactive substances in a populated area without a vigorous, frustrating debate.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer to Milan Hackersmid, dated May 2, 2001, who I knew from my neighborhood of San Francisco. He was the Czech friend of Josef, also Czech, who owned the Beerness on California Street between Polk and Van Ness. He is the worldly European I began working with on story, Nightclub Man.
That story involves both my adventures at Beerness, and Milan’s experiences in the then-called Czechoslovakia as it was under Russian domination. That state fell in 1989, and Vaclav Havel took office through a democratic election held in June of 1990. Milan and myself had become friends while discussing Czech history, and his experiences with it, under the U.S.S.R. I discuss the Cold War in Europe elsewhere in this document.
What stands out about this particular letter to Milan today, though, is that it foresees to some extent the coming problems the world will have with Islam.
[Recently, in a related matter, Milan called me, I think September 7 or 8 of 2007. He recalled my trip to Montreal to visit him some years back, and how some French-speaking man became infatuated with me. I don’t today remember this lovelorn Canadian. Milan remembers it well, though. Of course, my humble apologies remain out to the handsome Quebecois.]
This letter to Milan discusses multiple things, but in particular, the growing tensions of the Mideast, as it was then taking shape. I was writing that if tensions continued as they then were in Israel, “the state as it exists today will be over in five years.” I put it in context of the history of the region. Today, which just happens to be Sept. 11, 2007, I don’t think I would put it all in those dramatic terms; I would not today square in on Israel so much. [In letter I was discussing impressions from October 2000 trip to Jerusalem.]
I would look at the wider region. Not that Israel itself did not change greatly in the following five years, of course. In just the last few days we’re hearing of Russian neo-Nazis in Israel. In this letter, I briefly noted the growing population of Russians in Israel. I still do not think this is very important portion of letter, though. It might have been highly important to Milan, though, since he is a Czech who carried deep resentments of communism as it was dictated by the Russians.
[Regarding these recent clowns in Israel, most neo-fascists are idiots -- petty racists -- who like rattling people and getting attention by using the word Nazi. Some are far more dangerous, though. Another work in this library will show something of that, but it’s not yet listed.]
But my point is that Israel is a far different gathering in late 2007 than it was in May of 2001 when this letter was written to my friend in Montreal.
One can’t ignore how much things changed in 2001 alone. This letter was written early May of 2001. The World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by Arab militants by the 11th of September that same year.
I will always support Israel, though. Mainly, two reasons.
First, I like what they’ve done with one of the 20th Century’s most immense crimes. Think of it for a moment: They set up diplomatic and financial relations with Germany, and they fairly and transparently tried Eichmann in the mid-1960s. They even paid for the Nazi’s chosen lawyer. (I still don’t get that, but okay….)
Secondly, your average Israeli has made the nation special for education and science/technology. They’ve made it a fair place for Jews from all portions of the planet. I could continue, but don’t need to here in introducing the letter to Milan Hackersmid.
Almost more interesting, though, is my discussion of American slavery as it was practiced in the American south, my comments regarding a book about the history of western civilization, and my minor remarks regarding my daily life in San Francisco as a full-time news reporter. I obviously felt an intellectual kinship with Milan. His comments about life in communist Europe fascinated me, and allowed me to view the political left with far more balance. I no longer trust much of what the far left promotes.
Unpublished note Lurene Gisee scribbled one morning regarding a dream. It’s dated February 19, 2006. This was a Sunday morning. I don’t know why dreams sometimes can get so organized, purposive. But this was it.
Unpublished academic paper for an English 214 class at San Francisco State University by Lurene K. Helzer, December 12, 1990. It was a required college course, and displays my then-age of 26 pretty well. The tone is one of a student who thinks the story is not very deep or brilliant. I don’t know for what reason or about what writer I would pen something like this today; I wouldn’t.
There are some clever techniques I am using here, though, even if I do say so myself. Notice the subject of the first paragraph, and ask yourself by end of it what effect that paragraph seems to be having on you. It’s supposed to be irritating to the reader.
About the required class itself, the university describes it as teaching “expository argumentative composition and critical reading skills through the study of literature, special attention to logic, style, and rhetoric.” So, it is good to find old papers today, but I must admit I do not find this story or these characters particularly interesting in 2007.
Unpublished handwritten record/journal written by Lurene Helzer September 3, 2002 regarding a miscarriage I had. The baby was only six weeks old, and I did not know I was pregnant. Just started bleeding profusely one night.
I had been dating a man and things seemed to be taking off well. But I learned he was married. I do not today remember his name because I burned anything on which it was written after this miscarriage.
I remember being shocked that I had fallen for such an old trick. Today, I easily admit I was not paying close attention to the issues that can spring up in dating. I was often tired. He seemed to me smart and handsome.
We had not been dating long, so I seemed to be going along with my normal work activities, not dwelling on deeper issues. I had forgotten my usual rule of dating: Seriously consider idea he is lying to you during that first month. Put off sex. He may well be lying, especially about other women in his life.
Whenever I forget this rule, trouble results. That’s what happened here, exactly. But again, I blame myself for not checking him out well, for not being the hard-edged date I needed to be at first.
Of course, you will always have the liar. The man or woman who can’t be trusted. You can’t escape life.
I now only care about the other’s story in the case of an intact relationship, or with a matter of law. In this case, it was neither. It remains neither.
One thing that seems odd about this paper today, though, is its whole tone, how I do not seem to be angry in my words. Just in shock.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer, July 13, 1988. There is no address given for the recipient, but it’s addressed to “Chris.” I suspect that could be Chris Arellano, who I worked with on the Chabot College student newspaper. We both served as editors of the paper on different occasions. To be honest, I barely tolerated him. He had only one interest in me I could ever see: He wanted to have a sexual episode the moment his long-time girlfriend was not paying attention.
If this letter was for another Chris, then accept the comments about Mr. Arellano as irrelevant to the letter.
But regarding these Arellano comments, this is not secret stuff for me. I would say this to him if I were to see him once day. I wouldn’t care if he agreed or not, or whether his boss/wife/co-worker was next to him or not. I am writing it here for the same reason. It should be open information today.
Why do I remember him as such a rank man? His body movements alone told the observer all he/she would need to know; He would behave with one body language in the full newsroom when addressing me, and another body language when nobody was around to watch him. Then, a few students would walk in and he would go right back to talking to me like the class dunce. He was extremely offensive.
I hid my estimations about him until today, though. They come out today because of this review of my life’s writing work, both formal and informal. I think secret revulsions toward people and toward some political positions unwise in the long run. They are injurious to the person nursing the resentment. It affects your health and your esteem.
I try to show my feelings today more honestly. I think everyone benefits from honesty in the long-run. Today, I am trying to be honest with family, friends and to be plain about my past and present political positions. Today, I am far less liberal than I was in the 1980s and 1990s.
So, all of this is a side discussion, but main point to recognize in letter is the deliberately lukewarm tone I am using toward Chris. I may have written the letter to keep some professional link. We evidently did not continue writing each other. All I can say is that I hope he matured in his working/social habits.
Published news story for The Berkeley Voice by Lurene K. Helzer, September 19, 1991. Headlined Chancellor Kohl speaks on campus. Runs with photo of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was speaking at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater before some 7,000 people, mostly students. [The Berkeley Voice is different than The Berkeley Planet. I did work for both.] See bayarealureneb.blogspot
Academic course assignment for Lurene Helzer, January 11, 1984, for Chabot College journalism course. Chabot, is a community college, is in Hayward, CA. This is transcript from a cassette-taped interview I did with The Daily Review City Editor Tom Dedley. [I am trying to double-check the name.] I found this 23-year old tape buried under other forgotten tapes. When you listen to this old interview now, in 2007, you hear the sounds of a busy newsroom that can no longer exist.
I was a first-time college student, about 20 years old. I walked in to hear phones incessantly ringing, keyboards clacking under pressured hands, feet breaking into their hushed runs, and doors constantly opening and closing. Reporters and editors were rushing around deadlines which could not move; stories had to be manufactured by those invisible, spatial dictates. Nothing taught you the coldness of time quite like a newspaper did in those days.
You could come to your editor and cry “Oh, my cat was hit by a car and I didn’t get any sleep over the night….” It wouldn’t buy you a new set of rules.
The editor -- if he was charitable -- might look at you and say, “It’s 4 p.m. The deadline’s 6 p.m., That’s two hours. Do you have that plane crash story? Does your cat have the story? Are you and your cat looking for a new job tomorrow morning?”
I don’t think I will be so dramatic as to imply that the world this tape reveals is a lost one, because every business has deadlines. But to say journalism has not changed is wrong. We need to look at other eras in American journalism, and journalism today, to understand this interview at all.
Unpublished notes regarding 1986 or 1987 examination Lurene Helzer consented to with a self-described racist who said he was with a new organization called White Aryan Resistance, or W.A.R. I was not truthfully representing myself or my aims to the man. I was a student of journalism at the time. Getting a glimpse of genuine, self-proclaimed racists who styled their lives after the old Ku Klux Klan seemed like a spectacular story at the time.
W.A.R. had just been founded in California, maybe shortly before the time of this meeting. Its founder was Tom Metzger, who had been a member of the infamous Ku Klux Klan.
The KKK is an important section of American history in its own right. It was/is a well-funded, active American terrorist group. It was created immediately following the end of the U.S. Civil War in 1865-1866 and had some 6 million sympathizers or members in 1924.
To this day, many Americans do not recognize the KKK as a terrorist group, or know their long history. This is partially because they had attained for themselves some degree of political “legitimacy.” But if you were a member of the NAACP in the early 1960s you knew full-well they were terrorists. One of the NAACP’s most prominent leaders, Medgar Evers, was assassinated by the KKK in June of 1963. There were many killings, though.
The hate group sought to terrorize American blacks, primarily. But it also terrorized, through various means, communists, homosexuals, immigrants, Jews, Catholics and people favoring some political interests. As the Nazis in Germany began to rise, some members of the KKK even identified themselves as sympathizers. So, clearly, the KKK has risen and fallen in visibility in various stages of American history since 1866. They are famous for burning crosses, walking about in large, white hoods, and lynching victims on trees.
Regarding these notes, the exact date they were made is not clear, but from text, it was probably about 1986-1987. I remember the encounter somewhat. It took place at my apartment on Park Boulevard in Oakland, California. I was in my first years of practicing journalism, but cavalier about life-threatening risks.
Frankly, I got a rush from doing dangerous things in those days. But I have to joke about my own foolishness here; other young people did comparatively safe things, like stealing cars or injecting heroin with dirty needles. I had to go out and meet a terrorist, invite him home for coffee.
I would not recommend young journalists do this stupid sort of thing. Reporters of all sorts – the world over -- are routinely killed taking risks like this. Does the public truly benefit? Sometimes, maybe, but rarely. Similarly, the reporter usually gains little in money, status or even education regarding the subject.
So, I don’t want to glamorize this activity. The man, calling himself Miller, was articulate and groomed, but a gutter-level racist. Pure and simple.
Looking back now, I was lucky I failed that lie-detector test. Had I passed, I might have been murdered later. They could have found me out, and made a political point through my murder. I am not being melodramatic here, either.
In 2006, 56 journalists were assassinated around the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. More are assumed dead. Most of those journalists work in the less-developed countries of the world.
But do not imagine that guys in the United States who join organizations like W.A.R. are substantially different in character than guys who murder reporters in countries like Russia or Syria. They’re the same bloody breed.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 27, 1999, headlined “Traffic troubles: New sales tax measure being crafted.” This is a boring story, but it demonstrates how difficult it is to set up efficient public transportation in a large metropolitan area. It can’t be done without a voting population that is committed to the idea. This story shows how serious these residents took the matter of public transportation.
When I compare the SF Bay area to the Los Angeles area, it is very clear that you are dealing with extremely different cultures. When you hear people discussing transportation in Los Angeles, all you hear is the word “parking” over and over and over and over and over again. If it’s not “parking,” it’s “traffic.”
So, one positive thing I can say about Los Angeles is this: you can have a 7th grade education and still make it as a public transportation writer. So long as you know the freeways and how to spell the words “traffic” and “parking,” you will know what your job is that day.
Even ridiculously wealthy entertainment celebrities get pulled over for traffic violations because they’re too stupid to take a cab or employ a discreet limousine driver. Several times a month we hear of celebrities getting drunken driving tickets.
In San Francisco, on the other hand, you are genuinely better off without a car for most routine trips, i.e., commuting to the Financial District for work, nights out at the movie theater or opera. You want to have a few beers after work at the law firm on Montgomery Street? Go right ahead. You’re getting a cab home. End of story. For this reason, I can’t say I ever complained about having to write funding stories for public transportation in the Bay area; consider the alternative.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 27, 1999. headlined “Pedal Express seeks city’s support; Spring backs business”
Since I wrote this small story, Berkeley has evidently cancelled its contract with Pedal Express. The small delivery company still thrives, however. They have a good website that lists plenty of good clients and reasonable, easy-to-understand rates.
Again, comparing the San Francisco region to the foolishly-designed Los Angeles area, I found a little article about biking in downtown Los Angeles in the October 16, 2003 Los Angeles Times. You can easily find it today on their site, but one quote from the article tells you most of what you need to know. Read this subhead in article and answer: “Can I ride a bike without being crushed by buses?....The roads are not safe, even where there are bike routes…The trick is to watch out for garage openings, where motorists pull out without looking…”
So, there you are. I wandered around the downtown Los Angeles city center for a few hours myself in June of 2007. It could have been flawless, too. But the immense width of the streets and the lack of pedestrians on the main streets answered the question for me of why Los Angeles is such a lonely place to live compared to Berkeley or San Francisco. It’s not a flaw in the character of people you meet. It’s the very design of Los Angeles. One imagines the entire region putting itself down in prayer, like a Moslem, to the automobile.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 8, 1999. Story is headlined “Telegraph’s new image; Police, merchants: Atmosphere improving.” Photo caption reads “An increased police presence along Telegraph Avenue has contributed to a “safer” and “cleaner” atmosphere, police and merchants say”. I have only part of the story here.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 10, 1999. It was under headline “Serbian deeds protested.” Rob Cunningham photo alongside story shows student making a demonstration sign. Caption reads: “Todd Chretien, a student at San Francisco State University, writes pro-Muslim signs as Friday afternoon’s protest on the UC Berkeley campus begins.”
The story catches my attention now because it reminds me that Moslems were/are leaving their places of birth in substantial waves, settling in places like Montreal, Paris, various areas of the United States, like Berkeley. Once they settle, they begin campaigns for the recognition they lacked from their cultures of birth.
This has been going on for quite some time now. Their obvious argument would be that they ended up in the west only because the West invaded in one way or the other. For example, argument many spout is the Palestinians were doing just great before Israel created in 1948.
But this explanation is wrong. The fact is, the nations of Islam can’t keep their own ethnicities because they’ve been dictatorships from the get-go -- economically dysfunctional ones at that.
It eventually turns to war in any case, with or without the involvement of the west. There was never a nation called Palestine. The Ottoman Turks never recognized them as separate people in need of unique guarantees. Nor were they much known as a distinct ethnicity inside the Turkish region.
In last few days, September of 2007, we are hearing about the latest push for Moslem equality, this time in Montreal, Quebec, which is in Canada. I do not think they will garner much sympathy there, because before waves of Moslems began settling in Montreal, you’d already had the population of Quebec considering a separation from Canada. Why?
Because this population considers itself essentially French. Unlike most of Canada which speaks English, Montreal residents speak and think in French. I saw this myself because I once spent a few days in that city. Once there, I had to regret my failure to ever learn French, because these distinct Canadians identify themselves as Quebecois. This is the French term meaning “resident of Quebec.”
So, what you have with the current Moslems pushing for more recognition inside Quebec is a group of people thrusting themselves and their culture into a culture which already considers itself a breakaway culture within Canada.
Published news story for Berkeley Daily Planet, May 1, 1999, by Lurene Helzer. Headlined “Hearst apology divides council”. Story regards satire on the city of Berkeley’s political positions, or lack thereof, during the 1974 kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst. She was the granddaughter of the famous California media magnate, William Randolph Hearst.
The events being mocked are actually an extremely dense cultural and political saga of the mid 1970s, however foolish they may sound in this news story.
I was nine years old when Ms. Hearst was kidnapped by the SLA in Berkeley on February 4, 1974. After her abduction, she was in the custody of the American Symbionese Liberation Army. She then assisted them in crime and eventually served prison time. She later was pardoned by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. It is widely accepted today that she had been brainwashed and in terror, thus behaving irrationally. We see terrorist groups today using the same tactics with their hostages.
[Side note: Remember, the SLA was then classified as a politically radical crime gang, but would today probably be considered a terrorist group. That is, SLA members were violent and had pronounced political goals. Most modern terror groups are far more powerful, though, have greater popular support. The SLA was, in comparison, a passing criminal oddity.]
Getting back to the abduction of Patty Hearst in 1974, I remember it being broadcast on every radio and television station in the SF area for weeks. It was widely written about in newspapers, as well. For kids like me, it was like Al Capone had escaped Alcatraz or something. It was a huge story. [This also is a marked feature of terrorism; Terrorism can’t exist without public attention, fear and heavy media attention.]
Why all the media, though? The media tackled the issue for many reasons, but especially because you were discussing Hearst within the state that made the family famous. The elder Hearst practically invented the early journalism of California. The elder Hearst was and is still widely considered to be the figure behind the leading character in the Orson Wells film Citizen Kane. The whole story is colorful and important to San Francisco/California history. The Wells masterpiece is still widely regarded as the finest film in American cinematic history.
William Randolph Hearst lived from 1863 to 1951. He is the man who built Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. I was there in 2007; The Hearst family legacy still speaks through the architecture of the mansion, in a sense.
Of course, maybe I just think it speaks to me because I was a SF area journalist for many years. The castle is now the property of the State of California, because Hearst donated it to the people of California before his death.
So, the point is that Hearst remains a significant name in California history. Not only because of W. R. Hearst, but because of his descendent kin Patty Hearst, her kidnapping by the terrorist SLA.
This 1999 story I did is about a comedy script’s mocking of the Hearst history. Yet, the story has almost nothing about the actual Hearst family history. The story was deficient, as were others appearing on the issue at that time.
Even when this story was published in 1999, however, local voters and officials were still surprisingly sensitive about the Hearst kidnapping. Certainly the 1999 Berkeley City Council was not amused by the gag, and they wanted to make sure people of the Bay area damned well knew it.
Unpublished comments written by Lurene Helzer in maybe 1983-1985. Probably typed them out at a desk in San Francisco’s financial district during a boring job spell. The self-service gas station scene reminds me of grandpa. Grandpa Jim Strickland, that is. This was Grandma Lois’s husband. But I only think of him as grandpa. He’s dead now.
The reason why the gas station scene reminds me of him is because the idea probably comes from him. He was talking about drive through Oregon returning to California. He was astonished when stopping for gas in California. There was a big change of attitude in the help.
In Oregon, he said, the attendants were rushing to pump the gas for him. “Windows cleaned? Tire pressure okay? Need an oil change, sir?....”
Grandpa drives over the California border. Pulls into gas station. Grandpa waits for a moment inside his car near the gas pump. He looks at guy ten or fifteen feet away in uniform.
Guy’s perusing sport magazine, has his elbow resting on some kind of soiled, plastic oil shelf. Sees grandpa’s car. Puts his eyes back to the game.
As Grandpa told this story to us spellbound kids, he leaned back against the kitchen counter. He was mocking the attendant’s body pose, the “Golden State” attitude toward capitalism in general – at that station, anyway.
“Self-serve,” he says, turning the page.
So, that was the drive through Oregon and back to California, as grandpa related, and probably rehearsed it.
But then, right as he flawlessly finished his performance, his foot slid and he stumbled right onto the kitchen floor. We all laughed as we helped him regain his footing. The whole scene remains a classic in the sensationalist scrapbook of my mind.
Grandpa Jim Strickland was in California, married to my grandmother, by time I was born in June of 1964. But he was a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so this whole story about crossing the state border was related with that southern accent. It gave all his stories more color.
He could sing, too. He was prejudiced about black Americans, but changed a lot in his last decade of life. Became more accepting of other people all around him. One of his closest friends in his final years was a relatively healthy and prosperous black man who lived next door down. Grandpa passed on a year or two after he saw his friend for the last time, and us grandkids were not there. One of last things he said to Grandma was that he never pictured his own death “this way. I always thought Lurene would be here.” He was blind by then.
He said this because I would frequently visit them as we were all in California. He did not seem too hung up on it, though. He was never the harping sort of man. He said a number of things in those days before his death, then peacefully fell asleep for the last time.
Anyway, must have been late 1978 or so when Grandma and Grandpa made this trip. California started seeing self-serve stations all over the place by the late 1970s, while Oregon and New Jersey still don’t allow them in 2007. That’s the information I have, at least. (Note: Fifth Avenue in New York actually more known for glitz and wealth, not for qualities I cite here.)
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 15, 1999, headlined “ATM fee limits endorsed: Banking industry opposes city’s ‘ridiculous ordinance’”. Go to: bayarealureneb.blogspot.com
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 19, 1999 headlined “Natural celebration: Earth Day’s star: the environment”. Only portion of story available here, but it regards Berkeley’s Earth Day Fair. Photo appears taken by staff member Rob Cunningham of Rachel Balsley getting her arm painted by “Firebird” Alice Blandy. A second photo shows cloth weaver, member of “Madame Ovary’s Egg Folk.” This was only Berkeley’s fourth Earth Day street fair, but today many towns hold such events annually.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, May 4, 1999, headlined “Kidnap victim goes on joy ride.” I have only a portion of the newspaper clipping, but I can say at least that I would not have probably written a headline like this about a crime. The editor wrote headlines, though. Not me.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, May 5, 1999, headlined “Residents want power lines underground”. I have only a portion of the newspaper clipping here. It at least implies Berkeley was starting to want a degree of modernization in the city’s infrastructure.
[Note: The utility provider mentioned here is PG&E, which is Pacific Gas and Electric, the Northern California utility provider. Its 34-story downtown office building is at 77 Beale Street in San Francisco’s Financial District. It’s the 20th-tallest building of San Francisco.
The company came into existence in 1905, and was hit hard, as most San Franciscans were, by the famous 1906 earthquake and fire. From surviving photos, one still imagines all those poor, confused horses in the street after that quake. There’s that famous shot of those brick-crushed dead horses on Sacramento Street above Montgomery. The suited men standing helplessly by. Then, that whole district burned.
So, it’s quite interesting to read that PG&E recovered operations as quickly as they could and were still functioning in large areas of the city following the tragedy. The commercial history of PG&E inside the state of California is anything but boring. Kids love it.]
What I like about this story, and stories like it, is it opens the discussion of how complex metropolitan modernization projects truly are. Berkeley is a modern city, too. Just imagine how complex it will be for Manhattan to rebuild anything like The World Trade Center, or how nearly impossible it would be to redevelop parts of a South American city like Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Published story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 24, 1999, “Council to discuss bill on assisted suicide”. Only portion of story I wrote is here. Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said on October 2, 2007 in brief phone remarks that the issue of assisted suicide was still on the table in California.
There are interesting arguments for and against the passage of such a law. Some say they do not want to leave their final moments of life up to the health care industry and/or low-level medical staffs. Certainly not the insurance industry, be it public or private.
(In reality, however, low-income nursing assistants in public hospitals say – off the record – that non-care is routinely decided with patients who are unconscious, destitute, homeless, addicted, and elderly.
That patient may also be, in many cases, the wandering, panhandling downtown drunk. At some point, the medical staff admits the patient is without any hope of recovery, and has never had any known family. He dies on the streets, and certainly has been dismissed by the medical system by that time, in most cases.)
Others say they have or once had family members who were so ill, mentally and physically, that the only personal power they had left was the choice to comfortably die. I am citing the extreme cases here, like the 95-year-old cancer patient who is now in a coma and has before clearly said, on video or in front of several witnesses, he does not want to be kept alive, in pain, for very long in this condition.
With this continuing debate, there are concerns regarding language of such a law, and concerns regarding what the health-care industry would be tempted to do once something like this was put into law. For example, many severely ill or disabled people argue the bill could provide insurers and hostile relatives the escape-hatch they need to get away from the high cost of death.
Published story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 7, 1999, headlined “Historic review process ‘costly’”.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 30, 1999. Headlined “Domestic violence cases on the rise: Centers and experts in Berkeley try to help the men who abuse”.
The story reports the obvious, to some degree. It features quotes by specialists who say few of these serial abusers change. The programs to reform them meet with little success; they are a waste of effort. [To be fair, there are documented cases of women abusing men, as well as cases of abuse in gay relationships. The answer is the same in all cases, though.]
Yet, further research also shows that women in these relationships tend to invite the same type of men again and again. It’s a tangled problem. Having seen my own mother abused by my father, I would say the best solution is either a powerful taser in the hands of the victim/victims, or – frankly, best of all – a quick and anonymous move to a new state under a new identity.
In other words, if I found myself in a close tie with a man who was abusive, I wouldn’t worry about “reforming” the bastard. Why am I so unforgiving?
Because these scum don’t change. They might change into new, better-looking forms of the same rubbish as they age, go through new jobs, and gullible women, but they rarely reform.
Unpublished letter to Kaveh Davoudi, undated, but probably early 1991 - 1995. Kaveh Davoudi was Oakland/Berkeley guy I dated between 1990 and 1997. I wrote this weird letter after Nermal, my cat, had died. He was struck by a car on Oakland’s Park Boulevard. “Billy” was an acquaintance, also of Oakland. Like many people, he suggested I set off to make more money using my features.
It was a by-the-way remark that people often tended to make, but not dwell upon.
Back to Nermal and Park Boulevard, I had gone for a stroll and saw a dead cat on the side of street. In two seconds, I instinctively knew it was “the Nerm,” as me and Ocie used to call to him.
He was the sort of cat who would pretend to sleep on your shoulder during some old Wednesday night movie on Oakland’s KTVU. Something like old “Gone with the Wind” with Clark Gable, the supposed American Civil War events. There is picture of Nermal doing this by Lloyd Francis. Cigarettes, old movies, Oakland, and the Nerm.
Nermal made life seem less serious at times.
In those days on Park Blvd., the pets I had were Nermal, and some cat that used to wander in whenever the door was open. Me and my roommate, Ocie Hudson, called him “Homeless.” I still have a large, black-and-white photo of Homeless trying to hide inside my room. He is tucked in a box. His ears sticking up like flag poles. Comedic photo even today because he thinks he’s not visible.
I was unprepared at seeing Nermal’s little body on the road. I went running home crying. Ocie walked down the block to be sure it was Nermal. He slowly returned. “It was Nermal,” he said sadly. I was upset, called Kaveh crying. Kaveh rushed over, I think. I joked, adopted new perspective about it all in this letter.
Unpublished satire by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, undated, but probably mid-1990s, regarding cigarettes, and the start of long journey to quit them. I called it Dog in the Fog.
In part, at least. I clearly was not taking the issue as seriously as I needed to take it. I am instead reviving old pets to approach, with imagined pliant company, some serious issue in life. I must say this is a far better scheme than not approaching health threats at all.
Today, I do not smoke. I quit for the last time March of 2003. I find myself privately thinking today that modern smokers lack creativity, humor and intelligence in their recognizing of solutions. Today’s U.S. smoker, though, is a different breed. Usually poor, and with a disheveled family and education history. I once was one of them, hung out with them. Today, in 2007, I can’t find a common ground with such crowds.
Published/distributed press release written by Lurene Helzer, for, and in cooperation with, the first members of JVP in late April of 1998. I wrote it to help publicize the first “Joined at the Hip” political event organized by JVP.
JVP is the generally-accepted acronym for A Jewish Voice for Peace. This is a group that was originally formed in 1996 Berkeley, CA by activists Julia Caplan, Julie Iny and Rachel Eisner.
The group was composed mainly of Jews, but it was open to people of any religious background. You couldn’t join and simultaneously be sympathetic to groups like The Palestine Liberation Organization or Hezbollah, though. No way.
JVP was not, when I was a member, legally or personally sympathetic to Arab terrorist groups, or terror groups of any kind.
It’s today not clear to me what position they would take on some sections of Israeli history, Jewish history in general. Nor is it very important, frankly. What is their stand on the methods used by the Jewish militants in the early Haganah or Irgun? Is terrorism sometimes justified? We did not have meetings to resolve or interpret history in those days. I think this was a good idea, too. It kept us distinctly focused on current issues.
We couldn’t imagine ourselves to be descendants of Spartacus; we didn’t want to have people driving out to San Francisco from Berkeley or San Rafael and having to sit through a long and pointless rehash of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. They would be angry.
The members of JVP as I saw them back then wanted to talk about things as they stood that very week. So, even though I resigned later, I still say the original members were bright people. They had an interest in publicly supporting a fair and sustainable peace agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian residents of Israel. That included the violently-disputed Arab territories adjacent to Israel.
I was invited to attend a meeting while working a temporary job at then-top San Francisco law firm Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison by co-worker Bruce Ballin, who also joined JVP.
Bruce and I were friends who both followed current events affecting Israel. We had very different connections to Jewish history, though.
Bruce’s German-Jewish parents were somehow not able to raise him in San Francisco. I know he had relatives who were victims of the European Holocaust, but the story has never been clear. After the war, many Jewish families were traumatized, as were families nearly everywhere. Many were not mentally fit to raise kids.
Kids like Bruce grew up inside a Jewish orphanage, the Homewood Terrace in San Francisco. They grew up, made an American life, and in some cases, took an active role in modern Jewish affairs.
In my case, my connection to Jewish history was mostly academic. I studied for a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I continued talking to people about current concerns of the local Jewish community, Israeli affairs.
But as well, my father’s side was German. You had to go back to my great-grandfather to find Nazi sympathizers, but it caused serious divisions inside the American-German side of the family during the 1930s and 1940s. My mother’s side had no deep understanding of the issues, since they were American Chippewa natives.
Whatever the commonality, Bruce and I both joined JVP as it formed in San Francisco. At the time, we chatted at the law office a few times a week, and both thought the ideas of JVP were reasonably fair ones. What ideas?
According to material appearing on JVP’s website in 2007, “The original message was intended for the Clinton Administration”: American Jewry is not a monolithic movement which categorically supports all the policies of the government of Israel, and thousands of American Jews, in partnership with the interfaith community, demand justice and equality for Israelis and Palestinians.”
So, this is the background that goes with my writing of this press release. In later years, but before the World Trade Center attacks, I resigned from JVP for several reasons. Many of them were petty, and I can’t find the letter today. It was to Julia Caplan.
I think I was getting out mostly because I could no longer believe they had a serious Palestinian partner at the negotiation table with them. That’s also what I want to think, though. Fact is, I don’t quite know what that letter said now. I began working for The Bay City News Service in San Francisco somewhere around this time, which was a wire service covering Northern California. Our clients were radio and television news broadcasters, and newspapers.
In any case, Bruce told me I abandoned my values. I thought, by recognizing events, I was keeping my values; I wanted to see a relative peace agreement, but saw instead no Arab participant of 1999-2000 seriously capable or desirous of such an agreement with Israelis. This remains my stand in 2007. I would be happy if a vigorous Arab peace activist were to emerge, and gain a formidable presence inside the Arab world.
Scene from developing satire by Lurene Gisee, October 10, 2007. I have been writing lately, off and on, about a fictional gang of cats headed by one named Feckless. I liked this little section I wrote up so sent it off nearly the minute I wrote it. I was probably creatively inspired, oddly enough, after my friend’s cat died. That friend was Bryan McNally of San Francisco, California. The scene is supposed to be satirizing the old movie empire, though, in a subtle way. Some scenes from old movies like Sunset Boulevard., maybe.
The truly amazing thing about sending this off that night was that it came onto the Bellingham radio KGMI evening or early morning broadcast that studio hands all over Hollywood studios had just voted to go on strike.
Odd timing, me sending this out then hearing not 24-hours later about the strike over an ABC News radio broadcast.
I have to say that because the scene involves fictional set maintenance worker and entertainment reporter. So happens that one of people on the email list was an actual entertainment reporter, another an actor in that same area of Los Angeles, California.
Unpublished letter from Lurene Helzer to Jack and Andrea Helzer, January 5, 1997. Jack was my cousin on my dad’s side. I thought he was a smart and pleasant guy, though I can’t say I knew him well.
This branch of my family, which is my Uncle Kenneth’s family, was devoted to the U.S. military. Kenneth Helzer, my uncle, was in the U.S. Air Force soon after he finished high school.
He stayed in it most of his life. He married his high school girlfriend, Wendy, and they quickly had Tiffany and Jack.
Kenneth and Wendy Helzer both had an obesity issue, which was typical of much of the U.S. military in those Cold War years, literally and figuratively. My cousin Tiffany took right after them.
For some reason, this caused tensions between us. It came out in my tones of voice toward them, which was disrespectful. I think Europeans joked about the obese American tourist on the streets of Paris, for example. Artists reproduced it with oil paintings. I related to such jokes. I thought the U.S. had to stand for something healthier and prouder in Europe. It only partially was between 1945 and 1989. That’s true of any culture, though.
I think I was different from my relatives in ideological perspective, as well. I did not seem to find anything to admire in their choices. I assumed they were too dull to succeed outside the military, though I never said so.
I was devoted to adversarial journalism, foreign education and travel. Over time, you really did develop illusion you dispensed the facts from your back pocket. It was another era. Completely. That’s no longer possible in the internet age, of course.
It was probably the case, subconsciously, that I was comparing Uncle Kenneth to my own dad, who seemed handsome and intelligent. Not the sort who seemed interested in the military. Yet, here’s the real story: Jack Helzer, my dad, was abusive of women, and an alcoholic. Doesn’t matter how good looking you are and how adept at math if you are beating on women and getting drunk all the time. Uncle Kenneth did not drink, and was the responsible head of an intact family. Fat or not, that’s better than my own dad did.
When the Berlin Wall fell in Germany, I think my family was still there with the U.S. military. I was seeing the whole thing from the university campus Albert Einstein helped establish in Jerusalem following the Holocaust. I simply cannot stress strongly enough how different my family and I were in some ways.
All of this made more sense by the end of communism. For an American, watching the “fall” of the hated wall November 9, 1989 was an extraordinary experience from any view. The event was momentous from either Jerusalem, Washington or West Berlin. On that day now almost twenty years ago, my relatives and I were on the same page for once. We never discussed it, though. Even to this day in October of 2007.
Letter unpublished by Lurene Kathleen Helzer to JVP member Lincoln Shlensky, January 16, 1998. We both belonged to Jewish Voice for Peace at the time.
The letter concerns a trip Lloyd Francis took to Israel, events in the areas with Palestinian residents. Dana Negev was there, too, who was also with JVP. Dana, Lloyd and I were/are all friends, though.
Still, I think this letter shows how gullible I was to propaganda shows like the one described here. When I view this letter in 2007, I think people/reporters who fell for these staged PLO/Hezbollah street incidents were being played like pianos. That idiot was me in this textbook case, of course. There are a number of interesting remarks in this letter no matter what your perspective, though.
I have grown more conservative, skeptical of Arab cause/Arab antics in general. Lloyd Francis, in 2007, is still sympathetic to Palestinian/Arab arguments, though. Of course, our experiences are far different, too. To be fair, stuff Lloyd saw in Iraq in the last few years was extremely violent, and quite real. When man has his leg blown off in front of you in Baghdad, it’s not staged, like this Arab boy scene discussed in letter almost certainly was. (My opinion, of course.)
Published news story for Berkeley Daily Planet by Lurene Helzer, April 15, 1999, headlined “KPFA debate still hot.” Only small part of the story is here, but it regards labor disputes within the ultra-liberal Berkeley radio station. It involved then station manager Nicole Sawaya and popular radio host Larry Bensky.
Published news story for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 29, 1999, by Lurene Helzer, headlined “Bank robberies still under investigation.” Only a portion of the story is here.
What stands out about even this small portion of the story, however, is the odd attitude shown by officials in the story. You can nearly picture them seated at the station or office, waving their hands, lighting a joint, and saying, “Ahhhh, bank robbers come and go…..all get caught eventually. Why worry?” But this is what they said, at least as it is here in the first few paragraphs.
In fact, part of what we are beginning to see develop with this story is an increasingly lax stance regarding crimes committed by the class of criminals who seem headed straight for prison. It’s almost like, through law and attitudes, the society is saying “Let the idiot do his crap. He’s on his way to Pelican Bay, anyway...” It’s like the message that we’re all encouraging, increasingly is this: Go on and rob that bank if you want. It would be so racist of us to interrupt you on your way to the Big House.
In fact, when today you glance through San Francisco Bay area newspapers, the homicides routinely committed inside African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods are relegated to page 6 of the local sections, below the fold. Unless the crime is particularly gruesome, or the victim unusually young, or especially attractive, rich and white, the common criminal and his life are completely irrelevant to modern society.
I am not writing a sympathy paragraph here for minorities or criminals, either. I am simply noting that the philosophies of our urban areas are changing substantially.
By about 2017, if not earlier, our urban areas will be too expensive for the middle class or poor. Why? For many reasons, but mainly because the educated, wealthy and/or upper-middle classes increasingly do not want to tolerate the family and criminal problems of the poor. This is not a minor issue, either. The so-called upper class has a point here.
The nation’s urban areas have an astounding rate of murder, almost always committed by poor, minority offenders. As the language in this story hints, the educated classes increasingly do not want to hear about racism and class-discrimination. They just want you out of town.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 29, 1999. Story was headlined “School plagued by fires”. This clipping, like many others in my files, is only partially saved, so I do not have the whole story presented here.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer, Berkeley Daily Planet, April 22, ---, headlined “Bayer will add 400 jobs; ‘Model’ agreement with Berkeley moves forward.” The date of story is likely 1999, but I can’t be certain. On other side of clipping is story about police investigating series of assaults on pedestrians with pellet guns. Bobby Miller was then Berkeley police captain being quoted.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 22, ----, regarding series of assaults on pedestrians with BB and pellet guns. Story is only partially here, undated, as the new clipping is damaged, like many others in my files that are being put into this library. Estimated date of publication is April 22, 1999.
Unpublished, unsigned copy of letter by Lurene K. Helzer to Bishara Roushroush, June 12, 1995. I never had a romance with Bishara, but we had a regard for one another to some degree. This is one of the very few “romantic” letters one can find authored by me.
In reality, fact that Bishara was in Nazareth, Israel gave me excess nerve. In cases like this, you can say almost anything you want. The pen and paper then are props for a Batman show.
How? Watch the old Batman movie of 1966. Watch the scene involving the supposed shark attack. The shark is pure Styrofoam. There is no such thing as canned “shark repellant” spray, either.
When I find old letters I wrote which use this tone, I immediately suspect the addressee is quite distant. When I am in same city, it’s a different story.
Not that I can’t love men who live elsewhere, because I can, have and sometimes do. But the person in the distant city is the person you can take less seriously as next weekend’s likely lunch date.
I wrote a few of these letters, though, to various people. Bishara was an Arab/Christian student I talked with while a visiting student at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel in 1989 – 1990. He came from Nazareth. It is not well known that many Palestinians are integrated into Israeli society, at least in an economic sense. The violence gets more attention.
Many Arab Christians, like Bishara and another man I knew at the time, Ihab, have relatively westernized values, speak Arabic/Hebrew and English, and are easily found at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They are not interested in explosives or having friends that construct explosives.
Bishara was studying accounting. Ihab, not mentioned in letter, would study law, accounting, and earn more than one doctorate degree in those studies after I left Jerusalem. I found this out during a July, 2008 conversation with him as he was at his law office in East Jerusalem. He puts me to shame when it comes to language ability. He speaks several languages quite well, and knows the legal systems of several countries/regions, both past and present.
It’s a shame we don’t hear these sorts of residents mentioned more often in news shows. They are not known as relevant to the Palestinian controversy, but they actually are.
They are major intellectual and financial backbones of Arab life in disputed areas; the radical Moslems, at least during most media interviews, hardly concern themselves with Palestinian education and budgeting. If you want to learn propaganda, okay. Hamas is demonstrative enough. But everyday accounting or law? Not that I have noticed.
For this reason and many others, the Palestinians are not today on a path toward independence. They are not following the accountants or attorneys of Nazareth. They keep leaning on organizations like the PLO and Hamas, but it has never worked efficiently for the larger Palestinian community.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, May 4, 1999, headlined “Bayer: Animal testing steady”. Newspaper clipping is only partially available from my file.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer, Berkeley Daily Planet, May 5, 1999, headlined “Hungry for power; Mock council votes to leave Union, build Hearst statue and re-create Telegraph”. This is the second story about the comedy group making satire of the old Patty Hearst kidnapping by the SLA in 1974. The earlier story, which appeared four days prior, was about the actual city council’s views of the comedy. That story is also in this library.
The issue that got the attention of the Berkeley council was the real kidnapping of Patricia Hearst in 1974. She was the granddaughter of the famous California media magnate, William Randolph Hearst.
So, the point is that Hearst remains a significant name in California history. Not only because of W. R. Hearst, but because of his descendent kin Patty Hearst, her kidnapping by the SLA.
These 1999 stories I did were about a comedy script’s mocking of the Hearst history in Berkeley, California. Yet, the story has almost nothing about the actual Hearst family history. The stories lacked background, as most appearing on the issue at that time.
Even in 2007, members of the council probably reluctant to joke about the Hearst kidnapping. Why? Because it gives strong message to voting public that terrorism is funny.
This story runs with three photos by Rob Cunningham, also on the Daily Planet staff. The photos on page 1 are captioned: “Top, Councilmember Stoney (played by Stoney Burke) takes off his shirt during the Mock City Council meeting. Above, individuals with grievances could ask the council for an apology.”
Photos on page 8 are captioned “Above, members of the Berkeley Mock City Council, their identities temporarily hidden, enter the elected council’s chambers in Old City Hall on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Below, the ‘dignitaries’ leave the chambers dancing, clapping and singing.”
Unpublished note on United Press International stationery, San Francisco Bureau, to Lurene Helzer by Lloyd Francis, Jr. The note had to have been written during Candy Maldonado’s time with The San Francisco Giants between 1986 and 1989, but there is no exact date on this small, typed note. I have it here exactly as he hurriedly typed it out.
It is actually on office stationery of then-SF photo editor Terry Schmitt, who I remember meeting at the UPI office while with Lloyd sometimes. Schmitt gave Lloyd a lot of freelance assignments in those days because Lloyd was reliable, and driven to produce salable news images.
Lloyd and I were college friends, both practicing journalism in those years. I was familiar with his friends and family, and he with mine. I went to a game with him one day. We often took trips together in pursuit of journalistic adventure. We even dated briefly. (I was never easy to date, though.)
The note refers to a photo I took of Maldonado at the plate. It was Lloyd’s camera, and it was only in my hands for a few minutes. But Lloyd explains that I managed to get at least one good shot. The shot was in B&W, probably using Kodak 400 speed films.
Lloyd gave to me a contact sheet, which I ought to still have today, but would have to find in my collection. Needless to say, Lloyd and I shared a genuine passion for following San Francisco area and national/world events. We are still good friends, though we have different views on some political matters today.
I actually have multiple photos, taped interviews, and written documents authored with/by/alongside Lloyd Francis. We both toured/spent time in the Mideast, though for different reasons.
I can’t fairly see my college years and journalism years without Lloyd’s presence. As of 2007, Lloyd lives with his wife, Leanne, and two sons, Marley and Waylon, in San Francisco’s known Haight district. In fact, literally on that street, just blocks from Ashbury.
Published news story regarding visit by then-president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for The Daily Review in Hayward, California, September 24, 1986. Story was headlined “Aquino visit produces tears, protests.” Story runs with staff photographer Nick Lammers’ photo of protestors captioned “Aquino’s Bay Area tour: Ofella Madriaga of South San Francisco yells at pro-Corazon Aquino crowd across the street at the Moscone Center in San Francisco Tuesday. Another anti-Aquino protester, Norma Abenoja, is at right with bull horn.” Photo shows Ms. Madriaga holding large sign that reads “COMMUNISTS”.
I can’t recall why I was assigned this story, but her assumption of the presidency and tour of the region was a big event in San Francisco at the time, and throughout Asia and the world, really. Huge; remember, here you had a woman taking power in a poor, politically fractious country prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, through a relatively transparent democratic process. In the Asia of 1986, this was nearly a miracle. Members of her immediate family had been imprisoned and assassinated before she assumed the presidency.
Asia is the planet’s largest, most populated continent. The Philippines is one state in a region with states like Iran, India, Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Afghanistan, China, and so on.
How often did we hear of peaceful, democratic transfers of political power in 1986 Asia? Almost never, that’s when!
In 2007, it’s still not the norm in this area of the world. So Aquino’s visit was major news. The story I wrote was cut to fit limited column-space availability, so was thin on detail. None of Aquino’s lighthearted jokes from her speech are in my story. I suspect those jokes were about Mrs. Marcos’ unreal collection of 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 3000 pairs of shoes, 888 purses, and her husband’s 7500 tons of gold. Yes, tons. The worth of all the Marcos family assets was estimated to be about $35 billion by the 1970s.
This is a typical story for third-world dictatorships, though; dictatorships do not manage wealth for the benefit of citizens. They waste wealth. That is one of the most common traits of authoritarian regimes.
I have no draft copy of my work, so have today only what was published in The Daily Review. Still, seeing it today, I am happy to see I was given the assignment from editors at the Review. It would have also run in other papers owned by the same publisher, like the Argus in Fremont, California. Those versions I did not keep.
Aquino supporters had essentially rejected through popular vote dictator Fernidand Marcos in a highly-contested election. Marcos conceded, in effect, by fleeing the country. Aquino began serving as president February 25, 1986. Her time in office is today considered by most scholars as highly successful, popular, and democratic. Still, there were constant coup attempts.
None of those conspiracies were successful, though, and today Aquino is widely considered one of Asia’s most admirable leaders in its modern history. That in itself is stunning when one considers the immensity of Asia. She stepped down June 30, 1992, peacefully transferring power to her successor, Fidel V. Ramos. Aquino has been the recipient of numerous awards internationally for her leadership. She remains today a strong supporter, and example, of Asian democracy.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for Phoenix Journal, Oakland, California, March 1, 1993. Story headlined “Hurricane Andrew blasts insurance industry”. One of multiple stories I wrote regarding the aftermath of Oakland/Berkeley Hills conflagration of 1991. I lived just below the area hit by fire on Berkeley’s Ashby Avenue at the time. Many of the stories after a catastrophe are about insurance issues, as this one was.
The publisher of this small publication I did multiple articles for was Robert Bruce, who probably lost the family home in the fire. I mention it because Robert Bruce was one of the better publishers/newspaper men for whom I ever had chance to work. He was fully devoted to recovery of the Oakland/Berkeley areas hit by the fire, and sensitive to more than just rubbery emotional stories about catastrophic trauma.
Thus, after the blaze, I wrote stories every week like this one, with solid financial information, questions and history stemming from other disasters. With publisher Bruce, we were fully covering the insurance scene immediately following the departure of the fire trucks. To this day, various insurance industry stories catch my eye.
With this fire, residential lots had nothing recognizable or distinctive remaining except chimneys by the time the costly blaze had strewn its furious path. I was covering this calamity from several perspectives for at least a year.
This work, as well as other events inside the following 15 years, convinced me that no calamity can be fairly seen if the financial details are ignored.
Added with the fall of communism in Europe, the fire motivated my slow turn from college liberalism I lugged about. I think today that communities recover from catastrophe if they were stable before the tragedy. That is, wealthy suburbs turn back to wealthy suburbs, okay neighborhoods turn back to okay neighborhoods, and slums back to slums unless major turns in individual initiative occur.
I am picturing not only the Oakland/Berkeley region featured with this story, but also the South Los Angeles areas hit by riots in 1965 and again in 1992. I was willing to buy the “blame government” explanation while reading the 1965 account, but by 1992, few believed this anymore.
Okay, you saw a so-named “Rebuild L.A.” movement, but it was the same airy fluff from mouths you saw after 1965 riots. South Central Los Angeles was a crime-infested, violent, out-and-out ghetto in 1992. That’s most of what you needed to know as a tourist in 1992, and still.
I mention all of this because when I revisit this story below, people often compare tragedies and angrily ask why wealthy California wildfire zones recover promptly and chronically poor areas such as South-Central Los Angeles do not. I think, largely, the difference is in family stability, quality education in the home, and the financial management skills used by residents in that community.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for East Bay Journal, February 22, 1994, page one. Headlined “Berkeley merchants attack problem street behavior”. The story then jumps to page 5 with Chris Duffy’s photo of homeless peddler on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue.
Telegraph is one of the more important veins of the SF transportation network. It’s not only the main thoroughfare of Berkeley’s downtown, giving a platform for the retail district and ending at the University of California at Berkeley, but also extends south to Oakland. Both areas contain vital transport stations to San Francisco, and its nearby links.
The San Francisco Bay is crossed daily via Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the Bay Bridge, or ferries. Whatever a particular pedestrian/commuter’s plans, it is somewhat likely the walker’s path includes a panhandler. Most panhandlers are not dangerous, but mentally ill, friendless, unattractive, addicted, unemployable, and completely without housing.
When I use term “addicted” I am not referring to chap who needs to cut down on cocaine or get started with local AA meetings; this is not your beautiful Hollywood druggie living half her life in a wealthy Malibu, CA rehab facility.
We are discussing here the man or woman who is, for example, so alcoholic that he’ll surely die without alcohol if he can’t afford to get it for three or four days. He’s too stupid to stop smoking or bathe. If he has a dog, the pet is unbelievably filthy. So, Berkeley here was trying to manage this crowd via new policies.
More specifically, this story is about Berkeley’s discussion of panhandling during a city council meeting. The story also features future-Berkeley-Mayor Jeffrey Leiter’s contribution to the debate. He was Berkeley’s first openly-gay mayor, adopting here a voice of moderation for benefit to the city’s business interests. That is another note of interest here, the emerging contribution of a relatively politically conservative gay America. He would not be seen as conservative in Los Angeles, maybe, but in 1994 Berkeley, he stood out. The main thing he had which distinguished him was public communication skills, in retrospect.
Even in 1994, openly-gay politicians were still being associated by the general public with older events; the assassination of SF Mayor Moscone, the White Night Riots, and AIDS was considered the body of gay American history. In a way, Mr. Leiter was broadening the image for the SF Bay area, normalizing and updating it a bit for the 1990s. Instead of gay names being the tragedies of Rock Hudson and Harvey Milk, they were now increasingly associated with the less-exciting city budgets, real estate and state and federal political leadership.
By the time I was given this assignment, street begging was a fraught social, transportation, and visual issue for commercial Berkeley.
It’s a particularly awkward subject for cities like Berkeley because they have tried diligently since the 1970s to maintain a progressive image, to prove liberalism can work for a major urban area.
Photo caption reads: “If Berkeley’s panhandling ordinance passes, Jess, 49, would be arrested for sitting on Telegraph Avenue’s sidewalks. Jess said it would cost $70 a day to keep him in jail. “If they gave me half that amount I could get my own place and wouldn’t have to panhandle,” he said.
[Note: There was an editorial error with use in article of word “proscribed.” That was supposed to be “prescribed.” I typed the story in here as it was published for Berkeley readers, though, so the mistake had to be duplicated in interest of accuracy of this library in 2007.]
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, February 22, 1994, East Bay Journal, partially available, no by-line, headlined “FBI investigates police use of deadly force”. Involves use of force on Oakland janitor during a law-enforcement raid.
Elihu Harris, mentioned in this article, was Oakland’s mayor between 1991 and 1999. He was not especially noted for dynamic public policy, and one of his last campaign tactics was reaching out to black voters by promising them fried chicken in exchange for a valid voting stub.
Charges of racism followed, naturally; if you have a hard time understanding why this might be considered racist, imagine someone like current U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney proposing such a campaign strategy toward African-American voters during his 2004 race with current President George Bush for the Oval Office.
One of Harris’ closer political assistants, Chauncey Bailey, a noted black media professional in the SF Bay area, was murdered in 2007, shot down on the streets of downtown Oakland. This was especially tragic because Bailey was one of Oakland’s more vigorous civic figures. It also added to image Oakland has long beset itself with as a black criminal playground/prison training camp, because its numerous homicides each year are almost wholly attributable to the African-American residents of that city. I say this as a person who was born in Oakland, June 19, 1964, and lived in Oakland. I frequently wrote about that city’s affairs, and still care about the city, its problems and its residents.
It could be I did not write this particular story, but I suspect I did because there is note on page that notes lack of by-line for the story in my penmanship. It could have been that editors did not want my name on front page twice, which would be reasonable step in my mind. I was not the owner or editor of paper. Some journalists get touchy about by-lines, but I felt I had enough credit for my work and did not need to worry about it. It’s more than likely I wrote it.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for East Bay Journal, March 7, 1994. Headlined “Berkeley: Mayoral candidate speaks out on panhandling, AIDS and the budget”. Runs with photo by Chris Duffey showing Jeffrey Leiter leaving Berkeley’s city hall “after filing his application for interim mayor of Berkeley.”
(Note: The RIHGA Royal Hotel is now going by a different name.) This article provided some insight into the history of Berkeley, and one of its more dynamic residents. One can learn something about leadership from his quotes. Also, the quotes give some insight into what it was to be gay in the SF Bay area in the early 1990s, as AIDS was now revealing itself as one of the world’s most devastating epidemics.
He was Berkeley’s first openly-gay mayor, adopting here a voice of moderation for benefit to the city’s business interests. That is another note of interest here, the emerging contribution of a relatively politically conservative gay America. He would not be judged as conservative in Los Angeles, maybe, but in 1994 Berkeley, he stood out. The main thing he had which distinguished him was public communication skills, in retrospect.
Even in 1994, openly-gay politicians were still being associated by the general public with older events; the assassination of SF Mayor Moscone, the White Night Riots, and AIDS was considered the body of gay American history. In a way, Mr. Leiter was broadening the image for the SF Bay area, normalizing and updating it a bit for the 1990s. Instead of gay names being the tragedies of Rock Hudson and Harvey Milk, they were now increasingly associated with the less-exciting city budgets, real estate and state and federal political leadership.
It’s a particularly awkward subject for cities like Berkeley because they have tried diligently since the 1970s to maintain a progressive image, to prove ultra-liberalism can work for a major urban area. In homelessness, the far left wasn’t doing much for Berkeley businesses. You had to have someone like Leiter, who was business-minded but with liberal credentials, to speak frankly on the issue and be treated seriously by local voters.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, East Bay Phoenix Journal, August 2, 1993, headlined “Judge rules few lawsuits will be allowed.” This story was one of probably hundreds in print and broadcast media regarding lawsuits against government agencies following the 1991 fire. This one was against the City of Oakland and the East Bay Municipal Utility District and alleged negligence in maintenance of public streets in the fire-affected areas.
I heard this charge against local government hundreds of times after the fire from various sources while covering aftermath of tragedy, and the rebuilding of the residential community. When I read the story today, it reminds me of how different the residents of various communities truly are.
That is, a disaster of any sort hitting some poor sections of Detroit will be dealt with far differently than a disaster in the hills of Oakland, CA. The most obvious difference is in the wealth of the victims, and in respective familiarity with legal system. The especially rooted difference is in the respective perceptions of local government.
In the poor neighborhood, it’s more a perceived right to government aid for a return to normal food, drink and housing. In the wealthy region, it’s about the perceived accessibility to the American legal system and the government’s financial responsibility while operating within it.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for East Bay Phoenix Journal, likely date August 2, 1993, page 1, headlined “Berkeley buys foam-spewing fire engines.” This story is one of many which discuss prevention measures, since California in general has major issues with wildfires, and always has. The problem has grown as the state’s population has increased.
Unpublished draft called The Edge of Freedom by Lurene Gisee of Milan Hackersmid’s memories of life in Czechoslovakia under Soviet domination in the mid-1960s during the Cold War.
This August, 1998 draft is still open, being completed, because I set it aside for about a decade. In 2007, Milan and I began discussing it again. He is today near Montreal, Quebec in Canada. We began this work in San Francisco. I have about twelve recorded interviews with Milan on this subject.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, April 20, 1999, headlined “Upheaval continues at KPFA.” Please see KPFA stories at bayarealureneb.blogspot
Published news story for Phoenix Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer headlined “The ‘Redlining Menace’ in L.A.” Published on April 19, 1993, page 9.
The story is a subject that inevitably arises following disaster of any kind. In California, this means one will probably read a story somewhat like this at least once every three years. Why? California is called the Golden State but should be called the Insurance Required State.
It has massive fires, floods, landslides, prison riots, hostage dramas, earthquakes, windstorms, freeway pile ups, wild animal attacks, biological catastrophes and epidemics like AIDS, bridge collapses, mass-murder events, droughts, agricultural catastrophe, fog attacks, killer heat waves and cold snaps, widespread criminal negligence and drunkenness, political assassinations, train wrecks, celebrity suicides and drug overdoses, ship accidents, oil spills which destroy thousands of uninsured birds and fish, chemical explosions, racial riots, nuclear accidents, air pollution in highly-populated areas and economic catastrophes which hit various industries and regions.
This is easily attributable to the state’s size and location, but also to the diversity of its population and wild economy – remember the California Gold Rush and Dot-Com Crash. When events like this are of no economic interest to the insurance industry in California, there’s trouble in the cards.
Every segment or category of humanity wants to be in this state, and large groups of them despise other groups. If you want to be a California reporter, you’re going to learn insurance at one time or the other. If you’re a public servant, it’s even more imperative you learn the insurance industry, the reinsurance business, and the way most insurance contracts are written.
Havoc awaits the uninsured.
Given all that, it’s no surprise that some aspiring politicians like the one featured in this article use disasters as a political launching pad, as was Mr. Garamendi. In this matter, the subject was insurance options for areas of California that the companies say are difficult to competitively serve.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for East Bay Phoenix Journal, June 7, 1993 headlined “Insurance ‘redlining’ foes are gaining new clout”. Story is one of many I did after the fire of October 20, 1991 regarding post-fire rebuilding and insurance issues.
Typing this story into my library in January of 2008, I can clearly recognize shades of today’s “subprime lending crisis” inside the insurance practices discussed in this article. In the article, we have an insurance agent who repeatedly offers insurance to black buyers at a low introductory rate. Later, the black policyholder can’t pay the growing fees of the contract and fails to fulfill the obligations of the agreement. The insurance company, American Family in this case, was stuck with multiple contracts with customers who could not pay, and the agent was raking in the commissions. We see the same game with today’s subprime crisis, except today we’re discussing much more money and a greater swath of suckers.
What stands out about it today is how easily we mistake the entire financial practice for purposeful discrimination/racism against black residents who need homes/insurance. It should be recognized as the money-generating scheme for independent agents and brokers that it was then, and is today.
However, I think it’s unlikely the broker/agent is motivated by classic racism. He wants to make large sums in commission; the race of the customer is very probably beside the point. See it this way: If all the agent/broker’s customers were broke-lime green, he would still eagerly sell the financial product.
Mischaracterizing the commission scheme as a discrimination issue furthers the practice simply by keeping it legal. Yet, in allowing that mischaracterization, the state or local politician falsely gets credit for helping poor minorities.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for Phoenix Journal, April 19, 1993, headlined “View ordinance – Is it too late?” Runs with photograph by Chris Duffey with caption “Bob Wentworth, left, and his neighbor Greg Mize complain that a view ordinance should have been able to prevent their neighbor from building a house which would obstruct the view of the bridge Mize had from his deck before the fire.”
The story points to yet another aspect of rebuilding after a catastrophe. Under normal conditions, houses get built either two or three at a time, hundreds at a time through development projects, or through individual initiative. The entire process is determined according to the income of the homeowner, the affluence of the neighborhood, the geography, weather patterns, and more. For example, one can’t build a home in earthquake-prone San Francisco using the same building standards used for hurricane-prone New Orleans.
In this case, it was a matter of finding ways to get relatively affluent neighbors to cooperate. A view of the San Francisco Bay from a Berkeley or Oakland hills home can make a tremendous difference in the value of the home, so it was a significant issue.
Published news item for October 18, 1993 issue of East Bay Journal. Headlined “Petaluma girl still missing.” It was probably authored by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, since I kept it with my clippings, but because it is more a news alert than story, there is no by-line.
The kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas turned out to be a major criminal story for California because of unintentional missteps by law enforcement agencies. The small item runs alongside a photo of Klaas and police sketchings of the suspect. The girl was probably already dead at the time it ran. She was kidnapped October 1, 1993, and it seems she was probably raped and murdered soon after by Richard Allen Davis.
The caption for our item read “Police are looking for a white male 30 – 40 years old, approximately 6’3”, with dark or dark gray hair and full beard. The night he abducted Polly Klaas he was wearing dark clothing and a yellow bandana around his head.”
The reason why the case was incredibly tragic is law enforcement officials very nearly caught the murderer the very night of the kidnapping while he was still at the site of the crime. They saw him open a beer near his car, which was mired in mud. Still again, October 19, Davis was arrested for drunk driving and released.
By the time this alert was published, police had a suspect description, but had no suspect yet named. That suspect turned out to be Richard Allen Davis, who had a clear history of violence against women. He was later tried for the Klaas rape and murder and found guilty. The body was not found until November 28 by area hikers. Davis confessed December 4. Today, if you read the entire account, it is sickening. There is a public fantasy that exists to this day: A man repeatedly caught for violent acts upon women is likely to mentally fix himself with enough prison time and the right public encouragement. It never happens. We’ve seen false imprisonments, men convicted for crimes they’ve never committed, but we don’t see sexual offenders change.
The entire case provides at least two lessons today: poor communication between law enforcement agencies is dangerous, and men who are violent toward females don’t change. They should not be released from prison confinement under any circumstance.
Published news story for East Bay Journal, May 16, 1994, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer headlined “Berkeley: Anti-loitering ordinance passed.” This was one of ten or twenty stories I was asked to do on Berkeley’s struggles with panhandling:
Because the ordinance requires police to target those with an intent to sell drugs, John Vance, of Berkeley’s First Amendment Center, criticized it as a law which forces police to assume “psychic powers.”
Councilmember Dona Spring abstained, and Councilmember Maudelle Shirek opposed the law.
Both said they had doubts about whether the ordinance would stem the sale of drugs in Berkeley and cited concerns about civil rights.
“We know this is not the panacea, but it’s not meant to hurt anyone,” said Councilmember Mary Wainwright, who supported the regulation under pressure from constituents in West Berkeley who fear drug dealers. “It came out of desperation,” she said.
The ordinance will target those loitering in parks, schools, recreation centers, all-night laundries, retail liquor outlets and boarded-up buildings.
Unpublished interview with Lloyd G. Francis in Washington D.C., June 26, 2005, with Lurene Helzer regarding his time as a photographer for several U.S. military publications during the current Iraq war. The interview was done on cassette tape. Lloyd discussed his experiences in Iraq, his observations of the military, the Iraqis, and his thoughts about the conflict, the region.
Published editorial by Lurene Helzer for The Spectator of Chabot College in Hayward, California. I was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper for this community college at the time I wrote this, which was May 17, 1985. It is the “As I See It” section of the editorial page, and is headlined “Why Women Are Still Complaining”. Of course, in 1985, feminism was still a relatively novel concept. In 2008, typing this old editorial in for my library, I have to laugh at areas of it.
It at least shows something about my thinking in the mid-1980s. I am making the point that the popular advertising and language of the 1980s does not recognize modern life for American women, how things had now greatly shifted in the American home. It seems trivial for most women today in the United States, but perhaps this would still have meaning for women in other cultures.
Still, it’s worth noting here that I was making reference in 1985 to a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would never gain the support it needed to lawfully pass. It was originally introduced for congressional debate way back in the 1920s by the National Women’s Party. American women had only won the right to vote through the 19th Amendment in 1920.
By December of 1923, two Kansas Republicans, one man serving in the House and the other in the Senate, introduced the ERA for congressional action. Even more amazing by conventional standards, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, opposed it (probably as early as the 1920s) because she thought it would work against the interests of American women. Yet, Mrs. Roosevelt was a women’s suffragist. So, one has to be cautious when attributing some section of human rights to one political party or another. Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. both took various positions.
Other popular causes on campus as I edited the newspaper in 1985 were American divestment from South Africa, the now emerging AIDS epidemic, and a new era of glasnost and Perestroika introduced by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. U.S. President Ronald Reagan began a second presidential term just a few months prior to publication of this issue. This after the American Cold War leader’s landslide re-election – sweeping 49 out of 50 states. One song that seemed everywhere in 1985 was by Til Tuesday called “Voices Carry.”
In that issue, an editorial regarding South African investments by Jim Griffin titled “Divestment Not The Answer” runs below my own editorial. As editor, I was trying to give stage to then-unpopular views along with the popular ones.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for the Chabot College Spectator, April 19, 1984. Headlined “ASCC campaigns heat up as election nears.” Story is about a student government campaign. Chris Arellano was still editor, so he made decisions about the stories and photos we ran, the editorials, and headlines. Later, I edited the paper. Mr. Arellano’s lead editorial for this issue concerned the “sandbox politics” of the student government.
Arellano and I edited the paper with far different attitudes. I thought the paper should cover student government, but did not much care about it. Chris took pains to portray it as juvenile.
When I view the old student paper again today, I still hold this view. I think college student governments exist to educate students. One expects them to be infantile. I mean, come on!
Far more interesting today, however, are other areas of this issue. We see a photo by (my long-time friend) San Francisco photographer Lloyd Francis of a protestor being dragged away by police. Headline for photo box reads “Red Alert: Nuke Protesters Arrested.” Caption reads “As of Wednesday, April 17, forty-one protesters were reported arrested, for their part in Tuesday’s Passover protest, at the Livermore Radiation Laboratory...”
The laboratory is near our Chabot College Valley campus, which is why we were covering it.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was often the place to be for news pictures because protests were frequent. Lawrence Livermore Lab was one of the two major nuclear laboratories in the United States. Between 1958 and 1960 it was headed by theoretical physicist Edward Teller, who served the lab as director and in several other respects. He helped originally organize the lab, actually.
Teller was controversial even among other physicists, and was tagged “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” He never cared for the phrase. But this and multiple other things regarding his work in nuclear weaponry was quite accurate.
Nuclear physics was little understood. Of course, who outside theoretical physics understood these things, anyway? Ernest Lawrence, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, and Robert Oppenheimer understood the issues. They were some of the key names associated then with the Manhattan Project. That project, with the knowledge and approval of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, led to multiple developments. Most notably, under President Harry Truman, it led to the bombing of Japan in 1945.
Normally, this stuff is for history and science class. I include it here because it was still a bitter controversy, even in 1984. The protesters in the photo may not have understood the science, but they obviously were not in favor of ongoing nuclear research in the San Francisco Bay area. Remember: The Cold War was still on. All of this is the most important feature of the newspaper in 2008 because our worries about nuclear weapons are very far from over.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Chabot College Spectator, May 3, 1984. “Voter Registration Increase Sought” is the headline for this front-section story.
I also did a story that appears on the inside regarding John Cognetta, who was the director of student and alumni activities. This story is still fun to read, so it appears first here. It was headlined “Taking A Closer Look At John Cognetta.”
This issue includes photos by Howard Ford and Lloyd Francis, who were my most loyal friends through the college years. I still am in contact with Lloyd Francis weekly today. He has worked in multiple U.S. and international venues, including several conflict zones in the Middle East. He today is married to Leanne Francis, lives in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. They have two boys they are raising, Marley and Waylon Francis. Lloyd’s parents were immigrants from Jamaica. His father practiced engineering in the SF Bay Area.
Howard, who was an incredible news photographer in those years , was often with us in search of new journalism stories.
Howard Ford and myself, in fact, gained entrance to San Francisco’s Soviet Consulate on Green Street in 1984. Soviet General Secretary Konstantin Chernenko was in the Kremlin, I believe. Gorbachev had not yet arrived, and the Cold War was in full force.
Around this time, the Soviets were boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, occupying Afghanistan, and ratcheting up tensions inside Europe. Also, the U.S. presidential election of 1984 ended with a 49-state win for incumbent Ronald Reagan.
Much of the tension of Europe was in Germany. That state was then divided into two sections, as today’s students of the 20th Century would know from rote history classes and popular James Bond films. In June of 1983, Octopussy with Roger Moore was released, the 13th film in the James Bond gaggle based on the books by British writer Ian Fleming.
I still have that photo of Howard’s of Soviet Vice-Consul Gennady German. My story yielded nothing of public interest. But Howard’s photo contained news value regarding American relations with the Soviets, as they then were. Yet, I must mention that today, Howard Ford is married to a talented neuropsychologist, and remains a respected photographer in the San Francisco area.
In a brief 2007 catch-up conversation with him, I learned Mr. Ford, who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, justifiably and competitively charges his Bay area clients fees beginning at $5,000. The full story on Mr. Ford can be found on the internet under Howard Gale Ford Photography.
Unpublished comedy by Lurene Gisee, February 1, 2008, titled “The Adventures of Pre-Approved and Feckless.” In these scenes, the criminal cats and their cohorts are up to their usual tricks in a Hayward, California neighborhood, and in Europe. The second chapter will be called Pre-Approved and Feckless Fleece France to Plunder Paris.
Essay Lurene Gisee wrote for email discussion with friend February 29, 2008. My friend felt that Israel could benefit by restructuring itself with secular ideas. I provide my reaction in this commentary. I am saying it would likely not greatly change circumstances in 2008 Jerusalem. I dwell on a few points specifically. I also argue much of what the region needs is economic restructuring.
Published advertisement for job I obtained, The Millbrae Sun-Leader newspaper, October 6, 1982. The newspaper served one of the many suburbs west of San Francisco, usually referred to on radio shows and their traffic reports as San Mateo County.
Millbrae is right next to the San Francisco International Airport, so gets much of its tax revenue from large hotels that line the town’s main streets. It is one of the surrounding communities of San Francisco, so-called because it attracts homeowners who work in San Francisco’s Financial District. These are families wanting quiet neighborhoods not too far from San Francisco.
The city maintains good public schools, which house mainly Caucasian and Asian students. Nearly 56 percent of the homes are occupied by married couples with one or two kids, and it’s probably not the most popular place for low-income, single moms.
Why do I mention these statistics? Because these were the towns where a small theatrical company like Walt’s Productions could find its clients. I worked for Walt’s on weekends dressed as Wonder Woman for birthday parties. We performed in many cities, nearly always those with the educated, prosperous families who could afford to hire us.
Sad to think now, but you learned stuff about kids and money you never knew. The poor kids were not the ones seeing us. They got mom in her beat-up high-school clown outfit, if that even. So you learned something about how money made differences to childhood. We almost never performed in depressed neighborhoods because we were not hired by parents to perform there in the first place.
The largest party we ever worked, however, was on San Francisco’s Treasure Island on July 4 for military families. These were not rich kids, of course, but they had pretty good lives compared to the kids on the other side of the Iron Curtain then existing.
It’s also interesting to see the old newspaper. Most of Northern California still used the 415 area code, so a Fremont company like Walt’s Productions could advertise in a Millbrae newspaper without mentioning an area code at all in the advertisement. Since about 1991, California became a virtual soup kettle for telephone area codes. You were needing the fenced numbers for either San Francisco, Eureka, or Los Angeles when it came to codes. You can’t help remembering seeing old newspapers.
More importantly, I’ll never forget the hundreds of kids I could see from the stage, their terrific squeals, and the fantastic excitement in their faces. It was a fun job for an 18-year old as I then was. Silly job, but it paid a few bills until something more serious came along. I was in college by 1984.
Published news story for Castro Valley Community Review by Lurene Helzer, Correspondent, November 15, 1985, or very close to that date. “Group promotes life Beyond War” and my companion piece running under a smaller headline to its right, “New thinking takes strength.”
The Community Review came as a 4 or 6-page insert paper for residents of Castro Valley who purchased or subscribed to The Daily Review, which served Hayward and surrounding areas in that part of the San Francisco Bay area. I was in my first year of college, thrilled to see anything with my name in print all over town.
The stories were about another peace group, rather typical for those years of the Cold War. The tone I use as journalist is enthusiastic, but also realistic regarding the Soviets as they were in the early 1980s. They had Gorbachev as leader when this story came out, but had Andropov in office before. Andropov chaired the KGB and engineered other crimes, like crushing the Prague Spring demonstrations in 1968 Czechoslovakia.
I mention in this 1985 story, in fact, that it had been just two years since Polish activist Lech Walesa had won the prestigious Nobel Prize, but was immediately blocked from traveling to collect it by the communist authorities then controlling Poland.
So, this news package was the standard rubbish we inevitably ran to fairly cover the activities of peace groups, which were then numerous in the San Francisco Bay area. You did not have similar groups openly existing in Russia or elsewhere in Communist Europe. The Soviet Union basically had to rot before we saw any meaningful reform.
It’s not that there was anything wrong with this particular group, or with the concept of disarmament in general; peace is wealth if you can reasonably maintain it. But you have to be careful with the meaning of the word.
Okay, one can say today’s Cuba is at “peace” – they’re not being attacked by senior citizens from Florida’s coast or those hot-looking marijuana boys running Jamaica -- but the only thing Cuba’s maintained since the 1959 revolution is a dictatorial state more cleverly embedded than the dictatorship which preceded it.
But back then, the peace groups were not truly considering the closed societies. These were populations living under authoritarian governments. We had to negotiate and maintain arms control agreements as the dictatorial rulers in Eastern Europe and Russia jailed, murdered and severely restricted anyone they wanted.
News story by Correspondent Lurene Kathleen Helzer for the Daily Review in Hayward, CA, January 9, 1987. “Transit commission discusses ‘innovative’ fund-raising ideas.” Story provides details about the typical difficulties local governments meet in trying to meet the costs of public transportation.
Maintaining roads and traffic lights are tremendously expensive to cities and counties. The average American driver, to substantially lessen his costs, would need to be willing to drive far less often, and he isn’t.
You know what you hear when you suggest as much to the average American. I don’t even need to bother reporting the refrain. “I have to drive because I have….,” your driver quickly says. Fill in the rest of the sentence. You know what you’re doing and hardly need the humble politician or reporter to remind you. Just the bill.
In fact, I have considered generating a good pile of cash manufacturing packs of flash cards. Could put them near chewing gum near the grocery register. The front of each card would say “I have to drive because….” Each card would contain a different excuse on the reverse side. Teens love them.
So, the transport infrastructure costs the U.S. government a great deal of money in general. I usually avoid easy gags, but there really is no such thing as a free ride when it comes to the great, American open road.
It has to do with inflation, the value of the dollar, and the cost of common infrastructure materials, i.e., cement. Boring, but quite true.
Published news story by Correspondent Lurene Helzer for Castro Valley Community Review, undated, but probably published shortly before November 1985. Headlined “Couple planning boys’ home on ranch.” The story profiles a moderately wealthy couple housing troubled youth.
In doing the 2008 update research for this library, though, I see the couple began to oppose emerging political ideologies which were addressing issues of homosexual youth.
The couple featured in my story was conservative Christian. We did not quite make an issue of this in the mid-1980s because we did not recognize it as a major issue. Nor did readers.
Political debate changed, though, in the 1990s. We heard increasing calls for services to gay youth. When this began, Christian activists began to speak out, or even withhold financial contributions to area charities.
We were accustomed to hearing area leftists oppose Christian conservatives in the late 1980s, but the appearance of HIV threw a wrench into the whole debate by the middle 1990s. Nobody felt the same about whatever their political positions had been, if they had positions, that is.
Then, AIDS slowly changed from a primarily gay issue to a primarily African-American issue. We saw HIV transmitted increasingly inside populations that had frequent problems with incarceration and narcotics.
Again, traditional left-wing groups blurred their focus. Nothing was quite straight anymore. Old harangues were useless.
Here’s the point for 2008: The left now typically wants to make excuses and allowances for the sexual mores of Islamic populations living in the U.S. and Europe. They are ignoring the very traits in today’s Islam that they bitterly opposed in conservative Christianity in the 1980s. They are also out of town when it comes to Islam’s low regard for free expression.
What’s happening for political cartoonists in today’s Europe? Where’s the Free Speech crowd of Berkeley now? What we’re seeing is the trampling of liberal values by the liberals themselves. There’s no use in denying this anymore.
As a journalist, you have to generally understand the slippery history of the late 20th Century, and tailor your questions well. To the extent possible, you have to be truly non-partisan as a modern journalist. You have to consider all the arguments.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, February 11, 1987, “’Marginal’ businesses face hardships in mall’s wake.” Includes photo alongside story by Lloyd Francis, Jr. of street sign. Caption reads “This sign proclaims this lot’s ownership by Schurgin Development Co. Parking by permission only; violators will be towed, at owners’ expense.”
Redevelopment was a big issue in this area of the San Francisco East Bay. This is generally because the businesses affected are less-profitable to the community’s tax base, and the residents affected are nearly always low-income suburban residents who cost the city in services – law enforcement -- and stubbornly maintain structural and visual conditions of residential blight. This discourages more profitable residents of area from conducting routine business in the area, and similarly drives away profitable commercial development.
Many average Americans don’t realize how destructive this becomes over the years for the surrounding community. Blight on the main drag quickly begins to adversely affect schools and parks. Pretty soon, you have something called the East Side, the North Section, or the Other Side of the Tracks. The town is bifurcated then, and a far more serious cost to the city. Naturally, the middle-class eventually flees completely, and you have something like Philadelphia, PA.
Coincidentally, the photographer for this story, old colleague and friend Lloyd Francis, had an internship for one of the major Philadelphia papers by July of that same year. Lloyd is an African-American, but was unlike most other African-Americans because he grew up in relative affluence in Castro Valley, CA. Lloyd and I were both outsiders cruising downtown Philadelphia. Lloyd was there to work, though. I was there for adventure.
I went to visit him. We took a drive one day through the very seriously blighted North Philadelphia neighborhood. I took a few shots using B&W film. He might have been on assignment.
The photos tell you all you could possibly ask about the look and results of serious, long-term urban blight. This is the black inner-city. Let’s be plain: it’s similar in some ways to the urban conditions one might find in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, Correspondent, February 2, 1987, for The Tri-Valley Herald and The Daily Review, “Groundhogs in spotlight for one day.” This was a holiday story for page one, if you consider Groundhog Day a holiday worth noting, that is.
Newspapers and all other forms of news media (except the worst propaganda media, probably) run stories like this for people that like lighter stuff or alternative views on the page or in the broadcast. Even on day the Great Depression is recognized as hitting in 1929, you probably had a story like this somewhere in major papers.
You certainly had stories quoting New York brokers in the next few weeks who painted the October 29, 1929 crash as a profitable sign for investors. E.F. Hutton and Company spokesmen were quoted in The New York Times as saying on November 1, 1929 that it was “hard to imagine any reason for selling high-grade securities at these levels and there seems to be every fundamental and technical justification for buying.”
Okay, sure, but I hope you don’t have a broker like this in 2008.
Groundhogs had nothing to do with the Great Depression, of course, and nobody alleges they did. But, as my story considerately warns, groundhogs won’t have anything to do with the weather that day. It reminds readers that if groundhogs emerge from their garden homes February 2, 1987, it’s no weather forecast.
Unpublished outline for Apology of Socrates, January 14, 1985, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA, by Lurene Helzer. The ISLS program was a special selection of courses at the community college for students who showed interest in obtaining full degree at university, and had minimal qualifications or requirements for doing so. I think I had to be approved for entrance to the program.
Unpublished essay on The Apology, Plato, January 14, 1985, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA, by Lurene Helzer. One thing I remember clearly about the instructor, Ms. Barbara Pope, is she did a great job of challenging students like me by demanding superior academic performance.
There were no easy grades in this course, probably because she thought easy grades would deter us at the university level. The assignments, like the one here, obviously were not light, either. There is nothing simple in the arguments put forward by Plato. In my nightmares, Plato is an attorney interrogating me as I cry.
Unpublished outline for biblical book of Genesis, January 11, 1985, instructor Barbara Pope, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA, by Lurene Helzer. This was not a religious course. We worked on the first book of the bible to get insight on Western thought.
Unpublished essay by Lurene Helzer on The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, January 30, 1984, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA. I added on March 4, 1985 a second paper, which was a slightly revised version of this first paper.
The Canterbury Tales were written between 1380 and 1400 in England. I honestly do not think this was a very good paper while reviewing it again in October of 2009. I was just not interested, and it shows clearly today. Why?
I could not in January of 1984 appreciate Chaucer’s meaning to the England of 1400. Also, Chaucer’s writing, back in 1984, seemed to me hard to follow, unexciting. Nor could I appreciate the Middle English style of writing.
Today, I think Chaucer’s work gives one hundreds of insights into England as it existed for people centuries ago, so is worth the reading effort. You laugh because it keeps occurring to you that people are the same in multiple ways, century after century.
Unpublished essay by Lurene Helzer on The Inferno, by Dante. February 25, 1985, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA. Another paper, a revision, was added later. When I look at these early papers of college, I can’t recognize myself. The language and punctuation was comparatively poor. A few years later, however, I was able to get regularly published in local newspapers, so this must have been a period of dramatic academic growth for me.
Unpublished outline for Charles Darwin’s book On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1984-1985, instructor Barbara Pope, Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science (ISLS) program, Chabot College, Hayward, CA, by Lurene Helzer. This book by Mr. Darwin today is almost as important as it was in 1859 when it first was published. Especially today, it is still widely misunderstood because of this popular phrase “survival of the fittest.”
The phrase means that species, for example, that can swim will survive in the ocean and species that can not swim will not be as suited for oceanic life. The poor swimmers will die out naturally. It does not mean that some vengeful club of hateful, bloodthirsty sharks murder smaller sharks for amusement.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer, Correspondent, for local section of The Daily Review, April 9, 1986. Headline is “Lawbreakers help clean up schools.” It was an interesting-enough story. Those offenders convicted of sex crimes, violent crimes or drug abuse/trafficking were not eligible for the program.
You typically had offenders from various walks of life paying their debts to Alameda County for drunken driving or minor traffic violations. They were probably first-time offenders, as well. I doubt you would be eligible for the program if you were serving your third offense for drunken driving. In any case, the parents were kept informed of the program. If I was a parent today, however, my main concern would be about the neighborhood, and the kids in the school. My casual observation is that when you have a neighborhood with a high percentage of single-parent homes, the social problems are predictable.
Items of Library of Lurene Gisee but not yet entered on March 31, 2008:
President Jimmy Carter’s address to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco – 1984 embargoed copy until scheduled delivery of July 16, 1984; Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer to Cheryl Dayton (not Bjorkland, yet) dated June 20, 1989 which discusses my upcoming trip to Jerusalem for a year of study at Hebrew University, how my then-boyfriend, Dan, is reacting; Business cards for Lurene Kathleen Helzer, reporter for The East Bay Journal in early 1990s; Letter, handwritten, to Janet Leonard, June 16, 1980, by Lurene Helzer from Mountlake Terrance, WA; Letter, typed, to Susie Mincy, June 5, 1988, from Berkeley, CA.
Unpublished college paper by Lurene Helzer, March 18, 1985, Machiavelli/Locke, Interdisciplinary Programs in Letters and Science program at Chabot College, Hayward, CA. When I look at this messy, old paper today, I think it’s great I was studying these books at 21, but that the paper would not pass my own standards today because of the errors of omission and grammar.
At least I was starting to think about such writings, however, and see something about the structures and ideologies of states. Machiavelli’s book, The Prince, with respect to its advice for thieving, underhanded leaders, could have been written last week. It’s hilarious because it’s plain.
Locke, on the other hand, seems brilliant, but half-blind about real human behavior.
The man who lifts $7.2 billion from the public purse through fraud easily finds a comfortable seat in Machiavelli’s theater, but if he goes to Locke’s theater, he’s in the wrong suit from the get-go; you can’t compare the population which has followed Locke’s directions to the population which has been formed by the ideologies of Machiavelli. Locke is modern Finland, Machiavelli is perhaps today’s Venezuela.
Unpublished essay/reply email by Lurene Helzer, November 11, 2003, about ongoing conflict between Israel and radical Islamic groups. See http://risksinreporting.blogspot.com for this item.
College essay by Lurene Helzer, undated, but probably sometime near 1985, regarding Galileo Galilei’s 1632 book “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” The essay was written in the course of my studies with the Chabot College Interdisciplinary Studies in Letters and Science program.
It’s good I was accepted to the special community college program for university-bound students, but when I look at my paper today, I must acknowledge it as truly substandard work. No date, all kinds of formatting issues, various failures to cite sources, misspellings, and more. My dog could’ve done better writing, and would’ve made it to class on time, too. Every time.
In old attached note, instructor hurriedly writes “You have fine insight into the works. Your writing however is in great need of some study and careful editing. Analyze your rough or final drafts (this paper is one – as is Machiavelli); correct it for verb tense agreement, consistency , spelling, jargon in place of accuracy and clean it up to turn in a readable copy. All the mess makes your reader stumble and give up – even on your good ideas. – B. Pope.”
So, regarding this great European and father of today’s science, Galileo in the 1600s was heavily censored and persecuted by religious authorities as they then existed in Europe; Galileo was doing this work during the Inquisition, which started as early as 1184. But if he’d written a paper in the 1600s as sloppy as this one I did in the mid-1980s, the Catholic Church would have taken him to be just another Italian Marblehead, which he today literally is, of course, guarding thousands of today’s libraries.
Why do I call this work I did a bad paper? Because the professor, Barbara Pope, had to make a lot of corrective red marks on the paper, and even had to remind me to include the date of my work on the first page.
So, yes, I was on my way to better schools, but you wouldn’t necessarily have made that prediction if seeing the condition of this paper I threw in like a paper airplane between my WonderWoman gigs. In fact, if you picture me in this costume, ready for work at the children’s birthday parties in the San Francisco Bay area, it’s easier to picture me turning in this paper.
You can nearly hear my attitude toward old Europe in this paragraph of my paper:
“In this passage, Simplicio brings the question of respect into scientific proof. This is not really serving any purpose in the dialogue since the subject is not whether or not Aristotle was a nice guy and if he was deserving of respect. Simplicio is using this argument [sp] only because he can’t think of anything better.”
Unpublished satire by Lurene Helzer, How to Make a Peace Agreement by the “Central Intransigence Agency”, written sometime around early 1999, on Palestinian-Israeli negotiations as they appeared to be coming along during U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration from 1997 to 2001.
This small satire is handwritten and undated, but it was probably scratched out sometime during, or shortly preceding, the U.S. House and Senate’s attempted impeachment of Mr. Clinton, since it mentions the Monica Lewinski headlines we were seeing at the time.
I evidently had no intention to peddle this to newspapers or magazines. Seems I scribbled it out for fun while sitting with coffee in front of the television in my apartment in San Francisco at Sacramento and Franklin streets.
I can tell the document was about as serious as the game of “go fish” or “tarot cards” one might play in bed on a Sunday while watching Sunday news programs. There are notes in margin saying, “Sunday. –Burritos in freezer – tapes – Slimfast, fruit. – Subtract from checkbook…” So it’s easy to put together. I was watching news, scribbling out shopping/to-do list, and thinking of jokes about Bill Clinton’s adventures in the U.S. Oval Office.
Some of the proposed contract details:
One: Our Way or Our Way
Two: No Highway
Five: Complete Security for Israel against all terrorists, carjackers, jaywalkers, shoplifters and stray cats until 2050 regardless of race, religion, creed, etc., or deal’s off….
One: [Map showing old Ottoman borders] Palestinian Statehood, this Wednesday….
Four: Arms-For-Fewer-Hostages deal w/Hezbollah…
Five: Grant for Construction of new Louis Farrakhan Revisionist Information Center in West Bank….
Unpublished satire by Lurene Helzer, undated, but probably about 1985 to 1988, called “How to Get Rid of Expensive Houseguests.” It is satire of visit of my sisters and one of their friends as they visited me and my cats. I was then living in Oakland, CA on 4300 block of Park Boulevard.
Content for this area moved to bayarealureneb.blogspot.com
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, May 7, 1987, headlined “Storefront Improvement Funds Retargeted for Harding Child Center.”
This story I wrote and the others like it are important to me because they fit into an ongoing debate in American society: How do we deal with commercially struggling or crime-prone districts in urban areas? They turn into cities with high homicide rates and boarded windows.
Okay, redevelopment. But how does a suburb do this within a limited budget? In California, if cities spend too much on urban renewal, the fire or earthquake soon arrives and, consequently, is met by too few emergency men with too few dollars. In other words, who really affords affordable housing?
This question is apt to California. Natural disasters are so common in California that I am hearing about one on the radio as I write this very paragraph, and you are probably hearing about one as you read this paragraph. If you’re not, you’re listening to the wrong station.
This says urban development/land use issues are a major part of California political leadership. So, what does that say for re-elected leadership in the Golden State? It’s about taking the bull by the horns for the real leader. We’re talking about a tolerance for land-use battles and bitter public debates for the sake of genuine progress. The California leader who really wants to deal with urban blight does not fear serious political fighting.
Unfortunately, he or she may also see nasty campaign ads, riots and even political impeachment before seeing substantive progress over urban blight.
George Deukmejian was California’s governor in 1987. He had been since 1982. But when it came to redevelopment, we were working with many of the precedents set by past state governors Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown, as well as problems/legislative solutions as they were in the mid-1940s. (Reagan went on to the U.S. presidency, of course.)
So, getting back to 1987, the very concept of redevelopment, from the beginning, was inelegantly designed to trip over itself with each and every budgetary mile. Useful public funds moved from one program’s control to the other; public monies generally reallocated themselves so redundantly that the mechanism resembled a spinning casino wheel more than it did a program intended to genuinely clean up the blight of poor neighborhoods.
So, not shockingly, by 2008, we’re seeing local governments and politicians nearly ignoring the federal mandates for urban redevelopment. Housing officials even at the highest levels are frequently thrown out of office for theft and/or incompetence.
Cities are tearing down public housing towers in cities like Chicago, refusing to rebuild housing for the poor in others. It’s an extremely emotional and sensitive issue for many Americans, but there is no doubt in 2008 that the country’s urban leaders no longer quite trust urban renewal as a concept.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, February 11, 1987, headlined “From orchards to urban blight: A background of redevelopment implementation in California”.
This story explains much of what the previous story with my introduction comments begins to discuss. This story takes a deeper look at the history of redevelopment in California, and how the concept operates for local governments via tax laws. It also points out, though in little detail, how redevelopment is slowly lessening the conglomeration of the very-low income in some housing regions.
In other words, in 2008, we are finally beginning to see cities and states saying bluntly that housing the very-poor is virtually akin to setting up a violent crime laboratory in designated sections of a city. They do not want to support “affordable housing” programs any more than they absolutely must support them by law.
In this 1987 story, though, it’s almost hidden within redevelopment law.
In this story, we see this in paragraph reading “…Counties receiving these meager tax dollars are also challenged with meeting the increased service needs stemming from redevelopment. In building up their commercial sectors, cities invest in additional capital improvements, which in turn require increased funding for maintenance.
Of the nearly 47,000 housing units eliminated through redevelopment, about one and a half times that number of units has been replaced, [California Senate consultant Peter M.] Detwiler said.
But he added that for the very low-income population, only half of that housing has been replaced….”
Of course, this was a quiet way for cities, in the 1980s, to encourage the poor to relocate. But in 2008, cities are increasingly willing to announce their development agendas plainly and openly. Middle-class urban residents virtually want the high-crime, low-income neighborhoods blown up, and they are increasingly saying so with the ballot box. They find many ways to intimate this, however.
One of the quotes pointing most directly, and amusingly, to the public discomfort with urban blight is said by Mr. Detwiler in the lead paragraph. He spins U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 words in the first paragraph: “Urban blight is like pornography: you know what it is when you see it.”
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, date unclear but presumed to be around 1987, for El Cerrito Journal headlined “Korman & Ng Retreats From Plaza Project.” Story runs with photograph, possibly taken by then-Journal editor Bennet Harvey, with caption, “Jack Freethy spoke to the City Council regarding his ability to take over the construction of the office building developed by Korman and Ng.”
Korman & Ng remain in Berkeley, and seem commercially vigorous, judging from the 2008 website. Others cited in the article are still active in 2008 Contra Costa/Alameda counties, as well.
The story today still illustrates how the involvement of public funds may complicate a development project. For example, disagreements between developers have instant public arbiters and media observers if a government agency is involved.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, October 29, 1987, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer headlined “Ballot Measures Indicate Shortage of County Funds.” I do not have the entire story here, unfortunately.
This story is ostensibly about Contra Costa County funds in 1987 as those funds related to toxic materials. The story is boring, but it relates to public health. How ignored can toxic materials remain within an urban area? How long can this continue until something explodes?
But it’s also about the open use of public funds. Peripherally, the story also shows how difficult it is to get some people outside government to speak clearly about public money, or to speak at all. Some in El Cerrito said they thought funds already existing were not being properly used.
Your average homeowner sleeps if the subject is city maintenance. The costs of it bore him even more.
Also, when doing stories like this, it’s hard to get all the players to comment. Financial journalism is not like covering Hollywood or the National Football League where all the participants want their say. This is challenging, because when it comes to writing about a government budget, every credible source imagines himself as actor Tom Cruise or Football Hero Eli Manning being chased down the street by desperate reporters for comment.
I would make the call to the source in any case, and make the silence part of the story. Sometimes, the story is clearer for this reason in itself.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for East Bay Journal, June 6, 1994, headlined “Berkeley: Firefighters blast chief.” This touchy news story aired disputes between Berkeley’s firefighters and Berkeley’s then-Fire Chief Gary Cates. By the time I wrote this story, a deep bitterness had erupted between the two camps in the aftermath of the massive fire of 1991. The public was paying close attention to this issue, and some were themselves emotional about being forced to revisit the disaster.
As many know, fire is a major issue in California. If a conflagration occurs, people and their families are initially overpowered by flames and smoke. They may die or suffer serious injuries, watch their homes turn to ash, have to come to terms with the disappearance of their loyal pets, lose their money, and be forced to battle with insurance companies and rebuilders for months thereafter.
In this matter, the battle was between members of the fire department. The story reveals anger from start to end. In the end, even the fire chief was angry at me for my choice of words. So, it is difficult to cover disputes such as this.
I think, for the good of the city, reporters need to study labor disputes in college before covering them for a news organization. For the reporter, labor disputes are difficult to cover fairly without incident. If I were an editor, I would prefer to send my more experienced reporters to cover disputes like this. It’s unwise to send the new reporter who does not know the local region and its politics.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, Inc., December 9, 2001. Headline for this Northern California wire service story is “NASA Ames Scientists to Investigate Global Warming.” BCN69 is their reference number.
Bay City News, as a wire service with office in downtown San Francisco, provides news and weather reports at all hours to print, radio and television news outlets in Northern California. I was working for them.
When I sent this story out from the bureau’s office at Fox Plaza at 11:31 that morning, it was because I was assigned the story after our office received a press release by NASA earlier that morning. I was not hanging out with astrophysicists in Houston or something.
NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a federal office that was formed in July of 1958 under then-U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The forming of NASA marked the start of the so-called Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In the late 1950s, the U.S. was becoming increasingly nervous about the Soviet space program. The Sputnik 1 satellite was put into outer space by the Soviets on October 4, 1957. Americans were shocked. The U.S. believed itself to be still technologically ahead of all other countries. Here was indisputable evidence that the entire world could see that Russia was astonishingly ahead of us. Our embarrassment deepened with further technological and scientific progress by the Soviets.
By May 25, 1961, President Kennedy was speaking to the U.S. Congress about trying to get a man on the moon. Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson was fully supporting Kennedy in this matter, and had been from the start of U.S. space explorations. All of this history is easy to find.
In this matter, though, NASA was sending to media organizations a press release concerning the idea of global warming, as it was then being discussed in December of 2001.
By studying things like Tropical Anvil clouds, they were trying to prevent the public from making snap judgments about the planet’s atmosphere. Anvil clouds are difficult to study for many reasons. They are difficult to get near, for one thing. They are the vengeful breath of devastating thunderstorms, mesocyclones, severe hail and tornadoes. These clouds are dangerous to airplanes. If you notice one while outside, you might be in big trouble. Run.
They acknowledged the concept of global warming was still controversial, and were beginning a project to study the actual ice clouds in the sky. NASA scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in nearby Mountain View, CA did not believe we were yet informed enough to reach conclusions regarding the atmosphere’s changing temperatures.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for East Bay Journal, August 15, 1994, headlined “Youth speak out on Crime Corridor.” For this assignment, I discussed Oakland’s crime problems with local students and police. I enjoyed talking with the students, getting their views into print. I liked asking the police for their views, too.
As of this July 2008 retyping of the story for this library, the crime-control project for youth here described has failed. The rate of murder is still atrocious. A renamed program, the “Municipal Firearms Ordinances, East Bay Public Safety Corridor Partnership” now exists for a broader section of high-crime areas of the San Francisco East Bay. It includes this Oakland area.
In the updated program, there is more discussion of transportation, housing, education and commercial redevelopment. That’s a step in the right direction. The largest issue for the area is still violence, however.
Various gun regulations and laws have been passed or implemented, but the homicide rate in Oakland and other poor areas of the nation are as high as they ever were. Gun control may lessen violence in some respects, but it’s largely been ineffective.
City councils, when passing or supporting firearm laws, imagine that murderers are the sorts of guys who obey parking regulations, fret about tax laws, debate morality standards between themselves and observe societal norms. They do not. Clearly, this is one reason gun control has never impressed this section of society.
It is also a reason that Americans from these areas of society would not survive for three days in other parts of the world, with or without an illegal gun. Can you see these Oakland or Detroit kids at 25 making a new, successful life in Damascus or Nairobi? With or without weapons and money, they would not survive with their poor language, financial and negotiation skills. It would not help to be outside the prison of American racism. Lack of societal skill is the fundamental problem the homicide rates obscure.
There were 127 homicides in Oakland in 2007. When this story was written in mid-1994, the homicide rate by December of that year was a frightening 238.
Overall, the city in which I was born in 1964, and at one time peacefully lived, remains one of the most violent areas of the nation. Most studies show Detroit as the most violent of U.S. cities, and Oakland two or three ranks behind that Michigan metropolis.
Poem by Lurene Gisee, unpublished, undated, circa 2006, “Do We Need Nature?” This poem was probably one of those weird little expressions I scratched out after reading something about mathematics or physics. In fact, if I read more frequently about math and physics, I might have avoided journalism and gotten into finance or medicine. Something more profitable.
Unpublished poem by Lurene Gisee, June 8, 2008, “1 p.m. San Francisco.” I wrote this while sitting on the roof of friend’s apartment building on a sunny day during a visit to San Francisco. From the Jackson Street building’s roof, I could see the Golden Gate Bridge clearly and hear a weather helicopter passing overhead. The helicopter probably carried a few reporters for KGO radio. It might have been another broadcaster, though. Whoever it was in the helicopter, the city’s news broadcasters provide frequent traffic and weather reports. The poem is written in present-tense, so I am parroting the perspective of a radio traffic reporter for five minutes here in this poem. Parroting is the right word, too, because there were three or four actual parrots just a few feet from where I sat, on the next building over, a few feet east of me. To be honest, though, I never did weather reporting.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, December 21, 1986, for El Cerrito Journal. “City Council Meets: Schurgin Project Approval Near.” The story gives a glimpse of redevelopment and how it works or fails to work. Talks usually involve municipal authorities, area developers and local landowners or tenants.
In late 1986 when I wrote this routine story about redevelopment in downtown El Cerrito, the blight was slowly becoming evident.
By 2008, the city has been somewhat successful. They were eventually able to attract a few new commercial developments.
However, glancing at El Cerrito’s actual crime reports for June and July of 2008, we see a dismal pattern of robberies, car thefts and residential burglary in the same areas mentioned in this 1986 news story.
Many of the suspects are from Richmond, right over El Cerrito’s border. Richmond has an embarrassingly-high rate of homicide and other crime, as they also did in 1986. That is, when compared to rates in, say, Sausalito in Marin County. That city is far more prosperous, of course.
This is part of what the agency’s director, Patrick D. O’Keeffe, was trying to address: poverty and the crime that usually goes along with it. It is nearly impossible for a city like El Cerrito to do this with its limited resources, however.
There have been multiple efforts over the last few decades to address the stubborn populations of high-crime areas.
Okay, you see educational/motivational programs come and go, job initiatives, costly anti-drug efforts, the cookie-cutter and ethnically-focused campaigns to raise community standards in general.
Frankly, these efforts rarely move that year’s crime statistics up or down. When and if redevelopment succeeds, it’s frequently called gentrification by the left and even cited as racist by the traditional populations.
The American politician who wants to genuinely bring change expects imprecation by the public, withstands it, and still gets the work done for a longer-term public benefit.
Draft satire by Lurene Gisee, July 2008, "Pre-Approved and Feckless." Satire of liberal economic ideals when they meet a financial crisis engineered by gang of criminal pets.
One scene features armed cat walking into private home. Cat confronts homeowner.
Terrifed, the shaking man whimpers, "What's the meaning of this?"
"Affordable housing, buddy. Get my food," Feckless answers.
Published news story in Hayward, CA newspaper The Daily Review regarding my June, 1983 graduation address. Story is headlined “Student speakers praise adult school”. Adult schools are not usual high schools. Kids/young adults who missed months or years of regular public school attend these schools to finish high school, obtain their diplomas or GED certificates.
I gave the high school commencement address along with one other student, Cynthia Ruebel. I went on to begin college; Ms. Ruebel joined the U.S. military. I did not know Ms. Ruebel, but we were each asked/invited to deliver a commencement address because we had been, in at least a few respects, standing out as achievers.
This news story is one of many about graduation ceremonies published that day in the Hayward/San Francisco East Bay region. It quotes me, which is only reason I include it in my library.
Receiving a high school diploma from such a school implies the student’s normal years of high school were interrupted. This was so in my case.
It was a common story of the 1970s, though. Kids were in families split up through domestic violence, financial irresponsibility, adultery or whatever. My family was like thousands of others of those years.
I was the oldest child, and showed the least tolerance/humor for instability. I misbehaved, grew angry, yelled at other family members, left one home for another for another, was abandoned a few times by parents or parental figures, changed schools often, and etc. I thank the lord it was only the late 1970s, early 1980s, because had it been 2008, my handlers surely would have served me a pile of behavior-modifying drugs each day! Again, thank the lord for leading me to rebellion, to my own path, however wavy and misguided it might have sometimes become. By the time I was 18, I was already back in California, renting a bedroom with old friend Janet Leonard and her family. I’d known them all since I’d been 6, and felt stable, loved, treated normally.
Putting all this aside, I was entering a world where Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President, still serving his first term. Diane Feinstein was still San Francisco’s mayor. Feinstein wasn’t conventionally placed for her first mayoral term, but was on the city’s board, so needed to take office in the aftermath of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk’s November, 1978 assassinations.
Urban riots had followed the assassinations because assassin Dan White was tried and convicted, but of a lesser charge. It was widely seen as corrupt inside San Francisco’s Castro District, and led to riots. AIDS would pop up a few years later. These were politically-charged years in the San Francisco Bay area; exciting years for a student journalist.
I do not have the entire commencement address I delivered to the crowd of maybe 200 people. The Daily Review was a paper for which I would later work as both a copy clerk and freelance reporter. It’s amusing today how I was already quite convinced in 1983 of where I wanted to place my bets in life, thus making it part of the speech.
Published news story for El Cerrito Journal, December 21, 1986, by Lurene Kathleen Helzer headlined “1986-1987 Budget: Review Of City Revenue Sources.”
What stands out in this story from the perspective of 2008 is the lower numbers involved, obviously, but also how El Cerrito then was drawing higher revenues from a variety of sources, like property and franchise taxes, compared to the previous year.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer, Correspondent, for The Castro Valley Community Review, August 29, 1985, headlined “Arney provides the horses for all reasons.” Photo by Saul Bromberger runs alongside the story. The Castro Valley paper was a Thursday insert supplement to The Daily Review.
It shows Jim Arney and his wife, Pat, saddling up two horses on their Castro Valley ranch. Photo caption reads, “Jim Arney of Arney’s Crow Canyon Ranch in Castro Valley, saddles and bridles his horse Ginger for a trail ride while his wife Pat does the same for her horse, Little Bit.” I sometimes spoke to photographer Bromberger casually while in the newspaper’s offices, and he later married another of the employees of the paper, then-named Sandra Hoover. I have a few of Mr. Bromberger’s photos taken in the late 1980s, all Black & White shots. This photo which ran in newspaper was also a B&W.
Published news story for The El Cerrito Journal by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, March 12, 1987, “Redevelopment Agency Gives Final Notice To Delinquent Developers; Horizon Learning Center’s Al Woulf Offers An Alternative.” The story catches my attention today mainly because I think it plays with the standards of journalistic fairness, though quietly. I was not seeing this then, and I doubt the paper’s editor was worried about this, either.
While revisiting the story for the library in late August of 2008, I notice then-editor B. Harvey followed different rules of style when he was editing, and followed those standards consistently. In this 1987 story, he’s routinely capitalizing words within my writing like “agency” and “city.”
This is probably routine style for many governmental and/or legal documents, but it’s not cool for standard journalism. It anoints a status to the word it did not before carry. A bill is something you pay, for example, but Bill is your dad or maybe an idea within the U.S. Congress.
Regarding the rules of speech, you see occasional strays from common journalistic style by some media outlets like The San Francisco Examiner. That paper still refers to San Francisco in its stories as “The City.” This form of language whispers privately to the heavenly lit, chosen San Francisco reader, in effect.
You could see the more serious effect the writing style had if the story was about a good earthquake or a dramatic SF political tragedy like the assassinations were of Moscone and Milk in 1978. In those times, one begins to see just how touchy a population is about city politics. Riots, millions of dollars in repair bills; you’d better call it “The City,” because you’re going to be paying a lot more to live in it this year.
But in the SF Examiner style, readers understood themselves to be reading the copy as it was because they were in San Francisco. They would not be seeing this confirmation of their blessed status in Omaha -- or even Jerusalem, now that I consider the matter. In Jerusalem, calling the city “The City” in Hebrew news articles would be a new, bloody argument in the region and at the UN in New York.
But in the instance of The El Cerrito Journal, it was “the City” because the paper was parroting the style of the governmental legal documents standing between the city’s council and the proposed developers.
B. Harvey often inserted commas, for El Cerrito Journal stories I wrote about ongoing redevelopment projects, in places we routinely omitted them. This means he was following more of a legal than a standard journalistic style. For some readers, this may have been a signal that our loyalties were with the city’s redevelopment agency.
The Associated Press Stylebook, which is the standard arbiter for questions regarding grammar and style between American journalists, says commas are unnecessary before partial or indirect quotation.
These are meaningless differences for the average newspaper reader. Yet, the rules of style a publication chooses convey information to the reader about the political slant the publication is holding.
Having written all that, I suspect Mr. Harvey edited this newspaper on the side. Maybe he was a Berkeley law student.
Old City of Jerusalem postcard sent by Lurene Helzer from Jerusalem, Israel, May 7, 1990, to Norma Mondozzi in Staten Island, NY. I was rather astonished when finding it inside a book in 2006. I’d forgotten that she’d so considerately saved it, given it back to me after she received it. Norma, a native New Yorker, was a photographer living in that state. I met her while she’d been visiting San Francisco a few years prior. She seemed to me sophisticated back then, and this is still the way I remember her.
I was flying from Jerusalem, on my way back to the United States to continue attending college in San Francisco. I’d been living in Jerusalem for the previous year, attending Hebrew University as a one-year student. The Cal State International Program -- if you could win a place in it -- was essentially for students who met its requirements and could compete with other applicants throughout the California State University system.
I did not think I would win a spot, even with competitive grades, because of California’s large size. I also would be competing primarily with Jewish students in California who were interested in attending college for one year at The Hebrew University. They often wanted better insight into Judaism’s long history. I felt I did not have a competitive edge; I did not know a single Hebrew word. I’m not Jewish.
I sent Norma, a talented photographer, the card from Jerusalem letting her know I was on my way home, and would be stopping in New York. She allowed me to stay at her apartment with her for a few days. She had a spare cot. She might have taken an artistic photo of me in this period, black and white, which I still have.
Had I not stopped in New York, I would have stayed in London before arriving back to San Francisco. Seeing this postcard again, though, I have to regret never visiting London, or touring Europe. Why? I don’t know.
However, I studied a gross ton of European history while in Jerusalem, and, of course, the Berlin Wall fell while I was on campus. What a year: It was the beginning of the end to the long, Cold War.
Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, undated, but likely published shortly after June 11, 1987. The headline is “Pollster Harris Reflects On Trends In Society, Life And Recent Events.”
It has my name listed as author, so there is no doubt I wrote it, but the exact run date and publication name are not on this clipping. I want to say I wrote it for The Daily Review in Hayward, CA, but I can’t say this with certainty. I suspect it might be The El Cerrito Journal because of the editing; alcohol is spelled “alchohol” in this story, which may well be the accepted spelling or alternative spelling in some countries or venues. The El Cerrito editor, B. Harvey, used his own editing standards, but consistently so. It was not a publishing or editing error.
Whatever the editing standards, I remember writing the story. The reverse side of the clipping has advertisements listing telephone numbers for Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Hayward, Castro Valley and Oakland, and they are all numbers still within the 415 area code at the time; there are actually several ways to date a story, approximately, without having to dig through old newspaper office files in California.
Looking at tangential items is one way to date news stories. You would find some political tones in 1977 news stories regarding Iran, but those same tones were history by 1987, as this story shows in the pollster’s comments. Also, Mr. Harris makes reference to the upcoming presidential election of November, 1988. Reagan was still the incumbent president, serving his second term, when this was published. Of course, Harris did work with/for more than one American presidential campaign, starting with John F. Kennedy.
Having said all that, the story is about famed American pollster Louis Harris and his just-competed book, Inside America. I was sent to The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco by editors to hear him speak about statistics and what they could tell us about American people and American history. Embarrassing things that are today, September 21, 2008, regrettably and tragically true.
“…it’s not good enough to live well. Americans want to live well and have the added security of ‘having people know you are living well.’”
This was one of the many things Harris said at the Commonwealth Club that I reported that day. Statistics are tricky, and frequently twisted while mixed with politics. But Mr. Harris seemed to have a good understanding of statistics and the responsible use of them. Ask yourself how, in 2008, we have changed as you review this small section of my 1987 story:
“Fifty-three percent of us would engage in insider trading even though, if caught, would run the risk of going to jail. And, not surprisingly, ‘a majority of yuppies admit they do their own tax returns so they can cheat,’ Harris said.
‘No CPA’s would sign their returns,’ he joked.”
Unpublished paper by Lurene Helzer for a personal/public health course, March of 1982, titled “The Paradox of Morality.” It must have been written during last year of high school, because it is handwritten and has phrase “period 3” on title page. I was 17 when I wrote it.
Reviewing the paper in late September of 2008, it seems to question the inevitable consequence of limitless moral/legal flexibility for American society, as it was for me, in 1982. Reading it today, September 29, 2008, I find it both amusing and prescient. I have the tone of a teenager because I still was. It’s hilarious how I am using 1964 encyclopedias as references on one page, advertisements from Rolling Stone on the next and articles from Cosmopolitan on still others. You can tell a 17-year old girl wrote the paper.
Published news story for Bay City News by Lurene Helzer, June 1, 2001, 5:10 a.m., “BCN8: MAYOR WILLIE BROWN HELPS TO KICK OFF FIRST OF JUNETEENTH”
Story is about then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s first municipal recognition and observation of Juneteenth. I am glad I happened to be on the desk that morning, having opportunity to write this short news story which was sent out to Northern California newspapers, radio and television stations.
Willie Brown was a virtual synonym for politics in California, and I would have to say this whether the population of California always approved of his leadership decisions or not.
Published news story for Bay City News by Lurene Helzer, December 4, 2001, “VACAVILLE MAN IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTING”
This story was about a home intrusion attempt by then-suspect Michael Lennon Gilmore, 19. Vacaville police chased him and shot him during a chase. Not to minimize the fright of the residents, but this is a routine crime story for a California wire service. Much of what municipal reporters will be assigned to write is about crime, such as the alleged crime described in this story.
Your whole career as a journalist might turn out to be one, long episode of the old television cop show Adam 12. I must admit, we loved that stuff as kids. Today, routine crime stories such as this do not draw nearly the same public fascination, or targets for advertising.
We covered these events for our clients, of course, but most of our concerns were about legal accuracy; we had to get the suspect’s name spelled correctly, and be absolutely certain we called him/her “the suspect” inside the story, according to police sources.
The reporter has to learn the legal framework of criminal reporting, whatever the subject. Not knowing the basics can get a media organization into huge legal trouble. Think of lawsuits for false accusations, for example.
So, you use the same standards in writing whatever the alleged crime might be, major or minor. If a hamster is kidnapped during a drunken football bash during a Saturday night college party, the kidnapper is merely a suspect until proven guilty so far as the journalist or law enforcement official is concerned. The hapless hamster is now stolen property.
Foolish? Maybe so. But the surrounding facts make the story. If the suspected kidnapper is, say, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, and the poor rodent is the stolen property of Monica Lewinsky, we’ve obviously got quite a story for tomorrow’s news. In this fictional example, the reporter would have those little legal ideas down from the start, we hope.
Comedic news headlines, unpublished, by Lurene Gisee, December 26, 2007. Email sent out to number of friends regarding phony current event headlines, or headlines depicting national events that probably happened but were never reported. Example: SEE EXCLUSIVE STORY PAGE A3: CRUSHING GUILT OF KGB AGENT FINALLY OUT: “I ASSASSINATED THE WRONG GUY”.
Unpublished email/essay by Lurene Helzer, November 12, 2003. The essay is refuting specious political allegations against Israel. I was not trying to publish it, and I was not involved with any political group while doing this. (This might be an edited version of another version in this library.)
I wrote the essay because the allegations being made against Israel were toothless saws, easy to counter, and written by someone with an assumed identity.
Allegations like the ones I am arguing against here are constantly circulating on the internet. I admit, though, I enjoy refuting such arguments for the same reasons I enjoy doing crossword puzzles or logic problems. They are exhausted political smears, but they nonetheless invite contrary comment from time to time.
Here’s the thing: Propaganda’s look never changes, substantially, but by October of 2008, it holds a larger, superficially credible and more inclusive net for its prey. This is the heart of what tabloid buyers want – societal inclusion and acceptance.
There’s money in it, too, for those seeking more profitable careers.
The media tools available for propaganda’s dispersion have improved, and the authors find it easier than ever to retain anonymity. To put it frankly, circulating propaganda to gullible consumers is about as easy as buying beer and cigarettes in Los Angeles. Political propaganda, enjoying the heavenly wings of the First Amendment, claims to uphold the rights of this or that oppressed group. In reality, propaganda helps legitimize, maintain and even disguise the losing group’s actual, long-term disadvantage.
Press release by Lurene Helzer for the Bellingham Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), May 22, 2003, “96th Annual Meting YWCA”. This was probably distributed to various financial contributors in Whatcom County, in Washington state, as well as to local newspapers, radio and television stations. I do not have the mailing list for this document.
They did not edit it much because most of the concern was in publishing the budget numbers accurately. I think providing one or two financial figures for philanthropists was the main purpose of the document.
Still, I enjoyed having reason to look momentarily at the history of women in the United States. Women in the U.S. did not enjoy the right to vote until August 18, 1920 through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The YWCA began its services in 1855 in England.
Published news story by Correspondent Lurene Helzer for Castro Valley Community Review, December 5, 1985, “Taping memories with video scrapbooks”. This small Sunday paper was an insert for Sunday issue of The Daily Review in Hayward, CA.
News photo showing subjects Don Martinez and Arue Szura sitting at desk with video equipment was taken by Daily Review staff photographer Carol Padovan. It runs alongside the story.
Published news story by Correspondent Lurene Helzer for The Daily Review in Hayward, CA, January 28, 1986, “Lottery puts youth center in a bind”. Photography by Review staff photographer Nick Lammers. Three photos run alongside the article. Lead photo shows Jeanie Yoon, Jamie Caisse and Matthew Peterson on the playground toys, another shows Natasha Patterson in the youth center and the third photo shows Jamie Caisse and Jeanie Yoon on a swing set. The kids seem to be of pre-school age.
California’s state lottery was approved by the state’s voters with the passage of Proposition 37 in November of 1984. Soon after, newspapers began doing stories like this one about non-profit organizations that saw their public contributions decrease. In this case, the organization would hold bingo games. Those regular bingo players began buying lottery tickets instead. The California Lottery was passed by voters to help fund the state’s massive education system, but since the passage of Proposition 37, the state’s education system has continued to decline. It’s a greater issue in some areas of the state than in others, as it was before voters approved Proposition 37.
By October of 2008, the whole state was essentially broke along with multiple banks and insurance companies around the world. But nobody was blaming that week’s numbers in or on the California state lottery.
Published news story by Correspondent Lurene Kathleen Helzer for The Daily Review in Hayward, CA, February 20, 1987, “BART service better, ridership picks up”. This is a rather routine service review of the San Francisco Bay area’s regional trains/subway system, Bay Area Rapid Transit.
It’s a story about the routine, quarterly performance report at BART for the last three months of 1986. It’s not unusual insofar as government accounting reports go, but I can’t help wondering as I revisit it in November of 2008 if one line of my story was actually from the report or a joke.
My story reports that 1986-1987 BART directors had considered serving liquor on trains to boost ridership. This probably only means one of the BART directors mentioned the idea during a meeting. It was never implemented. It seems amazing to read today, though.
How desperate government agencies can get for money! The lengths they will consider going to meet routine operating expenses!
I guess it’s not so stunning. Airplanes sell wine during long flights and always did. Amtrak also sells limited amounts of alcohol to riders.
I think the difference is in routes; the Amtrak rider is usually going to be on the train for at least a day, perhaps traveling over much of the country. If the Amtrak passenger wants to get drunk and disorderly, he’ll get booted off.
Airlines, similarly, just won’t tolerate drunken travelers anymore. Unfortunately, the American glory days of the slim, perfumed, enormously-breasted, big hair stewardess serving super-stiff drinks to their 1950s businessmen are way over. It’s sad. I had to go into journalism, instead.
Unpublished letter from Lurene Helzer to Cheryl Dayton (now Bjorkland), June 20, 1989. I mostly discuss my then-boyfriend Dan Gillespie, my upcoming academic trip to Israel, and Cheryl’s upcoming marriage.
This letter was written just days before I would fly off to Jerusalem for a year of schooling at The Hebrew University through Cal State’s International Program. Two things stand out when reviewing it in November of 2008. First, I am discussing my first serious boyfriend in some detail, Dan Gillespie of Pleasanton, CA, who I am preparing in 1989 to leave behind for foreign studies. I discuss his considerable wealth in general, and how he seems reluctant to discuss my trip to Jerusalem.
Dan today stands out in my mind as one of the most intelligent men I ever dated. Yes, he had wealth, but it seems our tie was not based on money. Rather, it was the adventure his wealth provided us that made the difference. He was blonde, good-looking, slim and tall.
He was from Scottish roots. He was about 35 then and owned a modest, twin-engine Piper aircraft. He flew it himself, often flying me to lunch in Lake Tahoe, CA. We would eat tasty food in the glitzy area of Tahoe known for gambling, but Dan did not gamble.
Dan did not care for gambling because it just was not the way his mind worked when around numbers. He was an electrician who could have easily been an engineer, given his math and spatial abilities.
So, in Tahoe, we would eat and crack jokes while gazing out on magnificent Tahoe from the top floor of a major casino. Then, we’d return to the plane, fly off, then land on the Livermore airport’s runway by early that evening. The area he then made home was in San Francisco’s East Bay and had a warmer, drier climate.
So, I went to Jerusalem and would remain there studying from the summer of 1989 to the summer of 1990. It seemed a miracle to some back home that I even returned to San Francisco alive. The second Intifadah broke out around the time I got on the plane to Israel. There were riots, various acts of war, stabbings and terrorist bombings all year. Terrorist attacks occurred all over the region, including the one in Egypt’s Sinai as I prepared for and took my trip to Cairo. Then, on November 9, 1989 -- if the preceding was not enough excitement for you -- the Berlin Wall fell as I sat one day on the campus scientist Albert Einstein helped to begin following the Holocaust.
What a trip. I returned home. Dan showed up at my apartment.
“Dan!” I said in shock and amazement. “I never thought I’d see you again!”
“You could put it that way,” he said laughing.
He walked in, we talked. “Are we getting together again?”
“Hell no,” I answered Dan. “You should have written me at least one letter.”
He stormed out mad. I never saw him again. Still, it’s water under the bridge; I carry no bad memories of my time with him in November of 2008.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer to Janet Leonard, June 10, 1980. Letter provides detail about my leaving the home of my father. I was 16 then. This might have been about a year after my mother dropped us 2 kids – me and Kathy then – like luggage off at the house where my father lived with his divorced, alcoholic girlfriend, Linda. It was on the outskirts of Lynnwood, WA.
Linda took to drink, I believe, after her sister, Laura, died of cancer. Her father had been a problem drinker, but quit. So even though I could not tolerate the woman, I today clearly see things as they were in the house. It was a family completely devastated by divorce, drink and death. I do not know every detail, but it’s not so important. You figure it out.
Mom impulsively dumped us off because my father would not pay child support. But, to be truthful, each parent intensified and/or excused the faults of the other for years, though my father was the more frightening of the two.
At any rate, I managed to flee and survive, return to California and continue school. I would not turn into a case of teenage prostitution or heroin addition, thank goodness.
The main thing a child from a troubled home needs to do, I think, is cut the tie without guilt, at least temporarily, maybe permanently. One needs to stick to that decision, too.
All this talk from psychologists about the value of family togetherness and forgiveness is stinking rot if the parents are unable to manage their own lives. Kids need to know when to walk out, cut family ties and then safely and morally run their own lives.
When dad is violent and mom doesn’t have the intelligence to craft her route away from him with the kids, the kids are far better off without them both. I hate to have to say it, but Christianity and I – all religion, really – must part company when it comes to the rules of family cohesiveness.
The letter was written to my most trusted friend, Janet Leonard. I’d known her since I was six years old, and remain in contact with her and her family in 2008. She saved the letter, to my amazement, returning it to me some twelve years later.
Unpublished letter by Lurene Helzer to Sue Mincy, June 5, 1988, sent from the San Francisco Bay area where I lived. I was about to start a new semester as a student at San Francisco State University.
This letter is amusing today, still accurate in some respects. I am discussing the San Francisco Bay Area as it was in 1988, and laughing in 2008 about how little the region has essentially changed in character.
One thing that took me by surprise is that I used the phrase “politically correct” while joking to Susie Mincy about Berkeley. I did not think this term was yet in common usage in 1988, but I guess it was. Ms. Mincy lived in Lynwood, WA. Her wonderful family took me in as a teen. I was basically homeless since my family, with some notable exceptions, was irresponsible for their young as a clan.
In a broader sense, you can’t deny times have changed. I’m typing this into my library 20 years later and listening to radio news about the current economic crisis as we prepare to inaugurate Barak Obama.
I am seeing these words from 1988 and can’t help remembering a show about today’s career/business ideas I caught the other week. Show’s guest – some kind of financial counselor – said it could be profitable in 2008 to open businesses with today’s late baby-boomer in mind as a client, which is what I am.
He said one of top areas to make money was in tattoo removal.
Yes, he said, tattoo removal. For example, guys are hitting 45, 50 and find themselves as many pounds overweight. They look at the big tattoo on the arm. It says “SATAN”.
In 2008, Satan is a sagging glob of shit on your fat arm. You’re not that hot. The chicks are not into devil worship like they were one semester in 1988. But that’s not the worst part.
You’re a pediatrician in Sausalito, CA.
Published news advisory by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, August 11, 2001, “BART DOWN BETWEEN WEST OAKLAND AND SAN FRANCISCO STATIONS”. These advisories were usually announced by radio stations during morning drive hours in the San Francisco Bay area.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, August 9, 2001, “RICHMOND TENNIS EVENT TO BENEFIT PIT BULL VICTIM”. These brief stories were usually used for newspaper feature stories, quick television news stories on the evening broadcast, or were announced by radio stations serving Northern California listeners.
This story would have been of direct interest to those in Contra Costa County, which is in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay region. Dog attacks seemed rare until the time people began acquiring some breeds to train as attack thugs. We began seeing more dog-mauling cases involving kids and postal employees.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 31, 2001, “TUGBOAT SINKS MONDAY NIGHT NEAR RICHMOND”. This story was not only an “action news” story, but had a lot of trick-areas for the writer who is trying to shove it out quickly and accurately, as I was at nearly 3 a.m. that morning in San Francisco.
I say this because the short news item refers to tug boats. I quote the speaker as saying, “It was an assist tug. I’m not sure what the boat’s exact description is.”
It seems like a correctly punctuated sentence superficially, but the speaker is also discussing tug boats in general, how they routinely operate near the Richmond dock. So editors at Bay City’s office corrected my work. They took the reference to the tugboat as a reference to all the tugs at the scene that morning. They removed the apostrophe.
Why? Because the next sentence quotes the Coast Guard Petty Officer discussing tug boats in general as they were stationed in Richmond’s inner harbor that morning. He is comparing the distressed tug to the normally-functioning tugs which were right nearby. So, there are many grammar lessons hiding in midnight journalism.
In a related issue, many political activists call themselves journalists, but have never professionally covered a boat or train accident. This is one way to recognize bogus reporters; phony reporters can’t be hired to responsibly record the everyday incidents that befall a metropolitan area.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 31, 2001, “TWIN CITIES POLICE SEARCH FOR BANK ROBBERY SUSPECT”. This story makes me laugh in Nov. of 2008 because the man for whom police were searching was described as dropping a baseball cap near the bank. The cap had distinctive ad symbols. Hell, why not just leave a friendly business card for victim?
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 6, 2001, “HOMELESS PEDESTRIAN VICTIM OF HIT AND RUN ON VAN NESS”. This story reports incident that morning in downtown San Francisco. It was a hit-and-run. The victim was a homeless man shuffling along one of the city’s major North-South veins, Van Ness Avenue.
Van Ness, which was actually one of cross streets to my own then-address in Pacific Heights, begins near Fisherman’s Wharf and ends near San Francisco’s City Hall. If walking North-South, we’d not only experience a slight rise in elevation some blocks after leaving the wharf, but would pass San Francisco’s Opera House at 301 with Davies Symphony Hall nearby. So it’s an exciting, metropolitan street, culturally and historically, but also a terribly busy one.
This poor homeless guy with no shoes was wandering about sometime between midnight and 5 a.m. when the streets are dim, quiet and have few eyes. Whoever hit the beggar screeched his tires in futility, but did not successfully stop. He tore off.
One normally views such things as passing inevitabilities in a large city, but one detail remains vivid; the sound of the accident was so loud on that summer night of 2001 that bystanders two blocks away heard “the heavy thump of the person being hit.”
It was so loud, in fact, officers in the area, also hearing the thump, thought it might have been a suicide victim jumping from the top of a tall building, hitting Van Ness at that brief instant.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 14, 2001, “SEN. FEINSTEIN ARGUES FOR STRICT CONTROL OF SMALL ARMS”. This story, which is more for newspapers in Northern California than radio or television outlets, regards the tired controversy of small arms and legal limits on their trade between nations. California’s Sen. Feinstein favored more effort to control such arms.
It’s a form-story to me today of what is, basically, diplomacy for the horse show; imagine fancy stallions trotting to the cultured crowd in New England. It has all the correctly-spelled terms of international diplomacy in formal French, the quotes of this and that U.N. official, the non-politically-correct opinion of a Bush administration official, John R. Bolton, and the two-cents’ worth of conservative commentary from the Naval War College in Rhode Island -- the Naval War College commentator working, in this instance, with a conservative think tank. It was, like, 5 a.m. in San Francisco when I wrote this, which added something to the overall diplomatic tone, probably.
But I am in a conflict of interest; having my cake and eating it, too. I must admit that Sen. Feinstein was not only doing what she was elected to do in the summer of 2001, as my story records, but holding her own against multiple other figures on the world’s stage here.
Truthfully, I am not for or against Ms. Feinstein, and incidentally, I think most arms control efforts either fail, or are quickly made irrelevant by events. Why is this story about small arms control, involving the California senator, of note at all?
Because her life’s course was forced by armed violence and remains so in many ways. I can’t forget the photo of her taking the sudden oath of mayoral office after the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978. Her actions that day were forced upon her – too tragically -- by armed fanaticism. So, is it any surprise that she would be the main feature of this rote story about arms control in July of 2001? No, it’s not.
270. Published Datebook Advisory by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, June 28, 2001, regarding scheduled National Public Radio program “Talk of the Nation” featuring San Francisco’s Mayor Willie Brown and San Jose’s Mayor Ron Gonzalez.
Willie Brown was one of California’s few African-American politicians when he was elected to serve in the California State Assembly in 1964. He has never quite been away from politics since then, though he no longer holds office.
For years, you heard the phrase San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown on San Francisco news stations nearly as often as you did the actual call letters of the broadcasting station. Before that, it was California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. He was so influential in California that he jokingly called himself at times the “Ayatollah of the Assembly.” He would have had to joke like this, because it was nearly accurate.
His success in the state’s politics was mainly due to his training/experience in law and his truly priceless skills as a negotiator. Not to imply he was supported by all in the state or that he did not have occasional crashes. Jonestown of 1978 was probably the worst, from the perspective of many in the Bay area.
I won’t compare 1978 Jonestown with the attack in 2001 on New York’s World Trade Center, but when that awful day arrived for New York, Willie Brown was SF’s mayor and immediately acted. He canceled his flight plans for that day, closed San Francisco’s schools and courts, and recommended the immediate closing of the Bank of America Building and the Transamerica Pyramid; he did not want to see public trauma twice unprepared. (I was in San Francisco that very day, since I lived there. Stunned like everyone.)
The subject was urban issues for the Bay area and American cities in general. The phrase “urban issues” can mean almost anything. In this case, even after the Dot-Com Crash of March 10, 2000, “urban issues” meant the open and responsible management by Bay area leaders of the considerable public and private wealth from the dot-com explosion. So, for this reason and many others, Willie Brown, to this day in 2008, is one of California’s most skilled politicians in history.
Published Advisory by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, June 27, 2001, “Shooting in East Contra Costa County.” Story regards a gunshot victim who called Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department to report he’d been shot, but was so disoriented that he was giving dispatchers an inaccurate address. Medics were eventually able to reach him and take him to an area hospital by helicopter. Spokesman said the attackers, who might have had the wrong house, were probably seeking illegal drugs.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 14, 2001, “Falun Gong to Demonstrate Sunday in San Francisco.” The Chinese Consulate on Laguna Street in San Francisco is frequently the scene of angry political expression.
Consulates are not regular offices. Most visitors to consulates in San Francisco – whatever the country – are simply there to stand in line for a visa.
I don’t even want to think about the Chinese Consulate pedestrian visa line. I don’t want to get a headache and I’m afraid I’ll get hit by a car in that neighborhood. I also don’t want to get mugged at Laguna and Geary or ride the sardine-packed 38 Geary bus line home at 5:15 p.m.
There are many gestures to note at 1450 Laguna. In March of 2008, a protestor hurled a Molotov cocktail to protest China’s policy with Tibet.
It’s not shocking since China is a gigantic country with an immense economy and an increasingly restless, capitalist population, some of whom have ethnic or religious complaints. China has always had a plethora of trade and diplomatic disputes with countries in its region. This is especially true in late 2008 as we remember the recent Winter Olympics in Beijing. To be fair, though, consulates the world over are frequently the chosen sites for protest and violence.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, July 13, 2001, “Feinstein Asks Airlines to Set Alcohol Limits.” Sen. Feinstein wrote letters to several airline executives after several “air rage” incidents made the news around then. She urged stricter limits and cited the estimated 5,000 in-flight tantrums reported each year by airlines as the reason for her stance.
Unpublished letter from Attorney William H. Lynch, June 15, 1993, to Lurene Helzer regarding earlier article I did for the East Bay Journal.
The 1993 story was regarding allegations of “redlining” made toward an insurance company, American Family, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My story was coincidentally written/published as legal case was being prepared against the company by Mr. Lynch’s Milwaukee law office. Lynch was arguing the insurance company discriminated against African-Americans who sought property insurance in that state.
My story, however, was written regarding insurance issues in Oakland, CA following the East Bay Hills fire of October 20, 1991. It was a conflagration.
The blaze affected Oakland and Berkeley’s hills, and nearby El Cerrito. Large, property-eating fires are common in California. This flame was fairly close to the street on which I lived, then sharing an apartment with Photographer Tina Dauterman. My residence was not threatened by fire, but as Tina and I walked a few blocks up Telegraph Ave. to watch the unfolding destruction in the hills above us, our eyes were reddening from smoke. Yes, smoke can dance downhill if the fire is big enough! Fires in California can do almost anything, though. They are amazing. Kids from other states love them.
Tina took a quick shot of me standing there writing in my notebook, squinting my eyes. I can’t find the photo today. She took many photos of the fire that day, some of which she easily sold to publications, I believe.
I began writing for the Journal after the fire, covering a wide range of economic and rebuilding issues. A disaster like this is fleeting news, but coverage of the long rebuilding sells ads for news agencies. This is the only way they can report the economic issues which spring from a natural or man-made disaster.
There was plenty to report, too. The fire killed 25 people, injured 150, and destroyed 2,449 single family dwellings and 437 apartment or condo units. The economic loss was estimated at $1.5 billion, according to summaries by Wikipedia.
Published news story by Lurene Helzer for Bay City News, June 21, 2001, “Yosemite Issues Climbing Restrictions.” Yosemite is a U.S. park in central California, relatively close to its Nevada border.
The closure of some tourist areas of the park was announced by the U.S. Department of the Interior after the discovery of park officials of peregrine nesting areas. The sites had to be closed to shelter the bird families.
Peregrines are called the fastest birds alive in Britannica encyclopedia. When seeking prey, peregrines missile down to stab their weaker, bird victims with their merciless talons. It’s certainly a bird to protect, but I found myself feeling sorry for the birds’ targets, too, while quickly reading about them for this brief news story.