Friday, May 31, 2019

Ode to San Francisco, a legacy beer, and Ina Coolbrith



Writers have waxed poetical about beer and alcohol for millennia, and I can say from experience that more than a few poems have been recited while drinking; but as far as I know, this is the first time a poem has been featured on a beer can.

After a decades-long hiatus, Lucky Lager is on the shelves again with a new label that features a poem by Ina Coolbrith, California's first poet laureate and the subject of my biography. San Leandro's 21st Amendment Brewery is brewing the lager.

Hatch advertising in San Francisco, which designed the label, chose a short ode, "To San Francisco," a poem that Ina wrote while she was living in New York from 1919 to 1923.

To San Francisco

Fair on your hills, my City,
Fair as the Queen of old,
Supreme in her seven-hilled splendor — 
You, from your Gate of Gold,
Facing the orient sunburst,
Swathed in the sunset gleams,
Throned in an ultimate glory,
City of mists and dreams.

Ina wrote a sheaf of poems during the four years that she lived in New York starting at the age of 79, many of which described her beloved San Francisco. Nearly all of her "New York poems" were published posthumously in her final poetry collection, Wings of Sunset, including "To San Francisco."

Prohibition began in the first winter that Ina lived in New York, and didn't end until 1933, five years after her death. The General Brewing Corporation began brewing Lucky Lager in San Francisco's Bayview the year after Prohibition ended.

Ina wasn't a fan of the temperance movement, a social and sometimes militant insistence on the abstinence of alcohol. As Oakland's public librarian, she was told by the board of trustees in 1886 to order temperance books. She chose six. The wife of one of the trustees wrote up a list of 22, which Ina pared down to nine. The board insisted she buy all 22 books.

"All right! I did it: but I'm mad," she wrote one of the board members who was also a friend. "If it would do any good... I should say fill all the shelves with these books. But it doesn't. It is such a namby-pamby, boshy, imbecile, Sunday school method of doing nothing."

Although her Mormon relatives wouldn't have approved, Ina liked to imbibe at times. One evening, she apparently had one to many with
Charles Warren Stoddard, who along with Ina and Bret Harte formed the Golden Gate Trinity of writers. The next day she wrote Charlie, "Do you know what it is to feel like a stewed witch? Because I have heard of such a feeling, and I believe I am experiencing it today."

More than a connection to alcohol, the ode chosen for the label of Lucky Lager is a fitting choice to honor San Francisco. It's also a serendipitous choice. The Ina Coolbrith Circle, a poetry and literature group that formed in 1919 when Ina was still alive and still meets today, will hold its 100th banquet to announce the winners of its 100th poetry contest in November 2019 — a good reason to celebrate Ina and California poets with a toast of Lucky Lager!

I've been handing out cans of beer like calling cards. You can find a place to buy the beer here.



Friday, April 19, 2019

New: Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement

Police arresting pickets Edna Dixon and Lavinia Dock in a crowd, August 1917.
Library of Congress.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, giving American women the right to vote.

Tens of thousands of women worked to make that happen, and most of their stories have been unknown--until now.

The first installment of the crowd-sourced Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States is now available. When complete, the online dictionary will include the biographical sketches of at least 3,000 suffrage activists.

I contributed a biographical sketch of Edna Dixon, a Silent Sentinel. Here's my contribution to this fantastic new resource.




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wishful thinking about landfills


Ours is a consumer economy. That’s a misleading term, since much of what we “consume” ends up in landfills. And although state and federal regulations have improved landfills over the last 50 years, they still pose problems. They take up space, can change the behavior of flora and fauna, and are environmentally destructive in the long run.



Friday, March 8, 2019

Science and delight at Jepson Prairie

Jepson Prairie's unique ecosystem attracts scientists, including four fabulous women
Jaymee Marty at Jepson Prairie (Photo by Ian Shive)
Restoration ecologist Jaymee Marty remembers the day that she saw her first Delta green ground beetle, a rare, quarter-inch-long beetle found only in the Greater Jepson Prairie area.
"The only way to see them is to sit completely still for 20 or 30 minutes. If you move at all, they freeze and blend into the vegetation," she said of the elusive metallic-green beetle she eventually saw on the edge of Olcott Lake at Jepson Prairie.
Read more about four women who have contributed to the understanding and education of the prairie in this article I wrote for Solano Land Trust. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Opening the Coast to All

Photo by Alison Taggart-Barone,
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

Although many Californians visit the coast, most don't deepen their experience by spending the night, especially those who are younger, are in a lower-income family, or are people of color.



Read my latest article for the Bay Area Monitor to learn how agencies and non-profits are working to provide equitable access to low-cost overnight accommodations on the coast.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Saltwater Revival

Brad Robinson swimming in the San Francisco Bay.
Photo by Fran Hegeler
I'm an avid swimmer, though I mostly swim in a pool. My experiences with open-water swimming have primarily taken place in the safety of a summer lake.

I tried swimming in the San Francisco Bay twice while wearing a half wet suit, hood, and booties. I still had trouble catching my breath.


I want to try again, especially after interviewing Fran Hegeler and Brad Robinson for my latest article in Estuary News. The piece profiles these South End Rowing Club swimmers, and the joy they get from swimming in the bay, despite its perils.


Read it here.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Proud of California redwoods

Dwarfed by giants on the Vineyard Trail
at Jack London State Park.
Photo by Aleta George
Scientists recently learned that old-growth redwood forests store at least three times more carbon above ground than any other forest on earth.

The scientists working with Save the Redwoods League on the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative want to know if that holds true for second- and third-growth forests, too.


Read more about redwoods and climate change in my latest for the Bay Area Monitor.