Activism, Movement Building and Transformation

I was browsing through facebook today, something I do less and less of. (Sorry, Mark, I’m slowing weaning myself of an addition and can’t effectively contribute to your ever-growing empire). So I saw this post somebody lamenting the fact that he and millions of students have been going on strike with Fridays for Future for the past six months and nothing has changed. The demonstrations are designed to bring attention to the seriousness of climate change.

This post encouraged me to record my thoughts on this form of activism.

Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion and other such forms of public protest need to engage in concrete political dialogue and action. They must formulate concrete demands and make clear to whom their demands are directed. The demands must be realistic and doable. I am not saying they should limit themselves and their proposals to the confines of Realpolitik, rather the people or institutions have to be able in some reasonable way to realize their demands.

Demands have to make sense, their effects have to be clear and understandable. This is also necessary to build public support.

You need public support. If you can’t build a political majority you will have trouble turning your demands into public policy.

Address decision-makers eye to eye. Realize that we the people are the foundation of the state, we are the sovereign, we are the creators and the makers of our democracy. Politicians and other leaders are simply our representatives. We are free to define new representatives. If Greta Thunberg or the hundreds of active students in your city are able and willing, then you, the people, can decide right now that they are your representatives. They may not be elected officials but that doesn’t matter. Elected officials are only one of many ways that the people’s will is being translated into public policy.

Go with your new representatives to the city hall, to the mayor’s office, to the police chief, to your boss, to the CEO of your company, to the principal of your school. Demand a conversation, demand that they listen. If they refuse, make it public. If the mayor won’t sit down with you, then let your local newspaper know about it. Get it out there on social media. Tell your friends and families and colleagues and fellow students at your schools.

Prepare these meetings well. Clarify your demands, as mentioned above. Put it on paper, find articulate people among you who can clearly and passionately state your demands. You don’t have to be confrontative, but you must be clear and passionate and articulate.

Make the consequences of your demands crystal clear. Tell them what you expect them to do. Make deadlines, name milestones.

Make it easier for your elected officials or whomever you are addressing. They are just people too and they don’t have all the answers. They don’t always know what the people want. They need your help, even if they won’t admit it.

We have to tell them what we want.

Be present, get in their face, be persistent, be patient.

Don’t just go to your city council and say “We demand you meet the declared reductions in CO2.” You might hear back from them “Thanks, kids, come back when you’re grown up.”

It’s more powerful if you say, “We want the city to meet its CO2 goals by increasing the number of electric and hybrid busses and by building more bike lanes and we want a report on your progress.” They might still react in a paternalistic fashion. But when you step back in front of the council in two months and you ask them exactly what steps have been taken and the media is present and they know exactly what you are demanding, they might still react in their arrogant fashion, but it will be much harder for them to blow off your demands. You will also make it much easier for the city council members who are on your side, to help you realize these demands.

Public strikes and demonstrations are important and can be very powerful. They do, however, take a ton of energy and time. If they are not successful, they have the potential of draining energy and undermining the movement.

Recent demonstrations in Taiwan were an exception. Not only were they gigantic but they also had a very clear and simple demand: no extraditions.

 

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Back on the German Plane

I’ve been back in Germany for a bit over three weeks (when I started writing this). I had to check my calendar because I truly have no sense of how long it’s been. It sure as heck doesn’t feel like three weeks. It feels more like three months. The odd thing about it is that California seems like a million miles away and a couple of light years. There seem to be two dimensions or planes of existence currently. Not the plane like that awesome Boeing Dreamliner I flew on. No, it’s the mathematical plane that extends in two dimensions infinitely. Up until a year ago I was on the German plane, then last summer I switched to the Californian plane, and now I’ve landed again on the German one.

These planes may be close to each other but they run parallel. They don’t touch. It’s like on that TV show “Stranger Things” about those weird creatures living in the “upside down”? It was about a group of kids in the 80’s who discover these stranger things. My own parallel realities are not so scary and there are no monsters, but there is something similar.

It’s a bit cruel but perhaps a useful brain function that I’m experiencing. Living back in my home in Tübingen things are back to normal. All my friends and family here noticed that I was gone, and I admittedly noticed that they were not on my Californian plane, and it has been wonderful to see them and to reunite. I have been welcomed with open arms and smiling faces. My brain is placing me solidly back on the German plane and blocking me off from my Californian plane. The time there, although it is so close, has taken on a kind of dream-like feeling. I can hardly believe that four weeks ago I was sitting on my sister’s lawn watching the sun set over the dark blue ocean.

It seems utterly impossible that just a few weeks ago I woke up in the small trailer set up behind my her home. I slept so peacefully with the sound of the distant waves. The wooden walls and ceiling gave the tiny place a homey, warm feeling. Stepping out into the driveway I was able to jump on my bright orange Cannondale road bike and ride five minutes to the Morro Strand Campground at the beach and take a short walk on the sand.

Today I woke up and sat on my balcony in the sun and gazed out at the deep greens of the Schindhau Forest. We live at the edge of town and just a few meters away there’s a steep hillside with a dense forest. The lush greens of my other hometown here in Germany have been a warm welcome. Walking up the narrow valley along the Blaulach Creek with my faithful dog Momo is like entering a soothing, warm pool.

The dual plane reality I am living in is strengthened by this stark contrast. On a walk along the beach in Morro Bay I have to protect my eyes from the blinding light, my head and chest from the often forceful and cold wind. The deep blues or sometimes ominous greys of the endless ocean and the dark blue sky are set against the light hues of sand and the golden browns of the hillsides. Back here, the gentle greens dominate my field of view. The summer heat is soothing and comforting. I was surprised upon my return how much I have missed the green here. I guess it won’t take too long before I again miss the browns and blues of California.

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Gaia enjoying the riverside rest

The other thing that has made my return easy is the reception of family and friends. First I got to join Joshua and Gaia for a 5-day bike along the Danube River through Bavaria and Austria. I followed their youthful spirit and wild nature. We had our tents and sleeping bags on our bikes and avoiding the “Bougie” campgrounds, simply set up our own camps in meadows or forests along the way. (*I picked up “bougie”, that awesome short for bourgeois from my awesome friends Lisa and Tim in San Luis). We had great talks, went swimming in the giant river and ate super healthy raw vegan.

Arriving back I realized again how many great friends we have here in Tübingen. Right off the bat, we met friends and family for coffee, dinner, beer, pizza and, of course, for a rugged match of German-style football. Everyone is curious about our year abroad and I’m eager to catch up on people’s lives here. Sometimes the questions about my year abroad are funny. Often they revolve around this awful human occupying the White House. To those inquires I can’t do much more than a faint shrug (I would prefer here to use the German “Schulter zucken” which translates literally to twitching your shoulders). Some of the questions are rather off the wall like how we survived the fires because the whole state is burning.

I just realized that the problem is is that my friends here are, of course, on the German plane. Living in California I did not fear falling in a chasm during the coming earthquake, or having to run for my life because the fires are approaching. In fact I did not even fear being eaten up or dragged into the dungeon by the lunatic on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Slowly my two worlds will merge back into one, I am certain. For now life goes on. Today we said goodbye to our Joshua, who is heading back to Israel where he will spend one year volunteering at a Camphill Community in Ber Sheva. It is a community of about 25 special needs people, a big team of volunteers and staff. Joshua is exciting about the challenge. He is motivated to learn Hebrew and, of course, he is happy to be close to his sweetheart Gaia, who is continuing her university program in dance at Hebrew University. Susa, Theresa and I are already planning to visit them this winter. I am so excited to be able to walk down the mysterious lanes of the Arab Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and to swim with the octopus in the Red Sea near Eilat and to float in the dense salt water of the Dead Sea.

Love to everyone. I miss California and all my new and old friends there and my wonderful family.

Yosemite National Park, June 2018

 

Even though I grew up in California, this was only my second or third trip to Yosemite. My Dad did take me and my sister to the mountains numerous times, but we usually went to the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. I can only remember one trip to the Sierra Nevadas with my Dad. We had an overnight hike up to a lake somewhere and even did some fishing. We went with a friend of his and his kids. The friend knew about fishing, which we did not. I can still taste that wonderfulness of fresh cooked rainbow trout. I also remember my Dad’s friend apologizing to my Dad for scolding me. Perhaps I was complaining about the long hike or my heavy backpack and the guy said something like “man up, kid”. I don’t remember being offended, just remember the guy apologizing and my Dad kind of brushing it off. I find it interesting why I remember that moment. I hypothesize that it’s because I was the center of attention and my Dad was conversing with this adult about something so personal as whether my feelings were hurt. We didn’t talk much about feelings in my family and I was seldom the center of attention.

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On our recent trip to Yosemite up in the Sierra Neveda Mountains there was no fish and no scolding and no Dad, but the smells were there. Already on the long, curvy Highway 41 leading down into Yosemite Valley, the fragrance of pine and fresh, cool mountain air hit me. The mountains here smell different than the European Alps. There is no way I can explain it but it brought me right back to one of those childhood camping trips.

On Saturday morning Susa, Theresa and my sister and brother in law drove from our hostel in North Fork towards Yosemite Valley. I didn’t know what to expect because it’s been so long. The mountain road wound endlessly until unexpectedly the valley opened up in front of us. A chorus of voices cried, “Wow, look, pull over, now, quick.” I swerved across the double yellow line into a viewpoint area with a very low, stone wall. The sight was truly overwhelming. El Capitan, Half Dome and the long and wide valley floor were presented to us.

The previous couple days we studied maps, websites and apps to figure out where to hike and agreed upon Vernal and Nevada Falls. It is one of the more popular hikes and oldest trails with a distance of about 6 mi. (9km) and took us from the valley floor at 4000 ft (1220 m) to the top of Nevada Falls at 6000 ft (1830m).

The trail started steep, including stone steps, and it was overcrowded. The crowds didn’t bother me too much and they got thinner and thinner the higher we got. By the time we reached our goal at the top of Nevada Falls we noticed that we seemed to be about the oldest people up there. Most of the hikers were under 30. It’s encouraging to see so many youngsters out in the wilderness.

On the way up we walked on the appropriately-named Mist Trail which took us right up the wall leading to the top of the first water fall, the massive Vernal Falls. Its truly magnificent. The crashing noise and incredible volume of water was overwhelming. Thinking that for thousands of years so much water fell from those heights, relentlessly cutting into the hard granite rock gave me a sense of timelessness. The trail leads so close to the falls that at one point we got soaked by the heavy mist. At the base of both Vernal and Nevada Falls rainbows add their colors to the saturated scene.

One of the most impressive moments for me was reaching the top of Vernal Falls. You have to climb a series of steep stairs to ascend up the wall leading to the top. The noise is almost deafening and the white flow of power creates an palpable energy in the air. Once I reached the top of the Falls, that all changed. The noise disappears, and a rushing river and flat valley floor opens up. The charged energy is gone and leaves a gentle, peaceful atmosphere. Hikers are resting on rocks, dipping their feet into cold pools and gazing back down towards the open Yosemite Valley, proud that they made it all the way up.

Nevada Falls, 1000 feet higher, was equally impressive. We took a longer break at the top where a sandy river bank invites hikers to rest. Theresa and I collapsed and took a nap while Susa ventured over to the edge of the granite cliff. She said the view was amazing so I headed over there too. The edge was not clearly defined and it took me a bit to find the platform with a fence to look over. My acrophobia took over as I saw the edge and could only imagine how far the drop off was. I overcame my fear and was, at least, able to put my hand on the railing and glance down. Quickly I had to retreat to safer ground. I couldn’t see the waterfall below underneath me and I was too nervous to try. A girl and two boys were actually sitting on the edge with their feet dangling over, with 1000 feet of air between their shoes and the next rock below. One of the boys moved quickly back from the edge to safer ground. The girl called “hey, you scared?” The boy didn’t respond but I said aloud, “sure as hell is scary for me”. “Ah, come on, it’s not scary,” she yelled. The innocence of youth, I thought.

A little paradise on Mt. Figueroa

On an early Wednesday morning in May, I got into the car with Susa and three women from her book group and we headed south on the 101 towards the Santa Ynez Valley. I had agreed to go along even though I really didn’t know where we were going or what we were doing. Susa had said we will visit some people who built an adobe home.

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The drive south from San Luis Obispo was beautiful in and of itself. Everything is green around here and the section of highway in North Santa Barbara County is full of gentle, rolling hills and oak trees. Parts of it are largely undeveloped and a pure pleasure to observe. There are also tons of vineyards, which gives the area a resemblance to the valleys of Burgundy, France. I have been wondering about these vineyards, however. They have been sprouting up all over California like wild mushrooms. Twenty years ago Napa Valley was the center of the wine industry. Today they are literally everywhere.

I mentioned to my fellow passengers that I really like them, but then we spoke of the problems involved. Somehow investors have discovered that they can turn a pretty penny with wine. The vast hills of California had previously layed fallow or been used for grazing. Just as other monoculture crop, the vineyards require tons of water and pesticides.

After about an hour’s drive, we turned past through the charming town of Los Olivos and headed East up a beautiful, little valley towards Mt. Figueroa. We passed Neverland, Michael Jackson’s old ranch. All you can see from the road is a big, ugly gate.

The road kept getting smaller and bumpier as we headed the 10 miles up the mountain. We eventually crossed into Los Padres National Park and found the little dirt road leading to the community. From the road it didn’t look like much. Turning the corner, though, we discovered an amazing view all the way down into the valley and over to the coastal mountains. A cluster of small homes, trees, gardens and assorted animals occupied the only flat piece of property on the mountainside.

We parked and walked over to discover a garden and some strange, brown houses. There are about five homes, and they all look like variations of some earth dwellings from The Hobbit. Betsy, along with her husband the founder of the community, greeting us with a big smile and a hug.

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She and her husband bought this large piece of land about 15 years ago with basically nothing on it. For the first year they slept in a tent with their small children, then built the first yurt, then the first cob house. After years of hard work and lots of volunteer help they have a number of beautiful homes and even a Dojo where they practice Aikido. Their water comes from a few springs up the mountain, their electricity comes solely from solar panels. They have propane gas, wood stoves and compost toilets. They are literally “off the grid” and self-sustaining. They do grow their own food, but still rely on local markets and even CostCo for supplies.

Betsy gave us a tour of the place. She showed us a little tiny house that was built for a grand total of $48 dollars. A highly successful British architect who had been building skyscrapers in Singapore decided she wanted to do something meaningful and so she came here and in three weeks built this wonderful dwelling. It has a special kind of fireplace which is floor level, has a large opening into the room and is extremely energy efficient. They are outlawed in the US because of the fire hazard.If you have a stone floor it seems safe enough.

The pictures can give you an impression of this little piece of paradise. Betsy and her husband now have grown children and after years of hosting workshops, desire to focus more on their own creative art work.

Democracy in California

My German friends won’t believe me when I tell them that democracy is alive and well in California. In fact, most people would not believe me. We have a popular-vote losing president in the White House, we have a campaign-financing system that undermines democracy and we have voter participation at 55% nationwide. Moreover, we have millions of citizens struggling to pay for their healthcare and to make ends meet. Without economic security we can hardly call our system democratic.

But, that is not the whole picture. I have been living on the California Central Coast, in the charming, mid-size college town San Luis Obispo (SLO), for the past eight months and I have seen the other side of the coin. The political engagement of a large sector of the population is palpable. People are getting involved in the local community in a myriad of ways far beyond the simple check in a ballot box every two years. Some of this may be a manifestation of the ‘Blue Wave’, a revolt of Democrats and Progressives resulting from the shock of Trump’s election. But not all of it. I personally have been involved in three examples of this revitalized democracy: the heated controversy about bike lanes, the Progressive takeover of the local Democratic Party, and a citizen’s ballot initiative to ban new oil wells in the county.Offshore_Oil_Rally005

I moved to the area from Germany and during my first week in the town, I was confronted with concerned citizens all over. It has not been a collective disgust with the new president, rather a very local thing.

We moved into a rental in the upscale neighborhood of Ferrini Heights where the smaller homes were going for $700,000 and the big ones for upwards of 3 million. At a party with my landlord’s friends, talk was all about new housing development, traffic and the troubles with the influx of new university students. While their talk did sound typical complaining, they were serious and they are organized. They are all members of a local resident’s organization, whose main purpose is to try to maintain ‘good ole SLO’ as it used to be. They are radically critical of the new, progressive city council in general and their plans to ween the city of carbon.

These and other concerned citizens rallied together to prevent the city from going through with new bicycle infrastructure. The controversy culminated at a city council meeting in February where the council planned to vote on planned bike lanes. The council chambers were packed and they had to open an overflow room with a live broadcast. For three hours citizens from both sides of the issue stood and stated their positions. Parents with children, the elderly and young professionals were present. My impression was that the statements were about 60% for bike lanes, 40% against. The opponents, though, were able to convince the council that they had to postpone their plans. Their main concern was the removal of parking spaces in front of their homes and they appeared ready to defend this space tooth and nail. While I found the opponents arguments weak and self-serving, the intensity of political engagement was heartening.

The second example could be seen as a backlash of the Trump election, or more favorably, a continuation of the Bernie Revolution. The SLO Progressives formed at the beginning of 2017 and by summer had become the largest democratic group in the county, dwarfing traditional, more conservative forces in local Democratic Party politics. Their meetings filled the local Guild Hall and were professionally organized. They steadfastly asked people to sign up as members, they had a clear agenda, facilitation and practiced speakers. They had quickly formed working groups oriented towards health care, women in politics and get out the vote campaigns. The focus of the group is on getting progressives elected, and in that way influencing local, regional and state politics. They call on politicians to pledge to not take any campaign contributions from the oil industry.

The third example is a local ballot initiative to ban fracking and new oil wells in the county. It is an example of direct democracy where citizens can directly vote on specific changes to laws and regulations and circumvent the cumbersome and often ineffective legislative process.

SLO County has traditionally not been the target of oil extraction. Nearby Kern County was much more suited for oil drilling. While the soil and rock under the county is full of oil, it is of poor quality and difficult to access. The county has, however, long been a key infrastructure point for oil from nearby counties and has suffered from numerous oil-related disasters. In 1988 whistleblowers uncovered the largest onshore oil spill in California history. The Union Oil Guadalupe oilfield had been leaking oil for decades. In 1994 it was discovered that oil spills had leaked over 400 gallons of petroleum in and around the local town of Avila Beach. The clean up involved tearing down a large part of downtown, removing massive amounts of contaminated soil, and rebuilding the city.

The ballot initiative calls to amend the County General Plan and sections of county code to prohibit well stimulation treatments and any new oil extraction. If we manage to collect around 9000 signatures before the end of April, the initiative will be placed on the November ballot for voter approval. Offshore drilling beyond three miles of the coast would not be affected, although the county would have to refuse building any infrastructure needed for offshore wells.

Beginning in January 2017, a small group of local citizens had been successful in gaining active support from county residents, draft the extensive and legally-sensitive text of the initiative, and launch a signature-signing campaign across the county. I heard about the initiative at a meeting of SLO Progressives in late summer of 2017 and was soon involved in updating and administering their website and user database and general planning for the campaign. The group created the Coalition to Protect SLO County, which consists of a core team of about 10 individuals who have a long history of fighting big oil. The Coalition was able to acquire the support of the Center for Biological Diversity, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental protection. Part of their mission is to actively support local groups working to advance ballot initiatives.

Creating the ballot initiative from the beginning involved various stages: build a local movement and convene a group of dedicated volunteers, plan and implement the legal steps needed to gain county approval of the initiative, draft the actual text with the assistance of an attorney, plan and implement a campaign to collect signatures, plan and implement a voter campaign to get the initiative approved at the ballot in November. Unfortunately, the group also has to plan how to deal with a possible legal suit by big oil to stop the initiative before election day or to overturn it after it is passed.

Monterey County, just to the north of SLO, passed a similar initiative in 2016, called Measure Z. The oil industry invested $5.6 million dollars to fight Measure Z. Although the initiative passed, big oil was successful in the courts where they filed six lawsuits to challenge the measure. In December of 2017 Monterey County Superior Court decided to uphold the anti-fracking part of the measure but to overturn the ban on new oil wells. Local citizens have appealed and are presently awaiting a decision by the higher court.

Presently, late March 2018, the Coalition to Protect SLO County is running a huge signature-gathering campaign. In cities and towns across the county dozens of volunteers are standing in front of supermarkets, walking through farmer’s markets and approaching friends and family to ask if they want to sign the petition. So-called ‘city captains’ train  ‘circulators’ on the do’s and don’ts of collecting signatures, pass out and collect the petition packages with room for 50 signatures. Another team of volunteers is validating signatures to track progress. There are people involved in fundraising, media outreach and research.

February on the Central Coast

A friend from Germany just wrote a letter updating me about events with my soccer groups and local and national politics. His letter encouraged me to write an update on my life on the Central Coast of California. Our time here is more than half over, which makes me a bit wary but also happy to think of returning to good ole Germany.

The past days and weeks have been very eventful here. We have had great times with all our young visitors but we have also suffered a great tragedy. My brother-in-law, Andrew Ebright, passed away at a much too young age. It is a great loss for me, for my family, for my sister and her family, for all his friends. Andy was a wonderful man and a great friend. He had a talent for making any encounter fun and exciting. He always had a good joke up his sleeve, loved games and was the most hospitable person I know. Andy was also a terribly intelligent and thoughtful person. It was just a few years ago when I was here in California and was sitting in the yard with Andrew discussing racism. He eloquently argued that the concept of race is in itself flawed and wrong. How can you divide people up into a handful of races? It’s arbitrary and constructed. What race would a child have whose mother is from China and father from Africa? His thoughts helped me understand this issue much better. It’s hard to imagine he’s gone and the grief runs deep. This loss has again brought my family together with brothers and sisters converging in Morro Bay and warming calls and letters from family overseas.

It’s mid-February and we are having a cold spell. Cold for Central California, that is. We had a bit of frost this morning and a chilly breeze is blowing along the nearby hills and valleys. The cold and wind have brought clear air and amazing views. Susa and I took a walk yesterday along one of our favorite spots in Los Osos. It is the so-called Back Bay, a quiet oasis beyond the rough, windy power of the Pacific and protected by the “Sand Spit”, a long finger of land and a breakwater. We meandered along the sandy beach that stretches along a small peninsula. Turning the bend, the massive Morro Rock appeared in the distance, perhaps 4 km away. The ragged rocks and jagged outcroppings were crystal clear, it seemed I could almost reach out and touch them.

This afternoon I am sitting outside with my sun cap and light jacket and warming myself in the sun. My neighbor is repairing a table outside in front of his garage. He has shorts and a t-shirt on. I will miss being able to sit outside in the warm sun in February.

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Pismo Beach Pier, a one-hour bike ride from my house

In the last couple of months, I have gotten heavily involved in a ballot initiative designed to ban fracking and new oil wells in the county. Whithin two months we have to gather 10,000 signatures in order to qualify the initiative for the November election. Then the voters of the county can decide themselves if they want to amend county laws to reduce our reliance on oil and to protect local water. It’s funny, but being here I have gotten much more interested in local politics than I ever was in Germany.

I feel so lucky to be here and to have the privilege of working so little (2 days a week). On my frequent walks and hikes, I am constantly reminded of the beauty here. The hills are still mostly brown, but the deep blues of the ocean and the sky make up for that.

Our Trip to the “Bay Area”

Over the holiday vacation we took a road trip to the “Bay Area”. That refers of course to the San Francisco Bay Area. We also had time on two separate days to visit The City, which of course refers to San Francisco. I don’t know why this place had the audacity to name itself this way, but it works. If you say you are going to the Bay Area nobody would think you mean the area around the Santa Monica Bay, which looks actually larger than “the” Bay. Even the Monterey Bay, just south of San Francisco, equals its sister in the north in size and is actually geologically much more interesting. It is home to the underwater Monterey Canyon, at one mile its as deep as the Grand Canyon. I also don’t know of any other American city that refers to itself so proudly as The City. Only “The Big Apple” comes to mind, not that cool in my opinion.

I must admit, however, that “the” Bay is pretty cool. It’s surrounded by “the” City to the west, San Jose and Silicon Valley to the south, Oakland and Berkeley to the East, and Marin County to the North. We visited all those places except Silicon Valley (we are there on our computers all the time anyway).

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View from Corona Heights Park, S.F.

On our first day in San Francisco we got of the BART subway on Market Street and walked all the way through Chinatown and Little Italy over to Fisherman’s Wharf. The main attraction there ended up being a group of break dancers performing at Pier 39. We then walked along the Embarcadero back to the Ferry Building and Market St.

On our second day in The City we walked around the Mission District and up to the top of Corona Heights Park, a little mountain with an almost 360° view of the city. On the way up we enjoyed the quaint neighborhood of North Mission

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We saw this utopian vision painted on a building. Let’s make it happen!

with wide sidewalk, broken up with little garden patches and sitting areas. This is a real-life image of the utopian mural rendition we saw in the Mission. The girls continued walking to the west over to Golden Gate Park and I walked back to the Mission for a coffee meeting with an activist for the Economy for the Common Good.

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Sidewalk Utopia in North Mission

On our third day in the city we went to the Presidio and the Visitors Center at the Golden Gate Bridge. I was planning to just enjoy the view and get some cool pictures. Our adventuresome friend Lisa said, “Hey, can we walk across the bridge”. What, no way, I first said. With Julian, Joshua and baby Theresa long ago we had walked out to the “South Tower” and that was amazing in itself. I had never thought of actually walking all the way across.

I guess it takes a 17-year old German to think of something so wild. Susa agreed to drive the car over and Theresa held my hand all the way. I was OK as long as I stayed arm’s length from the rail guard and in my daughter’s safe grip. It was very exciting. The view from out there is wonderful and it is a majestic bridge.

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This is the coastline that awaited us in Marin, just over the Golden Gate Bridge

Another highlight of our trip was New Year’s Eve. We walked about 15 minutes up a dark road from our remote Youth Hostel to a lookout point where the four of us watched fireworks across the bay. The Golden Gate Bridge and the illuminated San Francisco skyline were the backdrop to the firework show.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Once again I felt like I am “Homing In” a bit more here in California. Although I grew up in the other “City” down south, I feel roots in the Bay Area because my dad grew up here and just because it’s California.

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We all did enjoy walking through the city!