Journal of the Plague Year

Berkeley, CA. Week of 3/23 – There’s something basically distressing about having to gather almost all of one’s knowledge and experience remotely. Not by “being there.” Phone calls and web contact, some of it accompanied by herky-jerk video, are all we have. And we’d be foolish to think we’ll have those consistently, or reliably, given […]

Journal of the Plague Year

Berkeley, CA; Week of 3/16 — Sunday afternoon. Preternaturally quiet. Church on the corner, with its small, aged, African-American congregation, has suspended services. Nothing in the neighborhood is open but the always busy Berkeley Bowl, where lines controlling entrance have been set up. Once inside, they’ve managed to keep almost everything in stock. And almost […]

Tom Clark (1941-2018)

Tom Clark lived, for decades, as his health declined, on a busy street in Berkeley, in a house with many steep stairs. Crossing, haltingly, one of those streets he was struck by a car and killed on August 17. One of the last times I saw him he made fun of himself for his frailty […]


“The Great Bensky!” The ironic, powerful voice I would come to know so well blasted the ancient telephone in my obscure eighth floor corner of the gloomy New York Times building. Warren Hinckle identified himself. Quickly said that a lot of people had told him about me. And wondered if we could get together that […]

Justice Scalia Found Dead At Home

The first reaction, from she who is closest to me, when I brought her the news as she knelt on the black cloth cover through whose agency we are trying to turn our small, once green, front yard into something “drought resistant” (January’s deluges haven’t fooled us…) was to scream, “Yes!” and prostrate herself in […]

That Day, Again

Everyone will be talking about where everyone was that day. Except that “everyone” in this country now means fewer than one in four people — those of us who were alive and of an age to have had memories on November 22, 1963. My experience was wildly atypical, for sure. I was nine time zones […]

Play Ball!

Every time Alex Rodriquez, the scandal and injury prone New York Yankees third baseman, dragged his wooden club to home plate last year, he was paid about $50,000 to do so. Every time a pitcher threw to him, that pitch resulted in about $8,000 spent on Rodriguez by the Yankees. For every time (about three […]


We are in the “heart” of one of California’s largest cities. Our public library based, four-day a week free lunch program for kids has been going since mid-June, one of nine such programs this summer. 8,500 meals will have been served city-wide by the time the program prematurely ends, an awkward two weeks before school begins in late August.

Paris, Continued

Ask almost anyone, anywhere in the world, about a place they’d like to visit, and chances are “Paris” will come up sooner rather than later. (Full disclosure: Please do not assume that the author of this piece doesn’t know or has forgotten that a big percentage of the world’s population is busily engaged each day […]


Worst of all — although there can be some pretty bad among the rest — is the travel. Specifically, the airports and airplanes. The insanely long “security” lines are now even longer, as personnel has reportedly (no one knows for sure…it’s a “security” secret, of course) been cut back due to the “sequester.” You remember, […]