Curious City – These squirrelly times

Curious City – These squirrelly times

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A SLOW LEARNER

But when I get it, it’s got.

Eight and a half years of writing this column, and what have I learned? This is number 368 of CURIOUS CITY, but has it made a difference? I think things have only gotten worse. Sometimes I feel like Santa Monica Sisyphus.

It was something our late great Daily Press political columnist Bill Bauer wrestled with, too. Bill lost his fight with cancer on Oct. 27, 2016, after 14 years of his influential My Write column. (You can still find them all on the SMDP website.)

Bill and I got close the last few years of his life, and we would commiserate about this odd pursuit of ours as newspaper columnists. It’s possible I was a factor in talking him out of throwing in the towel a couple of times. I would like to think so. He wrote right up until the end, even though the drugs that were keeping him alive made it really difficult to focus.

BILL WAS SQUIRRELY

Something known only to some was how much he loved squirrels and birds. I had a pet squirrel named Shirley for a time, rescued by my wife as a newborn fallen from the nest, until she was strong enough to go off on her own. (Shirley, not my wife.) Bill dug that, of course. He had a balcony on his third floor apartment that he turned into a sanctuary for those critters. Big bags of birdseed stockpiled, nuts galore.

Bill loved human critters too and spent many hours a week for many years as a volunteer working with those lacking shelter, for the Red Cross, fire and police, and other good causes. (He was also an important person in saving our Pier from destruction in the ‘70s.) I remember visiting him once towards the end and was taken aback to turn the corner and see his hospital room packed with uniformed police.

“Bill,” I blurted out, “this isn’t fair. They got you surrounded while you were helpless!”

ANOTHER PERSON WHO LOVED BILL

And his writing was Elaine Golden-Gealer. How can I not call her a local character? She’s a former folk singer (the Womenfolk) who has to look skyward to see the 5-foot marker, dresses razor sharp but unlike anyone else you’ve ever seen, and is an apartment building owner who ran for Rent Control Board. She told me she met Bill after she first read every one of his columns from 2004 – 2015, and that they agreed completely about local politics.

Her front yard is… also unique, filled with large arranged and half-buried tchotchkes that change with the holiday. But now she has a sign, professionally done, on her front fence honoring Bill’s love of wildlife (see above): “Bill Bauer Bird & Squirrel Sanctuary.” That would make him smile.

BUT BILL — WHAT TO DO NOW?

When you have to finally concede that your hopes for a just city, nation and world seem doomed because of the power and money of those who stand to become even richer and more powerful from business as usual, abetted by decades of dumbing down of America.

Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) is not my favorite comedian, but I sure love what he had to say recently about social media. He attacked Facebook in particular for allowing posts and ads without vetting for blatant lies. “They would have let Hitler run ads,” he said, and he blamed ”’the greatest propaganda machine in history” for increased attacks on minorities, especially Jews.

I COULD BE WRONG

But I’ll bet the ranch that there are more good-hearted people out there who understand that climate change is an immediate threat to the planet, and that packing a lot more people into an already-dense Santa Monica is a really bad idea, than those who deny the facts and science. A lot more. A lot.

So I am now doing an about face. I am, from now on, in these columns, going to be positive about the masses of people who, as we’ve seen in this pandemic, are willing to act responsibly and selflessly, and who share a vision of a much better world. Rather than going after the folks who now hold the power who have proven impervious to pleas for common sense and the obvious greater good. Clearly, as Bill also concluded, those people are not interested in doing things differently.

Wow, I can feel the difference already! Beginning to lose that constant, throbbing headache from beating my head against the wall.

NO MORE WATCHDOG?

Can’t back off from that. Someone still has to shine a light into the dark places. Most folks don’t have the time and/or interest but they want to know, and do the right thing. Now that we have seen just what is possible — blue skies, government protections, the homeless housed, health care for all — I believe we will act as one.

We have seen that not only will people do extraordinary things to protect themselves and their loved ones, they will do it for strangers. For the common and greater good. And do it till it hurts. We are angels and heroes and there are so many more of us, who want a much better city and world.

So I, slow learner that I am, have finally decided to speak only to you, and not worry about the bad guys, even the very bad guys in the capitals of power, who just aren’t interested in change. I finally understand that there is more value in reminding the masses of us who so want that better future, that our numbers and our power are overwhelming, than to try to convince those greedy few that the old ways are dead, for good reason.

HAPPY EARTH DAY!!!

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com