May 4, 2016

"I had told Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone that I would cover the Patty Hearst trial..."

"... and this pushed me into examining my thoughts about California. Some of my notes from the time follow here. I never wrote the piece about the Hearst trial, but I went to San Francisco in 1976 while it was going on and tried to report it. And I got quite involved in uncovering my own mixed emotions. This didn’t lead to my writing the piece, but eventually it led to—years later—Where I Was From (2003). When I was there for the trial, I stayed at the Mark. And from the Mark, you could look into the Hearst apartment. So I would sit in my room and imagine Patty Hearst listening to Carousel. I had read that she would sit in her room and listen to it. I thought the trial had some meaning for me—because I was from California. This didn’t turn out to be true...."

Writes Joan Didion in the new issue of The New York Review of Books.

26 comments:

Michael K said...

I got through about half of it before I got bored. The old many and social "x-ray" types that Tom Wolfe wrote about are all that are left in San Francisco as 34% of residents want to leave.

It is a dying area.

People who have lived in the area for five years or less are those most likely to start packing their bags, according to the report. San Franciscans with lower income and those putting more of their income toward housing expenses were also listed among those prepared to leave.

Residents noted that the most serious problems facing the Bay Area included high cost of living, poverty and income inequality, crime rates and homelessness.

The biggest concern for the Bay Area is the potential loss of its young labor force, though.

"These younger folks, millennials, are our future workforce; this is our labor market; this is our talent pool," Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications for the Bay Area Council, told CNBC.


Maybe they can come up with robots for all minimum wage jobs. It's beginning.

Michael K said...

"Old money..."

buwaya said...

We are old money I guess - I have 30 years in SF, and my wife is a native.

Rob said...

Damn, Joan Didion is good. Offhand, I can't think of a better living writer.

Michael said...

Thank you for posting this. I lived the 1980's in the town of Atherton, named for the author Didion discusses in the article. Didion captures for me the feel of California, Northern California, and the alarming light and undertow of dread that goes with a place so perfect in its weather and so impermanent in its weather. I knew, know, her brother Jim from business.

In every town those whose families have long roots believe that their relatives pitched up on its shores (whether the Pacific or Shem Creek) in the equivalent of the Mayflower. They are somewhat worse about this in the new world of California than they are in Boston, or London for that matter. Didion is not from SF but from the Sacramento area, wedged between the Sierra and the Bay.

She is a great writer.

Michael said...

Meant to say impermanent in its residents, not weather. The weather is crazily predictable, at least on the Peninsula. You can arrange today in May a tennis game in August and you will not have to check the weather or make alternative plans.

buwaya said...

There is no question that California was glorious. The most perfect place on earth.

Everything in that piece I know, I have been there, those names and places are familiar, some of them I see everyday, or can see any day we feel like it. Every last nook and cranny of San Francisco and its surroundings has some charm, some story, some view

I have even been down 22nd and "T" in Sacramento, I think, as in bachelor days I lived a year there, walking the lovely leafy streets taking pictures of the Edwardian houses. If there is an ideal place on this earth to live in elegant comfort, its got to be somewhere there.

As far as nature and the works of man leftover from better days, it still is; and some of the institutions are still limping along, but the hearts been cut out of it.

Paradise is being lost, glory is turning into garbage.

Michael K said...

"As far as nature and the works of man leftover from better days, "

I remember Los Angeles in 1956. It was also glorious, even with the smog.

Read Raymond Chandler's novels to see what Los Angeles was like.

Dashiell Hammett was the sage of old San Francisco.

Bay Area Guy said...

I got married in Atherton. Homes there start at $1.5 Million. The bigger ones now go for $3-5 Million and more. It's crazy expensive there.

The Bay Area is dominated by San Francisco and Berkeley. SF is, geographically, a beautiful city. You can't beat the hills, the water, the Golden Bay Bridge, the Presidio, Pacific Heights, North Beach, Nob Hill. The politics are uniformly liberal. Limousine Liberals.

The 70's were a trip, but with some major casualties. Jim Jones -- a Democratic official -- was a crazy man, who preyed on minorities and broken people for his Marxist Church -- the People's Church. Murdered 800 or so with the forced Kool-Aid. Then, the Mayor and Harvey Milk got shot by Supervisor Dan White. Then, the AIDS epidemic erupted. It wasn't all hunky-dory.

Berkeley, across the Bay Bridge, is the intellectual leader of the Bay Area. It's dominated by the UC Campus, and many fine restaurants. Foodies with disposable income do well. The Berkeley Hills are lovely. We have views of San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County. Houses start at $1 Million. The housing market has priced out much of the ex-hippies. Too darn expensive. The smart ex-hippies -- those who wormed their way into academia in the 70s and 80s-- have made out like bandits. They own many of the large expensive homes. Their kids have not done so well, though. I have no idea how a young person could live and grow here. Too many barriers to entry, not enough jobs, hard to get married.

I doubt my kids will plant roots here like I did 40 plus years ago.

Except for the crazy people, I submit Berkeley is a lovely city:)

Lotta Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on Prius drivers, departing from multi-million dollar homes:) Heh.

buwaya said...

Ditto. There is no way a common man can start here anymore. The difference in the lifestyles of the common people, the decline, is startling.

My father in law was a machinist (later a master machinist) who could afford a house in San Francisco and his wife would go downtown to shop wearing white gloves, a lady as good as any other, fit to be seen with residents of Pacific Heights. They would go up to the Sierra to ski or tour up north to see the redwoods.

No man in his position can live here now, anyone at that level would live like a wretch and couldn't afford marriage; any wife of his, if any, certainly wouldn't aspire to be be a lady, if the thought were even to cross her mind.

traditionalguy said...

I love Joan Didion. She is the epitome of those hated New. York Values.

EMD said...

I've never taken to San Francisco. I'm the weirdo who prefers Los Angeles.

narciso said...

I remember her take on my hometown miami, it was as informed as most anything else she did, by that I mean not, her obsession was central america, her novel on the subject, name escapes me was worse,

Earnest Prole said...

Yes, Michael K, you can tell the Bay Area is dying by the crashing home prices and the fact that half a million residents have left since 2010 -- oh wait, scratch that, it turns out half a million people have moved there in the past five years.

Titus said...

I lived in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara the summer of 1987, before my freshmen year of college, and didn't like going to San Francisco-I was 18 and it was a fucked up time to be gay in San Francisco and it freaked me out.

I liked Santa Cruz a lot. Santa Clara, not so much. I was in Drum Corps and practiced 9-9 next to a Six Flags where people were having fun, while I was working and sweating my ass off.

I have friends who live in San Francisco today, and I go there every few years and still never fell in love with it like I guess I am supposed to do. They are my really rich friends and have an entire home, not a condo, in the city, which is weird to me. No one in Boston has an entire home, with a yard....not even John Kerry! You live in a primo address condo in Boston....no yard though. And my friends in San Francisco have cars and drive most places...really weird!

My San Francisco friends, who were originally from the Boston area, went to school in Cambridge, and wanted a different city afer graduation. I was born in the midwest, and found what I was looking for when I went to college in Cambridge. In my early 20's I thought my next step would naturally be NYC. My first job out of college was at Time Warner and I went to NYC once a month, and said to myself, yep, I will live here in a few years, but I got over it. I was into the Love Story story...college in Cambridge, career in NYC. And that was expected when I was in school.

Every year my college friends from NYC, San Francisco, and Boston, meet in Ptown every summer. There are really no other choice in terms of cities for us, unless u go international.

I am an east coast girl, but still with midwest sensibilities and personality.

I am nice.

I had a meeting in DC this weekend and everyone told me I am so nice.

If they only knew the night before i was on grinder and met the hot Colombian bellboy at my hotel.

tits

Titus said...

On a side note, I was disappointed today to hear one of my Grindr Tricks was taking an intern position as a day trader in NYC this summer. He told me he will be living in Greenwich Village and I was tempted to ask how he can afford it, but alas, I knew the answer, and didn't want to sound like I cared, which I really don't. I was hoping he would get some post at Teach For America or The World Bank...or something more organic.

He is UK native-1/2 Indian; 1/2 Spanish; 100% bottom. BTW that combo is fierce in the bed-think a burrito/empanada combo.

We agreed I will fuck his ass, after he returns from UK, and before he starts in NYC for the summer. It will be a coming home/going away fuck, so it will be filled with emotion...and sperm.

tits.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Oh, Tania! Bells tolling to mark the end of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, the early days of the Hearst kidnapping, exploring Berkley and San Francisco in my mid-70's mid-adolescence, the movie The Conversation, Bob Wilkins hosting Creature Features, the pervasive, yet muted, affluence of Walnut Creek. For me, all these things are balled up into a feeling, more vibe than memory, of what the Bay Area was like as it struggled to move past the toxic part of the '60's.

narciso said...

Maybe she got confused with Network, they dialed the SLA scenario to eleventy, making them savvy promoters of their doctrine, who ultimately killed the truthteller,

Michael K said...

"it turns out half a million people have moved there in the past five years."

How many bought houses ?

It is a barren city with no children and no middle class.

Google engineers live in one bedroom flats and take buses to work.

It won't last. If it does, good for you.

William said...

I just finished a biography of Madame Pompadour. I thought it might give me some insight into Hillary or, maybe, Monica. No such luck. Versailles was its own place with its own fauna. The inhabitants there were some of the most privileged people on earth, and they crawled all over each other like scorpions in a bottle. For all their fine clothes and exquisite taste, they didn't have much fun.......I thought about Madame Pompadour while reading the Didion piece. Joan has lots of nerve endings and lots of time to indulge in worrying about them. She's a good writer. That's worth something I suppose. Madame Pompadour had excellent taste in cabinetry, interior decoration, and art. Her life was not totally a waste of time.

buwaya puti said...

Half a million at least have moved out; more than that from the periphery of the Bay Area. For every person in SF and nearby there are another three from places like Stockton and Fremont.

William mentioned Versailles. That's what this is. Versailles abd the network of the royal court and aristocratic system were doing very well, on the surface, while France wasn't. It's just scaled up here.

Earnest Prole said...

Here, buwaya puti, let me google Bay Area Demographics for you. You’ll need to scroll for yourself to get to the historical population table. If that task proves burdensome, here’s the spoiler: Bay Area population up 7.1% in 2010–15.

Earnest Prole said...

It’s a city, Michael K, fer godsake. Young people move there for its energy and opportunity, and when they want families and houses they move to one of the nearby Bay Area cities, many of which have a smalltown community feel. San Francisco need not be like Dubuque or Peoria, lovely as they are.

Michael K said...

"Young people move there for its energy and opportunity,"

And some are living in shipping containers.

All I pointed out is that 34% want to leave. I don't want to live there. My son lives there in the Bay Area. He has two children and his wife is starting to talk about moving back to Orange County because of schools. They are quite concerned about schools.

Chris N said...

Or maybe Didion just got older, meditating upon and reflecting in her art what seems to happen: We wake up and some once Important Idea is gone. We left it outside overnight. It got up and left before dawn.

The book on the table, dog-eared, we won't be reading again.

But the sky seems right, the line of trees a soothing height to fill the restless eye.



Chris N said...

I prefer the Michael K who isn't a doomsaying, crotchety old man.

There seems to be lot of experience, knowledge and some wisdom there.