Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
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Posts tagged "California"

I was picketed a few days ago in California by some youngsters that had signs that said, ‘Make Love, Not War!’

The trouble is they didn’t look like they were capable of doing either. This fellow that was doing the talking had a haircut like Tarzan, walked like Jane, and smelled like Cheetah.

Ronald Reagan, on 1960s protesters, during a speech while Governor of California
Asker Anonymous Asks:
There's a lot of talk into cutting California into 5 smaller states. Do you think this is a good idea. I'm still confused on the matter. Why do they want to do this ?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

As most of my readers know, although I now live in the Missouri Wine Country, I spent the first 30 years of my life in California and have more insight into the state’s history and political situation than the other states of the Union that I am frequently asked about.

Culturally, California has five or six distinct regions and there have been secessionist movements within the state since the time it became a territory of the United States.  Around the time of the Civil War, Californians overwhelmingly lobbied for the state to be split in two, but the federal government had its hands tied with trying to hold the country together and the California split wasn’t given serious consideration in Washington.  

Those five or six distinct regions of California have different reasons for wanting to split into their own states.  Some (the extreme counties of Northern California near the Oregon border along with the Northern California coast) feel so far removed from the rest of the state politically end economically that they see themselves as shut off from the state government apparatus.  The citizens of the region of California that has long tried to form a separate state called “Jefferson” feel that Southern California is as foreign to them as Canada is.  Among other reasons that Californians support partition are the constant battle over water resources between Northern California and Southern California and the fact that the Sierra counties, Desert counties, and even some of the agricultural centers of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valleys feel either underrepresented in state government or simply out-muscled by the major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Sacramento.

Do I think it’s a good idea?  I don’t think the proposal to partition California into six different states is a good idea because it’s simply not feasible.  In order for an idea to be good (in my opinion), it must be possible.  The six-state partition is just not going to happen — how will California’s natural resources be divvied up?  How will water be allocated?  Where do the prisoners which severely overcrowd every single prison in the state go to?— the nearest facility to where the crime was committed?; the facility that they are currently incarcerated?; who foots the bill for the prison facilities?

But, with that said, there would be benefits to partitioning California into two states — Northern and Southern California.  Already, the two halves of the state are about as different as two regions within one state can be.  Californians already identify themselves by the section of the state they are from.  Infrastructure is in place that would allow the two parts of the state to split somewhat equally in every area except water allocation (Southern California needs water from Northern California to survive, that’s a fact).  Some of the same issues involved in a six-state partition remain, but the solutions aren’t quite as daunting if California is split in two.

Why even consider splitting the state into two after over 160 years of statehood?  Well, California is home to nearly 40 million citizens and, quite frankly, that’s probably way too many people for one centralized state government to effectively manage.  I think that’s one of the problems that the state has faced over the past 30 years — the population is just too unwieldly.  California has the area, the population, and the economic base of a large, wealthy foreign country.  Yet, one state government is charged with administering California — no different, really, than the state government system in a place like Wyoming which has a fraction of the population.  The population growth in California isn’t slowing down anytime soon — can the already creaky government in Sacramento keep up with the pace and continue managing the whole state?  Indications from the last three decades do not inspire optimism.

Will partition of California ever happen?  I doubt it.  The water allocation issue itself will probably dynamite any serious discussions about it.  Plus, California can’t even figure out a way forward with building high-speed rail — a sure-fire investment in the state’s future which would create jobs, change the nature of travel within the state, and likely have significant positive impacts on the environment and economy.  If the state can’t deliver on a slam-dunk like high-speed rail, I doubt California will ever be able to deliver on splitting the state into two, let alone partitioning it into six new states.

Kamala Harris has been one of my favorite politicians for a long time.  I’ll always have fond memories of Kamala, San Francisco’s District Attorney at the time, driving up to Sacramento in the early, early, EARLY days of Obama campaign (I’m talking late-February 2007) to help out with whatever we needed.  If you don’t know her, you will.

And, like her, I’m glad I’m on the right side of history.  Gay rights are Civil Rights.  Don’t ever let anybody tell you differently.  You can’t legislate love.

59 plays
It's Been A Long Time Comin

H-Wood: Proud To Be From The S.A.C.

A Birthday Ramble. 

I’m a long way away from Sacramento.  I left nearly three years ago and haven’t been back, and there have always been days where I hated it as much as I loved it, but Sacramento is and will always be my home.  And, 33 years ago today, January 20, 1980, I was born right downtown, at Sutter Memorial Hospital.

For the first three decades of my life, for better or worse, Sacramento raised me and made me who I am.  The scars on my body and the creases on my face bear the names of the streets that I prowled — El Camino Avenue, Fulton Avenue, Arden Way, Watt Avenue, Marconi Avenue, Edison Avenue, Howe Avenue, Bell Street, Northgate Boulevard, Grand Avenue, Norwood, Auburn Boulevard, Lerwick, Larchwood, Ball Way, Kent Drive.  

The light in my eyes reflect my favorite haunts: Capitol Park ringed by its barrier of palm trees, Old Sacramento, Tower Bridge, the Esquire Grill, the lobby of the Sheraton Grand, an empty Light Rail train in mid-morning, the view from the multi-story parking garage directly across L Street from the State Capitol building, the seismograph a few steps away from the door to the Governor’s office, the orange trees on the grounds of the Capitol where, if you know where to stand, you can peek directly into the window of the Governor’s office, the cigar shop on Front Street, the stretch of 160 between Arden Fair Mall and the wild licorice bushes near the Radisson and American River levee where you could smell the Wonder Bread factory cooking early in the morning.

The shadows on my face and the perpetual bags under my eyes are reminders of long days and never-ending nights.  Some of them were fun, some of them were not, but all of them were experiences.  Friendships established, relationships demolished, life always being lived.  Everything shaded by the sheer number of trees — practically anything can grow in Sacramento’s climate — not merely dotting the city, but populating it.  Trees all over the city like my memories — wild, diverse, growing, dying, happy, sad, overcrowded at times, but sometimes lonely.

People like to say that they’ve made mistakes in their lives and then add that they regret nothing.  I’ve made mistakes in my life and I regret many of them.  I even regret some of the things that weren’t mistaken.  We don’t learn from mistakes.  We learn from the consequences of our mistakes — and those are usually called “regrets”.  For many years, I lived too slowly, and then I lived too fast.  With many people, I loved too quickly, and then I loved too harsh.  When somebody hurt me — especially somebody that I cared about — I often tried to destroy them and who they were to me and what we shared.  Up until recently, I still did that — annihilate attachments, eliminate emotions, crush connections, liquidate love, ravage relationships…eradicate, exterminate, desolate, shatter, sabotage, vaporize, ruin, ruin, ruin.  Today, at 33 years old, I now actively seek to preserve rather than obliterate.  Seems odd that I should have to work so hard at preservation when, professionally, my life’s work — the study and promotion of history — is, at its core, an act of preservation.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not all darkness and shadows, debris fields and wastelands.  Like everyone, I’m simply visited by the cloud of depression that Winston Churchill would call “the black dog”.  But I am in a better place than I have been in close to ten years.  I have somehow found a way to actually make a living with my writing.  It’s so surreal and such a long time coming that I still feel like I tricked somebody.  The idea of advertising revenue and royalty checks backed by real money, legitimate legal tender, coming my way because of words that I wrote continues to blow me away.  For years, I wondered what it would be like to be a professional writer and, in many ways, it’s inexplicable.  For some reason, I always figured that I would realize that I had reached that point when some editor sat me down and said “You’re hired.”  But, really, I didn’t recognize that I had reached that level until it suddenly hit me that I was somehow getting paid for the things that I was writing.  By no means have I “made it”, but I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do, and, at 33, that makes me happy.  It still doesn’t feel quite real, but it feels right.  It feels like I deserve it because, despite those mistakes and regrets, this is the one thing that I’ve always worked hard at and taken completely, utterly, 100% seriously.

I like the fact that my birthday is close to the beginning of the year.  It allows me to feel like the new year is genuinely a new year for me.  The past few years have been difficult — personally, professionally, emotionally, and even physically.  Of course, 33 isn’t 63, but I feel every day of every month of my life when I wake up in the morning.  I feel it in my bones.  I see it in my eyes.  But I’m still here.  I have all of limbs and all of my hair, and I know my brain is still working hard because I can’t slow it down when I try to sleep.  That race never ends.  

It’s 2013 and I am 33.  I like the number “3”.  All of my life, whenever I set an alarm or set the microwave or have a target number of sets for a workout, the target number I use always either has a “3” in it or is divisible by 3.  I don’t have many superstitions, but that is one of them.  So, both 2013 and the age of 33 give me an optimistic feeling.  I haven’t had a great year since 2002 or 2003.  Some of them have been downright horrible, particularly 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Last year was a bit better, but I feel like the year 2013 and the age of 33 will prove that I have turned the page.  I don’t exactly know why or how, but I’m now old enough to realize that hope and optimism should never be dismissed.  For the past decade, I have been so thirsty for reason and hungry for logic that I’ve needed to know the explanation for everything.  That hasn’t necessarily resulted in happiness, so I’m going to let hope and optimism stick around this year.

I didn’t really mean to ramble on like this or get all philosophical just because it’s my birthday.  It just happened.  And, let’s be honest, I just wrote a whole bunch of words without really saying anything.  But, I rarely get personal here.  However, hearing this song brings back a lot of memories and a blank computer screen, blinking icon, and welcoming keyboard was an invitation to open up for once.

I am a long way away from Sacramento — in more ways than just the mileage distance.  I am a better person than I was three years ago, two years ago, even five months ago.  Goals that I have set — goals which seemed to never get any closer for many years — have been met and more have been established.  I feel like I learn something new every day.  When I don’t, I feel like that day has been a failure and, although 33 doesn’t seem old, who knows how many days I actually have left to learn, create, teach, share?  I’m a long way from Sacramento and I don’t have family here.  I don’t have many friends here.  But I have a huge personal library of books that I rarely have had to pay for.  I published my own first book and people actually bought it (and continue to buy it).  I’m in the process of finishing my second book.  The book reviews that I write have received attention from publishers and big-name authors who I have revered.  I’ve become a person who college kids will e-mail with questions about their studies and a historian that mainstream news outlets like Bloomberg have reached out to for commentary.  I’m in a good place.

I am a long way from those street signs that I mentioned.  I now live in a tiny town of about 2,000 people — a town the size of my junior high school.  I’m not kept awake by police helicopters or hours of sirens.  I’m not worried when I take a walk to the grocery store or the park.  I live in peace, as we all should.  As H-Wood’s song says, I’m proud to be from Sacramento, but I’m also proud to be in New Haven.  I’m proud to have made it to where I am.  I’m proud to know that, at 33, I have made improvements, made my life better, made people who know me proud of what I have become.

I am a long way away from Sacramento, but in many ways, I am still home.  I’m proud to be from the S.A.C., but I’m also proud to be me.  Yes, I feel every day of my 33 years and, while I used to look young for my age, I now look every day of 33, too.  But what I feel is 33 years of memories and experiences that continue to shape me and, hopefully, make an impact on others.  Maybe I don’t love enough or put enough trust in others, but I will.  It’s taken me all this time to finally love and trust myself, so I think I’m ready to try it out on others.  I’d like to think that this is an example of that because in this new year of my life, I’m going to try to lift the curtain and share my history, as well as our country’s history.  Don’t worry — you’re not going to get rambling dissertations like this all the time — but I wanted to share this today so that I can make sure that I’m accountable for the improvements I strive to continue.  Of course, it’s far easier sharing myself with 10,000 readers who I don’t know than on person that I do (yes, you read that correctly, I’d rather stand and talk in front of a crowd of 80,000 than sit in a small group of three).  

Alright, alright, enough out of me.  Thanks to everybody who is sending birthday wishes today and to anyone bored brave enough to make it to the end of this post.  It’s 2013, I’m 33, I’m proud to be from the S.A.C., I’m proud to be where I am right now, and I look forward to my next year of sunshine and shadows and, of course, plenty of history. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
It's not about presidents, but since you're a historian, I'd figure you would know. Why do so many people live in California?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Have you ever been to Los Angeles or San Diego in late spring?  Have you ever cruised Highway 1 from Monterey to San Francisco, parked along the Great Highway and roamed Ocean Beach and the ruins of the Sutro Baths?  Have you ever walked across the Golden Gate Bridge?  Stopped at Donner Summit?  Strolled through Capitol Park in Sacramento during the magic hour as the Delta breeze picks up?  Have you ever lost count while trying to keep track of the waterfalls in Yosemite?  Wondered how a place called Death Valley can be beautiful and desolate?  Have you ever walked the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz?  The Pier at Santa Monica?  Have you ever dipped your toes in the Pacific Ocean, built a snowman in the Sierra, and camped in the desert all in the same day?  

It doesn’t require a historical reason to want to move to California.

With that said, I am a historian and there are still historical reasons.  Of course, the Gold Rush in the 1840s brought settlers to the state so quickly that it was barely a territory before having a large enough population to become a state.  The Transcontinental Railroad made it easier for people to make the move across the country, and opened up trade in both directions.  The Dust Bowl and Great Depression drove more people to the West Coast.  Farmers in Oklahoma and the Plains whose land was devastated by drought were able to find a new start in California’s Central Valley, which provided an agricultural gold rush due to its rich soil and cheap land.  As the country prepared for and then entered the war, many who had been looking for work during the Depression found it in defense jobs at the many bases and ports, factories and shipyards that popped up throughout the state.  For decades, California was a land of opportunity and the place where people went to chase their dreams.  And now, although opportunities have become scarce, it’s still tough to abandon the weather and natural beauty of the state.  Believe me…I couldn’t bring myself to do it until I was 30.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I know youve said you met Obama and I know you lived in Sacramento, so did you ever meet Arnold??
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I did.  The first time was when I was leaving one of my favorite restaurants in Sacramento, the Esquire Grill, which is about a block away from the State Capitol and very close to the Hyatt Regency, which is where Governor Schwarzenegger stayed whenever he didn’t go home to Los Angeles. 

I was walking out of the Esquire and held the door for a small group of obvious politicians — not an unusual sight in Downtown Sacramento on a weekday.  I didn’t notice who it was immediately, but I heard him say, “Thank you,” and when I heard that unmistakable accent, I quickly said, “Uh, you’re welcome, Governor.”  It wasn’t my smoothest moment.  He shook my hand and was very pleasant. 

I had another minor interaction with him just a few months after Obama announced he was running for President.  We were putting together some sort of event in Sacramento and I had some invitations that I was supposed to drop off to potential surrogates and supporters at the Capitol.  I delivered the invitations to a few State Senators and members of the State Assembly and had one to deliver to Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.  The Lieutenant Governor’s office is on the first floor, directly across the hall from the Governor’s office.  When I came out of Lieutenant Governor Garamendi’s office, I saw Governor Schwarzenegger and two of his staffers walking into his office.  No one else was in the hallway except one CHP officer who was standing nearby.  I wanted to joke around and invite him to the Obama event, but once again, I came across like a complete nerd and just said, “Hi, Governor.”  He waved as he headed into his office and I walked down the hallway thinking to myself, “Hi, Governor?!  Who the hell do I think I am?  Way to connect with the big wigs, Anthony.”

I saw Governor Schwarzenegger give a couple of speeches, too.  One thing I noticed is that there is no way in hell that he is 6’2” as his bio says and how he was always listed as a bodybuilder.  On a good day, I am a little over 5’8” and I would say that there’s no way that Schwarzenegger is more than 5’10”.  Also, he must have the best tailor in the world because on each occasion that I saw him I quickly noticed how nice his business suits looked, and if you’ve ever seen my wardrobe, you’d know that I’m no expert on fashion.

More on Arnold will be coming soon because I am working on my review of his recently-released autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story (BOOKKINDLE), which I really enjoyed and which gave me an appreciation and respect for the former Governor that I hadn’t expected.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
When was the last visit you made to your hometown and what do you miss if there is anything that you miss about Sacramento.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The last time I was in Sacramento was when I moved, so it’s been since June 2010.

There are definitely some things that I miss.  I love living where I am now where it’s rural and quiet and calm.  I don’t ever miss hearing helicopters and sirens like I did every night for the first 30 years of my life.  That was the most surprising thing that I noticed when I moved to Austin.  I thought those were just the noises that you hear in every large city, but then I moved to Austin and it was quiet and I realized that what I was used to in Sacramento was not normal.  (Other than the LBJ Library, I don’t miss a single thing from my one miserable year in Austin, by the way)

Maybe I should just answer your question and get back to what I do miss about Sacramento.

Of course, I miss the weather.  The weather here in Missouri is exponentially better than it was in Austin, but there’s nothing better than those summer nights in Sacramento where the temperature drops down to 65 degrees even though it was 105 during the day and that beautiful Delta breeze comes off of the river.  Once I moved out of Sacramento (and California overall, really), I realized that I took the great weather for granted since I had lived there all my life.

I miss Capitol Park.  I loved taking a book and just chilling somewhere in Capitol Park under one of the scores of various species of trees planted in the park because so many trees from around the world can thrive in Sacramento’s climate.  Or just walked around Capitol Park after catching dinner somewhere downtown.  I really miss getting a nice cigar from Rodney’s or the tobacco shop on Front Street in Old Sac, and enjoying it while walking and talking with a friend along the palm-lined sidewalks surrounding the Capitol.  Or strolling through Capitol Park with a girl, looking at the monuments and the orange trees, and showing her where, if you stand just right, you can peek into the Governor’s first-floor corner office and sometimes see the Governor sitting at his desk.

I miss Round Table Pizza and Pizza Guys.  There’s a 40% chance that I’ll move back to Sacramento just because I can’t live much longer without having Round Table or, if I don’t want to spend as much money, Pizza Guys.  I can’t believe Round Table isn’t a national chain.  The rest of this country is missing out.  If everyone had Round Table Pizza, we would all be happy and prosperous and there would be peace in the Middle East.

I miss having a nice, stiff drink and lounging around like a gentleman in the bar in the lobby of the Sheraton Grand.  Or having a pricey, tasty margarita in the bar of the Delta King.  Or having a lot of cheap, tasty margaritas at Chevy’s on the River.

I miss Time Tested Books on 21st Street in Midtown and the piles of used books at the Book Nook on Madison Avenue where I found some real treasures over the years.

I miss going to Sacramento Kings games and lunch at the Esquire Grill.  I miss being so close to San Francisco and the coast as well as Reno, Tahoe, and the Sierra.

I miss living within walking distance of a Trader Joe’s.  I miss Temple Coffee House on 9th Street, and I’m pissed because they waited until I moved and then opened a new location in my old neighborhood!

There are probably some more things, but those are what I think about from time-to-time.  Except for both Round Table Pizza and Pizza Guys, which I usually think about for an average of no less than three hours each day.  Despite the things that I miss, I’m still very happy to be where I am and doing what I am doing.  The only time I consider moving back to Sacramento is when I want pizza, so I think that’s a good sign.

Shit, now I’m hungry.

8,557 plays
Daz Dillinger,
Only On the Left Side

Daz Dillinger: Only on the Left Side

391 plays

Tash (feat. Kurupt): G’z Iz G’z

128,919 plays

2Pac (feat. C-Bo, D-Shot, B-Legit, E-40 & Richie Rich): Ain’t Hard 2 Find

Anyone who has lived in California for an extended period of time knows how much easier life would be if you never had to drive on I-5 or 99 in the Central Valley.  There’s nothing worse than having to stop at the terrible McDonald’s/Chevron on the Firebaugh exit EVERY TIME because you forget there’s nothing better between Santa Nella and the Grapevine.  Or, driving on 99 through Fresno and thinking, “Oh, this is what Kabul would look like if it was uglier.” 

If there was a bullet train that got you through that part of the state quickly, Californians would be much happier, in general.

On the same note on the Kings what was your thoughts on that land swap deal with the State Fair that collapse? Felt like it was too complex for it all to go through. Plus if you look at it state wise you got the A's and 49ers two teams in which have had relative championship success yet can't get a new stadium. Befuddled me when the Giants got Pac Bell when they haven't won much since they move from New York. Heard rumors that if 49ers get that Santa Clara/ Great America one that maybe the Raiders will share the stadium with them and possibly Warriors go to SF.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

This is really local to Northern California and totally non-Presidential, so people are going to hate that I answer it, but too bad.  It’s a subject that interests me as someone who lived in Northern California for the first 30 years of my life.

Now, I did move to Austin last summer, so I may be a bit out of touch on some of the latest news and issues. 

With the Kings, I definitely think that the land swap deal at Cal Expo (site of the California State Fair) was far too complex.  If anybody here knows anything about Sacramento, too, an arena at Cal Expo would be a traffic nightmare.  The State Fair is a nightmare for traffic on the Cap City Freeway and that’s only two weeks per year.  Forty-one Kings games each year would really cause some trouble over there.  I didn’t like the idea of an arena at Cal Expo.

Ideally, they would build an arena downtown at the railyards, but that’s been beaten into the ground so much over the years that I can’t see how it can ever actually get done now.  The people of Sacramento screwed themselves with the Kings by voting down the ballot initiative for the arena in 2008.  That was a chance to step up and show that we were serious about keeping the Kings and it was defeated handily.  That whole initiative campaign was badly ran, too.  I don’t think most people understood it very well.

Like I said, I’ve been out of Sacramento since last year, so I don’t know what the discussion is now.  I would assume downtown because that’s where the City has always pushed for a new arena and I don’t think the Maloofs wanted anything in Natomas again.  I never had a problem with a new arena in Natomas, but I don’t own the team and I’m not the Mayor of the city.  I also wondered why they never looked into building an arena at the former McClellan Air Force Base.  That seems like a perfect place for an arena — easily accessible, plenty of land, and I would assume that the chemicals have been largely cleaned up since the AFB has been closed for years now.

As for the other Northern California teams, I was surprised when the Giants got Pac Bell, too, because it’s stunning that the 49ers haven’t been able to get themselves a new stadium.  I thought that the A’s had a good deal with the proposed Fremont ballpark, but I would not be surprised to see them in San Jose.

I can’t see the Raiders and 49ers ever sharing a stadium.  The Raiders won’t get anything from local governments unless Al Davis puts down the stakes and commits to the Bay Area.  You never know when the Raiders are going to pack up and move back to L.A.  I know the Warriors play in the NBA’s oldest arena, but didn’t they renovate the Oracle Arena pretty nicely a few years back.  That’s a great place to catch a basketball game.  I’d hate to see them move across the Bay because the atmosphere in that arena is pretty special when the Warriors fans get into it.

Swinging back to the Kings and Sacramento, this is their chance to save the team and, really, save the city.  Sacramento has always been on the edge of being a major league city.  It has the population — it’s a far bigger city than most people realize, but the Kings give them that identification as a “major league” city.  If the Kings moved, Sacramento isn’t going to get another major league sports team.  This is its one chance.  We know that the city can support the team — they did it through some really terrible years, and they did it during the Webber/Divac/Peja glory years.  But building a new arena is a must.  And not just for the Kings, either.  ARCO Arena (I refuse to call it by its new name ) is the site of some great memories for me, but it is outdated and a downtown arena would certainly revitalize what could be a really cool downtown area if it actually stayed open past 5 PM on weekdays.  Mayor Johnson — who I didn’t think much of during his campaign or throughout the first part of his term — really stepped up, so this will be his legacy, too.  I don’t know — I actually feel pretty confident about it, though.  I think Sacramento will come through.  If not, it’s not the Maloofs; Sacramento will have only itself to blame.