Big stories sucked up much of the oxygen this week. Cities are on fire and two guys left earth in a rocket (some say they’re lucky). Other than that, here’s a few stories you may have missed.
In a tragic twist, we learned that George Floyd and Officer Derek Chauvin worked at the same night club in Minneapolis. If only they knew each other, maybe there might have been more empathy.
When the order to shelter in place came down, couples who were dating had to make a quick choice, stay apart or stay together. One couple in NYC has been together in an apartment after just one date, another has been stuck in Costa Rica after just three.
One silver lining resulting from the pandemic? Have you noticed that the volume of robocalls are down?
A Texas high school principal drove over 1,500 miles to personally deliver diplomas to each of his graduating students. Closer to home, my daughter’s math teacher from Alameda High made the rounds to personally visit with each of her 100+ students and deliver a gift bag of hand-crafted goods.
Stay safe and take care of your neighbors everyone – see you next week.
Julia just graduated from high school. It was strangely anti-climactic. She put on her graduation regalia and headed out the door to meet a small group of classmates in Group 11 at the Alameda Theatre where they were ushered in, socially-distanced, and took the stage, one-by-one, to pick up a diploma and say a few words into a camera for a video that will be spliced together for family and friends. No pomp, just circumstance.
The Class of 2020 has been through a series of unique events as they made their way through the public school system here in Alameda. They grew up learning how to adapt.
Her class was the first seriously impacted at the local elementary school as overflow from the lottery system in San Francisco drove parents to the East Bay. In 2007 it was no longer sufficient to say you lived in the neighborhood to send your kids to the local school. For the first time, you had to get in line and spend the night in order to guarantee one of the coveted spots for your child in the kindergarten.
As Julia made her way to Lincoln Middle School, her class ended up being one of the last that took the trip out East to visit Washington DC as part of the Close-Up program. Julia took band where she played violin and was part of the color guard team with the marching band that took a trip to Disneyland where they marched down Main Street.
In high school, Julia’s interests turned to sports where she ramped up her passion for soccer. She had been playing club soccer for a couple of years and made the varsity team her freshman year. She also dug into leadership at the school where she served on the Spirit Committee and helped organize several school-wide events including a fund-raiser which raised thousands for families suffering after the fires in Paradise, California. She called the program Pennies for Paradise.
Alameda High School went through a number of physical upgrades while she attended. Seismic fences surrounded the old school building as the structure was deemed unsound. Over the four years Julia was there, major improvements were made and by her senior year, they finished with the classic structure you see in the photo below.
She took an interest in Psychology to the point where she convinced enough classmates to join her and put together an AP Psychology course. This interest served to focus her college search which brought her to Clark University which is known for its Psychology Department.
So Julia starts at Clark University in Massachusetts next year. Izumi and I sat in on a Q&A session and learned a little about the school’s plans to get started in the Fall. They will do everything they can to get everyone together for in-person instruction but are also planning on an extended Winter Break (Nov 20 – Feb 15) during which courses will be taught remotely should there be a second outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Izumi and I have been touched with the school’s inclusive approach. Their admissions package included not only the usual information and schwag for Julia but also a nice letter from the president, welcoming us to the community.
I think she’ll be in good hands. Congratulations Julia, I’m so excited to see what you do next!
My great-grandfather, Erlon H. Parker, flew bi-planes for the United States in World War I. As a Memorial Day project, I decided to pull on a few threads to see what else I could find about the man known in my family as “Skipper.”
The photo up top is Skipper in the cockpit of a biplane. Back then, planes were wood-framed and covered with canvas. When they first started flying, they didn’t know how to synchronize machine guns with the prop so there was a danger of shooting the propeller off. Until they could work out the synchronization, the solution was to wrap the prop with bands of steel. This resulted in randomly ricocheted bullets which sometimes would glance off you or your plane but at least the prop survived. This gives you an idea of how they did things in the early days.
Before that, pilots went up with pistols, which sounds quaintly like the Wild West. Other options included deploying a grappling hook on the end of some rope and trying to cross your enemy’s path and tear up the their plane like some Afghan fighting kite.
This is what my great-grandfather signed up for.
Once the United States entered the war, the Army and Navy raced each other to see which service would get to Europe first. The Navy implemented a recruiting program to enlist men for aviation duty. 100 men were chosen, two from each state. Skipper, signing up from Maine, joined as a member of 1st Naval Aeronautic Detachment in Pensacola, Florida which was eventually winnowed down to 20 enlisted pilots.
On a family Zoom call, I learned that the fledgling unit left for Europe before any uniforms could be made for them. Once they landed in France, (fun fact, they sailed to Europe on the USS Jupiter, the first aircraft carrier in the US Navy) they were instructed to go to a tailor and get a uniform made for themselves. Apparently everyone interpreted what a uniform of a naval airman should look like so the resulting uniforms were not very, um, uniform.
The group needed instruction as they had little practice flying. The French pilots agreed to train them but, because of the language barrier, they had to be creative.
One can only imagine how dodgy these early planes were. Nicknamed “flying eggcrates” there wasn’t much holding them together. The early engines were not very reliable, some only good for 4-hours flying time. There was no radio so each plane went up with a carrier pigeon which was used to send home coordinates for a search party should they go down. There were also other uses for homing pigeons.
Skipper flew seaplanes (“flying boats”) that patrolled out over the ocean looking for enemy ships and submarines. They mostly would go out on reconnaissance but they also had some light bombs (basically hand grenades) that they could pitch over the side if they wanted to cause trouble.
I also learned from Skipper’s obituary that his squadron was credited with sinking two German submarines but that all he ever shot down were, “two seagulls.”
After the war, Skipper joined a fellow war pilot, Eddy Rickenbacker, as one of the first commercial pilots with Eastern Airlines where he flew the Ford Tri-motor “Tin Goose” on the route between Newark, NJ and Washington, DC. Captain Pete Parker, as he became known, became the Chief pilot with Eastern and flew the first flight out of North Beach, Long Island which is now known as La Guardia.
I have seen Captain Parker’s flight log at my parent’s house which records regular flights between Newark and Havana on a DC-3 back in the 1930’s. My great-grandmother used to tell of the time when they were passengers on a DC-3 going through choppy air. Everyone was getting ill from getting bounced around so much so Skipper asked his wife to excuse him and went up to the cockpit and politely asked if he could take over for a bit. The plane soon smoothed itself out to the delight of everyone on-board.
Skipper died before I was born but his stories and spirit last on in my family. He is also the reason my middle name is Parker. I thank him for his service and hope you enjoyed this little celebration of his amazing life.
The Oakland A’s missed their April rent payment on the Oakland Coliseum. Citing financial difficulty due to the pandemic, they owe $1.2 million or a little over two pair of Air Jordan sneaks. Then again, maybe they should ask Stripchat.com who wants to buy naming rights to the New Orleans Superdome from Mercedes-Benz.
Students from Juilliard quarantined at home like the rest of us, are unable to be with their colleagues or classmates, and isolated from the collective space where they practice their art.
But distance and isolation cannot dampen their spirit. As with others, they put a Zoom video together but, this being Juilliard, they took it to the next level and the gravitational momentum of the project brought in a several famous alumni to join the project.
The result is, as the Juilliard website describes, “a collective endeavor that captures a snapshot of a specific global moment and the possibilities of creative connection in an uncertain world.”
More from The Daily Beast on the making of:
Keigwin told The Daily Beast that getting Bolero Juilliard right “turned into an obsession that was comforting on so many levels. And we just hit it full speed for days and days. Not every project do you wake up at 3am for and have lots of ideas, or start editing at 6am. It was so inspiring and passion-filled. And it really wasn’t just me, this was a hugely collaborative effort.”
He laughed as he described shouting at the multiple performers on the screen in front of him: “Follow my lead…faster…grab something…stop…MELT.” People would be moving furniture, breaking things, an animal would enter the shot, leading Keigwin to exclaim: “No, keep the cat! I love the cat!”
Some people should be setting a better example. After the governor of Texas issued an order closing all non-essential businesses, including nail salons, the mayor of Beaumont, Texas was caught in a nail salon. After encouraging New Yorkers to snitch on neighbors not adhering to stay-at-home measures, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio was caught 11 miles from home strolling in Prospect Park.
Armed protesters in Michigan pounded on the doors of the state capital asking to be let in when they really wanted to be let out.