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Newsom is correct on homelessness. His Republican opponents are dead wrong


Sometimes, it’s hard being a Democrat these days, if you support the police and want homeless encampments, with their garbage and filth, cleaned up.

The Democratic Party somehow has gotten saddled with being the defund-the-police party, and also the party that refuses to get serious about encampments. Regarding the former, it’s astonishing to me that the Democratic Party should be so associated with anti-police extremists. Supporting the police has always been a bipartisan effort in America; Republicans and Democrats alike believed in strong policing to protect the citizenry from crime. Sadly, with the rise of the “woke” or social-justice movement, bashing and defunding the police has become routine among some Democrats, and Republicans are making hay of it.

The encampment issue is trickier, but here, too, Democrats are on shaky ground. Increasing numbers of people dislike the filth and sordidness of encampments and want them cleaned up or cleared out. This doesn’t mean people don’t feel compassion for the homeless; but there are too many reports that many homeless people choose to live in the streets and parks, and there is a justified resentment that cities are apparently unable to roust them. Citizens see their government losing control of the streets, and they know this is a first step on the downward path.

Republican pollsters, who are very smart, know how to appeal to this resentment. This is why the two main Republican candidates running to replace Gavin Newsom as Governor of California both did the same thing in recent days: They outlined their plans for eliminating camps.

Of the two, Cox’s is by far the more severe: He says he would arrest people who refuse to leave camps when ordered to do so. Both his plan and that of Falconer seem, on the surface, harsher than the one proposed by Newsom, which is essentially to throw huge quantities at money to buy hotels, motels and other existing housing stock, or to erect new modular housing on vacant land.

Falconer’s plan and Cox’s, even more so, appeal to the fed-up-ness of the electorate. I understand that. I’m as fed up as anyone, and I probably have encampments a lot closer to my home than most of you do. At the same time, I recognize that this volatile issue won’t be solved by being emotional. Cox knows he can’t just arrest tens of thousands of homeless people. That doesn’t stop him from saying it, but it’s just cheap rhetoric. Falconer, too, knows that he will need money to pay for his proposal to offer alternative housing to homeless people; thanks to the Boise v. Martin ruling, municipalities can’t eject people from encampments without offering them a roof over their heads, however modest it may be. Falconer won’t, or can’t, say where the money will come from. Newsom already has: from COVID relief funds and from California’s remarkable budget surplus. So Newsom is being honest about the problem, while Falconer isn’t; indeed, if Falconer were honest, his plan would actually be the Newsom plan.

It’s obvious that this homeless situation will require huge amounts of money to solve. I, personally, wish officials would get tougher on the most resistant criminal elements who live in tents and refuse to relocate to shelters even when they’re available. But I recognize that just because citizens are pissed off doesn’t give cities, counties and the State the ability to arrest large numbers of people. That sort of behavior is what I consider Trumpian—fascist, dictatorial and unConstitutional—and it’s why I remain a Democrat, even though sometimes it’s hard.

Wine: A matter of taste?


Is there such a thing as “objective” quality in wine? Or is it all personal preference?

I ask because I bought a $22 bottle of a non-vintage white Rioja (I don’t want to identify it) at a wine shop here in Oakland the other day that the floor clerk highly recommended as being “dry, crisp and yeasty.” As I love a good fino sherry, I got it, never having previously had a white Rioja. On tasting, my first thought was, “this wine is too old.” It tasted stale and tired.

But it made me wonder. This particular wine shop is wildly popular with younger folks; the proprietors seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the tastes of their customers in their twenties and thirties. One of their biggest sellers is orange wine. So when I tasted that white Rioja, and hated it, my next thought was, Am I out of touch with the taste of younger wine drinkers?

I’m aware that tastes change. If everyone is drinking orange wine and bretty beer, then that’s the popular taste; if I don’t like them (and I don’t), then I’m out of step. But really, how could an old, tired white wine possibly be considered “good,” no matter how many people like it? Or am I just an old, tired white male who doesn’t get it?

I looked up to see what my former colleague, Mike Schachner, had to say about the wine in Wine Enthusiast. I found there his review of the 2016: same producer, same 100% Vidura. His experience resonated with my own: “A cloudy burnished-gold color and oxidized aromas of briny but stale white fruits get this Viura off to a shaky start. Bold malic acidity lends kick to an otherwise flat palate. This tastes lightly oxidized and briny to an extreme, while the finish is cidery.” Granted, he reviewed the ’16 while my bottle was nonvintage, but still, it might have been the same wine. “Oxidized…stale…flat palate.” There was nothing “yeasty” about it, as the floor clerk said, which made me wonder if she knew what she was talking about (but that’s a whole different story!).

So back to my questions. “Is there such a thing as ‘objective’ quality in wine? Or is it all personal preference?” I have to insist there is such a thing as objective quality. All my reading, all my life experience, all my studying and talking with winemakers for 40-plus years tell me that. Enologists have written books about faults in wine. And yet, I always remember when I interviewed Josh Jensen, down at Calera, about a million years ago. He told me that when he advertised for an assistant winemaker, the first requirement he had was “Must not be a U.C. Davis grad.” Davis, he insisted (and others told me the same thing) taught how to make squeaky-clean wines of no personality or distinction. He, Josh, wanted his wines to have personality. Tim Mondavi had told me something similar: he liked a little brett in his Pinot Noirs, even though the professors at U.C. Davis hated brett.

The idea of personality in wine, as in people, is highly appealing. But could the oxidized, or maderized, quality of that white Rioja conceivably be called “personality”? Kenneth Dahmer had “personality” too, but not one that was particularly appealing. On the second night after I’d opened the wine, I poured myself another glass. Still oxidized, still stale, still tired. But, I asked myself, is there something here, something that could be called interesting or charming or unique or even–gasp–intellectual? I finished the bottle, and thought about every sip. Had I been unfair? Was I so used to clean, fresh, fruity white wines that I was refusing to recognize the qualities of this maderized one?

Transition time for my blog


I started this blog way back in May, 2008. Wine blogs were then getting to be “the next big thing” and I wanted in on the action. Unlike most other bloggers, I had a steady daytime gig at Wine Enthusiast that gave me plenty of visibility (and a decent income). But I wanted the greater freedom that personal wine blogging afforded. No editors! No publishers! Nobody but me!

My wine blog got big, fast. It was newsworthy that a well-known wine writer had a personal blog. My writing style, too, contributed to its success. rose to the top of the wine blogosphere. It’s true that I never won any trophies from the Wine Bloggers Conference, but I got nominated a whole bunch of times and they asked me to co-keynote one of their conferences. Certainly, as measured by the “comments” my posts got, my blog was one of the most popular in America.

That continued even after I left Wine Enthusiast in 2012 to become Director of Wine Communications and Education at Jackson Family Wines. But when I retired, in 2016, I decided that it no longer made sense to write about wine. I would no longer have day-to-day contact with the industry. There wasn’t any more need to keep up with issues and events. And, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in the wine industry now that I wasn’t in it. So I told my readers I was transitioning. The subject of my blog would now become Donald Trump.

That was in September, 2016. He was by then the Republican nominee for president, running against my choice, Hillary Clinton. I knew what a horror Trump was. It was clear to me then that he, and the evil people around him, were threats to America, and to me personally. So I decided to use my blog to resist him. And that is what I did for the next 4-1/2 years, until he had been defeated in 2020, thank God.

Since then, my blog writing has been infrequent. I no longer post every day, as I did for more than 12 years. There was another reason for this: my blogging energies became transferred to my “other” blog at the Coalition for a Better Oakland, of which I am president. CBO, as we call it, absorbs a great deal of my thinking and time. My colleagues and I are serious about becoming a force for moderate Democrats in Oakland, a city long dominated by the “woke” politicians of the far Left. I hate seeing my beloved Democratic Party—the party of my parents and grandparents—being hijacked by ideological extremists, whose demands are driving voters away from the Democratic Party into the waiting arms of rightwing Republicans. The stakes are high.

I explain all this in order to tell my remaining readers why you don’t hear from me more often. Times change, and we have to change with them. I’ll still continue to post here every so often, but it’s no longer a priority. My daily blog at is now my priority. I hope you’ll read it regularly. It’s mainly about Oakland, but the issues will be familiar to all of you; they’re national issues. The important thing for me, personally, is to continue to have a platform where I can express my views, in the hope that my two cents will have some impact on things.


It’s a hideous lie to say Republicans are more gay-friendly because of Trump


I don’t particularly like the San Francisco Chronicle’s political columnist, Joe Garofoli, because he’s always taking cheap shots at Gov. Newsom, whom I admire. I suspect he’s secretly a crypto-trumper.

Especially obnoxious was his headline yesterday: “GOP gets gay-friendlier—thanks to, yes, Trump.”

You read that right: Donald Trump, protector of LGBTQ people, is making the homophobic Republican-Evangelical Party gay-friendly!

Now, I have to say Garofoli may not have written the headline; his editor might have been the culprit. And Garofoli wasn’t actually responsible for the subject of his column, whom he quoted: Charles Moran, managing director of the Log Cabin Republicans.

The LCRs are a rather queer (in the old sense) group of gay rightwingers. For all their 40-plus years of existence, they’ve puzzled and infuriated the vast majority of gays, who wonder why anyone gay would support an outfit that wants to obliterate LGBTQ people.

The weirdo headline was based on Garofoli’s interview with Moran. It stemmed from his statement that “One of the best things about [Trump] is that he helped get the Republican Party beyond the hang-up around LGBT equality issues.”

Now you, Dear Reader, might be scratching your head in wonderment about how Trump moved his party beyond their gay hang-up. Well, Moran’s thesis is that Trump wasn’t as horrible toward LGBTQ people as most Republicans might have been. And so, in Moran’s fever dream, because he wasn’t as Hitleresque as other Republicans, he actually helped the Republican Party toward gay acceptance.

There’s so much wrong and dishonest about this that it’s hard to know where to begin, starting with Trump’s alleged gay-friendliness. To set the record straight, the Trump regime “gutted LGBTQ+ rights,” says the decidedly conservative-leaning USA Today newspaper. The article details some of the more homophobic things the Trump regime did, including

  • Removing all mention of LGBTQ people and issues from the White House website
  • Barring transgendered people from the military
  • Pushed for exemptions that would allow health care providers to refuse care to transgender people and those with HIV/AIDS
  • Banned U.S. embassies from flying the rainbow flag to mark global Pride Month
  • Outlawed the words “transgender” and “diversity” in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports
  • Stopped data collection for LGBTQ+ kids in foster care
  • And, of course, appointed some of the most rightwing, homophobic fanatics to the Supreme Court—justices whose anti-gay rulings will turn back the clock on LGBTQ rights for decades to come.

Do you remember that scene from The Caine Mutiny when the Jose Ferrer character tosses a glass of water into the face of the Fred MacMurray character? That’s what I’ll do if I ever have the non-pleasure of meeting Charles Moran. The guy is a tool, a liar, and a self-professed apologist for the infamies of the homophobic Trump Party, which are legion. Mr. Moran may say to himself that he’s not a single-issue voter, and that the mere fact that he’s gay doesn’t prevent him from voting Republican. I can accept that, although it rubs me the wrong way.

But for Moran to claim that Trump pushed the Republican Party in a gay-friendly way is appallingly dishonest spin. It’s the kind of propaganda we’ve come to expect from Republican extremists, and it’s sad that San Francisco’s paper of record, the Chronicle, has chosen to plaster those rightwing lies on its own pages.

The World According to Trump


Part 1. The Conspiracy

October, 2019

Scene: A secret house in Wuhan, China.

In attendance: Chinese President Xi. Hillary Clinton. George Soros. Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Ma Xiaowei, Chinese Minister of Health, and various translators.

President Xi: I welcome everyone to our secret meeting, to develop a plan to overthrow U.S. President Donald Trump.

[All]: Thank you, President Xi.

President Xi: I will turn the floor over to Dr. Xiaowei.

Dr. Xiaowei: Thank you, President Xi. Ladies and gentlemen. We have developed in our laboratory here in Wuhan a brand new virus, capable of causing a pandemic.

Dr. Fauci: I thought as much!

Hillary Clinton: Dr. Xiaowei, how will this new virus help us in our goal of getting rid of Trump?

Dr. Xiaowei: I am glad you asked. For the answer, I turn the floor over to Mr. Soros, who has financed our effort.

George Soros: Thank you Dr. Xiaowei. We have carefully analyzed this situation, and—

Hillary Clinton: –Who is “we”, George?

George Soros: Well, in addition to myself, there’s the Obamas, Jeff Bezos, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Cher, Bill Gates, George Clooney, Steve Heimoff, David Hogg, Antifa of course, and–

President Xi: –In other words, the entire left wing power structure of the U.S.

George Soros: Well, Oprah didn’t want to get involved. But pretty much, yeah. And our conclusion is that, if we can spread an incurable virus in America prior to the election next November, we can turn public opinion against Trump, and he’ll lose.

Hillary Clinton: Diabolically clever.

George Soros: I didn’t make $100 billion by being dumb.

Dr. Fauci: But tell me, Dr. Xiaowei, how did you manufacture this virus? What sort of virus is it? How do you propose to unleash it in America? How will you prevent it from spreading to your own people, much less the entire world? How many people will it kill?

Dr. Xiaowei: You ask many questions, Comrade Fauci. It is a coronavirus.

Dr. Fauci: I love it. Aerosol spread. Impossible to contain. No cure. Looks menacing on T.V. But aren’t you afraid it will contaminate your own people?

Dr. Xiaowei: No. The strain we developed isn’t particularly lethal. It’s no more serious than the average flu.

Hillary Clinton: Then how will it contribute to Trump losing the election?

George Soros: This is where Dr. Fauci comes in. With his credibility, he can convince the American public to shut down the entire economy. He’ll scare the kreplach out of them. As the economy tanks, we’re pretty sure Trump will downplay the virus and tell people not to worry. But Dr. Fauci will keep up his fake warnings, which will be amplified by the useful idiots of the media. Then the American people will blame Trump for the virus, and they’ll vote him out of office.

Dr. Fauci: It’s a great plan. I can do that.

Hillary Clinton: Count me in!

President Xi: Then we’re all in agreement?

[All nod]

President Xi: Excellent. Dr. Fauci, Dr. Xiaowei will give you a vial containing trillions of germs of the new virus. It shall be your responsibility to spread it across America.

Dr. Fauci: Excellent! I’m already thinking where to start: New York City.

Hillary Clinton: The media capital of the world!

President Xi: Well, we consider Beijing the world’s media capital.

Hillary Clinton: Except that your media is state-run.

President Xi: As if yours isn’t? What do you call Fox News?

George Soros: Secretary Clinton, President Xi, please! Can we get back to the secret plan?

Dr. Fauci: After New York, I’ll bring it to Seattle. There’s a public market near the Space Needle that tourists go to. The virus will spread like wildfire. Between Seattle and New York, it will vector out to the rest of the country in [takes out his calculator and starts punching numbers] 28.5 days.

George Soros: In other words, by mid-November.

Dr. Xiaowei: I’d give it a little longer. These things never develop the way you expect them to.

Dr. Fauci: Okay, mid-December. By the end of January, beginning of February, I’ll be able to create genuine panic across America.

George Soros: Fauci, you’re the original Doctor Evil!

Dr. Fauci: I thank you, good sir.

Hillary Clinton: The Democratic National Committee and our friends in the media can help. I know I can count on Rachel.

Dr. Xiaowei: Oh, are you close to Rachel Maddow? I love her!

President Xi: And the next thing you know, it will be November, 2020, and your presidential election.

Dr. Fauci: And [punches more numbers into his computer] about 400,000 dead Americans.

President Xi: You can’t make egg foo young without breaking a few eggs.

[All laugh]

President Xi: All right. Thanks, comrades! Meeting adjourned.

A visit from Trump-loving cousins


Cousin Justin and his wife, Elaney, were driving up from Tulsa to stay with us for three days, now that the pandemic was easing. We hadn’t seen them for ten years. Justin was retired from his mid-management job at a pharmaceutical company. Elaney had been a schoolteacher before marrying Justin—the second marriage for both—after which she worked at Wal-Mart for a while. They enjoyed a comfortable retirement in Tulsa; Justin played a lot of golf and Elaney contented herself with baking and crocheting.

Hazel and I had the extra bedroom, now that the kids were gone, so they could stay there. We figured we’d show them San Francisco’s famous sights, drive across the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands, and go down Highway 1 to Princeton and Santa Cruz. Elaney had never been to the Bay Area and wanted to see everything.

Their flight was right on time. We met them at SFO’s Terminal 2. Justin was grayer than I remembered, while Elaney had gained a lot of weight. “Oh, God,” Hazel whispered when they hove into view. “Don’t say anything.”

Neither wore a mask, although mask-wearing was still required at the airport. I’d heard from another cousin that Justin and Elaney thought that masks were unnecessary and that the shutdowns had been unwarranted, but then, they lived in Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in the country, and Justin had always tended to veer Republican. Hazel and I had decided we’d do our best to steer away from politics during their visit.

It was sunny and warm at SFO, but on the drive back to Pacifica the fog closed in, as usual, and the temperature fell by a good 15 degrees. Elaney was fascinated. “Ah jus’ cain’t believe it!” she said, in her Sooner State accent. “Why, y’all must have a heckuva time figurin’ out what to wear!” We all laughed. “The weather’s one of the things we love about the Bay Area,” Hazel said. “It’s so diverse.”

Justin was looking out the window. We’d left the freeway and were driving up to Skyline Boulevard through suburban neighborhoods. Many of the houses still had Biden-Harris signs in their yards, left over from last year’s election. “Guess we’re in Blue Country,” Justin mused.

Hazel, who was in the front passenger side, and I glanced at each other. “Anyone want to listen to a CD?” she chirped. “We have Beatles, Carole King, Kenny Loggins…”

“Got any Christian music?” Elaney asked. I almost braked the car, I was so taken aback. Hazel seemed to be struggling to find something to say. We were all Jewish. Justin, like me, had been bar mitzvah. We knew that Elaney wasn’t Jewish when Justin married her, but the subject of her religious beliefs had never surfaced. We’re liberals; it doesn’t matter what religion you practice, as long as the marriage is based on love.

“Umm,” Hazel muttered, rifling through the CD box. “I don’t think so.”

Justin changed the subject. “People out here still wearing those masks?”

“They are,” I replied, as we turned west on Sharp Park Road, headed down the hill toward the sea. “Even though the Bay Area has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, second only to Seattle, I believe. But people are still wearing masks.”

“Why” Elaney asked.

This time it was Hazel’s turn to answer. “Well, I think for a couple reasons. One, the variants are out there, and people still aren’t sure about them. Also, it’s common courtesy to wear a mask, even if you’ve had both shots. Have you guys had your shots?”

I flinched. Hazel didn’t really have to ask that question at that time.

“’Course not,” Elaney said. “It’s all fake. I mean, the virus and all.”

Justin picked up the theme. “That’s what I don’t get. This Fauci—who’s a real socialist looney—convinced everybody to be paranoid about COVID. I mean, people die all the time. More people die of the flu every year than supposedly died of COVID, but we don’t shut the country down every time somebody gets the flu.”

A heavy quiet filled the car.

“President Trump was right,” Elaney volunteered. “The Chinese Flu was introduced to hurt America. Everybody knew it then, but the antifa atheists and big international money hoaxed people into it. And look what happened. Gonna take decades for the U.S. to get back on its feet.”

We hit Highway 1 and swung south toward our house. I knew that Hazel was thinking the same thing as I: It’s going to be a long three days.

An Urban Morality Tale


I was second in line for the register at the CVS, waiting to pay for a bottle of vitamins and a can of Ajax. The lady ahead of me clearly needed extra help. The cashier had come out from her place behind the counter to help the lady consolidate her shopping cart of stuff—mainly junk food and toilet paper—into three large bags. The lady was very short and obese, middle-aged, probably Latina. She was practically naked below the waist, her heavy thighs jiggling, but her calves were wrapped in Ace bandages. She wore a heavy, long black hoodie. Her dark hair, streaked with gray, was neatly pulled into a pony tail.

When she was finished, I stepped up to the register; my transaction was short. As I approached the store’s door, the lady was struggling: as soon as she exited the store, her shopping cart’s wheels had frozen up. She didn’t seem to realize the cart was going nowhere. I went back and told the cashier that the lady’s wheels had locked up. “I told her they would,” she replied, shaking her head. There was nothing she could do.

When I got back out to the sidewalk the lady was muttering to herself, trying to push the shopping cart. It was completely jammed, but the lady didn’t seem to realize it; she pathetically tried to push it along. Well, part of me just wanted to get on with my day, but the other part—my conscience, I suppose—wouldn’t let me.

“Can I help?” I asked. She was very sweet, with a beautiful smile. “Oh, yes,” she said. “Your cart is broken,” I explained. “Where are you going? Can I help you carry your packages?”

“Albuquerque,” she responded. Obviously I couldn’t leave her alone. She needed help. I took the heaviest bag as she started walking down Broadway, east toward the hills. I tried to make conversation. “Albuquerque is a long way from here,” I said. “Are you sure that’s where you’re going?”

“The Post Office,” she said.

“There is no Post Office this way,” I said,

“Oh yes there is,” she insisted. “On 41st Street.” Then I remembered, she was right. But we were on 30th Street. “That’s a long way from here,” I said. “And you can’t carry all your bags. Let me see if I can get someone to help.”

I asked her to put the bags on the sidewalk and wait while I turned away and dialed 9-1-1. I was on hold for maybe a minute and then the dispatcher answered. I told her the situation and described what the lady looked like. She said we were assigned a high priority and someone would be coming to help us.

We were now across the street from Sprouts. It was a beautiful, sunny day. “Let’s just wait here for a while,” I told my new friend, whose name was JoAnne. “Someone will be coming to help you.” She was exceedingly friendly, and while she didn’t have much to say, she answered all my questions; I tried to engage her. Yes, Albuquerque was a nice place. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter and there were cacti. Yes, she had a son, 44, and a daughter, 22.

“You can’t have a 44-year old son,” I said. “You don’t look 44 yourself!” She smiled. She was leaning on her cane and didn’t look very steady. Just then a man showed up. “Would you like a chair?” He was a developer who was building the new condo building we were in front of. He went inside and got a folding chair and JoAnne sat on it. Then the man went away and said that we could just leave the chair there when we were finished with it.

If you’ve ever waited for a 9-1-1 call to show up, you’ll know what I was feeling. JoAnne kept trying to pick up her bags and walk down Broadway, but since she couldn’t carry all of them, and was unsteady on her feet, and was disoriented, how could I let her go? Why was she out on her own in the first place?

“Where do you live, JoAnne,” I asked.

“On 20th Street.” That was downtown, in the opposite direction from where she was trying to walk.

“Twentieth Street is back there.”

“Albuquerque,” she repeated. I smiled. She smiled. It was almost like a game.

The minutes ticked by. Every so often JoAnne would pick up one or two of her bags and set off up Broadway again. I realized that she was a free, sovereign being, entitled to go where she wanted; but still, was it right to let her go? And what about her third bag, the one she couldn’t carry? Why was the 9-1-1 taking so long? What was the right thing to do?

I convinced JoAnne to sit down again but she seemed fidgety. I made small talk. What was her favorite T.V. show? “Good Morning America.” What was her favorite food? “Burritos,” she smiled, with a wide grin. “And tacos.” “There’s a great taco truck just down the block,” I said. She smiled and nodded. Then I could think of no more questions and we lapsed into silence.

“Do you like music?” I asked. “Oh, yes.” “Would you like to listen to a song?” I took my iPhone from my pocket and went to my iTunes library and believe it or not the first song to play was “She Loves You.” JoAnne immediately recognized it and sang along, and she did a little dance and so did I and we must have made quite a sight on Broadway.

Just then a bus pulled up; we happened to be at a bus stop. JoAnne got very excited and tried to pick up her bags to board the bus while I asked her if that was what she really wanted to do, and wouldn’t she rather stay with me because someone was coming to help her. She didn’t answer and made for the bus but she’d taken so long that the bus driver pulled away and disappeared down Broadway. “Oh, darn it,” JoAnne said.

Maybe ten minutes went by and I was getting antsy. Was I doing the right thing or the wrong thing? Was I wrongly detaining this perfectly nice lady from going where she wanted? Was I, in fact, breaking some kind of law? But all I wanted was to help her. She wasn’t capable of being on her own, or so I thought. And where was the damned police car anyway? It had been at least 30 minutes since the dispatcher said we were high priority.

Then another bus approached. I told JoAnne. Excitedly, she picked up her two bags and hobbled over to the curb on her cane. I took her third bag. The bus pulled up and the door opened and JoAnne began to try to get up the stairs with the bags. The driver, behind his plastic shield, was not amused. The look on his face said, “Great. Another one.” As JoAnne struggled up the steps I said to the driver, “She’s a little disoriented.” He clearly didn’t want any part of it, and I couldn’t blame him. It wasn’t his problem. JoAnne trudged to the middle of the bus, found a seat and put her two bags on the floor, while I followed her with the third bag, telling the driver not to pull away because I wasn’t taking the bus, I was just helping this lady with her package. The poor driver…

“JoAnne, here’s your other bag. Keep an eye on it, okay?” “Okay,” she said. I left the bus, troubled.

Forty-five minutes later my phone rang. It was the Oakland Police. Two cops had arrived at 30th and Broadway, across from Sprouts, but there was no one there. Did I still need help? I tried to explain what had happened—I couldn’t stop JoAnne from boarding the bus. But the dispatcher plainly didn’t want to hear a story. She just wanted to know if I still needed help.

“No,” I said.

I don’t know what happened to JoAnne. I’m not blaming the cops. OPD is severely understaffed because the city won’t adequately fund them. There’s a lot of talk, in this “Reimagining Policing” era, of replacing cops with social workers in responding to situations like JoAnne’s. But nothing has been done and I don’t know what can be done; I mean, would a social worker show up faster than the cops? Is JoAnne the new normal, a nice, sweet, peaceful lady with mental impairment who thinks she’s going to Albuquerque, or maybe it’s the Post Office? Is there no one to help her? Or was I, perhaps, out of line? Maybe she was perfectly capable of getting to where she thought she was going; maybe I was a meddling old fool. Maybe she’s still out there on the streets, wandering around with her bags, naked from the waist down. What would you have done?

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