|Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Feb. 24, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
San Francisco literary lion Lawrence Ferlinghetti died Monday at 101.
[Read the story: “Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and titan of the Beat era, dies at 101″ in the Los Angeles Times]
A prolific poet with more than 30 collections published over a half-century, Ferlinghetti was known for the central role he played in San Francisco’s literary universe, where he arrived in 1951 in search of bohemia. (Quite literally. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, soon after arriving, he “asked a stranger to point him in the direction of the bohemian quarter in the city” and then moved in.)
Ferlinghetti and a partner launched City Lights as the country’s first all-paperback bookstore in 1953, as the city’s Beat renaissance unfolded in the city. The bookshop is still going strong in North Beach nearly seven decades later, though it was closed for the first part of the day on Tuesday in his memory.
The Chronicle reports that Ferlinghetti died at home, in the same second-floor North Beach walkup apartment where “he lived for 40 years under rent control.”
[See also: “Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and founder of City Lights, dead at 101″ in the San Francisco Chronicle]
As former Times reporter Elaine Woo writes in The Times’ obituary, “Ferlinghetti became a publisher in 1955, when he started the City Lights Pocket Poets Series. The first volume was a collection of his own poems, ‘Pictures of the Gone World.’ Future volumes would feature work by Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, William Carlos Williams, Robert Duncan, Philip Lamantia, Denise Levertov and Diane diPrima. None of them, however, would earn the notoriety of No. 4 in the City Lights series — ‘Howl.’”
Ferlinghetti was prosecuted for obscenities for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s controversial epic poem, standing trial in what Woo described as a precedent-setting 1st Amendment case, in which the judge found that Ginsberg’s profanity-laced work had “redeeming social significance” and therefore was not obscene.
Despite his disdain for government and “dissident sensibility,” Ferlinghetti agreed to serve as the city’s inaugural poet laureate in 1998.
“I was walking along North Beach in my dirty painter’s clothes,” Ferlinghetti, then 79, told The Times in 1999, “and when I got near a fancy restaurant, a long limousine stopped. [Mayor] Willie Brown — I didn’t even think he knew me — jumped out and said, ‘I want you to be my poet laureate.’ How could I say no?”
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday announced that California would be making changes to a program designed to address inequities in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, after a Times report uncovered evidence that outsiders were misusing the program to grab appointments reserved for residents of neighborhoods hit hardest by the pandemic. Los Angeles Times
Faulty intelligence blamed for disastrous response to Capitol riots: Former security officials told Congress that faulty intelligence was to blame for failing to properly prepare for last month’s bloody insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, testifying in dramatic detail about their shock at confronting a violent insurrection and not the manageable protest they had been expecting. Los Angeles Times
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L.A. County approves a “hero pay” mandate of $5 an hour for grocery workers: The $5-an-hour pay boost for grocery workers in unincorporated L.A. County begins Friday. The L.A. City Council will consider a similar measure Wednesday. Los Angeles Times
L.A. restaurants struggle with a new form of dine-and-dash. Scammers are taking advantage of restaurants that have prioritized safety over in-person security measures such as checking driver’s licenses and manually swiping credit cards. Some people are scamming restaurateurs with fraudulent credit cards, while others request refunds, claiming they never received part or all of an order. Los Angeles Times
Chef Yoonjin Hwang outside her Los Angeles cafe, Spoon By H, on Sept. 23, 2020. Spoon by H is closing after months of reduced business, chargebacks and refund requests during the pandemic. (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)
Tiger Woods is “lucky to be alive” after a crash near Rancho Palos Verdes: The golf star was seriously injured in a rollover crash Tuesday morning. Los Angeles Times
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra emerged relatively unscathed from the first of two hearings this week on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary, as Democrats brushed aside Republican assertions that his experience is insufficient for the post. Los Angeles Times
The effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to gather steam. Here’s what you need to know. Los Angeles Times
Barbara Livingston, a longtime giant in Carmel politics, has died at 92. “Livingston took civic engagement to a new level, attending every Carmel City Council meeting for more than 30 years, during 12 of which she served as an elected member.” Monterey County Weekly
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
A Bay Area coyote responsible for a string of recent attacks struck a fifth victim last week: Authorities say the ubiquitous coyote bit a man outside a Lafayette convenience store on Friday. San Francisco Chronicle
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Providers “literally had to become teachers” as the pandemic pushed parents to put older kids in day care: Preschool and day-care workers across the state say they have spent months managing ad hoc classrooms of older students — tutoring, troubleshooting and teaching supplementary material — while simultaneously caring for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Los Angeles Times
A Stanford study shows why “Zoom fatigue” is real. But there are a few proposed fixes. Mercury News
“We won! We’re getting a Black Studies Department at @Stanford!” Students cheered after Stanford University officials announced Tuesday that they are transforming their 52-year-old program of African and African American Studies into a full-fledged academic department. San Francisco Chronicle
A poem to start your Wednesday: “The world is a beautiful place,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Poets.org
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Los Angeles: sunny, 72. San Diego: sunny, 66. San Francisco: sunny, 64. San Jose: sunny, 70. Fresno: sunny, 70. Sacramento: windy, 66.
Today’s California memory comes from Peter Mellini:
In June 1968, I moved to Russian Hill, easily finding a flat for $135 a month and commuting to Stanford where I taught. Fog came and went. Correcting history exams at Cafe Trieste, savoring dim sim and insults at Sam Wo’s, pizza at Tommaso’s, fish at Tadich, opera and cappuccinos at Tosca, clubbing at The Fillmore, slurping ice cream at Swensen’s on Hyde, relishing Irish coffee at the Buena Vista and weekly fresh laundry. The 1960s San Francisco was this guy’s paradise.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.