I woke up in Santa Monica feeing depressed because I read that my fellow San Franciscans elected to recall progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin, after millions of dollars from fearful white conservatives told them to do so. Those of you who don’t live in the Bay Area who are reading this, when you hear a conservative lament ‘liberal San Francisco’ or however my city gets used to scare the base, they are trolling you.[*] San Francisco is to our conservative country what Mardi Gras is to shoring up the Catholic Church’s authority: a sanctioned, boundaried exception that proves the rule.[†]

Readers of this blog will likely be tired now of my complaints against recall elections. Twice this year, ultra-wealthy people bought recalls to remove progressive public officials the people of San Francisco elected. And twice now they’ve won. I fear a field day is going to commence; the same 60 percent of voters who recalled Boudin also refused to pass Proposition C, which would make undemocratic recall elections more difficult in the future.

San Francisco might be America’s brokenest city, and in true American fashion, most of us have been led to believe that the free market will fix things. And any time we try to vote in a progressive, the money will come storming in to remove them as swiftly as possible.


I’m now drinking my coffee and trying glad to be out of there. I don’t know how well Santa Monica works as a city. My assumption is that plenty of people who need to work here can’t also live here. Of the top 15 cities with a greatest income inequality gaps, California holds 7, which indicates we need to have broader conversations about the extent to which my state is a progressive one. We have some pretty good laws, mostly that protect liberties, but given the enormous numbers of rich people in this state, we’ve got a ton of laws that protect property and wealth. California can’t pass statewide rent control. We can’t pass single-payer healthcare. We struggle to maintain a ban on assault rifles. I’m proud that we openly present ourselves as a sanctuary—to migrants and refugees, to women in terrorism states seeking safe abortions—but what kind of haven can we offer such people once they’ve come here?

At any rate, I’m here for 3 weeks, and then for the Fourth I fly to Omaha (like its Rust Belt/Midwest neighbors, one of the least unequal cities in America), and between then and now I have a chapter of my book to finish. In a whole book that fills me with shame at every page, this chapter might be my shamefulest. It’s a time that calls for something of a retreat from the world, from the disappointments of my fellow voters, and from the (imagined, I know) chorus of judgemental, right-thinking upright literary citizens who will be disgusted and dismissive of this memoir I’m compelled to write. (Or worse: silent and uncaring.)

Today I put them all away. If you’re reading this blog, I imagine you might want to read another book from me, and I know you’re real and out there. This month, I’m writing to you, and I thank you for being there for me.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Kinda. San Francisco is as neo-liberal as they come, given the priority put on money, not taxing corporations, and maintaining the status quo. And let’s not forget this city is represented—still, for God’s sake still—by Nancy Pelosi.
  2. This idea is Lewis Hyde’s, from Trickster Makes This World: ‘The stock anthropological and literary understanding is that carnival celebrations, despite their actual bawdiness and filth, are profoundly conservative…. Mocking but not changing the order of things, ritual dirt-work [i.e. Folsom, ‘In This House’ signs, anti-Trump candidates, etc.] operates as a kind of safety valve, allowing internal conflicts and nagging anomalies to be expressed without serious consequence. If everyone secretly knows the Pope is not perfect the secret can harmlessly endure if once a year, for a limited time only, the people make a fool of the Pope.’ Whereas Mardi Gras is a temporal carnival, San Francisco is a spatial/cultural one that helps mask the country’s deep conservatism. Las Vegas (‘What happens there stays there’) does similar work on the notion of everyday greed and gluttony.