San Francisco is a two hour or so trip from Philo in Mendicino County, and we left early to meet my cousin Will at a café in one of the city’s suburbs. Will knew my mother when they were growing up. That was a long time ago, and now he has a family of his own, with all but one off in college. We talked journalism, politics, and family over cappuccinos and hot cider, as busy Saturday morning patrons sped in and out with their pre-bike ride coffee.
I had really no contact with Will since I was a baby, when I went to his father’s funeral. It was the history that connected our families though, that interested me. Will had recently named the Math Commons at Harvard—he was a mathematics major there years ago—after my grandfather whose name I share, Chilton, and his mother (Chilton’s sister.) When I asked why, he said it was because when asked by the department who had inspired his course of learning, my grandfather had jumped into his mind.
I found it amusing then, that it was Will’s grandfather who had originally inspired me to journalism. My mother was very close with Will’s father, her uncle, and she never hesitates to tell a story of their summers in California or travels in Europe. Their relationship too, planted the seeds for the life we have today by helping my mom buy her first New York City apartment, the one I would later spend the first 13 years of my life in.
As the heir to a family whose line includes presidents, billionaires, and war heroes, I have always felt like I represented a family who expected great things, that somewhere among the giants of journalism and science, war and politics, that dominate my family, I had big shoes to fill. How it is I am to do that, I am not yet sure.
The rest of our time in San Francisco was spent visiting friends. I saw the same Liz from way back in post three in North Carolina, and we had lunch with a work friend of my dad’s on a peninsula looking out at the golden gate bridge and the city of San Fran. That night, I went to check out the Occupy San Francisco protests downtown.
This time, it was just a general assembly meeting, where the protestors hold an Athens style total democracy meeting to decide on actions and plans. Unfortunately, the large majority of the time was spent arguing and debating asinine points. The rest was taken up by activists visiting to recruit
for their causes. For those reading from Masters, it was not unlike a harkness discussion taking place in middle of the street, with a couple twists. One is the hand signals, which are used when someone goes on too long, says something inappropriate, or says something people like. Each person was given two minutes to speak, though virtually everyone ran over their allotted time because everything is said once and then repeated by the crowd in the “Mike Check” call and response fashion of the movement.
They have these assemblies most nights, which is good given the slow pace of complete democracy. I took the San Francisco subway back to Berkeley, and had dinner at an empty Vietnamese restaurant while my dad visited a High School friend. Since it was empty, they taught me how to make spring rolls! The next day we drove, and drove, and drove, reaching the beginning of the Mojave Desert with the nearly full moon as our guide.