Friday, March 24, 2023
#83 / Beginner's Luck
Malcolm Terence and his wife, Sue Terence, are key characters in Malcolm's memoir, pictured above. They stopped by my house several weeks ago, bringing me a free copy of Beginner's Luck, along with some delightful bear claw pastries, the best available in Santa Cruz, I was assured.
I had run across Malcolm and Sue last year, as neighbors who live in the vicinity of Water and North Branciforte Streets, in Santa Cruz (I am one of those neighbors). Malcolm and Sue, and other neighbors, battled a proposed development called the 831 Water Street project, which promised upscale housing for the wealthy, originally featuring a rooftop bar, with some "affordable" housing, too, the affordable housing to be subsidized by the taxpayers (you and me).
The project, which had some significant problems, including massive impacts on the adjacent residential street, also includes what I consider to be a "death trap" parking arrangement, with autos entering and exiting on the very steep Water Street Hill, right into the middle of what is supposed to be a "protected" bicycle lane. The proposed project was approved on a split, 4-3 Council vote, with the project benefiting from recent state laws that significantly preempted the city's ability to decide for itself on such development proposals. I tried to help fight the project, unsuccessfully in the end, and Malcolm and Sue, whom I really didn't know very well, brought the bear claws, and the book, as a token of appreciation.
I now know Malcolm and Sue better, thanks to Beginner's Luck. Malcolm's memoir tells an extremely engaging story of how Malcolm and others began the Black Bear commune, on the Klamath River, in northern California, which was a genuine "hippie" community, and which is still in existence. My son tells me that he has spent some time there, himself, and that Black Bear is the place where he remembers being most "at peace," above all the other places he has been. You can click that link, above, for a Wikipedia write up on Black Bear.
Sue came into the story later, but she does play a key role, and I want to commend this book to you. If you are at all interested in how pot-smoking, antiwar hippies did, in fact, have a major impact on our society, Beginner's Luck will not disappoint. Malcolm started out as a journalist, writing for The Los Angeles Times, before decamping to the far north and the commune, so he does know how to put a story together. The chapter that gives the book its title, "Beginner's Luck," was particularly enjoyable - at least to me - but then the whole book is worth reading.
I don't find, in Malcolm's book, any hint that he has read much of what Hannah Arendt has written (though maybe he has). Arendt has notably called "man" a "beginning and a beginner," pointing out that human beings (including women, too, of course) have the unique ability, which differentiates them from other living beings, to "do something new," to "take action," and to create a whole new reality.
That we can do these things is the more or less explicit theme of this blog - "We Live In A Political World" - and it was a lot of fun reading about one such experiment in "doing something new." My thanks to Malcolm and Sue for bringing us that great gift of those highly-comestible bear claws.
And for the book, too, of course - even more so!