Happy new year to my readers! I begin a new semester looking forward to City College of San Francisco’s imminent release from academic death row of de-accreditation (hopefully via a court judgement against the ACCJC). No news yet though.
Many months have gone by since I last posted on this blog. I have entered into a new phase of my life where multiple family responsibilities leave little time for writing. I am not always sure I can carry on this writing as I would like.
Yet I am always looking for unexpected openings; this one is provided by an episode of insomnia (the starting point for several of my posts), and my recent rediscovery of Masha Zackheim’s Coit Tower San Francisco: Its History and Art. I had obtained a copy of the book (half scholarly history of the Coit Tower murals, half beautiful coffee table photo book) at a memorial for the author in the Diego Rivera Theater of CCSF. This wonderful event had completely dropped out of my consciousness.
It was one of those events where large turnout and an accidental confluence of a theme in multiple remarks by unrelated people manifested the spirit of the honored personage despite her absence. It was also an event that in the past would have inspired me to write a blog post, maybe too long, recounting how I slowly and indirectly learned that Masha Zackheim’s scholarship and activism saved Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity from closeted obscurity.
I was not able to do this writing last August when the event was fresh in my mind. This Christmas break, without intention, I was thumbing through books on a shelf, when I pulled out Coit Tower and remembered the event. I could not help myself from reading the whole thing, and later taking my family there. Despite the blustery weather, the Tower was crowded with hundreds of tourists and locals, and the murals looked better than ever after a recent restoration, including an important panel painted by Masha’s father, Bernard Zackheim.
The best I can do these months later to give a sense of what transpired at the memorial is to reprint a letter I wrote to the principal organizers of the event, CCSF Humanities Professor Bill McGuire (a close colleague of Masha’s) and Will Maynez, mural scholar and prime mover in the Diego Rivera Mural Project at CCSF.
“Dear Bill and Will,
“I wanted to express my appreciation to you both (and unnamed others?) for the Memorial celebration for Masha Zackheim. I use her monograph on the [Diego Rivera Pan American Unity] mural as a main reading in my 9293 Rivera assignment, and it has slowly dawned on me that most of the content of both the [CCSF] brochure and the web site are due to the work of this one person. I have wanted to meet her, but never had the chance, and I was happy to be introduced to Masha, at some distance, at the event.
“I had no idea how beautifully it would come off. How much was your efforts, and how much was the magic of Masha‘s influence? The particulars of her life were plentiful and significant, taking me beyond her mural scholarship: her brother’s account of her visits to his Sebastopol ranch, bringing both Bach and a stabilizing influence to his life, the El Cerrito house with modern Swedish furniture, the grammar corrections, the kind attention she paid to her accountant, and all the testimonials to her parties and her cooking.
“Whatever happens with City College in the coming years (Bill’s phrase about the ‘wrecking crew’ is coming to me), an event like this helps me keep a sense of purpose as we continue to search for a way out of the maze.
This is not enough, but it will have to do.