Saturday, June 5, 2010


Tuesday, June 15 -- Eleven days to go

NOTE: I have sent a "personal" youtube video message to President
Obama through a "back channel." It is a long shot, but it's also
possible, that his eyeballs will watch the same video you can see
right here

UNTIL 1850 the hills behind my Oakland home were covered by an
ancient, old-growth redwood forest. But by about 1860 every last tree
had been chopped down and milled into lumber to build mines and
railroads and homes where people like me (and maybe you) live.

Over the past 150 years, a second-growth redwood forest has taken
hold. These "youngsters" reach 100-150 feet in height, and most of
them are on protected parkland, waiting for me whenever I need to
escape my city mind. Certain thoughts can only be imagined in the

On Saturday, one of those rare, oppressively hot days in the Bay Area,
I drove fifteen minutes from my door to the trailhead. It was cool in
the woods, also quiet and deserted -- I walked for three or four miles
and saw only three or four people. Halfway along I found myself
thinking that it would be nice if President Obama knew about our June
26 gathering at Ocean Beach.

When I was growing up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., my
best friend was a kid named Robert. Through our friendship, our entire
families grew close. We shared holiday feasts. Our parents went out
dancing together. Whenever my parents left town for a few days, we
Newsham kids had to answer to Robert's parents, Ralph and Betty
Dunham. The Newshams had no closer friends than the Dunham family.
When my mom died a few years ago, it seemed pre-ordained that Ralph
and Betty would welcome us to use their church for a memorial service.
The Dunhams knew all our family secrets -- they saw us through more
than one tragedy -- and we knew the Dunham's stories, too.

I knew that Ralph was from Kansas, Betty was from England, and they
had met in Europe during World War II. Ralph had just one brother,
Stanley, who lived in Hawaii and would visit Virginia on occasion. I
remember having dinner with Stanley at the Dunham's house one evening
in particular. When Stanley stood up from the far end of table I
remember watching him rise and thinking, "He's tall." I was about ten
years old.

A couple of years later we Newshams learned that Stanley's only child,
a daughter, had married a Kenyan student she met at the University of
Hawaii, and they'd had a baby boy named Barry. And shortly after that
we were all saddened -- a bit scandalized, actually -- to learn that
Barry's dad had left the family and returned to Kenya.

No one in my family, and I'm sure no one in the Dunham family, ever
imagined that Barry would grow up to be President Barack Obama, but
that's how it turned out. I've never met him, and he has no clue
as to my own existence, but I feel like I've known President Obama for
40-some years already. And up in the woods on Saturday I got the
notion that he should know about Slash Oil.

A return to the city streets is usually enough to banish most of my
woods-inspired brainstorms. The so-called real world quickly crashes
back in, tries to convince me that, Really kid, you're nothing, you're
worthless -- who do you think you are? But this time I got the jump on
my mind. The moment I got back into cell phone range I called my
videographer friend Stefan Ruenzel and asked for a favor.

On Sunday morning Stefan met me at Ocean Beach and ran his camera
while I babbled a message (I like it's on behalf of all of us) to
President Obama. Stefan edited it and posted it on youtube. I've
watched it once, and I don't really know what to think of it -- while
speaking my words I felt nervous at the prospect that Barry/President
Obama might actually spend two minutes of his valuable time watching
it. It's truly a long shot, I know, but if you want to talk long
shots: Six years ago, almost no one had ever heard of Barack Obama.

Anyway, I've sent this youtube link on a path that I hope will take it
to the White House:

It would be more than "fun" to know that it made its way in front of
President Obama eyeballs and that he was personally aware of what we
will be doing on June 26 down at Ocean Beach. I'll keep you posted if
I hear anything (or not).


Sunday evening I met with the organizers of Hands Across the Sand.
Nice guys! We're folding our two events into one. Everything about
Slash Oil stays the same -- same time, same place, same everything --
but now we've tucked Slash Oil underneath the worldwide umbrella of
Hands Across the Sand. AND we've added a second stage to the event: As
soon as our helicopter-and-photographer have captured images of Slash
Oil, we participants will walk down to the edge of the surf, spread
out into a long line (a mile long? longer?) along Ocean Beach, and
hold hands while the photographer captures that imagery, too.


Monday morning I left town for a long-planned one-week trip. I'll
return Monday, June 20. I'll be spending that week doing everything I
can to make Hands Across the Sand/Slash Oil be a huge success. We want
the whole world, including President Obama (and I'll let you know
should I hear anything from my contact or if I don't), to know how
desperately we want to move away from oil and to create the renewable
energy future that we simply have to create if we want our
grandchildren to survive.

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