Essential California Week in Review: The ugly side of John Muir

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, July 25.

Before we get started, a quick note: As we near the end of another month in our strange new pandemic lives, it’s clear that none of this is going away anytime soon. We’re always re-evaluating how to make this newsletter more useful to our readers, but especially now, as we all settle in for the coronavirus long haul.

And that’s where you come in. We’d love to hear from you about what we’re missing, and what you’d like to see. Please get in touch and tell us about the biggest questions you still have, the issues that are dominating discussion in your social circles and communities, the strange absurdities and the small graces. Thank you!

And now, here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

John Muir’s ugly side. He saved Yosemite Valley, helped form the National Park Service and influenced generations with his passionate calls to protect and revere nature. But this week the Sierra Club acknowledged its co-founder’s uglier side: his racism.

Remote learning’s inequities. As communities face the prospect of remote schooling this fall, families with financial resources are rushing to hire tutors and teachers to augment distance learning. But who gets left out?

School sports pushed. The high school sports season in California won’t start until December or January, the California Interscholastic Federation announced Monday.


Outdoor haircuts? Gov. Gavin Newsom gave salons and barbershops the green light to keep operating — if they can move their business outside.

A dubious distinction. California officially has the most confirmed coronavirus infections of any state, surpassing New York. The state had its deadliest week since the pandemic began, as the virus disproportionately affects Black and Latino residents.

Another stay-at-home order? Could Los Angeles become the biggest U.S. city to re-impose a stay-at-home order? With a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that has shown few signs of slowing, it’s a distinct possibility.

Opening Day weirdness. The Dodgers played their season opener, and it was as strange as you might expect. But Mookie Betts showed his range in their 8-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants, just after signing a long-term deal to stay in L.A.

A remote Comic-Con. San Diego’s massive Comic-Con was canceled for the first time in 50 years, but Comic-Con@Home — the fest’s virtual replacement — began Wednesday.

No more Trader Jose. A 17-year-old called out Trader Joe’s for what she called its “racist” labels that exoticize other cultures. Now the chain is dropping the offensive branding.

Orange County blues. Orange County now has the state’s second highest number of coronavirus infections, and places like Huntington Beach have come to symbolize resistance to many of the safety rules.

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1. Residents want to put Hermon Avenue back on the map, settling a 42-year-old grievance. The Eastsider

2. There were no reports of coronavirus in Yosemite. Then they tested the park’s sewage. San Francisco Chronicle

3. Susan Orlean takes us behind her drunken Twitter whirlwind — and the wild responses. Los Angeles Times

4. “I don’t believe it”: Huntington Beach a symbol of mask resistance as doubters abound. Los Angeles Times

5. How to participate in your government: emails and calls. LA Pays Attention

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

How Ben & Jerry’s perfected the delicate recipe for corporate activism. Other companies tried to align themselves with the Black Lives Matter protests and failed. The Vermont creamery kept doing what it’s always done. Bloomberg

The Promised Land: A trans activist from El Salvador who has helped countless trans migrant women fight for asylum in the U.S. finds asylum for herself. Longreads

The mystery of a stolen rare cello, with a surprise ending. It was Sept. 14, 2013, when a mysterious email bearing the subject line “Is this your first cello?” landed in Christine Walevska’s inbox. Los Angeles Times

Poem of the week: “The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog” by Robert Bly. Writer’s Almanac

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)