Jewel Gentry is a Senior in the Integrated Studies program at California State University Monterey Bay, where for his Special Major he’s chosen to focus on Archaeology under the direction of Professor Rubén Mendoza. President of The Society Of Student Archaeologists at CSUMB, Jewel is interested in both the Native Californian and Filipino periods of contact with the Spanish. He has recently been working on a project called Digital Preservation and Mapping of the California Missions. We’re very happy that Jewel could find some time at this busy start of the new academic term to tell us what he finds most interesting about his work at Mission San Juan Bautista and beyond.
“Speechless” isn’t the word to describe the depth of wonder I felt as Dr. Mendoza explained to me that several of the California Missions were built to interact with the light of the rising sun. Even after he showed me multiple images, there was a part of me that needed to see it in person and, finally, on a brisk December morning, I witnessed something amazing.
Today my friend Daniel Aaron turns 100. While I already started thinking of him as being “around 100” a few years ago, now it’s official.
Dan has led a remarkable life. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Los Angeles. He later moved to the East Coast, where he was the first person to earn a PhD in American Civilization from Harvard. He went on to become a Harvard professor and an influential founder of the Library of America, which has published hundreds of outstanding editions of classic works by Americans, or about America. Including plenty by authors who flourished in California, from Jack London and John Steinbeck to Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick.
Among the many books that Dan has authored or edited is his autobiography, The Americanist, published 5 years ago. Soon after, at age 98, Dan was named a National Humanities Medalist. He still has an office in Harvard’s Department of English and American Literature and Language, where nearly every day he continues to settle down to work on various projects, including a dictionary of words that he thinks should exist in English but don’t (yet).
When I first mentioned The California Mission Ride to Dan, it prompted him to remember his early days in Los Angeles, and the plethora of horses that moved about freely, in spite of some automobiles that had begun to show up and compete with them for roadway space. Dan also recalled that, when he first studied at Harvard, the eminent historian Samuel Eliot Morison was still commuting to campus on his horse.
Once I asked Dan which American president of his lifetime he most admired. He instantly said “Teddy Roosevelt.” I was taken aback, partly because when I asked him this question, Dan didn’t seem nearly as old as he was: 84. After all, around that time, we would go cycling together on weekends, and Dan would easily cover 30+ miles on his three-speed, its tiger-head handlebar grips adorned with a bunch of lightweight orange plastic strips dangling from the tigers’ mouths. I assumed he misunderstood the question. Maybe he thought I was asking about his favorite U.S. president of all time? “I mean someone who was president during your lifetime.” He calmly said it again: “Teddy Roosevelt.” But the name wasn’t sinking in. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt?” Dan just said, “No, no, Teddy. Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. When I was a child, all that my friends and I wanted was to be Rough Riders and join up with Teddy Roosevelt to go on adventures. There hasn’t been a president like him since.” Continue reading