Monday, August 31, 2009

Cigarettes, Jerusalem, October 2000

H.D. photo of field in India, date unknown.


Unpublished poem by Lurene Helzer, October 21, 2002, “Cigarettes, 1, Jerusalem, October, 2000.” I must have written this about someone I met in Jerusalem as I was thinking about my own struggles to quit smoking. I had quit, restarted, quit for good a year later. Outside that, I am not sure what prompted the writing of this dismal poem:

I saw bones. Bones of the near future.

She would never lie, all crushed innocence, in a mass grave in Europe. She would not disintegrate against the awful force of an explosion at high noon. She would not suffer….she wrote her meaning in white chalk, in white smoke…

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Photo from Vietnam War 1968 from website


Published news story by Lurene Helzer, September 24, 1987, El Cerrito Journal, “EC physical therapy clinic stresses the human touch”. This is one of those short news stories that, for a small newspaper, define the real job.

You are trying to let residents of the area know what’s around them, where they can spend their dollars.

In this case, we were talking about a small business on San Pablo Avenue owned and operated by a Polish couple, Gregory and Helena Gorecki. This was a unique story. It’s not the kind of immigrant family we hear enough about. This incredible family had fled Poland in terror. Mr. Gorecki truly arrived in – and remained in -- the United States the harder way by choice:

After living through the Nazi occupation of Poland and losing both of his parents, he fled the country during the late Sixties by hopping a train bound for Vienna, Austria.

“I was not easily admitted to the United States,” Gorecki remembers. But he said he hated the communist government of Poland so much that when he was finally admitted to the United States in the last years of the 1960s, he volunteered to fight communists in Vietnam.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Berkeley view from above; UC Berkeley students in 2005 with campus Republican club who might have used AC Transit for transportation. First photo on MRE Commercial Real Estate website, Second photo was posted on a UC Berkeley Campus Republican website.


Published news brief by Lurene Kathleen Helzer, East Bay Journal, May 16, 1994, Berkeley’s school superintendent retires”. This small item regards retirement of Berkeley’s LaVonia Steele. There were previous stories about her plans to retire, so this mention was just a courtesy for local readers.


Published news story by Lurene Helzer, Berkeley Daily Planet, April 26, 1999, “Cal students OK transit ‘class pass’”. This public transportation plan was enthusiastically viewed by both University of California at Berkeley students, and Berkeley’s city council members:

The program will be funded through student fees. The students had to approve the fees, however, through their student elections, which were held last week on campus.

“It is not easy to vote to tax yourself on something that benefits the larger community. The students stepped right up to do that. Very impressive,” said Armstrong.

The pass will be available for purchase in the fall semester on campus. Students will be able to use the passes not only for AC Transit rides around the East Bay and into San Francisco, but also for free rides on the campus shuttle.

“I hope this will encourage students to ride the shuttle, particularly in the evening, even for short distances, because I think this could be a significant crime deterrent,” Armstrong said.

Berkeley police have said that Berkeley’s image as a pedestrian city has sometimes attracted criminals who are looking for easy robbery targets, particularly at night. Students are particularly vulnerable.

Photo of Oakland neighborhood where we all lived in 1987 from Flickr.


Unpublished essay for unborn baby by Lurene Helzer, May 18, 1987, untitled essay about how Julie Jorgensen of Oakland, CA, told her boyfriend, Rob, of her pregnancy.

I had dated Rob’s handsome cousin, Doug, a few times. I think he lived in Fremont or Union City. We had nothing in common, but he had the good manners, wonderful looks. That’s about as deep as my dating got in 1987, I must admit. Doug was clearly the more gracious, the more steady, of us. I have fond memories of him in 2009.

Those were good days in 1987 Oakland. Julie and her family, friends, were neighbors and friends. I write this essay to baby we’d just learned was forming in Julie’s belly:

He thought it was great and miraculous. He started to make predictions about the next nine months. He said she would probably be moody.

He seemed to know more about being pregnant than Julie did. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t complain if she wanted something weird like pickled sardines dipped in chocolate at 2:36 a.m. on a rainy Sunday night. He’d find a way of getting them, even if he had to hop on his bad ankle all the way.

Rob didn’t want anyone to know. But when he took her out to dinner, she said he told four or five waitresses. Then she told me. Over a game of pool and a Budweiser, Rob told Doug. Julie told me I could tell Lloyd. I told Lloyd. Rob also told a few select family members.

But remember, said Rob as he was getting out of Doug’s truck, “it’s a secret.”

As long as no one read that week’s issue of NEWSWEEK, I figured it would stay that way.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

421. The Nightclub Man 1997 - 1999 San Francisco. Memories of Prague.

Photo of 1968 Prague from "a world town in" site.


Unpublished book or memoir by Lurene K. Helzer, final draft dated December 1999, The Nightclub Man. It was written in installments between November 1997 and 1999. The memoir is about Czechs in 1997 San Francisco.

When I read this small memoir today, one of the things I can’t help tripping over again and again is the complete social devastation that Russian communism wrought for the 20th Century, as was evident with the social relationships of 1997 Czechs I then met. The ruin of Soviet-dictated communism.

These are only the opening paragraphs. I am still entering manuscript into 2009 computer. I use fictional names for story:

He watched her through the blurred glass as she toed carefully along the puddle studded street toward his bus. The color of the sky was ashen, the gusts vengeful, whipping everything in sight like a powerful, lawless hand. He narrowed his eyes. He was sure he had seen her before. Tonight, he thought, in her black skirt, red turtleneck, and weary eyes, she looked as if she had just returned from a far-off land that had altered her sense of time badly.

The driver, smiling steadily, was a tall, trim, smartly handsome black man. He liked his job, and thought he could read people. The last passenger boarded, and the driver moved the bus west on Sacramento Street.

“It’s Friday, November 21, 1997, 5:13 p.m.,” he announced. His voice was velvet and calm, but authoritative, as a jazz station announcer. “The Dow closed up 23 points today at 7.881.10, gold is hovering just above $300 an ounce, and the NASDAQ lost 15 points to 1,620.75.”

One man, wearing a well-cut navy blue suit and red, paisley tie, looked up from his half-soaked Wall Street Journal with mild irritation. A red-haired woman in a white wool pantsuit and running shoes laughed.

“I’ve seen this guy before,” she said to the confused woman in the seat behind her. “He always has his numbers right, too. Listens to the news right before his shift starts.”

“The forecast calls for rain,” he continued. “It’s going to rain all night. It’s going to rain tomorrow. On Sunday, it’s going to rain. And on Monday, it’s going to rain some more. It is 48 degrees Fahrenheit in San Francisco with occasional gusts. Tonight’s word:” he lowered his voice to a thunder-like tone and said, with perfect Spanish pronunciation. “El Nino.”