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Stephen Golub: Seeing the Light and Springsteen

[Note from BenIndy: Trying this again after we encountered a bug. This post was first published on Stephen Golub’s blog, A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. There, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations. If interested, you may sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.]

Bruce Springsteen performs in Italy in July 2023. | Sergione Infuse / Corbis via Getty.

Pushing 75, His Concerts Still Deliver Solace, Hope and Dreams…and Inspiration for 2024

By Stephen Golub, originally published on A Promised Land, April 7, 2024

Benicia resident and author Stephen Golub, A Promised Land.

He had me at “Light of Day.”

It’s one of my five favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. He opened his March 31 San Francisco concert with it. I was lucky enough to be there.

The high-octane tune is about a trucker driving hard after a week on the road, determined to get down to good times in Galveston by Saturday night. But it’s more generally about pushing ahead with hope after getting “a little lost along the way” and about turning the corner to find the light of day.

Similarly, Bruce’s entire performance was about far more than just putting on a show, as I learned from both him and a fellow audience member over the course of the evening. More on that in a minute.

The Church of Bruce

With age and recent illness looming over our hero, my stepson/fellow fan Trevor and I knew that this might be our last chance to take in Bruce and his E Street Band in concert. It was our fifth time seeing him together, stretching back well over a decade. It was my thirtieth such Springsteen experience since watching him open for Chicago at Madison Square Garden in 1973.

As Springsteen told the throng early in the evening, the show is not just about what he and the band do. It also hinges on how we respond – acting in concert with him, if you will. The supposedly laid-back California crowd loudly lived up to our part of the bargain.

For those unfamiliar with what I’d call the Church of Bruce, his appeal partly flows from the degree to which his adherents identify with his music: One fellow fan calls it “the story of my life.”

To watch this YouTube video, click the image and a new tab will open.

The fans’ intense devotion also stems from his concerts’ joyful energy and audience engagement. At its peak, the interplay is akin to a religious revival, though with salvation subservient to fun. This “Light of Day” video from a 2000 New York City show exemplifies that, albeit in an extreme way:

Neither Trev nor I are the most demonstrative people in the world. But both of us danced, shouted, sang along and let it rip throughout the evening.

That someone pushing 75 could still push out three hours of non-stop singing, twisting, shouting and guitar/harmonica playing was astounding. As he playfully bellowed to the roaring crowd near the end of the show, “You’ve just seen the heart-stoppin’, pants-droppin’, earth-quakin’, booty-shakin’, love-makin’, Viagra-takin’, history-makin’ E Street Band!”

He proved it all night.

Spirits in the Night

Springsteen’s music has always featured anger, angst, passion, pride, love, longing, hope and dreams. It’s ultimately about life.

As life has taken its toll, with friends and fellow band members passing on, he’s blended newer messages into the mix: treasure loved ones, here and gone; cherish their memories; relish each day.

The point hit home in an unexpectedly poignant way due to the pleasant 60-something woman – whom I’ll call Mary – seated beside us during the concert. Getting there early, Trev and I had lots of time to chat with her before the band came on. She’s a James Taylor fan, but attended the show (alone) because her late husband was a Springsteen devotee.

We didn’t pry into that very personal matter. But I couldn’t help but reflect a bit on why Mary was there: Maybe to feel the spirit of her beloved partner there with her?

That possibility reemerged in the middle of the concert, as the band eased into the somber “My City of Ruins.” I at first wondered why they were playing it at all during a resoundingly upbeat night. Bruce originally composed it a quarter-century ago to lament urban and economic rot in Asbury Park, New Jersey, near where he grew up. He recorded and reinterpreted the tune in his post-9/11 album, The Rising, as a tribute to devastated New York City.

In one inescapable sense it’s a dirge, marked by these lines:

Now there’s tears on the pillow, darling, where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss my soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again

But “My City of Ruins” is about more than sorrow. It’s also about beginning again in the face of unfathomable adversity, as its refrain repeatedly urges listeners to find strength and “rise up.”

And that’s what Bruce asked the assemblage to do as he introduced the song and yet again reinterpreted the tune in the process. His remarks made it not about a ruined city but about our resilient selves. He urged us to realize that our lost loved ones remain with us in crucial ways. I couldn’t help but sneak a glance at Mary, only guessing at what she might be feeling.

But I knew what I was feeling, as I recalled my own dearly departed with gratitude for what I’d shared with them, learned from them and still carried with me, and with hope that I could honor their deaths by cherishing life.

Speaking of resilience…

In this election year, our society faces a kind of severe adversity we would have found unfathomable just a decade ago. Our future may seem to  rest on the seemingly frail shoulders of a leader pushing 82.

But if an aging rocker, not much younger, can still deliver powerful performances at a uniquely demanding job night after night, it’s not too much to trust that his elder can do it day after day, as he’s done for the past three years. It’s not too much to believe that the same man can triumph in November and beyond.

And just as Bruce reminded the crowd that the success of his concert involved our efforts, the success of the campaign depends on us as well.=

Speaking of hope…

The elation of a Springsteen experience can give way to  reflection. I think that I’ve been thinking about the 2024 campaign in the wrong way. It’s not just about beating back those who’d drag us into a dark age for democracy, for women, for America’s role in the world, for so much more.

It’s also about seeing this as a chance to move forward on those fronts and so many more.

It’s not just about fear and anger. It’s about hope and dreams.

Despite the darkness, and with enough drive and dedication, we could be just around the corner from the light of day.

Once more, Steve blogs about domestic and international politics and policy, including lessons that the United States can learn from other nations, at A Promised Land: America as a Developing Country. We recommend you sign up for future posts by subscribing to the blog.


MORE POSTS FROM STEPHEN GOLUB’S BLOG, A PROMISED LAND:

Poll Shows Solano County Voters Overwhelmingly Reject California Forever; Solano Together Calls For Ballot Initiative Withdrawal

Solano Together Press Release, April 4, 2024

SUISUN CITY – A poll conducted by the nationally recognized group FM3 found that Solano County voters are overwhelmingly opposed to California Forever’s proposal to build a new city of 400,000 residents in a remote part of Eastern Solano County. When it comes to the proposed “East Solano Homes, Jobs, and Clean Energy Initiative” for the November election, 70% of poll participants say they would vote no if elections were held today.

There is an unusually high level of voter awareness about this project as compared to the majority of ballot initiatives at this point in the campaign. Polling data reveals that Solano County residents are well aware of the proposed California Forever project—three-quarters (76%) have heard about it—and also shows that the more they know, the less likely they are to support it. Of those who indicated that they have heard “a lot” about the proposal, 79% are opposed. Opposition cuts across every major demographic and geographic subgroup of the Solano County electorate.

Additionally, poll results highlight the profound public mistrust of the backers of California Forever. Flannery Associates’ approach has sowed distrust by deploying secretive tactics, keeping their identity elusive, suing farmers, and misleading the public, government officials, and landowners about their intentions. Trust is a major concern for Solano County voters, and these secretive and duplicitous tactics have contributed to strong opposition to this project. Voters view Flannery Associates unfavorably by an 8% to 34% margin and view California Forever unfavorably by a 16% to 42% margin.

Solano County voters care deeply about preserving their community’s agricultural heritage and the ecological and habitat resources surrounding their cities. They are enthusiastic about a future with more investment in homes, jobs, and infrastructure within their existing cities to benefit current and future residents. They are not interested in allowing a group of outside interests who have been secretly planning a project to benefit their own investors at the expense of local farmers to shape the future of the County. They see through the empty promises of the project proponents and understand the adverse effects this project will have on the County’s future. 

These results send a powerful message—this is not what the Solano County people want.

Screenshot from FM3 report. Click the image to view the full report.

Voters want to see more housing and better-paying jobs in the region while also protecting their agricultural lands and natural resources and strengthening existing cities. We call on the California Forever team to rethink the harmful, divisive approach of a ballot measure reversing decades of thoughtful planning and agricultural protection in Solano County. There is still time to reverse course and come to the table for a genuinely community-driven process to strengthen farming, ecological, and climate resilience protections and refocus investments within our existing diverse and growing Solano County cities.

FM3 Research conducted the poll with 428 likely November 2024 voters in Solano County between March 4 and 10, 2024, interviewed by phone and online. The margin of sampling error is ±4.9%, with a 95% confidence interval. See more details here.

About Solano Together: A group of concerned residents, leaders, and organizations who came together to form a coalition that envisions a better future for Solano County, focuses development into existing cities, and strengthens our agricultural industry. Our work is driven by an alternative vision for Solano in the face of Flannery Associates’ claims about California Forever’s benefits—our vision is guided by local voices and perspectives. Learn more, volunteer, or join the coalition by visiting solanotogether.org

Benicia Dems hosting Tues., Apr. 9 Air District Zoom panel on refinery violations and ‘community payback’

[Note from BenIndy: This is a fantastic opportunity to learn from Air District insiders what the District does, how it does it, and what might be next. This is a free public meeting open to all, regardless of party preference or city of residence.]

Smoke from the Valero Benicia refinery wafts over residential neighborhoods  during a 2017 incident. | Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

From Progressive Dems of Benicia Meeting Notice, sent April 2, 2024:

Dear members and supporters—

We’re delighted to share more information about our April 9th meeting at 7pm, which we revealed last week will focus on the quality of our air – a hot topic given the warming weather and the recent Level-3 Incident at a local refinery. (The picture here is not from that incident, it is from a 2017 incident; click the image to be redirected to a YouTube news report.) 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), or “the Air District,” is our local regulatory agency when it comes to air pollution.  It’s been around for decades, but its mission and activities are a mystery to many.  Luckily, our amazing panel of Air District representatives will be on hand to guide us through what it does, how it does it, and what it’s working on to keep Bay Area residents healthy and safe.

Air District Panel

We are pleased to share that our panel will include BAAQMD’s Executive Officer/Air Pollution Control Officer, Dr. Philip Fine, formerly a presidential appointment to the EPA and the South Coast Air Management Quality District; Deputy Executive Officer of Public Affairs Viet Tran; BAAQMD Board of Directors member and Benicia Mayor Steve Young; and BAAQMD’s Community Advisory Council Co-Chair Ken Szutu, who also founded the  Citizen Air Monitoring Network in Vallejo before serving as its director.  We also expect that other staff members of the Air District will join us.

Zoom Details

Topic: PDB General Meeting
Time: April 9, 2024 07:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86273821941?pwd=WktDazJLaTJHVTBPNWd3dzlXaGd2Zz09
Meeting ID: 862 7382 1941
Passcode: 528756

 

One tap mobile
+16699006833,,86273821941#,,,,*528756# US (San Jose)
+16694449171,,86273821941#,,,,*528756# US

For more information, check out the Progressive Democrats of Benicia’s website.

Valero Benicia Refinery closes investigation of ‘Hydrogen Sulfide Saturday’ – but Benicians are still waiting for answers

[Note from BenIndy: Valero’s 30-day report on the February 24 hydrocarbon spill, which was categorized as a “Level-3” incident due to the potential threat to human health, raised yet more concerns about the refinery’s promptness and openness in notifying the City and its residents of hazardous events. If liquid hydrocarbon was detected on Tank 1738’s roof at 4:13am, why was the City not informed “immediately,” as required by its 2019 Cooperation Agreement with Valero? What does “immediately” even mean, in this context? Questions about Valero’s emergency management and dedication to safeguarding the community, particularly when considering the health risks posed by hydrogen sulfide exposure, certainly linger. Additionally, Valero’s tweaking of the spill’s reported volume – which could be 83 or 35 gallons, depending – spotlights why enhanced regulatory oversight and wide-spanning improvements to notification requirements should be an urgent priority of the refinery, its regulators, and of course the City of Benicia. Once again, we urge readers to check out BISHO.org to learn more about the City’s push for an Industrial Safety Ordinance from the perspective of its supporters.]

Valero Benicia Refinery releases cause of Feb. 24 incident, closes investigation

Valero’s Benicia Refinery. | Pat Toth-Smith.

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Lynzie Lowe, March 24, 2024

The Valero Benicia Refinery released its required 30-day report on Monday to provide additional details about the Feb. 24 releasing of a foul odor into the city of Benicia, and announced that the investigation has been officially closed.

The incident began on Friday, Feb. 23 when a gas turbine in the Benicia Refinery Fluid Catalytic Cracker Unit tripped, causing an emergency shutdown procedures and rerouting to “slop system” tanks to take place. During this process, Tank 1738 was turned off at approximately 4:13 a.m. Feb. 24 after it was discovered that there was some liquid hydrocarbon on the roof of that tank.

By 5:30 a.m. the next morning, the report noted that the Benicia Refinery Fence-line monitors detected Hydrogen Sulfide above background levels Southwest of the Refinery that was accompanied by the signature odor of H2S, which accounted for the rotten egg smell that was present throughout the city of Benicia at that time.

“Refinery Operations began investigating the source of the odor and identified hydrocarbon on the roof of Tank 1738 at approximately 4:13 a.m. (Feb. 24) as the source,” read the report. “… Cleanup efforts began at approximately 1 p.m. and refinery personnel continued to clean material off of the tank roof until the majority of the material had been removed and there was insufficient daylight to continue. At the time the work stopped, odors were no longer being detected beyond the refinery fence-line. Operations resumed the next morning to continue spot cleaning the residue on the tank roof and cleanup was completed on Monday, Feb. 26.”

Refinery officials said their initial report estimated that there was approximately 83 gallons of refined hydrocarbon material.

“However, based on visual accounts from the personnel overseeing the cleanup of the material, it was noted that the material on the roof was a very light sheen and the roof of the tank was still visible through the sheen, indicating it was a very thin layer of liquid hydrocarbon,” read the report. “Based on the information on the sheen thickness and the area of the roof that had material, the estimate was revised to be approximately 35 gallons of hydrocarbon material. The bulk of the material removed from the roof was rainwater.”

According to the report, an investigation team – composed of managers, engineers and hourly operators from the facility – was formed two days after the incident occurred to determine the root cause and recommend corrective actions for the Feb. 24 event.

“Data was gathered from multiple sources, including equipment monitoring trends and accounts from personnel involved in the incident,” read the report.

According to the report, the investigation identified that the floating roof on Tank 1738 had slightly tilted, and was most likely caused by vapors entering the tank.

“The investigation team looked at the various sources of slop material that were routed to the tank during the event to identify potential sources of lighter hydrocarbon materials to the tank,” read the report. “From those potential source streams, there was insufficient data for the team to identify which stream was the conclusive source of the vapors.”

The investigation team did, however, determined that the volume of material on the roof was likely not significant enough to cause offsite impacts, and therefore a vapor release from the tank was suspected to have occurred.

“The investigation team also considered the possibility of other sources as the cause of the odor, but evidence from refinery fixed H2S monitors and the wind direction during the event provided evidence that the tank was the source of the odor,” read the report.

Because the investigative team believed that light hydrocarbon materials vaporized in Tank 1738 causing the roof tilt and atmospheric substances to be released, the Refinery will schedule a meeting on or before Sept. 30 with the City of Benicia and Solano County Certified Unified Program Agency to develop engineering solution for the potential slop sources and options for monitoring and alarms, procedural options, or other means to reducing potential for vapor carry under to tankage and to implement engineering solutions.

Further actions on how to proceed with corrective action will be discussed and acted on at that time but the investigation into the incident has now been closed, according to Refinery officials.


Other reporting on this recent refinery incident: