Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


An Eventful Life

I’m not sure why I even read it. Maybe it was my times in Ireland and my sense of connectedness to that enchanted, benighted land. Or the smiling face of young Joe Reilly, freckled and red-haired, born in the Mission District of San Francisco in 1926, who died almost 88 years later not far away in San Leandro. The grandson of immigrants from County Armagh, he sold newspapers on the city’s streets as a boy, enlisted in the navy at 17 and spent three years in the Pacific, returning home in 1946 to marry Bess, his wife for 67 years, and raise 10 children. He delivered milk in Berkeley Hills, where his customers welcomed his smile and laughed at his blarney. When Berkeley Farms ceased home deliveries in 1970, he became an ice cream man, working a second job as a concessionaire at Oakland Coliseum. Joe was an entrepreneur as well as a salesman – an early distributor of mineral water to local health food stores, he subsequently discovered a geyser well and launched Napa Valley Springs Water Company, which he sold four years later. He spent his last quarter century happily retired, traveling with Bess, playing with the grandchildren, fishing daily with his buddies at the lake. A long, happy life lived within 20 miles of his birth, yet filled with the tragedy of living. Childhood poverty. Witnessing the carnage at Midway. Enduring the deaths of two daughters and a great-grandson. A life like millions of others, tracing the arc of 20th-century America, unique and precious.

Reassessing Reagan

A Question of Charity