Reading Big Trouble, by J. Anthony Lukas. I must say that I have never been so overwhelmed by someone's enthusiasm with history and information. I was so enthralled that I was fifteen minutes late meeting someone because I wanted to listen to everything he had to say. He's a High School Social Studies teacher here visiting from New York for Spring Break and his students are very very lucky to have him for a teacher.

Here's a few sound bites.

The best book he's ever read--The Man Who Knew Too Much, by Dick Russell, which opens with a man walking into an El Paso bank and firing a shot in the roof so that he will be arrested because he believes he's about to be framed for the killing of JFK. He says, please please read this book.

His deepest ontological worry--the false dichotomy between history and conspiracy theory.

Only recently, has he gotten into the Kennedy assassination because it's considered low brow knowledge. This, he says, is a control mechanism, like Galileo and the church--if the educated middle class believes that assassinations are low brow knowledge, they will not contemplate them and historians will not spend time on them.

What he recommends to his ninth graders--Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, by William F. Pepper. There were two trials recently--one in 1999, the other in 2000. The jury found that there had been a conspiracy theory. It was in small print on page eighteen of the New York times. In Italy, he says, they believe that Americans call every trial the trial of the century....but this was the trial of the century..."and where the hell was everyone?"

American historians, he said, who will not dedicate time to low brow knowledge need to take more vitamins. He said that, to make your career as an historian, you must practice something called American Exceptionalism--America doesn't have class problems like other country's have, so you can't, of course write about it. You have to write about how America is the exception.

Other good books he recommends: The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America , by Lawrence Goodwyn (yummy x3); Chants Democratic, by Sean Wilentz, about the making of the U.S. working class in 1820-1850, named for Whitman's poem; and Secret Agenda, by Jim Hoehn, which he, says, has more brain pops per minute than any other book he's read.

Thank you for your time and have a good remainder of your visit in San Francisco!

The best thing he's done here so far--Bear's Trail at Point Reyes.