What if, what if…

Political history is littered with forks in the road in which you can speculate about how different things would be if we’d gone down one road instead of the other. Most recently, there’s the question of how different life in America would be if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election instead of Donald Trump. Discuss, without crying, screaming or tearing things up…

Reader Bob Sawyer sent along an interesting story from Politico about how Long Beach’s grand old hostelry the Virginia Hotel was the incubator for a misunderstanding between two progressive Republican candidates running for office in 1916, a century earlier than the Clinton/Trump contest: Charles Evans Hughes, who had stepped down as a Supreme Court justice to run for president, and Hiram Johnson, a former governor of California who was running for the Senate.

The two candidates should have been political allies, boosting each other to victory, but things fell apart in August, when both candidates were staying at Long Beach’s opulent Virginia Hotel, as anyone of note would have at the time.

During their concurrent stay, however, Hughes neglected to reach out to Johnson, primarily because he was unaware that Hughes was in town. Johnson took it as an insult, though, and despite Hughes’ apologies and attempts at reconciliation, Johnson was firm in his feelings that he had been insulted by Hughes and did nothing to advance Hughes’ popularity among voters.

The result was Hughes losing California in the general election by a razor-thin 3,773 votes, which gave Woodrow Wilson the state’s 13 electoral votes and a second-term victory.

Had Hughes won—and remember these were different times for the leanings of both parties—he may have made decisions that would have advanced civil rights decades earlier, while Wilson was a white supremacist who spurred the resegregation of much of the federal government. As the Politico piece notes, it’s “likely that a missed meeting at a Long Beach hotel had a cost to the nation far beyond a single election: the perpetuation of officially sanctioned racial supremacy that lasted another half-century.”

An unforgettable book (yet forgotten) rediscovered

Several years ago my doctor told me I should see a therapist and he gave me a good one to call. I can’t recall his name, which fits in well with the rest of this little story, but he was a good guy and I enjoyed our conversations, although I’m still the same happy-go-lucky guy I was when I started seeing him.

Anyway, I recommended a book that I thoroughly enjoyed—in fact, it remains one of the best books I’ve ever read. Pretty sure the therapist wouldn’t rush out and buy a copy just on my recommendation, I bought him a copy as my going-away present. A week or two later, he emailed me saying how great he thought the book was and thanked me profusely.

Years later, I was thinking about the book and how much I enjoyed reading it and recommending it to friends. But I had forgotten the name of both the book and its author.

I was resigned to never finding the book again until this weekend when I was doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, with the clue: “Body and —”…

Soul! That was the name of the book, “Body and Soul,” and an easy Google search came up with its author, Frank Conroy and minutes later I had bought the book on Kindle, along with Conroy’s highly regarded memoir “Stop-Time.”

Conroy, whose works are steeped in the magic of music, was an accomplished jazz pianist as well as the director of the celebrated University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. He died in 2005 at the age of 69.

Great writers make great TV

The works of a couple of prolific and very readable authors, Elmore Leonard and Michael Connelly, have inspired two excellent series that you should be watching.

Connelly, who covered crime for the LA Times before pounding out nearly 40 novels about crime and police and detectives, including novels that resulted in the “Bosch” series on Netflix. His works continue to hit the screen with “The Lincoln Lawyer,” about attorney Mickey Haller who works out of his fleet of Lincolns. Netflix dropped  the final five episodes of its second season on Thursday and I had scarfed them all down greedily by Saturday morning. I’m the King of Binge.

Leonard, meanwhile, was incredibly prolific. Before his death at 87 in 2013, he wrote about 60 novels and story collections, an astounding 23 of which were turned into films (including “Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown” and “3:10 to Yuma”) and his stories have further inspired the FX/Hulu series “Justified,” which ran for five seasons from 2010 to 2015 before being resurrected for its current sequel season which drops episodes on Wednesday on Hulu. 

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.