ITS Staff Spotlight: Helen Bassham

April 17, 2023

Helen BasshamHelen Bassham

Assistant to the Director

Institute of Transportation Studies

What’s your hometown?

I am  local.  I grew up in El Cerrito (except for one year in Hawaii) and attended UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley. Now I commute in from Pinole 

What is your role at ITS, describe your job in four words, and how long have you been here? 

I support the ITS Director. I have been with ITS in various capacities, officially as an event logistics specialist, for 23 years.

What is your favorite thing about working at ITS?

I love connecting with the great variety of people from all over the world who contact ITS through our central office, and I am delighted  when vanguard transportation research topics are reported in the popular news, I have already heard about them through our avant garde ITS Berkeley researchers. This is the best kind of deja vu! Strictly speaking, since my great great grandfather was a  stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo during the California’s goldrush years (and was held up one time by Black Bart); and others on that side of the family ran a stage toll road in the Trinity area, one could say that I have circled back to transportation. 

Where’s your happy place, favorite bay area location?

Too many to have a favorite! Pretty much any outdoors place with a vista - Point Pinole Regional Park, Marina Bay, Inspiration Point (Tilden Park), Marin Headlands, Point Reyes National Seashore - McClures Beach, …. this could take a long time, so I will stop here.

When you aren’t cheering the Bears on, who do you root for/what’s your alma mater?

I only cheer for the Bears. Seriously, I am not naturally very sporty… But.. I have fond memories of the Oakland A’s in 1974 when they  won the World Series,  And of course I always root for the US National Women’s Soccer Team! How could I NOT? 

What is on the top of your travel experience/destination list?

Cross country driving trip on Route 66 

Although I also dream about a trip to China… 

What’s the latest book you read/latest show you binged/movie you watched/podcast you listened to? 

Recent reads? I have just been re-visiting Moby DIck with Herman Melville,  The Mermaid From Jeju (Sumi Hahn),  King Leopold’s Ghost (Adam Hothschild), How Emotions are Made (Lisa Feldman Barrett); Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (Susana Clark), The Flavia de Luce murder mysteries (Alan Bradley), I have just finished re-reading Proust in translation - Freeware on my Kindle - (Remembrance of Things Past) on my help me sleep. Now I am binging on The Laundry Files (Charles Stross- as series where British Bureaucracy meets Lovecraft. (Movies and TV shows…. hmmm that question like other pop culture questions is kind of embarrassing and eclectic -  “Birdy,” “Black Spot (Zone Blanche);  David Attenbourough’s “Hummingbirds : Jeweled Messengers,” “ My Octopus Teacher,” Monty Don (Gardener’s World), Podcasts: Hidden Brain, The Best of Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. 

What is your favorite food? 

Whatever I am eating at the moment; food is very contextual for me, deeply tied to where I am, the time of the day, the season, and whoever I am sharing the meal with! Seriously, how could anyone have one favorite food? Maybe… anything chocolate? 

If you could become a mode of transportation, what would you be? 

A commuter ferry boat, so that I would not have to go underground, but could skim along the surface with seagulls and serve irish coffees in my lounge. If I can be an electric one, all the better.

If you could meet anyone in the world, dead, alive, or fictional, who would it be?

John Muir. Although he didn’t like people all that much, so maybe he wouldn’t want to meet me.

What’s your most treasured possession?

This one was difficult for me to answer; it seems that I don’t treasure possessions very much - however, I do have a hat that belonged to my grandfather, if that counts? And an old Batiq shirt that was given to me in the 70’s from a friend in high school that she brought back from her summer travels: it says “Joe Bugner” on the front, and on the back it says “MOhammed Ali Fight - Kuala Lumpur- 1975 - Joe Bugner. I suspect that Joe lost.

What is a fun fact about you?

I  saved  my maternal great-grandmother’s cookbook “The American Women’s Cookbook” published  in 1938, but reprinted from earlier unnamed  sources, which I dip into from time to time to compare  cooking processes and styles from whatever is trending on the web. This book  contains recipes for game, including one for opossum roast, turtles and terrapins, and reindeer (of which, at the time the book was published,it states that “Government breeding of reindeer has  brought the meat back on the market in modern form.” I have not tried any of these recipes, but from what I read, I do not recommend the opossum.