Friday, February 20, 2015

Next stop, Portland

Off to Portland to visit familia.  Y'all take care while I'm gone.

Some studio, some where.  I might be five.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Raúl R. Rodriguez, presente

I'm sure it was after 1960 when I saw my first Rose Parade.  That was a long time ago.  That was also the first year that Raul R. Rodriguez had a float in the parade.  Imagine being 15 years old and so talented that there are people who are willing to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to make your vision a reality.  That's talent.

I have no idea how many floats went down Colorado Blvd. that were designed by Raul between 1960 and 1999.  Given his talent, his dedication to his work, and the continued support that saw his vision become reality, there must have been hundreds and hundreds.  Literally.  

In 1999 members of the Latino Cultural Academy, which eventually became Latino Heritage, coordinated and fought with the city to have our first Latino Heritage Parade.  It was to be in April of that year.  The morning of our first parade it began to pour cats and dogs.  Figuratively.  

This was before half the world had their cell phone or were on Facebook, so the word went out to some folks and didn't go out to others.  The core planning group decided we would go to the check-in site and thank folks for coming out in the rain.  Among those who came, was Raúl R. Rodriguez.  He was gracious, he was kind to the community members who were there.  He stayed for a couple of hours as we stood by the lockers under the eaves of Pasadena Christian School.  That's class.

Rained out parade 1999
The following year Raúl was our Grand Marshal.  He was a guest on Casa Martinez.  He donated use of a sketch as part of an exhibit we had on the history of Latinos in Pasadena at the Pasadena Museum of History.

He rarely missed being in the Latino Heritage Parade.  All of this could have been small potatoes for someone who was used to traveling around the world and having dinner with heads of state and royalty. He came because it, and we, mattered to him.

And the community knew this.  They could see the love that he felt for them reflected in the colors on the floats.  He took an idea from paper to a three dimensional bit of a dream that all of us could share as we began the new year.  

Latino Heritage Parade -
Yours truly; Raúl R. Rodríguez, Grand Marshal; Bill Bogaard, Mayor, Pasadena;
Evelina Fernandez, actress and playwright; Dr. Daniel Olivas, Astronaut
He was so proud of the first year he was able to bring in Mexicano elements to the parade.  The subtle cultural references were fine, but mariachis on a float, well, now we're talking.  The community loved seeing this and loved him for bringing this to the world stage.  

I loved Raul, too.  I was lucky to get see all of this and to get to know him.  I had to return the sketch to his home in Hancock Park and ended up spending time with him and the love of his life, Robert.  We talked and they shared pictures of parties where they'd had a chance to look goofy and just have a good time.  

It was about that time that I rode in his car after we met at the Wall/Las Memorias in East LA on the commemoration of World Aids Day.  On this solemn occasion as we were riding, he shared that he was an orphan, meaning that both his parents had died.  I remember finding that a curious thought.  One that I understood better when my parents had passed.  That nigh his honesty and thoughtfulness were a different sort of gift he gave me.  

The following year that we discovered that we were related through marriage.  We were second cousins.  For many that might not have meant much, but for us it was a sweet connection; it was seeing a bit of familia whenever we were together.  It always made me happy to hear the love in this voice when he greeted me as, "Prima".

He and Robert moved to Pasadena a while ago.  We lived about a mile away from each other.   I visited their home and they gave me a grand tour.  It was a sweet time.  We sat and chatted as neighbors and family will do.  

Not too long ago I told Robert that I felt that Raul should have a prize named after him.  After all, he has received more prizes than any other designer of Rose Parade floats.  He liked the idea.  It seemed fitting.

I'm hoping that this comes to pass.  It's time.

Uncredited photo via

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dan Guerrero, Gaytino in Pasadena

You know there are those folks that you meet in your life with whom you don't seem to have anything in common, but somehow, in ways you can't describe you almost instantly connect.  That's the case for me and Dan Guerrero.

I find him charming, funny, hard working, funny, bright, exacting, intelligent, proud, funny.
Well, you get the idea.
I met him when he toured a "guerrilla exhibit" I curated of his father, Lalo Guerrero.  He decided he liked what I had done and probably was a little desperate for an Office Manager for this production he was working on.  The first, gigantor Los Angeles Latino Film Festival.

I had never worked in an office, and haven't worked in one since, but working to coordinate a film festival is amazingly intense.  Deadlines, grants, sponsorships, Edward James Olmos, Andy Garcia, Esai Morales, Helen Mirren, Lee Diamond Phillips - not folks I normally run into on my rounds as a historian.

Through it all we lived and worked in a way that was bigger than life; exacting and flamboyant attention to detail, laughing and working12 hour days, frustration and 14 volunteers in a tiny, tiny office on the KTLA lot.

Part of the joy of working with Dan was getting to hear all the stories.  Of his childhood, of his time in New York and his work on Broadway, and his return to So Cal when he became a Chicano and was  a pioneer in the production; producing, producing, producing.

Some years ago Dan wrote a show about his life.  ¡Gaytino! Mariachi to Merman, Sondheim to Cesar Chavez, A true fable in story and song.  80 minutes of swell theater.

How many folks become a Regents Lecturer at UCLA at 74?  Folks that know Dan are not surprised to know that that is one of his new roles.

Thursday night Dan will be presenting his one man show at 7:00 p.m. in the Westerbeck Recital Hall at Pasadena City College.  I'll be in Row D.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

And now for a different turn

Life is so much more that politics.  Although sometimes it feels as if all things can be political.

So what to do when one needs to do something different, something that involves other parts of the brain.  Something that helps keep you healthy?  Mentally and physically?

No gyms.  I don't care for gyms.

I see the beautiful pictures that my friends take while on hikes.   I enjoy seeing the pictures.

I feel that a hike is more commitment than I would like to make.  Only time I ever tried out for a long hike was a failure.  I was in Girl Scouts and ended up in the infirmary because I was too winded or too heavy or some such thing.

Next attempts hiking took place with my ex-husband.  He is a good man.  We were a poor match.

This was particularly apparent in the different ways we approached getting from her to there when an incline was involved.

To make matters worse, one hike I suffered a bad sunburn and heat stroke.  Who knew Ms. Tan-able could get that bad a sunburn.  He didn't.  I didn't either.  I think my melanin was surprised by the very non-smoggy sunlight.

A better choice for me is dance.

When I was a re-entry student at UC Riverside I used to go to the Folk Dancing Club on Friday nights.  Back then I could do 4 hours of nonstop twirling, stomping, and line moving.  Bulgarian, Swedish, Italian; you play the music and I'm still ready to move.

When we moved to Pasadena and I took up Scottish Country Dancing.  Loved it.  Throop Unitarian Universalist Church had classes.  Every Monday you could count on my being there.

So now, as a Senior, I'm still ready for some dance action.  What to do?  Something I've never done before. Time for a little Ballet Folklorico.

I've never done this sort of dance before so I'm having a great time.  It's a bit of physical Lumosity, I think.  Rhythmic patterns, turning, gesturing all while enjoying some good music and having a laugh or two when the rest of the class is going one way and I'm going the other.

Very lucky that the class is taking place at the Pasadena Senior Center on Wednesday's from 11:30 to 12:30.  Because the class is only one hour long I park for free at the parking structure on Raymond.  Rosy Cortes of Ballet Folklorico is our teacher.

This, for me, is a swell match.

photos courtesy Raúl Martínez, Deputy Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Another hat, but still on things political

Yesterday I wrote about a candidate that I'm supporting.  Today I won't even write the name because I'm wearing a different hat. 

Under this hat is the part of me that wonders questions that don't have simple answers.  It is the part of me that wants to learn more about those running for office.  How well do they know the complex communities of Altadena, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre?  What are some of the issues that are a part of daily conversations around the city or the school district?  Do they have the ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and use their knowledge to find solutions?  Are they a fire brand or one issue candidate?  Are they astute and able to stand toe to toe with those who have different philosophies, while remaining civil?

What are the bigger questions that exist for the students, for the parents, and for those of us who are also a part of the communities of Altadena, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre?  There now exists a working relationship between the three governing bodies.  How will any of candidates participation in that delicate relationship have an impact that may be helpful rather than hurtful?  How do they define public safety and how do they see it manifested?  Have the school board candidates ever been to the city the don't live in?  Have the council members ever visited any of the schools in PUSD?  

This coming Sunday variants on these sorts of questions will be asked at the Non-Partisan Candidate Forum hosted by the Pasadena Latino Coalition (PLC).  

The PLC’s goal is to shine a light on the experiences of the Latino community; including the disparity that too often exists in areas of education, employment, health and housing in the City of Pasadena.

PLC will not be making endorsements for the March 2015 election.   The forum is opportunity for those who are a part of the Latino community, or who might be allies, to hear the candidate's positions on a variety of topics that are particularly pertinent to the Latino community.

The candidate forum will take place at the Pasadena Senior Center- thanks to them for letting us use their their auditorium.  The  candidates for different positions will be present; even two of the three candidates for council who are running unopposed.  

Here's a chance for folks to learn more about the folks who will be making decisions that will be a part of our lives.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Some things political

I'm typing away at a frenzied pace today - so please be kind when you see any typos or read any syntactical errors that might make you wince.  I am without and editor and doing more than care will allow.

Being involved with several groups, many involved with advocacy, I need to make clear to others the hat I am wearing at any given time.  At the moment I am wearing the "Roberta who lives in District One" hat.  

I've been practicing wearing this hat for a while.  James and I have been living here for 30+ years.  Well, only one year is contained in the plus, but the 30 is worth noting.  

We moved here partially because we liked the mix of the neighborhood.  Children and families of all stripes and plaids and paisleys - to carry the analogy to silliness.  But truth is on our block we have folks who are young (as we once were), those who are elders (as we are quickly becoming), and families who are long time residents and folks who are new to our block.  It is the differences of the households that gives our neighborhood a good part of its unique character.  

Representing this neighborhood and the other neighborhoods of District One has changed over the years.  Decades ago our Northwest Pasadena was predominantly black.  Shortly after we moved it here it was predominantly Black and Latino.  

Now it's district demographics represent a shift that has taken place in the city.  The majority of D1 is white, followed by Latinos, then Asians, and then Blacks.  

The socio economics of the area has changed, too.  We have families who are still struggling with multiple jobs, but there are greater numbers of families that have more flexibility in their work hours it appears.  It's not uncommon for me to see folks I'm assuming are the parents of babes being pushed in strollers talking on the phone with someone or the other.  Sometimes the pair is accompanied by a dog.  

So who will sit on the Pasaden City Council to represent this ever changing place?  

James and I are solidly behind Brian Biery.  

I've known Brian for close to 20 years, I think.  First met him when he was working at Neighborhood Connections.  It was with his help that I began to learn about other parts of Pasadena.  I had no real idea that East Pasadena was different from where I lived.  Brian knew.  

Later Brian was helpful in work that we did with Latino Heritage.  He was a great resource for information.  

Turns out that he is third generation Pasadenan.  He roots are deep and his experiences pretty darn interesting.   Here's a link to more about Brian -

Over the years Brian and I have agreed on a lot of things.  Over the years we've not agreed on everything.  Even when we disagreed I knew that he had been thoughtful about the comments or choices he'd made.  I always knew that he was thinking about the "greater good".

I would love to have someone representing me on council of whom I could say the same.

Ready for prime time

One of my non-resolution resolutions was to write more often.  Best intentions and it's only been a month since my last post.


In the meantime James and I have helped our back room go from this

to this...

We also celebrated James entering a prime year - he's 59!  Okay, some of youse guys with a background in the humanities may go ho-hum, but I bet those who have an interest in math will understand how cool that can be.  
I tend be in the first group, but after 35 years, let's just say I still like to make the man happy.