Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Deconstructed Chaos

It began innocently enough.  I had a coupon from a local store.  
20% off my next purchase of $15.00 or more.  
After a hearty season of curating, talking, and researching I was ready to do something else.  
Since it is cool(er) that meant it was time for me to begin baking.  

The natural intersection of those two thoughts led me to take an inventory of my goodies that are used for baking. Were I either of my dear comadres I likely would have either not had this task to do or would have been done in the space of a couple of hours.  Took me a couple of days to do this.  Mind you, I now have organized pictures of the stacks of bakeware and a written list noting order of placement.  I'm not anal but I can, on occasion, veer towards methodical.    I will give the pans away to a local group or school.

How did I decide what would stay and what would go?  I took a hard look at what I've done and what I'm going to do.  I've baked wedding cakes for receptions of about 290 folks.  One needs 16" baking pans to do that.  Not going to do that again.  In the box it goes.  Also not going to make chocolate seashells for wedding cakes.  Bye, bye.  Do I really need to angel food pans.  I think not.  

So out came all the pans and the memories that they helped make.  

 Kate's wedding, my parents anniversaries, James and my wedding,  Matthew's birthdays, groups to which I no longer belong, friends who are with us and those who are no longer with us except in love and memory.  All tumbled out to make me smile and bring a tear or two.

And then there was light

and order

and room for that pan that I need that I can get for less than $15.00 - with the coupon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Anybody who knows me well, knows that I have a fine appreciation for "High Twinkle Factor" (HTF).  They also know that on a day-to-day I live in the world of "high comfort factor"(hcf).  Elastic is a godsend.  Cotton is cool.  Birkenstocks were made for folks with feet who work for a living.  If you are on your feet all day long, you just need the support; forget fashion.

So it is an exceptional day when I dress in HTF.  But I've been instructed to do so by my friend, and mentor, Dan Guerrero.   He is throwing himself a roast, at a theater downtown Los Angeles, in honor of his 75th birthday.  Because he is producing, the event will be fabulous!  I don't know who all will be there, but a partial listing includes Dolores Huerta, Culture Clash, and Joe Hernandez-Kolski.

The invitation carried instructions to "dress to impress", so my version of HTF will be in evidence starting at my shoes.  I think Larry may be hoping that I remember to wear dark hose.  Bare legged won't do.

Dan was the last person I asked to be Honorary Grand Marshal for the Latino Heritage parade & jamaica.  I wanted him to be in the parade because it would offer a nice closing to my tenure as lead coordinator for the event.  I wrote about Dan last year.  

The City of Los Angeles proclaimed today Dan Guerrero Day.  
Not shabby when a city celebrates your b'day.
Photo - Debra J.T. Padilla

On this day I also want to begin to write a bit of history of the Latino Heritage parade & jamaica.  There had been an effort sometime in the early 90s to have a Latino Parade in Pasadena.  I don't know  exactly when it took place, but I believe it was some time after the Black History Parade was established.  It took place near City Hall and not sure how many times it took place.

After seeing the Irish Parade in Pasadena in 1998 I came up with the idea of Latino History parade.  Luckily there was a group of us working at sharing Latino heritage and history in the area.  We became a committee and folks with last names like Morgan, Sorcini, Almanza, Bruce, Grimes, Guerrero, Pico, Isenberg, Ruiz and so many more became the group that worked together to bring Latino culture and history in our first parade.  Our efforts were built on the work of the Pasadena Mexican American History Association - elders who had lived in the area and who shared their experiences and knowledge of history with us.

The Parade Committee had scrapes with some City staff.  They wanted us to have the parade on a narrow street, or "perhaps we could go around the block of Washington Park"?  To say we were not solidly embraced is an understatement.  

Other City staff could not have been more helpful.  Christine Harris, who was the City staff person in charge of the Black History Parade is the first person that come to mind.  Not only did she graciously spend time with us, she also shared a copy of the budget that the city had dedicated to the BHP.  We could not have asked for more, but perhaps we should have

Pasadena Christian School provided our staging area.  We were brand new but they treated us with great respect and could not have been more welcoming.  

The parade was set to take place win April of 1999.  We were bold and asked the Chicano icon Lalo Guerrero to be our Grand Marshal.  To our amazement he agreed.  Raul R. Rodriguez also agreed to be in our first parade.  We were amazed at that, too. 

As the fates would have it there was a huge rainstorm forecast set to take place on parade date.  It was at 9 in the morning that I made call to not have the parade.  Class acts that they were Lalo and Raul still came to the area and were ready to greet those who didn't get the message the event was cancelled.  

I'm not sure what exactly was taking place when this picture was taken, but it is an image I treasure.   

Photo - Almanza Photography
In it are my dear buddies from KPAS - Kevin and Joe - and Lalo is offering solid support for us in a time when he could have easily been put out for having made the trip and then having nothing to show for it.

But he knew that event was about so much more.  

Just as I know that tonight will be about Dan, and will include a high dose of HTF, but the event will be about so much more.  

Dan has been a groundbreaker, a mentor, a role model, and a warrior.  We'll all have a good time and the pride will be so deep and strong that it will be almost palpable.

Here's to Dan Guerrero and his 75 years!

Friday, October 2, 2015

It's a newsletter like day

1. Saw "The Martian" today.  Forget that I am slightly smitten by Matt Damon.  Forget that it is in 3D.  Forget that family and friends work at JPL.  I would go see the movie again.  Wait, change would to will.

2. Last month I was on a panel at the Pasadena Playhouse and this coming Saturday I will be blogtalkradio show - Latino Role Models Success  Saturday, October 3rd at 1:00 p.m.  I've done panels before, I've been interviewed before, but I've never done a live call in talk radio show.

3. The documentary "Justice for My Sister" will be airing on KCET tonight at 9 p.m.  If you can't catch it on Friday, it will be airing again during the month of October.

It won First Place for documentaries at the 2013 LALIFF.  It is about one "Guatemalan woman's determination to hold her sister's killer accountable results in a three-year battle that uncovers impunity."



Monday, September 28, 2015

Gracias a la vida, first anniversary

Latino Heritage Month is always pretty busy for me.  It seems that designating a month, or a day, with a particular name of title helps people think about thing differently.  First example that comes to mind is TBT on Facebook.  Who would have thought those three initials would establish a habit that is followed occasionally by some and helps to define the days of the week for others.  So many of us get a chance to see something of our friends and their youth or their families.  Makes us a feel a little closer to many.

I find Latino Heritage Month to be similar.  It's not that this is the only time I might want to share some of my heritage, or the only time one might be interested things Latino.  I think one of the outcomes of Latino Heritage Month is similar to the TBT.  We get to share a bit more about ourselves and folks get to learn a bit more about each other.

So, I'll continue to join others in sharing the complexity of our history, the diversity of our experiences, and the fun that can be had at various celebrations that will take place through October 15th.

On a very personal note I want to acknowledge that it has been a years since I had my bout with cancer.  I'll see the oncologist early next month and am not expecting there to be any changes since I was given a clean bill of health a year ago.

In many ways I don't feel a bit different.  But I know that I am forever changed.  I am a cancer survivor.  It gives me a feeling of uneasiness to write the phrase - if I do so am I tempting fate?  If I don't write it, am I tempting fate?  Better to acknowledge and rejoice, I think.

I want to again give thanks to all who were so generous of spirit - in word and in deed.  There was poetry that was written by Dr. Juan Lara - “Up in the morning and off to school, Roberta is teaching the Golden Rule, Grade One is slow, it didn’t move fast, Stage One is done and over at last!”

There were friends who came by pre-surgery and helped me get the bedroom set so that I could be comfortable as I healed.  There were those who helped me during the first weeks by visiting me and staying briefly.  The first weeks this was the perfect medicine.  There were those who sent cards or shared their best via electronic means.  There were those who helped with the critters.  There were those who prayed for me or sent their best wishes and love.  I'm sure better for each thought that was sent my way.

Then there were those who brought yummy food.  This was the gift that surprised me most.  I had no idea how much James and I would value having something at the house that meant James could come home from work and that meant he didn't need to shop or wash pans.  

Gracias a usted, dear reader.  Your comments and good wishes helped me get back to good health.  

Here is a link to a performance by the great Mercedes Sosa.  It is with her expressive voice and the lyrics of Parra I share my thanks to each of you and to life.

Gracias a la vida - Violeta Parra
Thanks to life which has given me so much
It has given me sound that in all its width
Day and night records crickets and canaries
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms
And the tender voice of my well loved 

Thanks to life which has given me so much
It has given me sound and the alphabet
With it, the words that I think and declare:
Mother, friend, brother
And light illuminating the path of the soul 

from which comes love 

Thanks to life which has given me so much
It has given me to walk with my tired feet
With them I walked cities and puddles
Beaches and deserts, mountains and plains
And your house, your street and your patio 

Thanks to life which has given me so much
He gave my heart fluttering its frame
When I look at the fruit of the human brain
When I look good so far from bad
When I look at the bottom of your eyes clear 

Thanks to life which has given me so much
It gave me laughter and it has given me tears
So I distinguish happiness and grief
The two materials that are my song
And your song, which is the same song
And all that singing is my own song

Thanks to life Thanks to life

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A new week, a new focus

Sometimes I miss going to work and having a regular schedule.  There is a part of me that lightly revels in the predictable.  The same breakfast, the same shampoo, the same husband - all of this makes me happy.

When I was teaching there was the daily schedule that kept all of us moving in the same general direction.

I loved knowing sequence of the school year and the student's projects.  Fall was focused on learning about family, about colors, about sequencing, and about snow geese traveling through the Central Flyway.  Day to day might change but the greater order remained.  Smaller rhythms and larger rhythms, each part of a much larger pattern.

Because of the work that I do now there doesn't seem to be a day to day pattern.

There are meetings that are monthly.  I appreciate that.  I know which week of the month it might be based on the meetings that are to take place.  Second Thursday of the month - PCC/President's Latino Advisory.  Fourth Tuesday of the month - Pasadena Senior Center.

Having too much unscheduled time is great for binge watching while one is healing, but left me feeling like a ship without a port as I got stronger and healthier.

This past summer the pattern has changed to an almost week to week focus.  While the change is welcomed, it also has thrown me off balance a bit.

Middle of August - Anniversary party.  One week clothes, one week invites, one week cleaning.

Beginning of September - Getting ready for Latino Heritage Month events.

Last week - Real Women Have Curves at the Pasadena Playhouse.

This week has been about me.  Not me relaxing, oh, no, not that.  Me, getting ready for a couple of lectures that will take place this week; two very different topics means two very different talks.  I'm excited for the opportunities.

Tonight I'll be at the Pasadena Central Library presenting, "Pasadena: At the Corner of San Pasqual and Bandini".  It's about the intersection of the folks who spent time at that geographical point.  It's a place that can't be found using a GPS.  But I'll show you where it is and how it was connected to the Bandini Elliott family, Caltech, Father Throop, and the Greene brothers.

Saturday I'll be at that Altadena Library. The library will be presenting the first of the six part series, "Latino Americans".  The series premiered on PBS in 2013.  I get to be the guest historian for the first episode, "Foreigners in Their Own Land".  I'll share a bit of local history before the screening and then lead the question and answer session following the screening.

I'd love to have you drop by either talk.  Happy news, both talks are free.

Let's see what next week brings.

Pasadena Library

Altadena Library

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Real questions

Tonight I'll be on the panel following the performance of 
at the Pasadena Playhouse.  I'll be joining Josefina López, Dr. Cynthia Olivo, and Seema Sueko.  
We'll be discussing how the play relates to Pasadena and Southern California.  

I believe there'll be time for questions from the audience.  I'm especially looking forward to that time since the bulk of the audience will be students and faculty from PCC.   I'll be curious to learn what the characters, the set, and play means to them. How is their reaction different from mine and why?

As for me, yesterday when I saw the set I could almost take in the scent of the concrete, of the oil of the machines, of the wood as it became freed from paint by wear and tear. 

I saw the sky and thought of evenings looking out my window before night had truly arrived; the vastness of the sky defined by the distance between phone poles and factory walls.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

More Real Women

Josefina Lopez is usually thought of as a playwright. Truth is she is that and, being a renaissance woman, she is so much more.  She also paints, writes poetry, performs, designs, and is a mother of two boys.  Oh, and she is the founder and artistic director of Casa 0101.  The theater is space in Boyle Heights where new products are presented and it's also place where screenwriting and playwriting skills are shared with those who are new to the field.

It must be exciting for her to see the new production of Real Women Have Curves at the Pasadena Playhouse.  The play is 25 years old.  I suspect like most of the rest of us, who she was when she wrote and what her vision may have a common base but may be very different.  Life has a way of modifying our perspectives.

I'll be seeing the play three times this week.  Each time the audience will transported to a garment shop in East LA.  Each audience will get to know the characters and their stories.  Each audience will be the last character to be a part of the performance.

Josefina Lopez, Artist and Activist, Founder and Director of Casa 0101
I also mentioned Seema Sueko last week.  Seema is new to the Playhouse, but definitely not new to theater.  To quote her bio, and why not, it's really concise -  She "...was born in Karachi, Pakistan, raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is a half-Japanes, half-Paskistani, Muslim-American".  She has lived in "...Honolulu, Tacoma, Chicago, Spokane, Seattle, New York...She co-founded Mo'olelo Performing arts Company, a community focused, socially conscious, equity theater company...and served as its Executive Artistic Director.

Given her background and experience it wasn't surprising that what began as informative sessions about the play quickly became meetings.  Groups began to rally around the idea of building up the audience for RWHC by reaching out and encouraging local groups to have their constituents come to the theater.  
Seema Sueko, Associate Artistic Director, Pasadena Playhouse

Last Thursday night Adelante Youth Alliance benefitted from discounted tickets and an opportunity to meet Josefina Lopez.  Friday night Vecinos Unidos, of South Pasadena, had a chance to raise funds for their scholarships.  This coming weekend September 19 and 20th, Community Organized for Progress and Advancement in education will be raising funds for the scholarships they give to young Latinas who are graduating and going to college.

On Thursday, September 17th, Latino Heritage will be having our own fundraiser.  Every year we help to coordinate the "Sí, Se Puede" art and essay contest for PUSD students.  Winners have come from every background and many schools throughout the district.  

This year we are planning to raise funds for monetary awards.  Tickets for our event will be $50.  Not only will you get to see the play, you'll get to go home with your very own "Hecho en Pasadena" tee shirt.  The shirts are perfect sleep shirts or pool cover-ups.
Laura Vega, actress and PUSD parent
If you purchase a ticket, you'll be helping Latino Heritage raise money to award to young artists and writers.  You can contact us at latinoheritage@mindspring.com 

If you can't make on the 17th; go see the play when you can.
It speaks to the universal and specific issues I wrote about last week.
It is about authenticity, about familial relationships, about women and body image, and being comfortable with who you are - outside and in.