Vagabond ….a new zine

Tales of a Sierra Madre

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I was driving down Whittier Blvd last month in Whittier and passed the Vagabond Inn. It’s nothing to write home about. Just a motel on a Blvd that used to be more important than it is. A street that was once a destination for cruising that’s now just any other street anywhere.

But I shudder when I pass the Vagabond these days.

It was the site of an ill-fated decision. One that I have come to regret even though I know that given the chance to do things differently I’d have to make the same choice twice.

That’s how choices are sometimes.

VAGABOND, part 1:

Vagabond, my sister.

She was in a second floor non smoking room smoking non stop.

There was a cloud of it when I opened the door.

Like stop drop and roll here comes fire thick.

She lunged forward to hug me and I felt myself…

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Just. One. Book. Live with Students!

So SCHOOL STARTED.

And of course we aren’t quite done with what we set out to do–bureaucracy and the craziness of school starting impeded some progress. Not to mention having to butt heads with less than enthusiastic maintenance dudes and non-visionaries. BUT THIS IS NOT A GRIPE! This is a celebration.

I quietly shelve and organize. We have two students doing a library elective who are doing the same.  I hear amazing things in the library when I go there now. And sad things when you stop to think.

Like a student who said, “Are we allowed to touch them this year?”

and the one who said, “but, I don’t have any money. What’s the cheapest one you have?”

and the one who said, “Wow. It’s the same old room but now it looks amazing.”

That’s what I’m talking about.

img_8779So here’s our front desk at the moment…no designated computer yet but we’re being old school until we can afford what we need.

img_8780Here’s something that’s not happened very often in our school district. A display coinciding with Hispanic Heritage month…..

img_8782We’re waiting on a thorough cleaning here before we put down the nice rug we were given and the bean bag chairs back. This is the junior high lounge.You folks who sent manga and comics—it’s been THE BIGGEST HIT.

I promise photos of students. Each time I go to snap a pic I get a don’t take my photo! Ah…teens.

IMG_7448Take a moment to look at what it looked like before you all decided to help us. Yeah. You guys did an amazing thing. I for one will never forget the generosity of this summer. Nor will these students. I’ve started doing a thing where if I hear students talking in the library I place a book with an interesting premise in front of them and see how long it takes before the book gets picked up. Seconds. It takes seconds.

Since Sept 6 when we opened we’ve checked out about 65 books, dvds, and cds  to students and faculty.  Considering the two schools have only 200 students combined that’s some great reach.

THANK YOU!’

Oh and on a side note. Whoever sent the soundtrack to Hamilton? I LOVE YOU. That’s the first thing that I checked out.

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Feeling No Burn: San Francisco

Last week was Burning Man in the Nevada high desert. And though I live in the mountains near by I hate camping out. On top of that I have a hard time doing anything where I have to force myself to be festive. And given that I wear any number of strange retro vintage outfits, I don’t have a problem ‘being me’ in public. So, every year I don’t put out money for a ticket to go play in the desert. Instead I go back to San Francisco–where I lived in my late 20s early 30s. And relish in a couple of days in something that’s nearly completely gone. The old San Francisco.

Of course you can’t go home again, I KNOW. But you can visit. I’m a creature of habit in The City by the Bay. I have no need to try new restaurants and new fangled things. I just want the old. The steady. The constant. That San Francisco that is a whisper now. The one that was almost affordable. The one that rolled in with the fog and made me feel like I had done the right thing to leave Los Angeles for the North–before I knew what living in Northern California really was.

Our story begins here:

14202625_10154509633784407_8753268914024601102_nBecause we live in Plumas County there isn’t an In n Out for miles around. So thank you, Yuba City for being our road trip food. In n Out is the source for my grilled cheese animal style sandwiches. My beast of a husband still orders 4×4’s protein style as if he’s a teenage athlete with energy to burn.

Burn. Burning Man. There’s just something magical about driving into The City on a Friday night without having to constantly use ones break, to go faster than 20 miles an hour on the 80 West to the Bay Bridge. Thank you, Burning Man enthusiasts for leaving town and making The City manageable.

We get in late. We’re old. We don’t go out on Friday night. We just sit up all night talking over white wine. The husband and I stayed with a good friend of mine who lives in an apartment building that one would think Doris Day might live in the 60s.

In the morning we take off for North Beach on foot.

img_8825There’s no way to walk down Macondray Lane to North Beach without thinking of Tales of the City and Amistead Maupin–and a San Francisco which once welcomed idiosyncratic behaviors a little more.

img_8826 It’s still a magical walk that all at once feels like SF and doesn’t at the same time.

14233196_10154511352954696_1921069193934735943_n(photo by Julian Wells)

People often want to give me recommendations on where to go for coffee. A new place. A hip place. I appreciate that but my love affair with San Francisco goes way back to before I lived there. I was a college student in Orange County in the 90s. A land of pink cotton sweaters and identical housing. I went on a trip to SF with other students for a march in favor of reproductive rights. We got 10 of us in a Travel Lodge. We went to North Beach where I saw people dressed in berets without irony. Dark colors. Italian and other languages rushing passed me.

I happened on Caffe Greco — a cash only cafe with to die for paninis of fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwiches. Not to mention the cookies and coffees. The two guys running it are always slightly but not obnoxiously flirty and no one makes the fat girl feel bad for ordering AND eating dessert first thing in the morning.

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I of course wear the WRONG shoes for walking. Because vanity. So I don’t even Uber. I taxi back up to Russian Hill to meet with a client while my husband goes exploring record stores and antique stores. I meet with a client on the 12th floor of a high rise –and then my girl friend and I Uber Eat in while we watch the sailboats out her window. To have a view of both bridges–that’s something else indeed.

The husband comes back all smiles and purchases –a few old records that he totally did not need but had to have on the cheap. We get ready for the night and come up with like 10 plans knowing full well that if we make it to 3 of them we’ll feel accomplished.

First we head to Mission Comics and Art on Mission Street. There’s an event there that’s a pre party and talk for the San Francisco Zine Fest we’re planning to go to the next day. Mission Comics gave the Library Project a few really cool boxes of books! I wanted to say thank you in person.  THANK YOU MISSION COMICS. I got to shake the owners hand. It was standing room only. We got a comic for the son at home with grandma.

We actually first went to Community Thrift on Valencia because like all San Franciscans , if you get a killer parking space you just kinda have to go with it. We were right there! 4 new vintage skirts in my collection and for cheap. My husband bought books. BOOKS. OMG. Cannot get away from books.

Next we headed to Tonga Room! Because I havent’ been since my 30th birthday and the husband had never been. Mai Tais and Singapore Slings (which I ordered in my best Tom Waits growl voice but it went unappreciated). I remember coming here and the room was almost empty. Now it’s hip again. Even with Burning Man happening. GRRR… But it was fun. Even the house band floating on the pool was cool. I wish however that Disneyland’s Tiki Room theme song wouldn’t play in my head so much.

14238303_10154514293404407_3912201755033846331_nBut I did get to wear my new pin up girly black dress so that was fun. It’s kinda a chi chi dress no doubt about that.

And the husband got all artsy in front of Grace Cathedral where we parked.  (Good free parking).

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And we totally meant to go dancing after the drinks but forgot to eat. But we found good eats on Union street which had plenty of empty parking spaces (Burning Man). So many in fact that I was looking to see what was wrong with the spaces. We did Japanese.

Tamashi Sushi Bar was yummy. It was my one venture into something entirely new —I think I ate at the ghost of the sushi place that was there before. We didn’t make the dance club as we’re middle aged but we were there in spirit! In the mountains we can kinda get sushi but it seems way too far from the ocean to eat sushi and I get nervous. This was solidly good sushi.

I gave the doorman the key to my car and reflected upon the idea that that’s definitely a mark of…..many things. .. I love the doormen at my friend’s apartment.

In the morning we got ready to head out. I know. Short trip. But first a trip to the old neighborhood. I used to live in the Inner Richmond on 6th Avenue and California.

img_8836 Again. Easy parking. Bless you, Burning Man enthusiasts!  I took the husband to my favorite brunch spot in my old neighborhood. Because crab cakes benedict is just something that should always happen on a Sunday morning. And of course, a Bloody Mary.

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img_8837This is the Clement Street Bar and Grill. So happy it is still alive and running.

It all made me realize that I’ve spent far too much time in a library this summer. So happy to relax –if even for 48 hours. Not thinking of schools, not thinking of books, not thinking of bureaucracy. Just me and the man. Hanging out. Over crab cakes and bloody marys.

That’s also the trick to San Francisco. There are many San Franciscos. I chose the old school one–far away from downtown or the wharf. Far away from the hipness that’s taken down so much of The City. I hope I’m back for more before the end of the year. I need more time away.  Is there another festival half the city could go to so I get great parking and service again?

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Mary of the Chance Encounters out now on Audio CD

It’s out now! Download it or get an old fashioned hard copy!

Tales of a Sierra Madre

I’m happy to announce my CD release of Mary of the Chance Encounters which features me reading eight short stories on an hour length CD. The CD was produced by Wretched Productions and written by me.

Here’s the synopsis:

Mary of the Chance Encounters is a collection of stories set in southeastern Los Angeles, chronicling the Mexican-American and Anglo population stucco’d there between family, ghosts, strip malls and too wide boulevards. But their hopes and desires run magical, and sometimes weirdly perverse and erotic. The encounters break open the flat-lining air of consumer life.

You could classify this as paranormal literary. Someone called it dark fiction. It has ghosts. Aztec goddesses. People behaving badly. A talking praying mantis. 

It’s available through audiobooks here: http://www.audiobooks.com/audiobook/mary-of-the-chance-encounters/272663 Or in hard copy through my etsy site: Mary of the Chance Encounters on CD. Thanks for listening!

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Mary of the Good Week

There are those weeks that just feel like they might do you in and then nice stuff happens and you feel like a jerk for not having any faith in the universe. Which is to say—I need to not WATCH ANY NEWS RELATED TO THE ELECTION. omg. Also you know–REJECTIONS at the same time.

Ladies and Gentlemen I am behind. Library wise? Going as fast as humanly possible. Still hoping to open on September 6.  There’s some bureaucratic snags. The curriculum director finally came down to look at the site (honestly we are a brisk 22 minutes from Capital City–it wasn’t that hard) and we hope she went away knowing that the books aren’t hers that they are indeed the communities and the kids.

Found out on Thursday that the corporation Dollar General bought up three pieces of property in downtown Greenville and plans to demolish them and build a box store to sell us merchandise from China–never once looking into whether an area that has less than 1000 people could possibly sustain that kind of store–especially when a good half of us plan to never step in there. One of the buildings going is kinda meh ugly. The other one that will be torn down has a brand new kitchen and was a popular restaurant till the chef got sick and died. We don’t need this store. They’ll make a giant parking lot , a box store, and shut down in a year when they realize they aren’t making any money. We’ll be left with an eyesore and they will get a tax right off.

But breathing because there are good things.

We had a great moment last week when a kid who was on track to drop out and have no use for the world walked into the library almost on a dare and realized that every graphic novel and Japanese manga he ever wanted to read was in there. (He was too cool for school and then left like a kid coming out of a candy store). We let him borrow the Death Note series.

The Roundhouse Council director and I talked about checking out a hundred books to let her rotate at the afterschool program the American Indian Education Center runs. My son goes to that program.  And then she told me they were headed to North Dakota which just made me beam proud and happy.

On the way home from Los Angeles on Wednesday, I picked up the YA novel I started last year and edited the first 50 pages. So as long as I stay away from school bureaucracy and the election I’m okay.

And then this happened:

Mary of the Chance Encounters is OUT! My audiobook! Yay. I will have hard copies delivered to the house sometime soon but at the moment one can download and listen there. Yay!ross dead photoMy family hates this photo for the book. That’s me face down in the ashes around Whittier Narrows after a fire. Photograph by

 

So … I hear the audiobook CD of Mary of the Chance Encounters will be out this coming week! YAY! I’m sure all of you authors out there can relate to  the frustration/joy of a new release–I become like a kid before Christmas. It’s coming! But WHEN?!

 

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Just. One. Book. Class Set Needed

So it’s probably a good time for an update. I’m in Southern California visiting my 95 year old grandmother, going to appointments with her etc., but my mind is never far from our project.

Our Amazon Wish List is now empty. Wow. You all just completely blew my mind this summer. I have volunteers sorting on site and trying to get things ready for school to start next week.

Did I tell you because of you I was able to make class sets for the two schools plus others in the area?

I made two class sets of Book Thief.

I made three class sets of I am Malala.

I made two class sets of Persepolis and one of Maus 1 & 2.

I made two class sets of Diary of a Part-Time Indian

And about 10 different sets of classics as well.

We have a teacher who wants to do March by John Lewis. We only received a couple of copies of that.

I told him I would throw it out here and see if anyone would be able to help build 30 class sets of the wonderful series.

Here’s our list if you are still interested in helping us.

Also your comments helped, btw. I think bureaucracies have no idea how inhuman they sound until faced with criticism from outside their sphere of power. Keep up the good work.

Also. I had a great conversation with my cousin who lives in La Habra, CA. Her daughter said she was a little jealous because last year her school put books from the library in dumpsters in favor of the One-to-One program ipads with ebooks. That’s fine she said, but when 1/2 of the kids don’t have the Internet at home , it’s hardly fair for the schools to be assigning internet based homework and readings. Our school district Plumas Unified, also is aiming to do that on each campus despite the fact that the Internet goes down without warning even for the households that have it several times a day –at least once a day. And despite the fact that not everyone has it here either.

Sometimes I wonder if school administrators ever met a poor child? Or a family? And why create an uneven playing field and why take books out of the hands of children?

Okay. Grandma and I are on to appointment number 2 today. Then tonight I get to interview someone really fascinating for my book. Tomorrow I will be back on a train headed north. Talk to you soon.

Also. If you’re in LA soon? Do take in the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA. Definitely worth it.

 

 

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Just. One. Book. The Night Before a Train

I worked for 10 hours today in the library and I can no longer feel my legs.

It feels like it will be worth it.  Kids were coming in to get their schedules today at Indian Valley Academy. I’ve never seen so many heads pop into the library before. Come in! Come in! This is for you guys.

WHOA!  Even the faces of the haggard 4-H kids who just sold their livestock at auction after a 45 day fair week —kids who looked damn exhausted. As soon as I clean the pens, I swear I’m coming to help. And I don’t feel alone. I have you all and Indian Valley Academy who have been stellar through all of this.

My dealings with the Plumas Unified School District had me going southern Gothic. Let me explain. Some of my all time favorite writers are indeed the southerners. I gravitate toward them when I’m feeling isolated and feel guilty about expecting the worst in people (because thank’s a lot Flannery O’Connor). But in order to not be completely frustrated and pissed off at the gaul of the school district to somehow try and take both ownership and credit for the library I had to go to Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams. Ever read Reflections in a Golden Eye? The Tennessee preface/introduction? He nails it. He tells us you know what? We artists? We people who feel things? We live on this one plane of existence.  And these officious drones who try and run our lives? They live on this other one.

They have no real jurisdiction over us. We don’t have to answer to them. The only thing I’ll never understand is why so many people who clearly hate children work in the field of education. I just don’t fundamentally get that.

You all sent books to the library project in care of me. And I aim to get books into the hands of children. Whatever that looks like.  Today I set aside 5 books –books that we had in duplicate to give to one particular girl who comes from a family of non-readers. She reads anything she can get her hands on. I gave her my own copy of Michelle Serros’ Chicana Falsa once. Because that girl so needed it.

So it wasn’t a bad day. Tomorrow my son and I take off for a week to see my grandmother and friends and family in Los Angeles via Amtrak. I’ll be interviewing a couple people for my book down there as well. And get this. My short story collection has found a home! Yay! It will be in print finally. So good things. ALL GOOD THINGS.

To the writers who have been sending your books. Thank you in particular for being gutsy and putting yourself and your work out there. It takes a certain tenacity that I greatly admire that I don’t always have. To the agents and the publishers sending books–thank you for the array of work that I wouldn’t have thought of but am glad is here. Great job!

We will make this happen. It may not be the complete original vision but it will be amazing. I’ve already had a glimpse. This is going to be one helluva literate town. THANK YOU.

And here. Enjoy some cookies. I made them tonight when I was supposed to be packing.IMG_8638

 

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AudioBook coming soon…

First of all for the library project followers. Things are looking up! School starts in two weeks and while we aren’t where I’d like to be yet we will be open in some semblance while we let the district comes to terms with itself.  We are forging ahead.

MEANWHILE BACK ON PLANET CREATIVITY….

I’m kind of excited about other things. My little quiet horror short story collection Mary of the Chance Encounters was scheduled to be published in June 2016–but the tiny publisher started being a horror story instead of publishing one,  so we mutually dissolved our project which left me free to strike out on my own (still looking for print publisher for that one). In the mean time  I’d done some work with Heidi Moore at Wretched Productions –a small indie film based in Northern California. In fact one of the films I’ve worked on with Heidi is coming out any day now.: Dolly Deadly

She was in between projects and had some time and Im a wanna be actress sometimes performance artist so……

8 of the stories from Mary of the Chance Encounters (arguably the weirdest , quiet horror ones) will see the light of day as a cool little audiobook cd this September! Also I love the cover art—taken by Los Angeles artist Ross Amador in November of last year. Who wants a copy? Pre-sale begins soon.

What’s it about? Ghost stories and other stranger creatures of quiet horror take place in and around Whittier, CA (my homelandia).

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See? I’m not all doom and gloom. The Library will open. The audiobook WILL come out. Hopefully we find for the print or ebook collection soon.

Also I’m happy to say that all the bureaucracy is becoming great fodder for a new Sad Girl zine. Haven’t written one in a year. It’s time.

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Just. One. School. A Saga Continues…

Junior High Section w Kids Hello Library fans. I’m of two minds as I write this but only one school. You’ll get what I mean in a second. Back at the start of this in June I told you what I knew to be true: we are two schools in one building. Greenville High School and Indian Valley Academy. We’ve always had the full support of Indian Valley Academy and its leadership at Plumas Charter–the umbrella charter that IVA operates under. At GHS however, we had the principal’s consent, the superintendent’s consent, buy in of perhaps 3 teachers. What am I missing in this scenario? A school board and a ‘curriculum director.’

For those of you well versed in bureaucracy you can probably tell where this is going. But just play along for the story.

Last night I attended a monthly board meeting of Plumas Unified School District in Quincy, CA. I don’t normally attend such meetings as I thankfully as a reporter do not have the school board as my regular beat. I attended because I got last minute word that the Library Project was an agenda item. I’d received no phone call or email from the district, no inquiries whatsoever. As this was my idea and I’ve been heading up the volunteer effort (we’ll let my 17 years experience as a college instructor + knowledge of books, music, and film go at this point). So I show up there because um…my library, OUR library is on the agenda.

So I address the school board and give them a brief history of the project. As the board only has one member who regularly engages online, they were not all completely aware that we exist.  So I spend my five minutes of public comment time on facts of our project and I answer a few questions.

The curriculum director–who has never set foot in our library, nor called me or emailed me to ask questions–gets up and makes a brief presentation whereupon she states that she’ll “approve” students to check out books as soon as we produce a list of titles so that she can decide whether they belong in our library.

[THIS IS THE POINT IN THE STORY IS WHERE MY MIND TRAVELS BACK IN TIME AND STARTS REMEMBERING ALL THE BULLIES OF CHILDHOOD AND EARLY JOBS. IT’S WHERE I DAYDREAM AND WONDER WHAT BOOKS ARE ON EVERYONE IN THE ROOM’S SHELVES AT HOME–I’M IMAGINING BOOKCASES THAT HOUSE PRECIOUS MOMENTS STATUES AND INSPIRATIONAL PLAQUES.  I BET SHE LOVES EISNER ERA DISNEY. SEE? MY MIND IS JUST GOING THERE. IT’S THE MOMENT WHEN I THINK ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE COAST TO PAY $5K FOR A STUDIO APARTMENT FOR THE FOUR OF US AND TWO CATS. IT’S THE MOMENT WHERE I REALIZE WHY HARRY POTTER’S ORDER OF THE PHOENIX RESONATES SO MUCH MORE THAN SOME OF THE OTHER HP BECAUSE THE DOLORES UMBRIDGES OF THE WORLD UBER ALLES. MY MIND DRIFTS TO THE ELECTION OF TRUMP. HANDMAIDS’ TALES.  TO MEAN GIRLS WITH BEADY EYES AND CLEAR SKIN SMILES. WAIT. I’M SORRY. DID YOU SAY SOMETHING?]

America. This is why we can’t have nice things. This is why Holden Caufield whines about how every time you see something beautiful someone else has scrawled an OBSCENITY upon it.

None of this comes out of my mouth however. I do remind however that we are two schools, not one. That all summer 98% of my volunteers have been from community members and Indian Valley Academy students and parents and that we have no such stipulations concerning censorship and approval. Our goal –which we had thought and hoped was shared–was to get kids reading–especially kids who don’t read. And we’ve already been achieving our goal.

In the photo you’ll note 5 kids. The two boys on the right? Are not typical readers. But the manga and comics attracted them. And so the two kids whom I’ve worked with that one would never see just sitting for 40 minutes and reading are now sitting for 40 minutes and reading. They just came in to do so. No summer reading gimmicks. Just interest and curiosity and cool colorful stuff. But the curriculum director would not, could not appreciate this. Whatever they are reading is not on her ‘approved’ list.

I left after my brief presentation as I had a services district meeting to cover for the newspaper which IS on my beat. In the audience of that meeting were some of my library volunteers. We talked during the break. Shaking our heads.

So you know how this blog is called Throwing Chanclas? I’m throwing it right now. In Latina households, the mother takes off her house shoes and either threatens or throws the shoe at your head (you’re supposed to intentionally miss the head and just be firing a warning shot as I understand it). Why does mama throw the shoe in the first place? Because someone did something out of line and needs to be called out for it. Because someone is acting entitled to something they should be grateful for. Because someone needs to feed mama a hard liquor with a low glycemic index. [I’M TOTALLY UP FOR TAKING DONATIONS OF WINE OR VODKA. JUST KIDDING. MAYBE I’M NOT].

Right now? I’m super thankful for Indian Valley Academy and for all their teachers , staff, and administration do to put kids learning and kids experiences in education first–above egos, above titles. I love knowing that I can drop my kids off and know they will be challenged and thinking and having fun and learning how to reconcile their idiosyncratic quirks with the outside world and be embraced for it not chastised for it.

But I digress.

After I left the board meeting and after I got home after my second meeting, I learned that the school board is playing a familiar Californian real estate move: price gouging.  They want IVA to pay four times the amount of rent it currently pays to remain in the building with no authority to put up so much as an inspirational poster in the space.  What school could possibly do that when school starts in two weeks?

I write to you this morning a bit crestfallen and dumbfounded. My mind races again. Will there be two libraries? One vibrant in a nearby rented building, while another one languishes in a giant space with 200 hundred “approved” books? What child ever wanted to read something ‘approved’?

[SIGH. SILENCE. SWIG OF COFFEE WHICH WILL NOT ADD TO MY WEIGHT WATCHER POINTS. EXPLETIVE. EXPLETIVE. I CAN HEAR MY KIDS WAKING UP AND PLAYING PANIC! AT THE DISCO. DUDE. I BREASTFED YOU TOM WAITS. WTH? MORE COFFEE. FUCK. STOP THINKING ABOUT CHEESECAKE AND WHISKEY IT’S BARELY 8 AM. AND DAMN MY OPTIMISTIC AND TRUSTING NATURE].

So…I’m going to keep plugging along and my volunteers will keep checking in books. I keep shelving. Worst case scenario is me slipping real books to  1/2 the students in the dead of night like a superhero, while maintaining a smaller library for the other 1/2.  Best case scenario is  that the centaurs teach Umbridge a lesson that sinks in (although from books 6 and 7 we know that’s not the case).

The real best case scenario? Both schools and their supporters  compromise in a reasonable fashion to the benefit of students in both schools. IVA should have a sane rent increase instead of a San Francisco/DTLA-style one.  The curriculum director needs to remember the goal for us  is literacy and a curious, questioning mind –and that if she can’t embrace our goal she should at least respect it.

I’m headed for another cup of coffee and then a walk over to the library to meet up with today’s volunteers. It never ceases to amaze me how a few people can try and hold the rest of us hostage. But then again–witness the American election. The macro. The micro. I am craving silence and serenity so my mind can focus. Like the kind you can find in a library.

Here’s the link to Plumas Unified School District if you’re interested. Here’s the link to Indian Valley Academy.

Thanks for listening.