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Last Call for One Act Plays

Pachuca Productions is hosting a two-day one act play/monologue festival called Sierra Words. Submit small cast plays (no more than 4 characters and no more than 15-minutes long) to pachucaproductions@thestudy.us. Particularly interested in plays by Californian Latinx, and women in general, and rural playwrights. We have room for two more plays–will it be yours? Deadline January 31, 2020.

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Not Going for the Bait

I still subscribe to a service that sends me alerts to community college teaching jobs in California. I spent 17+ years teaching at the community college level and when you do that semi-professional world for that long (I say semi because I was an adjunct and people assume there’s something wrong with us even though only 85% of the teaching world is in that boat.

I don’t unsubscribe because…..I don’t know…maybe I never wanted to close the door? The thing is I’m a really good teacher. I enjoy it. My students now (I now teach arts classes in prisons) enjoy it too. I know my stuff and I’m a big believer in getting the student in the room who has imposter scholar syndrome to realize they belong there.

Part of me would LOVE to be teaching at a community college again. The other part has adjunct PTSD and I never want to get in that position again where I let people take advantage of me. Every once in awhile I throw my hat into the ring if it’s a school I have some respect for.

But mostly I’ve come to realize that I’m not who schools are looking for. I can’t be molded and I’m too old to care about fitting in or jumping through hoops.

It’s a weird feeling to know you are letting go of a career and a personality of yours and that you may never quite return to it.

But I was pretty damn good at it anyhow.

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Spooky Vaudeville 3

It’s our third year of this fundraiser that helps Pachuca Productions put on the hard stuff! This year the Laramie Project in November. Come out and support a good cause and be entertained by our troupe with song, dance, parody, magic and more.

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Gloria.

The Gloria Dei

We writers often go silent at just the precise moment when there is so very much to say. That has been this past week for me. From the moment I heard from my aunt who sat vigil at her hospital bed. Grandma Gloria is gone from this world.

When such a powerful light of goodness in the world goes out it hits hard and at depth you knew was coming but could not possibly prepare.

I am reminded of Wrinkle in Time when the three Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit take the children to visit the Happy Medium who shows them the good and the light in the world and the darkness that overshadows. There’s a discussion of how to combat the darkness and the history of Earth’s inhabitants overcoming it through arts and sciences and philosophy–through thinking and creating. Jesus. Buddha. Shakespeare. My grandmother Gloria. All of them fighting the darkness.And she is all of those characters and her own character too.

She fought the darkness with love of the arts and the love of children–as simple and as complex as that. After her second son died in 1967, she had no more use for religions or gods and the comfort they could not bring her. She had no use for societal expectations that she or anyone else she loved be any particular way. She kept her distance from racists and homophobes even when it required getting rid of old friends to do it. She embraced those who others found not embraceable.

For my aunts and uncles and I, she embraced our friends and loved ones as her own children and made all feel welcomed in her house on Gunn Avenue in Whittier.

I can not get over her being gone. How could I? How could we, her family prepare? She died less than two months after her 98th birthday–she’d had many brushes with death in the last decade where we thought we might lose her–but now finally she’s gone. I wander still shell-shocked at the inevitability. I tear up in the car thinking of her singing old songs or happy birthdays at 6 am on mine. That at once sweet angelic voice and the harsh sarcasm of a bronx birth and upbringing all rolled into one.

She was a grandmother like no other and her fierce duty and loyalty deserved or not to children and grandchildren meant all other grandparents paled in comparison. If she didn’t like you, it was your own damn fault. She loved everyone but she didn’t suffer fools and she didn’t appreciate people who thought they were better than they were and she always saw right through that. Hence her disdain for pseudo-intellecuals and self-proclaimed know it alls.

But she had a soft huge heart for underdogs and the mistreated and those of us who wander without complete labels. I am the first child born (1969) after the death of her son. The first grandchild with nine years between me and the next one and a bastard at that. I fit not with her children nor my cousins but a spot she carved out for me all my own. A spot of special; she made sure I never felt less than even when others sought to make me feel so.

She was a woman of very few faults–my mother –her first daughter in law–would say it was her ambivalence towards pets. The poor woman suffered through the pets of six children and at least five grandchildren and even in retirement living with first one daughter and then the next, she never quite caught respite from dogs

Her other fault? Overwhelming sacrifice for the sake of her children and grandchildren. In her youth she’d sung on the radio and sketched commercial fashion drawings. But the depression meant she dropped out of high school to go to work retail –which is the kind of work she did most of her life–without fulfilling her artistic dreams. She lived those out through her kids and grandkids –most of whom sing or play instruments, draw, paint, write, act. All the things she sacrificed for love of family.

I think of the places she held dear as well. The theatre. The concert hall. The ballet. The margarita happy hour at the defunct Las Portales in Uptown Whittier. The love of a California road trip up north. The love of children. The permission to say yes to things because life is short. She gave us the love of California’s beaches and staring out into the ocean for endless possibilities. Queen of the dreamers, that one.

Grandma but for the love of children–it defined her and she was able to look deep into the child and find the good that perhaps no one else saw. It’s this super power that has so many of us gut-wrenched now.

I have enjoyed the position of being one of Gloria’s best friends as well as her granddaughter. We were each other’s plus one for more than two decades and confidantes.

I guess what it comes down to is this: it doesn’t just feel like grandma gloria died–it feels like the concept of unconditional love just died. I was lucky enough to have that for 50 years. It will take at least that long to recover.

I have a feeling her soul will not be at complete rest—it will instead be coaxing the stars to shine and surrounding the ether with as much love as it can bear.

My love to you always my dear, and thank you.

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Juxtaposed.

The sky is blue and the rolling hillside is just a few parkways and minutes over from the coast. The sun is shining but not too hot. Temperate. The sliding screen door to the backyard is –like me–around 50. The backyard is both green and lush and controlled. The gardener will be by later today. I don’t know his name. He will sculpt whatever is natural into suburban submission. Neighbors on social media will identify an errant flora or fauna and post a photo and ask the important questions–is it harmful? Should it be allowed to stay?

The other day someone online in my neighborhood was concerned over ladybugs.

It’s been voted one of the safest cities in the state. Like the pristine landscape, one gets the feeling that consciousness has been Roundedup here. Eradicated like a country’s heart on a dry deadland border full of desperation and depravity.

It is that removedness that I speak of. It is that removedness I have a hunch that we collectively feel.

When I was in college the onset of video–of a camcorder in every pocket, means we all got to watch those four racists cops beat Rodney King’s body on the ground. Means we–like the late Mayor Tom Bradley would say after the verdicts–all saw the tape.

And seeing back then meant reacting–no matter whether your suburb had pink sound walls spray painted with words of defiance. No matter if there was litter in your street, no matter if you were bunkered up behind the gates of your community.

Or perhaps I’m just nostalgic for movement and youth and a punk rock response and a fist in the air.

I’ve spent a lifetime feeling alone while with lovers, husbands, and romance seemed a side gig to combatting all there was to combat. There was a difference to be made and it would be made I was sure of it–by me, by those more organized than me, by those who brought down apartheid in South Africa, or the Berlin wall, surely some liberation was coming.

But now I’m a woman in love and newly married and living part-time in the country’s first planned community because it’s still coastal and more affordable than the less planned places by the sea. I am a Californian lucky enough only by circumstance and nothing else to have almost affordable housing. I’m drinking my morning coffee careful to not place the cup directly on the wood for fear it might damage the table we worked hard to refinish. I balance it instead uncomfortably in my plush thrift store (but doesn’t smell like thrift store) chair.

We go to bed thinking and talking about the children at the border; we wake up thinking and talking about them and yesterday it was reported that their mothers must drink water from toilets. Anything to make the desperate more dehumanized. Anything to be cruel.

To me, though the cruelty is usual not unusual. And as complicit as a perfect hedge. It is a strange place to live–my mind and heart filled with more love than ever and this constant aching sorrow that none of us are doing enough and we all know more than we used to know and with so little complete knowledge we used to act more swiftly, concretely.

Cops out soiled out, sold out

Cop out solid doubt

Co-pted soul splayed out

My man believes good people will–given the knowledge and the machinery for change do what’s right.

I believe that it doesn’t matter to THEM whether poor, brown people have documents or not, whether they are citizens or not, whether they have green cards or not, whether they are fleeing violence and hunger.

I’m one of those light-skinned ‘that’s funny, you don’t look, Latina. I thought you were_____” latinas. Which means in the course of my life I’ve heard those good people say shitty things about brown people because they assumed I was a good person too. My skin has made me a double agent. An observer. A traitor. A way to get into the other side. Inside out. Exposure.

What can I do from here that I haven’t already done? What more letters? What more money? What more screaming? What can I do that will not harm me or my own children or my own family? What can relieve the sorrow in my heart? That dull pierce in an otherwise perfect time?

And who are these people, these fellow countrymen who would take jobs that deprive themselves and their victims of humanity? And who are these people , these fellow countrymen who think this is okay?

The sky is still blue, mid-morning. It’s quiet now. The birds have stopped their morning song. The room I am sitting in to write this is nearly perfect. Isolated. Deliberately quiet.

I am less than a hundred miles from the concentration camps on the American/Mexican border. Twenty some odd years ago I visited the fledgling democracies of eastern Europe. On a train outside Krakow, Poland I saw the village of Oswiecim–and I wondered how anyone could live there, so close to so much degradation, destruction, and death.

It was early summer when I visited and the countryside was lush and green and had a certain perfection about it. A familiarity. A place one could be happy to live. And I wondered why they weren’t able to shut it all down if they were indeed good people. How they didn’t just rise up en masse and bring it all down.

It’s not something I wonder about anymore.

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Inappropriate Mother

I am venturing into podcasting. That’s right. I’ve been asked to. I hate my voice and have a tendency to swear like a sailor—so I don’t imagine that this is for everyone. But every time I get into a conversation with my teenager she tells me “that’s inappropriate, mother.” It’s not easy having a 14 year old daughter who knows everything. So here is the fledgling podcast. I’m rating it an R for swearing.

https://pca.st/uA22

You can find it on Anchor at Inappropriate Mother.

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It’s About the Kids…

It’s Wednesday morning. I’ve had a double cappuccino and a banana and I’m hoping that wakes me up for my day. So my post might seem dreamy or reaching into a netherworld that only I am connecting but hear me out anyhow.

I live in an area of sometimes pretty extreme isolation–especially in winter months. Most event planners around here avoid January because the weather is too unpredictable. Indeed our variety show was canceled two weeks ago due to snow storm but rescheduled for last night when we had a balmy 42 degrees going for us.

We are one of those rural communities that suffers from suicide attempts and sadly some follow through. The local high school last Thursday was the site of two kids of color–including one of my own–being jumped. I watch as the social workers and school admins try program after program that look great on paper. Whether it be Friday Night Live events in which only the non marginalized kids attend or forced sports togetherness that only increases isolation. I have my suspicions that these things are designed by people who don’t spend time with real students.

Perhaps by real I mean, kids who have souls and who recognize and see through the bullshit but aren’t old enough to navigate out yet. The kids who are vulnerable are those that feel. That know the world’s depths and the fakeness too that surrounds them–they aren’t numb yet to it. They know something is wrong. Pinpointing takes time.

Enter our tiny theatre troupe—Pachuca Productions. Back last year we had an idea. Tina and I are big Hamilton fans (we saw the production at the Pantages 2017). Lin-Manuel Miranda released that instrumental version of the show–last summer? What if we got some kids together to sing Hamilton songs with us?

They came from all over the county: Portola, Indian Valley, Quincy, Sattley–5 different schools. A couple of kids from each school. Shy kids. Kids never having been on stage before. Kids who didn’t know whether they could sing or not. We roped one of their principals into it and asked him to sing Right Hand Man as George Washington. We got the women who usually sing and act with us to sing a song or two. We created a costume contest. A kid made trivia quiz. A challenge to write a Ben Franklin wrap. We got the local theatre to rent us a kid friendly space. And we rehearsed them on two sides of the county a couple times a week since after Thanksgiving.

And now the shy and the isolated have taken to the stage and we couldn’t be prouder.

I’m not saying that theatre solves all the problems in the universe. And if someone wants to sue us for singing Hamilton songs in public know that we didn’t make any money off of the venture. Like donations just barely covered the cost of the building for a night. We are divorced moms with kids–please don’t sue us. And I donated the prizes for the contests.

But there was joy on shy faces. There was some serious confidence building. There was a break in January’s oppressively cold hold on this region. There was light. And it was beautiful.

Here’s some photos:

Pre-Show Green Room Selfie.

Bree — the shyest one who loves Dear Theodosia.

Sarah the King.

Indian Valley Academy’s Rendition of Cabinet Battle # 1


The audience sang along and laughed and cheered on the students. A kid from the audience won the trivia quiz getting 9 out of 10 Hamilton questions correct. We gave them pencil sets with Hamilton quotes on them.

For a moment the town hall theatre was warm and it wasn’t the bleak mid-winter anymore. Thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda for your words and music. I hope you don’t mind. And Happy 264th probably Birthday, Mr. Hamilton.

I’ll post more photos as they trickle in…

My son and Daveed Diggs fan, Diego.
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A Plea for the Arts

Get into the arts — and see what happens

Yes. I’m still tirelessly pushing for arts and literature and libraries in Plumas County. We do hiking and contemplating our own outdoor navels here–especially if cows, horses, or footballs are involved. But you know, might need other things….

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Happy 2019!

Happy New Year. Thank you for reading. As an artist I have those depressive moments where I exclaim from my bed “I didn’t do anything last year. No book came out. I suck!” But the older, wiser me says scroll through your iCalendar. Surely, you did something? Surely, you learned something? Experienced something?

I am reminded of the time my friend Dena and I climbed Mt. Lassen peak but did not make it to the last 900 feet. Instead she stared at me a moment, both of us dizzy from altitude and said, “You know it’s really a patriarchal thing to feel like we need to reach the top of the peak to conqueror it…” We looked at each other and did the properly matriarchal thing to do: declare the journey and experience to be worthy of acknowledgement of our efforts and walked down the mountain side and went to brunch in Chester instead.

As I look around at people’s posts on blogs and social media there’s much bemoaning 2018 as a horrible year. Well, yes, I can see why one would think that given the state of the world and all the darkness that has befallen us given that the dementors and the shitgibbon are running the government (I don’t think Trump is smart enough to be Voldemort in this scenario more like Pettigrew if somehow he got power). 2018 sucks for anyone effected by America’s foreign or domestic policy and certainly for plants and animals and all living things touched by Republican armageddon enthusiasts.

But 2018 had some really high points for me personally. Better relationships with my kids. Getting engaged to a man that just blows me away with his kindness and love and passions. Better relationship with my mom. Even better communication with my ex. All things are possible.

Our fledgling production company put on Vagina Monologues in February, For Colored Girls, in November and in between we did a comedy show, halloween vaudeville show, a reading of my play that will premiere in April 2019 and a Christmas show. That there is a busy schedule for three women (Tina Terrazas, Donna Williamson, and I) who people thought couldn’t take on starting a theatre troupe. How do ya like us now, naysayers? We have a cool spring line up to: a fan tribute to Hamilton, a broken hearted anti valentine show and the world premiere of my play Serious Moonlight in April and then we are CLOSED TILL November when we put on the Laramie Project. Viva Pachuca Productions Viva!

No, my two books are not out yet BUT there were many writing projects I was quite proud of. Including Serious Moonlight which will be produced in April and I was part of Santa Cruz Noir and got to meet Susie Bright and become friends with Susie. I was so happy to work with her as an editor.–and do a reading in Santa Cruz and go back to the sights in my story Monarchs & Maidens. There are not, sadly, as many butterflies as there used to be.

And then of course the man asked me to marry him and that’s its own sort of joy and scariness. Stay tuned for June 2019. This means of course I will be spending more time in the county I said I’d never live in again. Never say never–Orange County here I come–sometimes. I try and not write about loved ones. Although the man has made it into a lot of sappy tanka poems. SIGH.

One of the big highlights of my year was also being an actor/singer and in front of the camera instead of behind the scenes–and with that meeting cool and interesting people. Like the cast and crew of Heidi Moore’s new TROMA film Kill Dolly Kill filmed in Indiana! My first trip to Indiana! I met so many sweet kind and cool nerdy people. It was a wonderful quick trip. And then in October Diego and I were part of a web series here in Indian Valley.

I’ve also learned a good deal about pushing my limits. I ran for office on the principle that the incumbent who was appointed should have to actually campaign–especially since he had no background experience for the position. I lost of course. But it was good to get in the game again after so long and I loved having to make the man have to actually work for it instead of having it completely handed to him.

I can take down drywall now for example and am helping redesign and decorate a house for the first time. I love that out of the incident of the house fire we are building a new house where we will be the first one’s to ever live in it.

Really most of this year for me was about building friendships and trust and not being afraid to be myself as an artist and also as just me. Between Pachuca Productions, falling in love, raising teens, and living with my mother this year I’ve learned so much about relationships and how vital it is to connect to people—especially now when this whole world seems to be about misconnection or rewarding the inept and the greedy.

Yes, 2018 was scary. I live about 90 minutes from the Camp Fire. Climate change is very obvious in the mountains. Yes, national politics are horrendous. But 2018 showed me love, hope, and resistance. And for that I am grateful.

I look forward to 2019. There were a couple of things on my resolution ish list that I hadn’t gotten to–like learning to quilt and make paper and those two FUCKING books and the podcast I was starting to work on. And getting married to a human that matches me like no other human ever has.

May we all find what we are looking for. May we meet and help each other keep light in the world amongst all the darkness.

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FRC & Its Lack of Diversity

FRC welcomes trustees Saxton, McNett and Elliott

Take a look at the photo with this article. Do you know what that is? That’s a 21st century photo taken of a board of trustees from a California community college and its president. California. The most diverse state in the nation.

Notice anything peculiar or odd?

A complete disregard for its ethnically diverse student body?

The socioeconomic diversity of its body? (Retired baby boomer pensions abound in this photo, ya’ll).

The gender inequity? (Especially at a school with way more women than men).

Ladies and gentlemen what we have here is a (what is the plural count noun for this) a tittle of trustees, a board of boys, a jury of geriatrics — the majority of whom have NO background in education relevant to the 21st century.

Plumas County voters love to shoot themselves in the foot–that’s kinda what we do here. This time around two out of three of these ran unopposed—-including a man named Trent Saxton–whose made himself known in the county as a homophobic misogynist racist via his frequent missives to the newspapers Letters to the Editor. His belief system clearly is at odds with the California Community College mandate, yet there he sits.

The third man, Guy McNett, I ran against and lost 3 to 1 (much like all other progressive things in the county–Trump’s guy LaMalfa won over the brilliant Audrey Denny by the same margin so I’m in great loser company).

He’s not Betsy DeVos evil or anything, but he knows about the same about community college as she does. During debates with him he’d lose his place and train of thought; he was unable to answer straight forward questions most people with even a hint of college educational background could answer. But hey, he shows up to all the football games. I should note that he was originally appointed to this board—over another woman with a solid background in educational administration.

This is what happens in rural communities sometimes. You don’t get the best and the brightest: you get the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. And they mean oh so well and they really do like that free lunch once a month. You get the ones who like parade floats and football games making huge decisions about education.

Enrollment on campus is down 28%. There are very little classes to chose from and no one wants to work there any more. On top of that , Mike Eisner is running the college Disney style.

Why do I care? I totally shouldn’t care. I’m glad not to work there. Glad to be supported in the work I do now in the places I work now.

But the college is in our backyard. We taxpayers–I think–should have a right to ask for accountability and diversity that reflects our community and the college’s student body. I have two teens who are going to follow the trend of other kids bound for community college in our area: go someplace else online or even make an hour + trek to other community colleges to feel welcomed, to find needed classes at times that work for lower socioeconomic students both in high school and adults.

See that’s what they’re missing here. It’s fine and dandy to recruit sports players and horse enthusiasts around the country to come to a town in the middle of nowhere and to schedule classes around them and tailored to their interests. But what about students from here? What do they get?

They get that photo above. They get people not in tune with the needs of today’s community college students from an entirely different social class. Not unlike my last post on not getting hurt again by trying to save people who don’t want to be saved. I think I’m going to make a new year’s resolution not to try to save institutions that don’t want to be saved either.

But so many of you emailed me with the link to this photo…thank you for calling it to my attention.

Eventually the California Community College Chancellor’s office might get interested into why former employees sue this institution so frequently. Or they might wonder how in California there is hardly any diversity among the faculty–given that most of the faculty come from somewhere else so it’s not because they are pulling from the county’s homogeneity.

They are not, in their present policies, following their own mission nor are they sustainable.

Good riddance, Feather River College and your continued elitist, white supremacy and your continued march towards mediocrity.