Monday, July 16, 2018

New Short Fiction Series: "Latinx Life in Los Angeles" on August 14 at the Annenberg Community Beach House

Top: Authors Daniel A. Olivas, Elaine Barnard, Daniel M. Jaffe and Desiree Zamorano
Bottom: Actors Jill Remez, Paul Lasa, Sally Shore and Holger Moncada, Jr.

“It's a spoken word series and it's also L.A.'s only live literary magazine.… It's not really a reading, but more of a hybrid of live interpretation and the written word. It's literary performance.” –Variety

The New Short Fiction Series, Los Angeles's longest running spoken word series, presents Stories of Latinx Life in Los Angeles. Join us for a spoken word evening with local actors Holger Moncada, Jr., Paul Lasa, Jill Remez, and Sally Shore reading works by local writers Elaine Barnard, Daniel M. Jaffe, Daniel A. Olivas and Desiree Zamorano.

DATE: August 14, 2018
TIME: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica, CA 90402
PRICE: Free! Reserve your ticket here (seating is limited)


Elaine Barnard is an award-winning writer living in Southern California. Her plays have been produced in Los Angeles, New York, Santa Fe and London. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines such as carte blanche, Southward and Apple Valley Review.

Daniel M. Jaffe is author of the novels Yeled Tov, The Genealogy of Understanding and The Limits Of Pleasure, as well as the short-story collection, Jewish Gentle and Other Stories of Gay-Jewish Living. He compiled and edited With Signs and Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction, and translated the Russian-Israeli novel, Here Comes the Messiah! by Dina Rubina. Several of his short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Daniel A. Olivas, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, is an award-winning author of nine books including The King of Lighting Fixtures: Stories and Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews. His first poetry collection, Crossing the Border, was published in 2017. Olivas earned his degree in English literature from Stanford University. Olivas and his wife make their home in Los Angeles and are the parents of an adult son.

Désirée Zamorano’s newest novel, The Amado Women, is about four women linked by birth, separated by secrets of sex, money and death. She delights in the exploration of contemporary issues of injustice and inequity, via her mystery series featuring private investigator, Inez Leon. Human Cargo was Latinidad's mystery pick. A Pushcart Prize nominee and award-winning short story writer, Desiree is also proud of having co-authored with her sister two plays commissioned by southern California's Bilingual Foundation for the Arts. Reina and Bell Gardens 90201 received Equity productions and toured for a total of eight years.


Paul Lasa is a Cuban American actor known for South Beach (2006), Murder on the Border (2005) and Hello Earthlings! (2004).

Holger Moncada, Jr. has appeared on Jane the Virgin, Scorpion, Criminal Minds, Prison Break and Bosch, to name a few. He has had recurring roles on FX’s Saint George with George Lopez, Hulu’s Future Man directed by Seth Rogan, and can be seen this season on EPIX’s Get Shorty.

Jill Remez has appeared most recently in This Is Us, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development. She has also worked in many SoCal theaters including The Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep and The Laguna Playhouse.

Spoken Word Artist Sally Shore, Executive Director of Lit Crawl L.A., was a 2001 Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department Regional Arts Grant winner for her New Short Fiction Series™. She appears frequently in spoken word festivals and literary events including ARTMaggedon, Pacific Standard Time, and KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum, When Words Collide, California State University Los Angeles’ Cup O’Culture Series, the NoHo International Arts Festival, “Live” from the Red Tent, the Newport Beach Public Library’s Manuscript Literary Lecture Series and The World Stage. Shore, a regular on both NBC’s Suddenly Susan debut season and the 2000 season of BET’s Live from L.A./Saturday Night Slam, has also appeared on TV’s Bless This House and General Hospital. Profiled on Home and Garden Television’s Party At Home, she also recorded a spoken word guest track on D-Zire’s debut album and can be seen this summer on CBS.

The New Short Fiction Series is L.A.’s longest running spoken words series, Presenting at The Federal NoHo for its 22nd season in 2018, the series brings new voices in West Coast short fiction to Los Angeles audiences. The New Short Fiction Series is directly responsible for placing 6 newly released books on the Los Angeles Times’ bestseller list and has been the “jump off” for many collections and novels from unpublished stories featured in the series. Sally Shore produces this monthly live program, performing with a rotating guest cast of some of L.A.’s most talented working actors.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Education of a Chicano Part III A Spiritual Awakening by Antonio SolisGomez

author during the time covered in this writing

Despite being baptized as a Catholic no one in my family ever attended church and I grew up never giving religion much thought. By the time I was a young man I had read about some of the Catholic Church’s failings to be convinced that it was fraught with too many inconsistencies to be something I could embrace. I also did not have a good understanding of the concept of God and therefore I decided that I was an agnostic.

The woman I married on the other hand had attended a Christian Church from early childhood and when she asked if our marriage ceremony could take place in her church I said yes as I really didn’t care one way or the other. I was also indifferent to our two children attending church with her, thinking that as adults they could decide one way or another.

What gave my life purpose, in addition to my family, was El Movimiento and the publication of Con Safos Magazine. I spent countless hours with the men on the editorial staff, laying out the magazine, entertaining visitors to our workshop that was Ralph Lopez’ basement atop Rose Hill behind Lincoln High School and attending community meetings and functions. It was a heady time as we were being lauded for the magazine’s content, a potpourri of short stories, social political articles, cartoons, photographs and illustrations, all imbued with barrio humor and outlandish commentary.

I was somewhat ignorant of Literature in Spanish. In college I had read Miguel Unamuno, Garcia Lorca, Azuela, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz but not many of the other Latin American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Pablo Neruda which I started reading along with the emerging Chicano writers such as Anaya, Rechy, Ron Arias, Acuña and of course Oscar Acosta.

A great spiritual change took place for me in 1969. In addition to the drinking of wine most of us smoked marijuana but drugs that were hallucinogenic were never taken as a group. But I was curious about LSD and at the time there was a British musician who was my neighbor who offered me some and I took it. Immediately I became frightened because I saw myself merging into the universe, losing all sense of my identity. In that instant I beheld a vision of a matrix with plus and minus numbers and at the place where zero belonged, sat the Buddha, serene, legs crossed in the Lotus position. I immediately understood that he was representative of God, not God but a symbol of God. I also realized that every individual is represented on that matrix by numbers unique to that person and that God is at the very center.

I had some acquaintance with Buddha because I had read Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha and had run across him in my readings on Chinese poets and in Alan Watts’ book The Way of Zen, which I was not able to grasp, but there was never a moment were I felt connected to Buddha. However I knew after my LSD trip that God exists and that realization has never wavered.

My intellectual life, my community involvement and my work on the Con Safos Magazine came crashing down on me in the early 1970’s when I came to realize that El Movimiento was being exploited by many self serving individuals. The Movimiento was replete with rhetoric about Raza education, health care, housing, jobs, etc, but when it came right down to it most of the Chicano leadership wanted some of the high paying jobs that Johnson’s War on Poverty money was providing. And Chicanos could be as bureaucratic and as insensitive as any of the former Anglo administrators that we had sought to replace.

Sure I was naïve and in many ways I was, as described by Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer. I had staked my life’s purpose on El Movimiento and there were chinks in my ideal. I was thrown into a tailspin and I tumbled around in a daze for the next few months. I quit my job at the International Institute and enrolled in a master program in urban anthropology at UCLA with a small stipend. I was in a daze and literally have no recollection of my time at UCLA and still have unpleasant dreams about taking exams for classes I never attended. I quit UCLA and took a job with the LA County Health Department, helping with immunization clinics. While driving on the San Bernardino Freeway to pick up an immunization gun I saw among the clouds the face of Christ.

It seemed to me that the universe was throwing me a lifeline during that tumultuous time when I was very weak mentally from questioning deeply the meaning of life and my individual purpose. After that vision I was compelled to seek out the words of Christ in the New Testament and those passages gave me great solace.

Remembering my connection to the Buddha I began attending lectures at the Theosophical Society, whose mission was to introduce the spiritual teachings of the East to Westerners. In one of those lectures I was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita. I bought a copy and I couldn’t believe what great wisdom was contained in those verses.

Armed with the New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita I slowly began to regain my mental and psychic strength. I still had a family to support and I took a job as a teacher in a community bilingual preschool supported by Father Luce and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. I hunkered down in that preschool, away from all the hullabaloo of the Movimiento now in its death throes along with the protests against the Vietnam War, which Nixon was ending.
Self Realization Headquarters on Mt. Washington, Los Angeles

My house on the lower western portion of Mt. Washington had a good view of my former Lincoln Heights neighborhood, of Elysian Park and of the railroad yard from whence came the clanging of boxcars being coupled that drifted up with the breeze. One fall day sitting on my porch enjoying the unobstructed view, the local community newspaper, the Bulleting News was delivered. As I thumbed the pages I came upon a small add with the photograph of Paramahansa Yogananda, a smiling man with long black hair. The wording claimed that Self Realization used the original teachings of Christ in the New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita. I was stunned to have before me something that my heart longed to encounter, a teaching based on those two sources that were helping me regain my strength.

I began visiting the Self Realization Temple on Sunset on Thursday nights to hear a lecture and on Sunday for their regular service. I bought Yogananda’s spiritual classic Life of a Yogi and read it in two days. The night I finished the book I slept soundly for the first time in many months.

On my own I had already become a vegetarian and had given up alcohol both of which SRF recommended. And I began learning meditation, the cornerstone of those teachings from India.

A final surprise awaited me when I learned that the Self Realization headquarters sat atop Mt. Washington, a place that yearly offered the community a free Halloween Festival and one that I always took my two children to enjoy. How could such disparate events come together to form a unified direction? The old saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” certainly seemed to apply to my case.

It was through meditation and the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda that I was finally able to rid myself of low self esteem and to walk this earth with full confidence that God resides in me as well as in all others.

Lao Tzu is credited with saying when the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready..the teacher will disappear. I was glad to have found this addition to the quote that I used earlier as I have had some guilt about not attending SRF functions, having made a break at the inception of the great shift of 2012. I still utilize the meditation techniques of SRF but the organization has not incorporated the understanding that in 2012 humanity entered a new age.

My education continues primarily by reading channelings given by Steve Rother, Lee Carroll, Patricia Diane Cota Robles, Lauren C. Gorgo all of whom can be found on the Internet. I also rely on for information regarding this new age, which will be characterized by peace, empathy, compassion, tolerance, unity and love. We are at the inception and the old ways are fighting tooth and nail to retain what has been in place for thousands of years namely, separation into exclusive groups, war and violence as a means of obtaining advantages, intolerance of differences, indifference and/or disregard for others, and rigid social stratification.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A Wave of Sant Barbara Book Events: The Bird Forgiveness Tour

Melinda Palacio

This week, I’m doing little experiment and posting from my new Ipad. In theory, I should be able to do everything my laptop does. However, it’s much clumsier to work on this device and I will keep this post short and simply announce this week’s readings, where you can catch the Bird Forgiveness tour and other events before they fly away. The first stop is today, the official start and book launch party. A dear friend is throwing me a party for my new book. I’m blessed and grateful to have such generous friends.

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 14, I put on my novelist hat and join three fiction writers at the Camarillo Library, Lida Sideris, Kim Troutte, and Sheila Lowe for a panel discussion on using real life events in fiction. Check it out at 2pm, 4101 Las Posas Road, Camarillo, CA 93010. I’m looking forward to this event. It’s also near the outlets and the Marie Callender’s restaurant, a childhood favorite for their pies, cornbread, and pot pies. The panel is from 2-3pm.

Later in the evening, my friends from New Orleans, Jonathan Klein and Gina Ferrara are visiting and will be reading together at th Core Winery in Orcutt. Gina’ return to California is long awaited. She and Jonathan were supposed to read at the tasting room last year, but had to cancel. I had the pleasure of filling in for them. Core Winery is the center of the one-street town. Michael McLaughlin runs the monthly reading series, Live from the Core Poetry Series.

On Sunday, Gina Ferrara joins me the Poetry Zone. I’ve had a long relationship with Santa Barbara’s Poetry Zone. I was once the hostess of the series. I’m glad to see that it is still going strong. Sojourner Kincaid Rolle will host. If you love artificacts and old letters and papers, you’ll want to allow extra time to peruse the museum’s collection. Although the name says library, the Karpeles is more of a museum than library. As usual, our reading at th Karpeles includes refreshments and an open mic. All of this week’s literary offerings are free. The only one that is not open to the public is the private book launch party.
July 15 Poetry Zone Santa Barbara, Karpeles Manuscript Library 21 W Anapamu,
2pm, with Gina Ferrara

Finally, on Tuesday, I will be reading and signing books at Chaucer’s. Come and support a local bookstore.
July 17, Santa Barbara Chaucer's Books 7pm, Loreto Plaza3321 State Street, Santa Barbara

Next stop: July 25 at Octavia Books in New Orleans, 6pm. The Bird Forgiveness tour continues.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

"Pulling Outpost in Venice"

Daniel Cano

     My first marriage eventually crumbled over a hole I once dug in our backyard.
     L.A. was baking. The Santa Anas slipped in over the San Gabriel Mountains from the eastern deserts, and not even the ocean provided any relief. I needed some alone time. I’d sit in a lounge chair out back in the early evenings and think—just think, you know. One evening, I decided to sleep out back overnight, for the cool air. At first, my wife, now my ex-wife, didn't say much.
     I bought a cot, set it up, and I stretched out, hands behind my head. I looked up at the stars and the moon, or at least the few I could see under the Venice skies. The stillness reminded me of Vietnam, a night war, setting up ambushes and pulling outpost. I could put myself right back there, and for some strange reason, I was free, even if for one night, no worries about school, bills, rent, kid's clothes, new furniture, parties, or trips to the grocery store--nothing.
     I really enjoyed myself, and I decided to stay out a couple of nights more. My, now, ex grew suspicious and asked when I was coming inside. I told her I didn’t know, which was true, I didn't.
     By the end of one week, I could feel the night air caress me, like I was back in the jungle. Okay, so I was in the city, L.A.'s Westside, just off Lincoln Boulevard, not far from the canals, and the city wasn’t the jungle, but one thing hadn’t changed--the sky. The same stars I saw in Vietnam, I could see in the cosmos, as I lay there behind my rented clapboard home, way before all the celebrities started moving in. It was thrilling. At the time, not even Dennis Hopper had discovered Venice. Mostly, my neighbors were other Chicanos and African Americans, long-time residents of the area.
     I decided to stay out in the backyard longer. I was a T.A., finishing my dissertation, and on summer break. I didn’t need to think about work, or what day it was, or the time. Just like in Vietnam, we didn’t know one day from another, until I got wounded. But I’ll ignore that.
     One afternoon, I drove to the Army-Navy Surplus Supply in Santa Monica and bought some sand bags, a plastic poncho, and a poncho liner. I dug a hole, about 4x4x4. The dirt wasn’t soft, like the sand in Vietnam, but the tract homes where I rented, a mile or so from the beach, had been built over beanfields, and the dirt was soft enough.
     I filled each sandbag, tucked in the loose material at the end, and stacked them on top of each other. Jimmy was just a toddler. He watched, excitedly, pushing his little trucks over the dirt mounds. I stacked the sandbags three rows high, U-shaped around the front of the hole. To the rear, I set up a pup tent and placed the cot inside. In Vietnam, we slept on the ground, air mattresses, if we were lucky. I needed comfort, you know; a cot would have to do. Anyway, I slept just fine, and when it got cold, I covered myself with the poncho liner, a soft, green military quilt.
     I’d wake every three hours throughout the night, like I was pulling OP. That way, I could reminisce throughout the night and recreate the ambiente, like the sounds and smells. I’d sit in the hole, peering over the sandbags, toward my neighbor Erik’s yard. One night I counted ten cats pass his fence. But it was the memories that amazed me, things I hadn’t thought of in years, incidents that had just evaporated from my consciousness.
     Though, in L.A. I couldn’t see nearly as many stars as in Vietnam, I did begin mapping the constellations I could make out. After a week or so, the moon vanished, the night turned black. We forget how black the night is when we sit in living rooms watching television, eating popcorn, and waiting for bed each night, a slow death, if I do say so myself.
     Jimmy’s mom, my ex, didn’t get it. She thought I was having flashbacks. She called my brothers and sisters to talk me into going inside. They didn’t understand, either. Why would he stay outside so many nights, they asked? Why not just drive up the Sierras and go camping?
     Me? I just wanted to be left alone. I mean, it was summer. I was on break. They started pissing me off.
     Instead of going to my niece’s wedding, my nephew’s baptism, my ex's parents' anniversary, or the summer barbacoas, and parties, I pulled outpost. I bought some heat tablets at the Surplus, and I even started cooking canned food outside, not military C-rations but Campbell's beef stew, chili beans, and Del Monte peaches, stuff like that.
     Man, what a rush! I’d remember guys I hadn’t thought about in years. Sometimes I’d see their faces and remember their names; sometimes it was the faces with no names or the names with no faces.
     As time passed, I’d talk to them, as if they were real. Come on. Of course, I knew they weren’t, but I was like a kid playing with his imaginary friends. Finally, I was so stimulated, I took a 22 rifle outside to make it more realistic. That didn’t work, so I went to a gun store in downtown Hawthorne, on Sepulveda Blvd. and bought an AR 15, three magazines, and some ammo. I wanted an M-60, but that was going too far. Back at the Surplus on Lincoln, just off Broadway, I found jungle fatigues, jungle boots, and a floppy camo hat.
     My ex sent her brother, a Marine who had also served in Vietnam, to come and talk some sense into me. In Vietnam, he’d mostly served in the rear, fixing guys’ paperwork. He’d always been a hellavu typist. We talked for a while. At midnight, he said he was going inside to get some brew from the refrigerator. After we polished those off, he found a half bottle of tequila in the pantry, behind Jimmy’s Cocoa Puffs. We really got drunk and nostalgic about our year in Vietnam, and partying in the rear area after each operation.
     He got caught up in the night, as if we’d both been on outpost. He ended up grabbing an extra sleeping bag out of the garage and spending the entire night with me. My ex was so furious, she called his wife to come and get him before I corrupted him. He went with her, but I know he wanted to stay with me outside. His marriage wasn’t too healthy, either, so I didn’t push him.
     The next thing I knew, the police were in my backyard asking me a bunch of questions. I tried explaining. The older cop, a vet who’d served in Korea, an ex M.P., got it. He didn’t like that I had loaded rifle, but, I asked, how could I capture it all without a weapon?
     My AR-15 wasn’t an automatic, so it was legal, like, I didn’t shoot it, and it wasn’t concealed. He advised me to unload it and keep the ammo in the pouch. As he was leaving, he eyed my outpost and asked, “Are those grenades hanging on the sandbags?” I laughed, “Yeah, but they’re duds, no powder or shrapnel.” He looked at one, shook his head, and took off.
     Two weeks later, a shrink from the VA showed up at my place. My ex called the psych unit. This was way before the VA talked about PTSD. The VA had no idea what to do with us. That’s when I realized they were all freaking out. Everybody was taking this all too far. I just wanted to do something for myself, like I said, not worry about the day-to-day crap we all deal with. I just wanted enjoy my summer off, like I was 19 again, and free.
     I decided to break camp and start sleeping in the house again, just to get them off my back. I poured the dirt out of the sandbags and refilled the hole. I sold the AR-15 and three-loaded magazines. I got to know the cops well. They were the same ones who’d drive by my street each night, “Just checking to make sure everything’s cool,” the older one would say.
     Then, not too soon after, I moved back inside. I didn’t sleep with my wife. She wanted me nowhere near her. That was fine with me. She told me she’d had it, that I should leave, take my in-progress Ph. D. and all. That’s when I yelled that I could be as good a mother to our son as a father. Besides, it was the start of a new semester, and I needed to focus on my research, dissertation, and my classes.
     I had no idea then that one day she would take me up on my challenge of parenthood. Sometimes, I ask Jimmy, who is now fifty, "Remember when I pulled outpost behind the house?"

This is a work of fiction, likenesses to people, breathing or not, or to similar situations faced by other vets, or the stories they've told me, is completely coincidental.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Growing Up on the Playground / Nuestro patio de recreo

By James Luna

Illustrations by Monica Barela-Di Bisceglie

  • ISBN: 978-1-55885-871-8
  • Publication Date: October 31, 2018
Bind: Hardcover

  • Pages: 32

This bilingual picture book presents a warm recollection of time spent on the playground with friends.

“On Ana’s first day of kindergarten, the slide stood like a mountain.” The other kids in her class encourage her to glide “down, down, down, to the bottom and her new friends.”

Young readers will relate to these elementary school children playing outside. In first grade, Ana meets Karina, who becomes her best friend. Together, they swing higher and higher as they try to kick the sky! In second grade, Ana and her friends dangle like monkeys, eat pretend bananas and call out, “Ooo, ooo, ooo! Can you do what we do?” As they grow, the kids learn to play new games on the playground: basketball, soccer and even handball.

Acclaimed children’s book author James Luna uses short, simple text and active words to depict children at play. They swing and hang, dribble and shoot, pass and kick, laugh and learn. And when they get to sixth grade, they have to say good-bye to their school’s playground. But someday they will return!

JAMES LUNA is an elementary school teacher in Riverside, California. He is the author of a short, bilingual novel for intermediate readers, A Mummy in Her Backpack / Una momia en su mochila (Piñata Books, 2012), and two picture books, The Place Where You Live / El lugar donde vives (Piñata Books, 2015) and The Runaway Piggy / El cochinito fugitivo (Piñata Books, 2010), which was selected by Texas schoolchildren as their favorite book on the Tejas Star Reading List.

MONICA BARELA-DI BISCEGLIE, an elementary school art teacher, earned her BFA in Studio Painting and Printmaking at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a part-time film production technician in the Albuquerque film industry. She lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. This is her first book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

heat wave. mailbag.

"It's a Dry Heat" 
Michael Sedano

Record-setting high temperatures sweep the nation. Here in Southern California the heat comes with the boon of dryness. A person can put in a full day’s work, or play, in this heat and come back tomorrow for more.

My dad loved cement work and taught me to appreciate the beauties of a 20 foot slab of freshly-laid cement. High school summers I put in many a slab by myself. Dig the earth and build a form. Mix 3:3:1 helpings of cement, sand, and gravel in a wheelbarrow with some water. Haul loads to the worksite and fill the form. Flatten the pour with a 2x4 then hand trowel to produce a level non-slip surface. At the end of a day I stand admiring the work with a Giselbertus hoc fecit satisfaction. Cement work lasts forever. The hundred degree day of hard physical labor makes the accomplishment all more satisfying.

Ever more satisfying hot work came from laboring in the soaking pits and the slabber at Kaiser Steel during college summers. Steel ingots heated to flaming yellow move through the mills shedding flat tiles of spongy iron and coal impurities. Hundreds of pounds of slag come off each two-ton ingot after it’s re-heated to malleability in the soaking pit before being crane-lifted to the conveyor feeding the slab mill, where the thousand-degree steel is flattened by monstrous mills in earthshaking showers of fire and thunder and slag.

Michael Sedano pulls in after a double shift at Kaiser Steel
The raceway underneath the roll line is an artificial river in a channel up to ten feet deep. Other sections of the roll line sit 18” above the cement floor before gaining depth. Here, laborers crawl on bellies shoveling until they can kneel. They shovel deeper into the raceway until they can crouch, shoveling further until they can work standing. Three workers in a line, relaying shovelsful to the guy behind.

Kaiser had the contract for the California Water Project and ran 24/7, except for the three turns the mill went down. For 24 hours the mill sat idle while the roll lines cooled from weeks of feeding 800ºC ingots to Hephaestus’ anvil.  For three turns the mill sits inactive, then at midnight, we laborers crawl into the race way, brandishing our shovels. We pull a double turn, midnight to four p.m., cleaned the raceways to bare cement.

Sixteen hours of shoveling slag in a hot stinky humid steel mill raceway has a way of making a person appreciate the value of a college education. My co-workers wouldn’t return to Isla Vista in the Fall. They were steel mill lifers, they would spend their working lives laboring at the end of a shovel, shoveling slag at minimum union wage.

I wasn’t a Lifer by any means, but I was a good soldier. So it goes. Thanks to riches accumulated at Kaiser I eased through completing a college degree and was in pursuit of an MA when my Uncle Sam “he said a-knock-knock, here I am,” as the song goes. And I went to the heat and humidity of the Korean DMZ.

I used to rue those Redlands times when foul weather forced me to shovel cement in energy-sapping heat and humidity for a few days. All you want to do is lie in the shade and read. Korean summer stays hot and humid all day and all night. Enervation or not, duty set hard labor before us, and summer gave us air so heavy it doesn’t circulate, it settles. The air is New York city in July, except here, when the breeze blows up the canyon it brings the penetrating smell of rice paddies fertilized with warm, fermenting human shit.

Summer rainstorms hit with relentless ferocity bringing emergencies and accidents, but bringing also respite from the day’s heat and humidity. Some storms, the rain doesn’t stop for days. Interest in the constant pounding of rain on the steel skins of the hootches rises only at the biggest squalls. The subtle rasp of water rushing down the exterior corrugations creates a white noise that puts people on edge. The steel skin vibrates from the rushing torrent. These storms regularly knock out our only communication line out of the valley.

"The River" normal water flow. In storms the channel fills with whitewater rearranging the streambed.

The storm abates enough that there’s good visibility. My partner and I drive up a few miles and head into the lush undergrowth lining the water’s edge. Humidity is glue to dirt and dust so when we find the wire our sweatbands are soaked and we're itching from scratches and crap down our necks. We trace the line to the next quarter mile splice, hook in and talk to the admin area but can't raise the mountain. The break is further up the line.

The likeliest place is the second ford. Big storms reliably wash out the road here, wreaking havoc downstream where the phone line crosses. Standing next to the roaring stream, there’s an unfamiliar percussion noise. A large boulder launches out of the whitewater and flies across the washed-out ford. The rock crashes into the stony bank with a krak! before returning to the submerged avalanche that rolls unseen downstream.

We find the broken line easily and report back to First Sergeant. We elect to wait out the surge. Mindful of man-killer stones that fly out of the flood at random times, we don’t treat ourselves to the cooling spray at the water’s edge.

Michael Sedano wearing helmet liner sweat band.
Was your city ever this hot? I’ve been hotter--glowing steel was hotter, that’s for dang sure. And if you’re in that heavy air east of the Pacific coast, I know how awful you feel. What I need right now is not air conditioning but a swimming pool filled with boys and girls and laughter and joy. Some shade and a cold glass of agua pura sin gas o con would be nice, too, to form new hot weather memories.

Be cool, gente.

New Mexico Middle School Students: Free Writer Workshops at NHCC

The History and Literary Arts division at Alburquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center is ramping up for greater service to the local writer community. Today, Barelas, tomorrow the world! might be NHCC's clarion call as HLA gets up to speed as a cultural powerhouse again. Eventually NHCC will bring back the best thing it's ever achieved, the National Latino Writers Conference.

For more information on the upcoming workshops, click this link.

Register online at (link).

Flash Fiction and Poetry
Wednesday July 11 and Thursday July 12, 10:30 am - 3:00 pm
Salon Ortega, NHCC

Performance by Student Participants
Thursday, July 12, 6 pm
Wells Fargo Auditorium, NHCC

A partnership between the NHCC and NM School for the Arts

More from NHCC • Deadline Approaches Call for Poets to Win Cash

Poets--deadline to apply, July 27, 2018. Contact Valerie Martínez at

Monday, July 09, 2018

In Capítulo Siete, ‘Metztli’ by Xánath Caraza, Translated by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple

In Capítulo Siete, ‘Metztli’ by Xánath Caraza, Translated by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

V. E. Frankl

It is with a combination of pleasure, satisfaction and serenity that I share with you, dear readers of La Bloga, the news of the forthcoming publication of my second collection of short stories, Metztli, which is planned for the middle of July this year, in other words, in a couple of weeks.  Capítulo Siete will be publishing Metztli, and we’ve been working hard to finalize it for a couple of months now.  Metztli will appear in a bilingual edition, translated to the English by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple, with support from the Mellon Foundation and Lycoming College. 

I’m particularly excited because, even though I’ve written eleven poetry collections and one previous collection of short stories, Metztli is the first book of mine to be published in Mexico and that is worth celebrating.

Metztli is a collection of twenty-two stories, both micro-fiction and full-length short stories. Every story is followed by the English translation by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple.

In the following lines, Sandra Kingery shares her experience as translator:

For me, on the most personal level, literary translation signifies pleasure and enjoyment and     love.  It means living a text from the inside, savoring the words, living them through sound and touch.  It means entering inside a text and coming out the other side with a new version that is and is not the same as the original. 

If literature is one of the most profound expressions of a culture, literary translation is the way that culture is shared with the rest of the world.  I began translating because of that simple desire for communication… I’ve been a translator for about 15 years now, but until last summer, I’d never translated with another person.  When I learned about the possibility of applying for an Andrew W. Mellon Grant for the Humanities, which were established to encourage research between professors and students, I immediately thought about the possibility of working with Kaitlyn Hipple, a student who had recently changed her major from English literature to Spanish.  In many ways, Kaitlyn might not have seemed like the best candidate for this two-person task, because she was still only a sophomore and had not yet taken the most advanced level Spanish classes.  But Kaitlyn had several attributes that made me think that she was the ideal candidate, including not only her talent as a deep reader of literature (in English and in Spanish), but also her passion, her enthusiasm, and her love for literature. Literary translation is an intimate process that requires a lot of time and patience.  The work can be frustrating, meticulous, and slow.  Not everyone has the disposition for it, but I already had the sense that Kaitlyn did.
During that first summer (2016), Kaitlyn and I met every day for eight weeks and we spent hours reading aloud, listening, repeating, returning to the same words over and over again. Xánath’s stories are incredibly rich and deep and, in order to do them justice in English, one must live all of the intensity within them.  Kaitlyn and I translated sections, and when we felt lost along the way, we would move on to another story and let the first one rest, only to return and find our way forward later on.  More than anything, we laughed a lot that summer, out of happiness and the pleasure that the stories gave us, as they began to reveal their secrets to us little by little.

Let me close with a few words that Juan Mireles of Casa Editorial Capítulo Siete wrote about Metztli.

Xánath Caraza is an author who discovers the stories in places. In every one of her short stories, she invites us into her home, the home of her memories, of her travels; the food and traditions of a Mexico visited regularly by her stories to experience that which she never forgets: the scents and flavors that bring back to her the images, dialogues, stories, the love, that signify home.

In Metztli, we never forget that distance is only a brief pause, that this separation serves to reaffirm the author’s roots: a reason to always return, there is no other option, because the land beckons.