Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Gallery: Fauna: Coyote, Fire & Fantastic Flora Fotos

Chicano Photography Foto Gallery by Michael Sedano.
(click on foto to see large size slide show)

Fauna • Animal Life
Urban Coyote

This beast and his familia live in the neighborhood. Residents do not alarm themselves at the presence of coyotes, and vice versa. When a coyote spots me on my walkabouts it's likely to cross the street then start to trot as I draw near. See those ears? The better to hear a camera shutter sound from across the wide city avenue. This means I'll get one candid foto of the unaware beast.

Coyote passes by daily on a semi-regular schedule. This his just-before 4 a.m. stroll, unaware someone sits with a lens in a nearby window, passing time in plague-time, not watching for Coyote, but aware of any motion appearing in the picture window.

With the first shutter noise the coyote looks my way, identifies unnatural noise. He swerves across the street engaging his exit behavior, wary of my eyes.

Half an hour passes and the female passes headed in the same direction. I do not have the lens ready for a grab today.

Fauna: Fire

Fire lives. Fire is alive. Fire produces infinitely variable sets of images. Set up the fuel, ignite, flames. No flame has the same shape and color as any other, nor does a flame hold a single form and size, nor last long. Once it's burned itself away no other flame will look like that one. From 1/1000th of a second to 1/1000th of a second, a flame shifts and changes color, shape, intensity, reach. Photographing fire speaks its own name, writing with light, things written with light.

Photographs of fire contain the total essence of that word, photo graph, a thing written with light.

Physicists can wax eloquently on the superheated gas plasmas that give fire its lives. I've probably made ten errors in those three words, "superheated gas plasmas," but damnit, Jim, I'm not a physicist.

As to the claim of life for fire, the photograph below captures not some mere daemon of fire, butt Hephaestus' nalgas making a quick exit from the chiminea. I kid you not. Seeing is believing.

This is Summer, the Solstice has had its dances and the crops have begun to seek the sun. And California's June Gloom persists all day. All day, Casa Sedano burns a fire against the chill.

Fire has life. This fire is noble; I burn hundred-years-old wood ripped out of the skeleton of a South Pasadena home being remodeled from its 1920s spaces. Old growth redwood trees probably went to the mill and got sawed into lath and furring strips. Chunks of 2"x4", not modern dimensional stuff but wood two inches by four inches, not salvaged but Sawzall'd into clean-up. It used to be good lumber. It's good firewood. Some ash will go into the garden.

Copper burns green and blue. Wire scrap made its way into the clean-up pile. I'm happy to see it. Environmentally, burning insulation releases deleterious gasses. It's those gasses that get superheated and catch fire, leaping blue and green flames snaking and winding their way around the yellow orange light of hundred year-old flora, and millions of years-old Cu, number 29 on the atomic table. The mineral comes alive and breathes blue light when it sparks into life.

Flora: White on White, White At Night, White In Color.

White on White. Starry Stigma and Anthers, Epiphyllum

White At Night

The dark phase of photosynthesis happens when there's no light. Which has nothing to do with the wondrous flowers some plants produce and open them only after there's no light. These flowers come in one color, chlorophylless white. At night, the plant doesn't need it. You can see I dropped Botany 1A at the midterm in 1963.

Photographers, however, need light, day or night. And those flowers need photographing.

Twins. Rat-tail Cereus, White and Yellow Night-blooming.

This Rat-tail Cerus produces fat, 10-inch buds that begin to unravel in the light of late afternoon. The flower begins as a fuzzy inconspicuous ball on the spiky ridged pencas. Over a month the bolitas grow into a rolled-up tight trumpet. The tips show yellow color the day the flower opens.

During the twilight and gloaming the flower takes shape, its promise evident in those early unfoldings. When light has completely evacuated the 4th Direction, the flower has opened to its near-fullest. Discerning eyes, or many photographs, see the changes and the stasis. Around 9 p.m. the flower exudes a gentle ethereal perfume, enchantingly indescribably impossible to memorize. Every year, I have to wait until that flower opens all the way once again to breathe its scent. Some years she opens at 1 a.m.

Rat-tail Cereus, White and Yellow Night-blooming.

The near-fully opened trumpet offers photogenic profiles and, with modern digital cameras, ample light over half a minute on a tripod.

A near-full flower. The trumpet flattens as the flower petals spread to their welcoming widest. What night critter she seeks I don't know. Bat? Moth? Ants? A fertilized ephiphyllum produces pitaya fruit. This cactus has bloomed seven years in a row now and not yet a pitaya. She remains uncourted.

The flower now 90% fully opened, the trumpet flattened, the petalia spread twelve inches or more. Pure white petals contrast against the yellow sepals, the outside wrappers of the bud.

The fully-opened flower. The scent creates hypnotic moments, breathing in deeply until lungs can expand to no greater volume, you must stop smelling the perfume.

Illumination comes from a distant garage light. The still night air allows good sharp focus over a minute writing with available light.

White In Color
There's no color at night, so nature decided not to expend energy on the spectacles of daylight showy blossoms. Night-blooming Cereus and other species cactus challenge a photographer to make a sharp picture when there's no light except the stars, the moon, a garage or porch.

Computers write with light and silicon and rare earths down that periodic table. Light means little to the camera's eye. Push the camera's file through a Macintosh iPhoto program and tell it to find certain lightwaves and make them big.

The light is there. The photograph is not real. But interesting in numerous variations. A ver...

What makes it "Chicano Photography"?
See "Chicano bologna sandwich".

Monday, June 29, 2020

An Open Letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom on Ethnic Studies

By Dr. Álvaro Huerta

Dear Governor Gavin Newsom:

As one of the few tenured Latina/o faculty members at the California State University (CSU)—the largest public university system in the country—I’m requesting that you sign Assembly Bill 1460 or AB 1460 (ethnic studies bill), once it reaches your desk. As a son of Mexican immigrants who was born in the State Capital, I’m neither asking nor begging. This is not a “mother may I” or “pretty please” ask. As part of a racial justice movement led by faculty of color, students of color and community activists, this is a formal request for you to do the right thing. While I don’t believe in settling for crumbs—where all CSU’s should have a College of Ethnic Studies!—AB 1460 represents a small, yet important first start to diversify CSU’s curricula with a 3-unit ethnic studies course for graduation. It usually takes 120 units to graduate, as I documented in my recent essay, “The Right to Ethnic Studies in Higher Education” (Inside Higher Ed, 05/15/20).

In a time when the curtains of white supremacy are being torn down by the masses on the streets and countless others in divergent spaces, this is not the time to oppose a bill aimed at teaching tomorrow’s leaders about the history and plight of the racialized, marginalized and otherized. Given that you represent the most powerful person in California, if anything, do it for your legacy. You don’t want to follow in the disgraceful steps of former Governor Pete Wilson with his support in 1994 of Proposition 187—a failed, racist proposition aimed at immigrants. Too often, politicians talk a good game about racial justice and equity, but when it comes to action, they hide behind the same rules, regulations and protocols that brutalize and dehumanize racialized groups and others.

At the end of the day, a 3-unit ethnic studies course is a minor request. This formal request doesn’t include the abolition of police forces, prisons and immigration detention centers in California, representing racist institutions that beat, murder and cage mostly brown and black bodies. Hence, given that AB 1460 doesn’t threaten the status quo in a radical or transformative manner, I’m not sure why you haven’t already committed to signing it?

While I’m aware that the predominately white CSU leadership, including Chancellor Timothy P. White, opposes AB 1460, you should consider the fact that the majority of CSU students are non-white. For example, 21 out of 23 campuses consist of Hispanic-Servicing Institutions (HSIs). Don’t be fooled by the CSU’s diluted “Ethnic Studies and Social Justice” graduation requirement, which includes and goes beyond AB 1460’s four designated groups: Latinas/os, African Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans. By going beyond these four groups to include all types of “hierarchy and oppression” under the sun, this nonsense seeks to appease everyone, like the racist “All Lives Matter.” To counter this diluted measure, I’m compelled to borrow from Dr. Aaron Wildavsky’s 1973 article on urban planning: If “ethnic studies and social justice” is everything, maybe it's nothing.

This open letter is not simply an individual request, as noted above. This is part of a racial justice movement led by faculty of color, students of color and community activists. This also includes the CSU Task Force on the Advancement of Ethnic Studies, the California Faculty Association and others who seek to transform higher education to reflect the changing demographics of this nation.

As a member of the Academic Senate at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (or Cal Poly Pomona), I’m happy to report that we recently approved an anti-racist resolution which includes support for an ethnic studies graduation requirement (06/17/20), following the examples of San Diego State University (SDSU) and California State University, Stanislaus. It’s also great that California State University, Northridge’s (CSUN’s) Academic Senate explicitly includes AB 1460 in their resolution (02/20/20).

Finally, like Bob Dylan’s famous song, “The Times They Are a-Changin,” I hope that you, as governor of the great state of California (formerly part of Mexico!), “…heed the call” to what we—the racialized, marginalized and otherized—are demanding during these dark times: to be listened to; to be treated with dignity and respect.


Álvaro Huerta, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Academic Senate Member 
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

[Dr. Álvaro Huerta is an Associate Professor in Urban & Regional Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies at California State Polytechnic University. Among other scholarly publications, he’s the author of Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm and Defending Latina/o Immigrant Communities: The Xenophobic Era of Trump and Beyond. He holds a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in urban planning and a B.A. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.]

Dr. Álvaro Huerta

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mana a Mano: Pandemic Baking

Melinda Palacio

Sourdough Olive Loaf

I have joined the pandemic sourdough brigade, the group of people who choose to bake their own bread. Only weeks ago, I didn't really eat bread due to Steve following a low carb diet, no carbs and no bread. However, three weeks ago, a friend offered some sourdough bread that she made. I ate more than my fair share with little thought to carbs or whether I would be feeling the bloat that sometimes accompanies too much bread. It turns out my body can safely enjoy sourdough bread in moderation. Sourdough is more nutritious and easier to digest and less likely to spike your blood sugar levels. It uses starter instead of yeast. Starter is the gift that keeps on giving because you have to discard some in order to feed it. Months ago, when everyone toilet paper was scarce, so was yeast and bread flour. Now, it's easier to find specialty flours like bread flour or stone ground wheat flour (which I prefer, along with a little rye. My friend gifted me starter and she named it Seymour. It's like having a pet. Maybe, that's why people who are into sourdough are passionate about the process.

Seymour, my sourdough starter

Before actually trashing the sourdough discard, you can do some pretty cool things with it, like give it to a friend or make crackers out of the discard. I must admit, I like the crackers better than the actual bread. Although, don't get me wrong, I love the sourdough bread I make, especially the fact that you can flavor the dough any way you'd like: add cherries and chocolate for a sweeter bread or olives and extra salt for a savory bread or plain for making french toast the next morning. But first, the crackers.

Crackers with Fresh Herbs and Cajun spices

The discard crackers are better than the bread IMO.
Of course, everything starts with the starter. You can make your own or simply put out a call on social media or the phone tree (if you are of a certain age) to find someone with extra starter. Don't throw your discard away. Heat your oven to 350, mix salt, one cup of flour, one cup of starter, and a quarter cup of olive oil, add your seasoning, extra salt, pepper, spices, roll out on parchment paper to thin, cracker leaf, bake about 20 minutes, then brake up the thin sheet and eat. Easy, fun, and you will never want to buy another prepackaged box of crackers.

Serious bread makers use a dutch oven inside your regular oven. I used a deep cast iron pot with a lid. Steam is important. 
I don't like my crust too dark so I put a cookie sheet at the bottom and line the dutch oven with a layer of tin foil for good measure. Heat your oven to 500 degrees and heat your dutch oven or pan. 
The Bread.
I have made a total of three sourdough loafs and already feel as if I'm an expert. Each time I make bread, I also make crackers. I can't bring myself to throwout the discard and many of my friends already have starter or don't want to join the bread cult. The first time I ventured into bread making, I followed the bon appetit recipe that my friend gave me. I was super careful to get out a scale and measure the amount of flour and water I added to the dough. By my second loaf, I had ditched the scale and accuracy and eyeballed it. Roughly, a half cup of starter, one cup of water, 2 Tablespoons of good olive oil, two to three cups of bread flour (substitute wheat, a little rye), 2 teaspoons of salt and olive oil for greasing. In order for the nooks and crannies to form, the dough needs to be slapped and pulled, allowed to rise in a warm place, then shocked into a cold fridge for 8 to 18 hours, then baked.

Scoring the bread before you bake it ensures that it won't break bad. 
Sourdough bread is art.

Cherry Chocolate chip loaf

Apparently, if you don't score the bread, make fun designs with a knife, your bread will break open on its own and it won't be as pretty. I had fun carving into the dough. I don't know if I had beginner's luck or a special touch, but each loaf I made was a slice of heaven. Most websites recommend more consistency and accuracy with measuring the ingredients, I winged it. I also bake the loaf at about 450, my oven's thermometer doesn't work well. I used to live in San Francisco and I was impressed that my bread loaves held up to bread I had at some of my favorite bakeries. I can add bread baking and sewing to my list of positive pandemic outcomes. I also learned how to make sugar free cherry jam to go with the break and crackers. Two cups of cherries, a quarter cup of water, three tablespoons or less of chia seeds and sugar free cherry jam. Add cherry jam and strawberry ice cream to my growing pandemic skillset.

homemade sugar free cherry jam

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Story: A Rosary for Everett

     I make sure the rosary is in the glove compartment, and I drive through the West L.A. Veterans Administration and Hospital’s south entrance, its first patients Civil War veterans struggling with psychosis from combat, what we call today PTSD, a symptom that strikes like a rattlesnake, without warning and often lethal.
     Twin golden eagles, the national emblem, stand as reminders of our sacrifice in defense of this country. The words “Soldiers Home” on the matching columns are welcoming, a reminder to veterans that no matter how far we stray, we always have a place to call home, or so they say.
     The government and many influential neighborhoods groups adjacent to the Soldiers Home, would like to see the entire veterans’ hospital, operations, and grounds removed, turned into a recreational park, or developed into a center for condos, homes, and an entertainment complex, so far, a tough fight for veterans’ advocate groups.
     Few Americans fight this county’s wars. Most prefer to avoid the inconvenience. They feel they’ve done their duty by standing for military honor guards at sporting events, pledging their allegiance to the flag, becoming righteously indignant at professional athletes who “take a knee,” or spout the mindless but ubiquitous “Thank you for you service,” which many veterans take to mean, “Better you than me.”
     Then, there are those who consider war an antiquated method of solving international squabbles and would prefer to completely eradicate war, an irrational idea to many who serve in a volunteer army, to munitions contractors and manufacturers, and to private military-service corporations, war profiteers.
     When I first came to the Soldiers’ Home for treatment in 1969, after my discharge from the army, tall swaying trees, rolling hills, shrubs, dirt walkways, a Shangri La, greeted me. I saw it as a place of refuge, for body, psyche, and spirit.
     After Vietnam, sometime in the '80s forward, we came in droves, with all manner of malady. The VA wasn’t ready for us, nor was it ready for the veterans of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and the secret wars in Latin America and Africa.
     When I first came, it was for a wound I’d received in the mountains outside of Kontum, Vietnam, on a night we’d trained for--combat. It was supposed to go smoothly, everyone doing his job. Instead, it was chaos; darkness surrounded us, muzzle flashes from howitzers firing illumination rounds into the night, the black sky brightened, flares attached to small parachutes, slowly descending, the bursts of M-16s, grenades, artillerymen shouting in erratic voices, and shadows moving through the jungle.
     I didn’t know I was wounded until I reached in to touch a warmth on my arm. My fingers slid over a slimy liquid and dropped into a puncture. Shrapnel had pierced the flesh, and come to rest near the bone, where a doctor at the Plieku Field Hospital said operating to remove it could cause permanent damage, cutting through nerves and muscle to get at the wayward piece of metal.
     “People live with much worse,” the doctor told me. “If it bothers you, get it checked out back home.”
     How could I complain? The kid in the bed next to me had both legs amputated below the knees. He was heavily medicated, day and night. We talked a little. I wasn’t sure he even understood his condition. One day after I returned from lunch, I saw him talking to the Chaplin. That night I could hear the kid crying. Three days later, he was dead.
     Across from me, a North Vietnamese soldier lay in a hospital bed, his chest exposed and a long, thick incision ran from his neck to the bottom of his belly. We exchanged glances. I didn’t know enemy soldiers were treated in the same hospitals as Americans. I felt no animosity towards him. He was just another guy screwed up by war.
     The day I came to the VA for a checkup of my wounded arm after my discharge, the doctor gave me an x-ray, saw the shrapnel, and said it looked okay, nothing he could do. He offered me 10% disability, told me--no need to return. He sent me on to a benefits counselor, who treated me like he was an insurance adjuster, all business. If I asked a question, he answered in a stern tone. “That’s it! We can’t do anymore.” I was 21. The words stayed with me for thirty years, “No need to return.”
     I was raised in a neighborhood near the Soldiers Home. We, kids, grew up seeing veterans, of all wars hanging around the bars near our main downtown shopping area on Santa Monica boulevard, not far from UCLA, sometimes their wheelchairs lining the store fronts, grizzled veterans drinking beer wrapped in brown paper bags, men with empty pant legs and shirt sleeves. They chatted away. We never considered what they’d seen or done. Our dads, mostly WWII and Korean War veterans didn’t say much of the war. Who knew, I, and a whole other generation, would one day join them, taking up the mantle of silence?
     As the years passed, some days I’d cruise the VA grounds in my car, like an addict, in need of a shot in the form of a memory jolt, a message to remind me I hadn’t dreamed it or imagined it all, that I’d done what my mind told me I’d done, been all the places they’d sent me, met all the guys I’d served with, and seem the images burned into my mind. Since, the buildings and grounds were designed to look like a military outpost, I sensed a certain familiarity with the place, a homecoming, of sorts.
     I aged and kept that world and the memories bottled up inside, until it all came to a boil. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in years, Ben Avila, a guy I knew in high school, another veteran, who told me about a group of Chicano vets hanging out at the local AMVETS house on the other side of town, in Culver City, just “shooting the shit.” I decided to join them. We shared stories, without embarrassment or insecurity. We could relate to each other, laugh at what nobody else would ever think funny. They insisted I to go back to the VA for treatment, and for them to up my benefits. The higher the benefits, the better the treatment.
     Adrian Arias said he’d been like me, didn’t want to step foot on VA property, years later, still angry over the war, the lies that started it, the deaths of his friends, but he realized he deserved to be seen. “They can’t treat us like we’re invisible. They don’t want us to enroll for benefits. You’ve got a purple heart. Make them see you.”
     I swallowed my pride and returned. I had to make a nuisance of myself, not only for my physical wound but for the invisible wounds, the hardest to heal and to talk about, those that caused, not only us but our families, pain.
     As I drive deeper into the complex, a sense of calm comes over me. I stop and nod to the veterans I pass or meet along the way. Sometimes, I pull over and stop. Conversations flow easily; no introductions necessary, like we’re right back in the military; after all, most of us share a bond few people share, or could ever understand. Less than five percent of the American citizenry fights our country’s wars.
     I see beyond the gray hair, wrinkles, missing limbs, hobbling old soldiers on walkers, and I see youngsters, strong, vibrant, and healthy, again, dressed in olive drab, spit shined boots, carrying ruck sacks, and weapons, or sitting in groups telling their life stories. It’s like being 19 again. It’s like we all are together, nobody else to depend on, just each other.
     I drive under an overpass, cars streaming on the boulevard above, the city in action, noise and business, and I head north towards the foothills, the Santa Monica Mountain range an arm reach away. I park in a dirt lot beside a nine-hole golf range, another facility for veterans but mostly occupied, today, by the public. I take the string of rosary beads from my glove compartment and walk to the fence leading to the golf course, at the spot where a young Iraqi War veteran, Everett Alvarado, hung himself from a rope tied to the chain link fence. I loop the rosary through the wire and make a knot. I say a prayer. I know when I return next week someone will have removed it. The VA wants no commemoration to show veterans have killed themselves on these grounds, no flowers or candles, just more silence.
     I walk across a narrow road, through an opening in a wall of bamboo, down a path made of dirt and broken stones, the Japanese Garden. It's in grove, surrounded by shrubbery and shaded by a canopy of enormous trees overhead. I find an empty spot on a bench, and I join other vets sitting and reflecting, some, eyes closed contemplating, the rushing sounds of a water running down a concrete ramp, a splashing waterfall, ducks floating across a pond, and scores of water turtles taking their places along the shore and on rocks.
     We seek solace, peace, even redemption for our past actions, maybe even sins. This sacred ground, warts and all, remains, after 150 years, but who knows for how much longer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Cinco Puntos Press Art Auction and ALA Awards



From Cinco Puntos Press:


Cinco Puntos Press Art Auction: Chicanx Artists, Fronterizx Roots

Cinco Puntos feels deeply privileged to be offering paintings and prints by renowned Chicanx artists, the late Gloria Osuna Perez and the celebrated bordeño painter and printmaker Francisco Delgado. These were unexpected gifts. This auction of these works of art will supplement our GoFundMe campaign as we navigate the Pandemic Economic Shutdown. Bidding will open at June 23, 10:00a.m.MDT (12p.m.EDT), and close at July 2, 5:00p.m.MDT (7:00p.m.EDT).


Click on the painting  to place your bid.




From ALA/ American Library Association:


The American Library Association (ALA) is offering an exciting new free all-day virtual event celebrating the winners of several of its major book awards, including the esteemed Newbery and Caldecott medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, the Printz Award, and the Stonewall youth and adult Book Awards.


Beginning at 9 a.m. CT on Sunday, June 28, 2020, on ALA’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/AmLibraryAssociation, The ALA Book Award Celebration will serve as an opportunity for the association to showcase its book award celebrations that traditionally take place during the ALA Annual Conference. This is a free event that highlights youth and adult selections administered by ALA units, division, and round tables does not require registration.


ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), Booklist Magazine, Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services, and Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), along with Belpré Award co-sponsor, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA) have organized a brand new virtual celebration to honor award winning authors, illustrators, publishers, and producers.


Pre-recorded videos from book award winners will premiere for the first time throughout the day, according to the times designated by the schedule below. Viewers can watch live and share comments in chat, or view event videos on ALA’s YouTube channel soon after their premiere.



9 a.m. CT - Coretta Scott King Book Awards

10:30 a.m. CT -  Batchelder, Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media, Geisel and Sibert Awards

Noon CT  - Stonewall Book Awards

2 p.m. CT - Belpré Celebración

3:30 p.m. CT - Odyssey Award Ceremony

5 p.m. CT -  Printz Award Ceremony

7 p.m. CT - Newbery and Caldecott Medals and Children’s Literature Legacy Award Virtual Banquet


Also, the event will highlight a variety of award-winning books throughout the day including winning selections from the Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature, Sydney Taylor Book Award, and the American Indian Youth Literature Award .


Book lovers from around the world are expected to participate and are encouraged to hold watch parties and post photos and videos on social media with the hashtag #TheBookAwardCelebration. Viewer social media posts will be automatically entered into giveaways taking place during the celebration.


To learn more about the event and participating authors, illustrators, and producers, please follow the hashtag #TheBookAwardCelebration on Twitter.







Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Far Out Trip on Interstate 10

Michael Sedano

Marvin Hendrickson sits up suddenly alert. “Red” is about to call it a night and deadhead back to H.Q. when the open road materializes into a dark glistening blur racing East on the 10. The trooper figures he’s been counting flowers on the wall and spaced out, otherwise that damn thing came out of nowhere.

Red thrills at the push of gravity when the roaring engine races down the onramp, the vehicle an extension of his determination. They say shit like that in training.

Betsy Ross smiles when white headlights swing onto the pavement off the fast-disappearing Tonopah ramp behind the Tesla. Betsy nudges Andrea. Andrea speaks quietly, “start recording.” Betsy slows and eases over to the side of the road where she puts the Tesla in park.

Marilyn Hendrickson’s red-headed youngest boy-child smiles at two bobble heads in the vehicle. Women drivers are the best kind of stop. They all cry, and with the really desperate ones, you can get lucky. And here we are in the middle of nowhere, not calling it in, just us girls. Marvin remembers his Training Officer’s drawling advice, “Boy, you’d be surprised how many college girls like that back seat boogie instead of a moving violation.”

Marvin’s mind runs through a dozen scenarios, none nice at all, as he walks slowly to the silent luxury wheels. Give them time to sweat. Marvin grins at the thought of the women’s asses sweating into their panties.

The trooper stops at the rear license plate. The driver’s window rolls down silently. Marvin reads loudly, “Californicate”, adding, “now there’s a suggestion.” The Tesla wears current tags and all its lights shine steadily. The passenger window remains up, the bobble head unmoving.

Hendrickson’s thick-soled boots lift his height and his ego. He steps heavily to coax a crunch from the deep roadside gravel. The two bobble heads don’t move a muscle. “Do not move.” He adds, “Please.” Marvin feels his command presence already cowering the bobble heads, he can afford to be courteous. Red feels a pang of disappointment when neither head twitches. Neither turns to him when he marches to a stop at the door.

Marvin’s heart races and his groin warms. Even in the enclosing darkness of the fancy car’s interior the passenger’s golden-blonde beauty glows as if illuminated from within. That dress hides nothing. Her seatbelt is attached, point for her, and stretched diagonally across two exciting breasts. Two points for me. Driver’s belted.

Trooper Hendrickson didn’t like Mexicans and he especially didn’t like Mexican women driving hundred thousand-dollar cars. Hot as the blonde friend is, that doesn’t cut the dowdy dark-brown bitch any slack. Red has a sour taste in his nostrils that a second before smelled of a flowery musk perfume.

“Papeles,” pause, “License, registration, proof of insurance. English?”

The bitch remains silent but turns to establish direct eye contact with Marvin. He doesn’t move. The woman’s eyes move slowly down the khaki uniform. Marvin’s hand grows warm around his Glock when her eyes pause. The nondescript brown woman sweeps her gaze to focus on Hendrickson’s ornate bull riding belt buckle. She exhales slowly and locks her eyes on Marvin’s. His hand tightens around the Glock. It is ice cold.

“My license is in the white purse in the back seat.”

The driver’s lips don’t move. Marvin can’t identify the accent under the soft voice he hears. The trooper leans his head into the window for a better look at the blonde. She has turned her head to stare into the open desert. Good goddamn she is fuckable as they come. The blonde’s shoulders start, her hands grip her hot white thighs where that short red skirt has ridden up.

“Ma’am, do you have ID?”

What’s she doing with the beaner? The driver’s hands squeeze the steering wheel. Furtive movement. Red Hendrickson reflexively jumps back pointing at the driver shouting, “Bitch, keep your hands on the steering wheel!” Just like training, Marvin thinks, as his hand unsnaps the holster and in the same motion pulls his Glock.

Andrea says nothing but turns to look at the shadowed face of the trooper, her expressionless face bright against the dark glass behind her. Marvin steps forward, expecting compliance, his adrenaline wary for any threat.

The driver bitch stretches her fingers. Marvin jumps back again, again he raises the pistol, this time he points the muzzle at Betsy Ross. His thumb twitches against the safety lever. One in the chamber, nine rounds in the magazine. Red feels powerful, the look in his eyes says, “Go ahead, make my day.” The bitch is a statue.

Aiming at the driver’s frozen face, Marvin moves around the front of the shiny Tesla. Scuttling his feet in the sand as if wary of a sting ray in the surf, Marvin's empty thoughts chant “Choo, choo, choo.” He stops and faces the Tesla.

“Get out of the car.”

He hears himself issue the command automatically. Marvin feels as if he’s watching himself watching as the gull-wing door lifts in a smooth arc in a cloud of perfume. He watches eagerly a pair of diaphanous legs swing out the door.

Andrea Ross remains silent as Betsy eases her Tesla back onto the 10. Betsy was right, and Andrea doesn’t feel like confessing her glee to be wrong.

Five miles to the Tucson cut-off, hoping not to suffer the silent treatment all the way to El Paso, Betsy decides to take the gentle approach.

“So the center-fold blonde body works better than your J-Lo, que no?” When Andrea doesn’t reply, after a few miles Betsy adds, “You look good in uniform, mi’ja.”

Andrea doesn’t say a word. The pale red-headed Arizona trooper sitting next to Betsy pats his Glock. The uniformed trooper fades into shadow to be replaced by brown Andrea, glowing and brunette in a shining red hootchie dress.

“That’s a hell of a lot of trouble for bad-tasting country food, Mom. But I did get a kick out of his final thoughts.” Andrea touches the screen.

Red Hendrickson stands paralyzed in soft off-screen glow that brightens with its approach. He looks into the camera and thinks, “Uh-oh, I done fucked up good this time.”

“Well, duh, you think so?” Betsy Ross laughs.

“There’s the cut-off Mom. Speed it up, I’m hoping for some Indian food.”

“Did you say you Hopi?”


The bubble gum lights had warned-off helpful spectators until the cruiser’s battery died sometime before 0421 hours, when Sergeant Ernie Zeferino hung a U across the divider and parked behind the darkened Dodge Charger. Red Hendrickson, major fuck-up, failed to make end-of-turn muster. No wonder I have to come out here and find his ass. Add poor maintenance to his credits.

Marvin H. “Red” Hendrickson, Class A fuck-up, was nowhere in sight. Only a total idiot can get lost in those flatlands. Ernie doesn’t bother to get to higher ground. Not a case of lost anymore. Search and rescue has the job now, I have mine: Two cruisers by the side of the road, two disappeared troopers. Now number three lands on my watch. Fake news, but someone’s gotta investigate, disconnect the fucking dots.

“Gallup, Flag, and now right here in Tonopah,” Billy Martinez takes notes. Two miles east of Tonopah Road. The City Editor is having a bad day with the network down and needs Billy to gumshoe the state troopers for any information on Red Hendrickson. Sergeant Zeferino has lead.

That’s why the City Editor called me in. Asshole. Billy counts three before measuring his response. He’s my padrino from Confirmation. Pause. Swallow. He’s not part of my life. The sealed lawsuit picks away at Martinez’ brain. The City Editor ignores the cub reporter’s discomfort. “Go out there and get some news, Nosy Bear!” Take a lens and get me some art on scene.” Ha, ha, Billy thinks bitterly, nosy bear and art.

Jimmy Olsen couldn’t get anything interesting out here. Billy Martinez looks across the flatlands and counts three species of chamizo, the bush semi-informed anglos call saltbush. That’s what they see. Billy identifies three species of Atriplex. Jimmy likes facts. Right now, it is one hard and true fact there is nothing to photograph where Zeferino found the car. Presumably, the trooper disappeared here, too. Billy scuffs his feet in the road litter, “choo choo” skips in and out of his head before he hears a voice echo, “Use the force, Luke.” William hears himself say the words aloud.

“Choo Choo Choo Choo,” Billy’s feet scuffle through the sand turning up detritus where technicians had taken plaster casts of top-line Michelins, a Tesla. Martinez rehearses the facts in the report. Red Hendrickson’s Cat’s paw heels track to the driver side of the imaginary Tesla. Red stops. Next, the soles head around the invisible Tesla where Hendrickson stops. Evidence techs lift a plaster heel print from the packed earthen berm off the front of the imagined Tesla. Red Hendrickson must have stood here and looked into the windshield with a full view of the interior and the Suspect, or Suspects, the report concludes.

Martinez squats like a Korean campesino and stares into the hard noontime light. The empty distant roadway shimmers with rising heat waves that resolve into a low-slung Tesla speeding out of the night. What did Red Hendrickson see that night?

Billy opens a flood of imagination. The Harpies, Eagle-clawed women swooping out of the heavens seizing you and carrying you away. The stories of kids who go around a mountain trail and disappear and all their desperate parents hear is their baby’s voice screaming mommy mommy coming from the air somewhere. Did a chupacabra snatch Red? Facts, Billy says aloud, facts.

Billy Martinez rolls out of the kimchi squat to lie on his back. He points the lens at the edge of the berm and visualizes that moment three nights before. Red is standing on his right foot, his left knee bends with that leg on the berm. The night sky filled with stars, there wasn’t a moon, what did Red see when he looked into that Tesla? Billy’s vision blurs. The landscape is a painted canvas that deforms and is sucked into a vacuum hose leaving only darkness. The reporter struggles to gather the facts that unfold before him.

Red scuffles his boots around the front of the Tesla. Outlined by the cruiser’s beams, the Tesla’s color changes like a chameleon with prismatic skin throbbing in and out of visibility with bursts of impossible color.

The image in the trooper’s mind makes William gasp, his breath kicking a fine sand into his nose.

Marvin Hendrickson’s nose wants to sneeze. Where’d that come from, fuckin chameleon skin? Prismatic, what the fuck is prismatic? The blonde is smiling at me. The wing doors opening slowly, a praying mantis. A foot touches the ground, a creamy alabaster calf. Here she comes.

Red looks down. His trousers bundle around his ankles.

“I did that.”

Red hears a sweet melodious voice, innocence with a sinful smile in it. But the golden blonde woman rising from the Tesla doesn’t say a word. She stands in darkness, her naked body emitting an inner glow.

Marvin Hendrickson’s mouth falls open in an epiphany of clear-headedness.. The glowing naked figure wavers like highway mirages before parachuting out in a translucent jellyfish mantle wearing a sparkling red hootchie dress. The billowing Andrea collapses around the off-balance deputy. Red Hendrickson tumbles over the berm landing face first in the sand. The cool wet skin coating him begins to burn. “Uh-oh, I done fucked up good this time. I can’t breathe.”

Technically, his last words are “I can’t breathe,” Betsy added, but let’s go with uh-oh.”

Andrea keeps the deputy’s body as her own for an hour while she digests the shiny belt buckle with only a little discomfort. She decides to keep the J-Lo body. As Betsy argues, the sexpot look has universal functionality. The blonde looks cheap. Why Betsy insists on taking her grizzled litigator look remains Andrea’s lasting puzzle. It explains the lean and hungry look.

Cub Reporter William Martinez lies face first in the sand smelling Red’s astonishment. His nose sneezes loudly. Sand and grit blow back into his face. Billy opens his eyes and turns and raises his nose toward clear air. He puffs and spits sand over the berm. Down here, this wicked patch of earth smells of Chanel 21 and shit. Billy can’t get the movie out of his head. The hootchie blonde sweats a cloud of Chanel 21 that materializes into that shimmering medusoid mantle collapsing onto the paralyzed uniform. Coated in throbbing jello that insinuates itself into every fold and crevice of the trooper’s body like a shrink wrap machine, the writhing figure melts into the mantle.

Where did that come from?, Billy wonders. The reporter sits cross-legged leaning against the berm, blowing sand off the lens when tires pull off the road onto the sand behind him. Over his shoulder, Billy makes out a dazzling Tesla coming to a stop. A good Samaritan, Billy smiles. People are good.