The Murals at Mendez High School


Every Wednesday I visit Mendez High School in Boyle Heights near downtown LA. I volunteer as a college counselor for College Match LA. The school is named after the couple who, in 1946, sued for equal education for Mexican children and won.

This is the couple and the school mascot is the jaguar.

This explains the ruling that gave Mexican children equal educational rights.

View of downtown from in front of the College Center area where students go to get help with college applications, learn from presentations by admissions officers from different colleges, and work on college and financial aid applications.

Thanks to the two guys sitting here chatting for giving me permission to take this photo.

When I asked who did the murals, I was told that students did them in conjunction with an art class several years ago.

Puma–2


Years ago while visiting Albuquerque or Santa Fe, I acquired a Zuni puma fetish. It is the only fetish I own. I bought it because it is a puma, the Directional Guardian and prey god of the North, representing independence, personal power, intensity, and loyalty, carried by travelers to protect their journey. It resides on a dresser in my bedroom, watching over me, protecting my life journey.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my puma obsession extends to researching them and writing poems about them. The following poem was originally published in my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.

My neighbor walked out her door

found a puma lying on the lawn.

Puma rose, stretched, disappeared.

At night when I open my gate

I wonder if she lurks

behind the cedar trees,

Pounce ready.

A Zuni puma fetish guards my sleep.

I run with puma

Night wild

Free.

I scream and howl

Moonstruck

Bloodborn.

I hike the canyon

stroll around my house

look for puma tracks.

I see none.

I would rather die by puma

than in a car wreck.

Reception for the New Exhibit at The Getty


Monday evening I attended a private reception at The Getty for photographs taken by teens to reflect their reactions to the pandemic and the shut downs. This first photo explains the exhibit.

I was able to attend because Faith Mowoe invited me. She is my daughter’s cousin and teaches English at a high school here in California. Usually The Getty is closed on Monday. We arrived early hoping to be able to walk around a bit, but they did not allow anyone to enter until 5:30 so we strolled around the gardens near the parking lot. You cannot drive up to The Getty. You have to park in the parking area which costs 20 dollars and take a shuttle to The Getty which is otherwise free.

This and the next few photos were taken at the gardens near the parking lot.

The Getty sets on a hill overlooking portions of LA in all directions. The red on top of the mushroom like pillars in the this photo is bougainvillea.

The amount of stone in the buildings is huge. The Getty comprises several different buildings including several filled with art, others for research, and a theatre.

This photos shows one of the teen photographers. This one is from Ohio. The following photos illustrate the teens who were chosen out of the more than 1600 entries.

We briefly met the young lady in this photo. Many of the students who took the photos were present and honored by the sponsors of the exhibit.

After eating–the reception provided all sorts of delicious treats, wine, beer, water, and various others drinks–we strolled into the gardens.

Posters have been made from the teen photographs and will be available for purchase.

The Getty is astonishing. I was able to see only a tiny portion of it. Definitely a place to see if you come to Los Angeles.

One Million Dead–We Must Remember


I see you, the dead, the too often forgotten,

you who lost your lives to Covid,

1,000,000 gone.

This is like wiping out the entire population of

Columbus, Ohio,

wiping out all the people who live in

Montana.

More of you died than live in the entire

states of

Wyoming or

North Dakota or

South Dakota or

Alaska.

This is like wiping out 1/2 the people in

New Mexico.

Lest you who read this forget,

pretend all are dead in Columbus,

no one is left in Montana.

All dead.

Envision the magnitude of

our loss.


Grieve for them, their friends,

their families.

Do Not Forget.

I post these flowers in remembrance.

Blackwater Draw


I walk the mile long trail down into the depths,

caliche, gravel, larger rocks strewn by millennia.

The ancients–Clovis, Folsom, Portales

Man–hunted here at the shores of a lake

nearly 12,000 years ago. In 1929, an amateur

archeologist discovered a spear point lodged in bone.

Scattered cottonwoods whisper in the wind,

timeless voices call me, beckoning.

Who were these people? What did they

look like? Where did they come

from? In whose gods, goddesses, did

they believe? Doubtless hunger

drove them to this place of water

and plenty. Columbia mammoths, giant

sloths, dire wolves, saber toothed cats.

I walk this long path, read signs

that tell what diggers found at specific

spots along the trail: bison horns

spanning seven feet, mammoths twice

the size of elephants. I stand in the shade

of the cottonwoods. They whisper to me.

They tell me ancient tales of hunger, strife,

beauty, love, endurance, woe, war, weaponry,

courage and community. How did they overcome

danger, fear? My skin tingles strangely

in the summer heat. Now this land is dry,

desert, the water that sustained teeming life

evaporated in the crystalline air.

Twelve thousand years from now who will stand here?

Will this place exist? Will someone wonder the meaning

of our bones, who we were, what we believed?

The Huntington Library


After several trips to the gardens, about which I have already blogged, and one to the two art galleries, earlier this week I went with Faith Mowoe to The Huntington Library. The photos are somewhat self explanatory.

It is possible for scholars to see some of the many documents not on display.
The second floor is full of books and documents, but regular visitors are only allowed on the first floor.
Chaucer.
Cicero works copied in the mid 1400s see above.
Sir Isaac Newton
Newton was interested in astrology–this surprised me.
I learned that Newton was quite interested in astrology. Hence the photo previous to this one.
More on Newton’s interest in astrology.

The Gutenberg Bible.
A little known play by Shakespeare as it was published during his lifetime.
The above two photos are original copies and drafts of Joyce’s most famous work.
This book is extremely large and contains original Audubon pictures.
Octavia Butler was a California native. I am a big fan of her work and am currently in the middle of her Patternist series. Last year I taught one of her short stories about a pandemic.

The library is also full of old maps from all over the world. They compare maps to novels and how the plot of a novel is a map in words. Here is an example of a map from Don Quixote. Many modern fantasy novels have maps of the locations of places in the novel.

The Boy From Honduras


My current writing endeavor is part of a challenge to write 20 minutes per day six days a week. The story I am going to relate now was written as part of that project. The brief introduction here was part of something I wrote the day before I wrote about the boy.

I watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday about German Jewish Americans who volunteered to go behind enemy lines before and after the end of WWII to either spy on or interrogate Nazis, often officers of higher rank. One of them related that he never met a Nazi who had any remorse for atrocities he had committed, who thought what they had done was wrong. How horrifying, to hate anyone, any group so much over religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, status, remains to a great degree beyond my comprehension. Although I may view people like the Nazis as my moral enemies, to hate anyone so much as to torture and murder them seems incomprehensible.

These views also affect my attitude toward immigration. People rarely leave their countries because they want to, they leave because they need or have to in order to survive. Often it is a matter of life or death. Now I will tell you about the boy from Honduras.

Short, straight black hair, obsidian eyes, skin the color of café con leche, he showed up at high school one day absent any knowledge of the English language. His brother, married to a US citizen, lived across the street from the high school secretary. The assistant principal brought him to me. By Texas state law he had to spend at least one period of the day with a certified ESL teacher, me. He came often even from his other classes because everything except Spanish class was in English. Written Spanish helped him only somewhat. In Honduras poor country students only attended school for a few years. The more advanced middle and high schools were in cities and required fees paid.

The counselor claimed he had not been to school at all. I knew better; he knew things that a kid only learns if he or she has gone to school. When I did not understand his Spanish, I asked him to write it down. It took me a while to figure out some of his written Spanish. He sounded it out and so instead of writing habla (h is silent in Spanish), he would write abla. When I really could not understand, I went to the Spanish teachers from Mexico; they could not always understand him either. One, who had travelled all over Mexico, said he spoke a dialect she had never heard. Over time, I learned he had started school at six, attended for four years, then went to work on a coffee plantation. He was 15 when I met him. After I showed him a photo of me picking coffee in Costa Rica, he became very excited.

His father had been murdered; his mother feared for his life so she sent him to his brother in the US. He was cheery, always smiling, played soccer at lunch with the other students, missed home. He told me his family was working with an immigration lawyer so occasionally he traveled to Dallas to meet the lawyer. Then one day he disappeared. We never saw him again. Later one of the Spanish teachers told me he had come, smuggled in a shipping container, had survived this for days. And now he was gone.

Students asked about him; we had no answers. Some who had ranted about illegal immigrants stopped ranting. It was someone they knew, liked, who had left with no answers. He was a kind, funny kid whom everyone liked. Is he in hiding? Is he safe? Is he alive? Who knows?

Fuerte


An “exercise” to write a poem about ones origins with the words I am from… inspired me to write this poem.

I am from the dark side of the moon, blood born, secretly shining.

Fuerte

I am from puma, stalking your memories, invading your minds,.

Fuerte

I am from Gottlieb, who left Swiss mountains 150 years ago at 18 to avoid

becoming a mercenary, moved to Missouri, created a farm. His cultivator

sets in my front garden.

Fuerte

I am from persons Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, who sailed seas, met strangers, loved.

Fuerte

I am from Esan, a Nigerian tribe about which I knew nothing until a DNA test revealed,

ancient, black, beautiful.

Fuerte

I am from Latin America, Colombian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican–wanderers, explorers.

Fuerte

I am from Slavic peoples. Byzantine, Macedonian, Alexander the Great.

Fuerte

I am from brave wandering ancestors–Asian, Latin, Toscani Italian, French, German, Swiss, Slavic, Iberian.

Fuerte

I am from J haploid group, people who left the northern Middle East 7000 years ago,

wandered, explored, populated Western Europe.

Fuerte

I am from farmers, Doyle and Barbara, who grew corn, wheat, soybeans, Hereford and Charolaise cattle

to whom I carried salt blocks as a child.

Fuerte

I am from Sacred Corn, the nourisher, singing on hot summers, growing.

Fuerte

I am from the sweet smell of Jasmine, Roses, Honeysuckle, winding up walls, overgrowing gardens,

giving people hope.

Fuerte

I am from lemons, figs, dates, pomegranates, golden, dark, red, tropical, lingering.

Fuerte

I am from Stars, universal child, born on sacred ground, singing infinite songs.

Fuerte

Reflections–Old Year, New Year


Most 2020 goodbyes ring with epithets on the horrors of 2020. I object. 2020 brought bad, yes, mainly due to Covid 19’s effects on the lives of masses. It also enlightened us:

-staying home makes cleaner air.

-staying home increases home gardening and thus healthier eating.

-staying home leads to a slower, more thoughtful life, to extra time with family.

-staying home reconnects us with ourselves.

2020 lead to positives that have nothing to do with Covid 19:

-increased awareness and concern for the lives of others different from ourselves.

-increased awareness that discrimination and brutality among our police exists and we need to fix it.

-increased awareness of the ever growing income gaps in our society.

Covid 19 did bring:

-an increased awareness of the impacts of any pandemic and that we must prepare ourselves because there will be more.

-an increased appreciation of essential workers and their roles in our everyday lives.

-an increased appreciation for nurses and doctors and other health care workers.

Spring will come,

flowers will bloom,

birds will sing.

Yesterday, I heard Bishop Michael Curry speak on national news. I will close with one sentence which remains with me:

“Love is a commitment to the Common Good.”

Wandering the World–Italy, Part One


Last November I spent a little over a week in Italy. We spent only 1/2 day in Rome then drove to Sorrento where we stayed for a week. From there we wandered down the Amalfi Coast, over to Naples, Pompeii, and Capri. Want to avoid the summer heat and crowds? Go in November. Yes, it is chilly and sometimes rainy with big storms at night. Nevertheless, you can really see what people do who live there and avoid masses of tourists. Here are some of my favorite photos:

The above photos taken in Rome. The following were taken in Sorrento.

Vesuvius. I think I saw it nearly every day.