An Interview with a Tree Fairy

Thursday brought some morning clouds, making a trip to Andulka Park (5201 Chicago Avenue, Riverside 92507) for an AM romp a no-brainer.  This marks the first time since the end of Spring I pulled a long sleeve shirt out for E.M. She loved the bright graphics and rough texture of the thermal top – I loved the fact that I could keep the sunscreen in the trunk.  But we hauled the sand toys because this park has some of the largest sand boxes in Riverside.

Now, some may dispute this fact and point to other parks. Others may play word police and claim they are actually volley ball courts. On weekday mornings, when they are crawling with amateur archeologists and future explorers, a functionalist like me says, “If it looks like a [sandbox] and it acts like a [sandbox]…”

And the tree fairy I spoke to would agree. He (yes, they can be guys – Santa may be the most famous fairy alive today) goes by Paul when he is with his granddaughter.  Here is why the parks are wonderful and should always be funded, maintained, and used often.  It’s the connections they create.  And lessons taught.

Before Paul made his true face known, I learned that he worked at Riverside City College (just like me) and he retired in June (just like I want to do!) and he’s not sure he is doing retirement right (I question myself to distraction). He likes Reagan more than I do but we both agreed the mental health issues behind much of the homeless problem in our parks stems from those mental health facility closures that started under his “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” approach to social services.

An old Gen-X and a young Boomer caring for the girls that will grow to save the world we have made for them.  And when we made Andulka Park, we had little more than dirt and space.  The City of Trees was devoid of shade.  The city planted them but the tree fairy made sure they grew tall and strong.

The Tree Fairy traversed the expanse of the park soon after it was finished.  He hand fertilized every single tree. Because he knew they would need the extra support. It was his way of doing his share and supporting a resource vital to the well-being of any city, and every single park in every city.

Now, fairies are odd creatures.  They typically know a good deal about a lot of things, yet they become known for just one or two key traits – few people realize that the Tooth Fairy can get your car started in a snowstorm and the Elf on the Shelf can make a sublime PB&J without a knife.  Which is why I suggest you get out into parks to talk with them. Don’t rely on what a few writers have put into your books.

This famous quote sums it up best:your task in the world rabbi

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Horror & Freedom of Empty Space

If you find yourself in downtown Riverside, be sure to drop by the second floor of Riverside Library’s Main Branch – it’s right next door to The Historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.  And since this flash is space and place based, it occupies the future home of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry – let’s hope a battle does not flare up over the omitted Oxford Comma here…what fun we have with words about space, over time.

Or maybe it does not and will not. A few votes could wreck all that…

A vote (scroll to bottom to see how everyone voted, and where to send your comments) by two Riverside City Council members brought us to this day.  Fresh faced new member Chuck Conder took a gander and then took a “no way” vote.  Recently re-elected Jim Perry followed suite.  When I came across this display while enjoying story time with dozens of other parents and kids, I found the emptiness a suitable image for the state of things.

free your mind exhibit

It begs the question:  Is something empty really empty?  For instance, as the “new home” for the Library waits for one more “yes” vote from the city council, what sits in that empty lot?  What is it about an empty pedestal that sparks a thought?  Who is to say what belongs in the space?  And how much is too much?  What is the correct price tag?  Would your answer be at all contingent upon economic status, race, age, or interest?  Of course it would.  Each of us would probably put something different on that stand.  And we all would have solid reasons for doing so.  And frustration when anything but our vision appears before our eyes.

But that’s the horror of the empty space. While you study it, it studies you back.  Matches you glare for glare, each moment you try to keep the space a void, it’s power over you only grows stronger.  That empty space will follow you everywhere you go.  It will only relent when you replace it with something else.

On Tuesday Oct 3rd, the debate renews at Riverside City Council (links to agenda).  I will be there voicing my support for the $40 million investment in a community service that touches nearly every citizen in the city.  This is one of the few resources that categorically and apolitically support education and learning.  Let’s see if a city of 300,000 can muster the support.  I’m really not sure it can.

 

Some minutia for those who follow Riverside news –

 

For Riversiders -here is where to send messages of support for the new library

https://riversideca.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=563820&GUID=FB317AEC-6E8C-4441-B133-7AA035184589&Search=

council agenda 10-3

Then click “eComment” link near middle of screen. Next, SCROLL TO #31 (MAIN LIBRARY), select “SUPPORT” and add comments.

Here is the link to your own councilperson

http://www.riversideca.gov/council/

And here is what that page looks like. Each one has a link to email and phone.

riverside city council list

Here is how city council voted earlier this month. You can talk to any or all of them, not just “your guy” 😊

 

Mike Gardner – Yes – Mike responds fast. He corrected me on a mistake I made – he talks to people who agree and who disagree with him.

Andy Melendrez – Abstain. Rumor has it his property nearby is over 500 feet away, so he can vote on this if he wants. I tried to confirm this fact with his office. No response. My last four messages to his office went unanswered – two on measure Z and my two on this issue – so good luck. Side note, this is my councilperson and yours if you live in Ward 2.

Mike Soubirous – Yes. Another person who responds, even when you disagree with him.

Chuck Conder – No.  Appears to be a pretty strong no.

Chris MacArthur – Yes.

Jim Perry – No. But, he did respond within minutes of my message to him asking to reconsider. He says he is working on a solution.

Steve Adams – Newly appointed. Was the previous councilmember here as well. Hope he votes yes but I am not confident on that.

 

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What We Could Be

This week, journalist and photographer David Bacon sledgehammers a hole in the wall, revealing the 750,000 farm workers in California hidden from view.  Their labor is performed away from where most of us work; few of us sleep in their conditions, but they are still our neighbors.  Through storytellers like Bacon, it is possible that we, us and them, could be so much more.

Nearly ¼ of those farm workers come from small communities in Mexico; these are native communities with a history and culture predating European discovery and exploitation by 1000 years.  In California fields, a rich linguistic history can be traced and explored; nearly two dozen languages can be heard on any given day – evidence of a rich, diverse culture going nearly unnoticed.  What we see today, in terms of working conditions and divisions between classes of people, are the result of choices made hundreds of years ago to create an unequal system.

trabajamos image

Photo by David Bacon

 

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves:  Why do we keep this system in place?  Who benefits?  Who continues to suffer?

How about this?  What if these million or so people were welcomed in the world?  How much richer would American society become when these dozens of voices, perspectives, ways of seeing the world, became part of who we are instead of something we hide?  How much longer can these walls stand?

 

 

To see Trabajamos/We Work: In the Fields of the North, get to Riverside Art Museum, before April 11th, www.riversideartmuseum.org

To buy the book, go to www.ucpress.edu/9780520296077 and use source code 16M4197 at checkout to save 30% or buy at the Blue Door Store inside #RiversideArtMuseum

 

 

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Motivation Schmotivation

I teach motivation as part of my coursework in my Intro to College course, and I sprinkle it into many of my Critical Thinking classes.  The other day I faced a pile of dirty dishes.  That moment clarified just what each of us faces when it comes to finishing a task.

This short post goes out to all my fellow procrastinators.  By the way, I stopped to write this while in the middle of finishing my media and retail sales lists for my publisher, Reedy Press.  I was supposed to have them in by the 15th.  Enjoy!!

When faced with a particularly heinous pile of dirty dishes, I took the rookie-actor approach and asked myself, “What’s my motivation?” After all, this is a home mess, not a work related occupational hazard.  My inner director called up three approaches –

  1. External motivation – I need to clean this mess up before someone comes over and sees this.
  2. Internal – I need to get this done so I can work on those other project deadlines.
  3. Go outside, watch birds, and hope an elf does them while I am away.

 

I went outside. I watched birds. I chased a two-year-old around. I stepped in dog poop.

Eventually we got hungry.  When we came inside to make dinner, those dishes were still there.  But I was in a much better headspace to knock them out.  Give yourself a pass today on beating yourself up about unfinished tasks.  Go look at something pretty or talk to someone that knows you are already pretty awesome.

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Down the Advertising Rabbit Hole

If you are like me, when you think about the writer’s life, it involves power, paper, ink, coffee, late nights, early mornings, and feeling like you may never finish that next project.  But there comes a time when you put the pen down, and pick up the phone, metaphorically. It’s the date the book is done and now it must be sold.  This requires buyers, and they need to be reached.  How?

Back in 1994, I was chatting with a new co-worker at my sales job and we traded contact information.  My new friend pointed to his card, “And that’s my email address.” I said, “Really? Cool!” but I thought – Wow, what a dork. Why would anyone email?  In the following months, I learned I was the dork and my question was irrelevant…but in the era of texting, perhaps that question  – do we even need email – should be asked again.

My #resistance to email stems from my failed attempt to harness its power for a 2016 Riverside Art Museum exhibition. For that, I combed my contacts and LinkedIn profiles for emails and then created a mass email, which I tried to send in bulk through Gmail.  Whoops! Many of you know what happened next – several reports of SPAM ensued, along with a high number of bounce-backs from closed email accounts.  Rookie mistake!   So, I culled down what was left to people who ACTUALLY know me in the physical realm AND may want to come to an art show in Riverside.  My take-away?  Quality beats quantity.

So, armed with this wisdom, I set out to market my new book, 100 Things to do in Riverside Before You Die, I created a Facebook page and an Amazon campaign.

 

It was exciting creating the page because it was a measure of progress in my mission to “market my book” and another indication that I was a “serious writer” at that!  I did not let the ease of creating my page take away from its importance.  And while easy to start, it gets progressively more difficult to decide how to use it.  To do so, I perused other author pages to see what they say and how they keep the page fresh without appearing to constantly fish for likes, orders, and gigs.

For $25, you can start a campaign to generate page views, likes, shares, orders, just about anything you want a prospective reader to do.  You pay by the “click”, and each one takes about $.15 out of your budget.  The great thing is that you set it and go, then they keep you posted on data and tell you when you run out of dough!  Important to keep tabs on the expenses when you recognize that writing is the worst money making scheme since someone realized how much it cost to manufacture a penny.

The result? 51 clicks, just under 3000 impressions, and my likes crossed the 100 mark.  I am still trying to figure out if the clicks turned into pre-sales, but my looking in Amazon left me hanging on how to answer that one.  To see this as a positive, I am choosing to focus on what I learned and the fact that I am just starting out here, so there really is no reason to focus on sales yet.

For February, I will be adding photos and fun content daily. Since my book highlights several restaurants, museums, parks, shops, and entertainment venues, my next move is to connect with each, make sure they know about the book, and ask them to pass along my links.  Then, I will compare the two actions to see which one worked better.

For Amazon, I submitted my campaign, by the way, you must spend a minimum of $100, and it was rejected. The reason had something to do with the title of my campaign.  I couldn’t understand what to fix so I just put that project aside. Perhaps it will be the writing project that never gets done. If not, then I will write about that experience here soon.

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Drafting readers for your draft

With some time before my first traditionally published book, 100 Things to do in Riverside Before You Die, is due to my publisher Reedy Press, I sent a draft off to three readers. And waited.  The wait gave me time to consider why I asked these three to read for me in the first place.  Sharing this here, my hope is that you will consider similar reasons when you reach that point in the process.

Since my book is about recreation, arts, and cultural events in Riverside, I wanted people who know Riverside and do not know Riverside.  I would up with one closely connected to this place, and two that are not. One grew up in SoCal and the other “outsider” was from that little backwater up north known as Canada. Always good to get international input should your book release world-wide!

After “Subject Knowledge” came a close second – demonstrated ability to communicate with the written word. Demonstrated by more than completion of an education. Again, I sought balance. Someone with experience writing and editing as their profession is desired, but given the hands-on and casual nature of this book, regular non-professionals could help me more with tone, pace, and voice – the touchy feely part of writing that all of us can experience. One was an avid reader, a second writes and reads regularly as a faculty member, and my third makes a living as a writer and illustrator. Box, checked!

My third criteria was a time concern. When I teach goal setting, time must always be a factor.  What can be done in the time required? After letting my “volunteers” know about what I needed and estimated time investment on their side, I gave them a response date that was far enough away from MY editor’s deadline to allow some flexibility and meaningful feedback. This allowed one of my original choices to bow out as they could not meet the deadlines. But it did give that person enough time to help me solicit a replacement.

The result? Three closely noted drafts were in my hands with a full month to incorporate their ideas and corrections with plenty of time to spare. Having three readers helped me on those spots where I just was not sure if I should make the change or not. If a majority or all had a similar note, changing it was easier.  But that did not stop me from rejecting suggestions, even when all three said the same thing.

Why? At the end of the day, this is my vision and my book. And that philosophy should drive all of us in any creative pursuit, regardless of the feedback from our community.

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“FUR” Play Project, See the Last Night, Free

NOW

Facebook. Of all my thoughts on the subject, arts promotion and community engagement never came to mind. However…when I joined a poetry workshop managed through Facebook, it forced me to rethink what it was good for.  This single event caused me to “luckily” find great new art in my community –  I am from the Inland Empire, Inlandia, The IE, Inland SoCal – and, in the process, rediscover things I love about other people.  Which will not be easy for the next few years, so I need to find goodness to combat those awful gravitational waves emanating from Washington, DC until 2021.

“Fur” by Migdalia Cruz, did the trick. This surrealist adaptation (loosely, veeerry loosely) of “Beauty and the Beast” was a welcome cleanse for the surrealist experience of waking up November 9th 2016 in America.  Director Luis Hurtado has assembled a great cast of actors. Their use of space – this was a live reading but the voice talents of the actors obliterated that limitation – brings the audience right into the cage where most of the action takes place.  Watching three characters seeking happiness from another person, and doomed to be unsatisfied with these varying unrequited loves, mirrors the challenges in our community today. We desire, but we often ask the wrong person or object to satisfy that desire. The result is sadness in the real world.

Thank goodness for surrealism. It provides escape of limited duration. Enough to fill many purposes but one in particular. “Fur” will take you away from the dodgy exterior monolog we are being subjected to, and replaces that with honest and useful human drives – the desire to be desired. To be loved.

I loved this experience. And you can too. I will not spoil the ending but it is cathartic. Limited engagement means this show will be here again tonight (11/10/2016) at 7 PM at the Culver Center for the Arts, Riverside CA. FREE Admission! See updates at www.facebook.com/ucrlpp

Missed this but want to catch the next one? Catch Model Minority and Gold Mean Players here, 1/27 and 1/28, 2017.

THEN

Next up! You must have a next up. Otherwise, why get out of that nice bed you made?  Keep an eye out for the next installment:  March Air Field Museum.  Crawling out of planes, asking older people, “what was it like when you were a kid?”, and petting a stuffed dog at the “War Dawgs Exhibition” will be more low cost local fun.

 

#artsblock #UCRLLP #surreal #art #riverside #innovation #play #love #beauty

 

Now & Then is an occasional blog covering regional art and culture worth my time, and maybe yours too!

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Filed under art, happiness, theater or theatre, Uncategorized, writing