Nov 10 2011
Today would have been my grandmother’s 77th birthday. In her memory, here are two essays. One written by me. The other by my daughter — who is named after my grandmother.
Mi Abuela/my grandmother. I owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. She gave me my neurotic disposition, my disdain for some and obsessive compulsive admiration for others, and the ability to swear like Joe Pesci. She provided opinions free of charge on topics ranging from UFOs to chupacabras and reincarnation.
She was a maverick. Born in a small town outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Eldest in a Mexican family of nine children, she was expected of course, to care for her younger siblings. Her nature caused her to rebel, leading to her being sent to live with her grandmother. She married at sixteen, and by eighteen, with two small children in tow, moved to Southern California with her first husband. It was the early 1950s and she yearned for something greater. With courage and swagger, she hit Hollywood looking like the southwest’s version of Elizabeth Taylor. Soon after, she left her husband, abandoned her children, and posed for one of the first issues of Playboy Magazine, or so the legend goes. There are unmarked photographs remaining as documentary evidence, but no back-issues to confirm.
Her Bohemian spirit led to painting. Her southwest inspired paintings would be collected by John Wayne and Shirley Temple Black. She would teach classes with Leo Politi and trade poses with other minor Los Angeles artists of the period. In early 1960, she was a regular at Hollywood hotspots like the Dresden Lounge and Morrow’s.
This set the stage for her chance meeting with a long-haul trucker from Illinois, a man so smitten with her, that soon thereafter he left his wife and five children just to be with her. The two would finally marry in 1972, two months before her unwed teenage daughter was to give birth to twin girls. Her “angels,” my grandmother would call us. In a scene eerily reminiscent of her own life, our mother too would abandon us, leaving us at birth to be raised by my grandmother.We grew up under my grandmother’s patronage, benefiting from her sense of adventure, and very large Broadway department store credit card bill. Outfitted, fed, and pampered to the extreme, she wouldn’t hesitate to drive me and my friends to Melrose Avenue in search of Doc Marten’s or bright yellow Manic Panic hair color – though refusing to purchase the color until I switched to bright purple because it would “set better” with my skin tone. Her debt on our behalf was immense. Trips to the mall, Ballet Folklórico costumes, prom dresses, dental work, college tuition. It all went on the charge card. I could not understand it all when I was young, and perhaps not until her death, did I realize that she was trying to pay the universe back for all of her prior indiscretions. Though in her heart it felt like her monetary debt was never quite able to match her life debt of past regrets.
Years passed and we grew up. Her painting style changed. Her work went from western landscapes and portraits to loose, impressionistic renditions of trees. The same tree. Over and over and over again. This was the first hint of the Alzheimer’s.
There were other signs, too. She began to sit and chat endlessly on the porch with the Jehovah Witnesses that came to convert her. Before the Alzheimer’s she couldn’t stand them, and wouldn’t hesitate to tell them so. Now she would either out-talk them, constantly repeating herself, or they would promptly leave when she asked them if they wanted their Tarot cards read. She would pay the neighbor kid ten bucks to wash her car, which he gladly did three times a week because she would forget that he had already washed it. When she could finally no longer paint, she would gather sticks and safety pins and arrange them in freakishly marvelous ways.
I named my daughter after her. They would share the same traits, both beautiful and artistic. Later, when my grandmother was deep into her hallucinated mind-wasting madness, my daughter would be the only person she would be able to recognize. Her long-haul trucker husband, her twin angels, and her namesake were at her side during her last days in this world. She was in a coma, nurtured slowly towards death by way of palliative Hospice care.
Liz and her great-granddaughter
I had a Jungian therapist who once told me that we are put on this earth to pay the debts of our grandparents. I feel the weight of this debt. Debt that has been demanding to be set right over the course of oh so many generations. I am left with the thought that we can never really resolve the debt to others; we can only build karmic debt within ourselves.
Mi abuela, Liz, passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s November 14, 2010.
Essay: Mi Abuela
When I was younger, I remember our long car-ride to my family’s ancestral city in a small, rural part of New Mexico. The roads got smaller, and my mind expanded, eager to carouse with my cousins, and taste the best homemade Mexican food in the little town: Sopaipillas, red chili, and fluffy tortillas. As my imagination roared, and undoubted innocence peered through my brown eyes, I could not yet grasp much of what I heard. But despite my youthful perspective, there’s one thing to this day I remember my mother telling me on that unending ride.“You were born the last of five living generations of incredible women,” she said; and I looked up at my four elders, in that house overflowing of family members. I looked up at those four women, seeing nothing less than incredible. Each and everyone of my grandmothers had an impact on my life, but the most significant, had to be my Great-Grandmother, Elizabeth. My grandma is the strongest, most beautiful, craziest, and artistic being I have every had in my life. There is nothing I loved more than spending time in her unique home, listening to her wacky stories, and walking back and forth down that pine-tree shaded street in East-L.A. Thinking back now, the single year between these memories with her, and when it all came crashing down, dragged on like an endless road. My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s got the best of her, and wacky stories transformed into slurred speech and frequent drives to the house that no longer felt like a home. That crushing experience transformed me as a person; but it also helped me realize so much about my family, and about myself.
Me with my great-grandmother and Jana the dog.
My grandmother was beautiful. A Latina Elizabeth Taylor. Photographs of her model days of 1959 hang in my home. Her dark curly hair just like mine, and radiant smile brighten the photo. “Liz” always incorporated her artistry with her fashion sense, never dressed down, and applied her exaggerated eyebrows and pink lipstick until she was well into her seventies. She never gave up. Her spirit would never wane. Married at sixteen, and divorced two years later, Liz set out to pursue a career in Hollywood. A woman known for always speaking her mind, never overlooking an adventure, and incorporating her eccentricities into her artwork — though I never knew her that way. As I grew older, the Alzheimer’s progressed, I came to recognize it was no longer just her aberrant nature. She started slowing down; forgetting my name, singing songs whose lyrics didn’t make sense. Our visits became more frequent, my mother tense, my Grandpa with a countenance of denial and confusion. I remember the throbbing in my head listening to the discussions while sitting on that over-worn bench on the front porch. They wrung their hands and held back tears as they debated her well-being. I sat there and just held my grandma’s hand, wanting it all to miraculously be better, but knowing that wasn’t an option.
A foreboding phone call gave me a glimpse at what was to come. I still hear the voice message my mom left me, her tone over-wrought, with her voice cracking at each syllable uttered. She needed to drive up to Los Angeles unexpectedly, my grandma had an accident. I was reassured that everything would be okay, but I knew it wasn’t. Staying at a friend’s house that evening, the night seemed to drag on endlessly, as I tossed in bed. Each turn bringing confusing thoughts and anxiety striking me in the heart. I stayed up late with endless thoughts for the worst, and anticipation of my mom’s hourly updates. Feeling lost and scared of what was happening, I questioned why I wasn’t there. She’d been hit by a car, my mom stuttered over the phone. It was concluded that she had wandered into the street in a state of dementia, her Alzheimer’s detrimental to her fate. She was admitted to a geriatric ICU for two-weeks and released with conditions set by the doctors. The doctor said she would be okay, but their home-life would not be the same. We knew my grandparents couldn’t live alone anymore. It wasn’t safe, unless someone was there with them. But complicating matters, my mother was not their legal guardian. Drives to their house became weekly. Stays at various hotels, and complicated conversations with family members became normal. Decisions were made by a long-absent daughter, and their home was cleared out. Grandpa would suffer a stroke as a result of the high-altitude they were hastily moved to. Eventually their recovery would lead them to a small board and care convalescent home in the backwoods of Roseville, California, five hundred miles away from their home. Grandma was pampered by the caretakers, and passed the time whistling on the couch and muttering about her days in the Wild West. They were settled in this seemingly safe place with alarms on the doors, and recently graduated nurses always on their feet, but they weren’t at home. We drove up as often as possible; sitting through quiet lunches of cheap steak and mixed emotions at the Sizzler up the road from their care facility. Tears welled up, but creased foreheads relaxed. I held my grandma’s hand as we all sat in comfortable silence. Despite the new environment, I still had Grandma, but apprehension ate at my soul, and thought about the future deep inside of me was only waiting to surface.
The first time my great-grandmother held me.
I don’t remember crying once. At the time, I didn’t feel the need to. The rush of it all came so suddenly, and I never took the time to realize it’s severity. If perfect existed, in my eyes, she was, and perfect could never disappear, could it? The doctor said she had blood clots in her brain. They’d formed when the car hit her, and remained inside of her untreated for all those weeks. When her body started slowing down, medical practitioners concluded it was fatal. Her speech started to come in a small whisper, like a coarse piece of sandpaper, until it stopped all together. Her eyes opened small and fluttered constantly, and then they were shut. It was one of those words heard on tasteless mini-series on television, but it never sounded as real as it did when it came out of my mother’s mouth. “…a coma,” she said. I ignored it, praying it wasn’t true. The cold waiting room chairs were my bed on those late nights at the hospital. My mom and her twin sister sat with my grandmother in the small room, but I didn’t want to see her, not in the state she was in. She wouldn’t look the same, and I didn’t want to lose the flawless image I had of her in my mind. A few days later, tests confirmed there was no coming back, no miracle recovery, and no breakthrough surgery. They moved her back into the convalescent care her and my grandpa knew as home, and she was placed into Hospice care. Ladies in white put her in a medical bed next to their old one, and placed a machine with strange tubes that made soft, synchronized beeping noises. That’s when I finally went to see her. She was barely there. Her usually olive-colored New-Mexican skin was pale, and her eyes were shut. Her overworked, delicate hand of 79 years was in my mother’s. My grandma lay in peace as a priest came and said her “Last Rights.” He placed a small beaded crucifix in her left hand. She was quiet in her never-ending sleep, but she still held on. My mom and my aunt, two of my elders sat next to me, and she, my fourth laid there breathing crudely. “We all love you, Grandma. Your family is here, and we love you.” My mother whispered with wet eyes. “You can let go.”
Our hands. We used to dig for treasures in her junk-filled room.
On November 14th, 2010, my grandmother lost her battle with Alzheimer’s. There wasn’t much left of her. Her eccentric home in East L.A. was emptied of its capricious nick-knacks, and what little was brought to Roseville was dispersed among family members. With me, she left a gaudy box of 1950’s costume jewelry, a small vibrant-colored painting, as well as the backbone, dauntlessness, elegance, and modesty that had taken her so far in life. It took my grandmother’s passing for me to realize the inheritance she’d truly left with me. It had taken 12 months of undeniable struggle, and everlasting grief for me to understand. Now, with almost a year since her passing, I regret not spending that moment to tell her how much she meant to me. I can only wish to go back and explain to her that she was this undefined perfection that has made me the person I am. From this experience, I have learned the importance of family, the significance of life, and how easily it can be taken away, and I have come into touch with the person I am and the person I want to be. Now, in a world of billions, in a small town, and in a tight family of incredible women, I have decided to live the legacy my great-grandmother did, and to strive to be all that she was and more.
Sept 18 2011
Reading in Public will be at the Central Coast Book and Author Festival Sunday September 18th from 9am to 4pm.
The Reading Chair will be at the Mission Steps with many festival authors reading from their favorite books.
april 21 2011
To help us get the word out about San Louie’s kickstarter campaign, we are hosting a KISSING BOOTH tonight at Farmer’s!
San Luis Art Supply is co-hosting with us and Neal has volunteered to be one of the featured kissers.
Thursday April 21, 2011
1116 Morro Street, SLO
Send us a virtual kiss and pre-order your Happy Issue at our kickstarter page:
april 10 2011
San Louie is reaching out to the the local blogging community: we’d like to ask your help in getting the word out about our Kickstarter fundraiser.
Last November author Dan Buettner announced that San Luis Obispo–along with Denmark and Singapore–was one of the happiest places on the planet. While Oprah raced a film crew down to our sleepy metropolis to discover the source of our alleged happiness, we were left wondering: Isn’t that a little simplistic? And how do you even begin to measure happiness? So, with Issue 4, San Louie is taking on happy.
If you are a fan of provocateurs, a supporter of lost causes (which some say print as a media is–but we refuse to succumb to such cynicism), a believer in creative minds that spin visions that we can’t always afford to realize, please jump on the San Louie bandwagon. We’re attempting to fund the printing of Issue 4 through a collaboration with Kickstarter.com, at
Anyone can contribute, even if the contribution is simply hitting our Facebook Like button on Kickstarter (the button is located right below the video). Or passing this email along. We’ve always had a healthy amount of interest from non-natives, and in fact the first two pledges on Kickstarter are from people who don’t live here. Our MagCloud editions are sold at cost (to keep the price affordable), and who knew people in Alabama and New York would pay $10 for a little magazine that’s all about the Central Coast of California?
feb 16 2011
From the publication that brought you superheroes and animalia — that has made you laugh, weep, and scratch your head with wide-eyed wonder — we now present a meditation on borders and beans. Two things that have nothing in common, except for the things that they do hold in common, which is actually quite a lot.
What you learn will likely surprise you, will definitely entertain, and hopefully shed new light on the seemingly mundane.
San Louie Issue No. 3 Launch party.
Pick up a copy of Borders & Beans, our third issue, and get some piping hot bean soup.* However, the only way to get your bean soup is to come packing a small bowl or coffee mug — the non-disposable kind — and a spoon.
(*Soup will be served until we run out)
Thursday, February 17 · 6:00pm – 8:00pm
1804 Osos St.
San Luis Obispo, CA
Where to buy:
San Louie in San Luis Obispo
1804 Osos Street
785 Marsh Street
778 Higuera St # E
1335 Walker Street
San Luis Art Supply
1116 Morro Street
Off the interwebs:
(available after Feb. 20)
Because small towns cater to big minds.
July 21 2010
The magazine that sounds like your robust old uncle but reads like Shakespeare.
June 12 2010
|| New (ad)Venture in the Works ||
Our little collective is busy working on a new adventure:
San Louie is the magazine for people in the know. It's a quarterly publication which will be available both in print and online, created by San Luis Obispo residents who are invested in their community and its cultural well-being. It's for people who love to read but also appreciate the respite of a provocative illustration or beautifully rendered map. San Louie explores the cultural, artistic and scientific goings-on relevant to San Luis Obispo while paying homage to its rich past. We respect our readers and hold dear the belief that small towns cater to big minds.
Having said what we are and aspire to in no way precludes other topics or subjects of interest. We grow and change as San Luis Obispo does. And because we're online we're available to kindred spirits across the map, people who appreciate words and whimsy, clever and instructive criticisms and commentaries, and the occasional work of fiction.
april 22 2010
“There was a time when words mattered, when the effort to get something onto a page made writing less casual. Those were the days!”
– Bruce S.
txt msg (805) 628-2283
These folks already have:
Marian Bantjes (http://bantjes.com)
Kate Bingaman-Burt (http://obsessiveconsumption.com/)
Jorge Colombo (http://jorgecolombo.com)
Birds & Batteries (http://birdsandbatteries.com)
Paulo Coelho (http://paulocoelho.com/)
Marilyn Johnson (http://www.thisbookisoverdue.com)
Michele Serros (http://muchamichele.com/)
David Shields (http://davidshields.com/)
Max Silvestri (http://www.maxsilvestri.com/)
George Oates/Flickr (http://george08.blogspot.com/)
Paul Frommer, creator of the Na'vi language for Avatar
March 31 2010
Can we adore author Michele Serros any more than we already do?
|| GO SEE ||
Read her opening line for RIP's Typing In Public event:
march 24 2010
Typing in Public's latest opening line from author Marilyn Johnson
Stay posted to http://thereadinginpublicproject.blogspot.com for more author updates. (hint: We are 'Whip'ing things into shape)
march 22 2010
We're asking for contributions from various writers and were just blown away when Paul Frommer, creator of the Na'vi language for the movie Avatar, gave us our truly amazing first entry written just for Typing In Public. We have one sentence from Paul, written in Na'vi , which members of the public can build upon.
The Na'vi sentence will be posted in its entirety on Monday, May 3rd here and on readinginpublic, on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.
We'll provide the translation on Friday, May 14th.
Typing In Public in San Luis Obispo will begin at 8am on Saturday May 15th in San Luis Obispo, California, and we will be collecting Twitter contributions.
Keep checking back! We'll post our contributions as we get them.
march 21 2010
|| Brought to you by the letter “T” ||
This year, our focus is a little different: not only are we paying homage to the printed word but we’re also honoring an obsolete and much-venerated tool of the industry, the typewriter. We’ve traded ideas with the city of Chico to bring you the SLO(wer) version of Reading In Public– Typing! in Public. In 2010 RIP will have a typographic twist.
On Saturday, May 15, 2010, volunteers paired with typewriters will be stationed at various locations in the city of San Luis Obispo. Anyone is allowed to sit and type for 10-15 minutes (we’ll have timers). It can be something you’ve composed or something you’ve read (with attribution).
|| CHECK BACK SOON ||
Be sure to check back for our big announcement for how we plan on inspiring you to type. (It will be out of this world!)
|| GO SEE ||
San Luis Obispo Locations so far:
Sally Loo’s Cafe
|| DETAILS DETAILS DETAILS ||
With your first sentence, you’ll be asked to creatively link your contribution to the author immediately preceding you, in whatever fashion you like. You can build on what’s been written or simply acknowledge that person’s last typed word. At the end of the day we’ll be collecting all the compositions for a public reading* at Sally Loo’s Cafe, and because you’ve taken the time to acknowledge the work of the person before you, it will all read as one narrative.
That narrative may be a little choppy and scrambled but we promise you this: it will be heavy on FUN. So come join us at Sally Loo’s (that’s Sally below)! Readings will begin promptly at 6:00 and if you’re late you may be called on to read :) Come on out and meet the Reading Chair, specifically designed and created in 2009 by Chris Allen of cwastudios.com for the very first Reading In Public San Luis Obispo.
(*Readings will be juried. Not all entries will be read in public or used for the installation. Readers are not allowed to read their own work)
|| VISUALS ||
Follow us on Flickr! We’ll be posting lots of images in the days to come.
|| JOIN US ||
We are looking for volunteers too. (You can also join our mailing list here too)
march 13 2010
|| SIGN UP ||
Like to type?
Play the ukulele?
Curious what we are up to?
Tell us about it:
march 2 2010
Planning for event #4 now underway
|| Typesters Needed ||
We are looking for booksters, type wranglers and enthusiasts willing to volunteer 3 hours of their time on Saturday, May 15th.
We’ll have two shifts, 9-12 and 12-3 in various downtown locations. Watch for our announcement soon!
Please drop us a note to: info [at] readinginpublic [dot] com if you’d like to be involved.
|| Intern Wanted ||
Do you like to take photos? Looking for an internship? RIP is looking for a photo geek to snap some quality photos for the upcoming RIP #4 event. Interns of course receive photographers credit, a bio on our web site and the opportunity to work with a fun group of people.
Interested? email us the following to: info [at] readinginpublic [dot] com
– a short note about yourself,
– the title of your favorite book,
– a sample image of your work
– and your contact info and link to your web site if you have one
http://readinginpublic.com for more information
march 1 2010
Thank you Sally Loo’s Cafe for becoming a friend and sponsor for our upcoming Reading in Public event (with a typographic twist!)
|| GO SEE ||
Sally Loo’s Cafe
1804 Osos St. San Luis Obispo, CA
feb 28 2010
|| In the Works ||
We are busy behind the scenes crafting the details for our RIP IV project. It is going to be type-tastic!
|| GO SEE ||
Reading in Public is on Facebook:
You can also find us on our web page
and on twitter
Library! is at the Sanitarium in SLO
The Sanitarium, 1716 Osos Street in San Luis Obispo, California
feb 9 2010
Super fantastic bakesale to help two super fantastic writers
|| Help Us Help Them ||
A bunch of us writers, artists, debaters, raconteurs, provocateurs, designers, cooks, volunteers, visionaries, and all around creative types are collaborating to help two Salon literatos: Writer, editor,King Kaufman — who is recovering from Guillain-Barr syndrome and writer Cary Tennis who is recovering from cancer surgery.
|| Go See ||
Yes, it does in fact involve baked goods, but also first edition books, art, and little bits to adorn your neck. Fabulous creations will be auctioned off and the proceeds will help King and Cary.
The eBay auction is set to start Tuesday, Feb. 9th.
jan 25 2010
Reading In Public is featured in Issue 4 of Uppercase Magazine!
|| SNEAK peek here || http://www.uppercasegallery.ca/uppercase-journal/2010/1/25/preview-the-entire-issue.html
RIP interviewed designer/photographer Paul Octavious along with his mom Agatha.
|| MORE on Paul || http://www.pauloctavious.com/
|| SUBSCRIBE here || http://shop.uppercasegallery.ca/collections/uppercase-magazine
Thank you Uppercase and Paul!
jan 15 2010
Library! is happy to announce an extended engagement at ARTS Space Obispo in Downtown San Luis Obispo.
|| GO SEE ||
ARTS Space Obispo
570 Higuera St, Suite 165
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Open for check out until
February 12, 2010!
|| MORE FUN ||
Borrow a piece during HEARTS Obispo 4
ARTS Space Obispo
Fri., Feb. 5,
6 – 9 PM
Art After Dark
jan 5 2010
Almost all done installing the traveling Library!
Be sure to use our disposable camera and snap your photo when you visit!
(note: Cutest and coolest little globe designed by Mignon Khargie)
jan 4 2010
|| Go See ||
Reading in Public’s second project will be traveling to ARTS Space Obispo!
L I B R A R Y !
ARTS Space Obispo
Jan. 4-15, 2010
SLO Creamery, #165
(10am – 4pm)
Thank you to our featured artists Kris Garland and Linda Wald.
Dec 11 2009
Hey all you booksters! Library! will be at Arts Space Obispo in January 2010.
Read more about it in our press release.*
|| Go See ||
Library! will be traveling to:
Arts Space Obispo
Jan. 4-15, 2010
SLO Creamery, #165
(10am – 4pm)
nov 9 2009
|| COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT ||
Take a peek at what is coming our way from Kris Garland (aka Rakka) — a zippy sketchbook filled with bits to inspire.
|| GO SEE ||