I was fortunate to return to one of my old neighborhoods. I resided briefly in Highland Park on Avenue 57 in my late 20s with a girlfriend and her daughter. It was the first house I ever owned. The place overlooked Franklin High School (I’ve spoken there since then). This time, on October 27, I was at a youth center in the day speaking to middle and high school aged youth. I also read poetry later that evening at the Arroyo Seco Regional Library as part of the “Word Thirst” readings, organized by my friend Rafael Alvarado and Erika Montenegro. We had a large audience that included youth from the local community as well as students from El Monte, CA. Also reading were young poets Erika Ayon and Xochitl-Julisa Berme, who rocked the house. I was able to hang with a couple of old friends as well. The next day, I was a panelist for a celebration of Latino Heritage Month at the LA Times Chandler Auditorium. Hundreds of students from various LA-area schools were in attendance to honor winners of a creative writing contest. Fellow panelists included my old friend Abel Salas, of Brooklyn & Boyle magazine (and gallery) as well as Jose Mayorquin of ABC-TV, Roaldo Moran of Hoy Pulications, and Sandra Alvidrez of Hoy Publications. Fellow poet Francisco Letelier read poetry. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presented the awards. The next week I spoke to 1,000 people at various class and community events sponsored by Evergreen University in Olympia, CA and their Tacoma campus. I was also on the air on Radio Kaos and did the keynote address at a regional National Association of Chicano Studies gathering in western Washington. I also did writing workshops and talks at two juvenile detention facilities through the Gateways Program. Thanks to Tony Zaragoza and the staff and students who helped make this possible. The week after that—from November 4 to 6—my 21-year-old son Ruben accompanied me on a five-hour drive (that's just one way) to the Monterey Bay area. We had a great time and the weather was amazing. Although the rental car broke down, forcing us to lose two hours by the time we got tolled and into a new rental, I made my talking event at California State University, Monterey Bay (which used to be Fort Ord). An audience of around 300 were in attendance. The next day I spoke at El Sausal Middle School in Salinas, CA to several hundred students, and later that evening to hundreds of community people. High School students from Berkeley High School also made a special trip to be there. The topic was how to increase the peace (the Salinas area has seen a rise in gang violence over the years). It was an enthusiastic and rousing time. We stayed at a nice hotel overlooking the Monterey Bay with waves crashing below us. And the ride back was casual and without any problems--it was great to spend this time with Ruben. The past week ended with the whole family going to Chandler Middle School to watch my 13-year-old granddaughter, Catalina, perform in the school production of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” I was amazed, as always, at Catalina’s outstanding work (she even sang—something I didn’t know she did). The other students also did a great job, and I congratulate them all. But, like the biased Grandfather I am, I thought Catalina was outstanding. In another week, I’ll be speaking at Santa Cruz, CA. And by November 25, my wife Trini and I will be in Guadalajara to take part in the International Book Fair there that includes the honoring of the City of Los Angeles. Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural will have a display of two lowrider cars—the famed “Orgullo Mexicano” and “Twilight Zone”—as well as two lowrider bikes. Trini and I will also be there selling hundreds of Tia Chucha Press books. And I’ll be on various panels and readings during my time there. I’ll provide daily reports when we get to Mexico. c/s
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