The Road to Renewal and Strength

My family and I have finally returned from our travels to Arizona. We drove into San Fernando late on Sunday evening, after a 12-hour drive from the Navajo Reservation.

To recap, we left ten days ago in our minivan to the Arizona/Mexico border, south of Tucson. I talked for around three hours to some 50 wonderful student teachers in Sierra Vista – near the Mexican border – as part of a University of Arizona program to help orient incoming teachers on the culture, values, and interests of Mexican/Chicano and other Latino students. I also read to faculty, administrators, and other students in the afternoon. I thank Cynthia McDermott and her staff or arranging these events – and for the great hospitality.

One concept I brought to their attention was Nemachtilli – the Nahuatl (Aztec/Mexika language) word for “learning.” But more is involved. It’s the unity of the spirit of learning (feminine energy) and the spirit of teaching (masculine energy), which are vital if any learning or teaching is to be going on. The link between these two sides of Nemachtilli is imagination and creativity. One of the results of a totally engaging teaching-and-learning experience is healing – for the psyche and soul from trauma, confusion, and even “cultural” brainwashing.

I brought up the same concept to Tucson Unified School teachers at a conference sponsored by the University of Arizona Raza Studies Department (Augustine Romero, head of the Raza Studies Department, hosted my stay and made sure I had a receptive group to address). Before hitting Tucson, the family first went to Bisbee for a day and evening. I was always intrigued by the town after once participating in the now-defunct Bisbee Poetry Festival many years ago. We stayed at the “officially” haunted Copper Queen Hotel (paranormal experts have cited 13 entities there). We also did the Queen Copper Mine tour, and walks around the artists/writers/hippie community that emerged after the mines closed around 1975.

In Tucson, I spent a day with the teachers – around 80 or so. I did the morning keynote talk and conducted two breakout sessions after lunch. Again, I had a wonderful response, including fantastic Q&A periods. Of course, I talked about new ideas around teaching, around mentoring, around creating community, and making sure all children are actively engaged in learning their whole lives (something that the present educational system fails to do with most students).

From there, the family piled into the minivan and drove the nine hours to Lukachukai, below the Chuskas Mountains on the Navajo rez near the New Mexican border. We came to visit Anthony Lee – the Navajo Road Man and Elder – who adopted my wife Trini many years ago (and consequently the whole family). We’ve been coming for ceremonies here ever since (I first came in 1997; Trini was adopted in 1999).

The whole Lee family (his wife Delores and their six children) have been wonderful toward us. They have become more “family” than my own family (who, of course, I love, although we are not close spiritually or politically). With lots of hard work, time, and energy, we prepared for another all-night prayer meeting. Many of our friends on the rez attended – in particularly John C. Smith and Floyd Begay. Much sacrifice, prayers, songs, and intense inner conflict comes with the ceremony. It’s always hard for me, but I know when it’s over, I need it. I come in broken, stressed, angry, and I come out awakened, pulled together, balanced, and renewed.

With ongoing sweat ceremonies near our home in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, and the cultural work centered around Tia Chucha’s Café & Centro Cultural we try to maintain the blessings and protections from the prayer meetings, so many miles away from the rez.

We came home safely – my son Ruben read two Harry Potter books, the latest big ones, and Little Luis read about four of the earlier ones. I came home to 800 emails and tons of regular mail. But I’m back into the blessing / protection way. I’m back to being whole for the often painful conflicts, battles, and work ahead. Tlazhokamati (thank you in Nahuatl) to all who helped along the way.
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Arizona, Sun and Big Ideas

On Friday, July 22, I gathered part of my family -- my wife Trini and my two youngest boys, Ruben and Luis -- for a trip to Arizona. My daughter Andrea and my granddaughter Catalina stayed at home (Andrea had to work and continue her Mission College classes). The plan was to go to Sierra Vista, Arizona, near the US-Mexico border (and where Minutemen have held recent vigils against the undocumented), then to Tucson and finally to the Navajo Reservation (where we've tried to go at least once a year for ceremonies with our adopted family of elder/road man Anthony Lee).

It was around a nine-hour ride to Sierra Vista, including through sweltering Phoenix, which hit record highs that week (around 18 people, mostly homeless and elderly, had died). I was invited by the University of Arizona South to speak to 50 teachers-to-be (mostly Latino) for about three hours. I brought copies of my nine published books to show the group. The area around Sierra Vista had been drenched with rain from the night before. The temperatures were moderate and pleasant.

At my talk, I started out with my story about growing up as an immigrant Mexican child in South Central LA and then the East LA area. How I got involved in crime from age 7 (stealing). How I eventually joined a gang at 11, got into drugs at 12, and was in and out of jails and juvenile facilities until I was 19. But I also talked about why and how I changed my life. How I found art (painting and writing), help (mentoring), a cause (the revolutionary working class wing of the Chicano Movement), a spiritual path (eventually indigenous spiritual practices), and learning to own one's life (after I had turned my life over to a gang and to drugs, including heroin).

I also discussed how there are four major openings in the life of a person where major changes can occur -- where doors open and possibilities can be born. While change is constant and can occur anytime, these four thresholds are common among all humans.

The first is the infant developmental period from birth to around age three. Love, nurturing, holding, attention are critical if a child is to properly develop their emotions, their psyche, their being. The next opening is the pre-pubescent, when the hormones begin to kick in and a child may appear crazy. Gangs usually recruit around this time (ages 10 to 12, more or less).

The next opening is from the late teens to early twenties. This is generally the age when gang youth mature out of the gangs. This is when "school is out" and a life must be imagined and perhaps started. This is why charging youth as adults is ridiculous -- there is still room to teach, to grow, to guide. The brain is still malleable (around the mid-twenties it finally sets itself). While many miss the changes necessary for this period, most people make their major life-changing decisions then.

Again, while changes can occur at any time, the next big opening does not happen until someone is in their 40s. I have seen this even in prison. I've known guys who were incarcerated in their youth, who didn't go through the opening of their late teens and early twenties, some who had murdered and done terrible crimes. Yet in their forties, they become gentle, wise, artistic, calm.

Of course, there are people for whatever circumstances who fail to go through any of the openings for change even beyond their 40s. But in general this is the developmental doorways that should guide our work with infants, children, youth, and adults, particularly with the most troubled and troubling people.

I'll go into the rest of my talk the next time I visit this blog space -- with more on our visit to this wonderful, varied, and immensely mysterious place, Arizona.
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A Hand-Made Life

Julie Cameron called it "A Hand-Made Life." The artist's way. Where one's own energies, imaginations, hands, and heart can shape a life and a world. On Saturday, June 25, I was privileged to have two artbooks -- paper made from my old T-shirts, designed and letter pressed by hand -- presented at Tia Chucha's Cafe Cultural by the artists, Sher Zabaszkiewicz and Matt Cohen. Sher and Matt worked diligently for months on end with seven new poems in a book they called "Seven," and two poems about my wife Trini, and my mother Maria Estela, called "Two Women" (a Spanish version was also done called "Dos Mujeres"). They only did a limited number of the books, hand-bound, hand numbered and signed by me. Several limited edition broadsides of the poems were also created and displayed.

At the presentation, Sher and Matt described the amazing process of creating books from scratch, taught at an Art Book Making class at the University of California, Santa Barbara by Harry Reese (who graciously showed up -- along with members of Sher's family and Matt's family). I was honored they wanted to do my poems in this manner -- the end result was truly emotional, to see these poems so lovingly rendered, just as they were lovingly written.

Using imagery from Aztec codices, and printed using polymer plates and linoleum cuts, they also used my own handwriting for the covers of "Seven," "Two Women" and "Dos Mujeres."

Thank you Sher and Matt. These will remain priceless to me. We will also be selling the books and broadsides at Tia Chucha's and other outlets for those interested in collecting such masterworks of hand-made books. So true to a hand-made life.
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A Red Alert in Chiapas; A Red Alert for Everyone

Recently, I've received tons of emails about the Red Alert in Chiapas, initiated by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). They are apparently moving into a strategic defensive mode, closing down radio stations, community centers, and “good government” operations in various Mayan communities. Many of their leaders have removed themselves to the jungle. The last time such an alert occurred was after the massacre of 45 Mayan villagers, including children, by paramilitary groups, sanctioned by the state and military, in 1995. The recent alert comes after moves by the military in the area, including alleged discovery of marijuana plants that may be a ruse to attack the liberated zones.

I’m not going to second-guess the basis for this alert. Suffice it to say, the world should pay attention and act in face of a possible military intervention. EZLN is not preparing a military offensive. They are trying to safeguard their core organizational structures, even at the risk of losing much ground built up over 11 years among the Maya. Everyone should keep an eye on what’s going on in the area and the Mexican government’s often insidious plans there.

As a Chicano, a revolutionary, and a poet/artist, I too stand in alert – always – to the real dangers facing poor and working class communities in their honest struggle for peace, bread, and justice, even in the United States. To me, the dangers of globalization – capitalism in the age of electronics – is rapidly sweeping away many sovereign communities with a big broom, often bringing death and destruction to hot spots in the Mideast, Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia, while removing rights and civil liberties at home.

Markets are becoming the key economic entities, not nations. Borders are being pushed aside. Even in Europe, with the European Union apparatus lording over the diverse national governments, clashes between the old nation-states and the new market state are most evident – the vote against the EU proposed constitution in France and Holland and England scrapping their vote altogether are expressions of this.

Big corporations are reconfiguring what we think of as “government” – including in the United States. Here we’re becoming largely a military machine in the world and a police state at home. Social programming, treatment, jobs, housing, health care, and such are being constantly pushed onto private hands – foundations, charities, churches, and community groups.

Our tax dollars are being used as if they were an ATM machine for defense, prisons, and law enforcement. In 2003, the US Federal Budget included $396 billion to the military, the largest expenditure in the budget. The rest of the budget, including for health care, education, higher education, environment, science & space, housing, international affairs, humanitarian foreign aid, general government, transportation, community development, and veterans benefits, amounted to $367 billion.

The part of the budget dedicated to death is greater than the total sum of all the expenditures that have to do with life.

The Red Alert I’m talking considering in this country is not about terrorism – which is a reality in our world. It’s more about our part in making this terrorism possible, and this government’s response in supposedly dealing with it. We make the disease, we also make the cure. Both will probably kill us.
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Unwanted Lives, Unwanted Stories

The “Music of the Mill” book tour proved to be a success – within the realities of tight book sales and the difficulties of garnering media and public attention in light of the thousands of books that fill bookshelves every year. The most vital aspect of the tour was the audiences who came to my readings – highly aware, astute and wonderfully argumentative. The readings became town hall meetings, engaged conversations about industry, destiny, power, powerlessness, scarcity, abundance, and the process and direction of social change. While a novel doesn’t seem to be a likely catalyst for such dialogue, Music of the Mill is not your average run-of-the-mill (no pun intended) novel. My next bookstore event is at Vroman's on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena on June 5 at 4 PM.

The shift from mechanical industry to digital/electronic technology over the past 30 years has been momentous on a global and historical scale. Through the prism of three generations of a Mexicano/Chicano family in Los Angeles, these shifts find their dramatic pulse in the novel. I thank everyone who took the time to participate with their own stories, their own wisdoms, their ideas.

I barely got a day to breath at home after my two weeks on the road – and after an amazing assembly with hundreds of students at Venice High School – when I hopped on a plane to Washington DC to spend a couple of days with several middle-school students at Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston, VA, part of the “Story Circle Project” run by Leila Gordon and the Reston Community Center. I spent three hours each day watching and helping the immigrant youth transform their remarkable stories of passage, discrimination, sorrow, and triumph into stage readings and tableaus for a June 5 community presentation. The youth came from Egypt, Peru, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, China (adopted by an American family), Bolivia (she was also half-Polish), Lebanon, and from Sierra Leone/Africa.

These young people were endearing and brave. I became in awe of their spirit, their energy, their commitment. I wish them the best in this and any other performances/work they attempt to do. They are the world story of today.

The day after my return home, I then drove with Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural’s Coordinator, Mike Centeno, a young film maker and youth organizer, to the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation’s “Voices of Youth, Voices of Community” conference in the Malibu Hills. Co-sponsored by Homeboy Industries, Shade Tree Mentoring, Chicago’s Youth Struggling for Survival, Youth Opportunity Movement, Youth Mentoring Connection, and Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural, among others, we started with almost three days of work with youth mentors and leaders from around the country that utilized poetry, story, song, drumming, and intense talk to open up the heart and move the imagination to the possibilities of youth work based on language, story, and voice.

Then youth from Watts, Boyle Heights/East LA, South Central LA, San Fernando Valley, Chicago, Seattle, Pomona, San Francisco Bay Area, Culver City, Sudan, and other areas came for another three days of stories and poetic expression, culminating in a “Voices of Youth Celebration” at Mount Saint Mary’s College in LA. It was difficult to get the youth to slow down, pay attention, write and tell their most compelling, even if dark, stories, which would then be read to a community audience made up of their mentors, teachers, friends, and parents.

But we persisted, and the youth came through.

Michael Meade, Orland Bishop, and myself facilitated the work with little time or detailed organization. But in the end, the young people – ages 11 to 31 – came together like they always seem to do. The Community Celebration at Mount Saint Mary’s College brought close to 200 people. In the presentation, we incorporated break dancing and capoeira (thanks to Tanee, Check-It, and Chris of Youth Struggling for Survival), a Sudanese welcoming song (thanks to Santino Moses), spoken word (with Jacinda of Chicago’s Kuumba Lynx and Cristina of Pomona), music (drumming by Etai and Michael, saxophone by Jakob, and guitar with my son, Ruben), and welcoming words by Michael, Orland, and myself. The 50-plus youth rounded out the event with their most amazing words – many written just a day or two before they read.

It was a great time for all – but moreover, a time to see our young people anew, although troubled, uncertain, raging, and hurting, yet with beauty, ideas, skills, dreams, and intense truths. I was honored to be part of this crucial and necessary work. In the coming weeks, I have more schools and classes to visit. This celebration will carry me through these and more. The students' lives are largely unsung, unwanted, and pushed aside – as are their stories. But here’s the kicker – they are the keys to direction, meaning and purpose for all of us.
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Moving On with "Music of the Mill"

On May 16, I ended my seven-city promotional tour for “Music of the Mill” in San Francisco (although Pasadena’s Vroman Books will have me on June 5). I had a fantastic hour-long interview on KLAW. Then at Borders Books on Mission Bay (across from the SBC Park/Giants Staduim), some 30 people showed – including a few friends and many who came because of the radio shows I’d done in the Bay Area. Again, the discussion around industry, the economic shifts in technology, the closing of major plants and mills, and the impact this has had on our communities and our futures was deep and lively.

I will, of course, continue to promote this book in my on-going talks, readings and events for a long time to come (I’m gone from 80 to 100 days a year). It’s an important book that I hope will have a long shelf life.

The next day – as many already know – the city of Los Angeles elected a Chicano mayor – Antonio Villaragoisa – with close to 60 percent of the vote. This is historical but also challenging for Antonio as well as the whole city. Los Angeles must look toward the future, its elegantly mixed populace, and imaginative and inclusive ways to cooperate, share, learn, and act in the interests of all the people in an unprecedented world city.

I hope to work with Antonio on major key issues – most notably in the arts (LA can lead the nation as a pristine example of what an arts agenda can do to transform blight to beauty and deep divisions to unifying creative endeavors), but also around gangs and violence. There are amazing peace and healing efforts throughout the city that have been minimized, without proper funding, and often pushed aside. Most of the money around gangs and violence is in law enforcement and prisons. While there’s a place for police in any workable package for community peace, much more has to be done on the front end of the problem – with schools, healthcare, decent recreation, creative options, and meaningful work.

One man can’t do this alone. One man’s leadership, however, can galvanize the energy, vision, and social forces already in place to transform and transcend the deep and ongoing problems plaguing the country’s second largest city.

Tonight, Tia Chucha’s hosts a special reading of Frank Del Olmo’s book “Commentaries on his Time.” Frank past away last year – far too soon. He was an LA Times reporter and editorial board member and one who would go out of his way to help others in his field. I was one of those, many years ago, struggling as a young journalist. People like Del Olmo, Frank Sotomayor, and others would make sure the doors they helped open in U.S. journalism would stay open long enough to bring in new talent and ideas. Frank Del Olmo was always open to me on ideas. Once in the early 1980s, when I brought activists from Juchitan, Oaxaca who had taken over city halls and farmlands with Zapoteca Indian villagers, he set up a special editorial board meeting to hear from them and share knowledge of the growing Mexican indigenous movement for land, dignity, and life. I thank Frank Del Olmo’s wife, Magdalena, and the LA Times for making this event possible. Please come to Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural at 7:30 PM. Frank Del Olmo is someone who must not be forgotten. This book is a great way for his example to be taught to as many as possible – particularly young people looking to grab a thread of life they can follow.
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More than Meets the Eye

Today I’m in San Francisco, in the heart of the city, the day beautiful and warm, thinking of the strong audiences I’ve had so far for “Music of the Mill.” Many old friends (and many new ones) showed up to my Chicago reading on May 13 at Barbara’s Bookstore on Halsted Street. I especially appreciate Father Bruce’s efforts to constantly bring youth from Casa Chavez in Racine, Wisconsin to my Chicago events – he was there with a respectful crew of young people. There was a wonderful discussion about the issues and ideas in the book, and how fiction can often tell the most poignant truths – if done well. I also had radio interviews on WBBM and WRTE (in the Pilsen barrio – a young radio personality, Silvia Rivera, there had some of the most insightful questions of any interviewer so far), and with my friend, the journalist Elbio Rodriguez from La Raza newspaper's new cultural section.

On May 14, I got up early to catch a long plane ride from Chicago to San Fran – with two radio interviews as soon as I departed the plane. Later that evening I had dinner with my friend Juliana Mojica, her daughter Alejandra, and granddaughter Mireya. We ended up in a great Yucateco restaurant on Valencia in the Mission. I attended a reading in honor of the important Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton (where my friends Jack Hirschman, Margot Pepper, Alfonso Teixador, Abache, Alejandro Murguia, and others) read or attended at the Cachi Art Studio. Then I got to check out a couple of bands at the 12 Galaxies night club such as Castles in Spain and a well-loved San Pancho original group, Oriza. This helps me find out who’s who and what’s what for possible future engagements at Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural – we’re expecting amazing music, poetry, author signings, theater, and more to grace our stage this summer.

So you know, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural – the not-for-profit sister organization to the café/bookstore – has received a grant from the LA Cultural Affairs Department to host a music/art/poetry/theater festival this fall called “Celebrating the Word – Spoken, Performed and Sung.” We hope it becomes an annual event. For more information, check out our website later in the year at

Also – Tia Chucha Press, my 16-year-old poetry press, is now publishing out of LA. Our first LA-based book is now out: “My Sweet Unconditional” by ariel robello. A national release party is slated for June 4 at 7 PM. Spread the word.

And while I’m my tour, I’m well aware of the ongoing anti-Mexican/Central American immigrant efforts that have brought Minutemen to the Arizona border (and a misguided invitation by Gov. Swarzenegger to have them come to the California-Mexico border), national anti-inmigrant gang efforts aimed at Mara Salvatrucha (labeled “terrorists,” the latest ploy to detract from the economic crises in the country and the folly of war that continues to kill with no sane or reasonable direction), and the small resurgence of Save Our State (a racist mostly white group), who came to protest a mural in Baldwin Park, CA that they claim was touting the turning over of the Southwest US to Mexico (nothing of the sort was being advocated in the mural). The counter-protesters were 10 to 1 in size, but as my friend Mark Vallen says, this was not just about racism and ant-immigrant policies – it’s also about censorship of city-sanctioned art.

One SOS leader apparently smirked his way through the protest, smugly claiming the counter-protesters were getting his message out – apparently that Americans will not tolerate what the mural is apparently NOT saying (except in his literal, narrow-minded mind}. He doesn’t realize that SOS is also galvanizing a significant section of Mexican and Central American (and other) youth – like ex-Governor Pete Wilson did when Proposition 187 ended up on the state ballot. Thousands of young people marched and demonstrated against the proposition in the 1980s – with many becoming politically and socially active (the proposition won, but was later declared unconstitutional). Waking up from any complacency is vital today. I honor these youth – the racist arrogance of SOS will only get the opposite result (by the way, Pete Wilson has been unable to maintain a viable political life after his Proposition 187 debacle).

And the road goes on…
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Notes from the Road: "Music of the Mill"

Well, my friends, I’m in Chicago today for a reading at Barbara’s Bookstore near the University of Illinois, Chicago. I’ve already had one radio interview, with another radio show set for today and a Spanish-language newspaper interview. At the Tattered Cover Bookstore reading in Denver, several people who had worked in the Pueblo, CO steel mill, or had family in it, came. They related to my story in “Music of the Mill” about an LA steel mill. They understood the impact of these jobs on their lives and communities, but also when the mills close down and the jobs are no longer there. Several young people showed up who had read “Always Running,” my 1993 memoir of gang life; a few came with their teachers. Again I love their stories of how they wouldn’t read any book until “Always Running,” eventually opening up the possibilities inherent in all books.

Houston came next – and this turned out to be fantastic. Tony Diaz and his crew at Nuestra Palabra, a radio show on KPFT as well as a literary showcase for poets, rappers, storytellers and more, organized a wonderful event at the Multicultural Education/Counseling for the Arts Center on Kane Street. More than 100 people showed up. Several wonderful young poets read before me, a great way to start any presentation.

I also did two presentations at Milby High School in the barrio, to students and later teachers. TV affiliates Fox, ABC and Univision showed up, as well as a Houston Chronicle newspaper reporter; they included individual interviews of myself, students and teachers. I was also on Dean Dalton’s KUHF-FM radio show and an AM business radio show (also broadcast in Dallas) that turned out great. Another interview by a Bravo Houston newspaper writer, and a radio show with Nuestra Palabra on KPFT – that included a talk with Isabel Allende by phone on her new book “Zorro” – made for one of the best media events of any city.

I’m particularly pleased with the attendances of my readings so far – from 30 to 200 people. It’s hard to get people to come out for readings unless you’re one of the “celebrity” writers. I don’t have any issue with these writers – all power to them. But what’s cool for me is the long-time fans and readers of my work who continue to show support for my books (I now have nine books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and the novel). With “Music of the Mill” I’m also connecting to people, families and communities affected by industry and the deindustrialization this country experienced on a large-scale basis in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

This is a story that has not been fully told, particularly in literature. I hope my efforts help fuel more of these stories. The working class writer is one of this country’s greatest legacies. We need more.
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The Sanity of a Crazy Love

Today is my wife Trini’s birthday. I’ve known her for almost 30 years. I started dating her 20 years ago. We’ve been married 17 years. We’ve lived in Chicago for 15 years together and then in the LA area for five years. We have two wonderful boys, Ruben, 16, and Luis, 10. We’ve been friends, comrades, coworkers, lovers, room mates, husband and wife, and parents. Since 2001, we’ve also been business partners, creators of Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural - a bookstore, café, art gallery, performance space, cyber café, and workshop center in the San Fernando Valley community of Sylmar (along with our brother-in-law, Enrique Sanchez).

Trini’s comportment is rooted in something deep and scary – scary for dudes like me who spend most of their lives with obsessions, addictions, impulses, and emotional roller coasters. She moves surefooted, with great thought, not any faster or further than she has to, which usually requires great knowledge and a strong sense of safety. She doesn’t take many risks – but she has joined in and helped whenever I did. Her love is encompassing, trusting, and just there, truly there. That’s scary, too. Oh there were times we wanted to bite each other’s head off – where we wanted to run away from each other and start over somewhere else (something I’ve been known to do). But always we came back, unable to really let go, realizing that in each other we have purpose, dreams, hopes, love, and a future. I can’t imagine my life without Trini. She’s my dawn and sunset. My hummingbird and wasp (the sting, man, the sting).

I had a dream last night. I dreamed that Trini had died. I was extremely sad. Her ghost came to me to say she was still there for me. That she couldn’t be held, but she would be there when I needed her. I almost woke up in tears. Trini is a hard person to commit to things – but when she does, she’s there to the end. As a fellow poet once said of his partner many years ago, “till the bumpers fall off.” The fact she’s committed to me – not when I’m mean, ugly or detached, but when I’m in destiny, emboldened, loving, and impassioned, is a gift. No man can have a greater gift.

So Trini, I love you thoroughly, the way a heart does when it goes mad (I mean this in a good way). We’ve been together through some difficult times – particularly during my oldest son’s ordeals in Chicago before his incarceration, through my sobriety (painful, although in the long run the right thing), and a massive move of hundreds of miles. We endured the uncertainty and sacrifice of the practical realities of establishing Tia Chucha’s as a viable business and cultural gathering center (it would not be the great place it is without Trini).

You’re growing old in a lovely way. I’m a lot more decrepit. But still – our love is young. Madly young. Gracias, my baby. Tlazokamati. Thanks. Sometimes I don’t have flowers, but I do have words.
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"Music of the Mill" Book Tour

I’ve embarked on my “Music of the Mill” tour as of May 4 – but not before having a national book release party on April 30 at Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural that brought some 200 people and the musical group, Trio Paz y Amor – it was a great way to launch my first novel (published by Rayo Books/HarperCollins). On May 4, I started out in the Bay Area with some great KPFA radio interviews, including Chris Welch’s show “Living Room.” I did a reading at the Bookshop Santa Cruz that evening and some old friends showed up, including Nane Alejandrez and OT (Otilio) from Barrios Unidos. Some 60 people made the reading in the rain. In Seattle, I hooked up with my “partners in crime” Michael Meade and the Mosaic Foundation crew. With the help of Elliott Bay Bookstore, we had an event for my book at the Rainier Valley Community Center that included song, story, drumming, poetry, and some great conversation. An engaged audience made for a wonderfully spirited evening.

I’m on my way to Denver today – where I also have friends and will have a reading at the famed Tattered Cover Bookstore. I’ll keep you all posted on things. So far the audiences have been receptive and supportive. It’s hard to get noticed with books these days – thousands are published every year. But Rayo’s efforts have landed reviews in Kirkus Review, the Library Journal, Latina Magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, LA Times, Denver Westworld – more are expected. My talks have become town hall meetings on many issues – including those in the book about displacement, re-placement, nature and the nature of our lives in post-industrial America. I hope I see you at one of my readings/talks. Onward.
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