Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I had planned to post up a ton of pictures from the sightseeing trips with my parents, but I have a super long list of tasks that must be done before I hit the road tomorrow ... so, instead, a little quote and one picture...

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character. R. W. Emerson

Monday, May 30, 2011


For Memorial Day, some of the stories from this weekend of loved ones remembering those lost.

A man remembers his son and shares the book they wrote together.

NJ.com posted a memorial day tribute through quotes. You can read them all here. This is my favorite:
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
— Arthur Ashe
On the theory that those who have been wounded by war deserve to be remembered as well, here is a piece by Steve Lopez.

You can post memories of vets who died in war here.

I wish I had more interesting pieces to share, but my time for looking up articles was short and the pickings were slim.

photo credit: me, Santa Fe, last year

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Yesterday morning, I woke to the news that Gil Scott-Heron had passed... I waited til today to post, hoping there would be a better obit, and this morning there was one... I will post in its entirety below.

But, first a few songs and an interview:

Last year sometime,I heard an interview with Gil Scott-Heron to introduce the new album, I can't find it, but in Scott Simon's remembrance yesterday, they excerpted pieces of it. Here is a link to that. Here's a link to the story of the new album.

I hope Mr. Scott-Heron has found some peace.

Here's is the better obit from AP:

Gil Scott-Heron, a godfather of rap, dies in NYC

Published: 5.28.2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Long before Public Enemy urged the need to "Fight the Power" or N.W.A. offered a crude rebuke of the police, Gil-Scott Heron was articulating the rage and the disillusionment of the black masses through song and spoken word.
Scott-Heron, widely considered one of the godfathers of rap with his piercing social and political prose laid against the backdrop of minimalist percussion, flute and other instrumentation, died on Friday at age 62. His was a life full of groundbreaking, revolutionary music and personal turmoil that included a battle with crack cocaine and stints behind bars in his later years.
Musician and singer Michael Franti, who also is known for work that has examined racial and social injustices, perhaps summed up the dichotomy of Scott-Heron in a statement Saturday that described him as "a genius and a junkie."
"The first time I met him in San Francisco in 1991 while working as a doorman at the Kennel Klub, my heart was broken to see a hero of mine barely able to make it to the stage, but when he got there he was clear as crystal while singing and dropping knowledge bombs in his between song banter," said Franti, who described himself as a longtime friend. "His view of the world was so sad and yet so inspiring."
Scott-Heron was known for work that reflected the fury of black America in the post-civil rights era and spoke to the social and political disparities in the country. His songs often had incendiary titles - "Home is Where the Hatred Is" or "Whitey on the Moon" - and through spoken word and song he tapped the frustration of the masses.
He came to prominence in the 1970s as black America was grappling with the violent losses of some of its most promising leaders and what seemed to many to be the broken promises of the civil rights movement.
"It's winter in America, and all of the healers have been killed or been betrayed," lamented Scott-Heron in the song "Winter in America."
Scott-Heron recorded the song that would make him famous, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," which critiqued mass media, for the album "125th and Lenox" in Harlem in the 1970s. He followed up that recording with more than a dozen albums, collaborating mostly with musician Brian Jackson.
Though he was never a mainstream artist, he was an influential voice - so much so that his music was considered to be a precursor of rap and he influenced generations of hip-hop artists that would follow. When asked, however, he typically downplayed his integral role in the foundation of the genre.
"If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating 'hooks,' which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion," he wrote in the introduction to his 1990 collection of poems, "Now and Then."
In later years, he would become known more for his battle with drugs such as crack cocaine than his music. His addiction led to stints in jail and a general decline: In a 2008 interview with New York magazine, he said he had been living with HIV for years, but he still continued to perform and put out music; his last album, which came out this year, was a collaboration with artist Jamie xx, "We're Still Here," a reworking of Scott-Heron's acclaimed "I'm New Here," which was released in 2010.
He also was still smoking crack, as detailed in a New Yorker article last year.
"Ten to fifteen minutes of this, I don't have pain," he said. "I could have had an operation a few years ago, but there was an 8 percent chance of paralysis. I tried the painkillers, but after a couple of weeks I felt like a piece of furniture. It makes you feel like you don't want to do anything. This I can quit anytime I'm ready."
He referred to his signature mix of percussion, politics and performed poetry as bluesology or Third World music. But then he said it was simply "black music or black American music."
"Because black Americans are now a tremendously diverse essence of all the places we've come from and the music and rhythms we brought with us," he wrote.
Even those who may have never heard of Scott-Heron's name nevertheless knew his music. His influence on generations of rappers has been demonstrated through sampling of his recordings by artists, from Common to Mos Def to Tupac Shakur. Kanye West closes out the last track of his latest album with a long excerpt of Scott-Heron's "Who Will Survive in America."
Throughout his musical career, he took on political issues of his time, including apartheid in South Africa and nuclear arms. He had been shaped by the politics of the 1960s and black literature, especially the Harlem Renaissance.
Scott-Heron was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949. He was raised in Jackson, Tenn., and in New York before attending college at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Before turning to music, he was a novelist, at age 19, with the publication of "The Vulture," a murder mystery.
He also was the author of "The Nigger Factory," a social satire.
His final works continued his biting social commentary. "I'm New Here" included songs with titles such as "Me and the Devil" and "New York Is Killing Me."
In a 2010 interview with Fader magazine, Scott-Heron admitted he "could have been a better person. That's why you keep working on it."
"If we meet somebody who has never made a mistake, let's help them start a religion. Until then, we're just going to meet other humans and help to make each other better."
Associated Press writer Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi

Friday, May 27, 2011

just a thought...

I have made too much fun of the rapturous people. In all my having fun, I failed to see a very important up side to the rapture actually happening...

If god had taken the virtuous, and if Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin were among those virtuous as they would have us believe, WE WOULDN'T HAVE TO EVEN THINK ABOUT EITHER OF THEM RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!

Seriously, that would be the silver lining of the rapture (among others I am sure)... goodness, if Camping's new prediction is right (I know, the third times the charm?) then October 21st cannot come soon enough.

Happy Friday...

By the way, I am not the only one who loves LA ...this piece should extend to southern California, at least the part I am from ...this is the kind of LA I grew up with.

photo credit: me from the train pulling out of LA

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Not very thorough news round up...

photos from my various train trips last summer...

In the grand scheme of things, tornadoes, droughts, poverty, etc..., Oprah's last fling is the last thing I want to see. Glad it is not my job, but this person is making the best of it.

In other news, check out the report card on beaches in Ventura County, yup, my hometown gets an A wet or dry weather. I am still struggling to understand those classifications, no time to read the entire report. I hope the local paper will take the opportunity to write an article about something good...

I won't post the article about the Tucson shooter (won't even name him) being found unfit for trial. I am just wondering why he was not found unfit to own or use guns. That is a ruling I could have applauded. I have a hard time with how the mentally ill are treated both before and after they are either diagnosed or commit crimes. It is truly disgusting that so many people witnessed this young man falling deep into the illness and didn't do anything to help him ... if he can't go to jail for killing those people, maybe all those who passed the buck should go to jail in his place. Just saying...

And onto other not so uplifting yet strangely related news...I share this article because I think it was pretty well done. I wish the reporter had gone one step further and looked into how many of the police officers in APD are former military, what kind of training or retraining those officers get, what kind of training they get on dealing with the mentally ill... but it is a start.

Fatal APD Shootings Not Typical in Nation

Published: May 22, 2011

A woman called me because she was worried about her granddaughter. She had raised the girl, who was now in a spiral of substance abuse, mental illness and violence that was testing the limits of her grandmother's love and making the woman afraid whenever the girl came around.

It's my job to listen, not to give advice. So I didn't tell her my first reaction, which was, "If you love her, don't call 911."

I regretted that thought as soon as I had it. But it wasn't anything that hasn't crossed a lot of other people's minds.

That phone call came the day after an Albuquerque police officer had fatally shot a 22-year-old man as he turned to walk back into the house where a woman had told police she was being held by a man with a gun. He held a black plastic spoon, not a gun, when he was shot.

It came a month after Albuquerque Police Department detectives serving a warrant killed a 27-year-old mentally ill man who turned on them and grabbed one of their guns.

It came three months after an APD gang officer, who described his job as "human waste disposal," pumped three shots into the back and buttocks of a 29-year-old man with a gun who was running from a traffic stop.

And it came after 2010, a year in which APD officers on duty shot 14 people and killed nine of them.

It has been a troubling and confusing trend. Each of the fatal shootings has been explained by APD, often in a way that seems reasonable. The three this year can be boiled down to "he had a gun," "he took a cop's gun" and "we thought he had a gun."

My colleague Astrid Galvan has tried to make sense of this in stories over the past year. She compared Albuquerque's police shooting numbers to those of cities of our size or bigger and found APD stands out: By the time APD had reached 10 officer shootings last year, Denver and Oklahoma City each had seven and Tucson and Mesa, Ariz., had none.

Galvan examined whether APD officers might shoot more because they are attacked more -- a frequent explanation from APD brass -- and found no consistent correlation. She even looked at whether education level influences how often police officers fire their weapons. It turns out it does. Officers with a four-year college degree are less likely to use force. In APD, only about one in four officers has a college degree.

The more angles you approach it from, the more difficult the phenomenon is to understand or to accept or to stop.

But we know from the experiences of other cities that a confrontation between police and a young, mentally disturbed man doesn't have to end the way it often seems to in Albuquerque.

A few weeks after APD's first fatal shooting of the year, National Public Radio broadcast a report on a confrontation between cops and a gun-wielding Iraq veteran in a cornfield in North Dakota.

It was one of those stories that grabs you, and I listened to it on the drive home from work and ended up sitting in my car in my driveway in the dark, waiting to hear how it ended.

Brock Savelkoul, a young Army veteran who had suffered a concussion when a rocket exploded near him in Iraq, grabbed six guns out of his family's home and took off in his truck over the North Dakota countryside.

By the time police were called, he had pointed a gun at a convenience store clerk, and police knew he was well-armed and violent.

They chased him for an hour at speeds up to 105 mph and at one point, Savelkoul did a U-turn in a farm field and aimed his truck at rookie North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper Megan Christopher's cruiser.

When Savelkoul's truck finally ran out of gas, Christopher was one of six officers who drew their weapons and took cover behind their cars.

The radio piece included audio from what would become a two-hour standoff. You could hear Christopher breathlessly yelling, "Step out of the vehicle. Put your hands in the air, in the air. Put your hands in the air. Do it now!"

Savelkoul eventually got out of the truck with an AR-15 in his right hand. Officers yelled at him to drop the gun, but neither Christopher nor any of the other officers fired.

"Go ahead and put the gun down, Brock. Brock, it's not worth it," Christopher said. "Lay the gun down."

Savelkoul, still holding the weapon, walked directly toward police. A dash-cam video captured him pacing and gesturing with his guns. He fired his assault rifle into his pickup and asked to be killed.

"Go ahead, shoot me!" he yelled. "Do it."

Still, no one fired.

Christopher kept talking, and she finally persuaded him to put down the gun and let her approach. Savelkoul was arrested and charged with three felonies. He was sent to a VA hospital for treatment for traumatic brain injury and PTSD and was eventually released with charges dropped. He is getting better.

Christopher explained to the NPR reporter why she didn't fire her service weapon that night and add another name to the list of those who have died by "suicide by cop."

"He didn't point the weapon at us. He didn't threaten us," she said. "He was a man standing there with a gun."

After Savelkoul was on the ground and handcuffed, Christopher said, she thanked him for his military service.

APD's fatal shootings, I'm sorry to say, blur together in my mind. But that's an image that lingers.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

sightseeing with mom and pop

We spent the day at Acoma on Monday ... truly beautiful.

Sky City ... until you see it, you really don't believe what it can mean.

I took the guide up on walking down the stairs and now I am paying for it. It didn't seem like a long trip, but I guess you have to keep in mind that it was descending nearly 2000 feet.

I don't really have time right now to go into details...but I promise to post the window series I took.

For now, enjoy these views... and be glad you didn't anger the Acoma, because they claim to have thrown off this cliff anyone who did!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

start fresh

I was watching Waitress for the millionth time the other day ... and got to the part when Andy Griffith tells the Waitress, "Start Fresh," before I had to go...

There are so many reasons why I love that movie -- principally for the girl power quality it has -- but also for what this grouchy man tells her earnestly: that at the end of the day, you only have what you have made of your life ... if it is heading in the wrong direction, take control and change direction.

I was thinking about this a bit when I heard this story Friday morning. I will tell you about it, but you must hear it to really understand the story. You need to hear their voices.

A young man, sixteen, involved in "gang activity" got into a fight with another young man, twenty, and the twenty-year-old died. The sixteen-year-old went to jail for a long time, and as he was about to finish his sentence, he finally accepted the request of the man he killed's mother to see him.

Long story short: she forgave him...and now they are more than friends, almost like mother and son.

The story of forgiveness is sweet and painful at the same time, but it is the enduring relationship that they built that is more impressive.

You can forgive and walk way... but to stay and show every day that you really believe the person has changed, to participate in the change and to let go of resentment, that is much more challenging, and, probably more healing and certainly more meaningful.

It requires compassion, but it also requires strength, courage and a belief in the goodness of people.

That belief is what I equate with vulnerability.

Others might call it spirituality or faith. I guess I can see that, but I think that it has more to do with being open...making yourself vulnerable to others....laying yourself bare, that is... particularly with issues that are closest to your heart. Those issues that make us feel most exposed... unprotected...

I don't have any answers, I just know that vulnerability is the way, if we can figure out how to
access and embrace it.

Photo credit: me... Alaska 2008

Monday, May 23, 2011

And the world did not end...

I read with interest the-morning-after-discussions-of-the-rapture-that-wasn't... it was, at first, even entertaining, especially that last piece on entrepreneurs offering post-rapture services.

Then, I read an open letter from a community college English composition prof to his students who failed... I should say I read most of it. I understand his frustration... all good teachers feel it every day, but I also heard an undertone of excuse making that makes me uncomfortable.

He titled his piece, "If the Dog Ate your Homework, Read This." This quintessential ridiculous excuse one expects to hear from students...that excuse signifying laziness: a student too lazy to do his/her homework or even to come up with a better excuse.

As I said, I know all too well the frustration born of what feels like students not trying... and certainly there are students who don't try. My experience, however, is that is nearly always a reason why students don't try. It may not seem like the "job" of a community college prof to find out why a student isn't or won't try, but who will do it? If every teacher throughout a student's career takes that same position, then who will do it?

I was struck by the similarity of the frustration level and the sense that we can just throw up our hands...and the contrast between that which we can something and what is happening to us... that is to say, we need to spend more time earnestly dealing with real issues we face every day ... not putting them in boxes either by putting them in the hands of "god" or by labeling students as lazy without investigating where the behavior initiates.

I hope I am making sense...

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Sometimes you read something, and the only thing you can do is label it crazy. This article definitely qualifies... I know for all the animal over people lovers, this will not seem crazy. But to me, it is really crazy... just demonstrates how out of touch our criminal justice system is with the real world.

This dude very well may deserve jail time, but our judicial system should have the discretion to decide... and violence against women should always trump violence against animals...

Saturday, May 21, 2011


So, I spent the afternoon toasting to the people who believed they were going home today at 6pm, local time wherever they were... in case you have been living in a cave, here's a story on it...

yeah, guessing it will be a hell of a hangover for them tomorrow... for me, it was just fun.

photo credit: beavers' hard work in Alaska 2008, needed some work that was not really done in vain.

Friday, May 20, 2011

More articles ...

I have been slowly reading through...

Los Angeles thinking about taking value added a step further...

A piece on how states are dealing with the undocumented and college education... if only I could get the LA Times to stop calling PEOPLE illegal.

Another fascinating piece that sheds some light on economics in the state of California. This one is about the five Californians ... that is the five economic scenarios that people face in the state depending on their economic situation. The best part, however, is when they talk about how to make the situation more equitable. Guess what comes up first?!

The timing on this is super funny ... an article on secular studies right before all the righteous think they are going to see their maker.

that's it for now...got another post brewing but it's not done yet.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

vacationly posting of the news round up

Remember when I would get my posts lined up for days and they could get posted early in the morning each day??

Yeah... only two days into "vacation" and I have already slouched into some not regimented existence. Today I got one appointment on the wrong week and was late to the other by thirty minutes...

Oh well... I also got two more of the million and one birthday gifts I need between May/June bought today, took in a new museum, made my parents breakfast and dinner.... and wrote thank you notes ... and the last of the late mother's day cards. [On a sort of side note, I decided that May would be mother's month... it makes it easier for me to actually send the notes.]

I have had a lot of articles open on the browser, gonna share a few here, now...

A little bit scary article about the injuries ultra marathoners DON'T get... yikes, I guess I really need to get back out there and run.

Fascinating piece on what they discovered when they actually ran the numbers on the teachers' pensions... yeah, it is not at all what is going to bankrupt anybody.

Here's one on a former San Quentin warden changed sides on the death penalty.

Another in the series about the trail in Malibu...

One on the park service thinking about naming something for Cesar Chavez...odd timing since they are also threatening to close a bunch due to budget cuts, but whatever.

There are more open, but only half read... so these will have to do for now.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Slightly Delayed Reaction

I haven't really had time alone to really process all the emotions from graduation... but last week before my family arrived, I had a chance to do a little processing of Raza Graduation. Here it is ... written on 5/10

I have been somewhat ambivalent about graduation. Partly with the master's paper still struggling to find its final form -- the prospect of *finishing* seemed even more tenuous -- not quite real. But I invited my sister and my friend and then my parents to attend, so I guess I was sort of believing. But not completely ...

I had the Raza Graduation page open in my browser for a week or two or three before I decided to participate. I feel so little connection to any community here -- it was hard for me to commit to being a part or trying to be a part of this one. But, then I did and I struggled to find words I wanted to share with a room of strangers and I picked a professor to honor for having helped me through. And it started to get more real.

I arrived, as asked, at 4 pm, knowing that there would be nothing for me to do. But I met a lovely family -- they were there early, too, to get good (the BEST) seats in the house. They were related to one of the speakers. Their pride was evident in everything they said. I was in their presence for 1 1/2 hours before the ceremony started. I learned all about them. The speaker, Tim, is the youngest. Mom, dad, aunt, siblings traveled from north of Espanola to see him. More cousins were headed to the auditorium; I think they saved around 10 or 12 seats.

Two huge ballrooms with about 500 chairs set up seemed like such a large venue for the event. I struggled to imagine it so full that it was necessary to get there so early. It's not that I don't believe we care about graduations, but I couldn't help but thinking of high school graduation where half of my classmates were missing. Or Chicano graduation at Ptn and all the craziness that surrounded it.

As I talked to Tim's family more graduates arrived -- in their caps and gowns (I'm not buying one) and their families. Before you knew it, the place was brimming with graduates and families and KIDS. When we processed in, I realized that it was packed ... standing room only around the entire space. I had watched the place come together, ushers being trained, decorations finalized, stoles lined up.

Now I was in the first row, the young woman beside me worried we'd be the only ones without gowns...we waited. Still, I could not imagine the tears that would flow or the pride I would feel -- listening to my fellow graduates share intimate stories of struggle and success -- all knowing and acknowledging the part of the web of love and support we were privileged to share not just here but in our families and families of friends.

My heart was growing like the Grinch's... when we started to cross the stage, and I heard my fellow graduates' accomplishments, I cheered as though I had known them all my life, as full of pride as Tim's family had been.

Quickly, it was my turn -- and I stepped on to the stage knowing there was no one in the audience for me ... except other friends graduating, but there was my professor ready to give me my stole, and the provost and the vice president of student affairs and the state senator, with hugs and pins and a rose and congratulations. I don't recall whether there was applause.

On the other end of the stage was the receiving line of professors. Most of them I had never seen before, but they each shook my hand and congratulated me. At first, I will admit, it was strange, but soon I melted into the love and support these strangers offered. Wow... way to feel special. And at the end of the line was my prof again with a big hug and more hearty congratulations.

It took a while to work my way through the crowds, collecting more congratulations from strangers -- that is the community at large, and then I watched and cheered as the rest of the 110 graduates crossed the stage ... sometimes with children in tow, at times with sighs of relief from the sponsoring profs and staff.

It was just beautiful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

unplanned hiatus

I actually hand wrote out a post that I have not had time to type (wrote it 5/10) ... but there is a whirlwind of activity here right now, so it will probably have to wait until next week.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

celebration dance...

sort of... just finished the last paper... gotta print it, read it over once more and turn it in ... but IT'S DONE!!

In order to celebrate, in a nerdy way, here is an article about people hiking a trail I would love to do one day ... and here's a link to a piece just about the trail.

Yes...these are the mountains where my mom grew up... just gorgeous.

There are pictures there...so here you just have to imagine, click the links and someone else's imagination will work for you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Still in the Mix

I have one more ten pager due on wednesday but I feel I should post.

It is all random thought though... fair warning.

Why is it that public bathrooms always have three or four soap dispensers. And you can never tell which is supposed to have soap? When they decide to get a new one, why not take the other down? Are they keeping their options open? My favorite is three or four attached to the wall and one store bought refilled with dish soap on the sink.

Ehecatl and I really are besties, but seriously this wind is about to drive me insane. Lips chapped, waking up aching from the dryness... Remind me of this when I am dying in the humidity of New Jersey next month.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day Special

Mom's working through their grief to better the world. Here's one from California.
This one is about a mom (and a dad) honoring their son's life with hope and love...

Shoes From Heart Keep Son Alive

Published: 5/7/2011

Pairs of sneakers, mostly Nikes, all size 13, line up in the closet of Lawrence Charles Vargas' bedroom.

Vargas had a lot of things going for him -- a nice three-point shot on the basketball court, an open heart that turned strangers into friends, a burgeoning art career that started when he was 4, and a way with animals that earned him the nickname "the Chihuahua Whisperer."

He also loved shoes. How much? When he got his first pair of cowboy boots at age 2, he slept with them like other kids sleep with teddy bears. When he was older, Vargas always made sure his shoes were unscuffed and styling.

An immaculate white-and-black pair of Air Jordans, wrapped in clear plastic, sits on a bookshelf in Vargas' bedroom. Recently released by the district attorney, they are the shoes Vargas, described as an innocent bystander in a late-night altercation, was wearing when he was fatally shot in a parking garage in Downtown Albuquerque three years ago.

The shoes Vargas died in at age 23 are the ones that make his parents, Terry and Lawrence Vargas, cry. But it's other shoes, hundreds of pairs given away and thousands yet to be placed in the hands of excited kids, that keep their son alive.

When Vargas was in fifth grade at Lew Wallace elementary school, he noticed a classmate with worn shoes and asked his mom if he could bring one of his many pairs of nearly new Nikes to school. He gave the sneakers to his teacher, asking her to give them to the boy and say they came from a secret friend.

It's in that spirit that Terry and Lawrence and their son, David, will head out on Interstate 40 on Saturday with a trailer filled with 500 pairs of new shoes from Payless Shoe Source and hand them out to kids at Laguna Pueblo.

The Lawrence Charles Vargas Shoes-For-Kids Foundation has given away close to 500 pairs of shoes already. But as Terry Vargas told me over coffee in her Albuquerque home the other day, "It goes way beyond a pair of shoes."

Terry and Lawrence launched the shoe giveaway in the name of their son in a big way. Last May, they arranged with Payless Shoe Source to get shoes at a deep discount, and with buses donated by Herrera Coaches took the entire student body of Lew Wallace shopping. All 300 kids. The Albuquerque Fire Department showed up and gave firetruck rides, and Terry talked about Lawrence's kindness and how people can respond to a tragedy with anger and bitterness or with love and compassion.

The Vargas family may never fully recover from the tragedy of losing their son, but it's obvious from spending some time with them that their choice was love and compassion. The photos from that day at Payless show kids beaming, clutching the shoes they picked out like they are shiny bars of gold.

Terry remembers laughing a lot that day.

"It's hard sometimes to think that because he died these things are happening," Terry said. "But that day at Payless was probably one of the most joyful days since (Lawrence) left. I hadn't felt joy for a while."

There's something about a new pair of shoes that delights just about anyone. A lot of the thank-you notes from that day use the word "shiny."

"I just can't stop looking at my shoes because they're new," one young man wrote.

Terry and Lawrence Vargas have also found that when they put their son's example of generosity into practice, they attracted generosity.

When Mike Trujillo, the chaplain for the Albuquerque firefighters union, found out that Lawrence's dream to become a firefighter was cut short, he introduced himself by leaving a prayer on their answering machine and became a teammate in the shoe giveaways.

Mike Blea, district manager for Payless, initially gave a shoe discount as a business transaction, but has since become a close friend.

Opportunities arose to market Lawrence's artwork -- prints, painted candles, notecards -- to raise money to fund the efforts.

A foundation in Arizona donated a trailer to transport shoes to giveaway sites. And when the Vargases, Blea and Trujillo pitched their idea of a shoe giveaway to Laguna Pueblo, the tribal government responded with a daylong fair with a dunk tank, hot-air balloon, free haircuts and a band.

The theme is "unity through random acts of kindness," and that fits Lawrence Charles Vargas' memory like a comfortable pair of shoes.

Vargas' killer, ex-con Joseph Espinoza, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison. Espinoza shot Vargas after a friend of Vargas' got into an argument with Espinoza leaving a club Downtown.

"He was an innocent bystander. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," his mother said.

Random acts of violence are harder to grasp than random acts of kindness, but the Vargases are doing their best.

"It could have been anybody's son that night, but it was our son," Lawrence says. "We believe that he was on loan to us. It's been a hard road, but we turned something really bad into something really positive."

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Fear is not your Friend

...or mine. Seriously, while I should have been writing some other papers or paying attention to some presentations, I gave fear a thorough scrutiny. And, I decided it is nearly wholly useless. As in, it is not good for anything. Rarely in life do I find no use for something. I am the queen of reuse. It's is a family trait.

That bolt in the middle of the street, no, I will never find what it goes to, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't pick it up and bring it home (remember that picture??). It might be useful for something, someday. I can hear my dad theorizing the usefulness of such an item.

But, fear, nope it is useless.

I don't find it motivating. I find it stressful and paralyzing at the same time. How can anything that makes you panic, freeze in your tracks and fret be useful?

It can't.

That's what I am trying to tell you.

And unfinished as this post is, I am posting it.

Fears of mediocrity be damned.

It's Friday. Enjoy and be fearless.

That is the next word of the year.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cinco de mayo News Round Up

For cinco de mayo, no alcohol, just some stories...

Here's one about a talk Justice Sotomayor gave at Princeton for a conference called, She Roars, that I could not go to because I am writing and 1001 papers...

I really wish I could have been at the Festival of Books to get Sal and Mario to autograph a copy for me... there are times when it is really hard not to be in SoCal, and this is one of those.

Steve Lopez on Father Grey Boyle... another part of the Festival of Books I am sorry to miss...Lopez is right, "Father Gregory Boyle, whose work epitomizes the notion of L.A. as a place of second chances."

too tired and busy to find any more .... so this is it for this week. Read in good health! And don't drink too much.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Say Good Things and Celebrate Life

I need as much positive energy I can get right now as I work into the last stretch of this semester.

I am trying to keep perspective on what it is I am doing (out of choice) as opposed to what others face...

So I offer you a lovely piece to celebrate life and motherhood that Dooce shared today.

And, a piece by Steve Lopez about a how one family responded to losing their daughter on 9/11.

Read them with a smile in your heart even if they bring tears to your eyes.

Happy Wednesday, y'all, and Happy Birthday to my dad!!

photo credit: my friend's lovely niece. I just needed to try to capture her energy and spirit... hope you can feel it.

Pops, part two

Today is my dad's 78th birthday.

Last year when I called him to wish him a happy birthday, he said, "Is that today?"

My dad doesn't really worry about holidays or birthdays, but every once in a while he remembers his birthday or yours. Then you get a special gift. It might not be exactly what you wanted, but you know that he thought about it a lot and decided this is exactly what you would want, or need.

That's the thing about my dad... he's always right. Even when he's so wrong.

It's hard for me to reconcile that my dad is 78 because in my world, my dad can do anything and is truly invincible. When he and my mom visited last year, I got to see close up how he's aging...being older makes him more fearful and slower and pissed off at the world sometimes.

But he's still my dear old dad, and even he's really working my last nerve, usually at exactly that moment, I realize that this is why I love him so much... why I hate to do anything that I think he might disapprove of ...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pops - part one

Growing up there were a few legendary stories about my pops. One was that he got sent home from the first day of school because he had been placed in the white class but didn't speak English. It is a great story that speaks to many political issues but doesn't really tell you anything about my dad.

How that story was chosen to retell I will never know since anyone can tell you that I am the only *out* radically political person in my family. Oh yeah we are all lifelong democrats and my mom had my older siblings out on the street with Viva Kennedy signs in 1960. But I identify as Chicana. And it should tell you something about my family that those words make me radical and that I have to make a conscious decision to claim it and therefore be the *out* person. I take a fair amount of heat while they bask in their anonymous politics. But, I digress.

In later years another story about my dad's first day of kindergarten is revealed. Simply put he got sent home, kicked out are the words used, for getting in a fight.

My dad always smiles wryly when someone brings it up.

That condensed version, the one I heard most often, also doesn't tell you a lot about my dad. Sure he's a hot head and stubborn - fully embracing the bull of his birth sign and the goat of our last name.

But you probably don't need to hear that Gilberto story-light to know that about my dad.

It's the longer version that gets you closer to knowing the man I know as my father.

Dad is no angel. So on that first day of kinder (who knows if it is also the infamous first day ever of school) he was probably out wandering the hall to check it out. Irresistibly curious and the oldest of his family [read used to doing what he wanted] he would want to figure out this place called school. His official version, I think, is that he was on his way back from the bathroom. *wink*

Minding his own business, walking down the hall, he sees two kids. One of them is a classmate, [read also a kindergartner], but the other is an older kid. Said older kid is picking on my dad's new classmate who happens to be white. I don't recall now the ethnicity of the bully.

I am guessing my dad hauled off and popped the bully ... I doubt that his reasoning skills at age five would have allowed him to first reason with the bully and getting not the desired response needing to hit him.

Well, the bully, widely regarded as just that by all, never bullied my dad's classmate again. My dad's eyes always twinkle mischievously when tells that last part.

Dad and classmate remained "friends" - as much as was possible in a segregated world - and my dad went to that classmate's 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago - driving across several states to do so.

That's my dad. The judge. Not the went to law school kind, the nickname he picked up from my mother's brothers. I still have never gotten to the bottom of that one.

I am guessing there are a few layers of stories to sift through to get at the root of that one.

photo credits: these are all photos I scanned for my brother's 50th birthday party; these are some of the early years of my brother's life with my pops. So, the first one in April-ish 1961, the second one, my dad with his little boy and favorite truck, June 1960; the third my sister and brother with my dad at the beach, Ensenada, I think 1963; and my dad and brother on the beach with a play gun, middle 60s. The last one is my dad with his mom and siblings at a family reunion circa 1980.

Monday, May 02, 2011

processing and writing

I had high hopes for today in terms of posting ... I have a draft that now will probably not be ready until next Monday ... so, instead, just a brief post to acknowledge recent events.

I was minding my own business, trying to listen to a little TV while I wrote my paper last night when George Snuffleupagus (no real relation to Mr. Snuffleupagus) broke in a with a special report.

I blame it on the stress of writing ... why did I get myself into this grad school thing again??

But lately situations I used to be able to just yell at the TV about make me weepy.

I listened, saddened by my own reaction, to the news of Osama bin Laden's capture/death. I know on a very base level that it is wrong to be gladdened to hear that someone has died, even when that person is evil or has been in terrible pain. It is just wrong. Yet, it is the only reaction we seem to be able to have.

I wanted to hear what the Dalai Lama or the Amish would have to say. I imagined, in vain, the idea that we could sit with bin Laden's extensive family (or maybe just one representative) to tell them we did not hold them responsible, that we are able to forgive. But, I am not sure that we can. Instead, it would appear, that we used bin Laden's dying sister's DNA to prove that we had the right guy... though from later news reports it is not clear that it was ever an issue that we had the right guy this time.

I am grateful to the soldiers, Navy SEALS, that confronted evil and took it down ... both for the emotional scars that must come with killing anyone and for the courage and loyalty and patriotism that allow them to themselves in harm's way for us on a regular basis. This is truly a case of asking people to do for us what we would not willingly do for ourselves.

I am hoping that there is some modicum of peace for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 in knowing that as a country we did not forget to seek justice... though this "justice" is what makes me bristle and weep.

I cannot know their pain.

I thought of my student who lost his father that day ...thankfully as close as I had to get to losing someone. As one survivor said last night, it will not bring him back. My student will still be fatherless for the rest of his life.

I remain confused about what to do with all these thoughts and emotions ... and I am even a little grateful to be able to turn off the TV and go back to work on the papers, though my head is heavy with all the tears I have left to cry.

My horoscope for the day, courtesy of YAHOO:
Your past mistakes are definitely lessons you should learn from, but try not to let them paralyze you. You can't let yourself be intimidated by what might happen ... you just have to trust yourself that you can do it. Now is not the time for mulling things through, reviewing all the options, or debating pros and cons. No -- it's the day to grab the bull by the horns and show no fear. By putting on an award-winning bravery act, you will fool yourself into believing you're fearless!
Did I mention that I am wearing my necklace in the FIERCE position today? God, if only it were that easy.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Gotta say up front, I love research... even when it's pouring over hundred year old curricula for teacher training institutes. Yeah, I think that shit is fun. So, if you are justified in questioning my credibility on the issue...

I have a friend who is a novelist and gets to do all kinds of fun research ... I accompanied her on a trip to Chinatown in SF to try to uncover information about the infamous tunnels beneath the city, but I missed out on the sex party club and the porno movie set tour. Let's just say, she gets to do really interesting research.

I have another friend who is writing about television series, so a day of research for her might include re-watching every Bones episode, though, sadly for her, it also included watching all the yucky Risoldi and ...(I can't even remember the name) episodes...

My research is never that entertaining, generally. But, my policy recommendation for the teacher ed reform class has involved researching Jon Stewart and watching episodes of The Daily Show. But now I need to write a ton of pages, so no more "research" just writing, by far not the more fun part of my day...

Happy May Day! Viva los trabajadores...