Purple hair

In late May, I dyed my hair purple. I had waited for the unpigmented crown section to grow a bit on purpose. The purple caught on brightly and during four weeks I received plenty of compliments. From that looks really nice on you to you are so brave!, several women also asked me how I did it. Not a hair expert myself, I explained I took advantage of my “gray hair” (I’ve been told that it really is “unpigmented”) to avoid the bleaching part, not only because I had no experience with it but also because it is damaging to the hair.

And then, at a yearly professional meeting I attend nearly every year, a fellow attendee asked me if I used purple for Crohn’s disease support/visibility/solidarity. I told her that while I did not think of that, it was quite a coincidence that she would ask me about it. And we talked about those we know  and love who are IBD patients.

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So, while I did it just for fun, to mix it up, to sport a late Spring look, I learned that one never knows what one seemingly minor detail–purple hair–can spark when it comes to random compliments and unexpected connections.

I’m back now to my medium chestnut brown (on the 6 range).

Happy Summer, everyone!

In Santo Domingo with Aries Point

Aries Point has brought me to the International Book Fair in the Dominican Republic and I am delighted to be back in Santo Domingo.

But first, the adventure to get here. I was supposed to arrive on Wednesday night, but due to a maintenance issue with the plane, my flight from Chicago to Mami got delayed and made me miss my connection. I was rebooked for a flight out of Miami the next morning. Unless that flight ended up being delayed, I should still arrive on time. 

So, after a long day on Wednesday, including an early morning bus ride from Milwaukee to O’Hare, 6.5 hours at O’Hare, American Airlines out me up at the Clarion Miami Airport hotel with a couple of meal vouchers. The next morning, I used the breakfast voucher at La Carreta for a couple of delicious Spinach empanadas befor my flight to Santo Domingo.

The flight was in time and landed right by 12:30pm–a memorable approach with the plane about to land while seeing the rich blue texture of the Caribbean right below us before touchdown.

Immigration and customs was rather expeditious and upon exiting, it was easy to spot the FIL-RD staff/aids with whom I would be getting a ride to the hotel.

I checked in by 2:30 pm, just in time to drop off my bags, freshen up, and walk down the street to the Feria. And yes, I made it to the initial Isla Negra event, which started at 3pm.

  
Later, I presented Aries Point, and a bit later, that same evening of September 29, 2016, I made the introductory remarks for Rebeca Castellanos’s poetry book, Los instruments del gozo.

Pretty cool for being so close to a new moon, right?

Those spaces “invaded” by music…

On my July reading queue is Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, and Denise Chávez’s The King and Queen of Comezón. I have made good progress on the first two and will be starting Comezón probably some time next weekend.

Morrison’s prose makes you feel the music and be right in the city as if the narrator is bringing you into the scene. Murakami’s novel is hard to put down. Not only the city at night reigns supreme, but certain difficult topics like human trafficking are dealt with in a masterful narration.

There’s music, there’s the city, there’s the being an actor/spectator amidst very intricate contradictions. Back to reading now. 🙂

Not so regular mail

Now that I am on a temporary “Facebook sabbatical” my incoming of regular, hand-written, addressed, stamped, and postmarked mail has increased. Of course, this also has to do with the fact that my mother passed away nearly a month ago, and my friends have been incredibly supportive sending messages of all kinds, i.e. e-mails, texts, calls.
I have also been buying blank cards to mail my friends and tell them thank you, as well as personalized messages, and maybe one or two anecdotes pertaining to that week’s happenings. It’s like having pen pals again!

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As the summer season winds down, I’ll stash all these cards and letters in a special box. This regular mail is not so regular. 😉

Readings by the solstice

While summer officially began last Monday, June 20th, 2016, half of “summer” has gone by as July approaches. Within that time span, I presented my new novel in Spanish, Aries Point (Isla Negra Editores) at Librería La Tertulia in Old San Juan on May 28th. Also in that time span, I delved into an array of eclectic readings connected to some of my favorite subjects: Latina leadership, new beginnings, animal lives/rights, border issues, and classics of literature.  I now share the list of books with a bit of commentary.

To cap off the semester, I read Memoir of a Visionary: Antonia Pantoja (2002), which is a fantastic read about the courageous Boricua community leader and ASPIRA founder. Once grades were turned in, I read Tom Cox’s The Good, The Bad, and The Furry (2013), for lighter yet thoughtful reading, especially about a special cat named The Bear (@mysadcat on Twitter). Following the joy to read about animals and their unique quirks, I immersed myself in the recently released, Esther, The Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter (2016), while at the Cincinnati airport as well as in flight.

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Next up was Claribel Prado’s Tru (2016), an engaging first person account about life before, mostly through, and especially after divorce, while flaunting the cultural/personal self that cannot be subdued. Accompanying this book, was my reading also of Adriana Candia’s Mujeres eternas (2016), a lively and keen collection of chronicles about not just life on the border between Mexico and the United States, but the lives of women in that conflicting as well as culturally-rich space. The sixth of the six “feature-length” readings from the last weeks is my re-reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, after more than 20 years.
These are all highly recommended, and if I were to pick three to highlight, I’d choose: Memoir of a Visionary: Antonia Pantoja, Tru, and Esther, The Wonder Pig.

Happy summer and happy readings!

Inspirationally Dangerous: LeVar Burton’s Talk at UWM

People who read, says LeVar Burton, are life-long learners, and life-long learners are dangerous people. This is how the beloved star of Roots, Reading Rainbow, and Star Trek: The Next Generation framed his Distinguished Lecture Series talk about the power of storytelling at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union’s Wisconsin Room on February 24th, 2016.

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Addressing a full-house of fans, educators, Black History month followers, and proud participants of #GeekWeek at UWM, Burton gave a presentation that was both inspirational and thought-provoking. He honored his mother by telling the audience the story of how she, as a single mother, was an avid reader who made sure her son knew and understood that he, as anybody else, had the right to achieve his full potential. As a related matter, he addressed race and prejudice and why he admired the work of Gene Roddenberry and the sociological possibilities illustrated in Star Trek. Since the original series, people of different races are not merely included but also integrated as core characters. Burton added that seeing one’s race or ethnicity represented in the media–a  topic more and more people are dialoguing about–is crucial for self-esteem.

Regarding the topic of reading, Burton does not favor a specific medium but rather the content. As he explained, whether a print book or an e-book, what matter is that the child (the person) is reading. He unabashedly adds the arts (A) and reading (R) into the push for a STEM education, insisting–and rightfully so–that we need the arts for STEAM as they are pivotal in developing important cognitive functions. Moreover, he could not stress more the importance of reading and how STREAM would provide an integrated foundation for a well-rounded education. Burton elaborated on how reading piques the imagination and it is through the imagination–like with the device Captain Kirk used in the original series to call Scotty to request a beam up–that the sciences and everything else come to be. We adapt to the new technologies, which is necessary. But, what is it that we are teaching, is the question Burton highlighted several times during his talk. All media is educational, says Burton.

The audience was absolutely captivated by Burton’s humble brilliance. We all erupted into applause from time to time, celebrating the deep humanity his words were conveying. The Q&A portion confirmed how much his TV roles, especially Reading Rainbow, have touched and inspired so many people.

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And in closing, with a message of love over fear, LeVar Burton left us with a grand exhortation: “Please be bold in your pursuit of being a dangerous person.”

 

 

 

The New Winds of 2016

As I return to my blog, I realize I have not posted anything in five months; an unofficial hiatus that I now break with the intention to come back to Aries Point more often. And there is good reason for doing so now that 2016 is here.
My first novel in Spanish will be out soon this Spring. Stay tuned for that!
More details to come…

The Trails and Trials of Boston

The news traveled quickly today (8/20/2015) through social media as it does on any given day. And today, it was the beating of a homeless Hispanic man in the city of Boston.
I have been to Boston twice, once in 2005 and this past July of 2015. Upon my return of my most recent visit, I checked out Upton Sinclair’s documentary novel: Boston, from the public library, which is a long account about the Sacco and Vanzetti case with other fictional additions. Between the memories of that July weekend and the reading of the novel, Boston has been prominently in my mind for the last several weeks.
The news today, as it has been steadily for a while now, reeks of violence, hatred, and sheer disregard for people. (If it is not people, it is the exploitation of the nature, wildlife, and the planet.) During this most recent visit to Boston, eager to learn and explore, my partner and I walked and photo-documented the Freedom Trail on a cloudy Saturday. Trekking on this fascinating tour through history, there was a clear attempt at mindfulness when considering those terms: freedom and trail, and what they signify contextually. What would the trail mean for enslaved African-Americans before 1865? What would freedom mean for exploited factory workers in the Boston of the early twentieth century, the ones who in Sinclair’s masterful prose, were subject to “loan-sharks, peddlers of shoddy goods, fake patent medicines and adulterated foods” (57)?
The homeless Hispanic man who was urinated on and beaten by two adult males with a sense of supremacy embodies the long trail of many toward a basic kind of freedom: the freedom of being considered human regardless of socioeconomic or jurisdictional matters. Any sense of supremacy is false, but that does not take away the detrimental effects on a community when people act upon such premise to abuse and belittle their fellow human being. Sociocultural prejudice and isolation, as well as any type of dehumanization, are manifestations of the most highly flawed detours from basic respect.
Sacco and Vanzetti indeed knew something about the trails and trials of freedom. And while some people question if ignorance is at the root of hatred—like the one enacted by the two men who decided to humiliate the Hispanic man for his socioeconomic status and ethnicity—educating ourselves about history and culture does not hurt our potential for understanding. While the two perpetrators may never decide to rectify, the rest of us may set forth our trails with the dignity of knowing our worth and the humbleness of acknowledging there is still more room for growth.
And, hopefully, as the story develops, we may find out more about this man, at least something as basic as his name.

Sources:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/08/19/homeless/iTagewS4bnvBKWxxPvFcAJ/story.html

Sinclair, Upton. Boston. A Documentary Novel of the Sacco-Vanzetti Case. Cambridge: Robert Bently, Inc., 1978.