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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Spontaneously organized webzine's LiveJournal:

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Monday, March 15th, 2010
4:40 pm
Katy Hughes' abstract artwork for sale
First of all, I'm adding an item to the Synchronized Chaos Wish List.

We'd love to see folks buy artwork from our contributors Katy and Liz Hughes, who are quite talented but live in their car for the time being while trying to get back on their feet. They've got work and housing in another state and are raising cash to move over there. Katy's blog entry about the artwork is here, with some sample work and the family's story: http://destinationanywherebuthere.blogspot.com/2010/02/for-sale.html

Some of her work's about to get exhibited in the local Campbell library! And I've got samples of it at the end of this post. If you're interested in ordering art, please read the instructions in Katy's blog and email hugheselizabeth@rocketmail.com

Katy sells sketches for $20 and larger pieces for more money - and accepts checks made out to her mother, Elizabeth Hughes (she's a teenager) and PayPal payments to hugheselizabeth@rocketmail.com

Thursday, February 18th, 2010
1:10 pm
For those seeking day-jobs while writing and creating art...firms and organizations hiring!
Heard this at JobSeekers - companies hiring in the SF Bay Area, check out their websites to see what positions may still be available:

John Muir Physicians' Network
Cisco Systems
The U.S. Census
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories
Wells Fargo
Clear Channel
Saba Software
Renewable Funding
Blackhawk Networks
New York Life Insurance
Massachusetts Mutual
Pacific Bioscience

http://www.phase2careers.org - special website to help people over 40 develop new careers

http://www.idealist.org - nonprofit jobs related to social services and the environment
Saturday, January 30th, 2010
12:14 am
Contributor update - Katy and Liz Hughes, the homeless bloggers
Update on the Hughes family, homeless mother and daughter living in their car in Campbell (South San Francisco Bay Area.) Good and very bad news - they've apparently got someone helping them look for work and trying to get them settled in Pennsylvania. But they have to come up with moving costs themselves, and are back in their car for the time being.

It's a pity - I wanted to bring them out to see RENT with voces and I next weekend and invited them, but they said they have too much to deal with at the moment. Synchronized Chaos Magazine sent them some cash we collected at our reception but it wasn't too much as many of us are starving artists ourselves...can anyone reading this spare anything for the family? I know them personally and they've got hugheselizabeth@rocketmail.com hooked up to PayPal.

Pretty please? Comment here if you send them something and I'll send you an original piece of poetry!

From Elizabeth Barone's blog site, Letters for Katy: How You Can Help.
Liz and Katy’s last day at their cottage is this coming Thursday. Liz sent me an update email saying that she still isn’t sure how much it will cost for them to move. Their priority, she said, is to get everything in storage and to have enough money for food, as they aren’t sure if they will be able to afford the move right away and will stay in their car until they can get to Pennsylvania. Here is the email she sent me:


I just wanted to give you an update. I am going to have to see how many boxes and tubs I will have before I can get an accurate quote for moving. Also my checking account is messed up again. So if people could send visa or master card gift cards that would be better. I have written action line hoping they can straighten out my checking account. I have never had problems with my bank until this past year now all of a sudden I am having all kinds of problems.

As it stands right now, our very last day in the cottage will be Thursday. The owner will not extend it until all the storms have passed completely. The pastor of that church does not want us in this cottage or anyone from the church to help us since I was trying to earn money instead of sitting in church. I still am finding it hard to believe. What is weird is I started having bad dreams regarding just that a couple of months ago. I cannot believe a Christian pastor would hold that against another Christian especially a single mother and her daughter when the Bible says to help them.

The person back east is trying to find me employment and us an apartment, we just have to somehow get back there now. Our immediate needs will be some way to help pay for storage if we have to spend time in the car and a way to get food while we are living in the car.

If that is going to be the case, our contact via email will be kind of sporadic so you can email both of us. We will use the internet connection at the library when we can.

Thank you again for all of your help and prayers,

I have been reading everyone’s comments and sent Liz an email back addressing some of your questions. Things have been crazy on my end, so I apologize for not replying to your comments right away. Thank you all so much for your support.

You can mail Visa and MasterCard gift cards to:

Elizabeth and Katy Hughes
PO Box 111525
Campbell, CA 95011
Monday, January 25th, 2010
3:32 pm
Guide to Connie Noyes' images





72 X 114 INCHES

30 X 30 CM

24 X 48 INCHES

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2:03 pm
"Leaving So Soon?" - Tony Long - 1542 words
Leaving So Soon?

By Anthony Long

(1,541 words)

Toby Jenks looks up from his newspaper and freezes.

Striding down the hill toward the café, laptop tucked under one arm and a sour look plastered across his thick, wheyfaced mug, comes Joel Kaplan, a thoroughly objectionable human being known around the place as the Human Air Vent. (“But does he suck or does he blow?” it was fairly asked.)

At the next table, a vagabonding young German couple have finished their coffee and are slipping the guidebooks into their haversacks and making ready to leave. She’s a pretty, dark-haired girl with a soft voice. Toby thinks she looks merciful.

“Please,” Toby says. “Please stay. Don’t go.” She looks at him quizzically. In desperation Toby summons his dwindling reserve of high school German. “Bitte … bleiben Sie hier. Umm, uh, both of you. Nicht gehen, bitte. Nicht jetzt.”

“I’m sorry,” the girl says, switching easily to nicely clipped British-accented English. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh, yes,” Toby says, looking out the window. “In about ten seconds the worst person on earth is going to come walking in here and if you guys leave right now, he’ll sit down at that very table and my day will be completely ruined. Maybe my life. Please.” Toby gives her a beseeching look and another involuntary “bitte” leaves his lips. The Germans crane their necks to inspect Kaplan, and the young woman turns back to Toby with a distressed look of her own. Kaplan has that effect on people, even total strangers.

“I’ll buy you guys another coffee,” Toby says.
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Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
2:14 pm
Fly By Night - medium-short fiction by Joseph Urso
Fly By Night

by Joseph Urso

(3400 words)


“A Prophet is not popular in the home town. A Doctor does not heal family and friends.”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Can’t quite place it though right? Neither can I and I should, since I meditate on its meanings everyday. I know this - and take it from a creature of experience - this is a warning and don’t think it comes from The Creator. Do you really think The Creator has time to issue warnings like some cosmic Mr. Chips? No. No of course not. This warning comes from a creature of experience too, one who’s bled, and there’s the problem. Who wants to be told what to do, especially by someone who gets his ass kicked on the front line because you’re hiding in the rear. Better to know, not to speak, and watch those who think they know get their asses kicked instead. He should have stopped to think the bell isn’t tolling for him. It’s just a bell making noise.

Now if you’re really knowledgeable you probably have an inkling I haven’t a thought of my own, but who does. Flies never worry about being knowledgeable or popular. Like the rest of my kind, you might say I’m an observer of the human race. I’m well qualified for the job since Flies have been buzzing around Earth much longer than you mere Humans. Try not to be too mystified about my ability to communicate with other Life Forms.Don’t waste your time hiring Ph.D.’s to figure this out. Besides isn’t it written all things are possible?

Joseph Urso has been writing for many years and lives with his wife in upstate New York. He may be reached via e-mail: ribera.14@hotmail.com

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Monday, December 14th, 2009
12:43 pm
New Year's Celebration Online 2009!
Everyone, sorry for the late notice, but we're hosting our traditional annual online New Year's Eve party in this journal (http://ladycatherina.livejournal.com/) again this year. Got started back when I first moved to the Bay Area and everyone I knew was scattered among various states and countries or didn't have the cash for food for a party or gas to get there.

How this works is that somewhere around the morning of New Year's Eve Pacific Standard Time, I will post a virtual description of a party - complete with a decorated house, food, music, drinks, and a place to share memories of 2009 and hopes and dreams for 2010.

For an idea of how this works, here's a past year's virtual party: http://ladycatherina.livejournal.com/300058.html

Everyone from around the world is invited to come along and participate at any time that night or the next day - write a comment describing what you're wearing, what you're doing, what you're bringing (recipes are great!) and talk with anyone else by responding to their comments along with me! In past years people have danced, played Pokemon, traded gourmet recipes, and talked philosophy and remembered loved ones, through hundreds of comments.

All are welcome, regardless of whether you're friended to this journal or not...and we're inviting Synchronized Chaos Magazine's readers and others I know from other communities.

I view New Year's as a philosophical/spiritual holiday as well as a fun time for a get-together...this is the truly democratic, inclusive winter or summer) holiday, as everyone, regardless of how lonely or broke or sick they are, can have hope and resolutions for the new year. It's a time when we can choose to forgive, let go of past grudges and move forward into a future with unlimited possibilities, when old barriers can be broken and new dreams realized.

New Year's Eve was the night in Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights when romantic antihero Heathcliff let go of years of resentment towards people who had wronged him and on whom he'd previously spent most of his time exacting revenge. Then, out of the power of love and honoring the best within himself rather than the worst, he broke through the boundaries of life and death, time and memory, money and class, and found a real spiritual connection with nature and others and his departed lover, Catherine.

So, in that spirit, let us all join in forgiving the past and embracing the future, the promise of infinite creative possibilities where all are welcome.
Tuesday, December 1st, 2009
2:37 pm
Everyone - Synchronized Chaos Magazine (which is online at http://www.synchchaos.com) is sponsoring a holiday drive for the Ford family, whom I've personally known for years. They have periodically submitted work and contributed to our magazine - some of Kristie's writing is already live for our upcoming December issue. The children are talented vocalists and graphic artists, and the mother has serious writing ability and I continually encourage her to go professional, as much as she can from home.

The two teenage children live with their elderly grandmother, as Kristie (the widowed mother) lost custody of them as she could not properly care for them due to her illnesses (melanoma skin cancer, narcolepsy, ADD, and the legally disabling mental illness of Delusional Disorder.) Kristie receives $860 a month disability income, $400 of which goes to her rent, and she sends as much as possible of the rest to her mother and her children. She's survived several mentally and physically abusive relationships and is also dealing with court costs and legal issues as a result of these.

There aren't too many resources in her area to help low income families...what does exist in San Rafael is targeted towards another very poor area of town, not where they live.

Kristie has a teenage boy (16 years old) and a teenage daughter (15 years old) and three nephews and nieces: a five year old boy, a six year old girl, and a six month old baby girl.

Food and gas money is a struggle, and she's gone hungry several times in the past few months. They cannot afford anything special for the holidays. So, our magazine staff is putting together a Christmas gift package for the family, and I'm inviting all my professional colleagues to contribute. This is our holiday tradition...every winter we pick our neediest contributing writers/artists and host a donation drive for them with their consent.
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Monday, November 30th, 2009
11:47 pm
Crosslinked in Synchronized Chaos Magazine...featured artist Tom Heinz' biography
Biography of nature photographer Tom Heinz, featured in December's issue of Synchronized Chaos Magazine, live at http://www.synchchaos.com

Having shown much artistic talent at an early age, Tom’s mother enrolled him in programs at the Cleveland Museum of Art while he was pre-school. At about 5 he received a plastic Donald Duck camera from his grandmother, but really didn’t use it until around age 10 when he began developing 120 roll film in an open print tray. An avid model airplane builder, he soon began to photograph his models on a makeshift runway in his backyard, using his Donald Duck camera. He felt it was a good camera as you could intentionally make double exposures.

Tom received his first 35mm camera while in high school. Formal photography training came while studying architecture at Kent State University. Immediately after graduation Tom left for Peru as a Peace Corps Volunteer Architect and taught his first photography class to his fellow trainees. Tom returned to Peru 4 years later as part of an Earthquake Relief Team, which evolved into an instructor contract for a training program. As well as creating a curriculum on Peruvian Construction Techniques, Tom taught his second class in photography to those trainees. While teaching in the Virgin Islands he bought a Super-8 movie camera.

When Tom returned to Cleveland he apprenticed with several architects, winning a design award for an office addition to a factory. But, Tom’s thoughts were in the film world. So he retired from architecture, and moved to the San Francisco Art Institute. Yes, although he rented a room in the tenderloin, he spent every waking hour (and many sleeping hours too) at the SFAI, obtaining BFA & MFA’s in Filmmaking.

After 10 years making films, and receiving numerous national and international awards, with video already in and computers on the horizon, Tom, again, sought another challenge. He packed up his film equipment and returned to school to study electronics, digital logic, and computer programming. The next 18 years he worked with the best in the computer industry, from assembly, to designing printed circuit boards for Lucasfilm, to lab manager in software test engineering.

Recently, he returned to the art world with photography as his medium. Immersed in the new digital photo realm, Tom began winning awards from magazine competitions, exhibited in galleries, and took 50 years of photography as a hobby to a professional level.

His experimental photography is in the third dimension. Using cameras with 2, 3, or 4 lenses he makes 3D stereo images and lenticulars.

Tom has received Brisbane’s Mayor’s Award for Recognition in the Arts, and teaches digital photography through the Brisbane Recreation Department.

Check out his work at http://www.heinzight.com
Friday, October 9th, 2009
5:34 pm
Link - from Debra Berliner of Berkeley's Ecology Center..interviewed in October's Synchronized Chaos
You know there's a lot you can do to fight climate change but you're just not sure where to begin. Or maybe you've already got a small footprint and you're ready to take community-level action. Benefit from the support, information exchange, and camaraderie of your fellow community members as well as the resources offered by the Ecology Center, all while reducing your carbon footprint, getting free membership to the Ecology Center if you haven't already been a member, saving money, and meeting your neighbors.

Three ways to take local action on climate change:

1) Join an upcoming Ecology Center Climate Change Action Group:
Mondays from 6-8pm: October 19, October 26, November 2, November 9

2) Invite the Ecology Center to facilitate a Climate Change Action Group at your workplace, congregation, in your neighborhood, or with another community group.
If you have approximately 10 committed participants, we'll lead a group for you free of charge.

3) Facilitate your own group with friends, neighbors, coworkers or others.
Next facilitator training: Thursday, Oct 29, 6-8:30pm at the Ecology Center.

How do the Climate Change Action Groups work?
During four weekly sessions, you will join with a small group of Bay Area residents to calculate your carbon footprint, create a measurable personal action plan to reduce your footprint and make substantive changes in your community. Participation and facilitation services are free. A $10 fee (at cost) will be charged for the Low Carbon Diet workbook. No one turned away for lack of funds.

How do I sign up?
Write to debra@ecologycenter.org and pass on this message to your friends and colleagues. For more information, visit http://www.ecologycenter.org

Background on the Ecology Center
The Ecology Center provides the public with reliable information, tools, hands-on training, referrals, strategies, infrastructure, and models for sustainable living. Our programs enable people to adopt practices that are environmentally and socially responsible. We run Berkeley's residential curbside recycling program, the Berkeley Farmers' Markets, Farm Fresh Choice food justice program, Terrain magazine, EcoHouse demonstration home and garden, the Ecology Center Store, and a variety of Information and Climate Change Action programs.

We hope you can join us!
Debra Berliner, MPH, Climate Action Coordinator
Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94702
Office phone: (510) 548 2220 x240
Cell phone: (415) 312 9720
Fax: (510) 548-2240
email: debra@ecologycenter.org
Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
1:39 pm
"Today’s Entrepreneurs: New Financial, Old Logistical Challenges, Yet Reasons for Optimism"
(reprinted from San Jose State University's internal academic documents, from late May 2009.)

"Today’s [American] Entrepreneurs: New Financial, Old Logistical Challenges, Yet Reasons for Optimism"

Many Americans celebrate entrepreneurship as an alternate pathway to success for the especially innovative and talented. With the current economic downturn, though, more people, immigrants and native-born, are turning to entrepreneurship because they have trouble finding regular employment. For some, working for oneself becomes a survival strategy rather than a long-range dream.

Organizing and managing a business may prove harder for these new business owners, with less managerial experience and know-how, and often less money and lower credit scores, than the entrepreneurs of the past.

However, many experts who work with local organizations assisting small businesses believe entrepreneurship can still represent a viable way to earn a living and help rejuvenate our economy, even for the changing demographic of entrepreneurs.

Cristina Deptula is a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She may be reached at cedeptula@sbcglobal.net and encourages everyone to try Paula Tejeda's Chile Lindo restaurant!
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Monday, August 24th, 2009
7:19 pm
Didacus Ramos' Henrietta


Didacus-jeff Ramos

(Best read with Papua New Guinea Kegabah Estate and a classic coffee cake.)

The feast of St. Anthony only comes once a year. I think it’s in the Fall, but can never remember exactly when. One day the trucks pull up in the paved school yard carrying the scissor barrel ride, the swings, kiddy rides and a wild mouse. Booths go up with spinning wheels painted with numbers that matched the numbers on the board table on the front of the booth where we bet the coins Monsignor Martin threw to us. We scrambled for the pennies—if you were lucky you found a nickel. It was really hard to concentrate on school work from then on. We would be let out early that day—2 p.m.

Last night we finished the novena to Our Lady of Fatima—nine evenings of prayers and songs of devotion. Today is the feast of St. Anthony of Padua—San Antonio do Padua. Even though our parish is dedicated to All Saints (actually Our Lady of All Saints), St. Anthony is the patron saint. I always thought he was Portuguese—San Diego (Saint Didacus) was. So was San Luis Obispo—well, he was from the Iberian peninsula—that put him in the ball park, at least. My mother told me that I have a good voice when we sing the hymns in Latin and Portuguese. I sparkle with the compliment but really am already tasting pan con soupos and strawberry soda. The festa will last three days—three days of rides, gambling and too much food. That was our definition of ecstasy.

This year I’ve saved my money. My sister saves everything she gets and writes it down in her little account book. I’m perpetually broke. Everyone knows that if I have any money, which is rare, all they have to do is ask me and I’ll “lend” it to them. No one ever pays me back. Everyone at school has more than I do. I guess that’s why they don’t think it’s such a big deal to just forget about it. I know that if I get stuck, I can ask either my sister or my cousin Ed to “lend” me money for this event. The last day of the festa is the auction. My mother has finally conceded that if I use my own money and win, I can have the animals that are always auctioned.

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Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
11:50 pm
Synchronized Chaos Magazine's Anniversary Party!
Everyone here is invited to Synchronized Chaos Magazine's anniversary party and networking mixer for those interested in the arts, creative writing, journalism, nonprofit management/entrepreneurship. We're getting together next Friday, August 28th, in Castro Valley at Knudsen's Ice Creamery - drop-in anytime from 5 to 10 pm.

This is a reception for our artists, writers, musicians, and featured community and world leaders, as well as a networking and celebration event for all of us. Lots of eclectic flavors of ice cream (including dairy-free options) available, as well as hot sandwiches and cider.

We have a Facebook page for the event, or you may simply email cedeptula@sbcglobal.net to RSVP - or just show up! Please call me at 510-589-8252 for directions...the Creamery's website is here: http://www.icecreamery.net/
Thursday, July 30th, 2009
5:41 pm
My Grandfather's Carving: Didacus Ramos' Story #2 from the Portuguese
My Grandfather’s Carving


Didacus Ramos

(best read with Coffee Liqueur—maybe straight scotch and Double Chocolate pound cake)

“I'll drive,” she said. I got in on the passenger side. “Push the seat back. The boys sit in the back and I use that seat as my office. Oh, sorry for the mess.” She was embarrassed—but not enough to refuse me the ride.

“No problem. I’ll put it in the back.”

“Where to? Arby’s?”

“No. This is for your birthday…Let’s go down to Subway.” She smirks. I know she’s impressed with my debonair style.

Subway shares a row of shops—Subway at one end, a rug shop, an office, a tanning salon and Ted’s Grill. We park in the middle of the strip. She crosses past me walking toward Subway. I grab her hand and pull her in the opposite direction. I could feel her hand shiver, her eyes dart around—who saw that?
“I’m not buying you a sandwich for your birthday. We’re going to Ted’s.” She doesn’t know whether to laugh or run away. A restaurant versus a sandwich shop. Hmmm.

“I have neighbors. Someone’s going to see us.”

“Suppose so.”
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Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
2:06 am
Management and behind-the-scenes folks invited to submit work for our anniversary issue!
This August is Synchronized Chaos' one-year anniversary and we're celebrating by having a 'dunk-tank' kind of event where we ask anyone and everyone who helps manage the magazine or who helped put it together behind the scenes to make some artwork or writing of their own for us to feature and for everyone else to read and leave comments...basically a chance to come out from behind the curtain and have the experience of creating something in a completely different genre or style and seeing it featured.

So - anyone who's helped out somehow, or longtime members of this community, people who joined back in summer/fall 2008 when we first started and who were encouraging...and/or who are in the magazine and publishing business yourselves, you're invited! Your work doesn't have to be perfect, this is about the experience and trying something new.

The dunk tank is a joke, no one really makes fun of anyone...it's a chance to come on out and introduce ourselves and try something different. I'm writing a modern-day spoof of the old 1971 carchase movie Vanishing Point, just to see if I can pull it off and actually be funny. If you'd like to contribute then please email something to cedeptula@sbcglobal.net and it'll go live late this August!
Monday, July 20th, 2009
5:55 pm
Dave Eggers in Oakland/Montclair Thursday July 23rd!
Come on out to Oakland/Montclair's Great Good Place for Books, where Dave Eggers will speak on his new nonfiction book, Zietoun, on a Syrian-American businessman's effort to survive and help others in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Event is at 6120 La Salle St. at 1pm. Dave Eggers is the author of the Darfur refugee story What is the What, and the bestseller A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

I'm heading on over there after seeing Sarah Dunant in Pleasanton at 11 am...then going to the Cafe Night at 20600 John Drive in Castro Valley at 7 pm.
5:06 pm
Experiences with and advice about self-publishing companies?
Question from Cynthia Lamanna, writer of a variety of genres of short pieces and articles. She (and probably others here) would love to hear anyone's experiences with and advice about Authorhouse, Outskirts, Publish America, etc...do these work, what are the financial prospects like, how long does the process take, etc?

Please comment with any thoughts, and feel free to post any other writing and art related questions and make this group a useful resource!
Sunday, July 19th, 2009
3:55 pm
Author Sarah Dunant coming to Pleasanton for a lecture and appearance
Coffee with Sarah Dunant
Main Street, Pleasanton, off of 580 and 680.
Thurs. July 23 11:00

From Towne Center's owner:

We are very excited to welcome bestselling author, Sarah Dunant. She is the author of bookclub favorites: In the Company of the Courtesan and the Birth of Venus. Her newest, Sacred Hearts, is set in a convent in Renaissance Italy. I loved it! Learn more about Sarah: http://www.sarahdunant.com/Sarah-Dunant-Author/sarah-dunant-author-international-best-sellers.htm

Sarah is on book tour from England so let's show her that warm Tri Valley Hospitality! There will be refreshments, interesting dialogue, reading, and autographing. It's free. Reservations are helpful but not required.

Synchronized Chaos note:

Yes, this is the heart of American suburbia - but people of all different kinds of subcultures and from all different kinds of countries love Sarah Dunant for her writing craftsmanship, technical skill, creativity, and incredible historical research without losing sight of the need to create readable suspense. In the Company of the Courtesan concerns whether people/things need to be 'true' to be beautiful and useful...one of my lifetime favorite books for both narrative and philosophy. Come on out and support a local bookstore and this dedicated author!
2:51 pm
Announcements of local literary and cultural events - please feel free to post anything in your area
Announcements below - also please feel free to post writing or artwork in this community if you would like feedback and critique. You're welcome to do this whether or not you are submitting the work to Synchronized Chaos Magazine (http://www.synchchaos.com) afterwards. Our editorial staff regularly checks and reads and will regularly update this community.

Believe/Achieve: Exhibition with the National League of American Pen Women...founded in 1897 for networking and support for women of achievement in letters, art, and music composition. Reception open to the public Friday August 7, 5:30 to 7:30 in the John O'Lague Galleria of the Hayward City Hall..777 B Street, Hayward, CA. I (Cristina Deptula) will be there and invite everyone else to come.

Video Journalists from inside fascist Burma have produced award-winning film footage...come stand with these news professionals by supporting this film.

Risking torture and imprisonment, the VJs vividly document the brutal clashes with the military and undercover police– even after they themselves become targets of the authorities.

This film has received rave reviews and multiple awards. See never before seen footage of the (fall 2007) Saffron Revolution.

Click here to view the trailer. <http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=c7p2vecd2hfecbuthee0rdg1g4wpurxx>

Landmark Shattuck
July 17-23
2230 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94701-1416
(510) 464-5980

1:40 pm, 3:40 pm, 5:40 pm, 7:40 pm, 9:40pm SF
Landmark Lumiere
July 17-23 (2:40 5:00) 7:20 9:35
1572 California Street at Polk
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 267-4893
Sunday, June 28th, 2009
4:39 pm
Stories Growing Up Portuguese - Didacus Ramos

The Lesson


Didacus Ramos


(Best read with a Guatemala “Casi Cielo” (“Almost Heaven”) and a maple oat nut scone.)


Uncle Frank was pissed.


He slammed the gearbox of the ’41 Pontiac coup and it lunged forward across Winton Avenue. Richard and Craig grabbed the back of the front seats and the hand loops next to the doors to hang on. I fell back into the front seat, my feet flying off the floor boards.


Richard and Craig. I always said the names together—Richard n’ Craig—like it was one word. My cousins’ names were more an idea than just people’s names. We all had been raised together more like brothers and sisters than cousins. But, our homes were named after who we played with. I called it Richard n’ Craig’s. My sister called the same place Kristine’s.


Early that day I left home to walk around the block to their house. My mother admonished, “Be home by dinner.” Now I wondered if I’d be late. Didn’t make much difference. There’d be hell to pay today.


Craig saw them first. His arm shot past my head like a spear, finger sharply pointing. “There they are!” The punks had upturned a wooden baseball backstop. The one with the mouth was bouncing on it trying to break it.


“Son of a bitch,” Uncle Frank hissed. I could feel Richard n’ Craig exchange glances. The grownups tried to watch their language around us. I stared straight ahead. I pulled on the strap on the glove box trying to follow Craig’s point. Uncle Frank turned the car down an unpaved court, dust flying behind us like smoke. Until last year this had been Mr. Galvin’s farm. I missed the farm and Mr. Galvin’s huge mare draft horse. Across the vacant lots we could see the punks. They saw us and started running. But they were running toward the pickle factory on the far side of Winton School. That was dumb. They couldn’t get out of the play field that way. As if they heard my thoughts, they turned mid-field and headed toward the construction site at the far end of the field.


We piled out of the car. Craig squeezed by me and ran.  I almost fell out of the car and brought up the rear. They were all bigger than me. My heart murmur was making me wheeze. No one noticed. They would only notice if I started to turn blue. They wouldn’t notice that today—not after what happened.


The day started out with great promise. I decided to walk all the way around the block rather than cut through Uncle George’s field. He wouldn’t mind if I cut through, but I liked to walk around and see the Victorian homes. Richard n’ Craig were coming down the block with their baseball and bat—we didn’t have gloves. Usually we would meet at their house and start with the “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” routine. I liked it when we got together. 


“Oh, no,” I thought, “not baseball.” They used me as a go-for. Craig pitched; Richard batted. The ball always went where I wasn’t. I ran it down. I got to it over two football fields from the diamond. It had rolled to a stop. Football. Why couldn’t we play football?


“Don’t walk it in! Throw it!” I threw it. It landed and stopped. I could see their shoulders slump and heads tilt as if to say, “So, throw it again.” I ran to it. Threw it. It stopped. I threw it three times before my throw made it to Craig. I hated baseball.


Later when I made the varsity team in high school I knew where my arm came from. I still didn’t like it, just got good at it.


Then I heard him. The two punks came from a hole under the fence. Obviously, they hadn’t seen “Westside Story”. Neither had we—too much singing and kissing. “Tonight, tonight”…yish. But the guys at school showed us how to vault over fences like the gang did in the movie. I liked it because I didn’t get all dusty crawling through the hole. Craig liked it because, as he said, “It’s like we’re flying over the fence.” We were big on anything to do with airplanes.


The punk was jabbering something, but I couldn’t make it out. Richard let the bat slump; then picked it up ready for Craig’s pitch. That was our cue to ignore the punk. By rights, that was my job. I was the oldest son of the oldest son, of the oldest son for as long as anyone could remember. That meant someday I’d be the patron. But Richard was my older cousin, Craig’s oldest brother—the oldest. He took that very seriously. He said we ignore—we ignore.


And, I would have if the punk hadn’t started jabbering at me. I knew it was foul. But, what does “fucking bastard” mean? My dad was a carpenter. He’d ask me to get the bastard file for him. The punk was calling me a “fucking file”?


So, I told him. After I said it Richard shot me a glance. Uh, oh. Here we go. I told the punk, “Same to you.” He got pissed. His invectives edged up several notches. I knew he was trying to insult me. I really wanted to tell him that to insult me he would have to use words I understood. But the code stopped me. I was supposed to understand cursing. The punk bellowed. I said, “Same to you.” He bellowed some more. Richard hit the pitch and my fielding talents were requested. By the time the ball rolled to Craig, the punks had disappeared into the school building. Then Richard shocked me.


“Your turn to bat.” Me? The sun was still high in the sky. Craig hadn’t batted yet. Richard was heading for the outfield—not too deep. I began to walk. “Run,” Craig said. I trotted like I had seen Willy Mays do at the Giants game.


The bat came almost to my chest. It weighed a ton. “Oh, this is going to be good,” I thought. Craig slow pitched to me. I swung and caused a typhoon to blow. The ball wasn’t damaged when it hit the backstop behind me. I threw it back to Craig. 


“Wait for a good pitch,” he said.


I took a stance like Richard had.


“Choke up,” Craig told me. My hands slid up the bat. If I swung too hard, the end of the bat would stick me in the chest. Craig pitched. 


Recently I had started making clicking noises with my tongue like the crack of the bat when Willy Mays hit a long ball. I clucked. I swung. I hit the ball! Craig watched as the ball labored past him into the outfield. Everything past Craig was the outfield. Richard was charging the ball. 


“Run!” Craig yelled at me as we raced for first base.


“Safe!” I yelled stomping where the first base bag would be if it were there.


“Good hit,” Richard feigned. He had been sickly, too. He understood how important it was to tell me.


I don’t remember why. Richard was back at bat. Craig was still pitching. I was on first base. The hand felt like a claw on my shoulder. It spun me around. I never saw the fist. It clocked me on the side of the eye and the world seemed very gray. I staggered back but didn’t fall.


“Good one,” the second punk said. I could hear him, but couldn’t see him. Funny how a small piece of dust in one eye makes you blind in both. The punk was telling me I was a fucking something.


What does that mean? What does it mean to be a fucking something? My eye started to throb.


Suddenly Richard was standing next to me. He was yelling at the punk to pick on someone who’s facing him. I took it that Richard felt the blow was a foul because I didn’t see it coming. And, if I had seen it coming? Then what? My eye was really throbbing. Craig started toward us. The second punk grabbed the first and said, “There’s three of them. Let’s get out of here.” He counted me! My vision cleared. I was staring at both of them—what a menacing glare.


The punks shrank away. Richard came over to me and looked at my eye. “We’re done for today.” I knew it was my fault. We couldn’t fly over the fence. I squeezed through the gap between the gates. It took a month to walk home. Craig carried the ball and bat. Richard gripped my arm all the way. I was in trouble.


Uncle Frank was pissed.


When he saw my eye, I saw his lips purse and his hand plant on his hips. Someone was about to die. I prayed it wouldn’t be me.


After he cooled off in the field and the punks had escaped, he ordered us back to the car. I turned to look back and saw him packing up the backstop. I wondered if I’d ever get that strong. We knew the punks would be back. Sure enough, the backstop lay smashed a few days later.


“Come on. We’ll take you home,” Uncle Frank said. His tone was almost defeated. I realized that he felt that he let someone hurt his nephew.


My mom stood in the doorway with that “Oh, boy” look on her face. They sat me down in the kitchen. She put a paper towel filled with ice on my eye. The throbbing stopped. I hadn’t seen myself yet. Everyone kept looking at me. Richard recounted the story. There was no campfire. No warriors dancing and howling. No stories of killing buffalo. Just a fool holding a cold dripping paper towel against his eye. The melting ice ran down my arm and dripped off my elbow. Well, there’d be hell to pay when my father got home. Everyone went home. My sister came out of her room. She saw my eye and both of hers welled with tears. I thought maybe I’d go to bed after dinner—and not look in any mirrors.


My dad’s truck drove up. I heard the door slam, his boots clunk on the concrete, the back door open.


“Look at your son,” my mom told him. “Your son”—I was going to die.


He looked at me and said something in Portuguese. I wondered if it meant “fuck”. His callused hand turned my chin back and forth. I wanted to say, “You should have seen the other guy.” But I hadn’t seen the other guy either.


“Needs more ice,” he said. My mother mumbled the story to him.


My sister stared across the table at me as my mother ladled more food than I could eat in a week on to my plate. Just eating dinner was going to be long tonight. For once, I didn’t say anything all dinner long.


I stood next to my dad as he read his newspaper. “Takes two to fight,” he whispered.


“What did you do during the war?” I asked.


“I built airplanes in San Diego.”






“Were they bombers?”


“No. Patrol planes. They didn’t hurt anyone.”


“Did you ever get in a fight?”


He looked at me. I can’t remember if he said anything. He made room for me on his lap.


“Can I read your paper?” I struggled through the Portuguese. “Did grandpa fight in a war?”


“No, rapas (boy). We don’t fight wars.”


“Uncle Frank did.”


“Yah. Get some more ice.”


I wouldn’t be dying tonight.

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