AB5 and the War on Lyft/Uber expose why Black Jobs Matter

18 08 2020

Well, Lordy, lordy, who would have thought that a bad law and a pandemic would render a response from Civil Rights organizations that actually address the real needs of their people? The NAACP and other business and civil rights organizations sent an urgent letter to Governor Gavin Newsom calling for him to stop the war on the gig economy and to use his emergency powers to suspend #AB5, and to protect the work of drivers for Uber and Lyft.

Another anti-AB5 colleague found it, but I promptly tweeted it out:

NAACP Calls Newsom to Stop War on Gig Economy

For those of you who have been under a rock, #AB5 has all but decimated the economic prospects of independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers in California. On top of this, the State of California is doing its utmost to end Uber and Lyft operations in California: filing lawsuits, lodging fines, and faux organizing by disgruntled drivers (totally engineered by the Labor Unions) in order to extract money that they claim the state and their drivers are owed.

Uber and Lyft have refused to cave, but in light of the court upholding an injunction forcing the app companies to convert their drivers to employees by August 20, both Uber and Lyft have said they will suspend operations in California through November. The vote on the Prop 22 ballot measure, which would allow Californians to decide whether these drivers should be able to be an independent contractor or an employee, will be the deciding factor.

Then Covid-19 with its subsequent lock downs and closed businesses rendered the death blow. Governor Newsom’s schizophrenic and inconsistent response and actions, appearing perfectly groomed and coiffed while the rest of us developed gray hairs and lumberjack beards, were just more nails in the coffin.

Both the evil law and the virus exposed unintended consequences (what else is new?). The fact that Blacks and Hispanics are more susceptible to the virus and more likely to be adversely affected by it, and the so-called experts still have no idea why this is the case. The lack of any proper measures beyond mask wearing has made some of us understandably cautious about trying to go among people and look for work—if there is any work to be had.

CBS News reported on a University of Santa Cruz research survey that found that 40 percent of Black businesses in major cities like New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles have been lost, and probably will never come back.

“There were more than 1 million black-owned businesses in the U.S. at the beginning of February, according to research from the University of California at Santa Cruz, which drew from Census survey estimates. By mid-April, 440,000 black business owners had shuttered their company for good — a 41% plunge. By comparison, 17% of white-owned businesses closed during the same period, the UC Santa Cruz research shows.”

Back in May, on my Communities Digital News page, I reported that women and minorities make up a huge chunk of independent contractors, and this law disenfranchises us; particularly during this pandemic, when we all could be working from home.

So, the fact that the NAACP recognizes this and took action came as a huge surprise. Writer baldilocks replied to my tweet with this apt response:

Baldilocks Response to NAACP Tweet

The rest of that phrase goes, “is right twice a day.” And it’s true. As much as the organization has moved away from true racial justice and equality, on this particular issue of the evils of AB5 and the Uber/Lyft war, it has stepped up to the plate.

Other organizations who sponsored the letter include the Los Angeles Urban League, Ex-Offender Action Network, and Independent Professionals Association.

It is quite an amazing missive, and you can read it in its entirety here. While I don’t agree with all its suggested solutions, the outlining of the case that AB5 and the injunctions against Uber and Lyft need to go is spot on.

An excerpt from the letter:

“The fact is that this crisis demands a new approach. COVID-19 has exposed just how broken the existing safety net programs are for people of color. Unemployment insurance in the U.S. is a patchwork of state-controlled programs originally designed to allow states to exclude Black domestic and agricultural workers during the Great Depression. The challenges faced by Black Americans in accessing unemployment assistance, business loans, and other pandemic assistance funding today are the direct result of racist policies that systematically disenfranchise Black Americans because they do not look like the traditional employees and businesses for whom these programs were designed.”

It ends with this:

“Governor, for African Americans, self-employment is not just a matter of pride – it is a matter of principle. Our people have been fighting for the right to profit from our own labor for over 400 years. We are proud of our resilience and entrepreneurship in the face of odds that have always been stacked against us. But while the coronavirus is destroying Black businesses, we must not allow this disease to destroy our independence.”

Boom. The NAACP laid bare to the Governor why Black JOBS Matter.

Let’s hope Newsom grows a brain and listens.

 





Evan Wecksell and AB5: A long-shot write-in candidate may just shake things up

2 03 2020

Evan Wecksell

This weekend, I was invited to a meet-and-greet for Senate District 25 Write-in Candidate Evan Wecksell.

Current District 25 State Senator Anthony Portantino is up for re-election, and would be running unopposed had it not been for Evan, and one other write-in candidate stepping up to the plate.

Thank God, because Portantino has to go. he has mostly been a rubber stamp for the progressive agenda: from his six-year-long career in the California State Assembly (2006-2012), to his four years in the State Senate (2016), he has followed the party line from his anti-gun ownership stance, to his promotion and vote for AB5, the so-called “Gig Workers” law that has removed our right to choose to work in the way that fits our lives, our schedules, and our preference.

As part of the Facebook groups where those affected by AB5 organize: Freelancers Against AB5 and Freelancers Against the PRO Act, I posted my research on write-in candidates for District 25, and Evan reached out to me personally and invited me to attend the event in Pasadena. Along with promoting it to my friends and colleagues in the district, Lynn and I attended.

Evan talked about his journey to becoming a write-in candidate, he talked at length about the AB5 law and why it needs to be repealed:

I took a few Facebook Live videos to curate his major points, and he had some ingenious ideas on how the focus on independent contractors could be approached, the perspective on responsible gun owners, and undoing onerous laws:

He acknowledged the long-shot nature of his candidacy, but encouraged us that through word of mouth, texting, lawn signs, business cards and informing people of his candidacy, he could get enough votes to make the runoff in November.

I was impressed by Evan’s attention to detail, game plan, and ground game. Truth be told, the other write-in candidate was weighed in the same balance, and found wanting.

California District 25 encompasses the cities and communities of Burbank, Sunland-Tujunga, Atwater Village, La Canãda-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, Glendale, Pasadena, Altadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Bradbury, Duarte, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, Upland, and San Antonio Heights.

CA Senate District 25

Former Governor Jerry Brown signed a law outlawing write-in candidates for the general election; so this is the one opportunity in the crazy California jungle primary to disrupt the one-party rule. If you live in District 25 and you haven’t voted yet, write in “Evan Wecksell”. If you are particularly unhappy with the direction in the state, this is your chance to force a choice.





AB5 and the State of the State

26 02 2020

So our idiot Governor Gavin Newsom delivered his second State of the State address last week. All the elected crooks were in session, including the useless Attorney General Javier Beccerra, whose only job seems to be to sue the federal government, and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis fulfilling one of her minimal duties of introducing the Governor’s address.

If California was not in such awful shape, it would have been comedy gold: much of it looked like a Saturday Night Live sketch, with Newsom entering like a rock star, while assembly members, state senators, and others clapped like trained seals, and Botox Barbie “first partner” Jennifer Siebel Newsom being fawned over. His hollow inflation of how well California is doing was fairly nauseating. It is like someone strutting, thinking they are runway fabulous, but their hairy ass is exposed.

For those in California, I recommend you view the whole thing and see how many lies you can catch. His spending three-quarters of his speech on how he will attack the homeless crisis in the state is particularly disingenuous. Newsom has been collectively shamed by President Trump and a few of the mayors of the larger cities where homelessness is rampant and destroying the quality of life for tax-paying residents. Total strangers like activist Scott Presler have gone into San Francisco to clean up the poop- and needle-laden streets. But Newsom’s attempt to slap a “rah-rah” face on the crisis comes off as castles in the air postulating. While he rattled off many declarations and ideas, he gave no solid plans toward their implementation.

He tweeted part of his brilliant strategy on Twitter:

Gavin Stupid 1

So doctors are now realtors? So I can go to my doctor and say, “I want to live in the Governor’s mansion—write me a prescription please!” Ludicrous. He was rightly ratioed by many us:

Gavin Newsom Ratio 1Gavin Newsom Ratio 2Gavin Newsom Ratio 3Gavin Newsom Ratio 5

The last ratio points to Governor Newsom signing AB5 into law, which got nary a mention in his speech. He did make this baldfaced claim:

“In city after city, household after household, the hard work of this legislature is making dreams more real for more Californians than ever before.

“When Justice Brandeis wrote in 1932 that ‘a single courageous state may…serve as a laboratory’ of democracy, he could easily have been referencing California today.

“Because, unlike the Washington plutocracy, California isn’t satisfied serving a powerful few on one side of the velvet rope.

The California Dream is for all.” (emphasis mine)

Are you kidding me?! Over 160 professions ripped apart due to the effects of AB5. For thousands of California constituents, the California Dream became the California Nightmare overnight. But let’s talk about how we are going to solve homelessness in the state, when Newsom’s signing of this landmine of a law has done more toward exacerbating the crisis! I joined in the ratio myself by pointing this out:

Gavin Newsom Ratio-my reply

The total lack of self-awareness boggles the mind. But like Assembly speaker Harridan Lorena, they do what their union overlords tell them to do and they refuse to back down or apologize. The only thing either of them will understand is being voted out. I and others are working on that part.

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley has authored a repeal bill to AB5: AB1928. It has wended its way through committee and will come up for vote on February 27. With the same Democrat Super Majority who voted it into place, it’s a long shot. But I appreciate that some of his colleagues, like Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, have signed on to Asm. Kiley’s effort to see AB5 stopped in its tracks.

 

State Senator Shannon Grove has also instituted bill SB875 to see the AB5 repealed.

 

Should these efforts be blocked or fail, it is clear we the people of California need to vote these bastards out. One-party rule by union fiat is neither protection nor is it healthy for a functioning state. It is a fiefdom, and none of us signed up for that.

Recall Newsom efforts are still underway, despite the blocking by secretaries of states who are fearful of losing their little corner of power. Early voting has already started, and Super Tuesday is March 3. Californians, please stop voting party lines and union lines, and vote for saving freedom to earn a livelihood in the way you see fit, and an electorate that works for you.

The true State of the State is dependent on you; not the empty-headed Ken doll in the governor’s mansion.





A funny thing happened on the way to 2020…

13 02 2020

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know what happened; and it is not funny. Among the numerous freedom-killing laws the California legislature concocted and the Leftist Governor Newsom signed into law is Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), hilariously named, the “Gig Worker” Bill. This bill is the bastard child of Assemblymember (woman? Who knows? *eye roll*) Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher of District 80 in San Diego County.  Delusional, and drunk on power, she claims she just wants “workers” to have good jobs with good benefits. But you watch her Twitter feed, and actually confront her couched language, and she exposes her true goal:

Lorena True Reason for AB5 Union Tweet 09-16-19

Despite conversations, lobbying, protestations by truckers, small business, freelance writers, musicians, independent contractors, and other “gig” workers who don’t make money through the traditional channel of a 9-5 employee, #Harridan Lorena got what she wanted. The Democrat Super Majority voted it in, and Leftist Gavin signed it into law.

The law went into effect on January 1, 2020, and has wreaked havoc on millions of Californians; many who either didn’t think the law affected them, or just were too busy trying to earn a living (Hello!), that they didn’t see it coming.

If you follow my Twitter or Facebook feed, or just do an Internet search, you can read the articles, and see the stories of people limited and destroyed by this law. Professions like interpreters and translators, who work for multiple agencies via 1099, are also being hit horribly. Small non-profits, theater companies, opera houses have had to shutter their doors. All because a legislature, who is essentially bought-and-paid-for by big union interest, decided that the only valid employment is full-time (and union) employment.

Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher’s big dream is to be the Secretary of State in 2022, and then probably governor, which is always a stepping-stone to the presidency.

My goal is to shatter her dreams the way she has shattered my, and others, livelihoods:

Repeal AB5

“What the bill really did was make it illegal for Californians to choose how, when, and where to work to support their families. Overnight tens of thousands of people in various industries […] found their income streams either entirely eliminated or severely curtailed.” — AB 5 Facts.

Let’s call it what it is: Evil. With a vote you tell millions of workers that what they do does not matter, and that they can no longer do it on their own terms. This is not only un-American, it is destructive. And as John 10:10 tells me, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy…”

For those outside of California, who would say, “Oh, that’s crazy California, they get what they deserve…” Take a look at Virginia, New York, and Illinois to see that these power-hungry Leftists are never satisfied with destroying their own fiefdoms, but will be coming for yours very soon.

Last week, the United States House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 2474, also hilariously titled “Protecting the Right to Organize 2019” Act  (PRO Act).  Long story short, it’s AB5 on steroids, and it is a nationwide bill that they hope to make a national law. They want to wreak the same havoc that is happening in California on your little state. Welcome to the party, folks!

It is now on the floor of the Senate, and Minority Leader Schumer of New York (huh), has promised to get the votes to have it pass the Senate. Even if that happens (there is much doubt), President Trump has said he will not sign the act, and then it dies until they get someone in office who will do their bidding (Hello, Bernie?).

But if I know one thing it is this: these people are like cockroaches: they keep coming back, and they bring 5,000 of their friends with them! They are not going to stop until they get what they want. Destruction of your constitutional and God-given freedoms.

So I am doing what I know to do, for myself and for all who are affected by AB5, and will be affected by HR 2474 (PRO Act).

I am not going to stop until I see AB5 fully repealed, and this PRO Act and any of its permutations destroyed. Like President Trump recognizes, social media is very effective. So my Assembly critter (who voted YES on AB5) Chris Holden, Governor Newsom, Sens. Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris have heard, and will continue to hear from me via Tweet, post, as well as other traditional means like letter and fax. They supported these turkeys, and I will keep throwing that in their face until the outcry is deafening. And trust me, it’s getting there.

Here is another beauty part: California in its infinite wisdom moved their State elections to March 3, which allows us to channel the AB5 Resistance to the ballot box. While early voting is already going on, we still are able to affect change. I am encouraging California voters affected negatively by AB5 to vote against the Assembly person who signed on to this debacle. Aside from withholding money (which is the union’s threat), these jokers only understand being primaried or voted out of office entirely.

So beyond what work I can scrounge up, this has consumed my days. Pray for me, and hit the tip jar if you feel so led.

Even if you are not affected by this evil law, you can support or advocate on behalf of those who are. If you are on Facebook, follow: Freelancers Against AB5 and Freelancers Against the ProAct.

And speaking of Twitter, Faces of AB5 (#ProAct) is doing yeoman’s work in not only keeping California’s legislature’s feet to the fire, but promoting stories and news that tells the truth about the devastation caused by this evil law.

Here are some important links:

AB5 Facts – To educate you on AB5.

Shannon Grove AB5 Stories – One of our state representatives has graciously set up a questionnaire for those affected by the law.

AB5 Stories  – Stories of hundreds who have been adversely affected since AB5’s implementation.

AB5 Classification Form – I have created a form to quantify the number of professions and counties in California affected by this law. If AB5 is hampering or destroying your ability to work, please fill it out.

Special shout out to Lauri Jon Caravella for her artwork that channels our protest, anger, and advocacy. All the artwork posted is hers. I’ll leave you with this gem:

Freelancers Sinking Ship Artwork (Lauri Jon Caravella)





The Year of All Things Literary!

4 11 2019

Long patience and application saturated with your heart’s blood—you will either write or you will not—and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.
—Jim Tully

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Spoiler Alert! This is a long post, but worth the read. This is what happens when you don’t do any writing of substance for several months.

This year’s Resolution #3: Write, has been a journey of starts, fits, and fizzles. For various reasons, I have not found a new groove or rhythm. The extent of my literary life has been hosting Literary Los Angeles events, supporting friends in their endeavors, and an occasional blog post, the last one commemorating my birthday in August. With only one more month of 2019 left, I feel as though I could have done better, but I am also not beating myself up about it. Having patience with myself, doing things to keep massaging the writing in one form or another, acknowledging that despite the discouragement, it is in the blood and I have to keep trying. These are baby steps I have been employing in this period of malaise.

I actually finished reading two books so far; a far cry from the 11 I wanted to have read by this point, but better than I’ve done in many years. I used to be a voracious reader, and somewhere, along with the writing, that voracity diminished. Not sure if I will get it back in full, but I do expect to finish reading four books before the end of the year—and reading does wonders to fuel the writing!

My Literary Los Angeles events have been the highlight of my year! Originally published in May of 2018, the CurbedLA blog post of places favored by Los Angeles writers was the inspiration to hosting these events. So, I have gathered as many writer friends as I could over the past 10 months to inhabit these haunts over drinks, dinner, or just a day trippin’ tour!

My first excursion was in January, with my dear friend Laura Rebecca at Langer’s Delicatessen and Restaurant. Despite the city’s reputation of the young, hip, and new, L.A. has lots of historic haunts, and Langer’s, open since 1947, is one of them.

Nora Ephron is one of my favorite writers. She loved Langer’s pastrami sandwich, and even wrote a New Yorker piece about it called “A Sandwich”. I had to see if it was worth the buzz (and the price). I must say, it did not disappoint.

Lit Los Angeles: Langer's Deli with Laura Rebecca 1-18-2019

Hanging with my girl Laura Rebecca, a fellow scribe and Yogi at Langer’s Deli.

Later that month, fellow writer and entrepreneur Cheryl Leutjen joined me on a tour of Joan Didion‘s old house, which is now the Shumei Hollywood Center. Thanks to the docent Annie, I learned a lot more about Joan Didion, and about how the Shumei Center’s work. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and the gardens were blooming and beautiful. The landscaper Junzo told us the story of how he had to pull up the tennis court that was there previously and break up the fallow ground so it could receive water and seed. He also told us his vision for a water tower and some outdoor seating for events. Cheryl was happy to find a potential location for her Natural Muse writing group–win-win! The Center offers some cool classes, so whether it is for one of those, or for the Natural Muse meetup, we will definitely plan to return.

February’s Literary Los Angeles excursion was to the Beverly Hills Hotel, with dear friends and fellow writers Sharon Goldstein, Gail Upp, Matthew Shaffer, and Jeff Payton.

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From left to right: Jeff Payton, yours truly, Matthew Shaffer, Gail Upp, and Sharon Goldstein

The Beverly Hills Hotel oozes with urbane charm, glitz, and storied history. Along with the usual Hollywood celebrities, the iconic hotel often hosted writers such as Fran Leibowitz, Gore Vidal, Eve Babitz, and Brett Easton Ellis.

The Polo Lounge used to be a classic bar, but it had recently been remodeled to a restaurant with a small bar. Our plan was to just hang out at the bar, since a sit-down brunch is $95.00 per person—ain’t nobody got time for that.

Who knew it would be a Sunday of torrential rain, combined with the fact that it was Grammy Sunday; so the place was packed to the rafters. Thankfully the hostess took pity on Sharon, who literally needed to eat for her health, and she got us seated at a cocktail table near the bar.While drinks and appetizers were by no means cheap, it didn’t require the taking out of a small loan that brunch would have. I nibbled on some rare sliders which were quite good, Matthew and Jeff had Polo Garden Gimlets, Sharon had Chips, Salsa, and Guacamole, and Gail had Lox over Gluten free bread, with a spot of caviar. We had some great conversation about movies (we do live in L.A., after all), relationships and weddings, our writing ideas, church music and faith, while watching the well-heeled and the Hollywood elite wend throughout the renowned bar with their various comings and goings.

It was such a hit that we decided we must do it again. Musso & Frank was next on the Literary Los Angeles list, so the plan was to pinch all our pennies and make reservations for sometime in April, after Easter. While not as pricey as the Beverly Hills Hotel, it does require some budgeting—either that, or some sweet advances from book deals—the latter would have been nice….

I was the one who screwed the pooch with the planning. We all had Easter Monday set on our schedules: unfortunately I failed to check the website to see whether Musso & Frank was even open on Monday. It. Was. Not. Womp-Wah. So, we kept the date, but changed the venue to the next place on the list: The Frolic Room!

While Matthew and Jeff could not make it, Sharon, Gail, Laura, and this time Joe (Sharon’s husband and multi-hyphenate: one of them being writer) was able to come along.

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Doing what one does best in the Frolic Room: Drink, and frolic!

The Frolic Room was the regular watering hole of writer Charles Bukowski in the 1970s, while he was cranking out some of his seminal works, Post Office, and Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.

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It started as a Prohibition-era speakeasy in the 1930s. Once Prohibition was repealed, it became a legit bar. In the 1940s, along with the Pantages Theater next door, it was owned by Howard Hughes until 1954. Many stars bellied up to the bar, including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland. It is also infamous for being the last place Elizabeth Short (“The Black Dahlia”) was seen alive before her gruesome murder in 1947.

While every bar in Los Angeles and the surrounding environs seems to be turning into a Gastropub (Lord, spare us from hipsters), The Frolic Room has maintained its divey vibe, and the five of us were happy to drink it in along with Coke, Gin and Tonic, Bloody Mary, and a Martini, while trying to name all the golden-age celebrities in the Al Hirschfeld mural that lines the wall across from the bar.

It turned out to be a busy Summer for all of us, so Musso & Frank would wait a while longer. In the meantime, I celebrated my friend Cheryl Leutjen and her Nautilus award-winning non-fiction book Love Earth Now at a book signing at Zweet Cafe in Eagle Rock, where Cheryl penned a lot of the book! Cheryl read some excerpts from the book, along with fellow author Dr. Davina Kotulski, who she met during one of those Zweet writing jags.

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I think a regular weekly visit to a coffee shop might do me some good in establishing a rhythm; but I haven’t found a haunt in Pasadena that I absolutely adore. Time to start looking, I guess.

I was asked in July to be the guest on a podcast! Lori Bisser, a fellow Yoga instructor and graduate of the New Day Yoga 300-Hour training program from which I also graduated, asked me to share my story of gratitude on her podcast appropriately titled “Gratitude Sandwich”. Whenever she launches it, that will be a link I plan to promote. While not writing, it is storytelling, so it counts toward the writer’s life, and the drive towards word creation.

Musso & Frank finally happened toward the end of August. Matthew was wrapped up in his dance competition tour and also on the cusp of his second book release, Dancing Out of the Closet, so he and Jeff could not join us. It was up to the core fabulous five to eat some old school food in old Hollywood, and boy, did we!

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It was good timing, as Musso & Frank is celebrating 100 years in Hollywood! Very few restaurants in Los Angeles hold that distinction; long-standing restaurants in L.A. are about as ephemeral as a three-book publishing deal.

Opened in 1919 by Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet, Musso & Frank hired French chef Jean Rue to design the menu. Rue would not only launch the kitchen, but would hold it down for 53 years! In 1927, the name partners sold the restaurant to two Italian immigrants named John Mosso and Joseph Carrissimi, and the restaurant is still mostly family owned: Mark Echeverria, the COO, CFO and current proprietor of Musso & Frank happens to be John Mosso’s great-grandson. Talk about a Hollywood story!

From the leather menus, to the dark wood, to the black and white photos of executives, business men, guys and dolls enjoying a martini and a cigar, Musso & Frank has legend dripping from its walls, and wafting through its doors. I had one of their classic Martinis (apparently the best in Los Angeles), along with some exquisitely prepared rare lamb chops. Gail had sweet meats with Brussel sprouts—a dish (the sweetmeats) that is hard to find anywhere. After dinner, even I wanted to break out a cigar or cigarette, and I don’t smoke either one! It was like stepping back to a time where food and atmosphere were a package deal, and your dinner was not only splendidly presented, but prepared with flavor, finesse, and substance. An other-worldly experience that was well worth the price tag.

My annual trek to Chicago for the Columbia College Chicago Alumni Board retreat was in September. I came into town earlier in the week than usual, because we were cutting the ribbon on the college’s first-ever Student Center, so two days of events were planned ahead of the weekend board activities. One was a VIP reception for the Board, Trustees, and donors to the Center. The second was the grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting, which was quite the treat!

What was even more of a treat was running into two writing mentors: Randall Albers, one of my instructors who helped to shepherd me toward graduate school. And Gary Johnson, who took me through the ropes of editing my first fiction piece toward publication in Columbia College’s Fiction Anthology, Hairtrigger 9 & 10. Both men remembered me, which was an honor, and Gary remembered my fiction piece “The Foot” a parody of Nikolai Golgov’s “The Nose” with great detail—the man has an incredible brain! Gary was hosting the Writer’s Room at the Student Center Grand Opening, where his most accomplished fiction students were reading from their original works. It brought back so many memories of years of writing classes, diving into the story workshop method of sitting in a circle, closing my eyes, and listening out into the street… Sense experiences that then were poured onto the page, and ultimately transformed into unique stories. As the students read their work aloud, the visceral, rhythmic flow of words poured over me like a warm blanket. It took me back to a time when I was on the edge of my seat both in my listening and in my writing, and made me hungry to get back there.

I was able to talk to Randy briefly, and he encouraged me to find a workshop that would allow me to delve deeply again. Another voyage of exploration along with that coffee shop in which to write.

Friday was the first CAAN Board event, a meet-and-greet at the home of one of the faculty couples. I engaged in conversation with the husband Jason Stephens, associate professor of instruction in the Business and Entrepreneur program. I related my joy in re-discovering the life and vibrancy of the story workshop method and the prescient fluidity it produced in the student’s writing. This led to brainstorming about using writing faculty or students to help the data and marketing students learn to tell stories with their numbers and information, and a light bulb went off for Jason on this potential new building block to help his students view their information in a different way.

Long story short, Jason invited me to speak to his data analytics class about storytelling! When an alumni addresses a class, it is called a “Master Class”, so it was a privilege to be asked to do so, and a new experience for me talking about the elements involved in creating a story, and how one might apply it to data information. Another opportunity to use my gift and knowledge of wordsmithing to address a different medium!

The icing on the cake of my Chicago trip was visiting the American Writer’s Museum on the Magnificent Mile. The interactive space opened in 2017, and it was a lovely afternoon spent reading about some of my favorite authors, finding information I did not know about others, and playing interactive games with their words, getting reacquainted with a typewriter, and generally having a good time soaking up the literary vibe of the place.

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I couldn’t leave without swag, so along with some free bookmarks that had a particular writer, a quote from his or her work, and the address to their museum or historical society, I nabbed a magnet that says simply, “Write On”, and a great mug with quotes from one of my writing inspirations: Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.

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Finally, I ended the month of October at a book presentation and signing for my friend Andrea Wilson Woods’ medical memoir, Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days, about her 15-year old sister Adrienne Wilson’s battle with liver cancer.

I trekked out to Pomona to a really cool bookstore called Cafe con Libros (where are these places closer?! Sigh…), where Andrea read a chapter from the book, and spearheaded a meaty discussion on why a great story always trumps bad writing, the difference between a memoir and a biography, why having a platform is essential for any writer, what social media platforms are best, and how to balance privacy of others but remain truthful about facts.

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November 1, 2019 Cafe con Libros: Book presentation and signing for “Better Off Bald”-Andrea Wilson Woods

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Andrea now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, so this was the tail end of her annual visit back to Los Angeles to visit her sister Adrienne’s grave, and make some connections for her non-profit and advocacy organizations, Blue Faery, and Cancer U. We spent some good time together on Monday at a Yoga class and over lunch, and she was flying out early the next day; so this was just another opportunity to support a friend in their success in not only getting the words on the page, but getting them published and recognized! The book is doing quite well, and getting rave reviews. Buy it!

November has only just begun, but it is already packed. Gail is encouraging me to do one more Literary Los Angeles event, perhaps Chateau Marmont or Clifton’s Cafeteria. I can also spend the remaining two months of 2019 finding that coffee shop and scoping out a writing workshop in order to establish a rhythm that will get me writing more regularly. So I guess resolution #3, while not resulting in copious words on the page, served to keep the literary fires stoked on different fronts so the words can be forged and poured forth at the proper time.

To rephrase Descartes, “I write, therefore I am.”





All the Things…

28 02 2018

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”
– Josiah Gilbert Holland

Ain’t it the truth, Josiah. Last week and this week have been crammed full of all the things, in a good way. I have the privilege of leading another Teacher Training with CorePower Yoga Pasadena, and my team of coaches and our faithful instructors has recruited a really awesome group of Yogis that are diverse, mature, and hungry to give and receive knowledge. We are heading into Week 2, and I am so looking forward to what I will learn from them, while presenting all that I know (sometimes, not much!)

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We are also moving. Moving is an evil word for me. Since leaving my childhood home at 19, I have probably moved about 40 times in my 51 years. Various circumstances: finances, bad roommate situations, roommates getting married or moving, the list goes on. My heart has always longed to settle and lay down roots in one place, and I thought with my marriage in 2007 and actually buying a house, that I was finally at that place where I wouldn’t have to move again for a long time.

As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re making plans. Suffice to say, we lost that house, and ended up moving two times before being plopped in Atwater Village in 2011. The actual city of Los Angeles was the last place we thought we would find ourselves, and we both assumed it was a “make do” place, just a place where we could—hopefully quickly—get back on our feet.

Quickly didn’t happen. We have been here almost 7 years; but despite the hardships, fits and starts, and living among boxes and toxicity (a blog post for another day), something was being built. We loved the new Northeast Los Angeles community and all the fun haunts, events, and eating places that made this city seem less plastic and more human and community-oriented. We found a wonderful new church where we could get to know others more regularly and let them get to know us. Thanks to CorePower Yoga opening a studio in Pasadena, I found a location close to home where I didn’t have to hop a freeway to practice Yoga or to teach. So lots of wins in the midst of what was a hard season of waiting and testing.

So now, we get to move again. Another place where we never saw ourselves: the city of Pasadena! Our address is on Wesley; named after the theologian Charles Wesley, but also the name of one of my favorite nephews—so that’s a good sign.

We are further east from all that we have known in the past, but still close to some of the things that we hold dear: our church, my work, and new adventures in a new community.  It is a place of blessing, from the way it was delivered to us, to the favor we have received from the landlord, to our church communities and friends rallying around to help us in a multitude of ways, financial and physical.

It is a place that we can hopefully settle for a spell. I have no idea how long that spell will be—I learned to stop putting time frames on things after the horrors of 2008-2011. But what is true, and what I can count on, is that it is a place of space (two bedrooms and storage–whoo hoo!); a place of ease (4 miles to my Yoga studio, less than 2 blocks from the Pasadena campus of our church); and a place where we can find peace and quiet in our surroundings, yet still have the hum of community, events, and some city amenities. In the two weeks that we have been packing and moving, I am quickly falling in love with Hastings Ranch, since we’ve spent so much time there finding the things we need for the new home, as well as some of our favorite casual dining haunts.

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What I am enjoying now as we move boxes, paint the new house, and close out the old, is this view. The San Gabriel mountains are right at my backyard. My friend Joyce wrote on her Facebook page: “The mountains can teach us so much about our lives, our faith, ourselves. Think on what you’ve learned from your mountain adventures and feel free to share. Ready? Go!”

I replied to her post, not about a mountain adventure, but a mountain focus from Psalm 121-1-4:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

There are no coincidences in our lives. The fact that I have a mountain view is part and parcel of God’s reminder for me to continue to look to him for help. It is also a comfort that he will keep our footing in this new territory and watch over us here, no matter how long or short the spell will last.

We still have some odds and ends and large furniture to move, and I am knackered beyond belief. Week 2 of Teacher Training begins today, so I am still on and working hard to ensure these great Yogis are set up for success. But I am grateful for God’s hand in all the things; and that despite my desire for speed and efficiency, he is building something more enduring than I could imagine.





CAAN-LA Black History Panel

7 02 2018

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position
that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he
has overcome while trying to succeed.”
— Booker T. Washington

One of the great privileges of being part of the Columbia College Chicago National Alumni Board is representing the Board at CAAN events. The CAAN-Los Angeles network has been ably built up and guided by Sarah Schroeder, the West Coast Regional Director for Columbia, and her events are always top notch, well represented by our up-and-coming alumni, and well attended.

Yesterday’s Black History Panel featured our Columbia alumni who are also some of the trailblazers and innovators in Black filmmaking and entertainment: Producer-Director-Writer George Tillman, Jr., who has been the creative force behind some of my favorite movies, including the Barbershop films and Men of Honor; Writer-Director-Actor Kenny Young, the genius behind You Can’t Fight Christmas, Chance, and One Week; Producer-Development Executive Crystal Holt, engineer behind Rebel (BET), and The Swap (Disney Channel); Actress Erica Hubbard, who had pivotal roles in Chicago Med, Let’s Stay Together, and Lincoln Heights; Producer Paul Garnes, who gave us Selma, and Queen Sugar; and on-air personality, Grammy-Nominated Music Producer-Songwriter, and co-founder of Da Internz, Marcos “Kosine” Palacios.

The panel was moderated by some really talented and thoughtful Columbia student moderators: Jocelyn Shelton and Marquise Davion.

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Gearing up for our CAAN-LA’s Black History Month Alumni Panel with some fabulous filmmakers and student moderators Marquis Davion and Jocelyn Shelton.

George Tillman, Jr. discussed how he got into film, and how the presence of African-American creators and filmmakers has grown since he first came to Hollywood.

Kosine talked about his journey, encouraged the alumni still pursuing their dreams to simply, “Stay in the game,” and urged that, “Black History Month is a great time for African-Americans to be networking with each other,” and to take advantage of this and motivate each other towards excellence.

As an actress, Erica Hubbard discussed the high bar set by the writing and talent she experienced on the “Lincoln Heights” set, and how it is difficult to accept projects that don’t meet that standard.

If Paul Garnes did nothing else, he helped launch director-producer Ava Duvernay to the world. Paul shared his journey in filmmaking, how he met and got started with Ava, and working on Selma with David Oyelowo, and Oprah, as well as Queen Sugar.

Kenny Young talked affectionately about his mentors and the people who helped steer him in his career. He also talked about making determinations. He said at one point that he didn’t want to work a full-time job ever again, and he hasn’t since then. He has found a way to juggle, struggle, and forge ahead on his drive and talent, while still earning a living in Los Angeles.

Crystal Holt gave, what I felt was the most powerful and practical advice. “Drive is something you cannot teach, and that goes further than talent… You have a goal in mind, and you are working toward that plan for your life. Don’t give up on that.”

She also gave some sage advice on contracts and equal pay: “Trust no one! Be contract literate, and read it from front to back before you sign.”

While this old dog gleaned from their practical wisdom, I also enjoyed hearing about the endeavors and adventures of our young alumni; like the delightful Toy Monique, who works for Will Packer Media in their scripted and unscripted television department. Toy is a recent transplant to L.A., having gone through Columbia’s Semester in L.A. program in 2016. She laid the groundwork back then, and came back to Los Angeles as an employee at the place where she interned! What a smart lady—we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her, and very happy to stay in contact via Instagram and LinkedIn.

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50 Days to 50 Years, Day 00: Bye, Bye Napa, Hello 5 Freeway, Goodbye 40s…

1 08 2016

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” — John Steinbeck

This could be said of the road trip to Santa Fe, this one, and the trip through these past 50 Days to 50 Years. While I did not manage to connect with 50 friends over the 50 days, it was a very fruitful, fun, and enlightening experience, which carved a new space in the year and in my life: a larger space of gratitude for the people and events who have shaped the woman I am today, and a new space of embracing the legacy of years. I am thankful that I approach the 50s with few regrets, and a beautiful bouquet of people, places, and memories, including my husband, our marriage, and our life together. So the journey up to now has been mostly sweet, and my prayer is that it will continue to grow sweeter.

I packed my things, gave my thanks to Gina for the use of her Air BnB, and said my goodbyes. Since we kept skipping a formal breakfast these past two days, I decided to meet Shawna for one last meal at Black Bear Diner before I hit the road.

Black Bear is another Shawna find, and they have some of the best comfort food west of the Mississippi. One of their specialties is sweet cream pancakes, french toast, muffins, you name it. The sweet cream adds an extra layer of richness to the already fluffy texture of the bread, that is only enhanced by syrup, more butter, and whatever else you want to top it with. Had I been smart, I would have bought some muffins or sweetbread to take with me—maybe next trip….

It was delicious fuel for the body for the 6-plus hour drive back South. The car needed fuel too, so I gassed up at the Fairfield Costco before hopping the 5 South for a mostly uneventful ride back to Los Angeles. This is Northern and Southern California after all, and the traffic is legendary; but for the most part, the drive was smooth.

I arrived home to ecstatic puppies and a happy husband, so perhaps a weekend getaway was a perfect solution to reset us. We would be celebrating 9 years married in two days, so a reset was a good thing.

I also came home to a couple of sweet presents: a personalized gift basket from Lynn’s sister Carrie, and a lovely photo book from my sister Joan.

The last day of 49 ended as desired: at home with the people I love, on a mellow note, with anticipation of things to come as I crossed the threshold into 50.

 





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 01: Napa Girl’s Weekend, Part 3: Jason Bourne and Sweetie Pies

31 07 2016

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”  — Ovid

That we did. Sunday was another leisurely morning where we did not much. Nibbled on the still leftover snacks, had coffee, and just chilled. I patched in briefly to the live feed of the 10 am service at Montrose Church back in Los Angeles, then we made the effort to get dressed for the grand event that day: Jason Bourne.

Yes, I love Matt Damon’s acting, and the Bourne series is one of my favorites of his work; so what better way to spend the day than watching the latest installment?

We even got to drag Shawna’s mom Nasha out the house, which is something Shawna says she rarely does. I felt honored that she would join us for the excursion—Nasha’s like another mom.

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While not any match for the previous three, Jason Bourne was serviceable. A perfect fluff film for a leisurely afternoon.

We decided to show Nicole the Riverfront in Downtown Napa, and Shawna had a certificate for a confectionery called Sweetie Pies. Not to be mistaken for the restaurant made famous by Oprah, this was just a simple shop that sold specialty and gourmet pastries, cakes, and cookies, and the usual coffee and tea offerings that go along with them.

Wow! While not a sugar addict, this place was worth all the calories. Much of it was so rich, that we had leftovers to knosh on later.

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Nasha was past her threshold of being around the public, so we dropped her off, and me, Shawna, and Nicole did Chinese food for dinner. Nicole was heading back to Alameda (near San Francisco), and ordered a to-go meal for her fianceé Georgios, who was very sweet to let his love spend a few days with me.

The best part of girlfriends, and especially Christian girlfriends, is that along with the laughter, fun, sharing, and eating, we also pray together. Nicole shared some difficult things that were going on with the wedding and Georgios’ family, and she knew of my struggles as well. So before she drove off, we spent some time in prayer. No matter what the issues, inviting the Lord into it is a guarantee of our peace and helps me to look for his action and answer in the midst of the situation.

The Girlfriend’s Weekend was inspired, special, and now complete. Shawna stayed for a little bit before she had to head to work. The last night in the Air BnB was uneventful, which was also an appropriate end.

 





50 Days to 50 Years, Day 03: Napa Girl’s Weekend with Shawna Cypher!

29 07 2016

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving
for my friends, the old and new.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been so looking forward to this weekend, and thankful for my friend Shawna who helped to set it up.

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Shawna and I have known each other since 1994, when she came to Los Angeles as a nanny, and we have been the best of friends ever since. From weekends, to dinners, to impromptu road trips, she has been one of my best road dogs. I was sad when she moved back to Napa, but it also opened the door for trips up north to see her, with other friends and family in tow (as pictured above). This picture was taken the year before, when we went to Walnut Creek for the Foxx Family Reunion. We stopped in Napa on the way and spent some time with Shawna, and then Shawna crashed the reunion as our “sister from another mister”, and we all had a great time!

So when I thought of getting together a group of friends for a Girl’s Weekend, she was first on my list. Because of time, distance, and finances, some friends and family couldn’t make it, but I was looking forward to spending time with my cousin Donna and my aunt Everette, as well as my new friend Nicole, who was joining us on Saturday.

I had an amazingly smooth trip up the 5 freeway. Car rides are like a moving meditation for me, and also a moving prayer time. I have done my best praying and pondering on the road, and after the strains of the last weekend, it was needed. I enjoyed taking my sweet time, worshiping to my favorite Pandora stations, and listening for God’s wisdom and voice. Definitely time well spent.

I arrived at the Air BnB rented by Shawna’s friend Gina, and Shawna was there waiting for me. She and Gina helped me get the lay of the land, then Donna and aunt Everette arrived soon after. Shawna loved being navigator and chauffeur, and after 7 hours on the road that was fine with me. So we packed into her Rav-4 and headed to dinner at The Pear!

Shawna raved about this place, and since she has the same food tastes I do, I trusted her judgment. I was not disappointed! We started with Sunset Mimosas, Cheese Fondue, and Grilled Prawns. I love me some crustaceans, so I ordered Cheesy Grits with Prawns for my entree. It was melt-in-your-mouth, hearty goodness.

Shawna is a scrapbooker and crafter, so thanks to her mad skills, I received my first official 50th birthday card! Custom-made, no less.

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After dessert, we explored the Riverfront in Downtown Napa for a bit, and I realized this was the first time in a while that I had spent any quality time with my Aunt Everette. She is one of the last living Foxx matriarchs, and I wanted to soak up her presence as a living memory of that family and my mother.

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We saw all we could see of the Riverfront, so we headed back to the BnB for some conversation and a nightcap. Shawna had to go to work, and Everette went to bed, so me and Donna sat up a bit longer and had some good conversation about men, marriage, and how God wanted to use us as partners to the men we loved. Much needed conversation. My eyelids were drooping, so we prayed together, and both went off to bed.

Day 1 of the weekend had turned out fabulous, and I was looking forward to Day 2: Mani-pedis, and the Castello di Amaros Winery!








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