Published in Jungles in Paris
Juan Martin spent his boyhood roaming the Spanish countryside as a goat herder and farmhand. When he was a young man, he met a woman as she was bringing cattle in from the fields and fell in love. Her name was Sinforosa. She lived in La Estrella, a tiny village in Teruel, a harsh and hilly province located midway between Barcelona and Madrid.
Juan Martin courted Sinforosa there. In the evenings, they danced at the town's two remaining taverns. The village had 200 residents, fewer than in former days. People had been trickling out for decades, ever since a flood devastated La Estrella in 1883. The Spanish Civil War, which ended in 1939, had created a new wave of painful departures.
Still, La Estrella had everything a functioning village needed, including a beautiful church and two schools—one for girls, one for boys. Juan Martin and Sinforosa married and settled down. Mostly for economic reasons, the village continued to empty out. The schools shuttered; Juan Martin and Sinforosa's children did not stay. For the last 45 years, these two octogenarians have been the only two residents of La Estrella.
Published in ATTN:
As Jedi superfans across the world count down the days until the Dec. 18 release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," we've seen scant details about the new sequel’s plot. But there's one thing we do know: The new lead character of Rey is a total boss. And she also happens to be a woman.
Played by 23-year-old British actor Daisy Ridley in her first major role, Rey is a scavenger who lives in a ship graveyard on the planet of Jakku. She’s scrappy, self-reliant, and strong: a woman who “does her own thing and has her own story,” Ridley said in a behind-the-scenes teaser. "I hope that women—and men—across the world can see something they relate to in Rey."
Published in ATTN:
Don’t get me wrong: I love going home for the holidays. I love gorging myself on sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, feeling justified in hunkering down and doing absolutely nothing, and most of all, that feeling of time being on hold—as if everything is simply and beautifully still as it once was. But there are also some things that I don’t love about these family visits: having to decide where to spend them given my parents live on opposite coasts, or when grandma inevitably asks when I’m going to start popping out babies, or when dad reminds me how tough a field journalism can be. (“You could still decide to go to medical school!”)
“Holidays can be a source of misery or joy,” Jane Isay writes in her book, "Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents." And, Isay explains, the holidays can be especially tense for young adults—because it’s a time of being caught between adulthood and childhood identities.
Isay, who is now at work on her fourth book on family dynamics (called "Unconditional Love: A GPS for Grandparents"), knows just how tricky and complicated those relationships can be. We got the chance to talk with Isay about handling them as a young adult, what happens when 20-somethings go back to their childhood homes for a holiday visit, and tips on how to keep the spirits high and the drama low while you’re there there. Here’s what she had to say.
Ithaka co-op in Palo Alto is a group of 17 Stanford undergrads, grads and recent alumni who live together, pitch in for food and share house jobs, including cooking daily communal dinners. The residents have a policy of not serving meat; and they do not allow this fare to be cooked in their primary kitchen. But, while most individuals within the group consider the meat-free practices a good thing, only a minority of them actually deem themselves true vegetarians.
Many of those who live in Ithaka (I’m one of them) are part of the growing trend of “flexitarianism.” It’s a term used to describe the practice of reducing the consumption of meat without completely embracing vegetarianism.
There’s a good reason so many chipper holidays fall in the height of winter: Spreading goodwill and cheer is the social antidote to the winter blues brought on by shorter days and colder temperatures. While we here in the Golden State come in for merciless ribbing from our fellow Americans if we’re caught complaining—after all, diehards still have the chance to surf in the morning or go hiking in the afternoon even at this time of the year—opportunities to soak up those mood-lifting rays of vitamin D these winter months pale in comparison to what we get in the summer.
Which is to say that if you’ve got a friend or loved one who’s hiding under the covers, or just stuck in a rut, sometimes a little push to get out there and test the limits of the old comfort zone can be the best thing for a person. Luckily, there are plenty of places locally that provide activities for the intrepid, from skydiving to ballroom dancing, so a gift certificate may be just the thing.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Kayaking
It’s dispiriting how quickly the novelty of living in a beach town can wear off; newcomers arrive imagining how good for the soul it’ll be to see the ocean each and every day, only to lose that initiative within the first month. Getting out on the water and touring the bay on a stand up paddle board or kayak with the Kayak Connection (413 Lake Ave., #3, Santa Cruz; 831.479.1121) may help reinvigorate that inspiring ocean connection. Covewater Paddle Surf (726 Water St., Santa Cruz; 831.600.7230), the local headquarters for all things stand-up paddle, has a two-hour introductory lesson special that includes photos of the proud paddler.
Go deep—up to 40 feet deeper—by giving a PADI open water scuba certification class at Adventure Sports Unlimited (303 Potrero St. #15, Santa Cruz; 831.458.3648). After drifting down into a whole new world, fledgling divers will resurface with a brightened appreciation for this landlocked one.
Want to deliver an even bigger kick? Rather than floating down to great depths, give the gift of a fall from great heights with Skydive Surfcity (160 Aviation Way, Watsonville; 831.435.5169). Strapping onto the back of one of their frequent fliers in a tandem dive one way to change perspective while soaring over spectacular ocean views.
Sometimes the struggle up is actually more rewarding than the free fall down. Scaling walls with the gift of a membership at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym (104 Bronson St. #12, Santa Cruz; 831.454.9254) can be like a vertical dance that requires a fulfilling synthesis of balance, strength, flexibility and yogic mental control.
For those who may be into the dance but not the heights, let them trade in the belay partner for a tango partner with the gift of a class at Palomar Ballroom (1344 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.426.1221).
If this present is really just an excuse to play matchmaker with the recipient and that hot Argentinean, keep in mind that getting him or her to the next level may require more than just fancy footwork. A Spanish language class at Aux 3 Pommes (765 Cedar St., Suite 102, Santa Cruz; 831.421.0898) might prove to be more fruitful.
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly:
I smelled it first, the stench of rotting meat mixed with stale ocean air. Turning the corner into the courtyard I found my housemate Liam standing in his underwear happily draping pieces of white rubber-like strands over the fence. I posed the obvious question. “Hey Sam! I’m just drying out the sinew I collected from the whale that washed up at Half Moon Bay.”
“Oh,” I paused. “What are you going to do with it?”
“I think I’m going to use it to make a hunting bow,” he said, flashing his broad, winning smile. “It’s just the perfect thing for it.”
It can be easy to get sucked into American materialism, especially during this time of year. But last year, some of my housemates’ obsession with self-sufficiency and independence from our capitalist regime introduced me to the world of Do It Yourself projects. Having previously only understood DIY to mean kitschy arts and crafts kits, I first approached this DIY thing with caution, unsure that it was anything more than a hobby akin to knitting. But by demonstrating a range of projects from laundry detergent to the perfect loaf of bread, time and time again my housemates proved my skepticism unfounded.
Hunting bows made from real whale sinew may be a bit out of the fledgling DIYer’s league, but this crew gave me some other ideas for unique DIY projects that could make for idiosyncratic holiday gifts.
These days, barefoot running seems to be all the rage—the once-eccentric Vibram Five Fingers are popping up on joggers’ feet left and right. Does the brand’s relatively recent success mean that this seemingly minimalist movement is really just another marketing ploy?
After attempting to get to the true essence of barefoot running by going out for jogs sans any protective soles whatsoever, and coming back with impressively gruesome blood blisters on the bottom of his feet, my housemate Nick experimented with DIY huaraches, running sandals inspired by the Tarahumara tribe of Northern Mexico famous for their ability to run really long distances (like up to 120 miles in one session). They would make a great gift for any runner interested in going back to his or her evolutionary running roots.
What you need: a piece of paper, a marker, a pencil, a piece of leather big enough to cover the sole of the foot, leather lace, strong scissors and a leather punch
How to do it:
1) Step on the piece of paper, putting pressure on the front of the foot.
2) Cut around the tracing.
3) Place the cutout on the leather piece and trace around it with the pencil.
4) Cut out the leather sole.
5) Step on the leather sole and use the marker to make a dot between the first and second toes, slightly closer to the second toe than the first. Make a second dot by placing the pen vertically just in front of the inside anklebone. Make a third dot on the outside edge of the sole at the place where the foot makes less contact with the ground.
6) Use the leather punch to make holes through the marked dots.
7) Push the leather lace from the top to the bottom through the toe hole. Make a knot in the lace on the bottom side.
8) Pass the lace from top to bottom through the outside ankle hole, then from top to bottom through the inside ankle hole.
9) Tie them up and take them out for a spin!
On one occasion I walked through the front door into a nearly completely dark room where several of my housemates were lounging on floor cushions, fixated on a spot of light on the wall coming through a carefully sized aperture in the opposite window.
“Look, there’s Andi coming up the steps!” Gab, our French-Canadian couchsurfing traveler extraordinaire, was barely able to contain her excitement. She had turned the whole room into a camera obscura that projected the goings-on of our front steps onto our living room wall and had brought in everyone else to ooh and ahh at her marvelous work. While a camera obscura taking up a whole room is not exactly something you can package up and put under a tree, she later recreated this magic in a smaller, more portable form: the matchbox pinhole camera. (For photos to go along with these instructions, visit http://matchboxpinhole.com/index.html)
What you need: a matchbox, a new roll of 35mm film, an empty roll of 35mm film with a 1cm stub of film sticking out (should be available from the leftovers of a film lab), a soda can, black PVC tape, a piece of curved thin plastic (such as from spiral paper binding), a pin, scissors, X-Acto knife and a black marker
How to do it:
1) Mark and cut out a 24mm square in the center of the inner part of the matchbox (the matchbox tray).
2) Color in the inside of the matchbox tray and sleeve with the marker.
3) Carefully cut out a 6mm square in the center of the matchbox sleeve.
4) Cut out about a 15mm square from the can. Placing it on a piece of thick cardboard, drill a hole through it with the pin and color the back of the pinhole black.
5) Place the aluminum onto the box so that the pinhole is in the center of the square hole on top of the box. Tape the aluminum on, securing all four sides.
6) Place a piece of tape over the pinhole to act as a shutter.
7) Making the clicker: cut off a loop from the spiral binder. Place the pointed end so that it enters one of the sprocket holes of the new film canister. Tape to secure. The clicker should ride on the back of the film smoothly and make a click as it drops into the next sprocket hole.
8) Loading the camera: squarely trim off the leader and stub of film from both the new and empty film canisters.
9) Pull out a little film from the new canister and thread it through the matchbox, with the non-shiny side facing the pinhole.
10) Tape the ends of the film from the new and old canisters together with scotch tape.
11) Slide the match tray back into the box.
12) Turn the spindle of the empty film canister so that the slack film is wound into it. Push the edges of each film canister tightly into the matchbox so no film can be seen.
13) Place pieces of the PVC tape down the sides between the canisters and the box, making it light tight. Check to make sure all joints are tightly sealed.
14) The camera should be ready to go! To wind the film, turn the winder on the empty canister counterclockwise.
15) Post video of the making of this contraption on YouTube.
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly:
One warm summer night last August, I found myself in Greenwich Village in a group crowded around an old upright piano while dozens of glistening Broadway enthusiasts sang “Maybe this Time,” the flamboyant tune from the musical Cabaret. Moving my lips just enough to feign that I actually knew the words, I looked around and realized that few of these people fit into any sort of stereotype I might have had about who would enjoy such things; sure, there was the token bald gay guy with his plastic square-rimmed glasses, but there was also the big black lady in the corner managing a reasonable harmony and the burly man with a leather jacket keeping down the bass line. And so I realized the beauty of show tunes: with just a little opening up to them, they have the power to make anyone want to burst into song.
Composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, creators of the music from Cabaret as well as many other big hits, were perhaps the most successful pair at achieving this glorious phenomenon. Santa Cruz’s local Jewel Theatre Company has tapped into this genius, presenting The World Goes ‘Round, featuring hit after hit from Kander and Ebb’s best musicals.
“You can sing along, but please don’t come up and dance with them—I know some of you will want to,” Jewel Theatre’s artistic director Julie James announced before the start of the show.
When the curtains opened, the audience was transported to the Santa Cruz boardwalk with view of five colorful characters: the glamorous movie star, the ticket man, the teenage attendant, the tourist and the local soccer mom out for her power walk. They wove songs from Cabaret, Chicago, The Kiss of the Spiderwoman and more into a skeletal plot of love interests between the characters. They even sometimes broke out into dance—from the sexy Foss-esque moves accompanying Michelle Cabinian’s rendition of “All That Jazz” (from Chicago) to Lee Ann Payne’s outburst of impressive tap during “Arthur in the Afternoon” (from The Act).
But I could feel the anticipation within the audience as we approached the grand finale, the ensemble performance of “New York, New York” (from New York, New York). Even I found that I had finally figured out the words to be able to sing along.
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly:
Frances Moore Lappé became a leading environmental figure in 1971 with the publication of her bestselling book Diet for a Small Planet. Four decades and seventeen books later, the message of her newest release, EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want, is still relevant.
Between travel and prepping for EcoMind’s promotional events (including the discussion she will be a part of at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater on Nov. 11), Lappé took a moment to tell the Santa Cruz Weekly that while a lot of the issues environmentalists debate today weren’t even on the radar when she first began (such as climate change) the root of our problems is exactly the same.
“Everything is still framed in terms of creating self-defeating schemas,” she says. She thinks we actually have “so much evidence for the solutions that are right at hand.” In EcoMind, Lappé challenges seven of the “thought traps” environmentalists commonly pitch as what prevents us from resolving Earths’ woes. One such idea is that “we’ve hit the limits of a finite earth,” meaning that we’ve been living beyond our means and must now “power down.” Lappé says this framing implies that it’s necessary to lead less fulfilling lives if we care about the future of the planet; she then explains why this notion is wrong. She writes, “Because most people know they weren’t invited to the Too Good party, the message falls flat. An effective and ecologically attuned goal is not about more or less. Moving from fixation on quantities, our focus shifts to what brings health, ease, joy, creativity—more life.”
“The first step is getting people to realize that the current metaphors aren’t working,” Lappé says. “I’m not saying that I have the final answer, but I do know that we have to think about these issues differently.” She continues, “There’s nothing inexorable” about the environmental problems at hand. “It’s a matter of how we perceive them, and that’s why the book is so full of solutions.”
Lappé was initially worried about challenging the common environmentalist mindset for fear of offending advocates who are some of her biggest heroes. “I was nervous about publishing it because I knew it was heretical in some ways.” But, she says, referring to her nervousness, “Fear has potential to produce really good things.” Her hesitation led her to send an email out to The Small Planet Institute (her organization) subscribers, saying that she would send the manuscript to and solicit advice from the first six people to respond. “I got an overwhelmingly positive response,” she says. She calls EcoMind a “crowd-sourced book”; after posting a draft book on the website, she received “80 single-spaced pages of comments from people all over the world.”
Local author John Robbins, Transition Santa Cruz founder Michael Levy and scientist/ author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols will join Lappé for the discussion.
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly:
Steve Jackel moseys about the premises of Jackel Enterprises, occasionally interrupting his monologue to point out an irregular slab of Monterey cypress—wood with umber lines that swirl into a speckling of eyes—or a bisected redwood log with burnt bark, evidence of the fire it didn’t survive. Jackel acquired these pieces of lumber because his business involves “urban, suburban and rural forestry.”
He salvages trees that would probably otherwise be taken to the landfill after falling on a road during a storm or being cut down to make room for new landscaping. Jackel explains that salvaging these trees is good for both the landowner and the environment because it halts some carbon emissions. If
Jackel doesn’t buy the tree, the owner has to “take it to the landfill. And he has to pay the landfill. So it’s a double negative—it’s money out of his pocket and the carbon gets released.” Jackel has been involved in processing salvaged woods since 1974, when he met a park ranger at Henry Cowell State Park trying to get rid of a walnut tree.
Even though at the time he was working at a lumberyard, Jackel marvels that he was “24 years old and hadn’t made the connection between lumber and a tree.” He says he got it the moment they cracked the walnut tree open and he saw the beauty of what was inside. Jackel is teaming up with the Museum of Art and History to help more people internalize the connection between trees and wood this Saturday with a guided tour through his Watsonville mill, woodshop and lumberyard.
“None of these woods are what I would call popular in the scheme of markets,” Jackel says, but some of the local woodworking artists currently featured at MAH in an exhibit called “Studio Made: Santa Cruz Woodworkers” still covet them. It’s the “defects and character” within salvaged woods, as Jackel calls it, that appeal to these artisans. Matthew Werner, who makes handcrafted furniture using marquetry (a technique of creating a decorative veneer), says, “I’m always looking for unique woods—anything a little different from what’s on the racks at the lumber store.”
Patrick Stafford, another local woodworking artist and teacher at Cabrillo College, says he uses salvaged woods whenever possible for environmental reasons.
“There’s less and less wood available. I feel like people are wasting wood in huge amounts,” he says. Stafford also says the quality of traditionally harvested lumber has diminished over the last 30 years due to efforts to keep up with the increasing demand for it.
“The quality of the wood is not as good as it once was because they are growing the trees too fast,” he explains.
In addition to showing off the lumber itself, Jackel will explain different parts of the “low-tech science” involved in preparing salvaged woods for use, such as the kiln that balances the wood’s moisture content with the ambient air.
He will also discuss the differences between types of woods and certification processes on the upcoming tour.
Originally Published in the Santa Cruz Weekly: