Walt Whitman Sings the Song of the Redwoods

Whitman in 1875 by Thomas Dewing [Public domain]

Though Whitman may never have “[Faced] west, from California’s shores,” as he trumpeted in one California poem, his opening stanzas resounded with authenticity. I expected the rest of the poem to be a testament to the grace and beauty of the redwood-covered hills and a condemnation of the jack-screw men intent on plundering ancient natural resources. Then I reached the line which read, “not of the past only, but of the future.” Uh-oh. Continue Reading →

Billie Holiday: Master Storyteller

Billie Holiday in Downbeat Magazine, Feb. 1947 [Public Domain]

After listening carefully to her recordings over many years, I’ve come to appreciate the amount of effort Billie Holiday invested in each song and what a skillfully crafted stylist she was. Billie Holiday was no accident of nature. She was a skillful storyteller and has many lessons to offer. Continue Reading →

José Martí Memorial, Cuba in Miniature

José Martí Memorial, Havana

Perhaps Cuba’s most memorable patriot and National Hero, José Martí was born in Havana in 1853 and spent twenty-four years in exile. The José Martí Memorial that dominates Plaza de la Revolución in Havana’s Vedado district, aside from being the tallest structure in Havana, has a story as long and complicated as Cuba itself. Continue Reading →

William Walker: American President of Nicaragua

Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The person that would emerge as one of the era’s most ambitious filibusters was a young man from Nashville, Tennessee by the name of William Walker. Early in life, Walker demonstrated remarkable ambition and brilliance, earning degrees in both law and medicine by the time he was 25. A diminutive 5’2″ in stature, he relied on a robust charisma and commanding presence to develop his following and accomplish his goals. Continue Reading →

Waking Up in Berkeley

DJ, West Berkeley Graffiti

It’s a typical weekday morning and at 5:30, the clock radio kicks in. Disoriented, foggy with sleep, I have yet to realize what I’m hearing. Will I be tazed by a screeching Sun Ra freestyle romp that will jangle me out of bed? Repeatedly nudged by Native American chants that go on just a little too long? Irritated and then charmed by a beatified bebop bongo ballad? Continue Reading →

Cuffey’s Cove — Birthplace of a Novel

Looking South From Cuffey's Cove

How Cuffey’s Cove, a once thriving town on the Mendocino coast that is now a ghost town with 3 cemeteries, became the inspiration for the historical novel, The Relentless Harvest. Continue Reading →

Finding Grafton Tyler Brown, African American Artist

SF Lithographer Cover

My discovery of 19th century African American lithographer and painter Grafton Tyler Brown began with a search for a character for my novel-in-progress. Little did I know I would uncover such an intriguing story about an important and overlooked figure in northwestern art. Little did I know that the story would be found in a book that had yet to be released.
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