Friday, May 28, 2010


Now, that was a busy week.

I worked on writing while negotiating deals while keeping tabs on the law while preparing for the big KNIFVES (movie networking group) luncheon in Spokane... all culminating into a busy Thursday, capped by the luncheon.

I slept well last night.

The luncheon was just excellent. Amy Dee and Lindsey Johnson from Washington Filmworks - the group that manages the film incentives program from the state of Washington - came over from Seattle and gave an overview of the film incentives program here. We had lots of people, including those people representing lawmakers. We talked a little about reciprocity between the states, as a number of KNIFVES members are from Idaho and certainly eastern Washington and north Idaho would benefit from a sharing program...

What stood out most, besides the presentation, was how many projects are in the works in the area. Person after person announced their goings-on, and the energy in the room built as everyone talked. Very exciting!

Oh, and brochures. KNIFVES finally has brochures! I am getting some printed and going over to the North Pole Mystery's festival event - the Riverstone FEST - tomorrow afternoon, in Couer d'Alene, and will be armed with a stack of brochures. NPM is the group putting together a reality show in CDA. Brad Kline and Luke Jiles - or "the boys," as I call them - have been working diligently for a couple months now.... and bringing in others to help coordinate and organize... Should be fun tomorrow.

And now, back to the law...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thinking Hiatus

It's been a creative time this past week, and this coming week - after several weeks of the law. As I've done before (and I think I've already started), I am taking a short break from blogging while creativity takes over. Should be back in a week or so....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Friend Charlie

My friend Charlie Schlesinger passed away at 12:04 a.m. early Sunday morning. He'd been through it all - most recently a second liver transplant that had been working as the rest of his body shut down. Charlie was young - much too young to be so sick - only 61 - 62 in a few weeks - not yet eligible for senior citizen Medicare, even. But die he did, without a tenth life in him.

Everyone knew Charlie. I cannot remember, in my 15 now 16 years of living in Spokane, ever talking about Charlie without hearing, "Oh, yes - I know Charlie." Whether people knew him because of his work as an investigator, or as a DJ for his jazz radio show on Friday nights ("Jazz With Chazz"), or as a member and security guard of the local Jewish temple, or as an avid Spokane Indians baseball fan, or just because of Charlie himself - who seemed to know everyone from somewhere - everyone knew him. He was sort of like the president that way - except with Charlie, everyone knew him personally. When he got so sick the first time, and was on death's door before, the radio still played the jazz program, with a different DJ, and a slightly different name: "Jazz for Chazz," this time. We all wanted Charlie to live.

Charlie - wow - with his raspy voice, and his big heart, and his commitment to friends (which was anyone who crossed his path) - Charlie was a living, breathing example of how to be. Charlie is a big reason of how I stayed in Spokane, really. He asked, back in 1996, when I was getting ready to move to his hometown of NYC to be a public defender, why I was leaving. Well, I don't have a job here, I said - pointed out - something he already knew. We'll keep you here, he said, and set about finding me a job. I took a different one that he found, but his belief in the outcome gave me the impetus to imagine the possibilities. That was Charlie.

And he helped me when I found out the story about the 1946 baseball guys, the Spokane Indians team that died in a bus crash midway through the season, the subject of my novel - he loved the Indians team, had season tickets forever, knew everyone at the stadium (what a shocker) - he vouched for me with the front office of the team - I told him of the connection I found between the 1946 team and the Brooklyn Dodgers, knowing he would love the stories of what I'd learned -

I can't really do justice to describing who Charlie was. I can just try, with an example or two. And my stories are just a sliver of the stories out there, of Charlie and his big heart, raspy voice.

I saw him just a few short weeks ago - ran into him, outside his house. (Just a couple days earlier, I had seen Sue, his - how can she be called girlfriend? so connected to him - life partner, is a better way to describe all they were to each other... so he'd known I was still around....) It was a good day for him, and I was so glad to see him up and about. "Let's go to lunch sometime," I said, seeing his good energy. Well, he said, today's a good day, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. I knew lunch wouldn't happen. But I was glad to see him, just the same, and glad to make the plan.

I went to graveside services on Monday, and there they were - the eclectic gathering that of course would be there to say goodbye. One of the speakers coined it by saying that Charlie knew everyone - whether it was the clerk at the airport in China, or... and then asked us all to turn to each other and find out how we each knew him. When I explained it was through his investigator work, and the people I was talking to wanted to know how that happened, I couldn't really say or remember - because I just had always known him, is the thing. And they all nodded, like they knew what I meant.

There were some funny stories, some heartfelt ones, and then it was time for a final goodbye. The rabbi explained the Jewish tradition, of us each taking a shovel and, using the back side, lifting (not scooping) a little bit of dirt to throw on his coffin, three times - then setting the shovel back down for the next person - not handing it over, not rushing it, taking our time instead. Each of these steps, the rabbi said, is a way to show our reluctance to say goodbye.

So I stood in line, and waited my turn, and then took the shovel and got some dirt, three different times, to put on the coffin. I took my time, like the rabbi had asked. And then, too quickly, my turn was done. So long old friend, I thought. We will all really miss you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jersey Justice

We all pretty much know by now that Arizona has passed a lot with a lot of problems. Putting politics aside, it has a lot, a lot of problems. A standard of "reasonable suspicion" for asking Americans for documents? Even with our shrinking Fourth Amendment, that screams a misunderstanding of the law. That isn't the only problem (there's also the state/federal province issue, the citizens' right to sue police, etc.), but it was the first that jumped out at me. (Though the citizens' right to sue - wow - so, someone calls in to the police to report some "suspicious looking people" at the local fast food restaurant, and then can sue the police if they don't arrive - or arrive soon enough - to investigate?)

On a practical level, if my last name was Rodriguez, and I lived in Arizona, I'd be moving. I don't care how legal I am, or how many generations my family had lived in the United States, or if a red carpet had spilled out for us way back when, welcoming us to this country. By August, when the new law goes into effect, I would either move or expect my life - and the lives of my children - to become scary and unpredictable, any time I left the house to go to the grocery store, or to visit a friend, or to go watch a sports event.

Seriously, could you imagine being a Hispanic American with that kind of law passing? To be afraid to speak that beautiful Spanish language because it would give police "reasonable suspicion" that you are illegal? I love Spanish - I studied it in high school and college, I read parts of Don Quijote in the original Spanish - but if I had darker coloring, I would be afraid to use Spanish in Arizona for fear of people suspecting me of a crime, stopping me, arresting me... And how awful is that? That my blonde hair and blue eyes would allow me to speak Spanish when my dark-haired neighbor can't.

And while I have sympathy for people here illegally - well, they are here illegally. If we have laws, we should enforce them. If the laws are not working, we should change them. But the laws should not be traps for Americans. That's the point that people seem to be missing, and where we should have consensus. Which is perhaps the most depressing part of this law passed in Arizona. What is it - 75% of Arizonans support this law??

The local newspaper "gets" it. The Arizona Republic printed a front-page editorial listing all the local politicians who failed Arizona on the way to passing this law. It starts out: "We need leaders. The federal government is abdicating its duty on the border. Arizona politicians are pandering to public fear. The result is a state law that intimidates Latinos while doing nothing to curb illegal immigration." Here's the full text.

The law's follies are yet to develop. Joe Scarborough (on "Morning Joe") the other day pointed out the likely scenario of someone dealing with an emergency - like a man going to get medicine for his wife in the middle of the night and forgetting his identification, and getting arrested, and being unable to help his wife, who ends up in the hospital or worse - and how that will be the legacy of this law, in the end.

So it was very cool what the Phoenix Suns - or, should I say, "Los Suns" - did yesterday.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, and in quiet response to the impending law, and in recognition of their Hispanic players (which apparently make up about 15 percent of the NBA), Phoenix wore their "Los Suns" jerseys at their playoff game last night, against the San Antonio Spurs. And then they won the game. (That seems like jersey justice, doesn't it? Hence my heading.)

Apparently they've played in these jerseys twice before, and won both times. Jerseys, 3 - people who hate Spanish, 0. Not that winning was necessary. But it's nice.

Here are two articles on it - before: "Immigration Takes Center Court at Suns-Spurs Playoffs," and after: "'Los Suns' Join Protest, Then Stop the Spurs."