You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.

Caius and Aubre

Dave

Walking in the fallen leaves

Ray's shoes

Deep fried turkey

Ann Foster in the used bookstore

Deep frying

Ray Foster

Ray's room

Dave done deep frying

Smallhouse Art Glass

Hannah

Sophie and Dolores

well, we rounded miles of pack ice. luckily it was neatly smashed and no bergy bit dodgin. the sun is out. its below freezing, the icicles on the boat are not even melting. but the seas are calm. which is great. trying to figure out if these are my ‘glory days’ according to bruces standards. maybe. but ideally i’d have a cute dog, and good lookin boy on my boat. then it would be perfect. but till then, this will have to do. haha.
umm.. whatelse. everyone is dreading tommorrow, including me. an 18 hour day of driving equipment off and stacking more and more containers of STUFF on. its my most unfavorite activity, because i just don’t get it. where all the shit is supposed to go. ect. so i have to wait for people to tell me what to do, and what they need. . . and its going to be cold. that i know. and then we get to chain everything down, that takes hours and hours and hours… and i can never get it tight enough, makes me grumpy. but thats tommorrow, today on the other hand, is a very nice day. good weather so i can finally shower!
love
ume

Friday March 14

Arrived Loreto, $7 taxi to cheap hotel posada san martin, road grader out front
excavating the street. i shut the mosquitos in the bathroom; when i came back from
walking around town door was ajar, i had not jerked it shut but my gear was untouched.
dusty town in throes of major development, hotel and condo compl,exes, golf course,
hospital. took pictures of views, pelicans in the marina.

Saturday 15

met the guides, mexicanos roman from mexico city (marine bio background) and carlos
from la paz (law background, main guide with excellent fluent colloquial english)
and picked up part of the drill.

Sunday 16

van to puerto escondido, abandoned harbor down the coast—they didn’t know
why abandoned, developers disappeared—the group met skiff captain alejandro and
loaded on board:

*mark, 50ish investment consultant, ceo of 15 person connecticut firm, and 18 year
old college daughter abbie
*andrew hooten, brit anesthesiologist, living in sydney for 14 years
*simon, young new zealand former pepsi accounts manager & blonde australian
veterinary girlfriend, tracie, relocating from london back to auckland
* shirley, 51 year old ‘body worker’ from seattle
* kelley, 38 year old intel systems analyst from portland
* michelle & halley, two mid-thirties friends via seattle and philly
*edith, 50s heavily-accented french canadian head of northern regional environmental
protection agency for province of quebec
* terry, early 60s retired chicago high school teacher and her clinical physical
therapist daughter, 27, beth

that day we skiffed to a beach called agua verde and put to sea in double kayaks,
first time for many of us. edith took the single kayak. 7 or 8 nautical miles on
choppy seas south into a headwind hard on us, waves shoving the kayak off the line
so you’re zigzagging and paddling hard to make forward progress, getting splashed
in the brisk wind, sometimes the bow of the kayak smacking down after cresting a
wave, i was trying to figure out how and when the pedals made the rudder respond,
hard paddling the whole way (the woman in front, worried, doubtful, barely making
any headway so it was like i was paddling for two, and she stopped kayaking altogether
after the next day and rode in the skiff with alejandro the rest of the trip.)

Monday 17

rolling swells 2 – 3 feet but the wind not bad at all and the water much warmer
than the pacific off alta california, at our backs or sides 12 miles or so to the
private palm-lined beach of senor oscar moreno garibay’s beach rancho (rich
architect and yoga guru, his temescal and mystical facilities built on the ridge
behind the house) with a snorkel along the rocky point and fresh cold water shower
from a hose; after cooks alberto (short friendly guy from veracruz) and chuy (tall
guy who wore a pirate bandana born a few miles down the coast) cooked excellent
machaca fish with rice, beans and tortillas, everyone pissed and brushed their teeth
in the surf, went to bed early and got up before dawn—

Tuesday 18

calm sea, 2 – 3 foot swells later in the afternoon, the wind up later but at our
backs or sides, 24 – 25 miles to the long curving beach—they all curved—at puerto
gato where it rained a rare rain after the front blew the shade tarp down; the support
crew kept to themselves, while the kayakers drained the magaritas and liter bottles
of cerveza pacifico and told funny stories about topics that i could not even begin
to talk about (for example: experiences with luggage that DID NOT get lost in airports,
let me tell you about the time in rome that my luggage did not get lost…), so
that evening & afterward i ended up talking to manolo & his cousin paul,
both fishermen from puerto san carlos on the pacific side, translating for the gringas
flirting with them & alejandro & vice versa; manolo told me he got his girlfriend—now
his wife—pregnant at la prepa at age 17, been a shrimp fisherman in a cooperativa
with his own $2,000 panga with a $7 or $8,000 honda outboard motor ever since (also
diving for scallops, sometimes hauling in 300 pounds at a time), they sold the shrimp
catch for about $6 a pound in a steady market but he didn’t like it because
it was night work, 6 PM to 7 AM the next morning—at sea in the dark—and he was
looking for INGLES SIN BARRERAS and i told him i’d check in l.a. for a set less
than the $2000 it was selling for in mexico— manolo & paul would often end
their evenings using their cell phones as i-pods, exhausting the batteries listening
to music on their phones, staring at the dark (they plugged their phones into the
skiffs at night to recharge, they all had cell phones)—

Wednesday 19

kayaked a few miles ahead and walked into tiny village of tembabiche (i saw about
5 or 6 low wooden shacks made of recycled materials including some corrugated metal,
newer model pickup trucks or vehicles by them; guides gave away some clothing items
gringos brought down from the states to kids and teens, who accepted them casually
and did not seem in all that great need of them) tembabiche once was a 19th century
rancho funded by the 19th century pearl industry, the rise and fall of the family
pearl dynasty like a garcia marquez novel
the ruins of the grand colonial-style mansion rise above the shanties
kids played basketball on the concrete court beside the new unfinished round one-room
schoolhouse, and two very small kids rode off on a donkey
after we skiffed back to camp, we hiked through the pretty and thorny cactus garden
of the hills—old man cactus, cardon (like saguaro, but larger), palo adan (adam’s
wood, relative of the ocotillo also tipped with red blossoms), palo blanco, nearly
leafless, elephant tree, bulbous trunk like limbs with flaky peeling yellow-skinned
bark, una de gato (cats claw, everything had thorns), wild plum trees, a mile or
so to the top of a headland where we could see many dozens of miles up and down
the coast in the direction we’d come from, the direction we were headed, and
the rocks of offshore islands on the horizon

Thursday 20

7 miles along the baja coast (lunch stopover at chuy’s sister’s family settlement
—nopolo?—a cluster of three houses just above the beach) and then 4 miles crossing
open water to the island of san jose talking with terry paddling in tandem the whole
way; there went snorkeling again, again very limited visibility6 in water green
with algae like soup, the puffy blowfish, the potentially deadly venomous scorpion
fish that did not bother to move, angel fish, the weird long sticklike cornet fish,
water leaked into my mask and made me cough, it leaked from my sinuses a day afterward

Friday 21

awoken by shouts about the blue whale just offshore, everyone waited in the skiff
as i pissed in the surf and then jumped aboard to look at the thing, about 80 foot
long they guessed, the dorsal line curving out of the water
skiff around san jose island, then we kayaked a mile around the island thru holes
in big offshore rocks and sea caves and 6 mile paddle back to camp (again with terry,
age 61 or so, indefatigable and positive)

Saturday 22

skiff to la paz: bottle-nosed dolphins and manta rays leaping from the water, a
fin whale cruising, alejandro dragged a green sea turtle from the water and showed
it off, he steered the panga into the beach on the malecon directly in front of
the hotel they’d booked us into, and we jumped into the water and carried our bags,
sandy, sweaty and sunburnt across the waterfront avenue filled with tourists and
semana santa vacationers enjoying family vacation time (kids had two weeks off school);
very good trip—though we’d done only 55 or 65% seemingly of the 100 nautical miles of
paddling i’d originally thought we might do— i found i could do it—

All night taggers addicted to scribbling scurry across the city aching to graffitti signs, concrete—Wind dashes and pummels oily dark broken stony surface of harbor waters with lights beyond Ume’s tugboat—Office & facebukeros (Marisela Norte said) are tapping and nattering away, posting pictures, links, whims—ghosts tap away on long discarded typewriters of Kerouac, Hemingway, Faulkner—message machines collect random messages from Kaiser Permanente, mom, whomever—freeway overpasses denote upcoming exits, destinations—electronic board in Union Station is flashing arrivals and departures 24/7 as people look up, glance away—larvae chew lines across the leaves—Chinatown stale fortune cookies offer little snippets of curled encouragements—breezes skim thru desiccated pages of porn magazines atop piles of landfill trash in the county dumps of Colorado & Wyoming—tides line the beaches with high water line of plastic litter, styrofoam, storm-tossed kelps and sticks, seagull eats out of the face of the dead elephant seal (the others stand aside uninterested)—coffee machine light—wispy clouds and dirty haze particulate an aching blue sky all gone in a blink, something looks and blinks—I write all this on a Yosemite postcard to Paul in Pacific Grove (28 cents stamp)—Sunlit wall colors & moving shapes flare across our retinae and recede in a blink—Curly pungent frangrance and experience imprint our dreams unrecorded—words and phrases annotate breaths—any high wind leaves lines of palm tree seeds on the driveway from the ragged heads of palms high overhead—sundial shadows of the railing crosses the balcony—someone smiles, someone waves, music plays with or without words, traffic resumes—

photo by Citlali Foster

fotos by Citlali Foster

foto by Citlali Foster

She helped fight for the freedom of young Mexican American men wrongly convicted of killing a farmworker near a swimming hole in southeast L.A. County.

Alice McGrath dies at 92; activist backed defendants in 1942 Sleepy Lagoon trial

“If I had never done anything since…my involvement in Sleepy Lagoon would justify my existence,” Alice McGrath told a Los Angeles Times interviewer in 1981.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-alice-mcgrath29-2009nov29,0,3888600.story

By Margot Roosevelt

November 29, 2009

Alice McGrath, a lifelong activist who first gained fame as a champion of the wrongly convicted young Mexican Americans in the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon trial, has died. She was 92.

McGrath died Friday at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura of an infection resulting from a chronic illness, said her daughter, Laura D’Auri. McGrath was taken to the hospital on Thanksgiving.

McGrath’s role in the infamous trial was celebrated in Luis Valdez’s play “Zoot Suit,” which debuted at the Mark Taper Forum in 1978 and was made into a movie in 1981.

“She was one of the heroines of the 20th century,” said Valdez, who remained a friend over the years. “In Los Angeles, I can’t think of many people who surpass her influence.”

McGrath was 24 when, recovering at home from a bout of pleurisy, she was visited by a friend who asked for some administrative help. Attorney George Shibley was defending 22 Mexican Americans, ages 17 to 21, who were charged with killing a young Mexican farmworker near a swimming hole in southeast L.A. County known as Sleepy Lagoon.

Shibley needed someone to write summaries of the daily proceedings of the trial, which would later become known as one of the most racist in local history.

The defendants, dubbed “zoot suit gangsters” by a xenophobic press after the long coats and pegged pants that were popular among Mexican Americans, were being tried en masse. Portrayed as members of the “38th Street Gang,” they were not allowed to consult with their lawyers during the 13-week trial. And in a tactic that made them look disreputable, they were not permitted to have their hair cut and were denied a change of clothes for the first month of the trial.

The judge was openly contemptuous of the defendants and their lawyers, and the all-white jury was allowed to go home at night, with access to sensationalist media coverage that focused on Mexican American delinquency.

Twelve were convicted of murder and the rest of lesser charges.

McGrath, who attended the trial after her illness subsided, was outraged, and began to volunteer with the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, which lobbied for an appeal. Committee head and renowned author Carey McWilliams was impressed with her passion and named her executive director.

McGrath would become an accomplished fundraiser and speaker, at one time addressing 1,000 longshoremen in San Francisco. She regularly visited the Sleepy Lagoon defendants at San Quentin State Prison.

In 1944, an appeals court overturned the convictions, finding there was no evidence that any of the young men had been involved in the killing.

Decades later, in 1981, McGrath would tell a Los Angeles Times interviewer that the successful appeal was “the most important event in my life. If I had never done anything since . . . my involvement in Sleepy Lagoon would justify my existence.”

Born Alice Greenfield in Calgary, Canada, on April 5, 1917, McGrath moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was 5. Her parents were Jews who had fled Czarist oppression in Russia.

As the daughter of the only Yiddish-speaking foreigners in her poor southwest L.A. neighborhood, she would later say that she understood the experience of being “the other.”

At various times in her life, she was a candy factory worker, an artists’ model and a sales representative for Grove Press, the avant-garde publisher where she took a job after her second husband, poet Thomas McGrath, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Later, with her third husband, Bruce Tegner, she co-wrote books on martial arts and taught women self-defense. She held a brown belt in judo.

But it was as a volunteer that McGrath continued to have a social impact. In 1984, she visited Nicaragua to experience the Sandinista regime after the defeat of the Somoza dictatorship. And over the following decades, she would make 86 trips to the embattled country, taking farmers, lawyers and doctors to meet with their counterparts.

She helped get medicines for Nicaraguan hospitals, and after Hurricane Mitch in 1998, she raised funds for the homeless.

In Ventura, where she moved from L.A. in 1970, McGrath started a pro-bono legal aid program for low-income families.

“People say I’m an optimist,” she said in a speech in 2006. “I’m not. I’m a cheerful pessimist.”

When Valdez visited to research his play, McGrath introduced him to the former defendants and their families, and shared her papers, including letters back and forth from San Quentin, that are stored at UCLA.

“She was the heart line of my story,” Valdez said. “She maintained contact with ‘her boys,’ as she called them. She was a selfless person, with compassion and humor.”

Three weeks ago, when he paid her a visit in Ventura, he said, “She was 92 years young. She was vibrant.” And when Valdez mentioned his own upcoming 70th birthday, “her eyes opened wide and she laughed and said, ‘Oh, to be 70 again!’ ”

McGrath is survived by a sister, Claire Jampol of Los Angeles, as well as by her daughter and a son, Daniel Schechter of Spokane Valley, Wash., both from her first marriage with businessman Max Schechter. Her first two marriages ended in divorce, and her third husband died in 1986.

The family is holding a private burial. A commemorative gathering will be planned.

margot.roosevelt@latimes.com

December 2009
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