Chicana Matriarchs: How a Lowrider Saved My Life, A Story about Pomona in the Late 1970s

Photo credit: Unknown

On a somber day in the fall of 1977, I began classes at Garey High School in Pomona, California. Ninth Grade meant a new chapter in my life, as I left Fremont Junior High for what I thought of as the threshold to adulthood. However, one thing that began the previous year that continued with the new school year was my problem with a classmate named Ross. Several months before, when we were still in Eight Grade, Ross decided that he did not like me and that it was okay for him to harass me every chance he got. In other words, he was a bully. Since I was an introvert and did not have many friends, I was typically caught on my own whenever Ross—who, by the way, was the only Chicano I had ever known with such a lame white guy name—chose to get in my face. I had no idea why he did not like me. We did not take any classes together, nor did we have any friends in common, nor did we ever compete against each other for anything. Whatever he saw in me he felt justified in his obnoxious behavior.

As fall semester proceeded, each morning, Monday through Friday, I went on my daily walk to campus, from my parents’ home at 1304 Hansen Avenue to the corner of Lexington and Park, roughly two miles away. Since the other kids on my street, which lay on the boundary between school districts, chose to go to Ganesha High School, I trekked off on my own down Phillips Boulevard to White Avenue, where I made a right turn, heading south to Lexington, then from there to my school’s gated entrance. On one of these gray mornings, as I walked past Bailey’s Market at Phillips and Hamilton, which was a T-bone intersection, where the Black-owned business stood as a prominent and well-known landmark on the southeast corner, I saw a group of Chicano boys approaching southward down Hamilton. One of them was Ross. The others were members of 12th Street, my neighborhood’s local street gang. Apparently, over summer—probably beginning back in Eight Grade—Ross began hanging out with 12th Street and was now one of them. Naturally, this emboldened Ross to ramp up his aggression against me. Given that I avoided being recruited into 12th Street, it did not take much for Ross to convince his new “friends” to dislike me as well. So, what happened?

As soon as Ross spotted me, he began taunting me, shouting “Hey, fatty! Hey, pussy, where you going?” I impulsively gave Ross a mean look, as his friends laughed at me. Still, I kept walking.  Ross then took the bottle he was holding in his hand and, from across the street, threw his weapon in a high arc at me, where landed and shattered at my feet. He and his friends laughed even more. I thought for a moment about heading into Bailey’s, but being the dutiful son that I was I did not want to be late for school. That is when an unexpected force intervened. Just as I began to pick my pace a baby blue Chevy Impala lowrider pulled up next to me and stopped. Two Chicanas were in the vehicle. The one in the passenger seat rolled down her window and asked me, “Are those guys picking on you?”

At first, I shook my head no, feeling embarrassed that these two girls had noticed my distress. “Are you sure they’re not picking on you?” the girl asked, obviously knowing what she just saw when that bottle nearly hit me. “I’m okay,” I said, not knowing what else to say. Meanwhile, Ross and his crew stayed at the corner across the street, watching this sudden encounter. “Do you go to Garey?” she asked. “Yes,” I nodded. “We can give you a ride. Wanna jump in?” The car door cracked open. I said, “Okay.” The girl, who had a kind face and chestnut hair, bounded out of the vehicle and pulled her seat back, so I could crawl into the backseat, where I sat in-between two massive home stereo speakers, which softly cranked out the Earth, Wind, and Fire album playing on 8-track.

As the Impala’s engine rumbled and we slowly pulled away from the curb, the girl that intervened on my behalf—even though she did not know me—turned to glare at Ross and other 12th Streeters and very angrily gave them the finger, the long nail on her middle finger standing up like a spear. “Those guys are nothing but jerks!” I soon learned that my benefactors were named “Theresa,” with the kind face, and “Martha,” in whose Impala we rode. Theresa told me about how her brother, whose nickname was “Lurch,” because of his substantial height, was forced to endure the same kind of bullying that I was going through now.

In a car, the drive to Garey only takes five minutes, the whole of which Theresa spoke to me, making me feel better about what had happened, assuring me that I need not feel bad about not being able to fight them off, and that I did not have to think of myself as less than or alone. “Just stay away from guys like that, they’re nothing but trouble anyway.” I felt validated. I felt safe. And I felt pretty cool riding in the back of that Impala with two pretty girls in the front. Upon arriving at Garey, Theresa once again jumped out of the car to let me out. I thanked them profusely. The girls smiled and told me to have a nice day. I waved goodbye, then that was the last I ever saw of them. In the end, while there would other bad days, other jerks, and a growing desire to leave Pomona, I would always remember what two strangers, two Chicana angels, did for me on that gloomy late November morning. As for Ross, while 12th Street gang members remained as a conspicuous threat around campus, I never saw my tormentor again.

[Please note, the photos are an approximation of what I remember about the two girls and the vehicle referenced in my story.]

Larger Than Memory: Contemporary Indigenous American Art at the Heard Museum 2020

Photo credit: David Martínez

With just under two weeks until the exhibit closed for good, I took the opportunity in-between semesters to go to the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, Arizona to see the Larger Than Memory show. Like many museums across North America, the Heard has long struggled with how to define “contemporary” Indigenous art in a way that befits Indigenous ideas and values–in other words, how Indigenous people see themselves.

Whereas Western art is based on a linear sense of time in which one can identify progress made from the primitive to the advanced, such that each historical epoch is supplanted by the innovations of the present, complete with generating aesthetic movements (eg, Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism) that can influence artists on a global scale, Indigenous art deliberately embraces the past–because it belongs to their ancestors, whom they wish to honor. More specifically, Indigenous artists will value their people’s resiliency against the onslaught of colonization.

In a sense, everything that Indigenous artists create may be described as resistance art. They resist being called primitive. They resist being a vanishing people. They resist their oppressors. They resist having their stories told for them. What matters most is how they see themselves, as Indigenous peoples, Indigenous nations, as survivors, and as creators. Through kinship, memory, and imagination, Indigenous artists are constantly recreating themselves like Coyote when you think he’s been killed, only to spring up again, just as cheeky and clever as before. To see more of my photos from this exhibit, please visit Flickr:

A Day at the Races: The 2019 Grand Prix du Canada: A First-timer’s guide to Formula 1 racing

gp1From purchasing my tickets to sitting in the wrong section for two of the three days of activities, not to mention visiting Montréal for the first time, nearly every aspect of my first Formula 1 experience was an exhilarating ride into the unknown. Yet, I would do it again in a heartbeat!

For years I’d been planning to attend a Formula 1 race. Aside from enjoying the sport, I always thought that it would be one of the more glamorous things I could do in my life. Maybe it’s the races in Monaco, France and Spain or the sexiness of the Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes racers, but F1 has long had a mystique or je ne sais quoi about it. As for my actual experience, the Grand Prix du Canada lived up to my expectations.

When I purchased my tickets, at first I attempted to select a pair of seats directly from the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve web site, where the race would be held on June 9, 2019. However, the site wouldn’t allow me to complete the transaction, which may have been due to my accessing the site from my home in Tempe, Arizona. Undeterred, I went to the web page, where I saw the announcement for the race in the first place. Although the transaction was simple enough, the difference between the two sites, as I experienced them, is that, whereas the CGV web site let me choose specific seats, the formula1 site only let me pick the section or tribune, meaning that I didn’t know exactly where my seats would be until I received my tickets. If there was a way to know exactly where I’d be sitting on the latter site, I couldn’t see it. Also, I had no idea from only watching the races on TV that there was three days-worth of events! Naturally, since this was a bucket-list adventure for me, I went for the Full Monty.




Once DHL special delivered my packet of tickets three weeks ahead of race day, I finally knew exactly where I would be sitting. Nonetheless, when I made the effort at finding a detailed CGV seating chart, I couldn’t find one. I only knew Tribune 11, section 7, seats 13 and 14 (my wife Sharon accompanied me, by the way). In the case of CGV, when you’re actually on site, while there’s some signage indicating tribunes, sections and seat numbers, when you’re visiting this track for the first time, it turns out to be easy to wind up sitting in the wrong section. I did, by the way, attempt to ask one of the staff workers for directions, but they’re all young kids who don’t know anything. For two days, then, my wife and I cheerfully sat in section 8, even getting to know some of the people that sat around us. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until precisely one minute before the start of the race on Sunday when a track official suddenly showed up with a couple we’d never seen before during the previous two days in tow making everyone get up from their seats to sort out the error! “You are in the wrong section! This is section 8. You are in section 7.” In spite of the bleachers being jam packed we managed to make our way one section over without missing any of the race. Thank goodness for small miracles.



With respect to the three days of events, there’s a nice mix of practice sessions and undercard races, such as the Ferrari Challenge, the Porsche Challenge, and the Pirelli Hot Laps, which are professional races in their own right, complete with trophies and award ceremonies. Just remember to wear sunscreen and a hat, if you go to Montréal in June. Only a fraction of the seating along the pit lane is covered, with the rest consisting of bleachers exposed to the elements. For while rain was nowhere to be seen, it was sunnier and hotter than I expected. Speaking of which, CGV does allow you to bring in bags and backpacks, which many people took advantage of to bring in their own supplies. Seating, as mentioned, is pretty tight, so you can’t overdo it. In fact, bringing your own water and soft drinks is a good idea, that is to say unless you enjoy drinking barrels of Heineken, which appeared to be the only beverage on sale. Plenty of F1 merch on sale, too, for those all-important bragging rights when you get back home.



As for the race experience, did I tell you that it was unforgettable? The roar of the engines, the acceleration of the racers, the waves of excitement from one end of the crowd to the other, the jumbo screens, and the sight of drivers you know from TV broadcasts, but who are now right in front of you, all of it, creates a feeling of elation that can only be matched by the first time you went to a concert in a stadium-size venue. Needless to say, the 70 laps of the Canadian Grand Prix went by quickly. Also, in the case of the 2019 race, the ending was messy, with Sebastian Vettel being stripped of his victory due to a violation of one of the safety rules, which cost him a 5-second penalty, consequently handing the win to his arch rival Lewis Hamilton. I was rooting for Vettel and Team Ferrari. Still, until that unfortunate turn of events, the race was everything I hoped it would be, namely an edge-of-your-seat epic drama of stamina, skill, and engineering. Who knew that being packed like sardines in the hot sun could be so much fun? Before going, please enjoy the video I recorded of the final lap, which I shot from the correct section! Lastly, if you go, I highly recommend staying at Hôtel Monville, taking the Metro to and from CGV, and dining at the Noodle Factory, Jatoba, and Fiorellino. Thank you.


‘Shoplifters’ (2018). Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda


When I first experienced the astounding filmmaking of Hirokazu Koreeda I was transformed by his explorations of death and loss in ‘Maborosi’ (1995) and ‘After Life’ (1998). However, in the case of ‘Shoplifters’ (2018), Koreeda has created what I regard as the spiritual sequel to ‘Nobody Knows’ (2004), in which he told story of a young boy who had to care for his siblings when their mother abandoned them. ‘Shoplifters’, in turn, is the story of a family of vagabonds, who found each other after being abandoned by life, left on the margins of society, in which lies, deception, and petty—and sometimes serious—crimes are a normal part of existence. Also, while it may be true that the family you choose is more meaningful than the one into which you were born, those bonds are nevertheless tested when trouble happens and the authorities enter the picture.


In one respect, ‘Shoplifters’ is a part of a long line of films featuring street urchins, con men, small time crooks, and people who straddle the boundaries between good and evil. In the case of Japanese cinema, Kore-eda is a disciple of Yasujirô Ozu and Nagisa Oshima, both of whom brought an air of authenticity to their stories of the ordinary lives of Japan’s underclass. As such, Kore-eda, similar to ‘Nobody Knows’, expresses sympathy for its ensemble of characters, portraying them as a caring, albeit unlawful, family of shoplifters and ne’er-do-wells living together in the grandmother’s apartment. The father and son, played by Lily Frank and Jyo Kairi, respectively, display an easy rapport as they “shop” at a local grocery store, swiping items with a very practiced precision. However, while returning home from one such excursion on a frigid evening, the pair spot a young girl, “Yuri” (Miyu Sasaki), peering sadly through a window. Their conversation suggestions that they have seen this lonely little girl multiple times. After offering her some food, father and son bring Yuri home for a proper meal. After the father and his wife, played by Sakura Andô, attempted to return Yuri home, only to overhear her parents arguing, complete with mother saying that she never wanted Yuri in the first place, the Shibatas, as the family is known, adopt Yuri into their family in an act of compassion that would later be seen much differently when Yuri is reunited with her mother and truth of the Shibatas is revealed. Without giving too much away, ‘Shoplifters’ features a memorable performance by Kirin Kiki (‘The Mystery of Rampo’ and ‘Kamikaze Girls’) as “Hatsue,” the alleged matriarch of the Shibata clan.

Bird Box (2018) Directed by Susanne Bier

bird box 1

From the Book of Revelations to the annals of Science Fiction, the end of the world has been imagined in a plethora of predicaments, most often instigated by war, disease, or alien invasion. In the case of Susanne Bier’s Bird Box (2018), humankind finds itself suddenly afflicted by an epidemic of mass suicides. However, it is not a bout of global depression that is infecting the world’s psyche, but rather a malevolent and unknown force that, when seen, immediately ignites an irresistible urge to kill oneself. How to survive? Blindfolded, “Malorie,” played by Sandra Bullock, with two small children in tow, heads down a remote river in Northern California, near the Oregon border, to where there is allegedly the hope of sanctuary.

bird box 2

As a movie experience, Bird Box is a standard action thriller, in which the hero must navigate a variety of perilous obstacles in order to reach her far-flung destination. In terms of the movie’s premise, namely an apocalyptic wave of suicides caused by a mysterious force, Bird Box owes a debt to M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (2008), in which an airborne contagion wreaks deadly havoc on everyone in its path. In the case of Bird Box’s dangerous force, they are depicted in two horrifying ways. First, as invisible creatures that move with sinister stealth, much like John McTiernan’s Predator (1987). Second, as charcoal drawings created by “Gary,” played by Tom Hollander, an escaped psychopath, which evoke a melding of HR Giger and Takeshi Obata. They are images of pure madness.

bird box 3

As for Malorie and her riverine quest for a compound that may or may not exist, the survivalist tone of the story is reminiscent of Francis Lawrence’s I Am Legend (2007) and maybe Marc Forster’s World War Z (2013). Taken altogether, Bird Box is an entertaining adventure that successfully keeps its adrenaline running until the final, albeit maudlin, scene. As such, it manages to find the humanity in its characters, including “Douglas,” played by John Malkovich, an otherwise obnoxious bankruptcy attorney. In the end, if I have any criticism of the movie it is that, in light of its predecessors, Bird Box could have been a little less Sandra Bullock as “Annie,” in Jan de Bont’s Speed (1994) and a bit more like John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009). In other words, it is sometimes more satisfying to be true to the dark world that one creates.

‘Roma’ (2018) Directed by Alfonso Cuarón


Roma 1

Insofar as Roma is inspired by someone, Libo Rodriguez, who meant a great deal to the director, Alfonso Cuarón—she was the maid who raised him during his childhood in Mexico City—it is not surprising that the story of “Cleodegaria Gutiérrez,” who is affectionately called “Cleo,” and is played by the incredible Yalitza Aparicio, feels more like an act of veneration than merely a movie. Cuarón obviously wanted to honor the life of this woman in a way that did justice to both her character and her struggle by remembering cinematically her humanity in a world that largely overlooked people like herself. As a Nahua-speaking indigenous person, Cleo is a part of the underclass of “Indios,” the poor, the peasants, whose ancient civilization has been appropriated into the national image of Mexico—such as the eagle and snake emblem of the Mexican flag—yet, whose modern descendants are accorded little more than second class citizenship.

Cleo, who has migrated from her unnamed village, where her people’s land is being seized by the Mexican federal government, works for a doctor and his family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. The doctor’s family is not only wealthy but also “criollo,” meaning of European descent. In spite of the significant class differences, Cleo is regarded as a part of the family. Even compared to “Adela,” played by Nancy Garcia, who is the other maid in this household, Cleo has a more affectionate relationship with her employers, especially their four children. Having said that, there is no doubt that Cleo, and Adela, not to mention others in the family’s employ, are treated as servants. The mother, for example, “Sofia,” played by Marina de Tavira, does not hesitate to be direct, oftentimes terse, in her directions to her staff. More to the point, Cleo’s interaction with the doctor’s family affirms the normality of the class relations between the petit bourgeoise criollos and their indio servants.

Roma 2

As for the story that Cuarón tells about Cleo, ultimately it is a narrative of hardship and endurance, especially in the lives of women in Mexico. Occurring during the late 1960s—the 1968 Olympics is mentioned—Cleo’s personal ordeals, including a tragedy, are rendered against a backdrop of political upheaval in Mexican history. Not many remember outside of Mexico the massacre that took place on October 2, 1968, when government troops surrounded a mass student protest at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, in the Tlatelolco neighborhood, in which dozens were gunned down indiscriminately. The massacre is referenced to in frightening detail during a scene in which Cleo is shopping for a baby crib. She is pregnant, alone, and afraid. Indeed, it is while the shooting occurs and some students run into the furniture store for safety that Cleo sees “Fermín,” played by Jorge Antonio Guerrero, her former boyfriend, who simply glares at her, gun in hand, before disappearing back into the chaos of the streets below. As I watched this scene unfold, I thought about what I had read about this terrible event. More specifically, I thought about Elena Poniatowska’s monumental 1971 book La noche de Tlatelolco, which was translated into Massacre in Mexico by Helen R Lane (1975). More to the point, I thought about the hundreds of testimonies that Poniatowska recorded in the pages of her book. Yet, there was neither any mention of the rights of indigenous people, their land disputes with the Mexican federal government, or, for that matter, of women’s rights. The student movement was mostly a middle-class movement, people who would become like the family that Cleo worked for, and who were fed up with their authoritarian government, led by President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz. In light of which, I realized sadly that there was no one protesting on behalf of people like Cleo, be they indios or women. She had to persevere on her own.

At this point, it is important to observe that in spite of the layers of discrimination that Cleo encounters on a day-to-day basis, Cuarón is consistently respectful of her struggle. Despite her flaws, such as not returning home upon hearing that her mother’s land has been seized or choosing a boyish fool like Fermín for her lover, Cuarón is never judgmental or condescending toward Cleo or the community she represents. If anything, Roma reveals that hardship in Mexican society is not limited to the poor, but goes all the way up the social ladder, including Sofia, whose story of misery parallels Cleo’s. On this level, the relationship between Cleo and Sofia, if Cuarón condemns anything explicitly in his film it is the way that Mexican society, especially its machismo culture, berates women. Consequently, when Roma explores the coinciding lives of Cleo and Sofia, the film becomes a compliment to Y Tu Mamá También (2001), in which another woman’s tragic life unfurls in subtle yet dramatic tones, complete with a life-changing journey to the ocean.  With this in mind, I am reluctant to join the chorus of critics who have faulted Roma for not being more aware of Cleo’s indigenous culture, either in terms of the villages that Mexico’s indigenous peoples inhabit or the urban subculture they maintain allover North America (including the immigrant community that certain US politicians love to demonize). I am also reticent about criticizing Cuarón for not being more ideological or didactic about the colonization, racism, and globalization that created Cleo’s world in the first place. On the contrary, Cleo’s story is all the more profound for the way it shows how historical and intergenerational trauma, not to mention political and economic exploitation, come to dominate the lives of their victims without any banners, slogans, or lectures attached. One often has to go through much before one accesses the perspective that enables one to understand what has really happened and why.

Roma 3

As I watched Cleo’s epic tale unfold with each black and white scene, I thought about the many women in my life—I grew up poor and with very few advantages—whose generous yet vibrant spirits shaped me into what I am today, and how my memories of them have been nurtured by age and experience. Cuarón and I are of the same generation, and like him many of my memories were captured in countless black and white photos, which influenced the way that I remember people and events. At the same time, this is not to say that the people I remember from long ago are without life and vitality. Aesthetically, Roma’s cinematography evokes the photographs of Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide. As such, Cuarón’s black and white images illustrate the mythology, the oral tradition, the Creation Story of the world that Cleo inhabits. For me, that is what Roma accomplishes when it recreates the world-building power of word and image. In this sense, Cleo is a culture hero, like the icons portrayed in retablos, which express an adulation for the lives of saints. However, Cleo—Is she Catholic? Probably. Who knows?—does not affirm the teachings of the Church, but rather of the generations of migrants who have endured the travails of an indigenous world that has survived the Spanish Conquest, the Mexican Revolution, NAFTA, and now the threat of Donald Trump.

In the end, if I have any criticism of Roma it is that it was a bitter reminder of how infrequently stories like Cleo’s have been told, be it in film or novel. Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes’s El indio (1935) comes to mind, as does Carlos Fuentes’s La región más transparente (1958). In terms of film, only Gregory Nava’s El norte (1983) arises for immediate comparison. Mt paltry list, however, does not mean that this is all that there is about this type of story, namely the indigenous class struggle. It only indicates how irregularly such stories appear in film and literature. On the other hand, there is a significant number of movies and novels about the Mexican, sometimes Central American, immigrant experience, not necessarily indigenous, such as Tony Richardson’s The Border (1982), Alejandro G Iñárritu’s Babel (2006), Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre (2009), and Jonás Cuaròn’s Desierto (2015). With respect to literature, aside from the titles mentioned above, there is Gloria E Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), Victor Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold (1991), and Ron Arias’s The Wetback and Other Stories (2016), to name but a few. In the case of the indigenous experience, more than a subgenre of film and literature, the lives and stories of the peoples and nations of the Western Hemisphere constitute an expansive chronicle of communities whose roots go millennia beyond the arrival of the European settlers during the late 15th century. As such, there is a connection to land, language, and kinship that informs the modern effects of globalization and transborder migration. Cleo’s story, if anything, is a story of how even when the Mexica homeland appears to be buried underneath layers and layers of colonial history and society, the indigenous claim to this place interjects itself into the contemporary lives of the people around them, reminding them of who really owns the land and how their days in this place may be numbered after all. While there are undoubtedly many ways of telling Cleo’s story, including from the point of view of an indigenous writer and director—which we will hopefully see sometime soon—Cuarón’s Roma and Aparicio’s “Cleo” nevertheless transformed me. More specifically, as an indigenous person myself, I genuinely felt inspired to learn more about this world and the astounding diversity of indigenous stories and experiences that it holds.

Modern Art on America’s Other Coast: SFMOMA


Photo credit: David Martínez

It’s easy to forget that New York’s Museum of Modern Art has a sister institution in San Francisco, which is just as splendid and soul-satisfying. While in one respect, SFMOMA is symbolic of California’s endemic insecurities about its perceived lack of cultural sophistication. In another, the museum’s seven grand floors and galleries are symbolic of the growing reach of modern art as a global phenomenon.

Located five blocks south of Market St on 3rd, SFMOMA displayed a distinctly American tone to the theme of modernity. Instead of works by Picasso and Kandinsky, there is an abundance of images created by Rothko, Warhol, Indiana, Bourgeoise, Close, and Martin. In a sense, what one experiences is a world in which Europe is no longer the center of world civilization, from which the creative mind must break free, but rather America and its atomic imperial super power ambitions.

At the same time, homage was duly and breathtakingly paid to the modern European tradition with a René Magritte exhibit, titled The Fifth Season, which focused brilliantly on the latter stage of the artist’s illustrious career before his death in 1967. For my essay on that exhibit, please see “Ceci n’est pas René Magritte: Exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.” However, for photos of my visit to the rest of SFMOMA, please click on the image at the top of this essay. Thank you.


Curating the Sonoran Landscape: Seeing the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden Through a 35mm Lens




Photo credit: David Martínez

Walking around the winding pathways of the Desert Botanical Garden is like meandering through a specially designed space station, in which the flora and fauna of earth have been preserved before the planet is completely destroyed. At least, that’s my experience. As an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community I cannot help but take a cultural and historical point-of-view on this place. Each time I visit, I think that this is how it was once, when the land was still the O’odham Jeved, our homeland, as opposed to the sprawling American metropolis it is today.

Located in the middle of Papago Park, where the cities of Phoenix and Tempe meet, the Garden is an oasis where one can get away from the urban jungle that otherwise dominates the surrounding terrain. And whether or not you are indigenous to this land you can still enjoy the sanctity of nature. The pathways compel you to slow your pace, especially when it’s hot, which occurs regularly. However, when you slow down your eye starts to capture the small but wondrous details of this environment. In fact, during my latest visit, I put a 35mm lens on my camera and deliberately strolled around in search of the intimate beauty of this place that I’ve seen so many times. If you click on the photo above, it will take you to the flickr album that I created. Thank you for reading and viewing.

Dragon Gate: San Francisco’s Portal into China(town)


Photo credit: David Martínez

As the oldest Chinatown in the United States, established in 1848, the twenty-four square blocks that compose San Francisco’s Chinatown is a symbol of the resiliency of the immigrant experience in the middle of what was once Ohlone Indian land, but which is now under layers of Spanish, Mexican, and American colonization.

Chinatown is, on the one hand, a product of American race laws, such as the 1879 Chinese Exclusion Act, which severely limited Chinese immigration, and local ordinances that barred non-whites from accessing white American neighborhoods and business sectors. On the other hand, Chinatown is a major political and cultural enclave. As such, it has become a nation within a nation, complete with a vibrant economy, cultural institutions, and a form of local governance, namely the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and the Chinatown Community Development Center.

When my wife and I stayed at the Orchard Garden Hotel, at the corner of Bush & Grant, we were just a few steps away from the Dragon Gate. Designed by Clayton Lee, the gate has stood as a portal—really three portals—into Chinatown since 1970. To pass through this gate is to literally walk into another world, one defined by roughly 15,000 residents speaking the major dialects of China (Mandarin and Cantonese). Fortunately, for the tourist, one doesn’t need to be fluent in the language in order to enjoy this magnificent place filled with shops, restaurants, and parks. And oh the food and the people watching! A feast for the senses. Please click on the photo above to access my Chinatown photo album on flickr.

“You make me feel alive, alive, alive!”: Sailing the High Seas Off Pier 39


photo credit: David Martínez

Went on the Adventure Cat sailing tour of San Francisco Bay recently, in which I got to feel like a glamorous pirate in some latter-day Duran Duran video. In other words, it was a lot of fun! My wife and I took the tour on a late Wednesday morning. The 11am tour, to be more precise. Perhaps because we did this in the middle of the week, there were only sixteen of us on a catamaran that otherwise has a ninety-eight person capacity. Consequently, there was plenty of room of move around. At the same time, because of the brisk winds and the choppy waters, one moves around at their own risk. While falling overboard is unlikely, there are two large nets into which passengers can fall, should they ever lose their balance while taking all of the magnificent sights. Speaking of which, be sure to bring a camera!

In the case of our experience, we assembled to board at a clearly marked gate on Pier 39. However, pay attention to which tour is setting sail. The Adventure Cat your shares a gate with The Neptune Society. So, unless you’re there to scatter a loved one’s ashes on the open sea, watch for the personnel wearing the Adventure Cat gear. Once you set sail, the route is simple yet scenic one, out and around Alcatraz Island, toward the Golden Gate Bridge, where you turn around after going under the bridge for a view of the other side of the Bay, then slowly back again. Along the way, you may see porpoises, sea birds, airplanes, and an array of other boats. In addition, you will never take as many photos of the Golden Gate Bridge as you will on this tour. There’s even beverages and snacks available for purchase. Please click on the photo above to get to my photo album of the day on flickr.