13 July 2008

Weekend Report, Part II

As today, Sarah's 31st birthday, rolled in, I had even more interesting things happen.

The morning was spent, as usual, at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena. I was happy to say hi to Phyllis Gebauer again - though she misremembered my name as Ramona! After correcting her, and after the service, I caught up with her again - and she was standing next to an old man with a rather familiar face. As it turned out, he was Jim O'Brien, a retired high school English teacher. Turns out that he taught one of my honors English courses at Arcadia High School. I did identify myself as a former student of his, but didn't go as far as revealing my old identity.

The evening was spent at PEN USA's activist writing panel, at a private residence in faraway Brentwood. Some pictures below...

One of the panelists, and also the moderator, Celeste Fremon is a journalist with an interest in the criminal justice system.

From left to right:
  • George Larkin, who corresponds with writers and artists in Baghdad, Iraq, in an attempt to get their voices heard.
  • Gayle Brandeis (of course, my longtime mentor), whose novel The Book of Dead Birds won Barbara Kingsolver's prize for fiction that addresses social justice.
  • Diane Lefer (Gayle's own mentor during her days at Antioch University), who's been very vocal about the mistreatment of immigrants and the mentally ill by the US government. Her orange jumpsuit is in protest of Guantanamo Bay.
Gayle talks about what brought about The Book of Dead Birds - I've heard the story before, but was very happy to hear it again in this panel setting.

Also in attendance were Gayle's friend Mike and daughter Hannah. It was my first meeting with Mike, while Hannah had seen me before at a peace rally in Riverside that Gayle had organized in '05.
Gayle and me, at the end of the panel. Thanks to Mike for the photo. Gayle is in one of her CODEPINK T-shirts, while I, in celebration of Sarah's 31st, am wearing a very Sarah-ish outfit in the form of a white belted shirt (along with black tights, white socks, black shoes, and black purse - the retro 1990ish white/black look that both Sarah and I love).

I will also send this photo to our Facebook profiles.

After this photo, I kept chatting with the panelists; George's advice was for me to finish the novel (or at least an excerpt as a short story) and get it out there. Diane got a little intro to Sarah's story; both she and Gayle were happy to hear about my run-in with Andrea James and Calpernia Addams yesterday - and mentioned that this was all the more reason to get the story out there.

It was a nice weekend, for sure!

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