Publications
Bertha Bugarin Heads To Jail Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20090218(San Diego Reader February 18, 2009)

In October 2007, Michael Varga, a police officer assigned to the Chula Vista Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit, began interviewing women about the abortions they had received at a local clinic, Clinica Medica para la Mujer de Hoy. The storefront clinic, with its dull turquoise awning, was located on Broadway, next door to Plaza’s Mexican Food. Its windows were blacked out and the image of a stylish woman was drawn onto one pane. For years, the clinic had targeted Spanish-speaking women with low-cost terminations of their pregnancies. Varga was investigating Bertha Pinedo Bugarin, a layperson who was purportedly the owner/manager of the Chula Vista clinic as well as five other medical offices in Los Angeles and Orange counties, each specializing in cash-only abortions. Months earlier, the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force in Los Angeles had begun its inquiry into Bugarin’s operation. It had obtained a search warrant, and among the patient records it seized were 56 from clients who had “received medical services, generally abortions,” at the Chula Vista clinic, according to a declaration Varga made to the San Diego Superior Court. The task force had turned these records over to Varga.

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The Perennial Question of Existence Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

St._Cecilia_Guido_Reni(Written 2005 - 2009)

How perfectly alone I felt that Labor Day weekend, 1972, staying at the YMCA in Madison, Wisconsin, getting ready, after a two-year hiatus, to reenter college. I had a tiny room, maybe ten by ten, a bed, a desk. I’d paid extra for the privacy. I loved the solitude: no parents, no job, no girlfriend. Never before was I so alone—and never since. I’d rise at dawn, sit in the straight-back chair at the desk with two drawers; it reminded me of the varnished desk and the blotter pad on top where I did my homework as a kid in Ohio. At the Y, I’d work through the morning. The heat slowly built until the brown-brick tiles radiated steam like a sauna. By noon, I was cooked and I’d go for a swim in Lake Mendota. Back at my desk, my guitar would be on my lap, my writing journal open before me. My attentions would alternate. Either I noted down the rough cut of a song, chords and lyrics, or I sketched in prose my latest anxiety, trying to say exactly what it was I was after by re-enrolling, this time at the University of Wisconsin. A home? A direction? A career? Those queries voiced in words alone only intensified what I couldn’t answer. Eventually my fingers dropped the pen and I picked up the guitar. As I played, my worry lessened, then dissolved.

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Identity Crisis: What Is a Memoir Anyway? Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Avery-Girl-Writing(Etude: New Voices in Literary Nonfiction Winter 2009)

A writer friend is telling me about an agent who phoned the other day. "She got right to the point," my friend says. "‘I’m sorry,’ the agent said, ‘but we won’t be representing your manuscript.’" ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘it’s a memoir, and a memoir has to read like a novel.’ ‘It does?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ the agent said. ‘It does.’ ‘And who says so?’ ‘The market says so,’ she replied. ‘And yours, I’m sorry to say, is not there yet.’"

My friend shrugs; it’s early in the rejection game so she’s not sure how to react. In support, I tell her that agents often don’t know what they want. Their deferring to "the market" makes their rejecting you stomachable. It’s tough, I say, selling a book about yourself when your self is unknown. A celebrity has it easy. Her face is already a contract.

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Review: Safe Suicide by DeWitt Henry Print E-mail
Criticism

Safe_Suicide(Contrary Magazine Winter 2009)

DeWitt Henry and the Anxiety of Self-Discovery

As it must, a collection of nonfiction pieces assembled into a book lacks the core theme of a single narrative, a focused memoir, or a book-length essay. DeWitt Henry’s Safe Suicide is no exception. What is exceptional—and perhaps less noticed in the variety of forms Henry fancies—is his self-disclosure, the knottiest labor the personal writer faces. How do I disclose to myself things I did not know before I began writing? After all, the lure of personal narrative is for the reader to discover the author’s vagaries of being as he or she does in the writing.

We get Henry’s truest self in his layered stories of family intimacy. In more than half of the twenty pieces (fourteen were previously published), we find Henry, who is in his 50s and 60s for most remembrances, writing about the quotidian lives of his affirmatory wife, Connie ("sexy and beautiful, in an openhearted, wholesome way"); their withdrawn son, David; and their self-reliant daughter, Ruth. The father’s anxiety far outweighs the husband’s.

 

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Why Local Radio Is No Longer Local Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20081230(San Diego Reader December 30, 2008)

If San Diego has a voice, it may be the plummy bass of Chris Cantore. Until December 2007, the Brooklyn native was an audible fixture on 91X’s Cantore in the Morning, his 5:00–10:00 a.m. show, an anchor of alternative rock and San Diego bands for 11 years. Cantore’s timbre is startling; he’s often ID’d as “somebody famous” at a drive-through or checkout counter. It—he—sounds like a baritone sax, more Gerry Mulligan than Lisa Simpson. Its long-boarder’s cool stretches those mellifluous o’s: “I’m so-o stoked, man.” Cantore’s been compared to the snarky chafe of Adam Carolla, host of a morning show on CBS Radio in Los Angeles and former cohost of radio and TV’s Loveline and TV’s Man Show. But Cantore’s tone is lighter, lacks bitterness, steers clear of cheeky judgment. His optimism is irrepressible; it has the buoyancy of a surfer expecting that the next wave will be the one.

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The Self-Reliant Classicist: An Introduction to the Art of John Abel Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

war-criminals(San Diego Art Institute Press December 2008)

Finally, at what may be the early late middle stage of John Abel’s career, we have, with his show at Earl & Birdie Taylor Library in Pacific Beach, thirty years’ worth of the fifty-three-year-old’s paintings, drawings, and graphics. And what a magnificent catalog of Abel’s oeuvre the San Diego Art Institute press has published—the incisive work of a caricaturist, draftsman, and painter whose discipline is classical, expressionistic, and pugnaciously self-confident.

At UC Riverside in the 1970s, one professor’s masturbatory mania for conceptual art made him angry and quit. (Abel still disdains any art that avoids the time-tested strategies of beauty, composition, and meaning.) Wandering out of academe for good and rediscovering Drucker, he found his calling as a commercial illustrator. From 1984 to 1994, he did hundreds of assignments for weekly rags among them the San Diego Reader. Until one day the phone rang and he was told his skill was passe: they were going digital.

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Beguiled By Mozart's Image Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

Krafft(Cadillac Cicatrix Issue 2.0, Winter, 2008)

In 1819, an unknown artist, Barbara Krafft, painted what has become the most recognizable and beloved image of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that exists. Commissioned by Joseph Sonnleithner to hang in the newly opened Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society for the Friends of Music), a conservatory in Vienna, Krafft's posthumous oil painting is based on (some say plagiarized from) another painting, The Mozart Family, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce, a work in possession of Mozart's sister, Nannerl. (Among the other few renderings are Mozart at seven and fourteen, in which he's portrayed as a pasty aristocrat; there are facial profiles as a boxwood medallion and a silhouette.) In the Croce work, dated 1780-81, Nannerl and Wolfgang are playing, perhaps improvising, a duet at the piano; the father, Leopold, is holding a violin and looking on; and the scene is countenanced by a trophy-head-like portrait of the composer's mother, Anna Maria, who died in 1778. In 1781, Mozart would have been 25; he would have just married Constanze and premiered his first opera seria, Idomeneo.

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