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In John Carpenter's ancient 1981 film Escape from New York, convicted bank robber Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into futuristic 1997 to rescue the US President from Manhattan, which by 1997 is a gigantic max-security prison. The film was called sci-fi, but today's gentrified Manhattan or San Francisco or Denver makes the film alternate history, a future not based in reality.
Two recent news and developments in Denver's gentrification made we wonder about my Northside neighborhood, which I and Bloguista Manuel Ramos have often written about, realistically, facetiously, or soberly, as Ramos wrote:
"One of the regrettable things that has happened to Denver’s Northside, where I've lived for more than thirty years, is the rise and victory of the 'suburban aesthetic': boxy, boring housing lined up in rows; a uniform 'non-conformist' style from clothes to music; restaurants that are destinations rather than good places to grab a bite to eat; an obsession about 'making it,' a flaccid, common denominator cultural perspective. A great neighborhood has to be more than that."
A Highlands developer's dream
Gentrification is defined as: "revitalizing neighborhoods, the movement of young, often single, professionals into low-income, heavily minority, neighborhoods near urban employment centers. Low-income and minority residents are pushed out by gentrification as the local culture and consumption patterns are taken over by upwardly mobile professionals."
Progress is defined as a gradual betterment; the process of improvingor developing something over a period of time; the act or process of growing or causing something to grow or become larger or more advanced."
Bolded words above took on different meanings as I sat on my front patio this week, wondering how gentrification had "revitalized, improved" or made the neighborhood "more advanced." It is "larger" in terms of population density, with condo and apartment complexes going up like Peyton Manning's touchdown-record.
Gazing down the street, from house to house, this is what I know. When people moved into these houses that were built in the 1940s, they were looking for homes to start families, places to raise their kids, within walking distance of neighborhood schools [3 within 5 blocks], and maybe not far from their jobs.
A home the developers didn't raze
In both of those two houses (imagine following my finger) live steelworkers, in that one a factory worker and his grocery clerk wife, in that one a retired railroad worker, in the corner one a postal worker, in that one lived a president of her union, and next door, a federal government worker, Until recently, I was a teacher. All of those people belonged/belong to unions--there's more I don't know about--which were part of the community culture. Finding a gentry-neighbor who's part of a union or who would support a union picket is as hard as finding cheap houses around here.
Next door to me lived a Chicano who I went to college with and was part of the Chicano student movement. Across the street, a woman who was one of its poets. The three of us, at least, had that in common. Student radicalism, Chicano pride, nonviolent protest. None of the gentry on my block come from such backgrounds.
A home, not an investment
Across the street lived two girls who went to the Northside middle and high school with my two kids, one of whom lives five blocks away. Next door and two houses down, and in others sprinkled down the block, live/lived other kids who went to the same schools. They called themselves Northsiders, Vikings and attended North High School. Many stayed together at the same schools until they graduated or went on to college. With charter and split or hybrid schools all around us, the few gentry kids won't have neighborhood schools in common.
I can see the house where the Italian old lady [her son still lives there] use to drink on her porch. She was the same woman who would take care of neighborhood Mexican kids when their mother was late getting home. Or would feed Chicano children who she knew didn't have enough to eat when they got home from school. A steelworker from another house would regularly mow the two lawns of old ladies who couldn't push a mower or afford to pay anyone. A welder who lives over there and the guy who live there will weld something for you for free or run his snow-blower down other people's sidewalks. Another guy helped me with my fire-pit and another has fixed my car for me and neither would accept money. Of course, sometimes neighbors paid for work or bartered. I wonder whether today's gentry neighbors, with some exceptions, would act so neighborly for kids who might have lice in their hair, or let their gentry kids play with them, or even imagine that hungry neighborhood kids might be part of their responsibilities.
Really--you'd want to live in this?
South of me lived a Chicano, then a Mexican family, then another Mexican family that had migrated without papers from the same region of Mexico. Next door to them, another family from that region. North of me lived a paperless Mexican family, and I can count five others on the block that are still homes to Mexicanos. Counting us, there's six Chicano families still around. Decades ago, I had no doubts about why my family moved here. Because there were Chicanos, working class, Mexicanos who spoke Spanish. Good decent-priced restaurants with a chorizo breakfast, or bars with affordable shots or a variety of tequilas, or clubs with live music and no cover and cheap beer, or Catholic church bazaars where you ate good, danced in the street and saw and talked with your raza neighbors. With the gentry here, most of that is disappearing. I know that in a lot of cases, the gentry see that as Progress.
Kurt can't save us from Highlands
Our Chafee Park pocket of ranch house bungalows is zoned for families and no apartments. The developer-gentry may try to change that. (Over mi cuerpo muerto.) The old Northsiders moved here to find homes. Yes, they expected the house's value to rise, at least from inflation. But they moved here to stay, except for Mexicanos and Chicanos who got trapped by balloon payments, ARMs and under-qualifying loans. The four families I know about who lost homes had to move east to Aurora where ethnics can more afford to live or rent.
The developers have created another circle of Dante's Hell. Apartment buildings are going up, yes, like a Broncos' score. Monthly rents average $1,145. "Over 9,000 new apartments were built in 2013, 8,700 more are expected this year, and another 8,700 in 2015. 55,000 people will migrate here next year. "People are definitely looking at Colorado as the place to be. We have become an area where young professionals are moving. Entrepreneurs can start their businesses anywhere in the country, and so they are choosing areas where the lifestyle matches their preferences."
You buy this, you breathe the chems
I think of the new Northside--the developers renamed us Highlands, without our input--as Legoland. Like Ramos described above, apartment and condo boxes are slapped together with OSB instead of plywood like the old homes. It's 2/3 cheaper and the gentry will only see the outside. It doesn't matter that California wants to requirespecial warnings for these "chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm, wood dust known to cause cancer." The median price for these boxes is $263,000. It's about money, investment, flipping houses and moving on. Not about neighbors and community.
"The urban playground at Union Station isn't drawing people of color and it may be the building's fault. Walking through the station, it doesn't look at all like Denver in 2014. More like Denver in 1950, Boise, Idaho, or Billings, Mont. If, that is, you are white and not paying attention. Or if you think diversity doesn't matter. If you do, you can't help but feel like something is off amidst all the clinking of martini glasses. If you are a tourist, you might get the idea that Denver doesn't have people of color. Or worse, you might think it's one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. That's not the case.
"The architecture's roots are in the glory days of France, England, Greece and Rome, empires that were nearly absent of ethnic minorities and who felt fully at ease invading, exploiting and actually enslaving the people of Africa, Asia and South America.
"Yes, that's all in the past; things have changed. But the $54 million renovation of Union Station doesn't take that into account. It restores the symbols of an old world with no updates. The gilded chandeliers have been rewired, the marble polished, but there's no nod to the present. Is Union Station Ready for the Next 100 years, as its marketing proclaims?"
Rinaldireceived over 316 comments. I won't't be surprised if the paper's conservative owners demoted or restricted him to articles about Bronco Stadium architecture. Here's a sample of the comments:
"So writing a racist article is OK if it is against white people?"
"White guilt is a large part of any college education now."
"We should just blow up all beautiful old buildings so that nobody is ever made uncomfortable by being reminded of what their ancestors didn't accomplish."
I don't know how many comments came from developers or gentry. But none of this sounds like the old Northside's neighborly ways of Italians, Chicanos, Mexicanos and others living next to each other. It certainly doesn't sound like tolerance.
Highlands next improvement?
If you missed it, check Bobby Lefebre's La Bloga post from last week, Vanishing Chicano Culture and the Gentrification of Denver’s Northside. "He is the driving force behind the We Are North Denver movement that has shined a bright spotlight on the massive changes happening to the Northside - good and bad. When racist flyers recently appeared in the neighborhood, Bobby responded with action that focused on unity in the community. He wrote the following article originally for his website, which you can find at this link." Like Ramos said there, "As a resident of the Northside for more than thirty years, I agree with much of what Bobby says in this piece. Both Bobby and I would be interested in your reactions."
The Northside that's become the developers' and gentry's Highlands is a great candidate for a new Darwin Award for City Suicide. Already the signs of super-congestion, unflavored architecture and an unaffordable lifestyle and life have settled over my neighborhood like a new Brown Cloud. It didn't and doesn't have to be that way. Richer, whiter neighborhoods were inoculated from turning into Legoland. For instance, there's the Bonnie Brae Neighborhood Association whose zoning committee reviews all zoning requests. It's one of the most charming, coveted, million-dollar-homes areas in the West. Take note developers--of million-dollar-homes. Not made of cheap, toxic OSB or intended to look like Legos. And how about some solar?
Old Northside home, family-friendly
Except for the Lefebre and Rinaldi articles, I don't know why I wrote this. I'm not lamenting so much as remembering. Why we came here. What here is. And was. What it shouldn't become. What it shouldn't lose. Its ethnicity. Its multi-national neighborhood quality. Its sense of community. It's the Northside.
Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. a Northside who's not quitting. Or moving.
Denver and eastern Colo. are no places for gardens like Michael Sedano's in Pasadena. Despite snowstorm pics in the news, Colorado's dry--alpine arid--though it doesn't take a village to do a garden right.
Gardening is god-like, our pretending to be dioses, remaking the jungle into an image of our choosing. My wife and I are lucky to have a home and the time to devote to a garden somewhat different from others.
A neverending, Aztec-adirondack design
Our knowledge about the Mexica gardens of the Anahuac Valley is incomplete. Tezcozinco was the name of the poet-prince Nezahualcoyotl's gardens; Chapultepec and Xochmilco were the Aztec's. The invading Spaniards described them as more wondrous than any in the world, though they didn't know about those in Asia.
Aquaponics, hydroponics were practiced by the indigenes with their milpas; and recycling and waste management were taken to an extreme in Tenochtítlan because of limited land available for the Aztecs to settle on. This part of the heritage would be good to recover, obviously. Today, my wife and I are hosting an Unenchanted Garden Party, and maybe raising a little money for battered women's shelters. Here's what visitors will see.
My wife Carmen's vegetable and flower garden out front contains: tomato plants, plum, catalpa, peach and apple trees, jalapeños, strawberry, roses, yarrow, honeysuckle, tulips, icy plants, catnip, cosmos, tiger lily, currants, lilacs, lamb's ear, climbing wild roses, and trumpet vine.
Succulent, nopal, yucca and blue fescue living together
My half is the desert-prairie: Evergreens, wildflowers like cosmos and Colo. sunflowers, succulents, hens-n-chicks, groundcovers, agastaches, marigolds, penstemons, sages, lavenders, and prairie, blue fescue and buffalo grasses, yuccas, mt. plants, and a dozen varieties of cactus.
The yard goes for water-saving, with prairie grass that needs little water or mowing, with the sod landscaped into rolling hills to keep water from reaching the street. Cactus, succulents and grasses are native varieties from Mexico, the SW or Colo. native. Where possible, terracing keeps water loss down, especially on my wife's half. Inverted, Spanish roof-tiles channel rain-gutter water away from the house.
Organic fertilizer: We use a concentrated, seaweed emulsion, about every two weeks. Better than MiracleGro, cheaper and requiring less frequent applications. Here's our organic weed killer & ants-ridder: 1 gal. vinegar; 2 cups Epson salts; 1/4 Dawn dish soap [blue original]. It works in less than a day. Just a little squirt kills ALL plants, so we use a sprayer set to a stream setting.
Latest attempt at an Azteco bench
Except for three items, the wood furniture and other yard features are homemade, primarily from reused or salvaged cedar and redwood. The designs are based on Aztec or indigenous models or motifs, avoiding boxy, ninety degree angles, when possible.
Marigolds, four-o-clocks and wild cosmos box
For the front patio, we cut over 100 bricks to make the curved border, set each brick with 6" rebar and laid it on pea gravel, to avoid using concrete.
For those of you out of town, this completes your tour of our unenchanted gardens. If you're in Denver, drop by today between 11:00am and 3:00pm.
Drinks and eats and transplants and seeds are here. And lots of chatting about gardening in the desert-prairie.
Probably like most librarians, I went to library school because I loved books and associated libraries with some of my fondest book-related memories. In my childhood, and through college, I used libraries to find books. Occasionally I used periodicals or even microfiche, but the library, to me, was all about the books. I learned in library school that library collections were becoming increasingly digital, and that most of the things libraries purchased were journals; already, in the mid-1990s, the collection was much more than an aggregation of monographs, and had been for a long time. But students coming to use the library had no choice but to encounter books, and it would have been very difficult to complete any research assignment without using some print publications.
Penrose Library, University of Denver (11-19-12). Creative Commons License.
Today, at my own library — the University of Denver’s Penrose Library — it’s pretty easy for a student to use the library daily without ever setting foot in the building, and without ever needing to use tangible collections. Over half of the records in our catalog point to digital content, and we now spend 72% of a $5.4 million materials budget on electronic resources.
Overall, electronic resources are a good thing — an amazing thing. They can be used by students wherever they happen to be; they can be searched in ways that would have been unimaginable a decade ago; they free up valuable shelf space; and they make available incredible content that would have required focused research trips when I was in college. Resources like Early English Books Online or London Low Life — just two of hundreds available to University of Denver students — make it possible to conduct primary research at levels impossible at most universities not too long ago.
But we have done such an amazing job building digital collections that students can attend the University of Denver without ever needing to touch paper publications, without ever having to encounter physical books — and that’s a shame. There is value to the book as a physical object, and libraries need to find ways to emphasize that value to digital natives.
At the University of Denver, we decided to emphasize books — while still committing strongly to our digital collections — by increasing funding for special collections. Within that context, we began collecting artists’ books heavily about five years ago and now have a collection of almost 900 titles, many of them unique. There are larger and more important collections at many libraries, but our collection is quickly becoming significant.
Artists’ books are works of art, books where the container is as important as the content, and books that call out to be handled. When done well, artists’ books can impact all of our senses. Direction of the Road, by Ursula K. Le Guin, produced in an elaborate edition by Foolscap Press, uses the texture of the paper to mimic the rustling of leaves. And this book’s use of anamorphic art always surprises readers. But artists’ books can also be quite simple. A Diction, a small but powerful book, shaped like a pint glass, uses simple text and white space to capture the experience of addiction.
As students become less and less used to physical books, this collection gives them a chance to immerse themselves in the book. It is a reminder that libraries have always been about books, and will continue to be about books even when most of our collections become digital.
There are some terrific resources for learning more about artists’ books. Vamp & Tramp Booksellers — besides having a wonderful name and being run by wonderful people — has a great website that makes it easy to get a sense of the books they carry. Joshua Heller Rare Books and Priscilla Juvelis have great selections as well. And the Guild of Book Workers maintains a useful list of Book Arts Links.
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Subscribe to only education articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS. Image credit: Photograph of Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University by Raysonho@Open Grid Scheduler. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
I like to visit indie bookstores when I travel because it gives me a better idea of the industry as it plays out across the nation. And it’s fun to see all the different ways that people display books.
Here are a couple pics of different areas of this great indie bookstore. Click to see the photos full size.
One of the interesting things at Tattered Cover was the Espresso Book Machine. This is a print-on-demand printer that both prints and binds a book while you watch. I’ve heard of them for several years, of course, but never seen one. It’s large. Watching the pages flip through the printer is fascinating. Tattered Cover Press is the official designation of books printed here.
Espresso Book Machine: POD Printer
Tattered Cover Press print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine.
Sam Quiñones, author of one of my favorite books, Antonio's Gun, is leaving the L.A. Times for other adventures. La Bloga wishes him well with his old and new endeavors. Read the whole story here.
American teenager explains white privilege
If you need material to explain white privilege to an Anglo, or just want to check your own understanding of it, then check this American teenager's cartoon. She's not just a breath of fresh air; she's a windstorm leaving the cities sweet.
Artist Jamie Kapp, 19, calls herself IgnorantTeenager; she's anything but. Here's her first cartoon, but enjoy them all.
U.S. legacies of intolerance
Jimmy Franco Sr.'s post this week on LatinoPOV, The Enduring US Legacies of Discrimination and Intolerance, should be read by all. Here's a taste:
"This present-day type of systematic ethnic intolerance and governmental restrictions on specific sectors within our society are becoming somewhat reminiscent of a similar trend in 1930′s fascist Germany.
"The ideological basis of our society was founded upon the four legacies of white supremacy, male dominance, class bias and religious sectarianism.
"This upsurge in ethnic hatred and divisive behavior needs to be actively confronted and not avoided nor shrugged off. Hiding our heads in the sand instead of standing up and speaking out for correct principles and norms of mutual respect and behavior only encourages these hate-spewing bullies."
"Colegas y Camaradas: On behalf of Alamo Colleges and Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Tejas, we invite you to this special Ceremonia and Grand Opening Celebration of the Palo Alto College Center for Mexican American Studies on Thursday, March 20.
"Many colleagues have been working on this initiative for over a year and now the dream is becoming a reality. Come on out to the Southside and celebrate with us. It's free and open to the community and we'll have free food and drinks for lunch, plus some very special cantos and performances. Feel free to invite friends and familia. We give thanks for the blessing of this center and may it serve to inspire and help our children and students succeed in school and in life, for generations to come."
Denver's best Tex-Mex
During The Rick Garcia Band's performances on April 12 and 13 at Denver's Oriental Theater, you have a chance to own one of the framed posters and artwork that were displayed at Rick's Tavern!
BorderSenses Literary and Arts Journal seeks to provide a venue for emerging and established writers/artists from the U.S.-Mexico border area and beyond to share their words and images.
We seek poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and book reviews in both Spanish and English from every corner of the world. We also cherish a diversity of visual artists. Translations can be accepted provided the original author has consented to publication rights and to reprinting.
Mexican American Studies for Texas Children & Schools
Day of Action - Monday, April 7, 2014
1) E-mail all of the Texas State Board of Education firstname.lastname@example.org and in the body of the e-mail put: To All Texas State Board of Education members (insures all 15 board members receive it) and simply tell them you support the implementation of Mexican American Studies in Texas schools, and that this is important for the success of all Texas children and the State of Texas.
We ask all of colleagues and friends from across the state and the nation to E-mail and call into the Texas State Board of Education this coming Monday, April 7, "Day of Action," and to spread the word on this initiative. This is in preparation for the SBOE meeting on April 8-9 in Austin where a vote is anticipated. There will also be a march and press conference from Cesar Chavez Blvd. to the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday, April 8 beginning at 9am.
If you want to testify at the April 8-9 SBOE meeting in Austin, you may register on the website or by fax between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. this coming Monday; or, in person or by telephone with the appropriate agency office. You can also register for this.
See additional information from our friends at Librotraficante and MASTexas. Gracias for your support and action on Monday.
Chair/National Assoc. for Chicana & Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Committee on MAS Pre-K-12
Recognition for a Chicana advocate
Next Saturday you can throw some chanclas around to the sound of some of the best Tex-Mex in Denver, and join in celebrating the good works of Flo Hernandez, chingona advocate of bilingual radio in the Southwest.
We’ve gone to DC to stand against the Keystone XL pipeline before -- but never like this. In the last week in April, a powerful alliance of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities will converge in Washington for a demonstration called “Reject & Protect,” and it’s shaping up to be the most beautiful demonstration against Keystone XL yet. We have the ingredients we need to make this action unignorable — what we need is your help to bring it all together. Can you pitch in to make a BIG impression on the President and help stop this pipeline once and for all?
It’s going to be a sight to behold. There will be dozens of riders on horseback. And Native Americans raising 30 tipis ready to go up on the National Mall. There will be demonstrations and ceremonies to tell President Obama that the risk to our land, water and climate from Keystone XL is too great to allow. And all of this will be led by an unprecedented alliance that won't back down.
The goal is to be the talk of the town during the crucial last week of April when President Obama will be making up his mind about the pipeline. This is our exclamation point on two years of powerful action against Keystone XL.
It’s a bold vision, and we don’t have much time to pull it off. If it’s going to work, it’ll take all of us. So please pitch in whatever you can, and let’s make this happen together.
P.S. If you can join the big “Reject and Protect” rally in DC on Sat., April 26th (date changed from April 27th due to permitting issues) please sign up to stay in the loop.
On a planet-wide, historical scale, ascending to the cima of Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Sun [something I did when it was still permitted and the vista wasn't marred by the effrontery of having to look down at a WalMart] makes you realize the awesomeness of one of the Siete Maravillas of the World. Others have told me how visits to Machu Picchu similarly impressed themselves into memory. Unforgettable.
What most of us regularly experience outside of vacations or treks rarely reaches such heights, being of a smaller scale, but maybe that imparts them with a more unique charm, since the scale acts to concentrate the experience, the way a magnifying glass focuses sunlight--short of grandiose or monumental--but making for a more personal experience. Like watching the birth of your child in a delivery room, or maybe the feelings Melinda Palacio underwent when she read from her first published novel to an Arizona audience last week. Exhilaration, internalized, even if surrounded by sixty people in the same room.
Last Friday, me and my eighteen first-grade bilingual students were privileged to experience one of those smaller wonders. René Colato Laínez, in Denver for the REFORMA Nat. Conf., kindly agreed to visit the elementary school where I work, along with Mara Price who shared her book El Chocolate de Abuelita. Mara gave us Maya history, the discovery of chocolate and made the kids hungry for more than treats.
In Rene's thirty-minute presentation, largely in Spanish, he burst the envelope of what I've seen of author readings. René pranced and danced, he sang, chimed, and theatrically stroked us with descriptions and quotings from his books, primarily The Tooth Fairy meets El Ratón Perez. Accompanied by a powerpoint of his making, René transported us his audience to a small moment where entertainment was left behind and wonderment took us elsewhere.
I was one of twelve Denver authors who participated in the 2nd annual Twelve Books of Christmas Party this holiday season. The event was held at The Baker St. Pub & Grill in Greenwood Village where 200+ guests enjoyed hors d’oeurves, conversation and books!
With author and 12 Books of Christmas founder, Polly Letofsky
Who ever heard of that? We all stare at the numbers on the panel waiting for our floor # to flash and then push out the doors rapid-fire. No matter how few floors, elevators always seem too slow, like watching a pot of water come to boil.
But today the elevator ride was too short. Too quick for me to act.
I’m in Denver, in the midst of some of the tallest young ladies under 20 I’ve ever seen. It is the US national volleyball tournaments and I’ve been surrounded by these impressive teens everywhere I go. Healthy, clean cut, pleasantly mannered, each having lots of fun with family & friends.
Except one, who looked about 16.
She followed me into the elevator, then her parents. They stood in front of us with their back to her. Their daughter. Dad started saying she had her worse day ever, clearly talking about her performance in the day’s match. She said her serves were bad but her total day wasn’t bad. Not everything she did was bad. Her mom scoffed, glancing at her and made some cutting wisecrack. They stomped out of the elevator deriding her, and she following in their dust saying Fine, be that way.
When it first started, I waited to see how she reacted to them. Amazingly competent. Clearly hurt and hurting badly, yet maintained composure and didn’t lash out at them. They couldn’t see how hurt she was BECAUSE THEY WOULDN’T LOOK AT HER OTHER THAN TO GIVE HER PARTING GLARES, but surely, as parents, they knew it in their hearts. I tried to open my mouth, to tell her how honored I was to be next to one of the best in the entire country regardless of how lousy her day was. The doors opened and they left before I could croak out a sound.
She shuffled behind them with her head hanging down. Isn’t it bad enough to know her teammates will likely rib her too? That, in her eyes, the whole world saw her lousy serves? That she needed their hugs more than anything today and instead they ganged up on her like bullies? With parents like that, who needs enemies?
Michelle Obama will be making her first appearance on Nick’s Kids’ Choice Awards this weekend (presenting Taylor Swift with the Big Help Award. The First Lady won the award herself in 2010 for the Let’s Move! Campaign. In other... Read the rest of this post
Today’s blog post is from Abby Bartholomew. Abby works for Kenexa Corporation, a company with a stellar philanthropy program allowing recipients to donate their full-time efforts for three months to an organization of their choice. Abby was one of the chosen employees this year and is volunteering in Denver, CO from May through July.
When I heard about this opportunity through work, I was thrilled–and First Book was the first organization that came to mind. A few years ago, I wrote my undergraduate thesis about creating an innovative way to increase youth interest in reading. Part of my research was identifying current organizations promoting literacy and reading, and First Book always stuck out in my mind as a leader in the community.
I contacted the Denver Metro Advisory Board, one of the closest boards to my home in Nebraska, during my application process and they were excited about the possibilities but informed me that they were struggling and might not be around by my arrival. But Kate Fergusson, our Community Development Manager, thought my skills and background would be perfect for revitalizing the board. So in late April my husky and I moved out to Denver!
The board had disintegrated by the time I arrived. Good news? We had the opportunity to start fresh. Bad news? I had basically no contacts or networks to tap into the Denver community. As I wrap up my last couple of weeks here, I’ve been contemplating everything I’ve learned about First Book, advisory boards and myself. I narrowed it down to three major things.
One: Boards are not a one-man show for a reason.
This may seem obvious, but some part of my subconscious thought it would be possible for me to successfully run things solo while working to develop board membership. But boards have members for a reason. My time here helped me indentify some of my personal strengths, but also some of my weaknesses. I learned the value not only of members but of members with particular talents, i.e. ones I don’t have. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been building up the board and I can already see how the Denver board will flourish with the talented folks who are stepping up.
Two: Networks are important.
I feel like I need to bold that, underline it, or maybe have fireworks shooting out of it for the appropriate emphasis. I accomplished some great things when I was working alone, but since members have stepped up I can already see the board’s velocity skyrocketing. From one member’s experience running a local literacy nonprofit for years to another’s experience in the education and library systems, the ideas and connections seem endless.
Three: First Book is chock-full of passionate people.
I never doubted this statement, but I am still surprised by the intensity and drive of everyone I talk to and work with. From the national office to the handful of advisory boards I spoke to, people here really care about getting as many books as possible into the hands of kids. It’s incredibly inspiring and motivating. That might sounds cheesy, but it’s true!
I’m sad that I have to leave Denver soon, but am excited to get home and start a board in Lincoln, NE. I can’t thank everyone at national and on the Denver board enough for this experience and I hope to always have some kind of involvement in First Book! If you want to see what the Denver board has been up to, check it out on facebook, twitter or our blog. I’m also doing a personal fundraiser to leave behind a little something tangible for the Denver board and our reci
Don't ever get your first book published; skip straight to the second.
My life's such a torrent with duties around publicizing The Closet of Discarded Dreams that eating, bathing, cutting my nails or hair, and sometimes even breathing have nearly become lost habits.
So, when I get an Email that Reyna Grande, who was flying in to read from her third novel, is about to land in Denver and maybe has no place to stay and could I help, it's almost a relief to have new, different priorities. My responsibilities turned out to be merely putting her and hubby up for the night–híjole!
If you've never heard Reyna speak and do a reading, you've missed demasiado. Yanked out of my own tiny first-book tasks, I sat with others at Tattered Cover Bookstore as she told of her childhood, growing up, her life, her family relationships and trials that epitomize what every young mexicanito who crosses al Otro Lado undergoes. Her reading widened my self-centeredness some, deflated my overindulgence in my first novel being published. It was good for me. She the pocha and me the chicano connected for just one moment at the reading, when I realized how much we shared in common when we'd been young brown kids in this intolerant society.
The Distance Between Us, A Memoir is her book. Read it, but better yet, go hear it. Reyna headed off for another read at Whittier Public Library, but you can go here to see where else you might be lucky enough to catch her.
Back to self-promotion – Albuquerque and a TV interview
KASA 2 Fox TV has a weekday morning show called Santa Fe Style Show and interviewed me about The Closet of Discarded Dreams as their featured book of the month! If you want to see how a Chicano pitches to an audience in the land of the Hispanic, go here.
Author doesn't do good phone – Denver WESTWORD.com interview
Our biggest alternative-newspaper's website features an interview by Cory Cascciato today. It taught me how different phone interviews are from live ones on TV. You can go here to read my ramblings.
Chingaus – The Closet arrives! My first reading is this Sunday. I've never seen the book, though the Ebook's been available online since Sept. 1. I'm sitting on the front patio, drinking Negras, wishing I could down a half a bottle of Knob Creek, looking up the street every time I hear a vehicle, hoping it's FedEx, wondering how I'm going to tell my audience Sunday that they can't buy the book because it didn't get here in time. Other than that, I'm fine. Mi amá is here for the reading, but she's enjoying Reyna's book because MINE HASN'T ARRIVED and might not. One day left for deliveries.
A FedEx truck stops down the street. Then leaves our block. Cagada! A UPS truck stops next door, delivers and gets back to head off, again. Puchísima! Then he pulls up ten feet like to deliberately tease me that he was leaving. And brings us 2 boxes he sets on the porch. The book. The books. I'm not exhilarated. I'm not tirando somersaults. I don't believe it. It's as surreal as some of The Closet.
My wife Carmen takes a pic, but it shows nothing of relief, because there is none. It's just here. And Sunday I won't have to disappoint at least those wanting a copy. To see whether my reading is anywhere as suave as Reyna's, you'll have to be there:
Debut reading & signing of
The Closet of Discarded Dreams
by Rudy Ch. Garcia
Su Teatro's Denver Civic Theater
721 Santa Fe Dr. 5:00pm
Door prizes galore.
Oh, yeah, and you'll even be able to purchase a copy! De verdad.
Three Chicanos who live and practice their arts in Denver: a retired factory worker, now artist and music aficionado; a former practicing lawyer turned novelist; a formerly employed bilingual teacher who sculpts his gardens and fiction.
Thursday night we walked the blocks of what natives call the Northside. The gentry, developers and transplants have taken out much of its culture, much as they take out weeds from their yards and the characteristic architecture of the neighborhood homes to replace them with foo-foo plants and minimalist houses. So, we walk the blocks, commenting on our loss and deriding the substitutions.
The second floor apartments on 32nd & Zuni where mexicano families once could afford to live and send their niños to neighborhood schools to learn to read and write in their native language are now hundred thou condos where Spanish is much less heard, if at all. The former residents relocated to outlying areas where rent is cheaper and instruction their kids receive now all in English.
The flat-roofed buildings that once housed bars where one of our fathers and a father-in-laws drank themselves into alcoholism and exchanged stories of cómo era when they grew up in the San Luis Valley or crossed over looking for more than just cantinas with cold beer and pool tables.
The old tequila bar that served the best chorizo con huevos breakfast and where you could order obscure tequilas for less than half the price of the yuppie establishments that sit there now with no Spanish speakers to speak of and food prices that make you wish you weren't hungry. The former bar owned by relatives of a Jalisco distillery family who succumbed to a lavish purchase offer that ousted one of the best places to compose fiction on a Saturday morning.
The Anglos passing by us, wondering quien sabe qué about us, some not daring to look up from the dog they're walking nor respond to a hello, no matter that the only difference between the three of us and gringo drunks who'll later pepper the sidewalks are our physical features.
A plethora of restaurants/bars overloaded with customers with too much discretionary funds, too much searching for identity and culture in an area they helped strip of the same.
Multi-stored structures marring the skies with the bareness of concrete and glass where once stood brick homes with families, children who were sent to public, not charter or private schools, where the music of quinceañeras and birthdays formerly rang out on weekends, and now thousand dollar bikes and BMWs mutely sit on patios or out front.
The old, Chicano bar-Italian restaurant still open. Still serving cheap drinks and its neo juke box blaring oldies. A kitchen fire and fire alarm end a brief stay.
We walk the sidewalks, the three of us. Admitting some benefits of progress, though much of that is limited to one day being in a position to sell our houses for much more than we paid and then being in the position of leaving what once was.
We talk of places and times and remember-whens; we drink more, but not enough. Celebrating recent individual accomplishments; wishing each other well and future luck. We can't do the same for the old Denver Northside. The name itself has been taken from us, regurgitated as a string of truncated labels more descriptive of the money entering the area, the overpopulation of drinking places, the higher income levels of the encroaching gentry.
We had a good time anyway. Because we know more andnot simply about the historyof this area. We experienced things here that stay with us, in our artwork and literary works. We still feel it. Live it. Lamenting the changes doesn't change that.
Our Chevy vehicle will be delivered next Monday. They promised me it would be dropped off to me between 11 am - 1 pm. I hope it's not like when the Cable Guy promises to be there within a certain time frame. They're notoriously late and even though I'm driving on my own, I do like to have a schedule to follow. (Those of you who know me are laughing right now because I am notoriously late.)
Sugar Jones is relying on me to pick her up in Denver on Tuesday so I'll have to haul butt to get there before the day is over. We're going to spend the night downtown (Is there anything going on in downtown Denver on a Tuesday night?) and our plan is to be in Chicago by the night of the 22nd or early morning on the 23rd. That is if we don't get arrested for disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace along the way. Have you read those weird state laws in Iowa? Feel free to follow along via the BlogHer website, our own personal blogs (Happy Healthy Hip Parenting and Sugar in the Raw). We'll also be updating the Twitter feed along with our own (@sugarjones, @hip_m0m) and Whrrl along the way!
According to Google maps, it's a 2,062 mile drive, which should take us approximately 30 hours total. We plan on driving 15 hours per day so here's our estimated route:
Monday, July 20th Depart San Diego, CA (overnight in Las, Vegas)
Tuesday, July 21st Stop in Denver, CO
Wednesday, July 22nd Arrive in Chicago, IL
For those of you who live along the route, help us out! Let us know where we should stop for food, restroom breaks or if we can come over for a home-cooked meal!
So, the 2010 Chevy Equinox has been awesome to drive. It was dropped off at my place in San Diego around noon on Monday. I grabbed the keys, signed the Loan Agreement and it was mine. I headed out that afternoon, driving through traffic in Riverside, past the lights of Vegas and finally stopped long enough to close my eyes for a few hours in Cedar City, UT.
Bright and early Tuesday morning, I got in the car and headed straight to Denver, stopping along the way for gas and potty breaks. I somehow scheduled it just right and was able to pick up Sugar Jones at Union Station in downtown Denver just before the traffic rolled in for the Rockies' game.
We literally ran into iGrandmaTV (actually, her friend backed into us when we were parked outside the Union Station). We ended up crashing the Denver Podcasters Meetup and learned about some great sports blogs and podcast sites. We also enjoyed some great beer from the Wynkoop Brewery and visited with some friends.
Sugar took the wheel this morning and now we're making a much-needed pit stop for some shut-eye so we can be ready to land in Chicago mid-morning tomorrow. We had a blast along the way, tweeting and laughing our way through a lightening storm and pulling over so the State Trooper could pull over a car ahead of us. Phew!
There are so many awesome features on the Chevy Equinox that we're enjoying, like the leather seats with the red stitching (so cute!) not to mention the rear-view video camera that allows you to see what's behind you as you're backing up. Oh and your side mirrors rotate down towards the curb as well when you're in reverse so you can see how close (or how far) you are from the curb when parallel parking. No need to worry about blind spots with this vehicle either, since there's small windows behind the second row seats that let you see that space that is typically out of view. The driver's seat has memory adjustments for two drivers so Sugar and I have both been able to save our settings for where we're most comfortable.
The best thing about the car, in my opinion, is the handling. It's very smooth and with the V6 engine, we were able to pass some pretty slow travelers which allowed us to stay on track after getting slowed down by road construction.The cruise control has awesome settings that allow you to slow down or speed up with a roller button. The fact that it also gets 32 MPG (highway miles) also helped us cut down on our gas expenses!
Since we have no passengers (yet), enjoying the back seat, we'll have to wait until our route home to test out the DVD players but I have a feeling we'll all be pleased with how that works! The back seats are very flat so child or infant car seats will be snug and secure.
The automatic hatchback door also comes in handy as we're usually heading towards the car with our hands full. We're still getting used to "Dolly," the GPS voice we've named for her sweet hospitable charm but she's growing on us as is the XM Radio that we're enjoying as we sing along to the 80s hits that keep us awake.
And, speaking of sing-alongs, Sugar will have some travel games for our trip back West, including a karaoke something or other that is sure to be entertaining. We'll be taking song requests all weekend...
Keep on following us as we journey through BlogHer:
I'm sitting in a room full, I mean - FULL - of bloggers - women who are writers and who either get paid (0r not) for what they, I mean WE do all day!
We're just SECONDS away from the major announcement this year. They're just making us wait a few minutes before letting us know where BlogHer 2010 will take place and everyone here is bracing themselves and praying that it'll be in their hometown.
At my table are a few women from the Denver - based carpool are hoping that it'll be there and I have to admit that it would be a beautiful place for a conference.
OMG! They're making us WAIT....I swear. This is crazy. I'm getting text messages from my Blog Her Carpoolers ' roommate from somewhere in this room, but where is she? Is she broadcasting LIVE as well?
THERE SHE IS!!
I can see her. She's at the next table and it looks like her coffee mug ...
NEW YORK CITY
Hilton New York - near Rockefeller Center - August 5 - 7, 2010
This is a call to all old, ex, present and future Denver Westsiders, or anyone whose heart still rings from the Westside's history and culture. You know who you are.
The Alma Rec Center, located in Lincoln Park, not far across from Speer Boulevard from Downtown Denver, sits on the sight of the oldest Chicano neighborhood predating Denver as a city. The neighborhood had much of its vitality cut out when the state chose it as the site for construction of the Auraria Higher Education Center. But the Westside did not die.
Now, Denver's Mayor John W. Hickenlooper has submitted his 2010 budget with all manner of budget cuts and reorganization, but his plans for La Alma Rec Center amount to shutting it down, and possibly privatizing it to the Boys Club, or some other entity with political ties to Denver's good-old-boy club.
Rather than finding sufficient money to keep La Alma open, Hickenlooper is attempting "to transition four recreation centers that serve few residents (including Globeville and La Alma recreation centers) to organizations who can offer more valued services to the community." Once that step is taken, it's unlikely it will ever be reversed. The community rec center will become a business where the bottom line, not community service, will prevail.
The entire rec center: Gym, Meeting Room, Pool (Outdoor), Showers, Weight Room, Playground, Amphitheater, Outdoor Pool, Horseshoe Pits, Multi-purpose Field (Lacrosse, Rugby, Soccer), Tennis Court, Volleyball Court; all the programs offered: Senior Art Class, Thanksgiving Senior Luncheon, Su Teatro Live Theatre Program and Performance, Bridge Project Art Class, Art Museum Tour and Lunch, Mural Art Class, Denver Zoo Educational trip, Botanic Gardens Visit Day, Frontline Nutrition Program, Fitness, Health and Wellness Programs, like the Adult Yoga/Aerobics (6 weeks), Senior Low Impact Aerobics, Summit Cancer Solutions, Senior Coffee & Card Games, After School Snack Program, Idaho Springs Cave Pool Day Trip, Community Meeting for La Alma, Halloween Community Party, Pre-Season Basketball Clinic--all of this and more could become things of the past. They are excluded from the Mayor's "core services that are most critical to our citizens."
This is more than a Chicano issue, as it will detrimentally affect all age groups, nationalities, income levels, though of course, those least able to afford a privatized service, will be denied the most.Please forward this to anyone you know who has their roots, hearts or at least minds in helping to prevent the loss of a center that has served to make life more livable and meaningful since before the founding of Denver.
Below is the informational flyer being circulated by Westside residents:
A Community Forum The closure of La Alma Recreation Center will be the topic. The closure is opposed by councilwoman Judy Montero, District 9. Join us at the Denver Inner City Parish 1212 Mariposa St. Thursday, Oct. 8th at 6:00pm Food will be provided. 303-629-0636 for more info Come, be informed, ask questions, and voice your opinions.
Monday 9/28 - 8:45am: visit to emergency room for lumbar and leg pain; 3pm exam by osteopath.
Tuesday 9/29 - 1:30am: another ER visit; 2:30pm exam by physiatrist & house showing (canceled when we arrived at doctor's office; GRRR); 6pm dinner with AJ Jacobs & posse before his event for THE GUINEA PIG DIARIES at the Tattered Cover (which I was too sore to attend).
Thursday 10/8 - 6am check-in for 7:30am surgery (moved up from 10:30--YAY!).
The surgery went fine. Though my back hurts like hell, my leg's already improving and I feel better than I ever dared dream. Thanks again for all the encouraging comments, especially from Alan Orloff, who gave me hope when I needed it most.
Enough of the sweet stuff. Now for the bitter...
Darling Husband's job--the one that moved us to Denver in Dec 2005--was eliminated in June. So our Blue Cross/Shield plan is now under Cobra. (How fitting that US health coverage is named for a venomous snake.) The surgery had to be pre-approved by Blue Cross, else it wouldn't have been scheduled. The first thing I had to do when hobbling into the hospital's registration office yesterday morning was submit my insurance ID card & driver's license. Then I had to sign & initial a gazillion forms.
After I was lying in a gurney prepped for surgery--with glasses off, so I couldn't read anything--I had to sign and initial even more forms. The kicker came just before I was knocked out, when I was given a form agreeing to pay the surgeon's assistant, who's an independent contractor. The surgery can't be done without her, but Blue Cross doesn't believe it takes 4 hands to:
slice into the back with the aid of a microscope;
move aside the spinal cord & sciatic nerve;
cut the bulge off a lumbar disc;
cut off protruding arthritic knobs at the end of 3 vertebrae that have changed 3 discs from elastic white to hard black;
staple everything closed.
So the surgeon's office will submit the payment request and Blue Cross will deny it. Then the surgeon will appeal and months later Blue Cross will relent and pay the claim. Maybe. Otherwise we'll have to make a payment plan with the surgeon. By then DH will have a new job. Maybe.
I got little sleep last night because every time the nurse turned off the lights & left the room, some machine started beeping wildly. First it was the one that inflated cuffs around my calves every few seconds to keep blood clots from forming (and me from relaxing). Then it was the IV machine. Then it was the oxygen pump. Then it was the oxygen pump monitor.
"Look," I said, "give me another Valium so this stupid stuff won't bother me anymore, OK? And give the machines Valium, so they'll calm down too."
I got the Valium. Don't know if the machines did, though they did shut up eventually.
I was back home and in bed by 1:30pm, after having belted down a couple of Valium so I'd be sure to sleep. A nanosecond after DH finished tucking the covers under my chin, Max leaped onto me. Within minutes I was zonked out with a 14-lb purring heating pad draped from crotch to chin.
Not 2 hours later my bliss was shattered by a phone call from a lady at the hospital billing office. What could she possible want? Well, it seems that Blue Cross, which just this morning had approved the physical therapist's request for a walker, told her that my insurance had expired months ago. Kudos to me for not swearing a blue streak when I told her to call Blue Cross back and inform them how extremely wrong they are.
I'll bet that the people in Congress fighting universal health care--whose generous coverage is funded by our tax dollars--don't go through crap like this.
Is this a great country, or what?
*Note to FTC: I received no goods, payments, services--or even dinner--from any persons or entities in return for my mentioning them in this blog post. Though considering the cost of health care, I would have gladly accepted medical kickbacks.
An arctic blast hit Denver over the weekend. It snowed yet again last night--snowfall #9 since October 8, for those keeping score. When I got up this morning it was 3°F outside. The thermometer outside my dining room window registered a sultry 20° a little after noon. When last I looked it was 10°.
Sunday night I watched Silk Stockings, with songs by Cole Porter, starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. (Fun fact: costar Janis Paige was married to my father's double-cousin Arthur, whose parents were Dad's paternal aunt and a Stander cousin.)
And what song could be more appropriate to the frigid weather than "Siberia," sung by Joseph Buloff, Jules Munshin & Peter Lorre:
When we’re sent to dear Siberia, To Siberi-eri-a, When it’s cocktail time ’twill be so nice Just to know you’ll not have to phone for ice.
When we meet in sweet Siberia, Far from Bolshevik hysteria, We’ll go on a tear, For our buddies all are there In cheery Siberi-a.
When we’re sent to dear Siberia, To Siberi-eri-a, There’s a most delicious bill of fare, You must try our filet of polar bear.
When we meet in sweet Siberia To protect us from diphtheria, We can toast our toes On the lady Eskimos In cheery Siberi-a.
When we’re sent to dear Siberia, To Siberi-eri-a, Where the fresh salt air makes us feel so fine, It is fresh salt air from our own salt mine.
When we meet in sweet Siberia, Where the snow is so superia You can bet, all right That your Christmas will be white In cheery Siberi-a.
[Jpegs taken from CHAC Valentine's Day showings, 2010 or prior years.]
This first piece doesn't begin in a "heartfelt" fashion, but bear with.
There's an adage about Life being the cruelest teacher: first it gives the test, then it gives the lesson.
Actually, there's something just as cruel that's omnisciently administered in U.S. public schools, that's called the pre-test. Those of you sans children or who've never personally benefited from this experience and don't know how lowly it can make children feel, well, don't despair; at some point in your remaining life you or yours may yet undergo the uplifting rigor of a pre-test.
Why test children--even five-year-old kindergartners--on something they know little to nothing about? For the sake of the BASELINE, a word teachers and students come to know as well as their daily schedule.
A schoolchild's progress (or lack of) and effectiveness of the teacher's skills (ditto), you see, justify the expenditure of millions of dollars and sustain thousands of jobs for "academic" number-crunchers and bean-counters whose existence depends on providing DATA to politicians, education corporations and administrators with the justification for cutting teachers, jobs and closing public schools so charter schools can be opened.
Even Colorado's entry into Obama's Race to the Top includes monies to be used for software, hardware and more numbers-people to cure our academic incompetence in international teaching standards. The thinking is that, if we're behind countries like Singapore, China and Denmark, it must be the teachers' fault.
Those millions of dollars and thousands of jobs might instead have been channeled into classrooms to teach children. Maybe with more teacher assistant paraprofessionals--try raising the educational level of 32 third graders by yourself all day long. Or more education specialists instructing in the classroom--try finding time to give differentiated one-on-one to a special ed kid in that same third grade room. Or more office staff to support teachers with children's behavioral problems and counseling--yeah, try teaching while one kid is hitting others and then being informed, "He's your fault and problem."
But our society doesn't believe in spending money in something so obviously beneficial because its targeted scapegoats are the teachers. The final solution is DATA and the obligatory pre-test.
In my case, for the sake of whatever self-esteem my first graders might salvage from such gauntlets, I regularly tell them that an answer of "Right now, I don't know." is acceptable. Thus I get many pre-tests with such responses. After all, how much would a six-year-old know about an index?
So, this week this teacher gave one of those pre-tests. Among other questions, was the following: "Explica lo qué es un diagrama." ("What is a diagram?")
From Jose Mercado, one of Colorado's premier teatro directors, comes the following:
Please read Tina Griego's column in The Denver Post concerning the upcoming performance of Luis Valdez's wonderful acto.
Opening Night!: Special “Taste de las Americas” tickets include dinner & ticket to Zoot Suit and can be purchased here.
For tickets for the show only call 866-464-2626 or click here.
Tina Griego's article says it all, so I won't repeat it since you can go to her link to read all about it.
Having had the pleasure of seeing the first performance of Zoot Suit six years ago, I highly recommend this event. Opening night tickets are hefty since they include Tastes of Colorado, but tickets for the other nights are $10 for students and the 70+.
Su Teatro of Denver is pleased to invite you to attend our new original production Todo lo Mexicano, a play by Anthony J. Garcia, adapted from Mexican short stories.
March 10-26 – Thurs., Fri. and Sat. - 7:30pm
$20 gen.admission, $17 students/seniors
Comadres 12 tix/ $12 each
Todo lo Mexicano is a series of short plays adapted from the Mexican short stories in the anthology, Sun, Stone and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Stories, edited by Jorge F. Hernandez. The anthology was Su Teatro’s choice for last year’s The Big Read Project. At the end of the project, we were struck by the vitality of the stories. Thus, we bring them to you now in theatrical form.
Mexico is a country filled with stories, some true, others pure fiction. The stories we bring to you provide a distinctly Mexican eye that blurs the line between the ancient and contemporary, the illusory and the real, the fantastic and the ordinary. We offer you stories that are wry and satirical, eerie and chilling, funny and absurd.
Todo lo Mexicano brings the following stories to life:
STATUS: I'm feeling this strange desire to belt out Men At Work songs. Wait, that's because I'm jet lagged and actually in Australia!
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK by Sting
Last Thursday, Angie and I got a chance to do informational interviews at the Denver Publishing Institute. As 2002 grads (and I can't believe it's been that long!), we were happy to give back by chatting with the graduating students looking for careers in publishing and specifically those who were interested in agenting.
I did about 15 interviews and during the day, I have to say that something completely crystalized for me.
Q: What does it take to be a good literary agent?
A: The ability to handle conflict.
Q: What does it take be a happy literary agent?
A: The ability to be sanguine about all the conflict you deal with on a daily basis.
I know. This should have been obvious but I had never boiled it down to the above. Ninety percent of agenting is troubleshooting and do conflict resolution.
And I'm not exaggerating.
An agent's job is to be the author's advocate. Plain and simple. And that means it's the agent's job to sometimes be the "bad guy" so the author can have a warm and fuzzy relationship with his/her editor and publisher.
The agent is the person who says the tough things when they need to be said.
So if you are by nature, a conflict avoider, then being a literary agent is not going to be a happy job for you. It's not like anyone loves conflict (or maybe some folks do!) but some folks are more hard wired to deal with it with equanimity.
Definitely something to keep in mind if you want to pursue this particular career.