Saturday, May 31, 2014
Richard Rios is teacher, artist, and the author of Songs form the Barrio, a collection of stories and poems about coming of age in the barrios of Modesto, California. Songs from the Barrio is on the reading list for a boatload of California colleges and high schools. Not only is the book a great read, it's a compelling documentation of American history. The Rios family came to California from Mexico during the the revolution. The youngest of the family, Richard grew up in the 40s and 50s. adventures of growing up with poor Mexican-Americans and Okies in North California farm country bring to mind the writings of John Steinbeck and Gary Soto.
Richard and I became acquainted as bloggers, encouraging each other in the publication of our first books. My wife and I finally got the opportunity to meet my cyber buddy when Richard and his wife came through Arizona. Below is a shot of the writer wives.
One of my favorite stories in the book is the account of how Richard and Chela first met. Half a century ago, Richard's mother prayed for her son's safe return from military service, vowing to make a pilgrimage to a shrine in Mexico to give thanks. Richard did return in one piece, but he wasn't exactly thrilled about beginning his civilian life with an extensive religious trip to Mexico. Being a good son, he complied with his mother's wishes. Coincidentally, an army buddy was visiting his family in the same town. Richard and his mother were invited to dinner, and low and behold, the buddy had a beautiful sister. Just like in the movies, it was love at first sight. Within a few days, Richard asked the old man for his daughter's hand. The father told Richard to come back in one year to ask again. A year later, they were married. Richard's mother prayed for her son's safe return and got a daughter-in-law with the deal. My wife were mezermized as the Rios's told there story. Richard often brings his wife to college readings; the students invariably ask Chela to sign the book too.
My wife and I are are big time Richard Rios fans and we encourage you to read Songs from the Barrio!
Here is the link to buy Songs from the barrio:
And here is the link to Richard's blog:
As a side note, I've decided to stop working with compost.
Posted by #167 Dad at 7:52 AM
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Last year I left the teaching game to focus on my writing. Believe it or not, writers make even less money than teachers. Business acumen has never been one of my strong suits. So I've been supplementing my income as a bug man, a bug man writer if you will.
Most of my clients are affluent, and many of them live along man-made lakes and golf courses. The mornings on the lakes and golf courses are incredibly peaceful. There's nothing like being out there with my sprayer watching the sun rise as a few rabbits scamper by - then collapse to the ground from the chemicals.
That was a joke. No rabbit casualties that I'm aware of.
The job is quite mindless, a nice change of pace after 25 years in the classroom. I have to be careful not to let my mind wander. I have sprayed the the wrong address, twice on the same day. I've also squirted myself in the face with my handheld sprayer hose - twice, slipped on slick driveways and fallen on my keester, walked into tree branches, and my truck has broke down at least once a month.
There can be tips involved. I've raked in eight tips, ranging from two to 10 bucks, over my ten months on the job.
One of my most interesting customers was a 100 year-old man. He was remarkably on top of things. The old man walked with me as I sprayed, peppering me with a steady stream of math proplems, none of which I could answer. He also told me he was an old geezer, but a woman pleaser.
Last week I was spraying a house at six a.m, and I noticed a photograph of one of my former students on the wall. There is a reason I left teaching. Class sizes had exploded. My largest class had 45 students. Somehow, somewhere along the line I lost my connection with the majority my students. I was one of the oldest teachers on campus, and one of very few who among other things, banned cell phones, marked them tardy when they came late, and sent them to the office when they broke the dress code. I think my old school discipline was a major factor in the disconnect.
I started class each day with a bad joke, something like this:
Hey, did you know the guy who played Chewbaca in the Star Wars movies was a professional baseball player. As a matter of fact, he voted Wookie of the Year.
Some of my students looked at me like they wanted to throw darts at my head, most just stared blankly space, but a few chuckled politely or actually laughed. Taylor, the girl in the picture, always laughed. She cared about poetry and Literature, and she was particularly drawn to transcendentalism, buying her own copies of the works of Thoreau and Emerson. She once told me, "I think it's so cool that all of your students hate you, and you're still nice to them." I think she meant it as a complement.
So there I was spraying the hallway with my hand held can when Taylor stumbled out of her room, still very much half-asleep.
"Good morning, Taylor," I said.
I don't know that I've ever stood face to face with a more confused human being.
"What?" she mumbled, squinting, trying to comprehend the meaning of her former English teacher standing before her wearing goggles, a large sun hat, a bandanna around the neck, holding a fairly large can of bug juice in one hand and a spray wand in the other. "Mr. Snyder? Is that you?"
"Yes it is," I said.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm your bug man," I said. "Are you you still reading your Thoreau and Emerson?"
"I guess so," she mumbled
I finished up the house as Taylor sat the kitchen eating her Raisin Bran. I don't think she was too crazy about her old English teacher spraying her house for pests this early hour. Not the kind of thing that happens every day. Taylor is graduating this year. She told me she was heading to the local community college. Her mother asked if I was still teaching. I told her no, but I would be if I had more students like Taylor.
Posted by #167 Dad at 8:41 AM