Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles

International Festival Mexican Dancers

Mojada is the Spanish word for the derogatory term wetback. A word used in English to denigrate undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Before this connotation was coined, the word originally meant wetting or soaking. Medea is a Greek tragedy by Euripides. In his play, Medea, wife of Jason of the Argonauts fame, helps him steal the golden fleece, the pair then steal away. She is later betrayed by him, leading her to exact revenge.

Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles is a modern retelling of the Euripides play, set in the City of Angels. Medea is a shy seamstress and Jason is an enterprising go-getter. Jason embraces his new life in America, while Medea hates it, but cannot go home. Acán, their son, follows his father’s lead towards Americanization. Medea misses her home and cannot forget the traumas of their journey north.

Jason is seduced by his boss, Armida, an LA developer, who had not gotten the #MeToo message. She first steals Jason and then Acán. She then confronts Medea, and threatens her with eviction from her house. Pleading, Medea wins a one day reprieve. She uses that day to make Armida a dress that she had once requested. It is a magical dress. A dress once worn, transforms itself into a snake that kills Armida. Then still in a rage, Medea kills her only son with a machete.

This is a grisly end for Mojada, which is often comical and light, but that’s Greek tragedy for you. You get the same result as with a Shakespearian tragedy, but in fewer acts, where everybody dies in the fifth act. Greek tragedy is a source for several of playwright Luis Alfaro’s works. Alfaro has even reworked this play, when restaging it in other cities. At ninety minutes and one act, it is a short play. Some of the dialog was in Spanish, making some plot points difficult to understand, but also adding to the play’s authenticity.

It is in this concept of authenticity that Mojada seems to have differentiated itself from another popular telling of the modern Mexican immigrant story, as told in the novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. Much of the criticism of Cummins and her book originates with the fact that she is not Mexican. She is an Anglo. Charges of cultural appropriation have been leveled against her. This smacks of racism or maybe reverse racism, but it is also on a slippery slope. Where do you cross the line when telling someone else’s story? This question is especially pertinent when your retelling comes from a publishing pinnacle. There is very little room at the top. One person’s story can supplant another’s. 

Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew

Mysteries, secrets and clues were part and parcel of the young adult book series, Nancy Drew. First published in 1930, it was produced as the female counterpart to the already established Hardy Boys. The pictured first ~thirty volumes of this series are most likely reprints that were produced in the sixties. A total of 175 Nancy Drew books were written. Later volumes, printed in the eighties featured pairings of Nancy Drew with the Hardy Boys. I’m surprised that it took them so long to find the opposite sex, as great as detectives that they all were. We found this particular collection gracing the shelves of the eclectic Stewarts Point store.

I’ve never read any Nancy Drew, but I did read a few of the Hardy Boys books. Anne read Nancy Drew. Speaking from ignorance then, I imagine that the two mystery series were similar in many ways. They shared the same publisher, were produced by a series of authors (Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym) and were created contemporaneously, with the Hardy Boys beginning only three years before Nancy Drew started. Both series have evolved over time, with earlier volumes being rewritten and new books continually added. The books have also branched out into movies and TV. The latest incarnation of the Nancy Drew franchise is scheduled to stream next month on the CW. Here is a link to its trailer. The girl has come a long way since 1930. 

Nehalem Bay State Park

Nehalem Bay State Park

We may complain here at the cabin that the beach is too narrow, what with record high lake levels, but there are some things to be said for a narrow beach. At Nehalem Bay the beach was so wide that it was a major expedition to march to the sea. If Anne looks a wee bit cold that’s because she is at least standing on wet sand, if not in actual water. Water that has been chilled by the Arctic’s Humboldt current, which is cold enough to make even Lake Superior water feel warm by comparison. Still, it didn’t stop the kids from swimming there. It was actually kind of a warm day, at least of the Oregon coast.

I’m really reveling in the company of Jay and Carl and will miss them when their visitation is over. Anne broke out the Redwoods puzzle that she bought out west and the three of them have been pouring over it ever since. She is saving the Thomas Kinkade puzzle for Dan’s visit. After working on it just last night, I think that they will finish the Redwoods puzzle today. The girls have a book club meeting today, The Rosie Project. I participated in last year’s meeting, but felt too much like the fox in the henhouse, to want to do it again.

That book was Perfect Match, a novel about pedophile priests. I kind of brought the discussion to a standstill when I related my real life experience as a juror on a statutory rape case. I had everyone’s rap attention right up to the point that I told them that we had acquitted. That decision was so contrary to the theme of the book, but it was also reached just six months before Ferguson. The only black people in the courtroom were the defendant and his accuser. We voted twelve to nothing to acquit. The prosecutor was so pissed with us. The Saint Louis County judicial system was just that corrupt. Last year, we finally voted out McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney and elected Wesley Bell, a Ferguson activist. Bell cleaned house, so I expect that that case’s prosecutor is now gone. 

Jingle Bells

Farmyard in Winter, Jean-Francois Miller, 1868

Dashing through the lack of snow, in a hundred horsepower Prius we go, laughing all the way, over the cornfields we go. Bells on instrument clusters ring, making our spirits bright. O what fun it is to ride and sing a Prius song tonight. Jingle bells, gas pump bells, there are so many bells on the way! O what fun it is to ride a hundred horsepower Prius tonight and get 50 MPG too.

We drove to Ann Arbor today, a trip that we’ve made more often than I can count. On this road trip, like on so many other of our recent such trips, we listened to an audio book. It helps to break the monotony, making the miles pass by faster. As is our want, we chose a destination themed book. Since we were headed to Ann Arbor, I searched for a local author and found whole catalogs chock full of them, but it was an NPR article that steered us to Harry Dolan and his 2006 murder-mystery, “Bad Things Happen.”

Who knew that this once sweet little burg had become such a den of crime. Peppered with local references, its mysterious protagonist tries to navigate the literary world as the editor for a crime story magazine. All goes well until the bodies begin to pile up. The book opens with a version of that old saw, a friend will help you move, but only a really good friend will help you move a body.

This story is not exactly great literature, which only makes you wonder at the quality of the stories that are talked about and that the magazine rejects, but it did help make the trip go by. We are about three-quarters of the way through, so we don’t know how it ends, but we did learn that if the Ann Arbor police are after you, your best bet for escape is US-23 to Toledo. I am reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s advice, “Drive as fast as possible towards the nearest state line.”

Secularly pictured is a manger. It’s dark interior shows some farm animals, but not its depths. With days until Christmas, there is plenty of time for a nativity.

A Cathedral for Books

NYC Public Library Reading Room

We visited the New York City public library reading room on our last trip to the Big Apple. It’s a huge space and beautifully appointed. We didn’t stop there for long, because we were on our way uptown. We tried to be quiet, but the continuous stream of tourists like us had to be a distraction to the much fewer actual readers in the room. When we were there the sun was trying to poke out from behind the clouds, bringing extra light in through its large windows.

Officially known as the Rose Main Reading Room, this Beaux-Arts decorated room has recently reopened after undergoing an extensive renovation. It closed for two-and-a-half years, when a large chunk of its very ornate ceiling came crashing down, fortunately in the middle of the night. The initial restoration plan called for a major redesign, but protests shelved that idea. I’m glad for this, because some things are better left unchanged.

Anne noticed the curved sculpture of the room’s reading chairs. The library sells a miniature version of their iconic reading room chairs for $30. It would be nice to spend an autumn Saturday afternoon sitting there and lose yourself in a book. 

NYC Public Library Reading Room Chairs

Perfect Match

Cabin Seagull

I attended my first book club meeting today. The book was the Jodi Picoult mystery, “Perfect Match”.  This novel is about sexual abuse from pedophile priests. It would be a major understatement to say that this subject matter was uncomfortable. Still, with the resignation this week of Cardinal McCarrick, it is a timely topic. For me, this story dredged up memories of my term as a juror, in a statutory rape case. It has been five and a half years. The jury unanimously acquitted the defendant, even though he confessed. I still believe what the prosecutor said that something happened, but “something” is a long way from beyond a reasonable doubt. In the book, the protagonist is a woman district attorney, who specializes in prosecuting child molestation cases. The fervor that this character brings to her work belies the ambivalence that me and the other eleven jurors felt towards the state’s case, but then we were in the real world.