Saturday, February 28, 2004

On Monday the 23rd (while I was crashing) ...

the 60 Minutes crew complete with Ed Bradley arrived in town to put together their piece on Death Row inmate, Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Regretfully, I missed the entire adventure and -- was only dimly aware of having done so. That's either a sign of incipient Alzheimers, or, my life is so full so much of the time that an occasional missed adventure is relatively meaningless. I hope it's the latter (grin).

Between sneezes (have about decided that what's going on here is spring allergy and possibly not a cold at all), I managed to remember that Bradley was due in town and that I had a commitment to my friend, Barbara, to help out. Tried to reach her several times but -- except for once when she answered her cell phone with "...can't talk right now, I'm in the middle of patching in a call from Ed Bradley with Stan at San Quentin. I'll call you right back." Heard nothing more from her for 3 days, but guessed that she was totally absorbed by the 60 Minutes production crew -- and that we'd probably not connect until the big stuff was over. I was right.

We didn't meet up again until Thursday morning (they'd packed up and left early that day) and talked endlessly about all of it. Everything had gone extremely well. Ed B. and Stan had several conversations by telephone (access to death row inmates by the press is still limited). There had been photo ops and interviews with children who had been working from Stan's books written from behind bars. There was a class at a San Francisco middle school that was very much aware of his work and of his Nobel Prize nomination. Barbara was ecstatic with what had been accomplished.

I'd missed a Saturday press conference with the anti-death penalty forces, plus all of the activity around the 60 Minutes production. That segment will be aired on April 4th (I believe). That's a week prior to the showing of "Redemption" on FX Channel on cable. Watch the TV guide.

Meanwhile, Jennifer and I drove over yesterday to the Yerba Buena Cultural Center in San Francisco for a theater presentation of Joanna Haigood's (Zaccho Dance Theatre) "Ghost Architecture." What a remarkable piece! I'll not try to describe the show here, its complexity defies any attempt at doing that, but telling you something about Joanna, herself, may provide some insight into some of the character of at least one of the artists who inhabits my life:

Profile: JOANNA HAIGOOD, choreographer, relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area from New York in 1979 and co-founded Zaccho Dance Theatre. Her creative work focuses on making dances that use natural, architectural and cultural environments as a point of departure for movement exploration and narrative. Haigood's works involve in-depth research into the history and the character of sites and typically integrates aerial flight and suspension as a way of expanding the dancers' spatial and dynamic range. Her work has been commissioned by leading arts presenters both nationally and internationally. Among them are the National Black Arts Festival, Festival d'Avignon and Festival d'Arles in France, the Exploratorium Museum, Capp Street Project, Dancing in the Streets, the Walker Art Center and the Tryon Center for Visual Art. Her choreography had also been commissioned by Alonzo King's LINES Contemporary Ballet and Axis Dance Company and is in the repertory of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Ms. Haigood has received many distinguished fellowships for her work as a choreographer and director, most notably from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the W.A. Gerbode Foundation, the Irvine Foundation and Meet the Composer. She has also been honored with the 1989 Bay Guardian Local Discovery (GOLDIE) Award, with three Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for performance and visual design and with the 1999 Cal Arts/Alpert Award in recognition of her contribution to the field of dance. Ms. Haigood has taught aerial and contemporary dance forms for 25 years and has had the pleasure of being an artist in Residence at the Center National De Danse Contemporaine and the Centre National des Arts du Cirque in France; the Laban Centre in England, the Headlands Center for the Arts, Spelman College in Atlanta, Stanford University and the Exploratorium Museum.

This is from yesterday's program notes. Why is it important? Because I serve on both Joanna's board as well at that of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Those two interests are merging in an exciting project for which the EBCPA recently received a planning grant. Joanna is an aerialist/dancer. She studied with the Flying Wallenda's earlier in her life and has morphed the two artistic disciplines in the most interesting ways. Her development of site-specific pieces also fits into this new venture that will bring them together.

As I've shared earlier, I'm very much involved in the new urban national park dedicated to Rosie the Riveter. A part of that new park's features is one of the Victory ships, the Red Oak, that was constructed in and launched from the Richmond Shipyard #3 during World War II. The Red Oak is now owned by the city of Richmond (having been donated by the Navy) and is harbored on the shoreline within the park limits. It is being lovingly restored by some of the veterans who either helped to build her, or, served in the Pacific under her flags.

Joanna's work will involve the development a 3-4 year project that will create community interest by her research of the war years its effects upon the area; the people stories of the wartime home front; working with school children to create curriculum relevant to the city's history and of their parents' and grandparents' migration to the coast from deep in the rural South. It will culminate at some point -- probably related to the park's opening festivities -- in a spectacular aerial show high in the rigging of the Red Oak Victory that will be choreographed by Joanna and executed by her company.

It will be reminiscent of "Invisible Wings," a show performed at Fort Point in San Francisco and repeated at Jacob's Pillow some years ago, and of a show at Red Hook, New York, that Zaccho performed to rave reviews by the New York Sunday Times (a half-page!). That show was staged against the huge silos that mark the place, in space. This is all huge and exciting to think about. I feel honored to be even peripherally involved in such an endeavor.

Hope this gives some sense of the scope of the work and that I can keep you informed as we progress through the stages of development.

At the moment, the Red Oak still sits in the harbor undergoing rust-removal and spiffing up by loving hands. Met last week with the team that is designing a set of 6-8 graceful 35' signs in the shape of a ship's bow as it cuts through the water. These will mark the location of the new memorial park (they're really imaginative), visible from a distance. Early in April I'll meet in a two-day charrette with others to continue the master planning with the National Park Service folks -- none of whom are really aware of the fine arts part of my vision -- and Joanna.

So much to do. So little time... .

Guess the work goes on. It's the salaries that do not. This needs some work!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

There is little more humbling than the attack of the common cold ...

Nothing. For the past few days I've been sniveling and sneezing and feeling put upon and miserable and -- so glad to be alone with no other human around to be brave for. Pure unadulterated crap! I don't do "ill" terribly well.

Came in from the theater on Sunday evening, kicked off my shoes and climbed into bed fully clothed and just pulled the covers over my head! Woke up on Monday morning with a scratchy throat, no voice, and little of anything else -- except a head that seemed to have swollen at least one-third -- with crud dripping from every opening... .

Spent the last two days listening to the rain beating down on the roof, grateful to have no place to have to be. Maybe the way to beat a cold is to simply give in to it and be glad you can do it without anyone to bear witness.

Today has been a combination of blustery rainstorms and occasional power outrages. But I'm feeling less growly and more Betty, and tomorrow there is lunch with Sharon at Salute on the shoreline with the panorama of San Francisco Bay to look out upon. There are warnings of high tides and huge waves today, with flooding expected up-country, but what we in the Bay Area experience as extreme weather is child's play to other parts of the country. I love it most of the time. Huge thunder clouds are rarely warnings of danger, but simply lend drama to the skys. There are rarely more than 3 days at a time of rough weather, and the sun generally manages to brighten things considerably between showers -- a few minutes at a time. Tomorrow will be an ideal day for lunch on the marina. With promises of more rain, the skies should be awesome!

I'm feeling good enough to attend a scheduled meeting (later today) of the Design Team for the redevelopment of the Macdonald Avenue corridor -- a mayoral appointment not connected with my job with the State. This is a project that I'm hoping will lead to the creation of an African American-oriented Arts & Entertainment District in the old abandoned downtown of Richmond. Been dreaming about that for several years, and -- after "seeding" the idea around town -- I'm now hearing it echo back from other voices. With any luck at all, it will be one of those ideas whose time has come and no one will know the genesis of it. That's the best outcome of good work. Learned a long time ago that the sign of good leadership is that when best executed, is virtually invisible.

The heart of this city has a number of lovely old brick buildings that were abandoned over 30 years ago when the redevelopment agency walked away from the "old town" parts and created a new shopping center some miles away on the far edge boundary adjacent to the city of Pinole. At this point, Pinole has created its own generic cookie-cutter shopping center to connect with that of Richmond, and much of the commercial life of this city has slowly oozed over the line. With cities largely dependent upon permitting fees, property and sales taxes to feed their general funds, the loss of sales taxes is a serious thing. It is all the more so in these days of state budget cuts. To have abandoned the central core of the city to crime and poverty is something I have a hard time comprehending.

No one seems to be willing to place a dollar figure on what it is costing to not redevelop those buildings; costs in lives lost, grafitti, loss of tax revenue, civic image and pride -- all casualties to the abandonment as a commercial center. The city would do well to give those buildings away to anyone with the financial wherewithall to rehabilitate them, and to thereby renew the life of the inner city for all to enjoy.

Have been working on that for some time now, and am beginning to be heard -- by everyone but the redevelopment agency, that is. Haven't figured out that piece yet, but I'm working on it... .

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Had plans to write extensively today ...

It's another rainy Sunday and the best of times to do just that. However, the phone rang a few minutes ago with an invitation to attend a Berkeley Rep performance of "Yellowman" preceded by dinner at Giovanni's. Can't imagine anything better. Life does have a way of livening up the empty spaces, doesn't it?

Last night Bob and Jenny arrived at Dorian's dinner party with an advance copy of an upcoming HBO special on the life of the award-winning African American (she would prefer "Black") actor, Beah Richards. What a documentary! It is moving. She is dynamic and brilliantly "human," and I could hardly bear for it to end. Jenny's brother participated in its production as an editor -- this allowed him to share it with us prior to airing on this Wednesday (I believe. Check the listings). You must see this extraordinary film. The last two minutes -- after the emotional roller-coaster of the earlier parts -- will lift you beyond reason!

There is much to say about this, but not now. There is barely time to shower, dress, and drive in to meet friends for this evening's performance.

Later ... .