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LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Surveillance Ordinances Move To Full City Council, Chabad Of Poway Rabbi Admits Tax Fraud, Faces Of COVID-19 Deaths, San Diego Pride Moves Online This Year, Exploring The Outdoors Safely This Summer, ‘The Son Of Good Fortune’ By Lysley Tenorio

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY LYNN WALSH

Above: A smart streetlight located near the entrance of the San Diego State University campus is pictured June 4, 2019.

How San Diego collects information from surveillance cameras around the city and what officials do with it may soon be more tightly controlled. Also, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Chabad of Poway pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in a multimillion-dollar fraud. The rabbi was wounded in a deadly shooting at the synagogue in 2019. Plus, we hear from the families of some San Diegans who lost their lives to COVID-19. And, organizers of San Diego Pride bring the massive celebration online this year. CapRadio asked outdoor experts about how safe it is to get outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. Finally, former San Diegan Lysley Tenorio's novel “The Son Of Good Fortune” explores belonging and place.

Speaker 1: 00:00 New safeguards may be on the way against streetlights surveillance in San Diego. It's not enough to keep them operational without oversight and without transparency. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh all with Mach sour. This is KPBS mid day edition Rabbi Goldstein of the Havato Poway pleads. Guilty to fraud.

Speaker 2: 00:28 The rabbi will likely not spend even a night in prison

Speaker 1: 00:34 Preview of this year's online, San Diego pride celebration and form a one book one San Diego winner Lezlie Tenorio talks about his new novel, the son of good fortune that's ahead on mid-January.

Speaker 1: 01:00 How San Diego collects information from surveillance cameras around the city, and what officials do with it may soon be more tightly controlled. Last year. Many residents were surprised and concerned about news that more than 3000 smart streetlight cameras were recording their movements. Now a city council committee has passed new proposals aimed at making surveillance technology more transparent to the public. Joining me is Genevieve Jones, right of the trust San Diego coalition, the group that pushed for and worked with council members on the proposed surveillance ordinance and Genevieve. Welcome. Thank you so much for having me. Can you remind us what the city says these smart street lights were originally for and have they been watching us? So the smart street lights program was being billed as an energy saving program that would help us be energy efficient as a city. And it would also give us data as it relates to parking solutions, climate data, and other things regarding mobility around the city of San Diego.

Speaker 1: 02:15 They also told us that this smart street lights program would help create businesses for entrepreneurs. Now, what are the privacy and civil rights concerns about this kind of surveillance? Well, the first thing is that there was no vetting of this program publicly. Even before that, when it was pitched to city council as an energy saving project, they never talked about crime or public safety. Those terms were not a part of the conversation. And so when it was pitched to city council, all of the details of the program were not given to city council. And there in lies, the biggest problem when city council voted for this particular program, there was no mechanism for transparency or even accountability or oversight. So what we started to see what the smart street lights program was that there was deployment of these smart street lights, which have sensors and nodes that gathered data all around the city of San Diego.

Speaker 1: 03:28 They have the capability of interfacing with other surveillance technology like ShotSpotter for instance, which would detect gunshots. Well, one issue with that comes from these. ShotSpotter's only being in certain neighborhoods, black and Brown neighborhoods, primarily district four in Southeastern San Diego. And so we have this system where these surveillance technologies are being put into certain neighborhoods with no oversight, no public input. And there's absolutely no accountability and also no equity. So that's just one concern about what the smart street lights have done as it relates to violations of civil liberties, even, and other violations of privacy. How would these new proposals change that change the way the streetlights and other surveillance technology is used? I want to be very clear that this is a very comprehensive ordinance or two ordinances as they are now that has been brought forth in that the council will vote for in the coming weeks.

Speaker 1: 04:41 It is important for us to understand that it is not enough to have a single use data ordinance or policy that only relates to smart streetlights because smart street lights, it's not the only surveillance that can be used and that has been used. And that is currently being used by our city, including our local police departments. So this idea of surveillance is very, very complex. And what these ordinances will do is they will ensure that there are mechanisms in place that San Diego ones will be reassured that when there is a surveillance technology that is being used by the city, that it has been thoroughly, that's it and scrutinize as to the financial and the social implications of that particular surveillance technology, which we can not say for any of the technology that has been used or it's being used now, San Diego will understand and be reassured that community members and subject matter experts will make their cases and bring reports to city council as to whether the city can acquire certain technologies and how those certain will be used.

Speaker 1: 05:59 That is what these ordinances do together. So the people of San Diego have a seat at the table when those decisions are made in the future, which is very important. And this is something that trust SD has been voicing concern about for a very long time. Now, the fact that they deployed these smart street lights, thousands of them all over the city of San Diego with absolutely no public input. By the time the public started to hear about these smart street lights being placed in their neighborhoods, it was already too late. They were already up and running. However, uh, the law enforcement and prosecutors say now that the street light cameras have been extremely helpful in solving crimes, they've been used in homicide investigations, sexual assault cases, officer involved shootings, isn't that a valid reason enough to keep them operational. It's not enough to keep them operational without oversight and without transparency.

Speaker 1: 07:01 And so what the ordinances will do is prevent the city from acquiring technology that gets us into a money pit where the technology hurts civil liberties and also hurt our fiscal bottom line because the technology doesn't provide any of the benefits that were offered to the city at the time of, for example, signing a $30 million contract with GE. And we now know that we will owe more money on top of that contractual obligation of $30 million. This is not a question about whether the lights should continue to be operated. It has always been a question about how they should be operated in our neighborhoods. I think right now we are seeing and rightfully so meaningful conversation around policing and how the police should look and act in our communities. There is no reason under the sun that the police should operate with impunity and with no rules where there is no transparency, oversight or accountability, no matter what the benefits are. We live in America. We live in a place where we have freedoms and our freedoms have to be respected. I don't know of one profession that doesn't have oversight or transparency embedded in some board that oversees the profession. And when we talk about technology, all technology is not bad, but all technology is not good. And while there could be a good use for technology, we also have to make sure that the use of that technology, it's not so broad that it hampers rights and civil liberties. And so we're just asking for a check

Speaker 3: 08:56 On the use of all surveillance technology going forward. I have been speaking with Genevieve Jones right of the trust San Diego coalition. Genovia thank you very much. Thank you so much for having me

Speaker 4: 09:17 For the past year. A media spotlight has been on rabbi Israel, Goldstein and the Habbat of Poway after a gunman's attack during services, a congregant was killed and Goldstein was wounded in the attack drawing sympathy from across the nation. But that spotlight shifted this week with news of the rabbis guilty plead attacks and wire fraud charges. And he was not alone. Joining me to discuss this startling turn of events is Mary Peyton investigative reporter for NBC seven San Diego, Mary, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me Mark. Well, it seems that when we last heard about rabbi Goldstein, he was being hailed by president Trump at the white house, honored at the United nations in Europe and elsewhere. Tell us about his criminal charge and the plea this week. How did this 90 10 scheme work?

Speaker 3: 10:02 It wasn't really intricate scheme and there were several schemes, but the one that you touched on the 90 10 scheme, that seems to be the most prominent. Supposedly this had been going on according to one of his co-conspirators Bruce Baker, uh, this had been going on since the early or mid 1980s, where basically what would happen is that a donor would give rabbi Goldstein a large contribution that was supposed to go towards the Habbat of Poway, which she founded. And instead that money would not be going to the synagogue. And 90% of it would go back to the donor, according to the indictments and the end, the prosecutors, 10% of it would be kept by the rabbi. And then the donor would then claim a big charitable contribution on his or her taxes.

Speaker 4: 10:51 Now, as you say, an elaborate scheme, going back a long, long time, let's take these, these folks who are also involved one by one, start with Bruce Baker. What are the details? Who was he in, in, what was the charge against him?

Speaker 3: 11:03 Bruce Baker pled guilty to filing false tax returns. Like I mentioned, supposedly they had to working together since the 1980s. And in Baker's case prosecutor said that he made millions of dollars conspiring with the rabbi. He's a local dentist here, or he was a local dentist. Um, we looked up his records and his license says that he practices in Poway, but we do know that he owns and operates a couple of different dental office and he, he lives in LA Jolla, but, um, basically would work with Goldstein and instead of Goldstein actually giving him cash back, basically in order to cover his tracks, the rabbi would, according to prosecutors give, uh, creditors or relatives, or would pay off bills for Baker. Um, on behalf of his son who wanted to attend dental school

Speaker 4: 11:50 And next up are former executives of the Barron's market, grocery store chain and Pacific natural foods, distributor company out of Poway. That was about those two.

Speaker 3: 12:01 So, uh, these two men, uh, they live here in the community and it's, [inaudible], he's 63 and that's Yusef Shima, Ronnie 74. Again, we were told they are former executives of the local Barron's market, grocery store, but we did reach out to Barron's yesterday. And Barron's had a lengthy statement that they gave to us saying that the two men had cooperated and they had paid the money back. And they also pleaded guilty this week to filing false personal tax returns. These two, it was interesting because they would use code according to the documentations with Goldstein, instead of using the word money, they would use the word holla, which is a description of a bread in the Jewish cuisine. And they would say, you know, the Baker is ready for you or the Baker came in today and that was referring to the banker or the money. So it was sort of interesting that they were covering their tracks. Really. They all were, they each face a maximum of three years in prison

Speaker 4: 13:06 And there was a middleman involved, Alexander [inaudible] if I'm saying that right. Another co-conspirator, that was a, an interesting case explained to what happened there. According to the indictment,

Speaker 3: 13:18 His involvement was more complicated than just the 90 10 ski because Alexander ever goon, he would actually use shell companies and he had a construction company called imagination construction, whether or not that construction company did actual work. Uh, I'm not sure, but basically what Alexander African would do is he would create fake invoices for services and repairs at the hibachi of Poway. He would say he was doing such things as stolen carpets or doing repairs. Um, what was interesting is that after the wildfires back in 2007, the rabbi and [inaudible] got together, and aggregan said he had made repairs to the hibachi of Poway after the wildfire had damaged it. And then those invoices were submitted to FEMA, the federal emergency management agency, and then also Cal OES, who then wrote checks back to the rabbi. Um, and so Africans basically fled the country. Uh, he went to Lafayette and then in August, 2019, he was eventually located by law enforcement and he was extradited back to San Diego. He's been in custody since he appeared on Tuesday, um, by, by video conference where he pleaded guilty, but he was also a realtor here in San Diego. Some people might recognize his name and he had a separate real estate Ponzi scheme where he actually cheated a retired investors out of $12 million. So he's facing the most time with his involvement with Goldstein, as well as that Ponzi scheme. He could be in prison for 20 years for wire fraud and then an additional 20 years for money laundry.

Speaker 4: 14:59 And who else? That brings me to another question I had, who else, uh, among this group of conspirators, uh, figures to go to prison and, or pay fines in the scheme?

Speaker 3: 15:10 Well, they're all going to have to pay fines. The assistant us attorney in this case said, they'll all have to pay money back for what, you know, the tax evasion. And then most of them will, could face, I guess, a maximum of three to five years and present. What's interesting to note and has been reported on pretty extensively now is that the rabbi will not likely not spend even a night in prison. Um, he was being investigated before and after the Pele synagogue shooting, of course, but then, you know, he garnered this huge following this reputation and the us attorney's office said because of his dedication to the community and because of his good deeds a before and after really for years now, they are granting him some leniency. And he also helped of course, um, with the indict, the other, uh, people who eventually pleaded guilty and he still is working with them. Um, but they are, uh, you know, they are not going to be imposing as strict of a, a target of a penalty on the right.

Speaker 4: 16:12 Did you get any response from the co-conspirators or their attorneys?

Speaker 3: 16:16 We did contact all of the co-conspirators and, uh, we did not hear back. No one wanted to make a comment. Like I said, Darren's grocery store did send us back a statement. Uh, but besides that silence and we also reached out to the rabbi's son, I did personally, um, it's interesting because the rabbi has five sons. One of them took over, I believe it was last November. The rabbi had cited exhaustion. And so his son, uh, Mendel Goldstein took over leadership of a synagogue and the associated school. I did call Mendel on Tuesday, as soon as I heard the news and he's not returned my call, but the HubSpot of Poway, uh, did put out a statement later on saying, you know, that they were saddened about what had happened. That was not the rabbi that they knew I'm talking about Israel Goldstein, but they had been cooperating and they were hoping to,

Speaker 4: 17:06 And finally, I did want to point out the timing of the indictment, because as we've said, this happened, they rated Goldstein's home. And this was all in the works long before the attack on the hibachi Poway. Yet the president invited Goldstein to the white house. The vice president visited here at the Habbat of Poway, uh, last year. Um, you think the attorney general might've told the administration that he was under investigation, but we don't really know that. Do we?

Speaker 3: 17:34 Right? I mean, Mark, that would be purely speculation. Um, it is interesting that you mentioned the timing of this all, um, because he, like you mentioned, he did go to the white house. Not only did he go to the white house, but when you'll recall, president Trump came here, rabbi

Speaker 5: 17:50 Goldstein was one of the few people waiting on the tarmac for air force. One shook hands with the president, Mike Pence and his wife has also visited the rabbi, but really we don't know what the connection is. All we know at this point is that this investigation had been going on for a long time, as early as 2016, us attorney's office said the rabbi was ready to plead guilty in late 2018. And of course, that terrible attack on the hibachi of Poway happened in 2019, they did say that the rabbi did help. Uh, they led to the other co-conspirators and there are still people that could be, um, found guilty and charged. So they needed his help. And so, um, possibly that is why it took so long to actually, um, have the spleen that happened this week.

Speaker 6: 18:37 A lot to wonder about in this story, I've been speaking with Marie Peyton, investigative reporter for NBC seven San Diego. Thanks very much. Thanks Mark

Speaker 5: 18:56 Mistakes, slow testing and poor care. These are some of the challenges local families encountered before their loved ones died of COVID-19. I knew source investigative reporter, Mary Plummer describes the problems inside one San Diego memory care facility. Beverly Nobert is walking through her home, pointing out family pictures.

Speaker 6: 19:19 My sister and I and Paul, and his three grandchildren. That's my father up there playing the drums.

Speaker 5: 19:26 Her father Lynn Nyberg had dementia. Beverly moved back into her childhood home here in Bay park to care for him a few years ago. But in April he died not of dementia, but of COVID-19. He was 83 years old. The story of what led to his death starts back in January. As dementia progressed, Lynn started staying up during the night, Beverly and her siblings decided to move him into assisted living at a place called stellar care near El Cerrito. It would be safer. They thought it was staffed around the clock. Beverly hoped it was the answer to her worries.

Speaker 6: 20:02 I went to stellar and I thought, Oh my God, this place is beautiful. It's gorgeous. It's it's like a hotel. It's it's, it's a resort,

Speaker 5: 20:11 But it wasn't what the family expected. Lynn took multiple falls and soon the facility recommended hospice care. The sudden decline surprised his children who felt they had left him there and relatively good health. Instead of transferring him to hospice at stellar in early April, Beverly and her brother drove him to the hospital. Lynn could barely walk. Here's Beverly.

Speaker 6: 20:34 I took him out of there and we took him up to UCLA in LA Jolla and admitted him. Two days later, we found out he had COVID-19 and on the 20th of April, he died. It was that quick. Beverly doesn't

Speaker 5: 20:48 Know how, or when he caught the virus, the family had been visiting her dad often, but had to stop. When the pandemic hit. Beverly says the facility kept her in the dark about his worsening health records, stellar care provided tour show that his temperature wasn't monitored and no evidence of the falls he took. Beverly says the executive director told her residents taken to hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms were later returned to the facility. I don't know

Speaker 6: 21:17 Many people have died. All I know is that she was telling me that she had sent people to the hospital because she,

Speaker 4: 21:23 I knew they were sick and the hospitals were turning around and sending them back

Speaker 5: 21:27 Stellar care's executive director declined our interview request saying in an email, it was inappropriate to comment on residents and their situations. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 40% of deaths nationwide have been residents of nursing homes or other longterm care facilities. State records show 13 residents at stellar care have contracted the virus. Beverly is troubled by stellar is a lack of communication. She says that she'd been told her dad would have been safer with her. She would have picked him up and brought him home. Once we pulled my father out of there, we've heard nothing from stellar.

Speaker 6: 22:05 I'm sorry that you've lost your father

Speaker 5: 22:08 Back at her dad's house. Beverly is surrounded by reminders, his dog, who she now cares for his favorite chair and the music. He so loved Lynn, a former teacher in school counselor also played the drums, the trombone and the clarinet.

Speaker 4: 22:22 Yeah. I've pulled out a lot of his records. I usually listen to Chicago a lot though,

Speaker 6: 22:27 Because we both loved it. This is my dad.

Speaker 5: 22:34 Beverly's hand goes to her heart, the memories flood back

Speaker 6: 22:41 Down the street

Speaker 5: 22:45 For KPBS. I'm a news source. Investigative reporter, Mary Plummer. This story was co reported by our new source reporter Roxanna Popescu. I knew source is an independently funded nonprofit partner of Kaitlin.

Speaker 6: 23:00 Yes,

Speaker 4: 23:05 Like Comicon baseball and other large outdoor gathering. San Diego's annual pride parade has been canceled this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the event has shifted online. Joining me to discuss how it's going to work is Fernando Lopez, junior executive director of San Diego pride. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me happy pride. Oh, thank you. Own. What was it like transitioning this 200,000 person event to an online venue this year? It has been quite the task and I couldn't be more proud of the team

Speaker 5: 23:37 Completely shifting, not just this weekend's event, but really the entire organization. San Diego pride is a year round education and advocacy organization

Speaker 7: 23:46 With more than 37 different programs. And so right away, when all of this started, we had to immediately shift everything into online and streaming formats. And then the big challenge became, how do you do that for something as massive as the single largest civic event in the region with over 350,000 people in attendance. And we got creative, and I think we are going to pull something off this weekend that our community is going to be really proud of,

Speaker 4: 24:12 But it's all brand new. Right? You had some specific challenges that you really had to think about and work.

Speaker 7: 24:18 Oh, absolutely. We have a amazing large volunteer team of over 150 LGBT and ally community members who every year and all year round give their specific skillsets and passion and time to the organization to make sure that all of our programs and pride weekend runs successfully. And so all of a sudden that giant production team and leadership team had to learn all of these new skills. So that way we could produce all of these videos, um, and just change everything that we do into this online format when we essentially became TV producers, uh, in the matter of weeks, in some ways. And then definitely for this weekend was an enormous task with thousands of people working to have hundreds of people, editing videos, just to be able to produce these about eight hours of content on Saturday.

Speaker 4: 25:08 And what are some of the online events that stand out to you as you put this all together?

Speaker 7: 25:13 So this last weekend we had our LGBTQ women's event. She Fest, which on a normal year we'll have about a thousand to 1500 people participate. And this year we had over 16,000 people tune into the live event. And while it was streaming live, there were simultaneously happening for different at any given time like workshops with different education and classes and performances that were happening on the side that people were able to tune into. And that was hugely successful. I never could have imagined that that would have been that successful. And then last night was our spirit or our light up the cathedral event where almost 20,000 people tuned in. And that really focuses on LGBTQ interfaith organizing and social justice work that happens through our faith community for our movement. So, I mean, we've already had two very successful events. And then tomorrow is our spirit of Stonewall rally, where we honor the origins of our movement, talk about the issues that we still have to overcome and just call to action. And I'm really excited for that. And then of course probably live this weekend.

Speaker 4: 26:16 Well, it seems these online events are increasing access, as you say. Um, pride has been criticized about that previously, is this something pride may continue in future years, post pandemic when we're back doing a real live event parade and such

Speaker 7: 26:30 Absolutely we're, we've just been overwhelmed with how much positive response there has been to this programming. And so a lot of this is going to stick with us. We're our spirit is Stonewall series that we did where we took each of our awardees. And instead of just putting them up on a stage and have something in their bio and a website, we gave them a 30 minute to one hour live streaming segment where folks were really able to get to know these people, their organizations, and how to get involved. So that's definitely something that we're going to keep going forward. I think it was a huge success.

Speaker 4: 27:01 Now pride is a huge economic driver for San Diego, as well as a big fundraiser for your organization. What do you expect the monetary impact will be of not having the in person event?

Speaker 7: 27:12 Well, for San Diego pride, the organization itself it's represents about a two point $5 million loss to the organization, but we've been fundraising all year and we're still fundraising. So if people want to chime in and make a donation to us, that would really be helpful because we are the single most philanthropic pride in the world. We've given out more than $3 million to LGBT serving organizations locally and all across the globe. So that is impacted all of our education advocacy work is funded by this weekend. So we're hoping that folks see it, that they're able to make a contribution and donate to San Diego pride. And the other piece of that is so many local small businesses, and in particular, LGBT small businesses are impacted by pride. We have a 26 point $6 million economic impact in the city of San Diego. So without the massive in person event, that's definitely going to be yet another financial strain on all of these businesses that are already hurting

Speaker 4: 28:07 As if we need more strains these days in San Diego. Well, the Supreme court rule last month that gay and transgender workers cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. I assume that's something that this year's pride is going to celebrate as well.

Speaker 7: 28:21 Oh, absolutely. The title seven Supreme court victory was a huge win for our movement. We're going to ride that wave. Absolutely. And we'll be talking about that. We'll be talking about, of course the black lives matter movement and the ongoing and systemic police brutality that happens towards the LGBT community and to communities of color, whether they're black, Latino, or indigenous communities. And in particular, our trans communities that, you know, we've been seeing a global uprising and response to that. And that's also the origins of the pride movement, right? Pride started as a riot against police brutality. And in many ways that work continues.

Speaker 4: 29:01 There was some grim news as well this year. Uh, this all leads me to the suspected homicide of a trans woman in Imperial County. That was a very disturbing story. What does Marilyn's death say about where our country is with trans rights?

Speaker 7: 29:15 You know, um, that really hit me personally. Um, I'm from the Imperial Valley and I grew up there 21 years ago. I left because I received death threats. People literally tried to kill me in the Imperial Valley and I got out and I came to San Diego as a homeless youth. And 40% of our homeless youth are LGBT identified and trans women are being killed all over this country at epidemic rates. And there is so much work to do there. And so the death of Maryland has really impacted me and has really impacted our region. Uh, we're working directly with liberal side, the S the executive director of the LGBT community center down there to try to support them as best we can. A lot of our leaders here are from the Imperial Valley. So we're doing our best to really help the movement down there in the community down there. And we're all grieving

Speaker 4: 30:07 Your organization announced last month that police would no longer be involved in the pride parade and festival that it will be reconsidered once a, a series of steps are taken. Why did your organization decide to make that?

Speaker 7: 30:19 So we've been asked by the LGBTQ black and trans community for a very long time to remove law enforcement officers or law enforcement agencies from participating in the pride parade. SDPD his own data shows that there is a disparity in the treatment of how law enforcement officers that treat LGBTQ folks and the black and Brown communities. And so that disparity is real, uh, that sort of systemic discrimination still exists. And a lot of that has to do with implicit bias and San Diego prides mission is to make sure that we're calling out discrimination and meeting it head on. And so what we've done is finally listened to the LGBTQ black community and said, okay, we see that this discrimination is real. And so how can we find a way to address this? Like obviously we know the SDPD and local law enforcement agencies do so much to keep us safe and particular at the pride event.

Speaker 7: 31:16 So that's not going to change. They're still going to be there to keep us safe every single year. But what is going to change is, as we've witnessed all of this trauma online of police brutality and the murder of innocent black and Brown Americans, that that is trauma, and that it's traumatizing, and we're being respectful of our LGBTQ black communities and this intersectional movement and saying, we're not going to allow these agencies to March down the parade for the time being with, you know, full uniform and their weapons, because that's retraumatizing for a lot of folks in our community. So while we have the utmost respect for what they do to keep us safe, we also want to be respectful of the black community and what they're asking us to do

Speaker 4: 31:57 Sort of reaction. Have you gotten from barring the police from, from pride and what's been the police department's response?

Speaker 7: 32:04 Um, well, I can tell you that the majority of the response has been overwhelmingly supportive. We had more than 70 organizations sign on with our proposal and about 700 individuals while we've received only about 40 complaints. So I think w folks really see what's happening on a local national and global level. And they're saying enough is enough. And it's time to change the system that hasn't been working for. Everyone. Obviously we've made progress law enforcement officers aren't barging into our bars and arresting us, but they are going into innocent people's homes and shooting them dead. And that's traumatizing for folks.

Speaker 1: 32:40 And so we're able to acknowledge that there are multiple realities that are happening. There's positive change that's happened in our community and our movement in particular with law enforcement, but there's folks who have also been left behind and the folks who have been left behind, or so a lot of LGBTQ folks or trans folks in particular, and especially our black and Brown community members.

Speaker 4: 33:00 I've been speaking with Fernando Lopez, junior executive director of San Diego pride. Thanks very much for joining us. Thank you

Speaker 1: 33:06 So much for having me happy pride.

Speaker 4: 33:09 This weekend's events kick off with the spirit of Stonewall rally on Friday. And for more information about all the online virtual pride events go to their website, SD pride.org. Californians love the outdoors and even more so with the pandemic, camping and backpacking are considered relatively low risk activities when it comes to COVID-19. But how should people get into nature? Responsibly is the threat grows cap radios as rhe David Romero is figuring that out,

Speaker 1: 33:49 Fed up with working from home. My colleague, Emily Zentner, and I went on a backpacking trip 4th of July weekend, my buddies and I named that mountain over there. Mountain doom. Now the entire hike, you can see it. Mount doom is actually a range called the Sierra Buttes. We started at grouse Ridge in the Tahoe national forest and hike past a dozen lakes to our final destination painterly. It was about four miles. Sunset. See, these are the legs we're going to go to along the way, we kept hearing an owl again, the wilderness was packed, partly because it was the 4th of July weekend, but also because people are tired of being indoors, but how safe is it to backpack or camp during a pandemic? If you're hiking with people who you aren't in a household with, and you're close enough that you can easily talk with each other quietly, then you probably are close enough that you can be spreading droplets.

Speaker 1: 34:46 Miranda Worthen is an epidemiologist. She studies the intersection of health and recreation at San Jose state. When going outdoors, it's good to weigh how much risk you're willing to take. She says to go outdoors only with people you've mutually chosen to share risk with that still means staying at least six feet away from each other and having a mask handy. You're only as risk-free as the least cautious person in that bubble. When people camper backpack, they usually have to drive a distance to a Trailhead. Alison right, with REI suggests gassing up in your own community and packing your own meals instead of stopping along the way, it's just out of my comfort. I can pack my own lunch. Small changes in our behavior can help us lower our risk. This is about protecting the communities you enter. She also says reevaluate, the type

Speaker 8: 35:38 Of outdoor activity you're contemplating this,

Speaker 9: 35:40 You know, instead of hiking, a strenuous hike, or instead of going on a five, 10 route rock climbing that you, that you take a more moderate approach,

Speaker 8: 35:51 She says to have options in mind. For example, if your first hike looks packed, go to your second or third option, also have a map or download an app like all trails on your phone. We're then the epidemiologist from San Jose state says it's just not that smart to be around a lot of people during the pandemic.

Speaker 9: 36:09 If you're kind of all clustered around the campfire at night, and there's not much of a wind and you're laughing and singing camp songs, and you're sitting there for two hours, that's a risky behavior.

Speaker 8: 36:22 Also points out that being in nature is restorative. Although there is no real safe recreation.

Speaker 9: 36:29 We have to make trade offs. And I fully support people doing safer recreation, especially if you or people in your household are feeling a lot of disks

Speaker 8: 36:40 Stress back in the Tahoe, national forest, Emily Zentner, and I are climbing back up the rage. Whew, did it make it to the top? You can see where we went to. That's the, like we camped at for me, the trip was definitely what I needed to distress from all the news and the worries in the world right now in Sacramento I'm as her David Romero,

Speaker 9: 37:15 Former San Diego and Lezlie Tenorio is out with a new novel, the son of good fortune. It's not the first time we've read [inaudible] work. His short story collection monstrous was KPBS, his 2014 one book, one San Diego selection. Here's the author Lezlie. Tenorio speaking with KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon Evans. The son of good fortune explores the lives of two undocumented immigrants from the Philippines and mother and a son. The mother Maxima is a former B-movie action star. And her son, Xcel is trapped in what can only be described as a dreadful job at a character pizza parlor. Can you tell me a little bit about this character, Xcel and what he wants in the world?

Speaker 8: 38:03 So Excel is a 19 year old Filipino man, who, as you said, is undocumented. He was actually born on a flight from Manila to San Francisco. So he doesn't really have a real sense of, of citizenship or, or home or place he and Maximo live in Colma, California, right outside San Francisco. And in order to get by she scams American men online, she kind of duped them into falling in love with her and wiring her money. And Excel works at a dead end pizza place called the PI who loved me, which is a spice themed kitty pizza parlor kind of modeled after Chuckie cheese. And he is just kind of aimless. And his prospects are so limited that when he has the opportunity to move to a sort of off the grid, desert community called hello city in Southern California, with his girlfriend SAB, he takes it. He decides here might be a place where I can reinvent myself where it doesn't really, really matter who you are or where you come from, just that you sort of do unto others. And so he sees hello city as this kind of place. That's sort of out of the regular confines of society or of a society that is not so welcoming to undocumented immigrants.

Speaker 9: 39:23 I wanted to ask you more about place, because I think this book is a strong example of California fiction. There's a lot of hope and sunshine, but also that grimy underside. So how do you write characters who see themselves as placeless in a story so deeply rooted in a place like California?

Speaker 8: 39:45 Um, I think when you are trying, whenever you craft a sort of fiction, whether it be a short story, novel, all these different components, plot, character setting, they all interact with one another. And so because my characters, XL and Maxima don't really have a home where aren't sure what their sense of home is. I think I really have to rely on the particulars of whatever setting I'm using. So in other words, I really try to look for things that really reflect who they are as characters. So even though I might set the story in the Bay area, for example, I find myself really drawn to Colma this, this town where the main industry is 17 cemeteries and where there's this strange spy themed pizza place, which is fictional. If I can find the nuances and even quirks of these places, I try to align them with the particulars of the characters themselves. So a story set in the Bay area, for example, I'm not necessarily looking at the expected Bay area landscape. I'm really looking for places where things that, that a lot of people might not associate with the Bay area.

Speaker 9: 40:56 Another specific place then is hello city, this desert town where Xcel and his girlfriends spend some time trying to make their own life. And it feels very much like a very particular place down here near the border. Can you tell me a little bit about hello city and its origins for you?

Speaker 8: 41:15 Hello city is actually based on an off the grid desert community called slab city slab city is a makeshift town that sort of was started on the remnants of what they call these, these concrete slabs that I believe were leftover from, from the military. Um, I did a lot of research to watch a lot of YouTube videos that, and hello city, it's already set in a slab city and fought, you know, if I could take this idea of an abandoned military off the grid, desert town, maybe I can do something with this. And when I decided instead of these concrete slabs, I was going to have them be the, these leftover hella pads. I decided that it would be, uh, a former military place where helicopter combat training was its purpose and, and of course failed, but what was leftover where the hell pads and, and hella pads, I realize usually have a giant letter H in the middle. And I thought of, okay, what could H mean an H could mean hello? So I named the town, hello city, but as the, as expel spends more time in hello city, he sometimes contemplates what H also might mean for him. It could mean home. It could mean hiding. Uh, it could mean anything really. Um, so I, I took a lot of creative liberties and thematic liberties with the setting of hello city.

Speaker 9: 42:43 On the flip side, you grew up in Mira Mesa. And how has a suburb like that informed your work

Speaker 8: 42:51 Well, Mira Mesa, um, which was a really wonderful multicultural place to grow up in. I mean, it certainly has a large Filipino community there. You know, I grew up, as I said, in a very multicultural community, when I look at my elementary school photos, it's such a mixed group of kids. And to me, that was just so normal. There really was America, and it wasn't, uh, a hyphenated America. It wasn't necessarily an immigrant America. It was just, Oh, this is my American childhood. This is my American school. This is my American reality. So because for me that was the norm. It was difficult at times to grow up and realize that nationally, that, that wasn't necessarily the norm, at least for a lot of people. And certainly in the ways that American culture is represented. So growing up in Mira Mesa ultimately became a kind of motivation for me to insist upon the presence of immigrant Americans, particularly Filipino immigrant Americans, Filipinos have been in America for a long time. The relationship between the Philippines and America has a long intertwined, complicated history. When I write fiction, one of my objectives is to really claim and, and put forth this idea that Filipinos are an integral part of the American reality. And I think growing up in Mira Mesa really instilled that belief in me.

Speaker 9: 44:16 So your characters are incredibly lovable and they also exist on the margins, not just in terms of their undocumented status and maximum, for example, like you said, she men online for many, what is it about her that makes us root for her?

Speaker 8: 44:36 Right. Well, I'm glad you, I'm glad you say that readers hopefully will, will root for her. Cause I I'm quite fond of Maxima. You know, she is someone who is doing the best she can as a mother, as a woman, as someone living in America, she is a former B action movie star from the Philippines. I sort of want to be Filipina Michelle Yeoh, as she says in the novel, obviously those dreams didn't quite come to come to fruition. So America for her was, was like a last resort. So she does what she can for herself and for a child. And if it means that she has to scam men online, she'll do it as an undocumented immigrant. Her options are really limited. So my hope is that a reader who might understandably question the ethical nature of the things that she does, they might also recognize that this is someone who is incredibly strong and incredibly determined and maximum strength is something that I'm hoping readers will be drawn to so much of her character. And really this novel was about recognizing and honoring the strengths of this woman. This mother, one of excels challenges, I think is his sort of inability to recognize just how strong his mother is. Not just emotionally and psychologically, but, but even physically, um, because she was this martial arts artist, she's physically formidable. And I, I hope that her strength and her toughness, her snarkiness, I hope those are things that readers will really connect with and appreciate despite her flaws

Speaker 9: 46:21 And for readers who first got to know your writing through short stories, you've been writing the stories of the Philippines and of immigrants for nearly 20 years now, maybe longer. Some of the stories in monstrous were first published in, I think, 2001, what's changed about telling these stories. Now,

Speaker 8: 46:43 When I first started writing, I fell in love with writing and really fell in love with, with literature through short stories. The short story form was, was really my favorite forum and it was always, it was always the way I conceptualize narrative. Uh, so working through the stories is that when monstrous, uh, really was about trying to capture a perfect narrative in let's say 20 pages. And so I, I was really obsessed with this idea of autonomy when you're writing a short story, you're, you're, you're really relying on compression and, and, and getting them, trying to get the most out of every sentence and every paragraph, every scene with the novel and, and trying to tell the story of Filipinos, Filipino immigrants, the novel, because it's obviously a longer form there's wiggle room for, for detours and for an even for mistakes. And I think that was a very difficult thing I had to, I had to learn, um, so much of a novel is trial and error because you, you go down these paths that the longer narrative just sort of leads you down and they don't always work.

Speaker 8: 47:45 But the novel, I felt really required me to examine the interiority of these characters in ways that I, I don't know that I had to do as much in the short story. Um, with the short stories, my work tends to be plot driven. The short stories were sort of like getting, get out with a novel, you know, I needed these moments of pause to sustain the narrative. And those moments of pause are real opportunities to understand who these characters were psychologically and emotionally. So becoming a writer more concerned with that interiority was a very new experience for me.

Speaker 1: 48:23 That was KPBS arts editor, Julia Dixon, Evan speaking with former one book, one San Diego author Lezlie Tenorio about his new novel, the son of good fortune.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.