Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tabetha, Photographer

The woman at the right is my wife, Tabetha Tomaselli (Bokovoy), with her sister and cousins in Buffalo, May 2006. Tabby was a well-regarded pastry chef in Philadelphia, where we met in 2000. She worked at some of the great restaurants in the city, Le-Bec-Fin, Rouge, Blue Angel, and Bliss. She's been on PBS cooking shows and won the "Chocolate Contest" one year. She's back in school to get a fine arts degree in photography, something she wanted to study when Temple University had the faculty strike in 1991. She left school for the kitchens of Philly afterwards, and is now back in school.

Now she's back to school and we have Boy Boy, I'm "retiring" from the historical profession to be at home with Spencer. Once she's done with school, we'll do an illustrated book on environmentally degraded towns in Oklahoma, mostly destroyed by the oil industry. It will be great to do a book that will matter, and is also close to home.

Wind Chimes, at our house.

Skeleton of a cicada.

Winter, 2006.

Our friend, Jeffrey Wilhite, February 2006 at my birthday party in OKC.

Grain silos at Sunset, Oklahoma

The monotonous suburban landscape of Moore, Oklahoma.

The Hong Kong Nightclub, Broadway Street, San Diego 2005. I like this shot and this old-school lounge bar in San Diego. The place is one of the last remaining Navy lounges from San Diego's old heyday. Tabby and I hope that it will not close due to gentrification, and I recommend this place if you travel to the city to catch the old local atmosphere.
I wrote about the place in a piece I wrote for Jim Miller's collection of essays Sunshine/Noir: Writings from San Diego and Tijuana (City Works Press, 2005) in my piece "Ghosts of the San Diego Rialto." You can read a review here:
Cranes over downtown San Diego, 2006. Tabby's shot shows the "apartment boom" in the downtown, where 30% remain empty as "spec properties." San Diego has yet to develop a sizable stock of "affordable housing," most of which is above market for low-to-moderate income families.

Death of the SRO Hotel, San Diego 2006. With upscale revitalization taking over the downtown, I often wonder where the homeless, diabled veterans, and low income people will live. In my visits home, I've noticed their migration to city suburbs on the edge of downtown and in the numerous canyons around the downtown in hoboe villages.

After my book release party at Landlord Jim's in October 2005, this enormous tour bus full of zombies dropped off 100 zombie party goers at the bar. There were some great costumes, and it will likely be the last time in our lives we will experience a "zombie invasion." Southern Californians are cool that way, who would think about a zombie tour of a major city?

Sunset in Oklahoma

My friend Pat McInerny's wife, Kim and Marxist critic Jim Miller, La Jolla, October 2005. Jim is the undisputed social critic of San Diego, in both fiction and nonfiction. Every Californian should own Under the Perfect Sun (2003) and his novel Drift (2007)

Brad Hayes at our house, 2005. Tabby's portraits of our friends, to me, grabs their inner nature.

Historian Todd Kerstetter, Scottsdale 2005. Todd is a scholar of religion in the west, and his book God's Country, Uncle Sam's Land (2006) is quite impressive and highly recommended. Todd was showing his usual wit by poking fun at the nickel plated revolvers for sale in True West Magazine. That is, mixing western myth with violence.

Ross Frank and me at the University of New Mexico Press booth, Scottsdale 2005. I was honored sit with Ross and sign books at the Western History Association meeting. Ross is a social and cultural historian of New Mexico, and a commited social activist. He and my brother actually know one another from U.C. Berkeley, where both were involved in protesting the university's investments in South Africa during the 1980s, and they also were organizers in the GSA union. I highly recommend his book, From Settler to Citizen (2000). He was signing his edited volume, Choice, Persuasion, and Coercion (2005).

Down Yonder in Indian Nation

This was a book reading I had in November 2005 in Oklahoma at Bill and Dee's, which is a Native American-owned establishment. It's on the cool "East Side" of town, the Democratic and liberal district of our home town. It's on Main Street around the corner from our house. It's one of the most diverse places you can find in Oklahoma. When the owner Debbie asked what Tabby and me did for a living, I said I was a writer and that I was doing book readings. She invited me to do one at her place. It was a great time. This is Rick and Shauna, stalwart Oklahoma State fans!

People packed the place, and about 75 people showed up. I have never sold more books in a place, and I went through two, whole boxes very quickly. Who says blue collar people don't read, I beg to differ! This is Kent and Donna Hayes, Sharkbait Mag Brad's parents, who live in Ponca City.

Jason Claborn, one of our friends, hanging at the bar. Jason is an afficianado of 1950s "Tiki Culture." He has his whole house decked out in rad decor, and I've never known anyone who knows more about all that post-WWII stuff you find in thrift and vintage stores. Jason is also into the Beat writers, so you know he is cool. When he goes to S.F., City Lights Books is always on his itinerary.

These are the "Philadelpia Dudes," Dave Lorenz, Paul Dellavigne, and Mike Martin, with our friend Mary Womack (Mach). The Philly dudes traveled out for a three day weekend to hang out and see our new place. They had a good time and people at Bill and Dee's always ask when they are coming back to visit. Paul is one of the great undiscovered fiction writers I know, and hopefully we'll see some published work from him soon. He's one who taught me how to write well.
We had the event catered by Van's Pig Stand BBQ joint, which made Dave very happy, since he's a pork and beef enthusisast. So it was a good time all around.
Our friend Ashley, with Brad Hayes, Aaron Frisby, and Brett from the band, The Gardes. These Oklahoma native sons are pretty gnarl and about as bohemian Okie-style as they come! Brad's probably the contemporary incarnation of the great editor Oscar Ameringer.

Hanging with the Stillwater/Ponca Crew, sometimes known as the "The Daggers." Last month when I visited Brad and Mehgan in Ponca City, Brad made me watch this bad 1980s skatexploitation film with a young Josh Brolin. There was this "skate gang" in the film called "The Daggers." I didn't know they drew their silly name from this corny film!
The best thing about the reading was the positive response from all the Native American people there regarding my materials on Pueblo show Indians and the family of Maria and Julian Martinez. With alot of former Indian boarding school graduates in attendance, they know about working around the indignities of social control. It was better than any scholarly feedback I received, from native people themselves.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Old School

I'm reposting this entry, since my brother and dad noted some errors of the family memory that came down to me over the years. The amended version is below.

My brother Phil at two years old with our step-grandfather Bill Ellis. There is some family story about the dog "Cuddles," but I forget what it was. It was like a crazy dog or something like that. Looking at this photograph, it's hard to tell the social activist lurking beneath the cute boy outfit.
My mom Barbara Simon and dad Ronald Bokovoy in 1959. Check the cool 50s style going on here. My dad used to work at a gas station in high school and all his buddies used to bring their cars there at night to hang out and tune up their rides. I think the gas station was on 8-Mile Road in Detroit and there was a Big Boy drive-in across the street where all the girls used to hang out. It was the classic "American Graffitti" scene, guys and gals hanging out being too cool. I think that's how they met. I think Ron soon thereafter went to work on the Great Lakes on an ore tanker one summer while enrolled in college at this time. But this is right after they were married.

This is Bill Ellis and Mary, out on the town in Detroit during the 1950s. They used to go to the "black and tans," or the integrated nightclubs so numerous in Detroit after WWII. Since they were from immigrant families, it was no wonder that blacks and second generation Southeastern Europeans went to these places, no doubt, the basis of the Democratic Party and UAW in Walter Reuther and Coleman Young Era Detroit. You certainly would not see the Detroit "Old Money" from Grosse Pointe hanging in these places.
Bill's family was Scottish and I always remember him walking around in one of his many Tam-o-Shanters, usually with his tool belt on. He used to remodel and customize their home. Every time I came over to visit their house, Bill had a tank or airplane model to give me. Pretty cool.

This is my mom at Palmer Park in Detroit during the 1940s.

This is my mom and Mary Beth Simon, my aunt, I guess on their front porch in Detroit in 1948. All these photos in this section were scanned and compiled by Aunt Mary Beth, so we have them for posterity. I'll have a section on them and the Colorado Ranch in the future.

This is a photograph of my grandmother Mary Malerick Ellis and her brother August (or "Uncle Gus") in Detroit in the late 1930s. She passed away in 2004 and we all miss her alot. The whole family was Croatian and there is a wild story of how my mom's family came to America, something about a dispute between my great grandfather Franjo and another Austrian military officer during WWI that made it necessary to get the family out of the Hapsburg Empire.

Mary used to tell me the story about Uncle Gus being the Dodge-Main sit-down strike in the late 1930s. All the great uncles and her father Franjo worked in the auto industry, and when Franjo worked at Ford, they fired him for getting injuried (he stuffed seats, and a needle pierced his artery while grabbing the pile, he had been "negligent" according to Ford). Needless to say, the strikes led to better wages and benefits for Ford workers, which brought comfortable retirements for Mary and Gus. It was the last generation of good labor-management relations now absent in corporate America.
So Franjo urged them to consider joining the UAW, headed by Walter Reuther. Mary said that she and other girls in the neighborhood would go to Hamtramack where the factory was located, and they would throw bundles of food through the windows so the strikers had food. When Uncle Gus retired, he used to cruise around Detroit in this white Chrysler LeBaron convertible, with red leather interior. He was pretty cool for an old auto worker guy.

This is a photograph of Franjo Malerick, Mary, and an unidentified family friend I think. I've heard alot stories about Franjo over the years, so I have a composite picture of him. According to Mary, he wanted his kids to get a good education and there was always alot of books in the house. He also owned some properties on their block, and was supposedly the first person to rent his property to a black family, who lived next door the Malericks. He didn't like the neighbors suggesting that he was helping to destroy the block. When Mary was older, she organized a campaign to clean-up Woodward Avenue,which had a bad drug trade and petty crime. I guess that's why my grandmother became a neighborhood activist. She actually ran for city council back in the 1970s, and knew people like Carl Levin, John Conyers, and Joe Madison, the DC radio personality known as "The Black Eagle."

Boy Boy

This is our son Spencer, who we call "Boy Boy." He's eight months old now and he has started to crawl. Nala sneaked up on our bed one morning, and Tabby got this shot of all of us.

Here's Spencer in his baby papasan.

Tabby's brother Bill bought this anti-establishment Ramones onesie for Spencer. I never really liked the Ramones that much, but Spencer does enjoy videos on Youtube by My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, and especially the great Philadelpia band Bardo Pond, whose trippy, garage psychedlia comes with colorful graphics that he likes and flaps his arms at.
Hopefully by the time Spencer gets to school, things like pacifism, the arts, and a good dose of skepticism of authority will be back in the curriculum. You know that with schools today, John Dewey is probably rolling in his grave.

Boy Boy on his blanket

Spencer acting like a goofball on his baby papasan.

Pets, And More Pets

This is my cousin Jay Miller's dog, R.I.P., O'Malley. He's a full-working Australian Blue Heeler, who had to be retired after hurting his hind leg. He's a crafty little guy that would bite your ankles, since he thought everything was a sheep or cattle. He used to get so gnarly after he was hurt that Jay bought a shock collar. Jay's an agricultural expert, and does all things ag.: drive a cattle truck, manage livestock and crop production on a ranch, you name it.

When Tabby and I first visited Jay in Plainview, where he worked in a feed yard, we brought Nala with us. O'Malley and Nala didn't quite get along, but we did wake up to Jay feeding the dogs a half-pound of bacon the first morning there. They got along when the bacon flowed.

This is a photograph of Boomerang, my grandma's dog. I found Boomerang on the street in Philadelphia in 1997. He used to run with the wild dog packs of North Philly, before all the yuppies moved in. There was a "mean dog pack" that you had to run inside your apartment when you heard all the howls at night. There were pits bulls, german shepards, you name all the alpha dogs. Boomerang was part of the "wimpy dog" pack, or all the less agressive breeds. He was lost on my block of 1200 N. 4th Street one day, so I took him in.

I gave him to my Grandma for her surprise 80th birthday in 1997, since her last dog had recently died. She used to ask if "Boomerang can spend the night," so I knew I had to give him away. While my Grandma used to watch C-Span and yell at the lunatic Republican congressman she disliked so much, Boomerang used to sit diligently by her. He lived to 17 years old, but made it to Oklahoma with us after my Grandma passed away. He was sneaky from his street days, and if you were not paying attention, he'd eat whatever was on your plate. He once ate a two pound block of aged asiago cheese in about 15 seconds.

This is a photograph of Tabby's cat Murphy, R.I.P. Even though this cat looks real cuddly and everything here, even my wife admits it was the "meanest cat ever born." Murphy would often bite your foot while making coffee in the morning, until she got a saucer of half and half. She lived to be 16 years old.

Even though some stupid historian or writer mentioned that you shouldn't use your dedication page to acknowledge your pets, I say "screw you," who could be so unhumorous. As the great Oklahoma writer Jim Thompson once said, "I hate two things in the world: people who hate old people, and people who hate pets." I agree with him. Who the hell else would sit with you all day in your writing office, anyway? That loyalty deserves a line or two in the ack-page.

This is a photograph of Tabby's dog Nala with Dave Lorenz. He, Pauly the Suit, and Mike Martin came to visit November 2005. Dave and Nala are good friends going all the way back to the Hicks St. days in Philadelphia, where Nala used to sneak up on the couch while Dave was sleeping. The visit brought back old memories for her.